Listen in: Travel writer Simon Veness talks the next British invasion, as Orlando prepares to welcome back UK travelers next week – Central Florida News

Orlando International Airport will begin welcoming back fully vaccinated international passengers on Monday for the first time since the start of the pandemic. 

In 2022 alone, some 765,000 people from the UK are expected to visit the theme parks bringing in an estimated $765 million dollars to the local economy.

WMFE spoke with Simon Veness of Veness Travel Media about this latest tourism-based British invasion.

Read the full interview below or listen to it by clicking on the link at the top. 

Simon: Virgin Atlantic will set the ball rolling with two flights, I believe, from the UK, one from London and one from Manchester. And they’re going to be using their A350, which is the best part of 400 passengers per plane. We understand that they are absolutely full for the first few flights. So we’re certainly going to see, you know, nearly 1,000 people a day coming into MCO from the UK via Virgin Atlantic, and then British Airways will chip in from November 15th, with a daily flight from London, and probably another 350 plus. So it’s going to be an exciting and busy time for Orlando International Airport.

Danielle: You know, I have a question about pent-up demand. When I think about the Midwest, where I’m from, there are so many people that were so excited to come back when they thought it was safe. Do you think that’s going to be the case? We’re just going to see this huge surge?

Simon: Yes, I mean, within reason, yes. I think that there is a huge pent-up demand for Florida because it’s such a popular long haul market for the UK. And we have so many people who are dedicated to coming here, you know, every year pretty much. So there are an awful lot of people ready to come back. Obviously, the one sort of not necessarily snag, but the one possible drag on the proceedings will be the new regulations that everyone has to follow to visit the US from outside countries at the moment by air in terms of being fully vaccinated, in terms of taking a COVID test no more than three days in advance of their flight here. And also, for children under 18, they will also be required to take a second COVID test, once they’ve you know, once they’re here between three to five days after arrival. So there are quite a few hoops that people will need to jump through, which I think might just act as just a little bit of a an inhibitor for the initial rush. But I think once we get through this opening period, and we can see how everything works. I’m sure we’ll see even more people coming in and more flights, especially in the run up to the Christmas period.

Danielle: You know, do you think we’re gonna see kind of that sector of our tourism industry, you know, kind of come back to what it was before the pandemic right away? Some people are saying 2023? Are you still hearing some people even maybe have concerns coming to Florida after what they’ve seen in the news about the Delta variant?

Simon: Yeah, I mean, I think that there’s a there’s a very realistic understanding that that the virus hasn’t gone away. It’s still part of our lives, and we still need to take account of it. But you know, once we’ve got people fully vaccinated, I think that will act as something that really gets people comfortable with the idea of traveling again, especially, you know, a long haul flight when they will still be required to wear masks. It’s going to be a little bit awkward at first, but I do think people will get into the routine very quickly. And once they can see that the new systems are in place and are working and it’s smooth and it’s just one more process if you like in the long haul travel. I think we’ll see the UK market come back to Florida very consistently in 2022. And not only that, we’re gonna see some new faces here as well. Because with all that Disney are doing for their 50th anniversary, it’s going to be very much in the hearts and minds of the UK audience.

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Hawaii told tourists to stay away. Did they listen?

Garrett Marrero, the founder of Hawaii’s largest craft brewery, Maui Brewing Company, has seen poorly behaved tourists during the pandemic, “but I would also argue that I’ve seen many visitors come with the best of intentions and leave saying that they’ll never come back to Hawaii because they didn’t feel welcome,” he said.

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Covid mask fights make plane travel more dangerous. Listen to your flight attendants.

Excitement. Joy. Relief. As passengers return to our planes, the emotion is palpable.

But even for passengers who are thrilled to be embarking on a long-delayed vacation or reuniting with loved ones, there’s also an undercurrent of anxiety.

How could there not be? For most passengers, the flight they’re boarding may be the first time in more than a year they’ve been in close company with strangers.

Let’s be real — sitting shoulder to shoulder with a stranger on a plane wasn’t much fun before we started giving one another a 6-foot berth.

And let’s be real — sitting shoulder to shoulder with a stranger on a plane wasn’t much fun before we started giving one another a 6-foot berth.

With all the ambient stress, it’s easy to see how a conflict can escalate. And conflicts on board are escalating fast. As NBC News reported earlier this week, airlines have referred more than 1,300 unruly passenger cases to the FAA since the start of 2021. In a normal year, we’d see around 150 referrals. Just four months into this year — and with passenger volume still barely half of 2019 numbers — we’ve already seen nearly 10 times the normal number of incidents for a whole year.

What’s causing these incidents? Overwhelmingly, it’s passengers who refuse to wear masks.

It’s a disappointing and all-too-predictable symptom of how the previous administration made the pandemic response a matter of politics, rather than mobilizing the public in shared purpose to take on the biggest disaster relief effort needed in over 100 years.

Flight attendants are no strangers to political debate. Like the rest of the country, we have a diverse workforce. My union alone represents nearly 50,000 flight attendants from every corner of the country. But from Day One of training, we’re taught that we have to leave our differences, political and otherwise, at the airport doors. When it comes to safe’y flying through the air, there’s no room for disagreement.

Flight attendants are aviation’s first responders and last line of defense. We’re thoroughly and carefully trained on safety procedures — and we believe the experts who teach us how the systems of an airplane work and what to do in an emergency.

Flight attendants would never tell you that “whether you put on the oxygen mask is a matter of personal choice.” We understand that clear air turbulence really can throw you against the ceiling without warning, so we don’t say, “Some people believe seatbelts won’t keep you safe, so it’s up to you to decide whether to wear one.”

We’re also trained to help stop the spread of infectious disease. We’re not just enforcing these long-overdue mask policies because we have to: We understand that masks are a way we keep ourselves and each other safe. And we’re grateful policymakers are backing us up.

Despite obstruction by the previous administration, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson took decisive action on Jan. 13 by implementing a zero-tolerance policy for passengers who interfere or refuse to comply with crew instructions. The FAA made it clear there would be no second chances before unruly passengers face fines up to $35,000 and potential jail time. Immediately after his inauguration, President Joe Biden acted to require masks across all public transportation, and the Transportation Security Administration issued a strict enforcement policy. These actions are important. Government can’t send mixed signals about public health and safety.

Yet even while dangerous incidents have skyrocketed — putting flight attendants and other passengers in unfair and unnecessary danger — most Americans are doing the right thing.

Yet even while dangerous incidents have skyrocketed — putting flight attendants and other passengers in unfair and unnecessary danger — most Americans are doing the right thing.

Why? Because we crave solidarity. I’ve seen it over and over again.

Our planes are a microcosm — the conflicts that bubble up in our public life always show up in the cabin. And it’s true that we’re seeing more conflicts escalate on board our planes, and those escalations almost all stem from politics. But far more people are standing together and taking action to keep one another safe.

We need to foster and extend this spirit of cooperation. As Mr. Rogers said, “Look for the helpers.” Every person you see wearing a mask in public is a helper.

Flight attendants travel to every corner of the globe. As long as the virus is raging anywhere, it’s a threat to all of us, everywhere. That’s why we’re advocating to waive patent restrictions to speed vaccine production and extend aid to countries where the virus is surging.

But the only way we can get back to normal is together. We’re thrilled to welcome you back onto our flights, but please: Get vaxxed, wear a mask, come fly with us. And follow all crew member instructions.

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The best travel podcasts to listen to right now

Before the pandemic, podcasts helped me stave off boredom on long-haul flights and kept me company during sleepless nights when my body was in one time zone and my mind was in another. Now, the digital audio shows are my only form of travel. If I can’t physically travel, at least I can mentally move around the globe.

With limited activities, people are spending more time tuning in to podcasts. Edison Research’s Podcast Consumer Tracker discovered a 30-minute uptick in listening times, to 6 hours 45 minutes per week. The listeners’ locales have also shifted. “I can say that ‘at home’ is overwhelmingly the top location for podcast listening,” said Tom Webster, a senior vice president of Edison Research.

As of Dec. 9, Podcast Industry Insights reported about 1.7 million podcasts on Apple Podcasts, the No. 1 podcast app. However, according to data from Daniel J. Lewis, a podcast industry expert, only about 700,000 are active, meaning the shows have published an episode in the last 90 days. Podcasts are arranged by categories, such as Comedy, News and True Crime. Places & Travel falls under Society & Culture, which claims the highest number of shows (nearly 259,000) and level of engagement, according to a spokesman with Apple Podcasts. Clearly, we are looking for an escape, even if all roads lead inward.

“The sonic environment of a place is so evocative that putting on your headphones and entering that landscape can immediately transport you,” said Galen Beebe, an editor at the Bello Collective, a publication about the podcast industry. “You can easily go from a tourist trap to a back street that’s thick with locals, or from the heart of the city to a dense and quiet forest.”

Travel podcasts have not garnered as much attention as blockbusters such as “Serial” and “Stuff You Should Know”; they are still finding their voice. Lauren Ober, podcast host of “Spectacular Failures” and previously “The Big Listen,” said the genre can be challenging. The most engaging shows incorporate audio from the destination — honking horns, bleating lambs, scraps of conversation in a foreign language — but sending a reporter into the field is expensive. So many shows rely on studio interviews or guests recapping their adventures ex post facto — the equivalent of Aunt Jane prattling on about her trip to Tuscany over the phone.

“It’s an underserved area of podcasts,” said Zach Mack, a senior podcast producer at Vox Media. “But it’s picking up. The interest is there.”

Last month, Mack debuted his own travel podcast, “Greetings From Somewhere.” His inspiration was more “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” than “Meet the Press” on a light news day. “I can’t do what ‘Parts Unknown’ did with scenic montages and rich colors,” he said, “but I can bring in characters and noises. My goal is to show, don’t tell.” His podcast will join such new releases as “Let’s Go Together,” “Driving the Green Book” and “Passport” and such stalwarts as Skift’s “Airline Weekly Lounge”; “Dis Unplugged,” which covers the universe of Disney; and Expedia’s “Out Travel the System.” (One guilty pleasure dating from 2005: “Betty in the Sky With a Suitcase,” created by a flight attendant.)

To be sure, there are enough travel podcasts to fill the weeks and months until your vaccine appointment. I sampled dozens and pulled together a playlist that touches on a variety of topics and storytelling styles. I chose only active podcasts, though plenty of shows ended before the pandemic, in case you are interested in time travel. Here are my picks and their target audiences:

If you start every morning with a cup of fair-trade coffee and talk shows . . . Zero to Travel” caters to travelers who suffer from a severe case of wanderlust and, with a little encouragement, might be ready to break their lease for a life on the road. Host Jason Moore chats with experts who share tips harvested from their real-life experiences, such as a couple who paid off their $70,000 debt to travel full time and a woman who left her corporate job to work on a yacht. Many episodes speak to those with more modest ambitions, such as his travel guide to Argentina and a rundown of the world’s least expensive destinations (in 2019 currency). On “The Thoughtful Travel Podcast,” Amanda Kendle leads discussions that are equal parts practical and philosophical. Recent episodes have delved into such sensitive subjects as animal tourism, disabled travelers and visiting Australia after the wildfires. She also brings on high-profile guests, such as award-winning author Paul Theroux, and runs a book club. The most recent literary selection: “Down Under,” by Bill Bryson.

If you have a Rosie the Riveter tattoo, rainbow flag and/or poetry collections by Maya Angelou . . . In “Globetrotter Lounge,” Lisette Austin, who goes by the nickname Jet Set Lisette, sits down with accomplished and inspiring women who have locked arms with their travel muse. Recent guests include Deesha Dyer, a former White House social secretary who co-founded, which empowers Black teens through education and travel; Alison Van Dusen, a backcountry park ranger; and Nour Brahimi, the first female Algerian travel vlogger. Kellee Edwards, a force in the travel world, celebrates other doers in Travel and Leisure’s “Let’s Go Together.” The pilot, scuba diver and Travel Channel personality trains the spotlight on such diverse explorers as a quadriplegic who climbed Machu Picchu, a pair of transgender travelers and the founder of a hiking group for Indigenous women.

If you watch “Parts Unknown” with a box of tissues on your lap . . . The Trip” was started in 2018 by Bourdain and foreign correspondent Nathan Thornburgh, who took over as host after Bourdain’s death. However, every episode seems to contain the late chef’s unquenchable curiosity and willingness to go there, such as a boozy festival commemorating the dead in Madagascar and the search for a porn star in Cuba. Many shows involve drinking with fascinating individuals, like Asya Khramchenkova, who owns Bar Khroniki in St. Petersburg, and Jade George, the Middle East chairwoman of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. “Armchair Explorer” is ear candy for listeners eager to advance from soft to hardcore adventures. In each show, a fearless traveler shares his or her adrenaline-pumping escapade, such as a 5,000-mile expedition through the Middle East, great white shark cage diving in Australia and a rickshaw race across India.

If you wish Yogi and Boo-Boo had taken their show on the road . . . Brad and Matt Kirouac, plus their dog, Finn, traded in their Chicago apartment for a 26-foot RV and a road map of National Park Service sites. In “Parklandia,” they share tips, history and comic pratfalls under such clever headings as “The Mary-Kate and Ashley of Arches National Park” and “Abe Lincoln Is the Beyoncé of Gettysburg National Military Park.” They also peel back the sun shade for an inside-the-rig peek. For example, in “Marie Kondo-ing the RV,” we learn that they had to leave behind their tiki mugs and purge their glassware because of the clattering sound. In May, the hosts announced that they were retiring “Parklandia” and starting a new venture called “Hello, Ranger,” which showcases the national park communities. They already have 20 episodes in the (bear-proof) bag.

If you are a fan of “This American Life” or “Serial” without the murder . . . In “Far From Home,” Scott Gurian, a former public radio reporter, roams the earth with his recording equipment, passport and unflappable disposition — he rarely gets rattled, even when his radiator tank springs a leak in Iran. In the first season, Gurian and his brother participate in the Mongol Rally, a nearly 11,000-mile drive from London to Mongolia. In subsequent seasons, he takes smaller brushstrokes, such as foraging with a medicine man in Peru and learning to throat sing in the republic of Tuva. “Far Flung With Saleem Reshamwala,” part of the TED Talks dynasty, turns an investigative eye on a locale and doesn’t blink until the subject matter — the centuries-old Oberammergau play in Germany, for instance, or Easter Island without tourists — is thoroughly dissected. “Passport” fuses radio-style reportage with sweep-you-away storytelling: Neil Innes and André Bartos, filmmakers who live in Barcelona, interview on-location correspondents who share their adventures — and affections — for, say, train travel in India and the filming of “Game of Thrones” in Belfast, with a special appearance by an Irishman who worked as an extra on the HBO show.

If you are a [insert destination name here]-phile . . . Kerning Cultures Network, which runs the “Kerning Cultures” podcast, is the Middle East’s first venture-funded podcast company. It is also helmed by women. The stories are based in the Middle East and North Africa and resemble a tray of assorted Arabic sweets. A few plucked from the gold-plated platter: the meaning of coffee to a Sufi, Emirati and Yemeni; baklava tales; and a Lebanese man’s quest to visit all 47 U.S. towns named Lebanon. (The Bello Collective included the latter piece in its 100 Outstanding Podcasts of 2019.) “The Musafir Stories” bounces around India, with each episode exploring a specific city, region or theme, such as “Land of Pashmina” or “Yoga in Netala.” Its website includes helpful travel info, such as the closest airport and itinerary highlights. Greg Young and Tom Meyers, who created the Bowery Boys, have been tawking about New Yawk since Mike Bloomberg’s second term as mayor — that’s 2007 to non-New Yorkers. The longtime NYC residents have released more than 340 episodes with a historical and cultural bent, such as a retrospective of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which celebrated its 150th anniversary this year, and a special edition of the Bowery Boys Movie Club on “Ghostbusters.”

If you are drawn to influencers who predate Instagram . . . Rolf Potts is a pioneer of the digital nomad lifestyle, which he called vagabonding back in his day (the early aughts). The Kansas native started “Deviate With Rolf Potts” three years ago with the idea of expanding his field of interest. Some episodes are firmly rooted in travel, such as “The Art of Being a Better Bad Tourist” and “How to Travel With No Luggage at All,” whereas others tangentially touch on travel, such as an interview with White Zombie guitarist J. Yuenger, the former heavy metal rocker and expat. You don’t need to see his rugged face to recognize the man behind “The Wild With Chris Morgan”: His plummy voice and expertise on wildlife give him away. The British conservationist and TV host introduces listeners to the inhabitants (bears, wolves, Arctic terns) of some of our favorite places (Scotland, Norway, Washington state), plus the folks dedicated to protecting them.

If you are ready to upgrade your white-noise machine . . . In “Field Recordings,” global contributors tape their immediate surroundings, turning their setting into a concert stage: waves crashing on a beach in the country of Georgia, branches crackling in a snowy forest in Canada, grasslands awakening after a rainstorm in Senegal. Close your eyes and fly away on Aural Air.

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