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Pay Toilet Foes Feel The Flush of Relief

The stupidest idea to come along in ages looks to have gone down the drain, literally. Last week Michael O’Leary, ceo of the Irish budget carrier Ryanair, said he would install pay toilets for use on short-haul European flights, but the cockamamie scheme turned out to have been more than a piddling matter. A stream of invective followed the announcement in the press.

The latest news: Boeing, which built Ryanair’s fleet of 737-800s, has put the kibosh on the plan for safety reasons, leaving O’Leary up a yellow river without a paddle. In addition to charging one euro to use the facilities, O’Leary had planned to remove some of the existing toilets and replace them with additional seats. But the airline’s planes already are configured for 189 passengers, the most that can be carried safely. Because the planes were made in America, any reconfiguration by Boeing to increase the number of passengers would be subject to FAA approval, which would be unlikely.

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San Francisco Detours Into Reality Tourism

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New York Times | Visitors know all too well this pretty city’s sights, what with the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf and the clang-clang-clangy cable cars.

But now San Francisco’s civic boosters have decided they want to add a highly unlikely stop to the tourist itinerary: the Uptown Tenderloin, the ragged, druggy and determinedly dingy domain of the city’s most down and out.

And what is the appeal?

“We offer a kind of grittiness you can’t find much anymore,” said Randy Shaw, a longtime San Francisco housing advocate and a driving force behind the idea of Tenderloin tourism. “And what is grittier than the Tenderloin?"  READ MORE

Photo credit: Philip Matthews

Viva Cartagena! Openings Bring New Life to the Old City

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Tough times for tourism? Not in Cartagena de Indias. I recently returned from a long weekend in Colombia (currently a "recession-proof country," according to several economic analysts), and while global markets may be floundering and travel numbers down, this sultry Caribbean city is booming with a wave of new boutique hotels, innovative eateries, and ample old-school watering holes. Here's the scoop:

At least a half a dozen gorgeous properties have recently opened downtown (plug: don’t miss T+L’s It List of Best New Hotels in June!). I settled into the 24-suite Anandá Hotel Boutique (pictured below), a quiet retreat in a restored Spanish-colonial building with carved-wood balconies and three breezy roof terraces. The cool, Zen-like calm is a world apart from the bustling street scene just outside its massive wooden doors.

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Donald Trump Jr. on the New Trump SoHo

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I confess: I’m a fan of The Donald. The swagger, the money, the hair, the catch phrase. My interest in The Apprentice, however, has waned, and I missed the TV show’s introduction of Donald Trump Jr. So, when the opportunity arose to chat up Donald 2.0 about the new hotel he’s overseeing (with his sister and brother)—the Trump SoHo, which opened Friday in New York—I couldn’t resist.

We met in the hotel’s library, a masculinely decked out space with deep chairs, thick tables, and books no one will ever read. Besides being well-coiffed and well-clad, DT Jr. is:
•    Confident. (“People said, ‘Isn’t it horrible they changed zoning code because of what you did?’ That’s the dumbest question I’ve ever heard.”)
•    Affable. (“What drives me? My father calling at 5 a.m. asking why I’m not in the office!”)
•    Self-deprecating. (“I’m probably the only graduate of the Wharton School of Finance to move to Colorado to work in a bar.”) Ok, kind of self-deprecating.

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LVMH Extends Posh Label to New Luxury Resorts

Wall Street Journal | LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton is checking into the hotel business. The world's largest luxury-goods company, home to brands such as the Louis Vuitton fashion house and champagne maker Veuve Clicquot, said Thursday it will develop resorts using the name of its Bordeaux winery, Cheval Blanc. The company tested the concept with a first location that opened in the French ski resort Courchevel in 2006. Two more hotels are scheduled to join the new chain by 2012 in Oman and Egypt, the company said.

The project is "a natural extension of activities in luxury hospitality with Cheval Blanc," LVMH said in a statement.

Like many top hotel operators, LVMH is limiting its exposure to the volatile hotel industry. It won't own the real estate or finance construction, but will instead run the resorts under management contract, a similar model to other high-end chains such as The Ritz-Carlton. The new LVMH Hotel Management business has six employees.

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8 Hurricanes Predicted for the Atlantic

CNN |  University forecasters predict the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season will be above average, with 15 named storms and eight of those becoming hurricanes.

The Colorado State University report was released Wednesday, nearly two months before the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season on June 1.

In the report, forecasters William Gray and Phil Klotzbach said that El Niño conditions will dissipate by summer and that unusually warm tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures will persist, leading to favorable conditions for hurricanes to develop and intensify.

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Report Indicates Less Lost Luggage

201004-b-lostluggagejpgHere’s some good news about airlines (after my colleague Mark Orwoll’s posts on charging for bathroom access and for carry-ons, we could really use it): according to a March report by SITA, a company that specializes in aviation IT, only 25 million bags were lost in airports around the world in 2009—that’s a 23.8 percent drop from 2008, and over 40 percent less “mishandled” (a.k.a. lost) luggage than in the year before.

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Summer Airfare Sales Return

USA Today |  Airlines are rolling out the summer travel bargains as they battle for recession-weary passengers who are slowly returning to the air.

AirTran and Southwest set off the latest flurry with sales that began Monday and were soon matched by American, Delta, US Airways and Continental, says Rick Seaney, CEO of Farecompare.com. It's the fourth round of sales in a month.

But while the sales are coming fast, you may miss out if you wait for the last-minute bargains that travelers got in the depths of the recession.

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Ryanair Confirms: ‘We are serious about charging a toilet fee’

201004-b-bathroomjpgRyanair, the ultra-budget Irish airline known for its low fares and numerous surcharges, confirmed yesterday what had long been rumored: It is serious about charging passengers to use the toilet. If it goes forward, it would be just the latest in a long line of airline industry fees that have dogged travelers over the past several years. The news comes on the heels of yesterday’s announcement from Spirit Airlines that it would begin charging passengers a carry-on luggage fee of up to $45. When I wrote the Spirit blog item yesterday, I said the only fee that could be worse would be a toilet charge.

Well, that didn’t take long, did it?

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Review: T-Mobile HTC HD2 Travel Apps

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I recently borrowed the new T-Mobile HTC HD2 smartphone and, after about two weeks of playing around with it, I have to say: I have a big fat crush. The screen—an astounding 4.3"—is insanely sharp. In fact, I happened to receive the phone the day before hopping on a bus for 4 1/2 hours. For 2 1/2 of those hours, I entertained myself by watching Transformers...on the phone. Not only did the crystal clear image blow me away, let me point this out: the phone's battery was still half full by the end of the movie. Crazy!

Aside from the on-the-go entertainment value with the phone—all of the movies are available for renting or purchase through the phone's Blockbuster app—the phone itself is sleek, easy-to-use, and the touch screen über responsive. (Once I turned off that annoying guess-what-word-I'm-trying-to-spell feature that is becoming a staple in many new phones, it rarely, if ever, missed a key stroke.)

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