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Vanuatu is one happy island!

Largley rural with an agricultural economy, the small South Pacific island nation is a happy nation. 


Despite being prone to natural disasters, this Pacific archipelago’s unique combination of sustainability and tradition makes it one of the happiest places in the world.

By Bill Code
10 February 2020
BBC Travel

One of the happiest places on Earth sits in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Vanuatu, a slingshot-shaped country that comprises more than 80 islands nearly 2,000km east of Australia, ranked among the four happiest nations in the world – and the happiest outside of the Americas – according to the Happy Planet Index. The rankings take into account a nation’s wellbeing, life expectancy and inequality levels, along with its ecological footprint.

What makes this tiny nation so happy? Since its independence from joint French and British rule in 1980, all land in Vanuatu belongs to the native ni-Vanuatu population and cannot be sold to foreigners. A 2011 survey by the Vanuatu National Statistics Office (VNSO) indicated people with access to land are, on average, happier than those without it. Today, about three-quarters of the country’s 298,000 residents live in rural areas, and the majority of islanders have access to land where they can live and grow their food.

The same survey found that goods such as pigs, yams and the South Pacific crop kava (a kind of pepper plant sometimes used to relieve stress and anxiety) are easily accessible and exchanged in Vanuatu without money.

Another source of happiness is the islanders’ strong connection to tradition and the archipelago’s varied landscapes, which range from rocky mountains to coral reefs. “Vanuatu” actually means “Our Land Forever” in many of the 139 indigenous languages spoken by the ni-Vanuatu – making it among the most linguistically dense nations in the world. Indigenous languages are the primary language spoken by 92% of ni-Vanuatu and the vast majority of the population has a strong or moderate understanding of traditional planting cycles, family history and the importance of local flora and fauna.

Yet, the country still faces some challenges. Situated in the Pacific’s Ring of Fire, Vanuatu is highly vulnerable to natural disasters, and in recent years the islands have been threatened by rising sea levels and changes in weather patterns. In fact, the archipelago is considered the world’s most at-risk country for natural hazards, according to a 2014 report by the United Nations University. In 2015, Cyclone Pam swept through the islands, causing extensive damage and leaving 75,000 people homeless. But despite all the wreckage, residents quickly started rebuilding the villages, demonstrating their powerful resilience.

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Discover India in 2020: Volunteer vacations in India

India has many wonderful, magical travel destinations. Globe Aware offers volunteer vacations in this diverse, culturally-significant country.


Kochi or Cochin was voted the year’s trending destinations in the TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards 2020.

By Clinton Moodle
Feb 27, 2020
Source: IOL

The city in southwest India’s coastal Kerala state saw the biggest spike in reviews and ratings on the travel website. And, judging by its many attractions, there’s plenty to keep you occupied.

TripAdvisor revealed why travellers were enticed by this Indian city:

“A blending of several small villages on the southwestern coast created the current incarnation of Kochi (or Cochin), where sunset strolls, sampling fresh fish from seaside vendors and boat rides through the islands just offshore top visitors’ to-do lists.

“Art centers showcase the traditional dance, Kathakali. European influences are seen in the 16th-century Portuguese-built churches and forts, while the mark of early Chinese traders is visible in the unusual fishing nets dotting the shoreline.” (sic).

One of the popular tours is the ‘funny and helpful Tuk Tuk Tour in Kochin’ for only R158. The guide shows you some of the famous places in Kochi with a bit of humour to the tour.

Then there’s also experiences for foodies. If you are interested in learning about the city’s food story, you can book a class to cook Kerala inspired dishes with a local host.

The tour, around R260, provides insight on how to prepare dishes like chapati round bread, dosa, ghee rice, vegetable dishes, fish fry or chicken curry.

The best part, you get to eat what you prepare.

If you do not feel like cooking, then have a local named Joseph prepare a meal for you.

His only request is that you purchase your ingredients at a local market and he will do the rest.

Joseph will take you to the market to do the shopping and insight about the city as he cooks for you.

You will end the evening around the table with Joseph and his family.

Shopping and cultural tours feature heavily on the itineraries. Other trending destinations include Luzon in the Philippines, Porto in Portugal and Porto Seguro in Brazil.

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Tourists flock to Spain: second only to France in popularity

 Spain’s popularity as tourist destination continues to grow.


This country’s tourist arrivals hit a new record high in 2019 – can you guess where?

TOURISM is a key element to every country’s infrastructure, providing an opportunity to increase revenue and awareness to what the country has to offer – and one particular location reached a tourism record high.

By LEAH SINCLAIR
Express
February 4, 2020

The number of international visitors to Spain hit a record high of 83.7 million in 2019, Industry and Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto said last month.

According to Reuters, tourist arrivals rose one percent last year. Spain is officially the world’s second-most visited country after France.

“We address 2020 with optimism, because we have a strong and consolidated sector, capable of tackling the challenges ahead of us,” said Maroto.

The minister added that one of Spain’s main priorities will be to lure visitors from new countries along with working to have visitors all year long and not only in the summer season.

The Secretary of State for Tourism, Isabel Oliver said: “This magnificent data allows us to face 2020 with solid foundations and with the confidence that we have a strong sector capable of maintaining Spain as a world leader in tourism competitiveness.”

Britons still represent the highest proportion of tourists visiting Spain, with 18 million Britons choosing Spain to visit in 2019. However, this was a half a million less than in 2018.

Additionally, Spain has seen more visitors from Asia and the United States which offset the decline of travellers from Britain and Germany.

A recent study from CompareTheMarket.com found that Spain remains as one of the key holiday destinations for Britons of all generations.

Spain is most visited by those aged 65 and over and in 2018 it was least visited by 24 to 34 year-olds, accounting for only 13.6 percent of their holidays – but it was still one of their top choices.

Other countries which were popular among all demographics were France, which like Spain, is popular across all age groups, and again fares best among the 65 and over group. 12.5 percent of their holidays were to France in 2018. And like Spain, 25 to 34 year olds visited France least, with only 10 percent of their holidays taking place across the Channel.

For those looking for ways to save money on holiday, the experts from Travelzoo say that you could be saving money before the holiday has even begun.

During the booking process, it can be hard to know whether you are overspending on flights and hotels, especially with so many to choose from.

According to Mr Clarke, though, timing is everything when it comes to making savings.

“Look at shoulder season – this is the time outside of peak, either side of the main holiday periods,” Mr Clarke told Express.co.uk.

“There are some serious bargains available if you can be flexible with your time.”

Shoulder time is an industry term which tends to mean the period outside of school holidays.

During school holidays, popularity for flights and hotels skyrockets, dragging the cost with them.

However, the time between these periods is the perfect opportunity to get your hands on a budget-friendly trip.

“Traditionally this means outside of school holidays and peaks,” explains Mr Clarke.

However, some destinations prices are affected on a seasonal basis too.

“Places like the med are wonderful in May and October,” Mr Clarke continued.

“Always wanted to go to New York? Prices plummet in Jan and Feb due to the cold.

“But if you prepared to wrap up warm there are some seriously good packages.

“And a winter day in New York is usually bright blue skies so it can be a lovely experience.

“Or try Iceland in October before the peak season hits – you can still see the Northern lights but also there the benefit of whale season too before it all freezes over!”

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