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January 2013 Tour Director Update

Industry and Company Update: A Message from Bruce Epstein, President, Odysseys Unlimited

On behalf of Odysseys Unlimited, I would like to thank you for helping to make 2012 a successful year and wish each of you, and your loved ones, all the best for 2013.

As we usher in the New Year, we can reflect on 2012 as another very successful year for the company. Our growth in the number of guests we serve continued (now in excess of 13,000 annually) and, more importantly, our quality ratings (as indicated by our guests) improved from the previous year. Additionally, as you know, Odysseys Unlimited was fortunate to have been named one of the "World's Best Tour Operators" in 2012 by readers of Travel & Leisure magazine.

Our annual company photo appears in 'The Last Word' section of this Update. Those of you who have been with us for several years no doubt have noticed how the company keeps growing, as evidenced by the increasing number of staff members shown in the photo each year.

Based on this growth, I am pleased to tell you that we will be relocating to new office space next month. While the move is not a "long" one in geographic terms (we'll be moving to a nice building across the street from our current location), it does represent a huge effort to coordinate construction, furniture, communications systems, and all technology.

We will be announcing the details of this change, such as our new "physical" address, closer to the time of the actual move. For each of you, the move should be seamless since our telephone and fax numbers as well as all e-mail addresses will remain unchanged. While any change in a work environment is always challenging, we sincerely believe that this move will be a most positive one and provide a great foundation for Odysseys Unlimited' s future growth.

As always, we sincerely thank you for your hard work and commitment to excellence on our behalf. We look forward to working with you in 2013.

Bruce Epstein


Holiday Schedule
Our office will be closed on Monday, February 18th, for the Presidents Day holiday. Should you have an emergency, please call the emergency number, staffed 24/7 at 1-339-222-7456.

Tour Director Meetings
As an integral part of Odysseys Unlimited's focus on quality, we're committed to holding more and more Tour Director meetings throughout the world. We have found these to be a great opportunity to exchange ideas, identify issues/concerns and ultimately to improve the overall quality of OUI programs. During the second half of 2012, we held five meetings in different locales around the world:

Costa Rica's Natural Heritage: August 28, San Jose, Costa Rica.
Jan Hobbs-Bailey and Curran Sands of Odysseys met with our travel partners Silvia Salazar and Nelsie Alfaro of Vesa Tours, and our Tour Directors in Costa Rica, for a full-day meeting in advance of the season's start. It was the second trip to Costa Rica for Curran, who had traveled there on a familiarization trip led by Herman Medford. Many thanks to our travel partner, Vesa Tours, for hosting the meeting. Below, all participants stand on the staircase in Vesa Tours' new offices.

From left to right, Nelsie Alfaro (in green), and Silvia Salazar (in white) both Vesa Tours, Curran Sands, Odysseys, Rafa Calvo, Herman Medford, Randall Obsney (in yellow), Jan Hobbs-Bailey, Odysseys, Odir Morales (in blue), Olivier Esquivel, Max Vindas, Olman Vargas (in teal) Fillipe Pardo (partially obscured)

Journey Through Vietnam: Sept 19 Hanoi, Vietnam & Sept 21, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Lisa Furtado and Jan Hobbs-Bailey met with Tour Directors and representatives of our travel partner, Destination Asia, in both Hanoi, Vietnam and Siem Reap, Cambodia to review the base tour in Vietnam and the popular extension to Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Below, the Vietnam group gathers during a break in the meeting.

From left to right, Tour Directors Vu Do Hoang, Vuu Huyen Tuyen, Nguyen Huu Quang, Tring Ngooc Thanh, Duong Ngoc Minh Trang(Destination Asia), Nguyen Nhat Duy, Nguyen Tuan Huy, Lisa Furtado and Jan Hobbs-Bailey, Odysseys, and Tour Director Dang Si Hiep.

Mysteries of Myanmar: Sept 23, Yangon, Myanmar
Having met our Tour Directors in Vietnam and Cambodia, Lisa and Jan continued their travels to Yangon, Myanmar, to meet with the Tour Directors leading the first season of our operations in Myanmar. Lisa and Jan were joined by our travel partners from Destination Asia, as they met with Tour Directors prior to the opening of the inaugural Myanmar season. Below, the group poses in Yangon.

From left to right, Tour Directors Chang Yein and Kyua Kyua Zin; Jan Hobbs-Bailey and Lisa Furtado, Odysseys, Phyu Su Mon, Destination Asia; Tour Directors Nu Nu Htwe, San San,Myint and Mr. Johnny.

Patagonian Frontiers: October 2-3, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Representatives from our travel partners, Cocha (Chile), and ATP (Argentina), joined our Tour Directors for a two-day meeting. Thanks to all who attended and for their lively exchange of ideas and commitment to the overall excellence of the program.

From left to right, Stacey Harrison, Odysseys; Ivan Bustamante, Ignacio Hewstone, Zuny Carceres (with blue scarf), Daniel Paredes, Mariana Eberhard (in green - Cocha), Nick Tozer, Gloria Parea, Silvana Cohen, and Robyn Steegstra, Odysseys (in orange) take a break in Santiago, Chile. Not in photograph: from ATP, Laura Godoy and Barbara Mieth.

Southern Africa Odyssey and Africa's Wildlife: Nov 17, Johannesburg, South Africa
Stacey Harrison and Robyn Steegstra of Odysseys joined Tour Directors James McKenzie and Tonia Devereux, and representatives from our travel partner, Welcome Tourism Services, to meet before the start of the 2013 season. Below, Tour Director, James McKenzie, and Stacey Harrison on our 'sundowner' cruise on the Zambezi River.

From left, James McKenzie, Tour Director, and Stacey Harrison, Odysseys. Not in photograph: Tonia Devereux, Robyn Steegstra


Email guidelines;
It's no secret that e-mail is convenient and easy to use: in just a few seconds you can contact anyone. Unfortunately you also can inadvertently reveal information your recipients would prefer to keep private, such as their e-mail addresses.

Please adhere to the following guideline. When e-mailing a group of people, show respect for the recipients' privacy by writing their e-mail addresses in the 'bcc' (blind copy) field, not in the 'cc' field. This way, your recipients' names and email addresses remain private (only you will see them).


Optional Guest Contact Sheet
Guests who have enjoyed their small-group travel experience often want to stay in touch after the tour has ended with other members of their touring 'family'. And we as a company want to know if guests would like to receive e-mail updates and news from us.

The Optional Guest Contact Sheet satisfies both these requirements. You distribute the sheet to guests, those who wish, write down their contact information and willingness to receive e-mail updates. You then copy the sheet, give each guest a copy, and send a copy to us.

Many tour directors make the presentation of this sheet to guests a part of their farewell dinner celebration. You can scan or mail the Optional Guest Contact Sheet to us.

Lost your copy? You always can find a blank Optional Guest Contact Sheet to download here:

Familiarization Trips ('Fams')
Each year Odysseys Unlimited sends several employees on tour with our guests - as part of an ongoing training program. Selected employees get to know the itinerary and the people on the ground that are essential to making the tour successful. This is important to their professional development and to serving our clients better. 'Fam' trip participants make a presentation to the entire company when they return with the goal of educating all staff members about the tour.

Below are the latest tours on which our staff have traveled:

Moroccan Discovery, November 3, 2012
Margie Bride, Vice President, Special Interest Groups, traveled with Seddik Aassim on Moroccan Discovery. Below, Seddik relaxes in a Moroccan interior while Margie braves the cold. The majestic Atlas Mountains are behind her.

Tour Director, Seddik Aassim

Margie Bride bundles up in Morocco.

Sicily and Southern Italy Oct 19, 2012
Vinnie Guarna, Manager, Special Interest Groups, and Jacob Ward, Group Operations Coordinator, traveled to Sicily and Southern Italy under the leadership of Tour Director, Sara Basile.

From left, Tour Director, Sara Basile, and, Jacob Ward, Odysseys, smile before dinner served at a local restaurant in Matera, Basilicata. Not shown: Vinnie Guarna.

From left, Jacob Ward and Vinnie Guarna enjoy the spectacular Ionian Sea in Gallipoli, Puglia as part of Sicily & Southern Italy.

Legendary Turkey, Oct 9 , 2012
Sue Bonchi, Vice President, Marketing, and Claudia Schutz, Vice President, Reservations, Customer Service, and Operations visited Turkey with Tour Director, Ahmet Senol Ozbek.

Tour Director, Ahmet Senol Ozbek, (red shirt, front row, third from left) poses with guests including Claudia Schutz (second row, second from left) and Sue Bonchi (second row, far right).

Treasures of Peru
Moriah Birnbaum, Product & Overseas Coordinator and Amy Bell, Supervisor of Guest Communications traveled to Peru under the guidance of Tour Director, Victor Colunga. Below, they stand just inside the main entrance of the ruins of Machu Picchu, one of the famous sites of Incan culture. Joining them is Sergio Prieto, the local guide who works with our groups in the nearby town of Cuzco.

From left, Moriah Birnbaum, Sergio Prieto (local guide in Cuzco), Amy Bell and Victor Colunga, Tour Director enjoy the good weather.

News Flash! We'll be moving offices in February, 2013
To accommodate our continued growth, we will be relocating our offices in February and moving to more expansive office space across the street. We'll be updating you closer to the time and changing the addresses on your materials before our move.

Special Interest Groups: Attending the Educational Travel Conference (ETC) in Florida
For the past several years we've been a major sponsor of the Educational Travel Conference, the industry's annual conference for travel planners serving not-for-profit institutions such as museums and college and university alumni groups. The conference is typically held in January or February and moves around to different locales across the U.S. This year's conference will held in Orlando, Florida from January 23 to 27.

The institutions we serve tell us repeatedly how impressive and valuable they find your leadership to be. We're proud of our reputation amongst this group of travel planners and pleased to renew our sponsorship of this important conference.

Featured Tour Director
Each of our tour catalogs includes an article about the Featured Tour Director for that catalog cycle. The Featured Tour Director is someone who has worked with us for at least two years and has received outstanding Overall Tour quality results by embodying Odysseys Unlimited's commitment to high quality and personal service.

Dang Si Hiep (Hiep), Journey Through Vietnam

Enrica Angeli, Italy

Catherine Chamoux, Provincial French Countryside

Ahmet Memis, Turkey


Online Information for Tour Directors
In response to your requests, we're putting commonly used materials online so that you can read them whenever you'd like and download and print them at your convenience. Link:

Here you'll find:
· Tour Director Handbook and examples of our tipping card. Please note that our Tour Director Handbook is being updated and should be posted by the end of the month.
· Optional Guest Contact Sheet
· Tour Director Updates
· Link to the Tour Director Report
· 24/7 Emergency phone, phone numbers for Jan Hobbs-Bailey, Ruth Morss, and Curran Sands

Tour Director Reports
Don't forget to fill out your Tour Director report within seven days of finishing your tour. The report should take about 20 minutes to do. Link:

How to handle traveler illness on tour; our contact information
The health and safety of the guest is the priority. In an emergency, the goal is to get medical help at once.

Odysseys offers a Travel Protection Plan administrated by Trip Mate, which provides coverage and services for such things as travel cancellation, missed connection, medical expenses/emergency assistance, etc. We do not force the guest to buy this plan but over half do.

Some guests buy other coverage of their choosing while members of special interest groups may have bought a plan through the college, university, or organization (such as the Smithsonian) that advertised the trip. Most special interest groups offer their own insurance. Other guests (a small percentage) buy nothing.

You will always know what guests have done by reading their guest forms.

· For guests with Odysseys insurance: call ONE CALL at 1-603-894-4710 (they accept collect calls). ONE CALL is the medical assistance company for the Trip Mate plan. Give ONE CALL the plan number: N425.

· For guests who have bought other plans: determine what number to call based on the literature that the guest should have.

· For guests who elected not to buy coverage: they will be responsible for all costs.

Once you have made the appropriate calls, please contact Curran at 1-617-454-9122, Ruth at 1-617-454-9112 or Jan at 1-617-454-9116 (depending upon the tour). Additionally, please send an informal report of the incident via email.

A reminder of our address.
Odysseys Unlimited
Two Newton Place
255 Washington Street, Suite 240
Newton, MA 02458

Our address will change in February 2013! More information to come.

Office hours: 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM, U.S. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday.

Phone and Fax:

Moriah Birnbaum (direct): 1-617-454-9145
Bruce Epstein (direct): 1-617-454-9101
Lisa Furtado (direct): 1-617-454-9104
Stacey Harrison (direct): 1-617-454-9115
Jan Hobbs-Bailey (direct): 1-617-454-9116
Ruth Morss (direct): 1-617-454-9112
Curran Sands (direct): 1-617-454-9122
Steven Saxon (direct): 1-617-454-9110
Main Switchboard: 1-617-454-9100
Company Fax: 1-617-454-9199
Emergency: 1-339-222-7456


The Last Word: Our annual company photograph taken this past summer.


4 time honoree of Travel + Leisure's World's Best Tour Operator awardVoted Best Outfitters on Earth on the web by National Geographic Adventure magazineBetter Business Bureau accredited businessClick here for gear from My Odyssey Outfitter