Travel news live: Latest green list updates as Caribbean countries at risk of turning red

A number of Caribbean islands are at risk of joining the red list in the next travel update, while few countries are expected to go green, according to expert analysis.

Looking at the latest Covid case rates, experts have predicted that Jamaica, St Lucia and Dominica, plus the north African nation of Morocco, could be downgraded from amber to red at the UK government’s review of the traffic light lists, expected later this week.

The analysis from the PC Agency also suggested that eight green destinations could move down to amber, reports The Telegraph: Israel, Croatia, Madeira, Lithuania and Montserrat, and the Caribbean islands of Anguilla, Antigua and Turks and Caicos.

Just five destinations were predicted to be in line for a green upgrade from amber: Poland, Bhutan, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile 82 “cowboy” travel testing firms have been issued a warning for advertising misleading prices.

Sajid Javid, the health secretary, said 82 businesses were being sent a two-strike warning while a further 57 were being removed from’s “find a travel test provider” page altogether.

Read the latest travel updates below:


‘Cowboy’ testing firms given two-strike warning

More than 80 private travel testing companies have been warned over listing prices on the government’s official website which are lower than those offered on their own sites at the point of checkout.

Sajid Javid, the health secretary, said 82 businesses were being sent a two-strike warning while a further 57 were being removed from’s “find a travel test provider” page altogether.

Brands will be removed from the list if they fail to take action within three days of strike one as part of the new two-strike policy, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.

“It is absolutely unacceptable for any private testing company to be taking advantage of holidaymakers and today’s action clamps down on this cowboy behaviour,” Mr Javid said in a statement about the issue.

Helen Coffey23 August 2021 08:57


Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s travel liveblog, bringing you all the latest news and updates.

Helen Coffey23 August 2021 08:50

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Live Travel news latest: European hotels ‘turning away’ UK bookings as distrust grows over traffic lights – The Telegraph

Live Travel news latest: European hotels ‘turning away’ UK bookings as distrust grows over traffic lights  The Telegraph

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UPDATE 1-United Airlines revenue tops estimates as travel rebounds, sees 3rd-quarter turning point

(Adds third quarter forecast, background, share move)

By Tracy Rucinski

CHICAGO, July 20 (Reuters) – United Airlines reported its sixth consecutive quarterly loss on Tuesday due to the coronavirus pandemic, though revenue quadrupled from a year ago and topped estimates with a strong domestic travel rebound.

U.S. leisure travel has nearly recovered to pre-pandemic levels as more people fly for vacation or to visit friends and family following a massive nationwide vaccination campaign.

Chicago-based United said it will continue ramping up flying in the third quarter and forecast its total unit revenue – comparing sales to flight capacity – for the period will be higher than the same quarter in 2019, a turning point for the airline.

The company said business and long-haul international travel, to which it is more exposed than rivals, accelerated faster than anticipated, and it expects a full recovery in demand by 2023.

United’s adjusted net loss narrowed to $1.26 billion, or $3.91 per share, in the quarter, from $2.6 billion, or $9.31 per share, a year ago. Analysts had estimated a loss of $3.94, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Excluding items, the company lost $434 million in the second quarter. United has said it expects to be profitable in the third and fourth quarter.

United’s second-quarter adjusted operating revenue rose to $5.47 billion from about $1.47 billion a year ago, above analysts’ average estimate of $5.35 billion.

U.S. airlines have played down concerns over the impact of a resurgence in COVID-19, spurred by the more contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus, which has become dominant in the United States and many other nations.

United’s quarterly revenue was just half of the roughly $10 billion it booked in the same quarter of 2019 before the pandemic jolted the travel industry.

Its shares slipped 0.5% to $46.08 in extended trading after the U.S. airline index had its largest daily percentage gain on Tuesday since November.

As demand returns, U.S. airlines – which benefited from $54 billion in federal COVID-19 aid for workers’ salaries – have rushed to restore their operations.

United last month unveiled its largest-ever aircraft order for 270 jets in a push to boost its domestic capacity by almost 30% and better compete for both premium and low-cost travel.

It has also announced a string of investments related to sustainability and innovation as airlines face renewed scrutiny over their environmental impact.

Rival Delta Air Lines last week reported a quarterly profit. American Airlines and Southwest Airlines are due to report on Thursday.

United will discuss the results with analysts and investors on Wednesday. (Reporting by Tracy Rucinski; additional reporting by Rodrigo Campos Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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Vacations turning into nightmares as travel companies fail to meet demand

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP/KSNW) — Mega-heatwaves have baked the country this season, with some forty-million people experiencing spikes into the triple digits. Some areas in the western U.S. saw temperatures 15-to-20 degrees above average over the past week, complicating drought and energy shortages.

In Massachusetts, energy consumption is approximately 40% greater during the hot summer months. If you’re not conserving energy, the temperatures may not be the only thing rising—so could your energy bill if you’re trying to beat the heat. To keep your bill low, try keeping your air conditioner setting as warm as possible. For every degree higher on the thermostat, the air conditioner will use 1% to 3% less electricity.

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Elon Musk is Turning Boca Chica Into a Space-Travel Hub. Not Everyone is Starstruck. – Texas Monthly

Perhaps in the distant future historians in far-flung corners of the solar system will note that the twenty-first-century Texas space program did not get off to a particularly strong start. The first proper test of the Starship, the (aspirationally) reusable rocket offered by the SpaceX corporation and launched from the southern tip of the Lone Star State, took place on December 9, 2020. The rocket climbed some 41,000 feet, halted as it was supposed to, and returned to its landing pad—much too rapidly. Crunch.

The second test, in February, crunched too. The next, on March 3, appeared to land mostly intact but exploded eight minutes later. On March 30, the fourth test didn’t even make it back to the pad: near the apogee of its flight, it blew up with a calamitous boom, spreading shrapnel more than five miles afield. “Looks like we’ve had another exciting test,” announced  the sheepish narrator on SpaceX’s official livestream. “Flying debris and pieces of Starship; there’s stuff smoking on the ground in front of the camera!” said the host of a privately run livestream, one of many catering to the company’s fans, its lens pointed at the landing pad in the town of Boca Chica as steel chunks rained down with frightening velocity. Oh, the humanity!

A little more than two weeks after the last catastrophic failure, NASA officials—those dinosaurs at the federal space program—announced a $2.9 billion contract with SpaceX to use a variant of the Starship as the landing vehicle for NASA’s future missions to the moon. Elon Musk, the company’s brilliant and eccentric founder and CEO—and since December 2020, a resident, at least for tax purposes, of Austin—has long described the Starship tests as an iterative process. SpaceX expects failures, and it hopes to learn from them. On May 5 the Starship finally had a soft landing—though a fire, successfully extinguished, broke out on the landing pad. Still, Musk has a history of overpromising. In September 2019, for example, he predicted that the Starship would be flying earthlings into orbit by the end of 2020. Now, NASA expects him to have the rocket ready to touch down on the lunar surface with astronauts on board within the next few years.

Musk has never been to space, but he seems curiously unbounded by the laws of gravity. In the past decade, he has been at the center of a succession of stories—exploding rockets, spontaneously combusting Teslas, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigations, and a defamation case brought by the hero of the 2018 Thai cave rescue, whom Musk baselessly called a pedophile—from which he only emerges stronger. He has an army of passionate fans and an army of passionate detractors, both of which he enjoys juicing up. He is—on some days, depending on Tesla’s stock price—the world’s richest man, and he warps time and space around him like a bowling ball on a trampoline. There is perhaps no place where his weight is felt more than in Boca Chica, the unincorporated bayside community just north of where the Rio Grande trickles into the Gulf of Mexico. Before Musk arrived in 2014, Boca Chica was home to some of the most unspoiled beaches in Texas, along with a wide variety of threatened and endangered species and a modest community of some forty homes. In just a few years, a small SpaceX launchpad built near the beach, amid a wildlife refuge, has turned into a sprawling compound with hundreds of workers, assembly facilities, and rocket fuel storage tanks. In Boca Chica village, the company ushered out residents, many of them retirees, with what some locals claim were heavy-handed tactics, pressuring them to sell their homes. Local bird populations are under strain as human activity ramps up. During tests, public beaches are frequently closed with little warning or notice. 

In exchange, Cameron County is becoming a mecca for Musk fans and space enthusiasts from around the world—and may, indeed, have become an unlikely launchpad to the solar system. Many local elected officials and business leaders in Brownsville see SpaceX as a way to give one of the poorest counties in the state a future. A mural with Musk’s face adorns Brownsville’s downtown, and the city is beginning to see the benefits of his patronage. About an hour after the explosion on March 30, Musk tweeted that he was donating $20 million to area schools and $10 million to the city of Brownsville.

For better or worse, Boca Chica belongs to Elon now. He’s even come up with a new name for the town. “Creating the city of Starbase, Texas,” he tweeted in March, “From thence to Mars, and hence the stars.” Local officials gently reminded the billionaire that he had to ask for permission first. 

A trailer park owned by SpaceX on the west side of Boca Chica village.
A trailer park owned by SpaceX on the west side of Boca Chica village.Photograph by Eli Durst

It’s a gray day in April, and the wind is whipping so hard the surf has surged over State Highway 4, the only road that connects Boca Chica to Brownsville. I’ve come to meet Stephanie Bilodeau, a biologist with the nonprofit Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program. “I used to love coming to work here, before all of this started happening. It was so pristine out in the flats,” she tells me. “There was never anybody out here. Now people come out just to see this,” she says, indicating SpaceX’s latest rocket, which looms over the landscape.

Originally from Vermont and now based in Harlingen, Bilodeau has spent nearly every week since 2017 at Boca Chica, surveying the populations of birds that depend on the mud flats, beaches, and wetlands here to feed, breed, or rest during migration. “Elon always said this was the place to launch rockets because there’s nothing here, that it’s just a big wasteland,” she says. “But that’s just not true. It’s an amazing place for shorebirds. It’s got to be one of the best places for shorebirds in the country.”

Glance at a map, and it’s not immediately clear why this place is special. As the sandpiper flies, it’s not far from the bustling Port of Brownsville and South Padre’s hotels, kitschy shops, and beach bars. But the port’s long ship channel cuts off Boca Chica from the north, while the Rio Grande cuts it off from the south. In between is a wedge of land accessible by the two-lane State Highway 4, which is guarded by a Border Patrol checkpoint. It can feel very remote.

Much of the land here is part of the 10,680-acre Boca Chica tract of the Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge. Kemp’s ridley turtles, the most endangered sea turtles in the world, nest on the beaches; dolphins swim in the nearby Laguna Madre. The only remaining breeding population of ocelots in the United States lives here. The last confirmed sighting of a jaguarundi in the U.S. happened nearby, in 1986, and there are rumors some may remain.

It is the birds, though, that set Boca Chica apart: egrets, falcons, pelicans, plovers, sandpipers, sparrows, and warblers, among others. There are many species of birds in the Rio Grande Valley that can’t be found anywhere else in the U.S. But it’s a hard time for shorebirds up and down the Gulf Coast. Too much development, too many vehicles, a changing climate. The Boca Chica portion of the wildlife refuge is intended to provide a sanctuary.  

When SpaceX first proposed a launch site in Boca Chica, the company suggested that its footprint would be minimal. After buying up tracts of private land amid the wildlife refuge, SpaceX told regulatory agencies that it planned to launch its proven Falcon rockets at the site, along with the Falcon Heavy, the same rocket, with boosters attached. An environmental impact review conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration found that the project was “not likely to jeopardize the continued existence” of sea turtles, ocelots, and other species. But after federal and state authorities gave their approval and construction began, SpaceX changed its plans. Instead of launching the Falcon, the company would use the site as a test facility to develop its much larger and louder Starship and the Starship Super Heavy configuration. The FAA approved the company’s expanded operations, though it is now considering whether a new environmental study is required. 

If the Falcon is a cigarette, the Starship is a Churchill cigar. The Falcon Heavy puts out about 5.1 million pounds of thrust; the Starship Super Heavy is projected to have more than 16 million pounds of thrust. Even when the Starship doesn’t blow up, it shakes the ground for miles in every direction. Scientists say the shock waves could potentially cause deafness or brain damage in birds; the rocket engines spit out combusted chemicals. In the aftermath of the March 30 test, there were “a couple hundred people on foot picking up debris,” Bilodeau told me, but there was still a lot of junk around two weeks later when I toured the area with her. Large chunks of twisted steel littered the tidal flats, some of them sticking out of the water. Heavy equipment may be needed to remove some of the bigger pieces.

Celia Garcia outside her home in Boca Chica.

Celia Garcia outside her home.

Photograph by Eli Durst

A yellow-headed blackbird spotted in Boca Chica.

A yellow-headed blackbird spotted in Boca Chica.

Photograph by Eli Durst

Left: Celia Garcia outside her home.

Photograph by Eli Durst

Top: A yellow-headed blackbird spotted in Boca Chica.

Photograph by Eli Durst

This time of year, Bilodeau is looking for snowy plovers, wading birds that stand six inches tall and weigh little more than an ounce. Their young are speckled puffballs whose bodies are barely bigger than their legs. They’re not yet endangered, but their numbers have been falling quickly. “In the general vicinity of the launchpad, we’ve seen a decline in the number of nests,” Bilodeau says. Where she used to find dozens, she has this year found just one, far down the beach from the launchpad. It’s not just the rocket launches that are disrupting wildlife, she says, but also the attendant “traffic, the construction, the presence of people, the noise.”

Birding is big business in the Rio Grande Valley, an international destination for avian aficionados. One estimate has it that birding adds about $460 million to the local economy every year. Bilodeau knows many in Brownsville are thrilled to have SpaceX here and may not even be aware of the birds. But it’s hard for her not to be emotionally invested. A few years ago, before SpaceX activity picked up, she watched one snowy plover try, and fail, to build a nest and produce hatchlings six times. “It was hard not to be rooting for her to succeed,” she says. Though the nest failures were due to natural causes, she worries about all the new threats. 

SpaceX has plans to expand its facilities and launch rockets more frequently. The company is building an orbital launchpad, which will be the tallest building in the region. Musk envisions Starbase, Texas, as a much larger company town to support his projects—with more workers, more housing, more traffic, more visitors. “I just don’t see how they can build a city here. There’s not enough room,” Bilodeau says.

It’s unclear whether Musk is aware of any of the complaints, but he has offered a solution. The night before I walked the beach with Bilodeau, Musk tweeted: “If we make life multiplanetary, there may come a day when some plants & animals die out on Earth, but are still alive on Mars.” I ask Bilodeau if she can foresee the snowy plover nesting on the red planet. “Probably not,” she says.

Space X village
A SpaceX house.Photograph by Eli Durst

Boca Chica village sits in the shadow of the SpaceX compound. Just a few years ago the village was little more than two streets of a few dozen one-story houses and a shrine to the Virgin Mary. Celia Garcia, a retiree in her seventies, bought two houses in Boca Chica in 1992 and 2003. She moved into one in 2019, intending to spend her retirement there, and planned to use the other as a rental home to supplement her social security checks.

“It was our heaven, our little piece of heaven that God gave us,” she said. “And then with SpaceX, everything changed.” Before SpaceX barreled into town, Garcia’s house, which looks out over South Bay a mile and a half from the beach, was part of a place with a strong sense of community and abundant wildlife. Today, she said, “you’ll see more roadkill than you see animals that are alive roaming the area.”

After 2018 the company built infrastructure on all three sides of the village: a solar farm to the south, a company-run RV park with chic Airstream trailers to the west, and storage facilities to the east, behind the shrine to the Virgin. Agents for SpaceX urged the villagers to sell quickly while the county officials publicly warned that eminent domain could be used if they refused. Some residents say the offers were not generous, though they were coming, indirectly, from one of the richest men on the planet. Some accepted the buyouts because living under the shadow of the company had become so onerous. “It was as if I didn’t own my own home,” said Cheryl Stevens, who sold her house in 2019. Garcia says she will only accept a buyout if it’s sufficient for her to buy replacement homes near the water. SpaceX declined to comment for this article. My multiple attempts to reach County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. and county commissioner Sofia Benavides, who represents Boca Chica on the Cameron County Commissioners Court, were unsuccessful.

Each launch is preceded by a series of tests, which are often announced on short notice and then delayed. For safety reasons, the county orders residents to evacuate their homes and closes State Highway 4, along with the public beach. The tests, and explosions, often break windows in the village. And because the county government was so steadfastly behind SpaceX, Stevens said, “there was absolutely nobody that wanted to hear” about what the villagers were going through, “nobody that cared.”

Today, what’s left of the town exists in a strange kind of superposition between the old and the new, Boca Chica village and Starbase. Some houses—eleven, by Garcia’s count—are still owned by the old residents, gently worn and painted in earth tones. The rest have been repainted black and white and gray. All the new homes sport Tesla chargers in front.

Many visitors travel long distances to see the SpaceX Starship.
Many visitors travel long distances to see the SpaceX Starship.Photograph by Eli Durst

Though Texas is  strongly identified with the space program, it only got one piece of the pie when NASA doled out patronage in its early years: the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, now the Johnson Space Center. Alabama designed the rockets, Louisiana built them, and Florida launched them. SpaceX, on the other hand, tests its engines in McGregor, near Waco, and assembles and launches rockets in Boca Chica. And someday, perhaps, astronauts launched from South Texas will take orders from Houston again. There’s also Blue Origin, a lagging competitor of SpaceX owned by Amazon magnate Jeff Bezos, which is testing rockets near Van Horn, 120 miles east of El Paso. After a decade of doldrums following the end of the space shuttle program, Texas is back in the business of space.

And so, perhaps, is Cameron County, where more than a third of the children live in poverty. Josh Mejia, the executive director of the Brownsville Community Investment Corporation, says the economic benefits of SpaceX have helped insulate the city from the COVID-19-related recession. UT–Rio Grande Valley has its own building at the SpaceX compound, where researchers work on a project called STARGATE—that’s Spacecraft Tracking and Astronomical Research into Gigahertz Astrophysical Transient Emission, as you might have guessed. Mejia, who grew up in Brownsville but left as an adult to pursue opportunities elsewhere, hopes the boom will help reverse the region’s brain drain. There are the jobs, of course, but also the sense of possibility SpaceX brings. In December, he watched with awe from the roof of city hall as the Starship took off for the first time. “To see that shimmery rocket go up, and to even see it blow up, from as far away as we were, it was a sight to see,” he said. 

It is also bringing a new kind of visitor to the area. Among the trickle of gawkers and picture-takers on the day I visit are Frank Gugliuzzi, of Canada, and Noé Bugmann, of Switzerland. The two men recently met by chance at the construction site of Tesla’s new Gigafactory, outside Austin. Bugmann is quiet and pensive, Gugliuzzi giddy with excitement. Having bonded over enthusiasm for Musk and his products, they decided to caravan together to Boca Chica (Gugliuzzi drove his Ontario-plated Tesla Model 3). Their week in South Texas has been thrilling; last night, Musk responded to one of Gugliuzzi’s tweets, a video of the Gigafactory, shot from a drone. Guliuz-
zi is considering moving to Texas.

The pair stare up at the rocket on its pad. It is a handsome ship, made from shiny stainless steel. Its broad fins make it look like a spaceship that a comic book artist in the fifties might have drawn, phallic in an uncomplicated way. The facility is thick with tanks and silos of liquid oxygen and methane. Gizmos spin and whir. Gugliuzzi says they may stay in Brownsville until this Starship launches, which could be more than a week away. “I wish I could stand right here when it launches,” he says. “It would probably be pretty hot.” Nearby, another group of onlookers clambers out of their car. What does this place mean to Gugliuzzi and Bugmann, I ask? What could draw these two so far from home? Gugliuzzi laughs and shrugs, as if the answer is obvious. “It’s the future.”

This article originally appeared in the June 2021 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “Flight Risks.” Subscribe today.

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Allegiant ‘bullish’ about summer travel, after turning small profit | News

Allegiant Travel Company, the parent of ultra-low-cost carrier Allegiant Air, turned a slim profit in the first three months of the year as the company prepares for a busy summer with a “bullish” outlook.

“Based on the data we are seeing, I can say, we are back,” the company’s chief executive Maury Gallagher tells analysts on the company’s quarterly earnings results call on 4 May.

The Las Vegas-based carrier reports it earned $6.9 million in the first quarter of 2020, compared to a $33 million loss for the same quarter in 2020, just as the coronavirus pandemic was beginning to make itself felt around the world. In the fourth quarter of 2020, the company had reported a loss of $29 million.

Allegiant Air’s Airbus A320s (April 2019)

Revenue for the first three months of 2021 was $279 million, down 32% from the same quarter in 2020.

But signs of improvement and a sustainable recovery are mounting, executives say. Potential passengers are booking tickets in numbers that align with 2019 trends, and they are also planning further ahead with their air travel.

“The momentum reported last quarter picked up in earnest towards the back half of the first quarter with booking trends showing meaningful improvement,” says Gallagher. “I could not be more bullish on our outlook. Going forward our full-year, 2021 capacity should exceed 2019 capacity levels.”

In the first quarter of the year, capacity was 3.1% above that of pre-pandemic 2019, Gallagher adds.

“Booking trends have been particularly impressive with average daily bookings for the months of March and April exceeding the same time period in 2019,” he says.

The booking curve – the amount of time between when a customer books a flight and the date of that travel – seems to be extending further into the future, meaning potential customers are more confident of plans they can make with more advance notice, Allegiant adds.

“April’s results came in as strong as March helped by a ten-point increase in load factor from 54% to 64%. We expect capacity in the coming months will be equal to or greater than our 2019 levels,” the company adds.

The carrier ended the quarter with 100 aircraft in its all-Airbus fleet, and expects to end the second quarter with five more. By the end of the year the airline will have 108 aircraft in its fleet, executives say. Allegiant will cut five 177-seat A320s from its fleet as it adds 13 of the higher-density 186-seat A320 aircraft.

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Closure Of In-Store Travel Agencies Marks A Turning Point In Travel Retail, Says GlobalData

COVID-19 has accelerated the digitization of the travel agent model, creating more shop closures as in-store agencies switch operations online. This is a necessary adaptation to changing consumer preferences, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Johanna Bonhill-Smith, Travel & Tourism Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “The long-term survival of in-store travel agencies has been discussed for several years due to the rising popularity of online bookings. Success in 2021 will largely depend on good levels of cash-flow, an area in which online travel agents (OTAs) continue to be a step ahead of traditional brick and mortar style agencies, thanks to their asset light business models.”

Only 17% of global respondents in *GlobalData’s Q3 2019 consumer survey declared they booked with an in-store travel agent, showing that prior to COVID-19, booking in-store was already decreasing in popularity. A more recent **GlobalData survey in December 2020 found that 47% of global respondents would buy more products online rather than visiting a store and 60% would do banking transactions online in the ‘new normal’.

Bonhill-Smith continues: “Lack of revenue and high demand for refunds has taken its toll on many traditional travel agencies. High fixed costs including high street rents would have depleted cash reserves further for in-store agents in comparison to OTAs. Store closures were considered essential for many to simply stay afloat during 2020 and some have been made permanent.”

STA Travel, a long-haul flight specialist with more than 50 shops in the UK, had to cease trading in August 2020 as costs were racking up at a time when there was little income. Flight Centre closed 421 out of 740 of its stores during COVID-19, while Hays Travel has declared it expects to operate a ‘hybrid’ return to retail with some shops reopening and others to remain closed in relation to the UK Government’s roadmap. Many staff have declared they are happy to work from home, which may see more permanent shop closures as a result. Tour operator TUI is the most recent to announce it plans to close a further 48 branches in 2021. This, in addition to the 166 TUI shops that were shut in 2020, leaves the company with around 314 branches as it aims to digitize its operations.

Bonhill-Smith adds: “It now boils down to survival of the fittest. The rollout of vaccinations worldwide, coupled with the supposed release of digital vaccine passports, has offered a beacon of hope for the travel sector. However, the news of new variants of COVID-19, coupled with ongoing lockdowns across Europe, suggests 2021 will still be a year that is far from normal.

“Traditional in-store travel agencies have been increasingly under pressure to develop their online directories to remain competitive within the global marketplace. The lower the fixed costs for travel agencies, the greater flexibility they will have in servicing the future travel space. Therefore, more shop closures are likely to follow as we enter the so-called ‘new normal’.”

*GlobalData’s Global Q3 2019 consumer survey (29,744 respondents)

**GlobalData’s COVID-19 Recovery Survey (2nd – 6th December 2020) (5,766 respondents)

About GlobalData

4,000 of the world’s largest companies, including over 70% of FTSE 100 and 60% of Fortune 100 companies, make more timely and better business decisions thanks to GlobalData’s unique data, expert analysis and innovative solutions, all in one platform. GlobalData’s mission is to help our clients decode the future to be more successful and innovative across a range of industries, including the healthcare, consumer, retail, financial, technology and professional services sectors.

GlobalData | LinkedIn | Twitter

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Nonprofit Spotlight: Turning canceled travel to community investment | Local News

“We have always loved serving local wines at the bar in the Patron’s Garden before PCPA performances and live music concerts,” Lois said, “so we will be lending our names to that bar. What better way to use cancelled travel funds than to pass along the joy of live performance to future generations.”

During the pandemic year, Lily Carey was able to give generously to a number of nonprofits, including Direct Relief International, UCSB Arts & Lectures, local Rotary, and Theaterfest. Lily sees all types of performance arts as “necessary for everyone’s sanity.”

But she has an additional reason to support live theater: Her grandfather, Harry Carey — who appeared in movies alongside John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart — was a playwright and acted in New York theater before coming to Hollywood. So Lily looks with special affection at the PCPA performers who take the stage of Solvang Festival Theater each summer.

“The performers are fantastic,” Lily said. “Even judged against performers in major cities, they are amazing. Besides,” she continued, “this wonderful outdoor theater is the gem of the Valley — as a community we have to do whatever it takes to be sure it will continue to thrive.”

Valley residents Bill and Kelley Brennan were vacationing in New Zealand last March when borders began to close due to the pandemic. Having to leave New Zealand early was a huge disappointment, but the travel company did come through with a refund.

As more and more activities closed here at home, the Brennans had time to reflect on the many summer evenings they’d enjoyed over the years at the Solvang Festival Theater — sitting under the stars, sipping wine, catching up with friends and neighbors. “It just seemed right,” Kelley said, “to put this travel refund toward helping to rebuild the theater, doing our part to ensure professional live theater and music for future generations of Valley residents and tourists.”

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business trip

Turning Travel Banks Into Good Works

Like many organizations with managed travel programs, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation amid the Covid-19 pandemic found itself with an excess of unused air tickets far outweighing its travel needs for the foreseeable future. Asking for refunds, however, didn’t seem to fit the spirit of partnership the foundation wanted with its suppliers, as they dealt with their own financial difficulties, including layoffs and furloughs, said senior manager of global travel Stephen Gheerow.

“We thought about how it impacts us from a financial perspective, and it was money we had already budgeted and spent,” said Gheerow. “We didn’t want to go back to our partners and say, ‘Give us the money,’ because that would impact their financials as well.”

Working with supplier partners, Gheerow and his team were able to convert those unused tickets into charitable donations to four organizations aligning with its mission.

In all, the foundation has donated about $140,000 in unused tickets divided evenly across four organizations to use for their own travel needs. Unused Delta Air Lines funds went to three organizations: Feeding America, a nonprofit network of more than 200 food banks across the United States; GLAAD, a media advocacy group that promotes understanding and acceptance of the LGBTQ community; and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, an Atlanta museum dedicated to the achievements of both the U.S. civil rights movement as well as global human rights movements. Unused American Airlines funds went to Cool Effect, an organization that supports projects to reduce carbon pollution and counteract climate change.

“We thought about our culture as an organization, what we stand for and the work we do, and we went to our partners and asked to take those funds to donate to like-minded organizations that aligned with our cultural values,” Gheerow said.

This is not a heavy lift on resources, so it’s not something out of reach for most organizations that have these types of tickets in their banks.”

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Stephen Gheerow

Making it Happen

The foundation first brought its idea to Delta, with which it had the largest volume of unused tickets, to vet it and make sure it was feasible, Gheerow said. As an additional appeal, the foundation intended to select as beneficiaries organizations that shared Delta’s values as well as the foundation’s. Delta indicated it was behind the idea “100 percent,” Gheerow said.

“It was very easy for us,” said Scott Santoro, Delta VP for Los Angeles and Western sales. “The team had a good idea, and these are partnerships that have the same values as Delta.”

With Delta eagerly on board, Gheerow then sought the internal buy-in necessary for the project to move forward, starting with his own travel team.

The finance and budget team was another key partner, as Gheerow wanted to be sure that the funds being donated were not accounted for in the current year’s budget. As it turned out, as the tickets already had been expensed, the finance team considered it money spent, so there was no issue there.

The foundation’s legal team was important to ensure the legality and associated liability around the donations as well as tax implications, he said. 

Gheerow consulted with the foundation’s communications group, too. “They had a lot of questions, as they wanted to run it internally and see if it aligned with any existing work and also make sure this initiative spoke to our organization’s culture,” he said. That in turn helped prepare for future internal communications around the project and, eventually, external communications, as they expected suppliers would be excited to share the story with the public.

The foundation’s travel management company, CWT, also was a crucial partner, Gheerow said.

“They would be tasked with running reports and gathering information to make sure tickets were still valid, because so much was still fluid at the beginning of 2020,” he said. “Then, you also have domestic versus international, rules regarding use and validity of nonrefundable tickets and a lot of nuances in the mix. CWT helped us navigate that piece.”

For the donation, Delta waived all associated fees, such as name change fees, and the funds were given to the charity on Universal Air Travel Plan cards. UATP has facilitated charitable donations for decades, so it was simple to facilitate, UATP president and CEO Ralph Kaiser said.

With the Delta donation in place, the foundation was ready to expand on the project, Gheerow said. The team decided to focus on domestic carriers, as the bulk of its nonrefundable ticket volume was on them, and American was the next to come to the table.

The environment is a big focus area for the foundation—it made carbon offsets a part of its airline contracts a few years ago—so the team wanted the next donation to be for an environmental organization. American had an established partnership with Cool Effect, so it was a natural choice, Gheerow said. Like Delta, American was thrilled to work with the foundation on the donation, said Kyle Mabry, who recently was promoted to VP of global sales for the carrier.

“The heroes here are really the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but we’re happy to be playing a supporting role in what they are doing and facilitate this generous donation,” Mabry said.

We go to the projects, review them, talk to the locals, talk to the management team and check on the secondary benefits and science. … This is where the unused tickets are going to be a huge advantage for us.”

Cool Effect’s Jodi Manning

Making a Difference

Part of the vetting process in choosing the recipient organizations was confirming that they had essential travel needs, Gheerow said. As such, the donation of flight credits has the same impact as a direct cash donation, as the organizations can redirect funds they had set aside to pay for travel to instead go directly to the work they do.

“We did not get into any deep dives and stipulate how they would spend the UATP dollars, but we vetted to know they had both travel needs and a managed travel program, and that the funds would be put to use,” he said.

For Cool Effect, the funds are solving some immediate needs, said Jodi Manning, the organization’s VP and director of marketing and partnerships. Cool Effect aims to support projects that are of the highest quality, and in order to ensure that, it conducts annual site visits to review its projects, she said.

“We want to make sure both the buyer and the seller understand what is being paid and who is getting the money,” Manning said. “We go to the projects, review them, talk to the locals, talk to the management team and check on the secondary benefits and science. We have a whole team that does that work, and this is where the unused tickets are going to be a huge advantage for us.”

In particular, one project is working to restore 157,000 hectares of peat swamp ecosystem in Indonesia. The work provides clean water, prevents peat fires and preserves the habitat for the endangered Bornean orangutan and proboscis monkey, according to Cool Effect.

The organization had been planning its annual visit to that project when the Covid-19 pandemic first hit, and it will be the first that they visit once travel resumes, Manning said.

Making it Grow

As more companies over the past year have renewed social responsibility commitments amid the pandemic and social justice movements across the United States this past summer, unused tickets could be a simple source to fulfill those commitments.

The foundation already is not alone in its efforts. Deloitte recently announced it would be donating about $1 million in its unused balances across multiple airlines both to help frontline workers reach Covid-19 hotspots and to facilitate transportation of medical suppliers and protective equipment. This includes $90,000 in unused American Airlines credits to Team Rubicon, a nonprofit that taps military veterans to lead disaster relief efforts.

UATP’s Kaiser said that there a billions of dollars remaining in unused tickets floating about. The network is available to facilitate regardless of the original form of payment or whether a carrier is a UATP issuer, he said.

Both American’s Mabry and Delta’s Santoro said they are seeing increasing interest in donations from clients, and thanks to early adopters like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the framework is in place. “As a result of this idea, we’ve given every sales representative the ability to use it at this moment in time,” Santoro said.

Gheerow also had approached his other major domestic carriers regarding the donations idea, and while they were not able to facilitate them at that time, they were cooperative in working with the foundation on its unused funds, and at least one of them has since put a donation program in place.

Gheerow said he’d like to see it extend beyond the pandemic, as even before the myriad Covid-19 cancellations, it was fairly typical for companies to end the year with some balance of unused tickets. The U.S. carriers during the pandemic have permanently ended most change fees, which also will make it easier going forward.

Although the foundation at its heart is a charitable organization, the unused ticket donation boils down to the equivalent of about a $140,000 charitable donation, Gheerow said.

“This is not millions of dollars in donations and is not a heavy lift on resources, so it’s not something out of reach for most organizations that have these types of tickets in their banks,” he said. “Maybe this could be a template moving forward.” 

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8 Tips For Turning Camping Into Glamping

It’s no secret that many of us are turning to the great outdoors for travel and adventure — perhaps more so now than ever before. And while getting up close and personal with Mother Nature can certainly give us more than our share of incredible scenery and experiences, a typical tent stay doesn’t necessarily appeal to everyone.

So why not consider transforming camping … to glamping? With a few relatively low-cost tweaks, you can be a lot more comfortable when you’re sleeping out under the stars! Here are a few of our favorite tips and tricks to take your outdoor accommodations to the next level, and boost your overall enjoyment … especially if you’re not terribly in touch with your roughing-it side.

1. Plan For Plenty Of Room

The first thing you’ll want to consider is your tent. We recently opted to purchase a new tent and decided we wanted plenty of headroom, plus ample space for our gear. We are car campers — and set up a basecamp as opposed to backpacking — so we didn’t need our tent to be light as a feather or overly compact. Claustrophobia isn’t our thing, and, let’s face it, it’s not exactly luxe or comfortable to have to crawl into your sleeping space, either. We ended up purchasing Coleman’s 8-person Montana dome tent. There was plenty of room for our small family, our accessories, and our pampered pooch (and yes, we brought his bed for him as well!). We really liked the tent’s large screened and zippered windows, and how easy it was to put together. All in all, it was a winner, and the price for us — occasional glampers — couldn’t be beat.

2. Choose Your Sleeping Setup Carefully

Even in a nice, spacious tent, you’re still going to be sleeping on the hard ground unless you plan ahead, and we’re talking beyond the typical backpacking sleeping bag or mat. In our minds, a good air mattress is a must. While they are a bit heavy and bulky — even folded up — they make an enormous amount of difference in the quality of sleep you’ll get during your camping experience. You’ll want something tough that can stand up to uneven ground without running the risk of a puncture or leak. Some models specifically designed for camping come with built-in pumps, but we just brought our guest air mattress from home. Queen-sized and extra plush, it worked just as well to elevate our experience. We consider this an essential key to glamping!

Also, leaving the sleeping bags behind and actually making up your bed with plush pillows and nicer linens adds a luxe touch to your tent. Sure, it’s an extra set-up step, but won’t take much time and will help to make you feel that much more comfortable.

Pro Tip: Make sure you bring extra batteries that fit your air mattress pump in case you burn through them. A semi-inflated air mattress is no fun.

3. Throw It Down

Consider bringing a couple of small inexpensive throw rugs with you when it’s time to pack for your glamping trip. They are functional — you’ll want to take your boots or shoes off before entering your tent to prevent tears or rips on the floor — but also help make the space, inside and out, look a little more, well … homey. Consider adding one inside by the side of your bed (or beds) for a little extra style and comfort. It’s pleasant not to feel plastic on your bare feet first thing in the morning, especially if it’s a bit chilly.

4. Light It Up!

This is one of our favorite tips. Sure, the stars will be bright, and if you’re lucky, the moon full, but there’s just something about the extra glow of lanterns! We love the solar Solvinden lanterns available at IKEA. They are super-light, squish down to nothing, and come with hooks so you can hang them inside or outside your tent, as well as from nearby tree branches. The next morning, just make sure they get direct sunlight and recharge so they’ll be ready to glow all over again. Solar string lights are also fun to hang around your campsite, just make sure to also give them the light they need to recharge. For a small, stylish lantern for inside your tent, check out the Black Diamond Moji Lantern. It’s adorable, functional and throws off enough light to allow you to easily read a book in your comfy tent long after the campfire burns down. It’s also stylish enough that you might just make it part of your at-home decor, too!

5. Don’t Be Afraid To Accessorize

After a long day on the lake, hiking on the trails, or exploring the shore, there’s something really reassuring about coming back to a camp that’s welcoming, comfortable, and feels like a haven instead of a reality-show survival competition! As you start to assemble your glamping pieces, don’t be afraid to coordinate. Matching colors to complementary patterns when considering linens, rugs, pillows, and other items will help create a soothing space for you to hang your hat each night after all that outdoor adventure.

Pro Tip: One of our favorite outdoors-meets-indoors accessories for the tent is a small, colorful, and lightweight bedside table. These little places to stash your lantern, a glass of water, or a favorite book help make that tent feel more like home.

6. Bring Your Favorite Foodie Snacks

We all love s’mores and hot dogs, but if you want a little more than a kid’s menu to go along with your glamping, don’t hesitate to meal plan. Your favorite foodie staples will actually fit right into your weekend. Marinated chicken and steak keep well in the cooler and can be easily grilled to perfection over a campfire or pit (just be sure to make sure you’ve got plenty of ice on hand, or access to it, to ensure food safety). Your favorite salads can easily be assembled and sealed in glass Mason jars and dressed and tossed when ready to serve. Many favorite foodie items — including crudites, cheese, and charcuterie, can also easily be prepped ahead of time and tucked into a corner of your cooler. And yet others, including nuts, crackers, cornichons, and olives, don’t need any special storage at all. Bottom line: Going fancy on the food isn’t that difficult.

Also, there’s no hard and fast beverage rule for glamping. If you love beer, by all means, bring your favorites. But remember — some terrific wine also now comes in cans or even eco-pouches. During a recent trip, we brought along Underwood pinot noir and bubbly rose. We didn’t worry about fussing with a bottle, the wines paired well with our food, and they were easy on the budget, to boot!

One last dining tip: Think about bringing a tablecloth and even inexpensive plastic, reusable dishes and barware. Not only does it make your table more elegant, but it’s easier on the earth, too!

7. Choose Your Tunes

Nothing sets a mood like a well-curated playlist. Pre-load one onto your phone, bring along a small Bluetooth speaker, and prepare to relax and unwind to your favorite music. The beauty of this set-up is that it relies on short-range radio-waves, not an internet connection. So even if you’re in the middle of nowhere, you can still enjoy a fabulous soundtrack out under the stars!

8. Invite The Outdoors In (To A Point!)

Staying near a lake, river, or — lucky you — an ocean? Bring shells, pretty rocks, or sea glass back to decorate your dining or play space. Hiking the woods? Grab a fistful of flowers (if permitted, of course!) and throw them into an empty can or jar for an extra style point on tables or inside your tent.

Elevating a ho-hum camping experience into a luxe glamp isn’t that tough — it just takes a little bit of extra planning and panache. Investing in just a few pieces, and using what you have on hand at home, makes all the difference in the overall experience. Try it, we think you’ll agree!

One last thing: There’s nothing at all glamourous about being attacked by critters during your adventure. Make sure to zip up your tent screen immediately as you’re entering or exiting to prevent mosquitoes from spoiling the mood. Also, be sure to keep your cooler locked in your vehicle overnight to make sure your food and other staples aren’t raided or ruined by overnight bandits like raccoons — and consider bringing along fabric softening sheets. They repel animals and keep your tent smelling fresh!

Oh, and if you’d rather have your glampsite set up for you, consider these awesome glamping spots:

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