Select All of Your Travel Partners Wisely

Academic Travel blogThe story of how travel was disrupted in Europe because of the erupting Icelandic volcano is almost a thing of the past now. Most travelers have made it home and transatlantic air travel is pretty much back to normal.

Over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal posed the question, “Is Travel Insurance Worth the Cost?” ( read more here )

This is a timely question, as American travelers are now assessing the unexpected additional costs they incurred. If they were traveling with a group, they are also assessing how their tour provider cared for them while they waited in limbo for the skies to clear and the runways to reopen.

For its part, Academic Travel Abroad kept its tour staff in place in two countries to ride out the delay with travelers, even though the tours had ended. ATA and its partners picked up the cost of some additional hotel nights, meals and additional activities. Travelers, understanding that they would also need to contribute to the costs, made the most of their additional days in London and Amsterdam.

Izabella Van Raalte, a long time ATA tour manager, summed up her feelings in a recent e-mail to Senior Program Manager Emma Impavido, who coordinated the company’s response and efforts to re-book travelers quickly with the help of Whitney Kulesz, Director of Travel Services:

“Thank you very much for being such a wonderful support on my recent tour. At all times I felt that I could bank on you 100 % and that you would come through which indeed you did. I looked forward to your daily “check in” phone call. ATA’s response to my request for help in getting hotel rooms at the eleventh hour was amazing. As I already told you it gave me great pleasure to be able to announce that ATA had managed to procure hotel rooms so quickly.

Emma, could you please also thank the whole team involved in back stopping for the great job they did. It takes a team to make a tour a success and I certainly felt as part of one and a great one at that.”

Academic Travel Abroad and its partner organizations actively promote the benefits of travel insurance to customers to protect their investment when the unexpected happens. Those travelers who purchased trip cancellation and delay coverage for their tours will be able to make substantial claims for reimbursement.

While none of us ever imagines ourselves the victim of a travel delay or mishap, the volcanic ash situation has reminded travelers how important it is to pick all of their travel partners wisely—from the tour company that makes the safety and well being of it customers its top priority, to the insurance company that stands by its coverage, and to the travel agent who swiftly and efficiently re-books passengers while airline websites and help lines crash through overuse.

Academic Travel Abroad

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Boomers and the future of the travel industry.

It would appear that the troubling economic times we’ve all recently experienced may well be in our rear-view mirrors now, but the road to the top is still steep, and frankly a bit foggy. So what now?

baby boomersWell, welcome to a new market!  A market of boomers seeking out unique travel opportunities in which their sense of independence, desire for immersion, and quest for a deeper sense of cultural education and awareness is in focus. Although boomers may not identify themselves by their given name, they are a distinct market segment that those in the travel industry will want to take heed of.  Those within the designated birth dates between 1946 and 1964 fall into the market-derived name of “Boomers.”  The indicators stress that they are more independent both in thinking and in action.  They seek travel opportunities that offer a unique angle, more cultural immersion, and meet their high demands for value and experience.  Many boomers are already well-traveled and now seek unique destinations, possible “voluntourism” opportunities where their sense of community and altruism can be met with rewarding results.

Our friends at ,, and have recently expressed how boomers seek travel opportunities in a more frugal way then the preceding generations. Focusing more on the value of travel (where cost in not a focus), but where amenities should provide rewarding results.  They seek upscale accommodations, but no longer see the value in extravagancy. Their focus has now shifted to real value.  Instead of just enjoying a rare bottle of wine, they now wish to meet the owners of the vineyard – even have dinner with them even.  Instead of donating their money to a cause, they now seek tangible interaction with those they seek to help.

All this parlays into the fact that those in the travel industry should rekindle their understandings and interpretations of adding true value into their offerings.  Strong amenities, well-appointed accommodations, interaction with locals in given destinations and an educational element can offer a resounding value and mental enrichment to those seeking a true experience abroad.

Group travel can render significant rewards for those seeking to meet new people while absorbing cultural experiences.  This often translates to new friendships among boomers of like interests, further enhancing their desire for connecting with others. Adding an educational element, via an accompanying  tour expert or location historian can bring new appreciations to otherwise mainstay destinations.  These elements remove the “tourist” aspect to travel and brings a deeper focus to interaction and participation while abroad.

So, we at Academic Travel Abroad are eager to hear more!  What do you seek in your travel experiences?  What destinations entice you the most and why?  Tell us more about your travel aspirations and where you find specific value when traveling.  What has been your most rewarding experience so far?

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Academic Travel Abroad & Professionals Abroad

On December 1st, I watched as President Obama announced his intention to send an additional 30,000 US troops into Afghanistan to create a “surge” and hopefully end the war. In November, I watched as President Obama made his first visit to China and to Russia. I watched as our world leaders celebrated the twenty year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and later communism in Eastern Europe. I watched as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton visited the Middle East, seeking peace between Israel and Palestine. All of these events happening over the last 90 days.

Coincidentally, the last 90 days have marked the launching of Professionals Abroad, a new arm of Academic Travel Abroad. The Mission of Professionals Abroad is to provide an avenue for global professional counterparts to share one–on–one, their professional challenges and experiences. Selected teams of professionals, representing their associations will travel to host countries and participate in round table discussions, site visits and social events. All with the goal of learning more about the lives of their counterparts and to gain an understanding of the culture and history of the countries they visit.

Imagine mental health professionals and grief counselors traveling to the epicenter of the earth quake in China, to discuss Disaster Mental Health with the teams of Chinese professionals who are helping the people of this rural area to deal with their devastating loss. Imagine global water environment professionals meeting in Israel to discuss the advances and challenges faced by the Israeli people to ensure clean and abundant water supplies. Imagine a team of professional and academic women representing many of the top institutions in United States, traveling to the Middle East to meet with political and academic women leaders. Further, imagine a team of undergraduate future women leaders traveling along side their mentors, learning and preparing for success in the globalized world. This is Professionals Abroad, and these are just a few of the teams launched for 2010.

As the Director of Professionals Abroad, my vision is to see these teams of professionals gain unparalleled access to their counterparts globally. Through this access, individual citizens can support the missions of our nation’s leaders, as we seek to ensure global peace, and to establish the individual personal relationships necessary to ensure cooperation and lasting professional friendships.

Dawn Davis
Professional Abroad

New Professionals Abroad website coming in January.

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CET Director Mark Lenhart’s Interview with the Global Times

logo cet_logo_white

Education abroad lets you see home in new light

• Source: Global Times

• [22:26 August 25 2009]

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Link to article online at:

• Comments

Editor’s Note:

Along with the emerging economy of China, Chinese language and culture are becoming more popular subjects of study in the US, and more students are coming to China to study. The following is an interview by the Global Times (GT) reporter Chen Chenchen with Mark Lenhart (Lenhart), director of CET Academic Programs, a Washington-based study abroad organization founded in 1982.

GT: How did CET start its business in China? Why do you bring students to China, rather than simply teaching them Chinese in the US?

Lenhart: The roots of CET are really in China. Our first Chinese language program was in Beijing in the summer of 1982. We expanded in China in the 1980s and 1990s, but CET did not begin to operate programs outside of China until 1997.

We now operate in Vietnam, Spain, Italy, and the Czech Republic, and we’re developing new programs in Japan and the Middle East. But more than 50 percent of CET’s students choose to study in China.

We currently send around 600 students to China, and the majority of them are American. This number is still growing.

It is estimated that about 60 percent of our students stay in China after they graduate. It is wonderful to see them build lives in China, find professional success, and contribute to China’s development.

Many students arrive in our programs with simplistic ideas about what China is like, and as time goes on and as they learn both inside and outside the classroom, their old views are challenged.

Some are critical of what they see, but by the end of their semester or academic year in China, they develop a more nuanced view. They come to understand how complicated China is and how much China has achieved in the last 30 years.

Quite often, they also develop a clearer picture of the US, and they arrive home more critical of American media, our foreign policy, and our economic system.

This is the true benefit of education abroad. Because students experience firsthand life in a very different country, they begin to think critically about the US and its role in the world. They are then in a much better position to solve problems and to create positive change.

GT: How does CET promote China overseas?

Lenhart: While CET makes an effort to distinguish its China programs from the competitors’ programs, we really don’t have to do much to promote China as a destination. Students know from the news, classes and friends that China is a fascinating place of contradictions and change. This is very exciting for me.

When I was a student in the mid- 1980s, it was difficult to find China in the US media or even as a subject in my college classes. Now there is something about China on the front page of the Wall Street Journal every day.

It is not CET’s job to represent China as traditional or modern. Instead, we try to expose students to as much as we can about China, and we try to give them the tools they need to make their own connections and to learn from their Chinese teachers and peers.

We have programs that offer students courses taught in English about China. These courses focus on a variety of topics, including Chinese history, China’s economy, and Chinese society.

Some of our faculty members are Chinese, and some are from other parts of the world, so they offer a variety of perspectives. No matter what their own views are, they try to present information about China objectively so that students can draw their own conclusions.

I personally find it fascinating to see how “traditional China” is presented to foreigners, just as I’m interested in how Americans represent the US to outsiders.

I’ve watched Peking Opera performances dozens of times, but the audience for these performances is nearly entirely foreign.

If foreigners did not visit China, would Peking Opera become a thing of the past?

Similarly, ethnic minorities in Yunnan Province have made a concerted effort to preserve and present their traditional culture to tourists from both abroad and China’s urban areas. If tourism did not exist, would these traditions survive?

I think it’s interesting to consider how everyday people represent their own culture. I hope our students think critically about these questions, and that they discuss them with their Chinese friends.

GT: According to the students’ feedback, have their China experiences changed their original perspectives and how?

Lenhart: Students often write to me that China “changed their lives.” They don’t always elaborate, but I think the changes I’ve described above are at the heart of what changes. They come home with a deeper understanding of China and the US.

In addition, many experience tremendous personal growth – they develop new levels of independence and confidence, and they start to think more broadly about “how to learn.”

Happily, most of our students also return home with lasting friendships with Chinese students. They all make an effort to maintain and renew these friendships when they stay in China after they graduate.

China also changed my life. Of course it was a completely different place when I first studied here in 1987. But my experience was not unlike what our students experience today. I made incredible friendships with Chinese students, I traveled more in China than I had ever in the US, and I had the privilege of meeting and learning from Chinese people from all walks of life.

I knew when I finally left China in 1992 that I would commit myself to promoting US-China educational exchange, and I’ve been very fortunate to be able to make a career out of this commitment.

GT: What suggestions do you have for those who deeply want to know about China, but don’t have a way to get here?

Lenhart: I think that most Americans can find ways to get to China, even if they face difficult economic constraints. There are more and more scholarships and loans available to students who wish to study overseas.

Since I believe that there really is nothing quite like studying in China, even for a very short time, my advice to those who face these barriers is to find ways around them.”

Link to article online at:

ATA to Launch New “Professionals Abroad” Division


Professionals Abroad debuts on September 1, 2009

Washington, DC, September 2009—Academic Travel Abroad, a 59-year old international travel company that has served the country’s elite non-profit organizations, museums, and universities in operating specialized educational and cultural programs, will launch a new sales division on September 1st.

Professionals Abroad will develop and market high quality international professional programs to associations for their members’ career development, continuing education and cultural enrichment. These programs will provide an opportunity for associations to engage in counterpart exchange and international outreach.  Dawn Davis, formerly the Executive Director of Citizen Ambassador Program, a division of the People to People Ambassador Program in Spokane, Washington, will lead the Professionals Abroad team. Dawn brings over twenty years of experience with professional delegations to ATA, and maintains strong relationships with many of the country’s largest professional organizations.

ATA has ensured its long term stability through diversification of its portfolio. In 1994, ATA acquired CET Academic Programs, a premier study abroad organization. In 2005, ATA acquired Grandtravel, the originator of travel programs designed exclusively for grandparents and grandchildren. In addition, the company manages the reservation and customer service centers for National Geographic Expeditions, Smithsonian Journeys, and The American Museum of Natural History’s Expeditions, as well as managing the overall AMNH tour program as the Museum’s outsource partner.

“We are delighted to be entering a new market,” said Chase Poffenberger, ATA’s Executive Vice President. “Dawn Davis brings a wealth of energy, creativity and professionalism to the company and we feel fortunate that she will be leading our new division.” While Dawn will reside in Washington State, she will travel to ATA’s offices in Washington, DC regularly and collaborate with ATA’s marketing, programming and customer service teams.

To learn more about this program, contact:

Chase Poffenberger
Executive Vice President
Academic Travel Abroad

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Group Travel Still Makes the Most Sense

Even in tough economic times, people are turning to group tours as a reliable way to travel that provides value and peace of mind. Tour operators negotiate group discounts, plan activities with smooth logistics in mind, access unique venues and draw on well-connected contacts in destinations around the globe. With years of experience under their belt, tour operators offer travelers the most value and security for their dollars.

Here are ten pointers from the National Tour Association’s latest newsletter that reinforces why Academic Travel Abroad is proud to be part of this organization of tourism professionals who share our common goals.


Excerpt from the NTA's "Trip Planner" for August 2009

In the Footsteps of Galileo

Portrait of Galileo Galilei

Portrait of Galileo Galilei

Did you know it is the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s discovery of the telescope? I am very excited to be escorting this unique trip with Smithsonian Journeys which will take us through the major landmarks where Galileo lived, studied, and wrote his most landmark achievements. Leading us is an expert in communicating the wonderment of science to all types of audiences – popular Harvard scientist, David Aguilar.

Some highlights include Venice’s Murano Glass Factory to learn about the art of glass-making and see where Galileo obtained the very glass used in his telescope lenses. Later we are off to an evening of stargazing in Padua from the place where Galileo first discovered Jupiter’s moons, telling him more of the nature of orbiting planets in our solar system and directly contradicting established beliefs that everything revolved around the Earth. In Florence, we’ll visit where the great astronomer’s theories were first attacked from the pulpit in Santa Maria Novella, the city’s first great basilica and principal Dominican church. And in Arcetri, we’ll enjoy stunning views and glimpse the Villa il Gioello, where the persecuted scientist spent the final years of his life.

Off to a fascinating voyage of discovery and we still have a few spots left – please join us!

October 11-18, 2009, with Smithsonian Journeys

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