Fireside Chat with Singapore Tourism Board’s Rachel Loh

By: Gina Ng, Vice President, MICE and Leisure Trade, Singapore Tourism Board Americas 

Located in the heart of Southeast Asia, Singapore is a vibrant, cosmopolitan, English-speaking city state with a rich tapestry of Asia’s cultures and influences weaved together. With its friendly and passionate population, this forward-thinking destination is constantly evolving and has not sat still throughout the pandemic. Now, Singapore wants to welcome all international fans and friends to embark on a journey through its reimagined tourism products.  

I checked in with my boss, Rachel Loh, Senior Vice President of Singapore Tourism Board Americas, who is currently in Singapore to obtain the latest updates from the Lion City.  

Photo Courtesy of Singapore Tourism Board

Can you share with everyone what’s it like traveling in Singapore right now? What can travelers expect when visiting Singapore?   

Ever since Singapore dropped all testing and quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated travelers in April 2022, it is now truly a breeze to visit Singapore! Life in the city state is also pretty much back to normal, and we are seeing more and more international visitors enjoying themselves at our attractions, restaurants, and hawker centers alongside the locals.  

There are still some safety measures in place, such as the SG Clean certification for businesses and face masks required indoors (it’s optional outdoors), to ensure that everyone’s health is safeguarded while enjoying themselves. As such, I think that now more than ever, Singapore should be a bucket-list destination for everyone who wants safe, authentic, and memorable reimagined experiences.  

Photo Courtesy of Singapore Tourism Board

How do you see international travel change in the post-Covid world, and how would this look like for Singapore? 

We recognize that there is a renewed focus on travelers seeking a respite and connecting with family and friends during their travels, with a focus on authentic nature and wellness experiences. This is why we have worked closely with our tourism partners to develop new products to meet the new travel needs. I’m glad to have experienced some of these new products this time in Singapore!  

I’m envious! Can you share some of these new experiences? 

Definitely! Visitors to Singapore can now easily hop on a scenic yacht cruise (or speedboat if you like the thrill!) from Sentosa to visit Singapore’s southern islands such as Lazarus Island for its beautiful beaches. Visitors can also combine cultural immersion with one of the many biking tours in Singapore, with rides along the Singapore River to discover the bustling Clarke Quay area. On the wellness front, you can now enjoy a serene sunset yoga atop Marina Bay Sands, while taking in amazing 360 views of Singapore.  

Photo Courtesy of Singapore Tourism Board

Travelers are increasingly seeing sustainability as part of their travels, can you share some exciting attractions in Singapore that embrace sustainability and eco-friendliness? 

That’s right, more travelers are looking for a smaller carbon footprint and seeking to incorporate sustainability during their vacations. Singapore already has a reputation of being a leader in sustainability, with even further plans to become a “City in Nature”. Singapore is well poised to meet the needs of these travelers.  

In fact, many first-time visitors are quite surprised that Singapore is very green. Our Gardens by the Bay for one, the largest nature park right in the city center, has also incorporated sustainable functions throughout the park and managed to reduce energy consumption by 20%.  Most of our architecture has weaved in green concepts, bringing the outdoors to the indoors. One example is the latest PARKROYAL Collection Marina Bay which embraced the hotel-in-nature concept with its interior areas brimming with lush foliage.  

Not forgetting our exciting food scene! Michelin rated restaurant, Labyrinth, provides a 90% locally sourced menu, and even green bespoke cocktails are all in the spirit of sustainable practices at Native, for one.  

What else can visitors expect in 2022 and beyond? 

The city has welcomed new and unique hotels including the PARKROYAL Collection Marina Bay, The Clan Hotel Singapore, and the Dusit Thani Laguna resort for golf and wellness enthusiast. The famed Raffles Singapore is also slated to open its new villas-only resort on Sentosa Island in 2023.  

We have also been busy on the culinary side, with the opening of the Analogue for one, with its plant-based foods and sustainable cocktail menu, as well as the restaurant 1-Arden, located on the 51st floor rooftop, and features the world’s highest 1000 sq.ft. food forest. There’s always something new in Singapore to experience.  

Find your dream vacation to Singapore with a USTOA tour operator here https://ustoa.travelstride.com/trip-list/singapore.

For further information: 

Visit Singapore 

Passion Tours in Singapore 

About Singapore Tourism Board

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is the lead development agency for tourism, one of the country’s key service sectors and economic pillars. STB brings the Passion Made Possible brand to life by differentiating Singapore as a vibrant destination that inspires people to share and deepen their passions. The STB Americas offices in New York and San Francisco drive all marketing, business development and travel trade activities in the Americas. 


Dreamy African Honeymoons with Allure, Passion, Enchantment, Love, and Intrigue 

By: Lion World Travel

Photo Courtesy of Camp Okavango 

Africa is celebrated for its outstanding natural beauty and stunning destinations. It also delivers energy, passion, and splendor. The options are endless when it comes to your dream honeymoon in Africa. A mix of adventure and charm, beach time or active time, Africa has it all. Sunset drinks, romantic private dinners, spa treatments, wine-tastings, the great migration, Gorilla trekking or a leisurely mokoro ride are all examples of the variety of experiences one can enjoy on a honeymoon in Africa. It all adds up to a life-changing experience and the perfect recipe for love. 

South Africa is one of the most popular African honeymoon destinations and it’s not hard to see why. From the sweeping vineyards of the Cape Winelands to the gourmet food in Franschhoek, the vibrance of Cape Town and the wildlife-rich Kruger National Park, to an overnight in a romantic treehouse on safari and luxurious safari lodges, it checks all the boxes as far as romance is concerned. 

Photo Courtesy of South African Tourism 

Botswana is the place for an exceptional honeymoon, with its deltas brimming with life, striking scenery and wildlife in pristine wilderness areas, along with a list of exciting activities from leisurely mokoro trips to exciting game drives, a romantic sundowner cruise on the Chobe River, hot air balloon flights and quad biking for an adrenaline rush. Then there’s the most luxurious tented accommodations at intimate safari camps in the most idyllic locations that you have ever seen. Botswana offers unmatched experiences. 

Photo Courtesy of Twiga Tours 

Victoria Falls is a popular stop after a honeymoon safari in South Africa and Botswana. Imagine staying in a Treehouse Suite on a private Island, nestled amongst the treetops with your own private deck, plunge pool and personal butler. Sleep out under the stars in an exclusive star-bed treehouse and explore the lush rainforest and wildlife of the spectacular Victoria Falls. The perfect romantic way to end the day is to indulge in a candlelit dinner for two or toast your love on a sunset cruise.  

Photo Courtesy of Angama Mara 

While on safari in Kenya or Tanzania your days will be filled with incredible wildlife sightings and magical experiences like a sunrise hot air balloon ride with champagne and candle-lit dinners under starry skies. One can add an escape to Zanzibar Island, a place of mystery and blissful beauty especially when you have your partner by your side to admire the crystal-clear waters, white sandy beaches, and swaying palm trees of the “Spice Island”. 

Photo Courtesy of Anantara Maia 

Known for its sunny skies, unspoiled palm-fringed beaches, azure waters, excellent diving reefs with multitudes of tropical fish, Mozambique has so much to offer. The long, dune-bordered beaches, well-preserved corals, pounding surf, secluded archipelagos, and graceful dhows with billowing sails all add to its beauty. There is a wealth of experiences to delight the senses, along with the British-style architecture, energetic nightlife, fascinating cultural mix, and vast expanses of stunning scenery. 

Photo Courtesy of Matemo Island Resort 

For a more relaxing honeymoon, unwind on white sandy beaches, watch unforgettable African sunsets, take scenic walks, scuba dive in crystal clear waters and enjoy a romantic picnic on the beach in Mauritius. Or head to the turquoise waters and sun-drenched world-renowned beaches of the Seychelles for an ideal post-safari retreat in a perfect tropical paradise with its palm-fringed beaches and warm waters. Enjoy a couples massage and end your days sipping champagne on the beach while watching a magnificent sunset.  

No matter where you choose to travel on your dream honeymoon in Africa, you will return with many wonderful memories of the warm African hospitality on your epic romantic trip of a lifetime.  

Find your dream vacation to Africa with a USTOA tour operator here https://ustoa.travelstride.com/trip-list/africa .

About Lion World Travel 

Making safari dreams come true for more than 58 years, Lion World Travel is one of North America’s largest operators to the continent of Africa. We love Africa and specialize in affordable luxury safaris for group travel and individual tours to Southern Africa, East Africa and Egypt. As a proud member of The Travel Corporation (TTC), we are part of the largest privately-owned travel company in the world. Our Africa Specialists have first-hand knowledge of Africa, enabling Lion World Travel to provide 5-star service and confidently assist clients in creating their own personalized African adventures. Lion World Travel is committed to offering the best value safari options and an unforgettable travel experience that matches the interests and budgets of each client. 


Slovenia – Sustainable Diversity on a Plate

Slovenia is a Central European pocket-sized country, where short distances speak in its favor and reveal an outstanding diversity which reflects also through gastronomy. Believe it or not, but as many as 24 gastronomic regions and three wine-growing areas with 14 wine-growing districts will welcome you here. But what is it that makes Slovenian cuisine so special and why has this boutique country evolved into one of the most recognizable European foodie destinations?  

Photo Courtesy of www.slovenia.info/TomoJesenicnik 

The secret behind: fresh, locally grown and diverse ingredients 

Wherever you try authentic Slovenian cuisine, you can be sure it comes straight from nature. Here, foraging and sourcing fresh ingredients from nearby fields and gardens is not a trend, but part of tradition and sustainable development, which has been present for centuries. Next to locally sourced ingredients, which are the true heroes of Slovenia’s authentic culinary stories, an abundance of tastes will also surprise you. It is thanks to the fact that Slovenia lies at the crossroads of four geographically and culturally very different areas that no fewer than 400 local traditional dishes and drinks await you here. Another reason is that Slovenia borders on four countries: Austria in the north, Italy in the west, Hungary in the east and Croatia in the south. While the Alpine Slovenia boasts goods from mountain pastures, Mediterranean and Karst Slovenia feature the flavors of salt and charcuterie aged by the Bora wind. In addition to healthy water, Thermal Pannonian Slovenia offers different farinaceous foods and bread, and Central Slovenia with Ljubljana will surprise you with authentic dishes with cosmopolitan influences.  

Photo Courtesy of www.slovenia.info/SuzanGabrijan 

Excellence on a plate – trust recommendations, rely on your own experience 

To find the very best when it comes to food and wine in Slovenia, the internationally acclaimed culinary guides, such as Michelin and Gault&Millau, will come in handy. The ratings prove that Slovenia is an intriguing gastronomic destination, offering a plethora of exceptional culinary experiences in restaurants led by top chefs, who masterfully combine traditions with modern trends. In 2021, when Slovenia held the European Region of Gastronomy title, the Michelin Guide listed as many as 53 Slovenian restaurants and awarded 6 of them with Michelin stars. Ana Roš’s Hiša Franko, which also ranks 21st among the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, received an astounding 2 stars. Pretty amazing for a country half-a-size of Switzerland, don’t you think?  

Photo Courtesy of www.slovenia.info/CirilJazbec 

Restaurants with the Slovenia Green sustainability label and Michelin Green Star 

Many restaurants in Slovenia have their own circle of local suppliers or even own gardens or fields where they obtain fresh and local ingredients for their dishes. In doing so, they respect tradition and present it to the guests in a new, original way. Restaurants that are particularly devoted to sustainability have gained the Slovenia Green Cuisine label. Currently, there are as many as 40 holders. 

Returning to nature and care for future generations is also becoming increasingly important in haute cuisine. This is why Michelin awards special Green Stars to the restaurants that follow the principles of sustainability. Currently, there are as many as 5 holders in Slovenia: Gostišče Grič in Horjul, Hiša Franko in Kobarid, Gostilna Mahorčič in Rodik, Gostilna za Gradom in Koper and Gostilna Krištof in Predoslje. 

Photo Courtesy of www.slovenia.info/TomoJesenicnik 

Authentic Slovenian dishes revealed 

Wherever you go in Slovenia, you will find special local dishes. Many of them are also protected. Among the most well-known and distinctive specialties of Slovenia are potica, Prekmurska gibanica, idrijski žlikrofi, and belokranjska pogača. The queen of Slovenian festive dishes is definitely potica, a rolled cake with various sweet or savory fillings, usually served for the most important holidays. Since the written records of this festive dish date from the 16th century, potica has become a true ambassador of Slovenia throughout history – it has, for example, even been brought to the Pope for Easter breakfast. 

All in all, it can be said that Slovenia is home to an array of splendid authentic and fresh tastes which are based on the sustainable use of resources and an integrative approach. Pair this with top chefs and excellent award-winning local wines and you will get a perfect gastronomic destination that will impress even the most demanding foodies.  

Find your dream vacation to Slovenia with a USTOA tour operator here https://ustoa.travelstride.com/trip-list/slovenia

For further information visit:  

Taste Slovenia 

Slovenian Gastronomy: You can’t spell Slovenia without love

Slovenia.info 

About Slovenian Tourist Board 

Slovenian Tourist Board (STB) is the central national agency for the promotion of tourism, one of the most successful and promising industries in the Slovenian economy. Systematic planning, development and promotion activities and a modern approach to the placement of Slovenia on the global tourist map – particularly in recent years, this is what has helped the STB to increase the visibility and reputation of the country as an authentic boutique destination of five-star experiences, which is committed to sustainability. 


5 Things to Consider When Shopping for a Travel Insurance Plan

By: Sharon L. Broo, CTA, P&C and L&H Licensed, Vice President, USI Travel Insurance Services 

Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock

It’s 2022 and travel looks a lot different than it did in 2019. As people feel the comfort offered by vaccines and reduced Covid spread, the travel bug is taking root and offering joy, inspiration and adventure as people embark on trip planning once again. In our new post-Covid world, travelers are more aware of the need to protect their trip with a travel insurance plan. But with so many options on the market today, it’s hard to know what coverage you need, and which plan is best for you. Below are five considerations to keep in mind as you shop and compare travel insurance plans. 

1. Does your destination have insurance requirements for entry? 

Many destinations have added new travel insurance requirements because of the pandemic, including minimum coverage for Trip Delay (in case of mandatory quarantine) and Emergency Medical. Research your destination and make sure you have appropriate insurance coverage to enter the country. 

Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock

2. Does the plan cover Covid-19-related disruptions? 

You’ll want to ensure that your plan covers many of the common Covid-19 related trip disruptions. For example, would you have Trip Cancellation coverage in the event that you test positive for Covid-19 before your trip and cannot travel? If you are diagnosed while on your trip and require treatment, will the plan cover your expenses? If you test positive just prior to your return to the U.S. and must quarantine, will your plan cover expenses such as additional lodging and meals? In general, keep in mind that no travel insurance covers cancellation because of fear of travel or closed borders. Additionally, travel insurance generally will not cover the costs of Covid testing required for travel, unless the test is ordered by a physician. 

3. Are there any pandemic exclusions? 

Some plans exclude any coverage related to a pandemic. If this is the case, the plan may be more limited in scope than a plan without this exclusion. Every insurance plan has a section listing plan exclusions. Be sure to read that section (and the whole plan) carefully. 

Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock

4. Do you have any special activities or equipment that need to be covered? 

Perhaps you’re going on a golf or ski vacation. Does your plan have adequate coverage for your expensive equipment? If you will be renting a car, seek out a plan that includes some rental car coverage. If you plan to scuba dive, ensure that activity will be covered by your plan. 

Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock

5. Is Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) coverage available? 

Now more than ever, travelers are seeking the flexibility and peace of mind offered by Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) upgrades. If you’d like to have this option, make sure your plan offers it and that you fall within the eligibility criteria. Most plans require you to buy your plan within 14-21 days of your initial trip deposit to be eligible for the CFAR upgrade, so act early. Expect to pay about 50% more in premium for this upgrade. If you do cancel your trip, you’ll receive anywhere from 50-75% of your non-refundable trip costs, depending on your plan. Other conditions may apply for CFAR – read your plan carefully to understand the benefit. Due to state regulations, CFAR is not available to residents of New York state. 

If you’re still unsure which plan is best for you, contact some travel insurance providers for assistance. And before you buy your plan, we recommend that you always read through the plan document to fully understand the coverage included, plus any terms, conditions and exclusions. Once you have an appropriate travel insurance plan in place, you’ll be able to enjoy your next trip to its fullest! 

About the author: As Vice President of Travel Insurance Services, Sharon Broo is responsible for the national execution of strategies and formation of business relationships promoting travel insurance sales and company growth in the tour operator, cruise line and travel agency marketplace. Sharon has a strong professional history with more than 25 years of building and working for first class selling organizations in the global travel insurance and travel assistance arena. Sharon has always been involved in professional associations related to her career such as ASTA, USTOA, USTIA and WIFS. She holds a certification of CTA (Certified Travel Advisor) from ICTA. In addition, she holds her Life & Health and Property & Casualty licenses in the State of Georgia. 

Established in 1973, Travel Insurance Services (TIS) is a national insurance agency/brokerage providing travel-related insurance solutions for individuals, groups, organizations and businesses worldwide. TIS is located in Newtown Square, PA. 


Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula: Ancient culture waiting to be explored 

By: Jason Z. Cohen of Pleasant Holidays

From the pyramids that rise above the remnants of ancient Mesoamerican cities such as Chichen Itza, Coba, Ek Balam and Tulum, to the cenotes that lie underfoot, Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula to this day reflects the continuing influence of the Maya civilization that once dominated its lands.  

Although the Maya civilization was at its greatest size and power in the 9th Century A.D., some of the wonders of this ancient civilization have survived the centuries, and many of them are easy to visit and explore while vacationing in Cancun and Riviera Maya. Within a short drive of the resort areas of the Yucatan coast are dozens of archaeological sites, historic points of interest, and examples of natural beauty and wonder, all influenced in some way by the region’s Maya past. 

The view from atop Ixmoja Pyramid. Photo by Jason Z. Cohen, Pleasant Holidays.

Pay a visit to one of the ancient Maya cities, such as Chichen Itza, Coba, Ek Balam or Tulum to catch a glimpse of what life might have been like centuries ago. While the surviving structures have been partially or fully restored, it’s still possible to see trees growing from the walls, a witness to just how far nature went to claim it as its own. In fact, the growth had to be cut back substantially at these sites in order for people to appreciate their significance, and work continues even now to reverse the encroachment of the forest. At Ek Balam, you may even be able to ascend to the top of the Acropolis pyramid to gain a view previously reserved for Maya elite – a vista of the sprawling Yucatan rainforest from above the treetops.  

Another place where the history of the region is celebrated is at Xcaret Eco-Archaeological Park, which blends immersive history with aquatic adventure. Visitors can float the length of the park though a series of natural cenotes—subterranean caverns unique to this area that were formed by underground streams and rivers. The Maya people revered cenotes, believing they were passageways between our world and the Underworld, a spiritual realm occupied by mystical beings more powerful than humans. 

The park is also home to numerous archaeological sites featuring the ruins of buildings dating back to the height of Maya civilization. Each evening, the park puts on a dinner show that highlights the history of Mexico while celebrating its regional differences, from ancient to modern times. Part of the show recreates the ball game contested by players centuries ago, whose playing courts still can be found among the buildings in Coba and Chichen Itza. 

Before the Spanish colonized the land and brought their own flavors and ingredients, the people native to Mexico were already cultivating corn, chili peppers, avocadoes and cacao. The Europeans introduced beef, pork, rice, cheese and spices. The result of the combination is a cuisine that is popular throughout the world, consisting not only of well-known favorites such as tacos and tamales, but regional dishes as well, which are reflections of the history of the area.  

In the Yucatan, you can find chiles rellenos and chilaquiles, but also dishes steeped in tradition including Poc C​​huc – sliced marinated pork in a sour orange and achiote sauce – and the slow-cooked pork specialty known as cochinita pibil. Yucatan cuisine often features some combination of sour citrus, achiote and habanero chile, slowly cooked with smoke in an underground pit. 

Like the cenotes below, the Maya culture runs deep in the Yucatan Peninsula, offering ancient knowledge, customs, recipes and architecture for you to discover. 

Find your dream vacation to Mexico with a USTOA tour operator here https://ustoa.travelstride.com/trip-list/mexico

About Pleasant Holidays: Founded in 1959, Pleasant Holidays is one of the largest tour operators in the United States offering vacation packages, flights, hotels, cruises, car rentals, cancel-for-any-reason travel protection and related travel services to the world’s most popular destinations, including Canada, Caribbean, Central & South America, Europe, Hawaii, Japan & Asia, Mexico, South Pacific (Cook Islands, Fiji and Tahiti), United States and cruise vacations worldwide. The Company’s portfolio of travel brands includes Pleasant Holidays®, Journese®, Pleasant Activities℠ and Air By Pleasant. Pleasant Holidays is headquartered in Westlake Village, Calif. near Los Angeles with regional offices in San Diego and Honolulu and a dedicated team of more than 400 employees. For additional information and reservations, visit www.PleasantAgent.com, www.Journese.com, www.PleasantActivities.com, and www.AirByPleasant.com


Discover Italy’s New UNESCO World Heritage Sites

By: Susan Van Allen 

Extraordinary destinations for travelers are added every year to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. In 2021, three of the new sites selected were in Italy, bringing Italy’s World Heritage Site total to 58—the most of any country in the world. 

While many of Italy’s UNESCO sites from the past are packed with tourists, such as the Historical Center of Florence or Venice and its lagoon, these newly designated places are under the tourist radar.  

Equally stunning and without crowds, these places give travelers a chance to blend in with the locals, immersing themselves in unique pleasures of bell’Italia.  Their locations add to their allure, as each can easily be reached by short train rides from Venice or Florence, making them perfect for day trips. 

For your consideration, from north to south: 

Padua’s Fourteenth-Century Fresco Cycles 

Only a 30-minute train ride from Venice is the university town of Padua, a dazzling delight, where visitors can wander through the historic center’s piazzas, entering churches and civic buildings that were fantastically frescoed by artists in the fourteenth century.  

As the UNESCO proclamation states, painters during that pre-Renaissance time brought a new image to Padua, giving it the nickname Urbs Picta, Painted City. The star of the eight frescoed buildings in the UNESCO group is the Scrovegni Chapel, painted by superstar Giotto. Entering, visitors are awestruck by vibrant colors and a striking style that captures powerful emotions.  

More breathtaking interiors are to be discovered in Padua’s Baptistry, Palazzo della Ragione, and the Basilica of Saint Anthony, one of Italy’s most popular pilgrimage sites.  To enrich the Padua fresco experience, there’s an app with fascinating commentary, and an inclusive ticket to see all eight sites. 

The Porticoes of Bologna 

Visitors to Bologna, in Italy’s central Emilia Romagna region, are enchanted by the city’s beautifully preserved medieval ambience, where sidewalks are sheltered with more porticoes than any other city in the world, totaling 62 km, or about 35 miles. The porticoes appear in a range of styles—from humble wooden structures to Renaissance loggias with carved stone columns and painted ceilings.  

UNESCO calls these porticoes “expressions of Bologna’s urban identity.” Though their original purpose in the Middle Ages was to expand buildings to make room for the many university students coming to Bologna, today the porticoes serve to expand the city’s pleasures. On a practical level, they give protection for walks in rainy weather and provide cool shade on hot summer days. Moreover, they bring an easy-going elegance to the city, as they are perfect settings for sidewalk eateries or for musicians to casually set up and play Mozart concertos.  

A traditional Bolognese experience is the 4-kilometer, 2.5 mile walk through the longest portico in the world, adorned with 664 arches, from the Porta Saragozza in the historic center up to the church of San Luca, where stunning views of the countryside await. 

As Bologna is also famous for having the most delicious cuisine in Italy, it can be an ideal escape from the crowds of Florence, (only a 40-minute train ride away), to enjoy a classic lunch of Tagliatelle alla Bolognese

Montecatini 
Italian National Tourist Board c/o GettyImages 

Montecatini Terme, a Great Spa Town of Europe 

Mineral rich thermal springs have been enjoyed on the Italian peninsula since the days of the Roman Empire. Among Italy’s most famous places to “take the waters” is the Tuscan Art Nouveau town of Montecatini Terme, reached by an hour’s train ride from Florence.  

UNESCO included Montecatini Terme amongst 11 “Great Spa Towns of Europe”, praising it for its history, since the 1700s, when the town developed as an international resort destination, combining medical studies with monumental spa architecture, promenades, and parklands. 

Today there are two hundred spa hotels in Montecatini Terme that pump in curative waters, renowned for their beneficial effects on the liver and digestive system.  

A favorite spot is Terme Tettuccio, a grand pavilion that sits in the center of Montecatini Terme’s beautifully landscaped park. Gorgeous marble bars with brass spigots disperse drinking cups of the cure, as local hipsters in their gym clothes and pensioners with their canes mill about. A jazz orchestra plays on the bandstand, there’s a bookstore, caffe, and inner gardens that blend to create a blissful Old World ambience. 

To learn more, visit: www.italia.it or contact the Italian National Tourist Board in the US newyork@enit.it; losangeles@enit.it.  

Find your dream vacation to Italy with a USTOA tour operator here https://ustoa.travelstride.com/trip-list/italy

About the author: Susan Van Allen is the author of 4 books about Italian travel, including “100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go”. She also designs and hosts Golden Weeks in Italy For Women Only tours, that give female travelers wonderful insiders’ experiences of the Bel Paese. www.susanvanallen.com 

The Italian National Tourist Board – ENIT – supports marketing activities worldwide, promoting Italy as a unique and exclusive destination, aiming to increase the international tourist flow, while maintaining its high market share. The promotion is carried out with a corporate strategy conceived in Italy and implemented through its 28 offices abroad. In the next few years, Italy’s tourism development will be focused on a value growth to generate economic, social and cultural sustainability: enhance tourism supply, increase the value of the territories and businesses and market relevance. 


Spain’s Commitment to Tourism Sustainability 

By: José Manuel de Juan of The Tourism Office of Spain 

Spain is one of the world’s tourism leaders, ranking second among the most visited countries. As part of this leadership role, the Government of Spain has launched an ambitious scheme that seeks to promote the transformation of tourist destinations towards sustainability in three ways: environmental, socioeconomic, and territorial. 

UNWTO defines sustainable tourism as “tourism that takes full account of current and future economic, social, and environmental impacts to meet the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.” Therefore, sustainable tourism is not a tourism product but rather a management principle that must be applied to any type of tourism product and destination. 

With this concept in mind, the Spanish government plans to invest 1.9 billion euros in the next three years to support Spain’s tourist destinations in their transformation process to integrate environmental, socioeconomic and territorial sustainability into their offer and to develop resilience strategies to face the new challenges in the tourism ecosystem, from climate change to tourism overdemand to health and safety crises.  

Specifically: 

  • To diversify the offer of tourist destinations to help generate employment opportunities, redistribute tourism revenue, and promote territorial cohesion while disrupting the concentration of the demand, particularly toward rural areas, as well as to promote arrivals all year round. 
  • To guarantee sustainability by reducing emissions, improving waste and water management, protecting and restoring ecosystems for tourism, and introducing actions to prevent or mitigate the effects of climate change. 

Any municipality in Spain can present their plans to the Government to get their sustainability plans financed.  

The type of plan will depend on the type of destination. Destinations will be divided into categories which will require different actions: 

Sun and beach destinations 

Sun and beach destinations are currently facing a profound change, with consumers who are increasingly more informed, more demanding and who have more alternatives, and citizens who demand a better distribution of the socioeconomic benefits of tourism among local populations. 

All this requires a strategy that reinforces the diversity of the tourism experience, the participation of the local population in the benefits of tourism, the reduction of its environmental impact, the contribution to energy efficiency, and the recovery of an environment where a wide range of travel experiences can coexist. 

Rural destinations 

Inland Spain has an enormous cultural heritage and rich natural resources. This endows it with  great potential from a tourism standpoint and a wide margin for development.  

A better integration of this territory in Spain’s tourism system will contribute to a seasonal adjustment, a disruption of the current concentration, and the distribution of tourism income. Spain’s plan for rural destinations is aimed at improving the quality of life of their residents, generating new job opportunities, revitalizing aged social spaces, improving industries and business, and contributing to the country’s strategy against depopulation. 

Urban destinations 

Urban tourism represents approximately a quarter of the international tourism demand towards Spain. The cities are also the main points of entry into the country through their airports. 

Cities face considerable challenges: the renovation of their cultural and leisure offer and the integration of new pieces in that offer, as well as the need for maintenance and improvement of their historic centers; a balanced approach that takes into consideration the multiplicity of demographic groups that inhabit a given space or neighborhood and the expectation that each group has for that space (living , working, visiting, etc.); the need to expand and diversify areas of interest; and the need for digital tools that allow a better management of tourism flows and contribute to a more efficient management of the different services made available to them. 

Independently of the funds that are available to the destinations, the Spanish Government has just announced a 170-million-euros project aimed at financing hotels and other hospitality facilities to become more energy efficient.  

This is just a brief summary of Spain’s comprehensive plan for a more sustainable tourism industry, one that the country takes with great enthusiasm as we lead the way into a new era in world travel. 

Find your dream vacation to Spain with a USTOA tour operator here https://ustoa.travelstride.com/trip-list/spain

Spain is a destination filled to the brim with hidden gems in nature, culture, and cuisine. Mediterranean beaches, green National Parks, historic towns filled with contemporary art, and fresh seafood paired with world class wine make it a top pick for American travelers.

Find more travel tips, news, and inspiration by visiting the Tourist Board of Spain. 

Plan your visit with a tour operator by visiting https://ustoa.travelstride.com/trip-list/spain


Germany’s Wood Wide Web

By: Ralf Korbner of SITA World Tours

About 30 percent of German lands are tree covered. Germans have long had a mythological identification with their forests.  In German literature, the forest has often been portrayed as a place of happiness and contentment where people feel protected from social pressures and the chaos of everyday life.   

Hermann Hesse comments: “A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home.”   

Prussian poet Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff expressed how the forest embodied freedom and the idea of home: “Gentle rustling in the treetops – Little birds flying afar – Springs bursting from silent peaks – Tell me where my homeland lies.”  

Towards the end of the 18th century, Romanticism became a dominant theme in poetry, painting and music including in the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm. The forest is the stage: Little Red Riding Hood meets the Wolf, Hansel and Gretel are abandoned, four mistreated animals become the Town Musicians of Bremen. German Romanticism also stylized the forest as a symbol of unity. The forest is more than the sum of its trees. It is a central part of German identity and culture that today is becoming a defining symbol of a sustainable future. 

Fast Forward:  

Wood Wide Web is a term Canadian research scientist and professor of forestry Suzanne Simard first coined twenty-five years ago. Simard tells us that trees communicate with each other. She describes how they are interconnected, send each other messages and she speaks about the prominence of all important mother trees.  

Simard and the German forester Peter Wohlleben are on the forefront of a much-needed new understanding of how trees live, and forests thrive. A few years ago, Wohlleben described the Hidden Life of Trees in his New York Times bestseller.  

Modern Germans understand that the mystical and religious connection of their long-ago forbearers, who believed their Gods resided in tree groves, is today the very practical knowledge that healthy forests are needed for our survival. 

Four experiences of many available:  

Image by Herbert Aust from Pixabay 

Sixty miles south-east of Berlin is the Spree Forest, a water meadow setting that has managed to stay largely natural in spite of centuries of human activity. The UNESCO World Heritage listed Spree Forest Biosphere Reserve mixes a mosaic of meadows, fields and forests with waterways. Ideal for a variety of plant and wildlife, a visit also highlights the customs and traditional costumes of the Slavic Sorbs minority living here. One-day or multiple-day visits can be included in any itinerary. The area and waterways allow for bikes, canoe or very enjoyable, traditional Spree Forest barge travel.  

Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay 

Some fifty-five miles south-west of Cologne (35 miles from Bonn) we will find the Waldakademie (forest academy) Wohlleben in the small town of Wershofen. The aforementioned Wohlleben is Germany’s tree whisperer.  His academy provides guided tours and overnight adventures in the protected, adjacent forest reserve familiarizing the visitor with the emerging understanding of how trees communicate with each other through their root- network, warn and protect each other from danger, and look after their off-spring.  

Image by Thilo Wagner from Pixabay 

The town of Neuschoenau, some thirty-five miles from Passau, puts you at the center of the Bayerischer Wald.  Munich is under three car hours to the south. Here the woodland of beech, spruce and fir is densely packed with tall trees, wild and ancient.  However, it is accessible offering many hiking paths and even a treetop walkway with gorgeous views of the surrounding Bavarian landscape.  

Photo by vonMitzscha on Unsplash

The UNESCO World Heritage site Hainich Forest, twenty miles from Eisenach of Luther and Wartburg fame, features the last remaining central European beech forest. The forest offers miles of hiking paths, a canopy walk and horseback riding. During winter one can take horse drawn sleigh rides.  And there are guided tours available, explaining every aspect of the forest and how care is taken to  safeguard its continued health.  

Find your dream vacation to Germany with a USTOA tour operator here https://ustoa.travelstride.com/trip-list/germany

With 89 years of exemplary service in travel, SITA remains as the go-to tour operator for exotic destinations worldwide. Headquartered in Los Angeles, SITA is renowned for its highly experienced team of international specialists and is dedicated to travel excellence in every element of its programs. As a deluxe, luxury tour operator specializing in Packaged, Independent, Customized and Groups travel, SITA has become a key source for both the Consortium and Agent network nationwide. SITA’s well-planned tours focus on a destination’s culture, history and unique geography providing the greatest value to clients. 

About the author: Growing up on a horse ranch in Germany with a younger brother, two cousins and lots of animals, travel was part of our annual family rhythm as long as I can remember. Summers were spent in Italy or Spain, winters in Austria for skiing and there were trips to the Baltic Sea or along the Rhine and Mosel with visits to castles and towns along those rivers. After graduating from high school on an island in the North Sea and while a university student in Germany, friends and I drove all over Europe during summer vacations. Those trips also included Turkey, Morocco and several of the countries then still behind the Iron Curtain. I became a member of the travel industry community after completing my studies at a California university. Visits to countries in Asia, Africa and travel in Australia and New Zealand have since broadened my geographic and cultural knowledge. 


Top Reasons to Explore in Your Own Backyard in 2022

By: Jaclyn Leibl-Cote, President and Chief Brand Officer of Collette  

The past two years have given travelers the chance to reflect on the memories and experiences that they may have been yearning for.  For many, after an extended period of staying home and building their list of places to go, it’s clear that 2022 is the rebound year for travel. Travelers are itching to explore, and right now, there’s a huge demand for finding adventure right in your backyard. As restrictions ease and travelers reconnect with the road, it’s a great chance to see a destination that you never would have thought to explore.  

Photo Courtesy of Collette

Why the United States? 

Travelers seem to want to explore close to home more than ever. There’s comfort, after such uncertainty, in getting back out there and getting away without being too far. Within the United States, there is so much diversity and adventure to be found. From stunning coastlines and national parks to musical cities and quintessential small towns, there is a destination that appeals to travelers looking to explore close to home, those seeking an outdoor adventure, or the couple easing their way back to travel.    

Photo Courtesy of Collette

Exploring Close to Home 

In spite of unprecedented travel restrictions over the past two years, travelers have pivoted their energy into exploring what lies in their own backyards. After all, a true explorer can find adventure anywhere and there is so much culture, history and beauty right at your fingertips. Travelers are looking at the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, the Rocky Mountains, national parks, deep South, Midwest and more. During this incredible rebound year for travel, domestic trips are trending more than ever, and the industry is responding with new tours to capture this ever-growing interest. Deep dives into lesser-traveled destinations like Montana, or new ways to explore big cities like Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., are allowing travelers freedom to go in-depth on tour in places that often are seen as a stop-over during a bigger tour. 

Photo Courtesy of Collette

Getting Outdoors 

Americans planning a domestic trip are searching for truly enriching experiences. In the last year, trips that connected travelers with the great outdoors and wonders of nature were some of the most popular. There’s a growing expectation that travelers will continue gravitating to some beachy locales. In terms of domestic outdoor spots, places like Martha’s Vineyard and Maui are highly searched destinations in the U.S. right now.  

There’s a growing trend, since the pandemic started, that travelers want to be outside! Given the restrictions indoor venues faced last year, it makes sense. People are choosing a lot more outdoor activities in their free time or on tour than prior to the pandemic. Many Americans are looking to experience nature as well, so experiences like seeking out the Northern Lights in Alaska, catching some sun on the white-sand beaches of Hawaii or relaxing at one of the many public seating areas overlooking the immense and colorful Grand Canyon are topping travel to-do lists more than ever before. 

The US Has It All 

From a lobster bake in New England to stepping inside the recording studio that Elvis Presley once created musical masterpieces – there are endless great experiences right in the United States for culturally curious travelers. Going in-depth in historic and bustling cities, slowing down and taking in the scenery, and learning more about the place we call home is a great way to reconnect with travel and connect with our roots at a time that’s ideal for doing just that.

About Collette

As the longest-running tour operator in North America, Collette is the company travelers can trust. Leading with integrity, Collette’s comprehensive travel protection plan, flexible tour pacing, and strong relationships within the travel space set it apart. The happiness of its guests has been its roadmap since 1918 and today Collette offers over 160 tours to all seven continents and five distinct travel styles, including small group touring and river cruises. This third-generation family-owned business is dedicated to giving back in both local and global communities through its social responsibility platform.  For more information, visit www.gocollette.com.  


Stay at the ‘World’s Best’ Hotels on Tour with Luxury Gold 

By Chelsea Todaro  

A world of indulgence and elegance await travelers with the incredible hotels featured on journeys with Luxury Gold, a worldwide leader in luxury, small group tours 

Hotels are an important pillar for Luxury Gold because they are carefully chosen for the location, service, and amenities – enhancing the overall experience. On every Luxury Gold journey, guests will also enjoy VIP experiences, exceptional dining, a Traveling Concierge and a Wellbeing Director who are there to tailor the guest experience and ensure extra care and attention while traveling.   

Many of the properties selected by the five-star tour operator have also been deemed the “world’s best” by esteemed travel publications. In terms of luxurious comfort, elegant surroundings, excellent locations and supremely high standards of service, Luxury Gold’s hotels truly immerse guests in each destination.  

With multiple night stays in many cities, travelers can spend their leisure time relaxing at rejuvenating spas, golfing on world-class courses, and sipping on cocktails at distinctive bars that will make for an unforgettable trip.  

Below are the six magnificent hotels on tour with Luxury Gold. 

1. Ashford Castle, Cong 

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As Ireland’s first and only Forbes Five Star Hotel and the former home of the Guinness family, Ashford Castle is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Photo by Red Carnation Hotels 

On Luxury Gold’s Ultimate Irelandtour, travelers will stay in a 12th century Irish castle with modern luxuries while maintaining a traditional elegance. An iconic Red Carnation Hotel property, Ashford Castle boasts an award-winning spa and 350 acres of lush woodland where guests can partake in horseback riding, golf, fishing, cycling, tennis, falconry even zip-lining. Ashford Castle is Forbes only five-star rated hotel in Ireland. It was awarded in Travel + Leisure’s Top 10 Resort Hotels in the U.K. and Ireland in their 2021 “World’s Best Awards” and the Top 30 Resorts in Europe in CondeNast Traveler’s 2021 “Reader’s Choice Awards.”  

2. Le Grand Hotel Bordeaux, Bordeaux 

Nostalgic French décor in the historic heart of the city set the scene at Le Grand Hotel Bordeaux, with two upscale restaurants, a bar, a rooftop, and a rejuvenating Spa. Photo by Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts. 

The five-star Intercontinental Le Grand Hotel Bordeaux is set in an 18th century building with a neoclassical-inspired facade, located in the historic heart of the city. Travelers can enjoy the city’s best attractions for an extra day on Luxury Gold’s new Ultimate Southern France itinerary, as the hotel faces the emblematic Grand Théâtre and is only an 8-minute walk from la Cathédrale Saint André de Bordeaux. The chic guest rooms include 19th century furnishings with an elegant marble bathroom, and guests can enjoy fine dining at the property’s two upscale restaurants – one of them a Michelin-Star by Gordon Ramsay– a stylish cocktail bar, and an indoor courtyard that serves afternoon tea. You can also relax in the indoor swimming pool or book a massage in the spa. 

3. Bauer Palazzo, Venice 

Set on the Grand Canal, the Bauer Palazzo screams luxury in the heart of Venice. Photo by Bauer Venezia 

On Luxury Gold’s most popular itinerary, Ultimate Italy, this picturesque hotel in Venice is divinely located on the Grand Canal, just off St Mark’s Square, offering spacious and elegant guest rooms. The hotel is only a 5-minute walk from both Piazza San Marco and the Teatro La Fenice opera house and features a posh Mediterranean restaurant, and a refined bar offering evening live music. Bauer Palazzo is a member of The Leading Hotels of the World.   

4. The Rubens at the Palace, London  

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Historic roots brought to life at The Rubens at the Palace with warm British hospitality and theatrical dining experiences. Photo by Red Carnation Hotels 

Part of the award-winning Red Carnation Hotel Collection, this historic hotel is located directly opposite the royal residence of Buckingham Palace. Recently fully refurbished, the five-star hotel celebrates the very best of British culture, from the red tail-coated doormen to themed bedrooms and a traditional afternoon tea in the Palace Lounge, giving guests the full royal treatment on Luxury Gold’s British Royale and Castles and Kingdoms journeys. The hotel was recently awarded as one of the Top 40 Hotels in London in Condé Nast Traveler ‘Readers’ Choice Awards 2021. 

5. Mena House Hotel (pyramid view), Cairo  

In a stone palace on 16 hectares of gardens, this upscale hotel offers unmatched views of the Giza pyramid complex. Photo by Mena House Hotel 

As far as hotels go, there are few that compare to the five-star Mena House Hotel in Egypt on Elegance of the Pharaohs. In a stone palace on 16 hectares of gardens, this upscale hotel offers unmatched views of the Giza pyramid complex in Cairo. Having welcomed numerous heads of state over the years, guests will have the opportunity to bask in its storied history, while still benefiting from its modern luxury, waking up to stunning views of the pyramids from the balcony of their decadent room.  

6. Fairmont Château Lake Louise, Canada 

Set in a castle-like building in Banff National Park, this grand hotel lies within a mile of Bow Falls, and the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies. Photo by Fairmont Hotels 

Surrounded by some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world, the iconic Fairmont Banff Springs resort is nestled deep within Banff National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On Luxury Gold’s Majesty of the Rockies tour, travelers will indulge themselves in what is known as Canada’s ‘Castle in the Rockies.’ The world-famous Fairmont Banff Springs resort stands as a landmark in the picturesque alpine town of Banff and has been providing legendary hospitality to guests for more than 125 years. Enveloped by soaring mountain peaks, the natural beauty of this destination permeates every nook of the historic resort. The hotel was awarded among The Top 10 Best Resort Hotels in Canada in Travel + Leisure’s 2020 ‘World’s Best’ Awards.  

 About Luxury Gold 
Luxury Gold sets an unmatched standard with its collection of award-winning journeys. Guided by a Traveling Concierge, Luxury Gold is a journey beyond the ordinary, where guests enjoy exclusive VIP Experiences, savor exceptional dining and relax in luxury hotels on every curated itinerary. As global leaders in luxury travel with expertise accumulated over nearly 100 years, Luxury Gold epitomizes extraordinary exploration to some of the world’s most spectacular destinations. To find out more, visit http://www.luxurygold.com/us