Four diamonds for Bethlehem casino resort

Wind Creek Bethlehem PHOTO/ Susan L. Angstadt Photography
Wind Creek Bethlehem PHOTO/ Susan L. Angstadt Photography –

AAA has announced this year’s Four Diamond Hotel and Restaurant designations and once again Wind Creek Bethlehem has earned a designation as a AAA Four Diamond Hotel. 

The casino resort first earned the designation in 2013 when it was still the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem. 

Wind Creek Bethlehem’s inclusion puts it on an exclusive list of more than 1,700 Four Diamond hotels and more than 600 Four Diamond restaurants across the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. AAA Four Diamond hotels and restaurants represent just 4.8% of all establishments in the Diamond Program. 

It is the only hotel in the Lehigh Valley to have the Four Diamond designation. 

“Guests can be assured that Four Diamond establishments provide some of the highest quality available when it comes to where they rest and dine,” says Terri Petrick, president of AAA East Central. “These hotels and restaurants represent the best of the best and consistently pass the test of discerning AAA inspectors.” 

Gas prices drop slightly on Omicron variant worries

With news of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, prices at the pump are down slightly.

AAA is reporting that the average price for a gallon of gas in the Lehigh Valley was $3.577 on Nov. 20, down about one cent from the average price of $3.584 on Nov. 23.

Gas is still nearly a dollar higher than it was at this time last year with the average price for a gallon of gas at $2.515 on Nov. 30, 2020.

AAA is reporting that on Friday crude oil prices fell by $10.24 to settle at $68.15 (West Texas Intermediate).

Global prices fell on demand concerns and travel restrictions announced in America and elsewhere, it said in a release.

With little known about the new variant, it’s unclear at this point what long-term impact it may have on crude prices.

Also, before news of the new variant, the Energy Information Administration’s weekly report revealed domestic crude supply increased by 1 million barrels to 434 million barrels.

Statewide, the average price for a gallon of gasoline was $3.588 on Nov. 30, down from $3.599 Nov. 23 and up from $2.529 on Nov. 30, 2020.

The national average price of gasoline today is $3.39, which is a penny less than one week ago and $1.26 more than a year ago.

With COVID-19 keeping people home, gas prices at record low levels

There may not be many places you could go right now, but if you could it would be a lot cheaper to get there.

As most people in Pennsylvania shelter in place, not going out to restaurants or stores and commuting only to the most essential jobs, gas prices are hitting record lows.

Some states have seen drops as high as 40 cents per gallon over this time last month.

“We’ve seen a drop in demand. We don’t have as many people driving as we normally do,” said Thresa Podguski, director of legislative affairs for AAA East Central in Allentown.

She said while the original gas price drops, which began in February, were largely due to crude price wars between Saudia Arabia and Russia, the latest declines could be attributed to the lower demand caused by people staying at home.

  • In Pennsylvania the average price for a gallon of gas as of March 24 was $2.33, down from $2.45 on March 17 and significantly lower that the price on March 24 of last year, when it was at $2.79.
  • In the Lehigh Valley the average price for a gallon of gasoline was $2.28, down from $2.42 on March 17 and $2.78 cents on March 24 of last year.
  • The average price for a gallon of gasoline in the Harrisburg area was $2.32, down from $2.38 cents one week ago and $2.64 this time last year.
  • In Berks County the average price for a gallon of gasoline was $2.41 down from $2.67 cents one week ago and $2.77 this time last year.

Because of the low demand from people not driving, Podguski said that gasoline stocks have declined to stock levels of 62 million barrels in the Mid-Atlantic region as regional refinery use is down to its lowest point since 2012.

That has kept prices in the region slightly higher than those in other parts of the country, even though they are dropping to extremely low levels.

To put the prices in perspective, she said spring is traditionally the time when people get out and drive more.

“Historically, the beginning of spring has gas prices starting to show an increase because of the demand,” she said.

With that not being the case this year, Podguski said lower usage will push pump prices to less expensive levels for the foreseeable future.

Travel industry adjusting rapidly to coronavirus threat

Travelers are increasingly cancelling their plans because of COVID-19. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES –

“Should I keep my travel plans or not?” With the looming coronavirus threat, it’s a question many people in the region are asking themselves right now, and the answer is increasingly becoming “not.”

“Things are changing every day,” said Sally McCorrison, director of travel services for AAA East Central.

She told Lehigh Valley Business her agents have been very busy fielding calls from clients looking to cancel or postpone trips.

And while many travel vendors are being accommodating, there has been some pushback.

According to GlobalData research some companies offering travel insurance are changing their offerings as a result of the number of vacations being cancelled because of COVID-19.

It noted that insurer LV= has stopped offering travel insurance and Aviva has altered its travel offering to exclude travel disruption following the spread of coronavirus across the globe;

“According to GlobalData research, trip cancellation was the second most popular reason for claiming on travel insurance in the UK pre-coronavirus, so it is understandable that insurers are looking towards mitigating their exposure to claims, particularly given the rapidly evolving landscape they are facing,” Daniel Pearce, senior insurance analyst at GlobalData.

Liberty Travel, based in Montvale, New Jersey, said it has been working on its own plan.

Alysa McKenna, director of communications said Liberty just launched “Peace of Mind Packages” last week. The agency worked with more than a dozen hotel partners and major U.S. airlines, to offer relaxed change and cancellation polices for new bookings to a variety of destinations.

McCorrison said most airlines are being fair with their customers’ travel changes, but cautions they should stay in touch with their airline or travel agent in case of changes.

McKenna, said she expects the trend towards flexibility will continue.

“As this situation continues to develop, it’s highly likely most airlines will provide customers more options around canceling and changing flights without penalty,” she said.

Travel industry responding to coronavirus with flexibility and bargains

The coronavirus is impacting the travel industry. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES –

Travelers canceling or changing vacation plans because of the coronavirus are keeping travel agents busy, says Sally McCorrison, director of travel services for AAA East Central in Allentown.

But, she said, there is good news for those worried about their travel plans and even those still looking to travel despite coronavirus concerns with cancellation allowances and  bargains to be had.

She said people are travelling.

“I drive by the airport [Lehigh Valley International Airport] every day and there’s not a parking space to be had,” she said.

Vendors in the travel industry, from cruise ships to airlines, are being much more flexible about making changes. Royal Caribbean Cruises is a allowing passengers booked on a cruise through July 31 to cancel and receive a credit for a future cruise good through December, 2021.

Many hotels and airlines are offering similar accommodations with different windows of time in which booked vacations can be moved without penalty. Aug. 31 is one of the later ones, McCorrison said, and some are only changing reservations booked through May 31.

“Most people still want to travel, but now they can sit back and wait to see what happens,” she said.

McCorrison said for the most part, it’s a personal decision right now if someone wants to travel.

For those who want to keep their vacation plans, cruise lines are performing much more stringent health screenings before passengers are let onboard.

And for those who haven’t booked yet, but are still looking for a vacation getaway in the next couple of months, there are some great bargains to be had.

As for the travel industry itself, McCorrison said don’t worry about them, they’ll be fine.

“There’s going to be pent up demand. We’ll rebound,” she said.