Posted: Tue Oct 05, 2021 1:56 am Post subject: Tourism
Venice, Overwhelmed by Tourists, Tries Tracking Them
Can cellphone data and surveillance cameras help restore the city’s old-world charm, or just destroy what magic remains?
VENICE — As the pandemic chased away visitors, some Venetians allowed themselves to dream of a different city — one that belonged as much to them as to the tourists who crowd them out of their stone piazzas, cobblestone alleyways and even their apartments.
In a quieted city, the chiming of its 100 bell towers, the lapping of canal waters and the Venetian dialect suddenly became the dominant soundtrack. The cruise ships that disgorged thousands of day-trippers and caused damaging waves in the sinking city were gone, and then banned.
But now, the city’s mayor is taking crowd control to a new level, pushing high-tech solutions that alarm even many of those who have long campaigned for a Venice for Venetians.
The city’s leaders are acquiring the cellphone data of unwitting tourists and using hundreds of surveillance cameras to monitor visitors and prevent crowding. Next summer, they plan to install long-debated gates at key entry points; visitors coming only for the day will have to book ahead and pay a fee to enter. If too many people want to come, some will be turned away.
The conservative and business-friendly mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, and his allies say their aim is to create a more livable city for beleaguered Venetians.
“Either we are pragmatic, or we live in the world of fairy tales,” said Paolo Bettio, who heads Venis, the company that handles the city’s information technology.
But many residents see the plans to monitor, and control, people’s movements as dystopian — and either a publicity stunt or a way to attract wealthier tourists, who might be discouraged from coming by the crowds.
“It’s like declaring once and for all that Venice is not a city, but a museum,” said Giorgio Santuzzo, 58, who works as a photographer and artist in the city.
Prince Amyn and Portuguese President inaugurate NOVA University’s Westmont Hospitality Hall
President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa was joined by Prince Amyn earlier today for the inauguration of the Westmont Hospitality Hall at NOVA University in Lisbon, Portugal.
The newly opened space will serve as a home for the Westmont Institute of Tourism and Hospitality at NOVA University’s School of Business and Economics (SBE), which is celebrating the third anniversary of the opening of its campus in Carcavelos. The school’s students and faculty are known as an open and collaborative community, focused on the positive impact of their work and research in the world.
The Westmont Institute is the latest development in the partnership between NOVA SBE and Westmont Hospitality Group, a joint initiative aiming to develop and promote education in hospitality, tourism, and service management. Westmont Hospitality Group, founded by the Mangalji family, is a global brand that owns and manages more than 400 hotels all over the world. Its mission includes a desire to use hospitality, travel, and tourism as a way of promoting a more sustainable world.
In his remarks at the event, Prince Amyn congratulated NOVA SBE and shared his hopes for the future of the project. “The Westmont Institute of Tourism and Hospitality will have the mission to inspire and prepare leaders in the tourism and hospitality industries,” he said, “providing not only excellence in service, but sound business knowledge to promote and support sustainable tourism ventures both in Portugal and, I hope, in Africa and developing countries.”
The entire hospitality industry has suffered multiple adverse effects due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the new Institute inaugurated today hopes to harness the potential of tourism to drive innovative responses to complex challenges such as this.
“I think that tourism, by opening up to travellers’ new lifestyles, new cultures, new traditions, acts as a strong educational experience and breeds understanding, and appreciation of shared values — of how much we share, and not how great are our differences, and that ultimately it promotes a pluralistic approach,” continued Prince Amyn, who has decades of experience in the tourism and hospitality industry globally.
Majid Mangalji, CEO of Westmont Group spoke of the inspiration to partner with NOVA as an institute and Portugal as a country. “Right from the start, we felt very comfortable that we could meet our objectives to create something special here at NOVA as we had many areas of alignment of interest,” he said.
“Portugal is a beautiful country, with wonderful people, nice weather, and very good food. And we believe it’s a country that can further expand the tourism and hospitality industry,” Mr Mangalji added. “We hope the establishment of the Westmont Institute will benefit this very important industry in a meaningful way.”
The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) has worked for many years to promote tourism as a key strategy for long-term, sustainable economic development. The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED), AKDN’s economic development agency, manages hotels, resorts, and lodges under the Serena brand in Africa and Asia. Serena’s properties provide economic stimulus through employment, training, and local sourcing, and support social activities that improve the quality of life and environmental sustainability of local communities.
Portugal’s NOVA University and AKDN have worked together since 2016, partnering on the support for research in important areas such as climate change, sustainable development, media and communications, digital health, and the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In July 2017, NOVA University bestowed an Honorary Doctorate upon Mawlana Hazar Imam for his longstanding commitment to improving the quality of life for some of the world’s vulnerable populations, as well as for his efforts to promote respect for tolerance and pluralism. This event at NOVA was the first official public event of Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee year.
A number of Ismaili students have attended NOVA University since its founding in 1973, going on to earn undergraduate and master’s degrees in various subjects including Business and Economics, Science and Technology, Health, Social Sciences and the Humanities, and Law.
Hannah Sabjaly, a student at NOVA SBE, looks forward to the addition of the new Westmont Institute. “I hope to make use of the Westmont Hospitality Hall and the Institute's facilities on campus to help me in my studies,” she said. “And I feel proud of this partnership with my university to support higher education in Portugal, while making a contribution to society here in this country and beyond.”
The Westmont Institute of Tourism and Hospitality is the latest development in the partnership between NOVA University's School of Business and Economics and Westmont Hospitality Group, a joint initiative aiming to develop and promote education in hospitality, tourism, and service management.
Rick Steves on the Return of Travel and Why It Matters
The travel writer and TV personality is back in Europe, planning itineraries for next year. Travel, he says, can help us understand the world. Here’s how he recommends doing it.
On a recent morning, Rick Steves was wandering around the ancient Tuscan town of Volterra with a new crop of tour guides. His company’s trips to Europe are set to resume in February after a nearly two-year pandemic hiatus, and the guides were midway through a nine-day trip around Italy to learn “what makes a Rick Steves tour a Rick Steves tour.” One of the stops on their itinerary was Volterra, a medieval hilltop town whose stone walls are 800 years old. Mr. Steves — who has been to Tuscany many times for his popular public broadcasting show and YouTube channel — was relishing being back.
“We’re surrounded by the wonders of what we love so much, and it just makes our endorphins do little flip-flops,” he said during a phone interview.
That unabashed enthusiasm has fueled Mr. Steves’s empire of guidebooks, radio shows and TV programs, as well as tours that have taken hundreds of thousands of Americans overseas since he started running them in 1980.
Along the way, Mr. Steves has built a reputation for convincing hesitant Americans to make their first trip abroad — and that first trip is often to Europe, which Mr. Steves has called “the wading pool for world exploration.” But he also speaks passionately about the value of travel to places like El Salvador and Iran, and he’s open about how his time in other countries has shaped his views on issues like world hunger and the legalization of marijuana.
But Europe remains Mr. Steves’s bread and butter, and he’s back on the Continent now — both to prepare for the return of his tours and to work on a six-hour series on European art and architecture that he hopes will be broadcast on U.S. public television next fall. As he wandered through Volterra, we talked about why he doesn’t count the number of countries he’s visited, why his tour company will require vaccinations and why a world without travel would be a more dangerous place.
Our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Can California Tourism Survive Climate Change?
The most popular state for tourism in the U.S. endured record wildfires, drought and flooding just this year. “The rate of change has been so dramatic,” says one local scientist. “If I was the California tourism industry, I’d be really worried.”
“Want to go camping in October?” a friend texted in August. Somewhere pretty, she suggested. Big Sur? “Yes, but …” I replied, “how about May?”
Fall used to be my favorite season. I’d traipse up and down California, from coastal cabins to backcountry lakes to wine-country weddings. But in the last few years, fall has become something I rationally, and irrationally, fear. It’s too unpredictable. Too hot. Too dry. Too smoky. Too anxiety-provoking.
I’m not the only one worrying. As climate change continues to ravage our planet, those who like to explore it — as well as the travel industry that supports them — are inevitably affected, too. Especially precarious and popular California. And yet no one seems prepared.
In 2019, California was the No. 1 state in visitor spending in the United States, according to Visit California, the state’s tourism agency, with tourists bringing in $145 billion to the state economy. It was an unprecedented amount. Travelers splurged at Napa wineries and San Francisco restaurants, San Diego surf-side hotels and Sierra slope-side resorts, Airstreams in Yosemite and yurts in Joshua Tree, stargazing in Los Angeles, whale-watching in the Channel Islands — and don’t forget Disneyland! California tourism saw 10 consecutive years of record growth — until the pandemic. In 2020, revenue plummeted 55 percent.
Now, as travel emerges, pent-up demand has many small towns from Ojai to Oakhurst rocking. This mixed-up moment may not be a fair gauge of what’s to come. What is to come? According to Visit California, a full recovery and then some — $157 billion tourist dollars by 2025.
And yet: Wildfires consumed 4.2 million acres of California in 2020, and roughly 2 million so far this year alone. Severe drought forced quaint Mendocino inns to beg guests to conserve water. South Lake Tahoe was evacuated. In Death Valley, two hikers died in August from extreme heat, as did a family of three hiking southwest of Yosemite. This week’s welcomed rain came hard and fast, causing flooding, power outages and rockslides. All of this will continue in California’s future.
Though little research has been done on climate change’s long-term effects on tourism in the United States, much less in California, many scientists see the poorly managed forests through the trees.
WHERE WILL YOU TRAVEL NEXT?
Friday, November 19, 2021
In today’s newsletter, our Best of the World 2022 picks: diving in Palau; running wild in Australia; a Ruhr adventure in Germany … and hiking Colorado’s ‘iron way.’
By George Stone, TRAVEL Executive Editor
What do a wildlife corridor in Belize, a First Nations trail in Canada, a national park in Mozambique, a cultural capital in Italy, and Spain’s Alhambra have in common? If you guessed they’re all on our Best of the World 2022 list, start packing your bags!
Although the pandemic changed when, where, and how we move about, the world is opening up again. Our global editors picked the planet’s 25 most exciting destinations for the year ahead. Five categories—Nature, Adventure, Sustainability, Culture and History, and Family—frame amazing experiences for everyone.
There’s a lot that I love about this list. A number of destinations are within reach for North Americans: You can count the stars in northern Minnesota (pictured above), embrace the allure of Atlanta, and learn about history and wildlife in Maryland. Other epic adventures are farther afield, including a wild safari in Namibia and a tea immersion in China.
This year’s list celebrates 10 UNESCO World Heritage designations—from Spain to Bonnaire, Japan, Russia, Ecuador, and beyond—in honor of the 50th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention in 2022.
Above all, our Best of the World list celebrates inspiring places, welcoming communities, and curious travelers who are eager to explore again. Here are six awesome adventures. Read our story for more reasons to unleash your wanderlust.
For the wealthy thrill seekers able to pay upwards of $450,000 for a seat with commercial space projects such as Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, the answer is likely to involve the pursuit of awe or wonder. Philosophers call the type of sensory and aesthetic stimuli that provoke it the sublime.
On its face, the kind of short flight to the edge of space that looks set to be the predominant mode of space tourism, at least in the short term, seems the very definition of what the psychologist Abraham Maslow called a “peak experience.” The kinetic thrill of rocketing to an altitude of over 50 miles, combined with the astonishing perspective it affords of our planet, invites us to believe that few adventures could be more profound.
But picture the millionaire awe chaser when the big day comes around, and the capsule he has booked a seat on hurtles skyward into the deep blue of the upper mesosphere. The whole escapade is being recorded by HD cameras. A dulcet computer-generated voice provides the commentary. The chair is uncannily comfortable. The ride, controlled by cutting-edge A.I. technology, is disconcertingly smooth. Champagne is waiting for the passengers on the landing pad.
Under such contrived conditions, awe will always be a chimera. That which we explicitly pursue will always, to a greater or lesser extent, remain out of reach.
The appeal of the sublime has been a subject of conjecture and interpretation for as long as humans have pondered the stars. Existing at the intersection of joy and fear, the feelings it can elicit are best understood as a paradox: the sensation of feeling enriched by way of feeling diminished. A person might experience it while standing on a mountainside when a storm rolls in or peering down the gullet of a thunderous waterfall. The transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson memorably called it his “transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all.” The writer Shannon Stirone described it as “the simultaneous shrinking and expanding of our hearts.”
We covet the experience of sublimity because it hints at mysteries and forces beyond the realm of ordinary human understanding. And it is good for us. Neuroscientists discovered that regular doses of awe can boost critical thinking, physical health and emotional well-being. Studies have also shown that it makes us kinder and more empathetic.
But chasing it misses an essential element of awe, which is that so much of its potency depends on factors that commercial spaceflight seems custom designed to negate.
In many years of working as a travel writer — which I’ve often thought of as working the awe beat — I’ve come to understand that awe cannot be easily choreographed.
Some of the times I have experienced awe: An hour of avalanches rumbling down the south face of Annapurna under a full moon. Fork lightning strobing across the empty deck of a cargo ship on Lake Victoria. An eagle hovering 20 feet above my shoulder in the Chilean tundra.
These were the sort of transcendental moments we might hope to enjoy when we book a trip for adventure. But what they all had in common was some unanticipated ingredient. They relied on serendipity, whether in the form of weather conditions or animal idiosyncrasy. The high-flown emotions they triggered — the sorts that manifest in goose bumps, sometimes even tears — came unbidden.
Some occasions, by contrast, when I didn’t feel awe: gorilla tracking in Uganda, seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre amid a jostling crowd of people taking photos of it with their mobile phones, every safari I’ve ever been on. These experiences were certainly noteworthy. But they were far from sublime.
Space tourism belongs to this subset of ostensibly awesome experiences that often feel anticlimactic precisely because they come with a promise of awe factored in.
For one thing, space tourists probably embark with a pretty good simulation of the experience already imprinted on their minds. Westernized and space curious, clients of the new space tourism outfits will have watched the modern canon of astronautical drama, including “Gravity” and “Interstellar.” In preflight training, they will have been drilled and prepped for every moment they will spend in suborbit. The sense of surprise that is arguably the most vital precondition for experiencing awe will have been watered down by the months of forethought and demystification.
Often, the problem is simply one of context. Do you have any preconceived expectations about the experience? How exposed are you to the thing you’re observing? Is the activity ethically fraught? These potential distractions might seem incidental. But they all have the potential to obstruct our ability to enjoy an authentic communion with the sublime.
It’s the difference between joining a 20-strong organized tour to see the Northern Lights and, say, camping alone in some Scandinavian wilderness and being roused from your tent by the aurora’s spectral green ripples illuminating the canvas. The first will be nice, even memorable. You will take pretty photos and get lots of hearts on Instagram. The second could make you feel that you have been touched by grace.
The scientific study of awe is still in its infancy, but this awe junkie’s intuition is supported by a growing body of research. “One of the most striking discoveries in our 15 years of studying awe is how often it involves finding the extraordinary in the ordinary: a friend’s generosity to a homeless person in the streets, looking at a leafy tree’s play of light and shadow on a sidewalk,” said Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at Berkeley and the author of a book on awe set for release next year.
“The best way to access this everyday awe is by allowing yourself to wander, to avoid following a schedule each moment of the day. We didn’t evolve to feel awe about hurtling through space.”
Oh, most of the space tourists will say it was awesome, as the billionaire and space tourism entrepreneur Richard Branson did: “How you feel when you look down on Earth is impossible to put into words. It’s just indescribable beauty.” But how could they say it was anything less than the best moment of their life, having shelled out hundreds of thousands for the experience? In the age of performative experientialism, in which those with economic means can be seduced by gold-wrapped steaks not because they taste good but merely because they are exclusive, this conflation of expectations with lived sensation — the mistaking of bragging rights for joy — is nothing new.
Consider, again, our millionaire astronaut in his cushioned revolving chair, as the indigo sky fades to black. The thrusters shut off, their roar giving way to the profound silence and weightlessness of the cosmic void.
While he is up there, gazing down at this godlike overview of metastasizing deserts and receding ice, the best he might hope for is a moment of clarity.
“When you get up above it,” Jeff Bezos said of the atmosphere after his inaugural flight on New Shepard in July, “it’s this tiny little fragile thing, and as we move about the planet, we’re damaging it.”
Perhaps he and other amateur astronauts are fated to recognize, in that quiet knot of bathos, that to be the Midas of an ailing planet is the ultimate spiritual impoverishment. That an act of hubris can never truly buy humility, let alone wonderment.
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