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Destinations

Dominican Republic Hotels, Beaches Could Begin Reopening by June 17

Hotels, beaches and restaurants in the Dominican Republic could begin phased reopenings as early as mid-June under the third phase of the country’s COVID-19 de-escalation plan.

According to Dominican Today, the third phase is scheduled to take effect on June 17.

“They are in the third phase, the period for the opening of hotels, which even allows the opening of the beaches,” Public Health Minister Rafael Sanchez Cardenas said Thursday.

The initial phase of de-escalation began on Wednesday with the second phase scheduled to take effect on June 3, allowing officials at least 14 days to measure the effect of easing restrictions. Social distancing and face-covering requirements remain in effect to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Earlier this month, Delta Air Lines announced plans to resume several major routes between the U.S. and Caribbean, including the Dominican Republic, in June.

The Dominican Republic has been the hardest-hit destination in the Caribbean during the COVID-19 crisis, reporting more than 13,650 confirmed cases and 448 deaths as of Friday morning.

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Cruises

Hotels Continue to Give Back

As the hotel industry continues to struggle with the havoc wreaked upon it by the coronavirus, many properties are involved in charitable initiatives to help bolster their local communities.

Here’s a rundown of just some of the latest endeavors unveiled by hotels and resorts.

Massachusetts’ Nantucket Hotel & Resort, which was deemed an essential service company and remains open, is serving 200 meals a week to the Boys and Girls Club in partnership with the ReMain Nantucket, a nonprofit organization.

At the request of the Nantucket Cottage Hospital, the resort has also made room available to patients who have been discharged are still not well enough to re-enter the community.

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas donated a variety of items, valued at $500,000, to such local organizations as Three Square, The Just One Project and Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada. The property has also donated upward of 104,000 pounds of food and beverages to the Las Vegas community.

The Ranch Malibu in Malibu, Calif., is harvesting and producing food baskets from its organic garden for its staff and the surrounding community. It has also scheduled individual visits for staff and their families to take advantage of the pool area, hike the property, and more.

The Lotte New York Palace is taking part in the Fanatics’ ALL IN Challenge –a digital fundraiser created to feed those in need – and is donating package for a four-night stay in the hotel’s three-floor Champagne Suite.

The package includes dinner for four with an in-suite champagne tasting; an in-suite magic show from the in-house magician, Steve Cohen from Chamber Magic; spa treatments; and VIP airport transfers. The money raised will be distributed to Feeding America, Meals On Wheels, World Central Kitchen and No Kid Hungry.

AHC Hospitality, the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based hotel management group, has teamed up with Amway to create The Groove, a four-week a virtual dance competition designed to raise money for Michigan’s health workers and to cultivate a sense of community for the local population.

Amway will donate $10 to the West Michigan Hero Fund for each uploaded dance. The winner of the competition, which ends on May 30, will receive $10,000.

AHC Hospitality’s portfolio includes Amway Grand Plaza, JW Marriott and Courtyard by Marriott in Grand Rapids; Peter Island Resort & Spa in the British Virgin Islands; and The Waterfront Inn in Sumter County, Florida.

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Cruises

Playa Hotels honors travel advisors throughout May

Playa Hotels and Resorts will celebrate National Travel Advisor
Day during the entire month of May with a variety of initiatives, including
giving 31 advisors the chance to give away a four-night vacation for two to
their hometown hero.

Playa vice president of travel industry sales Andrea Wright
said Playa’s business development managers were asked to select their top
travel advisors for the initiative, “Heroes Service from the Heart.” The travel
advisors, located in the U.S. and Canada, have been tasked with selecting their
hero.

Wright said Playa wanted to thank its travel advisors as
well as give back to frontline responders, so Playa decided to combine the two
ideas into the campaign.

The winners will receive a free, four-night vacation for two
to any Playa property except for Sanctuary Cap Cana. Winners will receive
private transfers and a $25 credit toward an excursion provided by Discova.
Travel must take place from Aug. 1, 2020, to Dec. 15, 2021. Air is not
included.

The agents selecting the winners have planned some creative
ways to let the winners know, Wright said.  

“It only seems natural that we would allow the travel
advisors the opportunity to select those heroes that impact them every day,”
said Kevin Froemming, Playa’s executive vice president and chief commercial
officer. “It was our opportunity as a company to give back, and we wanted to do
so on a much larger scale.”

Playa will show travel advisors appreciation, Wright said, with
meal deliveries, gift drop-offs and other surprises.

“It’s all about our travel advisors, and we certainly couldn’t
celebrate them in one day,” Wright said. “It takes an entire month to share the
Playa love.”

Every year, a day is set aside to celebrate travel advisors.
This year’s National Travel Advisor Day will be celebrated on May 6, ASTA said.

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Cruises

Amalfi Coast Hotels Offer Dream Getaways to Support COVID-19 Research

Four renowned luxury hotels and one extraordinary restaurant, located Italy’s along the celebrated Amalfi Coast, have come together to aid in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, Departures discovered.

Benefitting the ‘Together for a COVID-19 Vaccine” campaign, these five high-end businesses are inviting potential travelers to “Help Now, Live the Italian Dream Tomorrow”.

The exquisite participating properties—Hotel Santa Caterina, Le Sirenuse, Il San Pietro di Positano and Palazzo Avino—are offering ten e-vouchers each (40 total) for a sublime, two-day Italian getaway with select extras included, plus a supreme gastronomic experience at Michelin-starred restaurant, Don Alfonso 1890.

Each e-voucher is good for either one or two guests and must be used for a stay within two years of their chosen hotel’s post-coronavirus re-opening date.

To take part, patrons will need to make a €5,000 donation towards research being conducted at the Fondazione Melanoma Onlus’ ‘Pascale Foundation’ in Naples, where respected immunology specialist, Professor Paolo Ascierto, is spearheading the effort to develop a COVID-19 vaccine at one of southern Italy’s leading medical institutes.

Interested parties should contact their desired hotel directly to confirm the availability of an e-voucher, after which they’ll wire their donation directly to the Pascale Foundation.

Once the Foundation confirms receipt of funds, proof of payment can be presented to the hotel, upon which it will issue one of its ten allotted vouchers. Specific information and wiring instructions are available here.

Now, it only remains to choose your hotel:

—Il San Pietro di Positano is a local luxury hotspot, breathtakingly situated atop a sheer rocky promontory, surrounded by rich greenery with pathways leading down to a spectacular coastal cove. It’s the only area hotel to boast its own private beach and offers private yachts for charter to explore the coastline in style.

—Le Sirenuse is one of Positano’s most enviable properties, sitting directly on the Tyrrhenian Sea. Filled with heirloom antiques, a mixed collection of ancient and contemporary artworks, and boasting an incredible view from its flower-bedecked terraces and balconies Le Sirenuse embodies ‘la dolce vita’.

—Palazzo Avino began as a 12th-century villa, now restored to a striking fairytale-pink, five-star palazzo high above the Amalfi coast and offering sweeping views of the Mediterranean. A sophisticated Clubhouse by the Sea and Michelin-starred Rossellini’s restaurant add to its allure.

—Hotel Santa Caterina is a 19th-century villa, converted into a five-star hotel, set into a cliffside overlooking the brilliant Amalfi Coast, and surrounded by gorgeously landscaped gardens filled with the scent of flowers. A private beach club and the onsite, Michelin-starred Glicine restaurant further enhance this gorgeous seaside retreat.

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Destinations

Hawaii hotels strategize amid shutdown

Aloha State hotels and resorts are swiftly creating game plans after Hawaii Gov. David Ige requested visitors to the Aloha State postpone trips for at least 30 days and then mandated a 14-day quarantine for all arrivals. Several properties have already decided to close for a month or more.

The Kahala Hotel and Resort on Oahu suspended operations March 24 with plans to reopen on May 1 to help arrest the spread of Covid-19 and respond to the tourism slowdown.

“We are deeply saddened to close our doors but understand we must do our part to stop the spread of Covid-19 in our community and protect all residents of Hawaii. We are committed to acting in the best interest of our employees and guests to prioritize their health and safety,” Joe Ibarra, general manager of the Kahala Hotel and Resort, said in a statement. “We are closely monitoring the situation and following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, government leaders and health experts to determine when it is safe and appropriate to reopen.

The entire property, including the spa, fitness center, restaurant and retail stores, will be closed through April. Guests are being offered the option to stay through their scheduled checkout date or leave early without penalty.

Existing reservations from March 24 to May 1 are canceled, while new reservations are being accepted for May 1 and later.

Sister properties Halekulani and Halepuna Waikiki closed March 26, the same day Ige’s quarantine order was set to go into effect. The closure is scheduled to go through April 30.

“As always, the safety and wellbeing of our guests and our Halekulani and Halepuna Waikiki team is our utmost priority,” Halekulani Corp. said in a statement. “Our management team is working closely with our guests and our staff to help them in every way possible in advance of closing our hotels, as well as doing everything possible to safeguard our guests, our staff and our community from Covid-19.”

The Ko Olina Resort, including Four Seasons Resort Oahu, Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa and the Ko Olina Golf Club, on Oahu’s leeward coast has also closed in response to the pandemic.

The resort’s lagoon beaches and the Ko Olina Marina are also shuttered along with the tour providers, wedding chapels, restrooms and parking lots. The timeshare property Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club remains open for now, along with the independently owned restaurants and retail stores at the Ko Olina Station and Ko Olina Center.

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Travel

‘It Happened So Fast’: Hotels are Now Coronavirus Ghost Towns


It’s been a week filled with reminders of all the hotels your travel-weary self capitulated to and gave your email. Day after day, rafts of notes from hotels large and small have poured in updating you on their plans during the pandemic. While they largely tried to strike a resilient tone, in interviews with owners, managers, and employees around the world, the picture is looking bleak.

a bedroom with a large bed in a room: Armend Nimani/Getty

Just a couple months ago, the hotel industry’s story was one of growth and optimism. It survived the much-heralded death blow that industry-changer Airbnb was supposed to deal a few years back. (In large part because the tourism pie they shared was one of the biggest growth markets worldwide in the last decade.) Any major destination had a half-dozen hotels that had just opened and as many or more opening soon.

Now, the industry in the States alone is seeking $150 billion in bailout money from the federal government, with the head of the American Hotel & Lodging Association Chip Rogers declaring the pandemic, “already has had a more severe impact on the hotel industry than 9/11 and the 2008 recession combined.” STR, the hospitality data firm, released figures showing that last week saw steep drops in occupancy and rates in major destinations including San Francisco, New York City, and Seattle. This week will be significantly worse. Marriott, which employs 130,000 people in the U.S. alone, announced it will begin cutting hours and furloughing employees. (Many employers, at least stateside, will have to decide between the benefits for employees of furloughs—keeping health care—versus layoffs with unemployment benefits.) 

But, obviously, it is not just the U.S. that is suffering from the effects of the novel coronavirus. When I was in Bali just a month ago, the devastating effects of an economy built around tourism (an estimated 80 percent of the population works in the sector) and specifically Chinese tourism were evident. According to the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, there’s already been a 50 percent decrease in bookings compared to last year for the months of April and May for France. And in Italy, a mega-destination for centuries for the world, a total prolonged shutdown will have lasting effects that are too soon to gauge.

“If I stop and think about it, it’s scary,” writes Sara Maestrelli, whose family owns the storied Grand Hotel Minerva in Florence among other properties throughout Italy. In her email to The Daily Beast, she describes how the situation unfolded, noting, “As you know, Grand Hotel Minerva is one of the oldest (if not THE oldest) hotels in Florence. It is 151 years old this year and it had never closed. Seeing it empty was surreal.” And in a sequence of events that is likely now familiar to hotels across the U.S. and will likely become more familiar to hotels worldwide, “everything happened so fast.” First, cancellations started to roll in, then occupation plummeted (not seen since the Gulf War, she says) as measures to contain the virus became ever more strict. And then, on March 11, the hotel closed and the final guest checked out.

March 11 also marked a major turn here in the United States. That evening, President Trump gave an address from the Oval Office addressing the coronavirus amidst a shift in the administration’s approach from one of downplaying concern to introducing jolting countermeasures like a ban on visitors from Europe. In interviews with a number of individuals across the U.S. hospitality industry, that is the night everything changed.

“For about a week [before the address] we fielded a lot of phone calls from guests worried about traveling to the mountains, but the morning following his address was when the cancellations started pouring in,” writes Matt Tabor, general manager of the Vail-area hotel The Inn at Riverwalk. Before, “guests were still coming for their ski vacations and things still felt relatively normal. The President’s address, coupled with the stock market’s response on Thursday, felt like it was the traveler’s tipping point.”

The property still has guests, although they are “mainly guests who are passing through the area and need a place to rest until resuming their journeys,” says Tabor. 

Trump’s address came as I was one of those same people last week, working my way back across the country to the East Coast by car after a winter out West. Before the address, the hotels we stayed at felt no different than at any time I’ve traversed the country. After it, on the final two days, signs were posted everywhere and one front desk attendant at a relatively new La Quinta Inn & Suites expressed fear that she would be out of a job soon.

At the Deer Valley Resort, a premier ski destination worldwide, one member of the guest services team I talked to over the phone also said March 11 is when everything changed, and overnight cancellations rolled in by the dozens. Now, at a time when they would normally have several hundred guests, there are just around 50. 

And as for those guests still there? 

“I think they’re pretty bored,” she says. “I think most of them are leaving. None of the restaurants here are open. None of our food and beverage outlets are open. The only option for them is in-room dining or grocery shopping.” 

Which mirrors the situation at many hotels around the country that I’ve called from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles. And even if there’s snow, the guests can’t go enjoy it because the state closed the slopes, she says.

“It is absolutely strange to see so much powder on the mountain and the lifts not operating,” Tabor tells me over email. “It should be Spring Break right now and normally the Vail Valley would be bustling with tourists, but the few tourists that are here seem to be respecting the need to shelter in place.” And while resort towns are used to huge seasonal swings, “now we are headed into uncharted territory,” he declares.

Which is a reminder that one of the biggest ripple effects in the American economy will be on the millions who work in hotels. 

“I mean, it’s just, it’s tough,” sighs the Deer Valley employee. “We’re all looking to pick up hours, but there’s just no work to be done. Half of my team is at home or taking paid time off. Or just decided to start collecting unemployment when all our seasonal employees are gone, all our international associates had to leave because of travel restrictions, some of them can’t get home. It’s pretty messy.”

Hospitality industry associations estimate that if this pandemic and the measures required to contain it go on, that roughly four million Americans employed in the industry could lose their jobs. And while the big names will undoubtedly make the biggest splash in newspapers as they close and furlough or lay off thousands all at once, smaller hotels across the country will face agonizing and often bitterly personal choices about their staff.

“This hotel employs a small team of about 20, and I think we are in a better position to take care of our employees than the larger hotels in the area that have a big overhead of staff,” Tabor writes. “Because of this I feel confident that we will not have to make significant staff changes at this time and want our employees to feel confident that we will do everything to support them through this. We know that is not the case for every hotel at the moment, so we feel very fortunate at this time.”

Even in places where the coronavirus isn’t currently making news, its effects are felt. Even though no cases have been recorded in Libya, one hotel worker I talked to in Tripoli said that a government mandate to hold off any social activities for two weeks because of the virus has caused losses. (Most of the revenue for the hotel, he says, came from events, weddings, and meetings as tourism has been nonexistent for a while.)

In Lima, Peru, one hotel manager I talked to who works for a major hotel chain told me that they are down to 20 percent occupancy and the only tourists left in the hotel are ones who can’t go out because of cancellations. Additionally, some floors have been locked down should a guest test positive or one arrive that needs to be quarantined. 

That scenario may be the future of a lot of hotels should the situation deteriorate rapidly in the U.S. and hospitals be overwhelmed.

For example, Tabor writes, “We are also currently in talks to provide rooms to medical professionals and first responders. Those plans are not final, but our valley is seeing a need for beds for the professionals traveling in to help. Since we have the infrastructure and the housekeeping staff to help keep those folks safe we would love to help protect the spread of COVID-19 in our county by giving them a place to sleep.” 

In her dispatch to The Daily Beast from the heart of the new coronavirus epicenter, Italy, Maestrelli struck a brave tone that many of us have seen daily on social media from Italians all over the country. “We all sincerely hope that our efforts will prove effective and that we will be able to enjoy our wonderful world again sooner than we think!!” she writes, even though, should Italy end up successful at beating back the virus, it’s unclear when other countries’ restrictions would be lifted to save tourism. And so in this place, visited by so many for centuries, life is bizarre. “To shut everything down and lock yourself at home? Who could have imagined.”

WATCH: Drone video of an empty Los Angeles (provided by The Washington Post)


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Cruises

Nevada hotels and casinos ordered to close coronavirus

Nevada hotel casinos are required to close
following a mandate from Gov. Steve Sisolak, who said Tuesday that all
nonessential businesses in the state must shut down for 30 days as part of an
effort to mitigate spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

All gaming operations in the state were told to shutter by
midnight, with other nonessential venues required to shutter by mid-day
Wednesday. Hotels, restaurants and bars were included in the list of businesses
subject to closure.

Businesses permitted to remain open in Nevada include
pharmacies, grocery stores, drug and convenience stores, banks and financial
institutions, hardware stores and gas stations.

MGM Resorts and Wynn Resorts suspended Las Vegas operations
on Tuesday.

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