Royal Caribbean Makes Additional Comment on Future of Buffets

The buffet—as much a staple on cruise ships as anything—will live on in a different form, at least on Royal Caribbean vessels.

A week after Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises, intimated that buffets would likely not exist when Royal Caribbean returns to the sea, CruiseRadio.net reports something of an evolution on that stance.

Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited, appeared on Coffee Chat, a weekly talk with travel advisors with host and Senior Vice President of Sales and Trade Support and Service Vicki Freed, and said buffets will change but not go away entirely.

“(Where) everybody reaches in and everybody touches the same tongs, you’re not going to see (that) on land or sea,” Fain said. “(But) it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a buffet. You might have it where all of that is served to you by other people. And there (are) other possibilities. But the point is that it will evolve.”

By way of example, Fain said to consider the Midnight Buffet.

“I don’t think anyone says, ‘Where’s the midnight buffet?’” he said. “You haven’t seen the midnight buffet for years and that was long before we had COVID-19. Tastes change and people change, and cruise lines change to accommodate.”

Fain told TravelWeekly, sister publication to TravelPulse.com, that cruisers will adapt, much as air travelers did in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

“If you remember after (that), all of a sudden you had to do a strip search at the airport. You couldn’t take a bottle of water on the plane,” he said. “A lot of people said, ‘Nobody’s ever going to fly. Who’s going to want to go on an airplane?’ Airplane travel didn’t end. In fact, it grew. But it evolved. So it isn’t the same when you go today. You do go through security checks, and you do go through identity checks and frankly, we’ve become accustomed to it and the technology has helped make it easier.”

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Cruise lines prepare for restart dates but some customers face a long wait – full list

Cruise lines have been hugely impacted by the coronavirus crisis, having been thrust into the spotlight in the early days of the virus due to a number of passengers on major cruise lines becoming sick. Since then governments and health bodies have warned against cruise holidays, with the US Centre of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issuing a no-sail ban. However, cruise lines remain positive about the future.

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As countries globally begin to loosen lockdown in varying degrees, a number of major cruise lines have updated their return to sea dates.

This is good news for travellers who have holidays booked with some cruise lines, however other cruise-lovers could be waiting some time.

Here is a full list of when some of the UK’s favourite cruise holiday providers will be taking to the seas again.

Carnival Cruise

Carnival Cruises is currently planning a phased return to service which is anticipated to begin on August 1.

The following ships will be resumed to service:

Galveston: Carnival Dream, Carnival Freedom and Carnival Vista

Miami: Carnival Horizon, Carnival Magic and Carnival Sensation

Port Canaveral: Carnival Breeze and Carnival Elation.

Unfortunately, all other cruises will be cancelled until August 31, Carnival Spirit Vancouver-Honolulu cruise on September 25 and the Honolulu-Brisbane transpacific cruise on October 6.

The cruise line is also putting in place new travel restrictions, denying boarding to all guests over the age of 70 who do not have a note from their physician confirming they are fit to sail.

Guests who have a history of chronic or severe medical conditions, or those who have been hospitalised recently, will also not be allowed to sail.

Celebrity Cruises

Though Celebrity Cruises initially proposed restarting sailings as on June 12, the company has pushed back this date to August 1.

As a result, Celebrity Cruises has extended its Cruise with Confidence policy.

This allows customers to change any departure date up to September 1 2020, up to 48 hours prior to sailing, and receive a Future Cruise Credit for the amounts paid toward their cruise fare.

The cruise line is also denying boarding for all guests with one or more severe chronic medical conditions as specified by the CDC.

Any person over 70 must have a written letter from a qualified physician certifying they are safe to sail.

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Cunard

Cunard is anticipating a restart date of August 1 for the Queen Mary 2 ship and the Queen Victoria ship, and September 9 for the Queen Elizabeth ship.

Queen Elizabeth’s Alaska season has been cancelled until September 8, 2020.

The line has initially hoped to restart sailings on May 16.

Guests who were due to sail between April 11 and May 15 will automatically receive a 125 percent future cruise credit which can be redeemed against any new booking, on any voyage sailing before the end of March 2022.

Disney Cruise

Disney currently plans to resume sailings from July 31.

Sailings onboard Disney Dream are planned to go ahead from July 31.

Sailings aboard Disney Fantasy from August 1 and Disney Wonder on August 3.

Meanwhile, Disney Magic will set sail on August 5.

Guests currently booked on affected sailings will be offered the choice of a cruise credit to be used for a future sailing within 15 months of their original sail date or a full refund.

Fred.Olsen

Fred.Olsen has suspended all ocean and river sailings for an indefinite period of time, therefore have no set date for when holidays will resume.

Customers are advised to stay up-to-date with the company website.

The cruise line has launched a ‘Booking Reassurance Guarantee.’

Those with a 2020 cruise booked, can now transfer to any 2020, 2021 or 2022 sailing, as long as you give at least 14 days’ notice.

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Marella Cruises

Marella Cruises has specified a preliminary start date for July 1.

This was pushed back from a planned restart date on June 1.

Passengers are being offered a refund credit for the full value of their holiday, alongside a separate booking incentive of up to 20 percent.

Passengers who do not wish to sail are able to apply for a refund.

MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises plans to restart sailings from July 11.

Guests who were booked onto a cruise before this date, or who hope to reschedule their cruise, can do so using the cruise line’s Flexible Cruise Programme.

This allows guests who have already booked, either directly or through a travel agent, to reschedule their cruise to any departure date up until 31st December 2021.

For those booked on a cruise only basis this change can be made up to 48-hours prior to original cruise departure, and for those booked on a Fly Cruise product 96-hours prior to departure.

For ships departing from Miami, MSC will deny guest with one or more severe chronic medical conditions as set out by the CDC.

Anyone over the age of 70 will be required to carry a note from a qualified physician confirming they are safe to travel.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line is due to take to the seas from August 1, with all holidays cancelled up to July 31.

The cruise line has launched Peace of Mind, a temporary policy which allows new and existing individual and group bookings in non-chartered sailings embarking from May 15, 2020 through and including September 30, 2020 to cancel their booking up until 48 hours from the start of their holiday date and receive a 100 percent future cruise credit.

P&O Cruises

P&O has laid out a new planned restart date for July 31.

P&O Cruises Australia plan to restart on September 1.

Customers with P&O Cruises holidays booked to depart prior to and including 15 May 2020 are being offered a 125 percent Future Cruise Credit to be used for a future cruise sailing any time before the end of March 2022.

Guests must book by 31 December 2021 in order to qualify.

Princess Cruises

Princess has cancelled most of its cruises, as well as Alaskan cruise tours, until Autumn 2020.

This includes all routes in Europe, the Caribbean, New England/Canada, Asia, Australia, Hawaii and French Polynesia.

Customers will automatically be issued with a “default compensation offer” relating to their specific cruise.

Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean has announced it will not set sail until August 1.

“We are working with our guests to address this disruption to their vacations, and we are genuinely sorry for their inconvenience,” said the cruise line.

The cruise line will deny boarding for all guests with one or more severe chronic medical conditions as specified by the CDC.

Boarding will also be denied to any person aged 70 or older unless they have a note from a physician stating they are fit to sail.

TUI River Cruises

The new line was initially due to set sail in March 2020, however, this date has been pushed back to November 26 2020.

Customers who no longer wish to sail can apply for a refund, or contact TUI to discuss other options.

Virgin Voyages

Virgin Voyages has pushed back its inaugural Scarlet Lady sailing date to October 17.

The ship was initially supposed to take to the seas on her maiden voyage to the Caribbean from Miami in April 2020.

Those booked on a cruise that has been cancelled can opt for the following:

Affected customers can opt for 200 percent in Future Voyage Credit which can be applied to another sailing, rather than a refund. This is double the value of a Sailor’s existing booking.

Sailors can also receive up to $500 in onboard credit, if they rebook before June 30, 2020.

Alternatively, Virgin is offering a 100 percent refund, plus 25 percent Future Voyage Credit on the value paid to use for a future booking.

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CIE Tours Kicks Off an Early Launch for 2021 Group Bookings

WHY IT RATES: Travel advisors can now begin booking groups for 2021 CIE Tours, with no money required at the time of booking. —Codie Liermann, Associate Editor

Looking forward to filling pent-up demand for travel and helping travel advisors to rebound, CIE Tours has released its 2021 groups incentive offer earlier than ever before and with a deeper advisor bonus. Travel advisors can earn an $800 booking bonus plus commission for booking a group of 10 or more travelers with CIE Tours.

The promotion applies to any of CIE Tours’ pre-set itineraries to Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, Iceland and Italy, be it a shared group vacation that links a group with other travelers or a private group vacation. Plus, there is zero risk with no money required at booking.

Additional promotion perks of note: 50/50 co-op is available; there is a special discount for online transactions; advisors can earn up to three free places when booking a full coach, and they can extend up to 5 percent off to their clients thanks to CIE Tours’ early commitment benefit. CIE Tours has a dedicated group travel team ready to assist travel advisors with group planning and complimentary marketing materials.

Here are some sample tours to tempt clients while they dream of creating new memories with family and friends:

—Taste of Scotland and Ireland, starting at $2,279: Venture through the best of Scotland and Ireland on this all-encompassing tour. The tour begins in Scotland with an introductory tour through central Glasgow, before leaving for a scenic drive through Glencoe and a Loch Ness river cruise. Next, cheers to the birthplace of whisky at the renowned Blair Athol Distillery. After a visit to historic Edinburgh Castle, embark on a ferry to Belfast, Ireland. Irish tour stops include Dublin sightseeing, Sheepdog demonstrations, a chance to kiss the stone at Blarney Castle and a photo-worthy stop to the famous Cliffs of Moher.

—Irish Adventure, starting at $1,149: This comprehensive tour covers the spectacular scenery and history of Ireland – including popular sites like the Cliffs of Moher and Blarney Castle – on this epic tour. With stops spanning the entire country, there’s no stone left unturned on this journey. Highlights include explorations through Giant’s Causeway, Titanic Belfast, House of Waterford Crystal and colorful Cobh.

—Scottish Dream, starting at $1,949: A perfect choice for first-time visitors to Scotland. Travelers will immerse themselves in the beauty of Scotland with multiple castle tours, a trip to picturesque Isle of Skye and the bustling cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

—Taste of Iceland, starting at $2,349: Travelers will see Iceland’s spectacular highlights and hidden gems: cascading waterfalls, gushing geysers, the colorful charm of Reykjavik. They will soak in the famous Blue Lagoon, traverse the Golden Circle and visit the icebergs of Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon.

—Taste of Italy with Sorrento, starting at $3,299: Art, history, food and beauty: Take in Italy’s highlights on this enchanting tour of Venice, Florence and Rome – plus venture south to explore the romance of Sorrento and the Isle of Capri.

For more information or to book a group vacation, travel advisors can visit CIE Tours or email [email protected]

SOURCE: CIE Tours International press release.

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USTOA Survey Reveals Plans for Restarting Business

USTOA surveyed active members about their post-COVID-19 plans for recovery and the resumption of business and found that there was a strong desire among international travelers to return to travel.

The survey showed that more than half (57 percent) of respondents reported that business on the books for 2021 is rebooked guests from canceled 2020 departures. One-third (32 percent) of business for 2021 is existing reservations made prior to the coronavirus outbreak, and 11 percent are new reservations made in 2020.

Eighty percent of current bookings are to international destinations, the remaining 20 percent of traveler bookings are to North America (U.S., Canada and Mexico).

“While short-term uncertainty remains, the survey of our tour operator members reveals that the desire among consumers for international travel remains promising, especially looking ahead to 2021,” said Terry Dale, USTOA president and CEO. “Our Active Members are taking a destination-by-destination approach to resume operations around the globe, with cautious optimism for an anticipated return to business in various regions this fall.”

In terms of when businesses would return to certain destinations, here is the breakdown from the survey results:

Africa: 26 percent of tour operators foresee restarting operations in September 2020, while an equal number (26%) anticipate returning to the region in the first quarter of 2021.

Antarctica: 54 percent of the respondents with itineraries to Antarctica anticipate resuming operations between November and December 2020.

Asia: The most selected response for potential operations restart in the region was the first quarter of 2021 at 27 percent.

Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands: 44 percent of tour operators with programs to this region anticipate resuming operations in the first quarter of 2021.

Canada: 32 percent of members foresee September 2020 as a potential return to operations in Canada.

Europe: 51 of respondents anticipate resuming operations in Europe between September and October 2020.

Mexico: 17 percent of tour operator respondents with programs to the destination anticipate returning in June 2020; another 17 percent named September 2020, with an additional 17 percent foreseeing the second quarter of 2021 for a return.

South America: 44 percent of tour operators with programs to countries in South America anticipate resuming operations between September and October 2020.

United States: 30 percent of respondents anticipate domestic operations restarting in September 2020; 26 percent of members foresee a July 2020 start.

As operations begin to ramp up, so to will marketing. According to USTOA’s research 40 percent of members anticipate starting or restarting consumer and trade marketing campaigns in the third quarter of 2020.

Twenty-seven percent said that they would restart consumer marketing in the second quarter, and 21 percent that they would restart trade marketing.

Twelve percent are planning a fourth-quarter 2020 restart, and 18 percent never stopped consumer or trade marketing.

The message in that marketing will not be the same as before the pandemic. Seventy-nine percent of members said that their marketing message will change and that they will emphasize health and safety.

“It’s clear that continued collaboration between our tour operator members and destination tourism members will be critical in order to rebuild travel programs as well as consumer confidence,” said Dale. “Addressing health and safety measures is a top priority, and USTOA is working with our counterparts at the European Tour Operators Association and the Canadian Association of Tour Operators to develop guidelines specific to our tour operator members.”

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MGM to Reopen Its First US Properties on Memorial Day

Following roughly two months’ complete closure due to COVID-19, the first two of MGM Resorts International’s properties in the United States are ready for reopening, starting as soon as Memorial Day Monday, May 25, 2020.

Two Mississippi hotel-casinos—Biloxi’s Beau Rivage Resort & Casino and Gold Strike Casino Resort in Tunica—will first host invitation-only weekends ahead of their actual public reopenings. Room reservations are now available at Gold Strike for dates beginning May 25 and at Beau Rivage for dates starting the following Monday, June 1.

Both properties will initially be opening in a limited capacity, restricted by 50 percent, per Mississippi Gaming Commission guidelines. In casinos, table games and slot machines will be reconfigured to support adequate social-distancing measures, and valet parking will be discontinued for the present, with self-parking for guests available at no charge.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal pointed out that MGM’s website is also allowing for guests to book nights at its Las Vegas properties as early as June 1, although there has still been no official word as to when Nevada’s governor, Steve Sisolak, will allow hotel-casinos to reopen their doors in the state.

MGM Resorts’ Acting CEO and President, Bill Hornbuckle, stated: “As we plan to reopen our resorts, the health and safety of our guests and employees guide all of our decision-making. Getting many of our employees back to work and welcoming guests through our doors once again will allow us to do what we do best—entertain. We can’t wait.”

Last week, MGM released its new ‘Seven-Point Safety Plan’ strategy for the imminent reopening of its portfolio of properties in the US. Developed in partnership with scientific and medical experts, the plan outlines the implementation of several new, enhanced protocols, specifically aimed at preventing viral transmission; protecting both guests and employees through the use of personal protective equipment, rigorous sanitation methods, social distancing, physical barriers, no-touch service options and more.

The complete specifications of MGM’s Seven-Point Safety Plan can be viewed here.

For more information, visit beaurivage.com or goldstrike.com.

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Posadas Elevates Safety and Sanitization Protocols in Preparation for Summer Travel

WHY IT RATES: The Posadas’ portfolio includes 16 La Colección Resorts properties located throughout Mexico and the Dominican Republic. —Codie Liermann, Associate Editor

Following weeks of halted operations that permitted time for extensive planning, Posadas is pleased to announce elevated safety and sanitization protocols, Travel with Confidence, currently being applied to all its 180 hotels and resorts in preparation for summer travel.

Posadas, which includes La Colección Resorts with 16 resorts spanning across Mexico and the Dominican Republic, is committed to providing travelers and employees peace of mind by implementing and enforcing thorough health and safety protocols using 3M products that are necessary today for the prevention of the contagion and spread of COVID-19. The company is already practicing these protocols at 16 hotels to house doctors treating patients in nearby hospitals.

“We understand that travelers will be more cautious than ever once they begin to travel again, and so will we at all our hotels in the Posadas portfolio. That is why we want to be proactive and transparent with all the measures being implemented to keep our guest and employees assured that every facet of our properties and operations have been addressed from guest services and amenities to operational procedures,” explains COO of Posadas, Enrique Calderon. “As we enter a new reality, we will be more than prepared to welcome guests in confidence.”

The following are the key areas that have been addressed at the hotels and resorts with new measures:

Cleaning standards have been greatly enhanced for every facet of the hotels and resorts. Posadas is collaborating with 3M for the use of its products, which are approved against SARS-CoV-2 by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in public spaces, restaurants, amenities, guestrooms, reception areas and others. Cleaning frequency will increase with most areas to be disinfected every three hours, and high-touch surfaces and high-frequented areas even more. All items entering the resorts will be disinfected, including guest suitcases and other deliveries. Antibacterial gel stations will be available in all public spaces and on each floor and will be given to each guest upon check-in as part of their Health Kit, which also includes face masks, disinfecting wipes and an informational card on the virus.

Housekeeping procedures have also been elevated, with extensive training currently taking place. Among the new procedures include no servicing while guests are in their rooms, and guests will now have the option to forgo services during their stay and alternatively receive items to maintain their room including additional trash bags, towels and sheets. Upon check-out, all rooms will be disinfected by a maintenance staff member using a fogging technique to kill all bacteria, followed by detailed housekeeping service. Once complete, the room will be visibly sealed with a sticker to certify the procedure took place using 3M products. When permitted, the hotel will wait 48 hours before allowing the next guest to use the guestroom.

Distancing measures are also being implemented. For example, plastic barriers at reception areas are currently being installed at all properties and signage will be placed throughout the resorts and on the floor as reminders of adequate distances between individuals. There will also be smaller limits for people allowed in certain areas, including at the restaurants, in elevators and fitness centers. Other measures underway include new furniture layouts for restaurants, pool and beach areas, lobbies and lounges that allow for six feet of distance between groups.

—The Food & Beverage offering across all hotels and resorts will be adjusted with changes including reduced capacities to 50 percent; replacement of menus for disposable ones; and the suspension of buffet-style layouts, which will be substituted with grab-and-go options. The process for room-service will also be adjusted whereas menus will only be available on the television; waiters will no longer enter the rooms for set-up, and guests will be required to leave the table outside their room when finished. All delivery items will be protected as always, and all room-service equipment will be properly sanitized before and after each use. Ice machines for guests will be disabled; guests may make a request for ice delivery at any time. All these new precautionary measures will also be applied in the preparation and handling of food in resort kitchens.

—Safety and sanitation protocols are also being applied in maintenance and operational areas, with the use of upgraded cleaning products and increased frequency. Vendors and suppliers will also be held to the same standards, and new procedures will be implemented such as contactless delivery, among others.

Additional measures include eliminating all unnecessary materials and décor throughout the resort and in guestrooms that may promote the transmission of COVID-19 such as magazines and newspapers, small decorative items, notebooks, pens, etc. Other preventative measures include the continued closures of spas until further notice.

Employees will use additional personal protective gear such as N95 face mask and disposable latex gloves, in addition to being required to wear pants, long sleeves and closed shoes at all times. Regular training on best practices are currently ongoing and elaborate signage will be placed throughout as reminders for activities such as proper handwashing, sneezing etiquette and proper disposal of protective gear. Employees will also be required to increase frequency of handwashing to up to every half hour, maintain distance with co-workers, refrain close greetings, among other actions to avoid illness. Staff temperatures will be continuously checked and those who have any symptoms of illness must remain home.

“We are pleased to report that these new cleanliness procedures are already successfully taking place at 16 hotels in key cities throughout Mexico where we are housing doctors so that they can attend patients at nearby hospitals,” added Calderon. “We’ve contributed 15,000 room nights to healthcare workers and are committed to assuring best practices are in place for them. As always, the health and wellbeing of our employees and visitors is always our top priority,” he added

All of Posadas’ properties are continuously evaluated by either the Distinctive H norms, given by the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Health of Mexico, and/or the Cristal International Standards norms, which reviews the quality and handling of food and beverage. Additionally, all hotels and resorts have access to a primary health doctor who can immediately assist for minor medical needs, while proper procedures and management for any potential COVID-19 cases with guests are also well-defined.

For the planning of these new safety and sanitation measures, the company consulted with both local and international resources such as the World Tourism Organization and is currently working with the American British Cowdray Medical Center for upcoming inspections. Posadas also served as a resource for the development of the World Travel & Tourism Council’s new guidelines “Leading Global Protocols for the New Normal.” The detailed outline of measures taking place at the Posadas’ properties can be found at www.posadas.com.

SOURCE: Grupo Posadas press release.

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After bumpy start more agencies able to tap Cares Act money

While many travel agencies still await funding to help them make it through the coronavirus crisis, the number of agencies that have actually received funding is increasing. At the same time, ASTA is working to ensure the agency community is well served with any future federal aid packages.

According to an ASTA survey administered from May 1 to 8, 64.8% of nearly 600 respondents had applied for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, and 56.2% had been approved, compared with 20.1% who had been approved as of April 20, in a previous survey. ASTA found 61.7% had applied for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), and 25.9% had been approved as of May 8, compared with 7.1% as of April 20. Seventy-six percent had applied for unemployment benefits in their state, and 33.4% had been approved, compared with 13.8% as of April 20.

“We’re trying to get to 100% on all those numbers, obviously, but it’s been encouraging that there has been some positive movement,” said Eben Peck, ASTA’s executive vice president of advocacy.

The PPP was introduced under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (Cares) Act, the $2 trillion federal relief package signed into law in late March. It also established that unemployment benefits are available for the self-employed. Additionally, the Cares Act set aside some $25 billion for airlines and “ticket agents,” or travel agencies, meant for the largest of agencies. (Peck said applications for those loans were due April 17 and that there has been little movement.) Agencies have also been able to apply for EIDL loans, which were available before the Cares Act, and for grants of up to $10,000 under that program.

Peck said he expects the number of agencies that receive funding to go up, especially those that have applied for the PPP and unemployment. 

The EIDL program has run out of funding and is not taking new applications, but the PPP benefited from an additional round of funding in April and still had about 40% of those monies as of last week. Many states were left scrambling to accept unemployment applications from the self-employed, but Peck said that the number of beneficiaries will likely improve.

Consortia member agencies have reported largely positive results with regard to funding.

Many of Signature Travel Network’s members applied for PPP funding, and more than 90% have received it, president and CEO Alex Sharpe said. Of those who have applied for EIDL funding, most have gotten the grant money, and just a handful have received a loan. Signature has turned its attention to fully understanding the forgivable portion of the loan in order to advise its members.

A number of Ensemble Travel Group agencies had not received any PPP or EIDL funds by late April, but CEO David Harris said that has turned around, which he called “encouraging.” But he said it’s still uncertain what agencies will do once they reach the end of the eight-week forgiveness period tied to the PPP.

Travel Leaders Network president Roger Block said the network — the “vast majority” of whom had received PPP funding — had similar concerns about the program.

Congress is mulling further relief. House Democrats introduced a $3 trillion relief bill on May 12, but it reportedly faces steep opposition from Republicans.

Meanwhile, ASTA continues to lobby for travel agency relief in whatever packages might be introduced. 

The Society’s asks include increasing funding for the PPP, extending it through Dec. 30, increasing loan forgiveness provisions to 12 weeks and increasing the loan terms to at least five years. ASTA is also asking for additional funding for ticket agent loans designed for the largest agencies.

With all industries vying for aid, Peck said, “It’s a challenging environment to get your voice heard, but we’re going to keep pushing.”

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Travel Advisors Eager to Lead the Way and Kickstart Travel With FAM Trips

Agents are ready to once again explore the world on fam trips, most notably to help jumpstart client interest in travel once the coronavirus is suppressed.

“Agents are going to lead the way by example in this recovery, so I think it will be important to begin fam trips as soon as possible,” said James Berglie of Be All Inclusive. “Personally, I’m ready to hop on a plane anytime—and yes, I would love to see suppliers open up fams right away, but I also realize they have challenges in being able to do so.”

Added James Ferguson of Travel Edge: “As ambassadors of travel, now more than ever, we can stimulate a return to travel with first-hand experiences and product endorsements—it’s more crucial than ever before.”

As much as agents would like to begin traveling again, they know that, at least for now, they’ll have to wait.

“I think that late summer, fall and this winter would be a great time for fam trips,” said Cal Cheney of Bucket List Travel and Tours, a member Nexion/Travel Leaders. “Advisors should have the time and money to reinvest in their craft. I had trips to Peru and Croatia canceled, so I have the time, money and desire to travel, [and] I assume other advisors do as well.”

Cheney said he plans to fly to Chicago on or around June 1 to visit friends and relatives. “And I plan on telling my clients that,” he said. “It is [a customer’s] personal decision [to travel], but if we show our clients that we are not afraid to travel, isn’t that a healthy thing?”

In Cheney’s view, fam trips are essential to the selling process. “There is no replacement for having been there,” he said. I have only been in this business two years, yet, having been to 35 countries and all 50 states at least twice has given me the confidence and credibility to help counsel others about great places to go.”

On the hotel front, resort fam trips are key in helping agents match clients to the properties that best suit their needs. “Being able to match the right customer to the right resort is crucial, so experiencing the resorts is very important. Each resort has its own unique personality—and it’s something you can’t really know unless you’ve experienced it,” Berglie said.

Claire Schoeder of Elevations Travel noted that she is very selective about the fams she travels on. “I select fams based on the company that is sponsoring it and how likely I am to sell that company’s product to my clients. Fams that stress a few properties over seeing four or so a day are much better for learning.”

Meanwhile, suppliers also believe that fam trips are essential to helping agents kick start travel while also familiarizing them with their products.

“We highly recommend agents visit the destinations personally, as it makes a lot of difference in selling these trips,” said Rajni Pandey, manager-international partnerships at Culture Holidays, whose destination offerings include India, Asia, the Middle East and Europe. “The goal of these fam trips is to help agents build destination knowledge to be more effective ‘sellers of travel.’ Attending a fam trip will help travel agents learn about the pros and cons of the destinations so that they can advise their clients accordingly.

“Secondly, fams help travel agents to get a better understanding of the tourism infrastructure in each destination. For example, they can have a better idea [of what] a five-star hotel looks like in a particular destination and how [it compares] to the standards in their country. It also gives agents the chance to build connections with their supplier, and will help them to know the services they are providing as well.”

Additionally, the Serenade Punta Cana Beach Spa & Casino Resort in the Dominican Republic, which is set to open in September, is taking a proactive approach to getting agents to visit the property.

In commemoration of National Travel Advisor Day on May 6, the 600-room, all-inclusive property unveiled travel advisor rates of $58 per person, double, per night for stays in Tropical Garden View rooms for travel from Nov. 1, 2020, through April 30, 2021.

“Celebrating travel advisors is especially important this year after what the travel industry has faced these last few months with the travel agents assisting their clients through all of this,” said Aimee Tejeda, the property’s director of sales and marketing, Serenade Punta Cana Beach, Spa and Casino Resort. “We will get through this together, and look forward to welcoming travel advisors to experience the resort once this passes.”

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Scenic Group says shipyard begins work on its second expedition ship

The Scenic Group said that construction on the Scenic Eclipse II has begun this week in Croatia with a steel-cutting ceremony for the second of five ships planned for the company’s oceangoing fleet.

Its sister ship, the 228-passenger Scenic Eclipse, launched in August as the first expedition vessel to have its own fleet of two helicopters as well as a submarine.

Scenic said that as of now “work is being done on a situational basis” and that there is no set delivery or launch date at this point.

MKM Yachts, a new company wholly owned by the Scenic Group, is now in charge of construction of all of its ocean ships. The Scenic Eclipse was delayed more than a year due to multiple issues at Croatia’s Uljanik shipyard, including worker strikes, financial malfeasance, management turnover and frozen bank accounts, Scenic said. Last year, Scenic invested in Uljanik to help complete the ship. MKM Yachts said that under an agreement with the Croatian government it will operate its shipbuilding in a dedicated section of the existing Maj 3 Shipyard in Rijeka. 

Scenic has two other ships under construction: Emerald Waterways’ first ocean ship, the Emerald Azzurra, and the Emerald Luna, a river vessel. 

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Disney Springs Orlando Walt Disney World to reopen May 20

Following the announcement of the May 11 opening of Shanghai Disneyland, Disney announced the phased reopening of its dining and shopping district Disney Springs in Orlando. One analyst said it might be a signal that the domestic parks could open in July or earlier.

Disney this week said Disney Springs at the Walt Disney World Resort will begin its phased reopening on May 20. It will include a “limited number” of dining and shopping experiences.

The company will employ increased cleaning procedures there, and require employees and guests to wear masks. Employees will also undergo additional safety training, and guest-employee contact will be limited. Capacity, parking and operating hours will be limited.

J.P. Morgan managing director Alexia Quadrani viewed the news of both openings as positive.

In a note to investors, Quadrani noted that Shanghai Disney Resort opened on a limited basis for shopping and dining on March 9.

“If we apply the same timeline for Walt Disney World, the theme parks could reopen around July 20, although we believe there could be a shorter timeline for domestic theme parks as Disney will have had more time in preparing for an accommodated opening and extensive experience from reopening Shanghai Disneyland,” the note said.

MoffettNathanson senior research analyst Michael Nathanson said there isn’t a question that people will want to return to Disney’s theme parks, but the debate comes with regard to how long of a downturn the pandemic will cause.

He also warned that history suggests revenue tends to lag after major incidents, which “means that we have to wait awhile to return to some normalization of financial metrics.”

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