Richard Turen
Richard Turen
These are some stories that have caught my eye in the past several weeks but have been largely overlooked in the media

Keep your eyes on the new 3-D scanning technology that Google is testing with several major corporations, including BMW. Called Tango, it enables prospective purchasers to get up close and personal with a wide range of products by means of augmented reality, which overlays digital imaging on real surroundings.

So car buyers can now drive, walk around or kick the tires of a vehicle they are thinking of purchasing. Clothing manufacturers like the Gap are using Tango to enable shoppers to dress in clothing on a 3-D model of themselves before purchasing.

This is exciting stuff, but just as exciting are its potential applications to the travel industry. Passengers can virtually enter a 777 and look around to see which seat they want to purchase.

Guests can enter a hotel lobby from the comfort of home and walk up to a room they are considering booking.

We won't be able to use Tango anytime soon, as smartphone support is a bit behind the technology. But this is a Google idea that could be adapted long before its driverless cars become the norm.

Companies that take clients to the great outdoors were energized by the results of a new study by the University of Colorado at Boulder suggesting that the cure for getting a good night's sleep might well involve putting on hiking boots and camping out in the mountains or areas of Manhattan.

The study demonstrated that people reset their circadian clocks and began releasing gobs of melatonin while enjoying a six-day camping trip in the Rocky Mountains.

The means to better sleep (and better health) is to achieve "biological night." This means that melatonin levels should rise just a few hours before bedtime, stay high throughout the night then slowly decrease when it is time to wake up.

All of which tells me we have a unique sales opportunity here for programs that enable our clients to spend one or two nights under the stars wherever they are. Better sleep when you get home seems to be a plausible benefit. At the very least, you might sleep better on the flight back.

The barest of vacations

It turns out that the "nakation" is a real thing, and it is becoming extremely popular. There is a sizable audience, I am told, who want to get naked on their days off.

These are not old-fashioned, run-of-the-mill nudists but a younger demographic that associates the shedding of clothing with the liberation and freedom that come with a vacation where there are no social rules. Some of these folks are of the generation that disavows home and automobile ownership and certainly does not want to go on their parents' kind of vacation.

I noticed that Trivago lists hotels that are best for those seeking a nakation. In fact, should any readers wish to explore this trend, hotel properties are listed on a 1-to-10 "raunchiness" scale. Consider the Desire Pearl, on Mexico's Riviera Maya, which offers guests a "fantasy menu" that includes the services of a videographer to capture guests in their bedroom.

Or consider Hedonism 11 in Negril, Jamaica, which features a "Romping Room" experience just off the tennis courts. Here, couples and singles engage in a "mingling" experience in a large space filled with soft lighting and lots of large pillows and beds, all surrounded by waterfalls.

How the other half flies

A record was set recently in the skies, and I thought you ought to know about it. A Saudi prince recently purchased 80 tickets on a Qatar Airways flight to accommodate his traveling companions: 80 falcons. Thanks to the pilot, who snapped a quick photo of the raptors resting on their tray tables, one per seat, the world now has photographic evidence of what can be done with unimaginable wealth.

In looking into this, I discovered that the airlines of the United Arab Emirates frequently book seats for the "Falcon Flyers Club" because falconry is a popular sport in the region. Etihad, Emirates and Qatar, among the world's top-five airlines, each allows a certain number of seats to be sold to falcons. The rest travel as checked baggage. These are great airlines, but I would suggest bringing along Handi Wipes.

America's best bathrooms

I hope you will join me in congratulating Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport (MSP) for being home to "America's Best Bathrooms." The competition this year had MSP up against a bar in St. Louis that papers its bathroom with the covers of classic books and the up-and-comer restroom at Coca-Cola Park, the minor league baseball stadium in Allentown, Pa., that features a "hands-free, motion-control, urinal gaming system."

So what does MSP have to win this award, hosted by the cleaning-supply company Cintas? It created comfortable restroom zones complete with water-refill stations, niches for rolling luggage, touchless faucets and flight information boards.

But what I really like is the way each restroom entrance is marked by the work of a different Minnesota artist.

Other airports have won past bathroom awards, and they deserve recognition, too. Tampa International was a semifinalist in 2013 for its high level of cleanliness, flattering lighting and gorgeous floral and artwork.

In 2005, Fort Smith Regional Airport in Arkansas took first prize, and it is still a pleasant and fragrant place to visit. Its award cited large measures of "southern hospitality," evidenced by wingback chairs in the ladies room and plastic toilet seat covers.

It seems to me that if we really want to "make America improve a little" (which would have been my preferred presidential campaign slogan) we might begin with the public rest-rooms immediately outside the arrivals area of our major international airports. This will never be a great country until we figure out a way to make airport restrooms into a warm, clean, comfortable welcome to our shores.

As it stands now, I wonder how many visitors turn around and book the next flight back after using the public restroom at New York JFK or Chicago O'Hare?

Germans vote with their bookings

Speaking of visitors going back, it appears that some significant numbers of them are never arriving.

In a new study by GFK, Germany's largest market-research firm, 46% of Germans who said they would like to vacation in the U.S. have changed their minds since president Trump took office and now will not consider our country as a destination. The study revealed that of those predisposed to want to visit America, almost half won't because they feel unwanted and they wish to demonstrate their opposition to current U.S. policies.

Here is my new secret destination; let's keep it to ourselves. I will be sending as many of my clients as possible to Bologna, Italy. When I lived in Italy, Bologna was always known as the culinary capital of the country. Now visitors will be able to visit a major, new site. The team behind the Eataly chain is building a $106 million, 20-acre theme park totally devoted to food -- or as I prefer to describe it, "purposeful art."

Fico Eataly World will be housed under 108,000 square feet of pastures, gardens and orchards. It will be pay homage to Italian food, with the main building being constructed with more solar panels than any other building in Europe.

My secret destination will feature 25 restaurants and specialty food stalls, with 500 Bianchi combination bicycle/shopping carts that have been designed for the project so visitors can exercise while purchasing the freshest pasta and sausage products.

The fact that the Italians consider a bit of bike riding from food stall to food stall to be a constructive exercise is one of the reasons I so revere their culture and attitude toward life. The project will open in September, but my clients will want to return over the course of several days in between daytrips to Florence and the surrounding environs.

No worries, the Eataly Hotel will open in 2018.

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