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Reopen Plan Set For Services at Yellowstone National Park

With the final three entrances to Yellowstone National Park set to reopen on Monday, June 1, so too will limited services associated with visiting the park including lodging, camping, food and retail shops run by Xanterra Travel Collection.

The National Park Service began opening Yellowstone on May 18 (South and East entrances), and just announced this week that the remaining three entrances (North, Northeast and West) will open on June 1.

Opening and closing dates are subject to change based on future conditions and public health guidance as well as the ability to maintain a safe environment for visitors, employees and NPS staff.

LODGING
At this time, only cabins with private baths are scheduled to open at the following locations:
Old Faithful Lodge (June 8-Oct. 4)
Old Faithful Snow Lodge (June 8-Oct. 25)
Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel (June 1-Nov. 1)
Lake Yellowstone Hotel (June 17-Oct. 4)
Lake Lodge (June 17-Sept. 2)
Canyon Lodge (June 19-Oct. 12)

CAMPGROUNDS
Xanterra campgrounds are currently scheduled to open as follows:
Madison (June 15-Oct. 18)
Bridge Bay (June 17-Sept. 7)
Grant Village (June 17-Sept. 13)
Canyon (June 19-Sept. 20)
Fishing Bridge RV Park will remain closed through fall of 2021

DINING
Select dining outlets as outlined below will be open with “take out” options only. Based on current public health guidelines, dining room seating and dinner reservations are not available.
Mammoth Hot Springs Area
Terrace Grill (June 1-Oct. 12), take out only food and beverages including beer and wine
Old Faithful Area
Geyser Grill at Snow Lodge (May 22-Oct. 25), take out only food and beverages including beer and wine
Old Faithful Lodge Bake Shop (June 8-Oct. 4), take out only light meals, snacks and non-alcoholic beverages
Old Faithful Lodge Cafeteria (June 8-Oct. 3), take out only food and beverages including beer and wine
Canyon Area
The Eatery at Canyon Lodge (June 19-Oct. 12), take out only food and beverages including beer and wine
Yellowstone Lake Area
Wiley’s Canteen at Lake Lodge (June 17-Oct. 4), take out only food and non-alcoholic beverages
Lake Lodge Lobby Bar (June 17-Oct. 3), take out only beverages including beer, wine, and cocktails
Grant Village Area
Grant Village Dining Room (June 17-Sept. 13), take out only food and beverages including beer and wine

SHOPPING
Select Xanterra gift stores in the following locations will be open, but with controlled access to comply with distancing standards:
Mammoth Hotel (June 1-Oct. 12)
Old Faithful Snow Lodge (May 22-Nov. 1)
Old Faithful Lodge (June 8-Oct. 4)
Lake Yellowst1otel (June 17-Oct. 4)
Canyon Lodge (June 19- Oct. 12)
Lake Lodge (June 17-Oct. 4)
Madison Campground (June 15-Oct. 18)

Tours and activities will be limited to guide boats, boat rentals, backcountry shuttle, and dock slips at the marina, horseback rides at Canyon Lodge Corral, and bike rentals at Old Faithful Snow Lodge. Road-based tours, Scenicruise tours, Stagecoach rides, or the Old West Cookout will not be offered.

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US Virgin Islands to Reopen June 1

The U.S. Virgin Islands will reopen to leisure travelers on June 1, the territory announced Tuesday.

Commissioner of Tourism Joseph Boschulte said the destination is finalizing public health and tourism protocols to ensure a safe return for visitors. While the islands are preparing to welcome guests back in less than a week’s time, a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic will remain in effect through July 11.

The Department of Tourism has rolled out a comprehensive guide called the “Health and Safety Guidelines for the USVI Tourism Industry” for tourism stakeholders that include proper procedures for operating reception and concierge facilities; cleaning and housekeeping; managing dining rooms and providing technical and maintenance services.

The document, which will be updated frequently, also includes specific guidance for taxi, van, safari and limo services, restaurants, bars and hotels.

“Over the past several weeks, we have been building COVID-19 mitigation and response capacity, and preparing protocols to protect the health and safety of residents and visitors alike,” said Boschulte in a statement accompanying the announcement. “We did not want to rush to reopen in reaction to what other destinations are doing. Instead, we have engaged in data-driven, risk-based analysis, in conjunction with the Virgin Islands Department of Health and federal guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other stakeholders.”

Boschulte also pointed out that the demand for travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands has remained strong in the months since the destination was forced to close its borders due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“Throughout the pandemic, we were greatly encouraged by the outpouring of support and expressions of desire from friends around the world to travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands,” he added. “Even though COVID-19 caused us to temporarily close our doors, our hearts remained open. We now look forward to welcoming travelers back to their home away from home.”

The U.S. Virgin Islands will be among the first Caribbean destinations to reopen in the wake of COVID-19, with Puerto Rico recently relaxing some restrictions on beaches, restaurants and other amenities. Saint Lucia will also begin welcoming visitors back next week.

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Dubai Tourism refutes reports on hospitality job losses

Dubai Tourism & Commerce Marketing spokesperson said that the hospitality sector remains ‘healthy’ and will emerge from the Covid-19 stronger than before

“Dubai’s hotel sector is healthy and this prudent approach prepares the industry for an even stronger resurgence post Covid,” the Dubai Tourism spokesperson said.

Dubai Tourism & Commerce Marketing has refuted media reports that approximately 30 percent of workers in the UAE’s hospitality industry are likely to lose their jobs as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Citing statistics from research firm STR Global, Bloomberg reported that 43,000 hotel rooms – approximately a third of the emirate’s total room keys – will remain closed until September.

In an interview with Bloomberg, STR’s Middle East and Africa director, Philip Wooller, said that he estimates that 40,000 people are employed in the hospitality industry, of whom he believes that one-third will lose their jobs.

Dubai Tourism & Commerce Marketing, however, refuted the claims through Dubai Media Office. 

“Contrary to Bloomberg’s assertion, Dubai’s hospitality businesses are resuming operations based on issued government reopening guidelines during this pandemic,” a Dubai Tourism & Commerce Marketing spokesperson was quoted as saying.

Dubai Tourism & Commerce Marketing spokesperson : “Contrary to Bloomberg's assertions, Dubai’s Hospitality businesses are resuming operations based on issued government reopening guidelines during this pandemic.— Dubai Media Office (@DXBMediaOffice) May 20, 2020

“Dubai’s hotel sector is healthy and this prudent approach prepares the industry for an even stronger resurgence post Covid,” the spokesperson added.

“Guided by the expert advice of our team of advisors, we have been gradually restarted various economic sectors and services to ensure continued economic resilience.”

#Dubai's Hotel sector is healthy&this prudent approach prepares the industry for an even stronger resurgence post Covid.Guided by the expert advise of our team of advisors,we have been gradually restarting various economic sectors&services to ensure continued economic resilience.— Dubai Media Office (@DXBMediaOffice) May 20, 2020

Tourism contributed 11.5 percent to Dubai’s economic output in 2019 as 16.7 million tourists visited the city, according to government statistics.

Arabian Business digital magazine: read the latest edition online

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Could US Virgin Islands See Tourism Boost if New Marijuana Bill Passes?

U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Albert Bryan, Jr. resubmitted a revamped version of his proposed U.S. Virgin Islands Medicinal Cannabis Patient Act, which would enable travelers 21 and older to purchase marijuana in the destination.

While medical marijuana has been legal in the USVI since January 2019, government delays have hindered its implementation, according to Vibe High.

The revised act would be used to generate funds for the USVI’s Government Employees Retirement System (GERS) while also helping to jumpstart the economy when the coronavirus is suppressed.

It’s a move that travel agents and advisors have mixed feelings on, but many still see how it would be able to boost tourism if it passes.

“Honestly, the USVI [and other] Caribbean Islands would all benefit from legalizing weed. People are on vacation. They are there to relax. Drinking and weed are the go-to drugs,” said Katie Kapel of Mode Travel Agency. “I am not saying I necessarily agree with that, but that is the reality of legalizing marijuana. I mean, what country wouldn’t benefit from that from a travel and tourism standpoint?”

Ryan Doncsecz of VIP Vacations called the USVI news “all good to me,” adding that it would invariably help travel advisors make more sales while also putting a halt to “arresting people who are pretty much harmless.”

James Berglie of Be All Inclusive had a more tempered view. “I think overall our society is becoming more accepting of pot,” he said. “I don’t think it really has a big impact on where people choose to vacation, though. As we all know, in any destination just about any drug is fully available to those who will make it a priority to find them if they really want them.”

Sarah Kline of Time for Travel was more enthusiastic about the news. “I think legalizing marijuana in the USVI would be an enormous boost to that region. I live in Maryland where basically pot is legal and we have many clients ask about destinations that allow pot,” she said. “I’ve arranged trips for clients to Colorado and Alaska based on pot tourism. Jamaica is our No. 1 destination and for many, being able to buy and consume pot there is the big draw.”

In 2015, Jamaica approved a marijuana decriminalization law. Possession of two ounces or less is no longer considered an offense for which a person can be arrested, charged and tried in court.

Meanwhile, under the revised U.S. Virgin Islands Medicinal Cannabis Patient Act, adult-use permits of $25 would be required, and adult-use permit holders would not be permitted to grow cannabis.

Medical Cannabis Dispensaries would be allowed to sell no more than seven grams of medical cannabis, three grams of medical cannabis concentrate or 500 milligrams of medical cannabis products per day to non-residents.

For residents, the requirements would be one ounce of medical cannabis, 10 grams of medical cannabis concentrate or 2,000 milligrams of medical cannabis products.

“Consideration of this proposed bill is exigent given that the principal benefit of the revenues derived from [it] are directed to assisting the stoppage of the hemorrhaging of the GERS,” Bryan said, noting that 75 percent of the funds would be distributed GERS.

“It is also important that we utilize the present time while we are putting our economy back together in readiness for the post-COVID pandemic environment, to put this revenue mechanism in place,” he said.

All things considered, destinations that have legalized or decimalized cannabis are developing lucrative revenue streams from marijuana tourism—a case in point being Colorado.

For agents and advisors, the burgeoning marijuana tourism industry is a viable way in which to increase their revenues as well.

Arguably, it’s a win-win for travel advisors and destinations alike.

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Bahamas Targeting July 1 to Resume International Travel

The Bahamas is targeting July 1 in its latest plans to reopen its borders for travel.

“We are looking at a possible date for commercial travel on or before July 1 of this year,” Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced. “These dates may change depending on the circumstance. I want to repeat, however, that this date is not final.”

“It will be adjusted if we see a deterioration of the COVID-19 infection trends or if we’ve determined that the protocols and procedures are not in place sufficiently to warrant this opening,” added Minnis.

The Bahamas is entering phase 2 of its reopening strategy, with the fifth and final stage allowing its to resume international travel and tourism operations.

“Our resorts, our airports and our seaports are finalizing the health and safety protocols that will be necessary for us to provide for a re-opening,” said Minnis. “Taking into account what is being done within the region and around the world, these extensive guidelines will be designed to provide for reasonable assurance that travel and leisure are generally safe. Any such reopening to commercial-scale traffic will also be dependent on the ongoing stabilization of the COVID-19 outbreak in the Bahamas.”

The Prime Minister also announced plans for a COVID-19 travel card that will be used to facilitate domestic travel throughout the islands. The administration has relaxed restrictions on more Family Islands, permitting the resumption of commercial activity on Cat Island, Long Island, Abaco and Andros. However, Exuma, San Salvador and Eleuthera are still awaiting the green light.

Elsewhere in the Caribbean, officials in Saint Lucia recently announced plans to begin reopening the island’s tourism industry in phases starting on June 4.

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RV Company Giving Away Trips to Frontline Heroes Battling Coronavirus

RV rental company Outdoorsy launched a new program Friday presenting healthcare heroes in North America free road trips to thank them for their service during the coronavirus outbreak.

The program, dubbed “book one, we’ll give one,” will feature Outdoorsy matching each booking with free road trip nights donated to deserving healthcare workers through June 30.

Winners will be selected through an open-to-the-public nomination process, and the top prizes include a three-day, two-night RV rental from Outdoorsy and an annual membership to Harvest Hosts, a membership club offering free camping at top attractions.

In addition, contest winners will receive a gift card to cover the costs of a stay at Kampgrounds of America, a system of more than 520 campgrounds throughout North America. Winners will be selected each week as more nominations and bookings are made.

“The CDC has said spending time outdoors may improve overall health and wellness, so to thank our healthcare heroes for the sacrifices they’re making now, we want to gift them peace of mind for later,” Outdoorsy co-founder Jennifer Young said in a statement.

“Our mission is to make memorable outdoor experiences accessible for everyone, and we know Outdoorsy has an important role to play at this moment in time,” Young continued. “Knowing that a road trip can help you to recharge and reconnect motivated us to launch this program, and to be able to give back together with our community of RV owners and renters makes this cause even more important to us.”

People can get involved in Outdoorsy’s program in several ways, including nominating a hero you know by sharing their story, booking a vacation or lending their RV to the company for use by healthcare heroes.

The first road trip recipient was Danielle Martin, an ICU nurse at Uvalde Memorial Hospital outside Rio City, Texas. Martin has been working full time throughout her pregnancy, treating coronavirus patients.

Earlier this month, experts revealed any return to travel would likely start with short, domestic trips, and the RV industry could become the go-to vehicle for travel this summer.

Though the outlook for RV sales entering the year was grim—504,000 RVs were sold in 2017 and that number slipped to 364,000 last year—many dealers across the country are reporting an unexpected uptick in sales.

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Hawaii governor plans to extend quarantine through June 30

Via live broadcast on Facebook, Hawaii Gov. David Ige announced May 14 his intention to extend both the state’s “safer-at-home” regulations and mandatory 14-day quarantine for all arrivals to the Islands through the end of June. 

While there are plans to gradually loosen restrictions on businesses and some activities, Ige and other state and county officials announced, much of the system put in place to restrict the spread of Covid-19 in the Aloha State will remain in place for at least another six weeks. 

The governor said he would be looking at ways to reopen “medium risk” businesses, including hair salons, barber shops and indoor dining at restaurants. 

“The next round of businesses deal with more risky activity, and so I’m working with the mayors to establish policies of how to move forward in that regard,” Ige said, while adding that he is not yet prepared to allow large gatherings. 

As of March 14, Hawaii had 637 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 17 deaths, and more than 90% of the infected people have been released from isolation, according to the state health department. The last time the agency reported double-digit new confirmed infections in a single day was April 18, and the rate of new cases in Hawaii appears to be steadily declining.

Since March 26, everyone arriving in the Aloha State has been subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine at their home or accommodation. Violators can be fined up to $5,000 and face up to a year in jail.

Retail stores on Oahu started reopening May 15 with social distancing guidelines, and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said during a May 14 press conference he would also extend the general stay-at-home order for the county through June 30 while moving to allow more activities and lifting some restrictions on restaurants. Caldwell suggested restaurants could reopen as soon as June 5 depending on the state’s progress in containing the pandemic after retail businesses return.

“If there is an uptick and it’s significant, we have time to adjust and recalibrate whether we open up restaurants or not,” Caldwell said.

There will be new health requirements in place for restaurants, including face coverings for employees and diners when they are not eating, seating placed 6 feet apart, more single-use materials, increased sanitization and other procedures. Caldwell is also moving to incrementally ease restrictions on outdoor sports, drive-in and religious services, and other activities in the coming weeks.

At times, dueling regulations from the counties and state have caused confusion; for example, over what activities are allowed at beaches, which are currently only open to access the ocean or for exercise. Caldwell said he would ask Ige to fully reopen state beaches, while the governor said he would work to come up with cohesive guidelines with county officials. 

“I’ve told the mayors that my intention is to extend the safer-at-home mandate through the end of June. We will be looking at different components of what that means,” Ige said in his Facebook live announcement. “Certainly we will be extending the 14-day mandatory quarantine for all travel into the state until the end of June, but there are other businesses and activities that we’ll look at reopening.”

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Fisher's Peak will become Colorado's newest state park

Colorado Parks and Wildlife on Thursday announced it has completed its acquisition of a property in southern Colorado near Trinidad that will become Colorado’s 42nd state park.

The 19,200-acre parcel (30 square miles) is highlighted by a prominent landmark, Fisher’s Peak, which tops out at 9,633 feet. The peak, an outcrop of ancient lava flows from the Raton Mesa east of Interstate 25, is 6 miles southeast of Trinidad and 7 miles north of the New Mexico border.

The acquisition is the result of a partnership formed in February 2019 involving CPW, the city of Trinidad, The Nature Conservancy, The Trust for Public Land and Great Outdoors Colorado, according to a CPW news release. In addition to its scenic attributes, the largely undeveloped tract is home to a rich variety of wildlife including elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, mountain lions and black bears.

CPW plans a phased approach to opening.

“We are excited to get people onto Fisher’s Peak, enjoying this amazing property as soon as possible,” Bill Vogrin, public information officer for CPW’s southeast region, wrote in an email to The Denver Post  Thursday. “But we must caution people that a fully developed state park, with the complete suite of amenities that most people are used to, will not be completed quickly. The first stage of limited public access to the property should be completed early in 2021, but no firm timelines have been established and the park remains closed. Given the size and scale of the property, visitors can expect multiple phases of development and new features over the coming months and years.”

“In addition, CPW biologists are studying the property to inventory all the wildlife, learn about ecosystems, assess drainages, habitat opportunities and more,” Vogrin said. “Our engineers must assess it for trails, infrastructure including roads, parking lots, restrooms, campgrounds and facilities. Meanwhile, CPW staff and consultants will inventory the archaeological and cultural resources on the property, which will influence the development of park amenities and be used to create interpretive displays at the park.”

Vogrin said developing the property is a “high priority” for Gov. Jared Polis, who called the acquisition an “exciting milestone” in the news release.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that Coloradans highly value their open spaces and outdoor recreation opportunities,” Polis said. “Colorado was one of the few states to keep our state parks open during this entire crisis because recreating at a safe space outdoors is a healthy part of our lifestyles. Adding Fisher’s Peak as our next state park will increase opportunities to explore a unique and stunning part of Colorado.”

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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park seeks public input

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is reaching out for public comment as it moves forward with replacing and repairing buildings and facilities lost during the 2018 eruption of Kilauea.

The national park and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) are working to refine four initial design concepts developed under the recovery project. In addition to replacing critical park infrastructure, the project also includes plans for the potential future use of the Uekahuna Bluff area, a site considered sacred to many Native Hawaiians and other groups.

Jaggar Museum, which sits on the edge of the Kilauea Caldera, suffered structural damage during the eruption and corresponding tremors. Park officials say that has placed additional burdens on the Kilauea Visitor Center, which is too small to handle the traffic. The proposed plans for the visitor center range from renovation to rebuilding the facility elsewhere in the park. The plans also include a replacement for a USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory that was damaged during the eruptions.

From May to August 2018, the eruption of Kilauea triggered more than 60,000 earthquakes and spewed clouds of rock and ash into the sky, the cumulative damage making it the most destructive eruptive events in Hawaii in the last two centuries.

“Hawaii Volcanoes National Park belongs to everyone, and to our future generations,” Hawaii Volcanoes National Park acting superintendent Rhonda Loh said in a statement. “We need to hear from our community and stakeholders about what they envision for their moopuna, their grandchildren, and the generations that will follow.” 

The public comment period is scheduled to run through June 15, and to slow the spread of Covid-19, all civic engagement is taking place online at this time. The National Park Service will then use community feedback received to determine which concept will be the proposed concept. 

Click here to view and comment on the four design concepts.

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Now, you can drive to Kailash Mansarovar from New Delhi

New Delhi: India is completing the first road connectivity to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China in Uttarakhand to ensure smooth ride of pilgrims to Kailash Mansarovar, the Ministry of Defence said on Friday.

The Border Road Organisation (BRO) completed the 80 km stretch connecting Ghatiabgarh and Lipulekh on April 17. After the trials were successful, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh opened the road by video conferencing on Friday.

“Delighted to inaugurate the Link Road to Mansarovar Yatra today. The BRO achieved road connectivity from Dharchula to Lipulekh (China Border) known as Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra Route. Also flagged off a convoy of vehicles from Pithoragarh to Gunji through video conferencing,” Rajnath Singh tweeted.

He also said that the BRO team has done “tremendous work in the recent years and played a significant role in connecting the border areas”. The road will also help in troops movement to the LAC.

The road ends at the 17,000 feet high Lipulekh pass. From there, Mount Kailash is located around 97 km north of the pass in Tibet. The Lipulekh pass, close to the Tri-junction of India-China-Nepal, is the lowest point in this section of the high Himalayas.

A senior Defence Ministry official said that with the construction of the road, pilgrims can travel to Lipulekh from Delhi in two days. The distance from Delhi to Lipulekh is 750 km.

Interestingly, the major travel would be in India — 84 per cent — and only 16 per cent in China.

The 80 km Ghatiabgarh-Lipulekh section has been made under the directions of the China Study Group (CSG) and it is funded by the Indo-China Border Road (ICBR).

The road was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in 2005 at a cost of Rs 80.76 crore. In 2018, the CCS approved a revised cost of Rs 439.40 crore.

This route will reduce the usual travel time for the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra by some six days.

The other route for the yatra via Sikkim is 2,780 km. It involves taking a flight to Bagdogra (1,115 km from Delhi), thereafter 1,665 km of road travel, including 1,490 in China.

Another existing route is via Nepal. It involves taking a flight to Kathmandu in Nepal, 1,150 km from Delhi, and thereafter a combination of two flights with road travel (1,940 km total) or two flights and one helicopter sortie (755 km) or total road travel from Nepal (840 km). The distance excludes 43 km on foot in China.

The new route via Uttrakhand will reduce a lot of time for the pilgrims. It would be the shortest and cheapest route and also one fifth distance of road travel as compared to the other routes.

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