Stories that inspire: my travel bucket list

I remember growing up it was nearly impossible to get our entire family to decide on a destination. That’s because we all had different ideas of the perfect getaway. In the end, my mom usually called the shots. Today though, I’m calling the shots (sorry, Mom.)

Working at for two years now, I’ve seen countless guest stories that inspire me to travel. Below are just a few of my favorites that made my must-do bucket list.

Alyeska Resort – Girdwood, Alaska

“Ski day with a view! Beer apreś ski, who would say no?” — Marlene P.

Hit the slopes

I’ve only been skiing once, and it wasn’t pretty. However, when I took a peek at the stories from Alyeska Resort’s guests, I can’t help but want to give it another shot. Plus, Jeff, our CMO and seasoned skier, shared some of his pointers over so I’m feeling pretty confident about my new moves.

Turtle Bay Resort – Kahuku, Hawaii

“Where better to make family memories with our kids. If summer has to end, this was the way to end it.” — Christine B.

Catch a sunset

When I look at the guest stories from Turtle Bay Resort, I already begin to feel like I’m on vacation—they’re that inspiring.

Gunflint Lodge & Outfitters – Grand Marais, Minnesota

“I liked the fact that Gunflint took care of everything and provided first rate equipment.” — David B.

Canoe Gunflint

Gunflint is a place my entire family would enjoy (even my mom). I’d have to take a trip out to Judge C.R. Magney State Park and snag a few photos before taking these canoes out for a sunset ride.

Red Mountain Resort – Ivins, Utah

“I loved all the people we met, the staff and the variety of activities to choose from. My favorite day was the day we went canyoneering. It was so much fun!” — Lana F.

Explore Utah

If you asked me lately where I wanted to travel to the most, I probably said Utah. Its four national parks are a photographer’s dream and have been on my list to go since first taking up the hobby. This photo from Lana, a recent guest of Red Mountain Resort, is the exact view I want to capture.

Hotel El Ganzo – San José del Cabo, Mexico

“An amazing destination experience! Luxurious, sophisticated, quiet, calm and totally cool! Best view, sleep, breathing, dining, sunset ever! I cannot wait to go back – please hold a room for me.” — Jeanette G.

Relax in Mexico

Hotel El Ganzo is a creative and artistic getaway that looks right up my alley. The incredible views, pool, rooms, food and hospitality makes this an easy pick for me.

Kiawah Island Golf Resort – Kiawah Island, South Carolina

“We loved the family feel atmosphere, the service and personnel were fantastic. We will back again.” — Monica C.

Play a round

The perfect vacation wouldn’t be without a round at a pristine golf course. From what travelers share about their stay at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, I’m already looking up tee times.

Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort – Newport, Curaçao

““I went diving for the first time with my newly padi qualified 16-year-old daughter and I took this picture. It was a lovely day!” — James R.

Swim with dolphins

Topping off the list would have to be a scuba excursion at Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort. (I mean, what good is being scuba certified if I’m not diving with dolphins?)

While these stories have inspired my bucket list, they’re doing so much more than that each and every day for these hotels. They’re reaching warm audiences, and helping introduce entirely new audiences of travelers, (better than any stock photo could).

For more on our take on content, check out the video below:


Looking for more inspiration? Venture on to our last collection of stories that inspire. See any stories that stand out? Let us know!

Adventure back to June’s stories

JAPEX 2017: tackling tough challenges in the Caribbean

At the moment I’m writing this article, I’ve just returned from the JAPEX conference in Jamaica. Now, I’ve traveled to the Caribbean islands a number of times, both for work and fun. The hospitality, the people, the energy are fantastic (as we’ve shared ourselves first hand.)

But this trip was different.

Javier Morales, Co-founder at Social Caddie, talks to the audience at JAPEX 2017.

Not in the way you’d think. The hospitality was still top notch. The people? As friendly and welcoming as ever. And the speakers and attendees at JAPEX were all incredibly insightful.

But it was also grounded.

What I took away from JAPEX went well beyond the usual micro-level discussions that typically embody an event like this. It was the broad spectrum: an impressive (and sometimes sobering) macro-level look at challenges in the Caribbean that took the stage—from competing on a global scale to the recent hurricanes and more.

Working together to compete globally

Over the last several years, the Caribbean has excelled at marketing itself as a highly accessible, dream destination. And this is a good thing. My fellow panelist at the event, and Co-founder at Social Caddie, Javier Morales chimed in nicely as to why:

“It’s important for the Caribbean to be identified as a region. Organizations like the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association have been created as a major resource for all the islands. By pooling their resources, coming together as region helps them all have access to information and programs to succeed as a whole.”

This has helped introduce more travelers to the region, raising awareness on the global level up against other warm climate destinations. But it poses a unique dichotomy: the need to make known that the Caribbean is more than the sum of its parts.

A recent example? Hurricanes Irma and Maria—both which have come and gone, leaving effects that will linger for years.

Not surprisingly, that poses a problem for the unaffected islands as well as the entire region. Some destinations in the region won’t be visitor-ready in the foreseeable future, and the perception is that the Caribbean isn’t quite as attractive for that dream vacation it’s known and loved for.

Except that it is.

The Caribbean is comprised of more than 30 destinations with thousands of islands totaling over 95k square miles, making it an eclectic mix of unique and independent travel locales. In fact, CHTA partners with 1,000 hotels and allied members plus 32 National Hotel Associations to help shape the future of tourism in the region.

You can’t minimize the devastation for some of the island nations. But it remains a small percentage of the total area—with tourism in many of the areas continuing to grow. (And the others working diligently to bounce back.)

Putting out in force that in spite of the storms, the nations of the Caribbean are open for business is a must. Javier had a few more adds on the steps every island nation can take:

“Nearly every island has a tourism board or association to help market their destination. Islands should showcase their unique features to stand out in the group. Destinations and their hotels can work together to highlight these features and compete against other global destinations.”

Diversifying your marketing—at the regional, destination, and hotel levels

Another challenge that surfaced is one that’s more relatable for us mainlanders: OTA dependency. The core of this issue is a tough one to overcome.

The United States is a key feeder market for the region as a whole, and in the US we love to drive. It’s as much a part of our culture as baseball and BBQs. So when we visit our friends in the South, there’s more to the travel planning process. This is an arena where OTAs excel, making it incredibly easy to book an entire trip in one sitting.

We know dependency on any one channel can be risky. And while OTAs help put heads in beds, they don’t help in the long term to build relationships with your travelers to keep them coming back again and again.

Diversifying where and how you’re winning business is the first step to becoming less dependant on any single channel. The goal? Reach new travelers, and reach them in a better way.

Javier offered a few tips to start:

“The online world has changed and small destinations and hotels can now compete with the big guys. A well-developed website, strong SEO plan and social media strategy can help brands of all sizes get their fair share of the market.”

Another way? Advocacy. Arguably one of the most compelling ways to make an introduction, advocacy lets travelers to your region or hotel deliver an authentic perspective to a like-minded audience—by the thousands.

Rather than relying on the consumer to discover your marketing (or vice versa), those who’ve lived the experience are sharing the most memorable aspects with people they know. Trust comes built in, so the message is delivered clearly and effectively.

Writing the stories of the Caribbean

Not only is advocacy a remarkable tool for telling the story, (rather the stories,) of every Caribbean destination, it piggybacks on what the market is doing as a whole: inspiring new travelers by giving those who visit an opportunity to share their dream vacation—and those best equipped to do just that are arriving on the islands by the hour.