Big cheer for RIUs noreservations dining policy at Sunwings holiday gettogether

first_imgTags: Sunwing Posted by Travelweek Group TORONTO — Travel agents at Sunwing Travel Group’s annual holiday industry lunch gave a big round of applause in support of RIU Hotels & Resorts’ recent decision to get rid of restaurant reservations at their properties. For guests, the tedious task of waking up at the crack of dawn while on vacation to secure a coveted dining reservation was getting a bit much and agents were getting an earful from clients.“We removed the restaurant reservation system in the Americas. Thank you for the feedback,” RIU’s Director of Business Development & Partner Marketing, USA & Canada, Hugo Aguilera, told agents at the lunch.There was another round of applause when Aguilera came out strongly against the time-share side of the industry. “We’re a no time-share company. We are total supporters of the travel agent community.”Aguilera said RIU keeps its ear close to the ground when it comes to comments and input from retail partners. “We listen to your comments. And we’re constantly looking for new destinations to send your clients.”More news:  Air Canada’s global sales update includes Managing Director, Canada & USA SalesComing off a record run of resort openings and renovations, RIU is showing no signs of slowing down with even more resorts popping up in new (for the company) vacation hotspots.In 2018 RIU will open its first property in Huatulco and in 2017, Riu Dunamar, also in Mexico. Aguilera said renovations for Riu Bambu in Punta Cana and Riu Palace Paradise Island in the Bahamas will both undergo renovations in 2017.Looking back on RIU’s busy 2016, openings included Riu Republica in Punta Cana and Riu Reggae in Jamaica. Opened just days ago, the positive buzz on Riu Reggae is so strong that the new resort is already booked up for January and February.Meanwhile the company’s urban-focused Riu Plaza Hotels brand is making its mark in major cities around the world. “International expansion has been the key to RIU’s success,” said Aguilera. New urban properties include the Riu Plaza New York Times Square and the Hotel Riu Plaza The Gresham Dublin.More news:  Consolidation in the cruise industry as PONANT set to acquire Paul Gauguin CruisesRIU’s meteoric growth wouldn’t have been possible without its travel agent partners, including the many top-producing agents present at yesterday’s Sunwing lunch. “Thank you for your business, your support and for trusting your clients to us,” said RIU’s Vice President Business Development & Partner Marketing, Sergi Ruiz Pique.He encouraged to join the RIU Specialist Program, with a new chapter coming early next year covering all the new resort openings and renos, “so stay tuned.” Thursday, December 1, 2016 center_img Big cheer for RIU’s no-reservations dining policy at Sunwing’s holiday get-together Share << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more

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Agents get the scoop on TravelBrands newly enhanced Access platform

first_img Share Posted by Wednesday, April 5, 2017 Devin Kinasz Agents get the scoop on TravelBrands’ newly enhanced Access platformcenter_img Tags: TravelBrands MISSISSAUGA — Over 1,500 registered travel agents and 70 suppliers are taking part in TravelBrands’ cross-country agent appreciation events, which kicked off in the Greater Toronto Area last night.The events, taking place this week and next, showcase the innovative new changes to TravelBrands’ Access platform, where agents can make bookings, access marketing tools and webinars, make payments and much more.Erminia Nigro, Director of Sales, Ontario, TravelBrands“The goal is to offer travel agents the latest technology to help them work smarter, not harder as well as make their bookings faster with more money!” said Frank DeMarinis, President and CEO of TravelBrands.What’s New on the Access online platform:The new My Bookings Page provides travel agents access to their files, applying payment, file status, forms, agency commission, their BDM information and more, all in a single spaceA Live Chat function will pop up throughout the website to help with technical questionsFlexibility with the Multi-destination functionality has been added for land only and packagesAir enhancements include filters on search for class, connections and carriers, as well as -/+ 3-day day searches for lowest faresE-flyers and other marketing tools that can be personalizedMore news:  Onex paying big to get WestJet and that will send airfares soaring, says CWT“We are all about travel agents! This past year I challenged the team to come up with a strategy that would empower our travel partners, one that focuses on the agent community and provides the tools essential to closing a sale,” added DeMarinis. “At the end of the day, time is precious and our role is to help our retail partners maximize every minute of every day. Whether you are looking for an air ticket, accommodation, hotels, tours or car rentals, we have it all and so much, all in one simple transaction.”Other enhancements include increasing the “We’ve Got Your Back” call centre hours to 24/7, allowing clients to call with any issues while in destination and not bother agents during off hours.TravelBrands also showed off its new brochure, Experiences by Sunquest, featuring a collection of niche products and special experiences like yoga and chocolate tours. These are broken down into the following categories: Cruise, Incredible Rooms, Amazing Views, Back to Nature, Amazing Islands and Historic.More news:  Consolidation in the cruise industry as PONANT set to acquire Paul Gauguin CruisesIn addition, the company is introducing a new Europe brochure that focuses on hotels, cars and cruises. It encompasses the complete suite of products available through TravelBrands including a spread on Exotik Tours and its diverse selection. Plus, Lujure luxury villas vacations are now available under the TravelBrands umbrella.Agent appreciation events continue this week in Ottawa and Montreal, and next week out West. << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more

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And the award for Booziest Nation goes to…

first_imgAnd the award for ‘Booziest Nation’ goes to… Share TORONTO — There’s no doubt that Canadians love their beer. But how do we measure up against other beer loving countries?According to The Telegraph, which recently mapped out the world according to beer consumption per capita, Canada doesn’t even rank in the top 10. Ouch!Compiled by the Japanese beverage company Kirin, the list includes a few obvious destinations but also a couple of surprises. The country that consumes the most beer on earth is the Czech Republic, which has won the title for an astounding 23 consecutive years. In 2015, the most recent year for which statistics are available, Czechs drank 142.4 litres of beer per person, an equivalent of 250 pints.Not surprisingly, Austria and Germany followed closely behind in third and fourth place, respectively, while Poland ranked sixth and Ireland seventh.Perhaps the biggest surprise on the list, clocking in at second place, is Seychelles. Namibia also raised a few eyebrows with a fifth place finish.More news:  Rome enforces ban on sitting on Spanish StepsHere is the complete list:1. Czech Republic – 142.4 litres per capita2. Seychelles – 114.63. Austria – 104.74. Germany – 104.75. Namibia – 102.76. Poland – 997. Ireland – 97.58. Lithuania – 97.19. Belize – 94.710. Romania – 92.1In terms of total alcohol consumption per capita, Belarus proved to be the booziest in the world, with the average drinker consuming 17.5 litres of pure alcohol per year. The Telegraph broke this down to be the equivalent to 179 bottles of wine, or 1,750 shots of vodka. Cheers to that!Sadly (or maybe not?), Canada failed to rank on this list too. Instead, here are your top 10 booziest nations:1. Belarus – 17.5 litres of pure alcohol per capita2. Moldova – 16.83. Lithuania – 15.44. Russia – 15.15. Romania – 14.46. Ukraine – 13.9More news:  TRAVELSAVERS welcomes Julie Virgilio to the team7. Andorra – 13.88. Hungary – 13.39. Czech Republic – 1310. Slovakia – 13 Posted by Travelweek Group Monday, April 24, 2017 << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more

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Clients can wander explore save 20 with Loews new promotion

first_img NEW YORK — Starting today, clients who book a stay at Loews Hotels properties will enjoy 20% off with a brand new promotion.‘A Wonderful Place to Wander’ promo gives guests 20% off on bookings of two nights or more made from June 14-30. This exclusive offer is valid for travel through Dec. 31, 2017 at Loews Hotels properties in destinations throughout North America.“Loews Hotels knows that people are nomads at heart, each searching for something unexpected with characteristics all its own,” said Oliver Bonke, Chief Commercial Officer of Loews Hotels & Co. “Our ‘A Wonderful Place to Wander’ campaign, coupled with the offer, embraces travelers’ need to continue seeking the unknown, even if it’s just steps away, with value-driven rates making the pursuit for discovery all the more rewarding.”Loews Hotels invites travelers to discover and enjoy distinct experiences at properties from coast to coast this summer, including:Yoga classes from 20 storeys up on the helipad at Loews Hollywood Hotel (classes are offered every Saturday and Sunday at sunrise and sunset starting at the end of June, priced at $19 for hotel guests)A detoxifying Espresso Body Scrub treatment at The Spaahh at Loews Hotel 1000 Seattle (US$195 for 80 minutes)Local bites and handcrafted cocktails at the rooftop Streeterville Social at Loews Chicago HotelThree new luxe private cabanas at Loews Miami Beach HotelMore news:  Apply now for AQSC’s agent cruise ratesFor more information about ‘A Wonderful Place to Wander, follow the #AWonderfulPlace hashtag starting tomorrow. Travelweek Group Wednesday, June 14, 2017 Clients can wander, explore & save 20% with Loews’ new promotion Tags: Loews Hotels, Promotionscenter_img Share << Previous PostNext Post >> Posted bylast_img read more

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The Travel Agent Next Door restructures into regions to benefit agents and

first_img Tuesday, February 5, 2019 The Travel Agent Next Door restructures into regions to benefit agents and suppliers TORONTO — The Travel Agent Next Door is making major moves – into regions, no less.To benefit both agents and suppliers, the company has announced that it is organizing itself into regions, making it the first host agency in Canada to do so.Traditionally, host agencies are considered by suppliers to be only one agency, meaning that they’re served by only one Business Development Manager (BDM) or Sales representative. This has proven to be a challenge for agents across Canada who aren’t linked with their local or regional BDM or sales rep.“As we grew, we recognized that our agents were losing out because they were not recognized by suppliers regionally, and thus they were missing out on local support and recognition,” said Flemming Friisdahl, Founder, The Travel Agent Next Door. “By creating four regions, we have ensured that our agents are seen by their local BDMs and reps – and their performance shows up on each BDM’s reports.”More news:  Virgin Voyages de-activates Quebec accounts at FirstMates agent portalWhat this means, Friisdahl added, is that agents will be invited to supplier events like ship inspections by that supplier, based on their performance. It also means agents will receive training and local marketing support.With the regional move, The Travel Agent Next Door’s agents and hosted agencies will now receive direct support from regional reps and BDMs, including training, resolution, marketing and consumer evenings support. Plus, they’ll receive recognition for their sales production and get the chance to grow their business by working directly with their local supplier rep or BDM.But as Friisdahl is quick to note, the move isn’t just one-sided. “This approach also benefits suppliers,” he said. “Tour operators, cruise lines, airlines, tour companies, tourist boards, etc., will now have insight into where to focus their efforts via their local reps and BDMs to assist in growing their business on a national scale.” Posted by Travelweek Group center_img Tweet << Previous PostNext Post >> Tags: Host Agencies, The Travel Agent Next Door, TTANDlast_img read more

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Costa Rican fishing boat adrift at sea rescued by private yacht

first_imgNo related posts. A 10-meter fishing vessel named the Maria Christina II that had been adrift for six days due to a mechanical failure was rescued by a private yacht on Friday in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Costa Rica, the daily Bermuda Sun reported.The Bermuda Maritime Operations Centre received an alert from the yacht, the Golden Odyssey, that its crew had rescued the fishing boat and was towing it to Cocos Island, 550 km off the coast of Costa Rica.Lt. Rodolfo Murillo, operations chief at the Costa Rican Coast Guard, on Monday confirmed that both ships arrived at Cocos Island Saturday, and crew members are in good condition.The disabled boat’s crew is waiting for spare parts before returning to the Pacific port of Puntarenas. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

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Ode to the tuber

first_imgEd Bernhardt Home gardeners in the tropics can take advantage of this wonder plant to provide a bountiful supply of nutritious food for the family. Tubers are a good source of carbohydrates, in addition to vitamins A, B1, B2, C, calcium, phosphorus and iron. Few people know that the leafy tops of the plants can also be prepared as a spinach dish, which is delicious and highly nutritious. Sweet potatoes belong to the morning glory family Convolvulaceae, with long trailing vines and pale lavender, morning-glory-type flowers that seldom make seeds. Instead, the plant has evolved to reproduce by vegetative offshoots. So, to grow camotes in your home garden, you need stem cuttings from mature plants to get them started. If you can’t find stem cuttings from any of your neighbors, don’t worry. Here’s how it’s done. The next time you are shopping in the supermarket or local market, select some good-looking sweet potatoes. You can often find a purple-skinned variety with a yellow interior that is very sweet. And a reddish-skinned variety, which is orange on the inside, that’s not so sweet. The later is my favorite choice.At home you can take a medium size tuber and plant it in an 8-inch pot with regular soil.  Plant it so the half of the tuber with the end of the stem is sticking straight up out of the soil.  Or you can place three toothpicks around the middle of the tuber and suspend it in a glass jar filled with water. Place it in a sunny window and watch it sprout and grow new shoots. I remember my grandmother doing this with sweet potatoes to create decorative plants. After a month or so, you will be able to trim the leafy stems for planting. These stem cuttings should be at least 12 inches long and can be planted in a compost-enriched garden bed about 2 inches deep and 2 feet apart. In about a week, the cuttings will recover and begin to grow new leaves. As the plants prosper, it’s important to cultivate the soil up around the base of each plant, just like gardeners do for corn, taro and peanuts. This stimulates the plants to produce more tubers. In three to four months, the new vines will cover the entire garden bed, and new sweet potatoes will be ready to harvest.  You can either dig up a few at a time or harvest them all at once and replant the stems again to keep a continual supply of camotes going in the garden. Remember, too, that the leaves from the stem cuttings are an excellent spinach substitute. This is particularly good news for gardeners who live in the warmer regions of the country where spinach doesn’t grow well. Harvested roots can be sun dried for a day and stored in a dry, shady area. Camotes are wonderful baked and lend themselves to many creative dishes. Below are two recipes we often enjoy. For more info on tropical home gardening click on our monthly newsletter at: http://thenewdawncenter.info/blog.html. We have books and seeds to share with you.  Until next time – life’s a garden.Recipes Mashed Sweet Potato and CoconutMash about 3 cooked sweet potatoes with 1 cup of fresh, finely grated coconut, add some cinnamon, allspice, cumin, a pinch of sea salt.  Sweet Potato Leaves in Coconut Milk   Blend half of a grated coconut with 1 cup of water until you have coconut milk, then strain off the liquid and cook it with a large bunch of chopped sweet potato leaves on low heat. Add curry, sea salt and pepper. Facebook Comments No related posts.center_img From the print editionThere is group of native crops we grow in our tropical gardens all the time, which are easy to grow, productive, delicious and very nutritious. One of these “superstars” of the garden is the sweet potato, or camote, as it’s known in Spanish. Long before Columbus landed in the Americas, indigenous tribes of Central and South America were growing sweet potatoes in a variety of colors and shapes. last_img read more

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Cyclone to bring high waves to Costa Ricas Pacific beaches this weekend

first_imgNo related posts. The National Emergency Commission (CNE) on Thursday issued a “Green Alert” (preventive) for the entire Pacific coast of Costa Rica, due to the arrival of high waves this weekend.A report from the University of Costa Rica’s Ocean Sciences and Limnology Research Center said that a large extratropical cyclone in the South American Pacific caused a strong surge that is currently moving northward. The phenomenon could reach Costa Rican shores by Thursday and will likely pound beaches until Sunday.Maximum wave duration is predicted at 20-22 seconds per wave, a very strong break on the beach and similar to a recent phenomenon that flooded several properties and roads in Puntarenas province. Waves of up to 6-7 feet are expected, especially on Friday and Saturday, the report added.The CNE urged people to take precautions and warned tourists and small boat operators not to approach the mouths of rivers and beaches in the cantons of: Golfito, Osa, Aguirre, Parrita, Garabito, Esparza, Puntarenas, Nandayure, Hojancha, Nicoya, Santa Cruz, Carrillo, Liberia and La Cruz. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

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67 people cited for crimes against the environment in Costa Rica

first_imgOfficials from Costa Rica’s National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) issued citations to 67 people for crimes against the environment in a two-week operation, according to the organization’s control and protection unit.“Environmental infractions have increased within the national parks with fewer personnel,” Carlos Varela, SINAC’s control and protection coordinator, told The Tico Times. “These large parks have very few access points and are difficult to patrol.”A third of Costa Rica’s territory is environmentally protected, and drops in funding mean fewer park rangers monitor the areas. Groups of illegal hunters, fishermen, miners and loggers take advantage of gaps in the patrols. The ₡11,182,996 ($22,366) operation was an attempt to address the problem.It resulted in 43 seizures, including cars, machinery and hunting rifles. Officials also nabbed a total of 171 cubic meters of illegally harvested hardwoods. Facebook Comments Related posts:Police seize 101 sea turtle eggs from suspected poacher on Caribbean Coast Costa Rica’s police capture four men suspected of killing green sea turtles Strong support for Costa Rica park ranger sentenced for attempted murder despite revelation of separate drug case Road checks to fight wildlife trafficking during Holy Weeklast_img read more

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Blooming blue

first_imgRelated posts:Poet Ernesto Cardenal on Gran Canal project: ‘We should denounce to the world what is happening in Nicaragua’ Costa Rica adds yet another claim to ongoing border dispute with Nicaragua Costa Rica finishes work to close artificial canal built by Nicaragua in disputed territory US Marines plan force in Honduras for hurricane season The most productive garden in Costa Rica just got rid of a bunch of destructive bulldozers stealing the biggest fruits.For decades, nets bigger than your house have plowed the Pacific for tuna, killing all sorts of denizens of the deep, including dolphins, when they are accidentally ensnared as bycatch. Starting a few weeks from now, the tuna dozers have been instructed to leave the area.President Laura Chinchilla decreed that these mayhem machines should wreak their havoc more than 60 miles from our rich coast. She told the tuna ships they could do their thing 60-200 miles offshore. The tuna ships are still welcome by the government in most of Costa Rica’s Pacific, but it’s time to move on out.The new regulations will protect some of the most bio-productive ecosystems in Costa Rica. Some of the largest known dolphin pods in the world (such as the spinner dolphin megapods featured in the BBC1 John Downer Productions Spy in the Pod series this year, will no longer be caught in nets during attempts to round up giant tuna that swim with them. The Pacific will likely bloom like never before.The ocean’s productivity will hopefully respond quickly, with dolphin pods and tuna schools growing to numbers never seen before. The bounty will likely spread all the way to the beaches in a domino effect of recuperating ecosystems.Since the area also covers the diverse seascape of the continental shelf drop-off, the reverberations will be good and deep. The fantastic world of undersea cliffs and canyons plunging from a couple hundred meters to a couple of thousand meters gives the open ocean waters above the greatest bio-productivity in the nation, rivaled only by the shifting Costa Rican area of the Central American Dome, which is much further offshore. Conserving apex predators out to 60 miles offshore will bring back other fish and interconnected life that nobody has even thought about.While the world will be a better place when the slaughter brought on by tuna fleets is curtailed, it’s the international tourists, Central Valley pescado aficionados, and especially coastal communities that will benefit most. The newly enriched oceans will drive a swell of economic activity, and of course all that value will bring its own set of problems.Enforcement of the ocean management plan will be a challenge. Corruption will cause setbacks. But the plan is a positive and decidedly blue adjustment. And there is reason to believe that advances in technology and organization will stop poachers in their wake.The new radars being installed along the coast will light up the massive tuna ships and their helicopters on a screen at coast guard bases onshore. This is a big advance over current methods of driving around a small part of the ocean with a boat or a plane, hoping to find a tuna ship that does not detect the sting on its advanced radar. Tuna ships will also have to carry GPS locators. For the first time, the coast guard will have technology similar to the poachers. And drones patrols and satellite time for Costa Rican seas can’t be far behind, which will tip the scales.Marine tourism and local fishers will continue to be vocal about poachers in the new area, but now they will have a lot more footing. Sixty miles is about as far as you can do on a day trip from shore, and much of that will be patrolled.Several projects are in the works for private groups to patrol for poachers and report them. Dedicated groups helping with patrols for enforcement is the future of marine conservation. Groups like Sea Shepard, which is saving the whales of Antarctica, show that a difference can still be made even when governments won’t put up the money. Boats with cameras, laptops and media can make poachers disappear if the laws are in place.The decree, which was pushed by fisherman Enrique Ramirez and FECOP, likely also received a boost from the BBC Natural History Units spectacular dolphin shows claiming the biggest dolphin pod they could find on the blue planet.And we should not underestimate The Tico Times reporting on the topic since the 1990s. The first column I wrote in these pages calling out the tuna dozers was in 1998. But Laura Chinchilla made this happen, and it was probably quite a political challenge to get such entrenched, moneyed interests to give up the areas on the map the tuna fleet call Jackpot and Bonanza. No other single decree could have done so much for Costa Rican oceans as moving the tuna dozers far offshore, short of banning them totally. The blue jackpot and bonanza will now be for people and marine life instead of a foreign tuna fishing fleet.Laura Chinchilla’s blue legacy will be that the fruits of Costa Rica’s marine garden will bloom. And perhaps the benefits will bloom most for the biggest resident dolphin pods in the world, along with the massive schools of giant tuna and other life that swim beneath them in the big blue of Costa Rica. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

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Meet Costa Ricas new environment minister

first_imgRelated posts:Obama announces members of US delegation who will attend Luis Guillermo Solís inauguration 9 things we can expect from Costa Rica’s new president, Luís Guillermo Solís President Solís tries to weed out corruption, starting with the bushes Costa Rica president off to a rough start, survey says Second in a two-part series about Costa Rica’s environmental policies. Read the first, a review of outgoing President Laura Chinchilla’s environmental record, here.If you’re looking to talk to Costa Rica’s newly appointed environment minister, you won’t find him in the halls of government buildings, court offices or mega-corporations that his predecessors came from. Instead, you will find Dr. Edgar Gutiérrez in his closet-sized office in the statistics department at the University of Costa Rica.A UCR professor and researcher since 1994, Gutiérrez has a background in science, not politics. He has a doctorate in forest biometry from Iowa State University. He was the brain behind the country’s current National Environmental Strategy report. He drives a car that runs on hydrogen.All of these things make him an unlikely government minister, and he knows it.“I don’t want to be environment minister,” he said shaking his head as we sat down at students’ desks in a classroom for the interview.This may be true, but as we rolled through the questions, his intentions for his new post became clear. Gutiérrez may not want to be the environment minister, but he does want to change Costa Rica.TT: Why did you accept the appointment as minister?EG: Honestly, this is a huge opportunity. This is a window that will let me do what I always believed we could do in this country.I believe that when Costa Ricans cast their votes for Luis Guillermo Solís they created an opportunity to put the country on a path that seeks the well-being of everyone and not just certain groups of people. It put us on a path that seeks development, but only development permitted by the Costa Rican Constitution; development in a healthy environment.Constitutionally, Costa Rica does not want whatever kind of development comes along. Costa Rica wants fair development created without polluting the environment. Extractive industries like petroleum and open-pit mining have no place here. I want to create a Costa Rica that attracts sustainable development that maximizes the benefits for our communities.Your professional background is in science and academia rather than politics. How is this going to drive your actions as minister?It’s true. My educational background is in forest biometry, but I have always been involved with environmental public policy. I directed the first and second United Nations reports on the environment for Latin America and the Caribbean and the first for Costa Rica, and I served as a volunteer adviser under three previous environment ministers (René Castro, Elizabeth Odio and Carlos Manuel Rodríguez). I also was the director of the National Environmental Strategy report for 2005-2020.None of these politicians asked me to come work for free. I offered because I knew I had something to contribute. So, while my background is in science, I also understand how to respond to the needs of the country. None of this is new, but I also have the technical understanding to know where we are at and what we need to do to make sure that the environment is part of the political agenda.What is your main goal for the next four years?I will be satisfied if, in four years, we can leave the public an orderly, efficient and capable environmental administration. I want to give this ministry the scientific and technical muscle it needs to accomplish its goals while also improving the administration. We need an agile administration with the ability to respond to all of the different problems within our communities.Now, this is easy to say, but very hard to do. Right now the Environment Ministry (MINAE) has some very good plans, but to put them into action  is going to require nothing short of a cultural revolution within the administration. Conversations I’ve had with people within MINAE have shown me that people feel overwhelmed by the inefficiency in the organization and feel helpless. When I leave, I want these people to feel like they are working for a ministry of extreme importance with the capability to change the country into a place that future generations will enjoy.One of the largest sections in President Solís’ government plan is the integration of the public in environmental decisions. How do you plan to incorporate this into the ministry?All of the environmental laws we have now already require public participation, it’s just that no one has ever followed through with it. This is going to be a challenge for us, but we already had some success with this during Solís’ campaign.We created a group called the Environmental PACto  (PAC are the initials of Solís’ party, the Citizen Action Party, and pacto means pact in Spanish). We called an open meeting on social media and people with interest in the environment showed up to discuss environmental issues. We created working groups with specific themes and used suggestions from those meetings to create an environmental plan.We want to do something similar after we take office. The goal is to make sure that the government hears the voice of the people.Making a more efficient Environment Ministry also loomed large on the president’s agenda. How do you plan to achieve this?This is an enormous task for MINAE because, as I mentioned, it involves changing the culture within the institution, but I believe it is possible.One of the biggest examples of this inefficiency is in SETENA (SETENA is the organization that grants environmental approval for large development projects). It is not possible for us to make developers wait four years for environmental approval. This inefficiency has made people say that SETENA is development’s greatest enemy in Costa Rica, and the president-elect has told me that my most important task is to turn SETENA into an organization that developers see as their natural ally.In the past, SETENA has opened its doors to political and economic pressures so that the projects granted approval are the ones with the most powerful people behind them. That is not what SETENA is supposed to be. I will make SETENA a completely technical organization, one that none of these influences will be able to infiltrate.A spokesperson for PAC has said that Solís will suspend the country’s 2021 carbon neutrality goal. What does this mean for the ministry’s policies related to carbon neutrality?I don’t think we will suspend it. That spokesperson may have been confused. I want to keep the carbon neutrality goal because it is a benchmark that helps guide our actions.We are only 20 percent away from our goal, but it is the hardest 20 percent. It’s the reduction of emissions in the transport sector. I want to create a strong alliance between the government and our best public universities so that we can brainstorm solutions to this problem. This  is something we need to address now.If you go to San José right now you’ll find an entire army of dirt bikes driving around the streets. Now, imagine you took all of those dirt bikes and replaced them with electric motorcycles. It would be wonderful. Right now, the windows in San José are caked in the gray residue of diesel grease. My children are already living in this, but I don’t want this for my grandchildren, or for their children.Carbon neutrality is something that would improve the lives of our citizens, and I am not going to set a trap for myself by saying that we will absolutely reach the 2021 goal, but I will say that this administration is going to do everything possible to make sure that we at least try.Animal welfare was one of Luis Guillermo Solís’s main focuses during his campaign, he even mentioned it in his acceptance speech. What plans does the Environment Ministry have to make Costa Rica more hospitable for animals?We have laws upon laws on animal treatment already on the books in Costa Rica, but no one enforces them. We are going to enforce the laws we already have and pass stricter legislation so that animals are treated in the best way possible. For wild animals, this means that they need to stay in the wild.Everyone who has a wild animal right now needs to register it. Once that is done we are going to start sending officials to those houses to make sure they only have the animals that they registered. Anyone caught with an unregistered animal is going to face consequences.Right now, those consequences are supposed to be jail time, but that doesn’t make any sense to me. I don’t want these people in jail. I want them to go help build trails in the national parks or to work in a wildlife refuge. This work is expensive for us and maybe these people will learn something while they do it. I haven’t talked with the president-elect about this yet, but I am sure he will agree with me.These laws also include zoos. Once the animals that they have die, they will not be allowed to replace them.The outgoing president, Laura Chinchilla, has said that her greatest environmental contribution was in creating an agenda for ocean conservation. What are your ministry’s plans for continuing this legacy?Well, the most obvious thing is that we need to make changes to the Costa Rican Fisheries Institute (Incopesca). Incopesca is supposed to be a completely technical organization, so why does the current Incopesca have a board made up of all of these industrial fishing interests? This is going to have to change.Incopesca is going to be made up of intelligent fisheries experts. Both the board of directors and the employees need to be experts. The Costa Rica of today needs a larger, more specialized Incopesca.We need to do the same thing with the National Commission for Biodiversity Management and the Biosecurity Comission. These organizations need to have people working in them who have the technical skills to make decisions rather than just to whomever the government wants to give the job.One of the largest problems in the past has been the interpretation and application of environmental legislation by the judicial branch. In many cases people who commit environmental crimes are let go. How does your administration plan to combat that?The first issue is that we need to make sure our laws are based on scientific evidence and clearly written. Once we have that, it is going to clear up a lot of the problems we have in the judiciary.The way our environmental laws are written leave them open to interpretation instead of giving judges the scientific ends the laws are supposed to meet. The goal is to limit absolutions from these crimes as much as possible. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

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Drivers Slow down and help reduce wildlife deaths on highways says university

first_imgResearch by the University of Costa Rica’s (UCR) Ecotourism School has found that speeding drivers are the main cause of death of wildlife on roads in Costa Rica’s Pacific region.Professor Carlos Pérez Reyes and a group of students traveled the region’s busiest roads in 2012-2103, including Route 27 between San José and Caldera, Route 23 in Caldera, Route 17 between Caldera and Puntarenas, Route 34 in the South Pacific and Route 2 connecting San José with the Panama border at Paso Canoas.For a full year the group traveled 650 kilometers, working from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. to count the number of wild animals killed on the roads. Their research determined that Route 34 is the most dangerous for animals, tallying 95 percent of animal roadway deaths, according to the university report, released last Friday.Most of the animals were mammals, accounting for 41.8 percent of the total, followed by reptiles at 23.5 percent, birds at 32.6 percent and amphibians at 1.31 percent.The species most affected by speeding motorists were the black vulture (Coragyps atrattus), iguanas (Iguana iguana), opossum (Didelphis marsupialis) and anteaters (Tamandua mexicana). These species represent 60 percent of the total found.“The roadways’ consequences for animals [in Costa Rica] are numerous, especially the fragmentation of their habitats by our constant need to transport products. We have divided mountains without considering that there are many species living there,” Pérez said.The study also showed that most animals die in the early morning hours, mostly on straight stretches of roads, where the speed limit is over 60 kilometers per hour at altitudes no below 50 meters above sea level.Most deaths occurred in November, January and April, the months that coincide with an increased influx of tourists to destinations in the Central and South Pacific. Most animals were killed near agriculture farms and forested areas.Pérez urged drivers to help reduce wildlife deaths by slowing down. “It is evident for us that more animals die in straight stretches of roads, where drivers feel safer and therefore drive faster. Speeding is the main cause of death,” he said.Pérez and his students now plan to distribute information to help raise awareness. He also recommended the government place more barriers, predator decoys and animal repellents.“Every animal has an important role in the ecosystem, and each death causes an imbalance in nature,” he said.Several public and private initiatives to reduce wildlife roadway killings started in 2006, including the hanging of ropes over roads and the building of culverts that cross under them.A Public Works and Transport Ministry report earlier this year noted that currently the South Pacific — the area with the most deaths — has 33 wildlife crossings, including four hanging ropes for monkeys, squirrels and other arboreal species, and 29 tunnels.Pérez believes these efforts are important, but more needs to be done, he said.“We must increase the number of street signs, we need more wildlife crossings and more monitoring on the roads to evaluate results,” he said. Facebook Comments Related posts:New traffic signs aim to reduce wildlife deaths on Costa Rica’s roads Costa Rica utility company helps protect wildlife along 250 km of power lines President Solís promises to submit bill in December against animal abuse President Solís signs new Animal Welfare Lawlast_img read more

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US embassy urges Haiti to resolve political crisis

first_imgPORT-AU-PRINCE,Haiti – The U.S. embassy in Haiti urged the Caribbean country’s politicians Sunday to find a solution to the political crisis that will soon see its parliament’s mandate end, leaving a perilous political vacuum.In a cruel coincidence, the Monday night deadline falls just as the impoverished nation marks the fifth anniversary of the catastrophic earthquake that killed 300,000 people.Polls to elect new lawmakers have been postponed several times, and no new date has been set.Protesters, who have taken to the streets in near-daily demonstrations, accuse President Michel Martelly of tacitly allowing the parliament to expire in order to rule by decree, while he accuses the opposition of blocking an electoral law that would allow a vote.“The U.S. government notes with grave concern that despite the President’s wide-ranging concessions, parliament has not voted an electoral law to allow for 2015 elections,” the embassy said in a statement.“In the short time remaining before the constitutionally mandated end of the current parliament on January 12, we urge all parties to agree on a framework for parliamentary mandates, a new Provisional Electoral Council, passage of amendments to the electoral law, and the formation of a government of consensus.” Protesters block a street with cars during a march against the government of Haitian President Michel Martelly in Port-au-Prince, on Jan. 11, 2015. Protesters marched through the streets calling for the resignation of the Haitian leader. Héctor Retamal/AFPMartelly was scheduled Sunday to meet with political leaders in a final effort to reach an agreement.A new prime minister, Evans Paul, named by Martelly on Dec. 26, has been unable to take office as a result of the political friction between the president and lawmakers.A group of senators has proposed a new prime minister be chosen.The U.S. Embassy said if no solution was found before the deadline, the U.S. government would “continue to work with President Martelly and whatever legitimate Haitian government institutions remain to safeguard the significant gains we have achieved together since the January 12, 2010 earthquake.”Haiti has struggled to get back on its feet since the 2010 earthquake, and its progress has been hampered by a cholera epidemic likely brought to the country by U.N. peacekeepers. Facebook Comments Related posts:Anti-government protest turns violent in Haiti Haiti opposition cautiously welcomes PM’s resignation Haiti unveils Cabinet to fill political vacuum Haiti postpones presidential runoff votelast_img read more

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Blood Wedding García Lorca tragedy opens at Teatro Espressivo

first_img“Blood Wedding” is grim, but it relates classic Iberian themes, such as family, fidelity, and vengeance. (Courtesy of Teatro Espressivo)Like its title, “Blood Wedding” is morose: rest assured that everything ends in tragedy. But the 1933 script, written by poet and playwright Federico García Lorca, is also a classic of Spanish literature, covering such Iberian themes as family, fidelity, and vengeance. This month, Teatro Espressivo brings Lorca’s story to life, paying homage to the martyred dramatist.Set in rural Spain in the first part of the 20th century, “Blood Wedding” concerns a love triangle between an unnamed bride, an unnamed groom, and a seductive interloper named Leonardo Felix. The bride once had a fling with Leonardo, who has since married another woman, and the groom is jealous. More awkward still, the Felix family murdered the groom’s father. If you’re hoping that “Blood Wedding” is a tale of happy reconciliation, think again. Indeed, “Death” is an actual character, represented by an actor onstage.Teatro Espressivo enjoyed enormous success with its production of Isabel Allende’s “The House of the Spirits,” which was revived in January, and “Blood Wedding” is another revered Spanish-language work. García Lorca was among the most acclaimed writers of his era, and although no one knows his precise fate, most people assume that the dedicated socialist was executed by fascists in 1936.“When you understand Lorca’s play,” said director José Pablo Umaña, “you should see it as this other kind of passion, which may include sexuality, but it’s more the passion that motivates us to do something, even if there exists an apparent reason not to do it.”While most of the characters are nameless and the narrative is told in a folkloric way, “Blood Wedding” has a good share of meaty roles and a morally ambiguous ending that should provoke a lot of conversation on the car ride home.“We can discover Lorca’s position regarding [violence], which men are obliged to use and lead to death,” said actress Maria Bonilla, who plays the groom’s long-suffering mother. “We see that even today – there are wars, and generations of young people continue to die. We see unrequited love, the social demands that have to be punished and condemned. Love always seeks and finds an outlet. In the case of this writer, that way or outlet is death.”“Bodas de Sangre” performs through March 29 at Teatro Espressivo, Curridabat. Fri. & Sat., 6 p.m. 7,500-10,000 ($15-20). Info: Teatro Espressivo website. Facebook Comments Related posts:Christmas-themed theater warms hearts this month Christmas cheer, oxcart parades, and other happenings around Costa Rica Valentine’s Day, lyrical boleros, and other happenings around Costa Rica French film, art walks, and other happenings around Costa Ricalast_img read more

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