Athens, Arizona troubles could mean deals...Air Canada credit card policy...
Everywhere you turn, there's craziness. Protests in Thailand were raising eyebrows a week or two ago but it seems to have calmed down.
Now, of course, there's trouble in Athens as the Greek government seeks to get out of its massive debt problems. A couple folks were killed in rioting in Greece the other day, and now there's lots of hand-wringing and government panels being set up to avoid a tourism crash.
Tourism is a huge part of the Greece economy, apparently accounting for about 16 per cent of gross domestic product, and they can't afford people's idyllic visions of sidewalk cafes and perfectly whitewashed buildings on a tiny island surrounded by blue seas being interrupted by pictures of red blood spilling in the streets.
"People will think twice about going to Greece," said Ian Gamse with London-based consultants Otus and Co.
Likewise, folks in Arizona are still worried about the backlash from the state government's immigration law, the one that has sparked boycotts of the state by several U.S. cities and protests by high-profile professional athletes.I saw today that the National Football League is upset with the way workers are being treated at three major hotels in Indianapolis and are talking about a boycott during the coming NFL scouting combine.
It's fascinating to see athletes suddenly thrusting themselves into social causes. I haven't seen the Republican golfers on the PGA Tour threaten to boycott Arizona, and I don't expect to. It would be interesting, however, if a guy like Tiger Woods suddenly developed a public social conscience and spoke out. Likely he'd been as a publicity hound and a Johnny-come-lately, however, so it's probably best for Tiger to stay out of the political arena for now. He's got more important things to worry about, for sure.
Either way, it's probably a good time to find a good deal in Greece, not to mention Arizona. And England, where Thursday's election appears to have left the country without a majority party in Parliament, thus sparking economic concerns.I've said it before, but often the best time to book travel to a country is when they're in the middle of an economic crisis. You'll get good rates, and there's always the chance that things will be better by the time you get there. Mind you, they could get worse, too. Greece's labour situation is always a concern, and you don't want to get stranded on an island because the ferry boat workers suddenly take a liking to a two-week strike.
Food for thought. Speaking of which (doncha love a good segueway?), I don't much like the decision by Air Canada to make all transactions on board its planes credit card only. I hate using my credit card for a sandwich. Or a bag of carrots or apple slices, which are one of the few things I'll order.
I emailed Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick on Thursday and he told me it'll mean faster service for customers as attendants won't have to search for change. Nice try, but I don't buy it. Credit cards take more time than handing someone a five-dollar bill in my opinion.
I also asked about unaccompanied minors. At first, Fitzpatrick said kids could have food ordered for them in advance or get something at the airport. that didn't seem right, and he quickly sent me an email this morning to explain that unaccompanied minors automatically get a meal on Air Canada flights.
That seems fair. And it reduces the number of folks inconvenienced. But the unaccompanied minor program still only goes up to age 17, and there are a lot of kids of that age or even their early 20's who don't have a credit card.
You CAN order food in advance or shop at the airport, but it's a hassle and sometimes people just plain forget. Or maybe they mean to get something at Tim Hortons on the way to the gate but they're held up in security (Gee, ya think?) and have to dash to get the plane. Then what? They starve because they don't have a credit card?
Jazz, an affiliate of Air Canada, is still taking cash on board. For now. But many airlines in the U.S. have gone cashless, including American, Continental and Southwest. I don't like the idea. But Ted Heighington, a coporate image strategist and president of the Claremont Consulting Group in Toronto, told Star freelancer Danny Gallagher he couldn't believe the call by Air Canada.
Heighington called it "one of the most light-headed, stupid and imbalanced judgments I've ever seen from any airline."Whoa, Ted, tell us how you really feel.
Lots of good stories in the Star's business section today. Not only Gallagher's, but a good piece by reporter John Spears on Air Canada's improved financial situation in the first quarter of this year. They still lost money, but losing $85 millin sure beats the $400 million they coughed up in teh first quarter of 2009.
Also, reporter Tony Wong has a story on how Canadian hotels saw a 12 per cent drop in room rates last year.
Hotwire.com president Clem Bason was in town this week and told me Toronto actually is doing quite well right now in terms of hotels.with rate increases higher than most North American cities.
Bason told me it's a great time for folks to be looking for deals in places like Las Vegas, San Diego and Miami, however.
GREAT HONG KONG NUMBERS
The Hong Kong Tourism Board this week said they drew 8.6 million visitors in the first quarter of this year, a whopping 16.5 % hike over last year and the highest first-quarter figure ever.
In March, they attracted almost 2.8 million visitors. Including me, I must say. (Had a great time; click here for my recent column on Hong Kong).
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I did a travel story on Ste. Anne's Spa last year (see photo) and loved the place...