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A waterfall at the Portland Japanese garden [OC] [3024x4032]

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Wilderness - A Rare Sight by Sheikh Shahriar Ahmed
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In a country that holds the 8th spot in terms of population and 92th in terms of land area, wilderness is not something usual. In fact, it is very unusual. A 500 meters walk anywhere in this country, encounter with people is almost certain. The population density is hard to comprehend for most of the people around the world. Still, there are a few rare places where wilderness still exist, despite being very small. This is one of those places. Somewhere near Bangladesh-India border. Lauchapra eco park, Baksiganj, Jamalpur, Bangladesh.

Bath bidding to become Britain's only double-listed World Heritage Site

Bath is aiming to become the only double-listed World Heritage Site in the UK. The nomination for the new listing, which is being submitted to Unesco at the end of January, is seeking recognition of Bath’s status as one of the leading historic spa towns in Europe. 

Bath’s existing World Heritage Site inscription, which has been in place since 1987, is due to a number of diverse reasons: its hot springs, the Roman remains, the neoclassical architecture, innovative town planning and social life that flourished in the 18th century, and the city’s green setting. Unusually, the listing covers the entire city – something even many Bathonians don’t realise. 

The proposed new inscription overlaps several of these aspects, but is more specific. Bath has joined forces with 10 other European spa towns to apply for World Heritage Site status as a single listing called Great Spas of Europe. The other towns are Spa in Belgium, Vichy in France, Baden-Baden, Bad Ems and Bad Kissingen in Germany, Baden bei Wien in Austria, Montecatini Terme in Italy, and Karlovy Vary, Františkovy Lázně and Mariánské Lázně in the Czech Republic. 

The pitch being made for inclusion on the Unesco list is that the towns were at the forefront of developing the use of their natural spring and mineral waters for medicinal purposes from the 1700s to early 1900s, when they were turned into beautiful and fashionable resorts. They all have retained distinctive spa-related buildings. In Bath, several buildings at Thermae Bath Spa are from the Georgian period, as is the grandiose Pump Room. 

There are a few other so-called “transnational serial” World Heritage Site inscriptions – that is, a single listing covering locations in different countries. For example, one listing applies to 17 Le Corbusier buildings spread over seven countries, and another to prehistoric pile dwellings (stilt houses) dotted around the Alps. 

“What makes the Great Spas of Europe transnational proposition ground-breaking is that it covers urban settlements across multiple countries,” says Tony Crouch, the City of Bath’s World Heritage Manager. “In that respect, the application has been a massive challenge – it has taken at least eight years to prepare. But I am very confident it will be successful. Unesco is all about promoting peace and harmony through international cooperation, so it generally looks favourably on these kinds of cross-border projects.”

“Unesco is such a well-known and respected international brand that to get the second World Heritage Site listing would be a massive boost for Bath’s tourism, especially for increasing awareness of its wellness offerings,” he added. “And for Bath it would be like having two Michelin stars, not just one.”

The result of the Great Spas of Europe Unesco application should come through around the middle of next year. If all goes well, that would be perfect timing for Bath. The city currently lacks anywhere that provides a general explanation of its historical and cultural significance, and the whys and wherefores of its World Heritage Site status. That is set to change in the summer of 2020 with the opening of a new, free-access World Heritage Centre, in Victorian laundry buildings by the rear of the Roman Baths. 

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Could this unspoilt archipelago become an unlikely overtourism battleground?

Most people would struggle to locate it on the map, but the remote Faroe Islands is embarking on an ambitious tourism strategy that some fear could threaten the archipelago’s wildlife and culture.

It includes the introduction, from July 1, of flights to Paris (CDG) by Atlantic Airways, the Faroes’ national airline, and plans to use a newly acquired Airbus 320neo (arriving in March) to fly to New York (Newark). Atlantic’s three existing jets already connect the Faroes to Copenhagen, Edinburgh, Bergen, Reykjavik and Barcelona. Furthermore, as of this month Atlantic flights will operate on a code-share basis with KLM, making connections from the Dutch airline’s route network available on one ticket.

With a population of just 50,000 people, the Faroes (half way between Shetland and Iceland) remain one of the least trammelled destinations in Europe, but a vigorous marketing campaign by the national tourist board Visit Faroe Islands has seen an annual increase in visitors of around 10 per cent each year over the past four years. That mini-boom in visitors means the 18 islands now welcome about 60,000 holidaymakers a year, as well as about 40,000 short-stay cruise passengers. It’s not mass tourism, but getting a hotel room in summer can be, as the locals might say, “harder than spotting a puffin at Christmas”.

In Tórshavn, often called the ‘world’s smallest capital city’, there’s no sign yet that tourism could overwhelm the place. There are no chain hotels and traffic jams are unheard of. Driving anywhere in this town of 19,000 people never takes longer than five minutes. But there are two new hotels under construction, each with 125 rooms, effectively doubling the number of beds available. Both will open early next year. At the same time, the island’s premier hotel, the sleek Føroyar, is planning to double its capacity.

Nevertheless, there appears to be a conscious effort to avoid the sort of problems seen in Iceland, where a sharp increase in arrivals has led to complaints from locals that their country is being “Disneyfied”.  Johannes Jensen, Føroyar’s owner, says: “No-one in tourism wants to see development for its own sake,” says Jensen. “We want to preserve our distinctive culture and protect our natural environment – and we’ve seen how Reykjavik [Iceland’s capital] has somehow lost a bit of its soul due to overtourism.”

A vigorous marketing campaign by the national tourist board has seen an annual increase in visitors of around 10 per cent each year over the past four years Credit: getty

Guđriđ Højgaard, CEO of Visit Faroe Islands is clear that tourism needs to expand sensitively. “We see no comparison with what’s happened in Iceland,” she says. “They have many different airlines servicing the island, and cater for more than 2.5 million visitors per annum. We don’t aim for that. We only want to develop in order to preserve what we have.” Højgaard points out that this summer season will see campaigns aimed at integrating local people’s needs and expectations with tourism.

Some Faroese are less convinced that increased tourism will be beneficial. Although the islands offer spectacular hiking opportunities, much of the land is privately owned. Some landowners are restricting access to sites, in return for a share of tourism revenue. It means that some of the most popular viewpoints can now only be visited with a guide, at a cost of up to £75 per person.

One prominent local conservationist, biologist Jens-Kjeld Jensen, says he believes the Faroes’ government needs to do more to safeguard the islands. He feels environmental rules are not tight enough and questions whether things like the popular boat tours to the famed bird cliffs are sustainable. “In the long term we will lose our special natural attractions and endanger our rich natural resources – birds, plants – even insects,” he says.

Birdwatching trips are popular Credit: GETTY

Meanwhile, Professor Pál Weihe, Chair of the Faroese Art Association, is concerned about the wider impact of development. “I’m fearful mass tourism could dilute our distinctive culture, which relies on a long history of shared language and customs,” he says. “We mustn’t change to fit in with outsiders’ expectations.”

Faroes’ bid for an airlink with New York is ambitious, but the islands have struck a particular chord with the American market. They often come to Faroes just to sample the revolutionary cuisine at ‘Koks’, the islands’ first Michelin-starred restaurant. Recently voted second best restaurant in the Danish Kingdom (beaten only by Noma), it sits in a dramatic and isolated valley accessible only by 4x4. Chef Poul Andrias Ziska serves ultra-modern Faroese cuisine using local ingredients like fermented lamb, reindeer lichen and fulmar breast. A gourmet dinner with wines in this cosy 18th-century farmhouse costs around £350 per person. Americans are the largest number of diners, followed by Scandinavians and then Britons.  

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A post shared by KOKS Restaurant * (@koks_restaurant) on Jan 5, 2019 at 4:02am PST

Outside Tórshavn, there are few restaurants, and only a handful of hotels. According to Guđriđ Højgaard: “We’re looking at ways to help outer islands and smaller communities attract visitors too. And we have a plan to make sure tourists contribute good things while they’re here.”

In the end, those who fear overtourism in the Faroe Islands may have one natural ally – the weather. A good day in July will see temperatures reach just 16C, and rain is likely on almost every day of the year.

777X: the gigantic plane that could change flying forever is nearly here

Some of the world’s most prestigious airlines are on tenterhooks as the first flight of an aircraft that could change long-haul travel for decades looms ever closer.

Executives at Singapore Airlines, Emirates and Qatar Airways, among others, will have their eyes cast to the skies this spring when Boeing is expected to fly one of its new 777X planes for the first time.

The 777-9, the first of the X family to be developed, will have the biggest jet engines ever seen, attached to the longest wings of any aircraft ever made by the Seattle-based manufacturer.

The 777X has been said to be the result of the very best of the existing 777 plane, as favoured by the likes of British Airways et al, and the game-changing 787 Dreamliner, which has been praised as one of the most technologically advanced aircraft in history, garnishing plaudits from passengers on BA, Norwegian and Virgin Atlantic alike.

It’s an “absolute peach”, said Emirates president Tim Clark of the aircraft. The Dubai airline has staked its future on the 777X, ordering 150, the largest single firm order in history. “It is a step change in aircraft design and a step change in propulsion. We are very happy we have got what we wanted,” he told Australian Aviation.

The 777-9 (the smaller sibling, the -8, will follow) is listed as $426 million but will likely sell, considering typical bulk airline discounts, for around $200 million (£155m), making it Boeing’s most expensive plane.

The -9 will be longer than a 747 Credit: boeing

What’s so good about the 777X?

It depends who’s asking. On the one hand, it promises a vast increase in fuel efficiency, working towards an operating cost reduction of up to 18 per cent, which in turn should lead to a fall in fares on long-haul flights. Boeing says it will be the largest and most efficient twin-engine plane on the planet.

On the other, it is another step in the evolution of passenger comfort, with the same benefits showcased on the Dreamliner expected on the 777X, including large, dimmable windows, higher ceilings and an anti-dry, jetlag-beating ventilation system.

What’s more is its pin-up potential. With a wing-span of up to 71.8 metres and a length of 76.7 metres (longer than a 747), the 777X is a beast, and one that is set to become Boeing’s flagship aircraft.

Dominic Gates, aerospace reporter for the Seattle Times, was part of a press group allowed inside the Everett assembly plant in north-west America ahead of the aircraft’s rollout. “It will be an impressive sight in the sky,” he said. “While most planes look much the same to harried air travellers, early in 2019 Boeing’s newest jet may manage to catch and arrest even the casual eye.

“Passengers about to board will see its long, long carbon-fiber wings arc up and away from low on the fuselage, gull-like, then curve downward to the tips. There the wings will end in what will surely be the iconic image of this plane: scythelike wingtips painted with a 777X and folded upward so the jet fits at the airport gate.”

Carrying as many as 414 passengers in a two-class set-up (in the longer 777-9; 349 in three classes), the X is set to become the mainstay of many an international airline.

Can it fly further than any existing plane?

Not quite. Its range is not at the heart of its appeal. The -8 has a projected range of 8,690 nautical miles, and the -9 7,525 nautical miles, both shorter than the 9,700 nautical miles of the A350-900ULR, the aircraft currently serving the world’s longest flight between New York and Singapore.

That said, it has been reported that the 777-8 could serve the “holy grail” of routes, between Sydney and London, carrying perhaps fewer passengers (280) and heading west with favourable winds.

“We think our airplane has the legs and the capability,” said Dinesh Keskar, Boeing Senior Vice President Sales Asia-Pacific and India in 2017. “If the 787-9 can do Perth-London, we think that when the 777-8 comes out in the 2021 timeframe we will have a lot more improvement in technology.”

It is the Boeing 787 currently being used on the groundbreaking London to Perth route by Qantas. The route’s success makes the likelihood of the X family being put to use on UK-Australia services.

Who will fly it?

Despite the 777 being a stalwart of the British Airways fleet (BA has 58 of the aircraft), the British flag carrier has not yet signalled interest in its younger, shinier sibling, instead placing orders for its Airbus rival, the A350-1000.

But why doesn’t BA want to fly to Australia, too, we hear you cry. It just doesn’t. Willie Walsh, chief executive of IAG, of which BA is a part, said last year: “Code sharing is an option but in terms of using our metal, we’re not considering it.

“Personally the idea of sitting on an aircraft for 21 hours to get from Heathrow to Sydney, it does not appeal to me.”

As it stands, seven airlines have orders placed with Boeing for the 777-9, with Emirates boasting the largest. Qatar, Etihad and Lufthansa also have orders placed, while Turkish Airlines has shown willing. Qatar, Emirates, and Etihad are the three to places orders for the -8, too.

Qantas has not yet decided between Airbus and Boeing for its aircraft of choice to forge ahead with plans for “Project Sunrise”, the endeavour to link any city in Australia with anywhere else in the world with a direct flight.

Iran Air previously had $38billion worth of orders placed with Boeing, including 15 777-9s, but these were all but cancelled when President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Deal in 2016.

The first deliveries of the 777-9 are expected to be made next year.