In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Her Majesty’s top tips for business trips
Yesterday the Queen set off on the first leg of her Jubilee tour. By her Maj’s usual standards the 100-mile, one-hour trip from London to Leicester was nothing. She is, after all, the most travelled monarch in history having traipsed through 129 countries on 256 overseas tours – with never a day off sick. And thanks to Sir Peter Tapsell MP we now know the secret to her constitution: she never eats shellfish, watermelon or salad while abroad.
These, according to a courtier, are her golden rules. But what else can the modern business traveller – for she is very much “on business” – learn from Liz?
First, keep on smiling, whatever happens. Whether your travel companion has just made a politically incorrect joke (see Duke of Edinburgh) or your host has just expectorated into a spittoon near your bag (as happened to the Queen in China in 1986) – keep flashing the gnashers.
Second, be sure to pack for all eventualities. Ryanair doesn’t let us take half a ton of trunks on board its planes, so we can’t take a dozen hats, the ubiquitous see-through umbrellas or four changes of clothes per day. We can, however, dress for the weather, and remember to take that night-time cardi.
No quick revival for Egypt tourism
Egypt and Tunisia are unlikely to see tourism – a vital prop for their battered economies – revive anytime soon as holidaymakers continue to shun North African destinations a year after the “Arab Spring” revolutions.
Bookings to the two countries collapsed last year after popular uprisings across the Arab world toppled veteran rulers in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, and forced Yemen’s president to sign away his powers.
“Developments in the Middle East and North Africa are very difficult to predict at this time,” Taleb Rifai, secretary-general of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), told Reuters at the ITB Berlin travel fair.
“The situation in Syria is still unfolding from bad to worse. The situation in Yemen is very unclear. And the Arab Spring is not limited to any one particular country. Uncertainty is the name of the game now for the immediate future.”
Tour operators and governments had expected tourism to bounce back, but that has proved not to be the case, with many holidaymakers preferring instead to seek winter sun in the Canary Islands, the Caribbean or the Maldives.
“We understand that (challenge) perfectly. We have to reassure them that Tunisia is safe,” the country’s tourism minister Elyes Fakhfakh told Reuters on the sidelines of the Berlin conference.
The number of international tourists arriving in North African destinations dropped by 12% to 16.4 million last year, and the Middle East saw visitor numbers decline by 8% to 55.4 million, according to UNWTO data.
The body sees growth for the overall Middle East of zero to 5% this year, though Rifai said there was a good possibility arrivals in Egypt and Tunisia could return to pre-crisis levels by the end of the year.
For the moment, Egypt in particular is still struggling following an 18% drop in tourist nights spent in the country in 2011, and much is riding on how the political situation changes over the next few months.
The problem has been compounded by a recent flurry of kidnappings of foreigners by Bedouin tribesmen in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula that has drawn attention to deteriorating security in the isolated desert region since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak.
Pro travellers reveal their top tech tools
We caught up with a bunch of well-travelled digital drifters to get their opinions on the best tools for life on the road. From camel-proof cameras to airport-navigating apps, they kindly revealed their favourite pieces of travel tech.
Book trips with specialty websites
Jodi Ettenberg, founder of the blog Legal Nomads, has been travelling almost nonstop since 2008. Through trial-and-error, she learned that some lesser known travel-booking websites specialise in filling the gaps left by larger online travel agencies like Expedia and Orbitz. “I loveAirNinja.com because it allows you to find budget airlines between any two destinations, something few other booking engines do,” she said. She’s also fond of Hipmunk, which uses an innovative map-based interface to help travellers book a hotel in the right neighbourhood and clever colour-coded bar graphs to help travellers identify the least agonizing flights for their journey.
Take a camera that is sturdy enough for your itinerary
Last year, 26-year-old London attorney Faraz Shibli crossed the Gobi Desert as part of an international expedition, becoming the youngest Briton to cross the Gobi Desert on foot. During the two-month, 1,000-mile journey, Shibli said, “My two digital cameras died a slow death as a result of sandstorms, rainstorms and temperatures of up to 45C. What survived was a teammate’s GoPro, a wearable, waterproof and shockproof camera. It allowed us to shoot footage from deep within sandstorms. We even fastened it around a camel’s neck to capture the experience of galloping across seemingly endless plains from a camel’s point of view. I have seen others use their [GoPros] mounted on surfboards, ski poles and airplane wings to produce some stunning adventure films.”
Tap into smarter tools for taking photos
Taking photos is important for most travellers, including Sean Keener, founder of the BootsnAll travel network. Keener recently moved his family to Ohope, New Zealand, from their home in Portland, Oregon, for four months. While there, he’s been using his iPad to take photos with the app360 Panorama. This photo-stitching tool replaces the need for taking multiple photos and using desktop software to create the same wraparound effect. “Just hit the take picture button and, on the fly, the software stitches the images together to make a panorama photo,” Keener said.
Use a mobile app to find hot local attractions
Leo Seaton, the Sydney-based manager of media relations at Tourism Australia, has travelled to more than 50 countries over the years. His current favourite iPad app is AroundMe (free; Apple; Android), a geo-location based tool for finding essential spots, such as an ATM, a petrol station or a restaurant in an unfamiliar area. “While on a recent business trip to the southern Australian city of Hobart, AroundMe recommended a great restaurant called Ethos, where we ended up being sat next to other guests who turned out to be the three Australian Masterchefs — Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris,” Seaton said.
Seaton also adores UrbanSpoon, a similar geo-location-powered recommendation service, with especially strong user-powered listings for restaurants and cafes. He likes that it lets him search for places depending on mood and budget.
‘Turn Off All Electronic Devices:’ And What Happens if You Don’t
Wall Street Journal
It happens on just about every flight now, say flight attendants. The plane’s door closes and it’s time to turn off personal electronic devices.And there’s always at least one person who keeps talking, texting, tweeting, playing, watching or emailing—and ignoring stern orders to power down.
Scott McCartney on Lunch Break looks at the battles between passengers and flight attendants over electronic gadgets and why more passengers are refusing, at least initially, to follow regulations.On rare occasions, a confrontation erupts, such as actor Alec Baldwin’s widely reported removal from an American Airlines plane in December. Although airlines say they don’t keep track or won’t disclose how many passengers get bounced off planes for refusing to switch off devices, flight attendants say it’s now the No. 1 spark for unruly behavior.
“People have become so wedded to these devices, and a lot of people really question whether they need to turn them off,” says Southwest Airlines flight attendant Thom McDaniel.Travelers who “think ‘it’s no big deal’ or ‘the rule doesn’t apply to me’—those are the hardest,” says Kelly Skyles, an American Airlines flight attendant. “Most passenger misconduct cases now deal with noncompliance with electronic devices.”
Airline rules backed by federal laws allow crews to turn a plane back to the gate and toss passengers off flights to prevent disputes in the air.In most cases, it isn’t the initial issue that gets people kicked off planes, whether they’ve been told to pull up their saggy pants, clean up their language or stop playing “Words With Friends” on their iPhones. Instead, it’s the ensuing argument.Flight attendants at American reported 1,306 incidents of customer misconduct to their union, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, in 2011, up slightly from 1,248 in 2010. Most didn’t escalate into confrontations or get reported to law enforcement. The numbers have been going up for three years, with most of the increase related to electronic devices, flight attendants say.
Ms. Skyles, who is the APFA’s safety and security coordinator, attributes attitudes toward electronics to “speed limit” psychology—everyone knows there’s a speed limit and yet every driver at one time or another will exceed it. Lots of passengers are skeptical of the danger of leaving devices on—one call or text message or game isn’t going to bring down the plane, they figure. And who hasn’t left on their BlackBerry and lived to tell?