Arthur Frommer

New resorts, reports of danger show the many sides of travel

For about 30 years, the world’s most ecologically sensitive vacation resort has been Maho Bay Camps, which is on the exquisite but lightly developed island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

A complex of canvas-sided huts ranged along a hill sloping down to a remarkable beach and view, Maho Bay was booked by Americans of all income levels who wanted to live close to nature. But Maho Bay lost its lease last year and is being cleared, having been replaced by a lesser resort on another side of St. John with not quite as good a view but with access to a fine beach.

The resort features canvas-sided huts making use primarily of solar and wind power for its energy. Called the Concordia Eco Resort, it’s operated by the same visionary, Stanley Selengut, but isn’t quite as enchanting as the resort it replaces. Nevertheless, it’s an obvious choice for thoughtful tourists, and you might want to view its details at www.concordiaeco-resort.com.

▪ What’s the single most dangerous new travel activity? One that results in more deaths per year than all the shark bites in all the world’s swimming areas? Answer: Taking a selfie. According to Mashable.com, a great many tourists have been so absorbed in taking selfies, sometimes walking backward to obtain more background, that they fall off a cliff or down a flight of stairs, killing themselves. The latter incident recently took the life of a Japanese tourist at the Taj Mahal in India, who fatally fell down those stairs while maneuvering backward for a better selfie shot.

Meanwhile, we also hear from park rangers at Yellowstone that a large number of tourists injure themselves each week by dipping their hands into the scalding waters collected in pools near geysers or by walking off carefully marked pathways into the prohibited muddy quicksands. People also are venturing closely to buffalo or elk to take shots of themselves alongside those dangerous creatures.

▪ Slightly less dangerous was the approval given last month by regulatory officials to the merger of Expedia.com with Orbitz.com. As a result, we now have only two major online travel agents on the Internet (Expedia and Priceline, each of which also has gobbled up numerous other airfare and hotel search engines), and it is highly unlikely that these giant entities will compete with vigor for the benefit of us travel consumers, instead of simply splitting the business between them.

In an article recently appearing on Frommers.com, travel expert Reid Bramblett has expressed the strong opinion that neither Expedia nor Priceline is exerting itself to bring the lowest-priced airfares and hotel rooms to the attention of the public, and now matters will get even worse. The solution for the smart traveler? Make your airfare and hotel reservations directly with the airlines and the hotels, placing little reliance on the online travel agents.

▪ Finally, the travel news was dominated last month by the accidental killing of a dozen Mexican tourists by an Egyptian military helicopter, which machine-gunned them as they enjoyed a picnic in the desert to the west of the Nile. Although Egyptian tourist officials have frantically claimed this was a tragic mistake that will never recur, the fact that it happened has served to remind us all of a major, continuing insurgency in Egypt by elements of the former Muslim Brotherhood. Already, acts of terrorism have been put down violently near the popular Temple of Karnak in Upper Egypt visited by throngs of tourists and on the equally popular approach to the Great Pyramid outside Cairo. This is not the time to visit Egypt.

Note to the reader: Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip. The information in this column was accurate when it was released, but prices are competitive, sometimes limited and can always change without notice.

Arthur Frommer is the founder of the Frommer’s Travel Guide book series. Find more destinations and read his blog at frommers.com.

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