The 25 most charming towns and villages in the UK ranked

The 25 most charming towns and villages in the UK ranked, from a ‘perfect rural getaway’ in East Sussex to fairytale Cotswold hamlets and picturesque Scottish harbours

  • UK settlements were ranked on natural scenery, general friendliness, their food and drink scene and history
  • Rye in East Sussex makes the list thanks to its ‘meandering streets and timbered houses’
  • The Cotswold village of Castle Combe, Polperro on the Cornish coast and Melrose in Scotland are also on it

Prepare to be charmed.

That’s because a ranking of the 25 most charming towns and villages in the UK has been revealed – think quaint cobbled streets, picturesque harbours, thatched cottages and, in general, loveliness all round.

It has been compiled by Big 7 Travel, which graded UK settlements based on factors such as natural scenery, general friendliness of the community, the food and drink scene and history.

The list includes Rye in East Sussex, which is described as the ‘perfect rural getaway’ thanks to its meandering cobblestone streets and timbered houses.

Castle Combe in the Cotswolds, Polperro in Cornwall and Shanklin on the Isle of Wight are also deemed worthy of places, alongside spots in Lancashire, Yorkshire and Oxfordshire.

Scroll down to see the full list in reverse order.

25. Downham, Lancashire 

The Lancashire village of Downham in the Ribble Valley kicks the list off. It was used as a filming location for popular BBC drama Born and Bred – set in the 1950s – which ran from 2002 to 2005 

24. Melrose, Scottish Borders

Melrose, pictured, is described as a ‘quaint town in the heart of the Scottish Borders’, with Big 7 Travel saying it is ‘one of the prettiest places in Scotland’. It is best known for its abbey and being the location of Sir Walter Scott’s mansion, Abbotsford 

23. Portree, Isle of Skye 

In 23rd place is Portree, the main town on the Isle of Skye, which has a bustling harbour and ‘rows of candy-coloured houses’. Views on offer include the Ben Tianavaig hills to the south and Fingal’s Seat to the west

22. Grasmere, Cumbria 

The village of Grasmere, pictured, is the former home of celebrated poet William Wordsworth, who reportedly described it as ‘the loveliest spot that man hath ever found’. Big 7 Travel says that with its mix of rustic cottages and Victorian villas, it is ‘a real gem within the Lake District National Park’

21. Upper and Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire

Located in the Cotswolds, the twin villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter are linked by the River Eye. The name has nothing to do with ‘killing things’, says It comes from old English ‘slohtre’, which means ‘muddy place’

20. Staithes, Yorkshire

Staithes, pictured, is a seaside village in North Yorkshire that has a port with ‘higgledy-piggledy cottages and winding streets’. It is described as a fun place for fossil hunting and rock pooling 

19. Mousehole, Cornwall

Mousehole, pronounced Mowzul, is a tiny fishing village in Cornwall. According to Big 7 Travel, it has ‘a lively surf scene, cosy pubs serving up local seafood and an enchanting light that makes it popular with artists’ 

18. Burford, Oxfordshire

Burford in Oxfordshire is known as the gateway to the Cotswolds and boasts a medieval bridge and old limestone houses. ‘It’s the perfect example of a quintessential English village, complete with tearooms and an impressive church,’ says Big 7 Travel 

17. Portmeirion, Gwynedd, Wales

Portmeirion is a 20th century, Italian Riviera-style town in Wales, designed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis. It is best known as the setting of the classic TV show The Prisoner. It is a private village and a day pass is required to gain entry

16. Port Sunlight, Merseyside

Port Sunlight in Merseyside was built during the 19th century as a home for the workers of the nearby Lever soap factory and is described as a ‘perfect model village’. Big 7 Travel suggests: ‘Stroll through the peaceful village to the Lady Lever art gallery, containing 18th and 19th-century works’

15. Shere, Surrey

The village of Shere in Surrey, pictured, may look familiar. That’s because it was used during the filming of the Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz movie, The Holiday. Big 7 Travel says: ‘Shere is home to 16th and 17th-century timber-framed village houses, a hearty tearoom, two pubs and an excellent micro-brewery’ 

14. Abbotsbury, Dorset

Famous for its old-fashioned English charm, Abbotsbury is one of the most visited villages in Dorset. Its 14th-century chapel,  St Catherine’s, has breathtaking views of Chesil Beach. Big 7 Travel says: ‘Although it’s small, there’s plenty to do here, including hand feeding a colony of nesting mute swans along the Swannery’ 

13. Bibury, Gloucestershire

Bibury, pictured, was once called the ‘the most beautiful village in England’ by artist William Morris. And Big 7 Travel says it is hard to disagree. It adds: ‘Bibury is probably the most famous place in the Cotswolds, with the cottages along Arlington Row some of England’s most photographed houses’ 

12. Lacock, Wiltshire

Lacock, in Wiltshire, is one of England’s oldest villages with ‘quaint traditional stone cottages, a village church and cute bakeries and teahouses’. The village has made appearances in the likes of Downtown Abbey, the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

11. Clovelly, Devon

Privately-owned Clovelly in North Devon is a ‘postcard-perfect’ village that is perched at the top of a 400ft cliff. Its steep cobbled streets have had no motorised vehicle access since the 1920s. Big 7 Travel says: ‘Visitors pay a small fee to wander the streets, admiring white-washed cottages bearing flowers and donkeys carrying food supplies’ 

10. Portrush, Northern Ireland

Described as a ‘fun seaside town in Northern Ireland’, Portrush is on the Causeway Coast and boasts three Blue Flag beaches. According to Big 7 Travel, ‘it’s a popular holiday destination for people all across Ireland and beyond, with a kitschy amusement park and a lively harbour’ 

9. Hawkshead, Cumbria

The Cumbrian village of Hawkshead, pictured, is an ideal base for exploring the Lake District National Park. Cars are banned from the village, ‘so you can saunter through the cobbled streets at your own leisure, stopping into local tearooms and pubs’, says Big 7 Travel 

8. Crail, Fife

Crail, pictured, is a historic fishing village located in the East Neuk of Fife and is best known for its picturesque harbour. Local fishermen come and go bringing in ‘tasty hauls of fresh lobster’ 

7. Weymouth, Dorset

Often described as ‘England’s Bay of Naples’, Weymouth has ‘golden sandy beaches and waterfront bistros’. Big 7 Travel says: ‘Kids will love the friendly donkeys on the beach and ample sandcastle-building ops’ 

6. Cushendun, Northern Ireland

Cushenden, pictured, is a small seaside village in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. According to Big 7 Travel, ‘charmingly scenic paths wind through the village, beach-front, harbour, and Glendun river, making it a walker’s paradise’ 

5. Shanklin, Isle of Wight

Shanklin, pictured, is one of the most popular towns on the Isle of Wight, thanks to its pretty thatched cottages. Big 7 Travel adds: ‘There’s a real bucket-and-spade feel in the summer and a warm and cosy atmosphere in colder months’ 

4. Beddgelert, Snowdonia

Beddgelert, pictured, is right in the heart of Snowdonia National Park in Wales and is recognisable thanks to its stone buildings. It is surrounded by ‘wooded vales, rocky slopes and mountain lakes’ 

3. Polperro, Cornwall

Described as a ‘shining jewel on the Cornish coast’, Polperro, pictured, is a fishing village popular with tourists. Big 7 Travel notes that ‘the streets are so small that no cars can pass through, so it’s great for strolling’ 

2. Castle Combe, Wiltshire 

Taking second place in the ranking is another Cotswold village – Castle Combe. It is particularly pretty thanks to its ‘honey-coloured houses, fairytale feels and valley views’

1.  Rye, East Sussex

The most charming settlement in the UK, according to Big 7 Travel, is Rye in East Sussex, which is described as the perfect ‘rural getaway’. It has meandering cobblestone streets as well as timbered houses with terracotta roofs. Big 7 Travel says: ‘You can browse antique bookstores, sip on local brews in one of the snug pubs or climb St Mary’s Church tower for views of the village below ‘


1. Rye, East Sussex

2. Castle Combe, Wiltshire

3. Polperro, Cornwall

4. Beddgelert, Snowdonia

5. Shanklin, Isle of Wight

6. Cushendun, Northern Ireland

7. Weymouth, Dorset

8. Crail, Fife

9. Hawkshead, Cumbria

10. Portrush, Northern Ireland

11. Clovelly, Devon

12. Lacock, Wiltshire

13. Bibury, Gloucestershire 

14. Abbotsbury, Dorset

15. Shere, Surrey

16. Port Sunlight, Merseyside

17. Portmeirion, Gwynedd

18. Burford, Oxfordshire

19. Mousehole, Cornwall

20. Staithes, Yorkshire

21. Upper and Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire

22. Grasmere, Cumbria

23. Portree, Isle of Skye

24. Melrose, Scottish Borders

25. Downham, Lancashire

Source: Big 7 Travel

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Latest travel advice for Cyprus as the country imposes new coronavirus rules

Coronavirus is continuing to spread around the world, with thousands of new cases confirmed each day.

Airlines around the world are cancelling flights and suspending entire routes.

Italy, with over 9,000 confirmed cases, is the worst affected nation outside of China.

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In response, the entire country is on lockdown, with families torn apart by the quarantine procedures in place.

While in the Middle East, borders are starting to close to limit the spread of Covid-19.

Although Cyprus has just two confirmed cases of the disease, it has introduced new rules for tourists to stop the spread.

Here’s what you need to know.

New rules in Cyprus for tourists in response to coronavirus

Cyprus’ Ministry of Health has placed countries into different risk categories.

Initially, the UK was placed into category two, the same as for visitors from China and Japan, which means visitors must enter into compulsory self-isolation for 14 days on arrival.

This was in response to someone who landed in Cyprus with coronavirus after visiting the UK according to Travel Mole.

However, the government made a U-turn just hours after it made the announcements.

Around a million Brits visit the country each year and make up the bulk of tourist arrivals to Cyprus.

Cyprus’ Tourism Officer confirmed to The Independent that the UK has now been downgraded to a category three country.

Under new rules for those flying in from the UK, visitors will be required to restrict their movements while on the island and to monitor their health for any symptoms of coronavirus.

Meanwhile, travellers arriving from Hubei in China, Italy, Iran and South Korea will have to go into quarantine. Those from the rest of China, including Hong Kong, and Japan, Germany, France and Spain will have to self-isolate for 14 days.

Is Cyprus affected by coronavirus?

At the moment, Cyprus has just two confirmed cases of coronavirus according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). 

There have been zero deaths due to Covid-19 in the country.

What’s the FCO advice for Cyprus?

The FCO hasn’t issued any travel warnings against Cyprus due to coronavirus.

However, it has warned that some crossings between the north and south of Cyprus are closed.

It said: “Ledra Street, Astromeritis, Lefka and Dherynia crossing points are currently closed as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

“Other crossing points, including Ledra Palace and Agios Dometios and the crossings in the Eastern Sovereign Base Area at Pergamos and Strovilia, remain open.”

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Atlas Ocean Voyages Offers Travel Advisors Gift Card Incentive

Atlas Ocean Voyages is offering travel advisors an incentive of up to $750 when they book clients with deposit summer 2021 and winter 2021-22 voyages in the Adriatic and Black seas, Holy Lands, South America, and Antarctica.

Travel advisors will receive a $500 gift card per Veranda- and Horizon-category stateroom booking and a $750 gift card per suite booking.

The “Get Paid Now” incentive is in addition to the existing promotional 15 percent commission for all summer 2021 and winter 2021-22 bookings aboard the new all-inclusive, expedition-style ship World Navigator.

Additionally, travelers will get $1,000 savings and free business-class air per guest when booking a suite aboard World Navigator. Those booking Horizon- or Veranda-category staterooms will save $500 and get free economy-class air per guest. The savings is $500 per guest in an Adventure stateroom. The free air is for the intercontinental segment and journeys departing prior to Oct. 28, 2021.

Atlas Ocean Voyages is also offering a 50 percent reduced deposit of $500 per guest per stateroom and $750 per guest per suite. Furthermore, Atlas is allowing free changes, so that clients can carry their deposit to any World Navigator departure, up until March 31, 2022, without penalty.

“The current travel atmosphere is dynamic and complex, but what is important and clear is that we must maintain our unwavering support for our valued travel advisor partners,” said Alberto Aliberti, president of Atlas Ocean Voyages. “We must recognize that travel advisors are losing earnings due to cancellations but continue to have bills and expenses. Atlas’ ‘Get Paid Now’ program will immediately help professional travel sellers get through this industry downturn. We have previously faced adversities together, and Atlas Ocean Voyages will support our distribution partners through this challenging sales environment.”

The new Atlas Ocean Voyages offers “Luxe-Adventure” experiences on small, expedition-style ships with 98 suites and staterooms. For more information, click here.

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Is It Time to Cancel Your Spring Break Plans Because of the Coronavirus?

a group of people standing in front of a store: People wait at Rome

As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread, travelers nearing their departure dates are beginning to wonder if they should rebook a vacation closer to home—or cancel their trip altogether.

“Forty-seven percent of our clients have canceled their original plans,” said Jack Ezon, founder of the global travel agency Embark Beyond, when asked about travel in the busy March and April spring break season. “Now, the good news is about 73% of those have rebooked in somewhere else.”

So, what’s the right thing to do? Below, a few things consider before canceling—or booking—a spring break vacation.

Your destination matters.

Travel to any countries rated Level 2 or 3 by the CDC should be avoided, if possible. As of publishing, that list includes China, Iran, Italy, Japan, and South Korea.

But that doesn’t mean there’s a green light for everywhere else. “By and large, for international travel, the risk is that country restrictions and travel restrictions are very fluid, and they could change within a week’s time,” explains Dr. David Eisenman, director of UCLA’s Center for Public Health and Disasters. “So, you have to be prepared. You have to follow the news about country you’re going to before you leave, and be prepared to cancel or to possibly have to self-quarantine when you get back.”

When it comes to domestic travel, Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, suggests doing a little research prior to traveling. “I would recommend checking local public health resources rather than just the CDC website before your trip,” Kappagoda says, adding, “I would reconsider visiting areas where there are significant numbers of people under quarantine or where there have been major disruptions,” such as school or office closures.

Don’t worry as much about air travel.

When asked what concerns him about traveling at the moment, Eisenman said he worried less about air travel than about the destination. “It’s not the plane itself. It’s not even the airport,” he said—it’s where you are going that may raise flags.

For those nervous about contracting the virus in a plane, there are two scenarios to worry about: the virus may be living on hard surfaces in the aircraft, and a nearby passenger coughing and spreading the virus. The first situation can be remedied by disinfecting one’s area with a wipe or sanitizing solution.

Those personal measures are in addition to the increased cleaning that airlines are doing. Delta, for example, bringing in fog machines to disperse disinfectants throughout the cabin, and American Airlines is putting its catering equipment through additional sanitation and disinfection procedures.

Oh and the warnings you’ve heard about “recycled” airplane air? Those are somewhat misleading. Although the air on a plane is indeed recycled, it’s filtered quite well, essentially eliminating any concern that droplets containing the virus will continue to cycle through the air for the duration of the flight. “The air from the vent, even with the partial recycling, can be as pure as that in hospital operation theaters!” says Dr. Ashok Srinivasan, University of West Florida professor and head of Project VIPRA (Viral Infection Propagation Through Air-Travel).

“The problem does not lie in the air supplied by the airplane,” he adds, citing his colleague Vicki Hertzberg’s work on the subject. “The problem is if someone coughs or sneezes, causing you to breathe droplets with viruses. The air that has not gone through the filtration system is the potential problem.”

Be cautious in crowded places.

Back to the question of being exposed to infected person, which could happen on an airplane or once you reach your destination. When you’re evaluating your travel risks, consider whether your plans will take you to densely-packed areas while there, such as amusement parks. “If you’re flying into Seattle and your plan is to go into the airport and then fly out to the Olympic Peninsula and go camping for a week, I don’t see that as a problem,” Eisenman says, referencing the growing number of cases around Seattle. “If you’re going to fly into Tokyo and go to Disneyland, that’s a problem.”

Some popular tourist spots, like Italy’s museums and Hong Kong Disneyland, have shut their doors as a precautionary measure. Similar closures could follow as COVID-19 continues to spread—something to keep in mind if you’re planning a trip oriented around an attraction of that type.

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Unique Travel Accessories Displayed at 2020's Travel Goods Conference

Travel goods, an estimated $31 billion business, is an ever-expanding melting pot of ideas specifically aimed at making the unpredictable and the uncomfortable task of traveling much more pleasant wherever possible.

To that end, this year’s Travel Goods conference in New Orleans did not disappoint.

The gathering brings in companies, start-ups, solo inventors and mom & pop businesses from all over the world who hope to find promoters and distributors for their goods within a retail environment that is fast disappearing with the advent of online commerce.

This year, there were no shortages of travel pillows, newfangled bags and rollies, totes, eye masks and airline seat comforters on view solving all manner of problems that were never otherwise problems.

However, like tasting chocolate for the first time, many of the items this year proved to be as delicious as they looked, if not must-have items for those long journeys ahead. Here are some of our non-luggage favorites.

Versillo Travel Pillow: As travel pillows go, this one hit the mark. We have tried them all—bean-shaped slings, soft foldable huggable tubes, dual pillows that fan out like a toilet seat, a seat stick that you slide behind your back and then attach to your forehead with a ribbon. This category accepts all comers and most of those are goners by the time the next show rolls around.

Versillo, however, is a sleeper that is bound to see activity. The item comes as a soft blue pillow with a section that folds up. The simple idea was conceived by an eight-year-old girl trying to turn an unwieldy three-pronged pillow into a usable object. She simply turned a stuffed prong into the shape of a rude finger sign and voilà! Suddenly, a pillow design became a prop for an iPad or a soft lumbar support, whether using on an airplane, at a desk or in bed. Quick use on a domestic three-hour flight showed it to be just the thing for added back support, an added seat cushion, soft armrest and needed neck support. It comes in comely royal blue and costs $19.95 on

Zhampagge All in One Organizer: Not every trip requires a suitcase. For those who want to scale down and carry just a few things for an overnight or special engagement, this silky organizer with an unlikely name can be worn like a purse, weighs very little and keeps all packed items wrinkle-free and in their right places.

The Zhampagge is a two-sided flat item that expands to a 14” by 21” and can work as a flat organizer or can be folded for use as a crossbody purse. Ten intelligently considered pockets hold toiletry, shoes, shirts and pants, tech devices and chargers, notebooks and pill cases and can be placed flat atop contents in a suitcase for quick access, or worn with ease with included straps.

On arrival at the accommodations, the Zhampagge can be hung on a rack, chair or in a closet. The bag can be thrown into the washing machine for cleaning. The polyester blend is waterproof for a convenient answer to the storage of soiled clothing, liquid containers or bathing suits while traveling. The Zhampagge comes in six colors and retails for $99 at

Elios GPS Power Bank: Some of us are prone to losing things: luggage, wallets, ourselves, etc. Elios GPS Power Bank is the antidote for all that and even includes power for when we lose juice. Much more than a GPS tracker or a power bank, the item is set up as other trackers—an app and Bluetooth platform that connects devices to a smartphone. And that is where the similarities stop.

The Dragonfly power bank fits inside luggage and charges phones and other devices at a fast clip. Then it also communicates with GPS tracking chips—tile-shaped items called Crickets that are no larger than a silver dollar and can easily slip into bags, wallets, dog collars, children’s belts, vehicles or anything that could go missing. Tracking is in real-time with the exact address, travel history, speed of travel and other details easily discerned.

However, often we do not realize we are losing things until they are already long gone, so Elios has set up a movement alarm that alerts the owner when an object has been moved a certain distance or when the owner and the object have parted by a predetermined distance. Owners can pre-place a geo-fence and get an alert when an object has moved beyond a certain boundary.

For hikers, wanderers and valuable CEOs, the trackers can be set up with SOS panic alerts. For instance, a hiker who wanders too far can take the Elios chip and push the panic button that will alert a pre-programmed list of law enforcement authorities or friends of their exact location. Users can send an email with a link to a secured interactive map of their whereabouts and have a GPS trail showing their path and speed of travel. For products and prices visit

Pang Wangle Bug Repellant Wear: This is another one of those head-slapping concepts that should have shown up a long time ago. The items are simple: looping neck scarves and shawls that are infused with military-grade insect shield. Biting insects head elsewhere and the non-toxic, odorless protection lasts for some 70 washes. Great for safaris in Africa where bug bites matter, for walkabouts in Northern Australia where the mossies make it clear who rules, and for those sunsets in Costa Rica that can be enjoined itch-free. Wraps come in sand, burnt sienna, black and powder blue for $58.

SeatDreamz: This handy sleep mask has an added function beyond blocking out light. The sturdy soft flannel eye protector comes with a flexible strap that allows the wearer to affix the mask around the seat’s headrest to keep the head from bobbing. No more waking up in a seat neighbor’s chest or diving into a deep sleep only to be jolted out of it by your falling noggin. The mask comes with a case containing added pockets for glasses and other losable items and can be attached to the person or to a purse for added security. Price is $29.99 on

Fuse: For anyone who has ever wrestled with an ever-burgeoning collection of snaking cords, Fuse may provide some answers. Like many of this show’s exhibitors, Fuses CEO is an inventor at heart who identified a problem during a moment of travel and then spent the next two years designing and perfecting a patent to take that problem away.

Fuse does just that with a growing collection of designs meant as wrap-around solutions to cords. The designs are used to simplify cord carriage and provide easy access to the right cord all the while keeping those wires in check and out of danger of getting entangled with other cords and everything else in proximity. This author’s favorite: the sidewinder watch carrier that allows for wrapping the lengthy and unwieldy iWatch cord on a reel upon which the watch can rest while charging without causing a wire trap for nearby loose items. The item runs $8.99 on

And not forgetting…

Spectraspray. Oral sprays are not new to the travel comfort space. They offer all the benefits of a range of vitamins and plant supplements and absorb into the body much faster than pills, edibles or lotions.

Spectraspray takes that concept to another level, offering a carry-it-with-you CBD spray. The formula in pure isolate form does not register for THC, although CBD products that contain no more than 0.3% THC are legal under the Farm Bill of 2018. THC is the component in marijuana that produces the “high.”

The Spectraspray CBD kit can be carried through security and can be used for calming, pain relief, sleep, focus, anxiety relief and washing windows. Non-CBD lifestyle kits use processed organic components such as B-12 and Valerian root to address jet-lag, workout energy, sleep and all that ails in convenient, purse-ready containers for around $19.95 each.

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ASTA chief denounces US cruise advisory coronavirus

ASTA on Monday bemoaned the U.S. State Department’s advisory
that U.S. citizens, particularly those with underlying health conditions, avoid
traveling by cruise ship because of concerns over the Covid-19

“Given the importance of the cruise industry to travel
advisors, ASTA is gravely concerned about the impact of this advisory on our
members’ businesses,” ASTA CEO Zane Kerby said in an emailed statement. “As we
shared with the White House before the advisories were issued, the vast
majority of cruise trips go off without a hitch. Government actions should
reflect that fact and be targeted and temporary. We hope this advisory lasts
days, not weeks.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there is
“increased risk of infection of Covid-19 in a cruise ship environment,” the
State Department wrote. 

Many countries have implemented strict screening procedures
that have resulted in ships being denied entry to certain ports. Over the
weekend, three ships were denied entry at ports in the United States. The Grand
Princess had to circle around international waters off San Francisco Bay
because 19 crew members and two guests tested positive for coronavirus. The
ship was eventually allowed to dock in Oakland on Monday. 

Kerby’s comments came two days after Vice President Mike
Pence met with leaders of major cruise lines as part of a new coronavirus task
force. The leaders pledged to cooperate to come up with a plan that would
include enhanced entry and exit screening and onboard testing. 

CLIA also sent out a statement on Monday in response to the
State Department’s advisory. 

“We are staying focused on development of an aggressive,
responsive plan as agreed to during the meeting with Vice President Pence that
goes beyond the already significantly enhanced protocols in place, which we
believe are a model for others,” CLIA said. 

Kerby said that there are 365 cruise ships and nearly 700,000
passengers sailing per day worldwide. Most don’t have a coronavirus problem. 

“A targeted focus on cruising is a distraction from the real
issue of community spread,” he said. “Telling the traveling public to avoid
cruising and painting the entire industry with a broad ‘high risk’ brush stroke
is irresponsible and adds to the ‘info-demic’ gripping the public. Those who
have underlying health conditions should consult their physician to evaluate a
variety of activities, including travel.”

ASTA has 12,000 members across the country, and 98% are
small businesses, Kerby said. Many depend on cruise sales to make their living.

He urged the Trump administration to work with Congress to
come up with a legislative package of “targeted relief for the travel industry,
especially the small businesses at its core.”

ASTA on Tuesday will testify before the U.S. House of
Representatives Small Business Committee to provide examples of how Congress
can help travel advisors, such as federal grants and regulatory relief. 

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Coalition urges Americans to keep traveling

As concerns about the Covid-19 coronovirus spread around the
globe, a coalition of 150 travel organizations on Tuesday urged Americans to
stay calm and make fact-based decisions about travel.

The coalition includes the U.S. Travel Association, CLIA, Airlines
for America, ASTA, American Hotel & Lodging Association, U.S. Tour
Operators Association and a host of destination marketing organizations.

“Health and government officials have continually assured
the public that healthy Americans can confidently travel in this country,” the
groups wrote. “While it’s critically important to remain vigilant and take
useful precautions in times like these, it’s equally important to make calm,
rational, and fact-based decisions.

“The latest expert guidance indicates that for the
overwhelming majority, it’s OK to live, work, play and travel in the U.S. By
seeking and heeding the latest expert guidance — which includes vigorous use
of good health practices, similar to the preventive steps recommended for the
seasonal flu — America’s communities will stay strong and continue to thrive.”

The groups warned that canceling travel and events “has a
trickle-down effect that threatens to harm the U.S. economy, from locally owned
hotels, restaurants, travel advisors and tour operators to the service and
frontline employees who make up the backbone of the travel industry and the
American economy.”

They also vowed to remain in close contact with Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security and
Health and Human Services, and to take enhanced steps “to ensure both the
safety of travelers, guests and our own employees.”

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Travel Agents Fighting the Coronavirus Fear Factor

As the coronavirus consumer media coverage continues to gain momentum, travel advisors believe what really has gone viral is fear.

“Fear is our biggest problem right now,” said Claire Schoeder of Elevations Travel. “There is a lack of reliable, solid information about the virus.”

As a case point, one of the quarantine facilities used for travelers on Princess Cruises’ Grand Princess – Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Ga. – is located a couple of miles from Schoeder’s home. “Several friends have called and asked what I am doing about that – as if all of us in the area are at risk from those in a quarantine.”

In the view of FROSCH’s Ben Gritzewsky, the media coverage doesn’t tell the whole story. “If you look at the statistics, it’s pretty clear that there are more deadlier, riskier diseases than the coronavirus,” he said, adding that the H1N1 virus (swine flu) caused the death of many more people than the coronavirus.

Gritzewsky, who is based in Merida, Mexico, said that he hasn’t witnessed disruption in travel to the destination. “I have haven’t noticed any changes.”

He noted that the annual Tianguis conference is still scheduled to take place in Merida March 22-25, as is the World Travel & Tourism Council (Global Summit in Cancun April 21-23. “These two big events are still on the books,” he said.

Although there’s clearly no question that many agents’ clients have canceled their travel plans, others remain undaunted.

James Ferguson, a luxury cruise specialist with Travel Edge, said many of his clients are still proceeding with their trips, including customers sailing on a two-week Princess cruise next month.

Schoeder just had clients return from a Caribbean cruise. “They had a good trip,” she said. “They did not think about canceling – they just made sure they were outside as much as possible and followed proper hand-washing procedures.”

Richard Turen of Churchill & Turen noted that the agency has “clients who wish to get away this summer from the heat, the rising death numbers from influenza, and the current crime rate in the U.S. More and more clients are aware that there are more than 80 countries on the planet that are statistically safer than America.”

He added, “We are doing all possible to educate them on this subject and to drive home the fact that when you travel virtually anywhere overseas your life expectancy increases. The longer you are away – the more it goes up.”

In the end, Ferguson noted that that travel is a resilient industry.

“Your trusted travel advisor has your best interests front-of-mind,” he said. “We remain travelers’ best source of information in making their personal decisions.”

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Escape to Canada’s pristine ‘place of spirits’

From deep in an ink-blue fjord a minke whale surfaces, as if to prove that this “place of spirits” on the northern tip of Canada’s Newfoundland and Labrador province lives up to its Inuktitut name.

a body of water with a mountain in the background: Saglek Fjord marks the southern end of Torngat Mountains National Park, an ancestral Inuit homeland.

Saglek Fjord marks the southern end of Torngat Mountains National Park, an ancestral Inuit homeland.

The chug of an outboard motor is among the few signs that humans populate the rugged landscape of Torngat Mountains National Park. “Populate” is a loose term: There are no roads or year-round settlements in this sprawling area roughly three times the size of Rhode Island.

a polar bear in a rocky area: Torngat is one of the best places in the world to see polar bears. Park officials advise visitors to explore with an armed bear guard.

Torngat is one of the best places in the world to see polar bears. Park officials advise visitors to explore with an armed bear guard.

When this former reserve became Canada’s 42nd national park in 2008, a small team, staffed entirely by Inuit peoples, became official stewards of a land cooperatively managed by Parks Canada and Nunatsiavut and Nunavik Inuit.

For the Inuit, caring for this land is a longstanding tradition; for centuries seasonal groups have lived here, following wildlife, navigating iceberg-dotted coastlines and rocky islands, and braving unpredictable weather.

But the growth of tourism and the priority of protecting public lands has placed this remote region within reach of travelers. Don’t worry about being crowded out: Fewer than six hundred visit each year.

Communing with nature

Those who make the effort to reach this spirited place find an unspoiled landscape, where the wind whistles across some of Canada’s oldest rocks as caribou pause on barren mountain slopes.

“I don’t think people understand the strong connection Inuit have to the land,” says Jillian Larkham, tourism director at Nunatsiavut Government, the first Inuit regional governmental body in Newfoundland and Labrador. “Once you go to Torngat, out of cell service, you have a more meaningful outlook.”

But what do you do with all this space? You follow the rocks.

While there are no formal trails in the park, Inuit have historically used rock cairns called inuksuit to mark routes (visitors are not allowed to build them).

Due to the prevalence of bears, hikers are discouraged from exploring alone. “There is an abundance of polar bears in the area and visitors are pretty much guaranteed to see one,” says park superintendent Gary Baikie.

To keep visitors safe, armed Inuit bear guards lead excursions. “They have a lot of knowledge of hunting and of bear activity” passed down through the generations, Baikie says.

All hikes start at the north arm of Saglek Fjord at Silluak, where a rocky beach cradled by steep scree walls (created from rocks sliding down the fjord cliffs) gives way to a broad meadow. Depending on bear sightings and weather, routes can change.

In warmer seasons a faded path leads from the beach, through low shrubs and white flowers bobbing in the breeze. Hikers carefully cross a narrow ravine to a peaceful glacial lake ringed by fine golden sand, bear prints toeing the water’s edge.

Remembering the past

A visit to Torngat wouldn’t be complete without stops at Sallikuluk and Hebron, where important cultural sites bring Inuit history in Torngat to life.

At Sallikuluk, cultural guides shed light on remnants of tent rings and sod houses, signs of the community that lived on the island for 5,000 years. On a hill overlooking the bay, a sacred burial site holds the graves of more than 600 Inuit.

Decades ago, the remains of 113 people were removed from the cemetery without Inuit permission and stored at the University of Toronto for research purposes. Those remains were finally returned in 1995, after a committee of Inuit elders was established to prevent something similar from happening again.

Back on the mainland, just south of the park, Hebron Mission National Historic Site of Canada commemorates the Inuit who lived here with Moravian missionaries from 1831 to 1959.

After Newfoundland and Labrador joined Canada, Inuit in northern communities were forcibly resettled farther south along the coast (Nunatsiavut) or to northern Quebec (Nunavik).

The move was devastating to an already vulnerable Inuit community trying to assimilate to mission life. They left behind homes and the 1830s Moravian mission church, which fell into disrepair. “My parents always wanted to go back,” says Gus Semigak. “They never got to.”

Now Semigak is among the descendants who have returned to Hebron to honor their ancestors and restore the church for future generations. As a bear guard, he helps visitors navigate these Arctic lands and shares his family’s story, as the sound of hammers reverberates through the air.

How to go

What to know: All visitors must obtain permits, register their visit, and complete an orientation session before they can explore the park. Firearms are not allowed.

How to get there: The park is open year-round, but expedition-style cruise ships, charter planes, and helicopters run only in summer. Schedules can change, due to weather.

How to book: PAL Airlines offers daily service to Goose Bay Airport, where visitors can pick up boat or helicopter transport to Torngat Mountains Base Camp & Research Station (see below). Contact Parks Canada for a list of local operators.

Where to stay: Inuit-owned and -managed Torngat Mountains Base Camp & Research Station is the safest place to stay. Open a few weeks each summer, the station has insulated dome-shaped shelters surrounded by a seven-foot-high electric fence keeping polar bears out. Base camp meals are served communally; researchers, and Nunatsiavut and Nunavik youth and elders sit elbow to elbow with visitors, conversations lasting as long as the summer sun.

Multi-day packages start at about $5,098 (U.S.) and include a round-trip charter flight from Goose Bay Airport and a boat ride to Kangidluasuk (St. John’s Harbour), where base camp is located.

Carol Patterson is a Canadian journalist and author who has written about wildlife, ecotourism, and sustainability for three decades. 

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Silversea Reassures Travel Advisors by Protecting Commissions

Following the introduction of the Royal Caribbean Group’s “Cruise with Confidence” program, luxury line Silversea went further by protecting travel agent commissions on bookings canceled for voyages departing between March 9 and July 31, 2020.

Silversea will protect all bookings refunded through a future cruise credit in which guests have made their final payment.

This enhancement is offered in addition to the “Cruise with Confidence” program, which lets guests cancel their voyages up to 48 hours before the sailing date and receive a Future Cruise Credit valid for two years after the date of issue. The offer is good on cruises departing from March 9 to July 31, 2020.

Silversea will allow travel partners to retain any commissions already paid, and pay commissions on bookings canceled between March 9 and July 31, 2020, after they were paid in full, provided the cancellation occurs outside of the 48-hour cancellation window outlined in the Cruise with Confidence program.

Further, bookings made through redemption of these Future Cruise Credits will also be eligible for full commission based on the cruise value of the new booking.

“The current circumstances regarding the outbreak of Covid-19 novel coronavirus, which are out of our control, inspired Silversea and the Royal Caribbean Group to introduce this program,” said Mark Conroy, Silversea’s managing director for the Americas. “We know our loyal travel partners are undoubtedly working particularly hard during these uncertain times, and it is important to all of us at Silversea that you are receiving your well-deserved compensation. We appreciate your partnership, and we could not succeed without your support.”

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