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Travel Trends from Day Two of ILTM Summit in Cannes

Day Two of the International Luxury Travel Market was a busy one for the almost 3,000 exhibitors and attendees roaming the Palais des Festivals, in Cannes. We checked in with a handful of industry leaders, including A-List agent Jack Ezon of Ovation Vacations and T+L's editor-in-chief, Nancy Novogrod, for their thoughts on this year's travel trends.

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Sarah Spagnolo is special correspondent & new media editor at Travel + Leisure.

Roomer: A New (Discounted) Market for Hotel Rooms

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Think of it as the StubHub for hotel rooms: with new site Roomer.com, travelers are able to offload non-refundable reservations onto anyone looking for a good deal. Unlike the ticket scalping site, bookings are re-sold at a discount—and often a steep one. On a recent search, we found half-priced rooms at the Four Seasons and Mandarin Oriental Miami, as well as rooms under $100 in New York City (yes, seriously). Here’s how it works: those looking to book simply browse through Roomer’s search engine and pick where they’d like to spend a night (or more). Each reservation must stick to the same dates as the original booking—one key downside—but Roomer takes care of transferring the reservation details to your name and credit card. We love the way the site puts the “current market value” next to your discounted price on numerous listings—it’s that kind of data that really gets a bargain hunter going!

Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

Photo courtesy of Roomer

Are Bitcoins the Travel Currency of the Future?

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We here at T+L have been reading a lot about Bitcoins lately.

The virtual currency—unaffiliated with national institutions and easily traded anonymously—has seen its value skyrocket to over $1,000 per “coin.” Whispers abound of a potential bubble (remember Tulipmania?). Today those whispers turned to full on warnings, when Chinese banks instructed financial institutions not to trade in the digital money. Yet while the news briefly caused the prices to tumble, they're once again on the rise.

Bubble or no bubble, it seems likely that digital money is here to stay. And the travel industry is helping.

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TSA's Precheck Program Opens to the Public

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The Transportation Security Administration (a.k.a. TSA) is opening its first Precheck enrollment center, at the Indianapolis International Airport today. Until now, PreCheck has been available only to loyalty-program members of the TSA's partner airlines and people enrolled in one of U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Trusted Traveler programs, such as Global Entry. Today marks the first time any traveler, regardless of frequent-flier status, can sign up to get expedited security privileges. All you need is $85 (which covers five years), proof of citizenship (though not necessarily a passport), and a little extra time at the airport. The TSA plans to roll out an additional 300 such centers by spring 2014—with the next ones coming to New York City, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@timeinc.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.

Photo credit: iStockphoto

Insider Travel News From Day One of the ILTM Summit

This week, travel industry leaders descend on Cannes, France for the International Luxury Travel Marketplace (ILTM). The networking event is one of the largest of the year for the travel market; it's estimated that more than 57,000 meetings will take place between hotel groups, destinations, tour operators, travel agents and the media, including Travel + Leisure editors. In the interview chair? Jill Taylor and Lindsey Woodcock of Jet Set World Travel and Royal Monceau Raffles Paris general manager Omer Acar.

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 Sarah Spagnolo is special correspondent & new media editor at Travel + Leisure.

TSA Has Over $500,000 in Forgotten Pocket Change from 2012

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In fiscal 2012, travelers left $531,000 in pennies, nickels, and dimes at airport security checkpoints, according the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Nearly 95% of the loose change collected came from domestic flights, with $22,000 coming from LAX alone. Altogether, the TSA has amassed over $2 million in the last five years.

What is the TSA planning on doing with all the money?

Currently it sits mostly untouched in an “aviation security fund,” but Florida representative Jeff Miller last week issued a committee report recommending the unused coins go toward upgraded travel amenities for members of the U.S. military and their families while traveling.

Congress is set to vote later this week on Miller's bill.

Peter Schlesinger is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure, and a member of the Trip Doctor News Team. You can follow him on Twitter at @pschles08.

Photo credit: iStockphoto

Puerto Rico's Bioluminescent Lagoon Goes Oddly Dark

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Aside from Disney World, I wouldn't normally call a destination magical—but Puerto Rico’s bioluminescent Grand Lagoon comes pretty close. Unfortunately, the popular Fajardo tourist destination has gone strangely dark. Visitors come to swim or kayak through the waters to witness a trail of sparkling green light appear. The glow is caused when dinoflagettlates (microscopic plankton) are disturbed, giving off light they’ve collected during the day. But since November 11, tour operators have been forced to cancel excursions and reimburse disappointed guests.

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Travel to Thailand Okay Despite Clashes in Bangkok, According to U.S. State Department

Political demonstrations in Bangkok took a violent turn this weekend, as anti-government groups clashed with government supporters and riot police. The ongoing protests need not affect travelers' plans to Thailand as of yet, however, according to local sources and the U.S. Department of State.

In an official statement yesterday, the State Department recommends US citizens join the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which provides security updates and makes it easier for the embassy to contact enrollees during emergencies. It also urges travelers to steer clear of the demonstrations and exercise caution in the vicinity of any large gatherings. Significantly, the statement does not go so far as to suggest individuals cancel their travel plans.

Local hotels are open for business, as are most major sites in the city. Outside of Bangkok, popular areas such as Chiang Mai are unaffected by the clashes.

Pat O'Connell, a T+L A-List Agent with Asia Transpacific Journeys, reports that travel to and around Thailand has not been significantly impacted by the protests. Allowing more time for airport transfers has been the only effect to date, although the company's on-the-ground staff is monitoring the situation closely.

The demonstrations have left at least 4 protesters dead and scores more injured. Anti-government activists want Ms. Shinawatra out of office, alleging that her brother, and ousted former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra is leading the country behind the scenes from exile.

It is unclear whether the protests will calm down in time for the Thai King's birthday this Thursday.

We here at T+L share the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok's hope for a peaceful resolution, and will follow the situation closely. For up-to-the-minute news, follow the embassy on Twitter.

 

Peter Schlesinger is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure, and a member of the Trip Doctor news team. You can follow him on Twitter at @pschles08.

FCC Gets On Board With In-Flight Phone Calls

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The days of shutting down cell phones from takeoff to landing may soon be behind us. Next month, the Federal Communications Commission will address the proposal to lift the ban on in-flight phone use, which they call “outdated” and “restrictive.”

Now that long-standing safety concerns have been debunked, the FCC is looking to join France, the UAE, Singapore, and a number of other countries already allowing in-flight calls. This comes on the heels of the FAA’s recent decision to drop restrictions on other personal electronics last month.

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Turkish Airlines Brings Startups Into the Spotlight for Flying Investors

Turkish Airlines is now catering to specific kinds of fliers—namely, investors. The airlines’ new in-flight entertainment, Invest on Board, highlights a selection of startup pitches from the online platform eTohum to help investors support the next big idea.

Eleven videos are currently available to watch on the Invest on Board website, and while most of the companies are based in Turkey, the service may expand to include international startups if investors take a liking to it. With in-air resources like this, along with WiFi availability and a lift of the ban on electronic devices, it looks as if airlines are working to keep you plugged in—no matter how many thousands of feet above the office you may be.

Maria PedoneMaria Pedone is on the digital team at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @mariapedestrian.

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