Colors: Yellow Color
Colors: Yellow Color

The U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism’s Division of Festivals will be offering residents and visitors one night to “fête” safely during the 69th edition of Carnival Virgin Islands in St. Thomas, which kicks off on April 26 and ends on April 30, 2021.

As the Territory continues to enforce safe health protocols and execute its vaccination initiatives during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Division of Festivals, in collaboration with the Department of Health, will host one in-person event to safely engage a select number of vaccinated residents and visitors in the carnival spirit.

Dubbed “1 Night, 1 Fête”, the event will take place on Friday, April 30, 2021, at 7 p.m. at The West Indian Company Limited (WICO) dock on St. Thomas, and feature top-class U.S. Virgin Islands musical groups Cool Session Brass, Legacy Band and Spectrum Band, as well as acclaimed Trinidadian soca star Farmer Nappy. The event will seat 200 vaccinated patrons and comply with COVID-19 protocols, including physical distancing, mask-wearing and proper handwashing hygiene. It will also be streamed live on the Division of Festivals’ online platforms.

According to Ian Turnbull, Director of the Division of Festivals: “Carnivals throughout the region are still being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the Division of Festivals has been proactive and innovative in bringing carnival and special events to our people.”

“1 Night, 1 Fête” is primarily geared at promoting the Division’s “Vaccinate to Party Safe” initiative to help reach the Governor’s goal of vaccinating 50,000 Virgin Islanders by July 1, 2021. “We hope that people are encouraged to take the vaccine so that we can safely resume and enjoy in-person gatherings,” Turnbull added.

The cost of the event is $75, including food and drinks, and persons must be vaccinated to receive a ticket. Proceeds from the event will go towards relief efforts for the Government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, who have been adversely impacted by La Soufrière volcano eruptions.

Notification regarding the availability of tickets will be shared on the Division of Festivals’ Facebook page in the coming days. Attendees, who will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, will be required to appear in person with identification and a copy of their vaccination card at Methodist Training & Outreach Center, #11-A, Kronprindsens Gade.

“We hope we can start to turn the corner from COVID-19 and have some type of safe engagement this year, before we resume our traditional celebrations,” said Joseph Boschulte, Commissioner of Tourism.

Carnival Virgin Islands will also feature three “Festival Arts Dialogues”, discussing the stories behind carnival celebrations in the U.S. Virgin Islands. They include “Road to Royalty”, “Calypsonians” and “Costume Workshop”, which will air on local PBS affiliate WTJX and stream on the Division of Festivals’ online platforms from April 26-28, 2021 at 6 p.m.

Sponsors for “1 Night, 1 Fête” are Coors Light and Hennessy, which are distributed by Bellows International and West Indies Company.

Future Division of Festivals events include the 68th St. John Celebration (June 28 - July 4, 2021); the 69th Crucian Christmas Festival (December 4, 2021 - January 9, 2022); and the 70th Carnival Virgin Islands on St. Thomas (April 2 - May 1, 2022).

The first people to arrive in the UK from India since the country was placed on the travel ‘red list’ have entered hotel quarantine. British and Irish nationals and those with residency rights must isolate in approved accommodation for 10 days after rules changed overnight.

India has seen a second wave of infections, with shortages of medical oxygen leaving some patients untreated. Some British Asians have spoken of the trauma of witnessing India's surge.

Ashree Singh, a physiotherapist living in London, described a state of mental agony" as relatives and friends sent worsening updates from the country on messaging apps. The NHS worker said she had a "feeling of worthlessness and helplessness when you're seeing your family, relatives and friends suffering and dying.

India recently reported 332,730 new cases of coronavirus, setting a world record for a second day running. Deaths were numbered at 2,263 in 24 hours as crematoriums organise mass funeral pyres.

Passengers from one of the first scheduled commercial flights to land in the UK from India since the red list changed were seen being escorted to government-approved hotels at London's Heathrow Airport. Some have spoken of their struggle to leave India amid restrictions on travel and widespread flight cancellations.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the UK stands "ready to support our friends in India with whatever we can. We are actively engaged with how we can support from where we are." The travel rule change means direct flights from India are still permitted, but UK and Irish nationals, as well as those with residency rights, must isolate in government-approved hotels - at their own cost - for 10 days.

Travel to the UK is banned for all others who have been in red list countries in the past 10 days. There are 40 countries on the government's red list across the Middle East, Africa, Asia and South America. Countries can be added to the list with just a few hours' notice.

There are specific rules for people arriving in each UK nation, including EnglandScotlandNorthern Ireland and Wales.

Public Health England (PHE) confirmed  that a further 55 cases of the virus variant first identified in India - known as B.1.617 - were found in the UK in the week to April 14. PHE experts are currently unsure whether any of the mutations mean the variant can be transmitted more easily, is deadlier, or can evade the effectiveness of vaccines or natural immunity.

Meanwhile, the latest R number range for England was estimated to be 0.8 to 1.0, with a growth rate indicating the number of new infections is shrinking by between 1% and 5% every day. The UK reported a further 2,678 coronavirus cases recently. Another 40 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were recorded, a slight rise on recent days.

 

River cruise specialist, VIVA Cruises, has unveiled exciting news for the 2022 season: two brand new ships will be joining the fleet in 2022 and two further vessels will be given a fresh new look and sailing exclusively for VIVA Cruises next year. With these additions, VIVA Cruises will be running a total of 238 departures across seven ships for the 2022 season. All itineraries can now be booked online.

VIVA Cruises’ first new build ship, VIVA ONE, will set sail from the port of Düsseldorf in April 2022, offering a variety of exciting itineraries on the Rhine and Moselle rivers. VIVA ONE, whose name refers to being the very first ship built by VIVA Cruises, will feature a modern design in blue tones, two restaurants, a spacious sun deck, and a spa and wellness area, amongst other features. VIVA ONE will have 88 cabins (double beds, suites and junior suites, most of them equipped with French balconies) for a maximum of 176 guests.

VIVA ONE will also be the first ship in the VIVA Cruises fleet to use state-of-the-art hybrid technology that is kinder to the environment. The ship will use using sulphur-free GTL (Gas to Liquid) fuel, which significantly reduces CO² consumption and emissions. VIVA ONE will also see an important reduction of plastic on board and the use of more environmentally friendly materials.

VIVA TWO will be VIVA Cruises’ second new build ship, which will complement the fleet primarily on the Danube river from July 2022. VIVA TWO will feature 95 stylish and comfortable cabins (including eight suites) which will reflect the casual lifestyle of VIVA Cruises. VIVA TWO’s lounge and restaurant area, on two different levels, will be connected by wide set of stairs offering the feeling of light and space.

The culinary offering on board both VIVA ONE and VIVA TWO will have something to suit all tastes. VIVA’s Bistro will offer a casual atmosphere and a wide selection of snacks and smaller dishes available from early morning until late at night - including salads, sandwiches and burgers. Riverside will be the main restaurant on both vessels, featuring a wide selection of breakfast, lunch and dinner menus – including vegetarian and vegan meals. VIVA TWO will also have a third restaurant, MOMENTS, the place to go for top-class specialty food, accompanied with light entertainment. All dining options will be included in the cruise package part of the VIVA All-Inclusive product.

Andrea Kruse, COO of VIVA Cruises, said: “We are very proud to be able to launch our very first two new build ships for the 2022 season. We have taken the time to implement our casual lifestyle and all the necessary safety protocols to the vessels to make them just right for our guests.”

In addition to the two new ships, VIVA Cruises will be also sailing along Europe’s most popular rivers (Rhine, Danube, Main, Moselle, Seine and Rhône) and the North and Baltic Seas in 2022. The range of four-night river cruises from the German cities of Düsseldorf, Frankfurt and Koblenz will be significantly expanded next year. These shorter trips are experiencing a great demand as they have proved to be very successful among those new to river cruising.

Longer itineraries within France will be also available next year, but on board two refreshed ships which will be running exclusively for VIVA Cruises in 2022. VIVA VOYAGE will be offering cruises on the Rhône and also in the Mediterranean in the summer; while VIVA GLORIA (formerly SWISS GLORIA) will travel to Le Havre along the Seine.

The 2022 programme will be completed by permanent members of the fleet, VIVA TIARA and VIVA MOMENTS. The former will be running a variety of 7- and 16-night itineraries along the Danube river; while VIVA MOMENTS will be sailing on seven-night itineraries on the Rhine as well as 4-night trips focused on wellness and relaxation (January – March 2022). Finally, SWISS DIAMOND, with capacity for 123 passengers, will continue running its popular itineraries along the Baltic Coast.

VIVA Cruises will offer a total of 238 departures across seven ships throughout 2022. Special discounts for families are also available in all 2022 departures. Children up to the age of three can travel for free in their parents’ cabin; a 50% discount will be applied to children between four and 10 years old; and 30% discount to those between 11 and 15 years old.

All 2022 itineraries will also include VIVA Cruises’ signature VIVA All-Inclusive product, which includes snacks, full board, high-quality alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, minibar, beauty products from luxury cosmetic brand, Rituals, Wi-Fi and all tips and gratuities.

Latest figures from the UK’s largest coach operator show the British public are seizing the opportunity to travel now allowed with the easing of restrictions at step two of the roadmap.

Bookings for travel in the week from Monday 12 April when non-essential retail, outdoor attractions and self-contained accommodation reopened have increased by 37% compared to the previous week. Figures for the weekend when many have the first real opportunity to make a journey somewhere have more than doubled. 

John Boughton, commercial director of National Express UK Coach, comments: “We suspended services for 11 weeks and have been back on the road with a limited timetable and reduced passenger numbers per vehicle for nearly three weeks now. 

“There is clearly a real appetite to get out and about which we are seeing build week on week. Coach stations are reporting a noticeable increase in footfall and more customers buying tickets for on-the-day travel compared to last week. We started back with 8% of our full intercity network operating which will increase to 13% from this weekend as we have already added new routes, including to Yorkshire, Nottingham and Blackpool, and increased the frequency of some services to meet demand.”

Big cities including Bristol, Birmingham, Leicester, Manchester & Leeds are proving most popular this weekend. Demand for leisure destinations such as Bournemouth, Brighton, Blackpool, Skegness and Devon is growing noticeably from mid-May onwards when hotels, hostels, B&Bs, indoor hospitality and entertainment venues can reopen. A new full UK-wide timetable will go on sale later this month, and has been redesigned to offer quicker journey times, increased punctuality and improved connectivity for journeys in 2021. 

“We are going to make coach travel more convenient and even greater value in 2021. We’ve removed the booking fee for any purchases made through a National Express online account and included more options to claim a refund or amend a journey if circumstances change*. We have also automatically extended over 100,000 previously purchased coachcards by 12 months."

There has also been significant investment in making the iconic white coaches the greenest fleet on the road on its return. The average age of a vehicle is only three years old and every one meets the highest possible engine emission standard (Euro VI).

John Boughton continues: “National Express has always been part of being able to see friends and family, go on holiday, attend events and visit attractions. We’re excited to play our part in the UK public’s safe return to travel and help make this happen again.”

Significant covid-secure measures are in place for travel with National Express, including:

·         A reduction in the number of seats available on all coaches and social distancing in both stations and on vehicles. 

·         Enhanced cleaning in both stations and on coaches, including regular aerosol based disinfection -sometimes called ‘fogging’.

·         An additional filter on the air conditioning systems of all coaches to reduce bacteria and corona type viruses; and improve air quality.

·         Temperature screening before allowing travel with anyone with a high temperature reading not allowed to travel and given a full refund.

·         Provision of PPE and use of protective screens on vehicles and in coach stations 

The requirement for customers to wear face coverings when in stations and travelling on coaches, in line with Government guidelines.

Maldives will soon offer visitors vaccinations on arrival as part of its three-pronged initiative aimed at reviving the country’s hard hit travel sector, according to its tourism minister.

The “3V” strategy, which encourages tourists to “visit, vaccinate, and vacation,” will provide a “more convenient” way to visit the country, Abdulla Mausoom told CNBC on Wednesday.

At present, visitors to Maldives must provide a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test and proof of hotel booking to gain entry. Mausoom said the country’s Health Protection Agency is set to make an announcement on restriction-free entry to vaccinated arrivals “very soon — maybe even this week.”

Maldives, an archipelago state in South Asia renowned for its tropical beaches and pristine waters, is heavily dependent on its tourism industry. Around 67% of its gross domestic product (GDP) is derived directly and indirectly from the sector.

The tourism minister would not be pushed on a timeline for the visitor vaccination rollout. He noted that the government’s priority is to ensure the entire resident population receives their first and second shots first.

However, once that process is complete, the country will be ready to vaccinate arrivals, he said.

Jamaica’s Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett is calling on regional tourism leaders to meet to discuss the impact of the La Soufriere volcanic explosion in St. Vincent and the Grenadines on the Caribbean tourism sector.

“A disruption of this magnitude calls for an urgent discussion with regional tourism leaders to examine the implications for Caribbean tourism given the negative impact this is having on lives, livelihoods and ultimately tourism,” said Bartlett.

Thousands of residents have been evacuated since last week Friday when the volcano began erupting. Emergency officials have described the landscape as a “battle zone” and said more damage and destruction are likely.

“In my capacity as Chair of the high-level Organisation of American States Working Group, I have been in touch with the United Nations World Tourism Organization and the World Travel and Tourism Council regarding short to medium-term mitigation. We are also in the process of mobilizing support for SVG through our international network tourism resilience partners,” Bartlett said.

Support has been pouring in for St. Vincent and the Grenadines as families continue to manage the post volcanic effects. Homes across the island, which has a population of around 110,000, have been covered in white-coloured volcanic dust and rock fragments. The ash has also affected life in neighbouring islands, most notably Barbados, St. Lucia and Grenada.

The study, commissioned by Amadeus and delivered by Censuswide, provides encouraging news for the industry, with 41% of travellers keen to book international travel within six weeks of restrictions lifting The study demonstrates the importance of understanding traveller concerns around privacy, ease of use and security

As governments and the travel industry explore the benefits of digital health passports, the message from travellers is clear: digital health passports can be a vital tool in opening up travel. The study found that just over 9 in 10 (91%) travellers surveyed said they would be comfortable using a digital health passport for future trips.

This encouraging research provides an incentive to accelerate plans for digital health passports that will help to address traveller concerns. The study provided further good news for the industry as just over 2 in 5 travellers (41%) said they would book international travel within six weeks of restrictions lifting, demonstrating that the appetite to travel remains high.

The survey of 9,055 travellers in France, Spain, Germany, India, UAE, Russia, Singapore, UK and US also contained a note of caution for the industry with over 9 in 10 (93%) travelers having some concerns around how their health data for travel would be stored.

When asked about the receptiveness to storing and sharing digital health data, survey results show:

· Just under three quarters (74%) of travellers’ surveyed would be willing to store their travel health data electronically if it enabled them to pass through the airport faster with fewer face-to-face interactions

· Over 7 in 10 (72%) travellers’ surveyed would be willing to store their travel health data electronically if it enabled them to travel to more destinations

· 68% of travellers’ agreed they would be more likely to share their health data if the airlines they most frequently travel with offered a way to store their travel health data.

Although receptiveness to sharing data is high, the travel industry needs to consider traveler concerns around the use of data. The three main concerns travellers’ have are:

·          Security risks with personal information being hacked (38%)

·          Privacy concerns around what health information needs to be shared (35%)

·          Lack of transparency and control over where the data is shared (30%).

  

The survey also explored what solutions might alleviate concerns around digital health data and travel in the future and results showed:

·          42% of travellers said a travel app that could be used across the whole journey would greatly improve their overall travel experience and reassure them their information is all in one place

·          41% of travellers agree a travel app would reduce their stress around travel

·          62% of travellers would be more likely to use an app to store their health data if a travel company partnered with a trusted healthcare company.

The research is the second in a series of traveller surveys, where Amadeus takes a regular checkpoint on traveller sentiment and concerns to help the industry rebuild travel in the most effective way. The 2020 Rethink Travel survey revealed how technology can help to increase traveller confidence and Amadeus revisited this question to see how traveller confidence has changed since September 2020. 91% of travellers now say that technology will increase their confidence to travel, an increase from 84% in September 2020.

When asked which technology would increase confidence to travel in the next 12 months, mobile solutions were highlighted as a popular option, with the top three technologies including:

·       Mobile applications that provide on-trip notifications and alerts (45%)

·       Contactless mobile payments (e.g., Apple or Google Pay, Paypal, Venmo) (44%)

·       Mobile boarding (e.g., having your boarding pass on your mobile phone) (43%)

Decius Valmorbida, President, Travel, Amadeus, says: “There is no doubt that COVID-19 will continue to shape the way we travel for the months ahead, just as it influences so many other areas of our lives. Yet while there are still uncertainties, research like this reinforces my optimism that we will build back travel better than before. Collaboration across governments and our industry is the key to restarting travel, as we deliver on traveler expectations outlined in this Rebuild Travel digital health survey, deploying the right technology to enable a truly connected and contactless journey.”

Christophe Bousquet, CTO, Amadeus, comments, “This study highlights once more the key role that technology will play in rebuilding travel. We’ve seen a shift since our last survey, as travellers now place more focus on mobile and touchless technology, crucial areas that will clearly strengthen traveller confidence. It’s also very relevant to see that travellers are open to digital health passports and sharing their data as they move through the journey, once the right safeguards are in place. At Amadeus, we’re committed to rebuilding a better industry, together with our customers and partners.”

To gather more insights into how the travel industry can rebuild, Amadeus, a global leader in travel technology, commissioned research to learn more about travellers’ top concerns around digital health data, their comfort levels with sharing and storing their data, and the solutions that may help to alleviate their concerns for future travel.

Britain will set out plans to restart international travel, using a "traffic-light" system as the country cautiously emerges from lockdown.

The announcement comes as the UK has set a tentative date of May 17 to relaunch international travel. Travel destinations will be ranked green, amber or red according to virus risk, Downing Street said in a statement late Saturday, with the government to provide more details on Monday.

International travel is currently banned except for a handful of permitted reasons. This has created massive pent-up demand for summer holidays abroad. The government said the new system "will help ensure the UK's vaccine progress isn't jeopardised and provide clear guidance for travellers".

People heading to low-risk "green" countries will simply take a virus test before and after they travel, the government said. But those going to amber or red countries will have to self-isolate or quarantine afterwards. Currently people arriving in the UK from abroad are required to self-isolate for 10 days.

British nationals who arrive from a banned "red list" of high-risk countries face costly quarantine in government-approved hotels. The government urged people not to book summer holidays, saying it was "too early to predict" which would be the green-lighted countries.

The government has announced it will allow a number of people to attend public events, such as football matches from this month in trials of a virus certification system. But it has not made clear whether it will issue "virus passports" for international travel, an idea backed by many tourism-dependent countries and airlines but opposed by more than 70 UK MPs.

Qatar Airways continues to lead the recovery of international travel, operating the world’s first fully COVID-19 vaccinated flight today. QR6421 will depart Hamad International Airport at 11:00 AM carrying only vaccinated crew and passengers onboard, with passengers also to be served by fully vaccinated staff at check-in. The special flight, which will return to Doha at 14:00, will showcase all the measures the airline has put in place to ensure the highest standards of safety and hygiene on board, including its latest innovation, the world’s first ‘Zero-Touch’ in-flight entertainment technology. The special service will be operated by the airline’s most technologically advanced and sustainable aircraft, the Airbus A350-1000, with the flight also fully carbon offset in line with the carrier’s environmental responsibilities.

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker said: “Today’s special flight demonstrates the next stage in the recovery of international travel is not far away. We are proud to continue leading the industry by operating the first flight with a fully vaccinated crew and passengers and providing a beacon of hope for the future of international aviation. With aviation being a critical economic driver both globally and here in the State of Qatar, we are thankful for the support we have received from our government and local health authorities to vaccinate our staff, with over 1,000 vaccinations being administered per day.

 “It is in Qatar Airways DNA to be at the forefront, setting the highest standards of safety and customer service. Before the pandemic, Qatar Airways became the first and only airline to be awarded the Skytrax Airline of the Year five times. When the pandemic hit its peak in early April, our airline continued flying to help repatriate millions of stranded passengers and transport essential medical supplies, while also implementing the latest innovations in biosafety and hygiene. As the vaccine rollout begins to gather pace worldwide, Qatar Airways remains committed to being the airline passengers and travel partners can rely on, operating one of the largest global networks to provide the connectivity needed to reunite families and friends and support global trade.

“Qatar Airways Cargo has also played a vital role in maintaining a reliable schedule across our network of destinations. Since the onset of the pandemic, Qatar Airways has helped transport more than 500,000 tonnes of medical supplies and delivered close to 20,000,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to over 20 countries.”

Passengers on board will be able to livestream the historic experience thanks to Qatar Airways’ industry leading Super WiFi onboard that combines the latest technology from Inmarsat, SITA for Aircraft and Thales. To show its gratitude to those who have played key roles throughout the pandemic, Qatar Airways gave away 100,000 complimentary return tickets to healthcare workers and 21,000 to teachers around the world in 2020.

Qatar Airways has become the first global airline in the world to achieve the prestigious 5-Star COVID-19 Airline Safety Rating by international air transport rating organisation, Skytrax. This follows HIA’s recent success as the first and only airport in the Middle East and Asia to be awarded a Skytrax 5-Star COVID-19 Airport Safety Rating. These recognitions provide assurance to passengers across the world that airline health and safety standards are subject to the highest possible standards of professional, independent scrutiny and assessment. For full details of all the measures that have been implemented onboard and in HIA, please visit qatarairways.com/safety.

Qatar Airways is the first airline in the Middle East to begin trials of the innovative new IATA Travel Pass ‘Digital Passport’ mobile app. IATA Travel Pass ensures passengers receive up-to-date information on COVID-19 health regulations at their destination country, as well as complying with strict global data privacy regulations to enable the sharing of COVID-19 test results with airlines to verify they are eligible to undertake their journey.

A multiple award-winning airline, Qatar Airways was named ‘World’s Best Airline’ by the 2019 World Airline Awards, managed by the international air transport rating organisation Skytrax. It was also named ‘Best Airline in the Middle East’, ‘World’s Best Business Class’, and ‘Best Business Class Seat’, in recognition of its ground-breaking Business Class experience, Qsuite. Qsuite is available on flights to more than 45 destinations including Johannesburg, Frankfurt, New York and Singapore.

Qatar Airways is the only airline to have been awarded the coveted ‘Skytrax Airline of the Year’ title, which is recognised as the pinnacle of excellence in the airline industry, five times. In addition to this, Qatar Airways home and hub, Hamad International Airport (HIA) was ranked the ‘Best Airport in the Middle East’ for the sixth consecutive year and ‘Third Best Airport in the World’ by the SKYTRAX World Airport Awards 2020.

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) is asking travel advisors to raise their voices and tell Congress to urge the White House to lift the Conditional Sailing Order (CSO), which has been delaying the industry’s restart since it was issued last October, Travel Market Report informs.

“More than a year has passed since U.S. cruise operations were suspended and preparing a cruise ship to sail again with the appropriate enhanced measures in place will take about 90 days, which means that cruise lines must start planning NOW if they are going to resume U.S. operations by July,” CLIA said.

CLIA’s action center, which allows for advisors to send messages to U.S. Senators and Representatives, can be accessed here.

CLIA is not the only association in the battle to get cruising restarted. U.S. Travel Association president Roger Dow has also joined the call to lift the CSO. “We join the calls to identify the way toward lifting the Conditional Sail Order and allowing the phased resumption of cruise operations as quickly as possible,” he said.

U.S. Travel, like CLIA, said that the cruise industry has been effectively singled out without reason. So far, the CDC has refused to budge on its Conditional Sail Order (CSO).

Following successful in-market events in Dallas and Houston, Texas, over the past week, the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism is poised to elevate its post-pandemic marketing activities in these areas and across the country.

Addressing travel advisors, meeting planners, members of the media and other hospitality and tourism professionals, Commissioner of Tourism Joseph Boschulte shared the encouraging news of increased year-over-year airlift to the Territory from Texas as well as other key cities in the nation. In addition, data shows that although the Territory has been affected by the pandemic-related decline in leisure travel, the impact was significantly less than what its Caribbean neighbours experienced, comparing 2020 to 2019.
“The increase of airlift into the USVI from our airline partners signals a strong summer tourism season for the Territory, and we anticipate strengthening our presence in Texas as well as other key markets in the mainland United States,” said Commissioner Boschulte, noting that as the number of vaccinated travellers increases, the travel industry can expect to see continued recovery.

Recognizing that the tourism industry contributes an estimated 60 percent to the USVI’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Commissioner Boschulte expressed the Department’s gratitude to and praise for the Territory’s locally based partners and stakeholders for their support during the exceptionally difficult past year.

“Our hoteliers, restaurateurs, tour operators, transportation providers, tour guides, retailers and the many allied partners who make our industry thrive have demonstrated remarkable resilience and innovation, and that has allowed us to be in a position to welcome thousands of visitors back to the U.S. Virgin Islands in the last six months,” said the Commissioner.

Building on the foundation of recent marketing initiatives with strategic media partners Condé Nast Traveller, Pandora, Refinery29 and other key outlets, the Department of Tourism will enhance its sales activity in the months ahead, educating travel advisors, meeting planners, tour operators and wholesalers on the Territory’s COVID-19 travel protocols, new developments related to hotel renovations and re-openings, and supporting them as they advise their clients to “Reconnect with Paradise” and to experience “St. Croix: a vibe like no other”.

“Complementing our marketing and public relations work during the past year, much of our sales activity has been conducted virtually, out of necessity, making it even more gratifying that we have been able to keep the USVI ‘top-of-mind’ among travellers,” Commissioner Boschulte said, pointing to the relative ease of traveling to the USVI, combined with the USVI Travel Screening Portal tool, as key factors contributing to an unprecedented quantity of airlift and strong visitor arrivals and expenditures since the start of the winter season.

In addition to meetings with industry professionals, Department of Tourism representatives gathered with members of the Houston Virgin Islands Association (HVIA) to share positive news and developments in both the Territory and the Diaspora.

Meeting just in advance of Transfer Day 2021, the Department congratulated HVIA President Carol Cuffy and her leadership team for the outstanding work the association does in serving its membership and communities as well as promoting the U.S. Virgin Islands as a travel destination. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner declared March 31, 2021, Houston Virgin Islands Association Day in Houston.

“Texas has been and will continue to be an extremely important market for travel to the USVI, and the Department is pleased with the outcome of our engagement with travel industry stakeholders and our fellow Virgin Islanders during this activation,” reported the Commissioner, who commended the HVIA for its proactive efforts to promote and strengthen the USVI brand.

“With positive developments related to travel trends, the growing availability of COVID-19 vaccines, and demand for USVI getaways, the Department of Tourism has a strong charge to boost our sales, marketing, advertising and public relations activities,” stated Commissioner Boschulte, who thanked Bolongo Bay Beach Resort, Secret Harbour Beach Resort, and Wyndham Destinations for supporting the Dallas and Houston meetings.

easyJet, Europe’s leading airline, and easyJet holidays have today announced the launch of new routes and holidays from Birmingham Airport for this summer, with great value fares and packages available for those who want to take a well-deserved and much-anticipated summer sun getaway this year.

Starting from 29 June, flights and holidays will take off from Birmingham Airport to the popular beach destinations of Majorca, Málaga and Alicante in Spain, Faro in Portugal, and Corfu in Greece, offering customers in the Midlands region even more choice for enjoying a holiday this summer. All easyJet holidays ATOL-protected beach holidays include flights, accommodation, a 23kg bag allowance per person and transfers.

Majorca, Malaga and Alicante are some of the most popular holidays destinations in Spain, with hundreds of kilometres of coastline, rich history, fantastic food and beautiful scenery, while the Algarve’s capital, Faro, is a historic and culturally-rich city that is home to history, bustling plazas, a marina and age-old monuments. Corfu, situated in the North of the Ionian Sea, is one of the Mediterranean’s most beautiful holiday destinations and offers award-winning sandy beaches, warm waters and charming towns.

The new routes and holidays add to the extensive summer 2021 and summer 2022 portfolio already on sale via easyJet and easyJet holidays, giving customers the option to book a great value deal for this summer, as well as plan and make savings on flights and holidays for next year.

Ali Gayward, easyJet’s UK Country Manager commented: “We are pleased to announce more connectivity to Birmingham today in flying to popular beach destinations and getting customers away on their much-needed summer holiday across Europe this year.

“We believe that a framework can be put in place for the safe reopening of travel and a strong summer, and we are currently focused on working with the UK Government Travel Task Force in the coming days and weeks. We are hopeful that progress will continue to be made with the vaccination programmes in Europe, with several countries in Europe having indicated they will be welcoming British tourists this summer.

We remain of the view that international travel can restart and that, with the right framework in place, restrictions can be safely and progressively reduced and in some cases removed by mid-summer for key destinations. We’ve kept our fleet in a flight-ready mode so we are ready and able to ramp up our services quickly and increase our capacity where we see increased demand for the summer.”

Nick Barton, Chief Executive of Birmingham Airport, commented: “We are more than pleased that easyJet will be adding additional leisure sun destinations direct from Birmingham Airport this summer. easyJet already offers direct routes to Amsterdam, Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Geneva, so these additional sunshine routes demonstrate the strong demand in the region for both business and leisure travel and the carrier’s commitment to serving the Midlands.

“We are continuing to work with easyJet, looking at future route opportunities and an expansion of its services to ensure customers have a choice of destination, flexibility and price from Birmingham Airport.  Customers can confidently book with easyJet with the reassurance that their flights and holidays are ATOL and ABTA protected.” easyJet and easyJet holidays have introduced market-leading flexible customer policies under its ‘Protection Promise’, meaning that customers can book now with the confidence that if their plans change, so can their booking.

This includes a Refund Guarantee for flights or holidays if they are cancelled plus a full refund for holidays if a customer changes their mind up to 28 days before and – unlike other airlines – with our Travel Ban Protection customers can also receive a refund for non-cancelled flights if plans are impacted by travel bans in a regional or national lockdown; the Freedom To Change flights without a fee up to 14 days before departure, and change a holiday up to 28 days before departure; and if quarantine measures come in to place last minute, our Quarantine Assurance also means impacted flights can be changed without a change fee. All holidays are covered under easyJet holidays’ Covid commitments if holidays cannot go ahead or are impacted by restrictions, and holidays booked through travel agents also benefit from flexible booking options, such as the freedom to change their holiday up to 28 days before departure.

Safety and wellbeing of all customers and crew remains easyJet’s highest priority and the airline continues to have a number of biological safety measures in place onboard in line with guidance from the relevant authorities. This includes daily enhanced cabin disinfection effective in protecting against coronavirus for at least 24 hours and mandatory mask wearing for customers and crew.

All easyJet aircraft are already fitted with HEPA filters, similar to

those used in hospitals, which filter 99.97% of airborne contaminants in the cabin, including viruses and bacteria. easyJet now operates up to ten routes from Birmingham, offering services to a range of city and beach destinations across the UK and Europe.

Marriott Vacations Worldwide have announced that it has completed the previously announced acquisition of Welk Resorts, one of the largest independent timeshare companies in North America, for $485 million, including approximately 1.4 million MVW common shares of stock.

"With its eight upper upscale ownership resorts located primarily on the West Coast, 55,000 Owners and three years of built inventory, Welk Resorts is a great addition to MVW," said Stephen P. Weisz, chief executive officer.

"This acquisition provides us with substantial future growth opportunities and, once all final approvals are obtained and the resorts are rebranded, will increase our Hyatt Residence Club footprint by 50%. Additionally, I would like to extend a very warm welcome to our new associates as they join our MVW family."

Welk Resorts opened its first vacation ownership resort in 1984 in San Diego (Escondido) – which currently sits on 450 sprawling acres – and offers Owners and guests an array of amenities to experience during their stay. Once combined, Hyatt Residence Club and Welk Resorts will offer Owners, Members and guests 24 vacation ownership properties with nearly 3,000 keys.

A British healthcare company which operates across the UK providing private COVID-19 testing for airline passengers, private individuals and businesses, has called upon the UK Government to “stop sitting on the fence" over the continued lockdown on air travel restrictions.

Covid testing provider Salutaris People - which operates a private COVID-19 testing clinic at Liverpool John Lennon Airport along with its partners Test Assurance Group (TAG) and the airport - are calling on the UK Government to open up both Domestic and International air travel. They firmly believe that the combination of testing, vaccinations and other safety measures can get the airline and travel industry moving again. They want the Government to give a clear and definitive set of dates to allow the safe resumption of air travel during its much-anticipated announcement on April 12.

Ross Tomkins MD of Salutaris People urged the Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps to put down a series of ‘firm’ and ‘actual’ dates when Domestic, European and International air travel can be fully resumed, which will give certainty and restore confidence to both the airline and travel industries.

The CEO and founder of several successful medical and healthcare businesses, Tomkins believes that a combined program of regular COVID-19 testing alongside the vaccination program, the wearing of masks and regular hand sanitisation is the key to resuming confidence in air travel. He warned that unless a clear set of dates were laid out during the announcement on the 12th April, that the Government would risk plunging the UK economy into “an even greater economic crisis than we are currently facing.” Tomkins also warned of the ‘ticking time bomb’ of mental and physical health issues that will impact and overwhelm the NHS and private healthcare practices for decades to come. 

The Government simply cannot continue to act in this manner and offer such vagaries over air travel any longer. The Governments indecision and actions surrounding the resumption of air travel have been incompetent at best and reckless at worst. We need a clear and unequivocal set of dates for a staged resumption in air travel. Factored into that plan there needs to be a clear remit of pushing through with COVID-19 testing, the wearing of masks, social distancing and thorough hand sanitisation. I believe the public would gladly comply with these requirements if it meant they could resume air travel, enjoying leisure and holiday breaks again.”

He continued; The simple facts are that UK Plc is now £2 Trillion in debt, the High Street is decimated, businesses are going to the wall, people are losing their jobs. We now have some of the biggest airlines and travel companies in the world on the verge of collapse and who may literally go out of business overnight. Without a clear, robust plan and certainty of precise dates air travel can resume again, the airlines and travel companies cannot continue to survive.

This is not to mention the phenomenal impact COVID has had on the publics mental health and general wellbeing. Across our occupational health practices, we have seen a sharp increase in employees and patients suffering from stress, anxiety and musculoskeletal disorders including those with Long COVID. Such issues are significantly affecting their day to day lives and their ability to function in the workplace.”

His comments come after shares in airlines and travel firms across Europe took a dive last week wiping millions off the value of shares. IAG which owns British Airways saw its shares drop the most at 15%, while Easy Jet dropped 10%, TUI AG 8.9% and Ryan Air 7.4%. Other European airlines also followed suit with share prices downgraded over the uncertainty of the leisure holiday market and wider international travel. 

Consultant Virologist and Infectious Diseases Physician Dr Brendan Payne - who advises Akea Life the clinical services provider to Salutaris People - believes that COVID-19 testing will remain alongside the requirement to wear face masks for at least the next three years in any form of air travel.

"The NHS and Public Health England (PHE) will need to maintain COVID testing capability indefinitely. COVID will not be eliminated by vaccinations and we need to find long-term solutions to live with it. An intensive programme of COVID testing is key as a major defence against new waves and new strains compromising our gains from vaccination. I dont see this changing for at least the next year and probably longer. The most likely scenario for the next few years is a continued arms race’ between new variants of COVID and vaccination. Widespread COVID testing is absolutely crucial and critical in winning that battle.

For travel that is permitted for summer 2021, I would expect that this will continue to rely heavily on pre (and post) travel testing. I dont think vaccination status will feature significantly in the travel rules for most countries this year. Current COVID vaccines are on average perhaps 80% effective and not everyone will agree to have one. There will always be a certain number of COVID infections in the public, despite widespread vaccination. Indeed, in many ways it becomes more important to test widely once COVID numbers become lower because you need to know as quickly as possible if you are starting to lose control of the situation again. This is critical in quickly identifying hot spots of infection cases rising.

By 2022, you would hope that we might be in a position of much more standardised international rules for air travel. This might feature vaccination status, however I still foresee a significant role for testing, perhaps proof of vaccination’ and a negative’ test would be the rule. I think that masks are almost certainly going to be required on any kind of transport for at least the next 3 years, and quite possibly very long-term.”

Salutaris People which has series of COVID-19 clinics across the North West is also a partner in the first rapid PCR test facility at a UK airport. Salutaris People are working in partnership with Test Assurance Group (TAG) and Liverpool John Lennon Airport. The express testing suite - which has its own on-site laboratory at the airport - provides clients with a rapid PCR test and certificate in under 3 hours offering Fit to Fly, Test to Release alongside 2 and 8-day testing. It is one of the only airports in the UK able to do this, compared to the normal 48-hour turnaround for PCR tests. 

Salutaris People is also currently working towards UKAS registration and ISO/IEC 17025 status in line with the Governments recommendations to regulate private sector COVID-19 testing services.

Ben Paglia MD of Akea Life, the Clinical Partner of Salutaris said:The Government needs to offer a clear set of concrete dates for the resumption of air travel, even if this is in stages and staggered.

“Certain hotspot’ countries could be restricted for air travel until vaccination programs are up to speed, but this must be combined with regular COVID-19 testing. Business and essential travel could open up first followed by leisure and holiday travel.

“Passengers could be identified as Fit to Fly providing they have been vaccinated and/or taken a PCR test, along with the continuation of wearing masks alongside social distancing and strict hand sanitisation protocols.  At least this way we would start to make some progress and have some certainty for the airline and travel industry.

“Right now so many people are suffering from lockdown fatigue, mental health issues, anxiety and depression. Just the ability to even plan and book a flight or holiday would provide light at the end of the tunnel and lift the spirits of so many people”

Salutaris in conjunction with its healthcare and clinical partners Akea Life, Therapy Direct and Normedica are also offering a unique COVD-19 Concierge Service to clients by bringing private Covid PCR testing to their location. A trained health care professional will come to a private residence, hotel or location and administer PCR tests.

The tests are then couriered back to the mobile laboratory facilities providing express PCR results within 1-3 hours. The company also plans to offer this service across the UK in other key locations and airports.

Qatar Airways has renewed its sponsorship as Official Airline Partner to Orbis UK for a further three years. The airline has been a proud supporter of Orbis and its blindness prevention programmes since 2012.

Orbis is a leading global charity that brings people together to fight avoidable blindness through access to quality eye care. Together with its partners, Orbis trains, mentors, and inspires eye care professionals in places with the greatest need to save and restore vision in their communities.

The Orbis Flying Eye Hospital is a unique aircraft that supports the charity’s global effort to transform lives. The world’s only fully accredited ophthalmic teaching hospital on board an MD-10 aircraft is equipped with a state-of-the-art teaching facility complete with an operating room, classroom, and recovery room for patients. On board, Orbis’ world-class medical volunteers and clinical staff share their knowledge and expertise with local eye care teams across the globe.

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker said: “Qatar Airways is proud to strengthen its partnership with Orbis UK for another three years as Official Airline Partner – a further testament of our unwavering commitment to giving back and supporting the global community. We recognise that the gift of sight empowers individuals to reach their full potential, and we remain steadfast supporters of the fight against avoidable blindness through our partnership with Orbis UK.”

Orbis UK Trustee, Dr. Robert Walters said: “For nine years, the Qatar Airways Group has been a generous supporter of our organisation and we’re proud to continue onto this next stage of our partnership. Thanks to Qatar Airways’ renewed support, the Orbis team will have access to free flights to programmes to continue the fight against avoidable blindness in person when it i is safe to do so. Until this point, we remain committed to supporting our partners virtually and through our in-country programmes.”

In March 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Orbis had to postpone its in-person Flying Eye Hospital programmes. Whilst the Flying Eye Hospital is temporarily grounded, Orbis' mission is not. Orbis quickly pivoted to provide virtual Flying Eye Hospital programmes through their telemedicine platform Cybersight, to ensure that eye care professionals could continue to grow their skills.

Qatar Airways recently became the first global airline in the world to achieve the prestigious 5-Star COVID-19 Airline Safety Rating by international air transport rating organisation, Skytrax. This follows HIA’s recent success as the first airport in the Middle East and Asia to be awarded a Skytrax 5-Star COVID-19 Airport Safety Rating. These recognitions provides assurance to passengers across the world that airline health and safety standards are subject to the highest possible standards of professional, independent scrutiny and assessment.

The national carrier of the State of Qatar continues to rebuild its network, which currently stands at over 130 destinations. With more frequencies being added to key hubs, Qatar Airways offers unrivalled connectivity to passengers, making it easy for them to change their travel dates or destination if they need to.

Spanish travel agency Tempo Tours has created the first SAFE TRAVEL product that will allow businesspeople and international delegations to attend trade fairs and congresses to be held in Spain in 2021, while complying with all health restrictions.

"SAFE TRAVEL brings together for the first time all the safety measures and complies with all existing health regulations, so that international delegations visiting FITUR only have to worry about traveling to Spain," say company sources. "We take care of sending them to their cell phone all the information they need to take the necessary medical tests in a private clinic without queues. They will also receive access on their phone so that entry to FITUR is swift and uncrowded".

This product also includes accommodation in the city center and personalized COVID Free transfers, catering service in the rooms, premium travel insurance that would cover -at no additional cost- their quarantine in a hotel or health care in a private hospital. In this way, businessmen, professionals or foreign governments from the world of tourism interested in traveling to Spain for events such as FITUR in Madrid, will have the greatest benefits currently offered in the market in a single SAFE TRAVEL product, designed by the travel agency Tempo Tours.