This week’s broadcast of Eye on Travel comes from JW Marriott in Washington DC on this July 4th weekend. Peter has a full global travel update. And as travel comes roaring back, so do travel scams. At least $74 million was lost due to travel related scams during the pandemic. And that’s an 80% increase over 2019. Joining Peter this week is Senator Amy Klobuchar, who talks about her new bill, Protecting Consumers from Travel Fraud Act. Roxanne Roberts from The Washington Post, on life in Washington DC post-pandemic. And pilot Greg Morris insists you wear at least SPF30 sunscreen before boarding your next flight. And he’ll explain why. There’s all this — and your travel questions answered as well — as this week’s Eye on Travel broadcasts from JW Marriott in Washington DC.
Tune in at 10 a.m. ET on July 3rd. You’ll also be able to stream it by pressing play on the bar that appears above.
Have a travel question? Then ask Peter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet your questions to @petersgreenberg (include #AskPeter).
Amy Klobuchar, Senator of Minnesota, opens the program by discussing her new bill, Protecting Consumers from Travel Fraud Act, which just passed the Commerce Committee. Senator Klobuchar and Senator Steve Daines of Montana wrote this piece of legislation after consumers lost $74 million due to travel related scams over the course of the pandemic, an 80% increase from the year before. Scams ranged from people acting as fake travel agents to promises of free trips and often targeted first-time internet users and senior citizens. If passed, the Federal Trade Commission would be required to report these scams to Congress as well as provide the information to the general public to increase education on the issue. She states that as scammers get more sophisticated, safe guards need to be as well. Senator Klobuchar advises people to not engage or answer these scams, and if you do receive an offer that seems legit, ask the person for their number so you can call and figure out if it is a real offer. She also warns people not to believe that they can get trips and hotel rooms for free.
Roxanne Roberts, Reporter at The Washington Post, argues that post-pandemic, people have a new, fresh perspective on how they want to live and approach their daily activities. She ties this into traveling and being mindful of who we want to do this with. It’s not just where do we want to go or what do we want to do, it’s who do we want to do it with? Roberts describes life in Washington DC post-pandemic, what socializing looks like now, the current mask mandates, the dancing ban and why it’s a good time to visit the city (even though it’s hot). Then, she shares her hopes for the city’s near future.
Gunther T. Bright, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Global and U.S. Large Enterprises at American Express, speaks about the slow return of business travel amid an explosion of leisure travel over the last few months. Through his conversations with many of the key decision makers behind the resumption of business travel, Bright believes business travel is on the horizon and will make a comeback. American Express recently did a survey which revealed that many business travelers are excited to get back to traveling when it is safe. In large part, this is because of the power that being in-person has in terms of building leadership skills and making strong connections. He also says that employees and their well-being are a high priority for businesses as they decide to travel again. Several factors including vaccination rates will be considered in order to ensure employees are safe when traveling.
Greg Morris, Commercial Airline Pilot, speaks about the importance of focusing on wellness when you travel. One of the dangers that comes with air travel that people do not always think about is the risk of skin cancer because of increased exposure to ionizing radiation and other harmful rays. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, commercial airline pilots are exposed to between double and six times as much ionizing radiation compared to the general public. And that one hour at 30,000 feet exposes pilots to as much UV radiation as 20 minutes in a tanning bed. Morris encourages passengers to apply sunscreen of at least SPF 30 before takeoff and to wear protective clothing and sunglasses with UV protection when traveling. If you take these precautions, Morris says you will still be able to enjoy the view from your window seat.
Robert Wood, Principal Economist and Country Risk Service Manager for Latin America and the Caribbean at The Economist Intelligence Unit, speaks about the results of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2021 Global Liveability Index. The Index reviews 140 cities based on five categories including stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure as well as 30 key indicators. Cities that rank at the top of this year’s list are those that have been able to successfully manage the pandemic and slow the spread of COVID-19. Specifically, cities in Australia, New Zealand, and Japan that have eight cities in the top ten. U.S. cities Houston and Honolulu also scored higher than usual due Houston’s economic success and Honolulu’s high vaccination rates. One area of the world that has seen a decrease in rankings is Western Europe due to the second wave of cases and subsequent lockdowns many cities have endured. Vienna, for example, fell to twelfth place from its usual first place. Wood believes that Western European cities may see an increase in scores as they get a better handle on the pandemic. Damascus, Syria remains in last place due to key structural issues.
Nycci Nellis, Founder of “The List Are You On It” and Co-Host of the Foodie and the Beast radio show, chats about the resiliency of the food and restaurant industry and the silver lining of it all. But owning a restaurant is like having a house of cards. It may all look pretty and great on the outside, but it’s a tough business. Nellis discusses the situation in Washington DC the staffing crisis (that predates the COVID-19 pandemic), the rising cost of food and the added part of the business that hospitality industry members have to deal with: reviews on Yelp, Tripadvisor, et. al, where everyone becomes a critic.
Holly Budge, Co-Founder of World Female Ranger Day and Founder of How Many Elephants, joins the program from England to discuss the double-edged sword impact the pandemic has had on conservation. On one hand, the pandemic has given threatened animal populations time to recover, but on the other hand, many rangers have lost their jobs leading to reduced eyes and ears on the ground monitoring poachers and an increase in poaching. The lack of tourism revenue has also led to a decrease in funding to conservation and anti-poaching efforts. Budge also speaks about her charity, How Many Elephants, which is a visual, apolitical campaign that shows the rapid loss of elephants and also supports the work of female anti-poaching rangers in Africa and around the world. The number of female rangers is growing with over 3,500 in 18 countries. These women often help ease tension and provide education to local communities. But female rangers still make up only 11% of all rangers.
JoAnn Hill, Author of Secret Washington DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure, talks about some of unique and hidden gems and where to find them in DC. There is a big chair in Anacostia on Martin Luther King Boulevard that is actually a replica of the original chair, which had a cube attached to it that a model agreed to live in for over a month as part of a publicity campaign for a furniture store. Hill notes that you can’t sit in the chair, but you can still go admire it. DC has a rich history, and Hill shares a little known story about the Carousel on the National Mall and segregation. She also tells visitors to keep an eye out for stone markers known as boundary stones throughout the city. They mark the original boundaries of DC but as boundaries have changed and shifted over the years, many of them are now located in random places throughout the area. And what’s the spot that brings her the most joy? That’s Barbie Pond on Q street, an art installation made by anonymous artists featuring Barbie dolls that change for special occasions.
Tony Hull, Executive Chef at JW Marriott Washington DC, joins the program to discuss how he and his team were able to survive the pandemic and the changes they have made going forward. Hull talks about closing all dining except in-room dining during the pandemic and how they still provided for their staff with a smaller menu made fresh-to-order. He also speaks to how the hotel was able to continue to provide for business travelers while still abiding by health and social distancing guidelines. As they get ready to begin hosting events again, he talks about the revamped menu, which is now geared towards the leisure traveler with more family-friendly options including healthy flatbreads and small plates to share. He adds that the number one lesson he has learned throughout the last year is the importance of teamwork, something he has seen firsthand as people stepped up to do jobs they wouldn’t normally do from the cleaning staff checking guests in to the utility team helping with deliveries.
Tushaar Agrawal, General Manager at JW Marriott Washington DC, talks about the reopening of Washington DC, surviving the pandemic, and his excitement at welcoming guests back in larger numbers. He speaks to how the hotel got creative to welcome the increased number of leisure travelers where they once focused primarily on business travelers. Some new programs include creating better packages and deals for families when they come to stay. He notes that he does believe business travel will come back but that it will look different when it does. He also says he is comfortable welcoming people back to the hotel as he believes that the necessary changes have been made to do so safely.
By Amanda Morris for PeterGreenberg.com