LOTUS CORONAVIRUS UPDATE (30.10)
TESTING & AIR CORRIDOR UPDATES
Cyprus and Lithuania off Air Corridor List
The UK Government has removed Cyprus and Lithuania from its Travel Corridor list. From 4am Sunday 1 November, passengers arriving to the UK from these destinations will need to self-isolate for 14 days. Cyprus is a popular destination for shoulder season travel and ABTA responded: “The industry’s optimism from last week’s good news has been short-lived following the removal of Cyprus from the travel corridor list. Last-minute changes like this further erode consumer confidence in overseas travel and serve as a stark reminder of the urgent need to introduce testing to cut quarantine.”
Air corridors for Dubai and South Africa?
Talks are taking place to pave the way for air travel corridors from the UK to Dubai and South Africa, reports Travel Weekly. Paul Griffiths, chief executive of Dubai Airports, told Bloomberg TV that a plan to open up reciprocal air travel between Dubai and London is ready and could be implemented once approved by the respective governments. Meanwhile, South Africa’s tourism minister said she hopes the country’s borders will be opened to all countries before the Christmas holidays.
Private Testing available
High-street chemist Boots is rolling out a COVID-19 test for people planning on travelling abroad. The private pre-flight COVID testing service with new LumiraDx devices, which will be able to process swab test results in 12 minutes, will be available in over 50 stores in the next few weeks and will cost £120. However, the test is not currently approved as a pre-flight testing service, which requires a PCR test and for results to be processed via a registered lab, reports Travelmole. Arora Group is also launching a 'Test and Rest' accommodation package at its Sofitel London Heathrow hotel, with the aim of rolling the service out to other properties at the airport. Travel Weekly has also reported that some travel agents believe that sourcing COVID tests for clients “is the future” and will encourage more customers to book through the trade, with agents partnering with testing firms.
Speculation that travel quarantine times could be cut to just seven days were reported earlier this week amid concerns that travellers are flouting the 14-day requirement. Senior Conservative MPs are urging Boris Johnson to cut quarantine to five days with COVID testing that would catch almost nine in 10 cases. They reportedly cited evidence that tests on the fifth day could catch at least 88% of cases and call for quarantine to be “as short as possible based on the scientific advice”. Evidence was emerging from Canada that 80% of infected passengers could be detected by a test on arrival, significantly more than the disputed 7% claimed by UK ministers, the MPs said.
The technical frameworks of apps in Germany, Ireland and Italy are now compatible with each other due to the EU's "gateway" system, which allows contact tracing across borders. Four more nations, Spain, Czech Republic, Denmark and Latvia, are set to join the programme in the coming week, with the EU hoping for up to 16 members by the end of 2020. But the UK looks set to be excluded from the scheme due to the country’s departure from the European Union, reports The Daily Telegraph.
Pre-flight COVID test pilot
United Airlines has announced a pre-flight COVID testing pilot on select flights between New York and London, starting next month, reports TTG. From 16 November, United will guarantee all passengers over two years of age a rapid COVID test – free of charge – during a near month-long trial, which will run until 11 December. All members of flight crew will also be required to test negative before departure.
New air corridors saw surge in bookings
Travel firms reported a surge in demand for the Canary Islands and the Maldives after the two countries were put back on the air corridor list by the government last week. The move provided a well-deserved boost to the winter sun season. EasyJet boosted capacity for the Canary Islands after seeing a 500% increase in searches and added 180,000 extra seats to the Canaries between now and the end of March 2021; Wizz Air added two new routes.
Over the four-day period of 22-25 October, lastminute.com said that bookings increased by 4,700% for Gran Canaria, compared to the previous four days. Tenerife saw bookings rise 893%, while searches were up by 920%; Lanzarote bookings were up 3,050% and searches increased by 1,093%; and for Fuerteventura, bookings rose by 1,800% while searches were up by 923%.
Furthermore, 92% of Lanzarote and 42% of Tenerife bookings are departing within the next seven days, the OTA said on Tuesday. Jet2holidays said it had booked more than 29,600 holidays to the Canaries as of Tuesday afternoon, having sold 5,500 in within hours of the travel corridor announcement on Thursday. Miles Morgan Travel said the move had been a “game changer” for the winter market. TUI said it saw a huge increase in searches after the corridor announcement with passenger numbers expected to increase by 7,000% at the weekend compared to the weekend before.
NB: When the travel corridor was put in place to the Canary Islands; no negative test was required as part of the entry requirements. The Canary Islands Government has since confirmed that a negative test will be needed; however this law is yet to be official. Once this law published officially, it will take 10 days for the law to take effect. Visitors are recommended to consult the official FCO advice prior to travelling.
This week European leaders have all been receiving the same scientific advice - to tighten restrictions as a second wave of coronavirus hits, says The Times.
Major Governments have taken heed and acted. France announced a new national lockdown restricting outdoor movement and making working from home mandatory. French ski resorts postponed the start of their winter season.
Spain voted in favour of extending a six-month state of emergency allowing Spain’s 17 regional governments to limit mobility, impose curfews and shut their borders with other regions as their national statistics office showed that the number of nights booked by tourists in Spanish hotels fell by 64% in August and 78% in September year-on-year. Hotel bookings for the first nine months of the year are down 71%, reported the I newspaper.
Germany will enter a month-long, partial lockdown, or lockdown-life on Monday, with hotels, bars and restaurants set to close and cancellations of the popular Christmas markets, such as the one in Frankfurt , which regularly attracts two million visitors.
Italy has imposed new restrictions – a ‘semi-lockdown’ to close bars and restaurants at 6pm, while cinemas, theatres, swimming pools and gyms are closing completely. At the weekend, there were various anti-curfew protests around the country.
Belgium’s health minister said that new COVID-19 cases were close to a “tsunami” and that the authorities were “no longer in control” of what was happening. New restrictions have been in place since Monday.
Drinking games are off, but skiing is back on at Ischgl, Austria's COVID ground zero, Peter Conradi reports for The Sunday Times. Extra safety measures and a probable ban on alcohol in public places will make the resort one of the “safest destinations in the Alpine region”. CCTV cameras will monitor skiers queuing for lifts to ensure social distancing; cabins and other busy places will be sprayed with disinfectant; restaurants will be booked via an app and there will be a curb on party tourism. It comes as the Austrian government faces lawsuits as local officials responded too slowly at the start of the pandemic. It is estimated that 32 tourists died after visiting Austrian ski resorts.
The United Kingdom is coming under pressure to impose a second nationwide lockdown. On Thursday it was announced that a raft of new regions would enter Tier 2 restrictions from Saturday; Nottinghamshire will move into Tier 3 on Friday and West Yorkshire will also move into the highest tier on Monday. London could also be on the verge of being placed under the harshest coronavirus lockdown restrictions after the replication rate of the virus has skyrocketed. The rate of infection in the capital is thought to be the highest in the country. Tourist spending in central London is likely to fall by £10.9 billion this year according to analysis published by Sadiq Kahn. Visit Britain forecasts showed goods and services revenue from foreign tourists in the city would drop £7.4 billion throughout the year.
Scotland is set to introduce a five-tier system from Monday and people in Level 3 or 4 are asked not to travel outside their local authority area. Those in lower level areas have also been asked not to travel into councils in the higher restrictions.
Meanwhile, life in Asia continues to return to normal. Case numbers are flat in Japan, China, South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore, while Taiwan has gone 200 days without a locally transmitted case. From Friday, Hong Kong will reopen public beaches and increase the number of people allowed to sit together in bars and restaurants. However, 37 new infections were discovered in Kashgar in China and mass testing began last weekend to cover 4.75 million people.
On Tuesday, Melbourne's five million residents saw an end to strict stay-home orders lasting 110 days - one of the world's longest and toughest lockdowns, but health specialists believe it has worked with no new daily cases reported on Monday. The country is also planning to open state borders by Christmas, reports Travel Daily; allowing more Australians to return home from abroad and reviewing alternatives to hotel quarantine. However, national airline Qantas has said its long haul routes to the UK are unlikely to be reinstated for at least another year, reports Travelmole.
The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has created a new app and health assurance stamp to help rebuild confidence in travel to the region, reports TTG.
Establishing a COVID-19 tourism taskforce, the agency has partnered with the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) and Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre (GTRCMC) to establish training; trace infections and certify tourism facilities.
Meanwhile, Jamaica has launched Jamaica Cares, a new visitor protection and emergency service programme, which has been developed in partnership with crisis response specialist Global Rescue to provide health, evacuation and repatriation services for all natural disasters including COVID-19.
Separately, TUI’s new Sensatori resort is due to open in the Dominican Republic on 1 November.
The CAA has confirmed that ATOL holders can continue to issue refund credit notes (RCNs) with ATOL-financial protection up to the end of the year, reports Travel Weekly.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) says it will take Virgin Holidays to court if the operator reneges on agreements to pay outstanding refunds on specified dates. The CMA has now secured formal commitments from Virgin Holidays that ensure all customers receive their money without undue delay.
- Heathrow announced its third quarter results this week and revealed that passenger numbers between July and September were down by more than 84% on 2019, it also reported a loss of £1.5bn in the first nine months of 2020.
- John Holland-Kaye, CEO called again for a transatlantic air bridge and airport testing and has said that there is a 50-50 chance of a NYC corridor by Thanksgiving.
- About 80 passengers and crew per day are making use of the first coronavirus testing centre at any airport. Most are bound for Hong Kong. Tests take about 60-70 minutes to be analysed.
- Paris Charles de Gaulle has overtaken Heathrow as Europe's busiest airport
- Heathrow’s owners were also told to invest or risk a state takeover
- The CAA has also rejected Heathrow’s request to increase airport charges.
Airports Council International Europe
Nearly 200 airports in UK and Europe could go bust due to the collapse in air travel. The Airports Council International Europe, which represents airport operators, said it estimated that 193 out of Europe’s 740 commercial airports face “insolvency in the coming months if passenger traffic does not start to recover by the year-end”.
Airline association IATA has issued a fresh call for state aid, warning carriers are “unable to cut costs deep enough” to prevent further job losses: “The airline industry cannot slash costs sufficiently to neutralise severe cash burn to avoid bankruptcies and preserve jobs in 2021.”
The association has revised its forecasts for revenue losses next year. It now forecasts airlines worldwide will see revenue remain 46% down on 2019’s level in 2021.
Risks of infection during flights
Harvard researchers have announced that the risks of catching COVID-19 during a flight are below other routine activities during the pandemic such as grocery shopping or going out to dinner, when using face coverings and taking other steps. Its report found the risk level for catching COVID-19 during flights can be “reduced to very low levels through the combination of layered infection control measures.”
Aeroflot, ANA and Icelandair
The Russian flag carrier is hoping to resume flights to European destinations by February or March 2021. ANA plans to cut its workforce by some 3,500 by 2022 and Icelandair’s summer 2021 seat capacity will be 25%-30% less than last year’s pre-COVID levels.
Airbus has reported a loss of €641 million for the first nine months of the financial year, down from a profit of €3,593 million in 2019. Rival Boeing earlier reported losses of $466 million for the third quarter.
CORPORATE BUSINESS TRAVEL UPDATE
ANA warnings for business travel
Japanese airline group ANA Holdings plans a wholesale revamp after warning that business travel is unlikely to return to pre-COVID levels. ANA Holdings said: “Demand from business travel will decrease and likely not fully return to previous levels due to changes to the nature of work, such as the widespread popularity of online conferences and meetings….Although passenger demand for domestic routes has recovered steadily since the emergency travel restrictions were lifted in May, demand for international routes remains greatly diminished.”
Business Travel Association
The rate of job losses at travel management companies could hit 60% in the coming days, Business Travel Association chief executive Clive Wratten has warned, reports Travel Weekly. He holds out little hope of an immediate restart of business travel and dismissed the impact of a reduction in quarantine through a ‘test and release’ regime, saying a release from quarantine after seven or eight days “will make very little difference” for business travel.
But he believes corporate traffic could rise sharply once it does resume, arguing: “It will be a slower start but a faster ramp-up.”
Wratten said: “It’s going to be well into 2021 before we see any real emergence of business travel. Business travel will be slower off the blocks, but the spike will be higher than the leisure travel spike. A significant part of business travel will start quickly.”
The COVID-19 virus must be brought under control before international travel can recover, head of hospitality data analyst STR has said at the Future of Hospitality Summit. Robin Rossmann, STR managing director, told a Future of Hospitality Summit: “Travel demand in China has not been damaged. It recovered quickly. But China has the virus under control.”
Rossmann added: “The Chinese have not been able to travel outside China so there has been a huge rise in domestic travel. Hotel Revenue per available room [RevPAR] is back and in some cases ahead of former levels. So recovery requires getting the virus under control.”
He reported “only about 15% of hotels around the world are still closed” and told the online summit, hosted by Saudi Arabia: “The industry has shown amazing resilience. We’ve seen a much stronger summer than expected. Hotels which opened have been rewarded.”
But Rossmann said: “Occupancy has flat-lined since August-September. The hard times are not over. It depends where you are as to how the recovery will shape out.
“China reached its low point in February. Now it’s at 50% to 70% occupancy with normal degrees of seasonality.
Intercontinental Hotel Group in dozens of hotel launches
Despite COVID, IHG has opened 82 new hotels over the summer, 57 in the US and 15 across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, which signifies confidence in those markets, reports Skift.
Revenues sank in third quarter. Revenue per available room fell by 53.4% in three months to September – an improvement on 75% in second quarter with Europe seeing steepest declines.
ECONOMIC OUTLOOK HEADLINES
Richer build savings faster
Wealthier households have built up savings faster than usual during the pandemic, the Institute for Fiscal Savings, has found. ‘Forced saving’ – declines in spending on goods and services that were substantially affected by lockdown – has tended to be greater among high-income households.
The International Monetary Fund has downgraded its UK economic forecasts and said there is a ‘case’ for higher Treasury spending to tackle coronavirus second wave damage. The world's lender of last resort used its annual review of the UK economy to judge that gross domestic product would plunge by 10.4pc this year. Just two weeks’ ago, the Fund's latest World Economic Outlook had estimated a 9.8pc hit for the UK.
Stock market slump
Stock markets around the world slumped on Thursday as COVID-19 infection rates increased and lockdowns were threatened. The FTSE 100 fell more than 2.5pc to a six-month low, reported The Times.
The Office for National Statistics says two-thirds of all businesses across the UK currently trading have a ‘low to severe risk of insolvency.’ According to its latest Business Impact of Coronavirus Survey, 64% of businesses across all industries are at risk of insolvency, with 43% of companies running on less than six months’ cash reserves. The figure comes on top of the 14% of all UK businesses that have already paused trading under local lockdown restrictions. In addition, Begbies Traynor, the insolvency consultancy, concluded that ten out of the 22 sectors analysed had experienced double-digit percentage increases in financial distress this year. More than 500,000 businesses are in ‘significant distress’ because of lockdown restrictions.
Consumer confidence has fallen in October for the first time in six months, according to the confidence index produced by YouGov and the Centre for Economics and Business Research.
Revised Job Support Scheme
Travel companies say the government’s revised Job Support Scheme (JSS) will reduce redundancies but an employment expert from TravLaw warned businesses taking no bookings may still struggle to justify keeping staff, Travel Weekly has reported. The JSS replaces the furlough scheme from Sunday. While the Chancellor has improved the scheme for employees, it is clear that it will “save some jobs, but not all.”
WTM and Travel Forward
LOTUS is organising speaker slots and panel debates at World Travel Market and Travel Forward 2020, taking place 9-11 November, as well as creating, implementing and organising a number of standalone and integrated virtual trade and media events for its clients to ensure they are connecting with the right delegates and fully exploiting the range of opportunities that the events offer.
In the run up to WTM, LOTUS CEO Jules Ugo will be moderating a panel discussion during London Travel Week on 5 November entitled ‘Using data and intelligent PR to drive sales in the current climate’.
ITB and Holiday World
As ITB Berlin announced that its 2021 edition will be virtual for the second time, the first virtual edition of ITB Asia racked up an audience of more than 35,000 travel professionals, reports Travelmole.
Meanwhile organisers of the annual Holiday World Show in Dublin have cancelled the event that was scheduled for January 2021.
Negotiators have been in talks over the weekend and the first half of the week in London before moving to Brussels on Thursday. The Times reports that negotiations are set to continue until early next week and is optimistic a deal is in sight. There will be changes in the new year, regardless of a deal, says European travel association, ETOA. This includes the ending of free movement, which is a core principle of the EU. This will affect border arrangements for visitors and workers. ETOA will be holding its next Brexit webinar on Thursday 19 November at 14.00 GMT, which will be of interest to those working in and with UK destination markets as well as UK inbound. Sign up here to join.
TRENDS & CUSTOMER SENTIMENT
‘Reverse weddings’ have become a new trend for Sandals and Beaches Resorts due to the pandemic. Brides and grooms are turning what was originally their honeymoon into an elopement destination wedding followed by a bigger party for family and friends on their return, if UK lockdown rules allow. Live streaming for family and friends back home is also available. The trend has accelerated due to the restrictions on numbers. Currently British couples can have just 13 guests.
Solo travellers, short-haul and high value top touring sector
The Atas (The Association of Touring and Adventure Suppliers) Virtual Week revealed that short-haul destinations, high-value ‘bucket-list’ trips and tours for solo travellers are among the biggest sellers for the touring sector in 2021.
Spending for touring and adventure in 2021 up
Research by Mail Metro Media suggests holidaymakers planning touring and adventure getaways in 2021 are prepared to spend more to ensure safety amid forecasts the sector is “likely to bounce back” in the long term. Seven out of 10 respondents said they were yet to book a 2021 holiday but that they intended to take an average of 2.1 holidays next year.
A TUI customer survey revealed that:
- 57% of TUI customers expect to book a Mediterranean beach holiday for next summer.
- 86% of customers said they expect to have gone on holiday again by next summer – demonstrating growing appetite for post-pandemic travel
- Greece is the “standout destination” of choice based on current bookings for next summer, with Turkey, Egypt, Mexico and the Dominican Republic also popular
- These trends could continue into 2022, TUI said as they released winter 2021-22 schedule ahead of summer 2022 on sale from 5 November.
- 40% of customers favour 4 and 5-star all-inclusive hotel bookings
- 18% of customers surveyed said they would look to book a villa holiday with car hire included, making social distancing easier on holiday
- 40% of holidays to Florida for 2021 already sold
BORAT CATCHPHRASE SPARKS KAZAKH CAMPAIGN
Timed to coincide with the release of the Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Kazakhstan, the home country of the fictional eponymous Borat, has adopted the character’s catchphrase – “Very nice!” – for a new tourism campaign. Despite the mockumentary’s portrayal, the country has embraced the attention the satirical film has brought and exploited the opportunity to get its own messages across.
Kairat Sadvakassov, the deputy chairman of Kazakh Tourism, said in a statement to the Huffington Post that adopting Borat’s catchphrase in the campaign “offers the perfect description of Kazakhstan’s vast tourism potential in a short, memorable way.”
The ads show tourists hiking with a selfie stick, drinking fermented horse milk, marvelling at the architecture and posing for a photograph with Kazakhs in traditional dress. The campaign even attracted praise from the comedian behind the character. On learning about the country's campaign, Sacha Baron Cohen said in a statement to The Times: "This is a comedy, and the Kazakhstan in the film has nothing to do with the real country. The real Kazakhstan is a beautiful country with a modern, proud society -- the opposite of Borat's version."
LOTUS is a multi-award-winning PR, marketing and representation consultancy specialising in travel and tourism, working with destinations, travel associations, hotel groups, airlines, tour operators, transportation companies and other tourism related businesses.
In challenging times, working with an established and intelligent partner is key. Steering clients through this territory, LOTUS provides essential client counsel, industry insight, new commercial opportunities and flexible strategies.