The Biggest Ship, Secret Hacks, & a Trip Up Our Sleeve

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We’re back with a fresh season and a chance for you to win a getaway! We’ll share tales from our recent travels, from mega-cruises to local jaunts. Get the inside scoop on the travel industry’s surprising trends and the strategies shifting our own business plans. We’re dishing out handy travel hacks to save you money and headaches. Plus, stay tuned for the full reveal of our big giveaway and exciting plans for this season!

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Mike Putman:

[0:01] Good day, everyone. I’m Mike Putman.

James Ferrara:

[0:03] And I am James Ferrara. Welcome to, welcome back to No Tourists Allowed.

I should say, happy season three, Mike.

Mike Putman:

[0:12] Yes, season three it is. And we did, as our loyal listeners would know, we did take a break over the holiday season, which kind of extended beyond the holiday season into Chinese New Year.

But, yeah, lots of stuff going on the first year with the businesses, and it’s just been tough.

So apologies for not starting back up when we said we would, but we’re here now.

James Ferrara:

[0:41] But in a good way, it’s been tough, right? I mean, it’s because we’ve had so much business, so much travel.

We’ve been on the road a lot, Mike and I, as usual, and we’ve had a lot to celebrate.

We ended last season by giving away a Virgin Voyages cruise for two.

And so kind of appropriate that we’ll start this season, Mike, with a little announcement.

[1:06] We are going to give away at the end of season three, which will be towards the summer, we will give away a free vacation for two.

Now, we’ve done cruises before, so we’ve come back to land, and we will do an incredible Vacations for Two on land.

We won’t tell you exactly what the details are yet. We’re going to tease that out over the next couple of podcasts, so keep coming back.

You might hear about a luxury all-inclusive resort or some fabulous European capital.

Who knows? But the other thing is that you’ll hear about how to get in on this drawing.

Our brilliant producer, Nathaniel DeSantis, worked up a program last season where you did different things during the season to get more and more entries into the drawing.

And so why fix it if it ain’t broke?

We’re going to do the same thing this year, right?

We might ask you to come to the website, to refer a friend, to download the podcast, to do any number of things and get more and more entries into the drawing.

Mike Putman:

[2:31] Absolutely. And, um, we will, we don’t know what we’re giving away yet, to be honest.

So that’s why we’re not telling you, but we will know, and it will be fantastic as always.

And, um, yeah, it’d be a great way to have some fun this, this season as well. Um.

[2:49] So lots has happened over the holiday period and through January.

And we’re coming up on a very, or we’re in the middle, actually, I should say, of a very important time for a lot of our friends in China and other parts of Asia that celebrate their new year.

Um, uh, the kickoff was this past Saturday, February 10th, and this is the year of the dragon.

And, uh, this kind of runs until the 24th of February kind of culminates on the 24th, um, with a lantern festival.

Um, so it’s a very important time.

And for those of you who don’t know, or haven’t been involved, it’s, um, it’s, it’s a bit like our time during Christmas season or the holiday season.

A lot of people take time off. A lot of people travel.

It’s a very big holiday, a time of year, if you will, especially for those and most of those folks in China who celebrate.

So the travel business goes crazy in that market. You can’t get seats on trains or flights.

It’s a very important holiday.

So we’re just kind of getting through that, that part of the season.

James Ferrara:

[4:14] Mike, I’ve never been there for that. So I’d like to put in a request that next year’s podcast around this time, we do that in China for the festival.

Mike Putman:

[4:24] Oh yeah. We just need to plan far in advance because things get booked up.

You know, it’s, it’s, it’s crazy. It’s a crazy time.

Crazy time for sure.

James Ferrara:

[4:35] Where have you been between, let’s see, The last time we were on air like this was mid-December.

So between then and now, where have we been?

I mean, I just came back from Nashville, from Florida, from the inaugural of the new Icon of the Seas from Royal Caribbean, the largest cruise ship in the world.

Well, so I did that and we went to the Bahamas, but the ship itself is a destination with 10,000 people on board and, I don’t know, at least 30 restaurants and entertainment venues and we had an amazing time, of course. Where have you been?

Mike Putman:

[5:19] You know, and I was just talking to Nathaniel before we got started today, and I am trying to remember, I think since Christmas, I think I have only flown to Florida where we had a meeting.

And then I went to Charleston for, actually, I’ve done two trips to Charleston.

I went to see my daughter after Christmas.

And then another time, my company had their executive retreat a week before last.

And we rented a house on the Isle of Palms and spent four or five days together going through strategy.

But that’s been about it. So it’s been actually a little bit light for me.

A lot of travel in November and December. But it’s been a lot of time at home, which has been a nice break.

James Ferrara:

[6:04] Well, I’m going over to London in a couple of weeks. Maybe you’ll come with.

We’ll have a chat about that.

Mike Putman:

[6:11] Talking about cruises, James, I know you went on the inaugural of the Icon, which was spectacular.

And I saw, and I’m sure all of our listeners saw, lots of photos on Instagram and the news.

There was a tremendous amount of coverage. but Carnival is going to christen a new ship that I think you might be attending as well yes.

James Ferrara:

[6:34] With a surprise godmother.

Mike Putman:

[6:38] With long fingernails.

James Ferrara:

[6:41] That’s Gwen Stefani, the pop singer.

And many of you know her. I’m a big fan of Gwen Stefani.

So when I went on Icon, the godfather of that ship, and that’s unusual, by the way, to have a man, right?

It’s usually a woman, was Lionel Messi. Lionel Messi.

The great soccer star, and I got to meet him and take a picture with him.

So I’m really hoping, fingers crossed, that when I go on the inaugural of Jubilee, and I have to do these things, guys, it’s part of my job, you know.

It’s a chore, it’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.

So when I go on Jubilee, I’m going to be angling for a photo with Gwen.

Mike Putman:

[7:38] Oh, that’d be cool. Actually, she literally ran into my wife, uh, on right off the day of drive.

Uh, we were, we were walking back to our car from dinner and, uh, she had her kids and I don’t know if it was her husband or her boyfriend.

It’s like 10 years ago. And she literally walked right into my wife.

I didn’t know who she was, uh, but my wife recognized her.

And of course she started chatting her ear off, um, as Gwen was, uh, uh, apologizing profusely for running into my wife, but, um, that was my brush with her, but I would have given the choice Lionel Messi, I’m a soccer football fan and, uh, boy, that would have been something special had I been invited, but I was not invited to the Icon of the Sea.

So I didn’t get a chance to meet him, but, um, maybe next time.

James Ferrara:

[8:30] Listen, since we’re kind of starting off the year, and that’s part of the fun of this business, obviously, meeting people like that, testing out new cruise ships, eating, all of that, it all comes under the, rubric of travel right but um since we’re starting out the year there was there have been some very interesting research papers done some analysis some outlook projections forecasts for the year always happens at this time of year and the outlook for the travel industry is great despite despite what I’ve heard from people in other sort of with other viewpoints, I deal a lot with bankers.

I deal a lot with people from the financial sector and, you know, they’re looking at the economy in general and they have some concerns.

It’s a, it’s a presidential election year.

[9:29] We seem to be doing much better with inflation, but the credit markets are tight.

And so people with that kind of background have a certain type of outlook, a certain idea of where the world is going to go.

And they think that it also applies to travel.

But this year, at least, is a good example of where I don’t think that’s true.

The outlook for the travel industry is very different from the outlook in the credit markets and the banking industry, for example. And that’s being proven out by recent analysis, recent survey work.

There’s been a lot of talk the last year or two about the decline in revenge travel.

Remember that feeling we all had after the pandemic, like we just want to travel as a kind of revenge against our time in the pandemic? And yes, that has sloped off, almost gone now.

But there were people who predicted that travel sales would slope off as a result, that things would slow down.

And actually, the opposite is true. We’re seeing great growth in the travel industry, despite the fact that revenge travel has kind of disappeared almost. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Mike Putman:

[10:48] But yeah, this report James is referring to, there’s a report out by Deloitte.

They’re just called Deloitte now. I used to call it.

James Ferrara:

[10:56] Yes, that’s right.

Mike Putman:

[10:57] Used to be three or four names. But yeah, some interesting points in that.

And one of the things that it was saying is that we’re kind of past this revenge travel part, but they measure intention of travel, which is kind of our precursor.

Right. Right. And so when they survey people and this you find this throughout travel, travel surveys is they ask, what is your intention of booking a trip for this summer or whatever?

Right. And so the intention rate is higher than it has been even, of course, during the pandemic.

But after the pandemic, and you can see this kind of stair-step rise where there’s still more demand or intention of demand, I should put, which typically plays itself out. Now, I’m the the.

I think two points kind of came to my mind as I was reading through that study.

One is this is a presidential election year and every presidential election year I have seen that I’ve been in the business for 30, whatever, nine years now, there has been a softening during that period.

And not necessarily now, but kind of as we get closer to election.

James Ferrara:

[12:10] Like third quarter.

Mike Putman:

[12:11] Yeah. Yeah. Third and fourth quarter, there is typically a softening.

And people, we all kind of say why we think that happens.

And when people, this is my take, and part of this is I’ve taken this from other economists, or from economists, not that I’m an economist, is that when people, when there’s a lack of clarity and a lack of certainty in the marketplace, people withdraw their disposable income.

So they still may go out and go out to eat.

They might, to some degree, they might go out and buy clothes and continue to do the things that they need to do to survive.

But what you see a softening in is that discretionary spend when people are uncertain of what’s going to happen in the future.

Um, so I think, I think we will see that, but the other point, which was even bigger to me is, um, and this is just my, the way I interpreted the data from that report and other reports is that the world has really changed after the pandemic.

And the attitudes specifically of people in more mature markets have changed kind of away from…

[13:29] I think there’s been a switch in buying these hard goods, like buying a Mercedes and taking the money that you…

The difference between buying a Mercedes and buying a normal car.

[13:47] A non-luxury car and putting that money towards experiences in your life.

And a lot of experiences, as you guys know, revolve around travel, these certain, you know, peak experiences in your life.

And, and, you know, there’s been a lot of research that supports that theory.

And I think that that’s definitely, that’s, I think a long-term trend that has happened and occurred.

And I think the pandemic had a lot to do with it. Um, and, um, you know, It’s great for our industry, for sure, but I think it’s also great for people to utilize their money to have experiences and do these lifetime things rather than putting them in assets that depreciate.

James Ferrara:

[14:32] Agreed. And I like the fact that that Deloitte study and another study from Focusrite actually agree on this projection that travelers will spend more, that a large percentage of travelers are saying they intend to spend more this year, even, than last year. And last year was a banner year, right?

Last year was a boom year. Also, the Focusrite report, and stick with me on this because it’s a little difficult to explain, it was about economic and cultural sustainability.

[15:09] Okay, not just environmental sustainability.

And I really like that because it’s something that we talk about here a lot at No Tourists Allowed, although we may not use those exact terms.

But so many times we’ve talked about visiting places, supporting local economies, and trying to maintain that sense of place, not turn a port or a tourist destination into T-shirt shops and ice cream stores, but to try to preserve the very things that make that place special.

And so the Focusrite report asked travelers, what do they want to spend their money on?

And travelers said, about two-thirds of travelers said they want to spend their money in a way that it benefits the local economy. And so I think that’s really intertwined with our message here at No Tourists Allowed.

You know, eat in local authentic restaurants, shop locally, stay at more authentic type places.

Such an overused word, authentic, I know, but you know what I mean. need.

[16:29] Try to stay away from the big boxes, the big brands, and look for something that’s more true to the destination.

And the economic effect of that is really important.

It is a kind of sustainability.

I really love that about that report. So look it up, guys, if you’re interested.

It’s Focusrite’s report that’s called Beyond Climate Change, Cultural and Economic Sustainability in Travel.

Mike Putman:

[17:03] Yes, very good. Very good. Good. And the guys at Focusrite, that’s for those of you who may not be aware, they are, I would say, the leading research consultancy company in the travel business.

James Ferrara:

[17:19] So, Mike, a lot of other headlines going on, not the least of which is that you asked me to mention this, but my company, IntelliTravel, has acquired a new company.

Uh, we acquired a company called MGME, which is a big corporate events and meeting plannings, uh, agency.

And it’s such a wonderful thing for us.

It’s a move into a new part of the travel industry where they do incentive travel programs for corporations like sales events and so on.

And they do product launches and big life sciences and pharmaceutical events.

Their clients are HBO and FD Lauder Company and Verizon and very blue chip clients.

[18:17] Great company, exciting move for us.

And we will be able then to have our tele-travel advisors, our travel agents, offer these kinds of event services to large clients, corporations, mid and large-sized companies.

So really fantastic move for us and very exciting, has been all over the trade press.

And we have another acquisition that we’re about to announce in the next couple of weeks, too, in a totally different direction in the travel industry.

So this is all about the growth and success of the last year in the travel, the last couple of years in the travel industry being put to good use now.

Mike Putman:

[19:03] Yeah. And for, you know, most of our listeners are not going to know the size of, I still call them McVeigh.

That’s their old name. But I mean, there’s over 50 employees that are part of that acquisition. Sure.

James Ferrara:

[19:17] And they do typically between 500 and 1,000 events a year for their clients.

And the economic value of those events is over half a billion dollars in travel spend and events, event production, big stage productions, and so on. on.

So an important company and a really important growth for my company.

Mike Putman:

[19:50] Yeah, that is awesome. That is awesome. Hey, I want to tell our listeners about a couple of things over the last couple of months that I picked up on that might help them in their travel.

So this could be considered, you know, we talk about travel hacks often.

But one of the the things that I found was, um, that I don’t, I don’t know how true this is for the Samsung side of the world or the Android side of the world, but I do know that the iPhones, I’ve got a 14, uh, and the 14s and above have an eSIM feature. And I’m going to tell you why this is important.

So as you guys know, you have a SIM card that your mobile provider gives you, uh, but in, in, uh, iPhones 14 and higher, and I’m pretty sure this happens in Samsung’s too, or Android phones, is some will have a separate either card or an eSIM, which means you can program your phone basically to have a second account.

Now, why that is important is, that in most European countries, data is kind of shared.

So if you have a phone and you live in France, your phone’s going to work kind of everywhere, data’s going to work kind of everywhere, and there’s very few limitations.

[21:16] But with the UK, when they backed out of the European Union, now their data is separate, so this could be impactful for them.

And then for For Americans, as we travel abroad, you generally get whacked with some pretty heavy charges if you use data.

So what I learned is there are companies, and there’s a company called U.S.

Mobile for those in the U.S., and they’re not a paid advertiser.

I’m just telling you this because I’ve had an experience with them.

And these folks sell these eSIMs. They’ll actually give you a physical SIM, but it can be your secondary phone line on your phone. and they have international packages.

So if you are a subscriber of one of the big mobile companies here in the U.S., you may not have international coverage and it might be really expensive or you might have to pay a per day rate, whereas you can pick up a second line for your phone, which you can keep permanently if you like, for as low as, I think, $72 for an entire year.

[22:29] That can give you a second phone number. But more importantly, it can give you attributes for international data and international calling.

So, you know, something to think about if you’re going to travel a lot overseas, and your cell phone plan that you have today may be very restrictive.

But you can save a tremendous, tremendous amount of money.

James Ferrara:

[22:50] Mike, I learned that lesson the hard way.

Years ago, I went on a trip and came back to a $900 bill because my plan didn’t cover international data.

Now, I have an international plan that I leave on all the time, but it’s basically $10 a month from AT&T. I travel so much.

You can turn it on and off every month. So those of you who are AT&T customers, all you have to do is inquire about the international plan, and that’s a really reasonable way to do it also.

Hey, Mike, there was a hack we learned about recently in the news.

Is there something going on with Virgin Atlantic?

Mike Putman:

[23:39] Yeah. So this one is really interesting. So there’s a lot of you who are, uh, I’m sure listening that are loyal Delta frequent flyer members.

Um, and I’m a platinum Delta, um, member.

Frequent flyer member myself, but if you ever try to book travel using your points to Europe, you’ll find that it’s excruciatingly expensive to book travel.

I mean, I looked at some flights the other day, and to go one way from the U.S.

To Europe in business class was 300,000 miles, which that’s a lot of miles.

It’s not as easy to earn miles, or you don’t earn miles as quickly specifically for traveling like you used to.

Um, but I did find a hack. So I did a little bit of research and Virgin Atlantic, which is owned by Delta, still operates as a different brand.

And you can actually search, and this is like really, it’s a pretty cool thing.

And hopefully they won’t close the loop on this, but you can actually search on Virgin Atlantic’s website for for tickets on Delta, because again, same company, right? Same ownership.

[25:00] And you can find flights as low as 50,000 points each way for business class.

So if you go in, the easiest thing to do is just do a Google search on Virgin Atlantic Delta hack, frequent flyer Delta hack.

You can change some of those words up, but you’ll get the results there’s several things that are posted but there’s a way you can go and do a search on virgin atlantic and you’ll get back some results but then you can change a component in the url which is you know that string where you put http and all that you can change one word in that and it’ll give you a full calendar where you can scan through multiple multiple months and find where these hidden gems or these really low-cost, low-points-cost flights are.

So it is significantly different, too.

James Ferrara:

[25:57] Well, under the Delta category, in other news, just yesterday I saw an announcement that there is a bit of a trade war going on between the U.S.

And Mexico, aviation companies, issue. And so the U.S.

Is retaliating on a particular issue by seeking to deny Delta and Aeromexico the renewal of their antitrust waiver under an agreement that they’ve had to work together the last couple of years.

And this can significantly affect the availability of flights into Mexico from the U.S. and the cost.

So it isn’t fully determined yet. It’s lined up to be a battle now.

Delta has responded to the government that they don’t agree with the move.

And there’s going to be, I’m sure, a court case about this any moment now, but it’s something to keep an eye on.

Mike Putman:

[27:10] Interesting. I was not aware of that. Oh, good.

And one last bit of news is it was just released in the last couple of days that TripAdvisor, you know, the BMF that is, they actually have more traffic than any other travel site in the world, are considering going private.

So they’ve been a public company for quite some time.

There was a change. Well, for those listeners may remember that their CEO was on our first season, Steve Koffer, and left in, what was that, 2022?

Yeah, 2022. And has been replaced by someone from the media world.

And it looks like the company may be taking a different direction to go back private, which was really interesting.

James Ferrara:

[28:03] Such an important company and website in our industry.

I mean, it just has had incredible reach.

And I remember when Steve Kaufer was on with us, I’ll repeat the tip that he gave that really surprised me at the time.

We asked him for his own personal travel tip, something he does to make travel easier and um he told us that he actually goes on to trip advisor and he jumps into the chat rooms that are on there the sort of bulletin boards uh about and they’re about specific destinations or types of travel or whatever and if he’s going to paris, posts something in there and says, I’m going to Paris and I need recommendations for restaurants or things to do or whatever.

And he says he gets the most amazing contributions from this community of frequent travelers who sort of troll those bulletin boards and chat rooms.

So even he goes there to get that kind of advice. I thought that was really interesting.

So maybe some of you who listen have tried that out before. You should let us know how it worked for you.

Mike Putman:

[29:23] Absolutely. Well, we’ve got a power pack season coming up. We’ve got quite a few guests already lined up for our season three.

We’ve got a giveaway that’s so great we can’t even tell you what it is at this point, but it’s going to be great. and lots of more fun and informative things coming up on No Tourist Allowed.

So thank you for listening in today, and thank you for rejoining us in our third season.

And we look forward to sharing more travel tips and advice for you.

And as always, please, if you have suggestions, please come to our website.

We’d love to take your questions and respond accordingly. accordingly but thank you so much for listening.

James Ferrara:

[30:08] Thank you guys come back for our season three vacation for two giveaway and i look forward to talking to you next time.

Image via Royal Caribbean.

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