Saturday, September 22, 2018
Greetings and welcome to a Saturday edition of our NEWS AND VIEWS blog.
And as a reminder because our editor in chief is sailing tomorrow on the GRAND PRINCESS from San Francisco we will not publish next weeked as the cruise actually completes its voyage on Sunday next week.
Last week as part of our NEWS and VIEWS section in the Steals and Deals blog we reported this:
United Airlines raised its first bag fee to $30 per bag. Of course they did and by weeks end it was announced that United's stock prices had gone up greatly. Free enterprise at work for all of us but there is light in this in that both Delta and American have said they are in no hurry to increase bag fees at this time. We'll see just where this will take us. As is often said PLEASE STAND BY.
And just to let you know our crystal ball was not wrong overnight it was announced that AMerican Airlines will now join the gouge american travelers more club. Whew will it ever end? Apparently not as you check out this article from yesterday about Delta Airlines.
This was reported from Bloomber News.
•September 19, 2018
Delta Air Lines Inc. signage is displayed as a traveler uses self check-in kiosk in Delta Air Lines Inc. Terminal 5 at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Monday, Aug. 17, 2015. LAX is one of a handful of major U.S. airports where no one carrier dominates -- each of the four biggest airlines now holds market share between 14 percent and 18 percent.
Delta Air Lines Inc. raised its fee for a first checked bag to $30, following in competitors’ footsteps as U.S. carriers expand efforts to offset stubbornly higher fuel prices.
The $5 increase at the No. 2 airline means most U.S. travelers will pay $30 for a first piece of luggage and $40 for a second. United Continental Holdings Inc. and JetBlue Airways Corp. boosted the charges last month. American Airlines Group Inc., the world’s biggest carrier, hasn’t changed its fees.
Delta’s move extends an industry push for more revenue from items other than tickets. U.S. airlines already are slowing growth in the last half of the year in an effort to tighten the seat supply and gain added power to raise fares. Fuel prices have climbed about 27 percent in the last year, adding pressure on an industry that’s facing a third consecutive year of declining profits.
“Delta offers a variety of optional products and services and routinely makes fee adjustments,” Morgan Durrant, a spokesman for the Atlanta-based airline, said in an email about the change, which took effect Wednesday. He declined further comment.
United generated $3.39 billion last year from bag fees and other products and services priced separately from tickets, according to IdeaWorks Co. Delta got $2.38 billion while American brought in $2.2 billion. Thirteen U.S. carriers collected $4.6 billion in bag fees alone last year, according to U.S. Transportation Department statistics.
JetBlue, which didn’t have a bag fee before 2015, kicked off the flurry of increases on Aug. 27. While Southwest Airlines Co. remains the only large U.S. carrier without a fee for a first or second checked bag, the Dallas-based airline raised its early boarding fee on Aug. 29.
American Chief Executive Officer Doug Parker declined to comment Tuesday on whether the airline would boost bag fees. It was the first U.S. carrier to adopt a checked-bag fee of $15 in May 2008. The charge followed a surge in jet-fuel prices during a year in which airlines also reduced schedules and cut jobs.
Delta’s higher bag fees won’t affect passengers who bought tickets before Wednesday.
WOW did we ever call this one. A clear case of playing follow the leader. Now don't you just get the warm and fuzzies about all of our domestic carriers with the exception of course of Southwest?
Southwest continues to say they will not charge for the first two bags but even though it is a ways off there most likely will come that time.
And now for some rather exciting news. It has been many years since a cruise line attempted this and of course we have to be first right?
People have long wanted a "shortie" cruise from San Francisco. We remember that many years ago Celebrity actually did the Mexico thing from San Francisco for a couple of seasons and they did do a few of these "shortie" cruises but then left us for higher grounds.
Princess of course is where you can COME BACK NEW from any cruise and they are going to give us ONE and ONE only shortie cruise from San Francisco that goes to Cabo San Lucas and San Diego. It is in January of 2020 and it is a 5 day cruise. There is just no way to make them shorter.
We set up a group for it and below are the details. If you ever wanted to do a sampler cruise from San Francisco this is your time to take advantage of it. And it will be our goodbye to the GRAND PRINCESS.
While Princess has not officially announced that we are losing the GRAND it will sail away for the last time from San Francisco after its spring season of cruises. No details yet on what ship will replace it but let's hope if we get one that it is a good one. She has given us many years of great cruises and we actually will sail on the GRAND tomorrow and it will be our 8th cruise aboard so it is sort of like old home week for us.
Check out the details below of the "shortie" cruise and it you wanna join us contact Bill although he will be gone for the week on the gRAND so maybe waiting a week won't hurt. We have the group space so no hurry.
QUICKIE GETAWAY FROM YOUR EVERYDAY ROUNDTRIP FROM SAN FRANCISCO
We do have some tidbits this week from Fred and speaking of Fred he will be at the htlm all week while Bill is on board the GRAND. Don't worry he can handle it OK?
The Best Island Getaways in National Parks
When you need to cross the water to get away from it all, head off to these beautiful retreats across America.
Solitude, romance, adventure, excitement—all these words and more come to mind when travelers think of island getaways. The National Park System encompasses hundreds of islands, some large and some tiny, and many beckon visitors to enjoy their charms for a few hours or an entire vacation.
National Park: Lake Superior Island, Michigan
Wild and remote, yet not forbiddingly so in either category, Isle Royale offers a true North Woods experience to those who venture across Lake Superior’s frigid waters to reach it. The largest island in the world’s largest freshwater lake, Isle Royale provides commercial lodging, developed campgrounds, and unspoiled wilderness during its season of mid-April through October. (The park closes completely in winter.) Most people access the island via one of four ferries that leave from Minnesota or Michigan, though a few take a half-hour seaplane flight. Travelers can hike through mixed coniferous and hardwood forest, kayak along rocky shores, or camp beside gorgeous lakes, falling asleep to the howling of wolves and waking to the “laughter” of loons. Various boat services and ranger-guided trips give you the chance to explore Isle Royale in countless ways, from roughing it to (comparatively) leisurely tours. A day trip to Isle Royale is possible, but such a visit leaves only a few hours to enjoy the park; plan for a sojourn of at least a few days. Good preparation is key to an enjoyable trip, as is a realistic knowledge of physical limitations and not trying to do too much, either on land or paddling.
National Seashore: Atlantic Barrier Island, Georgia
Beautiful beaches and a wilderness area of wetlands and woodlands make this 18-mile-long Georgia barrier island a great choice for a relaxing getaway or an adventure trip. There’s plenty for history buffs, too, beginning with American Indian shell mounds and continuing through European settlement, African-American slavery and post-emancipation communities, and a period when the island was a favored retreat of the wealthy Carnegie family (some of their mansions still stand on the island). Regular ferry service provides access to Cumberland Island from St. Marys, Georgia; private boats can also anchor near the island, and some hardy paddlers reach it by kayak. There’s still private property on Cumberland, and an inn providing accommodations, but extensive wilderness and sandy Atlantic beaches make this island special for those who bike its roads or hike its trails.
National Park: Southern California Islands
Despite its location off the coast of heavily populated southern California, Channel Islands National Park receives relatively light visitation. Those people who do make the boat (or seaplane) trip across the Santa Barbara Channel can explore five major island groups that are home to globally significant biodiversity. These islands, in fact, are sometimes called the “Galápagos of North America.” From ultrarare birds to blue whales, the world’s largest animal, Channel Islands is a wildlife film come to life. All the islands are reachable for day-trippers (the closest, Anacapa, is a 90-minute boat trip from the mainland), and even a brief visit will bring sightings of seals, sea lions, sea otters, whales (more than two dozen species have been seen in the waters off the islands), and the largest colonies of seabirds in southern California. Developed campsites are found on all five islands, and backcountry camping is allowed on Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa. For a real adventure, sea kayakers can explore striking sea cliffs and Painted Cave, one of the world’s largest and deepest sea caves. Found on Santa Cruz, the cave is nearly a quarter mile long.
National Park: Isle au Haut, Atlantic Coast, Maine
Most of this beautiful national park is located on an island—Mount Desert Island, off the coast of central Maine—but make the extra effort to visit the park’s Isle au Haut, a much smaller island (about 5,500 acres) 20 miles southwest of Mount Desert. Isle au Haut is reached by a mail boat from the little town of Stonington, a circumstance that limits the number of visitors. Much of the island can be seen on a day trip, exploring trails that wind through woodland and meadows and along rocky shores. More solitude is available by reserving a campsite at Duck Harbor. Sleeping on Isle au Haut makes it possible to enjoy sunrises and sunsets on the island, a lovely place that seems more remote than its location would indicate.
National Seashore: Atlantic Barrier Islands, North Carolina
The Outer Banks of North Carolina are deservedly popular: a series of Atlantic Ocean barrier islands with expansive beaches, great fishing, historic beacons, and excellent wildlife-watching opportunities. Cape Lookout National Seashore, comprising three main islands—North Core Banks, South Core Banks, and Shackleford Banks—can be reached only by commercial ferries from four communities on the North Carolina mainland and has only minimal facilities. (Vehicles can be transported on some ferries.) As a result, the islands of Cape Lookout draw fewer visitors and offer more solitude than other Outer Banks islands. Other reasons to visit include seeing the 163-foot-high lighthouse, touring historic Portsmouth Village, admiring the wild horses, collecting seashells, camping in a primitive site far from other people, or simply enjoying the sun, sand, and salt breeze of a deserted beach.
National Lakeshore: Lake Superior Islands, Wisconsin
After getting information at the visitor center in the small town of Bayfield, in northern Wisconsin, catch a boat ride out to explore some of the 21 islands of this Lake Superior park. Eighteen of the islands allow camping, and six boast historic lighthouses. Eighty percent of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is designated wilderness, which means unspoiled island environment. Sea kayaking is a popular way to travel around the islands (rentals are available from park concessionaires), but Lake Superior’s notoriously changeable weather and rough water means paddling experience is strongly recommended. If interested in a true escape, consider this: Almost half the camping on the 21 islands takes place on just one of them, Stockton Island. Wilderness camping is available, and the park has established a camping zone system to assure solitude.
National Seashore: Gulf Coast Islands, Florida and Mississippi
This Gulf Coast park includes 12 separate units in both Florida and Mississippi, on the mainland and on islands. But true island lovers will be most interested in the four Mississippi islands where primitive camping is allowed: East Ship, Horn, Petit Bois, and part of Cat. With stunning white-sand beaches—originating as eroded quartz in the Appalachian Mountains and washed down to the Gulf of Mexico by rivers—these undeveloped islands offer beauty, nature, and solitude for visitors who have their own boats or who take charter boats for the 12-mile trip from the mainland. (Watch for bottlenose dolphins during the crossing.) Swimming, fishing, hiking, bird-watching, and beachcombing are all popular activities. Campers must bring their own food and water to the islands (plus extra supplies in case weather delays a return to the mainland), as well as the usual insect repellent, mosquito netting, sunblock, and first-aid gear. It’s strictly a policy of “pack it in, pack it out” on these remote islands, but the wild and lonely place makes the planning and preparation worthwhile.
Sleeping Bear Dunes
National Lakeshore: North and South Manitou Islands, Lake Michigan, Michigan
Most people visit this Michigan park, on Lake Michigan’s eastern shore, to swim, play on the tall dunes, or visit historic sites on the mainland. Some, however, have discovered the park’s two wild islands, North and South Manitou. The former, about 8 by 4 miles, is managed as wilderness open for backpacking, except for a 20-acre area around a small village. South Manitou, about 3 by 3 miles, is more developed, with camping allowed only in three official park campgrounds. Along with several historic buildings, South Manitou has a 104-foot-tall lighthouse, dating from 1871, that offers a panoramic view of Lake Michigan. Commercial ferries leave from the town of Leland to reach North and South Manitou Islands.
National Park: Elliott, Boca Chica, and Adams Keys, Florida
The watery wonderland of Biscayne National Park—95 percent of this Miami-area park is composed of Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic—has more to offer than just scuba diving, snorkeling, and boating. You can take a commercial tour boat to see Elliott Key, once home to a thriving maritime community and now a park site with camping, swimming, and a 7-mile hiking trail. Boca Chica Key, also reachable by tour boat, offers camping and a 65-foot-high ornamental lighthouse built by a businessman who once owned the island. When open, the lighthouse observation deck provides a great panorama of the bay and the city skylines beyond. Those with their own boats can tour Adams Key, once the site of an exclusive fishing club where several U.S. Presidents visited. The best way to explore Biscayne’s islands is via kayak or canoe, which can traverse shallow channels and lagoons to see wildlife such as sharks, rays, wading birds, and possibly a manatee or sea turtle.
Theodore Roosevelt Island
National Memorial: Potomac River Island, District of Columbia
What is an 88-acre island in a metropolitan area doing on a list of wilderness islands? In its own way, this District of Columbia park in the Potomac River is a treasured green getaway, a peaceful respite from city life for residents of the national capital. Acquired in 1932 to honor our greatest conservationist President, Theodore Roosevelt Island comprises 2.5 miles of hiking trails through woods that seem removed from civilization, as well as a statue of Roosevelt and stone monuments inscribed with some of his quotations. Had this park been accessible during his Presidency, there’s no doubt that Teddy would have skipped out on Cabinet meetings now and then to enjoy nature here, just as he enjoyed roaming nearby Rock Creek Park to watch birds and partake in the “strenuous life” he always advocated.
And NEWS AND VIEWS are as always in good supply with this week being no disappointment.
by Adam Leposa |
Sep 15, 2018 8:00am
Delta's first A220-200 aircraft
A potential new budget airline in Europe and the world’s longest biofuel-powered flight lead this week’s air travel news.
In budget news this week, an entrepreneur and part-time Ryanair pilot, Alvaro Oliveira, is looking to launch a new low-cost carrier in Europe, according to The Telegraph. Tentatively called Swiss Skies (a working title), the proposed airline would be based in Basel, serving destinations in the United States, Asia, Middle East and Brazil. A fleet of 38 A320neo aircraft is planned by 2023.
In sustainable travel news, this Friday United Airlines operated a flight from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Zurich using a blend of sustainable aviation fuel -- 30 percent biofuel and 70 percent conventional jet fuel -- making it the longest flight to date by a U.S. airline powered by a biofuel volume of this size. SFO has signed a memorandum of understanding with fuel producers and a group of eight airlines, which includes United, to work cooperatively on expanding the use of sustainable aviation fuel at the airport.
In new flight news, this week Air France announced plans to fly from Paris - Charles de Gaulle to Dallas - Fort Worth, making it the 13 destination in the United States operated on departure from the airline. From March 31 to June 30 and from September 4 to October 25, 2019, the flight will operate on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, adding a Saturday frequency from July 1 to September 1, 2019. The flight will operate on an Airbus A330.
Also this week Air Italy launched new service between Milan and Bangkok. Operated on new long-haul Airbus A330-200 aircraft, the new service runs four times weekly, increasing to five times weekly from October 28.
This week Icelandair announced a second bank of flights as part of its 2019 schedule, beginning in May of that year. The new bank of flights will operate to major cities in Europe, including Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Oslo, Paris, Stockholm, and Zurich, as well as to Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, Toronto and Washington, DC. The new bank of fights from North America will arrive in Iceland at approximately 9:30 am with connections to Europe departing around 10:30 am. Flights returning from Europe land in Keflavik around 6:30 pm with departures to North America at approximately 8:00 pm.
In airport news, this week St. Lucia’s Minister for Tourism Dominic Fedee announced that development is underway for a major expansion of the Caribbean island’s Hewanorra airport, The Telegraph reports. The project, which is estimated to cost over $100 million, includes an expansion of the airport’s existing, single terminal, as well as construction of a new terminal with air conditioning, restaurants, shops and executive lounges.
In product news, this week Brussels Airlines launched a new layover option for travelers connecting through Brussels. The Belgium Stop Over product offers travelers free access to several museums and attractions in Belgium on stopovers ranging from one to five days.
Finally, this week Delta’s first Airbus A220-100 rolled out of the paint shop at the A220 assembly line in Mirabel, Quebec. Delta said that it will be the first U.S. airline to take delivery of the A220, which will have updated interiors and improved fuel performance. The first aircraft is scheduled to begin service in 2019.
by Adam Leposa |
Sep 17, 2018 11:36am
Celebrity Edge was among the new ships announcing details this week.
It’s been a busy week for new ocean-going cruise ships.
This week Holland America Line announced that the Nieuw Statendam, which is set to launch this December, will sail with a new-to-the-fleet live music venue, the Rolling Stone Rock Room. Developed in partnership with Rolling Stone magazine, the new classic rock venue will host a five-piece band playing hits inspired by the magazine’s top sales list. The venue will also be added to Nieuw Statendam’s sibling ship, the Koningsdam, and the cruise line is also considering adding it to its Signature- and Vista-class ships.
Also this week Celebrity Cruises released a preview of the Grand Plaza onboard the upcoming Celebrity Edge. The space, which will serve as a focal point for the new ship, will have a massive chandelier art feature over a martini bar. In the morning it will serve coffee and pastries, and cocktails by night.
Also this week Norwegian Cruise Line revealed the hull artwork for the Norwegian Encore, the last of the line’s Breakaway Plus class that is set to launch in 2019. Spanish artist Eduardo Arranz-Bravo will create the art, which will aim to showcase a variety of color inspired by the artist’s life by the sea in Barcelona.
In expedition cruise news, this week Lindblad Expeditions launched the National Geographic Venture. With a capacity of 100 guests, the new ship is larger than the line’s previous vessels, which had a capacity of 60 guests each, but with the same shallow draft depth, allowing it to visit many of the same, smaller ports.
Finally, in Asia cruise news, Royal Caribbean’s new Spectrum of the Seas passed another construction milestone this week with the merging and fastening together of two large megablocks for the ship. The first of the line’s Quantum Ultra class, an evolution of the Quantum design platform, the Spectrum of the Seas is slated for delivery in 2019 to serve the Chinese cruise market.
by Newsdesk |
Sep 18, 2018 9:57am
Photo by United Airlines
United Airlines reports that it is enhancing its boarding process by providing more space at the gate, a shorter wait in line and improved boarding information.
The changes include reducing the number of boarding lanes from five to two for more space and less time on line. With this spare time, flyers can go to a United Club or lounge or airport restaurants and shops, United said.
People who use the United app can get alerts when boarding has started so that they know when to head to the gate. As time goes on, the airline said that it will expand these notifications to text messages. Updated boarding information is also available on digital displays in the gate area.
United’s enhanced boarding also includes more perks for some of the airline’s top MileagePlus members:
· United MileagePlus Premier 1K customers who originally boarded in group one will now be invited to pre-board.
· UnitedPlus Premier Gold customers will move up in the boarding process from group two to group one.
These changes provide more time for customers to settle into their seats and balance out the number of customers in each of the airline’s five boarding groups. Also, all active duty military members will be able to pre-board instead of just those who are uniformed. Qualifying United credit card holders will continue to get priority boarding in group two.
The enhanced boarding was put into effect at all gates at Los Angeles Airport in February. Starting September 18, the changes will be implemented at more than 1,000 gates around the world.
For more information, visit https://hub.united.com/
by Newsdesk |
Sep 19, 2018 10:00am
Photo by oatawa/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
Looking for an overall sense of where the economy is headed into the holiday season? Deloitte is forecasting that retail holiday sales are expected to increase a robust 5 to 5.6 percent over last year’s shopping season, according to the organization’s annual retail holiday sales forecast.
Deloitte's retail and distribution practice expects total holiday sales (seasonally adjusted and excluding motor vehicles and gasoline) to exceed $1.10 trillion between November and January.
Additionally, Deloitte forecasts a 17 to 22 percent increase in e-commerce sales in 2018 compared with 16.6 percent in 2017. E-commerce sales are expected to reach $128 to $134 billion during the 2018 holiday season.
"The anticipated growth in holiday sales is likely because of solid disposable personal income growth, which we expect will be in the 5 to 5.4 percent range. That is above last year's 4.7 percent," said Daniel Bachman, Deloitte's U.S. economic forecaster, in a written statement. "A strong labor market should also aid retail spending, along with elevated consumer confidence and a stable personal savings rate of around 7 percent."
While these fundamentals are expected to boost holiday spending, Deloitte's economist cited potential risks that may affect spending in the coming months. Some of the impact of Fed tightening could be felt before the end of the year. Some observers have speculated the stock market is overvalued. A significant decline in the market could push down consumer confidence and reduce household wealth, both of which would moderate the forecasted rise in retail spending.
"Consumer sentiment and spending indicators provide a healthy outlook for retailers across channels with strong expectations for store-based and online retailers," said Rod Sides, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and U.S. retail and distribution sector leader.
by Newsdesk |
Sep 19, 2018 10:27am
Brightline, a privately owned intercity passenger rail system, is expanding to the West Coast with a new route serving Las Vegas.
The company reports it has acquired XpressWest, a high-speed passenger rail project with rights to develop a federally approved corridor connecting Southern California and Las Vegas, Nevada. This project would be only the second privately funded express intercity passenger rail in the United States, following Brightline’s Floridarail corridor, the company said.
Brightline said the project will link one of the most traveled routes in the country, connecting more than 22 million people living in Southern California with Las Vegas, one of the most visited cities in the U.S. According to ridership studies, travelers make more than 50 million annual trips between Las Vegas and Southern California. Today those travelers are limited to traveling by air or car, and Brightline said it expects its rail service to make the trip in less than two hours.
As a result of the XpressWest acquisition, Brightline will take over the development, construction and operation of the project and work with federal and local transportation officials to connect Las Vegas with Victorville, California, with future plans to expand into the Los Angeles area.
The first phase of the corridor is expected to be built on a right of way within and adjacent to Interstate 15, traversing 185 miles with no at-grade or pedestrian crossings. Construction is expected to begin next year and Brightline is planning to begin initial service in 2022.
The planned Las Vegas Station is expected to be within the resort corridor and will be a major intermodal hub with access to taxis, buses, shuttles, and limousines. As part of the project, Brightline is acquiring approximately 38 acres of land adjacent to the Las Vegas Strip for construction of the station and mixed-used development.
The first planned Southern California station is expected to be located in Victorville within a 30- to 45-minute drive of the approximately four to five million people who live in the Inland Empire and eastern Los Angeles County, and within close proximity to Southern California’s remaining 17 to 18 million residents. Planning for additional stations and connectivity to California Metrolink and eventually California High-Speed Rail is underway.
In addition to Brightline’s Florida development and operations and its anticipated development and operations between Las Vegas and Southern California announced today, Brightline said it continues to explore intercity rail opportunities across North America.
by Greg Dickinson |
Sep 18, 2018 3:42pm
Photo by MarcelloLand/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
by Greg Dickinson, The Telegraph, September 18 2018
A £1 per person per night tourist tax must be introduced in the Scottish Highlands to prevent people from being put off from visiting, a Highland councillor has advised MSPs.
Bill Lobban told Scottish Parliament’s Tourism Committee that the six million annual visitors to the region are putting excessive pressure on roads and parking, plus stretching amenities such as public toilets.
The Scottish Highlands have boomed in popularity in recent years, thanks in part to the success of tourism initiatives like the North Coast 500, which has brought visitors to the rugged north and northwestern regions of the Highlands.
Elaborating on his argument for introducing a tourist tax, Lobban told Telegraph Travel: “The increase in tourist numbers to the Highlands has been very, very welcome. It is, after all, our main and in some areas only industry.
“However, it does put massive strain on our infrastructure - roads, toilets, car parks and the like - and in these days of ever-decreasing funding from central government we have to make sure that we make the visit for our tourists as pleasant as possible. Allowing our infrastructure to deteriorate through lack of investment is not an option.
“I simply refuse to accept that a small charge of £1 per night will drive visitors away and I welcome any opportunity to get together with the industry and local residents to discuss a way forward.”
However, the suggestion of a tourist tax in the Highlands has not been welcomed by all. David Groundwater, Development Manager at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) told Telegraph Travel: “FSB has consistently opposed the introduction of such a tax since Highland Council first discussed it over three years ago.
“Our research earlier this year revealed that the vast majority of businesses in the Highlands remained opposed to such a tax on visitors with 73 per cent opposed and 75 per cent believing it would have a negative impact on the local economy.
“Our members are concerned about the administrative impact and are worried about the message it sends to guests. Further, we’ve seen little in the way of promises from councils that the money raised from this tax will be used to boost tourism or business.”
Tom Campbell, Managing Director of the North Coast 500 initiative, tells Telegraph Travel that the question of a tourist tax requires a deeper understanding of what exactly needs improving in the Highlands. “The real issue is ensuring there is sufficient infrastructure in place to promote and develop tourism and the associated socio-economic benefits in the North Highlands,” Campbell said.
“Before there is debate about how to raise money to fund that infrastructure, there needs to be an understanding of what is required in the same way as any business would set out its priorities for growth and sustainability. Only when there is a detailed, costed and agreed case for necessary investment should there be a debate about how that is funded,” he added.
One of the most popular parts of the Highlands and Islands for incoming tourists is the Inner Hebridean Isle of Skye. Alistair Danter of tourism organisation SkyeConnect points out that local businesses already have to pay high rates of VAT.
“We welcome a discussion on the issue of a tourism tax but while we pay such high rates of VAT compared to other countries - and do not see any benefit from VAT in terms of ring fencing it for expenditure on tourism infrastructure - we are reluctant to support a tourism tax. VAT payments that go directly to Westminster from Skye, for which we see no benefits, total around £22 million per annum.”
As it stands, UK businesses charge 20 per cent VAT on everything that is sold, while overseas companies typically charge between 7 and 10 per cent.
What do the Highlands businesses themselves think? Speaking to Telegraph Travel, Gareth Paschke of the Cairn Hotel said: “The Highland tourism economy is made up of very small businesses. With owner-operators often working 12 to 14 hour days, every day of the season, what we don't need is another cumbersome tax to administer, especially after a 70 per cent increase in our business rates this year.
“I have seen people in both private and public sectors work very hard. For a local authority to then take this hard work, squander the record tax receipts already being generated from this sector and now send the message - that you are no longer welcome here by way of a tax - is lazy and disrespectful. A classic tale of the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg. My ten year old gets the moral of the story, why can't our councillors?”
The debate rages on. For a tourist tax in the Highlands to go ahead, the Scottish Government will have to first pass legislation granting councils new tax-raising powers. The government has made it clear that they have no plans to introduce a visitor levy on the tourism sector in the near future.
So we have come to the end for this week..A happy BON VOYAGE to Bill and he now turns the keys over to Fred for the week.
Until two weeks from now please remain vigilant and be safe, stay safe and travel safe.
Cheers from a very pleasant Oakley this week.
Bill and Fred