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BET’s Bob Johnson adds to the African luxury hotel surge

January 25th, 2008 | 2 Comments | Posted in Business, Charity, Events, Film/Television, General, Politics, Travel

Bob Johnson Liberia SirleafIn the past few years there’s been a bit of news coming out of new hotel projects taking place on the African continent. From the Hilton Hotels Group to the Rezidor Hotel Group it seems there’s a lot of interest in Africa as a luxury travel destination. Some will say that the shift is part of the overall change in the world’s political climate, where stories of terrorist attacks come out of former tourist “safe havens”. Whether that is the case or if it’s a result of the increased marketing and advertising efforts by African countries such as Tanzania, the fact is that developers are looking to Africa as a premiere destination for luxury travel. But it’s not just the large developers who are jumping onto the trend. Recently Charlotte Bobcats owner and BET founder Robert L. (Bob) Johnson along with a delegation of African American businesspeople announced an agreement with the government of Liberia to build a villa-style, four-star hotel in Monrovia. The project falls under Bob Johnson’s Maryland-based firm RLJ Companies, which with some 135 hotels valued at more than $3 billion, is the largest Black-owned hotel investment company in the United States. The Liberian hotel project is the result of a “commitment” made by Bob Johnson, Debra Lee, Chairman and CEO of BET, and actors Chris Tucker, Cicely Tyson, and actor Jeffrey Wright among others to Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at the 2006 Clinton Global Initiative Annual meeting. In addition to the hotel, which is scheduled to break ground in March 2008 and open in February 2009, Bob Johnson also donated $3 million to open a new fund which will “provide Liberian entrepreneurs and businesses with the financial and technical resources they need to rejuvenate the country’s economy and foster long-term stability in the wake of two decades of civil strife”.

What makes this story interesting, besides the kind of project the group chose to launch, is also the fact that – as I’ve reported numerous times on this site – African Americans are increasingly putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to Africa’s business development. And with Liberia being a country which was established as a place to send freed African-American slaves, what better place for a serious businessman like Bob Johnson to invest in. Black Enterprise Magazine quotes Andy Ingraham, President and CEO of the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators & Developers saying, “It’s important to note that this is part of an overall philanthropic effort by Robert Johnson, and you will see more African Americans not only doing increased business with the Caribbean and Africa, but also entering into philanthropic ventures….African American investors have been in talks with developing countries in Africa such as South Africa and Ghana, to build hotels.”. This is certainly a story to watch.
(photo: RLJ Cos.)

Immigrants experience Post-Vacation Syndrome

January 14th, 2008 | 4 Comments | Posted in General, Travel

JFK arrivalsThis guest post is written by cognitive psychologist Dr. Vidal Annan Jr. Ph.D. It is not meant to be a diagnosis but rather an observation.

Although Post-Vacation Syndrome (PVS) is a clinical condition that occurs in 90% of international vacationers, recent evidence suggests that a particular subset of travelers may be experiencing the debilitating effects of this disorder in disproportionate numbers. The travelers in question are immigrants from so-called “third-world” countries who currently reside in the west, but return to vacation in their countries of birth/ancestral origin. Whereas the PVS symptoms in the general traveling population may include some depressive and anxiety symptoms lasting about four days, “immigrant vacationers”, as this subset of travelers are often referred to in the clinical literature, appear to experience more severe symptoms lasting as long as two months. There have even been some anecdotal reports of difficulties persisting for six months or more.

For immigrant vacationers, the symptoms of PVS generally include deep feelings of loss and regret characterized by moodiness, crying spells, changes in eating and sleeping (independent of jet lag), loss of energy, and intrusive, recurring flashbacks of pleasurable experiences that occurred during the trip. The symptoms are usually evident about three days before the end of the vacation and intensify upon return to the country of residence. Research also suggests that difficult airport experiences during the process of return (misplaced tickets, lost luggage, arrogant or incompetent airport staff) may exacerbate the symptoms. Upon return, individuals with this disorder may experience difficulty returning to their normal activities such as work, preferring to review photographs from the vacation and daydream about subsequent trips to the homeland. Many individuals also report a compulsive need to make comparisons between the homeland and their current country of residence, usually with the homeland being seen as more favorable (ex. the quality of life, food, entertainment, etc.). Some researchers have also reported manic-type episodes in which individuals suffering from PVS begin to develop elaborate plans to uproot from their lives in the west and “return home”. Although mental health professionals often see these thoughts and feelings as irrational distortions of an individual dealing with overwhelming feelings of loss and guilt, many immigrant vacationers have reported that these same feelings have sometimes fueled concrete plans to return home.

Annan (2007) has looked specifically at immigrant vacationers from developing countries in Africa. His work suggests that the degree of PVS that an individual experiences post-vacation is highly correlated with his/her perception of the level of socioeconomic, political, and infrastructural growth occurring in the mother country. For example, Annan’s data showed more severe symptoms in immigrants from African countries that are currently experiencing record growth in the private
sector.

Currently, the first line intervention for PVS is psychotherapy. In some treatments, individuals are encouraged to explore their feelings of loss and regret, with the goal of ultimately reducing the depressive and anxiety symptoms. “Gradual Withdrawal” is another common treatment in which patients who become “over-involved” in cultural pursuits after return from vacation (eating ethnic foods, listening to ethnic music, engaging in political discussions), are supported as they slowly return to their pre-vacation level of cultural participation. Annan and his colleagues have also pioneered a treatment strategy named the “Call of Home” program. This reality-based model starts with the assumption that the symptoms of PVS are not necessarily psychopathological, rather the disorder may reflect a deep ambivalence about one’s life goals that is simply triggered by the vacation experience. In his treatment, clients are encouraged to explore their thoughts and feelings about “returning home” or “staying put”, with both options seen as rational and legitimate. Clinical comparison studies of the more popular interventions are under way, but early evidence suggests that the “Call of Home” treatment may be more efficacious than other therapy models in alleviating symptoms of PVS.

What are you doing to battle the effects of PVS on you and your family?

Africa 2.0 panel at SXSW Interactive 2008

January 11th, 2008 | 6 Comments | Posted in Business, Charity, Fashion, General, Music, Politics, Technology

Africa 2.0 SXSWA few months ago I asked for votes for a panel idea I had proposed for the upcoming South by SouthWest (SXSW) Interactive Festival. Well I’m happy to announce that with the support of many bloggers and readers, the Africa 2.0 panel has been chosen as part of the schedule for the upcoming SXSW Festival. Taking place on March 9, 2008, the Africa 2.0 panel will bring together a group of African professionals who are all using technology in innovative ways. The panelists for what might be the only Africa-focused panel during the festival will be:
• Erik Hersman (WhiteAfrican.com, AfriGadget.com)
• Uduak Oduok (Ladybrille.com)
• Nii Simmonds (Nubian Cheetah)
• Chosan (Silverstreetz Entertainment)

As the moderator, I will be leading a discussion on how technology is being used to affect change in Africa. The panelists will be discussing how technology factors into efforts in different industries including fashion, entertainment, finance, and marketing. For a perfect example of how technology can affect change in Africa, visit Ushahidi, a collaborative effort by African bloggers to report on the election-provoked crisis currently taking place in Kenya.

Video: Thinking big in Ghana

January 9th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted in Business, Charity, Film/Television, General, Technology, Travel

“What makes a country great is not that people stay there, but that other people want to come there”


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