In brief: France launches a charm offensive
Every Friday, we help you navigate the week’s most important and interesting travel news stories.
Breaking travel news for travellers.
Luxury hotels in China have a problem: how can they keep their rates high when there is a cooling economy, a crackdown on government spending and corruption, and more new rooms available every month? Many hotels are offering discounts and deals – but discreetly. [Quartz]
Some interesting tidbits in Skift's survey of 1,500 internet users' travel preferences. Among the site's conclusions: "Women love doing [a] lot more travel research, period." And in spite of the hype, far more people do their travel planning online on a computer rather than via mobile apps. [Skift]
State and local governments in the US have been winning a fight to charge occupancy tax on the full price of hotel rooms bought on sites like Expedia and Travelocity. The online companies had been paying taxes calculated on the amount they paid to the hotels themselves, calling the difference a service fee. [Bloomberg]
Amazing things that should happen more often
A multiyear drought has caused lots of grief in Wales and the rest of the UK, but it has had at least one upside: the discovery of Roman forts and farms dating from the Iron Age. Parched grasses have revealed walls of buildings from roughly AD50, the outlines of which are now viewable from the air. [BBC]
Spooked by competition from other destinations, France has been trying to get its waiters and other service professionals to be nicer to tourists. (As you might suspect, this is of particular concern in Paris.) It's unclear how this will play out: according to an Atlanta native who has visited the country more than 100 times, “A lot of Americans think the French are being rude because they can’t understand them. But a lot of it is a cultural thing.” [New York Times]
Photos and videos that went viral on the Web this week
Airline: Style at 30,000 Feet, out next month from Chronicle Books, is a coffee-table book for anyone who wants to ponder the design cachet that flying once had. This slideshow of stewardess uniforms (they weren't "flight attendants" then) gives you a taste. [New York magazine]
The London Zoo held its annual audit of its animals recently, and in a genius move it turned the event into a massive photo op for getting shots of fat frogs, dignified owls, quizzical anteaters and hungry tigers, all being weighed in various clever ways. [BBC]
If that's not enough cuteness for you, there's always the world's oldest wombat, in residence in Melbourne's Ballarat Wildlife Park. [The Thousands]
Hold on folks, we’re in for a rocky ride
A slew of hotels around the world are finally ready to begin renovations they had been putting off for several years due to the recent downturn in the world economy. The changes ought to be especially noticeable in New York, where roughly 25% of all hotels are ready to spend money on upgrading rooms and public spaces. [New York Times]