A report by the American Automobile Association shows a bright spot in the nation’s economic news.
The AAA predicts that 34.1 million people are planning to take a trip of more than 50 miles from home this Labor Day weekend, up from 32.7 million last year and the highest in five years.
The rise is due to increased consumer confidence, with one poll saying it’s at a six-year high. A slight dip in fuel prices may also be a contributing factor.
The AAA says the average trip will cover 594 miles and travelers will spend $804.
Are you planning on going anywhere this Labor Day weekend? Are you feeling more or less confident about the economy and is this affecting your travel plans? Tell us about it in the comments section.
Back in April we brought you the story of James McCormick, who was found guilty in a British court of selling fake bomb detectors to several nations, including Iraq. When I was traveling in Iraq I saw his useless products, based on a novelty golf ball detector, being used at checkpoints everywhere. McCormick endangered the lives of countless people, including myself, and I’m glad to report that he’s now serving ten years in jail.
Well, not totally glad. A life sentence would be far more appropriate, but corrupt businessmen so rarely end up behind bars I’ll take what I can get.
Now another UK businessman has been sent to jail for peddling fake bomb detectors.
Gary Bolton, 47, of Chatham, Kent, has been sentenced to seven years in prison for selling what he claimed were sophisticated electronic devices. In fact, they were simply little plastic boxes with handles and antennae. The prosecution proved that Bolton knew they didn’t work yet his company Global Technical Ltd. sold them for thousands of dollars apiece to numerous security and law enforcement agencies in half a dozen countries, including Mexico and Thailand. Bolton also claimed they could detect drugs, cash, tobacco and ivory.
It appears Bolton may have been inspired by the success of McCormick’s bogus device, as one of them was found in Bolton’s home.
Who’s up for a good, old-fashioned tarring and feathering?
The Pacific Island nation of Samoa has changed its time zone ahead one hour. This isn’t some sort of island paradise version of Daylight Savings Time, but rather a shrewd business move.
By doing this they’re actually hopping over the International Date Line. The Samoan government wants the country to be in the same day as more westerly Australia and New Zealand, their main trading partners. So instead of being 21 hours behind Sydney, they’ll be three hours ahead.
While it seems to only be quibbling, actually it makes a huge difference. In an interview with the BBC, Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi pointed out that when it’s Friday in Samoa, their business partners in Australia and New Zealand are enjoying a lazy Saturday. Sundays in Samoa are the start of the business week in Australia and New Zealand.
The International Date Line already has several zigs and zags. Traveling from north to south, it takes a swerve to the east to keep Russia’s Chukchi Peninsula all in one time zone, then a sharp turn to the west to keep the Aleutian Islands in the same time zone as Alaska. Then it goes straight down all the way to the Equator, where it makes its biggest detour to the east to make sure Kiribati is to the west of it.
Another swerve puts Samoa to the east of the International Date Line. That bit is slated to change, so this is probably the last time you’ll see this particular map of the International Date Line. The Line doesn’t get back on its original course until it’s far to the south.
The move doesn’t happen until 29 December, so the Samoans, and airline companies, will have plenty of time to get adjusted. I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one carrier screws up and sends their passengers to some sort of temporal limbo.
[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]
One of the greatest boons to travelers in recent years is the expanding eurozone. Gone are the days when you spent a few days in France, then wasted money getting your francs exchanged into lire in order to visit Italy. There were always a few odd coins left over that ended up sitting useless in the sock drawer.
At the start of 2011, Estonia has become the 17th country to join the eurozone. The kroon will soon become a memory as the old currency is phased out.
While this is good news for travelers carrying euros, it could carry a hint of future trouble. Many countries that adopted the euro saw prices rise as shopkeepers rounded up in the exchange. This is what happened in Spain, and prices never stopped rising. What used to be a budget travel destination soon became almost as expensive as the rest of Europe. Living in Madrid I’m constantly hearing Spaniards complain about how much more expensive things are these days.
Estonia has also become a budget travel destination in recent years. The Baltic republic may be small with only 1.3 million people, but it has an interesting history, some beautiful countryside, and a distinct culture. Hopefully it won’t get too expensive to experience all that.
Budget carrier easyJet almost tripled its profits in the past 12 months as fuel prices dropped and passengers flocked to book cheap flights, BBC reports.
The airline released figures for the past twelve months through September, revealing a profit of £154m million ($247 million). The previous 12 months saw profits of £55 million ($88 million). A total of 49 million people flew on easyJet in the past year, up 8 percent.
While a 9 percent drop in fuel prices helped all airlines, there’s been a continued shift away from national carriers such as British Airways and Air France in favor of budget carriers, and no budget airline has as much share in the European market as easyJet. The carrier now accounts for 7.6 percent of the European market.
The airline also announced it will pay a dividend for the first time in 2012, and will be buying 24 airplanes in order to expand its services.
[Photo courtesy Antony J Best via Wikimedia Commons]