Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fourth of July Holiday Travelers Expected to Increase 17.1 Percent, AAA says

/PRNewswire/ -- AAA today projected the number of Americans traveling this Fourth of July holiday weekend will increase 17.1 percent from 2009, with approximately 34.9 million travelers taking a trip at least 50 miles away from home. Last year, 29.8 million Americans traveled during the same period. The 2010 Fourth of July holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, July 1 to Monday, July 5.

"While financial markets continue to have volatility related to the European debt crisis, the landscape of the U.S. economy is in a much different place than it was one year ago," said Glen MacDonell, director, AAA Travel Services. "It is encouraging to see such growth this summer as Americans take to the road to visit family, friends and great vacation destinations."

MacDonell added, "AAA travel agents continue to report double-digit increases in the percentage of travelers making advanced reservations for cruises, and vacation packages and online hotel bookings via are up over last year -- all of which are positive signs pointing to an increase in the number of Americans traveling this Fourth of July holiday."

As the Deepwater Horizon oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico continues, the situation is changing rapidly and the impact on tourism in the Gulf Coast region is still unknown. However, currently most beaches remain open and while AAA offices have reported member inquiries regarding travel to the Gulf Coast, they have not experienced widespread cancellations. Additionally, travelers visit these communities for reasons other than boating and swimming including visiting family and friends, state and national parks, golfing, shopping, dining and nightlife. Therefore, AAA is projecting an increase in travel in states in the Gulf Coast region as well.

AAA's projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. The Boston-based economic research and consulting firm teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during the major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. The complete AAA / IHS Global Insight 2010 Fourth of July holiday forecast can be found at

Air and car trips to increase

Trips by automobile are expected to increase in popularity with 90 percent of travelers, or 31.4 million people, reaching their destination by driving. This is an increase of 17.7 percent from last Fourth of July when 26.7 million travelers went by motor vehicle. AAA expects the national average price of self-serve regular gasoline to be between $2.70-$2.80 per gallon during this Fourth of July holiday weekend. Leisure air travel also is expected to grow slightly with 1.56 million holiday flyers expected. This would be an increase of 8.2 percent from one year ago when 1.44 million flew. Trips by other modes, including rail, bus and watercraft, will be the dominant means of travel used by six percent of all travelers.

AAA also cautions that the Fourth of July marks the busiest travel holiday for emergency roadside services calls. As temperatures rise, vehicles are put to the test. Without preventive maintenance the summer heat increases the likelihood of a motorist experiencing a vehicle failure, leaving them unexpectedly - and dangerously - stranded on the side of the road. AAA expects it will come to the aid of 520,000 stranded motorists during the holiday weekend. Batteries can be especially affected by heat and AAA anticipates it will replace 30,000 auto batteries on the roadside and jump start an additional 60,000 during the holiday weekend. The nation's largest motor club also will aid 85,000 motorists locked out of their vehicles and change 75,000 flat tires.

To decrease the likelihood of break down, AAA recommends motorists have their vehicle serviced regularly based on the manufacturer's recommended schedule and identify a quality repair shop. AAA offers a free public service to help consumers find quality auto repair facilities that meet and maintain high professional standards for training, equipment, cleanliness and customer service. Motorists can either look for the AAA Approved Auto Repair sign at local auto repair facilities, or search for a nearby AAA Approved shop online at

AAA also helps motorists prepare for the heavy toll summer heat can have on a vehicle batteries with its Mobile Battery Service. In many areas, AAA Mobile Battery technicians will travel to members to test their vehicle's battery and ascertain if it's near the end of its life, in need of replacement and susceptible to failure in the summer heat.

Median spending down; average distance traveled will be 617 miles

The average distance traveled by Americans this Fourth of July holiday weekend (617 miles) is forecast to be approximately the same as one year ago (614 miles). Median spending is estimated to be $644 this Fourth of July, nearly $50 less than last year when median spending was estimated at $693. Fifty-eight percent of Americans will spend time with friends and relatives over the holiday.

Airfares, hotel and rental car rates increase over holiday compared to last year

According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, airfares over the Fourth of July holiday weekend are expected to increase 13 percent from last year as air passengers will pay a lowest average round-trip fare of $192 per ticket. However, it is important to note that fares for the prior year dropped 16 percent and, in spite of the increase in 2010, fares are still below the average from two years ago. Weekend daily car rental rates will increase four percent to an average of $54. Hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are also expected to increase four percent from a year ago with travelers spending an average of $143 per night compared to $137 last year. Travelers planning to stay at AAA Two Diamond hotels will pay only one percent more at an average cost of $102 per night.

AAA offers a variety of travel planning tools including free TourBook travel guides and maps for members and the TripTik® Travel Planner, available free to all travelers at Three iPhone apps offer access to AAA products and services on the go. The AAA TripTik Mobile app provides gas prices and information on hotels, restaurants and attractions. The AAA Discounts app, which has been downloaded more than 800,000 times, uses GPS technology to acquire a user's location and displays nearby AAA Show Your Card &Save® locations. With AAA Roadside, AAA members requiring emergency service can quickly send their location, vehicle description and specific breakdown details directly to AAA. The free apps are available for download at the iTunes Store.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

TDC Tracks Coastal Conditions with Daily Videos, Web Cams & Reports

The Franklin County (Florida) Tourist Development Council (TDC) has launched an aggressive marketing campaign to attract visitors uncertain about booking a vacation to Franklin County this summer. The multi-tiered campaign, which consists of a new web portal, daily beach reports, social media marketing, live web cams and a nationwide TV, print and internet blitz is centered around a simple concept - Keep it Honest.

Launched in mid May, the campaign is based on sharing real time information about the beaches, seafood and amenities of this area which includes St. George Island, Apalachicola, Carrabelle and Alligator Point. The first phase of the campaign has been extremely successful, increasing website traffic 811%, based on weekly averages from before and after the implementation of daily beach reports, briefings and website redesign.

The cornerstone of the campaign involves daily reports documenting actual beach and shore conditions. Each day, TDC videographers film different coastal areas of the county and conduct “daily beach and seafood reports.” The format includes interviews with visitors, industry leaders and fishing experts to show current beach conditions as well as fishing and tourist-related opportunities across the county.

The video is supplemented with a summary of daily NOAA projections, state regulatory information and local emergency information relevant to tourists. Together, the video and briefs are posted on the TDC website and on social media sites including Facebook, Twitter and uploaded to the TDC’s You Tube channel at: A video clip from each day’s report is uploaded to the Visit Florida “Share a Little Sunshine” website for even wider exposure.

In addition to posting the information, the TDC sends the report out daily to approximately 4,000 newsletter subscribers, visitor center signups and media throughout the country. Lodging providers that receive the reports link them to their own websites, forward them to colleagues and customers and share them via their own social media marketing sites for additional exposure.

Also key to the campaign, TDC contractors have redesigned a new landing page for to better showcase the daily report videos and provide easy access to lodging provider information. They have also designed a customer emarketing banner for the daily report, added webcam links, and currently handle the daily uploading of reports and videos to the website and to the TDC’s YouTube channel.

The TDC recently implemented a new web video component which features video tagging and the ability to download videos and an embedded video player for a richer user experience. The video player page includes features that allow anyone to link the video to their own website with tag parameters in the url which automatically updates each day’s video without the need for uploading individual daily reports.

The TDC has also installed webcams in strategic spots in the county and is currently linked to three existing web cams to show coastal conditions from Alligator Point to Apalachicola in real time video. Those web links are connected also to the TDC’s social media sites.

The latest phase of the campaign involves TV ads promoting Franklin County which are currently running in key markets across the country and will continue through mid July. Ads are currently running on CBS affiliates and networks including CNN, Family Channel, Food Network, HGTV, Lifetime, Nickelodeon, TNT, USA, Travel Channel, MSNBC and even the Weather Channel.

The TDC has also contracted for print and internet advertising in feeder markets identified by local lodging providersto run through the summer. The ads include display and banner ads on a network of sites such as Cafe Mom, Women's Day, CBS and Yahoo and in the geographic markets of Atlanta, Nashville, Birmingham, and Houston. .

“Our beaches, seafood and fishing are all fine, and we’re happy to share this message,” says Helen Spohrer, TDC Chairman, “We want our visitors to experience Franklin County’s eco-adventures as well as the historical and cultural activities.”

Franklin County was one of eight counties to receive emergency BP marketing funds from the Governor’s office in May to help promote a positive message for the North Florida coastal counties threatened by oil. Franklin County’s grant totaled $252,350.

In addition to the marketing funds, Franklin County tourism officials say they value their network of partners in the tourism and hospitality industries that have banded together to help each other leverage small budgets into big coverage. Since the campaign launched, the Franklin County TDC has partnered with Visit Florida and the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association to co-op a full page ad in USA Today and a 10-second TV tag at the end of a Visit Florida ads that has been running from Baton Rouge to Baltimore.

“By working together with partners, both large and small, we can successfully meet this challenge,” says Spohrer.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Statement from the FAA in Response to the Associated Press Story about Temporary Flight Restrictions over the Gulf of Mexico

Today’s story by the Associated Press contains a number of inaccuracies with regard to the government’s oversight of flyovers in and around the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Since May 28th, the FAA has approved every request to fly over the area – more than 176 requests. While the temporary flight restriction requires pilots to stay above 3,000 feet, the FAA is working with news organizations and granting exceptions so that pilots can fly at lower altitudes throughout the day.

The reason for these requirements is safety, pure and simple. So far, there have been a number of reported near misses over the Gulf due to heavy traffic and pilots flying above the oil spill to give their passengers a closer look.

On Sunday, a helicopter carrying a member of the Associated Press violated the temporary flight restriction around the oil clean-up efforts in the Gulf of Mexico. The helicopter operator was not authorized to fly into the restricted area and was flying at various altitudes well below 3,000 feet. For over 30 minutes, the pilot was not in communication with the Customs and Border Patrol aircraft that is providing traffic advisories for all participating aircraft. Customs and Border Patrol was forced to divert other traffic in the area, creating a dangerous situation for everyone involved. When the pilot was finally reached he was told to leave the area.

A pilot deviation (an action that results in the violation of a Federal Aviation Regulation) is being filed against the helicopter pilot.

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Making The Most Of A Trip To The Beach

(NAPSI)-For surefire fun on a visit to the beach, an increasing number of families are getting their feet wet in South Carolina. What's more, new attractions and old favorites are just waiting to break up--and perk up--the trip.

For instance, there's Carowinds ( at the North Carolina state line on Interstate 77. There, a new NASCAR-themed roller coaster pays tribute to the Intimidator, legendary driver Dale Earnhardt, while providing some fast thrills for even the most experienced coaster fanatic.

On a more sedate note, nearby is Historic Brattonsville, one of the largest restoration and living history sites in the Southeast. The 775-acre Revolutionary War battlefield site features 29 historic structures and programs chronicling Carolina Piedmont development from the 1750s through the 1840s (

Natural history, meanwhile, unfolds off Interstate 95 at Woods Bay State Natural Area. The park preserves one of the largest remaining pristine Carolina bays, with carnivorous plants, alligators, plentiful songbirds and a cypress-tupelo swamp (

In bustling, pedestrian-friendly Greenville, there's Heritage Green, a campus of museums and theatres, including a brand-new children's museum.

Columbia, the state capital at the intersection of interstates 77, 20 and 26, features Riverbanks Zoo and Garden (, the South Carolina State Museum (, the Columbia Museum of Art ( and the largest children's museum in the South (

Also on your way to the beach are produce stands on nearly any major side road. Pick-your-own and working farms open to visitors also abound. You can check out the "Farms" link at for locations.

Learn More

More information on destinations in South Carolina is at and the South Carolina Association of Tourism Regions site,

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Spirit Airlines Strikes Again - Passengers Abandoned

/PRNewswire/ --, the nation's foremost airline passenger advocacy group, today called upon Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza to keep his promise to secure safe passage for passengers stranded by the airline's ongoing pilot strike. On June 9th, just before Sprit Airlines pilots walked off the job, Spirit spokeswoman Missy Pinson told The Associated Press that the carrier was "partnering with other air carrier providers to continue to serve our customers" and would provide a $100 voucher in addition to free passage home. So far these claims have proven to be false.

"Despite its claims and promises, Spirit appears to have no intention to care for its customers in light of the strike and has no plan in place to address stranded passengers across the globe--who are now forced to fend for themselves," said Executive Director, Kate Hanni. "Tickets issued by Spirit are without value on other airlines and Spirit is depriving passengers of information on how they will care for them thereby perpetrating a global fraud upon its customers."

Although Baldanza promised to reroute passengers on other carriers and to refund passengers' money, is receiving hotline calls telling a very different story. One mother called to say that her daughter and a friend are stranded in Aruba. The family was assured before the trip that Spirit would not strand the girls, but they have now told them to buy their own tickets, and they will be reimbursed later. Or, they can come back in a week for a booking on Spirit. The girls' credit cards and cell phones do not work in Aruba, and they have no cash even for food. Spirit officials in Aruba confirmed that Spirit has no agreements with any other airline. Executive Director Kate Hanni also noted that she and her entire membership would be calling upon the Congress, the Secretary of Transportation and the Justice Department to investigate Spirit as a result of its apparent fraud upon flying public. has also published information for stranded passengers to use.

In response to the crisis recommends the following to stranded Spirit passengers:

1. If you have not received a refund and the promised $100.00 voucher, call your credit card immediately and challenge the charge.

2. File a claim in small claims court for all expenses related to being stranded and/or pre-pays for trips not taken.

3. File a complaint with the DOT, who can assist you with remedies.

4. Do NOT fly Spirit Airlines. Low cost air carriers, in general, will do NOTHING for you in the event of any irregular operation, even their own operations.

5. If you are stranded by Spirit please contact via our website.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Delta Welcomes Vietnam Airlines into SkyTeam Alliance

PRNewswire -- Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) today welcomed Vietnam Airlines as the newest member of the SkyTeam global airline alliance. With Vietnam's entrance, Delta customers immediately gain the ability to earn and redeem SkyMiles on the airline's flights, as well as access to its airport lounges in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

"SkyTeam continues to improve Delta customers' access to some of the globe's most important commercial and tourism destinations," said Delta CEO Richard Anderson. "The addition of Vietnam's leading airline to SkyTeam positions our alliance as the fastest growing in Asia and builds on the planned addition of China Eastern Airlines."

Korean Air and China Southern Airlines also are long-standing Asian-based members of the alliance.

Beginning in mid-July, Vietnam Airlines will offer codeshare service via Delta's Tokyo-Narita hub allowing passengers to purchase a single Vietnam Airlines ticket to and from the United States. Delta operates 27 peak-day departures to 22 nonstop destinations from Tokyo-Narita, including nonstop flights to 10 U.S. cities - Atlanta, Detroit, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York-JFK, Portland, Salt Lake City, San Francisco and Seattle.

By the end of this year, Delta passengers will have the ability to connect on a single codeshare ticket from cities throughout Delta's network to Vietnam. Over time, SkyTeam's addition of Vietnam Airlines will introduce 20 new destinations not offered by any alliance member today. Vietnam Airlines currently serves the SkyTeam hubs in Beijing, Guangzhou, Paris, Seoul and Tokyo.

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Saturday, June 05, 2010

Delta, Delta AirElite Introduce Industry First Program Allowing Customers to Book Commercial, Private Jet Flights in One Transaction

PRNewswire -- Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) and its wholly owned subsidiary, Delta AirElite, are introducing a service to allow customers to book scheduled commercial flights and on-demand private jet service in a single transaction using a pre-paid Air Elite account. Through Delta AirElite, Delta is the only U.S. airline offering customers combined access to commercial and private jet service.

"Today's airline customer wants more travel flexibility, extensive reach and competitive pricing all from a single source," said Jim Segrave, President - Delta AirElite. "Only the Air Elite Card gives customers the unique ability to book travel between destinations using a combination of commercial and on-demand business jet service. With a single phone call, customers can personalize their travel needs connecting them to points across the country and around the world."

Air Elite cardholders can use their account to book travel on Delta or Delta AirElite by calling a dedicated client services team. Customers purchasing or renewing an Air Elite account gain around-the-clock access to:

-- Private jet service at competitive, hourly rates that are guaranteed
not to change for up to two years;
-- Delta SkyMiles Diamond Medallion status, Sky Club membership and
convenient Sky Priority benefits; and
-- Select discounts on both Premium and Economy-class tickets when booked
in conjunction with a private jet segment.

Earlier this year, Delta AirElite doubled its fleet size with the acquisition of Kinston, N.C.-based Segrave Aviation. The move combined Delta AirElite's award-winning product with Segrave's leadership in online flight management and operations control.

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Friday, June 04, 2010

Family Benefits When you Participate in National Fishing and Boating Week

The Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation declare boating and fishing as unmatched leisure activities that help make a true connection with family, friends and the natural environment. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division encourages people of all ages to reconnect with their families during National Fishing and Boating Week, June 5-13, 2010.

“Outdoor recreation strengthens the family as a unit and children as individuals,” says WRD Chief of Fisheries Management John Biagi. “National Fishing and Boating Week is an opportunity to remind all outdoor enthusiasts to teach their children and others the importance of natural resource conservation while introducing them to an exciting activity that could last a lifetime.”

NFBW began in 1979 as National Fishing Week and was created to recognize the tradition of fishing, to broaden the spirit of togetherness and to share the values and knowledge of today’s anglers with tomorrow’s anglers.

In the spirit of introducing new family members or friends to the sport of angling, Georgia offers two free fishing days during NFBW – Saturday, June 5 and Saturday, June 12, 2010. On these days, Georgia residents do not need a fishing license or a trout license in order to fish. Residents can fish on any public waters in the state including lakes, streams, ponds and public fishing areas (PFA). Additionally, residents do not need to obtain a WMA license to fish on a PFA or on Waters Creek on these two free fishing days.

In addition to the two free fishing days, there are multiple kids fishing events scheduled across the state during the week to help introduce children to fishing. These events offer a healthy form of entertainment for kids and are an excellent opportunity for beginning anglers to experience the vast rewards of recreational fishing. KFEs are FREE, held statewide and have experienced volunteers on hand to help. Many events offer prizes, free lunches and other fun-filled activities – so make plans to attend a KFE today!

Take Me Fishing! ™ A recent national survey indicated that 87 percent of Americans believe fishing and boating have a positive effect on family relationships. So take your family fishing and you will always have something in common. 

For more information on free fishing days, finding the nearest KFE or finding a place to fish, visit the WRD website at or call a WRD Fisheries Management Office.

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The Inaugural Savannah Wine & Jazz Fest June 5 at The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa

This Saturday, June 5 from 1-7 p.m., The Westin Savannah Harbor Resort & Spa will host the Inaugural Savannah Wine & Jazz Fest.

Travel the world with Wine and live Jazz while enjoying breathtaking views of the city. Sample and savor an expansive selection of wines spanning several continents and numerous vintages. For those with even more refined tastes, the Connoisseur’s Corner features only very high-end wines. 

Enjoy musical entertainment from some of Savannah’s finest jazz musicians including Huxsie Scott, the Eric Jones Trio, Gina Renee, the Ben Tucker Trio, the Coastal Jazz Association All-Stars and the Lavon Stevens Trio.

Food selections and grill items will be available. Admission is $55 per person and a portion of proceeds benefits local charities. Adults over the age of 21 are encouraged to attend. Admission includes a commemorative glass and unlimited tastings.

For more information look for us on the web at or call 912. 525.5050 for ticket information.

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Thursday, June 03, 2010

Delta Eliminates Award Redemption Fees for Frequent Flyers

PRNewswire-- Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) is eliminating award ticket redemption fees for SkyMiles frequent flyer members. Effective immediately, members will no longer pay fees of up to $150 for award tickets redeemed within 20 days of departure.

Before this change, the fee to book an award ticket for travel within three days was $150 per ticket; for travel within four to seven days the fee was $100; and for travel within eight to 20 days the fee was $75. Award tickets booked 21 days or more before departure continue to have no redemption fee.

"We want members to be able to redeem their miles - whether it's for a last-minute trip or a vacation of a lifetime - and eliminating this fee for our loyal travelers makes doing so significantly easier," said Jeff Robertson, Delta's vice president - SkyMiles. "We are actively listening to customers' concerns about the SkyMiles program and are responding."

Last year, frequent flyers redeemed more than 230 billion miles in the SkyMiles program for more than 11 million award redemptions. In 2009, 8.5 percent of revenue miles flown on Delta were for award travel, among the best of U.S. network airlines according to data filed in airlines' 10-K annual reports. Delta offers more ways to redeem frequent flyer miles than any other airline - including airline tickets, mileage upgrades, car rentals, hotel stays, Delta Sky Club memberships, merchandise and more than 30 types of gift cards.

Today's announcement is the latest in a series of changes Delta is making to improve the frequent flyer experience, including:

-- Introducing a Diamond Medallion tier in March and the industry's first
rollover Medallion Qualification Miles for 2010.
-- Launching a "first checked bag free" benefit - up to a $50 savings per
person on a round-trip ticket - for customers with a Consumer or
Business Gold, Platinum, or Reserve Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from
American Express which began June 1.
-- Increasing the allocation of preferred Economy seats to ensure the
most frequent travelers are guaranteed the best seats on all Delta and
Delta Connection flights by August 2010.
-- Allowing Delta's most loyal customers - Diamond, Platinum and Gold
Medallions - flying on domestic award redemptions to be eligible for
complimentary upgrades by September 2010.
-- Re-engineering the online award calendar at to make it
easier to find and redeem award seats. These changes began in May and
will be completed by November 2010.

Delta also has changed award ticket redeposit and reissue fees to make them consistent with fees for non-award tickets. These fees, which have increased from $100 to $150, will continue to be waived for SkyMiles Diamond and Platinum Medallion members.

More information on redeeming miles for an award ticket is available at For a complete list of Delta's upcoming SkyMiles changes, visit

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