Tag Archives: Accommodations

Further virus safeguards deliberate for overturned ship removing

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Salvage employees coming to the Georgia coast to chop aside and take away a cargo ship that overturned a yr in the past will probably be sequestered at a close-by resort to guard them from the coronavirus

Tuesday marked a yr because the South Korean freighter Golden Ray capsized off St. Simons Island quickly after leaving port on Sept. 8, 2019. Specialists decided the ship was too badly broken to be floated out intact, in order that they plan to slice it into eight large items for removing by barge.

The salvage workforce nonetheless hopes to start the slicing in early October, stated Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Himes, a spokesman for the command.

Himes confirmed the command has booked the resort Epworth by the Sea to maintain about 100 salvage employees housed in a “bubble” for a four-month interval. The resort will probably be closed to most of the people Sept. 22 by way of Jan. 21. Its web site says it has lodging for 1,000 in a single day company. The Brunswick Information first reported the plan, citing a letter by Epworth CEO Joel Willis.

“As soon as we begin slicing, the ship will get extra weak and there’s a whole lot of various factors that might influence the schedule,” Himes stated. “The one we expect we are able to have the very best management over is COVID-19.”

First, all arriving crew members will probably be housed at a resort for a 14-day quarantine interval to make sure they are not infectious earlier than being transferred to the resort, Himes stated. Even after that, they are going to be subjected to day by day temperature checks and different security protocols.

Himes famous the resort reserving, like the remainder of the salvage operation, is being paid for by the ship’s proprietor and its insurer.

A towering, floating crane will straddle the shipwreck and noticed it into items utilizing large anchor chains. It’s going to depart the Georgia coast in eight chunks weighing as much as 4,100 tons (3,720 metric tonnes) apiece. The vehicles inside will both be hauled off in a bundle with the massive ship items or fall into the water for retrieval later.

The complete removing ought to take about eight weeks, Himes stated, barring any additional interruptions.

Harmful climate might pressure extra delays. Hurricane season will not finish till Dec. 1, and storms to this point have been spawning within the Atlantic Ocean at a record-setting tempo. On Monday, Tropical Storm Rene grew to become the Atlantic’s earliest 17th named storm on file.

“We’re nonetheless on observe to start in early October, however in fact that could be a fluid timeline,” Himes stated. “We’re monitoring the climate every single day.”

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So goes the neighborhood? Resort wrestles with rental rise

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LAKE PLACID, N.Y. —
Lake Placid is a picture-book village in the Adirondack Mountains offering tourists crisp air, pretty peaks, Winter Olympic sites and, lately, a lot more houses to rent for the weekend.

The rising popularity of short-term rentals on services like Airbnb is alarming residents who fear they’re gobbling up so much of the housing market that workers who want to live there are getting frozen out.

“What about the families? They’re not here anymore,” said longtime resident Zay Curtis, as he drove through the snowy village to point out rentals. “The neighborhoods are slipping away.”

Short-term rentals like those listed on Airbnb are surging all over, but they loom larger in smaller resort areas like this village of 2,400.

Since December 2017, the number of Airbnb and HomeAway listings in and around Lake Placid has grown from 555 entire places to 684, according to AirDNA, a short-term rental data provider. As conversions continue, officials are struggling with a contentious question that also echoes in many Atlantic beach towns and on the shores of Lake Tahoe: How do resorts balance neighborhood concerns against the economic benefit of tourists who stay in short-term rentals?

“It fuels the economy here. I’m telling you, if they were to stop vacation rentals, this would be a ghost town,” said Sharon Middendorf, a rental owner and part-time resident.

Seasonal rentals are nothing new in Lake Placid, famous for the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team’s medal-winning “Miracle on Ice.” Homeowners and landlords have long rented out spare rooms and the area around the village is dotted with condominium developments that cater to vacationers.

It’s the growth of home rentals in residential neighborhoods that’s raising alarms.

About a third of the housing units in the larger Town of North Elba are generally for vacation or temporary seasonal use, up from about a fifth in 2010, according to a new report commissioned by the village and the town. And half of the village and town’s homeowners live elsewhere.

The rapid rise of rentals has fueled the sort of complaints heard in Los Angeles or London: noisy parties, trash, overpacked homes. But some residents say they’re also taking homes off the market that local workers could buy or lease.

Melissa Furnia said she was priced out of Lake Placid despite a good job at the agency that oversees former Olympic facilities. She wanted to buy a home where she was raised, where her parents live, where she works and where she volunteers as an EMT.

But with median single-family homes valued at $300,000, she purchased a home for a third of the price a half hour away.

“It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “Lake Placid is where I want to be. It’s where I always wanted to be.”

W hile Lake Placid bustles with tourists, its population is dropping, as is school enrollment .

Huda Scheidelman, chairwoman of a group of area rental owners, said affordable housing is a nationwide issue and it is unfair to blame short-term rentals for the local crunch. Operators point out that many rental listings include large, lakeside homes that are out of reach for buyers of modest means.

Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall said local leaders were expected to soon propose a permitting system for short-term rentals that could include a 90-day annual limit for homes not occupied by the owner.

“I think this will begin to calm it down a little bit,” he said. “It also provides reassurance to those second-home owners that we’re not totally pulling the carpet out from underneath them.”

If approved, Lake Placid would join a growing list of resort areas tackling the issue.

In South Carolina, the beach resort town Kiawah Island in November amended its short-term rental regulations to, among other things, cap the number of licenses in certain residential districts. The caps, effective in January, ensure that no more than 20% of developed lots in those districts can be used for short-term rentals.

“While being sensitive to the tourism market that we love and appreciate on the island, we also exist to protect the residential character of the island,” said Stephanie Braswell, the town’s communications director.

Voters in South Lake Tahoe, California, narrowly approved a ballot measure in 2018 severely restricting short-term rentals in residential areas by 2022. A group of businesses and property owners promptly sued. If the measure stands, it would reduce the number of vacation home rentals from a high of about 1,700 to 300, said former city manager Frank Rush.

Lake Placid also is likely to face legal challenges if it goes ahead with the 90-day limit, said Scheidelman, chairwoman of Gold Medal Hospitality group. She agrees there should be regulations to address concerns like noise and parking, but she said the rules need to be reasonable.

“I think something that is unreasonable is restricting the rental business to the point where guests actually are not feeling welcomed to Lake Placid,” she said.

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Casino execs: Clean up Atlantic City, no Showboat gambling

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Top executives of most of Atlantic City’s casinos say the city needs to become cleaner and safer, with a better public perception in order for business conditions to improve

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. —
Top executives of most of Atlantic City’s casinos say the city needs to become cleaner and safer, with a better public perception in order for business conditions to truly improve.

And they also oppose the return of gambling to the former Showboat casino, which currently operates as a non-gambling hotel but whose owner is moving forward plan to restore gambling there.

Executives from eight of the city’s nine casinos spoke Thursday at a panel sponsored by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce on challenges and opportunities facing the seaside gambling resort.

An early and recurring theme was the need to get rid of crime and blight from areas most tourists see, making them feel safer and creating a better imagine of Atlantic City that could help spur future investment.

“Our buildings can’t be surrounded by drug addicts and prostitutes,” said Hard Rock President Joe Lupo. “The street lights need to work. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done. The city needs to be in better shape. Go out and buy the biggest bulldozer the county has to offer, and you could probably make a lot of positive changes.”

The talk was remarkable in that it was the first sustained, nearly unanimous declaration by Atlantic City’s casino leadership of dissatisfaction with current conditions in the city, something they previously addressed only in passing, or in private. It follows harsh comments two weeks ago from Jim Allen, CEO of Hard Rock International, that Atlantic City “is going in the wrong direction” and is in worse shape than when his company bought the casino three years ago.

“We all agree we’re not pleased with where we are with the Tourism District,” said Resorts President Mark Giannantonio, speaking of an area encompassing the city’s downtown and casino areas. He said making a noticeable reduction in crime could bring a rapid increase of 20% to 30% in visitation to Atlantic City.

Steve Callender, a senior vice president with Tropicana’s parent company, Eldorado Gaming, complained about “three-foot potholes” near the entrance to his casino that have gone unrepaired.

“There’s still a lot of blight,” added Borgata President Marcus Glover. “You need to get some wins and get some earned media about the positive things happening in Atlantic City.

Ron Baumann, regional president of Caesars Entertainment, which owns Caesars, Bally’s and Harrah’s, said Atlantic City has not significantly improved in the last 10 years, despite “ample opportunity and money.” He said a state agency in charge of planning and development in Atlantic City, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, needs to focus more on helping solve societal problems.

Matt Doherty, the agency’s executive director, said it already works with two local social service agencies on such problems, adding the agency pays $3 million a year toward the cost of special police officers.

Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small, who is leading opposition to a proposed change of government that would replace a directly elected mayor with an appointed city manager, called the criticism an attempt to sway public opinion in favor of the change.

“I’ve been mayor for a little over three months and we are doing a great job,” he said. “My administration is committed to safe and clean, and we’ve shown that in a big way.”

The government change proposal, which will be decided by voters on March 31 is backed by Resorts casino owner Morris Bailey, the head of Atlantic City’s main casino workers union, and a retired state senator.

The casino executives also blasted developer Bart Blatstein’s plan to restore casino gambling to the Showboat. The casino closed in 2014, and he reopened it as a non-gambling hotel.

On Tuesday, Blatstein sold the Playground pier complex back to Caesars Entertainment, from whom he bought it five years ago. Blatstein told The Associated Press the move frees him up to pursue the restoration of gambling at the Showboat.

But Baumann, whose company is regaining ownership of the pier from Blatstein, said “the Northeast market is saturated; the last thing Atlantic City needs is another casino.” He added that “it would be purely cannibalistic to do something along those lines.”

Lupo said that when gambling winnings from Hard Rock are excluded, Atlantic City’s slot and table games revenue for 2019 would have declined.

And Giannantonio added: “Resorts is totally against an additional casino. It would be a bad move. It will certainly cause cannibalization of the existing properties.”

Blatstein declined comment when told about the executives’ remarks. He has received preliminary approval from the state to seek a casino license, but no hearing dates have yet been set.

———

Follow Wayne Parry at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC



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Snow jobs: In tight labor market, ski areas up the ante

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It was once {that a} free ski go was sufficient to lure employees to seasonal jobs at mountain resorts. Not.

Within the present tight labor market, ski areas throughout the nation are having a troublesome time filling jobs, so that they’re upping the ante by boosting wages, offering extra housing and providing different perks to fill these jobs earlier than the snow flies.

New Hampshire’s Wildcat is providing a $1,000 bonus for brand spanking new snowmakers to come back on board, and Sunday River in Maine final yr elevated its hourly wage from $13 to $20 for that job. Utah’s Snowbird is increasing its pool van service to get staff to the mountain, and Sugarbush in Vermont, which has among the many lowest unemployment charges within the nation, is hiring extra overseas school college students.

“It is an unlimited problem for us,” Dave Byrd of the Nationwide Ski Areas Affiliation stated of the labor challenge.

As a result of ski resorts are by their nature in mountainous areas, they’re usually removed from cities from which to attract employees. And with the nationwide unemployment fee lately hitting the bottom stage in 50 years, potential employees would slightly have full-time jobs with advantages, stated Byrd, director of threat and regulatory affairs for the Colorado-based affiliation.

“We do not have a whole lot of ski areas which can be in shut proximity to main metropolitan areas. And even once we do, just like the ski areas in Salt Lake … they’re nonetheless struggling to seek out folks,” he stated.

The nation’s roughly 460 ski resorts rent about 100,000 seasonal employees every fall, he stated. Many depend on overseas visitor employees for five% to 10% of their labor, he stated.

“We’re not in a position to fill 100% of the roles we have now out there,” he stated, including that the J-1 visa program is crucial for the ski business.

This system is meant to present overseas employees who might be students, lecturers, camp counselors and au pairs coaching and expertise in these fields in america. The ski business makes use of about 8,000 J-1 visas, Byrd stated.

This yr, Vermont’s Sugarbush is bringing on greater than 100 overseas school college students by means of this system due to the problem in filling jobs. A number of years in the past, it had nobody on J-1 visas, spokesman John Bleh stated by electronic mail. Sugarbush has additionally been growing its worker housing over the previous a number of years, in response to Bleh.

Housing might be scarce, costly or each within the distant mountainous areas or resort cities, and on-line trip rental companies have added stress to the market by gobbling up a piece of the out there property, Byrd stated.

The housing crunch makes it troublesome to be ski bum these days.

“In case you wished to be ski bum and also you need to take a spot yr after you graduate school earlier than you go on to getting an actual job, that notion of the ski bum within the 1980s and 1990s, these are laborious to seek out, these folks, as a result of housing is so enormously difficult for us within the business,” Bryd stated.

And the free mountain go that comes with the job is now not sufficient of an incentive within the period of aggressive go applications that permit skiers and snowboarders to get a discount with out working on the resort, he stated.

On high of that, potential employees can now be picky and go for a year-round job with advantages.

“When House Depot and Goal are paying $13 an hour, and the ski space 20 minutes out of city — they have to match that,” Byrd stated. “They have to compete for that labor pool.”

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Tourist-dependent Bahamas says it’s still open for business

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The Bahamas was on track for a record year of tourism before Hurricane Dorian hit. Now, the outlook for that vital sector is uncertain.

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Some of the best-known resorts in the 700-island chain, like Atlantis, Paradise Island, were unscathed by the monster storm. So was Nassau, the largest city.

But 100 miles away, on Grand Bahama Island and the Abaco islands, many smaller hotels and vacation rentals were damaged or destroyed. That leaves the Bahamas with a double challenge: convincing tourists to keep coming without trivializing the suffering on the affected islands.

“All of the donations are welcome, but they can also, very much, assist us by still visiting the islands of the Bahamas in the unaffected areas. They are open for business,” said Ellison Thompson, the deputy director general of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation.

The Bahamas depend heavily on tourism, which supplies half their annual gross domestic product of $5.7 billion, according to the Bahamas Investment Authority. By comparison, tourism brings in 20% of Hawaii’s annual GDP and less than 3% of the GDP of the United States.

The Ministry of Tourism confirmed on Friday that all hotels on Abaco and Grand Bahama are closed. Together, the islands have around 3,000 hotel rooms, or 19% of the 16,000 rooms in the Bahamas, according to Frank Comito, the CEO of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association. They also have hundreds of vacation homes. Airbnb lists more than 600 rentals for Grand Bahama and the Abacos islands.

According to government statistics, Grand Bahama received 670,000 visitors in 2018, the vast majority arriving on cruise ships. More than 100,000 visitors flew last year into Marsh Harbour, the largest town in the Abaco islands.

Comito has beachfront property in the Abaco islands but doesn’t know how it had fared. Some hotels were providing updates on Facebook. For instance, the owners of Pelican Beach Villas said their oceanfront cottages near Marsh Harbour were completely destroyed and they were evacuated to Nassau by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers. Firefly Resort Abaco tweeted photos of downed trees and a building with no roof and a collapsed wall.

“Hurricane Dorian destroyed our paradise. We will rebuild,” the resort said in its Twitter post.

There’s also some industry in the area. Grand Bahama is home to the Freeport Container Port, a deep water port for oceangoing container ships. Hong Kong-based Hutchinson Ports, which owns the facility, said its emergency team was helping with rescue efforts and trying to re-establish power at the port. Spokesman Anthony Tam said the company’s nearby cruise terminal sustained minimal damage and was expecting ships carrying humanitarian supplies as early as Monday.

Those businesses could help speed the recovery. Carnival Cruise Lines said it’s still committed to a port development project in Grand Bahama announced earlier this year. Slated to be completed in 2021, the port will be the largest Carnival Cruise port in the world and is expected to create at least 1,000 jobs.

Tourism to unaffected islands could also bring in much-needed cash and provide jobs to displaced hotel workers. At the start of this year, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation was reporting record tourist arrivals thanks in part to the recently completed Baha Mar luxury resort. On its home page, Baha Mar has a prominent link to donate to hurricane relief efforts.

“If I were the minister of tourism, I would be strongly supporting an awareness campaign,” said Robertico Croes, who researches small island destinations at the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management. “What is important is that the overall perception continues to be positive.”

Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis made that plea Friday.

“One of the best ways that people around the world can show their support and solidarity… is to visit our other islands by air or by cruise ship,” he said.

Pallab Mozumder, an environmental economist at the Florida International University, says rebuilding homes, businesses and networks of utilities in the northern Bahamas will cost between $15 billion and $25 billion. He expects it will take five years or longer to recover from the catastrophe. Hurricane Dorian’s Category 5 strength and extremely low speed — which exacerbated flooding — made the devastation worse, he said.

Comito said the speed of the rebuilding effort will depend on a lot of things, including how quickly insurance claims can be processed, government incentives and the availability of building supplies and labor.

After hurricanes Irma and Maria hit the Caribbean in 2017, the World Travel and Tourism Council estimated it would take four years for the impacted islands to get back to their previous level of tourism. But Comito said that recovery is ahead of schedule. Ninety percent of Puerto Rico’s hotel rooms are back online, while the U.S. Virgin Islands has 70% of its previous capacity.

———

Durbin reported from Detroit. Gomez reported from Miami.

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New Orleans council votes to limit Airbnb-style leases

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Responding to residents who say short-term leases resembling these organized by Airbnb are driving up property taxes and steadily denigrating the character of historic neighborhoods, the New Orleans Metropolis Council voted Thursday to impose broad new restrictions on such leases.

The 7-Zero vote bans the short-term leases of complete homes not occupied by the house owners. It additionally places limits on the variety of short-term leases on business properties and bans all short-term leases in a lot of the historic French Quarter and the Backyard District.

The brand new restrictions have been months within the making and have been largely met with assist amongst those that spoke on the listening to. Applause broke out within the council chamber when the vote was taken.

Faculty professor Helen Regis mentioned her neighborhood close to in style leisure areas has been harmed by the proliferation of short-term leases. “I’ve misplaced loads of neighbors in the previous few years,” she advised council members previous to the vote.

However there have been opponents.

Eric Bay, a metropolis resident who manages short-term leases, mentioned the council was bowing to a “well-funded lodge foyer” and wrongfully taking away property rights.

“Whereas this vote offers a lot wanted regulatory certainty for house sharing in New Orleans, the foundations unfairly punish accountable short-term rental hosts who’re contributing to the native financial system,” Laura Spanjian, of Airbnb, mentioned in an emailed assertion.

And Expedia Group, mother or father firm of trip rental platforms Vrbo and HomeAway, issued a press release by which spokesman Philip Minardi referred to as the transfer “shortsighted.”

Additionally included within the package deal accepted Thursday are payment schedules and necessities that on-line platforms calculate and acquire taxes and costs.

The rules will nonetheless enable owners to hire out a part of their residences they occupy to short-term guests. An individual who owns a number of items on one property additionally may get short-term rental permits — if the particular person lives on the property.

The work is not finished. Council members and residents mentioned strategies of beefing up enforcement shall be wanted. Andreanecia Morris of the Larger New Orleans Housing Alliance mentioned she was involved that, absent sturdy enforcement, many traders in short-term rental property will ignore the restrictions. “They’re simply going to go underground and keep underground,” she mentioned.

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Moscow’s Metropol: magnificence to revolution and again once more

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In 1991, because the Soviet Union collapsed round him, Alexander Mishakov was summoned to a spot that was off-limits to most residents — the Metropol Lodge.

Newly graduated from a technical institute, the 24-year-old had scored an interview for a breakfast chef place. Catching the primary morning prepare into central Moscow, he walked by means of the lodge’s grand entrance and right into a sphere of unimagined magnificence. On the time, the lodge was open solely to international visitors and a privileged echelon of the Soviet elite.

“I’ll always remember my first impression strolling into that magnificent eating corridor,” mentioned Mishakov, now the lodge’s head chef. “I had by no means seen something prefer it.”

At present, anybody can stroll in and be shocked by the restaurant’s Artwork Nouveau stained-glass dome, glittering chandeliers and marble fountain.

The Metropol, which opened in 1905, has borne witness to a few of Moscow’s most dramatic chapters. It has seen glamour, revolution and espionage; gangsters and celebrities.

In its earliest days, Russia’s czarist elites swept by means of the Metropol’s gilded halls. Artists, ballerinas and intellectuals toasted the greatness of Imperial Russia underneath the crystal chandeliers. Fish swam within the fountain on the middle of the good eating corridor — and would then be served for supper. Rasputin held his notorious events behind the lodge’s doorways. And when Czar Nicholas II signed a manifesto promising liberal reforms, opera singer Fyodor Chaliapin acquired up on a desk, sang people songs and handed round his hat asking for contributions for staff.

When the Bolshevik Revolution swept throughout Russia, the lodge briefly turned a barracks for the anti-Bolshevik White Military, then was captured and become Bolshevik headquarters. The eating tables and chandeliers had been changed by easy wood benches and kerosene lamps.

Revolutionary leaders congregated within the now-darkened restaurant. Luxurious suites had been transformed into committee assembly rooms. The once-polished flooring turned filthy with grit and tobacco. Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky and different Bolshevik leaders recurrently gave speeches there.

Within the 1930s, the Politburo acknowledged the necessity to type stronger ties with the capitalist world. Overseas guests had been allowed in once more, albeit underneath strict situations. The Metropol was reopened as a lodge in 1931 and, as among the finest in Russia, turned an vital a part of the state propaganda machine.

“The lodge was a window of clouded glass, by means of which guests would see a extremely propagandized model of what was occurring within the nation,” mentioned the Metropol’s resident historian, Ekaterina Yegorova.

Overseas visitors slept in plush, spacious rooms, ate effectively, and had been advised concerning the wonders of Soviet business and agriculture. Visits had been tightly managed by the KGB; guests weren’t allowed to maneuver freely, and guides from the state journey company Intourist had been by no means permitted to go off-script. Any communication with foreigners was harmful.

Throughout this era, Communist sympathizers, writers and journalists flocked to the Metropol. Amongst them had been playwright George Bernard Shaw, actress Marlene Dietrich and Chinese language revolutionary Mao Tse-tung. Whereas awaiting his papers for defection to the Soviet Union, Lee Harvey Oswald spent a couple of days there in 1959.

Yegorova’s “clouded window” was notably evident in Shaw’s grand go to to Moscow. Stepping off the Warsaw-Moscow night time categorical in July 1931, he was greeted by a navy honor guard and crowds crying “Hail, Shaw!” He toured collective farms, met with Lenin’s widow, and was even acquired by Joseph Stalin for nearly two hours.

“What I noticed was most spectacular and fairly totally different from something we see (in England). I noticed nothing unpleasant in Moscow,” he later wrote.

The Welsh journalist Gareth Jones was additionally impressed, however extra perceptive of Soviet shortcomings. “The Lodge Metropol is mostly a swell place, and fairly usually there’s a radio in each room, however no rest room paper wherever,” he wrote.

Because the Soviet Union, with its shortages and infinite meals queues, got here crashing down, a rush of high-quality international meals and industrial items flooded into the brand new Russia of the 1990s, and into the Metropol.

The lodge started receiving two enormous truckloads of meals twice a month: high-quality meats, yogurts, avocados, cheeses and unique fruit.

“It opened up a complete new world of cooking,” mentioned Mishakov.

The nation shifted once more.

“The world abruptly opened: Folks began to journey, they began to grasp how life needs to be, what to attempt for,” mentioned Mishakov.

The lodge was not only for foreigners, however for Russians too — those that might afford it. The foyer quickly turned house to gangsters and the “New Russians,” who spent lavishly and terrified the lodge’s workers. They appreciated issues huge and extreme.

And the Metropol, throughout the road from the Bolshoi Theater and 500 meters from Pink Sq., additionally turned a favourite with world leaders and celebrities, from Michael Jackson to Elton John, French President Jacques Chirac to the late North Korean chief Kim Jong Il. In 2009, U.S. President Barak Obama gave a speech there.

In 2016, the lodge’s renown grew even better with the publication of Amor Towles’ best-selling novel “A Gentleman in Moscow,” set virtually fully contained in the Metropol.

And final 12 months, the lodge was within the highlight once more when American Paul Whelan was arrested there on spying fees.

“I wish to say that this lodge is sort of a historical past textbook,” Yegorova mentioned. “If the partitions might keep in mind, they’d keep in mind a lot.”

Mishakov, for his half, likes to consider the Metropol as a ship: “She is huge and he or she rocks alongside the identical currents because the nation.”

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Ski resorts not just for winter anymore

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Ski resorts are not just for winter anymore.

In an effort to expand revenue opportunities in shortening ski seasons, mountain resorts have started offering more activities for the warmer months.

Ski resorts have always drawn people to the mountain for summer hiking, biking and horseback riding.

Now you can ride a zip line, attack obstacle and ropes courses, play Frisbee golf or ride a giant mountain slide.

Most ski resorts offer lift rides to the top for sunrise, sunset or just to take in the great views. Some open the restaurants at the top for a summertime, mountaintop meal or drink.

There are even rock walls on ski mountains so people can feel like they’re climbing on, well, a mountain.

Mountain coasters have become one of the most popular summer ski resorts attractions. The cars are usually shaped like bobsleds and run down sloped hills, gravity creating speeds up to 25 mph.

Europe has been the spot for mountain coasters for years — the Glacier 3000 in Gstaad, Switzerland is a must-try — but the thrill rides have been popping up at ski resorts across the United States.

For more about what ski resorts are doing to lure visitors off season, check out the latest episode of the “Get Outta Here” podcast.

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Lonely Planet’s top destination suffers a blow after blasts

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Sipping fresh coconut water while sunbathing on deserted Hikkaduwa beach, Alexi Konchayenko, a sports trainer from Ukraine, struck a stoical note.

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Bomb blasts can happen “anywhere, anytime,” he said, adding that he was not afraid. “Sri Lanka is an amazing country. This is my first visit and I will tell my friends also to come.”

His is a lone voice — and a lone presence. Sri Lanka was the Lonely Planet guide’s top travel destination for 2019, but since the Easter Sunday attacks on churches and luxury hotels, foreign tourists have fled.

Many of those booked to come in the next few months have canceled. Hotel occupancy across the island has plummeted by 85% to 90%. The tropical beaches, restaurants and shops are empty.

The coordinated suicide bombings on April 21 not only destroyed lives but also wiped out the livelihoods of Sri Lankans who depend on tourism.

More than 250 people, including 45 foreigners mainly from China, India, the U.S. and the U.K., died in the Islamic State group-claimed blasts.

Tourists normally come to Hikkaduwa, in the southwest, for the strong waves that are perfect for surfing and sparkling clear waters made for snorkeling. Today, of the 27 hotels, very few are open. Most, along with the eateries that line the 6-kilometer (3.7-mile) stretch of palm-fringed beach, are closed.

Among the few hotels still open is Hikkaduwa Beach Hotel. On April 21, all 50 rooms were occupied; today, only a handful. “It’s a real disaster. We don’t know what to do right now,” said Sanjeewani Yogarajah, an executive with the hotel. She said the attack has cost the hotel 5.5 million Sri Lankan rupees ($31,000), forcing the hotel’s management to send half the staff home.

Some tourism officials say the damage to the industry after the bombings is worse than during the 26-year civil war between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the government which ended a decade ago. At least then, the violence was mostly contained to the north of Sri Lanka, they said. This time, no part of the island has remained untouched by the blasts.

Lankesha Ponnamperuma, general manager of hotel chain Hikka Tranz, is one of the luckier ones. While most hotels report wholesale cancellations, he is surviving thanks to business from local residents. Last Friday, two-thirds of the 150 rooms were booked, mostly by domestic tourists.

“I haven’t sacked anyone yet. Instead, we are training our people to adjust their expenditure and helping them restructure their bank loans,” Ponnamperuma said.

The president of Sri Lanka’s Hotels Association, Sanath Ukwatta, said hotels have offered 30-50% discounts to entice local residents.

Such a strategy won’t solve the problem, he said, but will “help at least to keep the hotels going.”

The manager of a clothing shop said the owner had shut the group’s other two shops and the factory too. “Business collapsed after April 21,” said Kumari, who declined to give her surname.

According to government figures, there has been an 80% drop in arrivals since the attack. Tourism accounts for 4.9% of Sri Lanka’s GDP. Last year, 2.3 million tourists visited the island, generating $4.4 billion in revenues, a nearly 12% jump from 2017. Around half a million Sri Lankans directly depend on tourism while 2 million depend on it indirectly.

One of them is Mohomed Musflick, the owner of a souvenir shop in Galle which is full of wood carvings, local paintings and postcards. “I have not sold one item. There are no tourists and we are in a huge crisis,” he said.

While life is gradually returning to normal on the island with offices and schools re-opening, the tourism industry is in a somber mood over the slump in foreign tourists. Tour operators from Russia, Norway and Britain have canceled bookings going right up to April 2020.

A travel ban issued by nearly a dozen countries is the greatest cause for concern. “The ban is our main worry. Until it is removed or softened, we can’t start our marketing to attract tourists. If it is lifted soon, we are hopeful we can bounce back this year or otherwise definitely next year for sure,” said Yogarajah.

In the meantime, Sri Lanka’s government should target “people and countries resilient to this kind of attacks and situations, such as Russia, Israel and India,” said Anusha Frydman, managing director of the Lavanga Resort and Spa.

The industry is clear about what else it wants from the authorities: Ensure that stringent security measures are in place to reassure potential visitors; persuade politicians to put their differences aside and adopt a bipartisan approach on national security; and work fast to get the travel ban lifted.

To help the industry cope, the government has put together a relief package comprising easy loans at special rates and reduced taxes. The government also plans to formulate a $100 million insurance fund for compensation to any tourist injured or killed while visiting the island.

“In the past we have had many serious crises and we have recovered. I am quite positive we can do it again,” said Jan van Twest, general manager of the Fortress Resort and Spa near Galle, where 750 room nights have been canceled from May to October.

“But we need to recover, recover very fast,” he said.

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Workers restoring “Green Book” motel where MLK stayed

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An Alabama motel that was featured in “The Negro Motorist Green Book” and provided a home for Martin Luther King Jr. during civil rights demonstrations in the 1960s is being transformed into the centerpiece of a new national monument.

Long vacant and in disrepair, the 65-year-old A.G. Gaston Motel is being renovated as part of the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, established by former President Barack Obama in 2017, long before the “Green Book” gained recognition in the Oscar-winning movie of the same name.

Workers performing the refurbishment, which is part of a $10 million downtown project, are shoring up masonry damaged by decades of weather and removing later additions to the motel. Leaves and trash rustle in halls where doors stayed open for who knows how long; windows and electrical outlets are missing elsewhere.

“It’s in terrible shape now, but it’s structurally sound,” said Rogers Hunt, who is overseeing the initial work.

Opened by the late black businessman A.G. Gaston in 1954 in a city that was infamously segregated, the two-story motel provided top-notch accommodations that included nicely furnished rooms, a restaurant and a lounge that was a gathering spot for the black community.

The motel was a haven for African American travelers who used the “Green Book” to find friendly, safe accommodations during the worst days of Jim Crow. Its guests were said to include Aretha Franklin, Duke Ellington and Harry Belafonte.

“This was a state of the art hotel whether you were black or white,” said James Poindexter, 87, who works for Gaston’s construction company and is a superintendent of the current job.

The motel eventually closed and was reconfigured into apartments that make the original rooms difficult to envision.

The large room where King lived in 1963, when authorities used police dogs and fire hoses against black demonstrators seeking equal rights, was later subdivided into two rooms, Hunt said. A bomb went off outside the motel after King and others held a news conference about desegregation efforts that year, but the building survived.

Hunt said workers will restore the Gaston Motel to the way it looked in its “Green Book” prime, down to trying to find new door frames to match original steel ones that had a distinctive groove down the side.

“We have the original plans to go by,” said Hunt. He, like Poindexter, works for A.G. Gaston Construction.

For more on the legacy of the Green Book hotels, check out the AP’s “Get Outta Here” podcast.

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