Peru’s legendary Machu Picchu turns up on many bucket lists — for good reason. A visit combines touring the Incan ruins with the thrill of trekking in high-altitude countryside. Intrepid Travel offers a six-day Inca Trail Express that hits the highlights.
The trip begins with a tour of the stepping-off point of Cuzco before heading to the Sacred Valley and the trail that climbs to 13,773 feet at Warmiwanusca, also known as Dead Woman’s Pass, and the steps at Intipunku, the Sun Gate. The group, limited to 16, camps out in the evenings while along the trail.
The deal: Intrepid is having a two-for-one sale good on selected itineraries, including the Inca Trail Express. You must book by March 31 and travel by Sept. 30. Even though groups are small on these trips (12 to 16 people), I found availability when I checked online for many dates before the September deadline. If hiking isn’t your thing, the same two-for-one offer applies to other tours: Classic Peru, Majestic Peru and Sacred Land of the Incas.
Dates: The trip is offered on various dates throughout the year.
Price: $1,270 for two if booked by the end of March; after that, $1,270 per person, based on double occupancy (check with the company about single supplements). It includes four nights in a hotel, three nights of camping and 12 meals. International airfare is extra.
Contact: Intrepid Travel, (800) 970-7299
If you’re an athlete or just a sports fan, this week’s travel deals are for you. Reach for your skis, your jersey, your diving gear, or fishing rod to take advantage of these travel and adventure bargains.
Snow Storm Special
With storms expected to drop 4 feet of snow on Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Hotel Terra and Teton Mountain Lodge are offering a Snow Chaser Package in anticipation of the long-awaited powder. Available now through January 31, winter sports enthusiasts can try the new Marmont Lift from the bottom of Thunder to the top of the gondola with 3-day lift tickets offered in this ski-lover’s vacation package along with breakfast credit each day and a luxurious three-night accommodation. There is a 3-night minimum-stay requirement for Hotel Terra ($339/night) and Teton Mountain Lodge ($314/night); for booking information, call 1-800-631-6281.
Fly Fishing Savings
Alisal Guest Ranch Resort, has become a year-round fly-fishing destination. Guests fish the private, 100-acre spring-fed has bass and bluegill fish with Jason Grupp, an Orvis-endorsed guide. Beyond fishing the lake has kayaks, sailboats, canoes, bass boats, electric trolling boats and pedal boats. Explore the property with the Alisal Anglers’ Package, which includes deluxe accommodation, three meals daily, a lake hat, and a credit towards Daily guided fishing trip for two. Rates begin at $1295 and include taxes and service charges. Valid for travel from November through March anytime and midweek in April, May, September and October. To book, call 888.4.ALISAL, or email email@example.com or visit them online.
Take a Break on a Boat
The capital island of the British Virgin Islands is offering you a much-needed winter break package. Tortola’s Frenchman’s Lookout sits atop one of the highest points in Tortola’s West End and offers incredible 360-degree views of British/US Islands and the Caribbean Sea. If booked by January 27, rates for limited high season dates (Feb. 1-10, March 12-17, and April 7-14) are heavily discounted; for 10 guests, the 15-room plantation-style villa prices fall to $200 a person per night. And for low-season (April 15-December 15, 2012) rates fall lower at $150 per person for 10 guests if booked by February 18. The Time For A Break Package includes breakfast, one day on a 35-foot powerboat with a captain, daily housekeeping and managerial assistance with rental cars, in-house chefs, spa treatments, and babysitters. For information/reservations call 1-866-940-0020 or visit www.frenchmanslookout.com
The Miami Heat is On
Sure, your ideal romantic night on the town might not involve LeBron, Dwyane, Chris or any member of the Heat (you’re in Miami for crying out loud!), but catching a game with The Three kings might be sexier than you think. Downtown Miami’s hottest new hotel, JW Marriott Marquis Miami, is offering the All-Start Miami Heat Package; start off the night with an appetizer and 2 complimentary cocktails at Daniel Boulud’s db Bistro Moderne before the game. With complimentary valet parking and the American Airline’s Arena being two minutes away, enjoy the tropical night air as you make your way to and from the game and finish off your stay at Marquis Miami with breakfast for two at 345 Restaurant. The Miami Heat Package is available now through April 30 on Miami Heat home game days with online promotional code SPE or by calling 1-800-228-9290 and asking for promotional code SPE.
January “Buzz Fare”
Kayak’s “Buzz Fares” for the week have great deals for Los Angeles, Washington DC and Boston. If you’re in Los Angeles, fly roundtrip to Chicago at $120 or to Boston for $288. From Washintong DC, fly to San Diego or San Francisco for $198 and $238 respectively. And from Boston, fly to Dublin or Aruba from $414-467. For more “Buzz Fares” visit kayak online.
Expedia has launched a new service today called Last-Minute Deals that lets customers share the best deals with each other.
But it doesn’t use Facebook or any identifying information. Instead, Expedia surfaces the best deals found by other travelers, anonymously, for flights and hotel rooms, based on your location.
The site will list the best deals for three time periods: tonight, this weekend or next weekend. Customers can search for hotels or flights based on a couple dozen destinations.
For example, this weekend, nights at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers cost $113 and the cheapest flight out of Los Angeles tonight is to Seattle for $252 roundtrip.
The process is similar to other flash sales sites that sell apparel or other items at a discount based on inventory. Many other flash sales sites focus on travel, too, such as Gilt Groupe’s Jetsetter. However, there’s one big difference with this service. The deals are being found by other customers searching the site. The service is not being driven by a special sales relationship between Expedia and the suppliers.
That probably means the deals are not unique to Expedia and can be found on other travel aggregation sites, but at the same time, Expedia didn’t have to hire a sales team or build out a lot of infrastructure to support the feature.
“In a sense, the millions of people who come to Expedia are now serving as your own personal travel agent, helping you find the best and most popular deals from your home city,” said Joe Megibow, VP and GM of Expedia, in a statement.
The Web site is very simple to navigate and takes out a lot of the headaches of searching millions of listings. That also means that the selection is limited to around six results for each time period — in other words, not a ton of destinations or hotels to pick from. Cancun was offering six hotel rooms — some for as low as $40 a night — for this weekend. Orlando also listed six hotel rooms, all under $100 a night.
This is not Expedia’s first experiment in the deals space.
Last summer, it launched a partnership with Groupon that sells vouchers for vacations around the world. It said it successfully sold 15,000 travel deals in the first three days of launching that partnership, but wasn’t entirely satisfied with the model yet. It also launched a program called ASAP (A Sudden Amazing Price), which lists deals at 9 am PT and is bookable for 12 hours only.
STOCKHOLM – Seafaring tradition holds that the captain should be last to leave a sinking ship. But is it realistic to expect skippers — only human after all — to suppress their survival instinct amid the horror of a maritime disaster? To ask them to stare down death from the bridge, as the lights go out and the water rises, until everyone else has made it to safety?
From mariners on ships plying the world’s oceans, the answer is loud and clear: Aye.
“It’s a matter of honor that the master is the last to leave. Nothing less will do in this profession,” said Jorgen Loren, captain of a passenger ferry operating between Sweden and Denmark and chairman of the Swedish Maritime Officer’s Association.
Seamen have expressed almost universal outrage at Capt. Francesco Schettino, accused of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and of abandoning his crippled cruise ship off Tuscany while passengers were still on board. The last charge carries a potential sentence of 12 years in prison.
Jim Staples, a captain for 20 years, who spoke Wednesday from a 1,000-foot (300-meter) cargo vessel he was captaining near New Orleans, said captains are duty-bound to stay with the ship until the situation is hopeless. When they bail early, everything falls apart.
“I’m totally embarrassed by what he did,” he said of Schettino. “He’s given the industry a bad name, he’s made us all look bad. It’s shameful.”
Schettino should have remained on board “until the last passenger is accounted for,” said Abelardo Pacheco, a Filipino captain who was held hostage for five months in Somalia and now heads a seafarers’ training center in Manila.
“That is the responsibility of the captain, that’s why all privileges are given to him but he has together with that an equal burden of responsibility,” Pacheco said.
The Costa Concordia, carrying more than 4,200 passengers and crew, slammed into a reef on Friday, after Schettino made an unauthorized maneuver. A recording of his conversation with the Italian Coast Guard suggests he fled before all passengers were off, and resisted repeated orders to go back, saying the ship was tipping and it was dark. Schettino reportedly said he ended up in a life raft after he tripped and fell into the water.
He is being held in house arrest as prosecutors prepare criminal charges.
Even if he’s not convicted, it is highly unlikely that he’ll ever command a cruise or cargo ship again because of the damage to his reputation, said Prof. Craig Allen of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut.
“Some people panic, but a short time later they collect their senses and do the right thing,” Allen said. “In this case there was more than enough time for the moment of panic to pass. It was abject cowardice.”
Both literature and real life offer plenty of examples of shipmasters who paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect their passengers and crew.
The most famous, perhaps, is the captain of the Titanic, E.J. Smith, who evacuated the ship — women and children first — until there were no lifeboats left, and then perished with it.
A more recent example is Robert Royer, the captain of a fishing vessel that sank off Alaska in 2010. As water gushed into the ship and the three other crew members jumped overboard, Royer stayed in the wheelhouse to make a frantic mayday call and give the ship’s position to the Coast Guard. The crew said that likely saved their lives, because the ship’s emergency beacon didn’t work.
After more than three hours in the water, they were rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter. Royer, however, died after suffering a head injury when he finally left the ship.
Maritime experts say such manifestations of courage at sea far outnumber incidents in which captains saved themselves and left their passengers behind.
Those who did earned instant infamy, like the captain of the Greek luxury liner Oceanos, which sank in rough seas off South Africa in 1991.
The 402 passengers and 179 crew members all survived, but Captain Yiannis Avranas and other officers left the ship while some passengers were still on board.
A magician who had been performing on the ship took over the bridge, monitoring rescue calls, as a fellow entertainer kept passengers calm by playing Beatles songs on his guitar. Avranas defended his actions, saying he left the ship to direct rescue operations.
“When I order abandon ship, it doesn’t matter what time I leave,” Avranas said. “Abandon is for everybody. If some people like to stay, they can stay.”
A Greek board of inquiry found Avranas and four officers negligent in their handling of the disaster.
In 1965, the captain and several other crew members were among the first to abandon ship after the Yarmouth Castle caught fire and started sinking off the Bahamas, killing 90. Fleeing in a lifeboat, they were told by the captain of a rescue ship to go back and help their passengers.
Captains accused of leaving prematurely often claim they can manage the situation better from the safety of a lifeboat, rescue vessel or on shore.
Allen dismissed that idea, saying the captain’s knowledge of his ship is crucial in an emergency.
“Shoreside rescue people can do all the shoreside coordination efforts needed,” he said. “You need someone on the ship to communicate with them, to command the people who are on the ship, to help get the passengers off and to guide the rescuers.”
Rear Admiral Richard Gurnon, president of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy called Schettino’s actions “abhorrent” and a violation of an unwritten code.
“It isn’t just a maritime code, it’s a code of leadership,” Gurnon said. “If you are leader, you have responsibility for your people, they put their lives in your hands.”
Steen Brodersen, a retired Danish captain, said that every single crew member, from the chief mate to the cooks, has a designated role in an emergency on a cruise ship. Regular drills ensure everyone knows what to do.
The captain must first ensure the safety of his passengers, then of his crew and, finally, of the ship, though the notion that he’s supposed to go down with it is more legend than fact.
Brodersen, 60, said he never had to deal with that kind of situation, but he has sometimes thought about his own limit, when his survival instinct would trump the hope of salvaging a doomed ship.
“There must be a point at which I would think that now it is time to jump into the water so I don’t die,” he said. “But that would come after the ship has been evacuated,” he added. “It is my responsibility. I am the captain.”
Associated Press writers Jay Lindsay in Boston, Massachusetts; Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark; and Teresa Cerojano, in Manila, Philippines, contributed to this report.
ORLANDO, Fla. – President Obama is headed to the heart of Florida’s tourism industry to announce a new travel proposal.
Obama heads to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Thursday to make the announcement.
His Florida visit comes 10 days before Sunshine State Republicans are set to vote in a presidential primary.
Obama carried Florida in 2008 against Republican John McCain, 51 percent to 48 percent. And, for now, Florida voters don’t seem to be abandoning Obama in droves.
A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed the president and GOP front-runner Mitt Romney in a near-statistical tie in the state in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup.
ROME – A young Moldovan woman who says she was with the captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship after it rammed into a Tuscan reef emerged as a potential new witness Thursday in the investigation into the captain’s actions that night.
Crew members and passengers have said Capt. Francesco Schettino ate dinner with a woman in the ship’s restaurant Friday night, and Italian news reports have said prosecutors want to interview her.
Schettino, who was jailed after he left the ship before everyone was safely evacuated, is under house arrest, facing possible charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning his ship. Ship owner Costa Crociere SpA says he made an unauthorized deviation from the ship’s programmed course that brought him too close to the reefs off the tiny island of Giglio. The ship capsized a few miles away in Giglio’s port, forcing the chaotic evacuation of the 4,200 people on board.
Eleven people have been confirmed dead and 21 others are still missing.
Divers resumed searching for the missing Thursday as a new audiotape emerged of the Concordia’s first communication with port officials who inquired about what was wrong. In the tape, an officer insists the ship had only experienced a blackout — comments that came a full 30 minutes after the ship rammed violently into the reef.
Dominica Cermotan, a 25-year-old Moldovan hostess who said she was working for Costa on the Concordia, said on her Facebook page that she wasn’t on duty the night of the grounding but was with Schettino, other officers and the cruise director on the bridge. She said she was called to help with translations of instructions for how the small number of Russian passengers should evacuate.
“We were looking for them, searching for them (the Russians),” she said in an interview with Moldova’s Jurnal TV. “We heard them all crying, shouting in all languages.”
She defended Schettino, saying “he did a great thing, he saved over 3,000 lives,” and added he stayed on deck until 11:50 p.m.
The ship hit the reef at 9:45 p.m.
Prosecutor Francesco Verusio declined to comment on whether he was seeking Cermotan as a witness, citing the ongoing investigation.
Costa said in a statement that a woman embarked on the ship earlier Friday in the port of Civitavecchia. Without providing her name, Costa said the woman was registered with the ship and that the company was prepared to provide to authorities both her identity and paperwork for the ticket.
The default threat
The current threat is that some members of the 17-nation euro zone will be unable or unwilling to reduce national budget deficits enough to meet requirements and deadlines set by the European Central Bank, and that they will then default on huge outstanding loans and other debt obligations. Countries considered to be at greatest risk of default are Greece, Portugal, Italy, and Spain, although others face similar, if less severe, problems.
Unfortunately, “solving” the deficit problem isn’t easy. The only real solution to deficits—some combination of increased taxes and reduced expenditures—has run into stubborn popular resistance in the affected countries. Greeks have already shown their willingness to take to the streets over government austerity measures, and the same might well happen in other countries.
Will noncompliance lead to a fracture of the euro zone? The modern world has never seen such a multinational monetary union, much less one that subsequently fractured, so history provides no guidance at all. At best, we can only speculate. Here are three possible scenarios:
•A Weak Solution: We Americans know quite well that when something must absolutely be done by a deadline, the most certain outcome is that politicians kick the problem down the road. That’s the likely outcome here—more rhetoric and less action. Greece and Portugal might not be quite “too big to fail,” but the other countries probably are, so one way or another, to treat the problem, the euro leaders will likely, in Carleton Greene’s words, “Dissolve it in a weak solution.”
•Quit or Be Evicted: If the politicians can’t sidestep the problem, the wayward countries may have to split from the euro zone. But the political machinery makes no provision for either voluntary secession or eviction from the euro zone, so nobody has any idea of how a separation could occur or what would happen. Presumably, a country could withdraw unilaterally as rapidly as it wished—after all, the Bank has no enforcement tools except economic ones. However, the bureaucrats might take longer to decide on and institute an eviction.
•A Possible Recession: The most likely trigger for failure would be a decision by the strong euro zone countries to stop lending more money to one of the struggling countries, resulting in the weak country’s default on its obligations. Such a massive default could severely hurt many major European financial institutions—the costs of dealing with Iceland’s 2008 collapse are still depressing the European economy—and an even larger collapse could result in recessionary pressures on the entire euro zone. But, overall, the remaining euro zone countries would still be an economic powerhouse, and after a period of adjustment, they could continue without one or more small, wayward members.
A default country
Although the rest of the euro zone would undoubtedly continue to prosper, a country leaving the euro zone would have some serious problems, starting with a weak economy and a weak replacement currency. Here, we have some historical guidance.
Often, a country with debts it can’t cover resorts to inflation—or at least permits inflation —to devalue the debt. When that happens, local businesses tend to shun the national currency and transact business in a more stable currency, such as the U.S. dollar or the euro. As a result of shekel inflation, for example, the U.S. dollar became Israel’s de facto currency through the early 1980s. Several Latin American countries have actually adopted the U.S. dollar as their official currency, and several others officially peg their own currency to the dollar. A few do the same with the euro.
On the other hand, a country with a reasonably sound economy and that isn’t overburdened with debt often devalues its currency to stimulate tourism and exports.
Impact on you
The main impacts of any euro zone failure scenario would fall on Europeans. For visitors, the impacts would probably be transitory and fairly minor:
•In Euro Zone Countries: Fracturing of the euro zone could lead, at least for a few years, to better exchange rates against the dollar, favoring U.S. travelers. But shifts would probably be relatively small and relatively slow, and Europe would not turn into a “budget paradise” to any significant degree.
•In Defaulting Countries: Just about anything could happen. A devalued currency, if it remains stable, could mean really good deals for visitors. For several years following the 1997 Asian financial crisis, for example, much of Southeast Asia became a real bargain for visitors from strong-currency countries. That would be a best-case scenario. Runaway inflation, on the other hand, makes travel more difficult. Travel businesses in affected countries try to peg local prices to dollars or euros and transact as much business as they can in hard currencies.
What really matters to visitors
Decisions by tourists whether to visit a given country or area are much more affected by what happens in the streets than by what happens in the banks. Travelers to Greece these days are more concerned about getting caught in civil unrest than they are about low prices; despite some good resort deals, travelers avoid Acapulco because they really don’t want to become collateral damage in a drug war. Those developments, rather than exchange rates, are likely to govern tourism patterns over the coming years.
RICK STEVES: Off-season Europe brings bargains, breathing room
The lesson for most North Americans: Don’t figure on any big changes in costs of visiting most of Europe, one way or the other. Keep a close eye on the headlines to avoid visiting places where you might encounter violence. And if you have to prepay more than a few hundred dollars, buy cancel-for-any-reason trip insurance so you, not the bean counters, can decide how to respond to what happens on the ground.
For anyone who needs a quick primer to bring them up to speed: The euro is the multinational currency in use throughout the euro area or euro zone. Current membership consists of 17 member states of the European Union (EU) that have adopted the euro as a common currency: Austria, Belgium, Southern Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain. Although not official members of the EU, Kosovo and Montenegro have also adopted the euro as their currency. And several but not all 10 non-euro members of the European Union plan to join the euro zone within the next few years.
Press reports are long on such terms as “crisis,” “chaos,” “collapse,” and even “civil war” to describe what might happen in some sort of euro failure, but they’re very short on exactly what they mean by those dire terms. So what could actually happen? Nobody knows—or at least nobody is saying.
MORE: Read previous columns
SmarterTravel.com features expert travel advice and unbiased coverage of travel deals.
“Welcome Home Winter!” the banner on Mammoth Mountain’s website said Wednesday. Mind you, snow hadn’t yet starting falling at the California ski resort, but just the hint of powder on the way was reason enough to make the declaration.
California ski resorts are counting on getting a boost from storm systems that dropped snow in Seattle and Portland, Ore., this week, causing flights to be canceled and prompting airlines to waive fees for passengers who need to change travel plans because of the weather.
Lake Tahoe-area ski resorts are poised for 3 to 5 feet of snow forecast to begin Thursday and continue through the weekend — quite a switch from the summer-like conditions that have made for one of the driest Decembers on record in the Sierra and points north.
“There are three systems coming through the area bringing snow in varying amounts to the Lake Tahoe area,” says Eric Doyne of Ski Lake Tahoe, which represents seven ski areas, including Squaw Valley. “When we get hit, we get hit hard and it can come big. That’s what we’re expecting.”
The result, of course, means ski resorts, particularly at high elevations, will be able to open more runs. Right now, Doyne says it’s too early to say exactly what that percentage of terrain will be open as a result. But another storm is expected to hit Tuesday as well.
Skies were clear at Mammoth on Wednesday as the resort continued its “man-made blizzard” using snow guns. “We’ve been watching the models closely, and our local forecaster thinks we could get 3 to 5 inches of water content, which will equate to roughly the same in feet of snow,” says spokeswoman Joani Lynch.
Yosemite National Park, which reported all trails open on Wednesday, closed the east-west Tioga Road and plans to close Glacier Point Road when the storm hits. While high elevations are expected to get snow, spokeswoman Kari Cobb says forecasts for Yosemite Valley (where all the tourists go) will likely see rain on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
BELLEVUE, Wash., Jan. 19, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ –
Expedia.com®, the world’s leading online travel agency, today introduced the Last-Minute Deals program, which relies on user-generated deals and user-informed travel trends to lift up and showcase the best near-term travel deals. Several million travelers come to Expedia.com every day to search for travel deals. Last-Minute Deals harnesses their collective effort and shares it with the world.
Unlike other flash sales programs, which are driven by suppliers and based on inventory, Expedia Last-Minute Deals showcase deals found by other customers. The key parameter is point of origin. To access Last-Minute Deals, travelers visit
www.expedia.com/lastminute and either the site will auto-detect the customer’s location or people can enter their own home city. Last-Minute Deals then springs into action, surfacing the best deals found by other travelers to different destinations. With a quick click, travelers can make those deals their own.
“In a sense, the millions of people who come to Expedia® are now serving as your own personal travel agent, helping you find the best and most popular deals from your home city,” said Joe Megibow, vice president and general manager, Expedia.com. “So many customers travel with Expedia every month that it puts us in a great position to deliver this type of service to our customers. With Last-Minute Deals, you can get the best deals available by letting everyone else do your research for you.”
Expedia’s Last-Minute Deals program is the latest offering in the company’s robust portfolio of ways to find travel value on Expedia.com. In 2011, Expedia launched both the ASAP program – which, as the acronym suggests, delivers trips featuring A Sudden Amazing Price®, live and bookable for up to 12 hours – and the hugely successful Groupon Getaways with Expedia partnership, which couples the flash-sales expertise of Groupon with Expedia’s unparalleled global network of travel suppliers. Groupon Getaways with Expedia follows Groupon’s voucher model, where travelers book a hotel room or package at an exceptional rate, then travel when the time is right. Groupon Getaways with Expedia deals are also transferable, allowing consumers to give the gift of travel to a friend or loved one.
About Expedia.comExpedia.com is the world’s leading online travel site, helping millions of travelers per month easily plan and book travel. Expedia.com (
http://www.expedia.com/ , 1-800-EXPEDIA) aims to provide the latest technology and the widest selection of vacation packages, flights, hotels, rental cars, cruises and in-destination activities, attractions, and services. With the Expedia Best Price Guarantee, Expedia.com customers can get the best rates available online for all types of travel.
Expedia, Expedia.com, A Sudden Amazing Price and the Airplane logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Expedia, Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries. Other logos or product and company names mentioned herein may be the property of their respective owners. © 2012 Expedia, Inc. All rights reserved. CST: 2029030-50
For more information, please visit the Expedia Media Room at
http://mediaroom.expedia.com or contact:
SOURCE Expedia, Inc.
Copyright (C) 2012 PR Newswire. All rights reserved
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – Gunmen in Ethiopia’s arid north attacked a group of European tourists, killing five, wounding two and kidnapping two, an Ethiopian official said Wednesday.
Ethiopian Communications Minister Bereket Simon said the gunmen came from neighboring Eritrea and attacked the tourist group before dawn on Tuesday. Two Ethiopians were also taken hostage. Eritrea denied it was involved.
Austrian, Belgian, German, Hungarian and Italian nationals were among those in the tourist group, Bereket said.
Two Germans, two Hungarians and an Austrian were among the five killed, according to an Interpol report cited by the spokesman for Hungary’s prime minister. Two Belgians were seriously hurt and two Italians escaped unharmed, the report said. Two Germans were kidnapped.
Austria’s foreign ministry confirmed that an Austrian man from the province of Upper Austria was among the five dead.
Ethiopian officials could not immediately say with certainty which countries the victims were from.
Ethiopian state television reported on Tuesday that there had been eight tourists in the targeted group, but Austrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Peter Launsky-Tiefenthal said late Tuesday that two groups totaling as many as 22 people may have been attacked, though he said the numbers were not confirmed.
The tourists were visiting a volcanic region in Ethiopia’s northern Afar region, which lies below sea level and is known for its intense heat and picturesque salt flats.
The tourists appeared to be traveling with Addis Ababa-based Green Land Tours and Travel, according to three people in Ethiopia’s capital, all of whom asked not to be identified because the information hadn’t yet been made public.
Green Land Tours and Travel offers a 15-day travel package to the Afar region, which include visits to watch salt extraction from salt lakes and a trek around a volcano that spouts lava pools.
Bereket said that “some groups trained and armed by the Eritrean government” attacked the tourists about 20 to 25 kilometers (12 to 15 miles) from the Eritrean border.
Eritrea’s ambassador to the African Union, Girma Asmerom, said Ethiopia’s allegations are an “absolute lie” and that the attack is an internal Ethiopian matter.
Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a border war from 1998 to 2000,claiming the lives of about 80,000 people. Tension between the neighboring East African countries rose last year when a U.N. report claimed that Eritrea was behind a plot to attack an African Union summit in Ethiopia.
Launsky-Tiefenthal said there was an Austrian Foreign Ministry travel warning in effect for the region since 2007 “because of several incidents involving attacks on tourist groups … in some case politically motivated in others criminally motivated.”
In 2007, five Europeans and 13 Ethiopians were kidnapped in Afar. Ethiopia accused Eritrea of masterminding that kidnapping, but Eritrea blamed an Ethiopian rebel group. All of those hostages were released, though some of the Ethiopians were held for more than a month.
In 2008, Ethiopia foiled a kidnapping attempt on a group of 28 French tourists in the area.
“The problem is, there is no infrastructure in the area, no telephone lines, satellite phones barely work,” Launsky-Tiefenthal said, comparing the remote area to “the surface of Mars.”
Associated Press writers George Jahn in Vienna, Pablo Gorondi in Budapest, Hungary and Anita Powell in Johannesburg contributed to this report.