Gender Equality in the Travel Industry: There’s More to be Done

At its foundation, the travel industry is about hope, aspiration and curiosity. These cornerstones represent both the power of travel and the motivations behind it.

Travel is also something that is uniquely open and appealing to everyone, regardless of background. That was one of the reasons why we suggested that the travel industry should be a beacon of diversity. There’s nothing else like it for bringing people together and introducing people to new countries, cultures and ways of life.

One thing we neglected to mention in the diversity article linked above were the issues surrounding gender in the travel industry. It’s well known that there is an absurd lack of parity between men and women in the wider workplace, both in terms of high profile positions and wages. In fact, in many professions, women get paid less than men for doing exactly the same job.

But what about an open, tolerant travel industry that should strive to be a bastion for equality and equal opportunities? Well, it’s bad news: the latest research shows that there’s plenty of work to be done if travel wants to truly be an industry of parity and fairness.

The travel industry, just like many others, is still struggling with true gender equality.

Women (still) earning less than men in travel

C&M Travel Recruitment and C&M Executive Recruitment has released research showing that women in travel are still on average earning less than male counterparts. This is despite more women than men working in the industry.

One the one hand, women accounted for 67% of all new travel placements in the opening months of 2017. However, they received, on average, smaller pay packets than their male counterparts across almost all levels of the industry.

Starting at the top, women beginning new executive roles had an average income of £47,571. Men in the same roles earn 7.56% more, at £51,167.

Women earned 1.54% less than men in senior roles paying between £30,000 and £39,999 and 3.21% below males in mid-level travel positions paying between £22,000 and £29,999.

Strangely, there was an exception to the rule. Junior travel roles ( those paying below £22,000) saw women’s pay slightly ahead, by 0.53%. Although that only accounts for £96 per year.

Barbara Kolosinska, director at C&M Travel Recruitment and C&M Executive Recruitment, which carried out the study, said: “It feels as though we’ve been talking about the gender pay gap forever and yet our new figures show that the problem is still prevalent in the travel industry.”

“Thankfully, the gap has all but disappeared for entry level and junior roles, but women are still routinely earning less than men for the average mid-level or senior position.

“When female executives are typically earning £3,500 less than men in similar roles, it is evident that we have an issue.

“The travel industry is a fantastic place for both women and men to work, and I believe we have a far better attitude and approach to gender equality than many other industries, but it is clear that more can still be done.”

“Our figures show that more women have been appointed in senior and executive roles than men so far this year and that is a truly encouraging finding,” said Kolosinska.

“We have become used to seeing men hold the majority of high-powered jobs in the UK, but it seems that the travel industry could be the exception.

“These figures are in contrast to those from the start of last year, so whether this proves to be a long-term trend or merely a short-term blip will be fascinating to see and we will be keeping a close eye on this throughout the rest of 2017.”

Women on the march in travel industry

Women on the march in travel industry for equality

The above statistics show that the travel industry still has a long way to go for women to achieve parity in the workplace. Clearly, this isn’t an issue that’s restricted to the world of travel, but in an industry based on aspiration and openness, it’s fair to say that more can be done to improve the situation.

Writing for SkiftSarah Enelow goes into detail about how women around the world are already fighting inequality in the travel industry. She says that tackling the issue is even more vital in a Trump presidency era.

“Grassroots activism is now the go-to tactic for achieving gender equality in the Trump-era travel industry. Lobbying male executives one-on-one isn’t working, so women are employing their collective influence, reminiscent of recent movements like the Women’s March in Washington, D.C.”

Gender equality requires being bold online and in the workplace

While there have been high-profile protest events against new US president Donald Trump, women in the travel industry are looking to take a similar level of activism online, according to Laura Mandala, founder of Women in Travel & Tourism International.

Speaking to Skift, she said that online rallying cries, such as #GrabYourPurse, can be used to hightlight unfair practices and draw attention to companies not doing enough to tackle gender inequality in the travel workplace.

“Every time we see an organization or an entity where women are not being treated equitably, we can point it out, we can send [the hashtag] out… We’re encouraging women: Grab your bag, work somewhere else, grab your bag, go travel somewhere else.”

“We did an analysis and found that there was a dearth of women in most senior leadership roles in this industry,” Mandala said. “Women are making 70 percent of all travel decisions, 72 percent of all travel agents are women, and yet only 33 percent are leading a travel organization like the American Society of Travel Agents.”

“Is that it?” vs “Oh thank you!”

Also speaking to Skift was Cathleen Johnson, principal of Cathleen Johnson Tourism Consultants. She discussed the different approach that men and women tend to take to salaries. “How do you reach salary parity in a better way? …When men get a raise their response is, ‘Is that it?’ When women get a raise they say ‘Oh thank you!’ I think we have to learn to be

“How do you reach salary parity in a better way? …When men get a raise their response is, ‘Is that it?’ When women get a raise they say ‘Oh thank you!’ I think we have to learn to be more bold. I would say being bold, to me, has really gotten me where I’m going.”

From this we can see that tackling the problem of inequality in the travel industry is twofold. For reasons that go way beyond travel, women tend not to ask for more money where a male counterpart might. And in the business world, it’s often a case of ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’.

So how can we fix this?

On the one hand, a gender movement needs to be supported, bringing attention to companies that aren’t doing enough and calling them out for a lack of parity. Responsibility ultimately lies with the employer to treat employees fairly, no matter what the industry.

But it’s also clear that something needs to that takes place on an individual basis. Johnson points out that women shouldn’t be afraid to be bold and to value themselves more highly. Companies need to create an environment where women feel empowered to ask for more and to actively seek out parity.

Diversity is key for successful travel startups

women in travel industry gender equality

There are several reasons why gender equality is vital for travel industry moving forward. Obviously the first is basic fairness. In no walk of life should discrimination occur because of gender, race or any difference other than ability. In an industry based on aspiration and hope, it would be hypocritical for travel to continue in this vein.

But at very basic level, diversity in the workplace is key to any company’s success. That’s perhaps proved in the high number of women that work in travel. After all, half of the industry’s target market are women.

But at a deeper level, diversity is the industry’s lifeblood. Travel is all about a diversity of opinions, perspectives, backgrounds and cultures, all coming together to develop interesting products and ideas. Gender equality is a fundamental requirement of that diversity.

We’ve spoken before about team building, about how diversity lends itself to a dynamic startup environment. Travel companies should recognize that having women in leadership positions and gender equality at all levels is a no-brainer. It’s in their interests.

Travel and gender equality

Gender equality is a long struggle that’s been years in the making. While progress is being made, there’s still a long way to go. Obviously, the travel industry cannot singlehandedly defeat the cultural and societal norms that stop true gender equality from occurring. Nor can it be held responsible for reflecting those norms.

However, as we’ve mentioned, any industry that champions and relies upon diversity to the same extent as travel needs to be playing a bigger role. This is a movement that goes both ways. It needs activism and policy change from the top to bottom the bottom, from the individual to leaders at the world’s largest travel operators.

The Changing Trends of Travel Industry Marketing

Travel industry marketing is changing. And, for better or for worse, travel operators need to adapt. In this blog post we’re going to be taking a closer look at how travel marketing is being turned on its head, what challenges these changes pose to operators in the industry, and how Travelshift software can help you overcome those challenges.  

We’ll start at the beginning. Why is travel marketing being transformed? And what are these emerging trends in travel industry marketing that operators need to get to grips with?

Changing traveller attitudes toward advertising

Quite fairly, we think, travellers now have much higher expectations of brands and operators when it comes to marketing. Younger tourists (-30) in particular are increasingly tech-savvy and spend more time online than any generation in history.

This has several knock-on effects. The first is that brands now need to work harder to grab travellers’ attention. The move away from traditional forms of advertising on TV and in print is well underway.

But it’s not as simple as moving marketing efforts online. Many of today’s internet users are immune to spam campaigns, neon banners and click bait. They’ve seen it all before and won’t be falling for it anytime soon. They are adept at filtering out irrelevance and heading directly to what they’re looking for, fast.

This leaves operators with an obvious challenge: be relevant or get left behind. Be informative and inspiring or be ignored. Be interesting or watch your revenue shrink.

Nowhere is this trend played out more than in the sphere of social media. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are unique places where travellers can create their own bubbles of content that are tailored to their ‘likes’ and interests. Let’s look at this in more detail and think about how travel industry marketing needs to adapt.

The growing importance of social media

Social media is the new travel marketers’ battleground. It’s where millions of potential customers are active, engaged and there to be influenced and sold to. But the increasing importance of social media platforms is forcing marketers to adapt. In the travel industry, it’s not enough to spread links to your products and special offers.

Travel operators need to be more creative than that.

Content is King

Instead, operators are pivoting towards creating long-term relationships with potential customers, through the creation and promotion of inspiring content. It’s this element that is seeing a massive rise in terms of budget and focus.

We’ve previously highlighted the importance of content marketing, and quite rightly, too. This is an area where spending is on the up because it’s an easy way for travel brands to connect, engage and grow an audience. According to a Skift report on the state of content marketing, “the aspirational appeal of such content, combined with its increased credibility, helps it succeed with travel customers.”

But it’s not enough to simply produce content. First travel operators have to define what content even is, and what kinds of content they’re going to use to spread their message or philosophy.

And once that has been done, and content has been created there are still plenty of challenges. But first…

What counts as content?

The answer to the above question is largely subjective. For many travel brands, the simple act of posting something on social media might be seen as content marketing. For others, it might be the production of a GIF, eBook or podcast to go alongside a new product release.

All of these possibilities have an element of truth about them. Sure, anything can be content, whether it’s 140 characters in a Tweet or a 10-minute promotional video. But to understand what content marketing is really driving at we have to think about its purpose. Only once the aim is clear can travel brands think closely on the message and the medium.

What is the point of content marketing?

Content marketing is not just about putting your stuff in people’s faces. It’s about become established, a leader, a respected voice in your field.

In many cases, it’s entirely separate from the direct-sales marketing we’re all familiar with. Instead of pushing a specific product with an in-your-face advert, content marketing aims to build an audience and grow an operator’s influence.

It’s not supposed to be marketing-y.

Instead, the fundamental principle goes something like this: If you, as a travel provider, produce content that entertains, engages and informs your target market, they will be more inclined to buy your products and trust your brand as a result.

We’re a lot more cynical than we used to be when shopping. Our relationship with advertising has changed. Travellers now appreciate honesty and authenticity. They want the truth, and enough information to make informed decisions.

The concept is simple and it’s proven to be effective. And there’s another reason that travel brands are investing so much in fresh content…

Perpetuating traffic: The by-product of great content

Great content is great for SEO – there’s no getting around that fact. On the one hand, travel operators can create extensive written content that will be shared and viewed by thousands of readers. This, in turn, will generate more sales through a higher amount of traffic to the website in question.

But more content also boosts traffic organically by bumping agencies up the search engine rankings. Because of this, a by-product of any content marketing efforts is usually in an increase in relevant traffic and a natural growth in sales.

And it’s not only written content that boosts your traffic. Search engines also take into account an operator’s popularity on social media platforms and the reach of their brand beyond a simple website. This means that having a strong presence as a content creator on sites such as Youtube is also highly beneficial.

From this, we can clearly see that content marketing is an easy way to perpetuate traffic and sales. This also goes some way to answering one of the questions posed above. Namely, what kind of content should travel operators be using as part of marketing campaigns?

Content marketing in the travel industry: How and where?

So the two main questions here are what types of content should travel operators be using to reach potential customers, and where should they be employing these tactics?

The How

‘Content’, as we have seen, comes in many different forms. But to be an effective content marketer in the travel industry you need to understand which of those forms pushes the buttons of prospective travellers. More often than not marketing in this industry is about aspiration and inspiration.


For that reason, content often needs to be visual and engaging. Sure, there’s room for thought-provoking writeups and detailed travel guides. But pictures still say a thousand words. Videos say even more.

So let’s focus on media content for the time being. It’s not only that pictures, videos and GIFs have the potential to highlight a product or destination better than words ever can. In an online world where we sift through huge amounts of information in seconds – whether it’s on timelines or scrolling through a website – media content offers immediacy. A quick fix, a powerful punch of inspiration.

Because they force an immediate reaction, snippets of visual media stand out on social media and general websites. It’s a medium that people can engage within seconds without complication.

If something can be engaged with quickly on social media platforms, it’s more likely to be shared and spread. As well as being increasingly good for SEO, this peer to peer sharing can be the foundation of the authenticity a travel brand is trying to develop. Even in the digital world, a share or recommendation is a pretty big compliment. It suggests that a travel operator is doing something right.

content marketing travel

Take Facebook, for example. The world’s most popular social media platform has seen a huge rise in the use of video content on its pages.

Twitter last year introduced its new GIF search feature, encouraging users to share media content to improve the quality of their tweets. And then you’ve got Youtube, the video behemoth that’s quietly become the second-largest search engine in the world, with countless hours of video content uploaded and watched every day by people all over the world.

Youtube also gives travel operators the ability to create channels, which fans can then subscribe to and watch regularly. That same video content can then be shared across social media platforms. Which leads us to an interesting question:

If we agree that visual media content is 1. the most effective at portraying aspiration and inspiration that travel lovers love and 2. growing rapidly in terms of engagement across the web….

Should every travel operator be a media organisation?

It’s difficult to get away from this as a conclusion. But it needn’t be an intimidating one for those working in the travel industry. As the traditional need for travel agents has evolved, customers are looking for more than great prices. They want information, insight and inspiration. If a travel operator can offer those things, the need for conventional marketing could disappear completely.

The Where

A few of the platforms we’ve already mentioned are prime for content marketing campaigns dedicated to travel. Facebook and Twitter, in particular, offer easy avenues to viral content if the media is engaging enough.

Instagram content marketing travel

Instagram is the perfect platform to build a loyal band of followers.

But other platforms, including Instagram and Youtube, are also proving popular arenas for content marketing – just with a slightly different edge. Although photos and videos can also go viral on these platforms, the focus is more on building a fanbase, a group or subscribers or followers that receive regular updates and believe in the message travel brands are portraying.

But of course, it’s not only on social media platforms that content marketing can boost travel brands.

You’ll struggle to find travel operators these days who don’t provide some kind of insight, information or inspiration to potential customers, free of charge. Most often this will be in the form of blog posts, travel guides and other shareable content.

The post you’re reading right now could be deemed a form of content marketing, for example. We’re not simply trying to sell you our services (indeed, we haven’t even mentioned them yet) – we’re addressing the issues of interest to our target market, establishing ourselves as visionaries in our chosen field and generally informing, entertaining and inspiring the next generation of travel startups.

Those same techniques can be found in blog posts, website content, email newsletters and more.

Things to think about

With the move toward content marketing, different challenges are now being faced by operators in the travel industry.

The biggest challenge is obvious: How do we make and measure great content? 

Although we’ve highlighted the popularity of images and video on the platforms above, that’s by no means the end of the line. What type of content depends very much on the audience and product in question.

Another huge challenge for travel brands is finding talented content creators, whether that’s writers, video editors or creative thinkers – they don’t just grow on trees, after all. Because travel businesses are primarily setup to give their customers memorable experiences, content creation is not usually an area of expertise.

Perhaps for that reason, we’ve seen an interesting trend develop in travel alongside the popularity of social media: partnering with influencers.

In many ways, these influencers provide a shortcut to exposure. The idea is simple: pay a well-known, influential figure to feature your product or service, and reap the rewards by reaching their audience directly.

Read more: The Power of Influencers in the Travel Industry

But working with influencers comes with an interesting set of challenges.How do you go about choosing who to work with? And what’s the best way to measure their effectiveness and ensure high-quality results?

What if you could create your own ‘influencers’ and measure their impact on your travel business in real time?

Where Travelshift Comes In…


You might be wondering how all of the above could possibly be related to Travelshift. As you may or may not know, we build travel marketplaces. We’re not a content marketing agency. We don’t specialise in creating original media, so what do we know about content marketing?

We lied about only building marketplaces. We also build communities. And we’ve pioneered a whole new type of content marketing off that back of it. We call it community-driven content, and it works like this:

Our proprietary marketplace software allows our clients to build travel platforms with a difference. Built into these platforms are all the tools you need to bring together a community of writers and bloggers. In the first application of our software, our community of Icelandic locals, bloggers and travellers helped (and still helps) drive a huge amount of traffic through our GuidetoIceland marketplace.

You can read more about our GuidetoIceland marketplace in the case study.

With our community-driven framework, the authenticity and insight of locals and genuine travellers do plenty of the content marketing for you.

Interested in finding out more? Get in touch today!

How the Travel Industry is Using Wearable Technology

We’ve touched on the potential of various types of technology in the travel industry before. Whether it’s virtual reality or instant messaging, the current wave of innovation could transform the travel industry for the better. But today we’re going to get a little more specific. Today we’re going to take a closer look at how wearable technology could impact travel, from both a customer and an operator’s perspective.

What is wearable technology?

The clue is in the name with wearables: The term covers any technology that you wear, whether that’s a heart-rate monitor around your wrist, a self-heating jacket or a rucksack with a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot.

As more and more devices become connected and technology continues the trend of growing smaller, ambitious manufacturers are able to incorporate advanced capabilities into everyday items. So how can travellers and travel industry operators benefit from the rise of wearable technology?

Selling more products

The first is something that will appeal to every travel operator: the chance to sell more products and generate extra revenue.

So how can more money be made with the help of wearable technology?

For starters, there’s virtual reality – which is something we’ve written about extensively in the past.

Many travel agents are now using virtual reality technology to give potential customers an immersive view of a destination, accommodation or excursion. Check out the video below which, although more of a marketing exercise from Lufthansa, is a good example of the kind of tactics travel operators might employ in the coming years.

When deployed in this way, virtual reality gear can give prospective travellers a vivid idea of what a seat on a plane, room in a hotel or even walk down a nature trail would be like. This can be the tipping point that pushes them towards making a purchase or booking.

On top of the direct benefits VR can have on influencing customer decisions, the fact that operators are even using the technology serves as a marketing stunt in itself. As a concept that’s on the edge of innovation at the moment, people tend to sit up and take notice whenever virtual reality is involved. That includes the press, as well as the general public.

There’s one final advantage to virtual reality advertising: it’s inherently personalised. Because all virtual reality experiences include an element of self-determination – you can choose where to look, and to an extent where to go and what actions to take – it’s the ultimate in direct marketing.

Eventually, VR experiences will be tailored to the individual, giving every traveller a specific insight into what they’re interested in seeing and doing abroad.

This combination of benefits makes diving into the world of Virtual Reality a no-brainer for travel operators. As the technology becomes more refined, it will quickly become clear that VR is the marketing tool of the future. Nothing can match it for giving someone a sense of what a trip, hotel or experience would be like. While it’s also a great way to gain publicity for new offerings.

Improving the traveller experience

Sure, virtual reality gear can help sell holidays and boost the marketing of travel brands. But how can wearables impact travellers once a trip has started?

Easy boarding

You’ve probably seen the slow emergence of smartwatches in recent years, in particular the Apple Watch. But did you know that both easyJet and British Airways are among the airlines to have created apps for the Apple Watch? These enable passengers to store boarding passes and receive real-time updates – directly on their wrist.

And smart watches can go beyond just storing boarding passes. A new wrist gadget from timepiece experts Mont Blanc does a whole lot more. Thanks to several hands-free functions, boarding pass barcodes can be scanned directly from the screen; exploring a new town can be done with turn-by-turn navigation, and a collaboration with Uber offers quick access to cars. Users can also take advantage of a preloaded Foursquare City Guide app, which helps travellers find the best restaurants and experiences in any city and locates you immediately. Impressive.

Perhaps even more impressive is that the latest smart watches are essentially just a shrunken smartphone. They can do more than you might think. The Mont Blanc Summit watch includes a voice-activated translator, which can tell its user things like how to order coffee in Italian or how to buy train tickets in Japan. It also provides direct translations from several languages direct to the watch’s display.

So that’s more good news: There’s no longer an excuse to be lost for words in the local tongue.

Smarter cruises

There are other wearables out there dedicated to improving the customer experience. For example at CES 2017 in January, cruise company Carnival launched a smart wearable for its customers. Dubbed ‘Ocean Medallion’, the device will do a number of things, from opening cabin doors for guests to facilitating transactions for drinks, food and merchandise.

Carnival suggested that the Ocean Medallion will also be connected to an app. Through the app cruise-goers can personalise their vacation and travel preferences. And just like other wearable makers, Carnival will have accessories for sale to allow its guests to customise their Medallion, allowing you to wear it on your wrist or around your neck. Is this fashion meets travel technology?

On the subject of wearables entering the cruise sphere, Adam Coulter, UK managing editor of CruiseCritic, said:

“The use of wearable technology solutions within the cruise industry is growing, and this marks a significant development in supporting personalisation at sea. Though the smaller cruise ships have been renowned for offering a tailored, and personalised experience to guests, it’s generally been a little more challenging for larger ships to offer this level of personalisation. However, wearable technology solutions, which enable cruise lines to obtain data about their passengers’ personal preferences, such as dietary restrictions, and restaurant preferences, mean that cruise lines should be able to deliver a holiday to suit individual travel styles.”

Wearable tech could bring new safety and security to travel

It’s not just in terms of the customer experience that wearables are changing things in the world of travel. Small devices can also make a big impact in terms of safety and security. Check this out:

At CES 2016, skincare giant L’Oreal launched a revolutionary new wearable, My UV Patch, a stretchable skin sensor designed to monitor UV exposure and educate users about sun protection. It’s being marketed as the modern traveller’s best friend. Although clearly you don’t have to be on holiday to benefit from this kind of wearable.

“Connected technologies have the potential to completely disrupt how we monitor the skin’s exposure to various external factors, including UV,” said Guive Balooch, Global Vice President of L’Oréal’s Technology Incubator.

“Previous technologies could only tell users the amount of potential sun exposure they were receiving per hour while wearing a rigid, non-stretchable device. The key was to design a sensor that was thin, comfortable and virtually weightless so people would actually want to wear it. We’re excited to be the first beauty company entering the stretchable electronics field and to explore the many potential applications for this technology within our industry and beyond.”


So that’s one example of wearables improving traveller safety covered. What about security? Okay, so we’ll be the first to admit this is not strictly a wearable, but it’s certainly a step in taking luggage in a smarter direction. This is Bluesmart, an innovative UK luggage company developing smart suitcases for the world’s tech-savvy travellers.

They’ve developed a suitcase packed with technology that solves many of the problems faced by travellers. Built-in GPS means you’re never permanently separated from your bag; an electronic weighing scale tells you exactly how much more you can pack in; smart locks kick in when you’re a certain distance away; the case has a USB socket to charge your other devices. And all of this can be interacted with via smartphone app. Wonderful.


The Bluesmart app

These are just a few examples of how wearables are beginning to emerge on the travel industry scene. As well as helping operators market themselves, sell more bookings and products and keep travellers safer, they are improving the customer experience and generally making everything run more smoothly.

Here’s to many more innovative wearable devices in the future of travel.

In Depth With Zen Resort Bali

Something a bit different this week, folks. Instead of delving into a particular travel market sector, we’re going to be taking a closer look at one specific company in the industry. The operator in question is Zen Resort Bali, one of Bali’s leading holistic health retreats. We’ll be speaking with founder Dr Mahendra Shah, and exploring what lessons we can take away and apply to the industry as a whole.

Here we go.

A bit of background

Before we get started we need some perspective. We need to understand a little about Zen Resort Bali, its purpose and what makes it unique.

The key to that is founder Dr Mahendra Shah. He has dedicated his life to ethical development, holding senior positions at the United Nations and the World Bank while advising governments on sustainability. His central philosophy is that sustainability on a global scale cannot be achieved unless human beings themselves become sustainable.


As he moved into the travel industry, Dr Shah decided to open up a luxury resort in Bali – not solely because it represented a good business opportunity, but because it was also an opportunity of a different kind: a chance to convert and inspire. A way to incorporate holistic wellness and sustainable health into an experience that encouraged global travellers to spread the philosophy far and wide.

Dr Shah admits that health is one of the single biggest challenges facing humanity in the 21st century. We are eating worse, exercising less and losing our sense of connectedness. Travel has long been a tool of inspiration, so why not promote a more sustainable lifestyle through a holistic and wellness sanctuary?

Solving a problem

The first point that we can take from Zen Resort Bali is that it was clearly founded to solve a problem. In this case, the problem is huge in scale. As Dr Shah says, “Why are human beings not sustainable? Simply because all around the world we are adopting or aspiring to adopt modern lifestyles, which comprise little time to prepare and eat nutritionally balanced food, combined with inadequate and regular exercises – physical, psychological and spiritual, stress at work, stress in the home and living in an ever more polluted world… we are left depleted.”

“This cocktail of an unhealthy lifestyle is increasingly recognized as the cause of the emerging worldwide healthcare burden of diabetes, high blood pressure, mental stress, cancer, asthma and many more ailments and debilitating diseases.”

As a result, he says, “We are facing a global, emerging crisis of human health. The scope of this is such that most nations will not have the healthcare resources to confront the ailments and the diseases of modern lifestyles. Modern lifestyles are also resulting in our love of more and more consumerism. This “throwaway” society is the fundamental source of the escalating land and water pollution around the world. This environmental destruction and degradation is the second major challenge facing the world in the 21st century.”

The Yoga Hall, Zen Resort Bali

The Yoga Hall, Zen Resort Bali

So the point is this: Our hectic modern lifestyles require more than just a holiday, because they are symptomatic of much wider problems. If people are going to rise up and solve the enormous challenges we face as a species, they’re going to need to be inspired. The key here is that any global change has to begin on an individual basis. It’s that individual transformation that Zen Resort Bali offers its guests.

What can we learn?

It’s an age-old business strategy for good reason. If you want to be recognised as adding value to the market, you need to be solving a problem (or attempting to solve a problem) that isn’t being taken on elsewhere. In Zen Resort’s case, the problem is huge but approached at the level of the individual.

Visitors can come, experience all the luxury and pampering of a traditional spa break while leaving with something a whole lot more important than a sun tan – the inspiration required to live a more sustainable life, psychology, physically and spiritually.

Standing out from the crowd

sustainable travel at resort bali

On the face of it, Zen Resort Bali might appear to be a luxury wellness resort like any other. But actually, there are several factors helping it stand out from the crowd.

First and foremost is the focus on sustainability. Plenty of getaways can offer luxury, seclusion, spa treatments and breathtaking views. But very few have built a resort with a focus on sustainability and ancient holistic health techniques.

And Zen Resort clearly has an emotive story to tell prospective guests – about themselves, the world and how a trip to Zen can benefit the relationship between the two.

“At Zen Resort we encompass strategies that are socially, economically and ecologically sustainable,” says Dr Shah. “We use solar power to produce hot water and we recycle water in the resort to nourish the landscape as well as irrigation to grow organic vegetables and culinary and medicinal herbs.”

“We financially support local small-scale information and education on sustainable fishing and marine conservation. We facilitate employment and other livelihood opportunities for the local community, develop and market local food, health and beauty products, advise local farmers on crop agronomy – especially medicinal plants. Furthermore, we promote subsidized holiday stays for doctors and the healthcare community willing to give a few days of their holiday for local community health and education services.”

In short, this is a resort with a focus on the ethics and sustainability that many travellers are passionate about, without sacrificing the luxury and wellness that broadly appeals to all.

There is an inescapable consequence of this focus on sustainability. The extraordinary care and attention from the staff and toward the environment leads to guests feeling a renewed energy and zest for life.

What can we learn?

They key to Zen Resort Bali’s success is its diversity. But this isn’t diversity in the sense that it ticks as many boxes as possible. The resort is founded on a handful of ideals that have been honed to perfection. The philosophy behind the resort is clear to see, and though elements such as ‘luxury’ and ‘sustainable’ might appear at odds with each other at first viewing, they work hand in hand here.

For example, as well as offering a complete wellness package that spa and Ayurveda fans will love, community projects, seminars and a holistic focus offer guests a much more rounded experience than they would receive elsewhere.

Targeting two markets at the same time

Zen Bali resort yoga

Zen Resort Bali offers holistic health treatments with sustainability in mind.

In essence, Zen is targeting two markets a the same time: Health & Wellness and ethical tourism. As mentioned above, luxury health treatments and sustainability are not normally two things that travellers see together. But the unique philosophy Zen is founded on brings the two together with ease.

The result is simple: A retreat that manages to appeal to two separate markets, gaining traction and publicity for its work in both.

What we can learn

Being very good at a small number of things is a fast way to gaining a strong footing in whichever travel niche you choose. If you, like Zen Resort Bali, can seamlessly bring together niches that don’t traditionally go together, you’ll be on to a winner.

Zen Resort has also been able to drive traffic to its website by dominating localised search results for these two separate niches.

How Zen Resort Bali diversifies its offering

From reading the above you might think that Zen Resort Bali brings together holistic health, sustainability and luxury. That’s exactly right, but it’s done in practice, not just philosophy. For example, the resort has created its own scuba diving package, Zen Harmony Diving.

“We have the responsibility to increase public awareness and actions towards protecting and conserving the world’s sacred oceanic resource.” – Dr Mahendra Shah, founder, Zen Resort Bali

“Whilst some three billion people in the world live in coastal areas with easy access to the oceans, less than 60 million people have experienced scuba diving and snorkelling,” says Dr Shah.

“Zen Harmony Diving is a unique concept that unites the best of yoga, Ayurveda and scuba diving and enables scuba divers to discover the beauty and amazing diversity of marine life whilst experiencing an exceptional pathway to human health and fitness. This is done through the effective practice of underwater controlled breathing, meditative focus and free flow physical exercise.”

“Our shared vision of Zen Harmony Diving is to co-create and revolutionise the world of diving to substantially increase the community of scuba divers and snorkelers. Through their leadership, we want to enhance wider public awareness of the need to change our interface with all forms of marine life and protect the oceanic world, our largest and most precious natural resource.”

What we can learn

Developing new products is a sure way to grow revenue streams, particularly for travel marketplaces. If you can encourage sellers to bring unique and exclusive packages to your platform, travellers will keep coming back for more.

Zen Resort Bali has created a unique concept that will appeal to a wide range of people, from health and wellness fanatics to water sports enthusiasts.

The importance of leadership

There’s no doubt that Dr Shah’s enormous experience in sustainability and environmental ethics are the key driver behind the Zen Resort project. He wants to create a chain of luxury resorts that spread the philosophies of ethical tourism and holistic health, teaching people to be sustainable humans for the long term in the process.

Embrace your humanity and grasp the hand of your neighbour; it’s simple, just show that you care. Very importantly, make that partnership and commitment for sustainable lifestyles, for sustainable development, and to create a world of sustainable human beings – Dr Mahendra Shah

And that’s where Zen manages to differ from conventional resorts. It’s been created from the ground up to be a life-changing experience. That drive comes straight from the top.

What we can learn

We know the importance of leaders in the travel industry. But while they provide the vision (and often the capital) it’s still vital to have an efficient team in place to put into practice those ideals. Read our piece on the importance of building a good team for more information on that.

Gap in the Market Volume 12 – Safari Travel

We’re back with another instalment of our popular ‘Gap in the Market’ series. Each volume addresses a different travel industry niche, as we do our best to bring you insight and inspiration from leading figures who have been there and done it. This week we’re taking a walk on the wild side, delving into the world of safari travel and getting to grips with a travel niche that’s been around for longer than many of its contemporaries.

Although safaris are available all around the world with all sorts of wildlife as the focus, we’ll be concentrating on the original, ever-present and booming African safari scene. As the renowned home of the safari, the tourism scene in Africa heavily relies upon wildlife and a community of travellers who are passionate about the natural world.

Safari Represents Everything We Love About Travel

If for some reason you are unfamiliar with the world of safari travel, let’s quickly explain it before we go any further. A safari is a journey, typically taken in Africa, that takes you through the wild to experience the natural world in all its glory. In years gone by safaris went hand in hand with hunting for big game. But now, with poaching largely illegal and conservation at the forefront of people’s minds, a safari is now about observation and appreciation.

More than anything, safaris are a celebration of the natural world and a way for people to witness first hand what they might have seen on TV or in wildlife documentaries. Thrilling, educational and inspiring in equal measure, safaris represent everything we love about travel. A safari is the epitome of getting out there and experiencing something new, of satisfying the innate curiosity that we all hold about lands far away.

How the Safari Market is Shaping Up

If we look at global travel industry trends, the conditions are perfect for a booming safari sector: a rise in disposable income; cheaper air fares; an increase in demand for more ‘genuine’ trips; the growing influence of social media. Although there isn’t much data as we would like available on the numbers of tourists visiting African destinations year on year, the safari trend appears to be a positive one.

To take an example from one or two countries, Travel Market Report states that: “The Kenya Tourism Board reports that 730,000 people visited the country in the first nine months of 2016, up 16% from the same period in 2015, with American tourists making up the fastest-growing large market. Other popular African countries, like South Africa, report similar growth.”

This growth is largely down to an increased demand for ‘experiential’ travel among all demographics. The name is the giveaway – experiential travel is all about the experience, it’s about being immersed in something, whether that’s a culture, an environment or both. Many tourists complain of having visited a place but not really ‘felt’ it, of having landed at a destination and jumped on a plane back home without connecting with their destination on a deeper level.

The key to safaris is this sense of participation. The kind of experiential travel growing in demand offers everything you get from a good safari: an experience that’s unhurried, authentic and deeply emotive.

Read more: Travel Industry Takes a Stand Against Wildlife Trafficking

Safari Travel is More Important Than Many Realise

Few travel industry sectors can rival the symbolic significance of the safari. Threats to our natural world are in plentiful supply, and the disconnect between humans and nature has arguably never been greater. The importance of a travel sector dedicated to reversing that worrying trend cannot be underestimated.

First we have the focus on conservation. Entire habitats and species are at risk as a result of climate change, industrialisation and illegal poaching. Safaris are both a facilitator and a result of conservation efforts. On the one hand, safari projects can help to fund large areas of conservation, enabling national parks and wildlife reserves to sustain themselves off the back of ethical tourism. On the other, governments across Africa have set up areas of protected land in an effort to preserve land and species – opening them up to safari trips and creating refuges for both tourists and the wildlife they want to see.

Second, safaris play an important role in raising awareness of important conservations issues. By inspiring travellers and giving thousands of tourists an immersive experience in the wild, these tours essentially create ambassadors for the natural world.

Third, safaris are the bedrock of tourism for many African countries. Tourism, in turn, is vital for local economies in many of these fast-developing nations.

So there you have it: safaris are more vital to Africa and the natural world in general than you might think.

Read more: Gap in the Market Volume 7 – Food Tourism

A View From the Inside

&Beyond safari travel

&Beyond is best known for creating unforgettable tailor-made African safaris, South Asia and South America tours.

We spoke with Kasia Sliwa, PR Manager for safari experts &BEYOND.

She pointed out that many of the challenges faced in the industry are beyond the control of safari operators. “Safari travel has become far more mainstream in the past decade or two,” she said.

“That being said, accessibility still remains somewhat of an issue, especially in places like Botswana or East Africa, where the easiest way to reach most of the peak safari areas is by air. While this poses certain challenges in terms of cost and logistics, it does also ensure a truly untouched and authentic safari experience. Another challenge is the effect that adverse effect posed by changing or extreme weather patterns such as drought or flooding.”

And what about future trends in the world of safari travel?

As with many forms of tourism, Sliwa admits that authenticity is what travellers are increasingly looking for.

“Travellers are increasingly looking for authentic, immersive safari experiences. Guests are looking to become more involved as active participants and want to learn and grow through their holiday experiences,” she said.

“This has led &Beyond to offer our guests the opportunity to become involved in the wildlife management and conservation experiences that we carry out at our reserves, such as rhino notching and elephant collaring.”

“Another growing trend is for multi-generational travel. Families are taking advantage of their holiday time to travel together and to strengthen their bond through sharing extraordinary safari experiences. As a result, &Beyond has significantly grown our family offering, with family suites and even private villas now available at the vast majority of destinations where we operate.”

Tourism in Africa is Catching Up With the Connected Traveller

All evidence points to the fact that the African tourism industry – particularly when we’re talking about online presence and mobile bookings – is catching up with its European, Asian and American counterparts. Eye for Travel gives the example of HotelOga, which was set up in Nigeria in 2016 with backing from a Polish venture capital service. Established to help African hotels maximise their online presence, it already has over 500 hotels signed up to its online booking engine.

Founder Marek Zmysłowski has suggested that, as mobile internet penetration continues to rise, the African travel and hospitality industry is beginning to catch up with the new mobile consumer and all the expectations modern travellers have.

“Trends are changing rapidly, booking habits are switching to online, hotels will be more active in setting up hotel rates like airlines, with more online payments. The question really is, how fast we can make that shift happen,” Zmysłowski told

“The African travel sector is one of the fastest growing in the world. Technology is changing travel at an increasing pace, this is why building a travel technology company in Africa and beyond is so exciting,” he added.

It’s thought that about a third of the African population have internet access, but this number is expected to rise to 50% by 2025, powered largely by 360 million smartphone owners. So it’s clear that there’s plenty of scope for a steady rise in online travel booking within Africa.

The Challenges Facing Safari Tourism in Africa

The African safari industry has its fair share of challenges. Aside from being a beacon of conservation and appreciation of the natural world, there are plenty of controversies that threaten to put off even the most enthusiastic travellers.

First of all, while safaris, protected reserves and international tourism are important weapons in the fight against illegal poaching, criminal activities still occur. For example, it’s estimated that elephant poaching is costing African nations millions in lost tourism revenue. A study published in the journal Nature Communications concluded that the illegal wildlife trade responsible for dwindling numbers of elephants in the wild is causing a drop in the number of tourists.

africa safari elephant - want to build your own safari marketplace?

Safaris are having to adapt to changing traveller views on the treatment of elephants.

Researchers compared visitor and elephant data across 25 African countries and concluded that Africa was most likely losing $25m in tourism revenue a year. In the majority of countries, the amount of revenue lost is higher than the cost of stronger anti-poaching measures.

Speaking to The Guardian, Dr Robin Naidoo, the paper’s lead author and senior conservation wildlife scientist at WWF, said “The takeaway message is that the return on investment in elephant conservation is positive across much of their range in Africa. In addition to all the other good reasons for their conservation, there is a compelling economic one too.”

The safari industry is also having to adapt to the times. One sure way to put of ethically-minded travellers is to be found guilty of animal mistreatment on an enormous scale. This issue has come to light in Botswana and South Africa, where immersive safaris involving close contact with ‘wild’ animals has been questioned by animal rights activists. Now, operators across the continent are gradually phasing out any trips that involve ‘trained’ wild animals, such as personable lions and elephants you can ride, as the focus shifts to more genuine safaris where nature is respected from a distance.

Speaking with Skift, Giltedge Travel group managing director Sean Kritzinger said: “For our groups and incentives we would normally offer elephant-back rides as one of the activities. However, with the recent change in attitudes and mindset of travellers towards these kinds of activities we have stopped offering them completely.”

Travelshift can help you build an epic safari marketplace

Passionate about safari travel? Have contacts in the industry? Don’t know where to start but raring to go anyway? We feel there’s a definite opportunity for a travel marketplace in the world of safari tourism. As we’ve mentioned, Africa remains behind many popular destinations in terms of online bookings and overall connectivity. But instead of being a weakness, this factor represents a huge opportunity for ambitious platforms to bring together the continent’s many individual safari offerings.

The community-driven nature of our marketplace software solution also stands to help travellers choose the right destination and safari for them. Less guesswork for tourists, more informed opinions and an easy way to scour all of the different safari offerings – what’s not to love? Get in touch with us today if you’d like to find out how Travelshift can help you build a safari marketplace.

Prepaid Travel Cards Offer Agencies a Lucrative Revenue Stream

Prepaid cards of one sort or another are nothing new. In fact, they’ve been around for decades, and have long had something of a controversial reputation among consumers. It’s only in recent years that travellers have started to benefit from their presence.

On the face of it, prepaid travel cards solve a number of common travel problems. For that reason, it’s no surprise that travel agencies have got on board and started to work travel cards into their traditional offerings. Not only are they generating ongoing revenue with an added extra at the point of sale, they are providing travellers with an easy, cost-effective solution to the problem of spending money abroad. Everyone’s a winner, right?

We spoke with Rob Darby, who’s head of travel partnerships at Tuxedo Money Solutions. In case you didn’t know, Tuxedo is one of the UK’s leading prepaid service providers, delivering payment technology for businesses around the world.

The specific offering that will come up a lot in this article is Tuxedo’s ‘Escape’ card, which Tuxedo offers to travel agents to resell to customers or preload and offer for sales and marketing promotions. Tuxedo claims to offer agents the chance to earn “attractive commission payments for the life of the card”, too.

Tuxedo prepaid travel card

Escape Travel Card from Tuxedo

Why do prepaid travel cards exist?

Prepaid travel cards are the result of necessity. On the one hand, travellers have slowly grown frustrated about having to carry huge amounts of foreign currency with them on trips abroad. Nobody wants to hold wads of cash when they are 1.) in an unfamiliar place and 2.) supposed to be having a relaxing holiday.

The traditional method of crossing borders armed with a stuffed envelope of freshly exchanged currency is outdated and risky. Not only could you lose all of your spending money, it also makes tourists a target for pickpockets and thieves.

The convenience of topping up a card before you leave the country is ideal. No longer do travellers have to carry huge amounts of cash. Instead, instant access to their spending money is available through the card. These cards are often linked to online accounts or applications, meaning that they can be topped up on the go, too.

On top of that, many prepaid travel cards help tourists avoid expensive withdrawals in foreign countries. ATM machines can do real damage to travellers’ bank accounts, and free, easy access to their cash abroad is something that tourists have been wanting for years.

There’s also the saving aspect. Typically families will put money aside for a holiday in a separate account, but travel cards allow you to stash away spending money directly onto the card that you will be spending with – a small touch, but convenient nonetheless.

Additionally, offerings such as the Escape card outlined above provide customers with ongoing support just as an ordinary bank would. A 24-hour lost and stolen helpline is a strong selling point for travellers who want to feel looked after.

With all these benefits laid out, it’s easy to see why travel agencies would want to offer prepaid cards such as this to clients. And that’s before the notion of commission is involved. As Tuxedo says, its Escape Card allows operators to “provide a better customer experience whilst increasing revenue.” – What’s not to love about that?

Prepaid Travel Cards: The Numbers Game

Speaking with Rob Darby, head of travel partnerships at Tuxedo, we asked for his take on the appeal for prepaid travel cards. Why is it that travel agencies are looking to Tuxedo and other prepaid card providers for these solutions?

“UK residents spent £39 billion during trips overseas in 2015, the highest amount recorded by the UPS and a 9.8 percent increase from 2014”, he said. On top of that, “the global prepaid card market is anticipated to reach $3,653 billion by 2022, with Europe dominating in terms of revenue, accounting for more than 49.1 percent share of the global market. This presents agents with an opportunity to capitalise on this lucrative market, whilst providing their customers with a safe, simple and cost-effective way to manage their spending money abroad.”

It’s perhaps a reflection on the current state of the industry that travel agents are looking for additional products to boost revenues. “At Tuxedo,” says Darby, “we’ve witnessed a marked increase in demand for our Escape Travel Money Prepaid Mastercard, as travel agents look for long-term revenue rewards on easy-sell products.”

It’s clear that prepaid travel cards allow travellers to plan ahead and keep a check on their spending abroad. The moment that personal credit or debit cards, often with fixed fees on withdrawals and transactions, come out to play, travellers enter dangerous financial territory.

The timing of conversion from one currency into another is also important. “Travel cards that are loaded in the holder’s currency with conversion made at the time of use ensures holidaymakers are getting the most up-to-date exchange rate,” said Darby. “Furthermore, with this type of card, they will not be charged for unloading money not spent nor will they face further exchange rate charges for converting into another currency should they travel abroad to another country later in the year.”

Financial safety is also as important as physical safety. “In addition to the cost savings, and perhaps more importantly, is the benefit of being safe, with no connection to customers’ bank accounts. With a Travel Money card, travellers are offered a convenient and safe alternative to carrying cash or their bank cards abroad. They also offer much greater flexibility while ensuring they get the most bang for their buck, each and every time.”

Prepaid card users can also avoid a range of fees that many travellers are unaware of. “Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) is also a little-known charge on foreign transactions that is still catching holidaymakers out but luckily there is a rule of thumb that is easy to go by. When a consumer pays a bill abroad using a credit, debit or prepaid card, they may be given the option to pay in the local currency or in their own currency. If they choose their own currency they could be hit with hidden charges because the retailer or ATM will apply their own conversion rate – and this can be vastly different from that of their card issuer.”

By opting to pay in the local currency, the holidaymaker’s card issuer will convert the money at a rate that many will publish in advance. For those customers who have already loaded a prepaid card in the local currency opting to pay in that currency saves them from a second conversion fee. By always opting to pay in local currency, holidaymakers could save themselves money at every transaction.

Travel cards changing the modern traveller’s experience

Darby suggests that the prepaid travel card industry is “continually evolving in line with consumer demand and technology improvements.” For example, he says that “a prepaid Travel Card allows travellers to budget by providing a separate ‘travel wallet’, which can be used as a savings account between booking and travelling. The ability for cards to be managed easily, on the go, online and via SMS is a key benefit for the modern traveller, who often demands instantaneous results. Furthermore, providing one ‘pot of money’ means customers can have multiple cards, allowing them to access and share funds without needing to be present 24/7.”

How travel agencies can benefit from relationships with prepaid card suppliers

“Tuxedo’s Escape Travel Money Prepaid MasterCard has been designed to deliver significant income potential for partners,” said Darby. “Escape enables distributing partners to earn attractive commission payments for the three-year life of the card. This new offering boasts numerous benefits for both partners and cardholders, setting it apart from competitors.

And there are several options for agencies that want to distribute cards on behalf of Tuxedo, from an “off the shelf” solution that can be up and running in as little as 14 days to co-branded or fully white label options. “With these options,” says Darby, “the card and customer communications become a branded travel essential that will remain front of wallet for holidays now and in the future.”

Tuxedo’s solution offers a “generous” commission rate to distributing partners, paid over the life of the card for all loads, not just the initial load. These cards can also be used for promotions, and can be given away preloaded and used (and earned on) for years to come.

The Future of Prepaid Cards: Do Travellers Want Something Different?

It’s only natural to assume that the way we pay for things is going to change dramatically in the coming years. Travellers also tend to be a forward-looking bunch, and are bound to be among the early adopters for new payment technologies. With that in mind, how much longer can travel agents rely on prepaid cards for a welcome boost to revenues?

If more disruptive technologies start to emerge, will the role of travel agents in currency matters become further diminished?

At one end of this scale we have smarter, more flexible money management platforms like Revolut. At the other, we have the emerging yet slightly futuristic technologies that use a combination of biometrics and smart devices to handle our finances and payments.

Let’s take a closer look at Revolut– Could this be the new kid on the block for the prepaid travel card industry?

There are a few things that travellers find frustrating when it comes to money management:

1. Exchanging currency: Getting a decent rate is almost impossible. Whether it’s withdrawing cash from your prepaid card abroad, at your local supermarket or inside the airport, it always seems as though someone is making a profit from the exchange. As a result, the traveller is not getting the best possible deal.

How new money platforms like Revolut solve this problem: Revolut offers instant currency exchange at inter-bank rates. Travellers can make an exchange through the app, whether they are currency trading or preparing for a trip.

2. Accessing money when abroad: Prepaid travel cards are great for safety, security and budgeting, but they can leave travellers feeling separated from their cash. For globetrotters who work on the road, this is far from ideal.

Revolut global money app


How Revolut solves the problem: The Revolut app allows travellers to transfer money to and from external accounts, send money to friends in other countries in whatever currency you like, pay bills, track expenses and exchange currencies – free.

3. It’s not free to spend money abroad: Travellers don’t like to feel short-changed. In a modern, connected world, should banks really be charging for international withdrawals and transactions abroad?

How Revolut solves the problem: With a Revolut card, spending money is free. Simple as that.

4. People can feel separated from the normal help banks offer when travelling

You get the idea by now: An in-app chat gives Revolut users instant access to help when they need it. The travel industry is ideal for instant messaging – more on that here.

It seems clear that disruptive startups like Revolut are going to change the way travellers handle their money in the years to come. Prepaid cards have already taken giant leaps forward and made handling travel money far easier than it used to be.

Now there looks to be few new kids on the block. Whether travel agencies will be able to become as intertwined with these global money apps remains to be seen.

We spoke with Revolut’s Grace Stuart. She pointed out that many prepaid cards “tend to add a markup to the exchange rate or charge fees to spend your money around the globe.”

“Ultimately,” she said, “Revolut is more than a prepaid travel card. We’re building a21st-centuryy banking alternative designed for your global lifestyle. Customers can transfer 23 currencies to any bank around the world; see a categorised breakdown of their daily spending; split bills instantly with their phone contacts; and block or unblock their card at any time.”

But the bad news for travel agencies making commission from prepaid card sales: Revolut has no such affiliate program in place. “We do not have an affiliate program,” confirmed Stuart. “We have gained over half a million customers primarily through word-of-mouth referrals. The ease of sending and requesting money from friends or family via the Revolut app has also allowed our user base to grow organically.

“It seems likely that consumers will increasingly turn to prepaid cards to spend, save and manage their money. FinTech’s, like Revolut, are much faster than banks when it comes to delivering the functionality that consumers are looking for.”

For example, Revolut users can now apply for a personal loan from the app in 3 minutes and receive the money instantly in their account. The same process with major UK banks could take a week and cost you double.”