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ROUND-UP:Jan. 4-8, 2021

The travel industry is mourning Sandals’ chairman Butch Stewart. US Travel event postponed, and new boss same as the old boss at Huntington,.

The industry was shocked and saddened, by the death in Miami of January 4th of Sandals Resorts founder Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart age of 79 Already a successful businessman in Jamaica, Stewart began his venture into travel with the purchase of a few hotel properties in Montego Bay in 1981, which went on to become the pioneering Sandals and Beaches all-inclusive resort chain. At one point, he also held a stake in Air Jamaica. Known to most as Butch, or “the chairman,” Stewart was a familiar face in Canada, a country he steadfastly supported throughout his career.


In the aftermath of the storming of the US Capitol building by pro-Trump rioters on Jan. 6, Brand USA’s planned Focus on Canada virtual travel trade event scheduled for Jan. 14 has been postponed.

A corporate shuffle at Huntington Travel has seen an investment syndicate led by former owner and current CEO Kiran Budhdev re-acquire the nearly 50-year-old Mississauga-based travel company from Etraveli Group AB, along with subsidiary Escapades by Huntington. The new company Huntington Travel Holding Inc. (HTH) says business will continue “as usual” for the brands and will include the addition of industry veteran Ravi Kumar as COO. Etraveli CEO Matthias Hedlund says the company was looking to divest its consolidator business and is pleased that Huntington has “found a good home.”

A new pilot project to test for COVID-19 at Toronto Pearson International Airport will give arriving international travellers the opportunity to take a test prior to leaving the airport. The voluntary program does not change a traveller’s mandatory 14-day quarantine requirement upon entry into Canada or the need to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test upon arrival.

With all arrivals to Canada now required to produce a negative COVID-19 test result, the ban on flights from the United Kingdom has been lifted. Canada halted most air travel from the UK, where a mutated strain of COVID-19 had been discovered, on Dec. 20.


Starting on Jan. 24 MSC Cruises’ MSC Grandiosa will resume scheduled weekly cruises in the Western Mediterranean departing from Genoa, Italy. On Feb. 14, MSC Magnifica will also return at sea for scheduled itineraries of 11 nights in Italy, Greece, and Malta

Puerto Rico has reopened beaches, marinas, and pools, eliminated a Sunday lockdown and shortened curfew implemented to control the number of COVID-19 cases. The new measures went effect Jan. 8 for 30 days but can be amended any time if there’s a spike in cases.

Hawaii’s “garden island,” Kauai, which had opted out of the state program that allows trans-Pacific visitors if they produce a negative test before arrival, will begin its own entry program starting this week. Travellers can avoid quarantine if they go to another Hawaii island with the pre-arrival testing program and wait at least three days before continuing on to Kauai. A second option would enable travellers with negative test results to quarantine for three days instead of 10 upon producing a second negative test.


Carnival Cruise Line is notifying guests and travel agents of additional cruise cancellations. They include: All embarkations from US homeports through March 31, 2021; Carnival Freedom from Galveston through April 10, 2021; Carnival Miracle from San Diego and San Francisco through Sept. 16, 2021; Carnival Liberty from Port Canaveral from Sept. 17 to Oct 18; Carnival Sunshine from Charleston Oct. 11-Nov. 13, 2021; and Carnival Spirit’s 15-day cruise from Singapore to Brisbane on June 12, 2021.

Other cruise cancellations: Princess ships sailing through May 14, 2021; all Holland America Line departures through April 30, Alaska until mid May or early June (depending on ship), some Med cruises until June, and Canada/New England until August.


WestJet says up to 1,000 employees will be furloughed, temporarily laid off, put on unpaid leave, or have their hours cut as a result of new travel rules from the federal government. Capacity will also be cut by 30% in February and March. Meanwhile, WestJet says it will be ready to fly 737 MAXs again on Jan. 21, pending final approval from Transport Canada, which validated the aircraft and issued requirements for carriers on Dec. 17 following the equipment’s grounding after two fatal crashes. If cleared, a phased-in return to service with three round-trip flights per week between Calgary and Toronto will begin.

Qatar Airways will launch four weekly flights between Seattle and Doha on March 15, 2021. The airline has also announced a frequent partnership with Alaska Airlines.


IATA says recovery in passenger numbers continues to decline. Total demand was down 70.3% compared to November 2019, virtually unchanged from the 70.6% year-to-year decline recorded in October. November capacity was 58.6% below previous year levels and load factor fell 23.0 percentage points to 58.0%, which was a record low for the month.


Emirates has launched a global sale featuring economy class fares from Canada (YYZ) starting at $919 to various destinations including Dubai, Amman, Karachi, Tehran and Malé. Business fares lead in at $3,999. For a full list of the special offer fares, visit the airline’s web site. Bookings must be made by Jan. 18 for travel by June 15.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ “Upgrade Your Horizon” promotion offers guests a two-category suite upgrade, up to a penthouse suite on all published cruises, when booked by Feb. 28. Travellers booking a concierge suite will also receive a free one-night pre-cruise hotel stay.

Additionally, Regent Reassurance, which allows travellers to cancel for any reason up to 15 days prior to departure date and receive a 100% Future Cruise Credit, has been extended for all bookings made by Jan. 31, for all voyages departing through Oct. 31.


Northern lights

Nordic tour operator 50 Degrees North (which has an office in Vancouver) is planning four escorted Northern Lights small group tours for the 2021-22 Scandinavian winter: “Follow the Northern Lights” (15 days), “Chase the Northern Lights” (14 days), “Aurora Highlights” (8 days), and “Lapland Circle” (11-day premium tour), which explore Finland and Norway, including a stay at the Ice Hotel. Spots can be reserved by Jan. 31 with a $100 deposit; flexible re-booking conditions and full refund are offer. Tour dates are September to March 2022.

Polar adventure specialist Quark Expeditions says it has introduced “the most comprehensive, traveller-focused COVID policy in the travel industry.” The S.A.F.E. COVID Policy” promises state-of-the-art testing and health protocols; anytime cancellation and rebooking; free from crowds in the polar regions; and an “uncompromised” experience on all scheduled sailings.


TravelBrands is now offering cruises with Atlas Ocean Voyages, a new small-ship luxe-adventure cruise line that is notably all-inclusive, including a complimentary shore excursion in every port. Destinations include Europe, Antarctica, and other unique parts of the world.

UnCruise Adventures has started its own adventure travel podcast. “No Ordinary Adventure” features 30- to 45-minute curated audio stories hosted by UnCruise CEO Dan Blanchard in conversation with various industry experts. New episodes are added monthly and are available across all major podcast platforms as well as UnCruise’s web site.


Hilton Belfast has completed a £10 ($17.21) million transformation project, which includes a full refurbishment of the hotel’s facilities and expanding its capacity to 202 bedrooms and suites.

SAHARA Las Vegas will unveil its latest entertainment centerpiece next summer – the main resort pool – as part of the resort’s US $150-million transformation. And this spring, Channing Tatum’s MAGIC MIKE LIVE Las Vegas will make its return to a new home at SAHARA, taking over a two-story space on the resort’s second floor that will be solely dedicated to the show and its guests. Tickets are now on-sale for performances starting March 26.


Sandals South Coast, Jamaica

Swim-up Rondoval Suites highlight the reimagined 112-room beachfront Dutch Village at Sandals South Coast resort in Jamaica. Each suite features zero-entry swim up access, a private plunge pool, outdoor Tranquility Soaking Tub for two, and a Serenity Swing with scenic views.

Barbados’ Crane Resort has expanded its already comprehensive COVID-19 protocols to include provisions for asymptomatic visitors who may get a positive COVID-19 test result after landing. The historic Canadian-owned resort (and longest continuously operating hotel in the Caribbean, which boasts iconic cliff-top views over Crane Beach) will relocate affected guests at no extra charge to a Park Residence (with a private pool) to ride out their quarantine in luxury, including having meals delivered to their door and being monitored by on-site medical staff. The Crane already arranges for onsite COVID tests to help guests easily comply with Barbados protocols.


ICON Park in Kissimmee, Fla. will introduce “In The Game,” a virtual experience that transforms an arcade into an immersive experience for guests of all ages, early this year. In summer, two towering new additions, ICON Park Slingshot and ICON Park Drop Tower, will also debut. And in late 2021, guests will be able to experience the Museum of Illusions, featuring holograms, interactive immersions, and more.


As part of its wave season offer, travel advisors can pick their own perk on each confirmed booking with Windstar Cruises – a US$50 bonus commission payable with regular commission or a $50 gift card payable at final payment. It increases to $100 per booking for new-to-Windstar guests. An extension of a currently running groups promotion lets advisors earn a Tour Conductor credit at a reduced rate of 1:7 on Star Advantage Group dates, normally 1:9. And the “Sell Three, Sail Free” promotion gifts a free cruise to advisors when they sell three qualifying voyages in 2021 booked by Feb. 28. The advisor’s free cruise may be any voyage of eight days or fewer and must be taken by March 31, 2022.


Jan 13-14: Nexion Travel Group-Canada is hosting a virtual event for travel advisor prospects with live staffing from 3 to 7 p.m. CST on Jan. 13 and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. CST on Jan. 14. The Nexion EXPO event platform will also be open for browsing Jan. 13-Feb. 14. 2021. Free registration is available HERE.

Jan. 14: Season 3 of our Fort Lauderdale’s virtual webinar series kicks off Jan 14 at 2:30 EST with an exploration of the south Florida city’s arts and culture scene. Featured attractions include Conrad Fort Lauderdale, Gallery One, Doubletree Suites by Hilton, The NSU Museum of Fort Lauderdale, The Historic Ali Cultural Arts Center and more. Upcoming segments include Tasty Travels on Jan. 28, Black Businesses on Feb. 11 and What’s New on Feb. 25. Register HERE.


Frank Comito has stepped down as CEO/Director General of the Caribbean Hotel and Travel Association to assume a role of part-time advisor. The industry veteran, and long-time advocate of the Caribbean, who held the post for nearly six years, says the move was “long-planned,” but had been delayed due to the needs of the organization and region during the pandemic. Former CHTA COO Vanessa Ledesma assumes the role of acting CEO/Director General.

Transat Distribution Canada (TDC) has been named to Celebrity Cruise Line’s Honorary Top 50’s Club for 2020.


A project is underway to boost tourism in Northeastern Ontario. “Cultural Crossroads: 101 Experiences” is an initiative developed by the Northeastern Ontario Consortium (CNEO) with the goal of developing 101 unique tourism experiences in the region that stretches from Temagami to Hearst by this summer. Experiences can range from cooking and dance classes to snowshoeing, going on a guided tour, or having a craft lesson.

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First published at Travel Industry Today

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