The travel landscape is constantly shifting; with natural disasters, international relations, and conveniency at the forefront of the recent news, we’ve collected some of the top headlines for you to stay up-to-date.

Uber Banned In London

Uber was denied a renewal of their operating license on Friday by Transport for London, the agency that regulates London’s taxicabs and public transportation. With the designation that Uber is “not fit and proper” to run, the transportation app will no longer be available to its largest European market. Within just 24 hours of the verdict, half a million people have signed the Save Your Uber in London petition which calls for a reversal of this decision. Given that Uber employs 40,000 drivers and has 3.5 million customers in London alone, the company will be appealing the decision.

Uber’s repeated disregard for local laws and history of scandal have fuelled the company’s poor reputation. In Transport for London’s statement on their decision to ban Uber, they cited the company’s approach to reporting criminal offences and its use of Greyball–a software that blocks regulatory bodies from accessing the app, as two of “a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications.” Sadiq Khan, the city’s mayor responded to the ban by saying, “providing an innovative service is not an excuse for not following the rules.”

In response to the decision, Uber’s chief executive Dara Khosrowshani sent an email to Uber employees stating, “The truth is that there is a high cost to a bad reputation. It really matters what people think of us, especially in a global business like ours, where actions in one part of the world can have serious consequences in another.” This is not the first time Uber has been forced out of some of its major markets. The company has been banned in Vancouver, Austin, New Delhi and the Northern Territory of Australia, with a ban currently under review in Italy. Uber’s license will officially expire in London come September 30, 2017.

Sources: The Guardian and The New York Times

 

Tourism Encouraged After Mexico Earthquake

On Tuesday, September 19, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake reverberated throughout Southern Mexico resulting in 295 casualties and severe infrastructural damage. The date marked the 32nd anniversary of the country’s only other earthquake of such a high magnitude, which occurred in 1985 and killed thousands. In Mexico City, over 40 buildings have at least partially collapsed, including an elementary school, which left over 20 children dead. A U.S. Geological Survey estimates the earthquake will result in 1000 fatalities and cost the country over $1 billion. President Enrique Pena Nieto has called for calm in the country while damages are being assessed.

Despite all this, many popular tourist destinations in the country, such as Riveria Maya, Cancun and Puerto Vallarta were left unharmed. This is good news for a country whose economy relies heavily on tourism. In 2016, tourism directly supported over 4 million jobs and contributed $165.9 billion US to the country’s GDP, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. The Mexico Tourism Board has reassured the public that tourist facilities and attractions are open for business and, “There is no reason for visitors to cancel travel plans to Mexico.” While major airports in Mexico City and Puebla shut down during the earthquake, they reopened within hours and are operating normally now.

If anything, the earthquake should be a positive example to tourists of Mexico’s spirit of kindness. Hundreds of Mexican civilians have banded together volunteering their efforts to search the rubble for survivors and provide those in need with food and supplies. Some have come from surrounding neighbourhoods while others have journeyed from elsewhere in the country to help out. In this interview, NPR’s reporter Emily Green shares tales of the extreme generosity she witnessed during the earthquake. One woman gave up her own socks to Emily to ensure her feet were protected and another man offered her a free ride to her destination on his motorcycle when he saw she was stranded. A 21-year-old medical student, Christian Piñeiro told the New York Times, “It’s very characteristic of the Mexican people: We stand together.”  

Source: The Guardian

Thinking of donating to victims of the Mexico earthquake? Check out this complete guide.  

 

Airbnb Now Offering Restaurant Reservations


Airbnb users can now add an authentic dining experience to their accommodation reservation. The $31 billion start-up’s recent partnership with Resy, a New York-based restaurant software, will power a Restaurants tab on the Airbnb platform. Approximately 650 restaurants will be available across the U.S., covering major cities such as Miami, San Francisco, L.A. and New York. Whereas other reservation platforms such as OpenTable feature thousands of restaurants, Airbnb Restaurants offers a curated selection of the best in each city. Users can customize their search by the type of meal, cuisine and time of day. The platform offers a map view and the option to translate restaurant listings into a different language, making the app easily accessible for international travelers. Additionally, each listing is personalized with a brief background on the restaurant, a rating out of five stars and photos of the dishes.

Offering dining experiences to users is a logical next step for Airbnb given last year’s addition of Airbnb Trips to the platform. In line with Airbnb’s promotion of sharing accommodation with local hosts, Airbnb Trips offers experiences curated by locals themselves. Airbnb has found their food and drink-related Trips to be their biggest seller, with users spending over $6.5 billion in restaurants in the last year. Additionally, the company commissioned a recent consumer survey of over 2000 adults which found that 66 percent of American travelers make restaurant reservations while traveling and that almost half of U.S. travelers look for restaurants recommended by locals. The Restaurants tab is the company’s solution to such a high demand amongst users for more authentic dining experiences.

Sources: Skift and Forbes

 

Caribbean Tourism After Hurricane Irma And Maria


With record-breaking 185-mile per hour winds, Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc in the Southeastern U.S. and several islands of the Caribbean causing massive flooding, power outages and extensive infrastructural damage. Shortly after Irma, came Maria, another category 5 hurricane that has only furthered the devastation in popular tourist destinations such as Cuba, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos.

On Wednesday evening, President Trump declared Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin islands federal disaster zones. In Barbuda, approximately 95 percent of the buildings have been damaged or destroyed. A 24-hour curfew has been instigated in St. Croix and popular hotels such as Sugar Ray Resort and Spa and Windward Passage Hotel have announced closures in St. Thomas. Cuba has been without power and running water for several days and the two airports that served Cuba’s northern islands of Cayo Coco and Cayo Romero have been destroyed. Cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean International and Norwegian Cruise Line have changed their itineraries and have acted as rescue ships for evacuations. Similarly, some airlines such as American Airlines have suspended commercial flights and have been operating to islands such as Puerto Rico only to deliver supplies and assistance personnel.

This level of damage has long-term implications for the economies of the island nations given that tourism provides over 2.3 million jobs and contributes more than $50 billion to the region’s overall GDP, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). Governments have been so preoccupied with securing people’s basic health and safety needs that tourism has not been top of mind. The scope of damage to the tourism sector is still being assessed and for countries with severe infrastructural damage, a long recovery period lies ahead.

As the peak tourist season of December to April approaches, there is still hope given that many island destinations experienced less catastrophic impacts. In Antigua, the airport, restaurants and hotels continue to operate normally. President Raul Castro of Cuba has reassured that the storm’s damage will be repaired before high season. Many islands such as Jamaica, Barbados, St. Lucia and Aruba were not impacted at all by Hurricanes Irma, nor Maria. Whether planning your winter escape south or reconsidering a trip you’ve already booked, check out this list of online resources to keep you informed.  

Source: The New York Times

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Muji to Open Hotels in Japan and China  


Muji, the popular Japanese brand known for their minimalist apparel, accessories and housewares, will soon offer customers the option to experience their products in a hotel setting. The company plans to open two new hotels; Muji Hotel Shenzen will open later this year in Shenzen, China, and the second is planned for spring 2019 in Tokyo, Japan.

Muji Hotel Shenzen will be located in the city’s financial district. The hotel will offer 79 rooms and five room types, as well as a fitness centre, restaurant and large retail space. Based on a concept of “not gorgeous or cheap”, the hotel will feature recycled wood interiors and plenty of Muji products.

The Muji Hotel in Japan will be built in a commercial complex located in the Tokyo’s Ginza district. The 58-metre-high building will occupy 13 stories in total; 10 above ground and three below. The first nine floors will sell Muji’s products while the top four floors will be dedicated to the hotel.  

Both hotels will follow Muji’s minimalist, clean aesthetic and be completely decorated with Muji furniture and home products. While the construction of these hotels will mark Muji’s entrance into the hotel industry, this isn’t the first time the company has designed spaces. In 2015, Muji designed three prefabricated houses and they were also involved in the design of Terminal 3 at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport. The company has even designed a car, the Muji 1000 in partnership with Nissan.  

Sources: The Japan Times, Telegraph UK, Japan Business Insider