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This Week in Travel News

Join us every Friday for the latest news from the Travel Industry.

Chinese HNA Group To Buy Carlson Hotels
HNA Group has agreed to buy Carlson Hotels, which owns brands including Radisson and Country Inns and Suites, the latest in a flurry of overseas investments by Chinese companies. HNA Tourism Group will acquire all of Carlson Hotels Inc., the companies said in a joint statement released late Wednesday that did not disclose the purchase price. Carlson’s headquarters would remain in Minnetonka, Minn., after the deal is completed. The purchase is the latest in a string of global transactions by Chinese companies as they diversify abroad to counter slowing growth at home while also scooping up foreign expertise and technology. As part of the deal, the Chinese company will also acquire a 51.3 percent stake in Brussels-based Rezidor Hotel Group AB, which operates Carlson hotels in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Carlson has 1,400 hotels in 115 countries and territories and employs about 90,000 staff worldwide. The deal is subject to regulatory approvals and is expected to be completed in the second half of 2016.

JetBlue To Launch NY LaGuardia-Boston Flights, Aiming At Business Travelers
Reuters reports JetBlue Airways Corp said Thursday that it will start six round-trip flights per weekday between New York’s space-constrained LaGuardia airport and Boston, in a bid to capture business travelers on the heavily trafficked route. JetBlue said it would move some of its LaGuardia-Florida flights to nearby Newark Liberty airport in order to free up take-off slots for the endeavor, now that the US Federal Aviation Administration has made it easier for airlines to grow at Newark.

United Airlines Cutting Chicago To London Flights June 30
The airline has been flying the route for the past seven years. United gave no warning and has not formally announced the cancellation. Travellers only found out last week when told by airport counter staff and when the United website would not book direct London-Toronto flights past June 30. A United spokesperson said last week the Chicago-London route was canceled because a regular review found it was “not meeting expectations.” London International Airport president Mike Seabrook said United was cutting a number of Canadian services because the low Canadian dollar was making the flights unprofitable.

Her Majesty Queen Máxima Of The Netherlands Named Godmother Of Koningsdam
Holland America Line’s tradition will continue when Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands christens Holland America Line’s new Pinnacle-class ship, Koningsdam, in a ceremony in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, May 20, 2016. embers of the Dutch Royal Family have launched 11 Holland America Line ships. Most recently, then-Princess Máxima christened ms Nieuw Amsterdam in 2010 and then-Queen Beatrix served as ms Eurodam’s godmother in 2008.

London’s Big Ben To Go Silent For Several Years
The British Parliament announced Tuesday that the chimes of Big Ben that have rung out across the British capital for more than 150 years are set to fall silent for “several months” to make “urgent” repairs. Big Ben is one of London’s most famous icons, and its “bongs” are broadcast live on BBC Radio. Urgent repairs are needed on the Great Clock and the tower that houses Big Ben. While almost everyone refers to the clock tower as “Big Ben,” that’s not technically true. Big Ben is the nickname given to the 13.5-ton bell that resides inside the Elizabeth Tower. The clock itself is known as the Great Clock.

Anne Frank House In Amsterdam Aims To Cut Queues With Timed Tickets
The Anne Frank House is introducing a new timed ticketing system to reduce the length of queues outside one of Amsterdam’s most popular tourist attractions. Visitors who want to see the museum before 3.30 pm will have to book their tickets online before they go. They will be allocated a 15-minute time slot so they can go in without having to wait outside. After 3.30 pm tourists will be able to pay at the desk as before and pre-purchased tickets will not be valid.

Australians Sue Scenic Over Flood-Disrupted European River Cruises
A class action against Australian-owned Scenic has begun in the New South Wales Supreme Court with 1,265 plaintiffs claiming ‘expensive luxury river cruises’ turned into ‘cheap second-rate bus tours’ because of extensive flooding in Europe in 2013. Heavy rain in France and Germany in April and May 2013 caused extensive flooding and water levels on the Rhine, Saone, Rhone and Danube rivers rose so high that river cruise ships were unable to operate as scheduled for about six weeks.

Biggest Theme Park In The Dubai Region To Open In October
It’s been two years in the making, but Motiongate Dubai’s development is on schedule; it will open its doors as the biggest theme park in the region this October. Motiongate is a park themed to DreamWorks, Sony Pictures, Lionsgate, Smurfs Village and Studio Central animation characters emerged to take the form of Dubai’s newest leisure and entertainment destination in 2014. Motiongate Dubai will be part of a larger complex of theme parks, which will include Bollywood Parks Dubai and Legoland Dubai. The entire complex will estimated to cost Dh10.5 billion that will cover 25 million square feet on the south side of Dubai near the border with Abu Dhabi. The complex is expected to attract 6.7 million visitors in its first year of operations. Motiongate Dubai will boast 27 attractions, with dining, retail and entertainment options throughout the area.

British Airways Takes on Budget Carriers With New Fares
British Airways has launched new fares in a bid to simplify short-haul travel and compete with its low-cost rivals. There are three new fare types – Basic, Plus and Plus Flex are now on sale, replacing the airline’s six existing options. Basic is the cheapest of the new fares and doesn’t include checked luggage. The new Plus fare includes a 23kg checked baggage allowance and allows free flight changes until the day of departure, up to one hour before the scheduled take off, though fare differences may apply. The Plus Flex fare, meanwhile, is fully refundable and includes a 23kg checked baggage allowance, free flight changes on the day, free seat selection at booking and free advance changes subject to fare difference.

Delta Air Lines Just Abolished One of the Most Hated Fees
Delta Air Lines has abruptly stopped charging extra for booking seats offline. “It is much simpler for our customers to not have to worry if they will pay a fee for ticketing with Delta,” Glen Hauenstein, Delta’s incoming president, said in a prepared statement. Phone reservation fees are among the most least popular charges in the travel industry. A recent survey found 49% of travelers “hated” them. The announcement came as a surprise, given that the airline industry lately has based its business model on ancillary fees, like these: $25 per ticket when purchased over the phone through reservation sales and $35 per ticket when purchased at airports and other ticket office.

Venezuela To Ration Electricity
On 21 April 2016, the Venezuelan government announced that it will begin rationing electricity nationwide for four hours each day, starting on 25 April. The electricity cuts will be in place for 40 days or until water levels at the Guri Dam, which provides the majority of electricity in Venezuela, stabilize. The schedule of cuts will be published on a daily basis in newspapers and on ministerial websites. Only the oil sector will be exempt from the rationing. The announcement is the latest in a series of measures aimed at reducing Venezuela’s electricity usage, including plans to shift the country’s time zone forward by 30 minutes on 1 May, reducing government workers’ workdays to six hours and giving them Fridays off for the next two months, and ordering shops and hotels to ration electricity.

Germany Rolls Out ‘Women Only’ Train Compartments
Special train compartments exclusively for women have been introduced by a German rail company. The areas for female passengers only are regularly checked by workers on services run by Mitteldeutsche Regiobahn (MRB) in the east of the country. Women-only train cars are in use in many cities – including Cairo, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur – but none are believed to be in the heart of Europe. Now, in a highly controversial decision, a private German railway company wants to adopt the idea as well. According to Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, women-only carriages will be available on trains running between Leipzig and Chemnitz.

FAA Orders Fix For GE Engines On 787 Dreamliners
Another problem for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The FAA has ordered an urgent fix for General Electric engines on up to 150 Boeing 787 Dreamliners, a step to avoid engine failure in icy conditions. The Federal Aviation Administration said it was requiring modifications to prevent fan blades from rubbing against the engine casing, which can cause “damage and a possible in-flight non-restartable power loss of one or both engines.” The measure was prompted by a report in January that such rubbing caused vibrations, leading the pilot to shut down the engine, a GE spokesman said.

Maryland And Royal Caribbean Sign New Contract
The Maryland Port Administration announced a new contract with Royal Caribbean International that will extend the cruise line’s year-round departures from the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore through June 2020. Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas will continue to offer a wide range of cruising experiences from Maryland to the Bahamas, Bermuda, the Caribbean, and New England/Canada. The Grandeur of the Seas will continue offering five, nine and 12-night roundtrip itineraries from Baltimore, including a new nine-night voyage to Nassau. In 2015, nearly 200,000 passengers sailed on 90 cruises from the Port of Baltimore. The Port ranks 6th on the East Coast, 11th in the U.S. and 20th in the world for cruise passengers.

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On the Ground in Dubai!

Last January 2013, WIT Agent Pam Davis took the nonstop flight from Seattle on Emirates Airlines to the luxury city of Dubai. With the airline expanding new ports all over the world, it’s not uncommon that your trip to Russia or Africa is going to have a forced overnight in Dubai! Why not attach an extension on your trip to explore the Arab World? Check out the details in our On the Ground with Pam.

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Dubai is a fascinating destination. The country is part of the United Arab Emirates—there are seven different emirates which have banded together. The largest of these are Abu Dhabi, the capital, and Dubai. Abu Dhabi has more oil resources while the economy of Dubai is based more on business and tourism.

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Dubai is a country of superlatives. They have the largest shopping mall in the world (complete with an indoor ski slope!), and the Burj Khalifa which is the tallest building in the world (I went to the top in the fastest elevator in the world – it took 30 seconds to climb 125 floors to an observation tower). Everything seems over-the-top. Hotels are opulent, and Dubai 962construction seems to be going on everywhere. I stayed at the Atlantis Hotel, located at the top end of Palm Island,a man-made series of sand islands that jut out into the gulf and from the air look like a palm tree. Even the public transportation is luxurious—the metro line has first and second class cars; the first class cars have leather seats, and each train has a separate car designated for women and children only. There are special pink taxis with women drivers, also designated for women and children.

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The population of the emirate is now 75% expatriate—local citizens represent only 25% of the population. Most of the people are workers who come from India and the Philippines, with some Europeans and Americans who work for foreign companies. The locals have some extraordinary benefits— free housing (and it looks very nice), free education (even at foreign schools), and no income tax. No wonder they love Sheik Mohammed, the hereditary ruler. While the resort hotels accept Western-style dress, much of the country is still somewhat conservative. Men wear traditional white robes, and women wear black burkas which are basically robes covering street clothing when out in public. Inside the shopping malls are uniformed women who patrol the corridors, passing out dress code requests for women whose skirts or sleeves are deemed too short.

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Dubai is on the edge of the desert, and while there I was able to go 4-wheeling in the desert dunes, a Dubai 935popular pastime for tourists and a good contrast to the city and beaches. The service on Emirates Airlines was excellent, and they have an extensive route system connecting their Seattle gateway with the Middle East, Asia and Africa. They also have some good stopover packages—with a 3 or 4 night stay en route to another destination, you can experience much of what Dubai has to offer.

WIT Agent Pam would love to share with you more of her firsthand tips from Dubai! Call her at 503-224-0180 for more information on Dubai or Emirates. 

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Dubai

This weekend our agent Pam is in Dubai, escorted and hosted by the world-renown airline Emirates. She’s coming back next week, and we can’t wait for her report! Today we’re taking a closer look at the popular city-state.

photo by Shenli Leong, Creative Commons

Dubai has boomed as a major destination in the past 10 years, and these days draws tourists and business travelers from all across the globe. There’s a plethora of sights, enchanting landscapes and luxury attractions for every type of traveler to enjoy. Here are some top sights:

–         Experience the old Bastakiya Quarter and cultural centers: the Al Fahidi Fort, the Dubai Museum, the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, and the Jumeirah Mosque

–         Head over to the Abra Dock and ride in a wooden boat taxi for a memorable cruise

–         Wander the souqs, marketplaces of spices, textiles, perfumes and jewelry

photo by Emmanuel Eragne, Creative Commons

–         View the Dubai Fountain, in Burj Khalifa Lake. The fountain, designed by the creators of the Fountains of the Bellagio, shoots water up to 500 feet!

–         Visit the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, which stands at 2,722 feet.

–         Fancy a break from the desert? Head over to the Dubai Mall of the Emirates, to Ski Dubai, the world’s third largest indoor ski slope. Complete with trainers, a chair life and t-bar, ski down 6,000 tons of snow to your heart’s delight.

–         Head out of the city and enjoy sandy beaches, striking deserts, water slides, golf, and a hot air balloon ride. Who knows—you may be able to catch a camel race in the winter.

–        Ride on the sand with professional guides and go dune-bashing

photo by Robert Young, Creative Commons

Interested in a vacation to Dubai? Whether you’re a luxury or adventurous traveler, we can help you plan your ideal vacation. Just passing through? Emirates connects the world with top destinations in Africa and Asia. Willamette Intl Travel regularly books tourists heading to safaris in Kenya or conferences in Hyderabad.

Emirates flies a nonstop from Seattle and other major U.S. hubs to Dubai. Call Willamette Intl Travel for the best times/dates to fly! Call 503.224.0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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WIT Agent off to Dubai, UAE

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Our agent Pam is heading out tomorrow to Dubai on our vendor Emirates. She will depart on January 31 from Seattle on the nonstop to Dubai, and return on Feb 4.

Her outbound and return flights will be on the Boeing 777-200LR, and will be approximately 14 hours and 30 minutes. There are private suites in first class, and lie-flat seats in business class. All seats feature ice, the award-winning inflight entertainment system, offering up to 1,200 channels. We regularly book our clients in first and business class, and recommend these highly.

Emirates is currently the fastest-growing Middle Eastern airline. They stirred up some excitement for travelers when they announced a direct flight between Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and Dubai on March 1, 2011. Emirates flies to more than 100 destinations from Dubai, including Islamabad, Delhi, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Bangkok, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh, Manila, Nairobi, Seychelles, Johannesburg and Dakar.

Pam will do three nights in Dubai with her Emirates hosts, seeing beautiful Dubai, the world’s tallest building, and learning the ins and outs of the airline and the city. She’ll travel with a local guide and discover this urban jewel of the Arabian desert, and it’s world-class service and attractions.

This is a terrific opportunity to see the inside workings of an airline—so stay tuned for her report!

Willamette Intl Travel can connect you with contract fares on Emirates to hot destinations in Africa, Arabia and Asia! We work side by side with our Emirates representatives to ensure you have an exceptional travel experience. Traveling first or business class? Emirates offers some incredible high-end classes at low-end rates! Call us today at 503.224.0180 or email info@witravel.com.

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