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U.S. Hotel Chains Expanding into Asia

New York Times |  ASIA is beginning to look a lot more like America—at least when it comes to hotels.

Major United States hotel chains are aggressively expanding into Asia, creating new options for travelers looking for familiar brands abroad. Starwood Hotels & Resorts plans to open 34 to 40 properties in the Asia Pacific region this year, or about three hotels a month, including the first St. Regis in Japan, the first W in Thailand and the first Le Méridien in Taiwan. Hilton plans to open new hotels in Japan and China by year-end. And Marriott will add about 20 properties, including four JW Marriott properties in India, four Courtyard by Marriott properties in China, and a Ritz-Carlton in Shanghai.

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British Airways Cabin Crew to Strike After Talks Fail

New York Times / Reuters |  A three-day strike by British Airways cabin crew will go ahead from Saturday after talks with management collapsed, Britain’s Unite union said Friday.

The strike, which is likely to disrupt travel plans for thousands, presents a major headache for the ruling Labor party weeks before a general election because Unite is its biggest single financial backer.

“The strike that is planned for midnight tonight will go ahead as will the other strike we have announced,” Tony Woodley, Unite union joint general secretary, told reporters.

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The Sweet Life in Saint Germain

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Saint Germain just got a little sweeter—joining La Patisserie des Rêves, Pierre Hermé, Pierre Marcolini, Ladurée and la Maison du Chocolat in the immediate vicinity of Le Bon Marché is Hugo & Victor, a new concept launched by two childhood friends, pastry chef Hugues Pouget (formerly of Guy Savoy and Ladurée) and Sylvain Blanc (formerly of Le Printemps).

The idea: Treat sweets a little bit like fashion, with capsule collections based on seasonal ingredients. The architecture by Francis Krempp is a mix of classical and modern (windows set in the wall, like at L’Eclaireur); the “Hugo” line is a series of contemporary pastries, the Victor line is made up of classics.

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Thieving Baboons Wipe Out S. African Vineyards

201003-b-baboon-4jpgAFP |  Baboons with a taste for Chardonnay grapes are terrorising farmers in South Africa's Western Cape wine region, munching tonnes of grapes ready for harvesting, local media reported on Monday.

Farms in the Franschhoek Valley had been emptied by rampaging Chachma baboons, who sneak into secured plots and help themselves with top grade grapes, The Times newspaper said.

"They can easily wipe out up to two tonnes of grapes a week when you are not watching, and that makes about 1,500 to 2,000 bottles of wine," said Mark Dendy-Young, farm manager of La Petite Ferme.

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Photo courtesy of the South African Tourism Bureau

More Hotels Offer 'Pay Before You Stay' Discounts

USA Today |  Pay before you stay, and save. That has been the deal with online travel sites and discount tour operators. Now, an increasing number of hotels are slashing room rates if you ante up in full in advance and forego a refund if you don't show up.

Last year, Fairmont hotels began offering savings up up to 30% to those who book ahead and pay in full.

Now, "I would say the majority of our hotels offer 'Savers' rates. It's one way we can offer a discount" without cheapening the upscale brand, Fairmont spokeswoman Lori Holland says. Prepaying also guarantees revenue ahead of time: "We know people are coming," she says.

Las Vegas hotels often charge a credit card when a stay is booked. But Station Casinos, with 10 properties in the area including the upscale Red Rock Resort, just announced a tiered, online pre-pay program that offers deep discounts.

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Paperless Boarding Takes off at United

CNN |  More air travelers may soon be scanning their smartphones instead of paper slips at airport gates.

United has become the latest airline to offer mobile boarding passes for customers equipped with Web-enabled mobile phones or devices, such as iPhones or BlackBerrys.

United passengers traveling within the United States, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands can now log on to mobile.united.com to check in for their flights via their smartphones.

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NYC’s New Eventi Hotel is Located in…

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In a city that seems to have a catchy nickname for every neighborhood (NoLita, TriBeCa, the Flatiron, et al), no one seems to know exactly what to call that part of Manhattan around Sixth Avenue and 29th Street. A few blocks southeast of Madison Square Garden and a few blocks southwest of the Empire State Building, the neighborhood tenants are nondescript costume jewelers, button-sellers to the trade, and wholesale import companies, interspersed with mom-and-pop markets and the occasional martial-arts supply store.

“It’s an area that you pass through to get somewhere else, but I think we’re going to change all that,” says Thomas Mathes, general manager of Eventi, a new 54-story hotel managed by Kimpton Hotels and set to open on May 15. “We call the area North Chelsea.” Which may be stretching the map coordinates a bit, but in any event it’s more attractive than, say, Garment Center South.

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Flight Attendants Union Wants Combat Training

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USA Today | Flight attendants press for hand-to-hand combat training as anti-terror measure The Association of Flight Attendants is pushing Congress to fund combat training as part of a four-point plan that the union says would improve security inside aircraft cabins. The Los Angeles Times reports the union "hopes that lawmakers will include money to put some of their ideas into action under an upcoming funding bill for the Federal Aviation Administration."

According to the Times, the attendants' four-point plan includes: "Mandatory hand-to-hand combat training for all crew members"; portable communication devices that would allow attendants to speak with pilots during emergencies; a standard maximum size for carry-on luggage "so that flight attendants can look for suspicious passengers instead of struggling with oversized bags"; and the ability to shut down in-flight Wi-Fi "during high-threat periods to prevent terrorists from communicating with collaborators on the ground."

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Photo courtesy of iStock

Airlines Will Cancel Flights to Avoid Delay Fines

NBC News - Dallas, Ft. Worth |  Passengers may soon be seeing more cancellations on airport departure boards. Several airlines, including Fort Worth-based American and Houston-based Continental, say they will cancel flights rather than risk paying stiff penalties for delaying passengers on the runway.

Continental's CEO told investors Tuesday that the airline will opt to cancel flights rather than chance being fined. Aviation consultant Denny Kelly expects other airlines to follow suit.

“I think all of them will cancel flights,” he said. “They'll do it partially because they think they are going to punish passengers, and if they punish them, someone will get this legislation removed.”

Under new federal guidelines that take effect next month, airlines can be fined up to $27,500 per passenger if a plane is stuck on the tarmac for longer than three hours.

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State Parks Get Hit in Budgets

201003-b-mtdiablostatepark5jpgUSA Today |  An Arizona road that once led to the ruins of the ancient Hopi Native American civilization now dead-ends at a shut gate.

"Due to budget reductions," a sign reads, "park closed." [....]

Homolovi Ruins officially closed Feb. 22, victim of a state budget deficit that led Arizona lawmakers to cut parks funding last year by 61%.

Homolovi is part of the first in a wave of closures that by June are planned to padlock 21 of the state's 30 parks, leaving people far fewer places to explore the history and beauty of Arizona.

Arizona is one of many states struggling to balance recreational values and budget crises: Lawmakers in at least a dozen states have contemplated the closure of up to 400 state parks this year, according to a National Association of State Park Directors survey, says Philip McKnelly, the association's executive director.

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Photo courtesy of Lyndsey Matthews


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