‘Do as the Romans do’ is not necessarily practical advice for today’s traveller

When you visit a foreign country, do you feel embarrassed that you look too much like a tourist and try desperately to blend in? It’s not necessarily a good idea, as one recent research study suggests.

Research from Columbia Business School takes on the question of to what extent should you adopt local ways when you travel abroad? The paper – “Do As the Romans Do? Diversity Ideologies and Trust in Evaluations of Cultural Accommodation” by Columbia Business School Professor Michael Morris and former students Jaee Cho, now an assistant professor at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and Benjamin Dow – investigates how people evaluate foreign visitors who adopt local norms and offers recommendations for those visitors.

The first major finding is simple: some adaptation to local ways is received better than none at all. Most participants in their studies had a positive response to visitors who displayed moderate accommodation—adopting some local ways of communicating and acting even if the delivery and execution aren’t perfect.

“If you’re wondering whether to try to speak limited Spanish in Barcelona or say ‘G-Day’ in Sydney, the answer is a yes. Accommodate to a moderate extent and locals will appreciate the gesture,” said Professor Michael Morris. “Visitors need to be careful not to overdo it, since going too far can cause a backlash. This research sends the simple message to foreign visitors that effort matters. It’s a sign of respect and authenticity.”

The second major finding is more complicated, but it explains the mixed reactions to high levels of accommodation. The studies compared people with two different diversity mindsets: classical multiculturalism and a variant called polyculturalism.

Multiculturalism holds that the different cultures of the world are separate traditions and that when they come together in a society (or an organization) it’s important to preserve the essence of each cultural group rather than blending them together.

By contrast, a variant view that has been gaining ground lately called polyculturalism holds that cultural traditions have always borrowed from and shaped each other and that the vitality of cultures depends on this interaction and evolution.

The studies consistently found that people with more preservationist mindset of classical multiculturalism didn’t like high accommodators—they see a visitor who is trying too hard as betraying his or her own cultural heritage. However, people with the polyculturalist viewpoint appreciated high accommodators—they admired a visitor who has mastered some local customs.

The research consisted of several experiments that simulated business meetings with some visitors from a foreign office. Participants, in different conditions, encountered a visitor who acted in one of three ways: no accommodation, moderate accommodation or high accommodation. The results showed that participants reacted more favorably to moderate accommodation when compared to no accommodation, but reactions were not increasingly favorable for high accommodation. Those reactions depended on participants’ diversity mindsets. In one study, a survey was used to distinguish people whose settled beliefs correspond to multiculturalism versus polyculturalism. In another study, the experiment varied which of these mindsets was made salient through some paragraphs about the world’s cultural diversity, turning participants into temporary multiculturalists or temporary polyculturalists. Both methods produced the same conclusion that high accommodation is more appreciated when viewed through the lens of polyculturalism than classical multiculturalism.

The bottom line for your next foreign visit: The safe approach is accommodating to a moderate degree – enacting a mix of your own customs and local customs, taking a judicious approach to adapting the language, customs, behaviors, and habits of the new country. This makes a far better impression than making no efforts to accommodate whatsoever.

But don’t follow the old advice to do everything the Romans do. A high degree of mirroring local ways does not bring universally positive reviews. The wisdom of high accommodation depends on knowing something about your audience. To the extent that your audience thinks about their culture through the preservationist lens of classical multiculturalism they may not appreciate efforts to cross cultural boundaries.

The study, How Do the Romans Feel When Visitors “Do As the Romans Do”? Diversity Ideologies and Trust in Evaluations of Cultural Accommodation, published in Academy of Management Discoveries is available online here.

To learn more about the cutting-edge research taking place at Columbia Business School, please visit www.gsb.columbia.edu.

Most expensive cities in Canada for hotels? It’s not the ones you think

If you were to ask me which cities were the most expensive for hotels in Canada in the summer, I’d probably pick the most popular resort destinations followed by the country’s three biggest cities, but I’d only be half right.

Online hotel booking site Cheaphotels.org surveyed prices in 30 Canadian destinations for August 2018 to find out which were the most expensive places to book a centrally-located hotel, rated 3 stars or higher.

Tops on the list was a resort destination, Banff at $336 CAD, followed by Vancouver at $324, but Montreal and Toronto didn’t even crack the top 10.

I would have expected Whistler, B.C. to be in the top 10, but it was other resort destinations like Canmore and Niagara-on-the-Lake that made the cut.

The least expensive destinations among the ones surveyed were Edmonton and Saskatoon where travelers can find rooms for around $100 per night which is a great deal because both cities are fantastic places to visit in the summer.

Here’s the top 30 list:

1. Banff $336
2. Vancouver $324
3. Canmore $316
4. Richmond $236
5. Niagara on the Lake $235
6. Halifax $234
7. Kingston $234
8. Kelowna $221
9. Quebec City $187
10. Victoria $184

If you want to read the full results of the company’s survey, visit:

Canadian government marks the historical significance of the Dionne quintuplets

Canada has more than its fair share of historical events and places, but I’ve always thought that of the Dionne quintuplets was a bit of an oddity.

Born in the small Ontario town of Corbeil on May 28, 1934, the Dionne quintuplets may be the only set of identical quintuplets ever recorded and are the first quintuplets known to have survived their infancy. The odds of naturally occurring quintuplets are estimated to be about one in 55,000,000 births, but the odds of identical quintuplets are considered incalculable.

Their births during the Great Depression captured the world’s attention, and the sisters quickly became an international sensation.

I’m not sure why yesterday was chosen as the date to commemorate their lives, but the MP for Nipissing, Anthony Rota, unveiled a commemorative plaque at the Dionne Quintuplets birth home museum in North Bay which was moved from Corbeil in the 1980s.

The sad part of the story is that quintuplets were put under the control of a board of guardians soon after their birth and the girls spent their first nine years at “Quintland,” a specially-built facility where they were featured as a tourist attraction. Millions of tourists travelled from around the world to see them and witness firsthand the survival of the world’s most famous babies. Eventually, they were returned to their family in 1943. Could you imagine the outrage if that happened today?

In 1997, three of the surviving quintuplets (one has since died) wrote an open letter to the parents of septuplets, warning them about the exploitation they endured:

“Our lives have been ruined by the exploitation we suffered at the hands of the government of Ontario, our place of birth. We were displayed as a curiosity three times a day for millions of tourists. To this day we receive letters from all over the world. To all those who have expressed their support in light of the abuse we have endured, we say thank you. And to those who would seek to exploit the growing fame of these children, we say beware.”



Canada set to get its first pod hotel

Ever since I heard about pod hotels in Japan, I’ve been fascinated by the concept, but have never gotten around to actually staying in one. I came close earlier this year when I had a quick overnight layover in Mexico City with an early morning flight and tried to book a pod in the MEX airport, but there were none available.

That’s why I was interested by a press release issued by the Pangea Pod Hotel , which will be the first of its kind in Canada. Set to open this month in Whistler, British Columbia, Pangea’s rooms will, at most, cost half the price of a conventional hotel room, and usually far less. The big advantage is that the low price will make the resort more accessible to solo and budget travellers.

The hotel is a labour of love for the husband-and-wife team Russell and Jelena Kling who spent years traversing the globe, garnering first-hand experience about what makes for a comfortable and satisfying stay. The hotel is result of three years of planning and prototype development.

“Pangea combines the affordability of a hostel with the perks of a boutique hotel,” says co-founder Russell. “We wanted to cater to the type of traveller who enjoys the conviviality of shared spaces but prefers their own personal space at the end of the day.”

The hotel will feature 88 independent sleeping pods that will be divided among eight separate “suites”. One suite is dedicated to female-only guests. Bathroom facilities are divided into individual components (more than 60 in total) to offer privacy and limit line-ups. These individual components include washrooms with vanities, showers with changing space, stand-alone vanities, and changing rooms.

03. Pod - Front-entry.jpg

Each wood-lined pod contains artwork and mirrors, as well as a comfortable double memory-foam mattress, individually controlled LED lights, a built-in fan that provides both air circulation and white noise, a lockable cabinet for valuables like iPads and phones, hanging space for clothes, and a storage area for luggage.

Pangea aims to offers superb shared spaces, too. The Living Room, a stylish combo of lounge, bar, café, and espresso bar, boasts floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the bustle of Whistler’s Village Stroll, giving the space the feeling of an outdoor patio. The Rooftop Patio is Whistler’s only true rooftop bar, providing a bird’s eye view of Mountain Square. And The Toy Box, an open-plan secure storage area for skis, snowboards, mountain bikes, and other gear, was custom created to address the needs of equipment-laden outdoor enthusiasts.

08. The Toy Box - Bike (Summer setup).jpg

In some ways, staying in a tiny room, no matter how luxuriously appointed, will force you to get out into those shared spaces and out of the hotel to explore your surroundings.

Pangea is slated to open in time for Crankworx, a world-famous mountain-bike competition and one of Whistler’s biggest summer events, which kicks off on August 10.

Pods are now available for booking at pangeapod.com/bookings.


Get an eagle eye’s view of Vienna – literally

Bored with drone videos already? How about one shot from the back of an eagle instead?

By now, every tourist board and travel influencer in the world has flooded our social media feeds with awesome drone videos, but it’s getting to the point where they are losing their lustre. The Vienna Tourist Board wanted to do something a bit different so they teamed up with production company Red Bull Media House to get some unique aerial views of the Austrian capital using camera-equipped eagles.

Fritzi, Bruno, Darshan and Victor took off from the top of the Danube Tower and a hot air balloon launched from the grounds of Palais Schwarzenberg. Each bird was outfitted with 360° cameras and 16:9 format cameras on their backs. The eagles circled above the city capturing bird’s-eye views in stunning 4k resolution as you can see in the video below:

Needless to say all the necessary animal welfare clearances were obtained before starting the project and none of the eagles – wearing lightweight cameras – came to any harm during filming. There’s an interesting behind-the-scenes video that shows how it was all done:


Survey finds Millennials are the most likely demographic to post deceptive photos in social media

According to the results of a survey released by Allianz Global Assistance last week, more than a third (36 per cent) of Millennials (ages 18-34) said they have posted social media vacation images that make their trips look better than they really are.

The same survey, which is Allianz’s 10th annual 2018 Vacation Confidence Index, found that only 15 per cent of Gen X’ers (ages 35 – 54) and five per cent of Baby Boomers (ages 55+) have done the same.

Why do they do it? Most of them (65 per cent) do so in an attempt to make others envious, while 51 per cent said they do it to compete with others who do the same. Men are slightly more likely than women to post vacation photos on social media to make friends or family jealous (men: 28 per cent and women: 16 per cent) and compete with others (men: 22 per cent and women: eight per cent).

Ironically, those who have used social media in a deceptive manner are more likely to trust social media posts from users, brands and media. Of the respondents who posted on social media to make their vacation look better than reality, 87 per cent trust posts from people they personally know; 69 per cent trust those from brands; 69 per cent trust media organizations/news outlets and 60 pe rcent trust social users they do not know personally, including celebrities and social media influencers.

I suppose the takeaway from all this is that you should enjoy the beautiful travel photos you see in your social media feeds, but be aware that they’ve all been perfectly curated to make you see only the good stuff. Treat it for the fantasy that it is and try not to compare your life to that of others. Chances are yours is just as good, if not better.

*Methodology: The results cited here are findings of an Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of Allianz Global Assistance. For this survey, a sample of 1,005 Americans from the Ipsos I-Say panel was interviewed from May 2 – 5, 2018. The precision of online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the results are accurate to within +/- 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what the results would have been had all American adults been polled. Quota sampling and weighting were employed in order to balance demographics and ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the actual U.S. population, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Credibility intervals are wider among subsets of the population.



Flagstaff to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing

It’s hard to believe that this year will mark the 50th anniversary of man’s first walk on the Moon. It’s harder to believe that I still remember when it happened, even though I was a small boy at the time.

I remember my Dad making me watch the grainy image on our black and white TV of Neil Armstrong stepping off the Eagle on to the Moon’s surface and telling me that I should remember this day because it was very historic. It must have stuck, because I still do.

I was reminded of that time by a press release that rolled through my inbox from Flagstaff, Arizona. The desert town played a role in that great Apollo exploration in a variety of ways and they are celebrating it with 18 months of events.

When Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Moon on July 20, 1969, followed by 11 astronauts over the next three years, it was made possible through years of preparation in northern Arizona, including astronaut science training, instrument development and lunar mapping.

According to the press release, Flagstaff’s lunar milestones include the following:

  • Every one of the 12 astronauts who walked on the Moon, from Neil Armstrong to Gene Cernan, prepared for their journeys in northern Arizona.
  • Artists worked with scientists at Lowell Observatory to create detailed lunar topographic maps, while cartographers at the USGS Flagstaff Science Campus developed geological maps of the Moon.
  • USGS Flagstaff Science Campus scientists taught astronauts geological principles and techniques at Meteor Crater, the Grand Canyon, Sunset Crater, and the cinder fields that blanket northern Arizona.
  • Astronauts studied the Moon through telescopes at Lowell Observatory, Northern Arizona University, and the US Naval Observatory. In addition, the Museum of Northern Arizona supplied office space.
  • Using explosives, scientists created a simulated lunar surface in the cinder field near Sunset Crater, complete with a network of craters modeled after authentic Moon craters for training astronauts and testing several lunar rover vehicle simulators (moon buggies) in the surrounding volcanic features.
  • For decades Flagstaff has and continues to be an epicenter for space science studies.

I visited Flagstaff years ago with my wife on a Babymoon in a time before the word was even coined. We were on a Route 66 pilgrimage and we spent some time in Flagstaff and were charmed by the scenic town. It’s actually the world’s first International Dark Sky City and is home to Lowell Observatory where Pluto was discovered. We visited the observatory and found it an interesting stop.

As a weird aside, our son who my wife was carrying at the time, was fascinated with Pluto as a child so I don’t know what kind of cosmic coincidence that is.

Lift-off event for Flagstaff’s celebrations launches July 20, 2018 in downtown Flagstaff at the Orpheum Theater and events to mark the occasion will continue through 2019, including exhibits, lectures, book signings, demonstrations, lunar photography, guided hikes, entertainment, and restaurants and bars offering moon-themed dishes and drinks. You can find a calendar of events at www.flagstaffarizona.org/lunarlegacy.


Japan and Singapore knock Germany off the top spot of the Henley Passport Index 

Japan and Singapore share first place on the latest Henley Passport Index, enjoying visa-free access to 189 destinations and kicking Germany into second place for the first time since 2013. South Korea shares third place with SwedenFinlandItalySpainDenmark, and France, announced Henley & Partners in a press release Tuesday.

The rest of the top 20 on their Henley Passport Index — based on data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) — remains fairly stable, with no new visa-waivers processed for the UK and the US, who both remain in fourth place.

The Henley Passport Index goes beyond a simple ranking of passports to provide an in-depth picture of travel freedom, including which countries you can access with which type of visa, how a nationality’s passport has changed over the last 13 years, how one passport compares to other passports, why they have the level of access it does and which additional passports improve a traveller’s mobility.

Nationals of most EU member states have not seen any improvement in their global access since 2017, mainly because their inbound policies are so restrictive.

According to Prof. Dr. Florian Trauner, Research Professor at the Institute for European Studies at the Free University of Brussels, “The current political climate in the EU is not conducive to more liberal admission policies” and “in the wake of the Brexit vote, the UK has been trying to install a stricter immigration regime vis-à-vis both EU and non-EU citizens.”

Dr. Parag Khanna, Managing Partner of FutureMap, says Trump’s travel bans are unlikely to affect the power of the US passport: “Countries with weak economies cannot afford to close out a nationality that provides large inflows of tourists. Turkey learned this lesson when it temporarily demanded that Americans apply for visas before traveling there.”

Russia, which opened its borders to World Cup fans, has not yet gained reciprocal access to any new destinations, but it nonetheless rose one place to 46th position. The UAE, now in 21st place, has continued its remarkable performance, gaining access to four new destinations since May — GuyanaCanadaBrazil, and Barbados.

Despite recently gaining access to Belarus and ZimbabweChina has fallen one place to 69th on the Henley Passport Index. Improved scores for countries such as NauruBelarus, and Indonesia, which sit directly above China, have made it difficult for the country to ascend the ranking.

Discover some of the tropical fruits found in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is known mostly as an eco-tourism destination, but it’s slowly gaining as a reputation for its sustainable food scene. Part of that stems from the Central American country’s tropical climate and rich volcanic soil that create the perfect conditions for crops to flourish, including a wide array of fruits.

Most visitors are familiar with mango, papaya and coconut, but Costa Rica is home to several other nutritious and tasty tropical fruits that don’t get exported very often. If you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica, be sure to stop by one of the many roadside fruit stands to sample some of these delicacies recommended by the Costa Rica Tourism Board:

The Nance is a small yellow berry with delicate skin and a white pulp. It grows in clusters, which acquire a penetrating aroma. They are sweet and slightly bitter. The tree can be found in Costa Rica’s dry forests, savannas and coastal areas, such as Alajuela, Puntarenas, and Guanacaste. Nance fruit is often used to prepare beverages, craft liquors, ice cream and desserts. It is a rich source of vitamin C and fiber.


In Costa Rica, Guaba is synonymous with luck. When someone is particularly lucky, they are called “Guabero”. Not to be confused with guava, the Guaba tree can measure up to 50 feet high and produces beautiful flowers. The fruit pods vary in size and shape, but have a woody bark that contains black seeds covered in a white cottony layer of delicate sweet flavor. Due to its flavor and texture, it is also known as the “ice cream bean.” Guabas are usually available during the rainy season and are often used as an ingredient in salads and ice cream. Its seeds are often used to create jewelry, usually necklaces or earrings, which can be found in craft markets throughout Costa Rica. This fruit is rich in vitamin C, fiber and other micronutrients.


Cas is a small round green fruit that can be found throughout Costa Rica. The skin is thin and the pulp is fleshy and juicy. Cas juice, which is made with ripe Cas, is tart—somewhat similar to lime or lemonade, but has its own unique flavor. It is a Costa Rican staple during mealtime. Cas is available throughout the year, but is most common from November to August. This fruit is rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber and potassium.

Mamón Chino

Mamón Chino, also known as rambutan, is an exquisite round fruit covered in an intensely bright red skin, which is protected with soft thorns. The trees grow in clusters and can reach up to 65 feet in height. Mamón Chino is typically found in the southern regions of Costa Rica, where small and large producers, especially from the Corredores area, produce high quality fruit. The sweet and juicy pulp is consumed fresh, and is the ideal ingredient for the preparation of desserts, salads and drinks. Mamón Chino is a rich source of vitamin C, potassium, fiber, vitamin A and other beneficial components for health.


Pitahaya belongs to the cactus family, is native to Mesoamerica and is also known as dragon fruit. The plant grows in dry stony areas, and is resistant to drought. In Costa Rica, it is found in tropical dry forests—mainly north of Puntarenas and Guanacaste. It is also possible to find the plant in some dry areas of the Central Valley. The Pitahaya fruit is oval-shaped with a bright pink and scaly surface. The pulp is soft and translucent, with multiple tiny black seeds—similar to that of grapes. The fresh pulp is a common ingredient in desserts, drinks, salads and ice cream. On the Costa Rican Colón, the Pitahaya appears as a symbol of the country’s natural heritage. This fruit is rich in vitamin C, iron, phosphorus, potassium and fiber; it is also a rich source of antioxidants.

Quebec City’s summer visitors invited to experience a taste of winter

Outside of its ski destinations, tourism in Canada during winter has always been a bit of a hard sell, but Québec City Tourism, in collaboration with Ateliers du Carnaval de Québec, has come up with a unique way to let visitors experience winter right in the middle of summer.

Seeing that the province is in the midst of a record-setting heat wave with temperatures in the high 30s Celsius, the promotion is either a stroke of genius or blessed by fortunate timing.

A 26-by-9-foot container, refrigerated to 4 to 8̊⁰C and decked out in all the trappings of the snow season has been set up near Dufferin Terrace in Quebec City to offer tourists a feel for Québec winters, with ice sculptures, a mini ice hotel, a ski lift, a Québec décor, and videos on popular seasonal activities.

The container will be open noon to 9 p.m. seven days a week until September 3, 2018 next to Dufferin Terrace between the Samuel de Champlain monument and the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac Hotel, which is Ground Zero for tourists and locals alike.

As an added bonus, Bonhomme Carnaval, the famed mascot of the city’s winter carnival, will be making surprise visits throughout the summer.

To reduce the ecological footprint of Micro Climat(e) and support carbon neutrality, 1,000 trees have been planted as part of the green program of the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac Hotel “Château Boréal”.

The container is easily transportable so expect it to go on tour eventually as the city continues to promote winter tourism.