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Friday, June 16, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Travel updates

Desperate migrants, tourists flock to islands

Spain

Spanish tourism officials in the Canary Islands fear a flood of illegal immigrants will scare away the sun-seeking visitors on whom the islands' economy depends.

The Canaries welcomed almost 10 million tourists in 2005 and, so far, the visitors keep rolling in to the haven of luxury hotels and golden beaches.

But the Spanish islands, off northwest Africa, are no longer merely a magnet for stressed Europeans. Nearly 9,500 African migrants seeking a better life in Europe braved the perilous 600-mile sea journey in small boats from Northern Africa to land on the Canaries from January to May. That's about twice the number that arrived in the same period last year.

While few tourists actually see them come ashore in rickety boats, parched and exhausted, Jose Manuel Bermudez, the Tenerife local government's head of tourism, says he fears international media coverage will scare off holidaymakers.

"I find it very sad that [immigrants] have to go to those lengths, but as an individual there is not a lot I can do about it, except show concern ... We are on holiday and fortunately, this [illegal migration] hasn't bothered us," said Pat Gibbs, a librarian from England.

Canary officials want more action from Spain's government to stop the migration.

Air travel

Threat of Northwest strike abates — for this month

Strike fears at Northwest Airlines have cooled, at least until the end of this month, after the carrier and its flight attendants agreed to resume talks in hopes of reaching a new deal by June 30.

Until then, the airline said it won't impose new wage and work rules and flight attendants said they wouldn't strike. If both sides can't reach a deal by June 30, the airline could impose the new wages and work rules and the flight attendants would have to give 15 days' notice before going on strike.

The airline, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September, is trying to shed $1.4 billion in annual labor costs; it wants to cut flight attendants' wages by 21 percent and reduce benefits.

Airline food

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Goodbye peanuts: Carrier sacks longtime snack

US Airways will stop serving peanuts on its flights by the end of this month because of concerns about passengers who are allergic to the snacks.

Several airlines, including American and Northwest, long ago stopped serving peanuts and have passed out pretzels or other types of snacks instead. Southwest, one of the largest airlines that still offers peanuts, has no plans to get rid of them, said spokesman Ed Stewart. "They're a staple around here," he said.

Alaska Airlines, which serves peanuts but tries to create buffer zones for those allergic to them, said it was "reviewing" its peanuts policy.

Saudi Arabia

Desert kingdom opens the door to more tourists

Saudi Arabia has promised to loosen up on issuing visas, prompting adventure-tour operators to begin putting together trips to the desert kingdom.

"We're very excited about the prospects," says Rita Zawaideh, owner of Seattle-based Caravan-Serai Tours, adding "we're in the planning stages of a trip in December."

Geographic Expeditions, based in San Francisco, gave up on the country in 2000 after a group was denied entry at the last minute. But company president James Sano says now "we'll probably offer a trip in the fall."

Saudi Arabia's current visa system requires that an individual or tour operator have an invitation from a Saudi citizen who will promise to be financially responsible, and applications must be sent to Saudi Arabia. The new plan: An invitation from the foreign ministry will do, and applications will be considered at Saudi consulates abroad. The changes are expected to be in effect for fall travel.

Still, anyone with an Israeli stamp on his or her passport will continue to be denied entry. And female visitors must follow local rules — Saudi Arabia adheres to the very austere Wahhabi form of Islam — including being covered head to foot, eating in restricted areas of restaurants and being accompanied outdoors by a male.

Travel ticker

Belize : The tourism industry in Belize is discouraging travel to Chiquibul National Park and the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve following recent attacks against tourists, which have included robberies and sexual assaults. For more details on crime in Belize, see the consular information sheet of the U.S. State Department at www.travel.state.gov

Disney World : If you've been too scared to ride Disney World's stomach-churning "Mission: SPACE" attraction, the park is offering a second, tamer version, with the spinning centrifuge turned off. Two tourists — a German woman and a 4-year-old boy — died in the past year after falling ill on the ride.

Utah skiing : Utah ski resorts have broken a record for the number of skiers visiting slopes for third straight year. In the 2005-2006 season, Utah's 13 ski resorts had more than 4 million skier visits, up more than 150,000 from the previous season. Nationwide, the ski industry has stalled at about 57 million skier visits annually for the past three years.

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