Posts tagged with "traveling"

Shin Thompson via NU Marketing for use by 360 MAGAZINE

CHEF SHIN THOMPSON

Listen to 360 MAG Vaughn Lowery and Chef Shin Podcast: HERE

Chef Shin Thompson was an underground Cookman turned Michelin star chef in Chicago for his Chicago Restaurant. Although he spends most of his career in Chicago. He now recently moved to LA to start a new Japanese BBQ restaurant.

The challenge he had to have to earn the star for the restaurant in Chicago is that you must be able to cook well for 365 days. Chef Shin Thompson felt accomplished that the people were able to realize the passion that he has for the food. He said, “It was a great feeling to be recognized for all the hard work that went over the years.”

At first, he got interested in being a chef because of his parents. He said, “My dad was really big into cooking at home and replicating recipes from his travels and so really where I got interested in it.”

As a child, he would spend most of his time traveling with his dad. He said, “I first got exposed to food from all the different travels, my dad used to take me out of school for weeks at a time…so take me out of school and we just learn about different cultures, and we traveled all over Europe and all over Asia.”

His family comes from a Japanese household; therefore, it played a huge role in introducing him to the food. “My mother is Japanese, so anybody who’s in a Japanese family will tell you that food is a big part of the culture in Japan and is a heritage to be a big cook if you’re Japanese. So, my mom was always cooking Japanese food and my dad was always cooking food from all of these different cultures, so I got exposed to a lot of different things at a young age.” He spoke.

While he works on a restaurant tour, he introduces us to his challenges and thoughts on what means to succeed in the restaurant business. He said, “The interesting part about the restaurant business that I find fascinating is it takes different skills sets, so you need to be an artist from the chef perspective you need a business person that can really understand the numbers and the food costs, labor costs, you need marketing and being able to or more like psychology getting into the mind of the people who coming into the restaurant.”

According to Chef Shin Thompson, the restaurant will have private rooms with “Asian-looking screens.” Along with the modern look and Japanese style. It will have the décor of “Japanese charred wood, which is called Shou Sugi Ban, which is a Japanese technique that is used in ancient times, where they actually charred the wood and they would use it for the siding in their homes” he said. It’s good for resisting fire. The reason is that there is nothing to burn since the wood is already charred.

For the menu, “The BBQ grill menu is about $148 dollars for domestic tasting, which includes full meal” he said. There will be an A5 version that is not domestic, however, it will more expensive. In Japan, having a restaurant being A5 means the best.

Some of the upgrades that are still in progress are the “wine cellar that we will have in the middle of the dining room, as well as several dry agers that will be built in the wall as a display.” Therefore, when a guest walks in, they will see the dry agers that will have meat.

One piece of advice that Chef Shin Thompson gives to young chefs is “there are a lot of sacrifices that you need to put in as a young chef and in order to make sure it is worthwhile, you need to be 100% passionate about what you do.”

Travel illustration by Samantha Miduri for use by 360 Magazine

3 Ways Technology Will Change How We Book Travel

The travel and hospitality sectors are in the midst of a massive technological transformation that will affect how you book travel and stay at hotels moving forward. Tech savvy customers will come to expect the convenience that artificial intelligence brings. This vision is what I like to call ‘high-tech automation with high-touch personalization and customization.’

Here are three mega-trends leading the way toward realizing this vision:

Artificial Intelligence Will Personalize Your Travel Booking Experience 

Online travel agencies (i.e. Expedia, Booking, or my company HotelPlanner) are working toward becoming smarter, more seamless and more personalized and customized than ever before. Access to increasing amounts of data is transforming the customer experience for online booking, allowing for smarter search functionality and better tailored results for each unique customer.

As for the top customer concerns of price and flexibility, the solutions brought by AI can lead to enhanced hotel inventory connectivity to deliver better price accuracy and more real-time options to fit any budget.

For example, the hotel booking engines of the future will already know you want a hotel with a good gym or pool, that’s pet friendly or eco-friendly, or has some other amenity, feature, or price point that’s important to you.

Voice-Enabled Services Will Grow With the Rise of the ‘Internet of Things’

AI-driven advancements in natural language recognition are making voice search the industry’s next big trend. Voice activation will continue to expand with the rise of the Internet of Things and smart homes, smart cars and smart offices.

For example, at the height of the pandemic, my company launched what we believe is the next generation of call center customer service:  a 24/7 global gig-economy based call center connected to customers through AI-enabled VOIP. This voice-enabled technology allows us to connect the right customer with the right agent to provide personalized service, and to convert more sales of course.

And now you can even use Alexa to make a hotel reservation. (Give it a try and please email your feedback to feedback@hotelplanner.com).

Big Data & Predictive Analytics Will Know You Better Than You Know Yourself

Data is king, but only if you know how to interpret the data in real-time for ‘actionable intelligence’ as they say in the military. Travel technology firms and hotels will employ predictive data analytics and advanced machine learning solutions to anticipate and then deliver more bespoke services based on each customers’ unique needs and wants.

For example, at hotels this might include contactless check-ins, Alexa devices in your hotel room, or perhaps the hotel gym’s personal trainer offers you a free session since the hotel already knows that health & fitness is important to you.

For online travel agencies, they will focus on a more personalized user experience to engender your customer trust and loyalty. So when you go to search for a hotel, the site already knows exactly the type of hotel you want based on previous bookings or your unique digital footprint.

These are just a few examples of how technology is rapidly evolving to meet the current and future needs of travelers who are now expecting a more tech-savvy and personalized experience.

Written by John Price, Co-Found and CIO, HotelPlanner

 

John Price headshot via Christine Lenzo for use by 360 MAGAZINE
Rita Azar for use by 360 MAGAZINE

ERIC CANTONA LAUNCHES LOOKING FC

Former captain of Manchester United Eric Cantona announced the launch of his very own travel brand in collaboration with DHARMA, the travel organization that has released travel brands such as Equinox and Culture Trip.

Cantona commented on the inspiration for the travel brand, stating, “Our idea was to create the most passionate football trips on earth, with charisma and soul. Everything today is optimized for price – we wanted to optimize for passion.”

Looking FC, named after the Looking For documentary series produced by Cantona and his brothers (Canto Bros Productions), includes 4-day trips produced by Cantona himself. Guests are taken along an exclusive experience traveling global football cities through the point-of-view of the world’s leading clubs and their devoted fans. Each trip concludes with a Game Day experience seated in the passion sections of stadiums showcased for big League and Champions League competitions. If the Game Day experience wasn’t enough, trips also consist of immersive experiences like fan chant workshops, sports-themed graffiti tours and method briefings with journalists.

The nine trips included this season consist of Manchester (United), Buenos Aires (Boca), Liverpool (Liverpool), Milan (Inter), Madrid (Real Madrid), Barcelona (Barca), Paris (PSG), Lisbon (Sporting), and Casablanca (Raja), with thrilling events planned including Liverpool v Manchester United at Anfield, a Real Madrid v FC Barcelona El Clásico at Bernabeu, and a PSG v Marseille Le Classique at the Parc des Princes. Scheduling is intended for groups but is available to be booked privately to enjoy with your friends and families.

Pricing starts at 1,290 Euros per person based on double occupancy. Included in each ticket is all accommodations, experience, most meals, guides and game tickets.

Looking FC showcases the use of a people, plant and profit approach; in the first-of-its-kind partnership with Common Goal, Looking FC will donate 1% of its returns to fund the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals Initiative. The trips are designed with intention to strengthen local businesses, and each trip is carbon offset through Thrust Carbon.

About DHARMA

DHARMA is an emerging travel brand that creates one-of-a-kind experiences. Entering a pivotal period of growth for the company, DHARMA is creating relationships with brands at the top of social markets to continue their purpose of uniting the people of the world through the “power of shared experience.”

CXO and co-founder of DHARMA Leah Howe spoke on the company, stating, “DHARMA brings the passion economy to the travel space by applying the people-buy-people mantra that has been tried and tested for products to experiences. When you build an experience for a specific community it is hyper-personalized. Am I going on a fitness trip curated by my favorite wellness instructor, or a culinary trip curated by a star chef, or on a football trip designed by my idol? The future of travel is social.”

About Eric Cantona

The French football player Eric Cantona has been in the spotlight since the beginnings of his career. Cantona’s football career took off when he was 15, and he started playing with Auxerre during the 1983-84 season. Later in his career during 1993, Cantona played a vital role in Manchester’s first league title in 26 years. Cantona was voted the greatest ever Manchester United player by Inside United magazine. After his retirement from football, Cantona began his career as an actor. In 2009 he played himself in ‘Looking for Eric,’ directed by Ken Loach that won a British Independent Film Award.

Marita Kelly for use by 360 MAGAZINE

PANAMA RANKS AS NO.1 RETIREMENT DESTINATION

In accordance with International Living’s 31st Annual Global Retirement Index, Panama has been named the world’s #1 destination for 2022. This Index, produced in accordance with numerous statistics and on-the-ground input from in-country correspondents, ranks and rates the world’s leading retirement locations. The index surveys 10 major categories that include cost of living, retiree benefits, healthcare and more.

Panama snatches the top spot in InternationalLiving.com’s 2022 Annual Global Retirement Index. Panama capped the categories of opportunity, visa/ residency and benefits/ discounts, while scoring at the top amongst the fitting in and healthcare categories.

For such a small country, Panama is truly emerging – this marks the 11th time that Panama has dominated in International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index, for all the right reasons.

In 2022, Panama ranks as one of the simplest retirement destinations for travel from the United States or Canada. Panama City, the capital of Panama, is the one true First World city in Central America. Easy access to Panama from all over the U.S. increases the flexibility for travel, with several one-way flights available across the U.S., and cities in Canada and Europe. The modernity of Panama is only a short three hours from Miami, and five hours from New York. Not to mention, the currency is also the U.S. dollar!

Jessica Ramesch, the International Living Panama editor reflects on her experience in the country, stating, “as a single woman I feel safe and free to live my life here, whether I’m going out to dinner and Ubering home late at night or driving cross-country to visit friends. Perhaps that’s because this is truly a land of opportunity, home to thousands of hard-working, upwardly mobile locals and immigrants.”

Ramsech continues her advocation for Panama, touching on the accessibility, indulgences, and credibility of the country. She states, “My favorite spot right now is Coronado, a happening beach town just an hour’s drive from the capital. In fact, I like it so much I bought an apartment there, and am packing up to move. Coronado is home to one of Panama’s most active and welcoming expat communities. I’m not even there yet, and I’m already getting invites to potlucks and happy hours.”

No matter where retirees choose to live in Panama, Ramesch says, they’re likely to be only an hour away from hospitals. In Coronado there’s access to the San Fernando facility. It’s a satellite of the San Fernando in Panama City—a JCI-accredited hospital affiliated with the Miami Children’s Hospital, Baptist Health International of Miami, and Tulane University Health Services Center and Hospital Clinic.

“Panamanian doctors make patients feel truly cared for,” says Ramesch. “They don’t rush through appointments, and they’ll often give you their cell phone number so you have direct access to them while you’re going through treatment or recovery.

“In fact, I’d say Panamanians in general are the best part of living in Panama. I have made so many wonderful friends here. People who are welcoming and fun and have a wide range of interests, so the conversation is always engaging.”

According to International Living, one of the most attractive features of living in Panama stems from the Pensionado program suitable for retirees.

Ramesch declares her support for the program, declaring, “the Pensionado program is, hands down, the best retirement visa program in the world. It’s a big reason Panama has taken the number one spot on International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index so many times.”

Part of the reason for why Panama continues to steal those number one spots is due to the discounts that retirees with this visa have access to. The program makes it exceptionally simple – and inexpensive – to become a permanent legal resident. All of Panama’s legal residents are permitted to 20% off prescription medications if they’re of “pensioner” age. The base age is remarkably low, too – just 55 for women, 60 for men.

The Pensionado advantages expand to other discounts on dental care and transportation. Other leisure’s such as entertainment and hotel stays are available at low-cost rates, too.

Applicants with income of at least $1,000 a month qualify for the Pensionado program, and once you’re approved, you can appreciate all of the reductions.

“If you’d like to apply with your spouse, you can qualify with less than $1,000 each. You can even include dependents if you need to,” says Ramesch. “You just need a pension of at least $1,000 plus $250 for each additional person on your application.

“The $1,000 pension requirement reflects the low cost of living here in Panama. While it’s true that most of the North Americans who’ve chosen to retire here spend upwards of $2,000 a month, there are expats living here on far less.”

There are great areas in Panama that have rent prices as low as $300 to $500 a month, leaving extra money for retirees to spend elsewhere.

For those not 100% ready to make the permanent move just yet, Panama has a variety of alternatives for legal residency.

“The country has just unveiled a new extended-stay visa for digital-nomad types: The Temporary Telework Visa,” Ramesch says. “It allows you to come down and stay here—not for three months or even six, but for nine months. And you can extend for an additional nine months. That’s a generous total of 18 months, and the main requirements are simple: you must have medical insurance and an external source of income (at least $3,000 a month).”

Panama, too, has a “Foreign Professionals” Visa that has been available for over eight years. It allows foreign nationals to work in Panama, with easy requirements; you need a university education and a job arranged in Panama.

Though Panama ranks at the top in this year’s Annual Global Retirement Index, there are 25 other countries that were evaluated in the 10 categories used for judging, including; housing, benefits/ discounts, visa/residence, cost of living, fitting in/ entertainment, healthcare, development, climate, opportunity and governance. The full index country rankings for the year of 2022 can be found HERE.

Rita Azar for use by 360 Magazine

Travel Tips During the Holidays

Travel Preparedness Expert Cheryl Nelson has generated a few travel tips to keep you and your family safe during the holidays! Let’s break down these travel tips.

Packing

Nelson encourages holiday travelers to not overpack! Ensuring that you and your traveling party have not overpacked can save a lot of time, stress and even money. Make sure that you only pack what you really need and know you will use! If you are traveling by plane and must check a bag, know your airline’s weight restrictions prior to check in. If you’re traveling with a roller bag, make sure that you can lift that bag into the overhead bin by yourself. If you also plan on buying more items on your trip, make sure to save extra space in your suitcase.

Another specific tip that Nelson has is to roll your clothes when packing them instead of folding. This surprisingly saves a lot of room!

When packing your medications, try not to pack every single medication or supplement bottle. Pack your pills in a pill container or small bags and label them. Nelson recommends keeping a cold shortening product with Zinc on-hand, such as Zicam, to deliver general health while traveling.

Vaccination cards

Travel expert Nelson recommends having your physical vaccination card on hand when traveling this holiday seasons. Some states and even restaurants (like New York City) require proof of vaccination, so it’s best to do your research on the area you’re traveling to beforehand. Definitely make note to bring your vaccination card when traveling outside of the U.S. Nelson also urges travelers to make copies of both the front and back of the card, and to also keep a spare copy in your luggage as well as at your home. Another smart tip would be to take photos of the card to keep on your smartphone.

Nelson suggests keeping your card in a sleeve like this to ensure its protection. She also advises to not laminate the card as there is a potential to add to the card with future booster shot information.

Read the updated CDC guidelines

Continue to consider the plans of your travel leading up to the anticipated dates of travel. Evaluate the amount of people you may be around, if there are COVID-19 outbreaks in the location and if there are specific restrictions in your place of travel. Although traveling by air is not risk-free, Nelson believes that traveling on a commercial airline to be safe. The cabin’s air is run through a HEPA filter and refreshed every few minutes, and airlines also still require masks as protection tactics.

Be mindful of others around you

Prioritize good personal hygiene throughout your trip. Wash your hands in warm water for at least 20 seconds, carry hand sanitizer and use it after touching common surfaces. If you are vaccinated and still feel more protected by wearing a mask, wear a mask. Throughout the duration of your trip, continue to make time for rest. Drink a lot of water and don’t forget to exercise, even by just walking. Remember that it is OK to give yourself a mental break! Nelsons encourages travelers to relax, and

Art by Kaelen of 360 for use by 360 Magazine

FinnAir Introduces Business Light Ticket

Finnair brings more choice to customers, introduces Business Light ticket

Finnair will introduce a totally new Business Light ticket and renew its other ticket types on 15 June, addressing the increasing trend for personalization of the travel experience.  

Customers can choose a ticket for their needs from three ticket types – Light, Classic and Flex – that are available for both Business and Economy Class for all short-haul and most intercontinental journeys. When booking a ticket, customers select the travel class experience they prefer and the level of flexibility for making reservation changes – along with some additional services included in the ticket. The rest of the experience can be tailored with a wide selection of travel extras. 

There is an increasing need to personalize the travel experience, and our new ticket types offer opportunities for choice and tailoring says Ole Orvér, Chief Commercial Officer, Finnair. We want to offer our customers journeys that look like them, and we will be adding more choice and personalization opportunities to our offering as we re-introduce services and prepare for ramp-up of our operations.  

Business Light is a totally new ticket type designed especially for leisure travelers who want to travel light and affordably while enjoying Business Class comfort. Business Light includes carry-on baggage only. Reservation changes, refunds, airport priority services, lounge access and onboard internet are not included in the ticket price. Customers can always elevate their experience by choosing the travel extras that matter most for them.  

The Classic ticket is the most popular option allowing ticket date changes and including one piece of checked baggage. With a Classic ticket bought on 15 June or later, customers can make travel date changes flexibly, paying only the possible fare difference between the original and new tickets. A refund is not possible in the case of a customer cancelling their reservation.  

The Flex ticket is a fully flexible and refundable ticket option serving those whose plans can change. When changing travel dates with a Flex ticket, customers only pay the possible fare difference between the original and new tickets. In case a customer wants to cancel their trip, the ticket will be refunded. Flex tickets include checked baggage and advance seat reservation. A Flex ticket bought after 15 June doesn’t include airport priority services. 

Customers who purchased their tickets before 15 June will travel with their original tickets and the benefits that were included with them. Due to the coronavirus situation, Finnair offers all customers with bookings made latest on 31 August 2021 extra flexibility for travel date changes. 

More information is available at FinnAir’s website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube

About Finnair

Finnair is a modern premium network airline, specialising in passenger and cargo traffic between Asia and Europe. Helsinki’s geographical location gives Finnair a competitive advantage, since the fastest connections between many European destinations and Asian megacities fly over Finland. Finnair is the only Nordic network carrier with a 4-star Skytrax ranking and a member of the oneworld alliance. In 2019, Finnair’s revenues amounted to EUR 3,098 million and it carried over 14.7 million passengers. Finnair Plc’s shares are quoted on the Nasdaq Helsinki stock exchange.

Good Pharma Rest Assured product image via Angela Drinkwater for use by 360 Magazine

GOOD PHARMA TRAVEL PRODUCTS

IN YOUR POST-PANDEMIC TRAVELS YOU MIGHT WANT TO CONSIDER THIS HELPFUL TRAVELING COMPANION – GOOD PHARMA

As more and more people pull away from their pandemic pasts and step toward travel adventures for business and pleasure, they should consider bringing along products that can help them feel a bit cozier. Just like the comforts of home, these products can help people relax, rest and stay well during their travels. Wherever travelers roam once again, these products can make them feel like they’re having a spa-like experience in their hotels and on their planes.

We were recently introduced to Good Pharma’s line of products that would help these efforts quite a bit. Good Pharma Rest Assured has everything one needs to try to get a  good night’s sleep after a long journey. Good Pharma Resilience gives users a much-needed boost to immunity along the way. Good Pharma Brain Gain grants the ever-needed ability to perk up and focus after a flight and while on the go.

Good Pharma offers coffee and tea infusions with functional mushrooms and botanicals which help with sleep, the immune system and focus. Good Pharma Rest Assured is a caffeine-free, tasty tea infusion which supports the restorative sleep you thrive on. Good Pharma Resilience allows you to support your immune system daily. Good Pharma Resilience is a rich, fresh brew of Chaga Mushroom, green tea and supportive botanicals, all offering powerful antioxidants. Good Pharma Brain Gain is a fresh brew coffee infusion, enhanced with Lion’s Mane Mushroom extract, which supports the brain and offers a “jitter free” journey in getting your creative juices flowing.  The company’s mantra is that it deliciously revives old-world wellness practices from “Nature’s Pharma” with the power of modern science. A vibrant life thrives with proactive practices of self-care, liberating what’s possible from the inside out. Good Pharma’s Pour-Over Fresh Brews engage the senses in a satiating ritual, elevating you to the top of your game and helping you revel in a powerfully effective, yet craveable, path to a balanced, optimized life on the road!

Good Pharma Brain Gain product image via Angela Drinkwater for use by 360 Magazine

Good Pharma Resilience product image via Angela Drinkwater for use by 360 Magazine

travel illustration by Gabrielle Marchan for use by 360 Magazine

Tourism Trends in 2021

What’s Ahead for Travel and Tourism? 5 Trends to Look For in 2021 and Beyond

By: Stefan Read, SVP Engagement Advisory and Strategy Practice Lead at Jackman

As vaccines continue to roll out and people begin to see a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, many consumers are starting to think of travel. A recent survey by CivicScience found that as of March 2021, nearly 6 in 10 US adults say they’d be willing to travel in the next five months. This is very promising, but much has changed in the past year and several aspects of consumer behavior have been permanently altered. In order to succeed in the new post-Covid world, travel and hospitality brands must understand the new and emerging trends impacting this industry. Below are the top trends and customer behaviors that we will see in 2021 and beyond as travel begins to ramp up again.

  1. Cleanliness: Unsurprisingly, travelers now say that cleanliness is their top priority when selecting hotels and flights. In November 2020, Booking declared that short-term or holiday rentals have to meet a minimum cleanliness standard by May 2021, or have their properties delisted. Airbnb and VRBO created new cleaning procedures for hosts to follow in the pandemic. Even after the pandemic ends, cleanliness will remain top of mind for travelers as the anxiety around COVID and other illnesses have now become part of our new reality. Travel and hospitality brands can do their part by communicating detailed and specific information with travelers about the cleaning procedures they have in place, and making sure the procedures can be clearly observed by guests. Hotels and property hosts should also adjust their change and refund policies to allow guests to cancel at the last minute in case of a future outbreak. Brands that prioritize the health and well-being of guests over profits will win when it comes to customer loyalty and safety.
  2. Wellness Tourism: Cleanliness goes hand in hand with wellness, and wellness tourism will keep growing over the next couple of years as people continue to seek out travel for the purpose of promoting health and well-being through physical, psychological, or spiritual activities. According to the Global Wellness Institute, wellness tourism will be worth $919 billion by 2022, representing 18 percent of all tourism globally. Brands should start to think about what services or experiences they can create or enhance that will attract these wellness travelers, such as transforming outdoor spaces to become open air yoga studios or hiring meditation or massage experts available for guests to utilize during their stay.
  3. Staying Close to Home: It’s no surprise that during the pandemic traveler preferences shifted toward the familiar. Backpacking through Europe was no longer feasible, so travelers instead opted for domestic destinations and were more thorough in their planning. A recent AirBnB survey revealed that 56 percent of consumers prefer a domestic or local destination and one in five Americans say they want their destination to be within driving distance of home. As a result, road trips will boom – in fact, 59 percent of families say they’re more likely to drive than fly on their next trip. Smaller hotels can compete with the big hotel chains by highlighting the local aspect of their experience and engaging meaningfully with the community they’re in. They might also consider banding together to help people plan fun road trips along specific routes. Travel and hospitality brands can help take some of the anxiety off of travelers by playing a more active role in the planning aspect of the guests’ travel.
  1. Traveling to Connect: The door is open for brands to play a more meaningful role in the travel plans for customers as Airbnb anticipates 2021 being the year of “meaningful travel.” It’s not the act of getting on a plane, standing in long line ups, and visiting crowded tourist attractions that people miss about travel. Rather, it’s the element of social connection – reuniting with old friends, spending time with family, and experiencing something new with loved ones. For a significant percentage of AirBnB survey respondents, their definition of meaningful travel has changed since the pandemic to become even more focused on being with loved ones. These people also say they intend to travel more after the pandemic, with nearly one in two (46%) saying they will travel more for pleasure, such as by going on vacation and to visit family. Brands should consider helping with family reunion planning and continue to be mindful of ways to bring families together while still maintaining a clean and safe environment.
  2. Eco-Tourism: Defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people and involves education,” eco-tourism is on the rise. Consumers are taking on the role of “concerned citizens” demanding responsible travel policies, and we’re seeing a shift in behavior and sentiment toward appreciating the earth and what it has to offer. Moving forward, people will be thinking more mindfully about the way they travel, why they travel, and where they go. Rather than trying to fit as many destinations as possible into one trip, many consumers will opt for longer stays, choosing to get to know the local communities, cultures, cuisines, and landscapes.

The world of travel and tourism has been forever altered by the pandemic and lockdowns. With some valuable insights into how customer behaviors and desires have changed, travel and hospitality brands can find new, creative ways to appeal to travelers. The five trends listed above are a great place to start when looking to understand the ways these industries will continue to change moving into 2021 and beyond.

Cherry Blossom illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Cherry Blossoms Celebrated

FROM HUMAN CHESS TO PADDLEBOARDING:
UNIQUE WAYS CHERRY BLOSSOMS ARE CELEBRATED THROUGHOUT JAPAN

With the much-anticipated arrival of their delicate pink flowers, the cherry trees blossoming in Japan is a yearly spectacle. According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, cherry blossoms in Tokyo are expected to bloom on March 15th this year. Associated with renewal and the coming spring, the cherry blossoms (or sakura) spur a variety of unique celebrations and experiences throughout the country, with many cities and towns forming their own yearly traditions and unique ways to see the cherry blossoms.

Cruise the Matsukawa River, Toyama Prefecture

Travelers can enjoy hanami (the custom of flower viewing in Japan) as well as the beautiful landscapes of Toyama Prefecture on a special cruise along the Matsukawa River. During cherry blossom season, cruises on the river drift along with the relaxing current and make their way through tunnels of cherry blossom trees. Cruises begin and end outside of the Matsukawa Tea House, so travelers can enjoy a nice cup of tea after a peaceful afternoon of hanami.

Horse-Drawn Carriage Ride Through Kitakami Tenshochi Park, Iwate Prefecture

A massive park spanning over 700 acres, the Kitakami Tenshochi Park has been a favorite for hanami among both locals and travelers for decades. 2021 is the 100th anniversary of the park’s opening and there is a myriad of ways for travelers to see the cherry blossoms, such as taking a riverboat cruise, or taking a ride on a horse-drawn carriage underneath the “tunnel of pink.” Cherry blossom branches stretch out from the trees on both sides of the walkway and form a floral tunnel that travelers can traverse

Human Chess Match at Tendo Sakura Matsuri, Yamagata Prefecture

Ninety percent of Japanese chess pieces, or shogi, are produced in the city of Tendo. Every April, as over 2,000 cherry blossoms bloom, locals and travelers gather to watch a human chess match, or shogi battle, in Maizuru Park, where two professional chess players compete with humans dressed as samurai and servants in place of chess pieces. The festival also features taiko (Japanese drum) performances and delicious festival food like yakisoba noodles and takoyaki balls.

Stand-up Paddleboarding in Shiga Prefecture

In Kyoto, travelers who want to partake in hanami can go stand-up paddleboarding on Lake Biwa to see cherry blossoms bloom along the coast. Shirahage SUP at the Shirahige Beach Campsite offers travelers the opportunity to see the cherry blossoms directly from the crystal blue waters of Lake Biwa.

Moka Railway Ride in Tochigi Prefecture

The city of Moka in Tochigi Prefecture is perhaps most known for the Moka Railway, which has been operating for over 100 years. During the spring when cherry blossoms begin to bloom, the railway line becomes a popular attraction since its track is almost completely surrounded by cherry blossoms and rape flowers. Travelers can book a trip on the scenic railway between Mogi station and Shimodate station for an unforgettable hanami ride.

Boating Under Hirosaki Castle, Aomori Prefecture

Hirosaki Castle is well-known as a top destination for hanami. Since local apple farmers prune the cherry trees the same way they do apples, the trees end up with two to three times more flowers than normal. To see the lush, pink flowers, guests often rent a rowboat and sail it out on the river surrounded by cherry blossoms. The sparkling river coupled with the towering castle and the bright petals makes for a fairy tale to come to life.

Noh Plays at Night, Tokyo

Under the lovely cherry blossoms of Yasukuni Shrine, a stage is set and traditional plays called noh are performed. These plays often date back to the 14th century and include kyogen (comedic spoken dramas) and maibayashi (a shorter version of noh with music). Performed, under the yozakura (cherry blossoms at night), the plays are enhanced by the atmosphere of the lit-up blossoms and the bonfire, two integral elements of this experience. Japan’s top actors and actresses are known to take the stage.

Events and experiences above are subject to change due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For updates on travel restrictions to Japan, please visit the website.