United adding European destinations ahead of summer travel rebound


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Chicago-based United Airlines is adding five new transatlantic destinations in Spring 2022 as it prepares for a potential bounce back in summer travel between the United States and Europe next year.

The expansion would be the largest transatlantic expansion in the company’s history and includes destinations in Spain, Portugal, Norway, the Spanish Canary Islands and Jordan.

“Given our big expectations for a rebound in travel to Europe for summer, this is the right time to leverage our leading global network in new, exciting ways,” Patrick Quayle, senior vice president of international network and alliances at United, said in a Thursday news release. 

United will be the first North American carrier to fly to the five new destinations.  

  • Bergen, Norway: Starting May 20, United will offer flights three times a week between New York/Newark and Bergen on a Boeing 757-200. 
  • Azores, Portugal: Flights between New York/Newark and Ponta Delgada in the Azores begin May 13 with a new Boeing 737 MAX 8. This will be United’s third Portuguese destination, along with flights to Porto (which return in March) and Lisbon (which are being operated from New York and are set to resume from Washington, D.C. next summer).
  • Palma de Mallorca, Spain: Travelers can fly from New York/Newark to the beach destination in the Balearic Islands in a Boeing 767-300ER starting June 2. United will offer flights three times a week. 
  • Tenerife in the Spanish Canary Islands: United is set to launch a new flight from New York/Newark to the Tenerife on June 9, offering service three times a week via a Boeing 757-200. 
  • Amman, Jordan: Flights from Washington, D.C. to Amman begin May 5 with service three-times-weekly with a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner. 

Tickets for Bergen, Azores, Palma de Mallorca and Tenerife go on sale Thursday, and Amman tickets should follow soon after. 

The airline is also adding new flights to five European destinations (Berlin, Dublin, Milan, Munich and Rome) “in anticipation of a resurgence in visitors” and relaunching seven routes that had been paused during the pandemic to Bangalore, Frankfurt, Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, Nice and Zurich, all of which are subject to government approval. 

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The expansion would follow the launch of a new air travel system in the U.S. in early November that will ease travel restrictions for fully vaccinated foreign nations.

While international flight capacity saw gains this year, it has a ways to go before catching up to pre-pandemic levels. International passenger demand dropped 76% between 2019 and 2020, the sharpest traffic decline in aviation history according to the International Air Transport Association.

Follow USA TODAY reporter Bailey Schulz on Twitter: @bailey_schulz





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Travel Free With Points: Great Destinations Using Credit Card Points


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The pandemic may have forced us to reign in our travel desires, but the vaccine has freed us to again engage in some wanderlust. Where to go? That first trip should be somewhere amazing, somewhere that will help make up for lost time at home, somewhere to help us forget about life and be pampered. It’s time to vacation like a celebrity.

We—you—can do this without spending big money. While you may have canceled or delayed trips over the last 16 months, your credit card spending continued, even if it’s been at a slower pace. That means your miles and points balances have grown. You may even have more points today than you’ve ever had.

Related: The Best Travel Credit Cards Of 2021

That makes now the perfect time to plan an aspirational trip. Pick a time, pick an amazing destination and use those overflowing points accounts to book a trip that you will remember forever. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

The Maldives

The Maldives is almost always at the top of the list of aspirational travel destinations. There’s a good reason for that. Located in the Indian Ocean, this small archipelago is not only one of the more remote and beautiful locations on the planet, but it boasts a number of amazing luxury resorts. Each one provides easy access to the country’s unbelievable underwater world.

Even with its isolated location, the Maldives is somewhat of a celebrity hot spot.  A-listers—including John Legend and Chrissy Tiegen, Gwyneth Paltrow and Justin Bieber— have holidayed in this paradise.

The Maldives is a dream destination for many and due to the wide variety of lodging options and the large number of airlines that serve the capital city Malé, it is a place that you can easily use your points to visit.

Flights

For celebrity treatment at 40,000 feet look no further than the big three Middle Eastern carriers: Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways. All three airlines fly into Velana International Airport (MLE) in Malé.

Book Emirates flights from the U.S. with Emirates Skywards miles starting at 255,000 miles in first class, depending on your departure city. Expect to pay fuel surcharges when booking with Skywards miles, but the airline significantly reduced those charges recently.

You can book Etihad flights using American Airlines miles. Find roundtrip flights from the U.S. for 140,000 miles for business class and 230,000 miles for first class. You also can use Etihad Guest miles to book these flights, but you’ll need to pony up 300,000 miles for business class, so it isn’t the best option. Etihad also is a transfer partner of some of the most popular rewards programs. .

Related: The Best Travel Credit Cards Of 2021

Qatar Airways Qsuites is technically a business class product, but many who have flown in Qsuites compare it to first class on other airlines. You can book Qsuites from the U.S. to the Maldives for just 140,000 American Airlines miles. This is one of the best deals for travel to the Maldives when you consider the number of miles you are paying and the product you are receiving in return.

From the airport in Malé, transportation to your hotel is almost always via speedboat or floatplane and is usually set up through your hotel. The only way to pay for this part of the trip on points is by using a card that allows you to pay yourself back in points or by using points earned on a cash back card. Some of the most popular travel rewards credit cards will let you redeem points for travel expenses on your statement.

Hotels

There are plenty of amazing hotel options in the Maldives. If you’re willing to spend some time searching for available award nights, many of them can be booked with points.

The St. Regis is one of the most impressive spots in the Maldives that allows you to book with points. Award nights cost between 85,000 and 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night, depending on whether you are traveling during off-peak or peak dates. You may find a mix of prices if you are looking for several nights in a row. Award nights at this resort book into a Garden Villa with a private pool.

The Radisson Blu Resort Maldives is a new property and looks to be an amazing place to stay. You’ll pay just 70,000 Radisson points per night, which is a real bargain because Radisson Rewards points are typically not as valuable as points from other hotel programs. In addition to the comparatively low points cost, the base room for award nights at the Radisson Blu is an overwater villa with a private pool. This is one of the best values for an overwater villa anywhere in the world, and will certainly give you that keeping-away-from-the-Paparazzi vibe.

Thailand

Thailand is a diverse country with something for everyone—and at every price point. From the bustling metropolis of Bangkok to the laid back comfort of Chiang Mai, you are sure to find something you love. But for that celebrity travel experience, you should look to the Thai islands.

There are many islands in this southeast Asian country, and all of them are fairly easily accessible through the capital city of Bangkok. Here’s how you can make your way to the delicious food, friendly people and gorgeous scenery of Thailand, and how you can do it all with points.

Flights

You have several options for flights to Thailand, but all of them end in Bangkok. Once you reach that city, you will need to take a short connecting flight to get to the island of your choice. After that quick hop, you’ll be pampered at your hotel in no time.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is one of the best programs to help get you to Bangkok. The airline charges just 70,000 miles each way to fly first class on Cathay Pacific. Connect through Hong Kong and you have an amazingly cheap way to get to Thailand in luxury, and you can stop over in Hong Kong without sacrificing additional miles.

For your return flights, Thai Airways stands out above the rest due to the ground experience in Bangkok. Your first-class lounge experience includes an hour-long massage and impeccable service. Once in the air, you can expect that same fantastic service and a comfortable ride.

Thai doesn’t fly directly into the U.S. If you are willing to book within two weeks of your travel date, you may even be able to connect your Thai first class ride to Frankfurt with a Lufthansa first class flight back to the U.S. for one of the ultimate points redemptions. This dream trip is bookable using United Airlines miles from as low as 90,000 miles in business class or 140,000 miles in first.

Hotels

With all of the different islands and the various hotel loyalty programs, you have almost an unlimited number of options for booking your lodging with points. Instead of taking a look at all of the luxury points properties, let’s look at a consistently amazing property from a program we know well, along with another option that requires thinking a bit out of the box.

One A-list spot is Koh Samui, which counts Richard Gere among its fans. The Conrad Koh Samui is well known in the points world as a bucket list hotel for its amazing rooms, the best in privacy and understated luxury. Costing 95,000 Hilton points per night, Hilton Honors premier members get the best value staying for five nights because the fifth night will be free. Rooms are nestled into a hillside overlooking the water, and each has its own private infinity pool. When you want to move around the resort, you simply call for a ride and an employee in a golf cart arrives to whisk you away to your destination.

For extreme luxury, the Amanpuri Resort on the island of Phuket is hard to beat. Aman resorts are known worldwide for their service and facilities, and attract numerous celebrities. Famous visitors include Angelina Jolie and her family and Lindsay Lohan.

Amanpuri, however, isn’t bookable with any hotel loyalty program, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use your points to book there. Several credit card rewards programs allow members to redeem points for travel charges. Amanpuri nightly rates range from the high hundreds of dollars to the low thousands. This isn’t a cheap redemption option, but you can actually stay at an Aman property using points.

The Caribbean

For Americans, the Caribbean is a lot closer to home and a lot easier to get to than Asia or the middle of the Indian Ocean. Time zone changes are less extreme, and the travel shouldn’t leave you jet-lagged.

Flights

Because it’s so close, you won’t find any flight options that are quite as amazing as the previous two destinations. You can pick pretty much any U.S.-based airline and use points to get to the Caribbean in business class. What you are really looking for in the Caribbean is an amazing property that you can stay at with points.

Hotels

Here are two options that allow you to use points to stay at private islands. Both are a bit unbelievable, the first because of the opportunity it presents and the high number of points, and the second because of the low number of points it takes for a luxury experience.

Necker Island is a private island owned by billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson, but you can stay there using points. You have to redeem a whopping 1.5 million Virgin Atlantic points for a room for a week, but you are sure to have an incredible experience. Availability for individual rooms is limited to a few Celebration Weeks each year since the island is rented out in its entirety at other times.

You can live like actual royalty with our next spot: Calala Island, Nicaragua.  Princess Eugenie celebrated her engagement on the island where staff outnumbers guests by 3 to 1. Almost all of the available activities are included with your stay. The resort even provides transfers from the Managua airport for no additional cost.

Calala Island is on the other end of the spectrum for points cost, coming in at just 40,000 Hyatt points per night. There are only four rooms on this private-island SLH Resort off the coast of Nicaragua, and only three of them are bookable with points. This makes finding award availability quite a challenge, but if you can manage to string a few nights together, you are in for a treat.

Bottom Line

Whether you’re looking for an exclusive stay on a mostly private island or your own suite in the sky with a pampering staff to look after you, it’s absolutely possible for you to take a celebrity-inspired trip with points.

Yes, the cost in points may be higher than other options. Yes, it can be a challenge to find the right combination of flight and hotel award availability. But if you have some patience and a huge balance of points that’s been building up as you didn’t travel over the past year, you may just be able to make that first post-pandemic trip a true trip of a lifetime.

Related: The Best Travel Credit Cards Of 2021





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UK relaxes travel advice to further 51 destinations


The UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is relaxing travel advice for 51 countries to help align with the reduction of the government’s red list announced yesterday.

Countries for which the government is immediately downgrading its advice against “all but essential travel” based on the current assessment of Covid-19 risks are: Bahamas, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Jamaica, Martinique, Palau, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Western Sahara.

From Monday, when the red list will number just seven countries, advice against all but essential travel will be downgraded to a further 42 destinations, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Indonesia, Mexico, Philippines and South Africa. See below for the full list.

The change means travellers visiting the destinations are more likely to be covered by insurance policies, the majority of which are guided by official FCDO advice.

“These updates make travel abroad easier – boosting trade, tourism and reuniting friends and families. I am delighted that the safe reopening of travel allows people to exercise personal responsibility and visit more destinations across the globe,” said foreign secretary Liz Truss.

The latest change follows the relaxation of travel advice to 32 destinations announced earlier this week.

The FCDO says it no longer advises against travel to non-red list countries on Covid-19 grounds, except in exceptional circumstances such as if the local healthcare system is overwhelmed.

From Monday 11 October the FCDO will lift its advisory against all but essential travel to: Angola, Argentina, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Cape Verde, Chile, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Georgia, Guyana, Indonesia, Lesotho, Malawi, Mexico, Mongolia, Montenegro, Mozambique, Myanmar (Burma), Namibia, Nepal, Paraguay, Philippines, Reunion, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Suriname, Tanzania, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Uganda, Uruguay, Zambia and Zimbabwe.



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People Are Sharing Smart Travel Tips For 26 Destinations


Travel can be intimidating, but if you do a little research about your destination — familiarizing yourself with the local customs, norms, and faux pas — it can be a whole lot less daunting.

So I combed through the subreddit r/travel and looked to the BuzzFeed Community to compile some helpful world travel tips. Here’s what world travelers want you to know before you take your next getaway. 



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The international destinations that could move off red list at next travel review


Three countries – including Turkey – could move from red to amber on the Government’s traffic light system next week, it’s been suggested.

Pakistan and the Maldives are two of the other top three tip-offs to move from red to amber for UK tourists, which will come as welcome news to some.

Predictions vary greatly and aren’t always reliable but they’ve certainly been right before.

The next travel review is due on either Wednesday, September 15 or Thursday, September 16, reports MyLondon.

And Paul Charles, founder of the PC Agency travel consultancy, said: “Turkey very much deserves to be on the amber list as it has some of the best Covid safety policies in place, especially in hotels and other tourist areas and has worked hard to reduce its infection rates.”

The Government reviews the traffic light system roughly every three weeks.

If the next review lands on the expected Wednesday or Thursday next week, then any changes made won’t come into effect until a few days to a week afterwards.

In recent weeks various new travel updates have been issued.

Russia has dropped its 14 day quarantine period for UK travellers – and Canada has reopened to fully vaccinated travellers.

Meanwhile, Lithuania has offered a free night in a move to entice foreign tourists.

For countries on the amber list, a PCR is needed two days after arriving in the country, as well as a Covid test three days before returning.

Fully vaccinated adults can skip the additional day eight PCR.

This means that for those who are double vaxxed, there isn’t much difference between amber and green list countries.





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Holiday Travel Forecast: Expedia Reveals the Top Trending Destinations | State News






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Visitors looking at ‘healthy’ options in tourism destinations


The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a dramatic shift in the way travellers are thinking and the Caribbean is well-positioned to take advantage of the new trends.

That is according to Canadian entrepreneur and founder of well-known travel company G Adventures, Bruce Poon Tip, who believes islands in the region provide many of the necessities that travellers want.

Delivering the keynote address at a webinar hosted by the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) in commemoration of World Tourism Day, Poon Tip pointed out that travellers now preferred remote locations as opposed to big, busy cities.

Additionally, he explained that because of the challenges posed by the pandemic, travellers also wanted destinations where they could be more active.

Poon Tip said data and research conducted in Canada showed a dynamic shift over the past 18 months, with travellers now having a strong focus on mental health and their wellbeing.

“So this conversation about mental health and wellbeing has suddenly become so important because one thing people haven’t looked at closely are the mental health impacts of these lockdowns we have gone through over the last 18 months and how it has changed people’s thoughts about, not only coming out within their own communities but what they want to motivate them to travel again,” Poon Tip said.

“People want to be more disconnected, more remote and this is a very different change that we have found because before the pandemic travellers were motivated to travel to busy places and places with dense populations, but suddenly we are seeing that people want to be more disconnected, more remote and that is reflected in how we are in a more remote and wired world.”

He anticipated that the Caribbean was poised to take advantage of the emerging trend as a rural destination.

He said the region also had to push the concept of community tourism.

“The Caribbean has mastered rest and relaxation for sure, but the idea that people want to be active as well and be more active because they have been forced into this pause and these lockdowns, it is no wonder people want to be away from social media and they want to be more active on their next holiday and that is going to be more meaningful,” he said.

Vice-chancellor at the University of the West Indies, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles also pointed to the fact that travellers were more concerned than ever with their health and this was an area the Caribbean could use to its advantage.

“Since our product was built originally, ancestrally, historically, around the health product I believe we are beckoning there once again to go back into our treasure trove of history and extract ideas for the future,” Sir Hilary said.

“I will say to you that the biggest product in the world today will be built around health and not only physical health but mental health. Mental health has become the fastest growing concern in the world. People are speaking about the need for mental health and COVID-19 has brought this to the fore in a very aggressive way. Getting away from anxiety, getting away from stress, relaxing the body and public knowledge around health have soared.” (RB)

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CDC Adds More Popular Destinations to Level 4 Travel List


The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced several countries were downgraded Monday on the federal agency’s travel advisory list.

According to ABC News, the CDC moved Antigua and Barbuda, Bermuda and Guyana to the “Level 4: Covid-19 Very High” category, saying Americans should avoid non-essential travel to the regions unless they are fully vaccinated.

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To be downgraded from Level 3 to Level 4, countries and territories must report more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents over the last 28 days. The Level 3 category applies to destinations with between 100 and 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days.

The CDC also announced four countries were downgraded to Level 3, including Bonaire, New Caledonia, Sao Tome and Principe and Ukraine, while Andorra, Colombia and Kuwait were upgraded to Level 3 from Level 4.

Government officials now list nearly 90 destinations as part of its Level 4 travel advisory.

“Fully vaccinated travelers are less likely to get and spread COVID-19,” a CDC spokesperson said. “However, international travel poses additional risks, and even fully vaccinated travelers might be at increased risk for getting and possibly spreading some COVID-19 variants.”

On Monday, White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said the White House plans to allow non-U.S. citizen travelers from countries to enter the country via commercial flights if they show proof of being fully vaccinated, starting in November.

The new rules do not yet apply to travelers crossing land borders with Mexico and Canada.





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Canadians appear eager to take off for sun destinations despite ongoing COVID-19 challenges


Michel Dubois has packed his bags, even though his planned trip to Cuba is still more than two months away.

That’s because the retired TV cameraman and editor from Saint-Jérome, Que., is eager for a break from the monotony of pandemic life.

“After a year and a half of sitting in front of my TV and computer, it’s time to move on,” said Dubois, 70, who plans to do some scuba diving and enjoy the sun.

Trips like the one Dubois has booked are giving airlines and tour operators something to look forward to as well — seemingly better business prospects after months of severely hampered operations due to pandemic-related border closures and travel restrictions.

Some key travel players are reporting increased demand for bookings to sun destinations, despite the ongoing challenges of a global pandemic that has yet to end inside or outside Canada’s borders.

Better days ahead?

The onset of the pandemic prompted governments — including Canada’s — to urge people to stay home to stem the spread of the coronavirus and its variants.

It’s a stance Ottawa still holds, even though the government recently loosened restrictions for incoming travellers who are vaccinated.

Tourists relax on a beach in Cancun, Mexico, last month. (Marco Ugarte/The Associated Press)

“We continue to advise against non-essential travel outside of Canada,” Global Affairs Canada said in an email on Friday, noting that this applies to all countries around the globe.

The department also pointed to practical concerns for those who choose to go abroad.

“Additional travel restrictions can be imposed suddenly. Airlines can suspend or reduce flights without notice. Travel plans may be severely disrupted, making it difficult to return home.”

WATCH | Incoming travellers and Canada’s 4th COVID-19 wave:

Canada walks fine line as border reopens during fourth wave

As Canada prepares to allow non-essential travel from nearly anywhere in the world, the country walks a fine line between needing to reopen and fears over the fourth wave of COVID-19. 2:00

Indeed, COVID-19 travel restrictions vary from country to country, with vaccine passports gaining traction with some governments. Prior to the current federal election campaign, Ottawa had announced plans to develop such documentation for international travel.

Then and now

Ambarish Chandra, an associate professor of economics at the University of Toronto, says that while the government actively discouraged travel last winter, that didn’t deter all people from going abroad — such as snowbirds who went to Florida.

With the progress on vaccination that has been made, Chandra said he believes Ottawa’s stance on leisure travel may have to shift.

“I don’t think it would be reasonable for the government to go a second winter season saying: ‘Don’t travel,'” Chandra said in an interview.

A mask-wearing pilot at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport in March 2020, the same month the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic. Many border closures and travel restrictions were soon put into effect in countries around the world. (Chris Helgren/Reuters)

Jörg Fritz, an associate professor in the microbiology and immunology department at Montreal’s McGill University, says that as travel picks up, Canada will have to keep a close eye on what strains of the virus are circulating here and around the globe.

“We simply need to face that this virus will not go away that quickly,” he said.

“The danger that new variants arise that might escape vaccine-induced immunity is still there and will be there for quite a while.”

It’s also key for Canada to continue increasing its vaccination rate and to ensure that children are protected as soon as that is possible, Fritz said.

A desire to get away

Air Canada says the upcoming fall and winter looks promising for travel to sun destinations.

“When looking to the sun market, we are very optimistic about our recovery,” airline spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick told CBC News in a recent email, adding that “we are currently observing demand growth that is above 2019 levels.”

Sunwing Travel Group says it’s seeing ‘encouraging demand’ for sun-destination bookings compared with last fall. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Meanwhile, Sunwing Travel Group reports seeing “encouraging demand” compared with last fall, which spokesperson Melanie Anne Filipp says shows Canadians are growing more confident about travelling again.

“The rise in vaccinations across the country and easing border measures have without a doubt contributed to Canadians’ increasing interest in travel to sun destinations,” said Filipp, who noted that business remains below pre-pandemic levels.

Montreal-based Air Transat is currently flying passengers to a mix of domestic and international locations. Some of its sun destinations include Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Mexico.

“We confirm that demand is doing well, and we clearly feel that the urge to travel is back,” Air Transat spokesperson Debbie Cabana said via email.

“However, because of the uncertainty that still exists when traveling abroad, bookings are being made more last minute than before the pandemic.”

Being able to back out

A last-minute travel buy was not the story for Dubois, the retired TV cameraman, who booked his own trip back in January.

But he also bought a ticket that will allow him to cancel his plans up to 24 hours before departure, with a full refund.

Tourists take a break at a restaurant in Havana, Cuba, in August 2019. Seven months later, the global pandemic was declared, bringing an end to most leisure travel throughout the world. (Fernando Medina/Reuters)

On prior trips, he hadn’t tended to pencil in the possibility of needing to cancel — but that was before COVID-19.

“Before now, no,” said Dubois, who worked for both CBC and Radio-Canada during his career. “Now, definitely.”

The University of Toronto’s Chandra says the more flexible arrangements being offered by airlines reflects the fact that some customers won’t be willing to book expensive tickets if there’s a chance they will lose their money.

Rolling out the welcome mat

Dubois is heading to Cuba at the end of November, and by that time, travel restrictions will have been eased.

The Cuban Tourism Ministry recently announced that as of Nov. 15, Canadians with proof of vaccination won’t have to take a test before heading to the country. They’ll also be able to travel across the island.

Vacationers take to the water at a Club Med resort in the Dominican Republic before the pandemic. With the progress on vaccination that has been made, one expert says he believes Ottawa’s restrictive stance on leisure travel may have to shift. (Charles Platiau/Reuters)

Sunwing’s Filipp said that “numerous sun destinations are already open for travel,” and like Cuba, other destinations are expected to ease restrictions of their own as vaccination rates rise and COVID-19 cases decline.

Chandra says he’s doubtful that differing rules between sun destinations will have much of an effect on travel patterns.

That’s because a lot of sun seekers — and snowbirds in particular — are likely to “stick to their choices” when it comes to their desired winter getaways. “They’re not going to go other places,” he said.

They’re also unlikely to go to other regions because they head south to take advantage of the better weather, he said.



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