Countries Without Coronavirus

Dear TAs,

There are currently seven countries who have declared that they are free of Coronavirus and have never had any reported cases.  This information is self-reported and may not be accurate when compared to reporting from official sources, such as the World Health Organization and the CDC. 

However, it is interesting to note what precautions were taken to prevent the widespread infection that has affected most of the world.

North Korea

North Korea was the first country to close its borders. The country closed its borders in January 2020 and haven’t re-opened since. It implemented strict measures for those coming into the country (foreigners and nationals) including a one- or two-month quarantine.  While the North Korean authorities report zero cases, one should consider the likelihood of China’s nearest neighbor being completely free of the virus.

Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan is a country in Central Asia bordered by Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Iran, and Afghanistan. All the bordering countries have reports of coronavirus infections. Most of the land borders have been closed, and in early February 2020 Turkmenistan cancelled many flights, and all flights to and from China. It has been noted that the official statement of zero cases may not accurately reflect the number of infections and the country was advised by the WHO to act as if there were infections within the country and take necessary precautions.  

Kiribati, Tonga, Palau, Tuvalu, Nauru – Oceania

As of April 5, 2021, these countries have no reported cases of COVID-19.

There have been no cases in Kiribati, but a state of public emergency has been declared. Tonga has been strict with travel rules since February 2020. Since Fiji’s first reported case of coronavirus, Tonga closed its borders to foreigners and only allowed flights for foreigners to travel back to their own countries.  Tonga began repatriation flights in mid-July to get Tongans back from Fiji. The flight was limited to less than 60 people, all of whom were under strict quarantine at the same hotel.

As one of the least visited countries in the world, Tuvalu sees fewer than 200 tourists per year. This has prevented an outbreak in this country.  Nauru is a country so small that you can walk around it in one day.  Along with Tuvalu, it holds the record for being one of the least visited countries in the world.

The above information is proof that travel agents should do research and find accurate information about the number of Covid cases in all destinations, and also, the limitations and restrictions imposed by certain countries for travelers.

Cheers!

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Cruise Status

Dear TA’s,

The timing for U.S cruising to return is still uncertain. However, there have been several itinerary announcements recently.

As I have outlined in a previous blog post, ships classified as “green” are viewed as unaffected by COVID based on self-reported information, including the report or no confirmed cases of COVID during the previous month, adherence to proper quarantine procedures, and the filing of current paperwork. “Yellow” ships were previously “green” but are awaiting results of a potential positive test. “Red” ships had a positive COVID test onboard or violated a government regulation or protocol.

Lindblad has announced that it will begin Alaska and Galapagos sailings in June for vaccinated guests. Royal Caribbean also announced three Caribbean itineraries will sail the week of June 5th, and due to the inability to sail from the U.S., has moved three ships from U.S. waters. To date no other cruise lines have moved their ships from U.S. waters.

The Royal Caribbean itineraries set to sail from the Caribbean in June include Adventure of the Seas, which will sail from The Bahamas, Vision of the Seas from Bermuda, and Celebrity Millennium from St. Maarten. These new itineraries will require guests and crew to be vaccinated and will make stops at Royal Caribbean’s private island CocoCay.

Carnival Cruise line has announced that there are currently no plans to move its ships away from U.S. homeports. They currently have 31 ships across all brands operating or planning to resume operations in U.S. waters. All of their ships are classified as “green” which is unchanged from previous reporting.

Royal Caribbean currently has 20 ships operating or planning to operate in U.S. waters during the initial phase. Adventure of the Seas has moved from U.S. waters. 100% of Royal Caribbean’s ships are currently classified as “green.”

Norwegian Cruise Lines has 5 ships operating or planning to operate in U.S. waters.  They have recently introduced the ship Norwegian Sun. Their ships all have an unchanged classification of “green.”

Cheers,
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Is it time to ease incoming travel restrictions?

Dear TAs,

The travel industry is now asking questions about resuming inbound international travel.  Borders have been closed since March 2020 when the WHO (World Health Organization) declared Covid-19 a global pandemic.  Since that time, incoming non-citizens and non-residents have been restricted at the US borders. The Biden administration has extended these entry restrictions for many countries including Brazil and most of Europe in hopes of controlling the virus and preventing further global spread.

However, such restrictions have had severe financial effects. Overseas travel to the US declined by 81% in 2020, and travel from Mexico reduced by 62%. Incoming tourism from Canada declined by 77%.  This loss of inbound tourism has cost the U.S. economy approximately $146 billion.  The US Travel Association believes that a total of a 1.1 million American jobs will be lost and $262 billion in potential tourism revenue will not be recognized in 2021 if international restrictions are not eased. The hope is to restore some incoming tourism by early July, which would allow for a restoration of 40% of 2019 revenue levels for the remainder this year. This would be result in a significant economic recovery for the U.S., and up to 225,000 jobs could be saved.

There is a call from the aviation and travel industries for the government to work with them toward creating a roadmap to relaxing some international restrictions and allowing some foreign tourists to enter the country. These industry representatives are suggesting a risk-based and data-driven strategy to reopen the country to international tourists and stress an urgency in doing so.

This group does not support the removal of public health protections that are currently in place and working – including mask mandates, testing, and physical distancing, stating that these measures are effective in continuing to mitigate risk.  Their proposed roadmap would include measures such as a blanket testing requirement for all inbound passengers, and an exemption from testing for vaccinated passengers.  They encourage the government to establish federally accepted methods to validate the test results and vaccination records of travelers.

The timeline for easing incoming travel restrictions should begin as soon as May so that the U.S. can open to non-US tourists before the summer travel season begins.  There will be severe financial and employment implications if another summer season passes with no incoming tourism.

Cheers,

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Planning for the Return of Global Travel

Dear TAs,

It has been more than a year since people have been able to travel freely, and many avid travelers feel as though the quality of their lives has changed with the loss of that freedom.  Travel restrictions have affected both business and pleasure travelers, and these limits have caused people to miss important social and business interactions. This has brought stress and frustration to many.

It is very important that both individuals and countries manage risk and do what is necessary to stay safe from Covid-19. Such safety is a global necessity. As cases of the virus decline worldwide, we must begin planning ways to re-open borders and resume travel. Travel restrictions have had both social and economic costs across the world. Many people are ready to get on with their lives and feel that their freedom to travel is a large part of that.

A plan to resume travel is critical.  This plan must manage the risks of living in a world with Covid-19. Airlines and countries need to begin making and implementing their own strategies for recovery. These plans should have milestones that enable countries to reopen their borders safely while at the same time, manage the risks of Covid-19.  Some of those management tools should include testing capabilities and vaccine distribution, and ways to verify this information while protecting passenger privacy. There are several ideas for Global Passports and Health Travel Apps which will allow airlines to check passengers’ Covid status.  However, some of the risk management must be on the travelers themselves – by getting vaccinated and traveling safely, adhering to the regulations set forth by the airlines they choose to fly, and the countries they plan to visit.

Most people in the travel industry feel that Covid-19 will not disappear completely, so we need to find ways to lessen travel restrictions while safely managing the risks of the virus. This will allow global economies to recover and improve the lives of individuals with more freedom to travel.

Cheers!

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Covid-19 Global Passport

Dear TA’s,

In my opinion, and in that of many other travel professionals, the U.S. should take the lead in establishing Covid-19 health credential standards.  Global travel would be able to resume much more quickly if there were a clearinghouse of information that contains the test results and vaccine status of airline passengers. Having verified proof of this passenger information could also benefit sports arenas, theme parks, event spaces, as well as the individuals who want to visit them.

The U.S. already has a Covid-19 recovery team, and one of their priorities should be to quickly establish some sort of a travel passport containing an individual’s Covid-19 status information, including test results and vaccination status. The U.S. government should work closely with the travel industry to establish standards for this process, ensuring that reported test results and vaccines are legitimate and prioritize passenger privacy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be in a good position to lead a global discussion, strengthening protections against the import or export of the virus. This month, the European Commission will unveil a proposal for a “Digital Green Pass” that will provide proof that a person has been vaccinated, recovered from Covid-19, or has received a negative test. It would be more efficient if there were only one globally accepted document and process.

As vaccination rates increase, the rate of Covid-19 infection reduces. This is expected to trigger a surge in travel bookings as so many consumers spent a year staying at home to avoid contracting coronavirus. A globally accepted document, such as a Covid-19 Health Certificate or Covid-19 Global Passport will be essential to the reopening of countries that have imposed quarantines or other restrictions on travelers from other countries.

What do you think?

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1st anniversary of “2 weeks of flatten the curve”!

Dear All,

Can you believe it?

I can’t! Even in my wildest dreams I could never have imagined that the whole world would stand still due to a pandemic, with so many deaths and so many people who have lost their jobs and businesses. Travel became an almost impossible dream, especially when so many countries closed their borders. Cruises stopped still.

We all know how much we have lost, how much we hurt, and how much we crave normalcy.

Let me talk about the positives of what I have learned, and hopefully you have some too.

I have always been a very anxious person. I started my day thinking about how I would finish it. I didn’t enjoy thinking about each part of the day. I lived for travel so what happened in between each trip was just to fill space until the next trip, and it was even better if time would move fast because I was always ready for my next adventure.

When Covid hit, 3 of our planned cruises got canceled right away. Adios to the 7 new countries I was planning to add to my collection of countries visited – which so far has 86. I was so frustrated.

After all those “2 weeks to flatten the curve” predictions, I saw that there were no cruises coming in 2020. I needed a new distraction, so I focused more on exercising and eating healthy. Instead of using exercise to fill the time between my trips, I started to enjoy every single movement. I started to do Pilates and weight training with my eyes closed and focus on each muscle of my body. It has been almost a year now. Miracles don’t happen overnight. I don’t look like a Goddess (LOL!) nor am I in a hurry. I am truly enjoying the process. I am not as anxious, and I am definitely stopping to smell the roses and appreciate the sunshine during my power walk. 

Even If this was the only positive experience I could get from this awful pandemic, I feel blessed.

How about you?

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To Weddings and Honeymoons

Dear TAs,

As we all know, weddings and honeymoons in 2020 did not happen with their usual glamour, and probably will not happen again until at least fall of 2021.

Hopefully, many couples who were together before Covid continue to be in love and possibly even grew stronger together during this pandemic. Other relationships may have started during Covid, not an easy path but definitely a very promising one. Some may have luckily discovered during the pandemic that their love was not going to survive difficult times and broke up. We saw them all.

What we will definitely see is an increase of destination weddings and honeymoons in 2022. Be ready to book them!

If I were working on destination weddings and honeymoons the first piece of advice I would give to my prospective clients is to send the SAVE THE DATE – yesterday! (LOL, by that I mean the soonest possible) so they can guarantee their guest list, before people promise to go to other weddings.

In terms of destination weddings, the sooner they can sign the contract with the resort/hotel and airlines for the group rooms/seats the better the chances for great deals and prime locations. For the airlines, booking early will offer more direct flights than multiple stops.

Honeymooners want to make sure to they choose their dream destination with worry free travel after a well-deserved wedding.

Cheers to great weddings in 2022!

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What We Should Know About the Covid Vaccine and the Requirements of Different Countries

Dear TAs,

For members of the travel industry the big question is still: Might some countries require a COVID-19 vaccination for entry?

Probably. That is not my opinion, but is that of Jan L. Jones, a professor of hospitality and tourism at the University of New Haven in Connecticut. There are many African countries that already require vaccinations against such diseases as yellow fever prior to entry, which makes me wonder if COVID-19 may be next. Because of this, I too think that some countries may specifically require the vaccine, and others may require quarantine.

It is going to be quite difficult for travelers to keep track of the different requirements for the countries they are interested in visiting. There may even be different rules for different travelers caused by risk factors in different points of origin, and even passenger age.

Airlines might find themselves being first to require proof of vaccination.  In November, the chief of Australia’s Qantas air stated that the airline would require passengers to be vaccinated before boarding for departure to and from the country.

Israel recently announced that it will be issuing a “green passport” to citizens who have received the COVID-19 vaccine. This will free the vaccinated from certain restrictions, including clearance for international travel without a COVID-19 test. There has not yet been an announcement about whether travelers from other countries are required to be vaccinated before they arrive in Israel.

In the U.S., Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently told Newsweek, “Anything is on the table. Anything is possible, of course.” As distribution of the vaccine ramps up, it is possible that we will see some states in the U.S. requiring visitors to be vaccinated. The decisions regarding this type of requirements will be left to the individual states.

We all have our own opinions regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, and whether or not we believe that a vaccine requirement is an infringement of our rights to visit a country. Right now, it is still too soon for a definitive solution. I believe that by this time next year we will have a much better idea. 

Cheers,

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Do you have what it takes?

Dear TAs (Travel Agents, Advisors),

You are a travel agent with vision, great organizational skills, and people skills. Double check the list below to make sure you are using all the right tools to ensure your continued success in selling travel to your clients – present and future.

PEOPLE SKILLS
To be able to sell travel successfully, travel agents should possess excellent communication skills.  They need these skills to be able to inspire and influence people. In the role of travel agent, you are sure to meet many different and interesting people, and no day will be the same as the next.   The ability to work with different budgets while managing a client’s expectations is essential.  You should be tolerant and talented at sales.  With your enthusiasm, you can get travelers the best value for their money and meet or exceed their expectations for a wonderful experience.

BE A SELF-STARTER
Successful travel agents are self-motivated and possess a lot of drive. There are endless opportunities to learn and grow with the intent of becoming an expert in your field. Take advantage of training, familiarization trips and webinars to learn as much as you can about destinations, suppliers, tour operators and industry trends.  Find a niche or specialization so you can offer greater value to certain clients and grow your business. You can create your own packages and attract even more clients interested in what you have to offer.  

ORGANIZATION
The job of a travel agent requires great skill at planning.  You need to juggle phone calls, bookings, and communicate effectively every day with clients, tour operators, airlines and so many others.  You need to keep track of flights, pricing and payments, hotel reservations, and so much more.  Great organization and an ability to multi-task is essential for success.

VISION AND FORESIGHT
Travel agents are visionaries. The get the inspiration to plan magnificent vacations from their clients’ wishes and use their own knowledge and experience to create unforgettable experiences for travelers. Using your own vision combined with that of the client is an integral component to a well-planned trip. You must understand and “see” your clients’ desired experience before making all the necessary arrangements.

KNOWLEDGE OF THE INTERNET
As a travel agent, your biggest competition can be found on the internet.  It is essential to know what’s happening online.  Before coming to you, many clients will already have researched the places they want to visit. They are already aware of certain travel and accommodation options. Knowing what they know will give you a huge advantage and an opportunity to show what you can do better.  You will also need to use the internet to market yourself – both on your own website and on social media channels.

I am always cheering for you!

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Update on Cruise Status

Dear TAs (Travel Agents/Advisors),

It is hard to know when cruising in the U.S. will come back – most cruise lines have cancelled itineraries at least through the end of April 2021.  The cruise industry is hoping that cruises will resume soon – even in a very limited capacity.   As of February 2, a total of 64 cruise ships from various cruise lines have applied for approval to operate during the first phase of the Conditional Sailing Order. Of those, a total of 63 vessels, or 98%,  were given ‘green’ status.

Green ship status means that CDC believes the ship is currently unaffected by COVID-19 based on information provided by the operator of the cruise ship. The information provided to the CDC to obtain ‘green’ status verifies zero confirmed cases of COVID onboard over the past 28 days, proper quarantining procedures in place, and current paperwork on file. ‘Yellow’ ships were once designated as green but are awaiting results following a potential positive COVID test. ‘Red’ ships either had a confirmed positive COVID test or violated a different government protocol.

Carnival – Across all of their brands, Carnival currently has 30 ships operating or planning to operate in U.S. waters during the initial phase. Approximately 97% of their ships are ‘green’ including Carnival Dream, Ecstasy, and Miracle, and 4 additional ships from Carnival’s other brands. Carnival Pride’s status was recently changed from red from green.

Royal Caribbean – There are 24 Royal Caribbean ships across all brands currently operating or planning to operate in U.S. waters during the initial phase. The current CDC status of 100% of their ships is ‘green’.

Norwegian – Norwegian currently has 4 ships across all brands operating or planning to operate in U.S. waters during the initial phase. The upgrade of Norwegian’s Pride of America from red to green has resulted in 100% of their ships having  ‘green’ status.

Hopefully, we will be onboard soon! Bon Voyage!

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