Skift Travel News Blog

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

Online Travel

UK Travel Agency On the Beach Sets New CEO Start Date

1 year ago

The UK’s On the Beach Group has now said chief financial officer Shaun Morton will take up his new position as CEO on June 30.

The confirmation follows the London Stock Exchange-listed company’s completion of its search for a new finance chief to replace him. Now Jon Wormald will be taking the role, the company announced on Friday.

On the Beach announced in December Simon Cooper was to step down, without specifying why.

Wormald joins On the Beach from e-commerce retailer THG, formerly The Hut Group. He also previously worked at the Co-operative Group Limited.

“Jon’s senior financial and operational roles will be invaluable to us at On the Beach as we continue to strengthen the brand and bring our leading customer proposition to a broader audience of beach holiday makers,” Morton said.

Cooper will move to a “founder director” role at the beach holiday specialist. Its Nomination Committee is also looking for an additional independent non-executive director.

“Once this position is filled, the board composition will remain in line with the requirements of the UK Corporate Governance Code,” the company said.

On the Beach is one of the UK’s largest online beach holidays retailers, and aims to become Europe’s leading beach holiday retailer.

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

New EU ID Checks Could See Much Longer Wait Times in 2023

2 years ago

Just when travelers thought that travel disruptions seen earlier this year may be easing, in May 2023 the European Union plans to introduce new fingerprint and biometric checks at external borders for third-country nationals that could lead to significantly longer wait times.

Just in time for the the peak summer travel season in 2023, the European Union’s new Entry-Exit System could add up to two minutes per individual for border processing if things go smoothly, according to some estimates, and there could be additional delays if further action is warranted

Passengers on the Eurostar train prepare to board at London’s St. Pancras station
Passengers on the Eurostar train prepare to board at London’s St. Pancras station.

Various European countries, and the UK said delays could increase two-fold, four-fold, and even seven-fold, as detailed in a story from the Independent.

The UK, which left the European Union on January 31, 2020 under its Brexit policy, will see its citizens face these elongated border checks at the port of Dover, Kent’s Eurotunnel terminal, and at a Eurostar rail hub, St. Pancras International, in London.

The Independent cited port of Dover CEO Doug Bannister estimating last month that UK motorists heading for Europe could see processing times expand by seven.

The European Union said it is making these move to enhance security in entries and exits by third-country nationals.

Contrary to estimates from Poland, Croatia, Finland, and the UK, The European Union said the new system would be hassle free, and end up saving travelers time.

To be determined, however.

Tourism

Americans Traveling to Turkey Are at All-Time Highs

2 years ago

No, you weren’t just imagining your social media timelines full of all your friends posting from Istanbul and Turkey this summer. It happened to be true.

According to latest data from European Travel Commission, visitor arrivals from U.S. to Turkey for the first nine months of this year have been up 61.1 percent from equivalent 2019 numbers. It looks likely that 2022 will represent a new peak year, the latest quarterly report from ETC says.

Another hot and trendy destination for U.S. travelers was Portugal, which was also evident from the high flight and hotel/short term rental prices in Lisbon and other tourist hotspots in the country. The U.S. arrivals to Portugal are up 17.4% above the same period of 2019.

As the report says, some had feared that the war in Ukraine would deter U.S. travel to Europe owing to safety concerns for the wider European region. There is little evidence to support this notion given the range of destinations already reporting recovery, including Poland (+5.5%) and Lithuania (+6.6%).

The data also shows similar large rise of arrivals from UK to Turkey, up 27 percent year to date compared to 2019.

Tags: turkey, uk, usa

Online Travel

Trip.com Jumps on Buy Now Pay Later Bandwagon

2 years ago

China’s Trip.com has struck two new partnerships, covering the UK and Asia Pacific, to give customers the opportunity to delay or spread out payments for their purchases.

In Asia Trip.com has joined forces with Atome, while in the UK it will use Klarna.

Trip.com bookers in the UK will see Klarna as an additional payment option when they arrive at check-out, where they’ll be able to choose one of three payment options: pay the full amount immediately, pay the full amount within 30 days, or pay in three installments over 60 days.

Trip.com’s Atome partnership will first only be available in Singapore, before other Asia Pacific regions in 2023.

In the face of a squeezed household budgets, buy now pay later schemes are becoming more popular. They tend to be common when buying bigger ticket items, like a vacation, but even food delivery platforms are looking to split payments for customers.

Klarna claims its short-term, interest and fee and fee free credit products deliver positive outcomes for consumers, with extremely low default rates of “well below 1 percent”.

“Klarna assesses a consumer’s ability to repay on each purchase, taking a real time view of someone’s financial circumstances which means using Klarna is never guaranteed,” it said.The company restricts the use of its services if consumers miss a payment to prevent debt building up.

Trip.com offers 1.2 million hotels and flights from 480 airlines.

Tourism

Indian Visa Delays Hit British Tourists

2 years ago

India’s High Commission is enforcing rules that require in-person visa applications for British citizens — a move that has caught out many in the travel industry.

Previously it turned a blind eye to visas that were being processed in batches, according to one specialist tour operator.

But on Oct. 7 the High Commission in the UK stated applicants must attend visa centers in person, as it had noticed “unauthorized agents and individuals are illegally charging fees and collecting India visa applications for submission at VFS Centres, misleading applicants and misrepresenting the services they can legally provide.”

High Commission of India, London

Source: High Commission of India, London

Thousands of travelers may now be forced to cancel their holidays, as appointments at visa centers are booked out in advance.

“There were a set of visa companies who would enter without an appointment, with 20 or 30 passports,” said Amrit Singh, co-founder and managing director of UK tour operator TransIndus. “They were being processed. All of a sudden, somebody higher up has realized that this is breaking the rules. So they’ve put a stop to it.”

She said TransIndus was now unable to accept new bookings until January. “The bigger problem is that we can’t take any fresh bookings. We couldn’t book a holiday for a client knowing there’s no opportunity for them to acquire a visa,” Singh said.

For clients traveling beyond January there was still time, but for those traveling between now and December it was “a real issue.”

“It was a casual arrangement (before) that the visa services carved out for themselves, with the local offices. I don’t think it was a formal arrangement sanctioned by the local High Commission,” Singh added.

The UK’s Association of Independent Tour Operators said 1,500 bookings through its own members worth $10 million were affected, according to reports.

According to The Times, VFS Global, which runs the processing bureaux, said the decision to insist travellers present in-person had been made due to the high number of administrative errors made by the third-party visa companies.

India currently offers 156 countries access to an online visa application process, which is similar to the U.S.’ Electronic System for Travel Authorization. It reintroduced e-visas in March this year, after Covid-19 cases decined. But UK and Canada nationals are currently excluded from this e-visa system, along with residents from Algeria, Burkina Faso, Lebanon and Pakistan.

However, as the UK government continues talks over a Free Trade Agreement with India, there are hopes the UK could be included, with “mobility and migration” under discussion on both sides.

One commentator has suggested that India’s decision to clamp down on visas was retaliation over UK home secretary Suella Braverman’s comments she had “concerns about having an open borders migration policy with India.”

“There is some discussion of a trade deal being finalized by Oct. 24. Perhaps the e-visa is a part of that negotiation,” Singh said.

In the meantime, individuals wanting an Indian visa can appoint another person to attend one of the nine visa processing centres in the UK, via a formal letter of authorization.

The U.S. is also facing delays issuing its own visas, which could prevent 6.6 million people from traveling there next year, resulting in a loss of $11.6 billion in spending, economists have warned.

Tags: india, uk, visa

Tourism

The UK and Portugal Hope New Visa Fixes Can Fix Persistent Labor Shortages

2 years ago

Staffing problems in the hospitality industry continue to linger. Now, two countries are aiming to amend visa regulations to counter them.

A petition has been launched in the UK that seeks to allow European Union nationals to come to the UK to work in hospitality for up to two years.

“The government should create a special visa for people from the EU countries to come to the UK to work in the hospitality industry for a period of up to 2 years, similar to the Seasonal Work visa for horticulture workers. Some countries have visas like this to support the hospitality sector,” the petition says.

“There is a massive shortage of qualified labour in the UK to fill vacancies that were in many cases previously filled by EU staff. For years people from the EU countries were the backbone of the hospitality industry and many were affected by COVID and subsequently by Brexit’s final terms. Many restaurants are struggling to find people with experience and willingness to work.”

As of Sept. 2 it had secured more than 16,400 signatures. Once a petition reaches 10,000 the UK government is obliged to respond. At 100,000 signatures, the topic is considered for debate in Parliament.

The UK left the European Union on 31 Jan. 2020, with free movement between the UK and the European Union ending on 1 Jan. 2021, when a new points-based immigration process was set up that is far more restrictive than before Brexit.

Brexit is being blamed for many things, but staff shortages seem to be the biggest bugbear.

“Supplier labor will continue to be an issue,” Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said in May this year. “The UK will continue to be very challenged. The labor market is very inflexible post Brexit. You can’t bring in young Europeans.”

Portugal, meanwhile, is to speed up the time it takes to grant visas to citizens of other Portuguese-speaking countries, including Angola and Brazil, according to reports.

The other countries in the Community of Portuguese language countries are East Timor, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique and Sao Tome and Principe.

Immigrants from these countries have had to get a visa if they plan to stay in Portugal for more than 90 days, Reuters reported, and often have to wait many months to get visa approval.

Employers’ confederations have said there are no workers available in key sectors such as hotels, agriculture and construction.

Tourism

Weak Euro Means Dollar Will Go Further for Americans Vacationing in Europe

2 years ago

The value of the euro is plummeting and that means Americans vacationing in Europe will see their dollars going further, CNN reported.

Three tourists with a selfie stick at Rome’s Trevi Fountain
Three tourists with a selfie stick at Rome’s Trevi Fountain

The euro’s falling means the dollar and euro are almost at parity, and “the UK pound is also weak: It’s exchanging at $1.20,” the report said.

That means more expensive vacations for Europeans and British.

Even if the dollar is strong, though, compared with the euro and pound, hotel prices across Europe in May were soaring in some countries compared to May 2019 before the pandemic.

Average daily rates in May 2022 were up in Italy (23 percent), Ireland (21 percent), and Spain (17 percent) compared with the same period in 2019, according to STR Global.

Airlines

UK Speeds Up Security Checks for New Airport Workers Amid Staffing Shortages

2 years ago

The UK government is accelerating national security checks for new airport employees to tackle staffing shortages that have contributed to a chaotic summer for travelers in the country and throughout Europe.

The country has sped up the vetting process all new aviation recruits must undergo, with accreditation checks being completed on average within five days and counter-terrorist checks taking less than 10 days — half of the average in March, according to the Department of Transport.

A common scene at airports this summer (Courtesy: Mark Hodson Photos/Flickr)

Staffing shortages have driven London’s Gatwick and Heathrow Airports to limit the flights the number during the summer travel season to avoid overcrowding. In addition, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has told airlines to stop selling tickets for flights they cannot staff.

Short-Term Rentals

UK Government to Consider Short-Term Rental Registrations and Inspections

2 years ago

Citing a substantial increase in Airbnb listings, UK government agencies Wednesday issued an “open call for evidence” about the impact of short-term rentals, and floated remedies such as physical inspections of properties and a registration requirement.

The UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, as well as two MPs stated that the call for evidence would last 12 weeks. The announcement cited a 33 percent increase in Airbnb’s UK listings in the 2017-2018 period.

jermyn street london short term rental via altido source altido
A residence on Jermyn Street in London that’s available for short-term rental via booking brand Altido. Source: Altido.

The aim is to improve the lives of people living in tourism destinations, and to understand the impact on housing, among other goals. the announcement said.

The announcement stated:

“The scheme, proposed in a new government review looking at the impact of increases in short-term and holiday lets in England, could involve physical checks of premises to ensure regulations in areas including health and safety, noise and anti-social behaviour are obeyed.

“Further measures the Government is considering include a registration ‘kitemark’ scheme with spot checks for compliance with rules on issues such as gas safety, a self-certification scheme for hosts to register with before they can operate, and better information or a single source of guidance setting out the legal requirements for providers.”

Reacting to the announcement, Merilee Karr, chair of the UK Short Term Accommodation Association and CEO of UnderTheDoormat, urged the government to distinguish between short-term rentals that hosts live in and those that are investment properties.

Karr said her association has previously called for a national registration plan as a precursor to collecting data and to develop any policies. She said short-term rentals “play a vital role in the English tourism economy, contributing to local jobs and businesses, providing a vital income stream for many individuals and families at this time of rising cost of living.”