Travel News: New Zealand Plans Tourist Tax

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KLM to Launch new Economy Class Service 
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has announced it will offer a new Economy Class service concept aboard its intercontinental flights. At the start of an intercontinental flight, Economy Class passengers will receive a bottle of water, a refreshing towel and earphones which, KLM says, will allow passengers to immediately get set for their journey. After this welcome service, passengers will be offered an extended choice of meals on flights out of Amsterdam. On intercontinental daytime flights out of Amsterdam, KLM said the new meal service will include “a choice of warm dishes, a large, well-filled salad, and a dessert.” On medium-range and longer intercontinental flights the selection of snacks will be further extended with ice-creams, sweets and savory snacks. Passengers will also be welcome to collect these snacks in the galley. The new Economy service is being introduced because KLM’s new collective labor agreement for its cabin crew includes a clause that one less crewmember will be assigned on many intercontinental flights. Consequently, a more efficient Economy Class service is required. KLM says that by better utilizing the space on meal trays, trolleys can be stocked with more trays, ensuring that passengers are served sooner. It adds that the new product is also more in line with passengers’ wishes, in that the amount of food and drinks served remains the same, while the quality of the service improves. The change will be introduced on the following nine destinations on July 1, 2018: Bonaire (via Aruba), Entebbe (via Kigali), Fortaleza, Osaka, Hong Kong, Vancouver, Seoul, Rio de Janeiro and Houston. From the start of its winter schedule on October 28, the service will be available on all of KLM’s intercontinental flights. The flights are subdivided into daytime and night-time flights, but also into three different distance zones, namely: The overall service will be adjusted per zone, so that it best coincides with the biorhythms of passengers. Passengers will, as always, be served a range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages aboard every flight.
 
Cruise Lines Destination Planning Becomes More Complex As Industry Grows
Cruise Industry News reports the cruise industry is growing, there are more ships, and those ships are getting bigger, making itinerary planning even more complex, said Captain Vassilios Gazikas, director of marine operations at Celestyal Cruises, speaking at the MedCruise General Assembly that took place in Valletta, Malta. Gazikas said this meant ports needed bigger facilities and more berths, and is also leading to more ports in general. “It is very complex to develop a port in Europe,” he said, “considering local history, environmental constraints and regulations.” Steve Young, Carnival UK’s vice president of port and shore operations, said port development goes beyond just building a berth, and now takes into account the capacity of the destination. Thus, the mainstream ports in the Mediterranean: Venice, Barcelona and Civitavecchia cannot accommodate the entire cruise market. He said all lines were looking for new places to go. Gazikas said: “A cruise terminal is only a place for transit,” adding in an ideal world, a passenger would not spend more than 10 or 15 minutes in the terminal. For Carnival’s big ships, Young explained the turnaround operation was broken into four-hour windows. “This can mean up to 2,000 guests in an hour,” he said, “one person every 1.8 seconds.” Pierside, big ships require the supply chain to adapt, Young continued, meaning not only more goods, but more guides, buses and additional tourism infrastructure.
 
New Zealand Plans Tourist Tax
The New Zealand government has said it plans to impose a tax on most international arrivals to pay for infrastructure improvements. The tax could be up to NZ$35 per person. Minister for tourism Kelvin Davis said: “It’s only fair that they make a small contribution so that we can help provide the infrastructure they need and better protect the natural places they enjoy. “This rapid growth has impacted on the costs and availability of publicly-provided infrastructure. Many regions are struggling to cope and urgently need improved infrastructure, from toilet facilities to car parks.” Australia, which is the largest source market, will be exempt from the tax, as will several Pacific Island nations. Citizens from most other nations will however pay it, which will be collected with visa applications. Eligible visa-on-arrival travelers will pay it through a new electronic travel authority which will be rolled out. New Zealand says its infrastructure is buckling under the strain of surging tourist numbers which are up by nearly a third in the past three years. Other fees are also being hiked significantly, including fees for various immigration services and the cost of working holiday visas.
 
The New Riverboat That Will Cruise The Mississippi
A new kind of modern riverboat is coming to the Mississippi River. American Cruise Lines is debuting the new boat, called American Song, in Louisiana and it will cruise from New Orleans and Baton Rouge. The riverboat is similar to the Viking River Cruise boats in Europe, which had planned to come to New Orleans but couldn’t because of a longstanding federal law that says all boats carrying goods (or people) between US ports must be manufactured, owned and operated by US citizens. The new riverboat, called American Song, is the first of a new series by American Cruise Lines, which has been operating paddlewheel boats out of New Orleans and Baton Rouge for several years. It boasts triple the amount of glass, or windows, as other riverboats, the cruise line said. It also has expanded suites, with 900 square feet of space to host small cocktail parties or private dinners. American Song is set to take its inaugural cruise from New Orleans on Oct. 6, 2018. The cruise line also has already begun construction on the second ship in its Modern Riverboat Series, named American Harmony, but it won’t be ready until 2019. It will take over on the Mississippi River from American Song, which will move to the Pacific Northwest. A paddlewheeler from American Cruise Lines, called America, already kicked off the 2018 Mississippi River season, departing from New Orleans. That paddlewheeler, another paddlewheeler and American Song will all cruise the Mississippi River by October this year. The American Song, a 184-passenger vessel will begin sailing on Oct. 6 with a trip from New Orleans to Memphis, Tennessee. 
 
Elon Musk To Build Chicago O’Hare High-Speed Rail Link
The New York Times reports business tycoon Elon Musk says he can get travelers from downtown to Chicago O’Hare Airport in just 12 minutes, after being awarded the contract to build a new high-speed transportation system. Musk-owned venture The Boring Company got the nod to build the new underground transit system linking Block 37 with the airport via two underground tunnels. Musk reckons the small rail cars can reach up to 150 mph and it could be operational within three years. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel pointed out no taxpayer money will be needed as The Boring Company and backers will fund the entire project. The estimated fare will be in the region of $20 to $25. This is ‘the fast lane to Chicago’s future’, Emanuel said. The mayor acknowledged there is a lot of skepticism surrounding a largely untested system, while Musk himself is coming under pressure over the current struggles of flagship electric car company Tesla Inc.
 
 
The Airports With The Speediest Free Wi-Fi
Bloomberg reports if you’re looking for an airport with quick, complimentary wi-fi, head west. Seattle-Tacoma International’s connection took the top place in a new ranking of North American airports by software firm Ookla LLC, which runs the site Speedtest.net. SeaTac more than doubled its download speed from last year, reaching 103 Mbps. Denver, which topped the list over the past two years, came in second at 78.7 Mbps. The slowest Wi-Fi speeds were in Toronto and Montreal, with download speeds of 7.1 and 6.4 Mbps, respectively, Ookla said. Both Canadian entrants improved on their speeds from 2017. The data are from tests conducted on Speedtest.net from January-April 2018 by computers logged onto the airports’ Wi-Fi network. The ranking does not include airports that charge for Wi-Fi access. Three major US hubs, Dallas-Fort Worth, Detroit and Miami, saw speed declines ranging from 26% to 59% over the past year, according to Ookla, with Detroit’s performance declining the most in the surveyed group. Dallas and Miami are hubs for American Airlines Group Inc., while Detroit is a hub for Delta Air Lines Inc. The world’s busiest airport, and Delta’s largest hub, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta saw the largest one-year improvement in speed, jumping to 59.6 Mbps from 2.7 Mbps, according to the survey data. LaGuardia fared the best of the three major New York-area airports, clocking a speed of 28.5 Mbps, good enough for 10th place on the list. 
 
Ritz-Carlton Opens Reservations For New Cruise Line’s Maiden Voyage
Just a year after announcing plans to launch a luxury yacht and cruising experience, the Ritz-Carlton has opened the reservation line for the maiden voyages in 2020. Set to sail in February of 2020, The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection will be an extension of the luxury hotel brand onto the high seas. The first of three bespoke yachts is scheduled to cruise regions including the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, the Caribbean, Latin America, Canada and Northeastern US. At 190 meters, the vessel can accommodate 298 passengers in 149 suites, including the most opulent Owners suite, which comes with a private terrace overlooking the ocean and private outdoor whirlpool. The suite also features two bathrooms, living and dining space, king size bed and dedicated “personal assistant.” Guests have at their disposal, an onboard spa, where they can get a facial or massage, and a humidor, where they can sip on a cognac and smoke a hand-rolled cigar. Cruisers who are accustomed to eating breakfast or lunch shirtless and running around shoeless and fancy-free, however, may not do well with the dress code aboard Ritz-Carlton ships. For breakfast and lunch, shirts, shoes, and bathing suit cover-ups are mandatory. For dinner, bathing suit and sleeveless T-shirts are not permitted. Voyages range between seven and 10 days, and fares start at US $4,835.

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