Some issues and controversies never seem to go away for good. They disappear on their own, or in response to a good whack, only to reappear a while later someplace else, sometimes thinly disguised. Here's the current crop.

The strong dollar is back, and with it a new set of anxieties about the travel market.

A year ago at this time it cost an American traveler close to $1.40 to convert greenbacks to one euro; last week it was hovering at about $1.15, pretty close to a 10-year record. The story is much the same for the pound, the yen and other major currencies. Outbound international travel could get a boost.

The flip side, of course, is that the strong buck is making the U.S. less attractive for inbound business, which has become an important component of the travel industry's overall vitality. Economic stagnation abroad only makes it worse.

Industry veterans know that the currency game is a never-ending seesaw and that every once in a while one side gets too high or too low. There's nothing to be done but hang on for the ride.

• • •

Also back in the news is anxiety about the Visa Waiver Program. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), member and former chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called it an "Achilles' heel" on a TV news interview after the terror attacks in Paris.

That turned some heads.

What concerns Feinstein and others is that Islamic fundamentalists in Europe can become radicalized and use their status as nationals of Visa Waiver countries to travel freely to the U.S. and stage terror attacks here.

Feinstein has never been a big fan of Visa Waiver, but she has a point. There is a risk. But in view of the value of Visa Waiver and its contribution to the flow of commerce, the risk has to be managed.

We were encouraged to hear Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson tell the Aero Club in Washington recently that "the answer is not to discard the Visa Waiver Program. It represents an important element of lawful commerce between and among our international partners."

Instead, DHS is stepping up security at airports and increasing its information sharing with foreign governments. We hope that's enough of a whack.

• • •

And in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has resurrected the idea of getting some kind of rail transit to LaGuardia Airport as part of an overall infrastructure initiative. Our preferred option is an underground bullet train from midtown, but, alas, we have to make concessions.

Cuomo's plan, however, appears to make too many. The idea is to build an elevated railway from the airport to the Mets-Willets Point rail station serving Citi Field in Queens, some two miles south and east of the airport. From there, air travelers bound for Manhattan could connect to the Long Island Rail Road to Penn Station or the No. 7 subway line to Times Square.  

The sad fact is that New York can't afford the kind of infrastructure it truly deserves, but at $450 million, this is a reasonably affordable option as these things go. Still, it's a somewhat circuitous route, and for passengers with baggage, the multiple stops and connections could be a deterrent.

This being New York, any proposal for public works is going to get whacked by somebody. But never fear.

If it gets whacked, it will be back.

Comments
JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI