The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 15 March 2016

Image: Dan Lundberg

Widening the smiles

Collaborations between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) can sometimes be hit and miss, with joint efforts by the 10 member states to rein in Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea yet to yield results. But a new plan to boost tourism in the region may prove more successful: tied to next year’s 50th anniversary of the bloc’s founding, the campaign seeks to lure travellers to Southeast Asia’s best festivals and signature hospitality, and increase the number of international visitors to 121 million by the end of next year. Vietnam and Burma’s burgeoning hospitality industries could take some tips from the region's tourism heavy-hitter Thailand: despite political difficulties it is booming on the tourism front by emphasising authenticity and comfort.

Image: Getty Images

SXSW appeal

With Texan sun in abundance and the waft of barbecue never too far from the conference centre, the 2016 edition of the South By Southwest (SXSW) festival is now very much underway in Austin. President Obama’s keynote speech made headlines on the opening day – he’ll be followed by wife Michelle tomorrow – but the event is also proving that, though other suitors have tried to steal its crown, none can match its fine mix of tech, film and music. Sunday was a case in point, from a panel chat that featured Obama’s ex-speechwriter Jon Favreau to CNN’s food show presenter Anthony Bourdain talking about the importance of transparent journalism. SXSW’s music segment, arguably the main event, kicks off later today.

Welcome home

With yachts lining the marina outside the Palais des Festivals, more than 20,000 property developers, builders, architects and investors descend on Cannes this week as Mipim rolls into town. The annual four-day property exhibition and all-round industry schmooze begins today and includes conferences dedicated to how technology, tourism and climate change figure in the future of the market. “Housing the World” is the overarching theme of this year’s event. “Housing is a topic that now concerns all players that attend Mipim,” says Filippo Rean, director of the real-estate division for Mipim and Mapic markets. “While investors may have looked at the idea of investing in housing in the past, increasing population movement and the need for sustainable urban development means that the residential sector is of increasing economic importance.”

Image: Getty Images

Air mail

Amazon has already staked out its aerial ambitions by suggesting that it’ll soon be making deliveries by drones. But a new plan to lease its own fleet of aircrafts ups the ante for online retailers. Amazon’s success in the US has been largely down to its Prime service, offering two-day delivery to subscribers, and this new air-cargo network will fine-tune the engine even further. “Amazon wants to take ownership of its deliveries without relying on other freight operators,” says Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at Strategic Aero Research. “If Amazon makes a success of this, there's always a possibility that it will consider taking on FedEx or UPS beyond just shipping Amazon products.”

From Monocle 24

Is Vantablack the new black?

The art world is all riled up by the news that Anish Kapoor has acquired the artistic rights to a material called Vantablack: the blackest substance known to man, which absorbs almost all light and heat. It’s a strange material that is used in defence, aviation and technology but when applied to art plays with the ideas of colour and depth. It opens up a fascinating debate of ownership and aesthetics; we get the legal and artistic perspectives on this storm in a paint pot.

From Monocle Films

Made in Naples

Naples has been a centre for craftsmanship, shipbuilding and tailoring for generations. Touring some of the thousands of workshops and studios around the famous bay reveals a city that makes a whole lot more than pizza.

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