Monday, October 31, 2005

G4T #14: Hurricane Wilma and Tourism in Cozumel, Mexico

This is a Geography for Travelers Podcast related postThis was my first interview podcast! I recorded it using Gizmo Project -- which is like Skype, but includes a built-in record function. I also interviewed my sister, who has a vacation rental in Cozumel, Mexico, and was there when hurricane Wilma made landfall over Cozumel and Cancun on October 21, 2005. Hurricane Wilma was the strongest low pressure air system (lowest atmospheric pressure) ever recorded in the Caribbean, though it had weakened some by the time it reached Cozumel. (Note that stronger low pressure systems exist in the form of Tornados, but their air pressure has never been measured because they tend to tear the instruments apart.)

The interview is in two parts, which I put together through editing the original interview. In Part 1 she describes what she personally experienced as the hurricane approached and passed over Cozumel. In Part 2 she discusses the impacts of the hurricane on other tourists and the town of Cozumel, as well as her struggle to get back to the US after the hurricane. She arrived back in the US on Sunday, October 30, and the interview was recorded on Monday, October 31.

Click Here to download Part 1
Click Here to download Part 2

About Hurricane Wilma:
* Wilma dumped up to 5 feet of rain in parts of the Yucatan Peninsula; One station recorded 64 inches of rain in a 24 hour period -- a record amount for Mexico, if confirmed
* With 145 mph winds (category 4 storm) and gusts up to 170 mph, Wilma was the worst storm that anyone in this hurricane region could remember, mostly because it lasted so long (36 hours, at least)
* Playa del Carmen, on the mainland across from Cozumel, suffered the worst destruction, with ate least 1,000 homes seriously destroyed
* In Cancun, 1,800 people hid from Wilma in a 9 screen multiplex theater, but were eventually cramped into 3 of the screens as the other 6 became too dangerous -- none of the bathrooms were in working order
* Many beaches were washed away by the strong waves
* Wilma confounded meteorologists, because the hurricane did not follow the paths and characteristics of standard hurricane forecasting models
* Hot on the heals of Wilma, tropical storm Alpha reached the Dominican Republic on Sunday, October 22nd.
* Caribbean countries fear that the record number of hurricanes in 2005 could reduce the number of visitors to the region in the coming year -- Americans have a tendency to perceive a natural disaster in any one part of the Caribbean as affecting all of the Caribbean
* The Caribbean receive 22 million cruise ships and air visitors in 2004 - just over half of whom come from the US

* Wilma Lashes Mexico Resorts (TravelNewsWire)
* Caribbean Fears Storms Will Hurt Tourism (Yahoo/AP)
* Photo of Tourists Evacuees in Cancun (BBC)
* Wilma bamboozles hurricane experts (BBC)

Friday, October 28, 2005

Living Landscapes or Living Museums?

This is a Travel Geographer Blog only postThe link above is to the following article in the International Herald Tribune about French resistance to international trade liberalization efforts because they threaten its highly subsidized
agricultural industry. And, of course, the French "have a relationship with food that is not the same in other European Union countries. We have a culture of good eating, which we treasure" (from the article). Although the article does not mention tourism, this is just as much a tourism/leisure/recreation story as is the NPR item I posted here recently on similar resistance to agricultural trade talks in Switzerland.

The bigger question, as I see it is, one of tourism/leisure/recreation (through cultural museumization) vs rural poverty in the world's developing economies. By locking out agricultural products from developing countries, the developed world (1) has created a lopsided agricultural economy in which governments pay farmers to produce products that are sold below the actual cost of their production; (2) has prevented farmers in less developed economies from gaining access to markets in which they could receive a fair price for the products they produce, thereby keeping many of them impoverished.

Tourism is a subtext through both of these impacts. The subsidized rural landscape, especially in Europe, is a major domestic and international tourist destination, as are the penalized rural landscapes of the developing world.

I would guess that these are major consideration in the trade talks, though I think they are sometimes less than explicitely stated for most casual new readers. It creates a situation of comparing apples (tourism) and oranges (agriculture) -- or maybe tangerines and tangelos: how to separate the two is not clear. (A colleague commented on my Switzerland post that Europe has taken the approach in global trade talks that agriculture in Europe is as much tourism as it is agricultural economics. )

Here is the link, and the opening paragraphs to the IHT article:

In France, the power of 'terroir'
By Thomas Fuller International Herald TribuneSUNDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2005

(PARIS) Blame it on the cheese, the wine and foie gras. Blame it on the country homes that so many people in France travel to on weekends.

To hear it from Claude Soudé, an official of France's National Farmers' Union, the French fondness for the "terroir," the mythical landscape of farms and the men and women who tend to them, is one reason that French politicians are putting up such a big fight in the global trade talks.

The position of France and its allies - Italy, Poland, Ireland, Spain and Portugal, among them - could sink the World Trade Organization negotiations that are scheduled for December in Hong Kong.

The premise of these negotiations is that rich countries like the United States, France and Germany should lower their trade barriers in agriculture if poorer countries like Brazil, Nigeria and China further open their markets for goods and services.

The deal is in jeopardy because of fierce resistance by France to any more concessions in agriculture.

Monday, October 24, 2005

G4T #13: Understanding Tourist Attractions

This is a Geography for Travelers Podcast related postNEW - Click the Title Link for This Entry to Listen to This Week's Podcast - NEW

This week's podcast covered tourism news items for the first 10 minutes or so, then delved into the topic of Tourist Attractions. Much of what I discussed actually comes from my Ph.D. dissertation, which I completed in 1986 -- though it did not make it into my Ph.D. I wrote this whole chapter about tourist attractions, and presented my own theory of different ways that tourism researchers approach tourist attractions. Well, my committee felt that it just wasn't that relevant to the rest of my dissertation, so I sent it off the a journal, instead. It came out in the Annals of Tourism Research in 1986, and was later republished in a major compendium (large book) about tourism research.

Here are links to the items mentioned in today's podcast:

* Commission on Tourism and Global Change of the International Geographical Union <>
* Recreation, Tourism and Sport Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers <>
* Asia Tourism Research <>
* InfoUSA - US State Department -
-- Geography and Travel <>
-- Facts about the USA <>
* Quebec premier joins calls for U.S. government to abandon border passport plan <click here>
* The World Island Project, Dubai <>
* The Haunted Times <>
* Barry Kantz' Home Based Travel Agent podcast <>

Monday, October 17, 2005

G4T #12: Sub-Saharan Africa Geography, Travel and Tourism

This is a Geography for Travelers Podcast related postThis week's podcast discusses several news items and then focuses on the geography of sub-Saharan Africa. I have switched from trying to get my podcast up by Sunday night to doing it on Monday morning. The last two weeks I was up until 2:30 in the morning (which really was Monday morning!) getting the podcast in order. This time, I got the material together on Sunday and then did the podcast on Monday.

You can download the MP3 file directly here:

And here are the links to items mentioned on today's podcast:

* After Katrina and Rita: How to rebuild the South's essential tourism business with free new publishing and Internet tools
* Tourists warned not to "argue" with Floridians (Travel Wire News)
* Book Review: The Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel (San Francisco Bay Guardian)
* World leaders: Use tourism in war on poverty; WTO praised (Travel Wire News)
* Protest over Serengeti National Park hotel project (E-Gnu)
* The Ten Important World Tourism Issues for 2006 (Trinet-l)
* Most Americans are clueless about Africa (Travel Wire News)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Ramadan as a Tourism Event

This is a Travel Geographer Blog only postIn Singapore (where I have twice lived for a period of time) the Fall through mid-Winter season is when all the great festival events take place. These include the Hindu Festival of Lights (Deepavali in the Tamil language, also known as the Hindu New Year), the Christian Christmas (which was the most commercial and least ethnic/religious of them all, in my opinion), and Chinese New Year. Starting off this festival season was Ramadan, which was originally a Muslim month of fasting and tithing, but also included delicious feasting, and now much more ... see the link below ...

The new Ramadan: It's beginning to look a lot like...
By Hassan M. Fattah
The New York Times/International Heral Tribune

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates The decorations are hanging, the cash registers are clanging and the air of holiday cheer is everywhere. For a holy month, Ramadan, circa 2005, is nothing like it used to be...

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Switzerland - Is It Real?

This is a Travel Geographer Blog only postThere was a story this morning on NPR's morning edition that struck me as the essence of a Geographic Sense of Place story. If you go to NPR's Morning Edition website, the story is listed with this description:

Farm Subsidies Debated in Global Trade Talks - by Kathleen Schalch - Morning Edition, October 11, 2005 · U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman is in Switzerland Tuesday to revive stalled global trade talks deadlocked over demands that wealthy countries limit protections for their own farmers. The Bush administration says it is ready to slash U.S. farm subsidies if others do the same, but many countries are reluctant.

The URL is: -- Note that if you cannot open the Listen link, you need to go to help to change your default audio player for NPR program

However, this is really a story about the cultural landscape of Switzerland and how it is heavily subsidized by the Swiss government (covering up to 90% of the annual incomes of some farmers) for the purposes of tourism and museumization. Museumization is a term coined by geographer Ed Relph in his 1976 book, Place and Placelessness. It refers to efforts to keep some landscapes from naturally changing and evolving over time -- that is, to freeze them, as if they were in a museum. Relph argues that museumization is an example of inauthenticity and placelessness.

Now I have been to Switzerland and I found the rural landscape, with its high mountain farms, both fascinating and beautiful. However, is it real? If the government needs to use tax dollars to provide 60% to 90% of the income to those who are living that rural lifestyle, then I personally think it is more of a museum than a living landscape. And the Swiss tax payers, andlong with tourists, are paying for the museum to stay open, which may not be a bad thing at all. But at least now you know.

In the context of the NPR description, above, perhaps if Switzerland were to argue that this is not an agricultural subsidy, but a salary for workers in a "living museum," then perhaps it would shift a good part of the global trade discussions. -- Probably not, but a thought.

What do you think? Listen to the story above, and post your comments to this blog, or direclty to me at

Happy Trails

Sunday, October 09, 2005

G4T #11: Middle East Geography and Tourism

This is a Geography for Travelers Podcast related postThis week's podcast looks at a recent report from the Economist on tourism and terrorism in Bali. I then discuss a few other travel and tourism news items and transition into a discussion of the Middle East, which I extend to include the geographic regions of North Africa, Southwest Asia, and even Central Asia. Note that the inclusion of Central Asia as part of the broader Middle East is not widely accepted -- yet. But there are some good reasons, which I outline in the pocast.

I want to mention that countries the Middle East (Southwest Asia and the eastern part of North Africa) receives about 3% of all international tourist arrivals in the world, with Egypt reciving a quarter of those. see: InfoPlease - World Tourist Arrivals by Region and Country.

Here are links to websites mentioned in the podcast:

Indonesia industry: Tourism takes another hit -- EIU (Economist Intellgence Unit) ViewsWire

Travel News Wire


Dubai - The Palm Islands

Wiki Travel

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Sunday, October 02, 2005

G4T #10: Tourist Travel Motivations

This is a Geography for Travelers Podcast related post (click on the title above to download the .mp3 file)

My Thanks to the group Turban Jones for the use of their song in my podcast. I hope you enjoy their song, Crazy Ways.

Tourist Motivation is the maint topic of this week's discussion, although I only spend the last 10 minutes on it. These news items were presented to show the importance of people's desire to travel (or perceived inability to not to). The travel public is a major source of income for destinations, and spawns entire sub-industries that employ large numbers of people. Understanding why people travel is important to a tourism destination's success...

* Firm Expects outbound Chinese tourists to top 115m [Travel News Wire]
* New era in Indian leisure crusing begins [Travel News Wire]
* TIA’s Overall Traveler Sentiment Index Remains Weak: Consumers Lack Time not Money for Travel [Travel Industry Association, 27 Sept 05]

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