resort news


Victoria Bay and the iconic Bruce Lee.

On January 23rd, China celebrated its New Year. The “Spring Festival” marks the end of the winter season, and starts new growth, relationships and beginnings.
To see it in person is to visit one of the crown jewels of the East. Catching a flight tomorrow and coming back four days later will set you back about $1100 if you travel from LAX and don’t mind a two hour layover in Japan.

Hong Kong Airport is in Chep Lap Kok, just 20 miles north of downtown. Catching a train downtown from is only $10, or you can splurge on a taxi for about $30.

The Hotel Intercontinental downtown is highly respected and for good reason. Stay on a top floor and get a great view of Hong Kong harbor. Or go even further and lavish yourself in the Ritz-Carlton, whose ground floor is the 102nd floor of the International Commerce Center tower, making it the world’s highest hotel.

A must is the Star Ferry. Fare can be had for less than a dollar, and its views of Victoria Harbor have been enjoyed since 1888. From there, visit Hollywood Road to see shops boasting arts and antiques. Be sure to go up the world’s longest escalator, which is found on Pass Shelly Street. Take a walk in Kowloon Park for free. There’s an aviary, a flamingo lake with turtles, a sculpture park and a large swimming pool that offers fun for the whole family.

To eat on the run, try Dim Sum. These bite-sized portions of spring rolls, spare ribs or dumplings can be found at many street-side restaurants and for an inexpensive price. For dinner, try the “Ma La” chili prawns. This dish isn’t too hot and sure to fill your stomach right.

Finally, cheap shopping abounds in Hong Kong. Buy an iPad for about $100 less than you would in the States, or get three designer suits at the Burlington Arcade for only $500. The tailors are all extremely helpful, and most know English as Hong Kong was a British colony.

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A class-action suit was filed in San Francisco last Thursday claiming Shell Vacations charged thousands of dollars for “points” sold on Ebay for $1.
Shell Vacations Club, which has resorts all over the United States and Canada, was charged with false advertising and scamming consumers.They claimed timeshares were purchased at a “fixed cost,” there were “thousands of dollars in hidden fees” and “price increases.”

Plaintiffs purchased 2,500 points they thought they could use towards vacations all over the United States at the many SVC resorts, at a price of $14,224. They then found Ebay links to 9,700 points for $1.

Upon further internet research, a complaint from a consumer not familiar with the case read: “In the next 10 years we will be paying $50,000 to go on vacation 10 times, and that only covers the condo, not airfare, etc,” one man wrote on an online complaint forum, according to the complaint. “How is that a great investment?” Another complaint cited “”one unpleasant surprise after another” and “many lies and conveniently concealed information.”

The plaintiffs seek damages for breach of contract, breach of faith, fraud, false promises deceptive business practices and negligent misrepresentation.

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In the first time since economic downturn of 2008-2009, the travel industry is growing. Travel and tourism is being called one of the healthiest job sectors in the United States, getting back to the peak seen in 2007.

Many things drive the industry, but at its base are international travelers visit the United States, which supports 1/8th of the travel jobs. Domestic travel supports the rest.

Hotel occupancy in 2009 was at 55%, almost the lowest since the Depression. Occupancy in 2012 is projected to climb to 61%, showing a 10% growth in two years.
The travel industry is not only important to the obvious benefactors like resorts and airlines, but to an entire supply chain. Aircraft have to be built by one company, fueled by another, maintained by another.

Most service industry workers make more than minimum wage. The national average wage for a housekeeper Is $10. During the first six months of last year, the travel industry increased its workforce by 16,000 per month. Total employment has gone up by 224,000 jobs since December 2009.

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The European Union and the International Monetary Fund bailed out Portugal to the tune of 78 billion Euros. In doing so, they imposed sanctions on the working class that strike at the very fabric of Portugese dining culture. Gone are the days of hour-long lunches in expensive restaurants, hello sandwiches eaten at desks.
The sanctions are supposed to tighten the belt and revive Portugal’s economy. But the food service industry (all bakeries, coffee shops, bars and restaurants) represent the fourth-largest source of jobs in Portugal, so anything that would threaten their well-being affects a large portion of the countries’ workforce.

Also this month, the government raised the value-added tax (VAT, or purchase price) restaurant food from 13 to 23 percent. The Portuguese Restaurant Association AHRESP claims that 21,000 restaurants could fold under the tax increase, putting as many as 50,000 people out of work. The Portuguese jobless rate already stands at 12%.

Already, many restaurants have shut down in the wake of the sanctions. And others are sure to follow.

“To be honest, I think it will be hard. Just look around, this is half empty, it wasn’t like this before,” said Manuel ‘Manolo’ Calvino, owner of the ‘Buraco,’ or Hole, snack bar in Lisbon.

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Sedona's famous Red Rocks

Sedona Pines, of Sedona, Arizona, has been accused of pressuring an 80 year old man into a timeshare purchase he didn’t want and couldn’t afford. Ralph D’Errico and his new wife took a trip to Arizona for their one-year anniversary. During their stop in Sedona, they took what would be a harmless tour of Sedona Pines.

“It really didn’t turn out to be a tour,” D’Errico said.

Instead, he was invited to a high-pressure shark-tankesque sales pitch involving multiple timeshare salesmen. They offered him a timeshare for $25,000 and didn’t tell him about yearly maintenance fees or special assessment fees. After hours of haggling, Sedona dropped the price to $17,000. D’Errico signed and now says he can’t afford the over a $1,000 a year in additional fees. “My pension is like $9,800 a year,” he said. “So that doesn’t give you a whole heck of a lot.”

The company currently has 53 complaints lodged against them and an “F” rating with the Better Business Bureau. Arizona law allows the purchaser seven days to reneg on their timeshare contract, something D’Errico didn’t do. He has now filed a lawsuit against the company.

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The Wynn Macau.

Steven Wynn, the billionaire co-founder of Wynn Resorts, is getting sued by Kazuo Okada, the man who helped him start his company.

This comes less than three years after his messy 2009 divorce with wife Elaine Wynn. That resulted in her owning half of his shares in Wynn Resorts.

On January 11th Okada filed a case in Clark County, Nevada demanding access to the company’s financial records. He claims the company donated $135 million to the University of Macao, which Okada said was politically motivated.

The donation is the largest ever made in the history of any company listed on the Hong Kong stock market.

According to Okada, he spearheaded Wynn’s lucrative mood to Macau, a former Portuguese colony on China’s mainland near Hong Kong.
Mr. Okada alleges the real purpose of the large gift is a renewal of Wynn’s gaming license with the protectorate.

Mr. Wynn’s lawyers claim this is merely a money grab my Mr. Okada, who was fired from the resort’s board October 2011.

In 2008, Mr. Okada sought to open a casino in the Philippines on his own. Wynn fought bitterly against the proposal, saying it would take business away from

Macao is the fastest growing casino market in the world. In 2002 its gambling revenues totaled $2.8 billion; last year they were $33.5 billion — more than three times the revenues in all of Nevada.

Wynn’s official press release regarding the matter can be found here. Wynn Las Vegas and Wynn Macau regularly receive A-list celebrities and hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.

Okada is the already the highest percentage shareholder of Wynn Resorts at 20%. Wynn Resorts was up one cent to $39.89 during daily trading as of the time of this posting.

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Park City, Utah

For thirteen years, Utah’s Department of Workforce Services has awarded the Utah Work/Life award. This prestigious award can be earned by only 20 companies in the state. For calendar year 2011, Canyons Resort received the honor in the “Large Employer” category.

Canyons led the entire North American continent in enhancements made to their mountain trails. General managing director Mike Goar was pleased with the announcement. “While much of the news has been about our mountain enhancements, this award is a testament to the investment we have made in our guide experience,” Goar said. “This has paid huge dividends in our retention rates for both year-round and seasonal guides.”

The resort boasts unique features, such as the Orange Bubble Express, which is North America’s most technologically advanced chairlift, five distinct hotels, and 17 restaurants.

Goar believes that treating his employees well is a primary factor in his resorts success, as it is the largest ski resort in the state. “We believe that creating a positive, flexible and caring work environment directly affects the engagement of our guides and the service they deliver. By taking this inside-out approach, our Guides are consistently given high marks for service and friendliness on guest surveys and rank near the top nationally,” he said.

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Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey

Mitch Morrissey, Denver’s District Attorney, is cracking down on timeshare resale scam artists. He put an ad on his Facebook page and he wants everyone to know that scammers are taking advantage of good people. Stamping out timeshare resale con-artists is a top priority for his office.

“Victims, particularly those eager to sell their interests in timeshare properties, are being contacted by people claiming to be timeshare buyers who are making sizable offers that may or may not require an upfront fee,” Morrissey said.

“Often, the buyer claims to have a ‘buyer waiting.’ In the interest of making the deal as simple and painless as possible, the buyer initiates all ‘necessary’ documents, and emails them to the seller to sign and send back,” Morrissey added.

“Sellers are told they will be reimbursed for these fees at the time of closing, only to find that the buyer and escrow account company have vanished before they have finalized the deal,” Morrissey said.

The DA wants citizens to know you should only use licensed real estate agents when dealing with any property ownership issues, especially timeshares. Any financial deals made should be put into writing, something the scam artists aren’t able to offer. And you should never agree to purchase anything over the phone if you’ve never dealt with the company in the past.

If you’d like to file a complaint with the FTC over a possible timeshare scam you know of, go to their website.

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Mount Niseko.

Honshu Ski Resorts, settled right in the middle of Japan’s mountainous Nagano region, are observing more snow than the area has seen in seven years. Nine meters of snow (29.5 feet) have been reported in the Hokkaido Prefecture, and Honshu has also seen higher than normal falls.

The only problem? Resorts saw Christmas and New Year’s, typically two of the most profitable holidays, with a tourist turnout down 35% compared to last year.

Ski Japan is offering a free night to guests who book five days lodging, two free nights for seven day guests, three free nights for ten day guests and four free nights for guests who stay for fourteen. According to their GM Belinda White the promotion is doing very well. “(It) is certainly helping the bookings come through,” she says.

There’s still hope that the mountainsides of Nagano, Hokkaido and the rest of Japan will be filled with happy tourists and their dollars. Australian travel agents say many people chose ski trips to Japan later than normal this year. And hotel operators in Japan say snow there is consistent and predictable. As White said: “Snow is falling at the moment … and it looks like it’s going to keep going. So, more fresh powder.”

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Navagio Beach, Greece

In the midst of a worldwide recession, some of Europe’s favorite playgrounds are slashing prices to compete with cheaper options in the Pacific. They’re also competing with each other, causing a bona fide price war in the Mediterranean.

Spanish resorts have cut their prices by 40% over the last five years to make the country the least expensive tourist spot in Europe, helped by a 6.4% rise in the value of the Great British Pound against the Euro over the last past three months.

Turkey, once regarded as one of Europe’s cheapest destinations, could only achieve 17th place out of 40 in the study’s Worldwide Holiday Costs Barometer at £60.20 – making it 60% more expensive than Spain.

Consumer research is discovering the cause of the price war is the start of the busy summer season. Sarah Munro of Post Office Travel Money said: “Given that sterling is worth around 20% more than a year ago against the Turkish lira, we expected to see a lower barometer cost for Turkey, especially as the country had a disappointing 2011.

“It will be interesting to see how Turkish resorts respond to the challenge presented by Spain and Portugal. With Greek tourism also facing a fight for survival, we could see a price war between the eastern and western Med in 2012.

“The message that came out clearly from our holiday budgeting research was that 2012 will be all about affordability. Holidays may still be a priority but they are not a necessity and people will not knowingly get into debt to fund them.

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