There is so much that happens in the travel industry every week, and only a portion of it makes it to TravelLatte or other travel blogs. We’ll capture some of the highlights with this recurring feature, Travel News This Week. Please let us know you like it with a comment!
Summer’s Last Stand
This is it! It’s Labor Day Weekend, summer’s last stand before fall comes rushing in. While summer is the traditional heavy travel season, fall is a great season to get out and explore our world! Cooler temperatures, smaller crowds, and shoulder-season pricing can are what travel dreams are made of.
A lot of people like to get away with a Leaf Peeping Road Trip. Here are some ideas to get you in that Autumnal state of mind:
- Best New England Leaf Peeping Road Trip in New Hampshire
- A Fall Weekend in Vermont’s Green Mountains
- Recreation.gov’s 10 States to See Stunning Fall Colors
- Fodor’s 10 Best Fall Foliage Trips in the U.S.
- The Daily Meal’s 7 Dazzling Fall Foliage Tours Around the World
Back to School, Back to Parks
Every parent has a love/hate relationship with Back to School, and it’s that time of year again. Here’s something to love about the school year, though: Every Kid in a Park! This is the second for the program from Recreation.gov, which grants free access to every park for every fourth grader and his or her family, for the entire year. Natural wonders, historic sites, national treasures – all included!
The Fourth Grade Pass is good for the entire school year plus next summer. The pass gives kids and families free admission to every facility run by the Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and other departments, where admission or use fees are charged. You can get all the details and apply for your fourth grader’s free pass at everykidinapark.gov.
With pass in hand, the only question is where will your family make memories?
Priceline Grounds Name Your Own Price for Flights
Without much (or any) fanfare, Priceline has quietly discontinued its Name Your Own Price bidding for flights. As of September 1, the company stopped offering its original service, which it launched with in 1997. However, you can still name your own price for hotels and rental cars.
Several years ago, Priceline began downplaying the service when it introduced Express Deals for flights, which are far easier to book on mobile devices. Those deals are still available, offering savings up to 50% off published fares without bidding. However, the itinerary and carrier are not shown until after purchase.
Miami’s Zika Sting Operation
According to CNN, officials in Florida have trapped three Zika-positive mosquitos in a 1.5-mile area of Miami Beach’s South Beach neighborhood. Over the past two months, about two dozen Zika cases have been linked to transmission in Miami’s Wynwood district, along with South Beach. More cases have been confirmed in other parts of Miami-Dade County, also. It’s now classified as a “zone of active transmission” of the virus, as well as an active tourist zone.
Miami Beach welcomes more than 15-million visitors a year, and the state of Florida set a new tourism record of more than 105-million visitors last year. It’s a major economic engine for the state. But a new Kaiser Family Foundation survey released this week shows 48% of Americans are wary of traveling to an area of the country where patients have contracted the Zika virus from mosquito bites. Clearly, Florida has a lot at stake.
One of the traps that caught a Zika-positive mosquito was at Miami Beach Botanical Gardens, where a large number of bromeliads were in bloom. Bromeliads are problematic because the plants hold water, making them ideal breeding grounds for mosquitos. So the city is removing the plants from its landscaping, and suggesting residents do the same.
As the state prepared for Hurricane Hermine, Governor Rick Scott ordered helicopter spraying for Miami-Dade, as suggested by the Centers for Disease Control. While it’s too early to predict results, officials at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said 95 more mosquito samples have tested negative since the three positive samples were found.
Meanwhile, Zika Stings the Caribbean
The British Virgin Island’s Ministry of Health and Social Development confirmed five cases of the Zika virus last week, and the CDC recently added the Cayman Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, and Turks and Caicos to its interim travel guidance related to the Zika virus in the Caribbean.
Previous travel advisories for the Caribbean have included Anguilla, Aruba, Barbados, Belize, Bonaire, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, French Guiana, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Puerto Rico, Saba, St. Barthelemy, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten/St. Martin, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and the U.S. Virgin Islands
Record Revenue from Fees – It’s not just the airlines.
We’re used to seeing airlines making huge profits from fees, but hotels have also been racking up huge profits from fees, too. A record 2.45 billion was collected in 2015, and U.S. hotels are on track for $2.55-billion in 2016. That’s according to a new report from NYU’s Jonathan M. Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism, and professor Bjorn Hanson.
Thankfully, less of that revenue is likely to be coming from Wi-Fi charges. According to the J.D. Power rankings for North American Hotel Guest Satisfaction, free Wi-Fi was named as the most important amenity by 71% of respondents. According to Hanson, hotel brands have taken note and are changing brand standards to require hotel owners to increase Wi-Fi access.
Other fees – including the hated Resort Fees – may be getting more attention from the Federal Trade Commission. Earlier this year, Democrat Missouri senator Claire McCaskill said she would introduce legislation aimed at “deceptive hotel fees,” characterizing them as “bait and switch” practices. McCaskill asked consumers to “Submit Your Scam” to relate stories of misleading or deceptive hotel fees. Soon after, an advisory panel at the Department of Transportation made a recommendation that such fees be included in the hotel room’s advertised price. (We at TravelLatte have called for this as well, but we suspect the Feds have a little more influence than us mere consumers.)
While there are no plans for regulation at this point, it’s clear that the government has the issue on its radar. Senator McCaskill has long been a champion for travelers. Amongst other things, she pressed hard to win the right to keep our cell phones on in-flight.
- Monterey, California: The grand-daddy of jazz, the Monterey Jazz Festival brings together fans and musicians from around the world for three days of music and more, September 16 to 18. As the longest continuously-running jazz festival in the world, the Monterey Jazz Festival has presented nearly every major artist in the world. This year’s highlight performances include Quincy Jones, Wayne Shorter, Joshua Redman, the Toshiko Akiyoshi Trio, the Christian McBride Trio, Maceo Parker, Pat Metheny with Antonio Sanchez, and dozens more. Tickets and volunteer opportunities are still available.
- London, England: London has long been known as the design capital of the world, and that heritage is celebrated in the London Design Festival, September 17 to 25. More than 400 events and installations will take place, from an engaging program at the Victoria and Albert Museum to large scale installations across landmark locations. Look for the landmark projects The Smile, at the Rootstein Hopkins Parade Ground of the Chelsea College of Arts, and MINI LIVING installations, showcasing unused urban spaces around the city made accessible to the public as places to relax, meet or be productive.
- Gatlinburg, Tennessee: The Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival, from September 23 to October 31, features several events throughout Gatlinburg and the Tennessee Valley. In downtown Gatlinburg, the city features lavish fall decorations, craft shows, special events, great food and plenty of fun things to do. At the same time, OktOberfest kicks off at the mountaintop Ober Gatlinburg Amusement Park and Ski Area. The festival features Bavarian-style food, indoor and outdoor bier gartens, music and live entertainment daily. The best way to get there is on the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tram, with spectacular views of fall foliage across the Smoky Mountains and Tennessee Valley.
The Weekly Win
One of our favorite travel publications is WhereTraveler, in part because they often give things away. This month, it’s a trip to America’s Music City, including a few nights at the legendary Hermitage Hotel, and a show at the Grand Ole Opry. Get the details here.