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In the News this Week...
brought to you by News Editor, Roger Bray
Mallorca: 300 hotels to open in July15 days ago
The Mallorcan Hoteliers Association says around 300 of the island’s hotels plan to open in July. Among the first to welcome guests will be many premium seaside and rural properties with plenty of space, and some in the capital, Palma. Among them are the new Can Auli Luxury Retreat, near the main square in Pollensa, which was forced to suspend its spring launch and will now open around the end of next month. Others include the Can Simoneta and Pleta de Mar in Canyamel and the Fontsana Hotel & Spa in Campos, which will open on Thursday next week and are all members of a Malloquin run group. The Belmond La Residencia in Deia, the village where Robert Graves lived, and the Cap Rocat, a former south coast fortress, will reopen on 24 July. The Finca Serena in Montuiri, the Castillo Son Vida, the Sheraton Arabella Gold Hotel and the St Regis Mardavell resort are also gearing up to opening their doors. On the outskirts of Palma the Portixol, with a pool overlooking the sea, will open on Wednesday. In the city the El Llorenc Parc de la Mar,the Boutique Hotel Can Alomar and the Can Bordoy Grand House and Garden are also all set for July reopenings.
Take off for summer holidays abroad17 days ago
Holidays abroad are set to become a reality from 6 July, the Government has confirmed. Travel corridors are to be set up between the UK and various European countries, with no need for people to self isolate on their return. Countries on the list have yet to be announced. But among the major holiday destinations they look certain to include France, Greece, Spain and Italy. According to the BBC, Turkey, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Finland will also be included. As we reported yesterday, Portugal, where there has been a fresh outbreak of COVID-19 in Lisbon, and Sweden, where the infection rate is higher than the UK’s, may be excluded for the time being. However, it is not clear how British travellers could be prevented from driving borders to those countries from Spain and Norway respectively.
Before the move takes effect, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office will need to relax its advice against all but essential overseas travel. As it stands the advice negates travel insurance policies. As yet, very few companies are offering insurance that allows COVID-19 claims. Among those that do are Staysure, Saga and Trailfinders. They cover the cost of medical treatment and – if necessary – repatriation if travellers fall ill with the virus abroad. But only Trailfinders also covers cancellation if the disease prevents departure. This suggests many holidaymakers will have to rely on the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which covers covers most, but not necessarily all, medical costs in most European countries. Turkey, however, is to offer its own insurance (see our earlier report).
Ryanair and easyJet have both announced they will start operating on Tuesday and on the 11 July the major tour operator TUI UK plans to start flying customers to a limited number of destinations. Uncertainty over the Government’s plans had earlier persuaded the UK’s second biggest operator, Jet2, to delay the start of its summer programme from 1 July until 15 July.
Southend to get new Norway flights18 days ago
Flights from Southend to Norway are scheduled to take off at the end of August, with a timetable ideal for long weekend breaks. Low cost Norwegian airline Wideroe plans to launch services to the south western coastal city of Bergen, Gateway to the fjords and the former home of Grieg. Flights will operate on Fridays and Mondays, departing from London Southend Airport at 9.50am and returning at 12.50pm. UK bound services will leave at 8.30am and arrive at 9.20am. The launch will provide a welcome boost for Southend following news that Stobart Air, which operated Aer Lingus regional flights from the airport, was closing its base there.
Cruise line moves sailings from Venice19 days ago
Protests over the effects of large cruise ships on Venice have made an impact. Royal Caribbean has told customers that cruises by its ship Rhapsody of the Seas next summer will operate instead from Ravenna, around 2hrs by road to the south. It will, however, offer a free shuttle service to Venice before and after sailings. In its message the cruise line says: “There have been increased concerns regarding the future of cruising in Venice, due to port congestion and the ability to control port traffic”. The city has already banned large vessels from entering the Guidecca canal. Ths followed large scale street demonstrations after a cruise ship ploughed into a boat moored in San Basilio-Zattere, injuring five people.
Maldives set to reopen for tourism19 days ago
The Maldives will open for tourism on 15 July, the archipelago’s President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has announced. Hotels and other accommodation on uninhabited islands will then reopen for business. Those on inhabited islands have to wait until 1 August – but will be allowed to cater for visitors waiting for domestic transit. Arriving visitors will not have to produce a certificate or test result showing they are not infected. But they will undergo thermal screening at the airport and those presenting with symptom will have to pay for a further test – with the risk of quarantine if they thew result is positive. And Government guidelines say those who test negative will still face restrictions on visiting public places, including restaurants “until the symptoms resolve”.
Shearings brand will live on21 days ago
Coach holiday specialist Shearings, which ceased operating when its parent group collapsed last month,is to make a comeback. Its assets have been acquired by former rival Leger Holidays, which also specialised in the silver travel market. It will relaunch Shearings as a stand alone brand in its escorted tours portfolio. The deal does not include Shearings’ coaches or hotels.
Leger Holiday’s chief executive Ian Henry said: ““We have gone into this deal knowing that the two brands already have many synergies – similar product, customer demographic, experience values, impressive repeat business and customer loyalty and, as such, we already have the business model in place to seamlessly relaunch Shearings. Leger Holidays has nearly 40 years’ experience in escorted tours – we are not recklessly helicoptering into unknown territory. We are particularly keen to develop Shearings’ popular UK tours portfolio and increase our UK tours market share. Post Covid-19 we are predicting an increase in staycations and will be very quickly launching around thirty new UK tours for 2021 and beyond.”
Leger will not take on Shearings’ staff initially, but Mr Henry told Travel Weekly therte could be opportunities for them if the business grew as planned. There was genuine sorrow in the travel industry and among customers at the loss of Shearings, which had some 64,000 forward bookings when its parent, the Specialist Leisure Group, went into administration. News of the acquisition appeared on the Shearings website promising: “You’ll find the friendly customer service, excellent range of itineraries, comfortable travel and hand-picked accommodation that you’re familiar with when travelling with Shearings, but now with some exciting changes and refreshing updates.”
Staycation comeback confirmed21 days ago
Silver travellers can now start planning summer holidays in England. Boris Johnson announced today that hotels, pubs, b&b’s, self catering properties, campsites and caravan parks can re-open from 4 July. The simultaneous re-opening of museums and galleries is sure to strengthen the impetus to get away. At the same time the minimum social distance will be reduced from two metres to one, though the guidance is the stay further apart where possible. There was no immediate confirmation that businesses serving food and drink would be encouraged to use outdoor space, possibly including the use of town centre pavements. But propping up the bar is unlikely to make an imminent comeback in pubs. Table service will be the norm and capacity at all establishments will be limited, despite the change in minimum social distancing. Meanwhile Stay in a Pub organisation and sister company, Cask Marque, have partnered with Visit Britain to create a Covid-19 compliance accreditation scheme named “We’re Good to Go’” and tagged Stay Safe and Safe Pub. The two organisations represent 1700 pubs with rooms and 9500 other pubs respectively. Participants in the scheme will display information showing they provide hand sanitisers, for example, touch free payment and maintain social distancing. The Welsh and Scottish Governments are moving more slowly. The former’s next review of restrictions is scheduled to take place until 9 July.
Turkey to offer COVID insurance21 days ago
Turkey is to offer visitors insurance against falling ill with COVID-19 while on holiday there. From 1 July travellers will be able to buy three different levels of cover – for medical treatment costs up to €3000, €5000 or €7000. Prices will be €15, €19 or €23 respectively. Minister of Culture and Tourism Mehmet Nuri Ersoy said the policies would be available from “contracted airlines”, through online channels, from travel agents and at various points before passport control on arrival. However, it was not immediately clear whether the insurance would cover the cost of extended stays for members of the patient’s family or that of repatriation.
Irish Ferries prepare for holiday surge22 days ago
Anticipating a surge of business when travel restrictions are lilfted, Irish Ferries has put in place new safety measures on board its ships. Boarding and disembarkation will be staggered to limit contact with staff and maintain social distancing. Hand sanitisers wil be widely available and plexiglass installed on counters. And as part of stepped up cleaning, the company says new technology will be used to “fog” cabins with disinfectant on departure. It operates Holyhead – Dublin and Pembroke – Rosslare with up to 16 sailings a day. International passengers arriving in Ireland must currently self-isolate for 14 days – though not if they travel from Northern Ireland. But the Dublin Government is expected to review the rules this week
Spain and Portugal confirm: UK visitors welcome24 days ago
Spain and Portugal are ready to open their borders to British holidaymakers. And from 11 July the major tour operator TUI plans to start taking UK customers to a limited range of European destinations where it expects “air bridges” to be set up.
Arancha Gozalez Laya, Spain’s acting Foreign Minister told BBC News tourists from the UK would be welcome from tomorrow. There would be no requirement to quarantine but they would be asked to provide addresses where they could be contacted during their stays. Regional centres were being established where visitors falling ill with the virus could be isolated and treated. But hurdles remain for would be British tourists. Ms Gonzalez Laya urged them to arrange travel insurance, which remains in short supply. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office is still advising against all but essential foreign travel – which would render insurance invalid in any case. And the Government here has yet to relax its quarantine requirement for arriving travellers. One reason the Madrid Government was keen on the move was to allow Britons to access their properties in the country. She hoped the UK Government would do the same to help some 250,000 Spanish citizens living here.
Portugal’s London Ambassador Manuel Lobo Antunes confirmed on Radio 4’s Today programme: “We have our expressed our wish to have air bridges granted. The British authorities are very much aware of our wish. But it takes two to tango.” He confirmation came with the UK Government poised to announce the creation of travel corridors between Britain and European countries with low infection rates. Asked if the move would represent a risk to Portugal he said there had been good news that the alert level had been reduced from four to three. “That means a significant improvement in control of the pandemic here in the UK”. He played down concern about the emergence of 69 new cases in the Algarve, saying “It’s a very specific situation, very well identified and the health authorities reacted very quickly.” He added that it was always known there would be cases “here and there” and the situation was well under control.
TUI UK will begin a phased return to operations, taking up to 8,300 holidaymakers on 44 flights per week from three airports to Ibiza, Palma, Corfu, Crete, Kos, Rhodes, Lanzarote and Tenerife. Subject to Government advice It plans to add more flights and destinations by the end of next month, expanding to 19 destinations from five UK airports.
Denmark plans welcome for more Europeans25 days ago
The Danish Government is expected to issue a list next Thursday of the low infection countries from which it will accept visitors. It is not known yet if the UK will be among them. Travellers from Norway, Germany and Iceland have been admitted for the past week. Tourists must be able to show they are booked for a minimum of six nights’ stay. The Danish authorities promise spot checks for COVID-19 at the country’s borders and in popular holiday areas. Information material on safe behaviour will also be distributed. Meanwhile HORESTA, Denmark’s catering and tourism trade organisation, has launched a new “SAFE TO VISIT” labelling scheme for members – including restaurants and hotels. The labels are available to members following safety guidelines based on Government recommendations.
COVID-19: trip cancellation cover now on offer25 days ago
Travel insurance against COVID-19, thought to be the first to include cover for cancellation as well as medical and repatriation costs incurred when falling ill with the disease while abroad, has been included in policies from Trailfinders. With the prospect of “air bridges” or travel corridors opening up at the end of this month, the move marks a significant milestone in the provision of protection following the widespread suspension of new policy sales as the outbreak gathered pace. Trailfinders’ revised policies will be on sale from Monday. They will be available whether or not customers book trips with the 40 years old company, whose founder and chairman Mike Gooley says it will “absorb the entire premium increase”. He claims the policy offers “the most comprehensive COVID-19 cover you will find anywhere”. The cover is part of the company’s worldwide single trip or annual policies.
Manchester passengers can pre-book security checks26 days ago
Pre-bookable security slots are on trial at Manchester Airport as a way of boosting passenger confidence. The idea is also seen as a means of keeping queues shorter. Travellers can now book a free 15 minute time slot on the airport’s “website”:https://
booking.manchesterairport.co.uk/security/dates/. They will get access to a dedicated lane straight to security. But MAG, the airport’s owner, warns “the availability of slots is limited and will be operated on a first come first served basis”. Passengers are encouraged to book around two hours before departure. If the scheme proves successful, MAG will extend it to its other two airports – Stansted and East Midlands.
AA launches COVID safe accreditation26 days ago
A new assessment and accreditation scheme, designed to give customers confidence that hotels, restaurants, pubs and b&bs have taken the protective measures needed to re-open, has been unveiled by the AA. With “staycations” likely to be in heavy demand later this summer, the scheme has been backed by 19 industry bodies. The Association says: “The rigorous application process will include supplying a risk assessment, being able to provide clear evidence that relevant procedures and measures are in place, and that staff training has taken place. In addition, applicants must complete an online self-assessment and sign up to the COVID Confident Charter, a code of conduct that will include a commitment to continuing to update procedures and measures as guidelines change, and to submitting to future audits as required.” All establishments awarded the COVID CONFIDENT accreditation will be listed on the AA’s RatedTrips.com website. There will be frequent updates on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, accessible using the hashtag #AACOVIDConfident. Place serving food will need to hold a food hygiene score of 3 or higher. industry organisation UK Hospitality has been urging the Government to set a re-opening date, so businesses have time to prepare.
Masks? No need to tell us say air travellers26 days ago
The extent to which face masks will become the new travel normal is illustrated vividly by a new survey of more than 4700 London City Airport users. While the Docklands airport will require passengers to wear them in the terminal, three quarters (76%) said they would have done so whether or not they were told to.
On Monday London City will see what is planned as its first commercial flight since 25 March when a British Airways flight from the Isle of Man touches down. It is expected that more domestic services will start in July. Access to the terminal will be limited to passengers holding tickets for travel that day. The survey found that 78% of them would now be more likely to avoid check in desks. The airport is able to use Crowdvision technology to identify and manage busy areas.
The survey found that 42% of customers planned to travel for leisure within the next three months. The airport’s chief executive Robert Sinclair said: “This clear early demand from our passengers to get back to flying is really encouraging. It shows a desire to not only enjoy a holiday soon after nearly three months of lockdown, but to get back to business travel as well. We have worked hard to create a safe environment at the airport, so they can get back to flying in confidence. At the same time, we have been careful not to sacrifice the speed through the airport which passengers have always valued and is now more important than ever, as these results show.
“With the aviation market opening up across Europe this week, it is my hope that air bridges can be agreed quickly with low risk European neighbours. This news would be a shot in the arm for the industry as well as for the wider UK economy.”
Travel insurance headache eases27 days ago
The Post Office is the latest to provide travel insurance including cover against falling ill with COVID-19 while abroad. Its insurance policies went back on sale today. Sales of new polices were suspended as infections rose steeply. Now they will include insurance against medical and repatriation costs – but only in countries removed from the current Foreign & blanket advice against all but essential travel. Paul Paddock, head of travel insurance, said: “We look forward to welcoming back our customers and protecting them and their upcoming travel plans, when it’s safe to travel. It’s likely that Coronavirus will be with us for some time. By including medical cover now, we are able to support our customers for the foreseeable future.”
Meanwhile a Spanish hotel group has moved to combat the continuing shortage of such insurance. Mallorca based RIU Hotels will cover guests, medical and repatriation expenses up to €30,000 if they fall ill during their trips. The group operates 99 hotels in 19 countries. The scheme covers guests for up to 14 nights. It also includes the cost of extending a stay for all people on the same booking – for up to 14 days. Full details can be found on the operator’s “website”:https://riu.com/en/home.jsp. The service was developed with insurance company AXA, whose travel insurance website section indicates it will also cover coronavirus medical claims in countries for which the FCO advice is relaxed.
Norwegian to fly from UK again27 days ago
Low cost airline Norwegian plans to resume short haul flights from the UK on 1 July. It will operate daily and six time a week respectively from Gatwick to Oslo and Copenhagen and twice a week from Edinburgh to both capitals. The airline, which has undergone a major financial restructuring to protect its future, had suggested it might have to wait until next year to operate international services but says it has been persuaded to move earlier by increased passenger demand. CEO Jacob Schram said: “Feedback from our customers has shown that they are keen to get back in the air and resume their travels with Norwegian beyond the current domestic services that we have been operating. Norwegian is returning to European skies with the reintroduction of more aircraft to serve our key destinations which will ensure that we remain in line with competing carriers. It will require passengers aged six and up to wear face masks and middle seats on its aircraft will be last to be filled. Customers will be asked to place hand luggage under the seat in front to minimise queuing in the cabin.
US Airlines get tough on masks28 days ago
US airlines are to get tough with passengers who flout the requirement to wear masks on their flights. Those who refuse to comply could be banned. The move follows reports that some operators directed cabin staff not to enforce the rule if customers removed face coverings once they had boarded the aircraft. Now Airlines for America, the trade body representing major carriers including United, American Airlines and Delta, has announced its members “will be vigorously enforcing face covering policies, putting rigor around rules requiring passengers and customer-facing employees to wear facial coverings over their nose and mouth”. A statement from United said: “While the overwhelming majority of passengers are complying with United’s mandatory policy, starting on June 18, any passenger that does not comply when onboard a United flight will be placed on an internal travel restriction list. Customers on this list will lose their travel privileges on United for a duration of time to be determined pending a comprehensive incident review.”
Iceland: holidays on sale as international tourism returns28 days ago
Tour operator Discover the World has put Iceland holidays on sale for departures from next month in the “expectation” that by then the Foreign & Commonwealth Office will have dropped its blanket advice against all but essential travel. The firm polled 965 customers last week and found 25% were still eager to travel this summer even at the risk of being quarantined on their return home. However, only 3% said they would be happy to head overseas if the FCO advice remained in effect. Iceland opened its doors to international visitors yesterday, provided they take a COVID-19 test on arrival. The results will be delivered by text within 24 hours. They are free until the end of this month and will then cost ISK15,000 or about £90. There will be no charge for children born in 2005 or later.
Travel store re-opens29 days ago
Maps and guidebooks may prove some compensation for the long and frustrating travel freeze. During lockdown, says London’s 167 years old specialist retailer Stanfords, some customers have been requesting reading lists so they could travel the world vicariously. Closed since March, its Covent Garden store was among the shops re-opening today. It will be open from 9am until 6pm on weekdays and 11.30am until 6pm on Sundays – with social distancing and hygiene measures in place. The company’s Bristoi store remains closed for the time being.