Author Archives: Destination & Tourism Headlines

A Musical Weekend in the Riviera Nayarit

WHY IT RATES: This music festival is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and it's free to attend. —Codie Liermann, Associate Editor Imagine a weekend dedicated to listening to music, dancing and making the most of all your senses on a stage under the open sky... The San Pancho Music Fest is that and much more!The festival will be held from February 28 through March 1, 2020, and this year it celebrates two decades of being one of the top musical events in the region, contributing to San Pancho’s name as "Capital Cultural of the Riviera Nayarit."The festival has been organized for the past 20 years by a group of talented musicians and local residents with a keen interest in music, among them, Andy Crawford, Beto González, Chris Parsons and Sam Curtis, along with strong support from the local community.According to the organizers, the San Pancho Music Fest has been free to the public since its inception thanks to the generosity of the artists and volunteers, plus donations from the public and the local business community. They have all contributed their passion for music and their love for San Pancho.The concerts and recitals are held on the Plaza del Sol, where they’ve set up two stages for shows including 27 groups and solo artists from the United States, Canada, Mexico and other countries in Latin America that will be playing continuous music from five in the afternoon until 11 at night.This year’s lineup features talented musicians like Cheko Ruiz Group, Afro Brazilian Samba, Tatewari, Trío Son Veracruzano, Orquesta San Francisco, Dave Fisher and Make it Funky, among others.Besides music, the festival also offers people the chance to enjoy a day with friends and family, as there will be food and drink for sale along with arts and crafts booths.Go San Pancho! For more details about the artists and information about the event, visit or Facebook San Pancho Music Fest.SOURCE: Riviera Nayarit press release. Let's block ads! (Why?)

2020's Top US and International Spring Break Travel Destinations

Allianz Global Assistance has released its annual Top 10 Spring Break Destinations survey, which reveals that more Americans will getaway this season compared to last. In fact, domestic trips are up 24 percent while international travel has risen 18 percent compared to 2019. To determine where travelers are headed, Allianz analyzed more than 2.7 million flight itineraries for trips between five and eight days in length during the busy spring break season, defined as February 21 to April 19. Here's how the top domestic and international spring destinations rank in 2020. Let's block ads! (Why?)

St. Thomas Expanding Access to Top Tourism Sites

Government projects to improve waterfront pedestrian infrastructure and walkways in Charlotte Amalie, the U.S. Virgin Islands’ capital and largest city, are nearing completion, said Joseph Boschulte, the U.S. Virgin Islands’ Department of Tourism commissioner.The projects “have taken a front seat,” Boschulte said and will enhance access to the city’s scenic waterfront while also improving walkways that link the historic city’s attractions and shopping streets to its cruise-ship port, one of the Caribbean’s most-visited. “The main street in [Charlotte Amalie] St. Thomas, which is a major shopping locale, is about 90 percent complete,” Boschulte said. “It has a wonderful look and feel and just re-opened the week before Christmas.” Meanwhile the waterfront project “is about 70 percent complete,” he said. “The one major negative we’ve had over the years is traffic.” - Joseph Boschulte, the U.S. Virgin Islands’ Department of Tourism commissioner (Photo by Brian Major) The completed project will add two additional [vehicular] lanes and “walkways from the major cruise ship dock in Havensight to downtown, with wonderful vista along the way, so I’m very pleased,” said Boschulte.“This is major for us,” he explained. “The one major negative we’ve had over the years is traffic, especially with cruise passengers wanting to get back to [their] ship.” Boschulte joked, “This is one of the few projects in my life in the U.S. Virgin Islands that is ahead of schedule and under budget. It’s moving along really well.”Charlotte Amalie is filled with landmarks tied to its celebrated past, first as a 15th and 16th-century pirate haven, and later as a commercial Danish outpost. The city retains several well-preserved examples of period architecture including the St. Thomas Synagogue, the Western Hemisphere’s second-oldest.Charlotte Amalie also features Frederick Lutheran Church, the Western Hemisphere’s oldest Lutheran church, and Blackbeard's Castle, a U.S. National Historic Landmark. Fort Christian, set on the edge of downtown Charlotte Amalie’s Emancipation Park, is the oldest standing structure in the Virgin Islands archipelago.The home and birthplace of St. Thomas native Camille Pissarro, the father of the French Impressionist painting, is located at 14 Dronningens Gade. The home and studio is open to visitors and features contemporary artwork by local artists.Several years ago tourism stakeholders acknowledged Charlotte Amalie’s historic origins, joining with preservationists to re-establish Danish street names across the downtown district, including renaming the former Main Street as Dronningens Gade.In addition to the Charlotte Amalie waterfront project, numerous street signs in Charlotte Amalie and in Frederiksted on St. Croix are receiving official names, according to government officials quoted in local media reports. Street signs with the new names are expected to be installed throughout the territory by 2022.The U.S. Virgin Islands’ street naming project was launched years ago but ultimately stalled. Lt. Governor Tregenza Roach is credited with initiating the project’s resumption in October 2019.The plan will formally provide names for public and private streets, including driveways serving residences and businesses, stair-streets, walkways and sidewalks. Many of the street names will reflect historic and/or cultural names while others will utilize ecological names including plants, birds and animals. Obscene names and names deemed derogatory to any race, creed, ethnic or religious group are prohibited.As in many Caribbean cities, many streets across the U.S. Virgin Islands lack formal names and street signs. The Street Addressing Initiative will create a system “providing navigable streets based on national standards, record” and “document the information in a master repository and link the Virgin Islands with emergency systems and utilities,” according to Chris George, the program’s director. Let's block ads! (Why?)

Explore the Cotswolds and the Royal County of Berkshire

London’s top sights are on your "must-see" list and Buckingham Palace, the crown jewels, Victoria and Albert Museum, Royal Albert Hall, Westminster Abbey, The Shard and Big Ben will “wow” you. But a short train ride away is the idyllic English countryside of The Cotswolds and Berkshire County, so why not include them too? Let's block ads! (Why?)

Cancun to Celebrate Event-Filled 50th Birthday in April

A big celebration is being planned in April when Cancun, Mexico celebrates its 50th birthday.Wait, what? How can one of the oldest, most historic, most culturally significant areas of Mexico that dates back to the 15th century and the Mayan civilization be just 50 years old?Glad you asked.This is actually the birthday of the Cancun as we know it now—one of the most majestic, popular tourist areas in the world.After the Mayans abandoned the region some 600 years ago, Cancun was virtually dormant until 1968 when the Mexican government took a longer look at the peninsula, shoreline and the stunning blue waters of the Caribbean and thought, ‘Hmmm. This could be as nice a resort area as Acapulco.’Two years later, on April 20, 1970, construction began on hotels and businesses, and the rest is history.For the big Golden Anniversary, the local government, tourism service providers and other businesses in Cancun are preparing for the celebration.The Cancún delegation of the Mexican Association of Travel Agencies (AMAV) announced that special products, like limited-edition commemorative bottles of tequila and activities such as yacht processions will commemorate the city’s birthday.Companies like beverage retailer La Europea have announced that they will release commemorative products to be sold the week of April 20, Cancun’s de facto birthday. La Europea will release 3,500 limited-edition bottles of Las Garrafas mezcal to be sold in its Cancún stores.French beverage company Moet will release around 1,000 commemorative bottles of its Moet Ice champagne, which will also be sold in La Europea outlets in Cancun.The city is also working with various airlines to arrange the painting of airplanes with the logo for the city’s 50th-anniversary celebrations. Let's block ads! (Why?)

Inside Brazil’s Tourism Boom

The administration of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has emphasized expanding the country’s international visitor arrivals, highlighted by a re-configuration of Embratur (the Brazil Tourism Board), transforming the former government agency into a more flexible and better-funded public-private organization, officials said.The revamped Embratur’s initiatives include strategies designed to increase visits by North American travelers, among other groups. In June of 2019, the country waived visa requirements for visiting citizens from the U.S. and nations including Canada, Australia and Japan. Under the program, travelers with valid passports may enter Brazil visa-free for stays of up to 90 days. The exemption also applies to tourists in transiting Brazil, and 90-day stays can be extended up to 180 days every 12 months.Brazil’s Ministry of Tourism is aiming to bring 12 million visitors per year to Brazil by 2022, said Marcelo Alvaro Antônio, Brazil’s tourism minister. The country hosted 6.6 million visitors in 2018. Image: “I think we’re going to increase the number of Americans who come to Brazil each year.” - Gilson Machado Neto, Embratur’s president. (Photo by Brian Major) We spoke with Gilson Machado Neto, president of Embratur, to discuss the organization’s restructuring, Brazil’s amazingly diverse natural and cultural attractions, the country’s Brazil’s outlook for tourism in 2020 and beyond.TP: How pleased are you with the results of the visa program to date?GN: We’ve had a 39 percent in the number of visas issued since the implementation on June 17 last year. It was a very encouraging policy implemented by our president. We receive about 560,000 Americans every year. I think we’re going to increase the number of Americans who come to Brazil each year.TP: Which aspects of travel to Brazil is Embratur focused on currently?GN: We’ve changed the focus of what we always show the world. Brazil was known as a country where [tourists] come for conga [music], for beautiful people and experiences [including] visiting favelas. We have all this but not just this. We are number one in the world in natural resources. We have the Pantanal wetlands, the Amazon rainforest, the Pampas, the Atlantic forest and the “blue” Amazon.We have 8.5 thousand kilometers of ocean with clear water during 365 days of the year, and we have the second-biggest reef barrier in the world. We have Iguazu Falls, the largest waterfalls in the world. We have gastronomy [and] excellent wineries in the south of Brazil. The largest bull-riding community is in Brazil. You want it, you got it. We have a population of people that are very friendly, with Muslim and Jewish communities, and no problems. We don’t have war, terrorism or hurricanes. Iguazu Falls, Brazil (Photo courtesy of Emily Krause) TP: Are you confident you can communicate this information to potential travelers?GN: We are going to increase our efforts to do this. Brazil has always been misunderstood but now we are changing the focus. For the first time, we have a president (Jair Bolsonaro) who talks about tourism. He knows we have 40,000 hotels with only 45 percent occupancy, and we are going to change that. I have no doubt about it.Our organization was much more bureaucratic under the old structure. Now we are an agency with a set budget [that] we increased to $100 million to promote Brazil around the world. It’s not the number I’d like, because Mexico spends $500 million. But it’s now the same as Argentina and Colombia have, and it’s better than the $8 million had last year. Trending Now TP: Are you looking to establish new partnerships to expand travel to Brazil?GN: Yes, we are speaking with several organizations, and we are [evaluating] our embassies all around the world. We are going to open new offices in Miami, Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico.TP: How is Brazil’s air connectivity for American travelers?GN: Many people avoided traveling to Brazil because of the visa problem. With the good connections from America; you can travel anywhere in Brazil from Miami, New York, Houston or Los Angeles.TP: Are there Brazilian tourist activities that tourists may not know about?GN: We have freshwater and saltwater fishing for blue marlin. We are going to be the number one in scuba diving; the government is planning to create 1,200 new artificial reefs all around the Brazilian coast. We are the only country in the world where 60 percent of the territory is protected forest. Let's block ads! (Why?)

How Guadeloupe Plans to Attract More North Americans

Guadeloupe Tourism Authority (GTA) officials are betting this month’s launch of JetBlue flights between New York’s John F. Kennedy airport and Guadeloupe’s Pointe-à-Pitre airport, combined with multi-million euro investments in new and renovated hotels, will generate increased visitation from North American travelers.The airline initiated the New York-Guadeloupe flights earlier this month, offering a seasonal winter schedule departing Saturdays, Mondays and Wednesdays. JetBlue is the only airline currently operating flights between the northeastern U.S. and Guadeloupe, an archipelago of five islands: Basse-Terre, Grande-Terre, Le Désirade, Les Saintes and Marie Galante. The new flights in effect replace service lost in 2019 when European carrier Norwegian Air scrapped its French Caribbean service from New York, said Sandra Vénite, GTA’s director. JetBlue’s flights are also expected to increase Guadeloupe’s North American visitors and will operate through April 27; the departures will resume in November 2020.Vénite said six percent of Guadeloupe visitors are from North America with 62 percent from the U.S. and 38 percent from Canada. Eighty percent of the French overseas territory’s visitors originate in Europe.“We have been working with Jet Blue for the last two years and we are so happy they decided to fill the gap for Norwegian,” Vénite said. “I’m happy the flights are non-stop because for New Yorkers, if it’s not non-stop they just don’t go,” she joked. “It is amazing news for Guadeloupe.” “We have been working with Jet Blue for the last two years and we are so happy they decided to fill the gap for Norwegian.” Sandra Vénite, GTA director. (Photo by Brian Major) “We are delighted we were able to maintain a connection between New York and Pointe-à -Pître as this route is crucial for the development of our archipelago,” said Alain Bièvre, chairman of the board of Guadeloupe Pôle Caraibe Airport. “We are convinced that American travelers will leave the Guadeloupe Islands with lifetime memories and come back again and again.”The territory hosted 735,200 land-based, overnight visitors in 2019 an 11.6 percent increase, compared with the 650,000 visitors in 2018, said GTA officials. The archipelago’s visitor numbers have grown as travelers have become more interested in “experiential” vacations that incorporate eco-tourism, Vénite said.“Seventy-seven percent of the archipelago is a natural reserve. The population is just enough for the island, so you can wander around and not feel bothered,” she said. “You can literally find your own beach in Guadeloupe.”Guadeloupe’s two main islands both feature extensive natural beauty. Basse-Terre is located amidst volcanic peaks that form part of a national park, with dense tropical forests and lush hiking trails.Grande-Terre is set atop a vast limestone plateau bordered by idyllic beaches with secluded lagoons. The smaller islands of Marie Galante, Les Saintes and La Désirade are accessible via short ferry rides from the main islands.“When you go to Guadeloupe it’s going to be a real adventure,” Vénite said. “You have an opportunity to brush up on your Francois [and] if you’re looking for adventure and cultural experiences, Guadeloupe has it all. We have adventure parks and national parks, [and] a Jacques Cousteau diving reserve,” she said.“Americans are looking for something new because many have been to [several] Caribbean islands,” but many are unfamiliar with Guadeloupe,” Vénite added.Hotel HeaveGuadeloupe’s expanding hotel base is also expected to increase visits from North America. Traditionally, European travelers have been more amenable to the Airbnb and bed-and-breakfast accommodations that compose a large share of Guadeloupe’s hospitality sector said Vénite. But Americans “are getting loose a little bit” even as new hospitality options arrive in the destination.Over the past five years, hotel companies have invested “more than 70 million euros in building new properties and upgrading existing ones,” Vénite said. Within the next three years, developers will invest another 100 million euros on hotel launches and renovations, she said.Newly refurbished properties include the Club Med Caravelle, which completed a $47 million renovation in December. The property includes an adults-only section, a spa, rum cellar and Zen Oasis, a new beach lounge. Guadeloupe's Club Med Caravelle completed a major renovation in December. La Toubana Hotel & Spa has been renovated and upgraded to a five-star property, Vénite said. “It is our first five-star property; we’ve never had that before,” she said. “It is in an amazing location in Sainte-Anne overlooking Les Saintes.”She added, “I’m proud to say you can go to Guadeloupe and find nice hotels. We have [fewer] than 10,000 hotel rooms, so it’s not a lot, but it’s just enough,” she said. “We’ve never had big resorts; the biggest hotel is about 500 rooms.”Vénite said, “The goal in five years is to be around 11,000 rooms in the archipelago, so a lot of new properties will be coming to Guadeloupe in the next couple of years.”Guadeloupe’s annual visitor numbers place the destination near the mid-point of the 29 destinations tracked by the Caribbean Tourism Organization, but Vénite says GTA is aiming to trend higher.“The goal of the authority is to diversify our clientele. We want to get in line with the other Caribbean islands. We want to be one of those.” Let's block ads! (Why?)