Now that Apple AAPL, -2.55% has revealed its first round of iPhones with 5G network connectivity, some experts say the release could spur a wave of consumer upgrades to the high-speed new line of phones.
But Roy Okendo, who has had eight iPhones since 2008, will not be part of the crowd. Or, at least not until he can get back to traveling and taking photos to document his journeys.
“If I can travel in the new normal and not worry about the virus and take pictures, I would buy the new iPhone 12,” the 26-year-old Chicago resident told MarketWatch.
But that’s not the way things are right now for the man working from home in the IT client services sector. “I can’t go out, and use it as much,” he said.
Okendo typically travels at least four times a year, snapping shots of cool architecture or landscapes along the way. This year, there’s only been one September trip to Atlanta. He currently owns an iPhone 11, and he doesn’t regard the iPhone 12 as a big departure.
In a recent consumer survey, market research firm Mintel Compremedia asked people to list all the reasons they made a technology purchase since the pandemic’s start.
The top reason (55%) was extra money from stimulus checks or suddenly freed-up money meant for other things, like commuting or cancelled vacations. The second reason (50%) was to improve productivity at home and the third (28%) was extra money from not going out, the survey said.
The iPhone 12’s lowest-priced model is $699 and price tags for the two Pro model start at $999 and $1,099. Two models will be in stores on Oct. 23 and another two models on Nov. 13.
Okendo has friends do typically buy the latest smartphones, driven by the cachet in having the latest device. “I don’t think I need that validation. I like my phone for the capabilities,” he said.
The new iPhone comes seven months into a pandemic and a related economic shockwave that’s scrambled so many parts of everyday life, spending habits included. Hand sanitizer, paper towel and toilet paper sales spiked at one point. So did oat milk , dumbbells, yeast, and vegetable seeds.
And smartphone sales? They went the other direction. American consumers bought 22 million smartphones in 2019’s fourth quarter, 21 million in 2020’s first quarter and 20 million in the second quarter, according to Jennifer Chan, global insight director at Kantar, a market research firm.
Although third quarter sales volume numbers were not yet publicly available, Chan predicts an upswing coming. Consumers are starting to more fully understand how the pandemic is affecting their expenses, and they are adjusting accordingly, she said.
But an open question for one consumer tech market expert is how many people like Okendo will hold off on a purchase, notwithstanding the big carrier subsidies.
There’s no question some consumer tech products have been in hot demand for their entertainment value now, said B.J. Pichman, research manager at Mintel Compremedia. He pointed to things like the hot sales of the Xbox Series X from Microsoft MSFT, -2.47% and the Playstation 5 from Sony SNE, +0.35%.
But if there’s a pandemic-related force crimping iPhone sales, Pichman said it’s going to be because people think they aren’t getting out enough to give the 5G network a whirl.
For example, one way to see the network in action would be livestreaming a football game from a packed stadium that’s next to a 5G network cell tower — but there’s a slim chance of that happening anytime soon, he said.
The bigger picture
Okendo is holding off on a new smartphone at a time when the economy has recovered approximately 11.4 million of the roughly 23 million; meanwhile, the prospects for another stimulus —a financial lifeline for some Americans — are unclear.
That context kicks around in Okendo’s mind and it weighs against an impulse buy, he says. “If I was able to buy an iPhone now, would I feel some guilt? Yes.” Okendo’s donated approximately $1,000 this year to various causes, which is a big jump from the $50 to $100 he donated last year.
Apple’s iPhone 12 faces headwinds — but not many, according to Tom Forte, senior research analyst at D.A. Davidson & Co., an investment advisory firm.
“I think the real challenge is to manage customer expectations, given that an argument can be made 5G is not ready for prime time,” he said.
A lot of other things are working in Apple’s favor, said Forte, who has a “buy” recommendation on the stock. There’s “pent-up demand,” the capacity to slice the payment in installments at a time when other household expenses, like commuting might be zeroed out, and people working and learning remotely, he said.
If customers are “tethered to home Wi-Fi, the potential for disappointment” with the 5G network will be smaller than it would be if they were out and about, Forte said.
Apple did not respond to a request for comment.
The company’s shares are up 62% year to date. The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -1.43% is up 0.24% in the same period, while the S&P 500 SPX, -1.63% is up 7.8%.
Countries have implemented a range of entry rules related to COVID testing and quarantine, with little consistency and rarely taking account of test results from other countries.
To more safely open borders, countries, airlines and people will need to trust test results, vaccination records and potentially other health data from across borders.
The risk of further outbreaks and the rising demands on testing and restrictions require an international framework to more safely resume travel and trade whilst we wait for vaccines.
With COVID-19 infections reaching 34 million people worldwide and more than 1 million global deaths to date, the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact Summit featured a session discussing how international travel has to evolve to be safer, in order for public trust to be regained.
This infection rate and death toll have significantly impacted public health and healthcare, but other sectors and industries have also suffered from the direct and indirect economic slowdown due to a reduction in travel and trade. Attendees of the session said that if global travel and trade is to return to pre-pandemic levels, travellers will need a secure and verifiable way to document their health status as they travel and cross borders.
The economic impact due to the slowdown of travel and trade has been great, compared to before the outbreak of the virus. In 2019, travel and tourism represented 10% of global GDP and accounted for 1 in 10 jobs worldwide. But between January and August 2020, there was a 69% decrease in international passengers, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization. This has translated into airline losses of $350-$400 billion. The pandemic has also resulted in an unprecedented disruption to world trade, which bodies such as the World Trade Organization forecast to fall between 13% and 32% in 2020.
Do countries need to learn to trust health data across borders?
Nine months into the pandemic, the prospect of vaccines may offer a light at the end of the tunnel. But in order for travel and trade to resume – even with vaccines available – policymakers need access to a common framework to aid in their data-based decisions on the border entry requirements of their country.
In the absence of being able to trust health data created outside their borders, many countries insist on testing on arrival, or simply close their borders. In their haste to close borders, efforts have often been disparate and uncoordinated. As a result, there are a myriad of approaches to COVID regulations and restrictions and almost as many different quarantine measures as there are countries. Only a common ground for recovery and bringing health records across borders can restore trust again.
Rebuilding confidence in travellers
The issue of trust was especially clear in Europe during the summer peak, when many chanced flying to holiday destinations. As holidaymakers sunned themselves on the beach, travel restrictions tightened in reaction to the latest level of COVID infections, leaving many facing unexpected quarantine on returning home. The evolution of quarantine measures has become increasingly complex for travellers to follow, as individual states, sub-regions, cities and towns emerge as risk zones.
To avoid these situations, the world needs a unified digital infrastructure and health trust framework, where health data can be shared securely across borders, as well as with airlines and other stakeholders. Otherwise people will not dare to sit on a plane, and not because they worry about the flight, but because they don’t know what will happen before or after their flight. Will they have to present a negative COVID-19 test from a lab in their country? Will this lab be trustworthy in the eyes of the border control agents? Or will they have to take a test at the airport when they land?
This is why there is such an urgent need for solutions like CommonPass to make international travel safer, through trust in health data and transparency of entry requirements. The aim is to put a digital infrastructure and trust framework in place to accommodate vaccine records before vaccine distribution begins. Without a common shared platform for sharing health information, the confusing range of uncoordinated regulations and restrictions will continue, even if a vaccine or several vaccines become available.
First global trials for sharing health data across borders
Trials for this health trust framework will be piloted in October 2020, in collaboration with major airlines and airports, with governments taking an observer role. The trials are intended to demonstrate how the CommonPass framework is built to protect privacy, show how test results from a trusted lab or vaccination record flow into the framework and can be presented at the airport on arrival.
With a mutual acceptance of each other’s tests, countries can confidently allow travellers and trade to resume. A solid infrastructure will get us moving again.
To achieve this goal amid the risk of further outbreaks, it’s also vital that testing is not just for the privileged, but for everyone. And everyone needs to be able to control their own health data and store it securely.
The first global pandemic in more than 100 years, COVID-19 has spread throughout the world at an unprecedented speed. At the time of writing, 4.5 million cases have been confirmed and more than 300,000 people have died due to the virus.
As countries seek to recover, some of the more long-term economic, business, environmental, societal and technological challenges and opportunities are just beginning to become visible.
To help all stakeholders – communities, governments, businesses and individuals understand the emerging risks and follow-on effects generated by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with Marsh and McLennan and Zurich Insurance Group, has launched its COVID-19 Risks Outlook: A Preliminary Mapping and its Implications – a companion for decision-makers, building on the Forum’s annual Global Risks Report.
Ultimately, countries will always control their own borders. There will not likely be a policy accepted by everyone, but the future of travel should implement a digital trust framework that can accommodate different types of health information, so that countries can have the flexibility to implement nuanced rules that can evolve with the science and pandemic, rather than having to implement new processes and systems with every change.
Media Credit: File Photo by Sophia Young | Contributing Photo Editor
Students living on campus this semester must fill out a Student Travel Notification form if they leave the DMV.
Officials are using a form to monitor how students living on campus travel outside the D.C.-area during the COVID-19 pandemic.
University spokesperson Crystal Nosal said Campus Living and Residential Education staff have contacted students living on campus “on multiple occasions” to remind them to fill out the Student Travel Notification Form, a portal officials use to track where students, faculty and staff members travel during the pandemic. She said students must fill out the form if they travel to anywhere outside D.C., Maryland or Virginia.
Students who travel to one of the 31 states the District classifies as high-risk must self-isolate for 14 days under city guidelines upon return, she said. Although the form seeks to monitor student travel, Nosal said it is not intended to regulate travel plans.
“This form is not a document seeking permission to travel,” Nosal said in an email. “Every member of our on-campus community has the ability to make their own informed decisions as to what is best for their situation.”
The travel form includes questions that ask whether the traveler is a student, faculty or staff member, the campus where students may reside, their expected transportation method, the length of absence and their travel destinations. Students, faculty and staff must also specify whether they will travel outside D.C., Maryland and Virginia, whether they will miss one of their required COVID-19 tests and whether they will be unable to complete their symptom survey.
Nosal said officials hope the form will allow students to continue updating their health status even if they’re not on campus, so officials are aware if students exhibit any coronavirus-related symptoms.
“One of the main purposes of the form is to provide a secure way for individuals who do need to travel during the semester to communicate directly to campus support team monitoring that each individual member of the approved campus cohort is continuing to fill out their daily symptom check in the medical portal and adhering to regular COVID testing,” she said.
Nosal said most of the 500 students who live on campus remained isolated in their respective residence halls during Fall Break, which benefited the University’s COVID-19-related precautions.
“We realize that this time of year during mid-terms can be a stressful time, and we appreciate that almost all of our on-campus residents remained on campus during the break,” she said. “This helps demonstrate their commitment to following the University’s and District’s health and safety protocols.”
She declined to say how many students have used the form so far this semester and how many students left campus during Fall Break using the form.
In 2019, around 115 million Americans traveled during the holiday season. This year, that number is expected to drastically drop.
But some people are still traveling — even planning to fly home for the holidays.
We talked to experts about what you should know about traveling this holiday season.
The holidays are typically the busiest time of year for travel. According to AAA, a record 115.6 million Americans were expected to travel in the 2019 holiday season.
But amid the threat of COVID-19, flight reservations on major U.S. carriers for this Thanksgiving are down by as much as 89 percent, according to research released in late September by travel data firm OAG.
Airlines have been ramping up safety measures to try to convince passengers — many who haven’t seen their families all year — that it’s safe to fly.
Here’s what to expect from holiday travel this year, along with guidance from experts on how to have the safest celebrations possible.
Without many COVID-19 health and safety mandates from the federal government, each airline has been developing its own strategies to help protect passengers from contracting the coronavirus.
You should plan to wear a mask if you’re traveling by air for the holidays. It’s a requirement for boarding and flying on every major carrier.
Social distancing on flights varies quite a bit by airline, though, and you may want to think carefully about who you fly with.
Early research from the MIT Sloan School of Management suggests that a traveler has a 1 in 4,300 chance of contracting SARS-CoV-2 on full flights, compared with a 1 in 7,700 chance when middle seats are blocked.
Delta Airlines is the only major airline that has promised to keep middle seats empty throughout the winter holidays.
Middle seats will remain blocked through Nov. 30 on Southwest, and Oct. 31 on Alaska (with some exceptions), while JetBlue has vowed to sell fewer than 70 percent of seats on flights through Dec. 1.
United and American airlines, however, have allowed flights to be booked to capacity, according to Travel + Leisure.
COVID-19 testing is slowly becoming available ahead of select flights, mostly long-haul international routes or trips between the continental United States and Hawaii.
The roll out has been extremely limited so far, and whether or not testing will become available on more routes by the holidays remains up in the air, said Dr. David Nash, internal medicine physician, founding dean emeritus of Thomas Jefferson University’s College of Population Health, and chief health advisor of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“I hope testing will be expanded. If we had widespread rapid turnaround antigen testing, we would be in a much better place,” Nash said.
Many people are finding themselves questioning whether holiday travel will be safe enough for them to reconnect with family after spending most of the year apart.
Unfortunately, there’s no cut-and-dry answer — it’s going to be a careful risk-benefit analyses for each individual, experts say.
This is especially true if you or a relative are at a higher risk of getting a severe case of COVID-19 due to factors like age or an underlying condition.
“Everyone has to consciously think through whether a trip is necessary and useful,” said Dr. Henry Raymond, an epidemiologist and associate professor at the Rutgers School of Public Health in New Jersey. “Anything that brings people together in larger groups, whether it’s through the travel process or the gathering you’re going to, has a risk.”
If travel is part of your holiday plans, consider driving instead of flying to limit your potential exposure to other travelers, Raymond said.
Reduce your risk of viral exposure on a road trip by wearing a mask when around others, packing your own food, and washing your hands properly after using the restroom or pumping gas.
If flying is your only option? Nash said HEPA air filters on aircrafts bring fresh air into the cabin every few minutes, which helps make flying the “safest part of your journey.”
“The real issue with airplane travel is being sensible before and after getting on the plane,” he said. “Wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands frequently, and try not to check a bag because you don’t want to wait in a crowd to get your luggage.”
“If you want to go the extra mile, I recommend wearing a pair of goggles from the hardware store because respiratory droplets can get into your eyes,” he added.
This week, a study conducted by the Department of Defense in partnership with United Airlines found that the risk of transmission on a flight was extremely low if people wear masks.
In the study, a mannequin was used along with an aerosol generator to see how particles moved in the aircraft.
United Airlines claims the risk of COVID-19 exposure on its aircrafts is “virtually nonexistent” according to the new research findings saying that with mask use, there’s only a 0.003 percent chance particles from one passenger can enter the breathing space of a passenger sitting beside them.
Getting tested for COVID-19 before seeing family can give you some extra peace of mind.
Obviously you should isolate and cancel travel plans if you test positive. But a negative test doesn’t mean you’re in the clear, said Raymond.
“There’s a period of time where your body is not yet producing enough of the virus to be detected by tests, but you still have it,” he explained. “You can be tested today but have the virus show up tomorrow.”
Instead, focus on making your family gatherings as safe as possible. Self-isolate before you get together with family outside your immediate bubble if you can, Nash said.
If you’re traveling, consider staying at a hotel rather than with relatives, unless everyone in the group is very low risk and has plenty of space to spread out, said Dr. Andrés Henao, internal medicine physician, infectious disease specialist, and director of the UCHealth Travel Clinic at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.
And keep your celebrations small, said Nash.
Talk with your family about all the details ahead of the celebrations, from who will be at the table and where you’ll gather, to whether you’ll wear masks and even bring your own individual meals from home to avoid sharing serving utensils.
“Between the cold weather, pandemic fatigue, and the holidays, it’s going to be a very difficult season to maintain vigilance,” Nash said. “If families make a plan and spend the time and energy to talk it through, they’ll feel better about it.”
Across the Atlantic, on Thursday, the U.S. added 65,000 new daily cases, the highest since July. On Friday, 70,000 new cases were announced, as nine states set single-day case records, as reported by The New York Times. Epidemiologists are warning that half of U.S. states are “seeing surges unlike anything they experienced earlier in the pandemic”. As reported by AP, new cases per day are on the rise in 44 states, with the biggest surges in the Midwest and Great Plains.
However, there are currently only travel restrictions in 18 states (listed below) meaning that current U.S. travel restrictions don’t match the reality of the pandemic.
North Dakota and South Dakota, for instance, are adding more cases than any other since the start of the pandemic, but there are currently no state-wide travel restrictions in either state. In the Great Plains of North Dakota, one official said residents need to know “how perilously close we are to the edge” as hospital beds are filling up (on October 12, there were only 39 open ICU beds). The state still has no state-wide mask mandate.
The Covid Act Now warning system (which includes Georgetown, Harvard and Stanford universities among its partners) has many states with no travel restrictions listed at the highest level (red) as “active or imminent outbreak”. North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana are currently the highest 3 states for new daily cases.
Travel restrictions across the U.S.
There are no nationwide travel restrictions across the entire U.S. and many states are allowing unrestricted travel either from their own state or for visitors arriving from other states with high infection rates.
Some states do currently have travel restrictions in place, either in a more general sense (e.g. encouraging self-isolation) or in a much more strict sense, based on a specific percentage or a specific rate of Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people. These lists are being updated mostly on a weekly basis, with many more states having been added during the last week (to match the current surge in cases).
32 U.S. states currently have no state-wide travel restrictions
The following states do not currently have any state-wide travel restrictions; Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California (although wildfires are limiting travel around the state), Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana (although visitors to the seven Indian reservations should check), Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina (although the state suggests checking at local destinations), North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota (although roads through Native American reservations might be closed), Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington State (although wildfire conditions need to be monitored), West Virginia, and Wyoming.
18 states currently have travel restrictions
These are Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin. (Washington D.C. also has travel restrictions).
Alaska–since August 11, visitors arriving from other states must have; proof of a negative Covid-19 test and a travel declaration; a form from their boss if traveling for work; or pay $250 for a Covid-19 test and self-quarantine until the results come through.
In Illinois, travel is unrestricted except for people arriving into Chicago from these states following an emergency travel order–Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. This list is updated every Tuesday and implemented the following Friday.
Residents and visitors to Kansasmust self-isolate for 14 days if they have taken a sea or river cruise since March or attended an out-of-state mass gathering of more than 500 people (where masks were not worn and it was impossible to keep further than 6 feet apart).
Kentucky is asking that all people arriving from a state where Covid-19 infection rates are higher than 15% (as per John Hopkins University’s website) should undergo a 14-day quarantine. The current list includes people arriving from Alabama, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Wyoming and Utah.
People arrivingin Maine must enter a 14-day quarantine or sign to say they have had a negative Covid-19 test in the past 72 hours. Residents of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire and Vermont are exempt from both conditions of entry. People in quarantine may leave hotels or campsites to do outdoor activity such as hiking. Maine residents who travel to states not on the exempt list must also quarantine upon return for 14 days or until a negative test result can be proved.
If passengers arrive into Massachusetts from a low-risk state (currently listed as California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Vermont and Washington). Other visitors must quarantine for 14-days or produce a negative Covid-19 test taken in the last 72 hours. The fine for non-compliance is $500.
Visitors to New Jersey who intend to stay for more than 24 hours must quarantine for 14 days if they arrive from somewhere which has a positivity rate of 10% or higher or have 10 people test positive for every 100,000 residents. There are currently 38 states and U.S. jurisdictions which fall into this category.
In New Mexico, the state is asking that visitors self-quarantine for 14 days or the entire length of stay, if it is shorter than 2 weeks. Some states are exempt on a constantly updated list, which currently includes just Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington.
The state of New York is demanding that visitors from states with a positive testing rate of 10% or higher over a seven-day rolling period or had a positive test rate of 10 or more per 100,000 residents must quarantine for 14 days. That list currently includes 38 U.S. states and jurisdictions (the same as for New Jersey).
Ohio is restricting travel from states with a positive testing rate of 15% where arrivals must self-quarantine for 14 days, currently listed as Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Vermont arrivals by bus or plane must quarantine for 14 days or 7 days following a negative Covid-19 test. Rules are a little more lenient for travelers arriving by private car–if they arrive from a county in New England, Mid-Atlantic states, Ohio and West Virginia that has less than 400 cases per 100,000 people (the map is updated every Tuesday), quarantine is not necessary.
Anyone arriving into Washington D.C. from a high-risk state must quarantine for 14 days (with the exception of arrivals from Virginia and Maryland). There are currently 31 states on the high-risk list, last updated 5 October.
All out-of-state arrivals into Wisconsin are asked to stay at home as much as possible for 14 days. Within the state, people are asked to not travel to other rental or private homes.
The safest option is still to take your own food or order takeout from curbside collection or drive-through restaurants. Avoid large social gatherings and crowded places, such as airports, bus and train stations. If necessary, early morning travel is better because it is more likely that public buildings and transport will have been disinfected throughout the night.
Jules Cuthbert is getting used to cancelling holidays. The 41-year old mother of two from Bristol abandoned plans for an October half term trip to Merthyr Tydfil when the south Wales town went into lockdown on 22 September. It was the fifth UK holiday she has had to postpone since the start of the pandemic and it may not be the last. As coronavirus cases continue to rise, Cuthbert is unsure whether to go ahead with her half-term plan B – a few days in the South Downs. “I’m now rethinking whether we should travel at all because we live in a highly populous area with a large student population. I’m a hospital pharmacist so I am very mindful of the potential risks of moving from an area with a high number of cases to one with less.”
Cuthbert’s experience is far from unusual. While many British holidaymakers managed to escape to the countryside during July and August, recent measures to contain the spread of the virus have thrown autumn and winter holidays plans into disarray and dashed any hopes that the half term holiday might help tourism businesses recoup some of the losses suffered during the first lockdown.
Local lockdowns, the rule of six and the 10pm curfew for restaurants and bars had already led to thousands of holiday cancellations and severely dented travellers’ confidence. Consumer research conduced by VisitBritain between 28 September and 2 October showed that just 10% of people were planning an overnight trip this month, with the majority (51%) blaming government travel restrictions for not feeling confident enough to travel, and 48% citing concerns about catching Covid. With more of the country now under high alert (tier 2) or very high alert (tier 3) tourism bosses say the situation can only worsen.
“It’s death by a thousands cuts,” said Rob Paterson, chief executive of Best Western, a group of 300 independently-owned hotels across the UK. “The most recent data shows that bookings for its hotels in northern England and Scotland are down by almost 70% compared with the same time last year. In London there has been a 65% year on year fall. The only part of the UK where bookings were strong was the south west where there have been no local lockdowns, but now hotels in the region are also seeing a year-on-year slump in business. Losing half-term bookings on top of a dire outlook for Christmas will be the last straw for some of the group’s hotels, said Paterson. “As soon as the new tier system was announced we saw a new booking behaviour. We are going to see more cancellations. Many hotel owners will now close until in March.”
Fran Downtown, chief executive of Tourism Southeast said the ever-changing restrictions are a massive blow for accommodation providers, attractions and hospitality businesses.
“Nervousness has ramped up notably – we’ve seen a significant downturn in footfall across the region in the last two weeks,” she said.
Attractions remain open but falling visitor numbers, on top of already reduced capacity, has led many to scale back plans for events usually laid on over half term. In a recent poll by Welcome to Yorkshire, the region’s tourist board, a third of tourism businesses said they were cancelling activities for half term. “Business owners need certainty in order to invest [in events and activities]. If we continue with this stop-start in perpetuity, some businesses will just decide to fold,” said chief executive James Mason.
VisitBritain is predicting a 49% decline in domestic tourism spend in 2020, equating to a £44.9 billion loss to the economy. Thousands of people working in travel and tourism in the UK have already lost their jobs, with many more to come. The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions which represents some of the most popular institutions in the UK, from the National Trust to the Tate, reports that almost all of its 70 members are currently in redundancy consultations with staff. A report published by Globaldata last week summed up the grim outlook. “The upcoming months look bleak for the UK tourism industry and with the national infection rate continuing to surge, it appears there is no sign of let-up in the near future.”
Frequent travelers are accustomed to getting tripped up by the simplest things: foreign currency, power adapters or unexpected cellphone charges.
So it’s delightful when a solution appears.
Last year I was on a flight from Hanoi to Hong Kong on Cathay Dragon, a subsidiary of Cathay Pacific Airlines. The flight attendant came down the aisle, passing out snack packs. It was nothing special: a biscuit of some sort. But tucked inside the napkin was a surprise. It was a clear plastic sleeve that included slots for SIM cards, along with an iPhone-compatible SIM card remover (a paper clip will work, too).
When you’re traveling in foreign countries and you don’t want to pay hundreds of dollars in extra cellphone fees, it pays to get a SIM card from a local carrier. Traveling around the world, I came back with four SIM cards. But the cards themselves are tiny — and it’s easy to lose them. You don’t want to lose your U.S. SIM card, or your phone becomes a brick once you land.
This little plastic sleeve solved a travel problem, and it was low-profile. I still keep it in my wallet. In fact, I used it this week to swap out a SIM card.
Jin Chen is a problem solver. Long before she got into the travel business (she’s the COO of Alaska Skylar Travel in Anchorage), she was an auditor and a consultant for a local CPA firm. “I would go into a business, analyze their process and offer recommendations on how to make improvements,” she said.
And even though the airlines did not ask her how to make improvements, her problem-solving skills were working overtime on the flight.
“I just got frustrated,” she said. “There several small things that could make everything more seamless. I knew I could make these changes — it’s not complicated.”
Next week, Jin is rolling out the end product of her problem-solving skills. Her solution is called the Planeket. It’s a combination of a blanket, a pillow, a viewing stand for your phone to watch a movie — and there’s even a secret compartment for some business cards.
The components in the Planeket are common enough. But it’s how the package goes together that is something of a “secret sauce” based on several problems Jin wanted to solve for travelers.
1. “I couldn’t take up any more carry-on space,” Jin said, “because of the airline restrictions.” So the Planeket slips over your suitcase, or clips on to your backpack.
2. Blankets are bulky and take up quite a bit of space in your carry-on bag. Jin’s blanket is super soft and crams into its zippered pouch nicely.
3. “Airline blankets (when you can find them) always find their way to the floor after a nap,” said Jin. “And those floors are disgusting.” The Planeket features several loops on one side of the blanket, along with a fastener, to clip it loosely around your neck.
4. There’s a card slot for several business cards. “I was always hunting around for a business card when I was talking to someone on a flight,” Jin said.
To keep everything together, Jin wraps it in synthetic leather, which is waterproof and easy to clean, along with a big zipper that won’t get caught in the blanket.
The Planeket is available to pre-order at $32.99. There are four colors available, including “Glacier Mint” and “Alpenglow.”
Initially, parts of the Planeket are imported, but the finishing is done in Anchorage. “Our goal is to do 100% of the manufacturing in Anchorage,” Jin said, “but we want to see the initial sales results. After all, commercial sewing machines are very expensive.”
If you’re loaded up with your travel gear and you’re ready to fly Outside, remember: The rules are changing once again for travelers returning to Alaska. Here are a few highlights from the state’s revised heath mandate for travelers coming into Alaska from out of state:
1. Travelers to Alaska still are advised to get a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival. If you’re an Alaska resident, you can get tested at the airport on arrival with no additional charge. For non-residents, there is a $250 charge.
2. A second test, taken between five and 14 days after arrival, is recommended but not required.
3. Between the first and second COVID tests (or 14 days after arrival, travelers should practice “strict social distancing.” That means you can be in an outdoor public place, but remain six feet away from those not in your household. You cannot go inside to restaurants, bars, office buildings or sporting facilities. Do not attend any weddings, funerals or sporting events.
While some of the specific rules for travelers have changed, the basics have not: wear a mask, wash your hands and maintain social distancing. Cases in Alaska are on the rise. For more information, visit the state’s COVID-19 website for travelers.
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If you’re still uncertain about flying home for the holidays, it’s not too late to make up your mind. Even this close to Thanksgiving and Christmas, traditionally the busiest travel times of the year, domestic airfares haven’t seen their normal price spike.
A round-trip ticket from San Francisco to Seattle for Thanksgiving weekend ran $166 at press time. Oakland to Boston for Christmas: $255. New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas? $111.
“There’s still hope for getting a cheap ticket for the holidays,” said Scott Keyes, founder and chief flight expert at online booking tool Scott’s Cheap Flights.
In a normal year, the cheapest holiday airfares typically emerge three to six months ahead of a travel date. Not so this year. “I’d expect cheap flights for Christmas and Thanksgiving to keep popping up through the end of October — possibly even the first week of November,” Keyes said.
Credit the coronavirus pandemic with upending holiday travel season norms.
Far fewer people are venturing onto airplanes this fall. People are booking closer to their travel dates, prioritizing health and safety over ticket prices. Airlines, in appealing to apprehensive consumers, have blocked off middle seats and waived change fees that, pre-pandemic, could cost upward of several hundred dollars, affording travelers an unprecedented level of flexibility in trip planning.
Still, more people are flying now than earlier in the pandemic. Air travel cratered in the spring, but as facial coverings, social distancing and hand sanitizer become the norm in public life, and as airlines have stepped up touchless check-ins, limited flight capacity and managed the flow of passengers, air travel has begun rebounding.
In the past seven months, the nadir of air travel in the U.S. came on April 14, when 87,534 passengers moved through airport security — down from more than 2.2 million on the same day in 2019, according to the Transportation Security Administration. By comparison, TSA clocked 958,440 travelers on Oct. 13 — down from just over 2.6 million on the same day last year but a huge uptick from the early days of the pandemic.
The approaching holiday season coincides with rising optimism surrounding the perceived health risks of flying, even as public health officials warn about the risks of commingling among disparate households. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends hosting shorter, smaller holiday gatherings outdoors to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
Despite the risks of sharing an enclosed space with dozens of strangers for an extended period of time, airplanes haven’t been linked to any superspreader events. This year, there have only been 44 cases of COVID-19 transmissions associated with air travel during a period in which 1.2 billion people flew on planes, according to an Oct. 8 report from the International Air Transport Association.
About 80% of American travelers have tentative trip plans right now, according to a recent survey of 1,202 people conducted by San Francisco market research firm Destinations Analysts. Of those who plan to travel, 36% say they’d take a trip in the last three months of this year.
“People feel more in control of the experience,” said Erin Francis-Cummings, president and CEO of Destinations Analysts.
Part of that is due to the widespread normalization of masks and distancing in public life. But it’s also a function of the steps airlines have taken to make people feel comfortable and assured on planes.
“One traveler I talked to said, ‘I’d be willing to pay for that empty middle seat from here on out,’” Francis-Cummings said.
Still, for some Americans, going home for the holidays is off the table this year. In a separate survey from Travelocity, 60% of 1,016 respondents said they would not be traveling to see family or friends this season. About two-thirds of respondents plan to travel within a 250-mile radius of home, a trend that has remained steady since the summer.
“That’s the sweet spot for a lot of people right now,” said Melissa Dohmen, senior manager of public relations and communications at Travelocity.
The ultimate reassurance, travel experts say, would be a widely available COVID-19 vaccine.
In advance of the holidays, Travelocity launched a new feature that tracks safety protocols across airlines: which ones require masks or temperature checks, or block off seats and limit flight capacity.
“That’s the big question,” Dohmen said. “How long will some of these new tools and policies stick around?”
(CNN) — No airport testing regime to speak of. A “travel corridors” policy that now allows for unrestricted travel from England to just seven destinations around the world. And a second wave that’s beginning to look more like a tsunami.
It’s no surprise that the tourist boards across the UK have been encouraging those desperate for a break from their Covid-era daily lives to enjoy a staycation, in a bid to help boost local businesses ravaged by the coronavirus.
But as winter approaches, bringing with it tough new local restrictions and the looming prospect of a second national lockdown, it’s fair to say those in areas that haven’t yet been locked down are not too keen to welcome visitors.
Just ask Simon Calder. “The Man Who Pays His Way” writes for the UK’s Independent newspaper and is one of the country’s most respected travel journalists.
Calder appeared on British TV last week and recommended that would-be tourists use the upcoming half-term school break to head to Mid Wales, after the region itself encouraged visitors to book.
The result: his inbox and social media were inundated with abuse.
“Maggot,” and “absolute scum” were some of the more polite terms used by apparently irate locals. The hundreds of people who got in touch made it clear to him they didn’t want visitors coming and bringing Covid with them.
Travel journalist Simon Calder was targeted with online abuse after recommending Wales as a destination.
Mid Wales’ region’s infection rate remains one of the lowest in the country, meaning that so far it hasn’t been subject to the more stringent lockdown measures seen in the urban areas around Cardiff and Swansea, and across the coastal regions in the north of the country.
People in these areas are subject to travel bans, with the Welsh government currently legislating to stop people from high-risk Covid areas in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland traveling to the country.
But Wales as a whole has, over the course of the pandemic, witnessed numerous expressions of reluctance to accept tourists — particularly in the wake of overcrowding incidents in popular spots like Mount Snowdon.
In his weekly column, Calder said he had no plans to visit Wales any time soon.
“The Welsh government has done the right thing by their country by saying that we don’t want people coming in from high-risk places,” says Calder. “But that’s not a cost-free exercise. Leaving aside the rather direct responses that I got, there is always going to be this very difficult tension between the economic needs of a community and the absolutely natural and human desire to stay safe.”
Calder says that travelers within the UK will need to start assessing the conditions where they live and in the place they want to travel to, so as to lessen the chances of a frosty reception.
Yet with restrictions across the UK seemingly changing by the day, it can be hard to keep up.
“At the time I was speaking there were no tier restrictions in England and Visit Wales was saying ‘do come to Wales’, so it did not strike me as unreasonable,” he says. “But I absolutely agree I could perhaps have chosen my words better and I’m deeply sorry for the amount of stress this episode has generated.”
For Val Hawkins, chief executive of MWT Cymru, the regional tourism board, the story comes just weeks after headlines claimed two-thirds of Wales was in lockdown, when in fact almost three-quarters of the country, by square mile, including Mid Wales, isn’t.
“The trouble is that something like this distorts opinion and it isn’t helpful,” she says.
“The keyboard warriors are always out there and they love to comment. If we spent all our time worrying about that we’d never get anywhere. We’ve worked very closely with the Welsh government to make sure that our businesses are really well equipped [to prevent the spread of the virus].
“There was certainly community concern back in July, before reopening. Nobody quite knew what was going to happen, but our tourist areas have welcomed people back without any issues in terms of infection numbers going up.”
‘Scaring the other customers’
Scenes of crowded beaches over the summer, such as this at Bournemouth, helped stir local UK resentment against visitors.
Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)
Not everyone, however, has had a good experience. Author Saurav Butt spent time in Tenby, southwest Wales, over the summer and says he was viewed with suspicion.
“One evening at a very small restaurant, I noticed I was the only one sitting at a table with a face covering. Couples and other patrons moved tables, some asked to be moved, and the waitress even asked if I could remove the face covering as it was ‘scaring the other customers’,” he says.
When he called to rebook for another meal a few days later, Butt says his name was recognized. “I was told if I was to come that I should ensure I had had a coronavirus test and only come if I tested negative.”
Butt says he had a similar experience in Suffolk, on England’s east coast, where he says he was accosted in the street for wearing a mask, with locals suggesting it meant he was suffering from coronavirus symptoms.
He says he won’t be taking another staycation.
“It feels like a lot of expense for something that doesn’t offer any real value.”
‘The welcome was even warmer than usual’
Many parts of Wales are still welcoming visitors.
GEOFF CADDICK/AFP via Getty Images
Despite that, other staycationers say that locals were more than happy to see them.
Megan Eaves, a writer and consultant based in London, went to Tintern in the Welsh region of Monmouthshire and says she was impressed by measures put in place by pubs, restaurants and hotels, as well as the reaction from those who live in the area.
“If anything, it almost felt like the welcome was even warmer than usual,” she says. “All of the businesses were really grateful for our custom and we chatted with almost everyone we came across.”
“As humans, we all have some shared trauma now and that forges instant connections with others,” she adds. “There weren’t many other visitors and travelers, but those we encountered were on good behavior and following the rules and regulations for safety, which made us feel confident. This was helped by the fact that, by design, this was a getaway somewhat isolated from other people in an area not already overrun by other post-lockdown tourists. I chose this destination for that reason.”
Nutrition coach Sonal Ambasna found things much the same in the more popular Brecon Beacons National Park, which cuts across a large swathe of South Wales, despite some initial concern.
“In the lead-up to going away we’d heard that Wales, and especially the Brecon Beacons, was very busy and that police had been called to some tourist locations for crowd control. Thankfully we received a warm welcome from the locals we came across and there certainly wasn’t any visible concern about the presence of tourists that we detected.”
Striking a balance
Ambasna and Eaves’ experience reflect the approach that Val Hawkins has been trying to take in Mid Wales, balancing the concerns of the local community with the need to bring in tourists to help boost an economy that has been battered in 2020.
“Tourism is important for us, but care for the community is paramount,” she says. “Our businesses have been careful and the people that want to come to the area have been fantastic.”
Hawkins admits that she “could have done without the Simon Calder stuff,” but says that as long as people show common sense and don’t travel from high-risk areas, that there is the opportunity for a safe and welcoming break in Mid Wales.
“It’s a difficult time for everybody, not just in Wales. We have a long way to go, so helping everyone out would be a good way to go.”
“It’s an incredibly difficult balance,” agrees Calder. “Clearly in Wales there are an awful lot of businesses and people who rely on tourists for employment and their livelihood. Do they take second place to people who are worried about their health? There are no easy answers at all. And that’s why maybe the suggestion from some people that there is an easy answer: ‘We’re closed and we’ll tell you when we want you again,’ isn’t necessarily very helpful.”
The question remains, however, as to whether anyone will even want to go away within the UK as its coronavirus cases soar? And if they do, will local people be accepting of them? A long winter awaits.
For the recurring series, That’s Debatable, we take on a contentious issue of the day and present two spirited arguments—one in favor and other emphatically opposed. Previous installments from the series are here.
YES, I WOULD TRAVEL OVERSEAS NOW
I’m a conscientious person. I don’t buck the system. I wait my turn in line. I’ve faithfully followed ever-shifting lockdown regulations for months here in Los Angeles. But my soul is crying uncle.
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Do you plan to travel internationally before a coronavirus vaccine is widely available? Join the conversation below.
The call of nature, what Thoreau called the “tonic of wildness,” is hard to ignore during times like these. Millions of my fellow adventure travelers are jonesing for a restorative getaway. Weekend cyclists dream of peddling along flat, empty roadways in the bucolic Loire Valley. Recreational climbers itch to scurry along the limestone rock walls in the Greek islands.
An acquaintance of mine, surfer Hilary Morse has taken an extended vacation of sorts to Sayulita, the funky expat village near Puerto Vallarta. She’s been able to run her CBD company out of a rented home, while her 11-year-old son takes Spanish lessons and attends surf camp. Initially a tad fearful of getting sick, she now says her decision to travel has been life changing. “People down here are not consumed with Covid and American politics. It’s been such an emotionally healthy change.”
“ But America’s rising virus rates do raise the question: Am I being a jerk by exposing overseas communities to possible infection? ”
I’ve been eyeing a surf trip to Namibia, which now welcomes overseas travelers and is home to Skeleton Bay, a world-class wave running along a perfect sand bank. But then my rational side peeps up annoyingly: Is travel safe? Is it selfish?
The thought of air travel is the first stumbling block. Even before Covid, boarding a plane felt like stepping into a petri dish to germaphobes like me. But even if all seats are sold on a two-hour flight, the probability of getting Covid-19 from a nearby passenger is one in 4,300, according to a recent MIT study (They don’t have data for long-haul flights.) Airlines say that high-tech HEPA filters ensure that the air on planes is cleaner than that found in many restaurants or shopping malls.
Then there’s the lingering misconception that a developing country will be rife with virus and lax protocols. In reality, you might actually be safer overseas—given that, as of last week, the U.S. was reporting an infection rate of 2,423 per 100,000 residents—among the highest in the world. Still, sound judgment dictates traveling to a country with low-infection rates. That might mean avoiding nations like Brazil and Mexico, which accept U.S. travelers but also have some of the highest per capita Covid totals.
But America’s rising virus rates do raise the question: Am I being a jerk by exposing overseas communities to possible infection? Ultimately, I’d follow the guidance of countries allowing U.S. visitors. If they want me, I will assiduously obey their rules and do my utmost to keep locals safe. To ensure they are Covid free, many travelers can now get a rapid-test hours before getting on a plane.
Preaching abstinence doesn’t usually work. Teaching safe practices does. People need social connection and pleasure in their lives. Many need to travel, and they will. They just need to be smart about it. —Matthew King
NO, I WOULDN’T TRAVEL OVERSEAS NOW
At its most playful and divine, the experience of travel brings together the people of the world, openness and relaxation. I have long been a faithful travel fan, even a bit of a travel athlete, intrepid and proud. Right now the fares are low, planes and hotels have lots of room, and destinations are eager for business. Why not take advantage? Given the distressing state of the domestic landscape, is an international jaunt the ticket?
Are you kidding me? Are you mad? Okay, so the canaries flying the skies in the world’s airplanes don’t seem to be getting any sicker than the rest of us still down on the surface. But no, no thank you very much, this old budgie is not currently drawn to budging. I look around the nabe, notice the trees and native birdsong. Perhaps I’ve overlooked the pleasures of plashing in puddles already underfoot.
“ Where would I even get away to? A house on the Cape or an isolated cabin within driving distance is the most delightful escape fantasy I can wrap my head around. ”
Where would I even get away to? A house on the Cape or an isolated cabin within driving distance is the most delightful escape fantasy I can wrap my head around. Maybe a National Park. But tragically, not Paris, or Bali, or Machu Picchu. As of Oct. 15, 59 countries bar foreigners entirely, so they’re off the list. Ninety-odd countries admit foreigners who meet their individual restrictions vis-à-vis country of origin, medical documentation, on-site testing protocols or quarantines. Maybe check out the other 63? What are people there dealing with? How would I even meet them and schmooze? How are the local transmission and death rates? Let’s not forget wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes, civil unrest, and willful, cranky, pent-up and unemployed young people. Are restaurants open? I would have to come up with a place where I wouldn’t mind spending a chunk of time, in case of lockdown. Dare I consider getting sick there?
In the best of times, travel includes things going wrong—lost luggage, mislaid tickets, realizing that one has forgotten to pack socks—and these are generally just annoyances to be laughed off because one is relaxed and open. And I get it, life is always unpredictable. But right now, that’s not so much fun. Changing flight schedules, longer or shorter waiting times, public bathrooms, seat mates, taxis and car rentals, all with face mask and hand sanitizer. Gloves, maybe? Face shield? Each station of the cross will have its own protocol of checking, waiting, disinfection, documentation and incantation.
My stomach for anxiety has already been overindulged this year and is currently on a strict diet. I don’t need to tempt it with any little sugarcoated risks to consider, evaluate, think through or even dismiss. I can sense impending doom on a trip to the grocery store or on the subway.
Of course, there are travelers with stronger stomachs than mine and/or greater resources (say, a friend with a wildlife estate in Uganda). I wouldn’t discourage them from traveling. Anyone who wants to go should go and enjoy. Vaya con dios. —Alison Humes
IT’S A SMALLER WORLD AFTER ALL
Five countries— among the few open to Americans—tempting adventurers with their outdoor diversions
“Anything that gets your blood racing is probably worth doing,” urged counterculture icon Hunter S. Thompson. Here, five countries now accepting U.S. tourists that might appeal to adventure hounds. Entry requirements vary, but in general travelers must present a recent negative Covid test. You can find country-specific guidance at CDC.gov. (Keep in mind that the U.S. State Department still urges Americans not to travel overseas.)
Covid cases per 100K: 75*
You’d think with all that water and all those islands that the Caribbean would be a hot spot for surfing. But blustery winds and fickle swells shut down most areas. The easternmost island of Barbados is the rare exception. Well-heeled sunbirds flock to resorts in the west, drawn by sugarlike sand and manicured golf courses. But adventure travelers head east, where a more bohemian vibe and North Shore-like surf calls. Kelly Slater, surfing’s GOAT, is a fan. He called Soup Bowl one of the top three waves he’s ever ridden. The rum ain’t bad either.
Covid cases per 100K: 551
This Balkan nation, along the coast of the Adriatic Sea, remains one of the few viable options for Americans hungry for a taste of Europe. The Dalmatian coast beckons with rocky beaches and seaside cafes that evoke the spirit of nearby Italy. For hikers and rock climbers, the prime attraction is Plitvice National Park, home to alpine forests, waterfalls and 16 interconnected lakes.
Covid cases per 100K: 873
The Texas-size nation features a stunning array of geography and microclimates. You can horseback ride in grassy valleys nestled in the Andes or head to the Amazonian rainforest for a naturalist-led trek. The Yasuni Reserve is believed to be home to the world’s most diverse set of species. You might even catch a piranha or two.
Covid cases per 100K: 1,287
Tahiti is the most populous island in the archipelago nation, home to dozens of resorts. But 117 other islands await exploration from adventure travelers. A short ferry ride from Tahiti takes you to Moorea, one of the Windward islands that sits at the center of the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem. Jagged volcanic peaks lord over crystal-clear lagoons as warm and inviting as a toddler’s bath. Croissants and clownfish—what more could you want?
Covid cases per 100K: 90
Most visitors to this landlocked southern African nation head to Victoria Falls. Deeper in the nation’s remote interior, you can head into bush notable for its absolute quiet and lack of human activity. Along the Zambezi River, you can play “African Queen” and watch enormous pods of crocodiles sunning themselves on sandbanks —M.K.
*Data from Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering, as of Oct. 15.