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wall

Great Wall Of China Damaged By Workers Using Excavator 

Two individuals have been arrested in northern China after they allegedly damaged a section of the Great Wall using an excavator to create a huge gap in the ancient structure, local police said in an online statement

A 38-year-old man and a 55-year-old woman, who were construction workers, were supposedly trying to create a shortcut in order to save time going around the world. The police stated that the structure was “severely damaged.”

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“It had been one of the existing complete border walls and beacon towers with important protection and research value,” the county police department said.

China’s northwest Youyu County police responded to reports on August 24th of a gap that had been dug into the structure known as the 32nd Great Wall, a section that’s been standing since the Ming Dynasty. 

“Excavators were used to excavate the original gap of the ancient Great Wall into a large gap, so that the excavator could pass through the gap, which caused irreversible damage to the integrity of the Ming Great Wall and the safety of cultural relics,” the police statement said

The authorities detained the two suspects pending further investigation. The oldest portions of the Great Wall were created more than 2,000 years ago.

The structure is also listed as an UNESCO World Heritage site and is known as one of the greatest creations of ancient human engineering. 

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About 30% of China’s Great Wall has disappeared in recent years due to climate challenges and “reckless human activities,” including stealing bricks to build houses. This damage has eroded the already old structure, causing long term damage. 

The investigation regarding the two construction workers is currently underway, ideally, this news will deter future individuals and groups from messing with the Great Wall and maintain its beauty that makes it such a historical landmark in our world’s story. 

To avoid damage to the Great Wall, in recent years authorities have implemented multiple measures to deter individuals from damaging the structure. 

For example, in April 2020 the Badaling Great Wall tourism site near the capital city of Beijing implemented new regulations that allows them to blacklist tourists and give them administrative penalties depending on their specific infraction. 

In May 2021, two foreign tourists were banned from the Great Wall after ignoring a “no crossing sign” on an undeveloped section of the monument and climbing onto the restricted area, according to reports. In August, another tourist was detained and fined for using a hairpin to carve on the wall.

airport

Australians Experience 50% Rise In Airfare Travel Costs To Europe 

According to data collected by travel booking site Kayak, Australians looking to travel to Europe are seeing fares around 50% higher than what they cost last year, despite the fact that there’s also been an increase in available seats this summer and fuel prices improving within the past few months. 

Kayak used data from early January, up until this month, to conclude that the average price for return economy airfare from Australian cities to Europe would be around $2,500. This marks a 46% increase on average airfares for 2022, as well as a 63% increase when compared to pre-pandemic pricing. 

In general, this summer travel season is already gearing up to be increasingly expensive as well as busy for many major destinations around the world, but especially in Europe. 

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David Beirman, an adjunct fellow professor at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia who also specializes in tourism, stated that this increase, while jarring, isn’t exactly surprising. 

“Airlines for a long time were making next to no money on international flights, especially for economy passengers. Most carriers were still working to financially recover from the steep losses of Covid, even if some such as Qantas have been posting record profits of late. Those two years of lost revenue is what consumers are paying for now,” Beirman explained. 

“Covid was an extreme lesson in what could happen when things go wrong. So they have been forced to be more realistic about their pricing now, as irritating as it is to the traveling public,” he continued. 

“Sadly what has happened since Covid is that travel has gone from being something very democratic that just about anyone earning even a modest salary could afford to being a plaything of the elite or for people paying huge amounts of money just to see loved ones.”

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“They’ve had to recruit staff and pay them much more money than they used to get. Maybe by 2024 or 2025 people will be a bit more choosy, less eager to travel, and prices will come down but at the moment it’s very much a sellers market and airlines are, rightfully or wrongfully, taking advantage of that,” Beirman said.

Simon Elsegood, head of research at the Center for Aviation, said “while fuel prices have come back down substantially [and] we’ve seen a portion of the leisure market move up to premium economy and other classes, it’s not been enough to compensate airlines from lost business travel.”

“Air fares are a sore point because they are so much more expensive than 12 months ago but I don’t feel like people are getting a raw deal. It’s very difficult to price gouge between Europe and Australia because there are so many route options.”

“It’s just the way the market has to be at the moment. Yes, they’re making money now but they also lost billions during the pandemic. They’re not a charity and they have to make sure their shareholders are also taken care of,” he concluded

air

FAA Issues Warning Over Airline Staff Shortages Ahead Of Busy Summer Travel Season 

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has warned the industry of staffing shortages throughout the nation as the travel and tourism industry prepares for yet another busy summer travel season. The FAA is requesting that key facilities prepare to make operational adjustments as a means of preparation. 

The FAA held a meeting with the aviation industry last week as a means of brainstorming ways to manage travel this summer; especially in New York’s congested airspace and transportation hubs. 

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The agency is requesting that airlines cut back on the amount of offered flights to ease airport traffic during the peaks of the summer travel season. 

Last year, the nation’s travel and tourism industry faced one of the busiest summer season since pre-pandemic. A multitude of airline’s experiences flight disruptions, delays, and cancellations which the FAA is trying to avoid this year. 

According to the agency, this summer’s travel season is forecasted to increase by 7% in terms of traffic when compared to last year. The FAA also predicted a 45% increase in delays if airlines don’t intervene to prevent disruptions. 

“The FAA is taking several steps to keep air travel to and from New York City this summer safe and smooth, even as we see strong domestic demand and a return of pre-pandemic international traffic,” the agency said in a statement

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The agency also stated that the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON), or N90, located on Long Island which is responsible for organizing flights to and from John F Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport, and Newark Liberty International Airport, is suffering from a severe shortage of air traffic controllers and other staff. 

In a notice posted last month, the FAA revealed that the staffing throughout TRACON only covers 54% of what’s actually needed to operate smoothly during the busy summer season. 

They’ve claimed that one of the main reasons for these shortages has to do with the pandemic safety measures, which impacted workforce training throughout the past three years that agencies have still yet to recover from. 

The Washington Post reported “that airline executives expressed a willingness to cooperate with the agency; but, also some frustration, as they’re working to restore their own operations to pre-pandemic levels.”

Airlines have been told that they have until April 30th to make changes proposed by the FAA; United and Delta Air Lines have already stated they approve of the FAA’s proposal, and are ready to implement changes to make the season run as smoothly as possible for staff and travelers.

mexico

Mexican Drug Cartel Issues Apology for Deaths of Kidnapped Americans

A Mexican drug cartel believed to be responsible for the kidnapping last week that ended in the deaths of two Americans and a Mexican woman in Matamoros, Mexico, has issued an apology letter. The cartel also handed over five of its members, believed to be the perpetrators, to local authorities.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter from authorities in Tamaulipas, Mexico, where the kidnappings occurred.

“The [Gulf Cartel] apologizes to the society of Matamoros, the relatives of Ms. Areli, and the affected American people and families.”

The two murdered Americans have been identified as Shaeed Woodard and Zindell Brown. Their bodies were delivered to US diplomatic authorities. Survivors Latavia Washington McGee and Eric Williams returned to the U.S. and were hospitalized.

According to family members who spoke to CNN, the four victims were close friends from South Carolina. They drove to Matamoros for McGee to have surgery.

The FBI reported that the trip abruptly ended when gunmen opened fire on the group’s van before forcing the Americans into another vehicle and driving them away. A stray bullet also killed a Mexican bystander during the shooting.

Tamaulipas Attorney General Irving Barrios Mojica believes the cartel may have mistaken the Americans for Haitian drug smugglers.

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The Associated Press reported that a photograph depicting five men bound, lying face down on the pavement, with their shirts pulled over their heads, was included with the apology letter they received.

A separate unnamed state security official said five men had been discovered tied up inside a vehicle authorities had been searching for alongside the handwritten letter. Police have not confirmed that they have the new suspects in custody.

The cartel stated that the five men did not abide by the cartel’s rules, including “respecting the life and well-being of the innocent.” Allegedly, they acted of their own volition.

“The Gulf Cartel, Scorpion Group, strongly condemns the events of last Friday. For this reason, we decided to hand over those directly involved and responsible for the acts, who at all times acted under their own determination and indiscipline and against the rules in which the [Gulf Cartel] always operates.”

Authorities have yet to confirm the letter’s authenticity. Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, a professor at George Mason University who studies cartels, told CNN that in the wake of high-profile incidents, it is common practice for Mexican cartels, particularly in the country’s northeast, to issue statements to the authorities or rival groups.

The official who shared the letter with CNN said that Mexican and American authorities investigating the kidnapping have doubts about whether the apology letter is authentic. If so, they believe the apology was issued after the attack drew much attention to the cartel’s activities and increased public scrutiny of their movements.

Mexican security analyst David Saucedo told The Associated Press that the killings brought in National Guard troops and an Army special forces to run patrols that “heat up the plaza” in “narco terminology.”

“It is very difficult right now for them to continue working in terms of street-level drug sales and transferring drugs to the United States; they are the first ones interested in closing this chapter as soon as possible.”

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Shaeed Woodard’s father, James Woodard, watched the video of his son’s abduction on television and said it was difficult to get through.

“That was so hard for me to see those videos and see him dragged and thrown on the back of the vehicle. He was a baby, and for him to be taken from me like that was very hurtful. My family is hurt real bad because he was so lovable. He had the biggest heart.”

Eric Williams’s wife, Michele Williams, told CNN that her husband was shot three times in the legs. She revealed that Williams underwent surgery in Texas after he and McGee were found alive. McGee was unharmed, but she was traumatized.

“She watched them die. They were driving through and a van came up and hit them, and that’s when they started shooting at the car, shooting inside the van. … She said the others tried to run, and they got shot at the same time.”

The kidnapping and murder have intensified US and Mexican efforts to reduce cartel activities, a key factor of the fentanyl trade between the two countries. According to a government report, Mexico is the “dominant force” of fentanyl in the United States.

A U.S. National Security Council spokesman told CNN that a U.S. delegation traveled to Mexico to “discuss our governments’ ongoing cooperation in combating illicit fentanyl.” They will address the kidnapping and develop a “fundamental strategy to attack the cartels.”

albania

Albania Focusing On Alternative High-End Eco-Tourism

Albania is becoming one of the go-to European travel destinations. Last year the country experienced 7.5 million tourists, more than half of its population. Now, officials are working to rebrand the nation as a “high end quality” destination to cater to a wider range of tourist markets.

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US State Department Enforces Travel Advisories For Mexico Amid Increase In Violent Crime 

The US State Department has placed travel advisories for US tourists planning on traveling to Mexico. The advisory covers six Mexican states under a level 4 “do not travel” advisory, the highest level of warning. 

The State Department issued separate advisories for each of Mexico’s 32 states based on the current threat levels present for US citizens, government employees, expats, digital nomads, and tourists. 

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The advisories are in response to an increased risk of violent crime throughout the country. The State Department warned that homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery are all widespread throughout Mexico at this time. 

America also has warned that the US government and local authorities have limited options when it comes to American citizens who currently need assistance in certain Mexican territories.

While violence and kidnappings are not typically targeted towards tourists, there have been incidents, and risk of, innocent bystanders being injured or killed in the crossfire of certain violent altercations. 

According to the travel publication Travel Off Path, “the U.S. government has urged Americans to obey the same restrictions they have placed on U.S. government employees in Mexico. Specifically, U.S. government employees are advised to: Avoid travel between cities after dark, avoid hailing taxis on the street, do not travel alone, especially in remote areas, and do not drive from the U.S. – Mexico borders the interior parts of the country, with a few exceptions.”

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US authorities are urging travelers to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program and inform their families at home of their plans as a precaution. Avoiding obvious signs of wealth and utilizing extra caution when using ATMs or banks are other ways travelers can reduce their risk of danger while traveling. 

Travelers are also able to call 911 to talk to authorities when in Mexico, should an emergency occur. The US Embassy will also be able to assist travelers should they need to find medical care, need an attorney, or need accommodation to travel back to the US. 

Six Mexican states currently have a level 4 “do not travel” warning and seven states are under a level 3 “reconsider traveling” advisory. Campeche and Yucatan are the only two regions with no current travel advisories in place against them. 

Travel Off Path has recommended that “each traveler needs to assess their own vulnerability and comfort level before deciding if they should travel to Mexico right now. Generally, if one remains in tourist areas and takes the recommended precautions, their risk of coming into contact with violence and crime is minimal. However, it is always important to be aware and prepared regardless of where you are traveling.”

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Thailand’s Gay-Romance TV Dramas Reviving Tourism Industry

A recent wave of Thai television dramas known as “Boys Love” (BL), or the “Y” series, has grown in popularity in Thailand. The genre of show portrays some sort of gay romance, which has attracted a large audience across Asia in recent months.

Australia’s Prime Minister Says International Travelers Won’t Be Welcome Until At Least 2022

Prime Minister Scott Morrison outlined plans for lifting some of Australia’s toughest Covid-19 this week. Part of this outline stated that foreign tourists won’t be welcomed back until at least 2022. The country will instead be prioritizing the return of skilled migrants and students by reopening external borders when they reach a certain rate of vaccination.  

Morrison’s benchmark for reopening will be once 80% of the population aged 16 and older are fully vaccinated. He also announced plans to allow vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents to fly overseas in November; citizens haven’t been able to leave since March 2020. 

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Australia has been reporting the lowest level of immigration since World War II due to these strict travel restrictions. Australian universities and businesses have been struggling to cope with the lack of international students and tourists who typically support these institutions financially. 

Australia’s travel restrictions, however, has allowed life to return to a fairly normal place due to the lack of infection. As of right now some of its biggest cities, like Sydney and Melbourne, are currently experiencing shutdowns due to minor outbreaks. These shutdowns are what has helped keep Australia’s rate of infection low. 

The difficulty with restricting citizens from international travel is that half of Australia’s population was born overseas, or has at least one immigrant parent. Morrison said the priority will be to get migrants and international students back before tourists, but did not specify when he thinks those groups will be allowed back. 

Before the pandemic, the Australian Tourism Export Council made 33 billion American dollars in a year. That sort of revenue could help Australia’s recovery efforts immensely, which is why the Council is hoping international visitors will be able to return by March. 

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As of right now, however, the lack of specificity in the plan to reopen borders has many workers within Australia’s tourism/travel industry worried. 

“International tourist arrivals have to be part of the plan. Even if they’re not the first priority, we’d like to see how this is going to be worked out. There are many businesses that are just hanging on,” said Daniel Gschwind, chief executive of the Queensland Tourism Industry Council.

Morrison said that the “government would work toward a complete quarantine-free travel for certain countries, such as New Zealand, when it is safe to do so,” but did not give a clear timeline as to when that will happen. Any international travelers that are able to travel into Australia currently must quarantine in a hotel for two weeks. 

Australia is currently battling outbreaks of Covid-19 and its variants while rushing to get as many citizens vaccinated as possible. It’s initial vaccine rollout was slow, but is starting to gain some momentum now.

Maui Set To Impose New Hotel Tax Due To Influx Of Tourists 

The Hawaiian island of Maui has announced that they will now be collecting a hotel tax from all tourists staying there in order to help them deal with the influx of tourists while recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The new 3% tax will be collected from all individuals staying at a hotel or short-term rental on the island. According to the Associated Press, this tax comes after lawmakers in the state passed a bill that would change how Hawaii allocated tax revenue to the different counties. 

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Before this new tax was implemented, the state would collect a 10% hotel tax to be distributed to each county. According to Hawaii News Now, the bill is also cutting Hawaii Tourism Authority’s budget by 24%. Maui County Council Chair Alice Lee told the media outlet that this change would help the tourism industry in Hawaii thrive overall as the world begins to reopen more. 

“This tax will help tremendously. Instead of $23 million, we’ll probably receive in the neighborhood of $50 to $70 million,” she explained. 

The push for Hawaii’s tourism sector to find new ways to gain more revenue comes as a major increase in travel, and travel plans, have emerged, especially in Maui. Maui’s Mayor Michael Victorino has reached out to certain airlines to start bringing fewer tourists to the island, as they are starting to become overwhelmed with wealthy travelers who want to escape. 

“We don’t have the authority to say stop, but we are asking the powers to be to help us,” Victorino said to the AP.

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In May 2021, more than 630,000 visitors flew to Maui. In May 2019, before the pandemic, Maui received about 847,000 tourists, so the state is currently witnessing almost pre-pandemic levels of travel while the US is still very much battling this virus and its variants. 

Maui is also one of the easiest places to travel to currently, especially for American citizens. Last week the state removed their requirement for travelers to be tested for Covid-19 before coming to the island; this stipulation only exists for fully vaccinated domestic travelers. 

Those who are not vaccinated still have to provide proof of a negative test from a “trusted medical partner site” in order to skip the mandatory quarantine period once they get to the island itself. 

Hawaii has also recently expanded their partnership with the company Clear’s Health Pass, which offers vaccinated individuals with an easy and digital way of proving their vaccination status to make travel easy. 

Governor David Ige also announced that the state plans to lift all of its Covid-19 restrictions once Hawaii reaches a 70% vaccination rate. Currently 65% of all residents have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and 58% are fully vaccinated. 

Summer Vacation

The Most Popular Vacations People Are Booking For 2022 

As more individuals receive their Covid-19 vaccinations throughout the world, many are planning their first big trips for when the world really begins to return to a sense of normalcy. 2022 is already seeing an influx in flight bookings under the assumption that by that point, more of the world will be vaccinated and Covid will be more obsolete. 

Here’s a list of some of the most popular destinations individuals are booking trips to for next year:

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Napa Valley, California: Many individuals are looking to book trips that will give them an experience, not just a simple resort vacation. After struggling throughout the pandemic and one of the deadliest wildfire seasons of the past decade, California in general is ready to open its doors for tourists again. Napa Valley is specifically offering a ton of different wine tasting resort packages that will give individuals the opportunity to plan their perfect vacation in wine country. By 2022, the Four Season Napa Valley will also be open and running, marking the first time a Four Seasons winery will be in Northern California. 

Paterson, South Africa: Speaking of experiences, the safari expedition’s offered at the Kruger National Park in South Africa is unlike any other safari experience out there. The Shamwari Private Game Reserve, in Paterson, South Africa, offers two daily game drives which allow individuals to digitally and safely search for wildlife native to the area. A majority of the wild animals in the game have left the actual reservation area due to colonization and poaching, however, this new experience will allow the reserve to rebuild what was lost while continuing to educate the world about the magic of wildlife. 

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Loire Valley, France: The Hotel Château du Grand Lucé is an hour away from Paris and has been open to the public since 2019, however, the property has existed since 1760. This French chateau that formerly housed royalty can now become your own personal vacation palace while you endure unforgettable experiences like biking through the village and picnicking in the flower-filled exotic gardens. 

Perez Zeledon, Costa Rica: For those looking for more of the beachside resort vibe without all the crowds, look no further than Perez Zeldon, Costa Rica. This 150 acre landscape includes a coffee farm, tribal village, lush rainforest, and plenty of white sandy beaches to rest and recharge on. 

Sardinia, Italy: This is one of the most popular beach destinations in Italy to date. Sardinia is known for its white sand beaches and captivating turquoise waters. There are a multitude of hotel options that offer complete serenity and privacy. All restaurants and shops are also within a walking distance depending on where you stay. 

Kyoto, Japan: Kyoto has become one of the most iconic Asian city destinations for tourists. They’re known for their luxury hotels that are bustling with Japanese culture. Visitors can hike to take a dip in some hot springs, enjoy all the local cuisine, and take in all of the culture with a multitude of historical sights to see.