6.22.2020

whatever happened to overtourism?

crowds at Rome's Trevi Fountain (c) 2020 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Overtourism was travel's biggest problem in 2019. I took the photograph above when I visited Rome in 2019 while on a walking tour of the city. The first time I came to the Piazza di Trevi in 1978, there might have been a half dozen tourists viewing the fountain. When I returned in 2019, the crowds were so thick that tossing three coins in the fountain would have been nearly impossible.

Scenes like this were rampant throughout the world as recently as last year. Do you remember the crowds at...

Venice's Piazza San Marco — passengers from massive cruise ships occupying every square inch of the square, queued in endless lines just to enter the Basilica and the Doge's Palace.

London's Crown Jewels in the Tower of London — after standing in line for a chance to see these royal treasures, being rewarded with just a very few seconds in front of the jewels as the moving conveyer took you relentlessly by.

Paris's Mona Lisa, star attraction of the Louvre — after enduring snaking admission and security lines and following signs to the "Jaconde," finding yourself in a gallery filled with hundreds of tourists jammed around a rather small painting on the wall.


lines at St. Catherine's Palace (c) 2020 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

We've experienced all of this. We've seen the lines to get into St. Catherine's Palace (pictured above) and the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. We've been jammed into crowded galleries at Vatican Museum in Rome and Versailles outside Paris. We've witnessed thousands of tourists in front of the Main Gate to Buckingham Palace to view the Changing of the Guard.

We can help our clients skip lines, enjoy exclusive access to experiences most tourists don't know about, or even score private visits before or after public visiting hours — when travel comes back...

But for now in 2020, the problem is no longer overtourism. The issue is Covid-19 and the need to practice social distancing. What will world travel look like once we have developed an effective vaccine? Do we need to reimagine travel? This article from The Guardian makes one argument. What do you think?

copyright (c) 2020 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

6.18.2020

Mexico — open for US travelers

Four Seasons Punta Mita — reopens July 1 (c) 2020 by David Ourisman, all right reserved

Yes, you can fly to Mexico! There has been confusion about the border closure between the US and Mexico; it applies to the land border only. While you cannot DRIVE to Mexico today, you can definitely FLY! Here are the facts:
  • U.S. travelers can fly to Mexico without any issues.
  • Cabo and the Riviera Maya are open, and airlines are adding flights.
  • Visitors do not need to quarantine.
Take a look at this handy website from Classic Vacations for information about popular domestic and international vacation destinations. What's open? What's still closed? When will your favorite resort reopen? What travel restrictions exist, if any?

Some highlighted openings... Each resort listed below is open today and offers Virtuoso amenities: free breakfasts, resort credits, and more. As an added value, Classic Vacations offers cancel-for-any-reason insurance at no extra cost, giving you the flexibility to cancel for a full refund up to 8 days before arrival.

Mexico - Riviera Maya
   Andaz Mayakoba
   Banyan Tree Mayakoba
   Grand Velas Riviera Maya - all inclusive
   Hotel Esencia
   Rosewood Mayakoba

Mexico - Los Cabos
   Montage Los Cabos
   Chileno Bay
   Esperanza
   Grand Velas Los Cabos - all inclusive

United States
   Andaz Scottsdale
   Calistoga Ranch, Napa Valley
   Farmhouse Inn, Sonoma County
   Park Hyatt Beaver Creek
   Solage, Napa County

copyright (c) 2020 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

5.29.2020

Shanghai Noodles with Dry Shrimp



We are all waiting impatiently for that day when we can safely travel again. While we all want to travel, we also desire to protect not only our own health but also the health of people we care about.

As if to whet our appetites (both literally and figuratively), Wild China has reached out with this classic recipe, developed by their culinary consultant, Fuchsia Dunlop.




Fuchsia epitomizes the benefit of using local experts to plan your travels. A chef and award-winning author from England, she has worked with Wild China to help plan culinary adventures for their Virtuoso guests. She lived in Chengdu and became an expert in Sichuanese food, holding the distinction of being the only foreigner ever to graduate from the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine. Fuchsia makes regular appearances on TV and radio and was named "Food Journalist of the Year" in 2006 by the British Guild of Food Writers. 

A die-hard foodie, Fuchsia has your taste buds in mind every step of the way, encouraging the expansion of palettes and challenging the scope of traditional cooking.

copyright (c) 2020 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

5.24.2020

a fun way to share your travels on Zoom

the Zoom background I used for my church's Zoom coffee hour this morning

I take photographs every time I travel. Though no one is traveling right now, we can still enjoy and share our travel photos as backgrounds when we meet with others in a Zoom meeting.

After my church's online service this morning (click here if you're interested), I joined our online Zoom coffee hour. This photograph of the beautiful stained glass in St. Chapelle in Paris served as my background. Here's how you can do the same thing.
  1. Locate a JPEG file you'd like to use. 
  2. Boot Zoom and open the Preferences dialog box. 
  3. Select the Virtual Background tab in the left sidebar. 
  4. Click the small "+" sign at the right side of the screen and click "Add Image." 
  5. On a Mac, this will open a Finder search box. Navigate to the JPEG file you want to use. 
  6. Select that file and click "Open." 
You can store a library of travel photos in Zoom. Every time you join a meeting, simply click the photo you want to use as your background. It's a fun way to share memories of past trips and anticipate the ones to come ... whenever we're able to travel again. Hope that time comes soon!

copyright (c) 2020 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

5.17.2020

will Hawaii open for tourists on July 1st?

beach at Four Seasons Maui © 2020 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Hoping to travel again soon? I sure am. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, we have been sheltering in place for over two months. I was forced to cancel two trips, a site inspection trip to the Big Island of Hawaii and a Windstar river cruise from Amsterdam to Basel.

Many travelers are hesitating for obvious reasons. We all prioritize our health and the health of our families. Beyond that, no one wants to fly off on a vacation and be surprised with a 14-day quarantine upon arrival. Flexible reservations are an absolute must. Before making a reservation, we want the flexibility of waiting as long as possible to assess the situation before committing to a trip.

Major luxury hotel brands are responding to what travelers need. New, flexible cancellation policies have been announced by Four Seasons, Marriott International (parent company of Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, etc), and others. With only slight variations in wording, their new policy is this:
If you have an existing reservation, you can cancel it without charge up to 24 hour prior to arrival* as long as the cancellation is made by June 30, 2020. 
If you make a new reservation before June 20, 2020 for any future date, 2020, you will be able to cancel that reservation without charge up to 24 hours prior to arrival*. 
*This policy may not apply to Festive Season bookings, to dates with special event restrictions, or to periods of peak demand.
Please be patient. It takes time for new policies to be reflected in hotel reservations systems. Every rate for every room category at each hotel has to be modified. Please reach out to your travel advisor to iron out the details with the hotel or resort of your dreams.

copyright (c) 2020 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

5.07.2020

jigsaw puzzle fun whilst sheltering in place



It seems everyone in the travel industry is working overtime, thinking of ways to stay engaged with guests and travel advisors. Here's one of the best ideas I've come across ...

... an entertaining jigsaw puzzle for you to solve. The web-based puzzle is quite well done and very intuitive. Just click this link — puzzle # 1 — and enjoy a few minutes while you solve the puzzle and imagine places you might go once we can travel again.

Bonus points if you can guess the city in the background of the puzzle (and the hotel from which you can enjoy this scene). After you finish this puzzle, here are two additional puzzles for your entertainment and travel dreams:
puzzle # 2 
puzzle # 3
copyright (c) 2020 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

5.06.2020

do's and don'ts of French dining



One silver lining of sheltering in place has been the opportunity to participate in Zoom meetings organized by many of my travel partners. Intended to familiarize travel advisors with their offerings, I have especially enjoyed the weekly "tours" given by one of my favorite guides, Antoinette Azzurro. She is the owner of the Parisian tour company Paris Personalized. With her small team of highly knowledgeable guides, you'll see places you never knew existed, enjoy access to experiences unknown to the general public, and glean insights that will transform your time in Paris into something truly formidable!

Today's tour centered on French cuisine. While we in the US depend on the FDA to regulate food standards, the French maintain hundreds of unique food associations. Each association has the mission of maintaining the high standards and traditions of one particular food product. For instance, each variety of cheese and each type of bread has its own association. When you shop for meat at the boucherie, the farm where it was raised and the date (and animal's age) when butchered will be posted.

In the course of Antoinette's gourmet tours, you'll see and taste why the quality of French food is so high ...  and learn some of the intricacies of dining etiquette. She shared some of the do's and don'ts of French dining etiquette which I reproduce here to pique your interest...

Don’t start eating before the person who has cooked the meal sits down. 
Don’t start drinking before everyone has a full glass in front of them (and before someone has had the chance to make a toast). 
Don’t keep your hands under the table.
Don’t serve yourself, if you are a man, before offering the food to the woman sitting next to you.
Don’t pour your own wine if you are a woman and there are men at the table. When only two women are dining, the younger pours for the older woman (or the waiter does it). 
Don’t spread pâté or cheese on a big piece of bread as if making a sandwich. Instead, spread the pâté or cheese on a small bit of bread torn from the larger piece.
Don’t touch the food, in particular cheese, with your fingers. The only foods eaten with fingers are asparagus and orelet birds (pictured above).
Don’t put your elbows on the table and rest your face in your hands. 
Don’t ask ou sont les toilettes? (where is the restroom) while at the table.
Do rest your knife and fork on the plate between bites. Don't rest them on both the plate and table.
Do know how to peel a peach, orange, or a shrimp with your fork and knife.

Bon appétit. Hopefully we can all get back to Paris sooner rather than later. I can't wait!

copyright (c) 2020 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.