Article | August 26, 2020
With the travel and tourism sector having taken a gut punch this year amid coronavirus concerns, many business groups and professionals are seeking new and innovative ways to enjoy memorable team events, proffer inspiring staff incentives and have some impactful one-on-one with customers and clients particularly those activities that inherently facilitate large crowd avoidance. With that, I’ve found a fabulous option in the BMW Performance Center West. This permanent performance driver training facility, located in Thermal, California near Palm Springs, offers one-of-a-kind experiences for both business groups and individuals that are taught by BMW professional driving instructors on a private course.
With up to 5.1 miles of expansive track layouts, the facility offers various driving programs and schools allowing participants to get behind the wheel of “the Ultimate Driving Machine” and learn key skills. Things like proper vision, basic car control, panic braking, handling, last-minute emergency lane changing, distracted driving, high-speed control and precision driving are all taught. Plus, it’s just plain old adrenaline-inducing fun.
The facility, which opened in 2015, offers various driving solutions for people of all ages and capabilities, and they also have special programs and meeting space for private and corporate groups. So, your entire department or company at large can get in on the action! There are multiple one- and two-day driving schools and experiences, private instruction, customizable events and the opportunity to experience the expansive, luxurious facility in either BMW or MINI vehicles.
Here are my top five reasons why this facility is a must-visit vacation destination, with the finer details courtesy of the BMW Performance Center West:
1. Private Instruction in the latest and greatest models
Instruction at the facility encompasses the full line of the newest BMW and MINI vehicles. In fact, there are reportedly over 100 new models available for activities at the BMW Performance Center West.
Also notable is the fact that all BMW driving experiences and schools are taught by professional BMW Driving Instructors, many of whom are professional race car drivers with dozens of wins. They even hold two world records: Longest Drift in eight hours (232.5 miles) and Longest Tandem Drift (39.25 miles).
These BMW Professional Driving instructors teach you how to handle your vehicle in challenging situations and conditions including accident avoidance, cornering, drifting, car control, braking and more. A skidpad allows drivers to feel oversteer and understeer, simulating hydroplaning or driving on black ice and providing the opportunity to learn how to handle those situations. The skidpad also provides advanced drivers with the thrilling experience of drifting. The tight performance track offers plenty of opportunity to learn how to control a vehicle at various speeds and cornering situations. Drivers can definitely satisfy their need for speed and excitement on one of the four tracks and experience driving scenarios they’ve only ever seen in the movies.
2. A variety of track experiences are available
In addition to BMW-dedicated tracks and a polished wet skidpad, some classes take advantage of the FIA certified race tracks of The Thermal Club. There are three tracks there with a combined length of 5.1 miles. The North Palm track is 1.2 miles long, the Desert Palm track is 1.8 miles long, and the South Palm track is also 1.8 miles long. Their newly-opened Off-Road Track allows drivers to experience extreme angles in the BMW X-series vehicles, splashing through water obstacles, driving over bumpy off-road trails and more. The vertical angles are literally steeper than any street in San Francisco and the visual sensation is amazing. Drivers often say, “I didn’t know a car could do that!”
3. A range of performance driving experiences are offered
Each BMW Performance Center West’s fun and action-packed driving programs delivers a robust experience that you’re sure not to forget. These include:
-- BMW Performance Center Drive: This option packs a real punch with two intense and exhilarating driving sessions capped off with a Hot Lap by a Certified BMW instructor.
-- M Track Drive: This is the perfect combination of machine and track with six hard-charging laps on one of the tracks of The Thermal Club pushing a BMW M3 or M4 to its limits. Featuring the facility’s most powerful and responsive vehicles, the M Track Drive will put you behind the wheel of an M car for six exhilarating laps on an FIA Certified racetrack. You’ll follow an instructor’s car for a warm-up lap and also learn the proper line for achieving the best time. Then, try to keep their car in your sights as speeds and g-forces increase, pushing your M car to its considerable limits.
-- The Ultimate BMW Mixer / The Track Meet: This is a unique driving and dining experience that elevates gift-giving, business networking and client entertaining to a whole new level. It’s a great way to get a taste of what the group events can offer. The mixer is a half-day experience that includes a delicious chef-prepared lunch, three exhilarating driving sessions in a fleet of brand-new BMWs and a Hot Lap around the track with a BMW pro at the wheel. The afternoon is capped off at a private reception with hors d’oeuvres and beverages at the BMW Performance Center. If you do have business needs, the facility has meeting spaces with multimedia capabilities, site-wide Wi-Fi and both indoor and outdoor dining with a delicious catering menu.
4. Both one- and two-day car control schools are available
Engage your senses and push through your comfort zone by learning vehicle handling, quick judgment and accident avoidance skills—all developed in a controlled environment with a BMW-certified instructor observing and coaching via radio. These include real-world driving conditions and scenarios—wet pavement, emergency braking and lane changes, distracted driving and more.
For the two-day options, participants will build on and reinforce the skills and techniques learned on day one. More seat time and real-time feedback takes driving abilities to the next level. Day two is when things really “click” and safe driving instincts kick in. This is also the day participants will experience an Instructor Hot Lap.
There are a wide range of driving school options at the BMW Performance Driving Center that are available to individuals and groups, alike. Below is a brief synopsis of each:
-- Car Control School: Take the wheel of a BMW and head out to the track, where professional instructors will hone your driving skills. Understanding stability control, knowing what to do when a vehicle starts to slide on the wet skid-pad and practicing proper vision through the lane-change course will allow you to anticipate situations on a real road. Available as a one-day, or for even more in-depth instruction, two-day course.
-- M School: Take the wheel of a high-performance BMW M vehicle and experience the power of M firsthand. Accelerate, corner and brake faster than you ever have before, then learn to maintain control in low traction conditions on the facility’s wet skidpad and keep 400 horsepower under control. End the day with a hot lap in an instructor-driven M vehicle. Available as a one-day, or for even more pulse-pounding excitement, a full two-day course.
-- One-Day M School: Learn the theory, physics and mechanics of performance driving. M School builds confidence and consistency while perfecting control, handling, acceleration and braking techniques.
-- Two-Day M School: Take everything you learned on day one and push “GO.” Slaloms, drifting, braking, cornering at optimum slip, full- and modified-time laps at speeds you’ve only dreamed of.
-- Advanced M School: Game on. M School graduates are an elite class of driver. They’ve proven that they’ve got what it takes to handle the ultimate challenge: BMW’s Advanced M School, held for two full days at road course tracks with pro Instructors, is the closest you can get to a racing experience.
-- MINI Motoring School: Take a John Cooper Works MINI Cooper and run it through an autocross course, lead/follow session and some stunt driving techniques, all under the watchful eye of a professional instructor. The mighty MINI will have you grinning from ear to ear all day long.
-- MINI Tricks and Stunts School - The first half of the day gets you intimately familiar with the MINI’s handling and capabilities, but the fun meter gets cranked to 11 in the afternoon. They’ll cover silky smooth reverse donuts on the skidpad, J-turns and reverse turns.
-- Teen School: There’s a lot for brand-new drivers to keep in mind and the BMW Teen School will allow them to experience how a vehicle feels at the limit in the safety of a closed environment. From wet skidpad exercises and panic braking to performing a double lane change, teens will leave with a solid foundation of vehicle control and a big smile. This option is available as either a one or two-day curriculum.
5. Amenities abound
Set against a backdrop of breathtaking mountain views, the BMW Performance Center not only boasts a private course where only you can experience the Ultimate Driving Machine, but also a luxurious modern building, gourmet café, coffee bar and gift shop with exclusive merchandise that you cannot buy anywhere else.
Customized corporate retreats and group events held at the BMW Performance Center are a refreshing change from the cliché team-building sessions. All programs are designed to improve dynamics, build trust and facilitate group communication. They have meeting spaces with Multimedia capabilities, site-wide Wi-Fi and indoor and outdoor dining space.
In all, this is an unforgettable experience that also makes a great gift idea. With stay at home orders having been lifted, getting behind the wheel of a new BMW at the BMW Performance Center West is a “bucket list” excursion sure to leave you longing for more.
Article | August 26, 2020
The travel and tourism sector is estimated to be worth a huge $8.8 trillion every year, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. Along with established players, the industry has an incredibly vibrant startup scene full of companies looking to disrupt the status quo and capture a slice of the travel industry pie. The investment capital is there, as we know, with Phocuswright’s latest State of Travel Startups report revealing $5.8 billion was invested in travel startups in 2018. So, I want to home in on three key areas where there are still plenty of opportunities for startup innovation and look at some of the exciting things that are already happening in those segments.
Article | August 26, 2020
To deliver the richer, more fulfilling experiences that travelers crave, travel brands depend on a growing cache of customer data. More data can mean more opportunities to deliver an elevated human experience, personalized to each traveler’s needs and wants. But many brands are opaque about just what data they are collecting, and customers often don’t have any way to know how it may be used, how well it is secured, and what, if any, control they have over their personal information. Hence, the trust that travelers place in the industry is at risk, which ultimately could impact their travel choices.
Article | August 26, 2020
As COVID-19 wreaks havoc across the globe, tourism-dependent regions are suffering exponentially. The continent of Africa is one glaring example, with South Africa propelled into the global top 10 for coronavirus infections, reportedly now surpassing the United Kingdom in cases. For its part, the tourism and industrial sectors in North Africa will likely be hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the African Development Bank’s 2020 edition North Africa Economic Outlook report.
Even as Africa contends with pandemic concerns, there are still throngs of travelers who are keen to visit the region in the near future. Many are doing diligence to discern if, when and how to go about scheduling a trip to this tourism hotspot.
To help spotlight some top-line issues, I turned to entrepreneur and philanthropist Jay Cameron, Executive Director of Maximum Impact Travel. As one of the leading global experts on Africa travel and commerce, Cameron’s insights are invaluable as travelers deal with this tumultuous situation, helping ensure they plan smartly in the post-pandemic era.
MK: What are the key do’s and don’ts when traveling to Africa amid COVID-19?
JC: Surprisingly, some African countries have escaped the devastating impacts COVID-19 has caused globally. While other countries around the world have experienced often overwhelming consequences as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, much of Africa appears to have been spared. Even so, the statistics do not suggest the citizens of the countries of Africa have not felt its impact. The fact is, many countries in Africa are seeing regular increases in the numbers of those infected by the novel coronavirus, while much of the world is experiencing a decline in infections.
Around the world, experts warn outbreaks of COVID-19 in Africa may continue, resulting in a higher rate of deaths due to the limited local health services available. With coronavirus worries come fears of potential famine due to the virus threat, in combination with existing drought conditions and ongoing conflicts.
With this in mind, should you intend to travel to the continent now, or post-COVID-19, you should be prepared. Some good preparedness ideas include researching virus statistics in the country you wish to visit that, for one, you can review at AfricaNews.com. It is also advisable to learn if said country has any travel restrictions, which is information that is accessible online via at CDC.gov. Of course, maintaining a healthy lifestyle to boost immunity before and during your visit is also key.
MK: Should travelers be ready to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test result, either before departing or upon arrival?
JC: African countries are now opening for foreign travelers, but this does not indicate the belief that they have won the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Most African countries are still battling with COVID-19 outbreaks, as the number of infected cases continues to rise daily in nearly every African country. To this end, stringent efforts are in place to ensure individuals arriving on the continent and entering various countries are free of the virus.
With this in mind, you should be prepared to present proof of negative COVID-19 status before entering the country to which you are traveling. This measure is being implemented around the globe and the countries of Africa are no exception.
In the same vein, departing any African country will require the same proof of negative COVID-19 status. Both mandates are in place to protect your fellow travelers on the flight as well as the residents of the country to which you are traveling. As things ebb and flow, you can check the status of this mandate online at AfricaTravelInc.com.
MK: What would you suggest about localized regulations?
JC: Travelers must research the localized regulations and requirements with respect to hotel and resorts, airports, ground transportation, public spaces and such for both their own country and their destination.. It is necessary that you understand departure rules from your country of origin, and even more important that you understand your destination country’s prevailing laws for foreign travelers regarding COVID-19. Some African countries like Tanzania and Zambia, for example, have mandated the use of face masks in public places with punishment for the contravention of such laws. Some hotels and resorts also have taken stringent measures and issued their own strict requirements for travelers arriving from foreign countries. For example, at this time, hotel bars in Rwanda are closed but the hotels themselves remain open.
Researching and understanding these laws before traveling enables you to stay safe during your visit and steer clear of legal issues with the local authorities. A helpful resource for staying up-to-date on laws that might affect travel to Africa can be found at Travel.State.gov.
MK: What about the airlines, specifically?
JC: Investigate the requirements for your airline as each carrier has varied responses to COVID-19. As a result of the pandemic, most airlines have adopted measures to keep their passengers and their staff safe. While some airlines like Delta require proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding your flight, others provide testing before your flight and attach the result to your ticket. Therefore, to ensure you are able to fly when scheduled, it is your responsibility to know the requirements of your airline before the flight to avoid any issues. A good resource for this is Go2Africa.com.
MK: Should tourists be prepared for temperature screenings and COVID-19 tests upon arrival and departure?
JC: As pointed out earlier, many African countries are still battling the pandemic, so to keep the residents of their countries safe post-COVID-19, airports have been mandated to request test results or test passengers on-site. Therefore, when traveling, you should be prepared for a coronavirus test upon arrival or departure from any African country. If you refuse to allow this, you will not be able to fly.
MK: What about a potential 14-day quarantine upon arrival—is that only for travelers who show signs of COVID-19?
JC: Apart from testing, be prepared for a 14-day quarantine if you show signs of the virus or test positive during a test given at the airport. African countries are determined to ensure the pandemic is eliminated completely from their countries. If you show symptoms of the virus upon your arrival in any country in Africa, you will likely be quarantined for 14 days. This can even entail having to stay in the country instead of returning to the U.S.
MK: Would you say that travel insurance is an imperative?
JC: Make sure your travel insurance company offers COVID-19 coverage and arrange for COVID-19 travel insurance requirements from airlines. You will want to be insured by your travel insurance company for COVID-19 coverage before traveling to any African country. Check with your travel insurance company to ensure COVID-19 is covered under their insurance policy, in the event you need to change your travel plans due to the pandemic. Such coverage policy can protect you by covering expenses related to unexpected changes and/or medical care in the event of illness.
MK: With any trip, but especially now, there can be unforeseen circumstances. Any insights on that front?
JC: DO NOT travel without extra funds and the ability to extend your trip in the event of a quarantine. With the points mentioned above, there is a great likelihood you will be required to spend more time and money in the country to which you are traveling if your COVID-19 test is positive. As a result, it is advisable to travel only if you are prepared with time and financial contingency plans. However, African countries are not barring U.S. travelers at the same rate as other countries, meaning you can potentially realize your dream safari vacation or other adventure across the continent’s beaches, jungles and deserts.
As the world contends with COVID-19 issues, African countries will endeavor to stay open for tourism, business and much more. Preparing for, and abiding by, the region’s travel requirements will make your journey and overall stay in the country more enjoyable and safer for all.