Bill to Require CDL’s for 9 to 15 Passenger Van Drivers Unlikely to Pass This Year
With Congress bogged down with other issues and the likelihood that no broader Highway Bill will move in this Congress, chances are slim for passage of the Motor Coach Enhanced Safety Act (H.R. 1369 and S. 554) with provisions requiring CDL’s for 15 passenger van drivers crossing state lines. AOA board members met with the committee staff in DC overseeing the bill and with other members of Congress who said that the bill would have to be attached to a broader Highway bill, which is unlikely to get through Congress this year. However, we were advised that our efforts were timely, since the revisions to the language will be made in the future.
Slides and other Natural Disasters Impacting the Industry
This winter has seen an unprecedented series of natural disaster and events that have threatened to disrupt outfitter operations. Of course, nothing compares to the disaster in Haiti and Chile and the human suffering, especially in Haiti. Chile seems to be better prepared to recover. Here is an update on some of the events that impacted our industry.
A recent rock slide on the road along the Cal Salmon River in California is expected to take a while to clear. It is currently blocking access to the take-out on the river.
In Tennessee TDOT workers are still trying to stabilize the mountain over the put-in to the Ocoee River and are working 7-days a week to open Highway 64 by March 31st. A slide covered the highway and put-in in early November after heavy rains and a small earthquake destabilized the rocky slopes of Little Frog Mountain.
I-40 through the Smoky Mountains near the Tennessee state line remains closed after another slide in the area and bad winter weather delayed efforts to reopen the interstate. Highway officials say the road is now expected to open in April.
In South America, the railroad to Machu Picchu nearest town (Aguas Calientes) is expected to open in about 3 weeks. In Chile, the Futalefu River was not impacted by the quake in that region.
Travel Industry Expects Modest Gains in 2010
Citing a higher savings rate and lagging consumer confidence, the Travel Industry Association (TIA) expects any gains in the travel industry for this year to be modest. The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index® declined 10 points in February after increasing in January. Along with other factors, TIA and Oxford Economics expect the recovery to be “bumpy and muted” until employment, investment and consumer spending rebound. The loss of wealth among many U.S. households and consumer pessimism has created a much higher savings rate than in past years. Oxford Economics and TIA are concerned that the economy may suffer once stimulus spending ends.
While it is early to predict bookings for 2010, especially for day trips, AOA’s surveys of outfitters and adventure resorts show that expectations and bookings are mixed with modest improvement in some states and weaker expectations in other states, perhaps related to unemployment or the downturn in destination travel.
Reservations Compared to This Time Last Year (February)
Data from 2009 and previous years shows stronger demand for lower cost day trips on family class whitewater near metro areas or destination attractions. Some whitewater rafting day trip rivers fitting this mold saw growth in 2009. Although it wasn’t quite a record, customer traffic on the Ocoee River in Tennessee grew from 219,000 visits in 2008 to 225,000 visits in 2009. The Pigeon River in Tennessee set a record with over 145,000 customer visits.
There are positive signs that consumers are still interested in travel if presented with the right opportunity and value proposition. Citing increased demand and inquiries, both Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) and Carnival Cruise Lines announced plans to increase prices this spring. NCL will increase prices on April 1st, which may encourage travelers interested in a cruise to advance their buying decision.
The Air Transport Association reported a slight decline in air travel in January, which could be related to weather. However, passenger revenues were up by 1.4% compared to January of last year. Ticket prices and non fare revenues are expected to rise in 2010.