In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
How tourism can help tackle poaching
Ian Craig, one of Africa’s leading conservationists, says local communities are leading the charge to stamp out poaching.
I firmly believe that the one-off legal sale of 105,000 tons of ivory to the Far East in 2009 stimulated a demand that was previously not there. It had a catalytic effect from which the whole African continent is now suffering.
There has been such progress here in changing people’s views about wildlife and conservation. In 1990, when the ivory ban was introduced, African communities were not beneficiaries of tourism, but in northern Kenya this has radically changed, through the work of the Northern Rangelands Trust (an umbrella organisation that helps more than 60,000 pastoral farmers in Kenya derive an income from their environment), Tusk and other groups, as well as a radical shift in government policy led by the Kenya Wildlife Service. In the past week the Kenyan government, following the escalation of poaching in northern Kenya, has brought in all the chiefs in the areas most heavily affected to discuss how to apprehend the perpetrators of the poaching within their communities. This would never have happened 20 years ago.
Tourism plays a huge role in persuading local people that there is a future in community-led conservation; there is now a series of lodges available to holidaymakers, run by local people, for local people, that are the equal of anything national parks can offer.
These communities now realise that when an elephant is killed, they are losing an asset. It is becoming, in effect, a neighbourhood-watch scheme: local communities are on the lookout and will challenge their brothers. If welfare, education and employment are being jeopardised by the outside killing of an animal, they won’t let it happen.
Demand is fuelled by an ill-informed desire in the Far East for ivory trinkets and a culture in which rhino horns are believed to have healing properties. That is a myth.
Steel City downhill – the race that brings together cycling and wildlife
Former world champion Steve Peat backs a new mountain bike trail that provides the thrill but doesn’t damage nature.
I’m leaning against a pine tree in Grenoside Woods on the outskirts ofSheffield, watching local hero Steve Peat flash by on his mountain bike. Peaty, as everyone seems to call him, is one of the all-time greats of downhill racing, world champion in 2009 and a world cup champion three times over.
Today’s race may not be in that league, but it’s special nonetheless. Peat was born just down the hill in Chapeltown, and when he was learning his craft, he’d cycle up through these woods to reach the steeper downhill trails at Wharncliffe. This is home ground.
But that’s not the only reason he’s offered his backing to the Steel City downhill event. The race is also a fundraiser for the Sheffield Wildlife Trust, which is completing a £1m purchase of the 440-acre site both forwildlife and the people of Sheffield.
At the finish line, a sound system is belting out the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and young lads and a lasses are knocking back freebie caffeine drinks while leaning on some very pricey bicycles. They don’t look like typical nature conservation types, but as Peat explains, looks can be deceptive.
“I’ve been riding through Greno for 20 years, so it’s great for me to help out SWT and help them raise funds to secure the woods,” he says. The new trail he’s racing on will help divert recreational riders away from the more fragile area of heath land just beyond the trees. “We’re happy to tell other riders that a few trails have been moved away from the heath so SWT can fence it off and start grazing cattle there.”
Sheffield has a huge mountain biking scene, supporting several specialist shops and manufacturers, including cult frame-makers Cotic. But there are proportionally fewer bridleways than most other parts of the country, and frustrated riders have been at loggerheads with the city council and other users, including some walkers and horse riders.
Although the Trans Pennine trail goes through Grenoside, there are few designated bridleways in the woods and manicured surfaces aren’t what riders like Peat want. They like their tracks a lot more challenging. But negotiating access to the countryside has been outside the scope of existing cycling groups, which campaign on safety and planning issues, or else oversee competition.
So in February 2010, a group of local riders met in a pub to launch Ride Sheffield, an advocacy group aimed at fighting mountain biking’s corner to improve access. The group was the brainchild of Henry Norman, whose day job is working for cycling charity Sustrans.
And the world’s top frequent-flier awards go to…
American Airlines’ AAdvantage frequent-flier programtook home more awards than any other carrier at the 2012 Freddie Awards Thursday evening.
Included in American’s four-Freddie award tally was the coveted “Program of the Year” title for airlines in the Americas. That ended a two-year run by the Air Canada-affiliated Aeroplan program, which did not win a single Freddie after winning five total awards in 2011 and three in 2010. (Scroll to the bottom a for complete list of this year’s winners)
The three other finalists for “Program of the Year” in the Americas were Air Canada’s Aeroplan, Delta’s SkyMiles and Southwest’s Rapid Rewards.
Among hotels, the Starwood brand won more Freddies than any other hotel group, including the “Program of the Year” in the Europe/Africa region. Marriott took home the “Program of the Year” Freddie for hotels in the Americas. Combined, Starwood and Marriott won 13 of the 18 “best of” categories. India’s Taj Hotels won three while Hyatt and Accor each won one.
The annual “Freddie” awards recognize the world’s top airline and hotel loyalty programs. The awards are determined by votes by frequent fliers and hotel patrons, recognizing six “best of” categories for both airlines hotels in each of three global regions. The Freddies also honor the best loyalty credit cards in each of the regions.
Following American’s AAdvantage program in the 2012 Freddie tally were Germany’s Lufthansa and India’s Jet Airways, which each won three. Lufthansa won the “Program of the Year” honor for the Europe/Africa region while Jet did the same for the Middle East/Asia/Oceana region.
The only other frequent-flier programs to win multiple Freddies were those affiliated with the United Arab Emirates’ Etihad and Latvia’s airBaltic. Each won two Freddies.
While Etihad is a well-known brand in frequent-flier circles, airBaltic and its BalticMiles names are not as well known outside its region.
“This is the first-ever award BalticMiles has won,” BalticMiles CEO Gabi Kool said while accepting one of the program’s two awards. “We’re from a small country, but we have very big dreams.”‘
Among the three credit cards honored, the Delta-affiliated SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express was named the best loyalty card for the Americas. The card affiliated with Turkish Airlines’ program won the Europe/Africa region while the Etihad-branded card was named tops in the Middle East/Asia/Oceana region.
Ireland’s unusual places to stay
Ireland’s colourful history has led to a rich tapestry of architectural styles, with Norman castles and neo-classical mansions sitting side by side with cosy farmhouses and contemporary wonders. All around the island, these interesting, charming accommodations are packed with character — and characters! So in the spirit of turning your Ireland trip into a real journey, here are some of the most memorable places to stay along the way.
Cullintra House, Inistiogue, County Kilkenny
The Cullintra House, a cosy, 19th-century home in the Kilkenny heritage village of Inistiogue, offers a warm welcome – but you will soon discover you are not the house’s most important guest. Here cats are king, and the owner’s feline friends quite literally have the run of the place. You will find cat memorabilia galore and little furries in the bedrooms, in the dining room where guests eat communally and rambling the gorgeous grounds, like they – quite rightly – own the place.
Grouse Lodge, Roesmount, County Westmeath
Grouse Lodge, the rambling stone farmhouse and beautiful outbuildings that act as a residential recording studio for Irish and visiting bands, became Michael Jackson’s secret hideout for six weeks in 2006. REM, Shirley Bassey, Manic Street Preachers and Sinead O’Connor have all recorded in this reasonably-priced midlands village property, complete with an indoor heated pool, jacuzzi, nine double bedrooms and an on-site organic chef. Come for the rock ‘n’ roll stories, retold in the small hours at the on-site pub.
Number 25 Eustace Street, Dublin
You could easily pass Number 25 Eustace Street in Dublin’s cobbled Temple Bar area without realising the treasure that lies within. The 18th-century merchant’s house sleeps seven, was carefully restored using authentic materials and furnishings, and is available to rent on a nightly basis. Climb the creaky stairs to the drawing room where you can play the Bechstein boudoir piano, or lounge in the rolltop free-standing bath and imagine what life was like as a Georgian city slicker.
The Schoolhouse, Annaghmore, County Sligo
This atmospheric little schoolhouse, built in the 1860s on the wooded banks of the Owenmore river, now sleeps four but was once the schoolroom and two-bedroom house of the schoolmaster. It still has the original school fireplace, chalk boards and coat hooks, and legend has it that the last owner buried all of his money in a tin on the school grounds.