Thailand Launches New Program to Ensure Visitor Safety, Confidence

Thailand has taken a key step in welcoming back travelers amid the COVID-19 pandemic, launching a new safety certification program that will identify businesses, including restaurants, hotels and travel agents, that meet all appropriate COVID-19 hygiene and quality controls upon inspection.

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The Amazing Thailand Safety and Health Administration (SHA) Certification Program was announced by a handful of the country’s top officials on Tuesday, including Phiphat Ratchakitprakan, Minister of Tourism and Sports; Chote Trachu, Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Tourism and Sports; Dr. Panpimol Wipulakorn, Director-General, Department of Health, Ministry of Public Health and Yuthasak Supasorn, Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand during a recent press conference in Bangkok.

SHA eligible businesses include restaurants; hotels and accommodation providers; convention centers; recreation and tourist attractions; tourist transport vehicle providers; travel agents; tour operators; health spas and beauty parlors; department stores and shopping centers; sports stadiums for tourism; theaters and souvenir shops and other retailers.

After meeting all necessary hygiene and quality controls following a rigorous inspection, approved businesses will display the SHA logo to reassure travelers.

Certification will be granted for two years pending any violations.

“Ensuring high health and safety standards will be one of the key criteria for Thai tourism to establish its competitive advantage in the recovery period. The desire to travel will remain strong, but when it actually comes to the decision-making time, visitors will opt for those destinations where they feel confident about their personal safety,” said Supasorn, in a statement accompanying Tuesday’s announcement.

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The art of slow travel: Discovering the Wairarapa

Like many Kiwis, I have had international travel plans cancelled. Long gone are my dreams of dark-sky star-gazing, snorkelling in some of the world’s clearest waters, and relaxing in a tropical climate.

So what did I do instead? I spent the weekend exploring a bit closer to home.

Heading from Wellington over the hill to the Wairarapa for the weekend, Castlepoint had been on my list of places to visit for a long time. This small east coast beach town, just an hour from Masterton, is a wild and strangely therapeutic place to visit.

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New port facilities greet Puerto Vallarta visitors

Thanks in part to $16 million in private investment, Puerto Vallarta’s Cruise Port Authority has completed construction on its Los Alambiques cruise passenger welcome center and Hacienda Tequilera, a themed shopping center.

The decision to revamp Puerto Vallarta’s port, Puerto Magico, comes on the heels of Mexico’s National Development Plan 2019-2024 as well as the National Plan of Ports and Merchant Marine 2019-2024, which were put in place to develop new port and tourist businesses to create more employment for the local community. 

The project also includes developing new port facilities to increase capacity and efficiency as well as attract private investment to minimize the use of public resources. 

The new welcome center has three buildings, each drawing on designs and aesthetics from the tequila haciendas and sugar mills that have been endemic to the state of Jalisco for decades. The buildings house a duty-free shop and offices for local authorities and for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The Hacienda Tequilera is an expansive shopping center that sells tequila and other regional products. The Hacienda will also be a stage for cultural productions and other entertainment. Puerto Magico has 76 stores, including a tequila museum, a chocolate museum, jewelry stores, clothing retailers and restaurants.

Shoring up

For passengers able to linger a little longer in the destination, Puerto Vallarta is showing off a few new developments for the coming tourist season. 

The Villa Premiere Boutique Hotel & Romantic Getaway has unveiled the Fish Market dining concept. The sea-to-table experience takes ingredients straight from its doorstep, the Bay of Banderas. The menu features mahi-mahi, red snapper, sea bass, octopus, crab, lobster and clams. Guests can select their ingredients and style of preparation, from grilled to fried, ceviche or sashimi. 

In terms of destination highlights, Puerto Vallarta is beefing up marketing efforts to smaller towns and cities to the south, such as El Tuito and Playa Majahuitas. 

These off-the-radar hideaways highlight the regional cultural side, out of the limelight of the typical tourist attractions. These spots, along the raw and wild Costalegre, put a different lens on Puerto Vallarta, exposing the indigenous communities, local traditions and less-developed coastlines that have remained insider secrets for so long.

Visitors heading up the coast into Riviera Nayarit next year can experience the new Susurros Del Corazon hotel, an Auberge Resort. The resort in Punta Mita will open in March and will offer an elevated “beach bungalow” experience on a quiet stretch of beach. The resort will have 59 suites and 30 residences on a cliff overlooking the Bay of Banderas. Rooms will be available in Beach Casitas, Hacienda Villas, Ocean Bluff Villas and a sweeping Presidential complex that cascades down the hillside toward the ocean.

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WTTC Unveils New Global Safety Protocols

In an effort to restore confidence in travel and tourism, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) unveiled Safe Travels, which are new global protocols designed to create consistency for destinations and countries regarding health and hygiene – and guidance for the travel industry at large once the coronavirus is suppressed.

The protocols, which were drawn up by WTTC, are focused on the health and safety of travelers and workers based on guidelines from the World Health Organization and the CDC.

On the hospitality front, key measures include reevaluating guidance for hotel cleaning teams, with a focus on such high-frequency “touch points” as room key cards; ensuring social distancing for guests through signage and guidelines; offering no-contact room service delivery, and more.

On the retail front, just some of the measures include deep cleaning regimes; the availability of digital menus in restaurants and food outlets; and minimizing touch points by introducing digital maps, virtual personal shopping and roving concierges.

Safety measures for the aviation and cruise sectors are currently being developed and will be announced at a later date.

“We have learned from the past, especially after the tragedy of 9/11, where the lack of coordination among governments and with the private sector caused long-lasting travel disruption, higher costs and a longer recovery time,” said WTTC President and CEO Gloria Guevara. “Coordination and alignment within the travel and tourism sector is vital to ensure that robust global measures are put in place to help rebuild confidence and which are jointly embraced by governments and the private sector.”

The development of the Safe Travels protocols was designed in consultation with WTTC members and with input from such organizations as Cruise Lines International Association, IATA and Airports Council International.

“We are delighted that for the first time ever, the global private sector has aligned around these new Safe Travels protocols, which will create consistency across the sector,” Guevara said. “Now we are calling on governments to adopt them so that they can be implemented globally and restore much-needed confidence in order to restart the travel and and tourism sector.”

Meanwhile, major travel companies have endorsed the protocols. “The global protocols WTTC has laid out are designed to align the travel and tourism industry around consistent health and safety guidelines that will help protect travelers wherever their journey takes them,” Chris Nassetta, WTTC chairman and Hilton’s president and CEO

Radisson Hospitality President and CEO Federico J. González stressed the importance of the travel industry sharing a common language when it comes to worldwide protocols. “The WTTC Safe Travels protocols will make this same language possible for the benefit of everybody in this industry,” he said. “This is the reason why Radisson Hotel Group fully supports this initiative and is looking forward to helping expand the WTTC Safe Travels protocols as much as possible, across the globe.”

Added InterContinental Hotels Group Chief Executive: “This important work illustrates how our industry can come together to provide the reassurance and confidence that will be so important as people return to travel.”

In April, WTTC unveiled research that estimated that 100.8 million travel industry jobs could be lost in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

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Covid-19: Etihad announces new May flights including Dublin and NYC

Etihad has implemented a number of safety procedures amid the Covid-19 pandemic, including social distancing in-flight

Etihad Airways has increased the number of ‘special flights’ it is operating from Abu Dhabi to destinations around the world in May as it prepares to resume to scheduled flights, the airline said in a statement on Wednesday.

According to Etihad, it will increase frequencies on recently announces special flights from Abu Dhabi to Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brussels, Frankfurt, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, London Heathrow, Manila, Melbourne, Seoul Incheon, Singapore, Tokyo Narita, and Zurich.

Additionally, the airline has also announced flights to Dublin and New York JFK.

Options for bookings and information on entry regulations to the various destinations are available on, through the airline’s call centres or travel agencies.

UAE nationals that hope to return have been advised to contact the nearest embassy or consulate.  

Etihad has implemented a number of safety procedures amid the Covid-19 pandemic, including social distancing in-flight.

The special flights – subject to change – are as follows

Amsterdam: 6, 9, 13, 16, 20, 23, 27, 30 May

Barcelona: 30 April and 7, 10, 14, 17, 21, 24, 28, 31 May

Brussels: 1, 3, 8,10,15, 17, 22, 24, 29, 31 May

Dublin: 1 May

Frankfurt: 10, 17, 24, 31 May

Jakarta: 30 April and 7,14, 21, 28 May

Kuala Lumpur: 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 May

London Heathrow: 30 April and 2, 6, 9,13, 16, 20, 23, 27, 30 May

Manila: 30 April and 1, 5, 7, 8, 12, 14, 15, 19, 21, 22, 26, 28, 29 May

Melbourne: 1, 5, 8, 12,15, 19, 22, 26, 29 May

New York JFK: 4 May

Seoul Incheon: 30 April and 2, 5, 7, 9, 12, 14, 16, 19, 21, 23, 26, 28, 30 May 

Singapore: 5, 12, 19, 26 May

Tokyo Narita: 18, 21, 25, 28 May

·        Zurich: 1, 3, 8, 10, 15, 17, 22, 24, 29, 31 May

Arabian Business magazine: Read the latest edition online

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Viking Opens Bookings for New Mississippi River Cruises 2022-23

Viking today officially opened reservations for the general public to book its all-new Mississippi River cruises, which will debut for the 2022-23 season.

As part of Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen’s promised exclusive preview, past guests of Viking were the first to be afforded early-booking opportunities, beginning March 30, 2020, and some departure dates have already nearly or completely sold out.

The cruise line’s first custom vessel, Viking Mississippi, will launch in August 2022, sailing voyages on the Lower and Upper Mississippi River, between New Orleans and St. Paul. The all-inclusive, state-of-the-art river ship will feature five decks with 193 all-outside staterooms to accommodate 386 passengers.

This latest announcement solidifies the coming of a new milestone for Viking with its arrival on the Mississippi, which has, historically, been perhaps the country’s single most important waterway.

“Our guests are curious travelers, and they continue to tell us that the Mississippi is the river they most want to sail with us,” remarked Hagen when Viking Mississippi’s introduction was announced on March 30, 2020. “The Mississippi River is closer to home for many of our guests, and no other waterway has played such an important role in America’s history, commerce and culture.”

Viking’s evolution as a company has recently kicked into high-gear, with several planned expansions of its fleet and new destination-focused tourism offerings in the works.

Fresh aspirations have prompted the launch of Viking Expeditions, with the carrier’s first 378-guest, purpose-built expedition ship, Viking Octantis, planned for launch in January 2022, first sailing voyages to Antarctica and afterward to North America’s Great Lakes.

A second expedition vessel, the Viking Polaris, will then make her debut in August 2022, sailing to the Arctic regions and Antarctica.

When the addition of Viking Expeditions was first announced in January 2020, Hagen said of the company’s expansion: “We began as Viking River Cruises; then we evolved into Viking Cruises with the addition of ocean cruises; today, we stand singularly as Viking, offering destination-focused voyages on more than 20 rivers, five oceans and five Great Lakes, visiting 403 ports in 95 countries and on all seven continents.”

He also referred to Viking as, “the company that covers the most water systems on Earth.”

For more information, visit

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New Delta Air Lines boarding procedures aimed at preventing spread of coronavirus

Delta Air Lines altered its boarding procedures in hopes of preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

FILE- In this Jan. 8, 2018, file photo, a Delta Air Lines Connection regional jet operated by GoJet Airlines takes off from Logan International Airport in Boston. Delta Air Lines reports earns on Thursday, July 12. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

FILE- In this Jan. 8, 2018, file photo, a Delta Air Lines Connection regional jet operated by GoJet Airlines takes off from Logan International Airport in Boston. Delta Air Lines reports earns on Thursday, July 12. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

The Atlanta-based carrier boards flights from back to front. Passengers are asked to stay seated in the waiting area until their row is announced.

The change, which took effect Friday, will remain in place at least through May 31,, according to a post on Delta’s website.

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By boarding from back to front, the airline said, there’s less chance passengers will have to pass each other as they find their seats.

Delta One and first class passengers, as well as Diamond Medallion members, will be able to board as usual.

This month, Delta initiated a spaced boarding process that allowed fewer passengers at a time to board to prevent potential exposure to coronavirus.

In addition to the new back-to-front boarding process, Delta has taken a number of safety measures, including providing crews with masks. Customers are asked to bring their own masks. 

Cleaning procedures have been enhanced, including spray fogging all aircraft.

Delta, like all major carriers, drastically reduced the number of flights it operates each day as business and leisure travel has plummeted because of COVID-19 fears.

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LEGOLAND New York Resort Opening Pushed Back to 2021

The highly anticipated opening of LEGOLAND New York Resort in Hudson Valley has been postponed until 2021 due to the ongoing global impact of coronavirus (COVID-19), Merlin Entertainments announced Tuesday.

The theme park, which will be located approximately 60 miles north of New York City, was previously scheduled to open on July 4, 2020.

“Nothing is more important to us than the health, safety and security of our team, the partners we work with, and the communities we serve,” said LEGOLAND New York Resort Divisional Director Stephanie Johnson in a statement accompanying the announcement. “We are in an unprecedented situation that has affected businesses worldwide. By opening LEGOLAND New York Resort in 2021 we are building an attraction that not only meets our high standards, it also gives our guests the best possible experience.”

“We are grateful for the support and understanding from our guests and neighbors as we navigate the challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic,” added Johnson said. “We look forward to building unforgettable memories with our guests and their families when we open in 2021.”

The resort confirmed that all previously purchased annual passes and single-day tickets will be honored when it opens next year and that those who have booked vacation packages through LEGOLAND Vacations will have the opportunity to be the first to book for the 2021 season.

Important update from LEGOLAND New York Resort. Please visit our website at for more information.

Once open, guests will have access to as many as seven themed lands featuring more than 50 rides, shows and attractions as well as the LEGOLAND Hotel, which is also scheduled to debut in 2021.

Contact your travel advisor or visit for more information. Guests can also email their questions to [email protected]

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