In Iceland, the rush is on
Why is Iceland booming? (Booming, that is, in incoming tourism.) Though the figures aren't official, estimates of the growth in its visitors this year are well over 100%. Why?
According to a commentator in an important travel trade magazine, it's partly because new Icelandair flights there have been added from Chicago, and Chicagoans are filling the streets of Reykjavik and the highways criss-crossing its moon-like nearby terrain. But mainly, according to him, it's because of the recently enacted "Stopover Buddy." Visitors can advise the nation's airline that they'd like to be escorted in their wanderings by a local resident, for free. And scores of Icelanders have signed up as Stopover Buddies to meet tourists on their arrival, and conduct them on a very personal tour of the nation. Other countries might do well to study Iceland's success in personalizing a foreigners' contact with their country.
• Why are so many cruise lines slashing their prices to fill their cruises of the Mediterranean? Why are Mediterranean cruises selling at such a sluggish pace, creating opportunities for the sharp-eyed American traveler? According to many trade commentators, It's because port stops in Turkey—mainly in Istanbul and Kusadasi—have been eliminated from most Mediterranean itineraries out of fear of terrorism. Without Turkey, most Mediterranean cruises are now limited to the Greek islands and Italy, and the exotic experience of staying at least overnight in Istanbul, and of traveling from the port of Kusadasi to the awesome Roman ruins in nearby Ephesus, has robbed that particular cruise pattern of its key elements. If you yourself would be content with a Mediterranean cruise limited to Naples, Athens, Mykonos, and Santorini, you might take advantage of the currently low rates for such a sailing.
• Which of the world's river cruises are now enjoying an upsurge in popularity? It's those sailings of our own Mississippi starting from New Orleans. So many departures on Mark Twain's favorite river are now sold out aboard that colorful paddle wheeler, the American Queen, that the American Queen line is rushing to complete a second big Mississippi-confined river cruise ship by summer of 2017. If you will rush to book it, you may get a cabin.
• What destination for beach vacations is, thus far, blessedly free of the Zika virus? Though the situation might change overnight, so far the island of Bermuda hasn't reported a single instance of the dreaded infection, and local officials claim that its environment isn't suitable for the breeding of that unfortunate illness. Tourism to Bermuda has therefore enjoyed a major increase, but still has adequate space for more bookings. The same could be said, thus far, for the islands of Hawaii.
• But now, a disclaimer. In earlier columns, I wrote about the fact that four states—California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts—were voting on November 8 whether to authorize the sale and use of marijuana. I explored that topic because the tourist patterns have been so affected by the earlier legalization of the popular drug in Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and the District of Columbia—all of which have developed a major new industry of travel agents and tour operators to promote and deliver marijuana tourism. But I simply analyzed that travel phenomenon; I did not advocate one side or the other of that decision. Unfortunately, several newspapers and websites that wrote about my column have mistakenly stated I took sides; I did not.
But the marijuana issue is too important not to be discussed.