Hotel hacks to give your home a holiday feel

Hotel hacks to give your home a holiday feel: Staff from luxury lodges and etiquette guru William Hanson reveal all, from making a 5-star bed to setting the table in fine-dining style

  • Tips from The Landmark London, Milestone Hotel in Kensington and The Lowry in Manchester feature
  • Find out the distance cutlery is placed from the bottom of a table that’s set to five-star hotel standards 
  • A hotel designer picked up a tip for creating a heavenly scent from a Native American cleansing ceremony
  • Want a bed fit for an executive suite? Then you’ll need to adopt the ‘triple-sheeting technique’ 

Since we can’t go on holiday – here’s how to bring a bit of holiday into your home.

MailOnline Travel asked staff members from some of Britain’s poshest hotels – including The Landmark London and The Lowry in Manchester, as well as a designer and etiquette expert William Hanson – for advice on adding five-star-hotel touches to your house.

From setting the table in fine-dining style to making your bed fit for an executive suite and from giving your rooms a heavenly scent to tweaking the lighting for a glorious glow, we reveal the lowdown for a luxurious lockdown.

The bedroom

Think you’ve got the bed-making-technique down? Then enter’s bed-making challenge using the hashtag #HotelBedChallenge and tag @hotelsdotcom

Want to tuck yourself into a hotel-style bed? Here’s the dream advice.

Sandor Varga, Assistant Director of Accommodations at The Landmark London, said: ‘Adopt the triple-sheeting technique. By layering a duvet between two sheets it will give a crisp feel and eliminates the need for a duvet cover. And create what we call a “hospitality corner” by tucking sheets neatly underneath the mattress using overlapping folds. It is kind of like wrapping a present.’

Tzveta Ivanova, Executive Housekeeper at the five-star Milestone Hotel & Residences in Kensington is The Cateys’ 2019 Housekeeper of the Year.

She added: ‘Pop some extra pillows and cushions onto your bed and stack them upright rather than laying them flat. Fold a quilt or blanket over the foot of your bed to create layers and add texture. Some carefully positioned, artful objects or beautiful looking books on your nightstand will complete the look.

For a posh hotel-style bed, Sandor Varga, Assistant Director of Accommodations at The Landmark London (pictured), said: ‘Adopt the triple-sheeting technique. By layering a duvet between two sheets it will give a crisp feel and eliminates the need for a duvet cover’

‘We always like to spoil our guests with thoughtful little surprises in their rooms, and turndown treats. You can do something similar at home by baking some fresh cookies, putting them into a pretty box and enjoying one when you have a cup of tea. They will smell delicious as they’re cooking, which will instantly make your home extra-heavenly.’

Varga also suggested using pillow mist before getting into bed ‘to dream better’. Lavender and chamomile are well known for their relaxing benefits, she revealed.

And flowers will lend an air of posh, too.

Varga said: ‘The power of fresh-cut flowers is real, their smell is healing and comforting in a bedroom. Use seasonal flowers with a gentle smell matching the colour palette of the room.’

Finally, keep your bedroom five-star-hotel clean by using, said Varga, ‘a slightly perfumed water-based furniture polish’.

She said: ‘Lightly wipe with a duster, it will bring out the shine and resist the dust. Your bedroom will be clean and shining with a pleasant perfume.’

Think you’ve got the bed-making-technique down? Then enter’s bed-making challenge using the hashtag #HotelBedChallenge and tag @hotelsdotcom.

A fine-dining-style table setting

Give your mealtimes a Michelin-star makeover – by setting the table fine-dining style.

Jason Orton, Director of Guest Services at the five-star Lowry Hotel in Manchester, reveals how to lay it all out.

Set a charger plate

Give your mealtimes a Michelin-star makeover – heed the advice of Jason Orton, Director of Guest Services at the five-star Lowry Hotel in Manchester

Jason said: ‘There are many facets of the charger plate. While mainly used for presentation purposes, having the charger plate set on the table starts the setting for the meal ahead. Usually larger than a dinner plate, the charger is placed on the table pre-guest-arrival [obviously you’ll need to imagine them]. 

‘This can either be removed after the guest has sat down and napkins have been broken or can be left until after mains have been served. A charger plate would never be left on the table by dessert as it is regarded as bad etiquette, as is using them for eating purposes. 

‘The charger was initially used to catch pieces of food and prevent spills onto the tablecloth. Some say it aids in keeping the food warm as it helps retain heat for the dinnerware.’


This is a table set to Lowry standards – note how the main plate can be placed without having to move the cutlery

‘This needs to be perfectly polished and placed well,’ says Jason. ‘All cutlery on the table should be a thumbnail from the bottom of the table. Tip – place your main plate on the table while setting so you know how much space to leave for this. Cutlery should never have to be moved to place a plate down. It should be in the right place from setting stage. Some people find what cutlery to use at what course bewildering. 

‘The golden rule is to work from the outside in and for me a good restaurant should replace the cutlery fresh to the table after each course. Dessert cutlery if set on the table should be fork on the bottom facing right and spoon above facing left. When you’re ready for dessert and the table has been crumbed the dessert cutlery should be pulled down to a thumbnail from the bottom of the table.’


Jason said: ‘Never under-estimate how important this is as each piece of crockery should really present a frame for the food you present. Obviously, crockery should either match perfectly – or be eccentrically mismatched to create a theme – polished and with no visible fingerprints. Tip – warm water and a little vinegar is a good tool to polish plates.’


Jason said: ‘Crystal clear glasses that are odourless are so important. After the glasses have been washed fill a bowl or ice bucket with boiling water and use the steam and a polishing cloth to achieve the perfect shine. 

Jason said: ‘Crystal clear glasses that are odourless are so important.’ He recommends using steam to polish them

Etiquette expert William Hanson

‘Many different opinions on placement can be found but for me the rules are – usually three per guest, the stem of the white wine glass (the smaller one) should be in line with the main knife, the water glass should be to the right and slightly lower and the red to the right and slightly higher. Tip – if glasses are not being used during the meal make sure you remove them.’


As few folds as possible is the key, apparently.

Jason said: ‘For me, a five-star napkin has as few folds as possible to ensure the napkin is as fresh as it can be for the guest. I also prefer a fold where it’s easy to grab a corner to open the napkin, so placement is slick and fluid.’

Table centrepieces

‘Your choice of centrepiece can really finish the setting,’ said Jason. ‘Fresh flowers are always best and candles help make the atmosphere more appealing. Rules for this should be to keep your centres around glass height so that you are able to see your guests across the tables. If taller ones are being used make sure it does not impede sightlines.’

Etiquette expert William Hanson added: ‘Arriving to any table – in a hotel, restaurant or house – that has been set correctly and where the accoutrements gleam always ensures the food and drink that follows will taste even better. A dirty, muddled table doesn’t inspire confidence in the cook.

‘And there are indeed many different ways to set glasses on a table. How hotels and restaurants will do it will differ from private houses as in a private home the guests don’t choose what they are eating or drinking and so it is easier all round. In private houses glasses are placed in order of use (with the glass used first closest to the diner). The glass to be used for the main course should be placed directly above the knife.

‘Flowers used for centrepieces should be fairly fragrance-free, so their smell does not conflict with the aromas of the food or wine.’

General – from sage scents to enticing colour palettes

Henry Chebaane, designer for the Gyle Hotel in Kings Cross (pictured), suggests burning sage for a heavenly scent

Henry Chebaane, designer for the newly opened Gyle Hotel in London’s Kings Cross has some general pointers to make your house a bit more five-star-hotel-like.

He said: ‘Lighting can enhance any home immediately. Avoid using ceiling lights and favour instead floor, table and wall lights – they create a more flattering glow and some dramatic shadows.

‘Two or more indirect light sources combined will give a richer, warmer feel. Dimmable switches are an effective low-cost mood-enhancing tool. They can often be retro-fitted on the electrical lead for very little. Or use the lowest wattage bulb you can bear as this will automatically give you a cosier, softer atmosphere.

Votive candles, meanwhile, are a natural mood enhancer and their effect can be optimised by placing the candle on or into a reflective surface – glass, mirror, metal – as this will create a local specular effect around the space.

‘The sense of smell is the next element that one could explore.

‘We often hear about the proverbial smell of coffee or fresh bread… but really, these clichés are actually not that practical.

Follow our experts’ tips and you could make your home just a little bit like the magnificent Landmark London (pictured)

‘A tip I picked up from Native American cultures (they use it in cleansing ceremonies) is to roll a bunch of fresh sage, tie it into a bundle and let it dry. It can store almost forever. Whenever you feel like it, you light the end of the sage bundle (off a candle for example) and blow the flame out. The ash will diffuse a soothing botanical scent that you can waft around the room. It’s economical as just a few seconds will do and the aroma will linger for the day or longer.

‘Then edit your soft furnishings a bit. Often, you don’t need to buy anything new to elevate the experience of your own home.

‘For example, try to limit your dominant colour palette to three (in as many tones/patterns as you want) in one area of the room. This will make your furnishing immediately feel richer.

‘Once the colours are sorted, try different arrangements of your furniture and accessories to create neutral spaces around objects: between pieces, on shelves, on walls. This allows your eyes to reset between each item you look at during the day. In turn, this will help you appreciate the textures and proportions of your surroundings with more intensity.

‘Even in a busy home with children it is possible to make it feel like your own sanctuary. With a bit of planning, you can make a good meal from modest ingredients… the same goes with your home interiors.’ 

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Costa del Sol chiefs urge Spanish government to allow Britons with holiday homes to return

Hundreds of thousands of Britons have “locked down” holiday homes on both the Spanish mainland, Canaries and Balearic islands and tourism chiefs are calling for them to be allowed to return as soon as possible. They want the Spanish Government to help speed up the processes so that hard-pressed owners can use them again either for short or long-term stays.


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They say this will be key to unlocking the tourism stalemate caused by the coronavirus pandemic and revitalise local economies, including the bars and restaurants which will be allowed to open half of their terraces from May 11th and half of the interiors at the start of June.

Many business owners say they are not going to bother as it will not be cost-effective if the only customers they have are local or national.

It’s estimated that around one million Brits have holiday homes in Spain.

Many bought them as an investment during the boom times but now face mortgage repayments and community fees/rates even though they can neither use them or rent them out to families or friends.

The plea to unlock holiday homes is being led by the Costa del Sol where many UK families have apartments or villas, including in the hotspots of Marbella and Malaga.

At the moment, the travel ban is stopping them going to Spain, with no indication as to when the restrictions will be lifted. Many believe it will not be until the autumn at least.

The Costa del Sol plea coincides with a report which shows the arrival of foreign tourists plunged 64.3 percent in March due to the crisis, with only two million international tourists arriving before flights were hit and lock down measures enforced.

It also meant they spent 2,215 million euros, 63.3 percent less than in the same month of 2019. The main source markets for tourists arriving in Spain in March were the United Kingdom, Germany and France.

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The Costa del Sol says letting foreign owners return to their holiday homes would be the best promotion the tourist hotspot could have during the coronavirus de-escalation period.

Business owners, from restaurants to bars and from rent-a-cars to taxis, say they are suffering so much that they are likely to go out of business before the British market returns.

Tourism of Costa del Sol has told Spanish newspapers that foreign owners are their backbone and they should be allowed to return as soon as possible once all the health and safety guarantees were in place.

Andalusia’s government says it understands the concerns but has its “hands tied” by Spain’s coronavirus regulations and the continued lockdown at the airports and ports.


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Earlier this week, the FCO issued an update to Britons hoping to travel to Spain.

“On April 28, the Spanish government announced a four-stage de-escalation plan to gradually ease the current confinement and mobility measures over an estimated period of at least eight weeks,” said the FCO.

The government continued: “As from May 4, Phase 0 of the de-escalation plan will allow for individuals to do exercise outdoors and for members of the same household to take a walk together outside.

“Urban and inter-regional transport services (i.e. coaches and trains) are operating at reduced levels.

“Travel to airports by road or rail to leave Spain is still permitted, but travellers may be asked to provide evidence that they are departing Spain (i.e. plane ticket).”

“Public gatherings are banned, most shops other than those selling food or other essential items such as pharmacies will be closed, many businesses and all schools and universities are closed, and all citizens have been instructed to remain at home except when going about a limited set of activities,” explained the FCO.

So how will the de-escalation measures be rolled out?

“While no specific dates have been attributed to each phase, it is estimated that each one will last for an initial period of two weeks from May 4,” clarified the FCO.

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Disney's Shanghai theme park to reopen May 11 with precautions; what about US parks?

The Walt Disney Company didn’t offer any new estimate Tuesday as to when it will reopen its U.S. theme parks, but it outlined how its park in Shanghai will be first worldwide park to welcome guests again.

a group of people standing in front of a tall building: It remains uncertain when Disney World and Disneyland will reopen but doing so would likely involve operating at lower capacity, taking employees' temperatures and frequent cleaning of railings and surfaces.

In issuing its financial results for the quarter that ended March 28, Disney showed the degree in which the closures are socking its bottom line. Theme parks took a $1 billion hit on operating income over the past three months.

“Like so many other companies and industries, the pandemic has hit us hard,” said Executive Chairman Bob Iger, adding, “I have absolute confidence in our ability to get through this challenging period and recover successfully.”

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The company’s other theme parks in France, Japan and China are also shuttered, though CEO Bob Chapek said Shanghai Disneyland will reopen May 11 with social distancing, masks, temperature scans and other precautions. That head start may provide a blueprint as to how to reopen safely while preserving the fun.

In remarks to analysts, reporters and shareholders, Chapek said that guests and workers at Shanghai will both wear masks when that park reopens. However, characters won’t, so they will need to keep their distance and won’t be dispensing hugs for a while.

He said Shanghai Disneyland has a capacity limit of 80,000 but that the Chinese government is restricting it to 30%, or 24,000. “We are going to open up far below that to have our training wheels on,” he said. In a few weeks, he said the park will ramp up to the new limit.

In order to ensure the park stays below capacity, he said tickets will be good only on a particular day – but he added that he’s not sure the same policy will be in effect when the U.S. parks eventually reopen.

The company’s chief medical officer, Dr. Pamela Hymel called the Shanghai reopening plans “an encouraging sign for Disney parks and retail locations all over the world” and noted in a Tuesday blog post that she’s been working closely with the U.S. Travel Association on a set of guidelines.

She outlined some of the tactics being explored for Walt Disney World and Disneyland, including a phased reopening that calls for opening the retail and dining locations before the parks themselves, as Shanghai has done.

Hymel also warned that the parks will likely have to implement guest capacity measures to comply with state and federal guidelines and noted that they are looking at ways to use the Play Disney Parks app and virtual queues to do so.

The parks have already added hand sanitizing and washing stations during their closures, she said. But upon reopening, they will step up their cleaning and disinfection and employee health and safety training.

Chapek had bad news for Disney Cruise Line fans: “That will probably be the last of our travel-oriented businesses to come back online,” he said on the earnings call.

But Chapek also said that he expects Disney’s cruise business to come back strong, noting the loyalty of cruise enthusiasts. “They trust our business to act in a responsible way…to protect them against some of the woes that have plagued the industry,” he said.

Disney’s bleak financial results –  a 91% decrease in net income from continuing operations during the previous quarter – come as analysts’ have issued expectations of a protracted theme-park shutdown, perhaps made worse by any resurgence of COVID-19 as states reopen.

Some don’t expect the parks to reopen until 2021, including John Hodulik, managing director of investment research for global financial firm UBS, in a report to investors last month. 

“We believe parks’ profitability will be impaired for a longer period of time given the lingering effects of the outbreak and now assume an opening date of Jan. 1 as our base case,” Hodulik wrote. 

Though Disney’s devotees are itching to get back to the parks, the company is even more anxious to be able to safely reopen.But there seems to be little question about pent-up demand among consumers for vacations and escapism from the current coronavirus myopia.

Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly, in revealing last week that the carrier filled only 6% of the seats on its aircraft in April, cited Disney World as the kind of destination that could be key to a leisure travel revival.

“They need to have something to be able to do when they get there. So Disney World needs to open back up. Restaurants need to open back up,” Kelly said.

United Airlines President Scott Kirby, in a call with investors Friday, also pointed to the famed theme parks in saying the travel business won’t pick up until destinations like them are open again.

“Taking my kids to Disneyland is something I do every year, and I love it…but Disneyland needs to be open.”

Contributing: David Oliver, Dawn Gilbertson

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Flights: New holiday routes for summer despite lockdown, but is it safe to book travel?

Despite the UK’s continued lockdown measures showing little sign of budging dramatically in the coming weeks, budget-airline Wizz Air has given a positive nod towards the future of air travel. The low-cost carrier has unveiled six new routes to a variety of holiday destinations from the UK starting as early as mid-July.


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While the launch of new destination options might be a good sign for some holidaymakers, others might be questioning whether this is the responsible thing to do given the current climate.

However, Wizz Air remains certain that the new health and hygiene measures currently in place are more than enough to protect both passengers and crew from spreading the deadly virus.

Starting on June 16, Britons could find themselves jetting off to vacation favourites including Faro in Portugal, Zakynthos, Corfu, Rhodes and Heraklion in Greece, and Marrakesh in Morocco.

Portugal will be the first of the routes to launch, at a purse-friendly price of just £25.99 for a one-way ticket.

Meanwhile, routes to Greece will span July, ranging between £29.99 and £35.00 for a ticket, and finally, the Morocco flight will depart in October, costing £35.99 for a seat.

These low-cost tickets might be irresistible to many who are now faced with more stringent holiday budgets and come at a time when flight options are running low.

While others airlines have grounded huge swathes of their fleet, and fight for life support amid the crisis, Wizz Air has been working to implement new measures which will change the way passengers experience travel, but ultimately provide a level of protection never trialled before on an airline.

Bosses remain confident that these new protocols will be enough to ensure travel is a possibility.

As part of these new protocols, throughout the flight, both cabin crew and passengers are required to wear face masks, with cabin crew also required to wear gloves.

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Upon boarding, passengers will be handed individual disinfecting wipes for use in the area surrounding their seat, inflight magazines have been removed from seat pockets, and passengers are advised to make all onboard payments contactlessly.

Wizz Air UK’s aircraft are now also put through a rigorous cleaning regime after every flight, and further disinfected overnight.

Prior to boarding, passengers are also asked to check-in online and make any additional purchases, such as seat upgrades, priority boarding or checked luggage, online to ensure social distancing.

The airline recently released a new safety video, which will explain all of these new rules to passengers.


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Owain Jones, Managing Director of Wizz Air UK, said: “Although travel is currently restricted by government regulations, we are planning for the easing of restrictions as the situation improves and our customers are able to start travelling again.

“The Wizz team is excited that our network from London Luton will continue to grow to include many new summer and winter sun destinations and our new sanitising protocols will give our customers the confidence that they can safely rely on Wizz Air’s ultra-low-cost fares to visit these new and exciting destinations on-board Europe’s greenest fleet.

“As always, our primary concern is the health, safety and well-being of our passengers and crew, and our enhanced protective measures will ensure the most sanitary conditions possible.”

The new routes come just one week after the airline resumed services from London’s Luton airport, landing it’s first flight on Tuesday morning filled with over 100 passengers.

Despite this, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office continues to advise Britons against all but essential travel for an “indefinite” period of time, causing concern for many.

Editor of Jetforce, Jill Starley-Grainger, told BBC Radio 5 it could be as late as 2022 before holidays return back to normal.

Ms Starley-Grainger said: “Number one, lots of people will have lost their jobs and a lot of money.

“They are not going to be able to afford to take the holidays.

“Number two, a lot of people will still be nervous.

“Until a vaccine is brought in or something really important happens people will still be nervous.”

She continued: “In my opinion, it is going to be the end of 2021 or 2022 at the earliest.

“It largely depends on a vaccine and if people have jobs.

“Those are the two major factors.”

Travellers with holiday plans in the late summer remain in a state of limbo as to whether these plans will go ahead.

However, industry experts urge Britons to hold onto their bookings and avoid cancelling as this could result in financial losses.

Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis: “If you can’t cancel for free and you will lose all your money, don’t cancel.”

“Then leave it and if you can’t go hope that by that time the Foreign Office has said you can’t go so your travel insurance will be impacted.”

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Flights: Travel expert warns airline travel won’t get back to normal until 2022

The editor of Jetforce told BBC Radio 5 there are two key factors that will affect the willingness of people to go on holiday. Ms Starley-Grainger outlined people’s ability to afford a holiday and the level of nervousness surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak will be crucial factors for consumers thinking about going on holiday following the pandemic. 

Ms Starley-Grainger said: “Number one, lots of people will have lost their jobs and a lot of money.

“They are not going to be able to afford to take the holidays.

“Number two, a lot of people will still be nervous.

“Until a vaccine is brought in or something really important happens people will still be nervous.”

Mr Livesey asked: “How long do you estimate it will be until air travel gets back to pre-pandemic levels?”

Ms Starley-Grainge replied: “In my opinion, it is going to be the end of 2021 or 2022 at the earliest.

“It largely depends on a vaccine and if people have jobs.

“Those are the two major factors.”

Worldwide there have been more than 3,600,000 COVID-19 cases at the time of writing. 

The death toll has reached more than 250,000.

More than 1,200,000 people have recovered from the coronavirus across the globe.

The United States has the highest amount of COVID-19 cases in the world with more than 1,200,000 confirmed cases.

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At the time of writing, Britain has the fourth-highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world and the second-highest death toll.

The UK has more than 194,000 cases in total. 

The death toll in Britain is currently higher than 29,000 people. 

A total of 693 deaths as a result of coronavirus have been recorded in the UK over the past 24 hours.

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Can flying ever be made safe in the era of coronavirus?

Pictures on social media showing passengers crammed on board an Aer Lingus flight from Belfast City airport to London Heathrow have raised concerns about social distancing on planes during the coronavirus pandemic.

The incident highlights the problem with re-starting aviation, known as “Project Lift-off”.

These are the key issues.

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What went wrong with the Aer Lingus flight?

Brian Ambrose, the chief executive of George Best Belfast City airport, told Stephen Nolan on BBC Radio Ulster: “For the month of April the average load was 20 per cent, growing to 30 per cent.”

At such levels there are relatively few problems at either the airport or on board the plane. But the construction industry in London has increased activity sharply since the start of May, and the load on the flight – 154 passengers on a 174-seat aircraft, or 89 per cent – was sharply increased, to the surprise of Aer Lingus and the airport.

An airline spokesperson said: “Aer Lingus is reviewing its processes and procedures applicable to the operation of this service.

”The safety and security of Aer Lingus’ customers and crew is our top priority and any process changes that are identified as being required will be implemented as a matter of urgency.“

What can airports and airlines do to minimise the risk of transmission of coronavirus?

Not much. Passenger aviation and social distancing are fundamentally incompatible.

Airports are constructed to process large numbers of passengers in a relatively small space, with a number of “pinch points” built in: at check-in, going through the security search area, at the departure gate and boarding the aircraft.

Airlines deliver reasonable fares by cramming in as many people as safely possible into a confined space and leaving them there for at least an hour.

The reality is that, as Project Lift-off gets under way, many people will see photographs and decide, “I simply don’t want anything to do with flying right now, thank you”. At a time when the public is being told not to visit friends and family, and restaurants are closed, they find it incomprehensible that people are mingling with strangers in extremely close proximity.

Others will judge that, while flying can never be entirely safe, they are prepared to accept a small amount of risk in return for the benefits  provided by air travel: enabling urgent family visits, making essential work trips possible, or, in time, to go on holiday.

More widely, millions of jobs rely on aviation – either directly or through the tourism that flying creates and the business generates.

This debate is at the heart of the blunt reality that re-starting the economy is at odds with limiting the spread of Covid-19.

A balance must be struck on the human cost – between the short-term harm that will inevitably come from greater interaction, and the longer-term damage caused by economic decline.

For people who must travel, what precautions are in place?

Airlines and airports are extremely keen to reassure passengers that flying is low risk. In the absence of a common international standard, different parts of the aviation industry are responding with their own strategies.

Air Canada has just announced the most comprehensive range of measures of any airline. Passengers are not allowed to travel without submitting to a temperature check. They must also wear face coverings while passing through the airport and on board. And no one in economy class will be seated immediately adjacent to another traveller, at least until 30 June.

Do these measures work?

“The new programme is designed to reduce the risk of exposure to Covid-19,” Air Canada said in a statement. But that is not necessarily supported by international medical expertise. Starting with checks for high temperatures at airports, either on departure or arrival: “Temperature screening alone, at exit or entry, is not an effective way to stop international spread.”

That is the view of the World Health Organisation (WHO), which explains: “Infected individuals may be in incubation period, may not express apparent symptoms early on in the course of the disease, or may dissimulate fever through the use of antipyretics.

“Such measures require substantial investments for what may bear little benefits.”

Instead, says WHO, collect health declarations at arrival, with travellers’ contact details, so medical officials can perform contact tracing of incoming travellers.

What about face masks?

Public Health England says: “There’s very little evidence of widespread benefit from their use outside of clinical settings”.

World Health Organisation warns they can create a “false sense of security, leading to potentially less adherence to other preventive measures such as physical distancing and hand hygiene”.

And on BBC Breakfast on 5 May, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “The evidence around the use of face coverings in amongst the general population is weak.

“We constantly keep that under review and if there are changes that we need to make to the guidance then we will make those changes. But for now there is no change to the guidance.”

What about keeping the middle seat empty?

Statistically, shrinking the number of passengers on an Airbus A320 from 174 to 116 cuts the risk, simply because it reduces the possible carriers of Covid-19. But in terms of social distancing, it has little effect; typically it will increase the space between passengers from 50cm to 1 metre. One airline chief executive says the way that air circulates on an aircraft means extra space is unlikely to make much difference – and that the high-efficiency filters deployed on planes eliminate the risk from most pathogens.

So why are these measures coming in?

To try to boost confidence. Airlines and airports recognise that there is enormous concern about flying in the time of coronavirus. They believe these steps will reassure anxious passengers, and are pressing for global agreement – in much the same way that internationally agreed standards are applied to aviation security.

What more can be done?

Many practical steps are happening in the background. Deeper cleaning at airports and on planes can certainly reduce risks. Procedures at the security checkpoint – in normal times, the occasion when normal people come into closest contact with complete strangers – are being smartened.

But the biggest steps that travellers, and aviation staff, can take are simple: keep washing their hands assiduously, and if they are feeling remotely symptomatic, don’t show up.

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Some safe travel havens in the summer of coronavirus

We are on the brink of what, traditionally, has been the summer vacation season. Yet, many of us have canceled or put our plans on hold. If you are inclined to travel, here are five ideas to consider:

a bus parked in front of a tree: An RV pulls into Black Bart's RV Park on March 29, 2020, in Flagstaff, Ariz. The RV park is remaining open during the pandemic.

1. Take a road trip.

Some experts are calling this the “year of the car,” a time frame during which we will forgo international travel and “See America First.” With gas prices in the affordable range, consider exploring a National Scenic Byway or an historic route. Roll past beaches and harbors, cruise through valleys and canyons or amid jagged peaks and tall trees. Whether you take a day trip or craft a longer journey, plan ahead to make sure your chosen route is accessible, your vehicle is properly tuned and you have plenty of snacks, water and other safety items on board.


2. Go camping.

There is nothing like a heaping dose of the natural world to ease anxiety and to restore our spirit. Research your options, considering nearby state or regional parks or other backcountry destinations. Websites like Hipcamp and The Dyrt can help you find campsites in private campgrounds and on private land, making it easier to maintain social distancing. If you are concerned about the youngest members of your clan, consider a practice round in the backyard or nearby park. That way, if the weather or unforeseen forces create a kink in your plans, warm and dry shelter is nearby.


3. Cabins, yurts, or small inns and hotels.

If your goal is to limit interaction with crowds, yet explore a new destination, consider cabins or small lodging options where you’ll have the most control over your environment. On-site cooking facilities eliminate the need to find restaurants that meet your own spacing and safety requirements. Look for accommodations with access to wide open spaces and enjoy time with your family in a new setting where bike riding, hiking, star-gazing or fishing might be possible.

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    Guest rooms should be removed from service for this reason
    With some states relaxing shelter-in-place measures, soon enough, people may soon have to begin traveling for work or other purposes.

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    A tour of Rome by bike as the city begins to open up
    The CBC's Megan Williams reports from Rome while riding her bike on the day millions of Italians go back to work. Logo

  • a room filled with luggage: An empty delta ticket counter is shown at Salt Lake City International Airport Tuesday, April 7, 2020, in Salt Lake City. Airlines are suffering significantly as governments around the world urge people to stay at home to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The number of travelers screened last Thursday at U.S. airports was down 95% from the same day last year. Airlines such as Delta, American, United, Southwest and JetBlue have said they are applying for their share of $25 billion in federal grants designed to cover airline payrolls for the next six months. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

    Is this the end of cheap air travel?
    Alexandre de Juniac of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) says the coronavirus pandemic will end the days of cheap flights.

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Covid 19 Coronavirus: Should Fiji and Vanuatu join NZ’s tourism bubble?

The island groups, largely untouched by covid-19, want and need Kiwis to return, writes Stephanie Holmes

While we’ve been fighting Covid-19 at home in New Zealand, the impact on our own tourism industry has played heavy on our minds. But what about other countries around the world whose economies rely heavily on travel and tourism?

We’ve talked to some industry experts to get an insight into how coronavirus has affected popular destinations for Kiwi tourists. This week, we look at our Pacific Island neighbours, Fiji and Vanuatu.


“Tourism is one of the most important economic drivers for Fiji, making up nearly 40 per cent of the nation’s GDP,” says Tourism Fiji CEO Matthew Stoeckel, who also notes an estimated one-third of job opportunities are in some way related to tourism.

In 2019, visitor numbers outstripped population — with more than 894,000 inbound tourists, compared to around 880,000 residents.

Kiwis have always been a huge contributor to the tourism industry, Stoeckel says. “New Zealand makes up 23 per cent of total inbound visitor arrivals.” Last year, Fiji was the third most popular destination in the world for Kiwi travellers, behind only Australia and America.

Thanks to early border closures, Fiji has seen effective containment of the spread of the virus. As at April 30, there were only 18 recorded cases — 12 of which had recovered — and no deaths.

However, international travel restrictions in response to the virus have resulted in essentially a temporary shutdown of the international tourism industry.
Stoeckel says the industry is coming together to focus on the future.

“Fiji is world-renowned for its ‘Bula Spirit’,” he says. “The tourism industry is working together to turn things around wherever they can, including supporting local communities. For example, Ecotrax is using their electric bicycles to deliver essential goods to remote villages and The Pearl Hotel is providing accommodation to essential service workers who need to remain isolated from their family.”

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Alexandra Shulman explores Antwerp – a mecca for the fashionista

I’ve got designs on Antwerp… Former Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman explains why the Belgian city is a mecca for fashion, shopping – and chips with mayonnaise

  • Alexandra Schulman headed to Antwerp, which is famous for fashion design   
  • The city is a ‘mecca for vintage’ – Labels Inc is one of the best stores for bargains  
  • Fashion museum MoMu is a must-visit when it reopens next year after renovation

Just so you know where I’m coming from, I think a great city is one that contains a Dries van Noten store, with the Belgian designer’s trademark daffodil yellow silk wallpaper, sumptuous upholstery and clothes that everyone of all shapes and ages can wear, if not afford. Antwerp is such a place.

Dries van Noten is among the huge fashion talents that helped give Antwerp a reputation as one of the most intriguing cities in northern Europe, particularly if you are interested in fashion and design.

He was a graduate of the city’s exceptional Royal Academy of Fine Arts, alongside a small group of distinguished contemporaries that included Ann DeMeulemeester and Martin Margiela. Known as the Antwerp Six, they became as influential on the 1980s fashion scene as Italians such as Giorgio Armani and Gianni Versace, similarly stamping out their particular aesthetic.

Cobbled charm: Open-air cafes along one of Antwerp’s elegant streets

Antwerp is further proof that if you want to seek out a city with an exciting creative scene, look for one with a great art school.

The famous fashion museum MoMu, which is also a big part of the city’s fashion heritage, is being renovated but is a must-visit for anyone interested in clothes when it reopens next year.

Thirty years after the Antwerp Six came of age, the city has become a most delicious short-break destination.

It is small enough to explore easily, but rich in discoveries. Many of the chief historical sites, such as the Rubenshuis, the beautiful home of the artist Sir Peter Paul Rubens – where I learnt that he slept sitting up, hence his curious, small bed – are in the centre of town, near the best shopping streets for contemporary and vintage fashion.

Although you can find every high-street fashion name around Meir, the city’s main shopping street, Antwerp is also home to many small, unique shops and concept stores where you will stumble across Belgian designers as well as international names.

The Belgium school of fashion has a reputation for an androgynous, dark style, but nowadays the shop windows are filled with colour and pattern. The knitwear is particularly tempting.

If you visit only one shop, make it Graanmarkt 13, set in a tree- lined square near the Rubenshuis. There’s a mix of homeware, clothes, bathing products and general knick-knacks, with almost everything new to me.

A typical art nouveau building on the stylish Cogels Osylei

Clothes included home-town mother-and-daughter brand Bernadette, with its range of printed silk dresses and shirts, minimalist designer Sofie D’Hoore, who specialises in sumptuous neutral-toned outfits, and pieces by Christian Wijnants, one of the country’s most successful fashion names.

But it was the small and relatively inexpensive items that were irresistible – beautiful blocks of Japanese notepaper, weighty and chic glass tumblers, woven Guatemalen rugs and delicious soaps and oils.

I wasn’t there to browse the diamond shops, of which there are said to be about 1,500, but there were plenty of other treasures to find – Antwerp is a vintage mecca.

Labels Inc, one of the best stores, is on the unprepossessing Nationalestraat which houses many good boutiques. There you will find second-hand bargains from Dries and Margiela, and other desirable brands such as Loewe, and Comme des Garcons. Just leave enough time to really rifle through.

While the city is famous for fashion design, there is also an exceptional range of furniture and lighting, both old and new, to be found. Head to Kloosterstraat to find stores selling high-end, mid-century antiques as well as more idiosyncratic and cheaper pieces. Such is the variety that you will wish you were returning home with a trailer, rather than on Eurostar as I was.

Antwerp’s range of architecture is fascinating. Among the impressive merchant buildings of the Het Zuid district, near the industrial riverside, you will find FOMU, a huge photography museum sited in an old warehouse that hosts innovative and original exhibitions as well as a permanent collection.

Home ground: For a huge range of furniture stores – selling new and antique items – head to Kloosterstraat


When restrictions are lifted, Eurostar to Antwerp, via Brussels, takes about three hours from London St Pancras, with single fares from £44.50.  Visit

We visited in winter and were enchanted by the carmine sunsets over the Scheldt river where, during warmer months, there are great open-air eating spots.

In contrast, Cogels Osylei, in the Zurenborg quarter, regarded by some as the most elegant street in Antwerp, contains extraordinary art nouveau buildings with the kind of intact original tiling and mosaics you can rarely find.

Exploring is hungry work, and I certainly ate and drank my fair share over two days. Hotel Franq, a converted townhouse where I stayed, was a successful random pick. Its beautiful bar is a great place for a pre-dinner cocktail if you want somewhere more glamorous than the many artisanal beer hang-outs.

Like many northern European cities, cafes and pastries are a big thing, and Cafe Imperial, although in the tourist centre, is a pleasant place to indulge.

It’s oddly difficult to find a good sandwich – but fries are also a big thing, and Frites Atelier is a fantastic lunch spot with the best chips in town, jars of specialist mayonnaise and a glass of wine if you wish.

My top tips: Many shops, museums and restaurants are closed on either Sundays, Mondays or Tuesdays. There is a good metro and tram network (no Uber, and taxis are scarce). Antwerp is walkable, although the streets are often cobbled so not suitable for high heels.

Everyone speaks English, but it’s hard to find an ATM should you want to carry cash to strike a bargain in all those vintage stores.

To glean more information, I used Belgian resident Derek Blyth’s excellent guide, The 500 Hidden Secrets Of Antwerp.

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'Thank God We Used a Travel Agent'

When the COVID-19 outbreak subsides and pent-up demand is unleashed, professional travel advisors will likely find themselves with a surge of new customers.

Many travelers frustrated by unresponsive online travel agencies and deciphering cancellation and rebooking policies will search for a human expert the next time they plan a vacation.

“It’s expected that there will be a surge of new clients after Covid-19 subsides as travelers will want the support and guidance of an experienced travel advisor to navigate the travel landscape,” said Vicky Garcia, co-owner and COO, Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative. “With new travel procedures likely on the horizon, and many travelers wishing to reschedule their cancelled vacation, the value of a travel advisor is clear – as an advocate, a curator and personal vacation advisor. In today’s world of automation, there is huge value simply in a trusted source answering the phone and being a friendly voice.”

Drew Daly, senior vice president/general manager of Dream Vacations, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc., said travelers have recognized the value of personal service during this outbreak.

“People who were left dealing with long hold times or ‘less than’ service are going to think twice next time they book their vacation,” he said. “We have heard countless stories from our agents as to how they saved the day just by being a sounding board to hold their customers’ hands during the process as things were unfolding. Whether it was helping them return home, getting them rebooked, obtaining a refund or just understanding the policies, the travel expert who focused on service will be remembered. When these consumers share their stories with friends and loved ones, it will only translate to a more positive return for their agent. Right now, service is everything.”

Kendall Schroeder, a 26-year-old teacher in suburban Chicago, worked with a travel agent for the first time ever to plan her honeymoon – a 10-day trip to Budapest, Vienna and Prague in late June and early July. While dealing with the stress of planning the wedding, she decided to use a travel advisor for the honeymoon and went with a friend’s recommendation of Mary Ann Mayers with SW Travel Inc. in Cary, Ill.

“Thank God we used a travel agent during this time,” Schroeder said. “When our honeymoon date started coming into question, I thought about how big of a pain it would have been to reschedule every flight, contact every hotel, cancel every train ticket, and postpone every activity we have planned for our trip.”

The honeymoon is uncertain but still on for the time being. “I’m not sure how everything will work out yet with refunds and rescheduling, but I do know that it is a lot easier talking to one person versus potentially 8 or 10 different companies through all of our bookings,” Schroeder said.

While she’d previously booked trips through Travelocity or Expedia, she’s learned the value of a professional travel advisor, who “also found tours for us to fit into our trip that we probably would not have booked just because it’s hard to judge looking online what is legitimate or worth the money.”

Professional travel advisors help navigate the tsunami of online information. “It is tough to get advice and white-gloved personal customer support from an online travel agency these days (or any days),” Garcia said. “Unlike online travel agencies, travel advisors have the advantage of establishing and maintaining personal relationships with each of their clients. Travel advisors know the ins and outs of a client’s needs and the friends and relatives with whom they travel.”

In fact, many clients are showing appreciation for their travel advisors. “Our agents have been receiving gifts from their customers (more than ever) just as a thank-you for helping to reduce their customer’s headaches,” Daly said.

And once the travel restrictions and coronavirus fears subside, professional travel advisors will be the ones to help new clients navigate the new normal.

“The home-based agent is in prime position for success in the travel industry as business returns,” Daly said. “They are in their communities overcoming objections and will be the boots on the ground to help promote the safety and security of cruising and travel in the future. People are also of the mindset now to support small business more.”

Concludes Garcia: “Now that consumers have experienced waiting on hold for seven hours or felt the confusion of constantly changing travel policies, I think they understand the true value of a travel advisor. Plus, research shows that it takes four weeks to plan a one-week vacation. Travel advisors do the leg work, present the clients with a shortlist of options in their budget, and often introduce clients to travel ideas they may not have thought of, or that didn’t come up in an internet search. We are already seeing increased call volume for 2021 travel. The appreciation for high-quality customer service has never been greater.”

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