Travel Tuesdays: Communicating When You Don’t Speak the Local Language

View from our villa, Salina
Whenever we travel to another country, people ask us about the language barriers. Traveling to a country when you don’t speak the language does present certain challenges, that’s for sure, but they’re usually not insurmountable. To start, be sure you have a good traveler’s phrase book and/or dictionary. Knowing a few common phrases will go a long way.

(If you plan to take an extended trip, you may want to invest in a language course or Rosetta Stone software before you go.  There are also many new high tech gadgets you can look for such as translation apps. More on that in a future post).

Once you have a few words and phrases under your belt, use them whenever appropriate, and try to add more as you go. When you exhaust your skills, you can try asking if they speak English (or your native tongue). I’ve found that people often have a few words of English. Once you’ve exhausted your knowledge of each others languages, rely on gestures, facial expressions and the like. You’ll find that people are amazingly adept at reading body language. I’ve had entire conversations in which neither one of us spoke a word of the other’s language.

When we arrived on Salina last month, Domenic (not his real name), the caretaker of our villa, spoke no English. We arrived after just one full day in Italy, so we weren’t exactly oriented to the language and place. However, we were still able to communicate enough to understand that he needed to shuttle us to our villa in two trips and that he would return for the second group in ten minutes. Of course, we also had an amusing conversation in which we thought he was trying to tell us something important about the police when he was actually talking about the cleaning fee for the villa. Yet, we still managed to figure this all out, with much laughing in between. Domenic wrote down a few words and gestured which helped us figure out our misunderstanding.

A few days later, when Domenic returned, I learned he had 2 kids with his first wife. They divorced. Now he has 3 kids with his second wife, the youngest being the baby we met when he picked us up. He intends not to have more children. Domenic also learned that my husband and I have two children and don’t intend to have any more. When my family returned from their trip into town, they were surprised I had learned so much. Our secret… gestures! Seriously… Domenic made a motion like putting on a ring, put up 2 fingers and said “Bambino.” Then he made a motion like removing the ring- I get it… divorce! Then he motioned in a way that made me realize he meant his wife, who we had met. He put up 3 fingers and said, “Bambino.” Then, “Basta!”

I had another meaningful conversation with a man in Sicily. (I’ll call him Lorenzo to protect his privacy).  Lorenzo was prepping the meal we were about to enjoy together. Lorenzo happens to speak English, so most of our conversation was in English. We were having the usual small talk when I asked if he had any children. He immediately said, “No.” Then his face twisted a little, and in halting English he told me he had a child, but he died when he was one month old. I don’t want to reveal any more personal information here, but we went on to talk about his experience for a while- the details of the death, how his partner responded to the situation, etc. But here’s the part that stuck out for me… he was concerned that he couldn’t find the English words to accurately describe his sorrow. My heart was breaking listening to him. He didn’t need any words. I understood.

I was touched by Lorenzo’s willingness to share such a personal story with me, a virtual stranger. He could have simply left his answer at “No” (As in, “No, I don’t have any children”). I never would have known. But he chose to take a risk and share with me. As awful as his story was, that moment of personal connection is important to me. We crossed language and cultural barriers to get down to the  commonality of human experience. While I wish Lorenzo never had to suffer so, I feel fortunate that he shared it with me.

So, to my point. Yes, there are communication challenges. Yes, there are times when I just want to have an easy conversation in my primary language. That’s natural. But I really do relish those times when I have to work to communicate across language and culture, as well. The key is to keep an open mind, speak slowly (NOT LOUDER!), and use facial expressions and gestures as much as possible. Think of it as a game of charades if that helps. And always, always pack your sense of humor so you can laugh when you’re worried about the police and you really need to worry about scrubbing the toilet.

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Pinterest-Like Social Travel Planner Trippy Inks Deals With 6 Major Brands, 20 …


Trippy, the social travel planner which debuted last fall at TechCrunch Disrupt, is going to begin pulling in some additional revenue starting today, thanks to a newly launched feature: brand profile pages. The initial lineup includes roughly half a dozen brands such as Chase Sapphire Preferred, Thompson Hotels, Hawaii Visitors Convention Bureau, Hilton Hotels Resorts, Brides, Air New Zealand, and Forkly. However, Trippy founder J.R. Johnson says they’ve got about 20 more brands waiting in the wings, which will roll out over the next few weeks.

“A lot of companies want to engage around the idea of travel,” explains Johnson, and, he adds, “each one of their motivations for wanting to get involved is a little bit different. But it’s all designed around this idea of having their brand in the social conversation when people are thinking about and talking about travel.”

For some of the brands, it’s about content distribution, for others, brand distribution, or it’s about attracting new users. Or, more likely, it’s a good mix of all that and more. Some brand relationships here are more obvious than others, too. For example, hotels and tourists bureaus are obvious fits, while with Brides magazine, it can be about associating its brand with those who are researching destination weddings or honeymoons, perhaps, and with Chase it’s about highlighting their travel rewards. By including themselves in Trippy’s social travel planning platform, the brands are tapping into a tool for social distribution – that is, it’s a tool for getting their brand shared on Facebook, without the need for a “Like” or cut-and-pasted URL.

Instead, says Johnson, “anytime someone is using Trippy, and they say they want to go to any of these places, or they’ve been to any one of these places, with [Facebook's] Open Graph, that becomes a timeline story.” The post then goes to that user’s Facebook profile and gets seen by their friends. But Johnson insists it’s not just the Facebook effect at play here. “At this stage in the game, 90% of it is being on the site itself, and 10% is the Facebook effect,” he says. “And the reason I say that is because it’s a little unproven.”

If Trippy as a destination is the current draw, then we wanted to know what that platform looked like, in terms of users, visitors, and engagement metrics. However, Johnson declined to share these numbers for now, saying it’s still early for that. But other competitors have not been as shy. For example, Jetpac, which just closed a $2.4 million Series A, was seeing 18 actions per session at the time of its financing. Trippy is probably waiting to match or beat that.

Trippy, which offers Pinterest-like boards for travel inspiration, will begin seeding the brand’s content into both its web app and iPad starting today, but iPhone app users will only see the brands’ imagery and shared items if they first save it to one of their travel boards for now. This will change with a forthcoming update to the iPhone version. In the meantime, you can see some example pages here: Thompson Hotels, Chase and Brides.


Trippy is the first web and mobile app designed to let your friends plan your trip, helping you travel better. It’s a friend-sourced solution solving the long-standing problem of untrustworthy and irrelevant travel content.

Trippy launched as a finalist in the TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2011 Startup Battlefield. The company was founded by J.R. Johnson and the team that launched and grew and (both bootstrapped and grown to an annual revenue of $18MM and $8MM EBITDA)…

Learn more

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Tuesday Travel Ticker: Hawaii forecast strong

University of Hawaii economists are predicting visitor arrivals will grow 3% and spending 8% next year. The forecast comes after the Hawaii Tourism Authority said that the industry is on course to break records this year …. London Mayor Boris Johnson, a disheveled, Latin-spouting figure, is so eccentric that one bookmaker offered odds of 33-1 that he would accidentally set his hair on fire with the torch at the Olympic opening …. Through June, 20,745,383 passengers passed through Las Vegas’ McCarran Airport since the beginning of the year, a 1.9% increase over the same period a year ago …. Dock-hopping gets easier in Lake Tahoe later this week with the debut of the North Lake Tahoe Water Shuttle. Rates starts at $10 for the water taxi, which carries 12 passengers. It runs through the end of September. For info or reservations, go online or call (530) 581-8707 …. California State Parks is training volunteers to lead tours at Tomo-Kahni State Historic Park in Tehachapi. The training sessons begin Aug. 11. Call (661) 946-6900 for more information …. A popular San Francisco seasonal event, Fleet Week, takes over the city during the weekend of Oct. 4-7 with a series of Navy-inspired events, entertainment and the Blue Angels air show. Info: Online or (415) 673-2900 …. Co-Oishi, a 5,600-square-foot Japanese restaurant, is scheduled to open this fall at Hollywood Highland …. Paso Robles’ Garagiste Festival, dedicated to under-recognized small-lot production wines, takes place Nov. 8-11. Tickets and info available at the festival website …. The San Francisco Giants will host the semifinals and finals of the World Baseball Classic at ATT Park in March 2013. Joe Torre will manage Team USA. Information at  …. Carmel is offering a self-paced, self-guided wine walk to seven tasting rooms on Ocean Avenue. Call (800) 550-4333 for details, or go online for tickets …. Travel quote of the day: “Age appears to be best in four things: old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read.” (Francis Bacon)

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Expect higher hotel rates in United States for 2012 fall travel season

Savvy business and leisure travelers look for ways to reduce business and travel expenses. But, reducing the travel budget may not include hotel costs in the upcoming fall travel season. The Mid-year TripAdvisor Industry Index report, the world’s largest hotel survey, announced on July 30, 2012, that hoteliers in the United States point toward higher rates, year over year, for the upcoming fall season. Among the key findings of the biannual hotel service report is the fact that 47% of U.S. hoteliers expect pricier rates for travelers ahead of the fall travel season. While nearly half of the responses indicate anticipated rates will go higher this year, compared to the same time last year, only 16 percent expect comparatively lower rates.

Data-based trend information

With more than 25,000 responses from hoteliers around the globe, and over 5,000 from the United States alone, the survey’s data and ranks offer key findings about today’s top hospitality industry trends. For example, its findings show free, in-room WiFi Internet access is becoming more ubiquitous. Already, 93% of U.S. respondents report offer free in-room WiFi Internet access. In the next six months, 17% of the respondents, who do not currently offer free WiFi, plan to do so.

Data-based industry indicators

Christine Petersen, president of TripAdvisor for Business, indicates, “The TripAdvisor Industry Index underscores the current economic climate, as hoteliers in North America, Asia-Pacific and Latin America are all approximately twice as likely to report being profitable in the last six months than hoteliers in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa region. What’s encouraging is the traction accommodations are making in the areas of online, social, and mobile marketing. While currently only a quarter of respondents offer programs to engage with mobile device users, we expect this number to grow, especially since a separate TripAdvisor survey confirmed that 44 percent of travelers plan on using their mobile phone or smartphone more as a travel resource during trips this year.”

Most positive outlook countries

Bright outlook countries are pivotal to the challenged, global economy. The United States ranks fourth in the world for hotels with the best business outlook:

  1. Indonesia
  2. Brazil
  3. Russia
  4. United States
  5. India

Most negative outlook countries

It’s clear that economic challenges influence business outlooks in industry sectors. Greece ranks last in the hotel sector outlook, according to respondents’ answers to a number of questions gauging the perceived health of their business. The three, bottom countries were Spain, Italy, and Greece.

Larger properties most profitable and optimistic

Across North America, larger properties (with over 50 rooms) reported to be more profitable than smaller properties (with 50 or fewer rooms). In the United States, 34 percent of larger properties indicated that they had been extremely or very profitable, compared to 24 percent of smaller properties.

Economic outlook appears to vary by property size: 67 percent of larger properties and 57 percent of smaller properties expect economic conditions to improve a little or a lot in the next six months. In the United States, overall accommodation owners’ economic outlook has diminished slightly, as 62 percent now expect the economy to improve, down from 65 percent in Dec. 2011.

Thirty percent of U.S. accommodations reported to have been extremely or very profitable within the last six months, up from 27 percent when TripAdvisor conducted its last Industry Index survey in December, 2011. By comparison, 24 percent of accommodations in the Caribbean and 21 percent in Canada indicate they have been profitable in the last six months.

Where to expect increased hotel jobs

Outside of North America, hoteliers in India (39%) and Brazil (34%) are reportedly the most likely to increase the size of their staffs, while hoteliers in France (6%) and the UK (8%) are least likely to add new employees.

According to the survey, a greater percentage of Mexican (21%) and Caribbean (20%) hoteliers plan to increase the size of their staffs than their counterparts in the United States (15%). I n the United States, plans to hire have dropped down from 27 percent, according to TripAdvisor’s December, 2011 survey.

Lower rates expected in Greece, Spain, and Italy

With rate trends compared to the same time last year, where can travelers expect bargains? Looking at the report’s room rate rankings, certain countries already are decreasing rates ahead of the fall travel season. The top 5 countries indicating lower rates are the following:

  1. Greece – 58%
  2. Spain – 43%
  3. Italy – 37%
  4. Australia – 32%
  5. New Zealand – 29%

Higher rates expected in United States, Brazil, and Russia

Some countries are not riding a bargain rate current. The survey’s room rate rankings show that specific countries already are increasing rates, compared to this time last year, ahead of the fall travel season. The top, five countries indicating a trend toward higher rates are the following:

  1. U.S. – 47%
  2. Brazil – 42%
  3. Russia – 42%
  4. Indonesia – 37%
  5. Turkey – 35%

Data-informed business decisions

In challenging economic environments, data-informed business decision-making is highly important. For example, the survey shows only 12% of U.S. accommodations do not offer any special offers. Insight into the ranking of amenities or types of offers holds influence. What are the top five, special offers used to attract guests?

  1. Discounts of rooms – 58%
  2. Special amenities (e.g., free WiFi) – 44%
  3. Free parking – 31%
  4. Rewards points – 30%
  5. Free newspapers – 20%

Data-informed travel decisions

Savvy leisure and business travelers with flexibility can use the Mid-year TripAdvisor Industry Index report’s survey data to their advantages. Bargain countries, in terms of hotels, are revealed. High cost travel accommodation trends become more transparent. Additionally, insight into the common amenities used to attract guests can be used as leverage in striking a good deal in accommodation negotiations.

Data on top hospitality trends cast influence on opportunities in the upcoming fall travel season for industry decision makers, leisure travelers, and business travelers. In an era when knowledge is empowering, timely information readily becomes a pivotal, planning tool.

Find the take in this article to be helpful? National and International Industry, Education, and Travel materials come from a husband and wife team, who travel extensively as published writers and photographers. One is an experienced scientist with a doctorate in Material Sciences and background in pharmaceutical and optics research. The other is former Vice President of GKE, who served as a US Web-based Education Commissioner during the Clinton administration, and was a former US National TechLearning Teacher of the Year.

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Travel Bloggers to Converge in Toronto, Canada for TBEX Conference in 2013

/PRNewswire/ – Today, TBEX — the world’s largest gathering of travel bloggers — announced the host city for its 2013 North American conference. “We are thrilled to have chosen Toronto, Canada for our event, June 1-2, 2013,” says Rick Calvert, CEO of TBEX. “We’ll be bringing about a thousand travel bloggers to the Allstream Centre for two days of great educational programming for digital content creators. Of course many of our attendees arrive days early for the famous PreBEX events. They will be exploring the city of Toronto and the surrounding areas before and after the conference, capturing and sharing unique stories and perspectives with their communities and social networks.”


“It is a privilege to welcome TBEX and the hundreds of travel bloggers and tourism industry peers next June,” says Andrew Weir, Vice President, Communications of Tourism Toronto. “Toronto is an inspiring backdrop for a meeting at any time, and particularly so when the participants are active storytellers who will have a chance to discover and share some of the thousands of individual stories that make this one of North America’s most cosmopolitan cities.”

“After our initial trip to Toronto, we knew immediately it was a city which our attendees would enjoy visiting,” says Dave Cynkin, CMO for TBEX. “The travel bloggers and traditional travel writers who attend TBEX are experienced travelers who expect a host city to feature great dining, entertainment, an interesting historical background, and a unique experience. We have no doubt that they’re going to love their time in Toronto.”

The cornerstone of TBEX is a quality educational program that provides a learning laboratory in which travel writers, photographers, and video creators can share experiences and hone their craft. In addition to bringing together some of the industry’s top experts to lead educational sessions, the conference offers networking opportunities for bloggers to meet with peers and leading-edge, travel industry representatives. “TBEX attendees are motivated to attend because of the educational, editorial, and networking opportunities the conference provides” says Mary Jo Manzanares, Conference Director for TBEX. “We provide an environment where bloggers can advance their careers by learning from the best and brightest in the industry, make valuable business connections, and enjoy experiences that will turn into editorial content they can share with readers and their respective communities.” To learn more about TBEX in Canada, visit

About TBEX Events:

TBEX’s goal is to mobilize and assist bloggers with promoting, monetizing, improving their work and influence, as well as helping PR and industry professionals to connect with the right content creators to benefit their brands and destinations.

The TBEX conference was acquired by BlogWorld in 2012 and has grown into the world’s largest gathering of bloggers, writers and new media content creators in the travel and lifestyle industry. TBEX also attracts some of the world’s best-known brands, as well as various tourism bureaus as sponsors who are eager to connect with the travel journalists of the future. American Express, Expedia, Lonely Planet, TripAdvisor, Vail Resorts, Hyatt and HomeAway support the conferences alongside tourism offices such as those of Costa Brava, Canada, Australia, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Denver, Virginia, British Columbia, and worldwide resorts and hospitality companies. Join TBEX discussions on Twitter at the official hashtag: #TBEX and by following

TBEX Contact: Tina Baljian (858) 309-4747 ext. 101



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Gadhafi’s son seeks travel ban waiver, lawyer says

Saadi Gadhafi, pictured in January 2010, is under a travel ban.

(CNN) — Saadi Gadhafi, one of the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s sons, has asked the United Nations to let him travel outside the African nation of Niger, his lawyer says.

Gadhafi is under a travel ban because of international sanctions imposed on Libya by the United Nations Security Council last year.

The international police agency Interpol has also issued a “red notice” for him, calling for his arrest.

But he fears for his safety in Niger, his lawyer Nick Kaufman said. Saadi Gadhafi fled to Niger as his father’s regime collapsed last year.

“There has been at least one assassination attempt,” although Gadhafi is under government protection, Kaufman told CNN on Monday. They also fear that instability in nearby Mali could affect his safety.

First election since Gadhafi’s ouster

Foreign business returns to Libya

Kaufman has applied to the U.N. Sanctions Committee for a one-time waiver of Gadhafi’s travel ban, Kaufman said.

“He wants to leave,” the lawyer told CNN. “I’ve made an application.”

Kaufman said Niger’s minister of justice, Marou Amadou, said he did not object: “He told me he has no problem with him [Saadi] leaving the country.”

Libya wants Gadhafi handed over to face charges, but Niger has refused, saying Gadhafi will not get a fair trial and his life could be in danger if he returns to his home country.

That puts Gadhafi in “a bizarre situation,” Kaufman says: He is “under virtual house arrest and not free to gallivant around the city” that he wants to leave for his safety.

Kaufman says Justice Minister Amadou wants Gadhafi gone as long as it is done legally. He said Amadou was concerned that the International Criminal Court would object to Gadhafi’s travel, but the lawyer pointed out that the court currently has no charges outstanding against Saadi Gadhafi.

Kaufman says Gadhafi is “grateful to Niger” but adds that it’s in Niger’s interests for Gadhafi to leave.

When asked where Gadhafi would go, the lawyer said: “He has certain destinations he like to go to.”

He refused to elaborate.

Gadhafi’s brother Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, once seen as their father’s heir apparent, is in Libyan custody and is the subject of a tussle between Libya and the International Criminal Court, both of which want to put him on trial.

Kaufman says he made the application to the U.N. Sanctions Committee for the one-time travel waiver about a month ago. He says that when he didn’t get a response in the customary five days, he followed up and was told that no decision had been reached.

He was informed that a party or parties on the sanctions panel “had placed the request on hold,” he said.

Kaufman says he fears the block is political.

He says he and his client are not entitled to know which country or countries on the Sanctions Committee have placed a hold on the decision. Such requests normally get a simple yes or no, he said.

The 15 nations on the Security Council have representatives on the sanctions panel.

A block placed by a nation is lifted only when that nation’s term on the Security Council expires. If one of the permanent five council members has placed the hold, the block on the waiver request could last indefinitely.

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Summer Travel: FlightView Launches Version 2.0 of iPhone Travel App

BOSTON, Jul 31, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) –
Just as summer travel is in full swing, FlightView, the leading creator
of mobile solutions for airports, airlines and travelers, has launched FlightView
2.0 for the iPhone. The newest version of the market’s top
flight-tracking app will offer travelers and the individuals picking
them up even more details surrounding the status and aircraft of their

FlightView 2.0 comes loaded with ‘Where’s My Plane?’ – a new
functionality that offers users unparalleled transparency into the
inbound aircraft for a particular flight. This feature, the first ever
for third-party mobile flight-tracking apps, enables travelers to see
exactly where their flight’s inbound plane is located so they can more
accurately anticipate boarding and take-off times. If the selected
aircraft has flown other flights in the previous two days, users can
view each route sequentially for historical reference and insight into
on-time performance. ‘Where’s My Plane?’ is available for a number of
flights including those on United Airlines, Virgin America, West Jet,
JetBlue, and British Air.

Travel notifications and airport directions – which were previously
available only in FlightView Elite – now extend to FlightView and
FlightView Free mobile app users in version 2.0. The notifications push
critical day-of-travel information, including updates on delays,
cancellations and terminal and gate locations, directly to a user’s
iPhone, creating a more informed airport visit for travelers and those
coordinating curbside pickup.

Downloaded by more than 600,000 users, FlightView’s iPhone app powers
users to track flights in
real-time, manage trips, and account for nationwide airport delays.
Additional new features in FlightView’s latest upgrade include:

Twitter integration for easier sharing of flight details with
friends and family.

A new flight status category – “Expected” – to eliminate
traveler confusion over international flights with limited data

“The summer travel season is hectic, and we want our users to have as
much actionable day-of-travel information as possible,” said Mike
Benjamin, CEO of FlightView. “By enabling travelers to view an inbound
aircraft’s route visually on their iPhones and extending real-time
updates to all users, our customers can take back control of their
travel plans – instead of having to rely on sporadic status
updates from airline agents.”

Available in Free, 99 cent and Elite versions, FlightView’s
mobile apps have already been downloaded by more than 1.5 million
users. The Elite version is the most powerful app of the group, offering
users flight tracking and trip planning with departure and arrival
flight boards and weather forecasts.

Backed by 30 years of flight tracking experience, FlightView also offers
apps for the Android,
and Palm.
For more information on FlightView mobile apps, visit

About FlightView

FlightView is the leading provider of accurate, real-time flight
information solutions for the aviation and travel industries. FlightView
was started in 2008 when CEO Mike Benjamin brought a new management and
technology team to RLM Software, the first recipient of the ASDI (FAA
radar) data feed and long-time consultant to the FAA. With a new focus
on delivering actionable flight information across the full range of
media platforms, FlightView was born. Since then, FlightView’s customer
list has grown to include over 120 Airports, several major and mid-sized
airlines and other travel related customers who employ FlightView
information in digital displays, Web and mobile sites, native apps, and
other uses. FlightView mobile products were launched starting in 2009
and our native apps for the iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Palm
platforms have logged over 1M downloads. FlightView is located in Boston
Massachusetts. To learn more, please visit

SOURCE: FlightView

        Company Contact 
        Katherine Wellman, 617-787-4200 
        Media Contact 
        Joanna Clark, 617-969-9192

Copyright Business Wire 2012

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Travel firms accused of fixing hotel prices

Yesterday, the regulator announced that its provisional view was that a number
of firms had breached competition law and served the companies with
so-called “statement of objections” notices.

Clive Maxwell, the chief executive of the OFT, said the watchdog was awaiting
the firms response to the notices.

“We want people to benefit fully from being able to shop around online and get
a better deal from discounters that are prepared to share their commission
with customers,” said Mr Maxwell.

The OFT can fine companies up to ten per cent of annual turnover worldwide if
they are found to have breached competition law by fixing prices.

Competition law specialist Jason Logendra from Watson, Farley Williams
said that Expedia could avoid a fine completely if it provided the OFT with
information showing that other companies had broken the law.

“If it is the only company that has applied for leniency, it could receive up
to a 100% reduction in its fines if the OFT did not have sufficient
information to establish that the companies had breached competition law
before the leniency application,” said Mr Logendra.

“However, if the leniency application was received fairly recently, it is more
likely that Expedia’s fines would be reduced by around 25% to 50%.”

The case could also pave the way for consumers to seek compensation for hotel
rooms they have booked through the sites over the past few years.

Last year, the Daily Telegraph disclosed key documents at the heart of the
investigation. The investigation was started after a small online retailer
complained to the OFT about the tourism giants’ tactics.

The whistleblower disclosed how claimed hotels insisted that all internet
suppliers marketed hotel rooms at the same price – and showed how the
internet travel agents insisted on this “price parity.”

The documents purported to showed hotel chains including Radisson, Thistle and
Starwood are ordering travel agents not to offer discount prices online.

An email to a website from a senior executive at Radisson illustrated how the
hotels tried to enforce “rate parity” so that all internet sites offer the
same price.

“Please REMOVE all Radisson Edwardian Hotel product from your site as you are
causing us online rate parity issues,” wrote Gail Jordan, a sales director
at the hotel company.

“We offer a best online rate guarantee, as do most brands,” Miss Jordan said.
“Same room type should be same price across all online distribution.”

Dorian Harris, who runs the online travel company Stoosh, said he had made the
complaint after becoming concerned about market manipulation.

“Consumers are seeing best price guarantees on almost every travel website

“What they don’t realise is that these companies are only able to confidently
guarantee the best rates because they’ve precluded the competition from
discounting with legal threats,” said Mr Harris.

A spokesman for Expedia said: “Expedia remains committed to ensuring that it
provides consumers with the widest possible choice of travel options at
competitive prices and will seek to safeguard its ability to continue to do
so in relation to the current regulatory process.”

A spokesman for InterContinental said: “IHG considers its arrangements with
the online booking agents to be compliant with competition laws and
consistent with the long-standing approach of the global hotel industry. IHG
is cooperating fully with the OFT’s investigation.”

InterContinental also runs the Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza hotels. declined to comment.

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Romney’s travels take another detour into controversy

WARSAW, Poland — Mitt Romney took a major risk when he embarked on a foreign tour, inviting complex policy questions and the sort of scrutiny that he has habitually avoided, in order to broaden his appeal as a statesman. And on Monday, for the second time in five days, his offhand comments tore at the image his campaign had tried so carefully to construct.

The candidate’s aides had hoped that Monday’s news would center on Romney’s unusual endorsement by former Polish President Lech Walesa, the Nobel Prize winner and co-founder of the Solidarity labor movement.

But that prized moment was largely overshadowed by controversy over Romney’s comments several hours earlier at a Jerusalem fundraiser with top donors, including casino magnate and “super PAC” donor Sheldon Adelson. It was similar to the furor that surrounded Romney days earlier in England, after he questioned the country’s readiness for the Olympics just before he was to be a guest at the opening ceremony. London’s mayor publicly pummeled Romney for the impolitic remarks.

In Jerusalem, Romney had mused about the reasons for economic disparities between neighboring countries — a topic that drew his interest during his business career. He compared the gross domestic product per capita of Israel and the lesser economic heft of neighboring Palestinian areas, and noted that he had seen a similar contrast in other next-door nations including the U.S. and Mexico, and Chile and Ecuador.

“If you could learn anything from the economic history of the world it’s this: Culture makes all the difference,” he told donors in Jerusalem after citing books he’d read on the subject. “As I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things.”

Though Romney had made similar comments before, his remarks took on particular significance in the tony setting of the King David Hotel, during a trip in which he had neither visited Palestinian areas nor requested a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. (He did reconnect with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, whom he has met on previous trips, as well as meeting with Israeli leaders.)

Palestinian representatives reacted angrily to the comment. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Romney had ignored the effects of Israeli government policy, which for years has favored economic development in Jewish areas, and the continued Israeli occupation of parts of the West Bank, which has disrupted commerce and communications in Palestinian areas.

“Oh, my God, this man needs a lot of education,” Erekat said in a telephone interview Monday. “What he said about the culture is racism.” The income disparity is due to “Israeli occupation,” Erekat added.

Romney aides furiously pushed back against the suggestion of racism, insisting that the candidate’s comments were being distorted. Chief strategist Stuart Stevens noted that Romney had made similar statements before, in a speech and in his book “No Apology,” regarding Israel and the Palestinians as well as the United States and Mexico. (In his book, Romney questions the differences between the U.S. and Mexico, among others, and concludes that “America’s culture … enabled the nation to become and remain the most powerful and beneficent country in the history of humankind.”)

“This is something he has said repeatedly,” Stevens said. “It’s a completely manufactured story.”

He added, “This was not in any way an attempt to slight the Palestinians, and everyone knows that.”

At the Jerusalem fundraiser, Romney offered additional ammunition for his critics when he pointed out the general good health of the Israeli people and their ability to keep medical costs down. Noting that healthcare spending in Israel is 8% of GDP compared with 18% in the U.S., he said, “We have to find ways, not just to provide healthcare to more people, but to find ways to find and manage our healthcare costs.”

Israel, however, has a national healthcare system, with some similarities to the President Obama-backed U.S. healthcare plan Romney has vowed to repeal. (The Obama plan was based on the Massachusetts plan Romney approved as governor.)

It is unclear how much Romney’s stumbles abroad will sway voters, if at all. He and his aides have long insisted that the race will turn on the economy. The few undecided voters are likely to be paying attention to the Olympics, not politics.

But with election day 14 weeks away, the candidates have limited time to get their message to the public.

In Romney’s case, the off-key comments drew focus at least in part because of the nature of his trip.

With the exception of a major speech in Israel on Sunday, the tour has been a string of photo ops, during which the candidate and world leaders exchanged public pleasantries.

And besides a three-question news conference outside 10 Downing Street — when Romney called on two television reporters who asked about his Olympic comments — the candidate has not taken questions from reporters traveling with him. He has also been constricted by the tradition that presidential candidates avoid criticizing a sitting president while abroad.

In that vacuum of information, Romney’s comments have been magnified — making him a ripe target for both the Obama campaign and foreign leaders who don’t share his views.

“He’s been fumbling the foreign policy football from country to country,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. “There’s a threshold question that he has to answer for the American people and that’s whether he’s prepared to be commander in chief…. This raises some questions about his preparedness.”

Times staff writers David Lauter in Washington and Edmund Sanders in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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Global travel industry gears up for Muslim tourist boom

“From food and Islamic finance, the industry is spreading its wings into pharmaceuticals, fashion and tourism, among many other areas,” it said, noting that more than half of the world’s Muslim population is aged 24 or younger, many of them well educated.

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