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Travel News

IATA Data Suggests Air Travel Bouncing Back

DONALD WOOD | TravelPulse.Com

Troy Warren #travel-all

 

New data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) suggests that while air travel numbers are still down, they are bouncing back.

IATA officials revealed a 67.2 percent decline in global air traffic in March, compared to the same month in 2019. The March totals were an improvementfrom February’s 74.9 percent decline compared to February 2019.

Domestic travel was the highlight of the air traffic rebound, which bounced back to 67.7 percent of March 2019 levels. International flights were still down 87.8 percent globally compared to March 2019 due to the COVID-19-related travel restrictions still in place.

“The positive momentum we saw in some key domestic markets in March is an indication of the strong recovery we are anticipating in international markets as travel restrictions are lifted,” IATA director general Willie Walsh said. “People want and need to fly. And we can be optimistic that they will do so when restrictions are removed.”

From a global perspective, capacity dropped 56.8 percent and load factor dropped 19.7 percentage points to 62.3 percent. Domestic capacity fell 20.5 percent, while load factor dropped 12.5 percentage points to 71.6 percent.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced over 1.6 million people were screened at airport checkpoints on May 2, the highest number of passengers since March 12, 2020. The TSA has now screened at least one million people per day since March 11.


 

 

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Travel News

Airlines Reinstating Change and Cancellation Fees

RICH THOMASELLI | TravelPulse.Com

Troy Warren #travel-all

 

Remember those warm-and-fuzzy, feel-good moments of the last year when the airlines went out of their way to accommodate passengers? Like when they stopped charging fees to change tickets?

Yeah, well, those halcyon days are coming to an end.

With COVID-19 numbers regressing for much of the country, and the vaccines appear to be doing their job, airline bookings are soaring again. In fact, Delta Air Lines last week became the last U.S. carrier to stop blocking middle seats.

Now U.S. airlines are looking to ditch the ticket flexibility they introduced last year when the pandemic first hit, according to the aviation blog Airline Geeks. Customers could purchase airfare without worrying about losing the value of the ticket or being charged cancellation or change fees.

But fees – baggage fees, change fees, seat selection fees, and more – are a huge revenue-generator for airlines and now the good times have come to an end.

Airline Geeks reported that In April, American Airlines became the first carrier to resume reservation restrictions when it made its basic economy fares non-changeable and non-refundable. However, the airline is still allowing changes for international flights originating outside North or South America through May 31 (with the exception of Asia).

Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have also tightened ticket flexibility. As of May 1, all three carriers have scrapped their travel waivers for basic economy tickets and will revert back to non-changeable and non-refundable fares. Therefore, customers that worry about a new wave of COVID-19 affecting future travel should avoid booking the ultra-budget fare.

JetBlue Airways is the only airline still offering flexibility, but that will expire May 31.

What does that mean to consumers? Well, you need to have an awareness when booking tickets, especially with the expected summer travel boom upcoming. Understand what kind of ticket you are buying, what’s refundable, what isn’t, and whether you can make changes without your wallet being dinged.


 

 

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Travel News

Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Experience Coming To Walt Disney World in 2022

PATRICK CLARKE | TravelPulse.Com

Troy Warren #travel-all

 

Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser will bring a brand new all-immersive two-day, two-night vacation experience to Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort when it debuts in 2022.

Announced Tuesday in celebration of Star Wars Day on May the 4th, the first-of-its-kind experience will include accommodations in themed cabins with views of the galaxy beyond, unique dining and one-of-a-kind entertainment.

It begins at check-in at the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser terminal. From there, guests will enter a Launch Pod to begin their own personal Star Wars story, making their way toward the Halcyon starcruiser.

Inside, guests will dive into a multi-day, interactive story featuring members of the crew, other passengers and familiar Star Wars characters.

“Guests may encounter the starcruiser’s strong and charismatic captain, the ship’s plucky mechanic, heroes of the Resistance or many more as they choose alliances and chart their courses,” Walt Disney World’s announcement states.

Guests will have an opportunity to learn the ancient ways of the iconic lightsaber and even face off against a training remote as well as visit the starcruiser’s Bridge to learn about its navigation and defense systems and how to operate them.

Other onboard highlights will include a supper club called the Crown of Corellia Dining Room, which will serve breakfast and lunch daily before transitioning into a lavish multi-course menu for dinner each evening.

“One night’s dinner will feature a live performance from a galactic superstar who can captivate an entire room with the crook of her jewel-encrusted purple Twi’lek finger,” Disney teased.


 

Guests will also embark on an excursion to the planet Batuu, where they’ll explore the winding pathways of Black Spire Outpost and uncover a hidden Resistance base.

Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser guests will be the first to see their favorite characters like Rey using a new lightsaber designed by Walt Disney Imagineering Research and Development designed to be more realistic.

For a limited time, guests visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios can view a model of the Halcyon starcruiser on display inside Walt Disney Presents.

Visit starwarsgalacticstarcruiser.com for more details and to sign up to receive the latest updates.


 

 

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Travel News

The Path to Recovery for Travel Destinations

LACEY PFALZ | TravelPulse.Com

Troy Warren #travel-all

 

The World Travel & Tourism Council’s special session on destination recoverywas held virtually last week, moderated by Travel + Leisure’s Editor in Chief, Jacqueline Gifford along with special guests from Google, Brand USA, Visit California and more.

The session, titled “Reboot, Adapt and Thrive: The Path to Recovery for Destinations,” analyzed key things destinations within the country will have to focus on first, such as supporting safe domestic travel, before the country can once again welcome international travelers.

It also included key trends the travel industry is seeing right now, as well as the role technology will play in anticipating those trends.

The rise in domestic tourism has been the common trend within each country.

Muzzammil Ahussain, Executive Vice-President, Consumer Travel, Seera, commented about his country of Saudi Arabia: “Even during the lockdown period, yes, travel stopped, but customers continued to engage with us, and we continued to provide them with inspirational content and we used our platforms to provide places to travel, and that’s when, especially in Saudi Arabia, the domestic market really opened up.”

This trend has applied within the United States, too, but some travelers are apprehensive about traveling domestically. Even some residents within destinations across the country are worried about restarting tourism in their towns and cities.

Communicating safety, once these destinations are deemed safe by the proper authorities, will be the most important thing the travel industry can do right now to grow domestic tourism.

“I think as we get on top of the pandemic as the vaccine rolls out around this country and around the world, that we’re going to have a great opportunity to really play on building confidence back — confidence among ourselves, confidence among visitors coming in…” said Christopher Thompson, President & Chief Executive Officer, Brand USA. “When the pandemic first became a reality, it really hit our urban cores the hardest.”

Building back confidence will take transparency, communication and time to rebuild. Vaccinations were cited by many of the panelists as the biggest impetus to reopening international travel, but domestic must recover first to allow the industry time to prepare for international travel once more, cautioned Thompson.

Visit California’s President & Chief Executive Officer, Caroline Beteta, anticipates California’s June 15th reopening by showing Californians that domestic travel is safe and possible: “We’re really leaning into our Californians…it’s a well we can tap to help shorten the recovery curve…” By creating the Respect California campaign, Visit California has been able to communicate the restrictions and requirements that vary county by county, so travelers can travel safely and respectfully throughout the state.

Another important global travel trend is the importance of sustainable travel.


 

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen that what we do affects the world in which we live, and travelers will certainly lean more towards sustainable travel, from choosing more carbon-neutral airlines to staying at eco-friendly resorts and hotels, or participating in tours or experiences that directly and positively impact local communities.

This trend could impact the travel industry in a variety of ways, from inspiring executives to rethink the frequency of traveling by air for business or tracking their carbon footprints to hotels rethinking the way they interact with local communities.

Gilda Perez-Alvarado, Global Chief Executive Officer, JLL Hotels & Hospitality, said that prior to the pandemic, “we were all very much focused on infrastructure,” but now that focus has changed: “Post-pandemic, we’re looking at the sustainability of the business going forward…Our clients all want to talk about the sustainability of their business going forward, and that has so many ramifications from social issues…to actual investments with infrastructure, etc.”

There is hope for the future, though the travel industry must take baby steps to recover. For now, however, communication is key. Rob Torres, Managing Director, Travel, Google, cited some important statistics: “In our last survey, 1 in 3 U.S consumers said that they plan to take a leisure trip in July, and I think that bodes well for all of us.”


 

 

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Travel News

ALERT: TSA Extends Face Mask Mandate to September

LAURIE BARATTI | HollywoodReporter.Com

Troy Warren #travel-all

 

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced an extension of its CDC-backed requirement that passengers wear face masks aboard planes, trains, buses and all public forms of transportation.

The order was set to expire on May 11, but will instead continue through at least September 3, 2021. According to the Associated Press, TSA confirmed that children under the age of two and passengers with certain disabilities will continue to be exempt from the mask regulation.

Aviation industry groups, airlines and the flight attendants’ union have lately been the ones calling for an extension of the rule, arguing that the mask mandate has been a major factor in safeguarding the health of both passengers and airline workers amid the pandemic.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also declared that it will uphold its strict enforcement directive and pursue legal action against those who violate the mask rule, as well as disruptive and otherwise non-compliant passengers, for as long as the federal mask mandate remains in effect.

In response to the TSA’s announcement, Tori Emerson Barnes, U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President for Public Affairs and Policy, issued the following statement:

“Extending the federal mask mandate for travel is the right move and has the travel industry’s full support. The universal wearing of masks in the travel environment is both an effective safeguard against spreading the virus and boosts public confidence in traveling—both of which are paramount for generating a sustained reopening of the travel economy.”


 

 

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Travel News

Disneyland Welcomes Back Guests After More Than One Year

JANEEN CHRISTOFF | TravelPulse.Com

Troy Warren #travel-all

 

The Disneyland Resort has officially reopened. The first public crowds were welcomed to the resort by cast members who lined up along Main Street to wave and cheer.

As the number of COVID-19 cases in California began to decline, restrictions began to lift, and theme parks were allowed to reopen to California residents on April 1, 2021. In order to bring back and train castmembers on new safety measures during the pandemic, the Disneyland Resort scheduled the reopening of its theme parks and Disney’s Grand Californian Resort & Spa for the end of April.

April 30 was the first official opening day for the theme parks and crowds lined up hours ahead of time to be one of the first guests welcomed back.


 

The feeling of joy was palpable among both cast members and visitors, many of whom were emotional to see the parks buzzing with guests once again.

Those who are planning to visit the parks should be prepared for COVID-19 screening procedures, health checks and security checks.

Visitors should also make sure that they have pre-purchased theme park tickets and made theme park reservations before they arrive.

Currently, both Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure theme parks are only open to residents of California and visitors will be asked to show proof of residency.

For now, the parks are open at a limited percent capacity for those holding tickets and reservations, which means that crowds and social distancing are fairly easy to maintain.

Masks are required and mobile ordering food and beverages are encouraged.


 

There are several new features within the app to make planning a visit seamless, including joining virtual waitlists for restaurants.

Guests can also join the virtual queue for Star Wars Rise of the Resistance starting at 7 a.m. Disneyland ticket holders and those with park hopper tickets with reservations starting at Disneyland can join the virtual queue for the ride from anywhere, they do not have to be in the park. Those with park hopper tickets starting at California Adventure have the chance to join the virtual queue at 12 p.m.


 

 

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Travel News

Disney Cruise Line Unveils More Details on New Disney Wish Cruise Ship

LAUREN BOWMAN | TravelPulse.Com

Troy Warren #travel-all

 

The Disney Wish is Disney Cruise Line’s newest ship set to sail in the Summer of 2022. Bookings will be available to all by May 27, 2021, and even earlier for Castaway Club members (May 17-May 26 based on membership level). 

This innovative ship is designed to be its own ‘Castle on the Sea’ with all-new experiences and entertainment.

“With the Disney Wish, we’re continuing our tradition of delivering the most magical and relaxing vacations at sea, combining legendary service and entertainment with imaginative storytelling and all the care you expect from a Disney vacation,” said Josh D’Amaro, chairman, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products in a recent statement. “Our newest ship will celebrate everything that families love about sailing with us, from the incredible dining experiences and character interactions to dazzling shows and the crew’s thoughtful attention to detail. We can’t wait to welcome our guests aboard the Disney Wish as we expand the reach of our world-class fleet.”


 

Grand Hall

Guests will enter through the Grand Hall which is the heartbeat of the ship.

Decorated with an elegant grand staircase, a gold Cinderella statue, a Wishing Star chandelier and a newly designed theatre space that is unique to the Disney Wish, every detail is rooted in the theme of ‘Enchantment’.


 

Upper Deck

Kids of all ages will get to enjoy the first-of-its-kind, Disney attraction at sea, the AquaMouse. With themed Mickey and Minnie shorts much like on ‘Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway’ at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, riders will travel along 760 feet of audio and visual immersion of ‘splashtastic fun’.

Located in the main portion of the upper deck are six separate pools where friends and family can mingle and play.

Little ones will enjoy the Toy Story-themed aqua park, and adults will have their own area at the back of the boat called the Quiet Cove. Here there will be an infinity pool that will overlook the sea and those over 21 can relax at the bar area.


 

Dining Experiences

The Disney Wish will host three family restaurants with immersive experiences: an Arendelle themed restaurant with Nordic-inspired offerings, a 1923 Hollywood-style restaurant, and a Marvel restaurant with menu items inspired by Wakanda, Eastern European Sokovia and New York City. It’s expected that guests will get to enjoy all restaurants on a rotational basis like they can on other Disney Cruise Line ships.

There will also be two adults-only restaurants – Palo Steakhouse and Enchante which will feature elevated dining experiences.


 

The Star Wars: Hyperspace Lounge is already gaining prestige as guests are anxious to travel through their signature cocktails to Batuu, Tatooine and Mustafar.

Additionally, the ship is expected to have quick service options located throughout just like with other Disney Cruise Line ships.

Staterooms

There will be a total of 1,254 staterooms onboard the Disney Wish with 70 percent of them having a verandah. Over 900 staterooms will also have connecting doors for larger parties traveling together.

The Disney Wish will even offer a select few staterooms that are located above the bridge of the ship for the first time ever. These will stun guests with floor-to-ceiling windows, and those opting for concierge service will also be treated to a private lounge area with its own sun deck.

There will also be four royal suites with two of these even being two-storied.

Every stateroom is expected to give guests ample room to make themselves at home with modern bathrooms that include a tub.

Kids Club

Kids aged 3 to 12 can enjoy all the Kids Club has to offer like the Marvel Superhero Academy, Fairytale Hall and even what it’s like to be a Disney Imagineer. There’s even a special slide entrance into the Kid’s Club from the Grand Hall – unfortunately, adults will have to use the door.

Entertainment

Each Disney Cruise Line ship is known for its special entertainment options. And while we do know that ‘Aladdin’ will be performed in the Walt Disney Theatre, two new shows are also being developed especially for the Disney Wish but are currently being kept under wraps.

Sailings

The Disney Wish is expected to leave out of Port Canaveral starting the Summer of 2022, with three- and four-night cruise itineraries. Its maiden voyage is scheduled to stop at Nassau, Bahamas and Castaway Cay, but other sailings have yet to be released. Guests can book through their travel agent or at DisneyCruise.com.


 

 

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Travel News

Hotel Industry and Workers Call for Job Saving Legislation

HARVEY CHIPKIN | TravelPulse.Com

Troy Warren #travel-all

 

In a rare display of unity, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA), representing the hotel industry, and Unite Here, the union representing hospitality workers in North America, joined forces to call on Congress to pass the Save Hotel Jobs Act. Speakers at a press conference said the industry has been devastated more than any other and will not recover for several years. Even as travel picks up, hotels are having difficulty bringing back workers because of insecure conditions.

The legislation would:

—Support Hotel Workers: Direct payroll grants will be utilized for payroll and benefits expenses for workers. The legislation would also require grantees to give laid-off workers recall rights to ensure those who lost their hotel jobs due to the pandemic are able to get back to work.

—Allow Worker-Friendly Tax Credits: Provides a Personal Protective Equipment Tax Credit to promote worker safety measures, which would allow for a payroll tax credit for 50 percent of costs associated with the purchase of personal protective equipment, technology designed to reduce the impact of the pandemic, increased testing for employees and enhanced cleaning protocols that do not negatively impact the level of work for housekeeping staff.

Leisure and hospitality, according to AH&LA, has lost 3.1 million jobs during the pandemic that have yet to return, representing more than a third of all unemployed people in the U.S. What’s more, the unemployment rate in the accommodations sector remains 330 percent higher than the rest of the economy. According to recent reports, New York City has seen one-third of its hotel rooms—more than 42,000—wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic, with nearly 200 hotels closing permanently in the city.

Chip Rogers, CEO of AH&LA, said that this legislation represents the most important issue facing the industry right now as the industry continues to struggle. “We were hit first and we were hit worst,” he said, noting the industry “hangs on by a thread.” Saying that an uptick in leisure travel is wonderful news, he added, “the industry cannot survive with leisure travel alone; we must have business travel as well.” Roger said the hospitality and commerce jobs recovery act, a different bill, is aimed more at getting people to travel again, rather than at workers.

One reason many employees are not returning to their hotel jobs, said Rogers, is that they have been unemployed for 14 months and have sought work elsewhere. He said hotels cannot remain in business if they don’t have workers. And D. Taylor, president of Unite Here, said there has been “natural drift” from hotel work as people try to survive. He called the legislation a “smart insurance” policy for the industry and workers.


 

Taylor said that the return of leisure travel is great but particularly in urban areas that rely so much on business and conventions, the industry is not coming back any time soon and millions of jobs are in jeopardy, including a large percentage of women and members of minority groups. He said that in every urban area, tourism is first, second, third or fourth in generating jobs. “This is not a handout,” said Taylor; “it’s a bridge so folks get paid, have jobs and can pray for when business travel returns.” He said 100 percent of the funds will go to payrolls.

Charlie Crist, a congressperson from Florida and co-sponsor of the bill, said the fact the union and industry are working together shows that this is not a partisan issue. He said travel is indispensable to America and particularly to Florida. Tourism is also a positive for the environment, Crist said, because it encourages protection of beautiful spaces. Crist said he looks forward to President Biden’s speech tonight in hopes it will spur legislation such as his. He said the time frame for passing this legislation is not certain because “Congress moves at a certain pace.”


 

 

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Travel News

Real ID Deadline Pushed Back Due to Pandemic

JANEEN CHRISTOFF | TravelPulse.Com

Troy Warren #travel-all

 

The Department of Homeland Security announced that it is delaying the date for Real ID for Americans traveling through airports due to the pandemic.

Travelers would have needed Real ID-compliant identification by October 1, but, because it was so difficult for many Americans to get to motor vehicle departments during the COVID-19 outbreak, that deadline has been pushed to May 3, 2023.

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“Extending the Real ID full enforcement deadline will give states needed time to reopen their driver’s licensing operations and ensure their residents can obtain a Real ID-compliant license or identification card,” Department of Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said.

Under the REAL ID Act passed by Congress after September 11, travelers 18 or older boarding an airplane using a driver’s license for identification need to have one that conforms with the law’s stricter requirements.

This isn’t the first time that the REAL ID deadline has been pushed back, but it is welcome news for the airline industry. The U.S. Travel Association, the National Governors Association and other groups called for an extension, and it seems that message was received.

The U.S. Travel Association praised the announcement. 

“Extending the REAL ID deadline is the right move, and we’re grateful to DHS for heeding the evidence and the calls from our industry,” said executive vice president for public affairs and policy Tori Emerson Barnes. “Getting to REAL ID compliance on time was already going to be a challenge before COVID shut down DMVs for extended periods. Significant travel disruption was likely if the deadline were allowed to hit, which the U.S. economy can’t afford after a $500 billion decline in travel spending last year and millions of travel jobs lost to the pandemic.”


 

 

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The Benefits of Choosing an All-Inclusive Resort Vacation

CODIE LIERMANN | TravelPulse.Com

Troy Warren #travel-all

 

It’s officially been more than a year since cruise ship sailings out of U.S. ports were halted. You most likely have a handful of cruise-only clients that are eager to get back on a ship. You’ve moved their deposit several times as the sailing dates continue to get pushed off.

Although there are optimistic signs of cruising resuming at some point this year, there is another travel option you can be offering these clients: an all-inclusive resort vacation. There are several benefits of choosing this type of vacation, and some clients might just need to be presented with the idea.

To begin, all-inclusive hotels and resorts have been successfully operating for almost a year now. Palace Resorts and Le Blanc Spa Resorts safely reopened in early summer of 2020. The Purely Palace program features a number of health measures to ensure safe stays for guests, including free onsite COVID-19 testing and complimentary stays should any visitors need to quarantine.

Your clients used to the cruise ship atmosphere are sure to question the inclusions and activities of a resort stay. At Palace properties, though, they’ll have just as much to enjoy during their vacation.

Living the ‘Palace Life’ includes dining in a variety of restaurants, ordering room service at any time of the day or night and having access to top-shelf drinks and an in-room minibar – all included. Guests also enjoy daily activities for all ages and evening entertainment, all without reaching for their wallets. To top it off, visitors to Palace Resorts properties can unwind in spacious, amenity-rich accommodations.


 

Avid cruisers may also be thinking of the various ports they visit and the cultural tours and excursions they take during sailings.

Not to worry as Palace properties are conveniently located in areas where tours and excursions are only a short drive away. Whether it’s a trip to the Mayan ruins in Mexico or a visit to Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica, guests can enjoy a day of adventure before retiring back to their resort for the evening.

After spending time getting a taste of what an ‘AWE-inclusive’ vacation at one of Palace Resorts’ properties all entails, your clients may end up inquiring about their next trip before they even leave the resort.


 

To give clients even more of a vacation to remember, Palace is currently offering a ‘Kids & Teens Stay Free’ promotion which allows everyone 17 years and under to stay, play and eat for free at the six family resorts in Mexico and Jamaica.

Travel advisors can learn more about Palace Resorts by registering for the Palace PRO Specialist Program. This program comes with special perks such as having access to marketing materials, complimentary air credits and increased commissions.