Travel Scene: International travel is at near-record levels
If you've traveled overseas already this summer, or will in the next few weeks, you'll find out that there are crowds almost everyplace you go. And the skies are crowded getting there.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization estimates that international tourism is near record levels. And virtually every area on the globe is affected and reports "strong growth."
The WTO reports that international tourism — as measured by arrivals — was up 4 percent the first four months of the year, and travel for the next four months — that is, through August — is roughly the same, with the staggering total of 500 million tourists worldwide expected to travel to a foreign country.
The group estimates that 332 million overnight visitors were logged between January and April, 16 million more than the same period last year.
Airports are crowded, airplanes are jammed, hotels and restaurants are full, and tourist sites are drawing banner crowds — we found that out since we were a part of the crowds when we led a group of Post-Bulletin cruisers to Europe in July for a river cruise-trip from Amsterdam to Zurich. Crowds were everywhere — young and old, tourists and locals.
This summer's increase in overseas travel is part of a long-range trend, reports the WTO. International tourism on average has been up 4.3 percent per year since 2010.
According to The Associated Press, South America was one of the main beneficiaries of the increase, with tourism up some 8 percent. The Caribbean and Central and Eastern Europe were both up more than 7 percent. The WTO added that "limited data'' show only a few decreases — African travel declined some 6 percent, which was attributed to concern over Ebola.
The overall increase included some 20 million U.S. tourists who traveled abroad in the first four months of the year, 7 percent more than the same period a year ago.
Selfie sticks banned at Disney properties
Disneyland and Walt Disney World are the latest to ban selfie sticks on their properties.The action was effective June 30.
The ban also applied July 1 to Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disney. According to the company, since the devices continue to be used at attractions despite warnings to the contrary, many popular sites have experienced down times that disrupt the guest experience.
Selfie sticks never have been permitted at Disney properties and signs were added as a reminder of the policy.
Canal work progresses
Engineers have begun to flood a newly-enlarged section of the Panama Canal as authorities prepare to test a series of new locks that will allow the waterway to accommodate much larger ships, affecting trade around the world.
Authorities said "it's the beginning of the end" to the massive expansion project, which started several years ago. They added that in "less than a year, Panama will be enjoying the benefits of the expansion," according to the Associated Press.