Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Another Wake-up Call for the TSA?

The terrorist attack at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport yesterday, which killed 35 people and injured over 100 took place in the airports arrival hall, or often known as the “land side”. This is an open space for anyone to enter without having to go through any security checkpoints.

This vulnerability in airport security has been long recognized by both security officials and terrorists. "Every airport in the world, including every airport in the United States, has virtually no security until you get to the security checkpoint," said Richard Clarke, an ABC News consultant and former White House counter-terrorism official.

Passenger and baggage screening typically take place before entering the “airside” of the airport. For international arriving passengers, baggage pick-up normally occurs airside up until the exit from customs to the arrival hall. However, for domestic passengers, baggage pick-up can often occur landside, which adds a level of threat from terrorists who may have concealed weapons in their checked luggage. At Domodedovo Airport, the space between baggage pick-up and the public arrival area is very small and was vulnerable to attack. This is a problem worldwide. In fact, almost all violent criminal or terrorist attacks at airports over the past 20 years have occurred landside.

This is an issue that will not be easy to deal with because of the large number of people at land side that include those meeting travelers, service providers and friends and family of departing passengers. There is surveillance but no screening. Will land side screening become the next area for the TSA to pinpoint?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

300 Year Old Versailles Mansion to Become Hotel

A historic mansion that is located about one hundred yards from the cherished cultural landmark; Versailles is being renovated into a five-star, 23-room luxury hotel, the Grand Hotel de l'Orangerie.

Versailles, home to the French monarchy since Louis XIV, is a monument of royal grandeur. Soon, the palace may also become known for its new five-star hotel.

Starting in January 2012, guests will be able to spend the night for anywhere from $650 to $950. The mansion was built in the 1680s, it was the home and offices of the king's treasurer, where he lived with his family and servants. There is much work to be done on the mansion, as some of the walls are literally crumbling. Renovations are estimated to cost $7 million and should take about a year, according to a news release from the Château de Versailles.

The Belgian company Ivy International has been commissioned to head the restoration and operate the property for 30 years. A portion of the profits will be paid to the Château de Versailles for rent. It will retain its history and culture as the mirrors and floors and chimneys will be retained. The centerpiece of the hotel will be a big library and the main hall. The hotel will be decorated in the style of the Chateau and will be a five star property.

When the Hotel de l'Orangerie is completed, overnight guests will be able to stroll in the gardens of Versailles for the first time in 300 years. Guests will be able to schedule private visits to the Chateau every day after 5:30 p.m. and all day Monday.

To get started booking your trip to France, contact a Travel Agent today!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Feeback from a Client Just back from Australia...

Just a note of thank-you for all your work and suggestions in preparing our Australia trip. We had a simply splendid time--everything worked wonderfully, even if the weather was a bit cooler and cloudier than the Aussies would have liked. But for us frozen east coasters, having temps in the upper 70s to low 80s was a welcomed change.

A special thanks for the recommendations for both of the Mount N Beach trips: the 1/2 day Sydney area tour was great with an excellent and very engaging driver, and the day trip Blue Mountain bush trek was superb. I'd recommend it for anyone who wants to see both the scenic wonders of that area, plus have the option for a jaunt into the rain forest. But do warn folks about the optional 1,000-step stairs that descend down the mountain face into the forest. Wow, talk about scary, to say nothing of the sore legs and wobbly knees!

And a final thanks for your recommendation to spend our final nights in Sydney at the Swissotel. It was a truly delightful hotel, and the package deal you arranged provided us with Executive Club accommodations and privileges. What a way to wrap up our stay! By the way, if anyone is looking for an excellent high end Italian restaurant in the downtown Sydney area, we'd recommend "Il Pendolino" which is located in the Strand Arcade just off George Street. Outstanding service and superb food in the $30-50 entree price range.

Cathy, your planning on our behalf truly made the trip for us. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Harrisburg, PA

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Italy Bans Plastic Bags

As of January 1st, Italy became the first country to ban plastic bags. Shopkeepers in Italy have been banned from giving out plastic shopping bags to reduce "white pollution."

Italians use about 20 billion of those plastic bags a year (about one-fifth of all European use) and they are non-biodegradable. The new law took effect on January 1. Stores are only allowed to give out plastic bags till they run out, and then must use either paper, biodegradeable plastic or cloth bags. There have been similar restrictions on the bags in about 200 Italian communities but now the ban is nationwide.
Other countries, such as China, Ireland and the UK charge 5 cents per plastic bag. Cities across the world, such as Mexico City, San Fransisco and Edmonds, Washington, have also outlawed plastic bags.
Thinking about traveling to Italy? Contact a Professional Travel Agent today to get started!