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Coronavirus

A RETURN TO NORMAL: Switzerland welcomes fully vaccinated Canadian guests

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The Swiss government has outlined a return to normality after the global pandemic including the complete opening to international guests and the full opening of tourist infrastructures (restaurants, events, leisure facilities).The  government announced that it is opening the country’s borders to fully vaccinated travellers from Canada from June 26, in time for the summer holidays.

Switzerland Tourism is already actively present in Toronto to provide information about existing protection measures and rules, as well as travel opportunities in Switzerland for the summer and autumn 2021.

“We are very happy to welcome fully vaccinated Canadian guests back in Switzerland. Our campaign with Vancouver-based photographer Callum Snape showcases why Canadians will love reconnecting with friends and family in the heart of Europe. Hike and bike in the Swiss Alps, explore our boutique towns, swim in our turquoise lakes, discover in our four language regions and ride our scenic trains along palm trees and stunning glaciers”, says Pascal Prinz, Director Canada for Switzerland Tourism.

Canadians, who can prove that they are fully vaccinated will be able to travel to Switzerland without quarantine or PCR tests starting tomorrow. Upon return to Canada local regulations apply.

Over 4,000 tourism businesses use the Swiss “Clean & Safe” label to document the application of comprehensive protection concepts. Information is available on the website.

Travellers appreciate – especially after the pandemic – Switzerland’s values such as reliability, cleanliness, safety and naturalness.

Image by Callum Snape

First published at Travel Industry Today

First published at TravelNewsHub.com – Global Travel News

FLIGHT CREWS URGE ZERO TOLERANCE: As passengers return to air travel, bad behavior skyrockets

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Air travel can be difficult in the best of times, with cramped planes, screaming babies, flight delays and short tempers. Throw in a pandemic, and the anxiety level can rise quickly. That has led to confrontations with flight attendants and other unruly behavior, including occasional fights that get captured and replayed endlessly on social media.

Airlines have reported about 3,000 cases of disruptive passengers since Jan. 1, according to a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, which began tracking it this year. About 2,300 of those incidents involved passengers who refused to obey the federal requirement to wear a face mask.

Over the past decade, the FAA investigated about 140 cases a year for possible enforcement actions such as fines. This year, it was nearly 400 by late May.

Things have gotten so bad that the airlines and unions for flight attendants and pilots sent a letter to the US Justice Department on Monday urging “that more be done to deter egregious behavior.”

“The federal government should send a strong and consistent message through criminal enforcement that compliance with federal law and upholding aviation safety are of paramount importance,” the letter said, noting that the law calls for up to 20 years imprisonment for passengers who intimidate or interfere with crew members.

Trade group Airlines for America sent a separate letter to the Federal Aviation Administration acknowledging that the “vast majority of passengers” comply with the rules but “unfortunately, we continue to see onboard behavior deteriorating into heinous acts, including assaults, threats and intimidation of crewmembers that directly interfere with the performance of crewmember duties and jeopardize the safety and security of everyone onboard the aircraft.”

The FAA announced a “zero-tolerance” policy against disruptive behavior on flights back in January. The agency is attempting to levy fines that can top $30,000 against more than 50 passengers and has identified more than 400 other cases for possible enforcement.

US airlines have banned at least 3,000 passengers since May of last year, and that doesn’t include two of the largest, American and Southwest, which decline to provide figures.

Airlines have stripped some customers of frequent-flyer benefits, and in rare cases pilots have made unplanned landings to remove unruly passengers. Pilots and flight attendants now routinely make pre-flight announcements to remind passengers about federal regulations against interfering with crews.

“All of that is helpful, and if we didn’t have that I can only imagine how much worse it would be,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, “but this is clearly not taking care of the whole problem. We have to do a lot more. I have never, ever seen an environment like this.”

Mike Oemichen has been a flight attendant for seven years and he, too, says he has never seen so much bad behavior on board. He recounted a recent incident in which he and other flight attendants had just completed the safety briefing for passengers and were preparing for takeoff when a fight broke out between two men and a woman accompanying one of them.

“After 20 or 30 seconds we were able to get the two male passengers away from each other, and we tried to calm everyone down,” Oemichen said. “Then we went back to the gate and had the passengers removed.”

Oemichen suffered a concussion when he hit his head against an overhead bin during the melee.

“We never figured out what they were fighting over,” said Oemichen, who spoke on condition that his airline not be named. He also handles grievances for union members at his airline.

The fear among flight attendants is that things will get worse this summer, as travel continues to increase and planes get more crowded. The airline industry passed a milestone earlier this month when the Transportation Security Administration announced that more than 2 million people streamed through US airport security checkpoints for the first time since early March 2020.

Airline bookings have been picking up since around February, as more Americans were vaccinated against COVID-19. Falling infection rates could, however, make it much harder for flight attendants to enforce the federal mask-wearing rule, which isn’t due to expire until mid-September.

Some security experts think lifting the mask requirement will remove a key source of tension – one with political overtones in a politically divided nation. But it could also raise the anxiety of people who worry about sharing space with strangers while we’re still in a pandemic.

“People on both sides of the issue are acting badly,” Nelson said.

Airline unions have asked for a variety of measures including more air marshals, limits on alcohol sales on planes and in airports, and more sharing of information among airlines about disruptive passengers. They are also floating the idea of a new government-maintained list of banned passengers – but one that would be less restrictive than the no-fly list for suspected terrorists.

It’s not clear why there is so much air rage. Airline employees and outside experts offer explanations including cramped flights, political polarization over wearing face masks, and the way pandemic lockdowns affect people’s mental health.

“We are all more traumatized than we realize, and that puts people on edge,” said Raymond Tafrate, a psychologist and criminology professor at Central Connecticut State University who has studied anger. “The pandemic isolated people and caused all sorts of stress and problems in their lives. People are in worse shape than they were before.”

Tafrate’s advice to travelers: “Accept that flights don’t always go the way you want, and accept there are going to be some rules that you don’t like.”

First published at Travel Industry Today

First published at TravelNewsHub.com – Global Travel News

IN THE LINE OF FIRE: Florida law threatens Caribbean

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Florida legislation preventing cruise lines operating in the state from barring non-vaccinated passengers puts Caribbean islands in the “direct line of fire” by threatening the health and wellbeing of millions of residents when cruises to the region resume, says the governor of the US Virgin Islands.

Albert Bryan Jr. is urging Florida governor Ron DeSantis to reconsider the state’s legislation and honour the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines requiring cruise ships operating this summer from US ports to sail with 95% of passengers and crew members vaccinated.

USVI governor Albert Bryan, Jr.

“The bill you signed into law (which goes into effect July 1, 2021) may negatively impact the United States Virgin Islands and other port of call destinations in the Caribbean region,” Bryan said in a communiqué, adding that ensuring the cruise industry reopens with vaccinated passengers is essential to the tourism economies of the US Virgin Islands and the wider Caribbean.

With Florida serving as the nucleus and biggest embarkation point for cruises in the United States that dock in the US Virgin Islands and throughout the Caribbean, the governor warned that “our ports… are in direct line of fire,” noting that while the two hospitals in the US Virgin Islands are equipped to care for the Territory’s residents, they lack the resources to address a potentially larger public health crisis.

“The lack of infrastructure puts us at a disadvantage for any crisis – health or mother nature. This is true of not only the Virgin Islands but most of the countries in the region,” Bryan said, adding, “This is why I implore you to reconsider with a lens to the negative impact that your legislation may have on residents in the Caribbean… Please consider the exemption proposed above so… Caribbean (destinations) can feel safe on arrival and disembarkation of cruise passengers and crew.

“This will be a big win for the people of the Caribbean and the Caribbean expatriates that live in your state. It is my hope that you can assist us in moving in the same direction while respecting regional health liberties,” he affirmed.

Bryan has also shared a communiqué with the leadership of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) inviting support from regional leaders to work with the USVI in finding an agreeable path forward to welcoming cruise ships and their passengers back to the islands in as safe a way as possible.

First published at Travel Industry Today

First published at TravelNewsHub.com – Global Travel News

FEDS CAN’T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS

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With talk of the of the CEWS and CERS support programs coming to an end, the federal government can’t also keep the Canada-US border closed, says the Tourism Industry Association of Canada. “It can’t be both ways; either continue to support tourism businesses… or start reopening the border so that businesses can get back to work,” says TIAC president Beth Potter.

To that end, TIAC has launched a new campaign to call on the federal government to plan for reopening the border, which has been closed to non-essential traffic for nearly 15 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The campaign focuses on getting Canadian decision-makers to acknowledge the urgent need and to commit to a date to open the border “before the summer tourism season is lost.”

The association has also posted a web page that directs people to write to their member of parliament to tell them that they need to “do their part” to safely re-open the border (https://www.openuscanborder.ca/)

While TIAC has long advocated for a federal re-opening plan, the new campaign is the latest in a series of increasingly strident calls for the government to bust Canada’s border blues.

That sentiment was further amplified on Wednesday by the Canadian Snowbird Association, which reiterated its call for the end of the mandatory hotel quarantine program for fully vaccinated Canadian residents returning to Canada

TIAC president Beth Potter

TIAC’s Potter says, “Medical experts are telling us that we are winning the battle with COVID. With vaccinations rising and case numbers going down, we must now pivot to more forward-thinking policies, and talk about safely reopening the border, ending the extreme financial crush that has flattened the tourism industry and devastated the tourism economy in Canada. As Canada and the US return to normal, we must prepare to open the border quickly and safely, and restart our tourism economy.”

Potter cited “a powerful case” for doing so made recently by the Expert Advisory Panel to the federal government on COVID-19 Testing and Screening, which stated that travel policy should be revamped to reflect the significant progress made on the pandemic, including scrapping the mandatory hotel quarantine system.

“The land border closure was a blunt interment to help stop the pandemic, but the fact that people can fly to the US to vacation without quarantining there, but a very limited number of essential workers can cross the border never made sense, says Potter, adding,

“There is a lack of urgency on the Canadian side for planning for the inevitable reopening of the border, which has been out-of-step with US officials and the Biden administration. President Biden formally asked for a border reopening plan immediately after taking office, and so far, Canada has been slow to make any public progress.”

Public calls for the reopening have been steadily growing on both sides of the border in recent weeks: Congressional leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have called for the border to open now; Liberal MPs Wayne Easter and Nathaniel Erskine-Smith have added their voices, and several prominent editorialists have called for the Canadian government to start the planning process.

Potter says TIAC is asking the government to take urgent action on the issue, so that Canadian tourism operators and businesses have the ability to plan for rehiring staff, training, and marketing.

She adds that many businesses rely on advance bookings and without a clear plan for reopening and a commitment to when it will happen, people are uncertain as to whether or not they can book activities in Canada – at any date in the future.

“The decision to close the border was made in a time of crisis, and now that we are starting to come through on the other side, we must have a plan in place to reopen the border, to kickstart the Canadian tourism economy. The health and safety of Canadians continues to be of the utmost importance – which is why we need guidance from all levels of government on a plan,” she says.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday, Canada will indeed be taking steps to ease restrictions at the border for fully vaccinated travellers – but he did not commit to a date, and offered only the barest hint of hope that things could change by June 21.

“We are looking at how we can ease the rules, based on science,” for would-be travellers who have had a complete course of a COVID-19 vaccine, Trudeau said in French during a news conference in Ottawa.

“We will have more announcements to make regarding measures that may be eased for those who have had both doses in the weeks to come.”

First published at Travel Industry Today

First published at TravelNewsHub.com – Global Travel News

CANADA PLANS FOR RETURN OF INTERNATIONAL TOURISTS

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The federal government is looking at taking a phased approach to welcoming back international visitors as pandemic restrictions loosen, focusing on case counts globally as part of decision-making, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says.

Federal officials have looked to restrict movement of non-essential travellers for more than a year, even banning at times direct flights from countries like India and the U.K. as variants of COVID-19 have raised concerns.

Trudeau said he expects high interest from overseas travellers to visit Canada as those restrictions eventually ease because of vaccination uptake rates and case counts that are better than peer countries.

Vaccinations required

Anyone coming to Canada would need to be fully vaccinated before arriving, Trudeau said during an afternoon event, because the country can’t risk another wave of COVID-19.

A fourth wave would be devastating to businesses and the morale of the country, Trudeau said.

He added the government is looking at ways to start welcoming back visitors from abroad as case counts come down at home, in the United States and elsewhere around the world to keep Canadians safe, but also help the country’s beleaguered tourism sector.

“Not only have we managed to keep case counts low and manage throughout this pandemic in most parts of the country, but we are also extremely high in terms of vaccination numbers, and that is going to be reassuring to a lot of people who maybe want to travel but don’t want to be putting their families at risk,” Trudeau said in a virtual appearance at an event hosted by the St. John’s Board of Trade.

“We’re not going to get ahead of ourselves,” he added a moment later. “We are looking at how we’re going to start welcoming up tourists in a phased way as the numbers come down in Canada, as the numbers start to come down in the United States and elsewhere around the world.”

Pent up travel demand

Tourism ministers around the world have spoken for months about how to restart international tourism that has plunged because of the pandemic, with new rules landing just as summer travel season is set to pick up and fuelled by pent-up travel demand.

The European Union is allowing travellers from a handful of countries to visit the continent this summer, and several of the bloc’s members have their own rules layered on top of that about who needs a COVID-19 test before arrival.

See Canada first

First, though, provincial travel restrictions need to loosen. Federal and provincial tourism ministers have previously agreed to first promote travel within regions, once it is safer to do so, then within provinces, before ultimately attracting international visitors.

“Canadians are going to be really keen on tourism, on getting out there, on leaving their community,” Trudeau said.

“There is a tremendous opportunity for people who aren’t quite yet comfortable travelling around the world.”

April’s federal budget promised an injection of $1 billion over three years, starting this fiscal year, for the tourism and festival industry forced to close or cancel events because of public health measures. Some of the budget money will go to help cover the costs of innovative solutions to connect with festivalgoers and help hard-hit downtown cores by extension.

First published at Travel Industry Today

First published at TravelNewsHub.com – Global Travel News

WTTC Welcomes Introduction of Digital COVID Certificate by EU Member States

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Brussels, Belgium, June 8, 2021 / TRAVELINDEX / In a major step towards the recovery of the Travel & Tourism sector, Virginia Messina, Senior Vice President, WTTC, acknowledges the importance of the EU Digital COVID Certificate, which has now been given the green light by all member states. “WTTC is delighted with the news that Greece, Germany, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Denmark…

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First published at TravelNewsHub.com – Global Travel News

THE LONG WAY HOME: A candid account of long haul travel in Covid times

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Trevor Clarke and his fiancé Jordan Hamilton completed work contracts in New Zealand this spring, and share the story of their long journey home to Canada, during a global pandemic. On the day of departure, New Zealand reported no new cases in the community and 72 hours later when they touched down in Toronto, Ontario reported 3,778 new cases. Clarke suggested that the further they travelled from…

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First published at TravelNewsHub.com – Global Travel News

THE VAX FACTS: Why You’ll Need Both Shots to Cruise

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Can you cruise if you haven’t got your shots? Will you have to wear a mask on a deck chair? It’s still a patchwork as cruise lines announce their return to sailing. A growing number of lines are bluntly mandating no-shots, no-sail. Some require vaccination for at least 95 percent of guests 16- or 18-plus and allow minors to board with a negative PCR test. Others are so far looking at requiring…

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First published at TravelNewsHub.com – Global Travel News

WORLD WATCH: Global pandemic update

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While the COVID-19 infections are decreasing in Canada and the US, and some destinations – like Greece – are un-battening the hatches to welcome tourists again, much of the world is cautiously preparing for, or fighting, the worst as variants multiply and, in some cases, past poor judgement comes back to haunt. Global cases as of May 16 totalled more than 162.5 million with over 3.

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First published at TravelNewsHub.com – Global Travel News

SIZE COUNTS: DeSantis disses Norwegian Cruise Lines

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Calling the third-largest cruise line in the world – Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings – “not one of the bigger ones,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that if ‘smaller cruise lines’ want to leave the state because of bans on vaccine requirements, their void will be filled. Miami-based Norwegian has three ports of departure in Florida – Miami, Port Canaveral and Tampa. It also makes stops in…

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First published at TravelNewsHub.com – Global Travel News