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Woman Traveler in Thailand

Travel Experts Claim Tourism Will Be More Personalized Post-Coronavirus

According to hotel, aviation, and tourism experts, the future of travel in a post-coronavirus world is going to be all about “hyper-personalization” and luxury.  International borders have already begun to reopen which has already given travellers an insight into what the industry is going to look like when it comes to travelling in this new age of living. 

Mr and Mrs Smith’s Founder and Chief Creative Officer James Lohan recently spoke with the media about travelling in a post-Covid world and claims that privacy and personalization will be on the top of every businesses list. Hotels that are already reopening to the public obviously are needing to take major precautions for both staff and guest safety. Lohan believes that guests will begin to notice more options to design their own stay when planning future vacations. 

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“Customers will be asked how they want to be looked after. Do you want your bags carried or would you rather have no contact with the staff? Would you like to have your turn-down every night or not? Do you want your room made up every day or not?”

The goal is comfort, and while many individuals are likely to opt out of travelling until a coronavirus vaccine becomes a reality, there are others who will be forced into beginning work again soon and will likely need to travel. Individuals who need to self-quarantine for other reasons will likely take advantage of hotel/rental reopenings for the summer and beyond as well. 

Lohan also predicts that serving hours for meals in hotel restaurants will likely expand to allow less individuals to be present in one space at a time. Ordering food will also become more digitized in more of a room service type of format. Minimizing face-to-face contact between staff and guests will also be top priority for everyone’s safety. 

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Hotels located in major metropolitan areas are projected to struggle the most at attracting guests to come back after lockdown. For one, many individuals will likely be anxious to enter any major city in the US by the time this pandemic ends. On the other hand, many individuals who do want to get back into the city may also avoid it due to the fact that they know everyone else will avoid it. The going out culture in cities is what makes vacationing in one so exciting, so without the travelers there to fill the streets, many would rather keep their trips simple. 

The biggest change that Lohan and other experts are projecting to occur is a decrease in how often the average individual travels, but an increase in how lavish they vacation when they do. Tourists will likely want to make travel something special, based on the fact that it’s something we’re all being denied at the moment. 

The reality is also over 40 million Americans lost their jobs within the past three months, so the market of individuals who can afford to travel is going to become much smaller for the US. However, this also means that once the economy recovers and jobs are created, individuals will likely want to wait and save for the perfect luxury trip to really make their time away from home worth it in the future. 

It won’t matter how the travel industry looks in a post-coronavirus world, however, if we don’t actually get to a place where Covid-19 is no longer an issue. Continue to take every health and safety precaution you can and listen to your healthcare professionals so that hopefully one day soon you’ll be booking a flight again to your favorite Caribbean island. 

Carribbean

Caribbean Islands Prepare To Reopen For International Travel During Covid-19 Pandemic

I think it’s safe to say we all could use a major break from the world right now, and what better place to take that break than the Caribbean Islands? While Covid-19 is still very much an issue in America, and the entire world, right now, some countries are beginning to reopen their doors as a result of curve flattening. Specifically, many islands within the Caribbean are reopening within the next few months, with some new social distancing measures put into play. 

So far, the island of Anguilla has only had three cases of Covid-19 reported. The British overseas territory closed their airports and shipping ports until at least June 30th; hence the low case numbers. For local islanders, business and other restrictions began lifting on April 30th, allowing gatherings of 25 or less. 

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Antigua and Barbuda opened up their borders on June 1st after only suffering through 26 cases. They have a plan in place to slowly reopen their international airport within the next month or so. Visitors will be required to wear a mask at all times when in public. Visitors will also have to be tested for Covid-19 two days before their arrival, and they must bring proof of a negative result. 

Aruba has just over 100 cases but expects to reopen its borders during the second-half of June. On May 25th the island allowed outdoor restaurants to open up under a strict night curfew. The island has also implemented a new cleaning and hygiene certification program for all tourism-related businesses. This program includes initiatives to sanitize luggage, as well as using protective barriers at concierge desks. 

The Bahamas have had around the same number of cases as Aruba, and they plan to reopen to commercial travel on July 1st. Visitors will only be able to visit islands where the virus has been completely contained. All international airports, resorts, and hotels will remain closed to international travelers until further notice. 

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Not all islands are as optimistic about when they’ll be able to reopen, however. The Cayman Islands have had 150 cases of coronavirus and are planning on remaining closed for all non-essential travel into September. Cuba has had around 3,000 cases and is leaving its airports closed until at least June 30th. The Dominican Republic has collectively had over 17,000 cases and are remaining closed indefinitely. 

Jamaica has had around 600 cases and allowed most of its citizens to return to work on June 1st. Bars and restaurants have also reopened with new capacity restrictions, and they’re hoping to open up their airport to resume flights from Baltimore and Orlando on June 7th. 

Puerto Rico has had more than 3,900 cases but have begun reopening local businesses and public areas like the beach. Restaurants have also been opened, again with new capacity restrictions, and as of right now anyone who visits the island is required to quarantine for 14 days, regardless of how healthy they feel. 

Saint Lucia got lucky and only reported 18 total cases of Covid-19. They begun welcoming back visitors to their island this Thursday, June 4th, as long as they can provide a valid negative test result for the coronavirus taken 48 hours before their flight. They also will be required to wear masks and could be subject to temperature checks upon arrival. 

For further information covering all of the islands in the Caribbean, click here.

Santorini Greece

Greece Plans On Reopening For Tourists On July 1st, Says Prime Minister

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, many tourism industries throughout the world are struggling to figure out when they’ll be able to return to a sense of normalcy. Different countries and cultural destinations have set up various virtual tours and experiences for those who are quarantined and fighting their wanderlust urges everyday, while others have already begun planning for their big reopening post-pandemic, whenever that may be. 

Greece, to be more specific, is optimistically hoping that they’ll be able to reopen their country’s doors to tourists by the beginning of July, just with some major changes. Lockdown policies in general have begun to lift in Europe, since they’ve been issuing stay-at-home orders for much longer than we have here in the US, however, most of the continent still needs to adhere to strict social distancing guidelines. 

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According to Greece’s Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the country will be reopening to tourists on July 1st with some major adjustments made to protect everyone from possible infection. For example, visitors of the country can expect to still be able to sightsee and go to all the white-sandy beaches that Greece is famous for, however, they likely won’t be able to participate in any sort of nightlife activities, which also makes up a majority of the revenue for Greece’s tourism industry. 

“The tourism experience this summer may be slightly different from what you’ve had in previous years. Maybe no bars may be open, or no tight crowds, but you can still get a fantastic experience in Greece — provided that the global epidemic is on a downward path,” Mitsotakis said in a recent interview

According to Johns Hopkins University, which has been recording data relating to the coronavirus pandemic since the beginning of the year, Greece has greatly been able to contain the spread of Covid-19 infections and have only experienced 147 coronavirus-related deaths. The rates of infection have remained so low that children are even expected to return to school next week to finish off their year. 

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Hotels within the city are also projecting to reopen in the beginning of June. If everything goes as planned, Prime Minister Mitsotakis intends for Greece to focus its attention on bringing back smaller tourism activities first and bringing in a higher end luxury customer market. The goal is to have these guests stay in boutique hotels while they embark on intimate excursions such as yachting and agrotourism. 

This way, these higher-end customers can likely spend more money and help Greece’s tourism market recover quicker. As of right now, every international traveler who arrives in Greece must land in Athens and go through a health screening. This screening involves a test for Covid-19 that has rapid results and Mitsotakis is hoping they can expand this program to other countries within Europe to make intercontinental travel easier.

In a recent video conference Mitsotakis also proposed that the country creates “safe corridors” for citizens from countries that have a stable coronavirus response, like Greece itself, so that all parties involved feel more comfortable that they won’t be infected; he’s already made calls to Austria, Denmark, Israel, and Singapore to do so. 

While other countries in Europe are also starting to lift their quarantine policies, only time will tell when we’ll all be able to travel confidently and safely again. For now, it’s important that we continue to listen to our healthcare providers and remain indoors.

Aruba

Take A Virtual Vacation To Aruba While Quarantined

A tropical vacation to Aruba sounds perfect right about now. Thanks to the coronavirus, many of us won’t be traveling anytime soon, however, technology is allowing people all over the world to travel wherever they want without leaving their beds. Aruba is just one of many countries that is offering a multitude of virtual tourism attractions to keep everyone stuck at home a little more relaxed as we wait to be released from quarantine.

The Aruba Tourism Authority has created a number of ways for everyone to enjoy the culture and beauty of the island from the comfort of their own homes. On the official Aruba YouTube Page, a video titled “30 Minutes of Happiness from One Happy Island” is currently being viewed by thousands of individuals around the world as a way to relax and unwind.

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This half-hour video brings the tranquility of Aruba’s white sandy beaches and crystal blue waters right into your living room. Relaxing nature sounds play in the background as scenic drone shots of vast beach landscapes and colorful tropical rainforests paint your screen. The video was designed to give off the same effects as ASMR videos, which are created with the intent to relax anyone who views them.

Aruba’s Tourism Authority has also uploaded virtual tours of some of the island’s most popular tourist attractions to their Facebook page. One of their more popular examples is a video where a local Aruban Shanti guides you through one of Aruba’s magical Butterfly farms that contains some of the world’s most rare species of butterfly.

To continue on with the theme of relaxation that the “30 minutes of Happiness” video is exuding, the Aruba Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino has created an “Island Vibes” playlist on Spotify for users who want to listen to the sounds of vacationing on a tropical island while they send out their emails for the day.

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Tired of eating pasta and chicken every day? Now, you can enjoy the fresh and delicious cuisine that comes from Aruba in your own home! The Aruba Tourism Authority has uploaded multiple food and cocktail recipes to their Instagram account. Their most popular post would be an at-home recipe for making pastechi, which is basically just a stuffed pastry that’s widely popular in Aruba.

Beyond that, the Divi and Tamarijn All Inclusive Resort in Aruba has uploaded the staple cocktail recipes for the drinks you would find at any resort on your vacation to the island. If you don’t drink alcohol, the resort has also provided a few mocktail recipes, so you can still feel your tropical vacation fantasy.

Finally, since the world is celebrating Earth Day this week, the Aruba Tourism Authority has uploaded a special video tour of the island of Dushi Tera. Within the video, you’ll hear an inspiring message delivered by 17 native Aruban voices, all between the ages of 9 and 90. The video not only emphasizes the beauty of the island and its natural resources, but also leaves viewers with a positive promise to future travelers, stating that the island will open its arms again soon, once it’s safe again, and it looks forward to seeing all of you very soon.

Isreal Landscape

How To Take A Virtual Tour Of Israel While Quarantined

As the world continues to endure quarantining themselves while we wait for the Covid-19 curve to flatten, there’s a multitude of online virtual tours/attractions/shows that cultural institutions from all over have created to entertain us while we wait. Israel as a whole has decided that they want to give travelers everywhere a special gift and has created dozens of digital offerings that allows anyone to explore almost the entire country from the comfort of their own home.

A company called Sygic Travel Virtual Reality has created a 360-degree virtual tour of Jerusalem’s Old City. In a mission statement, a spokesperson for the group stated: “Holy to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, Jerusalem is one of the world’s foremost pilgrimage destinations. You may feel moved, energized, or swept into the maelstrom of contemporary issues — but the city will not leave you unaffected.” You can participate in the tour via the Sygic Travel VR website.

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The Israel Museum is a cultural hub for the nation. The museum is offering a virtual tour experience of its many historical exhibits, as well as a ton of virtual activities for children if you’re kids are home from school and often running out of things to do everyday. The activities themselves are both online, as well as printable, and include things like coloring sheets of famous exhibits. 

Speaking of museums, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art is one of Israel’s most popular destinations for tourists and citizens alike. The museum itself is also offering virtual tours of its most famous exhibits, as well as pre-recorded video footage from older exhibits that are no longer on display. 

Beyond just virtual museum tours and online activity books that one could do with their child, Israel really wanted to offer up a true digital experience of what it would be like to travel to the nation if we had the ability to do so right now. So, the country has created a whole slew of 360-degree videos that are meant to “cater to a variety of interests,” for different types of tourists. 

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Israel knows that certain tourists visit certain places for a whole variety of reasons, so they wanted to offer up digital experiences for as many of those reasons as possible. The virtual tours that are uploaded to the official YouTube page for Israel includes some of Tel Aviv’s most famous beaches, as well as a hot air balloon ride overlooking the entire city. Additionally, there are also tours of the famous Dead Sea, the Tower of David in Jerusalem, Independence hall, and much more. 

Our mission is to give you a tour of Israel using our ultra high definition panoramas of Israeli hotels, cities, attractions, holy places, and to help you understand Israel and plan your vacation, for the future. View everything from Haifa in the north to Eilat in the south,” according to 3D Israel, the company responsible for a lot of the content involved in this project. 

Beyond just 3D Israel, other third-party users on YouTube have offered up their own personal footage from past trips to Israel to create even more virtual adventures for the tortured traveler stuck in quarantine. Some of these online experiences include a trip through the Western Wall tunnels, the Via Dolorosa, the Sea of Galilee, and even Tel Aviv Pride.

While it may be awhile before you’re actually able to get on a plane and explore the real beauty of Israel, the nation wants to keep their culture alive, so they offered these amazing virtual experiences to keep us all a little more sane as we make it through the next few months. 

Los Angeles California

Underrated Things To Do In Los Angeles

The East and West Coasts of the United States hold a lot of notoriety. Los Angeles versus New York is a tale as old as time, however, both coasts and both cities are a hub for diversity, culture, and entertainment. While New York City is the city that never sleeps, Los Angeles is the city referred to as La La Land (no, not the movie, but the concepts are similar), but it’s often overlooked as just a city of Hollywood snobs and Beverly Hills housewives. However, there’s plenty to do in LA beyond just TMZ bus tours and posting pictures of smoothie bowls on Instagram.

One of the most underrated parts of Los Angeles is the fact that it’s home to over 150 museums. One of the most notable museums would have to be the Getty Center, which is basically LA’s version of the MET in NYC. The center holds art from a whole slew of artists/artistic periods that defined our world’s culture throughout history; such as pieces by Van Gough, and sculptures from Ancient Greece. Other museums, that hold historical artifacts beyond the art world include LA’s own Museum of Natural History, the Petersen Automotive Museum, the Hollywood Bowl Museum, and Madame Tussauds Hollywood; for the more whimsical celebrity-obsessed LA resident inside us all. 

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From coast to coast, most Americans can agree that if you’re going to visit either NYC or LA, you’re going to need to go shopping. LA especially is known for its wealthy, elitist, high-profile residents, so why not join that same status for the time being on your visit? The “treat yourself” mentality should always be activated on a vacation, but especially when that vacation is to the City of Angels. 

The Beverly Center in LA is over 800,000 square feet of store upon store upon store. It’s basically a super-mall that has retailers ranging from high-end designers, such as Gucci and Balenciaga, to more affordable and feasible options, such as Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. Beyond the center, the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica is an outdoor pedestrian mall that has a multitude of shopping, dining, and entertainment options to fill your day. 

For more family-friendly daily activities, you really can’t go wrong with a trip to Legoland or Universal Studios. These are the obvious mainstream choices, but they’re popular for a reason, especially amongst kids. Both options range between $100-$200 per day depending on the activities within each, and each also offers places to stay on your visit. 

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Another more underrated experience that’s perfect for the constantly moving traveler is a multi-day California tour. These tours begin in Los Angeles, but show you a whole range of experiences in the Golden State that you wouldn’t have access to if you just stayed in LA. One 3-Day California Coast tour takes you on a three-day, two-night journey along the west coast where you’ll stop in other famous California cities such as Santa Barbara, Yosemite National Park, San Francisco, and more! This specific tour costs $500, and most are around the same range. 

According to Tripadvisor, other multi-day tours include a longer 8-day tour that covers the same cities as mentioned above and an extra state; the tour starts in Los Angeles, and ends in Las Vegas, Nevada. In fact, Las Vegas is the destination for a few of the multi-day tours California and LA has to offer.

If you want to lead a more active life while on your trip, there’s yet again a whole bunch of activities that the city has to offer. Some stereotypical California experiences you can sign up for include surfing lessons, helicopter tours that stretch beyond just LA, and hiking/biking groups that will show you the more hidden, natural side of an otherwise extremely metropolitan area. 

Regardless of your coastal preferences, both LA and NYC have plenty of activities that any kind of vacationer would want to embark on. 

Queen Conch Shell

Turks And Caicos Desperately Trying To Save The Queen Conch Shell

The Islands of Turks and Caicos (TCI) are known for their crystal blue waters, white sandy beaches, and overall sense of paradise. When we think of tropical beaches and warm weather, a few standard symbols come to mind, one of which being the queen conch shell. We’ve all seen conch shells be used in movies and television as a sort of warning siren, depending on the context, but what happens when the islands in which these precious shells are native to begin to run out? 

The queen conch shell is not only a beautiful representation of the Turks and Caicos culture, but it’s also seen as a delicacy menu item for restaurants all throughout the islands. For centuries locals have harvested the queen conch and served it fresh in a multitude of dishes to tourists and natives alike. So it’s troubling that now, there seems to be little to no queen conch shells left in the traditional fishing areas that those who harvest the shells are used too. 

Environmentalists have warned the islands for years that overfishing will lead to the eventual downfall of the queen conch’s population and they predicted right. Due to its popularity as both a menu item and decorative relic, the demand for these specific shells has always been high. 

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“Conch is a national symbol and a huge part of our heritage. [I blame] a lack of action from the government, which still permits conch to be exported, along with watersports operators who allow holidaymakers to take home live juvenile conchs as souvenirs. They assume conch is unlimited but environmentalists have been warning about this for years,”  explains TCI’s former culture director David Bowen.

The state of Florida, which is just over 600 miles away from the TCI’s, had the same conch shortage issue and even went as far as to create stricter regulations regarding conch fishing in order to protect the species. It’s predicted that around 200,000 queen conch’s are exported from the island’s every year; which also equates to one million pounds of conch fish meat. 

To emphasize Bowen’s point; in earlier years people who came and visited the island took advantage of the rich abundance of conch shells by eating them with most meals, and collecting them to bring back to the United States, or wherever they’re visiting from, because legally there are no laws preventing that exportation.

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This is beginning to greatly affect a slew of local businesses on the TCI’s due to the fact that many different eateries rely on the dishes they create by using conch meat for their business. Now, many restaurants are temporarily closing down due to a huge lack of customers and supplies. According to sources, surrounding Caribbean islands are also already feeling the effects of this. Jamaica has already implemented a ban on conch fishing, and the Bahamas are attempting to do the same, as officials from the island claim that they’ll lose their entire queen conch industry if a major change doesn’t occur within the next decade. 

The closest thing to a regulatory law that the islands have is an annual three-month period in which all exports are halted, however, now that there’s barely any shells left, it’s not enough. 

“It’s horrific that we’ve reached this stage. If fishing persists, it might be too late to do anything. Conch’s importance to Turks and Caicos dates back to the pre-Colombians who not only ate them but fashioned their shells into tools. Later, islanders used them as musical horns while the shells’ beautiful pink colors have seen them displayed in jewelry for centuries,” Kathleen Wood, of research body SWA Environmental.

So far, the only measures that are being newly regulated on the islands include a reduction on the number of fishing licenses granted and a cut back on the large number of export quotas TCI sends out annually. Currently, local experts are also taking inventory of all species in the surrounding oceans of the islands in order to create a more specific policy/law regarding the queen conch.

Suitcases

How the Travel Industry is Fighting Climate Change

As the effects of climate change materialize in the form of more frequent and destructive extreme weather events, various industries are looking at ways to reduce their carbon footprint with renewed intensity. As tourism contributes heavily to carbon emissions thanks to the emissions released by cars and airplanes, the tourism industry is looking for ways to make vacations more environmentally-friendly. The industry is deploying a variety of methods for doing so, from investing in more carbon-neutral infrastructure to educating tourists about the environmental impacts of travel and teaching them how to reduce carbon emissions. And as popular vacation destinations are being transformed by a changing climate, tourists are witnessing first-hand the disastrous impact of climate change, reinforcing the urgency of developing more environmentally-friendly practices like reducing carbon emissions, cutting back on waste, and exploring sustainable alternatives in all parts of life.

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According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, the tourism industry is responsible for about 5 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, although others say the real figure is much higher than that. While this percentage may seem small, it accounts for a tremendous amount of carbon being released into the environment, and when it comes to tackling climate change reducing carbon emissions in whatever way possible is essential. Like major corporations in other industries, hotel chains are exploring ways to transform their businesses into ones that have a low or neutral carbon impact. Hilton, for instance, gets more than 50 percent of its electricity from a power plant that burns natural gas, which is a cleaner method than most popular forms of energy production, although it is not entirely carbon neutral. Hilton is also transitioning to using more energy-efficient lighting and appliances, including air conditioning systems that automatically turn off when they’re not being used.

Cruise lines, too, are trying to transition to a more environmentally-friendly business model. Royal Caribbean, for instance, is incorporating technology into their cruise ships that filters almost all of the sulfur dioxide emissions from their exhaust. The popular cruise line, having pledged to respect the oceans in the environment, has also invested in energy-saving lighting systems and has engineered the designs of their ships for optimum efficiency. Another cruise line, Hurtigruten, plans to transition to using liquified biogas, which is derived from organic waste instead of from fossil fuels.

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Educational efforts are part of how the industry is attempting to tackle climate change as well. Many hotels and tour groups encourage tourists to reduce waste by taking shorter baths and showers as well as reducing their laundry by re-using towels, among other strategies for minimizing waste. Tourist destinations, such as Lake Tahoe in Nevada, are trying to reduce their carbon emissions by improving their public transportation systems, reducing the extent to which people rely on cars to get around. Even luxury tourism brands are attempting to become more environmentally-friendly; The Brando, for instance, is a luxury resort that runs entirely on renewable energy, acting as a model for how other resorts can help to provide a luxurious vacation experience while completely eliminating their reliance on fossil fuels and harmful carbon emissions. 

 

As the global economy is currently strong, many expect that the tourism industry will continue to grow in the future, even as the nature of tourism itself changes due to climate change, both in terms of how a changing climate affects the weather conditions of tourist destinations and in terms of how the tourism industry is changing to reduce its contributions to the crisis. 

Australia

Australia Welcomes Tourists in Aftermath of Wildfires

Wildfires have been raging throughout Australia for several weeks now, though fortunately, they are fewer in number now as many of them were extinguished by recent storms. Unfortunately, the timing of the wildfires coincided with the country’s tourism season, meaning that tourism operators have lost a tremendous amount of money as tourists have canceled their trips due to the ongoing natural disaster. As such, tourism agencies have intensified their efforts to attract tourists to various parts of the country by showing that many areas of the country were unaffected by the fires, and retain the attractions that have drawn tremendous crowds of tourists in the past. Tourism helps to stimulate the local economy, which is essential as Australia recovers from an environmental and economic disaster. It’s most helpful to visit the areas that have been hit hardest by the fires, which include Victoria and New South Wales.

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CNN has compiled a list of the top cities to visit in Australia for 2020. At the top of their list is Canberra, the Australian capital. Canberra isn’t generally considered a top tourist destination, but the city has many local attractions that can appeal to vacationers, including the Parliament House, the Australian War Memorial, and the National Gallery. By visiting these landmark locations, tourists can learn about the history of Australia and even witness Australian politics in action at the country’s primary law-making body. The National Gallery seeks to preserve the culture and lifestyle of Australia’s indigenous people, as well as art from around the country and the world. The National Gallery hosts a number of different events throughout the year and is a great place to visit during a vacation in Australia.

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A place in Australia that is a favorite spot for relaxation among tourists is Batemans Bay in New South Wales, where visitors can enjoy the view where the Clyde River meets the sea and enjoy outdoor meals at local eateries. Batemans Bay is home to Birdland Animal Park, a nature preserve where tourists can engage with local wildlife, including baby wombats. Recently, Birdland Animal Park has seen a sharp decline in visitors, and the business is struggling in a way that it hasn’t in twenty-six years, so the park would surely appreciate an influx of tourists from around the world. The park has not seen any damage from the wildfires, though the surrounding forests have, but locals expect these forests to start to regrow within a few months.

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Those who are more interested in visiting the beach will enjoy Moruya, which is a short drive south from Batemans Bay. Here, visitors can board a seaplane with South Coast Seaplanes to view the beautiful continent from above, though these views are likely to contain dead forests blackened by wildfires. Also, visitors can fly over the nearby Montague Island and witness a fur seal colony from above.

Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Was A Holly Jolly Success!

The annual Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting ceremony took place this past Wednesday and it truly was a holly jolly good time. The three hour televised affair had beautiful decorations, performances from tons of artists singing their favorite Christmas carols, and of course, the lighting of the massive Rockefeller Center tree. New York City residents and tourists alike began flooding the streets at 2 pm to ensure they had a prime spot for seeing the tree when it was lit up more than seven hours later, close to 10 pm. 

“Half a million people in the streets, everyone is in a good mood. As soon as the tree gets lit, feels like everyone else gets lit. Witnessing this whole extravaganza live and in person is incredible,” Mario Lopez, who co-hosted the regional hour of the show, told USA TODAY

This year’s tree is a Norway Spruce that came from Florida, New York. Carol Schultz is the New York native responsible for giving the nationally recognized tree up this year. Schultz planted this year’s tree in 1959, making it 60 years old! The tree is 77 feet tall and weighs a whopping 12 tons, relatively standard for Rockefeller Center. 

The tree is beautifully decorated with more than 50,000 rainbow lights and topped with a 900 pound star which is made up of 3 million Swarovski crystals, according to USA TodayThe half a million witnesses to the lighting were given an extra special treat from Jack Frost as well. Not only did the weather deliver a perfect 35 degree winter evening for viewers, but snow flurries sporadically fell from the sky throughout the entire night, making New York City a true winter wonderland. 

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The show opened with a performance from John Legend, who’s already made Christmas headlines with his stellar “Legendary Christmas” special last year. After that the crowd, and anyone watching from home, watched performances from Lea Michele, Idina Menzel, Ne-Yo, Billy Porter, and of course, the New York City Rockettes.

The tree itself was brought to the city in early November, as it takes a while to get a crew to cover all 77 feet of Norway Spruce in magical lights. However, once Thanksgiving ended the concrete jungle truly endured a holiday transformation. Saks Fifth Avenue set up their iconic designer window displays, ice skating rinks throughout the entire city have been flooded with cheerful families, and tourists have begun arriving from all across the globe to witness some of the magic that is Christmas in New York. In fact, according to data compiled from last year’s holidays, it’s predicted that up to 67 million tourists will be coming in and out of the city this holiday season; last year was almost 66 million. While watching the NYC Christmas festivities unfold from the comfort of your own home is nice, nothing beats seeing all of it in real life.

“It’s incredible to see all this in person. I’ve watched it on TV for years and even living in New York I’ve walked past it. But I’ve never been for the Rockefeller tree lighting, and it is iconic. There’s just something in the air. Rockefeller does such a good job; they make people happy all over the world,” said Nia Franklin, Miss America 2019, who attended the tree lighting for the first time this year.

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio was brought on stage at approximately 9:50 pm to hit the golden button, and give people all around the world the moment they’ve been waiting for all year: the official beginning of Christmas in New York.