Ní neart go cur le chéile
-There is no strength without unity
This treasured Irish proverb reminds us that in times of adversity, there’s one truth to hold on to;
We are in this together.
As our industry takes a pause for the time being we will place a hold on our weekly newsletter and thiis will be a spot for News in the travel world.
Once we all get through this and we will and the business returns to a sense of normalcy we will once again return to our weekly newsltter.
Our best to all of you at this time and please remain vigilant, and be safe, stay safe and stay healthy.
Bill and Fred
May 19, 2020Cruise lines will have to consider enhanced medical screening procedures.
Credit: 2020 littlestocker/stock.adobe.com
The world is starting to reopen to travel. Shanghai Disneyland has reopened operations and, soon, cruising will resume — possibly initially in China, as well. But what will it take for global health organizations and potential guests to feel comfortable cruising in the short term? Even before boarding, medical testing of some kind is likely to be a requirement to ensure healthy travels.
In the past, screening for cruise ships encompassed only a self-reported health questionnaire asking whether each passenger had any symptoms or had been recently traveling in virus hot spots. If the answer to either question was “yes,” a visit to the ship’s doctor may have been in order or, in the worst-case scenario, boarding may have been denied.
However, receiving honest questionnaire responses was always suspect. Guests may have feared being outright denied embarkation and incurring full cancellation penalties or being quarantined to a stateroom for the duration of the voyage.
Current cruise line cancellation policies are more relaxed, at least. Sick or anxious clients can reclaim their money much closer to boarding — sometimes within just a day of sailing. So, the questionnaires are likely to return, but further testing is sure to be implemented as a guarantee that all passengers are healthy.
Shanghai Disneyland is using thermal sensors to measure temperatures for fevers as multiple guests pass checkpoints, and it’s reasonable to assume cruise lines will do the same as a general precaution. Specific to COVID-19, they may also require rapid testing akin to what Emirates has rolled out ahead of some flights to ensure no incoming passenger tests positive for the virus.
The greatest challenge, though, is testing up to thousands of cruise guests versus at most hundreds carried on a plane. Will there be enough tests available to accommodate everyone, and will the overall process be quick enough (usually 10-15 minutes per test) to cover them in a timely manner?
And then there’s the issue of not overwhelming pier-side facilities at any given time. Assigned arrival windows might be stringently enforced versus a typical free-for-all of cruisers.
Or, to avoid such bottlenecks on the day of: Pre-screening of healthy passengers shortly before sailing and proof of zero infection might suffice. Provided that everyone, crew included, tests negative for COVID-19 and is incapable of infecting others, they should be free to enjoy the voyage as usual.
The remaining caveat involves what happens when passengers go ashore, catch the virus in a visited destination and bring it onboard. To avoid such a scenario, testing would technically have to be conducted at each port of call as well, which again may prove impractical.
In short, there are still a lot of logistics to consider before cruises return in a pre-vaccine world. A cure, or widespread treatments, will eventually preclude the need for such vigorous testing measures. But, until then, the burden is on each individual cruise line and ship to ensure the safest possible return to service. Stay tuned to see exactly what that will look like.
By Robert Silk
May 21, 2020
Photo Credit: Valerio Pucci/Shutterstock
Under new airport screening procedures, travelers won’t hand boarding passes to TSA agents.
Instead, they’ll place their paper or electronic passes on the reader themselves. After scanning, passengers will be asked to hold their boarding pass toward the officer for a visual inspection.
This and other new protocols will take effect by mid-June.
Travelers will be asked to pack food in a clear plastic bag and to place that bag in a bin at the checkpoint -- a procedure designed reduce the frequency with which food triggers alarms during the screening process.
The TSA will continue allow passengers to carry on a hand sanitizer bottle of up to 12 ounces while restricting all other liquids, gels and aerosols to the standard limit of 3.4 ounces. Passengers will be required to remove the hand sanitizer from their bag prior to screening.
The agency will also implement new procedures for when a bag is found to contain a prohibited item. Passengers may be directed outside of the security area to dispose of the item. Similarly, passengers who fail to remove laptops, large electronics or liquids from their bags might be directed outside the security area to do so before going back through the screening line. Such procedures, the TSA said, will result in agents touching the contents inside a carry-on less frequently, reducing the risk of cross contamination.
TSA agents are already wearing masks at checkpoints. Some airports also require passengers to wear masks throughout the terminal, though the TSA has no such blanket rule in place. The agency encourages flyers to wear masks but noted that they may need to be adjusted during the screening process.
The TSA is also telling passengers to allow for social distancing. Security areas now feature spacing reminders on the floors. Queue lanes are staggered where feasible.
The TSA recommends that travelers place keys, wallets, belts and phones in their bags rather than in bins in order to reduce touchpoints.
The new procedures could slow screening, so arrive early, TSA warned.
Six TSA agents have died from Covid-19 and 590 agents have tested positive during the outbreak, according the agency’s website. Of those, 386 have recovered.
May 19, 2020
A rendering of the redeveloped Nassau cruise port.
The company building a $250 million cruise port in Nassau was able to raise $130 million to keep the Bahamas project alive.
Nassau Cruise Port Ltd. said it had raised the money through a private bond offering. CEO Mike Maura said in a statement that the investment indicated support and confidence in the project “during these difficult times.”
“Our success is a signal to our tourism partners that the Bahamian tourism industry, and specifically Bahamian cruise tourism, will continue to thrive,” Maura said.
Nassau Cruise Port said that the redevelopment is now in the first of three phases, the demolition of current buildings and structures. Phase two, completing the marine works and expanding the berthing capacity of the port, is slated to start within 60 days. Phase three will consist of landside works, including a new arrivals terminal and plaza, Junkanoo Museum, retail Market Place, amphitheater, and other food-and-beverage and entertainment spaces.
The funds raised through the bond offering will be used to support the work of phases one and two, the company said, adding that it will launch an initial public offering in 2021 to raise equity to finish the project.
“We are preparing diligently for the recovery of the tourism industry and the return of millions of cruise passengers,” Maura said. “We do not know exactly when they will be back, but we are in constant communication with local and international cruise partners to ensure that we stay ahead and are prepared.”
Nassau Cruise Port is a consortium owned mostly by Turkey-based Global Ports Holding, primarily an operator of ports in Europe. In a statement, the company said that a 2018 economic impact assessment conducted by KPMG concluded that the project would have a $300 million impact on the Bahamas economy during the development phase and a $15.7 billion contribution over the 25-year concession period.
PHOTO: Delta flight approaches St Maarten's Princess Juliana Airport above onlookers on Maho Beach. (photo via SeanPavonePhoto/iStock Editorial/Getty Images Plus)
Aruba, Jamaica, Bermuda, Bahamas ... the island nations of the Caribbean have long beckoned tourists with their deep blues, turquoise and silver waters, swaying palm trees and warm sunny days.
We miss it.
And ever since rigid travel restrictions went into place, there’s only been one question on people’s minds – when can we travel to the Caribbean again?
Just hang on for a little while. In some instances, the Caribbean will begin to reopen in as early as a few days, for some countries in a matter of weeks.
Here’s a look at some of the nations and what their plans are.
The date to watch here is fast approaching. Mexico and the United States agreed in March to close the borders between the two countries until May 20. That’s Wednesday. Mexico has said it will lift current domestic travel restrictions in the country by May 30, and tourism officials in Cancun and Riviera Maya announced the region will be open to visitors in the beginning of June. But on the Pacific Ocean side of Mexico, the Los Cabos Tourism Board has a five-phase reopening plan in place that won’t see visitors until July at the earliest and, more likely, into early fall.
The first Caribbean country to announce its intentions to reopen to tourism, Aruba has set the time frame between June 15 and July 1. With so few cases of the virus in Aruba, however, expect officials to have a comprehensive testing plan in place so that new cases aren’t brought in to the country.
The island will reopen for tourism on June 4. Said Dominic Fedee, the destination’s minister of tourism, in a video message: “COVID-19 has kept us apart for too long. What a devastating few months we’ve had as a destination and as travelers. But there is good news – we are getting ready to host you again. Our people, our beaches and our mountains await you in all of their splendor. Now, the way we used to vibe will change just a little bit [with] responsible tourism [and] heightened protocols. There’s still going to be plenty of fun in the sun.”
Antigua and Barbuda
Tourism Minister Charles Fernandez, speaking during a virtual meeting on “Reopening Antigua and Barbuda For Tourism” last week, said that an American Airlines flight from Miami is due to land on June 4, bringing the first set of international passengers in 10 weeks. That will be followed by the Trinidad-based Caribbean Airlines in mid-June and British Airways in July.
“Everything will be in place to ensure we don’t get a lot of negative press ... and beaten up on social media with people questioning whether we really are ready,” Fernandez said, noting that tourism officials had been hard at work for weeks so they can “hit the ground running.”
PHOTO: Viewpoint from Shirley heights, Antigua. Overlooking English harbour and Nelson's Dockyard (photo via edjosephotography / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
There are still almost two months before Cuba reopens to tourism.
“Cuba extended the closure of its airspace until July 1, so American (Airlines) will begin operating flights to the island starting on the 7th,” the airline said in a statement to the Miami Herald. Other airlines such as Southwest and Air Canada are also selling tickets to the island on similar dates. Calls to both airlines seeking comment were not immediately returned, the Herald said.
In a speech on May 17, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said the Bahamas had reached four consecutive days of no coronavirus cases and continues with “the phased and gradual reopening of various islands and certain areas of our economy, as well as a new normal for daily life that will be with us for some time. We must abide by regional and global health protocols as we reopen our economy and society.
Right now, the Bahamas is preparing for inter-island travel and is looking at a July 1 target date for tourism to resume.
“As of now, we are looking at a possible opening date for commercial travel on or before July 1st. These dates may change depending on the circumstances. I want to repeat however that this date is not final,” Minnis said, noting “it will be adjusted if we see a deterioration in the COVID-19 infection trends or if we determine that the protocols and procedures are not in place sufficiently to warrant an opening. Our opening will depend on your cooperation.”
Right now, there are no flights scheduled to Jamaica, and arriving visitors will still have to quarantine for 14 days. Late last week, officials announced a “five-point plan” for the recovery of the tourism sector. It did not include a definitive date.
Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett said “We do not see reopening as being a one-shop activity that immediately, everywhere will be opened. We think that reopening will be on a staggered basis as we build our own capacity to receive the large number of visitors whom we are accustomed to having in Jamaica and, indeed, to bring more in the long run than we had in the past.”
PHOTO: A Jamaican seaside sunset. (Photo via iStock / Getty Images Plus / Konstik)
It could be some time before the likes of Punta Cana fully opens. The Dominican Republic has suffered 400 deaths from the virus and has 11,000 confirmed cases.
The governments of Dutch St. Maarten and French St. Martin met on May 14 but were unable to agree on moving forward on the re-opening of the internal borders until further assessments are done regarding the medical and health aspects of the COVID-19 virus. They will meet again this week.
Turks and Caicos
You can book flights into the island from New York, Miami and Fort Lauderdale starting in June, but those are just for schedule’s sake. There has still been no definitive word from the government on when tourism will resume, and Providenciales International Airport is closed to international passenger travel until June 1. The Points Guy blog noted that the Turks and Caicos government suggests reaching out to a specific hotel and resort for booking information.
Puerto Rico has actually been open to tourists, but tourists haven’t exactly been flocking there for fear of travel. The island is conducting temperature checks at San Juan Airport, but there is a 14-day quarantine no matter what for new arrivals. Tourism officials expect things to pick up in the fall.
“Puerto Rico is facing two battles, the public health and the financial crisis this pandemic has caused around the world. For us, the most important thing is to speed the recovery cycle and save the 80,000 jobs that represent the tourism sector on the island,” said Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico.
A loss of 1.9 million room nights is projected for the island due to the coronarivus, which is three times what was lost months after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in Sept. 2017. Based on what has occurred in the past two months, changes in air capacity is down 13 percent through the end of 2020.
“Every week we are seeing updated research from our partners based on facts and data, that are driving us the direction of what the consumer is thinking and if they want to travel after it is safe to travel,” Dean said.
PHOTO: Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. (photo via GaryIves/iStock/Getty Images Plus)
Grenada is ready to go next month, with a plan to reopen its borders in June.
Grenada Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell said, “We collectively agreed to start gradually relaxing the restrictions for travel, as the pandemic in the region has been largely contained. Governments, airlines and hotels are now finalizing the details of this phased re-opening. Assuming that the requisite protocols are in place, we expect to open our borders in the first week of June. ... We will not move unless we are satisfied that adequate health and safety guidelines are in place.”
Right now there are no definitive plans on the reopening. Air France is running flights twice weekly from Paris, but the island still has a curfew from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., and gatherings of 10 people or more are prohibited. Guadeloupe had just started making an effort to lure more tourists from North America, announcing in February a deal with JetBlue for direct service from New York’s JFK International.
British Virgin Islands
BVI is targeting a September reopen, according to island Gov. Marlon Penn. In a six-page document outlining the plan to reopen, Penn said it will be done in phases. The first of these should be overnight, water-based subsector which caters to mega yachting, crewed yachting and bare-boating.
“The vast majority of our tourism is water-based where density is a non-issue and adopting the new social distancing guidelines will not be a challenge. It will happen naturally,” Penn reasoned.
That would be followed by a land-based overnight sector comprising of resorts, villas, small hotels, inns, Airbnbs, etcetera.
“Each of these could be slated for September 1, 2020. An earlier date would afford more time for stress-testing in the slow season,” Penn said, adding that the third phase would be “day-trippers from the United States Virgin Islands, etcetera could be allowed to enter in October 2020, along with ferries from St Thomas.”
While the exact reopening date is not finalized yet, final decisions will be made by BVI's Premier Andrew Fahie.
May 18, 2020 11:45am
(travnikovstudio/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images) Cinque Terre, Italy // Photo by travnikovstudio/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
Over the weekend, Italy lifted some lockdown measures, allowing shops, hairdressers and restaurants to reopen after two months. The country additionally announced that it will open its borders with Europe and within its own regions starting June 3, according to Italy’s The Local.
From June 3, Italy will drop the quarantine requirement from people arriving from the European Union, the additional Schengen Zone members of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, as well as the United Kingdom, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican. Although these travelers will not be forced to self-isolate upon arrival, depending on their own country’s regulations, they may be required to do so upon returning home. Restrictions will remain in place if these travelers have visited countries outside of the approved list in the 14 days prior to arrival in Italy.
The announcement says that the above travelers will have the opportunity to enter Italy through at least June 15. Italy is expected to rule whether or not to expand (or continue) the rules on June 14.
Other countries in Europe, according to The Guardian, are following a similar path. Spain, it says, is planning to resume some level of travel and tourism at the end of June. Roughly three-quarters of the country has been allowed to lift select lockdown measures, with people now able to meet in groups of 10. Spain will likely remove its quarantine restrictions at the end of June, when it would fully reopen its borders. Currently, cities like Madrid and Barcelona are not among the portions of the population that have seen restrictions lifted.
At the same time, Greece reopened the Acropolis to visitors, as the country announced Greece nationals are allowed to travel freely and visit Crete and Evia—the country’s two largest islands. In Ireland, some businesses are now open and up to four people from different households can meet as long as they obey social distancing.
Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas. (Photo by Brian Major)
Royal Caribbean announced during a conference call that health and safety changes being planned for a post-coronavirus cruise industry include eliminating traditional buffet offerings.
According to CruiseCritic.com, Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley revealed during a virtual call with the cruise line’s senior vice president Vicki Freed that buffets will have to be at least temporarily removed from ships to avoid any concerns about the spread of illnesses.
“I think in the beginning, there will not be a buffet, that's how I see it,” Bayley said. “We will utilize the space, we will utilize the Windjammer, but in all probability, it won't be a classical buffet.”
“It will be something more akin to a restaurant,” Bayley continued.
The likely removal of buffets from dining areas is just the latest in a long line of health and safety changes being made to ensure the cruise line will be able to sail when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lifts its no-sail order.
Royal Caribbean is also working with the CDC on enhanced measures to protect the health, safety and security of guests, crew and the communities visited when operations resume.
Last month, the cruise line filed a patent application for its own branded version of a face mask to protect passengers and employees. Dubbed Seaface, the plan is for the safety devices to be implemented on all of the company’s ships.
May 14, 2020 12:40pm
Photo by monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
For the first time in 20 years, AAA will not issue a Memorial Day travel forecast, as the accuracy of the economic data used to create the forecast has been undermined by COVID-19. Anecdotal reports, however, according to AAA, suggest fewer people will hit the road compared to years past for what is considered the unofficial start of the summer travel season.
Paula Twidale, senior vice president, AAA Travel, in a statement said last year, 43 million Americans traveled for Memorial Day Weekend—the second highest number on record since AAA began tracking holiday travel volumes. This year, she adds, will likely set a record low over that span. Memorial Day 2009 currently holds the record for the lowest travel volume at nearly 31 million travelers, according to AAA. That holiday weekend, which came toward the end of the Great Recession, 26.4 million Americans traveled by car, 2.1 million by plane and nearly 2 million by other forms of transportation (train, cruise, etc.).
With that said, there are indications that Americans’ wanderlust is inspiring them to plan future vacations, according to AAA. Online bookings have been rising, though modestly, since mid-April, suggesting travelers’ confidence is slowly improving. When it is safe to travel, AAA predicts vacationers will have a preference for U.S destinations, mostly local and regional locations, including “the great American road trip.”
The expected rebound in domestic vacations aligns with trends AAA anticipated for summer 2020 pre-COVID-19. In a March AAA Travel survey, 90 percent of the 173 million Americans who had summer vacations on the books planned to take a U.S.-based vacation. AAA travel experts say that’s common during a presidential election year, when many travelers hold off on international travel because they want to see how the election will affect the economy or international relations. This year, the phenomenon is amplified by concerns about the pandemic.
AAA expects vacationers will gravitate to road trips and family bookings, including air, car, hotel and activities to destinations in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Shortly thereafter, assuming international travel restrictions are lifted, AAA expects to see more demand for tropical destinations and a wider range of international travel.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to recommend that Americans stay home and avoid nonessential travel. AAA adds that Americans should heed all official warnings and refer to the latest updates from the CDC and U.S. Department of State to help decrease the spread of COVID-19.
May 11, 2020
When cruise travel returns, it will undoubtedly look different than before the COVID-19 outbreak ran the industry into the ground. However, it’s not all bad news, as most of these changes are in the best interest of clients.
We don’t know exactly when cruising will resume, but the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention no-sail order expires mid-July, so some degree of sailing will likely start back up soon thereafter. If a vaccine is not available for the coronavirus by then, there will be pre-vaccine changes to cruise travel as well as post-vaccine modifications. For now, let’s explore short-term enhancements.
Smaller Fleets With Fewer Staff
The amount of ships that begin operating right away will first be dependent on how well they have disembarked passengers and crew thus far. Until recently, many guests were still onboard ships around the world, and now cruise lines are working vigilantly to get crews home during the shutdown, as well.
The disembarkation of thousands of staff will happen gradually — and re-staffing ships will occur in phases. This ultimately means not all ships in any given fleet will begin operating immediately. During a press conference, Cruise Planners predicted it may be half or one-third of fleets at first.
Limited Guest Capacity
There will likely be a cap to the number of guests initially allowed on each ship. Just as many airlines are foregoing the middle seat to abide by social distancing guidelines, cruise lines may reduce the maximum capacity of passengers to decrease the onboard density of people.
This will effectively increase the passenger space ratio, or the amount of ship volume available per guest (calculable by dividing vessel tonnage by capacity). Many ships are already more crowded than others, so this metric will become even more important to consider come mid-July.
As a further precaution, face masks may come into play on cruise ships, as they have on planes. Although it is unlikely any passenger will want to wear one for the entire duration of their vacation, a recent patent filing suggests Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited might implement a so-called "seaface" sanitary mask for viral isolation. If utilized, though, it might only be required of crew.
Immunity Passports and Testing
More likely than necessitating face masks for passengers will probably be some sort of coronavirus test before boarding to rule out any pier-side passengers with the disease. This would not be unlike the testing Emirates has begun administering prior to flights. Alternatively, some sort of immunity passport could factor in, permitting those previously tested and cleared to board.
Cruise ships will have to set sail for somewhere, and whether destinations will be open to their arrival is a whole different issue. The 2020 Alaska season, for one, has been all but obliterated because of current Canadian port restrictions, but it might not be the only popular itinerary affected.
Close to home, Mexican and Caribbean ports will have to be willing to accept visitors. For instance, during a recent conference call, Hon. Kerrie D. Symmonds, minister of tourism and international transport for Barbados, shared that he is optimistic about travel’s return to the island nation come winter 2020.
Before then, home-porting cruise ships will have few alternative options other than local coastal cruises, which are restricted by the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886. That legislation requires foreign-flagged passenger vessels carrying guests between U.S. destinations to first stop at a foreign port. Cruises abroad will be impacted by flight availability and acceptance of tourists into other countries.
In any case, clients will have plenty of discounts to look forward to as cruise lines try to stoke demand. They will need to incentivize as much travel as possible to regain steam. Deals may not be popping up across the board yet, but once return dates are more securely locked, they’ll surely come flooding in.
Before cruise lines voluntarily suspended operations, they began to enhance their already-stringent sanitation protocols to combat the coronavirus. Genting Cruise Lines, corporate cousin to Crystal Cruises, is one brand giving us a glimpse into how much more can be expected on that front. For at least the time being, passengers can anticipate everything from buffets becoming full service to certain cabins being designated for potential quarantine use.
Last but not least, passengers will have to wash their hands thoroughly and frequently. One of the reasons the cruise market gets a bad reputation is because of diseases such as norovirus, which often spread because travelers don’t practice basic hygiene.
Most of these changes will be temporary until there is a COVID-19 vaccine, but others are likely here to stay.
PHOTO: Amtrak Coast Starlight stopped at Portland Union Station. (photo via Laser1987 / iStock Editorial / Getty Images Plus)
To continue protecting its passengers and employees during the coronavirus pandemic, Amtrak will require all customers to wear face masks in stations and on trains and Thruway buses starting on May 11.
However, Amtrak has offered a few more exceptions—masks can be removed when customers are eating in designated areas, in their private rooms or seated alone or with a travel companion in their own pair of seats. Young children are also exempt from the requirement.
“The safety of Amtrak’s customers and employees is our top priority and requiring a facial covering is one more way we can protect everyone,” Amtrak President and CEO Bill Flynn said. “Amtrak continues to operate as an essential service for those who must travel during this public health crisis. Our services will be even more critical as our nation recovers.”
Amtrak has also taken additional measures to ensure passenger and employee safety.
These measures include reducing Coach and Business class sales to 50 percent capacity, accepting only cashless payments, incorporating clear protective barriers into staffed stations and offering Flexible Dining services.