Canadians appear eager to take off for sun destinations despite ongoing COVID-19 challenges


Michel Dubois has packed his bags, even though his planned trip to Cuba is still more than two months away.

That’s because the retired TV cameraman and editor from Saint-Jérome, Que., is eager for a break from the monotony of pandemic life.

“After a year and a half of sitting in front of my TV and computer, it’s time to move on,” said Dubois, 70, who plans to do some scuba diving and enjoy the sun.

Trips like the one Dubois has booked are giving airlines and tour operators something to look forward to as well — seemingly better business prospects after months of severely hampered operations due to pandemic-related border closures and travel restrictions.

Some key travel players are reporting increased demand for bookings to sun destinations, despite the ongoing challenges of a global pandemic that has yet to end inside or outside Canada’s borders.

Better days ahead?

The onset of the pandemic prompted governments — including Canada’s — to urge people to stay home to stem the spread of the coronavirus and its variants.

It’s a stance Ottawa still holds, even though the government recently loosened restrictions for incoming travellers who are vaccinated.

Tourists relax on a beach in Cancun, Mexico, last month. (Marco Ugarte/The Associated Press)

“We continue to advise against non-essential travel outside of Canada,” Global Affairs Canada said in an email on Friday, noting that this applies to all countries around the globe.

The department also pointed to practical concerns for those who choose to go abroad.

“Additional travel restrictions can be imposed suddenly. Airlines can suspend or reduce flights without notice. Travel plans may be severely disrupted, making it difficult to return home.”

WATCH | Incoming travellers and Canada’s 4th COVID-19 wave:

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As Canada prepares to allow non-essential travel from nearly anywhere in the world, the country walks a fine line between needing to reopen and fears over the fourth wave of COVID-19. 2:00

Indeed, COVID-19 travel restrictions vary from country to country, with vaccine passports gaining traction with some governments. Prior to the current federal election campaign, Ottawa had announced plans to develop such documentation for international travel.

Then and now

Ambarish Chandra, an associate professor of economics at the University of Toronto, says that while the government actively discouraged travel last winter, that didn’t deter all people from going abroad — such as snowbirds who went to Florida.

With the progress on vaccination that has been made, Chandra said he believes Ottawa’s stance on leisure travel may have to shift.

“I don’t think it would be reasonable for the government to go a second winter season saying: ‘Don’t travel,'” Chandra said in an interview.

A mask-wearing pilot at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport in March 2020, the same month the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic. Many border closures and travel restrictions were soon put into effect in countries around the world. (Chris Helgren/Reuters)

Jörg Fritz, an associate professor in the microbiology and immunology department at Montreal’s McGill University, says that as travel picks up, Canada will have to keep a close eye on what strains of the virus are circulating here and around the globe.

“We simply need to face that this virus will not go away that quickly,” he said.

“The danger that new variants arise that might escape vaccine-induced immunity is still there and will be there for quite a while.”

It’s also key for Canada to continue increasing its vaccination rate and to ensure that children are protected as soon as that is possible, Fritz said.

A desire to get away

Air Canada says the upcoming fall and winter looks promising for travel to sun destinations.

“When looking to the sun market, we are very optimistic about our recovery,” airline spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick told CBC News in a recent email, adding that “we are currently observing demand growth that is above 2019 levels.”

Sunwing Travel Group says it’s seeing ‘encouraging demand’ for sun-destination bookings compared with last fall. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Meanwhile, Sunwing Travel Group reports seeing “encouraging demand” compared with last fall, which spokesperson Melanie Anne Filipp says shows Canadians are growing more confident about travelling again.

“The rise in vaccinations across the country and easing border measures have without a doubt contributed to Canadians’ increasing interest in travel to sun destinations,” said Filipp, who noted that business remains below pre-pandemic levels.

Montreal-based Air Transat is currently flying passengers to a mix of domestic and international locations. Some of its sun destinations include Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Mexico.

“We confirm that demand is doing well, and we clearly feel that the urge to travel is back,” Air Transat spokesperson Debbie Cabana said via email.

“However, because of the uncertainty that still exists when traveling abroad, bookings are being made more last minute than before the pandemic.”

Being able to back out

A last-minute travel buy was not the story for Dubois, the retired TV cameraman, who booked his own trip back in January.

But he also bought a ticket that will allow him to cancel his plans up to 24 hours before departure, with a full refund.

Tourists take a break at a restaurant in Havana, Cuba, in August 2019. Seven months later, the global pandemic was declared, bringing an end to most leisure travel throughout the world. (Fernando Medina/Reuters)

On prior trips, he hadn’t tended to pencil in the possibility of needing to cancel — but that was before COVID-19.

“Before now, no,” said Dubois, who worked for both CBC and Radio-Canada during his career. “Now, definitely.”

The University of Toronto’s Chandra says the more flexible arrangements being offered by airlines reflects the fact that some customers won’t be willing to book expensive tickets if there’s a chance they will lose their money.

Rolling out the welcome mat

Dubois is heading to Cuba at the end of November, and by that time, travel restrictions will have been eased.

The Cuban Tourism Ministry recently announced that as of Nov. 15, Canadians with proof of vaccination won’t have to take a test before heading to the country. They’ll also be able to travel across the island.

Vacationers take to the water at a Club Med resort in the Dominican Republic before the pandemic. With the progress on vaccination that has been made, one expert says he believes Ottawa’s restrictive stance on leisure travel may have to shift. (Charles Platiau/Reuters)

Sunwing’s Filipp said that “numerous sun destinations are already open for travel,” and like Cuba, other destinations are expected to ease restrictions of their own as vaccination rates rise and COVID-19 cases decline.

Chandra says he’s doubtful that differing rules between sun destinations will have much of an effect on travel patterns.

That’s because a lot of sun seekers — and snowbirds in particular — are likely to “stick to their choices” when it comes to their desired winter getaways. “They’re not going to go other places,” he said.

They’re also unlikely to go to other regions because they head south to take advantage of the better weather, he said.



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Americans eager to travel over Labor Day as CDC recommends those unvaccinated stay home


The director of the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention this week asked Americans who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 to stay home during the Labor Day holiday weekend.

“First and foremost, if you are unvaccinated, we would recommend not traveling,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a news briefing on Tuesday.

Walensky said people who are fully vaccinated should still take precautions. The CDC says of those eligible for vaccines, 38.5% are not fully vaccinated. It recommends travelers get tested 1-3 days before traveling, and another 3-5 days after traveling.

For those who are traveling, gas prices have been on the rise ahead of the Labor Day Weekend, according to AAA. Louisiana and other parts of the Gulf Coast, which were hit by the massive hurricane, play a major role in oil production.

“Drivers will almost assuredly see gas prices rise this week, because of Hurricane Ida’s effects on the Gulf Coast,” AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins said in a statement Monday. “Based on overnight movement in the futures market, a 10- to 20-cent jump at the pump is not out of the question. Where gas prices go from here will depend on the extent of the damage and how long it will take for fuel production and transportation lines to return to normal.”

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Florida’s average gas prices have declined during the past three weeks and were at $2.95 a gallon Sunday for regular unleaded. That was down 3 cents a gallon from the previous week.

Americans eager to travel over Labor Day as CDC recommends those unvaccinated stay home
Americans eager to travel over Labor Day as CDC recommends those unvaccinated stay home

News4Jax spent the evening speaking with people in Jacksonville Beach. It was packed with people dining, shopping and bicycling.

April Smith was visiting from Michigan.

“We came here because it’s my husband’s birthday the day after Labor Day, and he’s never seen the ocean,” Smith said.

She said they made a 16-hour drive to Jacksonville Beach and that she and her husband have both been vaccinated.

Mark Harris is local to the Jacksonville Beach area and said he’s welcoming the visitors.

“I’m a big believe in live your life, do it the way you wanna do it,” Harris said. “If people come here and have a good time and travel, so be it.”

Another group of people flew in from Indianapolis for a bachelor party. All said they were vaccinated and are taking precautions.

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Traffic at Florida’s busiest airport — Orlando — is forecast to exceed pre-pandemic crowds. Officials at Orlando International Airport said Wednesday that this Labor Day weekend they are expecting more than 303,000 departures, a 7% increase above Labor Day weekend in 2019.

The official holiday travel period started Thursday and ends next Tuesday.

The busiest travel day of the holiday weekend is expected to be on Saturday when Orlando International Airport is forecast to have more than 53,000 departures.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax – All rights reserved.



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Community members in Western Oregon eager to travel this year for long holiday weekend


EUGENE, Ore. — A year ago, concerns about the spread of the coronavirus completely halted the travel industry, but community members are now expressing an eagerness to travel again.

KEZI 9 News spoke with several people both in, and traveling to Eugene to learn about their level of comfort with traveling as most COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted in Oregon.

Resident Leanne Wolf-Webber said she recently returned to Eugene from a trip to Seattle. She said she didn’t have any concerns about her travel.

“I feel much more comfortable this year than I did last year,” Wolf-Webber said. 

Kevin Marks, Missouri resident, flew in through Eugene Airport terminals on Saturday, and for him, it was business as usual.

“I’ve been traveling over the last year about once a month, so travel’s been about the same,” Marks said.

He did mention a noticeable increase in the amount of people on the plane this weekend.

For many, the increase in vaccination rates and loosening of COVID-19 restrictions played a big role in their willingness to travel. 

“I don’t feel afraid to travel which is good because last year ther were so many unknowns,” resident Kristen Slay said.

While many expressed comfort, some people still feel apprehensive.

Marty Vielma said she recently returned to Oregon on a trip, but she believes people should still pay attention to coronavirus updates.

“There’s still a little bit of apprehension about it. I definitely want to stay up on the latest research,” Vielma said.





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Eager to travel, Americans book Sun Belt beach, city stays as pandemic fades


Miami Beach, Florida

Artur Debat | Moment | Getty Images

Interest in travel is picking up as the pandemic winds down, and cooped-up Americans are itching to hit the road again, two recent surveys have found.

Travelers are thinking about booking trips to warm and sunny domestic climes — be they Sun Belt cities or beaches and national parks — and are also more open to planning trips abroad.

Separate surveys from websites Booking.com and Skyscanner, which partnered with customer engagement platform Braze and app intelligence provider Apptopia, found that Las Vegas, Miami and Orlando, Florida, are among the top destinations searched online by potential U.S. vacationers.

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Mark Crossey, U.S. travel expert at Skyscanner, said Americans are looking for short, domestic trips — 87% of trips booked at the site are for a week or less — and are favoring spots with fewer pandemic-related restrictions.

“Both Florida and Nevada no longer have travel restrictions for visitors and California anticipates its restrictions will soon lift, too,” he said. “All of these destinations enjoy warm summer weather and have plenty of activities for people to enjoy after a quiet year.”

Crossey said he expects to see Americans continue to travel in their own backyard throughout 2021, and anticipates “a resurgence in foreign trips as soon as international travel restrictions relax and popular European destinations reopen.” 

The top five destinations from Skyscanner, Braze and Apptopia are, in fact, all cities: Las Vegas, Orlando, Los Angeles, Miami and New York. All but L.A. and the Big Apple, meanwhile, made Booking.com’s own list of top 10 destination searches for summer travel, which also featured seaside spots such as Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Ocean City, Maryland. The site’s survey found 61% of people plan to hit the sand at some point this summer.

Booking.com’s Top 10 Summer Travel Searches

Here are the top 10 searched domestic U.S. destinations in May for check-in in July and August:

  • Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
  • Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Orlando, Florida
  • Destin, Florida
  • Panama City Beach, Florida
  • Ocean City, Maryland
  • Miami Beach, Florida
  • Miami, Florida
  • Key West, Florida
  • Virginia Beach, Virginia

Source: Booking.com

“New Booking.com research shows that Americans are looking to get away this summer, and more specifically, a majority (62%) say they are optimistic they’ll get to the beach when it is safe again to do so,” said Leslie Cafferty, senior vice president and head of global communications at Booking Holdings.

“With nearly 70% of Americans looking to travel closer to home, it’s no surprise that U.S. destinations like Myrtle Beach, Virginia Beach, Miami, Ocean City and Destin were among some of the top searched vacations on Booking.com in May for check-in dates within 90 days.”

Like Skyscanner, Booking.com also found that Americans now favor shorter trips, with 54% of survey respondents saying they’d prefer more short breaks to fewer longer stays. Sixty-one percent also said travel is “critical to their emotional well-being,” according to Booking.com.

That jibes with findings from the Skyscanner-Braze-Apptopia survey, which queried not only Americans but people in the Europe-Middle East-Africa and Asia-Pacific regions, as well. Sarah Spivey, chief marketing officer at Braze, said that prior to Covid, 75% of U.S. travelers said vacations were important to them.

“This level of importance prior to the pandemic reflects U.S. consumers’ desire to travel as restrictions are lifted,” she said, noting that 33% of Americans feel comfortable traveling, compared to 13% of Asia-Pacific and 20% of Europe-Middle East-Africa residents. “While consumers from other regions appear more cautious, Americans are eager to travel.”

Spivey said that increased willingness also shows up in greater online travel agency app usage in the U.S. compared to other major markets. Use of such smartphone apps is up 41% compared to pre-Covid times.

“The contrast between U.S. [app] usage to that of Europe and Asia can be attributed to a greater willingness to travel overall, and subsequently a greater recovery in its travel industry,” she said.



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Vegas to HNL inaugural flight: 9th island businesses eager for Hawaii travel restrictions to loosen


HONOLULU (KHON2) — Summer travel has increased dramatically and so have flights to the Hawaiian Islands.

Southwest Airlines added three new destinations to and from Hawaii including non-stop flights from Las Vegas and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

[Hawaii news on the go–LISTEN to KHON 2GO weekday mornings at 7:30 a.m.]

The first nonstop Las Vegas flight landed Sunday afternoon and ninth island residents and businesses said they’re excited for June 15 when vaccinated residents can travel even more.

“The planes are completely full right now. It’s not very difficult to sell Las Vegas or Hawaii and going between the two; it’s a no brainer,” said Southwest Airlines Executive Vice President Andrew Watterson.

“Las Vegas is really busy right now. They’ve reopened their tourism economy and we’re so pleased to connect the Hawaiian Islands with the ninth island in Las Vegas. This is something we can offer to the Kama’aina,” he continued.

Southwest is adding two nonstop flights between Las Vegas and Honolulu and Las Vegas and Kahului, with flights for Kona and Lihue coming later this fall.

The airline is also adding nonstop flights from Phoenix and LAX.

Las Vegas residents said they’re excited to have more options when flying back to Hawaii to see family and friends.  

“It’s a perfect fit. There’s a lot of people from Hawaii that come to Las Vegas. We are considered the ninth island. We currently have about 55,000 to 60,000 people from Hawaii that live there,” said Dorinda Puanani Keola Burnet, a former Hawaii resident, Kamehameha schools alum and current Las Vegas resident who blessed the flight in Las Vegas Sunday afternoon.

“That is a good thing for all of us to take advantage of all the things coming up for our inter-mountain travel from Hawaii to Las Vegas,” she continued.

Many said they have June 15 marked on their calendar and are excited to welcome back more Hawaii residents who, if vaccinated, will be able to travel home without restrictions for the first time in over a year.

“After June 15, you can come and go much more easily. It makes it a great time to shake off the pandemic fever and enjoy yourself in Vegas,” Watterson added.

Vegas businesses are also happy to hear travel restrictions are easing up in Hawaii.

“Most of our customers are from Hawaii so that is a big impact for us,” explained Kyrce Higa, whose family owns Las Vegas Jerkys.

“We’ve been waiting for this for like, ever since the vaccine started,” she said laughing. “Yeah, we’re definitely looking forward to that. Hopefully, everybody can get the vaccine,” said her mother Karen.

The two women said they miss all of their Hawaii customers.

“We get lots of phone orders and people saying they’re going to wait until they lift that [restriction], and then they’re going to be coming to Las Vegas. So, we’re looking forward to that,” Kyrce added.



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Countries eager to reopen to travel as pandemic recedes: Travel Weekly


Countries reliant on tourism are racing to reopen borders and revive economies decimated by the pandemic.

The World Travel & Tourism Council estimates that the sector lost nearly $4.5 trillion and 62 million jobs last year. Airlines alone lost $126 billion last year and are on track to lose another $48 billion this year, according to their largest trade group.

The rollout of vaccines against Covid-19 is giving government officials in many countries new confidence to welcome visitors. But time is critical.

“Summer is a strong season for most markets, particularly Europe and the U.K. We really hope to see restrictions ease,” said Virginia Messina, interim leader of the World Travel & Tourism Council.

The patchwork of rules around the globe can be hard to follow for anyone planning a trip. Cyprus, for instance, has restrictions in place for countries deemed as higher risk, requiring arriving passengers to have a negative PCR test that’s valid 72 hours prior to their departure and to undergo a new test upon arrival. They also have to self-isolate in Cyprus until their test results are issued.

Constantinos Victoras, general manager of NissiBlu Hotel, situated near Ayia Napa’s famed white-sand beach, says even though the infection rate in Cyprus has dropped significantly in the last two weeks, it won’t be until late June when things will be clear enough for tour operators and airlines to ramp up bookings.

“Uncertainty is too great right now,” Victoras said.

Agatha and Simon Godurkiewicz of Sweden, said they chose to holiday on the island out of fatigue with the pandemic, and that people simply want to get on with their lives and return to some semblance of normality.

“We’re tired of the virus situation,” said Agatha Godurkiewicz. “It was panic at the start of the pandemic but it’s become too much now.”

Here’s how different regions are trying to reopen to travel:

Europe

Europe has been opening slowly, testing the patience of Mediterranean countries that rely heavily on tourism, including Greece, Spain, and Turkey. That is changing now, as European Union ambassadors agreed last week to allow in visitors who are fully vaccinated or are from a now-expanded list of countries whose citizens are deemed to be safe.

EU member countries still have to approve the changes, and it’s not clear exactly when they would take effect.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Friday that Spain will let British and Japanese visitors enter the country starting Monday if they have been vaccinated and people from other countries, including the United States, on June 7.

Tourists are already beginning to show up in Greece after authorities there decided this month to accept vaccination and test certificates from the European Union and 21 other countries.

On the Greek island of Naxos, business owners began pulling tables and chairs out of storage, power-washing wooden decks and reopening once-jammed seaside tavernas.

“People here are optimistic and, indeed, there have been many bookings in the last two weeks,” Naxos Mayor Dimitris Lianos said. “There could be a significant comeback of the tourist season even in the latter half of the year. I dare to say it.”

Croatia has also reopened — one of the few spots in Europe that’s easy for Americans to visit. Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have announced direct flights from New York to Dubrovnik this summer.

Dubrovnik [Credit: Jane Barrett/Shutterstock.com]

Croatia is letting in tourists who hold a vaccination certificate, or proof of a negative test or having recovered from Covid-19. Photo Credit: Jane Barrett/Shutterstock.com

Asia

The virus is surging again across parts of Asia, causing several nations to halt cautious steps they had been taking to reopen.

Hong Kong and Singapore postponed a quarantine-free “travel bubble” for a second time after a new outbreak, and Hong Kong lengthened mandatory quarantines for many unvaccinated visitors. China set up checkpoints at toll booths, airports and train stations in Liaoning province, site of new cases this month — travelers must show proof of a recent negative test for the virus.

Thailand, which closed its borders and managed to keep outbreaks under control for most of last year, gradually began allowing entry to some foreign visitors in the fall under strict controls. But the country reversed course when it became overwhelmed by its worst outbreak in late March.

Bangkok closed entertainment venues and parks, ordered more people to work from home, and banned outdoor dining. Streets in the capital and many of Thailand’s resorts are nearly deserted, and people who have lost tourism-related jobs are second-guessing the authorities.

“I am very angry with the government. They should have done better,” said Narong, a worker in a Bangkok bar who declined to give his surname for fear of getting in trouble.

Middle East and Africa

At the height of the pandemic last year, the United Arab Emirates closed its borders and shuttered airports to travelers. The capital, Abu Dhabi, still has strict measures including mandatory quarantines even for fully vaccinated residents returning from certain countries. But the UAE’s biggest city, Dubai, has opened its doors to travelers since last July with few restrictions beyond a negative Covid-19 test.

Dubai — home to the world’s busiest airport for international travel — is courting visitors fleeing lockdowns in Europe with open beaches, bars, hotel pools, restaurants, movie theaters, theme parks and spas. Social distancing and mask mandates are in place.

Meanwhile, the Gulf’s largest country of Saudi Arabia is not permitting tourists into the country. Saudi citizens, who have largely been banned from travel since March 2020, are allowed to travel abroad starting this month if they have been vaccinated or recently recovered from the virus.

Egypt is trying to draw more foreign tourists even as it deals with a new wave of infections. It exempted beaches, cafes and restaurants tied to tourist hotels from new restrictions, like an earlier curfew and the closure of public beaches and parks during the Eid holiday. It even lowered the cost of tourist visas, although it still requires a negative Covid-19 test before entering the country.

Latin America and Caribbean

Visitors to the tourism-dependent Caribbean tumbled by two-thirds last year to levels not seen since the 1980s. Bermuda was among the hardest hit, suffering an 84% drop.

A handful of islands, including Bonaire, Martinique and Montserrat, still ban travel from most countries. Elsewhere, tourists are trickling back under requirements that include electronic monitoring. Some islands, including St. Vincent and the Grenadines, have created “bubble resorts” to take tourists. Cruise lines are planning to shift ships from the U.S. to Caribbean ports this summer.

The U.S. Virgin Islands have been the region’s success story this year, with arrivals down a modest 27% from January through March — much of that due to Americans who are forbidden in other places and can visit the U.S. territory without a passport if they avoid going through another country on the way.

Mexico has no flight restrictions, no requirements for visitors to pass a test or quarantine upon arrival. That has kept a reduced but steady flow of tourists, especially to beach destinations.

Mexico’s laid-back approach, however, could be creating a backlash in the Caribbean coast state of Quintana Roo, which includes Cancun and Cozumel and where tourism accounts for 87% of the economy. Infection and hospitalization rates are rising, and stricter capacity limits have been imposed in public places.

“If nothing is done right now in reducing activities in public, this trend will grow and grow and grow and grow,” the federal government’s point man on the pandemic, Assistant Health Secretary Hugo Lopez-Gatell, warned this month.

U.S. and Canada

The U.S. continues to bar most visitors from Europe, China, India, Brazil and other places. Inbound international travelers, including American citizens, must pass a Covid-19 test before boarding flights. The State Department discourages foreign trips, labeling most of the world’s countries high-risk.

The border between the U.S. and Canada remains closed to nonessential travel through June 21.

Domestic air travel in the U.S. is nearly back to 2019 levels, but travel-industry groups are growing impatient with what they see as an overly timid response by the Biden administration to allowing more international visitors.

“As we continue to see vaccination rates increase and infection rates decrease, it’s absolutely critical from an economic standpoint to reopen international travel,” said Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president of the U.S. Travel Association.

___

Koenig reported from Dallas and Hadjicostis reported from Ayia Napa. AP Staff Writers Chalida Ekvitthayavechnukul and Elaine Kurtenbach in Bangkok; Aya Batrawy in Dubai; Samy Magdy in Cairo; Derek Gatopoulos in Athens; Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade; Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico and Mark Stevenson in Mexico City contributed to this report. 



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Vermonters eager to travel this Memorial Day Weekend – Local 22/44 News


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Eager To Get Back To Traveling This Summer? Here Are Some Tips To Stay Safe And Save Money – CBS Chicago


CHICAGO (CBS) — Avoid the roads if you can later today. It’s the start of Memorial Day Weekend, and AAA predicts Chicago’s worst holiday traffic will pick up before 3 p.m. this afternoon.

Travel is a hot topic now that vaccinations are opening the door to fun. CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory shares a few trip tips.

READ MORE: AAA Estimates 1.7 Million Illinoisans Will Hit The Road For Memorial Day Weekend — How Do They Come Up With Their Predictions?

We asked CBS News Travel editor Peter Greenberg for the number one headline in travel news right now.

“There’s not [just] one. That’s the problem,” said Greenberg, smiling.

He’s very busy.

When we spoke, Greenberg was in a Tampa, Florida, hotel room; but will be taking flight to St. Maarten soon, where he’ll set sail on the first Celebrity Cruises Trip from that Caribbean Island.

U.S. ports are still closed to cruise ships.

“The cruise lines aren’t waiting. They’re home porting their ships in Bermuda, Bahamas, St. Maarten, Greece, Iceland, and a number of other locations. Why not? And they’re selling out,” said Greenberg.

Cruise ships were quarantined off our coast at the beginning of the pandemic and likened to petri dishes. Now boats might be the safest travel option. Celebrity Cruises is not only advertising a fully vaccinated crew, but also requiring all passengers 16 and up be immunized. By August 1, that mandate applies to all guests 12 and older.

READ MORE: All But 7 States Moved To Lower Tier Of Chicago’s COVID Travel Order

Speaking of shots, the fully vaccinated can now flash their vaccination card to fly to Europe. How does an inexpensive summer vacation in Paris sound?

“In many cases, business class airfare to Europe (business class!) might be cheaper than a coach class fare somewhere in the United States right now,” said Greenberg, who added that masking requirements, social distancing rules, and capacity limits vary country by country.

You may have noticed that domestic travel costs are soaring, especially for rental cars, because of supply and demand. Many rental car companies pared down their fleets when COVID-19 hit, leaving them short of vehicles as travel is rebounding. Greenberg shared his Number 1 rental car tip: Never rent it at the airport.

But even a car from an Enterprise North Center location will set you back almost $600 for the holiday weekend (through Tuesday because the facility is closed Monday).

Prices may calm down when new cars come in.

“You won’t see the fleet start to stabilize until November, December,” Greenberg said.

Another travel warning from him: flight change fees are back (at least for basic economy trips on several airlines). His advice is to stick to your plans or upgrade your ticket.

Meanwhile, local transportation expert Joe Schwieterman, from DePaul University, just released a brief that found your best bargain is on the bus. Fares are dropping for companies like Greyhound and Megabus. The key: book at least three days in advance.



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Countries eager to reopen to travel as pandemic recedes | News, Sports, Jobs



AP Photo/Petros Karadjias
A family enjoy their vacations at the pool of Nissi Blue hotel in southeast resort of Ayia Napa, in the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, Saturday, May 22.

Countries reliant on tourism are racing to reopen borders and revive economies decimated by the pandemic.

The World Travel & Tourism Council estimates that the sector lost nearly $4.5 trillion and 62 million jobs last year. Airlines alone lost $126 billion last year and are on track to lose another $48 billion this year, according to their largest trade group.

The rollout of vaccines against COVID-19 is giving government officials in many countries new confidence to welcome visitors. But time is critical.

“Summer is a strong season for most markets, particularly Europe and the U.K. We really hope to see restrictions ease,” said Virginia Messina, interim leader of the World Travel & Tourism Council.

The patchwork of rules around the globe can be hard to follow for anyone planning a trip. Cyprus, for instance, has restrictions in place for countries deemed as higher risk, requiring arriving passengers to have a negative PCR test that’s valid 72 hours prior to their departure and to undergo a new test upon arrival. They also have to self-isolate in Cyprus until their test results are issued.

Constantinos Victoras, general manager of NissiBlu Hotel, situated near Ayia Napa’s famed white-sand beach, says even though the infection rate in Cyprus has dropped significantly in the last two weeks, it won’t be until late June when things will be clear enough for tour operators and airlines to ramp up bookings.

“Uncertainty is too great right now,” Victoras said.

Agatha and Simon Godurkiewicz of Sweden, said they chose to holiday on the island out of fatigue with the pandemic, and that people simply want to get on with their lives and return to some semblance of normality.

“We’re tired of the virus situation,” said Agatha Godurkiewicz. “It was panic at the start of the pandemic but it’s become too much now.”

Here’s how different regions are trying to reopen to travel:

EUROPE

Europe has been opening slowly, testing the patience of Mediterranean countries that rely heavily on tourism, including Greece, Spain, and Turkey. That is changing now, as European Union ambassadors agreed last week to allow in visitors who are fully vaccinated or are from a now-expanded list of countries whose citizens are deemed to be safe.

EU member countries still have to approve the changes, and it’s not clear exactly when they would take effect.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Friday that Spain will let British and Japanese visitors enter the country starting Monday if they have been vaccinated and people from other countries, including the United States, on June 7.

Tourists are already beginning to show up in Greece after authorities there decided this month to accept vaccination and test certificates from the European Union and 21 other countries.

On the Greek island of Naxos, business owners began pulling tables and chairs out of storage, power-washing wooden decks and reopening once-jammed seaside tavernas.

“People here are optimistic and, indeed, there have been many bookings in the last two weeks,” Naxos Mayor Dimitris Lianos said. “There could be a significant comeback of the tourist season even in the latter half of the year. I dare to say it.”

Croatia has also reopened — one of the few spots in Europe that’s easy for Americans to visit. Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have announced direct flights from New York to Dubrovnik this summer.

ASIA

The virus is surging again across parts of Asia, causing several nations to halt cautious steps they had been taking to reopen.

Hong Kong and Singapore postponed a quarantine-free “travel bubble” for a second time after a new outbreak, and Hong Kong lengthened mandatory quarantines for many unvaccinated visitors. China set up checkpoints at toll booths, airports and train stations in Liaoning province, site of new cases this month — travelers must show proof of a recent negative test for the virus.

Thailand, which closed its borders and managed to keep outbreaks under control for most of last year, gradually began allowing entry to some foreign visitors in the fall under strict controls. But the country reversed course when it became overwhelmed by its worst outbreak in late March.

Bangkok closed entertainment venues and parks, ordered more people to work from home, and banned outdoor dining. Streets in the capital and many of Thailand’s resorts are nearly deserted, and people who have lost tourism-related jobs are second-guessing the authorities.

“I am very angry with the government. They should have done better,” said Narong, a worker in a Bangkok bar who declined to give his surname for fear of getting in trouble.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

At the height of the pandemic last year, the United Arab Emirates closed its borders and shuttered airports to travelers. The capital, Abu Dhabi, still has strict measures including mandatory quarantines even for fully vaccinated residents returning from certain countries. But the UAE’s biggest city, Dubai, has opened its doors to travelers since last July with few restrictions beyond a negative COVID-19 test.

Dubai — home to the world’s busiest airport for international travel — is courting visitors fleeing lockdowns in Europe with open beaches, bars, hotel pools, restaurants, movie theaters, theme parks and spas. Social distancing and mask mandates are in place.

Meanwhile, the Gulf’s largest country of Saudi Arabia is not permitting tourists into the country. Saudi citizens, who have largely been banned from travel since March 2020, are allowed to travel abroad starting this month if they have been vaccinated or recently recovered from the virus.

Egypt is trying to draw more foreign tourists even as it deals with a new wave of infections. It exempted beaches, cafes and restaurants tied to tourist hotels from new restrictions, like an earlier curfew and the closure of public beaches and parks during the Eid holiday. It even lowered the cost of tourist visas, although it still requires a negative COVID-19 test before entering the country.

LATIN AMERICA AND CARIBBEAN

Visitors to the tourism-dependent Caribbean tumbled by two-thirds last year to levels not seen since the 1980s. Bermuda was among the hardest hit, suffering an 84% drop.

A handful of islands, including Bonaire, Martinique and Montserrat, still ban travel from most countries. Elsewhere, tourists are trickling back under requirements that include electronic monitoring. Some islands, including St. Vincent and the Grenadines, have created “bubble resorts” to take tourists. Cruise lines are planning to shift ships from the U.S. to Caribbean ports this summer.

The U.S. Virgin Islands have been the region’s success story this year, with arrivals down a modest 27% from January through March — much of that due to Americans who are forbidden in other places and can visit the U.S. territory without a passport if they avoid going through another country on the way.

Mexico has no flight restrictions, no requirements for visitors to pass a test or quarantine upon arrival. That has kept a reduced but steady flow of tourists, especially to beach destinations.

Mexico’s laid-back approach, however, could be creating a backlash in the Caribbean coast state of Quintana Roo, which includes Cancun and Cozumel and where tourism accounts for 87% of the economy. Infection and hospitalization rates are rising, and stricter capacity limits have been imposed in public places.

“If nothing is done right now in reducing activities in public, this trend will grow and grow and grow and grow,” the federal government’s point man on the pandemic, Assistant Health Secretary Hugo Lopez-Gatell, warned this month.

U.S. AND CANADA

The U.S. continues to bar most visitors from Europe, China, India, Brazil and other places. Inbound international travelers, including American citizens, must pass a COVID-19 test before boarding flights. The State Department discourages foreign trips, labeling most of the world’s countries high-risk.

The border between the U.S. and Canada remains closed to nonessential travel through June 21.

Domestic air travel in the U.S. is nearly back to 2019 levels, but travel-industry groups are growing impatient with what they see as an overly timid response by the Biden administration to allowing more international visitors.

“As we continue to see vaccination rates increase and infection rates decrease, it’s absolutely critical from an economic standpoint to reopen international travel,” said Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president of the U.S. Travel Association.



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Countries eager to reopen to travel as pandemic recedes


Countries reliant on tourism are racing to reopen borders and revive economies decimated by the pandemic.

The World Travel & Tourism Council estimates that the sector lost nearly $4.5 trillion and 62 million jobs last year. Airlines alone lost $126 billion last year and are on track to lose another $48 billion this year, according to their largest trade group.

The rollout of vaccines against COVID-19 is giving government officials in many countries new confidence to welcome visitors. But time is critical.

“Summer is a strong season for most markets, particularly Europe and the U.K. We really hope to see restrictions ease,” said Virginia Messina, interim leader of the World Travel & Tourism Council.

The patchwork of rules around the globe can be hard to follow for anyone planning a trip. Cyprus, for instance, has restrictions in place for countries deemed as higher risk, requiring arriving passengers to have a negative PCR test that’s valid 72 hours prior to their departure and to undergo a new test upon arrival. They also have to self-isolate in Cyprus until their test results are issued.

Constantinos Victoras, general manager of NissiBlu Hotel, situated near Ayia Napa’s famed white-sand beach, says even though the infection rate in Cyprus has dropped significantly in the last two weeks, it won’t be until late June when things will be clear enough for tour operators and airlines to ramp up bookings.

“Uncertainty is too great right now,” Victoras said.

Agatha and Simon Godurkiewicz of Sweden, said they chose to holiday on the island out of fatigue with the pandemic, and that people simply want to get on with their lives and return to some semblance of normality.

“We’re tired of the virus situation,” said Agatha Godurkiewicz. “It was panic at the start of the pandemic but it’s become too much now.”

Here’s how different regions are trying to reopen to travel:

EUROPE

Europe has been opening slowly, testing the patience of Mediterranean countries that rely heavily on tourism, including Greece, Spain, and Turkey. That is changing now, as European Union ambassadors agreed last week to allow in visitors who are fully vaccinated or are from a now-expanded list of countries whose citizens are deemed to be safe.

EU member countries still have to approve the changes, and it’s not clear exactly when they would take effect.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Friday that Spain will let British and Japanese visitors enter the country starting Monday if they have been vaccinated and people from other countries, including the United States, on June 7.

Tourists are already beginning to show up in Greece after authorities there decided this month to accept vaccination and test certificates from the European Union and 21 other countries.

On the Greek island of Naxos, business owners began pulling tables and chairs out of storage, power-washing wooden decks and reopening once-jammed seaside tavernas.

“People here are optimistic and, indeed, there have been many bookings in the last two weeks,” Naxos Mayor Dimitris Lianos said. “There could be a significant comeback of the tourist season even in the latter half of the year. I dare to say it.”

Croatia has also reopened — one of the few spots in Europe that’s easy for Americans to visit. Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have announced direct flights from New York to Dubrovnik this summer.

ASIA

The virus is surging again across parts of Asia, causing several nations to halt cautious steps they had been taking to reopen.

Hong Kong and Singapore postponed a quarantine-free “travel bubble” for a second time after a new outbreak, and Hong Kong lengthened mandatory quarantines for many unvaccinated visitors. China set up checkpoints at toll booths, airports and train stations in Liaoning province, site of new cases this month — travelers must show proof of a recent negative test for the virus.

Thailand, which closed its borders and managed to keep outbreaks under control for most of last year, gradually began allowing entry to some foreign visitors in the fall under strict controls. But the country reversed course when it became overwhelmed by its worst outbreak in late March.

Bangkok closed entertainment venues and parks, ordered more people to work from home, and banned outdoor dining. Streets in the capital and many of Thailand’s resorts are nearly deserted, and people who have lost tourism-related jobs are second-guessing the authorities.

“I am very angry with the government. They should have done better,” said Narong, a worker in a Bangkok bar who declined to give his surname for fear of getting in trouble.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

At the height of the pandemic last year, the United Arab Emirates closed its borders and shuttered airports to travelers. The capital, Abu Dhabi, still has strict measures including mandatory quarantines even for fully vaccinated residents returning from certain countries. But the UAE’s biggest city, Dubai, has opened its doors to travelers since last July with few restrictions beyond a negative COVID-19 test.

Dubai — home to the world’s busiest airport for international travel — is courting visitors fleeing lockdowns in Europe with open beaches, bars, hotel pools, restaurants, movie theaters, theme parks and spas. Social distancing and mask mandates are in place.

Meanwhile, the Gulf’s largest country of Saudi Arabia is not permitting tourists into the country. Saudi citizens, who have largely been banned from travel since March 2020, are allowed to travel abroad starting this month if they have been vaccinated or recently recovered from the virus.

Egypt is trying to draw more foreign tourists even as it deals with a new wave of infections. It exempted beaches, cafes and restaurants tied to tourist hotels from new restrictions, like an earlier curfew and the closure of public beaches and parks during the Eid holiday. It even lowered the cost of tourist visas, although it still requires a negative COVID-19 test before entering the country.

LATIN AMERICA AND CARIBBEAN

Visitors to the tourism-dependent Caribbean tumbled by two-thirds last year to levels not seen since the 1980s. Bermuda was among the hardest hit, suffering an 84% drop.

A handful of islands, including Bonaire, Martinique and Montserrat, still ban travel from most countries. Elsewhere, tourists are trickling back under requirements that include electronic monitoring. Some islands, including St. Vincent and the Grenadines, have created “bubble resorts” to take tourists. Cruise lines are planning to shift ships from the U.S. to Caribbean ports this summer.

The U.S. Virgin Islands have been the region’s success story this year, with arrivals down a modest 27% from January through March — much of that due to Americans who are forbidden in other places and can visit the U.S. territory without a passport if they avoid going through another country on the way.

Mexico has no flight restrictions, no requirements for visitors to pass a test or quarantine upon arrival. That has kept a reduced but steady flow of tourists, especially to beach destinations.

Mexico’s laid-back approach, however, could be creating a backlash in the Caribbean coast state of Quintana Roo, which includes Cancún and Cozumel and where tourism accounts for 87% of the economy. Infection and hospitalization rates are rising, and stricter capacity limits have been imposed in public places.

“If nothing is done right now in reducing activities in public, this trend will grow and grow and grow and grow,” the federal government’s point man on the pandemic, Assistant Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell, warned this month.

U.S. AND CANADA

The U.S. continues to bar most visitors from Europe, China, India, Brazil and other places. Inbound international travelers, including American citizens, must pass a COVID-19 test before boarding flights. The State Department discourages foreign trips, labeling most of the world’s countries high-risk.

The border between the U.S. and Canada remains closed to nonessential travel through June 21.

Domestic air travel in the U.S. is nearly back to 2019 levels, but travel-industry groups are growing impatient with what they see as an overly timid response by the Biden administration to allowing more international visitors.

“As we continue to see vaccination rates increase and infection rates decrease, it’s absolutely critical from an economic standpoint to reopen international travel,” said Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president of the U.S. Travel Association.





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