Priorities, Syria edition

As we noted in “When Assad Gives you Lemons,” Syria is bizarrely focusing on promoting tourism in the midst of its civil war.  Instead of focusing on the coastal areas, the Tourism Minister is now hyping Aleppo. Seriously.  And it’s doing so with the help of the Game of Thrones theme music.  You can’t make this stuff up.

CNN describes the unreal ads:

“Showcased in the video are aerial shots of wide green boulevards and swimming pools. It’s a far cry from the rebel-held eastern part of the city, where 250,000 people live with daily airstrikes, according to the UN, and where whole blocks of neighborhoods have been destroyed…Syria’s state-sponsored news agency last week mocked the perception of Aleppo as one of the ‘world’s most dangerous’ cities, tweeting a video of locals enjoying the city’s ‘thriving nightlife.’

Who exactly is the government trying to lure to Syria?  What tourists are so confused (phone call for Gary Johnson) that they don’t know that Aleppo is immersed in a civil war? And why use the theme music for a TV show filled with violence and war?

I guess the filming had to be carefully supervised so they didn’t accidentally get pictures of the other Aleppo:

battle_of_aleppo_617

Time to find a new Tourism Minister

If I were the Ugandan Minister of Tourism, I would have little trouble advertising the country to tourists.  Kevin and I went there several years ago and for anyone who is a fan of wildlife, it is a true paradise.  We saw lions climbing trees, we trekked with chimps, we saw gorillas in the (awesomely and correctly named) Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, we saw an amazing diversity of birds and animals cruising the Kazinga channel.

One thing we didn’t see (thank goodness) was unhygienic mass circumcision of teenage boys.  That is the Ministry of Tourism’s great plan of how to lure more tourists to the country!  Seriously! Lions, no; chimps, no; gorillas, no; adolescent abuse, yes!

Here’s more information:

“The Uganda and Kenya Tourism boards are looking to turn the tradition into an attraction. They have agreed to jointly promote Embalu circumcision ceremonies in Eastern Uganda and Western Kenya. President Yoweri Museveni himself has encouraged this ritual. He said it fits in well with today’s modern society where all men are encouraged to get circumcised for health purposes.”

This might be my favorite line: “Tourism experts intend to market the Embalu festivals across the world using Ugandan embassies in the hope that the ceremonies will bring in additional tourists.”

My take: time to find some new tourism experts!

Here’s a photo we took of our time there:

lion2_uganda

That would be a lot better for tourism promotion than the following:

circumcision

 

 

Report from the field: Botswana tourist edition

Robin and I are back and semi-recovered from our trip to Botswana. Here are some probably over generalized and superficial impressions.

It’s a pretty rich country. Our last trip to Africa was to Uganda and there’s no comparison really (we loved Uganda though, money isn’t everything).

Batswanans  think they live in a democracy despite 50 years of one party rule. When you say the Khama family is like the Bush family they are not amused.

Batswanans are very impressed if you learn any Setswana at all. We learned like 20 words and a few stock phrases and were treated like super-heros. People constantly asked us if we lived there and would interrogate us to figure out how this amazing event had come to pass.

Batswanans have a dim view of their neighbors, especially Namibia, which catches a fair share of jokes and scorn.

The average Motswana working in the tourist industry views their customers as dimwitted mobile ATMs. And given many of the  questions we heard asked and the actions we observed from our fellow tourists as we traveled around the country, I don’t particularly blame them. This may explain why our attempts to speak Setswana were met with amazement, like if a goat started speaking English.

It was unexpected and nice to see several women working in managerial positions supervising male employees. It was a small sample, but we thought on average the female managers we encountered outperformed their male counterparts.

The Okavango delta is one of the most amazing places on earth and the government / people of Botswana deserve a ton of credit and gratitude for keeping it that way.

Take a walk on the wild side

San Diego is giving new meaning to the idea of cross-border cooperation.  After 20 years of discussion and planning, the airport in SD is now constructing a 525 foot pedestrian bridge to the Tijuana airport, allowing ticketed passengers to pay a small fee and clear customs directly in the airport rather than the usual route of hiring a taxi to take you to the usual border crossing (note: taxi drivers are not happy with this project).

The idea first came about when the South County Economic Development Council surveyed the Tijuana airport parking lot and found that many US citizens were using the Tijuana airport as a cross-border commuter lot.  The council originally proposed a terminal where planes could taxi on both sides of the border, but that apparently was too problematic. The pedestrian bridge project is being funded by private investors from both the US and Mexico, although they still need to figure out how to cover costs like paying for customs agents.

The benefits to Mexico are debatable.  The mayor is actually on record saying that travelers can now bypass Tijuana completely and go direct to San Diego (it seems the opposite argument would also be true, but perhaps that’s not what most travelers are looking for).

The director of the Tijuana airport, Guillermo Villalba, disagrees, arguing that there are numerous benefits to the plan, namely that it will send “a message that the border region is prosperous and safe, will attract more business to the border region, will put Tijuana on the world map, attracting investment, tourism and economic development that will benefit not only Tijuana but the state and the entire border region.”  

I’m not sure I agree with the director about the message this project is sending with regards to TJ, but I do agree that it will give the city a lot of publicity given the uniqueness of the plan.  It will be interesting to see how well the bridge works and what kind of effects it will have on both cities.