Posts tagged with "Travel Restrictions"

Airplane illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

THE FUTURE OF TRAVEL PLANNING

By: Andrew Shibuya

As the world has remained in their homes this past year and a half, traveling abroad seems to be the light at the end of a very long tunnel for many. While globetrotters stayed home bound and planned their trips for the second restrictions lifted, the travel industry underwent a rapid and drastic transformation. As such, many experts claim that travel – and particularly global travel  – will be forever changed.

In the midst of the pandemic and the ubiquitous desire to be anywhere but home, travel destinations have begun to accommodate traveler’s concerns in the face of the virus. In some cases, it was changing the distance between tables in a restaurant or limiting the capacity of occupants in a hotel. In other cases, however, the only changes were claims of improvements or safer accommodations. While many hotels and restaurants truly began taking necessary precautions, some did not adapt – despite claiming to.

And such, in the age of the internet and modernity’s obsession with bureaucracy, innumerable COVID safety certificates – some valid, and some pure and simple money grabs – were born. Resultantly, the great saturation of these valuable assurances ultimately renders them to be valueless. For even the avid travelers and eagle-eyed among us, such certifications will likely prove to be a nuisance at best, and a health concern at worst.

In the travel industry, the remaining agencies have sought various solutions to this issue of verifying credibility. What happens when someone who is particularly at risk for COVID is infected by the virus at a supposedly safe hotel? Why even take these risks at all?

This past week, 360 Magazine attended an event with several travel experts who discussed this very issue and presented potential solutions. Though the situation is troubling and promises to only get worse, experts are beginning to craft plans and act against this rubber-stamping.

Terrence Suero of Buffalo-based travel agency Toca Travel has a promising and apt response to this new strain of scammers. While he is confident that the world will never return to its pre-pandemic state, Suero understands that travel is an essential part of many people’s lives. Even now, just months after the commencement of vaccine distribution, Americans have started to travel. While most are now staying within United States’ borders, some are wandering to more distant corners of the globe.

But, every new strain and ensuing restriction springs new doubts and trouble for the average traveler. And for travel agents, their work has only gotten more difficult–not only in the face of these conditions, but also regarding the endless onslaught of dubious safety certifications. To this end, Suero has started Safe Travel Pathways – a new endeavor that he hopes will eradicate, or at the very least assuage, travelers’ health concerns related to COVID.

Safe Travel Pathways at its core is an open-source directory of vetted hospitality companies. The company hopes to begin its directory abroad in Costa Rica, and if successful, to gradually expand globally. Behind Safe Travel Pathways is Suero’s ethos as a travel agent: to treat travelers as adults. His aim is simply to provide helpful and accurate information, with the goal being that travelers can make their own informed decisions.

The main criteria for Safe Travel Pathways’ approval includes adherence to internationally accepted health standards, a third-party audit system that can determine the provided level of safety and strict governance. Safe Travel Pathways uses a grading system from one to five that considers various accreditations, verified safety precautions, and guidelines to evaluate companies. The idea behind this system evinces once more Suero’s desire to allow travelers to choose their own itinerary in light of the safety information provided. While certain places may receive lower scores than others, Suero acknowledges that some people are more comfortable than others regarding COVID safety precautions.

However, Suero has more than just coronavirus in mind. His future offerings likely will include restaurants and other accommodations that have been vetted for specific allergens and other necessary health considerations. Suero was careful to note that most travel agents are not health specialists. With these future additions, he hopes to assuage as many health concerns as possible, for both travel agents and travelers. Such other future additions may highlight businesses that are accessible, sustainable, or accommodating for similar travel concerns.

Safe Travel Pathway’s test run is starting soon in Costa Rica to gain a greater understanding of its capability and viability as an international travel database. Suero hopes to soon expand into Europe and South America with the help of travel bureaus, which validate businesses on a local level. The database is free and accessible to all, with certain features limited to travel agents or agencies.

As the world reopens, much is still left unclear. With each new strain and constantly shifting guidelines, creating travel plans can be unnecessarily convoluted and stressful. Though the world may never return to “normal,” tools like Safe Travel Pathways can hopefully move us in the right direction.

 

Covid by Mina Tocalini

5 Covid Safe Travel Tips

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced an update to their guidelines, sharing that those who are fully vaccinated are at a “low risk” of infection when traveling abroad or domestically. However, the CDC warns that states and territories may continue to enforce their own COVID-19 travel restrictions.

According to a recent Airbnb report, 54% of people have already booked their next trip, are planning to travel, or expect to travel in 2021, signaling the importance of staying healthy & safe flying.

Dr. Elizabeth Mullans shares 5 tips to travel safely:

  • Wear a face mask. The CDC’s Emergency Order mandates face masks be worn on all public conveyances. While breathable, comfortable, reusable masks are important for virus protection, wearing them for long periods of time may cause skin irritation and acne. This may trigger skin sensitivities, so make sure to wash face masks with a hypoallergenic and fragrance-free laundry detergent like, Arm & Hammer Sensitive Skin, Free & Clear.
  • Keep the Immune System Strong. Make sure to eat a healthy, balanced diet and get adequate sleep (even if it means snoozing on the plane). Airlines have stepped up cleaning and social distancing measures on planes to maximize air flow volume for all passengers through HEPA filtration systems, however, the low humidity levels inside of an airplane cabin can oftentimes cause onset of a cold. Keep a cold shortening product that contains Zinc on-hand, like Zicam, and take an immune supplement to proactively support overall health while traveling. A great option is vitafusion Triple Immune Power because of its great-tasting gummy form.
  • Organize important documents. Whether traveling internationally or domestically, always keep vaccination cards, COVID-19 test results, driver’s licenses, hotel confirmation print outs, and passports in a secure place like in a DocSafe Document Bag. For those vaccinated, laminate the vaccination card to avoid water damage.
  • Use an alcohol-free, long lasting hand sanitizer. Disinfect & Shield Hand Sanitizer is available as a moisture-infused foam or spray that leaves an invisible, “breathable” barrier on the skin. It not only destroys 99.99% of bacteria but is also eco-friendly, making it ultra-safe for use around pets and plants while protecting the treated surface for up to a full eight hours. Unlike most hand sanitizers, Disinfect & Shield is alcohol-free and eliminates the harsh fumes and cracked, dry skin that accompanies alcohol-based sanitizers. Plus, it’s safe for use on PPE and masks.
  • Adhere to CDC guidelines. Although many are not required to stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7-days after traveling, it is important to follow all state and local recommendations as they can vary state to state.

Remember to be mindful, plan out a trip well in advance, and be aware of the COVID-19 policies and guidelines set by the destination you’re visiting. Remember, a negative COVID-19 test before your trip does not necessarily mean you are in the clear. Symptoms might not show for up to two weeks, so remain cautious.

Airheart illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Airheart Explorer Launches

Airheart Explorer Launches to Help Consumers Navigate Complicated Travel Restrictions & Policies

CLICK TO TWEET: Airheart Explorer launches to help navigate travel restrictions domestic and abroad, so people can travel with confidence: Airheart Explorer

Airheart unveiled their free tool, Explorer, to help people travel again, safely. Travelers can now discover which destinations are accessible and what’s required for their trip, all through one user-friendly platform.

Now more than ever, navigating restrictions and policies for travel is overwhelming. Crowd-sourcing information from friends and family online and visiting countless tourism or government sites is a lot of work and highly error prone. Airheart eliminates the guesswork, so people can travel with confidence. 

Airheart’s data is aggregated from official sources by our data partners, including Sherpa. Then, Airheart further distills and organizes it into a searchable, scannable, easy to understand format, to put travelers at ease when navigating what’s required of them. 

Key Features: 

  1. Discover which destinations – international and domestic – are accessible for travel based on your origin location prior to the booking engine phase where you need to be destination specific. 
  2. View government policies and COVID19-risk data for your destination.
  3. Filter by what’s required of you – quarantine, COVID19 test, masks in public (and soon by your vaccination status). 
  4. Receive notification when policies and restrictions change.
  5. See COVID19 transmission rates per destination. 
  6. View local guidelines for what to expect on-location at bars, restaurants, shops and more.
  7. Pin routes and create a short-list of places on your wish list.

The three founders diligently focus on maximizing the user experience. The team is also extremely well-traveled, multi-passport carriers and currently straddling multiple continents – the US to Australia – to bring this to consumers worldwide. 

“As seasoned travelers, we found this problem so critical that we dropped everything to work on solving it for the community. Our long-term vision is to create a place for organizing and managing the full lifecycle of a trip, starting with discovery using Airheart Explorer,” said co-founder and CEO, Lindsey Renken. “In a world where we’ve optimized our lives heavily, planning travel is still an inefficient process. We noticed our friends and colleagues experiencing similar issues, and ultimately, this kept a lot of trips from happening. We figured there has to be a better way than the status quo.”

Airheart is where deep product and engineering knowledge meets function. The team’s experience has been pivotal in elevating Airheart Explorer beyond what’s on the market now:  

  • Ivan Vanderbyl, CPO, who’s founded three companies, 2 exits; Former Sr. Director of Product Management at Tricentis; 14 years in software development and product management. He has lived and worked in 5 countries and traveled to over 30 countries. 
  • Arie Litovsky, CTO, adds over 15 years of software development experience to the team. He most recently worked as a software developer at Facebook and Q&A site Stack Overflow. He’s traveled to over 20 countries while adding to his collection of 3 passports and 4 languages.
  • Lindsey Renken, CEO, is an experienced founder; previously raised nearly 1 mil. as a co-founder for a consumer-facing application. B.S. in Biomedical Engineering, UT Austin. Over 11 years in product, marketing and data science. She has traveled to 31 countries and counting, many of which were solo trips. 

“Drawing on the intrepid explorer and fearless solo traveler Amelia Earhart, we hope to clear the path for future travelers,” said Renken. 

For more information and to sign up for the waitlist for features coming this summer, visit Airheart

travel illustration by Gabrielle Marchan for 360 Magazine

Beijing’s Tourism Revenue Drop

Beijing’s Tourism Revenue Dropped by 53% in 2020 – Loss of Over ¥330B 

The tourism industry was badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and the city of Beijing saw the momentum of the industry halted in 2020. Beijing had become an increasingly popular tourist destination prior to the pandemic with revenue from inbound tourism recorded at $5.16B in 2019. According to data presented by TradingPlatforms, Beijing’s total revenue from tourism decreased by over 53% in 2020 for a staggering loss of ¥330B, or $50B.

Beijing Revenue From Tourism Dropped By Over $50B After Years Of Growth

China has long moved on from its isolationist policies and has encouraged the mainland as a travel destination for tourists. Revenue from China’s tourism sector grew at a strong 13.8% CAGR from 2010-2019 to ¥5.7T, or almost $880B. In 2019, China was the fourth most visited country by foreign tourists with 65.7M arrivals for the year.

Beijing is one of the leading tourist destinations in China, and the city has been enjoying the growth of the tourism sector until the pandemic of 2020 hit. From 2016-2019, Beijing’s tourism revenue experienced a 5.53% CAGR, rising to a value of ¥622.7B in 2019. However, COVID-19 shut borders around the world, crippling global mobility and disrupting the momentum built up by Beijing’s tourism industry. Beijing’s revenue from tourism dropped over 53% in 2020 to just over ¥291.

Beijing suffered a staggering loss in revenue, specifically in inbound tourism, where revenue dropped from $5.16B in 2019 to just $480M in 2020.

COVID-19 Hit China Early – Caused Massive Disruption in H1 of 2020

China felt the effects of COVID-19 before much of the rest of the world did. A clear example of this is in the drop in weekly Airbnb bookings from the period between January 5th to March 7th. This drop occurred when the coronavirus was just becoming news to the rest of the world of what was happening in various parts of China. Beijing experienced a dizzying 96% drop in weekly Airbnb bookings compared to just 46% in Seoul and 29% in Tokyo in this time period.

The number of domestic tourists is estimated to have dropped by as much as 62% in the first half of 2020 compared to the year prior, with revenues dropping by as much as 77%. By the end of the year, China had experienced a 43% drop in domestic tourists and a 52% drop in revenue from domestic tourism.

Tourism in China Projected To Completely Recover Within 5 Years

In 2019, the absolute economic contribution of tourism in China was estimated at $1.67T. This fell sharply to just $745.5B in 2020-a decrease of more than 55%, but still the largest in Asia and the second-largest overall, after the USA. However, projections have the figure bouncing back up by over 40.5% in 2021 to $1.04T. The figure is projected to surpass pre-pandemic levels for the first time in 2023, when the absolute economic contribution of tourism is projected to be at $1.75T.

Despite the turmoil of 2020, China’s absolute economic contribution from tourism is projected to have an impressive CAGR of 20.75% from 2021-2025, reaching more than $2.67T by the end of the forecast period.

You can read more about the story with more statistics and information on TradingPlatforms’ website.

 

 

Cherry Blossom illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Cherry Blossoms Celebrated

FROM HUMAN CHESS TO PADDLEBOARDING:
UNIQUE WAYS CHERRY BLOSSOMS ARE CELEBRATED THROUGHOUT JAPAN

With the much-anticipated arrival of their delicate pink flowers, the cherry trees blossoming in Japan is a yearly spectacle. According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, cherry blossoms in Tokyo are expected to bloom on March 15th this year. Associated with renewal and the coming spring, the cherry blossoms (or sakura) spur a variety of unique celebrations and experiences throughout the country, with many cities and towns forming their own yearly traditions and unique ways to see the cherry blossoms.

Cruise the Matsukawa River, Toyama Prefecture

Travelers can enjoy hanami (the custom of flower viewing in Japan) as well as the beautiful landscapes of Toyama Prefecture on a special cruise along the Matsukawa River. During cherry blossom season, cruises on the river drift along with the relaxing current and make their way through tunnels of cherry blossom trees. Cruises begin and end outside of the Matsukawa Tea House, so travelers can enjoy a nice cup of tea after a peaceful afternoon of hanami.

Horse-Drawn Carriage Ride Through Kitakami Tenshochi Park, Iwate Prefecture

A massive park spanning over 700 acres, the Kitakami Tenshochi Park has been a favorite for hanami among both locals and travelers for decades. 2021 is the 100th anniversary of the park’s opening and there is a myriad of ways for travelers to see the cherry blossoms, such as taking a riverboat cruise, or taking a ride on a horse-drawn carriage underneath the “tunnel of pink.” Cherry blossom branches stretch out from the trees on both sides of the walkway and form a floral tunnel that travelers can traverse

Human Chess Match at Tendo Sakura Matsuri, Yamagata Prefecture

Ninety percent of Japanese chess pieces, or shogi, are produced in the city of Tendo. Every April, as over 2,000 cherry blossoms bloom, locals and travelers gather to watch a human chess match, or shogi battle, in Maizuru Park, where two professional chess players compete with humans dressed as samurai and servants in place of chess pieces. The festival also features taiko (Japanese drum) performances and delicious festival food like yakisoba noodles and takoyaki balls.

Stand-up Paddleboarding in Shiga Prefecture

In Kyoto, travelers who want to partake in hanami can go stand-up paddleboarding on Lake Biwa to see cherry blossoms bloom along the coast. Shirahage SUP at the Shirahige Beach Campsite offers travelers the opportunity to see the cherry blossoms directly from the crystal blue waters of Lake Biwa.

Moka Railway Ride in Tochigi Prefecture

The city of Moka in Tochigi Prefecture is perhaps most known for the Moka Railway, which has been operating for over 100 years. During the spring when cherry blossoms begin to bloom, the railway line becomes a popular attraction since its track is almost completely surrounded by cherry blossoms and rape flowers. Travelers can book a trip on the scenic railway between Mogi station and Shimodate station for an unforgettable hanami ride.

Boating Under Hirosaki Castle, Aomori Prefecture

Hirosaki Castle is well-known as a top destination for hanami. Since local apple farmers prune the cherry trees the same way they do apples, the trees end up with two to three times more flowers than normal. To see the lush, pink flowers, guests often rent a rowboat and sail it out on the river surrounded by cherry blossoms. The sparkling river coupled with the towering castle and the bright petals makes for a fairy tale to come to life.

Noh Plays at Night, Tokyo

Under the lovely cherry blossoms of Yasukuni Shrine, a stage is set and traditional plays called noh are performed. These plays often date back to the 14th century and include kyogen (comedic spoken dramas) and maibayashi (a shorter version of noh with music). Performed, under the yozakura (cherry blossoms at night), the plays are enhanced by the atmosphere of the lit-up blossoms and the bonfire, two integral elements of this experience. Japan’s top actors and actresses are known to take the stage.

Events and experiences above are subject to change due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For updates on travel restrictions to Japan, please visit the website.

 

Cuba Travel

On June 4, 2019, the Trump Administration announced further restrictions on travel to Cuba, immediately halting cruise ship arrivals and some other forms of travel. Edward Piegza, founder of Classic Journeys, explains the latest rules.

Why should I care about the new Cuba Travel Restrictions?

On Tuesday, June 4, 2019, the Trump administration announced new rules about people-to-people and cruise travel to Cuba. These will affect most Americans traveling to Cuba. If you have plans for such a trip – or have been thinking about making them – you may naturally be confused. Here’s a summary of the changes to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations and the Export Administration Regulations announced by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) (the section at the Department of the Treasury that regulates the trade and travel embargo to Cuba and which issues licenses for travel to Cuba) and the Commerce Department, respectively.

Can I travel legally to Cuba with Classic Journeys on its People-to-People programs? 

Yes, indeed. Your travel to Cuba on Classic Journeys’ People-to-People programs is 100% legal because our programs fall under OFAC’s ‘grandfather’ clause. OFAC considers the grandfather clause to apply when a People-to-People organization like Classic Journeys had completed a travel-related transaction prior to June 5, 2019, in connection with a particular departure date, even if, prior to June 5, 2019, you as a traveler had not yet reserved your trip. In other words, because we had already reserved our hotel accommodations for our People-to-People trips in Cuba prior to June 5, 2019, your travel to Cuba on our People-to-People programs is grandfathered in as completely legal.

How do the new regulations affect People-to-People travel?

OFAC has allowed U.S. organizations whose people-to-people programs in Cuba fall under a ‘grandfather’ clause, such as those operated by Classic Journeys, to proceed with those programs through the end of 2019. 

So, what is a qualifying “travel-related transaction” that allows Classic Journeys’ People-to-People programs to Cuba to be legal under the grandfather clause? 

The qualifying “travel-related transaction” that needs to have been completed prior to June 5 could be, for example: having made a reservation for an accommodation (whether or not paid for) or booking and paying for transportation. These are just two examples and are not meant to be exhaustive. In the case of Classic Journeys, our close relationships with local people in Cuba mean that we already had our hotel reservations confirmed prior to June 5.

What People-to-People programs and dates are legal with Classic Journeys under the new regulations? 

All three of our People-to-People programs (Long Weekend in Havana, Cuba for Families: Havana and the Viñales Valley, and Havana Cienfuegos & Trinidad) and all of their departure dates for 2019 are 100% legal.

Can you still fly to Cuba legally on commercial air flights?

Commercial air flights are not affected by the changes. Note that your airline will ask you at the time of ticketing to select from a listing of the type of license under which you are traveling to Cuba legally. Your first choice option for the license will be a “people-to-people” exchange with the “grandfather clause” aka referencing the fact that your People-to-People organization- Classic Journeys – has made its arrangements prior to June 5, 2019. If that option is not available, you can select “educational activities” (so long as there is no mention of a degree requirement). If the airline you are considering does not have one of these options right now, they are likely playing catch up with the new regulations; so you can check back with them in a few days or try one of the many other airlines with commercial flights from the U.S. to Cuba.

How do the new regulations affect cruise travel to Cuba?

The changes have immediately ended travel to Cuba by U.S.-flagged cruise ships or foreign-flagged cruise ships departing from U.S. ports. The Commerce Department has not included a “grandfather” clause to allow cruises that have already been scheduled, and for which passengers have already made arrangements. If you have a paid a deposit or final payment for cruise travel to Cuba, you should contact your cruise company for a refund.

What about private aircraft and boats; can they travel legally to Cuba? 

No. The authorization for private vessels and private aircraft (such as private fishing boats and private sailboats, and corporate or private jets) is revoked.

How will the changes under President Trump affect the people of Cuba?

We’ve made so many wonderful friends in Cuba and seen the lives of the Cuban people change for the better during recent years. So, of course, we’re concerned about what it will mean to their prosperity and general welfare with the enaction of these new travel regulations. The Cubans have been through so much in the last 60 years. They’ve always managed to bear their hardships with grace and warm solidarity in their families and communities.

One known feature of the new regulations is that they will cap remittances – the money that can be sent to Cubans from friends and family members in the U.S. – at $1,000 per person every three months. In a country where the median monthly salary is just $32, you can only imagine how a reduction in remittance income will impact everyday life. In addition, travel had become a major source of income for Cubans, as well, so any reduction in that resource will echo throughout the country in a way for the people who can least afford it and whom we and our government want to help.

We choose guarded optimism.

We are approaching Cuba as we always have – with care, enthusiasm, and with pride in the fact that legal travel for Americans to Cuba has changed the lives of our American guests and the everyday local Cubans they’ve met, in overwhelmingly positive ways. You can still travel to Cuba legally with Classic Journeys. We like to think of this way of travel as an informal version of ‘Voice of America” with boots on the ground… yours in fact, as you communicate a positive story of the American people to local Cuban people. We urge you to hold fast to your plans. And if you’ve been hesitating to plan a Cuba trip, you know now that you can, and we encourage you to do so.

ABOUT CLASSIC JOURNEYS

Since its founding in 1995 with one style of travel in a total of three countries, Classic Journeys has expanded to offer five styles of travel (culture + walking, culinary, family, multi-sport, and river cruising) and 100 itineraries in 50 countries across six continents. With its focus on providing every guest a handcrafted trip of a lifetime, Classic Journeys has won awards from a variety of publications including Afar, Saveur, National Geographic and Travel + Leisure – the latter having named it a “World’s Best Tour Operator” every year since 2007.