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Winter Travel Season-- Top 10 Ski Resorts

by Lux Joseph 3. September 2015

Summer is coming to an end and winter will be just around the corner. Individuals choose to go on vacation and holiday year round. Whether it is a weekend getaway or a weeklong exploration, vacation is an opportunity for people to relax and do some of their favorite activities. The winter season brings opportunities for snowshoeing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, snowboarding and skiing around the world.

Vail, Colo., is the top ski resort in the U.S., according to members of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), while Whistler in Canada is the best for skiing outside of the U.S.

Vail was chosen by 23 percent of those surveyed mainly because it is a large ski area with plenty of accommodations, has different skill levels and has the right ratio of social activities to skiing to keep clients happy. Several agents said their choice of Vail was based entirely on the feedback from their customers, with one saying “my opinion doesn’t matter; my clients ask for Vail and return to Vail more than any other ski resort.” 

Following Vail were:  Aspen, Colo. (15%); Park City, Utah (10%); Breckenridge, Colo. (9%); Steamboat Springs, Colo. (6%); Beaver Creek, Colo. (3%); Snowmass in Aspen (2%); Telluride, Colo. (2%); Keystone, Colo. (2%); and Jackson Hole, Wyo. (2%).

Whistler, Canada, was chosen by 18% of respondents for its proximity to the U.S., beauty and good accommodations. Said one agent: “It is easy for Americans to reach and the village has lots of things for families to do.”

Rounding out the top 10 international ski resorts are: Zermatt, Switzerland (15%); St. Moritz, Switzerland (11%);  Innsbrook, Austria (8%); Chamonix, France (4%); Banff, Canada (3%); Davos, Switzerland (3%); Val d’Isere, France (3%); Kitzbuhel, Austria (3%); and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy (2%).

As you start to plan your winter vacation, consider some of the key winter locations that boast 300+ inches of snow a year. Many of our nurses will travel to these winter destinations to bring your loved ones home via commercial airline. Our escorts sometimes will pick up a patient in 80 degree weather and return them to a climate in which the weather is below 20 degrees.  This is the nature of the business and their suitcase is always packed for dramatic climate changes.

We encourage you to engage in those winter activities that you love the most, but please ensure you consider safety when going down those triple diamond trails. We suggest all travelers purchase travel insurance and be aware of your surroundings. Safe travels this upcoming winter season.

Top 20 Strangest Requests Made to Travel Agents

by Lux Joseph 13. May 2015

In celebrating National Travel and Tourism Week (May 2-10) and Travel Agent Day (May 6), Commercial Medical Escorts is shining a spotlight on the work dedicated professional travel advisors do by releasing the “Top 20 Strangest Requests” made of indviduals in the past year. Our in-house travel department, Sky Cap Corp, witnesses many of these requests and many more on a daily basis.

“When planning your trip, travel agents know what consumers often don’t know to ask,” said Joseph McNamara, Sky Cap Corp CEO. “But according to a poll done by ASTA professionals, agents also sometimes have to save their clients from questions they DO ask. It’s clear from the list of “strangest requests” that some travelers need a little more hand holding than others,” he said.
  
“There are 429 million vacation days left on the table every year by American workers. When they finally get around to taking a vacation, consumers don’t have time for a do-over. Put that planning in the hands of a professional. You’ll be glad you did,” said Joseph.

The following are the Top 20 Strangest Requests made of an ASTA professional in the past year in no particular order:

1.    Can you please book the honeymoon suite for us and another couple?
2.    Can you please plan a honeymoon for me, my bride and my mother?
3.    Can you guarantee that no pet has ever been in the hotel room?
4.    Can I fish off of the cruise ship?
5.    Do they speak English in Britain? 
6.    Can you book two rooms in different parts of the resort—one for me and my wife, and the other for my girlfriend?
7.    Is our relationship like a client/lawyer relationship? (ASTA wonders if this is the same client who asked Question 6). 
8.    Does the crew actually sleep onboard the cruise ship?
9.    Don’t tell my fiancé this is where I took my first wife for our honeymoon.
10.    I would like to go somewhere where there are NOT a lot of men.
11.    I’d like to meet Elvis.
12.    I’d like to get married in the Caribbean on an island where the marriage is not legal in the U.S. (Again, we refer you to Question 6).
13.    Will there be shadows on my face at 4 p.m. when the pictures are taken?
14.    Will you watch my pet while I’m away?
15.    Are there toll roads on the way to Hawaii?
16.    How can I get to Europe without going by air or sea?
17.    I’d like to visit Scotland and Denmark on the same trip. (Agent then tells client he does not have time in his schedule to travel the distance). But they’re only an inch apart on the map!
18.    Can you set it up so that the whales jump in the background at the same time I’m proposing to my girlfriend?
19.    Can you ask the airline to block the seat next to me so I can stretch out?
20.    I don’t want a window seat on the plane because I just had my hair done.

Travel Outlook for 2015 from ASTA

by Lux Joseph 11. January 2015

Our in-house travel department has shared with CME some outlook on travel this upcoming year, 2015. CME works closely with our travel department to ensure we are providing on the best travel arrangements for our clients. Our travel department has extensive knowledge on the medical assistance industry as well as travel. As our travel department is partnered with the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), he has advised us that ASATA has set an aggressive agenda for 2015 in its mission to be the lead advocate for travel agents who, in turn, are the strongest allies of the traveling public. The agenda includes action at both the federal and state levels, continues work begun in 2014 and adds new initiatives that support free and unfettered world travel.


“ASTA is the only industry organization with the know-how, the staff, the resources and the alliances to effectively defend the interests of travel agencies across the country,” said Sky Cap Corp President and CEO Joseph McNamara. “This was reflected in our work in 2014, a banner year for ASTA advocacy that saw us leverage our unique strength as an association before the U.S. Congress, the White House, federal agencies and all 50 state legislatures in the fight to keep the retail distribution channel strong and thriving for years to come.”

The Association’s advocacy priorities for 2015 include:

  • Ensuring Transparency in the Cost of Air Travel: ASTA will work to ensure that the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) landmark rulemaking on airline ancillary fees provides agents and consumers full access to airline ancillary fees and the ability to purchase the complete air transportation product; and will fight airline efforts to insert the so-called Transparent Airfares Act overturning DOT’s full-fare advertising rule into “must-pass” Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization legislation in Congress.
  • Reducing the Regulatory Burden on Travel Agents: ASTA will fight against proposals in Congress and at the DOT that will require agents to make new and unwarranted disclosures to consumers during airline ticketing, such as one in a 2012 law requiring notification that the aircraft their client is flying on may be sprayed with insecticides.
  • Fighting Oppressive Taxation: ASTA will continue to oppose any state proposals to apply new taxes to agency fees and other income, including proposals to subject service industries such as travel agencies to state sales taxes, and to apply state and local hotel taxes to hotel “intermediaries” such as agents. At the same time, ASTA will work with its car rental partners to enact federal legislation to preempt state and local governments from imposing discriminatory taxes on car rentals.
  • Cuba Travel: Building on the recent agreement reached between the U.S. and Cuban governments to ease long-standing restrictions on trade and other interactions between the two countries – including those preventing American citizens from travelling to Cuba – ASTA will work with President Obama, Administration officials and the U.S. Congress to ensure that Americans are free to travel to Cuba without constraint from their own government. While working toward a full repeal of the travel ban, the Association will petition the Administration to expressly permit any travel agent to book travel for Americans lawfully entitled to travel to Cuba under the new regulations called for by the President in late 2014.
  • Travel Facilitation: ASTA will support the expansion of “Trusted Traveler” aviation security programs, such as TSA’s PreCheck and CBP’s Global Entry, and will ensure that agents have a voice and active role in their implementation. On the international side, the Association will support the Jobs Originated through Launching Travel (JOLT) Act, which will streamline visa processes for “inbound” travelers and help the U.S. recapture its historic share of worldwide overseas travel. 

The highlights of ASTA’s advocacy work during 2014 include:

  • White House Meeting: In March, ASTA secured a first-ever meeting in the White House to brief President Obama’s advisors face to face on the value of the travel agency channel to both consumers and to the small business-driven national economy.
  • IATA NDC: The association worked collaboratively with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the Department of Transportation (DOT) and other aviation stakeholders to ensure that the DOT’s August approval of IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) initiative was subject to a number of consumer protection conditions designed to protect competition and consumer privacy. Going forward, ASTA will work to ensure that agents’ views and business needs are taken into account as NDC is further developed – as a member of several IATA advisory committees as well as a recently-announced initiative to develop understanding of the impact (e.g., from a business, technology and commercial perspective) of NDC for travel agents.
  • Hazmat Notification Regulations: ASTA was successful in its efforts to rework a burdensome DOT regulation that would have required agents to secure their client’s acknowledgement of complex federal hazardous materials restrictions before issuing an airline ticket. Instead, starting in 2016 the disclosure requirement can now be fulfilled any time prior to check-in, such as by automatically providing it on the passenger’s itinerary. This is a big win for agents, as the original requirements would have added to existing passenger notification requirements travel agents have to comply with regarding code-share flights, insecticide spraying and others issues. These requirements would have saddled the industry with more than $58 million in initial training and programming costs and $26 million per year in ongoing compliance costs. 
  • Travel Insurance Reform: Working with a coalition led by the U.S. Travel Insurance Association, ASTA and its members have helped reform costly and complex travel insurance licensing in 31 states. Members’ grassroots efforts – including committee testimony in Colorado (Rich Sattizahn), Hawaii (Rachel Shimamoto, Wendy Goodenow) and Maryland (Larry Swerdlin, Jay Ellenby) – were instrumental in moving this initiative forward. Once in place nationwide, these standards will save agencies thousands of dollars in annual licensing costs while reducing the risk of state fines for non-compliance. Counting only the 31 states that have adopted the standards, ASTA estimates the collective savings for the travel agency industry to be $7.5 million per year thanks to this reform.

As one can see, having a travel department that has a strong relationship established with the travel industry demonstrates progressive growth and outlook for CME’s operations. CME’s business relies heavily on the travel industry and people traveling around the world. If there is a declining trend in travelers that is something that CME wants to know because it can impact our business significantly. While we do not want people to become ill or injured, we are proactive in demonstrating the importance of travel insurance to travelers around the world.


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