IBIT TRAVEL DIGEST 3.4.12

A roundup of the good, the bad and the bizarre from the world’s best travel media.

Refugee camp, DR Congo

©Sam D'cruz | Dreamstime.com

REFUGEE TOURISM…REALLY?
Yes, really.

There’s a private tour company in Rwanda, New Dawn Associates, that includes in its offerings a tour of the Humure refugee camp, composed of Rwandan refugees who had fled into neighboring Tanzania to escape the genocide and civil war of the mid-1990s, later to be pushed back into arid wildlands inside Rwandan territory.

According to their Web site, Humure is “a refugee community with a very rich history and culture, and very entrepreneurial and hospitable attitudes…Visitors are invited to participate in the daily lives and cultural customs.”

For me, though, this was the capper: “Home stays will also become available soon.”

That’s right. For whatever amount of money New Dawn Associates is charging for this tour, you too can play African refugee for a day or more.

New Dawn Associates
says on its site that they work in partnership that includes local authorities and the “Humure tourism cooperative,” adding that the community’s share of the profits from this venture is 70 percent.

Being a guy who tries to give folks the benefit of the doubt, I’m not quite sure how I feel about this. But in an editorial for The New Times of Rwanda, writer Sunny Ntayombya has no such hesitation, calling it “disgusting and morally questionable.”

You can read the entire New Times editorial here.

Is this altruism at its best or exploitation at its worst? Click on the Comments section below and have your say.

FALKLANDS FLAP
The continuing dispute between Britain and Argentina over the Falkland Islands has now spilled over into cruise travel.

According to Travel Weekly, two cruise ships recently were refused permission to dock at the Argentine port city of Ushuaia. Reason: They had previously made a port call on the Falklands, which the Argentines call the Malvinas.

You can read the entire Travel Weekly story here.

The islands are one of Britain’s last remaining colonies, since 1833, and Argentina has claimed sovereignty over them for almost as long.

When Argentina invaded in 1982, it led to a short but ruinous war between the two sides that killed more than a thousand men, cost the Royal Navy several ships and ultimately brought down the Argentine government.

​KEEP YOUR CAMERA COOL
The folks at Matador Network have some tips on how to protect your camera — and your shots — from extreme heat and sunlight.​

You can read those tips here.

The truth is that most of us blithely ignore those obscure manufacturers’ references to safe operating temperatures — and that little warning could cost you dearly.

When I took my then-new Canon G12 to the Gambia, it was February, but their winter sun was still fiercely bright and blazing hot, so much so that it fried the circuitry in my digital audio recorder. I had to periodically shut down the G12 and let it rest in the shade.

I ended up missing some great shots, but the alternative was to go the rest of the trip with a dead camera.

These days, some manufacturers are making cameras with light-colored or even all-white bodies. If you know you’re going to be spending a lot or all of your time in hot environments, you might consider getting one.

As an old-school shutterbug*, anything other than an all-black camera looks just too toylike to be taken seriously. After seeing the number that the Gambian sun did on my all-black gear, however, I may need to adjust my attitude.

(*Note that I refer to myself here as a “shutterbug” rather than a photographer. I’ve worked with real photographers. I know the difference.)



And now, here’s this week’s Digest:

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AIR
from USA Today
While American Airlines and its employee unions wage a very public feud over American’s bankruptcy petition, Frontier Airlines may be quietly going on the auction block. The only question is: Does anyone want it?

from USA Today
The flip side of airline mergers. The Southwest Airlines purchase of AirTran may be great for Southwest, but it’s leaving some cities feeling abandoned.

from Budget Travel
Want to get away from East Coast weather? Airlines putting on more flights to Hawaii.

LAND
from TNOOZ
TripAdvisor partnering with a European hotel booking service to create third-party verification of customer reviews in an attempt to combat phony, bogus, “planted” customer views.

from Budget Travel via Yahoo!
Food etiquette for travelers. The do’s and don’ts when sitting down to table away from home.

SEA
from the USA Today
The parade of new cruise ships just doesn’t stop. Disney christens a new one in New York, Disney Fantasy, set to sail a year from now. Mariah Carey does the honors.

from USA Today
And speaking of new cruise ships, Royal Caribbean has got a whole new class of cruisers coming out, the Sunshine class. These are actually smaller than the floating behemoths of the Oasis class — but with a capacity of up to 4,100 passengers, they still won’t exactly be the SS Minnow.

from Travel Weekly
What is Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas doing way the hell over in Singapore? A $54-million facelift, that’s what.

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AFRICA
from TNOOZ
Online hotel reservation systems aren’t exactly flocking to West Africa, so one entrepreneur is creating his own. It follows a trend of Africans creating their own homegrown version of popular online commercial services.

from The Independent (Uganda) via allAfrica.com
Uganda creates new Tourism Police force, with an eye toward crime prevention and building on the country’s newfound momentum as a tourist destination.

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AMERICAS/CARIBBEAN
from Budget Travel
Want to go spring breaking in Mexico, but the State Department’s latest Mexico travel warning is making you nervous? State is now coming back with a list of Mexican cities where things are cool enough not to rate an advisory.

from the New York Times
Austin, the official state capital of Texas and the unofficial state capital of non-Texan counterculture, shows all the signs of going upscale.

from the Los Angeles Times
Whitney Houston’s body isn’t even cold in the ground yet, but the Beverly Hills hotel where she died is already on the Hollywood tour-bus circuit.

from The Guardian (London UK)
Is climate change threatening a Canadian winter sports tradition with extinction?

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ASIA/PACIFIC
from the Los Angeles Times
In central Java in predominantly Muslim Indonesia, near one of the few cities in the world still ruled by a sultan, stands the imposing Buddhist temple of Borobudur.

from the New York Times
The seaside village of Kep in coastal Cambodia is lovely, laid back and delightfully light on tourist crowds — for now. ​

from the Los Angeles Times
Remember the insane surfing-under-fire scene from the Vietnam war movie “Apocalypse Now?” In Da Nang these days, the war’s long gone, but the good surf is still there.

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EUROPE
from The Guardian (London UK)
After several years’ hiatus, the classic Routemaster double-decker bus is back on the streets of London. This interactive guide will introduce you to the newest edition of a London icon. Meanwhile, this Los Angeles Times story tells the tale of their disappearance and return.

from The Guardian (London UK)
The hidden shopping arcades of Paris. Your wallet may wish they had remained hidden.

Edited by P.A. Rice

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5 thoughts on “IBIT TRAVEL DIGEST 3.4.12”

  1. The idea of playing “refugee” is repugnant to me on a number of levels. Are they gonna play rape victims? Are they going to play “torture” victims? Are they versed in the facts that cause the genocide in Rwanda, 100 days and 800,000 lives, mass graves, babies cut to pieces, women and little girls raped and mutilated as a weapon of war. Do these people that are playing refugees have any desire to truly help in a refugee camp? Or are they there to turn it into a human zoo and exploit these people that have been exploited far too long? No matter their supposed level of altruism it juts does not sit well with me. Most refugees that are in camps are terrified, suffering from atrocities that most people would never dream of in their worst nightmare and unless these people are going to build proper homes, proper sanitation,counseling, build schools and help educate the people in the refugee camp and empower them to become more than just a refugee then they have no business playing lookie-loo’s in a refugee camp. I have held refugees and even though our languages have been different their suffering is all too human and they are people with feelings, and hurts more deep than most will ever know. they have seen their homes burned, their husbands slaughtered, their children and wives raped and abused and to step into a refugee camp just out of curiosity is an insult to the struggles these people fight every day. They can set up shops, matter of fact I think I read a lot of the refugees sell trinkets, art, clothes, etc. but to let people into the only place left to them, after they have been displaced and terrorized, to play tourist and turn these people into a human zoo is horrifying to me. The people running the company too strike me as odd, none of them are actually from Rwanda, a few were Uganda born Rwandans but my question is do they understand they should be ashamed these people are still in refugee camps all these years later and instead of exploiting them and the horrors they have went through and continue to go through let’s truly try to help them instead of turning them into a sideshow. I have not been into Rwanda, Sudan and Kenya yes and I can speak on the conditions in those camps and I as a humanitarian would be raising hell if someone tried to slip lookie loo’s in on my patients and the people that have touched my hearts with their horror stories and tales of survival. Let’s lift these people up, let us not turn them into something for the world to look at like a zoo and pity, that is a disservice to all the survivors in refugees camps worldwide. These people are survivors, above all else they are SURVIVORS and need respect and a helping hand back up but not at the expense of turning them into a circus act.

  2. Thank you, Heather. On the one hand, I can understand a desire to connect Westerners with these refugees on a human, personal level, but there’s got to be a better way than this.

  3. I agree with you Greg and unfortunately I do not have the answer but I will continue to look for one. I think this group actually allowing people to rent time in a refugee camp like it was a Holiday Inn is where this company totally lost me. I don’t know how the refugee camp works in Rwanda considering the people are Rwandan. I know at Dadaab that the refugees are from all over the place, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somolia, etc. and that they are not allowed to leave the grounds of the camp because they are not citizens of Kenya and can be arrested if caught outside the grounds of the camp (Police in Kenya beat a Somolian man that was out of the camp looking for food and firewood for his family, and dumped him off at the gates to Hagadera about half dead) So by taking the last place these people have to call their own and not taking that into account that these people have lost everything, it just seems incredibly callous to me. Setting up the shops to sell the goods the refugees make and bringing the tourist through to buy them directly from them would actually be my best suggestion. That way it protects the little privacy they have left in their huts. It lets them retain some of their dignity that they have strived to hold on to through atrocities most could never imagine much less sympathize with. I know when I with my white american face walk into a refugee camp I am looked on with suspicion and it usually takes days with the language barriers and the past hurts for me to gain the trust of the refugees. And I have the training and knowledge of what is going on in the camps at that time so just letting anyone that can pay the fee in is a incredible disservice to these people that have faced all kinds of terror in the past. They are supposed to feel safe in their homes (refugee camps have terrors all their own too, rapes, fights over rationed food, Long lines to get medical attention, malaria, cholera, measles, etc) and to let in an unknown factor just puts them further at risk is my main point.

  4. Your comments on this issue are truly enlightening, Heather. They point out to me just how nuanced and complex things can be on the Mother Continent, and how much more I need to learn. Maybe how much we ALL need to learn, really. On this side of the Atlantic, we tend to view everything in stark, simplistic terms — A or B, back or white, good or bad. I think it sometimes leads us to do the wrong thing, even when we’re trying to do the right one.

    I like your idea of shops for refugee crafts a lot. I would take that a half-step further: Identify the musicians among the refugees, record the music from their various nationalities/ethnicities and sell it, both as CDs and as mp3 downloads, and use the music as a venue to tell their stories.

  5. That is a wonderful idea. I think I am going to run that past my friend Edison. He runs a NPO in Haiti and I know we have had charity auctions with arts and crafts we have brought back from the people in the camps (not refugee camps, just displaced since the EQ) in NYC to try and raise money for the new clinic in Haiti but adding music is a wonderful idea.

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