Tahoe area panel explores “Conscious Travel”
If I were within striking distance of Squaw Valley, California, I would put the Squaw Valley Institute‘s panel on “Conscious Travel” on my calendar for tomorrow evening, August 26, at 7:00 p.m. Three women on the panel among them are both expert travelers and travel industry experts. Discussion topics will include modernization of the developing world, “the tipping dilemma,” picture taking, bargaining, how to dress, the impact of tourism, environmental considerations and giving back to places visited. The panel discussion will be followed by questions and comments from the audience.
Ruth Anne Kocour is a photographer and world trekker based in northern Nevada whose subjects include the culture and landscapes of the American West, Asia and mounaineering expeditions. Julie Conover is co-host, co-producer and writer of the PBS series,”Passport to Adventure.” Toni Neubauer, president of Myths and Mountains, a tour operator headquartered in Incline Village, Nevada, which offers cultural immersion tours that balance American-style luxury travel with cultural insight and sensitivity.
The program at the Inn at Squaw Creek is free, but a $10 donation per person is requested. The Squaw Valley Institute’s goal is to “enhance the quality of life within the unique mountain environment of Squaw Valley, North Lake Tahoe, Truckee and surrounding communities” through programs and activities “having artistic, cultural, educational and entertainment value..that bring together visitors, residents and friends…[and] foster a sense of community.” The Institute is at P.O. Box 3325, Olympic Valley, CA 96146; 530-581-4138.
Travel deals to America’s troubled neighbor to the south
Mexico has been having a bad run. First, the US and global econo
mic woes caused many migrant workers to return to their country, cutting down the flow of US dollars that help so many families and communities. The border city of Juarez, across the Rio Grande from El Paso, has been the site of thousands of drug cartel-related murders, and more recently, a drug-related gun battle in the tourist mecca of Acapulco left 18 people dead. Swine flu was reportedly traced back to an American-owned pig farm in Mexico. Earthquakes rattled central Mexico, and a fire in a day care center in the border state of Sonora killed 44. Aviaseca, a discount airline, was grounded for three days until a court order permitted it to resume flying again. Even a press trip to Mexico didn’t materialize due to “scheduling problems.”
My inbox is filled every day with deals from everywhere from Playa del Carmen on the Caribbean shore to Cabo San Lucas on the Pacific. Jimm Budd, an American travel journalist who has lived in Mexico City for years and is the travel columnist for the Mexico City newspaper Reforma, reports that “although hotel associations have been urging their members not to launch a rate war, management at some resorts apparently feels it has no choice. Tariffs at the Hilton Los Cabos are down by 60% compared to what was charged last season, according to newspaper reports. Rates at the Royal in Playa del Carmen on the Maya Riviera are down 50% While the Gran Velas on the Nayarit Riviera is offering savings of 25%.”
He cautions bargain hunters “invest some time in research. The Tourism Ministry has launched its own web page
with numerous packages listed, but one newspaper reported better prices are available from ordinary tour operators. Critics also note that no intercity bus transportation is offered in the Ministry packages.”
Newspaper headlines can scare people away from Mexico or anyplace else (a friend’s daughter just returned, unscathed, from “war ravaged” Sir Lanka), but those Americans who venture southward will find a wonderful country, lively cities (Mazatlan, above right) scenic beauty, art, music, sport, terrific people — and low prices.
Followup from Jimm Budd on June 16: “Battered first by the worldwide recession, then by reports of violence associated with the crackdown on narcotics smugglers and finally by the swine flu pandemic, Mexican hoteliers report business gradually is getting better. Hotel occupancy, which had fallen as low as ten or twenty percent, now is about fifty percent both in urban and seaside hotels. This should improve considerably next month, when schools go on vacation. Even so, much to the distress of innkeepers, the vacation season will be shorter this summer. Since classes in areas such as Mexico City were obliged cancelled for two weeks during the flu scare, an extra 14 days is being added to the school year.”
Upscale hotels in unstable places and luxury cruise ships at sea are obvious targets for attacks
There isn’t a day that goes by without press releases appearing in my inbox about yet another luxurious, deluxe, multi-star hotel or resort in some picturesque and/or exotic place. The recent attacks in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India, were just the latest high-profile targets that appeal to first-world travelers to developing nations. Reporter Keith Bradsher’s New York Times feature called “Analysts Say It Will Be Difficult to Shield Luxury Hotels From Terrorist Attacks” began:
“For decades, luxury hotels have been oases for travelers in developing
countries, places to mingle with the local elite, enjoy a lavish meal or a dip
in the pool and sleep in a clean, safe room. But last week’s lethal attacks
on two of India’s most famous hotels — coming just two months after a huge truck
bomb devastated the Marriott in Islamabad, Pakistan — have underlined the extent
to which these hotels are becoming magnets for terrorists.”
Left to my own devices, I’m more of a three-star traveler (OK, maybe four-star in third-world nations) than a five-star traveler. However, when I attend a Society of American Travel Writers convention or am on other tourism-related assignment or trip, I do find myself in unaccustomed luxury. A small part of me enjoys being treated like visiting nobility, but mostly, I am embarrassed by the ritzy glitz in places where so many people have so little. I know that tourism brings jobs (including jobs as security guards) and money into developing countries, but still, such opulence and extravagance are clearly an affront to many. When clashing political ideology or religious zeal are added to the volatile socio-economic mix, the result in these mean times is predictable violence. People die, property is destroyed and another door to international understanding and peace on the planet is slammed shut.
The Times piece discussed security precautions that hotels are taking, which should be of interest and some comfort to travelers heading for potentially dangerous places. Meanwhile, CNN reported that the ‘Nautica,’ an Oceania Cruises ship (left) en route from Rome to Singapore, outran pirates off the coast of Yemen over the weekend while in an area patrolled by anti-piracy craft. The cargo ships and oil tanker that have recently been seized by pirates were off the coast of Somalia. Smaller private yachts have also been seized.
“The ‘Nautica’ was in an area patrolled by international anti-piracy task forces when two small skiffs appeared to try to intercept it, Oceania spokesman Tim Rubacky said. The ship took evasive maneuvers and accelerated to its full speed of 23 knots or 27 mph. One of the smaller craft closed to within 300 yards and fired eight rifle shots at the cruise ship, he said, but the ship was able to pull away. . .’The ‘Nautica’ escaped without damage or injury to its 684 passengers and 400 crew, and arrived safely on schedule in Salalah, Oman early on Monday morning,’ Rubacky said.”
As disturbing as these reports are, personally, I don’t want to stop traveling because “something” might happen. Last June, I visited Oklahoma City, the mid-America capital of Oklahoma where Timothy McVeigh, a US Army veteran and security guard, masterminded the massive explosion that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 2000. Also that month, my car was broadsided by a speeding motorcyclist on a rural highway in western Colorado. I just hope, in the interest of global sanity, that the attacks will stop and efforts to build a more peaceful, more tolerant world will recommence.