Category Archives: Europe

Top 7 Things to Do in Edinburgh

And we’re back! We were on bit of a hiatus for a while, but now it’s full steam ahead!

Back to regular posts on trips and tips from your favorite travel agency 🙂

Have you been to Edinburgh? Some call it one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and with good (no, fantastic!) reason. From its friendly, sandstone buildings to its youthful, liberal atmosphere, Edinburgh is loved by locals and visitors alike.

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During her trip to the Scottish Highlands, WIT Global Correspondent Wailana had the good fortune of checking out this fantastic city. Though one simple post can’t do it justice, here’s a quick rundown of the best 10 things to do while in Edinburgh: 

1. Go on a Ghost Tour!

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Ghost tours are aplenty, and with such a rich (and at times sordid) history as Edinburgh’s, it’s no wonder! Be sure to join one of the well-known ghost tours that depart down the hill from Edinburgh Castle. Try to join in one that goes for the theatrics — maybe your tour guide is dressed the part — and imparts historical context as well as murder mysteries and spooky legends.

Graveyards, the 19th century’s worst living conditions you can imagine, and haunted castles give this city a run for its money.

2. Edinburgh Castle

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Of course, who can have a list on top things to do in Edinburgh and omit the most famous landmark of all? The castle positively dominates the skyline, and is a gorgeous historical gem atop a volcano, that we simply can’t believe how the Queen of England could keep away all this time (true story).

The Castle is sort of a collection of mini-museums, if you will. You’ll find everything from weapons to crown jewels to clothing. The site is home to the 12th-century St. Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest structure in Edinburgh. Book your ticket in advance online to skip the lines.

3. Climb Arthur’s Seat

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If you’re feeling up for it, a short hike up to the crest of Arthur’s Seat is a fantastic way to start the morning. Located 20-30 minutes from the Old Town by foot, or 1 mile east of the Castle, Arthur’s Seat is an extinct volcano that now forms most of Holyrood Park. The elevation is only 822 ft and rewards walkers with an amazing panorama of the city.

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4. Walk the Royal Mile

The road leading up to Edinburgh Castle is known affectionately as the Royal Mile, and spans five different streets, culminating at Holyrood Palace at the bottom. A busy street, at its crest, you’ll find all sorts of souvenir shops and touristy restaurants, but also curious cafes and shops of interest. Strolling down this road is the perfect way to spend your time, and be sure to wander down a side street or two that catches your eye!

Victoria Street is one such curious street, a colorful road that curves downward and has collected all sorts of curiosities and oddities. There are tiny bookshops and a famous fossil store. Rumor has it that Victoria Street was the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter series.

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5. Mary King’s Close

Learn all about Edinburgh’s sordid history from a realist perspective at Mary King’s Close, a collection of narrow alleyways, underground passages, and partially collapsed streets. The Old Town favorite has all kinds of fascinating, exposed history of old Edinburgh, from grisly tales of hauntings to murders.

6. Have a Pint

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Beers in the Highlands are usually more substance than experimental, but in Edinburgh, that all changes. Microbreweries have popped up everywhere, giving rise to a delicious trend of local brews and flavors to win you over before long. As any Portlander might agree, it’s beer that makes the city.

Local faves include Stewart Brewing, Top Out, Innis & Gunn, and Barney’s. As for pubs, you really can’t go a block without stumbling on a neighborhood pub, but if you’re hankering for the best, we can throw down a few names: Cloisters, Bow Bar in Old Town, Barney’s at Summerhall, and Pear Tree House on the South Side. Grab a table in the beer garden if they have one, in the summer these can fill up with students on holiday.

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7. Trick your Eye at Camera Obscura & World of Illusions

Lauded as Edinburgh’s oldest tourist attraction, Camera Obscura has been an iconic treasure since 1835. It’s both an interactive museum of illusions and terrific rooftop views over Old Town.

At the summit, however, is the real deal: a camera obscura, a natural optical phenomenon when an image (in this case, Edinburgh) is reflected onto a series of mirrors, and then projected through a small hole onto a screen for examination. You have to see it to believe it!

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but one to get you started! Call your travel agent to hook you up with the best hotels and sights in Edinburgh.

503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com. 


How to Get to Edinburgh: Edinburgh is just a short flight or day train from London. Spend a few days in London before heading up North, or make a trip out of Scotland to include Glasgow, Fort William, Inverness, and Orkney.

Short Cuts:

  • Edinburgh Castle: Castlehill, Open 9:30am – 6pm daily (last entrance 5pm). Pre-reserved tickets are a must!
  • Palace of Holyroodhouse: 16th-century palace and official residence of Queen Elizabeth II. Canongate, Open 9:30am – 6pm daily.
  • Calton Hill: Prominent perch with neoclassical monuments and panoramas of the city. Free access.
  • St. Giles’ Cathedral: Gothic medieval building in the heart of Old Town. High St, open daily.
  • Camera Obscura & World of Illusions: Castlehill, Royal Mile, Open 9am – 10pm.
  • Edinburgh Zoo: 134 Corstorphine Rd, Open daily 10am-6pm.
  • Mr Woods Fossils. Minerals, meteorites, and fossils for sale. 5 Cowgatehead, Open 10am-5:30pm.

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Travel News: Louvre To Make Reservations Compulsory

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Ponant To Acquire Paul Gauguin Cruises

Cruise Industry News reports luxury expedition cruise company Ponant announced that it is acquiring Paul Gauguin Cruises, the French Polynesia and South Pacific specialist cruise line. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. According to a release from Ponant, the two cruise lines will keep separate management, with Diane Moore acting as CEO of Paul Gauguin at their office in Bellevue, Wash. and Navin Sawhney continuing to lead as CEO of Ponant in New York. The acquisition will give Ponant guests a wider range of destinations and will allow the combined company to boast a larger fleet with Ponant combining its fleet of nine with Paul Gauguin’s single ship, called Paul Gauguin. In June, Ponant took delivery of its fourth explorer series ship, Le Dumont-d’Urville, which kicked off its inaugural season this week. The ship is the ninth ship overall for Ponant, which is in the midst of a growth period that will see the line grow to a total of 12 ships and 460 departures by 2021.

US Virgin Islands Ban Coral-Harming Suncreams

Travelmole reports the US Virgin Islands has become the first place in the US to ban coral-harming sunscreens. In a bill signed this week, the Caribbean islands have outlawed the import of all creams containing oxybenzone, ocitnoxate, and octocrylene from September 30. It will become illegal for retailers to sell such creams on the islands from next March. The ‘three Os’ as they are called are known to cause damage to coral and sealife, according to the US Food and Drug Administration, but they are widely found in popular sunscreen brands. It is possible to find sunscreens without these chemicals, but they tend to be more expensive. Hawaii and Florida’s Key West have outlawed the sale of sunscreen products using oxybenzone and octinoxate from January 2021, but the US Virgin Islands’ ban will kick in first and include products with octocrylene as well. “Tourism in the Virgin Islands is our lifeblood, but to ensure we continue to entice visitors we need to protect our coral reefs as part of our quest to initiate sustainable tourism,” said governor Albert Bryan. The US territory’s retailers may not place new orders for sunscreens containing the banned chemicals and may not receive shipments of existing orders after September 30. The full ban takes effect in March 2020. It is not known whether holidaymakers will be banned from bringing sunscreen products containing the chemicals into the islands for their own personal use.

Paris’ Overcrowded Louvre To Make Reservations Compulsory 

France 24 reports the world-famous Louvre museum in Paris on Friday urged visitors to book their visit in advance online after seeing a heavy influx this summer, adding reservations would be obligatory by the end of this year. The Louvre, which houses the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci and is the most visited museum in the world, has become a victim of its own success and overcrowding is a problem. The problems intensified this summer due to the heatwave that encouraged tourists to take refuge in cool museum rooms. Also a temporary move of the Mona Lisa to another room to allow for refurbishments added to the confusion. “Reservations smooth the entry for the public throughout the week,” said Vincent Pomarede, the deputy general administrator of the Louvre. “Until now a reservation system has not been obligatory (but) we will put in place an obligatory reservations system, as many other museums have done, and, by the end of the year, all visitors will have to reserve,” he told AFP. He said this will help the museum cope with the numbers of visitors. “It will be from October or November. We have accelerated what we wanted to put in place at the start of the year 2020,” he added.

New Zealand NZeTA Now Available Online (Required For Visa Waiver Passengers Effective October 1, 2019) 

John Ollila reports New Zealand is following in the footsteps of Australia, Canada, and US by requiring passengers from Visa waiver countries to have an NZeTA (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority) effective October 1, 2019. The cost of the NZeTA that is valid for up to 2 years is NZ$9/NZ$12 depending on whether you do it using an app or on their website. Most NZeTA eligible passengers are also required to pay IVL (International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy) of NZ$35. Note that Australian citizens do not require NZeTA. It seems that, based on the website, that you do need to have NZeTA even if you plan only TRANSIT via New Zealand on your way to another country. This NZeTA requirement also applies for cruise passengers. It is certain that this requirement will come as a surprise for many that are traveling to New Zealand later this year, as it has not been a requirement previously. Let’s hope that this NZeTA is as easy and fast to get/process as it is the Australian ETA (usually takes couple of seconds). 

In addition to plastic, SFO is banning items with “unsubstantiated claims” about their sustainability. 

The Guardian reports the days of picking up a plastic bottle of water to stay hydrated during a long flight will soon be over for people flying out of San Francisco’s international airport (SFO). The airport, which restricted the distribution of single-use plastic straws when the city law went into effect in July, is now banning convenience shops, restaurants and vending machines from selling plastic water bottles. Starting on 20 August, only water in glass, recycled aluminum, or certified compostable materials can be sold. The change is a part of SFO’s five-year strategic plan. Launched in 2016, the plan includes SFO becoming a zero “waste-to-landfill” facility by 2021, as stated on its website. According to SFO, each airport guest creates a half-pound of trash. In an effort to reduce the waste, the airport is limiting single-use food accessories such as napkins, coffee cups and chopsticks. 

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5 of our Favorite Travel Channels on Instagram

Craving some gorgeous travel shots? Or just need a boost of vacation inspiration to get through the work week?

Take a peek at our favorite inspirational Instagram profiles. It’s always hard to choose, right? Here are just 5 of the faves. 

1. Willamette Intl Travel

Okay, we’re a little biased here, but we’re also proud to show off our beautiful photos at Willamette Intl Travel. Some photos are from our clients, some our from trips taken by our agents, and some still are curated from photographers all over the world. To get the latest of travel inspiration, stop by our channel on Mondays and Fridays.

2. Galapagos Islands

When do you NOT need a dose of fauna cuteness? Our friends over at @GalapagosIsland really go all out bringing us the most adorable photos from off the shore of Ecuador.

3. Egypt

Short and sweet, @EGYPT has all the best colors and carvings of this ancient civilization. Follow this channel to get your fix of historic architecture awash in sepia tones.

4. Portugal

Coastal villages, cliffside citadels, aquamarine waters. Portugal is a dream and so is its Instagram channel @VisitPortugal.

5. Jordan

Defined by its seaside villages and sandy ruins, there are few countries that are as abuzz right now as Jordan (@VisitJordan).

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SALE: Multigenerational Family Getaways on Star Clippers Cruises!

 

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Photo by Star Clippers

Create Lasting Memories for Multigenerational Family Getaways on your Star Clippers cruise!

Select Your Sailing on Royal ClipperStar Flyer or Star Clipper and your children or grandchildren sail for free!

Our destinations from the Caribbean over the Mediterranean to Southeast Asia offer a unique experience for all ages. Climb the ship’s rigging to the crow’s nest—located almost 100 feet in the air – and be rewarded with the ultimate panoramic view. Parents looking to steal away for a moment alone will be drawn to the bowsprit netting, where they can lie under the open sky with the sea lapping below them and enjoy a quiet moment. Comfy deck chairs populate the upper decks so grandparents, or anyone looking to just relax and enjoy the unique experience of ocean sailing, can sit back and watch the world go by.

Call your agent at Willamette Intl Travel at 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com for more information. 

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Photo by Star Clippers

December 2019 to August 2020 Sailings

7-11 nights starting from $1,440

Book Your Family Dream Vacation Now – Offer Ends September 30, 2019!

Kids between 3 and 17 (age at time of sailing) sail free, with 1 or 2 adults in same cabin

What is Star Clippers? Read earlier posts: 

Cruise the Adriatic Sea with Star Clippers

Star Clippers Family Trips

Your Summer Guide to Cruising the Adriatic Sea

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Photo by Leonardo Rossatti on Pexels.com

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Travel News: Delta brings some First Class touches to Main Cabins

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Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa will move temporarily to Medici Gallery for 3 months

Just a heads-up for those of you planning to visit the Louvre this summer. Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa will make a temporary move to the Medici Gallery on July 17 while her home gallery (La Salle des Etats) undergoes a 3-month renovation.

Paris trying to get tour buses out of the city center

CNN Travel reports that Paris’s deputy mayor has revealed the city is working to stop tourist buses causing “total anarchy” in the city. Emmanuel Gregoire said the town hall is working on regulations to limit bus traffic, and would introduce parking areas outside the city. “Buses are no longer welcome in the very heart of the city,” said Gregoire. While the problem has not reached the levels of Venice or Barcelona, Gregoire believes that Parisians are wary of issues caused by overcrowding. He emphasized that the capital is open to mass tourism, and has made great efforts to provide free public toilets, but claimed that “tourists can do what everyone else does and use public transport or switch to environmentally friendly mobility options” instead of buses. However, Gregoire acknowledged that group tours are useful for older visitors. And while restrictions on buses may make life more difficult for tour guides, Gregoire said that they must adapt and use cycling or walking tours.

Delta bringing some First Class touches to main cabin international flights

Main Cabin passengers traveling on international routes with Delta Air Lines will soon have an elevated experience as the airline is introducing a reinvented service with First Class touches starting in November. The experience is to begin from boarding, with flight attendants greeting guests both at the gate and at the boarding door before passengers receive a hot towel service and complimentary “Welcome Aboard” drinks shortly after departure. The drinks will include Bellinis made with sparkling wine and peach puree, while passengers will also have revamped dining options. As part of the refreshed menu, passengers will be able to select larger entrees featuring recipes inspired by Delta One dishes like grilled shrimp marinated in Harissa and served on a slaw of arugula and apples. Meals will be served on new custom-designed dinnerware and upgraded cutlery, with placemats available for each passenger, while dessert (which will be served after the meal service on most flights) will also include a choice between complimentary coffee, tea, wine, or water. Cabin crew will provide a second hot towel service after the meal service in addition to farewell chocolates, with the new changes coming after an extensive review and testing process involving both passengers and cabin crew. Delta also recently upgraded its amenity kit offerings across cabins, introducing cleansing towelettes (one of the items airline representatives said customers request most) in addition to a sleep mask, a dental kit, and earplugs to its Main Cabin kits.

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French Village Hits 114.6 Degrees, Setting New National Record

Last week Friday, the village of Gallargues-le-Montueux located in southern France outside of Montpellier topped 114.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the highest temperature ever recorded in continental France. That sweltering heat broke the previous record of 113.2 degrees, which was set just hours before in the village of Villevieille. And those weren’t the only hot spots. Brian Kahn at Earther reports that at least 12 weather stations in France detected temperatures above 111.4 degrees Fahrenheit, the previous hottest temperature set in 2003. According to Agence-France Presse, the temperature spike makes France the seventh European nation to ever break the 113-degree-Fahrenheit mark, joining Bulgaria, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Greece and North Macedonia. France was not the only nation dealing with extreme heat last week. Andorra, Luxembourg, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Germany all set record temperatures for the month of June.

Is This What Future Travel Looks Like? Face Scanners And The End FF Check-In

Check-in as we know it could become a thing of the past at New Zealand airports, according to an aviation expert. Check-in changes at Air New Zealand removed the straight-to-gate option for domestic travelers this week, led to a handful of furious customers missing their flights. But aviation expert Irene King told Stuff the move was likely just the start of what’s to come in the future as technology changes, and we could see traditional check-in counters dropped altogether. “I think it’s a prompt to get everyone to check-in electronically, rather than at the counter area,” said King of Air New Zealand’s move. “I think they’re trying to push them to pre-check-in because that obviously speeds up the boarding processes.” It had previously allowed domestic travelers without a bag to go directly to the boarding gate and check-in there by scanning the e-ticket barcode on their phone as they board (if they haven’t already checked in online or via the mobile app). Now, customers will have to check in online, via the airline’s app, or in person at a counter, at least 30 minutes before they fly. The move was a “generational thing” as more people become comfortable using smart phones to check-in and travel, King said. But as technology advances, King said there will likely be some more “pretty significant changes” at our borders. She predicts that current check-in processes will eventually be abandoned as more advanced biometric technology is able to be used in airports. “In 5 or 10 years time, I don’t think there will be any of that back-end process. You’ll just drop your bag at the gate, and you will be biometrically scanned.” The technology is currently being trialed in the US and King says once it’s up to speed, “you’ll see it move around the globe really quickly.” “What it’s doing is reducing airline operating costs by not having so many employees, and secondly by not having the large areas in the terminal that they may presently have to have. You may not actually ever see an airline employee until you’re on board the aircraft,” she said.

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First Battery-Powered Cruise Ship Sails For The Arctic

The world’s first cruise ship propelled partially by battery power is set to head out from northern Norway on its maiden voyage, cruise operator Hurtigruten said on Monday. The hybrid expedition cruise ship, the Roald Amundsen, can take 500 passengers and is designed to sail in harsh climate waters. Named after the Norwegian explorer who navigated the Northwest Passage in 1903-1906 and was first to reach the South Pole in 1911, the ship heads for the Arctic from Tromsoe this week and will sail the Northwest Passage to Alaska before heading South, reaching Antarctica in October. Chief Executive Daniel Skjeldam: “It’s designed to take excessive energy from the engines and put into the battery when the ship doesn’t need it and put it back into the engine when the ship needs it, it is a way of reducing emissions significantly without having charging stations available,” Skjeldam said. The company, which operates scenic cruise lines along the country’s fjords and into the Arctic, was inspired by Norway’s fleet of hybrid ferries and also its growing fleet of electric cars, he said.

The Tsar Gold Arctic Train From St. Petersburg To Norway

Travelwirenews reports Russia has launched its first train service from St Petersburg through remote Arctic regions to Norway. The service made its debut journey last week with 91 passengers on board. German tour operator Lernidee Trains & Cruises are the company behind the venture, which they launched as no other operator were offering journeys through the Russian Arctic. The train is called “Zarengold” (“The Tsars gold” in German) and has two restaurant cars as well as sleeping cabins in three different classes. Tours officially start in Russia’s fascinating capital Moscow, where passengers can take in sights like the Kremlin and St Basil’s Cathedral; then an express train takes you to the beautiful imperial capital St Petersburg for a few days’ exploration before the boarding the Zarengold north to the city of Petrozavodsk. Here passengers can visit the local star attraction of Kizhi Island, home to Russia’s iconic wooden Transfiguration Church. The last stop before the Arctic is Kem, from where passengers get a ferry to the Solovetsky Islands, the site of a Unesco-listed monastery. The next stop is the world’s largest Arctic city, Murmansk, an industrial but lively place surrounded by stunning scenery. The following morning passengers get off the train and continue by bus to Kirkenes over the border in Norway before flying to the waterfront Norwegian capital Oslo the next day. The 11-day tours cost from €3550 (US$4017) per person and include all accommodation, train tickets, internal flights, meals and excursions.

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Travel News: Europe Reaches Peak Temperatures

Europe reaches peak temperatures

The countries of Austria / Belgium / Czech Republic / Denmark / France / Germany / Hungary / Luxembourg / Netherlands / Switzerland / United Kingdom / Italy are expected to experience high temperatures as a heat wave sweeps across Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Temperatures are expected to rise to 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) from central France to northern Spain, while temperatures of 35 degrees Celsius and above are expected across other European countries. Authorities have issued alerts across Western Europe and implemented measures, such as opening fountains, pools and mist machines, and limiting the circulation of vehicles in larger cities, as a means to combat the rise in temperatures. Bus and train operations in several countries have been disrupted due to malfunctioning air conditioning and due to the temperatures of the train tracks. Officials have warned of continued transportation disruptions and asked people to stay hydrated and avoid getting overheated. Hot air moving north from Africa caused the heat wave and is expected to continue to cause above average temperatures until 30 June.

Virgin Trains Break Ground On Orlando Track Expansion

Orlando Sentinal reports Virgin Trains, formerly Brightline, broke ground Monday to expand passenger rail service to Orlando in a $4bn effort, the nation’s largest privately funded infrastructure project. This will serve to transport travelers, including cruisers, between Orlando International Airport and South Florida. ‘Connecting Orlando and Miami, two of our nation’s greatest cities, will provide tremendous economic and environmental benefits that will be an asset to Florida for generations,’ Virgin Trains President Patrick Goddard said at a commemorative ceremony. Goddard noted the service will ‘effortlessly connect the “Tourism Capital of the World” to the “Cruise Capital of the World.”‘ Virgin Trains’ Virgin MiamiCentral hub is located near PortMiami, and the Miami-Dade County Commission is deliberating the feasibility of a station directly at PortMiami.

JetBlue Can Now Expand Europe Long-Haul Strategy With Airbus XLR Order

Skift reports JetBlue Airways’ European strategy became clearer when the airline committed to an airplane capable of flying not only from the US East Coast to London or Dublin but also from Boston and New York to south, central, and northern Europe. JetBlue became the third US carrier to say it plans to fly Airbus’ newest narrowbody jet, the A321XLR. Airbus introduced the single-aisle airplane, which should fly as far as 4,700 nautical miles,last week at the Paris Air Show. American Airlines committed to 50 earlier in the week, while Frontier Airlines said it would take 18. In April JetBlue announced it would fly from its Boston and New York focus cities to London by 2021. But JetBlue didn’t say where else in Europe it might fly, likely because it didn’t have the right aircraft for Continental Europe. For London JetBlue had committed to the A321LR, which has a 600-mile range gap compared to its XLR cousin. JetBlue said it will take 13 A321XLRs, with first delivery in 2023.

Emirates Is First Major Airline To Launch Basic Business Class Fare

Skift reports Emirates has fired the first salvo in the unbundling of business class fares. Now you can buy just the seat, with none of the other trimmings that travelers are used to with top-tier carriers. It’s a brilliant and pragmatic strategy, one that gives more choice to travelers. The tension will now be maintaining that great luxury brand halo and still letting the premium cabins do the marketing hard yards for the carrier. The airline industry has seen a lot in terms of unbundling of economy fares. For better or for worse, that segment of the market now has a ton of options for consumers. As Skift forecasted in our 2019 Megatrend that premium mediocre has gone mainstream, travel companies, hotels, tour operators, and yes, airlines too, are increasingly looking for new ways to sell average products at luxury prices. You can buy a deeply discounted, basic economy fare that doesn’t include any overhead space, or, if you want more perks, you can pay incrementally more for priority boarding and civil treatment. The same currently cannot be said for business class. Typically you’re all-in on the fare, sometimes as much as $7,000 from New York to Paris. In some cases it comes standard with extras, like chauffeur service and lounge access, and in other cases it comes with a sad meal in a preflight lounge and a non fully flat bed.

Tim Clark, CEO of Emirates, told Skift when asked of the prospect of discounting business class: “You might just say, ‘OK, I’ll give you a special price, just for the [business-class] bed. I won’t give you the incentives. I won’t give you ground. You’ll get the business product in the air only, and that’s it.’ No chauffeur drive, no business-class lounge, no expedited [security] search. No uplifting your baggage allowance, et cetera. You just pay for the bed. I’ll give you a price for that. Maybe, if you’ve got business class seats going begging, that’s the easy way to go, rather than create a completely new product, which is going to upend the distribution systems, upend service delivery, and upend the logistical management on the operational side.” Emirates has rolled out what they hinted at two years ago. With a new slate of fares, dubbed “special fares,” customers are essentially just buying the seat. There’s no lounge access (unless you qualify with status), there’s no chauffeur-driven car, there’s only selecting a seat when check-in opens, and predictably, there is reduced mileage earning. Not only has Emirates rolled out this basic business-class seat but in 2020 the airline will also launch premium economy, thereby offering two different stepping stones for flyers ready to upgrade. Emirates is testing out the special fares on select routes and appears to be rolling them out slowly.

Passport Agency Boosts Minimum Routine Application Wait Time By 50%
WaPo reports just after news broke about the possibility of longer lines at airport security checkpoints, information now emerges about longer waits for international travelers before they get to the airport. The State Department’s Passport Services agency has increased the processing time for routine service to six to eight weeks. Until May 31, the interval between application and delivery was four to six weeks, meaning the new timeline is a 50% increase for the minimum wait. For those who can’t wait, expedited service is available at a cost. “Customers who need their passports more urgently than our routine processing time allows may request expedited service for an additional $60,” said a State Department official who requested anonymity. “For expedited service, processing time remains two to three weeks door-to-door.” Once they get inside the airport door, international and domestic passengers could face longer security lines. Earlier this week we reported that the Trump administration requested a 2.5 percent increase in airport checkpoint screeners for fiscal 2020 but expects a 4.5 percent increase in airline passengers. That’s a recipe for long lines. The department official declined to answer several basic questions about the longer wait, including the reasons for it. But the department did provide information indicating short staffing is the cause. In each of the past two years, more than 21 million passports and passport cards were delivered, “all-time record numbers,” according to the State Department. About 18.6 million applications are expected this fiscal year. In fiscal 2018, 137.5 million citizens had valid passports, representing a growth of almost 100 percent over the past decade. “To address high passport workload levels this summer,” he said, “the Department is leveraging all available resources to ensure processing times do not rise further and that they return to lower levels by September.” Leveraging includes temporarily assigning employees to assist with increased demand and setting up two satellite passport units with employees from other parts of the department.

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Travel News: Iceland, Jerusalem, Kilimanjaro

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Jerusalem’s Old City Now Accessible For Wheelchair Users 

Jerusalem’s Old City is many things: sacred to three major faiths, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and now, wheelchair accessible. After a decade of work that involved multiple private and public organizations in Israel, the city unveiled a comprehensive effort to make the Old City’s narrow alleyways and steep inclines more friendly to visitors and locals with mobility issues. The city is home to several of the world’s most sacred religious sites, namely the Western Wall, Temple Mount and Church of the Holy Sepulchre. As a result, Jerusalem is high on the bucket list for many of the world’s faithful. A representative for the Ministry of Tourism said that 85% of visitors to Israel spend time in Jerusalem during their trip. Now, travelers to Jerusalem will be able to download an app, Accessible JLM, that outlines the most accessible routes around the city to plan their travel in real time. There are also physical accessibility maps posted around the city.

World Unites To Fight Against Cable Car On Mount Kilimanjaro 

ETN reports thousands of people across the globe have come together protesting against the potential building of a controversial cable car on Mount Kilimanjaro, a World’s Heritage Site. In March 2019 Tanzania’s deputy Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Constantine Kanyasu announced plans to install a cable car on Africa’s highest mountain, as a strategy to attract more visitors and boost tourism numbers. The cable car would be aimed primarily at facilitating visits among older tourists, who may not physically fit enough to climb the mountain, which, at its peak, stands 5,895 meters tall. Instead of the familiar views of snow and ice, this cable car would offer a day trip safari with a bird’s eye view, contrary to the eight-day hiking trip. But reaction has been swift, with an online petition against the project on the key World heritage site, attracting nearly 400,000 protesters around the World who ask the Tanzania to keep Mount Kilimanjaro ‘cable car-free’. Online petition points out the economic impact to about 250,000 local porters who rely on tourism activities on Mount Kilimanjaro alone, for their livelihood. Kilimanjaro is one of Tanzania’s major tourist attractions, drawing 50,000 climbers and earning the country $55 million annually.

Six Senses Hotels Unveils Iceland Property

Open Jaw reports with Iceland enjoying clean air, sustainable energy and high national happiness, it is no surprise that Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas is daydreaming about the country of fire and ice for its next development: Six Senses Össurá Valley. It will be a hub for people passionate about nature, wellness and adventure by day, and indulgent dining, comfortable beds and perhaps a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis by night. The rugged south-eastern coast of Viking country has an expansive and diverse natural environment. From glacier tongues, craggy volcanoes, ice-filled lagoons and geothermal lakes to untouched highlands and long black beaches; many of these natural wonders have become famed for their beauty and are visited throughout the year (via the single ring road). This is the mythical setting for Six Senses Össurá Valley, 4,000 acres (1,619 hectares) of privately-owned land in Svínhólar near Lóni. The flatland at the southern end is adjacent to the Lón Lagoon, which is separated from the North Atlantic Ocean by a beautiful black sand beach. This is the biggest gathering space for swans in the country and Six Senses will be involved in monitoring and protecting this Icelandic population. The first phase of the project will see the opening of a 70-guestroom resort and private cottages dotted on the surrounding land serving as an icon for sustainable living. Built using renewable and locally-sourced materials and adhering to high standards of energy and water efficiency, guest accommodation and residences will tread lightly on the earth while providing an uncompromising level of space and comfort.

Air Canada Named Best Airline In North America

Open Jaw reports this is the third consecutive year the airline has been chosen and recognized for the world’s Best Business Class Lounge Dining, Best Airline Staff in Canada, Best Business Class in North America and Best Airline Cabin Cleanliness in North America at the 2019 Skytrax World Airline Awards. It is the eighth time in the past 10 years the carrier was selected as the Best in North America by the World Airline Awards, which are based on passenger satisfaction surveys of more than 21 million global travelers.

Emirates Is First Major Airline To Launch Basic Business Class Fare

Emirates has fired the first salvo in the unbundling of business class fares. Now you can buy just the seat, with none of the other trimmings that travelers are used to with top-tier carriers. It’s a brilliant and pragmatic strategy, one that gives more choice to travelers. The tension will now be maintaining that great luxury brand halo and still letting the premium cabins do the marketing hard yards for the carrier. The airline industry has seen a lot in terms of unbundling of economy fares. For better or for worse, that segment of the market now has a ton of options for consumers. As Skift forecasted in our 2019 Megatrend that premium mediocre has gone mainstream, travel companies, hotels, tour operators, and yes, airlines too, are increasingly looking for new ways to sell average products at luxury prices. You can buy a deeply discounted, basic economy fare that doesn’t include any overhead space, or, if you want more perks, you can pay incrementally more for priority board​ing and civil treatment.

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