Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Airlines

Airplane Wastewater Study Reveals UK Travel Restrictions Didn’t Halt Covid Spread

1 year ago

A laboratory study has cast doubt on the effectiveness of the UK’s travel restrictions last year.

Scientists at Bangor University in Wales tested wastewater on planes to monitor coronavirus infections and the general health of passengers coming into the UK from other countries.

Almost all aircraft arriving at the three monitored UK airports (Heathrow, Edinburgh and Bristol) between March 8 and March 31, 2022 had the virus in their wastewater, according to the study, published in medical journal PLOS Global Public Health.

“Despite all the intervention measures that the UK had in place to try to stop people with the illness getting on flights to the UK, almost every single plane we tested contained the virus, and most of the terminal sewers, too,” said professor David Jones of Bangor University’s School of Natural Sciences, reported Lab Manager.

“That might have been because people developed symptoms after testing negative, or were evading the system, or for some other reason. But it showed that there was essentially a failure of border control in terms of Covid surveillance.”

Wastewater sampling has been cited as a better method to monitor travelers coming from China, rather than requiring negative pre-departure Covid tests. Airports Council International Europe has argued this can shift the focus to genomic sequencing to identify new variants.

The British government spent around $585 million on implementing a traffic light system as part of its wider response to manage travel during the Covid-19 pandemic, but a Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons review in July last year found that it was unable to tell if it worked, or whether the cost was worth the disruption caused.

A review into Canada’s travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic also claimed they did little to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Bangor University helped track the spread of Covid in early 2020 by testing wastewater in major cities. Scientists at the university hope wastewater sampling will extend beyond coronavirus, allowing the UK government to establish an “infectious disease transmission surveillance network” for any future viruses, Lab Manager also reported.

Tourism

India Makes Covid Test Mandatory for Arrivals From China and 5 More Asian Countries

1 year ago

India is making a PCR Covid test mandatory for inbound arrivals from China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan, and South Korea, from January 1.

Passengers arriving in India from any of these six countries would be required to upload results of tests not older than 72 hours before departure along with a self-declaration on the Air Suvidha portal.

However, at the time of writing this story, the Air Suvidha portal was still not functional and the message reads, “You no longer need to complete the Air Suvidha Form.” 

Launched in August 2020 for international passengers to submit a self-declaration of their health status, the Air Suvidha portal, a digital health and travel document, had been discontinued in November this year.

Fearing another Covid surge, India had been conducting random tests of around 2 percent of international passengers flying into the country.

On Wednesday, officials at the Indian health ministry informed that of the nearly 6,000 passengers tested over the last three days, 39 were found to be positive.

Airlines

Beijing’s International Airports Remove Negative Covid Test Requirements — Reports

1 year ago

Beijing Capital International Airport will no longer require proof of a negative Covid result for entry into its terminals, Reuters has reported, quoting Beijing News, a newspaper owned by the Chinese Communist Party.

However, it is unclear if passengers need to show negative tests prior to boarding.

The relaxed rules come as the government steps down other restrictions, including parks, supermarkets and offices. The city’s other airport, Beijing Daxing International Airport, has also reportedly lifted its negative test requirement. At the end of November Beijing shut parks, malls and museums due to a spike in Covid cases.

This latest easing follows a series of protests against the state’s “zero Covid” policy.

Beijing Capital International Airport, the country’s largest, used to be one of the world’s top 10 busiest airports, and is a hub for Air China, China Eastern Airlines and Hainan Airlines.

It handled more than 100 million passengers in 2019, and was the second busiest airport in the world, according to the Airports Council International. In 2020 it handled 35 million passengers, while in 2022 did not make the top 10 ranking.

Tourism

Canada’s Travel Bans Were Ineffective at Stopping Covid — Study

1 year ago

A review into Canada’s strict travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic has claimed they did little to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

The report, called Evaluating Canada’s Pandemic Border and Travel Policies: Lessons Learned, was written by four Canadian doctors specializing in infectious diseases and pandemic management, and was published just days before the country said it would lift all entry restrictions from Oct. 1.

It said that mandatory arrival and departure testing, quarantines, travel advisories, and other border restrictions did not materially reduce the spread of variants of concern across Canada.

The report echoes a review carried out in July into the UK’s “traffic light” system of travel restrictions, on which the government spent $585 million. The UK government, ultimately, did not know whether the system worked or whether the cost was worth the disruption caused, according to the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons.

However, it’s worth noting that this latest study may be self-serving; it was commissioned by the Tourism Industry Association of Canada in partnership with the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable.

However, they argue that with the benefit of hindsight — namely more than two years of analysis — there was no scientific basis to apply stricter health measures to travel and tourism than to other industries.

“Enough time has passed for us to make a scientific assessment as to whether the travel restrictions introduced by the federal government were successful in containing the spread of the virus and its variants,” said Dr. Zain Chagla, Infectious Diseases Physician and Associate Professor at McMaster University.

“At best, travel restrictions are estimated to delay the impact of a variant of concern by a few days,” the report stated.

It also found there was no convincing evidence that pre-departure and on-arrival testing and surveillance had a significant impact on local transmission in Canadian communities.

Alternative measures, such as community wastewater testing, were also deemed to be more accessible surveillance mechanisms to identify variants without inconveniencing travelers and requiring significant government and industry resources.

Tourism

Hong Kong to End Hotel Quarantine From September 26

1 year ago

Inbound arrivals to Hong Kong will not be required to undergo mandatory hotel quarantine from September 26.

Chief Executive John Lee made an announcement on Friday marking an end to some of the strictest restrictions imposed by a country during the pandemic.

Hong Kong has also replaced the requirement of a pre-arrival polymerase chain reaction test with a rapid antigen test taken within 24 hours of departure.

Inbound arrivals would still need to take a test at the airport but unlike earlier where they had to wait for the results, this would be more of a test-and-go measure and travelers would also be able to take public transport from the airport.

However, they would be required to self-monitor at home for three days and would not be able to dine in at restaurants and visit bars. On days 4 and 6, travellers would need to take mandatory polymerase chain reaction tests.

One of the last few destinations that still follows a stringent Covid policy for inbound arrivals, Hong Kong has been progressively easing restrictions, the pace of which quickened after Lee took charge as the city chief.

Daily Covid cases in Hong have now fallen below 6000.

Lo Chung-mau, the city’s health chief, mentioned that the shortening of the quarantine period in August to three days in a hotel and four at home had resulted in a 20 percent increase in inbound arrivals.

However, speaking at an aviation conference in Qatar on Wednesday, Willie Walsh, director general of International Air Transport Association, said that the stringent Covid policies have resulted in Hong Kong losing its position as a global aviation hub.

A once-vibrant financial hub of Asia, pressure had been mounting on the Hong Kong government to fully reopen its international borders. 

On Thursday, Japan announced its decision to reopen to mass tourism from next month. Asian destinations will surely be competing with each other to bring back tourists into the country and help resurrect the economy.

Tourism

Do Magazines and Newspapers Still Influence Where You Take Your Vacations?

1 year ago

Forty-five percent of global consumers make travel decisions based on information they gather in newspapers and magazines, according to a survey by UK-based market research company YouGov.

South Africans are the most likely plan to travel based on information appearing in newspapers and magazine articles, with 62 percent of respondents agreeing with the statement below. A majority of respondents in Asian countries such as Vietnam, India and the United Arab Emirates said the newspaper and magazine articles influenced their travel decisions. Meanwhile, respondents in Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States are the least likely to be swayed by information in print.

Fifty-one percent of respondents who are influenced by newspaper and magazine articles on travel said they notice advertisements in such media.

Courtesy YouGov

Tourism

UK Government Not Clear if Covid Travel Restrictions Worth $585 Million Worked

2 years ago

Despite spending around $585 million on implementing its traffic light system as part of its wider response to manage travel during the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK government does not know whether the system worked or whether the cost was worth the disruption caused, according to a report by the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons.

The government introduced health measures at the border from 2020 and implemented controls in four main phases, and from early 2021 operated a new “traffic light system” that broadly remained in place, with modifications, until March 2022. The traffic light system placed countries on red, amber or green lists, with more restrictions applying for travel from red-list countries and fewer for green.

The report released on Tuesday stated that while the government did not track spending on implementing health measures, the National Audit Office estimated that the government spent $585 million on the traffic light system in 2021–22.

The government also did not strike the right balance between its reliance on the travel industry to implement travel controls and the support it provided.

“Carriers were legally responsible for checking that everyone travelling to the UK had submitted a Passenger Locator Form recording their contact information and recent travel history. This imposed extra costs on carriers in a period where their revenue had fallen dramatically,” the report stated.

Although the government provided access to up to $9.6 billion of financial support during the pandemic, this was mostly general support from the furlough scheme. It did not provide any additional financial support to carriers to implement the travel controls it introduced.

Despite government’s reliance on carriers, it sometimes did not provide carriers with sufficient notice ahead of public statements that travel rules were changing. People travelling found the rules difficult
to understand, and 40 percent of them did not know the rules on self-isolation, according to the report.

While the National Audit Office noted that changes at short notice in the fast-moving environment of the pandemic was inevitable, but the processes for communicating these changes to those responsible for implementing them, in advance of a public announcement, were not timely.

“The government is not learning lessons fast enough from the pandemic and is missing opportunities to react quickly to future emergencies… In the longer term, health measures may be needed to deal with new variants of Covid-19 or other diseases such as monkeypox, so government needs to ensure it is able to respond quickly,” stated the report.

Cruises

CDC No Longer Tracks Cruise Ship Covid Outbreaks

2 years ago

The Center for Disease Control has retired its Covid-19 Program for Cruise Ships, effective Monday. Under the program, the CDC monitored Covid outbreaks on cruise ships. Under the program’s color-coding system, cruise ships were coded with colors indicating the number of positive Covid-19 tests among the crew who boarded within a 14-day span. 

“While cruising poses some risk of COVID-19 transmission, CDC will continue to publish guidance to help cruise ships continue to provide a safer and healthier environment for crew, passengers, and communities going forward,” the agency said on its website.

Travelers can contact the cruise line directly about outbreaks occurring aboard their ship.

Earlier this year, the CDC removed its Covid-19 notice against cruise travel.

Hotels

Desperate Hotels in a Rush Left to Hire Inexperienced Staff

2 years ago

Heavily-understaffed European hotel brands are now scrambling to hire workers, left with applicants with no experience or even no track record, according to Reuters.

Accor needs 35,000 employees in the 110 countries that it operates in. The hotel brand has been conducting trial initiatives to recruit people who have never worked in the industry, Reuters quoted CEO Sebastien Bazin as saying.

Accor had also announced that it would be recruiting 12,000 overseas temporary employees to operate its temporary housing units for the Qatar World Cup.

IHG Hotels & Resorts faces a 20 to 25 percent staff shortage, according to Keith Barr its CEO.

Widespread job vacancies and upward pressure on labour costs in UK’s hospitality sector had been highlighted by a CGA survey in April. The survey cited staffing issues as a major reason for impeding hospitality’s recovery from Covid-19.

Hospitality staff, who had been furloughed or terminated during Covid, have found better paying jobs in other industries and are no longer keen to return, aggravating the staffing crisis.

Further afield in the U.S., nearly all hotels are experiencing staffing shortages, and half report being severely understaffed, according to a new survey by the American Hotel & Lodging Association. Some 97 percent of respondents are experiencing a staffing shortage, 49 percent severely so. The most critical staffing need was housekeeping, with 58 percent ranking it as their biggest challenge.

As travel comes back with a bang, airports and airlines have also been struggling with staffing issues contributing to the chaos for travelers.

In a bid to address the labor shortage at airports, the UK is speeding up national security checks for new airport workers. German airports, on the other hand, will be filling staff shortages by hiring temporary workers from Turkey.

Tourism

China Cuts Quarantine Time for International Travelers to 7 Days

2 years ago

The National Health Commission of China has slashed the quarantine time for inbound travellers by half.

International arrivals will now only need to spend seven days in a centralized quarantine facility, and then monitor their health at home for three days, down from seven previously.

Relaxing its stringent zero-Covid policy has already spurred travel industry share prices, in particular airline stocks. China’s measures over the past year resulted in international flights running at just 2 percent of pre-pandemic levels, according to reports.

The share price of Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and American Airlines’ rose by almost 2.5 percent in early trading on Tuesday.

The restrictions have long deterred cross-border travel, and frustrated millions of Chinese citizens living outside of their country. Widespread restrictions also prompted major hotel companies to tread cautiously regarding future development in the country.