Weekend what we’re reading: Taxes and more taxes, unhappy hotel customers, no-sense airport code names

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This weekend we take a break from airline articles (well, we do deal with airport codes). First, here is an article that deals with taxation of tourists — taxation without representation, if there ever was any. The next article covers the effects of hotel ownership on customer service. Finally, a piece that explains how we ended up with such whacky airport codes here and there.

The best and worst U.S. cities for travel taxes

The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) did a study on the impact of taxes on the cost of travel. I found that travelers were charged far higher tax rates than residents and more than even some sin taxes.

Chicago, New York, Boston, Kansas City and Seattle lead the states in slamming travelers with extra taxes. On the other hand, Florida cities lead the list of destinations that tax travelers the least, with Ft. Lauderdale, Ft. Myers and West Palm Beach listed as the lowest, followed by Detroit and Portland, Oregon.

Travel is one of the most heavily taxed activities in the U.S., even though most cities and towns try hard to encourage visitors and tourism. Travelers don’t vote where they travel, so cash-strapped cities and states continue to push fees and taxes onto hotel rooms, rental cars and airports. Cigarettes are about the only thing taxed more heavily among consumer purchases.

Often, the money is used not only to build and run facilities for travelers, such as convention centers and airports, but also to help finance general coffers and pay for sports stadiums and youth ball fields. In some cities, taxes on visitors help fund arts facilities and school systems, according to a study published last month by the Global Business Travel Association, a trade and lobbying group for corporate travel managers.

Why hotel customers are not happy

It seems while most travel pages are filled with complaints about airlines, hotels are now getting slammed by the public as well. There have always been howls about resort fees that are tacked on after arrival, but other issues such as minibar tabs and shabby rooms are adding to customer discontent. Why? A panel discussing the subject blames ownership structures focused on short term gains.

Misplaced corporate or private equity greed is replacing customer service in a large part of the hospitality industry.

a- “During the height of the recession, prices were down, and there were fewer people on property,” Stuart Greif, [vice president and general manager of J.D. Power and Associates Global Travel and Hospitality practice] said. “Even though staff was reduced, since occupancy was low, they had time to talk with guests about the amenities that were available, and they could upgrade people to nicer rooms and, at the very least, keep them out of rooms that needed renovation. There was no line for the treadmill in the fitness center, no waits at the restaurants. Service was attentive, and rates were low, so the value was perceived as being very high.”

By the time occupancies began to rise, most hotel owners had significantly lowered their cost structures, and their hotels could, by and large, be more profitable at lower levels of occupancy. As occupancy began to rise and hotel owners saw higher profits, they were reluctant to bring staffing levels back up, embark on major renovations or, apparently, supply complimentary Toblerones in the minibar.

Airports wind up with code names that make no sense

OK, BOS stands for Boston, but what the heck is MHT only about an hour and a half away? MIA is Miami. That’s understandable. But, how did Orlando becom MCO? Or, O’Hare Chicago end up with the code ORD? This article has some of the answers.

Turns out there’s a rhyme and reason for just about every airport code out there. An article originally published in December 1994 in Air Line Pilots journal by Dave English explains nearly every mysterious airport code you’ve ever come across.

In the early 20th century there were only a handful of “airports,” which in reality were just any area big enough for a plane to land or take off. But when other airports started cropping up in the 1930s, the previous coding system had to be reevaluated. The airports with two-letter weather station codes received an X on the end (LA became LAX and Portland’s PD became PDX), and every subsequent airport was given three letters.

Photo by jfinnirwin, Flickr Creative Commons