And the winner of the 2018 Winter Olympics is... South Korea

By Michelle Baran
October 3, 2012
Courtesy International Olympic Committee

The International Olympic Committee this week selected PyeongChang, South Korea to host the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, a decision that will put the Asian peninsula nation in the spotlight in the coming years — something South Korea desperately wants.

In recent years, South Korea has been pushing to market itself as a viable vacation destination, but it has had challenges, namely that it shares a peninsula with the sometimes hostile North Korea, and competes with China, Japan and Southeast Asia for travelers' attention.

But this announcement could help South Korea drum up the kind of attention and excitement that might help the country emerge from the shadows of its neighbors.

PyeongChang, a mountain region in northeastern South Korea, beat out Munich, Germany and Annecy, France, for the Winter Olympics (PyeongChang got 63 votes, Munich 25, and Annecy got seven).

And VisitKorea, the country's tourism marketing organization, is already touting Pyeongchang as the "Alps of Korea" (interesting considering that Annecy is in the actual Alps), home to several ski resorts and parks.

The decision was in fact a major coup for South Korea, which had already bid for the Winter Games twice, once eight years ago, when it lost to Vancouver, Canada, which hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics, and again four years ago, when it was announced that Sochi, Russia will host the 2014 Winter Games.

But this isn't the first time South Korea will be hosting an Olympics event. Seoul was the host city for the 1988 Summer Olympics, which were hosted in Asia two other times, in Tokyo in 1964, and in Beijing in 2008. Japan is the only country in Asia that has hosted the Winter Olympics — in Sapporo in 1972, and Nagano in 1998.

"PyeongChang presented a strong and inspiring project that enjoys massive support from the government and the public," stated IOC President Jacques Rogge. "I have every confidence that PyeongChang will deliver on its commitment and host excellent Games in 2018."

"The South Korean project will leave a tremendous legacy as PyeongChang will become a new winter sports hub in Asia," added Rogge.

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What happens when the Olympics move on?

How to Score Tickets to the 2012 Summer Olympics

North Korea welcoming U.S. tourists year-round

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The Budget Travel Convert...Reporting from Greece

Hobart Fowlkes, our "Budget Travel Convert," is a high–end jetsetter by trade, budget globetrotter by choice. He reports regularly on the best (and most affordable) experiences and hotels around the world. Today he updates us on a recent trip to Athens and Mykonos where he spent time admiring the Parthenon in Athens and watching the sun set, cocktail in hand, in Mykonos. See photos from my trip to Greece FIRST STOP, ATHENS... I arrived in Athens mid–morning on a nonstop flight from JFK. I had slept the whole way, but nevertheless when I got to my insanely cheap hotel on Euripidou St. in Plaka (the old part of town at the bottom of the Acropolis), I was ready to hit the hay for a few hours. If you haven't been to Athens before, beware—official Athenian taxis will only charge you a flat fare of EUR35 ($50) to the center of town, so do NOT fall for any sneaky tricksters who might try to take you for anything more. I was in Athens for just 24 hours before I headed out to Mykonos. On my one full day in the city, I meandered through the vast park that leads to the giant stone plateau which was once the site of the holiest temples in the Greek world (for the life of me I can't remember the name of the park). From up there you can enjoy amazing panoramic views of Athens all the way to the port of Pireaus and the Aegean Sea. Descending back into the narrow streets of Plaka I made frequent stops for iced cappucino frappés and my favorite Greek invention of yogurt with walnuts and honey! Oh those Greeks can work wonders with honey! Where I stayed: I checked into Hotel Euripides, which is a very bare bones property with 62 rooms—I had air conditioning, a TV, and a little balcony overlooking a restaurant called O Telis that serves only pork chops (more on this in a bit). 79 Euripidou Street, 011/30-210-3212301-2, How much I paid: My double room cost $83 per night. Why I recommend it: The hotel is simple, but the neighborhood it's in is very charming and quaint (filled with cute shops and restaurants). Unfortunately, Euripidou Street, where the hotel is located, is like one big, seedy strip that bisects Plaka. But on a positive note it's covered with the most amazing graffiti I have ever seen! My favorite part of the hotel is the roof terrace, where complimentary breakfast is served daily from 7 to 10AM. The meal consists of the usual continental spread, but all I really needed was a cup of strong coffee and the corner table that has the best view of the Parthenon in town. But back to the restaurant across the street that serves only pork chops. That was definitely a highlight for me. Since they serve only pork chops and have been in business for more than 30 years they have had plenty of time to perfect the preparation of said chops. So awesome are their pork chops that Neil Armstrong (YES, the astronaut) ate there once in 1997 and sat in exactly the chair where I sat! How do I know that?? Well, first of all my waiter told me so upon discovering my nationality and seating me at that table. Thinking me to be incredulous, he dug out a folder filled with yellowed newspaper clippings from Athenian dailies in the late 1990's to prove the point. Knowing that the very tush that once wiggled out of the Apollo 11 onto the face of the moon, had actually once warmed the very plastic chair into which was nestled my very own tush was enough to make those already delicious pork chops sublime. O Telis, 86 Evripidou, Koumoundourou Square, Athens, 011/30-210-324-2775, dinner from $15 (including a greek salad, pork chop, and a bottle of water) THEN, ON TO MYKONOS... Next up was Mykonos. With my budget in mind, I opted to travel via ferry boat even though there are regular flights to Mykonos. Just steps from the Hotel Euripides there is a subway that takes you directly to Piraeus where the ferries depart. There are high speed ferries ($172 one way) and there are regular ferries ($100 one way). I chose the high speed ferry on the Aegean Pelagos line. The total trip took about four hours. Upon arriving in the town of Chora in Mykonos, I was met by a man from the hotel that I had chosen for myself: The Hotel Petasos. That was a good thing too because it's very easy to get lost in Chora (apparently it was deliberately designed as a labyrinth in an effort to confuse and perplex pirates who might invade). Where I stayed: The 18 room Petasos Town hotel in Chora. How much I paid: My room was $139 per night. 011/30-22890-22608, Why I recommend it: Not only is the hotel very clean and charming, it is in a perfect location, just steps from the center of the port of Chora. Petasos Beach, which is the sister property, is located on a beach about a 20 minutes drive in a shuttle bus. It's a bit tonier than the town one, but the good news is that as a guest of the Town hotel you are free to use all of the facilities at the beach property. I could have spent all of my time at the Petasos Beachproperty, but I found myself a lot more comfortable renting a car (EUR30/day) from a nice man about 100 meters up the street from Petasos Town Hotel, just opposite another awesome property called the Rochari Hotel. With a car you are free to explore the island and discover all of the various beaches,each of which has its own unique personality. There is Agrari Beach which is somewhat secluded in a little cove with deep blue water—it's the polar opposite to the very gay and very vibrant Paradise and Super Paradise beaches which you will know you are approaching before you get there by the THMP THMP THMP of the House Music that blasts from the Beach's DJ platform all day long and into the night. My personal favorite is known as Elia Beach. It is a long, sandy beach with beds that you can rent and plenty of space to pitch your towel wherever you want. There is a charming restaurant on one end of the beach for lunch, and generally a veryfriendly mixed crowd of beach goers. There is also a lot of good "beautiful people" watching of which I am particularly fond. Before you go I also recommend that you go for a cocktail at the Hotel Elysium, which is high up on a hill overlooking the port. Hotel Elysium is not at all in the Budget Travel category of hotel, but it is worth it to make the hike up there and pay a fortune for a measly little cocktail just for the opportunity to watch the sun go down over the town. So after a week of sun and relaxation in Mykonos, I sadly boarded my ferry back to Athens to spend one last night in Hotel Euripides. Thankfully, there was time the following morning to enjoy a coffee while gazing at the acropolis before setting off back to the airport, but, sadly, no time for pork chops. Next stop: Florence and Lucca on the way to spend a week in the sun in Torre del Lago, the little known next door neighbor to beach destination, Viareggio, on Tuscany's coast. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL The Budget Travel Convert: Reporting from...Panama Secret Hotels of Greece's Ionian Islands 10 Islands to See Before You Die


We can now travel to Cuba!

Finally, all Americans can now travel to Cuba, so long as they go with a licensed tour operator performing "people-to-people" trips. Although the Treasury Department still requires travel to Cuba to be "purposeful," you no longer have to be pursuing a degree program or be a journalist to go there, thanks to policy changes made by the Obama administration earlier this year. The trips are, however, meant to be educational, so you'll follow busy itineraries with meaningful interaction with the locals. In other words, you're not just hanging on the beach in Havana for a week. So far, the Treasury Department has only issued eight companies with people-to-people licenses. One such operator is Insight Cuba, which is offering several trips, including a long weekend in Havana, with 4-star accommodation, all meals, full-day guided activities, and in-country transportation, from $1,695. Each trip is limited to 16 travelers. Other outfitters are also planning people-to-people trips to Cuba, including the Harvard University's Alumni Association, Learning in Retirement, and Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art and Design. According to the The New York Times, there are currently 35 tour operators whose applications are still pending, including the National Geographic Society, the National trust for Historic Preservation, and Collette Vacations. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Should the government ease all restrictions on Cuba travel? Cuba prepares for an end to the travel ban Travel to Cuba: Highlights


The new King Memorial is ready for its close-up

More than 400,000 visitors may descend on Washington, D.C.'s National Mall in late August to witness the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. What do travelers need to know to plan a visit? The four-acre site is set between the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial. It is the first piece of construction to be placed on the central axis of the Mall that doesn't commemorate a war or a president. It will feature a 28-foot-high granite statue by Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin, along with a crescent wall engraved with King quotations chosen by historians and writers. The social realist sculpture has been completed, but the site as a whole, funded by private donations, still needs $8 million for finishing touches. We hope it rises to the occasion. The dedication ceremony takes place on August 28 at 11 a.m., preceded by a planned concert at 10 and followed by another concert around 2 p.m. Free standing room areas will be open nearby, but tickets have already been given away for the seats in the stands. Expect long lines to form early in the morning. Giant television screens may be set up for guests who can't see the ceremony up-close, but details are still being worked out. Assuming all things go as planned, visitors will want to book now for lodging in the city during the weekend before the Labor Day holiday. The popularity of the upcoming event, along with customary family trips during summer peak season, is jacking up prices temporarily. Consider Budget Travel's picks for affordable hotels in the city and its environs. Be sure to also catch up on "The 20 Best-Kept Secrets of Washington, D.C." from our April issue. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL The disappearance of cheap red-eye flights Open secret websites for booking hotels Rental car companies charge frequent flier mile redemption fees


Where in the world will your interests take you?

CNN recently spoke to travel writer Tony Perrottet, who journeyed across Europe in search of sites so salacious, they've become the stuff of legends. Among them, the Venetian home that once belonged to Giancomo Casanova, and the Stufetta del Bibbiena, a very closely guarded washroom in the Vatican's papal quarters decorated with some decidedly secular imagery by Raphael himself. You can get all the juicy details on Perrottet's trip in his book The Sinner's Grand Tour, which hit bookstores last month. The interview itself is a pretty fascinating read—and while I won't presume to guess what train of thought it will lead you to, I can tell you what it got me thinking about: all the varied, off-the-wall themes that can inspire and shape a trip. Sure, you can visit a place with nothing more on the agenda than discovering it organically—some might say that's the only way to travel. But it seems that now more than ever, you can take off to anther part of the world in an effort to trace the steps or follow the trail of just about anything: the book you'll find on every Nook and Kindle (Stockholm has seen a jump in tourism since introducing Girl With the Dragon Tattoo tours, based on the wildly popular series of novels by Stieg Larsson, last year); a real-life historical figure (among those honored with their own itineraries: Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Che Guevara, and Kate Middleton); your taste buds (one of BT's recent dream trips urges travelers to take in Paris via patisserie); or even...toilets (yes, really). As someone who was dragged along the Da Vinci Code trail in Paris (and despite herself, managed to enjoy it), I'm curious to hear from others who have ventured into themed travel: What's the wackiest tour you've heard of, been on, or can't wait to try? Around what theme would you base a trip, and where would it take you? MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: 12 Mysterious Underground Tours New trend: Urban bike tours in Los Angeles and New York Chernobyl officially opens for tours