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Carribbean

Caribbean Islands Prepare To Reopen For International Travel During Covid-19 Pandemic

I think it’s safe to say we all could use a major break from the world right now, and what better place to take that break than the Caribbean Islands? While Covid-19 is still very much an issue in America, and the entire world, right now, some countries are beginning to reopen their doors as a result of curve flattening. Specifically, many islands within the Caribbean are reopening within the next few months, with some new social distancing measures put into play. 

So far, the island of Anguilla has only had three cases of Covid-19 reported. The British overseas territory closed their airports and shipping ports until at least June 30th; hence the low case numbers. For local islanders, business and other restrictions began lifting on April 30th, allowing gatherings of 25 or less. 

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Antigua and Barbuda opened up their borders on June 1st after only suffering through 26 cases. They have a plan in place to slowly reopen their international airport within the next month or so. Visitors will be required to wear a mask at all times when in public. Visitors will also have to be tested for Covid-19 two days before their arrival, and they must bring proof of a negative result. 

Aruba has just over 100 cases but expects to reopen its borders during the second-half of June. On May 25th the island allowed outdoor restaurants to open up under a strict night curfew. The island has also implemented a new cleaning and hygiene certification program for all tourism-related businesses. This program includes initiatives to sanitize luggage, as well as using protective barriers at concierge desks. 

The Bahamas have had around the same number of cases as Aruba, and they plan to reopen to commercial travel on July 1st. Visitors will only be able to visit islands where the virus has been completely contained. All international airports, resorts, and hotels will remain closed to international travelers until further notice. 

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Not all islands are as optimistic about when they’ll be able to reopen, however. The Cayman Islands have had 150 cases of coronavirus and are planning on remaining closed for all non-essential travel into September. Cuba has had around 3,000 cases and is leaving its airports closed until at least June 30th. The Dominican Republic has collectively had over 17,000 cases and are remaining closed indefinitely. 

Jamaica has had around 600 cases and allowed most of its citizens to return to work on June 1st. Bars and restaurants have also reopened with new capacity restrictions, and they’re hoping to open up their airport to resume flights from Baltimore and Orlando on June 7th. 

Puerto Rico has had more than 3,900 cases but have begun reopening local businesses and public areas like the beach. Restaurants have also been opened, again with new capacity restrictions, and as of right now anyone who visits the island is required to quarantine for 14 days, regardless of how healthy they feel. 

Saint Lucia got lucky and only reported 18 total cases of Covid-19. They begun welcoming back visitors to their island this Thursday, June 4th, as long as they can provide a valid negative test result for the coronavirus taken 48 hours before their flight. They also will be required to wear masks and could be subject to temperature checks upon arrival. 

For further information covering all of the islands in the Caribbean, click here.

Suitcases

How the Travel Industry is Fighting Climate Change

As the effects of climate change materialize in the form of more frequent and destructive extreme weather events, various industries are looking at ways to reduce their carbon footprint with renewed intensity. As tourism contributes heavily to carbon emissions thanks to the emissions released by cars and airplanes, the tourism industry is looking for ways to make vacations more environmentally-friendly. The industry is deploying a variety of methods for doing so, from investing in more carbon-neutral infrastructure to educating tourists about the environmental impacts of travel and teaching them how to reduce carbon emissions. And as popular vacation destinations are being transformed by a changing climate, tourists are witnessing first-hand the disastrous impact of climate change, reinforcing the urgency of developing more environmentally-friendly practices like reducing carbon emissions, cutting back on waste, and exploring sustainable alternatives in all parts of life.

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According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, the tourism industry is responsible for about 5 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, although others say the real figure is much higher than that. While this percentage may seem small, it accounts for a tremendous amount of carbon being released into the environment, and when it comes to tackling climate change reducing carbon emissions in whatever way possible is essential. Like major corporations in other industries, hotel chains are exploring ways to transform their businesses into ones that have a low or neutral carbon impact. Hilton, for instance, gets more than 50 percent of its electricity from a power plant that burns natural gas, which is a cleaner method than most popular forms of energy production, although it is not entirely carbon neutral. Hilton is also transitioning to using more energy-efficient lighting and appliances, including air conditioning systems that automatically turn off when they’re not being used.

Cruise lines, too, are trying to transition to a more environmentally-friendly business model. Royal Caribbean, for instance, is incorporating technology into their cruise ships that filters almost all of the sulfur dioxide emissions from their exhaust. The popular cruise line, having pledged to respect the oceans in the environment, has also invested in energy-saving lighting systems and has engineered the designs of their ships for optimum efficiency. Another cruise line, Hurtigruten, plans to transition to using liquified biogas, which is derived from organic waste instead of from fossil fuels.

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Educational efforts are part of how the industry is attempting to tackle climate change as well. Many hotels and tour groups encourage tourists to reduce waste by taking shorter baths and showers as well as reducing their laundry by re-using towels, among other strategies for minimizing waste. Tourist destinations, such as Lake Tahoe in Nevada, are trying to reduce their carbon emissions by improving their public transportation systems, reducing the extent to which people rely on cars to get around. Even luxury tourism brands are attempting to become more environmentally-friendly; The Brando, for instance, is a luxury resort that runs entirely on renewable energy, acting as a model for how other resorts can help to provide a luxurious vacation experience while completely eliminating their reliance on fossil fuels and harmful carbon emissions. 

 

As the global economy is currently strong, many expect that the tourism industry will continue to grow in the future, even as the nature of tourism itself changes due to climate change, both in terms of how a changing climate affects the weather conditions of tourist destinations and in terms of how the tourism industry is changing to reduce its contributions to the crisis. 

Venice Flooding

Venice Undergoes Historic Flooding; Mayor Blames Climate Change

The city of Venice is currently suffering from a flood of historic intensity. The highest tide the city has seen in 50 years has overwhelmed seawalls and destroyed docks, flooding roughly 85% of the famous lagoon city. Strong winds have worsened the impact of flooding. Already, two people have died in connection with the floods; an elderly man was electrocuted as he tried to run electric pumps to remove water from his home, and a second person was found dead elsewhere. Additionally, the floods have caused a tremendous amount of property destruction, as boats floated into the streets and countless homes and other buildings were partially submerged.

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According to a statement from Venice’s government, the city was struck by a tide of 187 centimeters, or 73.6 inches, on Tuesday night. This is the worst flood since 1966, when tides of 194 centimeters or 76.4 struck the city. The historic crypt of St. Mark’s Basilica, which has been standing for 1,200 years, flooded for the sixth time in its history. At a news conference, Venice’s mayor, Luigi Brugano, characterized the damage as “enormous,” and said that repairing the city would cost hundreds of millions of euros. He also claimed the flooding was a direct result of climate change, saying, “Now the government must listen… these are the effects of climate change… the costs will be high.” The city’s government will “submit a request for a state of emergency” to the country’s central government, in the hope of securing funds to repair the damage. Schools were closed due to the weather conditions.

Despite the immense level of destruction already, more high water is expected to come in the next several days

People have been seen wading through waist-high water in the streets of Venice, and in some areas the water is high enough to swim in. Tables and chairs from outdoor restaurants floated through the waters, and tourists had to leave through the windows of high-end hotels as six-foot-high water submerged the first floors of these hotels. A few boats used for public transportation in the city sank, and officials worry about the flood’s effect on the integrity of older historic buildings. On Twitter, Mayor Brugano said “Venice is on its knees,” and posted pictures of himself and a religious leader surveying the damage of St. Mark’s Basilica, wading through knee-high water.

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Because he is blaming the flood on climate change, the mayor has argued that serious work needs to be done for the future of the city to prepare for future floods. At the news conference, the mayor shared that while wandering through the city, he “found people in tears because they had lost everything,” adding “if we don’t want the city to be abandoned, we have to give certain answers. It’s not just about quantifying the damages, but about the future of this city.” A similar flood transpired last year, leaving many people homeless and destroying personal belongings. The Catholic church has pledged to provide lodging for people left homeless by the flood, giving priority to people who are the most in need.

Despite the immense level of destruction already, more high water is expected to come in the next several days, much to the dismay of the city’s 262 thousand residents, according to the city’s website. Italy’s Prime Minister, Guiseppe Conte, is scheduled to visit the city and spend the night soon. The country has also invested billions of euros in flood-protection technologies, but this technology has yet to be implemented. This flood-protection system, which is scheduled to go online in 2022 and involves offshore underwater dams, may have prevented the disaster if it had been operative. However, flood barriers are just one of the measures necessary for the city to combat climate change, as elements like the navigability of the canals are also involved.

Mall

Second Largest U.S. ‘Mega Mall’ Opens in New Jersey

A new ‘mega mall’ called the American Dream complex has just opened in New Jersey.  Housing over 500 shops and restaurants, American Dream includes a 16-story indoor ski slope, a roller coaster and a water park.

Covering 3 million square feet, American Dream is the second largest mall in the country and the third largest in North America. Expected to attract over 40 million visitors within its first year, its website states that, American Dream is a revolutionary, first of its kind community for fashion and luxury retail, fine to casual dining and an array of unexpected entertainment.’

Don Ghermezian, CEO of American Dream is quoted as saying ‘American Dream is an extraordinary and inclusive community that will mean something different to everyone who visits, whether they are residents of the area or traveling from abroad. With all of its unique components, this destination will be the realization of our guests’ wildest dreams.”

American Dream promises that ‘no two visits will ever be the same’, drawing on their state of the art digital mobile capability to help visitors navigate around the venue. Keen to tap into an increasingly digitally-savvy audience, American Dream will also offer hyper-personalized, on demand experiences through their American Dream app. 

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The development comes at a time when the high street is facing significant strain following the boom in ecommerce. In fact, according to real estate research firm CoStar Group, there have been only 9 malls built since 2015. American Dream plans to counteract this through its plans for 55% of the space to be used for entertainment, which will in part relieve some of the pressure on retail trade alone. 

American Dream is reportedly planning to cater to a wide range of tastes with its portfolio of attractions, which include a bunny field, an aviary, and doggy day care. For the more prestigious customer, there is a luxury wing where shoppers can relax and enjoy champagne and caviar whilst waiting for their shopping to be wrapped. 

American Dream is not just your average mall. Many believe it holds a unique offering and it has been designed to help bring local communities together.

Given its size and variety of experiences on offer, American Dream is being marketed as a ‘staycation’ experience, thereby drawing visitors from all over the country to indulge in its unique offering. It is situated just five miles from Manhattan, adjacent to the Meadowlands Sports Complex and offers guests 33,000 parking spaces. It is accessible by a NJ Transit bus hub on-site, as well as a hub for tour operators and there is a NJ Transit station on-site. Future plans include an NY Waterway ferry service from Manhattan to Port Imperial Weehawken with connecting dedicated shuttles to American Dream and a taxi and ride-share hub located on-site.

It has also been designed with flexibility in mind, meaning that it can cater to different trends and events long after building work has been completed. Examples of this include the court’s fountain which can be converted into a catwalk for a fashion show. Equally, the space dedicated to the ice rink can rapidly be repurposed as a concert venue, essential for bringing in the crowds out of hours.

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Despite having an optimistic future, American Dream has faced a number of challenges over the years and it has taken some time to finally be in a position to open its doors to the public. Initially called Xanadu by its former owners, the project ground to a halt in 2009 following the financial crisis. Creditors seized the project a year later and in 2011, Canada-based Triple Five took ownership and decided to rebrand it American Dream. 

Triple Five were well placed to drive forward the vision for American Dream, given their expertise and success with two of the largest malls in North America, West Edmonton in Canada, and Bloomington in Minnesota. Both of these malls relied heavily on entertainment  and it is this same model that has been applied to American Dream.

Despite the owners’ previous mall successes, many remain skeptical of whether American Dream will really be able to deliver on its promises now its doors are open. The retail sector remains turbulent and American Dream will always be a destination venue; people have to be enticed to physically want to travel there. Some have also suggested that its close proximity to a more enticing Manhattan will prove its downfall. There is also some question over how successful retailers there will be when many of the brands already have a strong presence elsewhere. Adding to this is the requirement to abide by blue laws and close all retail shops on Sundays, although the restaurants and theme parks will remain unaffected. 

That said, American Dream is not just your average mall. Many believe it holds a unique offering and it has been designed to help bring local communities together. Amidst all of the doom and gloom, you’ve got to have a dream. Maybe this one is it.

Tourist

Growing Tourism Market Means An Increase In Tourist Misconduct

Tourism is beginning to become a bad word in many parts of the world. Headlines regarding tourists complete disregard and disrespect for local values have only increased within the past years and a big part of the blame is to be placed on social media. 

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), there was a record of 1.4 billion tourists visiting various places around the globe in 2018, making the tourism market a $1.7 trillion industry. While many places around the world are highly dependent on the high grossing tourism market, many popular destinations are trying to restrict the market. Venice, Italy, for example, is affected every year by the population spikes during the vacation season, causing the water levels to continue to rise at astronomical rates. Places such as Ibiza and Barcelona have even implemented tourism taxes to make up for the amount of water and food waste they go through yearly, according to CNN

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One of the biggest reasons behind an increase in tourism over the years is social media and influencer culture. Trendy tourist destinations see a major increase in their normal tourism rates when highly followed influencers visit them. In addition, the mending of cultures between traditional and sacred locations and social media stars just looking for a quick photo-op is causing a lot of the worlds “anti-tourism” attitude. 

“Currently, there are no statistics to suggest that misconduct by tourists is increasing. However, in this digital era, things can go viral easily, giving the impression that inappropriate conducts are increasing in number. This is actually an important reminder for the security forces and tourism industries to continue to educate tourists on respecting local culture and rituals. It’s possible that recent misconduct by tourists in Bali may relate to the individual’s lack of awareness and understanding of local wisdom and values of the Balinese people. The trend for sharing these types of videos on social media only serves to worsen the relationship between tourists and locals,” Michael O’Regan, a former assistant professor at the Institute for Tourism Studies Macao, said to CNN Travel

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Tourists in general are becoming less socially aware of foreign policies and using the fact that they’re a tourist as an excuse to behave recklessly. According to CNN, so much so that places like Italy have taken action with its tourism laws. Italy has banned street drinking, any public fountain swimming, and pub crawls. Different areas of Europe have also banned any sort of food products in areas of historic value. Drinking is one of the main reasons behind so many tourist horror stories. Individuals, especially in Europe, assume that the alcohol is always flowing, and therefore you can act as such 24/7.

The best way to combat the increasing levels of disconnect between a culture’s values and tourists rule breaking naive way of thinking is through education. Not the type of education that they receive on a tour bus, but preliminary research instead. It’s the tourists responsibility to be fully aware and educated on the are that they will be travelling too, especially if it’s a completely different culture. 

“Usually these incidents are related to abuse of alcohol and ensuing behavior related to drunk and disorderly conduct. At the national level we would say that the best way to deal with this is to work on public awareness and education about respecting the destination one is visiting, there’s no evidence to suggest codes of conduct actually work, pointing out that many tourists won’t even be aware of them in the first instance. Tourism is meant to educate. Travelers should go to a different destination, adapt to different cultures and come back somewhat changed. Educational outreach about expectations before tourists even arrive can help reduce tensions. We can’t expect ready made, perfect tourists as soon as they land at a destination. It’s a learning process,” says Ina Rodin, director of North America at the Croatian National Tourist Office to CNN.

Surfboards

Hawaii Tourism Authority Releases Guidelines for Vacation Behavior

Tourists have long been stereotyped as people who are rude, entitled, and cause trouble by failing to observe local customs and norms. While many tourists are respectful and responsible while travelling, this stereotype is unfortunately true for some, as anyone who lives in a heavily-touristed area can attest. The bad behavior of tourists in Hawaii has become enough of a problem that the Hawaii Tourism Authority has created a project designed to teach tourists about the appropriate way to behave on the island. The project, called the Kuleana Campaign, which translates to “responsibility” in Hawaiian, involves a collection of videos featuring interviews with inhabitants of the island who share their thoughts about the best way for visitors to behave.

The videos, which are just a few minutes in length, will be played on television screens in airports as well as on tourists’ social media feeds, taking advantage of geo-tracking technology that recognizes when people arrive to the island. The videos cover topics like ocean safety, ocean conservation, culture, and land safety. Rather than criticising tourists ignorant of rules and customs, the videos take a welcoming approach, and focus on explaining why the relevant rules and customs are present to help tourists understand their importance. The videos are available in a variety of languages, including English, Japanese, and Korean, reflecting the diversity of countries of origin of the state’s visitors.

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The project was funded by a state tax called the Transient Accomodation Tax, which is a tax placed on rental units like hotels and timeshare vacation homes in the state and is meant to fund programs that improve the quality of life for residents in areas affected by tourism. The project is specifically targeted at reducing behaviors that locals find the most problematic, which includes leaving the trail while hiking to explore the woods, which can lead to erosion and cause unsafe conditions. Additionally, tourists in Hawaii have been known to hike on private property, leading to annoyance from landowners and possible legal action against vacationers.

The videos are artfully shot, and are meant to showcase the natural beauty of the island so as to demonstrate the importance of taking care of and respectfully appreciating the environment. As they come from all over the world, visitors to Hawaii may simply lack the knowledge of what constitutes appropriate behavior when visiting the state. As such, the project’s directors take the position that people are mainly good and want to do the right thing, and will be self-motivated to follow instructions when they understand the justifications for doing so.

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One video, entitled “Ocean Safety,” encourages visitors to be mindful of the dangers in their environment when swimming in the ocean, as dangers such as rip currents and rocks aren’t always obvious, particularly for people who aren’t experienced with navigating natural bodies of water. In a similar vein, a video entitled “Ocean Conservation” teaches tourists about “travel pono,” which is defined as travelling in a way that is positive for the thousands of miles of ocean surrounding the island. The video specifically highlights the problem of microplastics, which collect in the ocean from disposable water bottles and other plastic items, and of sunscreen which contains chemicals that can harm the ocean’s reefs.

“Land Safety,” in addition to urging travellers to stay on trails, also advises them to wear appropriate footwear and clothing and to “take only pictures and leave only footprints.” And “Culture” stresses the importance of asking permission before entering a privately-owned place and having a general attitude of respect towards the native inhabitants whose home vacationers are visiting.

The videos can be viewed on the official Go Hawaii Youtube channel, alongside videos documenting tourist attractions on the island as well as local beliefs and activities. More information about travelling to Hawaii can be found on the state’s official website for tourists, gohawaii.com