Travel: Government shutdown blamed for big drop in national park visits

Government dysfunction hurts gateway towns near parks

The Grand Canyon, bberwyn photo.

The Grand Canyon, bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Visits to National Parks in the U.S. fell slightly in 2013, mainly due to the government shutdown in October, when the National Park Service turned away millions of visitors.

In total, 273.6 million total visits were recorded during the year at the 401 parks, down 9.1 million visits from 2012. The shutdown also resulted in an estimated loss of $414 million in visitor spending in gateway and local communities across the country when comparing October 2013 to a three-year average (October 2010-12). Continue reading

San Antonio missions may get World Heritage status

‘The San Antonio Missions represents a vital part of our nation’s Latino heritage …’

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The Alamo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — It’s been nearly 20 years since a new World Heritage site has been designated in the U.S. but that could soon change. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell last week said the San Antonio Missions, including the Alamo, will be nominated for the international list, which recognizes the most significant cultural and natural sites on the planet.

The most recent U.S. addition to the World Heritage register was the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park (administered jointly with Canada) in 1995.

“World Heritage Sites represent an incredible opportunity for the United States to tell the world the whole story of America and the remarkable diversity of our people and beauty of our land,” Jewell said. “The San Antonio Missions represents a vital part of our nation’s Latino heritage and the contributions of Latinos to the building of our country.” Continue reading

Once again, please don’t feed wild animals!

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A Northern Bahamian rock iguana (Cyclura Cychlura Inornata). Photo via Wikipedia and the Creative Commons.

Study shows how human food affects rare rock iguanas

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — There are plenty of good reasons to follow the old adage about not feeding wild animals, and a recent study of endangered Bahamian rock iguanas provides even more proof.

According to the findings, tourist-fed iguanas are suffering physiological problems as a result of eating human food. In the study, led by Charles Knapp of the  John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, the scientists compared blood and faecal samples from iguanas that were fed by tourists to samples from iguanas that did not have any interactions with humans.

The body condition of the two groups of iguanas was similar, but indicators for dietary indicators showed the effects of feeding by humans. Both male and female iguanas from the islands frequently visited by tourists showed notably different levels of glucose, potassium, and uric acid, as well as levels of other minerals. The female iguanas from tourist areas differed significantly in ionized calcium. Continue reading

Dwindling Denali wolves raise tourism concerns

wolf population across the 6 million acre park and preserve declined from 143 in fall 2007 to just 55 in spring 2013

Wolves on the Denali Park Road. Photo courtesy NPS Photo / Nathan Kostegian.

Wolves on the Denali Park Road. Photo courtesy NPS/Nathan Kostegian.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — An arbitrary decision by the Alaska Board of Game to allow wolf hunting and trapping near Denali National Park has cut the regional wolf population by nearly two-thirds and significantly reduced opportunities for park visitors to see wolves in the wild — one of the main reasons people go to Denali in the first place.

This year, fewer than 5 percent of park visitors were able to see wolves, down from about 45 percent back in 2000, according to National Park Service statistics obtained by a federal government watchdog group.

“This precipitous decline in wildlife viewing success appears to be unprecedented in the history of the national park system,” said Rick Steiner, a retired University of Alaska professor and a Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility board member. Continue reading

Global tourism grows 5% over last year through August

Emerging economies lead the way

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Europe reported strong tourism growth during the first eight months of 2013.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Global tourism continued to grow steadily during the first eight months of 2013, according to the World Tourism Organization, which tallied an increase of 5 percent from January to August 2013 compared to the same period last year.

The best-performing regions were Europe, Asia and the Pacific and the Middle East. For the year to-date, tourist arrivals totaled 747 million worldwide, up 38 million from last year, when global tourist arrivals topped 1 billion for the first time ever.

International arrivals topped 125 million in both July and August, while in June the 100 million arrivals mark was exceeded for the first time. Continue reading

Global tourism shines again in early 2013

BMX biking Breckenridge Colorado

A crowd of tourists watches a BMX bike demo in Breckenridge. Colorado. Bob Berwyn photo.

World travel up more than 4 percent through April

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Global tourism continues to grow at a rate outpacing nearly all other economic sectors. During the first four months of 2013, international tourist arrivals and departures increased by 4.3 percent over the same period in 2012, according to a mid season update from the UN’s World Tourism Organization.

The WTO tallied  298 million international tourists traveling worldwide between January and April, 12 million more than last year. Prospects for the current tourism peak season remain positive with some 435 million tourists expected to travel abroad in the May-August period. Continue reading

Travel: UNESCO names new World Heritage sites

Fiji and Qatar get first-ever designation; Mt. Fuji, Mt. Etna also added

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Fujisan is one of the newest World Heritage sites. Photo courtesy UNESCO and Policy Planning Office, Minobu Town.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The fact that the world’s cultural and natural heritage transcends national boundaries is perhaps best reflected each year when UNESCO designates new World Heritage sites, and this year was no exception.

At its recent meeting in Cambodia, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee added volcanoes in Asia and Europe, historic forts in Ukraine and Qatar and a Basque whaling station in Canada.

There was one new area added in North America — El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve in Mexico, with its distinctive dormant volcanic Pinacate Shield of black and red lava flows and desert pavements to the east, and, in the west, the Gran Altar Desert with its ever changing and varied sand dunes that can reach a height of 200 meters. Continue reading

Global tourism revenues set record in 2012

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Tourists from Asia exploring Hallstatt, Austria.

Travel and tourism a key driver in world economy

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The global tourism economy hummed along at a record pace in 2012, growing by 4 percent and generating a total of $1.3 trillion when international passenger transit revenues are included in the equation.

“It is encouraging to see that the growth in international tourist arrivals was equalled by a comparable increase in spending in spite of continued economic challenges,” said United Nations World Tourism Organization secretary-general Taleb Rifai. “Considering that tourism is a key export for many economies around the world, this result is good news as it provides foreign reserves to destinations, and contributes to job creation in tourism as well as in related economic sectors,” he added.

By regions, the Americas recorded the largest increase in receipts, plus 7 percent, followed by Asia and the Pacific ( plus 6 percent), Africa ( plus 5 percent) and Europe (plus 2 percent). Receipts in the Middle East were down about 2 percent but improving compared to the double-digit decline recorded in 2011. Continue reading

Travel: Popular Grand Canyon trailhead gets a makeover

National Park Service touts expanded parking, better visitor service

The Bright Angel trailhead at the Grand Canyon has had a big makeover, with more parking and an expanded view area

The Bright Angel trailhead at the Grand Canyon has had a big makeover, with more parking and an expanded seating area.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — One of the most storied trails in the country has seen a partial makeover, and the National Park Service will celebrate the new look of Grand Canyon National Park’s Bright Angel Trail with a May 18 ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The renovation encompasses a 3.5 acre area at and surrounding the Bright Angel Trailhead. The work focused on creating an accessible and comfortable area for visitors that complements existing historic buildings including the Bright Angel Lodge and Rim Cabins designed by Grand Canyon architect Mary E. J. Colter.

With little work on the trailhead in the past 100 years, the National Park Service said visitors were having a hard time finding the trailhead, and there was no convenient or comfortable place for people to sit to either enjoy the view or prepare for hikes.  The renovation will greatly improve conditions at and around the trailhead, providing a much better experience for park visitors. Continue reading

Travel: U.S. Senate acts to avert more airport delays

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The U.S. Senate wants to keep air traffic moving.

Budget shuffle could enable FAA to avoid furloughs

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — With the busy summer travel season already winding up, the U.S. Senate acted to try and prevent more delays at U.S. Airports. The bipartisan deal to give the FAA more budget flexibility was led by Senators Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).

The Reducing Flight Delays Act gives the U.S. Secretary of Transportation the flexibility to transfer discretionary funds into the FAA’s operations budget to prevent essential employees, such as air traffic controllers, from being furloughed.  Continue reading

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