Egencia Goes Hunting for Talent to Boost Tech Initiatives

Mark Hollyhead 223x223

Egencia’s Mark Hollyhead talks:

  • How the travel industry stands to win in the “war for talent”
  • Egencia’s strategy post-acquisition
  • The TMC’s role in making business traveler comfort

Freshly following the completion of its acquisition by American Express Global Business Travel, Egencia last week announced plans to hire about 100 new full-time, tech-focused employees across the United States, Europe and India as part of a “major recruitment drive.” Egencia president Mark Hollyhead spoke with BTN executive editor Michael B. Baker during the Global Business Travel Association’s 2021 Convention in Orlando about what sort of talent Egencia is hoping to find, what the company expects to build and how the integration into Amex GBT is progressing.

BTN: What do you hope to accomplish with your recruitment drive?

Mark Hollyhead: As the recovery comes through, the competency we’re building becomes a much more intelligent future for us. When we say 100 jobs, it’s because this isn’t a traditional approach to a recovery. We think the platform we build and the approach Egencia is taking can be much richer by increasing our product expertise, our engineering expertise and investing in data sciences.

When we all went into the pandemic, we said, first off, that we commit to look after our colleagues and look after our customers, the incumbent base. Although the users went down to zero, the business-to-business relationship remained the same. It just became a new set of circumstances we needed to deal with. For us, with nearly 10,000 customers, we’re in that place where, how do you continue to manage to new requirements and new day-to-day activities through your travel management team and your travel consultants? We also made a conscious choice to invest now, because if you believe there is a future for travel—which in the early days of the pandemic was difficult to see—our future was going to be in making sure the platform is robust as possible, which starts from the data foundations to the talent we have coming in, the code they’re writing and exploiting machine learning and AI. What we have to do is learn more and more about what it learns to manage a client relationship and manage the day-to-day interaction and new use cases, like I’m calling you to query a flight or how long can you hold a credit, which is new data to us. The new data rolled through a platform that became intelligence that then led us to the idea that we need to keep investing in product and engineering and, most laterally, because we’ve got aggregate data which is meaningful and statistically relevant, you can put a data science on a piece of work and get strong results quickly that can change the business.

BTN: What are some specifics you have been looking to solve?

Hollyhead: On the b-to-b side, early on [in the pandemic], imagine you have 9,000 customers, and all of our account managers are trying to be as courteous as possible, but they’re blind to all of the issues, and travel managers to a high level were blind to their own companies, because travel wasn’t happening, but that didn’t mean things didn’t need to change. We started using artificial intelligence to look at who is looking in the portal, who is changing profiles and who is looking at policy settings, and then we link that with aggregate data in the marketplace to start informing travel managers that the car industry seems to be speeding up its recovery faster than the retail sector. If you’re in one of those sectors, that’s intelligence you should be [using to educate] your own organization. So, we turn this idea of an artificial intelligence copilot for an account manager to help them point their work where they’re going to get best interest from a client, who should have an interest, because their appetite for travel is going up. That’s now become institutional. With per diems on hotel, we’re just using the information of what is the rate of the day or the week, and then you’re filtering it back to machine learning to say you shouldn’t be paying any more, real-time, for this location, so you are being informed in real time instead of looking at a static search. We continue to put the flywheel of energy into product and engineering data science. 

We find a lot of people from outside are more useful to bring a different perspective, and then you complement them with the subject matter expertise in the areas of distribution or the madness of travel.”

BTN: Are you looking largely for those with travel industry experience, or are you casting a wider net?

Hollyhead: We’re about 70 percent recruiting outside the travel industry. Travel [industry experience] is important for some pieces of work, but it’s the opposite for others, because you want a fresh approach. Travel as a domain is an interesting problem. What you’re looking for is people who have dealt with multi-faceted issues that are based on simple data principles that need to be turned into simple user experiences. We find a lot of people from outside are more useful to bring a different perspective, and then you complement them with the subject matter expertise in the areas of distribution or the madness of travel. There is a massive war on talent, and the one thing is important in travel, although you’re competing with Facebook and Google for the greatest talent, is that the problem we’re trying to solve at the moment in bringing travel back is a really interesting one for engineers and data scientists. With our own people, they’re the best advert for wanting to be part of this recovery as they reinvent solutions for corporate travel.

BTN: How is the integration going now that the acquisition has closed?

Hollyhead: It’s two weeks in, and of course, this has been going on for a while. During the diligence phase we were partnering under the regulations we had to follow pre-close, but we knew a lot about each other in order to get to the point where you close. We’ve been doing a lot of work to make sure the salesforces line up, that your marketing messages and the sustainability messaging jive. If we want to be in a position where we have a two-sided marketplace, offering unrivaled choice and content with the Ovation brand, the Egencia brand and the GBT brand together in the marketplace, you don’t want to confuse the customer, so we have to be clear about where we play. My personal view is that the TMC industry, even if it returns to 50 percent of what it was before, is a near-on hundreds of billions of dollars marketplace, and if you combine Ovation with its high-touch, Egencia with its approach to software-as-a-service platform and GBT with its heritage of safety and trust and service, the idea that you’ve got those three offering being presented to clients, the customers will make the choice as long as we don’t confuse the customer. We’re good for a while, so most of the we’re doing is on the plan we had pre-close, making sure this is seamless for our colleagues and continuous for customers and partners. Last week, we had our customer advisory board together as a symbol, and [Amex GBT CEO Paul Abbott] and I did an open Q&A, and it finished early. They were coming in with conspiracies of, “What are you going to do to us,” and in fact, we’re not going to do anything. We’re going to carry on doing what we’re doing at Egencia, and if you value Egencia, GBT is investing in the future of what Egencia’s been doing and taking that forward. There’s not this major upheaval or announcement coming. We’re running Egencia, because it makes sense, and that’s what the investment was all about.

BTN: What’s the top priority you are seeing from clients at the moment? Is it still safety and security?

Hollyhead: The common theme always is, if you’re going to encourage people back to travel, there’s got to be the security of feeling good about it. We’ll term it under duty of care, but I think it’s more than that. It’s people feeling comfortable about the entire idea of going on a trip, so how do you help people pre-trip, how do you look after them through it and how does the company feel good about this asset I’m sending on the road? I don’t think that’s changed dramatically, but I think the point of emphasis of how I got data that I trust, that isn’t in multiple places, and that’s why it’s good to invest in the platform. If you want to know who is in Rome tonight, there is no difference between the Egencia booking platform and the reporting platform. We’re being pushed a lot by clients, when we do come back, the CFO is going to be asking questions, and the additional one is sustainability. Everyone wants to return to travel responsibility, so how do we contribute to that? We’ve been investing heavily in the past 12 months here, in things like the comparison of rail to air inthe shopping path and, of course, being a part of GBT and their approach to green and their partnership to Shell. The maturity of the approach to pursuing [sustainable aviation fuel], rather than talking initiatives actually having a purposeful approach. Travel is not the problem. The problem is emissions, so how do we make sure those two things jive?

BTN: What long-term effects do you think the pandemic will have on the way TMCs do business?

Hollyhead: There are so many changes to understand about how people are behaving and want to do things. We are creatures of habit and follow others—we’re sheeplike—and the fact that first-world nations have gotten back to normal relatively with things like concerts and theatres and things we like to do in our own time is a sign that we’ll follow pretty quickly. For now, I’m going, has my behavior changed? I think so. You check yourself at certain things. I’m looking at photographs with my daughter receiving a certificate for sport with a mask on. In 20 years’ time, will that still be on? For travel, I’m a believer in a force for good and that we want to do something, and even during the period where insecurity should have reigned for all of us and we should have all been locked up, the mere glimmer of an idea that you could go away for a weekend and spend an inordinate amount of money in a Vrbo or Airbnb property, people were doing it, because we like to get out of our own environment and experience different experiences and different cultures. It’s living proof that we’re restless, and business travel is an example of being restless and finding new frontiers and developing business. The underlying thing that changes is that in business travel, the corporation has a responsibility to return to travel sustainably and it has a responsibility to make sure that you know where the people are in any event. We’ve had these signals before—the Iceland ash cloud—and every single time we have one of these incidents, we talk about it, and the pandemic has confirmed it. When you have thousands of people on the road, the idea that a company doesn’t quite know how to get in touch with them is not going to be acceptable going forward. What do you do with that information other than, “You’re OK, do you need anything?” We’ve never been in that world, but the impetus will be more on the company to make sure the employee is comfortable, where previously, the employee didn’t really care in general. The employee has a natural insecurity that needs to be indulged by the company. I think there are new markets. The speed at which some of the recovery at organizations has happened has been remarkable. We look at some of the technology that’s been developed during this period to solve for new problems, and I think it’s just another frontier in a global economy that will drive demand and interest in people traveling.

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Holidays expected to boost travel | News

HIGH POINT — High Point is preparing to benefit from a strong holiday season as forecasters predict a rebound in holiday travel this Thanksgiving.

Visit High Point staff members have noticed an uptick in phone calls and visits to the visitors center looking for shopping opportunities, Visit High Point President Melody Burnett said.

“We know that there is a lot of pent-up demand for travel, especially for visitors in the leisure market,” Burnett said. “We have some leisure opportunities throughout the week with visitors who are looking to update their space before the holidays, so we direct them to the 58-plus furniture stores in town.”

For the weekend, events like the Uptowne Holiday Stroll, Kersey Valley Christmas, Christmas with John Berry, the High Point Ballet’s “Nutcracker” and “A Christmas Carol” will make it attractive to tack on a day visit or overnight stay in High Point, Burnett said. Many High Point visitors like to stop here on their way to larger destinations such as Asheville or Myrtle Beach, Burnett said.

According to the Destination Analysts, which studies travel and tourism trends, the number of Americans who plan to take a trip during the Thanksgiving holiday has more than doubled compared to 2020, even surpassing 2019 numbers. Last year at this time, many people stayed home or went to small family gatherings for turkey, stuffing and traditional Thanksgiving fixings. This year, the wide availability of COVID-19 vaccinations has made people feel more comfortable about travel.

AAA predicts 53.4 million Americans will travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, up 13% from 2020. This brings travel numbers within 5% of the pre-pandemic numbers for 2019. For North Carolina, AAA forecasts nearly 1.5 million people in the state will travel for Thanksgiving, a 13% rebound from the 2020 holiday and only 2% below pre-pandemic numbers.

“We expect a strong holiday travel season as the health officials have given travelers the confidence to resume their visiting without restriction,” Burnett said. “Taking a road trip to visit friends and family and shopping are activities that Americans view as safe and budget-friendly during the holiday season. Furthermore, 35% of travelers who visit friends and family will stay in a hotel, which has more local spending impact opportunities for our community.”

The rebound also is getting closer to pre-pandemic levels for air travel, Piedmont Triad International Airport Executive Director Kevin Baker said.

“Based on projected seat totals, it appears that we may get close to 85% of 2019 passenger levels,” Baker said.

At the November PTI Airport Authority board meeting, board members learned the number of passengers was up 135% in October from October 2020, though still 27% less than October 2019.

The total number of departing PTI passengers currently expected for December 2021 is 90,339, nearly double the 48,988 in December 2020 but down 20% from December 2019.

Raleigh-Durham International Airport expects more than 234,000 passengers will pass through the airport Monday through Sunday of Thanksgiving week, about 53,000 less than the same week in 2019 but more than twice as many as last year’s 103,000. Overall, passenger traffic at RDU is still off about 25% from pre-pandemic levels.

Charlotte Douglas International Airport’s Thanksgiving holiday travel numbers are nearly on par with pre-pandemic numbers from 2019, airport officials said.

At PTI, Baker said business conferences, seminars and trade shows need to return fully to return to normal levels.

“Leisure travel was fully rebounded (and in some cases outpaced 2019 numbers) months ago, but business travel is much slower to return,” Baker said.

“Our area partners are seeing an uptick in group and social meetings that plan to book now and into 2022,” she said. “It may be the spring of 2023 before we start to see a resemblance of normal travel in our hospitality industry.”

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Donations since SB 8 help Planned Parenthood boost Texas services, travel funds for abortions

Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas announced Friday that thanks to increased donations as a “direct response” to the state’s new abortion law the organization will be expanding their services especially for long term birth control like IUDs and providing funds for patients to travel out of state to recieve abortions.

Elizabeth Cardwell, lead clinician for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas said that since Senate Bill 8 was enacted they have received a higher volume of calls asking for long term birth control options. The new law bans abortions after approximately 6 weeks of gestation.

“A much greater need for really reliable birth control, especially an uptick in the request for long acting reversible contraception. Like implants or intrauterine devices or IUDs, we’re seeing that that again, Senate Bill 8 because there’s such a tiny window for patients to access safe and legal abortion inside the state of Texas,” she said.

Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas is expanding access to healthcare appointments for uninsured patients at 24 of their health centers in Austin, Dallas, Denton, El Paso, Fort Worth, Lubbock, Paris, Plano, Tyler, Waco and surrounding communities. This expansion of services is in part because of donors, Cardwell said.

“With the generous donors that we’ve had, we’ve been able to expand. So all their services are covered so that’s, that’s really been key because our donors have realized how desperate patients are to seek affordable care,” she said.

Cardwell says the increase in donations is a public response to SB 8.

“It definitely is a direct response to Senate Bill 8. So while Senate Bill 8 is onerous, and it’s really is detrimental especially to you know, those that have the least amount of access to health care and that might be needing access to safe and legal abortion, their window of time to access that and their ability to access is so limited, that donors have really stepped up,” she said.

The new initiative provides resources for those seeking abortion in Texas under SB 8, specifically, Planned Parenthood will offer financial assistance to reduce cost of abortions, support for travel expenses such as gas cards, flights, lodging and other travel expenses. The organization will also be handing out take home kits that contain emergency contraception, early detection pregnancy testing, and condoms.

“We have travel assistance funds that will help cover everything that they really would need so we can give guest cards for gas that they’re going to be driving. We can give them bus tickets or plane tickets. We can give them money for lodging and you know, for meals. And again, just to give them also the support of helping to reach out to centers,” Cardwell said.

“We’ve built a really strong network with other providers around the country, but they’ve really had to step up especially smaller states, trying to handle the volume of abortion patients that are traveling from Texas to have an abortion,” she added.

Beyond the service improvements funded by the influx of contributions, the organization expansion includes birth control including IUDS and implants, STD testing and treatment, breast and cervical cancer screenings, pregnancy testing and options education, HPV vaccines, UTI treatment, and in some locations gender affirming hormone therapy. This initiative provides services for uninsured patients who meet income guidelines.

According to the organization, in 2020, 64% of patients of Planned Parenthood were uninsured. Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas had 93,602 patient visits in 2020.

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As the Biden Administration Lifts Travel Bans on Visitors to the U.S., Museums Hope It Will Boost Lagging Attendance

This week, the Biden administration lifted restrictions on its pandemic travel ban, allowing vaccinated visitors from Canada, China, Mexico, and other countries to enter the U.S. for the first time in 18 months. For major American museums, where international visitors have historically accounted for major portions of yearly attendance figures, the news was surely welcomed. 

Visitor numbers dropped roughly 70 percent at the Art Institute of Chicago, for example, from roughly 1.5 million to 420,000 in the 2020 fiscal year, according to a museum spokesperson. In previous years, international guests accounted for 25 to 30 percent of ticket buyers, representing about $5 million in admission revenue.

“We are optimistic about the return of international travelers, but know that return will be gradual,” the representative said, noting that, for the time being, the institution is “continuing to focus primarily on local audiences.”

The Smithsonian, which doesn’t charge admission and thus can’t track where visitors come from, saw similar decreases in its overall numbers during the same period of time, according to its public engagement data. Attendance numbers dipped 67 percent across the Smithsonian’s various museums, from roughly 23.3 million to 7.6 million in the 2019 fiscal year.  

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Courtesy of the museum.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Courtesy of the museum.

Meanwhile the New York Times reported this week that, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where international travelers account for about a third of attendance, daily visitor numbers have been cut in half since the start of the pandemic. And the effects have been even greater when it comes to admission profits, since the museum has a pay-what-you-want policy in place for New Yorkers. 

However, not every institution can expect a bump in foot traffic with the amending of travel restrictions. At the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, a southern institution less frequented by foreigners than those on the coasts (90 percent of the museum’s annual visitors are local), the change to the travel ban will likely have no noticeable impact, a representative said. 

In the last fiscal year, 455,000 visitors came to the museum, down from nearly a million during the previous cycle. But the museum has rebounded like few others have: “At this time, attendance is back above pre-pandemic levels,” the museum spokesperson said.

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COP26 draft deal calls on countries to boost emissions cuts by end of 2022. Here’s what else is in it

Typically draft COP agreements are watered down in the final text, but there is also a chance that some elements could be strengthened, depending on how wrangling between countries pans out.

The document “recognizes that the impacts of climate change will be much lower at the temperature increase of 1.5 °C compared to 2 °C and resolves to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C.”

Scientists say the world must limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels in order to avoid the climate crisis worsening and approaching a catastrophic scenario.

A key analysis published on Tuesday said the world is on track for 2.4 degrees of warming. That would mean the risks of extreme droughts, wildfires, floods, catastrophic sea level rise and food shortages would increase dramatically, scientists say.
Key takeaways from Tuesday at COP26: On track for 2.4 degrees of warming, and is America really 'back?'

The British COP26 presidency’s overarching goal was “to keep 1.5 alive,” so this firmed-up language is what it and other climate-leading nations were hoping for.

Several countries, including Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, Brazil and Australia, have shown resistance to this change at various meetings over the past six months in the lead-up to COP26.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Wednesday in which they “discussed the importance of making progress in negotiations in the final days of COP26,” a Downing Street readout of the call showed.

“The Prime Minister said all countries needed to come to the table with increased ambition if we are to keep the target of limiting global warming to 1.5C alive.”

The draft also recognized that achieving this shift means “meaningful and effective action” by all countries and territories in what it calls a “critical decade.”

It “recognizes that limiting global warming to 1.5 °C by 2100 requires rapid, deep and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, including reducing global carbon dioxide emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 relative to the 2010 level and to net zero around mid-century,” using language that is in line with the latest UN climate science report.

Net zero is a state where the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere are no greater than those removed, whether through natural means like planting more trees to absorb carbon dioxide or capturing gases with technology.

“It is important that this agreement recognizes the importance of the 1.5 degree goal,” as well as the science that shows deep emissions cuts are needed over this decade, said William Collins, professor of meteorology at the University of Reading.

But he added: “The current pledges in Glasgow are not even close to meeting these cuts by 2030. If countries do not start straight away on a path towards these 2030 emission levels it will be too late to update them in 2025,” he said, referring to the next time countries are obliged to revise their targets.

“The hope was that this level of ambition could have been achieved in Glasgow; if not, countries will need to be brought back to negotiations again next year.”

On countries’ emissions plans

To limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, every country needs to have a plan that aligns with that goal.

The most notable line in the draft is one that urges signatories to come forward by the end of 2022 with new targets for slashing emissions over the next decade, which scientists say is crucial if the world wants to have any chance of keeping warming below 2 degrees and closer to 1.5.

World is on track for 2.4 degrees of warming despite COP26 pledges, analysis finds

David Waskow, director of the International Climate Initiative with the World Resources Institute, welcomed the 2022 target as progress.

“So this is crucial language because it does set the time frame around when countries need to come forward with strengthened targets in order to align with Paris,” he said, referring the 2015 Paris Agreement, which set a global warming limit of 2 degrees, with a preference for 1.5.

Although that was agreed six years ago, many parties’ emissions plans do not align with that goal.

He warned that there were “certainly parties who have been pushing back on that,” naming Saudi Arabia and Russia as nations against new commitments by the end of 2022. CNN had reached out to those countries on the same issue on Tuesday and is seeking new comment.

Some experts like Waskow are welcoming this progress, as it requires countries to make new plans before 2025.

But after the UN’s climate science report in August showed climate change was happening faster than previously thought, some countries and groups had hoped for a rise in ambition more quickly.

“This draft deal is not a plan to solve the climate crisis, it’s an agreement that we’ll all cross our fingers and hope for the best,” Greenpeace International executive director Jennifer Morgan said in a statement, pointing to a recent study by Climate Action Tracker that shows the world is heading for 2.4 degrees of warming, even with the new pledges made ahead of COP26.

“The job of this conference was always to get that number down to 1.5C, but with this text world leaders are punting it to next year. If this is the best they can come up with then it’s no wonder kids today are furious at them.”

WRI’s director of climate negotiations, Yamide Dagnet, said it was climate-vulnerable countries that pushed for the stronger language on 1.5, but said what they wanted was for the agreement to set stronger obligations for particular nations. They are also seeing the 2022 goal as difficult for them to achieve without a bigger boost in funding.

“For them, it’s going to be very difficult … to come back home and to say, after all of your efforts … you have to do another adjustment effort within a year,” she said.

On fossil fuels

The draft agreement asks governments to “accelerate the phasing-out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels.” This seems obvious as phasing out fossil fuels is necessary if greenhouse gas emissions are to decline. But the inclusion of specific language on this is a big step forward, since previous agreements haven’t mentioned coal and fossil fuel subsidies specifically.

The language is likely to be opposed by major fossil fuel-producing nations.

Humanity needs to ditch coal to save itself. It also needs to keep the lights on.

There are a couple of caveats though on phasing out coal and ending fossil fuel subsidies.

“It doesn’t give a date for either of these and for both it just says ‘accelerating the efforts’ to do so,” WRI President for Climate and Economics Helen Mountford said in a briefing.

COP26 chief Sharma had said before coming to Glasgow that a firm exit date on coal was one of his priorities.

There are also questions being raised over whether the clause on fossil fuels can even survive the next two days of negotiations.

“It does mention fossil fuels and everybody saying that’s amazing, but it doesn’t say that the world has to actually phase out coal as soon as possible, and then decarbonize by removing both natural gas and oil,” Mark Maslin, climate scientist at University College London told CNN.

So the problem here is that suddenly we have a statement that acknowledges that fossil fuels are the issue, but doesn’t actually say in a strong terms that this is what we have to get rid of … and this is the actions of countries like Saudi Arabia, Russia and Australia, who are basically sort of agitating from the background to make it weak,” he added.

There has been some progress on fossil fuels in Glasgow. Twenty-eight countries so far have signed on to an agreement to end the financing of unabated fossil fuel projects abroad by 2022. Unabated projects would be those that do not capture greenhouse gas emissions at the source before they escape to the atmosphere, which is a good start.

Dozens of new countries signed up to phase out coal at COP26, but the end date was the 2030s for developed nations and 2040s for developing countries — a decade later than Sharma and climate leaders had hoped for. The world’s three biggest emitters, China, India and the US, did not sign up. They are also the biggest coal users.

On who should pay what

The draft makes some strong points in a long section on the need to deliver on the promise made by the world’s richest countries more than a decade ago to provide $100 billion a year in climate financing to the developing world. That target was supposed to be met in 2020 but has been missed. It is supposed to go to helping developing countries reduce their emissions but also so they can adapt to the impacts of the crisis.

While countries wrangle over who should pay for the climate crisis, a community on Lagos Island is being swallowed by the sea

The developed world is historically responsible for far more emissions than the developing world, but many of the countries on the front line of the crisis have made little historical contribution to climate change. There is an understanding that the rich world needs to pay for some of the energy transition and adaptation.

“[The conference] notes with serious concern that the current provision of climate finance for adaptation is insufficient to respond to worsening climate change impacts in developing [countries],” the draft says, using fairly strong terms.

But it makes no movement on when the $100 billion should be delivered, pointing to 2023, which is three years past the deadline and currently what it is on track for. US climate envoy John Kerry and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen were hoping for a 2022 date last week.

However, the draft does not give any specific details, reflecting the fact that the US, the European Union and other big players have been pushing against the idea.

“It is fuzzy and vague. The missed deadline for the $100 billion promise doesn’t get acknowledged — and this is a key ask from vulnerable countries,” said Mohamed Adow, director of the climate think tank Power Shift Africa.

But for the first time, the draft agreement also includes more specific language on “loss and damage” financing for the developing world, which is essentially financial liability for climate crisis impacts. Some of the countries most affected by the crisis are asking for more money to deal with the loss and damage they are already experiencing because of global warming, which is essentially the idea behind climate reparations.

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Bay Area airports to get much needed boost as travel restrictions loosen in U.S.

SAN JOSE, Calif (KRON) — The Bay Area’s tourism industry and airports will get a much needed boost this week as the U.S. scales back restrictions for international travelers. 

Starting Monday, COVID-19 travel restrictions for international travelers will be lifted as long as they show proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test within three days of the trip. 

Additionally, foregin travelers will not have to quarantine upon arrival with proof of a negative COVID-19 test. 

The U.S. will accept travelers who have been fully vaccinated with any of the shots approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization, not just those in use in the U.S.

In the Bay Area, COVID-19 imposed travel restrictions throughout the last year and a half has had a significant impact on the region. 

In September, the San Francisco International (SFO) airport saw 337,284 international passengers, only 26.5% of the total international passengers SFO had in September 2019. 

“For reference, domestic passengers were at 65% of pre-pandemic levels in September,” said Doug Yakel, public information officer for SFO. 

“The good news is that the revised travel rules have a lot of airlines resuming service, along with some brand-new airlines coming our way.” 

Starting Wednesday, French Bee will resume flights from SFO to Papeete.

Future plans at SFO include: 

  • The December resumption of suspended service from:
    • Fiji Airways nonstop service from SFO to Nadi;
    • Aer Lingus nonstop service from SFO to Dublin; and
    • United Airlines nonstop service from SFO to Paris
  • Two new airlines coming to SFO from Canada:
    • Flair, which launches flights from Edmonton and Vancouver next March and April respectively;
    • Air Transat, launches flights from Montreal next summer

Further south at the San Jose International Airport (SJC), officials tell KRON4 News the airport saw 27,421 international travelers in September, compared to 65,483 in September of 2019. 

“Our international traffic has remained strong as service has resumed throughout COVID. Our teams have been diligent in maintaining a safe and clean environment for travelers, and will continue to work with the airlines and other partners to comply with local, state, and federal requirements,” said Keonnis Tayor, public information manager for SJC. 

“Terminal Operations have not made changes based on the lifting of restrictions to inbound traffic and do not have plans to do so at this time.”

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Central Florida looks forward to economic boost as some international travel resumes Monday – WFTV

ORLANDO, Fla. — The United States is set to allow some international travelers to come and visit the county starting Monday.

The move is a big change after many flights were stopped because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

READ: Federal appeals court temporarily halts COVID-19 vaccine mandate for businesses

The move to allow some international travel, from countries including Brazil and the United Kingdom, is set to give a big boost to tourism in Central Florida.

Travel hubs, including the Orlando International Airport, are preparing to be even busier.

READ: Coronavirus: Pfizer says its antiviral pill is highly effective against COVID-19

Vaccinated passengers coming into the U.S. must show proof of a negative test within three days of travel.

If not fully vaccinated, a negative test must be taken one day before travel.

“I think that’s a good thing,” traveler Scott Belton said. “I live in Los Angeles, California, and out there they have a lot of requirements for people getting these vaccines. And if California has it, I think it would be a good idea for incoming tourists or incoming visitors from other countries to have that.”

WATCH: Orange County has reached COVID-19 herd immunity, health officials say

There are exemptions to the vaccine requirement, including children under 18 or people who have medical reasons.

See more in the video above.

Click here to download the free WFTV news and weather apps, and click here to watch the latest news on your Smart TV.

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Big Boost In Travel Expected This MEA Weekend

100-Year-Old Fire Tower Offers Tree-Top Views In Northern MinnesotaJust outside of Pequot Lakes and through a smattering of fall colors you’ll find one of the last remaining fire towers in the state.

Ride-Along With A Minneapolis Police Officer Patrolling The North SideDuring the ride-along, the sergeant responded to more than 20 calls, including three shootings and a stabbing.

Salmonella Outbreak Linked To Imported OnionsConsumers are advised to check their cabinets for onions imported from Chihuahua, Mexico.

Big Boost In Travel Expected This MEA WeekendThursday is expected to be the busiest day so far this year at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Mohamed Noor To Be Resentenced On Lesser ChargeIt’s possible the new sentence could make him a free man come Thursday afternoon.

6 P.M. Weather ReportMeteorologist Chris Shaffer reports on the rain washing over Minnesota and the cool weekend ahead.

Corn, Soybean Yields Better Than ExpectedMuch of the growing season was so dry it was being compared to the drought of 1988, a bad year for farmers in the Midwest. But as August turned into September, things took a turn for the better.

Families Of Quadruple Homicide Victims Eulogize Loved OnesIt’s been a month since four victims were found shot to death in a SUV in a Wisconsin cornfield. Their families here in Minnesota are left to try to wrap their heads around the unimaginable.

Ex-Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor To Be ResentencedMohamed Noor could be a free man as soon as Thursday.

5 P.M. Weather ReportWCCO meteorologist Chris Shaffer takes a look at what for many was a rainy and even stormy Wednesday.

NCAA To Use Final Four Branding For Women’s TournamentNorman Seawright spoke with University of Minnesota deputy athletic director Julie Manning about why this is significant.

St. Paul Charter Students Strive To Cease BullyingAs part of Bullying prevention month, Nova Classical Academy is putting on “Unity Day.”

Minneapolis Gun Violence Once Again Sends Child To HospitalCommunity members are once again grasping for solutions after someone shot another young person in Minneapolis, this time near Phelps Park.

Man, 25, Charged Federally In St. Paul Bar ShootingJerome Horton is now charged with buying the illegal gun used in a mass shooting at a St. Paul bar.

WCCO Digital Headlines: Afternoon Of Oct. 20, 2021Frank Vascellaro shares the latest news updates and breaking headlines.

Interview: Wolves COO Ryan Tanke Previews SeasonWCCO spoke with Tanke about what fans can expect and the team’s confidence level.

Noon Weather ReportWCCO meteorologist Mike Augustyniak says showers and hail have been observed in parts of the Twin Cities late Wednesday morning.

Minnesota Businesses Testify To Supply Chain WoesBusinesses described a whole slate of problems from worker shortages, increasing costs for shipping and supplies and skyrocketing demand that’s putting pressure on the transportation of goods.

Study Could Mean 20-Year Ban On Copper Mining Near BWCAThe Biden administration dealt a serious blow Wednesday to the proposed Twin Metals copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota, ordering a study that could lead to a 20-year ban on mining upstream from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Sexual Assault Charges Re-Filed Against Ex-Renaissance Festival ManagerCharges of felony criminal sexual conduct have been re-filed against a former manager at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. Katie Johnston reports.

Wolves DJ Mad Mardigan Previews Home OpenerDJ Mad Mardigan, the official DJ for the Timberwolves and the Lynx, talks with Heather Brown and Jason DeRusha.

Pork And Apples: How To Merge 2 Favorite Fall FlavorsLuvafoodie founder and owner Michelle Mazzara shares a few recipes.

How To Offer Support To Those GrievingMichael Walker, PhD candidate at the University of Minnesota, explains.

9 A.M. Weather ReportWCCO’s Katie Steiner reports that rain is expected to move through parts of the state Wednesday, and temperatures are cooling down to highs in the 50s.

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‘Book now’: Ford Airport prepares for boost in travel during the holidays

CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The holidays are right around the corner, which means people are starting to book their plane tickets to visit family and friends. Officials with the Gerald R. Ford International Airport say their biggest piece of advice is to book your tickets early.

Stephen Clark, the director of commercial development, says back during the Fourth of July holiday, they saw travel numbers hit pre-pandemic levels and they’re expecting that to happen again.

Clark says it’s also important to check entry rules and restrictions for different states and countries before you travel, as they are everchanging. The airport still has its COVID-19 testing site available on the property to use.

He says they’re continuing to prioritize safety by cleaning regularly, noting that masks will be required when flying until the middle of January at the very earliest.

“Folks want to get out and travel. They can do so safely and they’re going to destinations where they can travel safely so they’re booking earlier, so those good deals aren’t lasting as long,” said Clark. “I think the big piece of advice for folks this holiday season that is looking to travel is book now and be ready to go.”

When it comes to airport staffing shortages, Clark says to be prepared to be patient when traveling as lines will be longer for the time being.

They plan to host a hiring event to combat this in the coming weeks.

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