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Travel

US State Department Raises Worldwide Travel Advisory

The U.S. State Department issued a Level 3 global health advisory on Wednesday, recommending that Americans reconsider travel abroad due to the global impact of coronavirus (COVID-19).

“The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to reconsider travel abroad due to the global impact of COVID-19. Many areas throughout the world are now experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and taking action that may limit traveler mobility, including quarantines and border restrictions,” the department advised. “Even countries, jurisdictions, or areas where cases have not been reported may restrict travel without notice.”

The elevated advisory followed President Trump’s announcement late Wednesday that there will be a 30-day suspension of travel from the 26 European countries within the Schengen border-free travel area in an effort to “protect the health and well-being of all Americans to keep new cases from entering our shores.”

It’s important to note that the new restrictions only apply to foreign nationals and not U.S. citizens. What’s more, the travel suspension doesn’t apply to the United Kingdom.

The State Department’s latest advisory isn’t a ban on international travel either nor is it notice to avoid travel abroad. A majority of the world’s countries are safe to visit based on the department’s individual country advisories as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website.

The CDC recommends travelers avoid all nonessential travel to destinations with Level 3 travel notices such as China, Iran, Italy and South Korea and those older adults and those with chronic medical conditions talk to a healthcare provider and consider postponing travel to destinations with Level 2 travel notices given the risk of COVID-19.

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Travel

Airbnb Rolls Out More Flexible Reservations


Airbnb is working to provide hosts and guests added flexibility and peace and mind amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

a hand holding a camera in front of a car: Airbnb app

The home-sharing platform has introduced “More Flexible Reservations,” a new suite of tools and programs designed to help users navigate uncertainty in the wake of recent travel restrictions and elevated advisories. The updates include rewards for flexible hosts; an easy filter search for travelers and a 100 percent Airbnb guest service fee refund.

Hosts will now have new tools to directly authorize extra refunds on cancellations through Airbnb, which will also provide promotions that increase visibility for flexible hosts’ listings. Airbnb will also waive its standard 3 percent host fee on new reservations for these listings through June 1, 2020.

For Airbnb guests, the company is adding filters that make it easier to find and book accommodation options that have the most appropriate cancellation policy based on their needs, whether flexible, moderate or strict.

What’s more, now through June 1, Airbnb will refund its guest service fee for guests who need to cancel and are not due to receive a refund as a travel coupon that they can use on a future trip.

The wellbeing of our community is our priority. We encourage you to visit our help center for updates on how COVID-19 may affect travel and learn more about our cancellation policies: https://t.co/h1dPXdAdra

“While it is clear that the coronavirus will have an impact on the entire travel and tourism industry, we believe travel will recover in the long run. It is one of the largest and most resilient industries in the world,” the company stated.

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Travel

Bend has something for every kind of outdoorsy traveller

The first great breath you scoop into your lungs as you descend from the plane in Bend, Oregon, is the moment you realise what those millions of tree-shaped air fresheners, bathroom cleansers, and sprays have been trying to approximate; this is what “pine fresh” actually smells like.

Do we spend enough time talking about what places smell like when we travel? Say, the primeval damp filtered with wood smoke in the jungle north of Chiang Rai, the humid tang of south Florida, or the sunbaked dust of Rome? Well, central Oregon smells like heaven ­– if heaven were surrounded by forests of juniper, great Ponderosa pines, and blinding white snow caps topped with an endless blue sky.

A 3.5-hour drive from Portland, Bend is in Oregon’s high desert, along the eastern flanks of the Cascade Range. It’s the sunniest spot in the state, with close to 300 sunny days a year, and the flip side to Portland’s grey skies – a reminder that the Pacific Northwest is a vast region, one that still hews to its Western heritage, with space for everyone from beanie-wearing hipsters to fervid skiers to cattle ranchers.

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Travel

US citizens advised to reconsider travel abroad amid coronavirus outbreak

As the coronavirus outbreak rages on, countries are closing their borders in a bid to slow the spread.

Among them is the US, with President Trump announcing a ban on foreign nationals who have visited the Schengen area in the last 14 days from entering the US.

The ban, which will come into effect on 13 March, will last for 30 days.

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The US State Department has also updated its advice for citizens.

A global level 3 health advisory was issued on 11 March warning US citizens to “reconsider travel abroad due to the global impact of Covid-19“.

The State Department added: “Many areas throughout the world are now experiencing Covid-19 outbreaks and taking action that may limit traveller mobility, including quarantines and border restrictions. Even countries, jurisdictions, or areas where cases have not been reported may restrict travel without notice.”

The whole of Italy went into lockdown soon after the country announced that it would be isolating northern Italy.

While the advisory doesn’t physically ban US citizens from travelling, for those who do, it might mean their insurance is invalidated.

The State Department’s advisory further adds that those who are planning to travel should check individual advisories issued for each country they’re visiting, as well as sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive alerts and so they can be located in an emergency.

On top of Donald Trump’s Schengen travel ban, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also issued a level 3 warning due to “widespread sustained transmission” of coronavirus, with citizens warned to avoid non-essential travel to a number of European countries.

The list includes: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City.

US residents who have visited these countries will need to self-isolate for 14 days after their return and monitor their health for symptoms of coronavirus.

The US State Department usually only issues advisories in relation to security concerns while the CDC issues notices in relation to health concerns.

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Travel

Cruise line accused of downplaying coronavirus to secure bookings in leaked emails

Norwegian Cruise Line has been accused of giving customers misleading information and downplaying the seriousness of coronavirus to secure new bookings.

A whistleblower at NCL leaked a series of emails to the Miami New Times, in which a senior sales manager allegedly provided “one-liners” to help employees close sales with customers who were on the fence about booking a cruise.

“Team, these are one liner’s [sic] to help you close your guests that are on the fence. DO NOT USE THESE unless the coronavirus is brought up,” reportedly reads one email.

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“The only thing you need to worry about for your cruise is do you have enough sunscreen,” says one of the reported lines, while another resorts to pressure booking by advising that demand for itineraries has soared as a result of Asian routes being cancelled.

“I suggest we secure your reservation today to avoid you paying more tomorrow,” reads the talking point.

At the more worrying end of the spectrum, some of the alleged one-liners appear to contain unfounded information about Covid-19.

“The Coronavirus can only survive in cold temperatures, so the Caribbean is a fantastic choice for your next cruise,” one talking point allegedly says; another reportedly reads: “Scientists and medical professionals have confirmed that the warm weather of the spring will be the end of the Coronavirus.”

Most scientists in fact say it’s too soon to know how the virus will react in warm weather.

The anonymous NCL employee claimed to the Miami New Times that managers are downplaying the threat of coronavirus to staff too: “Even during our department meetings, managers tell us that it isn’t a big deal, that more people die from other things.”

They said they had not used the one-liners on customers themselves as they felt uncomfortable about doing so, but that cruise sales had plummeted.

Despite this, they alleged that sales targets for employees had not been altered.

“If you don’t hit quota, you will absolutely be fired,” they claimed.

NCL declined to comment on the allegations when The Independent got in touch.

It comes after the US State Department advised all citizens against travelling by cruise ship.

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Cruises

Princess Cruises to suspend sailings for 60 days

Princess Cruises will pause the global operations of its 18 cruise ships for two months from today.

In response to the unpredictable circumstances evolving from the global spread of Covid-19, sailings are not expected to resume until May 10th.

Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises, said: “Princess Cruises is a global holiday company that serves more than 50,000 guests daily from 70 countries as part of our diverse business, and it is widely known that we have been managing the implications of Covid-19 on two continents.

“By taking this bold action of voluntarily pausing the operations of our ships, it is our intention to reassure our loyal guests, team members and global stakeholders of our commitment to the health, safety and well-being of all who sail with us, as well as those who do business with us, and the countries and communities we visit around the world.”

One of Princess’ ships, Diamond Princess, was an early epicentre of the outbreak, with more than 700 cases record onboard the vessel during mooring in Yokohama, near Tokyo. 

The cruise line said those currently onboard a trip that will end in the next five days will continue to sail as expected through to the end of the itinerary so that onward travel arrangements are not disrupted.

Current voyages that are under way and extend beyond March 17th will be ended at the most convenient location for guests, factoring in operational requirements.

“Princess will do everything possible to return each guest home with the greatest amount of care possible,” said a statement.

“During this time, our operations and medical teams across the fleet will remain vigilant in their care and service for guests and crew onboard.”

Princess is offering guests the opportunity to transfer 100 per cent of the money paid for their cancelled cruise to a future cruise of their choice.

Find out more below as Princess Cruises chief executive, Jan Swartz, explains the decision:

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Travel

Passenger on JetBlue flight from New York to Florida tests positive for coronavirus: reports


A passenger on a JetBlue flight traveling from New York to Florida Wednesday night tested positive for coronavirus, according to fire officials.

'Outnumbered' co-host Melissa Francis on economic impact of coronavirus spread, predictions for when outbreak subsides.

A medical emergency prompted the flight’s 114 passengers and crew members to be stuck on the tarmac of Palm Beach International Airport for roughly three hours. Two elderly passengers were taken off the plane around 11 p.m. wearing masks and gloves, WPBF-TV reported. The flight originated at New York’s John  F. Kennedy International Airport.

Flight 253 landed at PBIA around 8:30 p.m. and passengers didn’t leave the aircraft until about 11:30 p.m., the station reported.

The State Health Department in Palm Beach County said it completed its assessment of the situation and spoke to all passengers aboard the airplane, according to Fox 29.

A plane landed at PBIA tonight and declared a medical emergency. @PBCFR and @HealthyFLPBC are now on scene.

The plane came in from JFK Airport in New York.

2 elderly passengers were taken off the plane wearing masks and gloves. @WPBF25News pic.twitter.com/FkBfyTre6Y

It’s not clear how officials determined there was a coronavirus case onboard or if the infected was one of the two elderly passengers seen leaving the plane. JetBlue did not immediately respond to an after-hours email from Fox News.

The remaining passengers were eventually allowed to leave the airport without seeing a doctor, the station reported.

They were told to call the health department if they had any additional medical concerns, while those who were in the vicinity of the coronavirus patient during the flight were advised of the monitoring procedures, according to Fox 29.

The passengers deplaned in a containment area that was located away from PBIA’s main terminals.

PBIA didn’t immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment


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Martin Lewis predicts Britons will soon be banned from USA – ‘we’ll see more travel bans’

Martin Lewis spoke to Holly & Phil on This Morning about a range of travel issues relating to coronavirus. The money saving expert’s appearance came within hours of the announcement that the USA is closing its borders to visitors from Europe – but so far, not the UK.

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Martin said: “We’ve heard today that the United States has said travellers from the Schengen area, which is travel within the EU, are not going to be allowed to go to the US.

“Britain is not included in this but there are other countries which are stopping British travellers going to an extent.

“You have Israel, which is now saying unless you have somewhere to self-isolate that’s not a hotel for two weeks, you can’t go. India is stopping visas.

“I think it is likely we are going to see much more of travel bans. At the moment the US is saying Brits can go – I don’t think we can guarantee that there won’t come a time when they say Brits can’t go, and other countries lose their borders.”

Martin issued further travel insurance advice as holidaymakers face cancellations due to the pandemic.

He said: “Last week I covered your travel insurance rights when it came to Coronavirus. Yet as this is a fast-changing situation with new developments daily, I’m constantly receiving huge number of questions from more concerned travellers. So, I’m going to address two of the most common new questions asked.”

Booked a ticket for an event, if it is cancelled, can you get your hotel and flight costs back if you decide not to go?

“Many events around the world, including sports (both watching and participating), festivals and more are being cancelled or postponed.

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“When events are cancelled you should get the ticket money back. But the issue is if you’ve flights and hotels linked with it.

“Sadly, even if that was the primary purpose of your trip, if the Foreign Office hasn’t issued an advisory against travel to that country, then if you booked your flight, hotel and event ticket separately it’s very unlikely you’ll be covered for any costs.

“However if you booked it as a package, then there’s a chance you may be able to get a refund from your tour operator, as arguably the event being cancelled has caused a significant change to your package and you aren’t obliged to go.

“So, if you don’t have a free cancellation option for the hotel or flight, you’re probably best to wait rather than cancel straight away.

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“This is because the FCO advice may change later to say you can’t go and this would trigger a travel insurance pay out. If you cancel before the FCO advice changes you won’t be able to get your money back.”

What happens if the Foreign Office haven’t put a travel ban on a country but the country itself doesn’t let us in?

“Currently, there are few restrictions on UK travellers entering countries, for example Israel has said you can only travel there if you have a place (not a hotel) where you can put yourself in quarantine for a couple of weeks. This is likely to get more common.

“In most cases, sadly you won’t be covered, so it’s important to be looking again at cancelling only if it’s free (if so note in your diary your last free cancellation date and be prepared).

“Of the eight insurers we checked only three said they would cover in these circumstances, as they’d count this as a regulatory authority, two wouldn’t. And again, if you don’t have insurance yet, do it urgently – especially as travel insurers are starting to change and limiting what’s available.”

Martin also appeared on Good Morning Britain earlier today, speaking about how to save £1000 on energy bills.

He said: “British Gas has just relaunched its super-cheap tariff  – sadly not for those on prepay, or in Northern Ireland – and has made it even cheaper.

“The new dual-fuel ‘Energy Plus Protection Mar 2021v2’ costs a typical £839 a year – £315 cheaper than the average big standard tariff most people are on (including British Gas itself).”

For more information from Martin Lewis on coronavirus, check his handy guide here.

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Cruises

Radisson Red Cologne to take brand into Germany

Radisson Hotel Group has signed first Radisson Red hotel in Germany with developer Gerchgroup.

The new Radisson Red Cologne will be located in a central city location, just a stone’s throw from the UNESCO World Heritage-recognised Cologne Cathedral.

The new development will integrate well into the Laurenz Carré, a modern urban district that also features office and retail spaces.

An existing, listed hotel property is being redesigned and supplemented with a new building for the lifestyle brand of the Radisson Hotel Group.

The Radisson Red Cologne will boast a total of 262 guest rooms.

Elie Younes, chief development officer, Radisson Hotel Group, announced: “Radisson Red is a very relevant brand for owners and guests.

“It perfectly fits the market in Cologne and will add a further vibe to its social scene.”

Scheduled to open in the second quarter of 2023, the lifestyle branded Radisson Red hotel Cologne will offer guests all the conveniences to travel in comfort.

Both hotel buildings will have an exciting restaurant and bar concept, a fitness studio and a creative 300 square meter meeting and event area.

Marc Thiel, chief transaction officer of the Gerchgoup, added: “Based on huge demand from national and international operator chains right from the outset, we were able to look into several exciting concepts.

“Ultimately, Radisson Hotel Group won us over with its new and innovative Red brand.

“We are extremely happy to be able to realise this hotel project with such a renowned partner.

“It is also a wonderful for the city of Cologne to experience this kind of hotel in this location.”

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Transport

ForwardKeys signs transformative digital partnerships

ForwardKeys has concluded agreements with the International Air Transport Association and Airlines Reporting Corporation to include their global ticketing data in its portfolio of products and services.

Through this agreement, ForwardKeys will now provide global air travel data that includes the world’s most comprehensive air transaction dataset from ARC and IATA.

The new relationship will help ForwardKeys expand its current offerings to customers in the tourism industry.

IATA is the global trade association representing 290 airlines comprising 82 per cent of global air traffic.

It also operates the Billing and Settlement Plan, which facilitates and simplifies the selling, reporting and remitting procedures of IATA-accredited travel agencies in 181 countries and territories, excluding the United States.

ARC is an industry leader in air travel distribution and intelligence.

It provides channel-agnostic tools and insights to enable the diverse omnichannel retailing strategies of its customers.

In 2019, ARC settled $97.4 billion in transactions between airlines and travel agencies, representing more than 302 million passenger trips.

Its flexible settlement and retailing solutions, innovative technology and comprehensive air transaction data helps the global air travel community connect, grow and thrive.

ForwardKeys will now receive a regular feed of global ticketing transaction data settled by IATA and ARC for travel agency bookings – including online travel agencies – as well as direct airline transactions.

Olivier Jager, chief executive, ForwardKeys said: “This moment is like the completion of a jigsaw puzzle; we can now see the whole picture in complete detail rather than just part of it.

“Of course, I am excited for us because it strengthens our USP, but I am also excited for our customers because they will receive even more reliable market intelligence which will help them make better decisions.”

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