Just a quick blog to update you all on two travel-related bills that have been working their way into law.
In the good news column, yesterday President Obama signed the Cruise Safety Act into law. Though not a perfect law, it makes significant strides towards protecting passengers on the high seas; ensuring that better records of crimes on cruise ships are kept (and shared with American authorities); and will make it easier to prosecute crimes once they occur. Some of the new requirements for the cruiselines include cameras in more public places and on the sides of ships to capture images should a passenger fall overboard; and a minimum height standard for guard rails. I'll be following this issue to report on how the federal authorities are doing in enforcing these standards.
It'll be quite interesting to see, too, whether the reputation of cruising shifts at all. Up until this point, its been impossible to know just how safe the activity is, since no credible crime statistics have ever been kept. Word of mouth reports on cruising have been good, of course. And I've taken a number of cruises and have always felt safe from crime onboard.
But with this new law, the crimes will have to be reported in a timely and professional manner, and crime scenes will be preserved. Which means there will finally be some hard data for us all to work from, and I'm grateful for that development.
The other law, signed last Friday by Governor Patterson of New York, wipes out an entire industry in New York City. I'm speaking of short term rentals. The new law makes it illegal for any New York City resident to rent their own home for less than 30 days. Those rental agents who played matchmaker between visitors and residents will now be out of business. And the city, in the midst of a terrible budget crisis, will lose the tax revenue that these sorts of stays once generated. Smart move, State Senate and Governor Patterson.
I have no doubt that the many New Yorkers who rent out there apartments to tourists for short time periods will continue to do so. Many need to do so just to make ends meet. As well, visitors want, no, need to have this sort of option. New York City has the highest hotel rates in this hemisphere, partially because, even with all the recent hotel development, there simply aren't enough hotel beds to accommodate all the people who want to visit. These rentals were a necessary part of the lodgings scene. So short-term rentals will continue to exist though they will take place on the black market, which is terrible news for travelers, who'll have many fewer protections when they rent than they did in the past.
A movement is underway to get the law repealed. We'll see where that leads. Sigh.
(Photo by Matt)