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the IBIT TRAVEL DIGEST 4.22.12

The good, bad and bizarre from the world’s best travel media.

©James Vallee | Dreamstime.com

AIR
AIRPORT APP
You’re at the airport, with hours to kill before boarding, but your laptop’s battery is running low. Ever wish there were a smartphone app that could not just tell you, but show you where the electric outlets are in your particular airport terminal?

Well, according to the folks at TNOOZ, there is one — or soon will be. It’s called AirportPlugs.

It’s stil in beta test mode, and so far, it’s only set for five airports in the western United States, but you’ve got to love the concept. Can’t wait to see how it looks — and performs — once it’s ready to go.

DON’T TEXT AND FLY
It was bound to happen: An Australian airliner blew a final approach into Singapore’s Changi airport recently. The reason: Instrument interference from the pilot’s cell phone, which he later said he’d forgotten to turn off.

It forced the crew to declare a “missed approach” and go around for a second landing attempt, which is serious business at any airport and led to an official inquiry.

They’re lucky Alec Baldwin wasn’t in the cockpit; the plane might’ve crashed.

CHARGING FOR CARRY-ONS
Allegiant Airlines has become the second air carrier in the United States to charge passengers for stowing carry-on luggage in the overhead bins.

Spirit Airlines, not the most passenger-friendly carrier in the industry, started this nonsense back in 2010. Two years later, Allegiant has seen fit to follow suit. Allegiant president Andrew Levy calls this latest add-on fee part of “an ongoing effort to develop an innovative, new approach to travel.”

I have my own terms for this kind of “innovation,” but I try not to use that kind of language here on IBIT.

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from the New York Times
Take advantage of the federal government’s express check-in programs to speed past security lines. You’ll have to pay for them, but the time saved — and aggravation avoided — just might be worth it.

from the Washington Post
Even as those federal express check-in programs take hold, however, one of them may already be on shaky ground. And wouldn’t you know it, it’s from the TSA. What a surprise…

from USA Today
For the airline business, rising fuel costs are becoming like Jason in all those Friday the 13th horror movies, a killer that won’t go away.

from msnbc
A TSA inspector at Dallas-Fort Worth airport finds an envelope with $9,500 in cash inside…and not only turns it in, but tracks down its owner and returns it to him. There may be hope for this outfit yet.

from CNNgo
Is airline code-sharing dead? The head of an up-and-coming low-fare Asian airline says yes, among other things.

LAND
RENT THY NEIGHBOR’S RIDE?
It was Airbnb that really launched the idea of couch-surfing, travelers saving money by renting rooms in private residences instead of more expensive hotels or even hostels. Now, there’s a new site called Getaround that’s trying to do the same with cars.

It’s still in beta, but it’s a beta worth looking at.

Basically, Getaround connects people looking to rent a set of wheels with individuals willing to rent out their own vehicles by the day or even the hour. It claims to screen the renters, and even provides insurance. The renter gets cheap local transportation. The car owner gets paid.

Couch-surfing…say hello to car-surfing.

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from the New York Times
With travelers able to hunt for bargains and book their own trips online, travel agents looked to be headed for extinction, but it’s not panning out that way.

from USA Today
Five smartphone apps that literally could save your life when traveling overseas.

from CNN Travel
Climate change is gradually turning Greenland into a tourist hotspot. Why? Because so much of its ice has melted that you can actually see the place.

SEA
ANOTHER CRUISE FAIL
The cruise industry has taken yet another hit with reports that the cruise ship Star Princess ignored a drifting fishing boat desperately signaling for help, even after passengers pointed out the stricken boat to a member of the cruise ship’s staff.

By the time help finally reached the boat, two of the three men on board were already dead from hunger and dehydration. In its subsequent apology, Princess said word of the crippled boat never reached the captain nor the officer of the watch.

Do you buy that? Modern cruise ships have powerful radars to detect surface traffic, and bridge officers with binoculars whose job is to scan the waters around them. It shouldn’t even have been necessary for someone to tell the bridge crew about the fishing boat and its frantically waving victims.

When your passengers are more conscientious than your crew, you’ve got a problem.

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from USA Today
If you’re leaving from Seattle on a cruise and need a place to stay before you embark, these hotels come with a “cruise concierge” to help you out.

from USA Today
What do you get when you subject a 15-year-old cruise ship to a $54 million makeover? In the case of Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas, you get a virtually new ship.

from msnbc
With the cruise lines trying to shore up sales in the midst of a problematic year, this might be a good time to score some serious bargains on cruises to the Bahamas.

AFRICA
CRUISING INTO THE FUTURE?
Quiet as it’s kept, the coast of West Africa has enormous potential as a cruise venue, and some folks are positioning themselves to make the most of it.

Already there’s an outfit called G Adventures offering 27-day all-inclusive cruises between Cape Town, South Africa and Dakar, Senegal.

In both time and money, the G Adventures cruises are out of reach for a lot of travelers for now, but they show what’s possible once more competition and more West African ports enter this market.

It’s not hard to envision a great circle trip from the United States — a flight to Cape Town, a cruise with stops along the West African coast, then a flight home from Cameroon, Nigeria or Ghana, perhaps.

It’s going to happen. You watch.

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from IOL Travel
In South Africa, the Protea Hotel Ranch Resort will let you walk with a pride of what it calls “disciplined and well-trained” lions, including three rare white lions. The lions will even let you hold their tails while you walk with them. Am I the only one who finds this disturbing?

from Eyewitness News (South Africa)
South Africa has some of the world’s best surfing. Unfortunately, it also has some of the world’s most dangerous sharks.

from The Star (Kenya) via allAfrica.com
The government is urging Kenyans to embrace wildlife conservation as a way of boosting the country’s tourism.

from The New Times (Rwanda) via allAfrica.com
Another sign that tourism in Central Africa is on the rise: Expedia is expanding its presence in Rwanda.

AMERICAS/CARIBBEAN
AGRITOURISM: A GROWING ATTRACTION IN HAWAII
There’s always been more to Hawaii than pristine beaches, towering waterfalls, volcanoes and big waves. Even the most casual tourist can’t help but notice everything from pineapples to poinsettias, coconuts to coffee beans, just growing wild along the sides of the roads.

It’s as if the islands were a giant collection of farmers markets.

Now, the phenomenon known as agritourism is turning Hawaii’s agriculture into a growing tourist draw in its own right. Farmers markets. Ranch tours on horseback.

And the souvenirs are delicious.

A NEW MONUMENT
Near Monterey on the central California coast — one of the most gorgeous stretches of the Golden State — more than 14,000 acres of federal land that once belonged to the Army’s Fort Ord installation have been designated by the Obama administration as a national monument.

If hiking, mountain biking and camping on rolling hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean sound like your idea of a good time, you’re going to love this place. The fact that you can take one of the world’s most scenic highways to get there — California’s famed Highway 1 — doesn’t hurt, either.

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from the New York Times
Need a reason to visit Bend, OR? If you love lots of good, locally-crafted beers, you’ve already got one.

from USA Today
For those who don’t find the Las Vegas Strip exciting enough, a zipline is being planned between the Luxor and Excalibur resorts, apparently high enough and close enough to McCarran airport that the FAA had to sign off on it first.

ASIA/PACIFIC
REAL LIFE, CHINESE STYLE
If you’re like me, you don’t just want to see “the sights” when you visit a different country. You want to get a feel for what real life looks like — or used to look like — before modernization swept over everything.

If you’re in Beijing, China’s sprawling capital, that means you’ve got to check out a hutong, a traditional Chinese neighborhood.

Many have been torn down to make way for high-rise apartments and office towers, while others are runddown, but a relative handful survive as well-maintained communities and are open to visitors. This slideshow from CNTV lists some of the best to visit in Beijing.

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from CNNgo
At the Bamboo Nest guesthouse in the mountains of Chiang Rai in Thailand, bamboo is everything. and I do mean everything. SLIDESHOW

from CNNgo
Want to play soldier? Then put down the remote, put on your cammo gear and head for the jungles of Thailand, where the Royal Thai Army will put you behind the trigger of an M-16 assault rifle or the controls of a tank. As real as it gets, including the insects you’ll be eating for dinner.

EUROPE
CATALUNYA: VISITORS UNWELCOME?
Spotted this on the TypicallySpanish.com site. Check out what this commenter has to say about Catalunya, a semi-autonomous region where people have a reputation for being fiercely proud of their Catalan heritage:

“…here, not only do most of those involved with tourists refuse to speak English (apologies but it is recognised as the ‘World’ language) – most insist on not speaking Spanish!!! It’s a case of ‘if you can’t be bothered to speak Catalonian, then I can’t be bothered with you, wherever you happen to be from!’ “

If this is true, it’s a real problem for Catalunya and for Spain in general. This is the kind of word-of-mouth advertising no country can afford, especially one in the midst of an economic crisis.

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from The Telegraph (London UK)
Speaking of Spain, an extensive guide to the Andalucia region sponsored by the Spanish tourism folks. Extensive and potentially useful.

from The Guardian (London UK)
The tiny Greek island of Kalymnos is carving out a niche for itself as a destination for climbers and cavers.

from The Guardian (London UK)
Europe has a vibrant, diverse music scene, and that extends to its summer music festivals.

Edited by P.A.Rice