ROUND-UP:Nov. 29 – Dec. 03, 2021
Last week was all about Omicron, but the travel world continued to turn in other ways, including VIA introducing its new train, Carnival extending commission tier rates, ACV boosting agent self-serve tools, plenty of news from CATO’s recent AGM, and Bermuda loosening entry protocols.
All air travellers entering or returning to Canada, except for those coming from the United States, will now need to be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival at the airport and isolate until they get their results, even if they are fully vaccinated against the virus. The new measures come as public health officials around the world warn of the potentially dangerous new Omicron variant of COVID-19.
Effective this week, all travellers to the US, regardless of nationality or vaccination status, will need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test (rapid antigen acceptable) within one day of boarding flights. That compares with three days now for those who have been vaccinated. The White House has shelved tougher options such as requiring post-arrival testing or requiring quarantines upon arrival in the US.
Unvaccinated travellers over the age of 12 officially are now officially barred from boarding a plane or passenger train in Canada, and a negative COVID-19 test no longer serves as a substitute for most people. The strict requirement took effect yesterday after a transition period to the policy announced on Oct. 30 expired.
In its effort to strive toward being more inclusive, accessible, and representative – and to attract new members – the Canadian Association of Tour Operators (CATO) is reducing membership fees: to $800 for tour operators under $10 million in gross Canada sales; and $2,000 over $10 million. And to further accommodate existing and prospective members during the pandemic, 2022 fees are being deferred until July 1, 2022. CATO also says a new website will be unveiled in February. (See “People” category below for more).
At its recent AGM, CATO also announced the appointment of Stéphanie Bishop as Vice Chair and Joanne Dhue as CATO’s appointed TICO Director. Rounding out the CATO executive team is Brett Walker, Chair; Richard Edwards, Treasurer; and Nicole Bursey, CATO-appointed TICO Director.
Fiji welcomed back its first tourists in more than 600 days on Dec. 1 after pushing ahead with reopening plans despite the threat posed by the newly detected omicron variant of the coronavirus. More than 75,000 travellers are expected in the next couple of months.
Crowds will once again fill New York’s Times Square this New Year’s Eve, albeit with proof of COVID-19 vaccination required for revellers who want to watch the famous ball drop in person. New York mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed this week that the celebration is still currently scheduled to take place despite the discovery of the Omicron variant.
A ban by Japan on new incoming international flight bookings to defend against the new variant of the coronavirus was rescinded only a day after the policy was announced, following criticisms that it was an overreaction.
BY THE NUMBERS
According to the UNWTO Travel Restrictions Report, 46 destinations (21% of all destinations worldwide) currently have their borders completely closed to tourists. Of these, 26 destinations have had their borders completely closed since at least the end of April 2020. A further 55 (25% of all global destinations) continue to have their borders partially closed to international tourism, and 112 destinations (52% of all destinations) require international tourists to present a PCR or antigen test upon arrival. Just four destinations have so far lifted all COVID-19-related restrictions completely (Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, and Mexico).
A new Toronto-Bogota route from Avianca took flight Dec. 3, the latest in the carrier’s expansion, which will see 50 new routes by 2013 (having already added 16 this year). The thrice-weekly service takes place Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, departing at 22:50 outbound (YYZ) and returning at 15:20.
Porter Airlines has partnered with Allianz Global Assistance as its new travel insurance provider, offering a variety of insurance products and options for customers. The new travel insurance plans can be included at the time of booking flights or Porter Escape vacation packages. Available plans may also be purchased after booking, through the Porter website or the Allianz call centre.
WestJet has announced route details for its new non-stop service to London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR), from Calgary. Flights will operate four-times weekly, beginning March 26, 2022, outbound on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, returning a day later in each case.
VIA Rail introduced the first trainset of its state-of-the-art new fleet that will serve the Québec City-Windsor corridor beginning late next year. Unveiled in Ottawa, the train is the first of 32 in VIA’s new corridor fleet, which is part of a federally funded billion-dollar modernization program for the national rail company. Key features of the new barrier-free, environmentally friendly train include wider aisles, automatic touchless interior doors, ergonomic seats, and high-speed reliable data connection.
Trees4Travel has created a special digital Christmas card, enabling anyone looking for a unique gift this holiday season to send a real tree to their friends, family, or clients for the price of a regular greeting card. All trees gifted will be planted in a developing country on behalf of the recipient, helping to restore the world’s forests and biodiversity, and to support impoverished communities. Christmas tree recipients can follow the progress of their planting projects on the Trees4Travel website once they receive their gift card. The tree gifted will also be backed by the Trees4Travel ‘double up’ claim which ensures every tree planted is mirrored by an equal investment to fund renewable, clean energy. For more details, visit the Trees4Travel web site.
Air Canada Vacations has increased its self-service tools to allow travel agents to manage their client’s bookings through its website. To help agents save time, the tour operator has enhanced its self-serve tools through TripBook for bookings made online. Enhancements include the ability to view and print bookings, access location maps, travel guides and e-documents, add payments and seat selections, cancel bookings, and edit passenger information. Additionally, online submission forms are available for some requests previously only available through the call centre, including requests for cancellations under CareFlexPlus or with a reduced deposit of $50, and requests for a refund under its Price Drop Guarantee.
Nashville, Tenn., is the latest location for the Underground Donut Tour, joining Philadelphia, New York City, Portland, Seattle, Boston and original home, Chicago. Designed to showcase the best donuts each city has to offer, the walking tour calls at four of the best donut shops in the city, sharing the history of each location, local sights, and history along the route, and most importantly, plenty of samples. Tours run year-round, initially twice a day on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. For tickets, https://www.undergrounddonuttour.com
New on-site rapid COVID-19 testing has been introduced at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport. In partnership with accredited Bon Voyage Medical, various testing services can be booked, including PCR tests and BC’s first 20-minute PCR test for asymptomatic travellers. Hotel guests also have the option to book an in-room test appointment through Bon Voyage Medical.
Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts has announced it will be adding a fourth hotel to its collection of rustic mountain lodges in the Canadian Rockies with the acquisition of the Relais & Chateaux Post Hotel & Spa in Lake Louise. CRMR also owns Buffalo Mountain Lodge in Banff, Deer Lodge in Lake Louise, and Emerald Lake Lodge on Emerald Lake as well as Urban Butcher and The Lake House in Calgary.
With the re-opening the Riu Sri Lanka following the standstill caused by the pandemic, RIU Hotels & Resorts reports that it is “back up and running” in all 20 countries in which it operates.
Club Med, which opened its first resort in Canada last week in Quebec, announced that it will expand its mountain concept resorts roster with a new property at Snowbasin Resort in Huntsville, Utah. The resort, located about 50 km from Salt Lake City, is slated to open in December 2024, and will be the first US opening in more than 20 years.
Carnival Cruise Line reports its third Excel-class ship – to be named Carnival Jubilee – will be delivered in 2023 and based in Galveston, Texas. The cruise line has also confirmed that all 22 of its US-based ships will be back in guest operations by March 2022.
Meanwhile, Carnival Corp. says its North American brands will maintain travel advisors’ current commission tiers earned through 2023. The five brands – Carnival Cruise Line, Cunard, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Seabourn – had previously announced that commission tiers would be maintained through 2022.
FAMS & INCENTIVES
Continuing until Dec. 17, the Jamaica Tourist Board is giving away dozens of daily prizes during holiday contest for Canadian travel advisors. The “12 Jammin’ Days of Christmas” incentive is designed celebrate the festive spirit by offering multiple chances to win a variety of special travel-themed gifts every weekday for 12 days with a total of 78 prizes for grabs throughout the contest. Daily prizes will be revealed each morning on the Visit Jamaica Canada Travel Agent Facebook page and agents will be invited to submit their official contest entries online at www.visitjamaica.com/canada/contest. Prize winners will be selected at random and shared in the Facebook group.
Tahiti specialists (and those still working towards certification) are invited to take part in Tahiti Tourisme North America’s first virtual Tahiti Specialist Conference, Jan. 11-13, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. PST. The three-day virtual conference will consist of educational sessions, product training sessions, tradeshow, and 1:1 meetings with suppliers and preferred tour operators. Visit or register at TahitiSpecialist.org.
Hyatt Place Kelowna has named Klint and Associates as its new in-market representative in Canada. Toronto-based Annika Klint and Sana Keller will work with the Hyatt Place Kelowna team to increase brand awareness and ensure that the new property, located in the centre of the BC city, is prominently positioned with the travel trade, and key distribution media channels across Canada. This will include the development and implementation of a strategic trade, marketing, and communications program to increase the profile of Hyatt Place Kelowna, maximize media opportunities and keep this new hotel top of mind.
WestJet has announced the appointment of Karl Schuster, as the airline’s Executive Vice-President and Chief Loyalty Officer (CLO). Schuster will join the WestJet executive leadership team in the newly created position in early 2022. Schuster has over 19 years of loyalty experience, including six years as CEO of Velocity Frequent Flyer, Virgin Australia’s award-winning loyalty program. Prior to his time at Velocity, Schuster lead multi-year loyalty programs for Qantas, British Airways and Malaysian Airlines and provided consulting advice to a diverse range of airlines in his nearly 15 years at Aimia Inc.
Huntington Travel group has announced the appointment of Jennifer Zammit as Manager Business Development for Canada and USA. Zammit has been working in the travel industry for more than 25 years with travel companies such as Bedsonline, Travel Bound, Time Zone One (marketing Brand USA) and most recently as a BDM for Globus Family of Brands.
It is not necessary to present vaccination cards, or negative tests for COVID-19 to enter the Dominican Republic. Such requirements are also not necessary at hotels, or to take excursions. Random tests are being carried out at the airports upon entry to the country. To enter establishments outside of hotels, such as bars, restaurants, shops and other closed establishments, the presentation of a vaccination card is required.
Canadians can travel again to the St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) starting today (Dec. 6) with the resumption of non-stop Air Canada flight service. Weekly flights will depart on Mondays on board Air Canada’s mainline 737Max. Fully vaccinated travellers must arrive with proof of vaccination and a negative PCR test completed no more than 72 hours or three days before arrival. No retests or quarantine are required. The islands’ tourist board has also relaunched a revamped web site at DiscoverSVG.com.
Fully vaccinated visitors to Bermuda now only to need pass an antigen test upon arrival with no follow-up test required on-island, reports the Bermuda Tourism Authority. It is the first significant loosening of COVID-19 border protocols since the island reopened in July 2020.
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First published at Travel Industry Today