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Breaking Travel News investigates: How Covid-19 will change hospitality in the long-term

Minister of tourism for Jamaica and founder of the Global Tourism Resilience & Crisis Management Centre, Edmund Bartlett is a powerful voice in international hospitality.

Here he tells Breaking Travel News what must be done to halt the coronavirus pandemic and, in the longer-term, for the tourism sector to recover from the damage wrought.

We need no further reminder that the Covid-19 pandemic has become a global shock of epic proportions. Accordingly, I will depart from the morbid and depressing narrative that you have grown accustomed to over the last several weeks and share with you a message of hope and reflection.

I am of the view that the Covid-19 pandemic will easily be the game-changer of this millennium. While the world has witnessed other deadly pandemics in recent history, such as the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918 and the H1NI outbreak of 2009, never before has a pandemic so quickly and frighteningly rendered countries across the world, so powerless and helpless in such a simultaneous and indiscriminate manner.

Suddenly, all the advanced and seemingly impenetrable technological, scientific and military capabilities that some countries have developed to bolster self-defence and geopolitical supremacy have become useless against this indomitable invisible threat; appropriately called the great equaliser.

The Covid-19 pandemic has also reminded us that, in spite of the lines of demarcation that we draw up to separate ourselves in our daily lives such as class, wealth, zip code, job, religion, nationality, there is ultimately one human race sharing the same vulnerabilities and locked into the same fight for its survival.

This pandemic has indeed offered a very profound lesson in humility by showing us that, irrespective of development disparities and against the assumption of the supremacy of some countries, all countries have their moments of strength and weakness that will become self-evident at the right time. In an ironic twist of fate, historically embattled and volatile states and regions have become safer grounds, even if only temporarily, in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic than many countries that have become global symbols of power, control, and security.

This crisis has also forced us to quickly embrace the norms of the future digitalised economy in which business relationships and transactions will become increasingly mediated by digital technology. This new economic paradigm will provide us with an opportunity to discover new modes of functionality and productivity, allow us to balance mobility with responsibility and will help to generate business models that are more resistant to future public health crises. Indeed, the adjustments we are now being forced to make, in terms of shifting to remote services and working remotely, will become the new normal underpinning the ethos of public and private sector organisations in many countries in the post-Covid-19 era.

This crisis has also provided countries with the opportunity to maximise their full potential by un-tapping hidden sources of strength and resilience. Facing isolation, reduced trade, reduced inbound travel and tourism and the possibility of economic recession due to the interconnectedness of the global economy, many countries have now been forced to discover new sources of competitive advantage and survival which they are now locating within their own national borders and which they have traditionally overlooked or underutilised.

In the end, by forcing countries to be more in-ward looking in responding to and adjusting to the exogenous shocks induced by the Covid-19 pandemic, some countries would have chartered their own path to increased self-reliance which will serve them well in the post-Covid-19 era.

In this moment of darkness, fear and uncertainty, the new vicissitudes of life have also helped many of us to appreciate the things that really matter in life-bonding with children, reconnecting with relatives and loved ones, protecting the elderly, being each other brother’s keepers, sharing with the less fortunate, identifying with the suffering of others, paying closer attention to our diet and health and recognizing the temporality of life.

As we continue to fight this crisis together, we are reminded that we have been here before and like we overcame in the past, so shall we again. How quickly we do so will, however, depend significantly on the extent to which we, as citizens, are able to act selflessly and obey precautionary measures, on the one hand, while the state and the private sector must work collaboratively, on the other hand, to deploy resources and lead initiatives to encourage economic resilience as well to help those who are suffering the greatest.

To this end we must continue to:

  • Practice social distancing and limit interactions that will increase exposure to infection.
  • Observe regulations about public gatherings.
  • Desist from circulating misinformation or fake news that can contribute to more panic and confusion.
  • Sterilize infrastructure and public facilities.
  • Allocate public funds to support the preservation of jobs in both the public and private sector.
  • Introduce measures that will reduce taxes and financial burden on the poor.
  • Subsidise necessities for the poor including food, housing, medicine etc.
  • Partner with the private sector to transform hotels, hostels and residential rentals into accommodation centres for quarantined or infected persons.
  • Revisit our travel and tourism institutional structure.
  • Prepare plans for public investments.
  • Closely examine the preparedness of our education and health care systems to respond to future shocks.

More Information

For all the latest from Breaking Travel News on the coronavirus pandemic, take a look here.

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Impact of Coronavirus on Travel Industry Job Losses Worsens

The U.S. Travel Association says that projections of job losses in the travel industry from the coronavirus outbreak are direr than previously thought.

The organization has revised projections, which now show a loss of 5.9 million jobs by the end of April due to declining travel, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Travel Association and Tourism Economics.

Last week, the data showed 4.6 million jobs lost to travel declines before May.

Travel supports 15.8 million American jobs in total—employment for one out of every 10 Americans and the loss of this many jobs will more than double the U.S. unemployment rate from 3.5 percent to 7.1 percent by the end of April.

“The coronavirus crisis is hitting the travel economy hard, and it’s also hitting fast,” said U.S. Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow. “These new figures underscore the extreme urgency of financial relief for travel businesses—83 percent of which are small businesses—so they can keep paying their employees. Not only are workers suffering right now, but if employers are forced to close their doors, it is unknown when or if those jobs will ever come back.”

The association is advocating for several measures in the “Phase III” coronavirus package that is currently being negotiated in Congress. Among their requests are:

—Access to more significant small business loans, and ensure immediate access to retain employees and cover basic costs during the shutdown.

—A Workforce Stabilization Fund to help medium and larger travel businesses retain their workers and remain solvent.

—Tax relief to help mitigate economic losses.

The new U.S. Travel Association data also forecasts an expected loss of $910 billion in travel-related economic output in 2020, which would be seven times the impact of 9/11 and the organization predicts that the slowdown in the travel sector alone will push the U.S. economy into a protracted recession.

“The health crisis deserves the government’s full attention, but the economic crisis will be worse and longer without aggressive action to confront it right now,” Dow said. “Businesses can’t keep their lights on if they don’t have any customers, and they don’t have any customers because of the actions that are necessary to stem the spread of coronavirus. The resulting closures will take the greatest toll on the frontline employees who can least afford to lose their jobs—wait staff, housekeepers, concession workers, etc.

“Robust intervention by the federal government is the only avenue to make sure those outcomes are minimized.”

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