Why the ‘Visit’ tourism agencies should be afraid . . .

Coastguard storm 2I am very blessed to live in our sceptred isles; they are truly beautiful. Our coastlines are magnificent, separating the ever evolving land from the strength and majesty of the sea. And the sea’s fury and malevolence was clearly seen in this year storms, when our coasts were well and truly battered.

Thank goodness for the Coastguard MRCCs, their experience, expertise and local knowledge kept everyone safe. So many people owe their lives to them, not just in the storms but every day of the year. The RNLI and all the independent coastguards are also guided by them; they are the experts. The Transport Select Committee in the Houses of Parliament knows this, experienced sea travellers know this, a large number of MPs knows this, and, basically, lots and lots of us know this. It’s common sense.

Forth CoastguardCLYDE-ribbonThe Department for Transport (DfT) and the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) choose to ignore this and, in their never ending quest to save money for what they consider to be inconsequential matters, they are closing half the coastguard stations we have round our coasts.

So?

So, Visit Britain, Visit England, Visit Scotland, Visit Wales and Discover Northern Ireland, should all sit up and take notice of what is happening. They should read today’s story in the Express about the subject. It states facts not spin, it states facts from people who know, people who are experienced, not guys in grey suits saving a few pounds here and there. One can but hope they put the tourists’ safety before anything else.

Yarmouth coastguard deathMistakes have already happened. East Anglia is a beautiful destination. But due to the indifference and arrogance of the Great Yarmouth MP, Brandon Lewis, Yarmouth MRCC was allowed to close. East Anglia, is now covered by the Coastguard stations at Dover and Humber! And local knowledge was nowhere to be found in a diving incident earlier this year. Humber sent a lifeboat that was not the nearest to the incident. The nearest lifeboat, which is an independent one, saw the one sent go past it. Big mistake. The busiest shipping area in the world and the MCA closes the Coastguard station, it beggars belief.

And then there is Wales; hugely diverse landscapes to explore, beaches, prehistoric caves, limestone cliffs, woodland, salt marsh, and so much more.coastguard gower

The Gower is designated an area of outstanding beauty and it’s easy to see why, the peninsular is stunning and the Swansea Coastguard, which was built as a main communications centre, does an incredible job of monitoring and responding to one of the largest number of incidents a station has. 

coastguard swansea signGuess what?  Yes, the MCA has decided Swansea, the ‘Maritime and Coastguard Agency Headquarters, Wales and West of England’ is one to close. Sir Alan Massey, ‘affectionately’ known as SAM, has stated that response times may be ten minutes longer, doesn’t take anywhere near that long to drown!

Involved in our wonderful travel and tourism industry as I am, I fear for the safety of the tourists we are trying to attract to our beautiful coastal areas. With incidents increasing and responsible travel becoming more popular, having holidays and short breaks in our own wonderful isles is on the up.

I pray the rookies aren’t hung out to dry and the MCA and DfT is held totally and utterly responsible for incidents which are not handled correctly. The future isn’t bright.

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Brazil : part 2 : as a visitor

Brazil Christoscwc at ChristoHow many people have seen the pictures of Christo – Christ the Redeemer – and wanted to go there? I was one of the lucky ones, I did.

The title of this post is as a visitor, but I really did not explore Brazil as I would have done as a tourist. I went with the Street Child World Cup organisation as a volunteer for the two weeks of the football tournament and the conferences. We stayed in large and safe sports facilities at Espaço in Lonier, which was about an hour from the airport.

I can, however, write about a couple of the times we did go out and my thoughts on these experiences.

The visit to Christo was done on two days. The girls teams went one day with half the volunteers and the boys teams went the next with the other volunteers – Lynne with an ‘e’ and Lynn without an ‘e’ included, as you can see from the picture.

It was a massive achievement to get us all there and all back, especially as you have to change buses half way up as only the official ones go to the top. Went in the seat next to the driver on the way up, and down too. Sounds like nothing special, but believe me, on those hairpin bends all the way up and down it most definitely pushed your comfort barriers!

Christo was an incredible experience, being there as part of an amazing team of people, made it all the better. We had a drone photographing all that was happening and the results were spectacular – the main photo on part 1 is one example.

Travelling through to the places we visited, you can see the lack of refurbishment and the neglect of huge parts of Rio. The rich get richer and the poor are just shoo-shooed away if they become a nuisance.

brazil more love pleaseThe second trip out was with the boys teams and we went to the favela of Vidigal. Wow, what an incredulous day that was! Incredulous because it showed the huge chasms in Brazilian society and incredulous because it really was an eye-opening and truth-defining time.

Near the bottom, it takes about an hour and a half or more to walk to the top, was this sign – ‘more love please’ – definitely fitting.

There were going to be three stops on the way up for people to get their breath back. At the first water stop, two of the injured boys were going the rest of the way in a minibus. Jan Ferguson (Mum to the lovely Vicky Ferguson of Glad’s House) and I thought we would go too, so we could keep an eye on them. Nothing to do with us being over 25, of course; we were just being considerate of others.

Brazil MarcelloAt that first stop we met Marcello, who had been in the film ‘City of God‘. If you haven’t seen that film do watch it; based on a true story, it tells of the lives of the teenagers in Rio – very raw.

Marcello and friends formed a dance and music troupe and encourage children from the favelas to become part of it. Keeps them away from the street gangs.

Vidigal is officially described as ‘pacified’ by the authorities. This means that the favela now has a police presence and, supposedly, no gangs terrorising the inhabitants. Horrible description, ‘pacified’, and says a lot about the society out in Brazil.

brazil vidigal 3brazil vidigal 2These people may not be shown any respect by the powers that be, but they were lovely, proud and friendly with us. The houses were made of whatever they could build them with, so there was a huge array of styles and stableness.

And at the end of the day, we exited down and onto the street where Vidigal is hidden from the hotel and big houses.

The challenge Brazil now has is that, where the favelas have been built, it’s prime real estate land and the corporate building boys want to replace the favelas with big, expensive housing. They may well get their way in some instances, as they’re building Olympic villages for the athletes for 2016. From what I understand, they’re telling the people from the favelas that they can move into them, after the games. Immorally, and horrendously, they will do this without telling them that they’ve already sold them on to private agents at an appropriate time afterwards.  I do hope that isn’t correct, because these proud people will then be homeless and in a far worse situation than the favelas they’ll move from. But the future is not looking good whatever happens.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.   Edmund Burke

Unfortunately the good men are not in positions of power and so, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Brazil : part 1 : as a volunteer

scwc at ChristoI’ve just returned from two weeks in Brazil, in Lonier near Rio de Janeiro.

I was just one of the many volunteers, from lots of different countries, who were at the Street Child World Cup. It was an incredible experience and was a fortnight filled with the highs and lows of emotions and tears of total despair & sadness but also tears of joy.

I learned of Street Child World Cup (SCWC) through one of the co-founders, John Wroe. John and Tim are Swansea Jacks (meaning they support some football team called Swansea City). John’s enthusiasm and total commitment to the SCWC was impossible to resist and when I saw a tweet asking for volunteers for the Comms Team, I leapt at the chance. I didn’t tell John though and, at the volunteers training weekend earlier in the year, when he saw me, his first words were “What are you doing here?” Chuckle, I was warmly welcomed after that. The Wroe family is just wonderful, John and Jo and their two daughters, Alice and Ruby. Yes, I am using superlatives but they deserve every single one . . . and more.

One thing I did find out was that it’s hard work being a volunteer! I was part of the Comms Team and we spent the first few days in the media room, ensuring all was ready for the football tournament. From before breakfast until you went to bed – those people were so dedicated and committed to what they were doing, you happily joined in. On one day, 06.30 was the first meeting and, at the end of another, 22.30 was the last!

Hard work it most definitely was, but with so many pluses. The joy of meeting new people, learning new things, sharing experience and expertise and being part of a team. I cannot properly put into words how exhilarating it was to be a member of a team that was doing something totally for others, to give without wanting anything back, to get so much from it. It was an absolute privilege to work as part of the ‘J’ Team, Jo Clark, Jo-Jo Ellison and Joe Hewitt. Not forgetting, wonderful Ben, amazing Matt, lovely Jo, gorgeous Malachy, Wilf and Alan, beautiful Ben, Becky, Kate and Vicky, Tanzi and Hena, Jessie and Bex, Nick and Paul, Sam and David, someone called Lynn (without an ‘e’) and, and, and . . . . . .

As for the sleeping arrangements; our little room slept five with just enough space between the beds to put your suitcase side on! We five,  Sue, Bev, Ingrid, Lynn without an ‘e’ and me, got on really well, especially as there was only one key for the room. You had to remember to take it to main reception if you were the last one to leave the room – thank goodness we didn’t have too many moments of forgetfulness.

The children, who were in the teams, were amazing. Some of the stories of what they’d been through would break your heart, but that’s for another post.

Brazil volunteers arriving backThis is a photo of some of us arriving back at Heathrow after our 12 hour flight – all looking extremely glamorous, of course. Great timing!  I hope we stay in touch, wonderful friendships were forged.

Would I do it again?  Absolutely!

P.S. Just have to mention the outrageously lovely reception peeps – WonderWoman, Angel and her hubby, Superman.

P.P.S. Not too late to donate and help the street children – it isn’t just for the duration of the Street Child World Cup.

www.JustGiving.com/lynnerosie

 

 

 

 

Luscious local travel in North Vietnam

One of the best meals we had in Hanoi was in a tiny place known as Number 49.

One of the best meals we had in Hanoi was in a tiny place known simply as Number 49.

I can cook Vietnamese spring rolls – and they taste delicious! I have learned t’ai chi; the absolute basics. And I can kayak, well, sort of!  And, and, and, and  …….

During our #BFGAdventure – Big Friendly Giant Adventure – we chose to travel as consciously, responsibly and locally as we could.  We stayed in local hotels, ate at local restaurants and/or with street sellers, bought what we needed at local shops and travelled by cyclo, tuktuk, car, bus, ferry, ship and train.  Oh yes, and our walking boots certainly saw a lot of use :-)

If you’ve never been to VietNam before, as we hadn’t, the skills and rules of driving over there are fairly non-existent! At least, that’s how it seems to a new visitor. The traffic drives on the right-hand side of the road, well, that’s the theory. To get to Ha Long Bay, where we were going on a 2 night and 3 day cruise, there is an eighty mile  journey from Hanoi – thoughts of the fairgrounds and dodgem cars sprang to mind!  The next morning, we were filled with excitement and a certain amount of trepidation when the mini-bus picked us up from our hotel. A long journey giving us a great opportunity to see all the areas in between the two locations, and that was punctuated by a stop off at a rather large statue & monument emporium, containing a restaurant. Comfort break time. What we did find was that when you’re with an experienced local driver, the roads hold no worry. Our travels were as smooth as the road works and potholes would allow. Talking of road works; this is the main road from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay, and it is being improved and widened. They work on one side of the road and the traffic is allowed to use the other half of the road (alternatively, of course!) Phew, the precision with which these drivers go is amazing – there were at least two inches between the men digging and our vehicle.

IMG_0065The port we were going to was all new with a lot of  development happening around the location. It’s a beautiful place and was undergoing a rapid expansion with new hotels, apartments and complexes; sadly, though, the buildings could have been in any place, in any country, there was nothing that epitomised a Vietnamese style. Inside the port building it was more like a modern airport concourse! You did not get the impression that there would be serenity in just a short while. There were many ships in harbour, ranging from very small to rather grand ones. We joined the other guests of Bhaya Cruises and were taken out to the ship, the Au Co, by speedboat and welcomed on board as if we were the most important group of people in the world. And that level of customer care is what we all experienced throughout the whole adventure. The girls and guys, who made up the crew, were more like a team of good friends, always happy. They were generous with their time and gracious, oh so very gracious. The cruise manager was Alfred Yong, you can see him in the wedding picture below – he’s the one wearing the red polo shirt.

In those three days we experienced Vietnamese dancing, kayaking, t’ai chi, tea ceremony, cooking demonstration – where we learnt how to make the Vietnamese spring rolls, We visited the floating village of Cong Dam; Cat Ba Island and the village there; the Sung Sot cave on Bo Hon island and, all our meals were based on the five elements of fire, water, earth, wood and metal. We were also offered night-time squid fishing, but I don’t think anyone took that one up!

DSC00916The girls and ladies from the floating village of Cong Dam, rowed over and took us to see where they lived.  It’ s fascinating how they’ve put together the ‘houses’ with walkways between them and areas for different activities. We got out of the boats and had a look round, we even went into the school house to see what they were doing. Bhaya Cruises has built the school house for them and sponsors the teacher and his personal house.  The children weren’t in school as it was a holiday but we saw them playing on some of the houseboats, as we saw the men chatting in groups. There’s a fish farm there too, now that really is local!

Visiting the village of Viet Hai on Cat Ba island, the next day, was a real treat, in more ways than one. It is a long way to walk from the quay to there and you could choose to walk or go by bike. We chose to walk. So pleased we did, we lingered over the scenery and the beautiful butterflies we saw and we dallied where the wild goats and their kids were. The island was quite heavily wooded and we stopped time and time again to smell the local flowers and, if truth be known, have a tiny rest on the 45 to 60 minute walk.

There are no cars on the island, we just saw the occasional bike or moped.  And it did seem as if the women were doing all the work again, we saw them out fishing, working in the fields and going about household chores. All had big smiles though – such joy everywhere.

DSC00964

The farm there is all organic and grows vegetables and fruit. All work is done by traditional methods, the women plough the fields, leading water buffalo pulling the harrow. I always feel the traditional methods give more substance to the term organic, but that’s just me.

The Bhaya Cruises’ Au Co Foundation, works with the local villagers, supports them and started the organic farming project there. The company provides funds, agricultural and practical training for the locals and, when the fruit and vegetables and crops are ready, buys the produce back at a fair market price.

The bride in the wedding picture is one of the team on our ship, how fantastic was that – and we were all invited to go along. The bride and groom, on the right, looked so very young, I actually has to ask, and they were 24 and 25. Must be their way of life! Many of each crew for Bhaya Cruises come from Viet Hai and all are so genuinely delightful. What a wonderful example of community involvement. And we could feel the joy – we became part of it.

bhaya langur_familyCat Ba is also the only home of the Golden-headed Langur. They are one of the most endangered species and, it is thought, there are only 53 of them alive today. You can find out more, and/or become involved/help, from the Cat Ba Langur Conservation site or on their facebook page.

On this cruise, I was a guest of Bhaya Cruises.  However, the content and comments are entirely mine; and I would have absolutely no hesitation in recommending them.

Lynne Gray – Thatspr

The future of tourism #FUTourism

I have so many posts I want to get onto the blog, that it is diffficult to know where to start, so here goes. Recently I spent an evening at The Future of Tourism event, held at The Royal Institution, 21 Albemarle Street, Mayfair in London. The big bonus was that I sat next to Andy Jarosz of 501 Places fame. I have immense respect for Andy, he’s well versed in travel and tourism, writes extremely interesting and informative posts and, to top it all, is a very, very nice man!

“G Adventures invites you to join us at the Future of Tourism, an evening of lively discussion about the future of the travel industry and sustainable travel, with visionaries from across the tourism spectrum.  We’ll be exploring the future of travel and how sustainable tourism plays such a vital role in giving back to the places we visit.

RSVP to join us and enjoy a top line-up of speakers:  Bruce Poon Tip – Founder, G Adventures  :::  Richard Hammond – Chief Executive and Founder, Greentraveller  :::  Gary Arndt – Travel Blogger, Everything Everywhere  ::: Paula Vlamings – Associate Director, Planeterra

While there is no official charge for the event, we are suggesting a donation of £5 which will benefit the Planeterra Foundation. Founded by G Adventures, Planeterra is a non-profit foundation supporting social and environmental solutions in the destinations our travellers visit.
We look forward to seeing you there!   

The team at G Adventures”

The evening was introduced by the delightful Lyn Hughes, co-founder of Wanderlust. Hardly any seats were empty and the audience was in sparkling form.  Behind the presentation podium was a large screen showing the presentations, etc.  Either side of this was a smaller screen with live tweets being shown with the hashtag #futourism, or, as Lyn said, easier to remember if you say FU Tourism!

The tweet screens were well used during the evening and there were some very witty people attending and participating. They were very amusing and chuckles abounded, but sometimes to the detriment of the speakers as they could not see them and when they did look round, the screens were on the next tweet.

Richard Hammond was the first speaker on and, as one of the tweets said, ‘he didn’t mention TopGear once!’. Richard is the Chief Executive and Founder of award-winning website Greentraveller, the travel editor of GREEN magazine (distributed by The Guardian) and writer of the ‘Go Green’ column in National Geographic Traveller magazine.

Richard was an eloquent and very interesting speaker and was not distracted by tweets or chuckles once – a credible feat!  I’d not heard him before and learnt a lot, mainly from the passionate way he was speaking, I was definitely engaged!

Gary Ardnt spoke next. Gary is the creator of one of the most popular travel blogs in the world, everything-everywhere, and one of TIME’s “Top 25 Best Blogs of 2010”. He has been travelling the world since 2007. An amusing speaker, Gary has a wealth of travel experiences and stories to share and spoke about the joys or otherwise of communication whilst travelling. He ended his talk by saying ‘Travel is a right.’

And that is where I disagree entirely; I believe travel to be an absolute privilege. Travel as a right can be destructive- conscious travel, eco travel, local travel, is what we should all be doing.  There are some inspirational pioneers in this field, but that subject is for another post :-)  Suffice to say there is a very small number of countries that is virtually unspoilt. Bhutan is right up there in cherishing its place on our wondrous planet. Bhutan limits its tourist numbers and looks after every living thing.  The gross national happiness that the kingdom measures, is a clear indication that happy people are caring people, lucky country!

The third speaker was Paula Vlamings, Co-Executive Director, Planeterra. Through her work at the environmentally focused Institute at the Golden Gate, Paula became involved in sustainable tourism and the power tourism has as an economic development tool. At Planeterra, Paula works to create lasting benefits in the communities G Adventures travels to.  An admirable organisation, working with the local communities towards sustainable tourism.

The final speaker, and the finale, was the man himself, Bruce Poon Tip. A true pioneer in the travel and tourism industry and a confident & competent presenter. Bruce founded G Adventures in 1990 with the belief that other travellers would share his desire to experience authentic adventures in a responsible and sustainable manner. He was right, it’s grown from a one-man show to a company of over 1350 world wide.

The next event in the series is in Melbourne on the 18th April, it sold out ages ago!  G Adventures is to be applauded for these events and all that it does in the field of sustainable and responsible travel and tourism, long may the company carry on!