Bucket List Travel: Top 10 Places In The World And Top 29 In The U.S.

Do you have a travel bucket list? These days, more people are dreaming about travel than actually traveling. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t keep adding places to your travel bucket list. Lonely Planet has just released its second “Ultimate Travel List,” which ranks what its editors describe as the world’s top 500 “most thrilling, memorable downright interesting places on this planet.” Let’s just say that it’s a bucket list to end all bucket lists.

In order to determine the best places around the world, Lonely Planet created a comprehensive list featuring each attraction and sight recommended by its authors in its guidebooks over the years. That was then whittled down to a shortlist, and everyone in the Lonely Planet community was then asked to vote on their top 20. Each entry ended up with a score that was used to create the definitive ranking of the world’s top 500 places, which has been released both online and as a book.

According to Piers Pickard, VP of publishing, Lonely Planet changed the way it calculated its travel bucket list in 2020 (the last Ultimate Travel List came out in 2015). “For this edition, we awarded extra points to destinations and attractions that are managing tourism sustainably,” says Pickard.

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Perfect for a moment when people are craving the outdoors more than ever, this year’s list included a number of natural locations. Nine U.S. national parks make the cut, with three in the top 20 overall list, including Yellowstone National Park (#5), Grand Canyon National Park (#13) and Yosemite National Park (#20).

U.S. cultural and art institutions were also featured, with notable entries such as The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. (#105 overall) and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum (#418 overall) ranking among the world’s best places to travel.

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READ MORE: “Revealed: The 11 Most Endangered Places In America”

And the timing really couldn’t be better. “After seven months of staying at home, now’s the perfect time to start thinking about where and how to travel once normality returns,” says Pickard.

Read on for Lonely Planet’s ranking of the top 10 places around the world, followed by the top 29 places in the United States. 

Note: Should you decide to plan a trip anywhere during the coronavirus pandemic, you should check local travel restrictions for the destination you are hoping to visit and consider warnings from the State Department and CDC. Travelers should also consider risk factors like age and existing health issues before going on a trip and take precautions to keep themselves and others safe.

Galapagos Sea Lion lonely plane travel list bucket list travel
Sea lions on the beach in the Galapagos, which was ranked as the second-best place in the world on … [+] getty

Ranked: Top 10 Places Around the World

  1. Petra, Jordan: The red sandstone “lost city” that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  2. The Galápagos Islands, Ecuador: Destination that changed the course of science and is home to some of the rarest animals on the planet, from ancient tortoises to blue-footed boobies.
  3. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia: Down Under’s most sacred landmark (also known as Ayer’s Rock).
  4. Okavango Delta, Botswana: A sprawling flooded ecosystem in Africa where you can experience the best of slow travel.
  5. Yellowstone National Park, United States: The world’s largest geothermal area; home to geysers and grizzlies.
  6. Lake Bled, Slovenia: A photogenic lake that has been visited over the years by religious pilgrims and royalty.
  7. Iguazú Falls, Argentina/Brazil: A powerful waterfall that is actually made up of 275 waterfalls.
  8. Temples of Angkor, Cambodia: A sprawling series of temples in the jungle that Lonely Planet calls “a monument to human ingenuity.”
  9. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia: The world’s biggest salt flat, which becomes a giant mirrored illusion after it rains.
  10. Annapurna Circuit, Nepal: The ultimate trek to picturesque teahouses and high-altitude overlooks.
Grand Prismatic Geyser Yellowstone National Park top ranked United States
Grand Prismatic Geyser in Yellowstone National Park, the top ranked-destination in the United … [+] getty

Ranked: Top 29 Places in the U.S.

  1. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming/Montana/Idaho (#5 on the overall list)
  2. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona (#13 overall)
  3. Yosemite National Park, California (#20 overall)
  4. Redwood National and State Parks, California (#49 overall)
  5. Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco (#60 overall)
  6. Monument Valley, Arizona (#64 overall)
  7. Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii (#75 overall)
  8. National Museum of African American History & Culture, Washington D.C. (#105 overall)
  9. Denali, Alaska (#121 overall)
  10. French Quarter, New Orleans, (#138 overall)
  11. Death Valley, California (#149 overall)
  12. Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Orlando (#188 overall)
  13. Empire State Building, New York City (#200 overall)
  14. Mesa Verde, Colorado (#220 overall)
  15. Taos Pueblo, New Mexico (#233 overall)
  16. The Strip, Las Vegas (#236 overall)
  17. The National Mall, Washington D.C. (#287 overall)
  18. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City (#295 overall)
  19. National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum, New York City (#316 overall)
  20. Pike Place, Seattle (#343 overall)
  21. Independence National Historic Park, Philadelphia (#376 overall)
  22. Statue of Liberty & Staten Island, New York (#387 overall)
  23. Acadia National Park, Maine (#393 overall)
  24. Art Institute of Chicago (#407 overall)
  25. Walt Disney World, Orlando (#410 overall)
  26. Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, Jackson (#418 overall)
  27. Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles (#420 overall)
  28. Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts (#430 overall)
  29. Everglades, Florida (#481 overall)

READ MORE:

• “TikTok Famous Flight Attendant Reveals 13 Airline And Hotel Hacks You Need To Know”

• “50 Best Trips For Solo Female Travel (And Why Now Is The Time To Go)”

•  “Escape From America: 5 Cheapest Places To Move If You Want To Leave The U.S.”

• “Want To Escape From America? 12 Countries Where You Can Buy Citizenship (And A Second Passport)” Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website

Laura Begley Bloom

Laura Begley Bloom

I’m a travel and lifestyle authority and a content strategist who works with brands to create powerful storytelling. In this column, “Transformative Travel,” I look at how travel can change women’s lives. I profile the doers and the disrupters and cover the trends and the destinations that appeal to women today. I have been writing about travel since the early days of my career, when I started off as a honeymoon editor, even though — ironically — I was single at the time. Since then, I have written for a number of publications, including Food & Wine, Wallpaper and The New York Times. I have been the editor-in-chief of Yahoo Travel, which was named the top online travel magazine under my leadership. Before that, I was deputy editor of Travel & Leisure. Throughout my career, I have appeared regularly on television, including Good Morning America and NBC Today. Journalism is part of my heritage: My great great grandfather was a Civil War correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. Follow me on Twitter (@laurabegley) and Instagram (@laurabegleybloom).

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From Bora Bora to Las Vegas, we count down Top 10 Vacations In The World. Subscribe to MindChop by clicking here: http://bit.ly/YRz4G9 Follow us on twitter here: https://twitter.com/TheMindChop Music Notes: Two Step – Huma Huma https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rsz_1…

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United Airlines Is Getting Rid Of Fee To Change Flights, Permanently

United Airlines is getting rid of change fees on domestic flights, as a measure to give passengers more flexibility with scheduling during the current coronavirus pandemic.

On Sunday, August 30, the Chicago-based airline announced that it will permanently let customers change flights for free on all of its standard Economy and Premium cabin tickets for travel within the United States, effective immediately.

The new policy is applicable on these types of tickets for travel within all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is said in a media release that customers will not be limited in the number of times they adjust their flights.

This move by United is said to be in response to a top request from passengers.

“When we hear from customers about where we can improve, getting rid of this fee is often the top request,” said Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines, in a video message. “Following previous tough times, airlines made difficult decisions to survive, sometimes at the expense of customer service. United Airlines won’t be following that same playbook as we come out of this crisis. Instead, we’re taking a completely different approach – and looking at new ways to serve our customers better.” 

Flying on Standby for Free

United's removal of change fees is said to have come from being a top customer request.
United’s removal of change fees is said to have come from being a top customer request. United

Starting next year, United will enable passengers additionally to change their flights at no additional cost in another way — same-day standby.

Beginning on January 1, 2021, United customers can choose to add themselves to the standby list for free to travel on a different flight earlier or later on the same day as their original departure. If a seat opens up, they will be able to take that other flight instead.

United’s previous flight switch fee for domestic U.S. travel was $200, and the fee to be listed for standby travel was $75; however, the carrier’s Basic Economy cabin is not included in this new policy but with the pandemic its change fees have been waved.

Southwest Airlines has preceded United in not charging change fees, even before the pandemic hit.

Extending More Waivers

United is also extending its waiver for new tickets issued through the end of 2020, to permit unlimited changes with no fee and applying to both domestic and international ticket types issued after March 3, 2020.

For MilagePlus members, United will waive all redeposit fees on award travel for flights changed or cancelled more than 30 days before departure and allowing all MileagePlus Premier members to confirm a different flight on the day of their travel. On January 1, all Premier members will be able to confirm a seat for free on a different flight with the same departure and arrival cities as their original ticket. This expanded option will allow MileagePlus Silver members and above to confirm a new seat in the same ticket fare class if space is available.

Michele Herrmann

 Michele Herrmann

Michele Herrmann develops guides on U.S. and international destinations and writes about travel trends, food and culture for various print and digital media outlets and travel companies.

Vanlife Safety Tips For Solo Female Travelers

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Four wheels, the open road and a place to crash every single night beneath the stars—that’s the dream of vanlife. Though adventurous pavement pounders have been camping in vans for decades, an explosion of ultra-modern vans equipped with everything needed to live and work remotely has made vanlife more popular than ever.

Outdoor adventure photographer Christian Schaffer should know. For more than two years, she’s been traveling the country in a customized Dodge Ram ProMaster van in order to be closer to her work. But life as a solo, female traveler has more obstacles than flat tires and frugal storage space. To find out how female travelers can handle the dangers associated with solo travel and living out of a vehicle, I sat down with Schaffer to discuss the reality of #vanlife and the systems she’s developed to stay safe in the wild.

Joe Sills: How long have you been living on the road?

Christian Schaffer: I’ve been living on the road since May 2018.

Joe Sills: Vanlife isn’t a vacation for you, it’s a permanent lifestyle. What went into your decision to live vanlife full-time?

Christian Schaffer: My road to vanlife began as an experiment. I spent the summer of 2018 living out of my Nissan Xterra SUV—just to see if I could handle living on the road. Summer turned into a full year, and that’s when I decided to invest in a vehicle that would allow me to continue living on the road, but with a few more creature comforts.

I’m a minimalist in a lot of ways, and one thing I really appreciate about this lifestyle is the simplicity of owning less, and making space for new experiences. I also make a full-time income as an outdoor adventure photographer, and living on the road allows me the freedom to base around the parks and beautiful places I need to be for photo assignments.

Joe Sills: Are there any areas that you specifically find yourself camping in more often than others?

Christian Schaffer: I tend to camp on Bureau of Land Management & National Forest land most often—mainly so I am near trailheads and can get an early start on sunrise hikes. I avoid cities whenever possible—but there are times when I need to do laundry, shop for groceries, have a steady stream of WiFi, etc. In those cases, a few options are Wal-Mart parking lots, rest areas, paid campgrounds, or residential neighborhoods. I think wherever you park, it’s important to be respectful and mindful of the people in that community and how your presence affects them. Especially now that we’re in pandemic times.

Joe Sills: What resources can people use to find campsites?

Christian Schaffer: Two free resources I’ve found helpful are freecampsites.net and the app iOverlander.

Joe Sills: What are some signs that solo, female travelers should watch out for to spot possible trouble?

Christian Schaffer: Great question. I think a level of awareness at all times is your biggest asset as a solo female traveler. Situations can change quickly—and like most things in life—anything is possible. That said, there are a few red flags I’ve learned to look out for.

First, any sign of illegal drug use/commerce or extreme intoxication. This is unfortunately pretty common in urban areas, and I’ve had to relocate more than once because of it. Second, avoid high theft areas when possible. Some places will have signs to alert you, and in other instances it will be clear enough. I recently had to relocate from a campsite because I showed up and there were piles of glass from smashed car windows in three different spots. Finally, have a healthy suspicion of anyone who approaches you and asks intrusive questions that could potentially make you a target. Most people have good intentions, but not always.

Joe Sills: How do you react when you see one of those signs?

Christian Schaffer: For the most part, I just remove myself from those situations. That’s one major benefit of living in a vehicle—if you have creepy neighbors you can just drive away!

Learn more Vanlife safety tips in Schaffer’s video, below:

Joe Sills: You talk pretty seriously about weapons and scenario visualizations in your YouTube video. Why is it important to have a plan?

Christian Schaffer: For me personally, it really helps to visualize and think through those scenarios. Not only does it prepare me for that particular circumstance, it also gets me thinking of potential outcomes in real time whenever I do feel threatened or unsafe. I like to think of personal defense the same way I think of avalanche safety — you can carry all the fancy gear with you into the mountains but if an avalanche hits — do you know how to use that gear? Because someone’s life might depend on it.

Joe Sills: In general, do you feel safe living life on the road?

Christian Schaffer: Yes, absolutely. There are risks and uncertainties for sure, but at this point in my journey, I don’t feel any less safe living in a vehicle than I would in an apartment or cabin in the woods. It’s been an overwhelmingly positive experience and I would recommend it to anyone interested in pursuing (or even just trying out) this way of life.

You can follow Schaffer’s adventures on the road on Instagram @ChristianSchaffer, on YouTube or on TikTok.

Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website.

I’m an explorer, adventurer and freelance travel writer who kicked off my career with a solo, cross-country road trip of America in a tent. I’ve charbroiled gas station burritos over an open fire in Utah and cooked with a Swedish countess in a medieval castle. I’ve shared the table of a Chinese billionaire in a subterranean research facility and sumitted the ruins of Vlad Dracula’s mountain fortress in Romania. I bring true tales of travel and adventure to light as the host of The Get Lost Podcast. In addition to Forbes, my work has appeared in publications that include National Geographic, Lonely Planet, Travel Channel and Fodor’s Travel. Follow me on Instagram for updates @joesills or visit my blog, Souled Outside.

Source: Forbes

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How Travelers Are Beating Tough Flight Restrictions Eight Month Into the Pandemic

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Travel curbs and border restrictions are upending lives around the globe, with some people resorting to chartering planes on their own or paying many times the regular ticket price to get back to their jobs and homes.

Eight months into the pandemic, the push to normalize is seeing some try to travel internationally again, whether for a long-delayed but essential business trip or to return to where they live. Yet with global coronavirus cases surpassing 18 million and rising, airlines are only reluctantly adding flights to their bare-bones schedules, and virus resurgences have some countries imposing new travel rules.

The flight paralysis underscores how deep and lasting the pandemic’s damage is proving to be. The number of international flights to the U.S., Australia and Japan has fallen more than 80% from a year ago, while flights to China are down by more than 94%, according to aviation industry database Cirium.

Travelers have to be creative just to get on a plane. Support groups have sprung up on Facebook and Wechat for those who have been stuck thousands of miles from their jobs, homes and families. Unable to get tickets, some are attempting to organize private chartered flights, while travel agents say they’re having to bribe airlines for limited seats. Others are shelling out for business or first-class tickets, only to be turned away for lack of the right documentation.

“So many people with families are separated, it’s so heart-breaking,” said Ariel Lee, a mother in Shanghai who administers a few Wechat groups of 1,650 members in total trying to get into China. “The toughest part is there are no clear guidelines and there’s no end date to this.”

The hopeful talk of travel corridors and a summer recovery have faded away among airline industry experts, replaced by a consensus that global travel will not effectively re-start before a vaccine is found.

“We are not going to see a material recovery for international travel in the near future,” said Steven Kwok, associate partner of OC&C Strategy Consultants Ltd. “The pandemic also brings about a consequential impact beyond the virus outbreak –- it is causing a slowdown in the global economy, which will hurt travel appetite for a longer term.”

Higher prices

Chris Wells had been stuck in his hometown in Texas for half a year, eagerly looking to return to Guangzhou, a city in southern China where he’s been living and working for more than a decade. International travel to China has been severely limited by the government to stem imported infections, and any seats on flights are snatched up almost instantly.

Wells, 41, a manager in an international sourcing company, searched and searched for a ticket. The only one he could find: an $8,800 one-way, first-class flight from Chicago to Shanghai, via Zurich.

“It was the only seat available,” he said. “I’d normally never pay that much for a ticket, but I was desperate to get back so I grabbed the seat when I found it.”

Cherry Lin, a Shanghai-based travel agent, said her company is having to pay kickbacks to airlines — more than 10,000 yuan ($1,438) per seat — to get tickets on popular routes like those departing from the U.S. and U.K. that they can then sell to customers.

The flight or passenger cap set by many countries largely limits seats, pushing fares up — a ticket for a direct flight from London to Shanghai is currently going for about $5,000, said Lin, but those are quickly purchased.

Additional seats are likely to pop up this month as more airlines resume flights, “but still not enough that everyone can easily buy online,” she said.

Changing rules

Jessica Cutrera, 44, an American who has lived in Hong Kong for more than a decade, was looking to return to the Asian financial center last month when the city suddenly required a negative virus test for passengers coming from high-risk countries including the U.S. She had to show results from a test taken within 72 hours before boarding and fulfill a requirement that travelers present a letter — signed by a government official — verifying that the lab is accredited.

Getting test results within 72 hours was hard enough given that testing is so backed up in the U.S that results usually aren’t available before a week. Then there was the required letter. “I called everybody I could find,” she said. “Most offices and agencies said no, it didn’t make sense to them to sign such a letter.”

Eventually, someone in California agreed to sign. So Cutrera flew from Louisville, Kentucky, to Chicago, and then to Los Angeles, where she had the test done. A few days later, she was allowed to board her flight to Hong Kong, while others trying to get on the same plane were turned away as they didn’t have the proper paperwork.

Cutrera is proving to be one of the lucky ones, as many continue to be in limbo.

Lucy Parakhina, a 33-year-old Australian photographer, had decided to stay in London, where she has lived for two years.

But in June, she started to plan a return trip when her U.K. work visa expired. Though she managed to buy a one-way ticket from London to Sydney for less than 700 pounds ($922) with Qatar Airways, she was bumped from her flight and told it was postponed.

She already left her job in London and gave up her apartment, and won’t have income to stay in the U.K. beyond September. But with a virus resurgence in Australia showing no signs of ebbing and international flights down by 92% to the country, she’s likely stuck for a while.

“Now the only thing I can do is to wait for the easing policies and my flight to depart as planned,” she said.

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France Tourism: The $20 Billion Fight To Save Industry Suffering From Travel Bans

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To find a reason for optimism about the summer tourist season that starts next week in France, just pay a visit to the Maison D’Orride in the country’s southwest province of Béarn.

Didier and Marina Monteil fled Paris several years ago to buy a stone farmhouse where director Roger Vadim and his then-wife Jane Fonda once filmed “La Curée” (“The Game is Over”) in the 1960s. After the couple painstakingly transformed it into a thriving Bed & Breakfast, it gained a national reputation thanks to the vintage décor of its rooms and traditional dinners such as a hearty daube stew and pintade.

When the global pandemic gutted their spring business, the couple used the time to renovate a new guest room. Financial support from the national and local governments softened the economic blow. And with the summer approaching, Didier Monteil cautiously notes that his reservations for July and August are almost fully booked.

D’Orride is no doubt even more attractive these days thanks to its setting in a rural region barely impacted by the coronavirus. But Monteil is also pleased with the national campaign that lies at the center of efforts to resuscitate the nation’s tourism industry: Getting the French to explore France. Following cancellations by English and American guests, he said the rooms have been taken primarily by his fellow countrymen, along with Belgians and Germans.

Those guests will still be asked to follow some new rules such as using hand gel before entering rooms and maintaining distances with other families. He is slightly concerned that tourists circulating throughout France and arriving from outside its borders could provoke the dreaded second wave.

Beyond that, he knows many of his colleagues in the tourism industry have yet to see bookings resume. And so Monteil is uncertain if the country is really on the road to economic recovery or if an even greater shock is coming.

“We do not have much to complain about ourselves,” he said. “But there may be a wave of unemployment in the coming months and a social crisis which will undoubtedly be more serious than the health crisis.”

A Tourism ‘Marshall Plan’

This is the precipice on which France finds itself as the school-year finished last week. July 6 marks the start of the summer vacation season. While the pandemic brought the global tourism industry to a grinding halt, that seismic event hit France particularly hard. Now, as the pandemic recedes in much of Europe, the country that loves to boast about being the most visited nation is serving as a microcosm for how the tourism industry hopes to recover and reinvent itself.

France’s tourism industry is a vast political and economic machine that stretches from the heights of icons like the Eiffel Tower down into the tiniest corners of villages and the countryside where entire local economies depend on the annual flux of tourists to support artisans, restaurants, and recreational businesses. French governments spend vast sums every year restoring historic sites and promoting their destinations through campaigns designed by local tourism boards to attract those critical visitors.

To understand just deeply coronavirus turned those plans upside down, consider that France welcomed 89.4 million tourists in 2018. The country had set a target of 100 million international tourists for 2020, a goal that has been obliterated.

With those ambitious plans gutted, survival is now the theme. To resuscitate this sector, the French government announced a “Marshall Plan” on May 14 with €18 billion ($20.3 billion) in support. “Tourism faces the worst ordeal in modern history,” said then Prime Minister Edouard Philippe at a press conference. “Its rescue is a national priority.”

The package includes a mix of direct financial support, loan guarantees, extended unemployment benefits, and tax benefits to keep tourism companies afloat. At the regional and local levels, other governments are also rolling out additional financial benefit packages.

The national government also added some incentives for visitors to spend money, such as expanding the program under which employees receive vouchers to spend at restaurants. To make travelers feel safe, the government has developed a series of health standards for hotels and restaurants. And cancellation policies are encouraged to be generous, to lower the risk of booking a trip.

But at the heart of this rescue attempt is a campaign to get the French traveling within their own country. While the country is opening its borders again to many European nations, the expectations remain low for the number of international visitors this summer. Instead, a nationwide publicity campaign dubbed, “Cet été, je visite la France” (This summer, I visit France) launched last month.

The goal is to do whatever it takes to get the French out of their homes and going somewhere.

“The 9 million who usually go abroad, they’re going to rediscover France,” said Stéphane Villain, president of ADN Tourism, an association of French tourism boards that created a new interactive map to make it easier for travelers to know what destinations have reopened.

The call to arms envisages one supreme goal. France was number one in tourism before the pandemic. When this crisis finally ends, it wants to still claim that top spot. But in doing so, the nation’s tourism industry is trying to take this moment to transform itself by emphasizing so-called “slow travel,” and local journeys that reduce environmental impact and prepare the industry for a world where such pandemics could become increasingly common.

Pascale Fontenel-Personne, a National Assembly representative from Sarthe who co-chairs the legislature’s tourism advisory committee, said it’s critical to assume the world won’t have a vaccine for a long time. That means reshaping an industry to live in a world very different than before in a way that can still be profitable.

“Tourism is essential for the economy in France,” said “That economy has been based on tourism in large masses and many have focused on foreign visitors. We must build a new foundation. The tourism of proximity is the future.”

“This summer I visit…”

With the new national strategy defined, a jumble of city, department, and regional tourism boards have launched energetic publicity campaigns with variations on the themes of local, slow, and safe. The city of Lille, which bills itself as the leader in short stays and day trips, has created a sanitation label awarded to local businesses that follow strict rules related to hygiene.

The Saône-et-Loire Department, located east of Paris in the Burgundy region, is running ads on a popular evening French news and comedy program called Quotidien. The department is also placing posters in the Paris subway and engaging a PR agency to convince reporters to come to the area to write reviews.

“Our ambition?” the department wrote in a strategy document for its local tourism business. “Bring in as many tourists as possible (families, seniors, athletes, cycling enthusiasts, gourmets …), who are potential future residents of Saône-et-Loire, by making the best of a bad situation with an original communication campaign.”

The Tarn Department, located east of Toulouse, has developed a series of discounts with local inns and restaurants. Périgord, in the Dordogne region, is known as a capital of foie gras and has launched a #cetetejevisiteleperigord campaign while advising its local businesses to emphasize outdoor activities because tourists want to “travel in safety and avoid large crowds.”

In Haute Garonne, the tourism board is even more narrowly focused on getting local residents to get out and explore their department. “Get away and stay in Haute Garonne” is the rallying cry. A support package of €3.5 million ($3.95 million) includes a gift card (“Carnet de voyages en Haute-Garonne”) for local residents who can be reimbursed as much as €31 if they visit at least 3 of its 270 tourism partners, including restaurants, hotels, and attractions.

On the western edge of France, the Charente and the Charente-Maritime Departments are working together to attract visitors. This is the region where the ADN’s Villain is from and it boasts such destinations as the coastal city of La Rochelle, the city of Angouleme which is France’s comic book capital, and Cognac.

Villain said the departments’ strategy includes an expanded “chèques vacances” program. Typically, these are checks given by corporations to employees to spend on vacations. The Charente departments will offer any visitor a €100 rebate on the money they spend at participating restaurants, inns, or attractions if they stay a minimum of two nights.

The region also launched a new mobile website to help visitors navigate the region’s offerings more efficiently. And it is picking up the theme of the great outdoors, in particular by emphasizing its extensive biking routes. Villain said tourists who come on bikes tend to stay longer and spend more money each day on local businesses.

“The people are going to consume France differently,” Villain said. “The world needs slow tourism.”

The Occitanie Region covers a territory that stretches from the Mediterranean Sea to Gascony and includes the Pyrenées Mountains, Toulouse, Montpellier, Carcassonne, and its famed fortress, and the Cevennes. As part of an €80 million financial support package, the regional government’s promotional campaign (Cet été, je visite ici en Occitanie!) includes a kind of crowdfunding campaign to “save our local commerces.” Travelers can select from a host of promotional deals, from camping to yoga classes. When they pay in advance, the region finds sponsors to chip in some extra money for the businesses.

The region has also drastically reduced regional train fares. Occitanie President Carole Delga has been lobbying the private companies that manage French highways to eliminate their tolls this summer. And the region has created its own discount card, dubbed “Occ’Ygène”, that will offer savings to everyone, but also includes additional support for lower-income families.

Vincent Garel, president of Occitanie’s regional tourism committee, said the government can’t undo all of the economic damage done by the coronavirus. But it is firmly committed to helping rebuild.

“Since March, this industry went to zero and everything was closed,” Garel said. “They can’t make that up. And this summer, there will still be fewer tourists. But we need to prepare for the future. There are new clients to find and we must help them take their vacations.”

Unfortunately, all of that promotion and aid wasn’t enough to convince Renée Jacobs and her partner, Wendy Hicks, to reopen their B&B this season. Three years ago, Jacobs, an internationally renowned photographer of female nudes, and Hicks, who is also her business partner, left behind the Los Angeles area and bought a house in Haut-Languedoc Regional Park. Over the last couple of years, the Maison des Rêves has hosted private photography workshops in the spring and fall. The luxury Moroccan décor inside made it popular during the summer months for tourists.

But the couple has had to postpone one workshop, they had some exhibitions canceled, and had booking cancellations. Fortunately, they had some ongoing income from sales of Jacobs’ prints. And the government financial support has helped in the short-term.”

“They offered €1500 per business, that basically covered the losses for a month,” Hicks said. “The problem is if you’re allowed to be open, they’re less generous.”

And that is indeed the problem they face. The house’s location should make it perfect for those hungry for a rural trip, with easy access to outdoor activities such as biking. But the sanitation requirements felt too overwhelming for them to manage. How do they clean the rooms and the common areas as guests check-in and out? Plus, they live in the house and worried about constantly being exposed to a stream of strangers.

So, they made the difficult choice to remain closed this season.

“In terms of the finances, I think I’m going to give us 4 or 5 months before really freaking out,” Jacobs said. “And then we’ll decide how freaked out how we need to be.”

Brave new travel world

Whether it’s hosts or tourists, nothing is going to look quite the same this summer. On a recent weekend in Occitanie’s Najac, a Medieval town in the Aveyron Department that is labeled one of France’s “most beautiful villages,” a small number of tourists wandered the cobblestone streets.

At the Bar De La Plage, the owners had removed all menus and replaced them with QR codes on the tables. Customers scan the code and it takes them to a menu on their smartphones.

Across town, Najac’s signature site is its 12th-century Royal Fortress. Only one group could enter the ticket office a time. Visitors were told wearing masks inside would be required. For those who didn’t have their own, the young man selling tickets gently grabbed a mask using a pair of tweezers and handed it to them. Brochures had been removed and replaced with QR codes that visitors could scan to launch explanatory videos on YouTube.

Inside the castle, playful signs used Medieval themes to remind visitors to maintain a distance of “one épée.” Other signs with arrows detailed a path for everyone to follow to avoid crossing others. And hand gel stations had been placed throughout the castle.

Further south in the Occitanie region, the Pic du Midi observatory, perched high in the Pyrénées, has also been busy preparing for the summer season by training staff on new hygiene measures. Because it had already planned to close for some weeks this spring for renovations, the site that has an inn, restaurant, and theater only lost about €1 million, according to director Daniel Soucaze des Soucaze.

Reservations for those rooms and the restaurant have been strong. But this summer will still be tough. The Pic du Midi won’t be able to hold a series of special events that typically draw strong crowds. And the number of people who can enter at the same time and visit the observation deck will be restricted and tickets must be booked in advance. As such, Soucaze des Soucaze said he won’t higher the 25 season workers he would typically bring on.

“We have to economize,” he said. “We hope to relaunch those events next year. We’ll have to ask our staff to work a bit harder this summer, but I think they understand. And we’ll try to move on from this difficult period.”

Darren Kennedy, the Sales and Marketing Director of the Chateau St Pierre de Serjac, is feeling even upbeat after several months of difficult work to reinvent his luxury property. Located in the Languedoc region of the Hérault Department, the castle is nestled among rolling fields and vineyards. It has 8 rooms inside as well as 36 villas scattered around the grounds. Visitors could choose to eat in the main castle restaurant or could opt to remain self-contained on their little corner of the property.

France’s generous unemployment system allowed Kennedy to furlough most employees while they received most of their salary, and then bring them quickly back to work after the nation’s lockdown ended. During that period, there were regular video calls to plan such things as a new marketing strategy.

“Some hotels seemed to have completely mothballed their properties,” he said. “Their social media was dormant. We took the decision quite early that would be in a better position than most because our property is different.”

Normally the property is booked far advance, particularly with large groups of business clients organizing events. But with international travel limited or uncertain, Kennedy set his sights on a clientele who tend to visit less frequently in the summer: The French.

“We’ve never really had to rely on the French market in July and August,” Kennedy said.

“Be we decided that we were going to have to appeal to the domestic market and try to get our communications started.”

He began advertising with more French newspapers, dropped the cancellation window from 60 days to 7 days, and began working with more travel agents. His timing appeared to be good. Reservations for August are on track to match last year while July is down about 35%.

In addition to more French guests, he’s also seeing bookings from Belgium and Germany. Meanwhile, he’s been trying to persuade British guests not to cancel and hoping that the opening of travel with the U.K. could yet result in additional reservations for July.

When those guests arrive, they’ll find the reception desk behind plexiglass, all paper brochures and guest books removed, the daily menu on a chalkboard, staff wearing masks at all times, lots of gel, a cleaning team using bio-misters to sanitize rooms, and digital thermometers if necessary.

“We’re doing everything we possibly can,” Kennedy said. “We feel that we’re probably pretty well prepared. There’s always going to be an element of risk with other countries coming in. But you have to make sure as a business you can adapt. And right now, that’s what we’re doing.”

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website or some of my other work here.

I am an American journalist based in Toulouse, France, writing about technology, travel, culture, politics, and entertainment. Before moving to France in 2014, I spent 15 years covering Silicon Valley for the Los Angeles Times and The San Jose Mercury News. I also run the French Crossroads travel website.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/

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