Cruise Vaccines – What is your opinion?

Dear TA’s,

Royal Caribbean will begin sailing in early July from Florida. They have most recently announced that vaccinations will be recommended but not required for passengers. This was a reversal from an announcement only two weeks earlier, where the cruise line’s vaccine requirement web page said that all guests age 16 and older would need to complete all doses of their Covid-19 vaccine at least 14 days before sailing.  There has been both negative and positive feedback on the company’s social media pages from passengers reacting to the company’s policy change.

It seems that most passengers want to travel on cruise ships that have a vaccine requirement. However, there are some who will not book a cruise that requires them to be vaccinated.  Passengers may make their booking decision based on the vaccine requirement, or lack thereof.

Royal Caribbean wants their passengers to have some peace of mind knowing that all crew members are vaccinated.  They also want passengers to know that they are encouraging vaccines for cruisers prior to travel, and that if they decide to travel unvaccinated, they may be subject to testing and other protocols, to be announced soon.

The protocols for unvaccinated travel have not been announced yet but could include masks in public spaces onboard.  Another concern unvaccinated travelers should consider will be the vaccine and mask requirements in the cruise ships’ ports of call.

Approximately 90% of all travelers currently booked on Royal Caribbean ships have already been vaccinated or are planning to in time for their cruise, the line announced.   However, without a vaccine mandate, this high percentage could drop before these ships set sail in July.  This might be a major concern for those who booked travel believing that their fellow passengers would also be fully vaccinated.

What is your opinion regarding mandated vaccine for cruises? Would you feel comfortable having unvaccinated cruisers around you?

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How Europe is handling the “Green Passport”

Dear TA’s

By now, you have heard that Europe is open for travel!  However, there is a lot in the works to allow free travel within the EU, so right now, Americans should probably wait to make plans until the rules and requirements are formalized. If they must get away right now – they are free to travel to a European country where we know they will be welcomed, such as Croatia, Greece, or Italy.

Covid Vaccine Passports are in the works for all EU travel, and it is reported that seven countries are already using them: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Croatia and Poland.  As of July 1, 2021, all 27 member nations of the EU should have vaccine passports. There are currently talks underway to allow Americans to have access to the EU Digital COVID Certificate for travel, but this has not been finalized yet.

The vaccine passports are also called “Digital Green Certificates (DGC) and are designed to provide proof of a person’s Covid status – a vaccination against COVID-19, a negative test result, or if the person has recovered from COVID-19. The intention is to allow travel without testing or quarantining, however, each country can set its own rules. According to the EU, vaccination cannot be used as a pre-conditional requirement for travel.

These certificates will allow citizens of EU countries free movement around within their own country, as well as travel to other countries within the EU. The European Commission has also said it will include non-EU Member States, such as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland but not the United Kingdom. The DGC will be free in either digital or paper format. It is possible that these certificates will also be used for purposes other than travel, including attendance at concerts and other events with large crowds. Austria is considering using them for access to restaurants and hotels.

For now, Americans will need to show their COVID-19 vaccination records and/or a negative COVID-19 test result taken within three days of arrival into Europe, and in some countries, quarantine for a certain number of days if not fully vaccinated. 

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What is open in Europe for USA travelers

Dear TA’s,

Are you and your clients ready? Europe is rolling out the red carpet to welcome American tourists this summer.  In hopes of reviving the crucial summer tourist season and as vaccinations rates increase, Italy, Greece, Croatia and Iceland are already welcoming Americans. France and other countries have stated that they will open in coming weeks. There are still some restrictions, and some annual events have been cancelled or postponed, but Europe is now welcoming American tourists.

For travel, Americans will need either a vaccination certificate, a recent negative Covid test or proof of recovery from Covid within the past six months.  These policies may vary by country. As a standard precaution, masks are required indoors, even for people who have been vaccinated. Masks may not be required outdoors, or when social distancing is possible.

In the United Kingdom it’s now possible to have a pint at the pub again. Shops and restaurants also are fully open. Theaters in London are open and so are museums and historical sites, many with special exhibits. Some of the U.K.’s festivals have had schedule changes, so it is best to confirm before planning a trip around a certain event. Americans heading to England must get a Covid test before flying and then are subject to multiple tests and a 10-day quarantine period upon arrival, even if they have been vaccinated. The U.K.’s travel restrictions/precautions are updated every three weeks, and the next adjustment expected June 7.

Visitors to Italy who take “Covid-tested flights” from the U.S. to Italy offered by certain carriers including Delta, Alitalia and American can avoid a 10-day quarantine upon arrival.  Museums such as the Uffizi in Florence and Rome’s Galleria Borghese are among the many museums that will require reservations this year.  In Venice there will be many events to celebrate the city’s 1,600th birthday, and the opportunity to see churches and art not usually on display to tourists.  

This week, after more than a year, France will welcome visitors from the U.S. There are many famous attractions in France that are outdoors, including the Champs-Élysées, Luxembourg Gardens, the Place des Vosges and Place Vendôme. The Eiffel Tower can only be seen from below until July 16, when it will be possible once again to enjoy its spectacular views by taking the elevator or stairs. The Palace of Versailles now requires timed reservations, and in Paris, most reopened museums also require reservations.

Greece has been open to tourists from the U.S. since mid-May. There is currently a push by the Greek government to vaccinate all of its citizens, which will attract more tourists and bolster summer business. The Acropolis in Athens is open, as are most outdoor cultural sites throughout Greece. Ferries to the Greek islands also require proof of vaccination, a negative Covid test or proof of recovery.

Iceland was the first European country to let in vaccinated tourists from outside of Europe. Several major airlines are offering flights to Reykjavik. Nature lovers will enjoy a new 590-mile driving route around Westfjords in the northwest part of the country taking visitors to see cliffs, fjords, waterfalls and traditional Icelandic villages. Another driving route is the 155-mile Diamond Circle, which passes by massive waterfalls, the horseshoe-shaped Asbyrgi canyon.

Croatia is also now opened up to U.S. visitors. Tourists must prove they have paid for accommodations and there is also a vaccine-test-recovery requirement. Later this summer, Delta and United will have direct flights from the U.S. to Dubrovnik.

Even though the CDC recommends essential travel only at this time, be aware that ticket prices and demand will increase dramatically at the slightest policy change here in the U.S., or in your destination country.

I hope you have your clients signed up for travel to Europe and that you are too!

Cheers!

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Service Fees are a Must

Dear TA’s,

As summer approaches, and the outlook on travel improves, certain added fees are making a comeback. During last month, for example, most major airlines reinstated charges for some ticket changes. That didn’t take long at all!

To attract travelers during the pandemic, many companies suspended additional fees and charges, but they never stopped needing that additional revenue.  Now that people are starting to travel again, the fees have come back. These fees fall into two categories: new ones imposed by countries on international visitors, and the fees charged by companies such as airlines, travel agencies and vacation rental firms.

The island of St. Maarten in the Caribbean is now charging a mandatory $30 fee for a Visitors Protection Plan, which covers medical expenses and a medical evacuation – even if you do not need or want it. The Bahamas is charging visitors $50 to $70 for a Bahamas health visa. The visa covers basic medical expenses on the islands. It is predicted that even after the end of the pandemic, countries may keep these medical Visa requirements to offset medical costs for tourists, or institute strict medical insurance requirements.

Certain vacation rental companies have added security charges and increased security deposit requirements.  There was an increase in high-risk bookings during the pandemic – resulting in raucous parties and property damage.  Guests have used fake IDs and stolen credit cards to book and even uses the rented spaces for criminal activity.  New fees cover the costs of noise sensors, cameras, and guest-screening services.

In the past, a travel agent’s earnings came almost exclusively from commission from service. Since the pandemic, many agencies are now charging a fee for their professional services, time and knowledge, and most customers are willing to pay these fees. Booking travel with a travel agent provides a peace of mind, especially with the ever-changing travel rules and restrictions implemented since the pandemic.

The time a travel agent spends creating an itinerary and talking with the client is worth money. If a travel agent is not comfortable charging a service fee, they can offer to deduct it from the booking at the end of the trip or use the fee amount as a credit for a future vacation.

Don’t be embarrassed to charge a service fee. If your client doesn’t want to pay, you can easily add his/her name to a waiting list so you can eventually work on their itinerary AFTER you work on the ones for those who are willing to pay for your time and expertise.  

Once you value yourself, your clients will too!

Cheers!

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