Tag Archives: tourism

U.N.: Tourism to suffer under Trump’s travel ban

The U.S. travel ban on citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries will affect demand for travel to the United States, the UN World Tourism Organization said this week.

Alongside widespread protests at airports, the executive order by President Donald Trump has led to criticism from airlines and the travel industry.

“Besides the direct impact, the image of a country which imposes travel bans in such a hostile way will surely be affected among visitors from all over the world and risk dumping travel demand to the United States,” UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai said in a statement on Tuesday.

Seeking to capitalize on the restrictions, companies and officials in Asia said they would target greater tourism and education ties with Muslims worried about the curbs.

The White House has said the move to put a 120-day hold on allowing refugees into the country, an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria and a 90-day bar on citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, is to protect U.S. citizens.

UNWTO’s Rifai said it may worsen security risks.

“Global challenges demand global solutions and the security challenges that we face today should not prompt us to build new walls; on the contrary, isolationism and blind discriminatory actions will not lead to increased security but rather to growing tensions and threats,” he said.

U.S. airlines’ shares dropped on Monday over concerns on the impact of the immigration order, although analysts have said they did not expect a material impact for now.

The World Travel and Tourism Council, representing travel industry executives, also on Tuesday urged the Trump administration to rethink the ban, saying the travel and tourism sector was responsible for the livelihoods of millions worldwide.

“The U.S. has suffered in the past from similar isolationist policies. We urge the Trump administration to reconsider this ban,” WTTC President and CEO David Scowsill said in a statement.

The WTTC estimates the travel and tourism industry directly contributed 2.7 percent of the U.S. total gross domestic product in 2015.

Birders, brewers form flock

In the worlds of birders and craft beer lovers, there’s a new paradigm, and it involves searching for ales along with the eagles, pairing stouts with swans and enjoying some bocks in tandem with buntings.

Tours and events aimed at attracting both beer nerds and bird enthusiasts are popping up all over the country, attracting bearded microbrew lovers, field-guide-wielding bird buffs and folks with a passion for both suds and sparrows. Bird-and-beer happenings are taking place from Los Angeles to Minneapolis to Hampton, New Hampshire.

Beer and bird hobbyists say they are united by their mutual love of minutiae, rarity and variety, whether searching for an Indian peafowl or a limited release of India pale ale.

Typically, the trips begin with a hike and end at a brewery.

One of the more successful tours is “Birds On Tap Roadtrip,” located in beer-loving, bird-rich Maine and now in its second year.

“There happen to be a lot of people who like birds who like beer — we’ve analyzed this,” said Derek Lovitch, who leads Birds On Tap Roadtrip tours. “And then, after the third or fourth pint, we really analyze this.”

Birds On Tap Roadtrip is coordinated by Freeport Wild Bird Supply, which is run by bird nut Lovitch and his wife, Jeannette. They partner with Maine Brew Bus, a lime green bus that shuttles people to the state’s many breweries and serves as a kind of Mystery Machine of Maine beer. The tours are $65 — libations are included, but binoculars are not.

This year’s slate of tours began in February and will run every several weeks until Dec. 11. Each trip has a theme, including “Surf and Suds,” which is a winter waterfowl tour, and “Grassland and Grains,” a late-spring search for sandpipers and sparrows on the Kennebunk Plains, a nature preserve.

This November’s tour was “Fall Ducks and Draughts,” a chilly march around Sabattus Pond on the hunt for waterbirds including hooded mergansers, common goldeneyes, buffleheads and green-wing teals. All were located, and the group of about a dozen hearty birders then departed by bus for trips to Baxter Brewing in Lewiston and Maine Beer Co. in Freeport.

The beer end of the trip was as successful as the bird bit. The group located a peregrine falcon resting on a steeple just outside Baxter after imbibing. At Maine Beer Company, the brewery was able to provide fresh glasses of Dinner, its sought-after double IPA.

Participants agreed there was no harm in having a lager along with the loons. (Though they actually saw only one loon.) Brandon Baldwin, 40, of Manchester, Maine, went with his mother, Carole Baldwin, 73, of Skowhegan, and said the trip appealed to both of them.

“She’s an avid birder who likes beer. I’m an avid beerer who likes birds,” he said. “It seemed like a perfect crossover.”

Bird-and-beer events sometimes take different forms. One, held on the rooftop of the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, brought bird experts from the National Park Service to help people observe birds in an urban environment. Libations followed. In Minneapolis, a group called “Birds and Beers” gathers to brainstorm about secret hotspots and tips on how to take bird pictures using a digital scope.

Smuttynose Brewery in Hampton, New Hampshire, hosted a bird walk and brewery tour on the brewery’s own grounds. And in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, people met for a hiking and birding tour of Black Run Preserve in Evesham Township followed by tours of Berlin Brewing Co., Lunacy Brewing Co. and Flying Fish Brewery.

Some of the trips are organized by private companies and nature societies and others are the product of local meetup groups that form online. Prices vary from nothing to about the price of a pro football ticket.

Don Littlefield, a partner in the Maine Brew Bus company that hosts the Maine tour, said it has proved to be a way to make beer fans out of bird lovers — and vice versa.

“It allows us to reach another different demographic,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who are not necessarily there for the beer. They are there for the birds. And then there are others who are not there for the birds — they are there for the beer.”

Limits lifted on bringing in Cuban rum, cigars

The Obama administration announced Friday that it is eliminating a $100 limit on the value of Cuban rum and cigars that American travelers can bring back from the island.

The administration is also lifting limits on cargo ship travel between the U.S. and Cuba and easing U.S. and Cuban researchers’ ability to conduct joint medical research. The measures are contained in a package of relatively small-scale regulatory changes meant to ease U.S. trade with Cuba.

The Obama administration has now made six sets of changes loosening the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba in the hopes that the normalization of relations with the island will not be reversed by a future administration. This round is expected to be the last before President Barack Obama leaves office.

Cuban rum and cigars will now be subject to the same duties as alcohol and tobacco from other countries, meaning most travelers will be able to bring back as many as 100 cigars and several bottles of rum. Because high-end Cuban cigars can sell for more than $100 apiece outside Cuba, every U.S. traveler can now legally bring back many thousands of dollars of Cuban products, potentially generating hundreds of millions of dollars in new annual revenue for the Cuban state.

The change does not mean that Cuban rum and cigars will be available for sale in the U.S. — the change is aimed at tobacco and alcohol brought home for personal use.

The previous limit restricted travelers to a combined value of $100 in rum and cigars, although enforcement of the limit notably declined after President Barack Obama declared detente with Cuba on Dec. 17, 2014.

The administration has described its policy goal as aimed at helping the Cuban people improve their lives by winning greater economic and political freedom from the single-party state.

“Challenges remain – and very real differences between our governments persist on issues of democracy and human rights – but I believe that engagement is the best way to address those differences and make progress on behalf of our interests and values,” Obama said in a statement announcing the changes.

Rum and cigar production is entirely government-run under Cuba’s centrally planned communist economy. While the first regulatory changes focused narrowly on helping Cuba’s growing private sector, Friday’s new rules are almost entirely aimed at similarly state-run industries including shipping and medical products.

The package of regulatory changes announced Friday also allows cargo ships to visit U.S. ports directly after docking in Cuba. They had been barred from U.S. ports for 180 days after visiting Cuba. Cuba blamed that measure for harming its ability to import and export and dampening hopes that a new military-run port in the city of Mariel could serve as a major link in the regional cargo shipping system.

A senior Obama administration official said the new regulations’ focus on Cuban state enterprise should not be interpreted as a shift away from helping ordinary Cubans.

“We have designed the policy very much to have the maximum benefit to the Cuban people, broadly, but in so doing we are not restricting engagement with the Cuban state. That has been clear since Dec. 17, 2014,” the official said in a conference call with reporters held on condition of anonymity. “The Cuban people continue to be at the center of everything we’re doing.”

More than 160,000 American travelers visited Cuba last year and that figure is expected to double this year. Hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans visit family on the island each year and will also be able to take advantage of the new measure, which comes a month and a half before the restart of commercial flights to Havana after more than 50 years.

Sanders supporters booking campgrounds to Occupy the DNC

Bernie Sanders is proving to be good for the campground business. Campgrounds outside Philadelphia are getting booked up by Sanders supporters planning to protest during this month’s Democratic National Convention.

Thirty miles south of the city, all 200 short-term camp sites at the Four Seasons in Pilesgrove, New Jersey, have been booked during the week of the DNC, the vast majority by Sanders backers, said Cheryl Robinson, one of the owners. Requests for the remaining long-term sites are also starting to pile up. Robinson said that Four Seasons has been booked up only during major holidays and when Pope Francis visited Philadelphia last year.

“We are getting phone calls constantly,” Robinson said. “A lot of times they don’t want to let us know that they’re Bernie supporters. We ask if they’re coming for Occupy the DNC, and then they kind of giggle and embarrassedly say, ‘Yes, we are.’ “

Sanders supporters are expecting tens of thousands to take part in rallies and demonstrations while the Democrats are in Philadelphia from July 25-28.

It’s not just Four Seasons that’s seeing an uptick in business in southern New Jersey, during what is normally a lull in between the Fourth of July and Labor Day. Timberlane, in Clarksboro, and other campgrounds are getting booked up, and spots at Parvin State Park in Elmer are starting to go, said Laurie Cestnick, a Massachusetts neuroscientist and organizer of the Occupy the DNC Facebook page. All are less than an hour’s drive from Philadelphia.

Kimberly Bernstroff, a disabled veteran from Las Vegas, is planning to come to the DNC with her two children. Her father is flying in all the way from the Philippines to attend with her.

They plan to camp out in tents at the Four Seasons because a room is too expensive. Hotel rooms where delegates are staying cost are costing about $500 a night and even hotel rooms outside Philadelphia cost $150 or more a night.

“My father will be protesting, and I will be showing up,” said Bernstroff, adding that she has “not decided on the extent of my involvement” because of her children.

Robinson plans to put Sanders supporters in sites next to one another and is preparing extra space in case all long-term sites book out, as well, saying they have “no plan to turn anybody away.”

“They seem to be like old hippies, or young hippies if you will, just people who are just easygoing and laid-back,” she said. “One lady says ‘all we’re going to do is sing ‘Kumbaya.’ “

Though Robinson isn’t a Sanders supporter, she’s considering making “Four Seasons feels the Bern” shirts for her customers who are.

Rail to trail: Amtrak allows bicycles on Hiawatha route

Amtrak now allows riders to take bicycles aboard Hiawatha trains running between Milwaukee and Chicago.

It costs $5 to transport a bike and reservations must be made in advance. The service is limited to 15 bicycles per train.

“There’s a lot of people traveling in the Chicago to Milwaukee area that would love the opportunity just to take their bikes along,” said Dave Schlabowske of Wisconsin Bike Fed. Wisconsin Bike Fed encouraged Amtrak officials for at least five years to offer bicycle transport on the Hiawatha line. Previously, bicycles had to be partially taken apart and shipped in cartons.

“Chicago is such a great city for cycling,” Schlabowske said.

And it’s an easy way to tour a dense metropolitan area known for heavy traffic, he added.

Chicago is rated “silver” for bikers. Madison gets gold and Milwaukee has a bronze rating.

In addition to the Hiawatha line, others in Illinois and around the nation have been adding bicycle racks in storage cars in recent years, reflecting the explosive growth of cycling enthusiasts, Schlabowske said.

He predicted the new amenity aboard Hiawatha trains would increase tourism in Wisconsin, as well as Chicago.

The Bike Fed is the nation’s largest statewide organization of bicycle clubs, with more than 6,300 individual members. The advocacy group has offices in Milwaukee, Madison and La Crosse.

In addition to lobbying for protected bike lanes, the Wisconsin Bike Fed is trying to attract a wider range of biking enthusiasts.

Schlabowske said the stereotypical cyclist is a “50-year-old white guy wearing Lycra,” but “that’s not what my community looks like.”

“So we have a number of programs working on diversity in our city (Milwaukee), from lower-income and older people to the LGBT community,” Schlabowske said. “We’re sort of working in a lot of different areas to broaden what our membership looks like.”

There are thousands of organized bike-riding events in Wisconsin, from the Polish Moon Ride to Santa Cycle Rampage. Bike to Work Week began May 16 and May is National Bike Month.

State Sen. Chris Larson kicked off Bike to Work Week during the weekly Democratic radio address May 12.

“Did you know that active employees are more alert, need fewer sick days and are more productive? And that’s not all, in addition to being beneficial to your health, biking is also great for reducing your carbon footprint, reducing traffic congestion, and saving you money,” Larson said.

Among the upcoming cycling events are:

  • UPAF Ride for the Arts. The 35th anniversary event, sponsored by Miller Lite, takes place June 5, beginning at the Summerfest Grounds. Participants can ride or make a pledge.

Pledge prizes include a bike jersey sponsored by Actuant and bicycles from Wheel & Sprocket. Johnson Bank will match pledges totaling up to $25,000.

UPAF, which supports 15 performing arts organizations, hopes to raise $600,000.

  • The Wisconsin AIDS Ride. The annual event, which raises critical funds for the fight against HIV/AIDS, is July 28-31. The full ride stretches 300 miles, from downtown Madison to Horicon — and back — in four days. But participants also can choose one- or two-day options.

For more information

For more about cycling and events in Wisconsin, go online to wisconsinbikefed.org.



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Tourist town to vote on whether to stay dry

Ephraim, along the water in peninsular Door County — a popular destination dotted with small towns, resorts and wineries — is dry, but it might not be for much longer.

Some locals have gathered enough signatures from among the 300 or so residents to spark a referendum on the issue April 5, the same day as the state’s presidential primary.

“When people do come in, they sit down and look at the view and they’re like, ‘Oh, great. Can we see a wine list?'” said Todd Bennet, who owns Chef’s Hat restaurant in Ephraim.

When he tells them it’s against the village ordinance, “Some people just kind of look at us and say, ‘We’re in Wisconsin, right?'”

Ephraim, along the water in peninsular Door County - a popular destination dotted with small towns, resorts and wineries - is dry, but it might not be for much longer. Some locals have gathered enough signatures from among the 300 or so residents to spark a referendum on the issue April 5, the same day as the state's presidential primary.
Ephraim, along the water in peninsular Door County – a popular destination dotted with small towns, resorts and wineries – is dry, but it might not be for much longer. Some locals have gathered enough signatures from among the 300 or so residents to spark a referendum on the issue April 5, the same day as the state’s presidential primary.

Dry debate

There are two questions on the referendum. One asks whether the village should issue licenses that would allow beer to be sold for consumption on or off premise at a restaurant, hotel or tavern. The other asks whether the village should issue licenses that would allow wine to be sold for consumption in restaurants. (There are currently no taverns in Ephraim.)

The petition was started by Fred Bridenhagen, 57, who grew up in Ephraim and now owns four retail businesses there. He and others obtained 100 signatures, three times what was needed to get the questions on the ballot.

The village has been dry since Norwegian Moravians founded it in 1853. Residents have unsuccessfully tried twice to change the ban in 1934 and 1992. According to the village website, 59 percent voted no in 1934 and 74 percent voted no in 1992.

Bridenhagen argues restaurants and other businesses have been dealing with rising food costs and shouldn’t have to turn money and people away to nearby towns.

“The last I checked the only industry we have in Ephraim is tourism,” he said. “Why would we not want to give the business owner the opportunity to provide the service a customer in today’s market would expect?”

But Anthony Beadell, 71, has written editorials to local newspapers in an effort to keep the tradition the Moravians started 163 years ago intact.

“We are one of the most pampered generations in the history of mankind,” he said, referring to baby boomers.

Beadell said he drinks but doesn’t think the village needs it to survive.

“Once you open the door to alcohol, there’s no stopping it. You can’t reverse it.”

Retired fire chief Niles Weborg, 77, plans to vote against it as well. He said businesses knew the rules when they moved in.

“Ephraim is the pearl of the peninsula, and now we are trying to tarnish that pearl by bringing in alcohol,” he said.

Ephraim is joined in Wisconsin by a village and town in Portage County that also prohibit alcohol sales by ordinance, according to Julia Sherman, coordinator at the Wisconsin Alcohol Policy Project at the University of Wisconsin Law School.

Political tourists flock to New Hampshire for political theater

Ann and Jon Vitti hopped on a flight from Los Angeles to snowy New Hampshire last week to witness first-hand what they can’t see on their TV: The more personal side of presidential politics.

“The campaign’s always over by the time it gets to California and we never get to see it, so we had to go to the campaign,” Jon Vitti, a television writer, said Friday night after watching Chris Christie take voters’ questions for nearly two hours in Salem, New Hampshire.

The Vittis are just two of many voters who have flocked to New Hampshire as political tourists in the week leading up to the state’s Feb. 9 presidential primary. They come from as far as California and as nearby as neighboring Massachusetts to engage in an up-close civics lesson and pose direct questions to the potential next president, an opportunity virtually unheard of in the rest of the country.

While the campaign plays out through televised debates and advertisements in the rest of the nation, the town hall meeting is a staple of New Hampshire campaigning. At these events, held in high school gymnasiums and VFW halls, voters seek detailed explanations from candidates on everything from drug addiction to stemming the rising costs of health care.

It’s here that voters can witness poignant or unscripted moments. After a woman told an emotional story about her son’s fight against drug addiction, for example, John Kasich offered to call the young man and offer words of encouragement. Christie, ever the showman, asked one of his staffers to pull a dollar out of his pocket and hand it to a young voter in the crowd at a recent town hall as a means of mocking Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders’ plan to make college tuition free.

Alex and Peter Tsipis, brothers from Wayland, Massachusetts, wanted to see Kasich up close to make sure he was as great a candidate as they believed. They made a 45-minute jaunt to Nashua on Sunday morning, arriving two hours early to get front-row seats. The brothers, 20 and 18 years old, respectively, came away with selfies and stronger convictions that Kasich is their guy.

“Seeing it up in person, you really get your own perspective on it and you can interpret it any way you want,” said Peter, a high school junior who will vote for the first time on March 1. “I really loved the whole format.”

Les Liman of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, flew to Manchester in early January to stay with an old friend and take in the scenes. Over two and a half days, he saw Kasich, Christie, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul. Scott Landry, meanwhile, took a quick drive over the border from Massachusetts so his 14-year-old son, who writes a political satire column for his middle school newspaper, could see Christie and Rubio up-close. Landry said despite living nearby, this trip was his first time coming to New Hampshire for a political event.

“Every four years I want to do it,” he said.

Efforts to build a marketing campaign around the primary were quickly blocked in 2007 by Secretary of State Bill Gardner, a fierce defender of New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary status. At the time, Gardner said he didn’t want to give other states the impression that New Hampshire fights to be first for the money that comes from an uptick in hotel stays and restaurant visits.

“Some people accuse of us being so adamant about protecting it because we do it for the money,” Gardner told The Associated Press then. “That’s not why we do it.”

Indeed, New Hampshire natives and visitors alike see the primary as a valuable opportunity to press candidates on the issues that matter before the campaign moves to a bigger stage. Dan Kipnis, a retired fishing captain, ventured from Miami Beach to New Hampshire this week to press Jeb Bush and Rubio about climate change and rising sea levels.

Asked why he didn’t wait until next month when Florida holds its presidential primary to bring up the issue, Kipnis said, “New Hampshire is where all the voting begins.”

“I want the presidential candidates to talk about it – now,” he said following a Bush town hall. “We can’t wait.”

Magical Laotian town preserved by UNESCO loses its soul

It is officially described as the best-preserved city in Southeast Asia, a bygone seat of kings tucked into a remote river valley of Laos.

Luang Prabang weaves a never-never land spell on many a visitor with its tapestry of French colonial villas and Buddhist temples draped in a languid atmosphere.

But most of the locals don’t live here anymore. They began an exodus from this seeming Shangri-La after their hometown was listed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 and sold itself wholesale to tourism.

It’s not an uncommon pattern at some of the 1,031 sites worldwide designated as places of “outstanding universal value” by the U.N. cultural agency: The international branding sparks mass tourism, residents move out as prices escalate or grab at new business opportunities, hastening the loss of their hometown’s authentic character to hyper-commercialization. But locals may also prosper and some moribund communities are injected with renewed energy.

“If you open the door you will have some fresh wind, but you will also get mosquitoes,” says Prince Nithakhong Tiaoksomsanith, a leader in preserving Luang Prabang’s artistic heritage.

Since UNESCO helped lay down the town’s welcome mat, its longtime residents have been replaced by wealthy Lao outsiders, an ever-growing influx of tourists and enough French, Australian, American and other expatriates catering to their needs to have locals rhyme Luang Prabang with ‘’Meuang Falang” — meaning either French or Western town.

Luang Prabang’s rich architectural heritage, protected by UNESCO’s regulations, has been spared the eradication of countless historic sites across Asia. But virtually every home and mom-and-pop store in the historic center has been converted into a guesthouse, restaurant, cafe, bar or travel agency. The former prison was recently transformed into a luxury hotel and the French Cultural Center has become the Hibiscus Massage Parlor.

Scenes of workaday life are rare because as prices shot up — a small plot of land that sold for $8,000 three years ago now goes for $120,000 — residents moved into surrounding areas, selling or renting their properties to the newcomers. As former UNESCO consultant and longtime resident Francis Engelmann has said, “We have saved Luang Prabang’s buildings but we have lost its soul.”

Similar criticism has been leveled at UNESCO’s worldwide program, along with praise for having rescued irreplaceable man-made and natural treasures in 163 countries since its inception in 1972.

Calling it “UNESCOcide,” Italian writer on urban development, Marco d’Eramo, has said that whenever a city is named a heritage site, it “dies out, becoming the stuff of taxidermy. a mausoleum with dormitory suburbs attached.”

Viewing UNESCO’s program in a broader context, Dallen Timothy, a cultural tourism expert at Arizona State University, said indigenous heritage worldwide has become the commodity of outsiders “rather than remaining in control of the people whose cultural heritage it really is. It’s a matter of powerful versus the powerless.”

The director of UNESCO’s World Heritage Program, Mechtild Rossler, acknowledged that a very fine line existed “between the benefits which need to be shared with the local community and the rights of the visitors.” In a phone interview from the agency’s headquarters in Paris, she said UNESCO currently stresses preservation of “intangible culture” rather than just bricks and stones.

Some argue that sites like the Pyramids, Grand Canyon and Stonehenge would draw crowds whether they were on UNESCO’s list or not, that mass tourism is simply a 21st century phenomenon. But especially in developing countries, the designation can ignite a surge in visitors.

From a trickle, Luang Prabang, a town of some 50,000, attracted more than 530,000 foreign and domestic tourists in 2014 and all projections show steep increases. Rossler said tourists to Japan’s Tomioka Silk Mills have soared by 400 percent since they were named a UNESCO site two years ago.

Governments and tourist operators are keenly aware of the benefits a UNESCO imprimatur can bring, and use it as a marketing strategy. A tourist sub-group, the “WHS baggers,” has even emerged. Els Slots, one of them, says her life’s goal is to visit every site, having already notched 587. The Dutch IT executive runs a web site about UNESCO’s program.

Laos last month marked the 20th anniversary of Luang Prabang’s inscription with a 6,000-strong parade accompanied by 20 elephants.

“Emerging countries have bombarded us with new nominations, especially China and India, in addition to European countries, which have always been interested,” said Rossler. “Their economic impact is tremendous, even in Europe.”

As political pressure is exerted, some sites are approved well before they are properly prepared, Rossler said. The listing is finalized not by UNESCO itself but a World Heritage Committee with members from 21 nations.

In Luang Prabang, the prince said residents, tour operators and Buddhist monks were not ready to cope with the sudden influx. While flyers urging tourists to respect local customs are passed out, some offensive behavior continues. One foreigner wanted the prince to arrange sunset cocktails at a hilltop temple and other tourists point their cameras inches from the faces of monks as they pass by on their dawn rounds to collect alms.

“This is a religious procession, not Disneyland,” the prince said.

Compared to many places, Luang Prabang has generally abided by UNESCO’s regulations, which here include forbidding pane glass and using only traditional materials when restoring temples.

Currently, 48 sites are on a UNESCO “danger list” for being seriously degraded by humans or nature _ ranging from the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem to Florida’s Everglades National Park _ while two have been delisted by for gross violations. Many long-listed sites have yet to present required conservation management plans.

“UNESCO should be a bit tougher on enforcing the regulations. Some of the sites in danger should be delisted, which would provide an impetus for their host countries to wake up and work on fixing what’s wrong,” said Arizona State’s Timothy.

Aside from shaming governments into action, the agency has few enforcement powers.

Rossler puts down failures to “bad actions of governments” and stresses that UNESCO doesn’t have the funds or manpower to solve festering problems, never mind the destruction of sites by war and Islamists in the Middle East.

In Luang Prabang, reactions of citizens to “moladok,” or heritage, are complex. They express pride in being internationally recognized and satisfaction at opportunities for jobs and cash from tourists, hoping even more will come. But they also chafe at the UNESCO-imposed restrictions and don’t generally share Western nostalgia about a pre-globalization past, preferring new houses in modern suburbs. And yet.

“They say they have lost a sense of belonging to the community, a monastery and its ceremonies, a sense of pride in their old quarter,” says Engelmann, the former consultant. “It’s not easy to recreate the feeling of belonging to a real community.”

Thongkhoun Soutthivilay, co-director of the town’s Traditional Arts and Ethnology Center, said her mother sold her traditional house for a good price and joined the exodus. Life improved has in some ways.

“But we miss our old neighborhood,” she said. “Some things have changed for the good, some for the bad.”

Evangelicals dismiss $60 million in Indianapolis tourism losses due to anti-gay bill

Evangelicals are downplaying a business report showing a possible loss of more than $60 million in convention revenues for Indianapolis due to a national uproar over an anti-gay law Indiana passed last year.

An evangelical group said the impact was peanuts to the city’s multibillion-dollar tourism industry.

The split between social conservatives and the business wing of the Republican Party is on display again as a GOP-controlled state Senate committee takes up two bills that would establish statewide discrimination protections for LGBT people.

“This really comes down to a battle of big business and big money against small businesses and religious liberty,” said Indiana Pastor Kevin Baird, who advocates for religious conservative causes.

The original law, which entitled people to discriminate against LGBT people for “religious” reasons, spurred a backlash last spring. The NCAA, the gamer convention GenCon and others talked of moving their events out of Indianapolis. Lawmakers responded by hastily making changes. But critics said the law doesn’t go far enough to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination.

Passage of the new measures is far from certain, and Republican Gov. Mike Pence, who supported the religious objections law, has said he will prioritize religious freedom over LGBT rights.

The results of a survey by Visit Indy, obtained by The Associated Press on Monday ahead of its Thursday release, found that 12 out-of-state groups all cited the uproar over the law as one reason they chose different locations for their conventions.

Visit Indy, which has backed LGBT protections, estimated the economic impact of those conventions at $60 million, including hotel room rentals, meal purchases, entertainment expenditures and shopping figures, as well as state and local taxes. Such gatherings have brought the city $4.4 billion a year in economic impact in recent years.

To business leaders, the findings confirm Indiana’s economy was harmed by the law, which drew swift and largely negative attention. Companies and groups such as the NCAA, Cummins Inc. and Eli Lilly and Co. say it underscores the need for protections for anyone fired from a job, denied service or evicted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“We’ve been saying all along that the impact to our state is very real,” said Jon Mills, a spokesman for the Columbus-based diesel equipment manufacturer Cummins. “We need to create an environment that is welcoming and inclusive if we want other people to come here, whether that’s top talent we want to recruit and retain, or conventions.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg said the report illustrates a “failure” by Pence and is proof that his policies hurt Indiana’s economy. Pence’s office said Monday that Indiana was a “welcoming” state and many organizations have expanded their role or recommitted to hosting events in the state.

Evangelical groups questioned whether the city needs the money amid signs of an improving economy and low statewide unemployment. They also accuse Indiana’s business establishment of using the issue to coerce lawmakers into adopting laws that could compel Christian business owners to provide services to LGBT people against their religious beliefs.

Micah Clark of the American Family Association of Indiana doubts all the conventions would have indeed chosen Indianapolis. “It’s speculative,” he said. “That’s like me saying I’m boycotting Ferraris. Well, I was never going to buy a Ferrari anyway.”

Visit Indy said all 12 groups surveyed said without being prompted that the law played a role in their decision to hold their events elsewhere.

The AP independently confirmed that one organization, the International Association of Fairs and Expositions, bypassed Indianapolis due in part to the law. Indianapolis was a finalist after the group decided to no longer hold its four-day event in Las Vegas, said Marla Calico, the association’s president and CEO.

“There were some of our members who were aware that the city was under consideration, and a few were very vocal that they didn’t think it would be appropriate,” Calico said.

She said the reaction to the new law was “a piece of the equation” when her group decided not to choose Indianapolis, which she said was otherwise appealing because of its amenities and central location.

Bobblehead museum moves closer to reality in Milwaukee

Pete Rose may never be enshrined in Cooperstown, New York, but Major League Baseball’s all-time hits leader has a terrific shot at having a hall of fame induction ceremony in Milwaukee.

Instead of joining the likes of Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Robin Yount and Paul Molitor in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Charlie Hustle may one day share wall space with Fred Flintstone, Mahatma Gandhi, Bart Starr, Jesus Christ and Homer Simpson.

The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame & Museum is closer to reality thanks to a couple of longtime friends who saw their collection of bobbleheads get slightly out of hand.

Instead of getting rid of most of their nodding and shaking statuettes, Phil Sklar and Brad Novak quit their day jobs and doubled down to create what is believed to be the world’s largest collection of bobbleheads for public display.

As of two weeks ago, the pair had amassed more than 5,000 bobbleheads and were busy preparing for the opening of an exhibit to showcase part of the eclectic collection of figurines from the world of sports, pop culture, entertainment, history and politics.

“It’s not something we did overnight. We’ve thought about this for a long time,” Novak, 31, told the Wisconsin State Journal. “It’s our passion.”

The 3,000-square-foot exhibit, “Bobbleheads: Real & Fantastical Heroism,” will open Jan. 22, at Redline Milwaukee, a nonprofit urban arts center and incubator for emerging artists located at 1422 N. Fourth St., just a few blocks from the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

The opener was to be preceded by a preview party and fundraiser Thursday where Pat McCurdy was set to debut a theme song for the Hall of Fame & Museum. Proceeds from $25 tickets and a silent auction will be used to benefit Redline educational programs.

“It’s something so many people can relate to,” said Jeanne Jarecki, executive director of Redline Milwaukee, founded in 2009. “There’s so many different themes that it becomes universal. Everybody thinks of it as sports but it’s not. There’s just so many things you can connect to.”

The hope is that by the time the exhibit with free admission closes on April 30, a museum location will be found in downtown Milwaukee and open this fall. Ultimately, Novak and Sklar would like to see their museum housed in a 5,000-to-10,000-square-foot space, possibly in the sports and entertainment district planned for downtown Milwaukee that will include a $500 million arena for the Milwaukee Bucks.

“The good thing is that there are a lot of great options in the downtown Milwaukee area right now,” said Sklar, 32. “This (exhibit at Redline) will give us a good gauge on how many people are coming to see it and how many are going to the gift shop or not. It will give us a good barometer before we make a big commitment.”

But the enthusiastic duo is already in deep with their collection approaching $500,000 in value.

Sklar and Novak have attended sporting events on bobblehead-giveaway days, purchased them from other collectors and have received donations. They’re funding their efforts through their business that designs and manufactures bobbleheads for other organizations. They’ve had orders from minor league baseball clubs, the NBA, schools, nonprofits, businesses and even NBC’s “Today” show, for which they created bobbleheads of the hosts. In the last two years, they’ve designed 50 bobbleheads and have had 50,000 produced.

“Some of those have been for teams,” Sklar said. “Some have been for special events. We did one for a rabbi who was retiring.”

They also reached out in 2014 to Rose, the former Cincinnati Reds star who bet on baseball and has been banned from the game, to have a bobblehead made in his likeness. The Rose bobblehead will likely be the first to be enshrined into the Bobblehead Hall of Fame later this year with three to five others being admitted to the hall each year, Sklar said.

The museum collection is diverse. It includes a bobblehead of Lauren Hill, a 19-year-old college basketball player for Mount St. Joseph University, who died of brain cancer in April, and the late Chris Farley, a Madison native and comedian. Politicians include presidents Abraham Lincoln, Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama. Former presidential candidate U.S. Sen. John McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin are represented, as is North Korea leader Kim Jong-un.

Mr. McGoo is here, along with Toucan Sam, the members of the rock band KISS, Albert Einstein, Shrek, Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed, Tonto and Ray Szmanda, the former pitchman for Menard’s. A hero’s section includes bobbleheads of Nelson Mandela, Jackie Robinson, Helen Keller, Superman, Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosie the Riveter.

Other displays in the exhibit will include the history of bobbleheads, which date back to the 1700s, and how bobbleheads are made.

“With everything going on in the world, people need more fun,” Sklar said. “It’s a fun way to learn about somebody. They’re so simple. They’re just the body, the spring and the head.”

Until a few weeks ago, about 90 percent of the collection was sports related. That ratio went down to 70 percent sports after Sklar and Novak purchased a collection from an Indiana man who had 1,500 bobbleheads. A collection of 700 bobbleheads was donated last fall to the museum by the family of the late Gerald Welch of Marshfield, who wanted to see Welch’s collection kept together after his death. It included bobbleheads from the early 1960s and several “nodders,” velvet dogs, cats and other animals in sitting or prone positions.

Sklar and Novak grew up together in Rockford, Illinois, and attended UW-Milwaukee. Novak began collecting bobbleheads while he was in high school because he worked for a minor league baseball team, where he ran the scoreboard and later worked as a front-office intern.

By the time he left for college, he had about 50 bobbleheads but the collection continued to grow as he and Sklar attended other sporting events on bobblehead nights and began buying bobbleheads. The duo has lived together in a condominium for eight years and until recently it was filled with bobbleheads from the basement to the top floor.

“They’re not on the (kitchen) counter, where they used to be,” said Novak, a former cellular phone sales representative, who quit his job in August. “They were everywhere.”

Sklar, a certified public accountant with an MBA, quit his corporate finance job in October 2014 to work full-time with bobbleheads. He and Novak created their first bobblehead about two years ago when they did a fundraiser for Special Olympics and sold bobbleheads of Michael Poll, a superfan and manager at UW-Milwaukee sporting events.

That led to more custom bobblehead creations, the growth of the collection and an idea to create a museum and hall of fame.

“Nobody could see it in our house,” Sklar said. “It’s a cool collection and we thought that if we create something unique and one-of-a-kind, it could be a hit.”

Published via AP member exchange.