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. 
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.”
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 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 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 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.
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: Luxury tourism in Ethiopia

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Luxury tourism in Ethiopia

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

Order food by app at Universal Orlando

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

Qatar Air flies Thai cave rescue boys to Britain

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

Captain Marvel added to Disney sailings for early 2019

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

A word to the wise: Water Shoes

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

Glacier Express starts Excellence Class in March

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

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

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

Favorite US Airports, according to AFAR readers

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

Facial recognition being tried at Narita Airport, and more

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

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

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

Measles outbreak in Thailand…and Japan and Brazil

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

Cruise accessibility and orientation for blind passengers becomes available

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

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Travel News: No water shortage in Cape Town!

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No water shortage in Cape Town!

A drought in 2017 brought Cape Town’s water supply to a dangerously low level and started a scare about Day Zero, the day when the city would theoretically run out of water if usage continued to outstrip the water supply. In the face of a water shortage, citizens, city and provincial governments, and the tourism sector rallied and launched a myriad of initiatives to change the ratio of consumption-to-replenishment of water supplies. The success of the initiatives went far beyond expectations. Today, after a combination of hard work and good luck, Cape Town’s water supply is no longer a pressing issue. Unfortunately, the news of the recovery has not traveled as fast as the news of the crisis did,and a city that relies on tourism for 7.5 percent of its GDP is still experiencing a reduction in tourism arrivals because of perceptions surrounding the water shortage of early 2018.”The scare had an impact on South African Airways’ business and on Cape Townbecause of the coverage in January and February,” said Todd M. Neuman, executive vice president, North America, for South African Airways. “But water continues to flow in Cape Town,” Neuman said. “Cape Town did not run out of water. Cape Town did a fantastic job with water conservation. It has been recognized worldwide how Cape Town made the effort to save water. The water is running, the hotels are running. We have had a wet winter in South Africa, especially in the Western Cape. The reservoirs are 65-70 percent full again. There is no shortage of water.”

New United flights offer only non-stop service between USA and Tahiti

United Airlines this week started the only nonstop service by a U.S. carrier to the Islands of Tahiti. The airline launched its first flight between San Francisco and Pape’ete, the capital of Tahiti. As part of its inaugural celebration, United also announced it is extending its Tahiti schedule to year-round service from San Francisco. United’s newest international flight offers service to Tahiti from San Francisco International Airport on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Beginning March 30, 2019, United will begin year-round service on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. United will operate the route with Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft throughout the year.

When oh when might Southwest start Hawaii flights?

Ever since Southwest Airlines announced in October 2017 that it intended to start flying to Hawaii, U.S. air travelers and investors have both been eager to learn more about its plans. Over the past year, there has been a slow trickle of information, but the carrier still hasn’t confirmed exactly which routes it will operate, how often it will serve them, and when the flights will start. The Motley Fool reports that during its recent third-quarter earnings call, Southwest Airlines provided the most detail yet on its Hawaii plans. The main reason why it is taking so long for Southwest Airlines to launch its Hawaii flights is that it needs to receive FAA approval for long over-water flights. This “ETOPScertification” process — which entails defining and documenting safety procedures, training flight crews, and then demonstrating the effectiveness of those procedures — typically takes 12 to 18 months. According to COO Mike Van de Ven, Southwest Airlineshas completed the documentation phase of the certification process. It still needs to do simulations for the FAA and then operate validation flights to receive the final regulatory sign-off. This suggests that Southwest is at least a few weeks away from achievingETOPS certification. Yet it does expect to complete the process before year-end. The first half of December now seems like the most likely time frame for receiving ETOPS approval. Southwest Airlines plans to publish schedules and begin selling tickets for Hawaii flights just a few days after that. Moreover, the first flight could occur as soon as a few weeks after ticket sales begin, which is a much shorter interval than normal. Nevertheless, all signs point to Southwest Airlines’ Hawaii flights beginning in early 2019.

Complimentary delivery and pick up for disabled traveler products

Special Needs Group, a provider of wheelchairs, oxygen, motorized scooters and other products for cruise lines, resorts and theme parks, has introduced a new delivery and demonstration service. This is available for multiple cruise lines at multiple ports. There is no additional cost for this service, and commissions are paid. See

Special Needs Group, White Glove Service for details.

Historic acqua alta in Venice

Venice was inundated by an exceptional high tide Monday, putting three-quarters of the famed Italian lagoon city under water as large swathes of the rest of Italy experienced flooding and heavy winds that toppled trees, killing four people. Friends of mine who live in Venice say it’s the highest acqua alta they have seen since they came there in 2003 and 2004, though news reports say since 2008. Rain-soaked tourists were asked to leave St Mark’s Square as water peaked at more than 5ft (61 inches) by the afternoon- something that has only happened five times in recorded history. The water exceeded the raised walkways normally put out in flooded areas in Venice, forcing their removal. Transport officials closed the water bus system except to outlying islands due to the emergency. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said a series of underwater barriers that are being erected in the lagoon would have prevented the inundation. The project, nicknamed Moses, is long overdue, beset by cost overruns and corruption scandals. Veneto regional governor Luca Zaia says flooding this week could reach the levels of the 1966 flood that struck both Venice and Florence. There are reports of Saltwater having damaged some historic sights.

USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor will not reopen until March 2019

The National Park Service (NPS) expects the USS Arizona Memorial dock repair project to be complete by March 2019, allowing visitor access to the memorial to resume. Access to the USS Arizona Memorial was suspended on May 6 when minor damage to the exterior of the structure became visible at the main point of entry. A more thorough examination revealed that the damage was caused by a failure of the anchoring system for the boat dock adjacent to the Memorial. This placed extreme pressure on the loading bridge that provides overwater passage for visitors from the boat dock to the USS Arizona Memorial. Access was curtailed immediately to ensure visitor safety and prevent additional. The design phase of the project was recently completed, allowing for the development of a more precise timeline for the repair process. Unfortunately, it will not be completed in time for National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day on December 7. “Not being able to welcome survivors and their families on the USS Arizona Memorial this coming December 7th is heartbreaking,” said Jacqueline Ashwell, superintendent of WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument, who oversees the memorial.

Emirates Air to offer ‘biometric path’ through the airport and onto the plane

Dubai-based Emirates airline is preparing to launch world’s first “biometric path” that will offer its passengers a smooth and seamless airport journey at the airline’s hub in Dubai International Airport. Utilizing the latest biometric technology – a mix of facial and iris recognition, Emirates passengers can soon check in for their flight, complete immigration formalities, enter the Emirates lounge and board their flights, simply by strolling through the airport. The latest biometric equipment has already been installed at Emirates Terminal 3, Dubai International airport. It can be found at select check-in counters, at the Emirates Lounge in Concourse B for premium passengers, and at select boarding gates.

US Troops drain Reykjavik of beer, one local beer in particular

ETN reports that while it was only supposed to be a pit stop, some 7,000 US troops taking part in mass NATO drills nonetheless managed to deplete some bars and restaurants in Iceland’s capital Reykjavik of all their beer. The troops stopped in Iceland over the weekend while on their way to Sweden and Finland for a 300,000-strong NATO exercise. In total, some 50,000 of the forces participating are US troops. Apparently unconcerned about moderating their intake of booze just before Trident Juncture 18, thought to be NATO’s biggest military exercise since the Cold War, the troops plunged several bars in downtown Reykjavik into a state of emergency as they went nuts on their beer. US soldiers were not satisfied with just any beer and specifically requested the local one. So, Brewery Olgerð Egils Skallagrimssonar, which makes the popular Icelandic Gull, had to send emergency supplies to various bars, according to local news site Visir.

Hong Kong Peninsula introduces the Sunseeker Manhattan 60 yacht

The Peninsula Hong Kong has announced the arrival of a new Peninsula Yacht for guests’ enjoyment. The introduction of the yacht results in The Peninsula being the first luxury hotel in Hong Kong to offer a trinity of deluxe transportation options, complementing the existing fleet of Rolls-Royce Phantoms and a customized helicopter. The Sunseeker Manhattan 60 is an iconic 19 meter cruiser that will welcome up to 15 passengers each evening to enjoy a two-hour evening cruise featuring the ‘Symphony of Lights’ on the mesmerizing Victoria Harbor during the “Harbor Sunset Cruise.” The package includes canapés and unlimited consumption of house Champagne, wine and other beverages, available from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm nightly, at HKD 1,400/$ 180 USD net for adults and HKD 600/$78 USD net for children.

Italy to cease free museum entry on first Sundays

Italy’s government recently announced the end of a popular initiative granting free entry to the country’s prominent museums and monuments. Since July 2014, more than 480 cultural sites in Italy, including Pompeii, the Vatican Museums, the Uffizi, and the Colosseum, have welcomed visitors for free on the first Sunday of every month as part of a program known as Domenica al Museo, or Sunday at the Museum. According to The Local Italy, approximately 3.5 million people benefitted from the public initiative in 2017 alone.

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All Saints’ Day Around the World

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In past years, we’ve posted about Halloween around the World. This year, we’re taking a look at another holiday that’s equally as special and full of wonder.

This traditionally Christian holiday is celebrated in many parts of the Western World, always on November 1. It’s upheld in much of Europe, Mexico, the Philippines, Nicaragua, Haiti, Bolivia, Guatemala, Peru, and many other countries.


Also known as All Hallows’ Day, Hallowmas or Feast of All Saints, many people commemorate this holiday by visiting the graves of loved ones, or candlelit cemeteries. The name “Halloween” comes from the phrase “All Hallows’ Eve(ning).”

Different cultures celebrate All Saints’ Day differently. In France, this holiday is called La Toussaint, and the French decorate tombs with flowers and wreaths, especially chrysanthemums. In Austria and Bavaria, godfathers present braided pastries, known as Allerheiligenstriezel, to their godchildren.


The Mexican Dia de los Muertos is a famous take on the holiday, complete with flowers, decorated skeletons, candied skulls, and parades. The Portuguese visit cemeteries and children also go door-to-door to collect cakes, fruits, nuts and sweets. Filipinos visit family graves to clean and repair them, and also play music, sing, eat, while Chinese Filipinos also burn incense.

In many European countries, including Sweden and Lithuania, families will light candles on the graves, so that the whole cemetery is lit up beautifully.


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9 European Castles You Can Sleep In

If you’ve ever dreamed of spending a night in a fairy-tale castle, Europe has no limit to centuries-old chateaux and estates to enchant you. Here are some of the best that we’ve collected on our travels:

Call your WIT Agent well in advance to book these exclusive accommodations! 503-224-0180 or email

1. Amberley Castle, West Sussex, England

This medieval castle was first built in the 12th century, and encompassed by fortifications more than a century later. A Relais & Chateaux property, you can bet that it is luxurious and splendid. Guests can sleep in a four-poster bed in front of the fireplace, or warm up their toes in the whirlpool bath beneath stone arches. The castle grounds also include an 18-hole putting course, tennis courts and croquet lawn.

Nearby: South Downs National Park, so you can bet that there are a lot of hiking paths, traditional pubs and vineyards to explore.

2. Borgia Castle, Tuscany, Italy

The sumptuous medieval Borgia Castle lies on the border of Tuscany and Umbria. Rent out all 13 rooms for a family retreat, and soak in elegant chandeliers, carved furniture, frescoes and giant fireplaces.

Nearby: Lake Trasimeno, swimming pool, medieval villages, olive groves and Sienna and Florence.

3. Chateau de Bagnols, Rhone-Alpes, France

Constructed in 1217, the darling stone fortress overlooks Beaujolais Vineyards and includes a moat, drawbridge, and lavish 5-star interior with period murals and fireplaces. The Michelin-rated restaurant offers tastings and a wine-pressing room.

Nearby: Lyon, Beaujolais wine route.

4. The Witchery, Edinburgh, Scotland

While not really a castle, this accommodation indulges all the dreamy elements of your Gothic fantasy: from tapestries to ornate paintings and gilded ceilings, plus views of romantic Edinburgh.

Nearby: Edinburgh Castle

5. Glenapp Castle, Ayrshire, Scotland

This tranquil, award-winning Scottish castle was finished only in 1870. It offers a secluded, intimate level of service complemented by natural scenery and exquisite views of neighboring islands—Ailsa Craig, Arran and Mull of Kintyre.

Nearby: Galloway Forest Park, hiking trails, wild goats, eagles, golf courses, Castle Kennedy Gardens, Culzean Castle

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6. Pousada di Óbidos, Portugal

The magnificent Obidos is a 12th-century medieval castle, recently up for the desirable UNESCO World Heritage status. Though only accommodating a handful of rooms, this historic hotel is charming, intimate, and Obidos town offers spectacular tourist attractions like medieval squares and excellent restaurants.

Nearby: 1 hour north of Lisbon

7. Pousada Mosteiro Crato, Portugal

Another Portuguese delight is the Pousada Mosteiro Crato, at times a Gothic church, manor house, and Renaissance convent. Originally built in the 14th century, this square-towered castle lies on the Portugal-Spain border. The definition of seclusion, these peaceful grounds offer an outdoor pool, horseback riding, and rugged regional cuisine.

Nearby: 30-minute drive to Parque Natural da Serra de Sao Mamede

8. Castlehotel Schoenburg, Oberwesel, Germany

We’re heading to the banks of the Rhine River for this one. The romantic and imposing Schoenburg is the epitome of coziness, with fireplace rooms, cobblestone pathways, libraries four-poster canopy beds, panoramic river valley views.

Nearby: Oberwesel town, riesling vineyards

9. Ashford Castle, Ireland

The elegant, gray Ashford Castle offers pinched turrets, handsome ramparts, rococo gilt mirrors and oak panelling—everything you didn’t know a castle could have. Built originally in 1228 by the de Burgo Family, and owned later by the Guinness family (of cervisial fame) this Irish Staple offers a whopping 83 bedrooms, spa and 140 hectares of woods.

Nearby: Lough Corrib, Cong

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Travel News: Vatican After-Hours with Context Travel

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Vatican After-Hours with Context Travel
Context Travel, our favorite intellectual tour guides, is offering an exclusive After Hours Vatican Museum Visit a few times a year. This is an exclusive opportunity to view one of the finest collections of art in the world, without the crush of crowds. Guided by a Context docent who is an art historian, you have the rare chance to contemplate these artworks in peace, just as popes have done through the centuries. Over the centuries, papal patrons have commissioned renowned works, such as the magnificent frescoes by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, and those by Raphael in his Stanze. The museums also host some of the most important sculptures from the ancient world, including the Laocoön and the Belvedere Torso. 
Dates: Dec 3, Dec 17
Time: 5:30PM
Duration: 2.5 Hours
Call your WIT travel agent to reserve one of these exclusive tours before they sell out!

UAE Now Requires Travellers To Get Clearance for all Medication When Entering The Country.

Loyalty Lobby reports The UAE now requires all visitors to get clearance for all prescription and over the counted medication for personal use. if they wish to visit or transit the country. The requirement started October 2nd and all visitors must get clearance from the Ministry of Health by filling out a form on the website, uploading a copy of their passport, prescription, airline ticket(s), accommodation information and other required documents. These will be reviewed in a day and passenger inspected at the port of entry. All tourists and residents of UAE will now be required to fill in an electronic form to get approval to carry any kind of medication for personal use, said a top Ministry of Health and Prevention official. The Import of Personal Medication service was launched at Gitex 2018. The service, which is a part of the ministry’s strategy to enhance community health, provides more supervision in the approval of medicines being brought in by passengers through direct and indirect means. The service is activated via the creation of a profile on the ministry’s website, followed by the uploading of the required documents, which will be reviewed and approved within one working day by the ministry. The medicines will be checked at the country’s entry ports by a ministry inspector with the cooperation of customs.

A New $2-Billion Amusement Park Four Times The Size Of Disneyland Is Coming To Ohio 
Travelland leisure reports developers are about to break ground on a new amusement park outside of Columbus, Ohio. Planet Oasis Ohio is investing $2 billion in the park project, the Detroit Free Press reported. It will be built on 350 acres of land in Sunbury, or about four times the current size of Disneyland. “Planet Oasis is located in Ohio because it’s the center of the universe,” the park’s president, David Glimcher, said in a video. Ohio is already home to theme-park-fan-favorite Cedar Point, as well as Kings Island, outside of Cincinnati. The two amusement parks are some of the most popular in the country, attracting 3.6 million and 3.5 million visitors in 2017, respectively. Planet Oasis will have a wide range of activities, including classic amusement park attractions like roller coasters, rock walls, virtual reality, and a ferris wheel. There will also be sand beaches, snowboarding, BMX racing, skydiving, a salt water lake, retail outlets, and a butterfly museum. Construction is set to begin in December, and parts of the park could open as soon as 2019. 
An Airline Boss Who Rejects The Economy Crush
Airlineratings reports long-legged Korean Air chief executive Walter Cho is defying the push towards cramped economy seating by declaring he will not reduce the space between seats on his long-haul aircraft. Cho acknowledged during a media roundtable at the Association of Asia-Pacific Airlines’ Assembly of Presidents Friday that airlines could boost profitability by reducing seat pitch. But the lofty CEO said Korean believed customer service started with product and the airline always began with economy class, which was what mattered to the masses. “And …it’s not the taste of the food, it’s not the smile of the flight attendant, it’s the seat that’s most critical I believe,” he said. “We need to give them something that’s bearable for 14 hours of flight, some of our long hauls go more than 10 hours. “I’m a very tall guy and If I cannot fit in the seat we don’t put it in. Not to be colorful, but if I can fit and my knees don’t touch the front seat then it passes our standard.” Airlines in recent years have been cramming more seats into main cabins in an attempt to maximize revenues, arguing that people who want a more comfortable seat can pay extra. A number have introduced extra legroom seats in main cabins that attract a higher fare or an additional fee.
Walt Disney World Announces Nature-Themed Resort To Open in 2022
Guests and Disney Vacation Club members will have a new resort to enjoy in 2022. Walt Disney World has announced plans for a nature-themed mixed resort on Bay Lake. The property will be nestled between Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. Theming will match its surroundings as well as reflect Walt Disney’s love and respect for nature. This new location joins previously announced upcoming resort projects that will cumulatively add more than 1,700 new hotel rooms and villas to the “happiest place on Earth.” 
China To Put A ‘Fake Moon’ In The Night Sky By 2020
The Chinese government is planning to launch a “fake moon” into space in two years, and it could save that country hundreds of millions of dollars in annual electricity costs. The satellite is set to be launched into orbit about 310 miles above the city of Chengdu in 2020, and may have the power to entirely replace streetlights, The Daily Wire and others noted. This “moon” will actually be a satellite, an “illumination satellite,” featuring reflective panels that could make it eight times as bright as the real moon. The panels will catch and release light from the sun just as the moon does. This “moon” will reportedly be able to adjust its own brightness and limit or expand its coverage on the ground, which could range from 6 to 50 miles in diameter. The “moon” will also be able to aim light in different directions, which could be a “possible aid in times of disaster,” said The Daily Wire. Prior to launch, tests will be done “in an uninhabited desert” to see if the light could negatively affect the natural cycles of wildlife. Despite the announcement of environmental testing, some people are concerned about the potential light pollution caused by an artificial moon. “This potentially creates significant new environmental problems with what, at first, seems like a novel approach to an already solved problem,” said John Barentine, the director of public policy at the International Dark-Sky Association. Kang Weimin, director of the Institute of Optics at the Harbin Institute of Technology in Heilongjiang, China, said that the light of the satellite is more of a “dusk-like glow,” said Fox News, so it should not affect the welfare of animals. If the satellite is a success, China plans to launch three more in 2022 that could cover even more area. The cost of the project hasn’t been made public. 

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Travel News: Rising Seas Pose Imminent Threat to Dozens of Historical Sites Across the Med

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Rising Seas Pose Imminent Threat to Dozens of Historical Sites Across the Med

 Smithsonian Magazine reports Venetian canals, Phoenician port city of Tyre and Croatia’s Old City of Dubrovnik are among the sites at risk of Flooding. Venice, one of the cities most at risk, has already installed submerged floodgates aimed at combating flooding, but it’s one of the few to take such preventative action. The Mediterranean coast is dotted with a host of significant cultural sites. To name just a few, there’s Tyre, an ancient Phoenician port city once besieged by Alexander the Great, at the far eastern reaches of the sea. The Leaning Tower of Pisa and the waterlogged canals of Venice lie roughly opposite each other on the western and eastern Italian coasts. Across the Adriatic Sea, the picturesque streets of Croatia’s Old City of Dubrovnik earned them a starring role on “Game of Thrones,” and to the south, the Greek city of Ephesus boasts the ruins of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. But these landmarks are in trouble, among the 47 Unesco World Heritage sites identified along the Mediterranean’s coasts that face imminent flooding or erosion risks triggered by rising global sea levels. As Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis report for the Washington Post, a new study predicts that within the next 100 years, 37 of these world heritage sites could be significantly damaged by a 100-year storm surge event, while 42 are already threatened by coastal erosion. More information here. 

United Airlines: Still No Plan To Allow Free Carry-On Bag For Basic Economy Tickets

USA TODAY reports United Airlines will continue its ban on carry-on bags for travelers buying its cheaper basic economy tickets, despite a recent policy change by rival American Airlines. Basic economy, which United, American and Delta unveiled in the past few years to better compete with discounters including Spirit and Frontier, is working as designed and that there are no plans to change the bag policy. Delta Air Lines has allowed a standard carry-on bag with basic economy tickets from the start. American and United introduced their basic economy tickets with a carry-on bag ban. Travelers were allowed to bring only a personal item, such as a purse, backpack or laptop bag, that fit under the seat. All other bags had to be checked for a fee. Those who waited until they got to the gate were hit with standard bag fees plus a surcharge of $25.


Courtesy of Viking Cruises


Condé Nast Traveler Readers Name Viking The #1 River Cruise Line

Viking has again been voted the Best River Cruise Line by Condé Nast Traveler in the publication’s 2018 Readers’ Choice Awards. Viking has scored in the top of the list every year since the river cruise category was introduced. With the #1 winning score, Condé Nast Traveler readers voted Viking higher than any other cruise line for the second year in a row. Also, after only three years of operating ocean cruises, Viking was again named one of the Best Ocean Cruise Lines. More than 429,000 readers submitted millions of ratings and tens of thousands of comments as part of the 31st annual Readers’ Choice Awards survey. “We have always tried to do things differently. That means above all else, we focus on the destination, rather than gimmicks. It also means that we do not cater to everyone, we offer adults opportunities for learning and exploration around the world, with no children, no casinos, no umbrella drinks and no nickel-and-diming,” said Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking. “In a time where the biggest cruise ships tend to capture the most attention, we are proud that the Viking way of exploration is resonating so well with so many travelers.”


Milan Airport To Shut For Three Months Affecting Millions Traveling
UK Express reports Italy’s popular airport in Milan will be closed for three months in 2019 during the busiest season of the year, due to renovation works, affecting millions of passengers. Italy’s Milan Linate Airport is one of the busiest in the country, welcoming more than nine million passengers annually. In 2019, renovation projects have been planned for the airport to tarmac the single runway, according to airline news report OPSGROUP. This will mean the closure of the airport for three months between 27 July and 27 October. Those booking their holidays to Italy next year may need to find alternative routes.

WOW Air Service To Three Midwest Cities Axed 

USA TODAY reports WOW Air’s aggressive expansion into the US Heartland has run into turbulence. The Icelandic budget airline, known for offering one-way fares as low as $99 from the USA to Iceland and Europe, says it will ax service to three Midwestern cities. WOW’s flights from St. Louis will end Jan. 7 while seasonal service from Cincinnati and Cleveland will not resume next summer. The last flights from the Ohio cities will come later this month. 


Regent Seven Seas Adds Second Cuba Cruise 

Luxury cruise line Regent Seven Seas Cruises has added a second immersive Cuban voyage out of Miami after its newly introduced itinerary to the Caribbean island quickly sold out. The operator’s first voyage, which went on sale last month for a March 2019 sailing, offered four Cuban ports of call, three of which are overnight stays in Havana, Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos, plus a maiden call to Isla de la Juventud. After a surge in interest, a second voyage has been added, this time from October 22-November 1 2019 on board Seven Seas Mariner. It includes a full day and evening in Havana, plus overnight stays in Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos. Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ president and chief executive officer Jason Montague said: “Luxury travellers are demanding to experience Cuba in a deeper, more meaningful and culturally-relevant way. “Regent was the first North American luxury cruise line to sail to Cuba, and now we are offering luxury travelers truly immersive Cuban experiences in unique ports around the island in March and October 2019.”

Marriott And Sheraton Hotels In Hawaii On Strike 

Traveling to Hawaii and planning to stay at a Sheraton or Marriott Hotel in Hawaii on the Islands of Oahu or Maui? You may want to think again. More than 2700 Marriott hotel and resort staff workers, and members of Hawaii’s Hospitality and Healthcare Union Local 5 are on strike. Instead of telling guests the truth, Marriott doesn’t mention the situation on their websites, press statements, and communication experts simply are not reachable. Instead, the company just stopped accepting reservations for Hawaii at all their hotels. This is causing mass cancellations and means moving to other hotels paying skyrocket rates or diverting to the Caribbean altogether. Visitors have taken to social media to say their dream Hawaii vacation has turned into a nightmare, with no open restaurants, theme pools closed in their hotels and no housekeeping or laundry service. Meanwhile, hotels are putting out “help wanted” posts, offering bonuses to anyone willing to cross the picket lines.

Living in Hawaii not always means living in paradise for those residing in the 50th state. Many people in Hawaii work two jobs, they have to tolerate the highest rates on anything from food to transportation, they drive on some of the worst roads outside of Waikiki, Kaanapali or other resort areas.

At the same time, business is exploding in the travel and tourism industry. Hotels are full, airline rates for inter-island fares are the highest ever while all ferry service was pushed out by airlines running a monopoly on inter-island transportation. Hotels are sending their record profits to their mainland or overseas headquarters and more and more independent Hawaii businesses are giving room to new shiny stores and developments. Hawaii is losing its soul in many places. The hotels are giving charity contribution sending their unconsumed food to the homeless population to avoid the camping of homeless on their doorsteps. In percentage rates, Hawaii has the highest homeless population in the United States.


3 Philippine Islands Named Most Beautiful In Asia
Conde Nast reports the country has recently laid claim to the first three of this year’s top five most beautiful havens in Asia, with their awe-inspiring landscapes and Instagram-worthy sunsets. The 2018 Readers’ Choice Awards of lifestyle magazine Conde Nast Traveler, ranked surfing destination Siargao as the best island in Asia, followed by Boracay and Palawan in the second and third spot, respectively—for their white, sandy beaches, gorgeous sunsets, thriving nightlife scene and its own UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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