Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Italy's south is missing the tourist boat

OCCASIONALLY, German tourists stop at the museum and archaeological site at Locri Epizefiri in Calabria, one of the most important ancient Greek settlements by the Ionian Sea. But most of the time, foreign tourists pass by Italy's deep south, to the consternation of local businesses and governments.

Italy's mezzogiorno, as the country's south is known, is far away and hard to reach. But sadly it does not have the accompanying advantage of being less spoilt than other parts of Europe. In a recent report on the south's economy, Svimez, a think-tank which specialises in southern issues, notes that tourism there suffers all the nuisance of intensive development seen in other Mediterranean countries, but without the benefits. There are few concrete monsters, but coasts have been ruined by unregulated ribbon development, which puts off tourists. Elsewhere, at least, says Svimez, mega-structures attracted foreign capital and created real industries.

There are bright spots. Some stretches of coast, like the few kilometres of citrus groves and clear sea around Cape Spartivento in southern Calabria, are unspoilt. So are the Amalfi riviera, Capri and Ischia in Campania, although these get crowded. Naples and Pompeii have been favourites since the 18th century. Baroque Palermo and Sicily's Greek temples at Segesta, Selinunte and Agrigento are increasingly popular. Indeed, Campania and Sicily together attract more than one half of foreign visitors to the south. But the tourism in the mezzogiorno is feeble. Less than one third of the 17m or so people who visit each year are foreigners, compared with a half of visitors to central and northern Italy. Svimez's report says that the south earned $4.2 billion from foreign tourists in 2003, compared with $10.8 billion for Greece, $10.6 billion for Turkey and $30.5 billion for Spain.

Closing the gap will be hard. Local authorities have promoted the south in a fragmented and half-hearted way, and politicians have failed to protect the environment. Infrastructure is inadequate--and not just roads and railways; water in the centre of Reggio Calabria, Calabria's largest city, is brackish and unsuitable even for washing. Svimez warns that competition for foreign tourists will get more intense, and not only from Italy's Mediterranean neighbours. Increasingly the mezzogiorno is fighting for trade with more distant destinations that tempt visitors with not only sun and sand, but exoticism, too.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Bermuda to host Diaspora meeting

The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) says that in addition to being a beneficial economic activity, tourism can be an significant way of communication and dialogue among individuals and civilizations, while also being a way of presenting and enhancing the heritage.

That's clearly shared by the tourism authorities on the Atlantic island of Bermuda, which will host the second international African Diaspora Heritage Trail Conference from September 27 to October 1, 2006, at the Hamilton Princess Hotel.

Sponsored by the Bermuda Department of Tourism and co-chaired by actor and community activist Danny Glover, the conference is part of an initiative to unite African descendants from all over the world in an effort to enhance the success of cross-border cultural tourism and promote stabilization of economies in Diaspora communities.

According to the conference website, the concept of the African Diaspora Heritage Trail (ADHT) educates visitors, enhances the economic viability of African Diaspora countries and conserves the essence of African descent, culture and history.

The ADHT Conference itself will boost long-term relationships between Bermuda and the Caribbean, African nations, North America and South America. It is also an opportunity for the best minds to gather annually to discuss heritage and cultural issues pertinent to tourism, culture, education, economic development and improvement of the quality of life within host communities. The first conference was held in 2002.

UNESCO says cultural tourism policies sustain cultural pluralism and preserve cultural diversity as well as the authenticity of the living and monumental heritage. Such policies also are aimed at encouraging greater awareness of cultures, combating cultural prejudice and contributing to development and the fight against poverty.

Dr. Ewart Brown, Bermuda's deputy premier and minister of tourism and transport, said "cultural travel is on the rise, and its success is vital to Diaspora communities as it not only enriches the economies but also awareness of each area's unique historical significance." Knowledgeable Diaspora scholars who will offer their thoughts on African heritage and advancing the growing sector of cultural tourism include Dr. Wole Soyinka, the Nigerian Nobel Prize Literature Laureate and noted correspondent for National Public Radio's cultural desk; Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, Ghanaian minister of tourism and diasporean relations and president of the African Travel Association; Andrew Young, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; and Dr. Lonnie Bunch, founding director of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.

According to U.S.-based African-American marketing consultant Michael Deflorimonte "any opportunity for Diaspora professionals to connect must be seized. In order to leverage resources and take advantage of our synergies, we need to be in regular dialogue. Let's hope that delegates will emerge from the Bermuda talks with a plan that can be immediately executed and which delivers tangible results for the peoples of the Diaspora."

The Bermuda Department of Tourism, along with various global tourism and cultural organizations, such as UNESCO, the Africa Travel Association, the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, International Institute of Peace through Tourism, World Tourism Organisation and Travel Professionals of Color, has developed four full days of informative lectures and discussions, an International African Diaspora Cultural Heritage Travel and Trade Show, tours of Bermuda's Diaspora Trail sites — including the four-century-old town of St. George, a UNESCO World Heritage Site — and evenings filled with international cuisine and live entertainment.

For more information, visit

By: Springer, Bevan, New York Amsterdam News, 8/17/2006

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Sex and the Perfect Getaway

For a new couple, there’s no better test of compatibility than that fateful first trip. There’s much to be learned from seeing your sweetiemunchkins removed from her network of coping mechanisms and creature comforts. You may uncover negatives, like her packing 11 pairs of shoes for a weekend upstate. You may also discover a charming quality, like how cuddly she gets after one umbrella drink.

“When you travel, your companion is in your space all the time,” says Patti Britton, Ph.D., author of The Art of Sex Coaching. “This kind of proximity magnifies everything: the sore spots and the sweet spots, the good, the bad, and the ugly.”

U.S. couples go on 155 million romantic getaways every year. While some of these couples will end up necking in the lost-luggage office, others will find themselves at the precipice of an enchanting waterfall, arguing about who should carry the binoculars. Your journey should start With our step-by-step guide to travel for twosomes.

Step 1 Start smart
Don’t be too ambitious too soon. “Early in a relationship, a shorter trip is more prudent,” says Linda DeVillers, Ph.D., author of Love Skills: A Fun, Upbeat Guide to Sex-cessful Relationships. Long trips raise expectations, cost more, and represent a commitment. Unless you have a very good feel for her, put a 3-day cap on your maiden voyage.

Do: Spend a weekend in Vegas.

Don’t: Go on a 2-week elk hunt.

Your best bet: Pick a spot that’s no more than 4 hours away–half a day of livid silence on the way home is not fun. And opt for a place with plenty of activities to choose from. This way, if she’s not a golfer, she can hit the spa while you hit some balls.

Step 2 Discuss great expectations
No, not the Dickens classic (although it’s quite good). Talk about what you both want from the trip before you pack a bag. “This conversation doesn’t have to be some big emotional thing,” says Susan Moynihan, editor in-chief of Destination Weddings & Honeymoons magazine. “It can merely be a discussion of your dream vacation. She can say, ‘I want to lie on the beach all day, then go have cocktails.’ Then he can say, ‘That would drive me crazy. I want to go kiteboarding all day, then go have cocktails.’ Don’t make an issue out of it. It’s okay to have different interests. Other than cocktails, obviously, which are nonnegotiable.”

Do: Have a lighthearted, enjoyable chat about your vision of the ideal trip.

Don’t: Make it a tense summit meeting.

Your best bet: Meet someplace fun but quiet and keep the conversation casual. Concentrate on your expectations. Do you want to see the sights or spend the day on the beach? Must you spend every minute together, or can you split up for a few hours? How much time are you going to spend in the room (hint, hint)? What about shopping?

Oh, and one final do: Make sure you establish what the trip means. If you think you’re going skiing and she thinks you’re going to propose, things might turn ugly.

Step 3 Don’t follow the reader
Many relationships have a natural leader who winds up making most of the decisions. If you just thought, Yeah, that’s me, you’re the one. If you just thought, Yeah, that’s her, she’s the one. Take this into account when planning, so neither of you winds up being dragged along on the other’s dream vacation.

Do: Embrace democracy!

Don’t: Expect her to understand when you skip the butterfly gardens because you want to get a good spot at the swim-up bar.

Your best bet: Identify the leader in your relationship. As a man, there’s a strong possibility you are the leader. If this is the case, make absolutely sure your shy gal chooses her fair share of activities. Give her all the time she needs and encourage her to express her likes and dislikes. If she’s reluctant to do this or gives you the ol’ “Let’s just do what you want to do,” use your leadership abilities to coerce her into expressing herself. In other words, order her to give you orders!

Step 4 Don’t mess around with money
Joy Davidson, Ph.D., the author of Fearless Sex, once went to Venice with a companion on a meals-included package. When she suggested exploring Venice’s restaurants, “he couldn’t stand the idea of wasting that money. I knew we had different outlooks on money before, but this really highlighted it. We ended up having a huge fight and spending most of our time apart.”

Be frank about finances and split costs as equally as possible without allowing them to dominate the experience.

Do: Work out a system ahead of time.

Don’t: Insist on being “The Man” and paying for everything.

Your best bet: “The best way to deal with it is to divide the payment by days,” says Davidson. “For example, he pays for everything on Monday, she pays for everything on Tuesday, and so on. You’ll end up spending roughly the same amount, but you won’t have money overshadowing the good times every time you’re presented with a bill.”

Step 5 Go solo for an hour
You love your lover, but you also love it when she goes away for a while, right? “It’s important to create some alone time in a way that’s sensitive to your partner,” Britton says.

Do: Go for an hour’s jog on the beach.

Don’t: Blow the day playing blackjack.

Your best bet: Take the pressure off. Split up, then reconnect to compare notes. Individual enthusiasms can be arousing. Or relax together with a room-service meal. Not every moment has to be life-changing.

Step 6 Steam up the hotel room
Hotel sex is one of the not-so-secret pleasures of travel. “There’s a lack of responsibility in a hotel room,” says Britton. Be irresponsible.

Do: It.

Don’t: Not do it.

Your best bet: Pack something surprising in your suitcase–a toy, a DVD, or lingerie, DeVillers says: “It creates anticipation.”

By: Connolly, Chris, Men’s Health, Jul/Aug2006

Friday, September 01, 2006

Newcomers don't like the smells

Life has grown hard for cowboys and cattlemen in Arizona

GEORGE WILLIAMS, one of Scottsdale's last remaining cowboys, has been raising horses and cattle on his 120 acres for 20 years. The cattle go to the slaughterhouse, the horses to rodeos. But Mr Williams is stomping mad.

His problems began last year when dishonest neighbours started to steal his cattle. Then other neighbours, most of them newcomers, took offence at his horses roaming on their properties. Arizona is an open-range state: livestock have the right of way and there is no fine for trespassing. This has been on the law books since 1913. Mr Williams, who is elderly and in poor health, is angry that he has to spend so much of his time fielding complaints and retrieving stolen cattle.

Such grumbles are common in Arizona. The most recent Department of Agriculture census shows that 1,213 of Arizona's 8,507 farms closed down between 1997 and 2002. Many cattlemen are moving out to more remote parts of the state. Arable farmers are struggling, too. Norman Knox, a respected grain farmer in Gilbert, recently learned that the owner of his rented land wants to build condos. Mr Knox is 72 and has to move. He reckons that 50-70% of the farmland in Gilbert has been sold for development in the past two years.

This affects not only cowboys and farmers, but small businessmen too. For 20 years, Gary Young, owner of Gilbert's Higley Feed, sold range blocks and cubes to cattlemen who fed them to cattle during the droughts. But 18 months ago he switched to selling pet food and baby chicks to new home-owners.

Doc Lane is an executive at the Arizona Cattlemen's Association, a trade group. He says Arizona's larger ranch owners are making decent profits from selling. It is the smaller players who are the victims of rising land values, higher mortgages and stiffer city council rules. What happens all too often is that people move in next to a farm because they think the land pretty. But soon they start complaining to the council. In Mr Williams's case it was the horses that annoyed them. Other newcomers don't like the noise, the pesticides and the smell of manure.

Locals worry about the precious, dwindling cowboy culture. Arizona's tourism boards like to promote a steady interest in all things cowboy and western. Last year more British and German tourists came than usual, and many of them were looking precisely for that. Arizona's Dude Ranch Association fills its $350-a-night luxury ranches most of the year; roughly a third of the guests are European.

Many of the ranchers themselves see all this tourism as a cheeky attempt to commercialise a real and vanishing culture. In Prescott, estate agents promote "American Ranch-style" homes with posters of backlit horse riders. On the other side of the street is Whiskey Row, a famous strip of historic cowboy bars. But in Matt's Saloon on Saturday night, real cattlemen could not be found.

Farm folk like Mr Knox and Mr Williams are weighing up their options. Many will migrate to remoter places where land is cheaper and not crowded with city people. Younger ones take on side-jobs as contractors and are cattlehands part-time. Older cowboys aren't sure what to do.

The Arizona Cowboy College in Scottsdale, which trains cattlehands, conducts the school for profit but also for maintaining the cowboy culture. The six-day courses include cattle-herding, rustling and ranch-survival skills. The owner, herself a rancher, says the courses are popular, especially with retired businessmen.