Monday, March 30, 2009

Travelography #149: Dark Tourism, East Africa, Vegas and the TSA

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Travel and Tourism News Stories discussed in this podcast are from the Travelography Twitter Blog for the week of 23 to 30 March 2009. This podcast is also available at, and

  • Cambodia - He was one of the greatest mass killers of the 20th century, but that doesn't stop the hopeful from praying at Pol Pot's hillside grave for lucky lottery numbers, job promotions and beautiful brides. Nor does it stop tourists from picking clean the bones and ashes from the Khmer Rouge leader's burial ground in this remote town in northwestern Cambodia.
  • Residents of a small southwest Nebraska town have a question for state officials: You’re not doing anything with that old electric chair, are you? The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled last year that the state’s use of the electric chair was unconstitutional because it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Some people in McCook—population just under 8,000—think “Old Sparky’’ could be a tourist attraction and have offered to take it off the state’s hands.
  • The East African Community (EAC) has agreed to start a single tourist visa for the region, ... the EAC members were discussing a protocol to create and market the region as a single tourist destination. Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi, Kenya and Uganda make up the EAC.
  • The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says that the information could mislead the public and its release could prompt some airports and others not to report incidents, but the proposal is drawing sharp criticism from bird safety experts and public records advocates.
  • critics want stricter standards for deciding who goes on the watch list. The list is based on "nominations" from intelligence and security agencies, such as the CIA and FBI, which use a "reasonable suspicion" standard to decide whether a person's suspected links to terrorism are strong enough to put him in the database. "No one wants to be the person who was too cautious about nominating names … so every name ends up on the list when only a handful should be,"
  • On Monday Dubai World's Infinity World subsidiary filed a lawsuit against MGM Mirage because of its concern about the viability of their $8.6 billion joint venture project under construction on the Las Vegas Strip. The 67 acre project is under a cloud after SEC returns filed by MGM indicated it may breach its debt repayment obligations. MGM Mirage is currently saddled with $13 billion of debt.

  • Sunday, March 22, 2009

    Travel Geography #148: Tourism and Political Bedfellows

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    Stories discussed in this podcast are from the Travelography Twitter Blog for the week of 15 to 22 March 2009. This podcast is also available at and

    The global trend in developing luxury, large-scale resorts is leading to widespread alienation and displacement of people from their land, and is wreaking havoc with fragile ecosystems. Poor communities in developing countries, which depend heavily upon their natural resources for their livelihoods, are the hardest hit.

    Americans United to Halt Tourism in Mexico – formed by Minutemen groups across the country ... – is urging Americans bound for sun and fun south of the border to instead visit the U.S. Southwest. "Do not give your tourist dollars to Mexico!" the fliers say.

    Last summer, the number of nude hikers increased to such an extent that the hills often seemed alive with the sound of everything but the swish of trousers.

    ... for the first time since Serbian and Montenegrin forces besieged this historic port city in 1991, businesspeople [in Dubrovnik, Croatia] are publicly appealing to Serbian tourists to help rescue the economy.

    ...the drops in new booking revenue that US Airways saw in January and the first half of February had stopped, and in March even rose a little. ... the overall number of leisure passengers has held up — it's just that they're paying less to fly than they used to.

    One investigator used the Social Security number of a man who died in 1965, a fake New York birth certificate and a fake Florida driver's license. He received a passport four days later. A second attempt had the investigator using a 5-year-old boy's information but identifying himself as 53 years old on the passport application. He received that passport seven days later.

    Sunday, March 15, 2009

    Travelography #147: Finally - Some Good Travel and Tourism News!

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    Stories discussed in this podcast are from the Travelography Twitter Blog for the week of 8 to 15 March 2009. This podcast is also available at and

    "With a 42% increase in trip requests received via in 2009 over the end of 2008, the increase demonstrates that many consumers are looking to travel in the next 140 days -- just in time for the summer travel season. Further, the increase in trip requests reveals a continued trend of consumers seeking the assistance of expert travel agents to help them plan and book their trips based on their specific specs -- a definitive plus for specialists."

    Internet bookings will surge. Demand for online virtual meetings will gather pace. Domestic travel will stay stable or grow, as will demand for low-cost flights. Destinations adjacent to big travel markets will do not so bad. Long-haul travel will fall sharply. And the most pain will be felt in the business travel and MICE sectors.

    In fact, 72 percent believe that increasing travel budgets will allow companies to gain a competitive edge by building market share and forging new customer relationships.

    "These comments are extremely positive for the 1 million employees in this industry whose livelihood depends on business meetings and events," said Geoff Freeman, senior vice president of the U.S. Travel Association.

    "In a year when flat is the new up, South America is actually up," said Melissa Snape, vice president of product at Collette Vacations, whose 2009 bookings for the continent are trending 30% ahead of last year.

    “We have now held two House hearings and one Senate hearing on crimes aboard cruise ships, and this legislation will ensure that those who have bravely stepped forward to tell their story will not have done so in vain,”

    "Cruise lines are seemingly becoming more sensitive to the needs of crime victims, and are creating the appearance of being responsible.” It remains to be seen whether these moves are being made out of genuine concern for passengers, or out of a desire to avoid bad publicity.

    "I think it's great that it essentially says to tourists, to travelers, that you are welcome here and that we're excited to host you and Utah's a normal place," ...

    Sunday, March 08, 2009

    Travelography #146: Direct Flights are Best & Filling Cruises at Any Price

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    Stories discussed in this podcast are from the Travelography Twitter Blog for the week of 1 to 8 March 2009. This podcast is also available at and

  • "Threatening civilian airliners' normal operations under international aviation regulations is not only against international rules but is an act against humanity," ... North should "immediately withdraw the military threat."
  • Several cruise lines including Carnival have reported strong bookings in recent months. ... Still, "while these bookings are clearly being taken at steep discounts, it is a positive that consumers are responding to the operators’ promotions and making up for some lost load factor,"
  • Alaska “appears especially weak” with pricing down from 20 to 40 percent as fares “hit new lows in February….We believe both companies [Carnival Corp. and RCCL] are now aggressively moving to fill remaining Q2 and Q3 capacity after attempting to hold price as long as possible,”
  • Nimble discount airlines here and around the world are growing and opening new routes even as the recession forces traditional carriers to cut flights and jobs. Low-cost carriers, such as New York-based JetBlue (JBLU), Ireland-based Ryanair and Canada-based WestJet, are making inroads where higher-cost carriers are shrinking amid falling travel demand, especially among cost-conscious fliers.
  • ... the marginal cost of a connecting flight was $12 more expensive than that of a direct flight. The change is probably driven by the increasing fuel cost in the sample period. Since the fraction of fuel consumed at the takeoffs and landings could be as high as 40 percent, rising fuel costs offset the benefit of denser traffic created by connecting flights.
  • The world's largest cruise line says it recorded the highest number of net weekly bookings in its history during the one-week period that ended Sunday. On a cumulative basis, net bookings are up 10% as compared to last year since mid-January.
  • "With the centennial this year of the Robert F. Peary discovery of the North Pole, combined with the fear that global warming may soon change the arctic regions forever, it's a very busy year for us,"...