IBIT Travel Digest

A roundup of the good, the bad and the bizarre from the world’s best travel media

Photo courtesy of Cathay Pacific

According to the UN’s World Tourism Organization, the number of international tourist arrivals worldwide is on pace to hit 1 billion this year. Overall, international tourism was up 4 percent in 2011, coming in at 980 million arrivals.

Europe, Asia, the Americas and Africa all saw their tourist traffic rise last year, with only the Middle East showing a decline, mainly due to the turmoil produced by the Arab Spring.

Not bad for a world supposedly locked in the grip of a recession.

You can check out the details of the UN report here.

President Barack Obama used a visit to Disneyworld in Orlando, FL, last week to announce a new initiative to draw more tourists — and their money — to the United States. Its ultimate aim, he said, was to make America the world’s top tourist destination.

It’s centered around streamlining the visa process and making it easier for visitors from friendly nations to come here. For you who prefer your news direct from the source, here’s the White House announcement of the actual plan.

As you might expect, the U.S. Travel Association is ecstatic over this, and for good reason.

Up to now, Washington had more or else taken US-bound tourism for granted, as if international travelers didn’t have alternatives on where to spend their vacations, and their money. The Travel Promotion Act of 2009, also signed by Obama, was the first time ever that the U.S. government set out to promote this country as a brand in the hyper-competitive international tourism market.

Given how lucrative the travel biz is, you have to wonder why.

Tourism generates nearly $2 trillion worth of revenue and 14 million jobs in this country. Any serious effort from Washington to grow those two numbers is something we all should welcome.

But it won’t be a snap. In an exclusive interview recently with IBIT, CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg described America as “the most unwelcoming nation in the world.”

That may be an exaggeration, but not by much. Between the steep visa fees imposed on many foreign travelers after the 9/11 attacks — mostly on countries friendly to the United States whose citizens took no part in those attacks — and the shortage of immigration inspectors at the nation’s air, sea and land ports, America the Beautiful doesn’t exactly come across as America the Friendly.

We’ve got work to do.

American Airlines, which recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, could be the next in that long line of US-based airlines of the last two decades or so to be swallowed up in a merger.

According to the Los Angeles Times, both Delta and US Airways are eyeing American as a possible acquisition.

Not sure which of those two I’d prefer to see make that acquisition, but strictly from the consumer’s perspective, it’s hard to see how having fewer national airlines, reduced routes, fewer planes, fewer seats and fewer crews could be viewed as a good thing.

And now, here’s this week’s Digest:


from USA Today
Starting next month, American Airlines offering free beer and wine on most overseas flights.

from USA Today
Hairline cracks turning up in Airbus A380 super jumbo jets. European aviation authority ordering inspections.

from d travels ’round
Words of travel wisdom from someone who travels for a living, a merchant seaman.


from The Daily Meal
East Coast hamburger fanatics, take note: In-N-Out, the Southern California burger chain whose following borders on the religiously fanatical, is planning to expand.

from Rick Steves via Smarter Travel
Lose your bag when you travel? Don’t lose your mind. You will survive this.

from the PlanetD
Can you ride bicycles in Africa and survive? Yes, you can. There will, however, be a few unusual challenges.

from the BBC​
Ways to get around those obscenely high mobile roaming charges when making international calls while you travel. VIDEO


from News24 (South Africa)
The Costa Concordia isn’t the only hit the cruise industry took recently. The South African government, citing safety concerns, bans cruise ships from docking at Cape Town.

from USA Today
The hits just keep on coming for the ill-fated Costa Concordia. Confirmed dead now at 13, but there may have been unregistered passengers on board, which could push the final death toll higher.

from the Daily Nation (Kenya)
Some in Kenya starting to view the caves used by Mau Mau guerrillas to fight British colonialism as potential tourist attractions. But some of the former fighters themselves are uneasy about that.



from the Africa Review
Are bogus Chinese constructions firms doing dirt in Ghana?

from the Zambia Daily Mail
Zambian government, looking to improve all forms of transport in the country, is trying to draw more foreign airlines to Zambia.

from the BBC
Five foreign tourists shot to death in a remote, rugged Ethiopian desert. Ethiopia casts suspicions on neighbor–rival Eritrea.



from the New York Times
If the beach crowds in Rio de Janeiro get to be too much, head for an unspoiled alternative, Praia do Rosa.

from BBC Travel
All you tokers, potheads and other recreational herbalists still have a reason to visit Amsterdam, for now — that new Dutch law that was supposed bar non-Dutch citizens from patronizing the Netherland’s famed ​”coffee shops” has been postponed until May.

from the San Francisco Chronicle
Trains don’t usually come to mind when you think of Hawaii. The Kaua’i Plantation Railway could change that.

from the Guardian (London UK)
Sleep tourism? That’s right, I said it! Grenada may be one of the world’s most beautiful places to learn how to beat insomnia. But it’s not the only one.



from Ready Click and Go
What and where — but mostly how — to eat in China.

from the Guardian (London UK)
And speaking of food in China, the capital of Chinese cuisine may just be Sichuan province, which may have the the most densely packed collection of restaurants and teahouses on Earth.

from The Japan Times
Are your favorite North American and European ski resorts unexpectedly barren of snow this winter? You might want to look to Japan to get your downhill thrills this year.

from The Japan Times
You may have never heard of Nada, Japan, but if you’re a serious lover of sake, it needs to be on your must-visit list.


from the New York Times
In search of real Dutch food in Amsterdam. Even if you don’t find any, you definitely won’t starve.

from the New York Times
How to hit the ground running for a fun weekend in Hamburg, Germany’s second-largest city.

Edited by P.A. Rice


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