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July 29th, 2010
01:47 PM ET

Arizona tourism fears long-term effects

A. Pawlowski
CNN

Tourism officials say they worry about long-term impact on lucrative business travel

Tourism officials say they worry about long-term impact on lucrative business travel

It's been a long, hot summer for Arizona even without the help of the scorching temperatures that have made the state's landscape so unforgettable for many visitors.

Tourists are still flocking to beautiful places such as the Grand Canyon, Lake Havasu and the resort town of Sedona, and hotel occupancy is up across the state despite a political storm that prompted some to call for a boycott of Arizona's hospitality industry.

But while the leisure snapshot seems encouraging, tourism officials say they are worried about the long-term impact on lucrative business travel, which they say may be affected for years to come.

At least 40 groups have canceled meetings or conventions in Arizona since Gov. Jan Brewer signed a new immigration bill, said Kristen Jarnagin, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association.

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Filed under: Arizona • Travel
July 26th, 2010
10:44 AM ET

Equatorial Guinea on $508 a Day

Chris Guillebeau
AC360° Contributor

As the boys are fishing, someone else in the background dumps their garbage right into the water.

As the boys are fishing, someone else in the background dumps their garbage right into the water.

If you’ve ever considered traveling to Equatorial Guinea, you’ve probably heard about the high cost of visiting.

Yes, a basic hotel room really does cost $400-500 a night, and sometimes much more. There are no hostels with merry young backpackers hanging out at the beer garden, and no home exchange vacationers looking to trade housing from an offshore oil center with an apartment in a hipster neighborhood in Portland, Oregon.

Couldn’t I sleep on the floor of the airport? Not really—it’s not that kind of place. I’ll be sleeping on the floor of Hong Kong’s airport next week before coming home, but HKG is the Hilton of airport sleeping. If I attempted to stay overnight at SSG, I would at least be questioned, and could very well be arrested. Soft adventurer that I am, I’d rather avoid that.

Thus, when encountering such a situation, I do what I have to do. I pony up the money, all in cash because the country doesn’t accept credit cards of any kind, and head up to the dingy, one-star room. I also find the whole thing fairly ironic, because I’ve stayed in my fair share of dingy, one-star hotels—see this old post for one of my favorites—but I’m not usually paying $400 a night for them. No, most definitely not—but if you were to come to Equatorial Guinea, that’s probably what you’d have to do too.

Notes on the Rich Getting Richer

I also want to say something that will probably get me in trouble, but once in a while you should say what you really think. The thing about Equatorial Guinea, and most other African countries in similar situations, is that the people are poor not because they are meant to be poor, they like being poor, or because they’ve done anything wrong.

For the most part, the vast majority of people in places like Equatorial Guinea are poor because of a lack of opportunities, and a system of corruption that discourages savings and investment. To put it more simply, a few people have a lot of money, and most people have almost no money. None of the development, or at least very little, actually helps most of the people that live there.

Everyone I met in Malabo was nice—well, except for the hotel clerks, who were clearly under orders to extort as much money as possible from visitors. It’s not the people’s fault that government officials are stashing the cash that belongs to the country in their own overseas bank accounts. The president’s son, for example, lives in a $35 million mansion in California. By all accounts, he did not get rich selling ebooks.

This is how it works in Nigeria as well—a country that should be rich is actually very poor. Nigeria produces two million barrels of oil for export every day, but its villages and even large cities often go without electricity. The country used to rank dead last on Transparency International’s scale of global corruption. Then one year it “lost” the record of most corrupt country in the world to Bangladesh. The joke among my African friends was that Nigeria had paid off Bangladesh to take its place.

One theory calls this the “resource curse” of Africa. Countries that have oil or other natural resources, like Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Angola, or Sudan, end up with large pockets of the population that are completely left behind. Meanwhile, countries without a lot of natural resources (Botswana is the most frequently cited) tend to do much better in terms of reducing absolute poverty and providing healthcare for their citizens.

Whether that’s true or not, I think it’s sad that corruption and exploitation are the normal patterns of business in much of sub-Saharan Africa. Of course, I should note that my government and most other Western governments are complicit in this arrangement, because the arrangement supports everyone involved. Everyone, that is, except the people who most need the chance to create opportunities for themselves, to raise healthy families, and to make their own choices. I hope it will change but I’m not sure it will.

I also realize I’m a rich, privileged person, writing mostly to other rich, privileged people who read blogs about life planning and unconventional living. So I’m not really complaining about my $400 one-star hotel room, as much as I’d rather spend that money on something else. Some people have a car payment every month; I ride the bus so I can visit random places like Equatorial Guinea. It works out OK.

No, what makes me uncomfortable is that in this case, none or very little of this money seems to be doing much good for people who need it. Some people are very rich, but most are very poor. Maybe the oil workers (and me) are funding the president’s son in his California mansion. Since there’s no transparency and few checks and balances, no one really knows for sure.

***

Anyway, after visiting Equatorial Guinea I went to its next-door neighbor Cameroon, a fun and lively place. I don’t know a lot about Cameroon, but having lived for some time in similar countries (especially Benin), I found it joyful and lively.

It was also quite hot, but that comes with the territory. I went for a long run that became a short run when I had to stop after 25 minutes in the heat. But it was a fun place nonetheless, and it left me with a more hopeful feeling than I had across the way in Equatorial Guinea.

That’s how I see it from my distorted, privileged traveler’s perspective. I know there are a lot of other active travelers among our group, as well as many people who live in countries hindered by corruption, so feel free to share your own views if you’d like.

###
Editor’s Note: Chris Guillebeau writes for a small army of remarkable people at ChrisGuillebeau.com. Follow Chris's live updates from every country in the world at @chrisguillebeau.


Filed under: Chris Guillebeau • Travel
July 19th, 2010
10:53 AM ET

Beware of Life

Chris Guillebeau
AC360° Contributor

From January to September 2009, 21,833 people died in my home state of Oregon. Just like that, each one of them left the world—here one day and gone the next.

Not long ago, three hikers also died on our nearby Mount Hood in a tragic accident.

After their deaths, there was the usual pontification about what they could have done differently. Despite the fact that they were all experienced climbers, and despite leaving for the hike when weather conditions were good, some people blamed their “risky behavior” and suggested various reforms that wouldn't have made any difference in their case.

Then, I scanned through the comments on our newspaper's website. “I don't want to say they deserved to die,” one person said, before going on to explain why they deserved to die for pursuing their passion.

Fatal accidents are sad. I wish they wouldn't happen, and I wish we could bring back the lost hikers. But I also don't think they should have stayed home, and I don't think they are that different from the 21,833 others who died last year.

I propose that the greater risk is to play it safe all the time. Properly experienced, life is a very risky behavior.

***

I recently read Christopher Reeve's autobiography, Still Me. He wrote about how during his years playing Superman, he worried about dying in a “dumb” accident. Superman Hit By Bus, he imagined the headline. Later, he fell off a horse and was paralyzed for the rest of his life.

The book is a fascinating account of his first two years adjusting to a very different (and extremely limited) way of living. He was angry, bitter, and at times wished he had died in the accident. But he didn't regret riding the horse that day his life changed forever. As he put it, if he knew when he got on the horse that he would be thrown, he would have slept in that morning. But there's no way to know something like that in advance; you just have to live your life, risk and all.

From time to time people send me stories like the Mount Hood climbers, or something bad that happened to another traveler somewhere. I don't have a death wish with anything I do, and I don't think that world travel is particularly unsafe. Like Superman, I could get hit by a bus right down the street from my home.

But if something ever does happen to me, all of you can tell the real story to anyone who asks: Chris didn't want to take any risks on missing out. That's why he climbed the mountain.

Instead of trying to live a risk-free existence, let me tell you a few things that are truly worth worrying about:

The road not taken.
The destination not explored.
The adventure not pursued.
The life unlived.

If we're going to lose sleep over something, it seems to me that those are the things that should keep us awake.

Life is dangerous. It's risky. It's worth it.

###
Editor’s Note: Chris Guillebeau writes for a small army of remarkable people at ChrisGuillebeau.com. Follow Chris's live updates from every country in the world at @chrisguillebeau.


Filed under: Chris Guillebeau • Travel
July 12th, 2010
11:10 AM ET

Beginner's Guide to Travel Hacking

Chris Guillebeau
AC360° Contributor

In short, travel hacking is all about experiencing the world on a limited budget.

In short, travel hacking is all about experiencing the world on a limited budget.

Greetings from Ouagoudougou, winner of the “most awesome city name” contest and also my current stop on the week-long West Africa tour. I came in via Lufthansa, Royal Air Maroc, and Ethiopian Airlines... but more on that in a moment.

I wanted to write a lengthy post outlining a few principles of what I call travel hacking. In short, travel hacking is all about seeing experiencing the world on a limited budget. I've been able to visit so many countries over the past decade, not by being independently wealthy, but by learning to be creative.

This leads to an odd, hybrid travel world—I fly Lufthansa First Class to Frankfurt, where the departure lounge includes bathtubs, a complimentary restaurant and wine bar, and planeside transfer via chauffeured Mercedes. Nice. Then I head off to a series of Economy Class flights throughout West Africa, also known as the traveling circus. (In the case of Morocco's national airline, on which I took three flights last week, I dubbed it Cirque du Maroc.”)

Thankfully, I live in America and fly Economy Class on United once in a while, so I'm accustomed to third-world airlines where everyone applauds upon a safe landing.

***
FULL POST


Filed under: Chris Guillebeau • Travel
June 30th, 2010
05:01 PM ET

How to File a Freedom of Information Act Request for Your Travel History

Chris Guillebeau
AC360° Contributor

Early this morning I sent out an envelope containing an official Freedom of Information Act Request to the U.S. government.

Am I a conspiracy theorist? Have I started stockpiling canned food and building a bomb shelter behind my apartment?

Sorry to disappoint anyone holed up in a cabin somewhere, but not really. I refuse to visit any bomb shelter that doesn’t provide wifi and a french press. In this case, I’m mostly just curious… what do the feds know about me?

FULL POST


Filed under: Chris Guillebeau • Travel
June 23rd, 2010
02:47 PM ET

Tips for stress-free travel

Chris Guillebeau
AC360° Contributor

(c)CHRISCB PHOTOGRAPHIE

(c)CHRISCB PHOTOGRAPHIE

Greetings from an edgy and interesting Bangkok, Thailand. I've set up camp in the Silom area and have been having fun working, writing, wandering, and talking with people.

Last week I took my inaugural journey on Air Niugini Airways, flying on the Manila-Port Moresby night flight, and then later over to Singapore on my circle of the region. I don't think they'll be joining the OneWorld alliance anytime soon, but it wasn't that bad either.

***

The title of this post is somewhat of a misnomer: I almost never experience travel that is truly stress-free. For starters, not all travel can or should be predictable. Sometimes the unexpected is better than the planned.

Secondly, not all stress is bad, because some of the most challenging times in our lives are the most stressful. No risk, no glory—that kind of thing.

FULL POST


Filed under: Chris Guillebeau • Travel
June 2nd, 2010
01:31 PM ET

Feds propose new airline passenger protections

CNN Wire Staff

Rule would require airlines to fully disclose and prominently display baggage fees

Rule would require airlines to fully disclose and prominently display baggage fees

Weary airline passengers may see some travel improvements if a new wave of passenger protections is adopted.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced a proposal Wednesday that would require more accountability from air carriers - from increased compensation for bumped passengers to full disclosure of baggage fees and transparent price advertising.

"Our proposed rule would drastically improve the consumer information airlines are required to post so that the consumers know what they are getting for their money," LaHood said at a news conference.

Keep Reading...


Filed under: Travel
April 27th, 2010
05:59 PM ET

Delta jet diverted to Maine because of disruptive passenger

CNN Wire Staff

Federal air marshals on the flight took passenger into custody, spokeswoman says

Federal air marshals on the flight took passenger into custody, spokeswoman says

A trans-Atlantic Delta Air Lines flight was diverted to Bangor, Maine, because of a disruptive passenger, a Delta spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Federal air marshals on board Flight 273 took the passenger into custody, Delta's Susan Elliott said, and he was being questioned by authorities.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Travel
April 21st, 2010
05:05 PM ET

Travel Update: Clearing the backlog and reopening flights

CNN Wire Staff

Airports across Europe began reopening Wednesday

Airports across Europe began reopening Wednesday

Airports across Europe began reopening Wednesday, six days after ash from an Icelandic volcano forced the shutdown of airspace and stranded thousands of passengers around the world.

The airspace over most of the United Kingdom, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Ireland, Sweden and Germany was open again, air traffic authorities said.

The airport in Helsinki, Finland, was briefly open on Wednesday but then closed again, airport officials said.

Keep reading for the latest travel developments...


Filed under: 360º Follow • Travel
April 21st, 2010
10:30 AM ET

Q & A: Who gets to fly first?

CNN Staff

Experts say it could be weeks before the backlog is fully cleared.

Experts say it could be weeks before the backlog is fully cleared.

With more flights beginning to take off on schedule, airlines are attempting to clear the backlog of passengers who have been waiting for days because of the volcanic ash cloud over Europe.

But with tens of thousands waiting to travel, there are questions over who gets to go first and how long the delays will last.

How are airlines prioritizing ticket allocation?
Other than a few special cases, most airlines are prioritizing those with pre-existing tickets for scheduled flights. In some cases, empty seats on these are being filled by customers with urgent travel needs....

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Filed under: 360º Follow • Travel
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