The Fountain Pen, Guelph's On-Line News

Travel Ads and Tourist Scams

Web posted on April 06, 2017

A Curmudgeon's View

By Les Enekes

As you can tell by the ads on television, summer travel and vacation season is approaching quickly. Some ads make you want to pack up and leave right away, there are others that are leave something to be desired, and there are some that leave you wondering what they are trying to prove.

The two best campaigns are from Newfoundland and Labrador, and Michigan. Both are very well thought out and produced. They always grab your attention. I would put the Newfoundland and Labrador ads as being the most inspiring and a cut above the others. Pure Michigan is a very close second. Seeing the ads makes you want to book your vacation right away.

The ads for Canada's 150th anniversary are quite average. They really don't stand out from the other travel ads, and get lost in the clutter of commercials. There is nothing in the ads that makes you want to travel in Canada. You would have thought that the government could have come up with something better with all the money that is being spent on this year's celebrations.

I really have no idea what they are trying to prove with the Ontario 150 ads. They look more like "move to Ontario" ads rather than "visit Ontario" ads. We all know that Ontario is a diverse and welcoming province, but the ads seem to highlight only some minorities while leaving several others completely out. Every time I see the ad, it looks more like an ad against the immigration policies down south, rather than something to inspire a visit. It also has the worst rendition of "A Place to Stand" I have ever heard. There is so much more that could have been done. Even the Ontario 150 logo is pathetic. Of course, Ontario has had a long history of ads that want to make you want to spend your money anywhere but in Ontario. It has been a very long time since we had any ads that were anywhere near inviting.

Some places know how to spend their tourist promotion dollars very effectively, while others seem to be wasting them.

Recently there have been a couple of investigations by the CBC about the so called voluntary tourist marketing fees charged by many businesses in the Niagara Falls area. These fees that are supposed to be optional are becoming mandatory with too many places. The local politicians and tourist officials say that the money is supposed to be used to promote tourism. The fees show up in the bills of many restaurants and hotels/motels in particular. If you look, you will see it. Everyone already knows about the falls. They don't need to promote it. This is one sure way of turning off visitors. There is already one tourist attraction that overspends on TV ads, to the point where you don't want to go anywhere near the falls.

Visitors are already being charged inflated prices at all the tourist traps, particularly at peak times of the year. Some of the prices charged for admission to some of the so called attractions are outrageous to begin with. Then they try to sneak in their tourist tax. If you plan to visit the Niagara area or have friends visiting, please make sure to ask any business you are visiting if they are charging any tourist destination fees before spending money. Tell the business that is no way to treat visitors and you refuse to be ripped off. Don't stay at any of the hotels or motels in the Falls. There are probably many real bed and breakfasts (not the internet variety) in the area that should be supported.

Most other tourist destinations and large cities have ways gouging tourists. Many cities have non optional hidden hotel/motel taxes; others have taxes on rental cars. Do your homework on the destination of your choice and find out just how much extra you are paying. Driving a few extra kilometres can save you a few dollars.

Avoid renting a car at an airport. All the major airports charge car rental companies to be on site. You will pay a premium price. Almost every airport also has some type of improvement fee built into the price of your ticket. This is something that has always bothered me. You are already paying a premium price for almost anything you buy at the airport. Taxis and buses also have to pay a premium price for the privilege of being able to pick up passengers. Then there are the parking rates, you would think you were buying the space, not renting it for a few hours. With all that money coming in from passengers, plus the landing fees the airlines pay, you would think they had enough money coming in. The larger the airport, the more of our money they want. They should live within their means like our local airport.

Let's not forget all the taxes and fees that our governments want every time you fly. Sometimes it seems that the cost of the flight itself is less than what the governments want. The new everything included pricing now hides all these fees and taxes. At least with the old system you knew how much you were being gouged by our governments.

It was just announced that the Oakland Raiders are being moved to Las Vegas. In order to pay for a new stadium, they are raising the hotel taxes. The team owners are billionaires and can afford to build the stadium without any help. The NFL can afford to subsidize a stadium if necessary. There are also the naming rights for the stadium. They should not be charging visitors even more taxes. Visitors go there to spend money at the various attractions and gamble. They are already spending lots of money. Then they are hit with a hidden tax to pay for a football stadium. The team is for the benefit of the locals, not the visitors. This is just one more reason not to visit Las Vegas.

Almost every sun destination in the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America has some type of departure tax either hidden or quite obvious at the airport. In some countries the locals do not have to pay these fees. None of these little gems are mentioned in the advertising for your winter getaway until you check the fine print. You have already spent your money supporting their economy, and they still want to take more of it when you leave. This is nothing short of highway robbery. I would rather give my money to the local vendors than to the government. I am sure that the local vendors are taxed; therefore the government is already getting some of my money. Even if you are just looking and have no intention of buying anything, tell them that you are not spending money because you have to pay a departure tax.

We have all been forced to pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars on these and other hidden "taxes" on our vacations over the years. The locals should be spending their money to attract visitors, not ours. Everyone wants a piece of our travel dollar. We should all do our homework before we go on vacation and select our destinations with care.

Some people are already opting for staycations. Perhaps this is one way to fight back and enjoy what we have to see and do close to home.


Les Enekes can be reached directly by owl. For those not owl equipped, he can be reached at news@thefountainpen.com

The views of columnists in The Fountain Pen do not necessarily represent the views of the principals of the publication.


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