LOTUS CORONAVIRUS UPDATE (02.07)
Green light for countries stalled – but mass clearance on the cards
The travel industry is demanding that the Government officially announces which countries will be exempt from the quarantine rules, the BBC reports. The industry says until clarity is provided, consumers are holding off bookings and jobs will be lost.
The industry experienced a strong surge in enquiries and bookings over the weekend following reports on Friday night that a new traffic light system permitting travel to “green” and “amber” countries, while keeping restrictions on those deemed as “red” where infection rates are high would be implemented from 6 July. The Government suggested that an announcement giving a definitive list of countries included in the system would be made on Monday 29 June.
As the week developed, these announcements were not made, which has led the Department of Transport to say that travel corridors were being considered but were ‘not established policy’.
On Thursday The Daily Telegraph reported that air bridges would be shelved in favour of as many as 75 countries being on the first quarantine exemption list. The countries would include nearly all EU destinations, the British territories including Bermuda and Gibraltar, and Turkey, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand. All 75 have been judged sufficiently low risk destinations.
The paper believes that the list will be published on Thursday or Friday, together with the lifting of the Foreign Office ban on non-essential travel.
The Times believes that up to 95 countries will be on the green-light list but warned that people will only be allowed to travel to about a dozen of the destinations when the restrictions are lifted because bilateral deals to create “air corridors” have not been agreed. Greece announced that it would extend its ban on UK tourists until 15 July, which may have been one of the reasons for the Government to delay its announcement.
Ireland is also expected to maintain the 14-day quarantine for travellers from the British mainland next month and Scotland is also considering the same.
No-frills airlines boost flying on 1 July and attract criticism
Ryanair announced that on 1 July it would operate 1,000 flights with 100,000 passengers across Britain, Ireland and Europe as pilots backed down over disputes over pay cuts. The flight numbers increased from 250 on 30 June. EasyJet also increased its flight numbers on Wednesday building up to 75% capacity in August – and announced plans for further routes - and Wizz Air is also operating from a number of airports.
The Times reports that the airline attracted a Twitter storm with Ryanair, accused of having a reckless attitude to public health and not paying refunds. Which? Travel editor Rory Boland said: “Airlines are restarting thousands more flights, despite the fact that many passengers won’t fly because the FCO’s advice against non-essential travel remains in place.
“These passengers won’t be given a refund, and even if they rebook could well have to pay more because fares have increased.”
First-person accounts of tourists in Mallorca were seen in The Times and The Sun, where holidaymakers complained about a Covid-tax added to bills to pay for PPE for staff.
Aviation will be subjected to legal claims
Lawyers are predicting rises in legal action against airlines in two areas. Firstly, from governments and regulators against airlines for failing to comply with laws and regulations designed to curb the spread of the pandemic and secondly, civil actions by passengers — and possibly airline crew — who allege that they contracted the virus on flights or in airports.
Over two days this week, businesses in the aviation and retail sectors have announced over 11,000 job losses. Airbus announced 1,700 job cuts in Britain and EasyJet outlined plans to close bases at Stansted, Southend and Newcastle with 1,900 job losses expected. SSP, the transport catering group behind Upper Crust, along with other retailers such as Harrods, John Lewis and Arcadia, also announced cuts to jobs.
Richard Branson is to inject £200m into Virgin Atlantic to help it survive the devastating effect of coronavirus on air travel, as part of a rescue package of up to £900m, put together months after the airline sought a taxpayer-funded bailout. The cash boost comes on top of a further £400m arrangement already agreed between the transatlantic carrier and its two major shareholders, Branson’s Virgin Group and US airline Delta.
TTG reports that Lufthansa passengers flying from Frankfurt or Munich will soon be able to take a coronavirus test before their departure or upon arrival, which could allow them to forgo any quarantine requirements.
The airline has partnered with Centogene and Medicare to set up testing facilities offering PCR (antigen) throat swab tests for Covid-19, with the results available within five hours via an app link.
BA switches from Gatwick to Heathrow
The airline is consolidating all short-haul and domestic services to its main base, shifting hundreds of holiday flights from Gatwick to Heathrow until at least September. A small number of long haul flights will operate from Gatwick form mid-July.
Almost a third of shore-based staff at Carnival UK – 450 - have been made redundant this week, with another “significant proportion” of employees taking a period of sabbatical, reports TTG and Travel Weekly.
According to Travel Weekly, Greek Islands and Mediterranean specialist Celestyal Cruises has cancelled its 2020 season and will resume sailings on 6 March 2021.
Princess Cruises has now outlined a series of sailings on the US west coast between September 2021 and April 2022.
Hays Travel is actively seeking new staff – ‘experienced agents’ are needed to help with the industry’s recovery.
Post Pandemic Recovery Guide
ABTA has published a Post Pandemic Recovery guide to help destinations and the travel industry in the “complex transition” to restarting travel.
The Travel Association noted the “catastrophic impact” of the Covid-19 pandemic on the global travel and tourism industry as it launched the guide, which identifies areas that travel providers, suppliers and destination governments should look at during the recovery.
In the week of escalating job losses, Andy Haldane, the Bank of England’s chief economist, has said that Britain is due for a V-shaped recovery as the economy rebounds from the lockdown much faster than expected, reports The Times.
Britain is on track for a V-shaped recovery as the economy rebounds from lockdown far faster than expected, according to Andy Haldane, the Bank of England's chief economist.
As England looks forward to ‘super Saturday’ on 4 July when the hospitality sector is allowed to open, lockdown restrictions were re-imposed in Leicester from Tuesday. The Times reports that other northern cities in England are also battling to avoid lockdown measures as health bodies warned that they were finding rising numbers of coronavirus cases in Yorkshire and the North West.
Some pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants in Wales will be able to reopen outdoors from 13 July. Venues will be able to open in spaces they own and have licences for - as long as coronavirus cases continue to fall. But indoor services will remain closed for now, despite industry pressure that many establishments will not be able to open.
Canal holiday bookings in UK up 150 per cent
According to Black Prince, a nationwide canal holiday operator, family groups booking more than one boat for ‘bubble’ holidays are driving the majority of new enquiries.
The European Union has confirmed it will ban Americans from visiting for at least another two weeks owing to the soaring rate of infections in the United States. Travellers from other countries such as Russia, Brazil and India have also been banned. The EU announced that it would reopen its borders to travellers from 14 other countries and possibly China soon. The summer is key to the tourism industry and Americans make up a big share of Europe’s visitors. More than 15 million Americans holiday in Europe each year and some ten million Europeans travel across the Atlantic.
On Tuesday Spain reported a significant increase compared to a week earlier. It follows the country opening up to travellers although limits are being maintained on the capacity of indoor venues and beaches.
The Times reports that drones are patrolling the Spanish coast to make tourists keep their distance. Other solutions to manage beaches include sensor-controlled access systems that can warn when capacity is being reached, the parcelling off of sections for groups and the banning of games such as volleyball. Sun loungers and parasols will be systematically disinfected throughout the day.
Palma also revealed a new app developed to control the number of visitors to the city's beaches. The app is designed to show in real time which beaches are less crowded and which are at capacity.
The Telegraph also reports that more than two thirds of hotels in Palma, the capital of Majorca, will reopen by the end of July.
Due to new social distancing measures and restrictions, two-hour queues were in store for visitors at the Uffizi gallery in Florence at the weekend.
The country has set up a new commission to evaluate its response to the coronavirus outbreak after its death toll was reported to be far more than neighbouring countries.
Texas, Arizona, Florida and California have all reported spikes in new cases – in a ‘very worrying’ – new trend. Anthony Fauci, the lead infectious disease expert in the US, believes without dramatic new measures, there could be 100,000 new cases a day. New cases last week had doubled since the beginning of June. The southern states started closing beaches ahead of the 4 July holiday, which is expected to see large gatherings.
TUI UK and Ireland has cancelled all holidays to Florida due to depart up to and including 30 November 2020.
Some resorts, live-aboards and hotels located on uninhabited islands will be allowed to resume business in August
The Giza Pyramids in Cairo, the national museum and airports all reopened for the first time in more than three months. The national carrier, EgyptAir, said about 2,000 passengers left Cairo’s international airport on 14 international flights while two jets carrying over 350 Ukrainian tourists landed in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada and the resort and beach destination of Sharm El-Sheikh.
About two dozen museums and tourist sites also received visitors with preventative measures in place against coronavirus, Mostafa Waziri, the secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said.
Lockdowns are being reintroduced in suburban postcodes in Melbourne and international flights have been halted for the next two weeks as Australia’s second city imposed measures to contain a resurgence of coronavirus. Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews said: “If we don't get control of this really quickly we will end up with a whole state shutdown.”
The South American country has been included on the European Union's list of "safe countries", allowing for the travel between the Continent and the South American country. The Latin American Travel Association said the move shows a positive illustration of how the pandemic is being managed in a country which borders Brazil and Argentina; and helps showcase a more diverse picture in terms of how the pandemic is being managed throughout the continent and proves that tourism to Latin America will bounce back soon.”
One in four plan holiday abroad by end of 2020
Demand for peak summer holidays abroad is returning with the opening of quarantine-free travel imminent. According to BVA‑BDRC research published in Travel Weekly, one in nine UK adults (11%) intend to take an overseas holiday by the end of September and about one in five (18%) will book a trip by the summer’s end, with nearly one in four (23%) intending to take a holiday by December.
The survey of 1,750 adults in mid June, found almost three times as many (66%) said that they would take an overseas holiday by next April.
The average lead-time for booking an overseas holiday was just over six months in the latest survey, down from almost eight months in mid-May after UK quarantine measures were announced.
16% said they would book a flight by the end of September. However, researchers noted a growing uncertainty about when to book, reflecting uncertainty about where quarantine restrictions will apply.
Two-thirds of respondents would not consider flying with 14-day quarantine restrictions in place. However 22% said that quarantine would not deter them from flying as long as it is safe.
A majority expressed support for the government’s quarantine measures - 60% said it was a good idea and only 25% opposed restrictions even on travel within the EU.