World Guides Travel Blog
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July 17, 2015
AS SOME DOORS CLOSE, OTHERS OPEN
It is often the case that, as some tourist destinations find themselves spurned by foreign visitors for one reason or another, others are preparing for the tourist hordes to descend. This week, there is been much talk of the demise of Tunisia as a holiday destination after it was added to the British Foreign Office's 'no-go' list. Egypt suffered a similar fate several years ago. Cuba, on the other hand, is looking forward to an influx of American tourists, with once-strict travel regulations soon being relaxed.
Anyone lucky enough to visit Cuba today will find an island that has hung onto its old-fashioned, provincial charm. Vintage cars are a common sight on its streets. Fast food restaurants are yet to make much of an in-road, and chain stores and coffee outlets are few and far between. All of which is pretty amazing considering that Cuba lies a mere 90 miles / 145 km off the coast of Florida.
All this could soon change. This year, Cuba looks set to welcome a record-breaking number of visitors. More than two million have already visited and we're only half way through the year. Next year, the first cruise ships since the 1960s will be weighing anchor off the island's beaches.
For now, though, visiting Cuba is still no straightforward matter. Those who travel there do so on what are known as educational visits, not as tourists. Plus, the island is ill-prepared to meet the high demands placed on it by foreign visitors, although hotel construction is being increased to meet expected demand. Those that do make the effort, though, will be rewarded with a rare sight indeed - a close-up view of an island that is poised on the brink of change.
Posted by Sue at 22:10:01 on 17/7/2015
July 11, 2015
ACCOLADES FOR ETHIOPIA
If anyone was to ask me the name of the best tourist destination in the world this year, I may have hazarded a guess. Somewhere sunny, perhaps. Somewhere with long golden beaches, lined with interesting restaurants and cafes. Spain? I certainly wouldn't have guessed at Ethiopia. But this is precisely the country chosen by the European Council on Tourism and Trade (ECTT, for short) to win this annual accolade.
The reasons given by the ECTT include the preservation of some iconic historic landmarks, including the ruins of Aksum city, which lies at the centre of Ethiopia, and Lilibela, a holy site that is made up of 11 rock-carved churches that date back to the 13th century. And we shouldn't forget the Lower Valley of the Awash, where the earliest traces of humanity were first found.
Also given a mention were Ethiopia's natural parks and reservations, including the Simien Mountains National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its own right. The country is also known for having the longest system of caves in the whole of Africa.
For many tourists, Ethiopia is still linked with years of famine during the 1980s. These days, only around 20,000 British visitors head there each year. That may all be about to change, with some holiday operators tipping it as the next 'big thing' in holiday destinations.
Posted by Sue at 11:00:51 on 11/7/2015
July 3, 2015
WORLD HERITAGE SITES - GOOD AND BAD NEWS
Ancient buildings and iconic landmarks are something that many of us take for granted. Often, it is only when they come under threat that they make the news headlines. UNESCO has been keeping a list of the most significant World Heritage Sites for decades. Today, that list numbers over 1,000 sites - ranging from buildings and monuments to lakes and forests. Sadly, there is another list - one that includes those sites that are at risk.
Whilst most sites are carefully preserved, 48 have been singled out as being in danger. For some, the threat comes from political instability, military action and war. In recent years, several Syrian sites have been added to the 'at risk' register because of ongoing conflict; these include the Old City of Aleppo. This year, the Old City of Sana'a in Yemen has also been added. This ancient site, which dates back to the 11th century, has been heavily hit by airstrikes.
Poaching and agricultural encroachment also play their part in the destruction of natural habitats. The tropical rainforest of Sumatra in Indonesia has been on the list since 2011. Tanzania's Selous Game Reserve is a relatively recent addition, brought about by widespread poaching that has decimated elephant and rhino populations in the area.
Environmental concerns aren't the preserve of the countryside. The Bolivian city of Potosi in Bolivia was added last year because mining operations in the area have caused extensive damage to the site. Rampant urban development has been threatening the ancient city of Jerusalem for decades.
And then there are those natural events that nobody can predict, like hurricanes and tsunamis. The Everglades National Park in the US has been suffering from a loss of its marine species since Hurricane Andrew hit in 2010.
It is only when you start digging deeper into the reasons why UNESCO has become concerned about some World Heritage Sites that you realise just how fragile they are - and how easily they can disappear or be destroyed. The threats aren't just in war-torn or out-of-the-way places, either. In 2012, a British World Heritage Site was added to the list - the Maritime Mercantile City of Liverpool - because of the proposed re-construction of the historic docklands north of the city centre.
Amidst the bad news, though, there is some good. The Great Barrier Reef, which lies off the coast of Australia, has just avoided being added to the list, despite fears that this would be the case. Even better, the Los Katios National Park in Colombia has been removed entirely, thanks to concerted events over the park's authorities.
Posted by Sue at 12:53:52 on 3/7/2015