- In Ukraine, living with Russian troops next door
- Hollywood’s “coming of old age” problem
- Game-changing sand battery
- … and much more.
Reservations for nature, entry fees for cities: Is mass tourism reaching a dead end?
Freedom and spontaneity. That’s what made me fall in love with campervan travel. The freedom of driving anywhere and anytime you want with your home on wheels, choosing the next city to visit or hike to conquer depending on the weather, your mood or the best moment to avoid the crowds.
Setting out for 14 months across Europe with my partner in our trusty van “Foxy,” we had a broad idea of our itinerary but never planned anything too much in advance. There’s nothing more exciting than discovering by surprise a majestic waterfall, a picturesque village or a beautiful turquoise lake on the side of the road — and to see them for the first time with our eyes, without having first checked pictures on a tourism website or on social media.
Imagine our reaction, then, when as we were traveling in northern Spain, stopping to take a look at the Playa de las Catedrales (known for its natural arches and caves, which can be seen only at low tide), we were told we needed to make a reservation first. Booking a slot to visit a beach was a first for us.
Entering into a new era of mass tourism, this booking method is becoming more and more common for natural sites. In southern France, next to the city of Marseilles, the Parc National des Calanques has introduced a reservation system this summer to limit visitors to 400 a day and preserve the creeks that are eroding rapidly.
Alongside these new reservation systems is the growth of tourism fees, for both natural sites and popular cities, and even countries. In the past few years, several national parks in the United States have implemented lotteries for their most visited sites, from The Wave in the desert landscape of Utah’s Coyote Buttes to Half Dome, Yosemite’s most famous attraction.
The tiny nation of Bhutan has recently announced it would reopen to international tourists in September for the first time since the pandemic hit, now charging them with a Sustainable Development Fee of $200 per tourist per night — tripling the amount of the fee that had been implemented for three decades. For the South Asian country, famous for its scenic natural beauty, the new fee is a way to offset tourists' carbon impact. The Italian city of Venice will also oblige day-trippers to make reservations and pay a fee ranging from €3 to €10 from January 2023, to better manage visitors in the historic center.
What does this mean for the future of tourism and travel? As tourist numbers are growing around the world and natural sites are suffering damage because everybody wants to snap the same Instagram picture from the same spot, it seems natural to protect fragile ecosystems or historic monuments by minimizing human impact and reducing traffic.
Yes, mass tourism is a real problem with devastating environmental consequences that needs to be addressed. But how do we do it without other kinds of human impact?
If tourism fees are increasingly adopted it is bound to deprive some people from traveling simply because they can’t afford it. Will the Grand Canyon or the Egyptian Pyramids one day be reserved for only the wealthiest among us?
For spontaneous travelers like me, the whole booking and planning system necessarily ruins the whole experience. Well, almost. At least, with Foxy we know we’ll always have the option to jump back behind the wheel, and head straight for the road less traveled.
— Anne-Sophie Goninet
What do you remember from the news this week?
1. Which country has passed a new law to reinforce its border security with Russia?
2. For the first time this year, who will be allowed to undertake the Hajj (the holy Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca) unaccompanied: teenagers, women, or non-Muslims?
3. Why did Italy declare a state of emergency in its northern regions?
4. Whose wax figure was humorously placed in front of a job center in Blackpool, England?
[Answers at the bottom of this newsletter]
With the release of Minions: The Rise of Gru, the #GentleMinions trend has gone viral on TikTok. It sees teenagers dress in formal attire (to mimic the animation movie’s main characters) to go see the movie in cinemas. But some movie theaters in the UK have had to ban wearing suits, as the teenagers’ behavior is sometimes less than formal: screaming, throwing bananas on the screen and other forms of Minion-inspired mischief. Universal Pictures is making the most of this trend and tweeted, “To everyone showing up to Minions in suits: We see you and we love you.”
• Russian player wins major chess event: The prestigious Candidates Tournament concluded in Madrid with the victory of Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi. The Russian Grandmaster was one of the 44 top Russian chess players who signed an open letter to Vladimir Putin in March 2022, in which they condemned the invasion of Ukraine. Nepomniachtchi will face off next year with current world chess champion, Norwegian Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen.
• African fashion in the spotlight: The V&A Museum in London has just opened its first exhibition on African fashion in its 170 year-long history, showcasing objects, sketches, textiles, photographs and films from the African liberation years (1950s-1980s) and from contemporary designers. In the meantime, the eighth edition of the Liputa Fashion Show started in Goma, Congo, promoting peace and “fashion for all.”
• Indian director faces threats over film poster of goddess with Pride flag: Canada-based Indian film director Leena Manimekalai has received thousands of threats of violence over the poster for her new short film Kaali. The image depicts the eponymous Hindu goddess smoking a cigarette and holding an LBGTQ+ flag. Two police cases have been filed in India for “hurting religious sentiments”; meanwhile, Manimekalai has protested against the censorship.
• Yu-Gi-Oh! creator dies: Kazuki Takahashi, the creator of the popular Yu-Gi-Oh! manga and hugely popular trade card game franchise, has died at age 60. The circumstances of his death are being investigated after he was found dead in snorkeling gear off the coast of Nago in Okinawa.
• Hello, it’s me (again): British singer Adele made an acclaimed live comeback before 65,000 people at London’s Hyde Park after five years without going on stage. In January, the star had to cancel what was initially planned to be her comeback in Las Vegas, saying her show was not ready yet.
Since the Russian army managed to destroy Mariupol, the large port city of Mykolaiv in eastern Ukraine now carries great strategic importance with its access to the Black Sea. As hundreds of thousands of people still live in the city and surrounding region, Livy Bereg’s reporter Kateryna Petrenko visited one of the villages on Mykolaiv's outskirts to see for herself how Ukrainians live in close proximity to the Russian army. “Why didn't I leave? First, my mother-in-law is 82 years old. Secondly, I have three huge dogs. Thirdly and most importantly, this is our home!,” Natalia Panashiy, head of the Lyman and Luparevo villages, told the journalist.
Read the full story: Mykolaiv Postcard: Life On Ukraine's Creeping Southern Front Line
In the Netherlands, agriculture protests have been organized periodically since 2019 against Dutch government plans to reduce the nitrogen oxide and ammonia pollution produced by livestock. Over the past few days, the demonstrations have escalated, with a few cases of violence. But what is new this time around is that the Dutch farmers have unlikely new allies — conspiracy theorists around the world. Canadian Keean Bexte, editor-in-chief of influential “alternative news” site, The Counter Signal, has been claiming that Dutch farmers have been inspired by the Canadian truckers’ protest earlier this year and even created a website, Dutch Uprising, to cover the protests, with articles shared thousands of times.
Read the full story: How Dutch Farmers Became The New Protagonists For Global Conspiracy Theorists
As a writer in her 60s, Ranjani Iyer Mohanty was on the hunt for a movie in which she could see something of herself, or even her future self, reflected on the screen. After going through Hollywood films which don’t depict the elderly in a realistic way or reflect actual issues of aging, she eventually found the British film The Last Bus, a “coming of age” movie — in the real sense of the term. “European cinema seems to be doing a much better job. This may be due to their sense of history, value of the elderly, and therefore a better desire to understand aging,” she writes.
Read the full story: No Country For Old People? How Seniors Are Portrayed In Hollywood, And Beyond
Finnish researchers may have found a solution to provide green energy all year long: a sand battery capable of storing power for several months. The stand keeps heat produced by renewable energy at 500 °C, which can then be used to warm homes in winter. This discovery will prove useful this winter, as Finland is no longer supplied in gas and electricity by Russia since its decision to join NATO.
Flight attendant Veronica Rojas made a very special passenger announcement on an Alaska Airline flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Passengers heard the usual sign, but instead of providing safety recommendations, Rojas proceeded to tell them how she had met her partner, the plane’s pilot Alejandra Moncayo, on the same flight two years earlier. She then addressed her girlfriend in Spanish, asking, “My goddess. With you, I’ll go to the skies. Would you do me the honor of being my wife?” before producing an engagement ring. Moncayo said yes to the cheers of the passengers, who were all offered free tickets for a future flight by Alaska Airlines.
• The committee investigating the U.S. Capital riot will be holding another public hearing on July 12.
• Alphabet, Google’s parent company, will be splitting its stocks next Friday. A single share currently costs around $2,265, but the split is expected to greatly reduce the price.
• This year’s second and final Manhattanhenge — when the setting sun aligns with New York’s east-west streets — will occur on July 11 at 8:20 PM.
• Wimbledon finals will see first-time finalists Russian-Kazakhstani player Elena Rybakina and Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur fight for title on the women’s side, while Australia’s “bad boy” Nick Kyrgios will also shoot for a maiden Grand Slam, TK
News quiz answers:
1. Finland’s parliament amended its laws to strengthen the fences along its border with Russia, as the Nordic country continues the process of joining NATO.
2. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims have started to make their way to Mecca’s holy site as part of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. This year and for the first time, women can take part in the pilgrimage without needing a male guardian.
3. Italy has declared a state of emergency for areas surrounding the river Po in the north of the country. The river is suffering its worst drought in 70 years, which is causing water shortages and impacting farmers’ production.
4. A wax figure of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was placed outside a job center in Blackpool, England, after the politician resigned as Tory leader.
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