Sunday, March 26, 2017

Repeating Patterns

I've noticed a trend in tourist destinations that makes me think of university lectures on the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.   Everything starts out so promisingly:   A beautiful natural setting, perhaps a historic focal point.   Ideal or at least reasonable weather and costs that are much cheaper than back home.   The locals are natural and go about their daily lives, friendly but not obsequious to visitors.    In this situation early adopters benefit from unspoiled charm  but face some challenges in language and culture.  


1940's: The Isla Mujeres Runway

(by Cancun)

 This is the stage at which the reputation starts to arise.   Slowly at first, by word of mouth and then in a few travel blogs.   A few entrepreneurial types, seeing the possibilities,  provide some development to make access easier.  A road is paved, a bus route is changed, some English signs are put up.   This might be the best time to visit.   International developers haven't arrived; everything is still authentic.  There is likely the start of some price differentiation as locals become cognizant of the potential money arriving and start to differentiate pricing but there are no overwhelming changes.

Now, everything accelerates.   Sometimes a mention in a major travel magazine or television program starts the cascade.  A large scale developer (or two) comes to survey the location and  realizes the potential.   Local and regional governments are persuaded to provide infrastructure in exchange for future tax revenues.    Retail businesses selling jewellery and various high end products set up shop.   A cruise port, first with small tenders providing passage to the shore but plans for a terminal are initiated.   Condo developers buy up the shoreline.   Locals are at first worried and then dismayed. Inevitably, they move away as their own costs increase or become involved in servicing the visitors.   For some visitors this is the most pleasant time as the quiet village or town becomes more like home, but warmer and with tropical vegetation.   A Starbucks every few blocks, clean streets and English speaking shopkeepers.   New businesses price their goods and services perhaps ten  or twenty percent less than developed world prices so tourists feel their are still getting a 'good deal'.  Some serious travellers start to stay away;  too touristy.

Unfortunately, decline seems inevitable.   Traffic, pollution and congestion increases.   Too many packaged holidays are arriving.   Some of he country's citizens gravitate to the area where money can potentially be more easily earned than toiling in the fields or their local small businesses.  The tipping economy is well established and some visitors will pay you to open the door for them.   Too many shops and restaurants lead to frustration for the owners who by now are paying high rents.   Visitors are harangued and harassed as they walk through a shopping district.  Goods are overpriced and imported from an even cheaper country en masse.   Some clerks take advantage of tourists' unfamiliarity with the local currency and provide incorrect change from a purchase, always less, never more.   Pick pockets may arrive and local lowly paid police may find giving out traffic tickets and collecting bribes to rip them up from tourists who certainly can't stay for a court date a few months out, is a lucrative sideline.

The decline seems inevitable.  In the same way a reputation is built, it dissipates. Prior to the internet, it took take years before travel guides start to recommend avoiding the area.   People say that now about Acapulco -- full of drugs and crime.   It used to be the playground of celebrities.   You can probably name other destinations.   Maybe you visited somewhere in your youth but when you go back twenty years later, it has changed.   A victim of it's own success we say.   

Spring Break in Cancun 2014

Sunday, March 19, 2017


Bees still need our attention.   As this article states, they are vital to our food security.   Don't feel helpless, instead take action in one of the ways suggested.  The above idea using marbles might be interesting enough to spur you into action.


Friday, March 10, 2017

Giver or Taker?

(I'm posting a couple of days earlier than usual due to Spring Break vacation)

Give and Take by Adam Grant dispels the myth that only tough and aggressive people get ahead.   Passion, hard work and talent are not enough it seems.   To achieve the most success in life you need to live life as a giver,  someone always willing to share and care.

Givers on sports teams can be undervalued since they don't hog the spotlight or use the flashiest of moves.  Basketball coach Stu Inman found that there is a connection between grit and giving in sports.   Givers were willing to work harder and longer than Takers out of a sense of responsibility to their team.  In the long run, they are more valuable to the team.

Takers can be so self-focussed that they will take what they can and move on. They view it as necessary to getting ahead.  Identifying a Taker can be difficult because they can come across as highly agreeable, enthusiastic and friendly.

Givers need to be careful they don't cross the line and become doormats because they feel the other person's need and want to help.  That way lies burnout.   Especially when dealing with a hardcore  Taker,  boundaries need to be established. Once Givers learn to spot these people as Takers they can adapt their role from Giver to Matcher.   They are still Givers but they expect accountability and quid pro quo.   In other words, I'll do something for you but you must do something for me, also.  If they choose to remain as Givers, they do so with awareness and caution.

Grant analyzes his subject thoroughly and conveys his firm belief that the most successful people in many aspects of life are Givers.  When he began to teach at Wharton School of Business, his students were unanimous in their opinion that Givers end up at the bottom of the success ladder.   The top people were either Takers  or  Matchers.    His book was a result of his determination to prove those students wrong.

Following through with his belief in the value of giving, Grant offers free on-line tools for individuals to test their Giver Quotient.

You could also consider subscribing to the Random Acts of Kindness philosophy.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Do you cruise?

The chairman of Carnival Corporation, which is the parent company of lines like Princess, Holland America, Carnival and Cunard, wants to encourage you to take a cruise.   To quote the title of the article in the Wall Street Journal, he wants to woo the never cruisers.  Only four percent of North Americans cruise, seemingly preferring other types of vacations.   Non-cruisers associate taking a cruise with the so called booze cruise favoured by Spring Breakers or with old people who have nothing else to do.  Other complaints involve the expensive, slow and not included internet service, long line-ups at the buffet and the dreaded noro-virus.    

All these complaints apply, at some times and with some cruise lines.   Spend a little time on a site like Cruise Critic perusing the reviews and get more details than you might want.   To be fair, depending on the line, there is lots of praise, too.   

I went on an Alaskan cruise last summer with the same line and a similar sized ship to my first cruise twenty-five years ago.   We stayed in the same grade of cabin.   The interesting feature:   we paid almost the same amount both times, around $1250. CAD.    It seems beyond obvious that things could not be the same, no matter what efficiencies are implemented.  There's a fair amount of up-charging, extra charging or what some call nickel and dimeing.  Gratuities are an automatic add-on of around $13.50 per person per day although it is possible to stand in a long queue at the purser's office on the last day and ask to have them removed.   But when the staff is making $500 a month you're bound to feel guilty.  Then there's the additional  automatic 15 - 18 percent gratuity added to beverage purchases.   But mostly the service is excellent.

Will more people choose to cruise?   Some people don't like the feeling of no escape.  I've heard complaints of limited time in port and even cancelled port calls, depending on weather.    It's hard to avoid gaining weight since a lot of the day seems to revolve around eating.    If you happen to live within easy driving distance of cruise ship terminals like Fort Lauderdale, Florida  or Southhampton, U.K. it is easy to buy a bargain last minute cruise.   Most people have to take a flight, followed by a hotel stay the night before departure.   

It's important to choose a cruise line and ship that improves your chances of holiday happiness.   Some ships have skating rinks and rock climbing walls.   Some have ballroom dancing and magic shows.   There are contests in the pool where female contestants vie to see how many ping pong balls they can stuff in their bikinis or men's hairy chest competition.

I suppose one issue is that once you are on, you are a captive audience.