‘A hotel without linen is not a hotel’

Lilliput Services in Belfast is one of the unsung companies without which the UK’s hotel industry could not exist.

The fresh bed linen you’re used to seeing in your hotel room is not owned by the hotels themselves, but by laundry firms like Lilliput.

They collect it when it’s dirty and bring it back nice and clean. As boss David Griffiths puts it: “A hotel without linen is not a hotel.”

But Covid, Brexit and other factors have combined to make life extremely difficult for laundry companies – and that is having a knock-on effect for accommodation providers everywhere.

Sources in the hotel industry have reported difficulties in getting rooms ready for guests because they don’t have enough bedclothes.

Kate Nicholls, head of the UK Hospitality industry body, has said the problems are “across the sector”.

‘We have had general managers taking laundry home in order to get towels turned around because the commercial laundry providers haven’t been able to guarantee the delivery,” she told the BBC.

Part of this is down to the national shortage of lorry drivers that is holding up linen deliveries, just as it is leading to gaps on supermarket shelves.

But the problems go deeper. Weather-related disasters and India’s Covid crisis have caused a global shortage of cotton, so that laundry firms are finding it hard to replace worn-out sheets with new ones.

“I’ve been in this game 40 years and I’ve never, never not been able to buy a pillowcase,” says Mr Griffiths.

For the past five weeks, Lilliput has been working 24 hours a day, five days a week in an effort to clear the backlog of deliveries. That has meant paying staff extra to work the unsocial hours.

In order to keep going during the pandemic, the firm took out a coronavirus business interruption loan of £1.3m. Although interest rates are low, Mr Griffiths says that planned investments in the business will now have to wait.

“About 80% of our staff were Eastern European and a lot of them went home during furlough,” he adds. Brexit has also made it difficult to get materials into Northern Ireland from elsewhere in the UK.

“It’s absolutely astonishing, it’s devastating,” he says. “This will impact on the marketplace unless we can find solutions.”

Back to the floor

Across the Irish Sea in Blackpool, another laundry firm is finding the going tough as well.

Like Lilliput, Blackpool Laundry makes its living from providing linen to hotels, NHS hospitals and ferry services.

Having started as a local firm in the seaside resort, it now has clients all over north-western England.

But boss Mark Oldroyd is more often found on the shop floor than in his office right now, pitching in to help mitigate a shortage of workers.

“We’re struggling to get staff. It’s getting quite bad,” he told the BBC.

Unlike his counterpart in Northern Ireland, Mr Oldroyd is suffering less from the lorry driver shortage: “Drivers are not too bad, it’s getting labour.”

David Stevens, chief executive of the Textile Services Association, says the laundry industry is facing “massive recruitment issues”.

There are currently 4,000 vacancies out of a workforce of 24,000, he says.

“The industry was overlooked during the pandemic – it wasn’t hospitality, it wasn’t retail and it wasn’t leisure,” he told the BBC.

“Firms had a tough time and had to make a lot of commercial decisions. It’s very difficult to kickstart the industry in just three weeks.”

With the “unprecedented bounce-back” of the hotel industry and a return to 90% occupancy rates, “we just haven’t been able to get adequate staff”, he says.

Mr Griffiths of Lilliput Services says that whatever happens, change is coming to the industry.

“We have to pay more money and we have to charge more for our services,” he says. “It’s the only way forward.”

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-58465953

Radisson Hotel Group announces a record year in Africa, with 13 hotels and 2,500 rooms signed to date

Radisson Hotel Group (www.RadissonHotels.com), one of the world’s leading hotel groups, is proud to announce a hotel expansion record in Africa with 13 signings to date, translating to a new hotel signed every 20 days. The Group’s expansion drive, adding 2,500 rooms to its African portfolio, includes the announcement of nine hotels in Morocco, the Group’s debut in Djibouti and the introduction of the Radisson Individuals brand in Africa. Adding to this expansion milestone, the Group has also opened five hotels to date this year, including Africa’s second Radisson RED in South Africa and four Radisson Blu resort offerings in Morocco.

With additional hotel signings and a further three openings in Africa expected before year end, Radisson Hotel Group remains prudently optimistic regarding the business recovery within the last quarter of 2021. The Group’s aggressive expansion places them firmly on track to boost the current African portfolio of almost 100 hotels currently in operation and under development to its ambition of 150 hotels by 2025. As part of the expansion strategy, the Group has put forward growth priorities across key markets such as Morocco, Egypt and South Africa.

From a single hotel in Africa 20 years ago, Radisson Hotel Group’s current African portfolio of almost 100 hotels in operation and under development is located in more than 30 countries across the continent, cementing the Group’s leading position as the hotel company with the largest active presence in the most countries across Africa.

The 13 signings, reinforcing the Group’s expansion strategy, have secured a record growth in Morocco with an additional nine hotels, comprising of two hotels in Casablanca, including the debut of the Radisson brand with the Radisson Hotel Casablanca Gauthier La Citadelle and the recent partnership established with Madaëf which translates to seven additional hotels across key leisure destinations in the country. The group has also announced the launch of their first project, the Earl Heights Suite Hotel, a member of Radisson Individuals in Accra, Ghana joining their new affiliation brand; their market entry in Victory Falls with the introduction of Radisson Blu Resort Mosi-Oa-Tunya Livingstone as well as another new entry with Radisson Hotel Djibouti. The most recent announcement was the Radisson Hotel Middleburg which further complements the Group’s presence across South Africa.

These hotel signings equate to almost 2,500 rooms, most of which are in the Group’s core focus countries, especially across Morocco, with the remainder reinforcing their presence in cluster markets or entering into new territories.

Ramsay Rankoussi, Vice President, Development, Africa & Turkey at Radisson Hotel Group, said:For the remainder of the year, we will continue to build on the success and momentum we’ve had thus far, with a continued focus on our identified key markets, specifically Morocco, Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa. We aim to further accelerate our presence across the continent through both new build and conversions, especially post-pandemic, as there is less liquidity for newer developments. We therefore seek to form wider partnerships and strategic ventures with local or regional chains and forge ahead with our city scale and critical mass strategy. The execution of our strategy with clear priorities will equally support in achieving positive economic efficiencies and synergies operationally across all our existing and future hotels, further unlocking value to our owners. We have also demonstrated the relevant flexibility in addressing the current investment climate by providing not only tailored solutions to every project but also rationalizing our relationships with our investors to assess the best timings in terms of openings and the right budget allocation in terms of segment, space program and development cost.

“Africa is mainly led by business hotels, but with the recent signings, we have expanded our leisure offerings and serviced apartments which has not only proven resilient during COVID-19 but is also fueling a faster recovery. Our ambitions are driven by creating critical mass in each of our identified focus markets but also ensuring market proximity. These regions are sub divided based on priorities, focus and potential scale.”

“Despite the current situation and supporting our robust expansion strategy, our teams are working tirelessly to realize the pipeline, with eight hotel openings in Africa this year. We have already opened five hotels, consisting of four of the seven hotels we’ve just announced in Morocco, which consist of resorts and residences as well the opening of Africa’s second Radisson RED hotel in Rosebank. The remaining three hotels, all due to open before year-end, represent our debut in Madagascar with a portfolio of three hotels.”

Building on the success of the Group’s five-year expansion and transformation plan, Radisson Hotel Group is ready for the rebound of travel and remains firmly committed to becoming the brand of choice for owners, partners, and guests.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Radisson Hotel Group.

Source: https://www.africanews.com/2021/09/20/radisson-hotel-group-announces-a-record-year-in-africa-with-13-hotels-and-2-500-rooms-signed-to-date/

Vietnam: Nation prepares to welcome fully vaccinated tourists

iet Nam News via Asia News NetworkIn addition to previous plans to open Phu Quoc Island to international tourists, Ha Long, Hoi An, Nha Trang and Da Lat will also welcome tourists this year, under a plan developed by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MoCST).

The MoCST has issued a plan to stimulate travel demand, restore the tourism industry, and resume travel activities in late 2021 and early 2022 while ensuring the dual goals of disease prevention and control and socioeconomic development.

It will create favorable conditions for domestic and international tourists who have valid vaccination travel certificates.

Phu Quoc in Kien Giang Province will be the first locality to welcome international visitors in October, followed by Ha Long in Quang Ninh Province, Hoi An in Quang Nam Province, Nha Trang in Khanh Hoa Province and Da Lat in Lam Dong Province.

In addition to safety measures such as 5K rules and improving medical capacity to prevent the outbreak of COVID-19, the Ministry will prioritize COVID-19 vaccinations for local residents and employees in these tourism centers.

Existing tourism campaigns including “Vietnamese people traveling to Viet Nam” and “Safe and attractive local tourism” will continue, together with other programs helping local businesses sell their tourism products at preferential prices.

Tourism products post-COVID-19 will be associated with sustainability, nature and health care, according to the plan. Night tourism and eco-tourism will be invested in and developed as well.

The government plans to launch a pilot inbound tourism program with an aim to lure 2 million to 3 million foreign arrivals to Phu Quoc Island by the year end, according to the prime minister.

Source: https://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0007768086

The 2021 Shandong Conference on Tourism Development to be held in Yantai in late September

This conference aims to be a unique, high-level tourism event that combines universal participation with openness and sharing, achievement demonstration, exchange of experience, innovation and development, and publicity and promotion.

Yantai, China – The 2021 Shandong Conference on Tourism Development will be held in Yantai from September 22 to 24. This conference aims to promote the high-quality development of the cultural tourism of Shandong Province by focusing on the theme “Welcome to Coastal Wonderland – Enjoy the Hospitality of Shandong” and starting with the marine and cultural tourism projects. The conference is hosted by the CPC Shandong Provincial Committee and the People’s Government of Shandong Province and organized by the Shandong Provincial Department of Culture and Tourism, the CPC Yantai Municipal Committee, and the People’s Government of Yantai.

This conference aims to be a unique, high-level tourism event that combines universal participation with openness and sharing, achievement demonstration, exchange of experience, innovation and development, and publicity and promotion. The overall conference arrangements include four major activities: the opening ceremony, the large-scale cultural tourism show “A Solemn Pledge of Love for Yantai”, the working meeting, and the project observation in addition to four minor ones: the display of cultural tourism achievements made by 16 cities of Shandong Province, the Yantai cultural tourism experience activity with the theme of “Love for Traveling in Wonderland”, the 2021 International Coastal Leisure Tourism High-Quality Development Forum, and the Grand Yantai Carnival.

When the day comes, representatives of the cultural and tourism departments of some provinces (autonomous regions, municipalities), representatives of some coastal cities, key distributors, investors, trade association leaders, cultural tourism experts, foreign consuls in China, and the heads of relevant international organizations will be invited to attend the conference. The guests and attendees will participate in the conference both online and offline. The number of the offline participants will be strictly controlled and various epidemic prevention and control measures will be carefully implemented to ensure that nothing goes wrong.

Source: https://www.traveldailynews.asia/the-2021-shandong-conference-on-tourism-development-to-be-h

Biden’s ‘incomprehensible’ travel ban on European visitors widens transatlantic rift

Last week, France became the latest European nation to issue travel restrictions on unvaccinated American visitors. The move prompted outraged responses from some, but many Europeans seemed to believe that the move was America’s just deserts.

The issue for wary Europeans isn’t just the United States’ persistently high national coronavirus case numbers, or the lingering pockets of anti-vaccination sentiment that have seen an immunization front-runner become a laggard. It’s that most Europeans, vaccinated or not, have been banned from the United States since March 14, 2020: more than 550 days and counting.

The U.S. ban — which affects most European visitors, but not American citizens, permanent residents and a limited number of visa holders flying from Europe — was imposed in the early days of the pandemic under President Donald Trump. Many Europeans believed President Biden would lift the ban soon after taking office. He didn’t. Later, some speculated he would do so after he visited Brussels or when he hosted German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Washington, around the time that Europe and Britain lifted most of their own blanket restrictions. Still, no policy change.

Even as foreign diplomats and leaders descend on New York for the U.N. General Assembly and the nation prepares to host a summit on vaccination next week, the United States has proved unwilling to relax its rules for a wider group of travelers.

“Given where we are today in terms of the delta variant both here and around the world — we are maintaining the existing travel restrictions at this point,” White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients told a meeting with representatives from the U.S. travel industry.

Some Europeans see no hope on the horizon for a lifting of the ban. “At this point, it’s really just incomprehensible,” said Benjamin Haddad, director of the Europe Center at the Atlantic Council.

With little sign of change, tensions are flaring. The Times of London recently dubbed the policy “Kafkaesque” and indicative of “political cowardice.” European diplomats are increasingly speaking out, with at least one E.U. official canceling a planned trip to the United States in protest of the restrictions.

Even though Trump was the one who slammed the door on Europe, it is Biden who is keeping it shut. And the restriction’s continued existence threatens to widen a somewhat surprising transatlantic rift that has arisen during the Biden administration. Many Europeans had looked to Biden with enthusiasm after the “America First” policies of his predecessor but have been angered by unilateral moves on Afghanistan and other issues.

The Trump administration moved to lift the travel restrictions in January, but Biden’s team quickly reinstated them. There was little controversy at the time: Vaccinations were only just beginning, a devastating winter wave of covid-19 was sweeping the United States and Europe, and many countries’ borders were closed to most American travelers anyway.

By summer, that had changed. In June, the European Union announced it would recommend lifting restrictions on U.S. travelers, and U.S. citizens packed Parisian cafes and Aegean beaches. But if Europe was expecting reciprocity, it found itself disappointed.

Administration officials pointed to a new wave of coronavirus cases in the United States, driven by the delta variant, as justification for keeping the ban intact. “Given where we are today … with the delta variant, we will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on July 26 — almost exactly the same language used by her colleague Zients nearly two months later.

That rationale has grown weaker as time has progressed. Many European countries are far more widely vaccinated than the United States and have seen their daily coronavirus case numbers dip as a result. The delta variant is as dominant as it is likely to get in the United States, where large pockets of unvaccinated people already provided fertile ground, and cases are far higher than in Europe.

There were never any requirements for testing and quarantine that would have stopped a delta-spreading U.S. citizen traveling back from Europe. Meanwhile, other nations with lower vaccination rates and coronavirus waves do not currently face U.S. travel restrictions: Some, such as Serbia or Mexico, have served as popular stop-off points for Europeans traveling to the United States with the time and means.

Much of the public opposition to the restrictions has focused on the personal impact, with the hashtag #LoveIsNotTourism on social media detailing accounts of divided families and missed life events, from births to deaths. But the economic impact on America is clear, too, with airlines, tourism-reliant businesses and European-owned companies complaining of losses. One industry estimate for the net losses from all U.S. coronavirus travel restrictions stands at $198 million per day.

One European official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid hurting ongoing negotiations, said the United States had simply “missed their moment” because of bureaucratic inertia over the summer. But some pinned part of the blame on the E.U. for unilaterally lifting measures on American travelers this summer. “I think the Europeans were a bit naive to expect automatic reciprocity from the United States,” said Haddad.

Now, with travel restrictions favored by Republicans and coronavirus anxiety common among Democrats, it may be politics, rather than science, that stops Biden from changing course. “If protecting Biden’s political flank is the criterion, as it may very well be, these and other border restrictions could remain frozen until 2022 U.S. midterm elections,” economist Edward Alden wrote for Foreign Policy this week.

Indeed, the U.S. travel restrictions may be more a reflection of what is happening inside American borders than outside. The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that the administration was debating a plan to require proof of vaccination for domestic or international air travel, but that there were concerns about travel disruption and the persistent Republican opposition to vaccine mandates.

Any concern about political backlash might be misplaced. Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) tweeted last week that the policy “makes no sense” and called for vaccinated Europeans to be allowed into the United States.

Conservative groups have criticized the policy, too. The American Enterprise Institute’s Stan Veuger has dubbed the restrictions “not just bizarre and cruel, but ineffective too,” while the National Review’s Charles C.W. Cooke has said that Biden should end the policy as soon as possible. “Fit it with concrete shoes and send it to the bottom of the ocean,” Cooke wrote.

It’s hard to imagine that reopening international travel will happen without some kind of system for recognizing foreign vaccines. Last week, the World Health Organization seemed to point the way, urging national governments to recognize all vaccines that have received WHO Emergency Use Listing so that they could avoid “chaos, confusion and discrimination.”

Speaking on Wednesday, Zients said the administration was working on a “new system” that could include “vaccination requirements for foreign nationals traveling to the United States,” as well as improved approaches to testing and surveillance. What that means is not yet clear, but here the Biden administration may have to think a little less American — and a little more French.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2021/09/16/biden-travel-ban-europe-analysis/

European Destination of Excellence 2022 shortlist announced

One Turkish and two Danish destinations named on the shortlist for this year’s competition

BRUSSELS, Sept. 17, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — The European Commission announces the three shortlisted destinations for the European Destination of Excellence (EDEN) 2022 competition. This initiative rewards the best achievements in sustainable tourism and green transition practices in smaller destinations across Europe.

Gürsu in Turkey and Middelfart and Thisted in Denmark convinced the panel of independent sustainability experts with their applications and were chosen ahead of 40 other applicant destinations. The winner of the 2022 award will be selected from this shortlist of three. Find out more about each of the shortlisted destinations here.

The European Destinations of Excellence is an EU initiative, implemented by the European Commission. Its aim is to recognise and reward smaller destinations that have in place successful strategies to boost sustainable tourism through green transition practices. The competition is founded upon the principle of promoting the development of sustainable tourism in destinations which brings value to the economy, the planet and the people. The initiative covers EU countries as well non-EU countries participating in the COSME programme[1]. The competition addresses smaller tourism destinations which can showcase their outstanding achievements in sustainability and inspire other tourism destinations in their green transition.

In order to compete for the 2022 European Destination of Excellence title, destinations were asked to demonstrate their best practices in sustainable tourism and green transition. In the next step, the three shortlisted destinations will be asked to present their town’s candidature in front of the European Jury. The European Jury will select one winner, the European Destination of Excellence 2022, which will be awarded in November 2021.

The winning destination will be positioned as a tourism sustainability pioneer committed to the European Green Deal objectives and will receive expert communication and branding support at the EU level throughout 2022.

For all the latest news visit the European Destinations of Excellence website.

Contact

European Destinations of Excellence Secretariat:
Antigoni Avgeropoulou, info@edensecretariat.eu, +49 (0) 30 70 01 86 390

Notes to Editors

1. Since 2007, the European Commission has supported EU Member States and other countries participating in the COSME programme to reward non-traditional, emerging sustainable tourism destinations in Europe through the ‘European Destination of Excellence” (EDEN) award. This action aimed to foster sustainable tourism destination management models across Europe by selecting and promoting EDEN destinations. To date, 175 destinations from 27 different countries have received the award under different annual themes.

2. In 2019 the “Study on EDEN evaluation” was carried out to assess the continued relevance, effectiveness, efficiency and impact of the EDEN initiative and the various actions implemented in its framework, as well as its coherence with other EU initiatives. Following the results and recommendations of the evaluation study, the European Commission relaunched the initiative, taking into account European Green Deal goals. In addition to the EU countries, it also covers non-EU countries participating in the COSME programme. The competition addresses smaller tourism destinations which can showcase their outstanding achievements in sustainability and inspire other tourism destinations in their green transition.

3. The EDEN Award was implemented first as a pilot project and as a preparatory action initiated by the European Parliament and since 2011 has continued under the CIP/COSME programmes.

4. The 2022 EDEN competition was open to submissions from 22 April 2021 to 16 June 2021. Terms and conditions are available at https://ec.europa.eu/growth/sectors/tourism/eden_en

5. Eligible applications were evaluated against a set of established assessment criteria, by a panel of independent sustainability experts. The shortlisted destinations will be invited to present their candidatures in front of a European Jury. The European Jury will select one European Destination of Excellence 2022.

[1] Albania, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Kosovo, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine and United Kingdom. https://ec.europa.eu/docsroom/documents/39579

Source: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/european-destination-excellence-2022-shortlist-135500587.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAJvf5D786jaqL8vSPlbw2dVsZ8pjV_gzQ5ooUn_Kcgybm3d_CXOPWoCkLWtVxdmmw9XeV2K7SVXgxkyDActUiXAxIJwxCwz3E3YQ8Zqu5C_jcnTFvLB-YB2_AaQI5oBXuVNODNjFNPkroHxZg9gY8uGn9MmSLfD2eQAOuHOYLrOB

This week Tourism Ministers and industry leaders join together at the Évora Forum

This week over two dozen ministers and government officials; 140 speakers, professors and industry leaders, will come together at the Évora Forum – A World for Travel and will be announcing the five sustainable commitments to accelerate the transformation of travel for a more sustainable future.

The Evora Forum, the brainchild of Christian Delom, Secretary General, A World For Travel and Frédéric Vanhoutte, Founder/CEO, Eventiz Media Group aims to be the “davos-like” forum of sustainable travel and aims to put tourists and residents at the heart of tourism transformation while promoting best practices and collaboration across the travel industry.

The five commitments will focus on sustainability from all perspectives including social, environmental, and economic. The ambition of the Évora Forum – A World for Travel is to return one year later, Evora 2022 to hear about the successes and to revise the acts for the coming year.

The organizers have collected 35 position papers from across the global travel industry, engaged Oliver Wyman who has developed a baseline of where the travel industry sits vis a vis sustainable actions and goals.  Results from surveys and analysis will be announced at the morning press conferences.

At the first morning’s keynote, five tourism ministers including H.E. Edmund Bartlett, Minister of Tourism, Jamaica, H.E. Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Secretary of State for Tourism, France, H.E. Fernando Valdès Verest, Secretary of State for Tourism, Spain, H.E. Vasilis Kikilias Minister of Tourism and H.E. Ghada Shalaby, Vice Minister Tourism and Antiquities, Arab Republic of Egypt  will be joining a panel session titled  ‘Covid-19: A Resilient Sector Drives to a New Deal with New Leadership Demands’. They will be discussing how government leadership needs to facilitate the sector’s influence on policy making from establishing standards to defining easier access to funding and capital. 

High on the agenda will be agreeing the challenges faced by the industry and how to reach core targets set by the COP21 Paris Accord. During the forum industry leaders will be debating how to establish standard criteria for measurement and offset options for travellers. Jane Madden, Global Managing Partner, Sustainability and Social Impact, FINN Partners will be moderating the panel session titled ‘From transport to mobility solutions – zero carbon target’ and she will be joined by Lucas Bobes, Group Environmental Officer & ESG Reporting, Amadeus, Dr. Marc Ivaldi, Professor, Toulouse School of Economics; Research Director, Institute for Sustainable Aviation (ISA) and Affiliate at NERA Economic Consulting, Ian Moore, CCO, VistaJet  and Michel Taride, Board Member, former Group President Hertz International, Smart Mobility Expert.

Mr. Delom commented: “We are just one week away from the first think tank about sustainability in travel.  We know important topics will be discussed and commitments generated that will have true impact. Our goal is that the development and announcement of five commitments will be adopted and implemented by tourism businesses and organisations around the world to ensure a more sustainable future for travel, while making changes to the impact of tourism.”

There will be over 30 presentations, panel sessions and discussion groups during the Évora Forum – A World for Travel covering a variety of issues from the economics of tourism to tourism’s impact on the environment.

Source: https://www.traveldailynews.com/post/this-week-tourism-ministers-and-industry-leaders-join-together-at-the-evora-forum

SpaceX will launch four space tourists on a three-day trip in space. Here’s everything you need to know

Cape Canaveral, Florida (CNN Business)On Wednesday, four people — none of whom are professional astronauts — will strap themselves into a capsule atop a 200-foot-tall SpaceX rocket that will blast them past the speed of sound and up to 17,500 miles per hour. This mission, dubbed Inspiration4, is the first orbital mission in the history of spaceflight to be staffed entirely by tourists or otherwise non-astronauts. Launch is slated for Wednesday between 8:02 pm and 1:02 am ET from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Brevard County, Florida, though forecasters are keeping a close eye out for storms that could impact the mission. The three-day journey will see the quartet free-flying through Earth’s orbit, whipping around the planet once every 90 minutes while the passengers float, buoyed by microgravity, and take in panoramic views of our home planet. To cap off the journey, their spacecraft will dive back into the atmosphere for a fiery re-entry and splash down off the coast of Florida.And yes, for all three days in space, the passengers will all have to share a special zero-gravity-friendly toilet located near the top of the capsule. No showering will be available, and crew will all have to sleep in the same reclining seats they will ride in during launch.

This is far from the first time civilians have traveled to space. Though NASA has been averse to signing up non-astronauts for routine missions after the death of Christa McAuliffe, a New Jersey school teacher who was killed in the Challenger disaster in 1986, a cohort of wealthy thrill-seekers paid their own way to the International Space Station in the 2000s through a company called Space Adventures. American investment management billionaire Dennis Tito became the first to self-fund a trip in 2001 with his eight-day stay on the International Space Station, and six others came after him. They all booked rides alongside professional astronauts on Russian Soyuz spacecraft.This mission, however, has been billed as the beginning of a new era of space travel in which average people, rather than government-selected astronauts and the occasional deep-pocketed adventurer, carry the mantle of space exploration. But to be clear, we are still a long way from that reality, and this trip is still far from “average.” It’s a custom, one-off mission financed by a billionaire founder of a payment processing company, and though pricing details have not been made public, it likely cost upward of $200 million. (According to one government report, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule costs roughly $55 million per seat.)Here’s a rundown of what’s happening and why it matters.

The passengers: A billionaire, a cancer survivor, a geologist and a raffle winner

  • Jared Isaacman, 38, the billionaire founder of payment processing company Shift4, who is also personally financing this entire mission
  • Hayley Arceneaux, a 29-year-old cancer survivor who now works as a physician assistant at St. Jude, the hospital where she was treated, in Memphis, Tennessee. She’ll be the first person with a prosthetic body part to go to space, and she’ll serve as the flight’s chief medical officer. St. Jude selected Arceneaux for this mission as Isaacman’s request, according to a Netflix documentary, and, at the time, she said she was so unfamiliar with space travel that she asked if she would be traveling to the moon, unaware that humans have not set foot on the moon in 50 years.
  • Sian Proctor, 51, a geologist and educator who was selected for a seat on this mission through a post on social media in which she highlights her space-related artwork and entrepreneurial spirit. She’ll be only the fourth Black woman from the US to travel to orbit.
  • Chris Sembroski, a 42-year-old Seattle-based Lockheed Martin employee and former camp counselor at Alabama’s famed Space Camp. He won his seat through a raffle he entered by donating to St. Jude Children’s Hospital, though he wasn’t the official winner. His friend snagged the seat and, after deciding not to go, transferred it to him.

Isaacman — who will become the third billionaire to self-fund a trip to space in the past three months and the first to buy a trip to orbit on a SpaceX capsule — is billing this mission as one that he hopes will inspire would-be space adventureres, hence the missions’s name, Inspiration4. He’s also using it as the centerpiece for a $200 million fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Hospital, $100 million of which he donated personally and the rest he is hoping to raise through online donations and an upcoming auction. So far, a fundraiser has brought in $30 million of its $100 million goal.

How did all this happen?

Inspiration4 is entirely the brain child of Jared Isaacman and SpaceX.Isaacman began flying single-engine prop planes recreationally in the mid-2000s and developed an insatiable thirst for going higher and faster, eventually moving into twin-engine planes, then jets, then military-grade aircraft that can zip past the speed of sound.

Each of Isaacman’s fellow passengers was selected in a different way: He asked St. Jude to select a cancer-survivor-turned-healthcare-provider, and the organization chose Arceneaux. Proctor won an online contest specifically for people who use Shift4, the payment platform Isaacman runs. And Sembroski was given his seat by a person who won a raffle for people who donated to St. Jude. (Sembroski also entered the raffle but was not the original winner.)Isaacman told CNN Business that he sat down with SpaceX to hash out the flight profile. He specifically wanted the Crew Dragon to orbit higher than International Space Station, which is why the spacecraft will orbit about 350 miles above Earth — roughly 100 miles above where the space station orbits.

How risky is this?

Any time a spacecraft leaves Earth there are risks, and there are no perfect measurements for predicting them.But NASA estimates Crew Dragon has a 1 in 270 chance of catastrophic failure, based on one metric the space agency uses. For comparison, NASA’s Space Shuttle missions in the 1980s to early 2000s ultimately logged a failure rate of about 1 in every 68 missions.Because of the inherent risks of blasting a spacecraft more than 17,500 miles per hour — the speed that allows an object to enter Earth’s orbit — Inspiration4 is more dangerous than the brief, up-and-down suborbital jaunts made by billionaires Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson.

Apart from the many perils of the launch itself — in which rockets essentially use controlled explosions more powerful than most wartime bombs to drum up enough speed to rip away from gravity — there’s also the re-entry process. When returning from orbit, the Crew Dragon’s external temperatures can reach up to 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit, and astronauts can experience 4.5 Gs of force pushing them into their seats, all while the ever-thickening atmosphere whips around the capsule.During a Netflix documentary about the Inspiration4 mission, Musk described a capsule going through reentry as “like a blazing meteor coming in.””And so it’s hard not to get vaporized,” he added.After that the Crew Dragon then has to deploy parachutes to slow its descent and make a safe splashdown in the ocean before rescue ships can whisk the four passengers back to dry land.Despite the risks, a former NASA chief and career safety officials have said the Crew Dragon is likely the safest crewed vehicle ever flown.

The vehicle: SpaceX’s Crew Dragon

All four passengers will spend the entire missions aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, a 13-foot-wide, gumdrop-shaped spacecraft that detaches from SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket after reaching orbital speeds. The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule was developed by Elon Musk’s rocketry company for the specific purpose of ferrying NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station, which it did for the first time ever in May 2020.

Since then, SpaceX has launched two additional Crew Dragon missions for NASA. SpaceX is allowed, however, to sell seats — or entire missions — to whoever the company chooses. Although NASA paid for much of the Crew Dragon’s development, under the terms of the deal between the federal agency and the company, SpaceX still technically owns and operates the vehicle and can use it for whatever commercial purposes it wishes.Crew Dragon’s missions in the near future also include a mix of NASA-commissioned flights to the ISS and space tourism missions.For this mission, the Crew Dragon will be retrofitted with a giant glass dome at the tip of the spacecraft specifically for the crew to soak in panoramic views of the cosmos.

Source: https://edition.cnn.com/2021/09/14/tech/spacex-inspiration-4-space-tourism-mission-walkup-scn/index.html

Italy’s Domestic Tourism Reaches Its Peak for This Summer Despite COVID-19 Pandemic

Italian tourism has hit an all-time high during July and August since the beginning of the pandemic, the Italian Confederation of Craft Trades and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (CNA) has revealed. Such a rise in travel demand has been attributed to the implementation of the country’s green pass.

According to a press release issued by CNA during July and August 2021, around 23 million Italian nationals had decided to spend their summer vacations in the country, lifting the booking rate higher than ever.

The number of those who spent their holidays in the country this summer was 6 million, higher than the total of 17 million people in 2020. As for the pre-pandemic period, in 2019, the number of those who spent their holidays within Italy was 18 million, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.

Based on CNA’s report, the health pass of the country had a crucial role when it came to the domestic travel and tourism sector. This is because the COVID-19 Certificate allowed those who had one of the required documents to travel freely without being subject to strict restrictions.

“And with them, six million foreign vacationers have also vacationed in Italy, much less than in the pre-pandemic summers but in turn in a consistently larger number than expected, a fact favoured by the positive effects of the “green pass,” national CNA of Italy noted.

Since August 6, the “green pass” has been mandatory in Italy for all persons over the age of 12, including international tourists. Italy’s health pass, which is an extension of the EU Digital COVID-19 Certificate, is issued to all persons who have been vaccinated with one of the vaccine doses recognised in Italy as well as to those who have recovered from the virus.

Regarding the accommodation occupancy in Italy, it has been revealed that traditional hotels were preferred mostly by the Italian vacationers during July and August, with 15 million arrivals. As for the other accommodation places, including campsites, they accounted for eight million arrivals.

As such, based on this data, it means that even though cities of art in Italy continue to be highly affected by the pandemic, the seaside resorts and other facilities made the most significant difference in the country’s tourism sector. – Advertisement -https://69cec3a7c846f9145ead4a068b09b680.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

“In the field of seaside tourism, this year the smaller islands have come out of the niche, thanks to the important appeal of Procida, the next Italian capital of culture,” CNA added.

Previously, SchengenVisaInfo.com reported that Italy had extended the use of its Green Pass. Consequently, since September 1, all persons who want to use airplanes, busses, ferries, and other transport means are required to present a vaccination or recovery certificate. In addition, those who hold a negative test result not older than 48 hours are also eligible.

Source: https://www.schengenvisainfo.com/news/italys-domestic-tourism-reaches-its-peak-for-this-summer-despite-covid-19-pandemic/

Cuba, Israel and Phu Quoc announce reopening plans

Fall is almost here, we’re approaching our seventh season of living with a pandemic, and yes, it still sucks. Never mind, though, as CNN Travel is here as always to sharpen your pencils, straighten your rucksack and get you schooled in our weekly roundup of the latest developments in pandemic travel news.

1. France has banned unvaccinated American travelers

France has become the latest European country — and the most significant tourism destination — to remove the United States from its safe travel list, following EU recommendations in the wake of a US Covid spike.

A French government decree issued on Thursday bumped the United States and Israel from the country’s “green” list, down to “orange,” effectively prohibiting nonessential travel to France for unvaccinated visitors.However, the caution is reciprocated. France was added to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s highest-category risk list — “Level 4: Covid-19 very high” — back on August 9, meaning US citizens are already advised to avoid nonessential travel there.

2. And Spain has done the same

In a change from policy earlier this summer, Spain is allowing tourists from the United States only if they are fully vaccinated, the health ministry told CNN on Tuesday.The new rule, which took effect this week, states that visitors from the United States on “nonessential travel,” such as tourism, must show “a vaccination certificate that the (Spanish) Ministry of Health recognizes as valid.”Like France, Spain is on CDC’s highest-risk Level 4.

3. Cuba will start to reopen its borders in November

Cuba’s state-run media has announced that the island will begin to reopen borders in November, despite a recent surge in Covid cases. Cuba has been closed for much of the pandemic, which has hit the local tourism industry hard. According to Cuba’s Ministry of Health, more than four million people on the island have been fully vaccinated with the island’s home-grown vaccines.A statement from the Ministry of Tourism that was published on Monday in the Communist-party newspaper Granma said that Cuba will gradually reopen borders starting November 15 and will no longer require travelers to take a PCR test upon arrival.

4. Israel will reopen to small groups of tourists this month

An Israeli pilot program to kick-start tourism will allow small foreign tour groups from selected countries, reports Reuters. Fully vaccinated tour groups of between 5 and 30 people from countries on Israel’s green, yellow and orange lists will be allowed to enter the country, the tourism ministry said on September 5. Individual tourists will still not be allowed to enter outside of a tour group, with exceptions being made for people visiting family members.

5. The Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc will reopen next month

Vietnam has taken a tough line with its Covid restrictions — this week a man was jailed for five years for spreading the virus — but there are still plans to revive its tourism industry. Authorities hope to reopen the island getaway of Phu Quoc to foreign tourists from next month, for a trial period of six months. The 222-square-mile island is known for its stunning beaches, including Sao Beach, Long Beach and Ong Lang Beach.

6. Jamaica and Sri Lanka have been added to the US ‘do not travel’ list

Two tropical islands half a world apart and popular with tourists — Jamaica in the Caribbean and Sri Lanka in South Asia — are the latest additions to the CDC’s ever-expanding list of the highest-risk destinations for Covid-19.They join the likes of Greece, Portugal, the UK, Ireland, South Africa, Thailand, the Bahamas and many other much-loved vacation spots.

7. The UK government was blasted for long lines at London Heathrow

Last weekend saw huge lines at London’s Heathrow Airport as families returned from trips abroad in time for the new school term. Social media erupted, with some claiming to have been kept waiting for hours.The airport press office criticized British Border Force on September 4 saying, “We are very sorry that passengers faced unacceptable queuing times in immigration last night (September 3) due to too few Border Force officers on duty.” The UK government might scrap its travel traffic light system within weeks, the BBC reports, and could be replaced with a new strategy that would allow vaccinated travelers to go quarantine-free to countries with similarly high levels of vaccination as the UK.

8. Time Out has named its ‘best cities in the world’

San Francisco — renowned for its booming tech industry, sumptuous restaurant scene and THAT bridge — has been crowned the “world’s best” city, according to Time Out.Time Out says San Francisco’s “unbeatable combination of progressiveness, acceptance and sustainability” clinched it the top spot. It was also applauded by Time Out for its response to the pandemic, and for boasting one of the highest vaccination rates in the US.

9. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will be a bit more like normal this year

The world-famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will return to a more traditional route in 2021 and the public will once again be able to line the streets of Manhattan to watch.However, masks will be required for volunteer participants and staff and a vaccine mandate will apply, with few exceptions. Public viewing locations, entry guidelines and restrictions will be announced in November.

10. Delta Air Lines says the stick part of its ‘carrot and stick’ strategy is working

US airline Delta announced in late August that, while it wasn’t mandating vaccinations for employees, after November 1 those who weren’t jabbed would face a company health insurance increase of up to $200 a month. The company reported Friday that since the announcement, its employee vaccination rate has already shot up from 74% to 79% — a big leap in around two weeks. There remain around 20,000 unvaccinated Delta employees.

Source: https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/pandemic-travel-news-france-spain-cuba-israel/index.html