Striking Greek cabbies step up blockades

ATHENS — Striking Greek taxi owners stepped up their protests Monday, blockading highways and a busy regional airport, after fresh negotiations with the government on new licensing laws collapsed.

The open-ended strike — now 16 days old — is taking place at the height of the tourist season and it has prompted warnings from the country’s tourism industry and the Socialist government as it battles the country’s financial crisis.

But protest organizers have ignored those warnings.

On Monday, taxi drivers blocked a highway in southern Greece as well as roads to Iraklio international airport on the holiday island of Crete, where tourists were forced to walk several hundred yards (meters) under a fierce sun. Riot police finally used tear gas to clear away the strikers, several of whom had been throwing stones at them.

Motorists were forced to take boats from the southern Peloponnese region to the mainland, after taxi drivers blocked the Rio to Antirrio toll-bridge for about six hours, severely disrupting traffic. Cabbies also blocked access to the main port on the island of Corfu.

The government signalled plans to take a tougher line against the protesters.

“Every professional group has the right to make demands. But no one has the right … to close highways, ports and airports,” Public Order Minister Christos Papoutsis said, heading an emergency meeting of the police’s leadership, reportedly to draw up plans to deal with the taxi protest. “This is preventing the country from functioning properly and the economy from functioning properly at such a difficult time.”

Thymios Lymberopoulos, head of the protesting greater Athens Taxi Owners Association, said his members would surround the Transport Ministry in Athens for 48 hours.

“They are not giving us a chance to take even one step back,” Lymberopoulos told protesters over a loudspeaker after meeting Transport minister Yiannis Ragoussis. “They are creating an atmosphere of tension that no one will be able to control. But we will proceed.”

Taxi owners are angry at plans to open up their profession to more competition as part of business licensing reforms in Greece. They argue that taxi owners will unfairly lose the money they invested buying licenses — around C100,000 ($142,500) — when the changes take effect.

“I got into debt so I could get a license and support my family and now Ragoussis wants to take it all away,” protesting taxi driver Yiannis Papagelis said.

The reforms have been demanded by European Union countries and the International Monetary Fund, as part of austerity measures required to pay out rescue loans worth more than C110 billion ($157 billion).

The government has failed to reach its deficit-reduction goals in 2011, hurt by weak tax-collection revenues. Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said Greece was determined to meet its fiscal targets this year.

“The reforms we have announced will be implemented and the targets we have made remain unchanged … because this is vital for the country,” he said.

Spyros Ginis, deputy chairman of the Greek Tourism Enterprises Association, said the taxi strike was hurting the industry in high season.

“You can’t have one part of society pointing a gun at another,” Ginis told private Skai television.

“Tourism is the only sector that is doing well at the moment in the Greek economy and it distributes wealth to every part of the country,” he said. “So this protest is really not helping.”

Greece’s Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies, or HATTA, warned that the protests would “with certainty” lead to “the final sacrifice of Greek tourism to individual demands, and the ultimate collapse of our country’s international image.”

A HATTA statement said the taxi drivers were unfairly targeting “people and groups of people who are in no way to blame.”


The European Mediterranean coast as a destination shelter is imposed

Spain, Greece, Turkey and Croatia capture the true tourist to North Africa | Arab Spring tourists kept away fearing instability | Spain went on to lose 10% of tourists in two years, and this year returns almost 8%

The Arab spring eternal being done to tourism destinations as consolidated as Egypt and Tunisia , where the social upheavals that ended up toppling governments have kept the foreign visitors throughout the year. Egypt tourism destination classic British, German and Russian, this year has seen a drop in visits by 40% (according to the World Tourism Organization), similar to that suffered Tunisia preference million French visitors. Morocco also suffers from this summer the consequences of the attack in the tourist heart of Marrakech, which killed 14 people, with a drop in visits of 11%. “During the weeks after the attack, just reserved tickets on routes to Marrakech, so we opted to cancel them to fall,” the company argues Vueling, which repositioned the aircraft opening new routes to the Greek islands, with flights to Crete Santorini and Mykonos.

“The flow of tourists from sun and sand has moved from North Africa to the European shores of the Mediterranean and Turkey, which have assumed much of the regular tourists in Egypt, Tunisia or Morocco, “said John Kester, head of trends market and competitiveness of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), whose headquarters is located in Madrid. The WTO estimated an overall increase of 7% of foreign tourists in the Mediterranean. In the ranking, France (includes Paris) continues to lead, followed by Spain, Italy and Turkey, but Kester highlights emerging destinations such as Croatia, an increase of 12%, or Cyprus, the number of visitors has grown this year by 13 %.

” Spain is undoubtedly one of the biggest beneficiaries of this transfer of sun and sand tourists in Tunisia and Morocco, says Kester, mainly the Canaries during the first months of the year. ” But it was not the only factor causing the increase in foreign tourists close to 8%, which amounts to 20% on the islands. “Spain came to lose 10% in two years, which is recovering now tourists had stopped coming,” he says.

“Interest in North African countries has been diverted to other destinations in the Mediterranean, but we believe that Spain is an attraction in itself, in addition, we have also seen an increase in domestic tourism because the Spanish do not travel far,” says a source price comparison of the remedy.

For its part, the European tour operator Tui points to a sharp fall in reserves in Egypt, 24% through September, while data begins to glimpse more positive in Tunisia, where the drop in reserves this season is only 7% less.

From the tourism agency in Turkey claim that “the increase in tourists is not just the conflict in northern Africa,” because, unlike Spain and other coastal destinations, maintains a stable growth path for years. “The goal is to reach 30 million tourists this year or next,” said a spokesman for the tourist office, stressing that its main transmitter is Russia, one of the fastest growing markets, ahead of the Europeans, as English and German.

Greece, after suffering declines the previous two years, relies on tourism to bring dynamism to its economy. According to figures from the Ministry of Tourism, the number of arrivals of foreign visitors to Greek airports recorded an increase of 10% this year. Highlights 28% more tourists to the island of Rhodes, Kos 26% to 14% and Crete, whereas arrivals at Athens fell by 3% for fear of protests and strikes, which are concentrated in the capital. Italy and Portugal, to a lesser extent also welcome tourists shying away from North Africa. “Italy has had a more stable during the crisis,” concluded Kester.


US, Europe debt crisis could impact flow of tourists to India

NEW DELHI: The ongoing debt crisis in the US and Europe is expected to impact inbound tourism into India this season, according to hoteliers and travel companies.

“There is definitely going to be an impact on inbound tourism this season, as it was in 2008. The smell in the wind is the same. Especially in the case of Europeans coming to India, as they will start travelling within Europe and take short holidays,” Kuoni Travel India Destination Management India South Asia CEO Dipak Deva told PTI.

There could be at least 8-10 per cent dip in total inbound tourists, especially those coming from the UK, Italy, France and Spain.

The loss, however, will be partly offset by tourists coming from Asian countries such as Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, Russia and the Middle East, Deva said.

Usually, foreign tourists visit India during the autumn and winter seasons.

“There was an expectation that global economies would see a recovery in 2011. Unfortunately, this is not happening. Global economies and the economic environment are volatile and the world is confronted with economic uncertainties which could impact the company’s business,” according to EIH Ltd Chairman P R S Oberoi.

Recently, ratings agency SP had downgraded the US’s credit rating, while many countries in Europe, including Spain, Italy and Greece, continue to reel under a debt crisis, thereby raising questions over the health of the global economy.

In such a scenario, business travel is likely to be hit more than leisure tourism, industry players pointed out.

“In situations like these (economic crisis), business travel gets affected first. There is not expected to be much slowdown in leisure travel, but business travel is likely to come down,” Cleartrip.com CMO Niraj Seth said.

Given the global uncertainties, hospitality firms are focusing on the growth of domestic tourism.

“Since we cannot keep waiting for inbound tourists for the growth of the sector, we have to focus on domestic tourism. Situations like the UK (riots) and Europe (debt crisis) will keep happening,” Bharat Hotels CMD Jyotsna Suri said.

In 2010, 55.83 lakh foreign tourists visited India, a growth of 8.1 per cent compared to 2009.

As per Tourism Ministry data, foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) during the January-July, 2011, period stood at 34.17 lakh, a growth of 10.8 per cent from 30.85 lakh in the same period last year.

This year’s growth is more than the 8.2 per cent growth clocked during January-July, 2010, vis-a-vis the corresponding period of 2009.

“This indicates that inbound tourism is on the upswing once again. We at Cox Kings have also witnessed good growth during this period,” Cox Kings Director Peter Kerkar said.


US, Europe debt crisis to hurt India tourism

The ongoing debt crisis in the US and Europe is expected to impact inbound tourism into India [ Images ] this season, according to hoteliers and travel companies.

“There is definitely going to be an impact on inbound tourism this season, as it was in 2008. The smell in the wind is the same.

“Especially in the case of Europeans coming to India, as they will start travelling within Europe and take short holidays,” said Kuoni Travel India Destination Management India and South Asia CEO Dipak Deva.

There could be at least 8-10 per cent dip in total inbound tourists, especially those coming from the United Kingdom, Italy [ Images ], France [ Images ] and Spain.

The loss, however, will be partly offset by tourists coming from Asian countries such as Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, Russia [ Images ] and the Middle East, Deva said.

Usually, foreign tourists visit India during the autumn and winter seasons.

“There was an expectation that global economies would see a recovery in 2011. Unfortunately, this is not happening.

“Global economies and the economic environment are volatile and the world is confronted with economic uncertainties which could impact the company’s business,” according to EIH Ltd [ Get Quote ] Chairman P R S Oberoi.

Recently, ratings agency SP had downgraded the US’s credit rating, while many countries in Europe, including Spain, Italy and Greece, continue to reel under a debt crisis, thereby raising questions over the health of the global economy.

In such a scenario, business travel is likely to be hit more than leisure tourism, industry players pointed out.

“In situations like these (economic crisis), business travel gets affected first. There is not expected to be much slowdown in leisure travel, but business travel is likely to come down,” said Cleartrip.com CMO Niraj Seth.

Given the global uncertainties, hospitality firms are focusing on the growth of domestic tourism.

“Since we cannot keep waiting for inbound tourists for the growth of the sector, we have to focus on domestic tourism. Situations like the UK (riots) and Europe (debt crisis) will keep happening,” said Bharat Hotels CMD Jyotsna Suri.

In 2010, 55.83 lakh foreign tourists visited India, a growth of 8.1 per cent compared to 2009.

As per Tourism Ministry data, foreign tourist arrivals during the January-July, 2011, period stood at 34.17 lakh, a growth of 10.8 per cent from 30.85 lakh in the same period last year.

This year’s growth is more than the 8.2 per cent growth clocked during January-July, 2010, vis-a-vis the corresponding period of 2009.

“This indicates that inbound tourism is on the upswing once again. We at Cox Kings have also witnessed good growth during this period,” Cox Kings Director Peter Kerkar said.


US, Europe debt crisis may impact tourists flow to India

The ongoing debt crisis in the US and Europe is expected to impact inbound tourism into India this season, according to hoteliers and travel companies.

“There is definitely going to be an impact on inbound tourism this season, as it was in 2008. The smell in the wind is the same. Especially in the case of Europeans coming to India, as they will start travelling within Europe and take short holidays,” Kuoni Travel India Destination Management India South Asia CEO Dipak Deva told PTI.

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More
There could be at least 8-10% dip in total inbound tourists, especially those coming from the UK, Italy, France and Spain.

The loss, however, will be partly offset by tourists coming from Asian countries such as Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, Russia and the Middle East, Deva said.

Usually, foreign tourists visit India during the autumn and winter seasons.

“There was an expectation that global economies would see a recovery in 2011. Unfortunately, this is not happening. Global economies and the economic environment are volatile and the world is confronted with economic uncertainties which could impact the company’s business,” according to EIH Ltd Chairman P R S Oberoi.

Recently, ratings agency SP had downgraded the US’s credit rating, while many countries in Europe, including Spain, Italy and Greece, continue to reel under a debt crisis, thereby raising questions over the health of the global economy.

In such a scenario, business travel is likely to be hit more than leisure tourism, industry players pointed out.

“In situations like these (economic crisis), business travel gets affected first. There is not expected to be much slowdown in leisure travel, but business travel is likely to come down,” Cleartrip.Com CMO Niraj Seth said.

Given the global uncertainties, hospitality firms are focusing on the growth of domestic tourism.

“Since we cannot keep waiting for inbound tourists for the growth of the sector, we have to focus on domestic tourism. Situations like the UK (riots) and Europe (debt crisis) will keep happening,” Bharat Hotels CMD Jyotsna Suri said.

In 2010, 55.83 lakh foreign tourists visited India, a growth of 8.1% compared to 2009.

As per Tourism Ministry data, foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) during the January-July, 2011, period stood at 34.17 lakh, a growth of 10.8% from 30.85 lakh in the same period last year.

This year’s growth is more than the 8.2% growth clocked during January-July, 2010, vis-a-vis the corresponding period of 2009.

“This indicates that inbound tourism is on the upswing once again. We at Cox Kings have also witnessed good growth during this period,” Cox Kings Director Peter Kerkar said.

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Legislators run up bills at interim gatherings

More than a dozen Alaska legislators went to a conference in Hawaii this month at state expense, with Sitka Sen. Bert Stedman spending six nights in a suite with a bill averaging more than $900 a night. Two other legislators just got back from state travel to a New Orleans meeting of a pro-business group that crafts “model legislation” for lawmakers to use back home.


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Sen. Bert Stedman


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Sen. Kevin Meyer


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Summer and fall are the major travel seasons for Alaska lawmakers, who are between legislative sessions. It can get expensive, with Stedman’s Waikiki beach suite at the Council of State Governments-West conference an extreme example.

Stedman told the Daily News his staff made his arrangements with the Sheraton and he mistakenly thought that he was getting his suite upgrade for free. He said he’d asked his staff to check when making the reservations if he could get a complimentary upgrade to a bigger room. He said his staff then reported back that he would be getting a room upgrade.

Stedman said he was not told the rate when he checked in and was handed the key to a suite (the front desk at the Sheraton Waikiki would not confirm when the Daily News called whether guests are routinely asked to sign off on the rate at check-in, referring the question to the publicity department, which did not return the call). Stedman said he realized the cost when he got the bill at check-out.

“I about crapped. … It’s one of those screw-ups internally,” said Stedman, Republican co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Stedman said his recollection is that the room rate he discovered at checkout was $695 a night. The Legislative Affairs Agency says it reimbursed Stedman’s hotel bill for six nights and that the cost was $5,544, an average of $924 a night (a total which would include tax, “resort fee” and possibly other charges). Stedman said he’d go through his records to sort it out.

Stedman said he did not consider paying the bill himself because “I didn’t really mess it up, it’s an internal screwup within the office.” Stedman, a frequent traveler on state business, said he was embarrassed by the suite cost and that it wouldn’t happen again.

TOTAL 2010 TRAVEL BILL: $710,300

Alaska’s 60 lawmakers spent a combined total of more than $710,300 on state-paid travel last year in Alaska and out of state, according to expenses tallied by the Legislative Affairs Agency. That does not include their relocation costs to and from Juneau for the annual legislative sessions. The top 2010 travelers were Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, and Senate Finance co-chairman Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, who each had more than $44,500 in travel expenses in state and out.

That includes their visits to Anchorage and elsewhere in Alaska for meetings. It also includes a seafood expo in Belgium, a trade mission to Russia and Korea, and attendance at various conferences and policy forums in Lower 48 cities.

Legislators say the travel is valuable for the state, allowing them to promote Alaska and to attend forums on oil and gas, education, health care, taxation and other issues that make them better able to serve their constituents back home.

The travel has continued this year, including a visit by Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, and Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, to Greece for the Special Olympics in June. Ten legislators have confirmed for the “Norway policy tour” from Aug. 27 through Sept. 4.

Much of the travel is to various conferences, including this month’s trips by lawmakers to the meetings in Hawaii and New Orleans.

Senate Majority Leader Kevin Meyer, among the lawmakers who attended the Council of State Governments-West conference in Honolulu, said he can see a time coming when the state treasury isn’t so flush and the Senate president cuts down on authorizing travel.

“I do know that as things tighten up for us, which they will in the near future, travel is going to be one of the first things that we are going to have to address,” said the South Anchorage Republican. “Because that’s one of those things you don’t have to do. Yet on the other hand I think when you do have a surplus, which we do now, it’s important we keep people trained and current.”

Not all the legislators who went to Hawaii have turned in their expenses to the state for reimbursement yet. But so far the tally is almost $35,000, including airfare, meals, hotel rooms and conference fees for the legislators who attended.

POLICY FORUMS AND POLYNESIAN REVUE

CSG-West is a nonpartisan policy group made up of legislators from 13 Western states. The group’s annual conferences are rotated among states. This year it was at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel, a venue that describes itself as a beach resort that “ushers in a new level of comfort, style and panache to the Waikiki scene, promising an inspired vacation for one and all.”

The conference was held over four days from July 30 to Aug. 2. At least seven of the Alaska lawmakers arrived July 28, according to their hotel bills, with conference registration on the 29th and an invitation-only meeting at 2 p.m. on that day.

The Hawaii hotel bills for each of the Alaska legislators ranged between $729 and $1,276, not counting Stedman and his suite. The Alaskans also received a state meal per diem which totaled more than $750 each for most of them.

The state paid the $350 conference fee for most of the Alaska legislators and costs for shuttle buses and taxis in Hawaii.

Sens. Meyer, Stedman, McGuire, Bettye Davis, D-Anchorage; John Coghill, R-North Pole; Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage; Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla; and Linda Menard, R-Wasilla, had state-paid travel to the conference, according to the Legislative Affairs Agency. So did Reps. Lynn, Alan Austerman, R-Kodiak; Carl Gatto, R-Palmer; Craig Johnson, R-Anchorage; and Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake.

At least two others, Rep. Lindsey Holmes, D-Anchorage, and Rep. Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks, were also seen at the event and didn’t return messages from the Daily News asking if they planned to pay their bills themselves or submit expenses for the state to reimburse.

If Holmes and Kawasaki did go to the conference, that means a full one-quarter of the Alaska Legislature was in Honolulu.

Sen. Meyer said the CSG-West conferences are good for exchanging ideas with other Western lawmakers in areas like dealing with the budget and the economy.

Meyer said CSG-West waived his conference fee because he served on an afternoon education panel. “It was about the challenges of education and how to get scores up and higher graduation rates, the problems dealing with education that all the Western states have,” he said.

He said this year he particularly appreciated a training session at the conference on making effective political presentations. “That’s a problem that I have personally is that I tend to give speeches and not relay the messages,” he said.

Sitka’s Sen. Stedman, who also didn’t submit a conference fee for state reimbursement, said he gave a presentation at the CSG-West conference on Alaska’s fiscal position and was struck by how much financially healthier Alaska is than the other Western states. Stedman said he also pressed Hawaiian legislators about why Hawaii wasn’t trying to buy Alaska natural gas instead of relying on diesel fuel to power the islands. He said they didn’t seem to get it.

The agenda for the CSG-West Honolulu conference included forums on topics including health care, fiscal affairs, economic development, education, the environment and international trade. The schedule also included time for sightseeing and socializing.

On one of the four days, there were no meetings listed on the agenda after lunch but there was a Pearl Harbor tour. The afternoon agenda for another of the days included a meeting of the CSG-West executive committee and a downtown Honolulu tour. There were evening receptions, a hospitality suite and a luau with a Polynesian revue on the final night.

‘MODEL LEGISLATION’

The state sent two other legislators to the annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council in New Orleans, from Aug. 3-6.

ALEC says it is a nonprofit advocacy group for free markets and limited government that counts as its members more than 2,000 state lawmakers as well as 300 private-sector members, including corporations, trade groups and nonprofits.

Bloomberg News reported last month that companies including Exxon Mobil and Koch Industries have helped craft ALEC “model legislation” by paying to be members of the organization and to join one of the group’s legislative-writing task forces. The idea is that legislators from around the nation can take the legislation and use it in their states.

Palmer Rep. Gatto cited ALEC’s model legislation, the “Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act,” this year when he introduced his “Alaska Health Freedom Act.”

It sought to prevent the state from enforcing the new federal requirement that people must purchase health insurance. Similar bills were introduced in 42 states.

Sen. Fred Dyson, R-Eagle River and Rep. Wes Keller, R-Wasilla, went to the ALEC conference this year at the New Orleans Marriott.

Neither has submitted his expenses to the state yet.

Dyson didn’t return a phone message asking about the conference. Keller said in a Wednesday interview that he would be submitting his expenses to the state. He said he or his staff would provide a list of his expenses to the Daily News but they hadn’t as of Sunday afternoon.

Keller is the Alaska state chairman for ALEC. He said the conference included task forces on pressing issues, and that he was a member of the education task force. He said he’s also particularly involved in health care issues with the group.

“I think it’s a fabulous organization, it has really helped me. Because what it does is it gives you the perspective of what’s going on in other states,” he said.

Keller said he sometimes gets ideas from the organization’s model legislation but he doesn’t introduce the language verbatim as his own bills.

He said he doesn’t recall specifically whether Exxon is a corporate sponsor but that it is common for such legislative organizations to have sponsors. Keller said he likes that the private sector has a vote in crafting the group’s model legislation.

“That’s the beauty of ALEC, really, because you see the vetting is not just with the politicians,” he said.


Reach Sean Cockerham at [email protected] or 257-4344.


What I Did (and Didn’t Do) on My Summer Vacation

As a child growing up in Greece, my favorite poem was “Ithaca” by the Greek poet Cavafy. My sister Agapi and I recited it long before we could properly pronounce the words or understand its meaning. It begins:

When you set out on the voyage to Ithaca,
Pray that your journey may be long,
full of adventures, full of knowledge.

Some of my happiest moments came through travel. I still remember the excitement of my first trip out of Athens — a visit to Paris when I was 11 — and the indelible memory of my first taste of the world outside my homeland. And I have the most amazing memories of my first trip to America, when I was 16, as part of a program called the Experiment in International Living, and of my time, a year later, studying comparative religion at Visva-Bharati University, outside Calcutta.

Today, much further on in my own life’s journey, I have a fuller sense of the rich wisdom of Cavafy’s lines. And the long journeys that carry us toward our own Ithacas don’t necessarily have to be long ones. There are adventures and knowledge to be found very close to home — actually, without even leaving home. Maybe it’s because I travel so much for work but, for all the allure of distant and exotic places, there is still something even more magnetic to be discovered in my own backyard.

Even before The Great Recession, “staycation” — which the New York Times called a “tarted-up pseudoword” — captured something real: our collective realization that adventure and discovery don’t have to involve boarding a plane. And that there is no correlation between the recharging benefits of a vacation and miles traveled.

Maybe it’s the rushed, hyper-connected, always-on aspect of our lives that has led us to appreciate the joys of unplugging and recharging at home. And there’s no better time than these waning days of summer to redefine travel by pausing, reflecting, and looking around our homes and hometowns with fresh eyes before we gear up with our next big travel plan taking us to a faraway land.

A fun way to start is by buying a guidebook for the place you live (and, of course, checking out your local Patch). You’ll be surprised at the number of amazing local destinations you never knew about, the landmarks you see every day but never visit because you’ve always dismissed them as tourist traps or have seen them so much you no longer give them a second look. And, though it may sound strange if you are not going anywhere, go ahead and set a budget for your time off — and enjoy the satisfaction of realizing your vacation money goes a lot further when you don’t have to spring for plane tickets and hotels.

Part of the benefit of a vacation comes from breaking routine, getting out of habits, and experiencing the world around us in a new way. The essence of travel is not found in the number of stamps in our passports — to really travel is to better understand a place through exploration and effort.

As an added benefit to exploring near home, there’s no threat of lines, delays, TSA workers grabbing your junk, or the myriad inconveniences of air travel like having an Airbus 330 grounded for 5 hours due to a stowaway mouse.

This summer, with all of HuffPost’s new launches and international expansions, I’ve had no time for a “traditional” vacation. So I created my own vacation here at home, with weekend massages, facials, yoga classes, and explorations of my new neighborhood.

I realized, for example, that I live just blocks from the High Line, New York’s magnificent park set on a former elevated train track. Or, tucked away on a small street, the Cherry Lane Theatre, where I just saw a beautiful new play, Manipulation. Then, Cafe Cluny, where I discovered the best pistachio ice cream (with real, whole pistachios inside) — better than any pistachio gelato in Capri.

Just around the corner from HuffPost’s new office is the legendary McSorley’s Old Ale House, which did not admit women until 1970, and whose gas lamp chandelier was covered with World War I-era dust until April, when the city’s health department demanded that it be cleaned off.

I made a conscious effort to see my home neighborhood with fresh eyes and those nuggets of rich local history were my immediate reward.

All in all, my travel-less vacation has left me with more time to unplug and recharge, meditate, and enjoy one of my favorite things: piling up all my work and staying in bed on a Sunday morning, making calls and answering emails. It’s a quiet reminder that when it comes to travel, the journey to knowledge and adventure need not be long.

For more unique, informative and inspirational takes on travel both on the home front and abroad — both redefined and traditional — be sure to check out HuffPost Travel, Gadling, and, for great deals and to book a trip, AOL Travel.

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CruiseOne Vacation Specialist, Angela Mattox, Offers Royal Caribbean …

Middleburg, FL (PRWEB) August 21, 2011

CruiseOne Cuise and Vacation Specialist Angela Mattox is offering an incredible special on Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas Holy Land cruise itinerary. Guests will travel back in time with ancient stops in Israel, Turkey and Greece. The cruise departs Istanbul, Turkey on September 16 and October 7, 2011. Guests booking with Angela Mattox can sail for just $499, which is $300 less than the cost of similar advertised sailing dates. Act now – guests must book by August 31, 2011.

The cruise fare includes:

  • An oceanview stateroom on Royal Caribbean International’s Vision of the Seas
  • $25 onboard credit per cabin
  • One free shore excursion
  • An onboard savings coupon

Balcony upgrades start at $1,099 per person and guests will receive an additional onboard savings coupon and a free spa treatment.

CruiseOne Cruise and Vacation Specialist Angela Mattox provides timely and unbeatable customer service, with live agency representatives available 24/7.

For more information on the Oceania Cruises Promotion or to book your next vacation, please visit www.CruiseOne.com/amattox or contact Angela Mattox, your Independent CruiseOne Cruise Vacation Specialist, at 888-972-8886 or amattox(at)cruiseone(dot)com.

*Subject to availability

About CruiseOne:

CruiseOne, the nation’s largest home-based franchise travel agent network, was founded in 1992 and currently has more than 720 locations. The company is part of World Travel Holdings (WTH), the nation’s largest cruise retailer. The franchise has relationships with every major cruise line and many tour operators and as a result, offers consumers the lowest possible pricing. CruiseOne is consistently recognized for its efforts, including being named Royal Caribbean’s “Partner of the Year,” Celebrity Cruises’ “National Account Partner of the Year” and Carnival Cruise Line’s “Travel Partner of the Year.” A proud member of the International Franchise Association (IFA), MinorityFRAN, and VetFRAN, the company is consistently ranked in major editorial awards including Entrepreneur magazine’s “Top 500”, Forbes magazine’s “Top 20 Franchises to Start,” the Franchise Market “Top 100 Companies,” and FranchiseBusinessReview’s “Top Low Cost Franchises.”

Media Contact:

Angela Mattox

CruiseOne

888-972-8886 / 301-523-8446

amattox(at)cruiseone(dot)com

###

For the original version on PRWeb visit: www.prweb.com/releases/prweb2011/8/prweb8728471.htm


Expert: Greece in better pipeline position

ATHENS, Greece, Aug. 22 (UPI) — Greece’s move to privatize its incumbent natural gas distributor could help it gain leverage in still-fluid southern energy corridor plans, a U.S. expert says.

Alexandros Petersen, an adviser to the European Energy Security Initiative at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, wrote Saturday in the Athens daily I Kathimerini that, until now, Greece, though its state-owned gas company DEPA, was committed to the proposed Interconnector Greece-Italy pipeline — one of three southern corridor pipelines on the drawing board.

But in a measure passed this month as part of the requirements of its financial bailouts from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, Athens will seek to sell up to 55 percent of DEPA and a 31 percent share of its gas transmission subsidiary DEFSA, energy trade publication Platts reported.

The privatizations come at a time when the Greek economy is in a freefall, shrinking 9 percent in less than two years as civil unrest triggered by austerity measures continues to grip the nation.

International financial analysts have predicted unless it can raise more cash through privatizations, Greece won’t be able to service its debt by the end of the year.

Under the new energy law response, Greece will also sell its remaining 35.5 percent ownership stake in Hellenic Petroleum as it seeks to raise $2.5 billion-$7.2 billion by the end of the year.

This will change the southern corridor equation for Greece, Petersen wrote. DEPA was a shareholder in IGI, which “hindered Athens’s ability to play one project against the other and ultimately end up supporting (and investing in) that which will be favored by the holders of the gas.”

All that could change under the new law.

That’s because it also includes an “unbundling” element, in which DEPA and its pipeline operator subsidiary DESFA would be separated to comply with the directives of the European Union’s Third Energy Package. Among other things, it seeks to ensure the separation of transmission and storage operations from energy supply, electricity generation, or gas production operations.

The directive requires owners and operators of transmission and distribution systems to give access to third parties using non discriminatory tariffs.

Greece is among a set of only seven EU member states expected to implement unbundling measures by the end of this year — the others are Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Italy and Portugal.

“The partial privatization and unbundling of DEPA and DESFA should allow for new investors to seek out new opportunities, including hedging their bets against commitment to a pipeline that may never be built,” Petersen wrote.

Greece will also comply with the EU directive by giving its Regulatory Authority for Energy, or RAE, much stronger powers, the U.S. trade publication Power Engineering reported.

It said RAE will be able to approve network modifications, issue licenses and replace the current postage-stamp system of gas pipeline access with an entry-exit system, starting with establishing a virtual trading point for gas, which could be up and running by the end of the year.

“The powers of the (RAE) will also be strengthened, hopefully allowing for decisions to be based more on commercial rather than political considerations,” Petersen wrote.

Under the new law, he said, Greece will be able to potentially throw in with the competitors to the IGI pipeline — Nabucco and the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline — thus increasing its leverage in the southern corridor wheeling and dealing.


Indian tourists want to hurl tomatoes in Spain

Hrithik-Kaif starrer impels rise in bookings for depicted festivity, say travel agencies.

Hindi films help in selling holidays and the latest example is tour operators promoting Spain to holiday makers here.

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Spain is amongst the biggest tourism destinations woldwide, but has never been a popular choice for Indians. However, egged by the popularity of the Hrithik Roshan-Katrina Kaif starrer, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (ZNMD), tour operator SOTC is marketing a seven-day Spain package, highlighting the La Tomatina festival.

SOTC, the outbound travel brand of Kuoni, claims it is the first Indian travel company to organise a trip to the festival, made popular in India by the movie. La Tomatina or the tomato festival is held in the southern Spanish city of Bunol on the last Wednesday of August. Revellers hurl tomatoes on each other in friendly fights, in a tradition that goes back to 1945.

Kashmira Commissariat, chief operating officer (outbound division) of Kuoni India, said: “There has been a surge in demand (for Spain). We do have several packages to Spain but this is for the first time we have organised an exclusive package to the La Tomatina festival. The response has been good and we have received a lot of inquiries from couples and young people who want adventure and to experience culture.”

That Bollywood movies have fuelled tourism is evident from the fact that SOTC and a Swiss tour company signed an agreement with Yash Raj Films last year. This deal would enable Indian travellers to visit all the locales where Yash Raj movies were filmed, including Chandni, Darr and Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge.

“Destinations use the medium of films for promotions and they encourage film shootings. For example, New Zealand shot into prominence after Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai hit. Similarly, Malaysia benefited with the release of Don, starring Shah Rukh Khan. We have seen a demand in travel to these destinations and lately, with a film shot in Spain, we have been getting inquiries for the destination as well,” said Neelu Singh, COO of online portal Ezeego1.com.

However, Thomas Cook’s chief operating officer, Madhav Pai, has a different take. “Movies do have an impact but that is not the sole factor. Connectivity is important. Hindi Films are being shot in Prague, Russia, Estonia and Greece, but those destinations have not become popular. We started promoting group tours to Spain three years ago. Spain has always been included as an added attraction to the regular 15-20 day European tours. It has not been an integral part of the tours because of its geographical location.”

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