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Black Tie International Travel  1
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Black Tie International:  Travel - Bob Nicolaides Destinations 2012 Sparta

Travelogue…with Bob Nicolaides

Destinations 2012


bob _nicolaides


Following the remaining paths of the warriors

 Sparta has for many centuries fascinated and inspired a great number of creative minds as well as history fans. It is a gem of a tourist spot which offers a surprising alternative to a mainstream holiday destination in Greece. A vacation there often means lying on the beach, enjoying the clean warm sea and not moving an inch as one feels this is all they need. Greece is fortunate enough to offer a fascinating number of small resorts which are teeming with tourists for many months each year.

For those, who are looking for an alternative holiday sampling more of the country’s spirit, culture and history and do not mind a less relaxing trip, Sparta is the place to visit. The former glory was recalled recently by the blockbuster movie 300, so once again the notion remains fresh in many minds. Sparta, or Sparti, as it is called by Hellenes, lies 3 hours away by car  from Athens on the Peloponnese peninsula The area is strikingly rich in heritage and particularly the Middle Ages have left their indelible mark in the history of the area. There is an astonishing number of castles, churches as well as monasteries and charming medieval towns to be explored here.

The original site of Sparta has for centuries been just a small village with little importance. However, its famous past is apparent, and tourists longing to visit it, will enjoy the Archaeological Museum, the Tomb of Leonidas, the most famous king of antiquity, and naturally explore the ruins of the ancient frugal city. These feature the Rotunda, the Theatre and the Temple of Athena Chalkioikos. The entire Peloponnese offers striking vistas and Sparta is only one of its many highlights. The magnificent Taygetos Mountain, ideal for hiking, serves as  a treat, as do  hundreds of impressive historical sites.

Moscow City Sells Out

 The City of Moscow has embarked on a huge project of divesting itself of non-essential business interests. Already the city has earned $6.7bln from such sales, which is about an eighth of the city’s annual budget. The biggest sale so far has been the city’s stake in the Bank of Moscow to VTB for $3.5B. It also sold its 75% stake in Vnukovo airport to the federal Government for almost $1B. This is just the beginning. Moscow City still has large stakes in 39 companies, and the controlling interest in another 36.
 All are up for grabs.

Soon sweet makers United Confectioners will be on the block, and that’s expected to bring $365M along with another $53M  from the city’s stake in the Svoboda cosmetic firm, one of the oldest enterprises in the city. The historic Metropol and Slavyanskaya hotels may also face the auction gavel as well as its share in the Leningrad hotel. Although Moscow appears to have already sold its largest assets, there’s still much to be offered, including the option of privatizating Mosvodokanal which can potentially bring to its Treasury an amount comparable to that from the sale
of Bank of Moscow.

Moscow is beginning to lease historic buildings in need of renovation, with an auction planned at the end of April. According to the City Property Department, these structures are in need of expensive repairs, therefore they will be auctioned off  at low amounts, so that lessees will be able to operate them economically and with profit.

Armenia deals for Israelis who boycott Turkey

Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan invites Israeli tourists to visit this Caucasus nation which borders Iran and Turkey, and opts to attract Israeli tourists, who are now more reluctant to go to neighboring Turkey. In a special interview, Sargsyan said Armenia is working to fix the infrastructure to welcome more tourists as early as the spring of 2012. "We plan to accommodate up to 3 million tourists in the coming years, many of them from Israel," Sargsyan said. Armenia currently hosts about 750,000 tourists annually. Preparations include upgrading the hotel infrastructure and training travel agents. "Armenia is proud of its history and Christian heritage," Sargsyan added. "We have great potential for religious tourism, and we wish to learn more from Israel in this area."

Armenia offers many attractions to Israeli tourists. The lush sceneries of the Caucasus are dotted with sparse villages and lakes. One of the first nations to accept Christianity, Armenia has numerous ancient Christian sites from the early middle ages, part of its rich cultural heritage. Also one can visit the renown Armenian Brandy distillery, or the small but unique Jewish community in Yerevan.

Sargsyan promised to find ways to improve accessibility to Israeli tourists. Israelis can easily obtain a tourist's visa at the Yerevan airport. However, Armenian tourists seeking to visit Israel are encountering more obstacles, since there is no Israeli embassy in the country, and are required to apply for a visa in neighboring Georgia.



Travelers to Nairobi: Beware of the Escaped lions

The owner of a popular tourist attraction in Nairobi has urged local authorities to step up their efforts to capture several lions which have escaped from a nearby national park. Michael Carr-Hartley, who runs Giraffe Manor in the affluent Langata district of the Kenyan capital, said that two of his young giraffes and several domestic animals had been killed since December, and warned that the lions may pose a threat to humans. “They are fully-grown females and have been coming and going from the park for some time,” said Carr-Hartley. “They’ve killed two of our giraffes, a couple of dogs and have had a go at other animals. It is only a matter of time before a person gets attacked by one of them.”

He called for the Kenyan Wildlife Services to take action, but admitted that their resources are “stretched.” He also added that he thinks “someone has tried to capture [the lions] before, because they seem familiar with the standard traps. A much bigger pen needs to be constructed in order to catch them.” A Kenyan newspaper reported last month that traps had been used unsuccessfully, while angry residents in the area say they have been terrorized by the lions for months. Another report, disputed by authorities, claimed that a man had been attacked.

Giraffe Manor is located two kilometers from the Nairobi National Park, to the south-west of the city center. It lies in landscaped gardens and allows visitors to pet its rare Rothschild giraffes and other animals. There is also accommodation on-site.

 Gaffe: France tourism promoted with South African beach photo


French tourism bosses have spent more than £500,000 on an ad campaign to promote Northern France and its Mediterranean coast - only to realize that some of the pictures used are of a South African beach. The three-week-long promotion featured newspaper advertisements and saw 23 posters spread around the London Underground in a bid to lure British holidaymakers over to France during the Olympics. But in an embarrassing mix-up, the advertising agency used an image of a beach in Cape Town, thousands of miles from France,  for two of the posters. One shows a family racing along the sand with a sport-related 'humorous' slogan, ‘Sprint finish on the Northern France Coast', with rocks along the shore.

But the beach used in the poster was that of Llandudno, a suburb of Cape Town.

Eagle-eyed London fashion photographer Bradford Bird, (as Bird he should be eagle-eyed) who grew up there, recognized the familiar outcrop of rocks. It appears the beach also forms the backdrop to another poster, from a different angle, with the slogan: 'Discus on the Mediterranean Coast'. Tourism officials have replaced the ‘Northern France’ image on their website after being made aware of the gaffe. The British advertising agency in charge of the campaign has taken responsibility for the incident, saying that images were selected from a bank of 3,000 stock photographs of French beaches.

This is not the first time a tourist board has fallen foul of the same mistake. In March 2009, a Spanish tourist board used a picture of a paradise beach in Perth, Western Australia, to promote the Costa Brava. The organization had also only recently withdrawn an ad campaign that used pictures of the Bahamas to promote Girona, the Spanish province where the Costa Brava is located. They were dismissed as 'isolated incidents'.

Big Ben


The historical Big Ben to be renamed
Queen Elizabeth II

 British lawmakers want to rename one of London's most renown trademark - known to tourists around the world as "Big Ben" -- after Queen Elizabeth II, for her Diamond Jubilee. The Queen marks 60 years on the throne in 2012, and politicians believe that naming St. Stephen's Tower, the clock tower at the Houses of Parliament, in her honor would be a fitting tribute to her years of service.

"Not many kings and queens have served for such a long time," Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, who is leading the renaming campaign, said. "Only two have celebrated their Diamond Jubilee -- Queen Elizabeth II, and Queen Victoria. "The other tower at the Palace of Westminster is named in honor of Queen Victoria; the clock tower has lots of nicknames -- Big Ben, St Stephen's Tower, or just the Clock Tower -- but no official name. stands up for a quick recovery in tourism

Bahrain is hoping that the return of the Formula One race will be a catalyst that will help revive the country's tourism sector.  It has held a number of successful events so far this year, including an international air show and concerts featuring Julio Iglesias and Andrea Bocelli, which allowed them to showcase the security and stability in the kingdom. The return of the Aida Blu cruise liner is also a positive signal that Bahrain's cruise sector is getting back on track..

Up to 70 cruise ships docked in Bahrain every season before the unrest, but only 29 visits took place between November 2010 and February last year. The economic impact of the cancelation was severe because every vessel berthed in Bahrain brings in estimated earnings of $274,165 per call, according to Sea-trade Middle East. More importantly, the F1 Grand Prix, which is Bahrain's most famous tourist attraction, is scheduled to be held this April 20 to 22. The event was canceled last year, causing millions of dollars of losses to airlines, hotels and other tourism-related businesses.

The 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix, along with Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) events throughout the year, will create more than 3,000 jobs, BIC CEO Sheikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa said recently. "We are, this time around, hoping to generate around $500M of direct and indirect benefits for the Bahrain economy." He reiterated that Bahrain's F1 race alone is expected to significantly strengthen the tourism industry, with hotels already reporting full occupancy and Bahrain-based Gulf Air providing more than 50% of incoming flights. Beyond the Grand Prix, the BIC, which hosts the country's F1 race, has more than 200 events scheduled for this year.

Concerted Effort by an American and a Cypriot Venture Coming to the Rescue of Greek Tourism

In the presence of upward from 75 travel agents based in the metropolitan New York and New Jersey areas, Central Holidays Travel Group, a dynamic consortium of tourist travel packagers headquartered in Moonachie, NJ, took the podium Wednesday, March 21 at the Greek National Tourist Organization’s offices at 305 East 47th Street, NYC, for a pep talk session to the group about boosting their projected sales for travel throughout  the Hellenic mainland and the hundreds of islands in the Aegean, Cretan and Ionian Seas.

The way Central Holidays- this year celebrating its fortieth anniversary-figures on accomplishing this not-so-difficult task in one phase was by showing an informational, advertorial if you wish video of lengthy pictorial description that illustrate the virtues of Hellas and its many faces. For Greece is a country of multifaceted culture, which begins far back as 4,000 years B.C. as far back as Homer and transitioning to the Golden era of city-states, then moving on to its unification under King Phillip, Alexander the Great’s father and subsequently Alexander’s era of conquests in the East. It is followed by the era when Greece, after being subjugated to Rome, managed to take the upper hand and in fact turning the tables on the Roman Empire, becoming the Byzantine Empire where Greek culture and brand of Christianity dominated through language and culture..

This glorious era was followed by four hundred years of slavery under the Ottomans, but like the Phoenix, the bird that rise from its ashes, rose again as a free nation, raising the curtain on the Neo-Hellenic era. We now live in the Modern era representing the southeastern flank of the European Union, all of which eras have their own flavor, their own splendor if you wish from the standpoint of tourism. Which allows each individual tourist to pick and choose what period in the long history of Greece wants to dwell in. And that is one feature Greece can gift its visitors, no other country can match. This apparently figures as the motive of the Tour packagers and the Cruise line to undertake this task during this difficult period of ‘lean cows’ in the south-easternmost end of the Eurozone and offer its know-how in boosting the numbers-and income- of that nation through the industry which always proved as a real windfall for Greece.

From the multitude of packages that the two companies are making available as a choice to travelers, we acknowledge the earnest way in which Central Holidays is positioning itself as a major packaged tour and cruise player in tourism for Greece.  As everyone was advised, the Cypriot-owned Louis Cruises with hundreds of cruising schedules in the Aegean and Ionian seas is cooperating very closely with Central Holidays, designing packages which combine some days at sea on one of Louis Cruises ships with the rest devoted to island hopping.

Of the thirteen Cruise packages, a sampler is the 14-day The Best of Greece, the 9-day Cycladic Adventure, and the 15-day   Classic Odyssey.  In the category of Greece & Beyond, compelling choices are the 15-day Italy & Greece Odyssey, and the 7-day Cyprus-Splendid Limassol.  In the Escorted package category the 10-day Best of Turkey may be a splendid choice. As far as the Honeymoons & Island hopping category, romantic tours and cruises abound, such as the 13day Honeymoon Greece II, the 10-day Island Hopping i-Gems of Greece and several brand new packages such as the 8-day Island Hopping-Athens & Spectacular Santorini and the 11-day Island
Hopping-Mediterranean Charms.

There are Independent packages as well as 3 or 4-day Greece & the Isles by Choice, the 5-day Eternal Athens and the Classical Tours Plus Greece Sightseeing. Most visits to Turkey are conducted by cruise ships which either sail all the way to Istanbul for a look at Aghia (Saint) Sophia and other sights, or to Kusadasi, transferring to Ephesus and the surrounding area with a visit to the home of the Virgin Mary.

Chrysanthos Petsilas, the Director of the National Greek Tourist Organization closed the session of the video presentation and informative discussions, after which there was a drawing for one trip to Greece among those in attendance. Following the drawing of the lucky number, seven more numbers were called out as winners of Wines from Greece, olive oil and baskets filled with a variety of products from the Greek Republic.

Attending the event along with the many officials of Central Holidays and Louis Cruise-including Vice President for Sales James Zatani, Vice President for Greece and Eastern Mediterranean Nicholas Koutsis, as well aas Megan Allen, regional sales manager for Louis Cruises were the Greek Press & Communications Office Director Nikos Papaconstantinou, and Market Communications’ Meredith Pillon, who for years have had a close relationship with the
National Greek Tourist Organization




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