THIS WEEK IN TRAVEL (ISSUE NO 24)


Although we fell in love with travelling long ago, it seems that this is the year for travel, more so than ever. According to new figures released by the World Tourism Organization, worldwide tourism is booming in 2017 and we are happy to hear it. Various destinations around the world have seen huge positive growth compared to last year’s negative results that were in part due to events such as Europe’s security concerns. This is particularly good news for regions that depend on tourism as a source of economic prosperity.

It seems that under-the-radar destinations are having their moment too, and we can so appreciate the readily available knowledge allowing us to expand our boundaries to lesser-known areas. Surrounded by mountain ranges at an altitude between 2300 and 5000 metres above sea level stands Leh, a unique Indian destination, which is most certainly off the beaten path. Struck by its incredible views, here are travel bloggers Lee and Bhanu from Adventure in Our Teacups top tips to visiting Leh. Hint: the best time to visit is during India’s summer while fresh crisp mountain air greets you in the warm summer heat. Navigate Leh along the challenging, narrow mountain roads, taking your time to adjust to the altitude and enjoy the Tibetan culture.

 Shey Palace in Leh. Photo courtesy of Lonely Planet. Image by Adventure In Our Teacups.

By now you have probably heard the catchy hit song of the summer, ‘Desposito’, (bare with us here, we promise we are not launching into bit about the Biebes) a tune has done more than motivate us to sing along whilst stuck in rush hour. It has enticed travellers worldwide to visit Puerto Rico. Searches for Puerto Rico through Hotel.com have increased drastically—more than 45%—since the song’s release in April. The song’s popularity has been an effective tool for driving tourism to Puerto Rico. It’s nice to see the positive impact of pop culture for a change, especially for a country such as Puerto Rico that has suffered a massive economic crisis since 2006 and declining tourism due to the Zika scare over the past few years. The music video sweeps through San Juan’s colourful neighborhood, La Perla, and features their coastal views alluring us travellers to explore this cultural hotspot. Just don’t blame us if you can’t get the song out of your head.

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Photo courtesy of Lonely Planet. Image by David Madison/Getty Images

In the latest news of bans in Italy (see alcohol ban in Rome), the selfie stick has been added to the long list of regulations, forcing tourist to leave the selfie snaps for another trip. Milan bans the selfie stick along with “holding, carrying, leaving on the ground, disposing of, or receiving any kind of glass bottles, containers, cans” and prohibits street food and the selling of street food in public areas. The new regulations from Milan’s local government are in place from now until mid-August during Italy’s peak tourist season to prevent visitors and locals from littering. Whether selfie sticks provoke disruptive, undesirable behavior or prompts littering, is a little uncertain. But what is clear is that Milan is not alone; London and India have joined the embargo banning them at museums and venues. To tell you the truth, we aren’t that disappointed to hear the news and can embrace this new trend wholeheartedly.

On another note, one woman (without a selfie stick) set out to recreate her European travel photos 30 years later. Returning to the same exact spots, US woman revisited 13 locations through France and Germany recreating the photos, bystanders included, not forgoing any details. The similarities are more striking than the slight differences in architecture and landscape. Look out for her photos 30 years from now!

A trip to Europe isn’t complete without venturing out to the beach in the summertime. As we are on the subject, why not take a look at the best beaches Italy has to offer. Despite the number, beaches are packed in high season with locals and visitors merging together from around the world. From seafront sandy beaches to lovely coves, Rough Guides gives us 20 Italian beaches that you must go to. Check out Forno in Elba, Tuscany. Set in the bay of Biodola, Forno is far less crowded and can be found in a secluded cove. Or journey to Torre Guaceto, Puglia where you can bask in the sun or be a little more adventurous and scuba dive. Your choice!

In recent news, the US will be banning its citizens from travelling to North Korea. Expected to take effect in 30 days after the announcement next week, US citizens’ passports will be invalid for travel to and in North Korea. Revealed by Koryo Tours and Young Pioneer Tours, operated in North Korea, the upcoming ban is speculated to be linked to the recent death of Otto Warmbier, an American student who was sentenced to prison for 15 years for trying to steal propaganda. Although there has been a ban in the works for a while, the death of Warmbier has fast tracked the movement. As of now, according to BBC, the embassy is urging all US citizens to leave the country.

One last ban notice of the week, (and we promise we’ll steer away from them entirely next week), the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Sri Lanka’s most famous landmark, has gone green with a ban on plastic. Buddhist pilgrims gather to the honourable relic of Siddhartha Gautama and over a million come just for the Esala Perahera festival in July and August. But the offerings given by devoted pilgrims and plastic left behind pile up generating vast amounts of waste. With this new regulation, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic will be the first ever green place of veneration, designated by the Provincial Councils and Local Government Ministry. The bigger plan is to have all of Sri Lanka plastic-free to reduce the waste and live up to the Buddhist tradition—rejection of material possessions.    

Kandy Lake and the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. Photo courtesy of Lonely Planet. Image by Matthew Williams-Ellis/Getty Images

Along with Sri Lanka’s efforts, Seoul has a new initiative to provide free transportation on heavily polluted days. Ranking the second-worst air quality in the world, according to AirVisual, the city has launched its initiative with the hopes of combatting this issue of high levels of fine dust. It is unclear of how the city plans to measure what is qualified as high dust, but regardless it’s an initiative worth standing behind.

While we are on the topic, our latest interview with freelance Photographer Lisa Murray—you may remember her story mentioned in This Week in Travel Issue No 15—features her newest project, ‘Faces of Change’ and how the smallest initiatives from locals can limit climate change. Read more on how she plans to change the way we understand climate change here: Meet the Photographer putting a Human Face on Climate Change.    

Photo provided by Lisa Murray.

With that we end on a note from Secretary of the United Nations World Tourism Organization Taleb Rifai, “We welcome the continued development of tourism and recall that with growth comes increased responsibility to ensure tourism can contribute to sustainability in all its three pillars – economic, social and environmental.”

 

Happy Travel 

The Kosan Team