Is The Party Over In Europe’s Hotspots?

With travel restrictions still in place across the world due to the on-going coronavirus pandemic, many countries are worrying about their tourism industries.

And with summer fast approaching it is clear that Europe could be severely affected financially.

Although the majority of the 27 countries within the European Union (EU), as well as the United Kingdom, have made it clear that some restrictions will be lifted in June there is a concern that the main tourist areas will struggle to stay open. And this is particularly a worry for those countries with a vibrant party scene.

The Cypriot resort of Ayia Napa, made famous for its nightlife and parties, usually has thousands of young party goers heading to its clubs, however with social distancing looking to continue for many months to come, businesses are already starting to wonder if they will ever be able to reopen.

The lockdown put in place by many countries was also enforced in Cyprus, and the Napa Strip district complied. However owners of nightclubs and party companies are rightly concerned that even when they are allowed to reopen there will continue to be issues.

Charalambos Alexandrou is the spokesperson for a group of local nightclubs, restaurants and bars and agrees:

“We know at nightclubs, young people will go to dance and have a good time. But then you have to tell them that they have to keep 2 meters (6 feet) apart from each other?”

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And it is not just Cyprus who is worried with popular party hotspot Ibiza also raising concerns. The Spanish government has started to implement phase 2 of the country’s move from the State of Alarm back to ‘normality’ and this will affect the holiday island.

The bars and restaurants are able to reopen, albeit only their outdoor spaces at the moment, while groups of friends have been able to meet up again. However nightclubs will only be able to open at around a third of their normal capacity and will have to continue to adhere to social distancing rules, leading Alexandrou to comment that rather than trying to make a profit this year, most tourist areas will be seeing 2020 as “a season of trying to survive.”

It is worth noting that compulsory facemasks must be worn by anyone over the age of six years old making partying that extra bit harder.

With each country bringing in new phases, businesses are trying to determine how and when they are going to be able to encourage visitors back, with many authorities implementing new policies so that when vacationers do head back to their countries, they do so with confidence.

It has been suggested that anyone traveling to Cyprus be forced to take a covid-19 test before they arrive to enable the island to keep their case rate low – at the time of writing Cyprus has had 923 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 17 deaths.

Deputy minister for tourism Savvas Perdios has confirmed that before opening completely to the world Cyprus has been considering only allowing tourists from countries that are both close to them and have had low rates of cases, including Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Greece as well as a few of the Nordic countries and from central Europe.

With such high numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths in Russia and the United Kingdom, Cyprus has insisted it will take their time before allowing their two biggest markets into the country.

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Other measures being brought in is the process of all travelers’ luggage being disinfected as soon as it arrives at their accommodation before being placed into the guests’ rooms. All reception areas will have plexiglass screens with staff in protective wear and any checking in/out procedures will be done electronically.

In Portugal, hotels will be awarded “Clean & Safe” seals by tourism officials when they believe the establishment has complied with all safety and hygiene procedures brought in to protect against the virus.

Usually tourism is responsible for 15% of Portugal’s gross domestic product (GDP) as well as 9% of all jobs so the prospect of these seals has been welcomed. Currently an establishment has to attend an online class and so far over 4,000 people each week are attending these.

President of Turismo de Portugal Luís Araújo confirmed the strategy saying, “It’s a question of making people feel safe to travel and having confidence in the place where they’re going.”

When discussing the social distancing rules Araújo agreed that, “restrictions scare away any tourist” however he is hoping that these new seals will boost consumer confidence. With these limits in mind it is understandable that while many hotels are planning to reopen in June, nightclubs will have to wait.

The “Clean & Safe” rules will include each hotel room standing empty for 24 hours between each guest to enable sufficient time for deep cleaning as well as airing the rooms out. And while room service is expected to continue it is believed that buffets will be stopped. Sunbeds are another area that will see change. Rather than waiting for a bed to become free, hotel guests will be given one for their own use to stop the spread of germs.

Holland America Line

Florida in Discussions to Allow Holland America Ships to Dock

Travelers across the world have seen their trips disrupted due to the coronavirus pandemic with many being flown home early from their vacations and thousands more seeing their breaks being canceled.

Those who are allowed to come home are facing strict rules before entering the country, but at least they can come home.

Passengers on cruise ships around the world have been confined to their vessels as countries refuse to let them dock.

Currently there are two Holland America Line liners anchored off the coast of Florida as America refuses to allow them to disembark due to the ships having hundreds of passengers and crew members suffering from covid-19.

The Rotterdam and Zaandam have both reached Florida and have been waiting for final clearance to disembark however this has come after lengthy discussions with the local authorities on how to handle passengers who have reportedly shown ‘influenza-like illness symptoms’ dating back to 22 March.

So far eight of the guests had been tested positive for the virus while four of the ‘older’ guests of the Zaandam had passed away within a week.

Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have been against allowing any ships to dock in Fort Lauderdale. DeSantis has claimed allowing such a move would be ‘a mistake’ as well as raising his concerns that the state’s health care system would not be able to cope with the high number of ill passengers and crew members.

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However DeSantis has been called out by President Trump who reportedly told him Florida should be allowing the ship to dock. “They’re dying on the ship.” Said Trump. “I’m going to do what’s right, not only for us but for humanity.”

A day later DeSantis confirmed that no decision had been made by officials stating:

“I obviously am not in control of the port that is run by the counties, in this case, Broward County, and I know they’re in consultation with the cruise ships. Clearly, we’re going to be willing to accept any Floridians that are on board. My understanding is that most of the passengers are foreign nationals. I think that they’re working on ways to deal with that.”

The ships had both been refused permission to enter United State waters as Broward’s Unified Command was waiting for a ‘suitable plan’ to be sent in. DeSantis confirmed the same day that officials were ‘working on a plan’ to allow the Florida residents into the state while expatriating all foreign nationals saying they were “concerned about a deluge into our hospitals” although he also confirmed the local hospitals were prepared to cope with the high number of cases.

Just a day later Udine confirmed that the Carnival Corporation – owners of the Holland America Line – had come to a conditional agreement, tweeting:

“Unified Command conferenced last night and reached cond. approval of Carnival’s Plan, subject to approval between Broward and Carnival. Final document will be released this morning. As of now, ships remain outside US Waters. Look forward to seeing a SAFE plan for all to resolve.”

He also defended the comments that his department had previously made, stating they had not received a plan from the cruise line for disembarkation, claiming the company appeared to want to “just drop people off and let them fly home.”

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Both of the liners are now just outside of American waters near Fort Lauderdale and will continue to stay there until they receive permission to dock. In a statement Holland America Line said:

“We remain fully engaged with the Broward Unified Command and other governmental and embassy authorities to resolve this humanitarian situation and get the nearly 1,200 well guests home immediately who are fit for travel per guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),”

“We appreciate the support of President Trump in resolving the humanitarian plight of our guests — 311 of whom are American citizens and 52 of whom are residents of Florida.”

It is believed that out of all the sick passengers ‘less than 10’ were in need of immediate critical care although a further 45 were showing mild symptoms, meaning they were unable to travel.

Holland America suspended all cruise operations on 13 March with the Zaandam’s current voyage due to run from 7 March to 21 March. Passengers and crew started showing symptoms a day after the end date.

The Rotterdam was dispatched with supplies and covid-19 testing kits to the Zaandam however they too had passengers that started to develop symptoms. Although they had four “older” passengers die it is not yet clear yet what were the causes.

Between the two ships there are more than 2,400 passengers and crew who have been told to stay in their cabins until they are allowed to disembark although when that will be is still unclear.

British Airways Plane

British Airways Grounds Flights and Suspends Over 35,000 Staff Due to Coronavirus

Major airlines across the world have been left effectively paralysed by the widespread effects of Coronavirus and British Airways in no exception. In the latest blow to the aviation industry, the company has announced that it will be suspending around 36,000 staff and grounding flights as the aviation industry grinds to a halt and the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on global economies.

The exact details of the suspension are yet to be revealed as the airline is currently in talks with the Unite union, which is the second largest trade union in the U.K. The union’s priority will be to ensure that workers are treated fairly during the crisis and do not lose their jobs unfairly. It is thought that the suspension will affect around 80% of the current workforce at British Airways and it is expected that staff will continue to be employed by the company and can therefore claim 80% of their salary under the government’s coronavirus job retention plan, up to a maximum of $3,100 per month.

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The suspension comes after it was revealed that British Airways pilots had agreed to taking two weeks’ of unpaid leave alongside a 50% pay cut in April and May. This was following news that the airline would be suspending all flights from London Gatwick, which has been quoted as being its ‘second biggest hub’. And although commercial flights have been cancelled, it has been reported that BA flights are still being used for repatriation flights to help bring British people home after being left stranded abroad due to the coronavirus pandemic.

British Airways is not the only airline to be hit by the crisis, with the recent collapse of domestic airline Flybe and EasyJet grounding its entire fleet in recent weeks. Virgin Atlantic has also been in the public eye recently after it requested a billion dollar bailout from the UK government, which has been met with much criticism from both the general public and the media. Many have been quick to point out that Richard Branson is worth around 4bn dollars, owns his own private island and even once tried to sue the NHS for a breach of contract, so could show some compassion for his employees at this time of national crisis. Others have questioned where his apparent ‘philanthropic’ values are given that there has been no word of support from the Branson camp since the outbreak began, despite many celebrities and other high profile individuals donating money to various causes.

Thankfully for British Airways it would appear that they have sufficient resources within the business to remain afloat without the need for a cash injection from the government. That said, the aviation industry trade body has suggested that around $200 billion of state money will be needed to help the aviation industry survive this unprecedented crisis.

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British Airways has a long and proud history which spans over 100 years. It’s roots lie in a company called Aircraft Transport and Travel Limited (AT&T) who launched the world’s first international scheduled air service in August 1919 and took place between London and Paris. The very first flight left from Hounslow Heath, which is situated close to the current Heathrow Airport and on it was just one passenger with a large cargo of goods which included newspapers, Devonshire cream, jam and grouse. British Airways PLC as a brand name came into existence in 1974 after British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) fused with British European Airways (BEA) and their associated companies. Although originally state owned, it was privatized in 1987 and has remained a major player within the commercial aviation industry ever since.

It is fair to say that British Airways has long had a strong and positive reputation for being a good and ethical company and its commitment to try and ensure that no staff lose their jobs during the coronavirus outbreak is commendable. With many airlines facing financial ruin, there is undoubtedly panic across the entire industry and the uncertainty about when flights may resume only adds to the stress and worry about what the future may hold. Naturally any company that is operating during this turbulent time is likely to face the same problems which is why regular communication and internal stakeholder dialogue is essential to keeping everyone informed and updated. The situation is changing daily and given the fact that the world has not faced a health crisis like this since the Spanish Flu, situations are changing daily. As more is known and understood about the virus, the future path of emerging from this crisis will become apparent. For the moment however, it is a case of following the guidelines regarding social distancing, washing hands regularly and avoiding the spread of infection.


Texas Sues California Over Law Banning Official Travel To Anti-LGBTQ States

The state of Texas has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court over California prohibiting state-sponsored travel to states with laws that are discriminatory against LGBTQ people.

California lawmakers passed the travel ban in 2016 in response to North Carolina’s passage of HB 2, the controversial law that required transgender people to use only the restroom matching their assigned sex at birth, at least when it came to multi-user restrooms in government buildings.

Under the travel ban, state employees, as well as state university employees or athletes, are prohibited from using taxpayer money for travel expense, although they can raise money from other sources to make the trips.

The office of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) has since added 10 other states to its list of places where official state travel is prohibited.

Texas was added in 2017 after lawmakers passed a bill allowing adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against prospective parents based on a number of characteristics, including sexual orientation.

In response, some of those states, like Oklahoma and Tennessee, have instituted their own bans on state-sponsored travel to California, with Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt specifically citing opposition to California’s abortion laws.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) argues in the lawsuit that California is punishing Texas for allowing faith-based child placement agencies to uphold their religious beliefs.

He said the ban on state-sponsored travel amounts to “economic sanctions” against Texas because it deprives the state of tax revenue from hotels and other businesses that would have made money from travel by Californians, reports Politico.

Paxton claims the travel ban violated the Constitution’s Privileges and Immunities Clause, the Interstate Commerce Clause, and the Constitution’s guarantee of Equal Protection.

His lawsuit asks the court to declare the travel ban unconstitutional and order California to remove Texas from its travel ban list.

Paxton claims the travel ban is “infected with animus towards religion,” violates federal laws on interstate commerce and discriminates against Texas business owners.

In the lawsuit, Paxton cites the Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, in which the court found that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission may have acted with “animus toward religion” when it sought to reprimand and penalize a Colorado baker for violating the state’s nondiscrimination law when he refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding.

“Texas respects and honors the religious beliefs of its citizens,” Paxton said in a news release sent out by his office. “California lawmakers do not.”


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Travel Influencer

How to Avoid Couples on Your Solo Vacation

I’ve been single for the majority of my adult life, and it’s never stopped me from traveling. I backpacked across India alone; I’ve gone on cruises alone; I visited both Disneyland and Walt Disney World alone.

When I travel, I don’t really feel lonely or left out when I see couples or families. Of course there will be people traveling with significant others or partners and children; that’s how most people do it. But if you’re planning a solo trip and you’d rather avoid a vacation destination populated by (or designed for) couples, The Washington Post has some suggestions of where to go and where to skip.

Venice, for example, is on the skip list—“Two words: gondola proposals”—and single travelers who want to see Italy might have a better time visiting Florence instead. The Washington Post also suggests avoiding resorts, which are often both structured and priced around the couple or family experience; I can confirm that, at least in the case of cruise bookings, solo passengers are often charged a “single supplement fee” to make up the cost of occupying a room that would otherwise have held two or more people (and two or more drink plans and excursion fees and so on).

But I don’t agree with every destination on the WaPo’s skip list. The article suggests avoiding Las Vegas, for example, but I’ve found the Vegas Strip to be a delightful place to explore solo. Since the entire place runs on extracting as much money out of people as possible, nobody cares if you request a table for one or a room for one or an observation wheel ticket for one (and you should definitely do the Las Vegas observation wheel, it’s incredible). You can sit at a slot machine or blackjack table all night long, if that’s your thing; I’m not into gambling, so I spent my time wandering through the ridiculously ostentatious hotels, eating amazing meals, and people-watching.

The problem with dating is rarely the actual date, I will tell you this, from years of experience as a solo traveler and vacationer: You’ll probably feel the most awkward if you decide to sign up for a structured event that is otherwise attended by couples. These would be your wine tastings, your horseback ridings, anything involving dance lessons. You can get through a formal dinner on a cruise ship just fine because they assign you to a table (or, if you’d rather not dine with other vacationers, you can request to sit by yourself); however, prior to the dinner all the couples and families line up to get formal photographs taken—and that might be a little much for you to watch, depending on how you feel about your single status.

So… you know… just show up a little late. Explore the ship by yourself while everyone else is waiting in line to smile for the camera, and then walk into the formal dining room dressed in your best with your head held high.

Chances are, at least one of those couples or parents (or teenage children stuck on the cruise with their parents) will look at you traveling on your own, able to make your own decisions and come and go as you please, and feel a little tiny pang of envy.


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Airplane in Sky

U.S. Travel Association Unveils 10-Year Agenda at a Turbulent Time for Travel

The U.S. Travel Association, a trade group which lobbies on behalf of the industry, gave its State of the Travel Industry address this week in Washington D.C., asserting itself in a way rarely seen before.

In his address, president and CEO Roger Dow laid out an ambitious 10-year agenda for the nation’s industry, ranging from trade and security to sustainability.

The travel industry, both in the U.S. and around the world, has generally struggled to define itself as one cohesive voice and one massive contribution to the economy. While that’s somewhat understandable given its many disparate parts — from hotels and airlines to destination marketing — it also prevents the industry from positioning itself on the legislative agenda in perhaps the way it needs to, especially in the U.S. The address was just one sign that U.S. Travel is aware it needs to do that now more than ever, especially at a somewhat rocky time for the industry.

“Any way you cut it, the past 10 years have been the Comeback Decade for the travel industry, a decade defined by rising growth, surging prosperity and escalating influence,” Dow said in his prepared remarks, referring to the last decade when travel recovered from 9/11 and the 2008 recession nosedive. “So, we start this new decade from an unquestioned position of strength. But that strength isn’t guaranteed.”

Among the headwinds faced by U.S. travel currently are the strong dollar, which means travelers choose cheaper destinations; a slowing global economy; and geopolitical events which both put up actual barriers for travelers who want to go abroad, as well deters some others through a mixture of fear and perception. The group is also concerned about America’s loss in market share of the global overseas travel market, which could slip to 11 percent in the coming year, a full percentage point lower than three years prior.

“Based on our latest projections for 2020 we expect domestic travel will grow by 1.4 percent this year with domestic leisure growing faster than domestic business travel.International inbound travel will increase by a modest 2 percent, amid global headwinds such as a slowing global economy and a strong dollar,” Dow said in his speech.

One specific geopolitical event that came up was Trump’s recently-extended travel ban, which now applies to six more countries: Nigeria, Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan, and Tanzania. Though it does not affect short-term visitors to the U.S. from those countries — only those who seek to live in the U.S. on an immigrant visa — it furthers a narrative that the current administration, and thus the U.S., is not welcoming to outsiders. Though Dow seemed to brush off concerns that this would keep leisure travelers away.

“It’s extremely important that the policy is understood that it relates to residents who want to come. They keep calling it a travel ban, but that’s not wholly accurate,” Dow said in response to a question from a reporter. “We think it’s very important to strike a balance between being secure and having trade, so we’re very strong on not politicizing things like this to get the facts out and make sure America is safe.”

Of course, the coronavirus currently affecting nearly every corner of the industry also came up. Dow referred to research by Tourism Economics which shows that China’s share of international visitors to the U.S. went from 1 percent in 2000 to 7 percent last year. But he also noted there may be a positive upside to U.S. travel in the event of a long-term dip in travel to China

“A lot of people go to China and are not going to be going to China. Those people are not going to stop traveling, they’re going to go somewhere else. So the opportunity for the U.S. and Brand USA and others is to talk to those people and say what a safe country we are and that we’d love to have you.”

It’s striking that an industry which accounts for 1.7 million domestic jobs still has to make its case to lawmakers that it’s one worth paying attention to, but U.S. Travel has the wind at its back in some sense. In September, President Trump met with a CEO roundtable of high profile executives from the travel industry, the second president after Barack Obama to do so. In addition, Dow spoke of the significance of Brand USA’s seven-year reauthorization by Congress, which happened at the 11th legislative hour in December.

“[Brand USA was renewed] at a time when it’s nearly impossible for any industry to achieve any progress in a divided Congress and an election year – we’re pretty proud of that accomplishment … [it] is a vote of confidence in travel’s importance to America’s economy.”


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How The Wellness Industry Is Taking Over Travel

The world of wellness – a global economy of care and workout offerings, nutrients, alternative medicine and more that reached $4.5 trillion in 2018 – has witnessed a triumphant ascension over the past decade. Popular perceptions of the importance of diet, fitness and healthy practices have transformed, powering vibrant new business sectors. And as wellness evolves and expands, auxiliary markets from food and drink to hospitality are starting to provide products that reflect the values of today’s health-conscious consumers.

Major companies broadly focused on the wellness lifestyle like fitness chain Equinox, indoor cycling chain SoulCycle and sports clothing retailer Lululemon are no different. As the lines blur between their products and the lifestyle they’re seeking to promote, these brands are taking steps to cater to all facets of their customers’ identity. Now all are moving into the tourism sector, offering multi-day excursions for members with health and fitness at their core.

Wellness tourism is defined by the US-based non-profit Global Wellness Institute (GWI) as “travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal wellbeing”. While ‘activity’ holidays have existed for years, embarking on one of these new journeys – from hiking in Morocco with Equinox to sailing towards the Italian Riviera with Goop’s Gwyneth Paltrow – usually means a luxurious bounty of strictly curated meals, supervised workouts and an emphasis on mindfulness and enlightenment.

From 2015 to 2017 the wellness tourism market grew from $563bn to $639bn, or 6.5% annually – more than twice as fast as the growth of tourism overall, according to GWI. By 2022, GWI predicts the market will reach a whopping $919bn – representing 18% of all global tourism – with well over a billion individual wellness trips to take place around the globe. Anne Dimon, president of the Wellness Tourism Association, adds that while wellness travellers can be anyone, the bulk tend to be higher-educated women between ages 30 and 60.

Yet despite its new visibility, the idea of travelling with the express purpose of improving wellbeing is by no means novel. Think back to the pilgrimages taken to the Dead Sea, ancient baths in Rome and natural hot springs across Asia – or the yoga retreats and Thai colon-cleansing holidays of more recent decades. But according to GWI, wellness tourism today is about much more than the destination or activities – it is an extension of the very values and lifestyle of the traveller.

“All around the world, more people are incorporating elements of health, prevention, self-actualisation, experience and mindfulness into their daily lives,” its 2018 report says. “It is not a surprise that people now expect to continue their healthy lifestyles and wellness routines when they are away from home.”

In the case of brands like Equinox, a US-headquartered fitness club known for its lavish amenities and hefty membership cost (over $3,000 per year for some), these values have translated into a new line of holistic, luxurious wellness trips aimed at the bodies, minds, souls and stomachs of the affluent. Members who sign up for a trip are what Beth McGroarty, director of research at GWI, describes as ‘primary’ wellness travellers – people who travel with an exclusive focus on wellness-centred experiences or destinations.

And although this group only makes up 14% of wellness tourism spending – the other 86% comes from by ‘secondary’ travellers who incorporate wellness activities into otherwise standard business or leisure trips – their average trip cost is much, much higher. “[Primary] travellers at the domestic level spend about 178% more than your average traveller,” McGroarty says. “And at the international level, they spend 53% more.”

For Equinox, moving into tourism means recreating the extravagance of their brand in new locales. And so far, filling spots with willing ‘primary’ travellers has been an easy task. Leah Howe, senior director of Equinox Explore (the brand’s travel line) says that almost 100% of members have expressed interest in attending a trip. Several of the six excursions planned for 2020, each limited to 12 to 20 people, have already sold out.


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Escape the NYC Winter on ‘Vacation Planet’, a Tropical Themed Immersive Art Installation

Shivering New Yorkers looking to escape the winter weather can respite without hopping on a plane to a tropical destination. Inside a raw space at 25 Kent (in the same space the groundbreaking street art exhibition was last year), digital mixed media artist Anne Spalter brings a tropical oasis to New York City with an immersive installation that transports visitors away from the cold streets of New York City to a surreal warm weather locale.

With real plants, Adirondack chairs to lounge in, the soothing sound of ocean waves, outlet banks and giant spheres that depict abstract summery scenes, Vacation Planet offers a place to relax and recharge and warm up. Untapped New York Insiders got to experience the installation and talk with Anne Spalter about how it came about.

Spalter, who lives in Brooklyn, can see 25 Kent from her apartment. While driving past one day, she noticed that the space, which is currently occupied by Wallplay, a platform that programs and operates vacant spaces with commercial pop-ups and art exhibitions, was taking submissions for an installation. Wanting to create an environment that was completely different from what is going on outside, Spalter filled the 8,300 square foot space with sun-emulating washer lights, real palm trees, lush greenery, and jute carpets to bring a natural tropical feeling to the industrial space.

The most striking component of the installation is the array of massive floating spheres. The spheres are arranged on the ground, on the ceiling and everywhere in between to create a fully immersive environment and to appear as if they were thrown into the space. One Insider pointed out on our tour, they appeared as if they got there as a result of the Big Bang. The spheres range in size from three to sixteen feet in diameter and each is named after a different planet.

The surface of each sphere is covered in a print made with algorithm-based digital reworks of footage that Spalter captured in vacation locales like Miami Beach. Spalter, who says all of her pieces start with a travel experience, made use of hi-tech camera equipment which allowed her to capture images that are 8,000 pixels wide. The footage is intentionally unidentifiable in terms of location, and meant to evoke a surreal quality. You can still make out beach umbrellas, kids playing in a pool, palm trees and other vacation staples.

Working with a programmer, Spalter created a plugin that allowed her to manipulate various parameters of the footage and create the kaleidoscopic images you see. Some of the spheres are covered in imagery from Santa Fe. There, Spalter captured footage of weather formations like storm clouds, rain and sunshine.

Visitors are invited to sit down and hang out as long as they want within the installation. There is free Wi-Fi, and each of the six seating areas has its own power strip. Guests can also enjoy three custom Instagram Stories filters featuring animated versions of the spheres. When visitors follow @annespalter, the Vacation Planet filters will automatically show up as swipe-able options in the “Stories” feature on the most updated version of the Instagram app. Speaking about the installation, Spalter noted, “I can talk about it in fine art speak, but it’s also accessible. You can be a kid or someone who didn’t study fine art and you can come in a see that’s the ocean. Everyone can get something out of it. It works on any level.”

Vacation Planet is free and open to the public from 11am through 7pm on Wednesday through Sunday until February 23rd.


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Security at Airport

U.S. Considers Expanded Travel Screening To Halt Virus Spread

The U.S. may expand travel screening at its borders and is closely monitoring 110 people to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus that’s killed at least 80 in China and is appearing around the globe from Singapore to Paris.

As of this morning, there have been no new U.S. cases after the first five patients were identified in the past week, health officials said on a call with reporters. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is spearheading the American response, said it’s developed plans for a test that it will share with states in order to more quickly diagnose new cases.

“At this time in the U.S., this virus is not spreading in the community,” said Nancy Messonnier, the CDC’s director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

Officials have been on close watch for cases of so-called secondary transmission, in which original patients who came from China could infect others in the community.

Anxiety is growing amid evidence that the disease has an incubation period of as long as two weeks before those infected start to show symptoms. That raises the possibility that people could travel and eventually infect others before realizing they have the illness. But Messonnier said that so far there has been no clear evidence that the virus can spread during the incubation period before patients have symptoms.

The new coronavirus appears to be less contagious than highly infectious viruses like the measles, she said. Coronaviruses like this one, so named because of their crown-like shape, are generally transmitted by respiratory droplets, she said.

A decision on expanded traveler screening should come within a day, Messonnier said.

Public health officials in China and around the globe have mounted an aggressive attempt to stop the spread of the virus, which can cause a potentially deadly pneumonia-like illness in the most severe cases. While cases in other countries has been limited, Chinese officials said the virus isn’t yet under control despite aggressive steps to limit movement for millions of people who live in cities near Wuhan, the center of the outbreak.

The U.S. has five cases, with three confirmed over the weekend: two in Southern California and one in Maricopa County, Arizona. All the patients had recently been in Wuhan and are hospitalized. Their close contacts are being monitored for signs that they may be developing the disease, the CDC said Sunday. Washington state and Chicago earlier had confirmed infections.

Stocks slumped around the globe on fears over the virus, with the S&P 500 Index sliding the most in almost four months. Bonds and gold rallied.

Deaths in China climbed to 80, the National Health Commission said today. That’s up from only two just over a week ago. There are at least 2,744 confirmed cases on China’s mainland, and more than 30,000 people who are under observation.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Wuhan, and World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he’s heading to Beijing to meet with the government and assess the response.

Last week the WHO declined to label the coronavirus an international emergency, a designation that would have allowed the United Nations agency to begin coordinating government responses.


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Private Jet

Are We One Step Closer to Pilotless Commercial Jets?

(CNN) — The concept of pilotless commercial jet flight has been bandied about for years.
But while the technology has been there, there’s been little concrete evidence to suggest autonomous flying could ever really get off the ground — until now.
Airbus has confirmed one of its test aircraft took off automatically at Toulouse-Blagnac airport in France last December.
The European aerospace company conducted a series of successful tests on autopilot last month, with two pilots on standby.