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Thailand to reopen for some vaccinated visitors on 1 November

Thailand plans to end Covid quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travellers from at least 10 low-risk nations from 1 November, officials say.

PM Prayuth Chan-ocha admitted that “this decision comes with some risk” – but it is seen as a key step to revive the country’s collapsed tourism sector.

The 10 nations seen as low risk include the UK, China, Germany and the US.

The country has been recording more than 10,000 positive infections daily since July.

It has fully vaccinated around 33% of its almost 70 million people. Half the population has received one dose.

Mr Prayuth said Thailand would also allow entertainment venues to reopen on 1 December and permit alcohol sales.

He added that the authorities were planning to open Thailand for more countries on that date.

Mr Prayuth’s comments came in a televised address on Monday.

Referring to visitors from 10 low-risk nations, he stressed that “when they arrive, they should present a [negative] Covid test… and test once again upon arrival”.

If the second test is also negative, any visitor from those countries “can travel freely like Thais”, the prime minister said.

But he warned that the government would act decisively if there were to be a spike in infections or an emergence of a highly contagious variant of Covid-19.

It is estimated that Thailand – popular for its sandy beaches and non-stop nightlife – lost about $50bn (£37bn) in tourism revenue in 2020.

The economy suffered its deepest contraction in more than two decades as a result of the pandemic.

Thailand was the first country outside China to record a Covid-19 case in January last year.

It took the drastic step of sealing its borders in April, effectively killing off a tourist industry accounting for perhaps 20% of GDP, but managed to cut new daily infections to just single figures, one of the best records anywhere.

This year though, with the arrival of the Delta variant, infections have soared, from a total of less than 7,000 at the end of 2020, to 1.7 million today. The argument for keeping out foreign visitors to contain Covid became much less persuasive, especially with tourist-related businesses pleading for restrictions to be eased.

The success in containing Covid last year had another unforeseen consequence; it led the Thai government to believe it had need not rush to order vaccines. The result has been a tardy and at times confused vaccine programme, and a public outcry.

The need for some economic good news is in large part what has driven it to start reopening, well before reaching its own declared target of getting 70% of the population vaccinated.

It is proceeding cautiously though, with only 10 countries on the list until the end of the year. Like other countries in the region Thailand’s health system has limited ICU capacity; in August ICU units in Bangkok were quickly overwhelmed by the number of serious Covid cases.

In any case, even with an end to the two week quarantine requirement, a recovery to the 40 million tourists who came in 2019 is unlikely next year, or even the year after.

Just over 70,000 visitors came into the country in the first eight months of this year, compared with 40 million in the whole of 2019.

Thailand has reported more than 1.7 million confirmed Covid cases since the pandemic began, with nearly 18,000 deaths, according to America’s Johns Hopkins University.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-58838189

African regional bloc loses 92 per cent tourism earnings due to Covid

Six member states of the East African Community (EAC), a regional bloc, lost 92 per cent revenues in the tourism sector due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a top official said here.

Peter Mathuki, the EAC Secretary General, said that tourist arrivals to the region fell from 6.98 million before the pandemic to 2.25 million at present, causing the losses, adding that the tourism sector was the worst hit by the health criris, reports Xinhua news agency.

“The region is now open again for business,” said Mathuki, urging EAC member states governments and other stakeholders to work together to market the region’s tourist attractions and products as part of efforts to ensure speedy recovery for the sector.

The EAC member nations are Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, South Sudan and Uganda.

“Despite the fact that the pandemic has reversed the gains that we had made in the tourism sector, we are quite confident that through collective and collaborative efforts, we should be able to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels of performance and even do better within a span of less than five years,” Mathuki told the first East African regional tourism expo in Tanzania’s northern city of Arusha, also the headquarters of the EAC.

He said that the region had drawn a number of important lessons from the pandemic especially in relation to the economic sectors that were hard hit.

“One lesson that stands out and resonates with most destinations around the world is the need to entrench resilience in the tourism sector,” said Mathuki, adding that the EAC will take a number of steps to enhance recovery in the sector.

Tourism is one of the most significant sectors in all the economies of the EAC region.

The sector contributes an average of about 17 per cent to export earnings and its contribution to GDP is quite substantial averaging at around 10 per cent.

It generates about 7 per cent of employment in the region. Moreover, tourism has important linkages with other sectors of the economy including agriculture, manufacturing, insurance, and finance among others.

Source: https://www.ehospitalitytimes.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=91026&action=edit

Hotel stocks in demand

Shares of 11 hotel companies rose by 1.10% to 15.94% after the Indian government announced that it will start issuing tourist visas from 15 October 2021.Kamat Hotels (up 15.94%), Lemon Tree Hotel (up 7.82%), Indian Hotels Company (up 4.41%), Asian Hotels (North) (up 4.15%), EIH Associated Hotels (up 3.53%), Chalet Hotels (up 2.91%), TajGVK Hotels (up 2.74%), Asian Hotels (West) (up 2.05%), EIH (up 1.57%), ITDC (up 1.17%) and Asian Hotels (East) (up 1.10%) jumped.

India’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Thursday said it will begin granting fresh tourist visas to foreigners coming to India through chartered flights with effect from 15 October 2021. Foreign tourists travelling to India by flights other than chartered aircraft will be able to do so with effect from 15 November 2021.

“With this, the restrictions placed on visa and international travel stand further eased given the present overall COVID-19 situation,” the home ministry statement added.

All visas granted to foreigners were suspended last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Various other restrictions were also imposed on international travel by the central government to arrest the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Source:https://www.business-standard.com/article/news-cm/hotel-stocks-in-demand-121100800577_1.html

The slow pace of digital transformation in hospitality

The hospitality industry must adapt quickly in order to survive. This is the warning following new research that shows 63% of hospitality operators don’t believe their business has invested enough in digitalisation.

These are findings from The Digital Transformation of Hospitality Report 2021, a new study published by Vita Mojo, an award-winning technology company and former restaurant business, in partnership with Hospitality Mavericks and KAM Media.

The new report, based on a survey of over 4,000 hospitality sites, urges hospitality businesses to act now and use digital transformation to support labour shortages and long term growth.

Michael Tingsager, Founder of Hospitality Mavericks says, “We’re facing major challenges recruiting talent due to Brexit and Covid. A lot of great talent is exiting our industry and we need to look at what we can do to keep them. Technology can be a key part of the solution and the benefits can be far-reaching.”

Hospitality operators are concerned about the lack of investment in digital transformation and skills. One operator said, “We have a lack of know-how and knowledge of digital in general. We are too busy with running the business to learn digital skills and we’re terrified of making mistakes.”

With 73% of operators agreeing that hospitality is behind other industries when it comes to digital transformation it is clear more work is needed. The report shows:

  • Fewer than 10% of operators believe their current technology systems are fully integrated, which adds complexity for operators.
  • Only 1 in 5 operators believe they are getting the most out of their customer data – most don’t know what to do with the data they have.
  • Only 20% have a set budget for digital transformation.

Katy Moses, Founder & MD of KAM Media, says, “With the endless restrictions placed on the industry during the pandemic, digitalisation in hospitality has been key to its survival. But our research suggests the pace at which the sector is equipping its workforce with new digital skills and investing in tech is way behind where it needs to be. Both operators and customers see hospitality as well behind other industries when it comes to the effective use of technology.”

Hugo Engel from LEON, one of the UK’s fastest growing high street brands said, “LEON adopted a digital-first mindset before the pandemic and it has transformed our business and enabled us to continue to grow throughout. We are now in the middle of rolling out kiosks across more restaurants, this is not to replace people in store, but to enable our teams to focus on what they do best, welcoming and serving guests in the most efficient way possible.”

Commenting on the report, Nick Popovici, CEO and Co-Founder of Vita Mojo says, “As ex-operators turned technology providers, we wanted to get a sense of where things were following the pandemic and the digital rush that ensued. Based on the research, it’s clear that the industry has had a massive shake up so now we need to look at what we can do to support that.

“Digitalisation and technology are ‘part’ of the solution to labour shortages. The best technology adds to the human experience and when implemented properly, it can stimulate business growth, which in turn creates more jobs. That’s how we need to be thinking. It’s not about technology to replace people in the industry, it’s about technology to support and keep people in the industry.”

Source: https://www.hospitalityandcateringnews.com/2021/09/digital-transformation-of-hospitality-report-2021/

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

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

Vaccine tourism is a double-edged sword, says GlobalData

Vaccine tourism, where tourist hotspots are now offering COVID-19 vaccinations on holiday to attract visitors, is a double-edged sword as, while it could assist travel’s restart, it also raises the question of vaccine equity as it will further increase the divide between the wealthy and less privileged, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.  

GlobalData’s Q2 2021 consumer survey found that only 6% of global respondents were not concerned about the impact of COVID-19. The remaining 94% were ‘extremely’, ‘slightly’ or ‘quite’ concerned. With concerns high, the opportunity to get vaccinated has been seized by many. Lengthy delay or a general shortage of COVID-19 vaccines in some countries is leading tourists to travel to other destinations. 

Johanna Bonhill-Smith, Travel & Tourism Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “The wealthiest people in poorer countries will now be able to access vaccines first as they can afford to travel. This raises the argument that countries promoting vaccine tourism could be donating excess vaccine doses instead of giving access to wealthy tourists.

Certain US states, Russia, the Maldives, and Indonesia are some of the destinations that are currently offering vaccinations to tourists. Some travel agencies have taken the opportunity to promote vaccine tour packages as a way to boost revenue. In Russia, for example, three-week tour packages priced between US$1,500 to US$2,500, excluding the price of the plane ticket, include vaccinations. However, with many destinations worldwide still struggling with low vaccine supplies, this is raising the question of vaccine equity.

According to GlobalData’s COVID-19 Vaccination Dashboard, the Democratic Republic of the Congo administered 3.5 vaccinations per 1,000 people as of 25 August 2021. In comparison, the US had administered 1,115 vaccine doses per 1,000 people on the same date. This highlights there is already a stark gap between different countries, and many are being left behind.

Bonhill-Smith adds: “One positive of vaccine tourism is that it could play a role in travel’s restart after the COVID-19 pandemic brought the sector to its knees. Global international departures declined by -72.5% year-over-year (Y-o-Y) and domestic trips by -50.8% Y-o-Y, according to GlobalData’s databases. This demonstrates the severe effects of the pandemic and why destinations worldwide are eager for a travel restart.

Source: https://www.traveldailynews.com/post/vaccine-tourism-is-a-double-edged-sword-says-globaldata