Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The book on the top of our “Best Seller” list

Ok, it’s not really on the best sellers list and in fact, you can’t buy it at all. For those that are involved with delivering the People to People Ambassador Programs experience, it is most definitely on our “Must Read” list. I’m talking about the Ambassador Leader Travel Handbook that every leader who participates on our programs receives. They are now anxiously awaiting the arrival of the 2011 edition.

That's me with the Travel Handbook.

Leader Training
Each leader at People to People Ambassador Programs completes online training, similar to the ones completed by our students yet far more comprehensive. In addition, these leaders also come together in the fall to meet with their local Area Directors to receive hands-on training. Then in the spring prior to travel the leaders again come together, this time to focus on training specific to safely and effectively traveling around the world with forty eager and wonderful Student Ambassadors.

The Ambassador Leader Travel Handbook
The Ambassador Leader Travel Handbook has been around for years and is sent to every leader during the winter months. Each leader is required to read the manual from cover-to-cover prior to the in-person training so that they are fully up-to-date on any and all policy changes that may have taken place during the revision period. They then keep the Ambassador Leader Travel Handbook with them to refer to it during the actual program.

Revision Period

Immediately after the final student programs return home, The Delegate Care team lock themselves up in a room so they can review every single situation that came up during the travel season. Then they look to the Ambassador Leader Travel Handbook and determine how to edit, re-write, or in the event the issue is not already addressed, add a new policy to cover the new found situation. With over 40 years experience traveling students on these life changing adventures we have seen an incredible array of situations that can come up but we are always open for any new information that will help us be even more successful in caring for your child. We then spend the next couple of months reviewing this handbook to make sure it provides clear direction to the leaders to ensure the safest and most enjoyable travel experience for our students.

Examples of the Content

For example, on page 11, a leader can read about how to strengthen the bond and teamwork among the four leaders on the program. On page 14-18 you will find a “Checklist for Success” designed to support the leaders and outline the best methods for communicating with the Delegation Manager. On page 19 you will find the “No alcohol policy for all leaders.” All of chapter 4 is dedicated to helping the leaders deal with performance situations like what to do with a picky eater, or when can cell phones and iPods be used. Based on our many years of experience traveling students we have seen how many things students can come up with and we have a policy in this handbook for addressing the issue. Chapter 5 deals with “Safety Day-to-Day” and chapter 6 guides the leader through the process of seeking medical attention when it is called for. When a situation comes up with an ill child, we talk with the parents and when needed, take the student to a medical professional to clearly understand what the problem is.

Last year we had a few different students with more serious issue like being diagnosed with diabetes or epilepsy right on program. In these cases the leader did exactly what they are trained to do. They noticed a problem with the student and immediately contacted the program office. We then worked with the families and quickly made arrangements to have the child seen by a medical professional and the diagnosis was made. The book goes on to cover first-aid tips, accommodations, insurance information as well as pages and pages of very useful information for these leaders.

The Ambassador Leader Travel Handbook serves as our comprehensive resource for leaders to ensure that every student that travels on a People to People Ambassador program is safe and well cared for while in our care.

With that, I wish you all safe travels and a healthy life.

Mike Bowers
Senior Director of Health and Safety

Monday, December 13, 2010

The 32nd Annual United States Tour Operators Association meeting (USTOA)

People to People Ambassador Programs is a proud member of the United States Tour Operators Association, (USTOA). USTOA's motto is "Integrity in Tourism." Accordingly, the association has established some of the highest standards in the industry for their members to follow. Among the USTOA's goals is to foster a high level of professionalism within the tour operator industry, a vision shared by all of us here at People to People Ambassador Programs.

We have actively supported the USTOA for severak years, and this last year we provided leadership on the board. Last week, the USTOA came together this year in New Orleans for its annual conference, and many of us from the People to People Ambassador Programs were in attendance. Here are a few highlights:

The Annual Meeting
As a student educational travel provider that sends its delegates to over 40 countries and all 7 continents, we have to keep our pulse on the state of travel around the world to provide the best experiences for our delegations. As such, we actively track political and safety issues. In years past People to People Ambassador Programs has traveled delegations to Cuba, but it looks like a dead issue for this year. USTOA is working to simplify entry into Brazil. Currently, the process is lengthy and hampers tourism. I believe the group is working towards the point when you can get a visa upon arrival—just like Egypt does.

We all know that the global economy has been troubled. So, the membership committee also surprised everyone when they reported tour operators are reporting a 15% increase in business in the coming year. This news seems to indicate the economy my truly be on the rebound with people ready to travel again in large numbers.

We also learned that USTOA membership is up. Given USTOA's rigorous membership requirements, it's a good sign that standards are being more widely adopted.

The Board Meeting
During the annual board meeting which followed the annual meeting, we were all proud to hear that our own Willy Sennott, Director of Marketing Research for People to People Ambassador Programs, was elected to a two year Board of Director term. That's Willy pictured at left in the blue shirt.

The Board meeting was also the end of an era and the start of a new one. This past year the USTOA President, Bob Whitley, passed away on May 13, 2010. Bob touched so many lives and had so much love for the tourism industry. At the Opening Luncheon on December 10, the USTOA paid tribute to Bob for his 32 years of service.

After the committee update the members were introduced to their new President of the USTOA, Terry Dale (pictured at left). I personally had an opportunity to speak with Terry and I think he will be a wonderful addition and a strong leader of this important organization. His new position takes effect in late January, 2011. You can learn more about Terry's role at USTOA in this press release and this interview.

The next USTOA Annual conference & Marketplace will be held in December 2011. You can count on us being there to share what we experience to help all travel related organizations enhance their health and safety practices, and to gain from our peers any new process that ensures the safety of every People to People Ambassador Program delegate.

With that, I wish you all safe travels and a healthy life.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bag Jet Lag with Nutrition & Activity

The following is our latest post by April Davis, our resident travel nutrition blogger. Enjoy! - Mike

Jet lag is a common problem when traveling across time zones and may potentially occur during your child’s experience traveling abroad. The great news, however, is that there are several ways to combat or lessen the effects of jet lag through diet and activity. By sharing and heeding to the following information with your child leading up to their departure, you can help prepare them for the best experience possible with People to People Student Ambassador Programs.

Jet lag results from a disruption of the body’s rhythms and sleep-wake cycle. Studies have shown that a child’s prime functioning can be lost after crossing as few as one or two time zones. Symptoms of jet lag are generally more severe when traveling from west to east rather than in the opposite direction.

Typical Symptoms of Jet Lag

  • Fatigue
  • Disturbed sleep pattern
  • Poor concentration
  • Digestive problems
  • Irritability

Both the type of food consumed and timing of meals are important considerations in helping your child adapt to time zone shifts. Although the light-dark cycle is perhaps the most important signal involved in setting the body’s internal clock, the timing of meals and exercise are also vital. The types and amount of food eaten also have some impact. High-protein foods (beans, meat, dairy, fish, nuts, eggs, tofu) stimulate the adrenaline pathway and increase alertness, while helping to stabilize blood sugar and slow down absorption. High-carbohydrate foods (pasta, rice, bread, fruit) aid in serotonin production providing a feeling of drowsiness following ingestion of meals high in carbohydrate. Thus, what and when your child eats may influence the severity and duration of jet lag symptoms.

High-protein foods should be eaten whenever possible at breakfast time and higher-carbohydrate meals at night to help avoid jet lag. Stimulants, such as caffeine in tea and coffee, may be beneficial when taken in the mornings on arrival at the new destination, but are best avoided in the later part of the day. Drinking an adequate amount of fluids is also extremely beneficial, as dehydration can aggravate the symptoms of fatigue and jet lag.

[Image credit: Olastuen via Flickr]

Timeline to Minimize Jet Lag

Months Prior to Travel: Start moving and toning-up. Active individuals usually suffer less from the effects of jet lag, so be sure your child becomes and stays physically active in the months leading up to travel.

1 Week Pre-Travel: Get extra rest. Eat well-balanced meals at times closer to the destination meal times. Have your child begin to sleep, wake, and eat at hours a bit closer to that of the People to People Student Ambassador Program destination time zone. You can help adjust your child’s sleep-wake cycle over 6 days. Make half-hour increment changes each day, for a total adjustment time of up to 2.5 to 3 hours.

1 Day Pre-Travel: Pack healthy, light snacks and exercise for 60 minutes at a moderate intensity level. Save the snacks for the airport and between meals on the plane to maintain energy levels. Good, easy choices include trail mix with dried fruit, sports bars, peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread, or veggies with hummus dip. By engaging in moderate activity the day before departure, your child will be much more likely to get a good night’s sleep and feel fresh and alert for the journey ahead.

During Flight: Immediately adjust eating and sleep schedule to destination time zone. Keep hydrated and move around as much as possible. Let your child know that he/she should drink no less than 8 ounces of water every hour while flying to maintain hydration. While awake, get up and walk around at least once every 2 hours. Stretch and tap feet as frequently as possible. Set watch to destination time upon take-off. If your child consumes caffeine, only do so according to the destination time zone.

Upon Arrival: Eat high-protein meals for breakfast whenever possible and lunch and foods higher in carbohydrates and fiber for dinner. Spend time outdoors and stay active during the daylight hours. Attempt to keep the same hours as are typical of the new destination. Carry out as much of the usual home pre-bedtime routine as possible. Continue to drink lots of water and stay hydrated.

Safe travels!

By April D. Davis, RD, CD, ACSM CES®