Caribbean group says islands should charge fee
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad -- Caribbean islands should charge an ''admission fee'' to cruise ship tourists, to ensure they benefit from an industry that is profiting from the region ''virtually for free,'' says a leading business association.
''Foreign operators are utilizing our assets to considerable advantage, while we ourselves seem to be content to pick up the crumbs that fall from the table,'' said Gary Voss, president of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce.
But his proposal appeared to target tourists, not the industry.
Islands should consider charging ''a standard (admission) fee of $20 per head per island,'' Voss said.
This ''would not be unreasonable given that airline visitors are long accustomed to paying this amount in airport taxes alone.''
Islands also charge what Voss called ''a tiny head tax'' of $5 for each passenger.
He said the cruise ship industry is in a ''win-win situation,'' using the Caribbean's ''warm climate, breezy and sunny, and their physical beauty'' to lure passengers.
Voss said most cruise ships are built in the Far East and operated from Miami, providing few jobs for Caribbean nationals.
Swedish opera singer turns quarry into stage
STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- Some saw an abandoned limestone quarry, sunk in a deep forest in the middle of nowhere.
Former opera singer Margareta Dellefors saw a natural amphitheater and installed 4,000 seats and a stage to create the open-air theater called Dalhalla, some 140 miles northwest of the capital, Stockholm.
''I was looking actively for a place to arrange summer concerts and was tipped about the quarry by a local. I saw directly that this was what I was looking for. It was a long-nourished dream,'' she says.
The festival stage was built at the bottom of the 60-yard deep, 400-yard long and 175-yard-wide former limestone quarry Draggaengarna, which closed in 1990 after 40 years of digging and blasting.
It also offers visitors a natural show, with colorful stripes decorating its horizontal rock layers and a small emerald-green lake at the bottom, the result of a large meteorite impact some 360 million years ago. Dellefors, who is now artistic director of the venue she founded, says the acoustics are incomparable, with no disturbing echoes and almost total silence.
From June to August, this unique venue is bursting with activities, including operas with stage and light settings adapted to the rock walls, choir music, jazz and big band concerts, and symphonic and chamber music.
Highlights this summer are the U.S. vocal group Manhattan Transfer, world famous tenor Jose Cura and performances of Wagner's ''The Flying Dutchman,'' Donizetti's ''Lucia di Lammermoor'' and Verdi's ''Rigoletto.''
Some 100,000 visitors have flocked to the annual summer festivals since Dalhalla officially opened in 1993.
Thailand launches public toilet design contest
BANGKOK, Thailand -- Thailand has launched its first-ever public toilet design contest in an attempt to improve the country's soiled image when it comes to bathrooms.
The winner will be awarded $2,440 for the design that best combines beauty and sanitation, says Sirithan Pairojboriboon, director-general of the Pollution Control Department.
''Thai toilets are in need of help,'' he says. ''We're outpacing China in terms of lousy toilets.''
Traditionally, Chinese public toilets have been notorious for their unbearable stench and poor maintenance.
However, new toilets in China are ''very modern,'' Sirithan says.
In the wake of Thailand's 1997 financial crisis, the Pollution Control Department was granted $975,600 from Japan's Miyazawa Loan program to build a waste treatment system, including toilets in major tourist spots as part of an eco-tourism campaign in 16 provinces.
However, their design and construction were substandard, taking no account of the surrounding environment, Sirithan says.
He says he was inspired to clean up tacky toilets by last year's World Toilet Summit in Singapore, where state-of-the-art bathroom technologies were showcased.
The contest gives special emphasis to the needs of the disabled, the elderly and especially women.
--The Associated Press'
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