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Can Rwanda Be "Fun"?

Rwanda tourism

In a world where free wifi is increasingly seen as a basic right, the bar for enticing tourists gets higher and higher. "Rwanda Bores Tourists," a recent African newspaper headline declared, and the article detailed how plenty of people come to this nation, once ravaged by genocide, but they don't stay very long.

Granted, in 2011, tourism brought 900,000 visitors and $250 million to Rwanda, and 2012 will likely reflect a nearly 20 percent uptick in visits. Plus, web site GlobeSpots just ranked Rwanda as No. 6 in their Top 10 global destinations. After all, Rwanda offers cool gorillas that live in the Virunga mountains, world-class bird-watching, hiking trails, as well as a lot of coffee and tea—and, for better or worse, a heavy sense of history.

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PhoCusWright "Young Leaders" Q+A Series: Tristan Gatsby Mace of Want Me Get Me

201211-b-tristanjpg

At this month’s 2012 PhoCusWright Conference, the travel tech industry’s much-anticipated annual event, many in attendance agreed that the Travel Innovation Summit, held on Day One, was, always, a highlight. (Read our conference dispatches here and here.)

It comes as no surprise that some of the most exciting, buzz-worthy attendees and presenters were the wunderkinds behind travel start-ups and high-profile online products. At the conference, they breakfasted together behind closed doors, networked, and schmoozed investors. Travel + Leisure sat down with select Millennial entrepreneurs—or maybe a better moniker is disruptors?—shaping the next generation of Travel.

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New and Improved Manhattan Hotels

Manhattan Hotels: Roger New York

With a record 50.5 million visitors to New York last year, it’s no surprise that the hotel scene is heating up.

A flurry of Manhattan hotels new and old are trying to one-up each other—at a pace even a local like myself finds dizzying. In midtown, the stodgy Roger Williams is now the Roger New York ($$). Expect tufted blue-velvet sofas and—that signifier of hip hotels everywhere—a consulting mixologist.

• A $65 million update has converted the stalwart Helmsley into the Westin New York Grand Central ($$). Look for a restaurant and bar by buzz-maker Rande Gerber.

• France-based boutique hotelier Grace Leo is the driving force behind the renovation of the Millennium UN Plaza Hotel, now One UN New York ($$).

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Royals Plus Vampires? Count Us In

Dracula's Castle

Ask the typical person what Romania is famous for and you’ll likely get two answers: Olympians and Dracula.

But while gymnasts have the depressing tendency to grow up and retire, Dracula at least has the advantage of immortality, especially since he’s mostly fictitious.

So we have to give credit to the Romanian National Tourist Office for making the most of an old association: According to a recent report, the tourist board is planning to promote the historically true Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia—the 15th-century monarch who supposedly inspired the fictional Prince of Darkness—as a distant cousin of that can’t-get-enough-of-them British Royal Family.

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How Much Will You Pay for a Good Nap?

airport nap

No more fighting over that coveted stretch of chairs at the airline gate—you know, the ones without the spine-bisecting armrests.

Two major U.S airports are making the tacit admission that there's a good chance that you'll get delayed while under their roofs, but they are at least offering you a spot to stretch out in peace. "Minute Suites" are now available in Concourse B at Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport, as well as at the Terminal A-B Link at Philadelphia International Airport.

The suites are outfitted with a day bed, pillows and blankets, a TV and the all-important Internet access. SFO plans to introduce its own version of the napping suites next year, upping the ante with groovy curved walls to make you feel like you have more space (or, to give you the surreal jet-lag-exacerbated sensation of sleeping inside an egg).

"Minute" may be a misnomer with the Minute Suites: they start at $30 an hour—but that still beats sleeping face-down in the airport CinnaBon.

Photo by iStockphoto

Election Results Change Gay Travel

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This week’s elections mean that gay marriage will soon be legal to the states of Washington, Maryland, and Maine—and that means many more same-sex couples are preparing to taste sample cakes and prune over-ambitious guest lists. To help get the party started, check out a few of the very first special offers and promotions meant to entice same-sex brides and grooms in those states.

Maine
The (first possible) Big Day: December 6, 2012

Camden Harbour Inn’s “Maine Is For ALL! Lovers Wedding Package”gives you and your guests the run of this urbane and carefully designed B&B. The offer, which starts at $15,960, includes the reception, breakfast, and two nights’ stay for up to 40 guests, based on double occupancy.

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Post-Election 'Haze' for the Travel Industry?

marijuana

The election has only been over for a few days, and so far there have been no reports of disappointed Romney voters booking, en masse, one-way airline tickets to Canada.

That said, there may still be a post-election windfall coming to the travel industry, at least for two U.S. destinations: Washington and Colorado, which both passed ballot measures legalizing recreational marijuana, and possibly opened the doors wide for mary-jane-seeking tourists.

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Golf Cart Renaissance? The Thrill of Low-Speed Rail

railway

Here's a bucket-list trip for the kooky trainspotter in your life.

New Zealand–based tour operator Forgotten World Adventures invites folks to drive "rail carts" along the old Stratford to Okahukura Railway Line, which was originally built between 1901 and 1933, and which runs parallel to the Forgotten World Highway.

The "rail carts," however, are not velvet-draped sleepers from the glamorous heyday of rail travel. They're souped-up golf carts, imported from the U.S. (Georgia, to be exact). Their little steering wheels don't work now—probably a good thing—but you can still can stop and go with the pedals, all the better for enjoying the views, or posing for camera-toting rubberneckers.

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Bunny Fever (Sort of) Heading to India

Playboy Club

Are the bunnies going Bollywood? The first Playboy Club of India—a 22,000-square-foot hotspot set along Candolim Beach in north Goa—will open this December. Fun Playboy Club trivia: It's the first Playboy Club ever on a beach, and plans are for seven more clubs to pop up around the nation over the next three years.

But hold onto your fluffy tail: Given the nation's tough rules regarding decency, there will be some big things missing from this new Playboy Club. Like, the corset-based bunny outfit. Or any nudity, for that matter.

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Donate Your Points and Miles for Hurricane Sandy Relief

201211-b-red-cross-first-aidjpg

Few would've imagined that this week’s storm with the friendly-sounding name could wreak such havoc and devastation along the East Coast. In the wake of 20,055 flights cancellations due to Hurricane Sandy and with infrastructure is slowly coming back online, there are still an estimated 7.8 million people without power, billions of dollars in damage, and many whose lives will never be the same. They need help. Here are some easy ways for you to help out:

Based on contributions to the Red Cross Disaster Relief, American Airlines is giving AAdvantage members one-time bonus reward miles, starting with 250 miles for a minimum donation of $50. Go here for donation details.
 
Other airlines with charitable initiatives:
Continental Airlines
Delta Air Lines
United Airlines
US Airways

And hotels:
Choice Hotels International, Inc.
Drury Hotels
Hilton Worldwide
Marriott International
Starwood Hotels & Resorts

Please consider making a difference to those who desperately need it and give today.

Photo credit: iStock

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