- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 5, 2005

LONDON — They annoy people on trains and in restaurants and will soon irritate passengers on airplanes. But mobile telephones will no longer be able to ruin some tourists’ enjoyment of some of the world’s most stunning places — from the Taj Mahal to Mount Kilimanjaro.

An adventure vacation company has become the first travel group to ban tourists from carrying cell phones after customers complained that “intrusive” ring tones, such as the Crazy Frog, and the “endless chatter” that followed, were ruining once-in-a-lifetime trips.

The Adventure Company of Hampshire, England, said it had received complaints about telephones ringing at “romantic moments” at unspoiled places, including the ancient Treasury at Petra in Jordan, the Inca city of Machu Picchu in Peru, the Taj Mahal in India and the remote summit of Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro.

Managing Director Mark Wright said, “We had people who had done the Inca trail and arrived at Machu Picchu to watch a stunning sunrise only for a phone to go off.”

“It’s happened at lots of other beautiful places. People travel with us to get away from it all, but mobile phones can be reached almost all over the world now.

“These are expensive and often once-in-a-lifetime trips, so we decided that the best solution was to ban mobile phones altogether,” he said.

Starting next year, the tour guides will collect cell phones from travelers at the beginning of the trip and return them at the end. The guides will have cell phones for use in emergencies.

The ban will begin with trips to Nepal and will be extended to Peru, Morocco, Iceland, India and Spain, followed by Kilimanjaro, Namibia, Jordan and the Galapagos Islands.

One tourist who complained about cell phones was Graham Bishop, 29, a consultant from Chichester, West Sussex, England. He was 10,000 feet up Kilimanjaro when a fellow traveler decided to call his secretary in England and dictate changes to a speech or document.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Mr. Bishop said. “We were just putting up our tent at a campsite on the Machame route up Kilimanjaro when this guy … suddenly started talking on his mobile in a loud voice.”

A spokeswoman for the Association of British Travel Agents welcomed the move. “I am sure that other travel firms will follow suit,” she said.

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