From Around the Travelsphere

CRIME

One year after three people died in a sweat lodge ceremony gone awry, the New York Times reports last week that bad vibes still linger in Sedona, Arizona, known for its spiritual vortexes, pyschics and crystal shops. Those bad vibes they blame on former New Age guru James Arthur Ray, who goes on trial in February for three counts of manslaughter. Prosecutors say that Ray crammed more than 50 people into a 415-square-foot sweat lodge and chided them for wanting to leave, even as people were vomiting, getting burned by hot rocks and lying on the ground. Three died, and several others were rushed to the hospital.

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A female tourist walking along Fraser Island off the Australian coast discovered a skull, shoulder and upper arm bones sticking out of a sand dune. The woman notified authorities who exhumed what they could from the area for the medical examiner. Forensics experts will determine whether the bones are indigenous or belong to a missing person. Its age and gender haven’t yet been determined.

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Two New Dehli men were arrested late last month on charges of running a visa racket throughout India. The men were caught in a sting operation and are accused of forging Schengen visas, which allow tourist to travel to any of the 15 European Union member nations with just one visa. Police recovered 1 fake Indian passport, immigration stamps, visas and two cars. The men sold the visas to Indians wanting to emigrate to Europe.

RESCUES

Snakes on a Plane is nothing compared to what happened in the Democratic Republic of Congo last week, when a crocodile smuggled aboard a small jet ate through a passenger’s sports bag, sparking an on-board stampede that unbalanced the plane, causing it to crash. One passenger survived, along with the croc, which was killed with a machete by rescuers.

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Rescuers in Taiwan found an arm and piece of thigh during their search for 20 Chinese tourists whose bus was presumably caught in a landslide on Suhua Highway during torrential rainstorms brought by Typhoon Megi last week. The tourists are amoung 25 people still unaccounted for, though all of their passports have been found. More than 200 people are assisting the search.

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Officials in Chile are hoping to capitalize on the dramatic rescue of 33 miners who spent 69 days trappen underground by turning the rescue site, Camp Hope, into a tourist attraction. Travel experts are skeptical the plan would work. While Google Trends shows that search terms “Chile travel” and “Chile vacations” spiked in late September and early October, the level of interest in these terms was lower than what it was in February, when the country was rocked by a massive earhtquake.

TRAVEL POLITICS

LankaBusinessOnline.com reports that Indian airliner SpiceJet is providing air service to Sri Lanka with the hope of exploiting the country’s post-war tourism prospects. Indian officials note that travel to Sri Lanka, which only recently saw an end to 30 years of ethnic fighting, has been on the upswing for at least 12 months. Flights from Chennai to Colombo are expected to increase soon, as are the number of destinations in Sri Lanka.

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Ever heard of Queensland? Peter Lawler, tourism minister for the Australian state admits that most people probably have no idea where it is or could even find it on a map, despite 14 international marketing offices tasked with promoting the area and a recent $4.1 million rebranding effort. Tourism experts there cite political interference, poor marketing, fragmentation and a lack of new ideas for why the state’s $9.2 billion a year tourism industry has been in a free fall for years now, leading to high unemployment.

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A bill endorsed by former Israeli tourism minister Gideon Ezra proposes Palestinian residents of occupied East Jerusalem be banned from guiding tours. Opponents say that if the bill becomes law it will compound existing violations of Palestinian rights and promote discrimination towards Palestinians on cultural, religious and political grounds. The bill could affect the livelihood of some 300 Palestinians holding certification from Israel’s Tourism Ministry.

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