In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Robert Mugabe asked to be UN ‘leader for tourism’
The Zimbabwe president, accused of ethnic cleansing and bankrupting his country, asked to champion tourism.
With a line-up that includes Drew Barrymore, David Beckham, Orlando Bloom, and Ricky Martin, the UN’s choice of ambassadors has been known to cause raised eyebrows or the odd smirk.
Seldom, however, has there been such anger, or questioning of the organisation’s credibility, as that greeting the appointment of a new international envoy for tourism: Robert Mugabe.
Improbable as it seems, the Zimbabwean president, who is widely accused of ethnic cleansing, rigging elections, terrorising opposition, controlling media and presiding over a collapsed economy, has been endorsed as a champion of efforts to boost global holidaymaking.
Despite that fact Mugabe, 88, is under a travel ban, he has been honoured as a “leader for tourism” by the UN’s World Tourism Organisation, along with his political ally, Zambian president Michael Sata, 75. The pair signed an agreement with UNWTO secretary general Taleb Rifai at their shared border at Victoria Falls on Tuesday.
Zimbabwe’s state-owned Herald newspaper quoted Rifai urging tourists from around the world to visit : “I was told about the wonderful experience and the warm hospitality of this country … By coming here, it is recognition, an endorsement on the country that it is a safe destination.”
The agreement will also see the two southern African countries co-host the UNWTO general assembly in August next year.
UNWTO said it had not appointed Mugabe to any formal position but acknowledged he would receive an open letter like other heads of state who have joined its leaders for tourism campaign.
The development has stunned human rights campaigners and political opponents, who regard Mugabe as a tyrant.
Kumbi Muchemwa, a spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said: “I can’t see any justification for the man being an ‘ambassador’. An ambassador for what? The man has blood on his hands. Do they want tourists to see those bloody hands?”
Meanwhile, British MP Kate Hoey, chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Zimbabwe, said: “It is an absolute scandal – and an affront to the people of Zimbabwe, who didn’t vote for Mugabe as their president but had him imposed because he used violence and the armed forces to hang onto power in defiance of the democratic will of the people of Zimbabwe.
“For a man who has destroyed his country’s infrastructure and cynically engineered hunger to be an ‘ambassador’ for tourism is disgraceful – particularly as he has been personally responsible for the downward spiral of the economy and destroyed the hotel, travel and tourism industry in the process.”
Mugabe and his allies are subject to EU and US sanctions preventing them from travelling to EU countries including Britain, although he does attend the UN general assembly in New York.
Muchemwa added: “Robert Mugabe is under international sanctions, so how do you have an international tourism ambassador who can’t travel to other countries?
Passengers could be put at risk by EU plans to lengthen pilots’ hours
Passengers could be put at risk by European plans to lengthen pilots’ working hours, MPs have warned.
But the changes drawn up by the European Aviation Safety Agency would water down rules in Britain which are among the strictest in the European Union.
EASA, which has come under pressure to ease restrictions and impose a level playing field across all 27 members of the EU, has drafted proposals which would lengthen working hours.
But in a report published today the Transport Select Committee has voiced horror at the proposals, noting that there is a link between long duty hours and an increased risk of accidents.
“A lowest common denominator approach to flight time limitations will benefit neither passengers, airlines nor crew,” the MPs have said.
One of the changes would mean that a pilot could be at the controls of an aircraft 22 hours after getting up.
“This is an extraordinary figure considering that even 17 hours of sustained wakefulness can produce performance deficits equivalent to that displayed when drunk,” the report adds.
“Given that 43% of pilots report involuntarily falling asleep whilst working under the current regulatory regime, there is a clear risk that these proposals will invite further fatigue amongst aircrew.
According to evidence presented to the Committee by the British Airlines Pilots Association the proposals would increase the number of hours a pilot could spend at work from 16 hours 15 minutes a day to 20 hours.
Other changes, Balpa said, would increase the maximum shift time for a long haul flight with two pilots from 12 to 14 hours.
This change would spare airlines the expense of having to pay for a third pilot on the flight deck for long haul flights to destinations such as Los Angeles.
The EASA proposals would also increase the workload on short-haul pilots who perform several take-offs and landings a day.
Proposed changes would only see the daily flight time reduced after the third take off of the day which, pilots say, flies in the face of scientific evidence of the dangers of fatigue brought on by performing the manoeuvres several times a day.
The Committee has called for sweeping changes to the proposals before they are adopted.
“I am very concerned,” said Louise Ellman, the committee’s chairman. “Britain has a very good safety record and there is now a risk it will be put in jeopardy.
A to Z of Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee
Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee celebrations in Britain, from A to Z:
A FOR ANNIVERSARY: Britons will enjoy a four-day public holiday long weekend from June 2-5 to mark the 60th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth who is now 86.
B FOR BEACONS: Over 4,000 beacons will be lit across Britain and the Commonwealth, starting with Tonga and culminating outside Buckingham Palace on June 4.
C FOR CORGIS: Britons wanting to buy corgis, the queen’s favourite dog breed, increased by a third in the run-up to the jubilee. The queen owns three corgis and three dorgis — a dachshund cross.
D FOR DECOLONISATION: The 1956 Suez Crisis exposed Britain’s post-war weaknesses, and colonies declared independence throughout the 1960s. Queen Elizabeth remains head of state of 16 countries, including Australia and Canada.
E FOR EPSOM: On June 2 the queen will attend the Epsom Derby race meet, the only one of Britain’s five classic races that her own horses have so far failed to win.
F FOR FANS: Millions of visitors are expected to descend on London for the jubilee and again for the Olympics starting in July.
G FOR GROMIT: The much-loved plasticine dog and his cheese-loving master, Wallace, created by Aardman Animations, are to feature in a special 60-second film for the jubilee.
H FOR HORSES: The queen, a lifelong horse-lover, watched a huge pageant of 550 horses and more than 1,000 performers from around the world in Windsor on May 13 — the first large-scale jubilee event.
I FOR IRREVERENT: The wall of a north London budget store has been graced with jubilee graffiti by British street artist Banksy. But it is not entirely positive, depicting a monochrome child labourer sewing Union Jack bunting.
J FOR JOUSTING: The medieval sport in which horseback knights fight with lances has been little in evidence during Queen Elizabeth’s reign, but re-enactments will take place for the jubilee.
K FOR KATE: Kate Middleton married second-in-line to the throne Prince William last year, and the pair are credited with helping revive public goodwill towards the monarchy after a string of 1990s divorces and scandals.
L FOR LUNCH: Buckingham Palace is encouraging neighbourhoods to hold street parties or simply lunch with friends on June 3 as part of the jubilee festivities. Bunting sales are expected to soar.
M FOR MAGNIFICENT: Jubilee celebrations will be accompanied by classic British pomp. The queen and senior royals will take a traditional carriage ride through London on June 5.
N FOR NORFOLK: The queen spent February 6, the anniversary of king George VI’s death and her own accession to the throne, in the eastern English county of Norfolk, where her father died, carrying out low-key engagements.
O FOR OUTFITS: The queen is known for brightly-coloured outfits with matching hats.
P FOR PRINCE PHILIP: The queen’s trusty consort, now 90, has been criticised in the past for gaffes but their grandson Prince Harry told the BBC in January: “I don’t think that she could do it without him.”
Q FOR QUID: Slang British term for a pound. The queen has asked anyone wishing to give her a jubilee gift to donate to a Jubilee Trust instead, which will finance “iconic projects” across the Commonwealth over five years.
R FOR RIVER: The queen will lead a flotilla of up to 1,000 boats — everything from wooden launches to naval ships — on the River Thames on June 2 as celebrations reach their peak.
S FOR SERVICE: A service of thanksgiving will be held at Saint Paul’s Cathedral on June 5 for the queen, who is supreme governor of the Church of England.
T FOR TOURS: The queen has carried out 173 Commonwealth and 91 state visits during her reign. Reflecting their age, she and her husband are only touring Britain for the jubilee, with other royals visiting the Commonwealth.
CSI hotel room: Best Western goes high-tech to clean
Don’t be surprised if the housekeepers look like characters out of CSI the next time you stay at a Best Western hotel.
In response to what it says is travelers’ insistence on cleanliness, Best Western is equipping its housekeeping crews with equipment you’d most likely see on the forensic investigation TV series: black lights to detect biological matter otherwise unseen by the human eye, and ultraviolet light wands to zap it.
For possibly the dirtiest object in your room — the TV remote control — there will be disposable wraps.
Best Western says it’s taking the steps partly because research from Booz & Company shows that travelers desire a hotel’s cleanliness over customer service, style and design.
But it’s also reacting to the times, in which hotels and supermarkets place hand sanitizer in visible places for germ-obsessed customers.
People also have become more skeptical about cleanliness because of headlines about e-coli, norovirus and bird flu, says Ron Pohl, a Best Western vice president.
“It used to be that you walked into a guest room and saw a stain on carpet, you’d think the room’s dirty,” Pohl says. “Today, guests don’t see any stains, but they still question how clean the room is.”
Best Western plans to have its new cleaning techniques in all its 2,200 hotels in North America by year’s end. Today, about half the hotels — including properties in Tempe, Ariz., and Boston — have adopted it, Pohl says.
Best Western is ahead of the other hotel groups in its price range with its cleanliness approach, says Bjorn Hanson, dean of New York University’?s hospitality school. And, he says, “it can have an effect on market share.”
The program has already made guests happier, according to Best Western’s internal measures. For hotels already using the wands, Pohl says, guest satisfaction for cleanliness of the room rose by 12% and for the overall experience, by 13%. Guests are also 12% more likely to recommend their hotel, he says internal surveys show.
At the Best Western Plus in Tempe, the black lights have changed the way housekeepers clean, because they highlight bacteria in places that may not otherwise be cleaned, says owner Rich Schnakenberg. The corner of a bathroom vanity, for instance, may now get extra attention.