Monday, April 07, 2008
Roll up for the newest travel trend: smoking tourism
This article of mine appears in today's Guardian.
The potential European holiday destinations for diehard British puffers looking to escape the draconian smoking ban - if only for a few days - are dwindling in number.
France, that one-time smoker's paradise, is now off limits. So too are Ireland, Italy, Scandinavia and most of Germany. And from July 1, we can also forget about lighting up in most enclosed public places in the Netherlands.
However, some smoky oases remain. In Belgium, less than two hours away from central London by Eurostar, smoking is still allowed in bars and cafes. Indeed, it is home to several specialist smokers' clubs - including the Tabaco in Hasselt, which holds regular get-togethers for female cigar smokers.
Spain, too, remains smoker-friendly, while soccer-loving smokers planning a trip to Euro 2008 are also in luck: the tournament is being held in two of the least tobaccophobic countries in the continent. In Switzerland, only the canton of Ticino has thus far imposed a ban, while Austria boasts the highest level of public opposition to a smoking ban in the EU. Central and eastern Europe also remains largely unconquered territory.
But "smoking tourism", though in its infancy, is a sector of the industry that seems certain to grow. In Germany, entrepreneur Alexander W Schoppmann is planning "Smokers' International Airways" (Smintair) for those who miss their on-flight nicotine fix. One of the biggest travel agencies in Japan is offering European tours specially designed for smokers. Estonia, meanwhile, offers short breaks for cigar smokers to enjoy their hobby in the comfort of the cigar lounges of Tallinn. It's an initiative that is likely to be followed by other countries that haven't adopted British-style bans.
Pipe-smoking holidays to Poznan? Weekend smoking breaks to Vienna? Forget tax havens: smoke havens could be the next big thing.