Four Travel Buddies You Want to Avoid

You might think you already know this guy or girl.  You know the stereotypes.  We have the stinker, snorer, snoozie-nooner, party guy, captain go-go-go, no-doe, and the travel guru to name a few.   Great, but I’m not talking about any of them.

I’m talking about a different kind of travel buddy that you will want to avoid at all cost.  I’m talking about something so opportunistic that it gives a whole new meaning to the word “mooch”.  These guys aren’t your buddy at all.  These guys are true parasites.

1.) Giardia Lamblia – Topping our list as one of the most common is this guy.  He might have you go-go-go but it’s always to the same place, the toilet.

Somewhere along the trail you came into contact with infected feces, ut-oh.  Most likely it was in the form of contaminated food or water.  The Route of infection, fecal-oral – eww!

If your traveling in developing countries where poor sanitary conditions, water quality control and overcrowding are prevalent then you are at increased risk.

Also at risk are campers and backpackers.  This is particularly true in mountainous regions where streams can be infected with human or animal waste and carry Giardia cysts (resting stage).  Always treat your water.

Once you ingest the cysts the acid in your stomach activates the cysts and releases trophozoites (active form of parasite in your body).  From this point it’s all fun and games for the parasite as it attaches to your small intestine and starts to reproduce.  As you pass feces it now contains more cysts waiting to reinfect another.

In the meantime you are blessed with sudden explosive foul smelling diarrhea, excessive gas, bloating, abdominal pain, nausea, tiredness and loss of appetite.  When you think about the parasites method of infection your symptoms are great for its survival and desired goal to find more human hosts.

Preventive Measures for Travelers –  Practice good hygiene, follow food and water precautions (appropriate water filtering), avoid accidental water intake during swimming.

Fun History –  Giardia is often referred to as “Beaver Fever” due to the high occurrence of campers getting the disease from drinking contaminated water inhabited by beavers.

2.)  Leishmaniasis, Cutaneous – This next one is going to have you feeling like the stinker.  Why?  Because once people catch site of your ugly lesions they are gonna avoid you like the plague.

This travel buddy can be picked up in southern Europe as well parts of the tropics and subtropics.  According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), over 90% of the world’s cases of CL occur in eight countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Syria (Old World); and Brazil and Peru (New World).  Over 75% U.S. civilian cases are acquired in Latin America, including popular tourist destinations such as Costa Rica.

Travelers at increased risk for CL include adventure travelers, bird watchers, ecotourists, missionaries, Peace Corps volunteers, soldiers and anyone doing research outdoors particularly at night.

The vector-borne culprit is an infected female phlebotomine sand fly.  Risk for infection is highest from dusk to dawn as they are night feeders.  Although less active in the day, they may bite unsuspecting hikers that brush against tree trunks or other resting places.

The event of infection can go completely unnoticed.  Sand flies make no buzzing noise, are about 1/3 the size of mosquitoes and don’t have a wicked mean bite.  It’s what comes after that will remind you of your friendly new travel buddy.

Preventive Measures for Travelers –  Reduce contact with sand flies.  Avoid outdoor activities especially during the hours from dusk till dawn.  Wear protective clothing and barriers.  Use a repellent with DEET.

Fun History– That was the good kind.  Visceral leishmaniasis, also known as kala-azar or black fever is the most severe form of leishmaniasis.  If left untreated it will certainly cause death.  Here’s the bad news,  the World Health Oganization reports that in southern Sudan, “the number of cases from September 2009 until now is more than six times higher than in 2007-08.” and “more than 6,000 people have been infected and over 300 have died in the last year.”

3.)  Malaria – genus: Plasmodium The good old standby.  If you travel abroad, come home and fall ill everyone will be quick to say “you probably have Malaria”.  So do you?

According to the CDC there are about 1,500 cases of Malaria in the U.S each year, mostly from returned travelers.  Sub-Saharan Africa travelers are at the greatest risk for both getting malaria and dying from the infection.  However, any country where malaria is present results in a risk for travelers.

A great tool for you to use is the CDC Malaria Map Application.  Users can search a interactive map and get information about malaria endemicity in any particular region.  What’s great is it recommended medications for malaria prevention for that particular area.

Mosquitoes are the culprit carrying the parasite that causes Malaria.  Mosquitoes are also the thing you want to avoid to avoid picking up this new travel buddy.  Can you imagine that, heading out camping realizing there was a real legitimate risk of contracting Malaria.  People in the States often joke, “Probably got Malaria” after being bit a bunch but we don’t really think we have it.

But what if the circumstances are right?  You were in a high risk area, you got bit by mosquitoes.  Did you know you could come down with symptoms up to a year later.  Anyone that has traveled abroad should seek immediate medical attention up to a year after any possible exposure if symptoms present.  Malaria is always a serious illness and sometimes deadly.  Symptoms of Malaria include fever and a flu like illness.

Preventative Measures for Travelers –   Avoid contact with mosquito bites through the usual means including protective clothing, repellents, insecticide treated bed nets, etc.  If you know you are traveling into a high risk area you should consider bringing malaria prevention medicines.  Consult the Malaria information by country table list to see the CDC-recommended options.

Bringing your own medicine will give you some peace of mind and in the event you are diagnosed with Malaria abroad.  This will ensure you have immediate access to an appropriate high quality anti-malarial treatment plan.  Not doing so could leave you in a bad situation.  In some countries where Malaria is present it is not unheard of to receive counterfeit or sub-standard drug treatment.

Fun History – The word “malaria” comes from the Italian mala aria, and means “bad air.” It was believed that malaria was actually caused by breathing in bad air-namely, foul vapors emanating from swamps, latrines, and so on. The stagnant water provided a breeding ground for mosquitoes which was actually the responsible culprit capable of spreading the parasite.

4.)  Ascaris lumbricoides– This is the largest nematode (roundworm) that can parasitize the human intestine and it’s also the most common.  This thing can actually grow 5 to 35 inches long and produce more than 200,000 eggs per day inside the body.

Infection occurs worldwide but is most common in tropical and subtropical areas.  Developing countries where sanitation and hygiene are poor result in higher risk.

Ascaris Infection occurs when a person accidentaly ingest ascaris eggs found in soil.  Common routes of infection include contaminated food or touching your mouth with your hands after coming into contact with the eggs.

Once in the small intestine the eggs hatch into immature worms.  The larvae migrate to the lungs and then to the throat where they are swallowed. When they reach the intestines they develop into adult worms.  The adult female is responsible for laying eggs which will eventually pass into ones feces.

Symptoms can be mild (adominal discomfort) to none.  Slow weight gain or growth is often associated with Ascaris infection.  If your thinking this sounds like a great way to lose way think again.  Heavy worm infections have been known to cause a intestinal blockage.

Preventative Measures for Travelers– Telling you to avoid contact with soil that may contain human feces sounds redicoulous but make sure you do this.  If possible don’t deficate outdoors.  Always dispose of diapers properly.  Wash hands with soap and water before handling food and avoid any food that may be contaminated with soil.  Wash, peel or cook your food throughly before consumption.

Fun History–  Has anyone heard of the  new weight loss craze in Hong Kong?  Apparently, certain Chinese-language websites have been promoting the use of products that contain Ascaris worm eggs with the promise of fast weight loss.  Did you see what I said at the start of this article, these things can grow up to 35 inches long.  Don’t do It!

Aside from the obvious gross factor these worms can cause serious complications including death.  No more needs to be said.

BONUS BUG) Bed Bugs (Cimex lectularius) – These guys are the real travel gurus.  If they talked you would likely get a earful of how they traveled harder, further and just plain better then you ever did.

You would likely hear stories of how they hopped one backpack in a crowded metro car to another and then got a free stay in a 4 star hotel after two nights bumming in some filthy flat.  The next day they decided to travel again with some complete stranger they picked up in bed and ended up on a 7 day cruise.  Not ready to go home yet they hopped bags at luggage in the airport and were on their way to Tahiti.  Wow, What a life.

For more on Bed Bugs please visit our full post on Bed Bugs and Traveling.

Bonus Fun About Parasites– Did you know most parasites need a host, often more than one different kind to complete thier life cycle.  Check out this cool video on how the clever parasite gets it done.

The Use of TASER Device in a Legal Way While Traveling

One of the interesting events to do when you want to enjoy life is to travel every place across the globe. You can experience an excitement that is an endless one and find perfect destinations that you can visit along your holidays. Each beautiful spots offers allure and charm to tourist as well as mesmerizing the great attractions. The place of your choice will totally overwhelm you.

There are a lot of things that you need to consider when traveling and one of the most important that you should always put in mind is your safety. Every individual wants to have a comfortable journey so either way you travel by land, air, and water you must be absolutely prepared. The precaution list is constant and if you already taken the significant safety and health preventive measures, then just take it easy and relax.

Today, technologies are being used for different aspects in our lives. Today, many took advantage on the use of safety tool such as TASER device. While you are traveling by water or air, you cannot carry this device in your pocket or hand but instead you need to have a proper placement together with your luggage.

It is necessary to have a good place to where you want to have it so that you can easily get it. In times of situations wherein in spending areas that are high traffic many thieves creep in and with that you must be prepared and easily locate your tool to protect yourself out of danger.

Vacation travels believed to be amazingly fun and relaxing. Unexpected events, like personal injury or theft can make your much-awaited travel a bad adventure. So, how can you save yourself from harm? Safety measures is indeed your priority, always bring with you a TASER device one of the safety device that you can lean on especially if you are traveling by land. Also have an invaluable gadget like cell phones for this is can be way to keep in touch and will be free from worries while having fun.

It is not illegal to have a device tool for safety in you daily events or by traveling, but that will also depend upon the situation or case that you are to plan. There are places that you need to have a license first before you can bring with you the device and other areas that you are free carry it. If you are to travel by water and air place the safety device on a convenient place for easy use in times of emergency and make sure to check out the policies of the airport or the sea port. On the other hand you can place it in your pocket if you travel by land.

Planning ahead of time for travel is a great way to keep you away from detriment and that can protect yourself from unexpected events. Be alert always and have your safety measures all the time. Keep safe and have fun with your travel.

Direct Marketing Essentials – Simple Ways to Calculate and Measure Your Marketing

The mathematics of direct marketing primarily rests on three key elements:

  • Sales
  • Marketing Costs
  • Contribution Costs (e.g. Overheads)

Now there is no clear-cut balance for these elements as any direct marketing activity needs to be tailored and fine tuned according to each business. This is why I will never state off-the-cuff a direct marketing response rate for any business or industry type as there are significant variables involved such as the product itself, the demand for it, market preference and the nature of the offer.

Another point to highlight is that the mathematics used is underpinned by the belief that the future will be similar to the past. Hence if any variable within the equation changes significantly (e.g. magazine circulation significantly declines), then you have to expect a different response rate.

So to dive straight into it, I’ve listed below a few essential calculations which every small business should use:

Calculating the Allowable Using Your DM Budget

This equation lets you calculate the amount of money you need in order to make one sale. This is really important to know!

Revenue Selling Price: $1000

Minus Costs Production: $500

Overheads: $150

Postage & Handling: $50

The Breakeven allowance is $300 (the money you are allowed to spend to acquire a customer).

NOTE: If your business requires 10% profit, then your allowable would effectively be reduced to $200.

Using the Allowable to calculate your DM budget

So using our allowable recruitment spend per customer x target No. of Sales = $200 x 100

Marketing Budget = $20,000

What happens if you don’t make the sales required?

It is essential to test the market first using a small quantity before rolling out the entire campaign. Typically your allowable is based on what resources are required to acquire a customer already, plus I would expect some form of marketing research carried out in order to understand the size of your potential market. It is also important to include contingencies within your marketing activities if you don’t make the required sales. I always save 10% of my budget if something goes wrong. Or better still, if a potential list I’m targeting returns a huge ROI, then I have a bit left over to chase the money and market these top prospects again.

Measuring Costs, Responses and Sales

Here are a few very simple, yet essential equations to help measure costs, response and sales:

Cost per Unit:

Total cost / Total Quantity = Unit Cost

e.g. $20,000 / 4,000 = $5

Response Rate:

(Total Responses / Total Mailed) x 100% = % Response

e.g. (200 / 1,000) x 100% = 20%

This equation is exactly the same as measuring the Conversion Rate which would be Converted Leads / Total Leads Contacted

Cost per Sale:

Total Cost / Total Sales = Cost per Sale

e.g. 20,000 / 500 = $40

Example: Let’s say you were a travel insurance broker wanting to advertise in the local newspaper to sell premium travel insurance for $500 per person. I’ve listed some assumed sales and marketing costs to acquire a customer:

Advertising Cost: $7,800

Newspaper Circulation: 150,000

Promotional Cost: $5 per lead (e.g. Call centre costs)

Revenue per sale: $500

Total Marketing Cost for 100 leads is therefore: $8,300

The Cost per Inquiry or Sale will vary depending on the response rate, which you won’t know until you advertise. But the main focus on advertising is to achieve a required level of profitability in order to justify the expense. I like to refer to it as measuring the Profit Index. (This is exactly the same as using your allowable to calculate the number of sales you require in order to justify any marketing spend).

Profit Index (%) = Total Marketing Cost / Total Revenue

Profit Index (%) = 8,300 / 10,500

In this instance the Travel Insurance company requires 20% profit from print advertising. If my profit Index falls below 20%, then the advertising is deemed unprofitable. I’m so harsh!

Hence, 21 travel insurance premiums need to be sold to meet a profit index of 21%.

In other words, the allowable DM Budget would be set at $8,300 for advertising in the Local Newspaper.

Using Spreadsheets to Negotiate Spend

If you’ve seen the spreadsheet then you’ll wonder why I’ve highlighted the following cost fields – Ad Cost and Promotional Costs. Promotional Costs are harder to change in the short term, but negotiating advertising costs can be extremely effective. You’d be amazed to discover that by saving 10% of advertising you drive down your Profit Index, which means your advertising dollar doesn’t have to work as hard to acquire customers or sales. In the example used, you would only have to sell 19 Travel Premiums in order to meet the minimum profitability requirements. It also does hurt asking for a trial advertising rate to test the viability of a product in a publication. Some account managers will assist if it means you become a regular advertiser.

There are a couple of examples which the above calculations can be applied to in order to gain some further perspective for your next lead generation campaign.

Lead Generation Conversion Programs

1. Generally the more time you have to qualify an enquiry, the more it costs to generate. For example, if your telesales representative took 15 minutes to convert a prospect, while others may take only 5 minutes, then this will drive your overall costs to acquire a customer, and must be factored into your overheads or marketing costs.

2. Lead generation lists (Prospect Lists) can also support repeat conversion contacts, but you’ll always get a reduced response rate with each effort. For example, if you mailed 1,000 prospects, it may generate 250 leads. The second time you mail the list (minus the 250 leads you generated the first time round), you might get another 100 leads. This means you have generated a total of 350 leads from the prospect list. But we wary that if you use the list too many times then it will get to the point of being unprofitable.

As a general rule of thumb, you should change a portion of the DM piece the next time you mail (e.g. The offer, or a larger discount), as customers may respond to varying aspects of your direct marketing campaign, which is why it is always important to test.

You may hear direct marketing consultants talking about list building, and how much of their time is dedicated to developing a database of qualified prospects and customers. These lists are in fact a key ingredient which differentiate direct marketing from traditional marketing.

But I will say that typically, a list of present customers will respond much better or at a higher rate to a new product compared to non-qualified, or “cold” prospects.

It is also important to point out that while companies always depreciate their expenses over time such as equipment, machinery and inventory, they almost never capitalise what could be their most important asset, their customer. Therefore, small business owners should view their customers as investments and be able to measure and monitor customer data, and capitalise on it for the future.

Just remember that the maths of direct marketing sets it apart from all other marketing disciplines!