|March 6th, 2008, 07:54 AM||#201|
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Hawaii: Tourists Make Lousy Neighbors
3 March 2008
HONOLULU (AP) - Hawaii's verdant volcanic peaks and crystalline waters have made tourism the state's biggest industry. But not all Hawaii residents are thrilled by the millions who flock to their shores.
They complain that some of the visitors renting homes and rooms in their residential neighborhoods create noise, drive up home and rental prices and destroy the sense of community.
"When you live in a place like Hawaii that is a resort 24-7, you need areas where people can feel at home," said Katherine Bryant-Hunter, chairwoman of a neighborhood board on the island of Oahu. "Our neighbors change everyday. They don't coach volleyball. They don't go to church with us. They are not part of the community fabric."
Their concerns have led to a flurry of proposals by lawmakers on Oahu, Maui and Kauai. The legislators are trying to address what they say is a proliferation of short-term rentals that are operating without required county approval.
But owners of short-term rental units call them an asset to Hawaii's tourism industry. They say they set rules ensuring their guests aren't disruptive.
"In my area, I never had noise that I know of, and there were always house rules," said Angie Larson, who runs a bed and breakfast out of her home in an upscale Oahu neighborhood near the beach. She is part of a group fighting to lift a ban on new short-term rentals on Oahu.
Larson and other short-term rental owners argue that their guests help them pay the mortgage and meet other expenses, not get rich. But disputes between owners and their neighbors have sparked angry confrontations and lawsuits.
"There's a lot of ugly things occurring in neighborhoods," Bryant-Hunter said. "People are really frustrated because they don't want to fight with their neighbors, and nobody wants to throw out the visitors."
In one of the most contentious cases, Oahu resident Susan Cummings sued her neighbor Marlene Roth, accusing her of operating an illegal bed and breakfast. She has installed a video camera on the side of her beach cottage to catch renters going up and down the driveway she shares with Roth.
Cummings, who will be 75 this year, said a stream of guests coming in and out of Roth's house at all hours have ruined her dream of a quiet retirement.
"This isn't the way I intended these years of my life to be," she said recently.
She won a lawsuit against Roth two years ago, but said she still has little relief.
Roth is appealing the case and has accused Cummings in court papers of spying and harassment. Her attorney said she was unavailable for comment.
Vacation rentals and bed and breakfasts are a small part of Hawaii's tourism industry. Hotel rooms account for most of the roughly 73,000 units of visitor accommodations.
Studies financed by real estate and vacation rental groups in 2005 found more than 4,000 short-term rental units on Oahu, Maui and Kauai -- most of them illegal. The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism counted more than 1,100 units on the state's remaining islands.
Bed and breakfast rooms in Hawaii are available for as little as $80 a night, while the average hotel room is nearly $200, according to Hospitality Advisors LLC.
Short-term vacation rentals tend to be more expensive, going for a few hundred dollars a night.
Maui is considering a proposal to eliminate special permits allowing short-term vacation rentals in residential areas, said Jeff Hunt, Maui County planning director. The proposal would simplify the process of getting a bed and breakfast permit and expand the areas where short-term vacation rentals can operate without a permit.
"We're trying to find some middle ground," Hunt said.
Vacation rental homes tend to incite the most outrage among neighbors, because unlike bed and breakfasts, they have no owner or manager on site, Hunt said. The county has about 1,100 illegal bed and breakfasts and vacation rentals, he estimated.
On Kauai, the county council recently passed a law that prohibits single-family homes from serving as vacation rentals outside certain resort areas. The previous law had mentioned only multifamily units, leading some people to argue it didn't apply to single-family homes, according to Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, who proposed the new law.
Oahu banned new bed and breakfasts and short-term vacation rentals in the late 1980s. About 1,000 property owners -- grandfathered in at the time of the ban -- have city approval to rent rooms for less than 30 days. But hundreds of others operate illegally in oceanside communities, critics say.
City officials are considering a measure that would nearly quadruple the property tax on homes used as vacation rentals and bed-and-breakfasts.
"If they are going to be making money out of residential districts operating as basically a hotel, I think it's only fair they pay something that is equivalent to a hotel rate," said Councilman Gary Okino, who introduced the proposal.
|March 9th, 2008, 09:08 AM||#202|
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Global tourism worth eight trillion dollars this year: WTTC
Thu Mar 6, 11:21 AM ET
Global tourism is expected to be worth almost eight trillion dollars (5.2 trillion euros) this year, up three percent, as the economic outlook dims, World Travel and Tourism Council said Thursday.
In 2007, tourism spending grew 3.9 percent but this year, US economic problems, high fuel prices and concern about climate change could temper growth, the WTTC said in a study presented at the Berlin tourism fair.
At the same time, tourism, which is widely believed to be the world's largest single industry, "is expected to generate close to eight trillion dollars (5.2 trillion euros) in 2008, rising to approximately 15 trillion dollars over the next ten years," the WTTC said.
"Continued strong expansion in emerging countries -- both as tourism destinations and as an increasing source of international visitors -- means that the industry's prospects remain bright into the medium-term," WTTC president Jean-Claude Baumgarten said in a statement.
Chinese tourists were forecast to exceed Japanese and Germans this year to move into second spot behind citizens of the United States, the council said.
"Even in countries where economic growth slows, there is likely to be a switch from international to domestic travel rather than a contraction in demand," it added.
The tourism sector, which employs around 240 million people worldwide, should create another six million jobs this year. By 2018, tourism spending is expected to grow by an average annual rate of 4.4 percent, the WTTC said.
|March 10th, 2008, 07:09 AM||#203|
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Sewer tours a hot ticket for Sydney tourism
SYDNEY, March 3 (Reuters) - They are dark, smelly and buried beneath Australia's biggest city, but Sydney's historic sewers have become one of the country's most sought-after tourist destinations.
Demand for the underground tours is so great that people who apply for tickets have been known to offer bribes such as chocolates and flowers to try make sure they are not among the thousands turned away each year, tour organisers said on Monday.
"I've had people calling up and offering all kinds of bribes to try and get a place on the tour," said Pascale Hastings, from Sydney's Historic Houses Trust, which runs the sewer tours.
"There's a huge appeal in going underground and being in dark, confined spaces normally off limits."
The Historic Houses Trust, which manages some of Australia's oldest heritage buildings, organises tours of the old Sydney sewers only twice a year, and can take only 180 people through the drains every six months.
But more than 4,000 people regularly apply for tickets to tour the drains, built to provide fresh water for the British settlement in Sydney in about 1790 by convicts sent to Australia.
By the 1820s, the stone drains were being used as a sewers. Today, they carry only storm water to Sydney Harbour, running beneath Sydney's tallest buildings and commercial centre.
The drains are some of the oldest surviving remnants of Australia's early European settlement, after the first British settlers and convicts arrived to set up a British colony in Sydney in 1788.
The tours operate only two days a year because water authorities have to clear out the drains, treat lingering bacteria, and pump in air to make the tours safe.
|March 11th, 2008, 05:59 AM||#204|
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Slump in Gulf tourists hits heart of Lebanon's economy
BEIRUT, March 10, 2008 (AFP) - Lebanon's political crisis has turned into an economic nightmare for the vital tourist industry, hard hit by a slump in tourists from oil-rich Gulf states who have been told to avoid the troubled country.
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain, whose citizens often spend as much of their money on Lebanon's ski slopes in the winter as they do on its beaches in the summer, have advised their citizens not to travel to a country in the grip of its worst political crisis since the end of the civil war in 1990.
Riyadh -- one of Lebanon's main bankrollers -- went even further, recently instructing its citizens already in Lebanon to leave the country "if possible".
And Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal warned last month that the country was "on the verge of civil war."
For a tourist industry already reeling from February 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri and Israel's war on Hezbollah in the summer 2006, such warnings are the kiss of death.
"Without tourists from the Gulf, we can't live!" exclaimed Elyssar who works at a furniture store along the road that connects the capital Beirut to Bhammdoun and Aley, two villages very popular with rich Arab tourists.
"More than 50 percent of our revenue comes from them as every year they update the furniture in their Lebanese apartments," she said.
Lebanon has been rocked by a wave of attacks against anti-Syrian figures over the past three years and is riven by a protracted political crisis that has left the country without a president for more than three months.
A long-running sit-in staged by the Hezbollah-led opposition in Beirut's downtown, rebuilt and renovated from the ruins of civil war, has also left the usually vibrant area deserted, forcing most of its shops and restaurants out of business.
-- 'We can't talk about tourism anymore, it's over' --
"We can't talk about tourism anymore, it's over," lamented Pierre Ashkar, president of Lebanon's hotel owners' syndicate.
"Since Hariri's assassination in 2005 and the war in 2006, it's been nothing but a series of (assassination) attempts, fiery discourses and skirmishes. All this scares tourists away."
Tourist numbers were little more than one million in 2007, a dramatic fall to expectations of close to 1.6 million before the 2006 war with Israel.
According to the general union of Arab chambers of commerce, losses in the tourism sector over the past two and a half years have run up to 2.2 billion dollars.
In the capital, where Saudis and Emiratis are known for their extravagant purchases, anxiety has won out.
In an upmarket boutique that sells signature bags priced between 500 and 1,000 dollars apiece, salesgirl Cosette said sales have plunged because of a lack of customers.
In Beirut's large hotels, the number of customers has also gone down. "There have unfortunately been some cancellations by some Gulf clients," said a manager at the Bristol, once the grandest hotel in Lebanon.
Achkar said that during normal times, at least 60 percent of hotel guests come from the Gulf but that occupancy rates had dropped by half over the past two years.
"We cut prices in order to attract clients," he said.
"Thousands of people come to the country from the Gulf and we are wasting all of it," said Paul Aariss, president of the Lebanese restaurant owners syndicate.
"Now we are afraid that Lebanese expatriates will decide to not come and vist the country.
The land of the cedars, as Lebanon is known, has about four million inhabitants and one of the largest diasporas in the world estimated at several million people.
"My wife, who is Lebanese, is in Canada but doesn't want to come back to the country. And why should she come in these conditions?" said Toufiq Shehayeb, a cafe owner in Aley.
Jawad, a 23-year-old bakery worker, said the latest travel advisories issued by the Gulf states were of little consequence as tourists have already deserted Lebanon.
"Since the 2006 war, they haven't come. Who feels like doing tourism in a country that could become like Iraq?"
In a luxury furniture store at an upscale mall, people seem less preoccupied with the situation. "Arab princes and princesses are amongst our customers," said shopkeeper Randa. "They make their purchases on the Internet."
|March 13th, 2008, 06:52 AM||#205|
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Las Vegas adopts new ad campaign to blunt tourism slump
12 March 2008
LAS VEGAS (AP) - Southern Nevada tourism officials are starting a $12 million ad campaign to invite visitors and conventioneers to town despite high gasoline prices, sagging consumer confidence and a global credit crisis.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, representing area governments and the largest Las Vegas area hotel-casinos, gave the go-ahead Tuesday to the "Vegas Right Now" campaign to run through June.
The aim, officials said, is to spur trips to Sin City by customers the authority dubs "Vegas enthusiasts."
"Every magazine and every newspaper and every television station has covered the economy," said Terry Jicinsky, marketing vice president for the authority. "This campaign will address some of that."
The convention and visitors authority, which controls the "What Happens Here, Stays Here" ad campaign, mounted a similar ad blitz amid a tourism slump following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The "Vegas Right Now" unveiling coincided with the announcement of a $20 million campaign by the Vegas.com Web site, called "The Vegas Experts." Those ads feature Vegas.com employees scouting parties, clubs and hotels on behalf of Web site users.
Research presented during the authority's monthly meeting showed declines in arrivals and departures at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, decreasing visitor traffic from Southern California and a dip in casino gambling revenue.
The CVA ads will be targeted in cities such as Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix and San Francisco as well as Boston, Atlanta and Dallas.
|March 17th, 2008, 12:41 PM||#206|
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Crackdown fallout hits Myanmar tourism hard
Fri Mar 14, 9:07 AM ET
It may be awash with cultural splendors, topped off by the 1,000-year-old temples of Bagan, but a reviled military government has ensured Myanmar has never been flooded with foreign tourists.
Six months after September's bloody crackdown on monk-led protests, that trickle of visitors -- 350,000 in 2006 compared to 13 million in neighboring Thailand -- has all but dried up.
The former Burma's rigidly controlled domestic newspapers admit tourism almost halved in the three months after the crackdown, in which the United Nations says at least 31 people were killed.
But in Bagan, a mystical plain studded with more than 4,000 temples and stupas on the banks of the mighty Irrawaddy River, hotel and restaurant operators say occupancy rates and takings are just 20-30 percent of the same time last year.
Given that the unrest, and the shocking images of soldiers attacking monks and unarmed demonstrators, fell on the eve of the "cool season" -- the traditional peak time for tourism -- the decline is threatening many with ruin.
"There are so few visitors at the moment," said tour guide Aung Myint with a shake of the head. "Many people are wondering how they will support their families during the low season. Now is when we're meant to be making all our money."
Although it only took a few days for the junta to crush the biggest democracy protests in 19 years, pictures, including the shooting of a Japanese journalist, reinforced the image of the former British colony as an unstable, hostile place.
Besides a growing number of Russian tour groups, the only visitors who appear to have shrugged off scruples or the perception of risk are German.
"I don't know why but most of the tourists now are Germans," said Aung Thein Myint, owner of a swish open-air restaurant on the banks of the Irrawaddy, where takings in October and November were down by 80 percent.
"They seem to think that until they start shooting Germans, it's still safe to visit," he said.
BLAME IT ON THE MEDIA
In typically uncompromising tone, the junta -- the latest face of 46 years of unbroken military rule -- blames the decline on the foreign media and dissidents who smuggled out pictures and reports of atrocities on the Internet.
"Some foreigners attempted to tarnish the image of Myanmar by posting in the Web sites the photos of the protest walks," Deputy Tourism Minister Aye Myint Kyu, a brigadier-general, wrote in state-run papers in January under a widely known pseudonym.
However, in one sense he is right: coverage of the crisis put the oft-forgotten southeast Asian nation firmly in the world spotlight and bolstered the cries of many anti-government organizations telling potential visitors to stay away.
Under the slogan "The cost of a holiday could be someone's life," groups such as the Burma Campaign UK argue that every tourist dollar props up a regime that uses forced labor, child soldiers and systematic rape of ethnic minority women -- allegations the junta denies.
Boycott campaigners also say that the jobs of people working in tourism are an unfortunate but unavoidable consequence of the wider effort to overthrow the generals.
"The tourism industry in Burma is tiny. The vast majority of people will never see a tourist in their life," said Anna Roberts of the Burma Campaign UK.
SHOULD I STAY, SHOULD I GO?
Even though the call for a boycott came from detained Nobel peace laureate and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, it is not without its critics.
In particular, detractors argue it is an empty gesture since the cash gleaned directly and indirectly from tourism is a tiny fraction of that from gems and natural gas, which made the generals more than $2 billion in sales to Thailand alone in 2007.
They also say it pushes them further into the isolation on which they appear to thrive.
"The boycott is totally pointless," said Ton Schoonderwoerd, an independent Dutch tourist watching the sun rise above Bagan's temples, the product of 230 years of building by Buddhist kings that came to an abrupt end with a Mongol invasion in 1287.
"It may seem good to politicians in the U.S. and Europe, but out here it just means that people struggle even more to make ends meet," he said.
Rather than coming down on either side of what is a passionate debate, backpacker bible Lonely Planet chooses simply to outline the pros and cons of visiting, and urges those who do to avoid government-run hotels and airlines.
|March 17th, 2008, 09:52 PM||#207|
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Cypriot tourism update
LATEST FIGURES: TOURISM ARRIVALS, FEB 2008
On the basis of the results of the Passengers Survey, arrivals of tourists reached 70.140 in February 2008 compared to 63.098 in February 2007, recording an increase of 11,2%. An increase of 4,4% was recorded in tourist arrivals from the United Kingdom (from 31.481 in February 2007 to 32.877 in February 2008) as well as 38,7% increase from Greece (from 6.594 to 9.146) and 24,8% increase from Germany (from 5.535 to 6.910 this year).
For the period January – February 2008 arrivals of tourists totalled 120.798 compared to 114.947 in the corresponding period of 2007, recording an increase of 5,1%.
Desperately waiting for something taller than 15fl. in Nicosia!!!
|April 6th, 2008, 06:49 PM||#208|
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Tourism must not destroy Mediterranean environment: ministers
FES, Morocco, April 3, 2008 (AFP) - Tourism ministers agreed here Thursday on the need to curb the burgeoning spread of tourist hotels and other facilities that might one day damage the environment of the Mediterranean coast.
A statement said they had "underlined the importance of preventing and reducing the negative impacts of urbanisation and non-sustainable land use for tourism infrastructure construction, especially at coastal areas."
The Mediterraneanan basin would become one of the regions most vulnerable to climatic change, said a unanimously adopted resolution by ministers from the European Union, and north African and eastern Mediterranean countries.
The ministers "underlined the need to enhance awareness among the stakeholders, and particularly the private sector, on the impact of climate change by promoting measures and actions aiming at developing sustainable tourism in the EuroMed region," said the statement following a meeting in Fes in Morocco.
Mohamed Moroccan Tourism Minister Mohamed Boussaid said Euro-Mediterranean tourism represented about a third of world tourism trade in terms of visitor numbers.
"A central condition of the growth of tourism is that preservation of the environment should be at the heart of tourist projects so that its potential can bring true benefits to partner countries in the long term," said Philippe de Fontaine Vive, Vice President of the European Investment Bank.
Joe Borg, a member of the European Union's Executive Commission in Brussels responsible for maritime affairs and fisheries, said the EU was promoting training, technical support, and restoration of cultural heritage in order to promote sustainable tourism around the Mediterranean.
Ministers of the 27 member states of the European Union, together with nine Arab countries, the Palestinian Territories, Turkey, Israel and Albania attended the first ever conference of this kind on Mediterranean tourist development.
|April 13th, 2008, 04:59 AM||#209|
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Savvy traveller: how not to look like a tourist
Last Updated: 5:06PM BST 09/04/2008
One of the things I enjoy least about travelling is the feeling of being a tourist. True, there have been some memorable times when it has felt like a privilege. In the USSR and eastern Europe before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and in China in the 1980s, visitors from the West were still quite rare and had a special status. Many locals would positively want to meet and talk to you. It is still often true in remoter parts of the world, though only where tourists are a novelty rather than a nuisance.
But for the most part, in the big holiday destinations of the world, we tourists are a blight on the landscape, clearly wanted for our money, but often resented, or at least regarded as irritants, by the local population.
I have just come back from two weeks in Venice, where the problem is acute. Watching old ladies and young mothers struggling to get through the crowds of visitors on the water buses, I found it is easy to see why the number of permanent residents is in serious decline, and why tourists can often get an impatient response from locals.
But while you can’t avoid being part of the problem, there are things you can do to keep a lower profile. This has its advantages. After all, camouflaging your tourist status not only helps you feel less of an intruder, it makes you more secure - a much less obvious target for opportunist pickpockets and conmen.
Of course it won’t work in all cultures. Unless you are of Oriental extraction, you will always look like a foreigner in China, for example. And unless you are a linguist, you will always get found out when you try to speak the local language.
But in European or American cities, it is possible to take a more discreet approach to travelling. Here are some ruses to lower your profile, and make you feel more like a local.
How not to look like a tourist
Buy a plastic carrier bag
It may not be stylish, but it seems to work. Here’s the proof: in two weeks of regular travel on the vaporetti in Venice, I was never asked to show my ticket once - even though other tourists were checked regularly. Since I scarcely look Italian, the only explanation I could think of was that I had kept my notebook, guidebooks and camera in a carrier bag I picked up from a local supermarket. Had I been carrying a day pack, or wearing a money belt, I’m sure I would have been treated differently.
Don’t wear shorts
I wouldn’t dream of offering sartorial advice to women, but on men, shorts are a sure-fire giveaway of your tourist status in Europe.
Do wear a jacket
Few tourists bother, so if you make the effort you will look more like one of the locals.
Carry your camera discreetly
You inevitably give yourself away when you take snaps. But in between time, disguise your status by putting your camera in your bag or on your belt, rather than leaving it bouncing ostentatiously on your chest or dangling from a wrist.
Fold the map in advance
We have all stood on the corner of the street struggling with a map of an unfamiliar city. But you can reduce the chances of appearing quite so obviously alien if you get as much of your route in your head before you set off. Folding the map carefully will also mean you can glance at it more discreetly.
How not to feel like a tourist
Learn some key words
Having even a handful of basic words, and especially numbers, changes the way you are treated, and reduces the sense of being a complete outsider. And even if the waiter replies in fluent English, at least you have shown a willingness to make an effort.
Use local buses
In Venice this advice doesn’t work very well, because so many tourists use the vaporetti. But in most cities, familiarising yourself with the bus map is a big step towards living like a local. Pick the routes carefully and you can even use them as an alternative to a sightseeing tour. The number 100 in Berlin, the 40 in Rome and the M1 in New York, for example, all follow routes past many of the principal sights.
Rent an apartment
Everything mitigates in your favour: you won’t be surrounded by other tourists at breakfast and dinner, you will be living alongside the city residents, you will probably use the local food shops and markets, and, to cap it all, if you cater for yourself, you will spend much less money than you would eating out. For a good selection of accommodation, see Interhome (020 8780 6633, www.interhome.co.uk).
Visit off-beat sights and areas
In Venice, the contrast between the everyday city and the tourist town is especially sharp. Step just one street away from the railway station/Rialto/St Mark’s axis, for example, and you find yourself in a real city rather than an overcrowded stage-set. Here, too, there are dozens of smaller museums, churches and palaces that often see only a handful of visitors at a time. You may still be a tourist, but you won’t be part of the visiting hordes.
This is not the ideal solution for most tourists, but it is certainly easier to blend in with the local crowd when you are travelling solo than when you are kissing and cuddling in a gondola on the Grand Canal.
© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2008.
|April 13th, 2008, 07:24 AM||#210|
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Personal requiem for Asia's lost gems
By DENIS D. GRAY, Associated Press Writer
Thu Apr 10, 11:32 AM ET
EDITOR'S NOTE: As more of the world opens to tourism, some who treasured undiscovered places mourn what they have lost. This is one man's lament, from Bangkok Chief of Bureau Denis D. Gray, who has lived, worked and traveled in Asia for more than 30 years.
LUANG PRABANG, Laos (AP) — On a chilly pre-dawn in this wondrous and once-secluded place, scruffy European backpackers and well-heeled American tourists have staked out their firing positions.
A fusillade of flashing, jostling cameras and videocams is triggered the moment Buddhist monks pad barefoot out of their monasteries in a serene, timeless ritual. A forward surge breaks into the line of golden-yellow robes, and nearly tramples kneeling Lao women offering food to the monks.
Later that day, a prince of the former royal capital struggling to preserve his town's cultural legacy, protests: "For many tourists, coming to Luang Prabang is like going on safari, but our monks are not monkeys or buffaloes."
Nestled deep in a Mekong River valley, cut off from most of the world by the Vietnam War, Luang Prabang was very different when I first saw it in 1974. Fraying at the edges, yes, but still a magic fusion of traditional Lao dwellings, French colonial architecture and more than 30 graceful monasteries, some dating back to the 14th century. It wasn't a museum, but a cohesive, authentic, living community.
Fast forward to 2008: Many of the old families have departed, selling or leasing their homes to rich outsiders who have turned them into a guesthouses, Internet cafes and pizza parlors. There are fewer monks because the newcomers no longer support the monasteries. And the influx of tourists skyrockets, the fragile town of 25,000 now taking in some 300,000 of them a year. Throughout Laos, tourism was up an astounding 36.5 percent in 2007, compared to 2006, with more than 1.3 million visitors in the first 10 months of the year, according to the Pacific Asia Travel Association.
Some time has passed since destinations on the major crossroads of Asia - Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok and others - first took on this influx - even, ironically, as they bulldozed and skyscrapered over the very character, atmosphere and history which drew the visitors by the jumbo flight.
Now, it's the turn of places once isolated by conflicts, hostile regimes and "off-road" geography to which only the more intrepid travelers had earlier ventured. And as Asia's last little gems, one after another, succumb to tourism's withering impact, there are truly pangs in my heart - together with a dose of selfish jealousy as for a love one must now share with many.
"Siem Reap may be one of the few spots that still clings to the remnants of the old Cambodia, before the war, before the slaughter," I wrote in my diary in 1980, returning to this northwestern Cambodia town just months after the fall of the murderous Khmer Rouge.
The human toll had been terrible, but Siem Reap itself endured, its small, languid scale, the old French market, the artistic ambiance so befitting a community at the edge of Cambodia's greatest creations - the ancient temples of Angkor.
At Angkor Wat, an old penniless couple offered warm palm sugar juice from a bamboo cup as a few soldiers escorted me - the sole tourist - through the haunting chambers of the most magnificent temple of them all.
On a recent visit to Siem Reap, I encountered a frenzied, dust-blown work site. Multistory hotels with plate glass windows were springing up on the banks of the lazy Siem Reap River, into which raw sewage oozed from legions of guesthouses. The market had more bars per block than Las Vegas.
The spiritually traumatized at luxury retreats could now book one-on-one healing sessions with "life coaches" flown in from United States, and "Angkorean" stomach wraps of lotus leaf and warm rice.
Would-be warriors, down with temple fatigue, were throwing hand grenades and firing assault rifles for $30 a burst at the Army Shooting Range. The Phokeethra Royal Angkor Golf and Spa Resort, which boasts an 11th century bridge between the 9th and 10th holes, had brought "the gentlemen's game to the Eighth Wonder of the World."
The 3.7-mile road from Siem Reap to that wonder, once a tranquil alley lined with towering trees, formed a troop of hotels and ugly, mall-like shopping centers - most of them in violation of zoning laws.
On my last evening, I thought a Grand Prix was being run. Young travelers were gathering for sundowner parties while buses delivered Chinese tourists to the grand causeway of Angkor Wat, wreathed by rising exhaust fumes.
Maybe the package groups and top-rung vacationists, with their high-maintenance demands, leave a bigger footprint than backpackers. But in Asia, backpackers have served as the industry's reconnaissance teams, penetrating rural hinterlands to colonize idyllic spots and pave the way for upmarket travelers. The banana pancake circuit it's called, after one of their requisite staples.
Take Pai, a village embedded in an expansive, mountain-encircled valley of northern Thailand. It used to be a great escape into an easygoing, exotic world, with tribal settlements scattered in the hills - until the global migratory tribe appeared in droves, dragging its own culture along.
Bamboo and thatch tourist huts hug the meandering Pai River as far as the eye can see, gobbling up rice paddies and clambering up hillsides on its left bank. On the right bank, high-priced resorts have begun to mushroom.
The short downtown strip is jammed with Apple Pai and nine other Internet cafes, video and tattoo parlors, bars, yoga and cooking classes, countless trinket shops and an eatery featuring bagels and cream cheese.
There's even an English-language newspaper, published by Joe Cummings, an author of those Bibles of shoestring travel, the Lonely Planet guides, which probably did more than anything to put Pai on the circuit. In a wicked daydream, I condemn Joe to eating nothing but banana pancakes and lugging a 500-pound backpack through all eternity.
Even those who make their living from tourism lament the growth. "It's too developed now. Too much concrete everywhere, too many guesthouses," says Watcharee Boonyathammaraksa, who, when I first met her in 1999 had just fled Bangkok's frantic advertising world to start a cafe, All About Coffee, in what is one of the only old wooden houses left in town.
Luang Prabang has done better in not tearing down its past. UNESCO has kept a close watch after declaring it a World Heritage site in 1995. The agency described the urban jewel as "the best preserved city of Southeast Asia."
Still, former UNESCO expert and resident, Francis Engelmann, says: "We have saved Luang Prabang's buildings, but we have lost its soul."
The traditional community is dissolving in tourism's wake, with those taking over the old residences interested in profits rather than supporting the monasteries, which exist largely on the offerings of the faithful.
One monastery, Engelmann says, has already closed down and abbots of others complain that tourists enter uninvited into their quarters to snap photos "right in their noses" while they study or meditate. The senior clergy report drugs, sex and minor crimes, once virtually unknown, among young novices as imported enticements and titillations swirl around their temple gates.
"Sustainable, ethical, eco-tourism." Tourist officials in Laos and elsewhere in Asia chant these fashionable mantras. But their operational plans push for "more, more, more." Nothing plunges the region's governments and marketers into a deeper funk than a drop in arrivals because of a tsunami or outbreak of bird flu.
In Luang Prabang, by official count, more than 160 guesthouses and hotels are already in business, with the Chinese and Koreans planning some really big ones for the wholesale trade.
Along the long block of Sisavangvong Road, at the old town's core, every building caters to the sightseers in one fashion or another. What a pleasure to finally discover one that doesn't, even if it's one housing the Luang Prabang Provincial Federation of Trade Unions.
A lean, old man, barefoot and clad only in a checkered blue sarong, would have been a common sight a few years ago. Now, as he shuffles across Sisavangvong, among the trekking boots and fancy parkas, he seems like a stranger in his own hometown.
Nearby, at the Cultural House Puang Champ, my friend Prince Nithakhong Tiaoksomsanith is hoping to somehow act as a conduit of authentic Lao culture between a globalizing generation and the passing one. His traditional wooden house, propped on stilts, serves as a center where old masters teach music, dancing, cooking, gold thread embroidery and other arts.
This, Nithakhong says, may help avert Luang Prabang's possible fate: "Disneyland."
So, on a late afternoon, four teenagers under the guidance of a musician who once performed in the royal palace, practice. On strings and percussion, they play "The Lao Full Moon," a mournful, romantic song.
But even this private compound is vulnerable. As the youngsters play, a tourist tries barging in. And who's that over the wall, craning their necks?
More tourists, clicking cameras in hand.
|April 18th, 2008, 07:56 AM||#211|
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Matta to host Asian tourism expo in KL next month
Published: 2008/04/18 BusinessTimes
THE Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) is hosting the Asian International Tourism Expo 2008 (AITE) from May 22 to 25.
The four-day event will be held at the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysian Chinese Tourism Association and Malaysia India Tour & Travel Association are also jointly hosting the event this year.
"AITE 2008 is set to be a proprietary Malaysian trade show that is at par with other regional trade shows. We hope more local tourism players will take part in the event," AITE 2008 Travex committee chairman Rozzana Rahmat said in a statement.
AITE 2008 will showcase a variety of inbound travel products ranging from flights, accommodation and activities within Malaysia and Asia.
About 30 per cent of the exhibitors are from international markets. The trade show is open to public on its last day on May 25 where exhibitors can sell directly to consumers.
|April 18th, 2008, 01:06 PM||#212|
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Thursday April 17, 05:05 PM
Tourism boosts economy by $85 billion
The Australian tourism industry is now worth $85 billion to the country's economy after its strongest growth in almost a decade, new data shows.
Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show the industry added $84.975 billion to the economy in the 2006-2007 financial year - an increase of 7.8 per cent from the previous year and the largest growth in the sector since 1999.
The figures show the industry represented 3.7 per cent of Australia's gross domestic product (GDP) and employed 482,800 people.
The report found air and water transport, eateries and retail trade were the most important sectors of the industry, while increased spending by Australians in their own country had driven domestic tourism consumption up 6.8 per cent to $62.6 billion.
International tourists injected $22.3 billion into the economy - an increase of 9.8 per cent.
Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF) managing director Christopher Brown said the new figures showed the importance of the tourism industry, especially in the services export sector.
"The success of the national economy will increasingly depend on the performance of the tourism industry, especially in a post-resource boom scenario," Mr Brown said in a statement.
"When the mining boom is over, it is the services sector that will help to carry the Australian economy and the tourism industry is a major component of that."
He said the tourism industry needed to continue to innovate to ensure its contribution to the economy in tough international conditions.
"While today's figures are a shining light for the sector, we can't afford to rest on our laurels," he said.
"In a weakened global economy, it's essential that Australian tourism maintains its competitiveness on the world stage as consumers consider their discretionary spend on items such as travel."
|April 28th, 2008, 06:32 AM||#213|
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FEATURE-Natural wonders await tourists to Yemeni islands
SOCOTRA, Yemen, April 24 (Reuters) - Evolution has run riot on Yemen's windy isles of Socotra, whose dizzying cliffs, jagged peaks and exotic plants entice the imagination to do the same.
Here be dragons, or at least Dragon's Blood trees, prized for their red medicinal sap. Fearsome gales blow beaches up hillsides. People speak an obscure language older than Arabic.
The ancients cherished Socotra as a source of frankincense, myrhh and aloe, and until just a few years ago these islands off the Horn of Africa were all but cut off from the modern world.
Yemen is now asking UNESCO to recognise its remote Arabian Sea archipelago, with its spectacular green mountains and white beaches, as a world natural heritage site for its biodiversity and natural beauty. The U.N. agency is to decide in early July.
Its long isolation eroded, Socotra now faces the challenge of how to conserve its natural treasures while carefully opening up to tourism and improving life for its 50,000 people, many of whom still subsist on fish, dates and goats in a harsh climate.
"The islanders aspire for what other people have," Yemen's Environment Minister Abdul-Rahman al-Iryani told Reuters.
"In the past they didn't know of anything except what they had. They thought the whole world was like theirs. The pressure is now very strong. Socio-economic change has been very fast."
In Irsal, on the northeastern tip of Socotra, deputy village headman Matar Abdullah recalled bygone times when he used to catch sharks for a living with lines from a wooden rowing boat.
"Now we have motor boats, but the sharks have gone far out to sea. There are too many fishermen, with big ships from (the Yemeni mainland ports of) Mukalla and Hodeida, or Pakistan," said the 45-year-old with gold teeth and grey hair.
Abdullah said the road being built between Irsal and the island capital, Hadibo, had made it easier for the 400 villagers to make occasional trips to buy food or get medical help. They also appreciated their new school and clinic, but needed jobs.
Conservationists trying to preserve Socotra, which rivals the Galapagos and Mauritius for endemic plant species, realise they cannot ignore the material interests of the islanders.
But they challenge government decisions that have endowed Socotra with Yemen's longest airport runway, roads as broad as some mainland highways, and schools and hospitals built with little thought for how to staff, equip and maintain them.
"The problem is you are getting roads up to eight metres wide in areas where there are hardly any communities," said Paul Scholte, a U.N. expert who works as chief technical adviser to the Socotra Conservation and Development Programme (SCDP).
"Irsal has approximately 400 people and four or five cars. The road leading there...is the same width as the one between Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, and Hodeida, the main port."
Scholte said highways like this -- and others which bypass villages rather than connect them -- were eyesores hugely damaging to the environment and to Socotra's tourist potential.
"For example, the road to the northeast goes through a very narrow coastal plain, destroying the dune landscape and a couple of very nice camping sites that attract hundreds of tourists. So you are killing the goose that lays the golden egg."
Not many tourists find their way to Socotra, which has only basic guest houses and campsites, but 3,000 are expected this year, up from 2,500 in 2007 and 1,600 the previous year.
Iryani, the environment minister, ruled out mass tourism on an island in mid-ocean that has little water and no respite from seasonal winds that batter its shores from May to September.
"It can be an eco-tourism destination, if managed well, for people interested in biodiversity, culture, flora," he said.
Iryani is among the conservationists fighting other ministries over road plans for Socotra -- in principle no new ones can now be built without meeting environmental criteria.
"These roads are motivated by contracts, not the needs of the people. This is part of the corruption we are fighting in Yemen," Iryani said of plans for a ring road around Socotra.
The island's myriad goats pose another environmental threat to Socotra's 900 plant species, a third of which are endemic.
"A lot of species are vulnerable or endangered, mostly due to lack of regeneration," said Nadim Taleb, SCDP's site manager. "Goats are eating the young trees, except the poisonous ones."
OLD WAYS UNDER PRESSURE
Socotra's traditional way of life is crumbling under the onslaught of modernity kept largely at bay until north and south Yemen united in 1990 and the new airport was built in 1999.
Schools teach only in Arabic, not Socotri, an unwritten tongue. Mobile telephones and satellite television dishes are spreading, fuelling unrealistic demand for consumer goods. Many Socotris have acquired a qat habit -- qat is a mild stimulant drug popular in mainland Yemen, but new to Socotra.
In Homhill, Abdullah Ali manages a campsite in a protected area in rugged mountains where villagers peddle dried Dragon's Blood sap and frankincense to occasional foreign visitors.
"Some changes have improved the lives of locals who act as guides or sell handicrafts and incense. We are used to a poor life, looking after livestock far from the market in the city.
"The government has built a school and I hope my children will be teachers or doctors to help the community," said the father of two, sitting cross-legged in a matting shelter.
Ali, whose livelihood is now linked to tourism, is wary of the idea that foreigners might want to visit Socotri villages.
"A guide should tell them the rules, not to take photos of our women. We can't let people go to the village because of our traditions. Anyway our women can't speak English or Arabic."
Some tourists on Socotra seemed keener on beach frolics than biodiversity, posing a dilemma for locals -- they are affronted by bikini-clad Westerners ignoring Muslim dresscodes, but are aware of the cash to be earned from them.
So far friction has been minimal and Socotra remains a hospitable place, seemingly insulated from the violence of Islamist militants whose attacks on tourists in mainland Yemen have prompted Western travel warnings. But tensions exist.
"Things are changing for the worse," warned Mukhtar al-Hinkasi, a youthful preacher teaching Islam to a group of teenagers in a spring-watered date palm grove near Qalensiya, Socotra's second biggest town.
He said tourists must respect local customs and Islamic traditions: "Some respect Islam, some don't," the bearded 26-year-old added.
"Some bring bad things like alcohol, Christmas and New Year (celebrations), dancing, makeup and women wearing bad clothes. The government should make rules against this."
|April 29th, 2008, 07:40 AM||#214|
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After unrest Yemen tourism only for "adventurers"
SANAA, April 14 (Reuters) - Spanish, French and American tourists once filled the winding alleys of Sanaa's old quarter, drawn by Yemen's 2,500-year-old history and unique architecture.
But a spate of attacks on foreigners is driving visitors away and souvenir shop owner Hussain Abdel Moghni says the only tourists who come to Yemen these days are "adventurers".
"We had more than 3,000 tourists in the old city before, but they fell to 600 after the attack on the Spanish tourists," said Abdel Moghni referring to a July 2007 explosion which killed seven Spanish nationals.
Now, since shells were fired this month at a residential complex housing Americans and other Westerners, there have been no more than half a dozen tourists, he added.
"The tourists who are here now are the adventurers. Being here is a matter of life or death," he said. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack on the residential compound -- in which no-one was hurt -- and for a mortar attack that missed the U.S. embassy last month but wounded 13 girls at a nearby school.
A blast also shook an area near the offices of a Canadian oil company on Thursday.
In January, gunmen ambushed two tourist vehicles in Shibam and killed two Belgian women.
The seven Spanish tourists were killed in a blast at the Queen of Sheba temple in the volatile eastern province of Marib.
One of the poorest countries outside Africa, Yemen has been trying to encourage tourism and draw foreign visitors to ancient sites such as the Biblical-era temple and the 16th century towers of Shibam, dubbed the "Manhattan of the desert".
But despite its wealth of attractions, from cool mountains, to Red Sea and Arabian Sea coasts, wild valleys and ancient ruins, tourism accounts for only 1.5-2 percent of Yemen's GDP.
The Tourism Ministry, set up only in 2006, faces an uphill task to fulfil its target of attracting one million tourists by 2010.
"Five German tourists who were supposed to arrive this week, cancelled their booking after the attack... Every time there is an attack, tourist numbers decrease," says Abdul Wahed al-Hemiaree, manager of a 22-room hotel in Sanaa.
"This time last year, the hotel was almost full but now, there is almost nobody," he added, walking among the empty tables of the hotel's restaurant.
The ancestral home of Osama bin Laden, Yemen is seen in the West as a haven for al Qaeda militants, dozens of whom are jailed for attacks on Western targets.
Kidnappings of Westerners by tribesmen trying to pressure the state into building rural roads also put visitors off. Foreigners need Interior Ministry permits to travel outside Sanaa, a measure authorities say is meant to protect them.
"What we are seeing now is a war on the economy ... by these attackers," Abdel Moghni said.
"Tourists are now afraid to come to Yemen, especially the Americans because they are concerned they are being targeted," he said, pointing to a picture of him with an American tourist. "See, he wants to come again but he can't." (Editing by Lin Noueihed and Richard Balmforth)
|May 29th, 2008, 07:54 AM||#215|
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St Paul's Cathedral loses out in UK landmark poll
LONDON, May 5 (Reuters) - Sir Christopher Wren's St Paul's Cathedral came up short in a survey of Britain's most recognisable landmarks on Sunday as Anthony Gormley's "Angel of the North" sculpture proved a convincing winner.
While 83 percent of Britons identified a photograph of Gormley's steel sculpture of an angel sited near Gateshead in northeast England just 38 percent recognised Wren's iconic structure in a test of contemporary and classical landmarks.
The old St Paul's was destroyed in the great Fire of London in 1666 and Wren was commissioned to design the current building shortly afterwards, but nearly a quarter of Britons mistook his masterpiece for St Peter's in Vatican City.
Over a third of Britons thought Brighton's Royal Pavilion to be the Taj Mahal in India.
The poll of 3,015 Britons made uncomfortable reading for London's tourism industry, with only 48 percent identifying Trafalgar Square, the site of Nelson's column, with landmarks in the north of England taking three of the top four places.
World heritage site Hadrian's Wall, an ancient Roman fortification regarded as the most important Roman monument in Britain was second, with Liverpool's Liver Building in fourth, while Bath's Roman baths came third.
"Britons seem to be too focused on destinations and attractions overseas and are missing out on the fantastic breaks they can enjoy in their own country," said Tom Wright, chief executive of tourism body VisitBritain.
"That they are confusing domestic destinations with those abroad proves holidays here can rival any other country in the world."
Commissioned by budget hotel chain Travelodge, the poll was carried out in April.
|May 31st, 2008, 11:39 PM||#216|
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Lebanon's tourism phoenix rises again
BEIRUT - For three consecutive seasons tourism revenue, once Lebanon's lifeblood, was reduced to a trickle by violence and political uncertainty.
In 2006 it was the Hezbollah-Israel war, in 2007 it was the struggle against Fatah al-Islam militants in the north, and this year internal sectarian clashes dragged Lebanon to the brink of a new civil war. But now it is receiving a much-needed transfusion.
Reservations have begun pouring into this land of sun, sea and mountains, and a bumper tourism season is predicted after years of instability.
There was a collective sigh of relief as calm returned last week after Lebanese leaders came to an agreement in Qatar that ended a long-running political crisis.
"The ink on the Doha agreement wasn't dry yet and the phones were ringing off the hook. From the Gulf, from Europe, from everywhere, we're booked up until the end of the summer," said Mary Shwairy, head of public relations at the upscale Phoenicia Hotel in Beirut.
"Tourism is bouncing back in a big way -- short stays, long stays, conferences, weddings of returning Lebanese who live abroad," she added.
Caretaker Tourism Minister Joseph Sarkis said he expects this year's figures to be the best for years.
"By the end of April we had only received 280,000 visitors because of the security situation. Now we expect between 1.3 and 1.6 million -- the same projected figure for summer 2006 which had seemed to be the most promising," he told AFP.
"In 2006, about 4.4 billion US dollars in tourism revenue was projected. Only about 1.5 billion came in," Sarkis added.
That summer's tourism prospects were shattered by Israel's 34-day war in July and August -- prime holiday months -- against the Shiite Hezbollah movement in Lebanon.
The vicious conflict between the army and Islamist militants in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared north of the country's second city of Tripoli killed tourism in 2007.
That added to a prolonged political crisis between the ruling bloc and the opposition, and culminated in clashes that erupted on May 7 this year, leaving 65 people dead and much of mostly Muslim west Beirut in Hezbollah hands.
It could have been the final straw for tourism.
But the May 21 agreement in Qatar restored calm. It led to the election of Michel Sleiman as president, a post that had been vacant for more than five months because of political squabbling.
It also saw the lifting of an opposition sit-in that had throttled business life in central Beirut for a year and a half.
Since the Doha agreement there has been "a 30 percent increase in the number of expected tourists compared with last year. Hotels are hiring extra staff and the airlines are adding extra flights," Sarkis said.
"Forty percent of the tourists are Arab, 25 percent are European and the rest are of various nationalities," he added.
"Of the Arabs, 40 percent are Jordanian who come in large numbers since visa requirements were waived three years ago. They are followed by Saudis, Kuwaitis, Iraqis and Emiratis," he said.
Sarkis said Lebanese expatriates spend large sums of money when they return to the homeland.
"Nature and a love of life are Lebanon's greatest attractions. The Arabs come for the refreshing climate, night clubs and restaurants... Europeans for the archaeological sites" such as Baalbek or Tyre.
In another sign of recovery kicking in, the popular Beiteddine and Baalbek music festivals, silenced for the past two summers, will return this year in July.
The Beiteddine and Baalbek festival organisers are also co-sponsoring a concert by Lebanese-born pop sensation Mika in Beirut on July 27.
Popular summer destinations in Lebanon include the mountain towns of Aley, Bhamdun, Brummana and Beit Mery. In winter the ski resorts of Faraya and Faqra are thronged with visitors.
Aley, which saw heavy fighting in early May, is now preparing to double its population over the tourism season.
"Restaurants and cafes that were closed for two years have reopened in record time over the last few days," municipal official Essam Ebeid told AFP.
"Aley gets as many tourists as its 40,000 inhabitants -- mostly Qataris, Saudis and Kuwaitis," he said. "But the season will actually be longer than the three summer months because many Arabs and expatriates own homes here."
Ebeid cited property prices as an indication of the return rush of visitors. "Prices have soared by about a third since the Doha agreement," he said. Before the accord was reached "we were expecting fighters armed to the teeth, but fortunately now we welcome tourists with flowers."
"Had Beirut not been my city I would have chosen it to be." Gibran Khalil GIBRAN
|June 11th, 2008, 09:02 AM||#217|
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Thailand confident on tourism despite fuel costs, protests
9 June 2008
Agence France Presse
Thailand is confident that its key tourism industry will keep growing despite soaring fuel costs and political protests in Bangkok, Tourism minister Weerasak Kowsurat said Monday.
Around 14.5 million foreign tourists are expected to visit Thailand this year, up slightly from last year's 14.46 million visitors, he said.
Record oil prices have already prompted flag carrier Thai Airways to scrap its direct flight to New York, and the airline is expected reduce its flights to Los Angeles and other cities.
In Bangkok, small anti-government protests have rumbled along for two weeks, raising fears of a coup despite assurances from top generals that no such development is planned.
None of that appears to have deterred foreign tourists, Weerasak told reporters.
"At present, there may be some inconveniences but it has not yet caused any unrest," Weerasak said.
Thailand's tourism industry generates six percent of the national economy, and has proved incredibly resistant to shocks.
Tourism has posted record years despite the Indian Ocean tsunami, a coup, and a plane crash on the resort isle of Phuket.
|June 19th, 2008, 05:24 AM||#218|
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Flight cuts may hurt Caribbean tourism
18 June 2008
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Expensive jet fuel and a soft American economy are threatening to sink Caribbean tourism as airline ticket prices soar and flights are sharply reduced, choking the flow of the vacationers that many tiny islands depend upon.
Tourism is the economic cornerstone of the Caribbean, which drew more than 15 million visitors last year to colonial cities and carefree beaches.
"Billions of dollars of investment are being exposed and thousands of jobs are being exposed," said Allen Chastanet, chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization.
Airlines are cutting back across the world as passengers balk at paying fares that have risen along with fuel costs. The Caribbean is particularly vulnerable because one foundering airline, American, controls much of the market -- carrying more than 60 percent of passengers traveling through Puerto Rico last year.
American now expects to cut daily flights out of Puerto Rico's capital from 93 to 51 in September. Gone will be flights to Santo Domingo, Antigua, St. Maarten, Aruba and Samana in the Dominican Republic, spokeswoman Minnette Velez said.
Fewer flights to Puerto Rico also could also jeopardize the island's cruise ship industry, since it would be harder for passengers to reach the island to board. Ten cruise ships used Puerto Rico as their home port last year.
Rather than raise ticket prices so high that they're beyond the reach of most customers, American has decided to cut flights and reduce capacity, Velez said. "Traveling would be completely inaccessible if we increase fares as oil prices rise," she said.
Other carriers are making similar moves. Spirit Airlines recently said it would close its San Juan hub, and Continental Airlines expects to soon announce destination and flight cuts.
The Caribbean is still affordable for wealthy travelers, but resorts "that appeal particularly to price-sensitive families are in a world of trouble," said Christopher Hart, a professor at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration.
The flight cuts are coming despite increases in tourism this year to most of the islands, including double-digit growth in U.S. visitors to Antigua, St. Lucia and Jamaica, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization. The Dominican Republic reported 407,000 U.S. tourists from January to April, a 6 percent increase from last year, and Puerto Rico reported increased airline passenger traffic as well.
Now many fear even more cuts, meaning the islands won't even have a chance to lure more tourists.
"This is just the beginning," said Peter Muller, a German native who owns the Hotel Coyamar in Samana, the Dominican Republic.
"We're going to reach a point where it's no longer worth keeping the airport open."
In Antigua, where tourism officials tried to lure visitors over the weekend of June 14-15 with a music festival featuring Lionel Richie and Kenny Rogers, most of the tickets sold were to locals, festival chairman Alvin Edwards said.
And while Antigua's tourism board announced in early June that Delta Airlines would soon launch a direct flight from New York to Antigua, the airline itself has not confirmed the change.
The U.S. Caribbean territory of Puerto Rico, the region's main tourism gateway, has offered to reduce low-season airport fees by as much as 45 percent to persuade airlines to reconsider.
Flying against the trend is JetBlue Airways Corp., which plans to add daily flights to Puerto Rico from New York, Orlando and Boston starting this fall, and Virgin Atlantic, whose president Richard Branson told The Associated Press that he also might add extra flights from the U.S. to the Caribbean.
"Where things are seriously going wrong is in America," Branson said. "Virgin America is a great airline, it's doing very well. We have young planes which are more fuel-efficient than the ones American Airlines has."
Smaller islands are asking regional carriers such as LIAT and Air Jamaica to increase flights and coordinate schedules to fill gaps left by American, said Chastanet, who is also St. Lucia's tourism minister.
Some islands also are turning to Europe, where the euro has risen against the dollar, making Caribbean vacations more attractive.
"There's an opportunity given the strength of the euro," said Allegra Kean-Moorehead, spokeswoman for the U.S. Virgin Islands tourism department. "It's a market that has a huge amount of potential."
Associated Press writer Luis Andres Henao in the British Virgin Islands contributed to this story.
|July 7th, 2008, 05:29 AM||#219|
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Caribbean leaders agree to establish shared fund to market regional tourism
5 July 2008
ST. JOHN'S, Antigua (AP) - Caribbean leaders have agreed to establish a US$60 million fund to aggressively market the region's tourism attractions as their fragile economies are threatened by a global financial downturn, officials said Saturday.
Caribbean Community nations agreed to contribute US$21 million into the shared marketing fund for regional tourism while the remainder would come from various stakeholders including hotel associations, according to Allen Chastanet, chairman of the bloc's tourism task force.
The decision to create the fund was made at an annual summit in Antigua and Barbuda's capital as regional leaders sought common strategies to ease the impact of soaring fuel and food prices on their tourism-dependent economies.
Political leaders of the Caribbean Community, or Caricom, dedicated a full day during the four-day gathering to brainstorm ways of safeguarding the region's tourism industry. The summit ended late Friday.
Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding said Caricom member nations had to synchronize efforts for their common good as economic forecasts darken.
"In this time of crisis, strong leadership is critical. Leaders have the duty to seize the opportunity and rise to the occasion," Golding was quoted as saying in a statement issued at the close of the regional bloc's 29th summit.
Antiguan Tourism Minister Harold Lovell said approval of the joint marketing strategy was the most important decision of the gathering.
"This appears to be the most sustained, most organized and the most serious commitment that is being made by Caricom," Lovell told reporters.
Leaders also created a civil aviation authority to improve oversight across the region, including boosting resources for crash investigations and quickening emergency response time.
Caribbean presidents and prime ministers called for increased investment in agriculture and proposed various strategies to help member countries grappling with a world food crisis as prices of corn, wheat, rice, soybeans and other farm products skyrocket.
"We cannot grow food by rhetoric or talk or even a food strategy, important as it is, but by investment," Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo said.
To help offset rising food prices, Jagdeo proposed making large plots of land available in his English-speaking South American nation to spur private sector investment and transform the parcels into commercial farms.
Food prices have risen as much as 40 percent in the region, prompting countries such as Trinidad and Guyana to contemplate so-called megafarms.
|July 7th, 2008, 08:30 PM||#220|
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U.S. sets new records for travel abroad in 2007
The overall U.S. outbound market grew by one percent in 2007 compared to annual 2006 figures, enabling it to post the fourth successive record for total U.S. outbound travel. In 2007, 64.0 million U.S. residents traveled abroad, surpassing the 2006 record of 63.6 million. The growth came entirely in travel to the overseas regions, 31.2 million, up four percent. Travel to Mexico and Canada declined by one percent and three percent, respectively.
Spending by U.S. residents traveling abroad (imports) also set the fourth successive record in 2007 at $104.7 billion, up five percent from 2006. Spending by U.S. travelers within foreign countries (travel payments) totaled $76.2 billion and spending on air transportation, via foreign air carriers (passenger fare payments), totaled $28.5 billion in 2007.
The top five countries where U.S. spent their 2007 travel dollars were: Mexico ($11.1 billion), United Kingdom ($10.5 billion), Canada ($7.6 billion), Germany ($5.9 billion) and Japan ($4.7 billion).
U.S. travelers set records for 2007 travel spending in: Mexico, Germany, Japan, Italy, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Australia, Netherlands, Argentina, and South Africa.
Mexico was the top U.S. international destination again in 2007 with 19.5 million travelers, even though travel was down one percent from 2006. Travel to Mexico has fluctuated over the last 10 years. The strongest growth periods were in 1995, up 20 percent, in 2000, up 10 percent and 2004, also up 10 percent.
Spending by U.S. travelers to Mexico, however, totaled a record $11.1 billion, up two percent from 2006 the previous record.
Canada continues to be the second largest destination for U.S. international travelers. In 2007, 13.4 million U.S. travelers visited our northern neighbor, albeit three percent down from 2006. Although Canada generally has been a growth market over the last decade non-resident arrivals from Canada exceeded U.S. travelers to Canada again in 2007 for the second time since 1998. The peak year for U.S. travel to Canada was in 2002 with 16.2 million U.S. outbound travelers. Since then, U.S. travel to Canada has declined four of the last five years. Spending by U.S. travelers to Canada in 2007 totaled $7.6 billion, down two percent from 2006.
In 2007, a record 31.2 million U.S. travelers visited overseas markets, an increase of four percent from 2006. The top five overseas markets visited by U.S. travelers in 2007 were: the United Kingdom, Italy, France, Germany and Japan. If travel to the PRC was combined with Hong Kong, China would have been third. Destinations that experienced the highest growth in U.S. visitation between 2006 and 2007 were Germany, up 15 percent, Japan, up 12 percent, Spain and India, both up 10 percent, and Italy, up eight percent.
Contributing to the new record for outbound travel, six of the top 20 U.S. outbound destination markets posted records in 2007, including Italy, Japan, China, India and Hong Kong. Also, All Overseas, Eastern Europe, South America, Central America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia set regional records for U.S. outbound visits between 1997 and 2007.
Profile of the U.S. Overseas Traveler:
The Office of Travel and Tourism Industries also released a profile of U.S. travelers who visited overseas destinations (excluding Canada and Mexico). The profile provides key information on the travel patterns, traveler characteristics and spending by U.S. travelers going abroad. In addition, a breakdown is provided on leisure/VFR travelers and business/convention travelers. The Survey data tables and standard national reports can assist the industry in understanding U.S. travelers going abroad. Also 48 subsets of the data are available by 32 questions on the traveler.
Select highlights, comparing 2007 to 2006:
* The top cities of origin for U.S. travel to overseas destinations in 2007 were: New York City/Nassau, NY; Los Angeles, CA; San Francisco/Oakland, CA; Washington DC Metro; Chicago, IL and Miami, FL.
* The top ports of departure for U.S. citizens were New York (JFK), Miami, Los Angeles, Newark and Chicago (ORD).
* Advance trip decision time increased from an average of 90 to 93 days and airline reservation times increased from 58 to 60 days prior to departure.
* The personal computer/Internet continues to grow in importance as a source of information for international trip planning. As an information source, the personal computer/Internet surpassed the travel agent as the top information for U.S. travelers going overseas in 2007. However travel agents continue to be the primary means of booking the trip (35 percent) vs. 32 percent for personal computer/internet although the gap has narrowed since 2006.
* Pre-paid package usage dropped to13 percent of overseas travelers from 15 percent in 2006.
* The main purpose of the overseas trip was leisure/recreation/holiday for 38 percent of the travelers, down from 42 percent. Visiting friends and relatives (VFR) was the second highest main purpose of trip at 34 percent, up from 31 percent. Business travel comprised 20 percent of outbound travel, down slightly from 2006.
* The average length of trip outside the U.S. increased to 17.4 nights in 2007 compared to16.2 nights in 2006.
* Seven percent of travelers were on their first international trip, slightly up from 2006, and the average number of international trips taken by U.S. travelers in the last 12 months was 2.7, about the same as in 2006.
* Forty-four percent U.S. travelers visiting overseas destinations used the taxi/cab/limousine as their top mode of transportation outside the country, down slightly from 2006. The other top two modes of transportation were a flight between cities and use of a company or private auto.
* Top leisure activities for U.S. travelers other than dining in restaurants and shopping were: visiting historical places, sightseeing in cities, visiting small towns and villages, touring the countryside and visiting cultural heritage sites.
* Average international airfare per visitor, per trip, was $1,503 USD, down three percent from 2006, and average expenditures (travel payments) per visitor, per trip, while overseas were $1,467, up over three percent from 2006. The usage of credit cards declined by one percentage point to 55 percent.
* Males comprised 54 percent of U.S. travelers; however, there was higher growth in the number of women travelers in 2007. The average ages of males and females were 46.4 and 43.2 years old, respectively, younger than in 2006.
* Average household income was $114,400, down 10 percent from 2006.
Last edited by Whiteeclipse; July 7th, 2008 at 08:41 PM.