On the road again: summer travel resumes in big way | Local News

The unofficial start of summer is off to a roaring start this Memorial Day weekend, despite rising travel costs and COVID-19 concerns.

“We’re going to have 1.2 million more people traveling,” said Jim Garrity, director of public affairs for AAA. “It’s almost 7% more than last year. Consumers are ready to travel again, especially those who didn’t make a trip last year, maybe haven’t seen certain members of their family or friends for a couple of years. They’re thinking to themselves, ‘This is the year I’m going to get back out there.’”

Of course, those who want to get away are dealing with a few factors that may cause some hesitation, such as the price of airfare and gasoline.

According to figures released by AAA, the lowest average airfare is 6% more than last year and mid-range hotel rates have increased by about 42%.

And gasoline prices have eclipsed 2021’s numbers in a big way.

According to AAA, the average price of gasoline in Western Pennsylvania the week of May 22 was $4.70 per gallon. The average price during the week of May 24, 2021, was more than $1.50 less – $3.178 per gallon.

This week’s average price of unleaded self-serve gasoline was $4.699 in Washington and $4.687 in Uniontown.

“Airfare and gas are out of sight right now,” said Sandy Davis, owner of Davis Travel Agency in Monongahela. “I was looking for someone for airfare to Florida and it was $800. That’s crazy. It’s just ridiculous.”

Still, she said, more people are booking trips this year than the last two years. COVID fears seem to be less.

“I just came back from Europe and you would never know it,” Davis said. “I was in five countries in 12 days, and really you would never know it.”

Carl Brandtonies, owner of Worldview Travel in Washington, also said more people are traveling but said the rising gas prices may curtail that a bit.

“We’re seeing more people going out, but the gas is going to start affecting it and airfares are starting to grow,” he said. “They’re looking to book trips, but the airfares are starting to increase pretty good right now.’

Garrity said AAA conducted a survey in February as gas prices began to climb.

“What we found is that around the $4 mark is when consumers would start making changes in their daily habits and behaviors so they could still prioritize things like travel, summer road trips, vacations, going to see family and friends, maybe now more than ever for consumers who haven’t been able to do so over the last few years,” he said. “Despite those higher gas prices, more people are traveling.”

Something that did occur during COVID was the rediscovery of the outdoors. Local attractions such as Mingo Creek County Park should be quite popular throughout the summer.

“If the weekend turns out to be a beautiful weekend with the weather, I have no doubt that Mingo is going to be packed with people,” said Lisa Cessna, Washington County planning director.

Cessna said permit applications for Cross Creek Park Lake have increased, especially for motorized boats, paddle boats and kayaks. Plus, shelter rentals are going strong.

“It used to be just the fisherman’s lake, but now we have a lot of people doing some recreational activities that we had never seen before,” she said. “You’d be hard-pressed to find a shelter on the weekend throughout the summer. There are still some available during the week. We’re pretty much booked solid with all of our shelters on the weekends throughout the summer.”

Bret Moore, Greene County’s recreation director, said there was solid participation in outdoor events, as well as good crowds at the Greene River Trail during the pandemic. Now, it’s picking up even more.

“Most of our events are very well-attended,” he said. “The drag races are scheduled for the airport (Sunday), and we’re assuming there’s going to be a very large turnout.

Moore also said pavilion rentals and pool parties are booked throughout the better part of the summer.

It does seem as if people want to be out and about again.

“Our travel advisers have been very, very busy, and a lot of the time it’s just people calling in and asking what’s available,” Garrity said. “The wanderlust is starting to take hold and the urge to go out and go anywhere – a lot of people are starting to feel that again. It’s exciting to see.”

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Revived Flybe resumes services after two-year absence

The reborn UK regional airline Flybe has finally relaunched its first flights for more than two years by operating a domestic route across the Irish Sea.

Flybe Ltd operated its first flights on Wednesday (13 April) from its new headquarters of Birmingham airport to Belfast City.

The revived brand will offer four daily flights between the two airports, which will be the airline’s first two bases, before launching a total of 23 domestic and international routes this summer.

Flybe, then based in Exeter, collapsed in early March 2020 after years of financial struggles. The latest incarnation of the airline was created in November 2021.

Flybe CEO Dave Pflieger said it was “a big day for everyone at Flybe”, as its first Dash 8-400 aircraft took off from Birmingham.

“Over the coming weeks and months our flight schedule will further ramp up as we take delivery of additional aircraft and serve other new destinations from Birmingham including Amsterdam, Avignon, Brest, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen,” added Pflieger.

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Confidence Grows as Global Travel Resumes

The United States requires all non-U.S. citizens to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 before entering, and all arrivals—including vaccinated U.S. citizens—must have proof of a negative test one day before departure or proof of having recovered from Covid within 90 days. Groups including GBTA and travel management company CWT have called for the U.S. government to drop the testing requirement for vaccinated travelers, but as of press time it remains. Masks remain required on airplanes and other forms of public transportation at least through April 18 and some U.S. municipalities may require indoor masking. New York City last month dropped its vaccine requirement for restaurants, although some may choose to require it.

The United Kingdom last month dropped all Covid-related travel restrictions, and international travelers can enter the country regardless of vaccination status and without quarantine.

Restrictions vary among the countries that make up the European Union, but many have eased them in the past few months. France, for example, no longer requires a Covid test for vaccinated travelers to enter, and Germany last month dropped quarantine requirements regardless of country of origin. Some countries, including Denmark and the Netherlands, have dropped all Covid-19 regulations. IATA and other travel groups have called for the removal in Europe of restrictions. Travel in Eastern Europe is complicated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Australia in February dropped restrictions on fully vaccinated inbound international travelers, though some states retain quarantine requirements. Unvaccinated travelers require a valid travel exemption and must quarantine. 

Japan last month began allowing entry to approved international business travelers (though not leisure travelers) who offer proof of a negative Covid test before departure and upon arrival. Vaccinated and boosted travelers can avoid quarantine, others must quarantine seven days, or three with an additional negative Covid test.

Omicron in early April was running rampant in China, which was locking down some metropolitan areas in an effort to contain the virus. The country largely remains closed to international business travelers, with negative-test and quarantine mandatory for the few who are approved. 

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WINTER WEATHER UPDATES: Traffic resumes on Interstate 70 east of Columbia after wreck


LINK: Closings and Delays

6:11 p.m.

Traffic cleared up on eastbound Interstate 70 around 6:08 p.m.

Missouri State Highway Patrol has not updated what caused the wreck near mile marker 134 since it occurred.

5:50 p.m.

A crash on eastbound Interstate 70 past the Range Line Street and Route Z exits has closed the passing lane.

The Missouri Department of Transportation said at about 5:30 p.m. that the closure could last an hour. A traffic camera nearby showed a long line of slow-moving traffic west of the crash site, which is at mile marker 134.

2:05 p.m.

Parking restrictions on primary routes in Columbia have been lifted.

The Public Works Department said on Twitter just before 2 p.m. Friday that parking on those roads can resume as normal. Parking is restricted on those routes when snow exceeds 2 inches, making vehicles subject to ticketing and towing.

Columbia Public Works’ snow clearing street map showed crews have made passes on most priority routes, but that roads were still not deemed to be easily passable by a two-wheel drive vehicle as of mid-afternoon. A public works spokesman told ABC 17 News that clearing operations on priority, secondary and other streets will continue throughout the day, and some roads will remain slick.

The Missouri Department of Transportation’s map showed state highways were clear through most of Mid-Missouri as of mid-afternoon. Temperatures in Columbia had reached the freezing mark with periods of sunshine.

12:20 p.m.

The Missouri Department of Transportation’s map shows significant clearing on Mid-Missouri’s state highways as temperatures rise and the sun pokes out in some areas.

Stretches of Highway 63 and Interstate 70 retain some snow cover but are listed by the agency as mostly clear. That’s also the case with Highway 24 and Highway 54 in the eastern and southern reaches of Mid-Missouri. Some stretches of major highways through the area are designated clear.

Snow piled up on roads early Friday, causing several crashes and slide-offs. However, those incidents slowed down later in the morning and into the afternoon.

Temperatures hovered around 30 degrees at noon, allowing road treatments to assist in melting the snow.

10 a.m.

Authorities warned of a crash slowing traffic on Interstate 70 eastbound near the Midway/Highway 40 exit in Boone County.

A Missouri Department of Transportation traffic camera showed tractor-trailers pulled over on the roadside. Traffic continued to flow in the passing lane and the scene appeared to be nearly cleared at 10 a.m. The agency’s traffic map showed roads at least partially covered around Mid-Missouri.

Jefferson City police said a little before 10 a.m. that a crash on Highway 54 near Cassidy Lane was causing delays.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Troop F says it has responded to 61 calls since midnight, including 24 stranded drivers, 30 non-injury crashes and two injury crashes.

8:55 a.m.

Traffic has started to again flow in the eastbound lanes approaching the bridge.

8:50 a.m.

Traffic was backed up at the Missouri River Bridge between Boone and Cooper counties after a crash.

The Missouri Department of Transportation warned the eastbound lanes in Cooper County were closed because of the crash. The closure could last an hour, the agency said.

8:25 a.m.

Snowfall totals vary widely across Central Missouri as a winter storm that dropped two waves of snow wraps up.

The area’s highest official total as of Friday morning was 9.7 inches in Sedalia. Other totals include 4.9 inches at Ashland, 7.6 inches in Boonville, 3.3 inches in Kingdom City and 2.5 inches in Camdenton.

8:30 a.m. live weather update

An official total was not yet available for Columbia.

The snow prompted schools around the area to cancel classes and has caused several crashes, including tractor-trailers jackknifing on Interstate 70.

7:45 a.m.

A new Columbia Public Works team is starting to treat and plow first and second-priority routes.

City leaders reported the 28-person team reported in for their shift at 7 a.m. The crew replaces a 23-person overnight plow team. Crews plan to keep first and second-priority routes across Columbia in a passable condition on Friday.

The city’s bus system, Go COMO, will also operate on an alternating schedule. That’s similar to the routes city buses use for Saturdays.

Customers can download the Go COMO app to find the location of buses in real time.

7 a.m.

The Missouri Department of Transportation is reporting possible delays on westbound Interstate 70 in Columbia.

An ABC 17 News crew near the 129 mile-marker saw a semi-truck on its side. More details about the crash weren’t immediately available.

The MoDOT Traveler Information Map website showed poor road conditions across Mid-Missouri.

Boone County Joint Communications has asked drivers to avoid traveling on Friday morning if possible.

6:35 a.m.

Columbia will enforce no parking on snow routes.

The Columbia Public Works Department asked drivers on Friday morning to move their vehicles from designated snow routes. Columbia enforces a no-parking ordinance after the city receives more than two inches of snow.

Drivers that don’t move their vehicle face possible fines and towing fees. Boone County Joint Communications reported poor road conditions across the area.

Joint communications asked drivers to avoid travel until plow trucks can clear the roads.

5:35 a.m.

The Jefferson City School District has canceled classes for Friday.

Poor road conditions due to the winter weather have made travel unsafe, according to a Twitter post from the school district.

JC Schools joins dozens of other Mid-Missouri school districts to call off classes for Friday.

5:25 a.m.

Boone County Joint Communications warned drivers to avoid parts of Highway UU west of Columbia.

Poor road conditions have closed the road to traffic, according to a BCJC alert sent just before 5:10 a.m. The Missouri Department of Transportation asked drivers to avoid travel if possible.

LINK: Forecast

Original story:

Interstate 70 in Columbia is back open to drivers Friday morning.

Boone County Joint Communications sent an overnight alert about traffic at a standstill near the Stadium Boulevard exit after a crash. Emergency crews diverted westbound traffic for several hours.

The MoDOT Traveler Information Map website showed poor road conditions on parts of I-70, Highway 63, Highway 54, and other roads across Mid-Missouri. Boone County Joint Communications warned drivers may find vehicles parked along the interstate, Clark Lane, and other area roads.

Drivers are also asked to avoid parts of Gillespie Bridge Road. ABC 17 News is told plow trucks cannot access the area.

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Finnair resumes flights to Japan

Finnair plans to resume flights to Japan from 9 March.

The carrier said it will fly to Tokyo Narita four times a week from Helsinki. The flight will take about 13 hours because of the conflict in Ukraine.

Ole Orvér, chief commercial officer of Finnair, said: “Japan is one of our most important markets, and we want to continue offering safe and reliable connections between Helsinki and Tokyo.

“We continue to evaluate possible alternative routings for our flights to China and Korea and will communicate on these as soon as the plans are finalised.”

Earlier this week Finnair cancelled flights to China, Japan and Korea until 6 March, 2022.

The airline is still flying to Bangkok, Delhi, Phuket and Singapore, also with longer flight times to avoid Russian airspace.

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Aer Lingus resumes San Francisco service

Aer Lingus has boosted its transatlantic network with the return of its service to San Francisco.

The carrier said the service will be more easily accessible because of connections from UK cities including Manchester, Edinburgh and London. 

It also plans to add further UK connections from Bristol and Leeds to San Francisco via Dublin from 15 April.

Aer Lingus said it would operate a four times weekly service to the US West Coast city from this week rising to a daily service from 26 March.

Bill Byrne, executive vice president, US, for Aer Lingus, said: “With the convenience of US customs and immigration pre-clearance at Dublin, time spent connecting through Dublin provides customers with a speedier journey overall, as they arrive in the US as a domestic passenger.”

Aer Lingus is also resuming daily flights to Los Angeles from 12 May and flights to Seattle five times a week from 26 May.

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Morocco resumes tourist visa operations for Indians,

Morocco resumes tourist visa operations for Indians

Good news for Indian nationals wanting to visit Morocco! The north African nation has resumed tourist and visitor visa operations in India and has started accepting visa applications for all categories. The Embassy of the Royal Kingdom of Morocco made the announcement. Apparently, the Moroccan border reopened for commercial flights on February 7, 2022.

VFS Global, an international visa consultant, said that Morocco visa applicants in India can submit their applications for all categories. It includes tourist visas at its Visa Application Centres (VACs) in New Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Chennai and Mumbai.

Earlier, no visa applications were being accepted because of the rising cases of Omicron variant in the country. But now the operations have resumed and Indian nationals can easily apply for visas.

Indian nationals will have to pay INR 2560 along with the tourism promotional charges of INR 140 per application (for tourist and visitor visa categories).

Entry requirements for Indian nationals

Morocco is open to fully vaccinated Indian nationals. Though, they’ll have to show their vaccine certificate stating that they were fully vaxxed at least 14 days before arrival.

1) Tourists will also have to fill up a ‘health form’.

2) People must carry a negative RT PCR test report not older than 48 hours.

3) Within 48 hours of arrival, travellers will be subjected to another test that may be administered at the hotel or the residence center for tourists.

4) Upon arrival in Morocco, visitors will have to undergo temperature checks and random Rapid Antigen Test (free of cost).

5) Those unvaccinated will have to quarantine for a maximum of 10 days in an government approved hotel.

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Dominican Republic Resumes Its DR Tourism Roadshow in Texas

WHY IT RATES: During this show, Minister Collado held meetings with a variety of travel companies including airlines, tour operators, travel agencies, travel agency associations and more. —Codie Liermann, Managing Editor

On February 17, 2022, the Ministry of Tourism made the seventh stop of its DR Tourism Roadshow “DRTOURS.” This time, it stopped in the city of Houston, Texas in the United States, and it had an attendance of more than 300 tour operators and travel agencies in the area.

On August 31, 2021, the Ministry of Tourism launched, with an innovative and personal style, promotional visits to important tourist source cities in the country and the region, to reconnect with the leaders of the tourism industry in the different markets. These events are known as DR Tourism Roadshows (DR TOURS), which constitute a new style of promoting and positioning the Dominican Republic as a tourist destination and are led by Minister David Collado. During the event, attendees receive first-hand, relevant information on tourism’s state and recovery, as well as an overall presentation about the Dominican tourism offer with all its diverse destinations.

The state of Texas has been identified as a location of interest by this administration as it ranks third in all travel bookings originating from the United States in 2022, with nine percent of the total booked volume.

These events are part of the new Dominican tourism management strategy that seeks to reconnect, relaunch and reposition the Dominican Republic as a tourist destination. The Minister of Tourism has already held five DR TOURS in the United States, in the cities of New York, Miami, Orlando, Atlanta and Chicago.

The most recent event took place in Madrid and was scheduled to coincide with the celebration of the International Tourism Trade Fair (FITUR). It was attended by agencies from all over Europe. The initiative also included meetings with key allies in the different markets, to establish short and medium-term strategies seeking to further increase the number of tourist arrivals and to position the Dominican Republic Destination in the different segments.

During the visit to Texas, Minister Collado held meetings with airlines, tour operators, travel agents, travel agency associations, among others. In these meetings several goals were accomplished, such as the identification of marketing opportunities, the opening of new routes, the design of direct marketing campaigns, and the increase of existing routes, among others.

These events were attended by more than two thousand tour operators and travel agencies in the United States and Spain. “The relationship is further strengthened with training opportunities and marketing campaigns tailor-made for these agencies, as part of the strategy of a smart, efficient and timely marketing and positioning strategy,” said Minister Collado.

SOURCE: Dominican Republic press release.

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