Travel Stocks Are Ready To Roam In 2022, But With These Reservations


For a brief moment, the holidays began to look merry and bright for travel stocks such as consumers started booking more airline tickets, hotel rooms and cruises. But doubts rose when Austria returned to full lockdown status, with Germany set to follow suit, as Europe battled a resurgence of coronavirus infections.




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Then, just as the Thanksgiving weekend got underway, a new Covid-19 variant emerged.

Outlooks that had begun to clear have once again turned sharply mixed and punctuated with warnings, as companies and analysts struggle to forecast what’s just around the next bend. Many remain cautiously optimistic, noting pent-up consumer demand for travel. But closed borders and travel restrictions, combined with Covid-related staffing issues, have raised uncertainties for a sector seen as a leading gauge for consumer spending.

Travel has been one of the earliest and most harshly affected sectors in the coronavirus pandemic. Vaccinations fueled a modest recovery in U.S. domestic travel this year. But the stocks have been wildly uneven.

Travel Stocks’ Bumpy Year

As a group, carriers such as American Airlines (AAL) have slipped about 1% since Jan. 1. Hotels have a 24% gain, with Marriott International (MAR), Hilton Worldwide (HLT) and Wyndham Hotels & Resorts (WH) leading the charge. Travel booking, the industry segment with by far the largest market capitalization, is effectively flat in 2021, but with some wild swings for Airbnb (ABNB) and Expedia (EXPE). Carnival (CCL), Royal Caribbean Group (RCL) and other cruise lines have lagged.

It’s still too early to tell the impact the omicron variant could have on travel stocks in 2022. Even with uncertainty around omicron, however, people are ready to travel again after over 20 months of staying close to home during the pandemic. And that’s good news for travel stocks.

“Our view is the demand is going to be very strong … with peaks and valleys based on Covid variants,” said Helane Becker, a senior research analyst at Cowen.

“People will hear there’s a variant. They’ll assess where they’re going and what they’re doing and probably insist on going anyway,” she said. “I think at this point, people think that this is endemic and we have to figure out a way to live with it.”

Dialing In Omicron

Medical researchers say the omicron strain could be highly transmissible, but reported infections were mostly mild. Scientists are still unsure how effective current Covid-19 vaccines will prove against the new variant.

To combat the new variant, the U.S. has banned non-U.S. citizens arriving from eight nations in southern Africa. The U.S. also implemented strict testing requirements for travel, while Japan barred all foreign visitors. White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said in early December that he hopes the ban will be lifted soon.

The Transportation Security Administration extended the federal mask mandate until mid-March amid concerns about the omicron variant. On Dec. 9, the Supreme Court rejected an emergency request from a Florida resident attempting to block the federal mask mandate for air travel. That means, for now, passengers on airplanes, trains and other public transportation will continue wearing masks.

Travel Stocks Vs. Inflation

Another factor affecting travel demand: inflation. Late in November, the U.S. Travel Association’s travel price index showed prices in October were up 14.4% from a year earlier. Much of that increase was due to motor fuel (up nearly 50%) and hotel and motel prices (more than 25% higher). That put travel prices 6.2% above where they were at the same time in 2019.

Still, inflation does not currently appear to be affecting travel demand, according to Jamie Katz, a senior equity analyst at Morningstar. Travelers have been able to tap into some of the savings achieved during the early stages of the pandemic.

“So far, inflation is having little impact on holiday travel. But if it remains sticky, it could hit summer travel,” she said.

Travel Stocks: Airlines Take Off With New Routes

American Airlines, which expanded capacity on domestic routes earlier this year, has done well during the pandemic as travel shifted toward the domestic side. President Biden on Dec. 3 said there were no plans for a vaccine mandate for domestic travel.

American stock fell 45% in 2020, but has rebounded 90% off its May 2020 low. Shares are up less than 5% so far this year. Looking ahead, Cowen has a market-perform rating on the stock. Its 12-month price target is set at 23 — more than 39% above where the stock traded Thursday.

Becker expects United Airlines (UAL), with its 50% exposure to international routes, to do well in 2022 as international flights come back. The analyst forecasts airline activity to be “mixed, with a bias toward international travel” as borders open up again. Cowen has an outperform rating on United and the airline is a “Best Idea for 2022.”


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All major air carriers are expanding international routes on expectations for a major rebound in international travel.

United will start flying to Amman, Jordan, from Washington, D.C., next spring. It will also take vacationers to popular Spanish destinations from New York in 2022. American opened 10 new international routes this year, and in November, Delta Air Lines (DAL) announced it would relaunch 12 trans-Atlantic routes as the travel ban for EU visitors was lifted.

At its investors day Dec. 8, Southwest Airlines (LUV) said it expects 2022 to be a “transition year” with little capacity growth but a return to profits.

‘The Pilot Shortage Is Real’

With routes expanding, staffing remains a major issue for air carriers. Thousands of pilots and flight attendants took early retirement as airlines looked to conserve money during the pandemic. Now airlines are searching for new personnel.

Major U.S. carriers are expected to hire 9,000 pilots in 2022, according to a November report from FAPA.aero, cited by the Wall Street Journal. Becker said that Cowen estimates the airline industry will need to hire 35,000 to 40,000 pilots in this decade.

She called staffing the “gating factor” for the industry in 2022, especially for smaller airlines that can’t offer the incentives that larger carriers can.

“The pilot shortage is now real,” United CEO Scott Kirby said at the Skift Aviation Forum in November. “We don’t have enough pilots to fly all the airplanes. So the 50-seaters are at the bottom of that pile, and markets that rely on 50-seaters are the ones that are going to lose service.”

Fight Or Flight Attendants

As for flight attendants, they have faced increased levels of passenger hostility since routes began reopening. The spike in unruly passenger incidents ran to more than 5,000 since the start of 2021, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. But even with the uptick in conflict, flight attendant classes remain full. Becker said Delta received 35,000 applications for 1,500 positions. United had 20,000 applicants for just 2,000 spots.

Still, American was forced to cancel nearly 2,000 flights over the Halloween weekend due in part to staffing shortages. The airline has reportedly offered flight attendants triple pay during peak periods in the Thanksgiving-to-New Year holiday season, according to CNBC. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants, representing about 23,000 American Airlines cabin crew members, helped to negotiate the incentives.


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The most acute shortage is in trained mechanics, who are being lured away by private aviation and equipment manufacturers, according to Becker. She said the industry is working with aviation schools like Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to try to attract mechanics as well as pilots.

And like almost every industry, supply chain shortages have hit airlines.

Airlines “can’t necessarily get the parts to do the maintenance for aircraft sitting on the ground. Instead of taking 30 days to do maintenance, it’s taking 45 days or 60 days,” she said.

Cruise Lines Poised For Relaunch

On the seas, cruise ships turned deadly in the early days of the pandemic. The grim details of at least 14 people dead and more than 700 infected on the Diamond Princess in February 2020 gave the world a peek at just how transmissible and deadly Covid-19 was.

More recently, as vaccine distribution rates increased, fans of cruises have been eager to get back out to sea. Carnival said in late September that bookings for the second half of 2022 outpaced pre-pandemic levels.

But omicron has already likely surfaced aboard ships.

A Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) ship docked in New Orleans on Dec. 5 with at least 17 passengers and crew members infected with Covid-19. That included one crew member with a possible omicron infection.

How the new variant might affect bookings is still uncertain. Royal Caribbean said during its Q3 analyst call in October that the delta variant hit 2021 and 2022 bookings, but didn’t affect 2023 bookings.

While the industry grapples with the new Covid variant, the labor shortage hitting other travel stocks is having less of an impact on cruises lines. Operators draw from a global workforce. Carnival’s CFO David Bernstein told analysts during its Q2 call that the company has workers from nearly 150 countries.

“Fortunately, our shipboard jobs are seen as very attractive by crew members around the world. (So staffing) has not been a serious problem as we restart, and we do not expect that it will become one,” Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain said during the Q3 analyst call.

J.P. Morgan has an overweight rating on Royal Caribbean stock and a neutral rating on Carnival stock.

Hotels Rally, Despite Staffing Challenges

Meanwhile, on dry land, hotel and motel stocks have seen the travel industry’s strongest recovery. Hilton Worldwide Holdings has scored a 25% gain for the year through Thursday. Choice Hotels (CHH), which owns the Comfort, Quality, Clarion and Rodeway Inn brands, has a 34% gain. Wyndam Hotels & Resorts (WH) is up 35%.

Travelers will still likely opt for more outdoorsy vacations in 2022, a trend that has been growing during the pandemic, according to Katz. But with the return of Broadway shows in New York and museum reopenings in Washington, cities are likely to see more visitors.

But U.S. hotels face major staffing shortages. Some 94% of respondents to an American Hotel & Lodging Association survey in October said their hotels were understaffed. The most critical staffing need: housekeepers.

The staffing shortage comes as demand for hotel rooms picks up. Katz said Morningstar analysts expect hotel demand to rebound to pre-Covid levels by the end of 2022 domestically and in 2023 for hotels exposed to European markets.

Katz continues to be bullish on Choice and Wyndham in 2022 as they are more focused on family and leisure travel.

But when might business travel return? That’s a big question mark. Omicron uncertainties have companies pushing back plans to return to the office.

Investment banker Jefferies reverted to a work-from-home policy after reporting nearly 40 new Covid cases since the start of December. Google’s parent company Alphabet (GOOGL) is indefinitely pushing back its return-to-office plan. In addition, Ford (F) announced in the first week of December it would delay its implementation of a hybrid work model with employees working from home and the office in different schedules.

Travel Stocks Focused On Bookings

Leading travel booking operators all reported recovering demand and travel trends in the third quarter. But outlooks remained cautious, and volatility is expected.

Expedia CEO Peter Kern told analysts at the UBS Global TMT conference Dec. 6 that he felt confident in the future. But he said “there will still be bumps in the road” when asked about omicron.

“We’re not going to run our company as if the next 100-year plague is coming within two years of the last 100-year plague,” he said.

Instead, the travel booking site is working to streamline operations. That will make it easier for customers to book hotel and air travel together in one cart. It is also focused on becoming a mobile app-first company.

Expedia is the top-ranked stock in IBD’s Leisure-Travel Booking group. The stock is forming a cup base with a 188.03 entry point. Competitors such as TripAdvisor (TRIP) and Booking Holdings (BKNG) have trended lower in recent weeks.

J.P. Morgan analysts have a neutral rating on Expedia with a 181 price target. They wrote in a Nov. 5 note that the company is still in the “early days of operating as a leaner” organization.

During the company’s Q3 earnings call, Expedia management signaled promising signs of recovery coming out of the third and fourth quarters. Goldman sees Expedia in a good position to sustain its U.S. growth, while benefiting from rising international travel — particularly as it invests to increase its competitive stance in Europe and Asia.

Airbnb A Segment Leader And Expedia Rated A Buy

Also in the travel bookings group is Airbnb, which offers vacation home rentals. It has done well during the pandemic. Katz said the company’s bookings are already back to pre-pandemic levels. Airbnb stock is up less than 14% this year. But the December 2020 IPO has tumbled far below a 212.68 buy point in a cup-with-handle base. It is currently listed as a one-half position on IBD’s Leaderboard stock roster.

Goldman Sachs points to Airbnb as the leader in the alternative accommodation travel segment, and an emerging leader in global online travel. It has a sell rating on the stock, due to “potential for a volatile travel environment ahead.” The bank’s 12-month price target on the travel stock is 140.

Booking Holdings has pointed to a volatile travel environment, subject to vaccination levels and cross border travel restrictions, among other factors. Goldman cites the company’s strong management team, its focus on its “connected trip” concept and investment aimed at increasing market share as well as alternative accommodation supply.

Goldman has a neutral rating on Bookings Holdings, with a 2,430 price target. Expedia is a buy, with a price target at 200.

Kern is bullish on the return of business travel, even if companies remain in a hybrid work mode and a one-day business trip is gone forever.

“We may have equally new occasions to bring employees together, which will drive business travel in a new way.”

Follow Gillian Rich on Twitter for investing news and more.

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Be ‘ready to pivot’ domestic holiday travel plans amid rapidly spreading Omicron variant, medical experts say


The rapidly spreading Omicron coronavirus variant means Canadians should be “ready to pivot” their travel plans within the country during this holiday season, said medical experts studying COVID-19.

“If [you] can avoid travel, avoid it,” said Dr. Peter Juni, the head of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table. “We just need to really seriously cut down on our contact.”

  • Have a coronavirus question or news tip for CBC News? Email: [email protected] or join us live in the comments now.

And to those who’ve already purchased plane or train tickets for domestic travel, he said he has one question:  “Can you cancel still?”

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, has said the Omicron variant caseload could “rapidly escalate” in the coming days, and that it’s on its way to becoming the dominant coronavirus strain in Canada.

WATCH | Tam explains why its important to take precautions despite Omicron’s unknown severity:

Data on severity of omicron variant still preliminary, but Dr. Tam urges caution

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Teresa Tam says the data on the severity of the omicron variant is still premature but that Canadians should still exercise caution. 1:19

It’s considered highly contagious and can infect those who have been vaccinated, but early reports suggest it may pose a less severe risk of hospitalization.

Juni noted that even those who have been vaccinated twice may be at risk at getting infected or transmitting the virus within the confines of a plane or train.

David Naylor, co-chair of the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force suggested people who do decide to travel in coming weeks exercise more caution and look for alternatives to their modes of travel to avoid being in cramped quarters.

“I completely understand that, for all kinds of personal reasons, many Canadians will want to travel in the next three weeks,” Naylor said in an email to CBC News. “If you can avoid travel or get where you want to go in a private car with a limited number of trusted passengers, so much the better.”

Try to avoid travel

Naylor noted Canadian regulations require everyone 12 and older on a plane, train, or ship to be fully vaccinated. He also said air filtration on planes is generally efficient and in-flight transmission of COVID-19 has been rare, so far.

“With Omicron, I suspect that may change, and train rides are also riskier now,” he said. “So again, please mask carefully, and limit the time that your mask is off during the flight or train rides.”

Naylor also recommended limiting holiday gatherings to family and trusted friends who have received two or three COVID-19 vaccines.

“I would not set a specific limit on numbers in those circumstances, but the bigger the gathering, the higher the risk that Omicron or delta will crash the party,” he said.

Canadians should ensure they’re wearing high quality masks when travelling by plane or train, experts say. (CBC)

Vaccination status is key, said University of Toronto epidemiologist Dr. Jeff Kwong, and everyone travelling by air or train should ideally have three doses — or at least two, if they are only eligible for two. But travellers can also be safer by wearing high quality N95 or KF94 masks, he said.

“You can’t entirely eliminate the risk,” he said. “I mean, the only way to eliminate the risk is you don’t go anywhere, but you can try to make things as safe as possible.”

Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious diseases specialist and associate professor at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, said Canadians should think about where they’re travelling, especially if they’re headed to a region with high Omicron numbers, and then determine how best to minimize their risk.

Minimize risk

“If you’ve been vaccinated to the absolute utmost level that you can be vaccinated to under your current guidelines, that helps,” she said.

But if Canadians have family members who are at a higher risk because of their medical condition, “you’d want to really look at the circumstances, the timing, the where, the when, the air exchange, the masking for that situation especially.”

Rapid testing could also play a role in travel plans, but should only be used as an additional layer of protection, she said. It should be considered a “red-light test”, meaning, an individual who tests positive should not be in contact with anyone. And someone who tests negative should be as careful had they never been tested, she said.

WATCH | When could Omicron become dominant in Canada?

COVID-19: When could omicron become dominant in Canada?

Andrew Chang talks to infectious diseases specialists Dr. Susy Hota and Dr. Lisa Barrett about when the omicron variant may become dominant in Canada, whether it appears milder than delta and if people should change their holiday plans. 6:56

Like Naylor, Saxinger noted planes generally have good ventilation filtration systems, and said with the current levels of Omicron in Canada, “domestic flights are probably reasonable.”

She advised air travellers to wear a well-fitting medical mask or N95 mask, noting the fit “makes a huge difference.” 

‘Be ready to pivot’

Still, Saxinger cautioned that as things evolve, and more information comes forward, people may have to “be ready to pivot” their travel plans.

For example, if Canadians are planning to travel somewhere that’s having an “explosive Omicron outbreak” and some people in their group are at higher risk, they  “might want to rethink that just because it’s really changing so quickly.”

“I’m still planning to travel to see family, but I’m also preparing myself mentally for cancelling that,” Saxinger said.

As for family gatherings Saxinger suggested no more than 10 per household and said she would advise family pods eat separately, and when all gathered together people should leave on their masks.

“There’s a whole bunch of different ways you could try to reduce potential risk,” she said. “Thinking about the airspace, masking when you’re not eating, thinking about the ventilation, still doing hand hygiene and still doing potentially even distancing….

“It’s still worthwhile.”


Have questions about this story? We’re answering as many as we can in the comments.




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Watch now: Northern Wisconsin in full winter mode and ready for visitors | Local News







Winter has arrived in northern Wisconsin

Doug Annis of Madison uses a battery-powered auger to drill though freshly fallen snow and five to six inches of ice on a Vilas County lake last weekend.




When we arrived on Friday, the Boulder Junction area had about eight inches of snow on the ground. By Saturday morning another 10 inches had fallen. We had five to six inches of ice but pulling our sleds loaded with gear through the deep snow and slush was arduous and sweaty. Between four people fishing for 19 hours over three days, we caught a grand total of two walleye, a bunch of finger-sized perch, eight dinky northern pike and one 8-inch rock bass.






Winter has arrived in northern Wisconsin

Jason Klein of Madison trudges through the snow of a Vilas County Lake on Saturday after the region received about 10 inches of snow. The storm made travel difficult but has set the region up for what could be a banner year for winter tourism.




So much for best-laid plans.

However, more encouraging news for the tourism industry came on Tuesday when AAA released its annual holiday season travel forecast. It shows that, nationally, more than 109 million people will travel between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2, a 34% increase from 2020 and just 8% shy of 2019, when a record number of people traveled. In Wisconsin AAA estimates that 2.1 million are forecast to travel this season, which is 10.2% fewer than in 2019 but 32% more than 2020, despite gas being on average, $1.25 more per gallon, according to AAA.






Winter has arrived in northern Wisconsin

At Northern Highland Sports in downtown Boulder Junction, snow is a key ingredient to business each winter.




“Americans who canceled their vacations in 2020 want to gather with family and friends for the holidays this year, although they will still need to be mindful of the pandemic,” said Debbie Haas, vice president of AAA. “With vaccines widely available, conditions are much different and many people feel a greater level of comfort with travel this year.”



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Troopers Ready For Busy Thanksgiving Travel Weekend | KLIN


As Nebraskans prepare to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend state troopers will be on patrol keeping roads safe.  “We are expecting a big increase in roadway travel for Thanksgiving, as many people are hitting the road to visit family and friends,” said Colonel John Bolduc, Superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol. “As families gather across our state, let’s all work together to make sure this Thanksgiving is remembered for those joyous events, rather than a tragedy on the road.”

AAA announced earlier this month that it is projecting the largest single-year increase in Thanksgiving travel since 2005. The vast majority of those travelers will be using the road to reach their destination.

“Troopers will be on the road throughout the entire state this weekend, working overtime to assist motorists and maintain safe roadways for everyone on the road,” said Colonel Bolduc. “We encourage all drivers to follow traffic safety laws, avoid distractions, and buckle up, every trip and every time.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 279 people were killed in crashes around the country during the 2019 Thanksgiving weekend. More than half were not wearing a seat belt. For more information about traveling safely this Thanksgiving visit www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/seat-belts.

Any motorist in need of assistance can call *55 or 800-525-5555 to reach the NSP Highway Helpline, 24 hours per day.



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UVA Women’s Basketball ready to tip-off 2021 season


CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) – The Virginia women’s basketball team will play its first game of the season on Tuesday night, as the Cavaliers travel to face James Madison.

UVA is coming off a season in which they only played five games, and lost all of them, before shutting down due to COVID issues.

The Wahoos have been picked to finish last in the ACC this year, but they have a lot of new faces on the roster, including five transfer players.

Three of the five transfers stand at least 6-feet tall.

“We finally have a post presence,” says head coach Tina Thompson. “We have a big we can actually feed, and go 1-and-1 in the post, and have an ability to score.”

Virginia’s last win came in February of 2020, but they’re expecting a lot of improvement this year.

Senior guard Amandine Toi says, “I think we were lacking of people, so it was hard to compete at all times, but now that we have a full roster, we are able to actually apply stuff, and harass people, and actually be in games and compete.”

Thompson adds, “We can do a lot of things at a different level, and we can have an expectation of competing at a high level from start to finish.”

Virginia and JMU tip-off on Tuesday at seven o’clock in Harrisonburg.

Copyright 2021 WVIR. All rights reserved.

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Germany’s Merkel ready to have more time to read, travel


German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she is satisfied with the timing of her departure after 16 years at the helm of the country and is now looking forward to dedicating time to things she had to neglect during her chancellorship

BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she is satisfied with the timing of her departure after 16 years at the helm of the country and is now looking forward to dedicating time to things she had to neglect during her chancellorship.

Merkel said she wants to “perhaps travel a bit or read, or simply enjoy some leisure time knowing that no possible upheaval may happen in the next 20 minutes,” weekly paper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported on Saturday.

She said that while the years in office had fulfilled her, they had also been challenging because of the constant need to pay attention to, prevent, or react to crises.

“I can say with a good feeling now that it is right for someone else to take over,” Merkel told the newspaper.

Germany held its national election last month. The Social Democrats, the Greens and the Free Democrats are currently in talks about forming a coalition government. The three parties said earlier this month they aim to have the country’s next chancellor in place in early December.

Outgoing Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz, whose center-left Social Democrats narrowly won the election, appears to have the best chance of succeeding Merkel.

Until the next government has been formed, Merkel will continue to lead Germany in a caretaker position, and on Saturday was attending the Group of 20 summit in Rome.

Merkel, who is 67, said she feels gratitude to have been able to have served the county and also looks back with satisfaction “on a long, and in some cases complicated, period.”

“A little melancholy will perhaps also come later,” she added.

———

For more AP coverage on Germany’s election: https://apnews.com/hub/germany-election



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Germany’s Merkel Ready to Have More Time to Read, Travel | World News


By KIRSTEN GRIESHABER, Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she is satisfied with the timing of her departure after 16 years at the helm of the country and is now looking forward to dedicating time to things she had to neglect during her chancellorship.

Merkel said she wants to “perhaps travel a bit or read, or simply enjoy some leisure time knowing that no possible upheaval may happen in the next 20 minutes,” weekly paper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported on Saturday.

The chancellor, who announced in 2018 that she would not run again in the national election last month, steered Germany safely through a succession of crises including the global financial crisis, the migrant crisis and the coronavirus pandemic.

She said that while the years in office had fulfilled her, they had also been challenging because of the constant need to pay attention to, prevent, or react to crises.

Political Cartoons on World Leaders

Political Cartoons

“I can say with a good feeling now that it is right for someone else to take over,” Merkel told the newspaper.

Germany held its national election last month. The Social Democrats, the Greens and the Free Democrats are currently in talks about forming a coalition government. The three parties said earlier this month they aim to have the country’s next chancellor in place in early December.

Outgoing Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz, whose center-left Social Democrats narrowly won the election, appears to have the best chance of succeeding Merkel.

Until the next government has been formed, Merkel will continue to lead Germany in a caretaker position, and on Saturday was attending the Group of 20 summit in Rome.

Merkel, who is 67, said she feels gratitude to have been able to have served the county and also looks back with satisfaction “on a long, and in some cases complicated, period.”

“A little melancholy will perhaps also come later,” she added.

For more AP coverage on Germany’s election: https://apnews.com/hub/germany-election

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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Germany’s Merkel ready to have more time to read, travel | Ap-top-news


BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she is satisfied with the timing of her departure after 16 years at the helm of the country and is now looking forward to dedicating time to things she had to neglect during her chancellorship.

Merkel said she wants to “perhaps travel a bit or read, or simply enjoy some leisure time knowing that no possible upheaval may happen in the next 20 minutes,” weekly paper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported on Saturday.

The chancellor, who announced in 2018 that she would not run again in the national election last month, steered Germany safely through a succession of crises including the global financial crisis, the migrant crisis and the coronavirus pandemic.

She said that while the years in office had fulfilled her, they had also been challenging because of the constant need to pay attention to, prevent, or react to crises.

“I can say with a good feeling now that it is right for someone else to take over,” Merkel told the newspaper.

Germany held its national election last month. The Social Democrats, the Greens and the Free Democrats are currently in talks about forming a coalition government. The three parties said earlier this month they aim to have the country’s next chancellor in place in early December.

Outgoing Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz, whose center-left Social Democrats narrowly won the election, appears to have the best chance of succeeding Merkel.

Until the next government has been formed, Merkel will continue to lead Germany in a caretaker position, and on Saturday was attending the Group of 20 summit in Rome.

Merkel, who is 67, said she feels gratitude to have been able to have served the county and also looks back with satisfaction “on a long, and in some cases complicated, period.”

“A little melancholy will perhaps also come later,” she added.


For more AP coverage on Germany’s election: https://apnews.com/hub/germany-election

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.





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Americans finally ready to travel as airfare prices peak — 7 tricks to score deals


After a long and at times stressful year, Ilyse Rykus and her husband David are eagerly looking forward to their trip to the Pacific Northwest this August.

The couple are traveling with David’s parents, who take an annual trip to Oregon to visit family in the area — everyone has been vaccinated, offering them all peace of mind. One of David’s uncles died of COVID-19, making the trip even more meaningful.

“We have never joined them, but considering all that has happened this past year we thought being with family was a good move,” Rykus, who lives in West Palm Beach, Fla., said.

But the vacation also represents an opportunity to cut loose — Rykus is turning 30 this summer, and during the trip she will be visiting places she’s never been to before. “My husband and I don’t get to go on many trips together, so when we do we try to make the best out of it,” she said. “It will be exciting to explore with the people I love.”

‘It will be exciting to explore with the people I love.’


— Ilyse Rykus, who lives in West Palm Beach, Fla. with her husband David.

Like many other Americans, Rykus and her husband have been able to save up for their travels, and the couple is planning to use credit-card points they had saved for almost two years to pay for their flights. Family in the hospitality business also helped the couple score deals on hotels.

Tourists from outside the European Union who have been fully vaccinated should be allowed in, ambassadors from the 27-member bloc countries agreed Wednesday. The EU’s European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control will advise on the list of countries and the requirements.

Research indicates that this will be the summer of “revenge travel.” A recent survey from Charles Schwab
SCHW,
+1.59%

found that traveling was the top item on people’s spending lists, with 40% of people citing it as something they want to dole out cash on. Another 24% of people said they want to go on an extended vacation.

Those findings echo other research showing how eager Americans are to hit the road — or skies. A study released in late April by travel website Skyscanner found that more travelers were booking trips in May and June of this year than in 2019.

Another poll from research firm Ipsos
IPS,
+4.66%

found that half of Americans planning to travel are looking to go on a road trip, while 40% were planning getaways involving flights.

‘Summer is always the most expensive time of year to travel.’


— Scott Keyes, founder of travel website Scott’s Cheap Flights

Even in a normal year, it’s not always the cheapest to travel during the warmer months. “Summer is always the most expensive time of year to travel because you’ve got nice weather and you’ve got students, teachers and parents with kids in school who can only travel during these times,” said Scott Keyes, founder of travel website Scott’s Cheap Flights.

But this isn’t a normal year. Many people were forced to cancel trips over the past year because of the pandemic, and plenty of them are sitting on travel credits they are itching to use.

Airlines and other travel operators are working to ramp up operations in response to the higher demand, but that takes time. And air carriers will be cautious to bring more planes back into service to offer more flights, just in case the pandemic takes another turn for the worse and travel demand subsides again.

As a result, experts have warned that it could quickly become expensive to travel this summer. The most recent report on consumer prices from the U.S. government showed a record increase in the price of airfare, for instance.

That long-awaited summer vacation doesn’t need to break the bank. Here are tips from financial and travel experts on how to save money on your post-pandemic getaways:

Book sooner rather than later

This may seem obvious, but summer is right around the corner. And while last-minute deals can arise, they aren’t guaranteed. The more time you give yourself to research the prices of hotels, airfare and activities, the more likely you are to snatch up the best possible deal.

“If you wait until Memorial Day to book your summer flights, the odds of being able to get something cheap still then aren’t good at all,” Keyes said. He noted that there are still cheap fares available, such as round-trip flights between the U.S. and Athens, Greece, for $560.

But waiting too long can cost you. If you know where and when you want to go, start to monitor the cost of airfare to that destination so that you can recognize a good deal and scoop it up quickly.

Credit-card points and airline miles could soon lose value

Another reason not to wait: Airline miles and credit-card points could soon lose value. With so many people sitting on unused points and miles from last year, airlines have incentive to reduce how much those are worth, said Matt Schulz, chief industry analyst at LendingTree
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.

“It’ll likely happen slowly and gradually, but I do think it is likely to happen, so consumers’ best move is to use those points they have sooner rather than later,” Schulz said.

Do your trip planning in reverse

When booking a trip, most people start off by thinking about where they want to go and when, and only begin to consider the price at the end of the decision-making process. Instead, Keyes suggests a reverse approach.

“By setting price as the last priority, it’s not surprising that we end up with some pretty expensive flights,” he said. Instead, he recommends seeing which flights are cheapest out of your local airport, and then figuring out which destination seems the most appealing and then figuring out when you’ll travel.

Websites like Skyscanner
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and Google
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offer ways of exploring the vast range of options in this manner. Of course, for that strategy to work, people will need to be flexible about when they want to travel.

Take advantage of $0 change fees

Don’t be afraid to change your travel plans if a better deal comes along. In the wake of the pandemic, the vast majority of airlines began waiving flight-change fees so people could amend their travel plans because of the pandemic. Those policies still remain in place with many airlines, so if you see a better price come along, look into whether it will be free to switch. Any savings will be returned to you in a voucher for future travel, Keyes said.

Make the most out of flight vouchers

Nadine Marie Burns, CEO and president of advisory firm A New Path Financial, and her husband had three trips cancelled due to the pandemic. Like many people, they received vouchers for their unused flights. With travel opening up again, Burns began to work on putting together some trips herself.

Eventually she called her airline, Delta
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and the customer service agent helped her book a first-class trip to Reno, Nevada, for her and her husband using their e-vouchers and points. “Sometimes there is a mastery about putting the puzzle together when we all seem to have so many different pieces such as e-tickets, points, companion fares and more,” Burns said.

Of course, people need to keep the fine print of any remaining flight vouchers in mind. Many of the vouchers come with an expiration date, said Jordan Staab, president of SmarterTravel Media and Airfarewatchdog. In most cases, travelers need to book their trips by that date, but can travel after it.

Flight vouchers from cancelled trips often carry expiration dates.

“A cool trick we have used successfully is to book a flexible ticket with the voucher and you can change at a future date if needed, so you can maintain control past the expiration date,” Staab said.

Use rewards credit cards wisely

Many people were able to save money throughout the pandemic and pay down their credit-card debt, boosting their credit scores along the way. That could make now a prime time to take advantage of a rewards credit-card.

“The credit card space is incredibly competitive at the moment, and that’s good for consumers looking for deals,” Schulz said. “Issuers know that an explosion of pent-up spending is coming, and they’re offering good deals on new cards in hopes of capturing as much of that spend as possible.”

It’s easy to find big sign-up bonuses for new credit cards, but there’s a risk: Credit cards can cause people to spend beyond their means. Given the high interest rates credit cards carry compared to other loans, it wouldn’t be worth it to try to save money with one if you end up accruing a large amount of debt. Shoppers should aim to pay their balance in full every payment cycle to avoid paying high amounts of interest.

Spending more could actually save you money

Spending a little bit more money on a trip can give you peace of mind should plans change. Remember how airlines are letting people change their flights free of charge? In many cases, that policy doesn’t apply to so-called “basic economy” fares, which are the cheapest tickets you can purchase.

“If you’re booking a couple months out and then traveling internationally, it can often be worth the extra $30 or $40 because that gives you flexibility to be able to change your dates,” Keyes said.

In that same vein, travelers may want to consider investing in travel insurance, particularly for international trips, given that border-entry policies are very much subject to change as the pandemic continues.

“Plenty of credit cards offer at least some form of travel insurance, and that can be helpful,” Schulz said. “However, if you want maximum protection, you should consider paying a little extra for it.”



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