Tag: Barack Obama

Where’s the Perfect Presidential Vacation Spot?

Over at McSweeney’s, Chris White looks back at the presidential vacations of yore, and wonders where—in a much-changed America—today’s presidents should go. Here’s White:

We need something isolated, like an island. But not just any island. Martha’s Vineyard is easier on the Secret Service, but it comes at a terrible price: you are known as the kind of person who vacations in Martha’s Vineyard. Public opinion takes no vacations, and you cannot be a man of the people while throwing champagne in the face of the insolent butler who smudged your boat shoes. Harry Truman had the right idea, chilling out in earthier Key West—but there was much less vomiting and public nudity in Key West those days, even when Hemingway was in town.

Last summer, our own Tom Swick had a few presidential vacation suggestions of his own. (Via @travelerlauren)

President Obama Says Yes to High-Speed Rail Plans

It’s not often that a major Presidential speech makes ears perk up in the travel media—but President Obama happily got our attention this week when he talked high-speed rail during his State of the Union address Wednesday. Here’s part of what Obama said:

[F]rom the first railroads to the Interstate Highway System, our nation has always been built to compete. There’s no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains or the new factories that manufacture clean-energy products.

Then yesterday in Tampa he outlined where $8 billion in grants will go: A Tampa-Orlando-Miami route in Florida is first up, with projects in California, Illinois and elsewhere to follow. The Christian Science Monitor and NPR have more on the details.

And the response? Bruce Watson of Daily Finance is optimistic, pointing out that an improved rail network’s benefits go well beyond the employment created by the trains themselves. He writes:

For years, critics have argued that rail ticket sales don’t cover the cost of passenger service. However, the same could be said of America’s highway and airline infrastructure, both of which receive far more state and federal funding than Amtrak. The key point is that passenger rail’s profitability doesn’t accrue to the rail line—which will almost always operate at a deficit—but rather to the areas that it serves, where the influx of people will bring business opportunities, tourist dollars and other investment.

Time’s Bryan Walsh is more skeptical. He predicts that much of the money will likely be spent shoring up existing service rather than creating shiny new TGV-style lines, and adds, “America’s antiquated rail system will have to advance a long way just to make it to the present, let alone the future.”

Finally, Politico’s Josh Gerstein picks up on Obama’s recent quip about passengers keeping their shoes on when boarding passenger trains—and ponders why security is so different on trains and planes.

Reviving Brand America

Reviving Brand America REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz

Exploring Europe, exploring travel as a political act

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Photo We Love: Obama on Holiday

Photo We Love: Obama on Holiday REUTERS/Jason Reed
REUTERS/Jason Reed

President Obama, who clearly didn’t read Tom Swick’s open letter about his vacation plans, cycles on Martha’s Vineyard.

Have We Entered a New Age of American Travel?

Yes, says Conde Nast Traveler editor in chief Klara Glowczewska. She writes:

Today, Americans appear increasingly ready to reject wariness toward the rest of the world. Something new is afoot—a rediscovery of the sheer pleasure of being abroad and a resurgence of pride in being curious, culturally aware, peripatetic Americans.

Glowczewska believes President Obama and his family have played a role in this transition. “Some of the exuberance we are sensing may derive from a new First Family that is as enthusiastic a globe-traveling bunch as any in American history,” she writes. “They are a reassertion of a particularly appealing aspect of the American character—social energy.”

World Leaders on Vacation

President Obama isn’t the only one taking a break this month. This Newsweek story looks at where other world leaders are going or have gone, including Russian macho man/Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Check out the spectacular photo accompanying the piece.

William Shatner: America’s Favorite Negotiator?

Christopher Elliott has come across an unexpected statistic: According to a recent survey, 10 percent of Americans believe that William Shatner, the public face of travel clearinghouse Priceline.com, is “the best negotiator out there.”

Barack Obama clocked in just behind Shatner, with 9 percent of the vote—maybe the President should recruit “The Negotiator” for his ongoing battles with Congress?

Has the ‘Obama Effect’ hit Hawaii?

Has the ‘Obama Effect’ hit Hawaii? Photo by mandolin davis via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by mandolin davis via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Slate’s Moneybox columnist, Daniel Gross, recently headed to Hawaii to see if the islands’ tourism industry was seeing an Obama bump.  The verdict: “This unreimbursed, hazard-filled assignment—sunburn, expensive macadamia nuts—yielded some surprising findings. Like the stimulus package, the Obama Effect, while holding the promise of gains down the road, hasn’t been able to overcome a sour economic climate.”

In Defense of Martha’s Vineyard

In Defense of Martha’s Vineyard Photo by twoblueday via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by twoblueday via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Tom Swick may think President Obama could have done better for a vacation spot, but Lonely Planet’s Robert Reid begs to differ. Here’s his compelling list of 22 reasons why Obama was right to pick Martha.

Incidentally, Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. would probably agree. Gates told Travel + Leisure in 2007 that the Vineyard was his favorite place.

An Open Letter to President Obama: Martha’s Vineyard?

An Open Letter to President Obama: Martha’s Vineyard? iStockPhoto

Contemplating and celebrating travel

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Australia’s Prime Minister: ‘Hotter Than Obama’

Australia’s Prime Minister: ‘Hotter Than Obama’ Publicity still via IGN
Publicity still via IGN

That was the verdict from Bruno, comedian Sasha Baron Cohen’s gay Austrian alter ego, during a visit to Sydney for his movie‘s Australian premiere. Said the ostensible fashion TV reporter after meeting Prime Minister Kevin Rudd: “That guy is like, uber-cute. I thought Obama was like the hottest guy in the world until I met Kevin.”

Ooh. Them’s fighting words, Bruno. President Obama, care to respond?

The White House Luau: President Obama ‘Wants his Hawaii Grinds’

Luau performer in Hawaii Photo by alohateam via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Luau performer in Hawaii. Photo by alohateam via Flickr (Creative Commons)

The first-ever White House Hawaiian-style luau is scheduled to take place tonight, with President Obama hosting a meal created and prepared by Alan Wong.

Good for Obama. He loves his home state of Hawaii, and Hawaii loves him back—though, as seen in this slideshow, sometimes it loves him in funny ways.

In any case, Obama will get some Hawaiian food—the chef’s shopping list includes 84 pounds of Hawaiian macadamia nuts, 130 pounds of salmon and 650 pounds of pork butt—cooked by the proprietor of one of his favorite restaurants. And Hawaii hopes it will get what it desperately needs: a boost for tourism.

When the President Goes to Vegas: Hail Obama?

When the President Goes to Vegas: Hail Obama? Photo by Alexander Basek
Inside Caesars Palace. Photo by Alexander Basek

It’s easy to ignore the language surrounding hotel stays. Spas have therapists and there’s a concierge or a butler for your pillow and your bath. In fact, it gets to be difficult when you need something but don’t know whom you’re supposed to talk to about it. Does an order for ice fall under the purview of the cooling concierge or the cocktail consultant? We may never know the answer.

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Hawaii to Obama: Save Our Business Travel!

Hawaii to Obama: Save Our Business Travel! Photo by bobster1985 via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by bobster1985 via Flickr (Creative Commons)

According to Hawaii tourism leaders, “Workers who attend meetings in Hawaii are happier, more productive and more focused afterward.” That quote (from lots of sources, including the Los Angeles Times) is part of a campaign Hawaii has launched to further promote the islands as a business travel destination. Is anyone surprised to hear that a business trip to Hawaii cheers a lackluster worker right up?

But here’s the catch, courtesy of the Honolulu Star Bulletin: “Public anger at extravagant spending by companies receiving bailout tax dollars has extended throughout corporate America and created a sharp decline in travel to meetings in Hawaii, described as junkets. The state’s tourism industry is suffering as a result and faces a huge challenge in trying to revitalize business travel to the islands.”

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Kenyan Eco-Tourism Camp Draws on the ‘Obama Magic’

Kenyan Eco-Tourism Camp Draws on the ‘Obama Magic’ Photo by ale_i via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by ale_i via Flickr (Creative Commons)

In 2006, then-Senator Barack Obama stayed in a room at Basecamp Explorer, which is set on 40 acres at the edge of the Masai Mara National Game Reserve. Now that he’s President Obama, the room where he stayed is already popular with visitors, camp general manager Annette Bulman told Business Daily Africa.

The so-called “Obama room” is spare, with a bed, two African stools and a table with a framed photo of Obama and some Basecamp employees. Its wooden porch has a hammock and overlooks the Talek River. Basecamp Explorer is already one of the top eco-tourism facilities in Kenya. Could the “Obama room” also make it one of the most popular in Africa?

Heard on the Tokyo Street: ‘Yes, We Can’

They loved him in Canada last week for buying maple leaf cookies, but in Japan, they’re hanging on Barack Obama’s every word. It seems the President’s speeches have kicked off the latest language-learning trend among English-crazy Japanese. In the country’s ubiquitous English schools, teachers are urging students to memorize Obama’s speeches line by line, with a passion to match. Reports the Wall Street Journal: “‘The Speeches of Barack Obama,’ a best-selling book that comes with a CD and a glossary for phrases like ‘spin master’ and ‘stop-gap measures,’ sold 480,000 copies in Japan in three months.” I think that qualifies as a trend.

Funny, I haven’t tried this approach in my long struggle to learn Mandarin. Hu Jintao’s speeches somehow lack equivalent ... charisma.

Are the Obamas Headed to Hogwarts?

In a wide-ranging interview with The Daily Beast, “Harry Potter” star Daniel Radcliffe had this to say to the new First Family: “I’d like to take this opportunity to issue a public invitation to the Obamas that if their daughters would like a private tour of the Harry Potter set, I would be honored to be their personal tour guide.” Over at MuggleNet, the debate over whether the Obama girls are worthy of such a magnanimous gesture is already getting heated. (Via The Book Bench)

Ni Hao from Down Under

I gave President Obama high marks last week for trying out his Indonesian while on a visit to the State Department. Well, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd does Obama one better. Here he is, wishing China a happy new year in perfectly fluent Mandarin, apparently the only world leader to record such a message.

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Save the Joshua Tree (Again)

Save the Joshua Tree (Again) Photo by tomsaint11 via Flickr (Creative Commons).
Photo by tomsaint11, via Flickr (Creative Commons).

We’ve noted, rather sadly, that we can’t imagine Joshua Tree National Park without its signature Joshua tree. (Who can?) Scientists have warned that the giant yucca may disappear in 50 years because global warming is changing the desert’s fragile ecosystem. U2 famously showcased a Joshua tree on the Anton Corbijn-photographed cover of its 1987 album, and I wonder if the band silently praised it during its awesome pre-inaugural concert at the Lincoln Memorial (or at least after President Obama affirmed his faith in scientists and pledged to help them deal with a planet in peril.)

Ecopreneur John Ivanko is optimistic, if guardedly so. Ivanko, who recently visited the park with his family, offered this ode, with the hope that a new outlook will help save the imperiled, iconic tree and its park, and other “great places” in the natural world.

For nostalgia’s sake, here’s some Corbijn-shot footage of (then youthful) members of U2 wandering the desert.

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Morning Links: Road Tripping ‘Amexica,’ Titty Ho and More

Morning Links: Road Tripping ‘Amexica,’ Titty Ho and More Photo by Ian Muttoo via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo of Toronto by Ian Muttoo via Flickr (Creative Commons)

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