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News in brief for travelers around the world.                  Share

In complement to our feature articles and our online travel guides, we point out here good and bad news which may be of interest for travelers in various parts of the world. This includes also information about some practical changes (e.g. as for entry requirements) and various innovations in the air travel market. News and other useful information are added whenever appropriate. Read this page as often as necessary.

August 2017 - Europe: Turbulence in the air transport market.

Air Berlin, the seventh largest airline in Europe, filed for insolvency on August 15, 2017 after its shareholder Etihad Airways has declined to support it further. Air Berlin has just received a three-month loan from the German state so that its flights won’t be interrupted in the peak holiday season.

Lufthansa, Eurowings and Condor want to take over various assets and routes from Air Berlin, which does not please Ryanair and Easyjet that are seeking to increase their market share in Germany.

Meanwhile, the low-cost airlines Norwegian, Wow Air and Eurowings are launching new low-cost long-haul flights (mainly transatlantic flights) and they offer connections between short/medium-haul and long-haul flights. Read more here.

August 2017 - World
: Current tourism trends.

Mass tourism is increasingly generating hostile reactions from the host population, in particular in Barcelona (32 million visitors per year), in Venice (28 million visitors per year) and in Majorca.

On the other hand, several other countries, whose tourism was affected by negative factors in the last years, welcomed recently a recovery as do the five destinations that recorded the highest increase in foreign visitors during the first 4 months of 2017.

According to the UN World Tourism Organization, these five destinations are:
1. Palestine (400,000 foreign visitors, i.e. an increase of 57.8% compared to the same period of 2016); The listing of Hebron as a World Heritage site, in addition to Bethlehem and South Jerusalem, can help support the trends.
2. Egypt (+ 51% compared to the corresponding period of 2016 thanks to the strengthening of security measures and major promotional campaigns). For the whole of the year 2017, Egypt could receive 8 million foreign visitors (compared to a peak of 14.1 million in 2010).
3. The Northern Mariana Islands (+ 37.3%, partly due to the opening of casinos) that are located north of Guam in the Pacific.
4. Iceland (+ 35%). See below.
5. Tunisia (+ 33% thanks to the strengthening of security measures and low prices). The country expects to receive 6.5 million foreign visitors for the whole of the year 2017, approaching its level of 2010 (7.8 million).

August 2017 - Qatar: Qatar waives visas for 80 nationalities.

Faced with the boycott of several other countries in the Gulf, Qatar, which will host the football World Cup in 2022, has just abolished the entry visa to Qatar for citizens of 80 countries for a stay of up to 180 days (33 countries including most countries of the European Union) or up to 30 days (47 other countries including the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Russia and China).

Visitors from those countries may now enter Qatar only on presentation of a passport valid for 6 months.

July 2017 - Iceland: the Icelandic Pledge.

Having suffered a severe financial crisis between 2008 and 2010 and then the dramatic consequences of the eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull volcano in 2010, Iceland has been facing with a continuous growth of foreign visitors since several years. During the first 4 months of 2017, foreign visitors to Iceland increased by 33% compared to the corresponding period of the previous year. For the whole year 2017, they should be about 1.8 million (compared to 489,000 in 2010), which is 5 times the local population (340,000 inhabitants).

In order to reduce the disadvantages of such an increase for local people, Iceland proposes tourists to adhere to an "Icelandic Pledge", whereby they online commit themselves to behave in an ethical and responsible manner during their stay in Iceland. This Pledge states, for example, that "when I explore new places, I will leave them as I found them".

July 2017 - Cape Verde:  Visa being abolished for European citizens.

Cape Verde announces that as of January 2018, European citizens will be exempted from visas for a maximum tourist stay of 30 days in Cape Verde. However, they will have to obtain online an entry permit to the country at least 5 days before their arrival (the website required for this purpose is still to be built).

An e-visa system will be provided for citizens of other countries. Tourist arrivals are steeply rising in Cape Verde and account currently for 21% of the country's GDP.

July 2017 - Peru: Access to Machu Picchu.

In order to reduce the amount of people visiting Machu Picchu, a new regulation of access to the citadel comes into force on July 1, 2017. Visits will take place in two slots: from 6 am till noon and from noon till 5.30 pm. Visitors may stay up to 4 hours on the site of the Inca citadel, regardless of the time of entry. Anyone who wants to stay there all day will have to buy two tickets.

In addition, three access paths have been fixed. Visitors must be accompanied by an official tourist guide and the groups are limited to 20 participants.

The total amount of visitors is limited (3,267 visitors in the morning and 2,673 in the afternoon). The consumption of food, drinks and alcohol, as well as the use of musical instruments, cameras with tripods or selfie poles are regulated (prohibited except prior authorization).

The yearly amount of visitors to Machu Picchu rose from 200,000 in 1987 to 1.2 million in 2014 and threatened the survival of the site.

June 2017 - Qatar: Launch of the e-visa system.

Following many other countries, Qatar has just put online an electronic visa system. This facility is available to citizens of 218 countries (virtually all countries of the world) at the price of $42. The citizens of 74 countries also have the possibility of obtaining the visa upon arrival in Doha provided that they meet the conditions. The visa on arrival is cheaper (about $28), but takes more time (queue) than the e-visa.

If you are simply stopping over in Qatar with a flight of Qatar Airways, this airline offers you a free transit visa which is valid up to 4 days.

June 2017 - USA:
Additional controls on passenger's computers.

The United States, which banned onboard computers on flights from a few Muslim countries in March 2017, decided not to extend this ban to other transatlantic flights. Instead, they require the absence of explosives in computers to be controlled on all flights to the United States prior departure. These checks decided late June 2017 must implemented within 21 days and additional security measures within 120 days. The laptop ban would only apply to airlines that do not comply with these new requirements. The laptop ban on flights from Muslim countries was lifted in July 2017.

About 2,000 commercial flights of 180 airlines from 280 airports in 105 foreign countries arrive daily in the United States   .

June 2017 - Lithuania: Temporary closure of Vilnius Airport.

The international airport of Vilnius will be completely closed from July 14 to August 18, 2017 since the runwaysl are to be renovated. For 35 days, most flights to and from Vilnius will be redirected to Kaunas Airport, which is located about 100 km from Vilnius. If you are concerned, check with your airline.

June 2017 - Malaysia: Extension of the E-visa system.

The electronic visa system set up in Malaysia in 2016 for Chinese and Indian tourists has just been extended to the citizens of a few other countries. In total however, citizens from only 10 countries can use this system at this time.

June 2017 - Oman: Launch of an e-visa system.

In turn, Oman has just launched an e-visa system allowing travelers to apply for and pay a visa on a dedicated web site of the Royal Oman Police. The Sultanate of Oman welcomed 3 million tourists in 2016.

June 2017 - Ethiopia: Launch of an e-visa system.

Following the example of other countries, Ethiopia has just set up an e-visa system. The online visa fee amounts to $ 52 for a stay of up to 30 days and $ 72 for a stay of up to 90 days. It may be paid by MasterCard, Visa, American Express or Diners Club. Currently, this system is only available for single entry for tourist purposes. You can still get your visa from the Ethiopian Embassy in your country or upon your arrival at Addis Ababa airport.

June 2017 - Airfares: Extra charge when booking a flight from a travel agency.

The IAG group, that includes British Airways and Iberia, has announced that, as from November 1, 2017, a GDS surcharge of € 9.50 (£ 8) will be levied on any reservation of an air ticket through a third party (online or physical travel agency) using a GDS system. Only flights sold directly from the web site of the airline are exempted from the extra charge. A GDS system makes it possible to compare flights and book the best deal.

IAG follows the example of Lufthansa and its subsidiaries (Brussels Airlines, Swiss International Airlines and Austrian Airlines) which have applied an extra charge of € 16 on any air ticket booked through a third party since September 2015. Since April 13, 2017, Ukraine International Airlines has also levied an extra charge of € 8.4 on sales completed through a travel agency.

June 2017 - Botswana: Tax of $ 30 for each tourist entering Botswana.

As from June 1, 2017, Botswana levies a tourist tax of $ 30 that any foreign visitor is to pay upon arrival in Botswana, with the exception of the citizens of the 15 countries that are members of the Southern African Development Community. The tax is payable in cash, debit card or credit card at the airport or port of entry in the country.

Botswana welcomes approximately 1.6 million visitors per year. The country is known for the quality of its safaris. Okavango Delta is one of its main attractions.

May 2017:
Europe - Promotional offers of Ryanair to Erasmus students.

As from the academic year 2017-2018, Ryanair provides the students who are members of Erasmus Student Network with a 15% discount on Ryanair flights and a free checked-in luggage. The offer is limited to 8 journeys per year. It will be available in a specific portal of the Ryanair website. In 30 years, about 3 million students took advantage of Erasmus programs that enable them to study at a foreign university.

May 2017: Qatar - Layover in Doha for passengers of Qatar Airways in transit.

Qatar Airways offers travelers calling at Doha the opportunity to discover the city at promotional conditions. These travelers may go out of the airport and stay in Qatar 5 to 96 hours, i.e. up to 4 days, with a free transit visa. You must apply for the visa at least 7 working days prior to your arrival.  In addition, a night in a 4 or 5 star hotel is temporarily available for free. The airfare will not be increased when you use the multi-city booking option of the web site of Qatar Airways in order to include the layover in Doha. Except for travelers from a few countries in the Middle East, passengers are eligible for such a layover on either inbound or outbound journeys. Only passengers of Qatar Airways flights may take advantage of this offer that is not available to passengers traveling on code-share flights.

Approximately 30 million passengers annually call at Doha.

April 2017: South America - Yellow fever cases.

Some countries in South America currently experience a cyclical increase of the cases of yellow fever: Suriname, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador. As from April 2017, access to several regions of Colombia (excluding Bogota) will not be allowed for unvaccinated travelers.

March 2017: Spain - A new low-cost airline.

The IAGroup, that owns British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus and Vueling, announces the creation of Level, a low-cost airline based in Barcelona and specializing in long-haul flights. As from June 2017, Level will offer low-cost flights to four transatlantic destinations and will later develop more long-haul flights. The project aims at facing the increasing competition from Norwegian and the airlines of the Gulf. Several other European airlines follow a similar strategy. Read our article "Low-cost long-haul flights" and know more about this major change of the air transport market.

March 2017: Madagascar - Partnership between Air Austral and Air Madagascar

In the frame of the partial privatization of Air Madagascar, the Board of Directors of Air Madagascar recommends that Air Austral, the airline based in La Réunion, takes a stake of 49% in Air Madagascar. After approval by the Government of Madagascar, the agreement of partnership could be signed in May 2017.

Currently, Air Madagascar serves Paris and Marseille in France and Guangzhou in China, five regional destinations (Réunion, Mauritius, Comoros, Mayotte and Seychelles) and a dozen destinations in the island.

March 2017: Iceland - A boom in tourism.

During the first two months of this year, the amount of foreign visitors to Iceland has increased by 59% compared to the same period in 2016. For the whole year, it is expected to reach 2.4 million. This is 7 times the local population. This increase is certainly ver favorable to the economic development of the country. Thus, in Reykjavik, unemployment, which had jumped to 10 percent in the wake of the recent financial crisis, fell to 3%.

However, such a concentration of foreign tourists is not without inconvenience to the local population. Thus, available accommodations are offered through AirBnb to tourists rather than to young local households, which repels them outside of the cities. The large number of rental cars makes up traffic jams. Even the tourists are starting to complain of being too many in Iceland.

March 2017: Indonesia - Train service to Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (SHIA).

With several years of delay, the Indonesian public company PT Railink will put a railway line into operation between Jakarta's main airport (Soekarno-Hatta international airport) and downtown as from July. The train will stop at 5 stations: Manggarai, Sudirman Baru, Duri, Batu Ceper and the airport. Between the stations of Manggarai and airport, the journey will take 45 minutes while the current bus service may take more than 70 minutes depending on traffic. At the airport, a driverless skytrain will transport passengers from the station to the terminal free of charge.

In July 2017, Manggarai station won't be ready so that trains will leave from Sudirman Baru. There will be 40 departures per day. However, ultimately, a service will be provided every 15 minutes. The journey will cost about US $ 10. Soekarno-Hatta international airport is the busiest airport of the southern hemisphere.

February 2017: United States - Basic Economy airfare.

After Delta Airlines in 2016, American Airlines in March 2017 and United Airlines in April are going to introduce a Basic Economy class in order to face the competition from low cost airlines (such as Spirit Airlines in the United States).

The holder of such an air ticket can bring only a small hand luggage that fits under the seat (no access to overhead bins). His seat will be assigned only at check-in (fee to choose a specific seat). Boarding will occur in the last group of travelers. Basic Economy air tickets are neither changeable nor refundable. That fare is offered first on a few routes and it will be available later on other routes. Travelers in Basic economy class enjoy free snacks, soft drinks and inflight entertainment like the other travelers.

February 2017: Egypt
- Increase of visa fees.

The authorities have postponed the sharp rise of the visa fees ($ 60 instead of $ 25) to 1 July, in order not to discourage the recovery of tourism.

February 2017: Cambodia - Higher admission fee.

Admission to several tourist sites in Phnom Penh has increased: from $ 6.25 to $ 10 for the Royal Palace of Phnom Penh and from $ 3 to $ 5 for Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. As already announced, the entrance charge to Angkor Wat, which is significantly more expensive, has also nearly doubled.

February 2017: Vietnam - Launch of the e-visa system.

As scheduled, Vietnam has implemented a system of e-visa available at the price of $ 25 and valid for a stay of maximum 30 days for citizens of 40 foreign countries, including France, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Italy, and Spain. Do not part, for example, Belgium, the Netherlands, Canada and Switzerland. However, in the first days, the system was out of order.

On the other hand, citizens from some countries such as France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Spain are exempt of visa if their stay does not exceed 15 days. Vietnam hopes to welcome 11.5 million foreign visitors in 2017.

January 31, 2017: Reunion - Eruption of Piton de la Fournaise.

Piton de la Fournaise came into eruption on January 31. The eruption lasted several days. The previous eruption dates back to September 11, 2016 and lasted a week.

January 2017: Madagascar
- Small drop of visa charges.

In 2017, the visa fees to visit Madagascar are reduced by € 4 or € 8. Since January 1st, they are been fixed at € 27 for a stay not exceeding 30 days, € 33 for a stay of 31 to 60 days, and € 46 for a stay of  61 to 90 days.

January 6, 2017: Sri Lanka
- Runway renovations at Colombo airport.

The main runway of Bandaranaike International Airport near Colombo, Sri Lanka, will be closed for renovation from 8h30 to 16h30 from January 6 to April 6, 2017. This results in a change in the international flight schedules, delays at the security checkpoint and the check-in counters (the check-in counters will also be closed an hour before departure) and congestion in the traffic around the airport.

Early January 2017: Spain, Israel, Cuba, Brazil, Mexico, and India - Tourism highlights in 2016.

In 2016, Spain welcomed 75 million foreign visitors - an increase of 10% from 2015 -, making it the third most visited country in the world after France and United States.

With more than 4 million foreign visitors in 2016 (+ 6% compared to 2015), tourism in Cuba reached a new record and could still grow further in 2017. Visitors to Cuba come mainly from North America (even if several legal restrictions in the United States have not yet been removed) and Europe.

In Israel, unlike most of the other countries in the Middle East, the amount of foreign visitors rose by 3.6% in 2016, to a record of 2.9 million visitors. The rise is related to an increase and a redevelopment of the budget for the promotion of tourism in Israel. Visitors to Israel come mainly from the United States, Russia and Western Europe. Israel has also sought to attract tourists from India and China.

In 2016, 6.6 million foreign travelers visited Brazil. That is an increase of 4.8% from 2015. The increase would be due in a large part to the Olympic and Paralympic Games which took place in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

With 9 million foreign visitors, tourism in India increased by 11% in 2016. The increase was much stronger than expected.

Mexico welcomed 35 million foreign visitors (of which 40% from the United States) in 2016, an increase of 9% compared to 2015.

In 2016, Japan received a record amount of foreign visitors: 24 million (including 11 million from China and South Korea), an increase of 21% from 2015.

For travel news 2016, click here.
For travel news 2015, click here.



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Willgoto points out here good and bad news which may be of interest for travelers in various parts of the world in 2017.