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Sizing Up the Rural-Urban Travel Divide: Who’s Up and Who’s Down

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The pandemic has been hard on travel. According to the U.S. Travel Association, it has caused $386 billion in cumulative losses, but the pain hasn’t been evenly distributed. Cities, which are largely reliant on business and group travel, have suffered more compared to rural and outdoor destinations where it is easier to fulfill social-distancing needs. That sense of safety in extra space has tempted many leisure travelers to venture out on vacation.

Lodging results attest to the urban-rural divide. Short-term rentals were most popular in remote rather than city destinations this summer. According to the hotel benchmarking analysts STR, Inc., urban hotels are worse off compared to accommodations elsewhere, with occupancy down more than half in August nationally compared to August 2019. As a result, high-profile city hotels, from the Hilton Times Square in New York City to the Luxe Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, Calif., have closed.

“Leisure travel has been the demand driver that has returned more quickly,” said Patrick Mayock, the vice president of research and development at STR, noting that urban hotels “are more reliant on group and business travel.”

The rural-versus-urban contest for leisure travelers is still a losing game for most contenders; for example, rural places consider being down 20 percent a sign of relative health.

Expect the rivalry to intensify, even as most states maintain restrictions on gatherings. In the eighth of a series of surveys, the travel marketing firm MMGY Myriad recently found 42 percent of the 1,200 Americans surveyed — the highest since the pandemic — are likely to take a domestic leisure trip in the next six months. Cities are now rolling out staycation programs, discount incentives and safety assurances to try to claim a bigger share of that traffic.

The following is a look at some of the destinations hit hardest and those that have bounced back.

Some of the biggest convention cities are suffering the most, including Las Vegas, where year-over-year visitor volume was down more than 60 percent to 1.4 million in July, and where the airport was off about the same amount in August, the most recent months for which figures are available.

Conventions, which have been scratched for the last six months, drew 6.6 million of the city’s 42.5 million visitors in 2019, generating $6.6 billion. With gatherings limited to 250, football fans are shut out of the new stadium built for the Raiders, the N.F.L. team that moved to Las Vegas from Oakland, Calif., this season.

With a tack to leisure travel only, hotels and tourism operators are reframing their approaches. MGM Resorts, which operates some of the best-known resorts on the Strip, including the Bellagio, began offering work-from-hotel packages, called “Viva Las Office,” starting around $100, including Wi-Fi and some food and beverage credits. The company is also gambling that visitors will appreciate smoke-free casinos; its Park MGM and NoMad Las Vegas hotels, which occupy the same building and reopened Sept. 30, are smoke free.

“Everything was convention-based and now it’s changed and we have to adapt,” said Donald Contursi, the founder of the local restaurant tour company Lip Smacking Foodie Tours, which launched Finger Licking Foodie Tours, self-guided outings to three restaurants ($79).

Ever the chameleon, Las Vegas continues to develop its leisure appeal, even though the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that several casinos on the Strip were the leading sources of possible Covid-19 exposures this summer. At the end of the month, the new Circa Resort & Casino, with the city’s largest sports book spread across three stories, is expected to open. The new art and event space AREA15 recently opened, requiring free reservations to control capacity, for visitors to its art installations.

Another popular city for meetings and events, Miami has come a long way since April, when 85 percent of tourism disappeared. In addition to losing business travel, Miami suffered when the United States border was closed — the city is popular with South Americans, in particular — cruises were shut down and cases of Covid-19 spiked over the summer. Now, hotel sales are about half compared to last year, thanks to the uptick in leisure travel.

“A big part of our tourism recovery has been to ask people in our own backyard, people within Florida, to drive,” said Rolando Aedo, the chief operating officer of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The bureau’s marketing campaign has focused on the city’s outdoor attractions, which include three national parks within an hour’s drive of South Beach, uncrowded beaches on Key Biscayne and kayaking amid the mangroves of a river estuary. Dozens of hotels are offering “Work & Learn” packages that offer rooms as day-use offices with access to resort amenities such as pools.

Back in January, when Dallas resident Murphey Sears, 38, planned to mark her 10th wedding anniversary, she and her husband discussed going abroad, or to Hawaii. By July, the parents of four secured grandparent babysitters and settled on a two-night staycation at The Joule Dallas hotel downtown.

“We needed to get away not only to celebrate ourselves but also to find some rejuvenation,” said Ms. Sears, a nonprofit development officer. “We felt so far away, even though it was 15 minutes from our house.”

Once a weekend afterthought, staycations are now viewed as a lifeline for urban tourism as cities from Boston to Los Angeles are encouraging residents to travel responsibly by staying — and spending — locally.

“We’ve had to shift to really focus on leisure travel until the meetings industry stabilizes,” said David Whitaker, the president and chief executive of Choose Chicago, which promotes travel in the city, adding that conventions normally drive 40 percent of hotel business.

In a weekly survey of 1,200 Americans published Sept. 28, the marketing firm Destination Analysts found that interest in leisure travel in local communities was at 44.5 percent, the highest it had been since mid-March, partially driven by a fear of flying.

While the 1,544-room Hilton Chicago, a large convention hotel, is currently closed, on weekends, the 180-room Viceroy Chicago has been filling nearly 80 percent of its rooms entirely with regional residents who self-park, as valet service is suspended. The rooftop pool, where capacity is restricted to 25 for two-hour slots, has been a big attraction.

“We have adjusted some of our strategies and we’re just super thankful to see there’s that much leisure travel going on,” said Nienke Oosting, the hotel’s general manager.

Locals are a critical market in cities like Chicago and New York City that have extensive quarantine lists for out-of-staters, deterring nonresidents. In New York state, as of Sept. 29, visitors from 34 states and territories are advised to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

The tourism office NYC & Company is encouraging New Yorkers to explore the city’s neighborhoods with incentives that include up to 40 percent off rooms at the Benjamin hotel in Midtown and 20 percent off Harlem Heritage Tours, which offers walking trips. Amal Daghestani, 43, of Brooklyn, who works in meeting and event planning, chose the Mondrian Park Avenue hotel for a weekend stay with her family as a change of scenery and an expression of civic pride.

“New York City has enriched my life so much and doing a staycation was also my way of giving back,” she said.

In July and August, Denver International Airport said it was the busiest airport in the country, relatively speaking, pointing to Transportation Security Administration checkpoint figures that showed traffic was down 57 percent, versus 71 percent on average elsewhere.

But arriving passengers didn’t necessarily go to Denver, where the current hotel occupancy rate is about 40 percent; last year at this time, 78 percent of rooms were booked. Instead, cities like Denver, along with Las Vegas, often serve as gateways to more distant vacations. Though visitor figures are down in both cities, Priceline found that Denver was also the top city for car rentals this fall, followed by Las Vegas; the pre-pandemic top cities were Orlando and Los Angeles.

“It’s important to understand that Denver is the gateway for the whole Rocky Mountain West,” said Cathy Ritter, the director of the Colorado Tourism Office. Since early March, travel spending in Colorado dropped to $5 billion, compared to $12 billion for the same period last year. “The activity in mountain resorts over the summer created almost an illusion that tourism had recovered in our state,” she added.

Colorado captures the deceiving nature of tourism spending. Though they loom large, the state’s celebrated mountain towns like Aspen and Crested Butte account for just a quarter of tourism spending. Sixty percent remains in eastern communities, including Denver and smaller cities that attract business and event travelers.

Given the slowdown, tourism officials in Colorado Springs consider themselves lucky to be down about 22 percent in July and August. A “Get Out Spread Out” campaign publicized lesser-known hiking trails to ensure social distancing.

“Coloradans were here, but so were Texans, Arizonans, Californians,” said Doug Price, the president and chief executive of Visit Colorado Springs, naming residents of states subject to quarantines elsewhere. “Where a spike was happening, people wanted to get out. Colorado never had restrictions or quarantines on people coming to Colorado. It helped us.”

Some of those Denver arrivals may have traveled to Breckenridge, about 80 miles west, where the town’s taxable sales were behind 18 percent relative to last year, “much better than expected,” said Lucy Kay, the president and chief executive of the Breckenridge Tourism Office.

Most of those who have taken a vacation since the pandemic chose rural over urban areas for their getaways. Signs point to this pattern of fleeing population centers continuing. In a recent survey, Destination Analysts found nearly 40 percent of respondents who planned to travel this fall planned to visit small towns or rural destinations.

From the Adirondacks to northern Wisconsin, tourism authorities reported business doubling this summer over last. Even so, few will make up for the months of shutdown.

In the Greater Zion region in southwest Utah, which covers more than 2,400 square miles and includes Zion National Park and four state parks, room taxes are down $1.5 million from a year ago, though the last three months have been busier than usual, according to Kevin Lewis, the director of the Greater Zion Convention & Tourism Office.

“In the past, leisure travel has been thought out and strategic about planning a big national park vacation and spending three to four days here,” he said. “This seems a little more reactionary, wanting to find space but doing it at the last minute.”

Beaches were top destinations over the summer as demonstrated in Panama Beach City in the Florida Panhandle. There, traffic was back to pre-pandemic expectations in June and July. August and September surpassed 2019 results.

“We feel it will continue next year,” said Dan Rowe, the chief executive and president of Visit Panama Beach, predicting that socially distant vacations will remain the norm.


By: Elaine Glusac
Title: Sizing Up the Rural-Urban Travel Divide: Who’s Up and Who’s Down
Sourced From: www.nytimes.com/2020/10/06/travel/rural-versus-urban-travel-pandemic.html
Published Date: Tue, 06 Oct 2020 09:00:22 +0000

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Vacation

What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?

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People have always liked to drink on board flights, especially people from Australia. Therefore, it should be no surprise to anyone that there was an inflight bar offering in the 1970s.

Ansett Airlines were a major player in the Australian domestic market up until their demise in September 2001. For many years, there were two domestic airlines, Trans-Australia Airlines (TAA) and Ansett.

Ansett’s Inflight Bar

At the time, Ansett operated Boeing 727s, Douglas DC-9s and Fokker F27 Friendships on domestic routes in the country. Airline tickets were quite expensive, with tariffs agreed upon by both airlines thanks to Australia’s weird two-airline policy at the time.

While tickets were expensive and food complimentary, you still had to pay for a drink at the bar. Here is an inflight bar menu from the era, showing the drinks available and their prices.

Clearly the pricing is astounding by today’s standards – 30 cents for a beer? I’ll have thirty-three please! I like how Australian gin is 35c while the imported gin is just 5c more. Which would you choose?

You can tell it is from another era as you can buy cigarettes on board. These price up at 45c, a far cry from the extortionate prices people in the west pay these days for a smoke!

Overall Thoughts

The on board offering is pretty comprehensive for internal flights, and I imagine you’d be hard pressed not to find something you might like. In those times, all payments would have been by cash as well, which would have meant a lot of coinage being handled on board.

Of course, things haven’t changed too much over the years. On many airlines you pay for your drinks just as they did back in the 1970s. Shame the prices aren’t the same of course!

Did you ever buy drinks on board flights from the inflight bar back in the day? Do you still? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by Daniel Tanner on Airliners.net via Wikimedia Commons.
Menu image by Ikara on Australian Frequent Flyer.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?
Sourced From: travelupdate.com/ansett-airlines-inflight-bar-menu/
Published Date: Thu, 19 Nov 2020 15:03:14 +0000

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These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?

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The shrimp stop swimming at dusk and gather near the river’s edge. After sunset, they begin to climb out of the water. Then they march. All night long, the inch-long crustaceans parade along the rocks.

The parading shrimp of northeastern Thailand have inspired legends, dances and even a statue. (Locals also eat them.) During the rainy season, between late August and early October, tourists crowd the riverbanks with flashlights to watch the shrimp walk.

Watcharapong Hongjamrassilp first learned about the parading shrimp, and the hundred thousand or more tourists who come each year to see them, about 20 years ago. When he started studying biology, he returned to the topic. “I realized that we know nothing about this,” he said: What species are they? Why and how do they leave the safety of the water to walk upstream on dry land? Where are they going?

Mr. Hongjamrassilp, a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, decided to answer those questions himself. His findings appeared this month in the Journal of Zoology.

Working with wildlife center staff members, Mr. Hongjamrassilp staked out nine sites along a river in Thailand’s Ubon Ratchathani province. They found shrimp parading at two of the sites — a stretch of rapids, and a low dam.

The videos they recorded revealed that the shrimp paraded from sundown to sunup. They traveled up to 65 feet upstream. Some individual shrimp stayed out of the water for 10 minutes or more.

“I was so surprised,” Mr. Hongjamrassilp said, “because I never thought that a shrimp can walk that long.” Staying in the river’s splash zone may help them keep their gills wet, so they can keep taking in oxygen. He also observed that the shells of the shrimp seem to trap a little water around their gills, like a reverse dive helmet.

DNA analysis from captured shrimp showed that nearly all belonged to the species Macrobrachium dienbienphuense, part of a genus of shrimp that live mostly or fully in freshwater. Many Macrobrachiumspecies spend part of their lives migrating upstream to their preferred habitats.

Most parading shrimp that Mr. Hongjamrassilp captured were young. Observations and lab experiments showed that these shrimp probably leave the water when the flow becomes too strong for them. Larger adult shrimp can handle a stronger current without washing away, so they’re less likely to leave the water.

Walking on land is dangerous for the little shrimp, even under cover of darkness. Predators including frogs, snakes and large spiders lurk nearby, Mr. Hongjamrassilp says. “Literally, they wait to eat them along the river.”

And the shrimp can survive on land for only so long. If the parading crustaceans lose their way, they may dry out and die before they get back to the river. A few times, Mr. Hongjamrassilp came across groups of lost shrimp dead on the rocks, their once-translucent bodies baked pink.

Yet most navigate upstream successfully, and scientists have spotted other freshwater shrimp around the world performing similar feats, scaling dams and even climbing waterfalls.

Leaving the water when the swimming gets tough may have helped these animals spread to new habitats over their evolutionary history, Mr. Hongjamrassilp said. Today, the number of parading shrimp in Thailand seems to be declining. He thinks tourist activity may be a factor, and learning more about the shrimp might help protect them.

The study’s authors made “some really excellent observations,” said Alan Covich, an ecologist at the University of Georgia who was not involved in the research. But understanding why the Ubon Ratchathani shrimp move upstream, and how far they travel, will require more research, he said.

“The most surprising thing to me was that it attracted so many tourists,” Dr. Covich said. He doesn’t know of any other example of people gathering to appreciate a crustacean in quite the same way.

“We have crayfish festivals, we have all kinds of things,” Dr. Covich said, “but generally it’s people eating them, not watching them move.”

By: Elizabeth Preston
Title: These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?
Sourced From: www.nytimes.com/2020/11/18/science/shrimp-parade-thailand.html
Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 17:02:07 +0000

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Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?

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There are reports that Aer Lingus have applied for 1,500 slots at Manchester Airport for the Summer 2021 season. This will allow the airline to base four aircraft there and service flights to the United States.

At present, there have been no press releases from the airline stating what is going on. Even so, it probably makes sense for the Irish airline to do this in the current market.

Aer Lingus And Manchester

From what is known, there will be three Airbus A321LRs and an A330 based at Manchester. These will operate non-stop services to New York JFK, Boston, Chicago and Orlando, and the season starts on 28 March 2021.

With Thomas Cook having gone out of business, there is likely space for another competitor. New York and Orlando will see competition from Virgin Atlantic, while the other two routes have no airline flying at the moment.

Aer Lingus has been connecting passengers over Dublin very successfully from the UK regions for a while now. Due to this, they will have visibility on traffic patterns, potential yields and more, making this an informed decision.

I imagine they also hope to cream off some of the connecting traffic that routes through London Heathrow on British Airways and Amsterdam on KLM among others. It would prove to be quite successful.

Transatlantic Joint Venture Approval

The US Department of Transport has tentatively given its approval for Aer Lingus to join the oneworld transatlantic joint business. This is operated by American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia and Finnair.

These airlines coordinate schedules and pricing, share revenues and expenses. For the consumer, it means more choice – those making a booking on British Airways across the Atlantic will also see options on American Airlines on the BA web site as one example.



Theoretically, it would allow people seeking flights on the British Airways web site to automatically be given options to fly non-stop with Aer Lingus, along with the Manchester-London Heathrow-US city connecting itinerary.

Whether Aer Lingus will join the oneworld alliance, even in a oneworld connect capacity remains to be seen. Frequent flyers would welcome it, especially those in Ireland.

Overall Thoughts

No doubt the boffins have been working behind the scenes to see if the business case for transatlantic flights from Manchester stack up. As things have proceeded as far as a slot application, I would guess chances are good that it will go ahead.

Either way, let’s see if this happens and if it does, whether Aer Lingus will stay for the long haul. If they can make more money elsewhere, they’ll up sticks and leave. Regardless, it is an interesting development in European aviation.

What do you think of Aer Lingus starting transatlantic services from Manchester? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by N509FZ via Wikimedia Commons.
Aer Lingus A321neo LR by Pitmanaaron via Wikimedia Commons.
Business class cabin via One Mile At A Time.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?
Sourced From: travelupdate.com/aer-lingus-manchester/
Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 18:03:48 +0000

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