Colors: Yellow Color
Colors: Yellow Color

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.