Caribbean travel updates: Curacao and Saba change their entry requirements: Travel Weekly


Curacao has added an entry requirement for U.S. travelers, and Saba will welcome U.S. visitors starting on May 1 but with different rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers.

A rapid antigen test on the third day of a stay in Curacao is now mandatory, in addition to the existing entry requirements of a Digital Immigration Card and a Passenger Locator Card (PLC) uploaded within 48 hours of travel and proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure.

Travelers typically will receive their antigen test results within 20 minutes to one hour, on average. The antigen tests in Curacao vary in price but typically start at $20.

If the antigen test result is positive, the traveler will have to quarantine per local guidelines.

Every traveler is required to have insurance to cover any Covid-19-related expenses.

All visitors are required to make an appointment and pay in advance to undergo an antigen test at a local lab in Curacao. All travelers will receive a confirmation email including a booking reference number and the local laboratory website and instructions after submitting their PLC.

The traveler chooses the preferred lab and the time slot and pays for the test online. After booking and payment confirmation of the appointment is received, a confirmation email will be sent to the traveler by the local lab.

Travelers who have had Covid-19 in the past six months and have proof of a negative antigen test upon arrival in Curacao are exempt from the test on the third day.

Information is available at www.curacao.com.

Saba, meanwhile, will welcome travelers from high-risk countries, including the U.S., on May 1. Travelers need to obtain approval before arriving in Saba through [email protected] Fully vaccinated adults must present proof of a negative PCR test taken 72 hours before arrival and are not required to quarantine. Non-vaccinated travelers must quarantine for five days and take a rapid antigen test on day five.

Travelers connecting through St. Maarten prior to visiting Saba must follow St. Maarten’s entry requirements in addition to those for Saba: a completed health declaration uploaded at stmaartenentry.com and proof of a negative Covid-19 test result taken within five days prior to arrival or an FDA-approved rapid test within 48 hours of departure.

As of May 1, Winair will offer morning and afternoon flights to Saba four days a week. Ferry service between St. Maarten and Saba will be finalized in the coming weeks.



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Regulators’ Update on AZ Vaccine, Vaccination and Variants, NZ Travel Bubble: COVID-19 Global Weekly Highlights


These are the global coronavirus stories you need to know about this week.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said the risk of rare cases of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia with the AstraZeneca vaccine should be included in product information. However, its ongoing safety review again concluded that the vaccine is safe and effective with the benefits outweighing any possible risks.

The UK regulator MHRA said that people under 30 should be offered an alternative vaccine to the Oxford/AstraZeneca product after its ongoing rare blood clots safety review. It stressed the benefits still outweigh the risks. On Tuesday, the University of Oxford paused a trial of the vaccine in children due to wider concerns rather than a trial-related event. Meanwhile, the Moderna vaccine started to be rolled out on Wednesday, the UK’s third approved vaccine. As of Tuesday, 31.7 million first vaccine doses, and 5.7 million second doses had been administered. Nearly 1 in 10 adults have now received both doses. New cases, hospital admissions, and deaths continue to fall. However, data are being closely monitored after more lockdown measures were relaxed in England on Monday. Twice-weekly rapid testing is being offered to everyone in England from this week. 

In Germany GPs joined vaccination centres in vaccinating people nationwide. By the end of April, more than 3 million additional vaccine doses will be provided to practices. COVID-19 case numbers are still high. After the Easter holidays, Germany’s health departments reported 9677 new infections within one day. That number is probably an underestimate as over the holiday period fewer laboratory tests were performed. 

Last Tuesday Spain updated its vaccination calendar and it’s expected that by the end of August, 33 million people will have received a COVID-19 vaccine. The Spanish Government decided to temporarily stop giving the AstraZeneca vaccine to under-60s after the EMA review and will assess its use for older people over the following days. The regional government of Madrid has started discussions over the production and distribution of the Russian vaccine Sputnik V, which hasn’t yet been approved by the EMA. The central government insisted that the centralised procurement of vaccines should go through the European Commission. As of Wednesday, COVID-19 incidence increased to 167 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days. In total 3,326,736 people have been infected and 76,037 have died since the start of the pandemic. 

Portugal started the second phase of lifting its lockdown on Monday, with students  returning to classrooms, and restaurants reopening outdoor spaces to groups of up to four people. Travel restrictions were lifted and the border between Portugal and Spain was reopened. On Wednesday, there were 663 confirmed cases and the number of hospitalised patients fell below 500 for the first time in more than 6 months. There have been a total of 825,031 confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection and 16,890 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. As of Wednesday, 1,346,317 first vaccine doses were administered, and 560,871 second doses.

In France, the epidemic is worsening with 433 new deaths in 24 hours and 2189 new intensive care admissions in the last 7 days. Intensive care units in many areas are full despite help from private clinics. The vaccination campaign is progressing with 18.7% of adults having received a first vaccine dose, and 6.4% both doses. Bottling of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and production of the Moderna vaccine is beginning in France.

Italy has reported a slight decrease in the incidence of COVID-19 but cases remain high. Half the country is in a red zone, and half in orange zones. The number of hospitalised patients has decreased but ICU admissions have risen slightly. As of April 4, more than 11 million vaccine doses had been administered, with around 3,450,000 people fully vaccinated. Prevalence of the B.1.1.7 (UK) variant was 54% in February and now accounts for 86.7% of cases. Another 4% of samples were positive for the P.1 (Brazilian) variant.  

The United States is in a race between vaccination and variants, and it’s unclear which is winning. The more contagious B.1.1.7 variant now dominates transmission of COVID-19.  That’s mostly in line with early predictions by the CDC that the strain would take over by the end of March.  At the same time, the US is vaccinating at a furious pace. President Joe Biden said he wants most adults to be eligible to receive a vaccine by April 19, about 2 weeks ahead of a previous May 1 deadline. Currently, people over the age of 16 are eligible to be vaccinated in 36 states. The US is currently third in the world in terms of pace of vaccination, averaging about 3 million doses a day behind China (4.5 million daily doses) and India (3.4 million doses a day). New data released by the CDC show that COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the US in 2020, behind heart disease and cancer.

Last Tuesday, 6, Brazil had its 24 deadliest hours since the beginning of the pandemic, with a record 4211 deaths. It’s the equivalent of more than 170 deaths per hour. An analysis published on the same day indicated that 19 states and the Federal District had an occupancy rate for ICU COVID-19 beds for adults above 90% between March 29 and April 5. In the same period, 21 capitals had ICU occupancy rates above 90%. São Paulo is looking at building new cemeteries. Measures to restrict the movement of people are being adopted by state and municipal governments in different ways. According to the Fiocruz foundation, if the restrictions are not followed consistently, the situation will worsen and the collapse of the public health system will be prolonged. As of Wednesday, 13,100,580 diagnoses of COVID-19 and 336,947 deaths have been recorded. So far, 9.84% of the population has received a first vaccine dose, 2.78% were fully vaccinated. However, vaccination has been paused in some areas because of supply problems.

The second wave of COVID-19 infections continues to ravage India, with 1,26,789 daily cases reported on Thursday. Several states in the country have implemented partial lockdowns and restrictions to curb rising infections. Some states reported a shortage of vaccine supplies, which the Health Minister dismissed. India has so far administered more than 86 million vaccine doses.

The tiny Himalayan nation of Bhutan has achieved the feat of vaccinating 62% of its eligible population against COVID-19 in just a week. By April 6, 85% of the adult population had received a single dose of vaccine. 

Iran reported a record number of 20,954 daily COVID-19 infections on Wednesday. The country is currently witnessing a surge of infections following a 2-week public holiday for Persian New Year. 

South Korea has granted approval to Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, making it the third vaccine to be authorised in the country, after AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech.

The Kyoto University Hospital in Japan carried out the world’s first lung transplant from living donors to a COVID-19 patient. A woman who developed severe pneumonia after being infected with COVID-19 received lung tissue from her husband and son.

New Zealand and Australia  announced a quarantine and COVID-19-testing free ‘travel bubble’ from April 19. “The Trans-Tasman travel bubble represents a start of a new chapter in our COVID response and recovery, one that people have worked so hard at,” NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

See more global coronavirus updates in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Centre.





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Brownell Travel Mentees had different starts, share same optimism: Travel Weekly


Jamie Biesiada

Jamie Biesiada

One advisor started her career in the best of times, albeit at the very tail end. One started her agency in what many would consider the worst of times. But both are optimistic about what the future holds.

Lawson Rothgeb, owner of Lawson Luxury Travel in Fort Lauderdale, began her career as a travel advisor by joining Brownell Travel’s 22nd Mentee Class, which launched Feb. 21, 2020. Most in the travel industry were coming off their best year in 2019 and poised for even more success in 2020.

Alli Cole, owner of Alli Cole Travel in Denver, is a member of the current Mentee Class, No. 23, which launched Feb. 22 this year. The industry was still in something of a standstill due to the pandemic, especially with cruise ships still not permitted to sail in the U.S., but there were some signs of hope ahead.

Brownell’s Mentoring Program is open to a select few applicants (its acceptance rate hovers around 2%), but it offers future advisors a path to success in the industry after a yearlong process. It kick-starts with an in-person class at Brownell headquarters in Birmingham, Ala., and continues with homework, support calls, training and more once the class members return home and begin booking travel.

Rothgeb and Cole were each drawn to Brownell specifically for the mentoring program, but they came from very different backgrounds.

Rothgeb graduated from business school and spent 10 years in the corporate world, marketing for luxury beauty brands. Then she fell in love with sailing and sailboat racing and took a year hiatus from her career to sail.

Lawson Rothgeb, owner of Lawson Luxury Travel in Fort Lauderdale.

Lawson Rothgeb, owner of Lawson Luxury Travel in Fort Lauderdale.

From there, she found work as a concierge on super yachts. On the last super yacht she worked for, she would fly ahead of the owner in his travels and scope out hotels. After that position, she spent a few years working for a yacht management brokerage firm, often planning things like shore-based excursions; she was basically already working as a travel advisor, she said, and she didn’t even know it.

After she had her son in 2019, she was trying to decide her next career move. The word “Virtuoso” kept coming up, and among Virtuoso advisors who were friends of friends, the word “Brownell,” Rothgeb said. She contacted Brownell in January 2020 and was able to gain a seat in Mentee Class No. 22.

She left her in-person training session March 1, 2020. Covid-19 had already begun to spread in the U.S., and the pandemic would officially be declared a few weeks later.

Cole, on the other hand, started her career in the healthcare industry right out of college. It wasn’t the best fit for her, though, so she moved on to Extraordinary Journeys, a supplier focused on safaris. She worked there for three years until Covid derailed everything.

Alli Cole, owner of Alli Cole Travel in Denver.

Alli Cole, owner of Alli Cole Travel in Denver.

“That gave me this moment of pause,” she said. “What do I really want to be doing? Is it staying in this very niche industry, or do I want to go out on my own and challenge myself?”

She has a family member who is an affiliate of Brownell, and Cole decided to jump in. Her class met for its in-person training earlier this year.

“It was a very strange time to make that decision, but at the same time, I was like, ‘Well, this is going to take a lot of time, effort, organization to get things going, so the lull might actually be an advantage for a bit,'” Cole recalled.

Cole is currently planning some trips for clients, she said. A number have been put on the back burner, but she continues to monitor border closings. She also believes she, and others in the travel agency community, will benefit from pent-up demand as travel returns.

“With people being cooped up for the last year, that is where I hope we will be key in coming in and swooping them up and sending them off,” she said.

For Rothgeb, the beginning of her career as a travel advisor happened in March and April 2020, when many were still hopeful travel would return in just a few months. Reality set in around May and June. And While she hoped the phone would start ringing off the hook Jan. 1, that wasn’t the case — but things did start picking up in February.

“The challenge is, where can we send them?” Rothgeb said.

She share’s Cole’s optimism about pent-up demand.

“I think people really want to travel,” Rothgeb said. “I think there’s still hesitation. I don’t think everyone is going to be on the beaches in the south of France and Amalfi Coast in June. But I think it will happen quickly when it does happen.”

Cole knew what she was getting into when she joined Brownell’s Mentee Class. But for Rothgeb, would she do anything differently if she knew in February 2020 what she knows now?

“I can honestly say I wouldn’t have,” she said. “I am exactly where I’m supposed to be and I’m happy.”



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Journera uses traveler segment data to help complete the trip: Travel Weekly


As a growing number of travelers dip their toes back into trip planning, technology company Journera is hoping to help airlines, hospitality providers and other suppliers attract new business.

Journera, the brainchild of Orbitz founding CEO Jeff Katz, recently launched JourneyAware, a tool that identifies consumers who have made a reservation for a portion of a future trip. Those details are then sent to Journera client companies that may want to sell other components of the trip to that traveler.

“Especially in today’s pandemic world, someone may have booked a hotel, but hasn’t booked air yet,” explained Katz, Journera’s founder and CEO. “JourneyAware lets the airline know somebody’s booked a hotel reservation in Chicago for certain days. And they can then reach out to that person and say, ‘Hey, we know you’re traveling. Would you like to make a quick booking?'”

Katz added that any targeted communications or advertising to travelers — whether via social media, email or a loyalty membership platform — can be “as detailed as [a supplier’s] privacy policy allows.”

Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz

According to Katz, Journera’s booking data is all “original source,” coming straight from participating airlines, hotel companies and other operators. Notably, the company claims that all its collected data is anonymized and lacks any personal identifiers.

“For example, a parking lot operator could both be a user of our insights as well as a provider of insights,” Katz said. “But we don’t share the name and ID of somebody who parks in a lot in L.A. with an airline operator. It doesn’t work that way. It’s all encrypted.”

Journera’s current partner list already comprises many of the industry’s largest players, including United and American in aviation and hospitality mainstays Hilton, InterContinental Hotels Group, Marriott International and Hyatt, among others. 

In addition to booking and loyalty data sourced directly from partner suppliers, JourneyAware further builds out a traveler’s booking profile using artificial intelligence. 

As a result, the company claims a superior marketing ROI, generating more bookings and revenue than alternative tools that largely rely on online search or shopping data.

“We’re working off more firm information, which is that [a traveler] has at least one reservation, but not all the reservations needed for their journey,” Katz said. “So, our opportunity for travel brands is much more firm than typical shopping data.”

Paisly will make suggestions on hotels, car rentals and activities to customers who have already booked flights.

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Max Starkov, a hospitality and travel technology expert and adjunct professor at New York University’s Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism, agreed that the core concept behind Journera’s JourneyAware product “is very smart” and fills a key need within the fragmented travel sector.

“Let’s face it, there are silos in the travel industry,” said Starkov. “That’s why I always say there’s no such thing as a travel industry — there’s an airline industry, hotel industry, car rental industry, etc. But it’s the same traveler that books a hotel, buys airline tickets, buys tours and activities. So, they should all talk to each other.”

Still, Starkov acknowledged that his primary reservation about the tool centers on privacy concerns, and how it maintains compliance with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, the California Privacy Rights Act and other data protection laws. 

As always, the devil’s in the details.

“I think that Journera has to really examine all of those privacy regulations and come up with a much clearer, more detailed message than they currently have,” said Starkov. “If you look at their website, press releases and posts, they kind of nicely [sum things up], but I do think they should provide a much clearer picture on what they do and how they abide by all of those regulations.”

Still, Starkov predicts companies like Journera will take on an increasingly important role in a digital landscape where third-party cookies — which have long been used to collect data across websites — are rapidly becoming obsolete. He cited Google’s recent announcement that it would eliminate tracking cookies on its Chrome browser by 2022, following in the footsteps of browsers like Apple’s Safari.

As a result, first-party data, collected directly from sources, has become increasingly valuable.

“The monetization of the first-party cookies has been around for a while, but now that will increase, because when the third-party cookies are removed, first-party becomes an even more precious commodity,” Starkov said. “Some advertisers are at a major disadvantage with the disappearance of third-party cookies. So, Journera does provide some of these companies with an important tool.” 



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It might be a good time to use flight credits: Travel Weekly


Flight credits issued during the Covid-19 pandemic have begun to expire on Frontier Airlines. And the first expirations of Delta credits will come next month.

But while Covid-era credits on other U.S. carriers don’t begin expiring until at least July, and in most cases much later than that, potential travelers might want to consider putting those credits to work now, before ticket prices make an anticipated leap and airlines reinstate some change fees or basic economy ticket restrictions.

“If you’re thinking about travel this year, it’s a good time to put them to use,” said Daniel Burnham, an analyst for the bargain-flight-alerting service Scott’s Cheap Flights. “Put the voucher toward an itinerary.”

On Frontier, credits issued during the pandemic are valid for bookings made within one year after the original itinerary was canceled. That means customers who canceled flights when the pandemic hit are now having unused credits expire.

Delta, meanwhile, extended credits for tickets booked by April 17 of last year for travel through the end of 2022. But credits for tickets issued beginning April 18 of last year will expire one year after the purchase date.

The first pandemic-era credit expirations on Alaska will occur on July 5, followed by Southwest on Sept. 8 and Spirit at the end of that month. For the five remaining large mainline U.S. carriers, the first such expirations don’t commence until next year. 

Despite such leeway, now is a good time to begin putting credits to use for those who are comfortable flying, including the newly vaccinated. Airfares in February were down 25.6% year over year. But with travel demand increasing, fares are likely to rise in the coming months. The travel booking platform Hopper projects that the price of bargain fares, which it defines as those that are less than 90% of the fare quotes it tracks, will be 34% higher this July than in July 2020 and 36% higher this August than in August 2020.

Meanwhile, at the J.P. Morgan Industrials Conference on March 15, various carriers predicted that ticket prices should rise as traffic and load factors increase. On March 21, more than 1.5 million people passed through TSA airport security checkpoints for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

The planned resumption of change fees by discount airlines as well as the resumption by full-service carriers of policies prohibiting itinerary changes by basic economy ticket holders are additional incentives to make use of credits now. Barring a late extension of Covid-19 policies, discount carriers Frontier and Spirit will resume charging change fees on most bookings beginning April 1. JetBlue will also implement a $100 change fee on April 1 for most basic economy itineraries and a $200 change for basic economy South American bookings.

Seven of the 10 primary U.S. airlines are slated to resume either change fees or prohibitions on basic-economy itinerary changes.

 

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Meanwhile, on March 31 Delta will revert to its pre-pandemic policy of not allowing changes for basic economy bookings. For bookings beginning April 1, United, Alaska and Hawaiian will once again prohibit basic economy itinerary changes. American will do the same for itineraries within North America and the Caribbean.

American and Hawaiian, however, have said that they will accommodate changes for customers with Covid-19 or Covid-like symptoms.

As of press time, airlines planned to move forward with the reimplementation of change fees or basic economy itinerary change prohibitions, though analyst Bob Mann of R.W. Mann & Co. wasn’t sure such policies would stick, especially if spring break leads to a Covid-19 infection rate surge.

“Airlines need advance bookings to generate working capital, and reimposing change fees will frustrate advance bookings by those who are on the fence, uncertain about taking the risk,” Mann said.

Meanwhile, Burnham said that those who are not ready to travel any time soon should stay on top of when their flight credits on various airlines will expire.

“I would say, make a spreadsheet with your confirmation number, the quantity of money that you’re owed with these airlines, the expiration dates and put that with your financial documents,” he said. 



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Weekly ASX Small Cap Wrap: Who’s ready for a bubble this week?


This week was the 1 year anniversary of the end of the COVID-19 crash.

Debates goes on  — is this a bubble? Is everything about to crash? Again?

Speaking of bubbles, it appears a trans-Tasman bubble is finally happening. This week the Kiwis revealed…that will reveal the details after Easter.

If you’re that desperate for some sort of overseas travel  here’s a travel tip – Norfolk Island. While it is an Australian territory flights actually depart and leave from the international terminals in Australia.

And for those wanting to use points, Qantas (ASX:QAN) has taken over the route for the next few months from Air New Zealand (ASX:AIZ).

 

 

ASX SMALL CAP WINNERS

IDT Australia (ASX:IDT) +124%

This time last week, the pharmaceutical manufacturer released a three-paragraph announcement in which it said was looking to see if it could help in the COVID-19 vaccination roll out.

Specifically it said was undertaking a feasibility assessment to see if its manufacturing facility could help.

Shares have been on a tear ever since the announcement – which came just as the next phase of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout gets underway.

 

Lefroy Exploration (ASX:LEX) +81%

Lefroy’s Burns prospect appears the best candidate of being 2021’s major discovery with shares having gained 5 times since a major gold intercept a few weeks back.

Today the company gave another exploration update in which it noted six pre-collars had been completed in preparation for a subsequent diamond drill program to evaluate the Eastern Porphyry at Burns. It is expecting assay results in mid-April.

 

Oneview Healthcare (ASX:ONE) +53%

The Irish domiciled telehealth stock has surged from 7 cents to well over 30 cents today and this week it got 2 good pieces of news.

First it has been offered an investment by research group StocksDigital – a move shareholders will vote on come April 15 – and second it was awarded ISO 27001 certification.

 

Nanoveu (ASX:NVU) +46%

The anti-viral tech company signed a deal with global beverage company Nestle.

The deal will see Nanoveu’s anti-viral protector on touchscreens and touchpads on Nestle’s coffee machines.

 

ASX SMALL CAP LOSERS

 

Freedom Food (ASX:FNP) -83%

The dairy processing company recommenced trading after a 9 month suspension. The company had discovered accounting irregularities which resulted in an exodus of senior staff and directors and required the company to recapitalise.

Its major shareholder, the family investment company of Tony Perich and his family, stumped up the cash but shareholders rushed for the exits.

 

Atrum Coal (ASX:ATU) -78%

Coal mining in the Canadian province of Alberta is under threat. The government has decided to reinstate a previously rescinded policy that substantially restricts coal mining. In the interim all future exploration approvals on “Category 2 lands” will be banned.

Atrum has opted to pause works at its Elan Project to direct efforts to a stakeholder consultation process being undertaken by the government.

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More federal aid could be on the way for travel agencies: Travel Weekly


A bill introduced on the House floor this week would, if passed, include travel agencies in the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, which could provide those eligible with up to $10 million in grants based on 2019 revenue. ASTA has lobbied for travel agency inclusion in the program in recent months and applauded the introduction of the Securing Access for Venue Equity (Save) Act.

“We strongly support the Save Act, which would give our members access to grants of up to $10 million to help their businesses recover from the ravages of Covid-19,” ASTA president and CEO Zane Kerby said in a statement. “This support is sorely needed, as the travel agency sector has been catastrophically impacted and faces a longer recovery window than virtually any other industry.”

The bill was introduced with bipartisan support by Reps. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) and Dina Titus (D-Nev.).

Zane Kerby

Zane Kerby

The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program was created by the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2021. Administered by the Small Business Administration’s Office of Disaster Assistance, it includes more than $16 billion in grants for shuttered venues. Applicants can qualify for grants in the amount of 45% of their 2019 gross earned revenue, capped at $10 million.

“As we have said time and again, when government action has a disproportionally negative impact on a specific industry, it is a matter of fundamental fairness that the government provide targeted relief to the businesses most severely affected,” Kerby said. “With this principle as our North Star, we will keep fighting for relief until the travel agency sector is restored to health.”

Amendments had been offered to the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to include travel agencies in the grant program but ultimately were not accepted.



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AIG adds Covid lodging coverage: Travel Weekly


AIG Travel has introduced optional lodging coverage for travelers who are barred from boarding a commercial aircraft to return to the U.S. due to a positive Covid-19 test.

Currently, international travelers heading to the U.S. must provide proof of a negative Covid test taken within three days prior to entering the country.

AIG’s Lodging Expense Bundle may cover up to $500 per person for additional lodging expenses if a traveler has tested positive and is forced to remain in a destination. The bundle is an add-on to AIG Travel’s Preferred or Deluxe travel plans.

• Related: Allianz Partners formalizes Covid travel insurance

A custom version of the bundle that covers $2,000 per person in additional lodging expenses will be available to residents of U.S. states and Washington, D.C., who are headed to Costa Rica, to satisfy entry requirements in place in that country. The Costa Rica-specific bundle is also an add-on to Preferred or Deluxe plans.

AIG Travel offers three base plans: Travel Guard Essential, Travel Guard Preferred and Travel Guard Deluxe. It also offers annual plans, last-minute travel plans, the Travel Guard Plus plan that carries things like cancel-for-any-reason coverage, medical evacuation plans, accident insurance for flying on commercial airlines and rental vehicle damage coverage.



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Latest news on capacity levels isn’t half bad for Vegas: Travel Weekly


Paul Szydelko

Paul Szydelko

In yet another sign that Nevada is ready to accommodate more visitors amid the pandemic, restrictions on large gatherings have been loosened to allow for 50% capacity.

Prior to this, conventions, conferences and trade shows had been capped at 1,000. Restaurant capacities have also been increased from 35% to 50%. Vaccine eligibility for hospitality and food-service workers also began March 15, spurring the state’s efforts to increase tourism.

“Las Vegas has been the top convention and meetings destination for many years. We pride ourselves on providing the best facilities, the best service and now, the safest,” Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said.

“We have been cautious, but very focused on reopening Las Vegas in the safest way possible for you, our treasured customers, our valued employees and our entire community. With great confidence in the efforts made by our resorts, convention centers and meeting hosts, I say, ‘Welcome back! The greatest place to do business in the world is even better.'”

In other signs that Vegas is rebounding, about 40 productions have resumed in the past month, including “Extravaganza — The Vegas Spectacular ” in the Jubilee Theater at Bally’s.

Only one preview performance was staged on March 14, 2020, before it closed the following day to comply with state directives relating to the pandemic. It reopened on Nov. 23, featuring dancers, acrobats, aerialists, skaters, comedians and iconic showgirls.

Jabbawockeez, which had been performing in a more intimate theater setting before the pandemic, now presents “Timeless” five nights a week at the spacious MGM Grand Garden Arena. Flashy production elements and lasers augment the show with otherworldly characters searching for a music playlist that spans generations, locations and genres.

Another hot ticket is the Vegas Golden Knights, making another National Hockey League playoff push at 17,500-seat T-Mobile Arena. They started allowing fans with 15% capacity (2,600) on March 1, increasing to 20% (3,500) on March 11.

But the biggest indicator that Vegas is rebounding will be the resumption of conventions, a dormant industry for a year.

“We’re ready and eager to welcome back business travelers to Las Vegas, said Steve Hill, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “We know there is a pent-up demand for the return of in-person meetings and conventions and for the Las Vegas experience.”



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Nothing but upside and opportunity for travel agents after COVID-19, says Bruce Poon-Tip – Travel Weekly


The post-COVID-19 world could be very bright for the right brand of travel agent, according to G Adventures founder Bruce Poon-Tip.

After a recent media Q&A webinar, Poon-Tip told Travel Weekly he believes that on the other side of border closures and coronavirus-specific restrictions, there is a huge opportunity for entrepreneurial travel professionals.

“There is nothing but upside and opportunity for travel agents coming out of this pandemic,” Poon-Tip told Travel Weekly.

“Number one, if you’ve actually been keeping in touch with your customers, during this pandemic, and are creating a dialogue and a conversation with your customers, and have been a source of information during a very uncertain time, and are supplying a genuine service to your customers—not just selling them stuff—then you’ll come out of this great, because your customers will have a new level of engagement and appreciation for the value that you offer them.”

Poon-Tip believes that the pandemic gave travel agents the chance to create that conversation.

“It’s always our goal as people who own businesses to transcend what we do and to create a conversation with your customer that transcends the product you actually sell them,” he told Travel Weekly.

“It’s hard sometimes to create conversations with customers that just see you as one thing … you have an opportunity now to create a dialogue with your customers that you don’t normally get.”

With the uncertainty and variability of travel restrictions around the world, travel agents—who have navigated this complicated web since the pandemic began—have an opportunity to assert their worth by providing “travel services” as opposed to just “selling them a product”.

There will be financial opportunities on the other side of this as well, Poon Tip believes.

With figures floated during the webinar of there being between 50 per cent to 70 per cent fewer travel agents post-COVID-19, there will be fewer points of sale but the same demand for travel.

Of those travellers itching to get away, which G Adventures has found are more receptive, more open to experience, Poon-Tip believes many will be “more connected to using a travel agent”.

Effective advertising and marketing would be critical to tourism’s recovery, Poon-Tip added.

“We’re talking about how the opportunity can be greater for the travel industry, on the other side, and marketing is the one that can deliver that message, especially for tourist boards and countries that want to try to restrict or rebrand themselves,” Poon-Tip said.

“I think a lot of them [tourist boards and countries] are trapped into the kind of cruise ship cycle of selling their ports … And they want to come out of this attract a more meaningful traveller.

“Marketing becomes instrumental in delivering that message.”

Poon-Tip’s comments come as G Adventures celebrated the return of its operations, with more than 100 trips conducted by the wholesaler over the past few months.

It also comes as the G Adventures founder marks almost a year since the release of Unlearn: The Year The Earth Stood Still, an e-book penned by Poon-Tip during quarantine in 2020.

Within the book’s 24 pages, Poon-Tip called on agents to ‘unlearn’ a few of the more damaging traits of tourism, advocating for travel agents to promote being “contributors to culture instead of consumers”.

When asked what he believes was the most important thing for travel agents to ‘unlearn’ in 2020, Poon-Tip said it was critical for them to stop perpetuating the cycle of “selling capacity”.

“They’re helping the cycle of selling amenities over destination. And it’s a trap.”



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