Virtual Voyages: The Future of Travel Inspiration?

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Join us as we bid a fond farewell to the iconic Tropicana hotel in Las Vegas and explore the hidden gems that still make the city shine. We’ll take you on a journey to discover authentic experiences off the beaten path and share our insider tips for scoring unbelievable luxury travel deals that will make your dream vacation a reality. We also dive into the fascinating world of virtual travel and ponder its potential to inspire wanderlust in the 21st century.

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Transcript

Mike Putman:
Good day, everyone. I’m Mike Putman.

James Ferrara:
And I’m James Farrar. Mike, I think our total of years has gone up a little bit.

Mike Putman:
Yeah. Yeah. I think that intro was maybe from a couple of years back. So probably.

James Ferrara:
So now I think we’re 71 years combined.
The odd thing is somehow those extra two years are only, you know, you aging, not me. I don’t know how that happened.

Mike Putman:
Yeah, yeah. Well, I’ve been at this a long time, and it feels like I’ve been at it 71 years.

James Ferrara:
Well, welcome, everybody. Welcome to Notouristaloud.com.
And you’ve got Mike and I here today, and we’ve been musing on a couple of things, kind of ruminating and thinking and debating on a couple of issues in the travel industry, and that can affect you and your fellow travelers and the way you see the world.
So, you know, today’s episode’s really thoughtful, Mike.

Mike Putman:
Yeah, absolutely. We’ve got a lot of news to share with you guys, and I’m happy to be back on the microphone, so to speak. So let’s kick this off with a little bit of bad news, actually.
It’s not really bad news, but historically bad news is there’s a very famous hotel in Las Vegas that has been around for 71 years.
Speaking of 71 and that hotel is the Tropicana and it has announced that it will be closing permanently, which is really unfortunate news.
I’ve spent some time there, happened to know the general manager there many years back.
This is also one of the hotels that’s in a James Bond movie.
Uh, it’s in the 1971 diamonds are forever movie.
I think it was Sean Connery. I’m not sure, but I think Sean Connery was there, and he stayed in a suite there.

James Ferrara:
Iconic, real iconic hotel on the Strip.
And are they going to do one of those Las Vegas implosions?
Might they blow this up?

Mike Putman:
They have to. I’m not sure, but one of the interesting things that that about this hotel is that it cost 15 million dollars to build 300 rooms that had two wings.
Right. So in the hotel building business, they call it keys.
Right. So this would be 300 keys, which they call for rooms.
But today in Vegas, it would cost you around a third of that to build one key, just to kind of put things in perspective.

James Ferrara:
Cost you $15 million to stay for a week in Vegas right now. Yeah.

Mike Putman:
There’s also, you know, back in the old original Vegas, where there was a lot of mob activity and so forth. like the Tropicana was, it was kind of a, um, uh, known for its mob ties.
Um, they actually had a really cool mob museum there, um, that, that spoke a lot about its ties.
And I got to, I got to experience that as well.

James Ferrara:
So also known for one of the longest running acts in Vegas, Donnie and Marie helmed the Tropicana from, I don’t know, a decade or two there, Donny and Marie Osmond.
So, you know, that’s what Las Vegas is losing.
I guess we should take a minute to say that Las Vegas still has quite a bit left and quite a lot of things to see.
It’s become, as we’ve talked talked about on earlier episodes, it’s evolved through many different positionings in the world, and most recently now, a sports capital of the world with Formula One racing and with a new stadium that’s going up where the Tropicana was, right? So that’ll be a new baseball stadium.

James Ferrara:
And and now this Sphere, this new big entertainment venue.
So it’s a lot new in Las Vegas. There’s also a lot authentic in Las Vegas.
And I think maybe that’s a little odd to put those two terms together in the same sentence, Las Vegas and authentic.
But there are things to do outside the hotels and even off the strip.
So if you’ve been to Las Vegas a lot, You’ve probably done the hotels. You’ve seen a lot of that. It’s fun to push beyond it and try to get a sense of another Las Vegas.
One way to do that is to get out of town completely and go to Red Rock Canyon or Bryce or one of the nearby natural features around Las Vegas, which are stunningly beautiful.
I mean, really worth a day trip. it.

James Ferrara:
Another thing that I like to do is hunt for sort of the hidden Las Vegas.
So I’ve told you before, one of my favorite restaurants in Las Vegas is a place called Lotus of Siam.
And it’s actually located in a strip mall off the Las Vegas strip.
But it’s where a lot of the famous chefs who have restaurants in Las Vegas and their teams go to eat late at night.
It’s a very very authentic, huge, almost cafeteria-style restaurant.
They say the most authentic Thai food in the United States.
So it’s a famous place, but it’s not glitzy and it’s not on the strip.
And that’s just one example of the kinds of things you can find and do if you push beyond the normal tourist stuff in Las Vegas.

Mike Putman:
But there’s a lot of tourist stuff in Vegas, for sure. Um, there is a lot of new buildings, a lot of, uh, new properties and, um, it’s a great place to visit for a couple of days, but yeah, sad to say the Tropicana go.
Um, one other thing I wanted to share a little bit about, um, is, uh, business class airfare sale.
So from time to time, and I’ve shared this, I think, once before, something similar, the airlines will.
Drop, and I mean dramatically drop, prices of business class tickets to different parts of the world.
So right now there is a, what we call a buying event where you can buy airfares.
And let me just kind of put this in context.
Typically a round trip business class ticket from the East East Coast to Europe is about $8,000.
Sometimes it’s $12,000, but it’s around $8,000 is kind of the norm.

Mike Putman:
Well, right now, if you can go to the right place and travel at the right time, there are airfares, including taxes, as low as $2,500 for business class.
So that’s less than coach tickets in a lot of instances.
And the really interesting thing is of that, when you look at that ticket, so I’m talking about one from New York to Barcelona, as an example, $2,540.
The makeup of that ticket is an airfare of $500, by the way, and the rest are taxes and fuel surcharges and customs fee, APHIS fee.
There’s all these fees that are applied to tickets that really run the price up.
But at any rate, if you are interested in going to I’m going to talk about Europe first to Europe, there are some key cities and you have to kind of know how to work the system to be able to get to get these rates.
So let me just give you some ideas of kind of the inexpensive destinations to fly into right now are Barcelona, Helsinki, Rome, Seville.
James, you and I were in Seville not last year or a year before.

Mike Putman:
Madrid, Lisbon, and Milan. line.
So even if you aren’t, if you’re traveling to Europe and even if you aren’t going to one of those cities, it might make sense if you want to go business class and you want to let, you know, travel in style and a lay flat seat with gourmet meals.
Um, it might make sense to fly. And this is what I do often.
I’ll fly into one of these cities where it might not be that I’m going and then find a train or an inexpensive low-cost carrier flight from wherever I fly into to my destination.

Mike Putman:
So a little bit about these airfares. Again, they’re from $2,500.

Mike Putman:
Up to probably 3,500. And these are for travel, uh, in August, uh, through November typically.
So kind of the tail end of their, uh, peak season.
Um, and you need to fly from a major city.
So like I live in, in Greenville, South Carolina, and I might not be able to get this flight out of Greenville, but I can get it out, can get a discount if I go out of New York or Washington, Maybe even Charlotte or Atlanta, places like that.
So you might have to Uber there or pick up another one way flight.
But it’s a great it’s a great way to save a lot of money and really, really travel in style.
Um, so these, these fares, just a couple of other rules, um, that you have to purchase the ticket somewhere between 30 and 150 days in advance, just depending upon where you’re going.
Um, you have to be able to stay a minimum of 14 days and the inventory has to be an I-class.

Mike Putman:
Um, and this is on American Airlines or Air France as an example, or Delta.
Um, and you have to depart and return on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. So, anyhow, have some fun with this, guys.
If you’re thinking about going to Europe, this is an opportunity to save a lot of money.
It does require some advanced planning, and you might have to do something you wouldn’t normally do, like travel on a Tuesday when you want to travel on a Monday.
But for some big savings, it’s a great way to go.

James Ferrara:
And I always say, you know, work with a professional travel advisor, right, for this kind of stuff, because they’re keeping an eye on those sales.
They’re keeping an eye on those requirements. requirements, the famous Michael White from Hickory Travel just scored me first-class tickets on Copa Airlines to hit a few events that we have to do, Mike, in the Caribbean and Punta Cana and in Cancun and so on.
And he just scored me a big first-class sale from Copa Airlines.
So, you know, go to your travel professional guys, whoever, it doesn’t matter who it is, but somebody who’s got their fingers on the pulse of this kind of stuff, it’s a lot for you to try to keep abreast of yourself.

Mike Putman:
Let me top this off, too, because there’s also another opportunity with pricing a little bit higher, maybe add another $500, $700, but to get the same type of deal to Delhi, India, New Delhi, Johannesburg, and Nairobi.
So these are three other that are great deals, prices as low as $1,700 plus taxes, which would be around $2,800, $2,900.
And these are on airlines like Etihad, United, which I’m not a big fan of, Turkish, and Qatar, Air France.
And this is for travel September or later. So a little advanced planning. planning.
And, uh, and, and those flights like going to Delhi, I go to, I go to India maybe once a year. It is a very, very long flight.
Um, it’s, uh, going in business really, really is good for your body.
If you’re going to be on a plane for, you know, basically 20 hours or so.

James Ferrara:
Yeah, I agree with that completely. I had to come back on the red eye from Portland last week, as you know, Mike, and it just made all the difference in the world to upgrade to first class.
At least I got to sleep, and I wasn’t sleeping standing up the way you sleep in economy.

James Ferrara:
Speaking of which, I had quite an odyssey the last couple of weeks, and we haven’t had the opportunity to talk about it, and that was exploring a market that might be new for our our listeners here, we often talk about cruising, of course, ocean cruising.
And then sometimes we remember to talk about river cruising, which is incredibly popular in Europe, in China, in Egypt, places like that, particularly in Europe. And so we talk a bit about that.
But I think what we we haven’t talked about here before is domestic river cruising here in the United States.
And there are only two or three real cruise lines to consider when you consider the opportunities to cruise in the United States.
And in the last couple of weeks, I was involved with an investment opportunity with a company called American Queen.
It used to be called American Queen Steamship Company.
Before that, some of you might remember Majestic Cruise Lines.
Before that, Delta Queen. They were all, basically the same operation. And the American queen herself is the name of their lead ship.

James Ferrara:
That ship is the largest authentic steam paddle wheeler ever built, and probably ever to be built in the world.
It carries over 450 passengers.
I got the opportunity to go visit her, to walk her, to walk her three sister ships.
So there was the queen, then there’s the American duchess, the American countess, and then finally the American empress.
The first three are on the Mississippi and the Ohio rivers, and they do these great Mark Twain-like river cruises.
And they call at New Orleans and Natchez and the great Civil War battle location in Vicksburg and like that.
But then the Ohio River goes off into the Midwest of the United States and does itineraries like the Bourbon Trail, visiting bourbon distilleries.

James Ferrara:
And the Empress is actually up on the Columbia and Snake Rivers in the Pacific Northwest.
So I flew up to Portland, Oregon to go on board.
And that ship does great winery tours and natural beauty tours through the Columbia River Valley and the Snake River Valley.
So it’s just not something that I think a lot of travelers are aware of.
The sad The sad news is that the company ceased operations.
And the reason why I was visiting.

James Ferrara:
Was to see if we would make an investment to try to bring the company back.
It has a 40 or 50 year history in the United States.
We decided not to go through with that investment, but someone else did.

James Ferrara:
And those cruise opportunities will be available again in the United States.
And I don’t know, it’s such a celebratory Americana history kind of experience.
And having gone on the ships, I was struck with how beautiful they are.
I mean, it really is a luxury experience. Incredible onboard dining rooms and theaters and what they call saloons, which are like lobbies or big public areas.
A chart room where you can learn from the onboard Riverlorian who tells you the stories of the river.
However, it’s a slow-moving, very intimate experience like all river cruise.
Mike, you were on a European river cruise last year.
So I just think, you know, even though I was looking at investments, to me, it was a real eye-opener about this whole other kind of travel that maybe we don’t think about so often.

Mike Putman:
Yeah, it was quite, quite popular years ago. And and I can certainly see a place of it in the American tourism economy, especially for, you know, small groups and things that it’s it’s President’s Club groups and things, people that want to do something a little bit different off the beaten path. Yeah, that’s a great opportunity.
I had one other, a couple other special deals I want to talk about as we’ve got kind of some, As we go into the peak travel season for a lot of families, I did want to share out something.
So Club Med, which is one of our favorite brands to work with, a lot of good people at Club Med, just a really interesting story about how that company got started.
But they are offering right now a 50% off discount.

Mike Putman:
So kind of keep that in mind. It’s 50% off the regular rates, and it’s good for travel between April 27th and November 1st.

Mike Putman:
It’s good for Club Med resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean and Canada.
And for those of you who don’t know, Club Med is all-inclusive.
It includes all the dining, includes alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, and it’s very family-friendly. Most are. Most of the club meds are.
And they’re even offering a second kind of incentive is that with two paying adults, one child under the age of 16 goes free.
Right. So, you know, you’re getting half off for you and your spouse or partner, and then you get one child under the age of 16 that goes at no cost, which is a really good deal.
Also, if you are a single, typically when a single goes on vacation, they have to pay for the room themselves.
If they’re buying a travel package, you know, that entire cost of that room goes to them and it’s basically double the price. um, they’re offering no single supplement, uh, for solo travelers.
So if you’re going by yourself, um, there’ll probably be a lot of singles at these club meds with this special, special pricing that’s, um, that’s in place.
And, um, it’s a, it’s a heck of a deal just to give you a little bit of sample pricing. Um, and again, now this is all inclusive, right?

Mike Putman:
Pricing. The Club Med Punta Cana in Dominican Republic is $162 per adult per night, which it’s normally $400.
The Club Med in Cancun, $162. The Club Med in Esmeralda in Dominican Republic is $199 per adult, and that’s normally $489.
So you got to book soon. This offer expires There’s April 8th, so hopefully you’re listening to this podcast before then.
But call your travel counselor and your travel advisor and let them help you with this and book a fantastic vacation at a heck of a price.

James Ferrara:
Absolutely. And that’s the granddaddy of all-inclusive resorts, right?
I mean, Club Med was doing it before anybody was doing it.

Mike Putman:
Yeah, they were the first. And I’ve taken my family. It’s a really, really enjoyable experience, too.
It’s very casual. People want to just really chill out and enjoy the outdoors and the setting. It’s not dressy.
It’s very European laid back.
A lot of Europeans there. It’s an interesting place. yeah.

James Ferrara:
A lot of fun a lot of um camaraderie uh they’ve got their own special vibe at club meds.

Mike Putman:
Yeah for sure um and just speaking of deals i got one other one i know james got something he wants to cover too but one last one this is a really interesting deal um so alaska james you’ve been on alaska cruise right i.

James Ferrara:
Have been yeah i was on celebrity in alaska.

Mike Putman:
I i went years ago and it was one of the most spectacular events.

Mike Putman:
Visual things I’ve ever encountered. I mean, it’s kind of like going to see the Grand Canyon the first time, except you got days and days of seeing these wonderful sites.
Well, Holland American is offering a great, great deal.

Mike Putman:
This is a nine-night vacation, and it includes a seven-night cruise on the Nui Amsterdam or Noordam.
All right, so it’s a seven-night cruise, and then you get one One night hotel in Fairbanks, you get one night of hotel in Denali, and then there is a $125 onboard credit per room, not per person, but per room.
And then you also get a $400 airfare credit per person.
And then there is motorcoat transportation between Fairbanks and Denali.
So this is a fantastic deal.
And this runs through the summer.
Some of the departures are $9.99. Others are $11.99.
Now, this would be for the least expensive inside cabin, and you can upgrade, but the discounts are accordingly applied. But it is a heck of a sale.
And again, if you’ve never been to Alaska, doing a cruise is the best way of doing it for your first time, for sure.
But you can get a couple of extra days, extra nights and land transportation on a motor coach. And then also you’ll get a domed rail transportation from Denali to Whittier.

Mike Putman:
So great deal. These are departures every week from May through August, you know, Definitely hop on this one if you get a chance. So just tell your travel counselor.
It’s the Holland American Alaska Nine-Night Sailings.

James Ferrara:
One of my favorite cruises ever. You know, just really spectacular to look at everything.
Really cool ports to visit.
And, of course, if you’re on a great ship like that, like Holland American Nine, who pretty much, they were one of the originals, right? Princess and Holland American Line are often equated with the Alaska cruise voyage.
The food’s going to be terrific. Because that’s the thing.
If you’re traveling on your own in Alaska, trying to see Alaska without a cruise ship, it’s very, very difficult to get around from port to port or from town to town.
The hotels and restaurants, difficult to find good ones.
And, you know, so the fact that you’ve got your ship, you’ve got your food and your accommodations with you, in other words, really does make it much easier to visit that part of the world. But I loved it.

Mike Putman:
Yeah, and you’re packing and unpacking at one time. I mean, a little bit difference with this because there’s two nights on land, but the distances in Alaska are great if you have to use the roadway system. So the one by city.

James Ferrara:
And some places are not connected by roads. You drive a mile outside the town and the road just stopped, right?
There is no connection.
Anyhow, yeah, great, great offer. Thank you, Mike.

Mike Putman:
I have to tell you, I took my kids when they were younger, and we took a day excursion.
And we asked our cruise executive to come on, what’s their favorite cruise excursion?
And this is mine is we took a little skiffed and I forgot which port town we were in, but a little skiffed out and we went fishing.
And in a matter of about two and a half hours, we caught about 175 pounds of fish.
And that it was just like a young guy. And he said, what do you want to catch?
I go, well, what can we catch?
And he said, well, halibut, salmon, this kind of salmon, that kind of salmon.
And we would fish different techniques.
All in this time so we caught like tons of halibut and and king salmon and um some suck i believe was the other kind but it was a great experience and i.

James Ferrara:
Did go see the salmon runs you know the salmon sort of spawning up the river and saw whales and saw bears and seals and i mean it It was really, uh, really great.
Um, so the other thing that I wanted to talk about is a, a different type of travel.
Here we are in the, uh.

James Ferrara:
What century is this, Mike? The 21st century? Is that what we’re in?
Here we are in the 21st century.
And travel means things, new things, things it didn’t mean before.
And the one that’s really kind of edgy is this concept of virtual reality and augmented reality.
Heard a lot about this for 10 years, probably, and seen the development.
And there was a recent Harris poll, I just read it yesterday, about the development of virtual reality and the increase in the number of people using it.
And you might guess that the people use it largely for gaming.
And you would would be right, but you’d be surprised how close a second there is to gaming.
51% of users use virtual reality for gaming.
47% use it to simulate travel experiences.

James Ferrara:
That is really interesting to me.
And of course, the usage decreases with age, as you would expect.
So Gen Z are the largest users.
And then as you back up through Gen X and boomers, they use it less and less.
But the surveys say that they’re the most interested in trying it.
So I think, you know, Even these older generations, and I count myself amongst them, just barely, even they are thinking about how they can use it.
And the idea that people might be able to use technology…

James Ferrara:
In some sense, to experience travel is really kind of interesting.
Because does that mean, I mean, here we are at No Tourists Allowed, and we’re all about traveling more authentically and having more memorable travels and so on.
And now this technology comes along that says maybe you can travel without leaving your couch.
And I don’t know how I feel about that. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Does that undercut our message here at No Tourists Allowed?
Or maybe does it support it? Does it become the portal for people to travel?
Do they sort of try out places at home?
Maybe people who are a little trepidatious about going on a cruise might do a virtual reality experience on a cruise ship, and then that leads them to actually book Or they check out some exotic location, and that leads them to actually book a trip there.
Or is it the other way around, and does it defeat people actually traveling?

Mike Putman:
Yeah, it’s so I’m going to back out the virtual reality part because I think that’s a that’s a segment of this.
But I do think that this virtual when I say that, I mean, you know, putting the goofy headset on.
Yeah, I don’t have anything to do with that. I mean, I don’t know.
It’s just never, never been to me. But the idea, the same idea, but instead of looking through a goofy headset, you’re looking at a TV screen or a computer monitor or what have you, really makes sense.
And I’ll tell you, there’s, oh, gosh, what is Susan’s last name?
There’s. You mean Perillo?

James Ferrara:
Perillo.
Because, you know, the famous Italian tour company, Perillo Tours, has a virtual reality company that they own. Also, I thought that’s what you were referring to.

Mike Putman:
It might be. It’s going to come to me in a minute. But anyway, it doesn’t matter.
But what this company does, and it might be the same one that’s owned by the Perlow family, is they actually hire a local person and they go through and vet these local tours, tour guides, like in London and Paris and all over the world.

Mike Putman:
And what these guys do is they strap a GoPro on their head or their chest and they walk through the town doing a live tour. And she said it was really important.
So I was asking her about scale and these other things.
And she said, it’s really important that they do it live because the tour guide is interactive and he’s got a headset on and he can interact with the users.
So, you know, it’s at five o’clock on Tuesday, we’re going to do a tour of Paris and, you know, whatever. And and so it’s it’s really interactive.
And and so I was thinking, like, that’s kind of cool. And then she said, but think about a classroom.
You’re in a world history class. You’re in 10th grade and you get a chance to go through the Louvre or, you know, you do one of these tours.
I thought, man, that would be really exciting for a kid who is hungry on history or could be art or what have you.

Mike Putman:
So there’s definitely a market for that. And then the other thing she said is that for senior homes, that there is a big marketplace for that because these people can’t travel anymore or it would be difficult for them to travel, but they still want to have the experience.
So I’m really behind it. I don’t think it takes away from anything.
And I think it probably drives interest, just like the Travel Channel, when the Travel Channel didn’t used to have ghost stories on all the time.
I think the Travel Channel really did build demand and got people aware of things that they might not have been.
And so, look, I’m definitely a strong proponent of these virtual tours.

James Ferrara:
I’m with you. The senior idea is a really nice idea, by the way.
But in general, the polls said that two-thirds of Americans either use virtual reality or are thinking about, you know, considering using virtual reality.
And I think that’s good news.
I think it’s good news for the future. I think you’re right.
This becomes an inspiration. Yeah.
To travel for a lot of people, and then maybe a way to travel for some people who aren’t able to travel, whether it’s the seniors or maybe because of some physical condition. Yeah.

Mike Putman:
Maybe they can’t afford it right now.

James Ferrara:
Yeah, or even can’t afford it right now. That’s right. So anyway, little peek into the future. Give it a try.
If you have an opportunity to get yourself the goofy glasses and give it a try.
Let us know what you think about it.
Mike, we have a drawing going on. We haven’t mentioned yet so far this episode.
And that’s for an exciting vacation for two, including air and hotel accommodations and a resort and so on.
And all you have to do to enter into our drawing, dear listener, is go to our website at notouristallowed.com.
And I think the current activity is to sign up for our newsletter.
And if you do that, you get five entries into our drawing.
Each episode or two will come up with a new way for you to get multiple entries in the drawing.
And then towards the beginning of the summer, we are going to draw our lucky winner.
Just like we gave away a Virgin Voyages cruise last summer for two, luxury cruise for two, we’re giving away this great vacation package for two also.

Mike Putman:
Yes, absolutely. And that, that, uh, virgin voyage was like a $6,000 package.
So I’ll give you guys ideas of, uh, we’ve got up our sleeve for you. So that’s right.

James Ferrara:
We’re not messing around here at no.

Mike Putman:
No, not at all. Well, listen, everyone, thank you so much for tuning in today.
Uh, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you again, uh, a few days after Easter.
And, um, Um, I hope you continue to tune in and register for our drawing as well as share, um, share the good word about No Tourists Allowed.
Also, we haven’t spoken about this before, but if you do like us or you do like the podcast, you don’t have to like us personally, but if you like the podcast, please leave us a review.
I mean, uh, Apple reviews are great to have for the, for us.
It would help us out a lot if you would do that. So take a minute or two.

James Ferrara:
Spotify reviews.

Mike Putman:
Views you have all those help out because we want to spread the word and send us a note yeah uh do that as well we want to spread the word about how to travel authentically and uh and really be a good traveler and not a tourist um through your travels thank you everybody bye.

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