The Monocle Minute

In association with Brand Hong Kong x Monocle logo

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 7 March 2016

Image: Greg Men

Turbulent times?

If you have a hotel in Sierra Leone, organise treks through the Amazon or run coach tours along the Rhine, you will likely be in Berlin on Wednesday. It’s ITB time and this year the massive travel trade show features 10,000 exhibitors from around the globe. The Internationale Tourismus Börse Berlin is an exhausting and unwieldy affair yet it’s here that travel brands of all scales will be attempting to win traffic. But this year the shadow of global politics looms large as Tunisia and Paris try to put terrorism behind them, refugee charities take pitches and, yes, a hotel in Syria sets out to tempt people with the pleasures of Damascus.

Branching out

Western Australia is turning over a new leaf with the recent opening of its City of Perth Library: it’s the first civic structure to be built in the CBD in 44 years. The seven-level, 3,500 sq m building was designed by Kerry Hill Architects and cost AU$60m (€40.4m). Standout features include a ceiling mural by artist Andrew Nicholls, a fig tree in the children’s reading room, a 13-metre-high green wall and a terrace overlooking the Swan River. The curving façade of horizontal shafts is intended to evoke the leaves of a book. “For a building that is meant to be quiet it makes a very loud design statement,” says Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi. Sitting on the site of the city’s former law chambers, the library is part of a AU$700m (€470m) transformation of Perth’s formerly neglected historical centre into a dining, retail, cultural and administrative hub.

Image: Getty Images

Deer hunter

It’s impossible to picture Nara without imagining the herds of deer that roam the Japanese city centre. The deer have lived so close to the 1,200-year-old Kasuga Grand Shrine since the city’s founding that they’re viewed as messengers of the deities and have become an enormous draw for tourists. They even have special status under a Japanese law protecting cultural properties. But now a panel of experts working for Nara prefecture has concluded that the regional government should catch and kill deer around farmlands where the animals are helping themselves to farmers’ crops. Such talk has long been taboo despite research showing that deer are so abundant in the area that they’re hurting plant diversity. Nara would not target the estimated 1,200 deer in the city centre and would have to submit a detailed plan to the national government’s Cultural Affairs Agency for approval. Even so, it’s not an idea that’s likely to go down well with much of the Japanese public.

Image: Tauno Tõhk

Crazy taxi

Hong Kong residents are witnessing a shift change in their trusty fleet of red taxis as more drivers park the Toyota Crown Comforts in favour of roomier electric models from Nissan and China’s BYD. Improved hardware matters in an industry facing increasing competition from ride-hailing apps such as Didi Chuxing and GoGoVan. Yet it might be the customer service that needs an overhaul: ill-mannered drivers are the most common source of complaint behind refused fares. Forced to take action the Hong Kong Taxi Council, a coalition of cabbies formed last year, is launching an app in May that will allow passengers to pick routes and rate drivers. Cabbies with unsatisfactory ratings will be asked to take an etiquette improvement course, resulting in a certificate, which will be recognised on the app.

From Monocle 24

Image: Simon Bajada

In search of the world’s best pizza

Food writer Daniel Young is about to release his new book ‘Where to Eat Pizza’, which lists over 1,700 of the world’s best pizzerias across 48 countries. He explains that there is more than one way to prepare a pizza – although many seem to think otherwise.

From Monocle Films

Showtime – Expo 2015

Monocle Films visits the national pavilions at the Universal Exposition – hosted in 2015 by the city of Milan – to see how countries use this global stage to grow their businesses and brands.

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