Chris Carruth’s Travel Industry Insights and Destination news!

Guest Post by Chris Carruth

And now for the bi-weekly edition of “Subjective and selective travel industry news”, wherein we’ll be looking at recent and upcoming industry insights and destination news.  Have a suggestion?  Email me at [email protected].  Now, for the news:

Industry Insights:
  • Long lines at the airport got you down?  Tired of removing belt, shoes, and various items of clothing?   The TSA has an answer; the new Global Entry program.  Already being tested in place in 7 airports, the new program will be rolled out to another 35 by year’s end.  Of course, you’ll have to pay for the privilege ($42 – $100 for a 5 year membership) and you’ll also need to qualify as a frequent flier (No details on what that means exactly…).   More on the program from the AP here.   Keep in mind, increased security means increased operating expenses for both airports and airlines and, knowing the airlines, these costs may result in additional fees for passengers.  
  • In a move that should surprise nobody, the cruise ship industry has come together to introduce mandatory pre-departure muster drills.  This is in direct response to the Costa Concordia tragedy and has been long overdue.
  • Keeping my fingers crossed that a proposed tax hike in San Mateo County isn’t a bellwether of things to come.   The local bill seeks to increase tax rates for car rentals, hotel stays and parking fees and would primarily affect San Francisco tourism.  The U.S. Travel Association has decried the proposal as being “punitive” for travelers (and I tend to agree).
  • I’m speechless.  Air Australia, a low-cost carrier based in Brisbane, Australia has shut down due to a lack of available operating funds.   This means absolutely no more flights and thus they have, essentially, stranded ~4,000 passengers.    The FAQ on their site suggests that traveler’s find “alternative arrangements”.  The high cost of oil is being listed, by journalists and others, as a contributing factor to the airlines demise.
Destination News:
  • Road Scholar, a non-profit travel organization, seems to be offering the best rates for multiple night stays in Cuba (airfare included).  Prices, and itineraries, vary, yet seem to being around $3,000 and include a single night in Miami, several in Havana and Cienfuegos.  For those not in the know, it is possible to travel to Cuba as a U.S. citizen, albeit with several restrictions, one of which is that you need to be a member of an educational tour group (e.g. Road Scholars). 
  • Could Allegiant be in the mix for Hawai’i routes?  A little bird seems to whispering something along these lines to the “Beat of Hawaii” blog.  More carriers, more competition, lower fares, right?  Time will tell.   And while we’re discussing the Aloha state, here are 3 predictions for springtime travel and beyond.  My crystal ball isn’t nearly as clear.
  • Low-cost carrier Iceland Express, speculated to be going out of business, will instead be resuming flights from April through October, however the catch is that they will only service Reykjavik and various European cities – no U.S. stops.  Their rates from Iceland to Europe are low and worth comparing with IcelandAir.  
  • Tired of hotels, hostels and everything in between?  Give apartment rentals a shot – Air B’n’B, Wimdu, and Flip key are all new(ish) services that put you in touch with locals that are renting out rooms or their entire homes.  Live like the locals.
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