Nikki Indelicato is a Contributing Reporter at The National Digest based in New York. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With the summer months coming to a close and the crisp autumn breeze beginning to fill the air, people are still looking for that perfect getaway.
According to Travel Pulse, a recent study showed that the online searches for travel destinations this fall are higher in comparison to 2021.
“Travelers from the United States are increasingly setting their sights on international destinations. Barbados, Ho Chi Minh City, London and Munich among the most popular, have seen triple-digit increases for fall travel,” stated recent data from Expedia.
After the recent spikes in flight and travel prices due to a busy travel season throughout the summer, the study also found that the ticket prices for these trips should be at least 45% cheaper during the week of September 26.
“Fall is right around the corner, and while many are looking forward to breaking out their favorite boots and pumpkin bread recipes, autumn also means big travel savings”
There also has been a recent trend in travelers looking to visit large U.S. cities as the ultimate travel destination.
New York City has seen a 75% increase within online searches, Seattle has been up by 55%, Washington D.C. at a 45% increase, San Francisco at 35% and then Boston at a 30% increase.
The average ticket price (ATP) for some of the biggest cities have also showed the best value of traveling there is in the fall compared to summer. For Seattle, the ATP is down more than 45%, Los Angeles down more than 35% and San Francisco down more than 25%.
Vacationers still want to enjoy the warm weather before the cold winter starts creeping in over the next few months. Beach destinations have also found an increase in online searches for vacations as well.
Leading the pack is Barbados which saw an overwhelming 3,360 increase in searches, Orlando jumped up to 60% in interest, Punta Cana increased to 40% and Fort Lauderdale grew up 25%.
Travel companies are also suggesting to those who want to travel internationally to start looking around the week of October 10, when the average ticket should be at least 20% lower than it was throughout the summer months.
“Many destinations are more affordable than they’ve seen in months, making it the perfect time to have an authentic Oktoberfest experience in Munich or swap out the faux foliage for the real deal in New England,” said Expedia spokesperson Christie Hudson.
The study also shows that departing your destination midway through the week rather than at the beginning of the week could be another way to help vacationers save some money on their adventures.
Nikki Indelicato is a Contributing Reporter at The National Digest based in New York. You can reach her at email@example.com.
David Pekoske, the nation’s TSA chief, and airport and airline leaders throughout the nation have stated that there will be inevitable “hiccups” this summer, as the agency is expecting the largest airport passenger crowds since the Covid-19 pandemic first began.
Pkoske said that labor shortages and an increased demand for travel have already begun to overwhelm airlines. The agency is gearing up to deploy as many as 1,000 TSA agents and K-9 units to the nation’s busiest airports to ideally counter any potential delays at security checkpoints.
“We expect the summer to be very, very busy. That’s not to say that there will not be some hiccups along the way — those things will happen, but we’ll do everything we can to recover quickly.”
Some expect airport crowds surpass 3 million passengers per day on the busiest travel days for the summer. The increased demand for travel has also led to pilots complaining about fatigue and flight cancellations heading into the summer at airlines including American Airlines, Southwest, Alaska, and Delta.
“Everybody is facing labor shortages; airlines and TSA are no different. At just about every level you can think of in the airline industry we can speak of we’re having labor shortages,” said Paul Doell, vice president for the National Air Carrier Association.
Airline restaurants and car rental companies have also been dealing with labor shortages. Customer service call centers for airlines and passengers who need wheelchair assistance, as well as ground airport employers, have also been struggling to maintain a steady supply of workers to deal with the demand for flights.
Airlines themselves are cutting thousands of flights from their schedules as a means of helping scheduled flights run on time. This also means that TSA agents and other airline workers will likely have to work harder to get travelers to their flights on time.
“But regional air carriers, which fly about 43% of all scheduled flights in the U.S., say they are facing labor shortages as employees such as pilots are being poached by the larger airlines. That could create issues connecting smaller destinations to larger hub airports,” said Kevin Burke, head of Airports Council International-North America.
“The pilot shortage is impacting the regionals, and we expect to see the small communities hit the hardest. We expect this to continue to be a trend, but those pain points will assert themselves at hubs as well.”
Pekoske warned that “many travelers this summer could be getting on a plane for the first time in three years, especially as masking and Covid-19 restrictions have fallen in many parts of the country and international travel restrictions are being lifted.”
“The amount of people that worked concessions prior to the pandemic are not there now, they’ve come back, but they’re nowhere near where they need to be,” Burke explained.
“So we really ask that we try to have patience and understanding when they are dealing with employees at the airport. Everybody’s trying to do the best job they can to make sure this is safe, secure and also as comfortable as it can be under normal circumstances but especially when you have those tough days where you have storms that are disrupting the system,” Doell said.
Throughout the past month many countries have made international travel a lot easier as the Covid-19 pandemic continues around the world. Vaccinated travelers have found it much easier to book and experience travel again, however, US travelers returning from abroad must still present negative Covid-19 test results before they’re able to safely return.
The US Virgin Islands became the latest territory to announce that vaccinated travelers no longer need to provide a negative test upon arrival, a move that other international countries, like the UK, have had in place for nearly a month.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control And Prevention’s (CDC) last updated guidance for international travel, which was made in December, the US requires all incoming travelers over the age of 2 to submit a negative Covid test taken within one day of departure from a foreign country in order to enter the US.
It’s become much easier to find at-home Covid-19 tests in the US, which will allow travelers to have greater access to testing in order to go abroad and return safely. The US government’s international travel guidance allows at-home tests as an accurate result for re-entry into the country.
The provision within the guidelines also provides a list of approved at-home tests that travelers can take before and after traveling abroad. The CDC accepts Ellume, Quered, and BinaxNow at-home tests, which are some of the most commonly sold brands throughout the US.
The CDC also requires that the tests are supervised by a live attendant via a video call. BinaxNow tests can even be purchased through the website eMed, which will provide an at-home test shipped directly to your home prior to your trip with instructions on how to take it with live video guidance.
In a statement to the media, a CVS spokesperson said the company’s stores “have the ability to meet our customers’ needs with at-home test kits both in store and at CVS.com,. We have simplified the digital process so customers can order and pick up a test kit with no up-front, out-of-pocket cost or the need to submit a claim to insurance.”
Walgreens said it “worked diligently with our suppliers to ensure we have enough supply to meet customer demand at nearly all locations.”
While other countries may continue to lift certain Covid-19 protocols for international travel, the US is unlikely to follow suit anytime soon, as it is one of the nation’s with the highest rate of infection.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added Vietnam to it’s Level 4 risk category for travel this week. Level 4 is the highest-risk level when it comes to traveling during the Covid-19 pandemic.
There are currently nearly 140 places within the Level 4 category of risk; which is more destinations than all other levels combined. In the beginning of 2022 about 80 places were on the list.
The CDC places a location at “Level 4: Very High Covid-19 Risk” when more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents are registered within 28 days.
Vietnam has become the only destination to be added to the list within recent weeks. Previously, the nation was listed at Level 3 for “high risk.” Global case numbers in general have been declining since peaking in late January, but experts are continuing to caution that the pandemic is nowhere near over.
New Zealand has had relatively few Covid cases due to strict pandemic protocol restrictions. Recently, however, the nation has recorded record numbers of cases in the past week. The country remains at “high risk” on Level 3 after moving up from Level 2 last week.
The CDC advises avoiding all travel to countries deemed Level 4. The CDC does not include the US in its list of advisories, but the nation is currently coded at Level 4. Mexico, Canada, France, Peru, Singapore, and Spain are some of the other countries that have remained at Level 4 for over a month. The United Kingdom has remained there since July 2021.
The Level 3 “high risk” category applies to destinations that have had between 100 and 500 cases per 100,000 residents within 28 days. Comoros, Hong Kong, São Tomé and Príncipe were added to the category this week.
Hong Kong went from Level 1 to Level 3 this week, it previously was on Level 1 since May 2021. Hong Kong is currently dealing with their worst Covid-19 outbreak since the start of the pandemic, and is planning on testing its entire population in March.
Destinations at a Level 2 are considered “Covid-19 moderate,” meaning they have around 50 to 99 cases per 100,000 residents within 28 days.
This week, 10 destinations moved down to Level 2, including Uganda, Ghana, Republic Of Congo, Montserrat, Rwanda, Togo, Lesotho, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, and Liberia.
To be considered “Level 1: Covid Low” a destination must have less than 50 cases per 100,000 residents over 28 days. Nigeria was the sole destination that moved to Level 1 this week. There are only 5 other locations considered Level 1, including China where the 2022 Winter Olympics were hosted.
Finally, the CDC also has a risk level for “unknown” risk due to a lack of information and Covid data. These are typically smaller remote places, or places with ongoing warfare/civil unrest.
Transmission rates are “one guidepost for travelers’ personal risk calculations,” according to CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen.
“We are entering a phase in the pandemic where people need to make their own decisions based on their medical circumstances as well as their risk tolerance when it comes to contracting Covid-19,” Wen said.
“You should interpret Level 4 to mean this is a place with a lot of community transmission of Covid-19. So if you go, there is a higher chance that you could contract the coronavirus,” said Wen.
“Some people will decide the risk is too high for them, other people will say, ‘Because I am vaccinated and boosted, I am willing to take on that risk. So this really needs to be a personal decision that people weigh understanding that right now the CDC is classifying the different levels based on community transmission rates, and basically only that. They’re not taking into account individual circumstances,” Wen explained.
You can review the CDC’s risk levels for any global destination on its travel recommendations page.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced this week that Australia will open its borders up fully for vaccinated international travelers starting later this month. The decision was made after Prime Minister Morrison met with the government’s national security committee.
“The National Security Committee and Cabinet has decided today that Australia will reopen our borders to all remaining visa holders on the 21st of February,” Morrison said.
Australia has remained mostly closed since early 2020 when the pandemic began. Through travel program collaborations with New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and Japan, they’ve been able to slowly start reopening their borders for vaccinated travelers.
As it currently stands, citizens, permanent residents and their families, as well as international students, backpackers, and migrant workers are allowed to enter the country if they can provide proof of two doses of an approved Covid-19 vaccine. Tourists will have to abide by the same rules as well.
“The condition is you must be double vaccinated to come to Australia. That’s the rule. Everyone is expected to abide by it. State-based caps on quarantine will continue and those caps will still be determined by state and territory governments,” Morrison explained.
Morrison went on to explain how visa requirements are different from the vaccination requirements being put in place for entry into the nation: “Your visa is one thing, but your entry into Australia requires you also to be double vaccinated and I think events earlier in the year should have sent a very clear message I think to everyone around the world that that is the requirement to enter into Australia.”
Morrison also explained that one of the biggest goals with the reopening it to help the travel industry recover within the country: “I know the tourism industry will be looking forward to that, and over the next two weeks they’ll get the opportunity both for visitors to be coming and for them to be gearing up to welcome international visitors back to Australia.”
Currently about 80% of eligible adults in Australia are fully vaccinated, a majority of which occurred after Tourism Australia released an ad campaign titled “Our Best Shot For Travel” across all online and physical news platforms to encourage citizens to get their inoculations so they could return to some level of normalcy when it comes to traveling.
As of February 7th, Australia has over 2.7 million confirmed cases of Covid-19, of which there were also around 4,200 deaths.
The French government passed a bill this weekend that legally requires citizens to be vaccinated against Covid-19 if they want access to cultural events, theme parks, restaurants, bars, and other public places where social gathering is normalized.
The bill was passed on Sunday, and will likely begin to be enforced on Friday January 21st. Initially, European countries were using the EU Digital Covid Certificate to allow EU citizens to travel freely within EU countries; similar to the vaccine passes we have on our phones in America depending on where you live.
Previously any citizen who is fully vaccinated, who has had Covid-19, or who can show proof of a negative Covid test was able to travel across EU borders freely. Each state within the EU, however, is responsible for their own system when it comes to vaccination requirements.
The French government has now made it a legal requirement to have a Vaccine Pass in order to go to public spaces or travel in or out of the country; a negative Covid-19 test will no longer be enough.
The French senate voted in favor of the vaccine passes this past Sunday, which was the final government body that had to approve the bill before it can be made into law, which is expected to happen this Friday.
90% of French people over the age of 12 are already vaccinated, so this new law will not impact them. Anyone who is not vaccinated, however, will be prohibited from eating out, going to theaters, or traveling long distances.
There are a couple of exceptions to the new bill as well. Children between the ages of 12-16 will only be required to use a Health Pass; which is what most vaccinated EU citizens are currently using. This means kids within that age bracket can continue to use a negative test to stay up-to-date on their requirements.
Unvaccinated individuals will still have access to long-distance buses and trains if there is an “imperative reason of a family or health nature,” according to the bill. A negative test result will be allowed in the case of a dying relative or similar health emergency in which travel is required.
The vaccination pass will not be required in hotels and holiday cottages unless the owners decide to enforce it. Owners have the right to refuse business to anyone and can make it a requirement as well for any traveler trying to stay at their establishment. Any communal spaces within these hotels, such as bars or restaurants, will be required to check for Vaccine Passes regardless.
France defines an individual as “fully vaccinated” once their at least one week away from their second dose of either the Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca vaccine, or one month away from their single Janssen dose.
If the most recent vaccine dose was over 7 months ago, the individual must get a booster in order to maintain their Vaccine Pass and keep it active.
For individuals living outside of France, a vaccine is required to enter the country. Travelers arriving from a non-EU country are also required to provide a negative Covid-19 test in addition to being vaccinated.
Covid-19 cases are once again on the rise in the US due to the highly contagious Omicron variant and lack of vaccination throughout the nation. Restrictions on inbound international travel have already begun to tighten, as travelers need to show proof that they’re fully vaccinated with a negative test result that’s no more than one day old.
The state of Hawaii already has limited on-island medical centers and resources, so they’re considering strengthening their own requirements for those arriving to the islands. Hawaii’s Lieutenant Governor Josh Green is pushing for tighter travel restrictions to be implemented in the near future.
“The recommendation should be that you’re either boosted or tested, real straightforward, and I think that will come in the New Year.”
Throughout the entire pandemic Hawaii has implemented some of the strictest interstate entry requirements.
After Hawaii launched its Safe Travels program, the state was met with a large number of tourists who were looking to escape to the islands. Governor David Ige responded to this uptick in travel by pleading with visitors to delay their visits so the hospitality industry could recover from the past summer.
With the sudden and rapid increase in Omicron infections, Hawaii-bound travelers may find themselves facing stricter restrictions in the coming weeks.
According to Jessica Lani Rich at the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii (VASH), there’s been an “increase in calls coming in from visitors who test positive while they’re already in the destination. The new CDC guidance has encouraged some such infected vacationers to ride out their on-island isolation period and then salvage the remainder of their trip, rather than just returning home.”
“The majority of our visitors do not have the funds to spend an extra two weeks during the holidays and so, for those visitors, they are happy that the CDC has changed the rules,” she told local KITV4 News.
Canada issues a travel advisory this week, asking its citizens to avoid all nonessential international travel as the Omicron variant continues to spread around the world.
“We see the situation abroad, and we’re afraid and concerned with what could happen to Canadians who would choose to go abroad in the next few weeks.”
“The situation abroad is already dire in many places, and it’s going to get worse very quickly. So we are afraid for what could happen to them if they chose to travel. And once they have left Canada, there is very little we can do to help them,” said Jean-Yves Duclos, Canada’s health minister.
Canadian government officials also warned that other restrictions will likely be announced in the coming days/weeks to better protect their citizens from infection.
The US-Canada border is still open, and those who are travelling by land between the two nations don’t need to provide a negative Covid-19 test as long as their trip is less than 72 hours and they’re vaccinated.
Canada is also allowing foreigners to enter the country for business and leisure, as long as they’re vaccinated and provide a negative Covid-19 test upon entry.
The current travel advisory is set to last for at least four weeks, and Canadian officials said that imposing stricter measures in the coming days is still a likely option.
“We are constantly reassessing so when we feel we need to change our policies, we will announce it as quickly as possible, but for now, we are monitoring it and assessing it,” said Transport Minister Omar Alghabra during the news conference.
Despite high levels of vaccination in Canada, public health officials are still worried as Canadians remain vulnerable to the Omicron variant, and are preparing for an increase in cases within the coming weeks.
“I know the rising threat Omicron poses is not something any of us want to be dealing with, especially now just before the holidays. I know we are all tired, we are all tired of Covid. But I think we all also understand that after 21 months of fighting this virus and doing a pretty good job as a country, that making hard decisions quickly and behaving carefully pays off,” said Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland when announcing the travel advisory.
The Omicron Covid-19 variant was first detected in South Africa, and has now spread to 14 countries, with some experts claiming the variant has already reached the US. Scientists are working to figure out how much more dangerous and contagious the new variant is when compared to other variants, especially as international governments race to ease travel restrictions.
The US has been imposing travel restrictions on travelers from South Africa since Monday, as well as other countries around the region. The variant has already been confirmed in Canada, and Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former head of the Food and Drug Administration, discussed the variant on the news recently.
“The new variant is likely already in the United States, but the government is better positioned to detect cases of the new strain than it was a year ago.”
As of this week, most travelers from southern Africa are barred from entering the United States, and restrictions have been renewed for all travel from southern Africa to most European countries. Within 36 hours of discovering the new strain, scientists in South Africa alerted the world and began testing current vaccines against the strain immediately. Dr. Anthony Fauci discussed the increased risk for unvaccinated Americans when it comes to any variant.
“The US certainly has the potential to go into a fifth wave of high infections if enough people don’t come forward for vaccination and booster shots.”
South Africa’s government and president, however, are worried that the region is being unjustly blamed for the new variant, when the reality is these variants only have the opportunity to develop due to uneven distribution of the Covid-19 vaccines throughout the world.
“We want all travel bans to be reversed, as they have no basis in science. These restrictions are completely unjustified and unfairly discriminate against our country,” South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said.
“I think there’s good reason to be worried. I don’t think that means that we’re powerless, answers are coming. We need to collect data. We need to investigate and understand this variant,” said Professor Anne Van Gottberg of South Africa’s Institute for Communicable Diseases.
“We should be doing the things that we know work when you’re dealing with a pandemic virus. It’s not the time to panic. We should be concerned, and our concern should spur us to do the things that we know work,” Dr. Fauci said.
Fauci explained that “the concern over the new variant comes from the number and type of mutations found around the spike protein, the part of the virus molecule that allows it to attach itself to human cells. The high number of mutations and where they were found suggests that this would be more transmissible, and also suggests that it might evade some of the immune parameters that we have, such as antibody and plasma treatments, and the current vaccines.”
“It appears to be spreading very readily and has a transmission advantage. One of the key things we don’t know right now is whether the new variant causes more severe COVID-19 symptoms than previous strains.”
Omicron currently accounts for more than 2,000 new daily cases in South Africa. One expert in the nation is worried that the daily infection rate could triple within the next week alone.
“I am expecting we will top over 10,000 cases by the end of the week per day,” Dr Salim Abdool Karim said during an online press briefing by the Health Ministry.
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