The Trip Doctor

Episode 13: Travel with disabilities

Many travelers go on their vacations with little thought about what they are or are not able to do during their trip. For people with disabilities, it isn’t that simple. From people with mobility disabilities, to those with hearing or vision disabilities, to those with visible or invisible mental disabilities, it often takes an enormous amount of effort to plan and execute a successful vacation. My guest today is Dr. Simon Darcy – a professor at University Technology Sydney. He has been doing research for the last twenty plus years on travel with disabilities, and is working toward solutions to reduce the effort it takes for people with disabilities to travel. Dr. Darcy has found that various areas in the travel process require different levels of effort for those with varying disabilities, but the industry as a whole is slowly getting better at addressing the needs of travelers with disabilities.

Episode 12: Marijuana tourism

Last week, Michigan became the 10th state in the US to legalize marijuana for recreational use. As the first state in the Midwest to do so, it is likely to become a popular destination for marijuana tourists. Marijuana tourism has become big business for many other states that have legalized recreational use over the past several years, and researchers are struggling to keep up with what these legal changes mean for residents, tourists, and the industry. My guest today is Dr. Lorraine Taylor, an assistant professor at Ft. Lewis College in Colorado. She recently published a study titled ‘Defining marijuana tourism,’ and has been doing research on marijuana tourism in Colorado for the last four plus years. Dr. Taylor’s research has revealed a great deal about the impacts of marijuana tourism and just who a marijuana tourist is – and the results are  a little bit surprising.

Travel basics: Getting through airport security like a pro

We’ve all been there before. The person in front of us in the security line is either a very inexperienced traveler, hasn’t traveled since you could meet people arriving at their gate, or just has no clue about the bevy of rules and regulations that govern our airport experiences. Some issues you may run into if you’re behind a security slowpoke:

  • They wore tall lace up boots to the airport that take 5 minutes per foot to untie.
  • They’ve got three laptops and a tablet that they’ve left in their personal item and their carry on is full of bottles of various flammable liquids and their antique knife collection.
  • They’ve recently transported large quantities of fertilizer in all of their bags.
  • They have spare change strategically deposited in various hidden pockets among their clothing.

If any of those points don’t seem ridiculous to you, you may be the dreaded security slowpoke. Please don’t feel bad if you are – becoming more informed is what this website is all about. Whether you’re the security slowpoke or a seasoned pro, I’m going to cover two important areas in this post that should have value for everyone:

  1. What are the most important rules and regulations to know about?
  2. What else can I do to make my check in and security experience as painless as possible?

First things first, the most basic items of knowledge are the dos and don’ts of airport security. These days, there are a few simple rules everyone should follow (note: these rules are most applicable to travel in the U.S. – but similar regulations exist in a lot of other countries around the world:

  • You need to have your boarding pass and ID/Passport out to make it past an initial checkpoint to get to security screening where your person and bags will be screened for dangerous/prohibited items.
  • Liquids need to follow the 3-1-1 rule – meaning you can carry one quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes in your carry-on bag, and the liquid volume of those is limited to 3.4oz (100ml) per container. You have to remove this item from your carry on for screening when you go through security.
  • You need to take your shoes off when you go through security – it is best to wear comfy shoes that you can get off and on quickly.
  • You’ll also need to remove your belt, watch, jewelry and EVERYTHING out of your pockets. This is especially important as sometimes you’ll be asked to go through a metal detector (which your belt buckle/watch/jewelry/spare change would set off) or a full body scanner (which will pick up anything in any pockets, even sometimes the balls of lint that are left over from the dryer).
  • You need to remove laptops and tablets from your bags and place them in their own bin to be screened.
  • If you’re wearing a jacket, you’ll have to take it off to be screened as well.
  • You should review the prohibited items list to check and see if you’re packing any items that will set off alarms and be confiscated. Generally speaking, if it can be used to stab or shoot someone or if it could explode in any way, you should leave it at home (or at the very minimum, declare it to your airline and TSA to determine what you need to do in order to fly safely with it).

Its one thing to keep up on the latest rules and regulations that you’ll need to follow at the airport (actually, most of us probably don’t do this very often), and its another to have an efficient system to make sure you get through check in and security as painlessly as possible. I recommend the following tips to help you get through security quickly and easily:

  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes that can be removed easily.
  • While I’m waiting for the initial checkpoint to check my boarding pass and ID, I usually remove all of my metal items, belt, and all items from my pockets and put them in an easy access zipper pouch in the front of my personal item or carry on – that way I can be sure nothing will fall out or get lost when my items go through the x-ray machine for screening.
  • If you’re a couple traveling with kids, make a security plan of action – my wife and I like to have one person manage the kids while one person manages all of the bags and other items. A plan makes everything go much more smoothly during what can be a stressful time for families.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions – TSA people are generally very friendly and willing to answer any questions you may have. Different screening checkpoints will sometimes have individualized rules and regulations so it never hurts to ask.
  • Be friendly to security agents – remember that they are simply doing their jobs and are doing their best to keep everyone safe – even if what you’re experiencing may be more security theater than real security.
  • When you pick up your stuff after it has gone through the x-ray machine, don’t be afraid to grab everything and carry it to the area just past security – they usually have a ‘recombombulation area’ (one of my favorite travel related names of all time) where you can reorganize everything and make sure you didn’t lose anything.

Now that you’re well on your way to becoming a seasoned security pro, you might be wondering about all those special lines you see going through security or coming through customs on your return home. Stay tuned for my next blog post, where I’ll review TSA Precheck, Global Entry, CLEAR, and Mobile Passport to tell you which ones are worth it and which ones are not!



Episode 11: Imaginative Communities: Why some destinations captivate and others do not

Destinations like New York and Paris need no introduction – when people hear those names images like the statue of liberty and Eiffel tower easily come to mind. But what about other destinations across the globe that are coming into their own as places to visit? Places like Dubai, Bhutan, and Austin, Texas are becoming increasingly popular travel destinations, all because they are imaginative communities. My guest today is Dr. Robert Govers, author of the recently released book called Imaginative Communities: Admired cities, regions and countries. He’s been doing research on destination image and brand for more than twenty-five years, and has put those years of experience and expertise to good use writing his book about why some destinations captivate travelers and others do not.

Imaginative Community Tourism: 5 perspectives

By: Robert Govers, author of Imaginative Communities: Admired cities, regions and countries

Imaginative communities are neighborhoods, cities, regions and countries that reinforce or build local character and civic pride, while at the same time captivating outsiders (external publics). Imaginative communities have a strong sense of purpose that allows them to come up with mesmerizing, innovative, creative, compelling initiatives that capture peoples’ imagination while at the same time showcasing provenance. Examples are:

  • Estonia adapting its constitution to include internet access as a human right and allowing e-residency, to emphasize the country’s tech-savvy nature compared to other countries in the Baltic region.
  • Bhutan, a country where wellbeing has long been prioritized over material gain, inventing and institutionalizing the idea of gross national happiness.
  • Dubai’s man-made islands in the shape of palm trees, which traditionally represent the source of life in the region around the Arabian Gulf.
  • Austin’s South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival as a celebration of the city’s musical roots.
  • Finland creating its own set of emoticons to express emotional aspects of Finnishness on social media and on mobile devices anywhere in the world, reflecting the tech-savvy and quirky, fun-loving nature of the Finns.
  • The Van Gogh-inspired “starry night” cycle path in Eindhoven, the city of lights in the Netherlands. The path is paved with fluorescent stones that light up at night to resemble the painting by Van Gogh, who lived in the area.

There are several imaginative community perspectives to tourism:

  1. Tourists are more likely to visit imaginative communities. Projects, investments, policies or events that are intriguing, original and exciting will capture the world’s attention. Initiatives that are clearly identifiably “from somewhere” – i.e. exemplary of community character, positioning or identity – are more likely to build name awareness and reputation. As imaginative communities conquer mind space in tourism markets, they are more likely to attracts visitors. The palm island projects in Dubai, that could only be done there, captured the world’s imagination and positioned the region firmly on the tourist atlas. Whatever you may think of the projects from a sustainability perspective, they undeniably impacted out mental maps.
  1. The sense of purpose that drives imaginative communities can also inform a perspective to tourism policy making. A good example of this is Bhutan, where the drive for gross national happiness has had a tangible impact on tourism policy. While most countries subsidise tourism in order to attract visitors from abroad, Bhutan knew that the success of their happiness concept would drive tourism growth. Hence, they actually decided to impose a rule that tourists must book their trip through a licensed Bhutanese tour operator and that a US$200 per day (low season) and US$250 per day (high season) minimum package applies. Included in this price is a US$65 per day Sustainable Development Fee that goes towards free education, free health care and poverty alleviation. In other words, tourists are taxed significantly as a result of the government’s strict ‘high-value, low-impact tourism’ policy that protects the country’s culture, traditions and natural environment while benefitting local development (i.e. reinforcing gross national happiness).
  1. Imaginative community initiatives can be tourist attractions in their own right, besides building civic pride and profile. Austin’s South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival or the Van Gogh-inspired “starry night” cycle path in Eindhoven are favourite tourist destinations as visitors love to experience these appealing events and creations for themselves.
  1. Tourists will share their mesmerising experiences with others through social media and word-of-mouth, thereby reinforcing international name awareness and reputation. Tech savvy travellers who visited Finland love to use the Finnish emoticons like the quirky icons of a head-banger, a sauna and the unbreak­able classic Nokia 3310 mobile phone, icons that the world is familiar with. The dedicated emoji keyboard app and images have been downloaded around 300,000 times.
  1. When left unattended imaginative communities can also be crushed under their own success. Because they are well-known and admired, imaginative communities are on many peoples’ bucket list. It can therefore be appealing for policy makers to see tourism as an economic driver and to pick the low hanging fruit. Cities like Amsterdam or Barcelona have suffered from over-tourism as the drive for growth in numbers and a lack of government intervention has had a detrimental effect on the management of quality. It will be of interest to observe how these communities are going to maintain their civic pride and reputation in the long term.

It is clear that imaginative communities have to take into account the potential as well as the consequences of tourism. In some cases, for travellers, the advice might be: go there before it is too late; although I would hope that policy makers, with the use of technology, are smartening up.

More about Imaginative Communities on:

Episode 10: People First Tourism

You have an incredible number of options at your fingertips when you decide to travel. From individual businesses to meta-search engines, experiences vary widely. Companies like AirBnB and others have made it easier to find smaller family owned businesses that provide unique tourism experiences, but they can still sometimes be hard to come by. My guest today is Dr. Duarte Morais. Duarte is an Associate Professor at North Carolina State University. He has been conducting research on the intersection of tourism and microentrepreneurship as a method to empower small businesses in the tourism segment for the last several years. He has created a unique solution to the lack of access to tourism experiences provided by small and family businesses by creating an organization that partners business and research called People First Tourism. While the organization allows him to study the phenomenon of tourism microentrepreneurship, it also serves another purpose.

Episode 09: #travelingwhileblack

In the globalized travel environment of today, it is sometimes easy to forget that some groups of travelers have long been and are still yet sometimes marginalized during their travels. The #travelingwhileblack movement has grown to connect travelers who are interested in addressing marginalization and other issues faced by black travelers in the U.S. and abroad. My guest today is Dr. Alana Dillette, an assistant professor at San Diego State University.  Dr. Dillette has recently conducted several studies focusing on the #travelingwhileblack movement, and has attempted to understand the lived experiences of black travelers through their social media posts and interviews with travelers and travel companies. Her research has shown that while some destinations or organizations may still be less than friendly to people of color, travel now more than ever is providing opportunities for hosts and guests to interact and expand their historical and cultural world views. She has also found that social media provides an avenue of communication for travelers that may have previously been disconnected from each other to share their experiences.

The future of tourism

Imagine a future where people don’t travel to experience tourism. Thats where I see this going. Hear me out. I’m not talking about augmented reality. I’m not talking about virtual reality in its current form, either.  We already have both of those. We’ve had them for years. I’m talking full on ‘The Matrix’ style immersion into a place so real that your brain can’t tell you aren’t really there.

You might be sitting there thinking, “Don’t be ridiculous, The Matrix is just as unrealistic today as it was when it came out in 1999 (Yeah, it came out almost 20 years ago, isn’t that nuts?). But I’ve got news for you – it isn’t.  In 2010, we already had a headset that could read brainwaves and use them to control mechanical objects. Since then, things have gotten even more interesting. First there was Oculus Rift, then there were mass market virtual reality headsets made by HTC, Samsung, and others, and now experts are predicting we’re only about 30 years away or so from fully immersive virtual reality, which is the fancy science phrase for being in the matrix. Of course, there are quite a few pretty smart people out there that believe that, based on probabilities, we most likely already live in a simulation. If that is true and then we create immersive virtual reality within the simulation that we already live in…are we approaching ‘Inception’ levels of reality issues? That is a question for another day. The question I want to answer here is, what if fully immersive virtual reality really does become possible in the next 30 years?

Traveling without traveling could become the norm. Let’s think about the implications of that for you as a traveler. Let’s think about what that means for the economy, the environment, and society as a whole.

The Economy

Lets start with the economy. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, there were 1.3 billion international tourism arrivals in 2017, accounting for $1.6 trillion in exports, 1 out of every 10 jobs in the world, and 10% of the world’s GDP. If you’ve studied tourism, this probably doesn’t surprise you; if you haven’t, it might be a bit of a shock. The economic impact of tourism is HUGE – and some of those numbers do not include domestic tourism, which is much more common than international tourism. It is estimated that between 69% and 85% of all trips are domestic, but they are much harder to measure than international arrivals, so our data isn’t quite as accurate. It is difficult to imagine the economic ramifications of a tourism industry that shifts, even partly, to traveling without actually going anywhere. Of course, not all travel is for tourism purposes, but if even a small percentage of people who would have otherwise taken a trip did not, there would likely be an enormous loss of jobs and the benefits those jobs have across the economy. In an era where a great deal of service jobs in the tourism industry are already being lost to automation (Have you ever ordered your meal from a touchscreen device? Checked into your hotel and gotten your room keep on your phone and bypassed the front desk? Those two advances are already costing jobs), additional loss of a valuable source of employment could be catastrophic for some areas, especially those which are heavily depended on tourism like many sand, sea, and sun destinations.


The Environment

While the economic implications of a fully immersive virtual tourism experience may seem dire, the environmental impacts tend to skew toward the positive. If we’re being honest about the tourism industry, it isn’t great for the environment. The act of traveling, whether its in the car, on a train, on a boat, or by plane, consumes energy and creates other, less obvious strains on natural resources. When we travel, we also tend to be a little less frugal with our use of natural resources as well (who doesn’t like a little extra time in the shower under that waterfall shower-head we don’t have at home?). The point is, just like the vast majority of other industries, tourism is consumptive. So if a bunch of people all of the sudden are not traveling to travel anymore, thats a good thing. Right? Probably so, but there are also other hidden impacts to think about. One of the positive impacts that tourism has on the environment is that it gives us a reason to protect natural resources that people want to see in their travels. If we don’t actually need to go to a place to see it, that may eliminate the need to protect it. National Parks? Not really useful if you can plug in and be inside the Grand Canyon or scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef.

Society and the travel experience

Societal impacts are where things get a little bit more tricky. There are all sorts of well-documented societal impacts of tourism on the negative side there are impacts from cultural appropriation to traffic and crowding and on the negative side to cultural preservation and increased quality of life on the positive side (check out this page for a review). One of the big reasons people travel is to experience culture, and culture is complicated. It includes architecture, language, food, religion, festivals, and so much more. So the question is, if travel becomes virtual, who decides what the virtual experience entails? How do you program how a scratch cooked meal from a recipe handed down generations tastes? And what about social interactions? One of the great things about travel is the unexpected interactions with someone at a grocery store or on the sidewalk or on a tour. Do those interactions go away in a fully immersive virtual trip? Or will we have ‘hosts’ plugging in to the virtual experience as well? What about interactions with people you’re traveling with? Can you and your friends plug into the same ‘trip’ and have your travel experience together like you normally would?

The bottom line

If the future is indeed going to be fully immersive virtual reality travel experiences, there is sure to be upheaval in the tourism industry. There are all sorts of questions to be answered about who decides what goes into a virtual travel experience and what that means for places where tourism plays an important economic, environmental, and sociocultural role. Technology will likely continue to move forward at a blistering pace, and we need to think about how to address these implications before they become a reality.

Episode 08: Surf tourism

Have you ever heard the terms lineup, dropping in, or getting snaked? If not, you might have a lot to learn before you get on a board and try your hand and surfing while you travel. Whether it is your first time or you’re a regular on the waves, surfing while you travel is a great option to get some exercise, get a feel for the local beach culture, and meet new and interesting people. As surf tourism has grown rapidly over the past several years, there is an increasing amount of research being done about cultural norms at surf breaks and impacts of surf tourism on people, the economy, and the environment. My guest today is Dr. Lindsay Usher, an assistant professor at Old Dominion University in Norfolk Virginia. Lindsay is an amateur surfer and former professional kayak surfer, and does research on surf tourism throughout the world. Lindsay took the time to talk to me about her research on the impacts of surf tourism, and has some great tips about surf etiquette if you’re thinking about giving it a shot.

Episode 07: The impacts of AirBnBs

Traditional Bed and Breakfasts have been around for centuries, and in many ways, they are one of the earliest forms of accommodation in existence. Fast forward to 2007 and the advent of AirBnB, which has turned the tourism industry on its head over the last 10 years. Destinations across the globe have grappled with the rapid growth and regulation of short-term vacation rentals (known colloquially as AirBnBs). Various approaches have been taken, lawsuits have been filed, and court battles continue to rage about the legality of AirBnBs from the perspective of cities, owners and operators, travelers, and community members. Meanwhile, researchers are still trying to figure out exactly how and why short-term vacation rentals impact the communities in which they reside. My guest today is Dr. Emily Yeager, an assistant professor at East Carolina University. Emily has conducted several studies on the impacts of AirBnBs, and while much of what you’ll read about in the news shows them in a negative light, she found a balance between the positives and negatives.