Travel News: Luxury tourism in Ethiopia

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Luxury tourism in Ethiopia

Luxury is a word that one would rarely use to describe the current state of accommodations in Ethiopia. It is also one of the poorest nations in the world and for many Western tourists its image is tied to the devastating 1980s famine. There are many challenges to growing tourism in the country, but new projects are underway. I personally have friends who speak glowingly about the beauty of the country and its sights/sites, as well as the amazing history. To read about the effort to bring Westernized travel to the country, here’s an interesting article: A start on luxury tourism for Ethiopia 

Order food by app at Universal Orlando

For travelers visiting Universal Orlando, the theme park’s official app now allows guests to place and purchase food and drink orders from their mobile devices. The new Mobile Express Pick Up option of the Universal Orlando Resort App is now available at select dining locations in Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, including Mel’s Drive-In, Richter’s Burger Co., The Burger Digs and more. Travelers create an account on the app, set up payments and tap the “order food and drinks” option under the main menu. The user then picks the restaurant they want to order from, confirms the order and proceed to check out. After placing the order, guests can take as long as they want on rides and attractions, as the eating establishments will not make the food until the user taps the “Prepare My Order” option in the app. Visitors can then check the order status page to see when their food is ready to pick up.

Qatar Air flies Thai cave rescue boys to Britain

In recognition of the team’s inspirational story of strength and survival, Qatar Airways proudly flew the Wild Boars football team, consisting of the 12 Thai children and their coach who were trapped inside a cave in Thailand for more than two weeks, from Thailand to London to take part in the ‘Pride of Britain’ 2018 awards ceremony. The group was accompanied by the two selfless British divers who were at the heart of their cave rescue. During their stopover at Hamad International Airport (HIA) in Doha, the football team were met by Qatar Airways and Qatar Duty Free (QDF) officials, who presented the boys with gift bags from QDF consisting of signed football jerseys and baseball caps. The group also had the chance to experience the five-star hospitality of Qatar Airways’ home and hub, HIA, the award-winning airline’s gateway to the world. A multiple award-winning airline, Qatar Airways was named ‘World’s Best Business Class’ by the 2018 World Airline Awards, managed by international air transport rating organization Skytrax. It was also named ‘Best Business Class Seat’, ‘Best Airline in the Middle East’ and ‘World’s Best First Class Airline Lounge.’

Captain Marvel added to Disney sailings for early 2019

Travelers hitting the opens seas with their family will find that female hero Captain Marvel will be added to the 2019 edition of Disney Cruise Line’s Marvel Day at Sea. The popular Marvel heroine will take part in the cruise festivities for the first time ever, with passengers being able to interact with the superhero during the action-packed, day-long celebration aboard select Disney Magic sailings. Captain Marvel can be found on the Disney sailings departing between January 6 and March 8 from Miami. She will accompany other Super Heroes and villains on the voyages, including Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Thor, Loki, Spider-Man, Black Panther, Doctor Strange and more. In addition to the chance for passengers to interact with their favorite characters, the Marvel Day at Sea event features a deck show spectacular, themed youth activities, special merchandise and unique food and beverage offerings.

A word to the wise: Water Shoes

Water shoes may not be the most attractive footwear while walking along the beach, but three female travelers wish they had been wearing them while visiting Negril, Jamaica. Two weeks ago, three travelers from Toronto  were like many other travelers on a Jamaican vacation – they walked the beach barefoot. However, by walking along the beach without any shoes, they contracted painful parasites called hookworms. Hookworms await in the beach sand (or soil) to infect their victims by burrowing inside their feet and creating blisters and swollen, itchy skin. Generally, hookworms develop by feces left by dogs or cats in vacation areas. Other parasites can be contracted in various places while on vacation like in hotel pools. 

Glacier Express starts Excellence Class in March

Glacier Express has announced the new Excellence Class, a premium class of coaches between St. Moritz and Zermatt. With lounge seating, each traveler has a window seat, along with a bar area, multi-course lunch and more. The coach seats 20 persons, and is a surcharge of 420 CHF/418 USD regardless of the class of ticket a traveler is holding. The maiden voyage will be on March 2, 2019.

Serious anti-LGBT crackdown in Tanzania, especially region of Dar es Salaam

The regional governor in charge of Tanzania’s most populous city is ramping up an anti-gay crackdown. Governor Paul Makonda said last week that he’s forming a task force to identify, track down, and arrest gay people in Dar es Salaam, a region in the East African country with a major city by the same name that’s home to about 4 million people. He justified it by saying that homosexuality “tramples on the moral values of Tanzanians”. Makonda encouraged constituents to report on those they believe to be gay, and said officials had received more than 5700 calls or messages so far, naming about 100 individuals. The Tanzanian government has distanced itself from Makonda’s harsh policy in the wake of international pushback. Officials have said the crackdown is not official government policy and just Makonda’s opinion – although activists point out that Makonda was appointed by the Tanzanian president and is seen as a close ally of the current leader, John Magufuli. The European Union recalled its ambassador from Tanzania on Monday because of the “deterioration” of human rights and rule of law in the country. The US State Department issued a warning to US citizens traveling or living in the country and urged them to “remove or protect” social media images that “may run afoul of Tanzanian laws regarding homosexual practices and explicit sexual activity.” The anti-LGBT crackdown in Tanzania is part of a bigger, more alarming pattern. Tanzania has witnessed an increasingly aggressive targeting of gay people in the country in recent years under President John Magufuli, who was elected in 2015, activists told RTE, an Irish outlet.

Favorite US Airports, according to AFAR readers

After AFAR Magazine reported on the JD Power 2018 North American Airport Satisfaction List, many readers didn’t agree with the findings – Las Vegas and Orlando had tied for first place. So, AFAR did its own survey. The top five in the surveyed categories came out to be: MEGA US Airports: Atlanta, Denver, San Francisco, Seattle and Detroit. LARGE: Portland (OR), Honolulu, Tampa, Orange County and Midway. MID-SIZE: RDU, Indianapolis, Charleston, San Jose and Cincinnati. SMALL: Palm Springs, Long Beach, Savannah/Hilton Head, Jackson Hole and Providence.

Facial recognition being tried at Narita Airport, and more

Passengers travelling through Narita International Airport in Japan will soon be able to clear customs using their face instead of physical identification documents, thanks to a facial recognition trial coming early next year. The facial recognition technology, courtesy of NEC, will be installed at the customs inspection area at the airport. Demonstration trials of the electronic customs procedure gate are scheduled to begin at Terminal 3 from April 2019. The “electronic procedure gate” will be installed at the customs inspection area that passengers move through after being admitted through immigration, NEC explained. Travelers’ identities will be confirmed at a kiosk terminal and at an exit gate equipped with the facial recognition tech. A smartphone app will also be available, expected to speed up electronic baggage declaration by enabling travelers to register baggage contents and passport information. Japan isn’t the only country introducing biometric capabilities at airports, with Shanghai’s Hongqiao International Airport last month unveiling self-service kiosks for flight and baggage check-in, security clearance, and boarding powered by facial recognition technology. The rollout forms part of an ambitious country-wide rollout of facial recognition systems, with similar efforts already under way at airports in Beijing and Nanyang city. Similarly, some passengers traveling internationally from Australia via Qantas have been testing biometric technology at Sydney Airport since July, with the first stage using facial recognition for them to complete automated flight check-in and bag drop, gain access to the lounge, and board the plane itself.

AA: Request early boarding to wipe down seating area if you have nut allergies

American Airlines will allow people who suffer from peanut and tree-nut allergies to board flights early so they can wipe down areas where they will sit to avoid potential exposure to allergens. The change will take effect Dec. 12 when flight-service manuals are updated, American said in a filing Tuesday with the U.S. Transportation Department. Complaints over the issue were filed against the carrier last year by Food Allergy Research & Education and a woman whose son has a life-threatening peanut allergy. “Customers with nut allergies who would like to board flights early to wipe down surfaces may ask to do so at the gate,” American said. While the Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier doesn’t serve peanuts, it said it can’t guarantee customers won’t be exposed to nuts during flights. Delta Air Lines Inc. allows early boarding to travelers with nut allergies. The websites of United Continental Holdings Inc. and Southwest Airlines Co. don’t mention an early-boarding option for people with food allergies.

Measles outbreak in Thailand…and Japan and Brazil

Clients going to Thailand soon should be advised to check that they have been properly vaccinated against measles! That’s because it has been reported that Thailand is trying to contain a measles outbreak in the country, particularly around its southern provinces. According to ABC News, there have been more than 1,500 cases reported since September 2018 and counting. There have also been 14 deaths so far. The main areas affected by the highly infectious disease include Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat as more and more people are rejecting the vaccines. Health officials said that the disease that’s made a dreaded comeback is mainly caused by misconceptions among the Muslim population in regards to the vaccines. In the Muslim-majority provinces, the community is rejecting the vaccines because manufacturers may use gelatin from pigs as a stabilizing agent. This has caused them to refuse to take the shots even though health officials have explained that Thailand has measles vaccine products that do not have porcine gelatin. The increase is worrying because Thailand’s Health Ministry said that measles has been on the rise with 3,000 cases last year. Other countries around the world including Japan and Brazil reported similar outbreaks, which should not have been an issue seeing as there are plenty of measles vaccines available.

Cruise accessibility and orientation for blind passengers becomes available

An innovative solution for accessibility and orientation of blind and visually impaired persons, developed by RightHear, will make cruises more accessible to blind and visually impaired passengers. The solution is based on lessons learned in successful implementation of RightHear’s technology in hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues. The system will allow blind and visually impaired passengers to orient themselves independently across cruise ships. “The RightHear system provides accurate voice guidance to the blind and visually impaired, including a detailed description of the immediate environment in which they are located, voice guidance about where they are headed, and a description of obstacles to be avoided,” according to Idan Meir, RightHear’s CEO. The blind and visually impaired persons (as well as orientation challenged individuals) receive the real-time audio descriptions through their own smartphone. The voice notifications are based on information received from Bluetooth sensors located in the area. The sensors are installed by the on-site staff, who attach them to the wall with a sticker. In addition, the system includes an administrator dashboard, allowing the staff to program and control the system optimally, according to the needs of blind and visually impaired visitors. Founded in 2015, a RightHear solution has been installed in over 600 venues, mainly in Israel, including malls, corporations, universities, hospitals, municipalities, museums, supermarkets, hotels and restaurants.

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