We all know about sex tourism in some parts of the world. Sad to say, it's been happening for decades if not centuries.
People talk about Bangkok as if it's some sort of Sin City. And I guess it can be if you go to certain areas. But I was there last year and didn't see a sign of anything funny, at least not in the neighbourhoods I visited.
On the other hand, it seemed Vietnam was overrun with massage parlours that offered a lot more; with frequent cries of "Hey, you want boom boom?" every time I walked past a massage place that looked innocent enough on the outside.
Now, the folks in the Maldives - those famous, low-lying, exotic islands off the south coast of India - are having problems. Last week, the tourism ministry instructed resort hotels across the nation's coral islands to close all spas and health centres offering beauty treatments and massages, according to the AFP news agency. Officials believe some or many of the centres are actually fronts for prostitution.
Now, it could very well be that this is true. Although I'd have to say it's not terribly economic. The Maldives are hard to get to and resorts tend to be pretty expensive, especially compared to Vietnam or Thailand.
Anyway, tourism officials are up in arms over the closing order issued by the government.
"Sex tourism definitely does not happen in the resorts," said Sim Ibrahim, head of the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry. Ibrahim said the spas are critical to the resorts, which, in turn, are hugely important to the local economy.
UK WEATHER TURNS UGLY
Many UK airports are facing major cancellations and delays today, including London Heathrow and London's Gatwick airport, as well as Glasgow. All incoming flights were cancelled into Edinburgh at one point Tuesday morning, with limited departures.
It's bad for folks heading to the UK, of course. But also bad for anyone using Heathrow or Gatwick for a connection.
JAUNT.CA DEAL OF THE DAY
Feel like you need a rest from Christmas and New Year's? Jaunt.Ca (www.jaunt.ca) is offering a "Learn, Cook, Wine and Dine" package in lovely Prince Edward County, just a few minutes east of Toronto. It's a real hotbed for wine and top-notch cuisine these days. The deal is for $349 for one night or $449 for two nights and includes accommodation for two in a Premium Lodge Room or Suite at the Waring House Restaurant, Inn, Cookery School and Spa in Picton; offering luxurious surroundings and featuring geo-thermal heating, solar power and other eco-friendly features and a "one-of-a-kind cooking school and dining experience" for Jaunt subscribers with Cookery School Director Chef Jordon McGinnis where students will learn to prepare a 4-course meal and how to correctly pair food and wine, and then get to eat their meal complete with wine. There's also a full, hot hot breakfast for two (Sunday morning breakfast will be upgraded to a full Sunday buffet breakfast) and a $25 dining voucher valid at Amelia's Garden Restaurant on site (only valid for 2-night stay option).
COME FOR THE LOUSY WEATHER - TRUTH IN ADVERTISING OUT WEST
Here's a nice bout of honesty. Folks in Oregon know they get terrible storms in the winter. There are great golf courses on the Oregon coast, including Bandon Dunes and others, and there are wonderful beaches. But it tends to rain a lot in winter, with big, rolling waves and heavy rains off the Pacific.
Rather than fight it, Oregon resorts are now encouraging people to come for the rotten weather.
It makes sense. It's also something they've doing for years up in Tofino, where the renowned Wickaninnish Inn has great rooms overlooking a wild beach, plus a dining room with huge panes of glass right near the water. It's a great place to sit by the fire and watch the action, or, for braver souls, donning a rain slicker or three and some big old boots and going for a stroll on the sand.
I don't know about Oregon, but the Wickaninnish has a hugely impressive clothes and boot drying system so you can be sure you're not stepping into soggy footwear or slipping into a clammy coat.
It's not for me, but rooms are a lot cheaper in winter than in the lovely, long days of summer....
GRENADA SAFE FOR TOURISTS?
It always happens after a high-profile crime; the quick proclamation that all is well and for people to, as the man says in the Wizard of Oz, "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain."
Such is the case in Grenada. In case you missed it, a Canadian resident who was born in Grenada went for a visit last week and got involved in an altercation with police and later died. Two police officers have been charged in the death of Oscar Bartholomew.
Grenada tourism types have been quick to try to quash any concerns from tourists, who play a huge role in the island economy.
"From the perspective of visitor safety, and in comparison to other tourist-dependent nations of the world, Grenada still is - and will continue to be - an extremely safe destination for travelers from around the world," said Tourism Minister Peter David.
Likely it's probably even safer today than it was a week ago given the adverse publicity. But I'm sure the incident has had an effect on people making plans for winter travel.