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Can Phuket’s sandbox be a model for vaccine tourism?

Phuket opened to tourists despite COVID-19 deaths surging on the mainland. But the sandbox provides lessons for other tourist-friendly countries in the region, says a Southeast Asia observer.

JAKARTA: Before the pandemic, Thai island Phuket offered visitors the perfect blend of sun, beach and seedy-but-fun nightlife as one of the region’s best-known tourist destinations. Now, it offers visitors something much more novel: A quarantine-free holiday.

As of the start of July, fully vaccinated visitors from select countries can fly directly into Phuket and go straight from the tarmac to the beach. Spend a full 14 days there and visitors (or savvy Thai nationals) are welcome to continue their trip around Thailand, effectively spending their quarantine term in a resort under a programme that is being called the “Phuket sandbox”.

The programme isn’t without controversy. Fears over the safety of Phuket communities, as well as cynical assumptions that few would take up the confusing and expensive offer, blighted the programme in its first weeks.

Still, if it goes well, expect to see other holiday favourites such as Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao accessible shortly afterward.

Thailand was the first country outside of China to record a case of COVID-19 which, paired with mass cancellations of trips from Chinese visitors, saw tourism grind to a halt in the first couple of months of 2020.

The sharp, sudden decline in visitor numbers and then eventual rolling lockdowns smashed the country, where tourism accounts for around 12 per cent of GDP.

The delicate balance between economic imperative and public health has been revealing of governments around the world. In Thailand, that balance has looked desperate as the government moved to open something – anything, anywhere – to tourism.

Phuket is a natural choice. With a long-time reputation as one of Thailand’s best resort islands, Phuket has the infrastructure, particularly an international airport, to support the programme.

And as one of the most visitor-dependent provinces in a country already vulnerable to the whims of tourism, it is among the most desperate.

A DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD

For the half a million residents of Phuket, the “sandbox” is a double-edged sword. The tourism industry has been all but destroyed by a year of no visitors, but public health is also paramount.

The government in Bangkok promised the plan would not go ahead until the community reached 70 per cent vaccination by the Jul 1 launch, which did in the end fall short – but only slightly.

The province has been plagued by the same issues as the mainland in terms of securing vaccine stock and navigating complicated online systems. Still, the vaccination programme will continue alongside the opening of the sandbox.

Full vaccination can’t come soon enough. At least six tourists have tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving on the island under the sandbox programme. One of the first to be identified was a visitor from United Arab Emirates who had taken the test as part of requirements upon arrival.

Drivers and hotel staff who had come into contact with the man were placed into self-isolation. Health officials confirmed the tourist was vaccinated fully with the Sinopharm vaccine.

“Worry more about domestic arrivals,” provincial chief doctor Kusak Kukiattikoon told local media. His blunt words refer to the growing disaster on the mainland, with new daily record deaths as the Delta variant surges through the country.

Fresh restrictions are expected imminently including restrictions on interprovincial travel – essentially ending the quasi-quarantine of Phuket before heading elsewhere.

Ironically, the launch of the Phuket sandbox may have become a spreader event for the political elite in Bangkok who attended.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, who proudly attended the launch on the island, went into self-isolation after an attendee tested positive. Spokespeople for the prime minister’s office reassure that he has so far tested negative and will continue his work as usual.

AN OPTION FOR OTHER COUNTRIES IN SOUTHEAST ASIA

He may well use that time promoting the sandbox idea to other leaders in the region.

As planned travel bubbles, such as that between Singapore and Australia, collapse under the weight of new cases and unsteady vaccine programmes, the sandbox could become an option for other tourist-friendly countries in Southeast Asia.

“The sandbox is much more than just for Phuket or Thailand. It sets a possible way forward for other Asian countries,” tourism magnate Ho Kwon Ping told Bloomberg. He pointed to other possible locales such as China’s Hainan province, islands in Vietnam or even Indonesia’s Bali.

That may be overly ambitious for the time being, but it shows an industry pivoting towards creative ideas which acknowledge the pandemic is a long way from being over.

By the end of the year Phuket expects to have played host to 100,000 visitors. A long cry from the 10 million in years past but a respectable start for a devastated community fighting its way back.

Source: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/commentary/covid-19-phuket-sandbox-quarantine-beach-resort-travel-thailand-15225442

TOP 5 WORLD’S EXTREME TRAIN JOURNEYS

Moving through jungles, deserts, steppes and endless plateaus, some train rides represent truly magnificent engineering work and unique travel experience. For these trains to be able to travel mountains, deserts, jungles and forests of extreme temperatures, it took thousands of workers and experts that overcame difficulties that seemed impossible. Tourism Review presents the best extreme train journeys around the world.

The Longest Ride

When people think about the most extreme train journeys, one certainly comes to mind: The Trans-Siberian Express. The express travels 9,288 kilometers from Moscow to the far east of Russia, to the port of Vladivostok.

The railway opened in 1904 and it took thirteen years to complete, in which two additional branches were added: the Trans-Manchurian, which reaches Beijing; and the Trans-Mongolian, which also heads for the Chinese capital after going through Mongolia.

There is also a route that reaches Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, by crossing 10,214 kilometers, making it the longest commercial express in the world.

The entire journey on the Trans-Siberian takes a week. Besides watching the beautiful wilderness behind the windows, the luxury services onboard also make the trip an amazing experience.

Through the Outback

Australia has one of the aridest deserts in the world, known as the Outback. The Ghan crosses this desert from north to south, going from Darwin to Adelaide on an almost 3,000-kilometer journey that takes five days.

The construction of the railway began in 1878, but it was not until 2004 when the route from the north to the south of Australia was completed. Nowadays, it can be very pleasant to board the Ghan train and look at the reddish desert, but the first journey of this train was actually made in 1929.

The name of this train service is a shortened version of its previous nickname, the Afghan Express, given after the Afghan camel drivers that made the same journey until the majestic railway was constructed.

The Northernmost Train Ride

Back to Russia, but this time we’ll be talking about the northernmost railway in the world: the Yamal Peninsula.

Opened in 2010, the Yamal Peninsula Express takes workers to Siberian gas plants, but tourists can also join on the 550-kilometer journey through the Obskaya–Bovanenkovo line.

While some may boast about going on a train that holds a world record, chances are it also holds the record for being the most boring train ride in the world. The view is amazing, but it’s the same picture for 22 hours.

And if you are planning to get a drink, you would be disappointed: the Yamal is a dry train with an airport-style security, so alcohol is forbidden.

Traveling the Indian Jungle

The Konkan Express, also known as the ‘monsoon train’, runs for 756 kilometers along the west coast of India, between Mumbai and Mangalore. Since 1920, a railway between those cities had been discussed, but the complex geography of the region introduced one obstacle after another.

It was inaugurated in 1998 after 20 years of work, which involved the construction of 2,116 bridges and 92 tunnels, making it the largest railway project in the history of Asia.

Tracing the line in the mountains on the edge of cliffs, cutting through the rugged jungle and raising rails in the middle of flooded terrain was an enormous effort of engineering in which those involved had to work under torrential rains, mud and water avalanches, infectious diseases and wild animals. In total, 74 workers died during the railway’s construction.

Train to the Clouds

Train to the Clouds

In the far north of Argentina, you can find the “Train to the Clouds”. This tourist train was opened in 1948 after two decades of work, and in 1972 it began being officially used by tourists as a heritage railway. After many pauses amid the economic crises that the country faced years ago, the train finally came back to life.

The train departs from Salta to San Antonio de Los Cobres, a small town that lives off the mining industry and is located at 3,775 meters above sea level.

Passing this town, the train reaches La Polvorilla viaduct, located at 4,200 meters above sea level, one of the most exciting points of the ride, when the train crosses this 64 meters high metal structure.

The engineering masterpiece of this railway line can be seen at departure and on the way back, consisting of 29 bridges, 21 tunnels, 13 viaducts, 2 spirals and 2 zigzags.

Source: https://www.tourism-review.com/worlds-best-extreme-train-journeys-news12043

Cruise industry to generate $6.6B in revenue in 2021, almost five times less than in 2019

In 2019, the entire cruise industry generated $27.4bn in revenue, revealed the Statista data. After the pandemic struck, revenues plummeted by 88% in a year to $3.3bn in 2020.

The COVID-19 had a devastating impact on the global cruise industry, with cruise lines practically disappearing after the pandemic hit and all operators witnessing double-digit sales drop.

However, it seems that 2021 might bring a new hit to the sector, which is already on its knees. According to data presented by StockApps.com, the entire cruise industry is expected to generate $6.6bn in revenue in 2021, almost five times less than in 2019.

Confidence in the Cruise Lines Plummeted Amid Pandemic, The Number of Users Down by 76% in Two Years
When the COVID-19 hit, cruise ships immediately suffered high infection rates among passengers and crew. Thousands of people were stranded on board, spending months in quarantine. By the end of April 2020, more than 50 cruise ships confirmed hundreds of COVID-19 cases. It didn’t take long for cruises to be depicted as places of danger and infection.

In 2019, the entire cruise industry generated $27.4bn in revenue, revealed the Statista data. After the pandemic struck, revenues plummeted by 88% in a year to $3.3bn in 2020. Although this figure is expected to almost double and hit $6.6bn in 2021, it still represents a massive 77% drop compared to pre-COVID-19 levels.

Statista data indicate it will take years for the cruise industry to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. By 2023, revenues are projected to reach $25.1bn, still $2.3bn less than in 2019. In 2024, cruise line revenues are expected to rise to over $30bn.

As people lost confidence in the entire cruise industry amid the pandemic, the number of cruise line users plunged to the deepest level in years. In 2019, almost 29 million people worldwide had chosen cruise lines for their vacation. Last year, this figure dipped to 3.4 million. Although the number of cruise line users is forecast to recover to 6.7 million in 2021, it still represents a massive 76% drop in two years.

Combined Revenues of Top Five Cruise Markets Still $16B Under Pre-COVID-19 Levels
The Statista survey revealed that, despite a $10.24bn revenue drop in 2020, the global cruise giant Carnival Corporation remained the largest player in the market with a 45% market share in 2021. Royal Caribbean Cruises ranked second with a 25% share. Norwegian Cruise Line and MSC Cruises follow, with 15% and 5% share, respectively.

Analyzed by geography, the United States represents the world’s largest cruise industry, expected to generate around $2.8bn in revenue this year, 78% less than in 2019.

Revenues of the German cruise line market, the second-largest globally, are expected to hit $830 million in 2021, compared to $2.8bn before the pandemic struck. The UK’s cruise companies are forecast to generate $650 million in revenue, down from $2.4bn two years ago. Chinese and Italian markets follow, with $570 million and $218 million in revenue, respectively.

Statistics show that combined revenues of the world’s five largest cruise markets are expected to amount to over $5bn in 2021 or $16bn less than in 2019.

Source: https://www.traveldailynews.com/post/cruise-industry-to-generate-66b-in-revenue-in-2021-almost-five-times-less-than-in-2019

Slight uptick in tourism recovery: UNWTO

Between January and May, international tourist arrivals were 85 per cent below 2019 levels (or a 65 per cent drop on 2020), UNWTO data shows. Despite a small uptick in May, the emergence of Covid-19 variants and the continued imposition of restrictions are weighing on the recovery of international travel.

Meanwhile, domestic tourism continues to rebound in many parts of the world. The latest UNWTO data shows that over the first five months of the year, world destinations recorded 147 million fewer international arrivals (overnight visitors) compared to the same period of 2020, or 460 million less than pre-pandemic year of 2019. However, the data does point to a relatively small upturn in May, with arrivals declining by 82 per cent (versus May 2019), after falling by 86 per cent in April. This slight upward trend emerged as some destinations started to ease restrictions and consumer confidence rose slightly.

“Accelerating the pace of vaccination worldwide, working on effective coordination and communication on ever changing travel restrictions while advancing digital tools to facilitate mobility will be critical to rebuild trust in travel and restart tourism,” said UNWTO secretary general, Zurab Pololikashvili.

International tourism is slowly picking up, though recovery remains very fragile and uneven. Rising concerns over the Delta variant of the virus have led several countries to reimpose restrictive measures. In addition, the volatility and lack of clear information on entry requirements could continue to weigh on the resumption of international travel during the northern hemisphere’s summer season.

However, vaccination programmes around the world, together with softer restrictions for vaccinated travellers and the use of digital tools such as the EU Digital COVID Certificate, are all contributing to the gradual normalization of travel. In addition, domestic travel is driving the recovery in many destinations, especially those with large domestic markets.

Domestic air seat capacity in China and Russia has already exceeded pre-crisis levels, while domestic travel in the United States is strengthening further.

Source: https://www.traveldailymedia.com/slight-uptick-in-tourism-recovery-unwto/

Travel Advisors React to Travel Companies Mandating COVID-19 Vaccine

Headlines about mandatory COVID-19 vaccines are proliferating around the country and the world.

Cruise lines, airlines and many other leisure and hospitality companies are now grappling with whether or not to require coronavirus vaccines for employees and customers.

While vaccines are quickly becoming a hot commodity with many Americans lining up to get their jab, there remains a large part of the population that is hesitant to get a shot for such a new virus with a vaccine approved only for emergency use. However, despite vaccine hesitancy and scarcity, companies are already considering vaccine requirements for both customers and employees—some have even announced new policies along these lines.

Because vaccines provide a clear path to reopening travel, TravelPulse spoke with travel advisors to see what they thought about vaccine policies and requirements.

Importantly, many advisors noted that safety was a top concern.

Beth Rasor of Vacation Daze, who practiced pharmacy in community and hospital settings before becoming a travel advisor, praised the science that created these vaccines but also sees both sides of the issue for clients and companies. However, Rasor cautioned against vaccine mandates.

“Deciding to receive the COVID-19 vaccination should be a personal choice, not a mandate for travel in my opinion. Each person has to consider the risk of contracting the

isease and make the best choice for his/her situation,” she said. “As distribution of the vaccine is still limited, vaccine mandates will be hard to implement anytime soon. Additionally, the vaccine isn’t yet approved for all patient populations such as children.”

Rasor also noted that vaccinations alone will not stop COVID-19 from spreading.

“Vaccine distribution isn’t the solo golden ticket to getting ‘back to normal,’” she said. “As with most viruses, viral mutations make vaccine development difficult and cause vaccines to lack efficacy. Therefore, sound cleaning protocols, effective air filtration systems, diligent hand washing, wearing face coverings when necessary, symptom monitoring and testing should continue to be our main focus in stopping the spread of the disease for those choosing or needing to travel. Vendors also need to maintain or adopt flexible cancellation policies for guests needing to cancel at the last minute due to illness.”

Miki Taylor, founder and CEO of Taylor & Co. Travel, suggested that it could be more equitable to use medical passports since vaccines remain elusive to many and some people will not be able to take them.

“I think having the vaccine to travel would protect everyone that travelers would come in contact with, but at the same time, the vaccines need to be more readily accessible to everyone,” said Taylor. “Also, I feel that if someone has an underlying medical condition that could potentially put them in even more danger should they receive the vaccine then this is where the medical passport could come into play because it isn’t fair to tell someone who could potentially have an adverse reaction to the vaccine due to an existing medical condition that they can’t travel unless they put themselves at greater risk and get the vaccine.”

Stephen Scott, luxury travel advisor for Protravel International, sees vaccines as the fastest way to getting travel back on track and points out that those who don’t want to be vaccinated don’t have to go to places where inoculation is required.

“Our goal in tourism needs to be to reopen with the least amount of damage to the health and the economy of our travelers, the employees within tourism, and also the people in the destinations we travel to,” said Scott. “Right now, this is the way to meet both of those needs.”

He also pointed out that travelers who don’t want to be inoculated can choose not to go.

“I see this as the fastest opportunity to re-open theme parks, cruise lines, and tourism districts,” said Scott. “The Yellow fever vaccine may already be required for entry into certain countries in Africa and South America. That means, if you don’t want to take it, you don’t have to go there. The same thing will apply for any companies or countries that add this new vaccine to their list of requirements. If you don’t want to take it, then you don’t have to go.”

Kim Cook of Love to Travel in Overland Park, Kansas, noted that testing for COVID-19 is one of the best ways to slow the spread of the coronavirus and pointed out that testing is very accessible right now.

“Currently, I think the testing requirement is more important for slowing the spread of Covid,” Cook said. “Testing is widely available in the U.S. and in the international destinations we sell. From everything I am reading, it is going to take a while for the general population to be vaccinated with some choosing not to take the vaccine. If having a vaccine is required for travel, I think it will slow tourism’s recovery. Eventually, I can see a vaccine requirement for international destinations but not until it is widely available.”

While we wait for vaccines to be more widely available, testing certainly will play a major role in reopening travel. However, it is unlikely that, at least in certain parts of the travel industry, there won’t be vaccine requirements in the future for COVID-19.

Source: Christopher, J. (2021) | https://www.travelpulse.com/news/travel-agents/travel-advisors-react-to-travel-companies-mandating-covid-19-vaccine.html

The Best Of Vietnam Tourism: Top Food From Every Region

Vietnam tourism has significantly gained in popularity over the last few years. And why not? Haunting landscapes, jewel-studded waters, the romance of a pastoral life and impressive architecture – for those struck with wanderlust, Vietnam is paradise. But if you were to consider Vietnam visits worthy merely for its natural beauty, or cultural heritage, you’d be doing the country a disservice. Because, Vietnam tourism is incomplete without trying the food of Vietnam!

Vietnam Tourism: What you need to know about the food

Vietnamese cuisine, one the healthiest in the world, is all about freshness, and many chefs shop twice a day for ingredients. The real appeal lies in the balance of flavors and according to ForbesHo Chi Minh city, formerly known as Saigon, is one the 10 best places in the world for street food.

The Best Of Vietnam Tourism: Top Food From Every Region
A vegetable market in Hanoi

Each region has a dish they make especially well.

Despite heavy historical and geographical influences, the cuisine is unique to Vietnam. It’d be a shame to miss out on local delicacies, which add that little bit extra to your Vietnam experience.

Vietnam Tourism: What you should eat in the North 

China has certainly left its mark in the north – the love for noodle soups and stir fries all comes from the Chinese. If you’re not very fond of spicy food you’re going to love the food in Hanoi! Pepper is about the only spice northerners indulge in.

The Best Of Vietnam Tourism: Top Food From Every Region
There is no way that you can be in Vietnam and avoid Pho, often called the ‘national dish of Vietnam’.

The aroma of freshly cooked Pho (noodle soup) wafts in from almost every busy street in Hanoi. You’ll find hundreds of people seated on plastic chairs in front of street-side restaurants every morning, sipping from their soup bowls.

Try Pho – a simple salty broth, with rice noodles, beef (popular in the north) or chicken, and fresh herbs.

Sample delicious grilled pork for lunch, served with vermicelli rice and called Bún chả. Just follow the heady aroma to the smoky grill of any street-side shop and you’ll find patrons in front of restaurants, hungrily wolfing down mouthfuls of this dish. It’s quite a favorite in Hanoi!

The Best Of Vietnam Tourism: Top Food From Every Region
A street-side restaurant in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Tip: You’ll probably want to avoid dog meat, or even cat, both of which are rather popular in the north.

Vietnam Tourism: The best of the central districts

The people of Central Vietnam love spicier cuisine. In Hue, food is cooked elaborately and the dishes are very colorful. The main course is served with many sides, like in an Imperial banquet – a hangover from the Imperial days of yore.

Try the Bánh khoai, a stuffed crepe made of rice flour, cooked with turmeric and pan fried to perfection.

You can find delicious Banh khoai everywhere in Hue, but we recommend the ubiquitous street carts for some authentic flavors.

The Best Of Vietnam Tourism: Top Food From Every Region
If the lantern-lit beauty of Hoi An’s streets doesn’t take your breath away, the Cao lầu that’s a specialty here, certainly will!

Cao lầu ismade only with water drawn from the thousand year old Ba Le well. This dish is an incredible mixture of many different cuisines – the thick noodles remind you of Japanese Udon and the wonton crackers are typical of the Chinese; but it’s the herbs and the broth that make this dish unique to Vietnam!

The Best Of Vietnam Tourism: Top Food From Every Region
Cao Lau in Hoi An, Vietnam

Tip: Try your hand at cooking a local delicacy in one of the many cooking schools of Hoi AnClick here to read more and book yourself a cooking class.

Vietnam Tourism: What to eat in the South

Ho Chi Minh City in the south boasts of delicious cuisine, distinctly different from all other regions. French colonization has left its mark on Ho Chi Minh City and you will find lovely boulevards and coffee shops around every corner. The Bánh mì – much like a stuffed baguette, is an obvious leftover from the colonial era.

The Best Of Vietnam Tourism: Top Food From Every Region
The Pork Bánh mì Sandwich is very popular in Saigon.

The Bánh xèo is a great way to keep hunger at bay while you drift through the floating markets of Saigon. These are pancakes fried with a heap of things, and wrapped in lettuce and herbs.

In the warm, tropical south, people prefer their food sweeter.

The Mekong Delta is the world’s second largest producer of rice, often called the ‘rice bowl of Vietnam’, and it’s no surprise that the southerners prefer rice to noodles. Seafood is very popular here thanks to the extensive coastline, as are tropical fruits.

The Best Of Vietnam Tourism: Top Food From Every Region
Fishermen at work in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam.

In the Mekong Delta, the Canh chua, which literally means ‘sour soup’, is very popular. Made from fresh fish from the delta in a tamarind flavored broth, it’s like an explosion of flavors in your mouth, in a good way of course!

Source: https://www.enchantingtravels.com/travel-blog/vietnam-tourism-top-food-every-region/

The 2020 Hospitality and Tourism Trends That Will Likely Stay in 2021 and Beyond

Looking back before we look forward

At year-end 2019, I predicted a few 2020 trends in hospitality, retail, and tourism businesses. For example, I recommended that we should pay special attention to the following areas:

  • A shifting focus on food delivery, sustainable food, and quick-casual restaurants.
  • Using AI and facial recognition in service operations.
  • The threats from Google, Amazon, and Airbnb as a (potential, new) giant tourism enterprise in the market.
  • Investors’ growing interest in boutique retail stores and hotels.
  • Customer loyalty issues as more travel companies adopted the dynamic pricing strategy even in their frequent traveler programs.
  • Safety issues during travel.

Certainly, the global pandemic was not anything I could predict back in 2019, but COVID-19 might have just accelerated many of the foreseeable changes we expected for the future. Moreover, many of the changes we observed in 2020 will very likely stay in 2021 and beyond, including

Delivery and contactless self-service will continue to grow

Delivery service in restaurants and supermarkets, among other sectors, had observed a boost since the pandemic hit in March. Additionally, restaurants, hotels, and airlines have extended or rolled out contactless self-service through mobile apps, kiosks, and facial recognition technology.

A large number of fast-food chains also introduced new restaurant designs that embrace such trends, including double- or triple-drive-thru lanes, conveyor belt delivery, and food lockers for pick-up orders. In some cases, dining rooms become optional, where the restaurants only focus on delivery and pick-up services.

Meanwhile, Amazon began testing Amazon One, a new biometric payment device that relies on cloud and palm recognition technologies. Palm recognition might become a popular biometric tool in the future as it has some advantages over those more commonly used facial or fingerprint recognition technologies.

Home-sharing will remain a large share of the lodging industry

When the pandemic hit, I wondered if home-sharing guests would choose to stay in chain hotels instead due to hotels’ enhanced cleaning standards. It turned out that home-sharing and luxury hotels might recover sooner than other lodging products. Furthermore, Airbnb is ready for IPO in mid-December, targeting $30 to $33 billion.

As we discovered more about home-sharing services through research, such as their 7 P’s marketing mix, consumer preferences of sharing or accessing the accommodation facilities, and Airbnb listings’ agglomeration effect, some hotel chains had already gotten into the home-sharing business. Like Airbnb, hotels’ home-sharing arms are doing well even during the pandemic, which may encourage more hotel chains to enter the home-sharing market.

If COVID-19 becomes a catalyst for more hotel mergers and acquisitions, will more hotels get into the home-sharing market through acquisitions? Or the other way around, will Airbnb acquire a hotel chain or another OTA (online travel agent) site?

Work from home will stay but is not helping business travel

Many companies cut the budget for business travel, and an increasing number of organizations let employees work from home permanently. When fewer people commute or travel for work, the work-from-home trend does not help the hospitality and tourism industry but may stimulate extended-stay hotel growth.

When will travel recovery take place?

Some people believe that COVID-19 will forever change the way people travel. While indicators showed travel and hospitality businesses were picking up in the summer, largely from leisure travelers, nobody can precisely predict what the future holds. Until we can travel again, or more importantly, until people travel for business again, we will not see a real recovery. Right now, it is not a bad idea to target baby boomers for leisure demand.

Other trends

Facebook is losing its charm to certain internet user groups. It becomes critical for us to know where our prospects hang out after they abandon Facebook.

Following the breakthrough results of the COVID-19 vaccines, it is safe to predict coronavirus restrictions will be lifted soon. I hope we will resume our normal routines shortly. Still, it will take a while before we can ease our cautionary measures against the virus.

Source:  Linchi Kwok, Associate Professor at The Collins College of Hospitality Management | Hospitality Net

https://www.hospitalitynet.org/opinion/4101917.html

England Will Use Covid Testing to Shorten Travel Quarantines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cruise Lines Continue to See Strong Bookings for Future Cruises

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Royal, Caribbean, International

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Path on the water from a large cruise ship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HVS Asia Pacific Hospitality Newsletter – Week Ending 6 November 2020

Singapore has announced that travellers from mainland China and the state of Victoria in Australia will be able to enter Singapore without quarantine. Upon arrival, travellers will have to undergo a Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (“PCR”) test and will not be required to be quarantined if the result is negative. Visitors from mainland China and Australia made up a quarter of total visitor arrivals to Singapore in 2019, with China as the top source market, accounting for one-fifth of total visitor arrivals and SGD4.1 billion in receipts. To facilitate the arrivals, the Singapore Hotel Association (“SHA”) created a one-stop reference on its website. The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (“CAAS”) mentioned that travellers from these areas can apply for an Air Travel Pass from 30 October onwards to enter Singapore on or after 6 November. Singapore citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders returning from these areas do not need to apply for this pass. To qualify for the pass, applicants must have remained in mainland China or Australia in the last 14 days prior to their entry. As of 29 October noon, 1,375 applications from these areas were approved, and 602 visitors were received. None were tested positive for Covid-19.

Japan Eases COVID-19 Travel Curbs for Nine Countries and Regions

Japan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Toshimistu Motegi, announced that Japan has lowered its infection risk advisory from Level Three to Two against nine countries including Australia, Brunei, China, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. However, Japanese citizens are advised to avoid non-essential trips towards these countries. On the contrary, Japan raised its travel advisory against Jordan and Myanmar, which advises citizens to avoid all forms of travel. There are currently 152 countries and regions issued with Level Three advisories. In addition, Japan and Vietnam have agreed to implement a business track, where reciprocal short-term business travel could be resumed. Travellers could negate the 14-day quarantine order, should they test negative for the coronavirus upon arrival. Vietnam would be the third country that Japan authorises reciprocal business travel, following South Korea and Singapore.

Singapore-based economy hotel operator, RedDoorz, has launched a new economy lifestyle hotel brand, SANS, as part of its strategy to build the largest new-age hospitality company in South-east Asia. SANS, inspired from the Indonesian word “santai” which means to “chill”, aims to provide a vibrant and cosy stay experience at an affordable cost, with properties to feature trendy furnishings and amenities. The brand will debut in Indonesia next month, with an expansion of five more new properties targeted by year end. RedDoorz will also embark on a major rebranding exercise in 2021 to reposition the company as a multi-brand accommodation platform. The company said that it plans to add new accommodation products to its platform across economy lifestyle, mid-scale and extended stay segments, on top of its existing budget hotel brand and co-living service, KoolKost. As part of the rebranding, the company will also roll out a new redesigned app and rebranding campaign in the first quarter of 2021. The new app will allow users to browse the company’s portfolio of accommodation brands, and will also be complemented by a new loyalty programme, which can be used to earn and redeem discounts, and access exclusive partner offers and benefits.

Aman Founder, Adrian Zechahas partnered with Japan-based hospitality group, Naru Developments, to launch a new Ryokan-inspired hospitality brand, Azumi. The first Azumi property is slated to open on one of the islands in the Setouchi Region, in southern Okayama Prefecture of Japan, coming spring 2021. Named after the Azumi people, one of the ancient seafaring tribes who crossed the ocean and settled in Japan, the brand is anticipated to showcase the right harmony between traditional design and modernised comfort. Each Azumi property will serve as a medium of expression for each locale and its climate by charting the diverse and dynamic roots of Japan’s cultural background.

About HVS

HVS is the world’s leading consulting and valuation services organization focused on the hotel, restaurant, shared ownership, gaming, and leisure industries. Established in 1980, the company performs more than 4,500 assignments per year for virtually every major industry participant. HVS principals are regarded as the leading professionals in their respective regions of the globe. Through a worldwide network of over 50 offices staffed by 300 experienced industry professionals, HVS provides an unparalleled range of complementary services for the hospitality industry. For further information regarding our expertise and specifics about our services, please visit www.hvs.com.