By Mitchel Raphael - Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 0 Comments
The Fairmont Château Laurier held their annual holiday party with everything from sushi to…
The Fairmont Château Laurier held their annual holiday party with everything from sushi to plum pudding.
By Charlie Gillis - Monday, July 16, 2012 at 6:30 PM - 0 Comments
Those who get sick while on vacation may now be granted additional time off in lieu
Can anyone help Europe if it won’t help itself? The question seemed pertinent last week after the European Union Court of Justice ruled in favour of Spanish department store workers demanding the right to reclaim any holiday time lost to illness. The decision by Europe’s highest court is binding on employers throughout the EU, including Britain, and came as Spain put the finishing touches on a request for an EU bailout. No surprise, then, that the decision was met with hisses from economists and politicians. “Most employees accept that if they fall ill while on holiday, it is unfortunate,” said Norman Lamb, the U.K.’s employment relations minister. “But they do not expect extra vacation.”
Maybe not on Lamb’s side of the Channel. On the continent, things are different. The new rule joins a cornucopia of workplace benefits that remain even as troubled eurozone economies groan under crushing debt and staggering unemployment. Spanish workers get an extra two weeks off for honeymoons, and 20 days of severance even if they’re fired with cause. In France, companies must give extra paid leave to staff who work 39 hours per week instead of the statutory 35, even if the workers are paid for the overtime. In Italy, firms that lay people off during an economic downturn can face years of costly legal proceedings. By way of remedy, Rome is proposing a law requiring employers to pay laid-off workers a whopping 27 months in wages.
Gold-plated entitlements like these persist despite complaints from economists that they discourage companies from hiring at a time when one in two Spaniards and one in three Italians under the age of 25 are unemployed. They’re also adding to the burden on public-sector institutions, which had been the last redoubt of employment growth since the financial crisis took hold in 2008. Spain’s government-paid workforce actually expanded by 11 per cent in the three years that followed the meltdown. Last week, Madrid warned that mass layoffs of civil servants may be necessary to contain a deficit nearing $90 billion.
Are Europeans oblivious to the crisis before them? On one level, the recent decision reflects long-held views that benefits, more than just nice, are necessary, says Kurt Huebner, a professor with the University of British Columbia’s Institute for European Studies. To them, “vacation is like bringing in a car for maintenance,” he says. “It’s necessary to get basic repairs in order to function properly. Thus it is logical that if you become sick during this period, you should have the opportunity to recover.” And though the verdict “flies in the face of austerity,” Huebner adds, many Europeans believe workers have done their part in the past decade, as wages have decreased as a share of GDP while profits have risen.
By Alan Parker - Friday, May 18, 2012 at 3:47 PM - 0 Comments
The ‘May Two-Four’ long weekend is as distinctively Canadian as the two-four with which it is often celebrated
Many Canadians may have the idea that Victoria Day is an internationally observed event that connects us — however quaintly and tenuously — with other remnants of the old British Empire as we collectively celebrate our colonial heritage by pulling up lawn chairs and raising a glass or a beer bottle to the tubby little Empress of Canada, India, Australia, Britain and points between.
Couldn’t be further from the truth.
Canada is the only country in the world to celebrate Victoria Day, and the ‘May Two-Four’ long weekend is as distinctively Canadian as the two-four — a case of 24 bottles of beer — with which it is often celebrated.
There is a Victoria Day in Australia — but it’s a completely different critter, a localized event marking the founding of the southern Aussie state of Victoria (as a separate colony in 1851) and it’s celebrated, coincidentally, on July 1.
Our Victoria Day does mark the real birthday of Queen Victoria on May 24, 1819, and Canada (then a rump colony called the Province of Canada) was the first part of the young queen’s ramshackle realm to officially recognize her birthday as a day of honour in 1845.
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 1:20 PM - 0 Comments
Harper draws the line, The Conservatives’ secret weapon, She’s pregnant! Is an election due?
Harper draws the line
As the press gathered at 24 Sussex for Stephen Harper’s media Christmas party, there was buzz about whether the PM would perform as he did at the recent Conservative Christmas party (where he sang the Rolling Stones’ Jumpin’ Jack Flash and Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline). In one of the living rooms was a piano and a set of drums that had a red and white plastic popcorn box (available at Dollarama) attached to the side. When Capital Diary suggested Paparazzi by Lady Gaga might be an appropriate song, one bright PMO staffer jumped in with, “Yeah, in the meat dress,” referring to Lady Gaga’s infamous outfit at the MTV Video Music Awards. In the end, the PM just mingled. Laureen Harper noted there’s been pressure put on the PM to do more modern songs, but he’s resisted, preferring to keep it old school.
By Kate Lunau - Monday, January 10, 2011 at 9:20 AM - 0 Comments
French luxury resort operator Club Med is betting big on the burgeoning ski industry in Asia
In November, Club Med opened its first holiday village in China: a ski resort in the northeastern corner of the country, 180 km from the closest major city, Harbin. With 18 ski runs, Club Med Yabuli offers the all-inclusive perks for which the company is famous, like gourmet buffets, spa facilities and nightly entertainment. It’s just the first of several new Club Med resorts planned for China. With the country’s burgeoning middle class, and an anticipated tourism boom, the French tour operator is staking its fortunes there.
As Club Med spent last year climbing out of the recession—its net losses were $20 million in 2010, compared to $71 million in 2009—China was a bright spot. Sales increased by over 40 per cent in 2010, with 32,000 Chinese tourists vacationing at Club Med resorts. Club Med’s year-end report predicted a much stronger 2011, largely due to success in China. Last year, it partnered with Fosun, the country’s largest private conglomerate, and now a major shareholder; Club Med plans to open four more Chinese resorts by 2015.
By Cameron Ainsworth-Vincze - Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 9:40 AM - 1 Comment
More Canadians aren’t simply heading south for a holiday: they’re going to buy cheap property
Every year thousands of Canadians travel to Florida for a little fun under the sun. Yet with the U.S. housing market still sputtering from the fallout of the mortgage crisis, and the loonie at near parity with the greenback, more and more Canadians aren’t simply heading south for a holiday: they’re going to buy cheap property.
“The deals right now are phenomenal,” says Brian Ellis, vice-president of Florida Home Finders of Canada. “There is lots of stuff under $100,000 that used to be selling in the high $200,000 range.” Some 54,000 foreclosed homes are currently up for sale in the state, along with thousands of condominiums, and Canadians—the largest group of foreigners buying U.S. properties—are ideal clients for real estate firms. “They love the Canadian market as we have a stable economy, the best banks in the world, and we’re paying cash,” notes Ellis.
By Bruce Parkinson, Takeoffeh.com - Monday, May 3, 2010 at 3:00 PM - 5 Comments
Will The Next Cancun Please Stand Up
Plastic Only Please: Air Canada Moving To Cashless Cabin
As of May 1 passengers will need a credit card for on-board purchases on Air Canada including food, alcoholic drinks, headphones and duty-free items. The airline is moving to a cashless cabin and debit cards won’t be among the options. For both the airline and its flight attendants it is good news. Retired Air Canada flight attendant Alexandra Ludgate says handling cash was one of the most time consuming parts of the job. “Running back and forth for change and waiting for passengers to rummage through their wallets was really impractical.” Passengers will also have the ability to purchase vouchers before boarding a flight. However, vouchers are only available online and will also require a credit card for purchase. Reacting to the news on TakeOffeh sister site OpenJaw.com, one travel industry member wrote: “While I agree going cashless cabins will make things more efficient, it seems to me that they might have also included debit cards. The transaction takes about the same time, and some people may not have a card or wish to use a credit card on board.” WestJet says it is considering a similar move but has not yet made a decision.
You Have The Right To Remain Prone On A Sun Lounger
It’s not enough that Europeans get weeks and weeks of paid vacation every year. Or that whole countries slap up a ‘Closed’ sign for the month of August. Get ready to go green with envy, my vacation-deprived North American friends, for the worst is yet to come: The EU has declared that vacations are a human right and plans to subsidize holidays for those who can’t afford it. “Travelling for tourism today is a right. The way we spend our holidays is a formidable indicator of our quality of life,” EU commissioner Antonio Tajani said recently. Under Tajani’s plan, taxpayers would foot up to 30 per cent of the travel bill. Expected to cost hundreds of millions of Euros, the plan will be open to pensioners, young people between 18 and 25, disabled people, and families facing “difficult social, financial or personal” circumstances. No doubt you can find one of those categories to apply to you, but there is little hope North American government will subsidize our annual pilgrimages to a swim-up bar.
Lots Of Car Rental Brands, Few Car Rental Companies
If anyone’s keeping score, Avis and Budget are one company, National, Enterprise and Alamo are owned by the same group and now Hertz has swallowed up Dollar Thrifty, which was already a dual-brand car rental company. With all the car rental brands out there, there are surprisingly few car rental companies. The announcement of Hertz’s $1.2-billion Dollar Thrifty purchase raises fears that rental prices will climb even further — after a year in which they reached historic highs. Chris Brown, executive editor of Auto Rental News, told CNN: “We’re in an era of higher-priced car rentals and that era is probably going to stay in place for a while. I’m not sure that Hertz buying Dollar Thrifty [will be] a driver of a rate increase.” Insiders say that the main cause of higher prices is tighter lending, which means car rental companies can’t buy as many cars.
Will The Next Cancun Please Stand Up
You may have never heard of the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, but odds are you will soon. Like Cancun, Loreto, Huatulco, Ixtapa and Los Cabos, the coastal region of Mexico’s sixth-largest state is going to be another of the country’s “Integrally Planned Centers” — in other words, a massive new resort area. Located on the Gulf Coast with Texas as its northern border, Tamaulipas will be home to ‘Megaproject Costa Lora,’ which in its first stage will be home to 6,900 hotel rooms and 11,500 condominiums and tourist villas. The federal government, through tourism arm Fonatur, has agreed to fund up to 90 percent of the $5.5 billion project. Despite its well-publicized drug war and last year’s struggles with swine flu, Mexico is one of the world’s leading destinations, and continues to build a tourism product highly regarded for quality and value. Here’s an idea of the scale of the new project: it begins with the provision of basic services followed by the development of golf courses and water sports facilities, a central marina, a residential area with housing for 150,000 and a new international airport. No doubt there’s a Senor Frog’s in there somewhere too.
By: Bruce Parkinson
Bruce Parkinson is a travel industry journalist and regular contributor to Takeoffeh.com as well as sister company, OpenJaw.com
Photo Credits: aircanada.com, cdwheatley, tourbymexico.com
By Nicholas Köhler - Thursday, September 17, 2009 at 5:20 PM - 4 Comments
WWOOF connects volunteers with organic farmers
The routine was brutal. He got up at 4:30 a.m. and started weeding at five. Two hours later they passed around the bread for breakfast. On his hands and knees, loaned out to a neighbour’s farm, he thrust his gloved hands into mud and yanked out potatoes. The woman next to him grabbed what she thought was the stem of a potato plant and pulled up a rat instead. After lunch, they packaged the vegetables harvested that morning for market, slaving until nine at night. Then James Bejar fell into the men’s quarters, a mouldy, dank place, and slept. He was not an indentured servant; Bejar was on holiday.
“It was just back-breaking work,” says the 31-year-old Toronto public servant, whose vacation à la Dickens dates back to a two-week stint WWOOFing—volunteering on an organic farm in exchange for room and board—in Nagano, Japan. His story might suggest his was a one-time experiment; yet Bejar has returned again and again to what he sees as a cheap method of travel offering a glimpse of “part of a society and of a people you don’t get by travelling from hotel to hotel.”
WWOOFing organizations—the acronym stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms—now exist in over 100 countries, connecting volunteers with farmers. In exchange for weeding, feeding and shovelling manure—normally for no more than six hours a day (Bejar’s Nagano jaunt was an anomaly)—the volunteers receive food and accommodation, usually living as part of the family.