Our roadtrip through England

It’s been two weeks we are touring around in England, to be more precise in the South West of this country. Just to swipe away all prejudices: most of the time we had fantastic weather, a bit colder than expected and only once we had heavy rain. However, we learned that English people do not call it rain when it only lightly drizzle (I would call it fine rain), they make very subtle differences for the amount of rain. The weather was an important element of our journey, as we camped all the time. Continue reading “Our roadtrip through England”

Petra

Holidays in Jordan, Part 2

I already wrote a bit about our holiday in Jordan last week. Today, we fly back home, my head is full with pictures and impressions. I need to sort out and reflect on what I have seen and experienced.

From the Dead Sea we drove through the Dana National Park to Petra. Already on the way to Petra I felt like I was on another planet, I had never seen such rock formations on the edge of a desert . Petra, the city carved out of rocks is very impressive. As a good tourist I had read about it before, but to see this about 2 300 year old city is something else. Until Petra, I had never heard of the Nabateans, Arabian desert people. The Nabateans originally lived in today’s Saudi Arabia and controlled the local caravan trade. About 2300 years ago, they extended their sphere of influence to the northwest of the Arabian peninsula along the caravan routes and settled down in Raqmu, today known as Petra. This city became their center of power. The place was well-chosen: six caravan routes crossed here and there was water from the surrounding mountains. Not only were the Nabateans intelligent builders, they carved a city out from the rocks for about 40 000 people, supplied water through a advanced irrigation system (and also drained the sewage), buried their kings there and built temples, churches and worship places. They also provided hospitality services to the traders who passed through the city by taking care of humans and animals. People could worship in one of the many temples, churches and chapels, representing the various religions of this time.
To this day, this is at least my impression, this hospitality and tolerance is something special to Jordanians. They are friendly and tolerant of strangers, it is easy to get in touch and after a few minutes you find yourself in lively discussions about God and the world (in the truest sense of the words).

Jordan has little mineral resources and has always created an income by collecting customs duties and taxes from trade routes. That is still the case today: the entrance fees to the national parks and cultural monuments are quite steep. One day Petra (from sunrise to sunset) costs 66 € per adult. In Wadi Rum, where we went afterwards, you pay an entrance to the National Park (which flows into the state treasury) and then you have the choice between different tours to discover the park: on foot, by camel or by jeep. You pay per hour and mode of transport. These revenues benefits the resident Bedouins. In theory, one could walk on foot to explore the Wadi, as Lawrence of Arabia used to do. I think that’s an option for a few people only.

Anyway, it’s definitely an unforgettable experience and if you want to see all these places you just have to pay.

After exploring Petra and Wadi Rum, we needed a seaside retreat, so we rented a room at the Read Sea Dive Center in Aqaba. This is a small, locally run hotel with a diving school, because this area still has coral reefs and a great variety of sea creatures to see. We did no go for a dive but relaxed for two days on the beach of Tala Bay, South of Aqaba.

Tala Bay is a resort town, much like Barcarès or Leucate Plage, but with a lot more luxury. Many foreigners and certainly a few wealthy Jordanians, Iraqis, Syrians, etc. have a summer residence there.
Tala Bay started in 2001 and
meanwhile, gated communities are developing along the entire coastline of the Gulf and they have some advantages to offer: investments are tax-free or are only taxed at 5%, nobody asks where the money comes from, everything is very discreet and legally secured.
Here, too, the mentality of the Jordanians is visible: open to all, good service, beautiful location, no stress, for a corresponding fee.

This mentality is also based on the admission of millions of refugees. Supported by international aid organizations and states with financial contributions these people are more or less integrated, get the citizenship and thus a right to education and work. However, Jordan also reached its limits. There have been several major refugees flows since 1948 and today more than 50% of the population is made up of former refugees, primarily Palestinians, but also people from other Arab countries.
It seems to me that this is part of a deal: Jordan receives the refugees from the crisis areas of the Arabian Peninsula, gets financial support and, more importantly, has no trouble with Israel and is not on the list of states to be democratized.

In Petra, I listened to a conversation between a tourist and a local tourist guide:

Tourist: Who owns Jordan?
Guide: Well, we are having a lot of tribes, they are all coming and going and live together.
Tourist: So they all own Jordan?
Guide: hmm, no, America owns Jordan.

Anyway, this holiday was very interesting, exciting and also relaxing and I could start the next journey immediately 😉

Holidays in Jordan

Since a few days we are traveling through Jordan. We visited Amman, Jerash and Madaba and now I am sitting in a very posh hotel at the Dead Sea, feeling bizarre when hearing the muezzin calling for the evening prayer and western music from the outside pool at the same time.

Jordan is a very old country, inhabited longer than one can imagine (it says since about 250 000 years) and thus it has rich experiences in living together despite different beliefs and origins.
It’s an interesting journey, not only because of the wonderful places we visited but also because I am really surprised about the way of living here. More than half of the population is from Palestine, original Jordans are more or less a minority taking into account that families have roots in different tribes from the Arabic peninsula.

Of course, I took the opportunity to discuss the current political situation with people I met and got to hear a lot of interesting stories. Everyone said its complicate and lies in the history but tribes and beliefs were never a barrier for living together in peace. The big trouble came with the end of the colonialism and the more or less arbitrary erected borders and countries.
What unifies many is the rejection of the israeli politics and their (from outside) implanted and supported belief that the Israelics have a right to live in the holy land, alone. That belief and the exploitation of resources by foreign powers was and is  the source of many wars and causes a lot of struggles until today. There is no easy solution, but the only way is living together by respecting each other. There is no religion better than another, all humans are equal, no matter of their beliefs. People said, that all the leaders of the Arabic countries and Egypt have old, strong bonds and meet regularly in an informal way and discuss all sorts of issues. There is a new generation of leaders trying to overcome differences for a common healthy development. Even Saudi Arabia made a plan for the sustainable development of its country through cooperation with Jordan and Egypt. There is hope: I learned yesterday, that a woman is the CEO of Saudi Arabia`s Commercial Bank 😉

In 27 Jahren um die Welt: Jordanien

Vor einem Jahr, so ungefähr um die gleiche Zeit, haben wir einen Plan gemacht, wie wir weiterhin arbeiten und leben wollen, und vor allem, wovon 😉
Dieser Plan hat richtig Arbeit gemacht, denn schließlich sind damit ganz essentielle Sachen verbunden die unser heutiges Leben betreffen und außerdem mußten wir einen Blick in die Zukunft werfen und irgendwie versuchen abzuschätzen, wie lange wir womit unsere Zeit verbringen wollen und möglicherweise können.
Der große Lebensplan enthält für die nächsten Jahre viele Aktivitäten, eine davon ist die Welt zu bereisen. Und so haben wir mal aufgelistet, wohin wir überall reisen wollen. Entstanden ist eine Liste mit 31 Ländern! Continue reading “In 27 Jahren um die Welt: Jordanien”

Global Tourism Forum Andorra

I had the opportunity to attend the Global Tourism Forum (GTF) in Andorra on Monday this week. Approximately 200 representatives, leaders of global players in the tourism industry, politicians and lobbyist where attending that event, organized by UNWTO.
The forum was hosted by the government of Andorra, sponsored by Visa, Andorra Telecom, Feda, the Andorra energy supplier and the media partner was CNN.

The motto of this event was “Building New Models for Tourism Growth, Competitiveness & Responsibility“ and I was curious to go there as I expected some inspiration for our places2b project which is focused on the development of sustainable structures for local based tourism.
I have to admit, I got some doubts after getting the invitation from the General Secretary

be a good tourist, spend your money here at this wonderful place.

The wonderful place Andorra is situated in the Pyrenées and lives on building, banking and tourism, which contributes 80% to the GDP of the country. The mountains are spectacular and the possibilities for winter sport seems to be really good, but what I have seen from the “rest” of the country startled me. I guess there are more apartments and shops then inhabitants, on nearly every accessible mountain houses have been built. Andorra did a lot according to the motto of the forum: more than 10 million visitors per year, a per capita income of 44,900 Euros (9th place in the world) and it is a tax heaven. The country does not have an unemployment problem like their neighbor countries France and Spain.
Not sure, how sustainable the economy will be after changing the tax status. What will they do, when every mountain is covered with houses and ski resorts?

The conference day started with a session, presented by Visa: tourism, sports and mega-events. Paul Wilke from Visa presented some figures about tourist spending during the soccer world cup  The tourism minister from South Africa, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, explained how the world cup changed the lives of many South Africans. According to him, the investments were carefully planned and placed in poor regions of the country to get people out of poverty. The big infrastructural investments like streets, hotels, stadiums are aimed to be used after and not going to be demolished like in many other hosting countries. What remains is the pride of the country.

In a debate about competitive factors for tourism, Gloria Guevara Manzo, Secretary of Tourism from Mexico explained the strategy of the Mexican government for tourism development on the case of Cancun. According to her, all responsables learnt from their mistakes not having included local people in the development process of Cancun, a city which did not exist 40 years ago and which is now one of the country’s biggest tourism resort. Cancun will be enlarged and this time, they started a participatory process to realize growth, social inclusion and build more hotels.

The director of China’s Institute of Tourism Industry and Enterprises Development, LI Zhongguang, informed about China’s plans to develop 60 touristic places in the country in the next years.
The tenor of the other speeches were mostly the same. The Vicepresident of the Spanish Sol Meliá Group complained the temporary closure of hotels in Egypt and Tunisia because of the political situation but emphasized that democracy is always better for tourism development even it takes longer to get to decisions.
Some other speakers instead wished they could act like the Chinese government, just simply impose actions. My neighbor, a student from Colombia, asked the panelists how they value the sustainability in their plans and the impact for further generations. The simple answer was: there is no simple answer. The South African tourism minister finally summarized:

If we have to decide between jobs and environment, we will go for jobs. Later on, we can think about environmental issues.

In a side event, the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report from the World Economic Forum (WEF) was presented.
The organizers of the GTF aims to be more connected to the WEF, and want to have more influence, status, etc. pointing out the economical role of tourism in the world.
The presentation of this report was long-awaited and hot debated by participants as that results are good enough for making politics with headlines:

[flickr-photo:id=5515128166,size=-]

Lets have a deeper look on it.
The pillars in the listings are calculated from variables derived from WEF surveys, summarized in three subindexes:

  1. Subindex A – Travel & tourism (T&T) regulatory framework:
    Policy rules and regulations, Environmental sustainability, Safety and security, Health and hygiene, Prioritization of T&T
  2. Subindex B – T&T business environment and infrastructure:
    Air transport infrastructure, Ground transport infrastructure, Tourism infrastructure, ICT infrastructure, Price competitiveness in the T&T industry
  3. Subindex C – T&T human, cultural, and natural resources:
    Human resources, Affinity for T&T, Natural resources, Cultural resources

The calculation of the numbers is explained in the report, the single collected data itself are not open accessible.

Below, the ranking in these pillars:

[flickr-photo:id=5514534011,size=-]

And here the table with the comparison of the three subindexes to the overall index:

[flickr-photo:id=5515128248,size=-]

In the last session, I attended the consultant Anita Mendiratta who gave a short overview of web-based communciation tools, bite-sized presented to audience which is probably not familiar in using these resources. The presentation was garnished with “funny little” advertising videos from Microsoft and an airline company.

The forum was an ambivalent experience for me, somehow strange. Travel and tourism is a big business, contributes with 9% to the worldwide GDP and there still is a big development potential. The tourism industry is often far away from sustainable development, not paying enough attention to environmental issues, neither to the social inclusion of local communities.

citoyenneté actif

Deuxieme reunion places2b

Hier, nous avons eu notre deuxième réunion locale pour travailler sur le projet places2b project.

Juste pour vous rappeler, ce projet vise à engager un processus participatif entre les acteurs locaux, les décideurs et les habitants locaux sur le développement durable des structures touristiques et à créer un groupe local qui établit un guide touristique local/régional.

La création du guide touristique local est probablement plus facile à réaliser et implique plus de plaisir.

L’autre tâche, le processus participatif, est plus chargé d’émotion et, par conséquent, un peu plus compliqué. C’est la première fois pour moi que j’effectue un projet complet en France et, en même temps, que je suis la coordinatrice responsable du projet entier. Je l’ai fait à l’époque en Allemagne de nombreuses fois, mais ce projet ici est différent en raison de certaines différences culturelles.

Hier, par exemple, un participant s’est demandé, que le groupe doit avoir un statut juridique avant de travailler sur les tâches du projet. Sinon, personne, dans notre cas, aucune municipalité, ne va écouter ce que nous discuterons et suggérerons. En d’autres termes, quand moi, en tant que citoyen «normal», discute certaines questions sur l’intérêt public, mes suggestions ne seront pas acceptées par les autorités judiciaires!

La personne mentionnée, il s’agit d’une chose en français. Mais, est-ce que c’est vrai? Cela implique, que je ne peux pas penser, dire et discuter des questions d’intérêt public, même pas pour le village où je vis? Je ne le crois pas! Chaque citoyen a le droit et devoir être une partie active d’une société démocratique et ne cesse de penser après avoir donné son vote aux élections.

Cette discussion a été un peu étrange pour moi, surtout après l’expérience d’une discussion ouverte d’esprit à l’atelier sur le tourisme la semaine dernière au Pays de Galles, où je faisais partie. Mais de toute façon, j’ai aussi réalisé, qu’il existe un grand souhait de la participation et la contribution de la part des habitants locales ainsi qu’un énorme soutient pour le projet. Et soutenir ce genre de la citoyenneté est l’un des grands objectifs des programmes européens d’apprentissage.

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Active citizenship

Deuxieme reunion places2b

Yesterday, we had our second local meeting for working on the places2b project.

Just to remind you, this project aims to start a participatory process between local stakeholders, decision makers and local people about the development of sustainable touristic structures and, a group of local people creates a local/regional touristic guide, online and a paper version.

The creation of the local tourist guide is probably easier to realize and implies more fun.

The other task, the participatory process, is more emotionally charged and therefore, a bit more complicate.

It’s the first time for me running a complete project in France and at the same time being the responsible coordinator of the project. I did it in Germany many times, but this project here is different because of some cultural differences.

Yesterday, such as, one participant questioned, that the group has to have a legal status before we work on project tasks. If not, nobody, in our case, no municipality, will listen to what we discuss and suggest. In other words, when I, as a “normal” citizen, discuss some issues on public interest, it will be not accepted by legal authorities!

The person mentioned, this is a French thing. But, is this true? That implies, that I am not allowed to think, discuss and contribute to issues of public interest, even not for the village I live in? I won’t believe that! Each citizen has the right and also, the duty, to be an active part of a democratic society and do not stop thinking after giving the vote in elections.

This discussion was a bit strange for me, especially after the experience of open-minded discussion I was a part of during the tourism workshop last week in Wales. But anyway, I also realized, that there is a big wish of participation and contribution on the part of local people and that sustains the project. And supporting active citizenship is one of the big aims of Europe.

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The future of tourism

Last week, I attended a workshop about The Future of Tourism: Tomorrow’s Tourist Today, held in Llandudno Junction, Wales.

It was a great opportunity to “spy” how the Welsh are approaching the topic and the inherent challenges as we are already started a project about the development of sustainable tourism in our region. About 45 representatives from local associations, municipalities and entrepreneurs discussed and developed in a very constructive way ideas for the development of tourism in Wales. There was enough room for brainstorming, free spinning of ideas, drawing wishes but also for the serious drafting of those ideas which a majority wishes to make real.

What impressed me was the self-conception of the players that only their unite actions leads to success. No envy-discussions, no hiding behind administrative or other barriers, just open minds.

I felt very inspired and on top, I got the tourism poker game, a tool, which I would love to use to moderate the round table discussions in our project here in Fitou.

Tourism in Languedoc Roussillon

Today, while preparing the places2b meeting for next week, we did a little research about the situation in Languedoc-Roussillon.

It seems, we hit the mark with our project aims because we want to initialize a discussion with local people and local stakeholders about the development of sustainable structures for tourism in our region. There is a regional development program which listed important points such as raising the expenditures for tourism (today only 2 % of the region’s overall budget is spent for tourism), the improvement and modernization of accommodations and restaurants, make the region to an all-season-holiday target and invest in education. All by including local companies, decision makers, inhabitants.

Sounds good and it’s a long-term development.

We start smaller 😉

We try to get local people, stakeholders, decision makers involved in a participatory process by establishing round tables where we discuss local issues on tourism. A few weeks ago, we invited the mayor and local decision makers to welcome the project group and discuss the issues of the project. Until today, we have not gotten any reliable answer from our local government.

Maybe we will be more successful by involving a group of local people in writing an online travel guide for the region. We have our first presentation this week.

places2be

Due to fast globalization and the possibility to get to every place in the world in less time, people want to have authentic and individualized experiences while spending their spare time. The preservation and promotion of their landscape and culture for developing sustainable touristic structures will be important for European regions and its embedded local areas. That can also be a chance for supporting the diversification of regional economies.

European institutions from France, Italy, Wales, Turkey and Greece are partners in that two years project. They all have in common that they are situated in rural regions with growing tourism.

cocoate.com from France coordinates all activities.

The project has two main objectives:

  1. It will be a start of a participatory process between local stakeholders, decision makers and local people about the development of sustainable touristic structures.
    We want to share experiences, find similarities and develop new approaches by establishing regular discussion roundtables in each partners region.
    Thus, the project offers the possibility to take part at meetings in each partner’s country.
  2. We are going to write a local/regional touristic guide.
    We will pick out locations of character, those with personal connections and let people tell why they are special, unique and important for them and address why people should visit these places. We will consider the fact, that most of those places are threatened.
    Preserving such places for future generations can stimulate and enrich people to preserve their local identity and develop new business approaches.
    An active participation of the mayor, local representatives and local people are very welcome!

Needless to say, that we are coordinating this project also using Open Atrium 😉

All in all, I am so enthusiastic and happy to do that projects for the next two years.

Let’s see, how it works!