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PhoCusWright "Young Leaders" Q+A Series: Ruzwana Bashir of Peek.com

Ruzwana Bashir

At last month’s PhoCusWright Conference, the travel tech industry’s much-anticipated annual event, some of the most exciting, buzz-worthy attendees were the wunderkinds behind travel start-ups and high-profile online products. Travel + Leisure sat down with select Millennial entrepreneurs—or maybe a better moniker is disruptors?—shaping the next generation of Travel:

Ruzwana Bashir, the British-born 29-year-old co-founder of Peek.com, is part of the exclusive club of PhoCusWright “Young Leaders.” In October of this year, she launched a new website that provides an attractive, centralized place to book vacation activities. It also highlights “Perfect Day” itineraries supplied by travel insiders, luminaries, and in-the-know locals.

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World's First Underwater Club Debuts

Niyama resort

An ocean-side cocktail is one of the numerous hallmarks of a quintessential beach escape. Now, the Niyama Resort on the Maldives’ far-flung Dhaalu Atoll is taking that concept to a new level, inviting guests to tope drinks and party the night away—wait for it—beneath the Indian Ocean. More than 500 yards offshore and a 40-minute seaplane jaunt from Malé, Subsix is the world’s first sunken club. When the full moon sets the ocean aglow, revelers can dance to international deejays and take in aquarium-like views of sea turtles wading in the surf and tropical fish interspersed on the reef.

In such a sensitive ecosystem, it’s encouraging to hear careful measures were taken to minimalize the environmental impact. Subsix was constructed above ground and placed delicately on a swath of empty seafloor. The resort also enlisted a marine biologist and launched a coral restoration program in which pieces of defunct reef are rehabilitated and returned to their natural habitats. 

The only thing missing in this human fishbowl is the scuba diver figurine.

Nate Storey is an editorial assistant at Travel + Leisure.

Photo courtesy of Niyama Resort

Snake on a Plane! Reptile Causes Emergency Landing in Egypt

Snakes on a Plane

Here’s a shoo-in for the 2012 Darwin Awards, travel edition: On Monday, an EgyptAir flight, en route to Beirut, had to make an emergency landing at Egypt’s Hurghada airport. The reason: a Jordanian passenger had been bitten by a snake. It was his own snake, mind you, which he smuggled through security in a bag under his clothes. Reportedly, after the crew heard him screaming, the pilot was able to land, and the passenger was rushed away for medical treatment, while the authorities confiscated the snake. Some reports have indicated that the snake was a cobra, and stomped to death after the incident; while we can’t confirm either of those (or unfortunately, the status of the passenger) we can easily confirm that this was the most bone-headed idea we’ve heard in awhile.

Photo © AF archive / Alamy

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

201211-b-gay-marriagejpg

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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