American Airlines flight from Australia to Los Angeles canceled after crew member tests positive for COVID-19 – USA TODAY



American Airlines flight from Australia to Los Angeles canceled after crew member tests positive for COVID-19  USA TODAY



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United, Alaska Airlines CEOs note positive cash flow, booming travel demand


United, Alaska Airlines CEOs note positive cash flow, booming travel demand

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USC Students Test Positive for COVID After Spring Break Travel – NBC Los Angeles


Wild party scenes like one in Miami might be a big draw to college students, but USC officials are advising against it after 39 USC students tested positive for COVID.

Students tested positive for COVID-19 after traveling to popular spring break destinations like Mexico and Florida.

The student health director is warning students to avoid flying until cases are better under control.

“When we jump to that kind of activity, the risk of a really large surge that threatens everyone – including our own getting back to normal – is very real,” Dr. Sarah Van Orman, student health director, said.

Orman said COVID cases at USC had been declining over the past two months due in part to strict safety protocols, like check points and frequent testing.

The campus is mostly closed and students technically don’t have a spring break this year.

Instead they’re given wellness days which are spread throughout the semester. But since they’re studying remotely, some students are choosing to travel.

“I think in general people are relaxing a little bit on some covid protocols,” student Raquel Centro said.

Health officials advise students to hang on a little longer since vaccinations will soon be available to everyone.

“It’s still really dangerous I think. Everyone is entitled to do what they want to – they’re just frustrated,” student Monica Sandoval said.

California COVID-19 Vaccinations

The map tracks the number of doses administered by a recipient’s county of residence according to the The California Department of Public Health.

Students who travel are supposed to quarantine for 10 days upon returning to LA, but since most USC students live off campus, there’s no way to monitor compliance.

“If people are choosing to travel there are lower risk ways to travel: taking a car trip with friends, not gathering. Staying isolated with your household as you travel,” Orman said.

The university offers free housing available for students who need to isolate. If you’re a student in need, contact the student health center.





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'I can't believe this is happening': Travelers recount tales of getting stuck in Mexico after positive COVID tests – USA TODAY



‘I can’t believe this is happening’: Travelers recount tales of getting stuck in Mexico after positive COVID tests  USA TODAY



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2021 NCAA Tournament: Five positive tests for COVID-19, but no replacement teams expected to be needed


ncaa-logo-black.jpg
USATSI

The NCAA announced Tuesday that five positive COVID-19 cases have been identified out of 2,300 tests conducted so far this week ahead of the NCAA Tournament. Those tested so far include members of team’s traveling parties — not just players and coaches — as well as officials from the NCAA. The positice case count of five is up from zero positives that had been identified as of Monday.

Because of the breadth of who has been tested, NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt reiterated that it shouldn’t be assumed the positive tests came from players or coaches.

“An assumption shouldn’t be made about any individuals, or even any groups, because the overall testing numbers include both official travel parties of the teams as well as working staff and committee members,” Gavitt said.

Additionally, Gavitt said tournament officials are not expecting to need one of the four replacement teams on standby in the event of a team needing to drop out due to COVID-19. 

“We are not anticipating that right now,” Gavitt said Thursday afternoon. “But again, we are living in a pandemic. So we do take things day to day, and even hour to hour. But fortunately, we are not aware of any situations that would result in a replacement team coming in.”

Later, Tuesday’s 6 p.m. Eastern deadline for a replacement team to be chosen passed without Louisville, the top replacement team, being contacted, a source told CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander. With no teams forced to withdraw from the tournament, it essentially “locks.”

Gavitt confirmed that 67 of the 68 tournament teams have arrived, with Virginia as the lone exception. The Cavaliers were forced to withdraw from the ACC Tournament last week due to a positive COVID-19 case but are expected to arrive in time to complete the necessary protocols to play their first-round game Saturday night against Ohio.

The Cavaliers have been planning to arrive in Indianapolis on Friday, but Tier 1 personnel must register seven consecutive negative tests before arrival. Once on site, Tier 1 personnel must register an additional two consecutive negative tests on separate days before leaving quarantine. That timeline would mean the Virginia personnel that make the trip will be getting out of quarantine some time in the hours before their scheduled 7:15 ET tip against Ohio on Saturday.





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2021 NCAA Tournament: Five positive tests for COVID-19 with 67 of 68 teams in Indianapolis


ncaa-logo-black.jpg
USATSI

The NCAA announced Tuesday that five positive COVID-19 cases have been identified out of 2,300 tests conducted so far this week ahead of the NCAA Tournament. Those tested so far include every member of a team’s 34-person travel party and officials from the NCAA, and the case count of five is up from zero positives that had been identified as of Monday.

Because of the breadth of who has been tested, NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt reiterated that it shouldn’t be assumed the positive tests came from players or coaches.

“An assumption shouldn’t be made about any individuals, or even any groups, because the overall testing numbers include both official travel parties of the teams as well as working staff and committee members,” Gavitt said.

Additionally, Gavitt said tournament officials are not expecting to need one of the four replacement teams on standby in the event of a team needing to drop out due to COVID-19. 

“We are not anticipating that right now,” Gavitt said Thursday afternoon. “But again, we are living in a pandemic. So we do take things day to day, and even hour to hour. But fortunately, we are not aware of any situations that would result in a replacement team coming in.”

In no teams are forced to withdraw from the tournament by this evening, no replacement teams will be used and the tournament essentially “locks”

Gavitt confirmed that 67 of the 68 tournament teams have arrived, with Virginia as the lone exception. The Cavaliers were forced to withdraw from the ACC Tournament last week due to a positive COVID-19 case but are expected to arrive in time to complete the necessary protocols to play their first-round game Saturday night against Ohio.

The Cavaliers have been planning to arrive in Indianapolis on Friday, but Tier 1 personnel must register seven consecutive negative tests before arrival. Once on site, Tier 1 personnel must register an additional two consecutive negative tests on separate days before leaving quarantine. That timeline would mean the Virginia personnel that make the trip will be getting out of quarantine some time in the hours before their scheduled 7:15 ET tip against Ohio on Saturday.





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Apple Leisure Group Vacations sees a miniscule number of positive Covid cases: Travel Weekly


Only 16 of Apple Leisure Group Vacations’ first 30,000 international travelers had their return delayed by a positive Covid-19 test since new CDC rules took effect, the company said.

None were hospitalized, and all were able to quarantine free while waiting for a negative result, according to ALG Vacations president Ray Snisky.

“Just shocking how good the news is,” he said in an email over the weekend.

Ray Snisky

Ray Snisky

“While I was concerned that with up to 40% of cases being asymptomatic we would have a rash of positive cases, quite the opposite has happened.”

Snisky said of the first 30,000 customers to travel since the CDC in late January ordered passengers on all inbound international flights to be tested, a total of 21 customers, or .0007%, had positive results. Of those, five subsequently tested negative in time to travel home as originally scheduled.

Snisky also said business “has come roaring back the last two weeks.” Last week, he said, the company saw a 25% week-over-week increase in bookings. That came on top of a 40% rise the week before.

The largest volumes were for Cancun, Punta Cana, Las Vegas, Orlando and Los Cabos, according to Snisky. And Cancun, Cozumel, Orlando, Maui and Miami all outperformed comparisons with 2019 bookings.



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Baha Mar Launches Travel With Confidence Program Offering Complimentary Return Private Jet Travel Or Free Extended Stay For COVID-19 Positive Guests


Baha Mar’s Travel with Confidence program pledges that should a resort guest test positive during their stay, Baha Mar will provide courtesy suite accommodations and a daily dining credit of $150 per person per day, for up to 14 days in quarantine. Most importantly, should the guest need to return to the United States earlier, Baha Mar will provide private air travel to return the guest and their immediate family to the U.S., free of charge.

“In this ever-changing travel environment, it is our goal to alleviate travelers’ concerns surrounding COVID-19, in an effort to ensure the health, safety and comfort of our guests,” said Graeme Davis, President, Baha Mar. “Our Travel with Confidence program is the first of its kind in the industry, providing travelers with added peace of mind and the option to safely return home, or quarantine at no added expense – the choice is theirs.”

Baha Mar’s ongoing Commitment to Your Wellbeing initiative provides guests with the latest in COVID-19 safety measures, which include on-site complimentary COVID-19 Rapid Antigen testing upon arrival and prior to departure to assist in guests’ compliance with return travel requirements of their country of origin. Furthermore, the Commitment to Your Wellbeing includes mandatory mask-wearing in public areas, social distancing and stringent cleanliness protocols that go above and beyond Baha Mar’s already rigorous cleaning standards, covering all brands across Grand Hyatt, SLS and Rosewood Baha Mar. Additionally, resort standards include weekly COVID-19 testing for associates, enhanced housekeeping and engineering services, heightened food safety and digital ordering, touchless payments, and technology methods that allow for an abundance of contactless experiences from the moment guests check in. For more information on Baha Mar’s Travel with Confidence program and the Commitment to Your Wellbeing, click here or visit bahamar.com.

Plan Your 2021 Baha Mar Escape with Spectacular Awaits Offer
Following the reopening of Grand Hyatt Baha Mar in December, Baha Mar will complete its phased reopening on March 4, 2021, welcoming guests back to SLS Baha Mar, Rosewood Baha Mar, and its signature restaurants and amenities.  To celebrate the full reopening, Baha Mar introduces Spectacular Awaits. Available for booking at all three Baha Mar resorts, the offer includes a complimentary fourth night with a minimum three-night stay, with free cancellation up to 24 hours prior to arrival. To book the Spectacular Awaits offer, visit BahaMar.com/offers. For details on travel requirements for The Islands of The Bahamas and how to apply for The Bahamas Travel Health Visa click here.

About Baha Mar
Baha Mar is a master planned $4.2 billion integrated resort development operated by Hong Kong-based conglomerate Chow Tai Fook Enterprises Limited (CTFE). The white sand beach destination includes three global brand operators – Grand Hyatt, SLS, and Rosewood – with over 2,300 rooms and 40 restaurants and lounges, the largest casino in the Caribbean, a state-of-the-art convention center, an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Royal Blue Golf Course, the Caribbean’s first and only flagship ESPA spa, and over 30 luxury retail outlets. Baha Mar is a breathtaking location with dynamic programming, activities and guest offerings in one of the most beautiful places in the world – The Bahamas. For more information and reservations, visit www.bahamar.com.

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Online Travel Update: Trivago reports a challenging 2020, but expects a positive 2021; Expedia reports disappointing year-end results; ‘Clear’ emerges as new digital health passport leader; unpaid refunds threaten Lastminute.com | Foster Garvey PC


For readers who have been following our Online Travel Updates since its inception, we thank you for your continued support. In this year of 2021, June will mark our six-year anniversary of publishing these weekly updates dedicated to keeping our readers up-to-date with legal, regulatory, and market and industry trends related to the online travel space. We hope you continue to find them informative and helpful as the online travel industry keeps evolving.

This week’s Update includes several stories spotlighting a few Expedia Group companies – Expedia, Trivago and Vrbo. We’ve also included another story on the so-called “digital health passports.” Whether you agree with their use or not, we suspect the passports will be part of travel (and life) for the foreseeable future. Over the past several weeks, we’ve spent a lot of time with clients considering the role of COVID-19 testing, the pros and cons of offering testing to guests as an onsite amenity, and how best to leverage the test results (and soon vaccination records) via the many available digital health passports. This is one part of our practice that we would have never anticipated delving into just 14 months ago. Enjoy.

Trivago Reports a Challenging 2020, But Looks Ahead to a Positive End to 2021
(“A New Trivago Will Have More Booking and Travel Inspiration,” February 10, 2021 via Skift Travel News) (subscription may be required)
(“Trivago sees revenue slump 70% in 2020, eyes “normalcy” in 2021,” February 10, 2021 via Phocus Wire)
COVID-19’s fourth quarter resurgence took a heavy toll on the travel metasearch site, Trivago. Last week, Trivago reported its fourth quarter earnings, which included a 79 percent reduction in fourth quarter revenue and a 70 percent reduction in revenue for 2020. Trivago ended the year with a fourth quarter adjusted EBITDA loss of €3.4 million (versus a positive €18.4 million in 2019) and a full-year adjusted EBITDA loss of €12.3 million (compared to a positive $70 million for 2019). Notwithstanding the significant downturn, Trivago remains optimistic that a return to normalcy may be underway by the second half of 2021. Buoyed by Trivago’s recent purchase of online travel agent Weekend.com and the upcoming launch of its new local trip offerings, Trivago believes that its recent diversification beyond traditional metasearch and new product offerings will allow it to compete for a broader audience – not just those ready to book the lowest available price.

Expedia Reports Year-End Results
(“Expedia’s 2020 revenue sinks 57% as pandemic continues to roil travel industry,” February 11, 2021 via GeekWire)
Highlights from Expedia’s fourth quarter earnings report include a 57 percent drop in annual gross revenue (over 2019) and a 66 percent decline in annual gross bookings (over 2019). The OTA (online travel agency) reported a loss in each quarter of 2020 after posting profitable quarters in the last three quarters in 2019. According to Expedia CEO, Peter Kern, Expedia’s fourth quarter “did not show any real sequential progress other than some signs of modest improvement around the holidays that carried into early part of 2021.” Notwithstanding these disappointing results, Expedia’s stock price has recently rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, though, even at pre-pandemic stock prices, Expedia’s market capitalization of $21 billion pales in comparison to Airbnb’s current capitalization of nearly $130 billion.

Is Clear the “Clear” Winner Among Competing Digital Health Passports?
(“NFL, Restaurateur Danny Meyer Back Digital Health Passports Through Investment in Clear,” February 8, 2021 via Skift) (subscription may be required)
Over the last few weeks, our Updates have included stories about the many competing digital health passports striving to become the go-to health status and verification application. Last week, identity security company, Clear, took a huge step toward achieving that goal with investments made by respected restaurateur, Danny Meyer, Liberty Media, Michael Jordan and the NFL totaling nearly $100 million. Clear’s new Health Pass connects members’ identities with important COVID-19 related information, including vaccination history. The Health Pass has already been adopted by the NHL, MGM Resorts, New York’s 9/11 Memorial and nine NBA teams.

The Prospect of Traveler Refunds Threatens OTA’s Existence
(“Lastminute.com faces legal action over holiday refunds,” February 12, 2021 via Yahoo Finance)
Online travel agent Lastminute.com is the latest OTA to fall within the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) sights. Facing consumer pressure for failing to refund amounts paid for travel packages canceled as a result of COVID-19, the OTA agreed late last year to refund approximately £7 million to 9,000 customers. The agreed refund was to be paid by the end of January 2021, but as of January 31, approximately £1 million remained outstanding. According to the CMA, it plans to proceed with court action unless the OTA makes the now overdue payments within seven days. Interestingly, Lastminute.com reportedly approached several of its airline partners regarding payment of the remaining refunds, a practice that CMA prohibited. So much for those intermediary booking terms and conditions.


Other news:

Startup HomeToGo Is Defying Conventional Wisdom in Vacation Rental Search
February 10, 2021 via Skift Travel News (subscription may be required)
Hometogo, a price-comparison search service for vacation rentals, has had a robust revenue stream despite the pandemic. The Berlin-based startup credits its endurance partly to the relative popularity of holiday homes during the pandemic. But its founders also note how their company has relied on a somewhat different business model to traditional metasearch brands to attract both property management companies and consumers to its marketplace.

Expedia Pulls Vrbo Rental Listings From Google to Drive More Direct Traffic
February 11, 2021 via Skift Travel News (subscription may be required)
Expedia Group anticipates that consumers will return to booking travel in large numbers over time, and it aims to make the most of that in a phased marketing plan. The company is focusing on making the most of that effort by building up its own brands rather than others, like Google.

Alternative Lodging for Corporate Travelers Evolves With New Booking Tool
February 12, 2021 via Skift Travel News (subscription may be required)
Alternative accommodation was one the better performing parts of travel last year, as tourists avoided cities and hotels. Now, a booking engine that supplies 3.4 million of these kinds of properties for major online travel agencies wants to go it alone — targeting company travel.



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Travelers Should Prepare Themselves In Case They Test COVID-19 Positive Abroad


Now that the U.S. requires visitors and returning residents to provide proof of negative COVID-19 test results in order to enter the country, international travel has become more complicated and uncertain. Not only does this dictate that leaving the country will require that you locate approved testing sites at your destination, which can provide documented results within 72 hours of your return flight, it also means you’ll need to be prepared for an extended stay, more testing and perhaps medical treatment, should you test positive while abroad.

Most people probably assume that they’ll test negative and proceed as planned onto their return flight, especially if they’ve been cautious during their travels, but there is no guarantee that things will go so smoothly. A positive test result, even a false one, would strand someone overseas anywhere from days to weeks, until they’re finally able to obtain a negative test result. Experts are advising that American international travelers have a contingency plan in place before leaving the U.S.

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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.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and State Department officials have stated that anyone attempting to board a flight to the U.S. without qualifying negative test results will be denied. Martin Cetron, the CDC’s global migration and quarantine director, told The Washington Post that this could leave Americans “stuck in an extended way” overseas. Both for those who test positive and are required to quarantine in a foreign country, and those who find themselves in areas where it’s difficult to secure proper testing and/or another flight home.

Unfortunately, the State Department has also declared that it won’t offer medical assistance to Americans abroad who’ve tested positive, due to the department’s “limited medical resources” outside of the country. That means you can’t turn to the U.S. Embassy in your destination country for help if you become sick. The extent of its assistance is providing a directory of testing sites available in every country.

Travel advisors are counseling their clients to look into purchasing third-party travel insurance policies designed to cover the expense of up to 14 days of quarantining in their destination if their tests were to come up positive, plus the cost of additional testing and potential medical expenses, should they get really sick while abroad. Two weeks of extended hotel stays alone could cost guests thousands of dollars.

A man undergoing a COVID-19 test
PHOTO: A man undergoing a COVID-19 test. (photo via zoranm/E+)

Christine Sikes, an executive vice president for travel agent service Direct Travel, told The Washington Post that travelers should talk directly with travel insurance providers to determine what type of coverage they may need, noting that the policy costs will factor in the purchaser’s age, destination and desired inclusions. “You can still travel safely. You just need to plan and know what the ramifications are if you test positive,” Sikes said. “Hopefully no one does, but if they do, then they must have a plan.”

Some hotel brands are incentivizing travel by offering discounted or even free extended accommodations for guests who test positive. Karisma Hotels & Resorts in Mexico’s Riviera Maya, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic offer free on-site antigen testing and promises to provide quarantine accommodations free of charge, “until a doctor certifies clearance for travel with a negative test result for a period not to exceed 14 nights.”

Marival Resorts and the Palmaia, The House of Aia hotel in Mexico are offering a similar arrangement for COVID-positive guests, but free quarantine stays and complimentary testing are far from being the norm. Travelers should research their intended hotel’s COVID-related policies and provisions prior to their arrival.





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