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Tag Archives: Hospitality

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A new era for Salt Lake City International Airport

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Salt Lake City (SLC) International Airport has entered a new era with the opening of its new airport terminal, replacing aging older structures that had become increasingly unable to cope with demand and today’s expectations. But is this the worst possible time to open a new airport terminal and expand capacity?

Overnight on Sept. 15, the existing terminals 1 and 2, plus the International Terminal and associated parking garages at SLC closed, replaced by the new central terminal and initial Concourse A-West, which opened at the same time.

The first flight to leave the impressive new terminal was Delta’s service to Atlanta — a link between two of the airline’s bases, and significant as SLC’s largest operator.

Speaking at the launch, Bill Wyatt, executive director of Salt Lake City Department of Airports, said: “This day has been years in the making,”

He added: “To say we are excited to be here today is an understatement. After six years of construction and many more years of planning, we are proud to open the first new US hub airport in the 21st century.”

The new $4.1 billion terminal project opens up the airport to today’s standards and amenities. It replaces the existing 1960s era structures which had become outdated and crowded.

It initially comprises the 25-gate Concourse A-West, along with new access roadways, a 3,600-space parking garage and electric car charging stations, a new 16-lane security screening area, brand-new baggage system with 7 miles of conveyor belts, and new passenger areas which are light and open.

Also of note is a 28,000-square-foot Delta Sky Club lounge and a range of large-scale art installations by artist Gordon Heuther, which show off the best of Utah.

Image: Salt Lake City Department of Airports

The SLC terminal renovation project has been in development for four years, but it could be argued that opening in the midst of a global downturn in aviation is not particularly wise.

The existing terminals were designed for 10 million passengers per year, whilst in 2019 SLC handled 26 million. This year will be a fraction of either figure, as maybe 2021 will be.

One particular feature of the new terminal is The Greening Room — a large area where up to 400 friends, families and others can wait to pick up arriving passengers. This will only reach its potential once social distancing measures are eased.

However, recent design changes have also allowed the airport to introduce new measures recommended in a post-COVID world to aid in touchless technology.

These include automatic bins and Automatic Screening Lanes in the new security area. These bigger machines automatically take bags, screen them, and return them to the traveler.

Extra space has been provided to allow social distancing, and passengers must scan their own boarding passes on touchless machines.

Concourse B-West will open on Oct. 27, adding a further 20 gates for use by Alaska, American, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest and United Airlines.

The second phase of SLC’s new airport terminal is planned to be completed by 2024 when an extra 33 gates are added to the concourses. At present this is still the plan, but it could be that these are put on hold or revised until we see a return to pre-COVID demand for flying. No doubt HOK Architects, who are responsible for the impressive design so far, will continue adapting it to meet new safety standards and reflect the revised projections on air travel.

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US payrolls add 661,000 jobs; unemployment rate falls to 7.9%

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American employers created 661,000 nonfarm jobs in September after hiring 1.4 million workers in August, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. September’s jobless rate dropped to 7.9% from 8.4% in August.

The jobs numbers reflect in part the easing of social restrictions and reopening of businesses to stem the spread of COVID-19. However, government employment, mainly in public education at the state and local levels, dropped in September from August.

The number of unemployed workers fell to 12.6 million in September from 13.6 million in August. Adult men and women, whites and Asians experienced declines in joblessness in September versus August, according to the BLS. Teen, Black and Hispanic workers’ unemployment rates hardly changed in September versus August.

The number of workers on temporary layoff fell 1.5 million in September from August’s total, according to the BLS. The number of long-term unemployed (out of paid work 27 weeks or longer) rose 781,000 to 2.4 million in September. The expiration of enhanced pandemic unemployment benefits in late July is a negative for the long-term unemployed that weakens their buying power for goods and services from employers.

The BLS jobs report does not include the recent layoffs of tens of thousands of workers in the airline and entertainment industries. Rather, the BLS measures the labor market numbers from mid-September.

Wage-income was static. The average hourly earnings of all nonfarm workers was $29.47 in September from $29.45 in August, according to the BLS. The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls in September was 34.7 hours versus 34.6 in August.

In September, large employers of 500 workers or more hired 297,000 workers versus 298,000 employees in August, according to ADP/Moody’s monthly jobs report for nonfarm private-sector payrolls only. Midsize firms of 50-499 workers hired 259,000 employees in September compared with August’s 79,000. Small firms of 1-49 workers hired 192,000 employees versus 52,000 in August.

ADP found that manufacturers created 130,000 jobs in September compared with 9,000 in August. Leisure and hospitality added 92,000 jobs, down from 129,000 in August.

The service sector, the economy’s dominant employer, added 552,000 new hires in September versus 389,000 in August. Goods-making companies added 196,000 jobs in September compared with 40,000 in August. Franchise businesses created 20,700 jobs, down from 21,500 in August.

“The labor market continues to recover gradually,” said Ahu Yildirmaz, vice president and co-head of the ADP Research Institute, in a statement. “In September, the majority of sectors and company sizes experienced gains with trade, transportation and utilities; and manufacturing leading the way. However, small businesses continued to demonstrate slower growth.”

In Washington, D.C., the Senate has yet to provide a new package of pandemic aid for the labor force. One of the consequences is labor’s weakened consumer demand.

Meanwhile, a pandemic-caused fall in state and local government tax revenue will worsen that trend and lead to slower job growth. One takeaway is that a full recovery of the labor market is years away, according to Elise Gould, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute in the nation’s capital.

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The most important RV list: The departure checklist

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There are plenty of lists online on what to take when RVing. I find a list for leaving a campsite even more important. If you are new to RVing, this is a critical step.

Even for the experienced RVer, it is helpful for those mornings when you leave when you are still groggy, under pressure to clear the site quickly, interrupted in your routine by something, or if it has been awhile since you left a campsite after a long stay.

Missing something on your list may mean having to replace the rug you left at the campsite, having to stop to put away the flying soap, or damage to your RV and the campsite electric post when you pulled away still plugged in.

Many people print out their checklist. We divide duties so that each person knows what to do with some overlap of checks for the major items. I use a memory game to remember my 15 items by grouping them in three sections.

Everyone’s list is different. Here are some suggestions:

Secure items in the refrigerator.

Interior:

  • Put away loose items. These are the things you move during your stay to a more convenient place. The TV remote has a travel spot. In the kitchen, all those items like the block of knives are stored in the sink. Don’t forget anything on the bathroom counter or shower.
  • Put in place the items you use to secure the RV for travel. For us, these are the tension rods in the refrigerator to keep items in place, a foam sheet to keep the microwave plate from rattling, and the pillow we place in front of a drawer that sometimes pops open on sharp curves. You may have other tricks like nets, Velcro, or towels.
  • Do a check of drawers and cabinet doors to make sure they are all shut. Especially check the refrigerator door. Soda cans and pudding cups don’t do extremely well after flying out on a turn.
  • Close windows and vents so you don’t have to hear the wind noise as you go down the road.
  • Windows and curtains: Put away the foil window covers. Put the blinds and curtains in your preferred travel position (we close some of the side blinds to keep the heat down).
  • Electrical and propane settings: We turn off the antenna booster and turn on the inverter to run a small electrical fridge, but most people turn off the inverter. We turn off the water pump and water heater. Use whatever are your preferred travels settings. Many people shut off the propane when traveling.
  • Bag your trash and recycle items to drop off on the way out.

Remember to bring in the slides, awning, leveling pads, and chocks!

Midway:

These are sort of between exterior and interior.

  • Clear the path and bring in the slides. The path needs to be checked if you are like us and store items in the nook of the slide or if the driver’s seat can interfere with the slide travel. Outside you may need to check that there isn’t a cord or hose in the way. You would think bringing in the slide is obvious, but many people have forgotten this. We almost did this once after a long stay and we’d gotten used to the look of our extended interior. Luckily our RV wouldn’t start with the slides out but that isn’t true for trailers, fifth wheels, or older motorhomes.
  • Shake and bring in the exterior rug at the doors. If you haven’t cleaned the interior rugs, shake them out too.
  • Retract the awning and be sure it is locked for travel. There are many horror stories about these opening on the road.

Exterior:

  • Store those electrical items you put out. This includes putting down the TV antenna and/or bringing in the satellite dish and any solar panels. Forgetting to put the antenna down is a frequently forgotten step.
  • Bring in your outdoor items (tables, camp chairs, grills, etc.).
  • Move out the arms on the side mirrors on the RV. These are frequently moved in during camping.
  • Water/septic: If you can do this at your campsite, empty your gray and black tanks and fill your clean water tank as necessary.
  • Electric, water, sewer, cable: Disconnect and store all your lines and all the items. There are MANY stories of people forgetting to disconnect their electric cords. Also watch that you store small items like the water filter or plug adapters and don’t forget them after laying them on the ground or utility pole while you were winding up that hose.
  • Clean windows and mirrors (those stupid birds like to mess up our side mirrors). Other cleaning might include brushing off debris on the awnings.
  • If you have a maintenance list, do it. This may include checking the oil, checking tire pressure, or lubricating the slides.
  • Make sure all outdoor compartments are closed and locked.

Final:

  • Bring in the jacks or put away the leveling pads. Don’t forget storing the chocks.
  • Connect your toad and/or put up the bicycles, kayaks, etc.
  • Light check: We check the lights, blinkers, and brake lights on the RV and our toad every time. This checks the wiring connection along with whether a bulb has burnt out.
  • Check to make sure the back camera is working.
  • Put away the keys. We keep car and RV keys on hooks near the door. It is better to put them here versus forgetting them in your pocket at the end of the day.
  • Complete walk around. Both of us check the campsite and the RV for anything we missed. Make sure you look up on this walk around or you’ll miss seeing the awning and antenna.
  • Make sure the steps are in at your door, if it isn’t automatic.
  • If you couldn’t dump at the campsite, stop at the dump station for this task and perhaps refill the freshwater tank too. Drop off your trash here or at the campground trash hopper.
  • People and pet check: With only two people, we have never had this problem, but if you have kids or pets, make a final check that they are actually sleeping in back and didn’t make a last-minute run to the bathroom before you get on the road.

The list looks long, but many of these take only seconds. Forgetting any step can be inconvenient, costly, and even dangerous. And…we’ve all forgotten a step at least once!

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A look at Utah’s less-heralded parks

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Utah has fabulous five national parks (Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Arches) along with 43 state parks. Here are some other parks that are well worth a stop while visiting the state. These lesser-known spots should give you more room for hiking and sightseeing safely than some of the bigger parks.

Red Canyon

Between Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks is the gorgeous Red Canyon within the Dixie National Forest. While there are fewer hoodoos here than the nearby Bryce Canyon, there are also fewer tourists. Start at the visitor center on Utah Scenic Byway 12. If it is closed, the kiosks outside give both context and a map of the area. Be sure to hike at least one of the shorter trails. Pink Ledges and Hoodoo Trails are short and worth the time.

If you have time, stay overnight at the campground (dry camping) so you have time to hike more trails.

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Be prepared for high elevation, since this park is at 10,000 feet above sea level. The views are spectacular across a half-mile-deep amphitheater. Make sure you watch for the over 260 species of wildflowers that grow here. The hiking trails take you to overlooks and through meadows of these wildflowers.

While several trails are short, given the elevation they may still provide a challenge. Or, just drive the five-mile road along the rim with several stunning overlooks which include hoodoos but without the crowds at Bryce Canyon. In 2017, Cedar Breaks had only 900,000 visitors while Bryce Canyon had 2,600,000.

Camping can be reserved online while some campsites are first-come, first-serve. Some sites can handle longer RVs. All sites are dry camping.

Natural Bridges National Monument

If you use Blanding as a home base, three national monuments are within driving distance.

Natural Bridges Natural Monument has a nine-mile, one-way drive with views and several hikes to see three large bridges. A natural bridge is formed by a current of water like a river versus arches that form more by freezing and thawing cycles. While water is scarce now, flash floods are thought to have formed these bridges.

You can also camp at the park when they reopen. There are 13 dry camping sites for RVs less than 26 feet long and are first-come, first-serve. Rangers can also direct you to another campground outside the park for longer RVs or for overflow. Be sure to step outside your RV at night. This park is one of the darkest in the U.S. and was the first certified International Dark Sky Park in the world.

Hovenweep National Monument

Another day trip from Blanding is Hovenweep National Monument. Less than 40,000 visitors were recorded in 2017 even though the park is fascinating. The park is unusual as it protects five different Ancestral Puebloan ruins in Utah and Colorado. The main section is the Square Tower Unit. The park recommends you have a high-clearance vehicle for the other four units.

The two-mile hike at the main unit leaves the visitor center and allows you to see all kinds and shapes of ruins. Some of the interesting ruins are square, rectangular, round, and D-shaped. Many of the ruins are along the top of a small canyon with some at the bottom.

Currently both the visitor center and camping are closed. When they open, this park has several sites at the campground that can handle shorter RVs. A few sites are said to handle up to 36-foot-long RVs. All are dry camping and first-come, first-serve.

Bears Ears National Monument

Bears Ears National Monument is rather controversial and a bit confusing. It was established by one president in 2015 with 1.35 million acres and then reduced by another president in 2017 to only 0.2 million acres. There are lawsuits in process challenging this reduction. The reduction split the areas into two much smaller parts. However, within those two sections are some excellent places to visit.

The most popular spot in the Indian Creek Unit is Newspaper Rock. This is a 12-mile drive off US 191. There are many petroglyph panels in Utah but this one is big. The most interesting part to me is the number of toes on the feet prints. Some have five toes while quite a few have six. Turns out Native Americans in the area tended to have the genetic anomaly of six toes or six fingers and were honored for that difference.

Bears Ears Butte East and West are within the Shash Jaa Unit. These rock “ears” can be seen for miles. An easy hiking trail within the unit is to the Butler Wash Ruins, which is less than a mile roundtrip. Other excellent trails in this section are longer and include the Mule Canyon to the unique House on Fire ruins, Arch Canyon, and Comb Wash.

Both units have multiple hiking trails, petroglyph art, ruins, and camping. There are no formal RV campgrounds, but several of the BLM campsites are large enough for smaller RVs to dry camp.

Utah is a terrific state to visit with plenty of open spaces. Right now, many people are crowding into the national parks, so you may want to plan your trip to spend more time at these spots that have a little more privacy while enjoying the stunning views and history of the area.

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London City Airport reevaluates its future

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London City Airport, in the heart of the U.K. capital, has put its part-completed development plans on hold until “demand returns” following a difficult time for the aviation industry and airports.

In its City Airport Development Plan (CADP) update, issued on Aug. 13, it was announced that a decision has been made to temporarily pause the long-term project at the end of this year once current works have been completed.

Commenced in late 2017, the £480 million CADP is the Docklands’ airport’s plan to significantly improve its facilities by adding capacity for both aircraft and passengers through expanding the terminal, adding aircraft stands and a parallel taxiway, which would allow a greater number of runway movements per hour, and introducing jobs growth.

The airport would, through these works, also start to accommodate newer generation aircraft such as the Embraer E2-190 and Airbus A220-300.

By the end of this year, the new aircraft stands and parallel taxiway will have been completed.

A new immigration hall with ten E-gates will also be opened in September, offering even faster access to London for passengers.

It will be at this point, however, that work is halted. The major outstanding work includes extensions to the passenger terminal piers and a new baggage facility with the latest screening technology.

While London City experienced its busiest year on record in 2019, handling 5.1 million passengers, 2020 has been a very different story. The airport took the decision to suspend commercial flights early in the COVID-19 lockdown, and only reopened on June 21.

Image credit: London City Airport Ltd.

Since then, the timetable has been somewhat limited, with airlines slowly resuming destinations and frequencies over the past six weeks. Two new routes to Teesside and Vilnius have also been introduced.

Sadly, this period has not been without casualties, with resident BA CityFlyer grounding a number of aircraft and British Airways cancelling the flagship link between London City and New York, which operated under the famous BA001 callsign previously used by Concorde. Its single Airbus A318 aircraft has been sent to storage in Spain.

The airport is confident that ultimately demand will return, and it still plans to continue with development work in the long haul.

Robert Sinclair, CEO of London City Airport, said: “Given our location in the heart of London, and the resilient nature of aviation, the airport and our shareholders remain very confident about the long-term prospects of London City and the vital role we can play in re-connecting London and the British economy as we recover from the shock of COVID-19.”

He added, “Completing the terminal extension and new east pier very much remains part of our future, and, with the foundations for both in place, we stand ready to take those projects forward when demand returns.”

The airport has put in place passenger safety measures in the light of the coronavirus and will no doubt, like many airports undergoing terminal redevelopment, now be planning what long-term measures need to be incorporated into the work.

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Villa stays spike as solution for safe, sumptuous vacation choices

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As travel circles and sputters amid plans made, plans changed and plans canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, one travel formula is seeing great success as a fun and safe alternative to staying in crowded hotels.

Thoughts have turned to private villas and chalets in scenic, if not breathtaking, destinations for vacations long and short and with all the pampering one can handle.

Whether traveling abroad or closer to home, those who are planning their vacations are now, more than ever, looking to private quarters for their stays. Especially popular with families who want to stick together and enjoy each other’s time with multi-gen vacations, villas and luxury estates are seen as offering sophisticated, hotel-level services combined with the healthy security of a private home without other guests.

A recent survey from Business Insider reports vacation rentals around the world have jumped 127% since early April — possibly a sign that people are slowly starting to travel again. New Zealand, Germany, France, U.S, and Australia are leading this recovery trajectory.

MultiBriefs spoke with villa and private estate expert Sean Emmerton, president of Destination Marketing International and curator of such properties around the world through Elegant Mexico and a new site soon to be live: DistinguishedResidences.com, about what advantages a villa vacation brings and how such bookings differ from other similar options in luxury hospitality.

Such manses can be used by sophisticated travelers for business as well as pleasure, whether it is an incentive vacation for top performers, a high-end retreat for bonding and strategy meetings or buyouts for bigger meetings on top of the vacation advantages these options provide. For leisure travelers, the concept means peace of mind, slowing down and living like a local — with benefits.

1) What is a villa and how is it different from a regular vacation home booking?

A villa tends to be a more upscale residence with services, such as housekeeping and concierge services. A villa can typically include staff, such as butlers and chefs, bartenders, nannies, etc.

2) Why would a traveler seek out a villa over a high-end hotel stay?

Villas provide considerably more space than a typical hotel room. There is also more privacy with self-contained amenities, such as private pools — eliminating the need to use a hotel/resort pool. Many villas, as can be found with Elegant Mexico properties, include full staff, full concierge desk and such in-demand resort amenities as a private beach club and private health and well-being center. Villas also minimize the contact with strangers, which is important during the COVID-19 situation and will continue to be so.

The cost per person tends to be lower than a high-end resort, especially with respect to the food and beverage costs. The cost per person per day will generally range from $60 to $100 per day for all food and beverage consumption. Many high-end hotels/resorts will charge $20 to $25 per cocktail, $50 per person for breakfast, etc.

Villas are also an excellent option for high-profile guests as they provide the privacy allowing them to relax by the pool without being photographed by other guests. Many times, they can be greeted at the private aircraft door and taken to their villa without ever being noticed to enjoy a completely anonymous vacation.

The Greek island of Corfu is a popular spot for villa stays.

3) What are the most popular destinations for villa bookings?

For us, it is Los Cabos — by far. However, most beach destinations in Mexico are very popular, as are beach destinations in the Caribbean. Many destinations, such as Tuscany, Umbria, Corfu/Greece, etc., are also very popular for villas and private residence vacations.

4) Please describe a typical villa in, say, Mexico.

Stays can vary greatly depending on the villa management company. With EM, we hold the client’s hand throughout the process from booking the villa, doing complete pre-arrival planning, grocery shopping, transportation, etc., and servicing their needs while staying at the villa through butler and chef services, restaurant reservations, music and fireworks for celebrations … whatever the guests request.

We provide transportation upon arrival, and then one of our concierge team greets them along with the villa staff so they can be oriented to the villa environs. We can go over their itinerary with them while they enjoy homemade salsas, guacamole and margaritas.

We try to plan as much as possible prior to arrival, however, whatever they need to add, cancel or change while in residence, is given to their dedicated butler to handle for them. At the end of their stay, our concierge team will present their final bill with their food and beverage costs, transportation, in-villa spa services and club incidentals. Once agreed and the bill is signed, we take them back to the airport in our private transportation.

5) Why is interest in villas rentals exploding currently?

I feel that due to COVID-19 and the concern over health and safety and social distancing, villas provide an opportunity for a luxury vacation experience that eliminates all the stress involved in being in a new environment with people you do not know.

Villas also provide a very personalized service experience guests see the same staff every day and the staff can quickly adapt to guests and anticipate what they will want. Many guests will only rent our villas if the staff members they know and are familiar with are available! We have had many instances where a guest will change their dates based on such staff availability.

I also feel that even affluent travelers are becoming irritated with the exorbitant cost of food and beverage at the top resorts. While they can afford it, it doesn’t mean they want to pay $25 for a margarita. Value is becoming very important and villas represent excellent value. It is also difficult for hotel accommodations to compete with the size and amenities of a luxury villa, especially EM villas that have so many resort amenities.

6) What amenities usually come with these rentals? What types of amenities are easily available to those who book villa rentals that are not so easily procured through other types of bookings?

With our EM Del Mar villas, for instance, the following list is included for every villa regardless of the size of the villa. With our other villas, we can easily provide full staff for an additional fee:

  • Personal butler
  • Private chef for breakfast and lunch (cost for food and beverage additional)
  • Pre-arrival planning & concierge staff
  • Daily housekeeping services
  • Golf cart
  • Offsite activity coordination and in-residence spa services
  • Access to the restaurants, bars, spa and golf course at the neighboring One&Only Palmilla
  • Exclusive Villas Del Mar and Espiritu Del Mar amenities: Club Ninety Six Beach Club and Kids Club, Club Espiritu Fitness Club and Spa
  • Restaurants, boutiques, beaches, golf and tennis a short walk or golf cart ride away from villa
  • 24-hour gated security and emergency medical response

7) What types of trends are you seeing in this market?

Length of stay has not really shifted too much. We have an average stay of about four nights, outside of the major holidays where a five- to seven-night minimum is required.

With villa types, we are seeing many of the resorts being built with a residential component, so this is certainly increasing the available properties. However, these tend to differ from stand-alone villas as they are more of a connected condominium setup.

We are seeing more multi-generational family bookings as well as groups of friends. Our largest villas tend to be the most requested, where in the past it was often two- to three-bedroom villas. This is completely reversed now.

8) Please address what questions a prospective guest should ask when exploring a villa rental.

  • What are the deposit and cancellation policies?
  • Is there an additional fee for staff?
  • How much should I expect to pay for F&B?
  • What kind of security does the development/villa have?
  • What are the medical options in case of an accident or illness?
  • What kind of customer service, maintenance and concierge support should I expect while in residence?

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Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the world of event planning takes a huge hit

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The catering business, by its nature, is finicky. Paul Lebo always knew that.

For nearly three decades, Lebo has attempted to adapt and change with every one of his customers’ needs when they employ Eye to Eye Events. Sometimes that means altering the menu on the morning of the wedding. Other times that means accommodating 50 more guests than expected. When you are in the event business, Lebo says, adapting is the only constant.

But maybe Lebo, who is close to retirement age, was just a little far ahead of himself when he started to extol universal principles about his business. After all, he notes, it’s never a shrewd move to predict the needs of a clientele base comprised of mostly young, highly volatile people on their most important day.

But the event that forced him to check his ego, ironically, wasn’t an event at all. It was the coronavirus. Every trend he had ever seen went in the opposite direction.

Instead of 50 more people at parties, it was only 50 people in total. Events that were slated for hundreds of guests, meaning thousands of dollars in revenue, dwindled to an intimate congregation that lost money for his business.

“Having it taken away — it’s like I got punched in the face,” Lebo said.

And now, the business that he thought he would retire on is facing the end prematurely. He has applied for loans from the government. He says those may not be enough.

The real solution, he thinks, will be found in group meetings with other caterers facing similar issues in the New Jersey area. In truth, the issues are staring down caterers in every state.

In Connecticut, David Cingari is also looking for answers. He doesn’t want to lay anyone off. It is still hard to keep hopeful in the face of 40 canceled weddings out of 47 scheduled.

“It’s all I think about all day and all night,” he said. “I just hope that another pivot comes to mind by mid-September that will hold us until January. There has to be some way. I have too many good people and too much wisdom under my belt to not be able to figure this out.”

For now, though, that sentiment is being met with few solutions. The virus continues to spike in different cities across the United States.

Of course, event planners rely on having people travel from all over the world and the country to come celebrate days with loved ones. The events that are most prosperous for event planners are those most well-attended. In a world with the pandemic, that goes against all the guidelines.

“[On any] Friday or Saturday night where we were seeing different types of weddings, graduations or different events. We turned [it] into one of the most amazing [revenue streams],” Adrian Martinez, who runs a barbeque restaurant in San Antonio that caters events, said. “…We have had a drop in revenue. At first, we were 90% down and now we are 60% under what we were before.”

The other part of the equation comes from customers. With people out of a job, event planning that typically requires large expenditures is no longer in demand. The mandates at the state level to not gather also hinders business and has caused many people to postpone events until 2021.

The short-term future is going to largely be defined by cutting costs where businesses can. For some, this is a matter of being open in six months or closing down. For others, it is more about how many workers they can keep and how many people will be out of a job.

“It’s just really frustrating, because we really want to help our employees. Most of them live paycheck to paycheck, and without us who knows what’s going to happen to them,” Matt Fulton, a catering business owner in New York, concluded.

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Down on the farm: 6 of the US’ best agricultural museums

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If you’ve ever tended a backyard garden or tried to raise a few chickens, you know that farming is hard, dirty work. Keeping America’s kitchens supplied during the coronavirus pandemic has made things even harder for farmers — earning these most essential of essential workers the respect and appreciation of an entire nation.

America was built on agriculture and the number of farms in the U.S. peaked in the 1930s at more than 7 million. Today that number is but 2 million and, while farmers and ranchers represent just a little more than one percent of the nation’s workforce, they are still managing to feed all the rest of us. Quite an amazing feat when you think about it.

For those interested in learning more about how American farms and ranches perform such a miracle, there are a number of farming and agricultural museums around the country that help tell the story. Here are six of them.

The Farmer’s Museum, Cooperstown, New York

Cooperstown is, of course, famous as the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. But there’s another museum — just minutes away — that celebrates what really put Cooperstown on the map: farming. Long before baseball was ever played here, Cooperstown was a busy center for growing hops, an essential ingredient in the brewing of beer.

Life on the farm is the theme of this family-friendly museum and its many exhibits feature an array of farming implements. Resident craftspeople demonstrate the skills required to sustain life on a 19th century farm. Kids love the interactive barnyard that crawls with all kinds of farm animals. Special events take place nearly every weekend, including the annual October Tractor Fest that brings together more than 60 vintage tractors.

www.farmersmuseum.org, 607-547-1450

Steppingstone Farm Museum, Havre de Grace, Maryland

Susquehanna State Park sits alongside its namesake river in a region of northeast Maryland that’s noted for its fertile soil and prosperous farms. The park, in fact, preserves one of the area’s original farms that today features demonstrations of rural crafts that farmers would have practiced from the 1880s through the 1920s.

Steppingstone Farm visitors can watch woodwrights and blacksmiths at work, join kitchen demonstrations and interact with a variety of friendly farm animals. Special events are staged year-round and the annual Fall Harvest & Craft Festival in September is one of the most popular.

www.steppingstonemuseum.org, 410-939-2299

American Farm Heritage Museum, Greenville, Illinois

Located just off I-70, about 45 miles east of St. Louis, this museum complex became a reality in 2002 when a group of nearly 60 local farmers, collectors and civic leaders resolved to build a museum to help preserve the region’s illustrious farming heritage.

It wasn’t long before buildings began popping up on the 17-acre donated site, including the Lil’ Red Barn Museum, loaded with farm implements and artifacts essential to farming life. A much larger 200’ by 100’ main building was added in 2005 to serve as a venue for the museum’s busy schedule of special events. A tractor shed displays an array of tractors and other farm machinery.

Also on the grounds is the American Heritage Railroad. It’s a tribute to the contribution of railroads to the development of area agriculture. There’s a mile-long section of 13” gage track, a fine collection of both steam and diesel engines and a variety of rolling stock. The Armed Forces Museum is a more recent addition, displaying more than 40 historic military vehicles.

www.americanfarmheritagemuseum.com, 618-664-9733

Bart Garrison Agricultural Museum of South Carolina, Pendleton, South Carolina

Named after one of its founders, the late State Senator T. Ed “Bart” Garrison, this museum is dedicated to South Carolina’s impressive agricultural heritage. Its mission is to foster agricultural education while confirming agriculture’s positive impact on the state’s economy.

Most of the events and activities here are geared to entertaining and educating youngsters who find plenty of opportunities to get their hands dirty while gaining an understanding about how food gets from the farm to their tables. Visitors can observe a working beehive, milk Clarabelle (a mechanical cow), explore a model tobacco farm and operate a cotton gin.

Other attractions and activities include attending class in a one-room schoolhouse, checking out the large collection of tractors and interacting with dozens of farm animals. Stars of the show are a pair of American guinea hogs (Daisy and Petunia) — a heritage breed found on the National Endangered Livestock List. The museum is about to open its restored 9,000-square-foot Iron Oak Barn, formerly the McGee Mule Barn — a historic barn once used by one of the largest mule trading operations in the South.

www.bgamsc.org, 864-646-7271

New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum, Las Cruces, New Mexico

Las Cruces’ most popular visitor attraction chronicles the 4,000-year history of agriculture and rural life in New Mexico. The museum presents indoor exhibits and demonstrations devoted to farming and ranching methods and machinery. Outside are 47 acres of gardens, orchards, vines and pepper patches where experts work to develop some of the world’s hottest chili peppers – and there’s a zoo-worthy assemblage of farm animals and native critters.

The Wheels and Gears exhibit in the Museum’s Heritage Gallery displays an exceptional collection of wagons, coaches and buggies from different eras in the state’s history. Cultural events and special exhibits take place nearly every week and guided tours are always available.

www.nmfarmandranchmuseum.org, 575-522-4100

California Agriculture Museum, Woodland, California

The California Agricultural Museum is home to America’s most unique collection of tractors and farm implements that together brilliantly depict the evolution from horse-drawn, to steam driven, to fuel-powered machinery. Gallery after gallery reveals collections of giant harvesters, combines, wheel and crawler-track tractors, trucks, wagons, art and photo exhibits.

Interactive exhibits, special events and field trips tell the history of farm to table in America’s breadbasket, dating back to the Gold Rush era. The Kid’s Zone features a fleet of pedal tractors and mini-Caterpillars along with exhibits specially designed to capture children’s imaginations. The museum is located 15 minutes from downtown Sacramento and is open Wednesday-Sunday.

www.californiaagmuseum.org, 530-666-9700

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Senate set to consider new stimulus measures, but will they be enough?

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As the pandemic rages, state closures are resuming after early reopenings. Economic policy to address such impacts looms large, as states face crushing budget shortfalls. We turn to Washington, D.C.

On July 20, the GOP-majority Senate is set to take up its version of the Heroes Act that the House passed in May.It aimed to help struggling firms and working families but omitted Medicare for All and a Universal Basic Income.

Reportedly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are not talking. He has stressed the need for expanded liability protection from virus-related damages for employers.

Outside of Congress, advocacy groups are lobbying the Senate to beef up workplace safety, focusing on essential workers. Michael Leon Guerrero is the executive director of the Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS).

“Essential workers are keeping us alive,” he said in a statement. “But we’re not doing enough to keep them alive.”

To improve the safety of these essential workers, LNS, some unions and the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (NCOSH) released on July 14 a new video titled “In Memoriam.” This labor-backed video demands that Congress enact adequate funding for personal protective equipment (e.g., gloves, masks and sanitizer); paid sick leave; full healthcare coverage and for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to enact an infectious disease standard.

Labor and safety advocates such as Jessica Martinez, NCOSH co-executive director, urged video viewers to call the Senate to demand increased workplace protections in the Heroes Act. English and Spanish translations of the “In Memoriam” video are on MoveOn’s YouTube channel. Another source of information about essential workers is NationalCOSH.org/Essential.

Dr. Erika Gonzalez is co-chair of Small Business for America’s Future and Chair of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. She cited a July 14 Families USA study that 5.4 million Americans lost employer-provided healthcare coverage from February to May. That loss “exposes the shortcomings of our healthcare system and calls for swift action from policymakers to strengthen and expand coverage options,” she said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the $600 weekly CARES Act supplement, e.g., pandemic unemployment, is set to end on July 31. “More than 25 million workers will lose the $600 federal unemployment supplement, to the tune of more than $15 billion per week,” said Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at The Century Foundation, in a statement. That would decrease consumer demand, a drag on economic recovery and to the bottom lines of businesses.

Meanwhile, jobless claims hit 17.36 million last week, according to Stettner. That is a rise of 838,000 versus the previous week. Jobless benefits allow workers and their families to buy food and pay rent. “In total,” he said, “unemployment aid has pumped $24-$25 billion in stimulus to the economy for each of the last six weeks.”

Time is of the essence, policywise. “Senator McConnell has indicated it will take up to three weeks to reach a deal on a new COVID-19 relief package,” according to Stettner, “leaving tens of millions of Americans in needless limbo as Congressional leaders and the White House dawdle in coming up with concrete proposals.”

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A startup is designing bed seats for budget flyers

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A San Francisco startup is pioneering some socially distanced solutions to create “sleep seats” for economy class on planes. Zephyr Aerospace recently debuted an airline seat and bed combo for premium economy passengers.

Lie-flat seating is well known to business and first-class travelers — an indulgence coveted and purchased for its myriad perks. Now, a fresh innovation could bring the same concept to economy plus, and it couldn’t have come at a more important time. Travelers in the economy cabin may soon be able to sit, lie flat, and sleep in the same seat while maintaining social distancing rules.

Zephyr is a brand-new airline seating concept that transforms the seats in premium economy class on wide-body aircraft into lie-flat beds. The idea, still in the concept phase, seeks to enhance the in-flight experience as airlines encourage people to travel again.

The lie-flat “double-decker” seating concept offers a comfortable bed with all-aisle access in a 2-4-2 configuration — however, it manages to maintain the density of existing premium economy setups on 90% of airlines worldwide. It is easily the most cost-effective way to sleep on long-distance commercial flights.

Zephyr’s seat and bed combo provide back of the plane travelers with the same privacy as business class travelers. The non-mechanical sleep seats have limited movable fixtures and are made with high standard lightweight composite materials, reducing direct maintenance costs for airlines. A telescopic ladder provides quick and easy access to the upper area and can be removed after boarding.

A drop-down footwell cover increases personal space in each seat, which allows for multiple lie-flat positions. There’s even space for small children and families to lie next to each other (dependent on an airline’s social distancing rules). Airlines can retrofit these sleep seats between a 38- to 42-inch seat pitch, according to brand preferences and industry standards, for an increase ancillary revenue.

Each seat will be priced at $30-40,000/unit, which the company says is 60% less than the average cost of a business class seat and 80% lighter (due to advanced composites and limited moving pieces).

Zephyr is currently in development and working with crowdfunding sources to move the project forward. The company claims to be in direct discussions with Airbus and Boeing as well as such airlines as British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Qantas, Lufthansa, Delta, Air New Zealand and Japan Airlines.

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