A visit to Wall Street the day after the crash [PHOTOS]

Wall Street after the crash

On a normal day, the small sidewalk on Wall Street between Broadway and Broad Street is crammed with tourists. People in suits cram hurriedly between them to get to their desks. Of course, there’s the occasional television truck or nut holding a sign. When the market turns, however, the vibe in that part of town changes quickly. The tourists remain, but they’re pushed around by the increase in activity, as New York’s financial center seeks to cope with a massive loss of wealth.

There’s nothing quite like visiting this part of New York City the day after a dive.

For those of you not keeping score at home, a dismal stock market day on Friday was followed by a worse one yesterday. The major indexes fell close to 7 percent – which stings. It really does. This led to a profound change the population of Wall and Broad today. Yes, the tourists were out in force (as usual). But, they had to share the streets.

Here’s what it looked like:

%Gallery-130262%

Photos courtesy of Inside Investor Relations

New North Korea tour company needs approval from the feds

Mount Kumgang, North KoreaA new company is trying to get into the North Korea tourism game. Korea Pyongyang Trading USA, based in New York, is looking to diversify out of its current business – importing Pyongyang Soju from North Korea. Founder Steve Park has his eye on Mount Kumgang, the site of a resort that involved a joint venture between South Korean companies and the North Korean government. It went sour when a South Korean tourist was shot there in 2008.

It seems like an interesting business opportunity, given how interesting the hard-to-reach company is too many travelers. And, since it’s so hard to do business with the regime, competition is unlikely to be stiff. The regulatory red tape, on the other hand, is a different story.

South Korea is saying that Korea Pyongyang Trading USA will need to get permission from the U.S. government in order to get the operation off the ground. The Dong-A Ilbo reports:

%Gallery-105693%

A government source in Seoul said, “According to U.S. Executive Order 13570 (effectuated on April 19), all products, services and technologies brought into the U.S. require permission from the U.S. government,” adding, “If a company seeks to engage in the service business of Mount Kumgang tours with North Korea, it should win approval from the U.S. government.”

So far, the application hasn’t been submitted.

There’s a reason South Korea is weighing in on this. Inside Investor Relations explains:

This deal [with Steve Park] follows several years of difficulties over managing Mount Kumgang through an agreement with South Korea’s Hyundai Asan. The resort provided significant cash to North Korea, but the arrangement was terminated in 2008 when a North Korean soldier shot dead a tourist from Seoul. South Korean officials demanded an apology, and its northern neighbors say they will “deprive Hyundai of its exclusive right to the mountain tour project and seize all of its assets in the region.”

Is there an ownership or rights dispute in the works? According to The Dong-A Ilbo, officials in Seoul are struggling to accept that North Korea can yank Hyundai Asan’s “exclusive right to the tours.” Of course, there’s always a shot that the U.S. deal will fall apart (with North Korea, this is always a concern!). The Dong-A Ilbo continues, “The South Korean government understands that the North is taking steps to attract another foreign business other than the American company.”

The odds of this happening, however, seem low.

photo by yeowatzup via Flickr

Is the United States a booming travel market for North Korea?!

North KoreaInternational relations may be strained, but that’s not stopping the tourists. According to Yonhap News Agency, the number of North Koreans visiting the United States in the first half of 2011 surged more than 50 percent from the same period in 2010. The report cites data from the Department of Homeland Security, which puts the number of visitors in the first six months of the year at 139. In the first half of 2010, only 89 people visited the United States from North Korea.

Interestingly, this comes even as official contacts between the two governments fell off, not to mention a “general cooling off in bilateral relations.”

Of course, the visits weren’t strictly recreational. A delegation of scientists came over from North Korea in February, with an economic delegation following in March. In June, 17 martial arts folks visited three states on the east coast.

%Gallery-109277%

Photo by yeowatzup via Flickr

Five ways you can screw with travel companies via social media

The travel industry is interested in what you have to say. Everything. I know this seems crazy. I mean, when was the last time you felt an airline employee was actually listening to you? Well, that sector is among the travel businesses paying close attention to you.

I saw on PRNewser yesterday that travel and hospitality companies are using online monitoring tools to keep track of what you tweet and post while you’re on vacation. This should come as no surprise, of course: it’s standard practice in any business to monitor online customer behavior (how do think Amazon generates such awesome product recommendations for you?). What you may not realize is that this is an opportunity with endless potential for mischief.

So, you have the travel industry’s ear … what are you going to do with it? Here are five ideas for you:1. Take it seriously: you could always start from the belief that you should tweet and share responsibly. After all, the folks monitoring you will do a better job of meeting your needs if you tell them what exactly they are.

Of course, there’s no fun in this …

2. Livetweet the most boring details you can find: imagine being the public relations jockey stuck monitoring a hotel’s @ reply stream as it fills with such observations as “the carpet is still beige” and “yep, that’s a mighty fine shower curtain”.

3. Say a thousand words the easy way: pictures, pictures, pictures! I suggest taking snapshots of every piece of silverware at every meal and asking for the travel company’s social media slave guru to comment on each.

4. Ask mundane questions: imagine the person on the other side of the computer growing red with frustration as you ask how to get from the pool to the bar … and you gleefully offer thanks packed with emoticons.

5. Complain: it’s the American way!

Eight interesting facts about North Korea’s airline

What do you know about Air Koryo? Probably not much. The state-run airline for North Korea, it’s the only realistic way you can fly into the country, unless you have some sort of crazy commando resources at your disposal. Of course, there’s a lot you have to do before booking your ticket, and getting a visa can be quite difficult for Americans and other westerners. If you do make it through the red tape though, you’ll find yourself with more options than you realized.

So, ready to book your trip to Arirang and sample the beer and pizza of the most reclusive nation on the planet? Here’s what you need to know about the airline that will take you there:

%Gallery-105693%1. More destinations than you’d expect: the Beijing-Pyongyang route is the one for which Air Koryo is “famous,” but the state-sponsored airline actually connects to eight other cities: Moscow Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, Shenyang, Shanghai, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Kuwait City. Of course, if you want to use these cities to enter North Korea, you’ll still need to jump through the many hoops necessary to secure a visa.

2. Road warriors don’t get squat: are you a frequent flier to North Korea? Well, don’t expect much in exchange for your loyalty. While airlines around the world offer rewards programs, a mileage run on Air Koryo is worthless, as the carrier doesn’t have a program, according to a comment it made on its Facebook page.

3. A new home: as of July 15, 2011, the airline’s new terminal at Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang is open for business! The airline claims on Facebook, “The new terminal features modernised facilities for luggage, security, customs, border control and the list goes on to an extent.”

4. Mongolia may be next: it’s always hard to tell when Air Koryo is going to add a route, but this comment to a prospective customer offers some hope: “Flights to Uanbator have been tossed up for a while now, since there is a decent amount of DPRK citizens traveling to Mongolia for a number of reasons. Also vice versa. We havn’t [sic] heard of any flights for August, but we will make some inquiries.”

5. Kuwait’s on the map for a reason: it may not be as busy as the New York-to-London route, but Pyongyang and Kuwait City seem to comprise an important city-pair for Air Koryo. According to the person operating the Air Koryo Facebook page, “Between 5 and 10,000 North Korean workers currently reside in Kuwait. These numbers change weekly with the flights by Air Koryo now enabling the DPR Korean direct flights to Pyongyang.”

6. True dialogue in social media: social media marketers have always discussed the importance of “dialogue” via social media, rather than generating revenue. Well, Air Koryo is a fantastic model. A user responded to the above claim about North Koreans living in Kuwait, “‎between 5 and 10000″ … Wow, that is an accurate answer !” The airline’s intended range was probably “between 5,000 and 10,000,” but the fan appears to have a fetish for the exact. Showing a bit of style, Air Koryo replied, “We’re [not] exactly demographers here, so exact figures are beyond us. Sorry.” The missing word in the response makes the whole exchange even funnier.

7. Online check-in: okay, this is not in Air Koryo’s future, probably because the carrier has a different set of priorities. According to SFGate: “‘You kidding right?’ Air Koryo responded. “There are many things to do before even looking at ‘Online check-in’ such as actually creating a website.’”

8. Don’t expect much love from the cabin crew: in the United States, you only need to worry about bad serviceand the occasional meltdown. In North Korea, the flight attendants will great you with such pleasantries as “I hate America!” But, they do follow it with, “What would you like to drink today, sir?”

Sir?! Now that’s service!

[photos via Wikipedia]