Category Archives: News

Travel News: Viking River Cruises Adds Itineraries for 2019

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Busabout Launches Hop-On, Hop-Off Travel In The US

Busabout, the popular hop-on hop-off coach service that offers travelers as much or as little structure and support as they want, is expanding with a new product launch and destination offering for 2019. For the first time, Busabout will offer its classic coach network on this side of the pond with the launch of a hop-on, hop-off network which provides unlimited travel between eight stops on the US west coast. The Travel Corporation-owned company’s original hop-on, hop-off service, launched in 1998, has grown to connect 38 cities across 14 countries in Europe. As in Europe, the US circuit will see a coach pass through each of the cities on the itinerary every two days and travelers can hop on or hop off the network as many times as they want throughout the duration of their pass. Pass increments include two weeks, one month, two months, an unlimited pass or, for the first time this year, a standalone one-week pass.

Southwest CEO: We Won’t Introduce Basic Economy 

While the big three US network airlines, Delta, United, and American, have introduced a no-frills Basic Economy product that generally comes with no seat selection or early boarding, and JetBlue plans to do so, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly flatly ruled it out. In talking about two revenue-generating initiatives planned for 2020, which will be detailed later this year, Kelly also crushed any speculation and repeated that the airline will also not introduce bag fees for the first two checked bags. In other words, those bags will still fly free. 

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Hawaiian Airlines Flew Its First International Hawaiian Language Flight

In December Hawaiian Airlines Flight 852 made history. Guests on the flight from Haneda Airport in Japan to Kona International Airport were greeted by six flight attendants fluent in Hawaiian. Every passenger was greeted with kukui nut lei before departing Japan and fresh flower lei upon leaving the plane in Kona. Hawaiian Airlines crew also announced all boarding and in-flight announcements in ‘Olelo Hawaii, followed by Japanese and English translations. Passengers also received a travel-size language book, a “how-to” guide for ordering drinks in Hawaiian and a commemorative certificate of participation. Hawaiian Airlines also made history by flying with a native language flight between Hawaii and the U.S. Mainland during its flight from HNL to Las Vegas in December.

Viking River Adds Itineraries for 2019

Open Jaw reports Viking has announced the addition of two new itineraries and a variety of new pre- and post-cruise extensions to its river cruise offerings for 2019. Debuting in March 2019, the new 10-day Holland & Belgium itinerary will sail between Amsterdam and Antwerp, allowing guests to explore the inland waterways of the Low Countries and visit new ports of call for Viking: Rotterdam, Maastricht, and Nijmegen. Also, in commemoration of World War II and D-Day, Viking will offer a new 11-day cruisetour, Paris & D-Day 75th Anniversary, with two special departures that coincide with the June 6, 2019 anniversary. On this historic journey, guests will travel from London to the maritime city of Portsmouth before boarding their ship in Paris and sailing through Normandy, where they will visit and honor D-Day landing sites. 

What Passengers Would Like To See On Ultra Long Haul Flights

Airlineratings reports stationary exercise bikes, cafes, and virtual reality are on the wishlist of features Qantas passengers would like to see on ultra-long-haul flights. The responses captured last year in conjunction with Sydney University’s Charles Perkins Centre are part of research being done as Qantas prepares to launch the first non-stop, long haul flights from Australia’s East Coast to New York and London from 2022. 

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Travel Firm Offers First-Ever Tours Of Machu Picchu For Wheelchair Users

Travelwirenews reports Wheel the World is offering the first-ever tours of Machu Picchu for wheelchair users thanks to a ‘trekking-style’ mobility aid. Wheel The World uses a foldable wheelchair made from steel and aluminum. The wheelchair is able to navigate the bumpy terrain and narrow walkways. The firm currently offers four-day tours of Peru to Machu Picchu and Cusco. The 600-year-old Inca site in Peru had previously been off-limits to traditional wheelchair users due to its rough terrain, steps, and narrow walkways. The firm, which specializes in tours for those with disabilities, has developed a way to visit the Unesco site by using a special foldable trekking-style wheelchair. The chair itself is made from steel and aluminum, the same as a bicycle, and it has a wheelbarrow shape because it only has one wheel and two long sticks at the front. The chair cannot be self-propelled by the user but travel companions or guides can carry it using these sticks and a handle at the back. It is also fitted with suspension, brakes and a harness so it can easily travel over uneven or steep ground.

Oceania Cruises To Eliminate Plastic Water Bottles

Cruise Industry News reports Oceania Cruises has announced an initiative to eliminate millions of plastic water bottles per year through a new partnership with Vero Water. The deal is part of the line’s OceaniaNEXT enhancement and the company’s larger Sail & Sustain environmental program. “By introducing Vero Water to the Oceania Cruises experience, we are not only taking a quantum leap forward environmentally, we are providing our guests with the gold-standard of still and sparkling water,” stated Bob Binder, President & CEO of Oceania Cruises. As part of its OceaniaNEXT initiative, the line’s ships will be outfitted with Vero Water’s still and sparkling water distillation systems starting in April. Installation of the Vero Water systems will ultimately eliminate an estimated three million plastic bottles per year.

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Travel News: Luxury Sailing Cruise Line Ponant Adds Free Wifi on all Sailings

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New Adults-Only All-Inclusive Resort Opens In Florida Keys
The Press Release reports all-inclusive, adults-only luxury resort, Bungalows Key Largo, opened on the Northernmost island of the Florida Keys. Opening as the first-ever all-inclusive in the Keys and located just 63 miles south of Miami, the upscale, boutique, waterfront resort features 135 private bungalows dotted across the property’s 12 acres. Organic textures, soothing tropical hues, and all-natural materials complement the bohemian expression of Key Largo’s relaxed cabana lifestyle. The expansive, adults-only oasis is nestled within a botanical garden edged by the ocean and flanked by the Intercoastal Waterway and Everglades National Park. Immersed in timeless island-elegance under thatch roofing, Bungalows Key Largo boasts three dining experiences: Bogie & Bacall’s for multi-course fine dining and wine pairings, the beachside Sea Señor for Mexican fare under cooling coconut trees and resort-casual seafood restaurant, Fish Tales, inspired by the vibrancy of Capri in Italy. For those laying by the sun-drenched infinity pool or on the sands of Coconut Beach, the resort also features two floating six-seat tiki boats, aptly named the S.S. Rum Runner and S.S. Margarita; Largo Larry’s food truck for quick beach bites and the Sunset Tiki Bar where exotic cocktails are served across African teak and guests can enjoy sunset happy hours surrounded by unpretentious, coastal décor. Call your WIT Travel Agent for the full details!

Rapid Response Force Deployed To Carry Out Checks At US Airports

National Deployment Force officers have been drafted into major US airports to carry out security checks after one in 10 security staff called in sick over the weekend. The normal absence rate for Transportation Security Administration staff at this time of year is about 3%, but more staff are calling in sick rather than working without pay during the US government partial shutdown. The shutdown, which means there’s no money to pay around 800,000 government employees, including airport security staff, is now in its fifth week. As a result of staff shortages, passengers are seeing longer security queues at some airports. A checkpoint at Baltimore airport was shut down on two occasions last weekend due to a lack of staff but reopened on Monday. “Some airports experienced longer than usual wait times,” the TSA said, adding that the average waiting times are within the 30-minute standard for regular screening lanes. Of the 1.78 million passengers screened on Sunday, the TSA said fewer than 7% had to wait longer than 15 minutes. National Deployment Force officers, who make up the TSA’s rapid response team, have been drafted into several airports including Newark, New York’s LaGuardia Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta.

World’s Largest Eco-Friendly Underwater Theme Park In Bahrain

The world’s largest eco-friendly underwater theme park is coming to Bahrain. Expected to welcome visitors by summer 2019, the underwater playground will feature a submerged 70-meter Boeing 747 aircraft. The plane is believed to have been transported to Bahrain from Fujairah, UAE, and is reported to be the largest plane ever to be submerged. The announcement, made by the personal representative of His Majesty King Hamad, president of the Supreme Council for the Environment, Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad Al Khalifa, confirmed: “Covering an area of over 100,000 sqm, the exceptional dive experience includes several structures in addition to a submerged jumbo jet as its centerpieces, such as a replica of a traditional Bahraini pearl merchant’s house, artificial coral reefs and other sculptures fabricated from eco-friendly materials, all submerged to provide a safe haven for coral reef growth and a habitat for marine life.”

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Bali To Introduce Tourist Tax

Bali plans to impose a US$10 tax for all foreign tourist arrivals. Revenue will go toward environmental works and protection of cultural assets, said Bali governor Wayan Koster.”Most foreigners come to Bali for a holiday, local tourists only come to visit their family, have meetings or for their institution’s events,” he added. Bali is trying to combat the growing problem of plastic waste strewn on its beaches and in the ocean. The island generates more than 3,000 tons of rubbish every day. It has already taken steps to ban single-use plastics such as straws and plastic bags but remains to be seen how effective this will be.

Emirates Introduces Entertainment Playlist Syncing Ahead Of Travel

Emirates has introduced an innovative new function on its app to allow customers to create bespoke playlists ahead of their flight and sync it to their seats once on board. Customers can plan their trip more effectively, and maximize their onboard experience by using the Emirates app to browse the expansive entertainment catalog at any time. ice, Emirates’ award-winning inflight entertainment has reached a new milestone of over 4,000 channels of on-demand entertainment. The catalog includes over 1,000 movies, more than any other airline, popular television box sets, tens of thousands of music tracks, podcasts and games. The syncing capability is currently available on over 100 Emirates Boeing 777 aircraft and will be made available progressively across the entire fleet, including A380 aircraft in the coming months. In addition to the catalog, travelers can browse through their flight’s menus and wine lists up to a month before the departure date. The Emirates app also features 3D seat maps which allows customers to navigate the interior of the Emirates A380 and the Emirates Boeing 777 during seat selection and explore the spacious cabin before they board.

Universal Orlando Is Accepting Reservations For Its Newest Hotel
Universal Orlando revealed the opening date for the second phase of its Endless Summer value-priced resort. Universal and its partner Loews Hotels are now taking reservations for Universal’s Endless Summer Resort, Dockside Inn and Suites, which will start accepting guests in May 2020. Prices start at just $89 a night for the budget-priced hotel, which is going up on the site of the former Wet ‘n’ Wild water park. Dockside’s sister hotel next door, Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Surfside Inn and Suites, will open this August. Reservations have been available for that hotel for a few months now, with its rates starting at $85 a night. These promotional rates for both hotels are based on a four-night stay.

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Brazil Plans To Eliminate the need for Visitor Visas For US Citizens 
Brazil plans to eliminate the need for visitor visas for Americans, the country’s tourism minister said on Wednesday, as President Jair Bolsonaro seeks to turn around the lagging tourism sector and engineer cozier relations with the United States. The visa initiative is part of the Foreign Ministry’s plan for the first 100 days in power of Bolsonaro, who assumed office on Jan. 1, Tourism Minister Marcelo Alvaro Antonio said in an interview “Our intention is really to eliminate visa applications for Americans.” Bolsonaro won the presidency running on a right-wing populist platform. He has sought to realign Brazil with the United States, unlike the leftist Workers Party government that led the country for 13 of the past 15 years and favored relations with fellow developing economies. “The left has treated the United States as an adversary, but not our government,” Antonio said. “President Bolsonaro wants to embrace the United States as a partner of Brazil.” Brazil is Latin America’s largest economy but has long punched below its weight in tourism. The country currently receives 6.6 million foreign tourists a year, roughly half that of New York City alone. Brazil will also seek to eliminate visas for Canadians, Japanese and Australians but the timeline is up to the Foreign Ministry, Antonio said.

Ponant Adds Free WiFi on All Sailings

The luxury cruise line Ponant announced that it is offering unlimited free access to WiFi to all guests across its fleet of ultra-luxury French-flagged vessels. All Ponant passengers will have free access to WIFI throughout the entire ship from January 2019, irrespective of their category of stateroom,” the company said, in a prepared statement. Ponant noted the complimentary WiFi will add to the customer experience aboard and is a key step in the company’s ship digitization process. Ponant also recently inked a deal with industry-leading connectivity provider Global Eagle to provide new technology, entertainment, and television services.

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The Government Shutdown is now affecting your airport travel

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The Government shutdown is beginning to bite the world of travel.

TSA screeners are now calling in sick with much more regularity.

At least three airports–Miami, Houston/Intercontinental and Washington/Dulles–are closing some TSA checkpoints and redirecting passengers.
– Miami: afternoon closures on Concourse G.
– Houston: Terminal B closures.
– Dulles: West Mezzanine closures.

It’s to be expected that more closures are to follow in the next days or weeks–without advance notice.

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Lines are also beginning to lengthen substantially. At Atlanta Hartsfield this morning, for example, checkpoint lines have exceeded one hour and photos posted by travelers show lines backing up into the baggage claim areas.

What can you do?

Expect the unexpected. That means showing up earlier for flights, leaving more time between connecting flights that require a second passage through security and leaving much more time after your arrival on an international flight.

And don’t forget… TSA agents are people too

Finally, please remember that checkpoint agents and customs officials aren’t receiving any compensation right now. So have a little consideration. Don’t get angry or impatient. Be polite. Say thanks. Wish them well.

If you see someplace to chip into food banks or other services that help the agents get through, feel free to make a donation. But do not try to tip or otherwise pay a TSA or Customs agent directly. They are barred by law from accepting remuneration of any kind.

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Travel News: Delta Airlines To Change The Way You Board Planes 

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Silver Wind To Get Ice Class, Expedition Overhaul In 2020 Refurb

Cruise Industry News reports Silversea Cruises announced plans for a second extensive refurbishment of Silver Wind, which will see the ship pick up ice-class certification as well as a number of expedition cruising additions. The drydock is scheduled for August 2020 and will span two months, according to a statement, and falls under the company’s Project Invictus program. A fleet of Zodiacs and kayaks for on-water exploration will be added as well as an upgraded theater. All suites will undergo another full upgrade; the Spa & Salon will each be completely refurbished; the Reception/Atrium will be overhauled; and additional improvements will be made to La Dame, La Terrazza, the Main Bar, the Observation Lounge, the Panorama Lounge, the Pool Bar, public bathrooms, and the Theatre, among other spaces. Accommodating fewer guests (just 254) and retaining her characteristic sense of small-ship intimacy, the Silver Wind will offer higher space ratios, a higher crew-to-guest ratio, and more upper suites, among other enhancements. Following her drydock period, Silversea plans to deploy the ship on both traditional itineraries and to expedition destinations, including the Arctic and Antarctica. The ship will resume service on November 10, 2020, embarking on her inaugural season in Antarctica.

Delta Airlines To Change The Way You Board Planes 

Global news reports Delta Airlines is ditching the zone boarding process and will determine the order in which passengers board an airplane by which “branded fares” they pay for. The airline made the announcement in a statement last week, saying the zones “will soon be a thing of the past.” Delta operates flights to and from Canada, and Canadians might fly on a Delta flight due to its partnership with WestJet. The way zone boarding works is by letting on people who are sitting at the back of the plane first, with the exception of people who need extra time (like those with small children) and business and executive class passengers, who get on the plane first. Starting Jan. 23, 2019, there will be eight color-coded brands, prioritizing those who have paid more for their seats, and still “prioritizing customer loyalty.” The codes and their order of priority will be shown when people purchase their tickets. The airline says people who need help or more time to board will still board first. Other than that, the first brand is the high-priced Delta One, and the last is Delta’s cheapest ticket, the basic economy fare. The change is the latest attempt for airlines to minimize boarding times. United Airlines switched to a two-lane system, hoping to minimize people crowding around the gate at boarding time. The changes come as airlines are under scrutiny over the way passengers are treated, the legroom between seats is shrinking and passengers are increasingly paying for things that were once included for free, like carry-on bags.

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Sweden’s Ice Hotel Now Open

CNN reports as the annual Arctic deep freeze gets underway, Sweden’s ICEHOTEL is opening its frosty doors. And this year its icy rooms are as beautiful as ever. The famous hotel regenerates every year, and for 2018/19 some 15 new suites have been created by 34 artists and designers from across 13 countries.

But in a tradition spanning almost 30 years, part of the hotel remains transitory, each year when the old ice melts, new applications come forward and a panel of artists and ice experts choose the best of the best. The winners travel to Sweden to help make their frozen visions a reality, aided by experienced ice artists. Many of this year’s suites are inspired by the natural world. ICEHOTEL’s DNA is intertwined with its picturesque surroundings, the ice is sourced from the nearby Torne River, Sweden’s northernmost and the biggest national river. Another is The Living Ocean Suite,” by Jonathan Green and his daughter Marnie from England. It’s an icy underwater haven complete with coral and fish. “The suite is inspired by the climate changes and the overfishing that affects our oceans. “I also thought the idea of using frozen water from a river in northern Sweden to create an ocean with shells, fish, and corals is exciting.” Other designs are more mythical. A team from Sweden, Spain and Slovakia designed “Haven,” a supposed magical ice portal attended by imposing creatures.

“We are inspired by the meeting of people and want to create an experience that invites curiosity, creativity, and collaboration,” says one of Haven’s designers, Jonas Johannson. The sparkly ice in the hotel is illuminated by specifically curated light design, adding an otherworldly air to the hotel’s cool interiors. Sweden’s ICEHOTEL is made solely out of snow and ice and will use sustainable architecture to stay open during summer months. Roughly 70,000 guests a year visit ICEHOTEL, where a survival course is offered to help guests adapt to their frozen surroundings. Plus there are warm cabins on offer, so guests can switch between staying in the cold rooms and sleeping in the warmth they might be more accustomed to. The current edition of ICEHOTEL is open now until April 13 2019. Prices for two adults start at SEK 1,549 ($170) for a warm room and SEK 2,354 ($260) for an ice room.

5.1 Earthquake Strikes Sicilian City Of Catania

Following the recent eruption of Mt. Etna, an earthquake caused damage and injuries in eastern Sicily, Italy, during the early morning hours Wednesday. The earthquake was registered as a magnitude 5.1 by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Italy’s national seismology institute recorded the quake with a magnitude of 4.8. The earthquake occurred at 3:19 a.m. Wednesday local time (9:19 p.m. EST, Tuesday) The epicenter was just north of Catania. No damage or injuries were reported in Catania, according to the Associated Press (AP). Minor injuries and some damage to buildings occurred in other communities of eastern Sicily. At least 10 people were injured, the AP stated. About 18 other people went to local hospitals for panic attacks or shock.
Satellite images from Wednesday afternoon indicate that steam continues to stream away from Mt. Etna. No travel advisories are currently in place by the Toulouse Volcanic Ash Advisory Center. If ash is emitted at anytime through at least Saturday, flights to and from Catania can be affected due to the expected wind direction.

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Cruise Industry Commits To 40% Carbon Emission Reduction By 2030 

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has announced a global cruise industry commitment to reduce the rate of carbon emissions across the industry fleet by 40% by 2030. “The announcement is a tribute to cross-industry collaboration and a shared commitment to environmental sustainability,” said Arnold Donald, Global CLIA Chairman and President & CEO of Carnival Corporation & PLC. “We aspire to the International Maritime Organization’s vision of a carbon-free shipping industry by the end of the century. Our commitment to a 40% reduction in the rate of emissions by 2030 is a strong first step toward realizing that vision.” CLIA says the commitment is the outcome of a collaborative process designed to build consensus among cruise line leadership. Progress toward the 40% target will be measured against a 2008 fleet baseline, and emissions rates will be calculated based on the industry fleet’s total carbon emissions, total ship berths and total distance travelled. CLIA plans to report annually on the industry’s progress toward the commitment. The reduction will be fueled by innovative technologies for energy efficiency in ship design and propulsion, CLIA says. The industry’s first liquefied natural gas (LNG)-powered ship launched just last week, and some 25 such ships could be operating by 2025. While LNG ships principally address pollution, there is a corresponding benefit for carbon emissions reduction.

Norwegian Air Maneuvers To Avoid Collapse

Several days ago there were questions about Norwegian Air’s ability to survive into the New Year. A report from a Danish bank suggested they could breach financing covenants which could have led to the unraveling of the low cost carrier that has been driving down transatlantic airfares and that is active in Europe. The carrier though has announced several moves that they say should shore up their balance sheet. Whether these are enough depends on a variety of factors such as the cost of fuel and demand during the winter dip in travel. $230 million (annualized) cost savings program. Meanwhile the airline faces heavy debt, high costs of fuel hedging in the face of falling oil, and weak seasonal demand on top of questions over whether its business model is sustainable over the long term.

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Travel News: African Tourism Board Created

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More American tourists heading to Switzerland
Switzerland Tourism reported the number of nights Americans spent in Swiss hotels in the summer season 2018, from May through September, was up 11.3 percent compared to the same period in 2017, based on data from the Swiss Federal Office of Statistics. The Bernese Oberland saw the biggest growth from the U.S.. Since 2010, Switzerland has reported an increase in overnights from the U.S. every year, for a total of almost 50 percent. “A good summer was to be expected, based on reports we received from tour operators, travel agents and other industry partners,” says Alex Herrmann, director North America of Switzerland Tourism. “But the actual growth rate of over 10 percent beats our expectations.”If this trend continues, Switzerland will most likely celebrate its best year in at least 25 years in terms of U.S. travel to Switzerland.” 
African Tourism Board created
A new, multinational body to promote the travel and tourism sector in Africa was unveiled during World Travel Market in London. Created by the International Coalition of Tourism Partners, itself based in Seychelles, Brussels, Bali, and Hawaii, the Africa Tourism Board will seek to enhance and promote the sustainable growth, value, and quality of travel on the African continent.With a steering committee formed, the African Tourism Board goal is to convert this initiative into a stand-alone organization by April 2019. The vision is to have ATB be based in every member destination and in every source market. This will create a global network for Africa, and enables every base to interact with every other base. Organizers made every effort to assure African countries that the Board does not intend to take over national tourism initiatives or policies. To learn more, see African Tourism Board


Delta begins flying Airbus A220 — with a window in some restrooms!
Delta airline’s new Airbus A220 aircraft is gearing up with some exciting new features. The airbus will start by flying LaGuardia to Boston and to Dallas Ft. Worth, then Detroit, Houston and JFK, among others. 
– three restrooms on each plane, one at the front and two at the rear, and there will be a window in one of the two rear bathrooms
– Gogo-powered 2Ku Wi-Fi
– each passenger will have personal power ports
– Economy class passengers will have 18.6-inch-wide main cabin seats, the widest among any narrowbody aircraft.
– overhead bins are a bit roomier, the windows are a bit larger, and there is ambient LED lighting throughout the plane as well. 
– Of the 109 seats on board, 12 will be in the First Class cabin and 15 will be designated Delta Comfort Plus seats. 
– First Class seats will benefit from extra-large seatback screens
– Delta Comfort Plus seats will have additional legroom compared to the main cabin. 
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European Capital of Smart Tourism Awards
The winners of the first edition of the European Capital of Smart Tourism competition were awarded on 07 November at a ceremony in Brussels. The occasion was European Tourism Day, the largest annual meeting on European tourism. Representatives of Helsinki and Lyon received trophies on behalf of their cities. The objective at EU level is to foster the sustainable development of tourism by showcasing innovative solutions from EU cities in tourism. In addition, four cities received 2019 European Smart Tourism Awards for their outstanding achievements in the four categories of the competition: Málaga (Accessibility), Ljubljana (Sustainability), Copenhagen (Digitalization) and Linz (Cultural Heritage & Creativity). In order to become a European Capital of Smart Tourism, a city needed to demonstrate exemplary achievements as a tourism destination in implementing innovative and intelligent solutions in all four award categories: accessibility, sustainability, digitalization, cultural heritage and creativity. Cities of more than 100.000 inhabitants were eligible in the first edition of this competition. 38 cities from 19 EU Member States applied, but Helsinki and Lyon stood out for their innovative tourism measures.
New FAA legislation could mean lower seat pitch, and more
At first glance, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) Reauthorization Bill that was passed by Congress and signed by President Trump last week, looked like it was a win for travelers tired of being sandwiched into ever-shrinking airplane seats. But, according to consumer advocate groups and airline industry analysts, not only could the bill ultimately do little to change the status quo when it comes to the size of airplane seats, it could even result in seats getting more cramped. The bill’s primary purpose was to maintain the FAA’s funding, while at the same time establishing some new guidelines for airline regulations. One of the bill’s provisions requires the FAA to issue regulations that would establish minimum dimensions for passenger seats on aircraft, something it does not do currently. The concern is that the FAA could set a requirement for minimum seat pitches as low as 27 or 28 inches. 
App for checking LGBTQ safety in regions worldwide
The first-ever neighborhood-level LGBTQ Safety ratings category on a smartphone app was launched yesterday. LGBTQ travelers will for the first time have unlimited access to real-time safety ratings on more than 30,000 neighborhoods worldwide. The “Top 5 Safest Global Urban Neighborhoods for LGBTQ Travelers” app by GeoSure provides safety ratings ranging from 1-100 – the lower the score, the safer the neighborhood. Utilizing machine learning, AI, sentiment analysis, and predictive analytics, ratings are based on analysis of thousands of sources daily to provide and continuously update its suite of comprehensive travel safety solutions. The Top Five Safest Global Urban Neighborhoods for LGBTQ Travelers are named as The Castro District in SFO, Berlin’s Schoneberg area, Amsterdam’s Centrum neighborhood, Barcelona’s Eixample vicinity, and Tel Aviv’s City Center/Florentin region. GeoSure is available on the App Store and Google Play. The company defines its LGBTQ Safety category as rating “Likelihood of harm or discrimination against LGBTQ persons or groups and level of caution required at location.”
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Most travelers do not purchase travel insurance
More than half (54 percent) of consumers have never purchased travel insurance and two thirds (65 percent) of those who have never purchased it have never even considered it, according to a survey by TravelInsurance.com. This despite the fact that 76 percent of survey respondents have experienced a flight delay in the past, and nearly half 48 percent have had their luggage lost or stolen. Another 35 percent have experienced either getting sick or traveling with someone who has gotten sick during a trip. The survey also showed that 47 percent of respondents don’t know whether or not their health insurance provides coverage while traveling, especially when traveling abroad. Willamette Intl Travel agents always recommend travel insurance. We are happy to provide package options to you provided you have booked your travel arrangements with our agency. 
 
Singapore Airlines Is The World’s Best Airline For 2019
AirlineRatings.com chose the list. The flag carrier of Singapore ousted five-year champion Air New Zealand, which has held the coveted title since 2014 and which still claimed second place this year. In comparison, not a single European or North American carrier made it into the Top 10 roster. The Perth-based website stated that “Singapore Airlines came out number one in many of our audit criteria” during the AirlineRankings.com. Annual Excellence Awards Tuesday. The audit, annually conducted by the publication’s seven editors, involves a detailed process that evaluates 12 major factors including fleet age, passenger reviews, profitability, investment rating, product offerings and staff relations. This year, Singapore Airlines edged out runners-up Air New Zealand, Qantas Airways and Qatar Airways for its “industry-leading in-flight service” as well as its new fleet additions, such as the world’s first Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350-900 ULR. Singapore Air also earned praise for its updated interiors, for its commitment to operation safety, and for its relaunch of the longest commercial flight in the world: non-stop service between Singapore and New York.
 
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Two US airports allow non-travelers to go past security
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is introducing a new SEA Visitor Pass that will allow non-travelers past security for the first time since 2001. According to the Seattle Times, Sea-Tac is starting a trial of the program that will allow up to 50 non-travelers a pass to go through security in order to eat at one of the restaurants, shop in the terminal, or say goodbye to friends and family at their gates. The trial period will end Dec. 14. If all goes well, Sea-Tac will make the program permanent. Pittsburgh International Airport last year became the first major U.S. airport since 9/11 to allow non-travelers through its security gates with its myPitpass program. At each, non-travelers have to go through security checkpoints and meet all TSA requirements before heading through. Sea-Tac does not expect the new program to increase wait times at security – only 50 passes will be available and visiting hours will be restricted from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. All non-travelers wanting to participate in the program have to sign up online before 1:30 p.m. the day before they want to use the pass. Approved participants will get an email from the TSA, which will direct them to pick up their passes at Sea-Tac with a photo ID.

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Travel News: Taking Holidays Can Prolong Life

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A New Study Suggests Taking Holidays Can Prolong Life 

Travelmole reports three weeks’ holiday or more each year is the most important factor to a long life, according to researchers. The findings of a lifestyle study that began 40 years ago claim taking vacations is even more beneficial to following a healthy lifestyle. The study, which began in the 1970s, involved 1,222 middle-aged male executives, born between 1919 and 1934, who had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure, overweight or smoking. Half were told to exercise, maintain a good diet, stop smoking or keep to a healthy weight, while the other half were given no advice. According to the findings, those given the regular advice were more likely to die young, possibly because they suffered extra stress by trying to live a healthy lifestyle. Among the same group, those who took less than three weeks off each year were 37% more likely to die young over the next 30 years. Professor Timo Strandberg, of the University of Helsinki, said: “Don’t think having an otherwise healthy lifestyle will compensate for working too hard and not taking holidays. “Vacations can be a good way to relieve stress.

National Car Rental Chosen By Travel + Leisure Magazine As ‘World’s Best’ For Fifth Year In A Row  

Travelwirenews reports vehicle selection, customer service and overall value were just a few of the categories for which National Car Rental received praise, taking the top spot for the fifth year in a row in Travel + Leisure magazine’s World’s Best Awards. This recognition marks the 23rd year that National has qualified for the prestigious “World’s Best” list. In addition to the National brand, Enterprise and Alamo placed among Travel + Leisure magazine’s “Top 5 Car-Rental Providers.” This is the fifth consecutive year that all three brands have been named among the top rental car operators. Business Travel News magazine also recently recognized National and Enterprise for their mobile app technology, quality of data reporting and consistent communication, naming them as the top two car rental brands in its annual Car Rental Survey for the fourth consecutive year.

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Record Cruise Year For Northern Europe

Cruise Industry News reports cruise ships will be in record numbers in the waters of Northern Europe this summer, with 129 ships set to offer cruises in the region. Capacity will also move to a record high, with more than 2.5 million cruise guests expected, up from 2.3 million in 2017, and way up from just under 2 million in 2014. 

New Zealand To Abolish Departure Cards

New Zealand will follow Australia and abolish “bothersome” departure cards from November in a move pitched as bringing seamless travel between the close neighbors one step closer. Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway and Customs Minister Meka Whaitiri announced the document’s demise Sunday but have yet to announce an exact date. The removal is in line with an international trend as countries rely on more sophisticated records to track traveler identity information. Australia axed its onerous green departure cards in July last year. New Zealand estimate it will save departing travelers 100,000 hours as they complete more than 6.5 million cards a year.

Air Yachts: The Next Big Thing In Yukon Luxury Tourism? 

Hybrid Air Vehicles of Britain has built a modern blimp with a passenger gondola that looks more like a luxury yacht than a platform for filming football games. Branded as the Airlander 10, it is a self-contained unit for transporting guests and everything they want. It has glass floors and 360-degree windows, a cocktail bar and bedrooms. Guests can stroll around the 20 metre-long cabin as they watch the landscape roll by underneath. The airships cruise at up to 150 kilometres per hour. The Whitehorse to Dawson run becomes an afternoon outing instead of a week-long saga. The Airlander 10 is designed to carry fuel for five days so, unlike a river boat, side excursions to land on a glacier or watch a herd of caribou on a distant mountainside are possible. You can also fly low and quietly hover. Unlike the infamous Hindenburg, the German hydrogen-filled airship that burst into flames spectacularly in 1937, today’s airships are filled with helium, which doesn’t burn. They have sophisticated multi-directional propeller systems that allow pilots to control them much better, even in high wind. In the off-season, you can fly it somewhere else and generate cash flow all year long. An Airlander 10 might do trips in the Yukon in the summer and spend the winter floating its cargo of people, money and champagne around California and the Caribbean. It’s an intriguing idea. However, the catch is the cost. Hybrid Air Vehicles is reported to be planning to charge about $40 million per airship. That’s not far off what a new Boeing 737 costs. So don’t expect to see a fleet of luxury airships hovering over Dawson City any time soon. 

Delta Is Adding New Seatback Screens While Other Airlines Get Rid of Them

In a press release last week, Delta Air Lines announced that it had installed a seatback entertainment system on its 600th aircraft. Delta now says it has more aircraft with seatback screens than any other airline in the world. The figure underscores Delta’s desire to keep passengers entertained in multiple ways. “With seat-back screens, customers don’t have to choose between using their phones or watching a movie,” Tim Mapes, the airline’s chief marketing officer, said in a statement. “Whether they want to work, relax, or a little bit of both – we want to give our customers the ability to choose and make the most of their time in flight.” Delta Studio, the in-flight entertainment system, works on seatback screens and personal devices. Last year, Delta introduced free messaging via Wi-Fi on board. 

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Fiji Increases Departure Tax 

The Fiji Government is hiking its departure tax by more than US$25, but players in the tourism industry don’t believe that will stop tourists visiting the popular travel destination. As part of its budget, the Government has announced its airport departure tax will increase from US$81 to US$108 from January next year. Fiji’s new departure tax is far higher than its direct competitors, including Samoa and the Cook Islands. Nearly $US3 of the tax will go to the Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji and five dollars will be given to Airports Fiji Limited. The tax, which is included in the price of the ticket, will also include a five-dollar environment levy.  

Cruise Line To Avoid Swamping Small Towns With Thousands Of Passengers

Visits by the 3560-passenger Majestic Princess are expected to inject $100 million into the New Zealand economy over the coming summer cruise season. A cruise line bringing almost 100,000 passengers to New Zealand this coming summer says the industry needs to be careful not to swamp smaller ports as vessels get bigger. Princess Cruises largest and newest ship, the Majestic Princess, which carries almost 5000 passengers and crew, will make its maiden voyage here at the end of September. Akaroa residents have complained about the small port town being swamped by cruise visitors and tour buses, and some have called for an end to “two ship” days at the height of the season. Princess Cruises’ senior vice president for Australia and New Zealand Stuart Allison said they were mindful of the impact ships had on smaller centres such as Akaroa, and they had worked hard to increase shore excursions getting guests off the beaten track.

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Travel News: Word of the Day – Security

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Singapore Air Teams With Wellness Experts For Ultra Long Range Flights

Airlineratings reports Singapore Airlines and Canyon Ranch, one of the world’s premier integrative wellness brand, have signed a partnership to enhance ultra-long-haul travel with a focus on wellness cuisines, rest and relaxation, and well-being on the world’s longest flights.

The team of experts has developed science-based strategies for improved sleep, exercise and stretching, as well as new, nutrition-focused menus, applied specifically to Singapore Airline’s new 18 hour 45 minutes non-stop service launching on October 11 between Singapore and New York (Newark), the world’s longest commercial flight.

  • – Wellness Cuisines – developed by Canyon Ranch chefs and nutritionists focused on nutrition and hydration (taking into consideration longer flight duration with less body movement), combined with bold flavors and textures.
  • – Rest and Relaxation – which includes sleep strategies designed to help customers in all cabin classes improve the duration and quality of rest, as well as specific light settings in providing better cabin ambiance for rest and relaxation
  • – Guided Stretching Exercises – led by Canyon Ranch exercise physiologists, accessible via personal seat back entertainment systems to promote relaxation. Singapore will be the first airline in the world to operate the A350-900ULR, with seven on firm order with Airbus.

Long Security Lines at Airports May Become A Thing Of The Past 

The WSJ reports the Transportation Security Agency is looking at ways to streamline the process and prevent passengers from missing flights. There is a glimmer of hope that the frustrating, slow airport security experience will get a little smoother over the next few years. In a partnership with American Airlines, the Transportation Security Administration introduced a new kind of machine last month to screen carry-on bags in Terminal 8 at Kennedy International Airport in New York. The machines, the agency says, improve on the current system, in which most travelers have their carry-on bags screened by X-ray machines that produce only two-dimensional images of their contents. If agents are unsure of what they’re seeing, they pull the bag aside and inspect its contents manually. The new machines use computed tomography, a technology that produces three-dimensional images so detailed they can even show the mass and densities of items in the bag, including liquids inside their containers. With the new machines, the T.S.A. says, security agents will be better able to analyze what is inside a bag and will be less likely to have to perform searches by hand.

Easter Island Limits Tourism In Preservation Efforts

CNN reports it’s a five-hour flight to Chile’s Easter Island (Rapa Nui) from the nation’s capital of Santiago. Mysterious, hard-to-get-to and isolated, the volcanic island in Polynesia automatically makes it a dream destination for intrepid travelers who long to get off the beaten path. But now, the island is one of many destinations around the world trying to balance popularity with preservation. Lonely Planet’s Alex Butler reports that tourists can only stay on the far-flung Easter Island for a period of 30 days; previously, a 90-day stay was permissible. This new rule applies both to international travelers and to Chileans who are not a part of the indigenous Rapa Nui people. While the 30-day rule went into effect August 1, Chile has not yet established how many visitors will be allowed on the island. 

Los Angeles Will Be the First US City To Use Subway Body Scanners

Associated Press reports Los Angeles will be the first US city to start equipping its subways with body scanners. But the Southern California metropolis isn’t using the bulky, slow-operating models that populate US airports: Instead, LA’s Metropolitan Transit Authority will deploy portable trunk-sized scanners that can survey people from 30 feet away at a rate of 2,000 individuals an hour. Los Angeles will be the first US city to start equipping its subways with body scanners. But the Southern California metropolis isn’t using the bulky, slow-operating models that populate US airports: Instead, LA’s Metropolitan Transit Authority will deploy portable trunk-sized scanners that can survey people from 30 feet away at a rate of 2,000 individuals an hour. They can scan people from 30 feet away and process 2,000 individuals per hour. LA MTA will use the scanners, made by Thruvision, in response to threats of terrorism or to scan large crowds heading to protests or sporting events, according to the Los Angeles Times. They use radio waves to pick out guns and nonmetal explosives beneath clothing and highlight them on a split-screen display. They are calibrated to especially pick out weapons capable of mass casualties.

Emotional Support Animals No Longer Allowed On Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships

Cruise Critic reports Royal Caribbean has updated its policy on emotional support animals. Emotional support animals, defined as those whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support are no longer allowed onboard its ships; emotional support animals do not qualify as service animals under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Service animals, which support people with both physical and mental disabilities, are still covered under Royal Caribbean’s policy; they are permitted in all public areas, including dining venues, as long as they are on a leash or harness. Disabilities that might require service animals include blindness, deafness and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. “We are changing our policy, but the policy is being changed to better differentiate between emotional support animals and service animals because they are two very different things,” a Royal Caribbean spokesperson told Cruise Critic. “Service animals that are formally trained and certified to perform a function are still welcome onboard with the proper paperwork and certifications.”

Facial Recognition Cameras Are Working In Some Airports But Where Does The Data Go?

The NYT reports the cameras are now operational at airports in Orlando, Los Angeles, Detroit and Atlanta. The program makes boarding an international flight a breeze: Passengers step up to the gate, get their photo taken and proceed onto the plane. There is no paper ticket or airline app. Thanks to facial recognition technology, their face becomes their boarding pass. The problem confronting thousands of travelers, is that few companies participating in the program, called the Traveler Verification Service, give explicit guarantees that passengers’ facial recognition data will be protected. And even though the program is run by the Department of Homeland Security, federal officials say they have placed no limits on how participating companies, mostly airlines but also cruise lines, can use that data or store it, opening up travelers’ most personal information to potential misuse and abuse such as being sold or used to track passengers’ whereabouts. The data the airlines collect is used to verify the identity of passengers leaving the country, an attempt by the department to better track foreigners who overstay their visas. After passengers’ faces are scanned at the gate, the scan is sent to Customs and Border Protection and linked with other personally identifying data, such as date of birth and passport and flight information. For its part, Customs and Border Protection has said it will retain facial scans of American citizens for no longer than 14 days. But the agency has said it cannot control how the companies use the data because they “are not collecting photographs on C.B.P.’s behalf.” The program is not mandatory for passengers. But the airlines, Delta, Lufthansa, British Airways and JetBlue, have reported that a majority of passengers participate.

Viking River Cruises Becomes An Adult-Only Line

Viking River Cruises has announced a ban on guests below the age of 18 sailing on their vessels on bookings made from August 1, 2018. The update on the policy says, “As of 1 August 2018, for all NEW bookings, all Viking guests will need to be 18 years old to travel on either the river or ocean product. Guests booked on a Viking River Cruise prior to 1 August 2018 who are 12 years old or above will be allowed to sail on their currently booked voyage. We will continue to support this program until 2020 when all the previously booked guests will have sailed. For all cruise tours booked after 1 August, 2018 (regardless of departure year), you must be 18 years old on or before the day you are scheduled to embark on the cruise tour.”

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