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In the News this Week...
brought to you by News Editor, Roger Bray
Hotel's cunning plan to beat distancing impactabout 1 month ago
A Cornish hotel is to launch the ultimate social distancing restaurant when it reopens on 4 July. At the St Moritz Hotel and Spa, near the fishing villager of Rock, they’re calling it the “Anti Social Club”. The restaurant will comprise sixteen private dining rooms for groups or couples, catering for a maximum of 96 covers. Food and drink will be served from outside via hatches, so the service team need not enter the dining area. Staggered eating times mean guests won’t have to encounter each other – and each room can be cleaned and set up for the following set of customers. Co-owner Hugh Ridgway says the hotel could not feed its guests at the 30% maximum capacity required by two meter separation. The specially designed summer “pop up” restaurant overcomes that obstacle. “COVID-19 has stopped the industry in its tracks. Like all hotels, bars and restaurants across the globe, the virus has hit our business like an unbelievable sledgehammer. However, as ever, we have dusted ourselves off, and risen to this unpredictable challenge in our own creative, St Moritz way.”
Online tourist feedback launched for Portuguese health rulesabout 1 month ago
On line technology enabling tourists to find hotels or other establishments that comply with health requirements – and allow visitors to rate their adherence to the rules – has been launched by the Portuguese National Tourist Board. Available in English it will help officials to assess whether or not establishments continue to merit the country’s new “Clean & Safe” stamp, an initiative that has already attracted over 12,000 participants, from accommodation operators and restaurants to golf courses and cultural attractions. Evaluation by customers will show them whether they need to carry out random checks
Saga travel insurance to cover COVID-19 claimsabout 1 month ago
Over-50s specialist Saga has become the second insurer to include cover for COVID-19 claims if customers fall ill on holiday, Many companies suspended sales of travel insurance in March, as infections soared. Saga will cover coronavirus related medical costs and repatriation expenses as standard. The move applies to stand alone policies or those offered to holiday and cruise customers. But its website makes no mention of cancellation cover, should travellers become ill before departure.
Almost three quarters of Saga’s customers have warned they would not take out insurance if it did not include coronavirus.
A statement on its website says: “Please note, for trips taken from 1st June onward, we will only cover claims caused by or related to Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), or any mutation of, under the ‘Emergency medical associated expenses’ section of your policy. This section provides insurance for emergency medical and associated costs not covered by the NHS or any reciprocal health agreement.”
Kevin McMullan, Head of Product, Saga Health and Travel Insurance said: “Understandably, the current crisis has put travel plans on hold for many people. However, with the UK’s strict lockdown measures beginning to lift, more people may be planning both exciting and much needed trips away over the coming months. We recognise that this may be a daunting process, particularly for customers with underlying health concerns. We want to give people the confidence and reassurance that if they were to fall ill abroad, we’re there to help and get them back home safely.
“We’re continuing to review and innovate our products to ensure they work as well as they can for our customers. However, we know the impact of coronavirus is far-reaching. We’d encourage customers to contact us directly if they’d like to discuss their individual circumstances and how we can best support them through these uncertain times.”
Saga’s decision follows that by Staysure, which also specialises in over-50s travel, and is covering medical and repatriation costs – but not cancellation.
United asks passengers to complete health declarationabout 1 month ago
United Airlines claims to be the first US airline to ask passengers to complete a health declaration when they check in. It asks them to confirm they have not ben diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 21 days or experienced symptoms in the previous 14 days. It lists symptoms as a temperature pf 38C/100.4F or higher, a cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, muscle pain, a sore throat and recent loss of taste or smell. It also requires confirmation that the passenger has not been in close contact in the past 14 days with anyone who tested positive and that the have not been denied boarding during the same period by another airline “due to a medical screening for a communicable disease”. Passengers can click “Accept” after reading the airline’s “Read-to-fly” checklist on its mobile app or they can confirm while checking in at and airport kiosk or with a member of staff at a desk.
Airline to restart Ireland - UK flightsabout 1 month ago
Flights by Aer Lingus Regional from Dublin to Edinburgh and Glasgow are scheduled to take off again on 14 July. A range of other services to UK airports from the Irish capital and Cork will restart at the beginning of August. They include Dublin to Manchester, Newcastle and Leeds Bradford, and Cork to Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Services between Shannon and Birmingham will return on 2 September. Aer Lingus Regional flights are operated by Stobart Air, which says face coverings will be mandatory for passengers and crew. The operator recommends they be worn from entering and leaving the departure and destination airport respectively. The only exceptions will be small children and those who cannot wear masks for medical reasons. In flight services will be suspended – but reviewed as demand becomes apparent. And passengers will be encouraged to remain seated.
Refund promise from Eurotunnelabout 1 month ago
As optimism grows that holidays in France may soon be back on the agenda, Eurotunnel has promised that any standard shuttle ticket booked from today for travel until 15 September will be fully refundable without charge. The move is designed to encourage people hoping to take their cars across the Channel to book ahead of confirmation from the UK and French Governments that quarantine requirements for arriving passengers will be lifted at the end of June. By then, the operator plans to make a new kind of refundable ticket available on its “website”:https://eurotunnel.com. In a message to customers the operator said: “Because things are gradually opening up across Europe, we want to help you plan in a responsible way, to ensure that you can wait until the moment is right, or change those plans completely if things don’t progress as you expect.”
Gatwick gears up for North Terminal reopeningabout 1 month ago
Gatwick is to reopen its North Terminal on 15 June with the resumption of flights by easyJet, Ryanair, Wizz Air, Belavia, Vueling and Blue Islands. Passengers will be required to wear face coverings in the terminals, where mask vending machines will be available. The airport is installing “numerous” hand sanitising stations, including some that are touch free. Social distancing will be organised at check in and security, in restaurants, bars, shops and gate rooms, and between seats in departure halls. With passenger traffic at only a tiny fraction of its normal level, the South Terminal has functioned throughout the lockdown. While the Government’s self isolation or quarantine requirement for arriving passengers remains in force the North Terminal looks certain to be very quiet. But a fortnight after it swings back into action the first so called “air bridges” are expected to open between the UK and countries with low infection rates.
Ryanair waives peak summer flight change chargesabout 1 month ago
Ryanair, which has been drawing flak for its handling of refunds for cancellations, has announced it will waive its flight change fee for all customers booking departures in July and August – in normal times the airlines’ busiest period. The offer covers only the route originally booked, and trips must be completed by 31 December. Dara Brady, director of marketing and digital, said: “As popular holiday countries like Italy, Portugal and Spain are opening up for international tourists, we are ready to welcome passengers on board from 1 July, when Ryanair will be operating over 1,000 daily flights across our entire network. We want to offer our customers as much confidence and flexibility as possible, with no flight change fee if their travel plans change”.
Holidays abroad to start in three weeksabout 1 month ago
Senior Government sources have indicated that holidays abroad can start on 29 June. The Quash Quarantine campaign group of over 500 travel and hospitality businesses said today it had received private assurances that travel corridors will be established by then. Spokesman Paul Charles, CEO of the PC Agency, said: “We urge the government to signal to the travel industry publicly and urgently that this is the case, as well as amend FCO (Foreign & Commonwealth Office) advice on non essential travel. We are still considering our options regarding legal action, including whether to join British Airways’ claim or launch our own action, but would prefer that 29 June is confirmed as soon as possible for the start of travel corridors. The industry needs urgent visibility on a timetable for travel to begin again.”
The FCO is currently advising against all non essential travel abroad. And while travellers will be able to fall back on the European Health Insurance Card to cover most of the cost of emergency medical treatment in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, those without current travel insurance policies may find it difficult to get cover. So far Staysure is the only company to have confirmed to Silver Travel Advisor that it will cover the cost of treatment for COVID-19 while abroad. But its policies do not cover cancellations caused by the disease. However, Cyprus has indicated it will cover medical costs of visitors hit by coronavirus, and Jamaica is reported to be exploring the possibility of providing its own low cost insurance.
Holiday giant delays summer startabout 1 month ago
Continuing uncertainty over international travel restrictions has persuaded Britain’s second biggest package tour operator Jet2holidays to delay the start of its summer programme four a fortnight – from 1 to 15 July. The firm said: “The health and safety of our customers and colleagues is our absolute priority, and we are continuing to monitor the situation very closely.” It did not mention the current requirement that returning passengers must self isolate for 14 days. But should the Government decide to ditch the rule after 29 June – when it is due to review the policy – the delay would clearly provide extra breathing space for Jet2holidays to prepare for its launch. The firm added: “We are working closely with all relevant authorities to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone enjoying our flights and holidays, and we will be introducing a range of safety measures on our aircraft and transfer vehicles. We are also working closely with airport, hotel and tourist board partners to ensure that appropriate health and safety measures are implemented. Further details will be announced in due course.”
Quarter of holiday travellers would fly despite quarantineabout 1 month ago
Nearly a quarter (24%) of potential leisure travellers would still fly despite the requirement to self isolate for 14 days on their return, according to new research.
A second survey suggests a significant number of silver travellers (nearly 45%) believe they will be able to holiday abroad in Europe by late September. And 54% think they may start to consider booking a trip in the same time frame.
CTAIRA, the aviation consultancy that conducted the first research, did not break down into age groups those who would refuse to be deterred by the much derided new rules. But logic suggests many of those questioned would have been retired retired people, and under no pressure to return to their jobs.
Respondents in the second survey were customers of specialist travel companies belonging to AITO. While it covered all age ranges from 21 upwards, only 11% of those questioned were under 50 – and 66% were over 60.
A quarter of those questioned by CTAIRA said an airport COVID-19 test would give them sufficient confidence to fly again, with 65% responding that the test should be on departure and 32% preferring it to be carried out at both ends of the journey. Around 66% thought the tests should take no more than 30 minutes, with 26% prepared to wait between 30 minutes and one hour. And 33% of leisure travellers would be prepared to turn up at the airport more than one hour earlier than they’ve been used to.
The next biggest confidence builder would be a combination of masks and social distancing on aircraft – with seats beside and in front and behind each passenger left empty. Only nine per cent of those questioned replied that none of the selection of precautions they were asked about would entice them into the air. Low though it looks, however, it would be enough to seriously dent airlines’ ability to recover from the economic impact of the pandemic.
The consultancy’s founder Chris Tarry notes a number of issues with airport testing, such as what to do with passengers who test positive and are deemed not fit to fly, but also those who have been in close proximity with them and are also required to self isolate. “There is also the issue of how to deal with passengers on arrival who are suspected of being infectious. Of course there is also a need to have the correct test and one that is supported by medical evidence and clearly not something, including temperature testing, that is chosen because it is relatively straightforward, easy to install and it is hoped gives passengers the necessary confidence to travel but where it has demonstrably poor results in respect of ‘false negatives’ and also ‘false positives’ in particular.
Three quarters (75%) in the AITO survey, which was carried out by London based Spike Insight, thought UK holidays will have restarted by late September. But when it came to long haul holidays, over one third (just under 37%) felt they would get going in the last three months of this year, with almost 12% thinking it would take ten months to a year and 10.3% believing it could take even longer than that. But when it came to booking long haul holidays, people appeared
Just over half those questioned expected the financial position of their households to remain steady over the next 12 months. Eight per cent thought it get better, 31% believed it would deteriorate and a gloomy 6% expected to me much poorer
Quarantine protest gathers paceabout 1 month ago
A huge protest was mounting today as the Government’s 14 day quarantine requirements for arriving passengers came into force. Some 500 travel and hospitality businesses have launched a Quash Quarantine campaign, claiming the measure threatens a catastrophic impact on sector, with many thousands of jobs at risk. The group was expected to decide today whether to join British Airways’ parent IAG, Ryanair and easyJet in potential legal action against the Government. Opponents of the policy argued the move had been driven by politics rather than science. Airport immigration officers questioned whether arriving passengers giving false addresses would be easily traceable for random checks.
Switzerland sets date for tourism from Britain againabout 1 month ago
Switzerland has become the first country to confirm it will reopen its doors to British tourists. The move will take effect on 15 June. Though there is no quarantine requirement for arriving travellers, the UK is scheduled to introduce a self isolation rule on Monday, making trips abroad impractical for most British tourists. But the Government has promised to review the requirement after three weeks, so the Swiss decision augurs well for the establishment of one of the first “air bridges” mooted by Ministers as a way of kick starting the summer travel season. The Government has already held talks with its Portuguese counterparts in the hope of opening a travel corridor there. Switzerland had announced earlier its would open its borders with Austria, France and Germany, also on 15 June and with other Schengen area countries by 6 July.
Meanwhile the country will take another step towards reviving its tourism business this weekend with the opening of mountain railways and tourist attractions. Hotels, shops, restaurants and museums are already open. On Monday tourist boats will start running again and on 20 June the Glacier Express, complete with on board catering, will be back in operation.
Spain has now been reported to be ready to accept British visitors when it drops its quarantine requirement on 1 July – if the UK Government makes it possible for them to travel abroad. Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia are also prepared to welcome UK tourists. But they are only accepting visitors from countries with an infection rate under 15 per 100,000 in the past 14 days. At the time of writing the UK rate was estimated at around 23 per 100,000.
Hotel for walkers and cyclists set to openabout 1 month ago
A seaside hotel specially set up for walkers, cyclists and surfers is scheduled to open next month. For hikers the “Bike & Boot”: https://www.bikeandboot.com in Scarborough will provide route maps, rain gear and umbrellas and boot cleaning and drying facilities. For dog walkers there will be list of local itineraries and somewhere to wash them after they’ve had a muddy work out. For cyclists there will be e-bike hire and charging stations, tyre pumps, servicing tools and a bike washing station and secure storage for 40 bikes. And surfers taking advantage of nearby beaches will be able to wash and dry their boards, hang out their wet suits and keep their kit secure in lockers. The property was formerly the Mount Hotel. It has been re-vamped by the Infiniti Construction group with new bathrooms, carpets and decorations in its 65 rooms. Its bar and restaurant have been refurbished and a cinema has been incorporated.
Domestic flights set for June take offabout 1 month ago
Eastern Airways plans to resume weekday domestic services from Southampton. From 22 June it will fly daily to Manchester, Newcastle, Aberdeen and Belfast City. Flights to Leeds Bradford and Teesside will start a week later. And on 23 July it will begin flying to Dublin again.
The regional carrier says its usual complimentary on board service will be limited, to reduce customer contact. It promises “A full anti-bacterial wipe down of all touch points between every service operated and a comprehensive night-stop sanitisation”. Roger Hage, its general manager, commercial and operations, said: “We will continue to increase frequency including the return of weekend services as demand returns along with adding new routes to our network. All services will ensure the safest procedures for our customer care are offered in conjunction with our airport partners.”
Meanwhile London City Airport plans to restart commercial operations at the end of this month. It also expects to begin with domestic flights but says international services should take off again in early July, “although the exact timing may depend on the proposed quarantine of passengers arriving into the UK”.
The airport will use its Crowdvision technology to spot congested areas, making social distancing easier. In a statement its management said: “A whole range of steps have been taken to provide reassurance to passengers including installing Temperature Checking Technology both on departure and arrival, providing staff with face masks and visors and providing clear instructional signage for every step of the journey. The airport will also deploy rigorous and thorough cleaning regiments, including the use of an anti-bacterial surface treatment which will begin to kill all germs upon contact and lasts for up to 12 months.”
Austrian tourism staff to get regular COVID checksabout 1 month ago
Austria plans to offer COVID-19 tests to the staff at hotels and all other businesses providing travel services from next month. Trials began in designated regions on 29 May. By next month the Government, which is footing the bill, hopes 65,000 employees in the tourism sector will be getting regular checks. Participating businesses will receive clearly visible labelling that indicates all their staff are being tested.
Hampshire's Beaulieu to reopen gardens and parksabout 1 month ago
Beaulieu, the Hampshire stately home of the Montagu family, will re-open its grounds and gardens on Saturday (6 June). Indoor elements of the popular attraction, including the National Motor Museum, will remain closed. Open areas will include Lord Montagu’s private gardens. Visitors will be able to download a map highlighting key points of interest, with a commentary written by Lord Montagu. He said: “I have taken the opportunity to share some personal perspectives and memories of the place in which I grew up, and is still very much my home.” Visitor will be able to explore the formal Victorian flower and vegetable gardens and the extensive parkland, wander through the ruins of Beaulieu Abbey and follow the Mill Pond Walk. And for those missing the museum cars, a handful will by on show near the Palace House garages. Admission will he limited to 500 a day and a new Beaulieu, the Hampshire stately home of the Montagu family, will re-open its grounds and gardens on Saturday (6 June). Indoor elements of the popular attraction, including the National Motor Museum, will remain closed. Open areas will include Lord Montagu’s private gardens. Visitors will be able to download a map highlighting key points of interest, with a commentary written by Lord Montagu. He said: “I have taken the opportunity to share some personal perspectives and memories of the place in which I grew up, and is still very much my home.” Visitor will be able to explore the formal Victorian flower and vegetable gardens and the extensive parkland, wander through the ruins of Beaulieu Abbey and follow the Mill Pond Walk. And for those missing the museum cars, a handful will by on show near the Palace House garages. Admission will he limited to 500 a day and a new bookings system will allow “reservations”:https.www.beaulieu.co.uk on a day and at a specific time. bookings system will allow “reservations”:https.www.beaulieu.co.uk on a day and at a specific time.
Annual travel insurance: refunds possible?about 1 month ago
People with annual travel insurance may be able to request a refund of part of their premium under new guidance from the Financial Conduct Authority. Though much will depend on exclusions in the small print, insurers have been direct to review policies where there has been “a fundamental change in risk”. During the more than two months since all overseas travel became impossible travel insurance already paid for has become redundant. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office advised against all non essential overseas travel on 17 March. Six days later the UK was put into lockdown.
Sheldon Mills, the Authority’s interim executive Director of strategy and competition said: “Customers should expect value from the insurance products that they buy, but the exceptional circumstances of coronavirus may have materially reduced the value they are getting. Today’s guidance is designed to protect consumers by directing insurance firms to review the products they offer to ensure they provide appropriate value and take action where there has been a fundamental change in risk or where certain benefits can no longer be provided.”
Germany set to confirm holiday bounce backabout 1 month ago
The German Government is expected to confirm tomorrow that Europe’s summer holiday season will take off in earnest on 15 June. That is when a wide ranging ban on Germans travelling abroad is likely to be eased and the country’s borders opened to most Europeans. But the UK’s quarantine plan for arriving visitors may delay the return of travel to and from this country.
Oliver Schramm, head of economic affairs at the German Embassy in London, said it depended on UK experts’ assessment of the risk of a second peak. Asked “I wouldn’t say there is some sort of tit for tat or reciprocity in this. But it could be that the quarantine is a stumbling block in the way of travel between our two countries.”
He was speaking during a webinar organised by the German Tourist Office in Britain and Ireland. The Office’s director, Beatrix Haun, said the UK might have to wait for a second phase or re-opening, but Lufthansa’s UK director Andreas Koester said: “I am confident British people will be able to fly to Germany this summer”.
Rail travel from the UK via Brussels, Paris or Amsterdam may also be an option soon. Ulrich Teitz of Deutsche Bahn (German Railways) said capacity on its inter city trains had been reduced by 50% to ensure social distancing and surfaces were being cleaned every 2hrs, with particular attention not only to toilets but to other high contact points such as push buttons and handles that travellers use to steady themselves.
Spain to trial COVID arrival checksabout 1 month ago
Spain has brought forward the partial lifting of its quarantine requirement for international visitors from 1 July to 21 June. The move will give the Madrid authorities time to test a health check pilot system on passengers from low infection countries such as Germany. They will be tested for COVID-19 on arrival and will be asked to self isolate in their hotels for six hours until the results are ready. If the pilot is a success it could pave the way for a fuller opening to tourism. But there is no sign this will include the UK until the infection rate here shows further, significant reduction.