COVID-19 Archives - Amazing Journeys
Wanderlust Blog

Posts Tagged ‘COVID-19’

Here at Amazing Journeys, we're lucky have the best jobs in the world—and we think our good fortune is worth sharing. So, when your next journey seems like a distant dream, take a few minutes to explore our WANDERLUST blog—it's chock full of engaging tales and helpful tips from our travels around the world. Check out the most recent entry (at the top) or search by your preferred criteria. Consider it motivation for your next embarkation.

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What Happens When Tourism Stops

Tuesday, August 11th, 2020

by Malori


Tourism is one of the largest industries in the world and is included on any list of the Top 10 Employers globally.  It’s hard to fathom just how large this industry is until you begin to break down the numbers.  In 2019, travel and tourism directly contributed nearly 3 trillion dollars to the GDP.  And in the US, it was the largest contributor to the GDP with a total of over 580 billion US dollars last year. Tourism employs 330 million worldwide.  Sometimes these numbers can be difficult to understand until we break it down further.

Tourism is on the brink of disaster.  Tour guides we have been working with for years in India, Africa, China and Vietnam and have developed friendships with are looking outside of tourism for other work.  Imagine, when we visit Tanzania and hire a Masai Mara guide, the ones we love to jump with and who takes us into their dung huts to show us life on the Mara– this one-day guided experience will feed 10 others in his community with this one encounter.  We recently visited Thailand.  The absence of visitors can change the life of vendors who are on the streets with their food carts, t-shirt sellers, elephant sanctuary workers and tuk-tuk drivers who cannot see their way to bringing home payment so their family can survive another day.  The Moroccan carpet sellers, the mustache-festooned doormen at our hotels in India, our Jewish tour guides in Rome, the jovial bartenders on your last cruise, the ferry captain in the fjords of New Zealand, hiking guides, olive oil tastings in Greece… it all shuts down.  Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with the Vice President of a major worldwide hotel chain who told me 50% of his hotels will shut down in Europe next month… and they currently have occupancy rates in the single digits. Do you know how many hundreds of thousands of people will be out of work in that scenario? Only a handful of cruise ships are sailing.  That’s another 1.1 million out of work employees from around the world. Add to that, it is expected that 50% of the more than 60,000 travel agencies just in the US will be out of business by September.  When tourism stops in its tracks, the ability of millions of people to put food in their mouths stops, too.

As the Chief Amazement Officer at Amazing Journeys, I take my job very seriously.  Because I know that not only am I crafting tours that include highlights within each destination we visit, I am also taking care of the locals… small business owners who can provide experiential memories, sure to make your trip that much more enjoyable, while feeding their local community at the same time.  Whether it’s a surprise tuk-tuk ride to see the sun set over the Taj Mahal, a food tasting tour, shopping at the local market before attending our cooking school in Vietnam, wine tasting in Israel, tasting whiskey in Ireland and scotch in Scotland… it’s all part of putting money into the local economies and more specifically, the individuals who are feeding several members of their community.

At Amazing Journeys, not only do we take great pride in creating a tour that you will remember for the rest of your life, we also take seriously our responsibility to take care of those who take care of us.  And we do this by generating opportunities for local populations.  We know that tourism is a force for good. Those of us working in tourism and those who travel… we are all in this together – we are one community.

What Do I Miss Most About Travel – Erin

Tuesday, July 21st, 2020

by Erin


One of the many things that I have inherited from my father is a love of photography – capturing the life of a country, the beauty of nature or the fun of a situation.  Now don’t get me wrong, I have still been taking a lot of pictures in these months where we have not been able to travel, but it still feels like something is missing.

To be able to go to a new destination and experience it is a feeling like no other.  To be able to remember all of the amazing things that you did is nearly impossible.  That’s why I try to document as much as I possibly can, knowing that when I come home, I will be able to re-live all of those moments again while going through my pictures.

Before digital photography, I would average about a roll of film a day, taking pictures of the things I saw, but limiting myself to the number of shots available.  Now, I click, click, click all day long and go through the pictures after the fact, allowing myself to be more in the moment and try to capture everything.

Like many of you, my pictures usually just live on my computer and I don’t do much with them.  But one of the projects that I have committed myself to during this pandemic is to go through my years of travel pictures and print a few that I want to feature on the wall in my living room.  Rather than just going through them on my screen, I want my pictures to come to life.  Not only to brighten the walls of my house, but also to bring a smile to my face.  Each picture is a memory and a moment in time that I remember fondly.

So even though we may not have the opportunity to take pictures of new countries and cultures for now, that is no reason to put away your camera (or cell phone).  Keep snapping away to recall what is happening in your daily life now, and know that one day, your pictures will start to be of new things and they will bring new memories and stories, as well!

What Do I Miss Most About Travel – Malori

Tuesday, July 14th, 2020

by Malori

From the time I was a little kid, maybe 10 years old, I had a fascination with everything travel. I used to ask my parents to take me to our local airport (LAX in Los Angeles) which thrilled me to no end.  The hustle bustle, the sights, sounds and smells.  Hearing announcements in languages I couldn’t understand. The luggage stacked up on the runway, waiting to be loaded into the belly of the planes. The board announcing arrivals and departures for sites unknown. People gathering from all different places on earth, traveling to countries far and wide.

 In the international terminal, as I walked from gate to gate, I was virtually transported around the world, hearing different languages as people headed to what I had imagined to be all places wonderful. I used to imagine why they were going to wherever it was they were headed.  I’d make up probable scenarios in my mind.  Some were most likely off to explore an exotic destination that one day I’d like to visit myself!  I’d see lots of travelers, perhaps returning home after a visit to our country, or maybe meeting up with family they hadn’t seen for a long time. I would listen closely for different languages being spoken, an occurrence  that still fascinates me.  To this day, when hearing someone speaking a different language or with an accent, I enjoy engaging them in conversation and eventually asking where they’re from and most likely, I’ve been there.  The fact that I have seen their country which they miss and are certainly proud of, breaks down many barriers and we enjoy knowing that much more about one another.

I remember being at the airport with my parents, picking up my Aunt Shirley and Uncle Marv who had just landed after a once-in-a-lifetime dream trip to Hawaii.  As passengers started arriving with their individual boxes of souvenir coconuts and pineapples in hand, each passenger was adorned with flower leis made of orchids picked and strung just prior to their five hour flight from Honolulu to LAX. The airport gate was laden with orchids and everything smelled so sweet! I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to travel to Hawaii.

I am in love with the design, art and architecture of airports. Each one is truly unique and each were considered modern at the time in which they were built.  I love how the logistics work both inside airports and coordinating all of the flights internationally.  I love the individual airlines logo, colors, uniform design and everything about them as I scurry through airports worldwide. When I graduated college, earning my degree with a focus on Commercial Interior Design, I wanted to design airports or hotels.  But living in Mobile, Alabama at the time of my first job post-graduation, there were no architectural or design firms in the city building airports…or hotels.

My favorite airport?  I love all the features designed into the Singapore Changi Airport. Having won the Best Airport Award seven years in a row, you quickly learn why.  With relaxing forested areas and the world’s largest indoor waterfall, a butterfly garden, a movie theater, swimming pool and world class restaurants and shopping, this airport earns the top spot.  My favorite domestic airport is Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. Built in 1980, I was one of the first passengers coming through this modern airport and they have kept it growing and modern ever since.  My favorite feature is the art galleries placed all over the airport, each with different themes and always changing. My favorite artwork is between Concourses A and B. Besides interesting sculptures in the center of the underground walkway, and murals lining the sides of this 450 foot passage, most people don’t look up to see the most interesting ceiling covered in art, an installation called Flight Paths. This walkway has sounds of rain, simulated lightning and thunder and is missed by most travelers. The worst airport?  In my opinion, it’s Charles de Gaulle in Paris.  It’s so spread out, it’s larger than most cities in Alaska.  Maybe all of them!  You have to allow hours to navigate between flights and it always seems to be under construction. Terminals and gates are labeled nonsensically and you’ll find gates and terminals labeled with F12H and KA12T and the like.  I’ve been through CDG a plethora of times and I still don’t get it. You have to leave and reenter security at least once per plane change and typically, your terminal isn’t on the train system and they shuttle you from terminal to terminal, using back entrances, stairways and alleys.  What a mess!

While I realize most travelers look at airports as an inconvenience, and the length  of time spent mid-air as a “boring part of travel which must be endured” to get to the destination which is the real excitement, just know that for some of us, “it’s the journey and not the destination.”

What Do I Miss Most About Travel – Stacey

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

by Stacey

What do I miss about travel?  The food!  Churros con chocolate in Spain, empanadas in Argentina, tagine in Morocco, pho in Vietnam, samosas in India – my mouth is watering just thinking about it!  There’s nothing better than sitting down to a meal and enjoying the local food, the surrounding, and the company.

Actually, the only thing better is popping by a street vendor to grab something on the go so I can keep exploring.  One of my favorites was a simit that we grabbed from a cart in Kusadasi, Turkey – imagine a huge, puffy, flatish bagel, covered in sesame seeds.  Yum!  Or there was that time in Mykonos, Greece that we got crepes with nutella and ice cream!  Okay, that sounds like a great idea until you really think of eating a hot crepe, on the go, in hot Greece.  I think we left a trail of melted ice cream behind us as we walked and tried to eat it as quickly as possible.  Sitting on a bench in Budapest enjoying a huge, doughy pastry, curled into a coil and covered in cinnamon sugar.  Using my rusty French to order a baguette and munching on it while walking down the street of a small town.  Grabbing a pint at a pub’s outdoor seating in Dublin.

These are moments that pass so quickly; decisions that are made in a split second – “I must eat that” –  but they just stick in my mind and make me smile.  I can’t wait to pick up where I left off.

What Do I Miss Most About Travel – Michele

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

by Michele

EVERYTHING!  Having been in the travel business my entire life, I can honestly say there isn’t anything about travel that I don’t miss.  I started dreaming about flying and sailing all over the globe at a very young age.  I vividly recall playing “pretend airplane” and “pretend ship” with my cousins when I was a very young kid.  The moment I had an opportunity to pack, you didn’t have to ask me twice, I was ready!

One aspect of travel that I can say I miss the most is the people.  Whether it is the locals I have the opportunity to meet and learn about; their country, culture, and cuisine or if it is the special group of individuals I travel with, it is the people that make every destination… amazing!

There isn’t anything that brings a place to life or can ingrain the experience more than the people that love it and take pride in it the most.   The locals have a unique way of sharing their knowledge with you that opens your heart and mind in a way that can’t be matched.  Tell me about your community and family, tell me how you came to do what you do and why, tell me about the beautiful architecture and the history behind it.  I love hearing it all while on tour or over a coffee at a neighborhood cafe as we people watch together.  Nothing can bring a place to life like a local.

And YOU – our group of amazing travelers.  Sharing the experiences with you is what makes travel special.  You may consider yourself a client when you first call, but you become part of the family rather quickly.  Everyone has their initial call and their first trip sometimes calling with questions and maybe a splash of hesitance?  What I always share with everyone is that within minutes, you will feel part of something special.  This isn’t just a feeling our passengers get, it is what we feel right along with you!  We certainly form bonds and those have truly enhanced my life.

Moving Forward – One Step at a Time

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020

by Malori

I’ve been working in the travel industry since I was in college.  I took a few side jobs while studying, in order to be around the world I love. While performing the tasks at hand, I would daydream, seeing myself in all of those exotic locales and enjoying people from other cultures. So it should be no surprise that during my first full-time travel job after graduating college, I earned the nickname, “I’ll Go Anywhere Asman” because I truly would go anywhere!  If there was a learning opportunity in Houston, I’d be the first to volunteer.  Visit Nashville?  Yes, please! Lead a group of country western fans from a radio station to Las Vegas? Sign me up! That was actually my first group, leading me to a career in escorting over 10,000 people around the world! I’ve dedicated my career to travel, as have our amazing team of Erin, Stacey and Michele.  Each one of us never imagined ourselves doing much of anything else and each of us started on our “dream job” path during our teens.

How is Amazing Journeys and our devoted team coping during this crisis?  I’ve seen crises in the past.  9/11.  The Gulf War.  The Financial Crisis of 2008-09.  Each one had a huge impact on travel, and as an industry, steps were taken in order to re-start travel and help those with trepidations, to travel once again. But this time is different.  What we thought would be a few weeks turned into a few months. Through it all, we are reevaluating next steps, all while taking care of our business, customers, employees and families.  While some areas of the world are beginning to open to tourism once again, there are still challenges to overcome before we are ready to take those first steps to board a plane.

Here at Amazing Journeys, we’ve been keeping busy.  Since the very beginning, we’ve been able to entertain and keep our travelers connected with engaging online programs such as Travel Trivia, Lunch and Learn, Happy Hours, Shabbat and more.  We’ve hosted hundreds and hundreds of cheerful participants and have enjoyed the engagement we have been missing so much.  While it hasn’t replaced our need to be with our travelers in person, it has fulfilled a need for our community to all be together, laughing, talking and interacting about that which we love…travel.

This pause in travel has given us an opportunity to reset our priorities, thinking about what’s really important including health, safety and our collective well-being. We are of the opinion that we would rather cancel a trip than cause undue concern for anyone’s health and safety and so we have done just that.  We’ve focused on what we can do moving forward in how to best serve your travel needs.  Changes have been made to the number of travelers we will host on any given trip for the comfort and safety of our travelers through 2021. In addition, we have been working with suppliers who can offer us more lenient cancellation terms, or insurance programs which allow cancellation with little to no penalty, closer to the date of travel.

For nearly 25 years, I have traveled over 100 days a year for work, and adding to that, traveling to visit family.  But I’m really enjoying being home much more than I thought I would!  When I’m not planning new trips, proofing contracts and reading industry journals, I’ve rediscovered what it’s like to have time to relax. I’ve rediscovered what it’s like to have down time in some of my favorite nooks and crannies of my house and yard, and time to sit in my favorite spot on a side patio with a book or catching up with friends and family. I set a goal to do at least three active activities each day and so I go for long walks, hikes, bike rides and have several fitness routines I can do at home.

We spend time in nature and on the three rivers in Pittsburgh, visiting with family and recently, adding visits with friends, socially distanced of course. This pause in travel has taught me I’m certainly not ready for retirement any time soon and I am ready to hit the road as soon as we are comfortable doing so.  And it’s definitely taught me while I am comfortable alone with myself, I love being around people and that includes all of you!  I really miss our time spent exploring and discovering our world together, and having a great time while doing it!

Amazing Journeys Update

Thursday, May 7th, 2020

Dear Amazing Journeyers,

I hope this message finds you and your family members well. We have enjoyed seeing and hearing about all that our travelers have been doing while staying home to keep themselves busy. Whether you’re baking, exercising, cleaning out closets, finding entertaining things to binge watch or creating things to make others smile, we hope you’re all healthy and finding comfort during this unique time in our lives. If you’re like us here at Amazing Journeys, you can’t wait to hit the road and get back out there, seeing the world. We hope you’ve been enjoying our multitude of online opportunities to gather together, whether it be our Lunch & Learn, Trivia, Happy Hours or Kabbalat Shabbat programs.

While the world is repairing, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for your thoughts and concerns for us, our families and our business. I am confident that travel will one day resume… when it’s safe to do so, and when it does, Amazing Journeys will be right there to offer you the amazing travel programs you have come to expect from us. Those of you who had signed up for trips that were postponed or cancelled know that Amazing Journeys was there for you, and offered to refund all of your money… no questions asked. At a time when there was so much worry over potential loss of income, loss of value in the markets and threat of illness, we wanted to lessen that stress as much as possible. When the time is right, we want our travelers to be excited about their upcoming vacation plans, rather than being apprehensive in any way.

Never before in history has the entire world been closed off to tourism. There will be many changes in the world as a result of COVID-19 including travel, with regard to social distancing practices, protective gear and procedures followed by airlines, hotels, tour groups, cruises and more. We recently outlined some of these things during an online zoom presentation we offered last week. If you were not able to join us, we invite you to click here to watch the recording (password is AJ2020/2021 and it is set in two recordings that will play one right after another).

We have also recently offered a survey so that you can tell us what’s important to you when traveling. We’ve had a great response with over 200 participants. We’d love to hear from you and know your thoughts.  If you have not yet filled out the survey, please click here.

At this time, we will plan to resume our trips, starting with those scheduled for the Fall of 2020. In addition, we have recently announced our 2021 line-up. With social distancing in mind, Amazing Journeys will be offering travel opportunities to take you to off-the-beaten-path destinations, where you can learn about the countries and their people, their culture and take in the beautiful landscapes. We have lots of experiential components built into the itineraries as well. We’ll offer smaller group experiences, allowing for a more intimate experience on the road, with our guides and with other Amazing Journeyers on your tour. We will be partnering with companies who allow us greater flexibility in our terms and conditions, whereby we are able to lessen our penalties as much as possible, should the need to cancel arise. Finally, we are working with global suppliers who offer a “cancel for any reason travel waiver” which allows you to cancel for any reason up to 48 hours before the start of your trip and get all of your money back. Very few tour operators offer this, but we are partnering with these companies so that at least 50% of our upcoming trips will offer this option. Because of all of this and more, we believe our upcoming line-up will offer travel in a way you, our clients, want to experience travel at this moment in time.

We would like to share our 2020/2021 line-up with you below. If you have interest in a specific destination, click on the link below the trip for more details or to be placed on an Interest List. Once on that list, you will be the first to know about any of these upcoming trips before the general public.

We miss traveling but most importantly, we miss you. Our team is looking forward to the day when we can all leave our nests and fly. And when we do, we hope it will be on an Amazing Journey with you.

Stay healthy and wishing you all the best,

Malori

Malori Asman, CTC, MCC
Chief Amazement Officer, Amazing Journeys
412.571.0220 (phone) | 412.344.3937 (fax)
733 Valleyview Road | Pittsburgh, PA 15243 (address)
www.amazingjourneys.net (web)

 

Upcoming Amazing Journeys

National Parks of the Southwest (Arizona, Utah, Nevada)
October 2-9, 2020
Click here for trip details

Australia & New Zealand
October 29 – November 14, 2020
Click here for trip details

New Year’s Cruise to Cozumel & Key West
December 28, 2020 – January 2, 2021
Click here to be added to the Interest List 

Adventures in Croatia
April 28 – May 8, 2021
Click here for trip details

Morocco
May 14 – 23, 2021
Click here to be added to the Interest List

Israel
June 6 – 15, 2021
Click here to be added to the Interest List

France River Cruise
June 30 – July 6, 2021
Click here to be added to the Interest List

Norwegian Fjords Cruise
July 11 – 18, 2021
Click here to be added to the Interest List

Ireland
July 24 – August 1, 2021
Click here to be added to the Interest List

Scotland
August 1 – 11, 2021
Click here to be added to the Interest List 

Greece by Land
September 27 – October 10, 2021
Click here to be added to the Interest List

Polar Bears in Churchill
October 15 – 19, 2021
Click here for trip details

Weathering the Storm

Friday, March 13th, 2020

by Malori

You have no doubt been inundated with information regarding the coronavirus. This is not the first time since our founding two decades ago that a global event has led to uncertainty around travel, and it won’t be the last.

I want to assure you that your well-being now and in the future is of the utmost importance to us. Those who are traveling with Amazing Journeys on upcoming trips have received personal emails throughout this crisis. We are monitoring the COVID-19 situation via the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, and the State Department. We trust their information as well as the on-the-ground advice from our travel partners and our in-country partners and staff to make educated decisions about our trips, while not overreacting and keeping it in perspective among the other potential risks we may encounter in everyday life, whether traveling or at home.

For those who have reached out to us with concern over our well-being as a company and as individuals during these trying times in the travel industry, we thank you for your concern.  I have weathered many storms during my tenure in travel and I know from experience it’s all about having the right raingear.  We are well-positioned to ride this out.  Fortunately, I am the sole owner of Amazing Journeys and can make quick and well-informed decisions. I run a debt-free operation and have since day one.  What does all of this mean?  Amazing Journeys is here for the long-run.

I strive to be a responsible citizen and so I have asked my staff to work from their homes for the coming days and possibly weeks. As always, please feel free to contact any of our team at any time.

Email: info@amazingjourneys.net
Phone: 412.571.0220
Please be sure to leave a message so that we can return your call

As your Amazing Journeys family, please remember that we are here for you now and in the future. It was travel that brought us together in the first place and not only will we get through this together, but we look forward to traveling together for many years to come.

We thank you for your complete trust in Amazing Journeys and hope we see a day in the very near future when our adventurous travelers are back on cruise ships, tour busses and planes, heading once again to the destinations of their dreams.  And when you do, we hope that you will allow Amazing Journeys once again to help you indulge in your wanderlust.

Wishing you good health and comfort in the coming weeks,

Malori and the Team at Amazing Journeys