If ever an island justified the label “paradise” that tourist brochures liberally apply to destinations, it is Saint Lucia.
Shaped like a teardrop, this tiny Caribbean nation has everything. Crescent moon beaches of white sand. Jagged volcanic mountains jutting up from the azure waters. Eclectic biodiversity that manifests in a riot of colour, no more so than in the Saint Lucia Amazon, a spectacular parrot found only on the island.
Unfortunately, as is the case in so many places, human activity is endangering this beauty and the benefits it brings to humanity. The threats are many, including extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change, forest habitat loss from land-use change and over-exploitation of marine resources.
We can deal with these challenges, as the return of the Saint Lucia Amazon, or Amazona versicolor, shows. In the 1970s, only around 100 of these birds remained. Thanks to a conservation programme, the species is now on an upward trend. While still classed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, the last census of the bird, carried out between 2007 and 2009, found a stable and viable population of 2,258 individuals.
The Government of Saint Lucia, with the support of UN Environment, is determined to repeat this success for all the island’s natural resources while ensuring a better future for its estimated 180,000 residents.
The nation is signed up to global treaties, including the three Rio Conventions: the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, under which the Paris Agreement falls.
In order to meet its obligations and to design and implement meaningful interventions, the government needs to have a clear picture of where it stands in terms of data and required policies.
“While we pursue on-the-ground initiatives that guarantee our survival, it is equally important to pursue the soft initiatives that will allow us to make sound decisions on the strategic interventions needed,” said Annette Rattigan-Leo, Saint Lucia’s Chief Sustainable Development and Environment Officer.
In August 2018, the island took a big step forward. Working with UN Environment on a Global Environment Facility-funded project, the Saint Lucian government launched its first national environmental information system. Information on the three big treaties is available to ministries, the private sector, academia, multilateral environmental treaty focal points and the public. For each convention, indicators related to broader policy goals and objectives are being integrated to support reporting and translate data into useful and actionable information.
“This is certainly an encouraging endeavour, as it will allow Saint Lucia to work closely with UN Environment,” said Gale Rigobert, Minister for Education, Innovation, Gender Relations and Sustainable Development. “We acknowledge the crucial role environmental information continues to play in helping us meet our national and multilateral environmental agreement obligations.”
As part of the project, 17 major environmental data providers signed an agreement to cooperate on the development and use of the system, ensuring that the bigger picture will be as complete as possible. Meanwhile, the project developed a set of core sustainable development and environmental indicators for the Rio conventions, which all derive directly from the 1992 Earth Summit. According to Teshia Jn Baptiste, who managed the project, the system and associated common data storage facility have “significantly improved collaboration among the public and private sectors”.
Those who work on the ground are hopeful that the new system will help Saint Lucia meet its commitments and so improve the health of its ecosystems.
“If we reach our targets, the livelihoods of fishermen and others depending on marine resources will be protected in the face of climate change impacts,” said Allena Joseph, Fisheries Biologist in Saint Lucia’s Department of Fisheries. “We can do this through better-informed decisions in areas relating to biodiversity conservation and resilience building.”
The government has previously called for an end to illegal logging, which has led to habitat loss and landslides. Karl Augustine, a research officer in the Forestry Department, believes that the new system will help claw back some of the damage.
“We see a positive impact on human and wildlife cohabitation and a transition to forest in areas historically affected by land degradation,” he said.
For species such as the Amazona versicolor and the people of Saint Lucia, this can only be good news.
4 Transportation Tips to Get Around in Switzerland
When someone said, “getting there is half the fun,” they must have been talking about Switzerland. This European gem has such a vast availability of public transport throughout the country.
Moving past the occasional traffic jams and road constructions, they know how to make traveling comfortable for everyone. Their public transit network is orderly, on time, pristinely clean, and much popular among the locals.
So, if you are in Switzerland and are planning to travel, the number of ways you can enjoy the serenity is endless. But the first step on this journey is to get travel from the airport to your desired destination.
Zurich airport transportation gives you three ways to enter the cities from the airport with much ease. You can either take the train for a view of nature or the tram if you want to enjoy the city’s sights or take a taxi, which is the most comfortable option but is also expensive.
Read on for some helpful tips that will make traveling easier for you in Switzerland.
1. Utilize Free Public Transportation
If you are traveling to Geneva, Lucerne, Bern, Basel, or Lausanne, transportation will not be something you’ll have to worry about. Switzerland offers everyone free public transportation in their most traveled cities, including these. You can not only save taxi fares but also be able to explore the whole city for free.
Most of the time, the hotel you’re staying at will provide you with a transport card which you can use to travel for free. So, if you are staying at a hotel, make sure to ask at the reception for potential freebies.
2. Don’t Purchase Travel Passes.
A travel pass should be your last option. It takes up a good amount of funds, and if you don’t end up using public transport a significant number of times, then the pass hasn’t been put to use well.
Before you finally settle on buying a pass, you may ask yourself what all places you will travel to? Will you cover long distances at all, or will you stay around the same area? How frequently will you use the pass? These questions might help you understand if the pass is necessary or not.
3. Get a Free Bike
Geneva, Zug, Bern, Zurich, the Canton of Valais, and Neuchatel are some places that will offer you bikes for free. And if you are in one of these cities, you’re in for a treat. You can rent bikes for a few hours, a whole day, or for an even longer time. All you will need is your valid ID and a small deposit amount, which you get back after returning the bike.
If you are not in one of these places, you can still rent out a bike. They may not be for free, but they are still cheaper than other public transports or taxis.
4. Grab the Free Activities
You will be surprised to know that there are so many things that you can enjoy for free when you are in Switzerland. You have to pay attention and look in the right direction.
Many free walking tours take place all across the country. You can visit the free wildlife parks in Winterthur, Interlaken, Zurich, St. Gallen, and other places. Museums, churches, hills for hiking, and Old towns are open and free to all.
Take a toll through parks, bridges, and botanical gardens. You can visit Europe’s largest waterfalls, that is, the Rhine falls in Schaffhausen.
Experience the cheese factories and enjoy all the free samples. Talk to people and explore, and you’ll find there’s always something left yet to explore.
A few bonus tips to make your trip budget-friendly in Switzerland.
Avoid staying in major cities. No doubt staying in a major city has its perks, but it’s too expensive, and you also miss out on the scenic beauty of nature that Switzerland is all popular for. You can instead find a hotel or Airbnb far outside of the city and the postcard Switzerland you came for.
Avoid high seasons. The high seasons are winter and summer when tourists flood this country. This is also the time when rates go very high because of the demand. If you want a good deal, then plan your visit during the spring or autumn when accommodations are cheaper, and there is a lesser crowd.
Cook your meal. Carry mini gadgets that can help you cook your food, like a mini rice cooker. Stay in a place that has a kitchen, so you don’t have to buy your food.
Rent an apartment if you’re planning to stay for long. This way it is much cheaper, and you can cook your food.
Take advantage of the Swiss Pass. If you do end up getting a Swiss Travel Pass, ensure you make full use of it. Visit the museums, castles, enjoy free rides as much as you can.
Eight Hilton Hotels Located in Historic Buildings Around the World
For more than 100 years, Hilton has spread the light and warmth of hospitality across the world, creating a portfolio of hotels that not only excel at offering world-class services and amenities, but also purposefully adopt local cultures, lifestyle and a general sense of place reflected in the architecture and designs. This philosophy of adopting the feel of a hotel’s surroundings is especially evident in properties that have a significant historical value; making Hilton keen to preserve the property’s architecture and décor while combining the modernity of offerings and amenities to offer travelers an authentic, artisanal experience.
From a historic train station in St. Louis to a colonial fort in the Bahamas, and a one-time bank headquartered in Amsterdam to a chocolate factory in Croatia, here are just eight of the many Hilton hotels that allow guests to indulge in culture and comfort.
St. Louis Union Station Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton, United States
Built in 1894 in what was once the most ornate railway terminal in the United States, this National Historic Landmark in downtown St. Louis was converted to a hotel in 1985 and is well-known for its iconic Grand Hall, a lobby lounge area with 65-foot ornate vaulted ceilings on which a dazzling 3D light show is projected nightly.
The hotel is located in “Casa San Agustin,” a registered historic building in Mexico that was built in the 1800s by Bienes Culturales de Mexico, the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Hisotria, and the Nacional de Bellas Artes. Considered an architectural jewel, the building has been used for accommodation purposes since its beginning. Various restorations have preserved much of the original exterior façade’s style, including ajarcas—moldings and ornaments that were combined with tezontle exteriors in that period.
British Colonial Hilton Nassau, Bahamas
Sitting on the Old Fort of Nassau site dating back to 1695, British Colonial Hilton Nassau is the island’s oldest resort operating in a historic building. Demolished in 1873, the Old Fort was built to protect the Nassau Harbour’s western entrance, specifically from pirates. The original hotel was built by American industrialist Henry Flagler in 1900. The existing concrete building, known as the New Colonial, was constructed in 1923, after the original wooden building was destroyed by fire. The hotel’s western wing was built on these ruins.
Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam, Netherlands
The hotel’s 93 rooms and suites are housed inside six 17th– and 18th-century buildings facing the historic Herengracht canal. As the former headquarters of a bank, the hotel is still home to the original, thick-steel vault door, which stands in front of the aptly named Vault Bar. Behind the bar itself, a wall of safety deposit boxes is propped open, with some serving as bottle shelves.
DoubleTree by Hilton Lisbon Fontana Park, Portugal
Once the site of an ironworks factory dating back to 1908, DoubleTree by Hilton Fontana Park pays homage to the building’s former life, fusing modern design with original character. Complete with an open-air courtyard and beautiful waterfall, the hotel provides a calm oasis for travelers after a busy day of sight-seeing in the Portuguese capital.
Canopy by Hilton Zagreb City Centre, Croatia
Once home to the Union chocolate factory, the first chocolate maker in South Eastern Europe, the hotel is one of the Croatian capital’s newest lifestyle hotels, where guests are presented welcome gifts of handmade chocolates upon check-in. Finding themselves located in the heart of the city, travelers are encouraged to grab a Canopy Bike and follow the brown tourism signs throughout downtown toward the Croatian National Theatre, historic Upper Town, museums and the stunning Zagreb Cathedral.
Hilton Sydney, Australia
Housing the renowned Marble Bar—a 127-year-old underground bar—Hilton Sydney is built on the ruins of the Tattersalls Hotel. Marble Bar features authentic sheets of plate-glass mirrors, marble walls, pilasters and mosaic floors. Originally built in 1893, the Victorian structure was painstakingly dismantled, transported and reassembled in Hilton Sydney in 1973—where the restored mahogany bar and marble archways still awe guests to this day.
Once the renowned Shanghai Club, the hotel retains much of its original design, offering guests a unique taste of Shanghai’s heritage and culture, all while enjoying unparalleled service, award-winning cuisine and views of the majestic Huangpu River. The historic building was built in 1864 and used to be the principal men’s club for British residents in Shanghai. The hotel is suitably located near the iconic Bund, featuring waterside strolls and shopping.
What can I do if I lied about my criminal history to travel to Australia?
You’d be surprised to hear how many people actually lie when they apply for a visa to get to Australia. This is because Australia has very strict laws concerning visas and immigration authorities want to know about any type of offences the applicants might have committed in their country of origin or indeed in any other country where they have resided for a longer period, 12 months or more typically.
What sort of offences do you need to declare when applying for an Australian visa?
Short answer: Any offence on your record.
This is the part that baffles most foreign nationals applying for an Australian visa. Why would a minor traffic offence committed 10 years ago matter to Australian authorities? Well, it matters to them so deal with it.
Can you get away with it? Yes, if you apply for a tourist visa or a Working Holiday visa you can get away with it. You will be asked for a statement concerning existing convictions and if you say you don’t have any, they’ll most probably take your word for it.
What foreigners don’t understand is that having minor convictions doesn’t necessarily mean your visa application will be denied.
If you state that you have some offences on your record, you will be required to present a national criminal history record certificate. If your convictions total less than 12 months in prison you have no reason to worry your application will be rejected. In most cases, it is only people with lengthy prison terms on their record that have to worry and even then the immigration officer in charge of your case may grant you a visa after reviewing your circumstances.
So, why would you lie if you only have some minor offence on your criminal record?
What can you do if you lied on your visa application?
Many young people coming to Australia on a Working Holiday visa (417 visa) decide they want to stay longer if they’ve found a good employment. For that, your employer needs to sponsor you for a Temporary Skills Shortage visa (428 visa) and this is when that little white lie comes back to haunt you.
When you apply for a 428 visa you will need to submit a national police check from your country of origin which will include the offence you have lied about in your original visa application.
The only thing you can do is tell the truth this time and hope for the best. If you’re lucky, the officer in charge of your application might not notice you omitted to mention your past convictions when you first came to Australia and granted you the 428 visa no questions asked.
However, there’s a strong possibility your lie will be discovered and that’s pretty serious. Even if it was a stupid traffic offence, the Department of Home Affairs might deny your request simply because you lied in the first place.
If you really want to stay and work in Australia it’s best to seek professional migration assistance. There are various organisations that deal with such problems and they can guide you through the process.
It’s not a guarantee, but in many cases the lie in your first visa application can be forgiven provided you can offer solid character references, which are an essential part of the character assessment.
Bottom line – If you want to travel to Australia, better don’t lie to the immigration authorities, saving yourself a lot of headache!
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