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Travel News: Hawaii Hikes Hotel Tax To Pay For Honolulu Rail Transit

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Hawaii Hikes Hotel Tax To Pay For Honolulu Rail Transit

ETN reports Hawaii Tourism Authority issued the following Travel Industry Notification RE: 1% Transient Accommodations Tax Increase Takes Effect January 1, 2018: Please be advised that, effective January 1, 2018, the Transient Accommodations Tax (TAT) applied to lodging accommodations in the State of Hawaii will be increased by 1%, raising the TAT from its current rate of 9.25% to 10.25%. This increase is scheduled to stay in effect until December 31, 2030. The TAT increase is being put into effect to help pay for Honolulu’s rapid transit system that is currently under construction. The light metro rail system will extend 20 miles from Kapolei in Leeward Oahu to Ala Moana Center in Honolulu with 21 stations along the way, including the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, the State of Hawaii’s main port of entry for air transportation. Following is a summary of State taxes that will be applied by lodging properties statewide when the 1% TAT increase takes effect on January 1, 2018:

New Features For Symphony Of The Seas

Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas is getting a real makeover!

  • two-level Ultimate Family Suites with a slide, floor-to-ceiling LEGO wall, air-hockey table and the surround-sound movie room with its own popcorn machine and a library of video games – and 212-sq-foot wrap-around balcony with full-size whirlpool and bumper pool table
  • New ‘friction-less’ mobile check-in.
  • A reimagined Boardwalk with a massive Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade, spanning the length of the neighborhood, will be a family magnet with more than 30 televisions, arcade games (video and vintage, like ‘Pac-Man’), draft craft beers, wings and burgers,
  • A redesigned Solarium offering a casual seafood spot, including oysters shucked to order, for lunch and dinner in a casual venue with great views,
  • The world’s largest laser tag arena,  housed in the Studio B ice rink that will be converted for this glow-in-the- dark family activity,
  • Broadway hit ‘Hairspray.’ And a new original ice show, ‘1977,’ features a time-traveling hero on a jewel-heist adventure.

The ship will debut April 18 with weeklong cruises from Barcelona before repositioning to PortMiami’s new Terminal A in November as the first Oasis-class vessel to sail from the ‘Cruise Capital of the World.’ This puts four Oasis-class ships in Florida ports including, also, Port Everglades and Port Canaveral.

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Virgin America Days Are Numbered

Virgin America will cease to exist on April 25, 2018, when all of the airline’s flights will switch over to Alaska Airlines, according to an internal memo. After acquiring Virgin America for $2.6 billion in 2016, Alaska has slowly been rebranding the 10-year-old airline, replacing some signage and ticket counters in airports, with plans to completely rebrand the airline by 2019, AirlineGeeks reported. For fans of the airline, the upcoming disappearance of Virgin America is even more of a reality with the latest announcement. According to the Alaska Airlines internal memo obtained by FlightGlobal, “Alaska Airlines has posted the new Airbus schedule for flights after April 24. The flights will be Alaska flights and will only be available through Alaska channels.” Travelers attempting to book a flight after April 24, 2018 on VirginAmerica.com will be redirected to AlaskaAir.com. On April 25, both airlines will become one in terms of website, mobile app, and ticket kiosks, and will be solely run by Alaska.

Grand Turk Rebounding After Hurricanes, Port To Open In November

Work is full tilt at Carnival Corp. & plc’s Grand Turk Cruise Center to restore the destination to receive ships in November. Carnival Cruise Line has confirmed seven sailings to call next month: Carnival Magic’s Nov. 4 cruise from Port Canaveral, Carnival Ecstasy’s Nov. 5 cruise from Charleston, Carnival Splendor’s Nov. 5 and Nov. 19 voyages from Miami, Carnival Glory’s Nov. 11 and Nov. 25 sailings from Miami and Carnival Conquest’s Nov. 25 cruise from Port Everglades. Further calls are booked in December. The Turks and Caicos Islands sustained a one-two punch from hurricanes Irma and Maria, and Grand Turk was among the hard-hit destinations. However, a senior Carnival Corp. official told Seatrade Cruise News the pier is fine and work is going 24/7 to restore landside facilities and tours. The cruise pier did not suffer any damage while the cruise center facility suffered mostly cosmetic damages and loss of some landscaping. The Carnival Cruise Line shore excursions team and local tour operators, have undertaken their own recovery efforts in gearing up to welcome back passengers. Marc Melville, director of Jamaica-based Chukka tours, which has a staff of about 100 on Grand Turk, as well as sizable operations in Jamaica and Belize, said the message to cruisers is that once Grand Turk reopens: ‘We need you to come back as soon as possible.’

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Travel News: Virgin America to be retired in 2019

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Mount Etna Eruptions

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office has issued a travel alert warning travelers that Italy’s Mount Etna has been erupting with increasing frequency. The warning comes after tourists suffered minor injuries at the active volcano in Sicily. A BBC camera crew on the mountain filmed a big explosion which pelted a group with boiling rocks and steam. About eight people were injured and some had to be evacuated by mountain rescue teams after lava flow mixed with steam triggered the blast. According to BBC science reporter Rebecca Morelle, a volcanologist at the scene said it was the most dangerous incident he had seen in his 30-year-career. Travelers are advised to visit the Italian Civil Protection website for more information. 

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Virgin America to be retired in 2019

Alaska Airlines Group has announced that the Virgin America brand will be retired in 2019. “While the Virgin America name is beloved to many,” Alaska VP of Marketing Sangita Woerner said. “We concluded that to be successful on the West Coast we had to do so under one name – for consistency and efficiency, and to allow us to continue to deliver low fares.” Last December, Alaska Airlines completed the $2.6 billion acquisition of Virgin America, and Alaska Airlines is now the nation’s fifth largest – behind American, Delta, United, and Southwest. According to Alaska, it plans to overhaul its operation to give passengers a more “Virgin-esque” experience that VA is currently admired for: a new satellite-based wifi system, free inflight movies, redesigned interiors with mood lighting, more stylish crew uniforms, upgraded airport lounges, more premium seating, and more complimentary upgrades.

NCL Raising Cost Of Gratuities

Norwegian Cruise Line is raising gratuities on April 1st from $13.50 per person, per day, to $13.99, on all ships except the Norwegian Sky. Daily gratuities for standard cabins on the Norwegian Sky will increase to $18.99 (an increase over 40%). NCL will increase daily gratuities for suites from $15.50 to $16.99 on all of its ships except for the Sky where it will charge $21.99. 

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Tahiti Embarks on 2020 Plan, New Cruise Terminal

Tahiti Tourism is embarking on an $8 million international cruise terminal project due for completion in 2020. The terminal will be located in the center of Papeete and will accommodate up to three ships simultaneously and 2,000 turnaround passengers. The North Pier will measure 300 meters in length; the South Pier 350 meters.

There are no cabotage rules governing Tahiti so cruise ships can sail a more varied itinerary among Tahiti’s 118 islands. Planned amenities include an aerial walk, luggage room, check-in counters, waiting room, duty free, snack bar/café and reservations facilities. Concurrently, Papeete is planning a $12 million upgrade of its airport which is 3 km from the cruise port. Upon completion of the upgrade the airport will be able to accommodate three departures (up to 950 passengers) at the same time.  

Panama Canal to Introduce New Scheduling System

Ships in the Panama CanalQuintiq said that its software has been selected by the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) to plan, schedule and optimize all vessels transit operations through the Canal “to reduce costs, improve safety and increase overall efficiency and reliability. This system will help carry that legacy forward, allowing us to tap the potential of technology to provide better solutions for our customers as we increasingly manage more transits and adapt to shifts in global trade.” Quintig is a Dassault Systèmes brand. The Quintiq solution will change how the Panama Canal plans and schedules transit operations. For the first time, the Canal will be able to execute a completely integrated operating plan for all of its critical resources, including tugboats, pilots and line handlers. The new solution will impact shippers looking to transit the waterway by shortening vessel waiting times, increasing the number of potentially available vessel slots each day and improving the overall reliability of the route. Quintiq will be fully integrated into Canal operations over the course of the next two years. 

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World’s First Ship Tunnel To Be Built In Norway

Norway has approved the financing of an ambitious project to build the world’s first full-size tunnel for ships. The tunnel will be 45 meters high, 36 meters wide and 1.7 kilometers long, and be constructed through the Stad peninsula on the west coast of Norway. The tunnel will be designed to accommodate 16,000-tonne cargo and passenger ships with a draft up to 12 meters. The tunnel will provide a safe journey around Stad, laying the foundation for the region’s industrial development and establishment as a world-class tourist destination. The tunnel will allow up to 120 vessels to travel under a mountain rather than navigate the dangerous waters of the Stadhavet Sea, which experiences about 100 storm days annually. At least 33 people have lost their lives in the area since the end of the Second World War, according to reports. The project is expected to take a decade to complete. 

 Canada Looks At Joining US And Britain On Electronics Ban For Flights 

The Globe and Mail reports Transport Minister Marc Garneau says Canada is evaluating intelligence passed on by the United States to determine if it should require passengers traveling from some Middle East countries to pack all large electronic devices other than mobile cellphones in their checked baggage. US Homeland Secretary John Kelly spoke by telephone Tuesday with Mr. Garneau to explain why the Trump administration has ruled that only cellphones and smartphones will be allowed in the passenger cabin of flights into the United States from 10 airports in eight Muslim-majority countries. Mr. Garneau would not say what type of security threat the Americans are concerned about, but it was reported by The New York Times that intelligence showed Islamic State is developing a bomb hidden in portable electronics. 

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Is Economy Plus Really Worth It?

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Heard of Economy Plus or Economy Comfort but not sure what it means?

Economy Plus or Economy Comfort (both terms are correct and interchangeable, which term utilized depends on the airline) is the front section of economy/coach class that typically offers more comfortable seats. If you have purchased economy class on a flight, you are eligible to purchase one of these “plus” seats, at anywhere from $20-$120. International seats are typically more expensive than domestic seats.

Though generally not as cozy or as serviced as business/first class, this special seating offers more comfort to take the edge off a long flight. Understandably, many of our clients prefer this seating on long-haul international flights. Note that Economy Plus seats are NOT available with all airlines or on all airplanes. Delta, United, Virgin America, Frontier and JetBlue all offer economy plus/comfort on select flights.

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Economy Plus/Comfort CAN (but are not guaranteed to) include:

  • up to 1-2 extra inches of seat width
  • up to 2-3 extra inches of seat recline
  • up to 3-4 extra inches of legroom
  • Premium food service
  • Priority boarding
  • Seating in the first few rows of the economy cabin

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Don’t Confuse Economy Plus/Comfort with Premium Economy, which is a separate section–seats between Economy and Business/First. Premium Economy is only offered on select airlines, and can offer even more benefits at a different fare level.

Some airlines, such as United, allows complimentary access to Economy Plus seating for their Premier members and up to 8 of their traveling companions.

United Airlines is now offering an economy plus annual subscription, which automatically upgrades your seat to one on economy plus if available. If you do more than two international trips per year, it’s definitely worth it. The subscription also provides for two checked bags per flight for the subscriber and up to 8 companions. For more information and to book, check it out on United’s website.

This is just one of the insider tips that travel agents can offer. Ask your Willamette Intl Travel agent to book the best flights with guaranteed economy plus/comfort for you and your family. Call 800-821-0401 or email info@wittravel.com.

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