The good, the bad and the bizarre in the world of travel
ARE YOU A MAMIL?
According to the Global Trends Report released earlier this year at the annual World Travel Market trade show in London, golfers in North America are increasingly trading in their golf clubs for bicycles, abandoning the links and hitting the roads.
So much so, in fact, that it’s given rise to a new acronym in the travel industry, MAMILs — Middle-Aged Men In Lycra.
Ladies, you may want to look away for just a moment…
Among the other trends identified in the report:
- Hostels in Europe have gone upscale for several years now, but the concept is really taking off in Britain, to such a degree that the fancier ones are now being referred to in the UK as “poshtels.”
- Cooking lessons, tours to foodie hotspot and even in-home meals for visitors are becoming a “thing” among European tourism start-ups.
- The world’s next great surfing mecca: Africa.
- Design tourism is catching on in the Middle East, drawing not only the curious tourist, but creative minds from around the world. Given some of the architecture that has sprung up in the Middle East in recent years, especially the Gulf states, it’s no surprise.
- First, it was selfies. Now it’s “braggies.” Self-portraits taken in front of hotels and fired around social media. Hotel chains are actively encouraging this, to the surprise of absolutely no one.
VIRGIN GOES CRUISING
The oceans may be vast, but the cruise business is getting crowded.
First, it was Viking River Cruises branching out into the high-end ocean cruise game. According to Travel Weekly, the newest cruise player is none other than Virgin’s Richard Branson.
The bearded British magnet, who already runs a railroad, two airlines and is trying to take tourists into space, is now making plans to build a pair of “world class” cruise ships and base the operation in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale area.
And while he probably won’t have a ship for another two years, Branson already has has CEO — Tom McAlpin, former president and CEO of The World, Residences at Sea.
NEED TO TEST YOUR HEROIN? GO TO AMSTERDAM
This one’s for all you narco-tourists out there — and you know who you are — who visit the Netherlands from Europe (and elsewhere).
Dutch media are reporting that “smart shops” and street teams will be selling heroin test kits to tourists for two euros each, about US$2.50.
It may sound like a punchline from an old Cheech & Chong routine, but this is no joke.
It’s part of Amsterdam’s response to the death of three Britons in the last month, two of them last week, after they snorted heroin in the apparent belief that it was cocaine. Another 17 have been taken to hospitals for emergency treatment.
The Netherlands, and Amsterdam in particular, are world-famous for allowing the legal sale of marijuana in its “coffee shops,” but hard drugs like cocaine and heroin are as illegal there as anywhere else.
Now, drug dealers are selling unwary tourists heroin and telling them it’s coke. You might as well be putting a gun to people’s heads.
Nor is it just any heroin. Its powdered heroin from Asia known as “China white,” the purest and most expensive form of heroin . Snort this stuff in the belief that you’re doing cocaine and you may promptly — and permanently — stop breathing.
The city is even putting up billboards warning tourists about these bait-and-switch dope dealers. The police, meanwhile, are hard after the dealers, who may soon learn first-hand the price for messing with a nation’s tourism.
On the heels of his country’s successful hosting of the annual congress of the Africa Travel Association, you might expect Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni to be basking in the afterglow.
Apparently not. Instead, he managed in one stroke to “raise sand” on two continents.
He drew a lot of attention when he said that Uganda was a better tourist destination than Spain, which no doubt raised hackles from Basque country to Barcelona.
(A UK newspaper poll later asked Britons to choose between the two countries. Uganda won.)
But what hooked my attention was when, in the same stroke, he blasted his country’s tourism board for what he said was a lousy job of promoting the land that Winston Churchill dubbed “the Pearl of Africa.”
I have friends on the Uganda Tourism Board. I’ve seen them in action and I know how hard they work. So to hear the president say it should be renamed “the tourism suppression board” stung me perhaps almost as much as them.
But when President Museveni laments that Uganda’s tourism marketers seem to promote “only some chimpanzees and so on,” no disrespect to the country’s justly famed mountain gorillas, he has a point — not just about Uganda, but nearly all of sub-Saharan Africa.
For several years now, IBIT has been decrying the one-dimensional nature of African tourism, which can be summed up in one word — safaris.
Safari travel has been marketed, promoted and hyped worldwide, to the point that when it comes to Africa south of the Sahara, most of the world’s travelers seem to think there’s nothing else to see and do on the world’s second largest continent.
They could not be more wrong, but they’ll never know it unless somebody tells them…and shows them. Something I may be doing in the coming months with my own travel agency, Trips by Greg.
I wrote this just last October:
“…not everyone interested in Africa is necessarily interested in safaris. And those who aren’t often forgo Africa for other destinations. African travel and tourism will never reach their full potential until they can offer the traveler a broader range of options and attractions.”
Now, it seems there’s at least one of Africa’s 54 heads of state who sees things the same way.
And now, here’s The Digest:
from USA Today
Just in time for your holiday travel, a guide to airline fees. If your packing isn’t lighter this Christmas, your wallet surely will be.
from USA Today
Airline flights with views so spectacular, you’ll insist on a window seat. Keep that camera handy.
Airports give you lots of reasons to complain. How to do it right.
from NBC New York
As if the risk of bird strikes on takeoff and landing weren’t worrying enough, airline pilots landing at New York’s JFK International Airport are now reporting close encounters with drones.
from the Toronto Sun
Tis the season for eye-catching, eye-popping window displays in those old-school major department stores around the world, and The Sun has its own ideas on which five deserve top billing. One of them includes a giant man-made Christmas tree — hanging upside down. Spoiler alert: Harrods, believe it or not, didn’t make the cut. SLIDESHOW
from Cruise Critic
How to get yourself kicked off a cruise ship.
from USA Today
If you’re one of those folks who likes breaking in new cruise ships, Holland America Lines is taking booking for the maiden voyage of its newest vessel, the Koningsdam, in Feb. 2016, a 12-day cruise to Italy, Greece and Croatia. Amidst all the usual bells and whistles associated with today’s newest cruisers are some real innovations, like single-passenger cabins and staterooms with dual bathrooms.
FOOD & DRINK
The unspoiled paradise that is Mozambique.
South Africa is struggling to save its remaining rhinos from poachers. In Asia’s black market, their horns are worth more than gold or platinum.
While South Africa tries to save its rhinos from poachers, nearby Namibia is sending its army after the poachers themselves, possibly with the aid of drones.
from the Associated Press
Back in the 1980s, Medellin, Colombia was the de facto capital of Pablo Escobar and his multibillion-dollar drug empire. Today, with Escobar long dead and his cartel shattered, Medellin’s claim to fame is its annual dazzling display of Christmas lights.
from the Dallas Morning News
Las Vegas is busily reinventing itself for a younger, more active and adventurous visitor.
from The Guardian (London UK)
With more local entrepreneurs being allowed to opened their own shops and restaurants in Cuba, there’s a new buzz in Old Havana.
Ride a bike? Dream of seeing Japan up close? Have access to the NHK cable channel? If you can answer “yes” to all three of those questions, then you may want to check out the NHK series “Cycle Around Japan.” Check with your local cable or satellite TV provider.
from USA Today
Not every sight in Europe is a must-see. PBS European travel guru Rick Steves offers up his top ten Old World tourist traps.
Spotted something you’d like to see in the next IBIT Travel Digest? Send me a message using the handy form below: