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Despite Trump, Travel to U.S. Went Up in April | Frommer's Pixabay

New Hotels, a Hostel at Chernobyl, and the National Mall's Oldest Building: Today's Travel Briefing

Travel news from all over

JUNE 14, 2017


Two widely known brands have recently made announcements that could have a big impact on the American hotel industry.

First, the Trump Organization is launching a new chain of three-star hotels that will have much more affordable rates than those of the luxury properties the company has previously offered. 

Called American Idea, the chain is expected to feature patriotic decor and bric-a-brac. The first three properties will be in small-town Mississippi—another break from the Trump Organization's previous way of doing things, with its focus on well-known, glamorous locales.

Critics have questioned whether the move is an attempt by the Trump family to cash in on red states, like Mississippi, where Pres. Trump garnered support during the 2016 election. Company executives, however, dismiss the idea that the electoral map plays any part in the plan, contending that an expansion was in the works well before the brand's namesake ran for office.

Despite the concerns of ethics experts and other politicians, Pres. Trump remains financially involved with the business.

And in less controversial news: The first hotel from furniture and housewares retailer West Elm will open next year in Detroit, the company has announced.

The 120-room property, described as a "millennial brand" by executives, will be located in the city's Midtown neighborhood, and about 70% of the furnishings in guest rooms will be West Elm products. 

There are also West Elm hotels on the way in Charlotte, North Carolina; Indianapolis; Minneapolis; and Oakland, California.

Meanwhile, in the world of hostels . . . 


You can now stay at a hostel in one of the most radioactive places on earth. 

Backed by the Ukrainian government and housed in a former Soviet dormitory, the 50-bed accommodation is located in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, a 1,000-square-mile area contaminated in the 1986 nuclear power-plant disaster. 

Access to the region remains restricted to this day—visitors have to be on organized tours, submit to screenings, and can stay for only short periods. 

Still, tours of the region, which set out from Kiev, are gaining in popularity for the chance they offer tourists to see ghost towns frozen in time from before the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the abandoned city of Pripyat, for instance, empty streets go past forsaken office buildings and a never-used amusement park that was supposed to open four days after the Chernobyl accident.

The new hostel, which is located just 9 miles from the site of the disaster, is not your only option for an overnight stay in the area. It joins several no-frills establishments occupying Soviet-era buildings in the exclusion zone.

We're guessing some of you would still rather stay there than at a Trump-branded property. 


In 2018, the newest attraction on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., will also be the oldest. 

The Lockkeeper's House, which was built in 1835—before any of its more famous neighbors—at what is now 17th St. and Constitution Ave. NW, is being restored and moved back a bit from the street. If all goes as planned, it will soon be accessible to the public for the first time in decades. 

(Photo: Jonathunder [GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons)

The building dates from the period when the Washington City Canal ran through the heart of the nation's capital, connecting the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers. The lockkeeper who lived here until 1855 managed the canal's traffic and kept its records. 

City planners had hoped that the canal would help make D.C. a commercial hub. But the waterway was dirty, smelly, and frequently flooded. In 1872 it was filled in and became Constitution Ave.

The house fell into disrepair while federal offices, gardens, museums, and monuments went up around it.

Now it's getting an inviting new outdoor plaza and, inside, digital displays recounting the history of both the building and the Mall.

Renovations are expected to be finished by early next year.

Our Travel Briefing appears regularly on the home page. Catch up on past installments here. For more updates, as well as vacation photos and travel tips, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.