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 Journeys.com, 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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IATA opposes mandatory blocking of middle seats

IATA will oppose any government proposals to require airlines
to keep middle seats empty during the Covid-19 pandemic.  

“Evidence suggests that the risk of transmission on board aircraft
is low,” the trade group said in a statement. “Mask-wearing by passengers and
crew will reduce the already low risk, while avoiding the dramatic cost
increases to air travel that onboard social distancing measures would bring.”

IATA said an informal survey of medical contacts at 18
airlines (representing 14% of global traffic) revealed just three instances of
suspected passenger-to-crew Covid-19 transmission from January through March,
four instances of pilot-to-pilot transmission and zero passenger-to-passenger
transmissions. 

The airline lobby also said that an examination of contact
tracing of 1,100 passengers who were confirmed to have the virus after air
travel revealed no transmission among the more than 100,000 passengers on the
same flights. Two possible cases were found among crew members. 

IATA argued that there are several potential reasons that
flying could be safer than other forms of transport. For one, passengers face
forward with limited face-to-face interactions. In addition, seats could
provide a barrier to transmission. Also, air flow rates are high and not
conducive to droplet spread like other indoor environments, IATA said. It added
that high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters on modern aircraft clean
cabin air to hospital quality.

Despite IATA’s assertion, not everyone agrees. 

The World Health Organization says infected flyers can
transmit a virus to people within two rows on either side of them. 

Meanwhile, a 2003 study in the New England Journal of
Medicine detailed a Hong Kong-Beijing flight during which the authors believe a
lone passenger transmitted the coronavirus SARS to 22 people onboard. The
Washington Post provided a summary of that study in a recent story. 

Along with mask requirements, IATA recommended several other
temporary health safety measures, including:

• Temperature screening of passengers, airport workers and
travelers. 

• Boarding and deplaning processes that reduce contact with
other passengers or crew. 

• Limiting movement within the cabin during flight. 

• More frequent and deeper cabin cleaning. 

• Simplified catering procedures that lower crew movement
and interaction with passengers.

The trade group said the average fare for North American
flights in 2019 was $202, which made the average break-even load factor 75%. If
maximum load factors were reduced via a mandate on blocking middle seats,
average tickets prices would have to increase to $289 to reach the break-even
level. 

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

The editor of Jetforce Journeys.com 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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Boeing’s 747 Still Has Life

Commercial airlines have all but abandoned the Boeing 747, along with similar jumbo jets, as carriers continue to downsize their respective fleets due to the overwhelming domino effect of the global coronavirus pandemic.

The idea of needing a supersize aircraft when a lack of demand for travel has decreased by more than 90 percent has suddenly become a moot point in the last two months, with routes trimmed or “circled” and nearly 17,000 of planes sitting parked and unused across the country.

But the beloved 747 hasn’t gone away and is actually finding new life—as a cargo transport.

In a story prepared by CNN Travel, the 747F—as in freighter—is up and running and transporting goods around the world.

“When it comes to this pandemic, seeing a 747 Freighter land at an airport is like in an old western, when the cavalry rides in to help the people in distress,” said Henry Harteveldt, travel industry analyst and founder of Atmosphere Research Group. “The 747 is definitely playing a hero’s role in moving essential cargo around the world in this crisis.”

Older versions of the four-engine 747 were already facing replacement by more efficient, smaller and newer two-engine wide-bodies from Boeing and Airbus. Airlines including Lufthansa and KLM have accelerated the retirement of their vintage 747s, a couple of years sooner than originally planned.

Just two passenger 747s were found to be roaming the skies during the third week in April, CNN found, out of a small group of 16 planes. Now, instead of a few thousand pounds of cargo underneath a few hundred passenger seats, the 747 is flying no people and about 300,000 pounds of goods and supplies.

“Air cargo solutions have never been more important than they are now to global health services. Currently, our international teams dispatch multiple flights daily to ensure that vital medical supplies protect those in need,” Tatyana Arslanova, executive operating officer for AirBridgeCargo, told CNN. “[The 747-8F’s] three compartments can have different temperature settings from 4 degrees Celsius to 29 degrees (39 F to 84 F), giving us extra opportunities to transport perishable cargo, such as temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals and life-saving medical equipment. It’s a gift that I can give back”

There are 286 747 Freighters of different models in service, making up about a quarter of the 1,152-aircraft fleet of wide-body, main-deck cargo planes, according to Cirium.

“You know that you’re carrying lifesaving equipment down below, and you know it’s going to make a difference to those who need it on the front lines. It’s very humbling, and it’s not something that I thought about when I started my aviation career 30 years ago. But now, I feel that it’s a gift that I can give back, in a time of crisis,” said Captain Kelly Lepley in an interview with CNN Travel.

“We knew it would play a role in connecting the world 50 years later. We wouldn’t have known that we would have this epic pandemic that would ground so much of the world, and affect almost every country,” said Harteveldt. “I’m sure there are people who worked on the project at Boeing who are not at all surprised that the 747 is a knight in shining armor. The plane has shown repeatedly in its history that, when the chips are down, the 747 can be counted on to come to the rescue.”

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Emirates SkyCargo announces flights to 67 destinations across six continents

Dubai-based carrier has launched services to 11 destinations in the Middle East, seven in Africa, 22 in Asia, six in Australasia, 15 in Europe and six cities in the Americas

Emirates SkyCargo operated over 2,500 dedicated cargo flights in April, transporting essential supplies such as protective equipment, medical devices, pharmaceuticals and food.

Emirates SkyCargo has begun flights to 67 destinations across six continents.

The Dubai-based carrier has launched services to 11 destinations in the Middle East, seven in Africa, 22 in Asia, six in Australasia, 15 in Europe and six cities in the Americas.

Out of the 67 destinations, 58 are served by Emirates’ Boeing 777-300ER passenger aircraft with a cargo capacity of around 40 tonnes and 24 cities are served by the Emirates SkyCargo Boeing 777-F aircraft with the ability to uplift 100 tonnes of cargo per flight.

Emirates SkyCargo operated over 2,500 dedicated cargo flights in April, transporting essential supplies such as protective equipment, medical devices, pharmaceuticals and food.

The air cargo carrier flew more than 1,650 flights on its Boeing 777-300ER passenger freighters and over 850 flights on its Boeing 777 freighters to over 80 destinations on scheduled and special charter services.

“Over the last six to eight weeks, we have had to work innovatively and around the clock to move essential cargo to destinations where they were most needed. We started with just about a dozen cities served by our Boeing 777-300ER passenger freighters at the end of March but within the space of a month we have scaled our operations to a point where we now have more than 65 destinations as part of our network and about 85 daily cargo flights,” said Nabil Sultan, Emirates divisional senior vice president, cargo.

In total, the carrier transported an estimated 10,000 tonnes of personal protective equipment, medical equipment, devices and pharmaceuticals in the month of April on its scheduled and charter flights.

In addition to medical supplies, Emirates SkyCargo is also facilitating the transport of other items including perishables and fresh produce – between January and April, the company flew more than 85,000 tonnes of food around the world.

“Our cargo operations continue to grow, as we see strong demand and every day we work to connect more points with our flights. Our operations support not just the immediate relief efforts, but in a distributed global economy, they also help keep businesses and trade running,” said Sultan, who added that passengers would also be allowed to travel on cargo flights, should approvals be received from respective national authorities.

Arabian Business magazine: Read the latest edition online

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Mar del Cabo to offer Waterfalls and Canyons excursion

This fall, guests staying at Mar del Cabo in Baja California can take advantage of the new Waterfalls & Canyons Experience.

The new offering, led by a certified tour guide, begins in the town of Santiago with a hike through the Sierra de La Laguna mountains. Visitors will explore canyons, learn about flora and fauna, and swim in the hot springs. The journey concludes in a private log cabin with a traditional Mexican meal.

The experience starts at $250 per person for up to eight people.

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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.

Contact: www.AAA.com; scenicbyways.info

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.

Contact: www.KOA.com; www.Hipcamp.com; www.TheDyrt.com

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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  • 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)

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Some airlines rankle employees by cutting hours

Some airlines are cutting employee hours in what critics are
calling a workaround of commitments they have made in accepting federal
stimulus funds. 

Under the Cares Act, the Treasury Department is providing
carriers with a combined $25 billion in payroll grants and low-interest loans,
but under the stipulation that airlines not lay off, furlough or reduce pay for
employees through Sept 30. 

Some airlines, however, have interpreted hour cuts to not be
the equivalent of pay cuts.

United has implemented hour reductions for tens of thousands
of employees, president Scott Kirby said during the carrier’s earnings call on
May 1. 

The carrier will receive $3.5 billion in Cares Act grants
plus $1.5 billion in 10-year loans at 2% interest.

Kirby said the federal aid doesn’t cover the $6.5 billion in
payroll expenses United could incur through September. He characterized the cut
in working hours as compliant with the bill. 

“We made a promise to our people and to American taxpayers
to avoid involuntary furloughs or cuts to pay rates for U.S. employees until
the end of September, and that’s a promise we’ll keep,” Kirby said. 

Delta, which will receive $5.4 billion through the Cares
Act, had reduced all ground employees to three or four days through June. 

“Consistent with the requirements of the Cares Act, Delta
employees continue to be paid at the same rate of pay,” the carrier said in an
email. 

JetBlue is having employees in the corporate office as well
as specified operational managers and supervisors take 24 days of unpaid time
through September. The program doesn’t apply to pilots, cabin crew, the
maintenance team or airport ground workers such as gate agents and ramp
personnel. JetBlue said the $936 million it is to receive in federal payroll
support only covers 76% of its payroll cost though September, based upon 2019
costs. 

“We are taking actions now that will help us preserve jobs
when the payroll support funding ends,” the carrier said. 

The maneuvers of United, Delta and JetBlue have drawn the
ire of the carriers International Association of Machinists and Aerospace
Workers. 

The union says all three carriers have “ignored or
circumvented the employment protections contained in the Cares Act.”

Some in Congress agree.

In a letter Friday to United CEO Oscar Munoz, Sen. Josh
Hawley (R-Mo.) said that cut in hours is a pay cut. 

“Decisions by major employers like United Airlines can
reverberate widely across the labor market, affecting communities and working
families alike,” Hawley wrote. “The taxpayers of this country have offered a
generous bailout to your company and you should, in turn, honor this trust by
keeping the promises you made to those you employ.”

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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.

Fiji

“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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