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Indonesia Travel Warning: Explosions And Gunfire Rock Central Jakarta

14 January 2015 and there were explosions and gunfire reported in the vicinity of the Sari Pan Pacific Hotel and Sarinah Plaza on Jalan Sudirman Thamrin, Jakarta in central Jakarta, Indonesia. You should avoid the affected area, limit your movements and follow the advice of local authorities.

You should exercise caution when travelling to Aceh, Central Sulawesi Province (especially Palu, Poso and Tentena), Maluku Province (especially Ambon), Papua and West Papua Province due to potential for violence or violent conflict.

Clashes July 2014, resulted in the death of security service personnel and civilians in the Lanny Jaya regency of Papua province. If you’re travelling in the region you should exercise extreme caution.

Following the abduction of a British national in the Aceh region of Northern Sumatra in June 2013, you should exercise caution in the area. While the risk of abduction is not high, you should be aware that 1 French national and 5 Chinese nationals were abducted in separate incidents in 2008.

Around 220,000 British nationals visit Indonesia every year. Take out comprehensive international private medical and travel insurance before you travel to Indonesia.

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American Express Global Business Travel Partners With iJET International To Deliver End-to-End Travel Risk Management

American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) announced an expanded partnership with iJET International (iJET®). Through this partnership, customers of GBT’s flagship traveler care solution, EXPERT CARE, will be able to select from of a wide range of travel risk management and response capabilities iJET offers and benefit from fully-customized and flexible solutions designed specifically to address their company’s travel patterns and ensure safety throughout every stage of the traveler’s journey.

“We’re excited to partner with iJET and have been working for several months now to develop a solution that provides travel managers and their companies with greater access to communication and risk management tools before, during and after a disruption happens,” said Evan Konwiser, Vice President, Digital Traveler, American Express Global Business Travel. “Continuing to build on our EXPERT CARE solution is one of our highest priorities, and now more than ever, we are reminded of how critically important traveler care is to our customers and their business travelers.”

According to iJET, the number of annual global travel disruptions in 2015 grew 13 percent year over year to nearly 6,000 incidents, to date. In today’s global business environment, these events can happen anytime, anyplace and can have a profound impact on companies and their business travelers. Traveler care continues to be a top focus for companies worldwide with a growing need for end-to-end travel management solutions that ensure traveler safety before, during and after a traveler’s trip. From pre-trip planning to post-trip intelligence and information and everything in between, companies and their travel managers want fully integrated and easy-to-use solutions that meet the needs of their specific travel program. This partnership provides GBT’s and iJET’s mutual customers with greater insight, expertise and flexibility through a combined offering of the two companies’ best-in-class solutions and resources.

Pre-Trip

  • EXPERT CARE has the capability of identifying more than one traveler booked on the same flight or rail segment and addressing it pre-trip to ensure customers can take action to reduce risk and comply with insurance regulations. Additionally, in the time leading up to a trip, travel managers and their companies are able to use iJET’s risk intelligence to view in-depth risk details for their travelers’ destinations through country-specific alerts, interactive maps and expert insights. With greater access to risk intelligence and training in advance of their traveler’s trips, companies can assess the risks associated with having employees travel to specific destinations and adjust their programs accordingly. Travel managers and travelers can take advantage of iJET’s wide range of preparedness resources by participating in webinars and online training videos available through iJET University.

On-Trip

  • With travel disruptions happening anytime, anywhere, travel managers and their companies must have a pulse on the locations of their travelers at any given point throughout their journey. GBT’s EXPERT CARE solution enables companies to locate, communicate with, and prioritize aid to travelers impacted by a travel disruption. iJET intelligent alerts provide updates about potential risks. The joint solution also includes the integration of near real-time flight information and the ability to integrate card swipe data from American Express® Corporate Card usage, making it easier for travel managers to pinpoint the most recent locations of their travelers and identify and communicate with employees. Through the asset management feature, companies can also quickly locate and communicate with employees at specific corporate locations and those traveling, through two-way email, text and push messaging options.
  • Travel managers and business travelers are able to access dedicated hotline services 24/7 and take advantage of iJET’s security and medical response capabilities as unforseen events may arise. All operations are conducted with an iJET Senior Incident Manager and an incident management team providing command, control and communications support until the person arrives safely back home.

Post-Trip

  • Once travelers arrive back to their origins safely, companies and travelers are able to benefit from iJET’s Health Intelligence to have greater visibility and understanding into what are often symptoms that are only felt upon returning home. Travel managers have access to iJET’s ongoing reports and executive decision support resources to refine or enhance programs to support future travel.

“American Express Global Business Travel is a well-respected leader and driving force in the travel management community,” said Theresa Thomas, Vice President Travel Partnerships, iJET International Inc. “We share GBT’s commitment to providing customers with the expertise, insight and flexibility to enhance their travelers’ experiences. We look forward to working closely with GBT to deliver integrated travel risk management services and enable continued growth for our customers as their needs evolve.”

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HCC Ratings Affirmed by A.M. Best and Fitch

HCC Insurance Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:HCC) today announced that A.M. Best Company, Inc. and Fitch Ratings have affirmed the Company's ratings.

"We are very pleased that A.M. Best and Fitch have affirmed HCC's financial strength ratings of "A+" and "AA," respectively. These strong ratings reflect our continued commitment to underwriting discipline and consistent profitability," said Christopher J.B. Williams, HCC's Chief Executive Officer.

On October 3, 2013, A.M. Best announced that it had affirmed the "A+ (Superior)" financial strength ratings (FSR) and "aa" issuer credit ratings (ICR) of the property/casualty companies in the Houston Casualty Group and HCC Life Insurance Company. Additionally, A.M. Best affirmed ICR and debt ratings of "a" on the holding company's $300 million 6.300% Senior Notes due 2019. The outlook for all of A.M. Best's ratings is Stable. The following property/casualty insurance companies comprise Houston Casualty Group, as defined by A.M. Best:

  • Houston Casualty Company
  • U.S. Specialty Insurance Company
  • Avemco Insurance Company
  • HCC Specialty Insurance Company

A.M. Best also affirmed the "A+ (Superior)" FSR and "aa-" ICR for the following insurance company subsidiaries:

  • American Contractors Indemnity Company
  • United States Surety Company

On October 1, 2013, Fitch Ratings announced that it had affirmed the "AA (Very Strong)" insurer financial strength (IFS) ratings for HCC's insurance company subsidiaries and the "A+" issuer default rating for HCC Insurance Holdings, Inc.

In addition, Fitch affirmed the "A" debt rating on the holding company's $300 million 6.300% Senior Notes due 2019. The outlook for all of Fitch's ratings is Stable.

These IFS ratings apply to the following insurance company subsidiaries:

  • Houston Casualty Company
  • U.S. Specialty Insurance Company
  • Avemco Insurance Company
  • HCC Specialty Insurance Company
  • HCC Life Insurance Company
  • American Contractors Indemnity Company
  • United States Surety Company

Headquartered in Houston, Texas, HCC Insurance Holdings, Inc. is a leading specialty insurer with offices in the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain and Ireland. As of June 30, 2013, HCC had assets of $10.2 billion and shareholders' equity of $3.5 billion. HCC's major domestic and international insurance companies have financial strength ratings of "AA (Very Strong)" from Standard & Poor's Corporation, "A+ (Superior)" from A.M. Best Company, Inc., "AA (Very Strong)" from Fitch Ratings, and "A1 (Good Security)" from Moody's Investors Service, Inc.

For more information about HCC, please visit http://www.hcc.com.

 

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Manulife Financial Implements Travel Insurance Business Arrangements with RBC Insurance

Manulife Financial has implemented its previously announced travel insurance business arrangements with RBC Insurance Company of Canada ("RBC Insurance"). Under these arrangements, Manulife has agreed to reinsure the travel coverage sold by RBC Insurance through travel agencies. These arrangements include the transfer of sales and distribution support for the travel agency business from RBC Insurance to Manulife.

In addition, participating travel agencies will be offered the opportunity to renew their agency agreements with Manulife upon the expiration of their current contracts with RBC Insurance. RBC Insurance will continue to be the insurance provider for the travel agencies until the expiration of the current travel agency contracts.

"With the implementation of the transaction now complete, our focus is the continued delivery of outstanding service and sales support to those travel agents selling RBC Insurance's line of travel insurance," said Brian Gooding, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Affinity Markets, Manulife Financial.

"The travel agency channel is an important part of our growth strategy and we have a tremendous opportunity to develop strong partnerships and build on our leading market position."

This latest arrangement will complement Manulife Financial's current strategy to broaden its presence in the travel insurance market. In a 2009 transaction, Manulife assumed the business of PS Travel Insurance Brokers Inc.

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Knowledge Gap Widens for US-Based International Business Travelers

While safety remains the highest priority for US-based business travelers, when travelling internationally these same business people feel the least prepared to deal with political unrest. These are some of the findings in the second annual Asterisk International Business Traveler Study published by Europ Assistance USA and their partner Drum Cussac. Europ Assistance USA and Drum Cussac polled five hundred US-based business people who had taken at least three trips internationally within the last twelve months.

The number one concern of those polled was safety - including personal security, terrorism, and radicals. 83% of travelers polled stated that safety and the ability to take care of their medical needs while travelling internationally were their highest priority. "The two years of data is very robust," said Guillaume Deybach, CEO Europ Assistance USA. "There's a significant knowledge gap between what business travelers think they know and what they actually know."

The Asterisk study found that the knowledge gap for business travelers continues down to a personal level. While fully half of those surveyed stated that they had required some level of medical care while traveling abroad, almost as many (44%) were unsure if their health insurance company provided them with the same benefits abroad as they receive at home.

Deybach said, "I am not sure what is worse for a business, asking an employee to take on an unnecessary risk or avoiding an opportunity entirely, out of fear. The right tools and intelligence will help reduce these risks, help open new markets, and enable better decision making."

Asterisk is an enterprise travel risk management service from Europ Assistance and Drum Cussac, two internationally renowned and highly trusted assistance and risk management providers. Other highlights from the second annual Asterisk International Business Traveler Study include:

  • 45% of respondents said their company does not offer a plan to assist travelers with travel-related emergencies or they do not know about it, with 80% indicating their company does not have a formal emergency or communication plan.
  • An overwhelming 90% of respondents felt unequipped to handle a natural disaster or political unrest/riots while traveling, while 82% felt unequipped to find a local doctor.
  • Travelers are increasingly concerned about the ability to use their communications devices, such as cellphones, smart phones, and computers - as these are vital links for their security as well as their business.
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Travel Advice Madagascar

On 5 September 2013, a small bomb exploded in front of the Plaza Hotel on the Avenue de l’Independence in Antananarivo. A second unexploded device was later discovered outside the Insitut Francais nearby. In 2012 there were a number of explosions in Antananarivo linked to civil unrest. The situation in the centre of Antananarivo remains unstable and potentially volatile.

The Ambohijatovo, Lac Anosy, Ankatso and Analakely areas, as well as military barracks, are potential flashpoints. Although foreigners have not been targeted, you should take care when travelling around the city and avoid any crowds or political gatherings. Don’t touch any packages that appear suspect. You should also carry ID at all times and avoid travelling at night.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but essential travel to Andohahela National Park and against all travel on road RN13 between Ambovombe and Ihosy. Take great care and follow local advice if you are travelling in the south east of the country. In 2012 there were around 7,700 British visitors to Madagascar. Most visits are trouble free.

There has been continued political instability in Madagascar since January 2009. The situation in the centre of Antananarivo remains volatile and demonstrations at short notice are likely. You should keep away from crowded areas and avoid going out at night in the centre of the capital. There is widespread crime in Madagascar.

Take particular care on beaches where there have been attacks and robberies. Visitors to Madagascar should travel with established organisations or travel firms who have the capacity to monitor the local media and warn of possible trouble. Remain vigilant and maintain a low profile while moving around the country, in particular if travelling alone.

If travelling independently we advise that you monitor the local media closely and keep abreast of the situation for the duration of your visit.

The cyclone season in Madagascar normally runs from November to April. Coastal areas are particularly affected. Piracy is a significant threat in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, and has occurred in excess of 1,000 nautical miles from the coast of Somalia.

Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.

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HRG Air Trends Survey Indicates Upward Trend For Business Travel Market

Despite an unprecedented number of disruptions over the last year business air travel is showing encouraging signs of recovery, with travel to emerging markets in Africa and Latin America leading the charge, according to data released today by Hogg Robinson Group (HRG), the award-winning international corporate services company.

Data based on HRG UK clients' domestic and international air transactions and fares from April 2012 to March 2013 indicates that:

Despite ongoing challenges, particularly in the Eurozone economies, there are signs that the business travel market is on the road to recovery. Global air travel booking activity in the first quarter of 2013 was up 3.2% compared to the same period in 2012. After a shaky start to 2012, the number of UK domestic transactions increased by 2.6% in the fourth quarter of 2012, and rose by 4.3% in the first quarter of 2013.

India was among the destinations where HRG saw the strongest growth in corporate air travel. Year on year transaction volumes were up by 11.1%. Corporate air travel to the Rest of the World region, encompassing the emerging markets of South East Asia, Latin America, and Africa grew by 3.3%.

Transaction volumes in Brazil and China declined by 6.1 and 2.3% respectively, as the economies in both countries began to slow after breakneck growth in previous years. Business class transactions showed an overall decrease of 14.8% with economy transactions recording an overall increase of 0.5%.

The shift from business class to economy was particularly acute in Europe suggesting changes made by business travellers on short haul routes during the peak of the downturn has extended well beyond it. Stewart Harvey, Group Commercial Director of HRG says: “The general picture is of an industry in slow but steady recovery. However, despite the improved view there is still a focus on cost by our clients and an increase in the use of economy fares, particularly on short-haul destinations. We’re also seeing rail re-emerge as a genuine alternative to air travel.

“Getting the best value for money when it comes to air fares, and aligning travel budgets to match high growth markets are the priorities for our clients as they look to make a limited pot go further. “The BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are now well established business travel destinations and, with the exception of India, the huge growth in air travel to these destinations is slowing. What we’re seeing now is significant growth coming from smaller, less established destinations, like Colombia in Latin America, and Ghana in Africa. These countries are poised for massive growth over the next decade as more international routes open up.”

Encouraging signs after challenging 2012

HRG figures show that corporate travel is on the rise after a challenging period in the second and third quarters of 2012. Transaction volumes recovered in the final quarter of 2012, showing 0.5% year on year growth, and this continued into the first quarter of 2013, when transaction volumes rose by 3.2%.

HRG’s findings are supported by the latest data from IATA, which reported 5.9% rise in the number of passenger kilometres travelled globally in March 2013. Despite cautious optimism however, HRG figures indicate the picture remains mixed, with a number of clients still showing significant reductions in travel.

Global picture mixed with emerging markets underpinning growth

HRG’s Air Trends data shows evidence of an upward trend in business travel transactions and spend across all regions, though the pace of recovery varies significantly.

Growth in the Rest of the World region, encompassing the dynamic economies of Latin America, South East Asia and Africa, grew by 3.3%, providing further evidence that businesses are prioritising travel to emerging economies rather than traditional economic hubs in the West.

Year on year transaction volumes for UK domestic travel dropped by 2.9% while the rest of Europe showed a similar rate of decline at -2.7% for the year. Corporate air travel to the North Atlantic region decreased by 3.9%.

UK and Europe – Mixed picture as economic conditions remains uncertain

UK domestic travel dipped sharply in the second and third quarters of 2012, but recovered in the final quarter with year on year transaction growth of 2.6%. This growth continued into the first quarter of 2013, when UK domestic air transactions rose by 4.3% compared to the same period in 2012.

While the dip in air travel to mainland Europe was not as pronounced, the recovery has been slower, with the prolonged Eurozone crisis continuing to impact growth. The fragile economic situation across Southern Europe has led to signifcant reductions in air travel to Portugal (-20.1%) Italy (-14.6%) and Greece (-15.3%).

Germany emerged the most popular international air travel destination for HRG clients due to its position as a leading commercial centre, though even here transaction volumes were down 1.5%. Strong economic growth conditions and revenue opportunites across Northern Europe and Scandinavia drove a significant rise in air travel to the region.

HRG data shows an 11.5% rise in air travel to Norway and a 16.9% rise to Denmark. Interestingly, transactions for flights to France decreased by 5.2% between April 2012 to March 2013 when compared with the previous year. HRG figures reveal an increasing trend for business travellers to travel to France using high-speed rail services including Eurostar.

Many companies have also changed their travel policy, requiring travellers to travel by rail for this particular route as it allows for work to be completed en-route.

Latin America – Dynamism beyond Brazil

Latin America continues to grow as a business travel destination, but data from HRG indicates the pace of change is slowing in more established markets like Brazil. While air travel to Brazil has grown exponentially over the past five years, HRG’s data showed a year on year decline of 6.1% in terms of transactions.

As part of the exclusive ‘BRIC club’ Brazil may grab the headlines, but the opening of new international routes across Latin America is underpinning strong growth in air travel to less established destinations across the entire region. Peru (+18.2%), Chile (+16.7%), and Colombia (+36.2%) are all emerging as business travel destinations as international companies recognise investment opportunities in these smaller countries.

Middle East and North Africa – Bouncing back

Air travel to the Middle East and North Africa is showing signs of improvement after hitting rock bottom during the social-political uprisings of the last 18 months. Travel to booming Turkey rose by 11.5% year on year. HRG’s data also showed an increase in corporate travel to Saudi Arabia (+9.1%) and UAE (+5.3%), but business travel to Bahrain remains stymied by ongoing political unrest.

Air travel transactions to the Kingdom were down 13.3% year on year. In North Africa, inbound air travel to Tunisia is down by 22.7%, while air travel to Egypt declined by 2.7%. There are however signs this may be changing as Foreign Direct Investment is beginning to have an impact on business travel to the region.

Africa – Rising fast

Boosted by a plethora of new airline routes into Africa and a successful football World Cup in June 2010, the continent is gradually emerging as a desirable destination for business travel. Compared to the sluggish pace of growth in Europe, transaction volumes in Africa are rising at often eye-watering rates, albeit these rises are often from a low starting base. Inbound travel to Ghana was up 50.4%, and 14.8% to South Africa.

Asia – China stalls as India powers back

China may be tipped to overtake the US as the world’s biggest business travel destination by 2015, but even the world’s second largest economy has not been spared some economic hardship over the past year.

A slight slowdown in growth from the blistering pace we have become accustomed to is reflected in the 2.3% decline in year on year air travel transactions reported. Conversely, India was one of the major growth regions identified by HRG’s air trends data, showing year on year growth of 11.1%

United States – Feeling the pinch in 2012

Air travel transactions to the US dropped sharply in 2012, showing a year on year decline of 4.2%. In a sign that air travel to the North Atlantic region has yet to recover, Delta Air Lines, one of the US’s two biggest airlines by revenues, warned of a fall in demand in March and expected unit revenues to fall 2 to 3 per cent in April, as it experienced the impact of a weakening US economy.

Cabin classes – Belt-tightening hits business class

Business class transactions have declined dramatically across domestic and short-haul destinations in mainland Europe with drops of 22% and 45% respectively. Economy and low-cost carrier transactions on short-haul destinations in Europe rose by 1% and 4% respectively, suggesting a widespread shift in travel policy on these routes.

In the UK, economy and low-cost fares were down 1% and 9% respectively, indicating UK domestic business travellers may be swapping air travel for rail, and holding more meetings remotely. Belt-tightening is also extending to cabin classes on some long-haul destinations. HRG reports that while transactions to the Rest of World region are up on the previous year, business class transactions remained flat with the majority of the year on year rise accounted for by economy and premium economy fares.

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National Geographic Society Announces New Travel Group

National Geographic has formed a new Travel Group that consolidates all of the 125-year-old Society's travel assets, including National Geographic Traveler magazine, National Geographic Expeditions, photo workshops and seminars, travel books, maps, apps, digital travel content and travel community.

The new group is led by Lynn Cutter, executive vice president, National Geographic Travel. "National Geographic has built up vast travel assets over the years, from our compelling travel editorial content to our unique access to people and places around the world to our thriving National Geographic Expeditions business," says Lynn Cutter. "By bringing together our publishing, expeditions and digital teams, we believe National Geographic Travel can harness these extraordinary resources and extend our leadership in authentic, meaningful and engaging travel."

The group's efforts are resonating with travelers. Expeditions' sales have increased by 80 percent in the past two years, traffic to the website is up 30 percent in the past 12 months, and the social travel community has doubled in the last year. Proceeds from all travel programs and products support the Society's aim of increasing global understanding through exploration, education and scientific research.

At a time when many media companies are moving away from print products, National Geographic is reinvesting in National Geographic Traveler magazine — increasing trim size, using heavier paper stock and unveiling a bold redesign with the October issue that allows for richer photography and a cleaner reader experience. The enhanced product will feature new columns from celebrated voices like Andrew Evans, National Geographic Traveler's Digital Nomad; Chris Elliott, one of America's best-known consumer travel experts; and leading sustainability expert Costas Christ, who will write a new column, "Trending." The redesign extends to the digital iPad/tablet version.

Keith Bellows, editor-in-chief of National Geographic Traveler and senior vice president of National Geographic Travel, leads the editorial vision for the group, and notes that, "National Geographic is a brand that inspires us to reach beyond our front doors to explore the planet and everything on it. Traveler is for real travelers and has long been driven by great photography and storytelling and an emphasis on culture, experience and authenticity. These are the principles that drive all of National Geographic Travel."

The National Geographic Society has long been an innovative leader in the travel space, pioneering initiatives such as the prestigious 25-year-old Traveler photo contest; the Traveler Writers Series, one-on-one live interviews with the world's best travel writers; the Places of a Lifetime series of magazine issues, apps and coffee-table books; the Apple-design award-winning National Parks app; and the "Travelers of the Year" program, which recognizes those who travel with purpose and to make a difference in the lives of others. New hire Andy Coleman, vice president of digital travel, joined National Geographic Travel to shape strategy for creating a comprehensive travel experience for users.

The new digital team rebranded all travel social media under one name, NatGeoTravel, across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr. Among drivers of the digital and social growth are "Best of the World Weekly" destinations hand-picked by National Geographic Travel editors; daily "Travel 365" photos; tips from the field in the "Intelligent Travel" blogs; and programs like Digital Nomad, which has Andrew Evans traveling the globe and sharing stories in real-time through his Digital Nomad blog, Facebook and @WheresAndrew Twitter feed.

The nomad franchise continues to expand with the addition of Urban Insider Annie Fitzsimmons. Contributors such as Evans and Elliott will appear throughout National Geographic Travel properties. For example, Evans writes a column for the magazine, contributes daily posts and videos on his Digital Nomad blog, will take part in October's signature 125th Anniversary "125 Years of Exploration" private jet trip and wrote the introduction to the new book, "Four Seasons of Travel" (Oct. 15, 2013). Elliott, in addition to his column, is also the author of a new book, "How to be the World's Smartest Traveler" (March 4, 2014).

National Geographic Travel is the travel arm of the National Geographic Society, one of the world's largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations, founded in 1888. National Geographic Travel creates authentic, meaningful and engaging travel experiences through National Geographic Traveler magazine; National Geographic Expeditions; travel books; maps; apps; digital travel content; and travel photography programs. National Geographic Traveler (8 issues per year) is the world's most widely read travel magazine and has 17 international editions. It is available by subscription, on newsstands in the United States and Canada, and digitally for tablets.

National Geographic Expeditions, the travel program of the Society, offers a variety of unique travel experiences led by top experts to more than 60 destinations across all seven continents. Travel opportunities include family and student expeditions, active adventures, private jet trips and voyages on the six expedition ships in the National Geographic-Lindblad fleet, as well as photography workshops, expeditions and seminars. The National Geographic Travel digital group offers inspiring and authoritative digital content such as trip ideas, photo galleries, blogs and apps, including the award-winning National Parks app. National Geographic Travel Books bring readers curated travel advice, photography and insider tips.

More info: http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/

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