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Friday Travel News and Notes.

Little this week isn't tied to some aspect of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (COVID-19's viral cause.)  That is certain to continue for most of 2020 depsite optimistic hopes to the contrary.  Politics being unwelcome on Travelers Dominion we stick to rational and informed supisition and discussion.  To that end, there are some updates to consider carefully. 

Endgame and Recovery Planning

Several contries, Germany in particular are discussing "travel passports" which would be issued and require undetermined health validations.  This mirrors comments in the U.S. alluding to use of antibody testing to certify people can return to work or travel. The thinking in the latter being that one gains immunity from having been exposed to the COVID-19 virus (thus the antibodies.)  However it would require months for such testing and documentation to matriculate through the U.S. and beyond.  This again lends weight to 2020 being a bad year for travel.  While some parts of regional travel industry and services maybe able to begin operation again before the end of summer, it is going to be a slow process for major industries to resume full operations before the end of the year.

Video Escape

Yearning to cruise?  Many are, enjoy PTZtv's Port Miami Webcam a moment.  Nice ambiant audio to boot.


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control is extending the "no sail" mandate for an additional 100 days unless contraviened by another authority.  This effectively means crusies on ships carrying more than 250 people are over until at least mid-July.  Even a July re-start presumes response planning by the cruise industry is approved by the CDC and the state of the pandemic allows for it.  The cruise lines are continuing to be generous with rebooking options however.

Las Vegas

The Strip remains shut-down and the major hotel and casino operators are girding for months more of the same.  Several journals following Las Vegas expect that major buffets will not re-open after the current crisis ends.  However it is expected that pricing for hotels will be low for a year or more after operations resume.  

Air Travel

The Department of Homeland Security reports that present air travel is down 96% from normal.  Social distancing and work-from-home mandates have added to the near total shut-down of the travel industry to leave airports devoid of passengers.

The Sum of All Pitches: Travel Give-aways Judged.

Not all that is golden...or gold.

Not worth the plastic it was printed on.

What of the product the company was selling? Was the company legitimate? Is anything they sell worth anything to anybody? Is it a scam? Researching the company and details reveals several things. First, in the strictest legal definition the company and its product are not a scam. It is the very precise way everything is presented and how the contracts are written that keep this company from straying into legal trouble. For some people who can afford to buy and deal with the limitations and complications that seem systemic to this sort of product it can be a favorable arrangement. However for many people these situations can be problematic commitments of money which they are never able to gain the promised travel.

The most telling thing to my mind was that the walls of the office are coated in pictures of people when they buy the memberships. Yet there are none of people at any of the travel options the membership provide. Indeed, we were told repeatedly that we could not and would not be able to review a sampling of the travel options. I can find nobody online blogging about their latest travel club trip. And in truth I can find virtually nobody who will openly admit they have such a membership. Likewise, in reading about those who bought and later attempted to get out of their contracts, virtually nobody does.

Are there alternatives to these clubs that provide the sort of travel options and value but without the financial strain and obligation? Absolutely. The entire premise of this companies product was that it gathered endless options for travel at prices only possible for the reasons they explain to you. Yet most travel agencies and agents can book through wholesale companies and through industry promotions that give you every means to travel when you want and the way you want too.

My own advice? Avoid these booths like the plague. You should not have to pay money just to hear a sales presentation. You should not have to sit through a sales presentation to receive an actual “prize.” No prize should be so rigged as to seem intended to be more hassle than it is worth. You should never have to commit so much money for a membership for products or services you cannot review in detail.

Do I have a horse in this race? Certainly, but so do you. These companies have a choice to present things professionally and without pressure or masking the insanity of their self-serving contracts and financial systems. Shop carefully, ask questions.

Have you dealt with timeshare pitches? Share with us in the Travelers Dominion forums!

Through the Looking Glass, Darkly - the Pressure Begins.

Don't forget to show your work......

Math and not for the faint of heart.

It is at this point that these presentation turn a bit dark in my view. Once the basic product the company sells was reviewed a series of options to “get even more value” and options that were cheaper for those more modest budgets were presented. First, the core product amounts to over twelve thousand dollars and requires a four figure up-front fee, monthly costs and annual fee. Limitations to the “travel club” ensure members are locked into the deal for at least ten years. Gallingly the company offered to “finance” the up-front fee, which is amusing since they were not actually lending any money. Yet they then charge interest on the amount of the up-front fee not paid initially.

Once the salesperson finally reached the end of his presentation he surveyed the room sizing up people and informed us that due to a limited number of staff working that we could only leave one couple at a time to receive our travel prize. Anybody who actually wanted to buy the product was taken first and quickly ushered out. Only one couple elected to do so. The salesperson slowly selected each couple to leave seemingly based on the level of resistance shown during the presentation. We were taken last.

We were taken to a second salesperson who sought to convince us to buy one of the memberships in a big open room with the other couples seeing to their business near us. This will lasted no less than ten minutes and the presentation given was geared to determine how much we could afford to pay for the up-front fee and to agree to their so-called financing. I told the young salesperson directly we were simply not going to buy and didn’t wish to waste his time. He quietly said he had to go through the entire process of drawing charts and numbers for us or he would get in trouble with his boss. We allowed the young man to finish he said he would get his boss to see to our prize.

Next we were given the third attempt to close a sale by another salesperson in a suit who took us to another office and privately tried to get us to give him a up-front fee we would agree too. I made an attempt to see how low I could push the salesperson without giving him a number, or if he’d eventually cave-in and waive the fee. But once it was clear we won’t buying the sales pitch he left to get a check written for the appointment fee. We were given a pre-printed card with a website and code to redeem the cruise we “won.” Since this company wasn’t really a travel agency they had nothing to do with the prize except to promise it to us. We were given certificates for gift cards as well. But like every aspect of the process, the cruise and certificates were calculated to be virtually worthless.

To actually get the cruise we had won, we would have needed to pay hundreds up-front to a fourth party which has an entirely negative reputation based on research I did afterward. The same was true of the gift card certificates. It is so difficult or expensive to obtain the cruise or gift cards it isn’t worth pursuing. With the cruise specifically the best one can do while paying the bare minimum is more costly than deals you can obtain from actual travel agents and agencies.

Tomorrow, we wrap-up the journey down the rabbit hole reviewing the actual "prizes" and what happens after the presentations.  We also share my feelings on these companies and alternatives to them.

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