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Cruises

Cruise Planners Unveils ‘For the Love of Travel’ Facebook Contest

To keep travel top of mind with consumers in a quarantined world, Cruise Planners introduced a Facebook “For the Love of Travel” contest, whose grand prize is a seven-night Celebrity Cruises’ Caribbean cruise for two in 2021.

The campaign is in effect through April 30, 2020, and also includes weekly Cruise Planners’ gift items.

“This contest is a fun way to spark some joy across our travel advisor network, their clients and travelers who are spending days, and even weeks, inside their homes,” said Michelle Fee, CEO and founder of Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative. “I can’t wait to be inspired by the travel photos submitted, as I am already reminiscing about my favorite travels and dreaming of where to go next once the world opens up again.”

Those interested in participating need only post photos of their favorite vacation memories using the #CruisePlannersLove hashtag on their personal Facebook walls or on a Cruise Planner travel advisor’s Facebook business page.

However, to qualify, it is mandatory posters provide details about why the vacation was their favorite along with the picture and #CruisePlannersLove hashtag.

“A love of travel brings us all together, and it’s during these uncertain times, that we need to virtually come together and keep that passion alive,” Fee said.

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Carnival Seeking Infusion of Capital

The world’s largest cruise operator is looking at ways to raise capital in the wake of the effects of the coronavirus, which has crippled the industry financially.

Carnival Corp. said Tuesday it will use a combination of secured notes, convertible notes and new shares to raise $6 billion to withstand the crisis. The entire industry has suspended itineraries for at least 30 days – some lines up to 60 days – as the global pandemic wreaks havoc across, especially in such closed quarters as a cruise ship.

Outbreaks on Carnival-owned ships – which include Carnival, Costa Cruises, Holland America and Princess Cruises – have killed several passengers and sickened hundreds.

Carnival said it intends to raise $3 billion of secured notes and $1.75 billion of convertible notes — both due in three years — as well as $1.25 billion of new shares. CNN quoted Wedbush analyst James Hardiman as saying Carnival is losing $500 million a month, and the $6 billion should be enough to carry it through the next 12-13 months.

Carnival and its fellow cruise line companies were not included in the stimulus package signed by President Trump last week. Carnival’s stock is down 74 percent for the year.

The company has been especially hard-hit by the virus. Its Diamond Princess was stuck off the coast of its homeport in Yokohama, Japan, in February as more than 700 passengers contracted COVID-19; four died.

And, currently, the Holland America Zaandam is headed toward Fort Lauderdale after having been at sea since March 7 and denied entry to nearly a half-dozen ports on its South American itinerary. It is still unknown as of publication date whether Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale will allow the ship to disembark there.

The Zaandam is carrying four deceased passengers and 200 sick guests, including nine who have tested positive for the virus.

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ASTA Sends Letter to Treasury Secretary on Behalf of Travel Advisors

Now that the CARES Act has been signed into law, ASTA is doing its part to continue to advocate on behalf of travel advisors.

In a webinar last week, the organization spelled out how this piece of legislation could provide relief to travel advisors. One of the ways in which the CARES Act sets aside money for struggling agencies is in a fund of $25 billion set aside for airlines and their ticket agents.

In the letter, ASTA President and CEO Zane Kerby highlights the dire situation in which travel advisors find themselves during the coronavirus outbreak and offers ASTA’s expertise in distributing these loans.

“As you might imagine, due to the coronavirus crisis and its impact on travel, new business has largely come to a halt in the past few weeks and layoffs and agency closures have begun in earnest,” writes Kerby. “As of March 19, 77 percent of ASTA members surveyed predicted they will be out of business in six months or less if current conditions hold.”

ASTA also advocates on behalf of travel advisors, offering their assistance in the distribution of loans.

“We offer any assistance you might need specific to Section 4003(b)(1) as you balance the competing interests,” Kerby writes in the letter, touting ASTA’s prior experience with matters such as these, including the distribution of funds from the mid-1990s $86 million court settlement related to airline commission cuts to its membership.

The letter closes with a message of hope.

“While it will take years for the travel agency industry to recover from this crisis, we believe several provisions of the CARES Act will help speed that recovery and put travel agencies in a position to serve clients once the economy rebounds.”

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Cruises

Globus cancels travel until July

Globus, one of the world’s largest tour operators and the
parent of river cruise line Avalon Waterways, has cancelled all tours, cruises
and vacation packages through June 30 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

While many travel companies earlier this month suspended
operations through April, they have increasingly over the past few weeks pushed
back expected restart dates through at least the end of May.

President Trump on Sunday extended until the end of April
his call for Americans to stay home and practice social distancing. Many
countries have closed their borders indefinitely.

Click for links to travel companies’ schedule changes and
cancellation, refund and commission policies.

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Cunard and P&O Cruises extended sailing suspension until May

Cunard and P&O Cruises have extended the suspension of all voyages as the coronavirus pandemic continues to grow around the world.

Both Carnival Corporation-owned lines will not set sail again until at least May 15th.

Cunard said it would continue to monitor government guidelines and travel restrictions in ports of call around the world, and this may mean there are further changes to the timing of when each of the ships returns to service. 

Simon Palethorpe, president of Cunard, said: “The impact of Covid-19 is affecting personal routines and businesses as well as placing significant travel restrictions around the world.

“Everyone in the Cunard team is aware of the need to support the management and containment of Covid-19 globally.

“This includes protecting the health and safety of our guests and crew. It is therefore right we extend the pause in operations.”

Cunard and P&O Cruises guests who were due to sail between April 11th and May 15th will automatically receive a 125 per cent future cruise credit. 

P&O Cruises president, Paul Ludlow, added: “It is clear that our original date of April 11th to resume sailings, which would have been a 30 day pause in operations, is just not feasible in light of the government announcements last week.

“Regrettably, therefore, we are now extending this pause until May.

“Given the current guidelines it is prudent and practical to extend the pause until normal operations can be resumed.

“As we work through the evolving restriction on ports around the world future itineraries may be subject to change and so we are looking at how we phase our ships back into service.”

Coronavirus

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

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How Travel Agents Are Coping With COVID-19, Preparing for Recovery

In anticipation of the economic recovery that’s bound to follow once the COVID-19 health crisis abates, Development Counsellors International (DCI)—a leading travel and economic development marketing firm—looked to travel advisors to discover the ways in which they’re coping, and how marketing organizations might best help agents to prepare and position themselves well for the industry’s rebound.

A group of 457 travel advisors, 73 percent of whom hailed from the United States and 27 percent from Canada, participated in a March 2020 survey to provide some insight into the challenges agents currently face, and what their present needs and future expectations might be.

Current Climate

Amid the onslaught of travel notices and restrictions, border closures, and transportation shutdowns that have occurred over the past several weeks, travel advisors been kept busy—perhaps even more so than usual.

79 percent of advisors reported that they now spend the majority of their working hours rescheduling client bookings, and 71 percent of advisors reported spending much of their time providing their clients with reassurance, relevant up-to-date information, and clarification on new restrictions or policies.

A staggering 90 percent of respondents reported seeing cancellations of existing bookings and 82 percent have seen a decline in future 2020 bookings. While some share of clients may cancel entirely, 64 percent of advisors have also seen clients looking to postpone and reschedule their travel plans.

53 percent of those surveyed said they’ve seen a decline in interest in 2021 trips, though it’s impossible at the moment to make accurate predictions about such far-reaching effects of the coronavirus on travel.

Despite the pervasive air of uncertainty affecting everyone at present, North American travel advisors’ outlook for the near future seems optimistic, as evidenced by their reported anticipation of returning to business mostly-as-usual within the next few months.

Maintaining Momentum

Although at present they’re largely focused on mitigating fallout from the coronavirus epidemic, travel advisors are also apparently readying themselves for the time when travel resumes its normal pace.

The research showed that agents are demonstrating a marked interest in pursuing professional development opportunities, such as specialist courses and webinars. 38 percent reported that they’re actively engaging in these types of continuing education during the slowdown.

Since trade shows and FAM trips are all on hold, advisors are finding their own ways of staying updated on the products and destinations they sell; which is why DCI suggests that DMOs and operators ought to keep their websites and online marketing materials continuously refreshed, so that agents can be set to start selling once travel resumes.

Future Forecast

The data clearly shows that the majority of travel advisors are eager to get back to business as usual and attend events, at least in their home markets. Nearly one-third of respondents said they anticipate participating in destination sales events within their home markets as early as May 2020, with that number jumping to almost 60 percent who expect that it will happen by June.

In terms of taking a FAM trip, advisors seemed slightly more hesitant. For domestic trips, 26 percent of advisors mostly said they’d be willing to take a FAM trip within the U.S. by June, 18 percent by May. It will take a bit longer for them to reestablish enough confidence to volunteer for international FAMs, with a majority of respondents indicating that September is the earliest they’d consider traveling outside the U.S. Yet, more than 30 percent still said they would contemplate doing so by May or June.

For more information, visit aboutdci.com.

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Cruises

Regent Seven Seas Cruises Eases Cancellation Policy

Regent Seven Seas Cruises has modified its cancellation policy, letting customers who have paid in full cancel up to 48 hours before their departure dates.

“To ensure guests feel confident about sailing with Regent, we have introduced Regent Reassurance, where guests who have paid in full have the option to cancel up to 48 hours prior to departure date and receive a 100 percent future cruise credit,” the company said.

The program is valid for all voyages embarking on or before Sept. 30, 2020, and for existing and new reservations made by April 30, 2020.

The credit can be applied toward any new reservation made within one year of the credit’s issue date on any Regent voyage sailing before Dec. 31, 2022.

Guests who are outside of final payment may elect to pay their reservation in full, at which point the guests would be eligible for Regent Reassurance. Otherwise, for reservations outside of final payment, the standard cancellation schedule would apply.

For more details and FAQs on Regent Reassurance, click here.

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As Coronavirus Expands, Cruise Lines Extend Suspensions

A number of cruise companies are further postponing a return to operations as the coronavirus outbreak continues to grow. Here is a list of recent changes and announcements. It will be updated as required.

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Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. extended the suspension of operations by another 30 days, through May 12; cruises that include Canadian ports are off until at least July 1. RCCL brands include Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Silversea Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises.

CroisiEurope postponed cruises through April 30 for all river and coastal cruises and through May 31 for cruise safaris in Southern Africa. Cruises on the Mekong will resume on Aug. 14, 2020. Affected passengers will be able to rebook a departure date later than April 30 or May 31 for Africa. The company said its international teams will contact each person affected. For new bookings made between March 9 and May 1, 2020, for departures until Aug. 31, 2020, passengers may cancel free of charge up to 30 days before their departure date (excluding fee routing and administrative costs).

Costa Cruises has decided to extend the voluntary suspension of its cruises until April 30. Costa is taking steps to inform travel agents and guests affected by the changes. Guests booked through the North American office will receive a future cruise credit.

Oceania Cruises is temporarily revising the hours of its Guest Services Department starting March 30 until further notice. The revised hours are 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Friday and closed on Saturday and Sunday.

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ASTA Webinar: How Your Business Can Apply for CARES Act Financial Assistance

Travel agents who could currently use a helping hand will want to log on to the American Society of Travel Advisors’ (ASTA) upcoming webinar on Friday, March 27, 2020, at 2:00 p.m. ET to learn all about the new forms of financial and regulatory relief being made available to businesses through Congress’ new ‘Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security’ (CARES) Act.

Through an unprecedented grassroots and lobbying effort, ASTA has been petitioning Congress, and successfully impacted the size and scope of the relief options afforded by the new bill.

In this exclusive webinar, experts who helped shape this legislation will present detailed information on the bill’s provisions and offer insight to help agents understand what options are available to them in terms of government-issued financial assistance, which options best suit their business and how they can begin the process of application.

Due to anticipated high traffic volumes, if viewers are unable to access the live presentation, please note that all registrants will also receive an emailed link to the recorded version immediately following the webinar, which will also be posted on the ASTA website’s Video Resources Library. Travel advisors are invited to register here.

For more information, visit asta.org/webinars.

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Cloudbeds is linking healthcare providers with hotels

With the spread of Covid-19 triggering a shortage of
hospital beds nationwide, hotel software company Cloudbeds is hoping U.S.
hotels, many of which are now nearly or completely empty, can rally to help
fill the gap. 

On March 23, the San Diego-based startup debuted
#Hospitalityhelps, an online platform designed to connect property owners and
operators with local governments and healthcare providers in need of overflow
accommodations.

“In a recent calculation we’ve seen, we need around 300,000
additional hospital beds to solve this crisis in North America alone,” said
Cloudbeds co-founder and CEO Adam Harris. “That’s a scary number. But the hotel
industry has well above that, easily.” 

Under the #Hospitalityhelps initiative, hoteliers can submit
an online form at hospitalityhelps.org to make their properties available,
while government and healthcare agencies can email [email protected] to
outline their needs. 

Cloudbeds has leveraged its network of more than 22,000
hotel partners to get the word out while collaborating with technology
providers, OTAs, management companies and other industry players to widen the
platform’s reach. As of March 24, more than 25,000 beds had been made available
via #Hospitalityhelps. 

Cloudbeds co-founder and COO Richard Castle said, “We’re
getting people way outside of our customer base, and we’ve even had competitors
come to us and ask about how they can participate. We don’t want this to be
about Cloudbeds. If anything, we’re actually trying to distance our brand from
it.” 

Cloudbeds hopes the #Hospitalityhelps portal will improve
the existing ad hoc system, in which local governments are left scrambling to
find hotel partners and sending out mass request for proposals (RFPs). 

“We’re trying to remove that fragmentation,” Harris said.

Complicating matters, Castle said, is the fact that
accommodation needs are evolving quickly and will likely go far beyond just
providing beds for the critically ill. 

“We’re going to need more than a few hundred-thousand beds
nationwide,” Castle said. “We’ve got people who need to be quarantined. We’ve
got homeless people who need to get off the streets, because the virus will
spread throughout their community rampantly. We’ve got nurses and doctors who
should be living in proximity to where they’re working. They’re working
prolonged shifts, and they may not want to go home to their families because
they don’t know if [they or their families] have been infected. This is
essentially like massive group business for hotels.” 

The rush to meet these myriad needs is already hitting high
gear. In Chicago, for example, officials have moved quickly to rent hotel rooms
capable of housing between 1,000 and 2,000 patients. Likewise, in San
Francisco, city supervisors have circulated an RFP and are reportedly working
to make approximately 8,500 hotel rooms available to the homeless, healthcare
workers and first responders before the end of March. 

Castle acknowledged that some government RFPs indicate there
are monetary incentives available to hotels, but he emphasized that the vast
majority of properties participating in #Hospitalityhelps “aren’t even asking
about compensation.” 

“We’re hoping businesses won’t have to completely shut down,
the healthcare system can get some relief and that there’s stimulus coming down
the line,” Harris said. “Most importantly, if we can step this up, this can
make a difference and save lives.” 

Meanwhile, Cloudbeds isn’t alone in its efforts. The
American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) recently unveiled Hotels for
Hope, a similar initiative designed to connect hotel properties with the health
community.

According to a release from the AHLA, Hotels for Hope has
more than 6,500 U.S. properties located in proximity to healthcare facilities
at the ready. The organization has said it will work to assist government
efforts and work with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in
coordination with the U.S. Army and local emergency management and public
health agencies. 

Hoteliers interested in joining the Hotels for Hope database
can find more information here. 

“The number of hotels wanting to be part of the program is
growing by the hour,” said Michael Jacobson, CEO and president of the Illinois
Hotel & Lodging Association. “Our hotels are answering the call to action.”

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