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Originally published Saturday, June 25, 2011 at 7:00 PM

Travel updates: From high airfares to tablet computers on American flights

International travelers spent $48.3 billion on U.S. travel and related goods in the first four months of 2011, putting the U.S. on ...

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Higher airfares dampen

travel spending

The federal government says spending on travel grew more slowly — and actually fell for air travel — in the first quarter of this year, and higher airfares are partly to blame.

The Commerce Department said overall spending on travel and tourism grew 0.6 percent in the first quarter, down from a gain of 2.6 percent in the last three months of 2010. Spending on air travel dropped 9.9 percent in the first quarter after rising 3.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010, the department said. It noted that passengers faced a 21.4 percent increase in air-travel prices during the first quarter.

The decline in spending on air travel was partly offset by a 12.9 percent increase in spending on hotels as room rates fell and occupancy grew.

Airlines have raised fares about a half dozen times in 2011 to offset higher jet-fuel prices but are starting to cut prices for fall.

Tropicana in Vegas comes back to life

The Tropicana in Las Vegas has changed from an aging Strip property that appeared to be on life support to an upper mid-market resort flashing some style while offering value. The finishing touch was refurbishing an already expansive swimming-pool area and adding "Nikki Beach." The pool area is divided into two sections.

The main free-form pool, which is for hotel guests, has a waterfall and is surrounded by four acres of palm trees, lawn and red-and-white flora to match the hotel's color scheme. The swim-up blackjack tables are still there.

Nikki Beach, covering almost two acres, has a cover charge: $20 for women, $30 for men. At night, the nightclub, Club Nikki, kicks into gear, featuring visits by Champagne Muses — young women who descend from above bearing magnums of bubbly.

American Airlines goes for tablets

If you board an American Airlines flight and the flight attendant hands you a Samsung tablet computer, it's not a freebie to take home.

Beginning later this year, the handheld tablet will be offered as an entertainment device for business- and first-class passengers on several transcontinental routes and some international flights to Europe and South America.

American is teaming up with Samsung to hand out 6,000 tablets, preloaded with in-flight movies and other entertainment. The device, with a 10-inch touch screen, will replace the airline's current personal-entertainment devices in premium cabins. Flight attendants will hand out the tablets after takeoff and collect them before landing.

Sing for a hotel-room upgrade

If you are not shy about singing in public, Joie de Vivre hotels in Southern California are willing to give you a free room upgrade.

Until the end of September, guests who check into one of four hotels — Shorebreak Hotel in Huntington Beach, Pacific Edge Hotel in Laguna Beach, Hotel Erwin near Venice Beach and Hotel Angeleno in Brentwood — can get a free upgrade by performing live at check-in.

The hotels are offering one upgrade per hotel per day. The first guest to belt out one of the selected songs gets the upgrade.

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