Memorial Day weekend travel is expected to increase this year


For many people memorial day weekend marks the unofficial start to summer. AAA predicts that more than 39.2 million people will travel this holiday weekend.

Whether it’s by car, airplane, or by even by train travel numbers are expected to increase 8.3% over last year.

According to Triple-A, three million people are expected to take to the skies this holiday. San Luis Obispo Airport officials say they are seeing an uptick in traffic and are approaching pre-COVID passenger numbers.

“We have 14 flights coming in a day and 14 flights going out. Planes are almost full if not at capacity,” said SLO County Airport Deputy Director, Courtney Pene, “people need to remember to be patient and be kind because everyone wants to go somewhere fun.”

Others chose to hit the road despite record-breaking gas prices.

“We pre-planned for it you know, but you only get to go out once so let’s just take a road trip,” said Lancaster resident Keith Blackwell.

Triple-A predicts that a total of 34.9 million people will travel by car this Memorial Day.

“We all budget and everything, but these gas prices are killing. I think our dad paid 140 just coming this way and he does come in a truck so,” said Christine Sanmiguel from Visalia California.





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Italy's travel & tourism could reach pre-pandemic levels next year, reveals WTTC report – Breaking Travel News



Italy’s travel & tourism could reach pre-pandemic levels next year, reveals WTTC report  Breaking Travel News



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‘Pack your patience’: What to expect as you book summer travel this year – National


Canadians who are planning to travel this summer, “pack your patience.”

That is the advice from one travel expert in Toronto, as unusually long lines at airports and passport offices continue to cause delays across the country.

After two years of COVID-19 restrictions, there is a “pent-up demand to travel,” with interest surging “very close” to pre-pandemic levels, said Martin Firestone, a travel insurance broker.

Read more:

Airport delays are due to COVID-19 rules, industry group says. Do we still need them?

“The dilemma now is that the infrastructure at both airports and passport offices is just not caught up with the demand, and that’s what’s really causing a problem,” he told Global News.

In recent weeks, airports — particularly in Toronto and Vancouver — have seen hours-long security queues, customs bottlenecks and other delays.

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The Canadian Airports Council blames the COVID-19 protocols for the holdup, but the federal government says current health measures are in place to keep Canadians safe as the virus continues to spread.


Click to play video: 'Why travellers are facing major delays at Canada’s biggest airports'







Why travellers are facing major delays at Canada’s biggest airports


Why travellers are facing major delays at Canada’s biggest airports – May 4, 2022

Factoring in the “tremendous lineups,” Firestone said his advice to his clients is to get to the airport well in advance — at least three to four hours before the flight.

The Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) expects an increase of almost 50 per cent in international passengers at Pearson, Canada’s busiest airport, this summer.

While Canada has eased its travel restrictions this year, some still remain at points of entry, including random COVID-19 testing upon arrival.

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All incoming travellers are also required to submit their vaccine and travel information on the ArriveCAN app and show it to border officials upon landing.

Read more:

‘Open for tourism again’: Canada eyes recovery as COVID-19 travel rules ease

Staffing issues at airports on top of COVID-19 protocols and increased travel demand are contributing to the backlogs and hindering the flow of traffic into the country, travel experts say.

Jennifer Weatherhead, co-founder of Travel & Style, recommends being mentally prepared for delays.

“You really need to look into the particular airport that you’re travelling to and where you’ll be coming back,” she told Global News.

“And if you are connecting through any other country or any other airport, try to give yourself as much time as possible.”


Click to play video: 'Long lines at Toronto Pearson Airport cause anxiety among travellers'







Long lines at Toronto Pearson Airport cause anxiety among travellers


Long lines at Toronto Pearson Airport cause anxiety among travellers – May 2, 2022

Travellers are having to sit for two to three hours in the plane even after landing , which is “pretty aggravating,” Firestone said, adding that such delays will deter many from making plans this summer.

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He said people should be prepared for a three-hour differential from the time they land to leaving the airport.

As for booking flights, early morning might not be the best bet to avoid hassle as security lines and customs are just opening up, according to Weatherhead.

“So if you can look to book something that’s either mid-morning or later in the day, see if you have that one change fee possible where you’re not charged to change that one time,” she said.

Having a valid passport is a pre-requisite for travel anywhere in the world.

“You can’t fly if your passport has less than six months remaining on it or it is expired,” said Firestone.

Read more:

Lineups, wait times for passport renewal soar as pandemic restrictions end

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Across the country, thousands of Canadians are hastening to renew their passports after more than two years of COVID-19 restrictions.

Passport Canada says it is experiencing very high call volumes right now and wait times are longer than usual.

“If you do not have travel plans in the next two weeks, we suggest you wait to call us,” the agency says on its website.

Amid the delays, Canadians are urged to have their renewed passport in hand before finalizing or booking any trips. If you’re not able to get your passport in time, your travel insurance will not cover the trip cancellation, Firestone warned.

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Click to play video: 'More long lines for Canadians at passport offices'







More long lines for Canadians at passport offices


More long lines for Canadians at passport offices

Soaring fuel prices amid Canada’s high inflation and the war in Ukraine mean travel will be more expensive this year.

As of Sunday, the average price of gas in Canada was $1.97 per litre, according to GasBuddy.

Provinces like OntarioQuebec and British Columbia have seen prices hit at least $2.00 per litre, with the latter sitting at $2.15 per litre on Sunday. Average gas prices in Newfoundland and Labrador hit $2.18 per litre. In ManitobaSaskatchewan and Alberta prices sit under $2.00 per litre, according to GasBuddy.

Read more:

Soaring gas prices limit long weekend travel plans for Canadians

The cost of gas has been on an uphill climb since Russia began its invasion on Ukraine, and is still expected to be pricey during the summer. Firestone says this will make cross-border road trips prohibitive, forcing Canadians to rethink driving down south to the United States.

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Click to play video: 'How soaring fuel prices will factor into summer vacation planning'







How soaring fuel prices will factor into summer vacation planning


How soaring fuel prices will factor into summer vacation planning – May 9, 2022

The rise in fuel costs is also having an impact on air fares, with an increment of “25 to 30 per cent,” according to Firestone.

“Prices are through the roof,” he said. “[Due to] a combination of demand coupled with fuel, there’s no inexpensive flights anymore.”

Toronto resident Reena Kara says while she is feeling safer flying again, the long airport lines and high air fares are making her “feel more anxious to travel.”

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Booking your ticket early is the way to go, experts say.

Weatherhead expects backlogs at airports to slow down after summer and recommends booking flights starting now for fall and winter trips.

— With files from Sharmeen Somani, Irelyne Lavery, Reuters and The Canadian Press

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.





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Seattle traffic deaths show no sign of slowing as second bicyclist fatally struck this year


Gan Hao Li rode his bike every day, sometimes two or three times. And every day on his way out the door, he’d smile and wave to Marena Ostbo, the manager of Hirabayashi Place in Seattle’s Chinatown International District. Wednesday, May 10, was no different.

“He stopped, smiled, said, ‘Good morning, enjoy the sunshine,’ and left,” Ostbo said.

Except this time, Li, 73, didn’t return. He was killed around 10:30 that morning in Sodo, when a Jeep driver pulled out of a parking lot on Fourth Avenue South and South Holgate Street and hit him, according to the Seattle Police Department. Li died of his injuries later that day. Police are still investigating.

“I’ve never met somebody who was as genuinely kind as he was,” Ostbo said. “Seeing his wife over the last few days, I can only imagine. I can only imagine.”

Ten people have been killed on Seattle’s roads in 2022, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation, outpacing the number of deaths at this time last year and the year before. At least 59 people have been seriously injured.

Although fewer people die on Seattle’s streets than Portland’s or Austin’s, for example, the trends of the last two years have yet to reverse themselves in 2022 and Seattle’s “Vision Zero” goal of no fatalities on the roads remains maddeningly out of reach. Despite recent efforts, the combination of speed, larger vehicles and infrastructure that’s unfriendly to people outside of cars has meant deaths continue to rise.

“It’s really frustrating and devastating,” said Allison Schwartz, SDOT’s Vision Zero coordinator. “And that’s just for someone who reads the collision reports and is trying to make a dent in this issue with my team and with others in the department, you know? It’s hard to think about what the people closest to those who’ve been killed or hurt are going through.”

On the heels of one of the worst years for traffic deaths in Seattle — and across the country — four pedestrians have been killed so far this year and Li is the second bicyclist. The first, Antonio Tiongco, was also hit on Holgate, just a block away on Third Avenue South.

That the two bicyclist deaths occurred in the city’s main industrial district is no coincidence, said Clara Cantor, community organizer for Seattle Neighborhood Greenways. Since at least 2004, more serious injuries and deaths have occurred there than in any other Seattle neighborhood, despite having fewer total collisions than downtown.

“It’s like every single year there are people that are dying in Sodo because of how unsafe the streets are,” Cantor said. “Because it’s such an intense freight corridor, very little has been done there to improve safety for people walking and biking.”

SDOT counted an average 925 riders per weekday through the industrial district in 2020. As a busy stretch for commuters, especially since the West Seattle Bridge’s closure, and with a sizable homeless population, the mingling of pedestrians, bicyclists and large vehicles is ever-present.

“One of the primary issues is speed,” Schwartz said. She pointed to the area’s long blocks, wide streets, large vehicles and minimal crossings or protected bike lanes.

Several projects are planned for the neighborhood to improve safety. East Marginal Way was recently promised $20 million from the federal government to finish building a two-way protected bike lane between South Atlantic and South Spokane streets, in addition to other upgrades to the area. Construction is to begin later this year.

The city also has promised a continuous bike lane from Georgetown to downtown along either Airport Way South or Sixth Avenue South, although the project’s progress was stalled in 2020.

But Seattle City Councilmember Tammy Morales, whose district includes the city’s industrial district, as well as another deadly stretch, Rainier Avenue South, said she’s growing frustrated with talk about improvements and wants more action.

“It just feels like it is clear that there are some roads in the city that are more dangerous, there are some parts of the city that have been underinvested in and we have to be serious about keeping Seattleites safe, and I don’t think we are demonstrating any serious commitment to that,” she said. She called for a council hearing on traffic deaths, which transportation chair and Councilmember Alex Pedersen has agreed to this summer.

“My favorite resident”

Orbst, the manager of Hirabayashi Place, isn’t supposed to have favorite residents. But of Li, she said, “he was my favorite resident.” When she took the job last year, he was the first to welcome her. A Chinese immigrant, Li spoke little English, but the intention behind his waves and gestures was clear enough.

“You can truly feel the sadness in the building since he passed,” she said. “It really is a tragedy.”

Linda Vonheim, the building’s manager until late last year, moved the Lis into the building when it first opened in 2017. She, too, called them her favorites. On his way out the door for his daily rides or evening walks with his wife, he’d greet Vonheim with a hearty, “Hello, manager!”

“He was just a great man, one of the pillars of our community at Hirabayashi,” she said. “If you needed help he would be right there. He would never say no to anybody.”

Crystal Ng, who lives in Hirabayashi Place, said Li and his wife were the only two people to use their building’s rooftop deck, doing exercises and playing pingpong together nearly every day. Ng speaks Chinese and would often help them communicate with other residents in the building.

“He always asked me if I’d had dinner yet and tell me that he hadn’t seen me for a long time,” she said.  

Ng didn’t hear the news of Li’s death right away, but started to suspect something was wrong. She didn’t see his bike in storage. While watching the evening news, she saw an image of a “crunched” bicycle and realized she recognized it.

“I had a gut feeling,” she said.  

“He and his wife were just enjoying their retirement, growing old together,” Vonheim said through tears, “and now that’s been taken away from her.”

A wake-up call

It’s not just bikers and pedestrians who want to see safer conditions in Sodo, said Erin Goodman, executive director of the Sodo Business Improvement Area. The people driving trucks through there certainly don’t want to kill anyone, she said.

Goodman supports completion of a bike corridor all the way through the neighborhood, to Georgetown, in order to distinguish between routes for bikers and routes for drivers.  

“Do I think that people need to be able to bike through Sodo? Yes,” she said. “On every street? No. There need to be safe corridors.”

“This accident is a little bit of a wake-up call that this area’s transportation system needs some attention,” she added.

The lack of such infrastructure is, on the one hand, the result of Sodo’s role as a freight-heavy neighborhood, said Cantor. But it’s also indicative of underinvestment in South Seattle more broadly, hewing closely to redlined areas of the past.

“Sodo and the entirety of southeast Seattle have really suffered a lot due to racism and people writing off that South Seattle needs to be safe to walk and bike and live in,” she said.  

Morales echoed that point, saying that meeting the goals of zero fatalities will mean a much larger investment in capital projects.

“We have to fundamentally change how we think about transportation in this city if we want to meet our Vision Zero goals,” she said.



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Here’s why 2022 is the year of all-inclusive travel


For some travelers, all-inclusive hotels and resorts conjure up images of cafeteria-style food served in exotic settings where guests never actually leave the confines of the property. 

That image is changing, as hotel companies expand their offerings, and provide a fresh take on what all-inclusive means. 

Many hotel companies are adding all-inclusive properties, that allow guests to pay a single fee for their accommodations, use of resort amenities and activities as well as food and rink, to their portfolios. For example, Hyatt’s acquired Apple Leisure Group in November 2021, making it one of the largest owners of luxury all-inclusive resorts in the world.

Hyatt now owns luxury-focused AMR Collection, with beachfront properties in Mexico and Central America. There are now more than 100 new resorts for visitors — and where World of Hyatt members can use their points — up from about a dozen before the deal.

Just weeks before Hyatt’s news, Marriott had also expanded its all-inclusive portfolio by adding 20 properties under a new brand called “All-Inclusive by Marriott Bonvoy.”

Leaning toward luxury 

With these new all-inclusive offerings, hotels are emphasizing luxury. At Hyatt’s Zoetry Montego Bay Jamaica, all accommodations come with a dedicated in-house concierge. Some rooms come with private  pools.

“The Zoetry Wellness & Spa Resorts brand is all about exceptional amenities,” said AMResorts senior vice president Miguel Oliveira. “There are no check-in or check-out times, unlimited top-shelf spirits and 24-hour concierge.”

Marriott CEO Anthony Capuano said in a March 2021 earnings call that luxury rooms account for more than 10% of Marriott’s pipeline.

“Leisure demand has led the recovery, and we are well-positioned to continue growing our lead in resort destinations, including in the high growth all-inclusive space,” he said. For example, Marriott’s recent additions include the Royalton Antigua, where visitors can stay in Antigua’s only glass-floored, overwater bungalows.

And while the rooms are luxurious, more all-inclusive resorts are encouraging visitors to venture beyond the resort area.

Twin Farms in Vermont offers ski equipment and fat-tire bikes for use on its private slopes. A partnership with Volvo allows guests to explore Vermont’s countryside by taking a drive in vehicles made available by the resort. Nightly rates sometimes run close to $6,000.


What to know about summer travel protection amid COVID cancellations

04:40

Baja Expeditions offers a “glamping” experience at San Ignacio Lagoon in Mexico. Guests stay in windproof, heated tents with en suite bathrooms, and head out on whale-watching excursions during the day. The four-day experience costs about $5,000 for two guests and includes a charter flight to the lagoon.

Walt Disney World Resort this year opened a Star Wars-themed hotel, called Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser.

“The Galactic Starcruiser experience is part dinner mystery theater, part high-production show, part escape room, part video role-playing game, part cruise, and part resort stay — all rolled into one,” says Beci Mahnken, founder and CEO of travel agency MEI-Travel.

Vacations there run between $1,500 and $2,400 per person for two nights, including valet parking. Rates include activities such as lightsaber training, tickets to the theme park, plus themed food like bantha dumplings, a beef-based dish named after “bantha,” a fictional “Star Wars” mammalian beast.

Why is all-inclusive travel become more popular?

For travelers who care about costs, all-inclusive deals can simplify trip planning and budgeting. 

When pricing an a la carte vacation, travelers have to account for hidden costs like mandatory gratuities and resort fees. Then, they have to factor in minor expenses for beverages, snacks, parking and more.

While the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is far from a budget vacation, Mahnken said that when you compare individually priced theme park tickets, entertainment and meals with the cost of the all-inclusive experience, then $3,000 can be worth it.

“Is it for everyone? No,” she said. “However, when you look at each element of the experience and what you would pay for each experience separately, the price is a very good value.”

Mahnken encourages guests to look closely at what’s covered under the all-inclusive fee. Particularly when booking a cruise, it’s common to see similar rooms and itineraries offered at dramatically different rates because some include gratuities, alcohol and fine dining, while others don’t.

For some more travelers, the convenience is worth the price.

“The ability to pre-pay and not have any surprises or a bill waiting for you at the end removes many aggravating factors of travel,” Mahnken says. “It’s easier to budget.”



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2022 is the year of all-inclusive travel, and here’s why


For some travelers, all-inclusive hotels conjure up images of flavorless food served under a heat lamp in lush and vibrant destinations where guests never actually leave the resort grounds. Lower-tier liquor flows freely (the good stuff will cost you more), as the few overindulgers put a damper on the trip.

That image is changing, as hotel companies expand their offerings, while redefining what all-inclusive means.

HOTELS ARE GROWING THEIR ALL-INCLUSIVE BRANDS

Many hotel companies are rapidly adding all-inclusive resorts to their portfolio. Hyatt’s acquisition of Apple Leisure Group in November 2021 made it one of the largest owners of luxury all-inclusive resorts in the world.

That acquisition included the luxury-focused AMR Collection, which has beachfront properties in Mexico and Central America. That means there are now more than 100 new resorts for visitors (and where World of Hyatt members can use their points), up from about a dozen.

Just weeks before Hyatt’s news, Marriott had also expanded its all-inclusive footprint by adding 20 properties under a new brand dubbed “All-Inclusive by Marriott Bonvoy.”

LEANING TOWARD LUXURY – BOTH ON AND OFF-PROPERTY

With these new all-inclusive offerings, hotels are emphasizing luxury. At Hyatt’s Zoetry Montego Bay Jamaica, all accommodations include an in-house concierge. Some have private swim-out pools.

“The Zoetry Wellness & Spa Resorts brand is all about exceptional amenities,” says AMResorts senior vice president Miguel Oliveira. “There are no check-in or check-out times, unlimited top-shelf spirits and 24-hour concierge.”

Marriott CEO Anthony Capuano said in a March 2021 earnings call that luxury rooms account for more than 10% of Marriott’s pipeline.

“Leisure demand has led the recovery, and we are well-positioned to continue growing our lead in resort destinations, including in the high growth all-inclusive space,” he said. For example, among Marriott’s recent additions is the Royalton Antigua, where visitors can stay in Antigua’s only glass-floored, overwater bungalows.

And while the rooms are luxurious, increasingly more all-inclusive resorts promote getting outside the resort area.

Twin Farms in Vermont offers ski equipment and fat-tire bikes for use on its private slopes. A partnership with Volvo allows guests to explore Vermont’s countryside by taking a drive in vehicles made available by the resort. Nightly rates sometimes run close to $6,000.

Baja Expeditions offers a glamping experience at San Ignacio Lagoon in Mexico. Guests stay in windproof, heated tents with en suite bathrooms, and head out on whale-watching excursions during the day. The four-day experience costs about $5,000 for two guests and includes a charter flight to the lagoon.

REWRITING THE ALL-INCLUSIVE PLAYBOOK

This year has provided travelers with a different type of all-inclusive experience when Walt Disney World Resort opened Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. In its simplest form, it’s Disney’s “Star Wars” hotel, but it’s a lot more than that.

“The Galactic Starcruiser experience is part dinner mystery theater, part high-production show, part escape room, part video role-playing game, part cruise, and part resort stay – all rolled into one,” says Beci Mahnken, founder and CEO of travel agency MEI-Travel.

The cost starts between $1,500 and $2,400 per person for two nights and valet parking. It includes activities such as lightsaber training, and tickets to the theme park. It also includes themed food like bantha dumplings, a beef-based dish supposedly made from “bantha,” a fictional “Star Wars” mammalian beast.

WHY IS ALL-INCLUSIVE TRAVEL BECOMING POPULAR?

For travelers who care about costs, all-inclusives – while sometimes more expensive – can be worth it as they simplify planning and budgeting.

When pricing an a la carte vacation, travelers have to account for hidden costs like mandatory gratuities and resort fees. Then, they factor in minor expenses like bottles of water and parking. With all-inclusives, these expenses tend to be – well – included.

While the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is far from a budget vacation, Mahnken says that when you compare individually priced theme park tickets, entertainment and meals with the cost of the all-inclusive experience, then $3,000 – while not exactly cheap – might sting less.

“Is it for everyone? No,” she says. “However, when you look at each element of the experience and what you would pay for each experience separately, the price is a very good value.”

Even still, Mahnken advises understanding what’s covered when booking. Especially among cruises, it’s common to see similar rooms and itineraries at vastly different rates because some include gratuities, alcohol and fine dining, while others don’t.

For some more travelers, the opulence plus convenience can be worthwhile.

“The ability to pre-pay and not have any surprises or a bill waiting for you at the end removes many aggravating factors of travel,” Mahnken says. “It’s easier to budget.”

_____________________________________

This article was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Sally French is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: sfrenchnerdwallet.com.



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Memorial Day travel reservations up 122% over last year as travel rebounds


(WWTI) — May 7 is National Tourism Day, the final day of National Travel and Tourism Week, highlighting contributions the travel industry has made to economic growth in the United States.

According to AAA, many aspects of travel are on the rebound. AAA Travel booking data shows that reservations for flights, rental cars, cruises and hotels for Memorial Day are up 122% over last year.

This year’s theme of the “Future of Travel” elevates how the travel industry can restore the workforce, help communities recover, foster sustainability, usher in new innovations and reconnect travelers in the U.S. and around the world.

National Travel and Tourism Week was created by Congress in 1983 to elevate the economic power of travel in the U.S, making this the 39th annual celebration as the industry looks ahead to future growth and success following the challenges of the past two years.

“AAA Western and Central New York is thrilled to see travel rebound as we work to strengthen the tourism industry and economy,” said Carol DiOrio, Vice President of Travel at AAA Western and Central New York. “This National Travel and Tourism Week, we are spotlighting how travel benefits our workforce, supports global economies, and reconnects Americans to each other and the world.”

“NTTW has special significance this year as the travel industry looks ahead to a bright future,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “This NTTW is an opportunity to recognize the collective strength of the U.S. travel industry and how we are rebuilding to be more dynamic, innovative, sustainable and inclusive in the months and years to come.

“Before the pandemic, travel generated $2.6 trillion in economic output, supported 17 million American jobs and delivered a $51 billion trade surplus to the U.S.- evidence of the outsized role the industry will play in driving America’s recovery and future economic growth,” Dow said.

AAA Western and Central New York is celebrating National Travel and Tourism Week even more as the recipient of the 2021 Allianz Partners Top Club Award for mid-size AAA clubs, thanks to the company’s results during 2021 for overall sales and year over year growth as travelers are increasingly turning to travel insurance to protect their vacation investments.

AAA travel sales advisors were recognized for their accomplishments as AAA Western and Central New York received the 2021 Allianz Partners Top Club Award. Pictured, from left: Mary McIntosh (AAA Watertown), Terri Cummings (AAA Orchard Park), Mamie Cimato (AAA Amherst), and Geri Van Alstine (AAA DeWitt). Missing from photo: Tracey Miller (AAA Penfield/AAA Plus Virtual Team).

A recent AAA survey finds that one-third, 31%, of U.S. travelers say they are more likely to purchase travel insurance for their trips planned between now and the end of 2022, specifically due to the pandemic.

The ability to cancel a trip and get a refund is by far the most frequently cited benefit of travel insurance, with 69% of travelers saying this is most important to them when considering travel insurance for an upcoming trip. AAA advises travelers to look into travel insurance policies that include a “cancel for any reason” component, which could offer more flexibility and protection in the event a traveler needs to cancel their trip.



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The Future of Travel: Technologies Shaping the Industry This Year and Beyond


Space travel. Lifelike, interactive virtual reality destinations and attractions. Robots.

These are some of the technological advancements that are even today shaping where, how and even why we travel.

As we continue celebrating National Travel and Tourism Week this week, we recognize all the challenges the industry has had to overcome over these past two years while also looking toward the future.

And what a future it is shaping out to be.

2022 NTTW: The Future of Travel from U.S. Travel on Vimeo.

While consumer trends like sustainability, workations and bringing pets along for the ride during travel are some trends that shape the ways hotels, tour operators, cruise lines, airlines and other travel industry companies approach consumers, there are other trends that are even today shaping how, why and even where they travel.

The pandemic has been a pivotal force in bringing new technology into the travel industry. Virtual tours, contactless amenities, attractions to visit via augmented reality, robots that use UV light to disinfect airports, airplanes and hotel rooms. These are just a few examples of the types of technology the travel industry is expected to utilize in the future.

Facial Recognition for Contactless Security Measures

One emerging technology that is growing in airports across the country is facial recognition technology. Using biometrics, or the unique shape of your face, your eyes or your fingerprints (sometimes all three), companies like CLEAR and Corsight, the latter of which worked on IATA’s Travel Pass, can speed up the process at airports and provide a contactless security check for those going through security checkpoints.

CLEAR currently operates in over 55 airports, stadiums and other venues in the U.S. and North America. It’s likely that due to the pandemic, more people will want a quicker, contactless method of identity verification, and facial recognition technology can provide just that.

Robots for Cleaning…and for Bartending?

Even as early as 2015, we reported on robots entering the travel industry. But it wasn’t in the way that anyone could’ve expected.

The first robots in the industry were bartenders onboard Royal Caribbean’s Quantum-class cruise ships. Like the robotic arms that work in assembly lines in factories across the world, these robots are programmed to do one thing repeatedly: make drinks.

But when the pandemic spread across the world, robots began growing in number and purpose, for more than just entertainment value.


Robot
Key West International Airport’s new COVID-19 killing robot (photo via Key West International Airport)

They helped and continue to help disinfect airports, airplanes and even hotel rooms using UV light technology, like those employed in Key West International and Pittsburgh International airports, enhancing sanitization measures while protecting at-risk humans from exposure to COVID-19.

The robots currently employed to enhance cleanliness aren’t replacing those who are hired to clean hotel rooms or airports; they work alongside them to destroy the viruses and bacteria that could be left behind even with routine cleaning.

It’s expected that the need for these types of robots will grow, and will grow to include robots in more than just bartending and sanitization; last year, a GlobalData poll asked over 475 companies the types of things they would invest in over the course of the next year. Thirty-one percent of those companies named robotics, which was the third most popular answer overall.

Virtual Reality Experiences

With cities and countries on lockdown and travel all but completely stalled, the worst days of the pandemic brought a rise in creative alternatives to traditional tours and travel experiences, effectively jump-starting the rise in virtual reality travel experiences.

From tour operators offering video tours of destinations closed to international tourists, like InsideJapan Tours, to destinations themselves investing in AI or VR experiences, like the German National Tourist Board or Visit Malta, the pandemic informed many different organizations and companies across the travel industry of the importance of investing in unique, creative and often innovative ways for travelers to interact with a destination or attraction, even before they leave on their trip.


Virtual reality
Experiencing virtual reality (photo via da-kuk / E+ Royalty-free / Getty Images

New data from Accenture found that about half of consumers expressed interest in buying a virtual or augmented reality travel experience, whether it be a virtual hotel stay or augmented reality tour in the “metaverse,” the term now commonly referred to as any virtual reality space that users can interact with in real-time.

“The metaverse is not intended to replace physical travel, rather provide a complementary enhancement to an overarching experience. Giving the option to sit in a virtual first-class seat, experience the lounge or walk around a hotel resort or room, opens up opportunities to truly engage and inspire people before they travel,” said Emily Weiss, senior managing director and global head of Accenture’s travel industry group.

“And, through ‘trying-before-you-travel,’ recreating landmarks in all their past glory or allowing travelers to investigate parts of nature, which they cannot explore within real-life interaction, the metaverse can also help create a more meaningful travel experience that delivers on or even exceeds customer expectations.”

While the metaverse will never completely replace real travel for most people, it can be used to educate and promote a destination, tour, cruise line or other travel-related experience.

Space Travel & Tourism

Another emerging technology has the opportunity to fundamentally change how we view travel: space travel. Soon, it won’t just be for billionaires and multi-millionaires, thanks to revolutionary companies like Space Perspective and Orbital Assembly Corporation.

Space Perspective will begin bringing travelers into space via SpaceBalloon technology, a more sustainable and carbon-neutral method of reaching Earth’s orbit, as early as 2024. Its Space Lounge will be made from sustainable materials and offer nearly 360-degree views, with prices currently at $125,000 per ticket, much more reasonable than Elon Musk, Richard Branson or Jeff Bezos’s alternatives.

“Now, more than ever, people are seeking purpose and meaning in their travel experiences and once-in-a-lifetime moments. Space travel offers not only a brand new destination but also the opportunity to have the quintessential astronaut experience and enjoy the phenomenal beauty of Earth and the vastness of space. Space Perspective offers travelers the thrill of space exploration with the world’s most comfortable and gentle voyage to space,” said Jane Poynter, Founder, Co-CEO and Chief Experience Officer of Space Perspective.


Spaceship Neptune, Space Perspective, space travel, space tourism
Exterior of Spaceship Neptune, Space Perspective’s first space capsule. (photo via Space Perspective)

Orbital Assembly Corporation, on the other hand, is working on developing gravity ring technologies to install the first orbital space station where people can live, work, play and yes, even visit for tourism purposes, all with gravity the likes of that found on the moon, which should make being in space safer for everyone’s health while also allowing them to eat and sleep as they would on Earth.

OAC is expected to launch its smaller version of what will one day be a space station for up to 400 as early as 2025, called the Pioneer space station. It will be large enough for up to 28 individuals.

Whether companies focus on making it to Mars, to the Moon or just into orbit, it’s expected that in the decades to come, space tourism will become increasingly more possible for less wealthy individuals and that emerging technologies like artificial gravity will help spur safer space travels.

Cybersecurity

With the growth in technology for everything from airport security to hotel sanitization and virtual experiences, issues relating to cybersecurity will become a greater focus for the travel industry in the future.

The World Travel & Tourism Council recently released a new report called “Codes to Resilience,” in partnership with Microsoft, detailing the challenges and threats that the industry’s increased digitization could encounter in the years to come, as well as possible cybersecurity solutions that can be adopted to solve them.

According to the report, 72 percent of all small and medium-sized businesses in the U.K., U.S. and Europe have reported at least one cyberattack in the past; 80 percent of the travel industry are small or medium-sized businesses, proving that cybersecurity is a very real concern for the industry.


Be cautious when using public Wi-Fi networks.
PHOTO: Be cautious when using public Wi-Fi networks. (photo courtesy of 643702160 / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

“Technology and digitalization play a key role in making the whole travel experience more seamless, from booking a holiday to checking in for a flight or embarking on a cruise,” said Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO. “But the impact of cyberattacks carries enormous financial, reputational and regulatory risk.”

The latest security breach TravelPulse covered earlier in February was Scenic Group‘s security breach; while it didn’t identify any stolen client information when it was first reported, the website did go offline during the cyber breach.

Issues surrounding cybersecurity, then, should remain a humbling factor and a prioritized concern as we consider the future of the travel industry.

“Automation and self-service has always been something that most industries strive for to make sure processes are as seamless and efficient as possible. You can see that in airports all over the world with examples like self-service kiosks for check-in and apps for check-in and getting your boarding pass. Those two things seem like an obvious part of the travel process these days but thinking back to 15-20 years ago that technology would have blown people’s minds,” said Jordan Bradshaw, Vice President of Northcutt Travel Agency.

“So I like to take that into consideration when thinking about new technologies to come. It seems like technology advances at a slow pace but when you step back and look at decade over decade rather than year over year, it’s amazing how far we’ve come and to think about what the future has for us!”

The travel industry’s future is at a turning point as we celebrate National Travel and Tourism Week in a year in which the world continues to reopen and recover from the pandemic.

Emerging technologies might never fully replace the travel experiences that people love, but they can add extra safety, save time, draw interest and even take travelers beyond the bounds of Earth’s atmosphere, and that’s something to look forward to.





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