Labor Day came and went. Lifeguards have gone off duty, white clothing was put in storage and children are back in school.
But there are a few reflections of the summer of '16 that are not yet going easily into storage for me. Some are trivial, some consequential and some just observational.
To begin: While on vacation in the Maldives, I met with Caterina Fattori, the resident marine biologist at Outrigger Konotta, who was going over the trial-and-error efforts she had undertaken over the past year to help preserve the coral reef that surrounds the resort island.
Funded by Outrigger's Ozone foundation, Deutsches Meeresmuseum (an oceanographic institute in Germany) and Best Dives, a contractor that provides water activities for a number of resorts in the Maldives, Fattori has been trying to improvise ways to counter the effects of stress on the reef, induced by rising ocean temperatures.
She observed alarming rates of bleaching, a process in which coral stops producing color in an effort to conserve resources simply to survive when its environment becomes less hospitable. Coral grows most comfortably between 73 and 84 degrees, but last March, water around the island, which is just 28 miles above the equator, rose to 93 degrees.
The Maldives themselves are under grave threats from global warming. If oceans continue to rise as predicted, 77% of the country will be underwater by the end of the century.
It seems that every year for the past several years, my vacations have been impacted by the visible and undeniable effects of climate change. Last year, I saw just how far the glaciers of Glacier National Park in Montana have receded. The year before, on a cruise through the Arctic, polar bear habitats that had once been blanketed by snow had turned bare, and the bears (and other wildlife) exhibited visible signs of stress.
My modest proposal: A tour operator could offer to any politician who still denies climate change a free vacation (or, if they would prefer, a "fact-finding mission") to a destination that's being impacted by rising temperatures. The trip would not have to be packaged or presented any differently than it is to other passengers. It would simply be offered "as is."
The attendant publicity of such an offer should, by itself, make this a worthwhile initiative for a large- enough tour operator. And, of course, there is another aspect of self-interest involved: If action isn't taken quickly by politicians, many areas that are attractive today will in the future have about as much appeal as a water-treatment plant tour of Flint, Mich.
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It seems that anywhere in the world I am, whether at a business or leisure hotel, as I am presented with my folio at checkout, I am told, "... and if you enjoyed your stay, please consider writing about us on TripAdvisor."
I think that's a fair request, but I'm also a little surprised that no one also says (or says instead), "I see you booked with X travel agency. If you enjoyed your stay, please let them know about your satisfaction."
As our recent Consumer Trends research once again showed, clients of travel agents take more trips, take longer trips and spend more money than those who book through other channels. Further, the survey reveals that advisers are influential in guiding clients toward satisfying trips.
Perhaps agency groups could remind hotel partners that an acknowledgement of the influence of agents, upon checkout, would be appreciated.
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Travel Weekly and others have reported that millennial travelers are an important factor in the resurgence of travel advisers. I've heard various theories for why this is, but I think it was best summed up by Elan Gale, the 32-year-old producer of the reality television show "The Bachelor" (and its various spin-offs). When being interviewed onstage last month by Virtuoso CEO Matthew Upchurch during that group's Travel Week in Las Vegas, Gale was asked why millennials were going to advisers. He gave the perfect millennial answer: "Real expertise is the ability to find experts."
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I haven't, by the way, forgotten that I promised trivia.
It is widely known that chop suey is an American invention not found in China. In fact, it's been years since I've seen it on a Chinese restaurant menu in the U.S. So I was surprised to see it offered multiple times in Sri Lanka when I was there recently, on menus in many types of restaurants.
I asked a Sri Lankan about it, and he said the local version was likely different from the American recipe.
"It has Chinese ingredients, but Sri Lankan spicing," he said. "It's popular because it's easier to make and more economical than curry."
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And finally, congratulations to Travel Weekly senior editor Michelle Baran, not only on the birth of her son over the summer but on the publication of Frommer's EasyGuide to River Cruising (Frommer Media, 2017). She is co-author of the guide with former Travel Weekly reporter Fran Golden. I received an advance copy, and it is wonderful, covering everything from "Why take a river cruise?" to what each major brand offers to options on European rivers, U.S. rivers, exotic rivers and theme cruises.