Domestic air travel in November declined slightly month over month, largely due to “strengthened travel restrictions in China,” but that was outweighed by growth in international passenger demand as more markets reopened, according to the International Air Transportation Association.
At least that was the scenario prior to the emergency of the Covid-19 omicron variant.
“Unfortunately, governments over-reacted to the emergence of the omicron variant at the close of the month and resorted to the tried-and-failed methods of border closures, excessive testing of travelers and quarantine to slow the spread,” said IATA director general Willie Walsh in a statement. “Not surprisingly, international ticket sales made in December and early January fell sharply compared to 2019, suggesting a more difficult first quarter than had been expected.”
November 2021 global air demand as measured in revenue passenger kilometers declined 47 percent compared with November 2019, a slight improvement over the prior month’s 48.9 percent contraction. November global capacity as measured in available seat kilometers was down 39.7 percent from the October 2019 level. Load factor was off 9.7 percentage points to 71.3 percent.
[Report continues below chart.]
Crossborder demand for November was down 60.5 percent versus November 2019. European carriers posted the most resilient international air travel outcome in November, reporting a 43.7 percent RPK drop from 2019. North American carriers saw traffic drop 44.8 percent for the month, a significant improvement over the 56.7 percent decline in October when compared against 2019 levels. Both European and North American carriers benefitted from the reopening of the North Atlantic market in November.
Domestic U.S. traffic in November 2021 reached 94 percent of pre-pandemic levels, supported by high demand around the Thanksgiving holidays. A new spike in Covid cases, staff shortages and poor weather conditions “mean that any significant RPK improvements in traffic is unlikely in December.”
December and January data is needed to better understand the full effect of the variant’s strain on air traffic, according to IATA.
“If the experience of the last 22 months has shown anything, it is that there is little to no correlation between the introduction of travel restrictions and preventing transmission of the virus across borders,” Walsh added. “These measures place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods. If experience is the best teacher, let us hope that governments pay more attention as we begin the New Year.”
From figuring out how much to tip to paying for almost everything in cash, travelling in the US can be a minefield of money questions.
If you want to avoid blowing too many bucks on card fees and poor exchange rates it can pay to do your research before you travel.
A lot has changed in the 20 months since UK visitors were last spending dollar bills stateside, so read on to make cents of what’s new.
How’s the exchange rate right now?
Unfortunately for holidaymakers, news of the US opening to tourists from the UK and Europe had the effect of boosting the value of the dollar against the pound.
You’ll spend 2p more for every dollar you buy now than on 28 October. The rate as of Monday 15 November was 74 pence to the dollar.
In the 400-plus days that British tourists have been away, the US has slowly caught up with the rest of the developed world when it comes to contactless payments.
Originally slow to the wireless payments game, Apple Pay and Google Pay helped accelerate the uptake of contactless payments stateside.
The best change in the past 20 months? You can finally use Apple or Google Pay on the entire New York Subway and bus system – just like the London Underground and other local transport networks back home.
Bank credit cards
There are lots of bank credit cards on the market that work for travelling with, but Halifax’s Clarity Credit Card regularly tops expert charts.
Anecdotally, the Mastercard is favoured by some of the world’s most frequent and frugal travellers. I took a quick poll of travel writers on a recent trip to New York, and it was the most popular card by far.
You don’t pay any charges on transactions or to take money out of ATMs while overseas and the currency rate is pegged to Mastercard’s official rate.
Digital bank cards
Digital banks are more popular than ever, with many customers choosing to leave brick and mortar banks in favour of online-only brands like Revolut, Starling and Monzo.
Currensea is a great pick for travel. The UK’s first direct debit travel card, it offers a great exchange – you’ll pay no more than 0.5 on the FX travel rate. Simply link it to your current account by direct debit and it takes the money out of your main account after you’ve spent it, providing an extra level of security and peace of mind while travelling. A Mastercard, this plastic is contactless, and chip and pin.
Tipping and cash
In big cities in the US, tipping in bars and restaurants is now expected at 20 per cent, according to every local I asked while reporting from New York last week.
Evelyn Jack, 35, a bartender at Pendry Manhattan West in Manhattan admits what many of us suspect – that service industry workers sometimes give locals preferential service because they know they’ll tip at the local standard rate of 20 per cent.
She said: “It’s not just Europeans who think that 15 per cent is what they should be tipping, some tourists from the Midwest don’t think to pay 20 per cent when they visit New York. The cost of living in the city is so high, wait staff really rely on people paying tips at that higher rate to survive.”
Ms Jack also says that even if you think your main server has not been up to scratch, it is important to tip anyway, as the money is usually split among the entire front-of-house team.
And on the question of cash or card, she says that servers prefer it if you can pay your tips in cash, as in some bars this can mean they will avoid paying tax on the cash.
Currency exchange shops
The golden rule here is to never exchange your money at the airport, where the rates are always poor.
An investigation by FairFX found that Travelex currency exchange desks at Heathrow Airport are offering rates that are 17 per cent less than the market rate, meaning you could lose out on £211 for every £1,000 exchanged.
A safe alternative is always the Post Office who will give you a much fairer rate.
Surging COVID-19 cases and a nearly 15 per cent test positivity rate in southern Manitoba are the “tip of the iceberg,” sparking warnings the whole province will pay the price.
The spread of novel coronavirus in that region means Manitoba will likely have to add more public health restrictions and/or increase enforcement of the existing rules that limit the number of unvaccinated people who can gather, experts say.
The 14.5 per cent test positivity rate in the Southern Health region, revealed in provincial data Friday, is triple the provincewide number. It indicates there is a much wider spread that is undetected, said Winnipeg medical microbiologist Dr. Philippe Lagace-Wiens.
Test positivity in Manitoba, by region
Click to Expand
Reported on Nov. 3, 2021:
Prairie Mountain: 4.8
It means too few tests are being conducted; too many people are not getting tested at all or are not getting tested until they are very sick and need to be admitted to hospital, he said.
“That’s very concerning because what it means is that there’s probably a large amount of people out there with minor symptoms who are potentially spreading the virus within their communities,” he said. “Basically, it suggests that we’re seeing the tip of the iceberg, that there’s probably a lot more community disease than we know about.”
It’s “worrisome” for the whole province, Lagace-Wiens said.
“We can’t stop people from travelling within the province… So how it’s going to affect all those nearby areas is a little bit more of an unknown.”
Case counts are climbing in every health region, even Winnipeg, where the majority of adults are vaccinated.
“But I’m worried it’s not going to be enough to prevent an impending crisis. Our hospitals are quite full with COVID patients and, of course, with other patients who have all sorts of medical conditions,” Lagace-Wiens added.
“We may be finding ourselves in a precarious situation shortly.”
Such a high test positivity rate is three to five times what would be considered controlled spread of the virus. The overall test positivity rate in Manitoba reached 14.5 per cent near the peak of the third wave earlier this year, when 57 COVID patients had to be sent out of province for treatment because local ICUs were full.
“My hope is that we’re not looking at a provincewide set of restrictions, but the challenge is we’re a highly interconnected population and we can’t just assume that if we’re not in that region, we’re not at risk.”
— Winnipeg epidemiologist Cynthia Carr
Winnipeg epidemiologist Cynthia Carr said looking at all of the indicators — test positivity rates, along with vaccination rates, case counts and hospitalizations — “It’s a pretty serious picture for that region, and we’ve got to look at ways to shut it down.”
“My hope is that we’re not looking at a provincewide set of restrictions, but the challenge is we’re a highly interconnected population and we can’t just assume that if we’re not in that region, we’re not at risk.”
Carr said restricting travel by region is likely not achievable. She urged the province to focus on tackling the misinformation fuelling vaccine hesitancy.
“Unfortunately, a targeted shutdown in a region is going to be something like a school or business. It’s going to impact certain people most significantly, while those people who aren’t vaccinated can just continue to travel and go somewhere else,” Carr said.
“So we need to, again, look at messaging: what do we need to do here to enhance credibility and trust within the region, shut down this info-demic of false narratives and continue to provide opportunities for people who are vaccinated?”
On Friday, Manitoba reported 130 new COVID-19 infections and three deaths. Of the cases, 64 were in Southern Health, home to the highest proportion of unvaccinated residents. The provincial average test positivity rate was 4.9 per cent.
A request to interview Manitoba’s health minister about the surge in Southern Health wasn’t granted.
Case numbers increasing week over week in the region “are concerning,” Health Minister Audrey Gordon said in a prepared statement. It acknowledged half of Manitoba’s ICU patients are Southern Health residents, but was careful not to point the finger of blame.
The government is closely monitoring the situation “across the province” and “changes to public health orders are always an option… We also recognize that there are some portions of the population who are not interested in following public health orders, being tested or being vaccinated. We are actively seeking ways to understand these groups and learning how we can provide information in a helpful manner that might bring change,” the health minister’s statement said.
“What will not work is being disrespectful, shaming or creating division. We should be talking and trying to work through the divisions with the best information we can.”
When asked Tuesday about the rising COVID-19 case count in Southern Health, newly sworn-in Premier Heather Stefanson said her government would take “any measure” to keep businesses in the region open. She planned to meet as soon as possible with chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin and would consult with cabinet and caucus, who met Wednesday, to discuss “how we want to see things moving forward.”
When the province revealed — for the first time Friday — Southern Health’s out-of-control test positivity rate, Stefanson’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.
“What’s going on in Southern Health doesn’t just affect Southern Health, it affects Winnipeg, it affects everyone across this province,” said NDP health critic Uzoma Asagwara. “She needs to make decisions that recognize and reflect the reality for all citizens across the province, not just catering to the needs of a select few in a particular community.”
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“Part of what’s concerning to me is we haven’t seen premier Stefanson come out with Dr. Roussin and provide Manitobans with a plan of action.”
Public health officials had repeatedly refused to disclose test positivity rates outside of Winnipeg, saying the data varied because of smaller population sizes. During a COVID-19 briefing Wednesday, deputy chief provincial public health officer Dr. Jazz Atwal said officials had reversed that decision and would make the data public.
The pocket of California that has emerged as a leader in Covid-19 vaccinations may come as a surprise.
Seventy-eight percent of people living in Marin County are fully vaccinated against Covid — the highest rate of any county in California (and just about anywhere in the nation).
But Marin County, a wealthy enclave across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, has historically been a hotbed for anti-vaccine sentiment, a place where many have long shunned routine immunizations.
There are a few possible explanations for the apparent change of heart: The coronavirus pandemic has made the need for vaccinations very real while shifting the politics around getting shots. And anti-vaccine reputation aside, Marin County fits the profile of a highly vaccinated place: rich, college-educated and liberal.
“What we think of as anti-vaxxers — and historically in Marin — is very much rooted in childhood vaccinations,” Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, an epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, told me. “I think you’re already seeing some people balking at the idea that they need to vaccinate their children, even if they themselves are vaccinated.”
Marin County officials say they hope to administer first doses to 75 percent of 5- to 11-year-olds, the newest group eligible for a coronavirus vaccine, by early December. But many see that as an overly ambitious target, especially in Marin.
Dr. Christopher Longhurst, a pediatrician who worked at Stanford for many years, remembers treating children from nearby Marin County who came in infected with measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases.
Longhurst told me about a 6-week-old in the intensive care unit who was admitted with whooping cough, a disease for which the infant was too young to be vaccinated.
The baby lived in a part of Marin County where, because of low childhood vaccination levels, “herd immunity had evaporated,” he said. The infection killed the child.
“Long before Covid, I’ve been a very big vaccine advocate,” he said.
But Marin County has mainly played the part of Covid-cautious county. Even when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a statewide Covid-19 vaccine requirement for students, the strictest in the nation, there was little pushback.
“We still have pockets of very vocal vaccine refusers,” the county health officer, Dr. Matt Willis, told The San Francisco Chronicle, but “it’s clear the community culture has shifted.”
For years, resistance to childhood vaccinations was something embraced by left-leaning, hippiesh types. But opposing Covid-19 vaccines is associated with President Donald J. Trump, an unlikely stance in Marin County, where 82 percent of voters cast ballots for President Biden in 2020.
Still, things often become more complicated when children get involved. Already, Covid-19 vaccination rates for 12- to 17-year-olds in California are lower than for older age groups: 60 percent compared with 71 percent for 18- to 49-year-olds.
The rates may drop even lower for the latest group to become eligible for a shot, given that parents tend to be particularly protective over younger children.
Though Covid-19 has become a leading cause of death among children, some parents may be more hesitant to vaccinate children because their risk of severe illness is far below that of adults.
In a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 27 percent of parents nationwide said they wanted to immediately vaccinate their 5- to 11-year-olds. Thirty percent said they would definitely not get them their shots.
“I am interested in seeing whether the enthusiasm and the wholesale uptake of vaccinations that we’ve seen in some areas” will translate into vaccinations for children, Bibbins-Domingo told me. “I think people are anticipating we’re not going to get the high rates we see in adults.”
Where we’re traveling
Today’s travel tip comes from Monica Vincent, who recommends Nevada City, which is about 60 miles northeast of Sacramento:
On my first visit we discovered Hirschman’s Pond, which let me drop right into being at home with the beauty and nature that surround this little well-preserved Gold Rush town on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada. Surrounded by forests, other Gold Rush towns like Grass Valley, and the Yuba River, Nevada City transports you to another time.
As you arrive at the edge of town, you cross Deer Creek, which flows through the center of town as a reminder that this is a town rooted in the search for gold. The town’s historical buildings now house restaurants, shops, museums and the historic Nevada Theater. They have film festivals, music events and fairs. My favorite time to visit is winter. Little Nevada City turns into a postcard picture for Christmas when the businesses and residents trim the town with small white lights — when and if it snows, the beauty is breathtaking. The town is friendly and inviting, low key, yet hip in a small town kind of way. There are sweet BNBs and places to stay, eat and just hang out. The surrounding area is full of hiking trails — or just pack a picnic lunch and head to Hirschman’s Pond and unwind!
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
And before you go, some good news
I’ll let the first line of this article speak for itself: “Were it not for two goats named Thelma and Louise, Lauren Trout and Chris Angeloro may not have had a love story.”
Hotel occupancy rates in London could
reach 70 to 90 per cent by the end of 2022, with a stronger figure of 87 to 96
per cent occupancy predicted for the UK’s regions.
The figures form part of PwC’s UK Hotels
Forecast 2021-22, which projects average daily rates of £112.26 in London – an
increase of £27.78 on 2021 but still well down from £153.07 in 2019 – and a
moderate increase across the regions to £67.05.
Average occupancy for the year in a
‘moderate rebound scenario’ is expected to reach 56 per cent in London and 63
per cent in the regions, rising significantly towards the year’s end.
The report noted that London’s luxury
hotel market continues to struggle while the mid and budget range has fared
PwC’s forecast also stresses the
significance of business travel in hotels’ fortunes over the year ahead.
“The hotel sector recovery
has a long way to go,” said Sam Ward, UK hotels leader at PwC. “The speed of
recovery in the capital is likely to be dependent on international tourism and
the speed at which business travel returns as markets lift their own
restrictions on citizens travelling to the UK.
“Many businesses have
publicly stated their ambitions to cut business travel even as restrictions are
lifted. Hotels that previously focussed on the business market should think
about how to capture domestic tourism, looking at this as a real opportunity
and, as it returns, the international tourism market.”
The report says the hotel
industry faces a “perfect storm” of operational cost increases coinciding with
the increase in the rate of VAT in April.
“The ability for hoteliers to
endure these costs and preserve profitability will present a challenge in
markets where demand is weaker and more hotel rooms are available,” said Ward. “Recovery
will not be easy or straightforward, but with the right planning and strategy,
hotels across the UK can look forward to significantly better trading over the
next 12 months.”
On Friday, Hawaii’s Governor, David Ige, held a press conference to report good news about the COVID-19 situation on Oahu.
Infection rates have decreased in recent weeks, and vaccination rates have increased, leading to the relaxation of restrictions as it relates to nightlife and large gatherings, which were previously banned in August.
Now, “professionally-managed events” of up to 1,000 people will be allowed on Oahu under certain circumstances.
The new rules are as follows:
Outdoor seated events, such as sporting events, can be held with up to 1,000 attendees, but venue capacities are still limited to 50%.
Starting Oct. 20, indoor events will be allowed with up to 500 attendees.
Other outdoor events, such as weddings or funerals, can also be held starting Oct. 20 with up to 150 people.
Indoors gatherings, including weddings, are still capped at 10 people.
While these relaxations don’t necessarily impact many visitors, another order issued last week certainly will: Now, bars are allowed to serve alcohol until midnight, whereas previously they were cut off at 10 p.m.
For night owls and entertainment seekers, this is certainly good news to hear. Though establishments are still capped at 50% capacity at this time, the extended hours show a sign of confidence going forward.
“We have a reasonably high level of confidence that we are through the worst of the pandemic and the delta surge,” said Hilton Raethel, President of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii.
Illinois’ latest COVID-19 numbers suggest most of the state may have gotten through the worst of the Delta variant storm — for now — but downstate hospitals are still being stretched thin.
The Illinois Department of Public Health on Tuesday reported 3,002 new cases of the disease were diagnosed among almost 74,000 tests, lowering the average statewide case positivity rate to 3.4%, its lowest point since late July.
After two months of exponential increases, daily caseloads now have been on the decline since Labor Day weekend. New hospital admissions have trended downward, too, with the 2,039 COVID-19 patients hospitalized Monday night marking a 10% decrease since last week.
In Chicago, the improvement has been even more pronounced. The city’s positivity rate is down to 3%, with average daily cases down 8% since last week and hospital admissions down 50%.
“We really are looking like we’re coming down the other side of this,” city Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said. “Broadly, things are going quite well, honestly, in Chicago at this point.”
New COVID-19 cases by day
Graphic by Jesse Howe and Caroline Hurley | Sun-Times
The situation is still far worse in southern Illinois, but even that region — the least vaccinated in the state — is seeing marginal improvement. Two intensive care unit hospital beds were available for the region’s 400,000-plus residents Monday night following an entire week of operating at full capacity, which had forced hospitals to divert some patients as far away as St. Louis or Nashville to receive critical care.
Southern Illinois’ regional positivity rate also dipped below 10% Tuesday for the first time since mid-August. Only about 37% of eligible residents in the region are fully vaccinated, compared to about 62% statewide. In Chicago, it’s 66%.
The nation as a whole is “still not doing very well” in containing the Delta variant surge, Arwady said. The city updated its travel quarantine advisory for unvaccinated people to remove California and Puerto Rico, where case numbers have improved, but nonessential travel is still discouraged across the rest of the country.
While coronavirus deaths remain on the rise in Illinois, experts say that’s to be expected because it takes several weeks for ballooning cases to develop into fatal infections. The state reported 23 more deaths Tuesday, while the virus has claimed an average of 37 Illinois lives each day over the past week.
As officials urge unvaccinated residents to finally roll up a sleeve, they’re also reminding people sign up for a flu shot early this fall.
“Flu vaccines and COVID-19 vaccines can be given at the same time if you haven’t already gotten your COVID-19 vaccine,” Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement. “Vaccines are our best protection against severe illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths due to either flu or COVID-19.”
A successful global Covid-19 vaccination programme could see international air travel return at a “staggering rate” later this year, but only if “restraints” on travel are removed, in the view of Emirates Airline president Tim Clark.
Speaking during an Arabian Travel Market event on 24 May, Clark outlined an “ideal situation” where the vaccination programme essentially “beats the virus in its many mutations” and the world “is on top of” Covid-19 by the final quarter of 2021, creating the right conditions for cross-border travel to return at scale.
Such an outcome is possible, Clark believes, with bringing Covid-19 under control “a question of timing”, amid the rollout of vaccinations and other mitigation measures such as track-and-trace programmes.
But even under the “ideal scenario” of significant progress on controlling the virus being made this year, the airline industry will still only be able to take full advantage of “pent-up demand” if certain constraints are addressed, according to Clark, including government-imposed access requirements and a potential lack of airline capacity.
“It’s a question of seeing how we navigate the next six months,” he says. “There is a lot of work to be done to free off that pent-up demand.”
The continuation of complicated and variable pre-travel Covid-19 testing requirements – alongside the insistence in some cases that passengers prove they are vaccinated – and the constant threat of countries being “red-listed” by travellers’ home governments while they are abroad would mean that international travel demand “is going to be restrained”, however much the inoculation programme achieves, he says.
“As long as they are there, they will act as a natural inhibitor, not to demand itself, but to the ability to travel,” Clark states, while highlighting the costs imposed on travellers by testing requirements as another limiting factor.
But under a scenario where there is “an equitable roll-out of vaccines at scale” around the world, Covid-19 testing regimes “are simplified and made cheaper” and governments ease border restrictions, Emirates could see a strong recovery in traffic later in 2021, he says, with the operator having largely retained its fleet of around 260 aircraft during the pandemic.
”All this lends to the theory that by the end of the year, we’ll be back in business at some scale,” Clark states. “But we have to wait and see.”
The Emirates president has previously stated that opportunities could be created for the airline by a “demand upside”, with other carriers having removed significant widebody capacity from their fleets amid forecasts of a years-long recovery back to 2019 traffic levels.
The state added 1,584 new coronavirus infections, bringing to 412,928Maryland’s case count throughout the pandemic, according to the state health department. The figure represents the most new cases reported daily since Jan. 31. Seventeen more people were reported dead from the disease, which has now killed 8,118 in Maryland since March of 2020, health department data shows.
LONDON, March 25, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Corporate travel giant BCD Travel and Gimmonix, the Israeli travel technology developer of cutting-edge hotel distribution and management solutions, are pleased to announce they have entered a strategic partnership.
With hotel rates becoming increasingly competitive in the business travel sector, and the increased prevalence of dynamically priced preferred corporate rates, companies recognize that they need to employ comprehensive rate shopping to validate and benchmark rate competitiveness and ensure cost management.
The BCD-Gimmonix partnership brings together BCD’s corporate travel expertise with Gimmonix’s travel-tech and data standardization capabilities. The partnership will allow BCD Travel’s clients to enjoy increasingly accurate standard market rate benchmarks.
“The BCD-Gimmonix partnership is good news for corporate travel programs ready to move away from stagnant hotel program approaches. Gimmonix’s aggregation and data standardization capabilities greatly enhance the quality and coverage of the rate benchmarks clients need to adopt dynamic rate strategies and optimize their programs all year long,” said Laura Kusto, Vice President & Hotel Practice Lead for Advito & Stay by BCD Travel. “With hoteliers becoming more creative with rate types being distributed, our clients require increasingly accurate rate parsing in order to give them an accurate best-available-rate upon which to compare their negotiated and booked rates. With this partnership we’ve taken a big step forward.”
“This partnership with BCD provides Gimmonix with a unique opportunity to demonstrate a combination of technologies it has over a decade of experience in: search, aggregation, hotel room & rate mapping and standardization,” explains Max Chertkov, Gimmonix’s CCO. “We’ve been following BCD’s unique take on innovation and technology for some time and waiting for an opportunity to work together. I’m excited to see our proprietary technologies pick up in the area of rate auditing and helping solve the challenges there.”
About BCD Travel
BCD Travel helps companies make the most of what they spend on travel. We give travelers innovative tools that keep them safe and productive and help them make good choices on the road. We partner with travel and procurement leaders to simplify the complexities of business travel, drive savings and satisfaction, and move whole companies toward their goals. In short, we help our clients travel smart and achieve more. We make this happen in 109 countries with a global client retention rate of 98%, the highest in the industry. For more information, visitwww.bcdtravel.com.
For the past 10 years, we’ve been at the forefront of travel-tech innovation, helping travel enterprises increase their revenue and boost efficiency through automated hotel mapping technology, API connectivity, and profit optimization tools. For more information, visit www.gimmonix.com