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WORD OF MOUTH

Be a Bollywood Star

Bollywood poster
Conde Nast Traveler's Jocelyn Miller
and her hubby star in "Made for Each
Other."  Awwwww!

Note: This item ran in the October issue of Conde Nast Traveler with an incorrect URL.

Bollywood not biting? Show them (your friends, anyway) what they're missing with a personalized hand-painted movie poster. The iconic images filled Mumbai's streets until digital photography killed them off in the 1990s, putting scores of artists out of work.  Frenchwomen Sophie Legoubin-Caupeil and Sarah Loosdregt-Charlet have revived the genre by hiring the artists to paint made to order versions of vintage posters using the customer's photograph, allowing wannabes to be immortalized as Bollywood starts.

The cost: $1,000 to $3,500
The Web site: limonastudio.com

CATCH OF THE DAY

Tom Colicchio's Tuesday Dinners

TomColicchio
TOM means business.
AP Photo

by Julia Bainbridge

Chefs just want to have fun. At least this was the tune being sung by Tom Colicchio this morning at his Craft restaurant in New York. Starting October 14, Craft's private dining room will become TOM: Tuesday Dinner, a 32-seat, farm-to-table restaurant serving tasting menus based on the greenmarket--and Tom's mood. Because he'll actually be there; not expediting, not calling the shots while leaning against the walk-in with arms folded and brows furrowed--he'll be cooking, over a hot stove.

Does this return to the line mark the end of the so-called celebrity chef's reign? Quite the contrary. He's at the point where he can make his Top Chef production team clear his schedule every other Tuesday for the next year, he has appointed various staffers to take the helms at his gazillion other Craftspots, and now, he just wants to cook. (For the record, Tom's not a fan of the aforementioned term: "Celebrity chef; I hate that word.") 

The cost of TOM's set-price menu will range from $150 to $250 per person, depending on the ingredients sourced for each dinner. Colicchio says the menu will both speak to his new culinary cravings and resurrect dishes he used to create for Mondrian and Gramercy Tavern. Think squab with honey-glazed onions and black licorice root, and his famous sea urchin/crab ragout. Reservations are accepted up to six weeks in advance--and the phone lines open today.

Further reading:
* For reservations at TOM: Tuesday Dinner, call Elena Silva at 212 400 6495
* The "restaurant" Web site will launch in a week, so wait until then to hit tomtuesdaydinner.com
* Check out Colicchio's other restaurants
* And here, his own blog (from last season) as Bravo's Top Chef judge numero uno

LAYOVER NATION

Layover Nation: New Zealand by Segway

Mike Brady
Mike Brady, Segway entrepreneur.

Michael Kinsley is one brave reporter. His goal: Test the six winning entries in our Airport Layover Contest. His itinerary: Seattle-Los Angeles-Auckland-Singapore-Dubai-Zurich-Amsterdam-London-Reykjavik-Copenhagen-Seattle. Let's hope his neck cushion is well inflated.

Where was I before the computer died? Oh yes. This happened to be the night of the first presidential debate, so I splurged and rented a hotel room near LAX for half a day--and I'm glad I did. I was in it for only about four hours--I showered and changed and watched the debate and then headed to the airport just in time. I had checked whether the Air New Zealand business class lounge had showers, and was told they did, "of course," but they weren't all that appealing, and although there were several TVs in the lounge, they all were tuned to sports events. It would have taken more courage than I could muster to try to change the channel over the objections of a room full of Kiwis.

Next stop: Auckland.

Layover Nation

The plane arrived on time at 7:15 a.m.--don't ask me what day. Not only did we cross the international date line, but New Zealand went on daylight savings while we were en route. (In the southern hemisphere, do you fall forward and spring back or what?)

My plan was to go to a charming suburb called Devenport and take a tour by Segway. Segways are those stand-up electric scooters that use gyroscopic principles to make it almost impossible to tip over.

I hopped on an express bus, which leaves every 15 minutes, for the 30-minute journey to the downtown ferry terminal, where a ferry to Devenport leaves every half hour. Easy. If you aren't checking luggage and luck out on the immigration line, you can be on the bus at 7:45, or say 8 a.m., and in Devenport by 9.

Except that there is no Segway tour at that hour. But if there were and if you told Mike Brady, the guy in the picture, that an hour is sufficient, you'd be done by 10, catch the 10:15 ferry and be back at the airport at 11.

Brady, by the way, runs a combined FM radio station (playing mostly old standards)/Segway tour business out of a storefront in the ferry terminal. He started it last year after seeing a Segway tour in Paris. One problem? Devenport isn't Paris. But Mike is a great talker, befitting his other occupation, and his hour tour was enjoyable. Unfortunately, the official tour is two and a half hours. Mike was glad to accommodate me, though, when I said I had a plane to catch.

I'm not sure how often you actually face a layover in New Zealand (except to go somewhere else in New Zealand). It does seem to be sort of the end of the line. (No offense--it's nice at the end of the line.) But let's see.

By the way, if you ARE transferring to an internal New Zealand flight, you don't have to save any time for security. There is none. No metal detector, no x-rays, no show-your-ID, etc. No fooling. You do have to have a boarding pass. But if you do, you just walk onto the plane like in the good old days. A trusting people.

Further reading:
* Layover Nation: LAX on One Deserted Beach
* Layover entries mapped: Australia and New Zealand
* Entries from the Airport Layover Contest
* The winning layover ideas

HOT LIST 2008

Southampton: Hotel TerraVina

Every May, Condé Nast Traveler releases its Hot List, a collection of the best new hotels, spas, restaurants, and nightspots. Check the Daily Traveler every day for a new post from this year's list.

A fine wine cellar and the local terroir are the essence of this country hotel, the latest enterprise of Hotel du Vin founder and sommelier Gerard Basset and his hotelier wife, Nina. Two new wings flanking the brick Victorian house emphasize earth tones and a natural country look, albeit with some shortcomings: The plank walls do not blend well with the old house, and the stairs are cramped and steep. Yet a stay at the TerraVina is still a delight. The staff are simultaneously unobtrusive and efficient, and the 11 rooms, although snug, are light and inviting. Chef Rory Duncan's cuisine is based on locally sourced and organic ingredients, superlatively prepared in an open galley kitchen and served in an attractive space overlooking a garden. Close by are the lovely meadows and paths of the New Forest, now a national park, where you can ramble or ride (a bike or a horse) and glimpse the forest's famed wild ponies.

Address: 1 Suffolk Place, Netley Marsh, Southampton, England SO40 7GL
Tel: 44 2380 293 784

When to go: In spring, when the rhododendrons are in bloom, or anytime from May through September, when you can bask in the rays on a sunny terrace.
Which room to book: An upper room with a terrace for privacy and a treetop view; if a big bathtub at the foot of the bed is your thing, ask for a room with one.

Further reading:
* Hotel TerraVina Web site
* Hot List 2008
* The England guide
* Hot List on the DT

LAYOVER NATION

Layover Nation: LAX and One Deserted Beach

Michael Kinsley on Dockweiler State Beach
Note to self:  Bring flip-flops

Finally. On Friday Michael Kinsley bid adieu to Seattle and set out to test the six winning entries in our Airport Layover Contest. His itinerary: Seattle-Los Angeles-Auckland-Singapore-Dubai-Zurich-Amsterdam-London-Reykjavik-Copenhagen-Seattle. Whew! His first post comes from Los Angeles. Take it away, Michael.

So far so good.

First stop was LAX. Goal was to take a dip in the Pacific Ocean and a stroll along the beach. The plane from Seattle landed early (thank you, United!). I hopped in a cab--an option often overlooked in Los Angeles and therefore easy--rarely much of a wait. The closest beach is right behind the airport and takes about five minutes to get to. Called Dockweiler State Beach, it has palm trees and picnic tables and is generally underpopulated. Or, on this warm sunny day when all the beaches in LA were underpopulated, Dockweiler was close to deserted.

The trouble with Dockweiler is airplane noise (yes, it's that close) and the lack of a commercial strip. Across from the beach is the unattractive back end of the airport, plus some industrial something that could be anything from a sanitation plant to a chemical warfare research facility.

Layover Nation

So I got the cab to take me to a 24 Hour Fitness branch in Manhattan Beach, the next town down. There, I paid the day rate of only ten bucks (an option to keep in mind at almost any layover in America, though the price can vary) in the hopes of getting some exercise in preparation for my next leg of 13 hours by 1:15, and by 2 p.m. (well, maybe 2:30) had been picked up by some friends and was headed to the beach. Late lunch at a funky burger joint, a quick dip in the ocean, and at that point I could have headed back to the airport and caught a 6 p.m. plane if necessary. It would have been tight. But this also happened to be the night of the first presidential debate, and my plane didn't really leave until 10:30 p.m. 

Further reading:
* Entries from the Airport Layover Contest
* The winning layover ideas
* How Dockweiler State Beach was chosen
* Layover entries mapped: Latin America and the Caribbean
*
Layover entries mapped: Australia and New Zealand

HOT LIST 2008

Northern Ireland: Spa at Galgorm

Galgorm
The River Maine runs through it.
Photo: Galgorm.com

Every May, Condé Nast Traveler releases its Hot List, a collection of the best new hotels, spas, restaurants, and nightspots. Check the Daily Traveler every day for a new post from this year's list.

On the lush green banks of the River Maine, this 163-acre tract includes a $10 million spa that's a dark-wood, richly scented oasis offering Ytsara and Aromatherapy Associates products. Guests can choose among 11 treatment rooms, including a sumptuous private suite featuring twin couches and two freestanding Parisian baths facing a beautiful sea horseand-coral aquarium. Indulge in the Thermal Spa Experience ($58), a series of nine hot and cold stations including a Roman purification bath, herb caldarium, steam aroma grotto, sauna, outdoor hot tub, and amazing indoor infinity hydrotherapy pool, where at the push of a button massage cannons and volcano airpads relax and rejuvenate tense muscles as the river rushes through the woodland outside (massages, $116).

Further reading:
* Spa at Galgorm Web site
* Hot List 2008
* Hot List on the DT

WORD OF MOUTH

Avoiding the Crowds In Capri

T5
Far from the hustle and bustle,
J.K. Place is a world unto itself.

Photo: Concierge.com

by Ondine Cohane

In Condé Nast Traveler's August issue, writer Mark Schatzker talks about circumventing the crowds that descend in high season on Capri and Amalfi by paddling the coast in a kayak. It's an ingenious way to avoid the chaos. When I was in Capri last week I tried to think of other ways to break away from the tourists who, especially during the day, can make the main towns feel more like a Vegas version of the island than the real thing.

One of the best things to do is to rent a moped (available by the main port and by the bus station in Capri), as most people stick to the same sights. By the time I got to the other side of Anacapri I could see where the locals lived and the beautiful scenery without a million cameras in my way. One of the best places I stopped at was the Lido di Faro, a beach club that's popular with residents, where you can swim and eat a great (and reasonable) lunch in a pretty, secluded cove.

The other way to escape is by foot. I ran into very few other walkers on the 45-minute trail to Villa Jovis, the spectacular hideaway of Emperor Tiberius, where he apparently took licentious behavior to a whole new level. No matter. The man had the best views in all Italy with the Amalfi coast, Naples, and the whole seafront up to Rome in his panorama. But apart from a very earnest group of German archeology students, I was on my own at one of Capri's must-sees.

Good timing is another key to having a more secluded experience. Marina Grande, the port where day trippers stream in from places on the mainland, grows quiet when the ferries stop running for the night. At dinner at the wonderfully designed J.K. Place, one of Condé Nast Traveler's Hot List properties this year, my husband and I were the only ones eating dinner on the terrace (the hotel has lots of little hideaways, so you don't have to sit with other people if you don't want to). With the cruise ships gone, the full moon rising above the sea, and just a few twinkling lights across from us, I understood why this place remains such a magnet despite its overwhelming popularity.

Further reading:
* Mark Schatzker kayaks from Vietri sul Mare to the isle of Capri
* Word of Mouth

DAILY LINKAGE

Wat, No More?

Angkorwat

* If you want to see Angkor Wat, you might have to hurry (Gadling)

* Spend all your dough on the Ritz-Carlton? Here are the best bay area places to eat on the cheap (The San Francisco Chronicle)

* While the rest of the world's economies are in shambles, Dubai opened an Atlantis resort this week (Gulliver). Middle Eastern hospitality experts recently tackled the issue of Middle Eastern development at Condé Nast Traveler's World Savers Congress

* Speaking of fiscal shambles, Jet Republic, a private jet club, launched Wednesday

* Qatar's quest to host the 2018 World Cup is taking soccer to new depths

BOLDFACE

Roman Holiday for Justin & Jessica

by Beata Loyfman

In the words of Eddie Albert in the classic Roman Holiday: "Joe, we can't go running around town with a hot princess!"

Well, not unless you're Justin Timberlake, in which case you can PDA around Rome with anyone you please. And this week JT has been soaking up the sites with his main squeeze, the lovely (if slightly bland) Jessica Biel. (She's got him "Love Stoned.") Visitors to Rome's Colosseum and Villa Borghese have had to deal with paparazzi who have been (unsurprisingly) stalking the couple.

But it's not all fun and games for JT. November's Golf Digest cover boy has been using his skills on the green and his status as a media magnet to raise funds for Shriners Hospitals for Children. This network of 22 facilities provides specialized care to children around the world. It's an amazing program, and we applaud JT for taking time out of his fabulous celebrity life to help others.

Of course, this has been quite the trend lately: With Matt Damon, Ashley Judd, Madonna, and Queen Rania tackling the problems in Africa, Wyclef Jean helping in Haiti, and plenty of other celebs lending their sparkle for various causes. Check out Look to the Stars for an update on the who's who of celeb causes.

HOT LIST 2008

Oman: Six Senses Hideaway Zighy Bay

Six Senses Oman
Freestanding villas with their own pools
at Six Senses Hideaway Zighy Bay.

Every May, Condé Nast Traveler releases its Hot List, a collection of the best new hotels, spas, restaurants, and nightspots. Check the Daily Traveler every day for a new post from this year's list.

This is the first luxury resort on Oman's mountainous Musandam Peninsula, whose breathtaking fjords, 9,000-foot-high ridges, and isolated beaches are an emerging adventure-travel mecca. Backed by peaks, the 82 freestanding stone villas, with private pools and, in some instances, spa rooms, share a mile-long white sand crescent with a fishing village; no further tourism development is allowed on the bay. Facilities include a spa and a marina (still unfinished), but the beach alone is worth coming for: Colorful coral patches shelter sea turtles and stingrays, and impressive snorkeling and dive sites are a short kayak or dhow ride away. So as not to disturb guests and villagers, motorized water sports take place in a deserted bay just up the coast. The service is exemplary, but be aware that activities such as hikes, four-by-four trips, boating, and paragliding, as well as four-hour Arabian spa rituals and seven-course meals with wine flights, can easily double your room rate.

Address: Zighy Bay, Musandam, Oman
Tel: 968 26735 555

When to go: Avoid June and July, when the humidity peaks; it may be too cold to swim from mid-December to mid-February.
Which room to book: Request a villa directly on the beach or the four-bedroom Reserve, which has its own gym, spa, private cook, and wine cellar.

Further reading:
* Six Senses Hideaway Zighy Bay Web site
* Hot List 2008
* Hot List on the DT

ON THE FLY

The New Terminal 5 at JFK

T5
The old terminal 5 at JFK.
Photo: Stephen Lauren

by Barbara S. Peterson

Anyone who's recently flown through JetBlue's cramped and outmoded hub at John F. Kennedy's Terminal 6 will undoubtedly welcome the opening of the airline's new JFK base next week. The $875 million, 650,000-square-foot edifice will triple the airline's living space and will offer a slew of amenities ranging from free Wi-Fi to touch screens for ordering food to be delivered to you at the gate. And there will be plenty of grub: The new Terminal 5 gustatory offerings will occupy 53 percent more space than in T6, and will include sit-down restaurants serving sushi, tapas, steak, and the like, as well as a massive food hall with brand names ranging from Boar's Head to Lucy's Asian Kitchen. 

We'll review the new digs after T5 officially debuts on October 1. If you're transiting the complex next week, keep in mind that most airport openings are hardly glitch-free (remember the chaos at Heathrow's own T5 not long ago?). But at a party to preview the space earlier this week I did notice something strange: While the event called attention to the "icon" in its midst--the Eero Saarinen-designed TWA terminal that's attached to the new one--the landmark remains shuttered. This is despite claims (made as recently as last spring) that the renowned structure would be restored and reopened at the same time as its modern counterpart.

The 45-year-old TWA terminal, by the way, has been closed since 2001, but I've been inside twice since then on special occasions, and each time I was reminded of what a marvel it is--all the more reason why it should not be left as an eyesore as the rest of JFK gets a long-overdue upgrade. The Port Authority would only say that at some point next year it will start the process of figuring out what to do with the building--not a very encouraging sign.   

Further reading:
* On the Fly
* UPDATE: JetBlue announced late yesterday (September 25) they are pushing back the opening of their new terminal by three weeks. So it's already fulfilling at least one thing I said: These things are never glitch free.

LAYOVER NATION

Layover Nation: Michael Kinsley Goes Around the World

Layover Nation Contest

Starting tomorrow, author, pundit, and Condé Nast Traveler contributor Michael Kinsley will jet off on his round-the-world adventure, blogging here on the DT as he goes.

It's the moment we've been waiting all summer for: Kinsley is about to test the six winning entries in our Airport Layover Contest. His itinerary: Seattle-Los Angeles-Auckland-Singapore-Dubai-Zurich-Amsterdam-London-Reykjavik-Copenhagen-Seattle. In L.A. he'll go to the beach, in Auckland he'll take a Segway tour of the city, in Dubai he'll hit the Mall of the Emirates for shopping and skiing, in Amsterdam he'll go to the Red Light District to smoke a joint, at Heathrow he'll dine at The Fat Duck in nearby Bray--IF we can get him off the wait list!--and in Reykjavik he'll soak in the Blue Lagoon.

As you may recall, each of the six finalists won a Palm Centro smartphone. But only one lucky winner will come away with the grand prize: three nights for two at The Regent Palms Turks and Caicos (plus air fare from the U.S. or Canada). The finalist who recommended the layover that ends up being Mike's absolute favorite will win the free trip.

Until then, everybody please wish him a bon voyage!

JUST IN

Queen Rania's Diary

by Julia Bainbridge

We're blogging, you're blogging, Queen Rania's blogging! In her first entry of a weeklong "electrical journal" on Slate, posted yesterday, Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan notes that New York is a great place to have jet lag. Good thing she's so positive, since her schedule was packed with Condé Nast Traveler's World Savers Congress, meetings with UNICEF and BRAC, the U.N. General Assembly, and caring for her cold-ridden three-year-old from afar. Whew! Read the full story here.

Further reading:
* A Conversation with Queen Rania
* 2008 World Savers Awards
* The Daily Traveler blogs live from the World Savers Congress

BOOM BOX

The Congo Shakes It Up with Soukous

by John Oseid

Globalization is not as new as we think. I was reminded of that in a small way last week when Congolese soukous singer Kanda Bongo Man stirred the crowd at New York City's Symphony Space. I heard the odd Hawaiian tone in his guitarists' playing--how did those rhythms get there? Latin influences long ago made their ways into modern African music, but Hawaiian? The absorptive power of African pop is staggering.

Hugely popular in many parts of Africa as well as in Paris clubs, soukous and its various forms evolved in the sixties out of Congolese Rumba, which itself grew of age in post-war Belgian Congo. And now, even some Latin-Caribbean artists are picking up the infectious high-pitched speedy guitar arpeggios.

On stage, the European-based Kanda has a genial presence and some quite nimble dance moves for a portly gent. He's credited with popularizing the vivacious kwassa kwassa style of dancing, in which the hands thrust forward, following swings of the hips. After a few low-key tunes, Kanda picked up the pace and the Symphony Space party was on. The audience waved its arms and women jumped on stage, matching their moves with those of the band's two professional dancers.

The above clip of Kanda at a WOMAD concert in Adelaide shows kwassa kwassa dancers and the distinctive soukous guitar sound. Here he is in Cornwall at the 2005 "Live 8: Africa Calling" debt relief concert.

Kanda's New York City show opened the World Music Institute's new season. Over the years, the non-profit organization has hosted a dizzying number of world performers in New York's premier houses, like Carnegie Hall, and sponsored national tours. Philip Glass and Ravi Shankar are among the honorary chairs.

Further reading:
* Kanda Bongo Man's early-nineties album Zing Zong is considered his classic
* Rough Guide's new compilation Congo Gold includes early soukous star Tabu Ley Rochereau, who lived for many years in the States
* In Rumba on the River: A History of the Popular Music of the Two Congos, Gary Stewart recounts the unlikely tale of Greek merchants opening Kinshasa's first recording studios in the 1940s
* The Rumba era is coeval with Patrice Lumumba's brief rule. Director Raoul Peck's acclaimed 2001 film "Lumumba" depicts the president's overthrow and 1961 murder
* Seminal soukous performer--and Lumumba confidant--Papa Wendo recently died at age 82. The U.K Guardian's obit reads like a history lesson on Belgian Congo-era music

RESPONSIBLE TRAVELER

San Francisco's Newest Museum

CA Academy
A hot new nightclub? No.
The Water Planet exhibit at the new
California Academy of Sciences.

by Brook Wilkinson

This Saturday, Mayor Gavin Newsom and architect Renzo Piano will cut the ribbon on the brand-new California Academy of Sciences, a state-of-the-art, LEED platinum-certified natural history museum in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. I'm guessing it'll be a madhouse on Saturday, when admission is free, but judging from a press preview that I attended last week, I can tell you that the Cal Academy is well worth the $25 cost of admission.

If the phrase "natural history museum" conjures up thoughts of dark galleries and dusty dioramas, think again. This place has windows that open (to regulate temperature since there's no heating or air-conditioning system), digital displays that can be changed to reflect the latest scientific research, and the world's largest all-digital planetarium. There are free-flying birds and butterflies in the Rainforests of the World exhibit, and California poppies growing on the roof. Simply put, you have to see it to believe it. And here's the best deal yet: Go on the third Wednesday of the month (October 15 will be your first opportunity), and admission is free.

Further reading:
* California Academy of Sciences
* Responsible Traveler

AMAZING

Sweet Revenge

Fourcupcakes_2
Chocolate, coconut,
and peanut butter--oh my!

Photo: Flickr, Rachel from
Cupcakes Take the Cake

by Mollie Chen

After last week's economic apocalypse, I had more than a few friends who contemplated fleeing Wall Street for second careers as ski instructors or flower arrangers--or that enduring last refuge: business school. On Saturday, I met a corporate exile who had turned her sour work experience into something quite delicious. Marlo Scott opened Sweet Revenge, a petite coffee shop/bakery/wine bar in the West Village, just two months ago, after spending a year testing recipes in her tiny apartment.

As I have my own tiny apartment, I've found that it's key to have wonderful neighborhood spots where you can work, read, eat, and drink. Sweet Revenge lets in fabulous light during the day, so you can settle in at the comfortable wooden bar facing the street and people watch while eating a deliciously flaky ham and Gruyere quiche. As the day goes on, you might cheers Prince Charles with a Wychwood Duchy Organic Ale and a Bit-o-Brit scone. (If you're me, you'll go straight for Scott's signature "Sweet Revenge" cupcake, a peanut butter cake with a ganache center and peanut butter frosting.) And at night, it's the perfect place to have a drink while you're waiting for a table at the perennially packed Market Table just down the street.

CATCH OF THE DAY

The Tipsy Texan on Margaritas

Margarita
The Mexican Martini has a blurry history.
AP Photo

Guest blogging for the Daily Traveler today is David Alan, a.k.a. the Tipsy Texan, a freelance writer and co-publisher of Tipsytexan.com with partner Joe Eifler.

In a city where craft cocktails are still on the cultural fringe, the go-to drink in Austin is the margarita. It wasn't invented here and its main ingredient isn't produced here, but it undeniably reigns supreme here.

The inevitable question arises: "Where is the best margarita in Austin?" As the drink is an essential part of the Tex-Mex cuisine that dominates the city, this topic is as controversial as "Where is the best barbecue?" (The joke goes that we have two major food groups: queso and barbecue.) Below, I give you not a definitive answer, but some guidelines.

First, I must address a fascination of mine, the Mexican martini. Like the margarita, the provenance of the Mexican martini remains obscured by cocktail history's inebriated memory. At its simplest (and in my opinion, best), the drink is essentially a margarita presented in a cocktail shaker and then poured tableside into a cocktail glass rimmed with salt and garnished with a jalapeño-stuffed olive. At its worst it is shaken with Rose's lime juice or other adulterants.

Continue reading "The Tipsy Texan on Margaritas" »

WORLD SAVERS CONGRESS

Middle East: Development Through Travel

World Savers

by Beata Loyfman

The Middle East is a frequent news headline these days. Unfortunately, much of the press has not been positive. How do we juxtapose the region's enormous growth in the travel sector with its often negative reputation? Middle Eastern hospitality experts tackled this issue in the last panel of the World Savers Congress

A few facts to get you started:
* Abu Dhabi is building the world's first carbon-neutral, zero-emissions city, known as Masdar. The city will be fully functional by the end of 2009.

* Qatar has budgeted $100 billion (that's right, billion) toward new infrastructure over the next six years.

* Egypt was the world's first producer of beer and wine (sorry, Europe).

* More than 50 percent of visitors to the Middle East come from outside the region, with the greatest majority hailing from the United States.

The consensus among the panelists was that we are far more similar than we are different. And despite cultural differences, travel is the one force that connects us. As Mounir Neamatalla of Environmental Quality International said, "The natural tendency of humans is to include, to relate. We are a social animal."

WORLD SAVERS CONGRESS

China: Expansion and Accountability

World Savers

by Julia Bainbridge

China today is a country that embodies raw capitalism; nowhere in the world is the travel industry growing faster. At our second World Savers Congress discussion session, Condé Nast Traveler Deputy Editor Dorinda Elliott asked panelists where they think corporate social responsibility lies for the travel industry. Below, some of their thoughts:

* Orvile Schell, Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society, tied the obvious problems China faces--"Any tourist who goes to China will see the manifestation of its growth and development, namely the pollution that you can see, smell"--with an international perspective. In his opinion, the United States needs to find a way to engage with China, one polluter to another: "Unless we both get in the game by way of solutions to climate change, there is no game."

* Barbara Finamore, a Beijing-based director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's China Program, has seen growth in the Chinese government's understanding of and concern over environmental issues there. China's state council just enacted a new set of development regulations that apply to all non-residential buildings in China and will have serious implications for the hotel industry. "I do see change," she says. "It has to go faster." Read about the China Clean Energy Project here.

* Albert Ng, the CEO of Wild China, said that most Chinese tour operators believe in the idea of sustainable travel, but they don't know how to do it--they need proper training. "Ultimately, it really depends on the people living in the tourist area: They need education, and that takes time." His company is going to local NGOs to figure out how to best give travelers an educational experience and take them off the beaten path--in a responsible way. 

* Partnership was the name of the game: Panelists said there is tremendous potential for partnership between the private sector, NGOs, and the government--and between the U.S. and China. "We can talk about how hopeful we are, but the place is like a house on fire. The real question is how do you modulate and moderate growth so that they can continue to grow," said Schell. "There will be no answer unless there is some kind of collaboration. Together, we might actually lick the planet clean."

WORLD SAVERS CONGRESS

Women of the World: Queen Rania

Queen Rania of Jordan

by Beata Loyfman

The energy level of the World Savers Congress has just jumped ten-fold. Why? Because we are in the presence of royalty. Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (what I would do for a title like that!) has just taken the stage to announce plans to develop nine new wildlife parks and sanctuaries throughout Jordan. "We want to transform Jordan from a place to visit, to a place to experience," said the queen.

World Savers

Together with her husband, King Abdullah II, the queen has dedicated herself to improving the lives of her people and dispelling stereotypes of the Arab world. With messages of understanding and communication on her You Tube channel, the queen is personally undoing years of tension between east and west.

Her Majesty invited everyone to visit her beautiful country, touting the hospitality and good will of her people. She quoted a famous Bedouin mantra: Every guest is a guest of God. She asked the travel community to "help me rebrand the place I call home." We're looking forward to it!

Further reading:
* 2008 World Savers Awards
* Make a Difference: Your online guide to responsible travel
* A Conversation with Queen Rania
* A Conversation with King Abdullah II

 

WORLD SAVERS CONGRESS

Women of the World: Ashley Judd

Ashley Judd
World Savers

by Beata Loyfman

Actress and activist Ashley Judd, the spokesperson for Population Services International (PSI), has just announced that Crystal Cruises, Beam Global Wine & Spirits, and The Inn at Blackberry Farm will become the founding partners with the Condé Nast Traveler's Five & Alive Fund.

These companies have pledged to work toward increasing Five & Alive's programs throughout the world to benefit its youngest inhabitants.

After hearing of Ashley Judd's experiences in Rwanda and seeing her live demonstration of the amazing effects of PUR water-purifying sachets right on the World Savers stage, we were all inspired to contribute to this organization. To think that one tiny sachet of PUR can make enough safe drinking water (even out of the foulest river sludge) for a family of six is amazing. Try it for yourself here. And even more incredible: PUR costs mere pennies to produce. Not a dry eye was left in the room by the time Ashley took a sip.

Further reading:
* Read Judd's PSI travel journal to Rwanda and the Congo

WORLD SAVERS CONGRESS

Technology: How Green Can You Be?

World Savers

by Julia Bainbridge

Every travel company wants to reduce energy consumption. But does sustainability go beyond conservation? This morning at the World Savers Congress, Condé Nast Traveler Consumer News Editor Kevin Doyle moderated a panel of travel industry professionals, asking, among other things, how they determine which expensive new technologies to adopt.

The word of the morning was "future proofing," which panelist William McDonough, architect and author of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, said "grows out of anticipatory design science." He said we're getting to the tipping point where technologies like solar power are becoming commonplace--which means they'll be more cost-effective and hotels will start using them heavily.

McDonough stressed vocabulary in another way: "If I ask you how your relationship with your wife is and you say 'sustainable,' I'd say 'I'm sorry.' Instead of 'sustainability,' we talk about a 'sustaining' thing. We use 'eco-effective' instead of 'eco-efficient.'" Being less bad isn't being good, he said, being good is good. "This whole thing has to be characterized as the intelligent business doing the effective thing--the right thing."

An example of something that's eco-effective? The golf course at Four Seasons Papagayo in Costa Rica is seeded with a species of grass that lives off of sea water. Other courses use gray water, as well, according to John MacKinnon, senior vice president of the company.

Several Four Seasons properties are also giving guests the option to not have their linens washed in the evening. This garnered a response from McDonough, who said if we find a green way to wash towels, washing them can, in and of itself, be efficient. "Solar water heating is very cost effective. If the water is solar heated and you're providing jobs for people by washing towels, that is something to be celebrated."

He closed with a positive thought: "A twist should be brought to the sustainable movement: It can be delightful. You don't have to go without."

But perhaps one of the more powerful closing statements came from CEO and Chief Design Officer of Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants & Hotels Dennis Quaintance: "We are empowered. We can affect the market with our proactivism--we respond to what you want. Capitalists always respond to market demands. Demand it."

Check back here for more news from the World Savers Congress.

WORLD SAVERS CONGRESS

Socially Responsible Travel

World Savers

by Beata Loyfman

The first panel of the World Savers Congress has just concluded and we've had some fascinating insights from leaders in the area of social responsibility in travel.

The initiatives of Sandals International and its CEO Adam Stewart were particularly impressive.

Check out some of the programs at his resorts:

* Sandals currently contributes $10 million to communities annually. A new foundation will bring the total annual contribution to $30 million to help the environment, education, wildlife conservation, and other causes.

* Thousand Smiles: This program brings North American dentists to treat Jamaican people. "After this experience," says Stewart, "it becomes much more than a job for them."

* Stewart brought up a startling statistic: 10 billion plastic bottles get deposited into landfills every year and stay there for 500 years. Sandals has shifted to mounted dispensers so as to avoid this unnecessary waste.

* Did you know that you can use cooking oil to power trucks and cool a hotel room using solar energy? We didn't either. But Stewart says that his company is currently developing solar-thermal cooling systems and refining deep-frying oils. Back to the future!

Check back here for more news from the World Savers Congress.

WORLD SAVERS CONGRESS

World Savers Awards

World Savers

The World Savers Awards recognize companies that are innovating in five key areas: poverty alleviation, cultural and/or environmental preservation, education, wildlife conservation, and health. This morning at the World Savers Congress, six companies were named winners. They include:

* Campi Ya Kanzi (Kenya), for Poverty Alleviation. The solar-powered safari camp is a joint partnership with the Masai community and is staffed primarily by local tribesmen.

* Cristalino Jungle Lodge (Brazil), for Environmental Preservation. The owner of this lodge, Vitoria Da Riva Carvalho, in one of the most biodiverse areas of the Brazilian Amazon, has almost single-handedly saved more than 25,000 acres of threatened rain forest.

* Journeys Within (Cambodia), for Health Initiatives. The tour operator's non-profit arm has added more than 180 water wells to the landscape around Siem Reap, helping nearly 4,000 Cambodians to escape water-related disease. They also offer scholarships for university students, hold free English classes, and provide micro-loans for small businesses in Cambodia.

* Montage Laguna Beach (Laguna Beach, California), for Education. The hotel's employee-driven outreach effort supports marine and language education as well as arts programs in the local school district.

* Phinda Private Game Reserve (South Africa), for Wildlife Conservation Programs. Phinda has implemented an animal restocking program that added more than 2,000 animals to the reserve's land. Eighteen years ago, nearly all of the animals on its 57,000 acres had been killed by farmers, ivory hunters, and a misguided government tse-tse fly-eradication program.

* Vail Resorts (Vail, Colorado), for Environmental Preservation. The company offsets all of its electricity usage by supporting the development of wind farms which have cut CO2 emissions by 211 million pounds a year--the equivalent of taking 18,000 cars off the road. It also has implemented company-wide energy effiiciency efforts that will reduce electricity consumption by 10 percent in two years.

Further reading:
* 2008 World Savers Awards
* Make a Difference: Your online guide to responsible travel

WORLD SAVERS CONGRESS

Jeffrey Sachs: A Call for Community Engagement

Sachs
Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.
AP Photo

by Julia Bainbridge

World Savers

Widely considered the leading international economic advisor of his generation, professor Jeffrey D. Sachs has been, in his words, "at the hands of the travel industry for half a century." As president and co-founder of the Millennium Promise Alliance, a nonprofit organization aimed at ending extreme global poverty, he has traveled to over 125 countries.

"Travel is the only way to experience the world from new perspectives. No one can understand extreme poverty without seeing it with their own eyes," the keynote speaker at the Condé Nast Traveler 2008 World Savers Congress said.

His main thought for the morning: the notion that the billion people who travel this year can be a billion ambassadors of global understanding and good will. "Each guest in the world--1 billion every year--could be a bit more aware of the local conditions, a bit less afraid of the poverty, and a bit more admiring of the efforts to recover it--and how that local area is trying to combat it." Traveler-community engagement can, in his mind, be life-changing--and perhaps even world saving.

Further reading:
* Jeffrey Sach's Grand Experiment: The economist's mission to eradicate poverty

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