Category Archives: News

An Update from the WIT Blog

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At Willamette Intl Travel, our agents are working to accommodate the needs of our clients in this time of crisis. We’re getting people home, rebooking canceled travel plans, and providing personalized customer service.

If you’re a client and need to rebook your travel plans, please reach your travel agent at 503-224-0180. We have a 24/7 emergency service for clients in need. Thank you for your support and patience as we process client requests.

In our 40-year track record, we’ve responded to many travel emergencies over the years, so we’re trained in the art of crisis management. It means everything if we can offer our clients a sense of order and peace of mind in these times of confusion. As individuals who live and breathe travel, we fully empathize and understand the concerns that many of you are currently experiencing. Your safety and well-being are of paramount importance to us.

If you are calling about new travel plans, please be aware that airlines and many other vendors have closed or have limited availability through April 30. However, if you’re looking to travel after April 30, we look forward to discussing your trip plans with you.

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Photo by Kehn Hermano on Pexels.com

Here at the WIT Blog, we’ll be suspending blog posts until further notice to help reduce the number of emails in your inbox.   

Feel free to use this time to reconnect with yourself, family, friends, pets, nature, online shopping, and turn off the computer 😊  

Stay safe and healthy everyone!

To tide you over until the crisis clears, here is some light reading: 

Dogs Can Do Social Distancing, Too

Baby Elephant Rescue (Photos)

10 of the Best Travel Shows on Netflix Right Now

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Travel News: New USS Arizona Memorial Opens Next Month

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Updates from the Travel News vector! Every week we feature the latest in industry and traveler-friendly news. So you can stay up to date with the world of travel. 

In the growing trend of kid-friendly themed hotels, Cartoon Network has just opened up a hotel in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The 165-room hotel sits on a 9-acre property just next to the Dutch Wonderland Family Amusement Park. Check it out at Cartoon Network Hotel and MORE Cartoon Network Hotel.

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There’s a new USS Arizona Memorial in the States—but it’s not in Hawaii, it’s in Arizona. The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRPMIC), located near Scottsdale, Arizona, is proud to announce the public opening of the USS Arizona Memorial Gardens at Salt River next month on February 22, 2020. The USS Arizona Memorial Gardens at Salt River honors the brave individuals that served aboard the USS Arizona that sank on December 7, 1941, during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Silversea’s Silver Whisper becomes the first cruise to visit all seven continents in one trip! Their Legends of Cruising 2020 embarked on January 6, and will travel into 62 destinations in 32 countries—including Antarctica.

Australia Updates

Learn more of what is and is not impacted by the Australian firesAustralia Fire Impact on Tourism Sites. Also see Swain Destinations re Australia bushfires

Reading for the Flight

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Mythbusting for spa newbies: Sage advice for those planning a journey into the world of wellness

A Uniquely Japanese take on Nostalgia

10 of the best budget spa holidays in eastern Europe

‘It’s Iceland meets New Zealand’ – exploring Europe’s most epic archipelago

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Russia’s Mysterious City of the Dead

Everything We Know About Cairo’s New Grand Egyptian Museum

The Glitzy European City Going Green

Up in the Air

Facial recognition continues to gain traction. The tech has been added to the Global entry program at 15 airports in the US and overseas, allowing for international travellers to re-enter at a much faster pace. Instead of your fingerprint, it’s your face that gets scanned and matched with government databases—like passport or visa photos.

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For more travel expertise, book an appointment with our agents at our Portland office! 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com. 

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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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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: 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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