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June 2016

How to Increase Your Online Travel Service Ratings

Online Travel ServiceOnline travel service ratings are being regarded as the backbone of travel and tourism service providers. The web travel and tourism industry has evolved quite dramatically in the past one decade. Today, an increasing number of people turn to search engines to plan their holidays and vacations, offering potential opportunities for online travel service providers to expand their business.

However, your potential customers are more informed today and your competitors are even hungrier. In the face of intense competition in a rapidly evolving travel business, the web travel service ratings play a key role to help sustain your travel and tourism business.

Therefore, it is imperative for the online tourism service providers to focus on the following points in order to boost their travel service ratings.

Offer Attractive Vacation Packages:

Your prospective customers are web-savvy and search the Internet for the best vacation packages before they book for their holiday online. They may not be looking for the exact vacation package you offer. Therefore, allow the customers to assemble their own trip by empowering them with customization. This will help improve the online travel service ratings for your business.

Encourage After-trip Feedback:

When your customers are back from their trip, encourage them to share their travel experience with you by offering valuable feedback. This not only allows your customers to feel privileged, but also offers you an opportunity to take your service quality further and build a bonding with the customers. This may go a long way to increase the online travel service ratings for your company.

Introduce Coupons for Loyal Customers:

Treating your loyal customers with care is crucial to building your online travel business further up. Make sure you offer special discount coupons to your repeat customers. This offers them a very good feeling about why they should use your website again and again.

Build Long-term Relationship:

Online travel service providers should foster a long-term relationship with their customers in order to ensure repeat business. You should stay connected to your customers round the year by introducing them new tour offers and special tourism packages based on their past vacation priorities. For instance, you can send news letters to your customers about any attractive tour discounts they may take advantage of. Again, this may add to the online travel service ratings for your business.

Allow Customers to Write Reviews:

In order to boost online travel service ratings, you should encourage satisfied customers to write reviews about your services. You can be sure that these reviews will further influence other people to sign up for your services. User reviews add credibility to your services since it is a direct reflection of the satisfaction of clients. Not only can they make your ratings go up, but they also invite other clients.

Run A Travel Blog:

When it comes to improving your online travel service ratings, nothing works like running a travel blog. It is essentially a fun way to interact with your potential customers and show them the beautiful side of signing up with your tour services.

You can also allow your satisfied customers to contribute to your blogs occasionally as guests. This not only creates a sense of value among your customers but also adds to the credibility of your travel business among many other potential customers.

Focus on Social Integration:

Social networks are the epicenter of product promotion for online service providers, especially in the travel and tourism industry. Developing a powerful social presence via Facebook fan page, Twitter and LinkedIn is almost inevitable to promote your travel business online. When you allow your satisfied customers to write a review or share their tour pictures with you on your Facebook fan page, it works wonders for other potential customers.

A dedicated approach to maintaining your social presence can go a long way in ensuring excellent customer satisfactions and online travel service ratings.

7 Tips When Writing a User Friendly Travel Information Guide

Writing a User Friendly Travel Information GuideThe obvious purpose of a travel information guide is to aid the traveller as they journey throughout their destination and to help them do that as effortlessly as possible. The ultimate purpose for a writer of a travel information guide is for that guide to become the traveller’s best friend. Their pocket companion, without which they are convinced they cannot properly traverse their destination. So it pays to create a formula that you, as the writer can adhere to when compiling travel guides for areas that you have been commissioned to write about or, having travelled yourself, feel that a destination is lacking the right guide for the traveller.

The following seven tips are basic fundamentals to take into consideration when developing your template for a formula for incredibly user-friendly information guides.

Tip 1. Something of Interest.

In every travel piece, there should be “something of interest” to the reader. Local knowledge cannot be beaten in this area, but well-researched useful tidbits will cover that if you are writing of places that you are yet to experience. First things first. Don’t start on what to avoid or the dangers of the place, give them the direct route to finding out how to travel around the city or area. Where they buy their public transport tickets, what is the best use of their time etc.

Tip 2. Be generally specific.

Cities do not stay still because a travel writer has written about them. Lonely Planet are the first to recognise this and they do an amazing job of keeping their sources up-to-date. However the average travel writer does not have the massive team of travellers sending back hot tips, new information etc. The best thing is to keep your references general, such as: “some tour operators will include” and not try to list which tour offers what. So be specific in what tours can be sourced but general in what they offer.

Tip 3. Use lots of sub-headings.

Your travel information guide is a mini-directory, and sub-headings work as your dividing page. When there is time, all of your guide may be read from the first word to the last but mostly the traveller wants to zero in on what they are looking for as soon as possible. So think like a traveller when you are putting your sub-headings together. Some suggestions are: What is there to do?; What will I need? How do I get there? Shopping Hot Spots. Leisure activities etc.

Tip 4. Reference the experts.

Reference a lot of your more detailed information. Encourage participation of as many tourist facilities in that area as you can. By connecting tourism services together in your guide, you become the “Go To” person for the traveller but your references do all the booking, planning and meeting the traveller’s ongoing needs. If you can’t find a reference for something, make a note. That could be another travel guide for your writing skills. A great idea is to create a Quick Reference Guide at the end, in the form of a list that includes websites and contact details.

Tip 5. So What?

Read through your first draft of the guide and see if everything you have written answers the questions “So What?”. Is every sentence valuable or relevant? Is there an underlying contagious excitement that will spur the traveller on to do great exploits? Does it make you want to go straight out and visit the area you are writing about?

Tip 6. Watch your language.

It is true that most travel guides across the world are translated into English as so many tourist are either English-speaking or have English as their second language. But, when writing your guide, bear in mind that simple sentences will be the best way to go. Also if your information guide is to be translated into a second language, simple statements will make that translation easier.

Tip 7. Use local icons.

Your information guide will be passed on to others if you create a technique of referencing your information with the use of local landmarks. Locating landmarks such as skytowers, museums, cathedrals, ferry terminals, internationally known restaurant chains will quickly orientate a traveller so that they can get their bearings and then be able to keep track of their location. This is especially valuable when travelling in countries where most of the signage in not in their own language.

The ideal outcome would be that by reading your information guide, a traveller now feels their holiday has begun.

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Top 10 Travel Accessories for Backpack Travelers

Travel BackpackWhether you’re Euro-railing the Czech Republic, trekking the Amazon or spending a month in Peru, backpack travel is a great way to see the world. And here are the top 10 travel accessories to help backpack travelers stay lightweight, mobile and organized.

First: A Travel Backpack

Today’s travel backpacks aren’t your father’s camping pack. Technology has made today’s travel backpacks super lightweight and designed specifically for travel. They open like suitcases for easy access, offer media pockets, multiple ways to carry and other advantages for travelers. The old top-loading, drawstring packs were good for dad. But if you want to stay light, mobile and organized, a travel backpack is the way to go.

Second: A Travel Towel

You can definitely skip a shower or two while traveling. But eventually you’ll want to clean up and dry off. Problem is conventional towels weigh a ton, take forever to dry and mildew if you pack them damp. Travel towels solve these problems. They’re ultra-lightweight and fold to a fraction the size of regular towels. They’re also ultra-fast drying and most fight fungus and mildew buildup.

Third: Travel Underwear

Everything that is true of conventional towels is also true of regular cotton underwear. They take a long time to dry and are bastions for fungus and odor. Quick-dry travel underwear dries in time to wear or pack by the next bus, fights odors and nasty bacteria and hold up to the rigors of daily wear on the road.

Fourth: Travel Soap Sheets

Soap sheets are among the lightest, most compact and efficient ways to stay clean while traveling. Soap sheets — body, shampoo, shaving or other — are roughly one inch, paper-thin sheets that lather up in water. They meet carry-on requirements, are a fraction the weight of liquids and take up much less room in your backpack or luggage.

Fifth: Packing Cubes

If you use packing cubes once, you won’t even go away for a weekend again without them. They let you pack much more stuff into the same space and keep it all organized. Packing cubes are zippered nylon or mesh rectangles into which you pack and compress your gear and clothes before putting them into your backpack. If you bring only one thing from this list, these would be it.

Sixth: International Plug Adapters

It’s still a diverse world, which is why we travel. But that also goes for each continent’s electrical systems. So you’ll need to bring the right adapter to plug into wall outlets in Europe, Africa, Asia and elsewhere. You can buy individual adapters for each location or universal kits letting you plug in no matter where you go.

Seventh: A Solar Charger

Going where few travelers have gone before is an amazing experience. And the more remote you go, the less infrastructure you’ll find. In some areas you can actually get cell service, but not the electricity to power the phone. Solar charges are lightweight, compact and let you power your electronics no matter how off the beaten path you go.

Number 8: Travel or Luggage Locks

You spent a lot of time planning what to bring and it wouldn’t be easy to get it all back while traveling. Travel or luggage locks are small compact locks that let you secure your pack’s main compartment and exterior pockets while the pack is out of your sight or when you’re in crowded places. Some locks also have flexible cables to secure your pack to fixed objects.

Number 9: A Money Belt

Replacing your passport, credit cards and even cash back in remote locations can be a major, time-eating endeavor. So you want to hang onto your most valuable items. Money belts are small, discreet pouches worn around your waist under your pants to conceal and safeguard your passport and cash. Most robbers don’t have the time to check under everyone’s clothes. So carry a false wallet and a few dollars to give them while your real stash is safely concealed.

Tenth: A Daypack

Most trips involve reaching a new town or village, locking your main pack in the hostel or hotel and heading out to explore. Overnight trips, urban trekking and remote hikes are part of the good time. And you’ll need a lightweight daypack to carry the essentials. Most quality travel backpacks have removable daypacks integrated into their designs.

Solo Female Travel Safety Tips

Solo Female Travel Safety TipsPrior preparation and planning

Researching your destination is vital and time spent researching is never wasted. Study the culture and get a general feel for the country. Is it a Muslim country? If so then ensure you have packed the correct clothing, think about how to dress and blend in accordingly. Does the country have strict laws on how a female should ‘behave’? As individual travelers we may not agree with particular country views but it is extremely important to be a respectful traveler in a foreign country to avoid trouble. Does the country have a culture of ‘hassling’ females, is there a history of sexual attacks against females, all these issues need to be identified prior to departure. With prior knowledge you can then plan to adapt to the environment.

Interact with fellow travelers

When one heads out on travel ‘alone’ it is rare that you remain alone once overseas (unless solo travel is actively pursued). There will always be people traveling the same ‘route’ or solo travelers in the same hostel or accommodation. Friendships are made and bonds formed through the mutual interests of travel and adventure. These new connections can provide additional safety, for example through other people watching out for you, other people to travel with, new friends to share taxis and buses with. While it is necessary to be open to new friendships it is essential to your personal safety to keep up situational awareness at all times.

Lose the jewelry

Try and avoid shiny or expensive looking jewelry and accessories. Nice watches, bracelets, necklaces and alike should be avoided. The same goes with top of the range phones, laptops and cameras.

Plan routes

Whether you are coming home from a bar, beach or museum think about what route you will take. Avoid quiet areas, alleyways or other perceived areas of risk. Always think about using a taxi and make sure it is from a reputable company that you have been recommended.

Don’t be misinterpreted

Sometimes it is necessary to think about what signals one may be giving off and ensure they are not interpreted incorrectly. Try avoiding prolonged eye contact with strangers, chatting excessively and being ‘overly’ friendly. For example, sitting in the front seat of a taxi and over sharing with the driver on a way back from a bar may give the wrong signals in some foreign destinations. If you are eating alone, perhaps take a book so as not to invite unwanted conversation.

This is not about one’s actual intentions; it is not about whether a woman should have to curtail her normal daily practice of smiling, talking freely and just being happy. Unfortunately in different cultures certain behaviors we define as ‘normal’ or ‘friendly’ are interpreted differently. Changing particular behavior is about being grey and not drawing too much unwanted attention. It is not for us to discuss the rights and wrongs of culture and practices in certain countries and regions, merely to adapt and decrease risk to ourselves.

Follow your gut

The trick to avoiding danger is to pre-empt situations and allow yourself time to react. This comes down to training and practice, we strongly advocate learning from professionals about how to identify risk and react accordingly, but a good rule of thumb is: Follow your instinct. If something feels wrong, there is a good chance it is wrong. React immediately to ensure your safety and worry about whether you were right or wrong later, when you are a 100% safe.

Pre-empt and visualize

We advise women that to survive situations they must pre-empt dangers, allowing time to react and visualize their next actions to allow for an effective response. What do we mean by this? We will use a nightclub fire as an example. In times of life and death, chivalry has been proven to fly out the window 9 out of 10 times. Panic sets in and a stampede effect can occur. If men and women are panicking, rushing to the one main exit that everyone had come in from, then men will by majority overpower women and the inevitable crushing and trampling will occur. What if as the solo female you had taken two minutes to pre-empt a risk and visualized an effective response. In this case identified secondary fire exits and visualized using them in an emergency. By pre-empting and visualizing a reaction in this case of the nightclub fire, whilst everyone was stampeding for the main doors, one would have been able to utilize a secondary exit and ensure survival through forethought and planning, not strength and speed.

Situational Awareness

Being aware of one’s surroundings is of vital importance to identify threats early. This is why we teach basic anti-surveillance to all our students. Criminals and predators may stalk their prey for a short time prior to an attack to provide the best opportunity of when to strike. With increased observational skills and awareness, chances of spotting an attack or threat are significantly heightened and allow a person time to react. This is also useful in avoiding pick-pockets, muggers, opportunistic criminals and many other dangers.

Hotel and Accommodation Security

Choose accommodations wisely by researching areas through travel forums, hotel websites, etc. Is the hotel or hostel well managed? Is the surrounding area safe to travel after dark? Does the hotel or hostel have good security? This does not mean stay in a 5 star hotel everywhere; it can mean spending a few dollars more to be in a reputable area but still in a backpacker hostel. We can provide extra layers of safety for ourselves, for example when traveling we advise carrying a secondary door lock ($5 worth and small enough to put in your pocket) providing this secondary layer of security. In addition never open your hotel or hostel door unless 100% certain, even if the claim is housekeeping.

Final Thought

Everything discussed above are merely tips and tricks of the trade. I have traveled extensively throughout my life and am still learning new ways to adapt and handle situations. This is why we have developed our travel safety courses. Professionals from all walks of life train constantly to ensure peak performance and to be prepared. We believe it should be the same for travelers. Take control and be responsible for your own safety through prior preparation. Travel is one of the great adventures life has to offer; it is worth taking the time to prepare accordingly to eliminate potential threats and ensure you have an experience of a lifetime.

The author is the co-founder of Explorer Travel Security. This is a dynamic and elite travel security company dedicated to travel safety and security of individuals, groups and businesses abroad. It is a full service company offering tailored training courses, executive protection, global rescue, elite travel insurance and electronic tracking and security solutions.