LOTUS COVID-19 UPDATE
US Travel advice on cruising
USA Today reported on Sunday that The U.S. Department of State was advising U.S. citizens against travelling by cruise ship as cases of the novel coronavirus continue to spread across the world. "U.S. citizens, particularly travellers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship," the State Department wrote in its warning.
Dozens of ports in Asia are in lockdown to cruise ships and cruise lines have cut Asian itineraries. Amongst the shut ports are Hong Kong, Colombo in Sri Lanka, Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia and Keelung in Taiwan, Tonga and Cook Islands. Other ports are also rejecting ships, especially if any passengers are displaying symptoms.
The Cruise Lines International Association, has provided strict new screening rules for passengers and crew to add to already stringent on-board hygiene regimes. Most cruise lines are also providing flexible booking conditions.
On Sunday night, the UK Foreign Office last night advised against all but essential travel to the following areas in northern Italy, due to an ongoing outbreak of coronavirus (Covid-19) and various control and isolation measures imposed by the Italian authorities on 8 March: Lombardy region (which includes the cities of Milan, Bergamo, Como) and the provinces of Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Reggio Emilia and Rimini (all in Emilia Romagna); Pesaro e Urbino (in Marche); Alessandria, Asti, Novara, Verbano-Cusio-Ossola and Vercelli (all in Piemonte); Padova. Treviso and Venice (in Veneto).
As a result of official advice in Italy, 16 million people in Italy are to be in quarantine until 3 April. There will be a ban for everybody to move in and out of these territories and also within the same territory. This will have implications of tens of thousands of British holidaymakers with plans to travel in the region.
Anyone who has returned from affected areas of Italy or is about to has been told by the Department of Health to self-isolate for 14 days even if no symptoms are apparent.
Cruise ships are forbidden to dock in Venice.
Alitalia said it would suspend flights to and from Milan from today. EasyJet said that several flights to and from Milan, Venice and other affected destinations would be cancelled today. BA is not planning to ground flights.
The Financial Times this morning reported that global stocks and government bond yields tumbled after oil prices crashed by 25%, as the prospect of a crude oil price war hit markets already reeling from the coronavirus outbreak.
European stocks also slumped after opening, with the London FTSE 100 down 7 per cent and on track for its worst day since the 2008-09 financial crisis.
The Times reports that small businesses are concerned about specific advice on the ongoing economic impact of the virus.
The incoming Governor of the Bank of England Andrew Bailey said a stimulus package would be made for small firms and the British Business Bank is considering offering short-term loans to the worst-hit companies.
Topline Financial Implications of Covid-19 on the Travel Industry
IATA has called for a consideration for relief on taxes, charges and slot allocations. Last week, IATA warned that the virus could cost airlines $113 bn if the virus were to spread widely – equal to 19% of the industry’s passenger revenues.
Global aviation stocks have dropped by 25% in the past month, and the sector is now 45% below its January 2018 peak.
Shares in TUI and On The Beach are both down about 40% from last month said The Times.
Norwegian Air is cutting 22 flights between Europe and America.
Ryanair has cancelled up to 25% of its Italian flights and BA, Lufthansa and Virgin have all cut capacity.
Kay Nicholls, CEO of UK Hospitality, the third biggest industry sector in the UK, reported on the BBC that the Government’s announcement of its Covid-19 measures triggered many companies to announce travel bans. Bookings for hotels and big events are down by 50% and this is likely to affect the normally busy Easter holiday period. She also reported a severe drop in footfall in central London. She also voiced concern for 1 April and a cash-flow crisis and called on the Treasury to bail members out.
Report from the consumer travel media
Jane Knight, former Travel Editor at The Times has given an update on how the virus has been impacting consumer travel media. This is a summary:
Knight reported that whole issues are being changed and plans are in tatters as public fear is being fanned by 24-hour news and social media. Last week the Daily Mail changed its cruise-heavy section at the last minute, and The Telegraph changed much of its content to give consumer advice and boost its UK special.
“Expect smaller issue sizes if advertising continues to fall.”
Travel Editor of the Mail on Sunday, Sarah Hartley said: ‘I have ripped up my plans for the next four months or so.’
Travel editors can’t plan because they don’t know what is going to happen. But they can minimise the risks of having to change their issues at the last minute by pulling coverage on high-risk countries or areas and concentrating on low-risk ones. That means that as well as not featuring China and northern Italy, they are unlikely to run pieces on the rest of Italy, and category two countries in Asia.
Cruise coverage is being cut across the board although, as mentioned, the Mail On Sunday ran a supplement last weekend and some publications are still running small-ship and river cruising.
Long-lead publications are the same: Jane Anderson is considering whether to pull Italy from the spring issue of Family Traveller and Lyn Hughes has bumped most Asia features in Wanderlust in favour of Latin American articles. Lyn also reports a commissioning freeze as issue sizes shrunk when advertising was pulled; some planned articles may be pushed back.
Knight warns against sending any press releases or press-trip invitations (even with long leads) to go to affected areas now, particularly China. In Italy there is more of a case to schedule press trips – Lisa Minot said she would look at a long-lead invitation as did Jane Anderson ‘but we may have to cancel’. Knight suggests “hold fire for now.”
Be prepared, instead, for the time when the all-clear is sounded, ideally with some great offers. Once it’s safe to go to China, for instance, newspapers will be looking for money-off deals to incite readers to return. Reduced prices from previously affected areas will see increased coverage, confirmed The Times/Sunday Times. Play up the chance to see places without other tourists.
Right now, coverage is being given to the UK (which works with a sustainability theme), the USA, Latin America and India.
Big-event coverage will depend on the situation: most travel desks have Japan copy for the Olympics lined up, which will only run if the games go ahead. It may be better to hold off from press trips with the hook of an event, as they may be cancelled.
Travel journalists will continue to attend events but publishing houses are cracking down on some trips with some having imposed non-essential travel bans or extra clearance needed.
Inbound Travel to Europe
ETOA Calls on Governments to take measures to restore confidence
Last week, ETOA called on Governments to take measures to halt the economic impact of Covid-19 and restore confidence and that Government actions to push back the epidemic need to be balanced with people’s livelihoods. ETOA reported that business into Europe from China is virtually non-existent and the from South-East it is down by 75%. “The economic impact is spreading faster than the virus that triggered it.”
ETOA reported that inbound traffic to Italy from all markets is at a standstill: nearly 25% of all inbound traffic to Europe from the US involves Italy, which was before the weekend’s developments to lockdown most of northern Italy.
To compound the situation, France has stopped schools travelling abroad and educational travel from the US to Germany is being cancelled. Tom Jenkins, CEO of ETOA voiced concerns over the hospitality industry and the repercussions throughout the entire supply chain for the travel industry.
Rishi Sunak, the UK chancellor, promised ‘whatever action is required’ to protect public services, workers and companies from the impact as he prepares for Wednesday’s budget.
The Times believes that Covid-19 will impact the negotiations with Brussels, from a practical level – the negotiations involves teams of 200 officials getting together – which might in turn have an impact on timings and the deadline of the end of the year.
The IMF has already cut its global growth forecasts for this year, and the Office of Budget Responsibility is likely to do the same this week too. This might in turn effect the desire to put in place added bureaucracy and costs on exports and imports.
The first round of talks last week concentrated on clarifications, meanings and setting out the frameworks for discussion. The UK delegation is arguing that there is no difference in international law precedence between having one agreement or "a suite of agreements", which is more flexible and can be added to later.