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Originally published Sunday, February 1, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Travel briefs | Tourism slump to hit U.S., Europe

After years of growth, global tourism is expected to decline this year, especially in Europe and the Americas.

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Tourism slump to

hit U.S., Europe

The U.N. World Tourism Organization says global tourism could decline by up to 2 percent in 2009 amid the financial crisis. The Madrid-based organization says Europe and the Americas will be the most affected.

The UNWTO said the world's most advanced economies are seeing their first major contraction since World War II and the organization "expects 2009 international tourism to be in the range of 0 percent to a 2 percent decline."

The downturn follows four years of sustained growth, with a 7 percent rise a year on average between 2004 and 2007. Tourist arrivals worldwide during 2008 rose to 924 million, 2 percent higher than the previous year.

Hostels in Top 10

Hostelworld.com has named two Seattle hostels and one in Portland among its Top 10 hostels in North America. The online reservations booker of budget hostels and hotels named Hostel Seattle in Ballard (www.hostelseattle.com) as the top-rated North American hostel.

Also in the Top 10 were HI hostel in Portland, Ore., (www.2oregonhostels.com) and the Green Tortoise (www.greentortoise.net) in downtown Seattle across from the Pike Place Market.

Top-rated cruise ships

Conde Nast Traveler polled 11,000 readers on their favorite cruise ships. Top-rated large ships were Disney Wonder, Celebrity Constellation, Celebrity Summit, Disney Magic and Princess Cruises' Coral Princess. Among medium-size ships, the top five were Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony; Seven Seas Voyager and Seven Seas Mariner, both of which are Regent Seven Seas Cruises ships; and Viking Line's Viking XPRS.

Free trips to Virginia

Virginia tourism officials are giving away 40 trips in 40 weeks to mark the 40th anniversary of the state's "Virginia is for Lovers" marketing campaign.

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People can enter a sweepstakes to win one of 40 trips to Virginia sites, which focus on interests such as history, wine and food, music and luxury.

See entry information at www.Virginia.org/40.

Tuna-licking tourists

Tourists are known for acting silly sometimes. You have to cut them some slack. But licking the tuna?

Overwhelmed by an increasing number of misbehaving tourists at the world's largest seafood market, Tokyo fishmongers recently decided to temporarily ban all visitors from one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city — their predawn tuna auctions.

The ban, which was later lifted, was front-page news in Japan. Now, the tourists are back, but the debate goes on: Can tourists be trusted in Tsukiji?

"We understand that the sight of hundreds of frozen tuna looks unique and interesting for foreign tourists," said Yoshiaki Takagi, the deputy director of the market. "But they have to understand the Tsukiji market is a professional place, not an amusement park."

One of the more notorious recent cases was that of a drunken British tourist — caught by a Japanese TV crew — who licked the head of a frozen tuna, while two others rode on a trolley. "Tuna is a very expensive fish," Takagi said. "One tuna can easily cost more than 1 million yen ($11,000). But some tourists touch them and even try to hug them."

Compiled by Seattle Times staff and news services

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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