Rivers, travel not expected to be impacted by rising temperature across …

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Warming temperatures and weekend rain will not impact river conditions or travel much, according to the National Weather Service.

Temperatures will hover in the upper 40s Saturday with a 40 percent chance of rain, National Weather Service meteorologist Lee Hendricks said. As much as three-quarters of an inch of rain could fall, but it won’t be enough to cause the ice to rise on the rivers or cause major travel safety issues.

Some portions of the Allegheny River, including an area in Armstrong County, are covered in large areas of ice.

The rain will continue into Saturday night and Sunday morning, when temperatures will be in the mid-30s.

Patches of ice are possible over the weekend despite above freezing temperatures because the ground is still frozen, Mr. Hendricks said. No traffic warnings have been issued.

For the latest conditions and forecast, visit the PG’s weather page.

Lauren Lindstrom: llindstrom@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1964.

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Article source: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/region/2014/01/31/Rivers-travel-not-expected-to-be-impacted-by-rising-temperature-across-Western-Pennsylvania/stories/201401310138

Travel club con-artist books trip to prison after stealing millions; wife … – The Star

Daryl Turner, who admitted being the mastermind of a travel club scam that netted millions of dollars from vacation-hungry customers, was sentenced today to seven years in prison and led off in handcuffs.

Turner’s wife Robyn Bernstein received five years probation for her part in the swindle.

The sentences, handed down in Superior Court in Burlington County, came after the couple pleaded guilty to second-degree theft by deception charges in August.

Turner, who wore a white thermal shirt and burgundy slacks, declined to comment before his sentencing. “No one believes anything you say, even the customers,” he told a reporter.

Turner, 42, and Bernstein, 44, promised customers of their travel clubs low-cost luxury vacations in exotic locales in exchange for membership fees that often exceeded $5,000, but it was a ruse. After collecting money from would-be travelers, the couple would shut down the travel club and reopen a new club under another name, and not deliver the promised vacations to customers.

“After law enforcement shut down Turner’s shady travel companies, he opened a new one and went back to his old tricks,” said Elie Honig, director of the Division of Criminal Justice. “By sending Turner to prison, we have ended his fraud spree and warned the public that this is not a man you want to trust with your money.”

Turner’s company names included Dreamworks Vacation Club, Bentley Travel, Modern Destinations Unlimited, Blue Water Gateway, Five Points Travel Company, La Bonne Vie Travel and Vacation Clubs LLC.

The criminal charges said the couple allegedly laundered more than $700,000 from their illegitimate businesses to pay for their Marlton home, which public records showed was worth $751,300 in 2011. The state put a lien against the home when Turner was first arrested in July 2011, and it seized eight bank accounts, five luxury cars including a Ferrari and a Bentley, and a speedboat.


Travel scammer and wife plead guilty to defrauding consumers

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Alleged travel scammer and wife indicted on new charges

Bamboozled: The latest on travel scam cases and the Sandy “summit”

Class-action suit against Jersey travel clubs can move forward

Continuing the fight against alleged travel agency scammer Daryl Turner

Cherry Hill man accused of scamming travelers released from jail; N.J. seizes cars, bank accounts

Complaints about travel company keep rolling in

Did travel scammer book a return trip?

Payments to scammed travel customers delayed

Cherry Hill man agrees to $3M settlement in bogus travel companies case

Complaints grow against man’s 12 bogus travel companies

Somerville couple never got promised free vacation

“Turner carried out one fraudulent scheme after another, stealing from hundreds of unsuspecting customers who thought he would make traveling more affordable for them,” said acting attorney general John Hoffman. “Instead, he ruthlessly stole the money they had set aside for their vacations. This sentence puts Turner safely behind bars, where he can no longer deliver his devious sales pitches, and it requires him to pay full restitution to his victims.”

As part of the plea deal. Turner and Bernstein agreed to forfeit the Marlton home and the other assets seized in the investigation, which will be liquidated as part of the approximately $2.6 million in restitution due to his victims.

The pair had faced charges including money laundering, that could have lead to 20 years in prison and fines exceeding $1 million each if convicted.

“I’m proud of the state,” said Mike Hagan, a customer of Turner’s Travel Deals, one the many companies featured in The Star-Ledger’s Bamboozled column, which extensively covered Turner’s exploits. “Seven years is good. He’s not going to get his cappuccinos and steak and martinis.”

Hagan paid $3,000 by credit card and was supposed to pay an additional $2,100 in installments using automatic payments from his checking account. With help from the Bamboozled column, those payments were stopped, but Hagan never recouped his $3,000.

Like hundreds of other consumers, Hagan is waiting to hear from the state about getting his money back.

“The civil and criminal cases are concluded but we do not consider this matter closed until restitution is in the hands of these consumers,” said Eric Kanefsky, director of the state’s Consumer Affairs Division.

After the sentencing, Turner’s attorney, Jeffrey Zucker said Turner “is remorseful for anyone who lost money and he wants to make restitution.”

The judge granted Turner’s requert for 90 more days to allow his attorney to show proof that some customers received refunds, charge backs or otherwise benefitted from the travel service. Zucker said they estimate about $450,000 should be cut from the restitution figure offered by the state.

The Bamboozled column will share the restitution news as it becomes available.

Have you been bamboozled? Contact Karin Price Mueller at bamboozled@starledger.com.

Article source: http://www.nj.com/business/index.ssf/2014/01/travel_club_con-artist_books_trip_to_prison_after_stealing_millions_wife_receives_probation.html

Letters to the Travel editor

Dick Israel

Rockville, Md.

My husband and I have been living in Ankara off and on since 2006. Sometime during that first year, a Turkish friend took me to Ahmet Geyikoglu’s carpet shop to purchase our first carpet. Since then we have returned many times. We have brought visiting friends, who have bought a total of 10 carpets or kilims from him. From the very first, I was captured by Ahmet’s charm. Over the years, he has extended us many courtesies, and I too am the recipient of some additional “goodies” that he has graciously given me.

My views of the difference between Ankara and Istanbul are similar to those in the article, except that I describe the difference as that between Tampa (our home town) and New York, rather than Washington. I don’t think that Ankara quite has the glories or diversities of our nation’s capital.

Alice K. Nelson

Ankara, Turkey

Greek resilience

I liked the article on Greece’s Mani Peninsula [“A Grecian idyll, Jan. 19] very much, but I would like to comment on some of the statements about Greece’s current economic difficulties. One of the things that would help Greece and her people immensely at this time would be a vote of confidence from those who have visited the country during this difficult period and have, in spite of it, had a wonderful and fulfilling time. The Greek people have a fighting spirit and pride that will guide them in overcoming their hardships. They will be victorious no matter how long it will take for the country to recover. I hope you can reflect this in any future writing on the subject of Greece.

Louna Coumeri-Malkoutzis

Calvert Green, Buckinghamshire, England

The joys of New Haven

As a native of New Haven and a Yale alumna, I was shocked that Amanda Erickson omitted the names of the finest ethnic food “options” in the world: Sally’s and Pepe’s [“New Haven, creatively transformed,” Jan. 19]. The first question one always asks a New Haven native to determine his or her authenticity is: “So which pizza do you prefer: Sally’s or Pepe’s?” When I moved to the Washington area 34 years ago, I hung a laminated pizza box from Sally’s on my office wall as the most representative possible artifact of my heritage.

And just for the record, New Haven, even with its urban imperfections, wasn’t a half-bad place in which to grow up. To be quite frank, I’d be glad to give up the “curried tuna and goat cheese” for one more counter meal at the now-closed Yankee Doodle. Gentrification, pricey real estate and chic clothing stores come with their own costs.

Mindy Portnoy

Kensington, Md.

Malaysian musings

Thank you for the great article about Ipoh [“A wrong turn goes right in Ipoh, Malaysia,” Jan. 26]. It’s often the towns and villages of a country you stop in “on the way to” that have given my husband and me our happiest and most meaningful travel memories. Malaysia is full of such places. In fact, had the writer explored a bit of the countryside around Ipoh, he would have seen amazing lush paddy fields broken by limestone outcroppings and breathtakingly beautiful mosques, and discovered how even in the tiniest hamlet there’s a good meal and coffee waiting at the neighborhood cafe.

Carol English

Bethesda, Md.

Article source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/travel/letters-to-the-travel-editor/2014/01/30/115e1c08-8917-11e3-a5bd-844629433ba3_story.html

Atlanta air travel freeze thawing out

Atlanta's road and weather conditions (shown here on January 29) have delayed the airport's return to business as usual.

(CNN) — Atlanta’s airport and airlines there continue to bear the brunt of this week’s snowfall that paralyzed parts of the South as their employees struggle to get to work Thursday at the world’s busiest airport.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport had nearly 500 flight cancellations by noon ET, according to FlightAware.com.

Flight operations are usually back to nearly normal volume one or two days after such a weather event, said FlightAware.com’s Mark Duell, barring any exceptional circumstances.

“The disruption to passengers is typically longer, but depends on the mix of passengers canceling their plans versus rebooking at a later date,” he said via e-mail.

Cold temperatures and icy roads are preventing some airport and airline personnel from getting to the Atlanta airport. “Some Delta employees and other people (responsible for aircraft security sweeps and cleaning aircraft) are having trouble getting to work on time,” said Delta Air Lines spokesman Morgan Durrant.

Delta canceled some 440 flights before noon Thursday, on top of about 1,500 canceled flights Wednesday. As temperatures warm up Thursday afternoon in Atlanta and the snow and ice melt, Durrant said he expects cancellations to drop.

Southwest Airlines, whose Southwest and AirTran airline brands have a large presence in Atlanta, pre-emptively canceled nearly 120 flights systemwide by midday Thursday.

“We are focused on resuming operations in Atlanta right now,” said Southwest spokesman Dan Landson via e-mail. “Our operational planners are working with all (t)eams to ensure our operations can safely get underway.”

Southwest and AirTran’s travel waivers for certain cities expire Thursday. Travelers facing delays and cancellations receive waivers so they can change tickets without extra fees or higher prices.

Delta’s travel waiver will remain in effect through Friday, Durrant said. That’s because the airline still anticipates a small number of cancellations, mostly on Delta Connection regional flights, on Friday.

Article source: http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/30/travel/atlanta-air-travel-impact/

News to use: Travel tips and trips

Here are some of the more interesting deals, websites and other travel tidbits that have come across our desk recently:

During Hotel Week Boston, Feb. 16-23, participating hotels will offer rooms with rates at least 30 percent off best available rates. hotelweekboston.com

Liberty Travel has a three-night getaway to Cancun, Mexico, priced from $625 per person double occupancy. Included is round-trip air from Miami and three nights’ lodging at the all-inclusive Oasis Cancun. 877-823-8888, tinyurl.com/mhhtj2a

It doesn’t get much cheaper than this. The Online Vacation Center has seven-night eastern Caribbean cruises on Holland America Line as cheap as $499 per person double occupancy for travel this winter. At that price, you might as well splurge and get a balcony for $250 more. The cruise is round-trip from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with port stops in the Turks and Caicos, Puerto Rico, St. Maarten and Half Moon Cay. 800-780-9002, tinyurl.com/mzsejtz

Austin Adventures, which Travel + Leisure selected as No. 1 in Family Travel in its 2012 World’s Best Awards, has family adventures in the U.S. and Canada, as well as around the world at tinyurl.com/7xnv5vh.

Gray Whale Watching in Baja, Alaska Bear Viewing Safari and Walking Holiday in Scotland are among the trips offered on the new website of AdventureWomen, which for more than three decades has been offering adventure trips aimed at women over 30. 800-804-8686, adventurewomen.com

“Slaves and Slaveholders of Wessyngton Plantation,” which looks at the lives of the slaves and their white owners on the 13,000-acre plantation in Robertson County, Tenn., will run Feb. 11 to Aug. 31 at the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville. tinyurl.com/yd3454k

The Vancouver International Wine Festival will be Feb. 24 to March 2 in the British Columbia city. vanwinefest.ca

SmarterTravel.com lists 27 inspiring places to travel at tinyurl.com/q8bxvkk.

Essential Travel, a U.K.-based online travel-insurance provider, has tips on choosing a ski helmet at tinyurl.com/lq8zeq3.

Check out Insight Vacations’ new Exotics Collection of trips at tinyurl.com/mbjfj4q.

FamilyVacationCritic.com lists its picks for best ski resorts for families at tinyurl.com/lx538ng.

Presidents’ Day weekend, Feb. 15-17, will be fee-free for national wildlife refuges.

Prices include taxes and fees unless otherwise noted. Deals and websites listed here have been checked for availability as of press time, but the listings are not endorsements.

Article source: http://www.chicagotribune.com/travel/ct-trav-0202-news-to-use-20140130,0,4235585.story

Cruise promotional period off to solid start, travel agents say – Sun

As the cruise industry’s “wave season” heats up, travel specialists say demand is strong and in some cases sales are ahead of this time last year.

That’s good news after a year rife with negative publicity arising from a series of ship mishaps at sea, the worst stranding more than 4,000 people for days in the Gulf of Mexico under unpleasant and unsanitary conditions.

During the key promotional period running January through March, cruise operators typically offer their best deals and incentives to entice travelers to book voyages early.

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“The wave season is off to a solid start when we compare it to the last four years,” said Brad Tolkin, co-chairman/CEO of World Travel Holdings, which owns Fort Lauderdale-based cruise agency networks CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. “Cruise lines are offering extremely compelling promotions for our customers [and] these deals offer incredible value.”

Besides discounted cruise fares, operators are offering extra incentives such as onboard spending credits and additional amenities to attract customers, Tolkin said.

In 2014, roughly 21.7 million travelers are forecast to cruise globally, the majority from North America, according to the Cruise Lines International Association. That’s up from the estimated 21.3 million cruisers in 2013, the trade group said.

As cruise lines upgrade ships or add new ones to fleets, competition for consumers’ travel dollars is ramping up this year, especially in the Caribbean where more vessels are being deployed.

Two new ships sailing from South Florida ports to the Caribbean this year are the 4,000-passenger Norwegian Getaway debuting in February at PortMiami and the 3,560-guest Regal Princess, which will be christened at Port Everglades in November.

The 4,345-guest MSC Divina, which launched in Europe in May 2012, also began sailing year-round from Miami to the Caribbean last November.

With capacity in the Caribbean at an all-time high in 2014, experts say this will translate to incredible deals for consumers.

“Competition will be fierce as new ships try to outdo each other and woo guests with new amenities, while older vessels will help fuel the rate war to keep occupancies at a premium,” said Sherri Eisenberg, editor-in-chief of Bon Voyage digital magazine, published by New York-based Cruiseline.com, an online cruise guide.

For new ships, some of the best deals recently available included a 7-night cruise on MSC Divina starting at $429 per person with kids 11 and younger sailing free and a 7-day sailing on Norwegian Getaway from $649 per person, Eisenberg said. Regal Princess’ seven-day sailings started from $749 per person.

Cruises to Alaska and Europe — especially European river cruises — are also hot destinations this year, said Michelle Fee, CEO and co-founder of Cruise Planners-American Express Travel in Coral Springs, which operates a network of more than 900 home-based travel agents.

“As far as deals and promotions, “wave season” is the best time for consumers to buy — and using a trusted travel agent allows travelers to lock in the most value for their money,” added Fee, noting that cruise purchases for the first 20 days of January were 17 percent ahead of last year.

asatchell@tribune.com, 954-356-4209 or Twitter@TheSatchreport.

Article source: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/business/fl-cruise-wave-season-2014-20140124,0,7105384.story

Uecker will cut back on his travel schedule in 2014

MILWAUKEE — Bob Uecker said Thursday that he plans to curtail his travel schedule in 2014, a first for the Brewers’ beloved radio broadcaster.

And as usual, he had a really good explanation.

“I saw [Brewers manager Ron] Roenicke at the ‘On Deck’ deal Sunday,” Uecker said, “and I told him I’d like to take one more shot at becoming active during those games I’m not going to broadcast.”

He delivered the line with his trademark deadpan before a chuckle escaped.

The truth is that Uecker, at 79 years old and entering his 44th season calling games for his hometown team, is finally heeding the advice of his friend and Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio by easing his workload. Uecker said he plans to continue working most or all of the Brewers’ home games, but he will skip some longer road trips.

Uecker stressed that he is in good health, and suggested that his travel schedule would be fluid.

“Sooner or later, you have to bend a little bit,” said Uecker, who is getting a second statue at Miller Park this summer. “And that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not saying that I won’t work games down to the end of the season, and if indeed there’s the possibility of the playoffs or anything else, I’m going to do that. But now is the time for me to kind of take a few games off once in a while and enjoy myself. Not that I don’t enjoy the games, because I always do. You guys know that. I’m at home at the ballpark as much as I am in my own house.

“But I had some hip surgery in November, and I’m regrouping from that yet. We’ve got Spring Training coming up a few weeks down the road, and I’m going to work the spring games and then go from there. It’s just a personal thing. This is my 59th year [in professional baseball] coming up, so that’s enough on an everyday basis. I know I’m going to miss it, each and every game. The games that I don’t do, I’ll certainly be listening to, and I’ll miss them. I know I will. You don’t do this stuff — especially in Milwaukee — for 44 years and not miss it.”

When Uecker opts to take a game or a series off, the Brewers will likely fill his seat with an analyst from among a small group of former players, said Brewers vice president of communications Tyler Barnes. Joe Block is entering his third season as Uecker’s partner on the statewide Brewers Radio Network.

“We will keep this loose,” Barnes said. “There is no set plan.”

Block has occasionally paired with guest analysts before when Uecker was away, including Brewers special assistant Craig Counsell, who sometimes travels with the team anyway as part of his front-office role. Wisconsin Badgers play-by-play man Matt Lepay, who was recently added to the Brewers’ television broadcast team as an occasional fill-in for Brian Anderson, will probably focus on his TV duties.

In dialing things back on the road, Uecker is taking a cue from legendary colleagues like Vin Scully of the Dodgers and Marty Brennaman of the Reds, each of whom has taken some games off in recent seasons. Brennaman, for example, still calls 130-140 Reds games per regular season. Uecker said he consulted with both men in thinking about his own plan.

Uecker has not missed a significant number of games since 2010, when he underwent open heart surgery and was sidelined about three months. Uecker underwent another procedure in October of that year to repair a tear at the site of his valve replacement. But by all accounts, he has been in good health since then.

Uecker has said many times in the past that when his body and mind tell him it’s time to call it quits in baseball, he will listen.

But Uecker made clear on Thursday that he’s not considering retirement just yet.

“I really haven’t looked that far ahead,” he said, before laughing and adding, “Although, you know, everybody goes. Down the road, you just do it, that’s all, until either you’re tired or you can’t talk anymore.

“I’m not going to embarrass myself, I know that. But there comes a time when everybody has to go. I don’t want to be taking any ‘dirt bath’ now, but everybody, sooner or later, that’s part of living, is going the other way. To be able to continue going and do this at the big league level — man, it’s a great job. I’ve had a great job, not only with baseball, but with all the other stuff I’ve done. It’s all been a big kick for me. Now, everything is recorded and you can go back and look. So it’s not like you quit and you’re gone forever. … When the time comes to get out or leave permanently, I’ll do that, too.”

The extra time off will allow Uecker to enjoy more of Wisconsin’s fleeting summer. He is an avid fisherman and is looking forward to more time on Lake Michigan. You might even see him in the movies, if a long-rumored production of “Major League IV” comes to fruition.

“I’ll be honest with you, they’re talking about it,” Uecker said. “The storyline is all set, too. They’ve already asked me if I would be in for ‘Major League IV,’ and I told them I would. I’ve talked to the directors. They’re talking about it and they’re pretty serious, but that’s all I can tell you, really. If there was more, I would tell you that, too. They have been talking about it for the last year-plus. As a matter of fact, they called me during the season last year and asked me if I would be in.”

Uecker’s first love remains baseball itself, the game Uecker began playing as a boy growing up in Milwaukee. It took him all the way to the Major Leagues, then to Hollywood and back to the broadcast booth.

“Last year, I thought, ‘I’m coming up on 80 years old, and it’s not a bad idea to kick back and enjoy yourself a little bit and take some time off and catch a few extra fish and do the things I enjoy doing,’” Uecker said. “Like I said before, it’s hard to get out. It’s hard to get away from something you love and something you’ve done for so long.”

Article source: http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article/mlb/bob-uecker-will-cut-back-on-his-travel-schedule-in-2014?ymd=20140130&content_id=67267964&vkey=news_mlb

Travel the World on Cargo Cruises


SHIP TO SHORE | A view from the RMS St Helena, which travels between Cape Town, St. Helena and Ascension Island in the South Atlantic Ocean.

WHEN THE CARGO liner CMA CGM Figaro comes into New York Bay, she does so with shipping containers stacked high on her deck, like enormous Lego bricks. From shore, one can only guess at what she’s carrying. Electronics from Yokohama? Maybe. Clothing from Hong Kong? Possibly. A swimming pool and a few paying passengers? Very likely.

The pool is pretty much where the similarities with a traditional cruise begin and end. A mega-liner like

Royal Caribbean‘s

RCL +3.76%

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.




Jan. 30, 2014 4:01 pm

Volume (Delayed 15m)




Jan. 30, 2014 4:26 pm

Volume (Delayed 15m):

P/E Ratio

Market Cap
$10.77 Billion

Dividend Yield

Rev. per Employee

01/27/14 Royal Caribbean’s Revenue Rise…
01/26/14 Caribbean Cruise Cut Short as …
12/10/13 The Morning Ledger: CFOs Head …
More quote details and news »

RCL in

Your Value
Your Change

Short position

Oasis of the Seas can carry more than 6,000 passengers; most freighters (if they take guests) top out at about 12. There is no rock wall. No spa. Cabins, though they tend to be spacious, are utilitarian (imagine yourself on the SS IKEA). Instead of a dozen restaurants operating around the clock, cargo ships have officers’ dining rooms that serve meals at appointed times.

For some, the appeal of freighter travel is the prospect for a “Fantastic Voyage”-like journey through the arteries of global commerce. Others like the idea of seeing little-known destinations, like Pago Pago in American Samoa, or relish the opportunity to read and write in near isolation. (Internet connectivity, via satellite, is limited at best.) And unlike with a traditional cruise, it is often possible to arrange passage over just a segment of a ship’s route—for instance, if you wanted to get to Europe without flying.

Even the shortest leg, however, requires both time and flexibility. A 20-day voyage might come in at 19 or 22, as commerce and weather dictate. Rates start at about $130 a day. Working with a specialist travel agent is not just advised, it’s pretty much mandatory.

Cargo ships travel the world without consideration of tourist season or how sandy nearby beaches are; if there is a deep port there is probably a ship to get you there. Click the map to view a few of the more compelling trips available.

Illustration by Michael Byers for The Wall Street Journal

Explore More

Article source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304632204579339301040166302.html

Travel pays


In January 2011, Travel Oregon chief executive officer Todd Davidson was appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to serve as the Chair of the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board. Davidson, who recently finished his term, chatted with Oregon Business about local and national tourism initiatives and synergies between tourism and economic development.

Here are a few highlights from the conversation:

OB: The most recent U.S. Department of Commerce Travel and Tourism forecast predicts a four percent average annual growth in tourism through 2018.  What kind of growth can we expect for Oregon tourism?

Davidson: Oregon should parallel or exceed the annual average rate of growth. I say that with certain level of confidence because at Travel Oregon we have remained aggressive in our marketing programs, domestically and internationally we are in more markets than we ever have been.  We’re getting into some markets for the first time ever. In 2013, we made our first forays into Brazil and India. A few years those markets were not on our radar screen. But there is research indicating interest in those markets.

In Oregon, the rate of growth for international visitations has exceeded the national average. The current rate of growth in terms of demand for lodging in Oregon is exceeding the regional and national average. So I’m very optimistic about the continued growth of travel.

OB: Last year, President Obama launched the National Travel and Tourism Strategy, which set a goal of welcoming 100 million international visitors to the U.S. by 2021. Talk about Oregon’s international marketing strategy.

Davidson: Let me give you some context. Between 2000 and 2010 international visitation globally grew by more 60 million annual travelers. Yet international travel to the United States declined nearly a third. Part of the challenge is we had no national tourism office. Other countries were investing very heavily in promoting countries as tourist destinations. So in 2010 Congress passed the Travel Promotion Act; that’s what set up Brand USA. Their sole charge is to promote the United States internationally.

Our success has been driven by the fact that Brand USA enhances America’s presence in those markets and creates opportunities for Travel Oregon to come in and meet through the Brand USA pavilion held in key travel trade shows. This is not direct consumer marketing.  We’re doing B2B marketing encouraging tour operators to create itineraries and packages that can be bought by travelers.

As we look at the industry moving forward, we see continued focus on international travel, continued expansion of domestic advertising programs, and greater and greater alignment throughout the process — with Brand USA and with our partners from the federal level to state level, aligning messages, aligning advertising campaigns and leveraging budgets.

OB: The Travel and Tourism board identified several priorities to help boost tourism, including improvements to visa and entry process.

Davidson: A couple of years ago, we were experiencing situations where visitors from China, from Brazil, were having to wait 150 days just to get scheduled for an interview to apply for a visa to travel to the U.S. the presidents.  We now have visa wait times down to two days. We are seeing increased visitation from these countries as a result. 

The choke point now is visitors arriving in the U.S. in some airports, and the lines are very long; the average wait time is two-three hours to clear customers.  The industry believes the average wait time should be no more than 30 minutes. 

There are steps in place to do that. One is ‘global entry reciprocity’: the idea that other country have trusted traveler programs and subsequently visitors from these countries can move through lines more quickly. The other piece is we need more officers at border protection. We need between 3,000 and 3,500 more officers at primary border airports.

OB:  The Tourism Board also called for greater investment in infrastructure. Does Travel Oregon lobby on behalf of infrastructure projects such as the Columbia River Crossing?

Davidson:  If Travel Oregon not in conversation about the CRC then our partners at Travel Portland are. We want to make sure travel and tourism are present. If there are going to be tolls —  if visitors are crossing that bridge we want tolls to be as user friendly as we can make it.

To meet that 100 million goal we also need to expand counts at gateway airports.  One way to do that is technology. Currently many of our flights are on radar; if they flew using GPS systems the flight times could be abbreviated, there would be fewer emissions and less gas consumed because of ways planes are able to fly.  A next generation system is being piloted in a few airports around the country; this is something that the industry feels strongly about.

OB: Describe a few memorable moments serving on the Travel and Tourism Board.

Davidson: It was incredibly humbling to serve with other representatives of the travel and tourism industry: small business people, heads of major multi-national corporations, the CEOs of airlines and hotel chains but also independent operators — really representing the depth and breadth of industry. We also have ex officios from Secretary of State, Department of Transportation and Department of Homeland Security. They really want to hear from the industry. It’s such an affirmation of our work. We have the opportunity to really help drive policy.

One high point was President Obama came to the inaugural meeting in January 2012. It was such an affirming start … having the opportunity to spend a few minutes with him, to see his grasp of how this industry is a leading export for the country.

Twenty seven percent of all export growth that occurred last year came from travel and tourism.  It’s pretty amazing since travel and tourism only represent 8% of all exports. The industry is really driving a lot of the economic recovery.

OB:  In Oregon, policy makers are also paying more attention to tourism as an economic development tool.

Davidson: There is solid recognition from the governor’s office and growing awareness from the business community. There is an appreciation of the nexus between travel Oregon and economic development. People come here as visitors and then have an express desire to relocate their business.  We’re seeing that and an awareness of our partners in economic development who are interested in aligning with us.

I believe in the power of travel and tourism to create jobs for Oregonians. And it is great to see Oregon business leaders really embracing the power of travel and tourism. 

Article source: http://www.oregonbusiness.com/contributed-blogs/12305-travel-pays

Super Bowl hotel rates tumble, vacation rentals empty

Thomas Knight saw a chance to make some extra money by renting out his apartment in New York’s Brooklyn borough for Super Bowl weekend, asking $300 a night. Just days before the game, he hadn’t gotten a single call.

“I’m not too hopeful,” said Knight, 28, who listed the one-bedroom unit in Williamsburg on Airbnb about three weeks ago, after making plans for a ski trip. “If someone was going to come, I think they already found a place.”

The Super Bowl has turned out to be a disappointment for many New York and New Jersey residents who sought to profit from football fans swarming the area by offering homes for rent. They’re getting few takers, with frigid temperatures deterring travelers and plenty of hotel rooms still available in Manhattan and across the Hudson River near MetLife Stadium, where the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks will play on Feb. 2.

Flight demand for the Super Bowl is down 20 percent from last year, when the National Football League Championship game was played at the Superdome in New Orleans, according to vacation-planning website Hopper.com.

The private renters are competing with hotel prices that have been dropping as the game draws closer. As of Thursday morning, nightly room rates in the “stadium area” of New Jersey, including towns such as East Rutherford and Secaucus, averaged $181 for Super Bowl weekend — a 53 percent plunge from last week, according to Orbitz Worldwide Inc.’s “Big Game 2014” travel tool, which updates price information every hour.

Manhattan hotels

In Manhattan, the average price for a room was $268 a night, down 18 percent from last week, Orbitz data show. A search on Orbitz.com turned up 307 out of 449 hotels with empty rooms for tomorrow through Feb. 3.

“The room capacity in New York is so much larger than we’ve seen in other host cities,” said Bobby Bowers, senior vice president of STR, a travel-research firm based in Hendersonville, Tennessee. “When you have the Super Bowl in New Orleans or Miami or some other place like that, it’s like the event is almost bigger than the venue, and here it’s the opposite of that.”

With at least 109,000 hotel rooms, New York has almost triple the number than New Orleans, where the average rate for Super Bowl weekend approached $400 last year and rooms were 97 percent booked, according to STR.

Homeowners in New Orleans benefited from the demand, with properties listed on travel website HomeAway.com going for an average of $1,200 a night, up from $450 in the same quarter of the previous year.

‘Aggressive increases’

“You can see aggressive increases in prices when you have an event in a geographically concentrated area,” Jon Gray, senior vice president at Austin, Texas-based HomeAway, said in a telephone interview. “The availability of hotels in the home market is a big part of that.”

Listings for rentals in HomeAway’s “gateway” region of New Jersey, which includes towns just outside of New York City such as Hoboken, Jersey City and Montclair, have jumped 64 percent since last week and traveler inquiries are up 80 percent, according to the website.

The average nightly rate for a Super Bowl weekend rental in the New York City area slipped to about $1,500 from $1,586 last week, according to HomeAway.

Leslie Cavrell listed her family’s 4,000-square-foot (372- square-meter) house in Demarest, New Jersey, on HomeAway for $5,000 a night. While the lifelong New York Giants fan has never had an overnight guest there, she’s gotten $3,500 a day renting the home, located 14 miles from MetLife Stadium, for commercial shoots.

Cavrell has had about 10 inquiries since offering the home in December — all for Christmas week or dates in March or July, none for the Super Bowl. Cavrell, 60, took the listing down this week, figuring a last-minute booking would be too much of a hassle.

“At this point, with the time it would take for me to lock everything away and get the place ready, it’s not worth it,” said Cavrell, who also has a place in Hunter, New York, that she rents out regularly using vrbo.com, a sister site of HomeAway. “Now, I’ll put a fire in the fireplace and not travel anywhere that day.”

Some residents have lowered their asking rents in the hopes of snagging a last-minute booking. Tyson Thorne, 37, originally listed his newly renovated basement in Lodi, New Jersey, less than 6 miles from the stadium, for $1,000 a night on HomeAway, Airbnb and Craigslist. When he got no calls for the space, which can accommodate four guests, he dropped the price to $389.

Larry Kennedy, 26, got one inquiry and no takers for his two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, which he listed on Craigslist last week. He cut his price twice, dropping it from $750 to $650 a night, then again to $495.

“The lowest I’m willing to go is $350,” said Kennedy, who will be skiing in Utah on Feb. 2. “Below that point, the risk doesn’t seem to justify the reward.”

Successful rentals

Among successful rentals was a one-bedroom suite at the Trump International Hotel and Tower on Manhattan’s Central Park West. Elite Destination Homes, a luxury vacation-rental service, listed the unit for the Super Bowl on HomeAway in November and got no interest until Jan. 20, the day after the teams were settled in the conference championship games. After receiving five inquiries, Elite found a renter who agreed to take the 700- square-foot apartment for three nights at $1,419 a night, said Garin Hamburger, the company’s vice president of marketing.

The Super Bowl has drawn fans of the participating teams to the area, with six of the 10 most popular domestic flight routes last week coming from either Denver or Seattle to New York, according to Hopper.com. Demand for air travel from Seattle was up more than 50 percent from the previous four weeks, while the increase from Denver was about 39 percent, according to the website. The Seahawks and Broncos are sharing 35 percent of the tickets available at MetLife Stadium, which seats about 82,500.

“People from the rest of the country aren’t looking — that’s the weak area,” said Patrick Surry, chief data scientist for Hopper.com.

Football enthusiasts from outside Denver and Seattle may have been discouraged from making the trip because of the well- below-normal temperatures that have gripped the New York area in recent weeks, according to Bowers of STR and other travel analysts.

“There’s typically a lot of people who go for the parties and like to hang out, but as far as the games goes, if it’s snowing and 20 degrees, forget it,” Bowers said. “The weather plays a big part in it, people don’t want to be out in that.”

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