Officials in Mexico City hope to lure skittish tourists with unusual bait: free health insurance. Under a new program, tourists who stay in participating hotels in the city are eligible for free coverage for emergency medical care, hospital stays, prescription drugs and ambulance services.
The initiative, called the "Tourist Assistance Card," grew out of Mexico's recent H1N1 flu crisis, which sent tourism plunging nationwide as would-be travelers steered clear. In Mexico City, which had the country's most reported flu cases, a near-complete shutdown hammered hotels and restaurants, compounding damage caused by the global recession.
The insurance program is run by the city's tourism office through a private insurer, MAPFRE. Anyone staying at a Mexico City hotel is eligible for coverage, officials said, and can get help by dialing a call center, which will have attendants fluent in English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish.
A deductible will apply for some services, but officials did not provide details.
"Of all the world's largest cities, Mexico City is the first to try this," Mayor Marcelo Ebrard said at a ceremony unveiling the service.
Mexican tourism officials expect depressing year-end results, partly because of the flu outbreak and the recession. Tourists also have stayed away because of drug-related violence that has killed more than 9,000 since January 2008, according to unofficial tallies in the Mexican media.
For more information on the insurance program, visit the Medical Care and Assistance Section of the city's tourism website: www.mex icocity.gob.mx/contenido .php?cat=50500⊂=13
-- Ken Ellingwood
British Airways said it would no longer serve sandwiches or full meals in coach on flights of less than 2 1/2 hours. Starting Oct. 7, it will also reduce its free-baggage allowance to one checked bag for economy-class passengers on transatlantic flights.
-- From Times wires and staff
More than 100 passengers and crew on the Voyager of the Seas cruise ship were quarantined recently amid contradictory reports about whether some had H1N1 (swine flu) or more common flu-like symptoms.
French authorities said the ship carried 60 people infected with H1N1. But the ship's owner, Royal Caribbean, said tests for the virus were negative.
Travelers are being warned to be careful at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport duty-free area after European tourists reported being falsely accused of shoplifting. "Taking items from one shop's area to another is likely to be treated by shop staff as suspected theft," the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office advised. "You may be arrested by the police and asked to pay a substantial fine and/or face imprisonment."
-- From Times wires and staff
Cambodia Angkor Air, a new national carrier, has begun operating domestic flights between the country's capital, Phnom Penh, and two tourist destinations: Siem Reap, site of the Angkor temples, and the coastal town of Sihanoukville.
The U.S. State Department recently issued warnings or alerts for these areas:
Honduras, because of political instability.
Kenya, because of continuing threats from terrorism and violent crime.