Travel Newsstand for Sept. 7-21, 2017
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Read all about it: How a small beachfront resort in Maine molds national perceptions of guest-worker visas. Planes, trains, automobiles and RVs. Heathrow is auctioning off an entire terminal. Italian pasta laws are a sticking point in the European Community's drive for a single market. Watch some of America's iconic resorts go to seed. And much more.
H-2B or Not H-2B, Maine's Beachmere Inn Is Ground Zero
Immigration is roiling the American psyche again, but let's not talk about DACA and the Dreamers. Let us talk H-2B, a guest-worker visa category that is the backbone of the U.S. hospitality industry. The president's Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, is a frequent user of H-2B guest workers, but Trump has also been a frequent critic of the program.
In March, government agencies stopped processing H-2B visas. That has led to a shortage of workers in the housekeeping departments of hotels and resorts great and small. According to a Politico.com piece this week, The Beachmere Inn in Ogunquit, Maine, could not get its normal supply of guest workers and had to scramble to keep the oceanfront resort open this summer.
I've never been to Ogunquit or The Beachmere Inn, but something about the resort and its owner, Sarah Diment, struck me as familiar. A little googling explained why: Diment and The Beachmere are the media's go-to source for commentary on H-2B visas and the hospitality industry's dependence on them. She and her resort's experiences largely shape the media narrative on guest-worker visas.
Her commentary trail goes back to 2013, when Diment told the Portland Press Herald that few U.S. workers were willing to accept summer housekeeping gigs.
In March, when the government restricted H-2B visas, a reporter for Maine Public Radio caught up with Diment and she railed against the cap, suggesting she might close 20 of The Beachmere's rooms. (The same story eventually ran nationwide on NPR.com.) She was also quoted in the Bangor Daily News about the cap's impact on The Beachmere's Jamaican workers who rely on H-2B visas.
In late April, a New Hampshire paper caught up with Diment and showed her doing housekeeping herself because of the lack of workers. Around the same time, Down East, a Maine magazine, quoted Diment complaining about H-2B visas at a conference. In June, the Portland paper was back in Ogunquit, noting that Maine's unemployment rate was 3 percent and quoting Diment saying the lack of guest workers was "awfully desperate ... a little ridiculous." The Bangor paper returned, too, showed more pictures of Diment doing housekeeping and warned that Maine's tourist industry could be short thousands of workers this summer.
In mid-July, the Homeland Security Department, under pressure from Congressional critics, agreed to release 15,000 new H-2B visas--but only after additional vetting and paperwork. Guess who the The New York Times turned to for perspective? Yup. "I am desperately needing help, but it is going to take me a long time to gather all the new stuff [Homeland Security is] demanding," Diment explained.
Pasta Hotline: Macaroni in the News
Will the future of the EC be decided by pasta? Specifically pasta-labeling laws in Italy? Brexit may be pressing, but apparently keeping the origin of ingredients a secret from consumers is even more basic to the European Community's identity. Italy's new laws "demanding that producers label pasta to indicate what country ingredients come from" may undermine the single market promulgated by the EC. ... Meanwhile, a BBC video essay covers the decline of the fagottari, Romans who bring food, especially pasta dishes, to beach outings. Authorities in Rome have banned food on the beach and, depending on who you believe, it's because bringing your own sustenance is tacky or it depresses business for beachfront merchants.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles--and RVs
PLANES: Barbara Peterson of Conde Nast Traveler reminds us what airports were like in 1987, coincidentally the year that Planes, Trains and Automobiles was released. As I recall, everything was brown. ... TRAINS: Karl Zimmerman in the Los Angeles Times rides the nation's rails, focusing on Amtrak's interesting (mostly) and scenic (usually) routes in the West. ... AUTOMOBILES: Paul Theroux in The Wall Street Journal writes a paean to the Great American Road Trip. Touring at your own pace in a car, he explained, "rekindled my interest in travel and, most of all, reminded me how lucky we are in our country's spaciousness and modernity." ... AND RVS: Laura Begley Bloom in Forbes magazine says RV travel is having a moment and a record nine million people own recreational vehicles.
Tight Connections ...
Airport Auction Gary Leff of the View From the Wing blog reports on a unique opportunity: The entire contents of Terminal 1 at London/Heathrow are available at auction. 'Cause you always wanted your own baggage carousel, right?
Train Time The five-day, four-night, 2,600-mile Vivek Express is the longest train ride in India. "It's fresh and beautiful and repulsive at the same time," notes the National Geographic photographer who went along for the ride.
Abandoned Americana Once upon a time, huge segments of America vacationed at the resorts, hotels and cottages in the Catskill Mountains of New York and the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. Most of the places are gone now and DCist.com compiled a stunning collection of before and after pictures, each shot from exactly the same angle. Watch as the scenes change from high-season haute to abandoned Americana. -- Joe Brancatelli
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