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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.


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.


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.


Weak jobs report as delta impacts travel, tourism

The unemployment rate, however, dropped to 5.2% from 5.4% in July.

America’s employers added just 235,000 jobs in August, a surprisingly weak gain after two months of robust hiring and the clearest sign to date that the delta variant’s spread has discouraged some people from flying, shopping and eating out.

The August job growth the government reported Friday fell far short of the sizable gains of roughly 1 million in each of the previous two months. The hiring jumps in June and July had followed widespread vaccinations that allowed the economy to fully reopen from pandemic restrictions. Now, with Americans buying fewer plane tickets, reducing hotel stays and filling fewer entertainment venues, some employers in those areas have slowed their hiring.

Still, the number of job openings remains at record levels, with many employers still eager for workers, and overall hiring is expected to stay solid in the coming months. Even with August’s tepid job gain, the unemployment rate dropped to 5.2% from 5.4% in July. With many consumers still willing to spend and companies to hire, the overall U.S. economy still looks healthy.

The details in Friday’s jobs report showed, though, how the delta variant held back job growth last month. The sectors of the economy where hiring was weakest were mainly those that require face-to-face contact with the public. More Americans said they were unable to work in August because their employer closed or lost business to the pandemic than said so in July.

“The delta variant has taken a bigger toll on the job market than many of us had hoped,” said Sarah House, a senior economist at Wells Fargo. “It’s going to take workers longer to come back to the labor market than we expected.”

A few months ago, many economists, as well as officials at the White House and Federal Reserve, had expected a fading pandemic to encourage more people to resume their job searches. Worries about getting sick on the job would fade, they hoped. And as schools reopened, more parents, particularly women, would return to the workforce.

So far, that hasn’t happened. As a consequence, many economists now predict that the Fed will delay an announcement that it will begin withdrawing the extraordinary support for the economy it unleashed after the pandemic erupted in March of last year.

The August jobs report “slams the door” on the prospect of the Fed announcing a pullback when it meets later this month, said House, the Wells Fargo economist. Fed Chair Jerome Powell made clear last week that the central bank would begin to reverse its ultra-low-rate policies later this year if the economy continued to improve.

Hiring in a category that includes restaurants, bars and hotels sank to zero in August after those sectors had added roughly 400,000 jobs in both June and July. Restaurant dining, after having fully recovered in late June, has declined to about 9% below pre-pandemic levels, according to reservations website OpenTable.

Some live shows, including the remaining concerts on country star Garth Brooks’ tour, for example, have been canceled. Businesses are delaying their returns to offices, threatening the survival of some downtown restaurants, coffee shops and dry cleaners.

Health care and government employers also cut jobs in August. Construction companies, which have struggled to find workers, lost 3,000 jobs despite strong demand for new homes.

Government employers shed 8,000 jobs, mostly because of a sharp declines in local education hiring after strong gains in June and July. That decline occurred mostly because the pandemic has scrambled normal hiring patterns as schools have closed and then reopened for in-person classes.

Yet many employers are still looking to hire. The job listings website Indeed says the number of available jobs grew in August, led by such sectors as information technology and finance, in which many employees can work from home. And the National Federation for Independent Business said Thursday that its surveys show that half of small businesses have jobs they cannot fill.

Walmart announced this week that it will hire 20,000 people to expand its supply chain and online shopping operations, including jobs for order fillers, drivers, and managers. Amazon said Wednesday that it is looking to fill 40,000 jobs in the U.S., mostly technology and hourly positions.

And Fidelity Investments said Tuesday that it is adding 9,000 more jobs, including in customer service and IT.

The difficulty in filling jobs is forcing more companies to offer higher pay. Hourly wages rose a robust 4.3% in August compared with a year earlier. Walmart, for one, said it was giving over 500,000 of its store employees a $1 an hour raise.

Governors in about 25 states, nearly all led by Republican governors, cut off a $300-a-week in federal supplemental unemployment benefits in June and July because, they said, the extra money was discouraging recipients from looking for work. Yet the proportion of Americans with jobs or searching for one was flat in August, Friday’s report showed, suggesting that the cutoff has had little impact so far.


Asian tourism sees ups, downs in 2nd year of pandemic

From the Great Wall of China to the picturesque Himalayan mountains of India, Asia’s tourist destinations are looking to domestic visitors to get them through the COVID-19 pandemic.

From the Great Wall to the picturesque Kashmir valley, Asia’s tourist destinations are looking to domestic visitors to get them through the COVID-19 pandemic’s second year.

With international travel heavily restricted, foreign tourists can’t enter many countries and locals can’t get out. In the metropolis of Hong Kong, glamping and staycations have replaced trips abroad for at least some of its 7.4 million residents.

Across the Asia-Pacific region, international tourist arrivals were down 95% in the first five months of the year, compared to the same period before the pandemic in 2019, according to the U.N. World Tourism Organization.

New variants of the virus loom — a constant threat to any recovery in even domestic tourism. Warnings of a possible third wave in India worry Imraan Ali, whose houseboat on Kashmir’s Dal Lake is his only source of income.

“Since we are expecting a good influx of tourists, we don’t want that to be affected,” he said.


Tourists are returning to the valleys and mountains in Indian-controlled Kashmir, as infections in the Himalayan region and nationwide come down after a deadly second wave earlier this year.

Nihaarika Rishabh said she and her husband were relieved to finally get away from their home in the city of Agra for their honeymoon, after their wedding was postponed during the second wave. The vacation in Kashmir has helped calm their nerves after months of the pandemic, she said.

Ali, the houseboat owner, is happy that the number of visitors has gone up. “We have been suffering from past two years,” he said. “Our livelihood depends on tourism.”

But mountainous areas like Kashmir have seen an uptick in infections as the number of visitors rises, fueling worries about a third wave.


Erawan Shrine in the center of Bangkok once bustled with foreign tourists and locals making offerings day and night. Today, it is eerily quiet. Only a handful of people buy incense or flowers from the vendors who set up stalls outside.

“We are still here because we don’t know what else to do,” said one, Ruedewan Thapjul.

As Thailand battles a punishing COVID-19 surge with nearly 20,000 new cases every day, people who depend on tourism struggle in what was one of the most-visited cities in the world, with 20 million visitors in the year before the pandemic.

Suthipong Pheunphiphop, the president of the Thai Travel Agents Association, urged the government to commit to its plan to reopen the country to foreign tourists in October.

Currently, the streets are all but empty in Bangkok’s Siam Square shopping district.

Passavee Kraidejudompaisarn, the third-generation owner of a popular noodle shop, wiped away tears as she talked about her fears of losing the family business.

Previously, the 60-year-old restaurant would be filled with locals and foreign tourists, bringing in about $2,000 a day. Now, she said, she earns a little more than $2 on some days.


Strict virus control measures have allowed China to return to relatively normal life. The number of tourists visiting Beijing in June and July tripled compared to the same period last year, while revenue quadrupled, according to, China’s largest online travel booking platform.

“I personally feel very safe,” Olaya Ezuidazu, a Spanish national living in Beijing, said on a recent visit to the Great Wall.

But even China is not immune to the delta variant. Outbreaks in July and August prompted authorities to suspended flights and trains to affected cities. Parks and museums reduced the number of visitors to 60% of capacity, down from 75% previously.

Phil Ma felt the resulting dent on tourism at his café in a traditional “hutong” neighborhood, steps away from Tiananmen Square in central Beijing. “It is obvious during the three or four days from the weekend to today that the number of guests has decreased a lot,” he said.

The alley outside his café was quiet, in contrast to the line that formed for a cup of coffee during a major holiday in May.


The difficulty of traveling abroad has made glamping — or glamourous camping — popular in Hong Kong.

Berina Tam and Vincy Lee went with We Camp, a campsite located in Yuen Long, a rural area in the north of Hong Kong.

“It’s actually a good opportunity for us to really, to try to explore Hong Kong a bit more,” Tam said.

Many glamping sites provide clean beds, showering facilities and barbeque sites for campers to grill kebabs and chicken wings. The typical charge is $65 per person a night.

Bill Lau, the founder of Hong Kong travel platform Holimood, said that glamping offers an alternative for those who find camping too primitive.

“Families and couples need to find somewhere to go during weekends,” he said. “If we are trying to recreate the experience of traveling, it must be an overnight experience.”


Covid-hit Swiss tourism receives financial boost

The government has announced a CHF60 million ($65.6 million) programme to help Swiss tourism recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Economics Minister Guy Parmelin said the funds could help attract foreign guests back to Switzerland and boost business tourism.

“These sectors have suffered in particular from the impact of the pandemic,” he told a news conference on Wednesday.

Parmelin stressed the idea was to promote sustainable forms of tourism and stimulate innovative projects instead of attracting large groups of guests who stay in Switzerland only for a short time.

Political experts say the programme, most of which is subject to approval by parliament, is no surprise as Parmelin had indicated that the government was preparing measures to support the Swiss tourism sector.

In his role as Swiss president for 2021, Parmelin also expressed concern about perceived tensions in society regarding the government’s anti-Covid policy, notably the issue of vaccinations.

He made a passionate appeal to citizens to respect other people’s opinions and to refrain from denigration and personal attacks against politicians.

“The enemy remains the virus, not fellow citizens of a different opinion,” he said.


In a separate development, the government has delayed a decision about extending the use of Covid certificates to contain a new wave of infections and a potential overcapacity in hospitals.

The number of new hospital admissions of Covid patients was high but stable and it was difficult to assess the situation, the cabinet spokesman said.

The government reserved the right to take measures to relieve hospitals if necessary, he added.

A consultation among political parties, institutions, cantons and organisations had found that a majority was in favour of widening the use of the certificate, notably to sporting and cultural events as well as restaurants, the government said.


Nando’s, a Chicken Chain Beloved in Britain, Struggles With Poultry Shortage

The restaurant has beguiled British palates for almost three decades. But a recent chicken shortage saw almost 50 stores temporarily close this last week.

LONDON — If Oliver Twist were to sing a modernized version of “Food, Glorious Food,” it could be re-appropriated as, “Nando’s, glorious Nando’s!”

Since the Johannesburg-based restaurant chain opened its first store in London in 1992, its signature peri peri chicken has enamored British consumers’ appetites.

Marinated with a variation of Afro-Portuguese spices, including lemon and herb for those with more sensitive palates, Nando’s hallowed flame-grilled chicken — which, it declares proudly on its website, is neither American nor chlorinated — is a British culinary institution.

But in the latest series of food shortages that have hit British supermarkets and restaurants — exacerbated by a perfect storm from the fallout with Brexit, a declining number of truck drivers, and the coronavirus pandemic — Nando’s announced on Tuesday that it had to temporarily close around 50 of its stores across England, Scotland, and Wales because of a shortage of chicken.

Across the country, British customers were greeted this week by signs posted onto the windows of gloomily empty branches. The source of the poultry catastrophe? Issues with the supply chain, according to a spokeswoman.

“The U.K. food industry has been experiencing disruption across its supply chain in recent weeks, due to staff shortages and Covid isolations, and a number of our restaurants have been impacted,” said Nando’s, in a response to The Times.

Nazish Zeb, 38, who lives in Solihull, the West Midlands, was forlorn, when her son arrived home on Wednesday, to break the news that their regular Nando’s branch in Birmingham — one of a handful in the city with halal chicken prepared according to Islamic guidelines — was temporarily closed. “I am a chicken lover,” she said in an interview. “It’s a shame, I can’t tell you how much we are missing out.”

Other disappointed customers took to Twitter to air their grievances, to which Nando’s responded apologetically that their supply chain was experiencing “a bit of a ’mare,” as in nightmare.

Among the culprits responsible is the ‘pingdemic,’ which has seen hundreds of thousands of people ‘pinged’ by a government-sponsored phone app since July, asking them to self-isolate for 10 days because they were in contact with someone who had tested positive. British supermarkets and businesses have borne the brunt of its consequences, with staff shortages and vacant shelves reported across the country.

Last Wednesday, KFC released a statement on Twitter, warning customers that some items might not be available because of unspecified “disruptions.”

“I remember when my local KFC ran out of chicken,” said a Nando’s employee, Saffi, describing the great chicken shortage of 2018, that caused rival KFC to close nearly two-thirds of its British branches because of similar issues with a new delivery contract. “I can understand people’s frustration.” Saffi asked to be identified by his first name only because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

“Luckily, the branch I work at, we’ve been running as normal,” he said. “The suppliers have had problems delivering products to us. It’s not like Nando’s have done something wrong.”

In England, where a third of its restaurants are, Nando’s appeal transcends class, boasting devotees including the actor, Dev Patel, Bella Hadid, and even Prince William.

“One of the interesting things about Nando’s, is that it reaches the restaurant-going demographic that almost none of the other high-street chains do,” says British food critic Jay Rayner. “It transcends race.”

“Cheeky Nando’s,” a popular phrase British consumers of Nando’s often use, is permanently embedded into British vernacular. The existence of a mythological Nando’s ‘black card’ — said to grant its possessors an unlimited Nando’s chicken supply — is gleefully speculated over by internet users. A Nando’s spokeswoman would neither confirm nor deny its existence.

“The proposition, grilled chicken, salads, chips, places it as one of the healthiest on the high street, if they got rid of those bottomless soft drinks,” said Mr. Rayner. “It’s brilliantly priced. They do it very, very well.”

It should come as little surprise, then, that numerous British publications have their own “homemade” recipes for peri peri chicken, though they are little consolation for those craving Nando’s.

The chicken shortage might not be just a temporary problem. Britain is struggling with a national shortage of truck drivers, and a shortage of workers in its meat industry. The coronavirus is part of the problem, but so are new immigration and paperwork rules that came into effect with Brexit. According to the Financial Times, around 60 percent of the U.K.’s poultry workers come from E.U. countries.

“The fact that it’s happened should take nobody by surprise,” says Mr. Rayner, who predicted a national food crisis in Britain’s supply-chain after Brexit, three years ago.

Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association, which represents the majority of companies working in the red meat industry, said Brexit had left the country’s entire meat industry vulnerable because it reduced immigration.

“When Brexit happened on Jan. 1, 2021, access to most E.U. workers was switched off, abruptly,” he said. “Since then, many of the E.U. workers who were in the U.K. could not travel during Covid. A lot of them are now going back to their home country, but they’re not returning.”

On Thursday, The Guardian reported that Richard Griffiths, the chief executive of the British Poultry Council, had written a letter this month to the home secretary, Priti Patel, asking for the government to relax immigration rules.

Christmas preparations should already be underway in meat factories, but Mr. Allen said shortages are inevitable. With vacancy rates in meat factories now rising to 15 percent, a Christmas poultry crisis could be looming. “Currently, there’s limited staff for that, so we’re about six weeks behind.”

At least for now, there is some respite on the horizon. All of Nando’s restaurants are expected to reopen on Saturday.

Perhaps then, Britain’s Nando’s devotees can resume their love affair with a restaurant where, as British food writer Ruby Tandoh writes, one “could happily just order the same thing every time you come here until you die.”


Consumer wine knowledge in decline, finds new report

Wine drinkers no longer interested in having an an encyclopaedic knowledge of wine according to new Wine Intelligence research…

Consumers’ interest in learning about wine is on the wane, according to a new report by Wine Intelligence. The new research reveals that wine drinkers’ span of wine knowledge is gradually decreasing and they are less interested in learning about grape varieties, wine styles and wine producing regions.

This trend can be seen most clearly in markets such as the US, Brazil, Germany and Australia, where wine knowledge among consumers has decreased between 2019 and 2021.

UK bucks the trend

The UK, however, bucks the trend and is the only major market to see an increase in the ‘wine knowledge index’, which measures consumer-reported awareness of wine-producing countries, wine-growing regions and wine brands.

‘The wine industry has undoubtedly helped consumers to feel more confident both navigating and enjoying wine, without the need to bring with them an encyclopaedic knowledge,’ says Wine Intelligence’s CEO Lulie Halstead.

‘Wine consumers are being helped by the fact that many of today’s wine labels are both visually appealing and highly successful at explicitly communicating the flavours and tastes inherent to a particular brand,’ she adds.

In contrast to these findings, the report also states that consumer confidence with wine remains stable, which means that instead of relying on wine knowledge to inform their buying decisions consumers are taking their wine-buying cues from elsewhere.

Cognitive offloading

‘A significant contributing factor is ‘cognitive offloading’, says the report. ‘While wine knowledge is being accessed, it is not necessarily being retained, leading to an overall reduction in retained consumer wine knowledge. The wealth of online sources of wine information, easily and rapidly accessible via a smartphone, are enabling buyers to purchase with confidence, without the need to retain hard facts.’

Halstead says that an increasing number of consumers want to quickly access information on the go and eschew deep dives into winemaking stories in favour of simple messaging and layered information. ‘Confidence has become uncoupled with knowledge in recent years, creating a more inclusive wine category – a key necessity if it is to retain market share against challenges from craft beer and RTDs,’ she says.


Lifting restrictions on hospitality sees record job losses and record job vacancies simultaneously

Pre-pandemic the hospitality industry employed 3.2 million people. This month the Office for National Statistics shows that figure as 1.8 million, a contraction of 1.4 million or -44%.

If more than a million people that worked in hospitality pre-pandemic are now not, why is the ONS showing there are currently 117,000 job vacancies in hospitality?

ONS figures researched in partnership with ESCoE also show at least 355,000 people that worked in hospitality pre-pandemic were forced during the pandemic to leave the UK under Brexit legislation.

The so called ‘pingdemic’ did impact but has diminished, and in the past month as those people returned to work job vacancies continued to increase.

Exactly a month ago to the day all Covid restrictions were lifted, businesses reopened, customers came back, and the attempt to operate without a full team proved futile. Businesses were forced to limit trading and ‘freedom day’ transpired to be nothing of the sort as job vacancies continued to rise.

Why would vacancies rise as business reopened? The vacancies are open to skilled and experienced people, the sort of people that Brexit dispelled.

The exact same people trained as HGV drivers, also ‘sent home’ by Brexit, that today is impacting hospitality’s supply chain to such an extent more restaurants are unable to open.

Just as HGV drivers need to be trained so do chefs and many other roles in hospitality, and that takes time. The hospitality industry needs a constant pipeline of people being trained to fill positions in future. But training people for the future does not fill today’s vacancies, and businesses will continue being unable to trade fully as a consequence.

As was recently said by Professor Peter A Jones MBE FIH in conclusion to his writings in – Key historical issues facing hospitality compounded by Covid-19 – “The only short term solution to the diminishing hospitality workforce is through relaxing immigration restrictions on EU nationals.”

Enabling Professor Jones’ conclusion is an opportunity presented to hospitality through asking government to: “Ease immigration restrictions on EU nationals and other migrant workers with experience of working in the UK hospitality industry, at least temporarily, immediately. This could be achieved by creating a new hospitality visa, or exempting non-UK nationals with relevant experience from immigration requirements.”


Space Tourism Is a Waste

Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, and Elon Musk want to make “space tourism” a thing. This could jumpstart a pointless industry that’s totally unsustainable.

Jeff Bezos, the richest man on Earth, will head into suborbital space on Tuesday. He’ll be the second billionaire to take such a journey this month, getting narrowly beat out by Richard Branson, who recently took an hour-long rocket trip to the edge of space. Next year, Elon Musk—who has traded the world’s-richest title with Bezos a few times this past year—will also head to space on Branson’s Virgin Galactic’s spaceplane.

If these billionaires get their way, there will be more of these flights in the future. Virgin Galactic has said it already has $80 million in deposits and sales plunked down for its flights. All three of these men are gunning to make “space tourism” a thing. But it comes with a major cost to the rest of us.

For the super-rich, a few minutes spent experiencing weightlessness and viewing the curvature of the Earth could leave humanity footing an ever-larger carbon pollution bill. It also reflects the increasingly unsustainable levels of inequality and concentration of power, which, coupled with the climate crisis, will lock in suffering for billions. That’s nothing to celebrate.

Neither Bezos nor Branson has been particularly forthcoming about the environmental impact of their flights. But then that’s precisely the problem. The initial climate impact of an individual space tourist flight may be comparatively small, but they will add up. And each flight signals something more ominous to come.

We know those impacts can be large in part because they emit pollution directly into the stratosphere. Studies show this can deplete the ozone layer that protects us from harmful ultraviolet rays and that the world has worked so hard to restore. (For its part, Blue Origin claims its effect on the ozone layer will be minimal.)

Then there are greenhouse emissions to worry about. The VSS Unity winged spaceship that Branson took to space runs on a combination of nitrous oxide andhydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene (HTPB). HTPB is
made out of butadiene, which is a byproduct of using steam crackers to turn petroleum or natural gas into ethylene—a highly polluting process that releases emissions that are both toxic and planet-heating.

Bezos’ New Shepard rocket, made by his company Blue Origin, runs on a combination of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen.Though neither of those emit carbon when they’re burned, producing liquid hydrogen usually does. Compressing and liquifying the oxygen for the fuel is also an energy-intensive process that, if not done using renewables, results incarbon pollution.

Refining and burning these fuels isn’t just the equivalent of a tank of gas for your car. They’re not even necessarily equal to using jet fuel to hop a coast-to-coast flight.

“The Virgin Galactic flight carried six passengers and reached an altitude of 53 miles [85.3 kilometers], and from information provided by Virgin Galactic, we can estimate that carbon emissions per passenger mile are about 60 times that of a business class flight,” Peter Kalmus, a climate scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said, adding that “more research is needed to understand the full climate impact.”

Branson has said that the emissions from his flight will be offset by investing in projects that suck up carbon elsewhere. But planting trees and encouraging regenerative agriculture doesn’t undo the damage of his joy ride. Forestry offset projects have also proven to be both ineffective and unjust. Blue Origin, meanwhile, has focused on how much less polluting Bezos’ flight will be than Branson’s was.

These flights to the edge of space will add to Bezos’ and Branson’s individual carbon impacts, which are already cartoonishly large thanks to their propensity for behavior such as regularly flying private. (A single private jet trip can emit nearly double the amount of carbon than the average American does in an entire year). But though infuriating, there aren’t that many of these flights taking off, so the overall environmental effects aren’t that big.

“Contemporary attempts to boost suborbital and orbital space tourism (such as those attempted by Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin) are still at an early stage of development,” said Nikolaos Iliopoulos, a doctoral candidate in sustainability at the University of Tokyo who researches space travel’s environmental impact. “Thus, as of today, space tourism presents limited socio-environmental impacts as space tourism vehicles travel to the orbit and back.”

But in the near future, Branson and Bezos as well as Musk want that to change. Branson’s Virgin Atlantic wants to “open space to everyone.” Bezos’ Blue Origin wants to “increase access to space.” And Musk’s SpaceX wants to “make humanity multi-planetary.”

Though these companies all make it sound like the missions are for the masses, the price tags say otherwise. A yet-unnamed person, for instance, paid $28 million to be a passenger on Bezos’ Tuesday trip up to space. (They subsequently and improbably had a scheduling conflict, and an investment firm CEO’s 18-year-old son will take the seat instead.) Future Virgin Galactic flights are priced between $200,000 and $250,000.

Rich people are already responsible for a disproportionate amount of carbon emissions. Just 1% of the global population is responsible for half of the world’s commercial flight emissions. That doesn’t even account for the even more elite select few who can fly private.

“When you look at the aviation sector, private jets are so much worse on a per passenger basis than a regular plane full of economy class passengers just because fewer people are traveling on each one,” said Clare Lakewood, senior legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “You put just one or two people in a rocket, and you’ve got something orders of magnitude worse that would supersize the carbon footprints of people that already have the largest ones.”

Globally, individuals in the richest 1% are already responsible for 175 times more greenhouse gas pollution than the average person in the bottom 10%. If space tourism takes off, it could make these disparities even worse.

Don’t get me wrong, there are good reasons for space travel. Without it, we wouldn’t have satellites that help us track dangerous weather and our changing climate. Learning about other planets is important, too, not only for its own sake but also because it helps us understand our own. Observing Venus and Mars has helped scientists better understand the climate crisis on Earth. The search for life beyond Earth also can’t happen without sending probes out into the solar system. Space exploration can even help us understand the beginning of the universe, allowing us better understand our place in it.

But space exploration is not the same as space tourism. While the former is conducted for the worthy goal of understanding what’s beyond our atmosphere, the latter only serves the interest of the super-rich who want a thrill and the billionaires who own the companies that can provide it. It’s one of the most glaring illustrations of rising inequality. What’s more, it could widen the gap further by worsening the climate crisis and forcing the most vulnerable to suffer the impacts while the rich snap space selfies.

Even if we create truly clean fuels someday, using them for space tourism to enriches billionaires is still not sustainable. Concentrated wealth is concentrated power, and concentrated power is bad for the Earth. We’ve seen the democratic decay and the planetary danger posed by putting so much money in the hands of the few. Musk has ignored labor regulations and bullied California officials during the pandemic. (Hundreds of his employees got covid-19.) Bezos has pretended to give a damn about the climate with his venture capital fund—which will inevitably enrich him further—even as Amazon helps oil companies more efficiently extract fossil fuels. Lining the pockets of these men through space tourism will further corrode what we hold dear.

But couldn’t space tourism be the beginning of space colonization, helping us to ensure we have a livable future even if the climate crisis makes Earth uninhabitable? These billionaires want us to think so. SpaceX wants to colonize Mars as a space outpost for when life on Earth is no longer tenable.Bezos wants to build colonies orbiting Earth to support billions of people. But put simply, these proposals are absurd. They’re not going to come to fruition, and they’re certainly not going to create a sustainable alternative to life on Earth, a planet that has all the life support systems we need if billionaires would just stop wasting them.

“We are not going to build large-scale sustainable human civilization on Mars anytime soon, certainly not on any timescale remotely relevant to stopping climate breakdown,” said Kalmus. “It will be far easier to stop climate breakdown on Earth than it would be to build large-scale civilization on Mars, where there isn’t even air to breathe.”

Consider that at any given time, there are a handful of people in low Earth orbit on the International Space Station. Unlike, say, Mars, it’s a relatively protected part of space, located firmly within Earth’s magnetic fields, which makes it comparably safe from the radiation produced by gamma rays and cosmic rays as well as destructive solar winds. But it still takes thousands of workers on Earth and regular restocking trips to the ISS just to keep those few people alive.

“We don’t even pretend that the International Space Station is an independent system, and it’s protected by our magnetic fields. It’s got easy delivery to and from Earth, and it’s still hard to live there. We certainly couldn’t just cut it off and have the astronauts live there without a constant stream of resupplies,” Mika McKinnon, a field geophysicist (and former writer for Gizmodo), said. “This idea that we can colonize other places is just bullshit. Earth is easy mode, and we can’t even maintain livable conditions here.”

Leading climate scientists have made it clear that if we’re going to have a shot in hell at repairing Earth’s deteriorating conditions, we’re going to have to restructure society. As Sarah Diamond, associate professor of biology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and an author of one recent landmark report told me, that will require “a profound collective shift of individual and shared values concerning nature.”That means not wasting Earth’s resources on pointless spectacles that only serve the rich. It means not organizing our whole society in a way that enables a handful of people to accumulate stratospheric wealth, while everyone else suffers in economic and ecological disparity. We should be focusing all our efforts on securing a livable future on this planet—not celebrating flashy indulgences of billionaires at the edge of space.