WASHINGTON – A program that subsidizes air service to small airports, often in remote communities, is shaping up as an early test in the new Congress of conservatives’ zeal for shrinking the federal government.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has proposed an amendment to an aviation bill pending before the Senate in order to eliminate the $200 million annual essential air service program. The program pays airlines to provide scheduled service to about 150 communities, from Muscle Shoals, Ala., to Pelican, Alaska.
In the House, the Republican Study Committee — a group of conservative lawmakers — has also proposed killing the program.
Subsidies per airline passenger as of June 1, 2010, ranged as high as $5,223 in Ely, Nev., to as low as $9.21 in Thief River Falls, Minn., according to Transportation Department data for the lower 48 states.
The program was created to ensure that less-profitable routes to small airports wouldn’t be eliminated when airline service was deregulated in 1978. But critics say the airports often serve too few people to merit the amount of money spent in subsidies. Urban growth over the past three decades has also placed transportation alternatives — other airports, trains and bus service — within a reasonable distance of some communities receiving subsidies.
Studies show that in a lot of those communities people drive to larger airports to get better service at a lower cost than they can get at the smaller airport, even with subsidized air service, said Severin Borenstein, a University of California-Berkeley business professor who is an expert on airline competition.
“Some communities can make a credible claim they need the service, particularly in Alaska, but I think those are a relatively small part of the program,” he said.
The program has been remarkably resilient, partly due to the protection it receives from lawmakers from rural states and districts. It has been proposed for cuts or elimination many times over the years, but continues to grow.
“It’s exactly in the political sweet spot,” Borenstein said. Lawmakers don’t feel it’s worth upsetting the few people the program serves to achieve what amounts to a modest savings in federal budget terms, he said.
Supporters say the small airports and their air service are important to the communities’ ability to attract investment and jobs.
Four Democratic senators — Mark Begich of Alaska, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Robert Casey of Pennsylvania and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — are circulating a letter among their colleagues for signature. It urges McCain to give up his attempt to kill the program, citing potential economic consequences.
“Eliminating the program will have a devastating impact on the economies of rural communities,” their letter says.
“At a moment when the nation’s economic recovery is starting to gain momentum, it makes little sense to reduce personal and business travel volume by cutting off residents of rural areas,” the letter says. “And at a time when jobs are already so hard to come by in our rural communities, it makes even less sense to enact cuts that will only make the problem worse.”
One of the program’s biggest supporters is Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and the main sponsor of the pending aviation bill. It would increase rather than decrease funding for the program and give the Transportation Department more flexibility in structuring contracts with airlines to improve it. Rockefeller would also let the department adjust contracts to take into account rising fuel costs. There are five communities in West Virginia with subsidized service.
Several conservative senators from rural states declined to discuss McCain’s amendment when approached by The Associated Press.
“I’ll have to see it first. I haven’t seen the amendment,” said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo. Two communities in Wyoming — Laramie and Worland — receive subsidized service, according to the Transportation Department.
“I just don’t know about that,” echoed Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. Three communities in Utah — Moab, Vernal and Cedar City — receive subsidized service.
GATLINBURG, Tenn. – Visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park can now check on road conditions by electronic text or Twitter.
Previously, travelers had to call the park to find out if roads were closed or slick.
Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson says the new improvements better serve the public and reduce the workload for park employees.
Visitors with cell phones or Internet access can now get the information immediately.
Besides winter road conditions, the park intends to notify travelers of rock slides, fallen trees or accidents that affect traffic in the park.
Online: Great Smoky Mountains National Park: http://www.twitter.com/smokiesroadsnps
ORLANDO, Fla. – SeaWorld Parks Entertainment on Thursday announced the opening of 10 new attractions at its parks this year, including a new killer whale show at SeaWorlds in three cities, a cheetah-themed coaster at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and a swim-through artificial reef at Discovery Cove in Orlando.
The new whale show, “One Ocean,” has an educational, environmental theme, with a focus on teaching the public about orcas. It will be offered at SeaWorld Orlando at the end of April, SeaWorld San Diego in May and SeaWorld San Antonio in June.
“These types of attractions can connect people to animals, nature and the environment, and can provide the inspiration to want to care about the world,” Julie Scardina, SeaWorld’s top animal trainer, said in a phone interview.
Discovery Cove, a separate theme park in Orlando which offers interactions with dolphins and other aquatic animals, will open The Grand Reef in June, with hammocks and sandy beaches. Visitors will be able to swim and snorkel amid marine life similar to what you might find in a real coral reef.
SeaWorld San Diego will open Turtle Reef this summer, with a ride and massive aquarium featuring sea turtles, tropical fish and an underwater viewing gallery.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay will debut Cheetah Hunt, a coaster with 4,429 feet of track and three zero-to-60 mph launches in one ride. A new viewing area, Cheetah Run, will offer a close-up look at real cheetahs, including a chance to see them run in a daily workout session.
Other new attractions at parks owned by the SeaWorld company include Sesame Street Bay of Play at SeaWorld Antonio; Mach Tower, a rotate-and-drop ride at Busch Gardens Williamsburg in Virginia; Vanish Point, a water tower ride at the Water Country USA water park in Williamsburg; and a Neighborhood Street Party parade and Elmo’s Cloud Chaser ride at Sesame Place in Pennsylvania.
Scardina said the 10 new attractions represent the largest capital investment in a single year in the company’s history.
SeaWorld is also about to restart its popular “Dine with Shamu” killer whale show. It will begin Feb. 26 at SeaWorld San Antonio and later this spring at parks in Orlando and San Diego. The performance includes a buffet meal for guests while trainers work nearby with one of the park’s orcas.
The show was suspended last year after trainer Dawn Brancheau was dragged into the water and killed by a six-ton orca named Tilikum shortly after a “Dine with Shamu” session.
Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services, a global consulting agency, said the new attractions “will take the edge” off the trainer death incident, but he added that he didn’t think the death had much of an impact on SeaWorld attendance overall.
SeaWorld does not release visitation figures, but Speigel said the extraordinary popularity of Universal’s new Harry Potter attraction in Orlando siphoned potential guests away from SeaWorld, while the weak economy has also dampened theme park attendance in general.
3 February 2011
Last updated at 07:12 ET
The way people book holidays has changed over time
More holidaymakers are set to be protected from losses when a travel company goes bust, the government has confirmed.
Package holidays are already covered by the Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (Atol) scheme, ensuring refunds for customers whose tour operator folds.
The government said that, by the end of the year, flights and accommodation in the same booking will also be covered.
Six million more holidays could be protected, but prices could rise.
Some large operators and the travel agents’ trade body have said the proposals do not go far enough because they exclude flight-only deals.
The current scheme, run by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), only offers protection for those who buy package deals and some flights if their tour operator or travel agent goes bust.
In the last 12 months, 43,637 holidaymakers were flown back from their holiday destinations and 132,820 received refunds for all of their holiday costs when their tour operator went bust.
The scheme began in the early 1970s and was last overhauled in 1995. It has now become commonplace for holidaymakers to book online, and many have found they were not protected even though it felt as though they had bought all the elements of the holiday from the same provider as a package for one price.
Under the proposed new rules:
- Protection would be extended to “flight plus” holidays. These are trips including a flight where the various elements were bought within a specified short time period
- Holiday companies would make it clearer if they were working outside Atol protection
- Paperwork for holidaymakers would be standardised, including a recognisable certificate for Atol-protected holidays
As with now, the proposed new rules would not cover do-it-yourself holidays. For example, somebody who buys a flight from an airline and then books accommodation directly with a hotel would not be Atol covered.
There would be no protection, even if the hotelier is recommended by the airline and a link to its website is provided on the airline’s website.
Thousands of people have been flown home under the scheme after operators went bust
The government said the wish was for the rules to be in place by the end of the year, as the economic climate remained tough for travel businesses.
“Insolvencies in recent years have shown us how important it is that customers are able to buy protected holidays, but recent court cases have only served to highlight the fact that the scheme is in need of reform,” said Aviation Minister Theresa Villiers, referring to a recent dispute over an Atol licence between the CAA and Travel Republic.
“These changes will remove much of the confusion surrounding Atol, while ensuring operators who offer such holidays provide customers with the financial protection they expect.”
However, the changes remain subject to consultation, so the current rules will remain during this summer’s holiday getaway.
Travellers who buy holidays with a credit card do have some protection from their card provider if things go wrong.
Businesses pay £2.50 into a fund for each booking that covers the cost of refunds and repatriations. Those operators who are Atol protected also have extra insurance costs.
As a result, any extension of the scheme could mean slightly higher prices for customers, said Bob Atkinson from Travelsupermarket.com.
“It will come at a cost,” he said.
Owing to the number of high-profile travel operators collapsing in recent times, the fund that pays out for repatriation flights and refunds currently has a £42m deficit, covered by the government.
The government hopes the extension of the scheme will start to plug the financial hole.
The proposals have received a mixed reaction from the industry, with some criticism from those who already hold Atol licences.
Mr Atkinson, of Travelsupermarket, said that some holiday companies would be forced to “take a long, hard look at how they operate”.
However, others have said that the planned extra protection failed to go far enough, particularly as it did not cover flight-only deals, or hotel deals recommended on an airline’s website.
“This is not the complete solution to consumer protection,” said a spokesman for Thomas Cook.
“We hope the decision is just a stepping stone and that in future the scope of the Atol system is widened to include airlines. Only when this is introduced will holidaymakers be able to have total peace of mind that their money is fully protected.”
Mark Tanzer, chief executive of Abta, said: “Financial protection should be comprehensive and transparent, otherwise it leads to real confusion and consumer detriment.
“British consumers and our members deserve better than the unfair and unclear structures that we have suffered in recent years.
“While the government’s proposals go some way to addressing the problem, we are disappointed airlines and online click-through sales have been excluded, as these will create competitive imbalance and leave passengers exposed.”
Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/rss/int/news/-/news/business-12354373
Earlier this week, Facebook announced the launch of Facebook Deals in Canada, the UK and Europe.
The deals service, which has been running in the US since the last quarter of 2010, is attached to the place pages and allows businesses to offer a variety of promotions to Facebook members who check-in to venues using their Facebook mobile applications.
In the last 18 months, Facebook has continued to develop services around engaging businesses, a smart move, in my opinion.
For starters, Facebook has made it clear that it will not be charging for the deal platform, which is a fundamental difference from social buying services.
As I have pointed out in previous posts, trying to understand the true costs of running a Groupon is a hot button issue for many who have used a social buying service or are considering it.
The other key difference is the shear number of engaged members and the motivation of the members using their mobile devices.
Where services like Groupon and others are focused primarily on providing hugely discounted offers to deal seekers, the Deal platform allows businesses to tailor the deals to their audience, for example offering a free coffee, a discount, or a donation to a charity in exchange for checking into the location.
In a recent PhoCusWright special report (When They Get There Why They Go), focusing on in-destination tours and activities, it was determined that location based services such as FourSquare and Gowalla are neither influential nor actionable for travelers because there is a lack of critical mass and an inability to target users based on preferences.
In essence, current location based services lack the smarts to be able to offer true value to travelers.
On the flip side, group buying sites like Groupon and LivingSocial are actionable but lack any influence because they tend to focus on locals and not travelers.
Bring in a service like Facebook Deals which combines location based service, deep profiling, and combine it with the ability to offer actionable deals and now you have something very interesting for both businesses and consumers.
It is this combination of elements that make me believe that Facebook Deals could score a big hit against the social buying sites.
The three elements of location awareness, access to preferences through member profiling, and the ability to offer actionable deals combined together make the Facebook Deals platform much more compelling for consumers than any one of the other competing platforms on their own.
For businesses, the ability to control the offers and the cost (or lack there of) will be important motivators to try the Deals platform. As we see more success stories, I wouldn’t be surprised if we start to see more buzz and hype around the platform.
For now, the overall reaction for small businesses has been limited as most try to understand how to take advantage of the platform.
It is still early days for Facebook Deals, but with over 200 million Facebook users engaging with smartphones and the exponential growth in the number of businesses joining Facebook, it’s not hard to see that a service like Deals could have a significant impact on competing services.
The biggest driver for small business engagement could very well be the access to a large user base at a fraction of the cost of running a social buying deal.
For small tourism businesses, this means being able to deliver offers and build brand and service awareness beyond rack cards and hotel concierges, both of which are still important drivers for local tour and activity operators.
Regardless of the effectiveness of the Deals service in the future, small tourism businesses should be claiming their place pages and, at the very least, ensuring that their businesses are available on Facebook.
Like any other social media channel, Facebook and, more specifically, Deals should be treated as only one part of a larger marketing plan.
NB: Here is a clip from Facebook regarding the Deals service:
A number of travellers are taking advantage of the situation in Egypt by jumping on holiday bargains.
The news comes as flights remain on schedule to and from Sharm El Sheikh airport nearby the resorts on the Red Sea. Meanwhile the UK Foreign office has advised that all unessential travel to Cairo, Luxor, Suez and Alexandria should be avoided but adds that the Red Seaâ€™s resort coastline is still calm.
Reports say that the areaâ€™s resorts, including Sharm el Sheikh, Marsa Alam, Taba and Hurghada, have not been affected by the unrest seen in Egyptâ€™s major cities. Additionally, they are separated geographically from such areas and are reachable via their own airports. Still, Germany, Australia and the United States have advised citizens against travelling to any part of Egypt.
In response, some of the UKâ€™s biggest travel firms, including Tomas Cook and Thomson Airways, have put up substantial savings opportunities for British holidaymakers headed to Egypt, some by as much as 50%Â simply in a bid to ensure that they have no extra stock leftover.
Travelsupermarket expert Bob Atkinson said that there were great deals available for those looking to grab a bit of winter son. He added that if the area were dangerous in any way tour operators would not still be bringing holidaymakers there.
(EMAILWIRE.COM, February 03, 2011 ) OSA PENINSULA, Costa RicaTucked away in the jungle of the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica, El Remanso Rainforest Wildlife Lodge beckons travelers for a relaxing and adventurous getaway in a 185-acre private, natural setting. To kick off the 2011 season and to celebrate the launch of their brand new website, El Remanso is offering travel deals for 2011. Guests of El Remanso will discover the magic of sleeping in the rainforest in a tropical rainforest that acts as a buffer zone to the famous Corcovado National Park. El Remanso is running two travel deals for 2011:
A Free Night’s Stay
As a special offer for the months of September through November, El Remanso will be offering travelers a free nights’ stay. For guests that book three nights at El Remanso during September-November, the fourth night will be completely free. Offer valid through September 1st to November 30th.
Free Domestic Airfare Within Costa Rica
For the months of September and October, El Remanso will include free domestic flights from San Jos to Puerto Jimnez for free for groups of 4 or more people that book travel together. Offer valid through September 1st to November 30th.
Both offers cannot be used together
Along with these special offers, travelers can enjoy activities like a canopy breakfast, waterfall rappelling, birdwatching, guided hikes through the reserve, surfing, kayaking, horseback riding, tree climbing, yoga, dolphin watching, or simply relaxing on the terrace of the luxurious cabins while watching monkeys swing through the surrounding trees. The lodge’s spacious accommodations offer excellent opportunities to observe wildlife in its natural setting, combining absolute comfort with a tasteful rainforest dcor. Guests are afforded breathtaking views of the ocean waves crashing 350 feet below and soothing sounds of the rainforest at night. Other highlights include gourmet tropical cuisine prepared with locally-sourced, organic ingredients, eating meals from the top of the rainforest canyon, and soaking up the sun at the pool while enjoying unforgettable rainforest views.
To learn more about these special offers or El Remanso, visit http://www.elremanso.com or contact Stephanie Moreland at Stephanie@adventuremedianews.com .
El Remanso Rainforest Wildlife Lodge
This is a press release. Press release distribution and press release services by EmailWire.Com: http://www.emailwire.com/press_release_distribution_lists.php.
Mad Money Lightning Round: Cramer Likes El Paso (TSCO, POT, MOS, AGU, DE, ENOC, HON, ETN, STO, T, VZ, WIN, FTR, C, EP)
February 2, 2011: The NBA is rolling toward its 2011 All-Star Game at full speed, unveiling new partnerships for the upcoming event at Staples Center in Los Angeles as well as marketing alliances that will continue into the post-season.
• BBVA, the official bank of the NBA, has expanded its deal to become title partner of the All-Star Celebrity Game at the Los Angeles Convention Center, site of NBA All-Star Jam Session presented by adidas, on Feb. 18.
• NBA Hoop Troop, the league’s interactive youth platform created in partnership with Cartoon Network and targeting kids 6-12, has unveiled details of a multi-media campaign.
• Thomson Sport, one of the leading sports tour operators in the U.K., has agreed to a multi-year partnership making it the official presenting partner of NBA Games – London 2011 and the NBA’s official European fan travel partner.
As the title partner of the 2011 BBVA NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, the bank will have prominent exposure throughout Center Court during the game, which will air on ESPN. In addition, the NBA and BBVA, through its “Team. Works. In Schools.” initiative to refurbish schools throughout BBVA Compass’ Sunbelt, footprint, BBVA Compass will help refurbish Virgil Middle School in L.A. during the NBA’s All-Star Day of Service.
This year’s celebrity participants are scheduled to include Justin Bieber, Jimmy Kimmel, Ty Burrell (Modern Family), Zach Levi (Chuck), Jason Alexander and Common. Former NBA players who are scheduled to participate include Magic Johnson, Scottie Pippen, AC Green, B.J. Armstrong, Chris Mullin and Jalen Rose.
BBVA was named this week at the Sports Marketer of the Year by the readers of NYSportsJournalism.
The NBA said that its Hoop Troop marketing effort would include programming digital, print, and TV components. As an extension of the NBA’s joint venture with Turner Sports, NBAHoopTroop.com includes a mix of video, original programming, streamlined scores and standings, games, interactive features, a membership component, and other league and partner content.
Every Sunday, the NBA, in partnership with Cartoon Network, is airing Run It Back, a one-hour cut-down version of one of TNT’s Thursday games with pop-up graphics, trivia and interstitials. In addition, the “Shot Clock Shopping Spree” is a nationwide promotion launching at NBA All-Star Jam Session presented by adidas. The event will offer kids the chance to enter a sweepstakes online or in person. The three grand-prize winners will receive a shopping spree in New York with an NBA player. (Full details here.)
“Basketball is the number one team sport played by children in the U.S., presenting an enormous opportunity for the NBA to build on this interest in our game,” Brian Flinn, NBA svp-marketing, said in a statement . “When people have an interest in the NBA at an early age, they are much more likely to be passionate and avid fans as adults.”
As official European fan travel partner, Thomson Sport will offer fans exclusive travel packages to the NBA’s first regular-season games in Europe, as well as future games played on the continent. NBA Games – London 2011, presented by Thomson Sport, will feature two games between the New Jersey Nets and the Toronto Raptors at The O2 in London, March 4 -5, 2011.
Thomson Sport will also offer packages for European fans to attend NBA games in the U.S. and Canada, and will have the opportunity to offer travel packages for fans in the U.S. to attend NBA games played in Europe.
As presenting partner of NBA Games – London 2011, Thomson Sport will support NBA Basketball Week, a week-long series of basketball events that will take place across the U.K. from Feb. 25 -March 5, culminating in the NBA Fan Zone, a dedicated interactive fan event taking place in London to coincide with the Nets-Raptors games.
In addition to package rights, Thomson Sport will receive prominent brand exposure around the games held at The O2 in March, as well as on NBA.com, where the company will present a new editorial feature highlighting its travel offerings.
According to Sophie Goldschmidt, svp-NBA Europe, “Our first-ever regular-season games in Europe are a milestone for the NBA, and Thomson Sport is an ideal partner to present this showcase of our game . . . Thomson Sport will play an important role in supporting this celebration of basketball and helping to deliver an authentic NBA experience for fans across the U.K.”
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Published: Wednesday, February 02, 2011, 8:01 PM Updated: Wednesday, February 02, 2011, 8:57 PM
Karin Price Mueller/The Star-Ledger
The state today announced a more than $3 million settlement against the owner of at least 11 travel companies that bilked hundreds of consumers, promising travel deals and discounts that were never delivered.
Nearly $2.2 million of the judgment is earmarked for restitution to wronged consumers.
The state said Daryl Turner of Cherry Hill is the man behind the bogus travel companies, which opened and shut doors in Manalapan, Marlton, Egg Harbor Township and other locations in the state. Customers and state officials said until now, Turner has been an elusive force, skipping town and opening in a new locality when customers started asking for refunds.
The suit, first filed in 2009 but amended several times to add more company names, named Turner and the following companies: Dreamworks Vacation Club, Dreamworks Vacations, Dreamworks, Bentley Travel, Modern Destinations Unlimited, Blue Water, Five Points Travel Company, La Bonne Vie, Dream Vacations International, Vacation Clubs LLC and Away We Go Promotions.
“What this judgment means in real terms is an end to the Daryl Turner way of doing business,” said Thomas Calcagni, acting director of Consumer Affairs. “Unfulfilled promises of discount travel practices, bait-and-switch promotions tactics, no refunds no matter what — all of that ends now.’’
As part of the settlement, Turner must pay $3.086 million. Of that amount, $2.188 million is for restitution to wronged consumers, $478,000 is for civil penalties and the rest is for attorney costs and investigatory expenses.
The judgment also said Turner may not engage in any travel-related businesses in the state for five years, and he cannot open or operate like businesses in the future without state approval.
“For those consumers who were ripped off, our way is now clear to help get money back for them,” Calcagni said.
Calcagni said the judgment will permit the state to secure liens against any real property in which Turner has an interest, saying the state now has license to investigate and seize his assets.
He said the state will do exactly that until “every consumer is made whole and until every dollar in the judgment is satisfied.”
“That’s great,’’ said Stephanie Cohen, a Matawan resident who contacted Consumer Affairs after she read about Away We Go Promotions in Bamboozled, a column that appears every Monday in The Star-Ledger. After that column ran, the state added the company to its complaint.
Cohen and her mother paid $1,000 to Away We Go, but she said they never received any travel deals or a refund, despite several requests for their money back.
“He’s a thief, and he should go to jail,” said Alyssa Geibel, a Somerville woman profiled by Bamboozled after she paid $608 to Away We Go. She never received the promised travel discounts. “Turner should go to jail because he stole a lot of money from a lot of people.”
Tracey Della Pesca, another Away We Go customer Bamboozled profiled, was also happy to hear the news. She and her family paid $598 but never received any benefits or a refund.
“It’s one more step to getting somewhere, where before we weren’t getting anywhere,” Della Pesca said.
Calls to Turner’s attorney were not returned, nor were e-mails and calls to Turner’s businesses and home address.
Exactly when consumers will get their money back is uncertain.
“Now comes phase two — the part we’ve been waiting for — to go after this guy’s assets like a shark, and that could take a while,’’ Calcagni said.
People who filed complaints with Consumer Affairs against one of Turner’s travel companies will be notified by mail of the settlement, and Calcagni said the state will work with them to facilitate the reimbursements through credit card charge-backs.
Calcagni said about 200 of the 678 consumers who complained have already received charge-back refunds, and the state is encouraging those who haven’t filed complaints to do so.
To file a complaint with Consumer Affairs, go online at www.state.nj.us/lps/ca/comp.htm or call (973) 504-6200 or (800) 242-5846.
also if we want to add the Consumer Affairs presser on the settlement: http://www.nj.gov/oag/newsreleases11/pr20110202a.html