10 most popular global travel destinations

During the first quarter of 2015, fingers were flying on keyboards across North America, searching travel destinations, whether to escape the cold or simply the common.

Sojern, a travel data analysis firm, totted up who was looking for where, so to speak, and will release its full Q1 Global Travel Insights report on Thursday, April 30. 

Europeans were focused on chasing the sun and bargains, judging by their Q1 searches: Spain held the top three destinations (Palma de Mallorca, Alicante, Malaga) as well as Nos. 7 and 8 (Barcelona and Ibiza). Faro, Portugal, and the Turkish cities of Antalya and Izmir also made Europe’s top searches list, with only New York (No. 5) and Los Angeles (No. 10, tied with Bangkok) representing U.S. destinations.

Wannabe wanderers in Latin America, meanwhile, showed more interest in Miami, Orlando, New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, as their respective Nos. 1, 3-5 and 9, when considering trips to the United States. Cancun was second, with Madrid, Barcelona, Santiago and Lima in the remaining slots.

As for potential travelers from Asia and the Pacific, they put Los Angeles at No. 3 on their list — below London and Bali (Denpasar), respectively — but no other U.S. cities made the cut; instead, Singapore, Paris, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Sydney, Incheon and Tokyo, respectively, filled out that list.

So what do these numbers mean for you, the person making late spring/summer travel plans? After reviewing all the data, Sojern came up with these tips and insights:

  1. Forget Paris, Go to Budapest ASAP: You thought you were the only one planning an epic shopping trip to Europe thanks to the weaker euro? Nope. Other travelers from North America are already packing: searches for travel to Europe from the US grew by 52% in Q1 and from Canada by 59%. But everyone’s heading to London and Paris – for even better bargains and no crowds, look East. Budapest, Bucharest, Prague, they were all affected by the weaker euro, are off the radar and they all await
  2. Who is Traveling When: North Americans in June, Middle-Easterners in July and Europeans in August. To be more precise, 50% of North Americans who searched for summer travel in Q1 looked to travel in June, 47% of Middle-East and Africa travelers looked at July and 23% of Europeans are planning to travel in August, more than anyone else. If you want to avoid the crowds and are looking at one of these three regions, plan your vacation accordingly.
  3. Book Your Tickets to Cuba Now: Between Airbnb now open for business in the Caribbean nation and weekly charter flights now available between JFK and Havana, Cuba is inching up on the list of most desirable vacation destinations for Americans: searches from the US to Cuba jumped by 184% this quarter. Now is the golden time to do it, before the travel restrictions are lifted entirely and it gets expensive and overcrowded!
  4. The Top Destinations to Avoid: The usual suspects on everyone’s list remain roughly the same: Los Angeles, New York, Paris, London, Barcelona and Bangkok. Since everyone and their mothers are heading there this summer, you may want to look at other more low-key destinations. Big tourist cities are best left for the off-season.
  5. How Not to Get Stuck Behind Big Groups at that Ticket Counter. 27% of Europeans search for travel for groups of 3 or more, so there’s a good chance you’ll get stuck behind them at some point during your trip, no matter where you are. The good news: They do tend to favor destinations in Europe over all other regions this year, with Spain and Portugal at the top of their list, followed by Turkey. So, see point 1 and go East.

 

Article source: http://www.seattlepi.com/lifestyle/travel/article/10-most-popular-global-travel-destinations-6233416.php

How Bats Could Influence the Future of Air Travel

Researchers are learning from the way bats fly

A new study reveals how bats are able to fly with such precision in the dark, a finding that could eventually lead to innovations in airplane technology, researchers said.

The study, which examined big brown bats in North America and was published April 30 in Cell Reports, demonstrates for the first time that bats fly using highly sensitive touch sensors on their wings that respond to changes in airflow. These receptors then send signals to neurons in the bats’ brains, allowing the animal to make quick adjustments in flight.

The researchers from Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University and the University of Maryland say their findings could help people design aircraft that can sense and adjust to air turbulence and better avoid obstacles.

“This kind of information could be very important in the design of aircraft, particularly aircraft that must maneuver through complex environments,” said Cynthia Moss, one of the senior authors of the study and a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Johns Hopkins. “Biology has done an exquisite job creating these animals that can maneuver so agilely, and so we might be able to learn some basic principles from the bat that could be transferred into technology.”

Article source: http://time.com/3841849/bats-flight-air-travel/

Top 10 Travel Health Insurance Companies

Your health insurance policy helps pay the bills if you have an illness, injury or condition that requires medical care. The exact coverage is defined by your policy, and coverage limits may vary depending on where you receive care: either in-network (with providers that are part of your insurance company’s network and that have negotiated discounts for services) or out-of-network (providers that are not part of this network). Typically, you are responsible for a smaller share of the costs – in terms of co-pays, deductibles and co-insurance – if you use in-network providers. If you use an out-of-network provider, your share will generally be higher, and some expenses may not be covered at all.

But what happens if you’re traveling well outside your insurance company’s network – say, in Thailand or Patagonia? Your domestic policy may provide benefits while you are traveling abroad, but chances are, any coverage will be limited (see Is My Health Insurance Good Abroad?).The good news is you can purchase a travel health insurance policy to make sure you are covered for medical expenses and evacuations while traveling or even living abroad.

There are three different types of travel health insurance plans:

  • Single trip – coverage for a single trip up to six months, paid up front.
  • Multi-trip – coverage for multiple trips, often purchased for 3, 6 and 12 months.
  • Long-term major medical – continuous coverage for long-term travelers (like expats), typically paid for on a monthly basis.

Some policies cover non-medical benefits for trip interruption and limited baggage loss, as well as accidental-death-and-dismemberment benefits and hazardous-sports riders. Policies are priced based on your age, trip length and the coverage limits you choose, and can end up costing just a few dollars a day.

Just like getting any insurance policy, it’s a good idea to shop around to compare the different travel health insurance plans to find one that works well for you, in terms of price and covered benefits. To get you started, here’s a quick look, in alphabetical order, at 10 companies, with an example of the type of travel insurance policy each offers.

Top Choices in Travel Insurance

Allianz Global Assistance
Phone: 866-884-3556
Headquartered: Richmond, Va.
Underwriter(s): BCS insurance Company and Jefferson Insurance Company, depending on insured’s state of residency.
Sample policy:
Allianz Basic Plan – Policy covers up to $10,000 for emergency medical and dental, and $50,000 for emergency medical transportation. Includes trip cancellation/interruption protection, baggage coverage and travel/trip delay coverage.

CSA Travel Protection
Phone: 800-348-9505
Headquartered: San Diego, Calif.
Underwriter(s): Generali U.S. Branch, Stonebridge Casualty Insurance Company
Sample policy:
CSA Freestyle – Policy provides $50,000 medical and dental coverage, and $250,000 for emergency assistance and transportation. Includes trip cancellation/interruption, baggage coverage and travel delay coverage.

HTH Travel Insurance
Phone: 888-243-2358
Headquartered: Radnor, Pa.
Underwriter(s): BCS Insurance Company
Sample policy:
Expat Essential Option – Comprehensive medical and dental plan for expats including prescription drug benefits, with unlimited lifetime maximum benefits and a $250,000 maximum benefit for emergency medical evacuation. Includes $50,000 for accidental death and dismemberment and up to $25,000 for repatriation of remains.

IMG Global
Phone: 866-368-3724
Headquartered: Indianapolis, Ind.
Underwriter(s): Sirius International
Sample policy:
Patriot Travel Medical Insurance – Policy covers $50,000–$2,000,000 in medical expenses, plus a range of emergency medical evacuation/repatriation benefits. Trip cancellation/interruption, baggage coverage and travel delay/missed connection coverage available.

MH Ross
Phone: 800-423-3632
Headquartered: Kansas City, Mo.
Underwriter(s): Arch Insurance Group
Sample policy:
Asset Plus – Policy covers $50,000 in medical expenses plus $500,000 for emergency medical evacuation and return of remains. Includes trip cancellation/interruption, baggage coverage and travel delay/missed connection coverage.

Seven Corners
Phone: 800-335-0611
Headquartered: Carmel, Ind.
Underwriter(s): Advent, Tramont Insurance Company Limited and certain underwriters at Lloyd’s, London
Sample policy:
Liaison International – Policy covers $50,000–$1,000,000 in medical expenses and $300,000 for medical evacuation and repatriation of remains. Includes accidental death and dismemberment, terrorism, dental coverage and unexpected recurrence of pre-existing conditions. Hazardous-sports coverage is an option.

Travel Guard
Phone: 800-826-4919
Headquartered: Stevens Point, Wis.
Underwriter(s): National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, Pa.
Sample policy:
My Travel Guard: Policy covers $10,000 accident and sickness medical expenses and $100,000 for emergency evacuation and repatriation of remains. Includes trip cancellation/interruption, baggage coverage and trip delay coverage.

Travel Insured International
Phone: 800-243-3174
Headquartered: Glastonbury, Conn.
Underwriter(s): United States Fire Insurance Company
Sample policy:
Worldwide Trip Protector: Policy covers $100,000 accident and sickness medical expenses and $1,000,000 for emergency evacuation and repatriation of remains. Includes trip cancellation/interruption, baggage coverage and travel delay/missed connection coverage.

Travelex Travel Insurance
Phone: 800-228-9792
Headquartered: London, with North American offices in New York, Omaha, Washington, D.C., and Toronto
Underwriter(s): Stonebridge Casualty Insurance, Transamerica Casualty Insurance, Old Republic Insurance Company
Sample policy:
Travel Select – Policy covers $50,000 for medical expenses and $500,000 for medical evacuation and repatriation of remains. Includes trip cancellation/interruption, baggage coverage and travel delay/missed connection coverage.

TravelSafe Insurance
Phone: 888-885-7233
Headquartered: Wyomissing, Pa.
Underwriter(s): Certain underwriters at Lloyd’s, London
Sample policy:
TravelSafe Classic – Policy covers $100,000 for accident and sickness medical expenses and $1,000,000 for emergency evacuation and repatriation of remains. Includes trip cancellation/interruption, baggage coverage and travel delay/missed connection coverage. Medical-only policy available.

The Bottom Line

When shopping around, pay close attention to the policy benefits and details to make sure you will have the coverage you need when traveling abroad. Many policies offer additional benefits (for an additional fee). If you’ll be rock climbing and scuba diving, for example, the policy should cover sports and hazardous activities (not all policies do).

Note: It’s important to note the difference between travel insurance and travel health insurance plans. The former protects against non-medical issues such as trip cancellation, while the latter provides coverage for medical expenses and evacuation. Many policies are a combination of the two. For further information, see The Basics of Travel Insurance and Credit Cards With Travel Insurance.

Article source: http://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/043015/top-10-travel-health-insurance-companies.asp

Summer Travel Outlook: Hot Destinations

We’re about to turn the calendar to May and that means just weeks before the summer travel season kicks off. Here’s a look at where summer trends are pointing, and how to score the best fares.

Americans are searching for more adventurous summer trips, but also want a deal

That’s according to an analysis of more than one billion searches by travel website Kayak.

Thanks to the stronger U.S. dollar, many summer travelers, are thinking about Europe.

David Solomito, Kayak’s director of brand marketing, says “A weak Euro means more spending power for the traveler, and we’ve actually seen a seven percent increase in travel to Europe this summer, compared to last summer. If you look at the top destinations to Europe — they include Paris, Rome, Dublin and Barcelona”

Here in the united states, kayak’s david solomito says one city stands out.

“Looking at the data in domestic destinations, the one that popped for this coming summer is Boston,” Solomito says.  “In fact, 4 of the top 5 Trending hotels all were in the Boston area. Boston is also a great roadtrip city because you can get to lots of unique places within a short drive.”

Lower gas prices mean more travelers are considering road trips. But the question most consumers have — is when to book a flight.

“The KAYAK Travel Hacker guide recommends four to six weeks as the ideal booking window for travel within North America.   If you’re looking to travel within the Caribbean, you can get away with a bit of a shorter window. And if you’re looking to take advnatage of all the buzz and excitement around Europe, the sooner the better.”

But if you spot a flight deal, it’s best to just take it before another summer traveler fills that seat.

(Karin Caifa for CNN’s Consumer Watch)

Article source: http://www.ozarksfirst.com/story/d/story/summer-travel-outlook-hot-destinations/39229/30ifN0urwE2tmHXamts9MA

The Art of Self Deception: Airline Execs Really Believe Consumers’ Travel …

The data are in and it’s true – the emperors of the airline industry have no clothes.

That’s metaphorically speaking, of course, when it comes to their belief that the customer experience onboard their flights (and in buying tickets, boarding and changing planes, and recovering checked bags) is getting better.

U.S. consumer satisfaction with the air travel experience never has been very high. So the airlines were eager to point out when the results of the American Customer Satisfaction Index were  issued earlier this month by researchers at the University of Michigan that consumers had pushed the airliness’ score up two points in one year, to within one point of their all-time high. On a 0-100 scale, U.S. carriers now score a 71.

Alas, the context is damning. The industry’s lowly “peak” performance in the ACSI came in 1994, the first year it was published. It’s been all downhill since. Even with their recent improvement U.S. airlines still rank 40th out of 43 business sectors tracked by the ACSI. Only health insurance companies, subscription television service providers and internet service providers have even more dissatisfied customers than do U.S. carriers.

Worse, in a monumental display of absolute cluelessness, another recent and incisive research report showed that 81 percent of today’s top airline executives believe customer satisfaction with the air travel experience is getting better. And their cluelessness is even greater than that number, in isolation, would indicate. Just how clueless? Well, 66 percent of their customers say that their satisfaction with the air travel experience either is about same as it always has been (meaning it’s still pretty awful) or has gotten even worse.

Two views of the same customer service experience could hardly be any more different.

That yawning disconnect is the most mind-blowing piece of analysis to come out of research performed last year by two leading number-crunching consultancies. But for some reason the report from Texas-based Sabre Airline Solutions and the Economist Intelligence Unit (the analytics and advisory arm of the London-based company that publishes the respected weekly business newspaper The Economist) got almost no media attention.

But the timing of this analysis is perfect. U.S. airlines, finally, are making reasonable – though not great, by broader market standards – profits. Over the last 10 days American, United, Delta, Southwest and JetBlue – which together carry 97 percent of all U.S. air travelers – reported combined profits of $2.85 billion. And they did it in a quarter historically known as the toughest of the year, one in which carriers typically chalk up big losses even in good years.

Article source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/danielreed/2015/04/30/the-art-of-self-deception-airline-execs-really-believe-consumers-travel-experience-is-improving/

Hate People, Love Travel? This Might Be the Trip for You

Some stereotypes transcend cultures — like that of the antisocial awkward introvert. Hey, some people just want to be alone, and that’s OK, right? But this perception reveals a great deal of ignorance toward the true nature of introversion, and introvert activist Lisa Avebury is battling to change that. She’s even created a travel company specifically for introverts, letting them roam the world — without enduring those awkward mealtime conversations.

“In the dictionary, the definition [of introvert] is ‘a shy person’ and I’m not shy,” Avebury tells OZY. Indeed, her tone is bubbly and upbeat, and her enthusiasm borders on grating to my caffeine-deprived nerves. She finds the misconception that introverts just read and stay at home frustrating, and hopes that Sacred Introverts, her travel company for the socially disinclined, will give them the adventures they crave, minus any forced group bonding. The inaugural Sacred Introverts trip is a 10-day excursion to Glastonbury, England — a place Avebury finds calming — this spring. Every participant gets a private room, of course. And there’s no single supplement charge.

No awkward breakfast chitchat. Just contemplative, calm people avoiding “Isn’t the weather nice?” small talk.

“The spaces are set up for an inward journey,” Avebury says. So far, 14 people have signed up for the tour; she plans to keep the number at around 20. On offer: daily yoga lessons and workshops, all of which are strictly voluntary — people can choose to partake, but there’s no pressure. And, Avebury says, there’s no obligation to talk. This translates to no awkward breakfast chitchat. Just contemplative, calm people roaming the bed-and-breakfast, avoiding inane “Isn’t the weather nice?” small talk.

Lisa Avebury, founder of Sacred Introverts.

Source: Sacred Introverts

A great idea for solo sojourners looking for the benefits of a group tour, but at $3,795, not including airfare, it’s not cheap. And if you’re of the let’s-all-be-friends, chummy persuasion, best stick with the usual group package trips.

Avebury, who doesn’t seem like an introvert on paper, either, grew up in NYC, lives in LA and is a regular speaker on the introvert activist scene, trying to change the public perception of the personality type. She explains that introverts do like being around other people, they just need some quiet time to check out from the world. Psychologist and personality expert Donna Dunning,Ph.D., agrees, explaining that when interacting with others, every introvert is extrovert in personality — it’s about who finds it easier (extroverts) and who finds it more difficult (introverts). But she says that Sacred Introverts should be open to everyone. “If you’re looking for solitude, you shouldn’t have to pass a test,” she tells OZY. (Note: No test is required.) Dunning is concerned that labeling the retreat as one for introverts could lead to more stereotyping, although she acknowledges the comfort that introverts would appreciate on the trip, such as nobody interrupting one another.

Guilt-free solitude on a holiday with no social pressures — sounds kinda nice, doesn’t it? Now leave me alone.

Ad for Sacred Introvert Retreat Tour Glastonbury May 2015

Article source: http://www.ozy.com/good-sht/hate-people-love-travel-this-might-be-the-trip-for-you/40628

Sojern’s Q1 Global Travel Insights Report Offers Summer Travel Forecast …

SAN FRANCISCO, April 30, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Sojern, the world's leading performance marketing platform for travel brands, today released its Q1 Global Travel Insights Report based on the rigorous analysis of more than 800 million traveler intent data points across the globe.

From a currency perspective, the report reveals that the weaker euro is attracting large numbers of global tourists to European countries this summer, while the stronger dollar has yet to have a negative effect on worldwide search and booking to the US. In February, Japan benefited from an increase in inbound travelers from countries celebrating the Lunar New Year. In March, Tunisia and Egypt suffered the ill effects of a recent terror attack and the announcement of tighter visa rules, respectively. Throughout the quarter, searches to Cuba were on the rise from the US, as well as from other countries around the world.

"Sojern's first quarter report analyzes new patterns in travel around the globe, including seasonal events like Easter and Lunar New Year," said Mark Rabe, Sojern's CEO. "But it also serves as a crystal ball into summer 2015, as we distill millions of traveler intent data points into actionable insights for travel brands that want to reach consumers as they research summer holidays."

Below are some of the main travel trends of the quarter.

Top 10 Global Destinations in Q1 2015

Overall, the most searched destinations during the first quarter of the year were the United States, Spain, United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, France, Mexico, Turkey, Greece and Thailand. Compared to last quarter, Russia and India exit the list (the former in spite of its current affordability), while Thailand joins as the only Asia-Pacific destination in the top 10. Greece re-enters the list after a quarter break.

Weaker Euro Spurs Summer Travel Planning to Europe, Globally

This spring, currency fluctuations (a stronger US dollar and flagging euro) have pushed Europe into the limelight of global travel, as travelers worldwide are able to explore the continent on a smaller budget. Europe is the top international destination for summer travel in three of the four other markets we studied: 45 percent of the Middle East and Africa, 33 percent of Asia-Pacific and 22 percent of North America ranks it number one for non-domestic travel plans. Seventy-one percent of Europeans are also planning to explore their own continent this summer.

Summer Travel: Preferred Months, Destinations and Party Sizes

Half of Q1 searchers in North America looked to travel in June, compared with Latin American travelers who were almost evenly split between June (42%) and July (39%), and Europeans, for whom the later summer months take a bigger share of the travel pie. Asia-Pacific travelers also seem to favor June and July while in the Middle East, July will be taking the lion's share of summer travel at nearly 50 percent.

Some of the top destinations for summer travel across the globe are: Los Angeles, New York, Paris, London, Barcelona and Bangkok. A whopping 27 percent of Europeans are planning to travel in groups of three or more, followed by Middle East Africa travelers at 20 percent, 19 percent of Americans, 14 percent of Latin Americans and 12 percent of travelers in Asia-Pacific.

Terror Attacks and Tighter Visa Rules Prompt Drop in Travel to North Africa

The March 18 terrorist attack on the Bardo National Museum in Tunisia's capital Tunis seems to have impacted travel searches for the North African country: searches dropped as much as 28 percent in March, from across all continents.  Egypt's announcement of tighter visa rules for all travelers on March 17 was also greeted with a drop in searches: an average decline of about 7 percent across regions, but as much as 14 percent in searches from Europe, arguably the region of origin most affected by the new rules. Most recently, restrictions have been postponed and searches climbed back up.

The Impact of New US Rules on Travel to Cuba and the Caribbean

The relaxation of travel restrictions from the US to Cuba has also taken effect this quarter and fueled continued interest from American travelers: searches from the US were up 184 percent over the previous quarter. Searches also increased 41 percent from Canada and 45 percent worldwide. For now, the new rules do not appear to have had a significant effect on travel to the Caribbean region overall, although Cuba did move up three spots in the list of top 20 Caribbean destinations for US travelers, swapping spots with St. Kitts.

Download the full Global Travel Insights Report and infographic

For more information, please visit www.sojern.com.

About Sojern

Sojern is travel's leading data-driven performance marketing engine. Through its Sojern Traveler Platform and billions of traveler intent signals across online and mobile channels, Sojern puts more heads in beds and travelers in town for its clients worldwide. Currently one of the fastest growing travel tech companies, Sojern works with top travel brands and independent hotels in North America, Latin America, Europe, MEA and APAC. The company is headquartered in San Francisco, with key offices in Dubai, London, New York, Omaha and Singapore. For more information, please visit www.sojern.com.

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Article source: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/sojerns-q1-global-travel-insights-report-offers-summer-travel-forecast-analyzes-impact-of-regional-and-current-events-2015-04-30

Facebook pages are travel agencies for desperate migrants trying to get to Europe

A Facebook user commenting on a post on the Smuggling Syrians from Turkey to Europe page caustically asks, “if we drown, do we get our money back?”

It’s a stark question in reference to the multiple deaths of asylum seekers in the Mediterranean Sea this past month. The page’s administrator confidently replies, “hahaha don’t worry, you won’t drown”.

Screenshot of the page “Asylum seekers, irregular and regular migration to any country – Exclusively for Syrians”

The comments, ranging from satirical to logistical, signal the desperate lengths migrants from Syria mostly are willing to go to make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean which has become the deadliest border crossing in the world.

On April 19, an estimated 900 migrants died and 28 only survived. The ship carried 350 Eritreans and other migrants from Gambia, Mali and Sierra Leone among others. Eritreans are the second largest group of asylum seekers after Syrians aiming to reach European shores. Most of them settle in Sudan and Ethiopia before embarking to Libya and then onto Europe–if they get that far.

Those escaping the political oppression of Eritrea are faced with death at every turn before jumping on boats headed for Europe according to Meron Estefanos, director of the Eritrean Initiative of Refugee Rights and a radio presenter in Sweden.

Estefanons told Quartz that Eritreans seeking asylum have to endure the country’s “shoot to kill policy, or they are arrested, or if they manage to escape their families are fined”.

She explained that most Eritrean migrants escape from Eritrea’s mandatory military service camp and flee to Ethiopia. From there they connect with smugglers in neighboring Sudan who transport them to Libya, often with no downpayment.

“The smugglers are known to the migrants on the streets of Omdurman and Khartoum in Sudan” Estefanos added.

Other people smugglers marketing themselves as travel agencies to Europe are more than willing to provide a risky service using social media, especially Facebook.

On the page Travel to fulfil your dreams, smugglers blatantly advertise a trip from Mersin in Turkey to Italy costing $6500 and that the prices are non-negotiable. They even provide a Turkish mobile number advising would-be clients to contact them via Whatsapp or Viber to confirm the transaction.

The page Mersin to Italy Trips includes an illustration of the mode of transportationan 88-meter (289 feet) ship. The cost is $6000 per migrant and the advertisement enthusiastically points out that children under eight years of age can travel for free. The advertisement emblazoned with the Italian and Turkish flags and a stock image of the supposed ship also provides a Turkish number for bookings through Whatsapp.

Screenshot of Mersin to Italy Trips page

Frontex, the border patrol agency for the European Union, recently released a risk analysis report noting, “social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are used to share information on how to enter the EU illegally and the destinations available”. The report elucidates that social media “allows a sort of ‘shopping’ by migrants to find the most suitable deal for them, which is likely one of the reasons behind a concerted move by certain nationalities towards particular destinations.”

Boasting 17,000 likes, Asylum seekers, irregular and regular migration to any country – Exclusively for Syrians, is a stark example of a professional online shop.

The page is updated almost daily with announcements about visa conditions for various countries such as Sweden and Germany. Both countries accept large numbers of asylum seekers in comparison to other European states. The page even links to an article with information on how to obtain fake European passports.

Alongside unabashed sales of smuggling services on public pages, other smugglers promote their business privately on their Facebook profiles. For example, a smuggler based in Izmir in Turkey is explicitly named Smuggling to Greeceaccording to the profile. The smuggler claims to travel to Greece on an inflatable 8-meter boat (26 feet) taking up to 35 people at a cost of $900 each.

The United Nations Office on Drugs Crime estimates that smugglers rake in $550 million annually from the lucrative business of brazenly transporting migrants from North, East and West Africa to Europe making it almost impossible to stamp out.

In an indication that this deathly business will continue and more deaths will undoubtedly ensue, when asked by a prospective client about the cost traveling by land, the smuggler boldly proclaims, “I only go by sea”.

Quartz is launching in Africa in June 2015. Sign up for updates here. Write to us at africa@qz.com, and follow @qzafrica on Twitter.

Article source: http://qz.com/394443/facebook-pages-are-travel-agencies-for-desperate-migrants-trying-to-get-to-europe/