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NTA tour operators refunds coronavirus

Tour operators belonging to the National Tour Association
have refunded close to a billion dollars to customers for Covid-19-related
cancellations, according to an NTA survey.

The association also reports that 43% of tour operators and
70% of tour suppliers have furloughed or laid off workers because of the global
travel shutdown.

The member survey, completed April 3, revealed that tour
operators canceled more than 59,000 trips affecting nearly 1.8
million travelers. The bulk of cancellations were for travel in March, April
and May, but tour operators said they were also seeing cancellations as far out
as 2021.

On average, tour operators said they had refunded $1.8
million, which means NTA members alone had sent back close to a billion
dollars, the group said.

Each tour suppliers, meantime, reported refunding customers
an average of $334,000.

“This survey reflects the depth of damage done to our
industry by this virus: people furloughed and positions terminated, tours
canceled, businesses closed and refunds issued,” said NTA president Catherine
Prather. “I hear real concern from our members due to the uncertainty and lack
of control in the situation, yet I also continue to see their resiliency as
they look to what they can control and how they can move through the crisis.”

The good news: 80% of tour operators and tour suppliers are
seeking help under the Cares Act federal stimulus package.

NTA said its members are applying for both Economic Injury
Disaster loans and assistance under the new Payroll Protection Program.

Meanwhile, only about half of destination marketing
organizations plan to apply for help, in part because many don’t qualify. Many
DMOs are 501c6 organizations, which are not eligible. Other nonprofits are
eligible, such as 501c3s.

NTA said it hopes Congress makes a change to include 501c6s
when lawmakers approve a new round of funding for the Payroll Protection

The NTA survey shows 43% of responding tour operators had
furloughed or laid off employees and 31% had reduced staff hours. Seventy
percent of tour suppliers had furloughed or laid off employees.

DMOs were faring slightly better, with 59% saying they had
reduced staff positions or hours.

Ninety-three percent of DMOs said they had frozen or reduced
their budgets, as had 88% of tour operators and 74% of suppliers.

The vast majority of DMOs and tour companies also reported
remaining open for business, with staff working remotely. At least half of
responding tour suppliers said they were temporarily closed, with others
operating on reduced hours or having employees work from home.

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Flight Attendants Want Non-Essential Trips Grounded

Association of Flight Attendants union president Sara Nelson, who has grown into one of the most powerful voices in aviation over the last year, told the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration that all non-essential flights should end immediately to help stem the growth of the deadly coronavirus.

Nelson, head of the largest flight attendants union in the country, spoke on a conference call set up by the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions.

More than 100 flight attendants have tested positive for COVID-19, several are in intensive care and nearly 1,000 sick and self-quarantined. One died late last month.

“We are calling for a halt to all leisure travel,” Nelson said on the call. “We’re calling on a coordinated government response, we’re calling on all our airlines, and we’re also calling for leadership from DOT and FAA on advising the public that we do not need any leisure travel right now.”

The demand for travel has dropped dramatically, and the airlines, in turn, have cut service – in some cases up to 90 percent. But as part of the stimulus package signed into law by President Trump last month, airlines must maintain a minimum of service and keep flying.

That has resulted in some customers taking advantage of rock-bottom current prices – which included $32 round-trip cross-country tickets between Miami and Los Angeles on American Airlines into May – to either travel to vacation destinations where they are more than willing to self-quarantine for 14 days or to pad their frequent flier miles.

“We do not need to have any leisure travel at this time,” Nelson said. “In air travel, it’s impossible to social distance, and so crews need the flights that don’t need to be taking off to stay on the ground.”

NBC Bay Area, the television affiliate of NBC-Universal based in San Francisco, did a piece quoting several flight attendants from several different airlines who agreed with their union leader.

“What I would love to see is that nonessential flights are grounded. You know, we have a lot of planes going out there that have one passenger or sometimes even none. And it begs the question of why are we flying?” said one 20 year flight attendant veteran, who was not identified by the station.

Indeed, American Airlines just admitted that it flew nine flights out of New York City this past weekend that had just one passenger on each of the nine planes.

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Hotels give healthcare workers some comfort

Hotels are using their empty rooms as a force for good,
offering to house healthcare workers and other essential personnel as hospitals
across the country grapple with Covid-19 cases.

Marriott International’s Bonvoy loyalty program has launched
its Rooms for Responders initiative, working with credit card partners American
Express and JPMorgan Chase to donate up to $10 million in hotel stays at no
cost to frontline healthcare workers in the U.S. 

Bonvoy will collaborate with the Emergency Nurses
Association and American College of Emergency Physicians to identify medical
professionals in need of accommodations. The Rooms for Responders program
expects to provide an estimated 100,000 room nights to healthcare workers in
hard-hit cities like New York, Newark, Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, Las Vegas,
New Orleans and Washington, D.C.  

Likewise, Hilton has teamed up with American Express to
donate up to a million hotel rooms to frontline medical professionals — including
doctors, nurses, EMTs and paramedics — through May 31.

Hilton said donated rooms will be available across the
company’s Hampton, Hilton Garden Inn and DoubleTree flags, among other brands.
Employees at participating properties will receive health and safety training
in order to mitigate risk, while rooms and common areas will continue to be
sanitized using industrial-grade cleaners.

As part of the effort, Hilton and American Express have
partnered with 10 healthcare associations, including the American Association
of Critical Care Nurses, American College of Emergency Physicians, American
Hospital Association and American Nurses Association.

“Knowing that there is a safe, clean and comfortable hotel
room waiting for you at the end of a long shift can make all the difference in
the world right now,” said Dr. William Jaquis, president of the American
College of Emergency Physicians. “The kind of compassion and caring that Hilton
and American Express are offering has never been more welcome.”

In New York, the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic, the
Four Seasons New York in midtown was the first New York hotel to officially
offer free accommodations to healthcare workers.

The luxury property announced in late March that it had
partnered with a network of New York medical associations and hospitals to
house doctors, nurses and critical care personnel, welcoming its first
frontline workers on April 2. 

To allow for social distancing, the Four Seasons New York
has made 225 of its 368 rooms available to medical professionals, with the
hotel expecting to reach full capacity by the end of this week.

Stringent entry, check-in and cleaning procedures have been
put in place to protect Four Seasons New York employees and guests. Only one
person is permitted into the building at a time and each person must undergo screening,
including a temperature check. Signage and floor markings are used to designate
proper social distancing throughout the hotel. All meals are boxed and designed
to be consumed in the room.

After a guest checks out, each room will remain empty for
three consecutive days and then cleaned and disinfected by a third-party
company before being cleaned again by the Four Seasons New York housekeeping

“Our healthcare workers are working tirelessly on the front
lines of this crisis,” said Ty Warner, founder and chairman of Ty Warner Hotels
and Resorts, which owns the Four Seasons New York. “Many of those working in New York City have to travel
long distances to and from their homes after putting in 18-hour days. They need
a place close to work where they can rest and regenerate.”

In Dallas, the Statler Hotel has pledged to provide some $30,000 in accommodations and meals to medical professionals. The
property, which is part of Hilton’s Curio Collection, has set aside two floors
to house healthcare personnel, with each medical worker to receive meal
vouchers for a boxed breakfast, lunch and dinner provided daily by Refined
Hospitality Concepts, which operates the Statler’s restaurants.

Sean Terry, vice president of entitlements for Statler Hotel
owner Centurion America, urged other corporate leaders to reach out to the
property’s team with donations, with the hotel willing to allocate additional
space to first responders at cost.

“It is the responsibility of all of us to find creative
solutions to the problems created by the Covid-19 pandemic,” added Terry.

The individual brand and property efforts come as the
American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) promotes its industry-wide
Hospitality for Hope initiative,
which identifies properties that have offered to provide temporary housing to
emergency and healthcare workers. The AHLA said earlier this week that more
than 15,000 hotels have joined the campaign since its launch.

Also looking to connect hotels with healthcare professionals
is Cloudbeds’ #Hospitalityhelps campaign, which has accumulated well over 1.2 million
volunteered hotel beds in its centralized repository.

Source: Read Full Article


Investors pump billion dollars into Airbnb

Silver Lake and Sixth Street Partners will invest $1 billion
in Airbnb to help the home-share giant mitigate the fallout from the Covid-19

The funds — a combination of debt and equity securities — will
be used to invest in Airbnb’s community of hosts and enable the company to “be
in the strongest possible position as travel rebounds from the Covid-19
pandemic,” the company says.

According to co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky, as travel
recovers, he believes people will be interested in visiting locations close to
home and finding local experiences. To that end, he said the future of Airbnb
will focus on three core products: hosts, long-term stays and Airbnb Experiences.

Chesky said Airbnb will “invest in our hosts and bring more
of them into our community,” although the company declined to provide specifics
on how this will be accomplished.

Airbnb previously outlined its strategy for long-term stays,
which includes a new suite of tools for hosts.

As for Experiences, the company said the focus will be on
activities available year-round, not just during travel.

Silver Lake co-CEO and managing partner Egon Durban said, “While
the current environment is clearly a difficult one for the hospitality
industry, the desire to travel and have authentic experiences is fundamental
and enduring.

“Airbnb’s diverse, global and resilient business model is
particularly well suited to prosper as the world inevitably recovers and we all
get back out to experience it.”

Sixth Street Partners CEO and managing partner Alan Waxman
added, “Airbnb created an enormous new category, underpinned by the leading
brand and technology platform, as well as a community founded on trust.

“The company’s achievements speak for themselves, and we are
excited by the opportunities on the horizon as they continue to grow their
geographic footprint, accommodations and experiences.”

Airbnb will contribute $5 million of the $1 billion
investment to its Superhost Relief Fund, which will provide grants up to $15
million to top-rated and experienced hosts who need help paying their rents or

Source: PhocusWire

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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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Flights: Passengers call for ‘walk of shame’ for one traveller’s public mess

Air travel means often long journey times in close quarters with all manner of people. In fact, those who share the cabin can be the difference between a dream flight and a nightmare all based on their behaviour.


  • Flights: Cabin crew reveals must-have hand luggage item

However, it seems everyone has different perceptions about what kind of thing is acceptable in public and what is not.

Travellers were left in “disbelief” after a flight attendant snapped a photograph of a messy scene she returned to the galley to find.

The image was shared on Instagram account @PassengerShaming, explaining: “Flight attendant leaves galley to do meal/beverage service — returns to THIS.”

In the image, the jump seat by an emergency exit door can be seen. It is this area where the crew usually sit for take-off and landing, as well as for their breaks.

Judging by the scene it seems the flight attendant who witnessed it won’t have the luxury of sitting down, as a passenger seems to have found another use for the area.

The seat, which is folded up, can be seen draped in various items of wet clothing and a blanket.

It seems the items are all baby clothes – including a cloth nappy which is slung over the leather headrest.

Viewers of the image were appalled at the passenger’s decision to dry what appear to be freshly washed baby garments on the flight attendant’ seat

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The image has currently amassed 279 comments, many of whom were reeling at the behaviour.

One commenter vented: “I can’t even comprehend how anyone would consider that as an option. I mean… props for creativity but what is going on in their minds?”

Another said: “Flying has gone into a very steep decline! Get some class people.”

One onlooker went so far as to describe the culprits as “animals”, adding: “That’s beyond savage.”


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“I don’t know whether I’d lose it or actually laugh in disbelief,” said someone else.

Others pointed out that this was clearly an unexpected situation and the last resort for parents who needed to clean up their baby post-accident.

“A baby has obviously been sick and the parents tried to clean it. Not ideal to air dry. Agree. But this looks like a baby incident to me,” wrote one.

There were those who retaliated though, finding other solutions that did not include invading the flight attendant’s space.

“Put it in a plastic bag and use the trash. Throw that away,” said one commenter.

Others offered dream scenarios for how the flight attendant should have dealt with the laundry and its owner.

“Would have loved to hear the announcement form the FA ‘for the passenger who left their laundry in the back galley, please come pick it up. Thank you’”, said one.

Another advised: “FA should get on the speaker and announce to the whole plane ‘whoever did their laundry and hung it all up in the galley please come and remove it ASAP’. Let the other passengers see their walk of shame.”

Of course, the full backstory remains yet to be told, so it is unknown what came of the laundry and its owners.

Source: Read Full Article


Holidays: Most powerful passport in the world for 2020 revealed – how did UK rank?

A passport is an important document for any Briton looking to travel internationally. But how does the UK passport compare to the passports of other countries? The Henley Passport Index is the original ranking of all the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa.


  • TUI holiday programme changes due to coronavirus in latest warning

Yesterday, the Henley Passport Index released its 2020 Q2 update.

The ranking is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

So which country was revealed as having the most powerful passport?

Japan continues to come top of the rankings in the passport index.

Japanese citizens can enter 191 countries with their passport visa-free.

In second place was Singapore with a visa-free score of 190.

In joint third place was Germany and South Korea with a score of 189.

The UK came in seventh place – Britons can go to 185 countries without a visa on the UK passport.

However, the Henley Passport Index pointed out that, given the current coronavirus pandemic, the index is actually defunct as so few can travel at the moment.

Henley & Partners said in a statement: “The first ranking of the new decade published in January this year conclusively confirmed that overall, people were the most globally mobile than we had ever been in the history of humankind, with the top-ranking passport (Japan) offering its holders access to a record-breaking 191 destinations without requiring a visa in advance.

“Just three months later, the picture looks very different indeed.

“Japan’s passport continues to hold the top spot on the Henley Passport Index as we enter the second quarter of 2020, but the reality is that current stringent travel restrictions mean that most non-essential travel for Japanese nationals is heavily curtailed.

“This is true for almost every country of course, as more travel bans are implemented daily, and ever-more stringent coronavirus lockdown regulations are imposed by governments worldwide.


  • Jet2 flights cancelled until mid-June due to coronavirus uncertainty

“With 3.5 billion people, nearly half the global population, presently living in voluntary or mandatory confinement, the latest results from the index — which is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) — raise challenging questions about what travel freedom and global mobility really mean, both currently and in a deeply uncertain post-pandemic future.”

Dr. Christian H. Kaelin, Chairman of Henley & Partners and the inventor of the passport index concept, points out that in an unprecedented global health emergency such as this, relative passport strength becomes temporarily meaningless.

“A Swiss citizen can, in theory, travel to 185 destinations around the world without needing a visa in advance, but the last few weeks have made it apparent that travel freedom is contingent on factors that occasionally can be utterly beyond our control.

“This is, of course, something that citizens of countries with weak passports in the lower ranks of the index are all too familiar with.

“As public health concerns and security rightfully take precedence over all else now, even within the otherwise borderless EU, this is an opportunity to reflect on what freedom of movement and citizenship essentially mean for those of us who have perhaps taken them for granted in the past.”

So did Brexit affect the UK passport’s ranking for 2020 at all?

The chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has cast further doubt on the timeline for the implementation of the UK’s post-Brexit immigration system, according to Madeleine Sumption, Director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford.

The UK was set to end free movement with the EU in January 2021.

However, Sumption clarified: “The UK can only implement its new immigration system when the post-Brexit ‘transition period’ is over, and if this is extended to give negotiators more time to discuss trade and other issues, we may not be seeing the end of free movement with the EU quite yet.”

Most Powerful Passports for 2020

1. Japan 191

2. Singapore 190

3. Germany & South Korea 189

4. Finland, Italy, Luxembourg & Spain 188

5. Austria & Denmark 187

6. France, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal & Sweden 186

7. Belgium, Norway, Switzerland, United Kingdom & United States 185

8. Czech Republic, Greece, Malta & New Zealand 184

9. Australia & Canada 183

10. Hungary 182

Source: Read Full Article


Tour operator Jet2 cancels all flights and holidays until mid-June

Tour operator Jet2 cancels all flights and holidays until mid-June as coronavirus travel restrictions show no signs of easing

  • The UK-based travel firm has said flights and trips are cancelled until June 17 
  • It added that it is contacting all affected customers so they can discuss options 
  • Foreign Office has advised against all non-essential travel abroad indefinitely

Jet2 has cancelled all flights and holidays until mid-June because restrictions put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic show no sign of easing.

The travel firm, which is Britain’s second-biggest holiday company and owned by Dart Group, said in a statement that its holidays and flights would not now restart until June 17, and it would contact customers to discuss their options.

It comes just days after the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) warned Britons against all non-essential travel abroad indefinitely.

Tour operator Jet2 has cancelled all flights and holidays until June 17 due to the coronavirus crisis

A spokeswoman from Jet2 said: ‘We are keeping this decision under constant review, in line with guidance from governments and the relevant authorities.’

A spokesman for Tui, Britain’s biggest holiday company, said it would provide an update on its plans shortly.

Meanwhile, UK-based budget airline easyJet, which also has a holiday business, has grounded its flights until further notice and British Airways has told customers to keep checking its website for bookings for travel after May 31.

Holiday customers in Britain should be refunded for cancelled trips within 14 days but many have experienced delays due to the sheer number requiring reimbursement and the travel slump causing cash flow problems for many companies.

Last month, a 30-day advisory was put in place by the FCO warning Britons against all non-essential foreign travel until April 15. 

But on Saturday an update was announced by the FCO on Twitter.

It said: ‘The Foreign Office indefinitely advises against all non-essential global travel.’

On Saturday, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) warned Britons against all non-essential travel abroad indefinitely

The FCO said British travellers may not be able to return to the UK if they travel abroad. Pictured is an empty arrivals hall at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 on April 3

And it added: ‘The situation is changing rapidly. Travellers could face severe disruption and be unable to return to the UK.’

It also quietly updated its website to say: ‘FCO extends advice against travelling overseas for an indefinite period.’

The FCO also said it was ‘ramping up’ efforts to bring home thousands of British travellers stranded overseas due to the coronavirus crisis.

Flights have been chartered to bring home Britons from Bolivia, Ecuador, the Philippines and India. 

Source: Read Full Article


Majority of Americans apprehensive about travel planning

The likelihood that Americans will plan a leisure trip in
the next six months has dropped more than 50% due to the Covid-19 pandemic,
according to a survey from MMGY Travel Intelligence.

And, most Americans, not surprisingly, said they remain
hesitant to get on a plane or a cruise ship.

Only 39% of those polled said they were likely to plan a
domestic leisure trip, down from 82% in a February survey. 

Less than 25% of leisure travelers surveyed said they were
likely to attend a conference, plan international travel, take a cruise or take
a group tour in the next six months.

Business travelers are less apprehensive about getting back
on the road, with 26% saying they are likely to plan a domestic trip in the
next six months, down from 40% in February.

Generally, the survey shows most Americans are fearful about
travel or even resuming public life. 

“This is the first look at how consumers view travel in
the midst of the crisis and represents what we might expect,” said MMGY CEO
Clayton Reid. “But as we continue to measure this in future weeks, we are
looking for changing views that will guide how travel brands should re-engage
and communicate.”

The first round of the survey, which was conducted for the
U.S. Travel Association during the last week of March, polled 1,200 U.S.
residents who have taken an overnight trip for either business or leisure in
the past 12 months. The survey will be updated every two weeks.

Reid, who wrote a blog
about the different phases consumers go through during crises, said he is
optimistic that the aversion to travel will ease as the country moves into a
recovery mode.

“My base case is that travel bounces back very quickly and
is a leading economic recovery tool,” he said. “Part of that narrative is that
although some people in the ‘fear’ phase of the crisis say they won’t travel,
they change that view as we emerge into the ‘understanding’ and ‘rational
behavior’ phases. As with past crises, they actually view travel as a needed
part of their personal recovery.”

Indeed, 63% of leisure travelers surveyed said a slowdown in
in Covid-19 will have the biggest impact on their travel decisions in the next
six months.

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