THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED
To Go or Not to Go: 11 Places With a Bad Rap
Mexico, Egypt, Greece…we took a look at some of the most "challenged" destinations to help you determine where the benefits outweigh the risks for travel in the New Year.
The 6.3-magnitude earthquake that shook Christchurch, New Zealand, in February 2011 claimed nearly 200 lives. Ten months later, another quake hit on December 16. The city has suffered serious damage, with blocked streets, collapsed apartment buildings, and structural damage to its famous cathedrals—the tallest building, the Hotel Grand Chancellor Christchurch, is currently being demolished after being declared unstable. Jo McDermott and John Carter of Discovery Travel say, "Tourism has definitely dropped; we stopped operations for a short time after the February earthquake. At the moment, none of the major hotels are operational. We would definitely encourage people to travel to Christchurch and Canterbury, but be aware that accommodations will probably not be in the center." Jodee Merito of Pacific Travel, another local tour operator, adds, "We appreciate people may still be apprehensive, but we welcome tourists to continue using Christchurch as a gateway to the rest of South Island."
To Go or Not to Go? Go, but only to pass through Christchurch on your way to other parts of New Zealand.
The Greek economy may be in big trouble, but you wouldn't know it by looking at the record number of tourists swarming the ancient monuments and beaches in 2011. The Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises reports that numbers are up 12 percent from last year. As Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos told The New York Times, "Without a doubt, tourism has already helped soften the blow of the economic crisis." But recent riots and strikes in Athens might make prospective travelers think twice—after the October riots, 74 protesters and 32 police officers were hospitalized, flights were grounded, and public transportation around the capital was shut down.
To Go or Not to Go? Go, but stick to the islands and tread lightly in Athens.
In November, floodwaters swept through Thailand, claiming hundreds of lives and inundating vast stretches of farmland. Many tourists largely cleared out of Bangkok, while others are simply staying away; airlines like Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines have been forced to cut some of their flights. It's possible to see the major sights—the city center remains unaffected—but many countries, including the U.S., had issued travel alerts. The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Piyasvasti Amranand, president of Thai Airways, as saying: "Passengers are down a lot. No one wants to come to Thailand [when] travel warnings [are issued]." However, by mid-December, the U.S. State Department canceled both of its alerts.
To Go or Not to Go? Go. Visit Phuket or the beaches, but still use caution when navigating Bangkok.
The coast is not clear for surfers and divers along Australia's western coast. Since August 2010, four people have been killed by great white sharks that are attracted to the area's seal colonies. One recent victim was George Thomas Wainwright, a 32-year-old Texas resident who was attacked by a shark while scuba diving near popular Rottnest Island. But consider the numbers in perspective: According to Surf Life Saving Australia, during the past five decades, only one person has been killed on average each year by a shark while 87 swimmers have drowned off Australian beaches. Still, Fisheries Minister Norman Moore says $2.05 million (Australian dollars) will go toward establishing a "Shark Response Unit," and another nearly $2 million will be devoted to more helicopters and beach patrols.
To Go or Not to Go? Go.
As one of the world's poorest countries, Haiti has never been a major tourist spot—most foreign visitors only see it on a side trip from the neighboring Dominican Republic. A devastating 7-magnitude earthquake in January 2010 dealt the nation another blow, claiming more than 300,000 lives, demolishing Port-au-Prince, and costing the impoverished nation a staggering $8 billion to $14 billion. The U.S. Department of State issued a travel warning in August to strongly discourage U.S. citizens from entering the country on their own, urging citizens to consider carefully all travel to Haiti, citing crime, armed robbery, and kidnapping.
To Go or Not to Go? Don't go.
Officially, Libya was declared liberated in October after Colonel Muammar Kaddafi was captured and killed. But the civil war and its aftermath have effectively destroyed the North African nation's tourism potential, at least for the time being. Amelia Stewart, director of Simoon Travel, says, "I'm hoping to go out on a [reconnaissance trip] to Libya in the New Year.... All my colleagues and friends are OK, although [they've] been displaced and are still trying to get back to some kind of normality given that most of them are based in Misrata. [Everyone is] keen to start working again, and it's purely politics and infrastructure that are stalling them at the moment. Tourist visas are not being issued at present, nor are there direct flights from the U.K., so I think it will be some time before tourism starts up again—the tourism industry is saying autumn 2012, although I think this is optimistic." A spokesperson for Temehu Tourism Services added, "Libyans are focused on getting back on their feet. Tour operators and all other sectors of the infrastructure should do all they could to help Libya in times of need. Work must go on." The U.S. Department of State has issued a travel warning against nonessential trips to this deeply afflicted region.
To Go or Not to Go? Don't go.