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Covid-19 closures, cancellations hit Hawaii

 

Tovin Lapan
Tovin Lapan

One week changed everything. On March 14, bars, restaurants and public places in Hawaii were largely operating as normal as only a handful of Covid-19 cases had been diagnosed in the Aloha State.

By March 17, responding to the pandemic, updated federal guidelines and stricter policies sweeping the nation, Gov. David Ige requested new restrictions on public activities, including asking visitors to postpone coming to the islands for at least 30 days. As the state's 10th new coronavrius case was announced, public areas were shut down while restaurants, bars and entertainment venues faced tightening restrictions.

By March 21, there were a total of 48 known Covid-19 cases in the state, and Ige stepped to the podium again to announce a new measure: Starting March 26, everyone entering Hawaii, residents and visitors alike, will be subject to a 14-day quarantine. 

Earlier in the week, Ige also asked for a 15-day closure of bars and clubs, theaters, entertainment venues and visitor attractions. Restaurants are being asked to limit service to drive-through and takeout. Groceries, pharmacies and other essential services are to remain open. 

In his Saturday press conference, Ige said the mandatory quarantine order would remain in effect indefinitely.

"This mandate is the first of its kind in the nation," he said. "We want this action to send the message to visitors and residents alike that we appreciate their love for Hawaii, but we are asking them to postpone their visit."

Ige had previously extended a state of emergency throughout Hawaii to run through mid-May and announced new state measures to contain the spread of coronavirus including increasing the number of testing sites.

Violating the quarantine order is a misdemeanor offense with a maximum fine of $5,000 and up to one-year imprisonment. All those entering Hawaii will be ordered to self-quarantine in their homes, hotels or other lodging, and enforcement will be up to the counties, state officials announced. 

On Oahu, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell ordered the closure of indoor city facilities and banned large gatherings on city property, urging private businesses to follow the same precautions.

"It's not business as usual anymore," Caldwell said in his announcement. "Don't come out of your homes if you don't have to."

In the previous few weeks, the Hawaii entertainment and event schedule had already been ripped to shreds for the coming months. Numerous events have been canceled or postponed. The 57th installment of the Merrie Monarch Festival, referred to as the "Super Bowl of Hula" and scheduled for April 12-18 in Hilo on Hawaii Island, was canceled. The 13th Festival of the Pacific Arts and Culture, or Festpac, booked to come to Hawaii for 11 days in June, has been postponed. The annual Travel Weekly Hawaii Leadership Forum, scheduled for April 28 in Waikiki, has been postponed. The Waikiki Spam Jam, slated for April 25, is postponed. The Shinnyo Lantern Floating Hawaii ceremony on May 25, one of the largest events held in Honolulu each year, has been canceled.

Additionally, tours of Kalaupapa National Historical Park have been canceled until April 11 as a public health measure to protect the Kalaupapa Hansen's disease patients. The Maunakea Visitor Information Station on Hawaii Island suspended operations starting March 15. The parking lot will remain open as well as the portable toilets there. The mountain remains open to the public. Maui Arts and Cultural Center postponed all public programming.

Through April 30 many public activities in Honolulu are canceled, including Blaisdell Center concerts, Royal Hawaiian Band performances, Lei Day events, People's Open Markets and more.

In additional measures coming after Ige's announcement, the Honolulu mayor closed all city parks including municipal golf courses and the Honolulu Zoo, and mandated restaurants, bars and clubs on Oahu provide takeout only and offer no public seating through at least April 4. 

Just as the situation on the ground has been changing rapidly, so have the forecasts of the impact on Hawaii's number one industry. Early on, projections were modeled after the experience with the SARS virus, which had a steep decline but rapid recovery. As the pandemic has widened, and the arch of the downturn lengthened, the potential outcomes have worsened. University of Hawaii economists released a report March 10 estimating a 10% decline in tourism spending in 2020, a $1.7 billion hit to the economy.

"While new infections have slowed markedly in China, the spread of the novel coronavirus ... suggests a more prolonged outbreak is in the cards," the report states. "And the longer the virus spreads, the greater the human and economic toll."

The new measures in Hawaii follow the first positive test on March 16 for Covid-19 in Hawaii that was not someone who had recently traveled outside the state: an employee at Oahu's Kualoa Ranch, a tourist attraction with movie sites, boat excursions and other activities.

Jack Richards, president of Pleasant Holidays, said the company entered 2020 with a record number of Hawaii bookings, and while business continued to be ahead of 2019's pace, the rate of cancellations out of the San Francisco Bay Area particularly increased following the shelter-in-place order for six counties.

"It is the strictest [order] in the U.S. so far, similar to Europe. This is resulting in Hawaii cancellations from the SF Bay area, and this will continue for the next few weeks," Richards said in an email. "The SF Bay area is a large origin market for Hawaii, so this will negatively impact the destination, which cannot be quantified at this time. There is no question Hawaii trip cancellations are much higher than normal especially for Hawaii cruises, due to the CDC recommendation travelers should defer cruise ship travel worldwide."

The majority of cancellations were for March and April, Richards said, and while they continue to take new bookings for Hawaii in 2020 and 2021, the volume is less than normal.  

"We do believe Hawaii is perceived to be a safer destination than others since the state is reporting a low number of Covid-19 cases today," he added. "Hawaii airline fares and room rates are near record lows for the year, and this is helping stimulate some travel for those who would not consider Hawaii due to price. Total demand is down due to traveler fear and anxiety that is preventing many from booking Hawaii vacations today."

Tourism accounts for nearly one out of every five jobs in the state and 17% of the economy, and how the industry fares during the pandemic is at the top of mind for state officials. Hawaii Tourism Authority president Chris Tatum addressed the state House Select Committee on Covid-19 at a March 12 hearing.

Tatum, noting the worsening projections, urged lawmakers to consider support such as sick leave for small businesses in the hospitality industry.

"The industry produces $17 billion in revenue, and we know we have a responsibility to support that going forward," Tatum said. "But right now, the focus is making sure we're part of the same team and working on impacting the spread of the virus."

Carl Bonham, executive director of the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization, said Hawaii officials need to prepare for the worst.

"The short-term economic effects will overwhelm the state's ability to counteract them," Bonham said, adding he predicts hotel occupancy to drop by 30% to 40%, from an average of 80%. The state could soften the blow with measures like increasing unemployment benefits, he said.

Hawaiian Airlines CEO Peter Ingram told the committee airlines are likely to continue reducing flights as demand continues to soften. A marketing push selling Hawaii as a place that can offer a range of unique experiences for visitors might help mitigate the loss of air travelers, he told the committee.

As conditions in Hawaii have changed rapidly, properties are adapting on every level: guest relations, operations and employee support.

"The health, safety and well-being of our guests and employees are our first priority as we navigate through these unprecedented times," Kisan Jo, president of Prince Resorts Hawaii, said in an email. "Through these difficult times, we are doing everything we can as an employee-first company to support the health and livelihood of our employees to the best of our abilities given the changing landscape of this current situation."

Prince Resorts, whose properties include the Prince Waikiki in addition to the two properties that comprise Mauna Kea Resort on Hawaii Island, has implemented flexible cancellation and rebooking policies for guests, adjusted restaurant operations and cancelled any event bookings over 10 people for 30 days. Employees are receiving complimentary testing, continued medical coverage and additional support through an employee wellness fund to supplement wages, Jo said.

Other hotels and tourism-related businesses are similarly scrambling to figure out how to best support their staff and manage finances during an indeterminate period. 

Following the Ige announcement, Rob Pacheco, president of Hawaii Forest and Trail, and his team decided to shut down all tour operations until after Easter. Pacheco has built the tour company over 27 years, and recently has had to rebound from a major hit to his business from the eruption of Kilauea in 2018. Hawaii Forest and Trail had already taken numerous cancellations due to the cessation of Princess cruise stops in the Islands.

"We've gone through quite a few challenges with the business over the years. ... Just as we're getting back on track and doing well with our feet underneath us, boom, the coronavirus hits," he said. "This is like a slow 9/11, where everything is just gradually grinding to a halt. Who knows how long it will last."  

Pacheco agreed that the time had come for the restrictions on public gatherings, and the hospitality industry, and Hawaii community in general, will have to rally together in the coming weeks and months to support one another.

"Everyone is still a little shell-shocked and figuring out what to do. There still isn't a lot of clear direction from the government on what to expect in terms of assistance with medical coverage, wages, mortgages and debts," he said. "There are a lot of concerns. It's survival mode for lots of folks, for large corporations and small businesses."

For now, Pacheco said he hopes to keep as much of the business in place as possible so they can ramp up quickly when conditions start to normalize.

"I have no doubt the travel industry will rebound, and I think Hawaii will be even more popular after this is over," he said. "People will see that it's a safe destination and want to come here."

U.S. Airlines Cut More Flights

airplane

The "big three" U.S. airlines -- United Airlines, American Airlines and Delta -- have all made additional capacity cuts due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting travel restrictions.

United Airlines

United Airlines says it is cutting its schedule by 60 percent for the month of April, including a 42 percent reduction across the United States and Canada and an 85 percent decrease in international flights. 

Across the Atlantic, Pacific and Latin America, United will operate approximately 45 daily flights in April:

Atlantic
New York - Newark Brussels Daily
Frankfurt Daily
London - Heathrow Daily
Mumbai Daily
New Delhi Daily
Tel Aviv Daily
Washington - Dulles London - Heathrow Daily
Pacific
New York - Newark Tokyo - Narita 4x weekly
San Francisco Melbourne 3x weekly
Osaka 5x weekly
Singapore Daily
Sydney Daily
Tokyo Haneda Daily
Tokyo Narita Daily
Latin America
Mexico
Houston Cancun Daily
Guadalajara Daily
Leon Daily
Los Cabos Daily
Mazatlan Saturdays
Mexico City Daily
Monterrey Daily
Puerto Vallarta Daily
Los Angeles Los Cabos Daily
San Francisco Los Cabos Daily
Puerto Vallarta Daily
Cancun Daily
Chicago Cancun Daily
New York - Newark Cancun Daily
Caribbean
New York - Newark Antigua Saturdays
Nassau Daily
Providenciales Daily
Punta Cana Daily
Santo Domingo Daily
San Juan Daily
St. Lucia Saturdays
St. Thomas Daily
Central and South America
Houston Belize City Daily
Sao Paulo Daily

In terms of domestic travel, United says it does not plan to suspend service to any single U.S. city now, with the exception of Mammoth Lakes, CA. This could change, however, based on state and local curfews and government restrictions, so the airline will adjust its schedule accordingly throughout the month. 

American Airlines

American Airlines is implementing a phased suspension of international flights that is scheduled to last through May 6. The move will reduce its international capacity by 75 percent. The changes are as follows:

  • American will suspend all remaining flights to Asia, except for three flights per week from Dallas - Fort Worth to Tokyo Narita. 
  • Suspending service from Los Angeles to Sydney.
  • American will continue to operate one flight daily from Dallas - Fort Worth to London Heathrow and Miami to London Heathrow
  • Suspending flights from New York - JFK, Boston, Chicago O'Hare and Los Angeles to London Heathrow gradually to reaccommodate passengers and crew
  • London Heathrow, Dublin and Manchester flights from CharlottePhiladelphia and Phoenix were suspended faster, as these airports are not approved gateways by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Final eastbound flights from Charlotte, Philadelphia and Phoenix were on March 15; final westbound flights returning from London Heathrow, Dublin and Manchester departed March 16
  • Continued suspensions in other parts of Europe, as previously announced, including the delayed start of some seasonal routes as well as flights to and from AmsterdamBarcelona, Frankfurt, Madrid and Munich, Paris and Zurich through early May, or later, based on guidance from the U.S. government and customer demand.
  • Suspending service from JFK and Miami to Rio de Janeiro and Georgetown, Guyana
  • Suspending service from Dallas - Fort Worth, JFK, Los Angeles and Miami to São Paulo
  • Suspending service from Dallas - Fort Worth and Miami to:
    • Chile: Santiago
    • Colombia: Bogota
    • Ecuador: Guayaquil and Quito
    • Peru: Lima
  • Suspending service from Miami to:
    • Brazil: Brasilia and Manaus
    • Colombia: BarranquillaCartagena, Cali, Medellin and Pereira

Delta

In Latin America, Delta is suspending and adjusting service to the following countries:

Argentina
  • Suspension of service between Atlanta and Buenos Aires starting March 17 through May 1.
Aruba 
  • Suspension of service between Boston and Minneapolis/St. Paul to Aruba starting March 22 until winter 2020. Last flights will operate March 21. 
  • Suspension of service between Atlanta and New York-JFK to Aruba starting March 26. Last flights will operate March 25. 
Colombia
  • Suspension of service between Atlanta and Bogota starting March 26. Last flight to Atlanta will depart March 25.
  • Suspension of service between Atlanta and Cartagena starting March 24. Last flights will operate March 23.
  • Suspension of service between New York-JFK and Bogota starting March 19. Last flight to JFK departs March 18.
Ecuador
  • Suspension of service between Atlanta and Quito starting March 17 through April 19. Last flight departed March 16.
El Salvador
  • Reducing daily service between Atlanta and San Salvador to twice a week starting March 19 through April 1.
Guatemala
  • Suspension of service between Atlanta and Guatemala City starting March 17 through April 19.
  • Suspension of service between Los Angeles and Guatemala City starting March 16 through April 19.
Honduras
  • Service to Honduras will be suspended for seven days starting March 16.
  • Service from Atlanta to Tegucigalpa/San Pedro Sula planned to resume on March 23
  • Saturday-only service from Atlanta to Roatan planned to resume on March 28.
Panama 
  • Suspension of service from Atlanta to Panama City starting March 22 through March 31. Last flights will operate March 21.
Peru
  • Suspension of service from Atlanta to Lima starting March 17 through March 31. Last flights operated March 16. 
Saint Maarten
  • Suspension of service between Atlanta and Saint Maarten starting March 19. Last flights will operate March 18.
  • Suspension of service between New York-JFK and Saint Maarten starting March 18. Last flights will operate March 17.

Delta will support partner Aeromexico by flying one daily roundtrip between New York-JFK and Mexico City, and two daily roundtrips between Los Angeles and Mexico City between May 2 and August 16.

Delta is also significantly reducing its U.S. flying to Europe, the UK and Ireland. The airline's revised transatlantic schedule is as follows:

France
  • Atlanta to Paris-Charles De Gaulle once daily
Ghana
  • New York-JFK to Accra (as regularly scheduled)
Netherlands
  • Atlanta to Amsterdam once daily
  • Detroit to Amsterdam once daily
Nigeria
  • Atlanta to Lagos (as regularly scheduled)
  • New York-JFK to Lagos (as regularly scheduled)
Senegal
  • New York-JFK to Dakar (as regularly scheduled)
South Africa
  • Atlanta to Johannesburg (as regularly scheduled)
United Kingdom
  • Atlanta to London-Heathrow once daily
  • New York-JFK to London-Heathrow once daily

Delta's transpacific schedule is as follows:

Australia
  • Suspension of service from Los Angeles to Sydney starting March 18 through April 11.
China
  • Previously announced suspension of all U.S. to China flying extended through May 31.
Japan
  • Suspension of seasonal summer service between Seattle and Osaka.
  • Early termination of service between Narita and Manila on March 19. Service was scheduled to end March 28.

Through May 31:

  • Suspension of service between Portland and Tokyo.
  • Suspension of service between Detroit and Nagoya.
  • Daily service between Detroit and Tokyo reduced to six times weekly.
  • Daily service between Honolulu and Tokyo reduced to six times weekly.
  • Five times weekly service between Minneapolis and Tokyo reduced to three times weekly.
  • Extension of reduced five times weekly between Atlanta and Tokyo.
  • Extension of reduced three times weekly between Honolulu and Osaka and Nagoya.
South Korea

Through May 31:

  • Suspension of service between Atlanta and Incheon.
  • Previously announced suspension of service between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Incheon, along with Incheon and Manila extended through May 31.
  • Extension of reduced five times weekly between Detroit and Incheon, along with Seattle and Incheon.

Coronavirus Prompts Multiple Border Closures

Globe

Coronavirus Prompts Multiple Border Closures

The ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has prompted many major meeting and incentive destinations to announce new border controls. Here are some notable ones to keep track of. 

Europe

On Tuesday, leaders of the European Union (EU) agreed to close the area’s borders to most foreign travelers, effective immediately, according to the Associated Press. The ban is set to last for 30 days, and it will apply to all 27 EU member states. Citizens of Switzerland, Liechtenstein, the UK and Norway are exempt. 

Central and South America

According to Reuters, the following destinations in Central and South America have announced new restrictions and border closures:

  • On Sunday Argentina announced it will close its borders to non-residents for 15 days, and it has temporarily stopped issuing visas to travelers from the United States
  • Peru has closed its borders for 15 days, including air and sea transport.
  • Panama is only allowing citizens and foreign residents to enter the country. 
  • Honduras has closed its borders for a week, except for the movement of goods. 

Additionally, Chile has closed all land, sea and air borders as of Wednesday, March 18. Cruise ships will also be denied docking at Chilean ports through September 30. 

Caribbean

  • All incoming flights in Curaçao are canceled with the exception of flights carrying local residents in the possession of a valid retour-ticket and a sedula.
  • The Dominican Republic will be closing its borders by land, sea and air effective Thursday, March 19, for the next 15 days.
  • All persons arriving in Jamaica, regardless of destination of origin, are subject to self-quarantine for 14 days.
  • Additionally, Aruba, the Cayman IslandsSt. Maarten and Trinidad are totally closed to international visitors for two to four weeks, effective Monday, March 16. 

Abu Dhabi Closes Cultural Sites; UAE Suspends Issuing Visas

Louvre Abu Dhabi

In line with precautionary measures to ensure the health and safety of visitors, the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) has decided to close select cultural sites in the emirate temporary starting from Tuesday, March 31, 2020.

 

Closed cultural sites include; Louvre Abu Dhabi, Manarat Al Saadiyat, Qasr Al Hosn, Culture Foundation, Al Ain Palace Museum, Al Ain Oasis, Al Jahili Fort and Qasr Al Muwaiji.

“The safety and well-being of our visitors and staff is of paramount importance to us,” DCT Abu Dhabi said in a statement. “We will update you once the cultural sites resume normal operations.”

Other cultural centers, including; Bait Al Oud, Berklee Abu Dhabi, and Al Qatara Art Center will continue working as usual offering art classes, with restrictions according to health and safety measures.

Effective March 17, the United Arab Emirates has suspended issuing visas, Etihad Airways reports. This does not apply to those holding visas issued prior to 17 March, or to those eligible for visa on arrival or holders of diplomatic passports.

Additionally, Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) closed one of its three terminals on Monday. In a tweet, the airport wrote, “As part of our continuous efforts to provide exceptional service to our airline partners and passengers, we are announcing the closure of Terminal 2 and migrating all existing flights to Terminal 1 at AUH.” The airport serves and as the home to Etihad Airways, which operates from Terminal 3.

by Matt Turner

Abu Dhabi’s Record Visitors in 2019 Bodes Well for Tourism Growth in 2020

 
 
 
By   James Shillinglaw,

The Department of Culture and Tourism-Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) says the number of international visitors coming to the UAE capital in 2019 is estimated to have reached 11.35 million. This number includes 2.83 million overnight and 8.53 million same-day visitors, and is a 10.5 percent increase over 2018. The final figures include official international hotel guests, plus estimates for overnight visitors from overseas staying with friends or relatives and an estimate for the number of same-day international visitors. And numbers for 2020 should be even greater as Abu Dhabi adds new attractions and partners with Dubai on Expo 2020 later this fall.

 

DCT Abu Dhabi’s official 2019 hotel figures also reveal that Abu Dhabi’s 168 hotels and hotel apartments posted the highest number of guests to date (5.1 million), with robust growth across key revenue metrics including total revenues, average room rate (ARR) and revenue per available room (revPAR).

The hotel guest numbers represented an increase of 2.1 percent over the previous year, while hotel occupancy was up 1.6 percent to 73 percent. Average Length of Stay (ALOS) for 2019 was up 1.8 percent to 2.6 nights and total revenues were up an 6.6 percent (to AED 5.8 billion). ARR metrics were up 4.7 percent and RevPAR also increased by 6.4 percent.

 

India, China, the U.K. and the U.S. remain the top four non-UAE source markets for hotel guests, with Russia, Ukraine, South Korea and Bahrain the fastest growing markets between 2017 and 2019. The Indian market performed especially well, with an 8.2% increase over 2018 – with more than 450,000 hotel guests arriving - and the USA posting a 5.1% increase over the same time period.

 

The breakdown of figures between the different regions of the emirate show that hotels in Abu Dhabi performed well across every metric, posting positives for guests (1.5 percent), occupancy (1.3 percent), ALOS (2.8 percent), revenues (7.3 percent), ARR (5.3 percent) and RevPAR (6.6 percent). Hotels in Al Ain, meanwhile, posted robust increases for guest numbers (9.8 percent) and occupancy (2.3 percent), while hotels in Al Dhafra saw increases in occupancy (3.6 percent), revenues (5 percent), ARR (10.1 percent) and revPAR (14.1 percent).

 

On Saadiyat Island, hotel guests numbers for 2019 saw a huge 73.6 percent increase, as the island’s major attractions started to come online, with 165,436 total visitors for the year. Revenues jumped by 50.3 percent while occupancy was up by 14.7 percent. ALOS for Saadiyat increased by 2.5 percent to 4.2 nights while revPAR went up by 5.7 percent.

 

Hotels in the ADNEC area posted an increase in revenue of 22.7 percent for 2019, while guest numbers increased by 9.4 percent, with a total of 305,257 guests arriving. Occupancy went up by 9.9 percent while ALOS increased by 1.6 percent. ARR went up by 10.4 percent and revPAR increased by 21.3 percent.

 

“These 2019 results reflect the hard work and dedication that DCT Abu Dhabi, its tourism stakeholders and its partners have put into offering a ‘must-see, must-visit’ leisure and business destination to not only the international visitor but to domestic guests also,” said Saood Al Hosani, acting undersecretary at DCT Abu Dhabi. “These outstanding results were underpinned by some world-class, exceptional events presented in the UAE capital across 2019, including the inaugural Abu Dhabi Showdown Week, which included the massively popular UFC 242 event, and Abu Dhabi Family Week, which included the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards, and Summer In Abu Dhabi events as well as the Eid Al Adha celebrations. We also saw a fantastic edition of the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Abu Dhabi Art, ADIPEC 2019 and concerts from global superstars such as Eminem, Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. “These events helped elevate Abu Dhabi’s global standing and reputation and contributed massively to our guest metrics, resulting once more in a record breaking year in terms of visitation to the UAE capital.”

 

And 2020 is already bringing new events and attractions. Sheikh Khalid bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, member of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council and chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Office, just inaugurated Al Ain, which features archaeological and historical remains as well as outdoor adventure activities. Jebel Hafit Desert Park, located about 12 miles south of Al Ain on the eastern flank of Jebel Hafit mountain, also was launched by the Department of Culture and Tourism-Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi).

 

The park is part of the first site in the UAE to be designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and contains numerous unique archaeological discoveries, some dating back 8,000 years. The new attraction will feature a range of outdoor activities, including bike riding, guided hiking tours, several camping options, from luxury “glamping” to individual tent camping, as well as guided tours in powered carts. Visitors can simply explore the stunning scenery in the park at their own pace using the self-guided trails and signs.

 

“It is part of DCT Abu Dhabi’s mandate to preserve our cultural heritage, while also offering innovative, immersive and entertaining experiences for residents and visitors alike, and Jebel Hafit Desert Park does just that,” said Mohammed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi. “The park will appeal to anyone with an interest in the archaeology and history of the region, as well as those who enjoy adventurous outdoor activities. So, we look forward to welcoming those from within the Abu Dhabi community and visitors from further afield to this incredible new attraction.”

 

The park’s archaeological sites reflect many of the major transformations that have taken place throughout Abu Dhabi during the past 8,000 years. Evidence suggests that this region saw the development of successive prehistoric cultures, from the Neolithic to the Iron Age, which saw its inhabitants’ transition from nomadic societies to the sedentary occupation of the oasis we see today. Among the Park’s key attractions are a series of restored and unrestored Bronze Age Tombs.

 

In 1959, the UAE’s Founding Father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, then the Ruler’s Representative in Al Ain, invited a group of Danish archaeologists to excavate these important shaped tombs. Sheikh Zayed believed that the ancient mounds at the site contained important evidence about the country’s deep history. The Danish archaeologists began work in 1961 and determined that the tombs dated back to 5,000 years ago.

The village of Mezyad, to the south of Jebel Hafit Desert Park, became an important settlement and a number of historic buildings were built to defend key approaches to Al Ain. This includes the fort at Mezyad, believed to have been built in the 1890s. The fort will be re-opened to the public during the upcoming next phase of the project. Al Ain contains some of the most prized and unique attractions in the region and internationally. These include other UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as the six oases and the archaeological sites of Hili and Bida bin Saud.

 

For more information about Jebel Hafit Desert Park and other activities taking place in Al Ain, visit www.jebelhafitdesertpark.ae. For more information about tourism in Abu Dhabi, visit http://dctabudhabi.ae.

Grand Hyatt coming to Miami Beach, Fla., in 2023

Real estate companies Terra and Turnberry selected Hyatt Hotels Corp. to manage their planned Miami Beach, Fla., hotel under its Grand Hyatt brand. The Grand Hyatt Miami Beach, slated to open in 2023, will be located adjacent to the recently renovated Miami Beach Convention Center. 

"Grand Hyatt Miami Beach makes it possible to better compete for citywide conventions, which fuel jobs in our community and generates business for all of Greater Miami's hotels and merchants,” William D. Talbert III, president of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, said in a statement.

The 800-room Grand Hyatt Miami Beach will include 12 floors of guestrooms, two floors of meeting spaces and ballrooms, a resort-style pool deck and street-level retail. An elevated skybridge will connect the hotel to the convention center. Plans also include landscaped pedestrian walkways, bike sharing stations, connectivity with public transit and dedicated ridesharing picking-up and drop-off zones. 

David Martin of Terra and Jackie Soffer of Turnberry are leading the development of the hotel. Architect Bernardo Fort-Brescia and his firm Arquitectonica will lead its design. Other members of the team include Craig Robins of real estate development company Dacra; Stonehill Taylor, which will design the hotel’s interior lobby and lounges, ballroom and meeting rooms, guestrooms and common areas; architecture and interior design firm EoA Group; and Arquitectonica GEO.

"For years, Miami Beach has served as a global destination for arts, culture, shopping, dining and entertainment, but the city has lacked a true headquarters hotel for top-tier conventions and meetings," Martin and Soffer said in a statement. "South Florida's first Grand Hyatt hotel will maximize Miami Beach's investment in its re-imagined Convention Center while bridging the physical gap that exists between the Convention Center District and surrounding neighborhoods."

 

The 800-room Grand Hyatt Miami Beach will include 12 floors of guestrooms, two floors of meeting spaces and ballrooms, a resort-style pool deck and street-level retail. Photo credit: Terra
 

Hilton to Open Three Hotels in Resorts World Las Vegas

by

Adam Leposa

Hilton is bringing three of its hotel brands to Resorts World Las Vegas, which is set to open in summer 2021. Marking the largest multi-brand deal in Hilton’s history, the partnership will bring the company’s Hilton Hotels & Resorts, LXR and Conrad brands to the 3,500-room resort on the Las Vegas Strip, as well as make the property part of the Hilton Honors loyalty program. 

Guests at the three Hilton-branded hotels will have access to the resort’s facilities, including a 5,000-capacity theater which can host celebrity residencies and corporate events; 350,000 square feet of meeting and convention space; a 220,000-square-foot pool complex with seven pool experiences (including an 1,800-square-foot infinity pool with views of the Strip); a 27,000-square-foot spa; a fitness center; and a collection of casual and fine-dining food and beverage concepts. 

Genting Berhad is developing the $4.3 billion resort project, which is currently one of the largest hotel construction sites in the United States. Other amenities will include a 110,000-square-foot casino with slots, table games, high-limit gaming areas, private gaming salons, dedicated poker room and a 14,000-square-foot Entertainment Zone, which includes a race and sports book and featured live entertainment.  

The overall design of the resort will aim to combine traditional and modern architecture, with a large LED screen on each of the resort’s two towers. Other touches will include an interior color palette of warm gold and cream hues. 

Additional details about the project will be announced in the coming months. 

 

 
 

DHS to Allow Online Real ID Applications

The 200 million Americans who do not yet have Real ID will be allowed to submit their documents online to their local Department of Motor Vehicles offices, according to USA Today

While almost 100 million Americans now have compliant driver’s licenses, it’s just seven months until the October 1 deadline—after which travelers will no longer be able to use non-compliant licenses to pass through security at the nation’s airports. And the Department of Homeland Security is concerned about the 200 million who still do not. 

The ability to file online will be especially helpful in states like New York, for example, where the wait times at DMV offices often are four hours or more. Travelers still will be required to bring their documents to DMV in person, but having everything already online will speed the process.

To get a Real ID-compliant driver’s license in New York, for example, applicants must show proof of identity, such as a birth certificate or passport; proof of a Social Security number, such as an original Social Security card, a W-2 form with their Social Security number or a letter from the Social Security Administration; proof of birthdate; proof of lawful status in the United States, such as citizenship or green card; and two proofs of residence, such as utility or mortgage bills.

Travelers without acceptable licenses still will be able to use a passport, military ID or Global Entry (but not TSA Precheck) card to pass through airport security. But an estimated 100 million Americans have neither a compliant ID nor a passport, and the U.S. Travel Association estimates that 57 percent of Americans are not even aware of the new requirements. 

"DHS' announcement—for which U.S. Travel has been a vocal advocate— is a step forward in streamlining the compliance process while upholding the security requirements of the REAL ID Act," said U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes. "However, the challenge remains that tens of millions of Americans do not yet possess REAL ID-compliant identification, and we won't solve this issue by pushing people to the DMV."

Just yesterday, NBC News quoted Kevin Burke, President and CEO of the Airports Council International-North America, as saying, “we’re going to have a real crisis come October 1.” And in Oregon, for example, Tom Fuller, a spokesman for the transportation department, said “if we worked 24/7, we’d have to do seven a minute to get the number of licenses out by October. But there’s no way we could do seven a minute.” He suggested Oregonians apply for passports instead.

DHS has specifically called upon travel advisors to help spread the word among travelers heading for the airport after October 1.

by

Cheryl Rosen

 

Preventative measures due to concerns regarding COVID-19 infections in China

Dear Valued Travelers: (by Norwegian Cruise Line)

The safety, security and well-being of our guests and crew is our number one priority. We have proactively implemented several preventative measures outlined below due to growing concerns regarding COVID-19 infections in China. We will continue to consult with The World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and take appropriate additional action as needed. 
 
Policies currently in place include the below. Please note that changes related to guests who hold a Chinese, Hong Kong or Macau passport are marked as bold. 

 

  • Guests who have traveled from, visited or transited via airports in China, including Hong Kong and Macau, within 30 days of their voyage embarkation, regardless of nationality, will not be allowed to board any of our vessels. The standard incubation period recognized by the WHO and US CDC for this virus is 14 days.
    • Guests who are denied boarding will be issued a refund when they provide proof of travel.
  • Any crew members who have traveled from, visited or transited via airports in China, including Hong Kong and Macau within 30 days will not be allowed to board our ships.
  • The recent Hong Kong port closure will result in itinerary modifications and we will share the revised itinerary as well as further details as they become available.
  • Prior to the port closure in Hong Kong, we implemented non-touch temperature screenings for all passengers embarking from this destination and any guest who registered a body temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius or higher, were not allowed to board. Guests on these voyages were also subject to temperature screenings when returning from shore excursions at ports of call.
    • Guests who were unable to sail due to a high temperature were advised to open a travel insurance claim with their insurance provider.
  • For all guests, we will continue standard pre-boarding health reporting and evaluation. Any guests who appear symptomatic are subject to pre-boarding medical evaluations including but not limited to temperature checks as deemed necessary.
  • Any guest who exhibits symptoms of any respiratory illness while on board will be subject to additional screening at our onboard Medical Center and may be subject to potential quarantine and disembarkation.
  • We have implemented additional cleaning and disinfection protocols on board all voyages. These protocols will be enforced in addition to our already rigorous sanitization standards in place.
  • Singapore and the Philippines are not currently allowing Chinese nationals to disembark at their ports. Guests with a Chinese passport who are traveling on voyages that disembark in one of these regions will not be allowed on board our ships. If additional port restrictions are put into place we may have to modify this policy as needed.
    • Guests who are denied boarding due to this will be issued a refund.

 
The above measures will remain in effect until further notice and are subject to change at any time as we evaluate the situation and continue to consult with local health authorities as well as the WHO and U.S. CDC. 
 
At this time, we have made a number of itinerary changes and none of our vessels are currently calling to ports in mainland China.  We also have the flexibility to alter our itineraries as needed to avoid areas of concern. All itineraries that call in mainland China for the next six months are currently under review and we will communicate any itinerary revisions as soon as possible. As always, we will closely monitor the situation and take appropriate action as necessary.
 
We apologize for the inconvenience to any guests affected by these measures put in place to ensure the safety and well-being of all our guests and crew. 
 
For frequently asked questions and information regarding the Coronavirus, please visit the following websites:

Sincerely,
Norwegian Cruise Line

Insider Resort: First Margaritaville All-Inclusive to Open in Cancun in March

Margaritaville Holdings and Karisma Hotels & Resorts said reservations are open for stays at Margaritaville Island Reserve by Karisma Riviera Cancun, Margaritaville’s first inclusive resort experience, which represents a complete conversion of the former Azul Beach Resort Riviera Maya by Karisma. 

Located on a beachfront along the Riviera Maya coastline in Mexico, Margaritaville Island Reserve by Karisma Riviera Cancún offers a laid-back beach vibe for guests who value high quality without pretense.  Reflecting a savings of up to 60 percent off, exclusive introductory rates start at $200 per person plus a $150 resort credit when stays are booked by Dec. 10, 2019.

 

“The picture-perfect shore of the Riviera Maya is the perfect destination to launch our inclusive resort experience with Karisma Hotels & Resorts,” said Tamara Baldanza-Dekker, chief marketing officer for Margaritaville. “With an unparalleled level of personalized service, unique amenities and a mix of fun and relaxation around every palm tree, we can’t wait to give our guests a new way to vacation in Margaritaville.” 

 

Margaritaville Island Reserve by Karisma Riviera Cancún will deliver world-class amenities, service, and top-quality food and beverage. In combination with Margaritaville’s sense of fun and escapism, the resort promises to be a new favorite tropical vacation destination. Guests will be presented flip-flops and welcome drinks upon arrival, setting the tone for an Island Reserve Inclusive experience. With just 148 guestrooms and suites, the beachfront property allows for a highly personalized vacation, with plenty of space to seek refuge at any of the resort’s four pools, four restaurants, six specialty bars, and 8,000-square-foot St. Somewhere Spa by Karisma.

 

“We are thrilled to be opening the first Margaritaville Island Reserve by Karisma in Riviera Cancún, Mexico, an ideal destination for an unforgettably luxurious yet laid-back tropical vacation,” said Kelly Poling, chief executive officer of Premier Worldwide Marketing, the exclusive representative of Karisma. “Karisma Hotels & Resorts has a deep history in the Riviera Maya and we look forward to welcoming guests to experience its stunning natural beauty, rich culture, and warm people along with the world-class service, amenities, and carefree fun that define the Island Reserve Inclusive experience.”

 

Accommodations: The resort will offer nine styles of guestrooms and suites reflecting an upscale coastal design, including oceanfront and swim-up options with direct access to the main swimming pools.  All accommodations open to a balcony complete with Adirondack chairs or daybeds, overlooking either the pools, gardens or Caribbean Sea. Influenced by the colors of the sea, sand and sky, accommodations have a “no worries” tropical vibe with custom maritime-inspired furnishings and authentic Mexican touches, while still providing all the expected modern conveniences, such as smart TVs and Wi-Fi.

A first-of-its-kind offering exclusive to Margaritaville Island Reserve, every room will have a complimentary customizable in-room bar experience. Guests can treat themselves to their favorite drinks, complete with all the glassware and tools needed for true personalization. Guests can enjoy a morning coffee, mimosa, mid-day beer or a frozen Margarita on the balcony at sunset.

 

Dining & Drinking: Representing Margaritaville’s first Island Reserve Inclusive resort, the food and beverages at the property reflect unique, authentic experiences across four restaurants and six specialty bars along with surprise and delight moments at the beach and pools. Highlights of the food and beverage options include: Homemade Italian cuisine served with wine from an extensive Wine Spectator awarded wine list at Frank & Lola’s and Rita’s Taco House, serving traditional Mexican fare with phenomenal ocean views.

 

Located on the Sand Bar Swim-Up Bar complete with hanging beds is Blended, where guests can whip up their favorite fresh fruit on a bike blender. Plus, the resort will feature Margaritaville’s signature concepts, License to Chill Bar and Five o’Clock Somewhere Bar. Joe Merchant’s Coffee & Provisions is the place for freshly brewed Mexican coffee, and extensive beverage and snack offerings from early in the morning to late at night Guests also can enjoy a daily “foodie hour” featuring surprise dishes with a gourmet spin. Drinks with a tropical twist also will be delivered to the beach and pool areas in fun and creative ways.

Island Ambassadors: Exclusive to Margaritaville Island Reserve, the guest experience at the new Riviera Cancún property will be kept casual yet customized thanks to a team of Island Ambassadors who are passionate about Margaritaville, the destination, and ensuring every guest’s vacation is entertaining and memorable. A concierge, vacation-planner and a catalyst for fun rolled into one, these Ambassadors are on-call to answer questions, take requests and make guests smile throughout their stay.

 

Spa & Pool: Guests are invited to escape to the 8,000-square-foot St. Somewhere Spa by Karisma, including an exclusive Couples Suite and Bridal Suite, an expansive hydrotherapy area, and a full-service beauty salon. Facilities include an herbal steam room, dry sauna and chromotherapy shower. Dedicated to overall wellbeing, St. Somewhere Spa presents offerings designed to awaken the senses, strengthen circulation, soothe nerves, improve digestion and balance metabolism, in addition to fun margarita-inspired treatments.

 

Weddings & Private Events: Margaritaville Island Reserve by Karisma Riviera Cancún will offer a gteat backdrop for weddings and private events. Whether it is a group gathering, a yearly family reunion, a corporate retreat, a friends’ getaway or a social club get-together, the resort combines Margaritaville’s sense of fun and escapism with an expert team of event planners dedicated to creating unforgettable events in paradise for up to 140 people. Premium facilities include a beachfront gazebo and signature Sky Wedding location with 360-degree views from the private rooftop terrace, as well as restaurants, specialty bars, and dynamic conference spaces.

 

Features & Activities: The resort will feature live daily entertainment. Guests will find a variety of activities to keep them engaged, with everything from Latin dance and beach soccer to weekly events such as a mariachi fiesta or blackjack tournaments. For younger guests, the resort will have a Parakeets Kid’s Club with supervised daily activities for children 4-12 years old, including cooking classes, mad lab experiments, piñata making, pajama parties and movie nights.

Rates: Reflecting a savings of up to 60 percent off, introductory rates at Margaritaville Island Reserve by Karisma Riviera Cancún start at $200 per person per night double for stays April 18-June 30, 2020 when booked by Dec. 10, 2019. There’s also a $150 resort credit. Rates are Island Reserve Inclusive and feature accommodations, top quality food, premium alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, 24-hour room service, Joe Merchant’s In-Room Bar Experience, and Island Ambassador service.

 

To reserve your client’s stay at Margaritaville, call Gino's Travel AgencyTo learn more about Margaritaville Island Reserve by Karisma Riviera Cancún, visit www.margaritavilleislandreserveresorts.com

 

By  James Shillinglaw

Germany Sees Tourism from U.S. Grow 3.5 Percent in First Eight Months

As the year comes to a close, German tourism officials say they are carefully optimistic that their country will see record results for 2019. As stated by the World Travel Monitor, for the months of January to August incoming visits from the U.S. were up 3.4 percent compared with the previous year. Climate-friendly means of transport also are gaining a stronger relevance for travelers within Germany.

 

Germany's popularity among Europe’s top tourist destinations continues to grow at an above-average rate despite challenging general conditions. This is confirmed by an interim evaluation of the World Travel Monitor data for the months January to August by the market research company IPK International on behalf of the German National Tourist Board (GNTB).

 

According to the study, travel to Germany from Europe increased by 4 percent, even though the number of foreign trips by Europeans increased by only 2.5 percent in the same period of the previous year. Europe is by far the most important source region for German incoming tourism. The impetus for such growth from overseas markets was provided by North America, which was up more than 2 percent. In a direct comparison with its competitors, Germany achieved higher growth rates in both European and global incoming tourism than France, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

 

"We were able to further expand Germany's strong position as a travel destination in an extraordinarily competitive environment,” said Petra Hedorfer, CEO of the German National Tourist Board. “We continue to grow as a holiday destination and confirm our leading position as a business destination."

Vacation trips are the most dynamic market segment, up more than 6 percent, with long holiday trips (up more than 7 percent) growing even faster than short trips (up more than 5 percent). Germany remains by far the most important business destination for Europeans. Business travel growth rates are up 2 percent, more than twice as high as those of the overall European market. While the traditional business travel segment continues to decline (down more than 2 percent), Germany recorded significant gains of 4 percent in promotable business travel.

 

For the first time in years, the World Travel Monitor figures show a significant change in the modal split of transport modes from Europe to Germany. Passenger cars, which traditionally account for about half of all travel, are rising by 5 percent, while air travel is growing by just 1 percent. The biggest transport winners are rail (up more than 10 percent) and bus (up more than 8 percent).

 

"Germany as a travel destination is very well positioned in the increasingly fierce competition between destinations," Hedorfer said. "The latest trend statements by IPK must not, however, conceal the fact that we are facing major challenges due to weaker economic growth in the Eurozone, the climate debate, trade conflicts and the Brexit issue. Economic and political risks in important source regions of world tourism can lead to a slowdown in the growth dynamics of global travel flows.” For more information, visit www.germany.travel. Ready to book, contact Gino's Travel Agency at 214-274-1369.

 

By   James Shillinglaw,

Brexit or Not: U.K. Sees Strong Growth in Visits from the U.S.

In Britain these days, the political preoccupation seems to be all about Brexit—whether to stay or to leave the European Union and how. But that political fixation doesn’t seem to be having any effect on tourism—at least from the U.S. New figures released by VisitBritain show strong growth in visitor arrivals from the United States to the United Kingdom during the first six months of 2019.

There were two million visits from the U.S. to the U.K. during the period between January and June this year, up 11 percent on the same period in 2018. U.S. travelers also spent a record £1.8 billion (roughly $2.3 billion) during this period across the U.K., up 13 percent.

“As Britain’s most valuable inbound market for spend and arrivals, we are thrilled to see the continued growth in numbers from the U.S. in the first half of this year,” said Gavin Landry, VisitBritain’s executive vice president-The Americas (pictured above). “We are building on this growth, highlighting the iconic and unexpected experiences that can be found in Britain’s cities, countryside and coastal villages.”

 

“The fall and winter are ideal times to visit Britain with a warm holiday spirit and visitors able to experience the charm of the festive season and beyond,” Landry added. “Britain’s shops, accommodation and visitor attractions are also continuing to offer good value for U.S. visitors and we are promoting a message of value across our activity in the U.S. to drive bookings. Also, with more direct airline routes and more daily flights from the U.S. on offer, it really is a great time to book a trip right now.”

 

VisitBritain continues to drive awareness through its global campaign “I Travel For…” aligning the passions that motivate people to travel with experiences that can only be had in Britain. The campaign highlights unexpected experiences and less-explored destinations in Britain, together with its renowned landmarks and attractions to entice international visitors to book a trip right now.

 

British film releases in the U.S. in 2019, including the recent “Downton Abbey,” have continued to keep Britain top of mind for U.S. travelers. In November, “Last Christmas” will arrive in movie theaters providing a “love letter to London” during the holidays. In spring 2020, the latest James Bond film “No Time To Die” is set for release.

 

The latest data from ForwardKeys shows that forward flight bookings from the U.S. to the U.K. from October 2019 to March 2020 are tracking up 5 percent compared with the same period last year. Since May this year, U.S. citizens can use Britain’s ePassport gates, which provide easier and faster entry into the U.K., boosting the country’s competitive tourism offer and its message of welcome.

 

In 2018 overall there were 3.9 million visits from the U.S. to the U.K. Visitors from the U.S. spent £3.4 billion ($4.39 billion) across the U.K. last year. Tourism is worth £127 billion ($164 billion) annually to the U.K. economy, creating jobs and boosting economic growth across the nations and region. For more information, visit www.visitbritain.com. Ready to book call Gino's Travel Agency 214-274-1369.

Avanti Unveils New Experiences, Hotels, Itineraries and Destinations

By   Alan Fine

Avanti Destinations has added more than 50 new activities and experiences, 60 hotels, 20 suggested itineraries, and two new destinations to its selection of European products that travel advisors can combine and custom-tailor for their independent travel clients and custom groups in 2020 and 2021. Avanti sells exclusively through travel advisors.

Avanti's new 152-page, four-color brochure, Essence of Europe 2020-2021, can be ordered or downloaded at the travel advisor portal, book.avantidestinations.com. The new brochure is designed for travel advisors to pass along to their clients, with useful maps, tables of rail and driving travel times between destinations, explanations of the advantages of train travel and self-drive vacations, and short feature articles by Avanti employees about favorite experiences and destinations.

“Not only are bookings to Europe up over last year, but the average ‘spend’ or dollar value of Europe bookings is up nearly 10 percent,” said Paul Barry, Avanti’s chief executive officer. “Best-selling countries in Europe remain Italy, France, Ireland, Spain and the U.K., but bookings are growing much faster in Greece, Croatia, Switzerland and Portugal. Independent travelers are going beyond the most famous places and asking advisors to find them less-touristed destinations that retain their authenticity and character.” In keeping with Avanti’s long-standing focus on encouraging clients to taste local and regional flavors, many of the new itineraries and activities are food-, drink- and cooking-themed.

 

Barry said smaller, off-the-beaten-path destinations need to be booked early since there are fewer accommodations available than in the major cities. Private guides—another big trend for the tour operator—also need to be booked far in advance in more popular destinations, because there is a limited number of high-quality guides.

 

For 2020-2021, Avanti has added Morocco and St. Petersburg, Russia, which can easily be added to other European itineraries. Among the many new tours and experiences are a private half-day tour of lavender fields and Luberon villages (from Arles, France); Paris street art walking tour; private London “supercalifragilistic” tour visiting Mary Poppins sites; private tour of the ancient city of Anagni (outside of Rome), the crypt under its cathedral filled with Byzantine frescoes, and wineries; private winery tours by e-bike and horseback in several Italian wine regions; private tour of Costa Brava with a picnic, winery visits and tour of Dali’s house and museum in Figueres (Spain); “Day in the Life of a Fez Family” (Morocco); small group tours in Crete, including a food lover’s morning walking tour of Chania; private “truffle hunter for a day” tour in Istria (Croatia); evening food tour by bicycle in Berlin; midnight sun hike and Sami culture tour (Tromso, Norway); private “cook and cruise” tour on Lake Lugano (Switzerland).

 

New itineraries that advisors can customize and combine with other destinations, activities and transfers include:

Ultimate Scandinavia: This tour, lasting 13 days/12 nights, visits Copenhagen, Oslo, Bergen, Stockholm, Helsinki and Rovaniemi. It includes private bike tours of Copenhagen and Helsinki, Oslo beer walking tour, Stockholm food walking tour, Norway in a Nutshell rail pass, Bergen fjord cruise to Mostraumen, overnight ferries between Copenhagen and Oslo and between Stockholm and Helsinki, Santa Claus safari or Aurora Borealis tour in Rovaniemi, and choice of accommodations.

 

Italy’s Vineyards and Sunsets: This tour, lasting 7 days/6 nights, stays in small towns of the Langhe wine region (northern Italy) and Lake Como. It includes a private cheese and hazelnut tasting, private full-day wine-tasting tour, truffle hunting, cooking class with lunch, private Como walking tour, private sunset and Prosecco boat tour on the lake, choice of accommodations and daily breakfast.

 

Champagne Discovery: This tour is 3 days/2 nights in Eparnay, France and includes one 3-course Champagne tasting lunch, Moet & Chandon Champagne house tour with tastings, Champagne vineyards tour with tasting, daily breakfast and choice of accommodations. Easy to combine with stays in Paris plus Burgundy or Alsace wine country.

 

Salzburg and the Glacier: This tour, lasting 4 days/3 nights, focuses on Salzburg, Austria, Mozart’s birthplace and the setting for “The Sound of Music.” It includes a choice of “Sound of Music” sites tour or a private city walking tour; three-course dinner in the heart of the Old Town; private full-day tour of the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier, 10,500 feet high and accessible by cable car; 48-hour Salzburg Card providing free travel on city transit and free entrance to attractions; private transfers; choice of accommodations and daily breakfast.

 

Swiss Panorama: This tour, lasting 10 days/9 nights, visits Zurich, Lucerne, Grindelwald, Montreux and Geneva using the efficient, easy-to-use Swiss transportation system and includes a private Zurich walking tour; optional self-guided tour to Mount Titlis; self-guided excursion to the Jungfraujoch; optional tour to Chamonix/Mt. Blanc; Swiss Travel Pass for unlimited rail, bus and boat, as well as city transit systems and free admission to over 500 museums; choice of accommodations and daily breakfast.

 

Bremen & Bremerhaven: This tour, lasting four days/three nights, visits the sister cities of Bremen, with its medieval town center, and Bremerhaven, site of the German Emigration Center, telling the story of the 7.2 million people who departed from there for the Americas over the course of 300 years. It includes private walking tours of both towns, entrance to the German Emigration Center, accommodations and daily breakfast.

 

For more information call 214-274-1369

Emerald Waterways Makes Black Friday Offer Including Free Air, Drinks

 

 

So here’s another river cruise company that wants to get in on the Black Friday craze. Emerald Waterways is offering a Black Friday deal on all 2020 European sailings. ?Guests who book any 2020 European river cruise between Nov. 25 and Dec. 2, 2019 will receive free round-trip airfare plus a complimentary Premium Drink Package worth $378 per couple per week.

 

In addition, guests booking a cabin on the Horizon deck—the top deck on Emerald Waterways Star-Ships—save an additional $500 per couple. For guests who wish to book their own air, Emerald Waterways will take $2,000 off the price of the sailing.

 

Emerald Waterways’ river cruises offer contemporary, deluxe ships, great service and an inclusive pricing plan. Cruise fares include all transfers; all port charges; all onboard (and some on-shore) meals; unlimited specialty tea and coffee, wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner; bottled water in the cabins replenished daily; continental breakfast, pre-dinner canapés and after-dinner sweet treats served in the top suites; complimentary Wi-Fi onboard the ship; most shore excursions as well as all onboard and excursion gratuities. On touring days, hotel accommodations, internal flights, and transfers also are included.

 

Part of Scenic Group, Emerald Waterways' eight branded Star-Ships offer river sailings in Europe and on the Mekong, as well as the MS Rossia along the Volga River in Russia; the MS Swallow and MS Lastavica yachts in Croatia; and the MS Hamees on the Nile. For more information, call Gino's Travel Agency 214-274-1369, or 844-428-8389 or visit www.emeraldwaterways.com.

 

By   James Shillinglaw

U.S. Travel Urges Media to Warn About REAL ID Deadline for Air Travel

 

Just days ago things seemed to be a little more hopeful. The U.S. Travel Association praised a U.S. Department of Homeland Security effort to make it easier for travelers to get their new REAL IDs online. These IDs, which will be mandatory for those seeking to fly on domestic or international airlines effective Oct. 1, 2020. Now U.S. Travel is urging media to once again remind travelers about that REAL ID deadline in this year's round of Thanksgiving travel stories (okay, we’ve done our part right here!).

By next Thanksgiving, the mandate to possess a REAL ID-compliant identity document for air travel will be in full effect—and roughly 57 percent of Americans are completely unaware of that deadline, according to data released by U.S. Travel in September. U.S. Travel research also found that about 99 million Americans were likely without any form of REAL ID—a compliant driver's license, a passport, or a military ID—at the time of the survey. Anyone who shows up at the airport next Oct. 1 without the correct ID risks being turned away from getting on a plane.

U.S. Travel leaders fear that individuals who only travel occasionally, such as those who visit family over the holidays, are most likely to be affected—making this year's coverage of holiday travel a crucial opportunity to spread the word about REAL ID.

"Significant lack of awareness is one of the challenges we face as the REAL ID enforcement deadline approaches next year," said Roger Dow, U.S. Travel Association’s president and CEO. "We are concerned not only about the post-deadline effects for major travel times like Thanksgiving, but also about the significant crunch at state DMVs throughout next year as people scramble to obtain their REAL ID."

 

The message that must be repeated to get people #RealIDready, Dow said, is at a minimum, check for the star that appears in the top right-hand corner of most REAL IDs, but ideally contact your DMV directly to find out if you're compliant.

"The holidays are a time when less-frequent flyers might be thinking about air travel, and there is always ample news coverage of holiday travel projections and conditions at U.S. airports," Dow said. "The next two months are going to be critical for closing the REAL ID awareness gap. We need broad activation across the public and private sectors to get the job done."

U.S. Travel has been reaching out to a wide coalition of partners—government agencies, local and state tourism boards, and large and small travel companies, to name a few—to encourage REAL ID education efforts. The association's REAL ID toolkit is aimed at helping stakeholders get the word out with turnkey resources and consistent messaging.

 

The association is also recommending policy measures to avoid major challenges at U.S. airports next October. One thing’s for sure: If more U.S. travelers don’t get their REAL IDs in the next 11 months, airline travel could grind to a virtual halt. For more information about REAL ID, additional findings from the study, policy recommendations, and other resources, click on REAL ID.

 

By   James Shillinglaw

G Adventures Invites Travel Industry to Join Plastic Reduction Movement

With awareness of the plastics crisis at an all-time high, small group adventure travel operator G Adventures is calling on its travel industry partners to join forces in the movement to reduce the use of single-use plastics in tourism. Starting with the simple step of asking all suppliers for their support to provide alternative solutions, G Adventures hopes to provide clean drinking water for as many travelers on tour as possible so they can replace disposable plastic water bottles with reusable vessels.  https://youtu.be/FJmgBKGRy8g

Named the “Plastics Partnerships Project,” the initiative comes after G Adventures recognized that to have a greater impact it needed to engage more partners to help. After an approach to its complete hotel supply chain, 80 percent of hotel suppliers have committed to providing clean drinking water for travelers by January 2020, which equates to up to 3.5 million bottles being saved annually by G Adventures’ 200,000 customers.

Jamie Sweeting, vice president of responsible travel and social enterprise at G Adventures, says the company has been making a conscious effort over the past few years to reduce plastics across the business, but realized that to shift the dial further it needed to engage not only its staff, but also its suppliers, agency partners and ultimately its travelers.

"We're starting in a manageable way, with a focus on reducing the use of single-use plastic water bottles,” Sweeting says. “We already take steps globally to reduce plastic in our offices and on our water-based tours, and we actively participate in beach cleanups where we can. We know we can do more however, but we can’t do it alone. The Plastics Partnership Project is an invitation to work together to make small changes that can collectively make a big difference to our planet and its people. More than 350 million tonnes of plastic are produced each year and eight million of those end up in our oceans. Working collaboratively enables us to drive even more change in behavior.”

 

Some of the plastics-reduction initiatives G Adventures already has in place include:

Ocean Health Fund: Started by G Adventures’ non-profit partner Planeterra, a  key focus of this fund is plastics reduction and G Adventures’ global marine team fundraises year-round to support ocean cleanup projects.

No Plastic Container Bathroom Amenities: Those amenities onboard the G Expedition ship are provided in refillable containers to limit the use of small, single-use plastic containers, and no plastic straws are used.

No Plastic Bottled Water: There is filtered water available onboard the G Expedition and on the Sri Lanka Sailing catamaran, with no bottled water supplied onboard.

Plastics Pickup: The G Expedition picks up drifting plastic and fishing lines whenever possible.

Plastic Beach Cleanups: Guests and staff have been organized in Svalbard for the last four years, as well as in Thailand, Cuba and Sri Lanka.

 

In addition to the launch of the Plastics Partnership Project, G Adventures has partnered with industry travel experts Travel Without Plastic to develop tools and resources to help reduce single-use plastic throughout its operations. The small group tour operator also is a member of the Plastic Pollution Coalition, which connects like-minded business looking to work together to reduce single-use plastics. For more information, click on G Adventures Plastics Partnership. For more information, visit www.gadventures.com.

 

By   James Shillinglaw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MSC Cruises Delays Opening of Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve to Dec. 5

For the second time, MSC Cruises has been forced to delay the opening of its eagerly anticipated private island in the Bahamas. Right after Hurricane Dorian hit two months ago, MSC announced it would not open the island and canceled a planned preview press trip. Now, with more construction delays, the cruise line is delaying the opening yet again, at least until Dec. 5, and cancelled another press visit, which was scheduled late next week.

MSC Cruises said the development of Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve has been a multiyear project in which it has worked with multiple contractors and partners to transform what was once an industrial sand excavation site into a tropical destination, including designating the surrounding waters as a flourishing marine reserve.

 

MSC said the construction of the private island has been an extremely complex project because it has been fully committed to developing the destination in the most eco-friendly and sustainable way. At the same time, MSC said it originally anticipated that the island would be ready to receive guests in mid-November. However, as it reached the final stages of readying the island for its opening, some adverse weather conditions and unexpected last-minute operational challenges slowed down the completion of the project.

 

Despite Hurricane Dorian and the demobilization of 600 workers, MSC took measures to remain on track and deliver the project on time. But in the weeks that followed, further adverse weather conditions with strong winds and heavy swell caused several days of interruptions and created additional delays. This included heavy weather in early November, which required part of one of the beaches to be further reinforced.

 

In addition, last-minute issues with the leveling of the sand in certain areas of the island, the completion of the second breakwater and the landscaping aspects to be fully in line with MSC’s exceeding environmental criteria have created further last-minute operational issues that could impact the guest experience.

The work on the island is an on-going process and MSC said its commitment to protect, restore and conserve the island is part of a multi-phased effort. In the coming months, MSC also will introduce a Conservation Center a coral nursery on the island, which will serve as an active base for coral education and research.

 

MSC said providing guests with an outstanding experience in all destinations is a top priority and Ocean Cay is no exception. When guests start arriving at Ocean Cay, they will be greeted by endless sweeping vistas of crystal blue waters and some of the most pristine white sand beaches in the Bahamas. From early morning until late evening, they will have plenty of time to soak up the spirit of the Bahamas and enjoy the day as they wish, with no disruptions to shore excursions or beach and ocean discovery activities. They also will be able enjoy bars and complimentary dining options available on the island.

MSC Cruises ships, including the new MSC Meraviglia, which were scheduled to call the island before Dec. 5 will be rerouted to alternative Caribbean destinations or will add a day at sea to their schedule. Guests will be compensated for the missed call at Ocean Cay. For more information, visit www.msccruises.com

 

By   James Shillinglaw,

 

Planning A Multi-Gen Trip? Think Mexico

Sponsored by La Colección Resorts

Multi-generational travel is a fast-growing trend for good reason – amid hectic schedules and technology overload, families and friends of all ages want to spend quality time together, making life-lasting memories. Often, though, multi-generational travel means multi-generational interests, but travel agents can effectively meet that challenge by selecting the right destination for the trip – one that is as diverse as the clients visiting. 

 

Sun-splashed Mexico, with its stunning natural beauty and fascinating culture, fits the bill on numerous levels. Here are the top four reasons why Mexico is the ideal destination for your clients’ next multi-generational vacation. 

Accommodations Galore
While the majority of a Mexico vacation is likely spent outdoors enjoying everything from spectacular beaches to ancient ruins, the place your clients call their “home away from home” is essential to achieving high customer satisfaction levels and repeat business.

 

Mexico is privileged to have abundant accommodations options in Cancun, Playa del Carmen
Los Cabos, Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta and many other destinations around the country that are well-suited to families and friends traveling together. Think expansive living where everyone can spread out in comfort, plus upscale in-room amenities and elegant interior design, often incorporating Mexican-inspired decorative elements. 

Guests can stay in large suites (some with multiple bathrooms and bedding options), connecting rooms, accommodations with kitchenettes, and spacious villas – all in picturesque locations. Depending on guest preference, there are all-inclusive resorts for a variety of budgets, adults-only properties, hotels with a family focus, and luxury retreats. 

Activities For All Ages 
Beach and watersports fun – check. Thrilling outdoor adventures – check. Cultural immersion – check. Mexico offers a seemingly endless choice of activities to suit all ages and interests for families, extended families (with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins), couples getaways, friends getaways, and bachelor and bachelorette parties.

Kayak and snorkel in calm, scenic bays. Go scuba diving to explore a vibrant underwater world of fish and intriguing wrecks. Try surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, parasailing and jet skiing. Swim in free-form pools with exciting slides. Embark on adventures in the Mayan rainforest, jungle hikes, and ATV rides. Explore the country’s diverse landscape by sand-boarding, mountain biking and horseback riding. Watch cultural performances showcasing Mexican history and tradition. Discover a day in the life of the Mayan people, and tour archaeological sites. 

Activities can be arranged for a group to enjoy all together – or they can split into groups doing different diversions and then share their experiences over dinner that night. Hotels that offer supervised kids clubs give both children and adults some alone-time before resuming the togetherness. 

La Colección Resorts caters to the multi-generational travel market with properties for every type of traveler at every age. Two of the company’s brands – Live Aqua and The Explorean – are perfect for young couples and friend getaways, with Live Aqua featuring a sophisticated atmosphere and day-long list of activities, while The Explorean provides immersive, adventure-minded travel experiences. 

Fantastic Food & Nighttime Fun
Food is a key ingredient to a successful vacation, but satisfying a group’s palate can be challenging. Realistically, the only thing family and friends might agree upon is that they’re hungry. Fortunately, dining in Mexico is a seamless pleasure for multi-generational groups with multi-generational tastes.

There’s no shortage of authentic food – tacos, enchiladas, carne asada, tamales, mole – along with international cuisine, from Italian to Japanese. And, this culinary diversity can be enjoyed in countless ways. Sophisticated, multi-course meals in elegant settings. Festive theme night buffets. Casual open-air grills. Candlelit beachside dinners.  Dining in air-conditioned spaces or al fresco, to the hum of the waves.  Many hotels offer 24-hour room service for added convenience and comfort, especially after a busy, active day in the Mexican sun.

When the sun sets, nights in Mexico come alive with fun evening entertainment for all ages – live music, dancing, cultural performances, bars and lounges, teen clubs, karaoke, after-dark pirate shows, movie nights on the beach, and more. Grand Fiesta Americana and Fiesta Americana, two other La Colección Resorts brands, are well-suited for multiple markets, especially families and extended families, because of their numerous on-property restaurants and entertainment options.

Easy Access
Ease of destination access ranks high in importance when friends and family are likely coming from different gateways. There is extensive daily airlift to Mexico from around the U.S. across multiple carriers, affording great proximity for people traveling from either the east or west coast. 

Here’s an added bonus to the easy access – Mexico has a delightful summer climate year-round, so the destination is perfect for multi-generational trips all year long. Add this to the wide range of lodging options, tons of activities, a richly satisfying culinary profile, and lots of after-dark fun, and agents will quickly learn that selling Mexico as a multi-generational hot spot is becoming easier than ever.

Contact Gino's Travel Agency to book your get-away today!
 

This article was created in collaboration with the sponsoring company and our sales and marketing team. The editorial team does not contribute.

Caribbean Stats: Caribbean Tourism Up 1.6% Despite Hurricane Dorian by Adam Leposa

Europe Thrilling Art, Eats and Drinks in London by Emily Goldfischer

 

November is here, the days are shorter and the weather a bit cooler, which means it’s time to have more fun inside. Luckily, in London, there’s new art to experience, a new incarnation of The Grill at The Dorchester to try and a new cocktail menu at The Bloomsbury Club bringing magic to the city’s nightlife.

 

Interactive Art

 
Antony Gormley at the Royal Academy

Antony Gormley’s current exhibition at the Royal Academy

Three extraordinary, colorful and interactive contemporary art exhibits are on at the moment. From tunnels to toast, English sculptor Antony Gormley’s current exhibition at the Royal Academy on until December 3, ambitiously showcases his wide-ranging use of organic, industrial and elemental materials: Installations you can walk through made of iron, steel, hand-beaten lead; plus various mind-blowing displays using seawater, clay and even...sliced bread. 

 

Equally impressive is the Olafur Eliasson at the Tate Modern on until January 5, where he uses light, mirror, shapes and patterns to alter the viewers sense of reality. There’s also a section that explores Eliasson’s deep engagement with society and the environment, issues of climate change, energy, migration and architecture. At the Southbank is a major retrospective of celebrated British artist Bridget Riley on until January 26. Spanning 70 years of her work, the exhibition brings together her iconic black-and-white paintings of the 1960s, expansive color canvases, early figurative works and recent wall paintings, as well as Continuum (1963/2005), her only three-dimensional work.

New Eats

Chef Tom Booton

The Dorchester London is turning up the heat with a new look and new chef at The Grill. Set to relaunch on November 12 the latest era in The Grill’s 88-year history will begin under the direction of one of London's youngest chefs, 26-year-old Tom Booton. His British-inspired dishes (think: homemade Stout bread served with black pudding and freshly churned butter; Prawn scotch egg, warm tartar sauce, pickled gherkin; his take on the classic chocolate treat "Double Decker" and more) will complement the fresh new interiors, creating an overall more relaxed dining experience. 

A "Pudding Bar" will add an element of theater to the dining experience, as will a "Chef’s Table" for the final course to watch the pastry chefs in action. An incredible and creative selection of sweet treats, innovative cocktails and Champagnes are also set to delight. We cannot wait! Booking is advised; call +44 (0) 20 7629 8888 or visit dorchestercollection.com.

Magical Drinks

Cocktails at The Bloomsbury Club

For late night fun, head to The Bloomsbury Hotel where the dark, sexy speakeasy-style bar, The Bloomsbury Club, has launched a magical cocktail menu that’s a throwback to the edgy and artsy “Bloomsbury Set” of the early 20th century, a crowd who delighted in magicians and mind-readers. The new menu has 14 cocktails inspired by tarot cards designed in 1910 by the bohemian occultist Pamela "Pixie" Colman Smith; each cocktail corresponds with one of the 14 mental states. Upon arrival, guests encounter the Diviner (which looks eerily like the Zoltar machine from the movie "Big"), which “reads” emotions to advise the perfect libation for the state of mind.

We tried the Painted Veil, which mixes vodka, citrus liqueur, Cointreau, Bitter Orange, Pisco and cranberry—a combination said to counter nervousness and fear. It tasted great and definitely was soothing. We also loved the Persian Mist, a concoction of vodka, cognac, East India cream sherry, Indonesian coffee, Persian damask blossom, and golden double cream, said to lift heavy spirits. There’s also a decadent snacks menu with burgers, grilled cheese, fries—you can make a meal of it. On weekends, the bar has a live Jazz band starting at 9 p.m. Between the great music, cozy booths and magic cocktails, it was the most fun we’ve had in a long time! Bookings are essential; call +44 (0) 207 347 1222 or visit thebloomsburyclub.com.

 

Train Travel in the U.S. Is Looking Better Than Ever on Amtrak

 

By   James Shillinglaw,  Nov 11, 2019

We all make jokes about the state of U.S. passenger rail service on Amtrak when compared to what exists in Europe, Japan and even China these days. But it turns out that things might not be as bad as we think.

 

With more investment in safety and customer experience, Amtrak says it delivered its, somewhat surprisingly, the best operating performance in its history his past fiscal year. The company says it set new records for ridership, revenue and financial performance on its path to achieve operational breakeven in fiscal year 2020. Preliminary results for fiscal year 2019 (October 2018-September 2019) include:

 

Safety: Amtrak implemented a new Safety Management System and expanded Positive Train Control (PTC) operations, resulting in improvements in a broad range of safety metrics.

 

Capital Investment: Amtrak invested $1.6 billion in its passenger rail system, which is 9.4 percent higher than last year's investment.

Ridership: Amtrak set a new company record providing 32.5 million customer trips, a year-over-year increase of 800,000 passengers.

Operating Earnings: Amtrak reported operating earnings of $29.8 million, the best operating performance in history, improving earnings by $140.9 million or 82.6 percent compared to the same period last year when it reported earnings o $170.6 million.

 

Total Operating Revenue: Amtrak reported total operating revenue of $3.3 billion, up 3.6 percent compared with the same period last year.

In fiscal year 2019, Amtrak was the first major U.S.-based railroad to implement a Safety Management System, a proactive approach to managing safety, resulting in significant improvements, including a 26 percent reduction in customer incidents; 72 percent fewer serious employee injuries, a 10 percent reduction in Federal Railroad Administration reportable injuries and a 3 percent reduction in trespasser and grade crossing incidents. In addition, PTC installation was completed on nearly all Amtrak-owned and controlled track.

 

Another reason for Amtrak’s record year, according to the company, was the superior customer service delivered by the company’s employees and a record $1.6 billion investment on capital assets. This includes refreshed equipment, including the entire Acela fleet and Amfleet II cars for coach class along the East Coast; technology upgrades like updating the Amtrak mobile app and offering assigned seating;  state-of-good-repair work on the Northeast Corridor (NEC) resulting in improved overall reliability and performance; station upgrades and enhanced lounges; and other customer-friendly benefits that support the long-term growth of intercity passenger rail.

 

Amtrak also is undertaking the largest fleet renewal in history. Manufacturing continues on the new Acela fleet, with a contract being awarded for 75 new locomotives to replace some the company’s aging National Network locomotive fleet, and a Request for Proposals (RFP) issued for a new fleet of single-level passenger rail vehicles.

 

Amtrak says its customers noticed the improvements, with nearly nine out of 10 customers surveyed expressing overall satisfaction with their experience. The company achieved a year-over-year increase in customer satisfaction scores in many categories, including clean train interiors, restroom cleanliness, and information about delays. Acela and Northeast Regional customers said they noticed improvements and were increasingly likely to recommend Amtrak to family, friends, and colleagues.

 

Initial terminal performance was strong with 93 percent of trains across the system departing on time. The strongest performance was on the NEC, where trains departed on time from Washington, D.C., more than 97 percent of the time.

 

NEC and state supported lines all experienced record growth in ridership, with Acela leading the charge at 4.3 percent, Northeast Regional at 2.9 percent and tate-supported services at 2.4 percent. Long distance ridership was up nearly 1 percent.

 

This year, Amtrak received a credit upgrade to A from S&P and an affirmation of an A1 credit rating by Moody's, reflecting significantly reduced operating losses and a stronger balance sheet with no net debt. Fiscal year 2019 also is the first full year in which all congressionally-mandated state and commuter partner cost-sharing agreements have been in effect.

 

"We are growing and modernizing Amtrak,” said Amtrak Board Chairman Tony Coscia. "We have an industry-leading safety program and have invested billions in improving the customer experience, resulting in more people choosing Amtrak as their preferred mode of transportation. These changes have put us on track to breakeven in 2020, which would be a first in Amtrak's history."

 

"We listened, we invested, we improved, and our customers are noticing a difference," said Richard Anderson, Amtrak’s president and CEO. "And we are not stopping. We have an aggressive plan to continue to advance our safety program, refresh train interiors, improve amenities, and renew stations and infrastructure."

 

Other Amtrak highlights in fiscal year 2019 include:

Safety: Implemented a comprehensive Safety Management System, resulting in improvements in a broad range of safety metrics. Completed PTC implementation on all Amtrak-owned and controlled track, except for less than one mile of slow-speed track in the complex Chicago terminal area.

Equipment: Invested $437 million to modernize and refresh the Amtrak fleet. Progressed manufacturing of the new Acela fleet currently underway in Hornell, New York; awarded a contract to purchase 75 new passenger diesel locomotives from Siemens to replace some of our aging National Network locomotive fleet; issued an RFP for a new fleet of single-level passenger rail vehicles to replace Amfleet I cars.

Stations: Invested $143 million to improve the customer experience at several stations throughout the network, including the installation of a state-of-the-art digital board at William H. Gray III 30th Street Station; enhanced Metropolitan Lounges in Washington Union Station, Boston South Station, Gray 30th Street Station, and the Great Hall at Chicago Union Station; upgraded stations to enhance the customer experience through the Customer Now program; reached commercial close for $90 million of improvements at Baltimore Penn Station; and returned service to the historic Springfield (MA) Union Station, which included new passenger amenities.

Infrastructure: Invested $713 million in infrastructure projects throughout the country that were completed safely, on time and within budget to improve overall reliability and performance. These state-of-good-repair projects included the repair or replacement of 24,080 feet of catenary hardware, 79,985 concrete ties, 1,784 bridge ties, and 283 miles of high-speed surfacing.

Accessibility: Invested a record $78 million on ADA-related design and construction improvement projects at more than 40 locations nationwide, advancing efforts to make stations universally accessible.

Technology: Invested more than $110 million in technology, including an updated customer mobile app to make bookings and travel management faster and easier than ever before. Improved the on-board experience by offering assigned seating for customers traveling in Acela First class and started developing an omni-channel strategy to enable customers to easily complete purchases, access information and engage in transactions across multiple channels.

Product Upgrades: Launched Acela Nonstop, expanded weekend Acela frequencies, completed an extensive $4 million refresh of train interiors on the entire Acela fleet, and fully-refreshed Amfleet II cars for coach class along the East Coast.

Service: Collaborated with state partners to expand the Amtrak network, including launched the Valley Flyer (a new state-supported service in Western Massachusetts); adjusted the San Joaquins schedule to better accommodate weekend leisure travelers; increased schedules on the Northeast Regional to Norfolk, Virginia and the Downeaster; and added a new Green Bay-Milwaukee Amtrak Thruway Bus Service connecting with the Hiawatha trains.

Sustainability: Exceeded or met all annual energy, fuel, recycling and greenhouse gas emissions targets with the support of all employees. Efforts such as lighting upgrades, reduced idling, and a focused recycling program helped Amtrak meet these targets and save money. Since 2010, Amtrak has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent.

 

If this keeps up, more travel advisors will need to consider booking Amtrak for their clients in the future. Of course, those commissions are still pretty low! For more information, click on www.amtrak.com.

Will Anyone Be Able to Travel by Air in the U.S. Next October?

By   James Shillinglaw,  Nov 11, 2019 
For months the U.S. Travel Association has been warning of the danger to travel that will occur next October when the U.S. begins requiring all airline passengers to have REAL IDs (either more sophisticated driver’s licenses or passports). Many Americans still don’t have such IDs so air travel could virtually grind to a halt if they can’t get on board an aircraft.

But late last week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) offered to make the process of obtaining REAL IDs easier by offering a new online process to obtain such IDs. issued the following statement on the announcement that the Department of Homeland Security is seeking to offer an online process to obtain REAL IDs.

 

U.S. Travel said this DHS initiative that could allow states to move more of the REAL ID application process online and it’s a move that it has been advocating for months Indeed, it could greatly mitigate the challenges travelers would otherwise face next year. This is one of several policy recommendations U.S. Travel said are critical as the REAL ID implementation deadline of Oct. 1, 2020 approaches.

 

"We appreciate the good work of the Department of Homeland Security for taking this important step to prepare the country for the 2020 REAL ID deadline,” said Tori Emerson Barnes, U.S. Travel’s executive vice president of public affairs and policy. “This DHS initiative that could allow states to move more of the REAL ID application process online is one that we have been advocating for and believe could greatly mitigate challenges we will otherwise face next year. This is one of several policy recommendations we believe are critical as we approach the REAL ID implementation deadline of Oct. 1, 2020, and we look forward to working with Congress and the administration to move this forward."

 

Barnes pointed out that it is a much different security and technology landscape now than when Congress passed the Act in 2005, and as a result there are real opportunities to make the REAL ID application process much more efficient, while truly enhancing security. “Our research shows that 99 million Americans do not have a REAL ID license or passport, which could mean significant headaches at DMVs—including long lines and wait times throughout the next year,” she said. “Without bold steps to educate the public about REAL ID requirements and modernize the application process, tens of thousands could be turned away from boarding a flight next Oct. 1.” For more information, visit www.ustravel.org or www.dhs.gov.

MGM Sells Bellagio, Circus Circus

Bellagio

Big news from Las Vegas: MGM Resorts is selling two of its properties, the Bellagio to Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust and the Circus Circus to Phil Ruffin, who also owns Treasure Island. Both sales are expected to close in the fourth quarter our partner publication, Hotel Management, reports. 

The Bellagio sale will see MGM and Blackstone form a joint venture, which will own the property. MGM will continue to lease the Bellagio from the joint venture, as well as continue to manage and operate the property. The Bellagio has 3,933 guestrooms, more than 100,000 square feet of gaming space and more than 200,000 square feet of meeting and event space, as well as retailers, botanical gardens and a variety of food and beverage venues. 

The Circus Circus will go to an affiliate of Treasure Island owner Phil Ruffin. MGM had originally acquired that property when it acquired the Mandalay Resort Group in 2005. The Circus Circus has 3,767 guestrooms, an indoor amusement park, an RV park and a 37-acre festival grounds. 

MGM said that the two sales are the first steps in an “asset-light” strategy, in which it enters into contracts with property owners instead of owning property outright. Other properties currently owned by MGM include the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, the MGM Springfield in Massachusetts, a 50 percent stake in CityCenter in Las Vegas and 68 percent of MGM Growth Properties

Recovery Continues After Hard Rock New Orleans Collapse

Hard Rock Hotel New Orleans rendering

Rescue operations and road closures are continuing in downtown New Orleans following the weekend collapse of a Hard Rock hotel that had been under construction. 

According to the latest statement from the office of New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, the response remains in “rescue and recovery mode” as first responders continue to work to recover one deceased person and locate a missing person whose status is unknown. 

The city expanded the evacuation area around the collapsed hotel Tuesday after officials determined that two cranes at the construction site were unstable. The evacuation zone expanded to buildings facing the uptown side of Canal Street between Burgundy Street and Elk Place. It had already included the area surrounded by Conti, Bienville and Burgundy Streets

Mayor Cantrell further reported that the city is working with engineering experts from around the world, including those who worked on the response to 9/11 and the Oklahoma City bombing, to determine the best options for stabilizing the two cranes. 

The Regional Transit Authority’s central hub remains relocated to its headquarters at 2817 Canal Street. A list of public transportation changes is available here

The Hard Rock Hotel New Orleans collapsed Saturday while under construction, killing at least two people and hospitalizing 30 others. The new hotel, which at one point had been scheduled to open this spring, was to be housed in a new, 18-story building blocks from the city’s Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, which is the sixth largest in the country. Plans called for the hotel to have 350 rooms, along with four meeting spaces and two ballrooms, for a total of approximately 12,000 square feet of event space.

Citadel Builders LLC was contracted by Kailas Companies, owner of the project, to build the Hard Rock Hotel New Orleans based on a brand licensing agreement with Hard Rock International, the future manager of the hotel,” Hard Rock International said in a statement on the collapse. “Hard Rock has had no involvement in the construction of the project. We want to extend our deepest sympathies to victims of this tragic accident and to their loved ones and friends.”

There is still no word on what caused the collapse, but previously Mayor Cantrell had promised a “relentless” investigation into the incident. 

You’ll Never Guess What U.S. City Has the Most Expensive Hotels by Meg Butler |10/1/19

On average, you’ll spend more on your hotel room in…

When you travel around the United States, how much can you expect to pay for a hotel? As it turns out, it depends heavily on the city—and not the cities you might think. While metropolises like New York and Los Angeles might be your first guess at the most expensive cities for hotels, you’d be wrong. A new survey by Cheaphotels.org has found that the priciest hotels aren’t where you’d think.

The US Cities With the Most Expensive Hotels

  • Nashville $223
  • Boston $221
  • San Jose $214
  • San Francisco $209
  • Albuquerque $198

Surprised? Nashville, Tennessee is the city that boasts the highest hotel rates among the 50 cities surveyed by Cheaphotels.org for the period spanning 1 October through 31 October 2019. The prices above reflect the average rate for the city’s cheapest-available double rooms at hotels with at least three stars. 

While those prices are eyebrow-raising, they didn’t come completely out of the blue. The Thompson Nashville made our list of The 100 Most Incredible Hotels in the World this year for being our favorite unapologetically trendy hotel in the United States with rooms so cool and comfortable that you’ll want to live in them (or at least add the deep cuts on the vinyl record collection curated by Jack White’s record label to your Spotify list). And, at around $500 per night, you get what you pay for. This hotel is more than worth the price, it’s one of the best hotel stays in the world.

The US Cities With the Least Expensive Hotels

There is a time to drop several hundred dollars on a stay in one of the world’s greatest hotel rooms, and there is a time to look for more reasonably priced hotel experiences. If you’re looking for a vacation at a price point slightly less than the absolute most, these are the cities with the least expensive hotels in the nation:

  • Tucson $99
  • Baltimore $97
  • Fresno $85
  • San Antonio $84
  • Las Vegas $69

Surprised again? Who would’ve thought that the neon, gambling fever dream metropolis Las Vegas would have the cheapest hotel rooms in America? Well, we’ve been around, and all our most intrepid travelers attest to this truth: if you book last-minute, even swanky hotel rooms can be had at a deep discount. The more likely you are to nab a cheap stay during a hot streak, the more likely you are to spend more money at the casino downstairs.

So, there you have it: the five most expensive and the five least expensive hotels in the United States’ biggest cities. For the full list, check here: you’ll find 40 other cities ranked by the average price of their hotels. But, while price is a great first step for choosing a hotel, we wouldn’t recommend going in blind. Always check out hotel reviews that you can trust before booking a property.

Not to toot our own horn, but we’ve been in the travel industry for 80 years, and we know a thing or two about hotels. We only accept hotel reviews from our list of trusted travelers who know what to look for when making a recommendation.

And we’re not afraid to tell you if a property isn’t great or what beaches you should avoid. But don’t just take our word for it. Check out our Hotel Reviews for yourself or talk with your knowledgable Travel Advisor.

Meg Butler  Meg Butler, Staff Writer for Fodor's Travel. Meg is a travel writer   with a passion for great stories, great food and even better drinks.

 

 

A World Of Knowledge: Reasons Why Smart Travelers Need Smart Travel Agents

 

Delta Air Lines Boeing 767-300Travel agents have a world of knowledge of airlines, cruises, hotels and much more right at their fingertips. (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images) ​NurPhoto via Getty Images

 

 

Bookings Open for Virgin Hotels: Dallas

by Kailey Cotter
Bookings Open for Virgin Hotels: Dallas

The Dallas hotel will join Virgin Hotels locations in Chicago (pictured) and San Francisco. Photo: Daniel J. Macy / Shutterstock.com. 


Virgin Hotels announced this week that reservations are live for the brand's next hotel: Virgin Hotels Dallas. Reservations are currently being accepted for stays starting December 15, 2019,

Located in the Dallas Design District, the new-build property will feature 268 rooms, including two Penthouse Suites, multiple dining and drinking options, and a rooftop terrace with a pool.

All rooms or “Chambers” are designed to consist of two distinct spaces separated by a sliding door, complete ideal for working, recharging, wellness and playing.

The first space, "The Dressing Room", combines the hallway and a dressing area which includes a full vanity, makeup desk, an extra-large shower with a bench, and a closet for two. Slide open the privacy door and guests will enter "The Lounge" with the brand's lounge bed, a red plush sofa and much more. All Chambers feature custom lighting on sensors that react to movement. Additional amenities for pets will be available.

Commons Club will be situated at the main entrance of the hotel. Designed to be an entertainment and music hub that both travelers and locals can enjoy. The “Pool Club” will be located on the 4th floor of the hotel where light bites and cocktails will be served. In addition, Virgin Hotels Dallas will have a Funny Library Coffee Shop, which will be located on the first level of the hotel. The coffee shop is a communal work space that will house an assortment of whimsical and funny books and games.

The hotel will also feature a state-of-the-art fitness center, which will be open 24 hours a day, and over 7,000-square feet of flexible meeting and event space.

The Dallas location will join the Virgin Hotels franchise already developed in Chicago and San Francisco. Hotel plans are already being made for other major American cities releasing through 2024.

United Airlines MileagePlus Reward Miles Will Never Expire

by Daine Taylor
United Airlines MileagePlus Reward Miles Will Never Expire

Photo: United Airlines 


United Airlines announced last week that, effective immediately, its MileagePlus award miles will never expire — giving members a lifetime to apply their miles to flights, experiences, hotels, and more.

"We want to demonstrate to our members that we are committed to them for the long haul, and giving customers a lifetime to use miles is an exceptionally meaningful benefit," said Luc Bondar, vice president of loyalty and president of MileagePlus at United. "Our MileagePlus program provides customers more ways to earn and use miles than any other U.S. airline. More customers used miles to book awards trips in 2018 than in any year before, and we expect with today's announcement, that even more will use miles to travel the world in the years to come."

United continues to enhance its award-winning MileagePlus program, making it more appealing to customers. Some of the benefits include the recently announced partnership with CLEAR that includes free or discounted CLEAR membership pricing for U.S.-based MileagePlus members, and everyday opportunities to use miles starting as low as 1,000 miles for eGift cards when purchasing through MileagePlus.

The program will also award travel to more destinations than any other U.S. airline, with service to more than 1,300 destinations through United and Star Alliance partners, and the ability to book award travel on United and all Star Alliance partners through the United mobile.

Alaska Airlines Expands West Coast Service

by Daine Taylor
Alaska Airlines Expands West Coast Service

Photo: Alaska Airlines 


Alaska Airlines announced its commitment to expanding service on the West Coast by offering new, nonstop flight service from the Pacific Northwest and Alaska; and from San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

Starting in early January, the new scheduled service will link the following destinations: Spokane to Los Angeles (two daily departures); Spokane to San Francisco (two daily departures); Redmond/Bend, Oregon, to Los Angeles; Redmond/Bend, Oregon, to San Diego; Redmond/Bend, Oregon, to San Francisco; Boise to Los Angeles (two daily departures); Missoula, Montana, to Los Angeles; and Anchorage to San Francisco.

"We're excited to offer even more nonstops between vibrant Pacific Northwest communities and our growing hubs in California," said Brett Catlin, Alaska Airlines’ managing director of capacity planning and alliances. "Whether it's travel for a weekend getaway to Missoula or a day trip to San Francisco, we're proud to offer nearly 600 daily flights between West Coast cities." 

Adding to its expanded services, Alaska is also increasing the frequency of flights between certain markets.

Beginning Jan. 7, there will be an additional flight between San Francisco and Orange County, California, for a total of seven daily nonstops. Also starting Jan. 7, the flight between San Diego and Orlando, which is currently flown five times a week, becomes daily nonstop service.

Starting Mar. 19, Alaska Air will offer second daily flights between San Diego and Boise; and San Diego and Santa Rosa, California. There will be the addition of a second daily flight between San Francisco and Chicago O'Hare.

Also on Mar. 19, nonstop service between San Diego and San Jose, California, increases from four to six flights daily. And on May 21, a second daily flight between San Diego and Boston will go into service.

Frontier Airlines Modifies its Change Fee Policy for Travelers

by Daine Taylor
Frontier Airlines Modifies its Change Fee Policy for Travelers

Frontier Airlines is changing is fees charged for ticket changes. Photo: robert cicchetti/Shutterstock.com


Frontier, the Denver-based budget airline, is adjusting its ticket change fee policy for travelers, eliminating the charge for some passengers, while increasing it for others.

The airline announced its new zero-change fee policy on a Twitter post on Monday. The policy would waive change fees for travelers who make changes at least 60 days prior to their flight.

Previously, fees for passengers who made changes between 60 and 90 days before their flight was $49. The airline has already eliminated the fee for changes made at least 90 days in advance.

While this will be a welcome change for many passengers, there’s a catch. The change fee for passengers who make alterations to their flight plans between 14 and 60 days will face a fee increase to $79 from $49. This only affects travelers who bought tickets after Sept. 13; for those who purchased tickets prior, the fee will remain at $49.

Frontier's fee for last-minute ticket changes made less than two weeks before departure will remain at $119.  

Frontier spokesman Zach Kramer said, during an interview with USA Today, that the airline's change fee policy is among the best – if not the best – in the industry, even despite the modest increase.

"We're still ahead of the other guys,'' said Kramer.

American Airlines Bolsters Its Offerings with New and Increased Services

by Daine Taylor
American Airlines Bolsters Its Offerings with New and Increased Services

Photo: American Airlines 


American announced today plans to grow its international network by increasing service from Miami (MIA) to several Latin American destinations, as well introducing a new daily service from Boston (BOS) to London Heathrow (LHR) beginning March 29.

This year marks American’s 30th anniversary serving Miami (MIA), and now with additional service to Lima, Peru (LIM), Santiago, Chile (SCL) and São Paulo (GRU) set to begin next year, the carrier has even more to celebrate.

Currently, American operates two daily flights to LIM from MIA, and beginning April 7, the airline will increase operations year-round to three times a day. This service will utilize Boeing 757s, providing more service than any other carrier to one of South America's largest cities.

Next winter, American will also introduce an additional flight to Chile's capital, Santiago, and a third flight to Brazil's largest city, São Paulo. Both services will be operated on a 777-200.

"American's leading position in Miami is something we're incredibly proud of and committed to maintaining," said Vasu Raja, American's Vice President of Network and Schedule Planning.

"We have so many possibilities from our Latin American gateway and are excited for the opportunity to use our domestic strength to enhance our international network. We'll continue to grow, compete and thrive in a region of the world where we have a long history and a bright future."

American plans to launch a new nonstop service from BOS to LHR next year, which will offer customers access to five daily flights between American Airlines and its joint business partner, British Airways.

"Boston customers have been asking for more service and we're delivering with this new flight, and our recently announced seasonal service to Nassau and Grand Cayman."

This service will be flown on a state-of-the-art 777-200, featuring 37 Flagship Business seats and 24 Premium Economy seats. Together, American and British Airways provide up to 71 flights every day between the U.S. and London.

The airline will also extend service to several key European routes including service between New York (JFK) and Rome (FCO); Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) and Dublin (DUB); and Chicago (ORD) and Barcelona (BCN). These routes will now operate a month longer than their current schedule.

Flights will be available for purchase Oct. 7, with the exception of GRU and SCL, which will be available for purchase in December.

United Will Offer Premium Plus Seating for Select Domestic Flights

by Daine Taylor
United Will Offer Premium Plus Seating for Select Domestic Flights

Photo: United Airlines 


United Airlines recently announced it would be extending its new premium economy cabin range, Premium Plus, to select domestic flights, as of Oct. 2.

Previously, the Premium Plus class was only available for long-haul international flights when it was launched earlier last year, but it will now be available on selected domestic flights, as well as for transcontinental flights, using the Boeing 787-10 aircraft.

The Premium Plus seats offer passengers additional leg and elbow room, free upgraded meals on real plates, an upgraded amenities kit including Saks Fifth Avenue blankets, extra storage, and a larger screen for in-flight entertainment with noise-reducing headphones and extra power outlets.

Currently, Premium Plus seating is only available domestically on the two daily flights between Newark and Los Angeles and one daily flight between Newark and San Francisco, and costs just over $400.

United is also making it easier to upgrade with the introduction of PlusPoints, a new upgrade benefit for Premier Platinum and 1K members that creates more opportunities for members to be upgraded on flights.

Top-tier members will receive a bank of points that they can use to upgrade all flights across United's global network, where they previously would have used Regional Premier Upgrades (RPU) or Global Premier Upgrades (GPU).

"We're making it even easier for our Premier members to use upgrades when and how they want," said Luc Bondar, United Airline’s vice president of loyalty and president of MileagePlus. "The new PlusPoints program increases the overall number of upgrade opportunities for top-tier Premier members, expands the fare classes where they can be used, and lets members request upgrades on multiple flights all at once.”

On Dec. 4, United will replace Regional Premier Upgrades and Global Premier Upgrades with PlusPoints. Each RPU will be worth 20 PlusPoints and each GPU will be worth 40 PlusPoints.

PlusPoints will make upgrading to and from Premium Economy more flexible. Upgrading from Economy to United Premium Plus and from United Premium Plus to United Polaris business class will be possible for less than the value of one GPU.

“We already make it easy for members to manage all of their upgrades online, and the move to PlusPoints is yet another way we are making MileagePlus the best loyalty program in the industry," said Bondar.

Disney Cruise Line Releases 2021 Schedule

by Jessica Montevago
Disney Cruise Line Releases 2021 Schedule

Bookings open Oct. 3 for sailings to tropical destinations from Louisiana, Texas, California, and Florida. Photo: Disney


In early 2021, Disney Cruise Line will return to New Orleans for a limited-time with sailings to the Bahamas and Caribbean, along with cruises to tropical destinations from Texas, California, and Florida.

Back by popular demand, the Disney Wonder will return to the bayou from late January through February 2021.

A pair of four- and five-night cruises to the Western Caribbean kick off the season from New Orleans. The five-night voyage includes a visit to Progreso, Mexico, a new port of call for Disney Cruise Line on the Yucatan Peninsula, with ancient Mayan ruins and hidden swimming holes filled with crystal-clear water.

Three seven-night sailings to the Bahamas with a stop at Castaway Cay, plus a 14-night Panama Canal cruise, round out the departures from the Crescent City in early 2021.

Guests sailing from New Orleans will experience the flavors and flair of the Big Easy both onboard the Disney Wonder at Tiana's Place restaurant, where families are transported to an era of southern charm, spirited jazz and street party celebrations with live music and other surprises inspired by the Disney animated film, "The Princess and the Frog."

The Disney Wonder will also return to the popular home ports of Galveston and San Diego in early 2021. Guests sailing from Texas can enjoy the white-sand beaches of the Western Caribbean on a series of four- and six-night cruises to Grand Cayman and Cozumel. One seven-night departure will feature stops at Key West, Nassau, and Castaway Cay.

Following the season in New Orleans, the Disney Wonder heads to the West Coast for a variety of sailings to Baja and the Mexican Riviera departing from San Diego, where families can hunt for gold aboard a pirate ship in Cabo San Lucas or embark on an off-road adventure in Ensenada on cruises ranging from three to seven nights.

Disney Cruise Line will have three ships sailing to the Bahamas and Caribbean from Florida in early 2021, and every cruise includes a day at Disney's private island paradise, Castaway Cay.

From Miami, the Disney Magic will sail three-, four- and five-night Bahamian and Western Caribbean cruises.

From Port Canaveral, the Disney Fantasy will sail seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries, and the Disney Dream will sail three- and four-night Bahamian cruises. 

Bookings open to the public on Oct. 3, 2019.

 

FAA Announces Plans to Investigate Airline Seat Safety

by Daine Taylor
FAA Announces Plans to Investigate Airline Seat Safety

The FAA announced last week that it is going to investigate whether airline seats are too small to ensure a safe and timely exit for passengers in the event of an emergency. Photo: Ksenia She / Shutterstock.com. 


Over the years, the airline industry has had to make concessions on comfort in order to accommodate as many passengers as possible, and nowhere is this most apparent than in the size of typical airplane seats. In fact, since 1985, passenger seating on many major U.S. airlines shrank as much as 2-4 inches. Airplane seats have been reduced so much, that it’s no longer just a matter of comfort, but of passenger safety.

The FAA announced last week that it is going to investigate whether airline seats are too small to ensure a safe and timely exit for passengers in the event of an emergency. The agency said Thursday that it plans on conducting evacuation testing in November to determine if airline seats allow travelers to exit the plane within 90 seconds, which is the standard safety requirement for all certified commercial aircraft.

During a recent hearing with the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn, expressed concerns about aircraft seats being too small, as the size of the average American is steadily increasing.

Cohen even referenced the Boeing crashes that took place earlier this year, saying “People couldn’t get out of the plane in 90 seconds. Why did you not comply with the seat act?” He stated that factors like passenger height, weight, and physical disabilities should all be taken into account when it comes to redesigning aircraft to make them safer.

"Americans are getting bigger, so seat size is important, but it's got to be looked at in the context of safety," said FAA Deputy Administrator Dan Elwell. “Survivability today is much, much better … but you’re right, we need to do testing on evacuations. We’re going to do live testing.”

Elwell said the FAA plans to test aircraft safety in November with what he says is a "good demographic sampling" of 720 volunteers, including small children and animals.

The testing will take place at the Federal Aviation Administration’s Civil Aerospace Medical Institute, in Oklahoma City, and authorities will use the results to collect 3,000 data points. That information, as mandated by last year’s FAA reauthorization, will help to determine how small airplane seats can safely get, and how close rows of seats can be to one another.

In a statement, the FAA said it was required to “issue regulations to establish minimum dimensions for airplane seat width, length, and pitch that are necessary for the safety of passengers.” The agency plans to complete evacuation testing by the end of the year in order to “determine what, if any, regulatory changes are necessary to implement the requirement.”

Gone in 90 seconds
The 90-second rule may sound like an arbitrary number, but it is actually a standard set as part of the certification process for all aircraft manufacturers. They are required to demonstrate that an aircraft, at maximum capacity, can be completely evacuated within 90 seconds using half of the total number of emergency exits.

Use of only half of the exits simulates the potential for failed evacuation devices or exits blocked due to fire or structural damage. "They try to simulate the worst-case scenario," said the FAA’s acting Deputy Associate Administrator Lirio Liu. She added that the simulations will take place in a dark environment, with half of the plane's exits blocked. Flight attendants will not know which exits are available, all in order to mimic the uncertainty of a real-world situation.

Ninety seconds was established as the maximum evacuation time because tests have shown that, in a post-crash fire, conditions conducive to flashover are unlikely to occur within that time span. However, the experience of actual evacuations, especially unexpected ones from full aircraft where the abnormal situation occurs suddenly at or soon after landing, indicates that evacuation times usually exceed durations demonstrated for certification purposes.

It’s for this reason that regular testing is vital for the airline industry, because failure to evacuate the aircraft in a timely manner may lead to the death or injury of crew and passengers.

Norwegian Cruise Line Eliminating All Single-Use Plastic Bottles

by Daniel McCarthy 
Norwegian Cruise Line Eliminating All Single-Use Plastic Bottles

NCL is partnering with JUST Water to eliminate all single-use plastic water bottles on its fleet. Photo: NCL


Starting Jan, 1, 2020, Norwegian Cruise Line will begin eliminating all single-use plastic bottles on its ships, replacing six million single-use plastic bottles its guests use annually with JUST Water, which is offered in a paper-based carton that’s 100% recyclable..

The new bottles come through Norwegian’s new partnership with JUST, a company founded by American actor and artist Jaden Smith, the son of Will Smith. While the line’s whole fleet will get the bottles, Norwegian will first debut them on its newest ship, Norwegian Encore, which is launching this fall.

“It is imperative that we take meaningful steps to preserve our oceans and the destinations we visit,” NCL’s Andy Stuart said in a statement announcing the news. “This latest effort – the elimination of single-use plastic bottles across our fleet – is just the latest environmentally responsible action we are taking to reduce our footprint and encourage others to protect our natural resources.”

The move is also part of NCL’s Sail & Sustain Environmental Program, which the line says will see it minimize its waste to landfills, reduce its CO2 emissions rate, and invest in new, emerging technologies that will help cut down on its environmental footprint.

Here are the Best Times to Start Booking Holiday Flights

by Daine Taylor 
Here are the Best Times to Start Booking Holiday Flights

Most travelers book their flights for Thanksgiving between Sept. 25 and Oct. 27. Photo: Alexander Image / Shutterstock.com. 


As the summer winds down, now is the perfect time for travelers to start planning for their next vacation. The much-anticipated Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays may still be months away, but the best time to book flights for these busy travel weeks is quickly approaching.

AAA released a report this week analyzing flight booking data from the last three years reveals that Sept. 25 marks the start of the best booking window for air travel around both the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

“Holiday travelers should make their plans now and begin booking their flights for Thanksgiving and Christmas as early as Wednesday, Sept. 25, for the best deals and availability,” said Paula Twidale, vice president, AAA Travel.

“Procrastinating travelers may be able to find last-minute deals on flights close to the holidays, as airlines look to fill their last few remaining seats, but flight availability for these peak travel weeks will be very limited by that time.” 

Thanksgiving travel
Most travelers book their flights for Thanksgiving between Sept. 25 and Oct. 27, which is 28 to 60 days prior to the holiday and offers relatively good prices ($491 on average). Surprisingly, AAA’s analysis found that travelers can find some of the best pricing ($482 on average) seven to 13 days before the holiday, Nov. 11-17 this year. However, limited availability will make seats hard to come by at these discounted rates.

According to AAA, flying Monday of Thanksgiving week is the best option for travelers to arrive at their destinations before the holiday. It has the lowest average ticket price ($486) prior to the holiday and is a lighter travel day than later in the week.

For travelers who are more concerned about crowds than cost, the Sunday before the holiday has the highest average price per ticket ($564) and it is consistently the lightest travel day. Travelers can save by traveling on Thanksgiving Day, which has the lowest average price per ticket ($454). 

Christmas travel
AAA found that the ideal time to book flights for the Christmas holiday is 61 to 90 days prior to the holiday (between Sept. 26 and Oct. 25), with prices lower on average ($551) than more advanced bookings. However, most travelers book between 28 and 60 days before Christmas — between Oct. 26 and Nov. 27 — and still get a relatively good price ($561 on average). Like Thanksgiving, last-minute Christmas travelers can find the overall best pricing ($488 on average) seven to 13 days before the holiday week, but flight availability is likely to be very limited by that time.

Regardless what day of the week Christmas falls on (a Wednesday this year), most travelers depart two to four days prior to the holiday. These travelers, on average, pay ticket prices of $593 on Dec. 21, $639 on Dec. 22 (the busiest air travel day of Christmas week), and $603 on Dec. 23. However, AAA found that Christmas Eve is the best day to travel. It consistently has the lowest average price per ticket ($527) and is the lightest travel day of the week. Many travelers opt to travel after the Christmas holiday leading up to New Year’s, and they pay a premium to do so. Dec. 26 has the highest average ticket price of the week at $692.

When it comes to getting the best value for your travel this holiday season, AAA recommends travelers start researching holiday travel options now and book flights by Oct. 27.  

“Last year, AAA projected that 54.3 million Americans would travel over the Thanksgiving holiday and a record-breaking 112.5 million during the longer year-end holiday season,” said Twidale. “If those trends hold again this year, travelers are in for crowded airports and, possibly, longer wait times. Pack your patience and plan ahead, giving yourself plenty of time at the airport to maintain that holiday cheer.”

Here’s What You Need to Know About the Upcoming REAL ID Deadline

 

by Daniel McCarthy
Here’s What You Need to Know About the Upcoming REAL ID Deadline

Starting in October 2020, to travel domestically, every traveler will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or an approved ID card or passport. Photo: DHS


With the final deadline for the REAL ID Act coming up, travelers everywhere will soon be impacted by new rules for flying domestically at every airport in the U.S., as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will soon stop accepting standard driver’s license or ID cards at airport security checkpoints.

Here’s what travelers and advisors need to know about what the REAL ID Act will do and how they can get compliant before the final Oct. 21, 2020, deadline.

What is the REAL ID Act?
Among other things, the REAL ID Act, which was passed in May of 2005 after a recommendation from the 9/11 Commission, set requirements and standards for state driver’s licenses and ID cards to be accepted at federal facilities and at airport security checkpoints.

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Act was aimed at improving the security of driver’s licenses in all 50 states. While previously it had been up to individual states to determine what the rules and criteria would be for issuing a driver’s license or an ID, the REAL ID Act would nationalize the rules and set a federal standard that states would be forced to meet.

After some delays, the DHS announced it would begin implementing the Act in four phases at the end of 2013, with the first three phases aimed at increasing security at facilities like DHS headquarters, nuclear power plants, and other federal facilities. The fourth phase of implementing the Act kicked off in 2016 and was aimed at air travel. 

When will I be impacted?
The DHS originally planned on Jan. 22, 2018, as the deadline. The official rollout was then pushed back to Oct. 1, 2020, after some delays. Starting then, the DHS and TSA will only accept REAL ID-compliant IDs and licenses; otherwise, travelers will be required to have a passport when flying domestically. 

REAL ID Airport What to Know
An example of a REAL ID-compliant license in West Virginia. Photo: TSA

How do I know if my state is compliant?
Right now, in total, there are seven states left to meet the requirements to be compliant with the REAL ID Act: Oregon, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maine, and Rhode Island. California is currently under review and is expected to be compliant by the end of May 2019.

Those non-compliant states are all currently operating with extensions, meaning that the current driver’s licenses and ID cards are still accepted at security checkpoints despite not being compliant with the Real ID Act. Pennsylvania and Kentucky have extensions until Aug. 1; while Maine, New Jersey, Oregon, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island have extensions until Oct. 10. 

The rest of the U.S. states are all currently compliant and are issuing REAL IDs. As long as a traveler has a license issued with the REAL ID requirements (usually designated by a star in the upper portion of the ID), he or she is able to travel domestically without a passport or another form of ID.

How do I get compliant?
Each state will have to follow the new federal requirements for issuing IDs. Travelers can check with their state’s DMV to understand exactly what they’ll need before heading to the DMV to get an updated license. 

New York, for instance, began issuing REAL IDs in October 2017. The state now requires all travelers to get a REAL ID by going to the DMV with proof of ID, proof of social security number, date of birth, and U.S. citizenship, along with two different proofs of New York State residence.

What is the TSA doing?
The TSA most recently launched an awareness campaign to make sure everyone knows about the upcoming REAL ID deadline. Travelers will begin seeing new signs at airports nationwide in the coming weeks to remind them that REAL ID-compliant licenses or other acceptable forms of ID — such as a valid passport, federal government PIV card, or U.S. military ID — will be mandatory for air travel as of Oct. 1, 2020.

 

Most Americans Are Unprepared for REAL ID Deadline, U.S. Travel Says

by Daine Taylor 
Most Americans Are Unprepared for REAL ID Deadline, U.S. Travel Says

Millions of Americans are unprepared for the launch of the REAL ID program, which could prevent them from flying, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Photo: Shutterstock


A study conducted by the U.S. Travel Association revealed that nearly three out of four Americans are unprepared for the upcoming REAL ID deadline of Oct. 1, 2020.

The program, implemented by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is the last phase of enforcement of the REAL ID Act, the law originally passed in 2005 that will require travelers to present a REAL ID-compliant driver's license or other approved form of identification in order to board a flight.

As it stands, according to the study, millions of people could be prevented from boarding a plane because they do not have the required identification. According to the survey conducted for U.S. Travel by Longwoods International, a market research consultancy, 72% of Americans either do not have a REAL ID-compliant driver's license or are unsure if they do. 

"Our survey gave us the answer we didn't want to hear, that there is alarming lack of awareness and preparedness a short year out from REAL ID going into full effect," said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. "This is significant not only because it will inconvenience travelers and create confusion at U.S. airports — it could do significant damage to our nation's economy.”

The study revealed a significant lack of awareness of the REAL ID program, with more than half of Americans (57%) saying they did not know about the upcoming deadline. Many Americans also lack the alternatives to REAL ID-compliant, state-issued driver's licenses — such as a U.S. passport. In fact, 39% of Americans say they do not have any form of identification that will be accepted starting Oct. 1, 2020. This equates to an estimated 99 million Americans that may not currently hold the proper identification to board an airplane starting next year.

"That's why the U.S. Travel Association has launched a broad education effort alongside the full spectrum of public- and private-sector travel stakeholders: airports, federal government agencies, tourism offices, and the huge community of large and small businesses that depend on American travelers — we need all hands on deck to avert a big problem next October," said Dow.

Based on this data, U.S. Travel economists estimated the potential economic impact of REAL ID implementation: If REAL ID standards were to be fully enforced immediately, at least 78,500 air travelers could be turned away at TSA checkpoints on the first day, costing the U.S. economy $40.3 million in lost travel-related spending. If that trend was sustained for a full week, the figures could grow to more than half a million (549,500) air travelers prevented from boarding planes and $282 million in lost travel spending.

Individual states are initiating their own awareness campaigns to help get citizens ready for the change, but according to Dow, a concerted effort is needed to help make people aware and ready for the implementation of the REAL ID standards.

The U.S. Travel Association is spearheading an initiative by private-sector travel stakeholders to better prepare the country for the Oct. 1, 2020, REAL ID deadline. To that end, the association has developed a toolkit filled with resources for its membership and other allies to help educate Americans on what a REAL ID is and how to prepare for it. The toolkit features facts, figures, and even talking points to get people fully informed. The organization is also coordinating engagement with policymakers and government agencies to proactively address the lack of pre-deadline awareness.

British Airways Cancels Thousands of Flights Due to Pilot Strike

British airways, plane, terminalBritish Airways airline terminal at JFK airport. (photo via Heather Shimmin / iStock Editorial / Getty Images Plus) 

Update: September 10, 2019 at 9:50 a.m. ET

British Airways has announced the cancellation of almost 100 percent of Tuesday’s scheduled flights as the strike orchestrated by its pilots’ union stretched into a second day.

According to a statement from the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA), the airline was forced to cancel nearly 850 flights Tuesday, which impacted more than 100,000 passengers.

The strike will end late Tuesday night and another day of strikes are planned for September 27.

“Pilots are standing firm and have shown just how resolute they are today,” a BALPA statement read. “British Airways needs to start listening to its pilots and actually come up with ways of resolving this dispute.” 

Pilots working for British Airways began a strike Monday that grounded nearly all of the airline’s flights and impacted thousands of passengers around the world. 

According to Reuters.com, British Airways canceled 1,700 flights to and from London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports Monday and Tuesday as a result of the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) members taking action due to a dispute over pay.

Officials from British Airways said it had offered its pilots an 11.5 percent pay raise over three years, but the BALPA is fighting to include profit-sharing in the next contract. BALPA General Secretary Brian Strutton said the union was willing to compromise, but the carrier would not budge.

“I am really sorry that the cynical actions of the pilots’ union have put us in his position,” British Airways CEO Alex Cruz told BBC. “It is by all accounts an own goal; it’s going to punish customers, it’s going to punish our brand, it’s going to punish the rest of the colleagues.”

The BALPA made a last-second offer to British Airways before Monday’s strike began, but the airline said it was an “eleventh hour inflated proposal.” Union representatives said they would have called off the strike if the carrier “had engaged with the offer.”

BALPA officials said another day of industrial action is scheduled for September 27 unless a deal can be worked out.

The United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is reminding impacted passengers they are eligible for reimbursement for canceled flights, alternate travel arrangements under comparable conditions or a new flight at a later date.

Airlines Reportedly Consider Weighing Passengers to Conserve Fuel

A new report claims airlines could be considering the idea of weighing passengers before they board flights to better estimate how much fuel is needed for each specific journey.

According to The Sun, European airlines are considering the cost-cutting measure to help save money and lower carbon emissions, as the current method of estimating fuel usage is based on the gender-weight ratio of passengers onboard. 

The current process is an inexact science that bases weight estimates on gender, with males counted as 189 pounds, females as 154 pounds and children as 77 pounds. Research shows this method results in more wasted fuel.

The company proposing the weighing system, Fuel Matrix, said airlines burn between 0.3 and 0.5 percent more fuel due to the extra weight of carrying the unnecessary fuel. By reducing the cost, carriers could save as much as $1.35 billion worldwide.

Fuel Matrix officials said the company is in negotiations with “several long-haul airlines” in the United Kingdom about the possible implementation of the weighing system. The measurements would be taken via discreet pressure pads and would remain confidential.

“Our patented technologies are relevant to both airports and airlines in reducing fuel burn, CO2 emissions and carbon footprints,” Fuel Matrix COO Nick Brasier told The Sun. “Our discussions in the sector continue to progress well, and we’ll be pleased to provide a more detailed update in the coming months.”

Bobby Brown Removed From JetBlue Flight for Suspected Intoxication

Sep 10, 2019 09:01 AM ET

Bobby Brown (former husband of the late Whitney Houston) was kicked off of a JetBlue flight from Los Angeles to Boston Monday morning.

A spokesperson for the airline told TMZ that the celebrity was "removed from the aircraft prior to departure after crewmembers observed indications of intoxication." 

The incident led the airline to order everyone off of the plane and police met Brown at the gate.

Witnesses said Brown admitted to drinking prior to boarding but was not being disruptive or interfering with the flight crew. He was later heard telling officers that he had to get to a funeral.

"The decision to remove a customer from a flight is not taken lightly. In this instance, the customer was offered a seat on a later flight. The customer declined and was issued a refund," JetBlue added.

The flight eventually departed without Brown about an hour behind schedule.

 

Delta Air Lines Announces Additional Relief Flights to Bahamas

Delta Air Lines continues to lend a helping hand to those impacted by Hurricane Dorian by announcing two additional supply flights to the Bahamas.

The carrier will operate two relief flights Monday at 11:30 a.m. and 3:20 p.m. local time from Atlanta to Nassau and Fort Lauderdale to Marsh Harbour. The planes will be loaded with critical supplies such as cots, feminine products and water. 

Delta launched its first scheduled relief flight Sunday morning from Fort Lauderdale to Marsh Harbour Airport loaded with 4,700 pounds of critical supplies, including food, water, diapers, formula, underwear and socks.

The MD-88 plane then traveled to Nassau with 72 evacuees.

Delta was one of the first carriers to send reconnaissance flights to the region, which surveyed conditions at the Marsh Harbour Airport, which remains closed due to infrastructure damage. The airline worked with local authorities to organize relief flights to and from the island.

For travelers who want to lend a helping hand, they can donate directly to Red Cross disaster relief through the Delta microsite or by donating miles through Skywish.

Disney World Giving Back to Boy Who Used Savings to Help Hurricane Dorian Evacuees

 

6-year-old Jermaine Bell had been saving up to go to Disney World for his birthday.

Instead, he decided to use his money to help Hurricane Dorian evacuees in South Carolina, handing out hot dogs, water and other snacks along the highway.

 

disney, world, theme parkPHOTO: Six-year-old Jermaine Bell of Jacksonville. (photo via Walt Disney World Resort) 

One little hero is getting a big surprise thanks to Walt Disney World Resort.

After spending more than a year saving money for his birthday trip to Florida’s Disney World, six-year-old Jermaine Bell of Jacksonville was ready for his dream vacation until Hurricane Dorian hit The Bahamas and the United States.

As Dorian made its way to the coast of South Carolina, Bell used the money he had saved to purchase hundreds of hot dogs, bags of chips and bottled water to serve free of charge to hurricane evacuees near his grandmother’s home. 

Thousands of people shared Bell's story of selflessness and kindness in the subsequent days. One of the companies to learn about the young boy’s graciousness was Disney, which decided to reward Bell for his actions.

During Bell’s seventh birthday party on September 8, Mickey Mouse and a group of Disney World cast members made a surprise visit and informed the family they would be going to Walt Disney World after all.

Disney announced the family would be treated to a VIP getaway at the vacation kingdom in late September.

 

 

 

 

Spirit Airlines Aims to Maximize Comfort and Legroom with Brand New Seats

 

Spirit Airlines Airbus A319PHOTO: Spirit Airlines Airbus A319. (photo courtesy of Spirit Airlines) 

Spirit Airlines has just announced the latest facet of its “Invest in the Guest” brand commitment by unveiling plans for new, more comfortable jet cabin seating that will maximize useable legroom.

The announcement was made onstage at the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) EXPO. Spirit Airlines officials indicated that the carrier will share its plans for overall cabin redesign in November, which is to incorporate both updating branding and modernize the look and feel of the space.

New Spirit Airlines seat design, planned for November 2019.
PHOTO: New Spirit Airlines seat design, planned for incorporation in new deliveries beginning in November 2019. (Photo courtesy of Spirit Airlines)

To inform its new designs, Spirit Airlines partnered with the Charted Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors (CIHEF) to conduct an in-depth analysis of all factors affecting passenger comfort, as well as an investigation into optimal ergonomics in aircraft seating. Factoring in guest feedback, Spirit also conducted a research study, which suggested that people’s perceptions of in-flight comfort derive largely from the amount of useable legroom available.

While “seat pitch”—defined as the space between one point on a seat and the same point on the seat in front of it—has long been the preferred measurement of comfort in cabin seating, CIHEF has pioneered a new metric, which incorporates the several elements that actually contribute to overall seat comfort.

“Pitch is an outdated industry term for measuring seat comfort, as it does not consider a range of important key factors like seatback curvature, seat width, cushion thickness, and usable space,” said Steve Barraclough, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics & Human Factors. “The ‘Usable Legroom’ metric is the distance from the center of the back of the seat cushion to the outer edges of the seat in front. We believe this metric provides a potential basis that all airlines could calculate and could offer the passenger new, evidence-based information about the potential comfort of the seat.” 

Spirit’s new seats, created by U.K.-based Acro Aircraft Seating and manufactured by HAECO Cabin Solutions—will incorporate several innovative enhancements, including softer, thicker padding, additional pre-recline and ergonomically-designed lumbar support—which ergonomic experts say will allow for a wider range of healthy postures and movements while seated.

The state-of-the-art design also provides passengers with an additional two inches of usable legroom, as compared to flatback seats of the same pitch that are currently the industry standard.

Upgraded, softer seats are designed in stylish matte-black with border-stitching in Spirit’s signature yellow, and include a full-size tray table and elevated literature pocket.

In a three-seat configuration, middle seats will gain an extra inch of width, and every seat will gain nearly an inch of pre-recline as compared to Spirit’s current seating, with exit rows gaining even more.

New seats will be made of a composite skeleton and padded with ultra-lightweight memory foam, enhancing comfort without increasing weight, and preserving the high fuel-efficiency of Spirit’s Fit Fleet.

Spirit’s improved Big Front Seats will also feature additional memory foam to provide a softer seat cushion and thigh support; and plush, ergonomic memory-foam headrest, also crafted in a sleek, Spirit-branded aesthetic.

Installation of the new seating is slated to begin in November 2019 and continue through 2020 on all new Spirit aircraft deliveries.

For more information visit Spirit.com

 

 

 

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Last week, the Canadian government issued a travel warning for the U.S. following a series of earthquakes that struck the Searles Valley in California. Classified under “natural disasters and climate,” the advisory was originally issued on July 6, and is still in place.

Mere days after a 5.1 magnitude earthquake shook Southern California last week, another, more powerful earthquake measuring a magnitude of 7.1 struck on July 5, and could be felt as far as Sacramento to Las Vegas and Mexico. The most recent quake was the largest felt in the area in at least 20 years, and was strong enough to cause damage to buildings, start fires, and impact the roads.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported that the earthquake, “occurred as the result of shallow strike slip faulting in the crust of the North America plate.” The agency also states that the earthquake took place roughly 34 hours after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck the same region in eastern California.

Seismologists now warn that large aftershocks could be expected to continue for days, if not weeks. And while the risk level for the U.S. has not changed, in response to the tremors, the Canadian government has updated its travel advisory for the area.

The advisory now states that people who are in the affected area should monitor local media and follow the instructions of local authorities. In addition, it notes that, “Earthquakes pose a risk in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Washington state.”

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