Tag Archives: Hospitality

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Washington Reagan National’s perimeter rule to stay

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Washington Reagan National Airport’s so-called perimeter rule, limiting the range of where flights can depart to and originate from, is to be retained without change following a government review and discussions with key stakeholders.

What is the Perimeter Rule?

Washington Reagan National (DCA) is one of three airports serving the Washington, D.C., area, alongside Dulles and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI). Its location close to the downtown area, the Potomac River and government buildings such as the White House and United States Capitol give it a unique and somewhat restricted operation.

Always popular with business, leisure and government travelers, owing to its central location, DCA is heavily slot-controlled by the FAA, limiting the number of daily movements. Airlines must also use their slots at least 80% of the time or risk losing them.

It is also restricted, since 1966, by a rule limiting the distance over which flights can operate. This has effectively made DCA a short- and medium-haul airport, leaving longer distance and international flights (apart from nearer parts of Canada) to other airports.

Today, this limit is 1,250 miles — a range which covers the entire Northeast, Florida, eastern Canada, and much of the Midwest. This allows the intense schedule of shuttle flights to cities like Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Atlanta, plus leisure destination, to be operated.

In order to satisfy demand for flights to other parts of the United States, a waiver is in place to allow 20 daily round-trips to a range of other cities, including Austin, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Portland, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Seattle, and San Juan.

The New Study

A new study into Reagan’s perimeter rule has been conducted by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) and was published at the end of November.

The purpose of the study was to look the effect of the rule, implemented to help the new Dulles airport establish itself and attract airline services, as well as to reduce congestion at Reagan, on the airport, its neighbors, passengers and airlines. The rule has been amended on three previous occasions, in 2000, 2002 and 2012.

Image: GAO

A number of key stakeholders were consulted in the study, including nine airlines, four airport authorities, seven academics, five associations and community groups and two consumer advocates.

Key findings from the study included:

  • Airlines operating flights outside the perimeter rule accounted for 6% of total flights, and 10% of total passengers.
  • They used larger aircraft and took up more space in ticketing and gate areas.
  • These flights did not contribute significantly to delays at the airport.
  • The flights may have drawn flights and passengers away from Dulles airport.
  • Many key stakeholders did not support a change to the rule, citing concerns about congestion, or negatively affecting other airports. They also considered a change would disadvantage some airlines.

The Conclusion

The GOA considered three options for Reagan:

  1. no changes to the current perimeter rule or beyond-perimeter flights;
  2. adding a small number of beyond perimeter flights; and
  3. completely lifting the perimeter rule.

Following discussions with stakeholders, the decision was made to make no changes to the rule or beyond-perimeter flights at the present time.

Recommending no change may seem somewhat of an anticlimax. However, this decision reinforces the reasons for introducing it in the first place as still being relevant, and acts on the advice and opinions of others.

DCA has continued to grow, registering 23.2 million passengers in 2019, which is more than the larger Dulles, and second to BWI’s 26.8 million. It also registered more aircraft movements than any other Washington airport. This year is likely to be a different story for Washington’s airports given the impact of COVID-19, with a drop totaling 78% of flights and 92% of passengers over the previous year. But there’s no likelihood that the previous levels will not be achieved again as the industry recovers, and the report acknowledges that “airports—including Reagan National—may need additional terminal capacity to implement new social distancing practices in response to COVID-19.”

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How concerning is it when contactless self-service pushes people out of work?

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COVID-19 has accelerated a few foreseeable changes that the service industry expected for the future. For example, more consumers have wanted delivery service since the pandemic hit in March. Restaurants, hotels, airlines, retailers, and shopping malls have extended their current contactless self-service offerings through mobile apps, kiosks, facial recognition, and palm recognition technologies.

To embrace the growing demand for delivery and contactless self-service, many fast-food chains also introduced new restaurant designs, featuring double- or triple-drive-thru lanes, conveyor belt delivery, and food lockers for pickup orders. In Chipotle’s case, its new digital-only restaurant only focuses on delivery and pickup services with no dining rooms.

Machines are replacing humans in the workplace even before the pandemic

Machines and robots are capable of doing a wide range of service jobs for humans. To name a few examples, restaurants and hotels can now use machines to:

  • Accept and manage reservations.
  • Manage customers in queues after they perform self-check-in.
  • Direct customers to the assigned seats or guestrooms.
  • Take orders or service requests.
  • Prepare the amenities or cook the food.
  • Deliver the service items/food to a table in a restaurant or a guestroom in a hotel.
  • Deliver dirty dishes or laundries to the kitchen or back of the house for cleaning.
  • Automatically wash the dirty dishes and sort them after they are cleaned.
  • Collect payment and feedback from customers.

Machines produce consistent outputs with minimal variations. Consumers also like making requests on their handheld devices because that gives them a sense of “control” over the service-delivery process. Meanwhile, consumers become more engaged as they are part of the co-creation process of the service product.

Moreover, using machines instead of humans can help service providers cut labor costs. The increase of minimum wage will no longer be a significant concern for the business that relies on machines to deliver service.

What types of jobs are at risk

Jobs that involve repetitive duties, e.g., tasks reacting to a specific situation, are probably at high risk of being replaced by machines. Back in the 1950s and ‘60s, when robotic arms were introduced in factories as a means of industrial development, many assembly line workers lost their jobs over machines.

Today’s robotics has reached a new level of sophistication. Automation in manufactories is no longer a concern.

Looking ahead, it is predicted that such occupations as taxi/bus/truck driver, mail sorter, office clerk, parking enforcement, meter reader, data entry, restaurant server, cashier, among others, are the jobs that might not exist in the next 50 years. The pandemic simply accelerated the adoption of automatic technology in the service industry.

Jobs that will not get replaced easily by machines

Jobs that require sympathy, creative thinking, and sophisticated problem-solving skills will have better luck, in my opinion. Machines can “think straight,” which are operated through programming. Humans can do a better job of finding creative solutions to a solve complex issue.

For instance, well-trained staff in hotels can do a superior job than machines in delivering impeccable service. Imagine a traveler coming to a guest service agent in a hotel, saying that s/he just found a hole in the only business suit s/he carries, but s/he needs to meet a really important client in 10 minutes. Within a few seconds, the guest service agent must develop the best solution for the guest, usually in a very creative way. Alternative solutions arise:

  • Will a silk scarf or a flower be able to cover the hole and, at the same time, match the outfit and style of the traveler’s look?
  • Will it be possible to purchase a new jacket or outfit for the guest?
  • Do we have a spare outfit that might suit the guest?
  • Do we have enough time to sew the hole if needed?
  • Is it possible for any of our staff members to lend the guest his/her outfit for a few hours?
  • … (the list can go on)

What should the guest service agent do to help the traveler? Many of these unexpected cases have no pre-set algorithms and cannot be solved by a machine. The best solution varies, depending on who is the guest, who happens to be working at the time, and what is available at the moment.

Service jobs of the future require human-machine interactions

No matter how much people want to criticize that automation is pushing workers out of the job market, the reality is that machines or robots are not going away. Workers are expected to work side-by-side with machines to deliver a better quality of work with higher efficiency.

What can people do if they do not want to get replaced by machines?

My suggestion is to be creative and never stop acquiring new knowledge. At a minimum, we need to learn how to turn machines into useful tools to support our work. Additionally, leadership and essential transferable skills (e.g., verbal and written communication skills, critical thinking, and analytical skills) are also important if we strive to be irreplaceable at work. Now, it is also time for institutions in higher education to reposition their roles to better prepare our students for the future.

Are you worried if you will get replaced by machines? If so, to what extent? What suggestions will you make to those who do not want to get replaced by machines?

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Reimagining airport parking to support the travel industry

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When most people think about airports, they generally think about airplanes. This makes sense, considering the majority of people head to airports to fly. But when looking at the revenue sources in airports, air travel is one small part of a very complex system.

Along with airlines, airports rely on the businesses that support them internally — rental car companies, retail stores, restaurants and parking lots — to provide the majority of their revenue. As the travel industry suffers due to pandemic restrictions, all of these sources of revenue are also suffering.

Although 53% of destinations worldwide have eased travel restrictions, international tourism plunged by 93% in June when compared to 2019 numbers. Airport executives need to begin thinking creatively about their existing assets to recover lost revenue.

The Problem

With a decrease in air travel activity, all aspects of the airport experience, from eating at restaurants in terminals to shopping and parking, are currently underused. This has resulted in massive revenue losses for airports and associated businesses.

The largest loss for airports has been in airport parking. From 2015 to 2018, airport parking revenue rose by an average of 13.6%. And even as airport parking declined, revenue increased: at San Francisco International Airport, parking was down by 7.5% from 2014 to 2017, yet parking revenue increased over the same period.

For many international airports, parking accounted for 17.2% of total airport revenue in 2018. Typically, this asset is well-used, but with airline travel down and restrictions on who can enter airports, parking lots are largely vacant.

At the same time, the rental car industry is suffering. Rental car companies across the U.S. have had to file for bankruptcy protection, while rental prices have dropped to entice customers. For example, Florida experienced a 18% drop in rental car prices.

Like many other businesses in the travel industry, COVID-19 will have a severe impact on the rental car industry for years to follow. And since the majority of rental cars are usually on the road, most companies are looking for places to store excess inventory. This is causing financial hardship, forcing companies to resort to paid parking to store unused vehicles. As businesses begin to reopen, public parking spaces are declining, forcing rental companies to seek out alternatives.

The Solution

To benefit both airports and the businesses that rely on them, airport parking can be reimagined to become an important source of revenue. The solution is to use these unused parking spaces to store fleet cars. Rental car companies, which are experiencing a steep decline in ridership, could rent out parking spaces in bulk, saving money from daily parking fees. Since many rental car companies already operate the majority of their business out of airports, these spots are conveniently located. When their business begins to pick up again, they’ll have quick access to the cars that are stored away in fleet parking.

Another industry that would greatly benefit from fleet parking at airports is the transportation and shipping of vehicles. Even though passenger air traffic is declining, the increased reliance on e-commerce is causing the air cargo industry to expand.

By storing their fleet of shipping vehicles at the airport, companies can support the industry, benefit from steep bulk discounts, and have a convenient location for their vehicles. The global e-commerce industry is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 14.7% from 2020 to 2027, which will drive up demand for adequate space to store growing fleets of vehicles.

The Future

The impact of the losses that the travel industry has experienced throughout the pandemic is staggering. This can be seen in a GDP drop of approximately 3% globally due to air travel restrictions.

Supporting airports, airlines and all businesses associated with air travel is of paramount importance right now. By reimagining airport parking, airports can do just that, while simultaneously driving revenue for airports. As the industry struggles to recover, this type of creative thinking will help businesses succeed over the next few years.

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8 great Florida botanical gardens

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Although most tourists flock to Florida for its gorgeous beaches and fun-filled theme parks, the Sunshine State is also home to a number of the nation’s most lush and exotic public gardens. Horticulturists, gardeners and ordinary nature lovers alike will find these enticing green oases the answer to a vacation dream come true.

From Jacksonville to Coral Gables to Sarasota — here are eight of Florida’s finest botanical gardens.

The Cummer Museum & Gardens on the St. John’s River in Jacksonville.

Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, Jacksonville

Idyllically located on the banks of the St. John’s River, the Cummer Museum’s gardens are the most spectacular and important public gardens in Northeast Florida. Created in the early 1900s by the Cummer family, prominent lumber barons of the time, these gardens bear the imprint of some of the foremost names in landscape design and horticulture, including Ellen Biddle Shipman, Thomas Meehan & Sons and the prestigious Olmstead firm. The museum and gardens are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Throughout the year, the gardens dazzle with rare plant specimens nestled under a canopy of mature live oak trees. Special features abound, including fountains, reflecting pools, arbors, antique ornaments and a large collection of sculptures.

www.cummermuseum.org, 904-356-6857

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Sarasota

Tucked away in 15 acres of lush subtropical foliage on Sarasota Bay, this garden complex is one of the world’s most prestigious botanical centers. It was founded in 1971 as the first and only botanical garden in the world focused solely on the study and display of epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants rather than in soil), which include most orchid species. No question, this place is an orchid lover’s delight.

The garden was once the home of oilman William Selby and his wife Marie, who left the property to the city of Sarasota when she passed away in 1971. Beyond the colorful profusion of orchids, the garden offers a collection of bromeliads from pineapples to Spanish moss; an amazing collection of palm trees from around the world, and a mangrove walkway bordering the bay. Selby Gardens hosts an orchid festival each fall focusing on different themes and complimented by special events, lectures and classes.

www.selby.org, 941-366-5731

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Coral Gables

Established in 1938 by Col. Robert H. Montgomery, Fairchild was named for Montgomery’s friend and fellow tropical plant enthusiast, Dr. David Fairchild. The 83-acre preserve houses a vast collection of tropical plants gathered from around the world by Fairchild.

The garden’s headline attraction is the Lin Lougheed Spiny Forest of Madagascar — named for the major donor and art collector. It nurtures a variety of that island nation’s exotic plant life, including spiny octopus trees, swollen baobabs, cactuses and desert roses. Also very popular is the garden’s butterfly conservatory, housed in the Paul and Swanee DiMare Science Village. Twice daily the staff releases butterflies into the conservatory — much to the delight of visitors.

www.fairchildgarden.org, 305-667-1651

Morikami Museum & Japanese Garden, Delray Beach

This complex of six gardens spread over 200 acres in Palm Beach County was created by Japanese garden designer Hoichu Kurisu, who says he intended it to help visitors “lay aside the chaos of a troubled world.” The time is obviously right for a visit. To accomplish that goal, Kurisu made use of small lakes and pathways that wind through pine forests, bamboo groves and rock arrangements.

With its two landscaped islands joined by a bridge, Morikami’s gardens were inspired by those of Japanese nobles from the 9th to 20th centuries. The museum’s collection of bonsai trees is said to be one of the top three such collections in the world.

www.morikami.org, 561-495-0233

Naples Botanical Garden, Naples

This 170-acre tropical paradise features designs from a team of internationally celebrated landscape architects and includes cultivated gardens of Florida, Brazil, Asia, the Caribbean — and a water garden filled with water lilies, lotus and papyrus.

Dedicated to the cultivation and preservation of plants that grow between the 26th parallel north and the 26th parallel south, Naples Botanical Gardens features seven ecosystems, including mangroves, marshes and pristine forests where hundreds of animal species and more than 300 species of exotic and native plants thrive. In 2017, just eight years after opening, the Naples Botanical Garden became the youngest to win the Garden of Excellence award from the American Public Gardens Association.

www.naplesgarden.org, 239-643-7275

Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida

Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales

This popular Central Florida attraction was founded in the early 1920s as a bird sanctuary by Edward Bok, a Dutch immigrant and the publisher of Ladies’ Home Journal. Bok soon added a carillon tower and gardens as the property expanded from 53 to nearly 300 acres. The 205-foot-high neo-Gothic Singing Tower dominates the park. Made of local stone, the tower houses a 60-bell carillon that rings forth twice daily.

The signature feature here is the 50-acre Frederick Law Olmstead Jr.-designed gardens that form the core of Bok Tower Gardens. Bursting with magnolias, azaleas and camellias, this garden is at its best at full bloom in February and March.

www.boktowergardens.org, 863-676-1408

Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, Gainesville

Named for a nearby lake, 62-acre Kanapaha Botanical Gardens is comprised of 24 distinct gardens, including Florida’s largest public display of bamboo and the largest herb garden in the Southeast. In addition to its prized stand of Chinese royal bamboo, the gardens’ signature plants include giant Victoria water lilies and Asian snake arums.

Kanapaha hosts a number of festivals and special events, including a two-day Camelia Show in January, a Spring Garden Festival and a Moonlight Walk, when paths and meadows are illuminated by special laser lights and more than 1,500 luminaires.

www.kanapaha.org, 352-372-4981

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens in Miami

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, Miami

No doubt Florida’s flashiest gardens, Vizcaya recreates the glorious French- and Italian-style gardens of the 17th and 18th centuries, exuding both elegance and fantastical whimsy.

Built between 1914 and 1922 by retired International Harvester executive VP and conservationist James Deering, Vizcaya is set on a magnificent 50-acre estate that features almost 10 acres of formal Italian- and French-style gardens designed by famed international landscape architect Diego Suarez.

The Fountain Garden features a plaza with a fountain from the Italian town of Sutri and, hidden among the strangler figs, Suarez added a two-story “Secret Garden,” where cactus flowers and succulents bloom in pots built into the stucco walls.

www.vizcaya.org, 305-250-9133

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A new era for Berlin as Brandenburg Airport finally opens

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A mere nine years late and approximately $3.8 billion over budget, Berlin’s new Brandenburg Airport (BER) finally opened on Oct. 31.

A muted ceremony, at what is arguably the worst time to open a new airport aimed at handling more flights and passengers than ever before, allowed Germany to at least save face and put the huge debacle of this construction project behind it.

Originally planned to open in 2011, the flagship airport project has been plagued by problematic safety measures, insufficient retail space, and fraud as many reasons for delay stacked up.

Yet with its grand spaces, modern facilities and room to expand, it offers everything a modern city like Berlin needs as a gateway.

When is a new airport not actually new?

Despite its €5.9 billion price tag, Berlin Brandenburg Willy Brandt (named after the former West German Chancellor) occupies the site of the existing Schönefeld Airport in the east of the city.

What was once a hub for East German travelers had become outdated and overcrowded, with the new Brandenburg site being constructed to the south of the existing terminal.

The original terminal, itself upgraded only a few years ago, has been retained and rebranded as Terminal 5. It will be used by low-cost and leisure carriers.

Video credit: Berlin Brandenburg Airport/Vimeo

Schönefeld and its IATA designator of SXF officially ceased to exist on Oct. 25. Brandenburg, now operating as Berlin’s only commercial airport, has taken up the BER code.

The first day of operations was meant to see parallel landings of easyJet and Lufthansa Airbus A320neo aircraft timed specially for the occasion, but weather forced them to land one after the other, resorting to posed pictures on the taxiway to mark the historic moment.

The airport’s new, second runway did not go into operation until Nov. 4, with the arrival of a Qatar Airways aircraft from Doha.

CEO of Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH, Engelbert Lütke Daldrup, said: “With the southern runway, Berlin Brandenburg Airport Willy Brandt is now in full operation. The commissioning of the runway is especially significant, with a view to the expansion of the intercontinental network, because, in addition to a new terminal, we now also have the appropriate infrastructure to handle long-haul connections on a larger scale. At the same time, the opening of the southern runway is particularly relevant for the surrounding area: The night flying restrictions, which were adopted in 2011 and have now entered into force, provide for the appropriate, citizen-friendly compensation and regulation of the economically important flights during off-peak hours.”

The future of Berlin’s airports

Alongside Schönefeld’s closure, the city’s other commercial airport, Tegel, has also closed. Once the lifeline to the outside world for those living in West Berlin, the final flights at the airport operated on Nov. 8.

Brandenburg Airport was built with scale and modernity in mind. Its large open spaces allow room for passenger flow, lounges, shopping and dining and greater passenger numbers.

The whole structure sits on top of a brand-new train station that whisks passengers into Berlin in minutes and connects to the wider rail network.

Opening day saw 3,077 passengers handled in the new facility, which is designated Terminal 1, with no major problems or delays encountered.

Yet in these difficult times for the aviation industry, the new airport is hardly being stretched. It was built to easily handle the 34 million passengers that used Berlin’s two older airports last year, and already has plans to open the rest of the building as Terminal 2 next spring.

Terminals 3 and 4, both satellite buildings with more aircraft parking gates and capacity, are future projects with no firm opening dates yet.

Realizing Brandenburg’s potential

With the opening of BER it seems the drama — something that Germans consider a national embarrassment — is over, and the city can look to the benefits it may bring in achieving what it was set out to do.

Most notably, the crowded and outdated airports at Schönefeld and Tegel, which served as reminders of a divided city, are now safely in the past. The new airport can begin to realise its potential, offering a modern, spacious travel experience for the city’s visitors and residents. However, much relies on the recovery of the aviation industry and appetite for air travel as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold.

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How design is aiming to bring hotel guests back

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Hospitality and travel arguably have been the sectors hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Beset by fears of contagion, travel restrictions and mandated closures, hotels rushed to put strict health and safety protocols in place and revamp spaces to accommodate social distancing, hoping to revive custom, with only partial success.

Now, as they look ahead to next year and the promise that the virus will be brought under control, hoteliers are exploring what more they can do to lure travelers back to their properties. Among their top strategies are changes to design that will reassure guests that every effort has been taken to safeguard their health and wellness.

With hotel occupancy rates nearly one-third less than what they were a year ago, hoteliers are hoping that the availability of an effective vaccine early next year will give people confidence that it is safe to travel again. Folks whose plans were scuttled this year are eager to resume travel after months of confinement to home. Agencies are already advertising tours and other packages at attractive rates for the spring season.

The latest forecast from STR and Tourism Economics, reports Lodging magazine, predicts limited demand for hotel bookings until the second half of 2021, when more widespread containment of the virus is expected. A recent poll conducted by the Global Business Travel Association found that about half of companies surveyed anticipate renewing business travel and a return to in-person events in the first half of next year, mostly in the second quarter, and another quarter of companies are planning for a return to travel in the second half of the year.

Hotel managers want to be well-positioned to compete for those travelers’ business when they do return, and making design changes and improvements is one of the ways they are preparing themselves. Of late, hospitality media have been awash in articles about the future of hotel design in a post-COVID era.

Hotel Business Review, in fact, has dedicated its entire November issue to the topic. Recently, Hotelier Middle East streamed an online panel discussion featuring designers and hotel managers on the topic “Has hotel design changed forever?” An op-ed in Hotel Interiors pondered the question, “Hotels—What does the future hold?” And industry news website Hospitality Net proposed “Four Interior Design Trends for the Post-Pandemic Hotel.”

The gist of this coverage is that hotels are ready to move beyond the initial modifications of hand sanitizer stations, rearranging tables and chairs, cautionary signage, and touchless check-in to more fundamental design changes. Roughly, the authors’ insights and predictions fall into three sets of solutions.

The first set centers around the continuation and amplification of trends that were already becoming established in the industry prior to the pandemic. These include greater focus on wellness and WELL building standards; sustainability; and incorporation of nature/biophilia, including more natural lighting, artificial circadian lighting, indoor/outdoor spaces, natural materials, plants and natural views. In addition, the designers also see continued emphasis on a connection to authentic, local experiences, with designs that reflect and incorporate elements of the local culture, natural setting and landmarks.

The second set expands on steps taken so far to improve the health and safety conditions of properties. Designers expect that public spaces, such as lobbies and restaurants, will employ layouts that encourage the gathering of smaller groups and distanced zones for both social and work purposes.

Conference rooms and ballrooms, too, will be divided into smaller spaces, including co-working spaces. Touchless technology will be integrated into all aspects of hotel services and guest rooms. Antimicrobial surfaces and materials that are easy to clean and disinfect, as well as dividers and shields, will replace older furnishings in public areas.

The third set of solutions looks forward to changes that are being planned for the near future, and in some cases have already been incorporated into new properties. Redesigning guest rooms will be a major focus going forward. Reversing the trend of recent years, guest rooms will get larger to accommodate multiple activities, including work and fitness activities, and more homelike amenities, such as kitchenettes and suitable spaces for in-room dining.

Soft surfaces like carpets and draperies will be replaced with hard surfaces that are easier to maintain and can withstand repeated disinfecting. Opulence will be replaced with a preference for simple, clean lines and surfaces. Tubs will be removed in favor of showers and double sinks.

Whether and how these changes come about will vary. In the article for Hospitality Interiors, designer Alex Duncan notes that properties more or less adhere to three types: high-end luxury, middle tier, and budget. Each appeals to a different type of client for different reasons, and thus design solutions need to be appropriate to the clientele for each type. But whether exuding elegance or offering bare bones practicality, spaces above all will proclaim “you are safe here,” even after the virus ceases to be an immediate threat to guests.

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Top 10 American ghost towns

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Abandoned towns — or ghost towns as they’re most often called — are not as rare as you might think. According to GPS fleet management company Geotab, which has extensively plotted ghost towns in the U.S., there are more than 3,800 of them scattered across the country.

Most are scattered about the American West, where they flourished as mining centers during the 19th century. Typically, the glory days didn’t last very long. When deposits of gold, silver, copper or other minerals played out, residents high-tailed it to seek riches elsewhere.

A few ghost towns have survived the elements, looters and vandals to experience boom times once again as popular tourist attractions. So, for those seeking a glimpse of what life was like during the gold rush days, here’s our list of the top 10 American ghost towns:

Kennecott, Alaska

A one-time copper mining town, Kennecott is set against the dramatic backdrop of snow-capped mountains in Wrangell- St. Elias National Park and Reserve. Declining reserves and ore prices finally forced closure of the mine and its production facilities in 1938.

The town is now a National Historic Landmark and remains one of Alaska’s most popular tourist attractions. It is administered by the National Park Service, which has worked to preserve historic buildings, including the towering, 14-story Kennecott Concentration Mill and the renovated Kennecott Power Plant.

Bodie, California

Bodie is frequently cited as the one of the country’s most complete and best-preserved ghost towns. At its peak in the 1880s, this Wild West gold mining town in desolate Mono County boasted a population of 10,000 people. Mining activities steadily declined before shutting down completely in the 1940s.

More than 100 abandoned buildings remain, including a Methodist Church, several saloons, a general store and a post office — many of them with interior furnishings intact. Protected as a State Historic Park and National Historic District, Bodie attracts more than 200,000 visitors a year.

Calico, California

Located just outside of Barstow — on the way from Los Angeles to Las Vegas on busy Interstate 15 — the remnants of this 1880s Mohave Desert mining camp that once supported nearly 500 silver mines have been restored and reimagined as Calico Ghost Town County Park. As such, it is part of San Bernardino County Regional Parks System that maintains and operates a number of onsite visitor attractions including a mine tour, gold panning and a narrow-gauge train ride.

Rhyolite, Nevada

Named for the pink volcanic rock found nearby, Rhyolite sprang to life near Death Valley with the discovery of gold in the early 1900s. So promising was the prospecting here that a wealthy investor named Charles M. Schwab (yes, that Schwab) sank a lot of money into the mines.

There were saloons and brothels, of course, but also a school, stock exchange, hospital, opera house and even an ice cream parlor. But local mines were soon exhausted and by 1907 most residents had departed. The town made a brief comeback in the 1920s as on “Old West” movie set. Today, visitors can probe the ruins, most notable of which are the Bottle House, built entirely of whiskey bottles by miner Tom Kelly, and visit a museum and outdoor sculpture installation.

Bannack State Park, Montana

Located near Butte, Bannack is one of the country’s most outstanding and authentic ghost towns. A major gold strike in 1862, and the ensuing population explosion, led to Bannack being named the first Territorial Capital of Montana in 1864. Aided by the introduction of electric dredges, mining continued at Bannack into the 1930s, but the town was eventually abandoned in the 1950s.

The town survived almost completely intact thanks to action by the state which made it a state park in 1954. More than 60 structures remain standing and most can be explored — inside as well as out — making for an exceptional visitor experience.

Oatman, Arizona

Oatman is a classic example of a ghost town that bounced back to life after mines shut down. It experienced the typical boom after prospectors discovered an extensive gold deposit in 1915. When the mines closed in 1925, Oatman survived by catering to travelers on a new east-west highway—U.S. Route 66 — that threaded through town.

Unfortunately, Interstate 40 replaced Route 66 in the 1960s and the new highway bypassed Oatman. The town wallowed once again on the brink of another bust.

Burgeoning interest in old Route 66, however, began to bring back visitors and today the town thrives again on tourism. Its main claim to fame are the “wild” burros that roam its streets — descendants of pack animals miners once used but turned loose when the mines closed.

Animas Forks, Colorado

This remote mountain town, situated on the fringes of San Juan National Forest near Silverton, was first settled by prospectors in 1873 and quickly developed into a thriving mining camp. Its rugged location, extreme elevation (11,200 ft.) and harsh climate forced residents to migrate to neighboring Silverton to ride out winter.

As mines played out, residents were quick to leave and by the 1920s, Animas Forks had become a ghost town. The town’s 2011 induction into the National Register of Historic Places has led to a concentrated effort to restore and reconstruct a number of its historic buildings.

An abandoned cabin at Miner’s Delight in South Pass City, Wyoming.

South Pass City, Wyoming

Yet another victim of the boom-and-bust cycle so familiar to western mining towns, South Pass City, just southwest of Lander, blossomed after a promising gold strike in 1866 and prospered through the1880s when the gold deposits began playing out. By the early 1900s, fewer than a hundred people remained — the last moving on in 1949.

Thankfully, before the town fell into ruin, the state of Wyoming stepped in to save it. Today, it shines as South Pass City State Historic Site, home to more than 20 restored original structures from the 1860s and 1870s.

Cahawba, Alabama

Cahawba, located near Orrville, is evidence that ghost towns aren’t exclusive to the Western U.S. Strolling the abandoned streets and eerie ruins of this once prosperous antebellum river town it is hard to conceive that the place was formerly the state capital of Alabama (1819-26). Problems caused by frequent flooding forced a move of the capital to Tuscaloosa.

At the end of the Civil War, Cahawba’s population had dwindled markedly, and by the early 1900s much of the town had been abandoned. Remnants of Cahawba, now protected as Old Cahawba Archaeological Park, can still be seen today, including the Gothic style 1854 St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the slave quarters of Kirkpatrick Mansion.

Batsto Village, New Jersey

This Jersey town — once a bustling ironworks that supplied the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War — has a long and fascinating history. Founded in 1766, it depended on its iron and charcoal production for nearly a hundred years until contracts went to a mine in Pennsylvania.

Industrialist Joseph Wharton (of eventual business school fame) stepped in and bought the entire town in 1876 and briefly experimented with manufacturing and agriculture before moving on and opening his business school in Philadelphia. More than 40 original structures, fully restored, remain today, including Batsto Mansion, a blacksmith shop, sawmill, ice and milk houses, a carriage house and a general store.

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How COVID-19 has affected world airport rankings

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A new report has shed light on the effect COVID-19 has had on the world’s busiest airports, outlining the drop in passenger figures handled so far in 2020. It sheds light on the enormous job airports have on their hands in rebuilding their former stature, and how we may see a permanent shift in global airport rankings.

The World Airport Traffic Report by Airports Council International (ACI) lists the top 10 busiest airports in the world in 2019. To highlight the changes being experienced this year, its summary also lists the percentage difference in passenger numbers seen in the first half of 2020.

Last year’s top three busiest airports in the world were Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International with 110.5 million passengers, Beijing Capital with 100 million, and Los Angeles International with 88 million.

In terms of take-offs and landings, Chicago O’Hare International was on top with over 919,000 aircraft movements in 2019.

Yet these airports, and all others on the top 10 list, recorded significant declines in the first half of this year, such as -56.6% for Atlanta, -73.6% for Beijing and -58.9% for Los Angeles.

In fact, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic so far, some unexpected airports have become the world’s busiest. These include Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), which topped the rankings in May, having lost less than half of its passengers in the ACI figures.

The consensus among leading experts and air travel organizations is that air travel will not return to 2019 levels until at least 2024.

In fact, last month IATA gave a forecast that full-year traffic in 2020 will be down 66% on 2019 — 3% worse than the previous prediction following disappointing passenger figures for August, which is traditionally the busiest travel period in the Northern Hemisphere. This was a result of renewed government restrictions in many countries.

“From a period of sustained global growth in 2019, the aviation industry now faces the worst crisis we have ever confronted with huge declines in passenger traffic and revenues due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira said.

Last year some 9.1 billion people travelled by air. ACI predicts only 4.5 billion will do so this year.

If the widespread changes in business and working practices seen as a result of coronavirus continue — like home working and conducting meetings over video conference — demand is likely to wane significantly among business travelers. This will in turn affect airports as airlines cut schedules on some of their busier trunk routes.

This will also have a significant impact on airport revenues and their ability to operate as they once did. So, will we see the same airports dominating in the future?

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said during an investors conference: “There’s one thing which we can say without question is that coming out of this, DFW and Charlotte will remain two of the three biggest hubs on earth.”

While the rankings may flip around slightly, it seems unlikely that an underdog will take over in the long term, or that the traditional hub system will change any time soon. Parker commented, “Having big hubs is going to be as important as ever, no matter what might happen with demand.”

These large facilities may halt expansion projects and lose schedules, but they are in the best position to weather the storm alongside their main airline partners and are likely to be at the forefront of introducing measures to keep passengers safe while travelling.

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A record hunting season could be on the horizon in Texas, other states

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2020 has been an extremely unique year in many respects. Among the other significant occurrences that we’ve seen in this year, it’s quite possible that the state of Texas may set a hunter participation record as well.

We’ll have to wait a few months to see exactly how things shake out, but data gathered so far this year indicates that 2020 has already seen a massive jump in hunter participation. For one thing, many states have reported gigantic increases in hunting license sales this spring for turkey season. Other states saw record numbers of applicants entering the lottery for drawn hunts and had leftover hunting licenses and tags snapped up in record time.

Sales of firearms and ammunition have also skyrocketed in 2020.

In fact, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has conducted more background checks through the first nine months of 2020 than any other full year since NICS first became operational in 1998. March 2020 (which is normally a very slow month for gun sales) actually set the all-time monthly record with 3,740,688 NICS firearm background checks. That record was in turn broken in June 2020, which saw a staggering 3,931,607 background checks.

As is the case with many of the unusual occurrences that have taken place this year, this expected spike in hunters is a result of changes in behavior directly related to COVID-19.

For one thing, elected officials in most areas have specifically designated hunting and fishing as “essential activities” that made them exempt from the lockdowns implemented across the country earlier in the year. The very nature of outdoor activities like hunting also makes them ideal ways to get out of the house and have fun while at the same time practicing social distancing.

The COVID-19 pandemic also seems like it has accelerated a growing trend of people taking a more active interest in procuring their own food. Not surprisingly, events over the past few months have caused general uncertainty and unease about the security of food supply chains. Well, hunting is a great way to alleviate those concerns to a certain degree.

Finally, the fact that so many common activities, like sports or even in-person schooling in many places, will not be taking place this fall means that most people now simply have a lot more time on their hands. Taken together, all those factors could very likely result in an incredible surge in hunter numbers this fall.

So, it’s looking like the woods will be a little more crowded than usual this year and there are both good and bad things associated with that development. Only time will tell if 2020 is just a one-off occurrence or if these developments will help reverse the ongoing trend of declining hunter participation in the United States.

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America’s 4 most UFO-obsessed places

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One of the more unusual memes to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic has been the unprecedented increase in UFO sightings across the nation.

Data from the nonprofit National UFO Reporting Center, an organization that records UFO-related events, indicates sightings are up 51% so far this year compared to the same period in 2019. Among the more than 5,000 sightings recorded this year, most have occurred since the COVID-19 lockdowns began in earnest. Apparently, there are plenty of homebound eyes scanning the skies these days as the quarantine continues for many.

With the thought in mind that we earthlings may not be alone in the universe after all, the time might be right to take up your own investigation of UFO hotspots. Here are four of them, all notably located in the Western U.S.

Area 51, Rachel, Nevada

This U.S. military installation — officially known as the Nevada Test and Training Range — is located in the desert about 100 miles north of Las Vegas. Closed to visitors, it is a facility so secretive that the government won’t even acknowledge its existence or purpose. The mystery surrounding Area 51 has long fed UFO conspiracy theories, including the belief that the area is a storage facility for an alien spacecraft (and its occupants) that reportedly crashed near Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947.

Conspiracy theorists also believe the area is used to manufacture and test aircraft based on alien technology. It has since become the icon of American UFO legends, featured on episodes of “The X-Files,” scenes from “Independence Day” and noted in virtually every published reference ever made to extraterrestrials.

The dusty little desert town of Rachel (pop. 96) near the entrance to Area 51 plays along with visiting UFO enthusiasts, offering lodging at Little A’Le’Inn, a local motel and restaurant that is said to serve a pretty decent burger. Several local residents offer tours of the Area 51 perimeter.

www.travelnevada.com, 775-687-4322

Sedona, Arizona

With its clear, dry desert skies, high elevation (4,350 feet), numerous spiritual vortices and a population some say indulge in the occasional hallucinogen, Sedona is one of America’s most popular destinations for spotting UFOs. The number of reported sightings in the area is actually quite staggering.

Even former Arizona Gov. Fife Symington claims to have seen an “enormous and inexplicable flying object” here. Sedona is notable for its New Age commercialism, so it’s no surprise that someone has made a business out of UFO spotting. That someone is the flamboyant former alien abductee Miranda Leslie, dba Sedona UFO Tours.

In addition to recounting her experience being abducted by extraterrestrial beings, Leslie and her guides will lead you to spots well known for UFO activity, where the company guarantees UFO sightings using special military night vision goggles.

www.visitsedona.com, 800-288-7336

McMinnville, Oregon

This small town in the heart of Oregon’s wine country may be better known for flying saucers than for its pinot noir. The story began in 1950 when Paul and Evelyn Trent shot some black-and-white photos of flying saucers above their farmhouse near McMinnville. The pictures were published in Life magazine and newspapers across the country and are often cited as the most famous photographs ever made of UFOs.

Never debunked, the Trent images became the iconic photos of the era’s UFO craze. To keep the buzz going, McMinnville hosts the nation’s second largest UFO festival — the UFOFest — each May, featuring films, speakers, music and a parade where everyone dresses up like aliens and astronauts. The 21st annual UFOFest is set for May 13-15, 2021.

www.visitmcminnville.com, 503-857-0182

Despite the welcome sign, Roswell remains synonymous with UFOs more than 60 years after the July 1947 incident.

Roswell, New Mexico

The golden age of extraterrestrial encounters no doubt began in July 1947 when the military announced it had found the remains of a crashed flying saucer (the term UFO hadn’t yet been adopted) in the desert near Roswell. Ever since the legendary find, alien conspiracy theorists have claimed that the remains of the flying saucer and its dead alien occupants were secretly transported by the military to highly classified Area 51 in Nevada.

Local interest in the crash and research by several eminent “ufologists” eventually led to the founding of the International UFO Museum and Research Center and the formation of an annual UFO Festival staged every Fourth of July weekend. The event attracts tens of thousands of visitors for live entertainment, guest speakers, fireworks and a gala parade. The event has been renamed the AlienFest for 2021 but owing to uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, further information about next year’s festival is TBD.

www.ufofestivalroswell.com, 575-914-8018

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