Lonely Planet Writer

Hot in travel: top stories this week

This week in travel news, a Russian tour company announced plans for trips into Syria, a European cruise line will bring robots on board next year to help out guests, a study on Airbnb claims that people with African-American-sounding names are discriminated against on the site, and the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration revealed that the Arctic experience its highest temperatures this year since since records began in 1900.

A robot will be the newest addition to staff on Costa Cruises.
A robot will be the newest addition to staff on Costa Cruises. Image by Costa Cruises

Starting in 2016, humanoid robots will join the staff on Europe’s Costa Cruises. The robot, called Pepper, is capable of reading human emotions, can interact and communicate with people using voice and touch and speak German, Italian and English. It can even provide recommendations to guests for restaurants, excursions and events. The robot can move fluidly around the ship and has a 3D camera that allows it to detect people and movements, as well as analyse expressions and voice tones.

Read more here.

Damascus, Syria.
Damascus, Syria. Image by Christophe / CC BY 2.0

A Russian travel company has announced plans to offer tours to Syria, potentially to the front lines of the ongoing civil war. The company has tried to register for a trademark under the name Assad Tour and plans to start next year. A deadly war has been raging in Syria since 2011 and earlier this year Russia intervened and began airstrikes in the country.

Read more here.

Arctic sea ice.
Arctic sea ice. Image by Nasa Goddard Space Flight Center / CC BY 2.0

In 2015 the Arctic experienced the highest temperatures since records began in 1900, according to new research released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa). The annual Noaa report card revealed that the region had experienced an increase of 34.34 F (1.3C) on the average long-term temperature.

Read more here.

The Power of Love design at Icehotel by  Sebastian Scheller (Germany) Kristina Möckel(Germany).
The Power of Love design at Icehotel by
Sebastian Scheller (Germany)
Kristina Möckel(Germany). Image by Asaf Kliger / Icehotel

Sweden’s Icehotel is back for the 26th year of the hotel crafted entirely from ice. This year the hotel, which opened 11 December, features a three-metre tall African elephant carved from snow, a 1970’s-style Love Capsule room, an Imperial Russia-inspired suite and a Labyrinth Saga suite.

Read more here.

A replica of Seinfeld's apartment that opened in New York will now open in Los Angeles.
A replica of Seinfeld’s apartment that opened in New York will now open in Los Angeles. Image by Arturo Pardavila III / CC BY 2.0

Anyone in LA can celebrate Festivus at Jerry Seinfeld’s apartment from the popular comedy TV series. Hulu, the online video-streaming site that has acquired the rights to stream Seinfeld, created a replica of Jerry Seinfeld’s Upper West Side apartment to display in New York earlier this year. Now, the apartment will open in Los Angeles, but with new additions to celebrate the Festivus season.

Read more here.

Screengrab from Airbnb ad
Screengrab from Airbnb ad

A study on Airbnb has shown that people with names that suggest that they are black are discriminated against by hosts on the home-sharing website. A Harvard Business School survey of 6,000 hosts from five different cities in the States showed that people who had a name that sounded African American were 16% less likely to get a positive response from a potential host.

Read more here.