Unconventional new eco-tour will take travelers through Japan’s tsunami debris

unusual new ecotour allows travelers to visit japan tsunami debris field via yachtWhile most eco-tours use activities such as bird watching, rafting, and hiking to highlight regional issues, a new tour, led by expedition leader Marcus Eriksen, will take a different approach. Beginning May, 2012, travelers will have the opportunity to sail via yacht through floating islands of debris left from the March 11, 2011, tsunami in Japan. Tourists will see first-hand the pollution problem that now exists in the country as lighters, toys, bottle caps, and other plastics float down the river.

According to Danielle Demetriou of The Telegraph, this unusual “tsunami debris” trip was created by two nonprofits devoted to raising awareness about sea pollution, the 5 Gyres Institute and the Algalita Marine Research Institute. The tour will begin in Hawaii and will head towards the gyre, “a vortex of ocean currents where sea rubbish accumulates”. From there, travelers will head across the “Japan Tsunami Debris Field”.

Since the news has been released there have been some Telegraph readers who don’t agree with the ethics being used, calling the tour “depraved” and saying that the tour operator is “making money from tourists whilst hiding behind the “eco” excuse to justify what he is doing”.

What are your thoughts on this unconventional new eco-tour?

Travel to Japan returning to normal, slowly

Travel to JapanIn the wake of the major earthquake and resulting tsunami that hit Japan in March, travel disruptions were fueled by a rising death toll, fear of a nuclear disaster plus travel warnings issued worldwide. Now, just a few months later, flights, tours and cruises are returning to normal scheduling.

“We are confident of returning the capacity to full level on July 1” Japan Airlines President Masaru Onishi told the Mainichi Daily News today noting that business travel in Japan has rebounded and Japanese tourists have also resumed making overseas trips following a drop-off after the disaster.
Passenger bookings had fallen nearly 30 percent in March, and were still down by about 20 percent for international routes and 15 percent on domestic routes in April.

Cruise lines are returning too with Royal Caribbean’s Legend of the Seas set to be back calling in Okinawa on August 1st.

“Judging from the current situation in Japan, we are well-assured of the safety of travelling to Japan. Japan has always been an attractive tourist destination and its show of great resilience in the face of the recent crisis has given travelers the confidence to visit the country again,” said Kelvin Tan, regional director Asia Pacific, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

It looks to be a long road to “business as usual” in Japan. The US Department of State downgraded a Travel Warning just after the disaster to a Travel Alert recently, signaling an improvement in conditions but still urges caution:

“Japan is one of the most seismically active places in the world. Tokyo and areas to the Northeast continue to experience strong aftershocks related to the March 11 earthquake. Aftershocks following an earthquake of this magnitude can be expected to continue for more than a year. Identifying potential hazards ahead of time and advance planning can reduce the dangers of serious injury or loss of life from an earthquake” the Department of State notes in their most current analysis.

Photo courtesy Royal Caribbean International

Video: Japanese tsunami destroying everything in its path

The aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami has been widely broadcast on TV news shows – images of wiped out towns and the total destruction of entire areas showed us the power of the quake and its resulting tsunami.

In this video, you’ll see one of the most terrifying clips to date – showing just how devastating this natural disaster really was. From the slowly rising river waters to a massive torrent that destroyed everything in its path – this is one clip that will stay in your mind for a long time.

[Via: Jalopnik]

Travel industry battered by world crises says CNN

CNN reports that the travel industry is suffering due to recent world events. A recent report from CNN says that the spate of world crises that have occurred in the first three months of the year has hit the travel industry especially hard. Natural disasters and political unrest have left many travelers rethinking their plans or cancelling trips altogether as they scramble to avoid a host of issues across the globe.

The earthquake and tsunami in Japan, coupled with fears of radiation and a potential nuclear meltdown in power plants there, has significantly reduced demand for travel to that country. It has gotten so bad that Delta Airlines has announced that they are cutting capacity to Tokyo’s Narita International Airport by as much as 20% through May, and suspending flights to another regional airport altogether.

Similarly, travel to Northern Africa and the Middle East has also dropped significantly as political upheaval has spread across that region. It hasn’t just been the airlines that have felt the pinch however, as disruption in travel to Bahrain, Tunisia, and most importantly Egypt, has put a dent in the cruise industry too. According to Carnival Cruise Lines more than 280 of their cruises have seen a change in their itineraries thanks to issues in the Middle East. They estimate a loss of $44 million so far, and the region hasn’t stabilized just yet.

The Middle East unrest has brought another unwelcome side effect to the travel industry as well. Any threat to the distribution of oil means an increase in prices, which is always passed on to the consumer. Soaring oil prices has led to an increase in the cost of airfares, and the dreaded term “fuel surcharge” has reared its ugly head once again too. With the busy summer travel season still ahead, it seems unlikely that oil prices will be coming down again anytime soon.

2011 is certainly off to a turbulent start. If the first few months are any indication, we could be in for one very memorable, but chaotic, year. Has any of the recent global calamities caused you to change your plans? Are you now going elsewhere because of recent events? Worse yet, have you canceled your plans to travel this year altogether?

Useful foreign phrases, Part 1: how to say, “I’m just looking” in 10 languages

useful foreign phrasesI’ve frequently pimped Lonely Planet’s Phrasebooks on this site, but I swear I don’t get kickbacks from the company. It’s just that I’m a big believer in not being a). A Tourist (although, let’s face it, if I’m not at home, I am indeed A Tourist) and b). helpless.

Even if you’re the biggest xenophobe on earth–which would make foreign travel a really weird and pointless pastime you might want to reconsider– it’s hard to dispute the importance of knowing how ask “Where’s the bathroom?” in certain urgent circumstances.

It’s with such experiences in mind that I came up with this fun little series. There are a handful of phrases I’ve cultivated in various languages that have served me well, in situations both good and bad. Not only are they inscribed on the dog-eared inner covers of my trusty Phrasebooks; they’re etched into my mind, so I can summon them at will. Whether you need to ward off annoying vendors, personal humiliation, potential suitors, or would-be attackers, it pays to be prepared and know what to say, when. Since things like “Yes, No, Thank you, Please, Hello,” etc. are generally not too challenging, for the purposes of this series, I’ll leave them out. That doesn’t mean they’re not very important to learn, however.

This week’s lesson: “I’m just looking.” Invaluable for politely but firmly stating your desire to see with your eyes, not your wallet. It may not stop persistent hawkers from trying to close a deal, but at least you’re showing respect by speaking in their native tongue (or an approximation thereof). And who knows? If you change your mind, that alone may help you score a better bargain.

P.S. I don’t claim to be polylingual: I’m compiling phrases based on past experience or research. If I offend anyone’s native tongue, please provide a correction in the “Comments” section. Be nice!

1. Spanish: Solo estoy mirando.

2. Italian: Sto solo guardando.

3. French: Je regarde.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Gerry Balding]useful foreign phrases4. German: Nur schauen.

5. Czech: Jen se dívám.

6. Portuguese: Estou só a olhar.

Many languages, especially those spoken in Asia and the Middle East, use written characters. Transliteration will vary, depending upon the guidebook/translator, which is why the spelling or phonetics below may be different from other sources. Since these languages are largely tonal (and may require accents or characters not available on a Western computer), look at this way: odds are you’re going to mangle the pronunciation anyway, so just do your best! It’s the thought that counts.

7. Chinese (Cantonese): Tái haa.

8. Japanese: Watashi ga mite iru dakedesu (here’s to Japan getting back on its feet and attracting travelers soon!) To make a Red Cross donation, click here.

9. Vietnamese: Tôi chỉ xem thôi.

14. Moroccan Arabic: Ghir kanshuf.

What’s the most useful phrase you’ve ever learned in a foreign language? How has it helped your travels? We want to hear from you!

[Photo credit: Flickr user wanderer_by_trade]