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Reinventing the Taj Brand

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Raymond Bickson, chief executive and managing director of the luxury chain Taj Hotels, Resorts, and Palaces, gave a master class in hotel branding to a select group of CEOs yesterday. It's a story that few have heard: how that company regrouped, rebounded, and reinvented itself in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack that killed scores of people and nearly destroyed the iconic Taj Mahal Palace Hotel (above).

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Taste the Whisky on Your Tonga


The latest Canadian Club "Hide A Case" competition is now underway—without me. As you might remember from an item posted here last year, the company has hidden dozens of cases of Canadian Club in exotic locales around the world since 1967; most of them were discovered by adventurers thanks to the distillery's clues printed in magazine advertisements. Now four Americans and four Canadians have solved the latest series of clues and are headed for the island-nation of Tonga, where one of the few remaining hidden cases of C.C. whisky—and a check for $100,000—awaits the person who discovers the exact location.

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TODAY Show: Spring Break for Baby Boomers

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

From drag-racing in the desert to witnessing the Grey Whale migration in Baja, these trips offer the adventure of a lifetime.

Mark Orwoll is the international editor at Travel + Leisure.

Hopeful Sign: The Return of Japan Airlines' Beloved Logo

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Starbucks' recent logo change to a more minimalistic design is just the latest outburst of an unfortunate trend that has caused the demise of too many strong, recognizable logos, including many in the travel industry. In recent years we've seen Holiday Inn lose its charmingly clunky script logo in favor a cartoonish letter H against a field of lime green. Effect? Meh. Hertz dropped its familiar shadow and added a background of yellow, lots and lots of yellow. Expedia eliminated its funky old airplane and replaced it with shimmering bands of light that make one pause and think, "Is that supposed to be an airplane?" And Hotels.com killed off bag-totting Benny the Bellhop because...because...who the heck knows? Personally, I miss Benny.

But at least one travel company has seen the error of its ways.

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Attention Cat Lovers: Don't Book the Fourth Floor

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The New Yorker Hotel in Midtown Manhattan considers itself a pet-friendly property, but management is kicking it up a notch to coincide with the canine Oscars: the annual Westminster Dog Show. The hound-happy hotel's fourth floor will be transformed into a puppy paradise February 10–14. Guests will pay an additional $50 per pooch for access to doggie treadmills, a grooming station, and "a specially designed potty area," which I am pretty sure is just for the dogs, not the owners. A highlight of the hotel's Bowser weekend will be the Big City Little Dog Fashion Show and Cocktail Party on February 11 ($25), which is great if you like to get tipsy and watch poodles parade around in booties and berets.


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Smart Traveler Mark Orwoll is the International Editor of Travel + Leisure.

Photo courtesy of Jog A Dog.

Cruise Line Defends Captain's Actions in Mediterranean Incident

Royal Caribbean International made a smart move yesterday by posting a Youtube video from Captain William S. Wright, the cruise line's senior vice president of marine operations. The post follows the "serious incident" on Sunday involving the line's Brilliance of the Seas, which was rocked by 70-knot winds and "very, very large" waves in the Mediterranean en route to Alexandria, Egypt. Some 60 passengers were hurt; injuries were mostly minor, according to Wright.

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Cardboard Czech Cops Cause Crashes

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Those nutty Czechs are at it again. First it was the Velvet Revolution in the 80s. Then it was Prague as hipster-expat HQ in the 90s. And now it's cardboard cops in miniskirts.

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Look, Up in the Sky! It's a Bird... It's a Plane... Yes, It's a Plane...

My editor calls it "plane porn"; the GE Show calls it "Paths of Flight." I just call it beautiful.

In support of GE Aviation's efforts to help develop the next generation of U.S. airspace in association with the FAA, a video production team filmed 24 hours' worth of footage showing planes landing and taking off. The resulting one-minute 49-second video, which uses multiple images of individual planes to present a new perspective on flight paths, is nothing short of amazing. Astonishingly, there's no CG animation.

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FAA Plans to Ease Thanksgiving Air Travel Delays

Air traffic may be a little less congested this Thanksgiving holiday period as the FAA, in cooperation with the Defense Department, said it will allow commercial flights in otherwise restricted military airspace beginning at 6 a.m. Tuesday, November 23, a day earlier than last year.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced this morning that the Defense Department will open airspace over such highly congested areas as the East Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Southwest. Normal inland routes can continue to be used, according to the FAA.

The busiest Thanksgiving travel days are expected to be Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday. Normal airspace restrictions will go back into effect at 6 a.m. Monday, November 29.

The announcement comes on the heels of new security procedures at the nation's airports. Passengers are routinely being required to pass through a controversial backscatter full body scanner or to undergo a thorough, some say invasive, pat down by a TSA agent. Whether the FAA's plan to ease air congestion this holiday period is enough to ease any passenger anxiety over the enhanced security methods is still up in the air.

Smart Traveler Mark Orwoll is the International Editor of Travel + Leisure.

UNESCO's Dubious Intangible Culture Awards

It's even better than reading The Onion. The UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage has just released its latest list of cultural practices worth preserving. While some of them are obvious choices (French gastronomy, flamenco), others are certain to leave you baffled—and perhaps even asking, "Do we really want to preserve some of these things?!" Once you read the list, you'll be left wondering why they forgot to add goldfish swallowing, 1K charity walks, and the Macarena.

Here are some doozies from the 2010 list, along with our 10-point Intangible Rating Scale (IRS) score and commentary:

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