This Week in Travel News

Oregon State Officials Sign Sister Park Agreement with China

SALEM, Ore. –Feb. 25, 2016 – As America’s National Park System gears up to celebrate its Centennial Anniversary, Crater Lake, Oregon’s National Park gem, joined with Wuyishan National Scenic Area (a UNESCO World Heritage Site in China) in a Sister Park Agreement. On Thursday, representatives from Travel Oregon and the Crater Lake National Park Trust joined officials in China to sign the agreement. “This agreement is not only historic, but it’s also incredibly important for Oregon’s economy,” said Teresa O’Neill, VP of Global Sales for Travel Oregon. In 2014, Oregon welcomed approximately 62,000 Chinese visitors, who contributed more than $48 million into the state’s economy. As of the third quarter in 2015, Oregon had at least 107,000 Chinese visitors, a 25 percent increase over the same time period in 2014.* “This agreement has been by the strength of the long-standing friendship and spirit of cooperation between the people of the Fujian province and the state of Oregon,” said Craig Ackerman, Superintendent of the park. “Crater Lake had 614,712 visits in 2015, its highest count in the last 25 years, which was a 14.7 percent increase from 2014. Wuyishan Mountain National Park receives 10.5 million visitors a year.

Open Borders In Europe: Schengen Under Threat After Belgium Leaves
Travel and tourism in Europe, movement of people in between EU member countries, border free travel – all of this is under serious threat after Belgium is dropping out of the agreement, at least for now. Belgium has temporarily abandoned Schengen rules that allow passport-free travel between some of the EU’s internal borders, as it tries to keep potential migration flow coming out of France under control. Belgium’s Interior Minister, Jan Jambon, announced on Tuesday that the decision comes as France is looking into the option of evacuating the Calais “Jungle” refugee camp, which houses around 4,000 people. It is feared the move could trigger a new wave of migrants streaming out of the port city in northern France. The Schengen agreement allows ID-free travel between the 26 European countries that are party to it. Anywhere between 250 and 290 police officers will be dispatched to various locations along the Belgian border. “We will carry out border controls at different strategic locations, at spots used by smugglers which the police have detected,” he said. Brussels is afraid that a massive migration wave could come to Belgium from Calais, with refugees intending to use the country as staging point to cross over into the UK.

Crowdfunding Bought A New Zealand Beach
A New Zealand beach has been bought by nearly 40,000 people after a crowdfunding campaign had its bid accepted. Awaroa Beach in the Abel Tasman National Park on the north coast of the South Island was put up for sale last year by current owner businessman Michael Spackman. The crowdfunding campaign reached its target of almost £1m in just over three weeks with the government and another major donor contributing. After four days of negotiations, Spackman agreed to sell. The project was launched after a group of friends vowed to secure the beach for public use.

Virgin Galactic Readies Second SpaceShipTwo For Ground Tests
Virgin Galactic says dramatic improvements to the SpaceShipTwo (SS2) hybrid rocket motor will significantly shorten the test flight program for the company’s new sub-orbital vehicle, which was unveiled on Feb. 19 at Mojave, Calif. The new SS2 will begin captive carriage flight tests beneath the company’s WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft later this year, leading to glide flights and later, powered flights using the new motor. Virgin Galactic will not reveal the planned test schedule, or the revised target for the start of passenger carrying flights, but Aviation Week understands the new vehicle could resume captive flights before mid-year, with the possibility of entering initial service in 2017.

Southwest CEO Said Airline Could Be Flying Into Cuba Later This Year
CEO Gary Kelly gave the strongest sign yet on MOnday that the Dallas-based company will compete for newly opened routes at the island nation’s 10 airports. In a message to employees, Kelly said Southwest “in all likelihood” would apply to fly in and out of Cuba on new routes opened under a historic commercial air travel agreement reached last week by U.S. and Cuban officials. Other major U.S. carriers, including American Airlines, have already indicated they plan to submit applications to provide commercial air travel to Cuba by the March 2 deadline. The most fiercely contested spots will be at Havana’s international airport, which is limited to 20 daily slots. Ten daily slots will also be available at each of nine smaller Cuban airports.

Fiji in a 30-Day State of Natural Disaster
On 21 February 2016, emergency personnel in Fiji reported widespread flooding, damaging winds and rain from Tropical Cyclone Winston, prompting the government to declare a 30-day state of natural disaster. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center reported that the storm had winds of approximately 160 mph/140 kt, with gusts of 200 mph/175 kt when it made landfall. Fatalities number 21 people, and officials predict that number will grow once recovery personnel reach remote islands. Officials stated that flash flooding and rain may cause additional damage, due to the risk of mudslides and landslides. Additionally, the storm damaged electricity and water supply lines throughout the archipelago, which will complicate recovery efforts. The capital city of Suva did not experience a direct hit by the storm, which limited the scale of damage there. Operations at Nadi International Airport resumed on the morning of 22 February. If you have a favorite resort in Fiji–and you’re wondering how it is faring–please give us a call.

Amtrak To Allow Pets On Most Trains
Amtrak has run a four month trial of allowing pets aboard its trains along the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak has decided to permit the creatures on almost all of its trains. Rep. Jeff Denham of California introduced a law to allow pets onboard trains after he saw the law would not allow him to bring his dog on an Amtrak train. This resulted in the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act, which permits the railroad service to designate at least one car on each train for passengers with pets. Passengers are allowed to bring one pet each, and it cannot weigh more than 20 pounds with its carrier. The cost is $25 a pet, and the animal must stay in its carrier the whole trip.Licensed service animals will not face restrictions and will continue to ride for free. Over the four-month trial period, 2,700 animals rode on Amtrak without incident, The bill has now passed the house.

Viking River Cruises Postpones Mississippi Debut To 2018
Viking River Cruises, which had planned to homeport two newbuilds in New Orleans in 2017, is now projecting its startup on the Mississippi before Mardi Gras in 2018. Viking Cruises is actively working with relevant authorities to launch on the Mississippi River, with a projected maiden season that has been adjusted to 2018 in order to accommodate an updated timeline. The company’s planned ships will be quite different from the traditional wedding-cake paddlewheelers on the river. They are designed as expansions on the successful Longship design in Europe, with a maximum capacity of 300 passengers. The projected cost is set at $90 million to $100 million per vessel. Viking’s problem in adding ships to its American river fleet is construction. By law, US river cruise vessels must be built in American shipyards. Viking’s existing ships were either built in the cruise line’s own shipyards or are heavily refurbished vessels from earlier operators; however, Viking’s newbuilds must be constructed in today’s yards.

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