Forks on the map
The Harry Potter books and films are not the only artistic franchise providing a fillip for tourism. The Guardian reports that fans of the Twilight series are fuelling a tourism boom in Forks, the small town in which the hugely popular teen vampire series is set.
Before Stephenie Meyer discovered the Washington state town, only 8000 tourists visited a year. Thanks to Meyer and 25 million books, the town welcomes 8000 visitors a month.
Predictably, restaurants have Twilight-themed menus with dishes such as Bellasagne, named after the vampire heroine Bella; shops sell Twilight items and there are tours covering the books' locations.
The town has been transformed, says Mike Gurling of the Forks Chamber of Commerce. "Two years ago we did not have a cash register or credit card terminal."
Tourism Concern is a British organisation that works to ensure that tourism benefits local people. Founded more than 20 years ago, it was one of the first groups campaigning for responsible travel and has been successful at countering exploitative tourism practices.
"We are a small organisation that punches above its weight," says campaign manager Rachel Noble. Victories include persuading more than half of British trekking companies to adopt a code of conditions for mountain porters around the world.
"One of our major victories was the scrapping of a massive development on the Nungwi Peninsula in Zanzibar that would have displaced 20,000," says Noble, adding that the displacement of indigenous people for massive projects is one of the most serious issues in the development of third-world tourism.
On the other hand, the organisation failed to sway Lonely Planet to drop its Burma edition on the basis of that country's human rights record.
Tourism Concern works with groups such as Tourism in Ethiopia for Sustainable Future Alternatives (TESFA), which is developing community-based tourism initiatives in the Meket region in Ethiopia, an area known for its scenery and trekking. TESFA has expanded the trekking routes, developed three accommodation camps and has equipped 50 members of the community with skills to carry out the initiatives.
The organisation also seeks to educate travellers about how and where to travel responsibly and on its website has a world map marked with countries that have tourism issues. Australia rates a mention with concerns about tourism's impact on climate change, the environment and cultural conflicts.
Tourism Concern, while it is not a travel agency, released recently the second edition of The Ethical Travel Guide: Your Passport To Exciting Alternative Holidays. The guide lists 400 holiday ideas in 70 countries that are local initiatives run on sustainable principles.
The holidays range from low key to top end.
Again, Australia rates a mention; the six listings include Blue Mountains Walkabout, which is owned and operated by Evan Yanna Muru, an Aboriginal wilderness guide who conducts full-day and half-day walking tours.
"We include places that don't have the budget to be able to get out and market themselves all that much," Noble says.
The modern age meets an ancient land with the launch of two new digital guides to the outback. Do It Yourself Tourguide has released two audio sightseeing guides one covering the Alice Springs-Uluru route and the other traversing the West MacDonnell Ranges for MP3s and CDs.
Laurelle Halford, who drew on her experiences as a guide in the Northern Territory in compiling the information, says local knowledge is essential if a traveller is to fully appreciate the outback.
"Unless you know what you are looking at, the outback can seem like long lonely stretches of road," she says. "I've spoken with experts on the flora and fauna, people who know the history intimately."
Her next DIY guide will cover the Alice Springs-Darwin route and will be available early next year.
The Alice Springs-Uluru guide is $24.95 and the West MacDonnell Ranges is $21.95. CDs and downloads are available from diytourguide.com.au.
Underwater at Christmas
Christmas Island makes a mockery of the saying that all publicity is good publicity. Detention centres never make for happy headlines.
But the island had a big win recently with the announcement that it will host the fourth annual Underwater Festival for snorkellers and divers interested in photography and videography on April 24-30 next year. The previous three festivals have been at Byron Bay. See underwaterfestival.com.au, christmas.net.au.
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