COVID-19 Updates from RMI
Rocky Mountain International is a small business based in Wyoming and rooted in the travel and tourism industry. We offer our ongoing support of the industry – local, national and international – as we look to navigate this unprecedented situation affecting all of us. Take care of yourself and your families. We will get through this together and we will be stronger as a result. #TourismStrong
We continue to remain informed on the current situation as it relates to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and its impacts on the travel industry. Working alongside our overseas offices, we are implementing appropriate responses across our programs for our clients and partners real-time, and developing short-term and longer-term approaches by market.
Please refer to the below resources for current updates from U.S. health authorities, and travel destinations.
- Industry Guidance for Promoting the Health and Safety of All Travelers (U.S. Travel Association)
- Center for Disease Control
- Dept. of Homeland Security
- US Travel Association
- Brand USA
- Western Governors’ Association
RESOURCES BY STATE:
Rocky Mountain International is working closely with our overseas representatives to receive regular in-market updates on the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on the tourism industry. Refer to this page on a regular basis, as we’ll be posting updates here as they become available.
As of November 20 (via KBC PR)
Government moving toward 7-day quarantine regime
The UK government is moving toward a COVID-test regime for travel that will halve arrivals’ 14-day quarantine from non-corridor destinations. Its Global Travel Taskforce is expected to recommend a test five days after arrival if travellers choose to pay, with release from self-isolation after seven days if they test negative. This would satisfy the industry’s demand for testing after five days and the government’s wish for self-isolation not to be reduced below seven days.
It is understood that the government and taskforce have decided against allowing rapid COVID tests on travellers for the time being, permitting only PCR tests, which require lab analysis. Where the tests will be conducted – whether at airports, home or other sites – remains undecided. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said tests must be provided privately and paid for by passengers, with PCR tests costing £120-£150 each.
The industry is urging the government to introduce testing from the end of England’s lockdown, due on 2 December. However, reports of taskforce negotiations with private test suppliers suggest the government wants testing capacity available from mid-December to handle 50,000 travellers a day.
British Airways to launch COVID testing trial for arrivals
British Airways is set to launch a voluntary COVID-19 test for passengers travelling to the UK from three U.S. airports. The airline wants to persuade governments that testing travellers will make quarantining unnecessary. Partner American Airlines is also taking part in the trial, which follows a similar effort by United Airlines.
British Airways owner IAG has long criticized the 14-day quarantine imposed on arrivals, saying it deters people from flying and damages airlines. It is also trying to convince the U.S. government to open its borders to UK nationals, who have been barred since March. The trial begins on 25 November and will be free to eligible customers on three services to Heathrow from Dallas, Los Angeles and New York JFK. Customers will be tested 72 hours before their trip, as well as during and after travelling. If they test positive before travelling, they will have to reschedule or cancel their flight, but will be able to rebook at a later date without a fee. The trial will run to mid-December, and British Airways would like to test 500 passengers. The airline says it is “confident” of demonstrating that a test three days before flying would make quarantine unnecessary.
UK and U.S. agree to new bilateral Air Services Agreement
A new bilateral Air Services Agreement has been agreed upon between the UK and U.S. to safeguard the future of air travel past the end of the Brexit transition period. It will replace the current EU agreement covering air travel between the two countries.
A statement from the UK Department for Transport said the arrangement “preserved the continuation of travel, protected the economy and ensured the UK remains one of the world’s leading aviation hubs for both travellers and businesses. Tens of millions of passengers a year use these vital transatlantic routes, contributing to a trading relationship with the U.S. worth over £230 billion. Today’s announcement will help ensure that the UK remains open for business with major economies around the world by maintaining this critical global link.”
Heathrow Airport facing pre-Christmas strike threat
London’s Heathrow Airport faces the threat of pre-Christmas strike action in a row over controversial “fire and rehire” plans affecting 4,000 workers. The Unite union plans a series of walkouts from 2 December after members voted 85% in favor of industrial action. A further one-day stoppage is due on 14 December followed by a 48-hour strike on December 17 and 18.
The union said: “Workers are taking strike action as a direct result of Heathrow Airport’s brutal proposals to fire and rehire them on greatly reduced wages.” Heathrow bosses said they will activate contingency plans to keep the airport open and operating safely throughout this period.
Testing site to open at London Gatwick Airport
A COVID-19 screening center is to open at London’s second airport, Gatwick, at the end of November. The site, located within the airport’s South Terminal car park, will offer a rapid lab-analyzed PCR swab test. The service will be available for passengers, employees based at Gatwick and the general public from November 30. Passengers and Gatwick staff will be charged a subsidized rate of £60 to use the screening service, while others will pay £99.
The facility could also satisfy requirements of the government’s expected “test and release” post-arrival scheme allowing air passengers to reduce quarantine time required after travelling back from certain destinations.
Gatwick Chief Executive Stewart Wingate said: “While we welcome the anticipated ‘test and release’ scheme, we want to see an internationally agreed pre-departure testing regime, based on existing risk criteria, to replace the current uncertainty of quarantine and patchwork of testing approaches which currently exists across Europe. A truly international approach would safely open up most of the UK’s travel routes abroad, while also helping to reduce transmission of the virus.”
European travel desire strong despite COVID
More than half of European travellers expect to take a trip in the next six months despite the ongoing COVID crisis, a new study of almost 6,000 people across 10 European countries has found. Of those with short-term travel plans, 65% said their primary purpose was leisure, with city breaks (21%) the most commonly favored leisure trip, while 20% said their travel would be for VFR (visiting friends or relatives).
Among those planning to travel in the short-term, main concerns included quarantine measures during a trip (15%), falling ill with COVID in-destination (13%) and rising numbers of COVID cases in-destination (also 13%). Respondents ranked health and safety as their primary consideration when making any travel plans, with air travel still regarded as the least safe part of their journeys, according to 20% of those surveyed. Other factors affecting decision-making included flexible cancellation policies (11%) and the possibility of an effective COVID vaccine or treatment (10%).
The near-6,000 survey respondents came from 10 major European markets: Germany, the UK, France, Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, Poland and Austria.
JetBlue secures London air slots for budget UK-U.S. services
Budget transatlantic carrier JetBlue seems set to start flying from London’s Gatwick and Stansted airports next summer. Data from slot coordinator ACL shows JetBlue has secured 14 slots a week at Gatwick and 28 at Stansted. The Gatwick slots are destined for services to the airline’s New York JFK hub, with Stansted offering Boston, according to ACL.
JetBlue will be the latest carrier to try to crack the Stansted-U.S. market, following previous attempts by American Airlines and budget brand Primera. JetBlue will use narrow-body Airbus A321 aircraft, which it believes will give it a cost advantage as traffic slowly returns after the pandemic. They will feature its Mint lie-flat business class cabin.
Scott Dunn to absorb Imagine Travel within core brand
Luxury operator Scott Dunn is absorbing its Imagine Travel brand into its main brand and website as it looks to “survive and thrive” post-pandemic. Chief Executive Sonia Davies said the move is designed to help the business recover and return to growth as soon as possible. She added that with the business having to reduce its headcount by between 30% and 40% because of the pandemic, the two teams had already been working together in a much closer way in recent months.
“We are sunsetting the Imagine website, and from early December, all our holidays will be sold under the Scott Dunn brand. But we are picking all the great product from the Imagine program and bringing it across,” she said. “Our customers can choose a style of holidays that’s a bit more of the traditional luxury they might expect from Scott Dunn, or a more off-the-beaten track experience that goes a bit deeper into a destination, which is what they would have got from Imagine.”
Latest industry updates
Fast-growing travel agency chain Stewart Travel, which also operates the My Canada Trips and Trips Beyond brands, reports that all 14 of its UK stores are now open, although footfall is relatively low. Head office staff are all working from home. Enquiries are currently low for worldwide destinations apart from a boom in interest in Lapland for winter 2021/22. Disrupted cruise customers from 2020 are waiting to use their credits and to book post-spring 2021. They believe that consumer confidence is starting to recover following news announcements about COVID vaccines and testing developments. They feel there is huge pent-up demand, and once confidence returns this will convert very quickly into bookings. Consumers are very receptive and responsive to travel updates, and Stewart Travel cite immediate upturns in bookings for the Canaries and Maldives following the establishment of viable travel corridors. They believe travel to the U.S. will depend largely on how soon COVID is brought under control there; Las Vegas and Florida have seen the most consistent level of interest throughout, but they are looking at the end of summer and waiting for more information on borders and ability to travel. Stewart Travel recently added online luxury operator Destinology to its stable, primarily for its expertise in the Indian Ocean and Middle East, and this provides another new channel for long-haul sales. They expect to be actively working with partners on marketing from January onward, and are already running their own organic social media and e-shot campaigns. Their current planning is around short-haul travel recommencing in spring and long-haul in late summer, but vaccine and testing developments may accelerate this.
Luxury global specialists Audley Travel report that they have seen a big increase in intent to travel from their customers; as travel corridors open up, they see an immediate spike in bookings – most noticeably for the Caribbean and Maldives in recent weeks. Positive industry news around vaccines has also played a part. Their worldwide bookings are still only around 250 per month, which is way below a normal year, and their USA team has undergone a slight restructure due to a company-wide series of voluntary and compulsory redundancies in August and September. Their USA sales team was reduced by five people and now totals 25 employees. Company-wide, they are trying to be as flexible as possible with product development, with a big focus on villas, private stays and “bubble”-style accommodations. There is a global project to expand their private homes offering. While they have short-term concerns about the transition between U.S. administrations and the current COVID caseload in the USA, they see this as only temporary and believe that the Biden administration will be good for business – they even commented about how good a “boring” four years could be! For the USA, their postponement rate (clients unable to travel in 2020 who did not request a refund) was around 65%. They are seeing a handful of new bookings each week for Q2 onwards next year. There are no major trends, and they feel that it is generally the bravest of their clients who are biting the bullet. Clients making bookings definitely seek flexibility with regard to changing arrangements at a later date if necessary. Internally, Audley has set up a team of four to manage the ever-changing situation around Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office travel advice; this team will share intelligence with all staff and help to manage resourcing levels. This team also looks at what the experience will be like in a particular destination before making a decision as to whether it is actively promoted. They have their own cut-off limits in terms of coronavirus case rates and when they feel it appropriate start or stop sending clients to a destination. Audley’s website also includes a list to advise clients where they can get COVID tests pre-travel, and they assume this will be the same when vaccinations are available. Audley Travel has always prided itself on ensuring their team members have firsthand experience the areas where they specialize, and as travel opens up they will want to see for themselves what has changed in each location. For the USA, this will initially be people from their Boston office, but assistance with fam trips generally has been requested for further down the line. They are definitely interested in marketing support from destinations, although they have nothing specific planned for the USA yet. Their hope is that they will begin to see some trends emerge in early January to be able to tailor activity.
Latest media updates
KBC took part in the latest “Social With Media” webinar this week, with key contributors being Lizzie Pook (travel editor of Stylist and wide-ranging freelancer), Aoife Finneran (assistant content editor, The Irish Sun) and Gilly Hopper (editor, Citizen Femme). The main insights were as follows:
Lizzie Pook, Stylist: Women’s lifestyle title Stylist was distributing 500,000 free copies prior to the pandemic. It has now returned to print with one physical issue per month, plus three digital issues per month. Digital issues can be purchased and viewed via the Stylist app, while a subscription is available for the printed magazine. Stylist’s website has grown and now attracts 2.5 million monthly users.
For Stylist, Lizzie is solely covering UK travel until restrictions lift broadly, but is planning for the year ahead so wants to know about new products and experiences worldwide for 2021. This week, she has been working on her travel hotlist for 2021, which has an international focus; KBC has already supplied information across our client base.
As a freelancer, Lizzie has a different focus and is interested in wildlife, adventure and remote destinations. New wildlife tours, interesting conservation stories and ways to get to parts of the planet that aren’t over-touristed are all of relevance. She likes as much notice as possible on ideas to get ahead of other freelancers who might be pitching to her editors, and is already looking at ideas for 2022!
Aoife Finneran, The Irish Sun: Aoife’s assistant content editor role includes the travel editor remit at The Irish Sun. This is Ireland’s biggest-selling tabloid newspaper, shifting 220,000 copies at weekends, with one-third of readers being in the ABC1 demographic, aged 35-44. Unlike sister paper The Sun in the UK, it has a roughly 50:50 split between male and female readers. In the past two years, it has increased its focus on its digital offering and now attracts 22 million pageviews per month from Ireland alone.
Aoife is hoping to develop her online travel content considerably over the coming months. With Ireland currently in the middle of six weeks of lockdown, making even domestic travel impossible, she queried whether travel content should continue, but reader feedback showed a huge appetite for the escapism offered by destination and vacation coverage, as well as advice on travel post-COVID.
Aoife believes that the Irish outbound travel market may begin to see a little bit of movement in Q1 of 2021 – perhaps not traditional package holidays, but people may take a chance on flight-only bookings combined with self-catering, off-the-beaten-track, private stays.
Traditionally at the start of each year, Irish Sun travel content would focus on new, up-and-coming destinations and new routes, and this will broadly stay the same for 2021:
- Top 10 destinations emerging for backpackers
- Off-the-beaten-track places
- Destinations on a direct flight path from Dublin, Cork or Shannon airports
- The lovely towns and villages that don’t normally get a look in (upstate New York instead of New York City, for example)
She does not want to go back to pushing the same places as before, and anticipates that readers will want to travel the road less travelled. There is already a lot of reader talk about perceived safer travel – private transfers, higher-quality apartments, more personal space. She feels there will be a big opportunity for non-mainstream destinations in 2021.
Gilly Hopper, Citizen Femme: Citizen Femme describes itself as a “digital destination created by women, for women,” with a focus on luxury travel. Opportunities for coverage include “48 hours in” pieces, “Insider Guides” that are often local personality-led, hot hotels round-ups and themed inspirational pieces. There is also a regular “Sustainable Edit,” which aims to take the effort out of researching the sustainability credentials of hotels, experiences and destinations for the readers.
Gilly believes that the COVID pandemic has affected attitudes towards sustainable travel in that it has reduced in importance while people continue to focus on whether and when they can travel at all. That said, sustainability is hugely important to readers, and Citizen Femme tries to assist by showcasing ways in which they can make a difference through small choices, both in terms of the accommodation and experiences they book and their own behavior in destination. Gilly believes readers are suspicious of hotels that claim eco-credentials and prefer to research and understand how a property works with and gives back to its local community. The “Sustainable Edit” section, with its range of hints and suggested behavioral adjustment, is a popular part of the site.
Like many other outlets, Citizen Femme now has its own podcast, which is based very much on up-to-the-minute trends and intuition, and is not planned in advance at all: “Women in Business” is the theme of the next episode.
The three participants suggested that the following trends are, or soon will be, in play in the UK travel market:
– Travellers aged 50-plus may wait until the second half of 2021 to travel.
– Honeymooners, especially those who missed out in 2020, will be quick to return.
– People will travel for longer next year – fewer trips overall, but of longer duration.
– Travelling in larger groups and multi-generational family vacations will boom as people embrace being able to travel and see family and friends again.
– More confidence in private spaces – villas rather than hotel accommodation.
– The luxury travel sector will recover quickly and will see a trend towards “bubble travel”: the hiring of whole resorts or private sections of resorts.
– Extended-stay remote working holidays, for those whose jobs don’t rely on a physical location, could prove big business for villa and private home rentals, and even cottages.
– Nature-based and wildlife holidays will be huge as consumers look to reconnect with the planet – African safaris, which embody both, will be particularly popular.
– Island-based beach holidays, to destinations such as the Caribbean or Indian Ocean, are already showing growth. Closer to home, the Greek islands and Spain’s Canary Islands will be among the most accessible destinations in the coming months and are expected to be hugely popular. There may be a move toward staying in the smaller towns and villages within these destinations, a better standard of accommodation than normally chosen and more use of private transfers.
– A more favorable attitude to U.S. travel is expected under the incoming administration – particularly so in Ireland, given President-elect Biden’s Irish roots. Florida is perennially popular and will recover quickly, perhaps with more emphasis on non-theme park destinations such as Miami and the Keys.
As of Octoer 29 (via Lieb Management)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany’s state premiers announced on Wednesday a new partial lockdown to begin on Monday, Nov. 2. The so-called nationwide “lockdown light” is a less intense version of the measures that brought German society and economic activity to a standstill in the spring.
The chancellor spoke of hard and stressful measures and again advised against travel. Citizens should refrain from private trips, day trips and visits to relatives – even within Germany. Hotels and guesthouses are no longer allowed to accept tourists. Tourist overnight stay offers are not permitted in November. They may be made only for necessary purposes like compelling business trips. However, vacations abroad remain possible in general. The new regulations will initially remain in force until the end of the month.
Merkel promised that firms hit by the new measures would receive economic support. Companies with up to 50 employees and the self-employed will receive 75% of their income in support.
The German Hotel and Restaurant Association (Dehoga) is considering legal action against the decision of the federal and state governments to contain the corona pandemic.
The number of people in intensive care units has doubled in the past 10 days, and in many areas, it was no longer possible to track and trace infection chains. Thursday, Oct. 29, saw Germany’s highest rate of new daily infections yet – over 16,500 – and the latest figures show that only around 25% of Germany’s intensive care beds are still available.
Despite the increasing infection rates, Germany still stands on good ground compared to other European countries. Even with the high daily infection figures seen in late October, in terms of cases per 100,000 inhabitants Germany remains well below rates in Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Belgium.
France and the UK are among the countries that have introduced partial or localized lockdowns in recent weeks in an effort to curb the number of cases. Germany is hoping to take action before cases reach the rates seen there.
Sources: FVW, ReiseVor9, rki.de & DW.com
Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn is pushing for stricter rules for entering corona risk areas abroad. Anyone who wants to travel to Germany from a risk area can therefore be obliged to provide the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) with personal details and places of residence 10 days before and 10 days after entry. For this purpose, a digital entry declaration could be introduced. The RKI would forward the data to the respective competent authorities at the travelers’ destinations. Airlines as well as bus and train companies would be obliged to pass on passenger lists and seating plans to the RKI.
The list of newly designated risk areas published by the Robert Koch Institute is valid as of Oct. 24. The following countries will then be completely classified as risk areas: Great Britain except for the Channel Islands, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Poland and Switzerland.
In addition, individual regions in popular vacation destinations were added. For example, in Austria and Italy as well as in Bulgaria, Estonia, Croatia, Sweden, Slovenia and Hungary.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the customers’ desire to travel remains unbroken. When it comes to the three most important prerequisites for travel (enough money, time and desire), the customers’ answers are very similar compared to November 2019. There is a slight tendency to travel to familiar regions with an own vehicle and a somewhat greater interest in recreation, nature and city trips. The respondents made special demands on the hygiene standards in the destinations and especially on the hotels. If problems occur at the destination, a quick return must be guaranteed.
But the desire to travel goes hand in hand with higher demands on the industry. Customers expected a money-back guarantee, generous cancellation rules and extended goodwill arrangements in general, as well as flexibility and transparency from the tour operators.
Another study by the Research Association for Vacation and Travel (FUR) found out that 55% of Germans plan a journey in the next half-year.
At the same time, the uncertainty caused by the pandemic is great. Most of all, the respondents are worried about getting their money back in case of a cancellation and that they could be put into quarantine. As a result, general conditions and restrictions have a greater impact on travel behavior and travel mood than individual fear of the virus. Individual afflictions have an influence, too: 22% of Germans say that they suffer financial losses due to corona. 15% are affected by short-time work, and 5% fear for their jobs.
These uncertainties lead to a change in booking behavior. 39% of respondents in Germany say they would wait and see how things develop and book at very short notice. Every third person plans to book only in the last four weeks before the travel date.
The world’s largest travel fair, ITB in Berlin, will take place in digital form only in March next year. This is stated in a letter from Messe Berlin to ITB partners:
“Under consideration of all the circumstances, Messe Berlin has decided that ITB Berlin and the ITB Berlin Convention will take place from 9-12 March, 2021, in digital form purely,” the letter states. In mid-October, ITB boss David Ruetz had already said that in view of the increasing number of COVID-19 infections, preparations were being made for various scenarios. More detailed information and booking options for ITB 2021 will be launched on Nov. 16.
Source: FVW, ITB
The world’s largest consumer fair for tourism, “Caravaning, Motor, Tourism,” is cancelled. Messe Stuttgart has cancelled the exhibition planned from 23-31 January because of the corona pandemic. There are considerations to make up for the travel fair at a later date.
TOUR OPERATORS & AIRLINES
At the behest of the EU, tour operators are now required to participate in the state insurance for travel vouchers. Tour operators must pay a guarantee premium to the federal government when they issue vouchers to their customers for trips and flights cancelled during the corona crisis. Small and medium-sized companies have to pay 0.15% of the voucher value, and large companies 0.25%.
America Unlimited switches to destinations without travel warning: Since USA and Canada are unreachable for travelers at the moment, CEO Timo Kohlenberg had the idea of offering trips to destinations without travel warnings. The new tour operator brand is called Corocierge (corona concierge). Corocierge is the first corona travel agency to specialize in travel in pandemic times. The new brand will prepare their customers on what conditions must be met, what restrictions are to be expected and how entry will be handled.
German tour operator Schauinsland-Reisen is offering more self-catering accommodations in summer 2021 to meet changing customer wishes as it aims to recover from a dramatic two-thirds collapse in sales this year. The tour operator said the pandemic has led to a “boom” in demand for “independent accommodation” and it wants to show customers that self-catering apartments are not only available in neighboring countries.
The family-owned tour operator expects its turnover in the financial year ending Oct. 31 to drop by 63% to €511 million, while the number of customers is likely to fall by 68% to 529,000. In 2018-19, the company had turnover of €1.4 billion and 1.6 million guests, making a profit of €51 million.
Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr has announced that operations in winter will be reduced more significantly than previously planned. Last week, Lufthansa had already announced that the company will offer a maximum of 25% of last year’s capacity instead of the 50% originally planned. This is because with rising COVID-19 infections in Europe and America, leading to travel restrictions and quarantine obligations, demand is collapsing again.
Lufthansa and sister companies Eurowings, Swiss, Austrian and Brussels Airlines will therefore be decommissioning 125 aircraft that were scheduled to take off in winter. Management estimates that the number of passengers will remain more than 80% below the previous year’s figure. A large part of the administrative staff will be put on maximum short-time work until the end of February.
Source: Manager Magazine
In September 2020, ICCA conducted a short survey to see how associations progressed in adapting to the new reality. Amongst other results, which are available to ICCA member since 2 October, the key findings in the research include:
-82% of respondents indicated that their largest in-person meeting in 2020 was affected by COVID-19, with 43% having to cancel or postpone their meeting and 17% going virtual or hybrid.
-In 2021, 15% of respondents plan to cancel or postpone their largest in-person meeting, and 42% plan to go hybrid or virtual. 61% expect smaller attendance figures for their in-person meetings.
-81% of respondents believe that there are limitations to networking discussions during virtual events compared to face to face.
-88% of respondents indicated that technology has changed the way they conduct their meetings, with 51% using only low-cost solutions to support virtual/hybrid elements of their meetings.
The report concludes by highlighting the fact that the COVID-19 crisis is lasting longer and has more effect on the meetings industry than originally anticipated by many association executives. The survey results also suggest that the demand for live meetings will not be fully satisfied by virtual alternatives, and face-to-face meetings are viewed as highly important to the international association community.
The current VDR business travel analysis shows that German companies and public institutions paid more for their business travel in 2019 than ever before: Spending increased by 3.5% compared to 2018 and thus reached a new all-time high of €55.3 billion. According to the German business travel association, there were a total of 195.4 million business trips (+ 3.1%) and 13.0 million business travelers (+ 8.2%) in 2019. Since the analysis focuses on the previous year, the effects of the travel restrictions in connection with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic were not yet taken into consideration. “The results show that business travel was an important driver of economic development in Germany before the pandemic lockdown. For companies, their traveling employees and the entire business travel industry, the corona pandemic is a historic turning point that must be mastered with the joint efforts of all market participants. Business travel has always served a business purpose and is an economic necessity in many cases. Personal communication between people and companies will also remain important and cannot be permanently replaced by purely virtual communication tools. Intelligently managed business trips will continue to be a necessary success tool for economic growth in Germany in the future,” said VDR Vice President Inge Pirner, when presenting the study results at the end of September.
Due to the second wave of the corona pandemic and confusing accommodation and travel regulations within the German federal states, many companies stopped busines travel again completely. “It is not possible for travel managers to keep track of things here” and “many travel managers are now taking the path of least resistance and completely forbid domestic business trips,” says Inge Pirner, vice president of the Association of German Travel Management (VDR).
In a rescue dialogue on 14 October, the German event industry associations and initiators of the #AlarmstufeRot alliance presented Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz with the dramatic situation in their branch of industry and called for rapid relief measures. Over a million workers in the industry have had no income for seven months, and there is no perspective for the future. This affects both cultural organizers and the trade fair, congress and conference industry, the operators of venues and tens of thousands of service companies in the event sector, self-employed individuals and employees. The minister said that the government is aware that the events industry is particularly affected. His ministry will carefully examine the proposals made and analyze the feasibility. To this end, he wants to hold a follow-up meeting with the industry soon.
After corona consultations by the federal and state governments on 14 October, trade fairs in Germany can continue, according to the trade fair association AUMA. In the talks between the Chancellor Angela Merkel and the heads of the federal states, it was agreed that the number of participants for events in regions with over 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants (within the last seven days) should be limited to 100. However, this does not apply for events for which there is a hygiene concept agreed with the responsible health department. Since there are concepts for all trade fairs planned in the near future, these trade fairs are not affected by this agreement, according to AUMA. According to the agreement between the federal government and the federal states on 6 May, the implementation of trade fairs is the responsibility of each individual federal state.
The increasing number of infections around the world dominates the reports in German media. The new restrictions are discussed in the light of private, public and economic influences. Government measures are discussed as to their usefulness and the voices of the tourism industry are getting louder with a huge demonstration of the travel industry in Berlin on Oct. 28. In addition, the election campaign in the USA is a major topic.
Travel reports have become more frequent again, but on a lower level. Since the travel situation is becoming more uncertain again and travel warnings are rapidly changing, content is mostly focused on topics within the country or neighboring countries.
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Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz thinks about a second lockdown should it not be possible to stop the current strong increase of new corona infections. The criterion for this is the situation in the hospitals. “No country in the world will allow intensive care medicine to be overburdened,” Kurz said. Recently, Health Minister Rudolf Anschober had expressed great confidence that the measures introduced so far would be sufficient to bring the development under control. These include an upper limit of six people at private parties indoors and 12 people outdoors.
Record levels of new infections were recently recorded in Austria. The development is currently significantly worse than in Germany; the incidence is about twice as high as in Germany.
A recent study of the Research Association for Vacation and Travel (FUR) attempted to answer how corona influences the desire to travel in Austria. According to the online study, which approached 1,500 respondents, 58% of the Austrians want to travel this autumn or winter and/or most probably. Compared to the last survey in May 2020, the desire of Austrians for vacation has increased significantly – from 49% to 60%.
The study also took a look at vacation plans for the coming summer. For the period from April to September 2021, 80% of Austrians state that they want to travel safely or in the most likely event. Barely one in two plans to take a vacation at home. However, due to the uncertainties, 52% of respondents in Austria say they would wait and see how things develop and book at very short notice.
TOUR OPERATORS & AIRLINES
In close cooperation with Vienna International Airport, Austrian Airlines is now starting a first trial operation for the use of COVID-19 rapid antigen tests during air travel. All passengers on flight OS 229 from Vienna to Berlin in the period from 23 October to 8 November will have the opportunity to take a rapid test free of charge and voluntarily before departure.
Vienna Airport has set up a test center in the check-in area of Terminal 3 for this purpose. Once the test has been completed, passengers will receive their test results within 10 to 15 minutes – either via SMS or, if desired, after a personal consultation. Only if the result is negative will the boarding pass be activated and access to the security area and gate be granted.
The Austrian federal government provides organizers of congresses, cultural occasions and other events with a protective umbrella amounting to €300 million. This allows companies to prepare their events as planned – and if there are cancellations due to corona, they can expect default liability. This also applies to organizers from other EU countries who hold their event in Austria. If, for example, a trade fair or cultural event is cancelled due to corona or if it can only take place to a limited extent, those expenses that cannot be cancelled will be replaced. For example, costs for room rental, personnel costs or conference technology are covered by the failure fund. Overall, this initiative should give organizers of congresses, meetings, concerts and also theatres planning security and create an incentive again.
To contain the coronavirus, Switzerland has tightened security requirements. Gatherings with more than 15 people are prohibited in public places. The Swiss were called upon to restrict private meetings altogether, and the obligation to wear masks has also been tightened. It was previously applied in public transport and has now been extended to publicly accessible areas such as stores, restaurants and museums. In the future, the Swiss will also have to cover their mouths and noses at train stations, airports and bus stops. In addition, the government encouraged companies to have employees work in their home offices in order to reduce social contact. Those who come to Switzerland from “high-risk” countries and regions must undergo a 10-day quarantine or face a fine. The list of countries and regions deemed high-risk is updated regularly by authorities.
In Switzerland and Liechtenstein, the authorities recorded 3,105 new infections of the coronavirus within 24 hours on Friday. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been more than 74,000 confirmed infections and more than 1,800 deaths associated with the virus. The country has about 8 million inhabitants.
The consumer travel show Ferienmesse Bern, scheduled to take place Jan. 7-10, 2021, is cancelled due to the pandemic and the economic impact. The show usually attract 35,000 visitors and is the oldest consumer travel show in Switzerland. The next Ferienmesse is scheduled for Jan. 13-16, 2022. The consumer travel show Fespo in Zurich, planned for Jan. 14-17, 2021, is also cancelled.
Source: Travel Inside
TOUR OPERATORS & AIRLINES
Swiss airline will fly less during winter than expected. With the winter flight plan 2020-21, Swiss will again fly to approximately 85% of its original destinations from Zurich and Geneva: 67 destinations from Zurich and 21 from Geneva. Due to the numerous travel restrictions and quarantine regulations, the winter flight plan will only reach 30%-40% of the previous year’s level. Several weeks ago, Swiss had predicted 50% during that time.
Moreover, Swiss will cut roughly 1,000 jobs during the next two years, CEO Thomas Klühr stated in an interview. By the end of 2019, Swiss employed 9,500 staff members. The job reduction would thus be approximately 10%. If the situation does not improve for summer 2021, the number of 1,000 will not be enough.
Edelweiss will again be flying to Cape Town. As of 19 October, the travel restrictions for travelers from Switzerland to South Africa have been lifted. Currently, there is no quarantine obligation for returnees. Edelweiss will therefore service Cape Town again as of 25 November, with one weekly flight. Edelweiss further offers flights to Punta Cana (Dominican Republic), Mahé (Seychelles), Malé (Maldives) and Cancun (Mexico).
The ban on major/large events with over 1,000 participants was lifted on 1 October. However, every major/large event with over 1,000 participants must be approved by the canton, which requires the following:
–The epidemiological situation in the canton or in the affected region must allow the event to take place.
–The canton has the necessary capacities for contact tracing.
–The organizer must submit a risk analysis and a protection concept. In particular, the protection concept must specify how the flow of people is directed, whether a mask is required, whether seats must be kept free or how it is ensured that the contact details collected are correct. In addition, seating is compulsory for the participant area, whereby the seats are assigned personally, and the contact details must record who is sitting where. At open-air events such as skiing, cross-country skiing and cycling races or at village festivals, standing spaces may exceptionally be granted with spaces divided into different sectors and additional protective measures.
As of October 29 (via Lieb Management)
As the number of positive COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the Netherlands, more countries have declared the Netherlands “code orange,” meaning only essential travel is allowed. The Dutch government has done the same for many European countries and/or regions that have shown increased cases during the past weeks.
On 13 October, there was another national press conference by Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport Hugo de Jonge, and a partial lockdown has been announced for the coming four weeks.
In the weeks leading up to 27 October, the Cabinet will assess what is needed for the period thereafter. There must be sufficient evidence in reducing the number of infections and the pressure on regular care before it can be said with certainty that the measures have an effect and can therefore be reconsidered.
Holiday Fair Utrecht postponed to April 2021: The Holiday Fair will be moved in the coming year from January to April. The fair will be held from 8-11 April 2021. The focus of the fair is on how people can travel safely and healthily in COVID-19 times, with a lot of attention for personal advice.
The postponement of the date has been done in close consultation with the travel industry, due to the expectation that in 2021, consumers will start planning their vacations later than they used to. Karin Lodewijks, brand manager of Vakantiebeurs, said earlier to Reisbizz that behind the scenes they are working hard on various scenarios to make the fair run smoothly. “Unlike music festivals and concerts, fairs can be well organized with all the measures that apply within the 1.5-meter society,” says Lodewijks. The trade professional day, which traditionally precedes the trade fair, is now spread over two days on 6 and 7 April 2021.
“The booking figures for the month of September 2020 show that the drop in bookings in September continued to increase to -61%. Looking at the destinations, the pattern hasn’t changed,” says the ANVR. “The destinations close to (Belgium/Germany) still show a limited decline of -30% to -40%. Scandinavia drops a little further (-35% to -50% ). But other destinations show a decline of more than -50%, with Spain (-83%) and the UK/Ireland (-85%) as negative outliers. Looking at destinations outside Europe, we see a more negative picture than Europe but with few differences between the continents.”
TOUR OPERATORS & AIRLINES
TUI stops offering vacations under the brand name KRAS: In the context of the digital transformation that TUI has to prepare for the future and the cost savings that have become even more urgent as a result of the COVIDI pandemic, certain drastic measures are unavoidable. For example, TUI Nederland has decided to fully focus on its main brand TUI. The current offer of KRAS will partly be retained but will be offered under the TUI brand from now on. This will reduce costs and increase efficiency, because the focus will be on one brand on one platform. The target group of the KRAS brand, the active 50+’ers, will be addressed by TUI with a relevant offer. Possible personnel consequences will still be mapped out. All KRAS departments have been integrated within the TUI organization at an earlier stage, since the closure of the building in Ammerzoden last May.
75% fewer passengers at Schiphol Airport in September: In September, 1.3 million passengers travelled from, to or via Schiphol, a decrease of -79.4% compared to the same month last year. The number of passenger flights to and from Schiphol in September decreased by -53.2% to a total of 20,066. Of the 1.3 million passengers in September, 1.1 million passengers had an origin or destination within Europe. This number is -76.4% lower than the same month last year, when it was 4.6 million. More than 200,000 passengers flew to an intercontinental destination. This is -87.3% less than September 2019, when 1.8 million passengers travelled to an intercontinental destination. Passenger transport to all continents declined sharply, ranging from -74% (Latin America) to -91% (North America).
While the proportion of European passengers increased relatively slightly over the past summer months and is now decreasing again, the number of intercontinental passengers remained stable over that period.
October forecast: Schiphol expects that the number of daily flights in October will fluctuate between 500 and 750 and the number of passengers per day will decrease to between 25,000 and 48,000 passengers daily.
BELGIUM AND LUXEMBURG
BELGIUM: The number of positive cases has increased since September, and Belgium has overtaken the Czech Republic as the European country with the highest incidence of coronavirus infections recently. Hospitals across Belgium are filling up quickly, and a top health official has warned the country could run out of intensive care beds in as little as two weeks. The warning comes after new nationwide measures were announced last Friday.
LUXEMBURG: Over the last few weeks, the number of positive cases has increased, but not at the level of surrounding countries. Restaurants and shops remain open; wearing a mask is mandatory.
Brussels Holiday Fair postponed until 2022, alternative event in autumn 2021: The Holiday Fair in Brussels (Brussels Expo) will not take place in February 2021, but the organization will provide an alternative in autumn of 2021. In October 2021, a new autumn event will be set up: The Brussels Travel Festival (BTF). In February 2022, they will return to the “classic” Holiday Fair.
Travel and aviation industry urgently require antigen tests at airport: ABTO, Air Belgium, A4E, BAR Belgium, BATA, BATM, Belgian Travel Organisation, Brussels Airport Company, Brussels Hotels Association, Brussels South Charleroi Airport, CLIA, IATA, UPAV and VVR are calling on the Belgian authorities to carry out antigen tests at airports in order to facilitate travelers’ movements and further reduce the risk of contamination by tourism.
The COVID-19 crisis has hit the aviation industry in an unprecedented way and has become a matter of survival. The tourism and travel industry, the airlines, the airports, all players in these sectors call on the Belgian government to urgently carry out antigen tests at the airports instead of the current quarantine measures in order to facilitate smooth travelling for passengers. Several hubs of major European airports (Milan, Rome, Frankfurt, London, etc.) and, most recently, Paris, are equipped with antigenic testing systems to enable rapid diagnosis and appropriate action.
TOUR OPERATORS & AIRLINES
Neckermann Belgium asks for €5 million in state aid: In order to survive the corona crisis, Neckermann Belgium asked the Belgian state for €5 million, the travel company confirmed to De Tijd and L’Echo. In June, the company had already received a €2.6 million loan from the BNP Paribas Bank. The application for state support comes more than a year after Spanish company Wamos took over 62 of the 91 travel agencies of Thomas Cook Belgium, which went bankrupt last year. The stores taken over by Wamos continued under the name Neckermann. In the meantime, the stores in Brussels Avenue Louise, Herentals and Lier have been definitively closed. Neckermann top executive Laurent Allardin informs the Belgian media that between 5% and 10% of the normal volume is still being sold, all last minute.
As of November 30 (via Rep & Co.)
On the sanitary side
These past couple of weeks marked the second half of the national lockdown; the sanitary situation seems to be progressively back on track, since the number of new COVID-19 cases, the number of new hospitalizations and the number of victims are all decreasing day after day since mid-November.
The lockdown was just eased by our government, with the reopening of shops, and places of worship and culture.
Should the numbers keep improving during the next couple of weeks, the lockdown will be lifted on December 15, with the exception of bars, restaurants, gyms and discotheques, which would remain closed until mid-January.
This is a relief for the public opinion as we feared the lockdown would last a minimum of two months, as it did last spring.
Antigenic testing is now implemented in all major French airports in order to test passengers who decide to take a flight to an international destination that requires a negative COVID-19 test. This will release the pressure on the laboratories around the country.
On the political and economic sides
The French Parliament (Congress) approved the third financial relief package developed by the government to support those businesses that are currently affected by the second national lockdown.
The European relief plan still hasn’t been implemented because of the reluctance of two members countries (Poland and Hungary).
The relief plan is subject to the respect of human rights and freedom of press by member countries, which is a direct aim at Poland and Hungary, which notably don’t respect these European core values.
The upcoming European Summit will have to come up with a solution.
We are intensifying our calls and virtual meetings with our trade partners now that we see the light at the end of the tunnel; our message to tour operators is that they have to be ready once borders reopen as consumers will probably rush to their agencies with the hope of getting good deals for the upcoming summer season.
The Visit USA in France is looking at new dates for the annual training seminars to replace the ones that couldn’t take place these past weeks.
With the reopening of restaurants and small convention facilities in mid-January, we are hoping to do our event between then and late February.
As of May 1 details remain the same as submitted on March 24 (via THEMA SRL)
We are all at home now (the entire country actually, not just 2 or 3 regions), but since two days with a much stronger list of restrictions which limit our movements just to go out for food or pharma in the proximity of our homes. Police controls are everywhere, and if they get people out without a tangible justification there is a fine. Since 2 days the government has also decided to cut production of goods to the very essential. Some companies are on a temporarily shut down.
Transportation is also partially frozen (in the cities as well as in the entire country). We are hoping that the growing spread of the virus will show a curve down in the next two weeks, but we also believe that the lockdown will continue even after April 3. We seriously doubt we will be able to get back to our offices. I would be happy if this could happen by the end of April, believe me!
All tour operators have drastically cut on staff, sending their people on “vacation leave” or even on layoffs. The majority are working from home, still managing cancellations and postponing of trips. Many of them had people planned to leave for the USA for the Easter holidays, but with the new travel ban all these travels needed to be cancelled or postponed. The situation is absolutely “crazy” with a terrible loss which is making the survival of Tour Operators even worst. In the last 2 weeks the Italian Tour Operator Association composed by some important brands of the industry, decided to charter carriers of the Italian private NEOS airline company (belonging to Alpitour Group) to bring back 22.000 vacationers from various countries. Flights left Italy empty, but returned full. This represented a very high cost for the T/Os that have supported the initiative: there has been no other way, without airlines flying at all ! Companies that we know such as Viaggidea, Presstours, Alidays etc. were part of this “rescue” operation.
We do estimate to re-start a sort of normal business life by next Fall. But: even if Italy could get out of this emergency by July, we all know that the pandemic effect has meanwhile involved other countries, limiting geographically the opportunities to activate a decent travel business and travel planning. There are countries (USA too) that have started now to get affected and infected, and they will all go through the same “hell” we have and are still experiencing here in Italy. (4 months at least)
Travel agencies are closed. Some of them work remotely. Their loss is also unprecedented. For sure many won’t survive.
In Italy we can claim a maximum of 8 weeks of wages, depending on how much turnover a company lose.People right now are seriously worried about losing their jobs. The downturn is visible.
As of June 15 (via Davidson Communications)
As of 15 June 2020 there have been 7335 cases of Covid 19 in Australia; 102 deaths and 1.83 million tests conducted.
NZ is now classed as being Covid-free and has move to Alert Level 1, the most relaxed of response levels and restrictions. New Zealanders are now able to travel freely within the country in both North and South Islands and have no restrictions on gatherings.
Restrictions have been eased within Australia but vary according to the State. In NSW, we are now allowed to go to restaurants, pubs and clubs ( 50 people max) have gatherings of up to 10 at home, 20 at weddings and funerals and are able to travel freely within our state and to Victoria. Other state borders remain closed but are working on opening dates in July.
Adult community sport can resume as of 1 July. The government has been widely advocating the use of a Covid 19 tracking app which allows them to more easily trace infections. The app is currently not compulsory.
International borders of Australia and New Zealand remain closed with no timeframe available for re-opening other than for a trans -Tasman air corridor that may see Australians and New Zealanders travel between the two countries as early as July (TBC) but this is now looking more likely not to be until September. Both NZ and Australian ski resorts will now open for the southern season from late July.
Australia has extended the ban on other international travel until September 17.
The Australian government has added to the current programs supporting the economy, businesses and jobs with additional funding for the construction sector, public hospital funding and mental health support.
The latest research study released by booking.com shows that Australians are still keen to return to the countries that were popular before Covid19 with Indonesia (Bali) first and USA second, followed by Thailand UK and Japan. According to Booking.com this highlights that Australians are not deterred from travelling to “ countries worst affected by the pandemic”.
Australians are placing more domestic travel on wish lists with 49% of lists featuring domestic experiences vs 28% same time last year.
A Lowy Institute study revealed the resilience of Australian travellers with 59% of Australians will be just as likely to travel overseas once the pandemic is contained (6% more likely and 35% less likely).
Flight Centre earlier forecast the closure of up to half their leisure retail business globally and are reining in agreements. Many at head office level aren’t back yet (same office as Centrelink and agreed they’d work to support them under govt arrangement).FC will now be ‘pay to play’ more than before – suspect they will get rid of Infinity. Their strategy will be more content and inspiration rather than front line training.
Helloworld we expect to see movement as they’ve been able to take stimulus package so some staff could come back (July tbc).
Adventure World sent out a Covid update and have retained all staff. Our co-op will be continued when appropriate and report has been supplied.
Collette pivoting to have less people on tours for social distance. They are still keen to have GAW at the original roadshows scheduled for October (which are now slightly scaled down), and will have big event over 3 days where key agents will be invited – November VIP travel forum (in Cairns).
Many other smaller companies and tour operators may not recover and are still either stood down or operating on less hours / less staff.
Future of retail agents may become more important as consumers had more success getting refunds and rebooked travel vs OTAs
United flying SYD-SFO until mid-July to repatriate citizens and for freight. May be extended, other flights tbc.
Virgin Australia deal to save it as domestic and international second airline is still underway but new owners not yet determined.
Qantas restarting domestic routes and Virgin also supported by government for regional domestic only.
Delta Airlines; waiting to confirm schedule once borders re-open, possibly July schedule
Hawaiian Airlines back in GDS as of July ( 14 day quarantine still in effect in Hawaii)
Loss of many media outlets and organisations;
Most freelance journalists now out of work
Bauer purchased Pacific Magazines and made many staff and journalists redundant and closed and put on hold many of the stable of publications
News Corporation has made over 100 regional / community outlets digital only. Escape newspaper travel supplement still running but a tenth of the size; and only 10% international inspiration content.
Fairfax/Nine newspapers; Traveller supplement due to return around July (pending advertising and lowest spend is $AU25K so may be unlikely).
As of November 30 (via Related)
Additional coronavirus restrictions in Finland
Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa in Finland plan to close sports facilities and libraries, and public events will be banned. This is due to an increasing spread of the coronavirus. The restrictions imply that public events and public meetings for more than 20 people indoors are prohibited, parties of more than 10 people are not recommended at all and people are asked to think carefully about how they meet each other. Distance education is introduced, and the number of allowed visitors to public swimming pools and libraries has been reduced.
15 large Danish travel agencies have declared bankruptcy due to corona crisis
With the bankruptcy of Skinetworks, 15 travel agencies among Denmark’s 204 largest have cracked during the corona crisis. On Friday, the ski travel agency Skinetworks declared bankruptcy, which is expected to give the Travel Guarantee Fund the second largest loss in the fund’s history, only surpassed by last month’s crash in Bravo Tours’ Icelandic parent company, TravelCo Nordic.
Norwegian support for airlines will be extended until summer
The Norwegian supervisory authority ESA is extending support to the country’s airlines until the end of June next year. “Now that we know that the crisis will be longer than we thought, it is also reasonable to give the airlines more time to overcome the problems,” Minister of Trade and Industry Iselin Nybø says in a press release.
Almost all travel was domestic in third quarter of 2020
From July to September, the number of domestic trips more than doubled compared to last year. 95% of all travel was domestic, and typically this proportion is around 60%. The travel restrictions related to travel abroad led Norwegians to spend their holiday in Norway during these months.
Many are waiting for regional Danish travel guides
During the winter, the Canary Islands is a popular destination for Danish charter guests, and with few expectations, regional Spanish infection rates continue to fall. In addition to the Canary Islands, Madeira and the neighboring island of Porto Santo are among the regions the travel industry hopes to be able to send guests to when regional travel guides arrive.
Coronavirus vaccine expected to help travel industry
A corona pass will be a great help to the travel industry when tourists again can travel. You currently can get a COVID-19 certificate, but there is a need for an actual vaccine passport with necessary documentation for how many times you have been vaccinated and with which vaccines. The situation in international aviation can also be bettered with vaccine requirements, and it is suggested that travelers must be vaccinated before they can travel.
People infected as of 30.11.2020
Denmark: 79,352 (829 dead)
Sweden: 243,129 (6,681 dead)
Norway: 35,828 (328 dead)
Finland: 24,629 (393 dead)
Travel advice overview as of 30.11.2020
Denmark: Travel to EU/Schengen countries is not advised except for the Vatican and private holiday homes in Norway/Sweden, and travel to non-EU countries is not advised. Weekly updates are in place until further notice.
Sweden: Travel to EU/Schengen countries is allowed except for Estonia, Ireland and Latvia, and travel to non-EU countries is not adviced. Weekly updates are in place until 31 January 2021.
Norway: Travel to EU/Schengen countries is not advised except for Greenland and 11 Finnish districts, and travel to non-EU countries is not advised. Weekly updates for EU countries are in place until 15 January 2021, and other weekly updates are in place until further notice.
Finland: Travel to EU/Schengen countries is not advised except for the Vatican, and travel to non-EU countries is not advised except for Thailand, New Zealand, Uruguay, South Korea, Australia, Japan, Rwanda and Singapore. Weekly updates are in place until further notice.
General market insights
In March, Norway, Finland and Denmark had lockdowns when the coronavirus outbreak began expanding in the Nordics. These three countries were slowly opening their societies and lifting measures after they managed to keep the virus under control over the summer. All four countries are now experiencing increased infection numbers, especially in the bigger cities. Therefore, all countries have implemented restrictions again. Sweden, which had chosen another strategy, is also the Nordic country that has had the most infections and deaths. Their society and approach have been much more open, and it has been up to each individual to take their precautions and by that prevent the crisis. Recently, more restrictions have been put in place in Sweden to decrease the spread again, causing Sweden to move closer to the other Nordic countries when it comes to strategy and level of restrictions.
All four countries’ governments have slowed down their reopening plans due to the rising infection numbers. The situation is still under control, but it is clear that all the Nordic governments are being very cautious about their reopening strategies. They are willing to go to certain measures to decrease infection numbers and to avoid a complete lockdown of society again.
General news media
Pandemic-related stories are still filling up a lot of space in the news media – especially with stories about how the situation is developing around the world. Also, stories about how Nordic companies and industries are affected and how they deal(t) with the crisis (including economic topics) are a big part of the media landscape these days, as well as political decisions in terms of restrictions, travel advisories, etc. In recent months, media have started writing about how numbers are going up again in most European countries.
Lifestyle media and some dailies are writing about travels, but most are still focusing on domestic and/or European destinations. A few national dailies have “dream destination of the week,” meant to serve as inspiration for when the borders open, while other newspapers mainly write about the corona situation in a travel/tourism-related perspective in their weekly travel section. Some newspapers have closed down their travel supplement completely for now.
Several editors still say that they will not start writing travel articles about long-haul destinations until we know more details about what will happen. Travel magazines are published as usual and are sharing travel articles – but many focus on domestic destinations with a few outbound “dream destinations.” Travel trade media are writing about how the pandemic affects/affected the travel industry and about the support initiatives taken by the governments. There are articles every day about how airlines, travel agencies and hotels are affected and/or trying to deal with the crisis.
Media and journalists are starting to show interest in press trips and events, but of course need to follow travel advisories and general guidelines. However, many media are still not buying articles from freelancers.
We are continuously in close contact with editors to know the sentiment of the media and to be able to pitch relevant story opportunities to them as we find appropriate.
As a result of the “second wave,” general restrictions have intensified in some regions in Sweden and Denmark. This has resulted in another downturn for the travel trade. After having seen a bit of positivity – especially among Swedish tour operators – in the past weeks, with an increase in requests and bookings, everything stopped again after the new restrictions were implemented. This is also the trend in the other Nordic countries.
In early November, Travel News Market – Sweden’s annual travel trade marketplace –was unfortunately cancelled two days before it was supposed to take place. This was a reaction to the new restrictions from the Swedish government, and most visitors and suppliers welcomed the decision. The marketplace will now take place in November 2021.
Talking to the tour operators in the market, some are still positive and focusing on product development and destination knowledge. The interest has been especially high for European destinations, as many tour operators have now shifted their focus to European destinations since they believe those will be the first where travelers will want to go.
In all markets, the travel industry is bleeding and waiting for the governments to act. In Sweden, the minister of finances has just promised there will be help for travel agencies and tour operators, and in Norway help has been promised, but the funding will not be paid out until January. Danish companies are still waiting for new decisions from the government.
The number of bankruptcies has been lower than expected so far, and most tour operators have been able to adapt their business models and number of staff members to survive a little longer, hoping for the situation to change. It should be mentioned that in both Denmark and Sweden, almost 50% of travel agents have lost their jobs.
TravelCo Nordic has been declared bankrupt. Their Danish brand, Bravo Tours, was bought out and saved a few days before the bankruptcy was declared and is still operating as usual. Currently, they are also looking for a buyer for Swedish SolResor and Norwegian Solia, but they have stopped their operations for now whilst waiting for a buyer for the bankruptcy. TravelCo Nordic’s Finnish brand Matkavekka is bankrupt and closed their operations some time ago.
Group tour operators with scheduled departures are working on their final programs for 2021, are planning more or less the same number of departures as planned for 2020 and are offering generous cancellation policies to their clients in order to secure bookings. Bookings for 2021 actually look OK, mostly because clients have postponed their 2020 travels and rebooked the same tour in 2021.
As stated in the past weeks, the changes in the travel restrictions back and forth have resulted in an insecurity among travelers, and many travelers are waiting until last minute before they book a trip. We expect the demand for last-minute travels to rise even more, and it will be increasingly important for destinations and travel agencies/tour operators to be present online to secure business as the last-minute segment is booking online.
The four major Nordic airlines – SAS, Finnair, Icelandair and Norwegian – have all received governmental support to be able to survive the crisis.
A high number of SAS employees have lost their jobs due to the crisis just as Norwegian and Finnair have reduced their staff.
SAS is resuming a number of routes in connection with Christmas traffic. According to SAS, this is being done to meet the demand for travel to, from and within Scandinavia. From mid-December to mid-January, SAS flies on all the company’s domestic routes in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Furthermore, SAS reopens several routes to Europe. This means that the company will offer a total of 129 routes to 82 destinations.
Norwegian has just approached the Irish authorities and asked for bankruptcy protection, and in connection with the request, Norwegian has enclosed an audit report that illustrates that the liquidity situation in the company apparently is worse than ever. The audit report states that the operating companies in the group will be liquidated by January 2021 without a bankruptcy protection.
The situation in each Nordic country
Denmark was quick to close down, and their measures worked in the spring and during the summer: The curve flattened, the situation in hospitals was controlled, and there were plenty of available respiratory and intensive care so more people could be infected without the health system crashing.
On September 18, the prime minister of Denmark had a press conference together with the minister of health and the National Institute of Research and Control of Diseases. It was announced that infection numbers in Denmark are rising too much again, potentially as a second wave, and that measures must be taken.
On October 23, the Danish prime minister held another press conference saying that Danes will need to turn down social activities, assemblies need to be smaller and face masks need to be used in far more places. The assembly ban has been lowered from 50 to 10 people, and face masks will now have to be worn in indoor public places. In addition, the sale of alcohol is banned after 10 p.m., and the previous restrictions are extended, while several recommendations were also given for our time with others.
Norway was gradually and slowly reopening its society. The ban on overnight accommodations was lifted, health-care businesses can resume but must adhere to new infection control standards, and schools have reopened, as have other services with one-to-one contact, such as hairdressers and skin-care providers.
In Norway, the number of new cases is still fairly high. This means new and stricter restrictions again, harming the daily life of locals , with requirements for using masks in public places (such as shops, shopping centers, public transportation, etc.) when it is not possible to keep a 1-meter distance. Hotels, meeting centers and other venues are faced with stricter rules for the number of persons allowed and, most of all, the restaurant industry has been hit hard by the new restrictions, in particular during the season for Christmas parties, where many of them have a major part of their revenues. Oslo still counts for the largest number, but here the number of new cases has been fairly stable over the past few weeks. The travel industry is still fighting for its survival, with a lot of uncertainty due to the situation and the travel restrictions – especially after the government announced there would be no further support for airlines in general and for Norwegian in particular. Norway is still facing a lot of uncertainty, like most other countries, but based on the reports about vaccines, there is still optimism for 2021.
Sweden is one of the few EU countries that did not “shut down,” and the country has had the most cases of coronavirus of the Nordic countries. Recommendations remain on social distancing – being cautious when visiting shops, staying at home as much as possible, avoiding public transportation, working from home if possible, etc. Only table seating is allowed in bars and restaurants; the government in Sweden prohibits restaurants, bars and cafes from serving guests at a place other than the table.
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven spoke to the Swedish nation about the recently announced restrictions to encourage people to follow the guidelines. “What we do now will affect how we can celebrate Christmas and who will still be here at that time. It might sound harsh, but that’s reality,” he said while encouraging Swedes to only meet with the people in their household. If living alone, people can choose one or two friends to meet – with physical distance. “All the things you would like to do but which are not necessary: Stop, cancel and postpone. This is the new norm for Sweden until we get through this,” he said.
The Ministry of Health and Social Affairs has also proposed a new law temporarily banning the serving of alcohol from 10 p.m. to 11 a.m. in order to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. According to the Public Health Agency of Sweden, venues serving food and drink are particularly risky from the point of view of infection control as people gather and spend long periods in close physical proximity within a small area. The regulation came into force on November 20 and will apply until the end of February.
Finland is the Nordic country with the lowest numbers of cases. In the beginning of summer, Finland reopened their restaurants, theaters, libraries and sports facilities, just as the assembly ban was increased from 10 people to 50. This means that Finland too was in the process of reopening, and that the country was slowly getting back to normal. However, the COVID-19 situation has worsened almost throughout the entire country, but particularly in the Greater Helsinki area and the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa.
The prime minister and minister of family affairs and social services discussed the outcome of the November 25 government meeting the next day. General health and safety measures regarding coronavirus in Finland include avoiding physical contact, maintaining a safe distance from other people and observing good hand and respiratory hygiene. Finnish health authorities recommend using face masks in public transport and in other situations where it is difficult to maintain a 1- or 2-meter distance from other people.
The Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare has updated its traffic light model, which helps people assess the risk of COVID-19 infection associated with foreign travel. In the model, countries are divided into three categories: The risk of infection in countries in the green category is not significantly greater than in Finland. In yellow, the incidence of COVID-19 is below the threshold set by the Finnish government, i.e. no more than 25 cases per 100,000 inhabitants per 14 days. In the red category, the risk of infection is higher than in Finland or the risk cannot be reliably assessed.