77% of travelers want to travel in the next year, with Europe reigning as top destination, according to new traveler research commissioned by Amadeus


LONDON–()–The survey of 9,074 consumers across France, Germany, India, Spain, Russia, Singapore, the UAE, the UK, and the US shows the appetite to travel is high. At the same time, it reveals that greater clarity on restrictions and guidelines will be key to unlocking increased traveler confidence. Over a third (35%) of travelers said the current international guidelines around where and how to travel are confusing, making them less likely to book business and/or leisure travel.

At the same time, travelers are exhibiting increased openness to embrace technology and a willingness to share health data so they can start traveling again.

When asked about the receptiveness to share personal health data, the survey results show:

  • 93% of travelers would be willing to provide personal data for the effective use of digital health passports or certificates, a slight increase from 91% in February 2021
  • Almost half (48%) of business travelers would be willing to provide their health data to visit a conference or event, while 36% of leisure travelers would be willing to for an excursion or activity at destination.

When asked which technology would increase confidence to travel in the next 12 months, mobile solutions continue to be the most popular, with the top technologies including:

  • Mobile applications that provide on-trip notifications and alerts (44%)
  • Self-service check-in (41%)
  • Contactless mobile payments (e.g., Apple or Google Pay, Paypal, Venmo) (41%)
  • Automated and flexible cancellation policies (40%)

Mobile applications and contactless technology have remained top technologies across all three studies, with the addition of automated and flexible cancellation policies in this final instalment.

The research is the third in a series of traveler sentiment surveys, where Amadeus takes a regular checkpoint on traveler sentiment and concerns to help the industry rebuild travel in the most effective way. Both the 2020 Rethink Travel survey (Sept 2020) and Rebuild Travel Digital Health (Feb 2021) survey revealed how technology can help to increase traveler confidence and Amadeus revisited this question to see how traveler confidence has changed since September 2020. 97% of travelers now say that technology will increase their confidence to travel, up from 91% in February 2021 and 84% in September 2020, showing a growing sense of traveler confidence in technology.

When considering the future of travel and sustainability, the survey highlighted what solutions travelers believe might help the industry to become more sustainable long-term. The results showed:

  • Nearly half (46%) of travelers said greater availability of green modes of transport, e.g., electric planes or trains
  • A similar percentage (44%) believe making sustainable travel more cost effective would be beneficial
  • 41% say transparency around travel companies’ sustainability policies would help.

Although receptiveness to travel in the next year is high, the travel industry needs to consider how to respond to changing traveler concerns as the travel environment continues to adapt. The three main concerns travelers have, are:

  • Fears of catching COVID-19 while traveling (41%)
  • Self-isolation or quarantine before and after travel (41%)
  • Changing restrictions resulting in last minute cancellations (37%)

In comparison to the previous studies, fears of catching the virus maintain a top concern for travelers, alongside self-isolation, or quarantine.

Decius Valmorbida, President, Travel, Amadeus, says, “The travel industry still faces many challenges in light of COVID-19, but we are seeing positive steps taken as restrictions lift and developments in digital health certificates continue around the world. This research demonstrates the appetite to travel continues to grow, and that travelers are looking forward to advancements in areas such as touchless technology, digital health and sustainable travel. Now is the time to listen even more closely to travelers’ needs so we can rebuild our industry in a way that is more traveler focused, resilient and sustainable.”

Francisco Pérez-Lozao Rüter, President, Hospitality, Amadeus, comments, “This three-part series of research has highlighted the essential role that both technology and data have to play in the recovery of our industry and increasing traveler confidence. In hospitality specifically we are seeing how our hotel customers are implementing solutions that complement and streamline experiences without losing the human touch while using data to better prepare for guest demands. At Amadeus we are committed to rebuilding a better industry and working closely with our customers to provide the tools to achieve this.”

To learn more about the results of the survey, read our global report here: https://amadeus.com/en/insights/themes/rebuild-travel



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3 Mass. beaches are among the best in the U.S., according to Conde Nast Traveler




Travel

There’s still time to visit them this summer.

Sankaty Head Light at Siasconset Beach on Nantucket. Nantucket Historical Association

Summer may be winding down, but there’s still plenty of time to check “lounging on one of the best beaches in America” off your bucket list.

And according to Conde Nast Traveler, Massachusetts residents don’t have to travel very far to do it.

The publication recently named the 19 best beaches in the U.S., and three of the sandy destinations are located in Massachusetts: Coast Guard Beach in Eastham, Siasconset Beach on Nantucket, and Singing Beach in Manchester-by-the-Sea.

Coast Guard Beach, which is part of the Cape Cod National Seashore, offers spectacular views of the Nauset Spit barrier system and bay. Photos of “the quaint old Coast Guard station, which sits on top of sandy bluffs, is practically Instagram-required,” the publication wrote.

As for Singing Beach, Conde Nast Traveler wrote: “While some people may make the trip to Manchester-by-the-Sea to see where the movie was filmed, others come for the more curious Singing Beach: If you shuffle your feet in the dry sand you will hear a sing-song-like squeak.”

And when visiting Siasconset Beach, the 1850 Sankaty Head Light “is well worth a wander to the northern tip of the beach,” but the best attraction is the ‘Sconset Bluff Walk, where you’ll find “the strong Atlantic on one side and a row of multi-million-dollar homes on the other,” the publication wrote.

View the entire list of 19 best beaches in the U.S.





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How to Be a Better Traveler in 2021 and Beyond


As we look ahead to post-pandemic travel, industry experts share their tips for becoming a more conscious traveler.

For years, travel websites and magazines have doled out advice on how to be a responsible traveler. Experts have encouraged travelers to buy and eat locally, embrace a destination’s culture, respect nature, and take time to understand a country’s traditions. Recently, many environmentally-conscious practices have also made it to these lists, explaining the harmful effects of over-tourism, the need for clean sunscreen, and how to avoid unethical animal experiences.

As people look ahead to traveling in a post-pandemic world, we are redefining what it means to travel better in 2021 by sharing a list of ways to travel consciously after the devastation caused by COVID-19. If we are to build back better, there needs to be more emphasis on immersive, sustainable holidays that evoke empathy for the planet and all its beings.

Make Travel Decisions Knowing Not Every Country Has Recovered From COVID

Travel can offer comfort to you after the isolation and heartache of 2020, and in turn, help economies that have dried up. However, not every country is ready to entertain tourists just yet. Victoria Walker, a Senior Travel Reporter for The Points Guy, advises people to look up the current COVID-19 situation and vaccination rates. In the U.S., more than 50% of adults have been fully vaccinated, but she reminds us that it could take years for some countries to catch up.

“That means your interactions with residents should be done with the understanding that you may be coming into contact with unvaccinated people who are far more at risk than you,” explains Walker. “You’ll want to err on the side of caution, avoid large crowds, and wear a mask.”

Kelley Louise, Founder and Executive Director of the Impact Travel Alliance, urges travelers to make sure they are visiting a destination where locals actually want travelers to come. “Their safety is just as important as yours,” adds Louise.

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Research and Respect Local Guidelines

Every country, every state, every city has its own guidelines to manage COVID-19. Jeremy Scott Foster, the Founding Editor of TravelFreak, advises that “travelers need to be aware and respectful of the rules and restrictions put in place by the government. Whether it’s entry requirements, a quarantine, mask guidelines, or curfew. We—as a global community—need to come together to make travel a safe and accessible activity.”

Research entry requirements, mask mandates, social distancing protocols, and curfews before you travel and prepare accordingly. In the U.S., unvaccinated travelers need to mask up while vaccinated people can be without masks in most situations, but everyone still needs to wear them on buses, trains, and planes. In Europe, countries such as France, Greece, and Italy have night curfews, while Denmark requires people to show a travel pass to obtain entry to cinemas, museums, and restaurants. By July 22, European countries will introduce digital vaccination certificates to make travel accessible to those who have been vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19, or tested negative.

Hotels may also have their own rules. Sonu Shivdasani, the Founder and CEO of Soneva, explains, “At Soneva [in the Maldives], we test all guests upon arrival using our very own PCR testing machine, and guests are asked to isolate in the privacy of their villa until we receive the results.” Ask your hotel or resort what measures they have in place and what you need to do for a comfortable stay.

When Choosing Hotels, Go Beyond Certification

Justin Francis, Co-Founder and CEO of the activist holiday company, Responsible Travel, recommends travelers choose environmentally-friendly accommodations without getting tripped up by “sustainable” hotel certificates.

“It’s great if a place has eliminated plastic straws, but if you want to know how responsible and sustainable your accommodation or operator really is and the progress it’s making, you’ll generally need to dig a little deeper,” explains Francis. “Is it using renewable energy? Where does it source its products and how does it limit food and water waste? In what ways does it support and work with the local community? What action has it taken to restore and protect the local environment? Do they have responsible tourism policies?”

You should do your own research when picking a place to stay. Confusing terminology and labels make travelers believe that a business is environmentally conscious, but it could just be a marketing ploy. Experts have been warning people against greenwashing and the deceptive claims employed by hotels and lodges to give a false idea of their eco-initiatives. Francis has written about how to tell the difference between genuine sustainability efforts and hollow buzzwords.

Randy Durband, CEO of the Global Sustainable Travel Council (a non-profit that establishes and manages global sustainability standards known as the GSTC Criteria—the minimum a hotel, destination, or business should do to approach sustainability) recommends asking about a hotel’s certification.

“Asking about certification is a good thing to push hotels toward [sustainability] by hearing from their guests that they seek it, but also ask questions either specifically or broadly about their purchasing practices, energy management, social responsibility in hiring and supporting their communities,” says Durband.

Look for Ways to Reduce Your Footprint

Impact Travel Alliance is a strong advocate for sustainable tourism, and Louise highlights that responsible travel doesn’t need to be about far-flung destinations and off-the-grid experiences. “You can incorporate socially and eco-conscious travel into any trip, no matter your destination, budget, or style,” suggests Louise. “As we rethink travel, we can reshape the narrative around sustainable tourism, and showcase how it’s linked to immersive experiences that are better for us–and the world.”

Start with slow travel and transformative experiences. It may be a good idea to avoid crowded tourist attractions and exploitative animal experiences. You can travel close to home and explore your own backyards—an opportunity that 2020 gave us. Responsible Travel’s Francis also advocates for a longer holiday instead of numerous mini-breaks.

“When we do fly, there are ways we can reduce our carbon impact. Every item on a plane increases the carbon emitted: packing less and traveling economy lightens our load,” explains Francis. “If you possibly can, avoid taking internal flights and research ways to get around. You’re more likely to meet local people when using public transport, hiring bikes or walking, and electric taxis and rentals are increasingly common.”

GaudiLab/Shutterstock

Focus on Carbon Reduction vs. Buying Offsets

Carbon offsetting makes travelers feel better about flying, but these voluntary programs remain entrenched in doubt and are often criticized by environmentalists. Buying offsets doesn’t mean your flight has zero impact on the environment, or that your money will go into genuine conservation efforts.

Francis explains that a holiday with a flight can’t be carbon negative or neutral. “Not all offset schemes are created equal—some are indeed better than others. But it’s also really important to remember that, however, they’re marketed, they do not cancel out the impacts of our flights. When we fly, those impacts are immediate and long-term; offsetting them isn’t.”

Travelers need to focus on reducing their carbon emissions, in addition to supporting conservation initiatives. “Until it’s sustainable, we need to fly less as well as support biodiversity by restoring nature and consuming less meat and dairy,” says Francis.

You can calculate your carbon footprint with apps like Capture or TerraPass. When traveling, you can opt for hotels that use renewable energy, take non-stop flights, hire an electric car or use public transport, eat locally sourced food, and reduce waste. While buying offsets, make sure you look for the ones that are proven to help the environment.

Empathize With the Flight Crew

Air rage has increased tremendously, and unfortunately, flight attendants are facing unruly, violent behavior on an everyday basis. Please be extra considerate because they’re having a rough time with passengers hurling abuses and even going so far as to throw punches.

Show respect towards all airport staff, including pilots, flight attendants, and on-ground personnel. Listen to the announcements while flying. Keep your mask on even if you’re vaccinated. Don’t hand over your dirty tissues and wipes to them directly—throw them in the trash bag. And as always, wait to get out of the plane. Your patience and kindness can make their jobs easier.

Maridav/Shutterstock

Support Local Businesses

It is more important than ever to help out small businesses that have been affected by the pandemic. “Travel with an operator that’s locally-owned and employs local guides on a fair wage,” suggests Francis. “Stay in independently-owned accommodations or even a homestay, and eat in local restaurants and markets. Not only are you contributing directly to the economy, but you’ll also be rewarded with local knowledge on where to eat and the best places to visit off the tourist trail.”

Tip Generously 

Last year was hard on everyone, especially those in the hospitality industry. Baristas lost their jobs. Drivers had no passengers. Restaurants and shops were forced to shut down. Artists were left without audiences or buyers. If you’re lucky enough to travel this year, tip generously because travel depends on the many people—from tour guides to drivers to concierges—who make it happen.

Travel for Good

Can travel make the world more inclusive? Impact Travel Alliance’s Kelley Louise thinks so. “We’ve been hearing a lot about diversity and inclusion in the headlines, and travel experiences are a great way to practice anti-racism,” explains Louise. “Whether you’re immersing yourself in history with a tour that goes beyond traditional history books, or you’re supporting a diverse-owned restaurant, supporting underrepresented voices through immersive experiences is a great way to advocate for a more inclusive world.”




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How I Overcame My Fear Of Flying To Become A World Traveler


Most of my adult life, fear of flying would be the antagonist of my life’s story. It was vaster than my adventure and would rob me of broadening my worldview.

At 33, having accepted an offer to travel to Brazil with a group of friends, I lamented to a colleague about my biggest fear: flying. She listened attentively to how I could not turn down this opportunity. My friend looked me straight in the eyes and spoke without judgment: “You know you can get medicine from your doctor for that?” That moment set up a 15-year love affair with traveling the world.

In 2018, in the most haphazard way and on another continent, that shifted. After fifteen years of medicated boarding and landings, I would ultimately overcome my fear of flying.

The Root Of My Fear

When I took my first flight at 23, I was plagued with thoughts of the airplane crashing. I have never enjoyed being high off the ground, the feeling of dropping, or roller coasters. My fear probably started from watching a movie that involved a plane crash as a child. I recall the scene of the plane crashing and a burned baby doll of the little girl passenger being discovered amongst the debris. I remember being so distressed by that scene as a kid myself.  

I was confined by my fear of flying for years. Only having taken a handful of flights since my initial one, I went through the panic at the highway sign to the airport. I could never fall asleep, my palms became sweaty, and once on the aircraft, I never left my seat no matter how long the trip. In 2004, I did not attend an annual conference being held in Las Vegas that year because the flight was going to be exceptionally long. At that stage, it would have been the longest flight I’d ever considered. I did not register despite having attended the bi-annual conference regularly since 1998. Those flights were painful, as well, but often shorter. It would turn into the biggest regret of my travel life.

Signs for the Great Wall.
The writer’s photo from the Great Wall of China (Photo Credit: Desiree Rew)

The Breakthrough

In 2005, when the opportunity to go to Brazil presented itself, I couldn’t refuse. I’d never traveled out of the country at this point and did not even own a passport. I couldn’t endure the same regret with this trip as I had the year prior. I accepted the advice of my friend and made an appointment with a psychiatrist. I felt apprehensive about the appointment because I had attached a stigma to seeking help in this manner. 

The first question the doctor asked was about my symptoms. What did I feel when I was on the airplane? When I told her, she informed me that my symptoms showed I had a phobia of flying and the symptoms helped her to decide the best medication to prescribe. She assured me it was not an issue of not being strong, or being dramatic, but a diagnosable condition that could be treated with medication. I was prescribed Alprazolam in a low dose and instructed to take it for flights. It worked! I would take the medication 30 minutes exactly before boarding. Taking it after boarding the plane did not ease the anxiety before taking off, which I needed. I began to go to sleep, endure flights longer than 3 hours, and even walk around and head to the bathroom. Taking the medication opened the world to me. I booked trips everywhere. I would have an annual appointment with my prescribing physician and be prescribed a month’s supply that would last the entire year with pills left over. This went on from 2005 to 2018 without incident. I would embrace my adventure and travel several times a month by airplane.

The Golden Horses in Dubai.
Golden Horses in Dubai (Photo Credit: Desiree Rew)

Letting Go

In 2018, I traveled to Lisbon, Portugal for a solo vacation. I’d grown into a solo traveler and a freelance writer. My flight was not direct and consisted of a layover. During the first flight, I had taken my medication 30 minutes before boarding and drifted into a wonderful nap. A flight attendant woke me as it was time to deplane. I woke up abruptly, grabbed my bag under the seat, and rushed off the plane. What I didn’t realize is that I had left behind my small pouch containing my phone charger and my medication in the seat pocket in front of me. In my rush, I forgot the most important luggage of all. After several hours of hysteria because I was on the flight to Lisbon, not the return, I told myself there was no choice. I had to fly without the assistance. I could fly without the medicine. 

To my surprise, I hopped on my next flight and every flight after without taking medication. Flying became a routine. I’d flown so often at this point that every nuance-noise, feeling of take-off and landing was rote. I recognized turbulence to be compatible with the potholes we feel in the road when driving, and rough air no longer sent me into an alarm. I picked up another prescription upon my arrival home but never took it again. I brought it just in case, but ultimately I quit doing that.

It surprised me in a good way that after all the years of regiment surrounding taking the medication, I didn’t need it. I was no longer frightened of flying. It surprised me in a bad way that I had never questioned my ability to do it sooner. I have flown to the continents of Europe, South America, Asia, and Africa armed with only replacement headphones to ensure I could watch the inflight movies — which is now my system for getting through long flights. I overcame my fear of flying by seeking and accepting professional help. Removing the stigma provided me the experiences that would teach me to let go and enjoy the ride. 

The writer in Amsterdam.
The writer holding a pamphlet in Amsterdam (Photo Credit: Desiree Rew)

Tips For Overcoming Your Fear Of Flying

If you are facing a fear of flying that is blocking you from traveling, here are five tips I suggest to get you out there.

  1. Speak with a medical professional about your symptoms. Fear of flying is a condition that can be treated. You don’t need to deprive yourself of experiencing travel.
  2. Arrive at the airport early enough to board your plane in a calm manner. Give yourself time, relax, and mentally prepare for the flight. The uneasiness of rushing for a flight can add to feeling overwhelmed.
  3. Develop positive self-talk phrases to replace negative thoughts. 
  4. Learn to breathe. Breathing techniques can help you remain relaxed before and during the flight.
  5. Fly often! The more you fly, the more comfortable you may become with the overall experience.

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This Mass. beach is one of the best in the world, according to Condé Nast Traveler


Break out the hats, swimsuits, and umbrellas. After a long, hard winter, beach season is almost upon us. And with that, an important question: Which sandy expanse should you venture out to?

Luckily, Condé Nast Traveler has recommendations, including one right here in Massachusetts.

A list of the 25 best island beaches around the world includes Siasconset Beach on Nantucket, coming in at number 23.

A seagull on Saisconset beach.
A seagull on Saisconset beach.David L. Ryan

The picturesque shore sits on the eastern flank of the island, accessible via a six-mile bike path or a shuttle bus. It’s featured alongside a dozen or so more tropical locations, like the British Virgin Islands, Oahu, French Polynesia, and Aruba. (Did the list, compiled from a Readers’ Choice Awards survey administered in 2020, come out late last year? Yup. Were we thinking about travel and beaches and the potential of life post-COVID then? Nope, but we are now.)

For swimmers, the waves at Siasconset “can be heavy with strong currents,” according to the Insider’s Guide to Nantucket. Condé Nast Traveler called the water rough, even in the summer. But those who prefer sand to surf should wander to the Sankaty Head Light at the northern tip of the beach. Or they can meander along the ‘Sconset Bluff Walk, which borders both the Atlantic Ocean and a row of enviable multimillion dollar homes.

The beach nears Sconset Village, a quaint town with rose covered cottages, a golf course, and a host of historic sites. It is brimming with restaurants (and restrooms) for beachgoers.

Condé Nast Traveler also recommended the Nantucket Hotel & Resort as the perfect place to stay. The 36 rooms and suites are within walking distance from Sconset’s attractions, and the small-town charm is undeniable. See the four-story structure of the site and the front porch “strewn with Adirondack chairs,” as the Traveler put it.

So what are some of the other top 25 island beaches? As far as U.S. beaches go, Sunset Beach on Oahu came in at number 21, Honokalani Beach on Maui ranked 19, South Carolina beaches grabbed two spots with Hilton Head Island at number 13 and Kiawah Island at number 8. And the top U.S. island beach was Marco Island, Florida, at number 7.

But of course, gorgeous sandy stretches are by no means limited to this country. The breathtaking North Island, Seychelles, came in at number 3 on the Conde Nast list (Prince William and Kate Middleton honeymooned there), and White Beach, Boracay, Philippines, ranked number 2.

So what’s number 1? Lovely Gouverneur, St. Barts, with its white sand and aquamarine water.

Diti Kohli can be reached at diti.kohli@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ditikohli_.





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Japanese manners and customs that every traveler to Japan should know


Customs and manners are so important to Japanese culture that many travel websites have sections dedicated to the topic.

Japan is currently closed to international travelers, but the country is exploring ways to safely reopen before the start of the Tokyo Summer Olympics, which is scheduled for late July. Tourists aren’t expected to understand all of Japan’s complex social rules, but they can avoid the most commonly committed faux pas.  

Here’s a guide on what to do — and what to avoid — based on advice from Japan’s government-affiliated tourism organizations.

Don’t touch the geisha

What many travelers call “geisha,” are referred to as “maiko” or “geiko” in Kyoto, which is considered one of the best places in Japan to see the decorated female entertainers.

If one is spotted, the travel website for the Kyoto City Tourism Association (KCTA) advises travelers against stopping or asking maiko to pose for photographs.  

“Do not bother them or grab them by their kimono sleeves,” states the website.

A maiko, or appentice geisha, walks in the snow in the district of Gion in Kyoto, Japan.

Koichi Kamoshida | Getty Images News | Getty Images

This is one of Kyoto’s Manners Akimahen, a list of 18 tips, recommendations and warnings for those traveling in Japan’s cultural capital.

The list of “akimahen” (which means “don’t” in the local dialect) ranges from tips about automatic taxi doors (“make sure to stand far enough away that the door can open without bumping into you”) to littering, which can lead to a fine of 30,000 Japanese yen ($280).

Emoticon ratings indicate the seriousness of each offense. Tipping, which is frowned upon throughout Japan, rather than saying thank you in the local dialect (“okini”) is given one sad face. Bicycling while intoxicated earns three angry faces — the worst rating — not to mention a possible prison sentence of up to five years.

Expect pushing, but no talking on trains

Travelers should expect pushing and shoving on crowded trains, states Go Tokyo, the travel guide website for the Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“But bear in mind that this is not aggressive behavior, just the product of daily life in a metropolis,” states the website.

Japanese rarely talk or eat on trains, especially when they are crowded.

Junko Kimura | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Videos of white-gloved train attendants cramming people into Japanese trains have enthralled travelers for years. They also make it easy to understand one of the top rules of Japanese public transport: no talking on mobile phones. In fact, travelers are advised to not even let them ring.

“If you carry a phone, keep it on silent mode,” states Go Tokyo’s website.  

“Etiquette in public places is a serious business in Japan,” states the travel website for the government-affiliated Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO). “A public-wide respect for these rules is probably the main reason why a megalopolis like Tokyo can function so smoothly.”

Eat sushi with your hands

Travelers who are not proficient with chopsticks can ask for flatware, advises JNTO’s travel website, although they “may not be available, especially at more traditional spots.”

Rather than struggling with chopsticks, the tourism organization recommends travelers follow another local custom.

It’s customary to eat sushi with your hands in Japan, especially nigiri sushi, which translates to “two fingers.”

Makiko Tanigawa | DigitalVision | Getty Images

“If you have come to Japan for sushi, remember, you can eat it with your hands,” states the website.

Shrines and temples

A tourist attraction to one person is a sacred place of worship to another. Travelers should “be quiet and respectful in shrines and temples,” according to KCTA’s website.

Kyoto’s tourism association also asks that visitors remove hats and sunglasses in houses of worship.

Dai Miyamoto, founder of the tour company Tokyo Localized, said he frequently sees tourists “sitting everywhere inside … shrine and temples,” even in places “where it is not a bench or a place to take a rest.” He also sees tourists taking photos of Buddha statues and in locations where photographs are prohibited.

Go Tokyo recommends travelers embrace the “full cultural experience” at Shinto shrines by walking on the sides of the pathway that leads to the shrine because the center is “technically reserved for the enshrined deity.”

At the compound entrance, travelers can rinse their hands and mouth with “purifying water” before approaching the main hall. There they can “bow lightly, ring the bells, place a small monetary offering in the box, bow twice, clap twice, and bow once more to complete the ritual,” according to the website.

The rules of the ryokan

Staying at a traditional inn, or ryokan, is a popular way to experience Japanese hospitality, but doing so comes with more social rules than a hotel stay.

Ryokans are typically neither cheap nor exceptionally plush, which can surprise travelers who associate higher prices with sprawling suites and luxurious bedding. Ryokans are typically one-room accommodations that are spartanly furnished and lined with straw tatami mats.

Ryokan prices are often quoted per person, not per night.

recep-bg | E+ | Getty Images

KCTA has a list of guidelines for ryokan guests, including changing into (provided) slippers before entering. Luggage wheels are not to touch interior flooring. And, bags should never be stored on the wall ledge, or tokonoma, where flowers and scrolls are displayed.

Meals are often served in guestrooms, and visitors change into casual kimonos, called yukata, to eat. After dinner, plates are cleared and futon-style mattresses are arranged on the floor for sleeping.

Onsen etiquette

Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s “How to Enjoy Tokyo: Manners & Custom Handbook” advises travelers to remove all clothing to use onsens, which are bathing areas connected to Japan’s natural hot springs.

As a volcanically active country, Japan has thousands of onsens, many of which are part of a hotel or ryokan and separated by gender.

John S Lander | LightRocket | Getty Images

According to the government handbook, bathers are to rinse off before entering and refrain from swimming, jumping or diving into the water. Hair and towels should not touch the water.

People with tattoos may be refused entry to more traditional onsens due to tattoos being associated with Japan’s “yakuza,” or organized crime groups, said Miyamoto. This is decreasing, he said, due to the popularity of tattoos among younger generations and foreign travelers.

Sightseeing and shopping

Cutting lines is verboten in most countries, but in Japan, holding a space for friends or family members is also considered improper, according to Tokyo’s manners handbook.

It also advises travelers to refrain from walking up or down escalators; those in a hurry should use the stairs.  

When shopping, bargaining for better pricing isn’t common. And clothing sizes differ from those in Western nations. An extra-large men’s shirt in Japan is akin to a U.S. men’s size medium.

Miyamoto, who is 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs 185 pounds, wears a Japanese size XL because “large is too small.” He said Americans who need larger sizes aren’t out of luck though.

“Uniqlo, which is the most famous casual brand in Japan, sells over XXL size … in online shops,” he said.



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Dealing with traveler uncertainty on vaccines: Travel Weekly


Jamie Biesiada

Jamie Biesiada

As coronavirus vaccines continue to roll out in the United States, advisors have reported some confusion among clients as to whether they will need the vaccine to travel going forward. While others said clients aren’t yet asking about vaccination requirements, that is likely to change as consumers increasingly look to book travel.

Evidence suggests bookings are on the rise, with agencies citing everything from vaccine rollout, to more general consumer confidence, to pent-up demand and a feeling that the end of the pandemic is nearing.

“Both the concept and the reality of the vaccine rollout is definitely helping to rebuild traveler confidence,” said Kimberly Wilson Wetty, co-president and owner of Valerie Wilson Travel in New York. “Knowing that there is a vaccine in place for a virus that has disrupted our lives for over a year brings hope to many.”

Related report: Covid vaccines will not move the needle for current travelers
 
Interest in travel never stopped throughout the pandemic, Wetty said, but her agency has recently seen that interest convert to bookings both for short-term travel and the future. The pace of bookings has increased in recent weeks.

“Whether it is escape travel and they just can’t take it anymore or a deep belief that we have turned the corner with the pandemic,” she said, “bookings have increased.”

Mixed response on vaccines
 
So far, the industry’s response to whether or not a vaccine will be required to travel has been mixed: Some suppliers have said they will require passengers be vaccinated, some aren’t sure yet and still others haven’t said anything one way or the other.

Jim Strong, president of Dallas-based Strong Travel Services, said there is some confusion among clients about whether they need a vaccine to travel.

Strong believes more cruise lines, especially, will likely require passengers be vaccinated.

“I think it will be imperative for cruise lines to have their guests prove that they’ve been fully vaccinated,” Strong said, noting that passengers on cruises tend to be in closer quarters than, say, guests in a hotel.

The most important thing travel advisors can do while talking to their clients about travel today is inform them.

“I think advisors are empowering clients with the information of what the supplier requires for travel,” said Beth Flowers, vice president of leisure at Brownell Travel in Birmingham, Ala. “That’s the most important step — making sure clients are comfortable with what is required for the destination or supplier.”

Flexibility in travel planning

At Global Travel Collection in New York, advisors are encouraged to stay current about different Covid-related requirements, president Angie Licea said. The main message to travelers is, “It’s your choice to travel.”

“We can’t tell people to get shots or not get shots,” Licea said. “We can’t tell people it’s safe to travel, it’s not safe to travel. What we have to do is inform them with the facts and then let them make the informed decision. The important part is having the facts — that’s what our advisors bring to the table.”

Licea is preaching flexibility when it comes to travel planning. She encouraged planning multiple scenarios so if, for example, a traveler does not want to get a vaccine but a supplier requires it, they can move on to their next plan. The same would apply if there isn’t enough inventory at one of the traveler’s choices.

Connie Miller, vice president of business development at Montecito Village Travel in Santa Barbara, Calif., said not too many clients are asking questions about vaccines just yet, but it has been an internal discussion at the host agency.

She encouraged agents to address the situation “very matter of factly” with clients if it comes up, talk about the benefits as to why safety protocols are put in place and have alternatives to provide to travelers.

Covid-19 vaccines and their role in travel was also the topic of the first episode of Trade Secrets, a new podcast co-hosted by myself and TravelAge West senior editor Emma Weissmann. We delved into the subject with veteran advisor Sally Black, founder of Vacationkids in Kunkletown, Pa. Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts.



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Easy tips to help you become an environmentally aware traveler


Oceans are warming, permafrost is thawing and wildfires keep burning.

As the 50th anniversary of Earth Day approaches (April 22), how can we, as travelers, be better stewards of Mother Earth?

Should we heed environmentalists who shout “Stop traveling”?

I would sooner stop breathing.

Travel is powerful and can make us better, more enlightened people (except when there’s a jerk in the seat next to me).

But we must reduce the carbon emissions, food impact and single-use plastic waste resulting from our travel.

Here’s what experts told me:

Research/planning

Choose your destination based on trip length. Stay closer to home to minimize carbon emissions.

• Don’t fly if you can avoid it, but if you must fly, stay longer.

Explore the U.S. if you have limited vacation time. California has nine national parks and 278 state parks, plus national forests. Or enjoy the 49 other states, the District of Columbia and the five inhabited territories.

• Choose airlines focused on sustainability. For example, JetBlue plans to go carbon-neutral on its domestic flights beginning in July. Delta, Qantas, Air New Zealand and Lufthansa specify environmental goals and sell carbon offsets.

Explore the U.S. if you have limited vacation time. We have national park units (nine in California, the most of any state), and 278 state parks, plus national forests and 50 states to enjoy plus five inhabited territories.

• Fight overtourism. “When selecting where to travel … go off the beaten path to share the tourism benefits with destinations in need,” James Thornton, chief executive of Intrepid Travel, a tour operator known for sustainability, said in an email. Avoid popular destinations such as Venice, Italy, and the seaside resorts of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, “that are negatively impacted by crowds they can’t sustain.”

• Fight undertourism. “There are emerging destinations that are crying out for visitors,” said Gavin Tollman, chief executive of tour company Trafalgar. Consider, for instance, visiting Georgia, Armenia or the Balkans.

The rolling hills and lush forests of Dilijan National Park in Armenia could be mistaken for the Appalachians.

The rolling hills and lush forests of Dilijan National Park in Armenia could be mistaken for the Appalachians.

(Marc Vartabedian)

• Buy carbon offsets to mitigate greenhouse gases generated by your trip. “The key things to seek in an offset are that it is verifiable, enforceable, permanent and additional; it wouldn’t happen otherwise,” said Peter Miller, a climate and energy scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

• Take public transportation. Amtrak has partnered with Carbonfund, a nonprofit carbon offsetter. FlixBus, the hip, app-oriented German bus company, offers carbon offsets through the nonprofit atmosfair.

Choose sustainable hotels that are LEED-certified for environmental stewardship.

Take electric cars on road trips. Rental car companies, including Enterprise and Hertz, and car-sharing company Turo also rent electric vehicles.

• Choose sustainable hotels, preferably LEED-certified for environmental stewardship by the U.S. Green Building Council. The Shore Hotel (gold) and the Ambrose Hotel (silver) in Santa Monica, the Source Hotel (silver) in Denver and numerous Marriott hotels are LEED-certified.

• Buy sustainably made garments from earth-friendly companies such as Patagonia and Toad&Co.

• Pack light. Instead of packing snow clothes, rent a ski jacket or pants from Patagonia in Denver through its partnership with Awayco, a gear-rental company started by surfers wanting to avoid clutter and baggage fees. In the L.A. area, you can rent surfboards.

• Choose luggage made from repurposed, recycled or upcycled materials. Looptworks, a Portland-based upcycler, has repurposed Southwest and Alaska airlines’ leather seat covers and Delta uniforms into backpacks, totes and more. L.A.-based Rewilder makes bags from repurposed industrial trash, including beer filter cloth and scrap airbag fabric.

Repurposed airline seats--this one from Alaska--live as luggage from Looptworks.

Repurposed airline seats–this one from Alaska–live as luggage from Looptworks.

(Looptworks)

• Carry a reusable water bottle. If you wind up without yours, buy a refillable aluminum bottle like PathWater, which is designed for reuse.

• Prepare and pack snacks in reusable containers for your flight to avoid creating single-use waste in airports and on airplanes.

Choose tour operators aligned with the principles of the organization Leave No Trace, whose website says it provides the “framework of minimum impact practices for anyone visiting the outdoors.” Along with Intrepid Travel and Trafalgar, Great Explorations (biking, hiking and other tours), Randonnèe (self-guided cycling and walking tours) and Northwest Rafting Co. contributed tips.

Hikers explore the trails at Torrey Pines State Reserve in San Diego County.

Hikers explore the trails at Torrey Pines State Reserve in San Diego County.

(Nelvin C. Cepeda / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Use human power. Zachary Collier, river guide and co-owner of Northwest Rafting, said: “Do a trip that doesn’t require vehicles: backpacking, floating or biking.”

Use reef-safe sunscreens to protect coral from harmful chemical sunscreens.

Heed Colorado’s Leave No Trace — Care for Colorado rules: Stick to trails; pack out your trash; leave nature as you find it.

Go vegan or vegetarian for some meals; livestock are hard on the environment.





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Study Finds Traveler Safety Concerns Will Diminish by Summer


It’s expected that traveler safety concerns will diminish considerably after spring 2021 when more COVID-19 vaccines are distributed and more borders are reopened, according to an international survey of more than 2,100 members of leading travel risk and crisis response provider Global Rescue.

The survey found that roughly three out of four respondents (77 percent) are less or much less concerned about travel safety for the second half of 2021 (July to December) compared to last year. However, more than half of respondents (54 percent) indicated that they are more or much more concerned about travel safety between now and June compared to 2020.

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According to Global Rescue’s research, a majority of respondents (70 percent) plan to take their next overnight/multi-day domestic trip greater than 100 miles from home by June 2021 while one in four is waiting until the last half of the year. A small portion, just 5 percent expect to wait until 2022 or later.

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Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats.

Receiving a COVID-19 vaccination (47 percent) and open borders (34 percent) are the two most important conditions travelers need to feel safe enough to travel internationally, the study found. Meanwhile, potential quarantines (41 percent) and COVID-19 infection (29 percent) continue to be the leading concerns for travelers planning an international trip amid the pandemic. Twelve percent of surveyed travelers listed trip cancellation as their biggest fear regarding international travel right now.

“Traveler confidence is growing stronger and that’s good news for the travel industry,” Global Rescue CEO Dan Richards said in a statement. “Travelers will feel safe enough to plan trips and vacations when they are vaccinated, when borders are open and managed in a predictable way and when they know they’ll be able to get home if the worst happens.”

Nearly three-quarters of survey respondents (73 percent) indicated that they would feel safer traveling if they had a COVID-19 vaccine compared to only 36 percent who said they would feel safer if they had a negative COVID-19 PCR test result prior to their trip. “Traveler trust in the efficacy of a COVID-19 vaccination understandably surpasses that of a negative coronavirus test since the former prevents against an occurrence and the latter only detects if an individual has been infected by the virus,” Richards added.

When it comes to navigating today’s COVID-19 testing requirements for select destinations, travelers are split in terms of how they would find a testing facility. Tour operators (21 percent), travel advisors (21 percent), destination resources (18 percent), personal investigation (16 percent) and insurance providers (9 percent) are the top resources while 15 percent of respondents indicated that they’re unsure what they would do.

Interestingly, fewer than 4 percent of respondents said that receiving negative COVID-19 PCR test results, having access to coronavirus treatments or acquiring a digital health passport were conditions needed to make them feel safe enough to travel abroad.





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How Playa Hotels & Resorts Is Addressing Traveler Protection


Dizzying traveler protocol changes driven by the pandemic have challenged travel advisors to accurately communicate the new procedures and requirements, and their implications, for clients headed to Caribbean destinations in 2021.

Travel agents are also seeking ways to reassure vacationers that their travel during this period will operate under comprehensive procedures designed to ensure their health and safety.

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Playa Hotels & Resorts, which operates beachfront, all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico, offers several programs designed to help advisors comfort clients and provide safe and enjoyable warm-weather resort experiences. The initiatives range from an extended stay plan for guests who test positive for COVID-19 while away, to complimentary COVID-19 antigen testing for guests returning to the U.S. from any of Playa’s 17 resorts.

We spoke with Kevin Froemming, Playa Hotels & Resorts’ Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer, to learn more about the company’s approach to operations in 2021.


Kevin Froemming, Playa Hotels & Resorts
“I am optimistic concerning the future of leisure travel and we know that there is demand.” – Kevin Froemming, Playa Hotels & Resorts

TravelPulse (TP): How were the Playa Resorts COVID-19 protocols developed?

Kevin Froemming (KF): “We collaborated with leading industry experts, the World Health Organization (WHO) and local governments to establish our Covid-19 protocols, now known as our Playa Safe Stay initiative. With constant associate training, use of proven antiviral cleanliness techniques and redesigned public spaces, [it] represents our commitment to every facet of resort operation and, more importantly, representative of a product that assures guests complete peace-of-mind.”

TP: What day-to-day practices and protocols are the resorts using to operate safely, protecting the health of guests, staff and local communities?

KF: “We adhere to recommended protocols from WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Frankly, these protocols are our starting point. We continually add practices, such as our Playa Resort Hub technology that focuses on guest interaction through touchless smartphone and web-based content, to enhance guest experience and provide added peace-of-mind. Personal protective equipment, social distance standards, methodical cleaning standards, and so forth are in place and adhered to firmly.”

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Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats.

TP: What other groups contributed to the protocols’ creation?

KF: “The development represents a combined effort of travel sector advisory teams, health professionals and resort operation expertise that continually review all aspects of our resort experience. Most recently, along with complimentary on-site COVID-19 testing, has been the addition of Playa’s Extended Stay Protection to give our guests peace-of-mind regarding changing testing protocols required for air travel.”

TP: Does the all-inclusive model provide some advantages to operating the company’s resorts under the present conditions?

KF: “Absolutely. All-inclusive vacations are ideal in this new climate. Guests have everything they need at their fingertips—including complimentary COVID testing at Playa properties—and all aspects of their vacation from dining to entertainment have heightened safety protocols.

“Additionally, as a company, Playa places a major emphasis on experiencing the destination and the local culture of our exquisite destinations. Our resorts do a phenomenal job of bringing the best of the destination inside the resort. Especially in these times, guests can enjoy all the culture, art, language, food, dance, etc. the destination has to offer without stepping foot off property and compromising their health or safety.”

TP: We all recognize operations must adapt to the present situation, but what steps have you taken to ensure guests still have an enjoyable Playa-style resort experience?

KF: “The guest experience that Playa is known for has not been comprised in any way as a result of the pandemic. Sure, some things may look a little different with masks, social distancing and so forth, but they do not feel different.

“When our resorts suspended operations at the beginning of the pandemic, we knew we had a very difficult task at hand: to elevate health and safety protocols without compromising the guest experience. In my mind, this challenge was our most significant, and we took it extremely seriously.

“After resuming operations, I am happy to say we succeeded. Guests are just as satisfied now, if not more, than during pre-pandemic trips. And that’s because the essence of a Playa vacation has not changed.”

TP: Several of the company’s resorts are new, and others have undergone recent renovations. How has that helped the company during this period?

KF: “The advantage has been two-fold. For one, the simple fact that many of our resorts are newly renovated or brand-new and feature the latest in design and technology – from spacious resort footprints that include open-air designs to low-density dining and outdoor entertainment options. These new resorts also feature the trust and familiarity of global brands Hyatt or Hilton – two legendary names in hospitality that have been leading the way in innovation and guest service for decades.”

TP: How optimistic are you regarding operations in 2021 and 2022?

KF: “I am optimistic concerning the future of leisure travel, and we know that there is demand. With the arrival of a vaccine, there is real optimism. In the short-term, as indicated by recent changes in air-travel requiring COVID-19 testing, we understand there will be added complexity. However, from the moment this global pandemic started, we’ve continually made changes and adapted to preserve the “stress-free” vision of our brand of all-inclusive.”





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