SAR gets in the pink What a difference a decade makes. Less than 10 years ago it was a crime in Hong Kong for consenting adults over the age of 21 to commit homosexual acts. Now there is strong competition in the travel industry for the 'Pink Dollar', and one SAR travel agent in particular is promoting gay holidays, and even has gay staff to offer advice. Earlier this year, Concorde Travel was advertising an all-gay cruise from Vancouver to Alaska, and now it is offering packages to European Gay Ski Week in France, from March 18 to 25. A Club Med hotel has been reserved exclusively for the event. Concorde is also setting up packages for Sydney's gay Mardi Gras, which is also being held next March. The gay dollar is becoming so sought-after that even the Australian Tourist Commission in Hong Kong is offering information on gay holidays. Ansett Airlines recently set up a Rainbow Club for gay and lesbian passengers. National Trust's winter collection Visitors to the UK have a new guide to historic sites that will remain open during the winter months. Out And About With The National Trust In Winter gives information on more than 100 National Trust properties that will be open through March, many for the first time. Copies of the guide can be obtained free from the National Trust, PO Box 39, Bromley, Kent BR1 3XL. The Web site is at www.nationaltrust.org.uk Pay up, cruise passengers told Each cruise-ship passenger who visits Juneau in Alaska will soon be charged US$5 (about HK$39) because the townsfolk fear the environment is under threat from tourism. A few months ago the Royal Caribbean International cruise line admitted charges of dumping pollutants into Alaskan waters. Juneau's mayor, Dennis Egan, said that despite apologies by the president of Royal Caribbean, residents remained outraged. The line, which agreed in court to pay US$18 million in fines, pleaded guilty to polluting coastal waters around the United States, including dumping dry-cleaning chemicals and other toxic wastes into a channel within the Juneau city limits. The convention and visitors bureau in Juneau, the state capital, estimates that nearly 600,000 cruise passengers visited the city in the 1999 season, from May to September. Mr Egan said the income from the docking charge, to be introduced next March 1, would be spent on infrastructure improvements related to the cruise industry, possibly including landscaping. Disney cracks down on smokers From January 30 there will be a clampdown on smokers at Disneyland and Walt Disney World theme parks in the US, allowing visitors to light up only in designated areas. The restrictions will not apply to Disney parks in Tokyo or Paris, whose citizens are heavy smokers. It will be interesting to see what policy will be adopted when Mickey Mouse comes to Lantau, when the bulk of visitors are likely to be on day-trips from the mainland. The mainland, meanwhile, collected a cool US$11.65 billion from overseas tourists in the first 10 months of this year, up 13 per cent from the same period last year. About 59.76 million overseas tourists visited between January and October, up 14.5 per cent from the corresponding period last year. Well-heeled trekkers Kathmandu has always been looked upon as a haven for backpackers, but nowadays the well-heeled are flying in and demanding the luxuries they would expect in the developed world. Next year, a Hyatt hotel will be opening in the Nepalese capital to cater for the big spenders. Meanwhile, under its Great Deal scheme, which offers savings of up to 50 per cent on hotel rooms, the group's latest addition, the Park Hyatt in Melbourne, is offering rooms at A$295 (about HK$1,450) per night. Rates are as low as US$50 in two Malaysian properties. The Greal Deal covers 56 hotels and resorts worldwide until the end of February. Troubled biblical waters The site where Jesus is believed to have been baptised by John the Baptist has been opened to tourists, though these are troubled waters now. You need to get permission to visit this isolated spot on the Jordan River from the Israeli army, and the area is heavily mined. Moshe Berman, manager of a company that is developing the biblical site as a millennial tourist attraction, can arrange access. Fax (972 2) 940 0591. USEFUL ADDRESSES Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board. G/F Malaysia Bldg, 47-50 Gloucester Road, Wan Chai. Tel 2528 5810, fax 2865 4610. Singapore Tourism Board. Unit 2003, Central Plaza, 18 Harbour Road, Wan Chai. Tel 2598 9290, fax 2598 1040. Tourism Authority of Thailand. 401 Fairmont House, 8 Cotton Tree Drive, Central. Tel 2868 0732, fax 2868 4585. Korea National Tourism Office. Room 4203, Lippo Centre, Tower One, Admiralty. Tel 2523 8065, fax 2845 0765. Japan National Tourism Office. 37/F Dorset House, Taikoo Place, Quarry Bay. Tel 2968 5688. Taiwan Visitors' Association. Room 904, 9/F Wing Shan Tower, 173 Des Voeux Road, Central. Tel 2581 0933, fax 2581 0262. British Tourist Authority. Room 1504, Eton Tower, 8 Hysan Avenue, Causeway Bay. Tel 2882 9967, fax 2577 1443. New Zealand Tourism Board. 1601 Vicwood Plaza, 199 Des Voeux Road, Central. Tel 2522 0088, fax 2524 1811. Australian Tourist Commission. Suite 1501, Central Plaza, 18 Harbour Road, Wan Chai. Tel 2802 7700, fax 2802 8211. Canadian Tourism Commission. 11/F Tower One, Exchange Square. Tel 2847 7461, fax 2847 7511.