In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Belfast’s immoral ‘conflict tourism’
Buses drive into Belfast to allow tourists to gape at the massive walls and sites of bombings. This is simply exploitation.
Visit Northern Ireland. Come to Belfast and see our magnificent city – rejuvenated, regenerated and re-energised. Take a walk through the streets in the shadows of the division walls. Why not stop to get your photo taken beside a mural of men in balaclavas? If you really want, why not write a message of hope and peace on one of our walls, a truly symbolic sign of human solidarity?
It is surprising that given the lack of humility in Northern Ireland’s exploitation of conflict, that an advertising campaign using the language above has not been launched yet. Tourism in Northern Ireland has rocketed within the last decade. The continued perception of increased stability and relative peace has attracted people from all over the world to see the many things that Northern Ireland should and does advertise to the world – the Giant’s Causeway, the Antrim glens, the Fermanagh lakes.
However, there is something deeply immoral about the rapidly expanding “conflict tourism” sector. Buses drive into the heart of inner city Belfast to allow tourists to gape at the massive walls dividing Belfast’s communities – murals depicting violence. Tourists take photos of the division lines that are not consigned to history, but are a part of living Belfast: children play football against the walls that tourists flock to. The places and the people themselves have become a spectacle, an attraction.
If this were history perhaps it would be more acceptable – but it’s not. These lines are still a very real part of everyday life for communities in Northern Ireland. Our politicians may say otherwise – that we are now at peace, and that nothing will destabilise our progress – but divisions aren’t removed.
As a country, we have come to realise the financial gains that can be made by marketing our conflict while also exaggerating the “stability” of Northern Ireland; painting a picture of those who dissent as being in a vast minority with no support whatsoever. The reality is manipulated, history exploited.
An example is the 1993 Shankill bomb that killed 10 people. Touring companies make money from that tragedy; tourists stand at the site of the bomb and take photos. The residents of the Shankill Road carry on, the money doesn’t filter down. The process passes them by.
Greening the Empire State Building
The Empire State Building has long been a signature feature of Manhattan’s skyline. But owners of the iconic edifice, planning a $1 billion initial public offering, hope to convince investors and tenants that it’s what’s on the inside that really counts.
The 81-year-old New York tower has undergone a massive, 3-year makeover designed to cut energy use, modernize office suites, and attract tenants willing to shoulder higher rents. Building owners and key suppliers on Monday will detail the energy savings they’ve achieved so far.
While the new One World Trade Center has claimed the title of New York’s tallest from the Empire State, the 102-floor Art Deco building towers over many others when it comes to the world of building retrofits.
The Empire State is the highest-profile project in a growing collection of renovations that are becoming big business for industrial conglomerates and electrical service firms.
As America’s towers show their age, especially in the Big Apple, where nearly half of office space was built before 1945, companies like Honeywell International Inc, Johnson Controls Inc, Siemens AG and United Technologies Corp are eyeing a retrofit market predicted to generate $16 billion in annual revenue by 2020, up from about $5 billion last year.
Johnson Controls, a building efficiency systems supplier based in Milwaukee whose contract for the Empire State is worth about $20 million, estimates six jobs are created for every million dollars spent. By that measure, the retrofit industry will provide almost 100,000 jobs, a meaningful number for a U.S. construction industry in which unemployment remains high after the housing bust and financial crisis.
To be sure, not everyone can afford the tens of millions of dollars needed for a sizable retrofit. Financing is scarce and investments can take years to pay off.
But for those who can pull off the upfront payment, a renovation can boost rents, lead to longer leases, lower vacancy rates and attract larger, higher quality tenants.
The U.S. Department of Energy has estimated the return on investment of the Empire State Building’s renovations at 4 percent, but other less famous buildings have returns in the triple digits.
Myanmar’s balancing act
Flying into Yangon, I gaze down at the same profoundly rustic landscape as I had seen during a youthful trip back in 1995. Mostly there were simple farmhouses wrapped in shady trees while the plains were dotted with pointy gilded or white-washed pagodas glinting in brilliant sunshine. Yet on the ground much has changed. The military junta has, at least on the face of it, stepped back a notch, senior western politicians have dropped in to cautiously praise a nominally civilian government, and earlier this month there were landmark parliamentary by-elections. This week, the EU suspended sanctions against the country. There hasn’t quite been a fully fledged outbreak of democracy but there has been a great upsurge in optimism.
Twenty-first century Burma (officially Myanmar since 1989) still exudes a distinct “lost-in-time” charm. And while as a nation it has suffered decades of despotic rule, its admirably calm people remain firmly steered by Buddhism.
Its lure is proving irresistible to tourists. According to official government statistics, just over 391,000 tourists (two-thirds from Asian countries, especially China and Thailand) came last year, up 25 per cent on 2010. No one doubts another substantial increase this year.
Following the National League for Democracy’s (NLD) adjustment of its tourism policy from a blanket to a targeted boycott, British tour operator Explore Worldwide re-launched Burma trips last year. “They flew off the shelf,” says James Adkin, Burma Product Manager, so more promptly followed. From this autumn, the company will have around 90 trips during the tourist season.
Responsible operators, he notes, embrace that targeted boycott and so avoid using hotels and related businesses which are either government-owned or linked to cronies. Large-scale, all-inclusive package tourism with its preference for luxury hotels (which tend to have government or crony links) is discouraged. Yet it’s been estimated that around 12 to 15 per cent of even the most conscientious tour’s cost will find a way to government coffers through, for example, entrance fees and taxes. Perhaps there’s curious consolation in the fact that operators are free to minimise doing business with the regime; the real money lies in other sectors.
Ask the Captain: Why would landing gear be lowered during flight?
Question: On a US Airways flight from Dallas/Ft. Worth to Charlotte, everything seemed normal until, 5 minutes into the flight, we all heard the landing gear drop. The captain said they received an overheating warning on the brakes and protocol was to drop the gear and let the wind cool the brakes. I understand brakes overheating on landing, but how can they overheat right after takeoff? We were on an Airbus 319/320/321 series. I think it was an A320. After ten minutes, they raised the gear and we continued with no issues.
A: The brakes may have been heated by the previous landing and not had time to cool while the airplane was at the gate. Then during taxi out, they were further heated by necessary brake applications. After takeoff, the landing gear retracted into the wheel well where there is limited cooling air. This could cause the brake hot light to illuminate the sensor and generate an Electronic Centralized Aircraft Monitoring (ECAM) alert if the temperature exceeded 300?C. The crew would follow the ECAM procedure and extend the landing gear, allowing the air to cool the brakes.
Brakes take a long time to cool after landing. The residual heat in the ceramic brakes needs airflow to properly cool. When the landing gear is extended there is airflow around the brakes but when they are retracted into the wheel well that flow is quite restricted. It is rare for brake overheating to occur after takeoff but it does happen.
Q: Captain, I was recently on a KLM Fokker 70 when the departure was delayed. The captain said that there was a problem with the external starter truck and we had to wait a few minutes for another one to arrive. My question is, why do some aircraft require an external starter? What happens if they need to divert to an airport where such trucks aren’t immediately available? I always look forward to your articles, keep up the great work!