Sunday, May 14, 2006

No escape from the Count in Transylvania

The golden rule of writing a travel article about Transylvania seems to be: refer to Dracula in your headline, in your introduction, and at regular intervals within the article. All the better if you can find a real live Count around which to to construct the piece. That's the approach taken in yesterday's Times article "On the trail of Dracula". At the very end of the piece there is an acknowledgement that "the people of Transylvania had never heard of Dracula before 1990, when Bram Stoker’s work was first translated into Romanian".

A while ago I mentioned the Independent's efficient recycling of an article about Dubrovnik; the Times adopts a more subtle approach, recycling items from its competitors. The very same Count Kalnoky featured in both the Telegraph and the Guardian in 2005.

Also in the travel pages recently, the Times includes Dubrovnik and Athens in a piece about summer city breaks, while The Guardian briefly mentions Timisoara. To be exact, it mentions somewhere called "Little Vienna". At least in the online edition, the reader is left to figure out the identity of this city.

A non-Balkan article that caught my eye was the Independent's Complete Guide to Travel Guides. Judging by posts to online travel forums, many guidebook users have unrealistic expectations of how up to date a printed guide is likely to be. The Independent attempts to quantify the typical lag between research and publication, saying that "many guidebook publishers would prefer to update personally their Siberia publication in the middle of winter than answer this question with complete transparency".

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Montenegro plots a tourist future without little old ladies

In an article called The Next Top Destination?, Transitions Online takes a look at the future of tourism in Montenegro. Whether or not Montenegro opts for independence, its economic future will be heavily dependent on how its tourist industry develops. Apparently one in three people is expected to work in tourism by 2010, which seems like a rather frightening dependence on a highly seasonal industry.

Off season in Budva
An international ecotourism organisation is quoted as suggesting that the state "should work on preserving the current state of the environment". Given that "the environment" currently seems to be regarded as a convenient empty place in which to throw all kinds of waste, that sounds like a shockingly unambitious aim.

The same organisation discourages promotion of inland Montenegro as a destination for foreign tourists, saying that the country should "limit itself to offering daytrips into the mountains for foreign tourists staying on the coast during summer". So we can probably expect endless references to the luxury hotel at Sveti Stefan, combined with a continuing lack of practical information about reputedly beautiful places such as Biogradska Gora National Park.

Finally, the article predicts an increase in the number of hotel rooms with a corresponding fall in the availability of private accommodation. I've read similar predictions about Croatia. Are we witnessing the end of that beloved institution of the Adriatic Coast, the "sobe"-renting granny?

At the time of writing the article is in the free section of the Transitions Online site, but it will probably move to the paid section after a while.