Category Archives: benefits of travel

National Travel and Tourism Week 2021 (May 2-8) Celebrates ‘the Power of Travel’

Discovering the delights of the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Death Valley National Park. National Travel and Tourism Week 2021 reminds people of the importance of the $2.6 trillion travel industry that supports 17 million jobs and an infinite number of life-long memories and experiences © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW) taking place May 2-8 is the annual celebration of the contributions of the U.S. travel industry. This year, it spotlights the critical role that travel will play in driving economic recovery efforts and building the path forward through the theme Power of Travel.

Celebrated annually the first full week in May, NTTW was created by Congress in 1983 to elevate the economic power of travel in the U.S. This year, the 38th annual NTTW arrives at an opportune moment to recognize the importance to the U.S. economy of initiating a post-pandemic travel recovery.

“NTTW takes on a special significance this year as the travel industry looks to rebound quickly from the pandemic and accelerate recovery efforts,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “The past year was incredibly challenging, but we saw the full power of the travel industry on display in the way we united and supported one another through this crisis.”

“Before the pandemic, travel generated $2.6 trillion in economic output, supported 17 million American jobs and delivered a $51 billion trade surplus to the U.S.—evidence of the outsized role the industry will play in America’s broader economic recovery,” said Dow.

However, this vital revenue source stemming from business and leisure travelers was severely diminished amid the pandemic.

In 2020, the entire U.S. travel industry lost half a trillion dollars in travel-related spending—10 times the economic impact of 9/11. Nationally, total travel-supported jobs accounted for a staggering 65% of all U.S. jobs lost amid the pandemic.

With such disparate losses, it is clear that a broader economic recovery hinges on a recovery within the travel industry.

“While the rapid pace of vaccinations has provided hope that a return to normal is on the horizon, a resurgence in travel demand is not inevitable,” the USTA said in a statement. “Without aggressive federal action to reopen the travel economy and spur demand, the travel industry’s recovery is expected to take as long as five years—far too long to wait for the workers whose livelihoods depend on this vital industry.

“But with the right measures in place, we can get people moving again in a safe and healthy way, restore our workforce and help power a broader economic recovery. The travel industry needs sustained relief to ensure businesses can maintain operation and workers can stay on payrolls until sustained demand can truly take hold.

“Importantly, policymakers must also identify the path to reopening our borders and safely restarting international inbound travel, as well as restarting professional meetings and events; these are crucial segments of our local economy, without which we cannot fully recover.

“The road ahead is challenging, but the travel industry is resilient and has an incredible ability to bounce back from hard times. We recovered after 9/11, after the 2008 financial meltdown, and after health scares such as Zika, Ebola and SARS. This is the toughest challenge the U.S. travel industry has ever faced, but we know  travel is one of the best-equipped industries to lead a revival.

“If lawmakers act now to jumpstart recovery efforts and get Americans moving, then all of us can get back to doing what we do best more quickly—providing quality job opportunities for Americans of all background, reconnecting family and friends, and showing the world what makes the U.S. the best place to visit.”

This week, TSA reported the highest number of travelers coming through airports, 1.6 million, while car rentals, hotels, AirBnBs and attractions, especially those around national parks, are booking up, a clear demonstration of pent-up demand being unleashed. Now the question is whether the industry will be able to accommodate it and how long it will be sustained. That will depend largely on the ability of the nation to vaccinate as many people as possible, so that travelers and workers feel safe and venues can increase capacity and operating hours.

National Travel and Tourism Week also reminds travelers of the pleasures and value of travel – of getting together, sharing the delight in exploring and learning and doing new things, meeting new people where they live, embracing other cultures and environments, and sharing memorable, even life-changing experiences.

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NYS to Invest $300 Million to “Reimagine” Erie Canal, Expand Recreational Activities, Finish 750-Mile Empire State Trail

As part of the $300 million plan to “Reimagine” the Erie Canal, a 750-mile Empire State Trail will be completed, including closing gaps of Erie Canalway that makes possible the annual  eight-day, 400-mile, Cycle the Erie bike tour (registration now open) © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

This is huge for New York State’s tourism and recreational opportunities: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s is proposing a $300 million plan to reimagine the Erie Canal by creating recreational activities on the Canal to boost tourism and recreational fishing, mitigate flooding, enhance irrigation and restore wetlands. 

“When the Erie Canal was created in the 19th century it set the state and the nation on a path to prosperity, and this year we will repurpose the canal to fit our state’s 21st century needs,” Governor Cuomo said. “This bold and visionary plan to transform this historic waterway will build on the success of the Empire State Trail (750 miles of connected bikeways), grow tourism across Upstate New York, improve resilience of today’s Canal communities and ensure the economic sustainability of the waterway into the future.”

“The canals have played a crucial role in New York’s history and growth, and with the implementation of these new exciting projects, the canals will remain a vital force and make a positive contribution to the economic well-being and quality of life in the 225 communities they travel through,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul.

A first phase of funding starting this year – through the New York Power Authority Board which oversees the Canal Corporation as a subsidiary –  includes a $100 million economic development fund to invest in communities along the Canal and a separate $65 million investment in solutions that will help prevent ice jams and related flooding in the Schenectady area.

The remaining $135 million of the plan’s funding will subsequently be allocated to research recommended by the Reimagine Task Force, as well as to solutionsrelated to flood mitigation, invasive species prevention and ecosystem restoration.

New Economic Development Fund for Canal Communities

In the first phase of the program, a $100 million economic development fund will support projects that adaptively reuse canal infrastructure to enhance water recreation, tie the Canal’s new recreational improvements to the Governor’s Empire State Trail, celebrate historic canal structures, and develop unique canalside attractions and activities. Roughly $25 million of that will be allocated immediately to a set of initial projects:

Connecting Communities: The “Brockport Loop” project in Monroe County will connect SUNY College at Brockport to the Empire State Trailand the village of Brockport through the transformation of a canal guard-gate into a pedestrian bridge and overlook, with a supporting grant of $2 million from the Ralph Wilson Foundation. 

Celebrating “Iconic Infrastructure”: Interactive, hydro-powered illumination of Canal “movable dams” – initially in Amsterdam and Canajoharie in the Mohawk River valley – will celebrate the Canal’s heritage and its history as an engineering marvel.

Expanding Water Recreation: A new whitewater destination, at the north end of Cayuga Lake near Seneca Falls, will rely on existing water control infrastructure to construct an active water sports course adjacent to the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, to increase eco-tourism and sport visitors to the region.

Adapting Industrial Property for New Uses: Winner of the Reimagine the Canals competition, a canalside pocket neighborhood, will be developed by Madison County in Central New York at a former industrial property in Canastota along the Old Erie Canal – demonstrating a new model for 21st century canalside living.

Developing Destination Accommodations: The historic Guy Park Manor, on the Mohawk River in Amsterdam, will be reborn as a hospitality destination and a pedestrian bridge constructed across the already-existing Canal lock will provide access to additional overnight accommodation along the Empire State Trail on the opposite side of the river.

World-Class Fishing and Restored Wetlands 

To create world-class fishing in Western New York, the new plan recommends managing water releases from the Canal to enhance fish habitat, improve angling opportunities, and extend the fall fishing season in Lake Ontario tributaries. It also includes funding to expand public fishing access along key streams in Orleans, Monroe and Niagara Counties. In addition, it identifies a program to divert Canal water to restore and re-nourish wetlands in Central New York that were compromised a century ago by the Canal’s construction. This will allow areas in close proximity to the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, a migratory stopover for more than 1 million birds each year, to be significantly enhanced to further attract naturalists, locals, and visitors from throughout the region and beyond. 

Ideas in this plan originated from the Reimagine the Canals Task Force recommendations,  launched by Governor Cuomo in May of 2019 to pursue a comprehensive investigation of how the 195-year-old Erie Canal could be reimagined for the 21st century. The Reimagine the Canals Task Force Report  was just released.

The Task Force engaged with municipal leaders, stakeholders, local business owners, scientists and other experts, along with community members, to identify opportunities and solutions that support a new vision for future investments in the waterway. Many of the ideas that the Task Force explored came from the completed Reimagine the Canals competition, held last year by the New York Power Authority and New York State Canal Corporation. SUNY’s Rockefeller Institute of Government, on behalf of the Task Force, conducted a series of outreach sessions during the summer in five canal communities – Lockport, Brockport, Schenectady, Utica and Syracuse – to solicit new ideas from the public at large. Ideas were also solicited on a Reimagine the Canals website, offering more distant canal users an opportunity to provide their views to the Task Force.

The “Reimagine” initiative builds on successful efforts by Governor Cuomo to invest in the canal corridor, including the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative and successful Taste NY program, which have stoked new industries, businesses and housing in canal communities. Harnessing the Canal’s full potential to attract more tourism and recreation is a key focus of the Initiative. Governor Cuomo and state agency and authority staff will collaborate with Empire Line communities and continue to consult with Task Force members and other stakeholders to ensure the success of projects as they move forward. 

There are 1.6 million trips taken annually on the Erie Canal Trailway, the former towpath used by mules and horses to pull barges in the canals’ early days. The Trailway is part of Governor Cuomo’s Empire State Trail, which at 750 miles will be the largest state multi-use trail network when completed in late 2020. Governor DeWitt Clinton began work on the original Erie Canal on July 4, 1817. 

In addition to investing $300 million in the Canal System, there are also plans to create two new state parks in the Hudson Valley, add 4,000 acres of land to parks and introduce a $3 billion “Restore Mother Nature” bond act.

Meanwhile, registration has opened for the 22nd Annual Cycle the Erie, eight-day 400-mile, fully supported biking/camping trip, from Buffalo to Albany, operated by Parks & Trails NY, taking place July 12-19, 2020. For information on Cycle the Erie Canal, call Parks & Trails New York, 518-434-1583, email eriecanaltour@ptny.org or visit www.ptny.org/cycle-the-erie-canal.

(See our series on Cycle the Erie, at goingplacesfarandnear.com)

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World’s First Museum Devoted to Startups Opens in Vilnius, Lithuania

The newly-opened museum of startups in Vilnius, Lithuania is showcasing the success stories of twelve home-grown startups, including the first Lithuanian unicorn Vinted (Kleiderkreisel). The museum aims to inspire locals and tourists alike while celebrating the city’s entrepreneurial spirit.

Vilnius, Lithuania – The world’s first museum devoted to start-ups has opened in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.

Startup Museum hosts twelve stories of local startups that managed to reach global success. The list includes the first Lithuanian unicorn, pre-loved fashion marketplace Vinted (Kleiderkreisel), nanosatellite manufacturer Nanoavionics, image editing software developer Pixelmator, along with Trafi (Jelbi)DeeperBored PandaTesonetOberloCityBeeBrolis SemiconductorsMailerLite and CGTrader.

The displayed startups come from a broad range of fields – from online platforms and software to space exploration and laser manufacturing.

The aim of the museum is to tell the untold stories of startups that not only found their way to success but also made contributions to improving the business culture within the city. Through the stories of individual startups, the visitors will get to experience the drastic improvement that the startup scene in Vilnius made in recent years, too.

“Opening a startup museum is a great way to highlight how welcoming and progressive our city is, creating the needed environment for businesses to thrive,” says Remigijus Šimašius, the mayor of Vilnius. “At the same time, the museum will honour the brave entrepreneurs that are true ambassadors of Vilnius around the globe. This museum is also a good reminder that it isn’t just ideas and investments that matter – persistence, heart, and a strong team are as crucial.”

Each startup highlighted in the museum is presented through its journey to success, including the lessons learned and challenges conquered. Next to each company’s timeline and story, visitors have a chance to see physical artefacts that each startup sees as representations of their journey, work culture and values.

For example, the pop culture magazine Bored Panda has a panda costume on display to celebrate their company culture – which was worn by one of the current employees when he came to apply for the job. While CGTrader, the world’s largest source for stock and custom 3D models, are showcasing a bucket that was used to collect water in the early days of the company when they worked in an office with a leaky roof. Vinted’s exhibition will feature, among other artefacts, a toy unicorn representing its status as a first home-grown startup to reach EUR 1 billion in market valuation.

At the museum, guests can also get familiar with the state of the startup ecosystem in Vilnius and get informed about the upcoming startup-related events and awards.

Each year, the museum will add four additional Vilnius-based startups that made the most significant strides in that particular year.

The Startup museum was established by Go Vilnius, the official business development agency of Vilnius, together with a coworking space Talent Garden Vilnius.

There are currently 35 startup-dedicated spaces in Vilnius: twelve startup incubators and centres, eleven business accelerators and the same amount of investment organizations, five sandboxes dedicated to fintech, energy-related and real estate fields. Finally, the open data policy of the Vilnius city municipality allows businesses to test their products by using real financial, procurement, real estate, transport and other types of data.

Go Vilnius is the official tourism and business development agency of the City of Vilnius. The agency provides visitors, investors, relocating talent, entrepreneurs and businesses with all the essential information they need to know about the Lithuanian capital. Go Vilnius offers information on everything from real estate to leisure activities in Vilnius, simplifying the process of travelling, relocating to, or investing in Vilnius.

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TreadRight Foundation Announces New Project Partnership with Seville’s Cristina Heeren Foundation to Support Flamenco Dance

The Travel Corporation’s non-profit foundation, Treadright,  welcomes new project partnership in Seville, Spain with The Cristina Heeren Foundation of Flamenco Art to support the conservation of flamenco dance.

Cypress, Calif.- The TreadRight Foundation, a joint initiative between The Travel Corporation’s (TTC) family of award-winning brands, including Trafalgar, Uniworld, Insight Vacations, Contiki and Red Carnation Hotels, has announced a new project partnership with The Cristina Heeren Foundation of Flamenco Art in Seville, Spain. The new project falls under TreadRight’s ‘People’ pillar, which encourages the cultures, traditions and arts of the communities TTC visits.

 The Cristina Heeren Foundation of Flamenco Art is a private, non-profit entity, created in 1993 in Seville by Cristina Heeren, Hispanist and American patron. Its aims are the promotion, the teaching and the conservation of flamenco both in Andalusia and Spain, as well as internationally.

The TreadRight Foundation is supporting The Cristina Heeren Foundation of Flamenco Art by establishing four scholarships for advanced guitar, singing and dance students at the Foundation. The TreadRight scholarships will be dedicated to advanced students who need financial assistance to complete their third or fourth year of training. These higher-level students display great skill and competence in their disciplines, however, they often struggle to find the funds to continue or complete their training. The TreadRight scholarship will now allow them to see their training through to its completion.

In addition, Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold guests will have a culturally immersive and unique experience while visiting The Cristina Heeren Foundation on select trips. They will start with a flamenco dance class before taking front-seats for a fiery performance of flamenco to truly embrace the artform.

“Anyone who has ever had the chance to experience a flamenco performance can’t help but be moved by the centuries old artistic tradition. It is obvious why UNESCO recognized flamenco as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2010,” says Brett Tollman, Chief Executive, TTC and Founder, The TreadRight Foundation. “It represents such an incredible and indelible contribution to Spanish culture and heritage, as well as world culture and heritage. We are delighted to be partnering with The Cristina Heeren Foundation to help support the brilliant young artists working to keep this beautiful tradition alive and thriving.”

“That our friends at the TreadRight Foundation should have understood the importance of Flamenco, a unique art form, is close to miraculous,” shared Cristina Heeren, President of The Cristina Heeren Foundation of Flamenco Art. “Indeed, few people realize that flamenco is unique, being a product of the numerous ethnic influences left behind by those groups that settled in southern Spain over the centuries. Now, thanks to the TreadRight scholarships, our most promising students will be able to enter the professional world,” she continued.

Since 1996, the prestigious school has trained more than 6,000 youths from around the world in song, dance and guitar. It has been recognized with the Flamenco in the Classroom Prize from the Andalusian Government, the Order of Alfonso X from Spain’s Ministry of Culture, the National Teaching Prize from the Chair of Flamencology in Jerez and the distinction Flamenco Thursdays from the Cajasol Foundation, among other honors.

Created as a joint initiative between The Travel Corporation’s (TTC) family of brands, The TreadRight Foundation is a not-for-profit working to safeguard the planet, wildlife & people for generations to come. TreadRight’s mission is to #MakeTravelMatter through conservation, leadership and support for communities. To date, TreadRight has supported over 55+ sustainable tourism projects in 280+ communities worldwide. Foundation priorities are set by the Steering Committee. Past project partners include WWF, Conservation International, WildAid, The Travel Foundation and The National Trust in the UK. Current initiatives include the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Big Cat fund, WE.org and inspiring nature advocates like Céline Cousteau, Costas Christ and Terri Irwin. To learn more about our past and current work at TreadRight, please visit us at treadright.org and follow us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter using our hashtag #MakeTravelMatter.

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Four Seasons Resort Nevis Partners with Sea Turtle Conservancy on Research

Four Seasons Resort Nevis sponsors GPS satellite transmitters to support the Sea Turtle Conservancy track the migration patterns of sea turtles that return to Nevis to lay their eggs, and this year, even with the Resort’s ongoing renovation, the research needed to continue. 

NEVIS, WEST INDIES – From June to October, the beaches of Nevis come alive with the scurrying of one of nature’s most beloved animals, the sea turtle. Each year, the partnership between Four Seasons Resort Nevis and the Sea Turtle Conservancy aims to educate and create awareness about the protection of these beautiful sea creatures through a joint program that helps researchers study the migration patterns of the endangered species that nest on Nevis’ beaches.

Four Seasons Resort Nevis sponsors GPS satellite transmitters to support the Sea Turtle Conservancy in tracking the migration patterns of sea turtles that return to Nevis to lay their eggs, and this year, even with the Resort’s ongoing renovation, the research needed to continue.

“This is our 13th year coming to Nevis and conducting research on these beautiful hawksbill sea turtles,” says David Godfrey, Executive Director of the Sea Turtle Conservancy. ”For us, this partnership is more than just the research; it’s an opportunity to be a part of the Nevisian community year after year and see how much they truly value our efforts and being a part of this very important initiative.”

Along with the help of the Nevis Turtle Group and Ignacio Ottley, one of longest standing sea turtle participants from the Resort, the team was able to successfully locate and track two new nesting hawksbill sea turtles on the beaches of Cades Bay, located just 15 minutes from Four Seasons.

As they headed out to the beach in the late evening, no sooner had they spotted the first turtle nesting along the beach. The conservation team began taking notes, measurements, and nesting patterns when another turtle began to make its way up the banks, just a few steps away. And, just like that “Spongie” and “Patches” were cleaned up, tagged and sent back to the ocean.

Just one week before the team came to Nevis, the Nevis Turtle Group was already out looking for turtles when they found “Sundrop” nesting on Jones Bay Beach. Initially tagged in 2016, her return to Nevis shows the thriving population on the island and that the turtles do come back to nest on the same beaches.

Three species of sea turtles nest on the shores of Nevis: the hawksbill, the leatherback, and the green turtle. These majestic creatures journey hundreds of miles each nesting season to return to the same place where they were hatched and, under the glow of the moonlight, lay the next generation of sea turtles that will one day make the same journey. With only 1 in 1,000 to 10,000 baby sea turtles surviving to adulthood, the sea turtle conservation program needs to continue tracking and protecting these animals for future generations.  To follow the tagged sea turtles, visit ConserveTurtles.org.

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President Barack Obama Pens Article for Lonely Planet on Importance of Travel

President Obama discusses the value of international travel, especially to young people in an exclusive article for LonelyPlanet.com.
President Obama discusses the value of international travel, especially to young people in an exclusive article for LonelyPlanet.com.

(NOV 20, 2016) –– President Barack Obama shared his thoughts on the important role travel plays and his hopes for the future of the planet with Lonely Planet’s travelers on lonelyplanet.com, during his final foreign trip as President.

President Obama offered to share his thoughts with Lonely Planet on how interacting with people and cultures from different countries is essential for the world’s future. In an exclusive article written, he describes how travel is fundamental to progress and essential to overcome challenges across borders.

The President traveled extensively during his eight years in office, becoming the first sitting US president to visit Cambodia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Laos and Myanmar. He also paid homage at Hiroshima, Japan, and visited Vietnam. Recognizing the value of travel in cultivating face-to-face interactions, he also lifted the more than 50-year ban on US travel to Cuba.

Since the publication of its first guidebook in 1973, Lonely Planet has always believed responsible travel can be a force for good, and continues to today as the world travels with Lonely Planet content on mobile, web and in print. It’s a belief shared by President Barack Obama, detailed in his exclusive article on lonelyplanet.com, highlighting how the optimistic, tolerant and engaged young people he has met around the world give him hope for the future.

obama-lonelyplanet2

A key takeaway from his extensive travels as President is the importance of engaging beyond governments, and connecting with young people – who will determine the future of the planet – in a meaningful way. This is particularly crucial for the future of the developing world, where 90 percent of the global population under 30 lives.

“It is the world’s young people who will determine whether their voices direct the change that is sweeping our world towards greater justice, opportunity, tolerance, and mutual respect,” President Obama stated.

President Obama shared the plans he has put in place to support the empowerment of young global citizens prior to hosting a town hall meeting with young people in Peru.

For more information and to read President Barack Obama’s first person article, visit lonelyplanet.com.

Obama Administration Paves Path for Students, Millennials to Travel

Throughout his presidency, Obama has appreciated the importance of travel to bring people together, forge better understanding. Travelers become ambassadors for America and also bring back to the US appreciation for other cultures and people. The opportunity to travel abroad is particularly important for young people, and the Obama Administration has also facilitated opportunities for students and millennials to study, volunteer, work and travel abroad.

In December 2014, the National Security Council hosted a summit with 100 of the most influential travel bloggers and digital media outlets to highlight U.S. Government initiatives and discuss strategies for encouraging American students to study, volunteer, and work abroad.  The summit emphasized that international education and exposure are increasingly essential for the competitiveness of American companies and the American workforce, yet fewer than ten percent of students in the United States choose to study abroad.

By transforming interest in travel into study, volunteer, and work opportunities, the Administration sought to significantly increase the number and diversity of young people participating in educational, cultural, and professional experiences internationally.

Throughout Obama’s presidency, his administration has focused on broadening the scope of the U.S. government’s engagement with citizens abroad. Efforts included the President’s signature Young African Leaders Initiative, the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, 100,000 Strong in the Americas, and a project connecting Americans to youth in the Middle East, the J. Christopher Stevens Virtual Exchange Initiative.

Studying abroad is a critical component to deepening and broadening relationships with citizens overseas. Today, fewer than 10% of students take part in study abroad. In 2012 to 2013, the total number of U.S. students taking part in study abroad was under 300,000 — only 1.5 percent of the almost 20 million American students enrolled in U.S. higher education programs.

To combat these trends, the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs created the U.S. Study Abroad Office. This office  manages the Department’s study abroad scholarships and capacity building programs for American students and institutions, as well as plays a leading role in promoting the benefits of study abroad to U.S. students and parents, faculty, and education administrators. It provides resources that can help interested U.S. students navigate a complex process to study or intern abroad by offering scholarships, recommendations, and guidelines.

The summit also featured remarks, presentations, and panels of experts on current efforts around studying, volunteering, and working abroad. Experts from National Geographic, iHeartMedia, Institute for International Education, George Mason University, Millennial Trains Project, Minerva Project, Travel Channel, and Yahoo Travel shared their ideas for increasing students’ international interest.

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