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2024 Travel Insights: Spain, Kyoto, and HX Cruise Updates

In travel news for March 12, 2024 we talk about Spain potentially banning short haul flights; Kyoto, Japan is banning tourists in Gion; and HX cancels West Africa sailings.

Spain Proposes Ban on Certain Short-Haul Flights for Eco Goals

Spain is considering a new approach to reducing carbon emissions by proposing a ban on certain short-haul domestic flights where a Train journey of less than two and a half hours is available. This eco-conscious strategy, mirroring France's recent policy, is a key part of Spain's 2050 climate action plan. The ban aims to encourage train travel as a sustainable alternative, though it will not affect connecting flights linking to international routes from major hubs like Madrid and Barcelona. The Proposal, still under review for legislative action, has not specified which routes will be impacted or when the measures will be introduced. Public opinion, as shown in a Hitachi Rail survey, largely supports the shift from air to rail, with a majority in favor of eliminating short-haul flights for efficient rail alternatives. However, the industry faces challenges, such as the potential reallocation of short-haul flight slots to longer, more carbon-intensive flights, raising concerns about the actual environmental benefits of the ban.

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Kyoto's Geisha District Limits Access to Combat Overtourism

Kyoto, Japan, responding to Overtourism, is restricting access to private alleys in its famed Gion district, known for its geisha culture. Starting in April, signs in Japanese and English will enforce a pedestrian ban, with a fine of 10,000 yen or approximately $68 dollars for violations. This measure aims to protect the district's historical and cultural integrity amidst growing tourist influx. The decision stems from local frustrations with disruptive tourist behavior in the quaint, narrow streets, exacerbated by the recent rebound in international travel. Public streets in Gion remain open, but the restrictions reflect a broader challenge of balancing tourism growth with cultural preservation. The local council's message, "Kyoto is not a theme park," highlights the need to respect cultural heritage sites. This move illustrates the global trend of destinations working to combat overtourism.

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HX Adjusts Itineraries: West Africa Cruises on Hold, MS Maud's New Role

HX (formerly Hurtigruten Expeditions) is suspending its West Africa cruises, initially launched in November 2023, due to increasing regional instability. The suspension affects the upcoming season from September 25, 2024, to March 30, 2025, with MS Spitsbergen slated for dry dock during this period. Impacted travelers have options for a full refund or a 125 percent future cruise credit. In a strategic shift, MS Maud, recovering from a rogue wave incident, will temporarily join Hurtigruten to operate the Norwegian Coastal Express, a vital service since 1893, and return to HX in 2026. The companies decision reflects their commitment to safety amidst challenging circumstances and their adaptability in fleet management. The cruise line has proactively communicated with affected guests, offering flexible compensation and alternative arrangements, trying to ensure minimal disruption to travelers' plans.

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