Compared to Shanghai—let along Hong Kong, Singapore, and that summit of culinary summits, Tokyo—Beijing’s fine dining scene still has a long way to go. There’s a lot of mediocrity swimming in a sea of pretense and new money. At the end of the day, Beijingers are a rough-and-ready lot who prefer Sichuan hotpot in a hole-in-the-wall. We recently ate at S.T.A.Y. (pictured), three Michelin-starred chef Yannick Alleno’s outpost at the Shangri-La Beijing. The service was good, the food above average, but the room was utterly dead—we were one of four tables.
But back to the Sichuan hotpot: Beijing has a pretty comprehensive array of restaurants serving regional cuisines. Ten years ago, most Chinese food fanatics would have told you Taipei and Hong Kong were the best places for Chinese food, Beijing being littered with restaurants that served greasy gristle. (Communism plus Cultural Revolution equals abysmal food.) Since we moved here, I’ve had some solid Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, Cantonese, Nanjing, Xinjiang, and even Taiwanese meals here—in nice settings, surrounded mostly by Chinese people.
If your lucky number is one billion, then December 2012 has certainly been a good month for you. Just last week, the music video to hit song “Gangnam Style” by Korean pop-sensation PSY became the first video in history to reach one billion views on YouTube. Less well known is the fact that on December 13th the UN World Tourism Organization declared that one billion tourists had traveled internationally in 2012.
Celebrating this new record, the UNWTO welcomed the symbolic one-billionth tourist of the year at a ceremony held in Madrid’s Museo del Prado. “Your actions count,” said the organization’s Secretary-General Taleb Rifai. “That is our message to the one billion tourists. Through the right actions and choices, each tourist represents an opportunity for a fairer, more inclusive and more sustainable future.”
Timed for the event, the UNWTO also unveiled their new campaign, One Billion Tourists: One Billion Opportunities. Encouraging travelers to preserve local heritage, buy local products, and respect local cultures, the One Billion Tourists campaign highlights just how much an impact the global tourism industry has on the world.
According to UNWTO data, international tourism accounts for 9% of the world’s GDP, and for 1 in 12 jobs worldwide.
That’s pretty epic.
Peter Schlesinger is an editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.
The U.S. Embassy in London is moving to Vauxhall—which is interesting, considering the south-of-the-Thames location. Currently, the area is known for its gay bar scene as well as its scattered but strong food offerings, such as the excellent Brunswick House Café.
The Ballymore Group is heading up a surrounding residential/retail development, complete with a 100-room waterside hotel, called Embassy Gardens. It’s part of the mayor’s Nine Elms South Bank regeneration project, aka London’s “Third City” (after the Square Mile to the east and Westminster to the west). Sir Terry Farrell is the architect, and will incorporate elements of New York’s meatpacking district as well as London’s Victorian and Edwardian mansion blocks. This is all pretty far off (dates pending), but in the meantime, this area is on the up.
Christine Ajudua is Travel + Leisure's London correspondent.
In celebration of the world not ending today*, I decided to start a new blog series highlighting the top social media travel news of the week, for anyone that may have missed the headlines. In the news big this week? Privacy policies.
Delta made a power move to increase its transatlantic presence earlier this week, announcing that it will acquire an equity stake in Virgin Atlantic. Though Virgin Atlantic president Richard Branson made it abundantly clear that his airline's brand and all of its hip trappings are not going anywhere (he even bet British Airways head Willie Walsh £1 million to that effect), the partnership does signal a significant shift in transatlantic alliances—one that has implications for Delta fliers.
More options into Europe. By gaining a strong foothold in London's notoriously tough-to-get-into Heathrow, Delta can now offer customers nine daily round-trip flights from the New York area to Heathrow, and 31 flights a day between North America and the United Kingdom. For the first time, Delta fliers can look to London (rather than, say, Amsterdam or Paris) as a viable European gateway. And they can get there in style via Virgin Atlantic's much-vaunted new Upper Class cabin.
At last month’s PhoCusWright Conference, the travel tech industry’s much-anticipated annual event, some of the most exciting, buzz-worthy attendees were the wunderkinds behind travel start-ups and high-profile online products. Travel + Leisure sat down with select Millennial entrepreneurs—or maybe a better moniker is disruptors?—shaping the next generation of Travel:
Ruzwana Bashir, the British-born 29-year-old co-founder of Peek.com, is part of the exclusive club of PhoCusWright “Young Leaders.” In October of this year, she launched a new website that provides an attractive, centralized place to book vacation activities. It also highlights “Perfect Day” itineraries supplied by travel insiders, luminaries, and in-the-know locals.
An ocean-side cocktail is one of the numerous hallmarks of a quintessential beach escape. Now, the Niyama Resort on the Maldives’ far-flung Dhaalu Atoll is taking that concept to a new level, inviting guests to tope drinks and party the night away—wait for it—beneath the Indian Ocean. More than 500 yards offshore and a 40-minute seaplane jaunt from Malé, Subsix is the world’s first sunken club. When the full moon sets the ocean aglow, revelers can dance to international deejays and take in aquarium-like views of sea turtles wading in the surf and tropical fish interspersed on the reef.
In such a sensitive ecosystem, it’s encouraging to hear careful measures were taken to minimalize the environmental impact. Subsix was constructed above ground and placed delicately on a swath of empty seafloor. The resort also enlisted a marine biologist and launched a coral restoration program in which pieces of defunct reef are rehabilitated and returned to their natural habitats.
The only thing missing in this human fishbowl is the scuba diver figurine.
Nate Storey is an editorial assistant at Travel + Leisure.
Photo courtesy of Niyama Resort
Here’s a shoo-in for the 2012 Darwin Awards, travel edition: On Monday, an EgyptAir flight, en route to Beirut, had to make an emergency landing at Egypt’s Hurghada airport. The reason: a Jordanian passenger had been bitten by a snake. It was his own snake, mind you, which he smuggled through security in a bag under his clothes. Reportedly, after the crew heard him screaming, the pilot was able to land, and the passenger was rushed away for medical treatment, while the authorities confiscated the snake. Some reports have indicated that the snake was a cobra, and stomped to death after the incident; while we can’t confirm either of those (or unfortunately, the status of the passenger) we can easily confirm that this was the most bone-headed idea we’ve heard in awhile.
Photo © AF archive / Alamy
In a world where free wifi is increasingly seen as a basic right, the bar for enticing tourists gets higher and higher. "Rwanda Bores Tourists," a recent African newspaper headline declared, and the article detailed how plenty of people come to this nation, once ravaged by genocide, but they don't stay very long.
Granted, in 2011, tourism brought 900,000 visitors and $250 million to Rwanda, and 2012 will likely reflect a nearly 20 percent uptick in visits. Plus, web site GlobeSpots just ranked Rwanda as No. 6 in their Top 10 global destinations. After all, Rwanda offers cool gorillas that live in the Virunga mountains, world-class bird-watching, hiking trails, as well as a lot of coffee and tea—and, for better or worse, a heavy sense of history.
At this month’s 2012 PhoCusWright Conference, the travel tech industry’s much-anticipated annual event, many in attendance agreed that the Travel Innovation Summit, held on Day One, was, always, a highlight. (Read our conference dispatches here and here.)
It comes as no surprise that some of the most exciting, buzz-worthy attendees and presenters were the wunderkinds behind travel start-ups and high-profile online products. At the conference, they breakfasted together behind closed doors, networked, and schmoozed investors. Travel + Leisure sat down with select Millennial entrepreneurs—or maybe a better moniker is disruptors?—shaping the next generation of Travel.