LOTUS CORONAVIRUS UPDATE (28.08)
QUARANTINE AND TESTING
Switzerland, Jamaica, the Czech Republic off, Cuba on
Following widespread speculation, the BBC reported the Government announcement at 5 pm on Thursday 27 August that travellers in Switzerland, Jamaica and Czech Republic who return to the UK from 04:00 BST on Saturday will have to self-isolate for two weeks as each country has experienced sustained, increased rates of infection of Covid-19.,
Cuba, where there has been a drop in cases, will be added to the list of destinations people can return from without entering quarantine.
Simon Calder, travel editor of the Independent, told the BBC fares "went through the roof" within minutes of No 10's announcement, with airlines including British Airways adding extra flights to Heathrow from Prague, Geneva and Zurich priced at about "£300 one way".
The Sun had reported that Geneva offering tourists vouchers of £84 to spend in the city to encourage travellers.
Travel Weekly reported that Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary had confirmed that the government is considering both testing on arrivals to cut quarantine time and regionalised restrictions, but aviation sources suggested limited prospect of immediate change. Shapps said in an interview with the BBC that Heathrow’s proposed testing trial which aims to test returning passengers twice was ‘a bit more complicated than suggested.’
Wacky Races, Whaca mole and the naughty step
The UK government’s policies on which countries’ Covid infection rates are deemed high enough for returning passengers to be put in quarantine have variously been compared to roulette; the 1970s cartoon series ‘Wacky Races’; fair ground game ‘Whaca mole,’ travel musical chairs and the naughty step by media commentators, but however it is viewed, the ‘fitful approach’ is fraying consumer confidence and leading to last minute bookings for an industry nearly starved of income since March, and a long-haul market that hasn’t even started says the ‘i’. However, ministers finally seem to be seriously looking at airport testing with TTG reporting that Ministers will meet this week to decide whether to give airport testing the go-ahead.
Latin American Tourism Assoication
Danny Callaghan, Chief Executive of LATA has called on the travel industry to unite and ask the government for just two things:
Firstly, that the FCO should cancel the near-worldwide ban on all but essential travel. It was an effective way to put the handbrake on in March, but is now redundant because, from a Covid-19 point of view, travel will self-regulate by virtue of consumers and the trade being able to see the freely-available information on infection rates and make informed, adult decisions about the risks of travel.
Secondly, they need the abolition of the quarantine and introduction of mandatory PCR test on arrival in the UK, with the requirement to self-quarantine for the 12 or 24 hours it takes to get the results, before getting back to work for returning residents, or getting on with their holiday for inbound tourists.
Greater transparency on government decisions
Industry leaders working with Government have asked for greater transparency about UK decisions on quarantine restrictions and say that partial knowledge is feeding media speculation and damaging consumer confidence in travel and booking.
Susan Deer, director of industry relations at ABTA said: ‘there are a range of factors that are being considered [by government]. We know some of them but not all of them. The speculation focused on case numbers is unhelpful and damages consumer confidence. Consumers see this constant speculation about which countries are going to come off the list without knowing the criteria. At the moment everyone is focused on one criteria and we know for certain it is not the only factor being considered.”
Deer, in an interview with Travel Weekly explained the difference between the Department of Transport’s travel corridor policy that is focused on the risk of importing the infection back to the UK, whereas the FCO advice looks at the risk to British nationals abroad.
The Sunday Times however, said that ‘thousands of Brits are refusing to be panicked by latest quarantine rules. EasyJet said they have continued to fly to and from countries affected by quarantine restrictions and have seen passengers continues to fly with them on holiday.
With millions working from home, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development said it had picked up sentiments anecdotally that many don’t see quarantine as a problem.
Jenni Russell in The Times outlines how serious the restrictions are with quarantine, but how the Government is not monitoring them effectively, calling the process a ‘shabby, incoherent mess, because nobody has designed it to be anything else….Either drop the policy or support, help and enforce it.’
Phocuswire reports on how several Asian countries, Hawaii and the Cayman Islands are exploring the potential for wearable devices to track arrivals and health.
Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea are interested in tracking arrivals' movements to assure compliance with quarantines, while the Cayman Islands wants to monitor health data.
Each sees wearables as a way to reap the economic benefits of visitation while reducing the risk posed by the pandemic.
If privacy issues are a concern, ‘they appear to take a backseat to potential economic benefits among some tourism officials.’ Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, wants to see it adopted by the U.S.
"Travel is the front door to economic development. If we don't get this thing moving again with [wearable] technologies, this economy and country is going to be in very dire straits."
Quarantine-free flights planned to US by end of year
Passengers could take quarantine-free flights between London and New York before the end of the year under plans for a transatlantic “air bridge, reports The Times.
The Department for Transport is in talks with its US counterpart over establishing a travel corridor on the route by Christmas, The Times has learnt.
London to New York was the world’s busiest long-haul route before the pandemic, with more than 30 flights a day in each direction.
The US is also understood to be in talks with Germany over a travel corridor between Boston and Frankfurt.
Last month the bosses of British Airways, the German carrier Lufthansa and United Airlines and American Airlines wrote to governments on both sides of the Atlantic pleading for a co-ordinated resumption of long-haul flights.
According to The Sun, the fall of inbound tourism during the coronavirus crisis could see up to £22 billion lost from the UK economy this year.
VisitBritain is launching an autumn campaign: ‘Escape the Everyday’ and Patricia Yates, Director of Strategy and Communications urged Britons to ‘Take a UK trip this autumn and winter and businesses will be pleased to see you’.
- The UK tourism industry worth £127 billion
- 30 per cent of a survey representing 16.2 million people say they have or intend to take a UK break between July and September.
- UK tourism businesses lost Easter, two May bank holidays, May half term and June.
- Forecast for 49 per cent decline in domestic tourism spending this year. (£44.9 billion loss).
- Inbound forecast dropped 63 per cent this year or £19.7 billion.
- Most major markets to the UK are subject to quarantine.
- VisitBritain is keen to extend the season and have lobbied government for an October bank holiday.
- The Govt-backed ‘Escape the Everyday’ scheme in September aims to get people to take a domestic break in autumn and winter. .
- Some holiday lettings said they only had 1 per cent availability in August.
- Camping fully booked up until September.
On Thursday The Times reported that absent tourists are costing Britain £60m a day. The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) estimates that the collapse of international travel and tourism could knock the British economy by as much as £22 billion this year. Spending by tourists could drop by as much as 78 per cent compared with a year ago and the pandemic threatened London’s status as a centre for travel, be it business or pleasure, “for years to come”.
Transatlantic air travel capacity between Britain and the United States is only 20 per cent of its level a year ago.
Less than a third of businesses in the hospitality and leisure industry anticipate growth in the autumn, according to a poll of 300 executives by Barclays. On average, the companies believe that their earnings will fall by 41 per cent between 2019 and 2020.
Ministers “need to replace stop-start quarantine measures with rapid, comprehensive and cost-effective test and trace programmes at departure points across the country,” said Gloria Guevera, president and chief executive of the WTTC.
Following the lifting of quarantine restrictions for Portugal by the UK Government on 21 August, travel pages in the national newspapers were full of features on the country; news of a last minute dash for sunshine breaks and details of late deals.
Icelolly reported that there was a 570% increase in searches for Portugal holidays, and Club Med reported a 173% increase in bookings for its Portuguese resort. The Mirror reported that one resort saw an increase in bookings by 300% in the hours after the announcement and Google searches for flights to Portugal surged with Skyscanner reporting 2,000 per cent spike in bookings and prices up by £130. The Portuguese President said the development was ‘Great news’.
The Telegraph reported that Portugal braced itself for a ‘tourist invasion’ as it was taken off the quarantine list.
The Sun reported that Jet2 would resume flights on Monday 24 August; TUI from 29 August with reports in Travel Weekly that Europe’s largest tour operator will run extra flights into the Algarve until the end of October.
However, the good news did not bring the bookings to every platform, as travel agents said that the move was too little too late with many clients having already given up on the idea of an overseas holiday this summer. The Advantage Travel Partnership’s head of business development said that the “bombshell” change in advice for Spain had crippled consumer confidence”.
Conversely, as infection rates rose in other destinations, there were reports that Britons scrambled to leave Croatia before the quarantine deadline on Saturday 22 at 4.00 am as 20,000 flee Croatia in Covid-19 holiday hopscotch. With many returning to cities with a higher number of cases.
Croatia was joined on the quarantine list by Austria, Trinidad and Tobago.
The Sun reported on Thursday that the Balearic Islands are to close their beaches and parks overnight and enforce face masks in restaurants and bars after experiencing a record-high daily infection rate.
The news followed reports at the weekend suggesting that the UK Government was considering allowing holidays to individual islands with lower coronavirus infection rates than the mainland. The Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said there was a “case for regionalisation” when it came to travel corridors. Also, airline Jet2 had hoped to restart flights to Spanish islands from 30 August as flights had been suspended until 29 August.
Lanzarote has been preparing for the winter sun season and has developed its own detection protocol to keep visitors safe.
The Canary Islands government's regional policy is to cover Covid-related costs for British visitors who contract the disease during their stay such as medical expenses, sanitary repatriation and extension of stay. More information on the Covid-19 travel assistance coverage can be found here.
The Palma Tourist Board is also confident that there will be a strong upward surge in demand to the Balearic capital once travel advice is changed, as booking data from ForwardKeys and historical travel trends have shown that there is a strong demand from the UK for Palma and the nearby resort of Playa de Palma in autumn and winter seasons. From October 2019 to February 2020, the destination welcomed a 14.2% increase in British visitors compared to the same period during the previous winter.
Over the last few years, the tourist board has also focused efforts on decreasing the city’s reliability on the summer season and the tourist board is confident that that the city will be the most resilient part of Spain for 2020 bookings.
The Sunday Times ran a feature by Fiona McCarthy on Venice; who believes the city is back to its seductive best. ‘It’s like the 1970s – with no cruise ships and fewer tourists,’ said one resident.
The Domincan Republic
The Dominican Republic government has announced a tourism recovery plan to ensure that the country is a safe travel destination.
The Plan for the Responsible Recovery of Tourism in response to COVID-19, will protect the health, welfare and safety of tourists as well as promote a sustainable recovery of the tourism sector.
The government’s plan provides a set of measures to ensure the health and safety of locals and visitors. These measures will include new internationally certified health protocols and will apply to the entire industry, including restaurants and bars.
The measures include:
- Starting at the end of September, rapid tests will be performed on randomly selected travellers upon arrival, such as the diagnostic breath test for COVID-19. Once this measure is in place, the requirement for a negative COVID-19 test prior to arrival will be eliminated. However, it continues to be valid until then.
- Social distancing and the use of masks will be mandatory for the duration of a visitor’s stay.
- All tourists visiting a hotel will be granted, on a temporary basis, a travel assistance plan that will include coverage for emergencies, telemedicine, lodging for prolonged stays and costs for changing flights in the event of an infection. This insurance will be provided at no cost to the visitor until December 2020 and will be 100% paid for by the Dominican State.
- A Sanitary Bubble will be implemented to ensure that hotel employees stay as long as possible within the facilities.
Properties will implement effective health management with suppliers, contractors and employees. The latter will be regularly tested and will follow a specific protocol to come in and out of the facilities.
- Labour regulations will be adapted to minimize and mitigate risks for employees.
The government said that this protocol is in the process of being certified by the World Travel and Tourism Council’s Safe Travels and Buró Veritas, both world leaders in certifications of the sector.
A communication campaign will follow.
As part of its phased re-opening programme, Saint Lucia’s government has announced a further easing of restrictions for visitors. Visitors are now permitted to stay in up to two Covid-certified properties for the duration of their stay and can take part in water-based activities such as scuba diving and sailing, following the protocols put in place at the hotel.
Entry requirements for arrivals continue to include the completion of a pre-arrival registration form and a negative Covid-19 PCR test up to seven days before the date of travel.
Mid-Counties co-op will open 14 out of the 16 retail shops it took on from Central-England Co-op under its Co-op Travel banner.
Following the operator’s trade launch last week, travel agents have credited the launch of easyJet Holidays through the trade for providing a much-needed broader choice of mainstream holidays from more airports with an established brand.
Covid-19 is forcing Jet2holidays to extend the suspension of flights and city break packages to Amsterdam and Budapest, reports Travel Weekly. The operator is offering full refunds and will cancel departures to Amsterdam up to 19 October and to Budapest to 14 September.
However, Jet2CityBreaks will resume to destinations including Krakow, Naples, Paris, Prague, Rome and Venice from selected UK airports on Thursday 27 August.
TRAVEL COMPANY FAILURES
Following the announcement that STA Travel has failed, and that 54 UK stores will close and 500 jobs have been put at risk, the ‘I’ newspaper reports that a total of 16 ATOL holders have failed so far this year and that it is likely that more will follow ATOL renewals, which are due on 30 September. This coincides with the end of the furlough scheme.
The outbound travel sector, generates £37 billion to the UK economy, and ABTA has reported that already 39,000 people – 18% of the sector’s workforce - have either lost their jobs or had them put at risk.
Project Ski, a company offering ski holidays in the French resort of Val d’Isère, announced this week that it has ceased trading. Founded in 2010, the company blamed the combined impact of the pandemic and Brexit. Earlier this month another operator, Ski Weekends (not to be confused with the entirely separate Ski Weekend) also went into administration, and other failures in the sector seem likely.
ABTA has written to Rishi Sunak with a “Save Future Travel” plan, to support the industry while bookings remain sluggish with consumers hesitant about travelling abroad, or afraid of being caught out by frequent changes to the government’s travel advice and quarantine requirements.
Even if the industry is offered more government support, only four in 10 travel businesses believe demand will have returned to 2019 levels by 2022.
- Regionalised quarantine
- Testing should be introduced to enable the resumption of travel with major global trading partners such as the US
- For an air passenger duty holiday to be implemented to boost passenger demand for travel, in particular for summer 2021.
- A recovery grant to help businesses in the low season
- A targeted extension to the furlough scheme
The Telegraph provides an update of what cruises are available. The FCO is still advising against going on ocean ships but has amended its guidance to allow river cruises. The advice is not a legal ban but makes insurance difficult to obtain. Sue Bryant, cruise editor from The Times reported on a small Variety Cruise 49-passenger ship in Greece with 30 passengers for social distancing reasons and was able to obtain insurance with Campbell Irvine.
In Europe over 50 river cruises are operating and in the UK some small boats are sailing in Scotland; MSC Cruises have started operating in the Mediterranean; Paul Gaugin cruises have restarted in French Polynesia; coastal cruises are possible in Norway and Ponant have started eight- day itineraries in Iceland.
Cunard and Carnival
Cunard has extended its sailing suspension until March 2021. It means the company will have been closed for an entire year after its three ships returned to Southampton in March this year. Cunard president Simon Palethorpe said: "We simply do not feel it would be sensible to start sailing again with our current schedule so we have reviewed future itineraries."
Carnival has begun cancelling next year’s trips. It blamed border restrictions and the “continued uncertainty of airline travel” for axing Princess Cruises sailings in early 2021. The cancellations follow the announcement by Cunard, also owned by Carnival.
Princess Cruises has published Covid-19 guidelines for passengers as it prepares to return to sailing.
The new CruiseHealth programme covers procedures before sailing, on board and during excursions.
They include touchless temperature checks and secondary screening where necessary before embarkation.
On board, ventilation systems have been enhanced, with HEPA filtration in key areas “such as medical centres and isolation rooms”.
Social distancing will be managed by regulating the size and flow of groups in venues.
“These are just the start as we adapt to the latest science and ever-evolving situation,” the line said.
Princess Cruises has still to make clear its policy on refunds if a voyage is disrupted due to a Covid-19 outbreak on board.
It said: “We are currently working through the protocols for our return to sailing and will share details as they become available.”
Princess Cruises has announced it will cancel all sailings aboard the 2,670-passenger Diamond Princess throughout Japan and Asia between October 2021 and April 2022, in favour of redeploying the ship on new itineraries to South America and Antarctica.
Seabourn has released a 15-page Extraordinary Destinations e-brochure highlighting worldwide itineraries from autumn 2021 to spring 2022.
The programme details 56 sailings with almost 100 departures of seven to 36 days’ duration and includes the brand’s first return to Egypt since 2014.
Gianni Onorato, chief executive officer at MSC Cruises, was interviewed by The Daily Telegraph this week. The Grandiosa was the first major ship to set sail in the Mediterranean in five months and it is hoped to kickstart an industry that generates an estimated $150bn (£114bn) for the world economy, according to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). MSC has concentrated on preventing infection before people step on board.
MSC passengers are subjected to a temperature test, a health questionnaire review and an antigen swab test before embarking – and anyone who has a temperature is immediately denied boarding.
On board, there are daily temperature checks and every crew member and guest is given a wristband that “facilitates contactless transactions around the ship as well as providing contact and proximity tracing.”
- restaurant services have been redefined
- in areas where social distancing is not possible, passengers need to wear masks
- guests will only be able to land on shore via an MSC excursion
- Capacity of the ship will be at 70%.
A new Norwegian shipping company Havila Voyages is set to launch itineraries along Norway’s coastal route from spring 2021.
Gatwick Airport is planning to axe up to 600 jobs in a 'significant restructure' after feeling the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on passenger and air traffic numbers. The airport is operating at around 20% of its capacity and has around 75% of its staff on furlough. Consultations have begun with staff over redundancies, as it prepares to cut up to 24% of its workforce.
Manchester Airports Group
Manchester Airports Group Chief Executive, Charlie Cornish, has blasted the government’s approach to the travel industry, air corridors and quarantine. ‘There has been no evidence of any recognition from the government of the need to protect the travel industry and enable it to recover from what is undoubtedly the biggest crisis it has ever faced,” he said.
He criticised the lack of financial support, which has been worsened by the government’s “sluggish, chaotic and illogical approach to travel restrictions”.
London City Airport
London City Airport has announced it will temporarily pause its £500million development at the end of the year, which included a new passenger terminal.
As the work had already begun, the airport will pause development at the end of this year, after new aircraft stands, a full-length parallel taxiway and passenger facilities including a new immigration facility with 10 new E-gates have been completed.
The no frills airline Wizzair will launch new routes from Gatwick, Liverpool, Birmingham.
New routes include:
- Gatwick to Lanzarote from October 22
- Doncaster Sheffield to Alicante and Malaga in October.
The airline is not expecting to undertake international flights until July 2021. In a trading update it confirmed it had pre-tax losses of A$2.7 billion despite receiving government support. It also said that it will confirm 4,000 out of at last 6,000 redundancies by the end of September.
The Sunday Times reported that planes are taking advantage of empty skies to take the shortest path to their destination - 30 miles have been cut off the average length of flights in Britain and Europe according to NATS, saving up to about 30,000 miles a day. The temporary improvement has focused attention on the antiquated - and wasteful - use of airspace in Britain and Europe. With air traffic down to between 30 - 40% of normal levels, air traffic controllers have been able to vector flights off inefficient routes to give them more direct flight paths.
The Times reports that America’s biggest airline plans to cut 19,000 jobs unless it can persuade the US government to provide it with further support.
American Airlines said on Tuesday 25 August that it would cut the positions in October, putting thousands of workers on involuntary furlough, including 1,600 pilots, 8,100 cabin crew and many mechanics, as well as making 1,500 job cuts in management positions.
Virgin AtlanticThe Richard Branson backed airline has won overwhelming support from its creditors for what it calls a £1.2 billion solvent recapitalisation.
Virgin Atlantic said that it would go to the High Court next Wednesday to get final legal clearance for its financial rescue.
Virgin Atlantic has also announced that it will launch three new routes to Pakistan later this year - from Heathrow to Lahore and Islamabad, and from Manchester to Islamabad.
Seats will go on sale in September, subject to regulatory approval, with flights due to get under way in December.
Airlines ranked on Covid-19 protocols
A new Safe Travel Barometer has ranked more than 150 airlines on their Covid-19 safety credentials. Safe Travel has benchmarked travel brands’ initiatives to reduce traveller anxiety and has been based on 20 health and safety measures.
Travel Weekly reports that Emirates is restoring Birmingham-Dubai flights from 1 September as it rebuilds its network.
Flying by private jet has become more popular due to Covid-19, says PrivateFly because it’s safer and more flexible.
‘Forty per cent of our bookings are from new customers,’ reports Adam Twidell, CEO of charter specialist PrivateFly, reports The Daily Mail. ‘Demand tripled when France, Monaco and the Netherlands joined the quarantine list, and following the addition of Croatia and Austria on Thursday, we have arranged flights for families returning from Split and Graz.’
GAP YEAR TRAVEL
The Times looked at how all major long haul bucket list sites are off limits for the foreseeable (eg Christ the Redeemer, Chitchen Itza, Uluriu). The Telegraph also looked at gap years that are closer to home.
SafariBookings.com reports that safari operators in Africa have suffered a 75% drop in business during the pandemic. 344 firms were surveyed and many parks and reserves have lost most of their revenue. Kenya and Tanzania have now restarted flights.
The ‘i’ newspaper reported that Britain’s hopes of sealing a trade deal with EU have plummeted, with both sides blaming each other. It also said that Brexit has sent food protection costs soaring with the cost of protecting the UK market from cheap and illegal food products has soared by more than 1,000%
On Thursday, The Guardian reported that as Brussels laments a “completely wasted” summer, Germany has thrown away plans to discuss Brexit next week at a diplomatic meeting as there has not been “any tangible progress” in discussions.
- According to CBI retailers have cut jobs at the fastest rate since 2009.
- According to Yahoo Finance UK the country’s seven biggest supermarkets have hired 136,000 staff since the beginning of the pandemic up from 44,000 they had promised to create as the UK went into lockdown.
- UK accountancy giant PwC’s global revenue is up 35.
- The housing market continues to gather pace – buoyed by the stamp duty cut.
- One in eight workers are still on furlough, the Office of National Statistics reports.
- A survey of 50 large employers by the BBC found