Where to start?
Two of the largest labor unions in Greece have announced a 48 hour nationwide strike for October 19 and 20. Currently, lawyers are on strike, as are customs officers who are on a ten-day strike. See the Belfast Telegraph for details.
The “Occupy Wall Street has gone international with demonstrations in London, Toronto, Mexico City, Madrid, Rome and other locations. Unfortunately, the demonstrations turned violent in Rome. See this article from CNN for a top level overview of the demonstrations.
In Egypt, reform leaders are criticizing Egypt’s Military leadership, while the friction between the Copts (Christians) and some sects of believers in Islam, continues.
All in all, not a good week for travelers, at least those in the centers of major cities around the world. We are unsure what lies ahead for the demonstrations in Europe and the United States, but urge you to search local news sources to see if the activity might interfere with any travel you have planned. Other hotspots such as Greece and Egypt look to be long term problems that might just wind up with you taking these potential travel destinations off your bucket list, at least for a while.
Authorities in Rome implemented a new tourism task over the New Year Holiday. If you stay at a four or five star hotel, you will have to pay an extra €3 per person per night, or €2 per person per night for a three star or less hotel. If you choose to camp, it’s an additional €1 per person per night. The worst aspect of this wrongheaded tax is that you must pay it in CASH on departure! The good news is that the tax only has to be paid for the first ten nights of your stay (about 7 nights longer than the average visit) and does not apply to guests younger than 10 years (or to anyone staying at youth hostels). See this article in the Daily Mail for more details
While the new tax is designed, in part, to help the city with maintenance costs related to is large number of visitors, the fees will also be used to promote Rome as a tourist destination – to attract more people that can be taxed for visiting. Has Rome forgotten how much money tourists spend while visiting? Or that we pay entrance fees to explore numerous of the Eternal City’s attractions. Well, they know they have a captive audience, since you can only see Rome when in Rome.
Even though the fee is modest, we suspect that people will be irritated by this gratuitous fee, enraged by the requirement to pay in cash and maybe they will cut their trip short to compensate. Unfortunately, we have a feeling we are just spitting into the wind, as more and more destinations will begin to charge additional travel taxes, just like Rome. Eventually everyone will begin wondering – “Where did all the tourists go?” That’s easy, we stayed home because we could not afford to travel. Why — well, it seems that our own governments raised taxes on income and airline tickets while we were reading about the tax increase for tourists visiting Rome. Happy New Year.
Italy’s embattled Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, survived a no-confidence vote in the Italian Parliament today. Just a few day’s ago it looked certain that he would lose this vote and that his government would be dissolved and elections held. However, the vote supported his continuing in office and this enraged many of the citizens of Italy, particularly those in their twenties.
In Rome, dissatisfaction with the result of the vote lead to rioting, which was focused in the areas popular with tourists. Other demonstrations were held in Milan, Palermo, Genoa and in other locations around the country. It is unclear at this time whether the demonstrations were one-time events of if they will continue over the next few weeks. See this AFP article at Yahoo news for an excellent recap of the situation.
Travelers planning on visiting Rome or other cities in Italy over the next week or two should pay close attention to this situation and check local news sources in Italy for more information about the latest developments.
Today Rome experienced a rare snowfall that closed the Coliseum and a local airport. Although the amount of snow was minor, more may fall in the next 24 to 36 hours. See this article from Bloomberg in Business Week for more details.
Several items caught our eye recently. For those of you traveling to Greece, there is a new ban on smoking in public places, although there is some disagreement on how effective it will be since over forty-percent of the Greek population like to light-up now and then.
In Odense, Denmark there has been a curious turn of events. The Hells Angels have taken a stand against Muslims and immigrants in Denmark who hate, so the Hells Angels state “…the Danish culture and way of life.” Under the guise of rescuing the country from what it calls the “jackal mentality”, the Hells Angels are recruiting new gang members to help them with this task. Police believe that this is really a turf war in disguise between the Hells Angels and immigrant gangs for the control of drugs and other illegal activities. Note: there have been daylight attacks by the immigrant gangs in Odense, Funen, sometimes involving innocent people just wandering by.
Next, they must be having a good time on the island of Crete, since today it was hit with a magnitude 6.7 earthquake offshore of Iraklion, but it appears the quake was not felt by anyone asked.
For those of you in the U.S. American Airlines is having an air sale to Europe, but tickets must be purchased by July 15 for travel into the fall. See American’s website for details.
Finally, although not as newsworthy as more important things happening around the world, our new Guide to the Best Places to Visit in Rome is proving very popular with our readers. If you have not yet seen it, take a look at ThereArePlaces to try it for yourself.