Tuesday, June 1, 2010

PRIDE Travel Continues Support Of Thailand Travel, Remembers Lessons Learned Last Year

PRIDE Travel, a full service travel agency focusing on the GLBT or Gay and Lesbian travel segment, announced it will continue to sell travel packages and customized individual travel to Thailand, even after recent escalation of violence between the government and opposition.

Two days before the news broke about escalating violence in Thailand's capital city of Bangkok, PRIDE Travel owner Marc R. Kassouf was putting the finishing touches on a premier ad to launch the new marketing campaign in San Francisco's theatre district. By many accounts, a resolution to mounting tension was being reached in negotiations with incumbent government officials and the demonstrating "Red Shirt Army" opposition movement. The advertisement, a full color page featuring a Thailand Gay Group with multiple departures throughout the end of 2010 and beyond, was to be PRIDE Travel's debut into the San Francisco market in print advertising and is slated to run for four weeks in May and June. What better product to feature, thought Kassouf, than a customizable program to the Land of Smiles, where warm gracious hospitality sets the bar for the world to follow, and a destination that has been welcoming the gay traveler warmly for decades. But, when the news two days later reported the death and purported assassination of one of the opposition movement's key figure, PRIDE Travel's management was faced with several difficult decisions.

"We resisted the knee-jerk reaction to immediately pull the plug on the ad and replace the featured destination or product; this was supposed to be the flagship launch product in a series of products highlighting unique offerings from our agency, and it was a difficult decision with much discussion and debate," Kassouf said. "In the end," he continued, "we looked back at the media fiasco last year surrounding the multiple challenges Mexico faced, first with the H1N1 virus, which later proved more pervasive and widespread in our own backyard in California than anywhere it ever was in Mexico, and later with the border violence that crippled tourism in the beach and resort communities hundreds of miles away where traveler safety was never at risk."

PRIDE Travel's Chief Operations Officer, S. Nathan DePetris stressed that while the easy decision t may have been to "pull out" or abandon destinations facing challenges or burdens, such as was the case with Mexico, the consequences for the industry and consumers is anything but easy. He points out that Mexico's tourism and economy suffered greatly, with tens of thousands of jobs lost and months if not years of setback to the growth of the tourism sector caused by agents, consumers and tour operators diverting away from Mexico. "In the end, the traveler also suffers because he either cancels or postpones his trip altogether, or accepts a more expensive alternative that delivers less value... no one wins." DePetris further states that the tra vel industry and travelers alike have a social and moral obligation to destinations such as Mexico and Thailand to not abandon those that have been such welcoming hosts to our travelers for so many years at the first signs of trouble. "Of course, our client's safety is always a primary concern," he says. "That doesn't mean we panic or presume that troubles in the capital make the entire country inaccessible..." As an examples, DePetris points to Chiang Mai in the north which is a major international airport for clients wishing to fly direct and avoid Bangkok, and many international carriers such as China Airlines and others that fly connecting flights into most all of Thailand's tourism destinations from neighboring countries.

Additionally, PRIDE Travel has always been an advocate of highly recommending travel insurance to its clients. The agency offers many reasonably-priced options including a 90% minimum cash 'Cancel for Any Reason' policy that covers literally any reason. Travel insurance has become a much talked about necessity in the aftermath of the Icelandic volcano eruption that left thousands of travelers stranded for days on end in airports worldwide in an unprecedented disruption of air traffic. This underlines the reality that no matter the destination, travel involves an unknown quantity of risk, most of which can be mitigated. Through PRIDE Travel, insurance products offered, all of which provide excellent basic and comprehensive coverages, average a surprisingly low 4-7% of the total cost of the vacation.

In closing, Mr. Kassouf offered: "Our obligation is to also provide all the information and options to our clients, including alternatives that adjust, not just eliminate, travel to destinations that are facing challenges, with the hope that by continuing to support them, we are in fact hastening their recovery."

Both Kassouf and DePetris are certified Thailand Golden Agents. They have traveled to Thailand, most recently in March 2010 during the onset of peaceful, although inconvenient, demonstrations that jostled Bangkok's traffic congestion, and to Chiang Mai, Ko Chang and Pattaya. Kassouf and DePetris have won numerous industry awards, including two awards for the promotional video commercial "Amazing Thailand", a project started in 2008 that produce d a short video which has garnered both a Gold Davey Award in 2009 and a Bronze Telly Award in 2010 for its creativity and originality. The Amazing Thailand commercial is available for online viewing on YouTube.

View this press release on the web

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