Paris pins its tourism hopes on Americans. . . and shopaholics

Poor Paris. The city was recently voted “most overrated in the world” and tourism is down by 11% (or more, according to some reports) compared with the first half of 2008. The number of British and Japanese visitors dropped nearly 25% each, while the number of tourists from China declined by over 17%.

Mon Dieu! What’s a city to do? Well, according to the AP, the director of the Paris Tourism Office is “counting on Americans” to make up for the drop in visitors from other countries. Because the United States was hit first by the economic crisis, it is expected to recover sooner, which means more American tourists may be looking to travel before others. And the plan for luring those tourists to Paris: the promise of extended shopping hours.

Most French stores are closed on Sunday, but a new law would allow more stores, particularly those in areas popular with tourists, to stay open. The Paris Tourism Office thinks this would encourage visitors to stay through the end of the weekend instead of leaving Sunday morning.

It’s an interesting idea, but somehow I don’t think shopping is the key to the city’s survival. I like to shop as much as the next girl, and I’ve always wanted to go to Paris, but what has stopped me wasn’t the fact that I couldn’t hit the stores on Sunday, so much as a desire to score a better deal on airfare. I can never seem to find Chicago to Paris flights that aren’t at least $200 more than any other European destination. Until that changes, sorry Paris, but you can’t count on this American to help with your tourism troubles.

The State of American Tourism: Thailand, India, and Cuba

The internet is abuzz with news from abroad right now. Thailand’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok remains closed; India is reeling from a devastating terrorist attack aimed at British and American tourists in Mumbai; Raúl Castro is open to ending Cuba’s 40-year feud with Washington, thereby allowing Americans to travel there more “freely.” The last thing most Americans want to do right now is travel to a place where they are not welcome. We no longer want to travel because there is a greater fear of it. The state of things as we knew them is suddenly turning on its head.

Fear exists even in the most intrepid travelers. As a solo, female traveler stepping off the plane in Vanuatu, Myanmar and Colombia last year, I had little knowledge of exactly what I was walking into. However, the one thing I have going for me every time I travel to some less-trodden destination is that, although I carry a U.S. passport, I don’t look American and I’m from a state that sits in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles from the mainland.So, when people ask where I’m from, I tell them I’m from Hawaii. Sometimes they don’t know where that is. Sometimes they think it’s a country in itself. Only rarely do they know that it is part of the United States. There’s an advantage to looking the way I do and being from where I am: They don’t have to know I’m American. But plenty of Americans cannot hide behind their fair skin, accent, or residence, so most stay at home for fear of the unknown.

As of late, I have become increasingly interested in news from Cuba. My friend and I are planning a trip there early next year and quickly discovered a lack of resources and general antipathy for American tourism in Castro country. We hope to help out for a week in Cuba with hurricane relief, but even a complex Google search for “volunteer in Cuba” came up empty. The message coming from Cuba is clear: “We don’t want help from Americans. Stay out of our country.” This message is increasingly resounding around the globe, and the state of American tourism is, I would say, grim right now — and the hope that Obama can turn things around come January just isn’t enough to quell our fears.

A difference between Yanks and Brits

You know the difference between Americans and Britons? The word of the year for 2007 stateside is “w00t” while across the pond, it’s — get this, — “locavore.” OK, it’s not quite as pretentious as it sounds, though still too much for my taste. Anyone want to venture a guess?

It means someone who eats food that’s locally grown, and who especially takes notice of seasonal available foodstuff and avoids preservatives. Meanwhile, the American word basically means “yay.” The two words come courtesy of Merriam-Webster Dictionary (based in MA) and Oxford English Dictionary (based in Oxford of course).

Good ole Webster had some pretty good words in past years, including the talk show host Stephen Colbert’s trademark “truthiness.” But this year they simply went for something fun.

Where do most Americans go on holiday?

The Guardian 2007 Travel Awards gave us an idea of British travel trends, so I thought it would be interesting to see some American ones.

Compiled by the US Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, the top 10 countries Americans visited the most in 2006 are:
3)UK — gives Americans “the feeling that they’re going somewhere different, but also that they’re home.”
7)Jamaica — Americans feel it’s “familiar yet mysterious”.

The list isn’t a surprise; however it’s hard to track where Americans go once they’ve left the States.

Nevertheless, basis this list, the article draws some conclusions:

  • Americans are generally drawn to the familiar.
  • A good section of Americans are adventurous as they venture to different continents (China has broken into the top 10), and are exploring non-cliché parts of destinations such as the UK and France.
  • The economic and political image of the country Americans travel to, matters.
  • The fall in the dollar is compensated for in European countries simply by spending less!

The full piece and statistics can be found here.

Why give Africans IQ tests?

Call me crazy but I just don’t believe that Africans are less intelligent than Europeans or Americans. Yes, it seems like every once in a while a scientist tries to prove that Africans are somehow inferior to the rest of us. You would think there are more pressing issues out there that they could be focusing their studies on…but I guess this one gets a lot of press.

James Watson, a Nobel Prize-winner for discovering the double-helix structure of DNA, is facing backlash in Britain after making this controversial statement: “All our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says, not really,” Watson told The Sunday Times. He recognized that the prevailing belief was that all human groups are equal, but that “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true.” As a result of his comments, the British Science Museum has canceled the scientist’s scheduled speech, saying he has gone too far. He’s since retracted his statement and apologized, but he had to scrap his book tour.

That’s the funny thing about scientists, so brilliant in their fields and so narrow-minded in other areas. Has anyone ever told this poor fellow that giving Western-style IQ tests to people worldwide is not really a fair way to assess people’s true intelligence?