LOTUS CORONAVIRUS UPDATE (28.05)
The impact these measures will have on travel were noted and the need to work with the sector to find new ways to re-open international travel and tourism was acknowledged.On Friday 23 May, the Home Secretary led the Government’s press conference to outline further details on the UK’s quarantine policy that will be introduced on 8 June to protect the UK from a second wave of COVID--19. Every arrival travelling via all modes of transport will be required to inform border force authorities where they will be staying and immediately self-isolate for 14 days.
The move, which, The Times said divided the cabinet, was criticised by senior business leaders who warned it would entrench Britain’s COVID-19 economic slump.
Conservative MPs accused Downing Street of imposing draconian restrictions. Theresa Villiers, former environment secretary, Alok Sharma, business secretary, and Grant Shapps, transport secretary, were all reported as opposing the measures.
Airlines UK, the trade body for UK registered airlines, wrote to the Prime Minister calling for a more targeted, risk-based approach to all arrivals and the letter asked the Government to employ air bridges.
On Wednesday Reuters reported CEO of Ryanair Michael O’Leary as saying said that he expected Britain to join other European nations in dropping COVID-19 quarantine plans in the coming weeks. He told Reuters that they had experienced a “big surge” in holiday bookings from the country.
O’Leary said many Britons had not been deterred by the move, and he indicated that Ryanair would operate 1,000 daily flights in July - 40% of normal capacity and that aircraft were likely to be 50% to 60% full.
Previously, Michael O’Leary had been reported as saying that the rules would be “ineffective and unenforceable.”
This week, the controversial boss continued: “The UK and Ireland will either quietly drop them (quarantine plans) or drop them as another easing measure in the next week or two. I am confident of that,” he said in an interview.
“We have seen a big surge in bookings on our flights out of Ireland and the UK to Spain, Portugal and Italy over the weekend, and that seems to be continuing this week.”
Other business leaders who lined up to condemn the quarantine included: Stephen Phipson of Make UK, which represents manufacturing firms, who said that it would reduce air freight capacity because a lot of cargo is carried in passenger planes; Adam Marshall, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce and Charlie Cornish, chief executive of Manchester Airport.
Travel editors and journalists such as Simon Calder from the independent.co.uk and Lisa Minot from The Sun have also called for borders to open, whilst columnist for The Times, Matthew Parris also questioned how enforceable the rules were and predicted that many would flout them.
The Government said that it would look at quarantine-free pacts with summer destinations such as France, Spain and Greece, as well as examining the option of COVID passports to let those who have had the disease travel more widely.
PM at Liaison Committee
On Wednesday 27 May, the Prime Minister suggested that "air bridges" could allow people to return to the UK from some countries from the end of June without needing to quarantine.
Air bridges would allow Brits to travel freely to other countries, without having to quarantine either when they arrive at their destination, or when they get back home.
But Mr. Johnson said this would be dependent on a continuing effort to drive down the R rate "as fast as we can" and the situation of other countries.
Responding to MPs in the Commons Liaison Committee, Mr. Johnson said he wanted to keep "flows as generous as we can".
On Thursday the BBC reported that 70 travel bosses have written to the Home Secretary Priti Patel to urge the Government to drop the quarantine measures. The letter also outlines the issues that the travel industry is facing and reiterates how the quarantine rules will further damage both inbound and outbound travel.
Following the mention from the health secretary Matt Hancock that the Government is looking into “systems of certification” for those who had antibodies, The Financial Times reports that start-ups are racing to build digital ID systems to assign health statuses to individuals and to identify those safe to reintegrate into normal life.
There has been a great deal of discussion over ‘travel bubbles’, ‘air bridges’ and ‘public health corridors’
since the start of the pandemic. An Economist podcast on the future of the travel industry also briefly discussed their benefits, with host Simon Long concluding that as lockdown restrictions lift, travel bubbles can allow countries to open up again in a limited fashion, while providing an economic route to recovery.
Airlines will use travel bubbles to grow capacity and consumer confidence.
These bubbles are generally set up between countries who are at similar stages with their fight against COVID-19 and who also have had similar success with it. However, there also needs to be a high degree of trust, so with China and Australia’s trade disputes, it is unlikely they will succeed in establishing a travel corridor.
Countries have also looked at forging travel bubbles with others with similarly high rates of infection – such as France and the UK. However, issues arise if one country recovers more quickly, then there will be a tendency to re-close the borders – so these arrangements are likely to be less stable and less productive than a ‘clean bubble’.
Hope rises that worst may be over
The Times has reported that there are tentative signs that the worst of the economic damage has been done by the coronavirus pandemic.
Whilst private-sector output in Britain, the eurozone and the United States continued to fall this month, it bounced back more than expected from record lows in April, three reports showed. A further report showed that new claims for unemployment benefits in the US fell for the seventh consecutive week, although they remained at an extreme level.
Economists said that although the readings had improved, they continued to highlight the severe damage being wrought by the pandemic, from which recovery would be slow, especially in Britain.
The figures indicate that businesses are still struggling and the three economies continue to shrink, but the pace of decline is easing.
The Economist podcast: Aviation
On an Economist podcast ‘we’re not going on a summer holiday’, host Simon Long said that passenger numbers on planes worldwide have dwindled to next to nothing.
In April 2020, passenger numbers were down by three-quarters compared to the same time last year. Investor Warren Buffett’s comments about the aviation industry when he got rid of all his aviation shares was that even if the airline business came back to 70-80% of its strength, it would still have too many planes. “The world changed for airlines.”
Andrew Charlton, MD of Aviation Advocacy – a consultancy for the aviation industry - says that the situation that the sector finds itself in will get worse before it gets better.
“Until now, many assumed that aviation would get back to what it was before. But now clever people are focusing on a different future.”
He says: “The pandemic provides an opportunity for the industry to reset and to fix its underlying problems.”
Last year, Charlton points out, IATA, the aviation industry association, revealed that there were 30 profitable airlines in the world – out of approximately 500.
Even before the pandemic, the situation was not good.
What has kept aviation going since 1944, when the ‘modern’ system was created, is nationalism. If the current regulatory framework and restrictions were not in place, there would be no doubt that there would be a future of airlines where a significant number of airlines would merge and there would be just 30-50 large, competitive and commercially successful airlines worldwide.
Currently, he says, there is no such thing as an international aviation industry. There are national companies that sometimes fly to other countries – and this comes out of an international treaty that was signed in 1944 when WW2 was still going.
“So it is time for us to have a good hard look at the system.” Even without radical changes Charlton believes it is inevitable that the pandemic will mean there will be fewer airlines, fewer passengers, fewer aircraft and fewer flights.”
Apart from the USA – all airlines started as national flag carriers and were state-owned. In the ‘90s there was privatisation, but existing regulatory structure stayed the same. It now looks like that there is a regression with states putting money into airlines in return for a seat at the board. (E.g. Lufthansa).
So is it likely that there will be no new airlines? “The barriers to entry are very high, but at this moment, there will be many fewer airlines and subsequently, new entrants will have access to pilots, slots, gates and aircraft that are not being utilised.”
If the opportunity was seized it could be possible to have financially successful and competitive airlines with competitive prices and good service.
The Times reports that the majority of airlines, including Ryanair, Wizz Air and Lufthansa, are making the wearing of face coverings compulsory in cabins and throughout the airport, with free facemasks being distributed at airports.
Heathrow is trying out contactless thermal cameras
Ryanair has told all passengers that they may undergo temperature checks at airports, with those running a fever of 38C or higher being denied boarding.
The carrier has also said that customers will have to request to use the on-board lavatory to avoid queueing next to other passengers.
Most airlines have said that on-board refreshments will be limited to pre-packaged items.
Ryanair has confirmed plans to introduce a thousand flights a day from 1 July.
The budget carrier, which flies from 17 British airports, will focus on the main Mediterranean holiday destinations in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece and Cyprus.
Global airline debts are set to rise to $550 billion by the end of the year, reports industry body IATA.
Following reports this week that Lufthansa had agreed a €9 billion bailout with the German federal government, The Times reports that the deal could contravene EU law especially as German businesses have already received a substantial amount from funds approved by the EU.
In the Lufthansa package of measures, there includes an injection of €5.7 billion of capital and €3 billion in loans from the state, which would see the Germany taxpayer with a stake of at least 20 per cent in the carrier. Much of this share would be sold off by 2023. Other member states believe that the terms are too favourable and risk giving the airline a large competitive advantage over its rivals.
TTG reports that Virgin Atlantic will not resume flights until at least August following the announcement of the UK’s 14-day COVID-19 quarantine restrictions from 8 June.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reveals that the line-up of potential backers for a bailout of the airline has reduced to four.
LATAM Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
Latam Airlines Group has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, as the group faces “the biggest crisis in the history of aviation”.
"The U.S. Chapter 11 financial reorganisation process provides a clear and guided opportunity to work with our creditors and other stakeholders to reduce our debt, address commercial challenges that we, like others in our industry, are facing as a group," the company said. "It is very different from the concept of bankruptcy in other countries and is not a liquidation proceeding."
EasyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou has lost his bid to oust some of the carrier’s most senior management figures, but finance director Andrew Findlay, who was at the centre of the row about whether or not to order new Airbus aircraft, has quit.
On Thursday EasyJet announced that it plans to cut staff numbers by up to 30% as it struggles to cope with the collapse in demand for air travel caused by the coronavirus pandemic. It also confirmed that it planned to restart flights on 15 June.
Several other airlines, including TUI, Ryanair and British Airways, have all announced plans to restart flights from July, with Jet2 (with Jet2holidays) the latest to reveal its plans.
TTG reported that luxury operator Jacada Travel has collapsed into administration. The London-based firm was formed in 2007, employed 52 staff, and specialised in responsible luxury holidays to worldwide destinations.
Specialist Leisure Group
The UK’s largest coach tour operator, Shearings, ceased trading on Friday.
Travel Weekly reported that parent company Specialist Leisure Group owned the 117-year-old brand as well as agency Wallace Arnold Travel, National Holidays, UKBreakaways, Caledonian Travel, Sportingbreaks.com, Bay Hotels, Coast & Country Hotels and Country Living Hotels.
The company had more than 64,000 bookings – the majority coach package holidays and 2,400 jobs will be lost.
ABTA said that the “vast majority” of customers’ arrangements are covered through different types of financial protection.
Administrators confirmed that all refund credit notes for package bookings made with Specialist Leisure Group brands will be financially protected, with customers entitled to a cash refund.
Hertz has filed for bankruptcy protection in the US due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. It will continue to operate while restructuring its debts, according to the BBC, with the company’s international operations in Europe, Australia and New Zealand not affected by the filing.
Specialist cruise writer Sue Bryant has written an extensive feature on how cruise will recover for Town & Country Magazine and included the various measures that will be introduced to reassure passengers that they can cruise again safely.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Addressing the Re-Engineering Readiness conference , Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, argued the self-contained environment onboard a vessel made it perfect to implement strict hygiene protocols.
Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings recently extended the suspension of all sailings until at least 31 July.
“As the hospitality industry seeks to rebuild trust among travellers, a cruise ship can be safer than anywhere else in the world,” Del Rio argued.
The cruise sector has been hit hard by coronavirus, with several ships being hit by widespread outbreaks of the virus.
In his remarks, Del Rio also called on governments to move from a blanket ban on travel toward more targeted restrictions.
Seabourn extends agent bonus commission
Seabourn has extended a 4% bonus commission to its agent partners on select sailings, reports TTG. The bonus commission applies to select 2021 sailings to Alaska, Europe and Canada and New England.
The move comes as the line announced an amendment to its ‘Book with Confidence’ cancellation policy.
River cruise operator Scylla resumes operations with safety measures
Travel Daily reports that river cruise operator Scylla has announced that it will resume operations as many European countries start to ease their restrictions placed due to COVID-19 pandemic.
New safety, security and hygiene standards have been implemented on all ships.
Royal Caribbean to resume sailings from China in July
Travel Daily reports that Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. has decided to extend the suspension of most sailings until 31 July, 2020, with the exception of sailings from China, which will be suspended until the end of June. A statement sent to Travel Daily said: “We are working with our guests and travel partners to address this disruption to their vacations, and we are genuinely sorry for their inconvenience. We expect to return to service on 1 August.”
Spanish trade publication Hosteltur reports that globally there are more than 7,300 hotel projects under construction and Tophotelprojects says that only 3.7% have been cancelled because of COVID-19. Tophotelprojects explains that the number of cancelled projects "has increased" due to the pandemic, however "it is still at a low level given the situation of the hotel industry worldwide".
Hotelbeds, the bedbank, has announced plans to launch ‘Safe Stay’ in the coming weeks to help support the recovery of the travel industry.
Safe Stay is a distribution filter category that consolidates and displays in the booking process the different COVID-19 health and safety protocols and certifications that travel industry companies, tourism boards and lobby groups have recently created.
Hotel groups ramp up cleaning measures
Business Traveller has put together a feature on the new COVID-19 measures hotel groups have put in place.
When will hotels open?
The Daily Telegraph’s travel section found out from renowned hoteliers when they would be open. These included the following:
Robin Hutson, Limewood and the Pig hotels, UK: 1 September. Marie-Louise Sciò, Pellicano Hotels, Italy: End of May, early June Roland Fasel, Chief Operating Officer, Aman, worldwide: Now
Pablo Carrington, MARUGAL, Spain (including Hotel Urso in Madrid, Gecko Hotel & Beach Club in Formentera and Cap Rocat in Majorca): July
Airbnb has set out plans to make 1,900 staff redundant, about a quarter of its global workforce, as it forecast revenues in 2020 would be half the $4.8bn (£3.9bn) generated in 2019.
On Wednesday, Boris Johnson reported that he has asked scientists to review the two-metre distance rule so that pubs, hotels and restaurants may reopen earlier than planned.
Track and trace. A system to find those who come into close contact with those infected with coronavirus will start in England on Thursday. The aim is to move from lockdown for all towards more targeted measures.
Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, said the Government had formed a “very ambitious plan” to get the sector up and running by the start of July. The remarks were described as a “ray of hope for British tourism” by industry leaders who have been lobbying for an indication of when holidays could be given the green light.
Timetable for retail to reopen in June: The UK Government announced this week a timetable to reopen non-essential retail businesses by which outdoor markets and car showrooms will be able to reopen from 1 June and the all other businesses are able to open from 15 June. What is not immediately apparent in this announcement is that gift shops and retail spaces in theatres, museums, libraries, heritage sites and tourism sites, as well as to betting and amusement arcades are all deemed to be retail premises.
Updated guidance has been issued to reflect industry feedback and to expand coverage of non-essential retail categories ahead of the planned opening.
Reopening high streets safely fund guidance: The Government has announced that English councils will share £50m of additional funding to support the safe reopening of high streets and other commercial areas. The money will allow local authorities in England to put in place additional measures to establish a safe trading environment for businesses and customers, particularly in high streets.
Tui says it has "no plans" to reopen to customers on 15 June.
The week of 25 May is English Tourism Week
Travel writer Chris Haslam warned that turning visitors away could sustain long-term damage to destinations akin to the collapse of the British seaside in the face of package holidays in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Campsites in the UK have experienced a surge in bookings as Britons prepare for a staycation this summer. The Caravan and Motorhome Club as well as the Camping and Caravan Club have both reported steep increases in searches and bookings.
UK-based booking platform eviivo, which specialises in technology for small property owners, B&Bs and holiday rentals, has reported nearly a three-fold increase in bookings between April and May. Eviivo says booking volumes were up 276% this month over last month as British holidaymakers look to travel close to home in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
UKInbound Joss Croft has said that members are having to pivot away from overseas visitors to concentrate on domestic demand and focus on working with the travel trade.
TTG ran a domestic tourism seminar. Key take out points were:
A VisitBritain tracker is, worryingly, showing very low consumer confidence among British consumers for domestic tourism in comparison to domestic travellers in overseas markets. Visit Britain now has a big job to reassure Brits that it will be safe to travel domestically (when we can).
There is frustration among tourism suppliers about the lack of clarity from the Government as to what 4th July (“Freedom Day”) looks like – will they be able to reopen, and if so, under what guidelines / restrictions?
VisitBritain is developing a Quality Standard Mark for all tourism suppliers to achieve via an online training course to show they comply to coronavirus prevention measures.
Most UK visitor attractions and hotels are having to completely shift their business model to now attract domestic visitors – something that they’ve never had to do before. They gave the example of the Roman Baths which works on a model based on 90% of international visitors.
UK tour operators are now looking to work with the UK trade more so than before.
Honey pot destinations (including Cornwall / Isle of Wight / the Lake District) have a big challenge in getting the right balance between protecting local residents, local businesses and visitors – to make sure everyone is safe.
A podcast for The Economist on the future of the travel industry included a look at whether domestic tourism could replace inbound tourism. Only if there isn’t a “demand deficit” argued Simon Long. For instance, Iceland and Malta usually have 5-7 times the number of visitors compared to inhabitants. However, even for those countries like France, where a lot of people won’t come, but others won’t leave, it is possible that locals can replace foreigners, but the economic downturn will mean that budgets will be trimmed and it is usual that 40% of the population don’t holiday at all. In China, there is a deficit in tourism infrastructure to cope with a big rise in domestic tourism. For those purely dependent on tourism for income, the pandemic’s downturn in visitors could create complete economic breakdown. There are about a dozen countries worldwide (many in the Caribbean) where tourism is their only export, the money from which is used for food and fuel.
Often domestic tourism is huge and is often the lionshare of the tourism economy.
Experience during this pandemic has shown that domestic tourism can very much benefit a country.
In South Korea, 70% of flight searches last year were for international flights and 30% for domestic whereas for 2020 80% of searches for flights have been for domestic travel and 20% for international.
Weekend papers provided listings of where and how overseas destinations are opening up and TTG has created a map with detailed annotations of the lifting of travel restrictions.
Ahead of the weekend, Spain’s Prime Minister announced that the country will reopen to international tourists from 1 July, pledging a safety guarantee for visitors and the workforce. Spain will also drop its two-week quarantine period for foreign arrivals from 1 July.
The prime minister emphasised that safety is paramount for tourism and the Spanish Government will guarantee that tourists will not be exposed to any risks and at the same time, will not bring any risk into the country.
As part of the planning for Spain’s phased reopening, the Government worked with the tourism sector to prepare measures and this year there will be two new hallmarks; that of health and safety and of environmental sustainability.
The Spanish Government has published 12 guides detailing the required technical specifications for the safe reopening of Spain’s tourism industry for tourists, workers and residents and have been published with instructions and recommendations for: hotels and tourist apartments; restaurants; travel agencies; golf courses; rural accommodation; spas; museums; tourist guides; information offices; hostels; camping sites; and active tourism.
There are eight other guides that are pending validation by the Ministry of Health. These are guides specifically referring to: protected natural areas; nautical sports facilities and nautical activities; nightlife; amusement and leisure parks; tourist transport; visits to vineyards and other industrial facilities; cultural, historical and natural sites; unique public spaces and beaches.
The Sun reported that the Alliance for Excellence in Tourism said that the announcements triggered 300 and 400 per cent spike in bookings
Hosteltur, however, did report that Spain will take into account the incidence of the virus in other markets. The director of the Center for the Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies, Fernando Simón, warned this Tuesday at a press conference that there is no perfect criterion to allow the entry of tourists without impact on the evolution of the epidemic: all have "negatives and benefits".
"It is not an easy task," admitted Simón, who indicated that "there is a lot of discussion" with those responsible for Foreign Health and studying all the international information available that "allows reaching an assessment."
The Spanish Government initially banned all non-essential inbound travel until 15 June, and introduced a 14-day quarantine on arrival requirements for international travellers.
Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sanchez has since confirmed domestic tourism will be allowed to resume on 22 June, before the country reopens to international arrivals.
Spain’s islands, including the Balearics and Canaries, are expected to open up to tourists more quickly than major cities because of the islands’ lower number of COVID-19 cases. TTG reported that the Canary Islands will demand safety guarantees from its key source markets if it is to reopen to tourists this summer.
Minister of tourism Yaiza Castilla said reactivating air routes would only be possible by agreeing "safe corridors" with other countries.
The archipelago has entered the second phase of its COVID-19 de-escalation plan, which has seen more lockdown measures lifted in Tenerife, Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and La Palma.
It is currently obligatory for everyone over the age of six to wear a face mask in public outdoor and indoor spaces.
Officials in the UK and Portugal are reportedly in talks to agree an "air bridge" between the two countries to expedite the return of British tourists to Portugal.
The Algarve, Portugal’s major beach region, is gradually reopening its tourist industry ahead of the summer season.
Currently, more than one-third of the Algarve’s hotels are open, with plans to raise this to 75% in June. Beaches will also reopen with social distancing measures.
The region, working alongside Portugal Tourism, has developed a "safe and clean" stamp certifying businesses complying with new hygiene measures.
Portugal has also pledged not to impose quarantine measures on arrivals this summer, although there will be separate arrangements for its island destinations – Madeira and the Azores.
Portugal has declared itself “open for business again” for tourism with the country’s beaches set to re- open on 6 June.
Rita Marques, secretary of state for tourism, told a Global Travel and Tourism Resilience Council Summit that conditions will be in place to welcome visitors when routes open up.
“As soon as the beaches are open we will have the conditions to welcome anyone who will want to visit our country,” she said. “We are open for business again. I’m thrilled to say that.”
Marques said Portugal has worked throughout lockdown to adapt its tourism sector to new health and safety rules and protocols that will be required due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is also reported to be in talks with the UK Government about an ‘air bridge’ or ‘air corridor’ to allow travel without the need for 14-day isolation on return.
Madeira and Porto Santo will also be fully open to international travellers from 1 July.
The UK Government initially announced a mutual exemption of quarantine rules, but this was later withdrawn. Now France has said it will introduce a reciprocal 14-day self-isolation on arrival requirement, mirroring he UK's quarantine plans.
France is currently not allowing non-essential travel – all international visitors have to complete an international travel certificate to confirm their journey is necessary and carry the document with them on their journey.
French borders are due to start reopening for non-essential travel – initially with Switzerland and Germany – from 15 June. No date has been set for opening up to UK holidaymakers, but it will likely be dependent on the UK lifting its quarantine measures.
The country became the European epicentre of the crisis in March and is now continuing to lift internal restrictions, with its ban on international arrivals from most European countries, including the UK, due to be lifted from 3 June.
Italy also does not currently intend to impose a quarantine period for international arrivals from 3 June. Any restrictions will be based on where the passenger has travelled from, rather than their nationality.
Bars, restaurants, cafes and museums are slowly reopening after two months in iconic destinations such as Venice, Rome and Florence. Many hotels are also beginning to announce their plans to reopen.
The country is aiming to reopen to overseas tourists from the middle of June, but British tourists may have to wait longer to be allowed entry. Greece’s tourism minister Haris Theoharis said the country would have to see an improvement in the UK’s COVID-19 figures before Britons would be allowed to return to Greece.
Under current proposals, seasonal hotels can reopen from 15 June, with international charter flights to Greece’s top destinations set to resume from 1 July. Holidaymakers would not face quarantine restrictions on arrival, but may have to take “sample” coronavirus tests.
Greece also wants to stimulate the recovery by making travel cheaper through a temporary cut in VAT from 24% to 13% on flights, buses and trains. Ancient sites such as the Acropolis in Athens have already reopened alongside shopping centres and internal travel.
The country’s border has been closed to tourists in recent months, although prime resort Sunny Beach hopes to be able to welcome UK arrivals from early July.
Under current plans, British holidaymakers could face a 14-day quarantine period on arrival in Bulgaria.
The Turkish Government has said European tourists will not be able to visit the country until the end of July.
Authorities plan to create a health and hygiene certification scheme for hotels, restaurants, transport providers and other tourism businesses allowing them to operate during summer 2020.
International flights to Egypt have been suspended since 19 March. Authorities are also making the wearing of face masks mandatory in “any closed public spaces” from 30 May.
The Egyptian Tourism Federation has created a health and hygiene plan to help tourism businesses to reopen safely.
Some hotels reopened at 25% capacity in mid-May, and this will be increased to 50% in June. The country has also set out various new requirements to allow hotels to reopen.
Meanwhile, visa fees for those arriving at Luxor or Aswan airports have been reduced from $25 to $15, while entry fees for museums and archaeological sites have been halved.
No date has been announced for the reopening of the border to international tourists – Malta International airport remains closed to inbound commercial flights.
The destination is introducing a range of protocols to allow tourism services to gradually resume, including social distancing measures and enhanced hygiene.
Malta Tourism Authority has created a sticker for establishments to display to show they are compliant with COVID-19 requirements.
Holidaymakers may be required to take a COVID-19 test before reaching the island, as well as having to disinfect their luggage, under plans by the Cypriot Government to reopen its border to tourists.
Cyprus initially plans to open to tourists from nearby countries such as Greece, Israel and the United Arab Emirates, which have seen lower levels of infections than markets such as the UK.
It is understood the UK has not made the country's initial whitelist, which is likely to mean the country will not reopen to Brits until at least July.
Cyprus has pledged to cover the holiday costs of anyone who tests positive for the virus after travelling there.
In a letter made public on Wednesday, the government said it would pay for accommodation, medicine and food for patients and their families who tested positive for the virus.
Tourists "will only need to bear the cost of their airport transfer and repatriation flight".
It is part of a package of measures aimed at drawing visitors back to the island, which has reported few cases.
This week Germany announced that it is set to allow its citizens to travel throughout Europe after 15 June, in a further relaxation of its coronavirus-related shutdown that will fire the starting gun on the European summer holiday season.
The BBC has reported that Latin America has now become the centre of the pandemic, according to the chief of the Pan American Health Organization. Brazil has by far the highest recorded death toll in the region, and with the rate of testing very low, the true figure will inevitably be far higher. That's likely to be the case in other countries too - Venezuela to name one. President Donald Trump has
introduced a travel ban on foreign nationals who've been to Brazil in the last 14 days. With 98,875 coronavirus deaths of its own, the US is nearing the grim milestone of 100,000 lives lost.
Riviera Nayarit Convention & Visitors Bureau has unveiled a Tourism Wellness and Best Practices Guide that outlines the new standard of sanitation and safety protocols by established international health organisations to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in time for the destination’s anticipated reopening later this summer.
Marc Murphy, managing director of the Riviera Nayarit Convention and Visitors Bureau in Travel Weekly said: "we expect consumers will be more inclined to choose destinations where their COVID-19 concerns are being addressed and together with the Hotel Association, we are working on a protocol of industry- defining standards of cleanliness and disinfection for all Riviera Nayarit properties before reopening".
The guide provides what travellers and employees should expect; best practices and sanitation protocols specific to hotels, restaurants, airports, tour operators and spas, as well as proper health screenings, credible resources, certification programmes and more.
Domestic tourism in most parts of China continues its strong recovery, but in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the pandemic began, new cases have appeared and authorities vowed to test the entire population in 10 days.
Chinese specialist China Travel Outbound said that it might take Chinese visitors sometime to return to the UK. “Assuming flights are operating, we will see the return of some inbound travel in October with another peak during Chinese New Year next February. But the big surge is going to come next May and during the summer of 2021. Pent up demand should deliver very strong numbers, and the UK tourism industry needs to be ready.”
The Hong Kong Convention Centre has held its first three-day exhibition with stringent hygiene measures and body temperature screening in place and the city will allow its first transit flights from 1 June.
Thailand isn't expecting overseas tourists to return until October at the earliest, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
TAT governor Yutasak Supasorn told CNN Travel that even then there will likely be restrictions on who can visit and where they can go.
A spokesman for the TAT in London said the governor was expecting a positive return to tourism from the fourth quarter of the year, but he told CNN: "It is still dependent on the outbreak situation, but I think at the earliest, we may see the return of tourists from the fourth quarter.”
Travel companies to trust
Researchers from consumer association Which? looked to see which travel companies have treated their customers best throughout the pandemic. Trailfinders topped the list for service, strong finances and virtual appointments. Exodus won plaudits for its flexible deposits plan and Kuoni was singled out for a fairplay refund policy.
A snapshot of the damage to our lives
In a poll conducted for the Daily Mail, on the question of travel, 77% of people said they would not go on a foreign holiday (vs 9% yes and 7% don’t know); and 75% said travellers should be quarantined for two weeks coming to the UK.
Carol Midgely in The Times seems to share the sentiment with a stated horror at the thought of dealing with new restrictions in holiday destinations.
Skyscanner has seen flight searches surge following talks of air bridges this week; the company has reported 128% increase in searches to France compared to the previous week.
The Office of National Statistics released information on outbound and inbound passengers for 2019 this week.
Overseas residents made 40.9 million visits to the UK in 2019, an increase of 0.6 million compared with 2018.
There were 93.1 million visits overseas by UK residents in 2019, an increase of 3% compared with 2018.
UK residents spent £62.3 billion on visits overseas in 2019, an increase of 7% compared with 2018.
Overseas residents spent £28.4 billion on visits to the UK in 2019, an increase of 7% compared with 2018.
By the end of June the EU and UK must formally announce whether or not talks will be extended.
April: EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said progress had been disappointing, whilst the UK said only "limited progress" had been made.
15 May and the conclusion of the third round of talks. The BBC reported: EU and UK negotiators agreed that they'd made precious little progress on key sticking points of fish, competition rules and even the form the trade deal should take – Brussels wants one big agreement; the UK wants a number of mini deals alongside a basic free trade agreement. Both sides are ‘determined but no longer hopeful’ of a trade deal.
BBC’s European Editor, Katya Adler said in fact some progress is being made on basic free trade issues, energy and transport.
Future Relationship with the European Union Committee meeting, 27 May: The Daily Mirror reported that Brussels would extend the Brexit transition if the UK agreed to pump more cash into the EU.
Michel Barnier told MPs that EU leaders would consider extending the 11-month phase which began as soon as Britain formally left the bloc on 31 January.
The transition was aimed at allowing negotiators to strike a deal on the future relationship between the UK and EU.
But talks have reached deadlock over fishing rights, how much oversight European judges should have of a pact and the “level playing field” designed to stop either side winning an advantage by undercutting the other.
Britain’s chief negotiator, Sir David Frost, told the select committee hearing that a decision will be made at “leader level” on 18 June, as he admitted there remained major obstacles between both sides agreeing a trade deal.
Downing Street flatly rejected the EU’s offer of a two-year extension to the transition period.
Mr Frost made clear that if a trade deal was not struck then the Government would not agree to any extension and would leave without a deal on 31 December.
Michael Gove, who was also giving evidence, denied the Prime Minister had “knowingly misled” the British public when it came to checks on goods entering Northern Ireland.
Last week, Mr. Gove told MPs that checks would be carried out on goods, despite Mr. Johnson telling a gathering in Northern Ireland to throw any customs papers “in the bin”.
For sports fans with no sport to watch, destination Visit Victoria teamed up with BBC’s sports presenter Andrew Cotter who embraced the opportunity for another alternative commentary – this time for the famous Phillip Island penguin parade.
Andrew Cotter excitedly narrates the nightly walk of the fairy penguins as if it is a tense sporting fixture. “There’s the defending champion, wearing his familiar navy blue and white. Great waddling style,” Cotter says as one penguin hits the lead.