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My Blog

Blog

Middle East

Posted on February 5, 2013 at 5:18 PM Comments comments (0)
Rome, Italy
Rome, Italy
My favorite pizzeria near Trevi Fountain
Pirareus, Greece
Pirareus, Greece
A Saturday market near
Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul, Turkey
Hello!
Rome, Italy
Rome, Italy
the Panthenon
Rome, Italy
Rome, Italy
A typical narrow street in Trastevere
Rome, Italy
Rome, Italy
Ruins everywhere
Rome, Italy
Rome, Italy
Tiber River
Rome, Italy
Rome, Italy
Trastevere
Jerusalem, Israel
Jerusalem, Israel
the Western Wall
Dead Sea, Israel
Dead Sea, Israel
No need to be a good swimmer
Masada, Israel
Masada, Israel
On the top of Masada
Antalya, Turkey
Antalya, Turkey
Old port
Rome, Italy
Rome, Italy
the Vatican
Naples, Italy
Naples, Italy
A busy street in a rainy day
Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul, Turkey
Ready to start the day
Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul, Turkey
the Galata Bridge
Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul, Turkey
Fishermen's heaven

My most recent trip around the world confirmed what my investment meeting with Louis Navallier revealed. Emerging markets are poised for continuing growth again, Europeans continue to spend, keeping their economies alive, and the U.S., with record low interest rates and an underemployed workforce is bouncing back. 

Some interesting signs: European cruises continue their sold-out position, with minimum discounting.  My cruises were 50% European, 25% Asian, mostly Chinese and Korean, and 25% U.S. and Latin America. All were spending generously on side trips at every port. 

Naples is busy. Although in the traditionally depressed south, its port reflects national manufacturing and shipping, and both are active. The bakeries are stocking expensive pastries and most are sold out by early afternoon. New art galleries are opening downtown and, even in the off season, hydrofoils leave regularly every hour to the tourist islands of Capri and Ischia.
 
Rome is, as always, the “eternal city.” There are probably more Chinese tourists there than any other nationality crowding the historic sites like the Coliseum. And they are young. Many couples, honeymooners, students, and more independent travelers than those traditionally travelling in groups. Gathering on the Spanish Steps or at the Trevi Fountain, they are keeping the shops alive and the taxis busy. Hotels are sold out in the popular locations. Newer locations, like the Trastevere district near the old Jewish Ghetto, have their cafes and restaurants full. There is a three hour wait in line to get into the Vatican museums or the cathedral itself. In spite of Italy’s economic difficulties, interest rates on bonds are declining as confidence returns. 
 
A bus trip through the Rome suburbs shows well-maintained homes, lines in front of the movie theatres, coffee shops full, and streets very well maintained. The recently upgraded central train terminal is crowded with travelers watching the electronic boards, buying tickets electronically, and lining up for information in electronically controlled lines. The multitude of food services there equals or surpasses, in quality and quantity, that at any international airport, and equally expensive – but they are all crowded. 
 
In Turkey, the Istanbul Bazaars are full of locals buying the expensive spices and home accessories. Turkish chains of sweets stores, selling pistachio halvah, nougats, and almond candies all have line-ups at the cash counters. The freshly-caught fish sandwich vendors under the Galata bridge– grilled fish on a hot bun with onion and tomato, five dollars each, sell out each batch as soon as it’s ready, as do the barbecued chicken and lamb stalls around the port, 10-15 dollars a plate with pita and spicy Turkish salad. It means the middle class is alive and well and spending.
 
Booming secondary cities like Izmir and Antalya are building service economies on top of the tourism trade. Condos are going up everywhere, and shiny new trams link the expanding suburbs to the center city. New appliance and home furnishing stores can be seen everywhere from the tram ride. (The driver is a young, well-groomed attractive woman in uniform, manipulating the electronic controls while maintaining cell phone contact with her dispatcher.)  Women in this Muslim country visibly occupy positions of control.
 
Antalya already has eight million tourists a year, justifying a carefully restored old harbor area with winding narrow streets filled with artisanal shops, boutique hotels and coffee houses, competing with McDonalds and Starbucks nearby. At least thirty old-fashioned wooden tourist ships crowd into the tiny harbor, bordered with expensive artisanal ice cream and yogurt stands.
 
Israel has a new rapid train line, with a stop just outside the gate of the Haifa port. It connects, in comfort, most of the northern locations of the country, from the crusader port of Acre south to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The recent discovery of the huge offshore gas fields has the Chinese bidding to provide and fund a high-speed rail link across the Negev desert, to transport the fuel for export from Ashdod on the Mediterranean, avoiding the problems of the Suez Canal, providing stimulus for development and settlement in the southern desolate part of the land.
 
The Russians and Canadians are already there to provide the technical infrastructure for the extraction. The geopolitics of energy will change the power structure of the middle east forever, as it is foreseen that the Israeli fuel will be fed by pipeline to Cyprus and on to Greece and the rest of Europe. As the U.S. becomes energy self-sufficient by the end of the decade, Saudi Arabia will be sidelined. An era of increasing Chinese-Israeli cooperation and joint development in food technologies, agriculture, and pharmaceuticals and transportation is to be anticipated.
 
The falafel  (deep-fried ground chick-peas) on pita, with do-it-yourself stuffings of cole slaw, pickled beets, onions, tahini sauce and hot peppers, the national dish, is alive and well in the Jerusalem bus terminal. They give out free samples to tempt and entice the crowd to buy more – and it works.  The shwarma, the other national dish adapted from the Turks, is now mostly chicken, grilled on a vertical spit and sliced, when crisp, onto hot pita with the same stuffings. If you look hard, you can still find lamb, but the chicken, garlicky and tasty, and healthier, is taking over, as in New York and Athens. The London Doner Kebab vendors, the mainstay of Oxford students, still use a mixture of lamb and beef on request, but is more expensive.

From the Haifa port, not far from the Bahia Gardens that tumble elegantly down the hill,  one can see the rapidly growing Israeli version of Silicon Valley. Apple now does much of its design and development work there, and Microsoft has extensive facilities there also. With nearby beaches, a favorable climate, and a Mediterranean café culture, it is attracting talent from everywhere, but especially from the Technion, Israel’s Institute of Technology just a short distance up the hill to its growing campus.

Crete is the largest island in Greece. It already attracts the lion’s share of tourists. Heraklion, the main port and capital, has lost much of its historical presence, except for the massive fort at the harbor, to too rapid growth and change. Crete’s agriculture supplies much of Europe, and the port is a major revenue and jobs generator. But a short bus away, reveals ancient harbor towns like Rethymnon, and Chania, farther away. They are the tourist magnets, surrounded by endless beaches, high mountains and challenging ravines to climb. The future success of Greece will depend, in some part, upon the country’s ability to develop sustainable tourism, create high-level jobs at the managerial level, encourage entrepreneurship with a sound banking system to build upon tourism drawing from around the world. Investment to fund entrepreneurship will not come until a stable political system, with the confidence of the electorate, is established. Turkey is already further ahead in funding its tourist infrastructure and encouraging business.

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