LOTUS CORONAVIRUS UPDATE (09.10)
GLOBAL TRAVEL TASKFORCE
After months of lobbying, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed the creation of a Global Travel Taskforce on 7 October, which will be designed to 'open up international travel and boost our businesses'. The taskforce will:
- Implement a testing regime to reduce the self-isolation period
- Implement a wide range of other measures to enable travel whilst keeping coronavirus rates down
- Report back in November with the 14-day quarantine period remaining in place
- Examine the feasibility of a single test taken after a period of self-isolation, provided by the private sector and at the cost of the passenger
- Work with medical experts to better understand when a test should be taken based on the progression of the disease
- Work closely with the private testing sector to ensure that testing for international arrivals does not impact on NHS capacity
Reaction has been damning. Industry commentators caveated criticism with a concession that it was a ‘welcome first step.’ Most expressed frustration on the point of timing, as the taskforce is not due to report back until November, with the timing for the implementation of new measures unclear. The Times called it a ‘naval-gazing talk-shop,’ while Stewart Wingate, CEO of Gatwick, called for the private tests to be ‘affordable.’ Johan Lundgren, CEO of EasyJet, points out that Germany has had airport testing since June.
With the pandemic already stretching into its seventh month, most insiders commented that the need for support for the industry was now. The BTA also called for a dedicated travel minister. Abby Penston, CEO of Focus Travel Partnership said: “Testing at borders is crucial to kick-starting travel. We need to begin to commit to solutions and roll them out rather than keep debating, too much time has been wasted.” The chief executive of the Board of Airline Representatives Dale Keller, who said: "The industry has been continuously engaged with the Government…a huge amount of international experience and proposals have been input so far, including the benefits of pre-departure testing, and we believe that a scheme could be implemented very quickly in a matter of weeks."
Keller said it was “concerning” that the Transport Secretary was “still quoting only seven per cent effectiveness of testing on arrival at airports”. That figure has been “wholly dismissed as flawed assumptions”, he said. "If the Government wants more data it should urgently take up the industry's proposals for a trial-based data-led approach to inform the taskforce and achieve the best outcomes.” Virgin Atlantic said: "Every day counts when Britain's economy and half a million jobs that rely on aviation are at stake.” Stewart Wingate, CEO of Gatwick pointed out that the cost of the test needed to be affordable.
A joint statement by Heathrow Airport, EasyJet, Virgin Atlantic and Manchester Airports Group called for urgent action, with a test on day five 'the starting point'. “Travellers need a firm commitment that a comprehensive testing regime will be implemented in early November,” they said.
TTG believes that taskforces are the preserve of those who are too stressed, over-worked and time-poor to solve a problem, and give a veneer of action, of hope, of progress. But what travel desperately needs is urgent, sector-specific support – on jobs, on refunds, on finances, on testing, on quarantine.
International agreement needed to test before you board
If people are to fly between countries, then they need to feel safe, says Michael Skapinker in The Financial Times. And if flying is to resume, governments, regulators and the industry need to work together to move towards a common system of making the assurances that people flying are infection-free. The industry recognises this and they are begging governments to act. Aviation has a history of governments co-operating internationally and yet, right now each country is operating independently. In July international passenger figures were down 91.8 per cent in July and 88.3 per cent in August.
Last month, Alexandre de Juniac, director-general of the International Air Transport Association, said: “The key to restoring the freedom of mobility across borders is systematic Covid-19 testing of all travellers before departure. But testing needs to be paid for privately by passengers themselves.At least, governments should aim for a common standard that allows travellers to fly again.”
AIR CORRIDOR UPDATE
Five Greek islands have been added to the UK’s list of travel corridors: Santorini, Zakynthos (Zante), Serifos, Lesbos and Tinos have been given the green light in what The Times called a half-term holiday boost for families. However, Mykonos and Crete remain on the red list, while residents of Scotland still cannot visit anywhere in Greece without self-isolating back on home soil, reports The Daily Telegraph. No destinations lost their travel corridor status on Thursday 8 October but travellers from Britain to Italy now have to take a test on arrival, which gives a result in 30 minutes. Passengers can avoid this if they can show they have tested negative in the previous 72 hours or agree to be tested within 48 hours of arrival. ‘Experts’ according to The Times have said that quarantine measures for arrivals in Britain were of limited use because the virus infection rate was now higher than that of most other nations.
ATOL RENEWAL SUMMARY
This week, the CAA published its biannual list of tour operators whose licence to operate had not been renewed. Half of all operators had to renew their Atol (Air Travel Organiser's Licence) by the end of September (the other half are assessed in March). To qualify for a licence a company has to place a bond with the CAA and satisfy other financial requirements.
This year 995 of the 1,261 companies whose licences expired at the end of September, have had them renewed – a fall of more than 20%.
- 176 companies did not apply for renewal – more than three times the number for the same time last year
- 90 applications are still in the balance – either because the CAA has yet to reach a decision, or because it is waiting for further documentation
- The UK’s ten largest ATOL holders have collectively reduced the number of passengers they are licenced to carry by more than five million
- The big two – Tui and Jet2holidays – have decreased their Atol licences by more than three million between them.
- Licences are variable and can be increased as the year progressed, but are an indicator of the programmes tour operators plan for the coming year – with the drop in the figures indicative of a contraction in the travel industry as it battles with the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.
It’s a sure sign of the huge financial pressure the industry is under, says Nick Trend of the Daily Telegraph. First because fewer companies not only means less choice, less competition and higher prices; And second because it makes an already complex financial protection system that much more confusing.
Jet2holidays has cancelled holidays and city breaks in Malta, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Lisbon as a result of Covid-19. The tour operator told travel agents today that its Malta programme from Stansted has been cancelled for this winter and summer 2021.
However, it reacted to the government's travel ban to Turkey by adding more flights to Corfu, Kos, Rhodes and Madeira for October.
Attraction World has announced a long-term partnership with the relaunched Thomas Cook to supply experiences and ticketing technology.
Gold Medal and Travel 2 Merger
Following the merging of the two dnata Travel Europe trade brands Gold Medal and Travel 2, Managing Director Lisa McCauley said they wouldn’t have gone ahead with it if it hadn’t been for the pandemic.
Majority of travel firms predict they will get through crisis
The Summit Advisory Travel Business Barometer, produced by accountancy firm Elman Wall, found 45.2% of clients said they were “surviving but hibernating” and 37.8% said they were also surviving but planned more cost-cutting, reports TTG.
Data for September and October found only 1% said they were recovering, while 5% said they were “surviving but stable” and 2% “struggling to recover”.
More optimistically, the majority of firms surveyed predicted they would get through the crisis, with 37.8% saying they would recover and grow independently and 32.6% saying only they would recover and survive. Only 2% were planning to close.
Just over half – 52.6% - were more pessimistic than at the start of lockdown and 20% were more optimistic. Among the firms surveyed, 81% had furloughed staff but only 36.8% had taken some form of state aid including the CBILS loan facility.
Manchester Airport Group
Manchester Airport Group (MAG), which also owns the Stansted and East Midlands hubs, has blamed the reduction in government support and the bleak outlook for travel as it confirmed 900 jobs are at risk across its three airports.
It said 465 roles at Manchester Airport, 376 roles at Stansted Airport and 51 at East Midlands Airport are under threat.
MAG Chief Executive Charlie Cornish said: "By now, we would have hoped to see a strong and sustained recovery in demand. Unfortunately, the resurgence of the virus across Europe and the reintroduction of travel restrictions have meant this has not happened.”
EasyJet is reporting its first full-year loss in the company’s 25-year history, with losses for the year totalling £1.25 billion that include losses on fuel hedging and the costs of 1,100 staff cuts.
The 48 million passengers that EasyJet carried in its financial year to the end of September were half the number handled in 2018-19, taking its traffic volumes back to 2010 levels.
The airline will fly only 25% of its capacity in Q4 2020. EasyJet says it remains financially sound despite burning through cash at a rate of £700 million a quarter as it has £2.3 billion in cash. It has also raised debt, including £600 million from the UK’s Covid facility; sold and leased back planes; and tapped shareholders for £419 million in June.
It’s unlikely that EasyJet is looking for a bailout, says The Times, even though EU rivals have benefited from governments with contrasting approach: €20 billion of bailouts for Lufthansa, Air France and Alitalia, for example. Mr Lundgren just wants clarity on government policy. “The UK government urgently needs to step up with a bespoke package of measures to ensure airlines are able to support economic recovery when it comes”. Mr Lundgren just wants clarity on government policy. “I don’t think there is a plan for UK aviation.”
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has submitted a restructuring plan to the Netherlands ministry of finance and is seeking government loans and guarantees to the value of €3.4 billion, reports Breaking Travel News.
Qatar Airways has boosted its winter schedule in line with passenger and cargo demand and the continued relaxation of entry restrictions around the world. In total, the carrier hopes to offer 124 destinations over the coming months.
Wizz Air suffered a near-60 per cent drop in passengers in September, the month in which it had been hoping to step up its recovery.
Farewell to the 747
The final two Boeing 747 jumbo jets belonging to British Airways flew from Heathrow Airport on Thursday 8 October. The pandemic has hastened the retirement, but global airlines across the world are replacing the iconic aircraft, which has been in service for 50 years, and bought flying to the masses. Today, it is deemed to be too big, too noisy, too expensive, too greedy of fuel consumption, and too much of a polluter. Airlines are now moving to smaller, greener and more flexible fleets.
HORRORS FOR HOSPITALITY
Governments have started to target the hospitality sector to try and curb the speed of infection rates of Covid-19, as the virus resurges. Paris closed all bars completely from Tuesday; Berlin will impose an 11pm closing time for bars and restaurants from Saturday and cafes and bars in Brussels are closing for a month from Wednesday.
Meanwhile pubs and restaurants in the central belt of Scotland are to close at 6pm today and will not reopen until at least 25 October.
HOSPA, the Hospitality Professionals Association, has launched the slightly clunkier sounding #SleepOverToHelpTurnover, with hotels offering potential guests incentives to book a stay.
Incentives will differ with each hotel, but these can range from a complimentary bottle of wine in the guest’s room, to a room upgrade or even a free additional night.
The UK economy continued its recovery in August, growing by 2.1%, as staycations, easing lockdown measures and the Eat Out to Help Out scheme boosted restaurants, reports the BBC.
It marked the fourth consecutive month of expansion following the slump induced by the coronavirus lockdown.
But the figure was below expectations and the economy is still 9.2% smaller than before the pandemic struck.
Growth in August was slower than the 8.7% expansion seen in June and the 6.6% rise in July.
A report out today by Standard and Charter Bank shows a fall in consumer spending since the summer, so it looks like the high point of recovery has happened. The economy is facing further restrictions from the pandemic, so income for most companies will flatten, and despite an improvement in employment, the end of the furlough scheme will result in further redundancies. All of these factors combined with concerns over a no-deal Brexit, point to a weak economy in the fourth quarter.
UBS analyst Jarrod Castle told the UK’s Institute of Travel Management (ITM): “The crisis will take several years to get through”, reports Travel Weekly.
“Corporate travel faces a lengthy downturn from the Covid crisis due not just to travel restrictions but to working from home and the environmental challenges.
“After the financial crisis [in 2008] it took five years for airports to recover lost traffic.”
He said: “The bottleneck is around governments.”
Elsewhere, Credit Suisse said that international business travel will remain 65% down on 2019 next year. It warns the corporate travel market may only recover to 80%-90% of its 2019 level by 2024.
In a report on the sector at the end of September, Credit Suisse suggests availability of a vaccine “at critical scale on a global basis” will stimulate a recovery and “should see recovery gain more momentum” in 2022.
The UK government has signed off a new-tiered system of measures for England. Pubs, restaurants and cafes in areas in the highest tier will have to close for 16 days and a published map shows that 214 towns and cities fall into the harshest tier because they are reporting over 50 cases per 100,000. It is expected that these measures will be officially announced on Monday. There have been reports of high levels of divisions amongst the cabinet over the measures.
The Times reported that visitors to Wales from Covid hotspots in the rest of Britain could soon be forced to quarantine under plans being considered by the Welsh government.
The new restrictions will cast doubt over many people’s half-term holidays, reports Rachel Cranshaw in The Daily Telegraph.
The Moroccan National Tourist Office (MNTO) has confirmed that the country’s border regulations have been relaxed to international visitors, including passengers from the UK. Visitors have to present a negative Covid test on arrival and Morocco is not currently on England’s FCO travel corridor list.
Only three American states are reporting a decline in new coronavirus cases compared to last week, as the US hit its highest daily rate of new cases in almost two months. As of Saturday night, new cases were down in Texas, Missouri and South Carolina while 21 states reported a rise in cases. Just over half held steady.
Tourists hoping to visit Australia will have to wait until at least the end of next year, reports Metro, when the country is expected to have most of the population vaccinated against Covid-19. Australian Federal Budget papers say international travel will “remain low” until 2021. New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and some Pacific islands including Fiji are likely to be the first, but there is no sign of when people from the UK and other European countries can visit again.
Saudi Arabia has reopened the holy city of Mecca to pilgrims for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Only 6,000 people a day are allowed to enter the Grand Mosque complex.
Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda is the latest Caribbean hotspot to open its doors to 'digital nomads', reports The Mirror.
The island destination has launched a new visa specifically aimed for remote workers, meaning you can do your job while living on its islands for up to two years. The offer is open to solo travellers, couples and even families. The 'Nomad Residence' visa allows remote workers to come and live on the island and enjoy the same benefits as residents, while still working for a company back home.
Jamaica Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, has outlined how rural and community tourism will drive recovery in Jamaica, reports ETurbo News.
A budget airline is offering free flights in the month of October to central Florida-bound passengers who share the name of the city of Orlando.
Frontier Airlines announced it partnered with Visit Orlando, the city's tourism authority, to offer free flights to Orlando between 13 and 20 October for anyone with the first or last name Orlando.
LUXURY TRAVEL MEDIA UPDATE
A Social with Media webinar on 8 October took place with Lisa Grainger, travel editor of Times luxury supplement Luxx, Uwern Jong, editor-in-chief of quarterly luxury travel journal targeting gay men - OutThere Magazine, April Hutchinson, editor of TTG Luxury and Caoilfhionn Maguire, contributing travel editor of Arcadia, a luxury travel, style and culture magazine published biannually and featured online. They revealed the following trends and updates.
Times Luxx is focusing on staycations and trying to find those fabulous luxurious places here in our own country or not too far away / places with travel corridors that we can all go to.
OutThere and Arcadia however are focusing on travel inspiration and providing a lot more emphasis on ‘why’ readers should travel to any featured destination. There’s a focus on transformational travel and unique out of the box experiences.
OutThere says there is a trend with a more socially conscious bias, ‘woke travel’ with diversity and inclusion in mind but also sustainability and conservation.
- Luxury travellers will travel, where there’s a will there’s a way – in a poll, 88% of its said they have travelled already since borders opened on 15 June, with most trips being short-haul travel.
- People are starting to talk about longer-haul travel, winter sun and whether they are going to be able to get to their favourite ski resort this year.
- Significant interest in Africa, in particular safari so its Spring 2021 print issue will be dedicated to South Africa
- Small ship cruises are bouncing back in terms of interest.
- Emerging trend: Becoming a working nomad. There’s a number of luxury hotels and villas really jumping on this bandwagon. For many of its readers, with the winter looming, working away has become a seriously attractive prospect in quarantining with friends or other half somewhere fabulous.
- Some are already taking the risk as the quarantine rules may change in the next few weeks as rapid testing improves and becomes the norm
- The newsletter this week included Thailand, St. Lucia, Costa Rica, Italy as well as Scotland
- They’ve had to pivot to more digital content, with the print issue coming back in November.
- There is a paradigm shift especially in the fact that there is a stronger sense of community, humanity and better caretaking for the world.
- People are looking for things that feel good and post-Covid people will be much more conscious.
- There are so many people that haven’t been able to travel and it will be affecting their mental health, so we have the power to use travel as a force for good.
TTG Luxury said:
TTG and TTG Luxury are rolled into one at the moment, but the printed quarterly magazine will be back in 2020.
They’ve been doing training for agents, working closely with tourist boards and this week there’s been ‘Florida Fest’ including a yoga class and beer tasting. Please get in touch with LOTUS for partnership opportunities with TTG.
The TTG Plus membership provides content, resources and access to live and archived content.
- They want new and different travel features and round-ups.
- Trend for luxury villas
- Audience has largely travelled to Europe over the summer, but some have been lucky enough to have access to private jets
- The human element of travel is what matters the most
- Focusing on any destination, with priority on where people can actually go. But they’re still inspiring people to travel from their armchair and dream about the places they can go in the future.
Times Luxx said:
- People will be obsessed with cleanliness going forward.
- There will be a lot more technology being introduced such as touch-free check in points. The days of the mini bar will be gone.
- There’s going to be a lot more distance, which is going to be hard for the hotels as they’ve tried so hard to be present.
- Safety is going to be built into people’s holiday plans.
- People want to go to places that other people have been to and have said these are incredibly safe and that you’re in good hands.
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