Travel news in brief .jpg

Travel news in brief

New York winter wonderland

Tourists in New York got more than they bargained for when the city was recently blasted by a raging ‘nor’easter’ storm, which broke the snowfall record for the city, shutting down airports and dumping more than two feet of snow on some parts of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. The storm caused major airports to shut down, but not before a Turkish jetliner skidded off a runway at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. However no injuries were reported.

Central Park in New York recorded nearly 27 inches of snow, breaking the long-standing record of December 1947 of 26.4 inches, according to the National Weather Service. Other snowfall totals included 27.8 inches at Fairfield, Connecticut; 25.4 inches at New York’s LaGuardia Airport; 21.3 inches in Columbia, Maryland, near Baltimore and more than a foot in parts of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The storm packed winds of up to 40mph as it brushed the East Coast, and lightning and thunder accompanied some of the snowfall. The National Weather Service calls the rare phenomenon ‘thundersnow’.

The heavy snow shut down Washington’s Ronald Reagan National Airport and the city was briefly placed under a snow emergency, with 119,000 customers without power at one point, along with 62,000 Baltimore power customers and thousands more in New York and New Jersey.

Keep calm in Cyprus

Tourists are being urged not to panic over the bird flu outbreak in Cyprus and Tourism Organisation Chairman, Fotis Fotiou, has reassured the public that the holiday industry will not be affected by the recent events in the north of the island. “Judging from the telephone conversations that I am having with our correspondents at travel agents abroad, it appears that the outbreak has not had a negative effect on tourism”, said Fotiou. Meanwhile, Cypriot authorities have culled thousands of poultry in an attempt to stop the disease spreading.

Mosquito disease sweeps paradise

Anyone considering a winter break to the Seychelles is being warned that, according to official sources, an incurable mosquito-borne disease has infected hundreds of people on the island. The number of people diagnosed with chikungunya has increased steadily since it was first reported in November, according to Jules Gedeon, the Seychelles director for community health.

The country’s security forces have been drafted in for a nationwide mosquito eradication drive to halt the spread of the disease, which causes crippling and extremely painful symptoms for which there is no known vaccine or cure. It is characterised by high fever and severe rashes, and while non-fatal in itself, it can provide opportunities for other diseases to set in.

Health officials in the Seychelles attributed the recent sharp rise in cases of chikungunya to the heavy rains that have been pounding the island since December.

Aloha to rich tourists!

Visitors to Hawaii topped seven million for the first time last year, causing the tourism industry there to consider making the islands a more exclusive destination. On average, one in every 10 people in Hawaii is a tourist and the Islands welcomed 7,457,297 visitors in 2005, according to the latest state figures. In fact, Hawaii’s hotel occupancy rate last year was 81.2 per cent, second in the US only to New York City and Los Angeles and there were times in the high season where there were no rooms available at all.

Now experts are urging a change in tourism strategy, claiming that the islands do not have the capacity for further growth in mass tourism and point out that hotel availability is not the only thing that dictates capacity. Everything from the number of available seats on planes to protecting natural resources must also be taken into account. There are also major concerns that service will suffer and there will be overcrowding at beaches, parks, airports and along the already congested roadways.

The solution, according to the islands’ tourism chiefs, is for hotels to be more selective in attracting those they consider the most desirable tourists. Therefore, Hawaii’s target market is shifting toward ‘activity-seeking travellers’ – rich people who golf, use the spa, island-hop and actually buy the snacks and drinks inside a hotel room’s mini bar, while mass tourism is being gently discouraged.

Caribbean celebrates

Jamaica celebrated its best year ever in tourism throughout 2005, with visitor arrivals reaching a record high of 1.478million, a 4.5 per cent increase. Following on from the high, tourism chiefs are vowing to build on the country’s success with marketing around the world.

Meanwhile, the Dominican Republic has announced plans to invest more money in tourism after years in the shadows of its more upmarket Caribbean neighbours. The government has pledged more than one billion US dollars to implement a beach regeneration project, reactivate charter flights from Barahona International Airport, and initiate the cleanup of Sosúa and Bavaro resorts.

Brits snub US

Security measures and visa confusion is to blame for a dramatic downturn in the number of British travellers visiting America, the UK’s leading long-haul tour operator claims.

Kuoni says bookings for the US were down 30 per cent last year from 2004 and although Hurricane Katrina put some travellers off, chaos over visas was mainly to blame, along with the host of new security procedures intended to prevent terrorism, that have been introduced since 9/11, including taking digital fingerprints and photographs of incoming passengers.

To make matters worse, the Advanced Passenger Information legislation will come into play on March 7. This requires that all non-US passengers register additional details, including their home address and the address of their first night’s accommodation in the States.

Tourism in Egypt on the increase

According to the country’s official figures, the number of tourists who travelled to Egypt rose by six per cent in 2005, despite a string of terrorist incidents. The Egyptian tourism ministry said the number of visitors reached 8.6 million, up from 8.1 million the previous year. Germany provided the most visitors with 979,000, although the strongest increase was among British holidaymakers, whose number rose 53 per cent in 2005. The surge in tourist arrivals confirmed predictions that the industry would suffer little damage from an upsurge in terror attacks in Egypt.