Categories
Travel

Revealed: Which countries could open up their tourist industries first – full list

Holidays and trips abroad have been a no-go recently due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis. But as countries begin to ease their lockdown rules, the prospect of restarting the tourism industry becomes more likely. Countries such as Greece, Cyprus, Spain and Japan are all beginning to look to future tourism as a way of bringing in revenue.

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The World Travel and Tourism Council has predicted that the tourism industry could lose $2.1trillion (£1.7trillion) because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The shocking amount equates to around 75 million jobs worldwide.

WeSwap, the UK’s largest P2P travel money provider has looked into which countries could reopen their travel industries across the world.

These are the countries who could reopen their travel industries first.

Vietnam

Vietnam has had one of the lowest case and death rates in the world, despite being just next door to China.

The country has had just over 320 cases and zero death rates.

The country has not had an infection in the last month and so is beginning to reopen its doors.

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Fiji

The country has only had 18 confirmed cases and no deaths.

Tourism makes up 40 percent of the country’s GDP so it has suffered immensely from the coronavirus pandemic.

But currently, it is not known whether Fiji itself is happy to kickstart its travel industry.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka usually has a booming tourism industry which has been hit very hard this year.

However, the country has had a low case rate compared to its neighbours India and Pakistan.

With just over 1,000 cases and under 10 deaths, the country could likely reopen its tourism industry quickly.

Seychelles

This is one of the most stunning holiday destinations in the world which has had a very low coronavirus infection rate.

The country has had a total of 11 cases and no deaths.

Despite being a popular holiday destination, the country has just banned cruise ships until 2022, meaning that travel may not be on the cards for a while.

Matt Crate, Managing Director of WeSwap, said that there are countries that will need to reopen the tourism sector to restart their economies.

He continued: “There are countries across the world that have dealt incredibly well with the infection rate of the disease and should be commended.

“Suspending travel has been an important part of these safety measures but there are countries that will need to look at reopening these sectors to restart their national economies.

“Hopefully, as the world starts to deal with the rate of infection, these industries can begin to slowly begin again and the countries that have dealt best with the disease can lead the charge to help the world travel in safety.”

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Travel

Holiday refunds: ‘Holidaymakers should get vouchers’ Spain pushes EU to protect tourists

Many people around the world have been left with no summer holiday plans due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In fact, many holidaymakers have been forced to apply for refunds due to their holidays being cancelled by companies and airlines. Rather than offering cash refunds, some companies are offering travellers vouchers instead.

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And now, Spain is pushing for holidaymakers to be rewarded with vouchers with 100 percent protection.

Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, Reyes Maroto told tourists leaders of the European Union that the voucher system would work if all countries in the EU joined the initiative.

She explained that Spain was in favour of offering the temporary measure.

She said: “Spain is in favour of temporarily allowing airlines to offer passengers vouchers instead of reimbursements, issued under uniform conditions for the entire EU.

“But, to guarantee the rights of passengers – in the face of possible insolvency of airlines – it would be necessary to create a European guarantee fund, given that the regulation is supranational in nature and a national solution would generate asymmetric protections for passengers according to each country.”

The EU has already suggested that travellers who are owed a refund should be persuaded to take the vouchers rather than cash.

But this would only apply if the offer was made more attractive by offering enhanced amounts and at least a year to use the vouchers.

By law, the owed money should be given back but the EU says it recognises both sides of the story.

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For example, cash flow and lack of finance has hit tourism agencies and airlines hard.

However, they are not the only ones who have faced hardship.

Tourists and customers have also been hit financially by COVID-19.

Ms Maroto also called for phased and coordinated steps in the EU for cross-border travel and tourism.

She especially defended the need to establish coordination between the Member States for the gradual return of tourism.

Spain and eleven other countries are pressing for a European Recovery Plan for the tourism sector that pays attention to the specific problems of the most affected countries and territories and, in particular, to the outermost regions and islands.

The tourism chief said Spain welcomed the recommendations on tourism and transport issued by the Commission on May 13 to restore freedom of movement and gradually lift coordinated border controls between member states and travel restrictions.

She also said that a “phased approach” to tourism is the best way to approach cross-border travel.

She added: “We believe that a phased approach, coordinated and agreed among Member States, is the best way to achieve a gradual normalisation of cross-border travel; therefore, we must coordinate to lift the confinement and quarantine regulations, as well as in the restoration of tourism and transport services.”

It comes as Spain’s Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya told the BBC Today programme that Spain is aiming to become the “safest destination in Europe”.

She also said that she hopes her country will open in June but that the popular Canary Islands and Balearics will be first.

Arancha also said that the bigger cities such as Madrid and Barcelona that have suffered most from COVID-19 will not be able to open to tourists straightaway.

She added: “Some of our territories, like the islands, are COVID-19 free. They can open faster.”

Additional reporting by Rita Sobot

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Categories
Travel

Campsites reopen: Camping trips could start up again ‘in July’ ready for summer

Holidays abroad this summer are looking more unlikely due to the UK Government’s temporary quarantine rules which are set to come into play next month. But although a sunshine-soaked break in Spain may not be not be on your list this summer, many Britons are looking at going camping instead.

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In fact, figures from online camping site Cool Camping are seeing that summer bookings for campsites have soared by 500 percent in the past week.

The website said: “There’s clearly a pent-up demand to get away.

“The mooted date of July 4 is ideal timing for summer and could save many businesses who have had no income.”

And now, Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey has said that campsites could be open “potentially in July”.

Ms Coffey told Sky News: “I know there are a lot of campsites that are very keen for people to come.

“Some of this is being carefully considered, recognising that we have a reduced outdoor transmission risk, that things like camping may well become suitable.

“But that is a decision that still needs to be taken for later this year, potentially in July or even later in the year, recognising that we need to do all we can to keep that ‘R rate’ below one, the number of infections down, and we need to be careful when we take those steps.”

Camping has not been previously mentioned by the Government but some assume that campsites will fall into phase three of the Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plans to ease lockdown.

Caravan parks are also hoping to open to the public this summer.

Many caravan and holiday parks are aiming to restart in Phase three of the Government’s plan.

Phase three is anticipated to begin in July, subject to scientific and medical data.

According to a 50-page plan published by the government, phase three will allow for: “Some hospitality businesses being permitted to reopen ensuring they can provide safe environments and strictly enforce social distancing measures.”

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Caravan parks are also hoping to open to the public this summer.

Many caravan and holiday parks are aiming to restart in Phase three of the Government’s plan.

Phase three is anticipated to begin in July, subject to scientific and medical data.

According to a 50-page plan published by the government, phase three will allow for: “Some hospitality businesses being permitted to reopen ensuring they can provide safe environments and strictly enforce social distancing measures.”

Currently, quarantine rules are in place for anyone arriving in the UK from abroad which has potentially deterred Britons from going abroad for a holiday.

The new rules state that anyone arriving into the UK will have to quarantine themselves for 14 days.

However, the rules will not be put in place until June next month, according to the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

Anyone caught breaking the rules could be subject to a fine of up to £1,000.

Once visitors have completed 14 days of quarantine they can then mix with the general population.

Dan Yates, Managing Director of Pitchup.com, told The Daily Telegraph that he thinks that “time will be tight” for camping businesses hoping to make money this summer.

He said: “In short, with a date of ‘no earlier’ than July 4, time will be tight to capitalise on this summer.

“Typically, the peak begins in the third week of July with the start of the school holidays, and ends at August Bank Holiday.

“That said, we live in hope of an Indian summer.”

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Categories
Travel

Easyjet hack: Have your details been hacked in cyber attack?

After grounding its entire fleet of planes for at least two months back in March, Easyjet has fallen victim to a cyberhack. Does this mean your information is in the wrong hands? Express.co.uk tells you all you need to know.

The budget airline, which is currently inactive due to the coronavirus crisis, said its data has been accessed by criminals.

There is currently no evidence that the information has been misused by criminals, but customers’ email addresses and travel details of just over 2,200 customers have been accessed by “highly sophisticated” hackers.

Passport and credit card details have not been accessed or tampered with, and only a small proportion of Brits who have flown with Easyjet will be affected. So has this affected you?

A statement from the airline said: “There is no evidence that any personal information of any nature has been misused.”

READ MORE- EasyJet hit by cyberattack where email details for 9million stolen

It went on to say: “However, on the recommendation of the ICO, we are communicating with the approximately 9m customers whose travel details were accessed to advise them of protective steps to minimise any risk of potential phishing.

“We are advising customers to continue to be alert as they would normally be, especially should they receive any unsolicited communications.

We also advise customers to be cautious of any communications purporting to come from easyJet or easyJet Holidays.”

Johan Lundgren, easyJet chief executive, added: “We take the cyber security of our systems very seriously and have robust security measures in place to protect our customers’ personal information.

“However, this is an evolving threat as cyber attackers get ever more sophisticated.”

The situation was revealed today by a company investigation by leading forensic experts.

The online channels affected by the attack were immediately closed, and no one is sure how long the criminals were able to view the details.

Mr Lundgren added: “Since we became aware of the incident, it has become clear that owing to COVID-19 there is heightened concern about personal data being used for online scams. 

“As a result, and on the recommendation of the ICO, we are contacting those customers whose travel information was accessed and we are advising them to be extra vigilant, particularly if they receive unsolicited communications.”

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Categories
Travel

Airbnb virtual experiences: are they worth it?

In the Great Lockdown, two-way video has become our primary social channel. Meetings, parties, concerts, music lessons, exercise classes: Any interactions that can be adapted to a Zoom video call, have been. Surely there’s nothing left to be Zoomified.

Actually, there is. Airbnb recently introduced what it calls Online Experiences: Live interactive sessions, conducted over Zoom by guides around the world, for small groups of “tourists” stuck at home.

Over the course of an hour or two, the hosts dive into a wide range of artistic, cultural, musical, culinary and athletic topics: “Dance Like a K-pop Star,” presented live by a guide in South Korea; “Cooking with a Moroccan Family,” from Marrakech; “Tokyo Anime and Subcultures,” from Japan; “Day in the Life of a Shark Scientist,” from South Africa.

The average price per person is about $16, but you might pay as little as $3 (“Cultural Journey through London Chinatown”) or as much as $130 (“Private Astrology Reading & Natal Chart,” from Barcelona). At the moment, some 200 classes are available, but the company adds another dozen or so every week, after vetting and viewing a dress rehearsal of each. Catherine Powell, who leads the Airbnb Experiences programme, says that her team has received thousands of proposals. (“We had one called, ‘My Experiences Watching My Cat,’ ” she says. “That one was rejected.”)

Many of the guides once led these sessions in person, as part of Airbnb’s Experiences programme. (Visiting Alaska? Go salmon fishing! Visiting Italy? Do a wine tasting!) When the company suspended those risky in-person interactions in March, the guides, suddenly unemployed, proposed adapting their classes to video.

And so, last weekend, while the rest of the country was binge-watching, I went binge-experiencing. I crammed in seven Airbnb courses, all in hopes of answering the question: How well can a Zoom video chat replicate experiencing another place or culture? And how is it any better than, say, watching a YouTube video on the topic?

I discovered the answer to that second question immediately. These classes are not canned videos. They are live and two-way, and you are with people. The classes are generally small enough that you can chat, discuss and joke with both your instructor and your fellow classmates. You hear their various accents, notice the sun’s different position in their time zones, and get a sense of their interior decoration tastes.

The main event, though, is the hosts’ presentations, and they can be mind-blowing. “Meet the Dogs of Chernobyl” ($85), for example, is one of the few classes in which the host actually ventures away from home. Lucas Hixson, a radiation specialist, arrived in Ukraine in 2015 to discover more than 1000 dogs, starving and unattended, in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. They’re the descendants of pets who were abandoned by their fleeing owners after the 1986 power-plant disaster.

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Categories
Travel

Coronavirus Covid-19: Kiwi cruise worker jumps ship, colleagues stuck at sea without pay

When Kiwi theatre star Cassandra McCowan decided to jump ship from the ultra luxury cruise liner she’d been working on, she wasn’t even sure where home was.

After a series of starring roles in London’s West End, the Auckland-born entertainer had been working on the Seabourn Quest, one of the world’s most luxurious cruise ships.

She hadn’t called New Zealand home for more than six years.

But in March, that all changed almost overnight. As cruise ships went dark around the world, the Kiwi entertainer had to think fast.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, a worldwide suspension on cruising has been declared by cruise lines and the Centre for Disease Control (CDC).

Although passengers have long since disembarked, the CDC estimates there are at least 100 ships and 80,000 workers stuck at sea in the waters surrounding the United States. 300 of them are Cassandra’s former colleagues.

The Kiwi entertainer was the only cast member from the Seabourn Quest to make it off. Now she finds herself in Katikati – on the opposite side of the world to her apartment in London – and her colleagues have spent 76 days at sea without a clear way home. As workers’ contracts expire well before the no-sail order ends, many find themselves being held on ships they no longer work for, unpaid.

“The attitude was that as long as they were fed and somewhere to stay, they could tell crew to ‘stay put and deal with it’. That is why I decided to leave,” says Cassandra, speaking from Katikati, where she is sheltering with family.

Having just finished a two-year tour with the musical School of Rock in London’s West End, McCowan’s decision to take the role was a change in direction but not a surprise. Cruise ships now employ more performers and technicians than the arts districts of either London or New York. The Royal Caribbean cruise line alone runs 50 theatres at sea – nine more than Broadway.

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Categories
Holiday

Travel businesses have been hit hard, but spare a thought for Corona Holidays – A Luxury Travel Blog

These are certainly unprecedented times for the entire travel industry. Although businesses are incredibly good at dealing with all kinds of situations thrown at them, the world has absolutely changed due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The last coronavirus to largely affect the travel industry was SARS in 2003. This mainly impacted the long haul Asian market, when a huge drop in passenger numbers was experienced.  The clear difference today is that the spread of the latest coronavirus (COVID-19) is affecting many more countries.  It is also altering how we think about travel right across the board. From cruising to aviation, and hotels to local attractions, nothing remains unaffected.

One of the many guest bloggers on A Luxury Travel Blog, is Corona Holidays. I recently spoke to their Director, Gail, to see if their brand had been caught up in the latest coronavirus outbreak, despite their name obviously having no direct connection with the virus.

Our conversation started with the history of the long-established travel company and a general background on the business.   Gail explained that Corona Holidays was established about 40 years ago and they are specialists in holidays to the Spanish Canary Island and Balearic Islands and European city breaks. She started with them in 2001 and became the owner/Director in 2017. Although she had seen the business affected by the flight ban following 9/11 in 2001, the financial crisis in 2008, and the 2010 ash cloud, she said : “Clearly the travel industry is in a crisis, and it’s about being honest with ourselves as a business. For the time being, we need to batten down the hatches, and take full advantage of this quiet time to prepare for the future return to travel.  It is, and will be, a challenging time for everyone”.

I asked about the background to their company name and whether this had created any issues for them over the past few months.  They said that the name Corona was selected based on it representing the part of the atmosphere that surrounds the sun. “We could never have envisaged that our company name would in the slightest way associated with a virus”.

Of course, coronaviruses have been in existence for a considerable period of time, and have generally been referred to by their names of MERS, or SARS.  The current coronavirus is COVID-19, albeit it is more commonly known in the UK as coronavirus.  However, in Spain, it is tended to be referred to as COVID-19.

Corona Holidays started preparing for potential cancellations and amendments at the end of February when it was announced that a few Italian guests had tested positive at the H10 Costa Adeje Palace Hotel in Tenerife.  As a result, guests were placed into quarantine at the hotel.  Gail said : “At that stage we couldn’t have forecasted the extent to which travel would be affected.  It was the weekend of the 14/15 March that it really became apparent that we were going to have to deal with cancellations and getting clients back home from resort.  For example, during that particular weekend the island of Madeira introduced an immediate and mandatory 14 night quarantine for all arrivals.  We had clients due to travel out on the following day, so we had to cancel their travel plans.”

Spain announced a state of emergency on the 14 March and the country was placed into lockdown on the 17 March, including guests staying at hotels.  People were only able to leave their homes or hotels for limited reasons. This meant that hotel guests were really limited to staying within the hotel grounds, or visiting the nearest supermarket.  Beaches were closed and nobody was able to go outside for exercise.

Gail told me they were aware that hotels all over Spain were instructed to close the following week so they were left in a position whereby they had to change many clients’ plans to ensure they got home before the closures. For a solid 3 weeks, they were dealing with a huge number of cancellations and amendments whilst at the same time making sure customers in resort were kept updated throughout on the plans to come home.

It was during this time that they started to get enquiries coming in from members of public who were after general travel advice – mainly from people who had booked direct with hotels, or those who had booked a flight only direct with the airlines. Gail said : “In an unexpected turn of events, we found our company name was attracting enquiries from people who weren’t our customers.  Some people just wanted directing to the relevant Foreign and Commonwealth Office website, but others obviously required more help.  This we did by contacting hotels to arrange cancellations, and helping them with flight cancellation – all as a courtesy service.  We have received some lovely letters and phone calls from these people, and hopefully we will see them return to us in the future”.

Our discussion then turned to what they believed the future holds for travel, and their business.

“We are currently working on our Winter 2020/21 product and will be extending our villa program for Summer 2021.  We will also be entering into discussions with some small, boutique hotels on the popular island of Mallorca.   Regarding our company name, we will be remaining as Corona Holidays.  The majority of our customers have been with us for many years, and the new customers that have made contact with us has been particularly encouraging. “

As we all see from the news articles and photos, airline fleets are grounded at airports all around the world with travel bans being introduced by many countries.  Understandably, customer confidence is at an all-time low to even engage in travel plans at the moment.

Will there be immunity passports, face masks being made mandatory on board, social distancing throughout passengers’ journeys?  Even if social distancing were possible on aircraft by keeping the middle seat free, this would attract a 30-50% increase in prices. However, this still doesn’t truly solve the social distancing problem. To do this would mean aircraft flying at 25% capacity which simply wouldn’t be financially viable.

The travel industry originally hoped they would see an element of normality returning to the industry in the summer months, but now believe that it will be towards the end of 2020 and even into 2021 before people will feel more able to travel.

Alex Macheras – Aviation analyst – reported on the 14 May that airlines were in agreement that we will not be back at pre COVID-19 passenger demand levels for at least another 3 years.

Yes, this will certainly be a long, slow recovery, as there are too many barriers to a rapid return. Of course, borders need to be open at both ends of the journey to make holidays viable.  With Spain having just introduced a 14 day quarantine period for anybody arriving into the country, and the UK imminently due to do the same, it is plain to see that travel just is not possible.

Additionally, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is advising against all but essential travel, or all travel to some areas.

The travel industry is facing a hugely challenging time, and businesses are having to adapt their models in anticipation of a return in demand for holidays.  We can all unfortunately expect to have to get used to what has been phrased as the ‘new normal’, and perhaps we will need to remain simply armchair travellers for the foreseeable future.

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Categories
Cruises

Airlines say travel agencies key to return to the skies

Sales leaders at American and Delta say that their
partnerships with travel agencies will be key when travel ramps up
again.

“We’ve invested a lot of energy into these partnerships,”
said Jim Carter, American’s Eastern Division vice president for global sales. “It’s
these kinds of times when you get to test these partnerships. It’s natural now
that we lean on them. The conversations we are having with them are more
critical, to make sure we’re listening to where their clients are thinking
about traveling.”

Bob Somers, Delta’s senior vice president of global sales,
offered a similar message. 

“Having good visibility on what customers want from us,
where they are going to travel, when they are ready to travel, those are
questions that are being looked at now,” he said. 

Airline ticket sales within the agency channel have begun a
very modest tick back up, though they remain at depths that would have been
unimaginable just a few months ago.

Airline ticket sales within the agency channel were down
88.6% in terms of transactions and 93.5% by volume for the week that ended May
10, according to ARC. Though such figures would have been unimaginable just a
few months ago, they represented a slight improvement over April and the start
of May.

The recovery is likely to be slow. A Harris survey of 2,039
adults conducted May 1 to 3 found that 48% of Americans said they wouldn’t be
comfortable flying until the Covid-19 pandemic is over. But as a critical mass
of people do return to the skies, airlines will have the unprecedented task of
rebuilding schedules that have been reduced by as much as 90%.

Peter Vlitas, senior vice president of airlines for Travel
Leaders, said that airlines understand that as they set about rebuilding
schedules, travel agencies can provide key insights. Vlitas also said he
believes travel advisors will see their share of airline ticket sales increase
during the restart period, largely because flyers will have more doubts and
need more assistance than they do during normal times. 

“The airlines are realizing that we’re going to have a
bigger role, and they want to have a conversation with us about when we think
the customers are going to want to travel and where we think they want to
travel,” Vlitas said. 

Both Carter and Somers said that leisure travel agents weren’t
the only partners they were leaning on. American, said Carter, is looking to
the corporate agency community as well as to partners in corporate verticals
such as technology, entertainment and pharmaceuticals to get insights on where
demand is returning. 

Airlines are also mining internal data sources, including
bookings and flight searches. Still, Somers said leisure agents will play a
crucial role as travel recovers. The Delta sales team, he said, follows a
mantra with partners of, “listen, act, listen.”

“It’s especially critical when you have times of rapid
change,” he said.

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Categories
Cruises

AAA skips Memorial Day travel forecast

AAA said it will not release a forecast of how many
Americans will travel for Memorial Day because the coronavirus crisis has
affected the accuracy of economic data used to create the forecast.

This is the first time in 20 years AAA will not release a
Memorial Day travel forecast. 

“Last year, 43 million Americans traveled for Memorial Day weekend
— the second-highest travel volume on record since AAA began tracking holiday
travel volumes in 2000,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel.
“With social distancing guidelines still in practice, this holiday weekend’s
travel volume is likely to set a record low.”

Meanwhile, online bookings have risen “modestly” since
mid-April, AAA said. That indicates traveler confidence is improving.

AAA expects when leisure travel does resume, initially
travelers will prefer destinations closer to home.

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Categories
Travel

A life in Travel: Kiwi musician Theia’s favourite travel memories

What do you miss most about travel right now?

I used to travel backwards and forwards from Sydney on a regular basis and had some exciting live shows in Australia planned for 2020 (pre-Covid). I miss the freedom of being able to jump on a plane and be in Sydney in three hours.

Where are your strongest memories from your first overseas trip?
When I was 6 or 7 I went to Sydney’s Taronga Zoo with my family and apparently I was more excited about being on the ferry than I was with visiting the zoo (much to my parents’ disappointment).

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What was a standard family holiday like when growing up?

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