Friday, January 21, 2022

Omicron unveils travel industry plans to return NWN News

Tourism businesses that were just finding their feet after nearly two years of devastation by the COVID-19 pandemic Countries are again being harassed by new barriers to travel being thrown up in an effort to contain the Omicron version.,

From shopping districts in Japan and tour guides in the Holy Land to ski resorts in the Alps and airlines around the world, a familiar fear is growing about the new restrictions.

Meanwhile, travelers eager to get out there have been thrown back into the old routine of reading new requirements and postponing trips.

Abby Moore, librarian and associate professor at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, was due to leave for Prague on Wednesday. But the day before his flight, he began to have doubts when he noticed that Prague had closed its Christmas markets. And imposed curfew in the whole city.

“I wasn’t really worried about my trip until the Czech Republic started what looked like a mini-lockdown process,” Moore said, who decided to reschedule her trip in March.

Less than a month after significantly easing restrictions for inbound international travel, the US government has banned most foreign nationals who have recently visited any of the eight southern African countries. A similar boomerang was seen in Japan and Israel, which both tightened restrictions soon after easing them.

While it is unclear where the variant emerged, South African scientists identified it last week, and several places have restricted travel from a wider region, including the European Union and Canada.

For all alarm, little is known about Omicron, including whether it is more contagious, causes more severe disease, or can survive vaccines.

Still, governments that were slow to respond to the first wave of COVID-19 are eager to avoid mistakes of the past. However, the World Health Organization says the travel restrictions are of limited value and “will put a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods.” Other experts say travel restrictions will not vary but could give countries more time to get people vaccinated,

London-based airline EasyJet said on Tuesday that the renewed travel restrictions were hurting already winter bookings, though CEO Johan Lundgren said the damage was not yet as severe as in previous waves. The CEO of SAS Scandinavian Airlines said winter demand is on the rise, but now we need to “figure out what the new variants might mean.”

“Over the past year, each new edition has seen a decline in bookings, but then there has been an increase after an increase,” said Helen Baker, an analyst at financial services firm Cowen. “We expect the same pattern” this time.

Israel’s decision to close the country to foreign visitors is affecting the country’s tourism industry as it prepares for the Hanukkah and Christmas holidays. The country only opened to tourists in November, barring most foreign visitors since the beginning of last year.

According to government figures, more than 30,000 tourists entered Israel in the first half of November, compared to 421,000 in November 2019.

Joel Haber, a guide based in Jerusalem, said that during a typical Hanukkah holiday his calendar would be filled with food tours through Jerusalem’s colorful Mahane Yehuda market. Instead, he only has one visit a day.

“Tour operators like me are the first to be hit and the last to emerge and are barred from operating directly by government decisions,” Haber said.

In the West Bank city of Bethlehem, revered by Christians as the birthplace of Jesus, local businesses hoped to get a boost from Christmas tourism. The Bethlehem Hotel, one of the largest in the city, has been operating at a fraction of capacity for the past 18 months.

“Those who had booked over the next two weeks have canceled while others are waiting to see what happens next,” hotel manager Michael Mufti said. “I don’t know how long we can last, but we’re doing our best.”

The pandemic has already reduced foreign tourism to Japan from 32 million visitors in 2019 to 4 million last year, a trend that continued this year.

As concerns surfaced about Omicron, Japan on Wednesday tightened its ban on foreign travelers, asked airlines to stop taking fresh reservations for all incoming flights into the country till the end of December. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has insisted to avoid a “worst-case scenario” and reversed the relaxation of travel restrictions in effect in just three weeks.

Long missing Chinese shoppers flock to Tokyo’s dazzling Ginza district in a stream of buses to pick up luxury goods. Restaurants and bars have been forced to restrict hours.

In Asakusa, a quaint part of town filled with souvenir shops, rickshaw pullers and stalls selling traditional sweets, news of the Omicron edition made little difference this week. Vendors say there has been no business for months except for a few local customers.

Boat charter operator Tokyo Water Taxi debuted on the city’s waterfront in 2015, when hopes were high to capitalize on the booming tourism business. With the version pushing the return of foreign visitors in the future, the company is trying to look on the bright side.

“It’s gaining popularity among Tokyo residents who have lost other forms of entertainment,” said company spokeswoman Yuha Inoue.

In Europe, alpine ski resorts worry about how to meet requirements such as ensuring that all skiers have been vaccinated or recovered from infection and tested negative for the virus.

Matthias Stauch, head of the German Ski Lift Operators Association VDS, said there are many small family businesses that lack the staff to conduct such checks. Meanwhile, the association is warning of a “massive” economic loss to the tourism sector if there is another lockdown.

Travel officials argue that government decisions about restrictions should wait until more is known about O’Micron, but they admit it is a tough call.

Robert Jordan, the incoming CEO of Southwest Airlines, said, “If you wait, by the time you have all the data, it’s too late to stop community spread because (the virus) is already here.” ” “If you go ahead, you run the risk of the measures being more efficacious than the actual cases.”

About a month ago, Javier Barragan and her husband booked a trip to Paris later this month. When the news of O’Micron being hit came, they were worried but decided to go ahead with the journey.

“The way it was in the news was, ‘Oh, is this worse? Is it different?'” said Barragan, who lives in New York. France’s health protocols – the couple must submit vaccine cards to enter the country – Which made them feel more comfortable. Also both got booster shots.

However, he bought travel insurance which would cover cancellations due to any reason.


Koenig reported from Dallas and Kageyama from Tokyo. Associated Press writers Mai Anderson and Tali Arbel in New York; D—Ann Durbin in Detroit; Tia Goldenberg in Tel Aviv, Israel; Jack Jeffery in Bethlehem, West Bank; Frank Jordan in Berlin; Pan Pilas in London; and Mogomotsi Magom in Johannesburg contributed.


Follow NWN’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at


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