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Worse than Sand in the Labor Day Potato Salad? Hurricane Earl

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As of 2pm, the National Weather Service had issued a hurricane watch for the North Carolina coast. The state is currently evacuating visitors from Hatteras Island and the rest of the Outer Banks.

Virginia and the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Delaware, and the Jersey Shore (batten down the Situation!) are all under hurricane warnings, and small craft advisories extend into New England, and all the way south to the Florida Keys.

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Grupo Mexicana Suspends Airline Operations

CNN | Grupo Mexicana suspended operations at its three airlines Saturday "until further notice," citing the financial problems inherited when the group changed owners a week ago.

The company's three airlines—Mexicana Airlines, MexicanaClick and MexicanaLink—stopped all flights at midday Saturday, according to a statement from the group.

"Today's decision is a painful one for the 8,000-strong Grupo Mexicana family, but we will continue seeking out ways of securing the company's long-term financial viability, so our passengers can once again enjoy the quality services they are accustomed to," the statement said. "We hope to be back in the air soon and would like to thank everyone involved in this process for their support and understanding."

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VisitOrlando.com to Add Travel-booking Engine

Orlando Sentinel |  The Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau has cut a deal with Travelocity.com L.P. that allows visitors researching an Orlando vacation to book their stay right on the agency's website.

201009-w-afc-orlandojpgThe area's tourism promoters say they wanted to offer one-stop shopping on the site, VisitOrlando.com, which draws millions of potential visitors a year. The agency said that, after it talked with various online travel operators and other companies, Travelocity brought the "best total package" to the table.

The bureau site currently provides information about local attractions and hotels, but online visitors have to switch to other websites to act on their plans. (...) When the newly redesigned website launches early next year, the booking engine for flights, hotels, car rentals and vacation packages will not only make it easier for guests but will generate added revenue for the CVB through advertising and a share of any sales.

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New Orleans Attracts More Visitors

201008-w-cafe-du-mondejpgWall Street Journal |  On the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, tourism in New Orleans is growing at one of the fastest paces in the U.S., but it remains a fraction of its pre-hurricane levels.

In 2004, New Orleans saw a record 10.1 million visitors; in 2006, post-Katrina, the number had dropped to 3.7 million. But 7.9 million tourists visited New Orleans in 2009, and of the 25 top U.S. destinations, New Orleans had the second-highest growth of revenue per available room in the first half of 2010, according to a report from hotel-industry research and consulting firm Smith Travel Research Inc. (...)

Kelly Schulz, a spokeswoman for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, a nonprofit that promotes tourism in the region, says next to rebuilding infrastructure, the biggest challenge the tourism industry faced post-Katrina was "convincing people that it was safe to come back." Photo credit: Philip Scalia / Alamy.

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Shop (and Travel) with Tibi

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This past week Tibi, an upscale boutique clothing line, joined thousands of e-retailers by re-launching its website to include an online shop.

Amy Smilovic is the mastermind behind Tibi’s polished Manhattan brand, her main source of inspiration? Travel. In 1997 Amy moved to Hong Kong with her husband upon his relocation and there is where it all began.

After teaming with Octavia Hyland, she traveled frequently to the island of Java, working with small textile printers to create unique patterns (think batiks and ikats) in vibrant colors. These travels resulted in unusually perfect pieces that still define the collection today.

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The Great Chinese Traffic Jam of 2010 Is Over

Apparently China's 10-day, 62-mile-long traffic jam between Beijing and Inner Mongolia is over. The heavily trafficked highway grew even more crowded than normal starting on August 14 because of several major road construction projects. Then, at a certain point, everything came to a complete halt. Drivers?including hundreds of coal-carrying commercial truckers—lounged around the side of the road, killing time and looking for bathrooms. Locals seized upon the opportunity to sell food and water to the stranded travelers at 10 times the normal price. (Who says capitalism can't succeed in China!) Raw video from the Associated Press (above) shows the scene just before the jam freed up today.

Take note, travelers: Sometimes it just doesn't pay to cheap out and take the free road. By all accounts the toll road that parallels the stalled highway was moving along rather nicely all week. This can be helpful advice to remember whether you're driving near Beijing during the Mongolian coal harvest or tooling through France at the end of August when everyone returns to work from vacation.

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TSA Increases Terrorist Matching, But Security Gaps Remain

Sounds like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has taken a big step to keep us safer from terrorists in the sky. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced today that 100 percent of passengers on domestic and international flights by U.S. airlines are now being matched against government watchlists through the Secure Flight program run by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Previously, individual airlines were responsible for matching passenger names against terrorist watchlists.

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That’s all well and good. But here’s a remaining security gap:

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Report: Man-made Threats to Grand Canyon National Park

CNN News |   The majestic views overlooking the Grand Canyon make it one of America's favorite destinations, but a new report finds several man-made threats are contributing to the deterioration of Grand Canyon National Park.

Scientists and park staff working on the "State of the Parks" Grand Canyon report highlight areas and resources in the park that are threatened, the history of those threats and what can be done to correct them.

What they found is a national park that continues to decline from factors ranging from climate change to mining to aircraft flyovers as well as management of the Colorado River upstream from the canyon.

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Cities Selling Parking, Airports, Zoos

Wall Street Journal |  Cities and states across the nation are selling and leasing everything from airports to zoos—a fire sale that could help plug budget holes now but worsen their financial woes over the long run.

California is looking to shed state office buildings. Milwaukee has proposed selling its water supply; in Chicago and New Haven, Conn., it's parking meters. In Louisiana and Georgia, airports are up for grabs.

About 35 deals now are in the pipeline in the U.S., according to research by Royal Bank of Scotland's RBS Global Banking & Markets. Those assets have a market value of about $45 billion—more than ten times the $4 billion or so two years ago, estimates Dana Levenson, head of infrastructure banking at RBS. Hundreds more deals are being considered, analysts say.

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Airlines' a la Carte Services Offer Early Boarding, Legroom, More

USA Today |  You might be flying in coach, but increasingly, passengers in the back of the plane can grab a taste of premium comfort—from more legroom to better meals. But you'll pay a price.

Giving fliers in coach a taste of first class is the latest ripple in the à la carte pricing trend that has swept the airline industry. While many carriers started out charging passengers for essentials, such as checking bags, many now offer perks and privileges for a fee.

Don't want to be smashed into a middle seat in the back of the plane? Purchase a perch in the exit row. Afraid the overhead bins will be full before you board? Pay a few dollars and walk on the plane right behind those with elite status. A growing number of carriers offer in-flight Internet access. And many airlines are selling day passes to their lounges so passengers can relax in a space shut off from the more hectic boarding areas.

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