London,
14
May
2020
|
14:08
Europe/London

LOTUS CORONAVIRUS UPDATE (14.05)

EU COMMISSION GUIDELINES TO REBOOT TOURISM 

A difficult 2020 summer season  

On Wednesday the EU published a package of guidelines and recommendations to help Member States gradually lift travel restrictions and allow tourism businesses to reopen and recover, while respecting necessary health precautions.

The package includes an overall strategy for recovery and recommendations and guidelines for:

Border controls  

Recommendations are that as Member States reduce infection rates, blanket restrictions to free movement should be replaced by targeted measures. If a generalised lifting of restrictions is not justified by the health situation, the Commission proposes a phased and coordinated approach that starts by lifting restrictions between areas or Member States with sufficiently similar epidemiological situations. The approach must also be flexible, including the possibility to reintroduce certain measures if infection rates go up.

Member States should act on the basis of the following 3 criteria:

  • Infection rates improving
  • the ability to apply containment measures throughout the whole journey including at border crossings, including additional safeguards and measures where physical distancing may be difficult to ensure
  • economic and social considerations, initially prioritising cross-border movement in key areas of activity and including personal reasons.

The BBC reported that the European Commission said its guidance was based on the principles of safety and non-discrimination. Tourism provided almost 10% of Europe's economic output and millions of jobs across the 27 Member States relied on it.

Transport  

Guidelines and recommendations have been provided for air, rail, road and waterways and include:

  • The need to limit contact between passengers and transport workers, and passengers themselves, reducing, where feasible, the density of passengers.
  • Where physical distancing is difficult to ensure additional measures are put in place for example, wearing face masks.
  • Doors should be opened automatically or remotely by the driver at every stop – no need to touch any buttons or door handles.
  • Protocols when passengers present with symptoms
  • There is no direct recommendation to social distance on aircraft, [however, the forthcoming health and safety protocol that is being developed by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) will specify additional risk mitigation measures to address physical distancing on board].

Tourism Services 

Guidelines cover accommodation, restaurants, bars & cafes, beaches, outdoor leisure areas (no mention of indoor attractions).

Restoration of services can only proceed if criteria are met and these include:

  • evidence showing that the spread of the disease has significantly decreased and stabilised for a sustained period of time, and is likely to remain stable with the increased tourist population.
  • That the local health system has enough capacity for local people and tourists;
  • That robust surveillance and monitoring is in place in the form of testing capacity and contact tracing.

Travel vouchers 

Under pre-existing regulations, consumers have a choice between refunds and vouchers if package travel holidays or transport arrangements are cancelled. The new guidelines reaffirm the right but, to help travel companies under current pressures, the voluntary vouchers should be financially protected against insolvency, with a minimum validity period of 12 months, and be refundable after at most one year, if not redeemed.

They should also provide passengers sufficient flexibility; should allow the passengers to travel on the same route under the same service conditions or the travellers to book a package travel contract with the same type of services or of equivalent quality. They should also be transferable to another traveller.

Contact tracing apps  

Guidelines have been agreed to ensure contact tracing apps can work across the EU states so that citizens can receive alerts of a potential infection when they travel within the EU. This will guide developers working with national health authorities. Such tracing apps must be voluntary, transparent, temporary, cybersecure, use anonymised data; should rely on Bluetooth technology and work across borders as well as across operating systems.

Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, said: “Today we propose a common European approach to managing what will remain a difficult 2020 summer season, while preparing for a more sustainable and digital tourism ecosystem in the future.”

 

UK’S ROADMAP TO RECOVERY 

There has been a deluge of criticism following the Prime Minister’s Sunday evening TV speech when he announced top-line changes to restrictions around the pandemic in the UK with details not released until the next day.

“It looked amateurish, panicky even,” said Simon English of the Evening Standard. Criticism mainly focused on the lack of detail and clarity of message – and impacts to the travel and tourism sector are in the midst of the miasma of murky messages.

Furthermore, most of the lifting of restrictions is confined to England, with Scotland and Wales not lifting any restrictions and Northern Ireland announcing a different plan altogether on Tuesday.

Quarantine announcement delivers blow to tourism sector  

The Prime Minister confirmed that ‘air’ travellers into the UK would face 14-days of quarantine to ensure that the virus was not reimported. Details of the measure were thin on the ground, but travellers from France and Ireland were to be exempt.

On Monday it became apparent that the measure will apply to all modes of transport not just air. The Government published a 60-page document ‘Our Plan to Rebuild’, which has already been amended since its launch. Quarantine is mentioned in one paragraph, but not in detail.

Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary admitted on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday that there was no current guidance on it and that it was still under “active consideration”. (Shapps had gone on air to clarify what the Health Secretary had said on Tuesday, who had gone on ITV on Tuesday to clarify the Prime Minister’s messages).

The Times said the quarantine measures will not apply to people travelling within the UK common travel area, which includes the Irish Republic, Channel Islands and Isle of Man. Nor will they cover France after a deal between Mr Johnson and President Macron.

The Evening Standard said ‘the surprise French exemption triggered a surge in enquiries about holidays there.’ However, on Tuesday officials played down hopes of an escape to France this summer with a Downing Street source saying: “The official advice says don’t go on holiday abroad. There is no end date to the guidance.”

We’re not going on a summer holiday  

The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock sought to clarify government messages on ITV’s This Morning, but when asked whether “summer was cancelled” said: “I think that’s likely to be the case. We haven’t made a final decision on that yet, but it is clear we will seek to reopen some hospitality from early July if we keep successfully reducing the spread of this virus.

Social distancing of some kind is going to continue and I think the conclusion from that is that it is unlikely that that big lavish international holidays are going to be possible for this summer. I just think that’s a reality of life.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on Wednesday said that “right now you can’t stay anywhere else overnight and the FCO advises against all travel abroad so right now you can’t book those things.”

He added: “Matt Hancock was pointing out the obvious which is, right now, foreign office advice is you can’t travel.”

When pressed on whether customers should or shouldn’t book a holiday, he said: “Right now you can’t travel abroad. If you are booking at this time you are clearly by its very nature taking a chance on where the direction of this virus goes and therefore where the travel advice is in the future, so that is not something that people would want to take lightly of course.”

Shapps was also asked about operators’ and airlines’ hopes of resuming some services for the summer season and said: “People will have to take a view on where we will be at some point in the future.”

In the meantime, however, tour operators such as Jet2 said that they would continue to plan to recommence flights and holidays on 17 June and that Hancock’s comments were not government policy.

Similarly, TUI had been planning to start flights and holidays from the UK from mid-June but in its trading statements this week revised the start dates to July, whilst Ryanair is planning to restart flights again from 1 July. However, Willie Walsh, IAG CEO which owns British Airways said that they would have to ‘review’ their plans to start flying in July if quarantine measures did come into force.

The European Regions Airline Association branded the measures designed to combat the spread of coronavirus as “arduous”.

“Imposing complicated quarantine measures, which are unlikely to be controlled or enforced, provide no strategic benefit,” the ERA added. “Quarantine measures will enforce a stalemate situation that benefits neither the passenger nor the airline.”

 

THE REFUND ISSUE 

Travel Weekly reports that the Government has confirmed that refund Credit Notes are an acceptable alternative to cash refunds for cancelled holidays and will be financially protected, despite making no formal announcement.

The confirmation by the Department for Business (BEIS) appears in a ‘Business Companion Coronavirus Bulletin’ on travel, issued jointly by the department and the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) on 7 May.

This acknowledges the Package Travel Regulations “still apply” and says “a full refund or rebooking (if Abta or Atol-protected) should be offered”. But it notes “the strict application of legislation may not be appropriate” and states “a credit note will be financially protected”.

It also notes Competition and Markets Authority advice that “credits, rebooking or rescheduling may be offered as an alternative to a refund” although “a refund should still be an option that is clearly and easily available.”

TTG reported that an ABTA spokesperson said: “If this had been confirmed earlier by Government it would have helped avoid a lot of concern and confusion among customers.

“It would be helpful if the CAA could now also publicly confirm the same, as suggested by the current wording on its website.”

The Telegraph travel team reports that refunds and cancelled holidays still continue to be biggest issues for readers.

But now people are increasingly contacting the paper to ask about paying balances for summer holidays which are due now so guiding them through that is the biggest issue right now for travel consumers.

 

ECONOMY  

UK: Significant recession 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak acknowledged the “significant impact” that the virus was having on the economy, telling Sky News on Wednesday that “it is now very likely that the UK is facing a significant recession at the moment and this year”.

The Financial Times says that the UK economy shrank at the fastest monthly pace on record in March as the coronavirus lockdown triggered a crash in activity and demand. UK gross domestic product fell by 5.8 per cent in March compared with the previous month, the largest drop since the monthly series began in 1997, according to first estimates by the Office for National Statistics.

In the first quarter, UK GDP fell by 2 per cent compared with the previous quarter, its largest fall since the financial crisis.

The lockdown was only in place for seven working days in the first three months of the year, but it was still enough to bring about the biggest quarterly economic contraction since the peak of the financial crisis and the weakest single-month change on record,” said James Smith, research director at the Resolution Foundation, a think-tank. “With the country in full or partial lockdown well into the second half of the year, the grim economic milestones hit in the latest data will be shattered next time around,” he warned.

1 in 3 small firms ‘may shut for ever’  

The Times says that one in three companies that have temporarily shut during the lockdown fear that they may never reopen. According to a survey of thousands of small businesses by the Federation of Small businesses a sudden retraction of government support would pose a threat to “millions of livelihoods”.

Three quarters of employers expect to benefit from Tuesday’s extension of the jobs support scheme to October and the ability to bring furloughed workers back part-time from August. However, employers are expected to help the Government pay for the furlough scheme from August and there are doubts over how many will be able to do so.

Four in ten companies said they had been forced to close since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in the UK. Of those that have closed, 35 per cent are not sure whether they will reopen again, the FSB found.

 

AVIATION 

There has been a dramatic plunge in air travel since the start of the lockdown. Passenger numbers at Heathrow by the end of March had dropped down 97%. This has resulted in a number of announcements for planned job losses in aviation, including:

  • 12,000 at BA
  • 3,150 at Virgin
  • 3,000 at Ryanair

BA 

Willie Walsh, CEO of IAG, speaking at the UK Transport Select Committee said: "We had been planning to resume, on a pretty significant basis, our flying in July. I think we'd have to review that based on what the Prime Minister said." Walsh also estimated that demand for flights may return “by 2023 or 2024” but there will be no return “to the way we were” in 2019.

"We have to ensure we are in shape to survive in an environment that will be significantly different. There is no point surviving in the short-term only to collapse."

When asked about rumours that BA might not return to its operation at Gatwick, Walsh said he does see a future for the airline at the airport. “I think Gatwick is a better airport than Heathrow in many ways. I think it’s better run and the management team are more commercial. I think the customer base is one that we would want to serve. The challenge we face is that we have to do what is right in the environment that exists.”

Asked the same question about London City airport, he said it is something that will have to be discussed in the restructuring consultation and pointed out the hub has faced the greatest challenge as the coronavirus impact took hold, as it was one of the first in Europe to physically close. “I think that clearly points to the specific customer segment that supports London City airport. Our future there is something we’ll consider in our consultation.”

Ryanair 

Despite the quarantine announcements from the Government and no sign of the Foreign Office lifting its advice against all non-essential travel, Ryanair is to fly 40% of fleet from July if EU travel bans are lifted. The Evening Standard has said that in the clearest sign yet that the aviation industry is gearing up for a return to international travel, the budget airline said that the restart would involve 1,000 flights a day and the restoration of 90% of its network.

Crew and passengers will be required to wear face masks and pass temperatures test.

Passengers will be asked to observe social distancing measures at airports and onboard aircraft "where it is possible"; this includes no queuing for toilets, which will be accessible on request.

Virgin  

Despite hiring restructuring specialists Alvarez and Marsal to draw up contingency plans in case of insolvency, Virgin has announced flight programmes for 2021 from Heathrow, Manchester, Glasgow, and Belfast, but not Gatwick.

Richard Branson, who owns 51% of Virgin Atlantic, is selling his stake in Virgin Galactic to raise $500 million to pump into his other businesses, including Virgin Atlantic.

Avianca files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy 

Avianca, which last year, offered almost 40 million seats on routes across Latin America, has filed for bankruptcy protection after travel bans across the region forced the airline to ground its fleet reports Breaking Travel News, 

Avianca, one of the largest airlines in Latin America, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the US, blaming the coronavirus pandemic for the “most challenging crisis” in its 100-year history.

The Colombian carrier sought bankruptcy protection in a New York court on Sunday (10 May) having so far failed to secure a government bailout.

Airlines resuming flights in June 

Business Traveller reports on a number of airlines planning to resume some flight schedules in June. Those planning routes to the UK include:

American Airlines; Cathay Pacific, KLM and Emirates (who continue to fly to London). Turkish Airlines has also said that it will fly to 19 destinations in June but hasn’t announced which ones.

 

TOUR OPERATORS 

Tour operators could lose £4.5-£5 billion in 2020  

Travel Weekly reports that tour operators could lose between £4.5 billion and £5 billion this year following the Government’s announcement of a 14-day quarantine plan. According to accountancy firm MHA MacIntyre Hudson the plan removes any prospect of an early recovery from the coronavirus crisis for the travel and hospitality sectors.

TUI

Europe’s leading tour operator TUI released its half-year financial results on Wednesday. It reported:

  • A 30% cost-cutting programme which would see up to 8,000 (mostly seasonal, destination-based) jobs cut. This will accelerate the transformation to a digital platform company
  • The FT says that the world’s biggest tour operator would be ready to restart operations in July with some destinations such as the Balearics, Greece and Croatia ready to go now
  • Hotels on Sylt and in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in Germany will open their doors for guests in the coming days
  • For 2020 it ‘will reinvent the holiday’: New destinations, changed travel seasons, new local offerings, more digitalisation, no buffet breakfasts
  • Winter bookings from the UK up 8% year-on-year with Egypt and Canaries popular and long-haul
  • Summer bookings for 2021 were positive
  • Summer 2020 programme was 35% sold
  • A special cruising business will operate this year from Germany offering short duration cruises in the North Sea
  • If a voucher system redeemable against future holidays was not mandated, the ‘whole industry could collapse’
  • Revenues in the quarter to the end of March fell 10 per cent to €2.8bn. Its loss for the period widened to €740.5m from €176.9m a year earlier.
  • The company aims to reduce monthly cash burn to between €250m and €300m
  • Shares have collapsed 70% this year

In addition:

  • The group has released a 10-point plan for increased hygiene and protection measures this week, which it says is being implemented in its hotels worldwide, “offering guests the greatest possible safety”.
  • TUI Group Chief Executive Fritz Joussen dismissed suggestions of a holiday price hike when travel is given the green light – which he expects to be July at the latest, reports TTG 

Kuoni  

Kuoni is poised to launch a new video appointment service on Friday as the operator’s 48 high street stores and John Lewis concessions remain shut during the pandemic, reports TTG.

 

CRUISE 

P&O and Cunard  

The Evening Standard reports that P&O Cruises and Cunard cruise lines are planning to cut around 450 jobs. This represents about a quarter of the workforce at Carnival based in Southampton. Cruise has been suspended until at least July.

P&O Ferries has also announced that it will be ‘right-sizing’ the business post the pandemic and announced 1,100 job losses.

 

TRAVEL TRADE

Travel Agents 

All of the staff for Hays Travel - about 3,000 - have returned to work following the coronavirus lockdown after an invitation for all to resume their duties.

Details were posted by John and Irene Hays on Facebook. 

The couple reported interest for holidays in later in the year – ‘demand for winter and 2021 holidays are strong’. Hays are implementing a cancellation guarantee where consumers can cancel their bookings up to six weeks before and get their money back or change their holiday for no fee.

 

HOSPITALITY & HOTELS

UK Hospitality  

Kate Nicholls, CEO of UK Hospitality has welcomed the Government’s extension to the furlough scheme, but said to the BBC that the sector would come out of the crisis later than other parts of the economy and is in a fragile state – with it unlikely to get back to being profitable until the end of the year. It is the third largest industry in the country but hardest hit by the crisis. She expressed hope that the Government would consider the sector as a special case and not turn off the support too quickly.

WTTC: New global standards  

TTG reported that The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has developed a set of protocols to rebuild confidence among consumers once restrictions on movement are lifted.

The new ‘Safe Travels’ protocols are hygiene and disease prevention standards that have been developed for the hotel and retail sector by the World Health Organisation and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

Key measures for hotels include:

  • A specific focus on cleaning key touch points like room key cards.
  • The retraining of staff in infection control.
  • Contactless payments
  • No-contact room service
  • Social distancing and disinfection in restaurants and bars

Retail advice includes:

  • Thermal scanning of staff and the wearing of face masks
  • Promoting contactless payments by providing complimentary wi-fi to businesses
  • Hand sanitizers at shop entrances and exits
  • Food outlets to offer digital menus
  • Capacity limits in car parks

Gloria Guevara, WTTC president and chief executive, said: “We have learned from the past, especially after the tragedy of 9/11, that a lack of coordination among governments and with the private sector caused long-lasting travel disruption, higher costs and a longer recovery time.”

“Having a common worldwide protocol will allow consumers to recognise the same safety standards wherever they travel,” said Federico Gonzalez, Radisson Hospitality President and Chief Executive.

Best Western 

However, this week, Greek Travel Pages reported that Best Western Hotels & Resorts (BWHR) launched its We Care Clean programme, aiming to ensure a high level of cleaning standards and operational best practices amid the pandemic.

Accor 

Breaking Travel News reported that Franck Gervais, Chief Executive for Accor in Europe was highlighting the company’s development of its own health and safety protocol, which he said could be shared across the industry.

Marriott 

In reporting financial results, Marriott also flagged that new cleaning standards will be ‘front and centre and the company plans to encourage more technology to keep guests and staff members safe.

Skift also reported that a quarter of Marriott’s hotels around the world are temporarily closed due to the pandemic. The hotel giant’s worldwide revenue per room was down 90 percent in April. But the recovery already underway in China is expected to continue in other parts of the world, most likely arriving in Europe last.

Digitally re-opening a hotel website 

Phocuswire has run an advisory piece for boutique hotel websites and recommends

  • Be Covid-Conscious and offer reassurance
  • Offer lenient cancellation policies
  • Present the right message with a modern, clean, easy to use website
  • Maximise website speed
  • Check website metrics

Car Hire  

Despite a strong start to 2020, The Financial Times reports that the pandemic has triggered a global existential crisis for car hire companies.

 In the US, Hertz group this month narrowly swerved bankruptcy and Avis posted a $158m loss in the first quarter, warning of an 80 per cent fall in sales in April and an $800m cash burn between April and June. Germany’s Sixt secured a €1.6bn loan, while Paris-based Europcar tapped its banks for a €220m loan that is 90 per cent guaranteed by the French state.

While some pick-up is expected in the summer, leisure is not expected to return until 2021. But there has been some uplift in demand from surprising quarters, for example, in places where sheltering restrictions are being lifted but vulnerable people are concerned about public transport.

Rail  

Alongside the encouragement from the Government for people who cannot work at home to go back to work this week, there is a confirmation that from Monday 18 May, national rail services will step up.

Frequencies will be similar to regular Saturday services with tubes running at about 70% of what they were before lockdown. With demand down, it is hoped that social distancing will be maintained – at about 13-15% of the normal passengers. So far, this week, reports are that passenger numbers have surged.

 

DESTINATIONS 

Spain  

As infection and death rates in Spain fell, the Spanish Government has authorised a relaxation of its lockdown in most parts of the country on Monday, which meant that bars, restaurants, shops, gyms and museums have reopened with limits on capacity.

The Spanish Government on Tuesday announced that travellers arriving in Spain from abroad will be forced to go into quarantine for two weeks under new rules imposed from Friday 15 May. The quarantine period will initially apply only until later this month (24 May), says The Evening Standard, but is expected to continue.

Travelmole mused: ‘At the moment, most international visitors - including UK tourists - are banned from entering Spain, but the tourism industry had hoped restrictions would be lifted in time for the peak holiday period.

‘However, if Spain were to force UK tourists to quarantine for 14 days once the ban on entry is lifted, they wouldn't be allowed to leave their hotels or holiday apartments except to buy essentials such as food and medicines.

They could also be subject to a further 14-day quarantine when returning to the UK, meaning they would have to spend a month in isolation.’

El Mundo in Spain says that the tourism sector has welcomed the announcement of the quarantine with ‘bewilderment’ as it represents ‘a new blow for Spanish tourism’ – says Jose Luis Zoreda, VP of Exceltur.

Madrid, Barcelona and some other cities remain under stricter controls.

The Guardian reports that pubs, bars and restaurants in Benidorm have been allowed to open as part of Spain's lockdown exit plans but they must stick to stringent health and safety rules including social distancing.

The Sun reports that the islands, which rely on British tourism, are calling for holidaymakers to return by next month. However, Mallorca is likely to only see German tourists by July at the earliest, with Brits expected by August.

The Canary Islands are less positive - the island's president Angel Victor Torres told Spanish daily El Mundo: "In October, November or December, which are good months in the Canary Islands, we can begin to receive tourists from other countries."

In a separate piece, The Guardian reveals that a slump in Airbnb rentals means that landlords are returning to the conventional rental market. Analyst company Transparent revealed that there had been a 98% drop in holiday rentals in Spain since lockdown.

Canary Islands pioneer health passport 

TTG reports that the Canary Islands have partnered with the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to operate the world’s first Covid-19 "safe" flight using a new "digital health passport" app. The app will be piloted in July and will allow passengers to create a unique health data profile on their smartphones that stores their medical records.

Portugal  

Covid-19 cases were low and hotels are already open. However, there is no set date as to when international visitors can return.

France 

Nurseries and primary schools were re-opening on Tuesday and some secondary schools will open on Monday 18 May.

Italy  

The re-opening of restaurants has been brought forward to 18 May rather than 1 June, after a rebellion by regional governors.

Giorgio Palmucci, president of the Italian National Tourist Board, told local media: “We will only start (with tourists) from the European Union, and at the earliest, in July or August.”

Greece  

Tourism employees and professionals should expect to receive the greatest possible support for as long as their operations remain closed due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, said Greece Government spokesman Stelios Petsas on Monday, adding that efforts were being made to salvage what remains of the tourism season.

The Government’s priority is to find ways to stimulate domestic travel and at the same time alternatives to bring incoming visitors to Greece in line with EU guidelines.

“Once we’ve completed planning and depending on the conclusion of European talks, then we will announce a clear strategy for the reopening of tourism, F&B and of all professions related to tourism in Greece,” said Petsas.

Germany  

Germany will end border controls with France, Switzerland and Austria from 15 June.

Denmark 

There will be a significant increase in testing and contact tracing put in place to prevent a second wave.

New Zealand  

With minimal new cases, the country is opening up to domestic tourism this week, but its borders still remain shut to international travel.

Turkey  

The new Istanbul Airport and Sabiha Gokcen International, will start handling passenger traffic from 28 May albeit with strict restrictions.

A four-stage Healthy Tourism Certification has been initiated by Turkey as the country seeks to attract foreign tourists from this summer once Covid-19 lockdown restrictions are eased.

The four main pillars in the certification initiative cover health and safety of passengers and employees, precautions at tourist facilities and transportation.

Under the proposals, passengers will not be allowed to enter airports without facemasks and they will be subject to thermal camera and body temperature measurements at the entrance to terminal buildings.

The Sun reports that Turkey is expected to begin going back to normal life by the second week of May - but tourists will have to wait longer.

The tourism minister added that while some tourists may be welcomed back by the end of June, other countries, including those in Europe, may not be able to enter the country until the end of July at the earliest.

This could also change at the last minute depending on the spread of the virus across Europe.

China 

As curbs on internal travel ease and offices reopen, domestic flights are regaining lost ground. The Economist reports that in the first week of May, a holiday in China, aviation capacity was scheduled to be only 10% lower than in the same period a year ago, estimates consultancy the CAPA Centre for Aviation. In America, meanwhile, it was 73% lower.

China Eastern this month claimed the title of the world’s biggest airline by current seat capacity, according to OAG, an aviation-data firm.

But Chinese carriers have taken a big hit. Revenues at the big three plunged by 46% in the first quarter.

Disney’s Shanghai park, will re-open on 11 May, at below 30% capacity.

The Daily Mail reports that, following new cases emerging for the first time in weeks, Wuhan ordered coronavirus tests on its entire 11 million population. Meanwhile, a local infection cluster has sparked fears of a second wave outbreak. As a result the city of Jilin (4.5 million residents) and Shulan – a city of 60,000 have been put into a new lockdown.

Smart strategies for destinations  

Doug Lansky, destination management and tourism specialist, has highlighted the action points destinations should be doing during lockdown.

He believes that destinations’ response to the pandemic should mirror the response to overtourism. Destinations need to be able to spread out tourists across the year and across their geographical locations. He also believes that tourism strategies need to work for visitors, businesses and locals.

His action points are:

  1. Establish values and objectives of what you want your destination to be post pandemic.
  1. Create new corona safe attractions. Outside attractions will be particularly popular like garden tours, outdoor cafes, outside art exhibits.
  1. Get corona ready. Hotels, restaurants and parks (nature reserves) etc all need to be managed and provide hygiene certifications to give reassurance of safety. Micro traffic jams can build up on hiking trails. Manage outside. Properly certified. Visitors want somewhere safe and trust that the places won’t be overcrowded.
  1. Adopt new technology to manage the crowds. Timed ticket entry systems can help with peak times and this can work equally well on outdoor attractions. It is safer, better and increases total capacity. Setting up digital infrastructure like the Black Forest has done can provide visitors with a smart card – like a hotel key that can let visitors into their hotel rooms, hire car and popular trails. Virtual queuing systems (like theme parks) can provide peace of mind and better checkpoint planning at airports.

 

TRENDS 

Multi-gen holidays  

The Mirror reports that Teletext Holidays is predicting a big rise in multi-generational overseas trips after the Covid-19 outbreak. With many people unable to visit parents and grandparents, the firm is getting more enquires about travelling in extended family groups with a mix of ages. Popular destinations are Turkey, Benidorm and Mallorca.

Camping 

The Telegraph has revealed that Britain is set for a camping boom this summer as staycationers look for socially distanced ways to holiday. Caravan & Motorhome Club says that bookings for July onwards are almost identical to last year.

Long haul holidays popular for end of 2020 

A survey by Travel Supermarket, published in Travel Bulletin shows that UK travellers are keen to book long-haul holidays. The survey also showed:

  • Most popular destinations for holiday price searches by departure months, 2020:
  • September: Tenerife, Las Vegas, Benidorm, Phuket, Orlando
  • October: Las Vegas, the Maldives, Majorca, Tenerife, Corfu
  • November: Benidorm, Fuerteventura, New York, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica
  • December: New York, Tenerife, Maldives, Cancun, Jamaica

 

WHAT THE EDITORS ARE SAYING

The Telegraph

The Telegraph travel team with Head of Travel, Claire Irvin, Head of Print, Ben Ross and Commissioning Editor and Deputy Head of Travel, Nick Trend, talked about the biggest issues for them and the paper in an industry seminar this week.

At the beginning of the pandemic the team was helping readers with ideas for how they can remotely travel. But they’ve moved on from this now and feel readers want to read about the end of this lockdown and are moving towards the future, so their content is about inspiration.

As each destination opens up, there is a new coverage opportunity. Readers are looking towards 2021 and the long, big holidays, but cycling and camping holidays are particularly popular in search right now.

As the readers have different risk profiles and different attitudes to risk, the Telegraph needs to cater to all.

Slower, thoughtful travel  

  • Ben Ross thinks the future is more thoughtful, slower travel. If people are taking a risk in travelling they want to really enjoy the holiday once they get there.
  • Nick Trend said he thinks travel will become more of a luxury. The flipside is that short haul might suffer and short haul will take time to come back.
  • There will be a huge boom time for UK holidays and cruises around UK will also do well.

Cruise 

  • BR thinks cruise demand will be undimmed. The most important thing for travellers is safety on board and cruise industry is working on this. There will be rigorous screening processes before going on ships. River cruises will bring down numbers and make shore excursions smaller groups but this will likely impact costs.

Health and safety 

  • While health and safety will be key, cruises and hotels shouldn’t market themselves on basis of these messages – this will be background narrative.

Pricing 

  • Normally after a crisis prices are dropped to stimulate bookings but in the case of post-Covid the industry will be so strangely constructed with less people on boats and planes that the situation will be different. People might find flights are more expensive but hotels are cheaper which could feed in to people travelling for longer

Flights 

  • Don’t know what the landscape is going to look like so it’s difficult to predict. The suggestion of removing the middle seat is disputed and there are other suggestions being touted such as screens between seats. Difficult for flying to get back to normal until the quarantine period is finished and can’t see flying returning to normal before a year from now.
  • In terms of issues for travellers moving forward the fact that cancellation and postponement won’t be covered by insurance is a barrier to confidence.
  • A positive to come out of the pandemic is for reputable travel companies as people have found a bigger appreciation for the protection that comes with booking a package holiday. Aviation is particularly vulnerable as there’s no scheme to protect people who are booking individual flights
  • BR believes the FCO’s blanket bans aren’t helpful for the industry.
  • The EU will retain open borders. They’re working out how to mix and match and twin destinations and that will expand throughout Schengen. In terms of how they police the health of travellers, the hope is there will be a quick test.
  • Testing regimes for travellers will be in place for the next year or two and this will become normal. Airports will also ensure the entire airport experience is touch free.

Opportunities

  • In 2021 people will want comfort and security. This will lend itself to domestic tourism and other English-speaking destinations (with possible exception of USA). Young people will be different and will be happy to go to places like Asia.
  • Long haul return in November/December
  • Asked what the biggest opportunities for travel are based on current situation, Ben said the appetite for the great outdoors - cycling, hiking etc.
  • NT says that a real opportunity to come out of this is that once destinations are virus-free there will be a period before they return to full tourism capacity and this is a great time for people to experience popular places relatively free of other tourists and as they were 30 years ago eg. Venice, Rome, Pompeii

Travmedia webinar - What travel editors want 

Speakers on this week’s webinar were:

  • Ben Ross – The Telegraph
  • Lyn Hughes – Wanderlust
  • Sophie Lam – i newspaper

Ben Ross, The Telegraph:

Pre-covid he would always be looking for a timely story - anything he can hang a story on – and this still applies.

They are not covering so much news in the travel section at the moment as the situation is so fast-moving - it’s better to cover in main consumer news section of the paper. The travel section is more inspirational at the moment.

He wants to be optimistic (and not focus on how bleak things are) and start building up that travel might be possible this summer.

As things continue to unfold, they’re going to have to be nimble and react to what’s in front of us – think about what’s a week or two ahead of us.

Over the coming weeks, every time a country relaxes quarantine rules or a hotel reopens, this is an opportunity for new story.

He thinks Telegraph readers are looking for camping, walking, hiking, beautiful scenery. Camping is going to be huge as will be villa rentals.

Cruise is huge for The Telegraph and they’ll be returning to it as soon as possible

He doesn’t think consumers want to know about cleanliness and hygiene stories – thinks people don’t want to know about it – they will take that for granted if they’d decided to travel (Sophie Lam agreed)

PRs should beware leaving things too late and everything opening up in July and everyone suddenly wanting to go live with their stories at the same time. There will be so much noise when things do open up so keep front of mind with journalists.

He would like PRs to start presenting ideas that might be viable in July.

He’s happy to be pitched press trips now. For re-arranging pre-covid trips PRs need to speak to him to reconfirm they still work – don’t assume.

Lyn Hughes, Wanderlust:

The magazine is coming out this week instead of two weeks ago and they’ve changed 50% of content

Wanderlust website is increasingly important – they’ve completely changed the content to reflect the times. They used to know what content would be running seasonally but in the last two or three months this has changed. They’re putting up two or three pieces of content per day and content has evolved each week. They’re looking for fresh content that will work at this time so working with PRs more than ever before. Traffic is increasing on website – 25% yoy.

They’re doing lots of armchair travel and virtual tours and are keeping their virtual tours updated so keep sending them this content

They’re doing fun content such as quizzes which are doing really well. This is an opportunity for PRs.

They’re looking for good news stories – an example being a round-up of positive wildlife stories from around the world.

For next issue of the magazine she still doesn’t know what 50% of the content will be as she’s waiting to see what happens, which countries re-open first - so will be looking for things at short notice.

Lyn thinks people want to feel they’ll be travelling again and they want to feel good about their travels

Self-drive touring and motorhomes will do really well.

She’s already looking at holidays for 2021.

They found from their recent reader survey that the pandemic had made readers think again about travel and they won’t take it for granted again.

Sophie Lam, i newspaper:

The i has been formally taken over by DMGT (who owns Daily Mail) a couple of weeks ago (no longer Johnston Press) so now readers are very different from Independent readers – they’re older and predominantly live outside London.

They still syndicate copy from Financial Times and The Economist and run Simon Calder’s column.

Last year they launched the Staycation Awards and they will pick these up again next year and hopefully celebrate a good summer / autumn for the domestic tourism industry

Pre-covid, Sophie’s travel section was 8 pages. She doesn’t have a team so does everything, with digital news journalists picking up news during the week.

The i doesn’t feature high end trips – readers are price-conscious - £2,000 max holiday budget.

Their readers are searching for when they can go on holiday at the moment. Overwhelming search from readers is for big open spaces.

Sophie isn’t planning longer than a week ahead at the moment. Features are pegged to news.

They’re running a lot of “distractions” – such as quizzes and virtual travel.

They’re doing a column with Lonely Planet writers at the moment.

They’re talking to high profile travellers about where they’re looking to travel to.

Most i readers are outside London so she’s being careful about not implying that tourism is going to be unleashed on their areas as this is a concern for them

They’re looking for good news stories – gave an example of a tour operator saying refund money is going to local African tour guides.