Skift Travel News Blog

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

Tourism

Japan to Continue Nationwide Travel Discount Program in 2023

1 week ago

The Japanese government announced on Friday it’s planning to resume its domestic travel discount program in the new year.

Tourism Minister Tetsuo Saito said the government will decide when exactly to relaunch the program, which was initially expected to conclude on December 28, after monitoring Covid cases in the country. Participants in the program, a campaign the government hopes will resurrect a tourism industry battered by the pandemic, are required to have received at least three Covid vaccine doses or test negative for the virus. The Japanese government relaunched the travel discount program in October after pausing it during the heart of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, discounts offered in the program will be reduced next year, with the discount rate to drop to 20 percent from the current 40 percent. The maximum discount amount available for travelers in tour packages, including public transportation services, will also decrease from $58 (8,000 yen) to $36 (5,000 yen).

An image from Asakusa
Japan is extended its nationwide travel discount program to boost a tourism industry that struggled during the pandemic (Flickr/Caribb)

Airlines

Cathay Pacific Begins Pandemic Bounce Back

3 weeks ago

Cathay Pacific Airways, after worries that Hong Kong’s strict Covid rules could doom the airline, is beginning its post-pandemic bounce back as the Chinese special administrative region eases its border rules.

The Oneworld alliance carrier will resume a third of its 2019 capacity by the end of the year, Cathay said Monday. That means resuming about 3,000 daily flights between the end of October and year end. And, as travel is expected to surge back, 70 percent of its pre-crisis capacity by the end of 2023. The carrier anticipates a full recovery to 2019 levels in 2024.

“Our recovery trajectory is in line with other carriers that don’t benefit from a domestic market in terms of the time taken since borders began to open,” Cathay CEO Augustus Tang said. He added, citing the recovery challenges other airlines have experienced, that Cathay has “sufficient pilots, cabin crew and operational employees” to support its capacity recovery plans.

Cathay will return to Bali, Bangalore, Fukuoka, Sapporo, Tokyo Haneda, Xi’an, and Zurich, and add back flights in other markets, in the fourth quarter, according to Diio by Cirium schedules.

cathay pacific august 2019 Thomas Peter reuters
(REUTERS/Thomas Peter)

Airlines

Cathay Pacific Appoints Customer Chief Ronald Lam as New CEO

4 weeks ago

Cathay Pacific announced on Wednesday that CEO Augustus Tan would be stepping down on December 31 and chief customer and commercial officer, Ronald Lam would succeed him.

Even after appointed the CEO of Catahay Pacific, the airline has said Lam would continue to serve as chair of HK Express, Cathay’s low-cost subsidiary.

Lam was appointed chief customer and commercial officer in 2019. He joined the Cathay Pacific Group as a management trainee in 1996 and has since held a number of senior leadership roles in Hong Kong and overseas, including CEO of HK Express.

As the airline looks to increase its passenger flight capacity and strengthen connectivity, Lam would lead the airline through its post-Covid recovery and the introduction of the three-runway system at Hong Kong International Airport, Patrick Healy, chair of Cathay Pacific Group, said in a press statement.

“The company’s dual-brand strategy comprising Cathay Pacific as a premium full-service airline and HK Express as a wholly owned low-cost carrier have positioned it well to take advantage of the recovery and continue contributing to the long-term success of the Hong Kong hub,” Healy said.

Healy also spoke of Tang’s critical role in the airline’s restructuring in 2020 and its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic

Releasing its September figures, the airline has said that it would continue to add more flights in the coming months.

In addition to the flight sectors previously scheduled for November and December, the airline had announced that it would be adding more than half a million seats with an increase of around 700 sectors in November and 1,200 in December.

Japan and London Heathrow sectors would be witnessing a substantial increase in passenger flights in November and December, the airline had said.

In another board reshuffle announced Wednesday, Lavinia Lau will replace Lam as the chief customer and commercial officer from January 1 and Alexander McGowan will replace Gregory Hughes as chief operations and service delivery officer, effective April 1.

Tourism

Irish Inbound Tourism Set to Regain 75 Percent of Pre-Pandemic Level

4 weeks ago

Ireland’s overseas inbound tourism level for the year is set to hit 75 percent of 2019 levels, CEO of Tourism Ireland Niall Gibbons told The Sunday Times (London).

Tourism Ireland forecasts the sector will fully recover by 2025. In 2019 Ireland welcomed 11.3 million tourists, generating approximately $6.1 billion (€5.9 billion) in revenue.

The strong U.S. dollar has benefited Irish tourism. But the strong euro relative to the British pound has dampened inbound tourism to the Republic of Ireland from the UK. (Tourism Ireland does marketing for the full island.)

Hotel supply is a top headwind for Irish tourism, Gibbons said.

“Latest official figures show that more than 20 percent of hotel rooms are being used for non-tourism-related reasons, including housing Ukrainian refugees and the homeless,” The Times reported.

“This year Tourism Ireland has a budget of about $69.8 million (€70 million) to spend on marketing Ireland,’ The Times reported. “The majority will go on television advertising.”

The marketing project he is most proud of since Gibbons became CEO in 2009 is the annual Global Greening, where hundreds of landmarks worldwide light up in green to honor St Patrick’s Day.

The Sunday Times

Tourism

Qatar Drops Pre-Arrival Covid Test Requirement Right in Time for World Cup

1 month ago

Qatar will be dropping its requirement of a pre-arrival negative polymerase chain reaction test from November 1, just in time for the FIFA World Cup that kicks off from November 20.

Qatari citizens and residents coming into the country will also not be required to undergo a rapid antigen or polymerase chain reaction test within 24 hours of arrival.

Visitors entering Qatar from November 1 onwards would also not be required to pre-register on the Ehteraz health application. Registration on the Ehteraz app would only be needed to enter healthcare facilities.

The Ministry of Public Health made the announcement on Wednesday, in light of the continuing decline in the number of Covid-19 cases throughout the world and in Qatar. 

Last month, the government had said in a statement that Covid vaccination would not be mandatory football fans coming in to the country for the World Cup.

From this month onwards, masks are also not mandatory while travelling on public transport in Qatar and it was announced that masks would be optional at the eight World Cup stadiums.

However, all visitors would need a Hayya Card to enter Qatar from November 1. The Hayya Card is a mandatory document given to anyone attending the World Cup that serves as an entry permit to the Qatar and also provides stadium access along with the match tickets.

Luxury

Strong Dollar May Be Headwind for U.S. Luxury Hotels

2 months ago

The U.S. dollar has appreciated relative to major currencies such as the euro, pound, and yen, and that dynamic has been changing travel patterns. American tourists enjoy enhanced buying power in Europe and Japan, while many foreign visitors find the U.S. off-puttingly expensive.

Look at U.S. government data to see the pattern. September data from the International Trade Administration (sourced here) shows a 2 percent increase in Americans going abroad compared to September 2019 before the pandemic, while there was a 27 percent drop in inbound international visitors in the same period.

Jan Freitag, Senior Vice President of Lodging Insights for STR and National Director, Hospitality Analytics for CoStar Group, summed things up in a tweet on Thursday.

Here’s that slide from CoStar a bit bigger:

Airlines

Europe to Overtake Asia Pacific as World’s Largest Travel Region

2 months ago

The Asia Pacific region will no longer be the world’s largest travel region by the end of 2022, ceding the title to Europe. That’s according to a new report from international travel industry analysts at CAPACentre for Aviation.

The organization discussed how aviation in the region remains down by 45 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels while European air travel has recovered to roughly 85 percent of pre-pandemic levels. That being said, we believe the reason is that China is still locked up/locked down.

In 2019, 3.38 billion passengers transited through Asia Pacific airports. CAPA reported current predictions that only 1.84 billion passengers would pass through Asia Pacific hubs by the end of this year. Most travel in Asia Pacific destinations remains at 50 percent or more below 2019 levels.

India is the standout at only 11 percent below 2019. CAPA predicts Asia Pacific will not see a full return to pre-pandemic travel figures until the end of 2023 or early 2024.

China’s international share of Asia Pacific seats fell from 26.2 percent in 2019 to an estimated 5 percent in 2022, as this chart underscores: 

China and Japan: international scheduled seats per week, 2021 to 2022 year to date. Chart by Centre for Aviation.
The report from the Centre for Aviation

Tourism

Taiwan to End Quarantine for Inbound Arrivals From October 13

2 months ago

In the latest round of easing travel restrictions, tourists coming in to Taiwan will not be asked to undergo mandatory Covid-19 quarantine from October 13, the ministry of health and welfare announced on Thursday.

From October 13, inbound arrivals to Taiwan would require to self-monitor for seven days instead of undergoing mandatory quarantine.

While the government has scrapped the requirement for polymerase chain reaction tests for inbound travelers, passengers aged two and above would receive four rapid test kits on arrival and are advised to test on the day of arrival or the next day.

Travelers seeking to step out during the seven-day self-monitoring period would be required to take a rapid antigen test.

While opening borders to travelers from all countries, the government has also raised the weekly limit for international visitors from 60,000 to 150,000, and announced the resumption of group tours.

On September 12, Taiwan restored visa-free entry for visitors from 54 countries, including the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and diplomatic allies. From Thursday onwards, 11 more countries were included in the visa exemption list, which includes Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.

Following last week’s announcement of the Mainland Affairs Council, entry requirements for select categories of Chinese, Hong Kong, and Macau nationals have also been relaxed from Thursday onwards.

Even as many Asian destinations have scrapped most of the Covid-19 related entry restrictions, Taiwan had resorted to a strong zero-Covid policy for more than two years, where arrivals were still required to undergo a mandatory three-day quarantine at home or at a hotel, followed by four days of self-monitoring.

Taiwan had also banned inbound and outbound tour groups for more than two years.

Airlines

Canada to Lift Last Covid, Mask Restrictions

2 months ago

Canada will end all entry restrictions on October 1, with major national airlines Air Canada and WestJet welcoming the change.

Gone are requirements that certain travelers provide proof of vaccination, undergo pre- or post-arrival testing, or quarantine or isolate after arrival, the Canadian government said on Monday. Fully vaccinated travelers have not been subject to most of these rules since March 1. The country also lifted mask requirements for planes and trains.

Toronto CN Tower Skyline
(Can Pac Swire/Flickr)

“Air Canada welcomes the removal of these restrictions,” Air Canada Chief Operating Officer Craig Landry said. “We believe it will greatly facilitate travel, help to continue stabilizing the country’s air transport sector and support Canada’s economy.”

WestJet CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech echoed Landry’s comments in a separate statement, adding that the “announcement aligns with the travel policies of other major nations.”

International airline seats to Canada is down 19 percent compared to 2019 in September, according to Diio by Cirium schedules. For comparison, international seats to the U.S. — where travel restrictions were eased months ago — are down just 15 percent.

Tourism

Hong Kong to End Hotel Quarantine From September 26

2 months 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.

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