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Coronavirus

TRAVEL CONFIDENCE ON THE RISE: Many global tourists unconcerned about the spread of COVID-19

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Widespread COVID-19 concern appears to be declining as international travel resumes, amid easing travel restrictions and rising vaccination rates. According to a live poll conducted by GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, 57% of respondents are “not concerned” or are “not very concerned” about the spread of COVID-19, suggesting that tourists are more prepared to live with COVID-19.

Hannah Free, Travel and Tourism Analyst at GlobalData, said, “The outlook for tourism in many countries is brighter than at any time in the past two years. However, the turbulence and uncertainty of COVID-19 has created several challenges which are likely to further complicate recovery. Rising demand, coupled with mass layoffs and competition for talent with other sectors, has resulted in widespread labour shortages in several tourism economies such as the UK, the Netherlands, and Spain.”
As countries gradually lift travel restrictions and tourism restarts in many parts of the world, hygiene and safety must continue to be a priority and coordinated heath protocols that protect workers, communities, and travellers, while supporting companies and workers, need to be firmly in place to boost travel confidence.

Free says, “The global travel and tourism industry’s post-pandemic recovery is gaining traction as pent-up demand for international travel rekindles. According to GlobalData’s latest forecasts, on a global scale, international departures will reach 68% of pre-COVID levels in 2022. This is expected to improve to 82% in 2023, and 97% in 2024, before fully recovering by 2025 at 101% of 2019 levels. There is reason to be cautiously optimistic for the return of travel demand as growth in international travel is finally expected in 2022.”

 

First published at Travel Industry Today

First published at TravelNewsHub.com – Global Travel News

TRANSATLANTIC TRAVEL SET TO RECOVER AS EUROPE FULLY REOPENS

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Consumer-led growth continues to drive travel recovery into 2022, with consumers keen to spend the savings accumulated throughout the pandemic. The most recent edition of the ‘European Tourism Trends & Prospects’ quarterly report continues to monitor the COVID-19 impact on the sector, examining how travel activity is rebounding as the world learns to live with COVID-19.

Canada has now significantly relaxed its entry requirements and the EU recommends to European nations that vaccinated travellers should be allowed to visit.

Driven by strong domestic and intra-European travel, the overall travel demand is projected to be 30% below pre-pandemic levels in 2022. Whereas domestic travel is expected to recover entirely in 2022, international travel will be slower on the uptake and is not likely to surpass 2019 levels until 2025. Annual average growth from Canada to Europe is expected to be 36% in the five-year period 2020-2025, with the fastest increase in Southern Europe (42.8%).

With more and more travellers returning to Europe, the European Travel Commission (ETC) is reminding travel advisors of the available resources to support them. To check for entry requirements for each country, advisors find the latest information at reopen.europa.eu and can also contact the National Tourist Board of the respective country. For destination inspiration, visit visiteurope.com.

Pascal Prinz

“With the ease of restrictions across many European destinations, we are excited to welcome back avid Canadian travellers,” said Pascal Prinz, Chair of ETC’s Chapter in Canada. “Air bookings to Europe are strong and all major carriers are ramping up their transatlantic flight schedule, offering Canadians great deals and direct flights to experience Europe.”

According to the latest ETC Long-Haul Travel Barometer, good flight connections between Canada and Europe are a key driver of positive sentiment about European travel, with younger generations most likely to travel long-haul during 2022 – 57% of 18-34 year-olds, 46% of 35-49 year-olds, and 32% of the 50+ age group.

Canadians desire multi-national itineraries that visit several European destinations. The variety of cycling routes in the region as well as rail and road trips also help drive sentiment for visiting Europe. More than half (54%) of Canadian respondents shared an interest in visiting European metropolitan areas, with France, Italy, the UK, Germany and Switzerland on top of their destination wish list. Meanwhile, coastal and mountainous regions appear to be in equal demand among Canadians (both 27%).

COVID-19 concerns (48%) are the main deterrent to international travel for Canadians, with travel costs (12%) and restrictions at destinations (8%) also slightly above the combined average of long-haul markets. Knowing that the country effectively handles the pandemic (30%), flexible cancellation policies (28%), fully lifted travel restrictions (27%), getting vaccinated for Covid-19 (25%) and appropriate health protocols that secure the safety of locals and travellers (23%) are the factors classified as most important for boosting Canadian travellers’ confidence.

The full reports can be downloaded from ETC’s corporate website HERE.

First published at Travel Industry Today

First published at TravelNewsHub.com – Global Travel News

MASK NOT : Florida judge voids US mask mandate for planes, other travel

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A Trump appointed federal judge in Florida on Monday voided the national mask mandate covering airlines and other public transportation as exceeding the authority of US health officials in their response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The mandate, recently extended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, covered a vast array of transportation, from airplanes and trains to city subways and ride-sharing vehicles such as Uber.

The decision by US District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Tampa also said the CDC improperly failed to justify its decision and did not follow proper rulemaking procedures that left it fatally flawed.

In November 2020 Trump appointed Kimball Mizelle, a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, to a lifetime judgeship on US District Court for the Middle District of Florida. According to Law and Crime at the time, Kimball Mizelle had not tried a case since her admission to the American Bar Association (ABA), since graduating from law school eight years earlier and was deemed “not qualified” by the ABA. “The nominee presently does not meet the requisite minimum standard of experience necessary to perform the responsibilities required by the high office of a federal trial judge,” the committee wrote in a letter.

In her 59-page ruling, Kimball Mizelle said the only remedy was to vacate the rule entirely across the country because it would be impossible to end it for the limited group of people who objected in the lawsuit.

The judge said “a limited remedy would be no remedy at all” and courts have full authority to make a decision such as this – even if the goals of the CDC in fighting the virus are laudable.

“Because our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends, the court declares unlawful and vacates the mask mandate,” she wrote.

Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle

The Justice Department declined to comment Monday when asked if the government planned to appeal the ruling. The CDC also declined to comment.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that federal agencies were still assessing the court decision Monday afternoon.

“This is obviously a disappointing decision,” Psaki said, “The CDC is recommending wearing a mask on public transit.”

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was not directly involved in the case but has battled against many government coronavirus requirements, praised the ruling in a statement on Twitter.

“Great to see a federal judge in Florida follow the law and reject the Biden transportation mask mandate. Both airline employees and passengers deserve to have this misery end,” DeSantis tweeted.

The CDC recently extended the mask mandate, which was set to expire Monday, until May 3 to allow more time to study the BA.2 omicron subvariant of the coronavirus that is now responsible for the vast majority of cases in the US

The mandate covered all types of transportation in the US as well as requiring masks in any transportation hub, such as an airport, seaport or bus terminal. It wasn’t immediately clear Monday whether or not some of these entities would continue to require masks on their own.

United Airlines told employees that the mask rule remains in effect while federal officials decide how to respond to the judge’s ruling. Other airlines and their trade group, Airlines for America, did not immediately respond to requests for comment after the ruling was released.

The Association of Flight Attendants, the nation’s largest union of cabin crews, has recently taken a neutral position on the mask rule because its members are divided about the issue. On Monday, the union’s president appealed for calm on planes and in airports.

“The last thing we need for workers on the frontlines or passengers traveling today is confusion and chaos,” union leader Sara Nelson said.

Nelson said it takes airlines 24 to 48 hours to put new procedures in place and tell employees about them. She said passengers should to check with airlines for updates about travel requirements.

In New York, Metropolitan Transportation Authority communications director Tim Minton said, “We are continuing to follow CDC guidelines and will review the Florida court order.”

The MTA operates New York City buses and subway trains as well as two commuter rail lines. Face coverings have been mandatory on all trains and buses since early in the pandemic.

The federal mask requirement for travellers was the target of months of lobbying from the airlines, which sought to kill it. The carriers argued that effective air filters on modern planes make transmission of the virus during a flight highly unlikely. Republicans in Congress also fought to kill the mandate.

Critics have seized on the fact that states have rolled back rules requiring masks in restaurants, stores and other indoor settings, and yet COVID-19 cases have fallen sharply since the omicron variant peaked in mid-January.

There have been a series of violent incidents on aircraft that have mainly been attributed to disputes over the mask-wearing requirements.

The lawsuit was filed in July 2021 by two plaintiffs and the Health Freedom Defense Fund, described in the judge’s order as a nonprofit group that “opposes laws and regulations that force individuals to submit to the administration of medical products, procedures and devices against their will.”

In November 2020 Trump-appointed Kathryn Kimball Mizelle to a lifetime judgeship on U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. According to Law and Crime at the time, Mizelle had not tried a case since her admission to the American Bar Association (ABA), since graduating from law school eight years earlier and was deemed “not qualified” by the ABA. “The nominee presently does not meet the requisite minimum standard of experience necessary to perform the responsibilities required by the high office of a federal trial judge,” the committee wrote in a letter.

 

First published at Travel Industry Today

First published at TravelNewsHub.com – Global Travel News

WILL IT BE ENOUGH? Feds set to change border rules

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The federal government says it will announce changes to COVID-19 measures at Canada’s borders this week. But will it be enough to satisfy a desperate travel industry that has been increasingly urging that regulations be eased as the latest wave of the pandemic wanes and a general sentiment takes hold that it is time to learn to live with the virus?

Simply put, the industry will expect nothing less than a removal of the federal government’s standing advisory against all non-essential international travel – a blanket measure that has been shown to significantly suppress consumer demand – as well as the requirement for pre-travel PCR testing for fully vaccinated international arrivals in Canada.

Anyone travelling within Canada by plane, passenger train or boat must be vaccinated against COVID-19 ¬– a protocol not actively opposed by the travel industry. However, the need for quarantine for travellers after post-arrival testing while they wait for results is.

It was hopeful news then on Friday when Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos stated that the worst of the latest wave of the pandemic is now behind Canada, and that border protocols will be “tweaked” accordingly.

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam also acknowledged that due to the infectious nature of the omicron variant, it’s very difficult to stop every case at the border and prevent an infected person from transmitting the virus to someone; as such, she revealed that the travel advisory is being assessed.

However, at the same time, Duclos warned that Canada cannot simply decide to live with the virus and remove measures entirely while so many people are still dying of COVID-19. He added that more children need to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and Canada must administer more booster shots to adults.

Increasingly, tourism organizations, such as airlines and tourist boards, and sympathizers (Chambers of Commerce, doctors) have stated that current Canadian protocols are outdated and ineffective in preventing the introduction and spread of a variant that has already overwhelmed Canada. Moreover, they say they do not “follow the science” and point to many other countries, such as the UK, having dropped similar requirements.

On Friday, Air Transat flight attendants were the latest group to condemn “government inertia in its management of border mobility.”

Dominic Levasseur, president of Air Transat Flight Attendant Union, which represents 2,000 members, of whom 60% are still laid off, said, “If these measures are not eased out soon, hundreds of jobs are at risk in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. The government’s management of our borders must be strongly challenged.”

He added, “We ask our governments to act quickly to reduce sanitary restrictions at our borders. These excessive measures are strangling Canadian companies like Air Transat. Our demands are simple: we must facilitate the relaunch of our industry… Help us!”

This week, Levasseur, and the rest of the travel industry, will be hopeful that the government has been listening.

Meanwhile at the Ambassador Bridge

‘Freedom Convoy’ protesters were forced to end their occupation of the busiest bridge from Canada to the United States on Sunday morning after police in Windsor, Ontario, started arresting demonstrators and towing away vehicles.

Police swept through the convoy around 7am, following a standoff that began Friday evening when a Canadian judge issued a 10-day injunction making it unlawful to block Ambassador Bridge – which connects Windsor with Detroit.

Protesters in trucks, cars and vans have blocked traffic in both directions since Monday, choking the supply chain for Detroit’s carmakers.

Despite clearing the key bridge on Sunday morning, however, officials kept Ambassador Bridge closed to traffic.

Demonstrations across Canadian cities have been implemented in response to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s order for the country’s truckers to be vaccinated or quarantine after returning from the US.

‘Today, our national economic crisis at the Ambassador Bridge came to an end. Border crossings will reopen when it is safe to do so and I defer to police and border agencies to make that determination,’ Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said in a statement on Sunday.

Police forced the demonstrators to clear the bridge by stepping up their presence with more than 50 vehicles, including cruisers, buses and an armored car on Sunday. The number of protesters still at the bridge had dropped to around 45 from Saturday’s roughly 100-person turnout.

‘Enforcement is continuing in the demonstration area and there will be zero tolerance for illegal activity. The public should avoid the area,’ the Windsor Police Service tweeted on Sunday morning.

Protesters lingered in the vicinity of the bridge after their forced removal, however, gathering on sidewalks and in parking lots of local businesses.

One small group convened at a Shell gas station with a couple of men in a pickup truck who were blasting Twisted Sister’s 1984 protest anthem, ‘We’re not going to take it.’

 

First published at Travel Industry Today

First published at TravelNewsHub.com – Global Travel News

REALLY? CANADA?

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The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday advised against travel to Canada because of a rising number of COVID-19 cases. The CDC elevated its travel recommendation to “Level Four: Very High”, telling Americans they should avoid travel to its northern neighbor. Curiously, while the CDC warning actually says “Avoid travel to Canada” and adds “If you must travel to Canada, make sure you are fully vaccinated before travel,” for Mexico, listed at Level Three, the warning is simply the latter, “Make sure you are fully vaccinated before you travel.” This despite the fact Mexico’s confirmed Covid cases rose 186 percent last week.

The CDC currently lists about 80 destinations worldwide at Level Four, including the UK, Ireland, France, Spain and much of Europe. It also raised the island of Curaçao to Level Four on Monday.

This is quite interesting – you can check them out for yourself here https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list

Canada advised residents in March 2020 not to travel abroad for non-essential reasons like tourism. It withdrew the notice in October – before the first Omicron cases were reported – citing the success of vaccination campaigns.

Canada remains one of the top foreign destinations for Americans.

Here is something we also find interesting: While WHO has warned against calling the COVID-19 Omicron variant ‘mild’, there seems little question that Omicron is less severe than the Delta variant. WHO said early studies showed that compared with Delta there was a reduced risk of hospitalization from the variant. There appears also to be a reduced risk of severity in both younger and older people, but uncertainties remain.

The symptoms appear to differ from previous COVID-19 variants. While the main COVID-19 symptoms are still said to be a cough, high temperature and loss of smell and taste, the symptoms for Omicron, reported in a London study taken in December, accounted for half of all cold-like illnesses in the UK.

The top five symptoms reported in London for those testing positive for COVID-19 were runny nose, headache, fatigue, sneezing and sore throat.

However, it is unclear how many people with mild symptoms are not being hospitalized, and are staying home and self-medicating for the week or two it takes to get over the symptoms – how reliable then are the Omicron counts. And, which countries are reporting them accurately? Can there be any accurate reporting? How many people are reporting they have COVID when they have mild symptoms treatable with over-the-counter medication? Anecdotal evidence says many are not, or how many people believe they have had Covid when in fact they have had a cold or flu?

The pandemic is far from over. The week ending 02 January saw the highest number of cases reported since the pandemic’s start, according to The World Health Organization (WHO) and new record COVID-19 infections are being reported by countries from Argentina to Israel each day.

However, the CDC lists both China and India at Level One – Low.

I am currently in Florida. There are no lockdowns, no mandatory masking, no social distancing, and restaurants, stores and movie theatres are open. Some people are careful some are not.

In November the US lifted restrictions at its land borders with Canada and Mexico for fully vaccinated foreign nationals, ending curbs on non-essential travellers in place since March 2020 to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in the United States reached a fresh high of 132,646, according to a Reuters tally on Monday, surpassing the record of 132,051 set in January last year, amid a surge of the highly contagious Omicron variant.

Some interesting information:

The CDC warning about travel to Canada – you can also check warnings to other countries.

The number of Coronavirus cases worldwide as of Jan 10, 2022

DAILY NEW COVID CASES AS OF JAN 09,2022

First published at Travel Industry Today

First published at TravelNewsHub.com – Global Travel News

NOT THE BEST NEWS: COVID threatens Christmas in Europe

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Nearly two years into a global health crisis that has killed more than 5 million people, infections are again sweeping across parts of Western Europe, a region with relatively high vaccination rates and good health care systems but where lockdown measures are largely a thing of the past.

The World Health Organization said coronavirus deaths rose by 10% in Europe in the past week, and an agency official declared last week that the continent was “back at the epicenter of the pandemic.” Much of that is being driven by spiralling outbreaks in Russia and Eastern Europe — where vaccination rates tend to be low — but countries in the west such as Germany and Britain recorded some of the highest new case tolls in the world.

While nations in Western Europe all have vaccination rates over 60% — and some like Portugal and Spain are much higher — that still leaves a significant portion of their populations without protection.

Dr. Bharat Pankhania, senior clinical lecturer at Exeter University College of Medicine and Health in Britain, says that the large number of unvaccinated people combined with a widespread post-lockdown resumption of socializing and a slight decline in immunity for people who got their shots months ago is driving up the pace of infections.

Thanks largely to vaccination, hospitals in Western Europe are not under the same pressure they were earlier in the pandemic, but many are still straining to handle rising numbers of COVID patients while also attempting to clear backlogs of tests and surgeries with exhausted or sick staff. Even the countries experiencing the most serious outbreaks in the region recorded far fewer deaths per person over the past four weeks than the United States did, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The question now is if countries can tamp down this latest upswing without resorting to stringent shutdowns that devastated economies, disrupted education, and weighed on mental health. Experts say probably – but authorities can’t avoid all restrictions and must boost vaccination rates.

“I think the era of locking people up in their homes is over because we now have tools to control COVID – the testing, vaccines and therapeutics,” said Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh. “So, I hope people will do the things they have to do, like put on a mask.”

Many European countries now use COVID passes – proof of full vaccination, recovery from the virus or a negative test result – to access venues like bars and restaurants. Pankhania warned that the passes can give a false sense of security since fully vaccinated people can still get infected, though their chances of dying or getting seriously sick are dramatically lower.

But restrictions don’t go much further these days, although the Dutch government on Friday announced a three-week partial lockdown.

“We have a very unpleasant message with very unpleasant and far-reaching decisions,” caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte said.

German lawmakers are mulling legislation that would pave the way for new measures. Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced Friday that unvaccinated people in two regions will only be able to leave home for specified reasons starting Monday, and he is considering implementing similar measures nationwide. But he has said he doesn’t want to impose the restrictions on those who got the shot.

Austria is seeing one of the most serious outbreaks in Western Europe, along with Germany, which has reported a string of record-high infections in recent days.

“We have a real emergency situation right now,” said Christian Drosten, the head of virology at Berlin’s Charite Hospital, which has started cancelling scheduled surgeries.

Duesseldorf’s university hospital said last week that its ICU is full, though many facilities are struggling more with staff shortages than bed space.

Drosten said Germany must increase its vaccination rate of 67% further – and fast. But officials have balked at ordering vaccine mandates and want to avoid any blanket lockdowns.

Health Minister Jens Spahn indicated that Germany could improve its often lax enforcement of COVID pass requirements.

“If my vaccination certificate is checked more often in one day in Rome than it sometimes is in four weeks in Germany, then I think more can be done,” Spahn said recently.

The Netherlands is in a similar bind: The country announced the highest daily tally of new cases since the pandemic began Thursday, hospitals are warning the situation could get worse, but officials are reluctant to clamp down too hard. Amid these concerns, organizers in Utrecht said they couldn’t in good conscience bring tens of thousands of people together to greet Santa at the annual Sinterklaas party beloved of children.

Cities in Germany, by contrast, went ahead with outdoor Carnival celebrations last week. In Cologne celebrations continued though designated “Prince” Sven Oleff cancelled public appearances after testing positive for Covid-19 the day before the start of celebrations on November 11th.

In the United Kingdom, which lifted remaining restrictions in July and has seen big spikes as well as dips in cases since, Prime Minister Boris Johnson insists the country can “live with the virus.” The government will only reimpose restrictions if the health service comes under “unsustainable” pressure, he says.

Spain, once one of Europe’s hardest hit nations, perhaps offers an example of how the risks can be managed.

It has vaccinated 80% of its population, and while face masks are no longer mandatory outdoors, many people still wear them. While infections have ticked up slightly recently, Rafael Bengoa, one of Spain’s leading public health experts, said that given the high vaccination rate, “the virus won’t be able to dominate us again.”

Several countries are hoping that pushing harder on immunizations will get them there. Germany plans to re-open vaccination centers across the country to speed booster shots. France is also pinning its hopes on booster doses while urging holdouts to get their first shots. Italy is also expanding its booster program as numbers edge higher.

Pankhania says that no single measure will control the pandemic.

“To really control it, it has to be multi-layered … avoid crowds, avoid poorly ventilated places, be immunized, wear your mask,” he said.

National Covid Memorial Wall, London, UK

 

 

 

First published at Travel Industry Today

First published at TravelNewsHub.com – Global Travel News

GETTING THERE AND BACK: The Good, The Bad and The Whatever

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Finally! After 18 months of travelless (I know it’s not a word – but it should be) living ordained by the pandemic – finally, finally came the opportunity, the inevitability, the sort-of-necessity to travel. Not just to hop in the car and head to Mississauga or Kendell to visit friends. A real trip – on a plane.

We have a house in Gulfport, Florida which can be accessed by air through several American gateways the most convenient being St. Petersburg -Clearwater (PIE) or Tampa International (TPA). Air Canada has regular flights to Tampa so that was the choice.

We were a bit nervous about seating on board – and being beside non-masked (during meals) or unvaccinated passengers.

To circumvent that we decided to use my Amex points to book a Rouge Premium class. We then reserved a Shoppers Drug Rapid Antigen test for $40 each. The test procedure was flawless and we had results in 10 min. Once we had our test results we could ‘check in’.

So, here’s where it got tricky – we got our boarding passes on line only to find out that although in premium class – we were not seated together.

A two hour hold with AC ended up with the reservation agent explaining there was no ticket number associated with our booking and that the seats were cancelled. The message: “Do not go to the airport. Call your agent.”

That precipitated a second two hours on hold with American Express, and a lot of conversation with a promise of a call back once it was sorted. To Amex Travel’s credit, they did call back about two hours later (two hours seems to be the telephone norm for these things- we were timing). Anyway, they confirmed that we were in fact on the flight, with new seats but still not seated together.

It was now 17.00 Saturday before our 10 .00 flight Sunday. So okay, we’ll sit beside some stranger and possibly take our first major exposure risk.

We travel with carry-on baggage only. Took an early morning cab to Union Station (cab drivers will never accept that you know the best route to where you want to go … but don’t get me started)

Note the divider between the seats

I continue to sing the praises of the UP Express from Union Station to Pearson International Airport to anyone who wants to listen. This is the way to go. Right now the seats are all separated by plastic/plexiglass dividers – there were not that many on board and sure enough we were there at Terminal 1 in 25 minutes.

Ten minutes later we were at the US departures area and in line – a long line. The time 7.10. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 10.00.

The security people were all there but they had not opened. US Customs and Immigration arrived around 7.55, security opened immediately and we were through the ‘shoes off/computer out’ bit by 8.15. All looking good.


But now came the not-that-much-fun part…waiting in the queues to clear US Customs and Immigration – at least 25 long rows of not-that-well-distanced folk. The tension was palpable, people were agitated and upset not unsurprisingly afraid they would miss their flights.

Everyone was masked, though some had pulled them below their noses – 6ft between people was non-existent as you not only had passengers ahead and behind you but at each elbow as well, as you maneuvered the maze of lines. The flight was at 10.00…. the tension was ramping up. Airline staff checking the lines to see how many people from individual flights were still not processed but were not pulling anyone out of line and moving them ahead of others. They did try to reassure concerned/angry/ belligerent people that the airlines were aware of the issue.

Frankly it was chaos. Everyone was checking their cells every 5 min for flight updates. We got our first delay notice at our actual departure time of 10.00 – the new ETD was 10:40.

Would we make it? Fingers crossed. We finally cleared, though to exacerbate the situation. Vicki managed to get a customs agent in training who took 10 minutes (working with his supervisor) who explained each step of the process before giving  the okay – though he didn’t check her COVID docs. My non trainee was pretty quick – but he did take a look at all the necessary medical documents.

Then came a run to the very last gate we could possibly have been positioned at – not helped in the least by large signs, “You are 10 minutes from your gate”. “You are 7 minutes from your gate”. My language as to what they could do with that gate is not be repeated. We made it – the last pax to board.

Not everybody did. Wheels were up at 10:50 and somehow luck was with us, as one of the seats belonging to an abandoned passenger made it possible for us to sit together. I don’t believe we were even thinking about it after the stress and the run – but the flight attendant suggested it when we came on board and it was ‘yes, thank you’

The service and big seat comfort with no unfamiliar seat mates was well worth the point splurge.

And, just a word about Air Canada and Rouge flight attendants. I listen to a lot of complaints and criticism about them. I can honestly say I have never – never – in years of flying on a regular basis had anything but pleasant, friendly staff and good service. And I should point out that, with few exceptions, I generally fly economy. So, had to say that.

Arrival in Tampa was smooth and easy – no bags so no line ups at Arrivals. The car rental (Enterprise) was quick and flawless.

Arrival, yeah!

Now there was time to worry about booking our PCR Covid travel test to return home (in two weeks).

We had heard about free and/or cheap Drug Store testing – forget it. Nothing is free or cheap, the drug store testing is primarily for residents to determine if they have Covid, or have had Covid, but not for travel with the certification and paperwork required to enter Canada.

Many people/ friends/ readers told us we could get tested easily at almost any drug store but getting an appointment for a RT- PCR medically certified test was not in the cards for us. We keep hearing from people who say they received this test at no cost at local drug stores but we could find no evidence of this working. There are Florida Travel testing centre pop ups and clinics in every major city and area. There’s an assortment of options available at various prices depending on the result delivery time.

Flying on a Sunday or Monday you’re at a disadvantage because of weekend closures for test results. You can get tested but no lab results are available after 4 PM Saturday until Monday morning. With just a 72 hour window and wanting our results before heading to the airport we didn’t feel comfortable with the no guarantee 24-48 hour test delivery for US $150 and went with the primo guaranteed delivery, 2 hour result of US $300. (See price list and delivery times below.)

It’s pricey yes, but worth the comfort of no bungles. We highly suggest proper and thorough research for return testing as there’s a lot of misinformation and risks associated for taking the 1-2 days test result.

Some foreigners have apparently had some luck with drug store travel testing – but personally we would not advise counting on that.

The return flight was delayed. ETD was 14.00. we left closer to 17.00. We were given $15 food vouchers by Air Canada some passengers fussed about that but some passengers fuss about anything. (Just as an aside Starbucks doesn’t take the vouchers).

The ArriveCAN app is easy to download and use – and it works. We had heard horror stories about delays at Canada Customs for arriving passengers at Pearson. We did not encounter any of that. There was no extended wait on the plane – just a minor issue with the bridge which was quickly sorted, so it was about 45 minutes in total from stepping out of the plane door to stepping on to the UP Express for the return home.

Toronto

A bit of advice. I wouldn’t buy scotch at TPA. A bottle of reasonably pricy Single Malt I had bought the day before at my local liquor store in St.Pete. was almost $30 more at Duty Free.

Here’s some information if you our family is planning a US trip:

• No cost to patient – Diagnostic COVID-19 PCR Test (result generally in 2+ Days, not for travel)
• $129 – Rapid Antigen COVID-19 Test (result generally sent in 1 hour)
• $150 – Expedited PCR COVID-19 Test (result generally sent within 1-2 days by 11:59 PM PDT excluding Sundays)
• $299 – Rapid PCR COVID-19 Test (Result generally sent in 2 hours)
• $319 – Respiratory Pathogen Panel (Result Generally in 1-3 Days)
• $75 – Rapid ANTIBODY COVID-19 Test (result generally sent within 1 hour)

https://www.covidclinic.org/st-petersburg/

First published at Travel Industry Today

First published at TravelNewsHub.com – Global Travel News

Governments Response to Delta Variant Slams August Traffic Demand

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Governments Response to Delta Variant Slams August Traffic Demand - TRAVELINDEXGeneva, Switzerland, October 3, 2021 / TRAVELINDEX / The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that the recovery in air travel decelerated in August compared to July, as government actions in response to concerns over the COVID-19 Delta variant cut deeply into domestic travel demand.

Because comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted all comparisons are to July 2019, which followed a normal demand pattern.

– Total demand for air travel in August 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) was down 56.0% compared to August 2019. This marked a slowdown from July, when demand was 53.0% below July 2019 levels.

– This was entirely driven by domestic markets, which were down 32.2% compared to August 2019, a major deterioration from July 2021, when traffic was down 16.1% versus two years ago. The worst impact was in China, while India and Russia were the only large markets to show a month-to-month improvement compared to July 2021.

– International passenger demand in August was 68.8% below August 2019, which was an improvement compared to the 73.1% decline recorded in July. All regions showed improvement, which was attributable to growing vaccination rates and less stringent international travel restrictions in some regions.

“August results reflect the impact of concerns over the Delta variant on domestic travel, even as international travel continued on a snail’s pace toward a full recovery that cannot happen until governments restore the freedom to travel. In that regard, the recent US announcement to lift travel restrictions from early November on fully vaccinated travelers is very good news and will bring certainty to a key market. But challenges remain, September bookings indicate a deterioration in international recovery. That’s bad news heading into the traditionally slower fourth quarter,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

International Passenger Markets

– European carriers’ August international traffic declined 55.9% versus August 2019, significantly bettering the 63.2% decrease in July compared to the same month in 2019. Capacity dropped 45.0% and load factor fell 17.7 percentage points to 71.5%.

– Asia-Pacific airlines saw their August international traffic fall 93.4% compared to August 2019, barely improved over the 94.5% drop registered in July 2021 versus July 2019 as the region continues to have the strictest border control measures. Capacity dropped 85.7% and the load factor was down 44.9 percentage points to 37.9%, by far the lowest among regions.

– Middle Eastern airlines had a 69.3% demand drop in August compared to August 2019, improved upon the 73.6% decrease in July, versus the same month in 2019. Capacity declined 55.0%, and load factor deteriorated 26.2 percentage points to 56.2%.

– North American carriers experienced a 59.0% traffic drop in August versus the 2019 period, much improved on the 61.7% decline in July compared to July 2019. Capacity sank 48.5%, and load factor dipped 18.0 percentage points to 70.3%.

– Latin American airlines saw a 63.1% drop in August traffic, compared to the same month in 2019, improved over the 68.3% decline in July compared to July 2019. August capacity fell 57.3% and load factor dropped 11.4 percentage points to 72.6%, which was the highest load factor among the regions for the eleventh consecutive month.

– African airlines’ traffic fell 58.5% in August versus two years’ ago, somewhat improved over the 60.4% decline in July compared to July 2019. August capacity was down 50.1% and load factor declined 12.7% to 63.0%.

– China’s domestic traffic dropped 57.0% compared to August 2019 – a huge deterioration from the 2.5% fall in July. However, overall cases were low, and outbreaks were mostly under control by the end of August, suggesting numbers will improve in September.

– India’s domestic traffic reversed the trend, as demand fell 44.8% in August, improved from a 58.9% decline in July versus July 2019, owing to positive trends in new cases and vaccination.

The Bottom Line

“The rapid slowdown in the domestic traffic recovery in August, owing to a spike in the Delta variant shows how exposed air travel continues to be to the cycles of COVID-19. For governments that should send two messages. The first is that this is not the time to step away from continuing support of the industry, both financial and regulatory. The second is the need to apply a risk-based approach to managing borders–as passengers are already doing in making their travel decisions,” said Walsh.

Next week, leaders of the global aviation community will gather in Boston at the 77th IATA Annual General Meeting (AGM) and World Air Transport Summit, 3-5 October. “The AGM provides a powerful vote of confidence in the safety of international air travel and the health protocols that have now been in place for up to 18 months. I’ve said it before: virtual meetings are no substitute for the value delivered through the opportunity to meet face-to-face. The AGM will provide a powerful reminder of this fact.”

First published at TravelCommunication.net

First published at TravelNewsHub.com – Global Travel News

WHAT’S GOING ON? The closed US land border is inexplicable

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Can anyone explain why the US is dragging its feet – and parts higher – with respect to opening the northern land border? No matter how “regrettably” he made that decision, for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to blame the delay on the Delta variant, as he did this week, is horse manure.

Mayorkas’ attempt to rake over the incomprehensible decision, made it even more bizarre, when he suggested that the restrictions now include language making it possible to relax or lift the ban entirely before the start of the next 30-day window.

“Because we’ve renewed it for 30 days does not necessarily mean that the restriction will last for another 30 days.” He said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki stirred the doo-doo even further noting that the northern border manoeuvres (not her words) are – now, her words – “part of the process.”

Just what are you saying Secretary Mayorkas? What is it you expect to change within Canada, or to Canadians, in the next possibly/maybe/perhaps 30 days – or less?

And Ms. Psaki, as much as I can admire your deft handling of difficult press conferences … what freaking process?

Air Canada resumed flights to the US in May 2020 – that’s well over a year that Canadians have been able to fly across the border. Why can’t they drive? It cannot be that our cars are filled with some Delta infused petrol, it cannot be that unvaccinated hordes are converging on the northern border – 70% of Canadians are fully vaccinated (as opposed to 54% of Americans) – that’s data as of September 21, 2021.

Still worried about health and safety? Simple – stipulate full vaccinations and a negative Antigen test for drivers.

“It’s incredibly frustrating, it confounds logic, and something’s got to give,” said Scotty Greenwood, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Canadian American Business Council, adding, “I don’t understand the policy rationale for discriminating against Canadians based on their proximity. If we’re willing to allow Canadians to fly and we’re now willing to allow other nations to fly, why wouldn’t we allow Canadians to drive? It doesn’t make any sense.”

No, it doesn’t, except …

The air versus land issue perhaps speaks to the value the US places on the ability, cost and accountability of airlines to manage the cumbersome process of screening travellers to ensure they meet the necessary health requirements. The airlines are currently charged with this responsibility – so why mess with a good thing? And, it’s a benefit to the airline industry as well … ‘you can’t drive?  Well, here we are.’ Not that I’m criticising the airlines for that, it’s been tough all around.

But, for Pete’s sake people (and yes, we do know he’s Transportation Secretary) there is a huge advantage to the US economy when Canadians drive across the border.

Canadians visit America not just for the pleasure of vacationing in, or residing for the several months in your cities, towns and resorts (amazing though they may be), not just for theme parks, or beaches, or sport, or adventure, not just to visit friends and family, not just for the weather (let’s not even begin to compare) – they visit for all those reasons – and all those reasons cause them to spend money.

Whether it’s cross border shopping for the day, or snowbirds heading for homes – owned or rented for the winter – (where they spend on entertainment, gas, groceries, shopping and anything else you can think of) the bottom line is – Canadians – all 20.7 million of them who visited the US in 2019 – no matter how they got there – were a benefit to the US economy to the tune of US $19 billion.

So, what this all about?

Canada barely got a mention this week when the US announced plans to ease travel restrictions on a number of other countries, including the UK, the EU, China and India, among others. Sure, you can’t drive in from those countries – but so what.

The subject didn’t come up come either at the national security committee hearings on Capitol Hill, even though Mayorkas was among the witnesses.

American journalist and author Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, suggests the ongoing ban on recreational travel from Canada and Mexico may reflect a broader presidential doctrine aimed at placating nationalist sentiment inside the US.

With all due respect, few Americans appear to be overly isolationist when it comes to Canada, though the southern border certainly gets the “Build the Wall” crowd going. However, even less fanatical, more serious and thoughtful Americans, know there is a serious issue to the south, exacerbated by caravans of migrants from Central America and the current crisis which has tens of thousands of migrants, many from earthquake-ravaged Haiti, gathering in the hope of seeking asylum in the US.

But what has that to do with the northern border?

Critics have suggested that the Biden administration is unwilling to open the Canadian border when it is unwilling to do so for Mexico. But policy for America’s northern and southern borders should not and cannot be coupled. That makes no sense at all and is opposed by many politicians in the President’s own party.

US Senate Democrats, including Michigan senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, and New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, urged Biden to lift the ban.

“We believe that fully vaccinated Canadians should be allowed to safely travel into the United States via land ports of entry,” according to the letter, which was also signed by New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan, and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sen. Angus King, the Independent from Maine.

“We urge you to lift these restrictions before October, provide a plan for reopening land ports of entry and appoint an interagency lead on US-Canadian border restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Canadians, snowbirds in particular, are deeply affected by the seemingly nonsensical divide between those travelling by land and those by air. And as noted, a vast number of American politicians and businesses support a return to an open land border between our countries.

Canada has permitted fully vaccinated US citizens to drive across the border since August 9th this year. It is mind-boggling and absurd that the US has not reciprocated.

We’ll give the last word to New York congressman Brian Higgins, “Canadians should be pissed off – and for good reason.”

 

First published at Travel Industry Today

First published at TravelNewsHub.com – Global Travel News

TIME FOR A CHANGE: Travel groups ‘link arms’ in call for action

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Nothing short of the continued support of governments and harmonized and recalibrated COVID-19 travel protocols are necessary to save the global travel industry in the present and secure its future, says a panel of prominent association presidents that includes ACTA Canada president Wendy Paradis.

Hosted last week by The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) on its Facebook page, the live panel event also featured representatives of the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), and European Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Associations (ECTAA), which collectively represent hundreds of thousands of people who work at travel agencies and related businesses around the world.

Broadly speaking, the association heads aimed to “link arms” to present a united front in calling for government leaders globally to align and make opening borders an immediate priority.

Citing World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) data from 2019 showing that travel and tourism was one of the world’s largest economic sectors, accounting for 10.4% of global GDP (US$9.2 trillion), 10.6% of all jobs (334 million), and responsible for creating one of every four new jobs across the world, the panel noted the “catastrophic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sector – of which travel agencies, tour operators and other travel-reliant small businesses are a critical part.”

Among the group’s demands is standardized entry requirements regarding vaccine verification, testing, and other safeguards. This standardization is urgently needed, said ASTA’s Zane Kirby who says existing protocols are “unwieldy and untenable.”

“There’s a patchwork of constantly changing rules and regulations that depress demand, confuse the travelling public, and… can sometimes strand travellers,” he said, adding that the global travel industry must continue to come together to adds its voice to ask for more transparency from governments so that the industry can understand the rules and conditions imposed on travellers.

As an example, he pointed to current bans on American travellers in Europe, stating: “There are 175 million citizens of the United States who have been vaccinated, but right now around the world they are being treated as though they pose the same risk as travellers to foreign lands as those who are unvaccinated. And we think that needs to change. The threat level… needs to come up to where the science is, which is that you are far less likely to get or to spread the virus or be hospitalized (when vaccinated).

“They have to follow their own science,” he continued. “What they’ve told us for months and months is that vaccination makes life better and will allow you to return to activities that you love to do – especially travel. So, if that’s the case, there should be at least a two-tier system of threat analysis. The diagnostic equipment that governments have now has to change and it has to get more sophisticated.

“Put a system in place that recognizes vaccination and allow those who are vaccinated to travel more freely!”

Paradis meanwhile lamented a particular Canadian conundrum involving mixed vaccine doses, which was encouraged in this country, but not accepted elsewhere, as needing resolution.

Kirby went on to declare that the travel industry continues to need “industry specific relief” from governments, a notion that the panel supported.

Noting that until August, Canada has had “some of the tightest restrictions in the world,” Paradis said that travel agency revenue across the country is down 90% compared to 2019 and that more than 65% of travel agents are currently furloughed. Moreover, she added, “We as travel agencies are for the most part shuttered until these international borders open up and blanket travel restrictions are eased… (And until) that happens, we are in critical need of continued financial aid.”

Pointing out that most government aid programs in Canada are slated to end in October, she added, “Clearly it does not make sense to reduce any aid programs for hardest-hit sectors like travel agencies. We are looking for grants (and subsidy programs); our industry is so in debt we cannot take on more debt… We need to survive so that we can recover! We need these aid programs to not only continue but be enhanced over the next six months.”

ECTAA’s Eric Dresin believes the world is entering a new period in the pandemic. “I’m not sure if we’re getting out of it, but for sure we can’t use the tools we’ve been using up to now; and we need something to help the industry get back the conditions to bring people back to travel,” he says.

To that end, the five associations (ASTA, ABTA, ACTA, CHTA and ECTAA) have joined forces to urge government leaders around the world to create an aligned and synchronized response to the current state of the pandemic by:

1) Expeditiously developing clear vaccine and testing standards

2) Loosening entry restrictions for fully vaccinated travellers; and

3) Providing the needed economic relief to the travel agency sector “suffering for too long the bitter consequences of travel’s hard-stop brought on by the pandemic.”

“The value of and need for travel advisors and agents in today’s world given the intense complexity of travel,” they say, “is vital now more than ever as consumers around the world attempt to recover from this pandemic with certainty and confidence.”

 

First published at Travel Industry Today

First published at TravelNewsHub.com – Global Travel News