Holiday travel on WGRZ

CLICK TO VIEW CLIP

When the Biden administration announced that vaccinated foreign travelers would be allowed to enter the United States starting Nov. 8, it was as though a starting gun had been fired. Skyscanner saw an 800 percent spike in bookings the day after the announcement. Expedia, the online booking site, saw a 28 percent increase in searches for U.S. hotels from Britain and a 24 percent increase from France. And not only international tourism was given a boost…. the U.S. reopening signaled to American travelers that they could leave their homes this coming holiday season, too.

So if you’re traveling this holiday season, how should we best prepare?

Start planning now. Traveling during the pandemic requires both long- and short-term planning to secure flights and accommodations while leaving room for last-minute changes in regulations, flight schedules or coronavirus infection rates. Also be prepared to adapt. Have a cushion, both financially and around logistics and departure times. In general, it looks like travelers are either booking for tomorrow or they’re booking for next year – many travelers want to get away, but they’re kind of pushing it to the last minute just to make sure nothing changes. However keep in mind that waiting can be expensive, as prices have increased across the industry and may continue to do so as international travel rebounds. 


What about the impact this might have on the hospitality industry and customer experience? 

Expect that you may experience limited services.The experience of travel continues to be affected by staffing and other challenges. Your hotel’s restaurant may be closed, for instance, and daily room cleaning is only available upon request in many places. That part of the business requires a lot more staffing than just the standard hotel operations, and that’s where hotels are having to cut back, because they just don’t have enough people. Also rental cars remain in short supply, and prices are high, in some cases double or triple pre-pandemic rates. Many concessions and businesses in airports are still closed, and airlines have canceled hundreds of flights in the last several months, including recent cancellations by Southwest Airlines and American Airlines.

What is the impact this will have on travel to popular cities?

Cities are preparing to welcome international travelers – The boost in tourism is actually needed in gateway markets like New York, San Francisco, Boston, and Washington, D.C.. Those are the markets that really depend on international travel, and have been badly hurt during the pandemic. They are back on the rise, which is great as they tend to boast the most amount to do during this time of year. New York, for example, is a hub of the holidays. You’ve got stylish hotels right on Central Park for example like VOCO The Franklin New York – which captures the magic of the upper east side and is within a stones throw of Madison Avenue’s world class shopping and incredible restaurants. It’s also pet friendly which is a great bonus for tourists who need to bring Fido!

In general what kind of vacations are we seeing become more popular?

Ski and beach vacations are most popular – People are still gravitating to outdoor travel, with the most popular destinations being domestic beach locations or the Caribbean and Mexico. The Dominican Republic, Turks & Caicos and the U.S. Virgin Islands had never really been top destinations during the holiday season – but they seem to be this year. Ski destinations are also seeing increased interest with people looking to make up for ski trips they missed last year. According to the vacation rental company, Vrbo, demand for ski destinations is up more than 40 percent this winter compared to the same period in 2019, and up 31 percent compared to 2020.

The new norm of flying in COVID-19 with Fox Business

CLICK ON ABOVE IMAGE TO LINK TO FULL CLIP

Traveling by airplane is arguably a higher risk than traveling by car –air travel is full of opportunities for coronavirus transmission. And yet despite the travel industry seeing a drop in demand amid coronavirus- air travel reached a new high over the past weekend, with more than 2 million people passing through airports between Thursday and Sunday (according to a report by the Transportation Security Administration.) So what does the future of air travel look like for us amid COVID-19 and can we actually fly safely?


1. What measures the travel industry is taking to prevent the spread of the virus at airports and on planes?
Right now – mask wearing is being enforced, and measures like cue markers and plexi glass shields are helping to minimize the spread within the airport. Once on the plane currently most airlines will have masks and sanitizer available – and electrostatic spraying will be done prior to every departure.  In future we may even start using facial recognition technology taking over manual ID checks. We’ve also heard that when the middle seat does return, it may be with dividers, or facing the other way


2. Will airports and airlines actually invest in these kinds of measures, and can they afford to operate with them in the long run?
Yes,there are brilliant airlines out there who have begun implementing some extremely innovative initiatives. Etihad Airways for example – which is an international carrier that is CURRENTLY flying from Abu Dhabi to 29 destinations worldwide – has started implementing what they call The Etihad Wellness Program- an online guide used to set standards of hygiene and health. Once certain travel restrictions are lifted, Etihad will also introduce Wellness Ambassadors on board, to answer any questions and provide that enhanced level of care focused on in-flight health and wellness. In the long run – airlines will have to figure out their budgets but I think measures like this are set to become the new norm of flying. 


3. What about technology and travel apps – how are they helping?
Predictability and preparation are now key travel factors. App in the Air, for example, which acts as a personal travel assistant that keeps you up-to-date with your flight, will be introducing In-App Health Filters so when you’re searching for future flights using the app, new filters will include whether a mask is needed, avoiding middle seats and free cancellations. The apps landing page will also provide weekly updates –  on the countries you’re departing and arriving from, including government restrictions and airline and airport rules. 

 4. What about airports – particularly internationally, what are we seeing? In India, passengers have to show they have a CONTACT TRACING APP installed on their phones in order to enter the terminal. At Deli International Airport, luggage has to go through a UV sanitizing tunnel and at London Heathrow Airport they are running trials of temperature scans that look for travelers with a fever. Airports around the world are taking everything to the next level, and I believe these changes may transform travel and we know it for some time.