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 June 1 (via KBC PR)
Snapshot: England’s road out of lockdown
STEP 1: Two households/up to six people are now allowed to meet in outdoor settings.
STEP 2: Since April 12, non-essential retail has reopened; outdoor serving at hospitality venues is allowed; Travel Taskforce has reported on next steps for restarting international travel.
STEP 3: Since May 17, the indoor hospitality and accommodation sector has reopened; indoor sporting events are allowed with limited numbers; international travel has restarted to a select number of destinations.
(June 21*) STEP 4: All legal limits on social contact will be removed; remaining sectors of the economy will reopen.
Above steps are the earliest possible dates and depend on four strict conditions on vaccines, infection rates and coronavirus variants to be met at each stage. Dates and sequences in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland vary from the English roadmap.
UK vaccination program open to everyone over age 30
Britain is heading for two “big” weeks of vaccination, boosting hopes that immunization can stay ahead of the Indian variant of COVID and allow restrictions to end as planned later this month. Vaccination rates are approaching all-time highs, with more than 4 million doses given in a week for the first time since March.
Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said he was “cautiously optimistic that we are in a good place” to open up completely on June 21, with increasing evidence that two vaccine doses protect against B.1.617.2, the Indian variant. However, final decisions on the last stage of the road map are being pushed back as scientists wait for firmer data on the infectiousness of the Indian strain and its effect on hospital admissions. Some advisers fear that a faster-spreading strain will require a delay to the end of restrictions, even if vaccines work, to ensure that enough adults have been jabbed to contain it.
To date, more than 38 million people across the UK have received a first vaccine dose, which represents about 70% of the adult population. More than 23 million have received both doses, representing around 43% of the adult population.
International travel restarts under controversial “traffic light” system
The long-awaited restart to international travel on May 17 saw just 12 destinations on the initial “green list,” some of which are not currently accepting international arrivals. Industry sources are confident the limited green list for travel will expand by late June, but are skeptical that re-openings around Europe in particular will be harmonized, despite EU efforts to coordinate the restart.
Spain lifted restrictions on UK travellers from 24 May, and Tourism Minister Fernando Valdes forecast that Spain will change its [amber] notification” at the next UK government review. However, Germany and France declared the UK a “virus variant region” and imposed quarantine restrictions at the weekend, and Austria announced a ban on UK flights from 1 June.
The EU moved a step closer to signing off on a digital COVID certificate, which should allow vaccinated travellers unrestricted entry, and signalled the UK would be on a “white list” of non-EU countries allowed to participate so long as the move is reciprocated. The certificate still needs to be formally adopted by the European Parliament and Council, but should come into force on 1 July with a six‑week phasing-in period.
Travel chiefs say government guidance made “a guessing game”
UK travel chiefs have slammed the government’s “confusing” direction on overseas travel and its “demonization” of travellers, calling for urgent clarification. The heads of the UK’s biggest travel companies – Tui, Jet2 and easyJet – also hit out at ministers over the “guessing game” the traffic light system for categorizing destinations has become.
Jet2 and Jet2Holidays Chief Executive Steve Heapy said: “It’s frustrating to hear ministers say travelling is dangerous when with the right protections in place it is anything but … the demonization of overseas travel has been very damaging.” EasyJet Chief Executive Johan Lundgren agreed, saying: “Statements that travel is dangerous are misleading. It depends where you travel. That is why the traffic light system has a red category. The government has made this into a guessing game. It has made it tremendously difficult for consumers to plan. It has made it difficult for us to plan. What countries should we serve?”
The travel chiefs have written to prime minister Boris Johnson urging a government rethink.
PCR test rule “could be eased for vaccinated travellers”
UK travellers might not need PCR tests when they arrive back from green list countries, depending on scientific findings about transmissibility of COVID variants. The Telegraph reported that Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is in favor of a “vaccination dividend” for jabbed travellers, but “ministers would need to be reassured by scientists that there was no serious risk of transmission from those who had been inoculated.” It was advised that any change in the travel rules would be considered in the 28 June review of the traffic light system.
The Telegraph reported that the review depends on findings from scientists at the Ministry of Defence’s Porton Down labs, who are studying the extent to which a fully vaccinated person can bring back a variant of concern. The EU’s proposed green certificate allows unrestricted travel for the vaccinated, with those who are not vaccinated required to take PCR tests or demonstrate they have previously had the virus.
Brits accumulate 6 billion hours of annual leave
As locked-down Brits bunkered down at home and worked their way through lockdown, people have amassed annual leave and savings that they could now use as international travel restarts.
According to a research conducted by Holiday Extras, the British working population has accumulated over 6 billion hours of annual leave one year into the pandemic as they waited for travel to resume. The research also found that workers have banked an average of 10 days of annual leave. 45% of those polled have earned at least a week of annual leave during the pandemic, with 15% saving an extra fortnight.
The Times and Sunday Times have launched a new travel website at https://www.thetimes.co.uk/travel/ providing a “full 7-day, always-on offering,” with all travel content living outside the paywall for the first time in many years. The Times says it has “layered our incredible inspirational content with newly commissioned evergreen articles which align with search trends for our key destinations, holiday types and audience profiles throughout the year.” Branded content, multimedia solutions and affiliate links will now live within the editorial content features, with the aim of moving the audience from reading to booking.
Start-up coffee table annual travel magazine JRNY, the brainchild of a group of freelance travel writers and photographers, has exceeded its crowd-funded launch costs and after publishing a first issue in July 2021 will start planning its 2022 edition. Content will be aimed at surprising the reader with unexpected aspects of a destination or region. Originally planned as a one-off only, the title is likely to be published biannually in 2023.
KBC took part in the three-day IMM Virtual last month, with media attendance very strong and a clear growth in interest for travel to both the USA and Canada. Particular areas of interest were outdoor activities, including cycling and walking, sustainability, luxury travel, indigenous experiences and literary/cultural heritage. Travel editors are now comfortable commissioning new articles on the USA for UK-based writers travelling from late summer onward, although Canada appears a couple of months behind at this point.
Travel Trade Updates
KBC attended Destination Canada’s Virtual Rendezvous last week, which included a mixture of suppliers and UK tour operators.
Overall feedback from operators indicated that there are high numbers of inquiries for travel to North America, especially for 2022 departure dates, and whilst operators remain hopeful for travel in 2021, many are now encouraging new bookings into next year. The UK’s Roadmap announcement provided some clarity for customers and initially encouraged bookings, predominantly to Europe, for travel after 17 May. However, there is still caution around European travel this year due to varying and confusing border, quarantine and testing restrictions, in addition to the UK’s “green list” advice, which is constantly being reviewed. The consensus was that until there are established travel corridors, reduced quarantine rules, open borders and clear messaging, there will still be many clients holding back and reluctant to commit. Whilst there is still uncertainty, many operators indicated a strong start for 2022 bookings.
Whilst consumer confidence and bookings will continue to be affected by Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and government advice, once there is clarity, current inquiries indicate there will be higher budgets for travel, especially for iconic and bucket list trips. One operator had seen a 15%-20% increase in average spend since the announcement of the roadmap, and others are seeing increased spend on flight cabins.
During the pandemic, most operators have continued to promote sales on a small scale using internal, low- cost channels such as social media and database communications. There is a strong consensus that August/September will be the best timing to launch marketing campaigns to generate higher ROI. This timing will hopefully allow consumers to feel reassured, witnessing travel and seeing travel restrictions across the world eased. Following this, January is predicted to be a peak booking period, as is traditional in the UK.
Tour operators are still looking for new product and experiences, including information around sustainability, despite some programs being refined to manage operational changes in the short term and the focus placed on proven product. In addition, the need for agent education was highlighted as paramount to rebuild their knowledge and ability to reassure consumers and build confidence in a destination.
Visit USA Association – Ireland
KBC took part in the virtual VUSA Ireland members’ meeting last week, which was attended by a mixture of tour operators, destinations, airlines and suppliers.
The Irish government meets this week to agree on next steps toward the reopening of its economy, with lockdown gradually easing and hospitality establishments due to reopen on 7 June. Outbound and inbound travel is expected to re-open from 19 July, and Ireland will be adopting the EU Digital COVID Pass System which is available from 1 July, with member states allowed six weeks to implement it. The government is hoping the system will be up and running by the second week of July.
After an initial slow start due to EU supplies, the vaccine roll-out has gathered pace in Quarter 2 – with Ireland currently vaccinating 40- to 49-year-olds and on track for all adults to receive at least one dose before the end of June.
From an economic outlook, Ireland’s GDP grew 3% in 2020 – the only European country to report growth –and it is expected to grow a further 3.4% in 2021 and 3.5% in 2022. Personal savings are up by €13.4 billion, leading to significant amounts of disposable income that will help facilitate the recovery of the Irish market, which has traditionally bounced back quickly from previous challenges and is expected to do so again.
VUSA is introducing a new virtual opportunity – “Return to America” – which consists of a pre-recorded panel discussion for broadcast to the Irish trade on 5 July. It will be hosted in partnership with trade publication ITTN, with panels facilitated by the editor and promoted via the title’s digital and social channels.
The organization is also planning a return of in-person events, with its first roadshow moved from July to September (exact date TBC) to enable participants to travel to Ireland from the USA and UK. It is also planning a Thanksgiving Event (18 November), at which 100 trade and media attendees are expected.
The specialist tour operator is currently playing a waiting game but is confident the USA will have an advantage over many competitor destinations when the green light comes. The team continues to be busy with re-bookings and new inquiries, but conversions are still low.
They believe there is a high value to agent fams over the next year or so to re-educate and re-engage sales agents and see this as a higher priority than product manager fams. They have no plans to make any more major changes to product until they can gather a good picture of what clients are looking for and actually booking.