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May 14, 2020 11:44am
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On Wednesday, the European Commission presented a package of comprehensive guidelines and recommendations to help its member states gradually lift travel restrictions and allow tourism business to reopen after months of lockdown measures.
The Commission, it says, is looking to give people the ability, confidence and safety to travel again with the following measures:
· An overall strategy towards recovery in 2020 and beyond
· A common approach to restoring free movement and lifting restrictions at European Union internal borders in a gradual and coordinated way
· A framework to support the gradual re-establishment of transport whilst ensuring the safety of passengers and personnel
· A recommendation that aims to make travel vouchers an attractive alternative to cash reimbursement for consumers
· Criteria for restoring tourism activities safely and gradually and for developing health protocols for hospitality establishments such as hotels
As part of the guidelines, the European Commission created a framework providing criteria to safely and gradually restore tourism activities and developing health protocols for hotels and other forms of accommodations; these criteria include epidemiological evidence, sufficient health system capacity being in place for local people and tourists, robust surveillance and monitoring and testing capacity and contact tracing.
The Commission says the approach taken by member states must also be flexible, including the possibility to reintroduce certain measures if the epidemiological situation requires.
The move by the European Commission follows a similar initiative by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), which debuted this week its set of global “Safe Travel” protocols for travel in the “new normal.”
According to the European Commission, the European tourism ecosystem—covering a range of activities, such as travel, transport, accommodation, food, recreation on land and water, culture or nature—directly and indirectly contributes close to 10 percent to European Union GDP.
For more information, visit ec.europa.eu/commission.
May 13, 2020St. John island is part of the U.S. Virgin Islands and home to Virgin Islands National Park.
Credit: 2020 Creative Commons user Everett Carrico
The Caribbean islands have been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent travel restrictions.
Tourism employs an estimated 2.5 million people and generates almost one-third of the region’s economic output, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization.
Advisors can help restore the Caribbean to its former glory by promoting the following efforts launched by tourism boards and resorts across the islands.
Many of the islands are keeping in touch with consumers by way of virtual travel and interactive content on social media. Tourism boards are also sharing new health and sanitation measures designed to keep citizens and tourists safe.
Montego Bay in Jamaica is known for its British Colonial architecture.
Credit: 2020 Creative Commons user Günter Hentschel
The Jamaica Tourist Board launched an “Escape to Jamaica” series that first aired on its Instagram Live feed in the beginning of April. The series kicked off with one of Jamaica’s most famous DJs, ZJ Sparks, and has also featured Jamaican chef Andre Fowles, who some may recognized from Food Network’s television show “Chopped.”
Edmund Bartlett, the country's minister of tourism, has also outlined several new initiatives to make travel to the country safer in the future at an April meeting of the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s UK Chapter. The new guidelines include sanitation and hygiene requirements, and protocols for behavior at swimming pools, beaches and restaurants.
The U.S. Virgin Islands — led by its commissioner of tourism, Joseph Boschulte — has begun several initiatives including a “Virtual Carnival,” which took place over several days at the end of April. The goal of the carnival was to educate travelers about the destination and the importance of observing public health guidelines during and after the pandemic.
The St. Lucia Tourism Authority is offering 360-degree virtual tours around the island on its website. Clients can explore everywhere from Diamond Botanical Gardens to Castries Central Market, an open-air market selling fresh fruit, produce, spices, flowers and more.
The Pitons in St. Lucia are two volcanic plugs on the southwest coast of the island, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Credit: 2020 Creative Commons user Jason Boldero
The Nevis Tourism Authority has started its #TasteofNevis series, which showcases Nevis-inspired recipes. The tourism board is encouraging participants to share photos and videos while tagging #TasteofNevis.
Over the last few weeks, the Aruba Tourism Board has launched special content on its Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Social media posts include soothing island sounds and inspiring images from around the island, in addition to favorite recipes such as pancakes.
The Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) has been hosting a series of live interactive chats titled “CHTA Live: The Resilience Series.” The series is hosted by a panel of industry professionals, who have answered questions related to air travel, insurance claims and more. Panelists have represented companies such as JetBlue Airways, the International Air Transport Association, as well as the various tourism associations across the islands. These chats are ongoing and can be accessed on the CHTA website.
Meanwhile, Sandals Resorts’ social media campaign #SandalsStateOfMind aims to bring the Caribbean home with a series of Caribbean and cocktail recipes, 360- degree virtual resort tours and more.
The Sandals team has also been engaging with Sandals Select loyalty members in a closed Facebook group with more than 10,000 members. They’ve had dance breaks, shared fan-favorite cocktail recipes and hosted happy hours with Sandals’ own DJ Bryan.
In addition, Sandals also has put heightened cleanliness protocols in place throughout high-traffic areas of their resorts, including restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, guestrooms and more. These measures include additional hand sanitizing stations for guests and team members throughout the resort, as well as the use of hospital-grade disinfectants and UV-LED lighting equipment to inspect the cleanliness of each guestroom.
PHOTO: Sun rising over the Sea of Cortez in Los Cabos, Mexico (photo courtesy of fallbrook/iStock/Getty Images Plus)
Los Cabos Tourism Board has announced a five-phase approach to reopen its tourism sector that incorporates strict health and safety protocols that will apply to all sectors of the industry.
Reopening will begin on June 1, 2020, with the resumption of travel activities with limited national and international arrivals.
Properties and operators will focus on the implementation of health and safety guidelines.
In phase two, which begins in July, the destination will reopen the international terminal of the airport. Airlines including Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Southwest and Delta have already announced the return of their routes in May and June to Los Cabos, connecting Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dallas and Charlotte with the destination.
Phase three beings in August and runs through September. At this time Los Cabos will be welcoming back some visitors.
Phase four runs from October to December. During this phase, the region will welcome back luxury travelers as well as groups and travelers from Canada and the U.K.
Los Cabos predicts that, during this phase, it will see the recovery of 60 percent of bookings projected by the end of the year.
Phase five will begin at the beginning of Q1 2021 at which time Los Cabos hopes to see 60 percent of its air connectivity return and 80 percent of bookings.
New health and safety standards will be adhered to in the destination, including a “Clean Point” quality certification offered by the Mexican government to travel suppliers who meet a high standard of hygiene. These certifications can be obtained by airports, transportation services, restaurants and other service providers to promote the incorporation of good hygiene practices.
Throughout the destination, strict hygiene standards will be put in place as well as sanitization and physical distancing requirements at airports, transportation services, restaurants and other service providers to promote the incorporation of good hygiene practices.
At the airport, travelers can expect thermal imaging to monitor temperatures, risk-factor questionnaires, the isolation of infected passengers and the availability of masks for passengers that appear to be ill.
Sixty-five Los Cabos hotels will begin reopening on June, 1, representing 62 percent of the total inventory within the destination.
Los Cabos expects that, by the end of the year, 100 percent of its hotel inventory will be back online. Expectations are for a strong rebound for the destination in the first quarter of 2021.
Leisure tourism will begin to come back starting with timeshare owners, recurrent visitors, luxury travelers, meetings and small groups followed by national tourists and then international guests.
May 12, 2020
A message of thanks on the Eiffel Tower to healthcare workers fighting Covid-19. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Atout France
The topic of how and when to reopen various cities and regions shut down because of Covid-19 is on everyone's mind lately, and not just here in the U.S.
Europe is also grappling with these decisions, and France, one of the harder hit destinations on the Continent, is gradually moving forward, according to Anne-Laure Tuncer, USA director for Atout France, the France Tourism Development Agency.
"[On May 5] our prime minister, Edouard Philippe, announced a calendar for reopening ... that prizes prudence and patience," Tuncer said.
France began the first stage of that reopening on Monday, allowing people to leave their homes without the previously required attestation -- a certificate authorizing travel -- and to resume individual exercise beyond the 1 km restriction (about .62 miles).
"Everyone will be required to wear a mask on public transportation, travel between regions will be limited and all trains will require a reservation," she said.
As in the U.S., the country is reopening region by region, and the ultimate decision on whether a specific area (regions will be designated red or green, depending on the severity of their respective outbreaks) can relax its regulations will rest with the local authorities. Gatherings are limited to a maximum of 10 people, and people over 65 are advised to limit their contact with others.
What does all this imply for inbound tourism, leaving aside other factors, such as the lifting of flight restrictions between countries?
The short answer is that it's still too soon to tell. A committee made up of various French ministers of tourism, overseen by Philippe, is scheduled for May 14, and the government will unveil official reopening dates for tourist establishments at the end of May.
But "open" doesn't necessarily mean what it used to mean, Tuncer acknowledged.
"For the foreseeable future, a crowded cafe or museum will be a thing of the past," she said. "If these businesses can reopen in June, there will most likely be measures put in place to limit the number of visitors."
Stores and open-air markets reopened May 11, with social distancing measures in place. So far, the plan is for libraries and small museums will reopen later in the month, but major museums, movie theaters, concert halls and beaches will remain closed until at least June 1.
Meanwhile, all cafes and restaurants are slated to remain closed until June 2, when the situation will be re-evaluated.
The nation's minister of labor, Muriel Penicaud, is collaborating with professional organizations to put together a series of guidelines for reopening procedures for different businesses, and the various French destinations are working at implementing sanitation measures to adapt their cultural offerings to allow for smaller groups.
As to how the country is promoting inbound travel, Tuncer said, "a lot depends on when the government decides to reopen the borders. There has been some talk in president [Emmanuel] Macron's team about keeping the non-Schengen borders closed until September, so that would mean we would hold off on promoting inbound travel to the fall or later for long-haul markets.
"Like many countries, when travel restrictions are lifted, we expect to see more domestic promotion at first," she added.
Depending on when those restrictions are lifted, would-be visitors can get excited about some openings that had been scheduled for spring and have been postponed until at least September or later.
Those include the unveiling of the $100 million-plus renovation of the Hotel de la Marine, a Louis XV-era mansion at Paris' famed Place de la Concorde that has been closed to the public for more than 200 years and which, when opened, will offer an interactive museum experience as well as two restaurants overseen by two Michelin-star chefs, Alain Ducasse and Jean-Francois Piege.
Other openings in the works for later in the year include the Bourse de Commerce-Collection Pinault, a much-anticipated new museum in Paris; the Bassin des Lumieres light festival in Bordeaux; and the Normandy Impressionist Festival for lovers of modern art.
"For 2021, we anticipate the launch of the Vallee de la Gastronomie, an itinerary of food and beverage producers stretching from Dijon to Marseille," Tuncer said.
Also in 2021, Antibes will host the 60th anniversary of the great Jazz a Juan festival in summer, and Normandy will observe the bicentennial anniversary of the birth of Gustave Flaubert.
It seems like a lifetime ago that we were discussing overtourism in Europe, but I asked Tuncer whether this pandemic-induced tourism pause has given the tourist office time to consider strategies to transition to a possible return to those busy days.
"It's something that we've been conscious of for a while," she said. "For example, the Provence Alps Cote d'Azur region signed a partnership last year with Waze [an app that suggests alternate, less crowded travel routes] in order to improve traffic flow.
"Travelers will be looking at places where social distancing is possible, and France has the ability to answer this need," she said, citing the mountainous areas, like the French Alps and the Pyrenees as well as the countryside and secondary cities.
As of May 8, France had recorded nearly 26,000 deaths from the virus -- fewer than Spain or Italy but more than Germany -- but the numbers have been steadily going down.
May 12, 2020 1:20pm
MGM Resorts' handwashing stations. Photo courtesy of MGM Resorts
The world’s new-found obsession for hygiene and cleanliness poses a massive challenge for the hotel sector. When travel resumes across the world and hotels begin welcoming guests again, the ones that meet high standards of cleanliness will remain far more popular than the ones that struggle to convince travelers about the sanitation process within their properties. Well aware of the demands of a hygiene-conscious world, a number of hotels have already put plans in place to stay ahead of the game, as the future could well be about survival of the cleanest.
Leading the way is Marriott International, which created Marriott Global Cleanliness Council to take on the challenges posed by COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic at the hotel level and further advance the company’s efforts in this area. The Marriott Global Cleanliness Council is focused on developing the next level of global hospitality cleanliness standards, norms and behaviors that are designed to minimize risk and enhance safety for consumers and Marriott associates alike.
Here is a look at what some other hotels are doing to ensure that guests breathe easy in an immaculate environment.
MGM Resorts International has released a “Seven Point Safety Plan” for its U.S. properties as it looks to welcome guests back in a safe environment. The “Seven Point Safety Plan” is designed in consultation with medical and scientific experts to prevent the spread of virus, ensure the safety of guests and employees and rapidly respond to potential new cases.
These protocols and procedures focus on balancing the customer service guests have come to expect from MGM Resorts with the urgent need to apply knowledge about COVID-19 and adapt environments accordingly.
In a nutshell, the Seven-Point Safety Plan includes:
1. Screening, temperature checks and employee training
2. Making masks mandatory and providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to employees who have been identified by medical experts to require PPEs
3. Implementation of the six-foot physical distancing policy, wherever feasible
4. Handwashing and enhanced sanitization
5. Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Controls and Air Quality: MGM Resorts has reviewed the operation of HVAC systems to identify additional opportunities to enhance their effectiveness
6. Incident Response Protocols: If a guest or employee tests positive for the virus, MGM Resorts will activate incident response protocols to ensure the infected individual has access to medical treatment, exposed areas are thoroughly sanitized and, when possible, those who may have come in close, prolonged contact with the infected individual are notified.
7. Digital Innovations: Some of the digital innovations include contactless check-ins, which would mean guests can complete the check-in process themselves through the MGM Resorts mobile app. This includes the ability to process payment, verify identification and obtain a digital room key, all through a mobile device. The hotel will also provide digital menus to view on personal mobile devices via QR code.
Breckenridge Grand Vacations (BGV), which has over 800 units under management in Breckenridge, CO, is installing disinfecting UV lights in all its properties. These lights claim to kill 99.9 percent of viruses and bacteria. Seeking a new solution to eliminate the human error from consistent cleaning, BGV owners, Mike Dudick and Mike Millisor, pinned hopes on the UV lighting technology, which they believe will ensure a safer stay for guests.
Currently installed at each BGV Resort, the UV lights have the ability to disinfect a room of any size. It will be used between guest stays, as well as run frequently in all common areas including lobbies, spas and gyms.
Reinforcing its “responsible luxury” ethos that seeks to create a better and secure world, ITC Hotels last week announced the launch of its "WeAssure" initiative.
In a first for the hospitality industry, guests of ITC Hotels will be reassured by an accreditation by National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers (NABH) — the leading standards organization for sanitation, hygiene, safety and infection-control practices. ITC Hotels is also partnering with DNV GL Business Assurance to ensure stringent clinical levels of hygiene and safety. These assurance certifications will be a testament to the rigorous hygiene protocol being employed to ensure the safety of guests and associates at ITC Hotels across India.
Rosen Hotels & Resorts last week announced its COVID-19 Response Plan: Experts from the company’s RosenCare healthcare program along with a specially appointed task force created a comprehensive plan that applies specifically to the Rosen Hotels’ eight Orlando hotels. (Owner Harris Rosen created RosenCare in 1991 as his own self-funded associate healthcare program, which includes a 12,000-square-foot on-site Rosen Medical Center with a 60-member staff, including full-time doctors and nurses and various ancillary specialists to service the more than 6,000 associates and dependents on the plan.)
The Rosen task force includes Dr. Ronald Ryan, the seven-year medical director of the Rosen Medical Center, as advisor. The team of experts is led by by Jonathan Rivera, director of safety services. New procedures will include enhanced processes, such as the cleaning of guest-centric public and back-of--house private areas with quick-acting hydrogen peroxide-based disinfectants considered effective by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In addition, there will be new social distancing norms in place, more hand sanitizer dispensers available and mandatory use of hospital-grade disinfectants, among other regulations regarding cleaning and transportation of bed and bath linens and screening of associates.
Spain’s Meliá Hotels International has developed a program for the gradual reopening of its hotels in the post-COVID-19 recovery phase and is working with certification company Bureau Veritas to ensure that it adheres to the most rigorous health and safety standards and stringently applies the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO).
In addition to detailing the protocols and measures to optimize hygiene, the disinfection of facilities and the most important operational processes, the program also aims to prioritize a positive customer experience. To achieve this, the “Stay Safe with Meliá” program will appoint a person in each hotel who will be responsible for the “emotional wellbeing” of guests and the verification of appropriate compliance with the processes designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Deutsche Hospitality, which brings together five hotel brands under a single umbrella, has developed a coronavirus exit strategy by drawing up and piloting various scenarios. Deutsche Hospitality’s new guidelines call for the revision and adaptation of all hygiene and disinfection measures, specific training for every member of staff and regular checks and monitoring of the measures put in place. Two key points are more frequent cleaning and disinfection and social distancing rules in public areas. Further measures include the fitting of perspex screens at reception, proactive guest information and the disinfection of room keys and cards.
Once the hotels reopen, guests will be issued face masks free of charge upon request (protective mouth and nose coverings will be mandatory for both guests and staff in all public areas). Breakfast will be served either à la carte or on a takeaway basis. There will be no morning buffet and the number of tables in the restaurants will be reduced in order to maintain a distance of five feet between tables; only guests who are sharing a hotel room will be permitted to occupy the same table.
In addition, all public areas will be disinfected hourly, lift capacity will be limited to two persons at any one time (except for families), and sanitizer dispensers have already been installed at all main touch points. The reception staff will work on a non-contact basis and payments will be cashless wherever possible. Articles such as magazines, writing utensils, tablets, decorative cushions and blankets have been removed from rooms until further notice and surfaces in guestrooms which are occupied will be wiped down with disinfectant every day.
With Mexico preparing for an end of quarantine on May 31, Pueblo Bonito is all set to welcome guests from June 1 with new standards of cleanliness, hygiene and social distancing in place. To provide a safe environment, the hotel group has partnered with various medical specialists and PREVERISK, a global leader in hotel consulting, which is certified in preventive protocols for COVID-19 (COVID-19 Hygiene Response Certificate), disinfection, hygiene, general sanitation and food safety.
Pueblo Bonito Resorts has also instituted its own "CARE Pledge" (CARE translates to "Conscientious Service, Advanced Standards, Rigorous Sanitation, Elevated Hygiene").
The luxury resort collection has established safety and sanitary protocols for all operational areas—from arrival at the international airport in Los Cabos, to the front entrances of the resorts; in rooms, at the pools, spa and fitness areas, Quivira Golf Club and in the restaurants.