UNWTO and Google Host Tourism Acceleration Program in Middle East

The program is designed to boost innovation, digital transformation and planning in the tourism sector

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in partnership with Google hosted their second edition of the global Tourism Acceleration Program in the Middle East region, a program designed to boost innovation and digital transformation in the tourism sector in each of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt by providing key insights and market intelligence for effective tourism planning.

Held last Thursday, the online event was attended by UNWTO Member States’ tourism ministers, top travel associations, tourism boards and Destination Marketing Organizations from across the region. Participants gained first-hand access to UNWTO and Google’s insights of the tourism sector and developed new strategies for a more sustainable recovery.

UNWTO is proud to partner with Google to bring the power of innovation and digital transformation to tourism across the Middle East region

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “UNWTO is proud to partner with Google to bring the power of innovation and digital transformation to tourism across the Middle East region. The effective use of data can help destinations of all sizes grow their tourism sectors, while at the same time providing key insights into how tourism can be managed responsibly and inclusively, with sustainability as the driving force.”

Below are some of the regional travel data insights shared with participants during the session:

Top asked questions

Google Search data shows that the top questions asked about the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are related to COVID-19 travel restrictions such as “is it safe to travel to Dubai right now?”, “is Mecca open for tourism?”, or “is Egypt on the quarantine list?”. Similarly, and on a global level, 45% of the top 100 questions related to travel also focused on the impact of COVID-19, the yearn to travel, and required safety measures.

Trends on Google Search

Since the recent announcement of the vaccine two weeks ago, queries related to air and accommodation to the UAE have picked up rapidly for the first time since the pandemic has started, compared to a slower growth in Saudi Arabia due to travel restrictions. In terms of outbound flights, the recent research shows that 33% of UAE travelers plan on taking a vacation abroad in the next 3-6 months compared to 25% in Saudi Arabia and 20% in Egypt.

The pandemic has also shifted some travel interests towards the outdoors and nature destinations. For example, there has been an increase in online searches for eco & sustainable tourism in Saudi Arabia (90%), the UAE (35%) and Egypt (20%) as people are looking to explore natural reservations compared to a decrease in queries about cruises, luxury travel and theme parks.

Rising domestic destinations

In November, search trends on top rising destinations across the region show that people are leaning towards traveling more within their residing countries and cities including Al Gharbia (Abu Dhabi) and Umm Al Quwain in the UAE, Dhahran (Al Dammam) and Al Khobar in Saudi Arabia, Mansheya El Bakry (Cairo), and Sidi Gaber (Alexandria) in Egypt. At the same time, there has been an increase in people looking for international flights to Saudi Arabia (52%) and Egypt (80%) in the last few weeks.

Commenting on the program, Lino Cattaruzzi, Google’s Managing Director in Middle East, said: “Digital skills are now more critical than ever and they will be vital in helping our region recover more quickly and more sustainably. Today’s acceleration program is an opportunity for tourism boards and businesses in Middle East  to prepare and find new ways to engage with would-be travelers. We remain optimistic about the future of the travel and tourism sector, and about the role that Google and technology can play to help it recover faster.”

The Acceleration Programme is part of the close partnership between UNWTO and Google. The first edition was held virtually and hosted by South Africa last September in an effort to accelerate the power of tourism, and drive sustainable growth for millions across the world. Following editions of the program will be announced on our website.

Source: https://www.unwto.org/news/unwto-and-google-host-tourism-acceleration-program-in-middle-east

4 Future-Proof Reasons for Travel Companies to Automate Tours and Activities in 2021 and Beyond

It’s been a rapid and wild run for the travel sector in 2020. With the industry looking to move forward and chart a plan towards recovery, travel companies are re-evaluating their operations to set themselves up for future success.

Unsurprisingly, technology is set to play a pivotal role in the years to come, and with the overhaul of digital distribution channels, manual and labor-intensive operational processes are destined to be things of the past.

Tech innovation group Livn recently demonstrated its leadership in the field through its Open Connectivity Hub: an API infrastructure that synergizes industry players, harmonizes systems and infrastructures, merges and streamlines a traditionally fragmented tours and activities (T&A) space, and connects tour operators to travel resellers in real-time.

Though much of the travel industry is scaling down or on hold in the current climate, Livn is poised for a strong recovery and set to launch its updated second iteration of the API in December.

To highlight the major benefits of Livn’s dynamic platform, SkiftX unpacks four future-proof reasons why travel businesses ought to automate their tours and activities in the post-pandemic world.

LIVE INVENTORY

One of the main limitations to securing full occupancy on T&A products in previous years had to do with businesses’ inability to fill bookings and cancellations at the last minute.

Before the pandemic, travel agencies and in-person were the prime channels for bookings in this space.

Post-pandemic, consumer demand is calling for a stronger shift towards ‘instantaneous’ booking options, as travelers seek personal control of their own plans.

This trend dovetails with rising demand for experiential travel, and a pre-existing desire for greater online booking options that allow for spontaneous, fast-confirmation connectivity.

A core feature of Livn’s Open Connectivity Hub is that it solves this problem: giving travel resellers access to live inventory, thus facilitating last minute bookings in real time.

This clearly benefits both tour operators and resellers: maximum sales, while giving next-level responsiveness should any last minute rules or regulations, such as the opening or closing of travel corridors due to lockdown limitations, impact the industry.

HARMONIZATION

It’s well known that the T&A sector traditionally functioned as a fragmented and disparate space mostly because its products are so diverse. To shift this, Livn’s API brings a new level of industry-wide harmonization.

Livn technology translates many tour reservation system implementations into one unified and streamlined API, a powerful synthesis that gives structured access to and interaction with global tour products via a single connection point.

“In our learnings over the last nine years, looking across dozens of systems, we have gained unique technical insight into the most efficient way for data to be transmitted and shared between all parties in the distribution chain,” says Livn’s founder and CCO Steve Martinez, “from source tour operator inventory to end traveler consumption and demand.”

What this also delivers is a clear and well-defined industry standardization>—something previously lacking in the T&A spacewith all information unified, and technical aspects of the reservation process simplified for travel resellers, including structured product content, availability data, metadata, terminology and pricing.

This goes for different channels and verticals (hotel, airlines, etc.) as well as mediums (desktop, tablet, mobile and travel agency environment).

COLLABORATION

Livn’s API works collaboratively, connecting with over 20 different tour operators’ reservation system providers around the world.

In an industry rife with different systems (rarely do two exist with identical, overlapping features, requirements or naming conventions) this alone marks a significant development.

“Our vision is to become the industry standard for T&A API connectivity which the industry has been lacking for years,” said Martinez.

“We have a very privileged and broad view of current tour operator API landscape (through our deep integrations with their reservation systems) and on the flipside (distribution) we have a variety of real life use cases on how this data is actually being used – including bricks and mortar and online travel agencies, content marketing business models, mobile application companies,, local visitor information centres, airline middleware platforms, and Global Distribution Platforms (GDS). This inflection point is one of great responsibility, which very few companies occupy and, we intend on making the most of this opportunity by driving real change and working with all parties involved to bring the sector forward.”

All this is driven by Livn’s core philosophy that learnings and best practices be incorporated and shared for mutual collaboration across the sector.

CONNECTIVITY

No other platform in the T&A space is capable of connecting as strongly or widely as the Livn API. From PAX details, to pick-up points, to cancellations, the platform is able to implement all usable API features from an underlying reservation system. Once confirmed, reservation and ticket information is completely binding, valid and 100 percent traceable.

Livn’s approach is complete integration, a contrast to the ‘partial’ implementations that the space is used to – for example: situations where brochureware content is delivered via an API, while reservation information is transmitted via email.

Likely to be the industry’s most widely connected platform by 2022, it’s the only platform that allows travel companies to use its technical infrastructure to transact without interfering with their existing commercial agreements. Effectively, it’s an ‘open’ model, where travel resellers are charged a small transaction fee for each booking that passes through the API.

Livn’s innovative infrastructure will allow the API to triple the number of connected Reservation Systems by the end of 2021.

PREPARE TODAY FOR TOMORROW

After a tumultuous 2020, in this moment of pause, the industry awaits its green light to surge ahead. Consumers have their eyes set on travel again, and will continue to seek the most streamlined, instantaneous, ‘low-to-no touch’ booking solutions available.

These consumer demands “all come at a time when the industry is finally starting to show signs of cohesion and standardization,” adds Martinez.

Transition is the name of the game here, as more and more companies align with the growing trend to engage professional partners with vertical specialization, enabling them to free up their resources and capital to focus on their core business model.

“The T&A sector is transitioning into the same easy, reliable and accurate realm the industry has enjoyed for airline, car, and hotel sales – and Livn is uniquely placed in this space,” said Martinez.

England Will Use Covid Testing to Shorten Travel Quarantines

England will introduce a new system on Dec. 15 allowing passengers arriving from high-risk countries to take a COVID-19 test after five days of quarantine and to be released from any further self-isolation if they test negative.

Airlines and other companies in the travel and tourism industries had been calling for such a scheme for months, having suffered devastating consequences from a 14-day quarantine rule that has deterred people from travelling.

“The move will give passengers the confidence to book international trips in the knowledge that they can return home and isolate for a shorter period if they have received a negative test,” the government said in a statement on Tuesday.

The new scheme will be open to all passengers arriving from countries not featured on the government’s safe travel list, such as France, Italy, Spain and a number of other major destinations usually favoured by British tourists.

“With this announcement there is now light at the end of the tunnel not just for carriers and UK aviation but consumers looking to get away at Christmas and beyond,” said Tim Alderslade, chief executive of industry group Airlines UK.

People travelling to England by plane, ferry or train from Dec. 15 and wishing to take advantage of the scheme will have to book a test with a private provider from a government-approved list. They will have to pay for their test.

Those who decide not to take a test will still be required to self-isolate for 14 days.

British Airways said the new scheme was “a significant step in the right direction”.

The airline added that it planned to publish results of trials it was conducting between Britain and the United States that it said would show that a robust pre-departure testing system would eliminate the need for quarantine altogether.

The government also said it would introduce new financial support for commercial airports and ground handlers in England in the new year, capped at up to 8 million pounds ($11 million)per site.

“This new package of support for airports, alongside a new testing regime for international arrivals, will help the (aviation) sector take off once again as we build back better from the pandemic,” finance minister Rishi Sunak said in the government statement.

Source: https://skift.com/2020/11/24/england-will-use-covid-testing-to-shorten-travel-quarantines/

Portugal Admits It Must Diversify Beyond International Tourism

Portugal’s tourism sector is set to lose 60,000 jobs this year alone due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak and a recovery is still far off, Tourism Secretary Rita Marques said on Monday.

Some of the country’s regions must diversify their tourism-dependent economy after the pandemic, Marques also told Reuters in an interview.

She expected a rebound of international visits to happen by the third quarter of 2021, depending on the success of a COVID-19 vaccine, but it could take until 2023 for those to return to pre-pandemic record levels.

Last year, Portugal had more than 16.4 million foreign visitors.

“We know it will be hard, it will take some time,” Marques said, adding that Portugal sought to be among the first to benefit when people were allowed to travel freely again.

Tourism was crucial for Portugal’s recovery from the 2010 economic and debt crisis and Marques is convinced it will help Portugal recover from the pandemic.

However, some regions rely too heavily on tourism, she said, calling for the development of other sectors there and a boosting of their international competitiveness.

Regions such as the southern Algarve, famous for its beaches and golf courses and particularly popular with British visitors, are among the most affected.

In Algarve, the tourism industry is not only suffering with the economic impact of the pandemic, which pushed the number of registered jobless up 134% to 24,088 last month from a year ago, but also from concerns about the implications of Brexit.

It is crucial not only to develop other sectors but to also attract more tourists from markets other than Britain to Algarve, Marques said.

“We need to diversify…but we will work to guarantee the Algarve continues to welcome all British people – no matter what happens with Brexit,” Marques said.

The tourism industry contributed about 15% to Portugal’s gross domestic product in 2018, latest official data show.

Though the sector all but collapsed due to the pandemic, with revenues sliding nearly 65% between January and September, Marques said residents opting to spend their holidays closer to home have lent a helping hand to the sector.

“I believe domestic tourism is here to stay,” she said.

Source: https://skift.com/2020/11/25/portugal-admits-it-must-diversify-beyond-tourism/

Accor Joins Forces With Hoxton Hotels Owner to Form Lifestyle Brand Giant

Accor continued its focus on lifestyle brands Tuesday with plans to join forces with Ennismore, the owner of Hoxton Hotels.

The two hotel brands’ resulting lifestyle entity, which will be called Ennismore, will be headquartered in London and jointly led by Gaurav Bhushan — CEO of Accor’s lifestyle division — and Ennismore CEO Sharan Pasricha. The 73 hotels making up the combined company include brands like Hoxton, Gleneagles, SLS, Delano, and Mondrian. The entity will be two-thirds owned by Accor and a third by Pasricha.

“This exciting autonomous entity with Accor — one with culture and brand purpose at its heart — allows us to come together to build on our combined portfolio of unique lifestyle brands, accelerate our growth and explore new markets,” Bhushan said in a statement. “I look forward to working with Gaurav and [Accor CEO] Sébastien [Bazin] on this exciting next chapter as we become an unrivaled player in the hospitality industry.” 

The new Ennismore entity will comprise 12 brands and a development pipeline of 110 hotels with an additional 70 under discussion. More than 150 restaurants and bars are also part of the merger.

Joining forces with Sharan and Ennismore’s talented teams will be a major step in Accor’s development strategy,” Bhushan said in a statement. “With this combination, we are putting together an unrivaled portfolio of unique brands that appeals to owners, partners and guests, supported by the greatest set of talents in the industry, state of the art distribution and tools and a common ambition to continue to grow and innovate. I very much look forward to our journey together.”

What’s more, Paris-based Accor intends to take on full ownership of the SBE brand in a $300 million investment in order to make the Ennismore deal possible. Accor took on half ownership of SBE — owner of brands like SLS, Delano, and Mondrian — in a 2018 deal valued at $319 million. Tuesday’s announcement comes after Accor announced in September plans to launch an independent division for its lifestyle brands.

Bazin has repeatedly touted lifestyle brands as a key source of growth for Accor in coming years, but navigating the space required more autonomy.

“There are a lot of outside partners knocking on Accor’s doors trying to partner with their own similar brands,” Accor CEO Sebastien Bazin said of the new lifestyle division in September at Skift Global Forum. “But they would only do so if they’re welcomed into dedicated business unit rather than under the large Accor umbrella.”

Source: https://skift.com/2020/11/24/accor-joins-forces-with-hoxton-hotels-owner-to-form-lifestyle-brand-giant/

The Ethics of Travel Advisors Are Being Challenged, and It’s Not Right

A column in Friday’s USA Today has rankled the travel industry in general and sullied the name of travel advisors in particular.

And it’s not right.

The column is entitled, “Is it ethical to recommend travel while the world is in the grips of a second COVID-19 wave?” and was written by Christopher Elliott. In the piece, which you can read here in its entirety, Elliott not only questions the idea of selling travel now that a new surge of the virus is engulfing the country but also challenges the integrity of travel agents who do so as well as airlines and cruise lines and hotels for offering deep discounts to customers.

Elliott quotes a few experts, particularly those in ethics law.

“With both infections and hospitalizations increasing in many countries, including the U.S., it’s worth remembering the most fundamental ethical principle of all: do no harm,” says Bruce Weinstein, an author and ethics expert. “With that in mind, it is ethically unintelligent to travel now – especially for leisure.”

“I do not think it is ethical for companies to be recommending travel,” says Emily Waddell, who publishes a blog called The Honest Consumer. “The travel companies are just looking out for their own best interest in regards to sales. They’re not taking into consideration the seriousness of the pandemic and how more people traveling could increase the spread of the virus.”

Added Robert Foehl, professor of business law and ethics at Ohio University: “We have an ethical duty to prevent harm to others.”

Okay, as a pragmatist I can see some of their points.

Now let me make mine.

This logic is flawed.

If we were to follow this logic to the letter, then the author and the experts should also use their soapbox to talk about everything that is, allegedly, unethical – both during the pandemic and without this cloud hanging over our global heads.

Such as … where is the outrage for retailers who sell cigarettes, knowing the dangers of smoking and knowing the dangers of second-hand smoke to non-smokers? What about the tens of thousands of liquor stores across the nation selling alcohol, when we know the dangers of becoming addicted to booze? What about the rosy commercials for cleaning products that promise to turn everything sparkling, but fail to warn you that some of the chemicals used to make the product are harmful to your health? Where’s the outrage there?

Granted, I get it. The USA Today piece is directly connecting the ethics question to the pandemic. But again, you could make the same argument with any of the other examples I brought up. Drinking is up — why don’t we castigate liquor store owners who push specials during the crisis? Depression is up — why don’t we criticize schools, for instance, for not doing more to bring their kids into the schools to foster more socialization?

My point is simple – it’s called freedom of choice. Neither travel advisors nor tobacco manufacturers nor liquor salesmen nor the makers of window cleaners are going door-to-door and forcing you to buy their products. They might entice you with sales and specials, sure, but how does that make travel agents any more unethical than any other salesperson?

No, this is a personal decision to travel that rests solely with the client. Just like buying a pack of Marlboros or a fifth of Grey Goose.

There’s no question the entire travel industry is in a fight for its collective lives because of the coronavirus, but the circumstances are extraordinary. Ten percent of jobs in this country are somehow travel related. It’s not just the industry itself but the health of the U.S. economy at stake.

And to suggest, as the column does, that travel advisors could omit, downplay or outright lie about the guidelines and the situation regarding travel at this moment, is not only disingenuous but unethical in and of itself. Times are tough, yes, but travel agents have built an unparalleled reputation they are hardly going to risk for an eight to 12 percent commission. For that kind of reward vs. risk, they better be booking one hell of an around-the-world trip.

(Which, uh, aren’t allowed at the moment anyway.)

Look, the bottom line is this. We’ve already seen how bad the pandemic has been. It has shut down the cruise lines completely and, at one point earlier this year, had planes leaving the gate with just one or two passengers. But to stop selling travel – or, in effect, to shut down the entire industry as the column seems to be suggesting – is not the answer.

And to say that selling travel right now is unethical is a slap in the face to everyone from a hotel CEO to the person who cleans the airport bathroom – all of whom contribute to an industry that makes this country go.

Source: https://www.travelpulse.com/opinions/column/the-ethics-of-travel-advisors-are-being-challenged-and-its-not-right.html

More Than 20,000 Volunteer to Sail on RCCL Test Cruise

Whoa.

We all know cruising has a devoted, passionate fan base, but this is wild.

More than 20,000 people asked to be passengers on Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines’ test cruises before it resumes full service again, after the cruise line put out the call for volunteers.

Uh, that’s 20,000+ in the first 24 hours, according to a fun post by Matt Hochberg on the Royal Caribbean blog.

Royal Caribbean knew earlier this week that it had something along the lines of lightning in a bottle based on some of the response that was coming in for the initial call for help. The cruise line received more than 3,000 emails from people asking how they could volunteer. When RCCL responded by opening a Facebook group page and sign-up form, it saw that more than 22,000 people joined.

As Hochberg noted, part of the process for any cruise line to receive approval to restart cruises from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is to conduct a series of test sailings that have volunteer passengers onboard.

In a statement, Royal Caribbean said, “This group will serve the community of adventurers who are excited and ready to be the first back at sea. Get ready to dust off your suitcase and get back to adventure!”

RCCL has not announced any plans when the test sailings will start nor how it would pick volunteers to join the cruises. The only stipulation is that guests must be at least 18 years old.

“We are still reviewing the CDC framework and do not have details on our simulated sailings,” the company said.

“While we review the requirements proposed by the CDC and consider when we can host our simulated trial sailings, we are gathering information from those who have shown interest on our Facebook group and will be in touch with them when we have more details. Our priority is to ensure that we can exercise our comprehensive set of measures in a safe and healthy manner while making sure we provide a memorable vacation experience.”

Source: https://www.travelpulse.com/news/cruise/more-than-20000-volunteer-to-sail-on-rccl-test-cruise.html

Cruise Lines Continue to See Strong Bookings for Future Cruises

Cruises remain popular for the traveling public, and many cruise lines are reporting strong interest among travelers for sailings in 2021 and beyond.

Seabourn recently reported a lot of interest in its 2022 World Cruise: Extraordinary Horizons, which is already more than 50 percent booked for segments through its halfway point in Shanghai.

“We are really encouraged by the tremendous amount of positive interest and bookings for our 2022 World Cruise, which clearly demonstrates that now is the time to consider a booking rather than later on when suite availability may be limited or even sold out,” said Steve Smotrys, vice president of global sales for Seabourn. “The past few months has given travelers time to consider when they are ready to explore the world again and know that when they travel with Seabourn, they’ll visit some of the world’s most fascinating destinations while experiencing the personalized, intuitive service we are known for.”

Oceania has also seen record bookings for its upcoming 2021 and 2022 seasons.

The cruise line launched a Labor Day sale and saw record-setting booking numbers with nearly half of the new reservations from first-time guests, and less than five percent of those reservations were from future cruise credits.

The cruise line followed its successful Labor Day event with the launch of its 2022 Europe & North America Collection of voyages and experienced a record-setting day for a summer season launch.

“The tremendous response from our loyal repeat guests, our travel partners and first-time guests underscores the tremendous pent-up demand for immersive, destination-focused cruises and our acclaimed small-ship experience that features The Finest Cuisine at Sea,” said Bob Binder, president and CEO of Oceania Cruises.

Another cruise line that is seeing big booking days is Regent Seven Seas Cruises (RSSC), which set a new record with its largest booking day in the cruise line’s 28-year history. That took place the day Regent opened its 2022-2023 Voyage Collection.

“The staggering response to our 2022-2023 Voyage Collection demonstrates the incredible future demand for the unrivaled Regent experience. Luxury travelers simply cannot wait to get back on the oceans to see the world again, while enjoying impeccable, personalized service on luxurious and spacious ships,” said Jason Montague, RSSC’s president and CEO. “Our loyal guests wasted no time in securing their perfect itinerary and suite with last year’s Voyage Collection launch day total eclipsed after only 90 minutes of being on sale.”

Royal Caribbean Group CEO Richard Fain has said that the cruise line is experiencing strong bookings and, in its most recent business update, Royal Caribbean said new bookings in 2021 have continued to improve.

Demand is definitely there, with a strong response among travelers eager to volunteer to sail on test cruises for which dates haven’t even been announced.

Royal, Caribbean, International

Frequent cruisers are not the only ones excited to sail, either.

In its most recent earnings call, Carnival noted that, while repeat passengers make up 55 percent of bookings for 2021, 45 percent were new to the brand.

One major motivator for cruise bookings—and perhaps travel bookings on the whole—is the announcement of a potential vaccine.

While the lifting of the CDC No Sail order didn’t bump up NCL cruise bookings much, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings brands, CEO Frank Del Rio noted that the vaccine may have provided the cruise line with a bounce.

“Over the last 24 hours, bookings were pretty good, better than the previous four or five Mondays,” Del Rio said. “I think that’s attributable to the vaccine news, since we don’t have any promotion or marketing. I do think that was positive news.”

If ocean cruising is strong, river cruising may be even stronger.

Cruise Planners, which recently hosted a river cruise-themed webinar noted that savvy consumers are booking their 2021 river cruises now—before they sell out.

“Most of our future bookings (25 percent) are coming from river cruises and the pent-up consumer demand is trending high in this area and with limited inventory, even into late 2021. Savvy travelers are working with their travel advisor to get the best possible sailings, secure their cabins and lock in the best rates,” said Michelle Fee, CEO and founder, Cruise Planners.

Fee also noted that it’s a good time to be shopping for cruises as a whole.

“I do think people should start looking and if they’re even planning on traveling next year, especially to Alaska, and I gotta tell you, Europe is leading the pack as well we’ve been having amazing weeks selling Europe for next summer and beyond,” said Fee. “So you know, again, it’s supply and demand right, so if the demand is there and there’s limited supply you’re going to see a little bit higher price point but at this point we’re not necessarily seeing that.”

Path on the water from a large cruise ship

For travel advisors, the demand is slowly coming back for cruises.

Valerie Dorsey, of Cruise Planners, said that she is still seeing more land requests than requests for cruises.

“All-inclusive properties are the strongest right now for Mexico and the rest of the Caribbean,” Dorsey said. “Day-to-day the challenges change with Covid-19 requirements and so requests don’t always turn into current bookings. I do have large ship bookings outweighing my small ship bookings right now, but I must say that my customers on luxury small ships were the longest holdout for canceling their cruises and they all want to go again when the ships start to sail after the vaccine.”

Jeremy Hall of Cruise Vacations International noted that cruise bookings are up and down but that most interest is for later in 2021 and 2022.

“It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster in regards to new cruise bookings,” he said. “Some weeks are better than others but nonetheless, travelers are planning their 2021 cruises though mostly for spring through winter. We are seeing mostly premium and luxury ocean bookings as well as river. The phrase I hear most often from our most eager clients is ‘It has to be over by then.’ I agree with that thought and am anxiously awaiting it to be proven.”

Scott Lara of The Cruise Genius has found avid interest in cruising with clients anxious to get back out there.

“I’ve been getting overwhelmed with calls regarding new cruises for 2021,” said Lara. “Some interest in river cruises, but mostly new and repeat clients are anxious to sail on Carnival and a few other cruise lines. I’ve also received many calls about all-inclusive resorts in Cancun, specifically TRS Yucatán and Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres.”

Lawton Roberts, CEO of Country Place Travel, said that many people are hopeful but are seeking assurances.

“At this point, we are still not seeing “strong” future bookings for ocean cruises,” said Roberts. “The preference still remains smaller vessels, mostly river cruises. Clients are now wanting to learn more about the ‘passenger protocol’ on ocean cruises during the phased start-up guidelines from the CDC before committing to another ocean cruise. Everyone wants to go on a vacation, but they don’t want it to be a laboratory environment where you can seldom if ever truly relax.”

Safe Tourism: Seychelles steps up health measures

Responding to the increase in the number of Covid-19 cases and the second wave in certain regions around the world, destination Seychelles is re-enforcing measures to curb probabilities of local infection on its shores.

The review has been done by the tourism task force, a committee regrouping tourism stakeholders, health decision-makers and various other local agencies to oversee all issues relating to the re-opening of the destination during this period dominated by the COVID 19 pandemic.

The current review of the measures is based on epidemiological factors and considerations.

The first change to the measures relates to the COVID-19 PCR test to be done while in the country. The timing of the test has been reviewed by the Public Health Authority (PHA) and specifies that all visitors coming into Seychelles, will take a PCR test after the fifth night. This means the testing will be conducted on the sixth day after the arrival of the visitor.

Before that, only visitors from the Category 2 countries were required to take a PCR test whilst in the country. Now, these new measures apply to all visitors.

Visitors and hotel partners are also being advised that unless informed of the contrary after 24 hours of the sample being taken, the visitor should consider the result as negative. Visitors from Category 2 countries may then follow Category 1 requirements, which include changing hotels and able to proceed with their planned holidays whilst observing strict health protocols throughout.
The task force has considered the increasing interest of young couples to walk down the aisle in the paradisiacal islands and has since applied stricter measures for establishments hosting weddings and for other wedding service providers including Civil Status personnel officiating, beauty and hairdressing service suppliers.

Relating to the sixth-day testing and protocols to be adopted in case of an asymptomatic case detected, the PHA has advised that if the client is staying in a Category 2 establishment, he or she could be allowed to remain in isolation within the establishment.

It is imperative that the person does not have contact with other visitors staying at the same property as well as have limited and controlled contact with hotel personnel while being monitored daily.

In actual practice, when or if a visitor is found to be a positive case of Covid-19, the health team will be on-site to guide the management on measures to be applied. It may also be the case that a particular establishment is not suitable to keep an infected person and he or she would need to be moved to another designated and certified hotel.

The general measures for a Category 2 establishment will automatically apply for a positive case and the specific measures must be determined on the actual establishment and the conditions present at the time. Before the PCR test is taken on the sixth day, every visitor is treated with caution, through intensive safety procedures.

Seychelles has been welcoming visitors since June from private flights and charters but reopened its borders to commercial fights on August 1, 2020.

Source: https://www.traveldailynews.com/post/safe-tourism-seychelles-steps-up-health-measures

Marriott hosted first-ever Hybrid Meetings Event: Connect with Confidence

On November 9, Marriott International hosted a hybrid virtual and in-person event, “Connect with Confidence,” as the first part of a global series. The event was attended by 30 in-person customers and 238 virtual attendees, and took place at The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner in Virginia.  It showcased Marriott’s reimagined processes and meetings spaces, while reinforcing the brand’s commitment to help meeting planners execute conferences and events during this new normal.

Moderated by Doreen Burse, Vice President, Marriott Global Sales, U.S. and Canada, sessions further demonstrated the brand’s “Commitment to Clean” meeting and event protocols, and featured industry-leading tools, innovative insights and creative solutions from Marriott International leadership with speakers including:

  • Stephanie Linnartz, Group President, Consumer Operations, Technology & Emerging Businesses 
  • David Marriott, President, U.S. Full Service, Managed by Marriott 
  • Julius Robinson, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, U.S. & Canada 
  • Erika Alexander, Chief Global Officer, Global Operations 
  • Tammy Routh, Senior Vice President, Global Sales
  • Dana Pellicano, Vice President, Food & Beverage

“Our Connect with Confidence event demonstrated that it is possible to host meetings in a responsible, sophisticated, cost-effective, and enjoyable way. We are thrilled to have had this opportunity to showcase Marriott’s creative solutions for hybrid meetings,” said Tammy Routh, Senior Vice President, Global Sales for Marriott International. “We continue to be committed to collaborating with our valued customers as we navigate this new frontier for meetings and events to ensure they have the necessary tools to confidently connect.”

During the event, guests were able to experience Marriott’s new approach to meetings and try new developments such as: 

  • Digital registration and pre-selection of “Sanctuary Seats” with a meeting room set up preview
  • Individually packaged amenities for each in-person attendee, including a face shield, mask, hand sanitizer, and color-coated bracelets to showcase each attendee’s level of comfort i.e. red for “please keep your distance;” yellow for “respect my space;” and green for “elbow bumps welcome”
  • Curated virtual-only content to enhance the hybrid experience, including infographics outlining pre-event, event day, and post-event protocols 
  • Real-time interactive discussion and polling questions, multiple camera views for virtual attendees, virtual games with rewards, and a Q&A sessions for both virtual and in-person attendees
  • Creative lunch solutions, including a food delivery credit for virtual attendees, and option for in-person attendees to dine solo, or with one, two or three others at their table 

Based on live polling, nearly 25% of attendees plan to host a hybrid event within the next 1-3 months. Overall sentiment emphasized the importance of flexibility, offering attendees choices based on comfort levels, and delivering cost-effective and technology-driven solutions.

Source: https://www.traveldailynews.com/post/marriott-hosted-first-ever-hybrid-meetings-event-connect-with-confidence