LOTUS CORONAVIRUS UPDATE (16.10)
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps revealed that the Global Taskforce is likely to recommend a “test and release” system involving “a single test about a week after arrival” to Prime Minister Boris Johnson in early November. He dismissed accusations that the Government was dragging its feet: “The announcement of the taskforce was not day one of a very lengthy process.”
The revelations were announced at ABTA’s Travel Convention this week. He said that the Chief Medical Officer has ruled out a single test at arrivals as it is clear from work with scientists and colleagues in other countries that it would not capture enough information on those who are asymptomatic – it would pick up about 7% of those who are asymptomatic.
The test would be at the cost of the passenger, so not to burden the NHS.
“Accepting a day-zero test on arrival could allow significant numbers of people to believe they are Covid free when they not, and that would create a new problem for the travel industry.”
Shapps has also said that they haven’t ruled out pre-departure testing.
Mark Tanzer, CEO of ABTA said: “The Secretary of State said a lot of work has already been done, but we have yet to see evidence of that. We need to know how the logistical side of this is going to work.”
In a separate webinar with the Federation of Small Businesses, Baroness Dido Harding, Head of NHS Test and Trace, said they were working closely with border teams but gave no reassurance on the implementation of a timetable. When asked by Focus Travel Partnership whether testing would be implemented by the end of the Brexit transition period, she said: “I doubt it will be a silver bullet to fighting the virus and changing the need for us to be very cautious if people are travelling from very high risk environments.”
UK TOUGHENS RESTRICTIONS
This week, due to increased levels of infections, the UK Government announced that a new three-tier system would be implemented for grading the severity of Covid-19: Tier 1 – Medium; Tier 2 for High risk and Tier 3 Very High. Most of the country is in the lowest tier – medium – with Liverpool and Merseyside in the highest category. On Thursday 15 October, it was announced that London would move into the Tier 2 category and on Friday, Essex, Barrow-in-Furness, York, north-east Derbyshire, Erewash and Chesterfield will also move to high-alert restrictions this weekend. A major row has broken out between the Government and regional councils in Greater Manchester and Lancashire over whether the region should be moved up to the toughest tier.
The devolved nations of Scotland and Wales have both implemented their own stricter measures and Northern Ireland will be the first part of the UK to instigate a “circuit breaker” regime of restrictions - including advice that “no unnecessary travel should be undertaken”; schools will close for two weeks rather than one over half term and hospitality venues will close for four weeks from Friday (16 October) to 13 November.
The changes have obvious implications for travel and holidays, particularly for the imminent school October half term at the end of the month. The national media’s travel pages have jumped to advise:
Those that live inside an area with local restrictions in England can still go on holiday outside that area – in Britain and abroad, as long as any indoor socialising they do is only with members of their own household or support bubble.
- It is permitted to stay in a hotel or B&B with another household if you avoid sharing rooms with people you don’t live with and don’t socialise with them in restaurants and bars. However, for Tier 3 areas, the advice is that you should not leave if you live there unless it is essential (work or school)
- The Welsh Government is preparing to prevent people who live in areas of the UK with high levels of coronavirus from travelling to Wales
- There are no specific legal bans on travel currently beyond the national rules on social distancing and meeting. However, hospitality venues have either been closed or face strict curfew measures. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has, however, asked people not to book overseas holidays during the October half-term break.
As a result of Northern Ireland’s circuit breaker measures, EasyJet Holidays has “proactively called” all customers in Northern Ireland to promise “protection and flexibility” to its customers.
SECTOR SPECIFIC SUPPORT
Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary, at the virtual ABTA Convention rejected the idea that the government had been slow to offer sector-specific support for travel, saying: “There has been billions in support to the travel industry. I think I’m right in saying aviation has been the most paid-out sector.”
He argued: “We have tried to strike a balance between protecting citizens and support for safe travel. Let me assure you the contribution of travel to the economy is understood by everyone in government.
He suggested “55,000 staff in aviation have benefited from furlough” and said: “11% of total funding was provided to aviation.”
ABTA Chief Executive Mark Tanzer criticised Grant Shapps statement as ‘retrospective’: “I don’t think it took on board that we are still in the middle of this crisis…The furlough may have saved jobs but it’s about what’s going to happen for the next six months as well. And it’s really critical that we do have support.
“The travel corridors he mentioned – they’re mainly shut at the moment….He [Shapps] is the Secretary of State for Transport. I understand other sectors will be queuing up too, but he has to go in and bat for this sector.”
In consumer research released this week by ABTA, only 15% of people took a foreign holiday between February and July, with 87% of consumers saying they were taking fewer holidays because of the pandemic.
The current government restrictions around international travel are a major contributing factor in people’s reticence to travel, with 93% of people concerned about potential last-minute changes to Foreign Office travel advice and 4 in 5 people concerned about having to quarantine when they return from holiday to the UK.
More than half of consumers think the travel industry must reopen in a greener way, and ABTA has also published a Tourism for Good report outlining the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on global travel and the need to “rebuild a more responsible and resilient tourism industry”.
Exodus Travels’ Community Kickstart Project
As an example of Tourism for Good, the Community Kickstart Project has been devised by adventure specialist Exodus Travels to help support local communities around the world who are without incomes until tourists return due to the Covid-19 pandemic, reports Travel Weekly. Nine grass roots communities are already approved and funding will be provided via the Exodus Travel Foundation.
The company has already committed £10,000 to the fund and is aiming to double the total by the end of 2020 through donations. Projects have been identified in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Namibia, Nepal, Peru, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
Meanwhile, The Independent has highlighted how PPE has become this year’s concern for beach conservation.
- Only one in 10 UK adults is planning a trip abroad in the next six months, according to the latest YouGov research on travel intentions, reports Travel Weekly.
However, two out of three travellers would be willing to take a Covid test at an airport on return from travel.
The YouGov study, conducted at the end of September, also found a drop of 12 percentage points to 34% in the proportion of UK adults planning a domestic holiday in the next six months.
However, that decline would fit the normal seasonal pattern.
Surprisingly, the research found one third (32%) of adults said they would be willing to travel and self-isolate for two weeks on their return to the UK in line with government quarantine restrictions.
Younger travellers aged 18-24 and those aged over 65 were most happy to self-isolate, with 35% of both groups saying they would do so.
YouGov found better off young adults in London were most likely to have international travel plans, with 19% of Londoners planning to travel, along with 16% of 18-24-year-olds and 14% of those in social class ABC1.
The researchers reassured the travel industry that they could still win business with targeted campaigns to those 11% of consumers who want to travel in the next six months.
Other research from icelolly.com has found that holidaymakers continue to “flex to fit” to overseas destinations as they become available without the need to quarantine on return.
- New polling shows voters overwhelmingly back tough coronavirus restrictions despite suffering financially from them. Almost half of those surveyed by YouGov think that national measures are not tough enough, while just one in seven think measures are too strict.
Grant Shapps’ commented on the Brexit negotiations in conjunction with the travel industry at the ABTA virtual Travel Convention by saying: “We’re nearing the end of the Brexit transition period and seeking arrangements to ensure connectivity.
“We remain hopeful an agreement can be reached – it’s critical flights between the UK and EU can continue to operate as normal.
“We expect the EU to bring forward contingency arrangements if there is no agreement, as they have done before, and we would reciprocate that.
“Even though we’re leaving the EU, we’re not leaving Europe.”
Mark Tanzer responded to the comments by saying: “I was alarmed by the Secretary of State’s response. He seems to be waiting for the EU.
“An early statement from him and from the EU [on aviation] is absolutely essential. We need systems in place to get customers confident they can travel again.”
AIR CORRIDOR UPDATE
Italy is to have its travel corridor with England removed this weekend due to rising Covid-19 infections in the country, whereas the Greek island of Crete, will have its travel corridor restored from 4am on Sunday.
Which? Travel editor Rory Boland said: “The government’s travel corridors system has all but collapsed, with most destinations now removed from the list and holidaymakers with trips booked to Italy for half term facing the potentially lengthy and stressful process of trying to claw their money back from their airline or travel provider, reports Travel Weekly. Holiday companies such as EasyJet Holidays and Thomas Cook immediately cancelled holidays to Italy.
Quarantine restrictions now apply to more than 60 countries, including most of Europe, North America, South America, Africa and the Middle East. Some Asian countries can be visited but many are closed to international arrivals.
UK and American officials are devising plans for an "air corridor" between London and New York to avoid prolonged coronavirus quarantines with Thanksgiving on 26 November and Christmas drawing nearer.
HOLIDAY TO HELP OUT
TTG has launched a “Holiday To Help Out” initiative to kick-start the industry and drive consumers through the doors of travel agents.
The scheme will take place between 2-8 November, with suppliers offering discounts and special offers on holidays available only through travel agents, as highlighted on the dedicated website holidaytohelpout.com.
CORPORATE BUSINESS TRAVEL UPDATE
The BTA (Business Travel Association) has put together a consultation White Paper on new TMC pricing models covering transaction fees; subscription fees and management fees, reports BTNEurope. Current transaction models have been in place for a generation, and are little liked by the industry because of the huge amount of work that goes on behind the scenes.
The paper calls for clarity on pricing and transparency about what each model includes.
The ATPI Group has expanded its international partner network in key markets across Africa, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and South America, reports BTNEurope. ATPI's network now includes more than 100 offices worldwide.
As BBC consumer programmes, such as Radio 4’s You & Yours, still report on customers not having received refunds on holidays due to be taken at the start of lockdown, ABTA’s Mark Tanzer defended the creation of Refund Credit Notes and its stance on refunds generally. He said the concept of Refund Credit Notes had been created “to protect customers’ refunds when they could not be paid immediately, and in handling the tens of thousands of refund claims following failures.”
Gloria Guevara, Chief Executive of the World Travel & Tourism Council updated ABTA’s Travel Convention audience on how they have presented governments with their 100 million Job Recovery Plan, which has been drawn up because “we can’t afford not to travel until a vaccine becomes available.” The plan presented at the beginning of this month provides commitments from the private sector around ensuring everyone travels with Covid-19 insurance cover and that flexible booking conditions are offered in all cases to allow people to change plans without incurring fees.
She also backed low-cost, fast-result testing before departure and the removal of blanket quarantines.
Guevara said the world must learn from previous crises, citing 9/11 which had had a long, u-shape recovery because there was limited collaboration between different governments.
She added: “It was very painful to have so many different protocols around the world.”
She said other crises had proved that “it is possible to have a faster, v-shape recovery if you act in a co-ordinated way” in terms of re-opening borders and establishing air corridors.
Guevara said 120 countries or destinations had now received the WTTC’s Safe Travels Stamp and urged agents to look for it when customers ask where would be best for them to travel to. Peru, Bahamas and Puerto Rico are the latest destinations to adopt the global safety and hygiene stamp.
EU TRAFFIC LIGHT SYSTEM
In a separate development on Tuesday, the EU approved a ‘traffic light’ system designed to coordinate approaches to travel between member states.
Under the agreement, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control will publish a weekly map with each region given a green, amber or red rating based on levels of new cases in the preceding 14 days and the rate of positive tests.
Despite the approval of the system, countries are still able to set their own policies in relation to quarantine and testing, and a number of members abstained from the vote.
Heathrow’s traffic fell to 1.2 million passengers in September, down 82% year on year, with the loss of 5.5 million passengers. Edinburgh airport also reported that it was facing “tough choices” over staffing with an admission that it will not break even until 2021. The Scottish capital’s aviation gateway suffered a 91% fall in summer passenger numbers due to the impact of the pandemic.
London City Airport in a new report outlined the importance of domestic and international travel to the economic prospects of the UK and it revealed that UK business leaders would return to the skies if quarantine measures were eased, reports BTNEurope.
In the survey of 515 UK business leaders, 88 per cent of leaders of businesses with more than 250 employees believed air travel is important to the future success of their business and nearly half (48 per cent) thought that the UK government’s travel and quarantine restrictions were the single biggest barrier to business air travel. The report also revealed that UK domestic aviation contributed £15 billion to the UK economy before the pandemic.
International Airline Group has announced that CEO of British Airways, Alex Cruz, has stepped down after nearly five years in the role. Current Aer Lingus chairman and CEO Sean Doyle has replaced Cruz as CEO and will take over as chairman too.
The Unite union has appealed to the new boss to withdraw a controversial ‘fire and rehire’ approach to the coronavirus crisis employed under his predecessor and to start a new era of constructive relations with staff and unions.
Ryanair is cutting the number of its winter flights by a third because of Covid flight restrictions across the EU and warned of further job losses. The budget airline previously cut the number of flights in October down to around 40% of normal levels but is now extending the capacity cut for the full winter season from November to March, down from the 60% previously planned. It is still hoping to keep its planes 70% full.
Virgin Atlantic is adding two new routes – Mumbai and Delhi from Manchester this December to service the VFR market (visiting Friends and Family); Virgin Atlantic has also become the first UK airline to test cabin crew pilots for Covid directly before its flights with the results sent to them rapidly.
ECONOMIC OUTLOOK HEADLINES
- The Bank of England has asked commercial lenders if they are prepared for interest rates to fall to as low as 0.00001 per cent or into negative territory as policymakers weigh up whether to cut rates below zero to boost the economy.
- The Bank of England has indicated that lenders are preparing for a wave of mortgage and business defaults.
- Business groups have warned that lockdown restrictions could be the death knell of many hospitality businesses.
- New figures from the Office for National Statistics show just over nine per cent of Britain’s workforce remain on furlough with less than a month to go before the scheme is replaced by less generous job support measures.
The Spanish regions of Catalonia and Navarre will bring in new restrictions on working and public gatherings after worrying rises in Covid-19 cases. Catalan Health Secretary Josep Maria Argimon asked companies to tell employees to work from home for the next 15 days. Madrid has seen a state of emergency imposed to try and halt its infection rate.
French citizens living in areas with high virus cases could face up to six months in jail if they repeatedly break a 9pm-6am curfew designed to stem the resurgence of coronavirus.
Germany is on the brink of a second lockdown, a senior politician has warned, after a record number of new cases were detected within 24 hours this week.
As the Caribbean is touted by The Daily Mail as being the best long-haul quarantine-free destination for winter sunshine, even though many of the islands request proof of a negative test, Marriott International has celebrated the ‘ground-breaking’ of the St. Regis Cap Cana Resort & Residences in the Dominican Republic.
The resort is expected to open in 2023 and will feature 200 luxurious guest rooms and suites with spectacular ocean views and 67 residences, in addition to bespoke amenities and a world-class golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus.
New Zealand - Australia
Air New Zealand has started one-way quarantine-free flights from New Zealand to Australia. Passengers will have to declare that they were in New Zealand the 14 days before travel and are subject to health screening on arrival in Sydney. The ‘safe travel zone’ arrangement is initially limited to travel between Auckland and Sydney.
Africa tourism association ATTA has created a petition urging the government to open travel corridors to Africa.
A formal petition has been launched by the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) for the Foreign Office to reassess its advice on countries in East and South Africa, some of which have case rates per 100,000 citizens that sit well below the UK’s threshold of 20, and therefore could in theory qualify for quarantine-exempt status, reports The Daily Telegraph.
African countries have been opening their borders since the beginning of September and the countries’ economies rely heavily on tourism: “Each African travel job typically supports 8-10 dependents, helping to support up to 250 million people across Africa,” said the association.
Reports that China has recorded its fifth consecutive month of strong growth coincide with photos of the Great Wall of China in Beijing last weekend during Chinese holiday ‘Golden Week’ showing massive crowds. Traditionally, the eight day national holiday is one of China's busiest annual travel periods, and a major test for the country as it emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. However, the country doesn’t seem to be entirely free of Covid-19 as the city of Qingdao was set to test its entire population of 9m people for coronavirus over a period of five days following the discovery of a dozen cases linked to a hospital treating coronavirus patients arriving from abroad.
China continues to be the hotel industry’s biggest pandemic recovery success story, as companies like Marriott anticipate revenue there could be back to 2019 levels as early as next year, reports Skift.
While China’s hotel occupancy recovery still shows signs of occasional volatility, experts aren’t as concerned with the rare drop-off in numbers in China as in other parts of the world.
Contactless in hospitality trending on Twitter
‘Contactless’ has emerged as the top conversation theme among influencer discussions in the hospitality industry on Twitter during April-September 2020, reports Travel Daily Asia. New hospitality contact-free technologies have been implemented across hotels and hospitality venues to improve operations and safeguard health, safety and security during the pandemic and include facial recognition, mobile apps, delivery robots and online F&B order.
LOTUS' digital division offers full social media management and social listening. From creating thumb-stopping content to influencer engagement strategies, our digital activations are rooted in online research.
Family Traveller Magazine will relaunch with a print magazine in December/January with content focusing on Easter and summer 2021 travel. The magazine had to withhold its April issue this year because of the massive upheavals in travel, but announced that it had received new investment in October.
Foodism Magazine will also be back in time for Christmas with its December issue.
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