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Archive for April, 2009

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Thailand’s tourism troubles (and deals)

The New York Times’ Practical Traveler published an article today about the state of Thailand’s tourism (and the subsequent deals you can now find) amidst some of the recent unrest in Bangkok. The Tourism Authority of Thailand predicts the number of tourists will drop this year, in part because of the anti-government protests that have recently taken place.FP_NYTThailand.jpg
As a result, Thailand has become an even more ideal destination for finding great deals. Thailand is already established as the place to find affordable luxury, and now prices for "five star treatment" is dropping even lower than "three star prices."
When writing the article, Practical Traveler reporter Michelle Higgins asked what I thought about touring in Thailand, since our travel agency frequently books tour throughout the country.
As I said to her, we haven’t had a single cancellation to the Treasures of Thailand tour as a result of the protests (even to the tour that was over there in the middle of the action earlier this month), and we don’t have any concerns about sending tourists today. In fact, I’m heading out for my first trip to Thailand in a few weeks, and I can’t wait!
If you have an interest in international travel (as I assume you do, since you’re here), and especially if you have an interest in Thailand and Asia, the article is definitely a worthwhile read. So have a look!

The Best of India & Nepal just got better

Have you ever bought a car, only to have the manufacturer send you a check in the mail three weeks later because they realized they could actually make that particular car model cheaper, so the price went down? It just doesn’t happen.
As I mentioned in Monday’s blog post, we’ve recently managed to reduce prices on several of our touring programs. Thanks to some hard work and tough negotiations, we’ve managed to cut the price of our current Best of India & Nepal vacation, our 15-day tour of Delhi, Jaipur, Agra, Khajuraho, Varanasi, and Kathmandu, originally priced at $2,299.
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Reductions are significant, up to $500 per person. As always, in an effort to make travel more affordable for all, we’ve passed along these savings to our passengers, including everyone who has already booked on existing departures. That’s right. While most travel agencies would probably only include the savings on trips that haven’t been booked yet (if they include them at all), we’re encouraging every Friendly Planeteer who’s recently booked the Best of India & Nepal to contact us for a rebate.
Most travelers are thrilled when they find out the cost of their program has decreased, but some of you might be wary. In no way has the program quality been compromised. In fact, nothing has changed on the program at all, but our lengthy negations with land operators and airlines have allowed us to pass the hard-earned savings on to you.
This journey through India and Nepal is truly amazing, with its abundance of fascinating, stunning, and exotic sights and sounds. Vacationers visit many of India’s most important and significant cities, from New Delhi — the nation’s capital and third-largest city — to the foot of Mt. Everest in Nepal, and everything in between. Few destinations in the world can match this combination of spectacular scenery, exotic culture, and hospitable people.
And now you can experience it for less. Giving back to paying customers is certainly a foreign concept to many organizations, yet remains another reason Friendly Planet stands apart from our competition. For more information on the rebate, please call 800-555-5765 or e-mail us.

Hot hot hot deal: 10 days in China for $999!

I don’t know about the weather in your neck of the woods, but we’re in the middle of a heatwave (in April?!) here in suburban Philadelphia. To go along with the hot weather, I’ve got a deal to announce that’s simply on fire: 10 days in China for just $999! Our Taste of China vacation has always been a popular package with Friendly Planet Travel customers, but this new sale price has everyone saying WOW.
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Taste of China takes Friendly Planeteers on a 10-day tour through three of China’s most fascinating cities: Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai.
Beijing — China’s historic and cultural capital — and Shanghai — often called the "Paris of the East" — are probably two of the most dynamic cities in the world. And Xi’an is the site of one of the world’s most important archeological treasures: the army of 2,200-year-old terra-cotta soldiers, including more than 8,000 life-size ceramic soldiers, chariots, and horses buried there to protect the tomb of the first Qin emperor.
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What’s the catch, you say? There is no catch. The deal includes all transfers to each destination, breakfast every day, some other meals, superior hotel accommodations, scheduled tours, and more of the quality features you’ve come to know and love about Friendly Planet Travel.
We’re always in communication with our tour guides, hotel directors, and flight suppliers, trying to get the best deal possible for our travelers. As you’ve probably guessed (and as I’ve touched upon here on the blog), the economy has had a big impact on international travel in 2009. And suppliers are cutting their prices to attract more tourism, which many of these countries depend on.
As soon as a deal breaks, we pass that on to you. We were able to knock our usual Taste of China price of $1299 down to $999. Phew! Can I get some ice cream delivered to my office now?

The early bird doesn’t always get the worm with travel deals

As The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month, sometimes it pays off big time for travelers who wait until the last minute to book their plane, hotel, or cruise reservations. That’s because many operators are forced to drop prices at the last minute because of low demand and a difficulty in predicting sales, especially in rocky economic times. I touched on this subject a bit already, but think it’s an important one for travelers to remember. FP_hotel.jpg
Airlines usually raise prices significantly during the two weeks prior to a flight departure date, but that hasn’t been happening lately. Instead of watching the prices go up, patient travelers are watching them go down.
And thrifty travelers who are reluctant, in general, to book in advance have recently been making reservations last minute, making it difficult for the industry to predict sales volume and, therefore, rates.
I left a comment on the article, but silly me didn’t realize a coworker had already signed in with his name on the computer I was using! Shush, Baby Boomers are allowed to make Internet mistakes every so often! Have a look!

Happy Earth Day from Friendly Planet Travel

Here at Friendly Planet Travel, we try to make every day Earth Day. Our tours are designed to show our travelers some of the most beautiful sights of the world. So we must take care of them. That’s why we’re firm believers in sustainable travel. FP_Recycle.jpg
Sustainable travel is a much-discussed concept that is, actually, a great deal more complex than recycling your trash, or trying to use your hotel towels more than once. Not that those aren’t cardinal rules of all decent world travelers, but if you live in New York and want to visit Thailand, there’s no way to avoid the long, environmentally costly flight.
But it is possible to tread softly once at your destination. And by treading softly, I mean treating not only the land, but the people, with respect and dignity.
Friendly Planet Travel tours all rely on local companies, local guides, and as many locally owned and run hotels and attractions as we can possibly arrange, so that the people who live in the places we’re visiting enjoy the benefit of our visits. By manifestly supporting local communities, they will become better stewards of the resources that give them back a decent living.
We also believe in supporting local communities by contributing to important local projects that provide material help, like digging wells, supplying schools, and contributing to self-help projects for the least privileged. We are motivated every day in our efforts at creating our tours by the belief that in getting to know people and cultures that are different from our own, we build our own small but important bridges toward a healed planet.
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Photo by Tali Miller

We already offer many touring opportunities to such destinations as Borneo and Patagonia, where the fragility of the environment is poignantly obvious to the casual visitor.
In the coming months, we hope to add new and exciting special eco-tourism opportunities, so stay tuned for more details here on the blog, on our Web site, and on Twitter.

Green Week special: Saving Antarctica

Yesterday I told you about the poll we held on the Friendly Planet Travel Web site that let you choose the destination of the next Friendly Planet Travel tour. And, as you already know, Madagascar was the most popular destination of choice, followed closely by Antarctica.
While Antarctica is growing exponentially in popularity, it is precisely the country’s desirability as a tourist destination that makes it so vulnerable to environmental damage. Tourism infrastructure, support facilities for people, and potential oil spills from ships all contribute to the problems facing this fragile spot on the bottom of our planet when people start exploring.
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Yet, it is this infrastructure which makes it possible for us to realize our dreams of visiting this remote and fascinating place. Without the facilities, how can we tour there? It’s quite a delicate problem that requires a great deal of care in finding a good solution.
As you might have heard, in an effort to protect the delicate environment of Antarctica, the Obama administration is imposing mandatory limits on the size of cruise ships sailing there and the number of passengers they’re allowed to bring ashore. Of course, in the name of environmental sustainability, this is a move that we fully support at Friendly Planet Travel.
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Because of the high level of interest from you, we’re exploring Antarctica as a new destination for 2010. But with the country’s future in mind, we’re researching how best to arrange the program so that we cause the least amount of harm while providing the best experience for our travelers.
We care deeply about the environment, and when finished, our program will definitely be one that provides a great experience for our travelers with the least amount of impact on the pristine land they visit.
Because while we want you to have the best experience as possible, we also want your grandchildren and their grandchildren (and so on and so on) to have the chance to experience the same. If we all do our part, we won’t be the last generation to experience the splendor that is Antarctica.
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Madagascar, here we come!

Where on Earth do you want to go next? That was the question we asked you earlier this year when we gave you the chance to vote for the next Friendly Planet Travel vacation on our Web site.
When the poll closed this month, a whopping 6,780 people had voted on 12 proposed exotic locations. WOW!
And the winner is …
Magnificent Madagascar, with 941 votes.
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Antarctica came in a close second, trailing by 31 votes at 910. In third place was the Ireland and Scotland tour, with 836 votes.
Madagascar is a naturalist’s paradise, home to more than 150,000 plant and animal species found nowhere else on Earth. The Malagasy population is a diverse blend of African, Asian, Arabian, French, Indian, and Creole cultures, to name a few. This sets the country apart as a unique shopping, dining, and festival destination.
Of course, our Madagascar vacation will feature all the comfort and affordability you’ve have come to expect from Friendly Planet Travel, including roundtrip airfare, transfers, superior and deluxe accommodations, some meals, expertly guided tours, and more.
We’re already hard at work planning all the details of the Madagascar tour, and we’ll keep you posted as more details unfold. But you can expect to see Madagascar on the list of the affordable Friendly Planet Travel packages by early next year.

Friendly Planet Travel: Live from Peru

Here at Friendly Planet Travel, our employees don’t just make it possible for other people to see the world, but they get out there and do it themselves. In fact, we encourage the members of our Friendly Planet Travel family to take advantage of the amazing deals we offer our customers every day.
That’s why it’s not unusual to have a Friendly Planet Travel employee sitting across from you as you eat lunch on the Yangtze Cruise in China, or riding along beside you on the bus from Quito to Octavalo in Ecuador.
On Monday, Zach, one of our Friendly Planet Travel employees, will be boarding a plane for our Amazing Peru tour. You can follow along with Zach on all of his Peruvian adventures (or, at least the adventures where he has Internet access) by keeping your eyes on @Zach_FPTravel on Twitter. Isn’t technology amazing?
Bon voyage, Zach! Happy Tweeting!
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Friendly Planet Travel noted by National Geographic Traveler

Happy Tax Day, everyone. Chances are, you’re feeling pretty relieved today. Tax season is officially over, and — if you’re lucky — you’ve got a few extra dollars in your bank account right now.

National Geographic Traveler

To celebrate, the National Geographic Traveler put together a number of suggestions for spending your extra dough in some extra cool places. In the piece, they highlighted our Exotic Ecuador tour for only $1,259.
Eight days in Ecuador for only $1,259? That’s something we hope catches every world traveler’s eye, with or without an extra nudge from Uncle Sam.

Customer testimonial: Walk where Jesus walked

Customer feedback is always important to us at Friendly Planet travel. But we received a customer testimonial over the weekend that simply tickled us pink, because it came from a group leader.
This particular group wanted a custom tour to Isreal with an added Egypt extension to the program. We managed to route the tour for them so they could also visit Jordan, while keeping the price at less than the best price they were quoted by other agencies for the Holy Land alone.
We worked with them to create an experience that I hope they’ll never forget, and judging from the feedback from the tour leader, they were a very happy group. Here it is, verbatim:
"The best travel tour I had so far. Friendly Planet made it so easy for all of us 53 tourist. The way they put it together with all the connections between countries, the hotels, buses and different tourist guides was so impressive and we felt pampered the whole time. We really had a grand time. Thank you very much for making it an experience of a lifetime.
– Emmanuel Lacson, Group Organizer, Hinsdale, Ill."
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About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

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