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This Makes Me #Sad

boming with pyramidsLe sigh. Egypt is like a yo-yo this decade. Revolution in 2011, dramatic but stable and safe in 2012, a little more chaotic in 2013 but on a path toward re-stabilizing post-coup. Then it explodes again in 2014, literally. Come ON!

While the tourism market in Egypt can handle random bumps and potholes in the road, this is the kind of thing that sets it back months or even years. This is the travel warning-inducing kind of thing that impacts not only the major cities that are actually having the problems, like Cairo or Alexandria, but also the sleepier areas (in terms of violence) like Luxor, Aswan, the oases, the and the beach resorts.

I hope things stabilize again soon because tons of Americans are missing out on the tons of fun that thousands of Eurotrash who aren’t afraid of dark-skinned people and bombs are still having in Egypt.

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Lame Games

malasia tourismSo a friend was playing some game online where she had to guess the countries with the top tourist arrival numbers. Yeah I know – that makes her seem pretty lame. Now that I think about it, I must be pretty lame too b/c that game actually sounds fun.

She gets most of them, misses a few, the buzzer sounds, and we find out all the shockers in the top fifteen – Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, oh my!

Seriously, wtf’s up with Malaysia being among the world’s top tourist destinations? I’m not just being Amero-centric or Oxi-centric here either. I’ve been around the block a time or two in all parts of the mundo, but I never would have guessed that Malaysia would be in the top 50, much less the top 10.

Although Saudi Arabia surprised me at first, it makes perfect sense after you think about it – the Hajj. That was a bit of a cheat, though, b/c that’s not like normal destination tourism. It’s not like people are saying “Hey kids, where do you want to go for our family vacation this year?” and the munchkins are jumping up and down responding “Saudi Arabia! Saudi Arabia! We want to wear burkhas and watch mommie get flogged for sticking her uncovered hand outside the hotel room door to grab the room service tray without 17 male family members accompanying her. Yay!!!”

The Ukraine was also near the top of the list, but I’m going to skip making fun of that one right now because Kiev is currently a war zone and they’re clearly not making the list again next year, so why rub it in. The only thing I can think of is Black Sea thaw vacations for millions of Russians. But most of those probably don’t think they’re embarking on international tourism, since they used to like own the Ukraine or whatever during their commie heyday.

What’s really interesting, though, is to look at top destination countries by gross tourism receipts. The good ole’ U.S. of A. tops that list, statistically proving that we’re the bestest in the world of ripping tourists off and sucking their pockets and bank accounts dry while they’re here “on holiday” (credit: shamelessly hijacked fact from the 2013 edition of UNWTO Tourism Highlights form the UN World Tourism Organization. If you need to sue me, mail your complaint to Sarah Palin, Wasilla, Alaska, ee eye ee eye oh).

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What’s Up with Travel TV?

travel channel failIt’s no state secret that the quality of cable television content is in the toilet these days. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why people who have allegedly worked in the television industry for a decades can’t foresee that all these dumb new shows they come up with are going to get mediocre ratings, or just tank. To me that means working in the tv industry for decades might be more of a liability than a credential. I digress.

What ticks me off is that the Travel Channel, which should be like tele-crack for travel enthusiasts like us, has become a hodgepodge of blah programming that has little, if any sometimes, relevance to travel. In fact, tonight when I passed the channel in the on-screen TV guide and looked through the next few hours of shows, all that was on was some Ghost Adventures crap.

Seriously? A whole world’s out there full of fabulous sites, cities, and places. There are amazing trends in airlines, hotels, and other staples of the hostility industry. And the variety of aspirational products worth featuring is just out of this world – literally. But instead, the Travel Channel’s programming list reads like the Food Channel and the Paranormal Activity Channel hooked up and had an illegitimate love child.

From Friday: Man V. Food Nation (“Adam travels to Austin for Texas-sized donuts, authentic Hill Country barbecue, and a near-impossible breakfast taco challenge.”) and The Dead Files (“When terrifying paranormal activity targets the children of a Rome, NY, family, Steve and Amy step in to investigate. As Steve discovers the property’s distressing connection to a bloody Revolutionary War ambush, Amy encounters a vicious entity that preys on living children.”)

From Saturday: Food Paradise (“America’s best BBQ dishes are featured in this episode of Food Paradise, including slow-smoked brisket in Texas, sauce-dripping ribs in Kansas City and mouth-watering pulled pork in North Carolina. “) and Ghost Adventures (“Zak, Nick and Aaron head to Tonapah, NV, to revisit one of their first lockdowns and explore the morbid Mizpah Hotel. Their findings shock them, as they witness an inoperable elevator spontaneously open and close its doors.”).

Seriously, Travel Channel? No wonder consumers are flocking by the billions to better television content conduits like Netflix, Hulu, AppleTV, Roku, and whatever else Cook, Bezos, Brin, and pals will come up with in the next 24 months to drive that final nail into cable’s outdated, shaggy-carpet-lined coffin.

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101,957 Unbelievable Listicles You Must Read about Places You Must See

lake three eyed smileySome social butterfly must have just recently returned from his or her around-the-world journey and posted all of their photos to PinFaceStagramBler or something because it seems like every listicle-loving website is now doing a “XX Unbelievable Places” post with the same types of sites, the same sites, and sometimes even the same photos. I’ve recently seen said listicles pop up from BoredPanda, BuzzFeed, The Guardian, Huffington Post, YourAmazingPlaces, and others.

Don’t get me wrong – these places truly do look amazing. I’ve been to some of them, although some look kind of radioactive or something and I plan to spare my future children their third arm/eye by not visiting. On some lists, though, they’re really struggling. I mean, a tree-lined street in Bonn, Germany? Or just copping out by throwing whole cities onto your list, really? But others, like the Zhangye Danxia Landform in China and Japan’s Bamboo Forest, look cool as hell.

Of course, the ultimate list of places to see remains this.

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If This Is the Best We’ve Got… We’re Screwed

hotelI’m less inclined to think of these as truly the best America has to offer in terms of hotel innovation, and more likely to think that a CNN reporter just got lazy after finding a few good first few examples that she thought would make a good article. Still, good for some neat ideas of where to stay when traveling domestic. But if this is truly the most high-techy crap we’ve got to offer, East Asia’s gonna whup the hell out of us.

America’s 10 highest-tech hotels, straight from the fine folks at CNN.com. Check it.

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HuffPost Travel: “Jordan Becomes An Oasis In The Middle East”

One of my favorite places in the Middle East. Jordan is an amazing destination and a hidden gem for those willing to give it a shot. And while craziness rages on around it, Jordan itself remains calm, cool, and collected. The gist:

“…Those who overlook or dismiss Jordan in their travel and vacation planning are missing out on a fun, friendly, and fabulous Middle Eastern country that continues to offer up fantastic sites and gracious Arab hospitality in a safe and stable environment in spite of the ongoing troubles of some of its less fortunate neighbors.”

Read more on my other blog over at HuffPost Travel.

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Bring on the Future: Google Glass

Now this is gonna be cool as hell. Google Glass has gone through a little evolution since it first non-debuted, but when it finally gets perfected enough for mass release, I really think it’s going to transform our lives and our productivity, especially when it comes to travel, travel planning, working, and staying connected on the go. Check it:

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HuffPost Travel: “A Shocking Message For Airlines”

Since I pissed off every American flight attendant ever a few months ago with this [honest and accurate] article on HuffPost Travel, I figured now I’d take a shot at pissing off every coach traveler too. Go big or go home, right? I still stand by my suggestions here, though. And think they would actually improve the economy flying experience by offering more and better choices of food and snacks for sale. So there. The gist:

“…Airlines: Stop forcing that default complimentary soda and snack on your economy passengers on domestic flights. Most of us don’t want it, all of us can do without it and we all know you can’t really afford it….”

Before you have a coronary, read the rest at HuffPost Travel.

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Oh Helllllllll No: United FA Power Trippin’

Boy oh boy, I got fired up after reading this! I’ve just seen far too many cases of piss poor in-flight customer service over the years. There are many great flight attendants out there, and I’ve had many of them. But the bad apples always spoil the bushel, and there are certainly a lot of bad apples out there who hate their jobs and have no problem power trippin’ on passengers whom they despise too. Check out Matthew’s account of what happened on a recent United Airlines flight to Istanbul:

Thrown Off a United Airlines Flight for Taking Pictures

[Read more…]

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HuffPost Travel: “How Not to Handle a Tourism Crisis: Lessons from Egypt”

Want to earn a double doctorate in Screwing Up An Economy-ology? Then be sure to attend the finest institution in the world for this specialization – Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism. Read more about their bumbling of Egyptian tourism for the past two years, right up on to the present, in my new article on the Huffington Post. The gist:

“…Unlike many of its competitors for international tourists, Egypt could be a case study in how not to protect and preserve a nation’s tourism industry when a serious social, economic or political crisis emerges. And although it may seem to provide a convenient excuse, paralysis within Egypt’s political establishment over the past year should not have prevented its tourism ministry — and the wider government for that matter — from proactively and aggressively addressing what it surely knew could become a major problem for Egypt’s tourism industry. And that it has…”

Read more of what I have to say on this at HuffPost Travel.