In brief: Free flights to Japan
Report reveals London's leaning tower, Egyptian tourism faces another hurdle, Japan to give away 10,000 free trips, and more. Here are the stories travellers are buzzing about:
Big Ben doesn't stand straight
Move over, Pisa. There's a new leaning tower in Europe. A new report revealed that London's Big Ben leans 0.26 degrees to the northwest, putting it out of alignment by about 0.5m at its highest point. The tilt is reportedly visible to the naked eye, but don't expect to see tourists posing for pictures while pretending to support the tower quite yet — the famous clock tower's tilt is only one 16th of the Leaning Tower of Pisa's, and experts predict it will be thousands of years before it becomes unstable, BBC News reports.
Want a free trip to Japan?
The Japan Tourism Agency is planning to give away 10,000 free flights to foreigners in 2012 as part of an effort to boost tourism, which fell more than 50% year-on-year during the three months after the earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster. Candidates wishing to take advantage of the promotion must submit online applications detailing their desired destinations, and agree to write a report about their trip for internet publication, the Telegraph reports.
Flights to Cuba to take off from Florida's Key West
As US travel restrictions to Cuba continue to slowly loosen, Key West is the latest US airport to get federal permission to offer flights to Cuba, Reuters reports. Currently less than 10 US cities offer flights to Cuba, a number that recently increased after the Obama administration reopened people-to-people trips to the communist country. The flight from Key West to its Caribbean neighbour is only about half an hour, but like all things related to Cuban travel, the good news comes with restrictions.
Clashes create another obstacle for Egyptian tourism
The British Foreign Office warned travellers to exercise caution in downtown Cairo and Tahrir square after Sunday's violent clashes resulted in at least 24 deaths and hundreds of injuries, and continued to raise concern over Egypt's future. Whether it will further plague an already devastated tourism industry remains uncertain. Travellers "are still going to the Pyramids and walking along the Corniche, and while the incident may have exposed sectarian tensions, Christian/American/foreign tourists are not being targeted", said travel writer Chris Gray Faust in a piece for USA Today.
"I'd like to acknowledge this event has come to a stage where it is New Zealand's most significant maritime environmental disaster."
- New Zealand Environment Minister Nick Smith
The oil spill appears worse than originally expected, with an estimated 130 to 150 tonnes of oil — as much as 10 times previous estimates — flowing from a ship that ran aground on a reef in the Bay of Plenty. Popular tourist beaches are expected to close for several weeks as the salvage operation continues.