Categories
Destinations

Which European Countries Plan to Reopen for Summer Travel?

The European Union (E.U.) is slowly beginning to emerge from COVID-19 lockdowns, with some member nations beginning to remove travel restrictions in time for the summer holidays. Yet, Non-European tourists will still need to wait until at least June 15—when the European Commission’s advisory on the closing of the E.U.’s external borders is currently set to expire. However, there is always the possibility that the date will be extended.

“Our message is we will have a tourist season this summer,” even if it’s with security measures and limitations,” European Union economic affairs commissioner, Paolo Gentiloni, told the BBC on May 13, 2020.

The Commission’s goal is to initiate a phased approach that would gradually see the Union’s internal borders reopen while continuing to enforce current COVID-19-targeted safety measures.

In the proposed initial phase, seasonal workers would be permitted to cross, in order to restart economies, followed by the removal of restrictions on movements between those countries that demonstrate similar degrees of control over COVID-19 contagion. Once viral transmission is seen to have been sufficiently quelled, the ultimate goal would be to reopen all of the E.U.’s internal borders.

The U.K. (having exited the E.U., but still operating under its rules this year), Ireland and France have together agreed to allow travel between them without requiring arrivals to endure the standard fourteen-day quarantine, reported the Washington Post.

Matt Hancock, England’s health department secretary, told U.K. residents not to expect that “big, lavish international holidays” would be possible this year, although the aim is still to salvage something of the summer season and at least allow for more regional travel.

Similarly, a “travel bubble” is now in effect between the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, allowing their residents to move freely between them, but still imposing a fourteen-day quarantine upon visitors from outside the zone.

European Commission Vice-President, Margrethe Vestager, remarked, “Of course, this isn’t going to be a normal summer, but when we all work together…we don’t have to face a completely lost summer.” She added that, in order for coordinated reopening efforts to succeed, the various contact-tracing apps currently being devised by various nations would potentially need to function across all of Europe.

Other innovative tools and technology may eventually help to make the transition easier. For instance, in Spain’s Canet d’en Berenguer, a seaside town outside of Valencia, beachgoers are being required to book slots to occupy space on the sand via mobile app.

The beach itself is divided into socially-distanced segments, with reserved guests arriving at staggered times across the morning and afternoon hours. Officials said the system will allow for a maximum of 5,000 people visiting per day, which is about half of the beach’s usual capacity.

Although coordination efforts are being led by the Commission, many determinations as to how and when to loosen restrictions will be left up to the E.U.’s 27 individual member countries, including the status of their borders and beaches. Austria and Germany are among the most recent to announce the reopening of their borders starting June 15, having begun to ease land-border checks on May 15.

Greece plans on reopening to travelers a bit later, beginning July 1, with all international visitors required to enter through Athens and undergo a health screening, including a rapid COVID-19 test.

The Mediterranean country will also regulate the types of tourism taking place, shutting down the standard, densely-packed nightlife scene, and instead encouraging socially-distanced solo or small-group activities, such as kayaking or boating.

“The tourism experience this summer may be slightly different from what you’ve had in previous years,” Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, told CNN. “Maybe no bars may be open, or no tight crowds, but you can still get a fantastic experience in Greece—provided that the global epidemic is on a downward path.”

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Categories
Cruises

Royal Caribbean Announces Plan to Send Crew Members Home

It had taken a couple of months for the cruise industry to successfully disembark all passengers from cruise ships around the world after the coronavirus pandemic led to global suspensions. However, over 80,000 crew members from various cruise lines remain stranded at sea.

After much discussion, Royal Caribbean and the CDC may soon reach an agreement that will allow thousands of crew members to go home.

According to ABC News, Royal Caribbean International CEO Michael Bayley’s plan to send crew members home will vary on each member’s nationality and location, as outlined in a memo sent to employees on Sunday.

American crew members aboard ships that are close to the U.S. will be provided with private transportation after disembarking starting on May 6. American crew members aboard ships in Barbados will be put on a ship to Miami then transferred to private transportation.

According to Bayley, they should be home by May 14. American crew members in the Mediterranean will be flown home by May 20, and American crew members in Asia will be flown home from the Philippines as soon as the airport in Manila reopens.

The CDC, which must approve all requests for crew members to disembark at U.S. ports, will agree to let crew members return home if the company’s executives “are willing to attest — subject to criminal penalties including imprisonment — that we will not use any public transportation and that each crew member will comply with certain conditions after disembarking the ships.”

However, using private transportation to return all Royal Caribbean crew members to their home countries would be both challenging and expensive. According to ABC News, the CDC has not yet received Royal Caribbean’s plans.

In a statement with ABC News, Royal Caribbean assured crew members that the cruise line is working to return them home and thanked them for their patience.

“We have already been able to help more than 12,000 of our crew members return safely home on commercial flights, charter flights and direct sailings to their home countries and thousands more are going home in coming weeks,” the company said. “We are working with governments and health authorities around the world on our plans, and we very much appreciate our crews’ patience, understanding and good spirit.”

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Categories
Transport

Plan Proposed to Remove Homeless From Atlanta Airport

Atlanta’s City Council is expected to vote on a 60-day, 5-point plan to combat the homeless problem at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport resulting from the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

According to Atlanta’s Channel 2, the plan includes banning visitors from the airport after 6 p.m.

“It’s going to give them time to get back on the train and be able to move into whatever emergency situation they need to be in,” Atlanta City Councilman Antonio Brown told the news outlet.

The city has also ordered 4,000 masks and gloves for the homeless and is planning services to help them get back on their feet. “Because what’s happening is we potentially put safety workers, airport employees, airline employees, in jeopardy, because we haven’t started testing at the airport yet,” Brown told Channel 2, reassuring travelers that the airport is safe.

“It’s definitely safe to go to the airport. The (general manager) is doing an incredible job to make sure the airport remains sanitized,” he added. The city, which has allocated approximately $1.5 million to house the homeless, is expected to vote on the 5-point plan on Monday.

Elsewhere in the United States, California is using empty hotel rooms to house the homeless as part of a cost-sharing initiative with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

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Categories
Travel

Dutch Hyperloop plan eyes Amsterdam to Paris in 90 minutes


Proposals to create a Hyperloop network that would carry passengers from Amsterdam to Paris in less than 90 minutes are under discussion in the Netherlands after a study that says the hi-tech link could be economically viable.

a plane sitting on top of a grass covered field

Hyperloop is a proposed transport mode that involves traveling in a sleek, pod-like capsule that’s propelled through a low-pressure steel tube at speeds of over 600 miles per hour.

Supposedly more sustainable than aviation and speedier than today’s top-speed trains, Hyperloop’s advocates say it’s the future of cross-country, and even cross-continental, travel.

Earlier this month, Dutch start up Hardt Hyperloop announced the results of a study carried out in collaboration with the province of North Holland which examined the experimental travel idea.

The report showed that a European-wide Hyperloop network would significantly shorten commuting times between European cities, blurring borders and offering “remarkable economic benefits.”

Better connecting the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area to other European hubs, the study suggested, would improve business travel and “strengthen the economic value of the province.”

The report says Hyperloop could ferry 200,000 passengers per hour, per direction. Travelers could reach Paris in 90 minutes — less than half the time it currently takes by train, and roughly the same time as a direct flight, without the need for airport connections. Amsterdam to Brussels would take less than an hour via Hyperloop, the study suggests.

This investigation marks the next stage in Hardt Hyperloop’s grand plan, following the opening of a test facility in June 2019.

Last year, the company’s CEO and co-founder Tim Houter told CNN Travel that Hardt Hyperloop’s proposed European network would provide an “alternative for the polluting short haul flights.”

Alternative to air travel?

a close up of a plane: Hyperloop could ferry 200,000 passengers per hour in one direction.

On paper, it sounds like a win, but questions remain over Hyperloop’s feasibility.

Part of the technology’s appeal is its sci-fi credentials — the idea of sleek, streamlined pods and levitating in a tube across county — but the concept’s still in its early stages.

There are concerns about whether the pods will be suitable for all ages and and how easy it would be to evacuate a pod in case of an emergency. Plus, big money needs to be invested to get it off the ground and governments need to be on side.

Still, Jereon Olthof, North Holland’s mobility deputy, said he was intrigued by the recent study, calling the benefits “very promising.”

“That is why we will engage in discussions with other authorities to progress this research,” he said in a statement.

Other Hyperloop companies around the world continue their attempts to advance the technology, originally the brainchild of Tesla boss Elon Musk.

In 2017, Virgin Hyperloop One built a full-size pod which has reached speeds of 387 kilometers per hour on a test track in Nevada.

Virgin Hyperloop One and Dubai-based supply chain firm, DP World, got the green light by a state government in India in 2019 to develop a Hyperloop line between the cities of Mumbai and Pune.

Speaking to CNN Travel in 2019, Chris Dulake, global railways and transit leader at consultancy Mott MacDonald, a company that’s worked on the London Underground and Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5, estimated 2030 was the earliest any of the Hyperloop competitors will reach certification.

Dulake added that once one of Hyperloop’s advocates successfully make it work, more will likely follow suit.


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