Posts Tagged ‘tourists’

Kim Jong Un Blasts ‘Vicious’ Sanctions Squeezing North Korean Economy

November 1, 2018
  • New sign of frustation with pace of peace talks with Trump
  • Regime’s plan to develop tourist hub hit by economic blockade
Kim Jong Un Photographer: KNS/AFP via Getty Images

Kim Jong Un lashed out at the “vicious” sanctions regime against North Korea in the latest sign of his frustration with the pace of peace talks with the Trump administration.

Kim leveled some of his most blunt criticism yet of the sanctions restricting the flow of goods and capital to his country while visiting a construction site in a northeastern coastal city of Wonsan, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency. Limits on trade and travel had put North Korea’s attempts to develop the area into a regional tourist hub in a “difficult and tense situation.”

“The hostile forces are foolishly keen on vicious sanctions to stand in our way toward promotion of people’s well-being and development and to lead us to change and submission,” KCNA cited Kim as saying, without specifying who he was referring to. “They will be made to clearly see over time how our country that has built its own strength hundreds of times defying hardship.”

U.S. President Donald Trump, who pledged to reestablish ties with North Korea during a landmark summit in June, has nonetheless insisted on maintaining the international economic embargo on the country. The administration says Kim must take more concrete steps toward giving up his nuclear arsenal before getting sanctions relief, including 10 rounds of United Nations penalties and a raft of measures by the U.S. and its allies.

Separately, a commentary published on North Korea’s Uriminzokkiri news site specifically urged South Korea to lift the so-called May 24 sanctions, which among other things restrict the country’s citizens and companies from traveling and investing north of the border. South Korean President Moon Jae-in last month walked back a suggestion that the sanctions might be repealed after a rebuke from Trump.

The North Korean leader made similar complaints about sanctions during his previous visit to Wonsan in August, saying the area was in an “acute standoff with hostile forces to stifle the Korean people through brigandish sanctions and blockade.” The remarks came during a low in the Trump administration’s up-and-down relationship with North Korea, and days later Trump postponed a planned Pyongyang trip by Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.


California’s wildfires are deterring tourists and hitting taxpayers hard, officials say

August 24, 2018

California’s wildfires are deterring tourists and hitting taxpayers hard, officials say

This summer’s relentless California wildfires have claimed at least a dozen lives and destroyed more than 1,200 homes. But along with the loss of life and property, the blazes have also taken a tremendous toll on taxpayers and the state’s huge tourism industry.

In less than two months, California has nearly wiped out the emergency wildfire funds set aside for the entire fiscal year, spending about $405 million out of the nearly $443 million allocated.

AUG 24, 2018

Image may contain: people standing, sky, outdoor and nature

Hannah Whyatt poses for a friend’s photo as smoke from the Ferguson fire fills Yosemite Valley. (Noah Berger/Associated Press)

Tourism officials, meanwhile, have complained that televised images of the wildfires are deterring visitors, especially international travelers.

“We haven’t had a break,” said Scott McLean, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “One fire is coming close to the end and another one starts right up. It’s been a revolving door for our firefighters … and it’s definitely going to get into the funds.”

The financial hit comes well before what’s supposed to be peak fire season, which means California will probably need to once again dip into its overall budget reserve, which is about $2 billion. The state has done so for seven of the last 10 years, said H.D. Palmer of the Department of Finance.

The deadly Carr fire — which ripped through almost 230,000 acres and destroyed more than 1,000 homes — cost a total of $152 million alone in firefighting costs, McLean said. He did not yet have totals for the Mendocino Complex, which consists of two blazes whose combined acreage make up the largest fire in California history.

Additional costs include fire prevention programs, damages and personal losses, many of which are handled by private insurance companies. The state’s Office of Emergency Services will sometimes allocate funds for relief and recovery of business and homeowners that suffer from large fires, Palmer said.

The finances highlight “the effect climate change has had on California and the trouble of these catastrophic fires,” Palmer said. “On a budget basis it underscores the importance of maintaining an adequate budget reserve to cover the additional cost that occurs when you have fires of this scope and severity.”

The annual emergency fund budget is calculated based on what was actually spent in the previous five years, but “sometimes Mother Nature is going to ignore that trend,” Palmer said.

Last year, California set aside nearly $427 million for wildfires, but the total cost to the state ended up being about $774 million, McLean said. With federal and local expenses, the total cost was about $896 million, according to the Department of Finance.

It’s a dramatic increase from the 2007-08 fiscal year, when the wildfire emergency fund appropriation was about $82 million and the state’s total cost was $372 million. The emergency fund is separate from Cal Fire’s general fund, which covers expenses for daily operations and routine fires.

In large fires such as the Mendocino Complex, the federal government will typically cover about 70% of the cost, but that varies year to year.

“We will never have a situation where you haggle over splitting the check when the restaurant is on fire,” Palmer said.

Despite the growing cost of fighting fires, Palmer said dipping into the reserves is a standard practice. “There will always be available cash on hand to make sure crews are deployed and tankers will fly,” he said.

On the tourism front, a recent study found that 11% of would-be travelers to California said the fires have prompted them to cancel their trips, costing the industry as much as $20 million last month, said Caroline Beteta, head of Visit California, the nonprofit marketing agency for the state.

But Beteta, along with tourism officials in Oregon and Washington, said wildfires burning in the three states are primarily in rural regions, not most tourist destinations. “Our visitor experience remains unaffected by the fires,” she said. “We want to welcome people back as soon as possible.”

A notable exception was Yosemite Valley, which was closed for nearly three weeks as the Ferguson fire raged nearby during what is typically the busiest camping season of the year.

Sydney Zaph and her family traveled to California from South Dakota, but decided to cut Yosemite National Park from their list of road trip destinations because of the blaze.

Instead, they camped at O’Neill Regional Park in Orange County. During their trip, though, the Holy fire erupted just a few miles away, charring more than 22,000 acres and destroying at least 18 homes. Authorities have said the fire was an act of arson and arrested someone accused of setting the blaze.

“We just need to be aware of what’s happening,” said Zaph’s sister, Robin Mischke, from a folding chair at the campsite.


Philippine police vow bigger war on drugs, crime — “Chinese tourists afraid to come here.”

July 30, 2018

Philippine police vowed on Monday to revamp and intensify a fight against crime and drugs, a week after President Rodrigo Duterte promised no letup in a bloody crackdown that has alarmed the international community.

“Surgical and chilling will be the trademark of the reinvigorated anti-illegal drugs and anti-criminality campaign,” police chief Oscar Albayalde told a news conference.

Image result for Oscar Albayalde, photos

Oscar Albayalde

Thousands of suspected drug dealers and users have been killed in the past two years in what police say were shootouts.

Police have rejected accusations by activists that suspects were being systematically executed, based on weak intelligence and with the assumed backing of Duterte.

Prosecutors of the International Criminal Court (ICC) have launched a preliminary examination to assess whether crimes against humanity may have been committed. Duterte in March canceled the Philippines’ ICC membership in protest.

Albayalde said Duterte’s war on drugs would be “recalibrated”, and there would be renewed focus and intensity, with “built-in safeguards” to ensure operations were lawful and protected human rights.

A police oversight committee would be formed, he said.

One of the fatalities was killed in an alleged shootout with police officers in Guiguinto, Bulacan. AP/Aaron Favila, file

The police chief warned of “frightful” consequences for anyone who continued to sell drugs.

He said police intelligence had identified 893 “high-value targets”, warning that they and “their patrons and protectors” would receive a “strong message of the certainty of punishment”.

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Albayalde said nearly 1.3 million drug users and street peddlers had surrendered, and that they would be strictly monitored, including 215,000 who have undergone rehabilitation.

Philippine police have several times promised to overhaul the anti-drugs campaign, although human rights groups say there has been little noticeable change.


At least five killed in shootout near Mexico’s Cancun — Tourist areas more dangerous?

July 28, 2018

At least five people were killed and three others wounded in a late Friday shootout between police and criminals near the resort town of Cancun, a magnet for tourists on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, local officials said.

Around 9pm (0200 GMT Saturday) unidentified gunmen opened fire after breaking into an enclosure next to a restaurant in Puerto Juarez, located some 16 kilometers (10 miles) north of the Cancun tourist area, the Quintana Roo state prosecutor’s office said in a preliminary report.

© AFP | A Mexican federal police officer stands guard at the site where at least five people, including a ministerial police officer, were killed in Puerto Juarez, in Quintana Roo state

“Of the five killed, one was a ministerial police agent,” the statement said, adding that the four others killed apparently worked at the site.

A police commander was among the wounded, and there were no reports of tourists at the site of the shooting, the statement said.

Millions of foreign tourists, especially from the United States and Europe, visit Cancun and other nearby resorts such as Playa del Carmen and Tulum each year.

Since early 2017 however there has been an increased turf war between drug gangs in Quintana Roo.

In the first half of 2018, 279 people were murdered in the southern Mexican state in drug-related violence, according to Semaforo Delictivo, an NGO that follows drug-related crime.


Australia’s Great Barrier Reef: Scientist Hope They Have a Solution for Dying Coral

July 20, 2018

Australia announced plans Friday to explore concepts such as firing salt into clouds and covering swathes of water with a thin layer of film in a bid to save the embattled Great Barrier Reef.

The UNESCO World Heritage-listed reef, about the size of Japan or Italy, is reeling from two straight years of bleaching as sea temperatures rise because of climate change.

Experts have warned that the 2,300-kilometre (1,400-mile) long area could have suffered irreparable damage.

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While the government has pledged to tackle climate change — the greatest threat to the world’s largest living structure — there has also been a push to explore shorter-term measures to buy the reef some time.

Canberra in January offered Aus$2.0 million (US$1.5 million) to attract innovative ideas to protect the site, which is also under pressure from farming runoff, development and the predatory crown-of-thorns starfish.

Six schemes selected out of a total of 69 submissions will be tested to see if they are feasible.

One selected concept is cloud brightening where salt crystals harvested from seawater are fired into clouds, making them more reflective and therefore deflecting solar rays back into space.

David Mead, a researcher at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, said the idea might seem wacky but the proposal has real potential.

“The team have been looking at using a very fine nozzle to pump small droplets of salt water at the rate of several billion per second,” he told national broadcaster ABC.

“The water vaporises and you’re left with a salt particle which will float around, and if you can introduce those into the system you can increase the amount of sunlight reflected back.”

Another idea was a biodegradable “sun shield”, where an ultra-thin film containing light-reflecting particles covers some reef waters to protect corals from heat stress.

“The great thing about the film is it is only a molecule thick so you can swim straight through it and it’ll just keep self-forming,” Andrew Negri from the Australian Institute of Marine Science told the ABC.

Other short-listed projects include mass producing coral larvae with the aid of 3D-printed surfaces to support new growth, and large-scale harvesting and relocation of larvae.

The experimental commissions came as Canberra said Friday it was updating its Aus$2.0 billion “Reef 2050” plan — first unveiled in 2015 — to protect the reef, with further measures to improve water quality.



See also:

The Great Barrier Reef Is Losing Its Ability to Recover from Bleaching Events



Great Barrier Reef: Tourist industry wakes up to reef’s climate risks

July 8, 2018

Tourist operators on the Great Barrier Reef are shifting their stance on climate change, with the peak industry body opposing Adani’s “mega coal mine”, and acknowledging fossil fuel use has to be phased out.

In an unprecedented declaration, a year in the making, the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators (AMPTO) and Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) called on “all our political leaders…to fight for the future of our reef”.

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Great Barrier Reef tour operators are shifting their stance on climate change, and the threat it poses for corals in Australia and around the world.

Photo: Dean Miller, Great Barrier Reef Legacy

“The carbon pollution from coal, oil and gas is heating the air and the oceans to dangerous levels,” the statement said, noting the record marine heatwaves in 2016 and 2017 had damaged coral reefs worldwide. “It’s not too late to save our Reef but time is critical.”

“On climate change, I’m sold,” Col McKenzie, AMPTO’s long-serving chief executive, told Fairfax Media. “It’s a man-made issue.”

By Peter Hannam

The declaration has already drawn dozens of signatories among tourist businesses and adds to local calls for climate action from local government such as Douglas Shire council.

Imogen Zethoven, the society’s reef campaign director, said the tourism industry had been “in a state of shock” after the first bout of mass coral bleaching in 2016, and had resisted discussing climate change.

But a second bout in 2017 brought a recognition that a warming planet “is an existential threat to the reef and the tourism industry”, Ms Zethoven said.


Tony Fontes, a dive operator based in the Whitsundays since the 1980s, called AMPTO’s shift “a huge step”.

“It’s overdue but it is happening,” Mr Fontes said. “Basically we need a mass campaign” to protect the reef.

How far the tourist industry push dovetails with the anti-Adani campaign remains to be seen.

Bob Manning, Cairns Regional Council mayor, doubts opposition to the Indian miner’s proposed giant Carmichael mine in the Galilee Basin “gets us anywhere”.

Still, “Adani has done us no favour overseas”, Mr Manning said. “It’s hard for us to say we are responsibly managing the reef…but at the same time we’re letting those coal ships through.”

A spokeswoman for Adani said the company remains “100 per cent committed to the Carmichael project and are confident of securing finance”.

“Strict safety and environmental standards already governing shipping along the Queensland coast will ensure there is no impact to the Great Barrier Reef,” she said.

‘Global issue’

Ian Macfarlane, chief executive of the Queensland Resources Council, said coal from the basin “is high energy, lower emission coal when compared with lower quality, higher emission coals sourced from Indonesia and India”.

“The addressing of climate change is a global issue and requires all countries to be involved in lowering emissions,” he said.

Mark Read, acting director of field management at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, said the tourism industry’s new stance comes even as visitor numbers rebound to record levels.

“These are the people who spend their lives taking people out, [who have] lived and breathed and tried to make a living through these tough times,” Dr Read said.

Still, the authority is not in a position to discuss curbs on Australian coal, such as the Adani mine.

Climate change “is the thing that the global community most desperately needs to tackle if we’re going to…give the reef a real possible chance for a long-term future,” Dr Read said.

The author travelled to the Great Barrier Reef courtesy of the Climate Council.

“China’s Hawaii” Wants Uncensored Access To Internet

June 22, 2018

China’s Hainan island has proposed allowing foreign visitors access to censored websites such as YouTube and Facebook, a double standard that has raised cries of indignation from the country’s internet users.

The province, known as China’s Hawaii thanks to its resorts and tropical beaches, is set to become the country’s largest free trade zone and hopes to attract increased investment in hi-tech industries, as well as more tourist dollars.

© AFP/File | Hainan, known as China’s Hawaii thanks to its resorts and tropical beaches, hopes to attract more tourist dollars

Part of that effort includes making the island more hospitable to foreign tourists through such steps as instituting visa-free travel and making it easier to use foreign credit cards.

But authorities also want to take a more dramatic step: creating “foreign tourist gathering spots” where visitors can “normally use popular foreign social media sites Facebook, Twitter and YouTube,” according to a copy of the proposal posted earlier this month on the provincial government’s official website.

The sites, along with Google, Instagram and other popular services, are banned in mainland China as well as Hainan.

The country heavily censors its internet to prevent the spread of information deemed unflattering to the government or damaging to public morals.

The suggestion that foreign guests be given privileges that are denied to Chinese people themselves set off a firestorm of criticism on China’s own social media websites.

Users of the popular microblog Weibo posted thousands of comments, most of which were quickly taken down.

“This is completely despicable, shameless and obscene reverse discrimination,” one commenter raged.

“Resist discriminatory treatment!” shouted another, a remark that popped up in many of the responses to the post.

Chinese internet users wanting to view the proposal will struggle to find it, after the Hainan government quickly removed the document from its website.


Anger Over Tourists Swarming Vacation Hot Spots Sparks Global Backlash

May 22, 2018

QUEENSTOWN, New Zealand—Towering mountain ranges, forests and glacier-fed rivers made New Zealand the perfect stand-in for Middle Earth in “The Lord of the Rings” movie series and a cinematic billboard for the country’s natural beauty.

Today, jet boats rip down rivers seeking the mythical Isengard, where the wizard Gandalf was imprisoned. “Freedom campers” in rented vans leave trails of waste. Tens of thousands of helicopter trips annually deposit visitors, some in flip-flops, on New Zealand glaciers that were once the realm of expert climbers.

One tour group had to be rescued after trying to walk barefoot to Mount Ngauruhoe, in apparent homage to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Mount Doom.

Tourists on an ice plateau above Milford Sound.
Tourists on an ice plateau above Milford Sound. PHOTO: RACHEL PANNETT/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Elected officials are weighing measures from new tourist taxes to tighter camper-van restrictions. One town is considering shutting Wi-Fi at night to deter campers. Queenstown, whose mayor says it has 120 visitors a year for every taxpayer, is weighing whether to restrict Airbnb rentals.

On Waiheke Island off Auckland, protests broke out last year after double-decker tour buses appeared, clogging two-lane roads. One man in shorts stood down a bus until the tourists disembarked. A resident elsewhere became so annoyed with jet boats in a river near his property he hired a digger to divert the water; officials threatened legal action if he persisted.

Tourism, which many countries once considered a business niche that could yield easy revenue, has become a mega-industry. And those millions of tourists who descend each year on small towns, once-lonely beaches and historic sites are generating a global backlash.

A helicopter flight to the ice plateau above Milford Sound. Tour buses crowd Queenstown’s streets. The peaks rising behind a Chinese group, about to begin a jet-boat tour on the Dart River near Queenstown, became the Misty Mountains in ‘Lord of the Rings.’PHOTOS: RACHEL PANNETT/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

International tourist arrivals globally grew to 1.3 billion in 2017, the United Nations’ World Tourism Organization says. That is up from 674 million in 2000 and 278 million in 1980, propelled by the rise of budget air travel, social media, an emerging Chinese middle class and technologies that make distant places easy to navigate.

A wave of antitourism demonstrations took place in popular European destinations last summer, including Venice, Mallorca and San Sebastián, Spain. In Barcelona, youth groups were filmed slashing rental-bicycle tires, and officials banned tour groups from parts of the city.

Tour boats in Milford Sound on New Zealand’s remote southwest corner. The region lent its moody scenery to ‘Lord of the Rings.’PHOTOS: RACHEL PANNETT/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Fodor’s in 2016 began publishing a “No Go” list reflecting concerns that tourism was destroying the world’s best places. Featured this year: the Galápagos Islands and parts of Thailand, and a designation for “Places That Don’t Want You to Visit” because their governments are trying to combat overcrowding.

Economic driver

Tourism remains a crucial and welcome economic driver in many places, especially developing countries such as Cambodia and parts of Africa where visitors’ spending has lifted many out of poverty. A number of countries with well-established attractions, such as Egypt, have been hurt in some recent yearsas tourism fell off during periods of unrest.

In New Zealand, “we’re hoping for a good debate about this and no knee-jerk reaction,” says Chris Roberts, chief executive of Tourism Industry Aotearoa, an association representing hoteliers and tourist operators. “Tourists are a massive economic benefit.”

Many top tourist destinations, including U.S. national parks, have long worked to strike a balance between luring tourist money and controlling crowds.

World of TravelersThe number of people traveling globally hasmore than doubled in the past two decadesInternational arrivals, in billionsSources: World Bank; World Tourism Organization(2017)

The latest surge is different, say experts such as Simon Milne, who has researched tourism around the world, and says frustrations have been boiling at an unprecedented level, especially the past 18 months. “We can’t ignore the fact that tourists don’t have a good rap in many places,” said Mr. Milne, director of the New Zealand Tourism Research Institute at Auckland University of Technology.

Since last summer’s Europe protests, the industry has made “overtourism” a focus. More than 60 tourism ministers and private-sector leaders gathered in November to discuss the issue at a summit on the topic co-organized by the U.N. Overtourism was also a theme in March at ITB Berlin, a major industry convention.

Tourists on Maya Bay Beach, Thailand. Cleaning up a beach on Boracay island in the Philippines.PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES

Thailand said in March it would close Maya Bay on Koh Phi Phi Leh, an island where Leonardo DiCaprio’s “The Beach” was filmed, from June to September because overtouristing was damaging the marine environment. The Philippines in April announced that Boracay, an island once known for crystal-clear waters, would close to tourists for six months over concerns about pollution.

China’s emergence as a tourist source is adding to crowds. Outbound Chinese tourists rose to more than 60 million last year from fewer than 20 million a decade earlier, according to Chinese data.

The Chinese spent $261 billion vacationing abroad in 2016, more than travelers from any other country, and China has accounted for roughly 80% of the growth in global tourism in dollar terms since 2008, according to the U.N. New Zealand’s former prime minister, Bill English, last year declared during a visit by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang that 2019 would be the “China-New Zealand Year of Tourism.”

Note: arrivals are for the fiscal year ended February 2018; expenditure for the year ending December 2017. NZ$1 billion = US$694.6 million

Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

Yet the boom in Chinese visitors has added to traffic at some tourist hot spots, such as the white-sand tropical beaches and coral reefs of Southeast Asia, that were already under strain from throngs of visitors.

Kiwi crisis

New Zealanders once thought of tourism as a green alternative to industries such as mining or timber. Advances in aviation in the 1990s helped make the country more accessible, and government officials moved to capitalize, developing a global-tourism campaign.

In ads after the first “Lord of the Rings” film in 2001, the slogan “100% Pure New Zealand” began morphing into “100% Middle-earth.” The Department of Conservation formed a commercial-business unit to find more ways to generate income from protected areas, providing GPS coordinates of “Rings” locations.

Tourism became a top New Zealand export, along with dairy. “The landscape is so beautiful it looks fake,” says Amy Blitzer, a 34-year-old project manager from New York who took a helicopter flight to a glacier recently.

A Helicopter Landing at Milford Aerodrome

Milford Aerodrome in Fiordland National Park. Nearly 800,000 tourists visit the remote area each year.

Places such as Queenstown, gateway to numerous “Rings” sites, boomed. International visitors passing through the local airport hit 567,000 last year, from 39,000 in 2005. Property prices soared. Unemployment averaged 1.9% in 2017, versus 4.7% nationally.

“I’ve lived here for 36 years and the place is a whole lot better than when I came here,” says Jim Boult, the town’s mayor. “Some New Zealanders have the idea that because it isn’t like it was in 1965, it’s not good any more.”

Locals complain traffic has become a problem, and residents who can’t afford homes feel squeezed out. Jason Medina, an events manager, says he moved to Queenstown in 2004 and found a sleepy mountain town where houses rented for about $1,000 a month. Now, he says people are lucky to get single rooms for that.

A tourism-industry survey last fall found 40% of the country worried tourism was putting too much pressure on New Zealand, up from 18% two years earlier.

Much backlash revolves around Fiordland, a wilderness area near Queenstown. One of its 14 fiords, Milford Sound, is accessible by a narrow, winding roadincluding a one-lane tunnel. Nearly 800,000 tourists visit it each year, many on buses running such tight schedules that some drivers have only a 30-minute buffer to complete the return journey while complying with official limits that let them drive again the next day. Accidents involving overseas drivers are common.

Dozens of tour boats circled the fiord on a recent day, taking turns idling by pods of dolphins and nosing up to waterfalls.

A Milford Sound scene.

The 87-year-old Federated Mountain Clubs, one of New Zealand’s leading conservation groups, has filed dozens of complaints to the country’s conservation department over the past five years, many related to Fiordland. A petition it circulated against a proposed monorail line and new tunnel into the park received nearly 10,000 signatures. Both proposals were ultimately blocked.

Another battle was over Routeburn trail, one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks,”winding through ancient forests connecting the Fiordland and Mount Aspiring national parks. The conservation department had granted a guiding company the right to nearly double the number of guided walkers it took on the route, overriding limits set out in a recently agreed park plan. The walk was already so popular that hikers complained of congestion.

The department justified its decision under “exceptional circumstances,” a clause in conservation law. After an investigation, an independent ombudsman, whose rulings aren’t binding, called the claim of exceptional circumstances “nonsense on stilts.” The department publicly apologized to the climber who made the complaint but didn’t reverse its loosening of trail rules.

In 2016, at the urging of helicopter companies wanting to offer more flights for Lunar New Year, the conservation department granted a trial eightfold increase in aircraft landings on a remote Fiordland glacier.

The alpine club started a crowdfunding campaign to pay for the department to make its reasoning public. An ombudsman investigation in April ruled the department “acted unreasonably” and that “aspects of its decision appear to be contrary to law.”

Following Frodo’s Footprints

Hikers take to Tongariro National Park looking for landscapes from the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies.

The Mangatepopo Road parking lot at Tongariro Alpine track.

Guides drop off hikers at Mangatepopo Road.

Heading up the Tongariro Alpine track.

Hikers take a break.

Hikers from Switzerland, Germany and France.

Soda Springs.

A hiker walks past Mount Ngauruhoe, Mount Doom in the ’Rings’ films.

Whakapapa skifield was the backdrop for some Mordor scenes.

The Mangawhero River, where Gollum catches a fish in ’The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.’
Guides drop off hikers at Mangatepopo Road.
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Marie Long, the conservation department’s director of planning permissions and land, says it now agrees it made a wrong decision. She says her advice to staff is to stick to existing limits in national-park management plans.

The chief pilot for Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters, Andy Clayton, says he worries a few rogue tourism operators are spoiling things for ones that try to protect New Zealand’s green image. With helicopters, he says, “it’s all about flying neighborly.”

Some industry leaders say it is contradictory that there are New Zealanders who have turned against tourism, given its economic benefits.

“People forget that 10 years ago…the industry and New Zealand communities were screaming out for growth,” says Simon England-Hall, chief executive of Tourism New Zealand, an industry marketing agency. He says operators are aware of the changing mood and that “most of New Zealand is not yet benefiting from increased tourism.”

Last year, the government’s conservation department asked New Zealanders to nominate new areas for development to take pressure off popular hiking trails. They received around 30 responses from a population of 4.8 million, a response rate that Kevin Hackwell, chief conservation adviser for conservation group Forest & Bird, says isn’t surprising.

“Why would anyone want to volunteer their favorite local walk,” he says, “to be commercialized in the way the ‘Great Walks’ have, and overrun?”

Last September’s national election divided the nation between those who benefited from the conservative administration’s nine-year stewardship of the economy and those who felt left behind. The winning center-left Labour Party pledged to tax tourists to help fund new infrastructure.

The new conservation minister, Eugenie Sage, a conservationist who fought the Fiordland monorail, says increasing aircraft landings and expanding commercial activities on conservation land can’t go on forever.

“There is a limit,” she says. “If you’re going to a concert and the venue is sold out, you can’t go.”

Write to Rachel Pannett at

Party-Hard Thailand Is Going After Rehab Tourists

May 15, 2018
Thailand becomes a top spot for drug, alcohol treatment — Opioid, heroin and methamphetamine crises fueling demand

Related image

Thailand, a tropical paradise known as a place to let loose, these days is starting to get another reputation: as a low-cost option for foreigners looking to dry out.

While the Southeast Asian country’s fun-in-the-sun reputation has attracted more than 200 million visitors over the past decade, Thailand in recent years has become one of the world’s top medical tourism destinations. Along with reasonably priced medical options, its warm climate and relatively cheap food and lodging makes it a prime destination for those seeking alcohol or drug recovery at hospitals or rehab centers.

The Cabin in Chiang Mai.

Photographer: Adam Birkan for Bloomberg Businessweek

The opioid epidemic in North America, the heroin crisis in Europe and methamphetamine use in Australia have led to waves of addicts seeking help. With months-long waiting lists in their own countries, tourists find booking a room at one of Thailand’s rehab centers becomes a very attractive option, especially with the country’s lenient visa guidelines.

“Most of our clients come from overseas,” said Adrian Crump, chairman of The Cabin Addiction Services Group, Thailand’s largest Western-style luxury rehabilitation center.

Even Thailand’s temples are offering rehab services.

About two hours north of Bangkok at the foot of the mountains in Saraburi province, the golden roof of a Buddhist temple stands out among the lush forest that surrounds it. The Thamkrabok Temple, or Wat Thamkrabok in Thai, is known for its 15-day drug rehabilitation program, during which patients project liquids through all orifices by vomiting, sweating and excreting. The cost for treatment? None. Patients must pay their own transportation there and for food, and vow never to do drugs again.

“You can’t underestimate drugs,” said the monastery’s Vice Abbot Phra Ajahn Vichit Akkajitto. “That’s why we must have them take a vow, live up to that vow and never break it because the vow will make them stronger.”

Monks, Nuns

The monks and nuns at the Thamkrabok Temple are in charge of growing, collecting and cooking the herbs in the temple’s homemade medicines, and assigning chores to patients. The monastery has attracted so much attention for its remedies that more foreigners are seeking out treatment, said the vice abbot. While many patients return home, some of Vichit’s foreign pupils have been ordained and stayed on at the monastery.

Other options are more in keeping with Thailand’s reputation for lush resorts.

In the outskirts of the Northern city of Chiang Mai is The Cabin. Its 120 residences each have private pools, al fresco dining areas, gyms and clinics with mountain views. The Cabin boasts having had patients from more than 60 countries, and are specially catering to their Middle Eastern clientele with an Arabic program. They have also rolled out separate programs for the LGBT community and young male clients.

It is the country’s most costly in-patient facility, though the expense is relative compared with U.S. counterparts such as the Betty Ford Center or The Meadows, which charge up to $67,750 and $54,300 respectively for their programs. The Cabin’s starts at $15,900 for a month’s stay.

“Personally, I don’t think that treatment can justify charging $50,000 for a month,” said Martin Peters, director of Lanna Rehab, another clinic in Chiang Mai.

The ease of getting a visa also is a factor drawing medical tourists to Thailand. Passport holders from a list of 55 countries can walk straight from the plane through immigration and are given at least a 30-day stay as a tourist. Thailand last year earned up to 49 billion baht ($1.56 billion) in revenue from such patients, according to Kasikorn Research Center.

Remodeled Resort

Lanna Rehab, a 24-bed luxury in-patient center hidden away behind large rice paddy fields, promotes its price point. The center was remodeled for rehabilitation from a resort. Lanna’s co-founders, Martin Peters and Darren Lockie, greet their clients by name and ask about their progress as they walk out of their morning group therapy session.

Lanna Rehab in Chiang Mai.

Photographer: Adam Birkan for Bloomberg Businessweek

Admittance to Lanna Rehab is less expensive than at The Cabin. Most clients pay cash for their stays — and most say it is less expensive than what they would pay in their own countries even where insurance might cover some of the cost. The Cabin will accept international insurance policies, though insured clients are rare.

“Thailand has a good reputation for the rehab space,” said Lockie, also Lanna Rehab’s managing director. “I think there’s good opportunity for Thailand to establish itself as the rehab hub of Asia, or the world.”


Philippines: Goverment Turns Tourist Area Boracay Into Police and Military Training Site During Clean-Up To Improve Business With China

May 1, 2018

Philippines: President Duterte’s controversial closure and rehabilitation of Boracay remains controversial. Word has leaked out that Chinese businessmen want to build a casino there. If this was in Duterte’s thinking, we just don’t know. But we do know the closure of the popular tourist site has cost thousands of Filipinos their jobs. Below is a letter to the editor complaining about an army of police officers President Duterte sent to Boracay to Keep The Peace:

Image result for Boracay, photos

Dear Editor:

The deployment of over 600 police and 200 military personnel to Boracay to enforce President Duterte’s controversial closure and rehabilitation order is overkill.

Since when did bullets and bombs become cleaning agents for coliform, or conservation tools for flying foxes, sea turtles, and coral reefs?

Ironically, this is done under the pretext of “providing security and peace” and “making tourists feel safe.”

Image result for police, army in Boracay, photos

Members of the Special Weapons and Tactics group simulate an assault during a security drill on Boracay

In reality, a fact-finding solidarity mission held by our affiliated local organizations last April 18-20 found that police threatened residents that they will turn Boracay into a “new Marawi.”

What the island needs instead are environmental specialists who could study the ecological situation and properly implement the rehabilitation of the island.

The coliform outbreak, coral reef bleaching, and habitat loss of important flora and fauna cannot be driven away by riot drills and live-fire exercises.

The people have suffered enough already from the loss of their livelihood (at least 36,000 lost jobs) and neglect by the government. Locals have been forced to flee the island by the hundreds.

Now they are threatened by virtual “martial law,” with restriction on movement and even suppression of media coverage.

Why is Mr. Duterte not deploying these armed forces instead to West Philippine Sea, Philippine Rise, and other areas where our national patrimony and sovereignty are being blatantly undermined?

Boracay needs scientists, engineers, development planners, social workers, and community organizers, not hundreds of troops and police.

These armed personnel must be pulled out of the island immediately.

LEON DULCE, national coordinator, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment,

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