Tag Archives: Travel

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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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As more companies let employees work from home permanently, what is the outlook of business travel?

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When the pandemic hit the global economy in March, business travel was estimated to lose $820 billion in revenue. Under the best-case scenario, businesses were expected to reopen in late spring or early summer.

As we entered into the summer, indicators showed travel and hospitality businesses were picking up, but we all knew travel recovery would not truly occur until people took business trips again. “Travel, as we knew it, is over,” Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky concluded.

Now, in October, we still have not contained the coronavirus. To make it worse, new COVID-19 cases are now surging again across the U.S. and Europe.

More companies let employees work from home permanently

Many states and countries already lifted stay-at-home orders in May. Schools and companies are taking a different stand, however. For example,

  • Twitter was the first U.S. major company that announced a permanent work-from-home plan in May.
  • Pinterest canceled a lease for an unbuilt project in San Francisco with a one-time $89.5 million fee, citing the work-from-home shift.
  • In September, the 23 campuses in the California State University system extended virtual learning through spring 2021.
  • Earlier this month, Microsoft told its employees that they could work from home permanently with manager approval.
  • Dropbox extended the company’s mandatory work-from-home policy through June 2021. Furthermore, the company made remote work the standard practice.

What does the Gallup poll say about work from home?

Gallup just released a follow-up report last week about remote work with the polling data from Sept. 14-27. The results suggest:

Remote work has reached its “ceiling”

  • 51% of Americans being surveyed said they were “always” working remotely in April when tight restrictions were in place. The number dropped to 31% in September.
  • 25% of Americans reported they were “sometimes” working remotely in September, compared to 18% in April.
  • 42% of Americans “never” worked remotely in September, an 11 percentage point increase from April.

45% of workers still show concerns about COVID-19

  • Minimal monthly variations between April and September were observed regarding workers’ concerns about being exposed to the coronavirus at the workplace.
  • In the most recent survey, 26% and 29% said they were “not too” or “not at all” concerned about the coronavirus, respectively.
  • 11% and 34% showed “very” or “moderately” concerned, respectively.

About one-third of workers want to work at the office at this point

  • No dramatic monthly changes between April and September were reported regarding workers’ attitudes towards remote work.
  • 35% who worked remotely said in the September survey that they would prefer to continue doing so, or at least as much as possible.
  • 30% preferred to work remotely due to the concern of COVID-19.
  • 35% said they would like to return to work at their office.

Work from home is not helping the travel and hospitality industry

Work from home does not encourage people to commute or travel for business. On top of that, companies are cutting travel budgets for their staff as they face the pandemic and uncertainties about the economic outlook. When more companies turn to zero-based budgeting to cut costs, people do not travel for business unless it is absolutely necessary and well-justified.

When more companies encourage their employees to work at home and cut travel budgets, the outlook of business travel is not good. Most likely, it will take years before we can see a real travel recovery.

What can travel and hospitality companies do to embrace the work-from-home trend?

It is not easy to think positive amidst the COVID-19 crisis, but a couple of ideas may deserve our considerations. Remote work, for example, also promotes the work-life-tourism trend.

In Dropbox’s case, the company plans to set up “Dropbox Studios” for employees who need to meet or work together in person when it is safe to do so. Can hotels turn some of their guestrooms into remote studios or offices for people who need to work in teams?

A few luxury hotels in Las Vegas began promoting an “Executive” deal or a work-at-a-hotel package. Some Boston hotels also offered work-from-home packages, providing guests access to one guestroom from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and other hotel amenities.

Besides day-use packages, hotels in tourist destinations may also be able to attract “digital nomads,” a group of remote workers who want a work-from-anywhere life. Big hotel chains, such as InterContinental, Marriott, and Accor, have launched or plan to introduce monthly rates for long-term work-from-home guests. Others provide travelers unlimited access to a collection of their hotels with a “subscription.” Travelers, for example, can pay $2,500 a month for a yearly subscription plan to access 300 accommodations within a global network with no extra fees.

What impacts does work-from-home have on the travel and hospitality industry? What can hotels and tourism companies do to embrace the work-from-home trend?

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Will COVID-19 be a catalyst for more hotel mergers and acquisitions?

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COVID-19 has put many restaurants and hotels out of business. A recent example is the permanent closure of the iconic Hilton Times Square Hotel.

Several restaurant chains recently rolled out new store designs to embrace contactless self-service and delivery capabilities demanded by customers. Additionally, with more schools and businesses reopening, the restaurant industry has shown signs of recovery. There was a 2% increase in spending year-over-year in the week ending Aug. 30. The outlook for hotels, however, is not as optimistic.

The hotel industry is still struggling

According to the latest U.S. hotel performance results for the week ending Aug. 29:

  • Occupancy was 48.2%, a slight decline from the 50% level two weeks ago.
  • Weekend occupancy for Aug. 28 and 29 was 54.7%.
  • Luxury and upper-upscale hotels continued having low occupancies of 36.9% and 33.6%, respectively, whereas economy hotels continued running above the 50% level, at 54.3%.
  • Room demand declined by 1.3% or 230,000 rooms from the previous week.
  • The percent change of revenue per available room was at -44.5%, which is not as bad as previous weeks but is still a significantly low number.

Traditionally, summer is the peak season for most tourist destinations; business travel would pick up in the third quarter. Now that few people are traveling for conventions or business, it is unlikely the hotel industry will recover soon.

When the pandemic hit the market in March, some experts estimated that about 50% of U.S. hotels would close. Fast forward to August, and record levels of closures are still expected in the top 20 U.S. lodging markets. In New York City alone, 34% of hotels are now delinquent.

Is one person’s loss another’s gain?

Possibly. Investors are more likely to find bargains in a buyer’s market. As a result, now might be a good time to buy hotels.

The fact is, regardless if we are in good or bad time, acquisition is an excellent way to gain immediate access to a market or a product. A good case in point is Accor Hotels’ acquisition of Fairmont Hotels in 2016 and Intercontinental Hotel Group’s (IHG) purchase of Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants in 2014.

A merger is an alternative strategy that allows companies to combine resources, cut operation costs, and share organizational knowledge through consolidations. Plus, a merger will result in fewer competitors in the market.

Marriott turned itself into the world’s largest hotel chain through the Marriott-Starwood merger in 2016. Now, facing the unprecedented challenges from COVID-19, the rumor of a IHG-Accor merger resurfaced.

The IHG-Accor merger would create the world’s largest hotel chain

IHG, valued at $10.7 billion, and Accor at $7 billion, total more than 1.6 million rooms. Because 60% of IHG’s rooms are in North America, and close to 50% of Accor’s rooms are in Asia-Pacific, the merger would provide a complementary advantage for both. Operationwise, the merger is expected to cut costs of €100 (or $118) million to €150 (or $177) million, about 7% of IHG-Accor’s projected operating earnings of 2022.

On the flipside, a lack of density in the market does not provide them a competitive advantage on OTA sites (online travel agents). Moreover, the global tourism industry’s uncertain outlook also adds extra financial concerns and challenges to closing the deal.

By comparison, Marriott has 1.4 million rooms and present value of about $33 billion. Marriott spent $13 billion on the Starwood deal in 2016.

Who will be next?

In 2018, I was expecting that Hilton or Hyatt would be the next hotel chains for merger or acquisition, with both companies already pursuing an asset-light strategy. Hilton spun off its hotel properties into a real estate investment trust as a separate company in 2015. Hyatt began selling $1.5 billion worth of real estate in 2017. Although financially, both hotel chains are well-positioned, they remain relatively quiet in mergers or acquisitions.

What do you think of the IHG-Accor merger? Is now a good or bad time to buy? Do you expect the pandemic will push more hotel mergers or acquisitions?

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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.


  • 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!


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.


  • 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.


  • 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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