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Destinations

Hawaiian Airlines offers free interisland flights for medical workers

Hawaiian Airlines is providing complimentary interisland flights for medical professionals this month to support the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Partnering with Hawaii’s health care providers, including Hawaii Emergency Physicians Associated, The Queen’s Health Systems, Kaiser Permanente Hawaii, Hawaii Permanente Medical Group, Hawai’i Pacific Health and Diagnostic Laboratory Services,
the airline is working to facilitate delivering medical services to communities across the Aloha State.

“This virus has presented an unprecedented test for all of us who call Hawaii home, and we are glad to be able to support the exceptional and important work our medical providers are carrying out across our islands each day to meet our state’s health care needs and help us overcome this challenge,” Hawaiian Airlines president and CEO Peter Ingram said in a statement.

On April 4, Hawaiian began operating 16 daily roundtrip flights between Honolulu and Hilo and Kona on the Island of Hawaii, Kahului on Maui and Lihue on Kauai. The airline is also serving both Molokai and Lanai from Honolulu on Ohana by Hawaiian flights.

Additionally, Hawaiian has suspended service between Honolulu and Pago Pago on American Samoa for at least 30 days through April 23 at the request of the American Samoan government.

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Grand Velas Riviera Maya offers private helicopter tour to Merida

Guests who stay at Grand Velas Riviera Maya will have a new VIP experience available to them starting this summer.

The resort’s Henequen Experience will take guests on a private helicopter ride to the Hacienda Sotuta de Peon, a hacienda from the 19th century just outside the city of Merida. They will spend the afternoon discovering the local henequen plant, will tour the hacienda by carriage, and will swim in the Dzul Ha cenote.

After returning to Grand Velas, guests will enjoy the resort’s signature beverage, which includes Mexico’s ancient liquors like bacanora, stool, tuxca and pox. The experience concludes with a private dinner at the Mayan restaurant, Chaka, with a menu of Yucatecan dishes.

Accommodations will be in the Zen Grand Suites, which have private terraces and Jacuzzi tubs. The four-night experience costs $3,488 per person for two people.

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As Kimpton returns other brands prepare debuts

Recent and upcoming hotel openings in New Orleans include the return of one brand to the city as well as two brands making their Big Easy debuts.

• This month, Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants returned to New Orleans after a 15-year absence with the opening of the Kimpton Hotel Fontenot. The 202-room property, at Poydras and Tchoupitoulas streets in the Warehouse District, comprises a reconfiguration of several structures, including the former Staybridge Suites New Orleans.

Interiors “are inspired by the city’s iconic Southern hospitality and famed jazz musicians as well as the building’s original architectural details,” according to a Kimpton statement, with nods to New Orleans heritage such as a 7-foot trombone installation in the lobby. 

Guestrooms have “a clean and modern design aesthetic with soft accents of French blue and pink,” according to Kimpton, and feature honor bars and all-day room service. Guests looking to stay active can rent bikes or head to the 24-hour fitness center. 

The Kimpton Hotel Fontenot is also introducing two signature dining and cocktail concepts, helmed by executive chef Chris Lusk and bar director Steve Yamada. 

The Peacock Room serves what Kimpton describes as “a contemporary selection of spirits and craft cocktails and a food menu featuring refined shareable interpretations of regional classics,” while Gospel Coffee and Boozy Treats offers a variety of coffee beverages and frozen drinks as well as breakfast tacos and house-made pastries. 

• Set to open later this year is a 341-room Four Seasons on the former site of the city’s World Trade Center building. It will be the first property in New Orleans to bear the Four Seasons brand. 

The Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences New Orleans will be housed within the lower floors of a 34-story, mixed-use development, with 92 condominiums on the upper floors, four food-and-drink outlets, a rooftop pool, a spa and 22,500 square feet of meetings space. 

“New Orleans has been a priority market for us for many years, and we have been waiting for the right opportunity to make our debut in this dynamic city,” John Davison, president and CEO of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, said in a statement.

• The Virgin Hotels brand is set for its New Orleans debut in late 2021 in the city’s Warehouse District.

“New Orleans is an incredibly special city and one Virgin Hotels has had an eye on from the beginning,” Raul Leal, CEO of Virgin Hotels, said in a statement. “The history, the food, the music, the spirit — they all work together to make it a one-of-a-kind destination for both business and leisure travelers.”

The 225-room newbuild on Baronne Street will feature a rooftop pool and lounge, gym and dedicated meetings and event spaces.

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Grand Canyon Is Now Closed Until Further Notice

The Grand Canyon, one of America’s greatest and most popular National Parks, is now closed.

The surprising news – surely the park is large enough to maintain the social distancing guidelines – came Wednesday in a press release after the National Park Service received a request to close the Canyon from

Coconino County, Arizona, health officials.

“The National Park Service (NPS) received a letter today from the Health and Human Services Director and Chief Health Officer for Coconino County recommending the full closure of Grand Canyon National Park. Upon receiving this request from the local health department, acting Superintendent Mary Risser, with the support of the NPS Deputy Director, Operations, David Vela and Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, made the decision to immediately close the park until further notice,” the NPS said in a statement.

The park is closed until further notice. Earlier this week, a food service employee at the Grand Canyon’s South Rim’s became the first identified case of the virus in that area.

“The Department of the Interior and the National Park Service will continue to follow the guidance of state and local health officials in making determinations about our operations,” department Secretary David Bernhardt said in the NPS press release. “As soon as we received the letter from the Health and Human Services Director and Chief Health Officer for Coconino County recommending the closure of Grand Canyon National Park, we closed the park.”

According to the Arizona Republic newspaper, the South Rim is home to more than 2,500 residents from the Grand Canyon Village inside the park and the neighboring Town of Tusayan and Valle, several miles outside the park. In recent weeks, several residents called for the park’s closure to protect themselves from potential exposure to COVID-19 and a shortage of already limited supplies.

Facilities inside the park have slowly been closing the last two weeks. There are more than 1,400 cases of COVID-19 in Arizona and 29 known deaths by Wednesday morning, the paper reported.

“The health and safety of park visitors, employees, residents, volunteers, and partners at Grand Canyon National Park is the Service’s number one priority. The NPS has consistently assessed its park units and made modifications to its operations in accordance with CDC, state and local public health guidance, and the NPS will continue to follow the guidance of public health officials in making determinations about our operations to address this pandemic,” the NPS said. “The NPS encourages people to take advantage of the many digital tools already available to explore Grand Canyon National Park, including: The NPS encourages people to take advantage of the many digital tools already available to explore Grand Canyon National Park, including: webcams, virtual tours, photo galleries, mobile app, videos, Flickr, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter.

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Destinations

Some New York City Landmarks Have Been Turned Into Hospitals

New York has become the focal point for the coronavirus in the United States. With over 74,000 reported cases, New York hospitals have quickly become overcrowded. In response, New York City landmarks have been converted into temporary make-shift hospitals.

At least three popular city landmarks have been turned into temporary hospitals so far. According to NBC News, Mayor Bill de Blasio indicated that New York City will see even more of these makeshift medical centers.

“We’re going to use every place we need to use to help people,” de Blasio told reporters Sunday. “This is the kind of thing you will see now as this crisis develops.”

A 14-tent hospital has been set up in Central Park near Mount Sinai Hospital. It includes 68 beds and a 10-bed intensive care unit. Each bed provides its own ventilator. The hospital is staffed by 60 to 70 medical professionals who have volunteered to help patients who were not able to check into a proper hospital.

The Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the cite renown for holding the U.S. Open, has started converting into a 350-bed hospital early on Tuesday.

“I’m looking forward to the day when this is going to be a place for tennis again,” de Blasio said in a conference held at the tennis center. “But in the meantime, I’m inspired by the fact that people are stepping up.”

The Javits Convention Center has been turned into the city’s largest make-shift hospital, with 2,500 beds to house sick patients. The center started to receive its first patients earlier this week.

“Javits Center’s done many magnificent exhibitions and transformations, and they never cease to amaze me, but this is a transformation that I don’t think anyone could ever anticipate,” Cuomo said Monday.

The city received even further help after the Navy hospital ship, known as the Comfort, docked in Manhattan on Monday. The 1,000-bed ship is currently accepting patients who not infected with COVID-19 in order to free more hospital space for those who infected.

“We knew from the outset that expanded hospital capacity was critical,” Cuomo tweeted Monday. “We asked and the federal government answered.”

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Can Denver residents drive to the mountains, different counties to hike? No

It’s a bit confusing, I know.

On one hand, when Mayor Michael Hancock issued a county-wide, stay-at-home order, outdoor exercise was listed as an essential activity. Not just essential, it was encouraged! And among the activities that were specifically championed was hiking.

But Denverites were left looking around and scratching their heads. There aren’t that many hiking trails in Denver proper — especially ones that aren’t busy. So surely that means we can pop in the car and drive over to an infrequently used trail in the mountains, right?

Unfortunately, no.

On the city and county’s FAQ page, they lay out the rules on traveling to hike — or backcountry ski, snowshoe or any other recreation activity:

Can I still travel to other towns in Colorado or the mountains for recreation?

No. Denver issued the Stay at Home order in solidarity with our neighboring and mountain communities. Staying at home means staying where you are –not going to neighboring communities or the mountains for recreation where we could further spread COVID-19 and overwhelm limited healthcare systems.

On Friday, a day after initial publishing, Mayor Hancock aligned Denver’s stay-at-home order with the statewide one. You may be thinking, “Aha, now I can go to the mountains to hike.” Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

“If you need to recreate outdoors, do it in communities close to your home,” Gov. Jared Polis said Friday during a press conference. “Just because you’re not working, this doesn’t mean it’s vacation. It’s not the time to drive two or three hours from Denver to mountain communities, many of which are reeling from the crisis. Let me add, that is really dumb, because those communities have a higher rate of infection than where you live.”

So there you have it, Denver. But don’t forget, you are able to exercise around your home — just remember to stay 6 feet away from others.

Updated March 30, 2020, at 1:40 p.m.: This story was updated to include comments the governor made during a press conference on Friday, March 27.

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Botswanas Xigera Lodge set to reopen

The Red Carnation Hotel Collection is scheduled to open the completely refurbished Xigera Lodge in June, its first safari property in Botswana.

Xigera, located on the western side of the Moremi Game Reserve in the heart of the Okavango Delta, comprises 12 fully air-conditioned suites. The focus at Xigera will be on the quality of the service, with 105 staffers attending 24 guests. Facilities include a library, where visiting specialists will give talks and screen wildlife documentaries, a dining room, an interactive kitchen, a bar and wine cellar and a traditional boma for storytelling and stargazing. Wellness areas include a gym, swimming pool and spa.

Travelers will be able to enjoy game drives as well as exploration of the delta by motorboat and traditional mokoro (canoes commonly used in the region). Private walking safaris, photographic safaris and workshops, private yoga sessions, helicopter excursions and bush lunch or picnics will also be available.

Red Carnation is a family-owned hospitality group that currently owns a trio of properties in South Africa.

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Dubai to close all eating outlets for two weeks; drive thru, deliveries to continue

Restaurants and cafes at hotels and hotel apartments serving their guests have been exempt

The ruling does not apply to restaurants and cafes at hotels and hotel apartments serving their guests (picture for illustrative purposes only). 

Dubai is to close all eating establishments, including restaurants, cafes, cafeterias coffee shops, for two weeks.

“In line with precautionary measures announced by MOHAP [Ministry of Health and Prevention] and NCEMA [National Crisis & Emergency Management Authority], Dubai Municipality announces the closure of all restaurants, cafes, cafeterias, coffee shops and all establishments offering food services in shopping centers/malls, and all locations in Dubai and halted all their activities for 2 weeks starting from 23rd March 2020,” it was announced in a statement on Monday.

However, the ruling does not apply to restaurants and cafes at hotels and hotel apartments serving their guests.

Drive thru, food delivery and food transportation services will continue, the statement added.

In a statement issued by the state news agency WAM, it was announced on Monday that the UAE has decided to close all commercial centres, and shopping malls along with fish, meat and vegetables markets for a period of at least two weeks.

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Margaritaville in Nassau to open this summer

The Margaritaville Beach Resort Nassau plans a summer opening.

The 284-room property is spread across two towers. The Hotel Tower offers 155 oceanview rooms and suites, and the One Particular Harbour Tower will have 129 residential condos ranging from studios to a four-bedroom penthouse, each equipped with a full kitchen.

The condos are privately owned but will be placed in the hotel rental pool when not owner-occupied.

Resort facilities will include the Fins Up water park with slides, a lazy river, climbing wall, dive pool, grotto, surf machine, beach with loungers and private cabanas and a 45-slip marina.

The entertainment complex features virtual reality sports, karaoke, bowling, billiards and a movie theater.

Eleven food and beverage venues include a two-story waterfront restaurant and lounge, a rooftop cigar lounge, a French bakery, pool bars and a steak and seafood eatery.

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Caribbean Resorts and Destinations Expand COVID-19 Restrictions

Top Caribbean hotels, resorts and destinations followed through with wider closures and shutdowns as COVID-19 spreads globally. The closures come as more destinations across the tourism-reliant region take action to prevent increasing their own coronavirus infection levels.

Two signature Caribbean resort operators were among the most recent COVID-19 victims. Nassau’s Baha Mar resort will suspend operations at 3 p.m. on March 25 until further notice, said company officials in a statement. “We will be working closely with our nation’s government to ensure that we do all we can to support our associates financially over the coming days,” said officials.

“As the global community grapples with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the safety, and well-being of our staff, partners, guests and citizens of The Bahamas are our top priority,” the statement adds.

“During this time, we will be working with reservation holders to refund or reschedule planned stays” at the properties three hotels, the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, Rosewood Baha Mar and SLS Baha Mar. Officials are encouraging guests to “contact your travel professional or the resort directly.”

“The weeks ahead are sure to be trying,” the statement reads, “but we look forward with hope and anticipation to a time when we will welcome our guests and associates back to our property for the spectacular experiences we are known for around the world.”

Sandals Resorts will close its properties between March 30 and May 15, 2020 due to COVID-19, said Gordon “Butch” Stewart, the all-inclusive resort company’s chairman. Sandals operates 19 resort properties in Antigua, Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, The Bahamas and the Turks & Caicos.

The firm’s Beaches Resorts properties will also close during the period, and the company will not accept new reservations beyond March 23. “Never could we have imagined the impact the current global health crisis would have on the world,” said Stewart.

“Now more than ever, the safety and health of our valued guests and team members is of paramount importance.” Stewart said the combination of “recent global travel warnings, coupled with airline carrier cancellations” led to the decision to close the resorts.

Stewart also pointed out that Caribbean destinations and tourism companies have frequently dealt with adversity and have proven their ability to rebound. “The Caribbean is resilient, said Stewart. “We have always come back better, stronger and more passionate than ever. We promise this time will be no exception.

He added, “Our team will be reaching out to you to assist with rescheduling your plans. This way, you can spend less time trying to reach us and more time with loved ones. We will take this time to make further enhancements to our resorts. Soon come back.”

Jamaica’s iconic luxury resort Half Moon also announced it would close temporarily due to COVID-19 restrictions. “We recognize the need to do all we can to ensure the health and safety for our entire Half Moon family: guests, service professionals and community,” said company officials.

“Therefore, we have taken the difficult decision to temporarily close the resort” through May 1, 2020, officials said. Half Moon’s reservations team and website however “remain open for bookings beyond this date range.”

“The company continues to liaise with the government on this situation,” officials add. “We are committed to reopening Half Moon as soon as it is prudent to do so.”

Destination Report

Several Caribbean countries, meanwhile, updated policies and enhanced preventative measures as the illness spread.

The Turks and Caicos has no confirmed coronavirus cases, said officials at the Ministry of Tourism and Tourist Board, yet still implemented new regulations that affect travel to the destination. All air and seaports have been closed and no visitors will be permitted to enter or transit through the Turks and Caicos for 21 days.

Turks and Caicos native and resident returning to the territory are exempt from the border closure, as are emergency, cargo and medical flights and ships. Residents will be required to self-quarantine upon their return.

Martinique has extended earlier-announced restrictions by closing Aimé Césaire International Airport to all international flights on March 23. The same regulations apply to the four other French overseas Caribbean islands of Saint Martin, Saint Barthelemy, Guadeloupe and French Guyana.

In addition Martinique’s hotels and villa rentals “are bringing their activities to a close, while waiting for the departure of their last guests,” Martinique Tourism Authority officials said. New guests will be prohibited and amenities including pools, spa and other activities have been closed.

Additionally, the Martinique Port Authority has halted all cruise calls scheduled for the season and “all maritime transportations are suspended.” Restaurants and bars across the country are closed, and public transportation, along with “all businesses” excepting supermarkets, banks and pharmacies are also closed.

Anguilla also announced a temporary border closure despite a lack of confirmed coronavirus cases. The country closed its air and seaports to “all passenger movements” for 14 days on March 20 “in light of the most recent global developments,” according to a joint statement from the island’s governor and premier.

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