India Falls To 54th Place In The WEF’s Travel And Tourism Development Index

After two years of slowdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, India’s travel and tourism sector has shown “signs of recovery” and is the top performer in South Asia, according to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) latest study.

India grabbed the 54th spot in the overall rankings, down from 46th in 2019. The travel and tourism development index assessed a total of 117 countries for the study.

According to a new World Economic Forum research, India’s travel and tourism industry are showing “marks of recovery” after a two-year downturn caused by the pandemic.

According to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) newest assessment, India’s travel and tourism sector has exhibited “marks of recovery” after a two-year downturn caused by the Covid-19 outbreak.

India fell from its previous position of 46th in 2019 to the 54th spot on the global travel and tourism development index in 2020. Although it has maintained its position as the leading nation in the South Asia region.

Titled ‘Travel & Tourism Development Index 2021: Rebuilding for a Sustainable and Resilient Future’, the study measured “the set of factors and policies that enable the sustainable and resilient development of the T&T sector, which in turn contributes to the development of a country”.

In this year’s index — which consists of five subindexes, 17 pillars and 112 individual indicators — Japan took the number one spot, followed by the US, Spain, France and Germany among the top five.

“Covid shutdowns have re-emphasised the important contribution travel and tourism makes to many economies around the world,” said Lauren Uppink, head of aviation, travel and tourism at the WEF, in a statement.

The WEF’s findings credited recovery in tourism due to an increase in vaccination rates, curbs in travel restrictions and economic growth. But noted that the recovery still remains “slow and fragile” due to uneven “vaccine distribution, capacity constraints, labour shortages, supply chain disruptions and more”.

“Government, business and civil society leaders can address barriers to recovery by looking at the different factors that can support the long-term development and resiliency of their respective travel and tourism economies,” added Uppink.

“This will require decision-makers to restore consumer confidence and international openness by prioritizing such things as enhanced health and security measures, encouraging inclusive labour practices, improving environmental sustainability and investing in digital technology.”

The study further revealed that while international tourist arrivals globally have increased by 18 million in January this year as compared to the same period in 2021, they were still 67 per cent below 2019 levels.

AAHOA Celebrates the Retirement of J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr., with Lifetime Achievement Award

AAHOA celebrated the career of J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr., as he retired as Marriott International Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board on May 6th As stated by Marriott International, “he leaves the company after 66 years of unparalleled service and leadership.” 

During AAHOACON22 last month, Mr. Marriott was presented with the AAHOA Lifetime Achievement Award, which is given to an individual whose contributions and dedication to the hotel industry have spanned their entire career.

Individuals are honored with this prestigious award because they raise up not only their own organizations, but everyone in the profession.

“Anyone could recite and recount his many achievements, innovations, and the legacy he has established over the course of his career,” said AAHOA Chairman Neal Patel. ”But, for AAHOA Members, he is defined by the courage, empathy, and strength of character he has displayed through his many leadership roles with Marriott International.”

Marriott, like AAHOA, has a rich history and a family tradition of passing down a legacy. As a young teenager, Mr. Marriott worked for his father, doing odd jobs in the business to help out. Many of AAHOA’s hoteliers and members can relate to that – many of them growing up in their parent’s hotels and working toward achieving the American Dream.

“Because of his unique and visionary contributions to the hospitality industry, on behalf of AAHOA’s more than 20,000 members, we are honored to present Mr. Marriott with the AAHOA Lifetime Achievement Award,” Patel said.

AAHOA congratulates Mr. Marriott for an incredible career that will leave a lasting impact on the industry for generations to come and also congratulates David S. Marriott for assuming the position as Marriott International’s Chairman of the Board. 

“We look forward to continuing our strong partnership with Marriott under David’s leadership, and we thank Mr. Marriott for all he has done for our industry and our members,” Patel said. 

India’s First International Cruise Conference To Be Held In Mumbai

Giving a boost to both the shipping and tourism sectors, India will host the first-ever Incredible India International Cruise Conference in May, 2022 months before the commissioning of the iconic cruise terminal in Mumbai.

On May 14-15, the Mumbai Port Authority (MPA) will hold the event in India’s financial capital. Mumbai will open the first-of-its-kind iconic sea cruise terminal in July 2024.

The conference will also showcase ports on the west coast, such as Mumbai, Goa, Kochi, New Mangalore, and Lakshadweep, as well as Kolkata, Visakhapatnam, Chennai, and Andaman as cruise centers of the country.

The two-day event in Mumbai is being organised by the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, Mumbai Port Authority, and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

The Minister noted during a news conference in Mumbai that the Indian cruise market had the potential to develop tenfold over the next decade, owing to increased demand and disposable incomes.

According to the minister, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship Sagarmala programme connects the ports of Chennai, Vizag, and Andaman with Goa, which attracts the most tourists.

Sarbananda Sonowal also revealed the Conference’s brochure, logo, and mascot, Captain Cruzo. During the press conference, he also launched the event website, www.iiicc2022.in. The focus of the conference will be on Developing India as a Cruise Hub.

Dr. Sanjeev Ranjan, Secretary of the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, Rajiv Jalota, Chairman of the Mumbai Port Authority, and Sanjay Bandopadhyay, Chairman of the Inland Waterways Authority of India, all spoke at the event.

Tata Group Chairman Tells Air India Staff To Look Ahead On A New Journey

Tata Group Chairman, N. Chandrasekaran, has called upon Air India employees to work together to build ‘the airline our country needs’. In a communication to the employees, Chandrasekaran said: “Now is the time to look ahead.”

The communication to Air India employees came on a day when Tata Group subsidiary, Talace Private Limited, formally took over the managerial control of the airline.

“I, like many others, have enjoyed reflecting on stories from the airline’s brilliant past. My first flight was with Air India in December 1986, and I will never forget how special it felt to be onboard, or the exhilaration as we soared into the sky,” the letter read.

“Today is the beginning of a new chapter. The entire nation’s eyes are on us, waiting to see what we will achieve together. To build the airline our country needs, we need to look to the future,” it added. Notably, the purpose of the letter was to welcome the employees into the Tata Group “family”.

“Our group has its own storied past. I have learned that to preserve what is best about the past, requires constant change. It is by evolving, adapting and embracing the future that we best honour a glorious history,” Chandrasekaran said in the letter.

It added that the “golden age” of Air India lies ahead and the “journey towards it starts now”.

Indian Government has handed over the management control of Air India to Tata Group subsidiary Talace.

With this, Air India’s strategic disinvestment was complete after the Centre received a consideration of Rs 2,700 crore from the ‘Strategic Partner’ — Talace — which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Sons.

Tata Sons subsidiary Talace, which took over the managerial control of Air India on Thursday, will get more than 140 aircraft and eight logos, among other assets such as human resources.

However, the transaction does not include non-core assets, including land and building, valued at Rs 14,718 crore, which are to be transferred to government of India’s Air India Asset Holding Limited (AIAHL).

Besides, Tatas will also not get the world-famous art collection of Air India.

Nevertheless, the group will get Air India’s 117 wide-body and narrow body aircraft apart from 24 aircraft of Air India Express. A significant number of these aircraft are owned by Air India.

It will also get to operate these aircraft on over 4,000 domestic and 1,800 international routes.

Also, eight brand logos would be transferable to the Tatas, which they have to retail for a period of five years.

As far as revenues are concerned, more than two-third of Air India’s consolidated revenues come from the international market. The airline is still the largest player from India in the international market, having a strong footprint across geographies like North America, Europe and Middle East, with attractive slots and bilateral rights.

Additionally, Air India comes with a frequent flyer programme which has more than three million members.

In terms of manpower, the conglomerate will get the total talent pool of Air India and Air India Express, which stands at over 13,000, including permanent as well as contractual employees.

Under the agreement with the Centre, no employee will be removed for one-year. In the second year, if an employee has to be removed, a VRS option will be provided.

The employees will be provided gratuity, provident fund and post-retirement medical benefits.

Financially, Tatas will retain a debt of Rs 15,300 crore. It had to pay Rs 2,700 crore to the Centre as the cash component.

In addition, Tatas will need to take care of the Rs 20 crore loss per day that the company suffers.

There is also a three-year business continuity clause in the agreement.

Tatas would also need to maintain 51 per cent stake in the airline for at least one-year. Besides the upfront payment, Talace will retain a debt of Rs 15,300 crore.

The transaction covered three entities – Air India, Air India Express and AI SATS. Post the formal take over, a new board was constituted which included Tata Group’s executives.  (IANS)

Kerala Named ‘The Most Welcoming Region’ For The 4th Time

Despite the challenges the past two years have wrought upon the travel industry, our love for travel has never waned as travel optimism and hope for recovery remains high. Travel platform Booking.com announces the recipients of its tenth annual Traveller Review Awards, including the 2022 Most Welcoming Places on Earth.

Kerala has topped the list once again as the �Most Welcoming Region’ in India followed by Goa and Puducherry. Palolem, Agonda, Mararikulam, Thekkady and Varkala are the top five �Most Welcoming Cities’ in India. The awards also highlight hotels as the most welcoming accommodation type by Indians followed by homestay, resort, guesthouse and apartments.

2022’s Most Welcoming Places on Earth

From iconic architectural wonders to pristine natural beauty, the 2022 Most Welcoming Places on Earth span the globe and offer travellers a range of memorable travel experiences. The 2022 Most Welcoming Regions on Earth include Gorenjska (Slovenia) followed by Taitung County (Taiwan) and Tasmania (Australia). Booking.com also revealed the top 3 Most Welcoming Cities on Earth which include Matera (Italy), Bled (Slovenia) and Taitung City (Taiwan). In terms of places to stay, Italy leads the pack with the most accommodations being recognized with a 2022 award (162,272), followed by Spain (93,130) and France (89,186). India (9062) ranked ahead of Colombia (8082), New Zealand (7355), Taiwan (7350), and Chile (7267).

2022’s Most Welcoming Cities and Regions in India

Looking at the properties receiving the Traveller Review Awards 2022, Booking.com has also revealed the Most Welcoming Cities and Regions in India for travellers to experience the best in hospitality and friendliness whenever it’s safe again to do so. Three out of five destinations from Kerala are a part of the Most Welcoming Cities in India. From Palolem (Goa) and Agonda (Goa) to Mararikulam (Kerala) and Thekkady (Kerala), these places reveal the love for coastal getaways by Indian travellers. While South India dominated the most welcoming regions list in India, Himachal Pradesh also made it to the top five Most Welcoming Regions in India in 2022.

Most Welcoming Cities in India Most Welcoming Regions in India

Palolem (Goa) Kerala

Agonda (Goa) Goa

Mararikulam (Kerala) Puducherry

Thekkady (Kerala) Rajasthan

Varkala (Kerala) Himachal Pradesh

Most Welcoming Accommodation Types in India

Another year in a row, hotels take the top spot in the Traveller Review Awards 2022 as the most-awarded property type in India, with 3644 partners being recognized for their efforts. Homestays take the second spot with 1141 properties being honoured, followed by resorts, guest houses and apartments.

Ritu Mehrotra, Regional Manager, South Asia at Booking.com said, “As travel dynamics continue to change, it’s heartening to see the love travellers have expressed for the destinations as recognized by Booking.com’s Traveller Review Awards 2022. The travel industry has continued to remain vigilant and flexible in light of the uncertainty and travel restrictions, and we acknowledge the passion and dedication of our partners in creating safe and welcoming travel experiences, enabling travellers in having beautiful experiences our world has to offer. As we navigate through the current travel environment, we are looking towards the future with renewed optimism and hope, and with these awards, we recognize the incredible hospitality our partners deliver to travellers each and every day and thank them for their amazing devotion as we continue to rebuild together.”

Florida Is The Best Place To Retire In The US

Here are top 10 most retirement friendly states in the U.S.

That Florida is the No. 1 destination for Americans to retire, according to recent data collected by WalletHub, may not be a shock. Interestingly, though, the Sunshine State is followed closely by two lesser-known retirement destinations.

Researchers at the personal-finance website analyzed all 50 states using stats from the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and other entities. The analysis ranked locales on a 100-point scale across three metrics: affordability, quality of life, and health care.

Virginia and Colorado ranked second and third, just behind Florida, the research shows. Both outrank it when it comes to health care, and both have comparable costs of living.

Based on the WalletHub findings, here are the top 10 most retirement-friendly U.S. states, based on their overall score. Their state rankings in individual metrics including affordability, quality of life, and health care.

9. New Hampshire (tie)

Total score: 54.17    
Affordability: 34
Quality of life: 2
Health care: 8

How much money do I need to start investing?

Many experts recommend the 50-30-20 rule. Learn more here.

9. Arizona (tie)

Total score: 54.17    
Affordability: 15
Quality of life: 32
Health care: 24

8. Utah

Total score: 54.23    
Affordability: 19
Quality of life: 20
Health care: 26

7. Montana

Total score: 54.44    
Affordability: 14
Quality of life: 18
Health care: 31

6. North Dakota

Total score: 54.51    
Affordability: 25
Quality of life: 16
Health care: 16

5. Minnesota

Total score: 55.85    
Affordability: 36
Quality of life: 3
Health care: 1

4. Delaware

Total score: 56.34    
Affordability: 6
Quality of life: 35
Health care: 15

3. Colorado

Total score: 59.27    
Affordability: 11
Quality of life: 21
Health care: 4

2. Virginia

Total score: 59.32    
Affordability: 9
Quality of life: 7
Health care: 13

1. Florida

Total score: 59.41
Affordability: 4
Quality of life: 5
Health care: 27

Watch out for ‘additional surprises’ when considering where to retire

Retirement may mark the end of your career, but it’s not the end of financial security considerations. If you’re worried about having enough for the future, moving to a lower-cost state could help your money last.

In the top three states on the list, the lower cost of living is a big draw. In the popular retirement city of Orlando, Florida, for example, the cost of living is 5% lower than the national average. In Richmond, Virginia, it’s 4% lower, and in Colorado Springs, Colorado, costs are 6% lower.

Keep in mind, however, how your other expenses may change. While “the cost of living in Florida can be cheaper than where you’re coming from, “especially if you are moving from a high-cost area, say, New York City,” says John A. Kilpatrick, Ph.D., managing director at real estate company Greenfield Advisors, “the typical salaries are lower as well,” which could be a concern if you decide to keep working.

“Plus, there [could be] some additional surprises,” he adds.

For example, in Florida, “you have to own a car. If you are coming from an area where auto usage is uncommon, you are going to have quite a shock. Mass transit is almost unknown,” he says.

Home prices in Florida, as well as in Virginia and Colorado, are above the norm. Compared to the national average of $320,662, according to Zillow, Florida homes are a slightly higher $342,077, while homes in Virginia and Colorado average $348,835 and $536,839, respectively.

While taxes or other costs may be lower in one place than another, Marcia Socas, a real estate broker in Central Florida, previously told Grow, look at all “facets of your expenses,” in order to avoid “saving in one area and spending significantly more in another.”

Don’t forget about your quality of life

Being happy where you are is a big deal. Before committing to a new place, experts suggest you visit or rent for a while to see if you like it. The right choice takes research and includes many personal factors other than money, like proximity to family and friends.

Only you can determine the best retirement destination for you in terms of satisfaction.

India Observes National Tourism Day

Government of India is celebrating ‘National Tourism Day’ on January 25, 2022.  This important occasion will be followed by commemoration of the 73rd Republic Day.

This year, India will cross a milestone when it completes 75 years of Independence on 15th August 2022. The landmark occasion is being celebrated as ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’. The series of events are receiving overwhelming participation from Indians and all people of Indian origin abroad. The grand celebration of progressive India and history of its people, culture, and achievements, commenced on 12th March 2021. Since then, began a 75 week countdown to India’s 75th Anniversary of Independence and will end post-a-year on 15th August 2023. Hon’ble Prime Minister Modi has launched a vision of activating India 2.0 fueled by the spirit of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’. The ‘National Tourism Day’ needs to be seen against this backdrop.

For the celebration of the ‘National Tourism Day’, the Ministry of Tourism has been designated as the lead Ministry and Ministry of Railways, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Textiles, and Ministry of Railways will be the partnering Ministries. The Day will sensitize everyone about Government of India’s efforts to promote its Tourism potential.

The ‘Tourism Fortnight’, a special drive to promote Incredible India with a series of activities, conversations at the India Pavilion of the Expo 2020 Dubai, and a special ‘Tourism Pavilion’, in association with FICCI where various state governments took part and showcased their tourism potential are special promotion drives undertaken by the Government of India recently.

On the occasion of celebration of ‘National Tourism Day’, let us have a virtual tour of India’s select National Monuments.

Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram

Tamil Nadu:

Mahabalipuram is pre-eminently testimony to the Pallavas civilization of south-east India.The sanctuary, known especially for its rathas (temples in the form of chariots), mandapas (cave sanctuaries), and giant open-air reliefs, is one of the major centres of the cult of Siva. The influence of the sculptures of Mahabalipuram, characterized by the softness and supple mass of their modelling, spread widely (Cambodia, Annam, Java).

Founded in the 7th century by the Pallavas sovereigns south of Madras, the harbour of Mahabalipuram traded with the distant kingdoms of South-East Asia: Kambuja (Cambodia) and Shrivijaya (Malaysia, Sumatra, Java) and with the empire of Champa (Annam). But the fame of its role as a harbour has been transferred to its rock sanctuaries and Brahmin temples which were constructed or decorated at Mahabalipuram between 630 and 728.

Most of the monuments, like the rock-cut rathas, sculptured scenes on open rocks like Arjuna’s penance, the caves of Govardhanadhari and Ahishasuramardini, and the Jala-Sayana Perumal temple (the sleeping Mahavishnu or Chakrin at the rear part of the Shore temple complex) are attributed to the period of Narasimhavarman I Mamalla.

Great Living Chola Temples

Tamil Nadu

The Great Chola Temples of southern India are an exceptional testimony to the development of the architecture and the ideology of the Chola Empire and the Tamil civilization in southern India. They represent an outstanding creative achievement in the architectural conception of the pure form of the Dravida type of temple (characterized by a pyramidal tower).

The Cholas were the second great historic dynasty of the Tamil Nadu, the Tamil country, which was the home of the ancient Dravidian culture whose influence was so considerable in the whole of south-east Asia. The great temple of Tanjore was built in a few years, from 1003 to 1010, during the reign of the great king Rajaraja (985-1014), true founder of the Chola Empire which spread throughout the whole of southern India, part of Ceylon and the Maldive and Laccadive archipelagos. Richly endowed by the sovereign, the sanctuary, which also bears his name – it is sometimes called Rajarajesvaram – had a permanent staff of several hundred priests, 400 devadasi (sacred dancers), and 57 musicians, according to inscriptions and chronicles. The Brihadisvara’s income in gold, silver and precious stones during the Chola period has been precisely evaluated. These vast resources were efficiently managed and provided not only for the upkeep and improvement of the buildings (which was continued until the 17th century) but also for real investments to be made. The temple lent money, at rates which could sometimes reach 30%, to shipowners, village assemblies and craft guilds. Dedicated to Shiva, the Brihadisvara stands to the south-west of the historic city. A first rectangular surrounding wall, 270 m by 140 m, marks the outer boundary.

Sun Temple, Konârak

Orissa

 Konârak is an outstanding testimony to the 13th-century kingdom of Orissa. It is directly and materially linked to Brahmin beliefs, and forms the invaluable link in the history of the diffusion of the cult of Surya, which originated in Kashmir during the 8th century and finally reached the shores of eastern India.

On the eastern coast of India, south of the Mahanadi Delta, is the Brahmin temple of Kimarak (still spelled as Konârak or Konârka), one of the most famous Brahmin sanctuaries of Asia. Konârak derives its name from Konârka, the presiding deity of the Sun Temple. Konârka is a combination of two words, kona (corner) and arka (Sun). It was one of the earliest centres of Sun worship in India. Built around 1250 in the reign of King Narasingha Deva (1238-64), it marks the apogee of the wave of foundations dedicated to the Sun God Surya; the entire temple was conceived as a chariot of the Sun God with a set of spokes and elaborate carvings.

The present Sun Temple was probably built by King Narashimhadev I (1238-64) of the Ganga dynasty to celebrate his victory over the Muslims. The temple fell into disuse in the early 17th century after it was desecrated by an envoy of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. The legend has it that the temple was constructed by Samba, the son of Lord Krishna. Samba was afflicted by leprosy and after twelve years of penance he was cured by Surya, the Sun God, in whose honour he built this temple.

Elephanta Caves

Maharashtra

The island of Elephanta, the glorious abode of Lord Shiva and an epitome of Hindu cave culture, consists of seven caves on an island in the Sea of Oman close to Mumbai which, with their decorated temples and the images from Hindu mythology, bear a unique testimony to a civilization that has disappeared. Here, Indian art has found one of its most perfect expressions, particularly in the huge high reliefs in the main cave.

The island of Gharapuri, the ‘City of Caves’, situated about 10 km from Mumbai on the east side of the harbour, owes its name to the enormous stone elephant found there by Portuguese navigators. This elephant was cut into pieces, removed to Mumbai and somehow put together again. It is today the melancholy guardian of Victoria Gardens Zoo in Mumbai, the great metropolis of Maharashtra State and India’s second city population-wise.

The date of the famous Elephanta Caves is still very much debated and varies from the 6th century to the 8th century according to different specialists. They constitute one of the most striking collections of rock-art in India. There are two groups of caves. To the east, Stupa Hill (thus named because of a small brick Buddhist monument at the top) contains two caves, one of which is unfinished, and several cisterns. To the west, the larger group consists of five rock-cut Hindu shrines. The main cave is universally famous for its carvings to the glory of Shiva, who is exalted in various forms and act ions. The cave consists of a square plan mandapa whose sides measure about 27 m

Group of Monuments at Pattadakal

Karnataka

Pattadakal represents the high point of an eclectic art which, in the 7th and 8th centuries under the Chalukya dynasty, achieved a harmonious blend of architectural forms from northern and southern India. An impressive series of nine Hindu temples, as well as a Jain sanctuary, can be seen there.

Three very closely located sites in the State of Karnataka provide a remarkable concentration of religious monuments dating from the great dynasty of the Chalukya (c. 543-757). There are the two successive capital cities – Aihole (ancient Aryapura), Badami, and Pattadakal, the ‘City of the Crown Rubies’ (Pattada Kisuvolal). The latter was, moreover, for a brief time the third capital city of the Chalukya kingdom; at the time the Pallava occupied Badami (642-55). While Aihole is traditionally considered the ‘laboratory’ of Chalukya architecture, with such monuments as the Temple of Ladkhan (c. 450) which antedate the dynasty’s political successes during the reign of King Pulakeshin I, the city of Pattadakal illustrates the apogee of an eclectic art which, in the 7th and 8th centuries, achieved a harmonious blend of architectural forms from the north and south of India.

In UAE Desert, Camels Compete For Crowns In Beauty Pageant

Deep in the desert of the United Arab Emirates, the moment that camel breeders had been waiting for arrived.

Families hauled their camels through wind-carved sands. Servers poured tiny cups of Arabic coffee. Judges descended on desert lots.

A single question loomed over the grandstand: Which camels were most beautiful?

Even as the omicron variant rips through the world, legions of breeders from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Qatar traveled to the UAE’s southwestern desert this week with 40,000 of their most beautiful camels for the Al Dhafra Festival.

The five-man jury at the annual pageant insists beauty is not in the eye of the beholder. Camel aesthetics are evaluated according to precise categories determined generations ago. Only female camels participate because males fight too much, authorities said.

As hundreds of woolly black camels trotted through the dusty pastures, necks and humps bobbing, one of the organizers, Mohammed al-Muhari, outlined the platonic ideal.

Necks must be long and slim, cheeks broad and hooves large, he told The Associated Press on Wednesday. Lips must droop. They must walk tall with graceful posture.

“It’s not so different from humans,” al-Muhari said, his robe sparkling white amid clouds of dust.

The high standards have prompted many breeders to seek an advantage, using banned Botox injections to inflate the camel’s lips, muscle relaxants to soften the face and silicone wax injections to expand the hump.

Festival spokesman Abdel Hadi Saleh declined to say how many participants had been disqualified over plastic surgery this week. All camels undergo rigorous medical exams to detect artificial touch-ups and hormones before entering Al Dhafra Festival.

Since Emirati investigators began employing X-rays and sonar systems a few years ago, Saleh said the number of cheaters has plummeted.

“We easily catch them, and they realize getting caught, it’s not worth the cost to their reputation,” he said.

A great deal is at stake. Al Dhafra Festival offers the top 10 winners in each category prizes ranging from $1,300 to $13,600. At the main Saudi contest, the most beautiful fetch $66 million. Camels change hands in deals worth millions of dirhams.

But breeders insist it’s not only about the money.

“It is a kind of our heritage and custom that the (Emirati rulers) revived,” said 27-year-old camel owner Saleh al-Minhali from Abu Dhabi. He sported designer sunglasses over his traditional headdress and Balenciaga sneakers under his kandura, or Emirati tunic.

Gone are the days when camels were integral to daily life in the federation of seven sheikhdoms, a chapter lost as oil wealth and global business transformed Dubai and Abu Dhabi into skyscraper-studded hubs with marbled malls, luxury hotels and throbbing nightclubs. Foreigners outnumber locals nearly nine to one in the country.

However, experts say Emiratis are increasingly searching for meaning in echoes of the past — Bedouin traditions that prevailed before the UAE became a nation 50 years ago.

“Younger Emiratis who have identity issues are going back to their heritage to find a sense of belonging,” said Rima Sabban, a sociologist at Zayed University in Dubai. “The society developed and modernized so fast it creates a crisis inside.”

Camels race at old-world racetracks in the Emirates, and still offer milk, meat and a historic touchstone to citizens. Festivals across the country celebrate the camel’s significance. Al Dhafra also features falcon racing, dromedary dancing and a camel milking contest.

“People in Dubai may not even think about them, but young people here care deeply about camels,” said Mahmoud Suboh, a festival coordinator from Liwa Oasis at the northern edge of the desert’s Empty Quarter. Since 2008, he has watched the fairgrounds transform from a remote desert outpost into an extravaganza that draws camel lovers from around the world.

In a sign of the contest’s exploding popularity, about a dozen young Emirati men who call themselves “camel influencers” filmed and posed with the camels on Wednesday, broadcasting live to thousands of Instagram followers.

The digital likes have proven important this year, as the coronavirus pandemic curtailed tourism to the festival and dampened the mood. Police checked that visitors had received both vaccine doses and tested negative for the virus. Authorities nagged attendees to adjust their face masks, threatening fines. There were few foreigners or other spectators strolling the site Wednesday.

Each category in the 10-day pageant is divided into two types of camels: Mahaliyat, the tan breed that originates from the UAE and Oman, and Majaheen, the darker breed from Saudi Arabia. Wednesday’s showcase focused on 5-year-old black Majaheen camels.

For hours, judges scrutinized each camel, scribbling lists of the animal’s body parts for scoring purposes. Breeders shouted to startle camels so they’d look up and show off elongated necks.

As the sun set over the sands, the winning breeders were called to accept their gleaming trophies. Down below in the dirt rings, camels were crowned with gold and silver-lined shawls.

“Until now we are the first in the category … We’ve received over 40 prizes (in various camel contests) this year alone,” beamed Mohammed Saleh bin Migrin al-Amri as he juggled four trophies from the day, including two golds.

Then he jumped into his Toyota Land Cruiser. The victory parade of honking SUVs and grunting camels faded behind the desert dunes.

South Korea All Set To Get ‘World’s First Sustainable Floating City’

The floating city could withstand natural disasters including floods, tsunamis and Category 5 hurricanes as its floating platforms will be anchored to the seafloor. The world’s first floating city, which will be built off the coast of South Korea, is likely to be completed by 2025. As per Business Insider, it is essentially a collection of hexagonal platforms perched on top of water.

Backed by the United Nations, the floating city, built off the coast of the city of Busan, will be a ‘flood-proof infrastructure’ comprising several human-made islands that all rise with the sea to eliminate flood risks, Daily Mail UK reported.

Being built at an estimated cost of $200 million, it could also withstand other natural disasters including tsunamis and Category 5 hurricanes as its floating platforms will be anchored to the seafloor.

Planned in collaboration between project’s designer, OCEANIX and the UN Human Settlement Programme (UN-Habitat), the floating city will be self-sufficient in terms of food, energy and water. It will generate electricity from solar panels installed on the top of buildings and ferry the inhabitants on futuristic boat pods, the report further stated. It will foster organic farming in aeroponic and aquaponic systems along with traditional outdoor farms and greenhouses.

“Sustainable floating cities are a part of the arsenal of climate adaptation strategies available to us. Instead of fighting with water, let us learn to live in harmony with it,’ said Maimunah Mohd Sharif, executive director of UN-Habitat to Daily Mail UK.

While the size of the city hasn’t been determined yet, it will reportedly have the capacity to shelter 10,000 residents, divided into 300-resident large neighbourhoods. As per OCEANIX, inhabitants will have to survive on a “primarily plant-based diet” to reduce strain on space, energy and water resources. Work is still ongoing “to determine who the residents will be and how they will be selected”.

The city will be constructed using locally sourced materials like fast-growing bamboo. The platforms will be built using limestone coating. Cages underneath the platforms could be used to house scallops, kelp, or other forms of seafood, Business Insider reported.

India Is World’s Third Largest Domestic Aviation Market

The civil aviation industry in India has emerged as one of the fastest growing industries in the country during the last three years. India has become the third largest domestic aviation market in the world and is expected to overtake UK to become the third largest air passenger market by 2024.

India’s Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said on Thursday last week that India has become the third largest domestic aviation market in the world. Speaking at a curtain raiser event on ‘Wings India, 2022’, Scindia said that India presently handles the third largest domestic traffic after the US and China.

“We all know that in this densely globalised economy, air transport is a key element in the country’s transport infrastructure and plays an important role in the country’s economic growth,” he said.

The minister said that the overall freight handled by the country’s airports during the first two quarters of FY22 (combined) has recovered to more than 80 per cent (15.36 lakh MT during April-September FY22) of the pre-pandemic level, despite the country being hit by a severe second wave in the first quarter. The ‘Wings India, 2022’ to be held in Hyderabad is slated to be Asia’s largest event on civil aviation.

Market Size

India is expected to overtake China and the United States as the world’s third-largest air passenger market in the next ten years, by 2030, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

India’s passenger* traffic stood at 115.37 million in FY21. Domestic passenger and international passenger traffic declined at a CAGR of -9.02% and -28.64%, respectively, from FY16 to FY21, owing to COVID-19-related restrictions on flights in FY21. In FY21, airports in India pegged the domestic passenger traffic to be ~105.2 million, a 61.7% YoY decline, and international passenger traffic to be ~10.1 million, an 84.8% YoY decline, over the fiscal year ended March 31, 2020. In March 2021, the average daily passenger traffic stood at 546,702.90.

Between FY16 and FY21, freight traffic declined at a CAGR of -1.77% from 2.70 million tonnes (MT) to 2.47 MT. Freight traffic on airports in India has the potential to reach 17 MT by FY40.

Aircraft movement declined at a CAGR of -7.79% from 1.60 million in FY16 to 1.20 million in FY21. From FY16 to FY21, domestic aircraft movement decreased at a CAGR of -6.44% and international aircraft movement declined at a CAGR of -18.52%. India’s domestic and international aircraft movements reached 1,062 thousand and 135 thousand, respectively, in FY21.The expenditure of Indian travellers is expected to grow to Rs. 9.5 lakh crore (US$ 136 billion) by 2021.

To cater to the rising air traffic, the Government of India has been working towards increasing the number of airports. As of 2020, India had 153 operational airports. India has envisaged increasing the number of operational airports to 190-200 by FY40. Further, the rising demand in the sector has pushed the number of airplanes operating in the sector. The number of airplanes is expected to reach 1,100 planes by 2027.

U.S. Hotel Demand And ADR Will Near Full Recovery In 2022

U.S. hotel demand as well as average daily rate (ADR) on a nominal basis will near full recovery in 2022, according to the upgraded forecast just released by STR and Tourism Economics at the 43rd Annual NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference. Additionally, revenue per available room (RevPAR) on a nominal basis is projected to be fully recovered in 2023.

“We have essentially moved up the top-line recovery timeline by one year, with the caveat that improved RevPAR projections are largely due to ADR,” said Amanda Hite, STR’s president. “ADR has risen more rapidly than we expected—in some cases, that rise was due to strong demand confronting capacity constraints, which enabled solid revenue management, while in other cases, the rise was more influenced by inflation. When adjusted for inflation, RevPAR is further off the pace and will likely remain below 2019 levels until at least 2025. Other than the first quarter of 2021, demand has mostly adhered to the forecast with strong leisure travel, slowly improving group business and an expected progressive increase in international arrivals next year. Of course, these are all national projections of top-line performance. Recovery is not playing out the same across the marketplace, and as noted in our latest monthly P&L release, the cost of labor is adding pressure on the bottom line, which is a contributing factor to many hotels driving rate. Recovery is progressing at a solid rate no doubt, but there will still be plenty of ups and downs along the way.”

“Travel activity entered the fall with strong momentum. With improving public health conditions and sustained economic recovery, additional business and group travelers are expected to join leisure travelers, supporting further gains next year,” said Aran Ryan, Tourism Economics director. “The demand recovery, coupled with successful revenue management, has supported resilient hotel pricing, helping shorten the time it will take to recover 2019 revenue levels.”

STR provides premium data benchmarking, analytics and marketplace insights for the global hospitality industry. Founded in 1985, STR maintains a presence in 15 countries with a corporate North American headquarters in Hendersonville, Tennessee, an international headquarters in London, and an Asia Pacific headquarters in Singapore. STR was acquired in October 2019 by CoStar Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: CSGP), the leading provider of commercial real estate information, analytics and online marketplaces. For more information, please visit str.com and costargroup.com.

Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics company, focuses on the intersection of the economy and travel sector, providing actionable insights to our clients. We provide our worldwide client base with direct access to the most comprehensive set of historic and forecast travel data available. And our team of specialist economists develops custom economic impact studies, policy analysis, and forecast models.

American Airlines Resumes New York-New Delhi Direct Flight After 10 Years

American Airlines, the US aviation major announced the resumption of its non-stop New York- Delhi flights after almost a decade. American Airlines’ inaugural New York-New Delhi flight landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA)on Saturday night marking the resumption of the American carrier’s flights to the country. The flight operated by a Boeing 777-300ER aircraft will be run daily throughout the year.

American Airlines flight 292 took off New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport at 7.27 pm local time on November 12  and landed at IGIA on Saturday night. The carrier was supposed to start operations in October but it was deferred by a couple of weeks as the US announced the reopening of international travel on November 8.

Also, American Airlines’ Bengaluru-Seattle that was supposed to start from January 4, 2022, stands deferred to March-end as corporate travel is yet to pick up and expected to revive till then. The Airline suspended its India flights in 2012 when it terminated its Chicago-New Delhi flight which it started in 2007.

American Airlines MD (sales) Tom Lattig told Times of India, “there is a tremendous demand for travel between US and India thanks to a large diaspora and growing business ties between the two countries. People now want to fly direct instead of one-stop flights especially in the aftermath of the pandemic. We are looking at Mumbai closely. We will look at the two routes announced and then take a further call”.

With 881 aircraft, it’s the world’s largest airline by fleet size. Charles Lindbergh, who made the first solo transatlantic flight, was an airmail pilot for American Airlines, whose two airlines were commandeered by hijackers on Sept 11, 2001 to crash into the North Tower of the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.

The American has deputed its 304-seater Boeing 777 on the Delhi route with four cabins, 52 in business and 8 in fist. The airline recently entered into a code-sharing agreement with IndiGo for nationwide connectivity. Air India and United operate non top flights on several routes between the two countries. Delta suspended its India operations last March and is yet to revive the same. Before the pandemic, a majority of travelers took a one-stop flight via hubs in Gulf, Europe and Southeast Asia.

India Opens To Vaccinated Foreign Tourists After 18 Months

India began on Monday, November 15th allowing fully vaccinated foreign tourists to enter the country on regular commercial flights, in the latest easing of coronavirus restrictions as infections fall and vaccinations rise.

Tourists entering India must be fully vaccinated, follow all COVID-19 protocols and test negative for the virus within 72 hours of their flight, according to the health ministry. Many will also need to undergo a post-arrival COVID-19 test at the airport.

However, travelers from countries which have agreements with India for mutual recognition of vaccination certificates, such as the U.S., U.K. and many European nations, can leave the airport without undergoing a COVID-19 test.

This is the first time India has allowed foreign tourists on commercial flights to enter the country since March 2020, when it imposed one of the toughest lockdowns in the world in an attempt to contain the pandemic. Fully vaccinated tourists on chartered flights were allowed to enter starting last month.

It comes as coronavirus infections have fallen significantly, with daily new cases hovering at just above 10,000 for over a month.

To encourage travelers to visit India, the government plans to issue 500,000 free visas through next March. The moves are expected to boost the tourism and hospitality sector which was battered by the pandemic.

“The pandemic devastated the industry but things will return to normal once foreign tourists start to arrive,” said Jyoti Mayal, President of the Travel Agents Association of India.

Mayal said coastal states like Kerala and Goa in the country’s south and Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh in the Himalayan north are already witnessing a surge in domestic tourists. All four states are heavily dependent on earnings from tourism, and Mayal said foreign travelers scheduling their visits there would also help lift the local economy.

“Tourism is a very resilient industry and the upcoming season looks very promising. We are hopeful of generating more jobs than we lost during the pandemic,” she said.

With more than 35 million reported coronavirus infections, India is the second-worst-hit country after the U.S. Active coronavirus cases stand at 134,096, the lowest in 17 months, according to the health ministry.

Nearly 79% of India’s adult population has received at least one vaccine dose while 38% is fully vaccinated. The federal government has asked state administrations to conduct door-to-door campaigns to accelerate the vaccine campaign.

Fewer than 3 million foreign tourists visited India in 2020, a drop of more than 75% from 2019, when tourism brought nearly $30 billion in earnings.

Akshaya Patra USA Board Members on Philanthropy, Innovation and More on Chai With Manju

Akshaya Patra is the world’s largest non-governmental organization (NGO) or not-for-profit organization school meal program, providing hot, nutritious lunches to over 1.8 million children in 19,257 schools across India daily.

Akshaya Patra’s US arm, Akshaya Patra USA, engages thousands of volunteers and donors in the United States to raise funds and awareness in support of the foundation’s mission.

In an exclusive video interview on Chai With Manju, members of the Board of the Akshaya Patra USA, talk about why have assumed leadership roles Akshaya Patra USA, what are their expertise that helps in the growth of the organization and its future plans. They include Desh Deshpande, Chairman Emeritus; Siva Sivaram, Chairman; Srivatsan Rajan, Vice Chairman; Rajiv Jain, Interim CEO; Dr Rachna Kulkarni, BV Jagadeesh  and Roopa Makhija. Prominent among those ionterviwed by Dr. Seth include: Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande, Chairman Emeritus; Siva Sivaram, Board Chairman; Srivatsan Rajan, Vice Chairman; Rajiv Jain, Interim CEO; Dr. Rachana Kulkarni, MD, Board Member; Roopa Makhija, Board Member; and, B.V. Jagadeesh, Board Member.To watch the full interview, please click here, or on the image below.

India Revises Quarantine Guidelines For International Travelers

The Indian government’s guidelines that allow fully vaccinated international travelers from 11 countries — the UK, France, Germany, Nepal, Belarus, Lebanon, Armenia, Ukraine, Belgium, Hungary and Serbia — to forego home quarantine on arrival in India come into effect from today.

The guidelines released last week had said that travelers coming from a country with which India has reciprocal arrangements for mutual acceptance of WHO-approved Covid-19 vaccines would not have to self-isolate but would have to produce a negative RT-PCR test.

All airlines will have to check the test report before taking passengers on board.

Travelers coming from these countries who are fully vaccinated and 15 days have elapsed since completion of Covid vaccination schedule, shall be allowed to leave the airport and shall self monitor their health for 14 days post arrival, per the revised guidelines.

While planning for travel, all travelers should submit a self-declaration form on the online Air Suvidha portal before the scheduled travel and upload a negative RT-PCR report. This test should have been conducted within 72 hours prior to undertaking the journey, according to the guidelines.

Each passenger shall also submit a declaration with respect to the authenticity of the report and will be liable for criminal prosecution, if found otherwise.

World’s Largest Ferris Wheel Opened In Dubai

The world’s biggest and tallest Ferris wheel opened to the public last week  in Dubai. Located on Bluewaters Island and offering views of the Dubai skyline, the Ain Dubai stands at around 820 feet tall and required around 11,200 tons of steel to build, according to their website.

To put that into perspective, the London Eye — one of the largest observation wheels in the world and one of the most well-known — is only around 440 feet tall. The High Roller in Las Vegas, which had held the title of tallest Ferris wheel in the world for nearly a decade, is around 550 feet tall.

The Ain Dubai also takes the cake when it comes to record number of passengers able to ride at the same time, with its seating capacity sitting at 1,750 (the High Rollers’ is 1,120) and each (mercifully air-conditioned cabin) able to hold a max of 40 riders. But a ride on this wheel won’t be as quick as say, a spin at your local county fair; one full rotation on the Ain Dubai takes around 38 minutes. Luckily, food and beverages from concession stands on the ground are allowed for the ride, including drinks from the bar.

During the opening night events on Thursday and Friday, the wheel was lit up at night and visitors were treated to a fireworks show, according to a press release.

It’s a celebration that was reportedly a long time coming. Officials in Dubai first gave developers the greenlight to build the record-breaking ride in 2013, as part of a larger project to increase tourism in the area, The Telegraph reports.

After a series of delays, the wheel was originally slated to make its debut last year, but organizers had to revise those plans due to COVID-19, according to another Ain Dubai website

AAHOA Applauds Lifting of Travel Restrictions with Canada and Mexico

America’s hoteliers applauded the Biden administration’s announcement that it will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals from Canada and Mexico to enter the United States starting in early November after a 19-month freeze. For air travel, the policy would require travelers to be fully vaccinated and to test negative for the virus. No testing will be required to enter the country by land or sea, as long as travelers meet the vaccination requirements.

AAHOA is working with the administration to promote vaccine awareness in the hospitality industry and called for new measures to restart international travel safely earlier this year. “This is a big win for our Members, families, business, and tourism industries, especially those living in Texas and in the states bordering Canada,” said AAHOA President & CEO Ken Greene. “Cross-border operations were halted at the start of the pandemic, and AAHOA pressed the administration on the financial toll the travel ban took on small businesses.”

Travel industry studies estimate that international travel spending in the U.S. fell 76% year-over-year compared to 34% for domestic travel in 2020. “Lifting the COVID-19 restrictions on foreign travelers from Mexico and Canada is a significant step in the right direction and signals yet another phase of recovery for the hotel industry,” said AAHOA Chair Vinay Patel. “This decision from the Biden Administration will help return two significant sources of travel and tourism to the U.S., visitors who have historically visited by the tens of millions annually.”

AAHOA is the largest hotel owners association in the nation, with Member-owned properties representing a significant part of the U.S. economy. AAHOA’s 20,000 members own 60% of the hotels in the United States and are responsible for 1.7% of the nation’s GDP. More than one million employees work at AAHOA member-owned hotels, earning $47 billion annually, and member-owned hotels support 4.2 million U.S. jobs across all sectors of the hospitality industry. AAHOA’s mission is to advance and protect the business interests of hotel owners through advocacy, industry leadership, professional development, member benefits, and community engagement.

As Australia Expects Boom In Tourism, Qantas Moves Up Flights

Qantas Airways has brought forward its plans to restart international travel from Sydney as Prime Minister Scott Morrison predicted tourists would be welcomed back to Australia this year. Vaccinated Australian permanent residents and citizens will be free to travel through Sydney from Nov. 1 without the need for hotel quarantine on their return.

Two weeks ago, Morrison said Australians, skilled migrants and students would be given priority over foreign travelers in coming to Sydney. He predicted tourists would return in 2022 or later. But while tourists would retain their low priority, Morrison now expects they will return this year. “That is very possible and very achievable before the end of the year,” Morrison said.

Sydney-based Qantas announced services to Thailand, Singapore, South Africa and Fiji had been brought forward by weeks or months. A new service to New Delhi would begin in December, the first to India in almost a decade. The 22,000 staff employed by Qantas and its budget subsidiary Jetstar would return to work in December, six months earlier than planned.

The changes are being driven by New South Wales’ rapid uptake of vaccines. By Friday, 83% of the population aged 16 and older was fully vaccinated and almost 93% had at least one dose of a vaccine. Only the national capital Canberra has a higher proportion of the population vaccinated.

Australia had one the lowest vaccination rates of any wealthy country due to supply problems and public distrust of locally manufactured AstraZeneca. It now has one of the highest due in part to supply deals done with Britain, Poland and Singapore.

Melbourne, Australia’s most populous city after Sydney, came out of 77 days of lockdown on Friday after Victoria state reached a benchmark of 70% of the target population fully vaccinated. Pandemic restrictions were eased despite Victoria recording its deadliest day of the delta variant outbreak with 16 COVID-19 deaths. There were also 2,189 new infections detected in the latest 24 hours.

“Victorians, it’s fair to say, have done a quite amazing thing. So many people going and getting vaccinated so quickly,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said. “We’ve always said that lockdowns were a function of not having the vaccine that we needed but if we got vaccinated, we’d have so many more options,” he added.

Sydney, where the delta outbreak began in June, came out of lockdown last week after reaching the same 70% vaccination benchmark. New South Wales reported five COVID-19 deaths on Friday and 345 new infections.

U.S. To Allow Vaccinated International Travelers From Nov. 8th

After a nearly 19-month pause, the U.S. has announced that fully vaccinated international travelers will be able to enter the country as of November 8. This follows a Wednesday announcement from the White House, saying the U.S. would open its land borders and ferry ports of entry from Canada and Mexico for non-essential purposes—but only to those who have completed their approved vaccination doses.

That means travelers looking to enter the country, whether it’s to reunite with family and friends or as a tourist, will be able to do so again for the first time since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. The policy will start November 8, “in alignment with the new international air travel system,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement, referring to the newly announced date given by the White House for when all international plane passengers coming into the U.S. will need to be vaccinated.

The reopening of the Canadian and Mexican land borders will happen in two steps. First, international travelers with non-essential business will be able to enter starting November 8 by showing documentation that they are fully inoculated with an approved vaccine, while those who haven’t been vaccinated still won’t be able to enter the country for non-essential reasons. Then, in the second phase starting in January 2022, even those who do have essential travel purposes—like students, truckers, and health care workers—will also need to have proof of full vaccination to cross the borders.

“These new vaccination requirements deploy the best tool we have in our arsenal to keep people safe and prevent the spread of [COVID-19] and will create a consistent, stringent protocol for all foreign nationals traveling into the United States whether by land or air,” a senior administration official told reporters, according to CNN.

While international travelers coming in by plane will also need to show a negative COVID test in addition to being fully vaccinated, those crossing the borders by land will only need proof of vaccination, The New York Times explained. Any of the vaccines that have been approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization will be accepted, including Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, Janssen/Johnson & Johnson, Astrazeneca-SK Bio, Serum Institute of India, and Sinopharm. The procedure for those who received doses of different vaccines —which was commonplace in Canada—is still being determined, according to the Associated Press.

Since both the northern and southern borders were sealed off in March 2020, the timeline for reopening had been continually pushed back, most recently in 30-day increments, with the latest one in effect until October 21. But the reciprocal policy hadn’t been the same, as Canada reopened to American travelers August 9, while Mexico never shut down its border.

The reopening news is being lauded by the travel industry, with many expecting the relaxed restrictions to rev up leisure tourism. “U.S. Travel has long called for the safe reopening of our borders, and we welcome the Biden administration’s announcement of a set date to welcome back vaccinated international travelers,” U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement on Friday. In a previous statement, Dow noted that the closed borders have meant losses of about $700 million per month to the U.S. economy, totaling an estimated $250 billion in lost export income and likely more than a million lost jobs in the U.S.

The news is especially welcome at border cities, where restrictions have had a serious impact on their bottom line for the last 19 months. “Cross-border travel creates significant economic activity in our border communities and benefits our broader economy,” Mayorkas said. “We are pleased to be taking steps to resume regular travel in a safe and sustainable manner.”

Those steps have been slowly coming, as news of the November welcoming of vaccinated air passengers first was limited to those in the U.K. and European Union, but started to become more general as a White House senior administration official said in September, “We’ll be moving to a consistent requirement for all international air travelers coming to the United States,” explaining that “strict protocols” would be put into place in early November “requiring that adult foreign nationals traveling here be fully vaccinated.”

As of now, vaccination requirements for domestic travel aren’t on the books, though they have been talked about. President Biden’s chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said on CNN Sunday: “It’s always discussable, we always wind up discussing it, but right now I don’t see that immediately.”

Tata Group Is Frontrunner To Acquire Air India

The new owners of Air India will be decided in the next few days as the financial bids for India’s flag carrier, AIR INDIA are being scrutinized. The Tata Group, which was the original founders of the now largest air carrier in India, is one of the bidders, and is said to be the frontrunner to get hold of the carrier.

Tata Group and SpiceJet chairman Ajay Singh in his private capacity had bid for debt-laden state-run airline Air India earlier this month. Accordingly, sources said that the two bids are being scrutinized against a reserve price set for the airline. The process will not go ahead if the bids come in short of the reserve price. Reports stated, a panel of ministers accepted a proposal from bureaucrats, who recommended the conglomerate’s bid ahead of an offer from Ajay Singh, according to people with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified as the decision isn’t yet public.

On the official front, DIPAM Secretary Tuhin Kanta Pandey on Friday tweeted: “Media reports indicating approval of financial bids by Government of India in the AI disinvestment case are incorrect. Media will be informed of the Government decision as and when it is taken.” The tweet comes after a media report indicated that the Centre has selected a winning bid.

Furthermore, sources said that at present senior government officials are conducting separate meetings with the two bidders regarding other aspects of the sale such as the indemnity clause and carry over debt levels of the airline. More or less, the final decision can be made within the next few days by the AISAM (Air India Specific Alternative Mechanism).

The AISAM headed by Home Minister Amit Shah is an empowered GoM, which has the authority to take the final call on the matter, without the need of a Cabinet approval. The AISAM is scheduled to meet after all its members are back in the country.

After the announcement of the winning bid is made, the process of a complete handover is expected to take place within three-four months time. The Centre on September 15 had received multiple financial bids for divestment of Air India. The government has of late taken several steps to fast-track the much-delayed privatization of the national carrier.

Recently, the Centre decided to waive taxes on the transfer of assets from the national carrier to Air India Assets Holding Ltd, a special purpose vehicle (SPV). During the Budget speech for FY22, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said that all the proposed privatization process would be completed by the end of the fiscal, including the much-delayed strategic disinvestment of Air India.

This is the second attempt of the current Central government to divest its stake in the airline. In the pre-pandemic era, the airline, on a standalone basis, operated over 50 domestic and more than 40 international destinations. Besides, it operated over 120 aircraft prior to the Covid pandemic. During that period, the airline had over 9,000 permanent and 4,000 contractual employees.

Headquartered in Bombay (Mumbai), AIR INDIA’s first ever scheduled air service was inaugurated in 1932 by J.R.D. Tata, flying mail and passengers between Karāchi, Ahmadābād, Bombay, Bellary, and Madras. By 1939 routes had been extended to Trivandrum, Delhi, Colombo, Lahore, and intermediate points. After World War II, in 1946, Tata Airlines was converted into a public company and renamed Air-India Limited. Two years later, to inaugurate international services between Bombay (Mumbai) and Cairo, Geneva, and London, Air-India International Limited was formed.

In 1953 India nationalized all Indian airlines, creating two corporations—one for domestic service, called Indian Airlines Corporation (merging Air-India Limited with six lesser lines), and one for international service, Air-India International Corporation. The latter’s name was abbreviated to Air-India in 1962. In the following decades as India’s flag carrier, the airline extended its international routes to all continents except South America and Australia, and it expanded its cargo operations. To gain a competitive advantage in computerized reservation searches, the airline removed the hyphen from its name in 2005 to become Air India.1946 R. D. Tata founded Tata Airlines in 1932 as a division of Tata Sons Ltd. (now Tata Group). After World War II, regular commercial service in India went back to normal, Tata Airlines changing its name to Air India and becoming a public limited company on the 29th of July 1946.

On June 9th, 1948, Air India introduced a regular service from Bombay to London, and two years later, AIR INDIA started regular flights to Nairobi. In 1993, AIR INDIA’s first Boeing 747-400, named Konark, operated the first non-stop flight between New York City and Delhi. In 1996, Air India started using its second US gateway at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. Services to Air India’s third US gateway at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark were introduced in the year 2000.

In October 2016, AIR INDIA changed the Delhi – San Francisco route previously operated over the Atlantic Ocean to flying over the Pacific Ocean, in order to take advantage of jet stream winds and use less fuel. With the total flown distance being over 15,200 kilometres (9,400 miles), AIR INDIA operated the world’s longest non-stop regular scheduled commercial flight.

In December 2020, the government had invited expression of interest for the divestment of Air India. Four bidders had entered the race to take over the beleaguered airline, but Tata Group and Spicejet CEO Ajay Singh were the only ones to make it to the final stage. The Centre had made an unsuccessful attempt to sell the ailing airline earlier in March 2018. However, its expression of interest to sell 76 per cent stake in Air India had no takers at that juncture due to concerns regarding the airline’s burgeoning debt. Top sources from the Ministry of Civil Aviation said all formalities for the Air India disinvestment process will be completed by December 2021.

Travel In India Returns To Near Normal

India’s taking off! Domestic air travel demand was on a steady rise globally until August when concerns over the Delta variant of the coronavirus reversed the trend in countries such as China, US, Japan, Australia and Brazil. However, in India, buoyed by vaccination drives and a drop in Covid cases, domestic traffic demand has continued its steady month-on-month climb since June, per recent data released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the global airlines’ trade body.

In India, the climb recommenced in June after a huge drop in April-May during the second Covid wave, which made India’s domestic air travel demand take the deepest plunge worldwide. Domestic air travel demand (measured in revenue passenger kilometres: number of kilometres flown by all passengers) was the lowest in May. It fell 71% as compared to the pre-Covid month of May 2019, showed IATA data. Only Japan with a 68.5% drop in demand as compared to May 2019 came close. But India caught up in August: its domestic travel demand rose to almost half of that in pre-Covid August 2019. It had been down 60% in July.

In August, domestic passenger traffic at Mumbai airport touched 1.4 million, which is what the airport had handled in March, the month air travel demand began its sharp drop due to the second wave, showed Airports Authority of India data.

In April, domestic passenger traffic at Mumbai was down to 0.9 million and in May, fell further to 0.4 million, before the trend reversed in June and domestic traffic increased to 0.6 million. Similarly, Delhi airport’s domestic passenger traffic had peaked in March with 2.9 million passengers and the airport inched close to that number in August with 2.6 million.

India, UAE Working On Speedy Normalization Of Air Services

India and the UAE will aim to ensure speedy normalization of air transport operations between the two countries. Accordingly, the need for normalisation of air transportation, was discussed at the ninth meeting of the ‘UAE-India High Level Joint Task Force on Investments’ held in Dubai on Saturday.

“Given the importance of air transport in facilitating bilateral ties and people-to-people connections, both sides agreed that their respective civil aviation authorities should continue to work together on a priority basis, for their mutual benefit, to ensure the speedy normalisation of air transport operations between the two countries,” the Ministry of Commerce & Industry said .

Saturday’s meeting was co-chaired by Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Member of the Executive Council of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, and Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce & Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, and Textiles.

The Joint Task Force was established in 2013 as a key forum for promoting economic ties between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and India, which were further strengthened by the signing of the ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Agreement’ between the two countries in January 2017. Besides, the meeting reviewed the progress of ongoing discussions for the ‘India-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement’. “In this regard, both sides appreciated the efforts made to expedite discussions towards a well-balanced agreement that will considerably deepen bilateral economic ties and benefit the economies of both countries.”

According to the statement, participants also considered the ongoing efforts to amend the UAE and India’s longstanding ‘Bilateral Investment Treaty’ and noted the importance of concluding the negotiation process as soon as possible. “At the meeting, discussions were also held on exploring mutually beneficial methods and incentives to facilitate further investment from UAE sovereign investment entities in key priority sectors in India. The positive steps made by the Indian government in this context were noted and both sides agreed to continue to focus on ways of providing tax incentives to certain UAE sovereign investment entities.”

“The importance of active involvement from the UAE Special Desk within Invest India, the National Investment Promotion Agency of India, in expediting the resolution of both legacy issues and current difficulties experienced by UAE companies and banks in India was discussed.” (IANS)

India Orders 10-Day Quarantine For Visitors From UK

In a massive diplomatic response to the Boris Johnson administration’s vaccine racism, India has mandated that British nationals arriving in India from UK will have to undergo mandatory quarantine at home or in the destination address for 10 days after the arrival, sources said.

From October 4, irrespective of their vaccination status, all UK nationals landing in India, will have to undertake a pre-departure COVID-19 RT-PCR test within 72 hours before travel, Covid test on arrival at the airport, and a final test 8 days after arrival. The move is being seen as retaliation against the UK government’s decision to impose a similar quarantine for Indian travelers vaccinated with Covishield, which is a WHO approved vaccine.

The new rules, issued by the health ministry, makes it mandatory for all travellers from the UK to submit a negative Covid-19 RT-PCR test report, not older than 72 hours before date of departure. Not only that, it makes a Covid-19 test mandatory on arrival at the airport and 8 days after arrival, at the expense of the traveler.

The new rules mandate that while Indians returning home as well as NRIs and PIOs can quarantine at their homes, those who have no place to stay will have to quarantine in hotels at their own expense, which could prove to be an expensive affair. It’s similar to the policy travelers from India need to follow when visiting other countries.

India’s action comes even as both countries have been in talks, with New Delhi impressing upon the British authorities to recognize India’s vaccine certification — which is still pending more than 10 days after the culmination of technical discussions held to resolve the matter. Earlier, the UK had refused to recognize Covishield as an approved vaccine, despite it being biologically similar to AstraZeneca’s Vaxzevria.

According to an initial travel advisory by the Boris Johnson government, people travelling to the UK from India and a few other countries will be considered ‘unvaccinated’ even if they are fully vaccinated. The primary advisory also did not recognise Covishield, which is a formulation of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine. After criticism, the Serum Institute of India produced a vaccine was recognised by the Uk. However, Indians are still made to undergo mandatory quarantine upon their arrival irrespective of their vaccination status.

India’s response to UK’s Vaccine rules: Key Highlights

  • New regulations will come into force on October 4
  • All British citizens will have to take the pre-departure COVID test within 72 hours before travel
  • COVID-19 test on arrival at the airport
  • RT-PCR test on the day of arrival
  • Mandatory quarantine at home or in the destination address for 10 days after arrival in India
  • RT-PCR test 8 days after arrival

Kerala’s Travel Restrictions

Kerala Health Minister Veena George said that the state will have new mandatory quarantine stipulations for international travelers from Monday, on the basis of Union Health Ministry guidelines.

Travellers from UK will have to undergo ten-day quarantine at home or destination address, according to the new guidelines. Passengers from South Africa, Brazil, and Europe will have to undergo a seven-day quarantine mandatorily on arrival.

The Minister, in a statement, said that all international travellers irrespective of their vaccination status will have to take RT-PCR tests on reaching the airports in the state.

Travelers from other countries will have to undergo self-monitoring for 14 days if they test negative in RT- PCR test. Samples of passengers from countries like Botswana, the UK, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil, European nations, of the Middle East, Bangladesh, China, Mauritius, and Zimbabwe will be sent for virus mutation tests.

The Centre had ordered 10-day mandatory quarantine for passengers arriving from the UK, after it imposed such quarantine measure for Indian visitors.

George also said that three RT- PCR tests are required for an international passenger to the state – One prior to 72 hours of the journey, the second on arrival at an airport in the state, and the third eight days after arriving in the state.

U.S. Allows Vaccinated Travelers from the E.U. and U.K

After nearly 18 months of barring almost all travelers who are foreign nationals from entering the country, U.S. travel restrictions are being rolled back. The U.S. said Sept. 20 it will ease airline restrictions this fall on travel to the country for people who have vaccination proof and a negative COVID-19 test, replacing a hodgepodge of rules that had kept out many non-citizens and irritated allies in Europe and beyond where virus cases are far lower. The changes, to take effect in November, will allow families and others who have been separated by the travel restrictions for 18 months to plan for long-awaited reunifications and allow foreigners with work permits to get back to their jobs in the U.S.

As per reports, fully vaccinated travelers from E.U. countries and the U.K. will be allowed to enter the U.S. by November, according to the Financial Times. The new travel policy also reportedly allows U.S. entry for travelers who are part of clinical trials for vaccines not yet approved in the U.K., the Times report says—a rule that would render about 40,000 additional people eligible for travel to the U.S.  The new E.U. and U.K. travel policies are expected to be part of larger sweeping changes to the travel bans that have disallowed most foreign national visitors to the U.S., with few exceptions made for the immediate families of American citizens, green card holders, and other select exemptions.

“In early November, we’ll be putting in place strict protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from passengers flying internationally into the United States by requiring that adult foreign nationals traveling to the United States be fully vaccinated,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki during a briefing on Monday. The U.S. travel restrictions were first imposed by former President Donald Trump in early 2020 as the coronavirus took hold in the country.

Two months after it green lit Americans for travel, the European Union has reverted its recommendation amid rising coronavirus cases. The decision to reopen U.S. borders to foreign visitors was applauded across the travel industry as a milestone on the path to restoring pre-pandemic operations. “This is a major turning point in the management of the virus and will accelerate the recovery of the millions of travel-related jobs that have been lost due to international travel restrictions,” Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, said in a statement.

U.S. airlines—one of the sectors hardest hit by the international travel restrictions—are “eager to safely reunite the countless families, friends, and colleagues who have not seen each other in nearly two years, if not longer,” Nicholas E. Calio, president of lobbying group Airlines for America, said in a statement. “Today’s announcement marks a positive step in our nation’s recovery, and we look forward to working with the Administration over the coming weeks to implement this new global system.”

Jeffrey Zients, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator, told NBC News that the vaccine requirement will eventually apply to all foreign nationals entering the U.S., who will also need to be tested for the virus three days before departing for the U.S. and show a negative test result upon arrival. Unvaccinated Americans will need to test one day before departure and be tested again upon arrival, the report says. Currently there are no plans for a vaccine requirement for domestic air travel, but according to NBC, Zients said nothing is off the table.  Last week, Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease doctor in the U.S., made a similar comment about a potential vaccine requirement for domestic air travel. “It’s on the table,” he said in a podcast interview. “We haven’t decided yet.”

India To Launch Mega Tourism Event In Leh

To promote Ladakh as a tourist destination with focus on adventure and culture, a three-day tourism event — ‘Ladakh: New Start, New Goals — will commence from Thursday in Leh, the Union Tourism Ministry said last week. The Lieutenant Governor of Ladakh, Radha Krishna Mathur, and Union Minister for Tourism and Culture, G. Kishan Reddy, will address the event being organised from August 26-28. Reddy will virtually address the event, which will also be attended by Ladakh MP Jamyang Tsering Namgyal.

The objective of the event is to promote Ladakh as a tourist destination with focus on aspects of adventure, culture and responsible tourism. The event aims to provide indigenous product knowledge to the industry stakeholders and also a platform to local stakeholders for interaction with the tour operators from the rest of the country. The three-day event will include activities like exhibition, panel discussions, B2B meetings, technical tours and cultural evenings to showcase the tourism facilities and products of Ladakh.

During the event, ‘A Tourism Vision for Ladakh’ document would be unveiled which focuses on the overall development of the region. The document envisions promoting tourism in the backdrop of sustainable ecological practices, building on local materials and human resources. The Ministry of Tourism is organizing the three-day event in collaboration with Ladakh’s department of tourism and the Adventure Tour Operators Association of India (ATOAI).

In a statement, the ministry said, “Domestic tourism plays an important role in the overall development of the tourism sector in India. The ministry undertakes various promotional activities for the promotion of domestic tourism and these activities are primarily aimed at increasing awareness about tourism destinations and products, promoting domestic tourism with focus on priority areas like the Northeast, Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir. “The ministry has been promoting Ladakh in domestic as well as international markets through various campaigns and initiatives such as ‘Dekho Apna Desh’ wherein a dedicated webinar on Ladakh was conducted. Promotion of Ladakh is also undertaken through the ‘Incredible India’ website, social media platforms of the ministry etc.”

In Ladakh, Airbnb & SEWA Hosts Will Offer A Unique And Immersive Experience

Airbnb will train Self Employed Women’s Association of India (SEWA) members on home sharing, hospitality, quality standards and responsible hosting practices under the ‘Hum Sab Ek’ (We are One) initiative, while fostering digital inclusion and enabling these women Hosts to connect with a global community of travelers. Together they represent 1.5 million self-employed women living mostly in India’s rural areas, and have now extended their partnership to onboard SEWA members from Ladakh as hosts on the Airbnb platform. This partnership will expand livelihood opportunities for women in rural Ladakh and form part of broader efforts to rebuild tourism in a way that delivers positive outcomes for communities.

Ladakh is well-known as a pristine and unique hub for culture and ecotourism. SEWA hosts in Ladakh will offer a unique and immersive experience in the ancient village of Phayang in Leh Ladakh. These hosts will also be leading the way on energy efficiency and responsible resource use through accommodations with amenities such as newly installed solar lights. Women make up a significant portion of Airbnb’s Host community in India. As of August 11 this year, new women Hosts in India with one listing have earned almost Rs 30 million since the start of the pandemic and women make up almost 30 per cent of our entire Indian Host community. Through home sharing, women hosts are able to significantly augment their earnings and some women entrepreneurs have embraced being home hosts full-time.

This extended collaboration was announced at a seminar titled ‘Ladakh: New Start, New Goals’ organized by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India. Rupinder Brar, Additional Director General, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, said: “The Airbnb-SEWA partnership is an excellent example of how the benefits of tourism can better serve communities and help rebuild tourism across the country, especially in Ladakh. The region is a significant draw for domestic and international tourists, and these partnerships enable not only a wealth of tourism experiences, but economically empower communities with the help of platforms such as Airbnb.”

Hosts on Airbnb to secure their financial independence and bring valuable tourism dollars into their communities. As part of our broader efforts to help rebuild tourism for the benefit of local communities, we aim to work together with these micro-entrepreneurs to promote sustainable and responsible travel and stays that contribute to resilient local economies and support jobs. Airbnb will continue to work closely with these women Hosts through training and best-practice sharing,” said Amanpreet Bajaj, General Manager — Airbnb India, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

“‘Hum Sab Ek’ is our rural innovation. We have worked together with Airbnb to create meaningful livelihood opportunities for our women members. Gandhiji’s Oceanic Circle perspective advocates helping each other rather than competing with each other. Together with Airbnb, our goal is to build a strong community of SEWA hosts who can learn from one another, constantly improve hosting standards, and together create a more welcoming environment for Indian women in hospitality,” said Reema Nanavaty, Director, SEWA.

AAHOA Applauds Biden Administration & SBA On New Enhancements To The EIDL Program

AAHOA’s enhanced advocacy and education efforts are continuing to help AAHOA Members and the industry get back on track. The Small Business Administration (SBA) just announced more help is on the way for the hotel industry. Over the past several months, AAHOA has worked with the SBA and the Biden Administration to advocate for expansion and improvement of the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, and the SBA heard AAHOA and our Members loud and clear that help is still needed.

The announcement of the program’s changes and improvements represent a significant step toward meaningful and tangible COVID-19 relief and our industry.

The EIDL program provides economic relief to small businesses and nonprofit organizations that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue. These loans help businesses meet financial obligations and operating expenses that could have been met had the disaster not occurred.

For months, AAHOA has worked with the SBA, the Small Business Committees, and Members of Congress to push for more relief when it comes to an increase in EIDL caps and parity between the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and EIDL with regards to a waiver of the affiliation rules. This week, AAHOA cohosted a webinar with the SBA to walk through the soon-to-be-announced revisions to the EIDL program that mirror AAHOA’s asks – a huge win for our nearly 20,000 Members and the industry at large.

The expected enhancements and expansion of the EIDL program include:

  • Raising the threshold up to $2 million per property
  • Raising the aggregate loan cap up to $10 million
  • A waiver of affiliation rules (that mirrors that of the Paycheck Protection Program)
  • A waiver of the credit-elsewhere requirement
  • Priority for NAICS Code 72 businesses
  • A 30-year fixed amortization period with a low 3.75% interest rate
  • Funds can now be used to pay down prior commercial debt and make monthly payments towards federal debt (including principal and interest payments)

It is anticipated that SBA will officially announce and begin accepting new applications and increase requests for existing EIDL holders as soon as next week. Hoteliers who are interested in applying for a loan can review EIDL FAQ here, and more information on how to apply here. Note that AAHOA will keep hoteliers informed on updated documents to reflect the expanded program.

“AAHOA applauds the Biden Administration and the SBA for their work in making the EIDL program more accessible and helpful for America’s hoteliers,” said AAHOA Interim President & CEO Ken Greene. “The EIDL program’s enhancements break down barriers for hoteliers to access critical funds that are needed as hoteliers still struggle to deal with the ramifications of the pandemic.”

AAHOA recently hosted the 2021 AAHOA Convention & Trade Show, which was the first major convention in Dallas since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re grateful for SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman, who addressed attendees and highlighted the importance of small businesses getting back on their feet to help our economy.

“Coming together as an industry is paramount to economic recovery, especially as new variants threaten to inhibit the reopening of the country,” said AAHOA Chair Vinay Patel. “Industry estimates continue to project a full recovery some time in late 2023 or 2024, and until then, AAHOA is committed to continuing its advocacy efforts and outreach to the Biden Administration and lawmakers as we lead the way on the road to recovery.”

AAHOA is the largest hotel owners association in the world. The nearly 20,000 AAHOA Members own 60 percent of hotels in the United States. With billions of dollars in property assets and over one million employees, AAHOA Members are core economic contributors in virtually every community. AAHOA is a proud defender of free enterprise and the foremost current-day example of realizing the American dream.

Indian-Americans Own 60 Percent Of Hotel Industry In U.S.

Accounting for 34,260 hotels across the United States, Indian Americans owned hotels account for 60 percent of all hotels in the U.S., according to a new study conducted by Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) in partnership with Oxford Economics, a global leader in forecasting and quantitative analysis. The study analyzed the share of U.S. hotels and rooms owned by the members of AAHOA, which is predominantly made up of Indian-origin hoteliers, hotel operations, hotel guest ancillary spending, capital investment, and indirect and induced impacts supported by AAHOA hotels in other parts of the U.S. economy.

In all Indian Americans own and operate 3.1 million guestrooms, and 2.2 million direct impact jobs. The study’s topline results were presented to AAHOA Members during the general session on the first day of the 2021 AAHOA Convention & Trade Show at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center Dallas on August 3rd.

“The findings laid out in this new study are a testament to the strength and influence of AAHOA Members and serve as yet another reminder of hotel owners’ vital economic contributions to communities across the nation,” said AAHOA Interim President & CEO Ken Greene. “Guests at AAHOA hotels spend billions of dollars in local economies. AAHOA Members employ as many workers as FedEx and Home Depot – combined, and the 1.1 million employees who work at AAHOA Member hotels earn $47 billion annually. AAHOA Members are the heart and soul of the hospitality industry and will continue to play an essential role in our nation’s economic recovery.”

The study shows that AAHOA supports a total economic impact of: $680.6 billion of business sales (representing revenue plus sales and lodging taxes); 4.2 million jobs with $214.6 billion of wages, salaries and other compensation; $368.4 billion contributed to U.S. GDP; and, $96.8 billion of federal, state and local taxes.

With the ownership of the majority hotel industry, the economic impact and industry influence of AAHOA’s nearly 20,000 Members, is very impressive. “This study gives us the clearest picture to date about the scale, reach, and economic impact that AAHOA Members have in the United States,” said AAHOA Chairman Biran Patel. “It is remarkable how far AAHOA Members have come since the association’s founding in 1989 when a small group of hoteliers banded together to fight discrimination. That commitment to helping hoteliers grow their businesses and realize the American Dream is reflected in the impressive numbers revealed today. We are proud of what our Members have accomplished and remain committed to being the foremost resource and advocate for America’s hotel owners.”

A comprehensive report will soon be made available on the AAHOA website. AAHOA is the largest hotel owners association in the world. The nearly 20,000 AAHOA Members own 60 percent of hotels in the United States. With billions of dollars in property assets and over one million employees, AAHOA Members are core economic contributors in virtually every community. AAHOA is a proud defender of free enterprise and the foremost current-day example of realizing the American dream.

On the third day of the 2021 AAHOA Convention & Trade Show, the association recognized achievement and excellence in the hospitality industry with its annual awards. Winners received their awards on the main stage during the general session. The 2020 award winners are:

  • AAHOA Award of Excellence: Nanda Patel
  • Cecil B. Day Community Service Award: Mitesh Jivan
  • IAHA Independent Hotel of the Year: Hotel Lexen
  • Outreach Award for Philanthropy: Masudur Khan
  • Outstanding Women Hotelier of the Year: Priti Patel
  • Outstanding Young Professional of the Year: Saajan Patel
  • Political Forum Award for Advocacy: Bijal Patel

“Each year, AAHOA recognizes and honors hoteliers who go above and beyond in service to the hospitality industry,” said Immediate Past Chairman Biran Patel. “During such a challenging year, these individuals made significant contributions to the industry and to AAHOA. We are all honored to highlight their service and commitment to excellence.”

“These awards recognize the best of the best. Following an extremely difficult year for AAHOA Members and the entire industry, these award recipients demonstrate their commitment to excellence in the hospitality industry, regardless of the landscape,” said Interim President & CEO Ken Greene. “Their hard work and dedication does not go unnoticed, and it is through their leadership, grit, and determinations that the industry continues to thrive.”

AAHOA is the largest hotel owners association in the world. The nearly 20,000 AAHOA Members own 60 percent of hotels in the United States. “With billions of dollars in property assets and over one million employees, AAHOA Members are core economic contributors in virtually every community,” the organization said, adding, “AAHOA is a proud defender of free enterprise and the foremost current-day example of realizing the American dream.”

CDC Adds 16 Destinations To ‘Very High’ Covid-19 Travel Risk List

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added 16 destinations to its “very high” Covid-19 risk level on Monday, August 2nd including Greece, Ireland and the US Virgin Islands.

According to the CDC, a risk designation of “Level 4: Covid-19 Very High” means people should avoid travel to these locations. Those who must travel should be fully vaccinated first.

In its overarching guidance, the CDC recommends against all international travel until you are fully vaccinated.

“Fully vaccinated travelers are less likely to get and spread Covid-19. However, international travel poses additional risks, and even fully vaccinated travelers might be at increased risk for getting and possibly spreading some Covid-19 variants,” the agency says.

Destinations that fall into the “very high” risk category have had more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days, according to CDC parameters.

The Caribbean during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go

Direct travel of noncitizens from Ireland and Greece to the United States has been suspended since January 25, 2021, under an executive order limiting travel from multiple countries. The White House recently said those restrictions would remain in place amid surging cases from the Delta variant

The following 16 destinations moved to the CDC’s “Level 4: COVID-19 Very High” category on August 2: Andorra, Curaçao, Gibraltar, Greece, Guadeloupe, Iran, Ireland, Isle of Man, Kazakhstan, Lesotho, Libya, Malta, Martinique, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin and US Virgin Islands.

The new list is in addition to several others, including India placed on the list to avoid to travel. On India, CDC suggests,“Make sure you are fully vaccinated before traveling to India. Unvaccinated travelers should avoid nonessential travel to India. Because of the current situation in India, all travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants.”

You can look up the CDC’s risk level of any destination on its travel recommendations page.

US To Continue Travel Restrictions As Covid Spreads

The United States served notice this week that it will keep existing COVID-19 restrictions on international travel in place for now due to concerns about the surging infection rate because of the delta variant. It was the latest sign that the White House is having to recalibrate its thinking around the coronavirus pandemic as the more infectious variant surges across the U.S. and a substantial chunk of the population resists vaccination.It was also a reversal from the sentiment President Joe Biden voiced earlier this month when he said his administration was “in the process” of considering how soon the U.S. could lift the ban on European travel bound for the U.S. after the issue was raised by German Chancellor Angela Merkel during her visit to the White House.

The United States said it would maintain restrictions on international travel into the country, sidestepping European pressure, pointing to a surge of cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant at home and abroad. “We will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. “The more transmissible Delta variant is spreading both here and around the world.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the restrictions would continue for now. “Driven by the delta variant, cases are rising here at home, particularly among those who are unvaccinated, and appears likely to continue in the weeks ahead,” she said.

The rising cases also are causing the administration to take a closer look at policies on wearing masks. On Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first major federal agency to require its health care workers to get COVID-19 vaccines. And over the weekend, U.S. health officials acknowledged they’re considering changing the federal government’s recommendations on wearing masks. The delta variant is a mutated coronavirus that spreads more easily than other versions. It was first detected in India but now has been identified around the world. Last week, U.S. health officials said the variant accounts for an estimated 83% of U.S. COVID-19 cases, and noted a 32% increase in COVID hospitalizations from the previous week.

The rise in cases has prompted some state and local officials to reinstate masking guidance, even for vaccinated Americans.The White House follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance released in May, which states those who are unvaccinated don’t have to wear masks indoors. They’ve thus far made no changes to Biden’s public events, and the president is still traveling the country and participating in events unmasked.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said on CNN’s State of the Union this Sunday that recommending that the vaccinated wear masks is “under active consideration” by the government’s leading public health officials. “We’re going in the wrong direction,” Fauci said, describing himself as “very frustrated.” The surge in the delta variant poses a major political challenge for Biden, who called it a “great day” for Americans when the CDC released its relaxed masking guidance in May and on July 4 declared that “the virus is on the run and America is coming back.” He’s spent the past few months shifting his focus from dire warnings to Americans to get vaccinated to public events pitching his infrastructure, education and jobs proposals, which are currently in the middle of fevered negotiations on Capitol Hill.

The administration has touted strong economic growth as fears about the pandemic waned, states relaxed their coronavirus restrictions and their economies opened back up. But the surging delta variant risks undermining that economic progress and drawing Biden’s attention away from his domestic agenda and Democratic Party priorities like gun, voting and policing reforms, back to the risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic. It could also highlight one of the administration’s greatest struggles thus far: The sluggish vaccination rate nationwide. As of Sunday, 69% of American adults had received one vaccination shot, according to the CDC — still slightly below the 70% goal Biden had set for July 4. Sixty percent of Americans have been fully vaccinated.

When asked Monday if he had confidence he could get unvaccinated Americans to get the shot, Biden said, “we have to,” but ignored a follow-up question on how. And prior to the VA’s announcement, White House press secretary Jen Psaki skirted questions from reporters on why the administration hadn’t yet issued its own vaccination mandates for healthcare workers, deferring to the CDC for guidance and hospitals and healthcare associations on the ultimate decision.

Psaki acknowledged that the administration runs the risk of undermining its vaccination goals by further politicizing an already fraught issue if the president becomes the face of vaccine mandates. “The president certainly recognizes that he is not always the right voice to every community about the benefits of getting vaccinated, which is why we have invested as much as we have in local voices and empowering local trusted voices,” she said. Still, it’s clear the administration is taking steps to address the continued impact of the pandemic. Biden announced Monday that those Americans dealing with so-called “long COVID” — sometimes debilitating side effects caused by the illness that last for months after the initial infection — would have access to disability protections under federal law.

“These conditions can sometimes, sometimes, rise to the level of a disability,” he said, adding they’d have accommodations in schools and workplaces “so they can live their lives in dignity and get the support they need.”And the CDC advised Americans against travel to the United Kingdom this past Monday given a surge in cases there. Most of continental Europe has relaxed restrictions on Americans who are fully vaccinated, although the United Kingdom still requires quarantines for most visitors arriving from the U.S. Airlines say, however, that the lack of two-way travel is limiting the number of flights they can offer and seats they can sell. But the rise and prevalence of COVID-19 variants in Europe, especially the delta mutation, has caused the Biden administration to tread slowly about increasing transatlantic travel.

Will US Follow France That Made Coronavirus Health Pass Required For Dining And Travel?

France’s parliament approved a law last week requiring special virus passes for all restaurants and domestic travel and mandating vaccinations for all health workers. Both measures have prompted protests and political tensions. President Emmanuel Macron and his government say they are needed to protect vulnerable populations and hospitals as infections rebound and to avoid new lockdowns.

The law requires all workers in the health care sector to start getting vaccinated by Sept. 15, or risk suspension. It also requires a “health pass” to enter all restaurants, trains, planes and some other public venues. It initially applies to all adults, but will apply to everyone 12 and older starting Sept. 30. To get the pass, people must have proof they are fully vaccinated, recently tested negative or recently recovered from the virus. Paper or digital documents will be accepted. The law says a government decree will outline how to handle vaccination documents from other countries.

The bill was unveiled just six days ago. Lawmakers worked through the night and the weekend to reach a compromise version approved by the Senate on Sunday night and by the National Assembly after midnight. The rules can be applied through Nov. 15, depending on the virus situation. Macron appealed for national unity and mass vaccination to fight the resurgent virus, and lashed out at those fueling anti-vaccine sentiment and protests.

About 160,000 people protested around France on Saturday against a special COVID-19 pass for restaurants and mandatory vaccinations for health workers. Many marchers shouted “liberty!” and said the government shouldn’t tell them what to do. Visiting a hospital in French Polynesia afterward, Macron urged national unity and asked, “What is your freedom worth if you say to me ‘I don’t want to be vaccinated,’ but tomorrow you infect your father, your mother or myself?”

While he said protesters are “free to express themselves in a calm and respectful manner,” he said demonstrations won’t make the coronavirus go away. He criticized “people who are in the business of irrational, sometimes cynical, manipulative mobilization” against vaccination. Among those organizing the protests have been far-right politicians and extremist members of France’s yellow vest movement tapping into anger at Macron’s government. More than 111,000 people with the virus have died in France, which is registering about 20,000 new infections daily compared to just a few thousand earlier this month. Concerns for hospitals are resurfacing.

Iranian Railway, Ancient Chinese City Among New UNESCO World Heritage Sites

This year’s World Heritage sites include an ancient Chinese port city, an iconic boulevard in Spain, an eight-century-old Indian temple, the great spa towns of Europe, an archeological site in Turkey that dates back more than seven thousand years, and many more. So far, UNESCO has announced more than a dozen sites, and says it will continue to make announcements through July 28.

Every year since 1978, UNESCO has picked a number of World Heritage Sites for their “outstanding universal value” and to help preserve places threatened by neglect, climate change and overdevelopment. Over the years, more than a thousand sites, both natural and cultural, have been added to the list, ranging from the Galapagos Islands and Yellowstone National Park (which were among the very first sites chosen) to this year’s entries. This year’s natural sites include the Korean Tidal Flats, the mountainous KaengKrachan forest in Thailand (where elephant poaching has been an ongoing problem), and the Colchic Rainforests and Wetlands that lie along the Black Sea in western Georgia, the last remains of a landscape belt that stretched across Eurasia nearly ten million years ago.

Cultural sites include a Chinese city once known as “the emporium of the world.” An important stop on the Silk Road, Quanzhou’s tapestry of ancient bridges and pagodas also includes one of the oldest mosques in China and other glimmers of the workings of a vibrant 10th-century city. The selection puts China near the top of the list of countries with the most World Heritage sites — right after Italy, which was granted another World Heritage site this year for a series of 14th century frescos in Padua.

Spain has been trying to get Madrid’s Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park officially recognized for nearly three decades; it’s the capital city’s first World Heritage site. Dotted with major museums and fountains, the avenue and park have been used recreationally since at least the 15th century. Other new sites include the “Colonies of Benevolence” in what’s now Belgium and the Netherlands. They were an agricultural experiment against poverty during the Industrial Revolution where indigent people were sometimes forced against their wills to farm. And the Dutch Water Line is a series of 17th-centrury defenses against flooding that has now been elevated to World Heritage status.

In India, Telangana’s beautifully decorated Ramappa Temple has made the list — it dates back to the 13th century and is thought to have taken 40 years to complete. And in Iran, the UN recognized the Trans-Iranian Railway, which started construction in 1929, linking the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. A Pathé film clip from the 1942 shows Allied supplies being shipped to Russia on the Trans-Iranian Railway.

The ancient Ḥimā Cultural Area in Saudi Arabia includes rock art, pictures of flowers and animals drawn by people 7000 years ago up until fairly recently. Located up in the mountains on an old caravan route where the wells still produce fresh water, there are inscriptions in multiple languages, including Musnad, Aramaic-Nabatean, South-Arabian, Thamudic, Greek and Arabic. And an important archeological site in Turkey may be even older. The area around the Arslantepe Mound was settled around 8000 years ago and remains an invaluable resource to Mesopotamian scholars.

The site was added to the list even as the World Heritage committee has put public pressure on Turkey over another World Heritage site, the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, which the government last year announced would be converted into a mosque.

Maldives’ Tourist Arrivals This Year Surpass 2020

The Maldives has received more tourist arrivals between January and July 2021 than that for the whole year of 2020, according to data from the Ministry of Tourism released last week. Tourism Ministry data showed that the Maldives received 559,000 tourists as of July 17, 2021, the same number of tourists it received for the whole of 2020, reports Xinhua news agency. Minister of Tourism Abdulla Mausoom was quoted by state-owned PSM News as saying that the government was targeting 1.3 million tourist arrivals by the end of the year.

Mausoom said that the Maldives is currently receiving an average of 5,000 tourists per day and 23 per cent of arrivals are from neighbouring South Asian countries. Tourist arrivals to the Maldives declined significantly in 2020 due to border closures amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The Maldives must maintain an average of 4000 daily arrivals throughout the year or experience a significant influx of tourists during holiday periods in order to reach the set target of 1.5 million tourists in 2021.

At present, 148 resorts and 364 guesthouses are known to be fully operational in Maldives.Maldives reopened borders to all nationalities from 15th July 2020. All visitors are granted a 30-day free on-arrival visa with a confirmed booking for a stay at any registered tourist facility in the country.

While there is no mandatory quarantine or testing on arrival, tourists traveling to Maldives are required to complete an online health declaration form and provide a negative PCR test result taken at least 96 hours prior to their departure. The negative PCR test result must be attached while completing Traveler Health Declaration form, which has to be submitted online via IMUGA (www.imuga.immigration.gov.mv), by all arriving passengers before arrival (but not exceeding 24 hours before arrival time).

Kottakkal Arya Vaidya Sala – An Unparalleled Legacy

Arya Vaidyan P. K. Warrier, who led Arya Vaidya Sala (AVS) at Kottakkal to heights of fame and glory over the last six decades, turned 100 last month. Arya Vaidya Sala will conduct Dr. Warrier’s centenary celebrations in a limited way, adhering strictly to Covid protocols.

Established in 1902 at Kottakkal in Malappuram district by the late physician and philanthropist, Vaidyaratnam P. S. Varier, Arya Vaidya Sala has grown into one of the pioneering institutions of Ayurveda in the country. The 119-year-old institution has branches in nearly all the main cities and towns in the country, and has more than 1,600 authorised dealers. It offers Ayurvedic treatments, medicines and therapies to patients from across the globe. The healthcare centre runs Ayurvedic hospitals at Kottakkal, Kochi and Delhi. The charitable institution has its drug-manufacturing units at Kottakkal, Kanjikode and Nanjangud, churning out more than 550 Ayurvedic medicines.

Apart from engaging in research activities, the centre publishes periodicals and books on Ayurveda, cultivates medicinal plants and organizes educational programmes. The founder, Dr P. S. Varier, started the Ayurveda Pathasala in 1917 which later became Vaidyaratnam P. S. Varier Ayurveda College. AVS also runs a Kathakali academy, named P. S. V. Natyasangham, where the classical dance form is taught and performed.  P. S. V. Natyasangham is known for its strict adherence to the classical tenets of performance and meticulous training, and has produced talented artistes.  A museum that preserves the personal belongings of Dr. Varier and documents the milestones in the history of Arya Vaidya Sala was established in 2002. It also chronicles the renaissance in the field of Ayurveda and its history.

Dr. Varier also consecrated a temple for Lord Viswambhara in 1932. The idol installed at the temple was specially made at Agra, and is carved in white marble. The seven-day annual festival at the temple is known for its cultural importance, and renowned Kathakali artistes and musicians perform during the festival.

Getting there
Nearest railway station: Tirur, about 16 km away
Nearest airport: Kozhikode, about 28 km away

Contact
Arya Vaidya Sala
Kottakkal, Malappuram
Kerala – 676 503
Phone: +91 483 2742216, 2808000
E-mail: [email protected]

Thoovanam Waterfalls In Kerala – A Hidden Attraction

A waterfall that reveals itself to only those willing to undertake a 4 km long trek through a verdant jungle – that is Thoovanam waterfalls in Idukki district. Nestled inside Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, it cascades from a height of 84 feet and fascinates Nature lovers and trekkers alike.

The trekking to the waterfalls, which is around 8 km from Marayoor near Alampetty on Marayoor-Udumalpet state highway, is arranged by the forest department. The guided trek from Alampetty checkpost offers a perfect opportunity to witness rare wildlife amid the lush green forests of Chinnar. If you are lucky enough, you can spot elephants, langurs, giant grizzled squirrels (Chinnar is famous for them) and numerous types of butterflies and birds. This part of the sanctuary is a rain-shadow region with a climate that is different from that what is experienced in the other parts of the state.

As you reach near the end of the trekking trail, you will hear the rumblings of the waterfalls. The sight of the waterfalls from a distance itself takes away the fatigue from the long trek. Originating from the Pambar River, the waterfalls amid captivating surroundings offer one of the most beautiful sights of Nature. The view is so stunning that many travellers prefer to slouch there for hours, enjoying the natural beauty and soaking in the serenity of the place.

If you are planning to spend one or two days in the sanctuary, there are accommodation options at tree houses, jungle cottages and dormitories. In association with eco-development committees formed by tribal communities, the forest department offers various other treks at Chinnar. To have a preview of the waterfalls, check the following video https://www.keralatourism.org/ecotourism/video-gallery/thoovanam-falls-chinnar/814

Getting there:
Nearest railway station: Ernakulam, about 130 km away; Aluva, about 110 km away
Nearest airport: Cochin, about 150 km away; Coimbatore, about 110 km away

Contact
The Wildlife Warden
Munnar P.O, Idukki – 685 612
Phone: +91 4865 231587
Email: [email protected]

Taj Hotel In Mumbai Named Strongest Hotel Brand In The World

People who experienced Taj Hotels hospitality have always recommended it as a must-visit, at least once.  It is, after all, one of the world’s most lavish hotel chains offered by the Indian Hotels Company (IHCL), South Asia’s largest hospitality company. Now, its quality and hospitality have been acknowledged at the international level as Taj has been rated the Strongest Hotel Brand in the World by Brand Finance. The Taj has been rated as the ‘Strongest Hotel Brand in the World’ by Brand Finance, a leading brand rating consultancy. The hotel is part of Indian Hotels Company Ltd (IHCL)—the largest hospitality group in South Asia, with 221 hotels in its portfolio. The latest ranking is part of the Brand Finance’s ‘Hotels 50 2021’ annual report, which ranks hotels across the world on brand value. Taj

Taj received an overall Brand Strength Index of 89.3 out of 100, with a corresponding AAA rating for customer familiarity, employee satisfaction and corporate reputation as well as its world-class customer service.Renowned for its world-class customer service, the luxury hotel chain scores very well in our Global Brand Equity Monitor for consideration, familiarity, recommendation, and reputation especially across its home market of India,” the report says. The report also focused on Taj’s R.E.S.E.T 2020 strategy that enabled the brand to effectively deal with pandemic-related issues.

A series of steps taken by Taj contributed to the brand’s re-entrance into the Brand Finance ranking for the first time since 2016 in 38th spot on its ‘Top 50 most-valued brands’ list In a major boost to the Indian hospitality industry, Indian Hotels Company’s (IHC’s) iconic brand Taj was named the ‘Strongest Hotel Brand in the world’ by brand valuation consultancy Brand Finance in its annual ‘’Hotels 50 2021′ report. Taj scored an overall Brand Strength Index of 89.3 out of 100, with a corresponding top rating for ‘customer familiarity, employee satisfaction and corporate reputation as well as its world-class customer service’, according to the Brand Finance report.

PuneetChhatwal, Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, Indian Hotels Company, said, “This is a proud moment for the Indian hospitality industry on the global stage. Taj being rated as the World’s Strongest Hotel Brand is a testament to the unwavering trust our guests have consistently placed in us and the warmth and sincere care our employees have embodied day-after-day”. In addition to measuring overall brand value, Brand Finance said it also evaluates the relative strength of brands, based on factors such as marketing investment, customer familiarity, staff satisfaction, and corporate reputation. According to these criteria, Taj with a brand value of $296 million, is the world’s strongest hotel brand, with a Brand Strength Index (BSI) score of 89.3 out of 100 and a corresponding ‘AAA’ brand strength rating.

Taj luxury hotel chain scored very well on Brand Finance’s ‘Global Brand Equity Monitor’ for consideration, familiarity, recommendation, and reputation especially across its home market of India. Taj’s successful implementation of its 5-year plan – which focuses on selling non-core assets, becoming less ownership driven and reducing dependence on the luxury space – followed by the speedy adoption of its new R.E.S.E.T 2020 strategy, which provides a transformative framework to help the brand overcome the challenge of the pandemic, has contributed to the brand’s re-entrance into the ranking for the first time since 2016 in 38th spot, the Brand Finance report added.

As Travel Returns To Normal, United Airlines To Buy 270 New Planes

United Airlines is placing a jumbo-sized order of narrow-body aircraft. The company is purchasing 270 new planes from Boeing and Airbus.Last year, U.S. airlines were fighting to survive. Struggling in the depths of the pandemic, they received an infusion of cash and cheap loans from the U.S. government and, between aid packages, furloughed tens of thousands of workers. Business and international flights are still down from pre-pandemic levels, but domestic leisure travel, the kind where single-aisle planes dominate, is roaring back. United is planning for growth and ready to spend billions to get there, though it did not mention a specific price tag on Tuesday.

“It’s a plan that’s a nose-to-tail plan for the future,” United’s Andrew Nocella told reporters on Monday. “And it’s something we’ve actually been working on for many, many years.” The company says this is the biggest jet purchase placed by a U.S. airline in the past decade. (In 2011, American Airlines purchased 460 planes in one fell swoop.) And factoring in the new planes that United had already ordered, the company will get 500 new jets over the next few years. They’re intended to replace some older planes and expand the total size of the fleet, allowing for more daily departures. In addition to adding new planes, United will also be retrofitting every narrow-body plane in its directly operated fleet, a process that will take several years. The retrofits will put more premium seats per aircraft, as well as add seatback entertainment on all seat backs and improve carry-on bag storage.

“It’s really making the gate-checked bags a thing of the past,” promised United’s Toby Enqvist in a call with reporters on Monday. “We’re going to have space for each and every customer’s [carry-on bags] … even on a full flight.” The order will include 200 Boeing planes from the 737 Max series (which returned to service six months ago after nearly two years grounded over a deadly software flaw) as well as 70 Airbus A321neo aircraft. United, perhaps anticipating criticism for planning big investments so soon after requiring taxpayer aid, heavily emphasized the potential positive ripple effects on the U.S. economy from placing this order. The company argued that the purchase will directly create 25,000 new unionized United jobs, while indirectly supporting many more jobs at manufacturers, airports and travel destinations. And the company was adamant that air travel, even the still-depressed international and business travel, would come roaring back.

Richard Aboulafia, an aviation industry analyst with the Teal Group, notes that these kinds of bulk airplane orders aren’t exactly written in stone. Airlines can place a big order but then shift exactly when the planes get delivered (and actually paid for), based on how business is going. “We’re talking about the last of these planes being delivered, if things are great, four or five years hence,” he says. “If they’re not so great, six or seven years hence. If they’re terrible, how about never — does never work for you?” And he noted that now is a reasonable time to place these orders. Borrowing money is cheap, fuel prices are rising, and new planes are more fuel efficient than their predecessors.

E.U. Clears Americans For Travel To Europe

Lawmakers in the European Union have agreed to lift a travel ban on Americans that has been in place since early 2020. U.S. tourists can travel to Europe this summer, European Union lawmakers in Brussels said on Wednesday. The officials agreed to recommend E.U. member states lift travel restrictions that have been in place for Americans since early 2020. The region will also add the United States to its list of ‘safe’ countries for tourism, alongside the new additions of North Macedonia, Albania, Serbia, Lebanon, and Taiwan also earning the status. Both changes are expected to become official on Friday, according to a spokesperson for the European Council.

Some European nations, including Greece and France, already allow Americans to enter their borders, albeit with testing and/or vaccination requirements in place. But the E.U. giving its blessing for all nations across the bloc to permit American travelers is a significant milestone in the broader reopening of travel between the U.S. and Europe. For the first time in over a year, travelers from the U.S. may be permitted to more freely travel around the bloc, although subject to individual country entry requirements.

While the E.U. recommendation is not contingent on travelers being vaccinated, exact entry requirements will be at the discretion of individual countries, which can require (and some already are) a negative COVID-19 test and/or full vaccination. In May, the region’s leaders said they planned to open to Americans this summer because all coronavirus vaccines in use in the U.S. (Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson) are approved for use by Europe’s health officials. The E.U. Council’s recommendation is that nations should allow travelers who are either “[fully] vaccinated with an E.U.-approved vaccine” or are an essential traveler.

The list of countries considered ‘safe’ by the E.U. is revised every two weeks, and currently does not include the United Kingdom, which this week delayed its final phase of reopening by one month due to the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, despite 57 percent of the U.K. population being fully vaccinated. The criteria for a nation to be considered ‘safe’ is that there are “not more than 75 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the previous 14 days,” along with other testing and positive-case-rate standards, and “overall response to COVID-19.”

Member states can halt travel at any time via an “emergency brake” established by European leaders as part of its tourism reopening. That plan relies on a digital health pass that rolled out this month in 13 E.U. nations. The pass, called a Green Certificate, will be available for use in all E.U. states on July 1. It confirms COVID-19 vaccination, test, and/or recovery; it is free to use and acceptable in both paper and digital formats via QR code.

Member states already allowing Americans are requiring an array of differing entry requirements, prompting travel agents to warn those considering a trip to double and triple check they meet the rules. France, for example, is only allowing vaccinated Americans who confirm their status via health form, while Greece is allowing Americans regardless of vaccination status if they test negative for COVID-19. Other nations are more complicated: Italy, for example, is only permitting entry via COVID-tested flights from 10 U.S. airports (Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, JFK, Newark, Philadelphia, and D.C.), all of which require proof of a PCR test taken 48 hours before travel; a Digital Passenger Form, health self-declaration, and rapid test upon arrival are also mandated. Travelers who don’t meet all Italy’s requirements are subject to a 10-day quarantine.

Canada Extends Border Restrictions To July 21

The Canadian government has announced that the Canada-US border agreement on travel restrictions will be extended for another month to July 21. “In coordination with the US, we are extending restrictions on non-essential international travel and with the US until July 21st, 2021,” Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said in a tweet on Friday.
Blair also said the government is planning measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents, and others who are currently permitted to enter the country and will provide further details on June 21.

The new extension comes a day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and provincial premiers met to discuss the possibility of opening the land border between the two countries, which has been closed for non-essential travel since March 2020. The restrictions, which do not cover trade or travel by air, has been extended several times. he current restrictions were to expire on June 21.

Trudeau said on June 13 he had spoken with US President Joe Biden about how to lift the restrictions, but added that no breakthrough has been achieved. The Trudeau government closed its borders to non-essential travellers in March 2020. Since then, it has adjusted the rules to require Covid-19 testing before and after arrival, as well as a period of mandatory quarantine. Canada also limited international flights to just four airports in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary. In the fall of 2020, Canada expanded the list of travellers who were exempt from travel restrictions.

International students going to a Designated Learning Institution with a Covid-19 readiness plan were allowed to come to Canada to study. The exemptions also included extended family members, as well as travelers coming to Canada for compassionate reasons such as a funeral. In February 2021, Canada also added the mandatory hotel quarantine on incoming international travelers. New airport arrivals were to go immediately to wait for the results of a Covid-19 test at a government-approved hotel at their own expense.

 

Europe Lifts Ban On US Travelers

The European Union is officially recommending that the 27-member bloc lift restrictions on US travelers, a long-anticipated move that will allow a return to near-normal travel with the continent for the first time since the pandemic began, according to diplomats.The European diplomats spoke on the condition of anonymity ahead of a formal announcement planned for Friday. EU ambassadors decided Wednesday to approve a proposal to add the United States — along with Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, and Serbia — to its “white list” of places where nonessential travelers are allowed in from across the bloc, sources said. Although this list is nonbinding, it seeks to harmonize travel rules across the European Union. Some European countries, including Greece, Portugal, and Spain, are already accepting vaccinated US travelers.

Ambassadors from the 27 EU countries approved a European Commission proposal from May 3 to loosen the criteria to determine “safe” countries and to let in fully vaccinated tourists from elsewhere.The full resumption of transatlantic travel still has one further hurdle: The United States has yet to say when it will reciprocally lift its ban on E.U. travelers, although that move is similarly expected within weeks.Inclusion on the “white list,” created in June 2020, means E.U. countries can accept travelers regardless of their vaccination status, although each individual country can set its own requirements for entry and quarantine. Australia, Israel, Japan and New Zealand are among the countries already on the list.

Under current restrictions, people from only seven countries, including Australia, Israel and Singapore, can enter the EU on holiday, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated.   The current main criterion is that there should be no more than 25 new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people in the previous 14 days. The trend should be stable or decreasing and there should be a sufficient number of tests, which would need to show a minimum percentage of negative tests. Variants of concern can be taken into account.

The resumption of travel will be a major boost to tourism-dependent economies across the continent. Following a slow start to vaccine rollouts, European officials and policymakers hope that the bloc will reach herd immunity by July. So far, around 45 percent of the nearly 450 million E.U. residents have been inoculated with at least one shot, and around half of those have been fully vaccinated.Earlier this week, the E.U. Parliament also formally approved legislation to create a digital certificate system starting July 1 that would scrap quarantine requirements for people who can prove they are vaccinated or that they have recently recovered from covid-19 or tested negative for the virus.

AAHOA Names Ken Greene Interim President & CEO

In the wake of its recent announcement of a leadership transition, AAHOA has announced that it has appointed hotel industry veteran Ken Greene to serve as Interim President & CEO. Ken is a well-known and highly respected industry veteran who is well-suited to lead AAHOA during the organization’s leadership transition. The Board’s selection of Ken as AAHOA Interim President & CEO reflects the group’s trust and utmost confidence that he can carry the organization forward as the industry continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Ken is eager to continue to execute upon the Association’s 2021-2023 Strategic Plan and serve alongside AAHOA’s Board and staff to continue its forward-thinking vision to be the foremost resource and advocate for America’s hotel owners.

During each chapter of Ken’s career, he’s been involved with AAHOA, its members, and industry partners. Prior to joining AAHOA, Ken served as a global leader of many iconic hotel brands, including President, Americas for Radisson Hotel Group, President & CEO for Delta Hotels and Resorts, and in various roles at Cendant Corporation, Wyndham Worldwide, and many of its divisions. Ken also recently founded Greenehouse Consulting, which focuses on acquisitions, management, and advisory services to the hospitality industry.

Ken has a deep understanding of and appreciation for the hotel industry and has many long-standing relationships that are well-suited to guide AAHOA during this leadership transition period. Ken also has served on and led several industry-related boards, providing and contributing to strategic direction in a number of capacities.“Ken will be leading the Association in an interim capacity during a critical time for AAHOA Members and the hotel industry,” AAHOA Chairman Biran Patel said. “We are confident his experience, relationships, and extensive knowledge and appreciation of the industry are the perfect fit to serve in this capacity as AAHOA Members continue down the road to recovery.”

AAHOA had announced earlier that Cecil P. Staton was stepping down as President & CEO.  Staton will continue to work with AAHOA’s leadership to ensure an effective transition and the success of ongoing projects and relationships as a consultant.“On behalf of America’s hoteliers, we thank Cecil for his service to AAHOA,” AAHOA Chairman Biran Patel said. “For more than a year, hoteliers faced immense pressure as the COVID-19 pandemic brought a period of decade-long prosperity to a grinding halt. Cecil proved to be a steady hand, leading and guiding the association to record member engagement through this turbulent year. His leadership in the development of our Strategic Plan will have a lasting, positive impact upon the association.”

“I’m grateful to have led this organization through one of the hardest times in our industry’s and association’s history through our concentrated efforts related to COVID-19 support and relief and for making a difference in the lives of so many hoteliers,” Staton said. “AAHOA has the most dedicated team with whom I’ve had the privilege to work, and I’ve been impressed with their commitment to excellence from the moment I joined this great organization. Our work to develop AAHOA’s new Strategic Plan holds the promise to propel the association forward toward its fullest potential.” AAHOA Executive Vice President & COO Rachel Humphrey announced that she also will be exiting the association on August 7.

“AAHOA’s nearly 20,000 members represent the heart and soul of America’s hospitality industry and I am eager to step into this role, working alongside the hotel owners who drive our industry forward each and every day,” Ken said. “As our industry recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a critical time for owners and America’s tourism industry, and I’m looking forward to bringing my extensive experience to the organization to help propel America’s hotel industry forward on the path to recovery.”

Over the course of Ken’s career, he’s had the opportunity to personally get to know and form relationships with many of AAHOA’s Members. Ken is well-positioned to build on AAHOA’s strong foundation as the organization carries out its vision of being the foremost resource and advocate for America’s hotel owners during this critical time in the industry’s recovery.“We are confident Ken will bring the passion, dedication, knowledge, and insight he has exhibited in all of his prior roles within the industry to AAHOA and its members,” Patel said. “Please join us in congratulating and welcoming Ken in his new position as AAHOA Interim President & CEO.”

“AAHOA is a strong organization led by exceptional teams,” Patel said. “Our dedicated Board of Directors, Executive Leadership Team, and professional staff will continue to lead AAHOA into the future. AAHOA’s work on behalf of our members will continue to be guided by our Strategic Plan, which will carry the association’s strategy into 2023 and leave a lasting impact for many years to come.”

AAHOA has accomplished remarkable work on behalf of its members during what has been one of the worst times in our industry’s history – and the work never stops. AAHOA is well-positioned to continue its work to fulfill its vision and the ambitious goals set forth in the Strategic Plan.  The organization is in the process of conducting a comprehensive search process to identify new leadership that will continue to help guide America’s hoteliers on the road to recovery.

About AAHOA

AAHOA is the largest hotel owners association in the world. The nearly 20,000 AAHOA members represent over half the hotels in the United States. With billions of dollars in property assets and hundreds of thousands of employees, AAHOA members are core economic contributors in virtually every community. AAHOA is a proud defender of free enterprise and the foremost current-day example of realizing the American dream.

U.S. CDC Eases Travel Recommendations On 61 Countries

(Reuters) -The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has eased its travel recommendations for 61 countries, including Japan from its highest “Level 4” rating that had discouraged all travel to recommending travel for fully vaccinated individuals, the agency confirmed Tuesday. The new ratings, which were not previously reported and posted on a CDC website Monday, lower 61 countries to “Level 3,” including France, South Africa, Canada, Mexico, Russia, Spain and Italy. A U.S. State Department official said it was in the process of revising its travel advisory to reflect the CDC changes.The CDC said the change comes after its revised its criteria for travel health notices. The CDC said it has also revised its rating for the United States to “Level 3” from “Level 4.”

On May 24, the State Department had urged against travel to Japan, citing a new wave of coronavirus cases before the Tokyo Olympics are set to begin July 23.The CDC said the new criteria for a Level 4 “avoid all travel” recommendation has changed from 100 cases per 100,000 to 500 cases per 100,000. The CDC added that many countries have lower ratings “because of the criteria changes or because their outbreaks are better controlled.” The CDC added it expects more countries to get lower ratings.Other countries being lowered to “Level 3” include Honduras, Indonesia, Jordan, Libya, Panama, Poland, Denmark and Malaysia.

Many of the countries that now have lower ratings remain on the U.S. government’s list of countries subject to severe travel restrictions — and most have been subject to the restrictions since early 2020.The United States bars nearly all non-U.S. citizens who have been in China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, India, South Africa, Brazil, Iran and the 26 Schengen nations in Europe without border controls within the previous 14 days.

Breeze Airways Launched With Fares From $39 One-Way

Travel is finally bouncing back following the doldrums of the Covid-19 pandemic, including with the launch of not one, but two new low-cost airlines in the U.S. Avelo Airlines started service out of its West Coast base of Hollywood Burbank Airport in Los Angeles at the end of April, and is ramping up services to nearly a dozen destinations in the western U.S. before setting its sights farther east later this year with a second base in New Haven, Connecticut.

Now, an East Coast upstart is also entering the fray. From JetBlue founder and former CEO David Neelman, Breeze Airways has put tickets on sale starting today after nearly three years in the offing. Fares start at just $39 each way – a nod to the airline’s 39 launch routes among 16 cities. Its first flights took place on May 27, 2021, between Tampa, Florida, and Charleston, South Carolina; and from Charleston to Hartford, Connecticut, with more flights being added to the schedule throughout June and July.

Headquartered in Salt Lake City, Breeze will focus most of its operations out of four main airports: Tampa, Florida; Charleston, South Carolina; Norfolk, Virginia; and New Orleans. But the new carrier’s route map includes 16 cities in the Midwest, Southeast, and Eastern U.S.

The Routes

The airline’s first-ever flight was scheduled to operate on May 27—just in time for the travel rush of Memorial Day Weekend—from Charleston to Tampa, and on to Hartford, Connecticut. Additional routes will be added through July.

The upstart airline is the brainchild of David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue and prolific airline creator (Breeze Airways is the fifth air carrier he’s launched; others include Brazil-based Azul and Canada’s WestJet). Neeleman’s business strategy for Breeze is to target smaller airports in cities overlooked by other carriers. “Breeze provides nonstop service between underserved routes across the U.S. at affordable fares,” he said in a statement on Friday. “A staggering 95 percent of Breeze routes currently have no airline serving them nonstop.”

Additional destinations include Providence; San Antonio; Pittsburgh; Akron; and Huntsville, Alabama, among others. This summer, the carrier’s average flight length will be about two hours.And there are already plans in the works to expand Breeze’s route network in the near future. “These 16 cities are just the beginning for Breeze,” Neeleman said. “The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the nation’s air service has meant many secondary markets and smaller cities have seen a significant reduction in flights. There are so many city pairs needing nonstop service around the country, we have a further 100 cities under consideration.”

The Planes

Breeze will start with a fleet of 13 single-class Embraer E-190 and E-195 regional planes this summer. Each plane seats between 108 and 118 people and seats are in a two-by-two layout, meaning there are no dreaded middled spots. In October, the airline will start taking delivery of 60 larger, brand new Airbus A220 planes. (Breeze is scheduled to receive one of the planes per month for the next five years.) The airline says its A220s will include a premium cabin class and operate on routes longer than two hours.

The onboard experience

With his new venture, Neeleman seems to be centering the brand on the same friendly, budget-conscious ethos that put JetBlue on the map with travelers. Breeze bills itself as the U.S.’s “seriously nice” carrier, and says it will use “technology, ingenuity, and kindness to improve the travel experience.” Its fare classes range from “Nice,” “Nicer,” and “Nicest.”

“Nicest,” Breeze’s premium business class product, will debut in the fall onboard the A220 planes.  The other two fare class are bookable now. “Nicer” fares come with perks like a free checked bag, a carry-on bag, priority boarding, complimentary drink and snack, as well as extra legroom (between 33 and 39 inches of pitch, depending on the aircraft).

“Nice” is the cheapest option, which only covers a personal item—such as a purse or backpack—and a seat with between 29 and 31 inches of pitch. That amount of space is on par with ultra-low-cost carriers like Spirit, but fliers also have the option to upgrade to an extra legroom seat for a fee. There are extra charges to choose a seat (starting at $10), and bring a carry-on for the overhead bin or check a bag ($20 for either). Although it’s structured like a basic economy fare, it’s not as restrictive as similar products on other airlines.

All fares, including the cheapest, have flexible ticketing policies, with no change or cancellation fees. According to Breeze’s statement: “Guests can change or cancel a flight up to 15 minutes before scheduled departure without penalty. Unused funds from changes and cancellations are automatically saved in the guest’s Breeze account and do not expire for 24 months.” All flights will feature free in-flight entertainment—TV shows and games—that will stream to personal devices. The Airbus A220 planes will also have in-flight Wi-Fi.  Fares are on sale now at flybreeze.com.

If You Want Vaccine, Visit New York City As It Plans To Offer The J&J Vaccine To Tourists

Amid the imbalanced access to COVID vaccine doses, some tourist-reliant destinations that have made headway with inoculating the local population are now earmarking extra doses for arriving travelers. Places like the Maldives, certain islands in the Caribbean, New York City, and Alaska have announced such measures over the past couple of months.

Government officials of the tourism-dependent Maldives have announced plans to offer coronavirus vaccines to international visitors as an incentive to reopen travel. The South Asian nation’s tourism minister said on CNBC this week that a new Maldivian tourism campaign, dubbed ‘3V,’ for ‘Visit, Vaccinate, Vacation,’ aims to make shots available for vacationers who travel to Maldives, once all local residents have been offered a vaccine. “The main idea of tourism being open is to provide a reasonably safe tourism with minimum inconvenience,” Maldivian Tourism Minister Abdulla Mausoom said in an interview. “So once the country gets vaccinated, then we will move on to ‘3V’ tourism.”

The Maldives, which is known for its glamorous overwater bungalows and pristine Indian Ocean beaches, is currently open to U.S. visitors who are fully vaccinated, and unvaccinated travelers who acquire a negative coronavirus PCR test no more than three days prior to travel. Its tourism board has also set a goal of 1.5 million tourist arrivals for 2021, with about 350,000 of those visits accounted for as of mid April. Mausoom said many remote workers have relocated to the islands during the pandemic, but that the vaccination campaign is necessary for the Maldives to jumpstart its travel economy: “When we reach this year’s target [of 1.5 million], still we will have a shortfall of what the country needs.”

The logic behind these initiatives is not hard to follow: The tourism industry has been gutted by the pandemic, and locales want a safe way to restart what is a major economic engine. But the policies might give some travelers pause, as they can appear to use up doses still needed by locals or favor the more privileged who can afford to book a long-haul trip for the shot. They also can seem to facilitate the chance for wealthy travelers to skip ahead of more at-risk people around the world. So should travelers take these doses if a destination is offering them?

“I think the idea that, for example, single-dose vaccines like Johnson & Johnson, ought to be available to people when they arrive in a country, for whatever reason they’re traveling, is a very good idea,” says Chris Beyrer, a professor of public health and human rights at Johns Hopkins. “Now those people won’t be fully protected for two weeks, but it’s a simple strategy and you don’t have to wait the additional three or four weeks for a second dose.”

New York City plans to offer the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine to tourists in places like Times Square and the High Line. The state has also created pop-up clinics for both residents and visitors inside subway stations and airports. But Alaska, which relies heavily on the summer cruise season, is planning to offer travelers doses of Pfizer or Moderna shots (which require two doses) at its four largest airports starting June 1.

Some say the programs are really only ideal if the visitors are from an area where vaccine access is lacking. “It depends on where people are coming from,” says Leana Wen, emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University and former health commissioner of Baltimore. “There are of course many individuals from countries that don’t have nearly enough vaccine, and if they arriving at a location that does have vaccination, absolutely they should take advantage of it. As long as the individuals who are living in these locations are first given access, I don’t see a problem with the overall concept.”

In fact, experts agree that American travelers really shouldn’t be participating in vaccine on arrival programs, since the U.S. has readily available doses its own population. “The other equity issue is you’re traveling somewhere to get a vaccine where you could be taking it away from locals who need it more,” says Arthur Caplan, head of the division of medical ethics at NYU. “So you have to weigh that, too. You don’t want to take supply.” Although the majority of destinations that have offered up doses to visitors have said their local populations have adequate vaccine access, Caplan urges travelers to use scrutiny when evaluating these claims. “Vaccine politics are complex because some of these countries are run by business interests that very much depend on tourism,” he says. “I don’t always trust what they say.”

While these are concerning points, some experts say the programs—if properly executed—could help to protect residents. “That’s the other side of this, that there are so many places in the world that rely on tourism and [the] travel industry, and where the people who live there and work there who are not tourists have a right to be protected,” Beyrer says. “So do you keep tourism shut down? Or do you open it and try to do it in ways that are safe?”There are also other potential benefits for local populations. “It’s been a really challenging year and a half, and many of these places that have relied on tourism have been decimated,” Wen says. “If this is what it takes in order to get their economy back and get the standard of living back for their residents, who are we to give judgements?”

Another major concern for both epidemiologists and travelers? People who are unvaccinated boarding flights or trains to get inoculated. The CDC cleared only fully vaccinated people for widespread travel this summer. “I think you should be vaccinated before you get there,” Caplan says. “Getting vaccinated when you arrive at your tourist destination still means that you have at least a couple of weeks before you build up immunity, and you may need a second shot in some cases. I’d want to be fully vaccinated before I got to the airport, got on that plane, or got to my destination. I would not be waiting. I think that’s very unwise.”

Although it’s not ideal, Wen says that it could be possible to travel to get a vaccine. “Travel can be very safe, as long as people take the necessary precautions,” such as wearing a mask and avoiding removing it, she says. “There are ways to keep safe while traveling but they must be extremely vigilant if they are not yet vaccinated.”

Before making a decision, Wen advises each traveler to weigh the facts against their own situations. “I think there is an ethical argument one could be making that vaccine tourism leaves behind those who are financially not able to do so, and it is a real concern,” she says. “However there is also the argument of sustaining the tourism industry in countries that have been really hard hit as well. I would say that people need to make their own individual ethics judgments about whether they feel comfortable taking part in this.”

Pent-Up Demand Will Propel A Strong Season As Long As The Pandemic Continues To Subside

Newswise — With coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions easing up, the best words to describe the 2021 summer travel season outlook are “cautiously optimistic.” That’s according to University of Delaware’s Sheryl Kline, Aramark Chaired Professor of Hospitality, Sri Beldona, professor of hospitality business management, and Robert Nelson, associate professor of hospitality business management in UD’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics. 

“We believe that it will be a much more positive travel year for the Delaware Valley region, particularly the New Jersey and Delaware beaches, and also remote locations across the U.S.,” said Kline, who is also deputy dean of the Lerner College.

Over the winter, Kline and Beldona worked with the Delaware Data Innovation Lab Delaware Data Innovation Lab supported by CompassRed to develop a prototype for a hospitality sentiment tracker. This prototype tracks sentiments on travel and safety using consumer-based online review data across the State of Delaware. Early indicators showed that proprietors were taking conscious steps to be compliant with COVID-19 safety measures. Customers noticed and commented on precautionary measures these establishments put in place and expressed their comfort level in social media posts.

“While there is a pent up demand for domestic travel, the overall travel experience is going to depend on how COVID-19 guidelines continue to be observed,” Beldona said. “Through our research we have learned that consumers are hyper aware of how the travel industry reacted to the government restrictions and precautions taken to cope with this pandemic.”The term “vacci-cation” for vacations being planned after sufficient vaccinations and before office life resumes has also entered the lexicon to describe what is expected of this summer, Beldona said.

“As more people are fully vaccinated, they will become more comfortable traveling for much needed vacations and to visit family,” Kline said. “However, when they leave home, vacationers will definitely see more sanitation stations and improvements in cleaning practices. This is one legacy of the pandemic that will not go away.”

Beldona added, “There will be more cars on the road versus air travel. Beach rentals in Delaware are reporting higher occupancies than usual. It’s going to be a big summer for Airbnbs.” He also said more people will be visiting out-of-the-way places and having more family reunions. But what you won’t see will be any extra incentives or travel discounts. “Prices won’t be lowered because the demand is there,” Beldona said.

With the increased demand, there will be increased pressure on restaurants, hotels and commercial tourism operators to find employees. Anecdotally, Kline, Beldona and Nelson are seeing the demand for employment at travel destinations growing, especially at the Delaware beach areas and other more remote locations such as national parks and destination all-inclusive resorts.“Tourists are booking trips, but hotels, restaurants and other segments of the industry have no labor,” Nelson said. “Many of them depend on imported labor via J1 visas that are not available this year.”

The outlook is not quite as strong for major cities as remote, local getaways. The tourism recovery for places like New York and Chicago is predicted to progress at a much slower pace, according to Nelson.  “Major gateway cities are dependent on international travelers and business travelers, both of which are expected to recover more slowly,” Nelson said. “Also, business travel naturally slows in the summer months.” As for international travel? Trends indicate that growth in domestic travel will outperform that of international travel significantly this summer, Beldona said.  “Countries are still trying to figure out how to allow people from different countries into their cities and how long they will need to quarantine,” Kline said. “It might be best to travel domestically and to stay local.”

America’s Hoteliers Come Together for India COVID Relief

America’s hotel owners are coming together to support COVID relief in India as a new wave of infections spreads throughout the country. AAHOA donated $100,000 to LPS of USA, Tiny Smiling Faces (DalubhaiGoaplbhai Patel Fund), and Bavaji Charities in support of the charities’ ongoing COVID relief efforts in the subcontinent.

“Throughout the past year, AAHOA and AAHOA Members made valuable contributions in their communities by donating personal protective equipment, providing meals to those in need, housing at-risk populations, and supporting local charities,” AAHOA Chairman Biran Patel said. “Many in our industry have strong family and business ties to India, and we are increasingly worried about the crisis the country is facing with the spread of COVID-19. That is why AAHOA donated $100,000 to groups working to stop the spread and help those in need.”

“Our industry and our communities continue to struggle from the economic fallout of the pandemic, but we can see hope on the horizon. Although we are focused on our own recovery, we cannot turn a blind eye to those who continue to face the dire consequences of this virus,” AAHOA President & CEO Cecil P. Staton said.

AAHOA is the largest hotel owners association in the world. The nearly 20,000 AAHOA members represent over half the hotels in the United States. With billions of dollars in property assets and hundreds of thousands of employees, AAHOA members are core economic contributors in virtually every community. AAHOA is a proud defender of free enterprise and the foremost current-day example of realizing the American dream.

AIR INDIA’s 4.5 Million Customers’ Personal Data Hacked

Air India has admitted to a massive data breach that compromised the personal data of about 4.5 million passengers. The hackers were able to access 10 years’ worth of data including names, passport and credit card details from the Atlanta-based SITA Passenger Service System, Air India said in a statement on May 21.It disclosed the scale of the breach nearly three months after it was first informed by the IT provider.The breach that happened in late February had compromised the data of some major global airlines, too. SITA at that time had said that Singapore Airlines, New Zealand Air and Lufthansa were among those affected.

Air India said almost 4.5 million passengers globally were affected in the “highly sophisticated” attack but did not specify how many of them were its travelers. It said no password data was breached during the attack and that the company was investigating.The breach, confirmation of which comes two months after SITA’s Passenger Service System (PSS) was hacked, affected customers who registered between August 2011 and late February 2021, Air India said in a statement. Compromised data includes customers’ name, data of birth, contact information, passport information, frequent flyer data and credit card data, although CVV/CVC numbers weren’t included.
Password weren’t accessed by the hackers, Air India added, although it’s urging all customers to change their passwords as a precaution.

The airline said it first learned of the incident on February 25, but only learned the identities of affected passengers on March 25 and May 4.The company said it recommended in an email to its customers that they should change their account passwords as a precaution.

Air India started as a mail carrier in 1932 before gaining commercial popularity. It has been incurring losses since its 2007 merger with a state-owned domestic carrier, Indian Airlines. The debt-laden carrier is currently in the process of finding new buyers.

U.S. Restricts Travel To & From India

The U.S Embassy in India encourages U.S. citizens who wish to depart India to take advantage of currently available commercial flights. Airlines continue to operate multiple direct flights weekly from India to the United States; additional flight options remain available via transfers in Paris, Frankfurt, and Doha.

President Joe Biden has issued a proclamation restricting entry into the United States of certain nonimmigrant travelers who have been physically present in India. These restrictions will go into effect on Tuesday, May 4, 2021 at 12:01 AM EDT. The full text of the proclamation is available here.

The U.S Embassy in India encourages U.S. citizens who wish to depart India to take advantage of currently available commercial flights. Airlines continue to operate multiple direct flights weekly from India to the United States; additional flight options remain available via transfers in Paris, Frankfurt, and Doha.

The policy will not apply to American citizens, lawful permanent residents (LPR), or other people with these specific exceptions:

  • Any immigrant who has an unused or unexpired immigrant visa;
  • Any non-U.S. citizen spouse of a U.S. citizen or LPR;
  • Any non-U.S. citizen who is the parent or legal guardian of a U.S. citizen or LPR, provided that the U.S. citizen or LPR child is unmarried and under the age of 21;
  • Any non-U.S. citizen who is the sibling of a U.S. citizen or LPR, provided that both the non-U.S. citizen and the U.S. citizen or LPR sibling are unmarried and under the age of 21;
  • Any non-U.S. citizen who is the child, foster child, or ward of a U.S. citizen or LPR, or who is a prospective adoptee seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications;
  • Any holders of nonimmigrant visas in the following categories: C-1, D, C-1/D air and sea crew, A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3, E-1, G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through NATO-4, or NATO-6; or
  • Students who already possess a valid student (F or M) visa and who will begin their studies on or after August 1, 2021. (Note that direct travel to the United States from India with a student visa may begin no more than 30 days prior to the start date of a student’s classes.)

Visa holders with definite plans to travel who can demonstrate qualification for a National Interest Exception (NIE) may contact the U.S Embassy or  Consulate that issued their visa to request a national interest exception prior to travel. (The contact email for the Embassy in New Delhi is [email protected].) Your request must include the following information to seek an exception: last name, first name, date of birth, place of birth, country of citizenship, passport number, visa Number and category, travel dates, travel purpose, and national interest category–including a clear justification for receipt of a NIE.

Qualifying family members do not need a NIE or any pre-approval from the embassy or consulates. Travelers should bring proof of relationship when initiating travel to the United States. More details on NIEs are available here.

If you currently have a flight booked, or plans to travel to the United States but do not fall into an exception category, contact the embassy or consulate that issued your visa before departing, as you may not be allowed to travel at this time. General travel information between India and the U.S as well as information about COVID-19 within India, is available via the U.S. Embassy here.

This proclamation will remain in effect until terminated by President Biden. Thirty days after the proclamation, and then at the end of every calendar month, Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra will recommend whether the president should continue, modify, or terminate this proclamation.

Note that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 4 Travel Health Notice and the Department of State has issued a Level 4 Travel Advisory recommending against all travel to India. Level 4 is the highest advisory level due to greater likelihood of life-threatening risks. U.S. citizens who must travel to India are strongly urged to get fully vaccinated before travel and to continue to take personal health safety measures to protect themselves, including practicing social and physical distancing, cleaning hands with soap/hand sanitizer frequently, wearing masks, and avoiding crowded areas with poor ventilation.

The CDC’s broader guidance for fully vaccinated people–including information about when you should still wear masks and maintain social and physical distancing–is here; be sure to review our other vaccine availability and safety resources as well.

The U.S. told its citizens to get out of India as soon as possible as the country’s covid-19 crisis worsens at an astonishing pace.

In a Level 4 travel advisory — the highest of its kind issued by the State Department — U.S. citizens were told “not to travel to India or to leave as soon as it is safe to do so.” There are 14 direct daily flights between India and the U.S. and other services that connect through Europe, the department said.

Indian authorities and hospitals are struggling to cope with unprecedented covid infections and deaths. Official data on Thursday showed new cases rose by a staggering 379,257 over the prior 24 hours, another record, while 3,645 additional lives were lost. More than 204,800 people have died.

“U.S. citizens are reporting being denied admittance to hospitals in some cities due to a lack of space,” the website of the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in India said in a health alert. “U.S. citizens who wish to depart India should take advantage of available commercial transportation options now.” All routine U.S. citizen services and visa services at the U.S. Consulate General Chennai have been canceled.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, anyone returning to the U.S. from overseas must have a viral Covid-19 test between three and five days after travel. Individuals who haven’t been vaccinated should also stay at home and self-quarantine for a week.

The South Asian nation now has the world’s fastest-growing caseload with 18.4 million confirmed instances. The virus has gripped India’s populace with a severity not seen in its first wave. Mass funeral pyres, lines of ambulances outside overcrowded hospitals and desperate pleas on social media for oxygen underscore how unprepared India’s federal and state governments are to tackle the latest outbreak.

The unfolding tragedy is prompting some of the world’s biggest corporations to organize aid. Amazon.com is harnessing its global logistics supply chain to airlift 100 ICU ventilator units from the U.S., and the equipment will reach India in the next two weeks. Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella said he was “heartbroken” by the situation and the tech behemoth is using its voice, resources and technology to aid relief efforts and help buy oxygen concentrators.

Blackstone Group Chairman Stephen Schwarzman said his private equity firm is committing $5 million to support India’s covid relief and vaccination services to “marginalized communities.” Local companies, too, are wading in, with the philanthropic arm of India’s most valuable company — Reliance Industries Ltd., controlled by Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani — pledging to create, commission and manage 100 ICU beds that will become operational mid next month.

As thousands of doctors, nurses and non-medical professionals work around-the-clock to save what patients they can, countries around the rest of the world are drawing up their bridges.

Within Asia, Hong Kong banned flights from India, as well as Pakistan and the Philippines, for 14 days from April 20. Singapore has barred long-term pass holders and short-term visitors who have recently been in India from entering. Indonesia is also denying entry to people traveling from India.

Further afield, the U.K. has added India to its travel ban list, and the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have halted passenger flights from India. Canada last week banned flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days. Australia banned flights from India this week.

Travel Trends To Note As Americans Return To Travel

According to VacationRenter’s booking data, summertime rental reservations are up 125% this year over last. And as Americans resume travel, its data analysis reveals noteworthy travel trends among our customers as we look forward to summer 2021.

The US Travel Association concurs, that roughly 9 out of 10 Americans are planning to travel within the next six months. As travellers in the United States resume travel, they’re vacationing with safety (and fresh air) in mind. Here are five travel trends noted by VacationRenter:

1. Starting small

Looking at VacatonRenter’s current bookings for summer 2021, reservations for small groups — consisting of two or four people — are leading the charge by a significant margin. Even groups of six are outpacing odd-numbered bookings and larger groups. The upshot of this two-by-two trend: couples who have been isolating together seem to be traveling together.

2. Seeking private space

Overall, we’ve found that more people are seeking out accommodations and destinations with a guaranteed buffer zone from other travelers. Searches on the VacationRenter site for entire homes — as well as villas and cabins — far outpaced accommodations with shared spaces and amenities. In fact, bookings for houses and villas in March 2021 were up 160% and 200%, respectively, over the same time last year.

3. Choosing traditional and ocean-breezy destinations

While some folks may have headed for the hinterlands to isolate (or work remotely) during the height of the pandemic, there appears to be a return to traditional — yet still fresh-air-infused and outdoorsy — destinations from June through August. Destin, Florida tops the list for summertime destinations by 18%.

4. Pools and pet-friendly spaces

Pools and pets have proved to be the top filters for online summertime vacation searches in 2021. This spring, 28.1% of all travellers who booked through VacationRenter used its pool filter as they searched for their ideal summer getaway. A private pool or even a dip in an uncrowded, shared pool (given that most resorts and homeowners associations now limit pool numbers) has obvious appeal.

5. Last-minute bookings

VacationRenter saw many travelers booking within days of arrival, even to airline-accessed destinations, such as Puerto Rico — where a surprising 11% of bookings were made the day before travel.

(Courtesy:https://www.traveldailymedia.com/5-travel-trends-this-summer-as-americans-return-to-travel/?_cldee=bWluaWFqYXlAYW9sLmNvbQ%3d%3d&recipientid=contact-b027f40f0d70e911a2cb02bfc0a8017c-e858229d5bbe4fd2aeacb769a4520b11&esid=88c8086d-49ac-eb1)

New Restrictions For Travel To And From India

Once thought to be nearing ‘herd immunity’ with rapidly declining case numbers, India is now the latest hotspot experiencing a rapid surge of COVID-19 cases. This time around, the country is seeing cases linked to a “double mutant” coronavirus variant – which has been shown to be even more contagious than the initial virus. With the benefit of hindsight, countries around the world are taking swift action to cut off international travel to try and stop or at least slow the spread of this new variant. Let’s take a look at the countries now taking action, as well as what specific measures are being taken.

The UK, Singapore, New Zealand, Oman, Kuwait, the UAE, Iran, Hong Kong and Canada have imposed restrictions on passengers arriving from India by allowing only citizens to enter their borders. With Iran and Kuwait also suspending flights from India on account of the Covid-19 surge here, a dozen countries have now imposed some form of fresh restriction on travellers from India to protect their jurisdictions from the virus spread.

Which countries have imposed restrictions?

The UK, Singapore, New Zealand, Oman, Kuwait, the UAE, Iran, Hong Kong and Canada have imposed restrictions on passengers arriving from India by allowing only citizens to enter their borders. Even passengers who have been to India in the previous 14 days or are transiting through an airport in India are not allowed to enter.

Other countries like France have imposed a strict quarantine routine for passengers arriving from India, while the US has issued an advisory asking people not to travel to India, even if fully vaccinated. Australia, on the other hand, has said that it will restrict the number of its citizens that can enter its borders from India.

Why did United Airlines cancel its flights out of Delhi?

US-based United Airlines has canceled its flights out of Delhi to destinations such as Newark, San Francisco and Chicago citing “ongoing Covid-19 travel requirement discussions with local authorities” that were impacting its ability to operate the flights. However, the airline later said that it was resuming its flights from Sunday. Also, its Mumbai flights continued to operate as per schedule.

Has the US restricted travel from India?

No, the US has not yet announced any fresh restrictions on travelers from India. But the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention issued a non-binding advisory asking people to not go to India even if fully vaccinated. The US State Department has echoed this advisory. It must be noted though that the US Embassy in New Delhi has cancelled in-person visa appointments and interview-waiver appointments from April 26 till May 9 in light of “current pandemic conditions”. Emergency services for American citizens will continue and consulates in Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata will continue to offer limited visa appointments.

Air India cancels UK flights from April 24 to 30

National carrier Air India has decided to cancel flights between India and the UK from April 24 to 30. The move comes after Britain recently announced travel restrictions on non-UK and non-Irish citizens.

“Passengers who were to travel between India and UK, may kindly note that in view of recent restrictions announced by UK, flts from and to UK stand cancelled from 24th to 30th April ’21. Further updates regarding rescheduling, refunds & waivers will be informed shortly.”

“Between 24th to 30th April ’21 we are in a process to schedule once a week flight to UK from Delhi & Mumbai. Information regarding the same will also be updated on our Website and Social Media Channels.”

Recently, the UK said it will impose travel restrictions on air passengers coming from India due to the fast-spreading coronavirus variant in the South Asian country.

India was added in the ‘Red List’ of countries, or those countries whose citizens cannot freely travel to the UK. Reports had quoted UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock terming the decision as a difficult but a vital one to make.

As per norms, non-UK or Irish citizens will not be allowed to enter the European country post early morning on Friday. Presently, Vistara, Air India, Virgin Atlantic and British Airways operate flights between the two countries.

Last year, India had suspended all flights to and from the UK from December 23 in the wake of the new mutant strain of novel coronavirus found in the European country. (IANS)

Emirates suspends flight services to India from April 24

Dubai-based airline Emirates will suspend flight services to India from 11.59 p.m. of April 24. “Effective 24 April 2021 Saturday, 2359 local time Dubai and for the next 10 days, Emirates flights from India to the UAE will be suspended.”

“Furthermore, passengers who have transited through India in the last 14 days will not be accepted to travel from any other point to the UAE.”

Recently, the gulf country announced travel restriction on non-UAE citizens travelling from India. Non-UAE citizens will not be allowed entry into the country from April 25, for 10 days until May 4. The ban comes at a time when India is facing a massive surge in Covid-19 cases.

AAHOA Hires New VP of Government Affairs

ATLANTA, Ga., Apr. 19 – AAHOA, the nation’s largest hotel owners association, is pleased to welcome Dean Heyl as its new Vice President of Government Affairs. He will lead AAHOA’s Washington, D.C. office and join the association’s Executive Leadership Team.

“As hoteliers navigate the road to recovery, I am confident that Dean’s deep policy background and connections with lawmakers will enhance our advocacy efforts. Hotel owners across the country are struggling. The issues confronting them are complex, and we must continue to educate lawmakers about what they can do to help these small business owners come out on the other side of this pandemic. From labor and taxation issues to franchising and economic relief, Dean’s experience will be critical to supporting AAHOA’s ongoing advocacy efforts. His previous work with several national and international associations is an invaluable asset to our government affairs efforts. Dean is a valuable addition to our team and will help AAHOA further establish itself as the foremost resource and advocate for America’s hotel owners,” said AAHOA President & CEO Cecil P. Staton.

Heyl brings decades of experience from many sectors of the U.S. government and in the c-suites of substantial industry associations. Prior to joining AAHOA, he served as the U.S. Department of Labor’s director of the Office of Public Liaison where he reported directly to the U.S. Secretary of Labor. In this role, Dean was responsible for stakeholder outreach with an emphasis on COVID-19 issues, including PPP, as well as OSHA and Wage and Hour guidance. Dean also worked with several national and international associations as chief legal officer, federal lobbyist, executive director, and senior advisor.

Prior to his work for the Department of Labor, Heyl served as the International Franchise Association’s Chief Legal Officer, where he oversaw all federal, state and local advocacy efforts related to the franchise business model. Additionally, he worked for the Direct Selling Association as a state and federal lobbyist and before that was the Executive Director of the Coalition for Affordable Accounting. His earlier public sector experience includes serving as a senior advisor to the Idaho Attorney General and Governor. From 2008 – 2011, he was a member of the Internal Revenue Service Advisory Council.

“I have been fighting for entrepreneurs for more than 20 years and look forward to doing the same for AAHOA Members. AAHOA’s bold vision statement to be the foremost resource and advocate for America’s hotel owners resonated with me,” Heyl said. “I look forward to building upon AAHOA’s excellent government affairs foundation and helping the nation’s hoteliers progress on the road to recovery.”

AAHOA is the largest hotel owners association in the world. The nearly 20,000 AAHOA members represent almost one in every two hotels in the United States. With billions of dollars in property assets and hundreds of thousands of employees, AAHOA members are core economic contributors in virtually every community. AAHOA is a proud defender of free enterprise and the foremost current-day example of realizing the American dream.

Tourism in USA Looks Towards A Brighter 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it, severely affecting businesses across various industries. While some were able to survive with a shift to online sales and services, not every sector was as fortunate.

One of the most affected industries was tourism, and in the past year, it has struggled to bounce back from a dismal 2020, which saw a massive decline in tourist arrivals in and out of America. However, tourism in the U.S. may be on the rise again sooner than previously thought.

Limitations on travel have severely affected our pandemic-stricken country. The statistics are astounding, surpassing even the impact on the travel industry after 9/11, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA). As a result, tourism across the country is affected across different levels and state lines.

Popular destinations like California and New York have polarized projections. While California is expected to recover more quickly than the rest of the country thanks to strong fiscal relief and the waning pandemic, tourism in New York paints a very different picture. Highly anticipated events such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, the tree lighting at Rockefeller Center, and the New Year’s Eve ball drop saw a significant reduction in spectators, leading to a glum outlook. This leaves many wondering when pre-pandemic levels will be restored.

Las Vegas is another major tourist spot that was not spared from the effects of COVID-19, susceptible to the same sudden drop in visitors between 2019 and 2020. Fortunately, things are starting to look up for the city and its hotels a year after the pandemic gripped the country. As the number of COVID-19 cases drops and more people are vaccinated, fewer restrictions address much of the pent-up demand. Casino floors and restaurants can now operate at 50% capacity as large gatherings capped at half the limit can also take place.

The newfound attraction to Las Vegas is not only due to the confidence in lower COVID-19 cases and its respective recovery. It also helps that there’s a diverse range of tourist attractions here, to begin with, as highlighted by this list of things to do in Sin City by Poker.org. The Strip is home to resorts like the Aria, Bellagio, and the Venetian – all iconic destinations in their own right. You’ll also find well-loved restaurants like Peppermill that are absolutely worth the visit. Exploring Vegas goes beyond the city lights as tourists can also take in the majestic views of Red Rock Canyon. These attractions are just some of the highlights that visitors can enjoy when in Nevada as the COVID-19 outlook continues to look even more promising in the coming months.

As some tourist hotspots like Vegas boast a positive path to recovery, others are still very much clouded in uncertainty. States such as Florida and equally sunny Hawaii fall somewhere in the middle, with more than half of Hawaiians opposing the return of tourists while others seek to encourage more movement in tourism.

What’s Next for Tourism in the U.S.?

The varying states of progress in these tourist hotspots illustrate how the fight against COVID-19 still has a long way to go, especially when it comes to the tourism industry. However, there is one fact present in all these examples: Progress is well underway. The Biden administration’s goal to vaccinate 100 million people in the first quarter provides much needed support for local businesses, especially smaller-sized enterprises. Whether you’re a local hotel hoping for guests or a restaurant that needs diners, there is a silver lining yet to be reached akin to Vegas’ impressive and optimistic trajectory.

Kerala Bags Gold at the Indian Responsible Tourism Awards

Adding yet another feather to its cap, Kerala Tourism’s Responsible Tourism initiative has earned the coveted gold in the ‘Best Future Forward State’ category at the sixth edition of the Indian Responsible Tourism Awards. The event was held in Konark in Odisha. Meanwhile, Odisha received the silver in this segment.
This is the 11th award that Kerala’s Responsible Tourism Mission has earned since its launch in 2017, including six international awards like WTM’s Gold, PATA Gold, World Sustainable Tourism Award and so on.

“This recognition underlines the fact that Kerala has become a successful model for the whole country for sustainable tourism development,” said Ms. Rani George IAS, Principal Secretary Tourism, Government of Kerala.

“This award has come when we are planning to extend the RT initiatives to the local body level across the entire state, and it will be an encouragement to the endeavour,” said Mr. V. R. Krishna Teja IAS, Director Tourism.

Kerala RT Mission State Co-ordinator Mr. K. Rupesh Kumar said that the award is dedicated to the over one lakh members of the RT Mission from across the state.

Houseboat industry leaves behind a substantial amount of carbon footprints in environment, resulting in global warming and loss of biodiversity. On an average, a typical fossil-powered houseboat releases about 8 kg of CO2 / hour from propulsion system and a hotel-load standalone generator releases 5 kg of CO2 / hour, according to a survey.

Switching to alternative energy sources will mitigate the threats to environment. For this, Energy Management Centre (EMC) – Kerala and technology partner C-DAC, Thiruvananthapuram, have implemented a solar-powered low-voltage direct current (LVDC) power distribution in houseboats to offset carbon footprints by almost 90 per cent. The annual profit from Rs. 9.38 lakh project is estimated at Rs. 2.5 lakh with repayment in 4 years.

In the system, LVDC architecture is integrated with solar PV system and battery bank. This system can power the houseboat for a whole day without depending on standby grid power.  Hotel loads in the houseboats will be fed from a 6kWp mono-crystalline flexible solar PV array (for 2 bedrooms, hall and kitchen). Lighting, fan, AC, geysers and cooking, which accounts for 30-40 per cent of the daily energy cost, will be switched to solar power.

The architecture can be configured to cater to different classes of houseboats based on the connected load. The switching to renewable energy can ring in an annual energy savings of 85 per cent, saving 2,650 litres of petrol for a 2 BHK houseboat. The carbon footprint per guest gets reduced to 0.74 ton CO2/day. Also, the technology change increases the reliability of power supply along with fully eliminating the problem of harmonics, and ensures safety of appliances. It also increases the comfort to tourists due to reduction in noise and vibration.

In the next phase of the project, EMC-CDAC plans to electrify the propulsion (driving) system, which accounts for 60-70 per cent of the energy use.

America’s Hoteliers Welcome New CDC Travel Guidelines

AAHOA President & CEO Cecil P. Staton issued the following statement in response to new guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that greenlight fully vaccinated people to resume travel. Over 100 million Americans have had at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and evidence of the vaccine’s efficacy continues to grow:

“The new CDC travel guidelines are welcome news for America’s hoteliers and the millions of Americans who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. For more than a year, lockdowns, curfews, and quarantines in response to the pandemic decimated the travel and tourism industry as people simply stopped traveling.

The Biden administration’s aggressive vaccination goals and recent studies on the different vaccines’ real-world effectiveness are giving people the confidence they need to safely resume pre-pandemic activities like travel. It could not have come at a better time for hoteliers, for the gradual reopening of America now could lead to significant increases in occupancy and revenue during the summer season. The hotel industry’s road to economic recovery is long. A full recovery remains unlikely until at least 2023, but this news is a shot in the arm to the hotel owners and hospitality professionals who are eager to welcome guests back into their hotels and communities.”

HOA is the largest hotel owners association in the world. The nearly 20,000 AAHOA members represent almost one in every two hotels in the United States. With billions of dollars in property assets and hundreds of thousands of employees, AAHOA members are core economic contributors in virtually every community. AAHOA is a proud defender of free enterprise and the foremost current-day example of realizing the American dream.

Assaulted By Humans & Nature, Taj Needs Better Care

The 17th century monument of love, the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra, is feeling the heat of abruptly rising temperature, sand blasting by seasonal dust storms and human apathy.

“The temperature has gone up steeply in the last few days and there have been a series of sand storms,” said Surendra Sharma, President of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.

Despite a series of directions by the Supreme Court and the National Green Tribunal, successive governments have been dragging their feet to rejuvenate the Yamuna river by containing pollution and maintaining flow of water round the year, complained green activist Shravan Kumar Singh.

After a brief respite during the 180-day lockdown triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic last year, the Taj is again looking pale, notwithstanding the mud therapy and other measures to beautify the monument.

Heritage conservationists in Agra say that if the monument looks pale to the visitors, the reason is the dry and heavily polluted Yamuna that once formed an integral part of the Taj Mahal complex.

Standing tall in the scorching summer sun, the monument of love is enveloped in yellowish sand from the neighbouring Rajasthan deserts. Any discernible visitor can tell that the summer heat is taking its toll on the Taj Mahal, blasted by sand from the dry Yamuna bed and the dust-laden winds from the Rajasthan deserts.

The gaps left by illegal mining in the Aravali ranges has raised the SPM (suspended particulate matter) in Agra. Against a standard of 100 microns per cubic metre, it remains as high as 300, touching 500 during the summer months. The problem is that sandy particles rub against the monument and leave pox marks, making the surface rough, as has been pointed out in many studies.

However, conservationists say that the crisis the Taj confronts comes not merely from nature and pollution, but also from the people — with too many tourists and vehicles visiting Agra.

The number of vehicles in the city has shot up from around 40,000 in 1985 when Firozabad too was part of the Agra district, to more than a million now. The opening of the Yamuna Expressway has increased vehicular traffic. The pressure of heavy vehicles on the Delhi-Kolkata, Delhi-Mumbai and Lucknow-Agra National Highways passing through Agra has increased phenomenally.

Adding to its fatigue is the ever-increasing human load. From a few hundred tourists some decades ago, the Taj is now daily visited by thousands of people. The tourism industry that thrives on milking the Taj Mahal wants more sops for the visitors to attract them to Agra, but the conservationists want restrictions imposed to gradually reduce the human load.

Visitors who see the Taj Mahal for the first time never forget to ask the guides, “Is it turning yellow?”

The explanation given by the guides is that it is the outcome of the natural ageing process and has nothing to do with industrial pollution, as all polluting industries in Agra region have been shut down by the Supreme Court.

To ensure its dazzling whiteness and remove the stains left behind by the pollutants on the Taj Mahal, originally called ‘Bagh e Baahist’, the Archaeological Survey of India carries out periodic ‘multani mitti’ (Fuller’s earth) treatment. The white marble surface is washed with soap and water too on Fridays when the monument breathes freely to enjoy its weekly off.

When thousands of tourists ‘invade’ the serene monument every day, leaving behind hand and foot marks on the white stones, and tonnes of noxious gases through breathing, the cumulative affect on the fragile structure is huge.

Only a few tourists are genuinely aware of the historic significance of the monument and its great heritage value, but there are hordes of others who care nothing for the sanctity of the Taj.

While the problem of human load will be sorted out shortly, as a number of studies are being conducted by the ASI, the sad state of the Yamuna river at the rear is a huge problem that defies solution. According to Ved Goutam, a tour guide, Agra has already become a desert.

“When you see the camels moving around on the dry river bed, you get the impression that Agra is in a desert, a part of the Rajasthan state,” he said.

The Archaeological Survey of India has restored the Mehtab Bagh at the rear of the Taj Mahal and the state forest department has developed a dense green buffer along the river bank on the opposite side.

But the major problem is the Yamuna, which has been reduced to a ‘sewage canal’. Fears are being raised that if there is no fresh supply of water in the river that touches the Taj foundation to provide a shock-absorbing buffer to insulate the building from seismic movements, the monument could tilt, cave in or struggle for stability. (IANS)

U.S. Tourism Sets Sights on a Hopeful 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it, severely affecting businesses across various industries. While some were able to survive with a shift to online sales and services, not every sector was as fortunate.

One of the most affected industries was tourism, and in the past year, it has struggled to bounce back from a dismal 2020, which saw a massive decline in tourist arrivals in and out of America. However, tourism in the U.S. may be on the rise again sooner than previously thought.

Tourism in Pandemic-Stricken America

Limitations on travel have severely affected our pandemic-stricken country. The statistics are astounding, surpassing even the impact on the travel industry after 9/11, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA). As a result, tourism across the country is affected across different levels and state lines.

Popular destinations like California and New York have polarized projections. While California is expected to recover more quickly than the rest of the country thanks to strong fiscal relief and the waning pandemic, tourism in New York paints a very different picture. Highly anticipated events such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, the tree lighting at Rockefeller Center, and the New Year’s Eve ball drop saw a significant reduction in spectators, leading to a glum outlook. This leaves many wondering when pre-pandemic levels will be restored.

Las Vegas is another major tourist spot that was not spared from the effects of COVID-19, susceptible to the same sudden drop in visitors between 2019 and 2020. Fortunately, things are starting to look up for the city and its hotels a year after the pandemic gripped the country. As the number of COVID-19 cases drops and more people are vaccinated, fewer restrictions address much of the pent-up demand. Casino floors and restaurants can now operate at 50% capacity as large gatherings capped at half the limit can also take place.

The newfound attraction to Las Vegas is not only due to the confidence in lower COVID-19 cases and its respective recovery. It also helps that there’s a diverse range of tourist attractions here, to begin with, as highlighted by this list of things to do in Sin City by Poker.org. The Strip is home to resorts like the Aria, Bellagio, and the Venetian – all iconic destinations in their own right. You’ll also find well-loved restaurants like Peppermill that are absolutely worth the visit. Exploring Vegas goes beyond the city lights as tourists can also take in the majestic views of Red Rock Canyon. These attractions are just some of the highlights that visitors can enjoy when in Nevada as the COVID-19 outlook continues to look even more promising in the coming months.

As some tourist hotspots like Vegas boast a positive path to recovery, others are still very much clouded in uncertainty. States such as Florida and equally sunny Hawaii fall somewhere in the middle, with more than half of Hawaiians opposing the return of tourists while others seek to encourage more movement in tourism.

What’s Next for Tourism in the U.S.?

  • The varying states of progress in these tourist hotspots illustrate how the fight against COVID-19 still has a long way to go, especially when it comes to the tourism industry. However, there is one fact present in all these examples: Progress is well underway. The Biden administration’s goal to vaccinate 100 million peoplein the first quarter provides much needed support for local businesses, especially smaller-sized enterprises. Whether you’re a local hotel hoping for guests or a restaurant that needs diners, there is a silver lining yet to be reached akin to Vegas’ impressive and optimistic trajectory.SAG top honours for ‘Chicago 7’ sets up intriguing Oscar raceThe Trial Of The Chicago 7 — Aaron Sorkin’s 1969 courtroom drama for Netflix — was judged the year’s best performance by a motion picture cast at the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards for film and television on Sunday. Starring the likes of Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne, Frank Langella and Mark Rylance, it marked the first time a film from any streaming service won the guild’s ensemble award.
  • The win now strengthens the film’s case for the Oscars (April 25). This even as modern recession-era movie Nomadlandgrabbed many of the pre-Oscar awards, including the Golden Globes.
  • The SAG awards though remain a key predictor of Oscar glory, where actors form the largest voting bloc. FYI: Last year, South Korea’s Parasitebegan its historic charge to the Best Picture Oscar by winning SAG’s top prize.
  • Also:For the first time in SAG awards’ 27-year history, all four of the winning film actors were people of colour. The late Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis picked up the best actor and best actress awards, respectively, for jazz period film Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
  • And while Daniel Kaluuya won best supporting actor for portraying Black Panther leader Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah, South Korea’s Yuh-jung Youn won best supporting actress for Minari, an immigrant tale set in 1980s Arkansas.

India’s Golden Chariot Luxury Train Resumes From Bengaluru

The Golden Chariot luxury train to tourist destinations and heritage sites across south India resumed from Bengaluru after a four year break, an official said on Sunday.

“The 6-coach luxury train chugged off from Yesvantpur station in the city with South Western Railway General Manager A.K. Singh flagging it off,” Bengaluru Divisional Manager A.K. Verma told IANS.

In its first-round trip, christened ‘the Pride of Karnataka’, the train will cover Bandipur national park, Mysuru, Halebidu, Chikkamagaluru as well as Goa in 6 days and 7 nights.

The week-long journey also takes passengers to Unesco world heritage sites of Badami caves, Pattadakal temples and Hampi palace ruins in the state’s northwest region before returning to Bengaluru.

“Though the train has capacity to carry 48 passengers in single and double cabins in 6 coaches, about 30 of them are travelling in this trip, occupying single and double cabins,” said Verma.

In its second-round trip, christened ‘Jewels of South India’ from March 21, the train will chug through Mysuru to Mahabalipuram, Thanjavur and Chettinad in Tamil Nadu and Kochi in Kerala, including its backwaters in 3 nights and 4 days.

The ticket fare for deluxe cabin is Rs 3,20,130 for 2 persons and Rs 2,40,100 for a single passenger.

The package includes onboard meals, transport for sightseeing, entrance fee to all tourist sites covered in the trip and charge of guides.

Launched originally by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) in partnership with the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC) in 2008, the former took over the operations of the train in 2020.

“The train offers travellers an opportunity to experience the historical, architectural and scenic beauty of South India in the comfort of luxurious amenities and international service standards,” said the IRCTC in a statement.

The renovated and refurbished luxury coaches boast of complimentary WiFi and OTT streaming onboard, choice of Indian and international cuisine, and wines.

The service includes cultural shows by artistes onboard.

Each of the 6 coaches are named after dynasties that ruled south India over the centuries.

Each coach has 4 cabins with a mix of 30 twin beds and 13 doubles beds. One cabin has been designed for specially-abled.

Two restaurants — Ruchi and Nalapaka — serve delicious meals while ‘Madira’ bar serves choicest of beers, spirits and wines.

Arogya, the spa-cum-fitness center offers traditional Ayurvedic therapies with modern workout machines. (IANS)

The Kovalam Experience

With its crescent-shaped, palm-fringed beaches, golden sands and beautiful vistas, Kovalam is the favourite beach destination of any traveller. Earlier, in the 1970s, Kovalam was known for being part of the hippie trail. The beach has changed over the years but continues to charm travellers with its aura and enrich them with a multitude of experiences.

Kovalam is a small coastal town in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala. With its three crescent-shaped beaches, and the cultural, heritage, wellness, zen, and adventure sports experiences they have on offer, Kovalam is a beach lover’s paradise.

The beaches have turned into a destination that has something in store for everyone. Be the traveller or tourist an ardent beach lover, a culture buff, an adventure junkie, or one searching for the inner self, Kovalam has something to bestow.

Every day is a lazy, laid-back day here if you want it to be, that is. You can begin your day with a hot cuppa in hand, walk along languid sandy stretches and laze away to glory.  Or, you can start your day on a high note, by hopping onto a catamaran and riding into the sea! That is the beauty of Kovalam. There is never a dearth of activity (or reasons for inactivity) here, and you will be smothered by a range of vibrant options regarding how to spend the day.

Kovalam has three beaches viz. Hawa Beach or Eve’s beach; Grove’s Beach (Samudra Beach) which is also called Kovalam Beach, and the Light House Beach. The lighthouse beach is famed for its mighty lighthouse which offers a breathtaking aerial view of Kovalam.

The experiences it offers include sunbathing, swimming, catamaran cruises, and water sports such as boating, scuba diving, parasailing, surfing, and so on. You can alternately indulge in some holistic or wellness treatment such as yoga and Ayurveda.

And if you need to experience some piety, then head to the Azhimala Siva Temple which is an ancient place of worship that boasts of a uniquely crafted mega sculpture of Lord Siva.

You can also head to the Kerala Arts and Crafts Village to experience the cultural wealth of Kerala. You get to take home that souvenir you have been longing for or interact with artists and artisans at their workplace or craft studios.

If you need the ultimate Kerala experience, Kovalam is where you head off to!

Blackstone, Starwood Capital Team Up in $6 Billion Purchase of Extended Stay

Blackstone Group Inc. and Starwood Capital Group have agreed to acquire hotel owner and operator Extended Stay America Inc. for $6 billion, a bet that a rare bright spot for the lodging industry during Covid-19 can shine brighter as the U.S. emerges from the pandemic.

The companies provided details of the deal, which real-estate executives say is the largest sale in the hotel sector during the Covid-19 period earlier this week.

As bookings plunged across the U.S. hotel industry over the last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Extended Stay, which specializes in economy temporary housing for healthcare professionals, proved stronger than its peers.

Private equity company Blackstone’s and investment firm Starwood’s cash offer of $19.50 per share represents a premium of 15.1% to Extended Stay’s share closing price on Friday.

Shares of Extended Stay, which owns and operates 650 hotels in the United States, rose more than 17% before the opening bell.

“Extended Stay has demonstrated resilience over the past year despite persistent challenges due to government lockdowns and travel restrictions,” said Barry Sternlicht, chief executive officer of Starwood Capital.

“We are excited about the company’s growth opportunity as restrictions ease.”

Extended Stay’s stock has more than doubled in the past 12 months, outperforming its larger peers Marriott and Hilton which gained between 60% and 65%.

Extended Stay is a midprice hotel chain that focuses on lodging for guests interested in staying for weeks or longer, offering kitchen facilities and more space than a typical hotel room. During the pandemic, its rooms and suites attracted essential workers, healthcare professionals and others who needed to travel.

That business helped Extended Stay achieve a 74% occupancy rate last year, Blackstone said. The average occupancy rate across all U.S. hotels was 44%, according to hotel data-tracking firm STR.

Will COVID-19 Vaccine Passports Be The Next Must For All Travelers?

In a move welcomed by many of Europe’s traumatized travel destinations, the European Union’s leadership is considering a digital health pass that would allow E.U. citizens who have received a COVID-19 vaccine to travel for work or tourism.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, tweeted that the goal of such a “Digital Green Pass” is to provide “proof that a person has been vaccinated; results of tests for those who couldn’t get a vaccine yet; [and] info on COVID-19 recovery” enabling residents to move safely within the E.U. and abroad.

Israel, which has successfully vaccinated 39% of its population, has already implemented a similar program, called a “green pass” that allows the vaccinated access to gyms, concerts and restaurants, while Denmark has already announced its own plans to introduce a digital health passport.

There are also several private-sector and non-government digital health passports already being rolled out, including the IATA Travel Pass, which was developed by the International Air Transport Association for travellers. Another getting significant traction is CommonPass, developed by The Commons Project Foundation, a non-profit that builds digital data platforms for public good, which will be used by Jet Blue, Lufthansa and United in coming weeks. The organization is also in talks with hotels, concert venues and sports leagues in the United States.

The idea is not without controversy, particularly among human rights activists, data protection advocates and countries with limited access to vaccines. Nonetheless, vaccine passports, if implemented well, offer one of the fastest routes to controlling the coronavirus while shoring up economies devasted by COVID-induced restrictions. Should the rest of the world catch up?

Where would vaccine passports be used?

The tourism industry is the most eager to put them into practice. Airlines such as Qantas are already demanding proof of vaccination or recovery for international flights; so too are certain cruise lines. Spain and Greece, whose tourism-dependent economies desperately need a robust summer travel season, are considering opening up travel corridors with the U.K. and Israel, respectively, to citizens who can prove their vaccination status.

There are applications beyond travel as well: Universities could open up with confidence knowing that their students are vaccinated, employers could start hiring again, movie theaters and concert venues could once again open their doors.

How would vaccine passports work?

Typically, they will entail an app that users can show officials to prove their status. The CommonPass app notifies users of entry rules, such as a vaccine or a negative COVID-19 test, then helps verify that they have met the requirements, either by connecting with the relevant clinic, health authority or pharmacy that provided the service, or by having the consumer download test results or vaccination information to their phone. The data itself is not stored on the user’s phone; instead the app generates a QR code that can be scanned just like a digital boarding pass, confirming that the customer has met the requirements. Customers without smart phones can print out the confirmation codes instead.

Unlike country- or industry-specific digital health apps, CommonPass does not set the rules. It allows gatekeepers to set their own parameters, whether they are specific test providers, authorized vaccination clinics or recovery criteria, and provides the platform to ensure they are met. “Ultimately, what we’re really building is a common trust network,” says CEO Paul Meyer — an internationally recognized registry of verified health organizations, so that a country or venue can be confident that their specific needs are met.

I have a paper that says I am vaccinated. Shouldn’t that be enough proof?

It’s true that countries in Africa and Asia have long demanded proof of vaccination against yellow fever and other diseases from visitors. But the “yellow card’ used for verification is easy to forge and hard to replace (getting an additional vaccine is often easier than getting a new card, even if it’s not medically advised).

Having these kinds of vaccine “cards” for COVID-19 would be even more complicated. With great demand and limited supplies of vaccines, the potential for fraud is high. So too is the possibility of confusion: there are multiple vaccines currently in use globally, with more in the pipeline. And people who have already had the virus may, in the future, need different vaccine requirements.

Juggling those multiple criteria would present a major challenge for immigration officials, airline check-in counters and other doorkeepers. Governments may want travel and commerce to resume as quickly as possible, says Meyer. But their first obligation is to the health and safety of their populations. “If everyone’s wandering around with pieces of paper in random languages about some test they allegedly got on the other side of the planet, it’s hard to make the decision to open up,” he says. “What a universally recognized health pass achieves is confidence that the person who wants to come into my country is the same person who actually got that vaccine. I know what kind of vaccine it was, and how long ago. I know what kind of test was given, and that was it from a reputable lab instead of some fly by night clinic that happened to have a printer.”

How long will it take before vaccine passports are widespread?

A couple of months at least. European nations like Spain and Greece are hoping to have systems set up in time for the summer travel season, but it will take time to get all the regulations in place.

The bigger problem in the E.U. is access to vaccines. The United States says it will have enough vaccines for its entire population by end of May, and the United Kingdom anticipates that all over-50s will be vaccinated by that time. But, due to the slow rollout of vaccines on the continent, it won’t be until September that E.U. citizens will be in a similar position, long after the peak holiday season. This summer could resemble something out of an E. M. Forster novel, with vaccine-rich Americans and Brits taking over southern Europe’s holiday hotspots, while locals are forced to stay at home.

That disparity could actually lead to an increase in cases, says Francisco Femenia-Serra, a tourism specialist at Nebrija University’s Social Sciences School in Madrid. While vaccines stave off severe COVID-19 cases in vaccinated individuals, it is not yet clear if they can prevent transmission. “We will have tourists who are protected by the vaccine, and that is important, but what about local communities? If our tourism and hospitality industry workers are not protected it could be another disaster.”

Isn’t it unfair to require vaccine passports when not everyone can get one, or wants to get one?

That’s the argument of countries like France and Germany, and organizations such as the World Health Organization, who say that health passes tied to vaccinations will increase inequality until everyone has an opportunity to get vaccinated. The U.K’s Equality and Human Rights Commission says vaccine requirements for travel or access to venues could lead to “unlawful discrimination.” Belgium’s acting foreign minister, Sophie Wilmès, tweeted that while the idea of a standardized European vaccine verification system was a good one, there should be “no question of linking vaccination to the freedom of movement around Europe. Respect for the principle of non-discrimination is more fundamental than ever since vaccination is not compulsory and access to the vaccine is not yet generalised.”

The proposed health passes will likely increase inequality, says Anthony Dworkin, Senior Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, but they will still be vital for economies reeling from lockdowns and travel restrictions: “Some element of unfairness is the price we will have to pay for a kind of partial reopening.”

Ok, I’m fully vaccinated, I downloaded the app, and I’ve booked my tickets. Can I throw away my mask?

Nope. Even with health passports in hand, social distancing measures will still have to stay in place for a long while yet. Not everyone can or will get the vaccine, and the risk of new variants looms large. Until vaccines are universally available, that means even holiday hotspots will have to ensure that venues are well-ventilated, patrons wear masks, and everyone keeps washing their hands.

“A vaccine passport alone won’t bring us back to normal,” says Femenia-Serra. “It’s just one small step towards healing the economic devastation [in the tourism sector]. A passport or a negative test shouldn’t be an excuse to do whatever I want. Once I get to wherever I am going, I still need to behave in the right way. Because if we don’t, there is another disaster waiting for us after the summer is over.”

India Issues New Guidelines For International Arrivals

The Government of India has refreshed its guidelines for international arrival in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus, with a specific focus on those arriving from the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa.

 

Which international passengers are these new guidelines applicable to?

 

These new Standard Operating Procedures are applicable for all incoming international travelers coming in from the UK, Brazil or South Africa transiting through flights originating from the UK, Europe and Middle East. The broader categorization for these locations has been done because there are no direct flights between India, and Brazil and South Africa; and most of the passengers arriving from these countries arrive through transiting flights from Europe or Middle East.

 

What are the guidelines for international passengers arriving from these places?

 

In addition to the usual procedures of filing out a self-declaration form and submitting it on the Air Suvidha portal at http://www.newdelhiairport.in, those arriving on flights from the UK, Europe and the Middle East will have to get an RT-PCR test done prior to their flight and will be mandatorily subjected to self-paid confirmatory molecular tests on arrival at the Indian port of entry. If the outcome of these tests at the airport is negative, the passengers have to undergo home quarantine for seven days and then get re-tested. If they again test negative, they must self-monitor their health for another seven days. However, in case they test positive at any stage after arrival, they will be put in isolation and the treatment protocols will be applicable.

 

What do passengers needs to keep in mind?

 

For passengers taking onward flights to smaller airports after arriving at one of the international hubs in India like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Kochi, etc it will be mandatory to declare their final destination while filling out the self-declaration form prior to taking the flight. Upon arrival at the port of entry, like all other passengers in this category, they will have to go through the mandatory self-paid confirmatory molecular tests, and will be allowed on their connecting flights only if they test negative. Therefore, the government has recommended that for all those taking connecting flights within India, there should be a gap of at least 6-8 hours between the two flights. For example, if someone taking a flight from Johannesburg to Ranchi via Dubai and Delhi, there should be at least 6-8 hours of time between the flight arriving into Delhi from Dubai and the one departing from Delhi to Ranchi.

 

How will passengers arriving from Brazil, the UK and South Africa be identified?

 

The government has asked airlines to identify the international travellers arriving from or transiting through United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa (during past 14 days) and segregate them in-flight or while disembarking to facilitate the authorities to follow the due protocol in respect of these travellers. The immigration officers of these airports will also ensure identification of travellers from their passports, who originated or transited from the UK, Brazil and South Africa during past 14 days.

 

What about other international passengers?

 

For other passengers not falling in this category, the rules remain the same and they will be subject to the existing exemptions and quarantine norms upon arrival. However, all those who came in contact of travelers arriving from UK, South Africa and Brazil who test positive (either at the airport or subsequently during home quarantine period), shall be subjected to institutional quarantine in separate quarantine centers and would be tested on the seventh day (or earlier if develop symptoms). These will supersede all guidelines issued since August 2, 2020.

 

“This Standard Operating Procedure shall be valid w.e.f. 22nd February 2021 (23.59 Hrs IST) till further orders,” the Ministry of Civil Aviation said in a statement on Wednesday.

The guideines have been divided in three sections based on the origin of travel.

All international travellers except those coming through flights originating from United Kingdom, Europe and Middle East will be required to submit a self-declaration form on the online ‘Air Suvidha’ portal before the scheduled travel.

 

They would also need to upload a negative Covid-19 RT-PCR test report. This test should have been conducted within 72 hours prior to undertaking the journey.

 

“Each passenger shall also submit a declaration with respect to authenticity of the report and will be liable for criminal prosecution, if found otherwise,” the guidelines said.

According to the guidelines, all international travellers coming or transiting through flights originating from the United Kingdom, Europe and Middle East have to additionally submit a Self-Declaration Form (SDF) for Covid on the online ‘Air Suvidha’ portal before the scheduled travel and will be required to declare their travel history of the past 14 days.

 

“While filling SDF, apart from providing all other information required in the SDF, passengers need to select: Whether they plan to disembark at the arrival airport or take further flights to reach their final destination in India.”

 

“Based on this selection, the receipt of SDF will display ‘T’ (Transit) in easily readable and bigger font than other text. The passengers will need to display this receipt to the state authority or government officials at the airport for segregation.”

 

As per the guidelines, travelers from the UK, Brazil and South Africa taking connecting flights from the international airport they land at will have to give a sample at designated area and exit the airport only after confirmation of negative test report which may take 6-8 hours.

 

“Those transit travelers from UK, Brazil and South Africa who are found negative on testing at the airport shall be allowed to take their connecting flights and would be advised quarantine at home for 7 days and regularly followed up by the concerned state or district IDSP. These travelers shall be tested after 7 days and if negative, released from quarantine, and continue to monitor their health for a further 7 days.” (IANS)

Hyderabad Recognized As 2020 Tree City of the World

The Arbor Day Foundation and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation have recognised Hyderabad as 2020 Tree City of the World.

 

The southern city is the only from India to get the recognition for its commitment to growing and maintaining the urban forest. Through this recognition, Hyderabad will join a network of like-minded cities who recognise the importance of trees in building healthy, resilient and happy cities, officials said on Thursday.

 

Hyderabad earned recognition in the Foundation’s second year of the programme along with 51 other cities across the world during 2020 and cumulatively 120 cities from 63 countries. Most of the cities were from countries like the US, the UK, Canada, Australia etc.

Congratulating Hyderabad on earning 2020 Tree Cities of the world recognition alongside 120 cities from 63 countries, Dan Lambe, President, Arbor Day Foundation said that it is now part of an important global network leading the way in urban and community forestry.

 

He remarked that now more than ever, trees and forests are a vital component of healthy livable, and sustainable cities and towns around the globe. Hyderabad’s commitment to effective urban forest management is helping to ensure better future for its residents.

Telangana’s Municipal Administration & Urban Development Department had applied for this recognition on January 31. The department has been in the forefront and executing ‘Haritha Haram’ programme since inception. Apart from that, urban forest blocks are also being developed in identified pockets.

 

Hyderabad pledged its commitment by meeting five programme standards that show its dedication and determination towards planting and conserving trees for a greener future. It is demonstrating leadership in management of its urban trees and is serving as part of the solution to many of the global issues today.

 

Municipal Administration and Urban Development Minister K.T. Rama Rao expressed his happiness over the recognition received by Hyderabad. “This is an acknowledgment of our efforts to improve green cover as part of Haritha Haram programme,” he tweeted.

Haritha Haram is a flagship programme of the state government for large scale plantation across the state to increase the green cover. (IANS)

Travel, Hospitality Sectors Hit Hardest By Covid-19: Report

The tourism, travel and hospitality industries have been hit the hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic, a report by Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) said.

Accordingly, the survey report results reflect an across-the-board decline in revenue, with very large companies most likely to have experienced a considerable decline in revenue.

“Despite the general decline in revenues among firms of all sizes, one-third of our survey respondents felt they were doing better than their competition, and fewer than 10 per cent felt they were lagging behind their competitors,” IMA said in a statement.

 

“Companies’ beliefs in how they were faring compared to their competitors was influenced by firm size: larger firms (greater than 1,000 employees) were more likely (39 per cent) to believe they were ahead of their competition than smaller (less than 100 employees) ones (29 per cent).”

 

Besides, financial professionals’ employed with tourism, travel and hospitality industry have also been the hardest hit by the pandemic. According to the report, 13 per cent of financial professionals’ employed with tourism, travel and hospitality industry were furloughed and 58 per cent received pay cuts.

 

“Also, relatively hard hit were professionals in the government, not-for-profit, and education sectors, 5 per cent of whom were furloughed and 52 per cent receiving a salary decrease.”

 

“By contrast, the sectors that showed the highest resilience were accounting and finance followed by IT, telecom, and tech, followed by financial services, banking, and real estate.”

 

The report is based on a survey of 1,481 accounting and finance professionals located in five countries: China, India, Saudi Arabia (KSA), the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the United States (U.S.).

Furthermore, the report highlighted a board revenue decline – with large companies suffering more than their smaller counterparts.

 

Interestingly, the report cited that many companies reported that despite the pandemic, they are faring better than the competition.

 

“Only a marginal few confided that they were worse off than their peers. From a staffing perspective, only half the companies surveyed revealed that they retrenched employees during this period.”

 

“The pandemic has affected employment and the compensation of those still employed. Most survey respondents revealed that they have had a reduction in their compensation, either in salary, bonus, or both.” (IANS)

Countries That Are Welcoming US Tourists Back

Once one of the world’s most powerful travel documents, the might of the US passport has been diminished during the pandemic. With US Covid-19 cases now beyond the 26 million mark, some nations continue to view American vacationers warily.

The current global pandemic has many Americans rethinking the way they travel. Road trips and camping vacations have grown in popularity, as many Americans have discovered the country has more than its fair share of stunning natural landscapes, from the Grand Canyon to Acadia National Park. Some people have even created memorable vacations in their backyards.

However, if you’re itching to leave the U.S., there are several countries around the world that will accept you (and your negative coronavirus test results), though some specific restrictions will apply. If you decide to travel, be sure to evaluate the risks and understand the safest ways to travel. You should also look out for yourself and others by taking necessary safety precautions and investing in one of the best face masks for travel.

Note that due to the pandemic, travel guidelines are constantly changing; you’ll want to check your destination’s official tourism website periodically before your trip. And, consider purchasing travel insurance, so you don’t lose money if your U.S. passport is no longer accepted at the last minute.

Below are the countries that currently accept travelers from the United States. If you decide to travel, you’ll also want to check with the State Department for information on returning from your visit as there are some restrictions in place, including specific airports you must transit through and quarantine rules in some cases. As of Jan. 26, the CDC requires all passengers traveling to the U.S. from a foreign country (including American citizens) to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than three days before their flight. (Note: All mentions of coronavirus tests refer to the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test unless otherwise stated. This information was accurate at the time of publication and will be updated as additional information becomes available.)

In the end, it’s up to you to decide whether travel to international destinations is a good idea. There are obvious health risks. Nations might change rules at any time. You may have to follow stricter curfews and mask mandates than Americans are used to. Violations could involve hefty fines and even jail time. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US State Department provide Covid-19 risk assessments by country.

Also, keep this in mind: All air passengers age 2 and older must show proof of a negative Covid-19 test that’s no more than 72 hours old to enter the United States. That includes US citizens returning from trips to other countries. Be sure to get information on testing sites in your destination for your return trip before you go. US embassies report some places are having trouble returning test results within the 72-hour window.

A current list of nations one can from USA is available at: https://travel.usnews.com/features/where-can-americans-travel-right-now

(Picture: LoveExloring)

Airlines Are Making it Easier for Travelers to Submit COVID-19 Tests

One of the most comprehensive COVID-19 travel regulations is now in effect, nearly a year into the pandemic. All travelers—including citizens—entering the U.S. need a negative COVID test in order to board a flight from an international destination. The screening must be a viral test taken within three days of departure, according to the protocols put in place by the CDC.

Airlines are responsible for verifying the medical documentation, and in some cases denying boarding to those without proper test results. As a result, carriers have adapted a slew of new technologies to streamline the new process.

United Airlines, for instance, launched a “Travel-Ready Center” on Monday. Available through United’s app and website, the new online hub is a “one-stop shop where customers can review their specific COVID-19 travel requirements for upcoming travel, find local testing options in select markets, and upload any testing or vaccination records,” the airline says. 

When a passenger uploads their test records to the Travel-Ready Center, United employees verify them electronically. After a passenger is deemed “travel-ready,” they are allowed to check in for their flight. Passengers who upload test results can be cleared for check-in and receive a mobile boarding pass all before arriving at the airport.

Later in February, United plans to launch a test-booking feature that would allow its passengers to make an appointment at one of more than 15,000 testing sites around the world. If the passenger tests negative and is able to travel based on the new protocols, the test provider will directly alert United.

Delta has similarly launched an online tool to help its passengers find acceptable testing centers around the world. Additionally, Delta is waiving change fees on international flights booked on or before January 12 (the day the new requirements were announced) if the ticket was originally scheduled for travel through February 16. 

The fee waiver is presumably so customers have more time to schedule a test before departure, but getting a test might be less time consuming than travelers think, thanks to some flexibility in the CDC requirements. “A new feature is the inclusion of rapid testing into the mix, so it doesn’t necessarily mean it only has to be a PCR test,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said on the airline’s recent earnings call. “And with the growth of antigen testing, the quality of antigen testing that’s out there, and the supplies in place, you literally could get some of these tests done within a 10-minute interval shortly before you return.”

American Airlines has also expanded a partnership with health passport app VeriFly: Passengers on all of American’s international flights can now download the app, choose their destination, and see their travel requirements. After uploading their COVID-19 test documents to the app, VeriFly will confirm the date and type of test, and send a QR code once approved for gate agents to scan.

Other airlines in the U.S. and around the world have been taking similar steps, even before the new CDC testing guidelines were announced. In December, JetBlue, Lufthansa, Swiss, United, and Virgin Atlantic began to roll out the CommonPass app—which makes test results easy to read, similar to VeriFly—on certain routes from New York, Boston, London, and Hong Kong. Other international carriers, including heavy hitters like Emirates, Qatar, and Etihad, have signed on for customers to use a similar app: IATA Travel Pass.

The majority of airlines’ new online tools have capabilities for passengers to upload their vaccination status as well, which some experts have predicted could become the next travel requirement in order to board international flights. 

(Picture: Marketwatch) 

AIR INDIA Starts Non-Stop Flight From Chicago To Hyderabad

Now passengers traveling on Air India can fly direct to Hyderabad from Chicago’s O’hare Airport. The first-ever nonstop flight service between Chicago and Hyderabad launched on Jan 13. The new route is welcomed by passengers traveling from across the US to destinations in Southern and Central India.

“It’s very fortunate that the Indian Government arranged a direct flight from the US to Hyderabad. I came especially to Chicago to take this flight,” said Vijaya Mandeila who traveled from Houston to Chicago O’hare airport to take the maiden flight with his wife and two children.

Mandeila was among the first 238 passengers to board a full flight operated by the state-of-the-art Boeing 777-200LR aircraft offering eight first-class and 35 business class seats on Jan 13. Mandeila says that while he flies to India only once in two years, the new direct flight is very convenient. “The first port of entry will be Hyderabad, and all customs checks and luggage will directly go through Hyderabad instead of Delhi. It saves us time, especially when traveling with family and young children,” Mandeila said.

Air India’s direct flights from Chicago to Hyderabad will operate every Wednesday leaving Chicago at 2130 hrs. (local time) to arrive in Hyderabad at 0040 hrs with domestic connections to Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada, Kolkata, Bangalore. The return flight from Hyderabad to Chicago will operate weekly every Friday, departing from Hyderabad at 1250 hrs. and arrive in Chicago at 1805 hrs. (local time) on the same day.

Consul General Amit Kumar Commences Launch Ceremonies

The official launch of the first direct Air India flight from Chicago to Hyderabad commenced with a ribbon-cutting ceremony led by Consul General Amit Kumar at Chicago O’hare Airport on Jan 13. Amber Achilles Ritter, deputy commissioner Chicago Dept of Aviation; Benjamin Sipiora, O’Hare terminal manager for the City of Chicago; Chris Diaferio, executive director of The Chicago Airlines Terminal Consortium (CATCO), also participated in the ceremonies.

Hyderabad is the capital of southern India’s Telangana state, a significant center for India’s tech industry and a cultural melting pot with more than four dominant languages, including Urdu, Telugu, Tamil and Hindi.

Consul General Kumar stated that the new route builds connectivity between the US and India, facilitating commerce, trade, tourism and promoting people to people exchanges. Consul General Kumar took the opportunity to commend Air India for its support during the Vande Bharat Mission’s initial phases. “More than 45,000 people have traveled from Chicago as part of Vande Bharat Mission flights in over 160 flights last year. The Government has reached out to our citizens stranded across the world to facilitate a repatriation and outbound international travel of more than 47.2 lakh people under Vande Bharat Mission so far,” Kumar said in remarks after the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Jan 13.

Chicago to Hyderabad Direct Flight Receives Tremendous Community Response

Chris Diaferio, executive director of The Chicago Airlines Terminal Consortium (CATCO), which maintains and services the city-owned equipment that Air India uses, said he was delighted with the expansion and the ongoing commitment and partnership with Air India. “We are thrilled. We love Air India. We love that they continue to support their community with better options for travel. Air India has been here from the very start and is now adding more service, especially when there are continued challenges for the airline industry. We could not be more delighted,” Diaferio said.

Consul General Kumar also congratulated Air India and the team in Chicago headed by Vikash Shahal, airport manager and Sampath Jayasekar, senior sales assistant, on the expansion of Air India’s services in the USA. “We have received a tremendous response for this flight. It is very encouraging to see the amount of enthusiasm. We thank our passengers,” said Shahal. Sampath Jayasekar, senior sales assistant who is originally from Hyderabad, said that he felt proud that his native state of Hyderabad now has a direct flight to the US. “Our flight today is completely sold out, including first-class, business class and economy. We are getting an excellent response from the community. People from Andhra are especially excited about the new route. The nonstop flights to Hyderabad are full for the next three weeks,” Jayasekar said.

Passengers were offered a small token and special meals to commemorate the flight. Air India has also resumed offering full hot meals on board. A small group of community members participated in the launch’s diya lighting ceremony, followed by Ganesh aarti sung by Shreya Addanki. Mythri Addanki, Miss Telugu Universe 2020, was among the prominent youth who joined the launch event. “This is a momentous occasion and a big first step in how we are connecting Indians in the US and back home. I am Hyderabadi. I know we have a huge community here in Chicago and across the US. It’s a great way to make sure we are connected to our home, especially during Covid-19, when family is more important than ever,” said Addanki.

Sunil Shah, a prominent community leader and president of the Federation of India Associations (FIA) who attended the event, stated, “It’s an exciting moment for Chicago and Air India. I think so many people from Hyderabad will benefit from this flight. One more nonstop flight from Chicago will assist business travelers and people traveling back home.”

Neil Khot, Chicago area community leader said that while a nonstop flight from Chicago to Hyderabad is a big feather in the cap and will facilitate India’s economic and technological expansion between India and the US, he looks forward to Air India’s first direct flight to Mumbai.

Hoteliers Optimistic About Biden Administration’s Small Business Priorities

WHASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 20 – AAHOA President & CEO Cecil P. Staton issued the following statement today following the inauguration of President Joseph Biden as the 46th President of the United States:

“America’s hoteliers congratulate President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on this historic day for our nation. We look forward to the vision and leadership offered by the Biden administration as our nation works to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and get our economy back on track. The ambitious plan to vaccinate 100 million people in the next 100 days, if achieved, would give a much-needed boost to consumer confidence that could lead to a resumption of travel, tourism, and in-person events. Such a significant increase in vaccinations and testing will go a long way towards alleviating the uncertainty that surrounds the viability and safety of resuming these pre-pandemic activities. Small business owners are struggling with the pandemic’s economic fallout, and the plan outlined by President Biden looks to target those industries, such as hospitality, that are experiencing a disproportionate amount of hardship. We are optimistic that the new administration’s focus on the public good will speed along our recovery, and we look forward to working with President Biden and his team to do right by America’s small businesses.”

About AAHOA:
AAHOA is the largest hotel owners association in the world. The over 19,500 AAHOA members represent almost one in every two hotels in the United States. With billions of dollars in property assets and hundreds of thousands of employees, AAHOA members are core economic contributors in virtually every community. AAHOA is a proud defender of free enterprise and the foremost current-day example of realizing the American dream.

AAHOA is the largest hotel owners association in the world. AAHOA’s 20,000 members own almost one in every two hotels in the United States. With billions of dollars in property assets and hundreds of thousands of employees, AAHOA members are core economic contributors in virtually every community. AAHOA is a proud defender of free enterprise and the foremost current-day example of realizing the American dream.

CDC To Require All Air Travelers To US To Show Negative Coronavirus Test

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday it will require a negative Covid-19 test from all air passengers entering the United States — a move it says may help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Air passengers will be required to get a viral test within three days before their flight to the United States departs, and to provide written documentation of their lab results, or documentation of having recovered from Covid-19, the agency said in a statement to CNN.

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield is expected to sign the order on Tuesday and it will go into effect on January 26. “Variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus continue to emerge in countries around the world, and there is evidence of increased transmissibility of some of these variants,” the CDC said in a statement. “With the US already in surge status, the testing requirement for air passengers will help slow the spread of the virus as we work to vaccinate the American public.” 


If a passenger does not provide documentation of a negative test or recovery, or chooses not to take a test, the airline must not allow the passenger to board, the CDC said. “Testing does not eliminate all risk, but when combined with a period of staying at home and everyday precautions like wearing masks and social distancing, it can make travel safer, healthier, and more responsible by reducing spread on planes, in airports, and at destinations,” Redfield said in the statement.

The new variant of coronavirus, which appears to be more transmissible, has already been found in at least 10 states in samples dating back to mid-December. An airline industry group has expressed support for the new measure.

“[We are] writing to express our support for a [CDC] proposal to control the spread of COVID-19, including variants of the virus, by implementing a global program to require testing for travelers to the United States,” the industry group Airlines for America wrote to Vice President Mike Pence on January 4.

The new rule is similar to one put in place last month for passengers from the UK to the US, which requires that passengers have a negative test within three days of boarding their flight. For the UK requirement that went through last month, airlines can be subject to criminal penalties if they fail to comply, and passengers can be subject to criminal penalties if they willfully give false or misleading information.

The earlier requirement for UK travelers was a response to a new coronavirus variant that was identified in the UK. While the variant appears to spread more easily, there’s no evidence that it’s any more deadly or causes more severe disease, according to CDC.

At least 72 cases of a variant first identified in the UK have been found in 10 US states, according to data posted Monday by the CDC. That includes at least 32 cases in California, 22 cases in Florida, five cases in Minnesota, four cases in New York, three cases in Colorado, two cases in Connecticut, and one case each in Texas, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Georgia.

The variant has been identified in dozens of countries worldwide.

Emirates Launches a Premium Economy Cabin

As the air travel industry attempts to find its footing after the holiday travel rush, Dubai-based airline Emirates has announced a welcome bit of good news: Its much-anticipated premium economy cabin has officially launched.

“While others cut back, Emirates is working hard to restore the products and services that we’ve had to suspend or adjust due to pandemic precautions, and introduce new offerings and enhancements,” Emirates CEO Tim Clark said in a statement.

The new premium economy cabin is located at the front of the double-decker plane’s main deck—or first level—and has 56 seats in a 2-4-2 layout. Each seat has 40 inches of pitch and is 19.5 inches wide. (Seats in its regular economy class have 32 to 34 inches of pitch and are 18 inches wide).

According to the carrier, Emirates premium economy seats emulate design elements found on its beloved business-class product. The new seats feature “cream-colored anti-stain leather with stitching details and a wood panel finishing,” an airline release said. Each seat also has a six-way adjustable headrest, calf rests, footrests, and an in-flight entertainment screen measuring 13.3 inches wide.

“Our First, Business and Economy experiences reset industry standards when they were introduced, and we are confident that our Premium Economy will also make its mark as a distinct premium offering,” Clark said.

The airline received its first Airbus A380 fitted with the new cabin class at the end of December. Five additional A380s with premium economy seats will be delivered throughout 2021 and 2022, in addition to being installed on a handful of the airline’s forthcoming Boeing 777X jets that will join Emirates’ all wide-body fleet in 2023. The carrier is also considering retrofitting its current A380 planes with the new premium cabin.

For now, Emirates premium economy seats on the single A380 will only be offered as a complimentary upgrade to certain customers “until we have a viable number of seats in our inventory,” Clark said. The airline has yet to announce which routes the new plane will fly, but Clark noted that the aircraft will be scheduled “on various routes so that our customers can experience our latest offering in all classes.” No additional service elements were announced, so the new cabin will likely have the same service standards as regular economy.

Other additions on board the new A380 include upgrades and refreshes to Emirates’ three other cabin classes, including wider and taller doors on the first-class suites; revamped flexible leather headrests in economy; refreshed design trims and modern fittings in the jet’s famous first-class shower spa; and a new color scheme for its business- and first-class bar lounge.

Both the shower spa and bar area have reopened to passengers as of October—with some COVID-19 safety tweaks, like drinks to-go from the bar to avoid congregation—after going on pause earlier in the pandemic.

To celebrate the premium economy cabin’s launch and entice bookings in the new year, Emirates is also having a fare sale, bookable through January 18 for travel through the end of May. Round-trip fares in economy between the U.S. and Africa start at $699, $909 to East and South East Asia, and $798 to Dubai; business-class fares start at $3,119 to the Middle East and $3,499 to Africa.

The carrier is allowing fee-free changes for up to two years after the original booking date on all trips for travel on or before June 30, 2021, as long as changes are to the same destination or within the same region in the same travel class. To find fares that are part of the sale, visit Emirates’ booking page.

(Courtesy: Travel & Leisure)

A Flight Of Firsts

Four of Air India’s most experienced women pilots took off from San Francisco (SFO) on  January 11th, (India time) for Bengaluru to operate the first-ever scheduled service between south India and the US. It is also the first time that an all-women cockpit crew of an Indian carrier flew over the North Pole.

“This will be the longest commercial flight in the world to be operated by Air India or any other airline in India…The total flight time on this route will be of more than 17 hours depending on the wind speed on that particular day,” Air India said in a statement. The direct distance between the two cities at opposite ends of the world is 13,993 km, with a time zone change of around 13.5 hours, an Air India official said. 

The four record-setting pilots operating the almost 18-hour AI 176 that was scheduled to reach Bengaluru (BLR) early morning today are captains Zoya Aggarwal, Papagari Thanmai, Akansha Sonaware and Shivani Manhas. They are flying a Boeing 777 200 (long range or LR) VT-ALG that is named ‘Kerala’. The SFO airport wore the Indian flag colours to celebrate this occasion. 

Bengaluru-SFO shortest flight distance is over 14,000 km, about 1,000 km more than Delhi-SFO. Very often airlines take longer routes to get tail winds and avoid headwinds. Kerala, for instance, took the longer Pacific route from Delhi to SFO on Wednesday with the same set of four pilots. The inaugural to Bengaluru came back via over the North Pole — getting tail winds on both sectors.

“Air India’s woman power flies high around the world,” Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri said on Twitter. “All women cockpit crew consisting of Capt Zoya Aggarwal, Capt Papagari Thanmai, Capt Akansha Sonaware & Capt Shivani Manhas will operate the historic inaugural flight between Bengaluru & San Francisco,” Mr. Puri said.

Flight AI176 will depart from San Francisco in the U.S. at 8.30 p.m. (local time) on Saturday, and land at the Kempegowda International Airport at 3.45 a.m. (local time) on Monday. “Captain Zoya Aggarwal is an accomplished pilot with a flying experience of more than 8000 hrs and command experience in a B-777 aircraft of more than 10 years and more than 2500 flying hours,” the national carrier said.

The flight will operate with a Boeing 777-200LR aircraft VT ALG with a seating capacity of 238 seats, including eight First Class, 35 Business Class, 195 Economy class configuration, besides four cockpit and 12 cabin crew, Air India said. 

Almost fully booked

The first ever direct flight between the two tech hubs is almost fully booked — 225 out of 238 seats — despite the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns over air travel. 

The flight, which has long been in the pipeline, will be the first direct non-stop flight between the west coast of the United States and southern India. Given the significant population of south Indians in San Francisco, home to the Silicon Valley, a direct flight has been a long-pending demand. 

The biweekly flight will take off to San Francisco from Bengaluru on Mondays and Thursdays, and leave San Francisco for Bengaluru on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Risks Of Flying in Covid Times

In the past, research into outbreaks on airplanes focused on flights that took place last spring, when planes were full, passengers mostly didn’t wear masks and preventive measures weren’t broadly understood. A new study, however, examined a more recent outbreak on a flight that put numerous containment measures in place — and the results were not great for travellers.

In September, an outbreak occurred aboard a flight from Dubai to Auckland, New Zealand. The 86 passengers onboard went into a mandatory 14-day quarantine in New Zealand, and seven eventually tested positive. Researchers at the New Zealand Ministry of Health found that at least four were infected on the flight.

The aircraft, a Boeing 777-300ER, with a capacity of nearly 400 passengers, was only 25% full and the four people infected in flight were seated within four rows of one another during the 18-hour trip.

The in-flight outbreak occurred when additional precautions were in place and passengers were more cautious. But researchers still identified a number of holes. Two of the four people infected on the plane said they didn’t wear masks on the flight. The airline also did not require passengers to wear masks in the lobby before boarding or be tested preflight.

Previous studies on the risk of infection during air travel are mixed (airplane filtration systems are thought to help, even when a passenger is infected), but the latest research suggests that airlines need to tighten precautions even more to avert in-flight outbreaks.

(Picture Courtesy: NPR)

IATA Travel Pass To Be Introduced

Geneva – The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that it is in the final development phase of the IATA Travel Pass, a digital health pass that will support the safe reopening of borders. IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents some 290 airlines comprising 82% of global air traffic.
Governments are beginning to use testing as a means of limiting the risks of COVID-19 importation when reopening their borders to travelers without quarantine measures. IATA Travel Pass will manage and verify the secure flow of necessary testing or vaccine information among governments, airlines, laboratories, and travelers.
IATA is calling for systematic COVID-19 testing of all international travelers, and the information flow infrastructure needed to enable this must support:
Governments with the means to verify the authenticity of tests and the identity of those presenting the test certificates.
Airlines with the ability to provide accurate information to their passengers on test requirements and verify that a passenger meets the requirements for travel.
Laboratories with the means to issue digital certificates to passengers that will be recognized by governments, and;
Travelers with accurate information on test requirements, where they can get tested or vaccinated, and the means to securely convey test information to airlines and border authorities.
“Today, borders are double locked. Testing is the first key to enable international travel without quarantine measures. The second key is the global information infrastructure needed to securely manage, share, and verify test data matched with traveler identities in compliance with border control requirements. That’s the job of the IATA Travel Pass. We are bringing this to market in the coming months also to meet the needs of the various travel bubbles and public health corridors that are starting operation,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
IATA Travel Pass incorporates four open-sourced and interoperable modules which can be combined for an end-to-end solution:
Global registry of health requirements – enables passengers to find accurate travel information, testing, and eventually, vaccine requirements for their journey.
Global registry of testing/vaccination centers – enables passengers to find testing centers and labs at their departure location, which meet the standards for testing and vaccination requirements of their destination.
Lab App – enables authorized labs and test centers to share test and vaccination certificates with passengers securely.
Contactless Travel App – enables passengers to (1) create a ‘digital passport,’ (2) receive test and vaccination certificates and verify that they are sufficient for their itinerary, and (3) share testing or vaccination certificates with airlines and authorities to facilitate travel. Travelers can also use this app to manage travel documentation digitally and seamlessly throughout their journey, improving the travel experience.
IATA and International Airlines Group (IAG) have been working together in the development of this solution. They will undertake a trial to demonstrate that this platform, combined with COVID-19 testing, can reopen international travel and replace quarantine.
The airline industry demands a cost-effective, global, and modular solution to safely restart travel. IATA Travel Pass is based on industry standards, and IATA’s proven experience in managing information flows around complex travel requirements.
IATA’s Timatic is used by most airlines to manage compliance with passport and visa regulations and will be the base for the global registry and verification of health requirements.
IATA’s One ID initiative was endorsed by a resolution at its 75th Annual General Meeting in 2019 to facilitate travel processes with a single identity token securely. It is the base for the IATA Contactless Travel App for identity verification that will also manage the test and vaccination certificates.
“Our main priority is to get people traveling again safely in the immediate term that means giving governments confidence that systematic COVID-19 testing can work as a replacement for quarantine requirements. And that will eventually develop into a vaccine program. The IATA Travel Pass is a solution for both. And we have built it using a modular approach based on open source standards to facilitate interoperability. It can be used in combination with other providers or as a standalone end-to-end solution. The most important thing is that it is responsive to industry’s needs while enabling a competitive market,” said Nick Careen, IATA’s Senior Vice President, Airport, Passenger, Cargo, and Security.
The first cross-border IATA Travel Pass pilot is scheduled for later this year, and the launch is slated for quarter one 2021.

Vinay Patel Appointed To U.S. Travel And Tourism Advisory Board

AHOA VICE CHAIR Vinay Patel has been appointed to a two-year term on the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board. The board advises the secretary of commerce on issues facing the travel and tourism industry.

Current Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross appointed Patel to the 32-member board to join representatives from companies and organizations connected to the industry. Patel also is president of Fairbrook Hotels in Chantilly, Virginia, which owns and operates 11 properties, and is on the advisory board for “She Has a Deal,” an organization that promotes hotel ownership for women through education, networking, and mentorship.

“Travel and tourism will play a vital role in jumpstarting our economy as our nation begins its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Patel said. “I am honored to serve on the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board during this critical time for our country and our industry.”

The Asian American Hotel Owners Association is the largest hotel owners organization in the world, and an overwhelming majority of the members are Indian Americans.

The organization’s 20,000 members own almost one in every two hotels in the U.S. with billions of dollars in property assets and hundreds of thousands of employees, a press release from AAHOA said.

The U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board provides advice and counsel to the Secretary on issues and concerns that impact the nation’s travel and tourism industry.

The Secretary appoints up to thirty-two members to the Board representing companies and organizations in the travel and tourism industry from a broad range of products and services, company sizes and regions.

In addition to his role as AAHOA Vice Chair, Patel is the president of Fairbrook Hotels, which owns and operates eleven properties, including Marriott, IHG, Hilton, Radisson, Choice, and Wyndham brands. Patel serves on the Board of Directors for the Virginia Hospitality and Tourism Association and is the president of the Herndon Hospitality Association. Previously, he served on the boards of directors of AHLA and the Loudoun (VA) Convention Visitors Bureau.

Earlier this year, the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board addressed restoring consumer confidence in the travel industry in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its recommendations included supporting more, accelerated testing for the disease, better integration of public health policies in travel industry standards and a series of communication initiatives by the Department of Commerce to reassure travelers.

“The serious threat to public health caused by COVID-19 has severely weakened the public’s confidence in travel. Americans have cancelled nearly all travel plans and will likely delay future travel plans until their confidence is restored,” the board said in its recommendation. “Recent research suggests that proactive measures to ensure cleanliness and hygiene, combined with assurances from reputable medical authorities and the federal government, offer the highest levels of assurance for consumers.”

Patel also serves on the Virginia Hospitality and Tourism Association’s board of directors and is the president of the Herndon Hospitality Association. Previously, he served on the boards of directors of AHLA and the Loudoun, Virginia, Convention Visitors Bureau.

Predictably, the hotel industry felt the impact of COVID-19 from the onset of the pandemic. “The catastrophic declines in occupancy rates and revenues make it increasingly likely that the industry will not recover until 2023,” noted AAHOA President & CEO Cecil P. Staton.

The hotel owners organization noted that its members are “core economic contributors in virtually every community.” “AAHOA applauds Vinay’s appointment to the Board. His experience and insight are a valuable addition to discussions about the role travel and tourism will play during the recovery and beyond,” Staton said.

Air India To Begin Flights From Bengaluru To San Francisco Starting Jan 2021

India’s national carrier Air India is set to connect Bengaluru and San Francisco via a non-stop flight from 2021, the Kempegowda International Airport. As of January 11, 2021, Air India will launch 2x weekly flights between Bangalore and San Francisco, as follows: AI175 Bangalore to San Francisco departing 2:30PM arriving 5:00PM
AI176 San Francisco to Bangalore departing 8:30PM arriving 2:30AM (+2 days)

The US-bound flight will operate Mondays and Thursdays and will take 16hr, while the India-bound flight will operate Tuesdays and Saturdays and will take 16hr30min. The Boeing 777-200LR that will be used for this route features three cabins, including first class, business class, and economy.

“This would be the first non-stop flight between Bengaluru and the United States, connecting the world’s two tech hubs — the original Silicon Valley and the Silicon Valley of India.

“The first non-stop flight between Bengaluru and San Francisco is a significant milestone for BLR Airport and will transform it as the new gateway to India. This will tremendously help passengers, enabling faster and easier access to cities on the West Coast of the United States.”

As per the statement, the new non-stop service is expected to meet the demand of corporate customers for travel to San Fracisco and adjoining areas in the US.

“Air India plans to operate a 238-seater Boeing 777-200 LR aircraft, to serve the largest unserved international origin/ destination (O/D) market for BLR Airport. Bengaluru and San Francisco are ranked first and second, respectively, among the world’s top 45 digitally advanced cities.”

“The new route sets two records — it would be Air India’s longest route at 14,000+ km (8,698 miles) and longest flight to and from India (over 16 hours). The national carrier has opened ticket booking from November 25.”