"Tourism is a spiritual affirmation," says Panama's minister of tourism, the salsa musician and actor Ruben Blades, in Amy Wilentz's feature on the country's emergence as a travel destination. I am having similar thoughts as I write this letter—it's the fourth anniversary of September 11 and almost two weeks after Katrina's devastating Gulf Coast sweep. One New Orleans hotel is already open for business, and newspapers are beginning to report nascent plans for renewal efforts. New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau president and CEO J. Stephen Perry is optimistic about what lies ahead: "We are talking about a scaled-down Mardi Gras, in February, as a reafﬁrmation of New Orleans culture," he says. "This is an opportunity for New Orleans to be an even greater city than it was."
Given the proliferation of natural and man-made disasters in the past few years, this rush to renewal is to be expected. We have entered an era that may well be remembered as the Age of Resilience. In spite of reports that, in Perry's words, "neighborhoods like the French Quarter, the Warehouse District, St. Charles Avenue—New Orleans's authentic core—remain relatively undamaged," questions still swirl about New Orleans and Biloxi, both good-time places and magnets for visitors. Will they ever recover from the destruction and human loss? Locals I have spoken with are pondering the question, just as during the days after 9/11 New Yorkers wondered whether downtown Manhattan could ever be reborn. One thing we know from New York's experience—and those of Bali, Phuket, Sri Lanka, and even Madrid and London—is that travel is a mechanism for renewal. This issue celebrates those vital places that continue to evolve, be they closer to home (Panama, Salt Lake City, Paris) or farther afield (southern India, Syria).
The global world we live in moves forward, despite it all. In this Age of Resilience, where unpredictable events can strike from one minute to the next, new beginnings are a constant. —NANCY NOVOGROD