Destination: San Diego

Tour Guide Battle in Southern California Leaves Chinese ‘Very Afraid’

Chinese tourists are increasingly bringing their own guides when they travel to Southern California. Local guides are pissed about losing business and, allegedly, becoming confrontational. The Los Angeles Times breaks it down:

Wang Suqi, president of Beijing-based Total Travel International Travel Service, claims that one of his tour leaders was punched by an American tour guide at Universal Studios Hollywood, and now his tour leaders have asked to be transferred to different tours in Europe and Southeast Asia.

“They’re very afraid,” Wang said. “Even our customers are asking what’s going on.”

The competition for the Chinese tourism business was set off in 2007 when China, for the first time, allowed commercial travel agents to book group pleasure trips to the U.S. But China did not mandate that Chinese tourists hire accredited American tour guides—a requirement that China imposed on other countries, including Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.

Of course, it’s mostly about money. Chinese travelers have been unleashed in recent years, and they spend.

In 2009, Chinese travelers spent an average of $6,800 per person per visit, including airfare, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. By 2020, China will become the world’s fourth-largest source of tourists, the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization predicts.


A Trip to Comic-Con in Celebrity Tweets

I’ll admit, I’ve never paid much attention to Comic-Con, San Diego’s annual geekfest spectacular. In fact, I’d never even heard of it until the teenage characters on “The O.C.” used it as a pretext for an illicit Tijuana road trip. But for thousands of people from across the U.S., and even around the world, it’s the travel event of the year—and this time around I too found myself following along, through the tweets of my favorite Hollywood celebrities.

Herewith, a brief, vicarious trip through the wacky world of the Con, from departure to exhausted arrival home:

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Morning Links: Paris Celebrates Voids, Favellywood, the Travel Bug and More

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Morning Links: A New Way to See the Prado, Cuban Tourism and More

El Tres De Mayo by Goya El Tres De Mayo by Goya (via Wikipedia)
The Prado’s El Tres De Mayo by Goya (via Wikipedia)

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San Diego Hotels Fill—With Wildfire Evacuees

Usually when I drive past Hotel Circle, a road near the 8 freeway here in San Diego packed with hotels, my heart goes out to the visitors there because, well, they’re staying in a place called Hotel Circle, with views of traffic zooming by on the freeway. It’s not the most attractive location San Diego has to offer. But that’s the least of the concerns of many guests staying in those hotels now. As would-be tourists and business travelers postponed visits to San Diego, canceling hotel reservations to avoid the raging wildfires, locals snapped up hotel rooms in droves as they evacuated threatened or even burning homes. A number of hotels have offered discounts to those in need.

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Tiki Revelers to Celebrate ‘Tiki Oasis 7’ in San Diego

My interview with “Tiki Road Trip” author James Teitelbaum only deepened my appreciation for all things tiki. So if I wasn’t going to the Book Passage Travel Writers Conference this weekend, I would undoubtedly be sipping mai tais at Tiki Oasis 7 and Hawaii-A-Go-Go, a tiki gathering taking place Thursday through Sunday in San Diego. Tiki aficionados from around the country are expected. Exotica and surf bands will play, including King Kukulele. Vendors will sell tiki idols. Festival-goers will relax at the Crowne Plaza Hotel’s tiki lagoon and pool in Mission Valley. And a party will be held at Bali Hai, a terrific old tiki bar and restaurant on Shelter Island offering views of San Diego Bay, and potent drinks—the mai tai I had there recently is something of a blur.

Related on World Hum:
* Q&A with James Teitelbaum: Escape to the Isle of Tiki
* Four Tiki Books: James Teitelbaum’s Picks

Photo by jurvetson via Flickr, (Creative Commons).


Bullfighting School: ¿Quién es Más Macho?

I don’t talk about this much because, frankly, it just intimidates people, as it should. But back in 1998, when I was but a young magazine freelancer with a dog-eared copy of Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” on my bookshelf, I enrolled in bullfighting school. The California Academy of Tauromaquia in San Diego, to be specific. That’s me in the photos. It was for a story for Men’s Fitness magazine.

I studied the art of bullfighting for several weeks, learning the ins and outs of cape-handling, among other essentials. For homework, I studied episodes of the TV show “When Animals Attack.” And then, wearing the traditional white shirt and cap of a bullfighting student, I stepped into a stone bullring in Mexico under a hot desert sun (actually, it was rather cool, but “hot” sounds more unforgiving; stick with me here), and went mano a mano with a snarling, charging 400-pound heifer. I graduated with honors.

Before any of you send angry e-mails: Not only did I not harm the animal, but at the time, I was a vegetarian who wouldn’t go within 10 feet of a Big Mac, so send your notes elsewhere. But I digress. I bring this up now because Gadling just pointed out a recent New York Times story in which the writer attended the same bullfighting school and faced a 300-pound heifer.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Three hundred pounds? That’s it?

Exactly. That’s the first thought that ran through my mind.

Back in the day, if you wanted to prove yourself in the ring and deliver a meaty story to your editors, you made sure you faced at least 350 pounds of lumbering beef. Know what I’m saying? And honestly, if you were an editor worth your salt, you wouldn’t print a bullfighting story by a writer who faced anything close to 300 pounds. At the New York Times, you’re just giving more ammunition to those in Red America who claim the liberal media elite are out of touch. Don’t you editors know your heifers? Get back in touch. We need you. No bull. Okay, a little bull.

As for the California Academy of Tauromaquia, it offers an excellent bullfighting education, and I’d recommend it to anyone interested in learning the basics. And really, shouldn’t we all know at least the basics? No? Okay.


Shameless Plug: Intro to Travel Writing in San Diego

I’ll be teaching an introductory course on travel writing at UC San Diego Extension beginning Jan. 11. It’s a nine-week hybrid course that includes five classroom meetings. Students will post their work online.

I’ve taught a number of travel writing courses at UCSD and they’re always a lot of fun. Travel writing is a tough way to make money, much less a living, so I make no promises of fame and fortune. But I do promise a solid introduction to the business and craft of travel writing, some great discussions and critical feedback on writing.

For those interested in the business of travel writing, as well as the pleasure of the work, I think Lonely Planet global travel editor Don George got it about right when he spoke with me earlier this year. His book is recommended reading in the course.


Fighting Pirates With a ‘Nonlethal Acoustic Weapon’

You no doubt heard about the cruise ship that fought off a pirate attack Saturday. Today’s San Diego Union-Tribune has an interesting story about the “nonlethal acoustic weapon” the cruise ship employed to fend off the pirates. It’s called the Long-Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) and was developed by a San Diego-area company for military use.

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Across the U.S. in 200 Days

It’s taking Steve Vaught that long because he’s walking from San Diego to New York City. And because he’s carrying an 85-pound backpack. And because he weighs 400 pounds. It’s part of a plan to lose the weight he gained after a tragic accident. His story is both inspirational and heartbreaking.

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“Once Upon a Time, We Could Love an Airline”

The Los Angeles Times’ Susan Spano on Sunday offered a heart-warming recollection of Pacific Southwest Airlines, which was sold to US Airways in 1988 and is now the subject of a permanent display at the San Diego Aerospace Museum in Balboa Park. “The San Diego-based carrier holds a special place in the hearts of many, especially those who flew PSA in the ‘60s and ‘70s, the glory days when the airline summed up everything that was groovy and freewheeling about California,” she writes.


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