Fitting a new need: Local agencies get FEMA travel trailers | Local News

CAMDEN — Camden Sheriff’s Deputy Brandon Blount didn’t quite know what to expect when he went to Hyde County last week to get a look at one of the free trailer travels Hyde was giving away.

Hyde is giving away around 40 of the travel trailers it received from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in 2019. The trailers were used to house residents of Ocracoke Island whose homes were destroyed or heavily damaged by the storm.

Hoping to use one of the travel trailers as a command post, the Camden Sheriff’s Office was interested in Hyde’s offer. But Blount didn’t know if the free trailers were new or older models, and he had no idea what condition they would be in after being used for several years.

Blount was surprised — and pleased — at the traveler trailers’ condition when he saw them. So pleased, in fact, he returned to Camden with one in tow.

“Wow,” Blount said Tuesday was his reaction when he saw the unit was in good condition.

Sheriff Kevin Jones was equally impressed with the Sheriff’s Office’s latest addition after seeing it on Blount’s return.

“I’m not sure if it was even used,” Jones said. “If it was then they did a good job of cleaning it up.”

Pasquotank-Camden-Elizabeth City Emergency Management and the Pasquotank Sheriff’s Office are also getting free travel trailers from Hyde County they hope to use as mobile command units, but neither has been picked up yet.

Receiving federal government surplus items is a way to provide needed equipment to the Sheriff’s Office without using county dollars, Jones said. He pointed to three generators the county also acquired from the federal government.

“I didn’t know what FEMA was going to do with it (the travel trailer), but they didn’t need to let it go to waste,” Jones said. “It’s pretty nice.”

Jones said the trailer will be used for multiple purposes, including support for deputies at an incident and as a classroom at the department’s shooting range.

“We can use it for a natural disaster or something like that,” Jones said. “If the deputies have to stay out all night they will have a place to relax. You can even take a shower in this thing.”

Jones said there are no plans to spend money to upgrade the travel trailer. He noted the department can use its portable radios in the new mobile command post.

“We can transmit with the radios we have without having to wire anything,” Jones said. “Right now, we plan on using it just like it is.”

Emergency Management and the Pasquotank and Camden Sheriff’s offices currently share an aging 1998 model mobile command bus. The three new trailers are model years 2016 to 2018.

Pasquotank Sheriff’s Office Maj. Aaron Wallio said the free travel trailer fills a big need for the department. Wallio also recently went to Hyde to pick out a travel trailer for Pasquotank.

Wallio said a mobile command post is needed for such large-scale events like the Potato Festival and for search and rescue missions.

“We can use it for a variety of things,” Wallio said.

Wallio said the current shared command bus is prone to breakdowns and the upkeep is expensive.

“There is always something wrong with it,” Wallio said. “Every time we need it there is a motor issue, a transmission issue or something else doesn’t work. It costs a fortune to keep it running.’’

Wallio said he and other deputies are familiar with travel trailers and most of the upfit work will be done in house. The department will have to install radios in the travel trailer but Wallio doesn’t have a cost estimate yet.

One change that will need to be made is removal of the trailer’s bunk beds, Wallio said.

“We were talking about it and we said we need a travel trailer because we can convert it into a mobile command vehicle,” Wallio said. “Most of the work we can do ourselves because we know campers and we have worked on campers. We have the trucks to move it when we need it.”

Emergency Management Coordinator Brian Parnell, who previously served as the Area 1 coordinator for the N.C. Division of Emergency Management, said he was aware that Hyde had the surplus travel trailers.

“I knew that after they are issued to a county like Hyde that sometimes they will no longer have a use for them,” Parnell said. “We needed to revamp our needs and I reached out to see what was available.”

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[Graphic News] Number of travel agencies dips 6% in 2 years amid pandemic

The number of travel agencies in South Korea has declined nearly 6 percent over the past two years in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, industry data showed.

There were 21,231 travel agencies in Asia’s fourth-largest economy as of end-September, down 6.1 percent from two years earlier, according to the data from the Korea Tourism Association.

The number fell to 21,540 a year earlier from 22,609 in September 2019 and continued to go south this year.

The decrease came as pandemic-induced border closures across the globe made overseas travel difficult, forcing many travel agencies to shut down. (Yonhap)

By Nam Kyung-don ([email protected])

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Florida tourism agencies: State leads nation in inbound travel thanks to open pandemic policies | Local News

After a nearly 20-month international travel ban was lifted on Monday, travelers who meet COVID-19 restrictions are expected to resume traveling to the U.S., several reports indicate.

Tourism is dominating the recovery of the U.S. travel sector, and Florida is leading the way because of its anti-lockdown policies, VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s tourism agency, says.

Florida is “beating out competitors like New York, Las Vegas, Hawaii, and California,” Dana Young, VISIT FLORIDA President and CEO, said, crediting the COVID-19 policies of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Get more from the Citrus County Chronicle

DeSantis was the first governor to fully reopen his state after governors implemented statewide lockdowns in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus last year. DeSantis has been advocating anti-mask mandate and anti-lockdown policies, publicly sparring with the policies of the Biden administration, including suing the administration over executive orders related to mandates and illegal immigration.

DeSantis made sure “that Florida is open and able to welcome the visitors that are our economic livelihood,” Young said.

“While other states were closed, VISIT FLORIDA invited travelers from all over the country to experience the magic and freedom of a Florida vacation,” she added. “As the only state marketing outside its borders for roughly seven months, Florida was able to capitalize on the pent-up travel demand and cultivate a tremendous strategic advantage over its competition.”

In 2019, prior to COVID-related lockdowns, 14.5 million international tourists traveled to Florida, or 11% of all visitors. They contributed $17.3 billion to the economy, according to the agency.

Despite ongoing international travel restrictions, preliminary estimates indicate that 1.1 million overseas visitors came to Florida in the second quarter of 2021, an increase of 854% from last year, the agency reports. Florida also welcomed 27.3 million visitors from January to March this year.

Roughly 31.7 million people came to Florida from April through June of this year, an increase of more than 220% over the prior year. The majority, 30.6 million, were domestic visitors, representing a 216% increase from 2020, and a 6% increase from 2019.

“Florida continues to serve as an example for the country that when you reject lockdowns and unnecessary mandates, your economy will thrive,” DeSantis said. “Not only did Florida have more visitors in the second quarter than we did in 2020, but the data shows that domestic visitation has already fully recovered to 2019 levels. I’m grateful for the dedication of thousands of Florida business owners, who demonstrated the highest commitment to their employees and their customers, and I’m proud of VISIT FLORIDA’s hard work to market the Sunshine State. The revitalization of our tourism industry will have a positive impact on every Floridian.”


In an effort to encourage people to come to Florida, VISIT FLORIDA began a marketing campaign in August 2020 partnering with several agencies and companies. It partnered with AAA Northeast to promote Florida as a destination state for travelers, contributing a $150,000 co-investment in a targeted marketing campaign. The campaign resulted in over $24.5 million in total bookings to Florida, the agency says, with the majority making $16 million worth of travel bookings in Orlando.

While air travel was in severe decline during state shutdowns nationwide last year, VISITFLORIDA also partnered with Allegiant Airlines, American Airlines/American Airline Vacations, and United Airlines on three independent campaigns throughout the Midwest and Northeast to market Florida as a key destination.

As a result of Florida’s open policies and marketing campaign, and warmer weather, Florida’s hotel room revenue increased 11% in August of this year compared to 2019, the agency says, while the rest of the U.S. saw a decline of 5% over the same period.

Vacation rental bookings in September of this year were also over 80% higher than they were in September 2019.

And while domestic air capacity is down more than 18% nationally for the calendar year, it’s up by 2% in Florida, trending 9% higher through November, the agency adds.

Airbnb, an online user-based accommodations site operating in more than 220 countries and regions worldwide, reports that a week after the U.S. announced that international travel restrictions would be lifted, searches for trips to the U.S. on its site increased by 50%.

As of Nov. 8, Airbnb said, its hosts in more than 4,000 destinations in the U.S. are welcoming inbound foreign guests, including those coming for an entire year staying in Airbnb rentals.

Guests are primarily traveling from five cities: London, Paris, Santiago, Toronto and Vancouver, it said in a news release.

The five most popular destinations are Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Orlando, and South Florida Atlantic Coast, with guests seeking long-term stays of 28 days or more.

“The US. is historically the largest inbound travel market in the world,” Airbnb said, “and the largest country to reopen to foreign travelers arriving by commercial flights.”

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European travel agencies resume tours to Syria | Middle East | News and analysis of events in the Arab world | DW

The destinations are exotic and appealing: Markets bristling with charming handicrafts, architecturally stunning houses of worship, ancient castles and striking landscapes. The only problem is they’re all in Syria, a country still reeling from more than a decade of brutal civil war.

According to some European travel agencies though, that doesn’t matter.

“Biblical cities, ancient cultures and mouth-watering delicacies,” boasts the Berlin-based Soviet Tours, a company best known for travel in the former Soviet bloc that is offering trips to Syria in 2022.

“After years of being ravaged by civil war, Syria is slowly starting to return to a level of normality not seen in years,” explained another Berlin-based company, Rocky Road Travel, on its website.

Of the Syria tours Rocky Road is pitching for next year, one is booked out already and more are being added “due to demand,” the company’s founder, Shane Horan, told DW. “People are definitely curious and they are clearly ready to see the country for themselves … regardless of headlines and rhetoric.”

Shane Horan, founder of Berlin-based company, Rocky Road Travel.

Shane Horan, founder of Rocky Road Travel, started his business in 2014 with trips to North Korea

Sending Europeans to Syria

These Berlin agencies are not alone. Over the past month, UK-based firm Lupine Travel has added tours to Syria in 2022. Another UK firm, Untamed Borders, is also advertising Syrian adventures.

Clio, a Paris-based business specializing in cultural tours, was likely one of the first European companies to start promoting Syrian trips in 2019. It, too, is offering tours again for 2022.

Tourist visas for Syria have been available for group travel since 2018, and a number of Chinese and Russian tour operators previously advertised trips there. Now China’s Young Pioneer Tours, best known for taking visitors to North Korea, is also booking trips into Syria for early 2022.

Part of the reason for the current flurry of enthusiasm is the fact that, after a pandemic-related break of around 18 months, the Syrian government began issuing tourist visas again in early October.

Regime-controlled areas only

And all this is happening despite travel alerts from Germany’s Foreign Office. “There is a travel warning for Syria as well a requirement for Germans to exit the country,” the Foreign Office told DW in a statement. “The German Embassy in Damascus is closed so it is impossible to provide consular assistance to German nationals in the country. Against this background, we cannot understand why [recreational] travel to Syria is being offered.”

Displaced Syrians live in tents in archaeological sites dating back to the Byzantine era, northwest of Syria, in the Idlib countryside.

Displaced Syrians currently live in Byzantine-era ruins in the north of the country

The advertised group tours to Syria cost up to around €2,000 ($2,300) for a nine-day voyage. Flights are not included.

All of the trips begin in Beirut, Lebanon, because it’s possible to fly there from Europe. After this, tour groups drive over the border into Syrian government-controlled areas, heading to Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and the Syrian seaside, before returning to Beirut. The agencies all stress they do not go near areas where there may still be fighting.

Most of the companies offering Syrian tourism are best described as bespoke, adventure travel operators. Often their list of destinations also includes places like North Korea, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Ethical travel?

Which is why on their websites almost all of them also address topics like safety and special insurance, as well as the ethical considerations that would-be customers are certainly contemplating before booking. Almost all insist what they are doing is “not political.”

“Generally we see travel as a form of cultural exchange,” clarified Rocky Road’s Horan, who started his business taking tourists into North Korea. “Like some of our other often vilified destinations, such as North Korea, we believe any sort of engagement, even short tourist visits, go a long way toward boosting cultural understanding.”

Visitors look at the images of dead bodies at the UN headquarters in New York on March 12, 2015. .

Gruesome images of Syrians tortured by the Assad government have been shown at the UN headquarters in New York

Soviet Tours offers similar logic on their website: “We strongly believe that down-to-earth human relationships are way more important than loud talks about politics and morality.”

Unsurprisingly, groups like the Washington-based Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC) beg to differ. In a July 2021 update, they argued that the Syrian government, led by dictator Bashar Assad, is using the renewed push for tourism to do two things.

Boosting Syria’s income and image

Firstly, the Syrian government wants to bring foreign currency into the country. They need this to trade with the rest of the world, but it is now mostly blocked by international sanctions.

“Since it is impossible for tourists to exchange their money for Syrian pounds outside of the country, the government can count on travelers to ferry money into the country,” the SJAC wrote. So the danger is that tourism is “effectively funding Assad’s military campaigns, including against civilians.”

Tourism is also a valuable source of income. Before the civil war started in 2011, it made up as much as 10% of Syria’s gross domestic product. According to World Bank statistics for 2010, the country had over 10 million visitors and international tourism worth about $6.3 billion.

Syrian officials began recording visitor numbers again in 2016. These have more than doubled in three years, going from around 1.04 million in 2016 to 2.42 million in 2019. It’s hard to know how many of these visitors were Europeans, although it’s clear the proportion isn’t high. Even if each tour by the aforementioned agencies sells out and has between eight and 20 people per trip next year, for example, this wouldn’t amount to more than about 400 people for all of 2022.

Fridge magnets are displayed at a shop selling items for tourists in the capital Damascus on April 30, 2011. .

Tourism was a big business before the civil war in 2011, with souvenir shops like this one catering to tourists

Secondly, the SJAC wrote, the Syrian government is also using tourism to try and rehabilitate its international image.

German federal prosecutors have issued arrest warrants for high-ranking members of the Syrian government who have committed war crimes. International human rights organizations regularly condemn the Syrian government for bombing hospitals and schools, as well as the torture of hundreds of prisoners, starvation sieges of whole towns and the diversion of humanitarian aid.

A boy smiles as he stands outside a tent at the Batinta camp for the internally displaced, after heavy rainfall in the north of Syria's northwestern Idlib province.

More than 13 million Syrians have been displaced over the past decade

But tourists won’t see any of that. “People who are considering spending their holidays in Syria should be aware they will only get a one-sided view of the situation in Syria,” explained Nahla Osman, a lawyer who heads the board of the German Syrian Aid Association, an umbrella group representing over 20 different Syrian aid organizations in Europe.

To stay or go?

This is also why it’s almost impossible to join one of these Syrian tours if you’re a journalist or a human rights researcher (or Syrian). Berlin’s Soviet Tours confirms this on their website: “Currently journalists are not allowed to join our tours in the country. This is a strict government directive we have to comply with.”

If you travel in Syria independently, you risk arrest by Syrian security forces. To get there at all, you need to apply for a security clearance and be invited by a travel agent. The European travel operators help facilitate this process, which can take weeks.

A worker holds bags and a box of humanitarian aid in the opposition-held Idlib, Syria .

Tourists are allowed into Syria, but recent aid deliveries have been blocked

“It’s never a black-and-white issue and if we limited travel to functioning democracies only, then many countries would fall off the list,” said Miriam Putz, an expert at the Hamburg Foundation for Business Ethics, who co-authored a November 2020 study on ethical tourism. “But it is important to approach this kind of travel with open eyes. And I would assess the security situation in Syria as an extraordinary one.”

As well-intentioned as some travelers might be, it’s unlikely that European tourists taking selfies are going to help Syria very much, said Osman. “The only way to truly stabilize Syria is through a political process that looks to the future.”

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Agencies teaming up to catch mail thief driving U-Haul truck

PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. – New videos are helping detectives track down a serial mail thief who was seen traveling in a white U-Haul pickup truck.

Local 10 News first broke the story after the man was caught on several surveillance cameras across West Pembroke Pines, all around the Chapel Trail community.

The U.S. Postal Service is one of at least three different agencies working these cases, including Pembroke Pines police and authorities in Southwest Ranches.

“Whether people reported it directly to us or whether they reported it to local police, we are starting to see those reports coming in,” said U.S. Postal inspector Bryan Masmela.

The young man was seen on camera on October 16th in the early morning hours. Videos show him driving the white U-Haul pickup rental and stopping at mailboxes along the way. Pembroke Pines police would find some of the mail tossed in a swale near 195th Avenue and Northwest 4th Street.


Stealing mail is a federal crime and this young man can do quite a bit of damage. Masmela explained what he’s seen investigating these types of cases.

“Typically we see with these individuals that are stealing mail out of peoples mailboxes. They’re looking for checks, they’re looking for credit cards. Any item of value that they can then go and sell, or they can use for themselves,” he said. “There is an underground network of individuals that actually deal with this type of information.”

Click here for tips on how to protect yourself from mail theft:

Local 10 News reported on thieves using U-Haul trucks for various crimes in the past. Does it make them less suspicious? Was it stolen, and why is it used?

Investigators are working to answer those questions in this case.


Anyone with additional video or information is encouraged to contact law enforcement.

You can report tips to the U.S. Postal inspection service hotline: 877-876-5322 or contact Pembroke Pines police or Broward County Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS.

Also, the USPS has an informed delivery option that shows what mail and packages will be delivered that day and on future days. It is simple to use and sign up for, and users can be assured that no one stole any items scheduled for delivery. If items are stolen, USPS can be informed of the mail theft. The website is:

Copyright 2021 by WPLG – All rights reserved.

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Travel agencies find ways to navigate Covid complexities: Travel Weekly

Navigating international travel these days isn’t for the faint of heart, and to keep clients abreast of ever-changing policies, agencies are relying on a dizzying mix of digital resources, creative initiatives and staffers specifically dedicated to the cause.

Embark Beyond, for example, augmented its approach by adding a “Covid expert” to the company’s team earlier this year. The Covid expert, who transitioned into the role after most recently serving as an Embark concierge, is charged with keeping the agency updated on the latest travel protocols,while also fielding more complex Covid rules-related queries from Embark advisors. 

“As an agency or an advisor, you have to think about how you can be a step ahead and make the client’s life easy when it comes to travel, and really give people no excuses to not travel,” said Embark founder Jack Ezon. 

For travelers looking to visit or travel through multiple destinations, as well as those traveling with younger children ineligible for vaccination, having a Covid expert has proven especially valuable, added Ezon. 

“She’s been saving our advisors so much time,” he said. “In the beginning, our advisors were spending half an hour or 45 minutes trying to figure some of this stuff out, when they could be selling instead.”

Like many travel groups, Embark has also tapped Sherpa, an online platform specializing in travel identification requirements, to stay up to date on various restrictions like visa, passport, quarantine and Covid testing measures across the globe. According to Sherpa’s website, the company collects its information by aggregating data from thousands of sources, including official government websites, every day.

While Sherpa is also a go-to resource for Brownell Travel, the Birmingham, Ala.-based company has beefed up its pandemic problem-solving efforts with a special desk intended to field restriction-related questions. The travel desk email account is manned by a team of six. 

Additionally, Brownell has set up several Slack channels focused solely on Covid concerns.

“We maintain a Slack workspace for the entire community, with channels dedicated to different topics, including Covid updates and Covid resources,” said Sheri M. Selkirk, COO at Brownell Travel. “So, you have the Brownell community of about 200 people seeing your posts, and whoever can help you be more efficient and adapt to what your client needs at that time, they absolutely jump right in.”

So far, said Selkirk, Brownell’s crowdsourcing solution has yet to leave a single travel restriction query unanswered. 

“Everyone in the company is on Slack, from our president, Troy Haas, on down,” said Selkirk. “So we can cover all bases, whether it’s an operations question, a sales question or a Covid question.”

The tiered approach

Across Internova Travel Group, the strategy around travel restriction updates has been similarly multilayered, according to John Rose, chief risk and security officer for Internova’s Altour division. 

In addition to the Sherpa platform, which Internova has used since September of this year, the group has been leveraging support provided by a company called Exlog Global since August 2020. 

“Exlog is able to provide that next tier of support, and they specialize in that human component,” said Rose. 

“Let’s say you might be traveling with someone, but the person you’re traveling with is on a different passport. So, if there’s a question about that, that maybe isn’t clear to the client or the advisor, Exlog is able to work that out.”

One-on-one support from an Exlog professional is available via email or phone, with Rose estimating that Internova typically sees “several hundred” questions get answered by the Exlog system each week. 

If a Covid-related travel quandary proves too difficult or unique for Sherpa to address or Exlog to solve, the matter is then escalated to an internal team within the organization. 

The tiered approach has “really worked well,” said Rose.

“To be able to provide that level of service is a differentiator we have within Internova,” he added. “We can’t have an advisor spending eight hours searching 19 different websites and then getting conflicting information, because that’s not helpful to anyone.”

Meanwhile, as international travel continues to ramp back up, Rose predicts that being able to efficiently stay on top of travel protocol changes will be more important than ever.

“The world is opening back up, but it’s going to open with restrictions and those restrictions aren’t going to be going away anytime in the near future,” said Rose. “So, the demand for tools like Sherpa and other tiers of support is likely to grow, and it’s so important to be forward-thinking and get solutions.”

At Signature Travel Network, members are granted access to a paid enterprise account on Sherpa, which provides them the ability to create custom links that can be shared with clients, as well as integrate Sherpa’s content directly into their websites, emails and itineraries, among other channels. 

Members can also opt to create their own white label version of the Sherpa site. 

“Without question, a travel advisor’s greatest challenge today is keeping up with the continually changing border closures, visa needs, Covid protocols, et cetera,” said Jean Newman Glock, Signature’s managing director for communications and public affairs.

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Prevalence of Online Travel Agencies has Potential to Impact Travel Arrangement and Reservation Businesses

NEW YORK, Sept. 20, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — BizVibe has added key challenges and trends for travel arrangement and reservation services industry profiles on their platform. All 40,000+ travel company profiles will now contain 50+ company data points, including a list of potential challenges which are expected to impact market participants over the next few years.

One challenge which is being highlighted is the growing prevalence of online travel agencies (OTAs). The continuously increasing role and importance of OTAs is threatening the survival of small local travel agents, and their market share in travel booking has been increasing every year. Their customer-centric platforms, price transparency, attractive deals, and travel-related content and recommendations have created a value proposition that is hard for small travel operators to match. As OTAs continue to expand into new markets, small travel agents will increasingly find it difficult to survive in the intensely competitive market landscape. By identifying such challenges, BizVibe is helping users analyze which suppliers are right for their business, while allowing them to efficiently monitor the risk of doing business.

Get Free Access to all Industry Challenges

Key Insights Provided for Travel Arrangement and Reservation Companies

In addition to analysis on how key challenges are expected to impact businesses, BizVibe company profiles contain numerous high-quality insights to help users discover, track, compare, and evaluate suppliers or sales prospects. These insights include:

  • Relevance and influence of industry trends and challenges, segmented by region
  • Press releases and news coverage referencing key trends and challenges
  • Risk of doing business score, segmented by operational, financial, compliance, and country risk
  • Top company competitors at the global, regional, and national levels
  • Names of top company decision makers, including job titles and social profiles
  • Company financials such as annual revenue, profitability ratios, and management effectiveness

View 50+ Company Data Points for Free

Travel Arrangement and Reservation Services Categories

BizVibe’s platform provides access to over 10 million buyer and supplier company profiles. Businesses from more than 200 countries are categorized into 40,000+ product and service categories, each providing detailed insights tailored to the needs of procurement and sales teams globally. The travel arrangement and reservation services industry group features 40,000+ company profiles categorized into 10+ product and service categories, enabling clients to identify and connect with potential new business partners across diverse market segments.

Categories for the travel arrangement and reservation services industry include:

Get Free Company Profile Access for all Categories

BizVibe for Buyers and Sellers

BizVibe is a modern B2B platform dedicated to connecting buyers and sellers from around the world. Powered by the latest best-in-class solutions, BizVibe is designed to help companies generate leads, shortlist suppliers, request proposals, and identify global companies. Evaluate companies side-by-side to compare key metrics and initiate productive partnerships.

Buyers use BizVibe to discover suppliers from among more than 5 million companies using advanced search filters and comparison tools. Features for buyers include:

  • Shortlist potential suppliers
  • Track and compare companies
  • Set up custom news alerts
  • Quickly create and customize RFIs

Explore BizVibe’s buyer services:

Sellers can take advantage of BizVibe’s smart sales intelligence tools to discover, evaluate, and communicate with prospects across 300+ categories. Features for sellers include:

  • Identify and qualify sales prospects
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  • Analyze and evaluate potential buyers
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Discover BizVibe’s seller tools:

About BizVibe
BizVibe has been conceptualized and built by a team based out of Toronto, Bangalore, and London. We are a branch of Infiniti Research and have dedicated units in all three locations. BizVibe helps buyers find the most relevant suppliers from around the world and helps sellers target prospects who need their products and/or services. For more information, please visit and start for free today.


Jesse Maida
Email: [email protected]
+1 855-897-5880


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Thai Travel Agencies Offer COVID-19 ‘Vaccine Tours’ to U.S | World News

By Chayut Setboonsarng and Panarat Thepgumpanat

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Travel agencies in Thailand are selling coronavirus “vaccine tours” to the United States, as some wealthy Thais grow impatient awaiting mass inoculations that are still a month away amid the country’s biggest outbreak so far.

The tours reflect global differences in vaccinations, with the United States and Britain making swift immunisation gains, but many lower income nations – and increasingly their well-off citizens – are still working to secure doses.

Bangkok tour operator, Unithai Trip, has packages from 75,000 baht to 200,000 baht ($2,400 to $6,400) for trips to San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, with prices dependent on the time gap between doses.

“Johnson & Johnson is one jab, but 90% of inquires want Pfizer,” which needs about 20 days between the first and second doses, the agency’s owner, Rachphol Yamsaeng, told Reuters.

He said a group was tentatively scheduled to leave next week.

My Journey Travel is offering a 10-day trip to San Francisco for a Johnson & Johnson shot and said it has received hundreds of calls in three days.

The vaccine tours could be a boon for Thailand’s tourism agencies after travel collapsed during the pandemic.

“All tour agencies are suffering now,” said Rachapol, whose agency is also offering similar trips to Serbia. “Whatever we can do, we have to try to do it.”

A spokesman at the U.S. embassy in Bangkok declined to immediately comment, but the U.S. State Department’s website lists medical tourism as a valid reason to visit.

The United States is not the only destination offered to Thais. Another agency, Udachi, advertised a 23-day “VACCation in Russia” to receive the Sputnik V vaccine for up to 210,000 baht ($6,700).

Thailand’s main vaccination drive is set to begin in June with locally-produced AstraZeneca shots.

Its latest outbreak has accounted for more than half of its total 74,900 infections and 318 fatalities.

Thailand’s tourism ministry warned on Wednesday that customers should carefully examine vaccination packages after the foreign ministry said U.S. regulations may vary by state.

(Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat and Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Martin Petty)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.

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Travel Agencies Urge Chicagoans to ‘Book Now’ – NBC Chicago

With vaccinations well underway and news that European countries may be open for vaccinated travelers by summer, Chicago travel agencies are the busiest they’ve been in a year.

Lynn Farrell, president of Windy City Travel, says business is up an estimated 40% just within the last month.

“We’ve got files of people going to Europe,” Farrell said. “What we’ve done is created scenarios for them that if we needed to pivot, we could pivot.”

Farrell says top destinations include Hawaii, Montana, Greece, Croatia and Mexico.

Much of the surge comes as vaccinated travelers begin to “return to normal” or catch up on travel plans canceled in 2020.

In fact, demand for travel is so high that many destinations are reporting a rental car shortage. If you can find a rental car, be prepared to shell out more money than expected.

“They have over 4,000 people arriving in Maui on a daily basis. There’s not that many cars,” Farrell said.

Sunset Travel and Cruise agency, located in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, still cautions travelers to purchase insurance for their trips.

Even though some destinations are reopening, others are facing new waves of COVID-19 cases.

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27 Bay Area transit agencies! No wonder travel is so hard

The Bay Area is served by 27 transit agencies. Twenty-seven.

From bigger ones such as VTA, BART, AC Transit, Capitol Corridor, SFMTA and Caltrain to more-local systems such as LAVTA, WestCAT, County Connection and Tri-Delta Transit, getting around on buses, trains and ferries requires struggling with a confusing maze of agencies, schedules, uncoordinated connections and differing fare structures.

Little wonder transit was used for only 12% of all commute trips in 2018 while 75% used cars. And then the pandemic struck — and transit patronage plummeted.

Meanwhile, Bay Area residents pay dearly through taxes, tolls and fares for transit agencies that have some of the proportionately highest administrative expenses in the country and costliest and slowest capital projects.

Without a complete revamping of Bay Area transit, the region will remain dependent on polluting autos and costly freeway construction — perpetuating an inequity in which those who can afford it drive in the comfort of their cars while those of lesser means must limp along on marginal public transit.

So what do we do?

In a thoughtful analysis released this month, the transit rider-driven group Seamless Bay Area provides a vision for integration and unified management of the region’s transportation systems. It should serve as the starting point for serious discussion by local, regional and state officials about how to revamp our failing public transit.

After examining governing structures around the nation and the world, Seamless calls for creation of a Bay Area regional agency run by a 15-member, appointed board of transit experts with a mandate and resources to coordinate the systems into a cohesive, easy-to-use network.

On one hand, it might be political fantasy to think powerful transportation officials would cede power for the greater good of the region. On the other hand, it’s the only meaningful option we have.

The Seamless analysis fills a void left by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which has failed to fulfill its mandate to coordinate Bay Area transit. The agency’s prior executive director, Steve Heminger, focused his 18-year reign on bridges, highways and building a personal empire rather than transit reform. And Therese McMillan, who replaced Heminger two years ago, has yet to put forth a plan.

Ultimately, however, the blame lies with the 21 MTC commissioners, mostly local elected officials more concerned with raising taxes and getting their cut of the revenue pie than changing the ineffectual transit status quo.

While MTC fiddles, BART is rushing to fill the void. That should alarm anyone who cares about public transit. BART has one of only four directly elected transit boards in the nation. Most of the directors focus on pleasing the labor unions that helped elect them rather than meaningful change.

As demonstrated by its passenger satisfaction surveys, pre-pandemic declining ridership, excessive labor contracts, deceit of the voters who approved their tax increases and attempts to block a voter-mandated independent auditor, BART can’t manage its own house, let alone the region’s.

Yet, using expected funds from bridge toll increases Bay Area voters approved in 2018 and money from property tax increases BART convinced its voters to approve in 2016, the rail system is plowing ahead with what it calls Link21.

Ostensibly to plan a second transbay passenger rail tunnel, the justification for questionable use of restricted toll and tax money, Link21 is actually a 21-county rail coordination project, with BART and Capitol Corridor at the helm, driving their self-interested trains. That’s not the objective, passenger-oriented policy planning the region needs.

Which is why Seamless Bay Area’s efforts are so critical. A non-profit funded by grants and contributions from groups such as Silicon Valley Community Foundation and American Public Transportation Association, Seamless analyzed options for governing a regional transit network.

The goal is “a seamless rider-first transit system” with, for example, common fare structures and integrated route planning. The group recommends a merger of BART, Caltrain, Golden Gate Transit, the Water Emergency Transportation Authority ferry system and Sonoma-Marin Area Rapid Transit.

That combined agency would be run by the appointed 15-member board of transit experts. It resembles what’s been done in Seattle, Toronto and Manchester, England.

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