Sunday, June 26, 2016

Volunteer Tourism: Doing More Harm Than Good?

Given that various “damning reports” had been published about the negative impact of volunteer tourism since 2010, is volunteer tourism doing more harm than good to the world’s poorest people?

By: Ringo Bones 

Ever since those various damning reports on the negative impact of negative tourism had been published since 2010 about upper middle class tourists from relatively well-off countries paying travel agencies to help orphans in various poorest regions of the world has been compared to Friedrich Nietzsche’s proverbial “Road to Hell” – i.e. such schemes are actually doing more harm than good. In a nutshell, well-intentioned westerners do little to alleviate the lot of poverty-stricken children in developing countries. This issue got the spotlight of the world’s biggest news providers because volunteer tourism is the fastest growing sector of the global tourism industry since the beginning of the 21st Century. 

Even though various medical volunteering schemes have been deemed the ones that do the most good in providing basic healthcare to poverty-stricken children in developing countries whose public health systems can barely cope to provide basic services to their own needy citizens, well-off upper middle class tourists paying a volunteer tourism company in order to work as an entry level carpenter or building painter in constructing new school buildings of the developing countries remote hinterlands are actually depriving local carpenters, painters and other local artisans of much needed jobs. Worse still, it also perpetuates the “White Anglo Saxon Jesus Syndrome” especially in developing countries that are used to be colonies of formerly “staunchly Christian” world powers like Spain, England or Portugal during the last couple of centuries. 

Is volunteer tourism really comparable to Friedrich Nietzsche’s proverbial “Road to Hell”? Well, various studies done on the subject of philanthropy still shows that that various philanthropic organizations that hire professionals that are specially trained to provide help to needy kids and the poorest citizens of developing nations are the ones that can actually do the most good. Just remember that whenever you feel that do good to feel good aspect of altruism, you and the world’s needy are better off for you just donating money to mainstream charitable institutions like Oxfam. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Las Vegas, Nevada: Birthplace of Atomic Tourism?

Chernobyl and Fukushima may be what first comes to mind about this topic today, but is Las Vegas, Nevada the actual birthplace of “Atomic Tourism”?  

By: Ringo Bones 

I think this now largely forgotten segment of Las Vegas tourism may have inspired The Killers to write the song Miss Atomic Bomb, but given the relative popularity of “atomic tourism” during the past few years in Chernobyl and Fukushima, probably only a handful of people actually know that atomic tourism actually started in Las Vegas, Nevada. And the 1962 atmospheric Nuclear Test Band Treaty probably consigned the glamour of such tourism to history’s dustbin. 

Believe it or not, the state of Nevada’s 1950s era Atomic Bomb Tourism program is largely born out of finding a child-friendly alternative to the burlesque floor shows and gambling that became everyone’s perception when it comes to the image of Las Vegas, not to mention Atomic Bomb Tourism has some potential science education merit behind it. Nevada’s nuclear bomb testing spawned a spectator culture tinged with both profound fear and Sin City delight. 

During the 1950s, the spectacular light show over Fremont Street that awed hordes of tourists at the time is most likely to be the initial flash followed by a mushroom cloud during atmospheric nuclear weapons testing in Mercury, Nevada – also known as the Nevada Test Site – a desert expanse just 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The 1951 detonation of an atomic warhead 1,060 feet over the desert floor marked the beginning of the above ground trials whose mushroom clouds were easily visible from the nearby tourist magnet. Given that most consumer electronic devices at the time were vacuum tube based and therefore more EMP resistant than today’s solid-state based smartphones and tablet computers, the mushroom cloud is primarily the visual indication that an Atomic Bomb test is underway – as opposed to a busted smartphone.  

In true Las Vegas style, the city capitalized on the atomic spectacle. The Chamber of Commerce printed up calendars advertising detonation times and best spots for watching. Casinos like Binion’s Horseshoe and The Desert Inn flaunted north facing vistas offering special “atomic cocktails” and “Dawn Bomb Parties,” where crowds danced and quaffed until a very bright flash several times brighter than the sun lit the sky. Women decked out as mushroom clouds vied for the “Miss Atomic Energy” crown at The Sands. “The best thing to happen to Vegas was the Atomic Bomb”, one gambling magnate declared. Are those the bygone age of an “Atomic Las Vegas”? 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Virgin Galactic SpaceShip Two Crash: A Blow To Space Tourism?

Even though it is still beyond the reach of the average working class consumers, does the recent crash of the Virgin Galactic SpaceShip Two represent a blow to “affordable” space tourism? 

By: Ringo Bones 

It was supposedly a routine test flight aimed to make space tourism closer to the masses but in ended in tragedy when in October 31, 2014 a Virgin Galactic SpaceShip Two space tourism craft suffered a catastrophic failure after it separated from its mother ship White Knight Two and crashed moments later into the Mojave Desert below. Even though the crash is under further investigation to determine the cause of the tragedy according to Stuart Witt CEO of Mojave Spaceport, witnesses on the ground says that the craft appeared to be in pieces before it crashed to the floor of the Mojave Desert. One pilot was killed while the co-pilot is seriously injured. Virgin CEO Sir Richard Branson flew immediately to the crash site as soon as he heard the tragic news. Will the recent disaster represent a giant step back to “affordable” space tourism? 

Compared to the US government run NASA, private space travel and space tourism companies like Virgin with its Virgin Galactic space tourism program seems to be able to make viable space travel programs at a far lesser cost than government run counterparts. SpaceShip Two costs “only” 500 million US dollars to develop – a bargain compared to comparable spending made by similar NASA projects. While the Spaceship Two is slated to bring the first batch of space tourist to their “suborbital” destinations by 2015, there are 700 customers who already paid the ticket price of 250,000 US dollars already lining up for the experience including celebrities like Hollywood actor Tom Hanks and song-and-dance man Justin Beiber and also Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. 

By their very nature, our current spacecraft technology is inherently dangerous in their operation because they operate under the extremes of temperature and pressure. Like cryogenic fuels and oxidizers only tens of degrees above absolute zero fueling a rocket engine that runs at a temperature hot enough to vaporize steel. Not to mention reentry temperatures comparable to that of free-flowing magma. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Jihad Tourism: Newfangled Tourism?

Even though every American and British citizens who ever had gone to one are now under close surveillance by their countries respective anti-terror groups is Jihad tourism even legal? 

By: Ringo Bones

Every young man who have ever gone to one is now – as of late – currently in very close surveillance of their respective countries’ anti-terror agencies, it seems that the perception surrounding this so-called “Jihad Tourism” that if we stop the already radicalized young men from going into a “Jihad trip” to Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq or to enlist with ISIS or any other conflict zone where the West have the complicity of “killing Muslims” it could avoid them becoming into full-fledged Islamist terrorists. But is there any truth to this and is this policy of not sending “already radicalized” young Muslim men to current conflict zones with a large Muslim population from becoming “further radicalized” can even be implemented viably? 

Even though the West friendly House of Saud, the apparent world authority of Sunni Islam, condemn such “Jihad Tourism” such form of “military outfitting tourism” is apparently older than that of the events that lead to the September 11, 2001 Terror Attacks. And aren’t these “Jihad Tourist” just mercenaries by any other name? Back in the 1970s young British and American men fresh out of the Vietnam War who are starved for cash had been lured to become mercenaries in the unstable regions of Africa in order to protect Western multi-national commercial interests. And during the late 1970s and early 1980s, a clandestine travel company provides logistical support for the right price to Americans who want revenge against the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese Army to enter back to the newly unified communist Vietnam and shoot at Vietnamese soldiers after these “American tourists” enter Vietnam via secret channels that existed in Thailand during that time. Could the “private security contracting industry” just the Christian West’s version of “Jihad Tourism” when it all comes down to it? 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Sri Lanka’s Conflict Tourism: Up The Creek Without A Paddle?

As the government’s way to “capitalize” on the relatively recently concluded civil conflict, is Sri Lanka’s attempt at “conflict tourism” is euphemistically up the creek without a paddle?

By: Ringo Bones

A couple of years ago – well back around September 2012 – the government of Sri Lanka made that “notorious” Jordanian ship that had been impounded by the Tamil Tigers back in 2006 that was eventually used as their base and a source of vital war materiel in the form of scrap steel for the then war effort before its bloody controversial end back in 2009 – as the centerpiece of their conflict tourism program that would hopefully bring in vital tourist dollars for vital postwar reconstruction of the country. Given the history of the Sri Lankan civil conflict between the ethnic Tamil and the Sinhalese majority – is this move well-advised?

Major tour providers around the world had expressed their wariness of this “history from the victorious ethnic group’s perspective” as soon as they’ve heard the announcement back in September 2012. And unbeknownst to most people – conventional tourism that takes advantage of Sri Lanka’s pristine beaches barely exists even as far back as the country’s independence. Those few music videos that the 1980s pop-rock supergroup Duran Duran shot there during the mid 1980s – before the Tamil Tiger-Sinhalese Conflict started - was allegedly a logistical tour de force given the nonexistence of even a “conventional” tourism industry in Sri Lanka.

Concerns of major travel and tourism providers on the Sri Lankan conflict tourism initiative were very much justified because war memorial signs of the facilities that were fast-tracked into completion were written only in English and Sinhalese – there were no Tamil language signs in sight whatsoever! I wonder if the Sri Lankan conflict tourism facilities will be serving Tamil fish curry as part of their haute cuisine. Only time will tell if this “oversight” will be rectified by the current Sri Lankan government.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Culinary Tourism: Savior of the Greek Tourism Industry?

As one of the major aspects of the health-conscious Mediterranean Diet movement, will Greek-based culinary tourism prove to be the savior of Greece’s ailing tourism industry?

By: Ringo Bones

Contrary to popular belief, Greek cuisine – unlike its Greek diaspora run American equivalent – is not just a Mediterranean “culinary orgy” of meat and saturated fats. The authentic Greek version of the famed health-conscious Mediterranean Diet is a very star contrast to its American cousin and is largely composed of locally grown garden fresh vegetables prepared in a traditional manner that dates back before the great Greek philosophers wrote their various treatises to enrich Western Civilization. This makes such Greek culinary tradition a “keeper of the faith” of the recent slow-food revolution and due to its healthiness and culinary significance, the Greek aspect of the Mediterranean Diet and slow-food revolution even won it a declaration by UNESCO the “intangible heritage” classification.

At the moment, tourists are veering away from Greece as a primary destination which is sad because at present Greece could use every form of economic stimulus that it badly needs to solve the country’s rather herculean debt crisis. Scared of by the still relatively strong euro, most budget-conscious tourists rather opt for Greek-like travel destinations in the Mediterranean not yet on the euro. Given that Greece is more than just Classical Greek era ruins, promotion of the healthier aspect of the Greek cuisine could surely boost tourist arrivals. But will efforts to promote the health benefits of traditional Greek cuisine as part of the burgeoning slow-foods revolution bring in the much needed tourism revenue back to Greece? Only time will tell.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Will the Harsh Pussy Riot Sentencing Ruin Russia’s Tourism Industry?

Given that the “irreverent” Russian punk rock band Pussy Riot had been perceived by the global punk community as a Russian tourist destination in themselves, will the harsh sentencing of the band eventually ruin Russia’s tourism industry? 

By: Ringo Bones 

In this day and age of over commoditized American Idol wannabe pseudo-musicians more interested in money than true artistry, genuine politically addled punk rock has inadvertently become a musical tourist destination in themselves – akin to Mississippi Delta Blues tourism and all-acoustic unamplified Viennese string quartets. But with the recent harsh sentencing of the Russian punk rock band Pussy Riot over their anti Vladimir Putin protest in Moscow’s main cathedral back in March, will Russia’s tourism industry be inadvertently ruined by missing out on the emergent music tourism – make that punk rock tourism - movement? 

Ever since the British punk rock band Sex Pistols sang a brash polemic about HRH Queen Elizabeth II back in the mid 1970s, parts of London with anything connecting them to Johnny Rotten and company had since became the “Mecca” of punk rock tourism. Not to mention punk rock fashions by Vivienne Westwood. And with the harsh sentencing of the three members of Pussy Riot to two years in a labor camp might give anyone planning to visit Russia in the coming months some second thoughts - especially since the inherent lack of freedom of expression and rule of law of Vladimir Putin’s Russia will definitely scare off potential tourists who are probably too scared to get arrested over arcane legalese definition of hooliganism by the Russian court of law.