Sustainable Travel Going With A Conscience

by Vivian Vassos

A monastic school in Yangon supported by Trafalgar Cares

#GivingTuesday. The buzzwords now in travel are giving back, leaving a smaller footprint, and most often heard, sustainable travel.

Sustainable travel. According to Gavin Tollman, Global CEO of Trafalgar, we can make a difference in the destinations to which we go. The buzzwords now in travel are giving back, leaving a smaller footprint, and, most often heard, Sustainable Travel.

In Myanmar's largest city, Yangon (formerly known as Rangoon), for example, the company's itinerary includes a visit to a school for children run by a monastery. "The only way we can break the cycle of poverty is around education, and not everyone can afford education," notes Tollman.

"It's a basic belief and fundamental to our program, Trafalgar Cares( It is an initiative designed to see how we can be better corporate and global citizens." The core of the program, he adds, includes sustaining local businesses, local artisans, and working in small communities.

And he's not alone in his belief.

"We strongly believe that tourism can be a force for good, the greatest form of wealth distribution the world has ever seen," says big sustainable travel believer Bruce Poon Tip, the Canadian founder of G Adventures ( "Tourism is one of the largest industries on earth."

His claim is backed by recent figures from the World Travel and Tourism Council: worth US $7.6 trillion, tourism represents 10 per cent of the global GDP and employs 277 million people (1 in 11 jobs).

"When done correctly," he adds, "it can create employment opportunities and breakdown the barriers of inequality and poverty." (For more on Bruce, click here to watch his inspirational talk at ideacity 2016.)

Merit Travel, says Lori Copeland, director, product development and groups, has a preferred relationship with the aforementioned G-Adventures and Planeterra. And, although, G has historically been very popular with youth travelers, says Copeland, "They are also very much a great fit for active mature travelers, and have programs like "Local Living" that are perfectly suited for this demographic."

Merit has also partnered with WaterAid Canada (formerly WaterCan) in support of their goal to ensure clean water and proper sanitation around the world.

"The organization has attracted many influential Canadians, including their honourary president, Margaret Trudeau. (Read more about Margaret and her initiatives here.)
 Louise de Grandpré, Sr. VP of Merit Travel, visited a Water Aid Canada project in West Africa two years ago.

"The opportunity to witness first hand the difference WaterAid projects bring to a community is incredibly powerful. Having a source of clean water and proper latrines changes the lives of the entire community; babies have a better chance to survive the first few years, girls can attend school regularly, women no longer spend hours walking to the nearest well and animals are better cared for. Water is the source of life and WaterAid works with local organizations to ensure the success and the continuity of the projects it funds."

As an Africa specialist, Mary Jean Tully of Tully Luxury Travel is particularly passionate about the continent. "Supporting tourism," she says, is key, and one of the most compelling reasons to visit South Africa.

"Without tourism, the communities and the wildlife suffer greatly. She's also passionate for personal reasons: she considers herself a conservationist, and is involved in the protection of wildlife, particularly where poaching continues to threaten Elephants, Rhinos and Big Cats.

In addition, Tully was nominated for an Innovation Award at We Are Africa for My Wild Africa (, her award-winning social media accounts (@maryjeantully), where she tells personal stories about her experiences across Africa.

"You can bring people into the small towns and the communities, and you can budget what their needs are accordingly," says Tollman, on the advantage of group travel. Like the supplies for this school in Myanmar. The company isn't just supporting existing schools, either. "We are building our second school in Ecuador," Tollman explains.

"Our first was in Kenya." Trafalgar is also working with the Susan B Komen foundation to help raise funds for breast cancer research specially created itineraries benefitting the foundation.

It just may be better to give than to receive. For Tollman, giving is about breaking down the barriers through travel. Yet I felt that I was the one on the receiving end. Having the opportunity to engage with the children was the true gift.

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by Travel PR News Editors

TORONTO, ON, 2016-Sep-15 — /Travel PR News/ — As Tully Luxury Travelprepares to celebrate its 30th anniversary year, it has announced two new appointments to its senior leadership team. Ms. Cathy Holler joins as Vice President, African Dreams, and Mr. Pat Lista joins as Vice President, Product & Contracting. Both bring 30 years of experience in the tourism industry.

Cathy Holler brings her visionary and strategic skills, an entrepreneurial spirit, extensive experience and connections in the luxury travel sector and broad knowledge of Africa. Her most recent positions include Vice President, Business Development and Product Innovation at Travcoa, Vice President, Member Sales & Service – USA & Canada and Vice President, Destination Sales, both at Virtuoso.

“I am incredibly honored and excited to join Mary Jean Tully and the amazing team at Tully Luxury Travel to lead their African Dreams division,” says Holler. “Since I was young, Africa has held a special place in my heart. To now be able to focus all of my expertise, energy and passion to promote travel to Africa is a dream come true!”

Pat Lista brings his extensive background in contract negotiations, sales, marketing, budgets and supplier relationships. A fluid thinker and passionate leader, Pat excels at finding innovative solutions to drive business forward and navigate teams through changing business models.

“I’m excited about this new and important chapter in my career, and happy to be working with a group of individuals whose professionalism is second to none. Everyone is striving towards the same goal: to provide the most exceptional service and travel experiences for our clients. The future is very bright.”

Two previous appointments, Julie Boucher, Vice President, Finance, and Judi Cohen, Director, Experiences, further demonstrate Tully Luxury Travel’s commitment to building a highly experienced and knowledgeable executive team.

“Our 30-year track record of success is the direct result of our very dedicated and diverse team,” says Jason Sarracini, Chief Operating Officer, Tully Luxury Travel. “I look forward to working alongside such accomplished individuals to map out our long-term strategy.”

Tully Luxury Travel will celebrate 30 successful years of operation in 2017.

Tully Luxury Travel is dedicated to sharing the world’s most inspiring, life-enriching travel experiences with our discerning global clientele. Our expertise comes from first-hand knowledge of the destinations that we sell. Established in 1987, we have long-standing relationships with the finest travel and tourism suppliers, and offer world-class customer service through our three brands: Cruise Professionals, African Dreams, and Private Travel Designers.


Media Contact:
Liz Azeez | DECK Agency |


Ms. Cathy Holler

Mr. Pat Lista

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​Travel Agents’ Optimism Grows With A Surging Luxury Cruise Market

by Daniel McCarthy / August 18, 2016

“Cunard is in a category by itself, and that will continue,” said Remenick. Photo:Gary Bembridge

Over the past 12 months, cruise lines across the luxury sector have upped their game, adding new products, new tiered levels of service and new experiences for their guests. And the result, travel professionals say, is a renewed sense of optimism for the industry as a whole and for the travel agency channel in particular.

Linda Allen, owner of Cruises by Linda in Harrison, AR, for example, says that despite all the innovations she has seen in her 25-year career, today is perhaps the most exciting time of all.

“The most exciting thing, the thing that is really going to be different in the next 10 years, is the luxury expedition market,” she said. “The submarines and the helicopters—that part has so much ‘gee whiz’ to it.”

Allen also noted the revolution in ships’ suite areas—with Norwegian Cruise Line’s Haven suites, MSC’s Yacht Club and Princess’s M1 Suites all bringing high touch even to traditionally mass-market lines and ships. The trend toward “differentiating between people paying for the higher categories and others,” she said, will lead to “much more of a two-class system” that offers agents the ability to upsell, and earn higher commissions, more often.

Celebrity in particular is “really upping the game” with its new Edge class of ship, which will debut at the end of 2018, she said. The suite class on the Edge ships will include the kinds of exclusive touches once reserved for luxury ships, including dining options, butlers and priority embarkation.

“Cruise lines all seem to be ratcheting up the bar as far as the onboard and shore-side experiences offered,” agreed Leslie Fambrini of Personalized Travel Consultants in Los Altos, CA.

Meanwhile, Dorothy Remenick of Royal Palm & Cooks Travel in Jupiter, FL, started in the cruise industry in 1959 and has since become one of the premier Cunard Line agents. Even there, she said, she sees the bar moving higher.

“Cunard is in a category by itself, and that will continue,” she predicted. To make sure that happens, Cunard recently has added more single cabins, renovated the public spaces and restaurants, and added more kennels to insure the comfort of its four-legged guests and their owners on its Queens.

Despite not having new ships coming into service, Remenick is confident that her business with Cunard will continue to be strong. “They’re doing the right thing by putting the money into the ship. I think it’s going to work for them,” she said.

As for the role of agents, most agreed that their importance will rise along with the value offered by the luxury cruise market.

“When people first started going on the internet some of the cruise lines froze the travel agents out. But when it comes to parting with their money, customers are not going to rely on the internet. They want people,” Remenick said. “In the upscale market, we’re pretty okay.”

Mary Jean Tully, founder and CEO of Tully Luxury Travel in Ontario, Canada, agrees completely.

“We will become more important and necessary as the products continue to come, and customers need us to understand and explain the differences,” she said.

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by Vivian Vassos

Elephants by the artist FALKO, a South African street art pioneer

South Africa is one of the best destinations to consider scratching off your Bucket List for less considering our, well, lesser loonie, right now. According to travel experts, you'll get more for your Canadian buck.

But, before the safari, experience Cape Town and Johannesburg. Get to know the culture, the people and the food, through the eyes of locals. Everyone speaks English, but there is also Afrikaans, Zulu, Swazi and more of the 11 official languages spoken here. But Africa is still a wild and complex destination, and it makes sense to consult with an expert when planning this once-in-a-lifetime trip. Guides, tours, getting to and from the airport and more can – and should – be taken care of before you go. Remember, it's a long flight, and you don't want your thinking clouded by jetlag.

We asked Mary Jean Tully and Judi Cohen, the experts at the Canadian based Tully Luxury Travel and its African Dreams and Private Travel Design divisions to give us the insider's guide to South Africa.

Click through below for part two of our conversations with the experts at Tully Luxury Travel and highlights of my day tour of Johannesburg, including some of the most impressive street art I have ever seen. Fun fact: Johannesburg is surrounded in miles of man-made forest, making it one of the greenest cities on the continent.

Vivian Vassos: How do you inspire your clients to continue to travel in these times of safety concerns. And what is it that a travel advisor such as Tully do to help ensure the safety and well-being of its clients while travelling abroad?

Mary Jean Tully: With the quality of our partners in Africa, I feel totally safe and know that our clients will always be in good hands. We are able to communicate on a 24-hour basis with our partners, which is of comfort to our clients and our agents. Having just returned from Kenya and Tanzania, I did not feel unsafe or insecure about traveling and will be return to South Africa without concern.

[We] have trusted business partners in South Africa (and in all other countries in Africa) with whom we have formed strong relationships in planning the best trips and providing day to day services while clients are in Africa. We are in touch daily with them for updates on our client's journeys. We also communicate directly with our clients throughout their trips to just check-in. We only deal with companies in Africa that we are aligned with on conservation and social responsibility.

VV: When and how far out is the best timing to book South Africa?

Cohen: Since most of the camps we work with are quite small, they fill up very quickly and are often booked up 12 months in advance. It's never too early to start planning a trip! The best time to go on safari is during the dry season because water is scarce and you will see many animals around existing water holes. With the grass being lower you will also have better visibility. It is best to avoid the rainy season from October to April generally.

VV: Why do you think it's worth the splurge on bespoke or individual tours? The Canadian Loonie is strong against the Rand making the destination an incredible value, and how this is a good incentive for that bucket list trip.

Tully: Luxury is different for each client, for some luxury might be the possibility of enjoying one of the best spas in Cape Town, for others luxury is to be able to visit a village in the Kruger Area to interact with the children and be able to collaborate with them, and at the same time enjoy a Safari at a beautiful lodge.

VV: I know that for me, what I loved most about my individual tour was the one-on-one opportunity to be guided by a local who is also professional and passionate about South Africa. It also gave me the opportunity to extend my time spent in some places, and cut short others, and rework the itinerary as the day went. In Johannesburg, en route to the graffiti/street-art tour downtown – well worth it! – we were suddenly hit by a downpour. We waited it out in a local coffee shop that served African roasted brew; it was wonderful to just hang out with people from the neighbourhood.

Tully: Discovering Africa fully is best achieved with customized safaris and tours. What we do at Tully Luxury Travel is to combine the best transportation available in each city, with the best local guides and, of course, we select distinctive properties according to the profile of each client.

VV: Without the flexibility of my guide, Sipho Lehutso – who was from a neighbouring village outside Johannesburg and spoke five languages, including perfect English! – and not being in a group on a tight schedule, that wouldn't have happened. And, in Soweto, where I experienced many emotions, from sadness to horror to happiness, he gave me enough privacy but also enough information to allow me to have a deeper understanding of Mandela, Tutu and all the Apartheid history and key players.

Tully: Tailor-made safaris and tours allow a client to customize their experience. They have the option of staying longer (or even leaving earlier) from a specific camp and can often bypass crowds by not traveling in large groups. They enjoy the services of a guide to themselves and this allows for great interaction and learning not only about the sites, but also about the life experiences of their guides.

VV: What are your highlights and tips for a stay in Johannesburg?

Cohen: In Johannesburg, the Intercontinental is very convenient (for ease of a quick overnight stay at the airport), and the Saxon or Four Seasons Westcliff (above) are great choices for a city experience.

I'd start with a stay at the InterContinental airport hotel if flying in on an international flight with a one night layover before heading out on safari or to another city. So convenient, simply cross the street after you exit the baggage claim area.

If you want to take a drive into the City, have a car and driver pre-arranged, something we do for clients at Tully, or decide when you arrive depending on how you feel and go to the concierge at the hotel.

I'd dine at The Living Room and then check out the local artist scene at the Goodman Gallery. But my favourite thing in Johannesburg was visiting Maboneng. Depending on your dates, visiting the street market on the weekend is great. We got there in the evening when the bars, galleries, design centres and restaurants were lively and busy. Great bars like Lenin's Vodka Bar! Outdoor restaurants with BBQd ribs, chicken and other meats....delicious! We asked our driver to recommend a good restaurant and he joined us for dinner before heading back to the airport hotel. Up the next morning early to catch our flight to Botswana...just crossed the street with our safari bags on a luggage cart!

VV: What I found, was that with a guide, you can be more adventurous, and return to the spots you liked most on your own, once you've got the lay of the land.

Cohen: Yes, like Maboneng, for example. Trendy and interesting area to visit: historical buildings, full height graffiti walls, great people watching, music scene, street performers and small street choirs....galleries with wire and bead much more. It tickled all my senses!

Come back next week for part three: a photo journal of highlights of Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa with Zoomer's Executive Editor, Vivian Vassos.

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