Doomsday tourism on the increase

This year, tourists will be flocking to a French town to celebrate the ‘apocalypse.’

December 21, 2012, marks the end of the world, according to the Mayan calendar. With news spreading that the world is coming to an end, thanks to social media, tourists, revellers and many who are genuinely afraid of the apocalypse, are either planning parties or a safe getaway.

Not to be left out of the surge in interest, the Guatemalan culture ministry has invited musicians to perform in Guatemala – the ancient home of the Mayans. They will celebrate the end of the Mayan calendar with music and revelry. The Guatamalan tourism department has taken a positive outlook and said that the date merely spells the end of an era and the dawn of a new era, hopefully a pleasant one for the whole world.

However, some believe that date spells the end of the world and are taking the threat seriously. It is believed that a small French town called Bugarach, with a population of 176, will be the only place to survive the catastrophe, so people are flocking to the village to ‘escape’ the end of the world. Residents are benefiting from the influx by selling ‘End of the World’ wine and ridiculously overpriced accommodation. They are even offering miracle water that is supposed to protect individuals from the forthcoming crisis.

Cycling tour company, Tour D’Afrique, is offering ‘La Ruta Maya – The Doomsday Ride’, a 2,300km ride across Central America, ending at a historic Mayan temple just in Belize. The tour has been sold out.

Project manager, Michael Coo, said, ‘The appeal, besides the incredible scenery, the camaraderie amongst the riders, the food, the local hospitality, the challenging riding conditions, is, of course, to bike to a Mayan temple to greet the end of the world.’

Guatemalan culture minister, Carlos Batzin, has invited world leaders, thinkers, philosophers and scientists to celebrate the ‘World Summit for Humanity.’ He said, ‘That day marks the conclusion of the Grand Cycle of the Mayan calendar – called 13 B’aktun – and the beginning of a new era of 5,200 years. We are at a turning point, a moment of opportunity, but overall of commitment, so that the natural order that the Mother Earth is going through parallels as human beings, our lives, our civilisations.’


Fighting ruins tourism in Syria

With the civil war taking a turn for the worse and no side seemingly in control, tourism has become a major casualty in the Syria conflict.

The city of Damascus in Syria was a huge attraction to heritage tourists because the city is believed to be the oldest, continuously inhabited city in the world. But although international flights had been coming and going from the city’s airport during the 20-months of fighting, they have now ceased to operate, putting a huge strain on tourism and related activities.

As the fighting between troops loyal to Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad and the rebels has intensified, airline operators who had felt relatively secure are now thinking twice about operating their services. The situation took a turn for the worse when government jets bombed rebel positions close to the airport, prompting operators to cancel their services. Even though EgyptAir announced on Sunday that it would resume flights to Damascus, it has not followed through on the promise. With the carrier reluctant to operate, daily flights between Cairo and Damascus have been affected.

With the fight between opposite forces intensifying in a war that has left 40,000 Syrians dead, it is only natural that tourism has been a major casualty. Tourism was responsible for 5 percent of Syria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2011, and it directly supported 270,000 jobs. The inflow of tourists into the nation was high because Arab tourists do not need visas to visit Syria. It is estimated that more than three million Arabs traditionally arrive annually for family visits or to satisfy business needs.

Syria was a hub for tourists looking for heritage travel. The nation boasts 3,000 archaeological sites, and from those nations located close by, tourists could easily reach Syria, go for a sightseeing tour and return on the same day. Europe was also a large tourism base for the nation, and during peak seasons 10,000 to 12,000 tourist packages used to be sold in Europe every year. With the war intensifying, such visits have ceased and hotels are near to closure. With nations including America issuing stern warnings against travel to the nation, tourism is unlikely to be on Syria’s agenda in the near future.


Mumbai launches Trans Sahayadri trek

With a plan to develop eco tourism, the state of Maharashtra in India has launched its new programme, called the Trans Sahayadri trek.

To be launched this month, the trek will cover routes across the Sahayadris, mountain ranges, from Kolhapur to Bhimashankar. The idea is to involve local and rural communities in the tourism project so that they will benefit from the revenues. Local communities are being especially encouraged to provide accommodation to trekkers, and this is expected to reduce poverty as well as increasing facilities for tourists.

The administration said that the trekking programme would depend a lot on the locals, who would work to keep the zone litter free. Special interest groups will also be created with the help of locals so that trekking routes are kept free of litter, while the groups would also be involved in preventing poaching and forest fires.

Principal secretary (Forest), Praveen Pardeshi, said that the first phase of the trek is to begin next week, and short treks have been planned from Chandoli to Prachitgad. Trekkers would then camp in one of the home stay villages. The trek to Prachitgad will start on the morning of December 8 from Karad, Debhewadi.

Pardeshi said the trek route has been organised and planned by Mohan Karnad, chief wildlife warden of the Sahayadri Tiger Reserve. The state government, as well as the Wildlife Conservation trust (WCT), will lend their support to the initiative. The authorities are also planning to extend the trek route if the initial response to the programme is good.

The administration said that it has plans to create a trekking programme that can last up to 10 days. Each day, trekkers will camp in a village located along the route.


Two new tourist locations being marketed in Indonesia

The regional government in Indonesia is marketing two new tourist attractions that are expected to drive an increased tourist flow to the nation.

Announcing its development plans, the West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) regional government said that it was planning serious moves to increase tourism to the region. The government said that it was aiming to increase the count of tourists to Lombok and Sumbawa by two million annually by 2015. The government is taking the initiative following the success of the Visit Lombok-Sumbawa 2012 campaign, which saw one million domestic and international visitors arrive in the nation during the first 11 months of this year.

NTB tourism and culture director, Lalu Gita Ariyadi, while speaking at the Lombok-Sumbawa Travel Fair in Jakarta last weekend, said, ‘The domestic market holds the biggest potential for Lombok, and we expect it to contribute 65 percent of arrivals, with the rest from the international market.’ Ariyadi also said that international tourists made up 25 percent of total inflows to these two regions this year.

The department also said that it was creating new campaigns to make itself attractive in the international tourist market. One example is that the NTB government and the regional tourism promotion board are to organise sales missions to Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia next year. Additionally, two events that will commemorate the 200th anniversary of Mount Tambora’s eruption are also to be held in Sumbawa in 2015.

Ariyadi said, ‘MICE has been an important market in achieving the one million mark, and we will continue to boost it. A number of investors have shown their interest in developing a convention centre in Lombok and we are in the process of selection now.’

He also hoped that Garuda Indonesia, which recently began Makassar-Lombok services, would operate more direct flights to the destination. He also said that the department was talking with airlines, including Tiger Airways Australia, to run services between Australia and Lombok, especially from Perth.


Millionaire UK Lottery Winners Prefer to Holiday in USA

For those families fortunate enough to win the UK lottery, the US is the preferred destination for a vacation, according to a new survey published by Holiday Hypermarket, a UK based holiday comparison community.

British lottery winners prefer to holiday in Florida in the US, followed by the Caribbean, the Canary Islands and Dubai (in the UAE).

According to the study conducted by lottery operator, Camelot, and Oxford Economics, around 27 percent of those winning at least one million pounds intend to visit the US, and especially Walt Disney World in Florida.

Around 9 percent of the million pound-plus club are keen to visit Caribbean destinations, including Jamaica, while the other popular vacation destinations are the Canary Islands, Dubai and Mallorca. Around 68 percent of lottery winners opt to stay in five-star hotels during their vacation.

The e-commerce manager at Holiday Hypermarket, Calum Macdonald, said, ‘America has always been viewed as glamorous by us Brits so the results don’t surprise me. The good news for everyone is that you don’t have to be a lottery winner to head to Florida or the Canaries as there are deals to suit everyone’s budget out there at the moment.’

There have been approximately 3,000 National Lottery millionaires in the UK since the competition’s inception in 1994, and they have spent GBP21 million on luxurious overseas travel holidays, with an average expenditure of GBP7,100 per millionaire winner.

The report also said that in the last 18 years, 10 percent of the 3,000 winners have acquired new caravans, contributing around GBP7.4 million to caravan sales.


Ryanair Announces New Routes from Scotland For 2013

Ryanair, an Ireland-based low cost airline, has reported its expansion plans for Scotland for 2013, to include eight new routes.

The airline’s 2013 summer schedule includes six new routes from Edinburgh, and two new routes from Glasgow airport, taking its total routes from Edinburgh Airport to 38, and Glasgow Airport to 27.

The six new routes from Edinburgh Airport include Bologna, Beziers, Cagliari, Corfu, Katowice and Santander, in Europe, and an increase of services on five existing routes.

The airline is offering two new routes to Rzeszow and Warsaw Modlin From Glasgow Prestwick Airport, and an expansion of services on four existing routes.

Michael O’Leary, the airline chief executive officer, said, ‘Ryanair is delighted to announce its Scottish summer 2013 schedule, which will deliver over 3m passengers p.a. and sustain over 3,000 jobs at Edinburgh and Glasgow Prestwick Airports.

Following successful negotiations with Edinburgh Airport’s new owners, Global Infrastructure Partners, Ryanair will grow its summer 2013 operations at Edinburgh by 11%, with 38 routes, including 6 new routes to/from Bologna, Beziers, Cagliari, Corfu, Katowice and Santander from April 2013, which will help deliver a total of 1.8m pax p.a. (persons per annum) and sustain 1,800 on-site jobs at Edinburgh Airport. This is a prime example of what can be achieved by dismantling the BAA monopoly and we look forward to further growth at Edinburgh Airport under its new ownership.

Our summer 2013 schedule will see us operate 27 routes at Glasgow Prestwick, including 2 new routes to Rzeszow and Warsaw Modlin, which will help deliver a total of 1.4m pax p.a. and sustain 1,400 on-site jobs Glasgow Prestwick Airport.’

Gordon Dewar, the chief executive officer of Edinburgh Airport, said, ‘I welcome Ryanair’s return to growth and investment at Edinburgh Airport. When I came to Edinburgh Airport in the summer, it was clear that we had to repair the relationship with Ryanair and work with them to provide more choice for Scottish passengers.

I’m pleased that today we can announce a new relationship and new routes. This announcement underlines the fact that Edinburgh and Scotland is an attractive market for a variety of operators and that we as an airport are open and willing to do business to expand our network and encourage growth.’