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Google City Tours builds itineraries for multi-day trips

June 26, 2009

Google City Tours

Google City Tours

Not one to be outdone by Microsoft’s Bing travel site or the myriad other net travel guides, Google today rolls out City Tours for planning and navigating itineraries.

Currently a Google Labs project, City Tours helps “identify points of interest and plan multi-day trips to most major-cities.” To build your tour, just enter the destination city, and City Tours automatically maps out a three-day plan with around 10 activity suggestions per day. The site also suggests how long to spend at each place and clocks the walking distance between destinations. You can then manually add and remove sights, and change the date and length of your visit (up to a maximum of five days).

Given its Labs status, City Tours is still very much a work-in-progress. For example, though the site is decent at finding locations for large cities like London, it has a more difficult time doing the same for smaller cities. Also, estimated walking times aren’t always accurate, which doesn’t help if, say, you’re trying to figure out whether to keep walking, pace yourself by grabbing a cab, or might actually need a rental car.

Test out City Tours for yourself, then let us know what else you’d like to see it (or any travel site) help you with.

[Source: Lifehacker]

Ryanair: Passengers As Baggage Handlers?

June 25, 2009

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary suggested today that passengers should ferry their own luggage from airport to airplane — but still pay £5 (about $8) per bag to place them in the hold. O’Leary said that getting rid of baggage handlers would help the budget airline save £26 million ($43 million) a year.

“What it means is no more waiting at the carousel, no more losing your bags, no more wasting your life in over-priced airport terminals,” O’Leary told The Telegraph.

It’s unknown how serious O’Leary is about the new proposal. Similar proposals, like creating pay toilets on planes, have yet to materialize because of their complete impracticality. Similarly, baggage handlers and their unions may have something to say about O’Leary’s proposal — and we haven’t even discussed lawsuits. How does one person carry four bags of luggage? And what if they’re disabled? I take O’Leary’s suggestion as a publicity stunt rather than a legitimate proposal.

[Source: BNet]

AirAsia drops admin fees

June 25, 2009

AirAsia has abolished its administrative fees from its fee structure.

AirAsia group chief executive officer Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes said all bookings made for AirAsia and AirAsia X flights would now only display the fare plus airport tax throughout the booking process.

“We were the first airline to abolish our fuel surcharge and we are proud to lead again in removing our administration fee,” he said in a statement yesterday.

He added that the “No Admin Fee” initiative ensured transparency of the advertised price.

Fernandes said the effort, to stimulate travel and tourism in Malaysia and the region, was being held in conjunction with a regional promotional fare campaign that would run from June 24 to 28.

The bookings would be for travel dates between Oct 1 and April 30 next year.

Fernandes said the first quarter results showed that there was a 21% growth in passengers compared with the same period last year.’s deals for Summer 09

June 25, 2009

With more savvy Americans on the hunt for good values and summer travel deals, – the Official Travel and Tourism Website of the United States – is now loaded with more than 300 money-saving offers from leading brands such as Best Western, Crowne Plaza, Marriott, Radisson, Gray Line, Hertz and Macy’s through its “Get a Deal” tool featured on every page.

Frugality is the trend in travel. Recent travelhorizons™ research revealed that almost two-thirds (62 percent) of U.S. adults intending to travel for leisure purposes between now and October are more likely than last year to comparison shop for deals and travel bargains – especially online.

Planning and booking horizons have narrowed and consumers are employing tactics to keep costs down, so the deals and offers available on will help stretch vacation budgets for summer getaways. is the recently launched one-stop, online source for travel information on all 50 states, the five U.S. territories and more than 100 popular destinations. With the “Get a Deal” tool, users of this Website may view a complete listing of all specials and travel bargains, and refine their search by U.S. destinations, activities and dates.

Find these and other summer travel packages on

  • Free room nights and new premium Callaway Golf equipment from Crowne Plaza Hotels and Resorts.
  • Marriott’s “In Love in New Orleans” package, starting at $139 per night.
  • 20 percent off admission to Rockefeller Center’s Top of the Rock in New York from Trusted Tours & Attractions.
  • “Friday is Freeday” when you stay Thursday or Saturday night at participating Radisson Hotels & Resorts.
  • Savings on performances by Blue Man Group in Boston.
  • Weekly and weekend car rental specials from Hertz.
  • Savings on Golden Gate Bay Cruises, California Sunset Cruises and SF Explorer Cruises from Red and White Fleet.
  • VIP access to Galileo at The Franklin with Marriott Hotels of Philadelphia.
  • Savings for On Location Tours’ TV and movie site tours in New York and Washington, DC.

Discover America, LLC is a wholly owned entity of the U.S. Travel Association and operates, the Official Travel and Tourism Website of the United States, for U.S. resident travelers and for international travelers under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Commerce in the five leading inbound markets to the United States. The website’s content is presently available in five languages: English, French, Spanish, German and Japanese. For more information, visit

[Source: OpenPress]

Pay check-in baggage fees now

June 24, 2009

Fed up with airline fees? Well, brace for more. As if charging $15 to check a bag weren’t enough, US Airways and United beginning this summer are asking passengers for $5 more if they pay their baggage fees at the check-in counter. (You can avoid the $5 fee if you pay your baggage fee from home. The airlines call it the “online discount.”)

Rather than raise ticket fares in the middle of a recession, airlines are piling on fees to make money — fees for bags, fees to get through the line faster, even fees for certain seats.

United Airlines alone expects to rake in more than $1 billion this year in fees ranging from baggage to accelerated frequent-flier awards. That’s more than 5 percent of its revenue.

That revenue stream is causing airlines to become more creative, each watching the other to determine whether passengers accept the fees or revolt. As recently as last year, most fliers came across a fee only if they checked three bags or sent a minor child across the country. Most people, most of the time, traveled fee-free.

But that began to change last spring. Spiking jet fuel prices and passenger resistances to higher fares started airlines looking around the cabin for things they could charge extra for. Passengers are finding it’s a lot easier for the airlines to add the fees than to take them away.

Birqash Camel Market

June 23, 2009


Birqash Camel Market

Birqash Camel Market

Egypt’s largest camel market (souq al-gamaal; admission E£5; 6am-noon) is held at Birqash, a small village 35km northwest of Cairo. Until 1995 the market was held in Cairo’s western suburb of Imbaba, but when land became too precious for camels, one of Cairo’s age-old institutions was relocated to the edge of the Western Desert. Like all Egypt’s animal markets, the Birqash camel market is not for animal lovers, nor for the faint of heart. However, if you’ve got a strong stomach (and better yet a weak sense of smell), a visit to Birqash is an unforgettable day trip.


While admission to the market is E£5, beware of ticket officers who may try to get you to cough up £20 to enter. The market is an easy half-day trip (one to 1½ hours) from Cairo, and one hour in the hot and dusty market is usually enough for most travellers. Note that things are most lively between 7am and 10am on Fridays.

Hundreds of camels are sold here every day, most having been brought up the Forty Days Rd from western Sudan to just north of Abu Simbel by camel herders and from there to the market in Daraw. Unsold camels are then hobbled and crammed into trucks for the 24-hour drive to Birqash. By the time they arrive, many are emaciated, fit only for the knacker’s yard. Traders stand no nonsense and camels that get out of line are beaten relentlessly.

In addition to those from Sudan, there are camels from various parts of Egypt (including Sinai, the west and the south) and sometimes from as far away as Somalia. They are traded for cash or other livestock, such as goats, sheep and horses, and sold for farm work or slaughter. While at the market, watch out for pickpockets. Women should dress conservatively – the market is very much a man’s scene, with the only female presence other than the occasional traveller being the local tea lady. When you arrive, pick a strategic spot and settle in to watch the negotiations. The best area is around the middle of the lot; there are not as many camels at the entrance and at the very back, and it’s noticeably scruffier there.

If you’re interested in buying a camel (either for transportation or for meat – what you do with it is up to you), smaller ones cost about E£2000, while bigger beasts sometimes go for as much as E£5000. Negotiations tend to take place early in the day; by early afternoon, the market is quite subdued.

Getting There & Away
Using public transport, the cheapest way to get to Birqash involves getting yourself to the site of the old camel market at Imbaba, from where microbuses filled with traders and potential buyers shuttle back and forth to Birqash. To get to the old camel market, take a minibus from Midan Abdel Moniem Riad or Midan Ramses to Imbaba (E£1), or one to Midan Libnan (in Mohandiseen) from where you can catch a connecting microbus. Easier still, take a taxi from central Cairo all the way to the old site (about E£10); Imbaba airport (matar Imbaba) is the closest landmark. Once at Imbaba, ask a local to show you where to get the microbus (E£1) to Birqash. From Imbaba, the road winds through fields dotted with date palms, dusty villages, orange orchards and patches of encroaching urban sprawl before climbing the desert escarpment to the market. Microbuses from Birqash back to Imbaba leave when full: depending on the time of the day, you could wait up to two hours or so.

The easiest way to get to and from the market is to hire a private taxi for the morning. This will cost somewhere between E£70 and E£120, depending on your bargaining skills.


Directions from readers:
Option 1:
Take Cairo/Alex highway to Abu Rawash road. You take a right onto Abu Rawash road which is right before the Carrefour/Dandy mall parking lot. You take this until you reach the end of the road where it intersects with the Mansouriyya Canal road. Take a left onto the Mansouriyya Canal road. Keep going for a ways and start looking for signs, either the suk il gamaal sign or Nimos Farm sign, on the left-hand side of the road. Take left onto small canal road and go until the end where you hit a midaan/circle. There will be a sign pointing towards the suk and it’s only a little ways down the road from there. Leaving from downtown on an early Friday morning, this way can get you there in 45 minutes if you use the Mahwar.

Option 2:
The road that leads there is accessed from right next to the Giza Pyramids, but I can’t easily describe how to find it. (note: at the main circle take the road that goes to Kerdasa/ Mansoureyya) If you ask a couple people in the area, one should point you in the right direction. Once on this road, you end up following it straight about 20-25 min and then you make a left at the camel market sign (in Arabic) and drive about 1-2 kilometers to the market. offers free travel & tourism videos

June 23, 2009

Launched in March 2009, is the first website to focus on professionally produced travel and tourism videos. The site offers over 400 videos showcasing the attractions and amenities of over 200 cities from around the world. is an impartial service that chooses what attractions to film based on popularity and uniqueness. It also offers the possibility to book the travel related services through partnerships with the online travel agencies Expedia, or directly on the attraction’s websites., the new travel site where travelers get to check out their destinations on video before they book them, announced today the next major step in its expansion. The site plans on adding local travel videos focusing on tourism attractions in each of its featured cities from around the world. The site will also cover additional destinations as it expands its video coverage on a state by state basis, beginning in the United States and then moving on to Europe.

Information at your fingertips
The site, which is free, features videos profiling over 200 destinations around the world. The site was developed for travelers to use unbiased, transparent videos and help them search for key attractions and things to see and do. The site also makes sure to include videos produced by local visitors bureaus, if available, to ensure visitors are always aware of everything each city has to offer. Each city can be viewed in approximately 1 minute, with easy access to a specific attraction with 1 more click. Each video featuring a tourism attraction, restaurant or hotel will include all the information needed to plan a visit including hours of operation, admission pricing if applicable and an overview of the attraction. The site will produce between 10-15 videos to start for each destination, and has already begun filming in Cleveland, OH. The videos will also be available on a wide variety of platforms to ensure maximum exposure for each attraction, including YouTube, TripAdvisor and as a podcast formatted for iPhone and iPod Touch users on iTunes.

Professional videos show it all
Insider Perks pays for and produces all of its videos, filmed and edited by professionals. The videos give users a complete picture of what the attraction has to offer in an informative, unbiased manner, in order to facilitate decision-making.

Useful, unbiased, fun and all in one place
In addition to travel videos, the site also provides map information, nearby sites of interest, weather forecasts, and local news. This information, along with the videos, helps facilitate the user’s search by putting all of the right information at their finger tips, without ever having to leave the site. was founded by Brian Searl, who is a former broadcast editor and videographer for WOIO-TV a CBS affiliate in Cleveland, OH.


Opportunities in travel

June 22, 2009

Many types of online businesses come and go in the blink of an eye. But the trillion-dollar travel industry continues to grow by leaps and bounds, creating a big demand for specialized services.

Here are a few of today’s hottest specialty travel opportunities:

Adventure Travel and Outdoor Excursions
Adventure means different things to different people. For some it might be sailing or snorkeling in the crystal indigo waters off the coast of Cancun, Mexico; others might get a thrill from petting a shark or climbing 4,000 feet in the cockpit of a Soviet jet trainer. It certainly means a lot of fun for a lot of people. Statistics provided by the Travel Industry Association (TIA) show that during the past five years, 98 million adults have taken an adventure trip–rock climbing, mountain hiking, whitewater rafting, spelunking, parasailing, skydiving and other activities. “Soft adventure” vacations are milder and may feature walking, bicycling, fishing, camping or horseback riding.

Many adventure and eco-tour operators have developed their niche because of a desire to share their passion and experience with others. Jennifer Sage, owner of Viva Travels, plans custom guided and self-guided bicycle tours in France and Italy.

Luxury Travel
Luxury traveling caters to a posh demographic and does not have any competition from the thousands of discount travel sites. Affluent customers are willing to spend more to get more, which means a luxury travel specialist will need to resonate with people who consider exotic travel to be a lifestyle.

Many upscale travelers are retaining agents who act as “travel concierges,” making all the arrangements from travel and lodging to dinner reservations and theater tickets, often for a flat fee of up to $1,000. Even more well-heeled clients might opt for a members-only travel concierge like a New York City firm that charges $250,000 just to join and another $10,000 in annual fees.

For Women Only
Recently, Road and Travel magazine reported that women influence 85 percent of all travel decisions and comprise 40 percent of all business travelers. “Girlfriends getaways” have become a booming trend in the travel industry, spurring new start-ups like Chick Vacations, owned by Heather Hills. When she created the site in 2007, Hills wanted to show women they don’t need to spend a lot of money on fancy “raft the Amazon” or “climb the Himalayas” adventure travel.

Another female demographic to target is older women. According to the recent statistics provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, mature women outnumber men by a ratio of 100 to 81 (55–64); 100 to 82 (65–74); 100 to 69 (75–84); and 100 to 49 (85+). The Travel Industry Association of America predicts older female travelers will be one of the driving forces behind senior traveling in the long term.

Although spas and cruises remain popular choices for women, dozens of other special interest trips are springing up: wine-tasting in Napa Valley, making handicrafts with the locals in Costa Rica or shopping in Versailles.

“Mancation” is one of the latest buzzwords in the travel industry, a spin-off on the girlfriends’ getaway marketing phenomenon. Although the term is new, the concept isn’t–as evidenced by the dozens of guy-getaway themed movies that have been around for ages.

Last year when James Hills was helping his wife, Heather, launch Chick Vacations, he discovered the field of guys getaways was virtually nonexistent online. “A lot of buzz was starting to generate, and we knew this was going to be a good subject,” he says. “We took some of the same philosophy from Heather’s site and applied it to the Man Tripping site to show that guys’ getaways don’t need to be booze-soaked orgies. There is a lot more to being a guy than sex and drinking, so I am looking forward to exploring and promoting that angle.”

Mancations provide the opportunity for men to get together and bond with guys from work or old friends from college. Although golf outings, sports events and fishing trips are the mainstays of male bonding, some of the fellas are branching out with high-velocity adventures like skydiving and bungee jumping, while others opt to kick back with spa treatments and back waxes.

Couples who are deeply immersed in wedding plans are often more than happy to turn over the reins of planning a honeymoon package to a travel professional. The couple generally knows where they want to go and may sometimes have a vague idea of what to do when they get there, but the rest may be up to you. Once you have a sense of their likes and dislikes you can then make some recommendations—whether it’s cruising in the Bahamas, kanoodling in Hawaii or camping in the Rockies. Upon their arrival, surprise them with a spa treatment basket, champagne on ice or tickets to a special attraction. Unique personal touches and attention to details will increase the odds you’ll be recommended to family and friends.

“Grandtravel” is a specialized niche that is one of the fastest growing travel trends, representing more than 21 percent of all trips taken with children last year, according to the TIA. Grandparents today are not like grandparents of yesterday; greater numbers are more energetic, active, and adventurous. They don’t want to stay home and look after the grandkids. Instead, they want to pack the kids up and take them along on fun-filled vacations, while leaving the parents at home to take a breather. Because geography separates many families, special trips bring grandparents and grandchildren together to strengthen bonds and create lasting memories. As an added bonus, most of the time senior and children’s discounts can be factored into the package for added savings.

Disabled Travelers
Travelers with disabilities have more opportunities than ever to explore the world with the assistance of hi-tech support and creative planning. A study done by the Open Doors Organization, the TIA, and the Society for Accessible Travel and Hospital (SATH) indicates that disabled travelers currently spend approximately $3.3 million a year on travel. “Dialysis cruises” using portable dialysis equipment are planned for patients and their families; road trips are taken with wheelchair accessible vans and buses; and transportable nebulizers and oxygen cylinders are made available for travelers with respiratory problems.

When planning a tour for those with physical limitations, consider the accessibility of the facilities on your itinerary. Are there steps that will need to be navigated? Even one step could be a problem for someone in a wheelchair or using a walker. Does the museum have elevators large enough to accommodate wheelchairs? Are the restrooms in the basilica handicapped accessible? Are aisles and walkways at the quaint little antique village wide enough for wheelchairs and scooters? Are the sidewalks in the town rough and uneven?

As each country has its own standards, disabled clients traveling abroad may face additional challenges regarding transportation and accessibility. Advance research and planning are a necessity so your clients can have a safe and enjoyable trip.

Travelers with Pets
Traveling with pets is a very specialized niche that is growing quickly as demand increases and resources expand. According to TIA, more than 29 million Americans traveled with their favorite canines and kitties during the last three years. Pet lovers cross all economic spectrums, but luxury and business travelers are more likely to spend the extra cash and make the necessary arrangements to bring their beloved companions with them.

Loews Hotels was the first national hotel brand to welcome pets with their “Loews Loves Pets” program. Fido and FiFi even have their own room service menu with recipes prepared from scratch. Since then, many vacation resorts and hotels have added “pet-friendly” to their list of amenities because they realize animal lovers who travel with their pets usually have money to spend. Focusing on this particular trend has given them a distinctive edge over the competition that you can take advantage of.

There are many ways to segue into this niche. For example, you can be a pet travel concierge like Puppy Travel or a subscription-based site that provides up-to-date information for its members at Pets on the Go™. When planning trips for pet lovers you will want to map out dog-walking routes, pet-friendly restaurants, pet shops, groomers and find information about local veterinarians and other services for the discriminating pet owner.

Oyster offers virtual search for consumers, branding tie-ins for advertisers

June 22, 2009

Advertisers looking to connect with consumers at the moment they are ready to make a purchase might find it in a travel site debuting today. Oyster, a New York-based hotel review site, serves up details on about 500 hotels in Aruba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Miami, New York and Las Vegas — but there are more destinations on the way. Visitors can search by hotel rating, price, location, amenities and more. The site’s search engine can find information on a variety of hotels, such as luxury, family, pet-friendly and romantic. Going to Miami? Topical searches range from nearby adventures to family services. Photos with captions paint a picture of each location, so consumers know what they agree to before plunking down the bucks for the business destination or the vacation spot of their dreams.

The unedited photographs provide details of lobbies, hallways, guestrooms and amenities, such as pools, restaurants and bars and spas. And while content provides consumers with the tool to find the perfect hotel, the possibilities for brands like Tommy Bahamas, Virgin America and Hyatt Hotels to tie in advertising are endless. That includes Crest, Colgate and Charmin because the site reviews bathrooms, too.

Visitors to Oyster won’t find advertising on the site today, but possibilities to generate revenue come from targeted paid advertising, as well as transactions, such as selling the room night to the site visitor, according to Eytan Seidman, who cofounded the site with brother Elie Seidman after leaving the Microsoft Live Search team, now

The product roadmap site visitors will find an engine to search and retrieve airline flight information to any hotel destination reviewed, Seidman says.

Oyster features 50,000 unedited photos and nearly a million words of copy that search engines can index and rank well over time. “That’s where our search expertise comes into play,” Seidman says. “The on-site search index is Google-fast. Queries load in less than one second.”

Seidman says the site runs on a custom index that supports information on tens of thousands of hotels, compared with most engines using off-the-shelf databases that can’t perform. He believes the site will rank well in search engines because it has great content to which other sites will link and was designed from the ground up to accommodate search engine crawlers from Bing, Google, Yahoo and others.

Oyster has nearly a dozen on-staff reporters who visit locations anonymously, take pictures and write reviews on everything from restaurants and spas, to the brand of toiletry and television in the rooms. Pearls, rather than stars — from one to five — rate the destinations. A space for comments gives hotel patrons a place to write about experiences, too. A view of the surrounding location on Google Maps offers information on nearby roadways, businesses and more.

Bain Capital Ventures and Oyster founders funded the company. 

Discover the $9 fare on Jet America

June 22, 2009

Jet America

Jet America

Start-up airlines aren’t the best bet for reliability, but at just $9 a ticket it might be worth taking a chance.

A new airline, Jet America, will begin service July 13 from Lansing’s Capital Region International Airport and Toledo Express Airport to Newark, N.J., and Melbourne, Fla.

On Aug. 14, the airline will add service between Toledo and Minneapolis. You can book online now at

If you are flexible on dates, you actually might find the $9 fare (with taxes, a round-trip ticket will cost $49.20). At press time, those fares were still available. So far, the new airline has only one plane that will fly all the routes.

Jet, Kingfisher hike air fares, Air India to follow soon

June 18, 2009

Air travellers in India will have to shell out more for their tickets from Wednesday with Jet Airways, Kingfisher Airlines and their no-frill subsidiaries hiking fuel surcharge by Rs 400 each on all domestic sectors and Air India indicating it will soon follow suit. The rise in fuel surcharge came in the wake of a 33 per cent increase in the prices of air turbine fuel (ATF) over the past three months, the airlines said.

For Jet Airways, the hike would take the total fuel surcharge on a ticket below a distance of 750 kms to Rs 2,450 and beyond that to Rs 3,400. For its no-frill subsidiaries Jet Airways Konnect and JetLite, it would be Rs 2,150 and Rs 3,100 respectively.

A Kingfisher Airlines spokesperson said the hike would apply uniformly for flights across all distances and all classes of travel, including subsidiary Kingfisher Red. The increase has been made effective by all these carriers for bookings from Wednesday.

An Air India spokesperson said “We are also seriously contemplating an upward revision in fuel surcharge in view of the continuous increase in ATF prices” and a decision was expected in a couple of days. Air India currently levies fuel surcharge of Rs 1,950 and Rs 2,700 on air tickets up to and beyond 750 kms respectively.

Officials of no-frill carriers IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir were mulling their options saying they were yet to take a decision. These carriers currently charge Rs 2,000 as surcharge.

The increase in fuel surcharge comes following an over 12 per cent rise in ATF prices by state-run oil firms on June 15 and over 33 per cent since March this year. The international crude oil prices have firmed to a seven month high of USD 72 per barrel on hopes of demand revival in the US.

Luton Airport to charge £1 to drop-off passengers

June 18, 2009

London’s Luton Airport (IATA: LTN) will begin charging drivers £1 to drop-off passengers from July 1. Drivers will pay at barriers at the exit of the zone. They will have to stay with their vehicles while inside the drop-off zone and will have to leave it within ten minutes. Luton already charges £1 for the use of luggage trolleys and the same amount for clear plastic bags in which to take liquids through security.

Travellers can also pay £3 to use a “priority lane” to get through security more quickly. The airport said that drivers who did not wish to use the drop-off zone could leave passengers at the mid-term car park from where a free shuttle bus leaves every ten minutes for the two-minute journey to get to the terminal.

Abertis, the airport operator, also runs Cardiff and Belfast airports, prompting concerns that similar fees could spread to other airports across the UK.

Birmingham airport already charges drivers £1 for 15 minutes at its drop-off area near the terminal.

London Luton Airport (previously called Luton International Airport) is an international airport located 1.5 NM (2.8 km; 1.7 mi) east of the town centre in the Borough of Luton in Bedfordshire, England and is 30.5 NM (56.5 km; 35.1 mi) north of Central London. The airport is 2 mi (3.2 km) from Junction 10a of the M1 motorway. It is the fourth largest airport serving the London area after Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, and is one of London’s five international airports along with London City Airport.

Read more here.

[Source: The Times Online]

New travel site offers a cut of the cash

June 18, 2009

A new travel site launches today,, which hopes to provide user-generated travel advice with a twist. The brainchild of founder Simon Nixon, the guide will encourage users to share their tips with the community by offering them a cut of clickthrough revenue – the commissions received on flight, holiday and hotel bookings that originate from the site – and display revenue from advertising.

Simonseeks enters a crowded user-generated content (UGC) market – dominated by longstanding forerunners Tripadvisor and Virtual Tourist – with lofty ambitions, aiming to establish itself as one of the top 10 travel websites in the UK within its first year.

Nixon, who founded 10 years ago and is reported to have made over £100m when the company was floated in 2007, hopes to create a cottage industry of travel writers. “I am confident that within a year of launch, we will see professional simonseekers who have been able to give up their day job and earn an income from their travel writing.”

In preparation for today’s launch, the site has been pre-populated with more than 1,000 reviews written by an assortment of established travel writers and celebrities, including Sir Cliff Richards’ guide to the Algarve and Barbados, and Raymond Blanc’s guide to the South of France.

[Source: The Guardian]

Save on summer travel

June 17, 2009

Summer is almost here, so before you load the kids into the car to escape town, there are few money-saving tips you might want to consider.

When traveling internationally:

  • Visit destinations where the U.S. dollar is closest in value to the local currency.
  • Look for all inclusive packages, such as resorts or cruises and pay upfront in U.S. dollars.
  • Ask your travel agent about locations that may be less costly as they are in their ‘off season’.

Save money on hotels:

  • Ask your travel agent about upgrading your hotel reservation to a room with two king size beds instead of getting two hotel rooms when traveling in groups or with kids.
  • Ask your travel agent to find hotels where kids stay for free or cheaper when traveling with kids.
  • Ask your travel agent to find a hotel room with a kitchenette so you can take care of a few meals yourself instead of eating out for every meal.
  • Your travel agent can suggest properties that might offer complimentary breakfast or heavy hors d’oeuvres in the afternoon.

When traveling by car:

  • Pack the car as light as possible – the more weight, the harder the car works and the more gas you use.
  • When renting a car for a large group of people, renting one SUV saves on gas mileage vs. renting two smaller cars.
  • Make sure tire pressure is accurate so that gas is spent efficiently.
  • Use only the grade level of gas that your car owners manual calls for, nothing more.
  • Use cruise control to run the engine efficiently and save on gas.

Save at home while you are away:

  • Turn the air conditioning off or down.
  • Put your lights on timers.
  • Unplug large appliances like TV’s and computers.
  • Turn off automatic sprinklers.

Other Tips:

  • Buy travel insurance: it may cost more upfront, but has the potential to save you thousands.
  • Fly in and out of airports that may be farther outside of the city to get cheaper flights then take public transportation into the city.
  • If a family member has a business trip, consider adding your vacation onto the end of the trip so there is one less plane ticket to pay for.
  • Consider a volunteer vacation–the volunteer portion of your travel may be a tax write-off.

Photo of the day: Fort Aguada, Goa

June 16, 2009

Fort Aguada, Goa

Fort Aguada, Goa

The beaches of Candolim and Sinquerim (below Fort Aguada) are popular with charter and upmarket tourists. The pace is a little less frenetic than at Calangute and Baga up the coast. Independent travellers are rare here, most of the hotels being favoured by package-tour operations. The beach at Fort Aguada is notable for its rocky and attractive headland, while Candolim has the rusting hulk of a grounded tanker, the River Princess – it’s not a very pretty princess. Some of the best-value beach accommodation in Goa lines
the quiet back lanes of both villages.

Guarding the mouth of the Mandovi River, Fort Aguada was constructed by the Portuguese in 1612. It’s worth visiting the moated ruins on the hilltop for the views, which are particularly good from the old lighthouse.
Nearby is the new lighthouse (adult/child Rs 5/3; 4-5.30pm). It’s a pleasant 2km ride along a hilly, sealed road to the fort, or you can walk via a steep, uphill path past Marbella Guest House. Beneath the fort, facing the Mandovi, is the Aguada Jail. Most of the inmates here (including some tourists on compulsory, extended stays) are in on drug charges. Needless to say, it’s not really much of tourist destination.

There are various boat cruises on offer. The best value are John’s Boat Tours (Tel: +91 832 2497450), further up behind Candolim Beach. The half-day dolphin trip (Rs 795, with a no-dolphin, no-pay guarantee) includes lunch and beers on the boat; the popular full-day ‘Crocodile Dundee’ river trip (Rs 995) includes lunch at a spice plantation and free drinks. It also offers an overnight backwater trip on a Kerala-style houseboat (Rs 4000 full board), and a variety of nonwatery trips. The Taj Holiday Village organizes para-gliding and rents jet-skis and windsurfing equipment.

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