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

with Bob Nicolaides

Destinations 2012- Turkey




Sterling soars, more Brits to vacation abroad

The pound is currently stronger than many rival currencies and Britons will receive as much as 14 per cent more cash for their summer 2012 trips to Europe compared with last year, according to a survey. The Sterling can buy 14 per cent more than Turkish lira than last summer, the cost index from Post Office Travel Money has revealed, suggesting that resorts such as Marmaris will be particularly good value for British tourists.

Bulgaria is the cheapest destination for Britons, with a basket of 10 typical holiday items - including lager, sun-cream and a three-course meal - costing just £42.79, four per cent less than last year. The second least-expensive destination was Turkey where the items at the resort of Marmaris cost £54.22 - a dip of 22 per cent compared with 2011 prices.

Portugal is the third cheapest country but prices have risen by 10 per cent since last year, with the 10 items costing £54.46. Prices on Spain's Costa del Sol have risen 35 per cent since last year, with the 10 items now costing £56.84. Of the non-eurozone destinations, Croatia was the most expensive, with the items costing £73.65. But for those shunning Europe and taking a holiday at home, Brighton was found to be the most expensive of the 15 destinations surveyed.

The 10 items cost as much as £ 79.25 in Brighton –
up three per cent from last summer.

Post Office Travel Money head Andrew Brown said: ‘Resort prices and currency exchange rates are always changing, so it is worth doing some research to check the latest position before booking a holiday. It is also worth considering how you plan to spend your holiday cash. ‘Our index includes the price of one meal but, if you eat out every night, the difference in cost between destinations can be quite marked. ‘For example, according to our research, eating out for seven nights in either Bulgaria or Portugal will cost less than £175 but over £280 in Spain, France or Malta.’

The pound is running at a 19-month high against the euro of around 1.22, with predictions it will rise even further before the schools break up.


Tourists, Uncle Sam wants you!

 There was a time when just the mention of the Grand Canyon, the Pacific Coast Highway or New York's skyline was enough to entice tourists from around the world. But that was before September 11, 2001, and the rise of security barriers to entering the US, and before Asia's economic renaissance drew travelers there.

So next month, the US will begin a coordinated effort to market itself overseas, using billboards, social media, public relations, trade shows and educational campaigns.

The marketing effort grows out of a 2010 law, the Travel Promotion Act. The US Travel Association had noted that the US share of global travel had declined between 2000-2010 and that the country's economy was losing billions of dollars in visitor spending as a result.

The law created a non-profit travel promotion corporation, known as Brand USA, which is financed with public and private money, to run the marketing campaign. While the number of visitors to the US has risen during the past 10 years, the number of travelers worldwide has grown even more. As a result, the country's share of the total travel market is down to 11.2 per cent in 2010 from 17.3 per cent in 2000.

"After September 11, the perception formed around the world that America was not as welcoming as it once was, that there was difficulty in accessing the visa and the entry process through customs was inefficient," Geoff Freeman, the US Travel Association's chief operations officer, says.

Freeman says people who have been to the US will return, despite the obstacles perceived or real. "But younger travellers or those who haven't been would go elsewhere," he says.

Brand USA is relying on a combination of private funds and a $14 fee for each traveller from the 36 countries whose citizens do not need a visa to enter the US to raise $150 million this year. So far, Marriott International, the Walt Disney Company and Best Western International have also agreed to invest $1 million each.

The competition to attract tourists includes nine countries that spend from $50 million to more than $150 million annually to promote themselves: Australia ($106.7 million), Britain ($160 million), Canada ($91.9 million), France ($96 million), Germany ($50.8 million), Italy ($56.6 million), Mexico ($173.8 million), South Korea ($80.5 million) and Turkey ($96.8 million). "We're the last to the party," Chris Perkins, the chief marketing officer for Brand USA, says.

The US Travel Association will be working with Brand USA at the annual International Pow Wow event in Los Angeles on April 21-25, at which representatives from 70 countries will come to buy travel products they then repackage and sell in their countries. The goal of Brand USA, set to last until September 2015, is to generate "a tremendous amount of inbound tourism that turns into an economic driver", Perkins says.

Religious spots draw millions from abroad

Turkey has more than cultural or historical attraction spots as religious wealth to offer all the major faiths of the world as Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and that’s due to the fact that most areas in Eastern Turkey, such as Asia Minor, Pontus, Anatolia and Cappadocia were provinces of the Greek-speaking Byzantine Empire which was conquered by the Ottomans in the 16th Century BC. Moreover, a Synagogue with some 1700 years history near  Sardes  in ancient Lydia is a point of destination for Jews around the world, including Israel. Among the top attractions are Ephesus and Haghia Sophia Church.

Religious tourism or pilgrim tourism in Turkey is growing in popularity. These tours are perfect for people who want to trace back the history of their religion, visit Biblical places and hear the legends related to the apostles. Many luxurious or even cheap holidays in Turkey include the following hot spots of religious tourism.

Haghia Sophia Church, Istanbul

Located in Istanbul, it is a legacy made for both Christian and Muslim culture. It was originally a church converted into a mosque by Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror. Here, you will see one of the most beautiful architectural designs. The magnificent dome will take your breath away as it is almost 56 meters high and 31 meters in diameter. It was included in UNESCO's List of World Heritage.

Ephesus, near Izmir (The former Greek city of Smyrna)

Located near the shores of the Aegean Sea, it is one of the greatest cities of antiquity, built and rebuilt by Hellenes and subsequently by Romans seven times (though all the writings on the ancient buildings is in Greek) in Asia Minor. It is a sacred site for Christians due to its strong association with biblical figures such as the Apostle Paul who evaded a crowd in his pursuit to stone him, descending to the base of the mountain where Holy Mary lived, and sailing away on a ship, a feat which cannot be duplicated today since the sea has receded thousands of feet eastward. The area is also associated with John the Baptist as well . It is also a tourist attraction for travelers on Mediterranean cruises who come to ogle the two story library, the twelve thousand seat Odeon and the sixteen thousand seat stadium. The area was originally home to the Temple of Artemis, which is counted as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Church of St. Peter, Antakya

Antakya or Antioch is the place where Apostle Peter lived. This small church carved out of a mountain is regarded as the world's first church where saints named the new religion Christianity. It is believed to have been carved by St. Peter himself. The church also includes pieces of floor mosaics and frescoes.


Chora Church, Kariye Müzesi

Just like Haghia Sophia, Chora Church was also a church that was converted into a mosque. It is one of the most beautiful examples of a Byzantine style. It’s beautiful interior is covered with fine mosaics and frescoes. These paintings are of religious figures such as Mary, Joseph and Christ.

Pool of Sacred Fish, Şanlıurfa

Known as the place where King Nimrod attempted to murder Abraham by throwing him into a furnace. It was believed that with God's will, fire turned into water and wood turned to carps. Here, you can enjoy the scenic beauty and appreciate the infrastructures surrounding it.

Cool & Creamy Bauhaus buildings in Tel Aviv too!

Israel’s ages-old city, Jerusalem, is rightly famous for its warm, honey-colored limestone architecture. But its lazily hip rival, Tel Aviv, has lately begun garnering attention for a contrasting — and equally abundant — assemblage of cool and creamy Bauhaus buildings.

Erected by the hundreds as the city grew dramatically and welcomed new immigrants in the 1920s and ’30s, the city’s bright white edifices have become a hallmark, typically portrayed as glowing entrancingly under brilliant blue skies.

Named for the German architecture school founded in 1919 by Walter Gropius to advance the design principles of what would become known as the International Style, Bauhaus flourished in Tel Aviv as Jews began leaving Nazi Germany and immigrating to the brand-new Israeli city. Established in 1909 as a Jewish suburban utopia just outside the old Arab town of Jaffa, Tel Aviv provided a blank slate upon which architects could experiment.

Because the style emphasized democracy and practicality, architects used cheap and common materials, and by the 1960s, many buildings had fallen into disrepair. Besieged by more urgent political matters, the city and still-new nation didn’t especially pay attention until UNESCO recognized the wealth of Bauhaus buildings with a conference in 1994. And with World Heritage designation in 2003, things began to change — slowly. Owners and developers started taking literal stock of the astounding collection — and today the renovations continue. There’s even a burgeoning municipal program — just about six months old — to help building owners and developers give the structures the tender loving care they so need and deserve. About 1,000 of the 4,000 Bauhaus structures are now protected under historic preservation guidelines, a recognition that for too long the buildings have been subject to such careless updates as the addition of stories and the enclosure of balconies.

A walk guided by Iddo Katz, an archaeologist with a clear love of the city confirmed that. Katz pointed out a few nods to the International Style that these 1990s buildings offer: the vertical strip of “thermometer” windows that run along their sides, the notched corners, the horizontal ribbons of room windows that band the buildings.

Katz also indicated a skyscraper a few blocks away, the Shalom Tower from 1965. A rectangular slab that echoes such modernist classics as the Secretariat Building of the United Nations (designed by Oscar Niemeyer and Le Corbusier) and the Seagram Building (Ludwig Mies van der Rohe), the tower represents the height of the “ideology that was behind Tel Aviv,” Katz observed. “It says, ‘We’ve moved beyond mud and stone. We want modernism.’ ”

Cabin crew become masters in martial arts

Hong Kong Airlines passengers have to be very quiet as the carrier come up with an unusual way to deal with crazy customers. All of its flight attendants have been trained in martial arts, so if passengers misbehave, they could find themselves in an arm-lock.

Cabin crew have all received three hours' training in Wing Chun, the only form of martial arts developed by a woman, which is designed to promote inner balance and core strength. Primarily taught as self-defence, the moves are designed to be accomplished in a confined space, such as onboard an aircraft.

The airline, which flies between London and Hong Kong, said the training would enable flight attendants to "deal with any potential challenges". Hong Kong Airlines' president Yang Jian Hong said: "Aside from the obvious physical, mental and safety benefits, this demonstrates our commitment to delivering exception passenger service.

Seeking an authentic Greek experience


Arkia has to stop flying to Stockholm because the Swedish capital’s international airport now refuses to allow Israeli methods of security inspections dictated by the Shin Bet security service, TheMarker learned on Wednesday.

Thus, Stockholm’s airport joined those in Malmo, Sweden and in Copenhagen in refusing to allow Israeli security inspections, which involve ethnic and personal profiling, extensive questioning and selective inspections based on the perceived degree of risk to security.

Arkia, the only Israeli airline flying to Sweden, had to move its operations to Malmo and Stockholm this year after Denmark refused to permit Israeli security procedures at its airports last summer. Arkia elected to fly passengers to Sweden and take them by land to Denmark. Now this avenue is closed.


Global hotel inventory reaches 13.4m rooms

As of this past February, 13.5 Million rooms available worldwide


Total global hotel inventory increased by more than 2,315,000 daily rooms since 2000 to 13,443,014 rooms as of February, according to the latest report by STR Global, the global hotel data provider. The hotel inventory compound annual growth (CAGR) went up by 1.6 per cent over the 12-year period, according to STR Global's Census database.

It was led by the Asia-Pacific region which grew 2.7 per cent through February, followed by the Middle East and Africa's 2.5 per cent CAGR. The Middle East and Africa growth took place as the region's luxury and upper upscale segment grew 3.9 per cent, says the study, to 190,514 daily rooms, followed by the upscale and upper mid-scale (up 2.4 per cent) growing to 253,958 daily available rooms.

North America, meanwhile, remained the leading market for branded hotel rooms (66 per cent of the region's inventory, representing 41.4 per cent of the global room stock with 5,565,866 daily rooms available. It is closely followed by Europe (29.7 per cent) with 3,998,603 daily rooms and Asia (21.6 per cent) with 2,897,823 daily rooms.

"Across all regions, branded room inventory has increased compared to those from independent hotels in the 12-year period to February," said Elizabeth Randall, Managing Director at STR Global, adding that the Asia-Pacific and Middle East and Africa regions led the inventory growth.

According to STR Global, the Middle East reported a 6.8 per cent decrease in occupancy in 2011 to 57.1 per cent besides a 5.3 per cent increase in the average daily rate to $162.81 (Dh597.79) and a 1.8 per cent decrease in revenue per available room (RevPAR) to $92.99.

Meanwhile, the Dubai hotel market has been undergoing rapid expansion. According to the TRI Hospitality database, as recently shared with Gulf News, 12 new properties (3/4/5 star hotels) with roughly 3,600 keys (rooms) opened last year. And the consulting firm estimates 18 new properties are scheduled to open in 2012 with around 6,600 keys. As the firm's Managing Director Peter Goddard pointed out in a recent Gulf News report: "The boom days are back for Dubai hotels, a majority of which are running at occupancy levels comparable to 2008, and this is likely to continue." Dubai there are 386 hotels comprising 53,999 rooms at present, according to the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing's (DTCM) latest available data, in addition to 190 hotel apartments comprising 21,400 flats.

The Central and South America markets had the lowest number of branded rooms compared to the other regions through February, according to STR's analysis, as the region saw its room supply increase by 1.7 per cent CAGR to 352,330 daily rooms in February.

In Europe, room inventory increased only marginally, by 1.1 per cent.

Ammouliani isle signs on with Germans

Twelve hotels on the small island of Ammouliani, the only inhabited isle off verdant Halkidiki Peninsula in northern Greece, are focusing on the German tourist market by signing a cooperation deal with “Smart Apart”, an online booking agency.

The islet's hotels are also included in the German agency's “ABC Griechenland” catalogues, while a similar deal is likely with tourist enterprises in Ouranoupolis, Olympiada and Pirgadikia.       

The 4.5-square-kilometer island of Ammouliani is located off the Mount Athos Bay, some 120 km east of Thessaloniki. 



Psychology: Why a beach vacation is so relaxing? 

There's no doubt that the luxury of lying on a beach for a few weeks' holiday can be just the tonic needed for a busy lifestyle. But, according to research, there seems to be genuine psychological benefits to a spell, however short, spent beside the sea.

A study has found that a walk on the beach has more impact on emotional wellbeing than a stroll in the park.. Researchers looked at data on 2,750 participants aged eight to 80 in a two-year study of people's engagement with the natural environment.

All outdoor locations were associated with positive feelings of enjoyment, calmness and refreshment. But visits to the coast were the most beneficial, while urban parks had the least effect. The trend remained after taking account of factors such as age, distance of travel, the presence of others, and type of activity.

Mathew White, from the European Centre for Environment and Human Health in Truro, Cornwall, said: 'There is a lot of work on the beneficial effects of visiting natural environments, but our findings suggest it is time to move beyond a simple "urban versus rural" debate and start looking at the effect that different natural environments have on people's health and wellbeing.'

Dr White told the British Psychological Society’s annual meeting in London that the feelings of positivity people get when at the seaside may be 'hard-wired' into their brains. Another possibility is that people consider the sea a 'good thing' because they are constantly told that. Dr White added that there was growing evidence that positive feelings have an impact on health.


Minister proud of Lebanon record- 3 million tourists

Lebanon’s tourism minister said Friday he expected the number of tourists to the country at the end of 2012 to exceed 3 million. “I expect a very good season this year,” Fadi Abboud said, adding that “investments in tourism are extremely good despite the fall in the number of tourists entering Lebanon through Syria.”

He noted that a 22 percent increase in activity at Rafik Hariri International Airport during the first quarter of 2012 suggested significant improvement in tourism. “We have seen the number of Saudi tourists soaring from just 4,000 [during the first quarter of 2011] to over 30,000 during the same period this year,” Abboud added



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