In photos: Beyond the surf, Ghana’s coast is a kaleidoscopic dream

In photos: Beyond the surf, Ghana’s coast is a kaleidoscopic dream

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After making plans to visit Ghana for a vacation, photographer Adrian Morris just couldn’t help but put his camera to work. From east to west, along the coast, Adrian captured candid and ethereal moments that aren’t easy to come by.

In early 2018, Australian photographer Adrian Morris traveled to Ghana. Initially, he went to chase waves—Ghana’s coast is home to great surf—and take a break from his working life. But as he began to research his trip, his interest in the region grew, and he couldn’t help but take his camera along for the ride.

Easily one of Africa’s most overlooked travel destinations, Adrian found himself overwhelmed by the sheer volume of photo opportunities Ghana afforded him. “The first thing I noticed was the color,” he says. “The colors of the clothes the women wore, of the small wooden houses, of the shops, of the hand-painted fishing boats. And there was this smoky haze that never seemed to disappear—even on a sunny day. It gave the place a real atmosphere and energy.”

Adventure.com: Adrian, tell us a little about yourself, your work and how you came to be a photographer.

Adrian Morris: I became interested in photography when I started to travel in my early 20s. I had a small film camera that a friend gave me. I took it with me everywhere and I gradually became obsessed with trying to document the places, cultures, people and stories I was experiencing. I now work as a photographer full-time, but I’m still constantly trying to develop the art of portraying a moment.

From a photographic point of view, what was special about Ghana? 

I was drawn to the people and the way they do things, the way they live, the stories they have to tell, and their culture and beliefs.

The salt lagoon wasn’t that beautiful to look at, but I focused on the things I found interesting—the color of the salt in the water, patterns and shadows made by the sunlight, the movement of the workers, and the way those movements created a composition. If you look past the way things look at first glance and spend more time looking at the details, sometimes it’s surprising how beautiful a place can become. I think you can always find the beauty in things.

Is there a particular photo in this series that you can look at and think, ‘Yeah, that’s exactly the feeling I was trying to capture…’?

Maybe the photo of the kid running his hand through the river. It’s a simple photo, but it was a really nice moment that I remember clearly. We were sitting on a small wooden boat and crossing the river at the end of a very hot day; the sun had already gone down and the sky was almost pitch black.

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June 22, 2018 at 02:19PM

Serpentwithfeet‘s Sensual Ode to Drama

Serpentwithfeet‘s Sensual Ode to Drama

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In May, Josiah Wise, known to most as the singer serpentwithfeet, walked on stage at Arcosanti, an experimental-living compound in the red-rock country just north of Phoenix. He was bare-chested, wearing a beard full of glitter, and carrying a blue pompom named Drama Pom. It was the first day of Form—a three-day music festival that caps attendance at fifteen hundred people, a third of whom are musicians and their friends—and the mood in the audience was both giddy and reverential. “I’m ready to play and be gay,” Wise sang, ad-libbing during an interlude. “And I mean all definitions: be gay, and be merry, but also just be a fucking queen.”

Since 2016, when he released “blisters,” his first EP as serpentwithfeet, Wise has been carving out a particular kind of queendom in the R. & B. world. “Blisters” set the tone of his work: dark, spare arrangements; lush melodies with virtuosic runs; and lyrics that draw on the gospel tradition to tell stories of anguished queer love. Wise grew up in Baltimore, singing in the choir at a Pentecostal megachurch. At eighteen, he went to music school, in Philadelphia, where he aspired to become an opera singer. His tastes run wide: in conversation, he’ll cite Björk, Schumann, and Brandy in the same breath. A song like “four ethers”—which has him riffing over a Berlioz sample—came easily to him. As a teen-ager in the Maryland State Boychoir, he spent breaks with friends doing praise-and-worship versions of the classical works on the program. “R. & B. runs are always treated like they’re not sophisticated. But when you listen to Handel . . . It’s, like, ‘He Shall Purify’ is all runs!” he told me. “We would always do riffs on top of it.”

On “soil,” Wise’s first full-length record, he’s moved toward a more accessible sound. The songwriting is tighter; the arrangements clearer; and, unlike the EP, each song has a beat. The opening track, “whisper”—a collaboration with the sound artist and production savant Katie Gately—was completed first, and served as a blueprint: stacked vocals, lo-fi synths, and industrial drums. Gately made the song’s drum track using a recording from a washing machine, and there’s the same sort of halting, muffled quality to the rest of the album—beats caught in a rusted machine, heaving away.

“I’m very tacky, very raggedy,” Wise told The Fader. “I want people to feel that: ‘Oh, you can tell he did that himself.’ ” That roughness allows his voice—a gorgeous tenor that flutters in a distinctive, fast vibrato—to remain the focus. Runs come often: “I don’t like hard rises and falls,” he told me, explaining why he prefers his songs to build gradually. “You’re not waiting for one particular punch line, or one chorus; you’re tuned in from the first note.” He compared his vocal style to Toni Morrison’s “Beloved”: “If you stick around, you’ll understand why I build up this description for five pages.”

“Blisters” made no secret of Wise’s queerness, but in “soil” he gets more specific, his lyrics blurring the line between spiritual and sexual hunger: “I get to keep my mouth filled with you / I get to devote my life to him,” he sings on “cherubim.” An ambiguous “him” isn’t new to R. & B., or to pop music; many of Wise’s favorite divas—Brandy, Beyoncé—use devotional language to describe romantic love. Still, it’s been only six years since Frank Ocean came out, via Tumblr, as bisexual. And, although a handful of queer black male artists, such as ILoveMakonnen, Le1f, and Mykki Blanco, have since come out or come up, it still feels fresh to hear Wise sing about his sex life.“That’s what I’m proudest of—that I was able to talk about desire in a way I never knew how to before,” he told me. “The way a black man smells, the weight of his body odor, how that transports me.” One track, “waft,” describes him lusting after strangers based on smell alone, and issues a plea for men to discard their cheap cologne. “Maybe Tinder should have scratch and sniff,” he joked, after playing the song at Form. “Like, how do you smell after the gym, after a leg day, when your calves are nice? How do you smell after your little farm-to-table meal?”

After sex comes the inevitable fall: anxiety, loneliness, loss. Like “blisters,” “soil” swells with grief. For another singer, this might be grist for songs of revenge and rage. But there’s a clear theme, on the album, of Wise embracing pain on its own terms—of suffering expanding his sense of self. On “mourning song,” Wise sings, “I don’t want to be small, small sad / I want to be big, big sad / I want to make a pageant of my grief.” Onstage at Form, he talked about how the twin forces of rejection and acceptance had shaped him. “I told you I’m melodramatic,” he warned the audience.

The pleasure that Wise takes in performing—in acting out that pageant of grief—is infectious. “I love recording, but I love the stage the most,” he told me. “You should be coming to the live show. The record is just your appetizer. Stay for the lamb.” He wants to be a stage queen, he said, and listed off an eclectic group of performers—Bobby McFerrin, Grace Jones, Geoffrey Holder, Bilal, Eartha Kitt—as inspiration. What unites them is command—of the stage, of their voices, of their aesthetics. “You don’t care what they sing, you don’t care what they’re wearing, because you know whatever they do it’s going to be rapturous,” he said. “They just give me drama.”

At Form, the stage was an open-air band shell that had been designed, in the seventies, to look like the apse of an Italian church, with a few psychedelic flourishes. Just behind the audience, a cliff, framed by a grove of cypresses, dropped a hundred feet into a valley. Wise’s voice soared for miles. During the final song, “bless ur heart,” he asked the birds, the animals, the trees, and the breeze to sing along with him. Fans and friends sat side by side, riveted. “Thank you for showing me that I can be grown, and I don’t have to be jaded,” he sang, the “you” left ambiguous. Just then, a wind swept in from the canyon, kicking up a thick dust that clouded the lights onstage. Wise paused, sighing. “Drama!” he laughed, eyes towards the sky. “Yes!”

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June 22, 2018 at 02:14PM

Review: Tim Darcy, “Saturday Night”

Review: Tim Darcy, “Saturday Night”

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I was blindsided with delight when I first heard Tim Darcy’s album “Saturday Night,” which came out last year, and I still feel that way every time I listen to it. Darcy, who is in his late twenties, is the singer of the Montreal-based band Ought, which makes angular post-punk that’s crammed with ideas and occasionally sounds very much like the Fall. On “Saturday Night,” which he recorded with friends in Toronto, Darcy gives us something fresh, immediate, and intimate. It feels like an album that he needed to make and that we needed to hear.

The first song, “Tall Glass of Water,” jumps right in with fast, catchy guitar. “You’ve got a tall glass of water / And you’re bored with it, bored with it,” Darcy sings, mysteriously, with conviction. His lyrics can surprise you with humor and a kind of poetry: “And if at the end of the river / there is more river / would you dare to swim again?” Several songs encourage repeat listening. An instrumental, “First Final Days,” is like sunlight streaming through a window; “You Felt Comfort” provides fuzzy guitar and solace; the lovely “Still Waking Up” is a dreamy gift. “ ‘Release the hounds,’ / you say while you’re sleeping next to me,” Darcy sings, with a smooth, Roy Orbison-like beauty. Then he sings about sleep of his own: “Waking up alone / was always a hard day’s night / ’cause my head is always full of popular song.” A head full of popular song is evident throughout—we hear it in that ghostly Orbison warble, in hints of Peter Murphy’s lugubriousness, in some robust Velvet Underground guitar—and one of the pleasures of “Saturday Night” is hearing the original voice that emerges from it, singing about new ideas and taking us to unexpected places.

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June 22, 2018 at 02:14PM

The Critical Points: Resort Fees Must Go

The Critical Points: Resort Fees Must Go

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Each month in his column “The Critical Points,” TPG Senior Points and Miles Contributor Richard Kerr presents his opinion on a loyalty program, card product or recent news that he believes is overlooked, unsung or the result of groupthink taking mass opinion in a direction with which he doesn’t agree. His goal is not necessarily to convince you to agree with his position, but rather to induce critical thought for each of the topics and positions he covers.

A resort fee, a/k/a destination fee or urban fee, is a second room rate charged purely to increase a hotel’s profit. I call resort fees “second room rates” because they’re taxed identically to the advertised room rate. A resort fee is not for pool towels, fitness center access, free local phone calls or for making faxes. A resort fee is not optional and the benefits advertised as being funded by a resort fee cannot be refused.

These fees set a dangerous precedent for both the unbundling of prices for good services, and for allowable deceptive advertising. Resort fees must go.

The Greatest Offender — Great Wolf Lodge

Great Wolf Lodges are family resorts designed around indoor water parks. The company recently opened a new property in my hometown of LaGrange, GA, so I began to investigate what a night away for my wife and two children would cost (and how to cover it with points).

What you’ll find when looking for rooms is a rather handy rate calendar allowing you to search through a month to find the best priced nights:

But unfortunately, what you’ll find when you get to the checkout screen is a room rate of $199 costs a total of $270 after you include taxes and fees of $69.49:

Notice that in the above screenshot, “taxes and fees” is not hyperlinked. There’s no breakout anywhere of what those taxes and fees consist of. It’s purposely kept opaque to make the traveler believe the state and municipality has levied mandatory taxes of  35.1% on your reservation.

In reality, the local hotel tax in Lagrange is 15.1% plus a $5 per night state hotel fee. Hidden but not disclosed anywhere on the Great Wolf website — and I mean nowhere — is a $29.99 per night resort fee, which is also taxed at the 15.1% rate. This means a second room rate is tagged onto every night, taxed like a room rate, not disclosed in any way and purposely left as opaque as possible. The good citizens of and visitors to my hometown are duped into paying Great Wolf Lodge an unadvertised additional $30 per night.

I reached out to Great Wolf and asked the following two questions:

  1. Can you provide a link on the Great Wolf Lodge website where the resort fee is disclosed?
  2. Does Great Wolf believe this pricing model to be fair and transparent?

I received the following response from the Director of Communications:

 “The resort fee is $29.99 and we do list some of the elements included as part of that fee on our FAQ page. A few of the items covered in this fee are wireless internet, self-parking, fitness center access, in-room amenities like bottled water and coffee, along with life jackets and towels for the water park.

As a long-time Marriott guest, I noticed they too take more of a bundled approach when it comes to taxes and fees on their ‘summary of charges’ page – but that said, we are currently in the process of making some design changes to the payment/confirmation page of our website and are exploring a more detailed breakdown of the charges in the ‘Taxes and Fees’ section.”

I’m not sure what Marriott has to do with anything, but since Great Wolf’s Director of Communications brought it up, let’s take a look at how Marriott handles resort fees on its website. Here’s what the booking screen looks like for the Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa, a property that charges a $15 per night resort fee:

As you can see, Marriott does seem to bundle its resort fee together with government taxes. So Great Wolf is just following the leader, right?

Wrong. Because when you click on that “USD Taxes and fees” number, this is what pops up (highlighting in red added):

While it’s still an annoying and likely unnecessary resort fee, at least Marriott is disclosing its existence, unlike Great Wolf. In any case, I’m very interested in hearing the results of Great Wolf’s “transparency exploration” when it finally concludes, because as of this writing, that $29.99 is still not disclosed anywhere on the Great Wolf website.

This pricing model is specifically designed to take advantage of the typical Great Wolf clientele — those who travel once a year or less — by hiding the resort fee as mandatory taxes. Great Wolf isn’t the only travel company guilty of this practice, but as a consumer, there’s no way to make an informed decision on how much you’re willing to pay Great Wolf Lodge.

The Government’s Stance

Perhaps my biggest pet peeve with resort fees is the double standard levied by the federal government on airlines versus hotels. While airlines have been forced to include all taxes and fees in published fares, hotels have been left alone to continue advertising less-than-actual nightly rates.

In 2012, then Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood enforced a Department of Transportation rule that said airlines and ticket agents must include all mandatory taxes and fees in published airfares, and that baggage fees must be disclosed to consumers buying tickets. Judging by recent airline profits and load factors, enforcement of this rule has not been bad for business.

In the department’s statement announcing enforcement of the rule, LaHood said, “Airline passengers have rights, and they should be able to expect fair and reasonable treatment when booking a trip and when they fly. The new passenger protections taking effect this week are a continuation of our effort to help air travelers receive the respect they deserve.”

Since a large number of people on every flight are probably headed to a hotel once they disembark, without further action, the government apparently believes the respect we air travelers deserve ends when we step off the plane and onto the jet bridge.

In January of 2017, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published a report on the economic analysis of hotel resort fees. The report concludes:

“This analysis finds that separating mandatory resort fees from posted room rates without first disclosing the total price is likely to harm consumers by increasing the search costs and cognitive costs of finding and choosing hotel accommodations. In this situation, a consumer’s choice is either to incur higher total search and cognitive costs or to make an incomplete, less informed decision that may result in a more costly room, or both. The analysis finds that separating resort fees from the room rate without first disclosing the total price is unlikely to result in benefits that offset the likely harm to consumers.”

Strong words, but once again, the government’s words have not led to action. While recognizing that resort fees are bad for consumers, the considerable lobbying power behind massive hotel and casino corporations has so far ensured that this “harmful pricing method” (those are the government’s words) has not been stopped.

What Can You Do?

(Photo by andresr / Getty Images)
(Photo by andresr / Getty Images)

First and foremost, speak with your wallet. Don’t patronize properties that charge you a second room rate, and let management know why you’re deciding to not stay at their location. Until properties see a difference in their bottom line, no changes will take place.

Second, I find it hard to believe that the DC lobbyists will allow Congress to take federal measures, which means this battle will have to be fought at the state level. File complaints with your own state attorney general, along with the attorney general of the state where the property is located. Explain that these hotels are using unfair and deceptive pricing methods. A quick Google search will lead you to local state business statutes prohibiting such pricing policies.

Also, contact local representatives whose districts survive on your tourism dollars and let them know you’re no longer visiting because hotels are charging resort fees. Finally, head over to KillResortFees.com to read everything you’d ever want to know about resort fees, and find out how to take additional action.

Bottom Line

I’m not anti-business. I want hotels to make money (lots of money, actually), but I want prices to be transparent so consumers can make informed decisions. In my mind, this can really be boiled down to one argument: if a hotel is confident in the product it has, it should be able to charge a single unified price, inclusive of any current resort fee, and stand behind that price. Let the market decide if the price is too high. If bookings go down, lower your price or increase the quality of your product.

But if you want a sure-fire strategy to guarantee I’ll never visit your property again, insult my intelligence by charging me a second room rate and say it’s for fax machine access.

Featured image by JodiJacobson / Getty Images.

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June 22, 2018 at 01:00PM

Matt “Guitar” Murphy

Matt “Guitar” Murphy

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4rnJc9TMost knew him from his turn with The Blues Brothers, as the ax-wielding, guitarist husband of Aretha Franklin (and that sensational song “Think“).

But, he was so much more. In the late 1940s, he played with Howlin Wolf; in the early 1950s, with Ike Turner. He played with Memphis Slim, Chuck Berry, Koko Taylor, Buddy Guy, Etta James, Otis Rush and James Cotton. It was a show with Cotton that caught the attention of John Belushi and Dan Akyroyd, who asked Matt to join the Blues Brothers Band. And, the rest was history.

On this Music Friday, we say farewell to this incredible talent by going back to his roots and an early recording with Memphis Slim and Willie Dixon and “Matt’s Guitar Boogie.”

Boogie on, sweet prince.

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June 22, 2018 at 12:48PM

Why the United States Needs More Immigrants

Why the United States Needs More Immigrants

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As controversy continued to rage on Thursday about the Trump Administration’s policy of separating migrant families at the southern border, the Census Bureau published new data that show why the United States will need more immigrants, not fewer, in the coming decades.

Demographers and economists have been warning that the aging baby-boomer population presents a serious challenge to the nation’s finances, as the ratio of seniors to working-age adults—the age-dependency ratio—rises. The reason is straightforward: Social Security and Medicare are largely financed on a pay-as-you-go basis, which means that some of the taxes paid by current workers are transferred to current retirees. If the dependency ratio rises, the financial burden on the working-age population also increases.

A front-page piece in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal pointed out that this problem was contained for a long time because the age-dependency ratio remained relatively steady. In 1980, there were nineteen Americans age sixty-five or older for every hundred Americans between the ages of eighteen and sixty-four. The dependency ratio was nineteen per cent. By 2010, it crept up to twenty-one per cent, an increase of just two percentage points in thirty years.

But the end of 2010 marked an important threshold. In 2011, the first members of the baby-boom generation (people born between 1946 and 1964) turned sixty-five. By 2017, the age-dependency ratio had risen to twenty-five per cent—an increase of four percentage points in just seven years. In the coming decades, it is expected to rise even more sharply. By 2030, “the ratio would climb to 35 retiree-age Americans for every 100 of working age . . . and 42 by 2060,” the Journal story said, citing projections released earlier this year.

These projections take into account a big rise in immigration that occurred between 1990 and 2010. During those twenty years, according to Census Bureau data, the total number of foreign-born people (documented and undocumented) living in the United States roughly doubled, to about forty million. But this influx of working-age people—the vast majority of whom are immigrants of working age—wasn’t enough to offset a decrease in birth rates that began in the nineteen-seventies and has recently accelerated.

The easiest way to grasp the seriousness of what is happening is to look at the fertility rate, which is the average number of babies born to mothers between the ages of fifteen and forty-four. Merely to replace the existing population, the fertility rate needs to be about 2.1 per cent. During the baby-boomer years, it reached 3.7 per cent. In 2017, it was just 1.76 per cent. If this trend persists, as it seems likely to do, it portends a declining population and a sharply rising dependency ratio.

From a public-finance perspective, there are several possible ways to tackle the looming challenge. One is to reduce the level of retirement benefits significantly—but that would be very unpopular and difficult to achieve politically. A second option is to increase the proportion of people who are working—among both working-age people and senior citizens. That, too, would be a mighty challenge, because the trend is going in the opposite direction. Since the start of 2000, the employment-to-population ratio among adults sixteen or older has fallen, from 64.6 per cent to 60.4 per cent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. To be sure, the Great Recession and its aftermath were partly responsible for this decline. But so was the aging population: employment rates tend to decline in older-age cohorts.

The final option is to welcome more immigrants, particularly younger immigrants, so that, in the coming decades, they and their descendants will find work and contribute to the tax base. Almost all economists agree that immigration raises G.D.P. and stimulates business development by increasing the supply of workers and of entrepreneurs. There is some disagreement about the net fiscal impact of first-generation migrants. The argument is that they tend to be less educated and therefore earn lower wages than the native population, and that they tend to contribute less in taxes. But this is disputed. There is no doubt about the contribution that immigrant families make over the longer term, however.

“Second-generation adults—the children of immigrants—had, on average, a more favorable net fiscal impact for all government levels combined than either first-generation immigrants or the rest of the native-born population,” a study of the period from 1994–2013 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, published in 2016, pointed out. “Reflecting their slightly higher educational achievement, as well as their higher wages and salaries, the second generation contributed more in taxes on a per capita basis during working ages than did their parents or other native-born Americans.”

In the long run, welcoming immigrants is a good investment for the United States. The entire history of the country demonstrates this fact. But the current President wants to go in the opposite direction. Along with introducing draconian measures to curb the influx of undocumented migrants, he wants to slash legal immigration. At the moment, the United States grants permanent-resident status to about a million people a year, and many of these folks go on to become U.S. citizens. Trump wants to cut this number in half, roughly speaking.

His policy isn’t driven by economics, of course. As he more or less admitted earlier this year, with his derisive comments about immigrants from “shithole countries,” it is driven by racism and a desire to resist the emergence of a nonwhite majority in the United States—a transformation that is inevitable and necessary.

What’s largely driving this transformation is the aging of the white population and a concomitant fall in white birth rates. In twenty-six states, according to a recent study from the Applied Population Lab at the University of Wisconsin, deaths in the white population now outnumber births. In other words, the number of white people in America is declining. The new Census Bureau figures suggest that this is also true on the national level. In 2016 and 2017, the number of white, non-Hispanic Americans fell by forty-one thousand, according to the Journal report.

That number is partly an artifact of the opioid epidemic, but the underlying picture is clear: with the native white population aging rapidly, the U.S. economy and fiscal system are in dire need of other groups to pick up the slack. Fortunately, there are more eager candidates, including the roughly six million non-Americans who file immigration applications every year, and the thousands of parents and children currently languishing in detention centers operated by U.S. immigration authorities and the Department of Health and Human Services.

This shortage of young people is far from just an American phenomenon. (In many European countries, the age-dependency ratio is rising even faster.) This doesn’t justify a policy of open borders. But it does mean that the United States needs a President who is willing to recognize the real challenges facing the country, and consider the benefits of large-scale immigration.

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June 22, 2018 at 12:42PM

Ctrip partners with iClick to help international brands target Chinese consumers

Ctrip partners with iClick to help international brands target Chinese consumers

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China’s online travel giant Ctrip has agreed a new partnership with Hong Kong-based iClick Interactive Partners to make it easier for international travel brands to target Chinese consumers.

Ctrip is one of China’s largest OTA with a user membership of 300 million people and this database will be used by iClick’s online technology platform to create more personalised marketing campaigns for Chinese outbound travellers.

Sammy Hsieh, CEO and co-founder of iClick, says:

“We are seeing a growing demand from travel and hospitality brands to use data in a more holistic marketing system to meet their needs.

“Ctrip has a wide range of customers and supports 13 languages on their platforms, which is a perfect complement for our customised solutions. International travel brands will now have a more effective way of reaching high-value outbound travellers in China.”

There were around 130 million Chinese outbound travellers in 2017 and China is now the top international source market for several major destinations including Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, Russia and South Africa.

Samson Chai, Ctrip’s overseas marketing director, adds:

“iClick has a profound understanding of demand from international travel brands and a wealth of data insights and audience data in China.

“Our collaboration with iClick will allow us to leverage these advantages to bring value to both our customers and international travel brands who partner with us to run marketing programmes.”

The partnership is the latest in a succession of moves announced by Ctrip over the past few months.

The Chinese OTA has further strengthened its ties with Booking Holdings following the appointment of Gillian Tans, CEO of Booking.com, as the US company’s “observer” on Ctrip’s board of directors.

Booking Holdings, formerly known as Priceline Group, is an investor in Ctrip and the two firms share access to a combined hotel inventory.

Ctrip has also enhanced its partnership with French hotel group Accor, which owns brands such as Raffles, Sofitel, Fairmont, Pullman, Mercure, Ibis and Novotel. Accor will use the agreement to offer more personalised experiences to Ctrip’s Chinese customers.

This deal, announced in April, will include Ctrip promoting Accor’s hotels and brands more prominently, building a “flagship store” for the hotel company, joint development of loyalty programmes and co-operation on IT systems.

Related reading:

Alibaba and Marriott target Chinese outbound travellers with joint venture

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June 22, 2018 at 12:25PM

Little-Known Writing Residencies

Little-Known Writing Residencies

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It’s a dream of many writers to spend time away from home in a quiet, all-expenses-paid retreat, free from their usual burdens. Most of these residencies are highly competitive. The ones below are not. Apply today!

Kafka House

Several promising writers will be awarded their very own, partially furnished rooms flanked by never-ending hallways in Kafka House. The house’s layout prohibits contact with anyone else, providing the quiet necessary for nervous breakdowns. Select writers will also be given a stipend of up to five-thousand dollars that they will not be able to access, although they will be granted the pleasure of filling out many forms about how the money would be spent, should they ever receive it.

Duration: Six weeks to forever.

Legend House

One female writer will be awarded a solo stay in the prestigious Legend House. Every room is haunted by the ghost of a famous male writer whose books changed the resident’s life in spite of her long-held resentment of his failure to represent her perspective in his writing.

Duration: One month.

Post-Modern House

One male writer without any real ideas of his own will be invited to this gorgeous mansion, which blends neo-Renaissance decorative flourishes with an early-twentieth-century domestic sensibility, to write a confusing, heavily footnoted novel about the house itself.

Duration: Seven years.

Clue House

Six writers will be invited to this nine-room house to solve the mystery of the death of Mr. Boddy.

Duration: Forty-five minutes to an hour.

Lefty House

If you’re left-handed and working on a novel, this is the residency for you. Everything in this recently renovated Victorian is designed for freethinking lefties: the desks, the scissors, even the location of the toilet paper. All meals included and served by frustrated right-handed people.

Duration: Until the staff quits.

Coffee House

Several lucky writers who have been parked at the good tables all day will not be kicked out or forced to purchase more than their now-room-temperature coffee in exchange for the Wi-Fi password.

Duration: Twelve hours.

Post-Partum House

A mother and her newborn baby are invited to this life-changing home residency. The child will work on just existing, while the mother will work on the guilt that she feels for not using this time off from work to finish her essay collection.

Duration: Four to six weeks, depending on employer.

Nursing House

Senior writers are invited to apply to this well-carpeted facility with round-the-clock care. Bingo is Wednesdays and Fridays at 5 P.M. Most insurances accepted.

Duration: Until . . . 

Sarah House

There is room in my house for Sarah, who is writing a chapbook of the most beautiful poems I’ve ever read. Please come back to me and stay for good? I promise that I won’t bother you when you have your noise-cancelling headphones on and that look of genius in your eyes.

Duration: Till death do us part?

Ferret House

We just need someone to come take care of our ferret. Bring gloves.

Duration: Life span of ferret.

SmartHouse

This fully automated, self-cleaning house will write your novel for you! Awarded to a young, attractive, and inexplicably wealthy couple with no skills to speak of.

Duration: One week.

Your Parents’ House

So long as you’re willing to help out around here—there’s a plot of begonias in the back that needs weeding. The television will be on every day from 6 P.M. to 10 P.M. Laundry and meals included, depending on your attitude.

Duration: As long as you need, honey.

Travel

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June 22, 2018 at 12:06PM

How Free Miles Helped Me Save $450 — Reader Success Story

How Free Miles Helped Me Save $450 — Reader Success Story

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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Mark, who booked a last-minute flight with miles he earned from an Alaska Airlines promotion. Here’s what he had to say:

I wanted to thank you for helping me months before I knew I would ever need it! Last year, you posted an article about how Alaska was offering 10,000 miles essentially for free. I’m based in Washington, D.C. and mostly fly on the East Coast, but I thought it couldn’t hurt to have those miles. I’m also a hold of The Platinum Card® from American Express and saw your note about transferring Membership Rewards points to Alaska Airlines through Virgin America before the relationship ended. Following your advice, I took the opportunity to pad my new Mileage Plan account with a few thousand miles.

Fast forward to late May, when I needed to book a last-minute emergency flight to the West Coast. We had a death in the family (my grandmother was 96, so it wasn’t a complete shock), and as you can imagine, last-minute flights on Memorial Day weekend were outrageously expensive. Then I remembered I had 12,500 Alaska miles, and I was able to find an award flight to cover the return portion of my trip. That saved me over $450 that I would have had to pay out of pocket.

It just goes to show that claiming those easy miles can pay off even if you don’t need them right away. Thanks again for saving me money, and for helping your readers find these deals.

It’s not every day that you can score 10,000 miles just for linking two frequent flyer accounts, but opportunities to earn rewards with minimal effort do pop up from time to time. A few years ago, IHG Rewards famously offered tens of thousands of points for simply mailing in notecards. More recently, Marriott Rewards offered members 1,000 points per week during much of the 2017 NFL regular season for answering football trivia on Twitter, and Alaska Airlines offered 5,000 miles to California residents who signed up for Mileage Plan. As Mark’s story shows, these rewards are enough to be useful on their own, but even smaller bonuses (like 1,500 Aegean Airlines miles) can come in handy.

In addition to those easy (but only occasional) wins, there are more routine opportunities to boost your loyalty accounts that also take little work. Using a shopping portal to maximize online purchases and enrolling in a dining program to get a better return at restaurants will help you earn more points and miles from money you already spend. Remember to sign up for airline and hotel promotions (like double points at Hilton), and make sure to use a credit card that earns bonus points for spending in a given category. All this low-hanging fruit can add up quickly, so get in the habit of collecting it.

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Mark for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories to info@thepointsguy.com; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Feature image by 4kodiak / Getty Images.

Travel

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June 22, 2018 at 12:01PM

News: Amerikalinjen set to open in Oslo in March 2019

News: Amerikalinjen set to open in Oslo in March 2019

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Opening in March of 2019 in Oslo, the old Norwegian American Line building is being transformed into a small urban boutique hotel called Amerikalinjen.

The passion for maritime travel combined with the rich history of Oslo will create a strong foundation for this iconic building’s renaissance – transporting it from the 19th century to the 21st and beyond.

This landmark, built in 1919, was once was the starting point of hopeful emigrants boarding passenger ships to America, will now be transformed into the most anticipated hotel in the Norwegian Capital and build on the proud hospitality traditions the building represents. 

Yet, with all the historic details that are planned for this iconic building’s rebirth, the hotel aims to be a contemporary sanctuary for the experienced traveller.

With 122 elegant rooms, the Atlas Brasserie and Café, the Gustav jazz club, and Pier 42, the classic cocktail bar, Amerikalinjen is set to become the essential part of Oslo’s 21st century hospitality identity.

Situated in one of the most vibrant and artistic areas of Oslo, neighbouring the Opera House and the Central Station, Oslo’s transportation hub, this will be the ideal starting point for an unique journey for our guest and patrons.

The hotel will also become the latest member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts Lifestyle Collection.

Travel

via Breaking Travel News http://www.breakingtravelnews.com/

June 22, 2018 at 11:29AM