News & Views of the Week

OK it has been awhile but we now will provide you with NEWS AND VIEWS as time allows us to.

Please keep in mind that the industry is in a state of conctant change so stay tuned as we try to bring you the most current information that we can.

US State Department Issues Nearly 40 Travel Advisories Already This Year

IMPACTING TRAVEL  RICH THOMASELLI  JANUARY 16, 2022

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Curacao
Downtown Williemstad in Curacao, one of six countries given a Level 4 travel warning by the US State Dept. (photo via ALG Vacations)

The Omicron variant that is causing a record number of COVID-19 cases around the world has forced the U.S. State Department to work overtime.

Barely two weeks into the new year, the State Dept. has already issued nearly 40 new advisories that warn Americans against traveling to certain countries.

 

That includes 23 advisories alone that are either new or updated just in the past week, including several tagged with the Level 4 designation as a high-risk destination.

Belarus, Canada, Curacao, Ethiopia, Indonesia and Jamaica were all given Level 4 warnings. Three were related to COVID and are among the most popular places for Americans to visit – Canada, which of course shares a lengthy border with the U.S., and Curacao and Jamaica, two popular Caribbean destinations for cruise ship travelers, coming at a time when the cruise industry is again dealing with outbreaks of the virus and making itinerary adjustments.

The other Level 4 warnings were due to domestic terrorism in Indonesia, a capricious enforcement of laws – especially for tourists – in Belarus, and civil unrest in Ethiopia.

The nations of Peru, Zimbabwe, Zambia, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Rwanda, Lesotho, El Salvador, DR Congo, Cabo Verde, Bahrain and Armenia were all classified as Level 3 risks by the State Dept. Level 3 calls for avoiding non-essential travel.

Level 2 – practice enhanced precautions – was the designation given to Togo, Sao Tome and Principe, Liberia, Kuwait and Fiji. There have been no new or updated Level 1 warnings.

 

Some Mexican States Requiring Vaccination, Testing To Enter Indoor Venues

DESTINATION & TOURISM  LAURIE BARATTI  JANUARY 16, 2022

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Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico, beach, coast
Beach in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico. (photo via iStock/Getty Images Plus/axl5188)

Throughout the pandemic, Mexico has remained quite lax in terms of its entry restrictions and COVID-19, welcoming international arrivals by air even while its land borders were closed to nonessential travelers until November of last year.

Now, with the highly-contagious Omicron variant rounding the globe, and causing a record-shattering number of new cases and hospitalizations in the neighboring U.S., multiple Mexican states are recommending or requiring that patrons be vaccinated to enter many indoor venues.

Spain Tightens Restrictions on Travelers

IMPACTING TRAVEL  RICH THOMASELLI  JANUARY 16, 2022

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Skyline view of Barcelona, Spain
Skyline view of Barcelona, Spain. (photo via MasterLu/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

As Spain looks to try a new approach in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the European nation is tightening its restriction on travelers entering the country.

Spain will now require U.S. visitors to have proof of a booster shot in addition to their vaccination if the date of their vaccine is more than 270 days prior to arrival, according to our sister publication Travel Weekly.

 

The booster needs to be taken at least 14 days prior to arrival.

The new mandate goes into effect on February 1, 2022 and comes at an intersection of disappointing news mixed with optimism. Spain recorded more than 180,000 positive cases of the virus last week, yet at the same time a European industry association predicted that the country could reach 88 percent of its tourism rate this year that it had pre-pandemic.

Tourism experts Exceltur said it expects the second-most visited country in the world prior to the pandemic would grow to almost 90 percent this year after it stalled at 57 percent in 2021, according to a report by Reuters News Service.

Spain also said it is trying to be a leader among European nations when it comes to handling COVID.

According to an article in the Irish Times, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said countries need to start treating the as “an endemic disease rather than a pandemic.”

Health Minister Carolina Darias said: “We have to go from an emergency-style vigilance to one of better quality and which is compatible with other respiratory phenomena. Spain wants to lead this debate.”

In the state of Jalisco—home to popular tourism destinations Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit—Governor Enrique Alfaro Ramírez ordered establishments to begin requiring patrons to present proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test (valid for a 48 hours only) to enter certain public places, including bars, clubs, casinos and stadiums. The new policy, announced on January 10, went into effect on Friday and applies to everyone aged 18 and older.

At the same time, Ramírez ordered the suspension of all mass festivities, street parties, fairs, dances, carnivals and pilgrimages until February 12, and reduced permissible stadium capacities to 60 percent.

On the same day, the small state of Tlaxcala—situated in central Mexico to the east of Mexico City—also mandated new local restrictions, which require people to provide proof that they’ve received at least one dose of a vaccine in order to enter indoor venues like bars, restaurants, supermarkets, shopping centers, hotels and others. According to Forbes Mexico. At the same time, bars and restaurants will be limited to 50 percent capacity indoors and 70 percent in outdoor areas.

According to Travel + Leisure, the government of Baja California (the northernmost state on the Baja peninsula) has also advised businesses to start requiring proof of vaccination or a PCR test no more than five days old to enter their establishments, but it did not make the recommendation compulsory. Instead, it said it would leave the decision up to individual business owners. “Baja California authorities fully trust the responsibility of small, medium and large Baja California entrepreneurs,” it expressed in an official statement.

 

Italy Introduces New COVID Restrictions

Matt Turner  Jan 12, 2022 09:49am

Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy
 

Italy on Monday introduced a new series of COVID-19-related restrictions for both citizens and travelers alike. Targeting those who are unvaccinated, the new rules limit access to public spaces and services, according to Schengen Visa Info News.

Access to hotels and other accommodations are now only be permitted to those who have been fully vaccinated or recovered from the COVID-19 disease, the report says. Similarly, access to public transport, including planes, trains, ships and ferries, as well as museums, exhibitions and festivals will also only be possible for those who have proof vaccination or a recovery certificate. In addition, mask-wearing is required on all public transportation.

Previously, proof of a negative COVID-19 was sufficient for access to these sites and transportation modes.

As for travel to Italy, the current entry rules remain in place: Visitors must fill out a Passenger Locator Form and present a vaccination or recovery certificate, along with a PCR or rapid antigen test that was taken before arrival in Italy. Those who are unable to present one of the two certificates will have to present a negative test and undergo a five-day quarantine requirement.

According to The Associated Press, Italy has fully vaccinated 86 percent of its 12-and-over population, and nearly 75 percent of those who are eligible have received a booster. The New York Times reports Italy is seeing over 172,000 new cases daily, a 277 percent increase in the last 14 days. Globally, there are over 2.6 million new cases daily, a 180 percent increase in the past two weeks

as hit an all-time high for COVID-19 infections during its latest reporting period, with a daily average of over 33,600 new cases. Reuters’ vaccination tracker reports that just over 58 percent of Mexico’s population is now fully vaccinated.

CDC to Let Conditional Sailing Order Expire on January 15

Matt Turner  Jan 13, 2022 10:33am

Image of Cruise Ships Docked in Port of San Diego Due to Coronavirus
(Courtesy of Port of San Diego )

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be letting its “Temporary Extension and Modification of Framework for Conditional Sailing Order” (CSO) expire on January 15, when it will be transitioning to a COVID-19 risk mitigation program for foreign-flagged cruise ships (i.e., those registered in a foreign country) operating in U.S. waters. The new program includes recommendations and guidance for cruise ships to continue to operate in a way that provides a safer and healthier environment for crew, passengers, and communities.

According to a statement by the CDC, cruise ships operating in U.S.waters choosing to participate in the program must agree to follow all recommendations and guidance issued by CDC. These recommendations are aimed at reducing the introduction and spread of COVID-19. The Maritime Unit will work closely with cruise ships participating in the program and continue to monitor COVID-19 preventive measures and cases onboard these cruise ships through daily enhanced data collection and inspections.  

Cruise ships operating in U.S. waters and sailing on international itineraries choosing not to participate in the program will be designated as “gray” on the Cruise Ship Color Status webpage. The “gray” designation (or not being listed) means that CDC has not reviewed or confirmed the cruise ship operator’s health and safety protocols.

Following the news, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said in a statement: “Today’s announcement by the CDC regarding the planned transition of the Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) to a voluntary program recognizes the cruise industry’s unwavering commitment to providing some of the highest levels of COVID-19 mitigation found in any industry. Cruise is the only segment of travel and tourism that requires, prior to embarkation for both passengers and crew, exceedingly high levels of vaccination (approaching 100 percent compared to only 63 percent of the U.S. population) and 100 percent testing of every individual (21 times the rate of the U.S. on land).”

It added, “Given this oversight and the uniquely high vaccination rate required on board, the incidence of serious illness is dramatically lower than on land, and hospitalizations have been extraordinarily rare even during a time landside hospitalizations are peaking. CLIA ocean-going cruise line members will continue to be guided by the science and the principle of putting people first, with proven measures that are adapted as conditions warrant to protect the health of cruise passengers, crewmembers, and destinations.”

The CDC sent information about this voluntary program to the cruise industry and are anticipating cruise ship operators to choose to participate or not in the coming week. More information about this voluntary program will be released at the expiration of the CSO.