IF IT'S 2 P.M. IT MUST BE BELGIUM
Now, THAT was a workout. Ireland, Scotland, Norway, Denmark, England's North Country, Belgium, Holland, Slovenia, Cyprus, Germany, Greece, London, Manchester, Spain, Portugal, Lake Geneva, Ticino and even a brief tour of the Zurich Airport. Plus a review of Hilton Hotels around the world.
Attending a day-long exhibition of European tourism folks is an interesting experience. It's kinda fun, but it's exhausting.
A bunch of us travel journalist types started our day Tuesday at the Sheraton on Queen Street with the de rigeur coffee (Starbucks) and muffins and fruit, chatting about story ideas and what-not and going over our schedules for the day's events. We had previously made appointments on-line with the tourism people we most wanted to see, but not all requests could be accomodated so we had a half-hour to mingle with groups that we couldn't arrange one-on-one sessions with. The folks from Ireland and Scotland were nice enough to chat, and I started to learn about the wonders of Norway when the first bell, or rather xylophone, rang.
We were told we would have 13 minutes to chat with each country/region/city representative, and that we'd get a two-minute warning from the xylophone carrier. At the end of our time, they rang the chimes and we had to wrap up our conversations and move on to our next appointment. It was arranged extremely well by organizers, who were quick to slot someone in if an appointment suddenly opened up.
So we started at 9:30, with one appointment pretty much after another. There were coffee breaks and a couple small gaps in the schedule, plus a lovely lunch and a brief period for cocktails when it was over. But it was mostly a day filled with, "Okay, where am I? Oh, right, Cyprus. So, tell me, how's things with the United Nations and all that."
We tried to ask as many folks as possible what the newest or most overlooked destination was in their country or region or city. Here are a few samples:
Denmark this year will celebrate its 20th year of allowing same-sex marriages. California, take note.
Pecs, Hungary will be the cultural capital of Europe for 2010. It's a university town in the south of Hungary where they even have palm trees. (At least, that's what I wrote down.)
Fiona Stewart of Visit Scotland claims the Scottish Highlands are overlooked.
"The mountains and the scenery are spectacular," she told me. "And the seafood is wonderful. It’s still crawling, it’s so fresh."
A new museum dedicated to the work of Rene Magritte will open in Brussels in June.
Toronto-born Frank Gehry has built a new home for the Marques de Riscal winery in the Rioja region of Spain.
The Swiss Franc is holding steady with the Canadian dollar, more or less. So Switzerland might be a much better bargain than its neighbors, which use the Euro.
Rufus Wainwright is supposed to unveil his first opera at the Manchester International Festival in July.
Slovenia is becoming a popular spot, not unlike its neighbor to the south, Croatia. The first deluxe hotel in Portoroz opened in October, the Hotel Kempinski Palace.
Hilton Hotels has roughly 80 properties in the UK and 80 in Continental Europe and officials expect both of those numbers to double in the next five years. Officials explain that even with the economic uncertainties in the world, investors are flocking to known brands like Hilton.
Oh, and things are nice and peaceful in lovely Cyprus, according to Tasoula Manaridis of the Cyprus Tourism Organization.
We found out more, but you'll have to buy the Star's Travel section over the next, oh, year and a bit to learn about some of our other discoveries.