'Cash For Ash' Or How To Laugh In The Face Of A Volcano!

Volcanic ash, as a scientific phenomenon is something most of us will only experience as a once-in-a-lifetime event. However, larger than the treasury of much countries, Iceland's "Smoke Monster" has ignited an excessive volume of monetary transactions that are unfortunate for many, yet favorable for some.  Couple that with the number of jokes that have also emanated from that 'ash hole' and many of us are now also laughing at the expense of others.

Karmic forces appear to be at play in our world as we all witness a metaphysical game of  "stealing from Peter, to pay Paul." It just all depends what side of the ledger you're sitting on.

Ca$h Outlay For Airports

By most reports, the cost to the airline industry as a result of the Iceland volcano has now surpassed that of 9/11. European airports, many deserted since dust spewed out by the volcano turned the region into a no-fly zone last week, are down $183 million as a result of the eruption, according to Time Magazine report. "Costs could rise as high as $1 billion,” Derek Sadubin, chief operating officer of the Sydney-based industry consultant, said in comments e-mailed to Bloomberg News.

Ca$h Outlay For Airlines

Parisian airline losses from the volcanic ash cloud have already spiraled past $1 billion this past week, and the industry demanded EU compensation and criticized European governments for relying too much on scientific theory - not fact - in their decisions to shut down airspace across the continent.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, facing an election on May 6, said he had held talks with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso about helping out airlines and travel companies who have suffered from the airspace paralysis.

Ca$h Incoming For Hotels

Travelers say hotels are cashing in on the hundreds of thousands of airline passengers stranded around the globe as clouds of volcanic ash keep airspace closed over Europe and the UK.

Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi Yas Island general manger Dieter Franke said the hotel had seen an increase in bookings due to the flight disruption and acknowledged that room rates were “determined by current availability and demand”. In a proactive move, the Spa InterContinental also in the UAE responded to the situation, by offering a 50% discount on all treatments to those in possession of a cancelled flight tickets.

Tourists stranded in Singapore, en route to the United Kingdom and Europe, say they are looking at paying at least $300 more than the normal rate for a one night hotel stay. And that is if they can find a hotel with a vacancy. Travel websites are advertising the few hotel rooms left in Singapore for up to $2,950 a night. Rooms in Hong Kong are up to $4,000 a night.

Ca$h Incoming For Other Forms of Transport

Hotel owners are not the only ones eager to capitalize on the volcanic eruption. In Europe, reports surfaced of entrepreneurial taxi drivers offering to drive stranded tourists anywhere in Europe - for a price of 1,400 euro plus fuel.

Cunard has a 1,000-strong waiting list for its six-day Queen Mary 2 sailing to New York on Thursday as marooned Americans look for another way to cross the Atlantic. The ship can hold 2,300 passengers and is now is now charging a non-refundable $US 500 just to get onto the waiting list. Some travel experts say its six-day passage may beat the first flights available to stranded passengers.

Ca$h Outlays and Incoming for Marathons

For some of the world's top runners, the biggest challenge the Boston Marathon posed was getting to the starting line. But travel nightmares, created by the eruption of an Icelandic volcano could be a dream for organizers of the Pittsburgh Marathon.

Though Pittsburgh's race has reached its 16,000-runner registration cap, race director Patrice Matamoros said the additional runners would not strain race operations because of the low volume of potential newcomers.She said it makes sense for Pittsburgh to appeal to runners who missed Boston's race because they won't want to waste their training."They're definitely going to be looking around for another race," she said.

Pittsburgh's race will give those runners a chance to cash in -- literally -- on months of training.Her pitch is pretty straightforward: Runners good enough to qualify for Boston would have a good chance to win the Pittsburgh Marathon, and the $6,500 cash prize that goes with it. All these factors would stimulate Pittsburgh's tourism dollars during race week.

Laughing At The Expen$e of Others

Sometimes its mean-spirited to laugh at the expense of others, particularly when hardships like this are so fresh. On the other hand, sometimes, laughter is the 'catharsis' that's needed to get us through these types of crises.

In that vein, the satire site SPOOF reported that "tension between the UK and Iceland is running high today after Iceland filed a  claim in the International courts (asking ) for pay for the volcanic ash currently falling across Europe and disrupting air travel." After all, the ash does belong to Iceland.

This line of thinking follows the logic of pay-back. When the the UK seized Iceland's assets after the country was determined by the Brits to be one giant A.I.G., Icelanders are now saying they misinterpreted what the Brits were asking for. "We didn't know they wanted cash," says Icelanders, "we thought they wanted ash."

Another from The New Yorker: "It was the last wish of the Icelandic economy that its ashes be spread all over Europe."

Iceland May Rebound

Visit IcelandVisit IcelandPerhaps in the short-term, Iceland's tourism will suffer as a result of this natural disaster. But in the longer term, similar to war sites, tourists will want to visit the area where 'ash' first emanated.

On a human interest note, this story resonated.  On April 1 (two weeks prior to the Ash Clouds heading transatlantic) Hotelier Fridrik Paisson, the owner of the Hotel Ranga in Iceland may have been clairvoyant about the future of tourism on his island when he invited British journalists from the UK's largest newspapers in advance of the volcano erupting. His intent was to motivate these writers to publish travel features regarding their impression of Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano. 

Ironically, the four newspapers included The Guardian, The Sunday Telegraph, The Times and The Daily Mail wrote all of their travelogues in advance of April 15. Check them out and see if they intrigue you enough to want to travel to Iceland for a 'smokin' volcanic adventure any time soon. Happy Trails!