28 September 2009

Chinese coming to play in adventure park... land

You know that long-anticipated transfer of 'world dominant power' status from the USA to China?

Well, if not militarily, or economically or in space, here's another small example of where that could be happening - the adventure park industry, where the big names, until now, have all been American: Universal Studios, Six Flags, and of course the daddy of them all, Disney.

It seems we may be adding a new name to the list - Fantawild.

Fantawild is a Chinese adventure park company, with a Disney-like modular approach to building large adventure parks comprising multiple theme parks. Their Fantawild Adventure park just outside Wuhu on the Yangste delta is the world's largest adventure park by land area (1.25m sq m).

Since it opened one and a half years ago, over 3 million people have visited. And they have more parks on the way - a second theme park, Wuhu Fanta Dream Kingdom, in Wuhu and three Fantawild Adventures in other provinces, with the first, Taishan Mountain Fantawild Adventure Park, opening next May.

"Yeah, but that's just a domestic start-up adventure park company" I hear you say, "Disney and the others are international".

So will be Fantawild. Iran Fantawild in Esfahan is already under construction and work is due to start any moment now on another Fantawild Adventure park outside Johannesburg in South Africa. According to China Daily, other countries such as the Ukraine, Saudi Arabia and Russia have also have shown interest in Fantawild.

17 September 2009

Welcome to America....that'll be $10!

character in USA flag

"The proposed $10 penalty for entering the United States is being sold as a 'tourist promotion' measure, but only in Alice in Wonderland could a penalty be seen as promoting the activity on which it is imposed" - Ambassador John Bruton, Head of EU Delegation to the USA, 9 Sept 09

I think that says it all really.

A week ago, the United States Senate passed the Travel Promotion Act 2009 "to communicate United States entry policies and otherwise promote leisure, business, and scholarly travel."

To help with that promotion, foreign visitors who haven't paid $131 for a visa will be charged $10 to visit the land of the free.

The bill now needs to go to the House of Representatives. Assuming it is passed, the $10 fee would be charged when travellers fill out an ESTA security form and lasts for 2 years. So it's not exactly going to break the bank, but it is targeted firmly at holiday-makers from a specific range of countries including the UK (using the US visa-waiver program).

The money from the entry fee will be used to pay for a new independent nonprofit tourism promotion body, the Corporation for Travel Promotion (CTP).

Because the Americans so need one of those! In my time as a travel journalist they've had a continuous parade of public & private tourism bodies - the USTTA, the TIA, VisitUSA, and now just recently the USTA.

Oh well, it's their country. Let them do what they like.

If you have any views, feel free to comment. I've lost the urge to get excited about it any more.

14 September 2009

Are travel folk the nicest people?

Man in dinner jacket with two girls
I was talking this morning with Mark Hodson (@101holidays) about Andy Perrin and how, as Mark put it, he is one of the nicest guys in travel. It got me thinking: this industry (travel) is full of nice people.

It would be invidious to name them, but I know loads and loads of really nice people running travel companies. In fact, other than a few slightly hard-nosed individuals that I never particularly warmed to (I've just struggled to think of four...sorry, not going to name them either!), it's really hard to find unpleasant people in travel.

Is that unusual? Aren't most people in most industries "nice"?

Well, that's where I'm going with this. No, not necessarily. I think some industries are probably better than others. In my experience the PR industry is populated by mostly nice people, but you'd expect that. They'd have to be affable and easy-going to be effective communicators. (You know who you are, guys! Take a bow!)

On the other hand, for some years I was a Personal Finance journalist. The finance industry is not populated by nice people. In those years I rarely met anyone I'd actually like to spend social time with. Marginally better were the entrepreneurs I met as a Business journalist. A number were quite inspiring, but I'd only choose to spend personal time with a few of them.

The theatre profession has some nice people in it - I worked there for almost a decade - but quite a large number of people way too preoccupied with themselves.

So, no great social revelations here. I think broadly speaking different industries have different ratios of good/bad guys.

Why does the travel industry have more than its fair share of good guys?

Well, I'm wondering if you have an opinion on that?

I can think of a couple of possible reasons...

1) Most people started with, and retained, a real passion for travel... not an interest in making money.

2) Being 'travelled' they tend to have broader minds, a willingness to explore and engage with other ideas, cultures, opinion, etc.

Any thoughts?

09 September 2009

Twitter crash - was it going too fast?

Hehe. I just went to post something on Twitter and got a 503 error - No available server. After a couple more tries I noticed the time.

Duh! Of course!

It has just passed "the moment" 09:09:09 on 09/09/09

I'm just guessing here, but where would thousands of people who wanted to mark, celebrate, comment on "the moment" go to do just that? Twitter! I bet it was swamped.

But it highlights an interesting phenomenon - the way Twitter has become the home of our water cooler conversations. I wouldn't be posting this fairly trivial observation here, if Twitter was up. It's a micro-blog topic. Not a full-service blog topic.

Amazing how quickly Twitter has become woven into the fabric of our (my) routines.


Postscript: Hmmm no mention of a crash from my fellow twitterers, but I see #why09 is a trending topic. It just occured to me, that was British Summer Time. In just over ten minutes it'll be 09:09:09 09/09/09 GMT for anyone who takes these things seriously. I wonder if Twitter will fall over again...or maybe it was just me?

07 September 2009

Playcation - A short break to play with words

Somebody* suggested, in a kind of Dr Samuel Johnson moment, the "-cations" should be collected and recorded for posterity.

If you think that's a good idea, it was mine.

If you think it's a very BAD idea... it was * @alexbainbridge !

It all started with @neilmac 's tweet: Greycationers?!? Please no. Enough. http://bit.ly/1RI7rH

Definition Culprit
Yaaycationer Exuberant holidaymaker @alastairmck
Vocationer Someone who has a calling to go on holiday @alexbainbridge
Catcationer Someone who takes cat with them @alexbainbridge
Maycationer Un-decided holidaymaker @alastairmck
Claycation Pottery holiday @clivetully
Naycation Definitely no holiday @firstpr
Faycation Fairytale holiday @alastairmck
Delaycation Domestic holiday by London Midland railway @alastairmck
Altercationer Lagered-up stag traveller @NickRedmayne
Flaycation Kinky S&M resort holiday @neilmac
Laycation 18-30s holiday @mrdavidwhitley
Haycation Farmstay @mrdavidwhitley
Braycation Donkey rides at Blackpool @mrdavidwhitley
Meleecation Battle re-enactment holiday (well, it works out loud) @john_oates
Dismaycation Rained out holiday @alastairmck
Praycation Religious retreat holiday @CliveTully
Wa-heycation Sex tourism @CliveTully
Embarcation Start of a cruise holiday ;) @alastairmck
Vaguecation Not sure where to go on holiday @sarahmagnetic

If you have got any more you want to get off your chest, pse add them below.

But don't tell @matthewteller whose response to the whole thing was...


01 September 2009

The Ledge, Chicago - Um, you go first!

Family in The Ledge glass balcony on Willis Tower, Chicago
I'm good at heights... well, I was.

In 'former lives' I was always the one who went to the top of big yacht masts at sea, armed with a spanner. Or happily walked around on theatre fly-tower grids, hundreds of feet above the stage. Or jumped out of aeroplanes (with parachute), or stayed in flimsy ones (microlight - without parachute), or was happy to be parascended (again, with parachute) behind speedboats. No prob.


There's no way you'll get me out on this one!

The Ledge glass balcony on Willis Tower, Chicago, from underneath
I've been thinking, seriously, why even the photos make me nervous, and I've decided it's the design. With all those other things I've had confidence in the equipment that was holding me up.

This is designed specifically to make you think it is NOT holding you up!

There are loads of similar 'skywalky' things from Seattle to the Grand Canyon...but this one is ALL-glass.