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OUR DISCOVERERS

30 October 2020

Places To Visit

Travel Treasures From Home

Although we may not be able to travel right now, that shouldn’t stop us from dreaming about the places and destinations we’ll explore as soon as it is safe to travel again. In fact, now is the perfect time to add some amazing places to your travel bucket list. No matter where you decide to go, the important thing is to get out there, discover and learn from new experiences.

To help fuel your wanderlust, we selected a few of our fellow GHA Discoverers and asked them to talk about their home country, and share some highly recommended spots and experiences. You’re definitely going to want to put these places on your adventure wish list, too.

Goa, India
By Rahail Ahmed, CRM Manager

If there’s one place that I would highly recommend to visit and explore in my home country of India, it would definitely be Goa. Located in the southwest region of India, Goa is the smallest state in the country, yet it attracts a large number of local and international tourists every year, thanks to its laid back pace of life and picturesque views— imagine breathtaking sandy beaches, spectacular sunsets, enchanting backwaters, and dazzling historic architecture.

When visiting Goa, a must-experience is definitely the food. Goa cuisine is a blend of local flavours and Portuguese influences (Goa was conquered by the Portuguese in the 16th century and remained a colony for over 450 years). Most dishes feature fresh seafood and are coconut or ​ rice-based. Fishermen would usually bring boats loaded with the day’s catch and restaurants in the area would cook the local catches fresh off the boat. A must-try is the kingfish as well as the dosa which you can enjoy at one of the many beach eateries that line the coast.

Goa is also an amazing cultural hub. Many writers and artists from all over the globe live there, and there is a feeling of multiculturalism and being at a crossroads of the world. When is the best time to visit Goa? I would say during the dry, relatively cool winter months between late November and Mid-March, when the weather is perfect and just right for a wonderful vacation.

Kenya's Incredible Wildlife
By Steve Ayalo, Director of IT

The greatest wildebeest migration should be at the top of your mind when you think about Kenya. More than 2 million animals (wildebeests, zebras, and gazelles) migrate across the ecosystems of the Masai Mara (Kenya) and the Serengeti (Tanzania) between the months of December and March or May and November depending on the rainfall pattern. Voted as the 8th wonder of the world in 2007 and happening every year in Africa's greatest wildlife conservancy, this is a must visit for any wildlife enthusiast and the experience will definitely convert you to one if you aren't fascinated about wildlife.

Nairobi is also known to be the worlds' only capital with its own National Park; You will be able to witness the Big 5 within an hour of arrival at the airport. The Giraffe Manor in Nairobi is a home to a huge number of giraffes who may poke their long necks into the windows to share a meal with you before retreating to their forest sanctuary.

Besides that Kenya offers amazing bird watching sites in the Great Rift Valley and exceptional beach and ocean experiences down at the coast of Mombasa, Lamu and Malindi.

Pink Beach, Zamboanga, Philippines
By Rein Run Bintayan, Accountant

One of the most distinctive beaches that exist in the world is found in ​ Asia’s Latin City, Zamboanga City, and is widely known as the pink beach of Sta. Cruz island. Yes, you heard that right, pink! But, how come? The beach is a beautiful blend of white sand and crushed red corals known as organ pipe corals. The result is that world-famous pink sand that’s obviously vibrant on broad daylight.

Aside from the beach, tourists can also scuba dive and enjoy the diverse marine life the island has to offer. To get to the Pink Beach, you would have to request permission from the city government since the island and its neighbouring waters are environmentally protected. The boat ride takes about 30 minutes from Paseo del Mar, so you could imagine a quick trip to and from the island. I personally love going back to Sta. Cruz island because Zamboanga is my home city and is very dear to my heart.

28 July 2020

GHA FITNESS CHALLENGE

Getting Fit for a Good Cause

This summer, we challenged our fellow DISCOVERERS to stay fit while supporting Dubai Cares, a UAE-based global charity organisation which has been working towards providing children in developing countries with access to quality education.

The challenge? Hit 25,200 minutes of exercise to unlock a generous donation, and for every minute added, the amount will increase. The result? Our team doubled the goal, which means GHA will match it with a generous donation of AED 10,000 (USD 2,720). We asked a few of our fellow DISCOVERERS what they did to get in shape for a good cause. Check out their stories and get inspired!

Erik Sheridan conditions his body and spirit through martial arts.

ERIK SHERIDAN
Membership Services Director (ASPAC)

For the last 13 years my main form of physical exercise has been in my pursuit of martial arts. Throughout these years I have been studying Nishio Aikido, Toho Iaido and Isshinryu Karate. I have been very fortunate to train with and become good friends with some very serious, accomplished martial artists with real world experience in applying their skills - as well as having the opportunity to travel to Japan each year to train with and be graded by a number of high ranking Japanese Senseis.

In my experience, all of these experienced martial artists share the same characteristics of humility, respect, perseverance and dedication - good lessons for everyone to learn.

Martial arts are very good for conditioning the body and the spirit. Training helps one become stronger and more flexible, more focused and more calm in situations of adversity. I run a small dojo in Bangkok and I love teaching my students and sharing what others have taught me, watching them improve and apply their new skills.

My advice for wellness and fitness would be to control what you eat, avoid fast food and too much sugar. Stretching is key; work on flexibility rather than simply lifting weights, always begin your exercise routine with a good warm up of stretching and don't forget a cool down routine to avoid cramps and tightness.

I loved participating in the GHA Fitness challenge as not only was it a good motivation to train each day but also in the knowledge that it would be raising funds for a very worthwhile cause.

Jackie McGuinn takes a moment to enjoy the great outdoors.

JACKIE McGUINN
Director, Travel Industry Partnerships

Hiking has always been a passion of mine, instilled in me by my parents when I was a little girl. We took vacations out west to the Rocky Mountains, north to the Adirondacks and often just hiked through the parks in our own backyard.

Since my daughter was born, my husband and I purchased a sturdy child carrier backpack and now it’s a full family affair! ​ Hiking is the perfect way to spend fun, active, time together outdoors while getting in a workout; not an easy feat with a
2 year old!

During the pandemic, it has been more important than ever to get outside, enjoy the fresh air and decompress. Whether it be summiting a mountain for a panoramic view, or just a long walk down a country road, our hikes have become a respite over the past few months and something to look forward to each day to break up the monotony of quarantine. ​

Participating in our team’s Fitness Challenge encouraged me to keep up with this activity even after a long day behind the computer, or if the weather was dreary, and it always feels invigorating to do so. Best advice for wellness – incorporate the whole family to enjoy all that nature has to offer while spending quality time together!

For Luca Valdevit, cycling is the perfect way to stay fit and feel free.

LUCA VALDEVIT
Membership Services Manager

I’ve always loved sports and being active. I’ve been a football player for about 15 years before getting my knee injured which prevented me from playing the game. I got myself into mountain biking first, but quickly realised road cycling brings me more joy and better exercise. I’ve become a passionate cyclist ever since.

I would probably spend on average 10 hours a week cycling, and ride about 1000km every month. They say, “you don’t buy a bike, you buy happiness”. ​ I enjoy cycling because I can either ride alone or in a group which is always more fun and a bit competitive. When I am on that bike, I escape this world, I find peace with myself, ride to feel strong and most importantly –
I FEEL FREE.

The GHA Fitness Challenge was a great idea, and I support any initiative which involves promoting healthy living and well-being; we should do it more often. Personally, it represented a challenge and commitment towards a goal. It was great to see how much you can achieve in just one month and that alone should already be a great motivation to keep an active lifestyle.

My fitness advice? “As long as you are doing something, you are already ahead of the game – just do something”.

With a personal trainer, Kate Ulanowicz got better results.

KATE ULANOWICZ
Marketing and Events Executive

I’ve always tried to maintain an active lifestyle, and through the years I’ve enjoyed different kinds of exercise from running and cycling to yoga and fitness training with a personal trainer (HIIT, bodyweight & weights).

I started working out with a personal trainer at the gym last year. I noticed that this has helped me achieve better results, compared when I was working out at home, plus I needed the extra motivation.

Working out with a fitness trainer completely changed my attitude towards exercise, as I quickly realized that I can push myself much more when there is someone next to me, motivating me every step of the way. Also, and this is very vital for me, the workouts were never the same. This made each session with my trainer interesting and fun.

I truly appreciate that GHA gave us the opportunity to help children in need while at the same time motivating us to get in shape after a few months of staying at home during the quarantine. It felt great to be able to contribute to sponsoring a year of school education to 15 underprivileged children. The feeling of being part of a community with my colleagues all over the world was an added bonus.

If you think you don't like exercising—try something new. Keep it interesting and eventually you’ll find yourself having fun.

To stay fit, Tim Davis walks about 50 km a week.

TIM DAVIS
Chief Commercial Officer

I started the GHA Fitness Challenge as something to do. At least I would be out of the apartment and besides there was the charity goal. My idea was to just walk around the Marina. Nothing too strenuous, but the competitive nature of our team motivated me to do this every day. I was walking about 50 kms a week and I lost a little weight in the heat.

During my walks, I would listen to news podcasts to pass the time. Eventually, I upgraded my tech with new gadgets including a fitness tracker. I learnt the difference between aerobic and anaerobic training (see screenshots) and have slowly started sprinting up several flights of stairs during my walks. Apparently, you need to get the heart rate above 80% of the maximum BPM for a reasonable amount of time in order to start burning blood sugar.

Even though the Fitness challenge has ended, I continue to do my walks, and it has become my regular form of exercise. You will find me somewhere around the Marina in Dubai early most mornings. Walking is so simple that everyone can do it. Aside from the obvious health benefits, it’s amazing for stress relief and enjoying a little “me time”.

21 June 2021

Dream Destinations

A Discoverer’s Travel Bucket List

Like most intrepid travellers, we can’t wait to get out and explore as soon as it’s safe to do so. We’re all heart-eyes for the amazing new destinations and Insta-worthy experiences. Since we can only travel virtually, for now, it doesn’t hurt to daydream and plan for that next epic adventure.

What are the destinations that should be on your post-COVID-19 travel bucket list? Who better to ask than those who are passionate about travel and adventures—our fellow Discoverers at Global Hotel Alliance.

AMMEL IZON
Senior Accountant

With most travels on lockdown, and lots of places are in quarantine because of the current pandemic, the best people can do to satisfy their travel thirst is to start making bucket-lists of future trips.

I, personally, have already window-shopped for my next big travel goals when everything goes back to normal. I could be riding a dragon to Croatia or running with the wolves in Belfast, but those are all imaginations. Our​ real dream destination (yes, this includes my fiancée, Michelle) is to go to the land of snow-covered hills and crystal-clear lakes, Switzerland!

For some, big trips are more like climbing mountain peaks or riding the waves, while for me and my partner, we enjoy spending travel time exploring communities and little villages, trying out new food and capturing beautiful scenery, and we think Switzerland is the perfect spot.

Ammel and Michelle enjoying winter in Georgia

This trip also means a lot to us, as this will be our last one as an engaged couple before our big Wedding Day next year! Another factor which adds to our excitement is the fact that I can use my GHA Employee of the Year 2019 prize for this big holiday, which means free nights with any GHA property, free flight ticket and travel allowance!

Well, for now, no one knows when we can finally satisfy our wanderlust and explore the globe, but hopefully everything goes back to normal as soon as possible so we can finally again say, “Hello, World!”

Ammel's dream destination: Switzerland

Khushboo gazing at the Manhattan Skyline

KHUSHBOO BHATIA
Asst. Digital Marketing Manager

I started my travel adventures at the age of 22, and since then, I have travelled to many beautiful destinations, Bali being my favourite. I believe that travelling has taught me a lot, by constantly being exposed to new surroundings and interacting with people from different backgrounds.

Italy has been on my bucket-list ever since I started dreaming about places to travel. Its intriguing architecture, culture and lip-smacking cuisine have always drawn my curiosity. Whether it is a gondola ride over the canals of Venice or watching the dramatic sunset over the river Arno in Florence to discovering the historic sites in Rome, the country has a lot to offer in terms of its diverse landscapes.

Apart from the urban cities, I am most attracted to go off the beaten track and discover the alluring Amalfi coast, with its quaint beach towns, pastel-hued villages, picturesque setting over the Mediterranean Sea and gram-worthy views! With so much to explore, one trip will certainly not be enough!

Khushboo's dream destination: Italy

CATHY FONTAINE
Director of Digital Marketing

2020 is not the usual travel year for me. Where my bucket list is a mile long and I can travel every 2 months for leisure or for business like it happened in 2019. Last year, I went to London, Paris, Madrid, Dallas, Shanghai, Bali, and Istanbul before the month of August. I literally lived out of my suitcase and I loved it.

By March 2020, my travel dreams have taken a back seat as safety took the priority. Every country on the planet sealed off borders to halt the spread of COVID-19 and I only had time to come back from a long weekend in Kiev, Ukraine. Everything was and still is different regarding travelling but I still have some dream destinations in mind.

As soon as the borders will open to tourists, I’ll travel back to Bali, Indonesia. I had already a trip scheduled for April 2020 but had to postpone it because of the pandemic situation. Bali is the place that stole my heart. I fell in love with the chilled vibe already on my way to Bali as I boarded the plane from Dubai.

Cathy chilling in Bali, Indonesia

This island has a vibrant culture, delicious food and AMAZING sunsets and of course fantastic beaches. Bali is a great place for vacation as it is very affordable and you can save up on hotels, meals and transportation. It’s a small island but welcomes all types of travellers: yogis, surfers, spring breakers, massage addicts and beach lovers. Bali is my paradise. See you soon!

Cathy's dream destination: Bali, Indonesia

Jelena exploring San Francisco, USA

JELENA KEZIKA
Strategic Planning Director

While the world is carefully planning for phased travel to restart post-COVID-19, I expect my focus to remain on sustainable travel, authenticity, and closeness to the local communities.

Living in the UAE, a change in scenery is sometimes just a few hours away. I always enjoy going back to the picturesque mountains of Hatta in the North, the breath-taking Liwa desert in the South or just paddling through the mangrove channels at sunrise. At the same time, I look forward to returning to the Sultanate of Oman, which amazes me with its cultural heritage sites, seasonal rivers, and palm tree plantations every time I come for a visit.

In both the UAE and Oman, I enjoy the variety of local DISCOVERY hotels and resorts, each one offering a different style of experience and always ready to go the extra mile, making every trip memorable.

Jelena's dream destination: Oman

MITCHELL DYE
Business Development Analyst

Last year, I escaped the Dubai heat for a week in the beautiful Maldives. It was everything I hoped for and more! After returning home from the trip I realised, my ideal holiday destination must include at least one of the following: bright sunny beaches, sparkling cool blue water and fantastic food.

When the lockdown first began and before Dubai closed its borders, James (my boss) would ask me, “Mitch, where do you plan on going for summer?” to which I would reply “I have no idea, the only holiday I want to take right now is to the pool at the bottom of my building”. Fast forward to now, where things appear to be on the up and the curve around the world seems to flatten. My post COVID-19 destination would have to be Greece.

With hundreds of islands, surrounded by the crystal-clear Mediterranean Sea, Greece is next on my list of places to see.

Mitch finds paradise in the Maldives

I have had a soft spot for Greek cuisine ever since I lived up the road from an authentic Greek restaurant in Melbourne, Australia. ​ As soon as I arrive in Greece I’ll be heading to the beach, having just picked up a gyros before I set sail around Greece; I'll soak up the balmy weather, explore the beaches and savour the culture. Very soon, I hope!

Mitch's dream destination: Greece

Gary and Katerina on their babymoon in the Seychelles

GARY ZAVALETA
Director of Data & Analytics

It can be hard to pick and choose a specific place where I would like to spend some time off; however, it will be some beach in southeast Asia with tropical weather. One country that has been in my bucket list for quite some time is Indonesia.

On my next big trip, I will be headed to Bali without a doubt; I have heard so many wonderful stories about this city and its beaches with spectacular reef point waves and warm water for surfing and coral bottoms for snorkelling.

My favourite sport is football, but my secret love has always been surfing which I had practised since my days in Lima and frequent trips to the south of Chile. Close to Patagonia, currents are powerful, and water is certainly cold over there, you need a thick wetsuit but even wearing one, you can still feel the water freezing through your bones.

Surfing can be demanding, and it has been a while, so I will have to get back in shape again; otherwise, you can always go for any other water activities. This journey will be exciting for my wife, Katerina, and me as this will be our first big trip that my son will enjoy more as he is a toddler now.

Gary's dream destination: Bali, Indonesia

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