Archives for category: Tourism


Have you ever overheard tourists asking dumb questions while travelling (or have you asked a dumb question yourself – be honest!

Here are some dumb questions asked by tourists in Alberta:










Smeared skies, Lake Ontario, Canada


Banff, Canada


Banff National Park, Alberta


Autumn in Canada


Vancouver at Night


Butchart Gardens Stairs in Vancouver


Emerald Lake , British Columbia


Lake Louise, Alberta




Alberta National Park



1. Lake Louise, Bannf, Alta.

Lake Louise

Situated at the foot of alpine peaks in Banff National Park, Lake Louise is one of Canada’s most iconic natural attractions. But it’s well worth dodging throngs of tourists to experience the crystal-blue waters and stunning vistas. There’s plenty to do at the lake, including booking a serene gondola ride in the summer and ice skating in the winter months. The nearby resort village of Lake Louise is the highest community in Canada at 1,540 m (5,052 feet).

2. Hotel de Glace, Quebec City

Quebec City

Can you truly call yourself a Canadian if you haven’t slept on a bed made of ice? If your answer is a resounding ‘no’, it’s time to book a room in Quebec City’s famed Hotel de Glace. Constructed every year from more than 15,000 tonnes of snow, the hotel features 36 rooms, a bar and an outdoor spa with saunas. The temperature in the hotel is between -3°C and -5°C, so guests bundle up in artic sleeping bags through the night. While prices for overnight stays are steep, the hotel offers tours for visitors just passing through. Open January to March.

3. Nahanni National Park Reserve, North West Territories


Nahanni was the first place in the world to be given UNESCO World Heritage status in 1978. It’s no wonder ‘ this reserve in the southwest part of the North West Territories features 30,000 square kilometres of pristine northern wilderness. The park protects the Mackenzie Mountains Natural Region and is home to the Nahanni River, which winds through mountain valleys and canyons. The river’s breathtaking features include sulphur hot springs and Virginia Falls, a vertical drop twice as steep as Niagara Falls. The park is also home to a large variety of wildlife, including wolves, woodland caribou, mountain goats and black bears.

4. The Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto


The ROM is Canada’s largest museum and houses more than six million objects, including a 90-foot-long baurosaurus, a 900-carat cerussite gem and a rare bust of Cleopatra VII. But the building itself is just as fascinating as what’s inside it. In 2007, the ROM opened the Lee-Chin Crystal designed by renowned architect Daniel Libeskind. The unusual, crystal-like design is said to have been inspired by the museum’s rock and gem collection. It stands adjacent to the ROM’s original building ‘ first opened in 1914 ‘ and its impressive exterior is made of 75 percent glass and 25 percent brushed aluminum.

5. Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Winnipeg


The RWB is Canada’s oldest ballet company and the longest continuously running ballet company in North America. It’s also one of the premiere dance companies in the world. Fortunately, you can catch a show for free during the RWB’s long-running Ballet in the Park. Every summer since 1970, the company performs for a weekend in Winnipeg’s Assiboine Park. Don’t forget your lawn chairs and picnic baskets ‘ the audience watches the show while seated on the grass.

6. SGang Gwaay, B.C.


Located on the small island of SGang Gwaay off the west coast of the Queen Charlotte Island archipelago (Gwaii Hanaas), the village of Nan Sdins was once a thriving community of the indigenous Haida people. But by the 1880’s, disease had completely destroyed the population. Today, the site is home to the remains of 10 original 19th-century Haida houses and 32 carved mortuary totem poles. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981, the village is a testament to the art, culture and history of the Haida First Nation.

7. Lunenburg, N.S.


Established in 1753 as the first British settlement in Nova Scotia outside of Halifax, Lunenburg is a town caught in time. The Old Town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site and a Canadian National Historic District for the very fact that it hasn’t changed much at all since it was first established – original buildings and public spaces from the 18th century are still in use today. This small coastal fishing town was also the launching spot of the famous Bluenose tall ship in 1921. Today, Luneburg is the home port of the modern-day replica, the Bluenose II.

8. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Dresdin, Ont.

Uncle Tom

This Ontario Heritage site commemorates the life of Josiah Henson, a slave from Maryland, escaped to Upper Canada through the Underground Railroad in 1830. He eventually purchased land in Dresden, Ont., and established a settlement that served as refuge for former slaves. Today the site aims to educate visitors about African Americans who escaped slavery to settle in the area. It features an interpretive centre with 19th-century artifacts from the abolitionist era, as well as the house where the Josiah Henson lived with his family, and the structure that housed fugitive slaves. The site bears the name of the famous novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe because Henson is believed to have inspired the story.

9. Stanley Park’s Totem Pole Display, Vancouver


It’s easy to see why this is the most-visited attraction in all of B.C. ‘ the nine poles, which stand among the trees in the park’s Brockton Point area, are impressive works of art. The park began collecting totem poles in 1920, but many of the original pieces were damaged by the elements and sent to museums for preservation. The most recent addition to the collection was carved by the Robert Yelton of the Sqwamish Nation as a tribute to his mother, one of the last native residents of the park.

10. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa


You haven’t truly experienced Canada until you’ve seen some of its most important works of art. The National Gallery features a collection of 36,000 works of art by Canadian and international artists, including The Group of Seven, Van Gough and Matisse. Some noteworthy pieces include Emily Carr’s The Welcome Man, which was donated to the gallery by singer Bryan Adams, and Andy Warhol’s Mau Tse-tung. The gallery also boasts a large collection of indigenous works dating back to 1850, and TK works showcased in the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography. The glass and granite building was designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdi, and offers an impressive view of the Parliament Buildings.

And the loudest, rudest and most obnoxious of them all is …

If you could whip up the perfect tacky tourist in a lab, what would it include? Novelty-sized camera hanging from a strap? Check. Head buried in a folded-out map? Sure. Fanny pack? Indeed, there are several undeniable characteristics of lousy tourists, but how can you peg just who is the worst? Which tourists are the most reviled across the globe?

Deal site LivingSocial recently asked some 5,600 respondents across five countries (U.S.A., Canada, Australia, Ireland and Britain) to name the nation whose tourists are the most terrible, looking at who they consider to be loud, rude and obnoxious.

6% said Spaniards were the worst tourists.

There may be little separating Spanish tourists from, say, Italian tourists (5.6% of survey participants said Italians were the worst travellers), but what binds them together is one thing: the Irish hate ’em both. 10% of Irish respondents said they thought Spanish people were among the worst tourists, while 11% of the Irish said the same about Italians.

7% said South Koreans were the worst tourists.

Most nations’ tourists are disliked by one country more so than another, but Korean travelers are equally reviled across the globe. According to LivingSocial’s survey, respondents from Australia (9% said Koreans were the world’s worst tourists), Canada (7%), Ireland (5%), Britain (6%) and America (9%) all appear to detest Korean tourists at roughly the same rate.

10% said Russians were the worst tourists.

Russian tourists, with their reputations as rude alcoholics with no knowledge of basic etiquette — their words, not ours! — are considered the eighth-worst travelers on earth, but two countries’ citizens specifically dislike them most. The Irish (13% said they were the lousiest tourists) and English (12%) are the nations least likely to welcome Russians with open arms.

11% said Indians were the worst tourists.

Last November, The Hindu newspaper reported on an increase in Indians travelling Down Under — a spike of some 10.4% in 2011, according to Tourism Victoria in Australia. Yet, if you buy LivingSocial’s survey, the influx has not been welcome. Of the five nations that responded to the deal site’s questionnaire, Australians were most likely to identify Indians as some of the world’s lousiest tourists; 18% said travellers from India were the worst.

11% said the Japanese were the worst tourists.

There’s plenty to read into this LivingSocial survey, but there’s also reason to exercise caution when citing its results. To wit: to the European respondents to this survey — participants from Britain and Ireland — Japanese tourists were not a hit; 8% of Brits said they were the worst on earth, 12% of the Irish said the same. So what’s the fuss? According to hoteliers across Europe, who responded to a similar survey in 2007, Japanese tourists were voted the best in the world — polite, respectful and tidy — beating out Americans and the Swiss for the top spot.

13% said the Chinese were the worst tourists.

Canada has been wooing Chinese tourists for years, and in fact Stephen Harper made a plea just last month for more Far East travellers to visit the great, white North. Perhaps the PM did not consult with his citizens, however. According to LivingSocial’s survey, 18% of Canadians thought the Chinese were the world’s worst tourists, a sum bested only by the Australians, 19% of which said Chinese travellers were the least pleasant to have visit.

14% said the French were the worst tourists.

The French and their stereotypes. Certainly, without addressing any in great detail, the French have a reputation across the globe, and it’s reflected clearly in this LivingSocial survey. Of the nations that responded, double-digits — that is, at least 10% — in all five countries said the French were the worst tourists in the world, a well-rounded disgrace matched only by one other nation of the 16 countries considered in the survey.

14% said Brits were the worst tourists.

In terms of annual vacation time, Brits fall about right in the middle of the pack among countries surveyed by LivingSocial, taking 23 days off each year (compared to 21 for Canadians and 27 for Australians). Though, when the English do travel, they’re able to make quite a splash. Just this year, two Brits were allegedly denied entry to the U.S. not for failing a luggage scan but for a Twitter conversation they had a week earlier. According to the Daily Mail, one user’s insistence she was going to ‘destroy America’ and her travel companion’s pledge to ‘[piss] people off on Hollywood Blvd (sic) and [dig] Marilyn Monroe up’ did not sit well with the Transportation Security Administration, which detained the Brits upon their arrival at LAX.

17% said Germans were the worst tourists.

As Canadians — as North Americans, really — it’s tough to figure just what’s so reviled about German travellers: only 8% of Canadians, compared to the same 8% of Americans, said Germans were the worst tourists on earth. So, why do they score so high? Ah, simply take this poll to the U.K. to find your answer. A whopping 26% of Irish respondents said Germans were the lousiest travellers, a sum bested only by the British, 31% of which said no one beats the Deutsche when it comes to terrible tourists.

29% said Americans were the worst tourists.

You know, relatively speaking, Americans don’t travel all that much, reporting to LivingSocial they take only 16 vacation days each year, a low sum when compared to nations like Australia (27) and Ireland (28). Still, in their limited time spent abroad, Americans are able to make their mark, scoring with an overwhelming consensus as the most detested tourists on the planet. Survey respondents won’t say exactly what they dislike about Yankee travellers, but perhaps the most surprising result was what we said about Americans here at home. Canadians, us humble, kind people, reported we hate American tourists most; 39% of Canuck respondents said no travellers on earth were worse than our neighbours to the south.

The surprising statistics around Mexico’s war on drugs

This past September, masked men dumped 35 bodies onto a busy avenue in the coastal tourist city of Boca del Rio as motorists watched in horror. Authorities identified many of the dead as murderers, drug dealers and kidnappers that were connected to the “Los Zetas” cartel. The Zetas are one of Mexico’s most violent gangs, credited with hundreds of murders in 2011 alone.

The massacre was allegedly carried out by a paramilitary group called the “Zeta Killers” who have vowed to take control of Mexico back from the cartels.

The drug war in Mexico has exploded in the last five years, with murders reaching their highest point on record in 2010. Trafficking of cocaine, marijuana and opium is incredibly profitable and cartels are willing to go to great lengths to get their drugs across the border.

But even with increasing violence, Mexico’s tourism industry is booming. Canadians are flocking to the sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters in record numbers.

The brighter side of Mexico

Despite the increasing violence in Mexico’s border states, tourism continues to rise all over the country.

Population of Mexico: 112,322,757

Roman Catholic: 76.5 per cent
Protestant: 6.3 per cent
Other: 0.3 per cent
Unspecified: 13.8 per cent
None: 3.1 per cent

International tourists in 2009: 21.5 million
International tourists from January to June 2010: 11.3 million
Increase from same period in 2009: 5.2 per cent

Canadians who visited Mexico in 2010: 1,460,418 (up 28.52 per cent from 2008)
Canadians who visited Mexico in December 2010: 194,128

2010 CensusMexico Tourism BoardMexican Embassy in Canada

Guns, guns and more guns

Mexico’s drug trade is one of the world’s largest and with the massive market of the U.S. just north of the border, it doesn’t seem to show any indication of slowing down. Authorities are doing their best to stem the flow, but widespread corruption poses a challenge to making real change.

The Government of Mexico reported that in 2010:

Value of South American drug-trafficking operations: US$13 billion
Percentage of total cocaine that comes into the U.S. through Mexico: 95
Percentage of the world’s heroin produced in Mexico: Seven per cent

Drug-processing labs dismantled: 160
Mexicans arrested for drug-related charges: 28,216
Foreigners arrested for drug related charges: 342

Drugs seized in 2010:
Cocaine: 9,400 kilograms
Marijuana: 2.24 million kilograms
Opium gum: 1,000 kilograms
Methamphetamine: 12,700 kilograms

Largest marijuana seizure in Mexican history: 134,000 kilograms (on Oct. 18, 2010)
Street value of seized drugs: US$340 million

U.S. Department of State

Guns, guns and more guns.

As drugs flow north into the U.S., thousands of weapons are being illegally moved into Mexico. Recent reports show that U.S. forces accidentally put thousands of guns into the hands of Mexican cartels after bungling a plan called Operation Fast and Furious. The plan was to trace how the weapons were smuggled into Mexico, but agents lost track of around 2,000 weapons, including some that may be linked to the shooting death of a U.S. border patrol officer.

Gun stores in Mexico: One
Average licensed gun sales in Mexico since 2006: 6,490

Licensed firearm dealers in the U.S.: 6,600
Guns sold in the U.S. in 2009: 14 million
Weapons used in crimes in Mexico that came from the U.S.: 75 per cent
Guns confiscated by Mexican forces between 2006-2010: 93,000

Firearms accidentally lost to cartels in failed U.S. Operation Fast and Furious: 2,000
People killed or wounded from weapons lost in Operation Fast and Furious: 150-300

MSN.caThe Washington PostThe Los Angeles Times

Murders in Mexico

Most gang violence in Mexico happens in the disputed territories near the U.S. border, though all of the country’s 31 states have been the scene of drug-related murders at some point.

Deaths from drug violence in Mexico since 2006: 35,000-41,000
Percentage of crimes that go unpunished in Mexico: 98.5

Mexico in 2010
Murders: 19,769
Drug-related murders: 11,583

Murder rate: 18 per 100,000 residents
State with hightest murder rate: 103 per 100,000 in Chihuahua
Murders in the state of Chihuahua: 3,514

People killed in the Chihuahua city of Juarez: 3,100
Population of Juarez: 1,512,354

Mexico in 2009:
Murders: 16,117
Drug-related murders: 6,587

Homicides in Canada in 2009: 610
1. Ontario: 178
2. British Columbia: 118
3. Alberta: 95
4. Quebec: 88
5. Manitoba: 57
6. Saskatchewan: 36
7. Nova Scotia: 15
8. New Brunswick: 12
9. Nunavut: 6
10. Northwest Territories: 2
10: Yukon: 2
12: Newfoundland and Labrador: 1
13. Prince Edward Island: 0

StatscanMonterrey Institute of TechnologyICESIBBC

Violence in Mexico

The easiest way to get killed in Mexico is probably to join a gang, though many innocent people have also died getting too close to the cartels.

Mexican security forces killed in 2009: 400
Mexican mayors killed in 2010: (At least) 14
Canadians killed in Mexico since 2006: (At least) 17
Canadians reporting being assaulted in Mexico since 2006: 120

Journalists killed in Mexico between 1994-2011: 59
Journalists killed in Mexico with motives relating to stories they covered: 25
Percentage of murdered journalists who reported on crime: 76

The Committee to Protect JournalistsMSNBCThe U.S. Department of StateMaclean’s

National security

The Government of Mexico has stepped up security since Felipe Calderon became president in 2006, but rampant corruption continues to plague local police forces.

Mexico’s armed forces: 225,000
Mexico’s police forces: 450,000

U.S. assistance to support Mexico’s police forces: US$1.4 billion

Mexico’s 2010 security budget: US$10.7 billion

In 2005,
Agents in Mexico’s Federal Investigation Agency (AFI): 7,000
AFI agents under investigation for suspected criminal activity: 1,500
AFI Agents facing charges: 457

Between January and August 2010:
Police officers fired for failing drug screenings and other causes, such as absenteeism and substandard performance: 3,200

U.S. Department of StateThe Los Angeles Times

Most wanted and most violent

Mexico’s cartels are an amorphous collective, merging and cutting ties with each other as they struggle for control of the country’s drug trade.
The “Los Zetas” cartel, seen as Mexico’s most violent gang, have taken over much of the east side of Mexico but their dominance is being challenged by a new paramilitary group called the “Mata Zetas,” which translates to “Zeta Killers.”

Los Zetas:
Mexican Army Special Forces deserters who founded the cartel in 1999: 31
Current membership: Unknown

Recent attacks blamed on Los Zetas:
Farm workers beheaded in Guatemala in May 2011: 27
Deaths in a casino firebombing in August 2011: 52
Bodies found in mass graves near Tamaulipas in April 2011: 193

Los Zetas members found dead over two days in September in Veracruz: 49, allegedly killed by the “Zeta Killers”

One of the most powerful figures in the Mexican drug trade is Joaquin Guzman, also known as “El Chapo” (or “Shorty”) for his five-foot-six height. After Osama bin Laden was killed, Guzman topped the list of criminals wanted by the FBI. He is the head of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, which still controls much of northern and central Mexico.

Guzman’s estimated fortune: US$1 billion
Reward for info leading to Guzman’s capture: US$5 million

BBCAFPStratfor Global Intelligence