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Local News Summary of June, 14th

  • Basel welcomes delegation from Miami Beach
  • «Book now before it’s too late!» – how holiday portals trick people
  • Flood risk: Rhine and Birs reach high watermarks

Basel welcomes delegation from Miami Beach

The president of Basel’s government, Elisabeth Ackermann and MP Hans-Peter Wessels on Wednesday welcomed a delegation from Miami Beach as well as the American Ambassador to Switzerland.

The group was invited to Basel because the city is twinned with Miami Beach. The visit coincided with the opening of this year’s Art Basel festival. The delegation, led by commissioner Ricky Arriola, was accompanied by US Ambassador, Ed McMullen. They were welcomed at Basel’s town hall by Ms Ackerman and Mr Wessels as well as representatives from the business and tourism sectors and the MCH Group.

In her speech, government president Ackermann emphasised the importance of the art fair for Basel. The international networking with the cities of Miami Beach and Hong Kong also allows cooperation in other areas, she said. “The canton wishes to support these efforts by cultivating political relations and is grateful for the constructive cooperation with Miami Beach and Hong Kong as well as the American Embassy,” she told the delegates.

Basel and Miami Beach have enjoyed an official city partnership since 2011. Its aim is to support the international activities of the MCH Group and to promote Basel as a tourist destination.

«Book now before it’s too late!» – how holiday portals trick people

The summer holidays start at the end of this month and many Baslers are planning to go on holiday. Most bookings these days are made on the Internet. Looking at offers and booking them online has become much more popular than travel agencies. However, these booking portals have their own tricks and the public should be more savvy when it comes to buying holidays online.

Be it by car to Eastern Europe or by plane to Barcelona: no matter how you travel to your holiday destination, you will need accommodation. It is not surprising that it is sometimes difficult to find a suitable room in Barcelona, as it is a popular holiday destination. However, it is rather unexpected that rooms somewhere in a small town in Eastern Europe have also become rare on booking portals. An example: In Bardejov, a small town of 32,000 inhabitants somewhere between Krakow and Košice, accommodation can be found. But even here, in a corner of Europe that is rather remote from Basel's point of view, accommodations are «very popular», «only two rooms available on our site» or someone booked a room «only two minutes ago».


«Do it now or it's too late!» Booking platforms want to convey this feeling. Social psychologists call this process «scarcity». When a searcher sees the message «High demand! We still have one room to offer», he or she thinks that a booking needs to happen now: rooms that are so popular simply have to be good. The user prefers to book right now to avoid missing out on the apparently reasonable price and good quality. Messages such as «15 other customers are looking at this right now» do not only convey scarcity to the user, but they also trigger social confirmation. And there is a third effect: Because such messages are usually marked and highlighted in bright colours, the eyes cling to such conspicuous elements.

But the strategies of online portals have changed. While they did not always stick to the truth in the past when they advertised a hotel room as “strongly desired”, the law has nowadays become stricter. What’s more, customers are now warned – often by their own nasty surprises. Many online portals have gone too far with their psychological tricks in the past. In addition to hotel booking portals, online retailer Zalando also alerted users with such scarcity messages, for example. Only «three articles are still available», be it jeans or trainers. However, that was not true. Meanwhile, portals like state that «only two rooms are still available on our website». Only those who look very closely can see through the trick.

Self-confidence has influence

As your self-confidence affects whether or not you complete something, booking portals want to give you the feeling that you can achieve a lot with little effort. Travel providers do this by splitting the booking into several steps. The user receives positive feedback after each step, for example in the form of green checkmarks. You always see how far you have come and feel like you have achieved something.

Suggestive questions that play on fears are a new strategy that consumer protection advocates are currently observing. If customers decide against travel cancellation insurance, for example, the message says: «Are you sure you don't want to book?»

Personalized pricing

In addition, a lot is invested in personalised pricing in order to increase profits. Based on user behaviour, algorithms determine the maximum willingness of the individual to pay. The number of page visits, the purchase history or the behaviour on social media are decisive. Even the value of your personal device that you use to check holiday websites often has a direct influence on the amount of the offer. Therefore, put your new iPhone X away and dig in your old box for an out-of-date, cheap computer or smartphone. Your purchasing power and the offer is often assessed and adapted correspondingly with the first click. Such methods are not fair from the consumer's point of view.

But there is no end in sight to this trickery. The effects work far too well for cash registers, experts say.


Flood risk: Rhine and Birs reach high watermarks

The strong thunderstorms over the last few days and the constant rain are now also evident in Basel's waters: The Rhine has already passed high water levels, and the Birs is already flooded.

Rhine navigation is still open, but a lot of debris and water is coming down the river due to the floods. In order for the Rhine to burst its banks at Kleinbasel, the water level would have to rise by 2.59 metres. The peak of the watermark might be reached today, the hydrological data of the Federal Statistical Office revealed. There is only little danger, however: with a water level of about 245 metres above sea level, the Rhine only reaches level 1 of the 5 flood hazard levels. The situation is different for the Birs in Münchenstein: It already reached flood level 2 yesterday, with moderate danger.

At around 11am on Wednesday morning, the Basel district office of the Swiss Rhine ports announced that there was also a risk of flooding on the Rhine near the Kaserne.

The Birs has already burst its banks, as can be seen on countless pictures posted by Facebook users.

The Federal Office for the Environment, Hydrological Data and Forecasts (FOEN) shows the current situation of outflow and water level on the Rhine at the Rheinhalle site in Basel. The values have risen continuously over the past few days and especially in the last 24 hours.