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China: Heritage Sites of Confucius and Mencius Restored to Glory, Better Life for Local Communities

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About two hours’ train ride from Beijing, in the south-west of Shandong Province, are Qufu and Zoucheng. These cities are the hometowns of Confucius and Mencius – two great philosophers of ancient China. The temple, cemetery and family mansion of Confucius in Qufu, collectively known as “San Kong” (three Confucius sites), were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.

The Confucius Temple in Qufu was first built in 478 BC., shortly after his death. It was destroyed and reconstructed a number of times over the centuries.  The existing temple was rebuilt and renovated during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. With yellow tiles and red walls, the temple complex resembles the Forbidden City in Beijing, and ranks as the second largest historical building complexes in China.

The Mencius Temple in Zoucheng dates back to the year 1037 in the Northern Song Dynasty. The current building was reconstructed around the year 1672 during the Qing dynasty after it was destroyed in an earthquake. Near the temple is the Mencius family mansion and cemetery.

Weathering took its toll on the ancient Confucius and Mencius temples and related historical buildings, as shown by leaking roofs and damaged ceilings, slanting and unstable walls and pillars, damaged color paintings on woods, broken stone tablets, and ancient trees infected with diseases and insects.  Urgent actions were required to conserve these cultural monuments and relics and prevent them from further deterioration.  

Rehabilitating historic buildings and relics

Supported with a US$50 million loan from the World Bank, a US$130 million project was launched in 2011 to enhance cultural heritage conservation and tourism services in Qufu and Zoucheng.

“It is the first world heritage protection project using international financing for both China and Shandong,” said Zhou Xiaobo, a deputy director of the provincial cultural relics bureau and head of the project management office.  

The conservation plan included renovation of cultural heritage sites and buildings related to Confucius and Mencius, renovation of historic sites in the Lu Old City and Ming Old City, and infrastructure upgrading in the old towns.

The Shandong Confucius and Mencius Cultural Heritage Conservation Project took five years and eight months to complete.  By mid-2017, 40 historic buildings and sites, such as halls, shrines, pavilions, gates and archways, were renovated with better site management and guiding interpretation for visitors using modern technology. 17 cultural heritage sites were adaptively reused. More than 400 stone tablets with inscriptions were cleaned and repaired.

Mount Ni, the birthplace of Confucius and location of a temple dedicated to the father of the sage and an ancient academy, experienced the largest-scale restoration since the Qing Dynasty. It won a national prize for cultural heritage conservation top ten in 2013. 

Conservation work was also extended to thousands of ancient cypress trees. Plans were tailor-made for each of them that included propping, pruning, holes repairing, insects and diseases treatment, and installation of ID plates.  

The Old City of the State of Lu, a state founded in the Zhou Dynasty in the 11th century BC., still has ruins of the ancient city wall and moat, palaces and residential sites, roads and irrigation systems. Work was undertaken to protect these historic sites, and add new wooden walkways, rest areas and sanitation facilities for tourists, making it a new national archeological park.

In the Old City built in the Ming Dynasty, a historic courtyard-style mansion and the county “Yamen” – the county office building – were selected for overhaul, with repair to the roofs and walls, re-flooring and repainting of the wooden structure.

Traditional methods, craft skills and materials were used in the conservation and restoration of all historic buildings and relics.  All these methods and skills were also carefully recorded for future reference and use. 

Improving lives and economy

Residents in the old cities of Qufu and Zoucheng are direct beneficiaries of infrastructure upgrading that included repaving of roads, renovation of water and sewerage systems, and environmental cleaning, which has significantly improved their quality of life.

Clean water was diverted Sihe River to the moat of the Ming Old City in Qufu, creating a pleasant public space for residents and visitors. The Yinli River in Zoucheng was dredged and cleaned up, with its banks reinforced and trees planted. The stinky canal became a green linear park where people come to enjoy the waterfront. As a result, the number of small businesses along the river, such as restaurants, homestays and shops, has doubled, generating jobs and incomes for local residents.

The upgraded infrastructure in old cities under the project contributed to the fast increase of revenues of small business. The average annual revenues of small businesses in the renovated streets more than doubled during the project period. A survey found that 100% residents and business owners were satisfied with the urban regeneration program.

Visitors to Qufu and Zhoucheng are also direct beneficiaries from improved tourist information and services, including new electronic tour guide systems, multi-lingual signage boards, tour maps and other tourist facilities.  The Zoucheng Museum, upgraded and refitted to highlight Mencius, enables visitors to gain a better understanding of the sage’s life and thinking with help of multimedia and other modern technologies.

The annual number of tourists grew significantly from 2011 to 2016 – from 4.26 million to 4.94 million in Qufu, and from 100,800 to 256,800 in Zoucheng, with tourist revenues increased from RMB 8.9 billion ($1.35 billion) and RMB 2.2 billion ($330,000 million) to RMB 15.8 billion ($2.4 billion) and RMB 6.1 billion ($930,000 million) in the two cities respectively.  Tourist satisfaction increased from 48% to 96%.

A total of 2,349,000 people, including residents and tourists, benefitted from the project.  

Supporting cultural heritage protection in China

The World Bank has worked with China in cultural heritage protection since the 1990s, implementing 16 projects with a total cost of about US$6.98 billion, including US$1.87 billion from the World Bank. China has the largest number of World Bank-supported cultural heritage projects globally.

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New Year’s Eve with Hilton: 6 Fabulous Ways to Ring in 2023

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Fireworks at Hotel del Coronado, Curio Collection by Hilton - Photo Credit: Sam Antonio

What’s your ideal way to ring in the new year? Whether you prefer to get glammed up for a New Year’s Eve gala, dance the night away at a rooftop bar, or simply watch the fireworks from the cozy comfort of your hotel room, there are plenty of ways to celebrate. From the beach to the big city, here are five ways you can countdown to midnight at Hilton properties across the Americas.

Conrad Los Angeles

Celebrate the new year with stunning skyline views from Conrad Los Angeles. Watch fireworks illuminate the city from Agua Viva rooftop restaurant’s New Year’s Eve party, complete with DJ sets, drinks and food from a specialty New Year’s Eve menu. Select guest rooms will also have perfect views of the fireworks.

For an extra-special start to the year, book the Cheers to the New Year PackageAs the clock strikes midnight, take in the fireworks from Agua Viva rooftop restaurant or enjoy the show from the comfort of your opulent room, complete with special turndown amenities. Wake up and start the new year with a delicious breakfast in bed or enjoy breakfast at José Andres’ original fine dining concept, San Laurel, where you’ll explore Spanish-inspired flavors intertwined and enhanced with fresh and local Californian ingredients. For dinner, take in captivating views of Downtown Los Angeles overlooking the iconic Disney concert hall while experiencing a decadent, chef-curated New Year’s menu that includes Porcini Crusted American Wagyu, Lubina in Saffron Mussel Sauce with Caviar, and much more.

Conrad Bora Bora Nui

Countdown to midnight fireworks in a variety of ways at Conrad Bora Bora Nui. Make reservations for a prestige dinner at TAMURE beachside restaurant, visit the open-air IRIATAI restaurant for a New Year’s Eve buffet with live music, or spend the evening at UPA UPA lounge bar, featuring drinks and a live DJ. Guests will be able to enjoy beautiful fireworks in the lagoon from UPA UPA bar and IRIATAI restaurant, and guests staying in overwater bungalows will be able to see the fireworks show directly from their villas.

Hotel del Coronado, Curio Collection by Hilton

Guests can ring in the new year seaside at Hotel del Coronado, Curio Collection by Hilton. In addition to a glamorous and elevated New Year’s Eve Masquerade Gala in the newly-opened Southpointe Ballroom, Hotel del Coronado also offers a chill way to welcome in the New Year.  Guests can reserve a seat for a New Year’s Eve movie on famed Coronado Beach, immediately followed by a celebratory fireworks display over the Pacific Ocean. Guests with ocean-facing rooms within The Views, Shore House or Beach Village will enjoy a front-row experience for the New Year’s Eve fireworks.

Hilton Rio De Janeiro Copacabana

Celebrate the new year with views of the famous Copacabana fireworks exhibition from Hilton Rio De Janeiro Copacabana. Choose from the New Year’s Eve party at the fourth-floor Clarice Restaurant and Clarí Bar, or a cocktail party on the rooftop Isabel Lounge. Both include views of Copacabana’s front beach fireworks. The Clarice Restaurant celebration will include a special buffet with table seats and an open bar, and after dinner, the party continues with a DJ and samba drummers at Clarí Bar. Isabel Lounge will feature a special cocktail by Executive Chef Pablo Ferreyra, an open bar, DJ and samba drummers. Guests with sea-view rooms will also be able to see Copacabana’s fireworks from their room.

Continue the celebration on New Year’s Day with a traditional Brazilian Feijoada and samba at Clarice Restaurant.

Hilton New York Times Square

Enviably located on 42nd Street in the heart of Times Square and easily accessible from Grand Central, Penn Station and several Subway lines, Hilton New York Times Square is within steps of dozens of Broadway and off-Broadway shows, attractions and Restaurant Row. Soaring 44 stories above Times Square with some of the largest standard-size rooms in the neighborhood, guests will enjoy incredible skyline and Hudson River views, with select rooms looking out to the iconic New Year’s Eve ball drop. 

Hilton Anatole

Ring in 2023 with the best views of the Downtown Dallas New Year’s Eve fireworks show at SĒR Steak + Spirits on the 27th floor of Hilton Anatole. Tickets to the New Year’s Eve party are $300 per person and include four hours of gourmet food at live-action food stations with featured chefs, a premium bar with beverages provided by Diageo and Moët Hennessy, multiple Instagrammable photo moments, live music from DJ SC, and a midnight toast.

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Exploring the Majestic Almalfi Coast – The Perfect Italy Trip

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Are you looking for the perfect Italy trip? Look no further than the stunningly beautiful Almalfi Coast. This picturesque coastline along the southern edge of Italy’s Sorrentine Peninsula offers breathtaking views, delicious cuisine, and unique experiences that you won’t find anywhere else on the planet. Let us explore what this incredible region has to offer.

An Introduction to Italy

Italy is one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations, thanks to its vibrant cities, stunning landscapes, fascinating history and exquisite cuisine. From ancient ruins to modern-day metropolises, there truly is something for everyone in this gorgeous country. But if you’re looking for a truly remarkable experience, then you must visit the Almalfi Coast. 

The Almalfi Coast

The Almalfi Coast stretches along the southern edge of Italy’s Sorrentine Peninsula from Salerno in the west to Vietri Sul Mare in the east. It includes some of Europe’s most picturesque towns and villages, such as Positano, Amalfi, Ravello and Sorrento. The area is renowned for its breathtaking beauty with its winding coastal roads lined with lemon groves and stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea below.

What to See

If you’re interested in a few Italy trips, check out the activities they offer and fill your days with adventure. Here are some highlights that we suggest adding to your itinerary:   

  • Sorrento: Visit this delightful seaside town with its cobbled streets and 16th-century churches or take a boat out into the Bay of Naples, where Mt Vesuvius looms large over Capri Island.  

                                                                                                                                                             • Pompeii: Travel back in time to this ancient Roman city which was tragically destroyed by an eruption from Mt Vesuvius in 79 AD but whose ruins have been preserved for thousands of years.

Ravello: Take a stroll through this charming hillside village perched high atop cliffs overlooking Amalfi Beach below.

Capri: Enjoy some time on this idyllic island as it is home to some of Europe’s most beautiful beaches, such as Marina Piccola Beach – or take a boat ride around its famous Faraglioni Rocks.  

Positano: Wander through this quaint fishing village renowned for its pastel-coloured buildings perched atop precipitous cliffs above a crystal-clear sea – be sure not to miss out on sampling their signature Spaghetti alle Vongole dish too.  

 When To Visit

The best times to visit are spring (April/May) or autumn (September/October) when temperatures are milder and crowds thinner than during summertime when it can get quite busy due to peak tourist season. Be sure also to avoid winter months (November/December) as many facilities may be closed due to inclement weather conditions.

With its stunning natural beauty, captivating culture and delicious cuisine, visiting the Almalfi Coast is an opportunity not to be missed on any trip to Italy. Whether you’re looking for adventure or simply want relaxation amidst spectacular scenery, one thing is certain; you will leave feeling inspired by all that this spectacular region has offered up. So why wait? Start planning your dream Italian vacation today.

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12 ways to make a positive impact on your travels

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After a period of plummeting tourism numbers during the pandemic, tourism is having a resurgence. This is good news for many workers and businesses, but it could be bad for the planet. Here is a selection of ways tourists can ensure that their holidays don’t harm the environment.There are many positive aspects to tourism. Around two billion people travel each year for tourism purposes. Travel and tourism connect people and bring the world closer through shared experiences, cultural awareness and community building. It provides jobs, spurs regional development, and is a key driver for socio-economic progress.

However, there is often a downside; Many popular destinations are threatened by increasing pollution, environmental hazards, damage to heritage sites and overuse of resources. And that’s without factoring the pollution caused by travel to and from these destinations.

So, with that in mind here are some tips that will help you to enjoy your trip, and leave with the confidence that your favoured tourist destination will not be damaged by your presence, once you return home.

1. Ditch single-use plastics

Often used for less than 15 minutes, single-use plastic items can take more than 1,000 years to degrade. Many of us are switching to sustainable options in our daily lives, and we can take the same attitude when we’re on the road. By choosing reusable bottles and bags wherever you go, you can help ensure there is less plastic waste in the ocean and other habitats.

2. Be ‘water wise’

On the whole, tourists use far more water than local residents. With a growing number of places experiencing water scarcity, the choices you make can help ensure people have adequate access to water in the future. By foregoing a daily change of sheets and towels during hotel stays, we can save millions of litres of water each year.

3. Buy local

When you buy local, you help boost the local economy, benefit local communities, and help to reduce the destination’s carbon footprint from transporting the goods. This is also true at mealtimes, so enjoy fresh, locally grown produce every chance you get.

4. Use an ethical operator

Tour operations involve people, logistics, vendors, transportation and much more. Each link in the chain can impact the environment – positively or negatively. If you prefer to leave the planning to someone else, be sure to pick an operator that prioritizes the environment, uses resources efficiently and respects local culture.

5. ‘Please don’t feed the animals’

Sharing food with wildlife or getting close enough to do so increases the chances of spreading diseases like cold, flu and pneumonia from humans to animals. Also, when animals get used to receiving food from humans, their natural behaviours are altered, and they become dependent on people for survival. In some cases, it can also lead to human-animal conflict.

6. And don’t eat them either!

By creating the demand, consuming endangered or exotic animals leads to an increase in poaching, trafficking and exploitation of animals. Besides the harm done to the individual animal on your plate, irresponsible dining can contribute to the extinction of species already threatened by climate change and habitat loss. Keep this in mind when shopping for souvenirs as well, and steer clear of products made from endangered wildlife.

7. Share a ride

Transportation is a major contributor to the carbon footprint from tourism. Instead of private taxis, explore using public transportation like trains, buses and shared cabs. You can also ride a bicycle, which offers a convenient and cheaper way to explore and learn about a place.

8. Consider a homestay

Staying with a local resident or family is a nature-friendly option that allows you to get up close and personal with local culture and customs. Staying at local homestays can uplift communities by providing income while giving you a peek into different ways of life.

9. Do your homework

Before your travel, educate yourself about your destination. Doing so will allow you to better immerse yourself in local traditions and practices and appreciate things that might have gone unnoticed otherwise. With the right information, you can explore a destination in a more sensitive manner and surprise yourself with new adventures and discoveries.

10. Visit national parks and sanctuaries

Exploring nature and wildlife through national parks is an intimate way to learn about the animals and their ecosystems first hand. In some cases, your entrance fee supports conservation efforts that protect species and landscapes and preserve these natural spaces for future visitors to enjoy.

11. Don’t leave a trace

You can make a mark by not leaving a mark on your vacation destination. Put garbage in its place to avoid litter, and don’t remove or alter anything without permission. Let’s make sure we leave only soft footprints, and not the environmental kind.

12. Tell your friends

Now that you’re ready to travel in eco-friendly style, it’s time spread the word! Inform fellow travellers, friends and family about how sustainable tourism benefits local people by enhancing their livelihoods and well-being, and helps all of us by safeguarding our beautiful environment.

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