In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
One billion tourists predicted for 2012
The number of worldwide tourists is set to exceed one billion for the first time this year, new statistics have suggested.
A record of 467 million tourists travelled overseas from January to June, according to figures released this week by the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
Traditionally, international tourism is at its highest level in July and August, which would indicate the threshold of a billion tourists in a year is likely to be passed for the first time.
“You don’t have an even spread throughout the year. In a normal year, the first six months account for a total volume of 45 per cent of the year,” said John Kester of the UNWTO.
In 2011, there was a total of 982 million international tourists.
So far this year, tourism has increased in every region of the world. Asia showed the strongest growth with an eight per cent increase on last year’s figures.
A total of four per cent more people travelled to Europe, the world’s most visited region, in the first half of this year compared with the equivalent period last year.
The number of visitors to Africa also grew strongly, with its seven per cent increase partly attributed to greater stability in Tunisia after a turbulent 2011.
“Tourism is one of the few economic sectors in the world growing strongly, driving economic progress in developing and developed countries alike … creating much needed jobs,” said Taleb Rifai, the UNWTO secretary-general.
The report also measured the amount of money spent on travel abroad. Chinese travellers increased their spending more than any other nationality, with a 30 per cent rise in the amount of money paid on international tourism compared with the first six months of last year.
A total of $1,030 billion was spent on overseas tourism in 2011, according to UNWTO figures.
World’s top six ‘expressive’ festivals
From mooning in front of a train to splashing colored flour and water on other people, here is a selection of festivals that encourage unique forms of expression.
Burning Man is an annual festival taking place during the month of August. Over 48,000 participants gather at Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to take part in one of the largest experimental community events in the world. Over seven days, participants create Black Rock City, a temporary metropolis dedicated to self-expression, art and self-reliance. Participants are meant to follow the festival’s 10 principles, which include radical inclusion, gifting, communal effort and leaving no trace.
The annual Mooning of the Amtrak festival in California is the place where thousands of people gather to moon — drop their pants or lift their skirts — along the fence as the Amtrak trains pass by. The festival is held every year on the second Saturday of July at Mugs Away Saloon in Laguna Niguel, California. During these days the trains are full of passengers coming to enjoy the show. Along with the mooning, the program of the festival includes parties as well as wet t-shirt contests and blow-up pools.
Since the 1980s backpackers traveling in Thailand get together at the Full moon party taking place once a month in Ko Pha Ngan. The party has become increasingly popular since it first started in the 1980s and welcomes between 10,000 to 20,000 participants depending on the month of the year. The party happens during the full moon every month in Had Rin Nok beach, situated in the southeastern part of Ko Pha Ngan Island in Suratthani province with international and local djs getting the crowd dancing. Participants are asked to paint themselves using UV colors.
Originally designed to celebrate the success of ‘good’ over ‘bad’, Holi is a two-day Hindu spring event taking place during the full moon at the end of February or the beginning of March. The festival starts with bonfires during the first night while the second day is spent by splashing colored flour and water over everybody in a sign of renewal. The festival is celebrated in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal and other countries with large Hinduism population such as Malaysia and South Africa.
Something to declare: No city-break limits now the children are back at school
Europe’s most romantic cities can resemble the second circle of hell in high season. For me, Venice in July evokes three words: “tourists” and “more tourists”. Seriously, does it sound dreamy to swelter in a summery La Serenissima with all traces of Byzantine or Baroque beauty blotted out by kids striking Facebook poses? I want to enjoy this watery, walkable maze when the islands are family-free.
Nicola Campa, owner of Ca Maria Adele, a charming guesthouse in Dorsoduro, loves autumn the most.
“It’s still warm enough to enjoy a gondola ride, and a light fog in the early morning and evening makes Venice even more mysterious,” she says.
And in winter, canal scenes are perhaps even more captivating: you and yours silhouetted against a hauntingly grey sky, and a Canaletto-conjuring backdrop of centuries-spanning architecture.
It’s increasingly hard to classify climates, but you can usually bank on cities like Seville, Valletta and Marrakech basking smugly in T-shirt weather, as we Brits prepare to dig out our thermals.
Autumn and winter short breaks can be easier on the purse strings, too. Hotels in popular holiday destinations can have price tags to make your eyes water in August, but as soon as children are back at their desks, room rates nosedive.
However, beware shopping capitals such as New York, Milan and Paris in September, when hotel and air fares spike during Fashion Week. It pays to hit those in-demand hubs judiciously.
New York Standard Hotel toilets visible from the street
You’re sitting on the toilet in a New York hotel minding your own business, when all of a sudden someone standing outside on the street waves at you.
WAVES at you. From outside the building.
That’s right, they can see you.
The floor to ceiling windows are not blacked out. And they are taking photos.
That’s what happened to tourists wiping their bottoms at the 18th-floor toilets at the Standard Hotel in Manhattan this week.
“The view outside is exciting, but the view inside is frightening,” David Langdon, 55, from Melbourne told the New York Daily News. “I saw people waving at me. Sitting on the royal throne, you don’t expect a public viewing.”
Belinda Langdon was visiting the hotel with her dad. She told the Daily News she thought the windows were reflective on the outside. So she went ahead and did a wee. And everyone below watched her do it.
“It’s pretty creepy,” said the 24-year-old East Village resident. “The people taking pictures are pervy. You just hope nobody recognises you on the street.”
The hotel has installed black, waist-high curtains in the bathrooms, ending the show for now.