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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

UNWTO and Google Host Tourism Acceleration Program in Middle East

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top asked questions

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

Trends on Google Search

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

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

Rising domestic destinations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LIVE INVENTORY

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

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

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

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

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

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

HARMONIZATION

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

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

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

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

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

COLLABORATION

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

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

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

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

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

CONNECTIVITY

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

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

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

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

PREPARE TODAY FOR TOMORROW

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

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

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

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

England Will Use Covid Testing to Shorten Travel Quarantines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Portugal Admits It Must Diversify Beyond International Tourism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cruise Lines Continue to See Strong Bookings for Future Cruises

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Royal, Caribbean, International

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Path on the water from a large cruise ship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safe Tourism: Seychelles steps up health measures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.