In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Spain sees gamble in vision of ‘Sin City’
A Euro Vegas in down-and-out Spain?
Depending on whom you ask, it could be heaven-sent or a deal with the devil.
Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson’s dream to build Europe’s first Las Vegas-style resort in Spain would certainly bring much needed relief to an economy lurching into another recession and struggling with sky-high unemployment.
But the millions that would rain down come with strings attached: Adelson wants Spanish laws bent so that gamblers can smoke inside the casinos and new zoning regulations allowing him to send buildings soaring above the skyline.
And not everyone is thrilled about the idea of Spain hosting a European Sin City that could attract prostitution and mafia gangs – and add gambling addiction to the woes of already desperate Spaniards.
Still, Madrid and Barcelona are both vying to woo Adelson and the $22 billion he wants to invest to erect “Eurovegas” – an array of six casinos, 12 hotels featuring 36,000 rooms, a convention centre, three golf courses, shopping centres, bars and restaurants.
The two sites being eyed in Madrid each cover an area equivalent to 1,000 football fields.
Adelson and his company, Las Vegas Sands Corp., will decide by the summer which city to build in if they reach a deal with Spanish authorities.
To say that Spain needs his money would be an understatement.
The country’s jobless rate is around 23 percent – nearly 50 percent among those under age 25 – and the economy is forecast to shrink by 1.7 percent this year. First-quarter GDP numbers are expected to show Spain has slipped into its second recession in three years.
Easyjet to test allocated seating
Low-cost airlines’ signature scramble for seats may soon be a thing of the past after easyJet announced it is to test allocated seating for passengers.
But as the airline told the City that it had reduced its losses thanks to higher baggage charges, it said the plan to allow 40,000 passengers to pre-book their seats from today on a range of routes this summer was not motivated by squeezing more money out of customers but by a desire to reduce their stress.
When the first easyJet plane took to the skies in 1995, the dash for the prime positions was as much a feature of low-cost flying as a garish onboard colour scheme and an often obscure destination airport.
Now, as the boundaries between traditional airlines and low-cost carriers has become increasingly blurred, passengers can pay to choose their own seat or be allocated one free of charge.
While the service will cost £12 for premium places in the front or exit rows, or £3 for any other chosen seat, the chief executive, Carolyn McCall, said the plan was not a money-spinner but “revenue-neutral”.
“We’ve done a lot of research and found unreserved seating can stress people out a little bit, if they’re not used to boarding that way,” she said. “Our surveys showed that it can be a barrier to people travelling with us.”
Unreserved seating was a founding feature of the low-cost airline revolution primarily because it was seen to be a faster, more efficient way to board aircraft. A fast turnaround at airports has been a key element of the low-cost business model.
McCall said that if the trials showed allocated seating slowed operation of the planes it would not be used further.
The airline claims it has developed “one of the most sophisticated algorithms in world aviation” to ensure families and groups can still sit together despite passengers choosing their own seats.
While McCall insisted that the £5m technological investment was “not about making people pay extra for their seat”, business analysts said that the reported strong growth in revenues were partly down to a controversial administration fee introduced for all bookings in January.
EasyJet has said its half-year losses would be smaller than expected after its revenues were boosted by higher baggage charges. The Luton-based group – which operates more than 580 routes across 30 countries – said revenue growth per seat in the six months to 31 March would be better than expected at 10%, with about half that rise due to higher fees and charges.
Caribbean to continue fight against Air Passenger Duty
Tourism authorities in the Caribbean have criticised the British government for pressing ahead with plans to increase Air Passenger Duty (APD).
In last week’s Budget it was confirmed that APD will rise by eight per cent – or double the rate of inflation – on April 1, adding between £4 and £28 to the cost of a holiday for a family of four.
Senator the Hon Richard Skerritt, chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), warned that the decision would further damage the region’s economy, which is particularly dependent on tourism.
“The news is a huge disappointment,” he said. “The rate of APD to the Caribbean is already too high and discriminates against the Caribbean because of the way that it is structured.”
Due to the way the tax is calculated, by measuring the distance from London to the destination’s capital city, those flying to the Caribbean currently contribute more in APD than those flying to California or Hawaii.
The CTO claims that APD has been a contributing factor to a decline in the number of British holidaymakers visiting the Caribbean in recent years. It adds that members of the Caribbean community living in Britain have had to reduce their travel to the region, to visit friends and family, by up to a fifth.
Food truck fad comes to fine hotels hawking restaurant fare
Forget room service. Hotels’ latest food entree is putting it in trucks and delivering it on the street.
•The Setai Hotel in Miami’s South Beach last year opened the Beach Kiosk, what it’s dubbed a “high-end hotel food truck” on the beach. Menu items designed by the hotel restaurant’s Michelin-starred Executive Chef David Werly include ceviche, Wagyu hot dog and salmon burgers.
•The SLS Hotel South Beach, scheduled to open in May, will have a stationary food truck by celebrity chef Jose Andres at its pool in Miami.
•The Auberge Saint-Antoine in Quebec City will open a second food truck by its restaurant’s chef in June. The first Panache Mobile operates at the nearby Vignoble de Sainte-Pétronille vineyard. The second will be on the riverfront at the St. Lawrence River. The food, which includes lobster rolls, tartare and focaccia sandwiches, is made from ingredients from a garden the hotel operates at a nearby island.
•The Ritz-Carlton, Washington, D.C., will open a pop-up barbecue restaurant from April 27 to June 29 outside its Westend Bistro by celebrity chef Eric Ripert.
Many high-end hotels in recent years have enlisted award-winning chefs to turn their restaurants into destinations. So it’s only natural that they’d try to capitalize on one of the fastest-growing segments of the restaurant industry, analysts say.
In a National Restaurant Association survey last summer, 59% of diners said they’d likely visit a food truck if their favorite restaurant offered one. That’s a 47% increase from the previous year. Food trucks attract a variety of clientele, from the leisure traveler looking for a cheaper food option to the business traveler on the run.
“Convenience has been and will continue to be a very important driver of restaurant industry growth,” says Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the association. “Hotels are expanding on food service, in general. A logical step would be mobility of the restaurant platform.”