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The country is a rare pandemic success story, with recent visitor numbers far surpassing those of most other Caribbean destinations. Easy entry rules are a draw, but some residents are uneasy.
By Heather Murphy New York Times Jan. 27, 2022
Some had come for the beach, some had come for the sun, others had picked it because, at the time, the Covid numbers seemed reasonable. Many had chosen it over resort destinations because getting there seemed easy. Still others liked the idea of not having to take a test to enter the country.
Together, they made up around 25 of the mostly American, Canadian and British guests enjoying the “Preferred Club” adults-only pool at Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana on a recent weekend, even as Omicron drove coronavirus cases to record highs in the Dominican Republic.
The pool, which is roughly 10 lounge chairs wide, offered a peaceful retreat from the boisterous main pool, which snakes out from the buffet to the sandy stretch of coastline the resort shares with around 90 other all-inclusives.
In the Preferred area, a teacher from Chicago quietly read a book as new resort friends from Michigan and Ontario chatted about whether the woman hanging out on her room’s private terrace about three lounge chairs away, was quarantining. They were pretty certain she was, given that she had not left her room for days. This was a bummer. So, too, was the fact that at least three other Preferred guests had tested positive since they’d arrived.
Still, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.
They, along with all the other visitors who filled the majority of Punta Cana’s roughly 42,000 hotel rooms that January weekend, were part of what many consider a rare pandemic tourism success story. In December the Dominican Republic drew 700,000 visitors from abroad, more than it had attracted not only before the pandemic, but in any single month ever, according to the Ministry of Tourism. That pushed 2021 totals to nearly five million visitors, more than any other country in the Caribbean. In December, some financial analysts calculated that the country was having its best year economically in 30 years.
And Punta Cana isn’t the only getaway that’s booming in the Dominican Republic. Las Terrenas, a small seaside town that tends to attract a crowd that despises all-inclusives, has exploded in popularity during the pandemic.
The Dominican Republic’s visitor figures have to do, in part, with its unconventional strategy for gaining a competitive advantage. Unlike most Caribbean beach destinations, the country doesn’t require proof of vaccination, a Covid test or quarantine for most incoming travelers. Instead, authorities have chosen to manage Covid by pushing vaccination and mask wearing among those who interact with tourists. Nearly 100 percent of the 174,000 people who work in the tourism sector are vaccinated, according to the Ministry of Tourism. And though all-inclusive resorts require only a reservation to enter, many banks, government institutions and some shopping malls require proof of vaccination or a recent P.C.R. test.
“We knew it was a risk and we wanted to take it,” Jacqueline Mora, the deputy minister of tourism, said in a recent phone interview. The strategy has worked, she added, noting that the country estimates that it earned around $5.7 billion from tourism last year while maintaining a Covid death rate lower not only than Mexico, the other major beach destination to take a similarly lax approach to entry, but also many far more restrictive countries, including the United States.
Until recently, few pushed back. But as Omicron has driven Covid rates up by several hundred percent in the Dominican Republic (now categorized as Level 4, or “very high” risk, on the C.D.C.’s rating system), infecting many vaccinated people, long-simmering resentments about letting tourists get away with so much have surfaced among some doctors, politicians and resort employees.
In early January, more than a dozen lawmakers endorsed a proposal, supported by the president of the Colegio Médico, the Dominican Republic’s largest association of doctors, urging President Luis Abinader to require recent tests and proof of vaccination from visitors. The resolution calls the current policy “discriminatory,” given that “Dominican residents have to carry a vaccination card or recent negative P.C.R. test, while visitors don’t face the same requirements to enter Dominican territory.” On Jan. 31, the government is requiring banks, shopping centers, restaurants and other public transport to ask for proof that customers have been boosted. Airports and all-inclusive resorts will not be affected.
In Punta Cana, off with the masks
Australia had been their first pick, but the borders there were still closed to visitors, said Michael Rogers, 28, an event planner from London, who was celebrating a belated honeymoon in Punta Cana.
“We’re the guinea pigs for our family. If we don’t get it,” he said, referring to Omicron, “they’ll all go on holidays.”
Behind him, people were checking into Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana. In 2021, nearly half of the foreign tourists who went to the Dominican Republic stayed in Punta Cana, at places like Dreams or the Iberostar Grand Bávaro on popular Playa Bávaro. Each one of the area’s 90 or so all-inclusive resorts is a bit different: Some are fratty party hubs, others are minimalist wonders. Some serve stale rolls. Some serve towers of fresh ceviche. Some cater to Americans, who made up nearly 60 percent of all visitors to the Dominican Republic last year. Others court Europeans, Latin Americans and Canadians who made up most of the other 40 percent.
The 500-room Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana falls somewhere in the middle in terms of price and Tripadvisor ratings. On a recent Friday, staff members scanned visitors’ temperatures upon arrival and offered spritzes of hand sanitizer along with a glass of champagne. By check-in, many guests were no longer wearing their plane masks, but it was nearly impossible to find a staff member who was letting their nose peek out. This was the first hint that guests and employees follow different rules.
This generally works for the guests.
“We’ve been dealing with it for two years straight and sometimes you just want to throw in the towel and live a little,” said Cara McQueeney, 27, a mental health worker from Concord, N.H., as she and her boyfriend awaited their final beachside dinner. She was not trying to be careless; she’d been avoiding buffets. But she was glad that she didn’t have to wear a mask.
Dealing with Covid feels more reasonable in the Dominican Republic, said Gaelle Berthault, 45, later that weekend. She, her husband and 9-year-old son had moved to Santo Domingo from Brittany early in the pandemic because they were so fed up with the restrictions they faced at the time in France, she said while sitting on the porch of a turquoise cabana in Las Terrenas on the country’s northern coast. She resented having to carry a government-issued permission slip on her walks, which she had to limit to one a day.
“It felt like war time,” she said.
Since she found a new job in Santo Domingo, she feels freer. On the weekends, her family explores coastal towns like Las Terrenas, where her son might spend the morning splashing in the pool of a boutique hotel before venturing to a beach. In Santo Domingo, public buses sometimes require proof of vaccination, but she has never taken one.
A challenging time
The arrival of the virus had come at a terrible time for the Dominican Republic’s tourism industry. In March 2020, when the World Health Organization upgraded the epidemic to a pandemic, the country had just recovered from a different crisis. In 2019, 10 American tourists had died there, several mysteriously passing away in their sleep. Ultimately, the F.B.I. deemed that the incidents weren’t connected, but it was not good publicity. Visitor numbers fell by 9 percent, according to Ms. Mora. And then, just as they bounced back, the pandemic shuttered its borders.
For the 174,000 people who work directly in the tourism sector it was a challenging time. Though the government gave them money, a number of workers, including a maid, butler, server and concierge, calculated that they took home one quarter to one half of what they normally made.
When the country opened back up to tourists in July 2020, authorities briefly required visitors to show the results of a recent test. Then in August, President Abinader, who has a long history in the tourism industry, took office. The strategy began to revolve around making entry as easy as possible. Through last April, the country offered to cover the costs of medical care, lodging and flight changes, should guests fall sick with Covid. The airport did continue testing some visitors randomly, a policy that continues, according to the Ministry of Tourism.
To this day, most other Caribbean nations require proof of vaccination, test results and, in some cases, quarantine, and they also may restrict hotel bookings to 30 or 50 percent capacity to mitigate viral spread, according to Michael Lowery, the executive vice president of consumer business for Apple Leisure Group, which owns Dreams resorts and CheapCaribbean.com, a vacation booking platform used by millions. He said that the Dominican Republic has been one of the two most popular destinations for his company during the pandemic — behind Mexico — because travelers don’t want to deal with restrictions and because resorts fill up their rooms, keeping prices reasonable.
“They’ve done a good job of keeping their borders open and allowing 100 percent occupancy in all the resorts,” he said.
Large groups, even bigger than before, began to flock to the Dominican Republic, said TJ Murray, the owner of Punta Cana Tours, a booking site.
Couples who might not have considered the Dominican Republic previously for a destination wedding began to see it as a sure thing for guests traveling from across the world, said Jennifer Collado, the owner of a wedding and events agency based in Punta Cana.
By August 2021, about a year after the Dominican Republic reopened to tourism, you might have noticed something intriguing if you happened to be looking at Kayak.com’s flight trends. For more than a month, destinations in just one country consistently displayed green, meaning they had generated more search interest than they had two years earlier: the Dominican Republic.
September, November and December were good months for the country. Tourism numbers surpassed pre-pandemic levels, and coronavirus case counts stayed low, typically hovering between 100 and 300 daily. But then Omicron hit. On Jan. 12, a record 7,439 people tested positive in the Dominican Republic, far more than any other day during the pandemic. On Dec. 29, the country also reported eight Covid-related deaths, more than it had seen in a single day in months.
“The hospitals are full; children, old people, everyone, sick with Covid,” said Dr. Senén Caba, the president of the Colegio Médico.
He blamed the government’s lax entry policy for the suffering. Though people who work in the tourism sector may be largely young, healthy and vaccinated, they can still transmit the virus to family members and others. (Only 54 percent of the population overall is fully vaccinated.)
According to the tourism ministry the spike is not a reason to adjust the country’s approach.
“Omicron is everywhere,” and testing requirements offer countries little more than the illusion of security, Ms. Mora said. Willie Walsh, the director general of the International Air Transport Association, a trade organization representing nearly 300 airlines, echoed this argument in a recent statement.
Asked if interacting with potentially contagious visitors all day made him nervous, Maiken Mercedes, a server at Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana, said, “What gives me fear is not the virus, it’s not making money for my family.” Other employees in the hospitality industry also expressed concerns that more restrictions would mean fewer guests.
But there has to be a way to encourage responsible tourism, said Ivan Lorenzo, a senator for the Dominican province of Elías Piña, which shares a border with Haiti.
“We cannot rationalize the human losses with what we generate economically,” he said.
Neither he nor several hospitality workers interviewed were convinced that requiring tests would derail the country’s growth. In fact, some found the suggestion that the lax policy is what’s drawing people to the Dominican Republic insulting.
The dreaded end-of-vacation test
No matter how much they try not to think about the coronavirus, at the end of the day, visitors have to think about it because the United States, Canada and many other countries require a test to re-enter.
For Kelly Lynn Gasper, 57, a behavioral health nurse from Oakley, Mich., the possibility was particularly nerve-wracking because early in her one-week visit with her 18-year-old daughter to Punta Cana, she’d started to feel like she was coming down with something. She took two rapid tests she’d brought and tested positive twice, she said.
Ms. Gasper was conflicted about how to proceed, but ultimately opted not to spend her whole vacation in her room, instead upping her mask wearing and avoiding indoor spaces. As her daughter, Caitlyn Gasper, who’d already had Omicron back home, pointed out, other people were probably positive around her, but didn’t know it, so why should she be penalized for testing positive?
Much to her relief, Ms. Gasper tested negative that morning at the resort clinic. The results had come so fast — within a couple of minutes, instead of the 15 that is more typical — she had wondered about their accuracy.
Kris Milavec, 59, of Concord Township, Ohio, did not share Ms. Gasper’s skepticism, because earlier that day her husband and one other member of her group of nearly 20 had quickly tested positive and were now stuck in their rooms.
As to whether it was worth it, given that her husband, an anesthesiologist who was expected back at the hospital, was apparently stuck abroad, Ms. Milavec paused.
“I don’t think it was worth it,” she said as the rest of the group posed for poolside photos in their matching white outfits.
Enzo Conte, the owner of a software company in Quebec, would also prefer not to get Omicron. But if he’s going to get it, he said, it might as well be while he’s staying at a beachside villa in the Dominican Republic. Since early December, he has been alternately vacationing and working remotely from Las Terrenas.
Should he test positive, he said, “I’ll just stay a little longer.”
January 20, 2022,
New report finds people will spend more on travel, embark on purpose-driven and sustainable trips, and prioritize ultimate flexibility this year
SEATTLE, January 20, 2022.
On Thursday January 20th 2022 the Expedia Group released a new report, the Traveler Value Index: 2022 Outlook, based on a new study conducted in collaboration with Wakefield Research among 5,500 adults across eight countries, combined with Expedia Brands proprietary data. The findings suggest that after two years of enduring a global pandemic, people value travel and personal time more than ever. Simultaneously, travelers have started to adapt to the realities of COVID-19, ranking flex travel at the top of their priorities and focusing intently on traveling for good, including taking steps such as tipping industry workers more and choosing less crowded destinations to limit effects of overtourism. The report underscores the resilience of the industry, and reveals how travel companies can adapt to achieve a competitive advantage in this rapidly evolving environment.
"Travel is about to experience a year unlike ever before as people plan purpose-driven trips, value vacation time more, and up their investment in unique experiences," said Ariane Gorin, President, Expedia for Business. "Still, travelers are preparing themselves for possible trip changes as COVID-19 persists, and they want an array of options at their fingertips. Travel companies that prioritize safety and wellbeing, innovative solutions, and transparent communication will be the clear leaders as the entire industry shifts from survival mode into accelerated demand and growth."
Findings from the report include:
There will be a surge in travel for personal wellness.
The pandemic caused people to reflect on the importance of spending time with family and preserving their own personal wellbeing. Most people (81%) plan to take at least one vacation with family and friends in the next six months, and the majority are seeking quick doses of adventure, with more than three quarters (78%) expressing an interest in frequent short trips.
Similarly, the Expedia® 2022 Travel Trends Report found that nearly two in five (36%) U.S. travelers are searching for a sense of contentment and mental wellbeing on their next trip.
The new world of work will alter traveler priorities.
As companies prepare to return to the office and evolve remote work policies, employees are looking to make greater use of their vacation time, and in some cases, combine work and play. More than half (56%) of those who often work remotely will take a "bleisure" style trip — extending a work trip for leisure, or vice versa.
The 2022 Vrbo® Trend Report also found that, compared to pre-COVID, 84% of U.S. families have a greater appreciation for vacation time and 77% have a greater appreciation for separating professional and personal life.
Investment in travel will boom compared to pre-pandemic.
More than half (54%) of respondents say they plan to spend more on trips than they did prior to the pandemic.
Two in 5 (40%) plan to use loyalty points for at least part of a trip in 2022, with Gen Z in the lead.
People will travel more responsibly and consciously, with an increased focus on sustainability.
Over half of people (59%) are willing to pay more fees to make a trip sustainable, and 49% would choose a less crowded destination to reduce effects of overtourism.
Nearly half (43%) will add in extra time for services and transit, helping to minimize long lines, stress on workers, and missed flights.
Travelers will be on the hunt for great deals and flexibility.
As we saw in What Travelers Want and Traveler Value Index in 2021, the ability to book travel for a reasonable price and make changes to trip itineraries is an absolute must in the eyes of travelers. Almost all (84%) respondents agree that a discounted fee is influential when booking a flight online.
A nearly identical percentage (83%) say flexible fare options make a world of difference.
The full report can be downloaded (see below), containing more data from the study and actionable steps for travel companies based on the findings to help to grow traveler loyalty, trust, and business in 2022.
All 200 inhabited islands of the Maldives could be submerged by the year 2100, say climate change experts
Ben Anthony Horton with AP • Updated: 18/01/2022
The Maldives is a tropical paradise of immaculate white beaches and spectacular coral reefs - but it might be gone by the end of the century.
That’s the verdict of the country’s Minister of Environment, Aminath Shauna, who says that unless urgent action is taken to curb the climate crisis, the Indian Ocean archipelago of more than 1,000 islands could be underwater by the year 2100.
“Climate change is real and we are the most vulnerable country in the world,” says Shauna. “There’s no higher ground for us. It’s just us, our islands and the sea.”
The nation stands at an average height of just one metre above sea level, making both increased groundswell and unpredictable weather patterns an imminent threat to life on the coral atolls.
While the very survival of the Maldives remains dependent upon limiting the impacts of climate change, the majority of the country’s 540,000 citizens rely on tourism as their main source of income.
The travel industry produces around 8 per cent of annual CO2 emissions globally - a figure which is expected to rise by 4 per cent every single year.
A battle to survive the climate crisis while simultaneously relying on an industry that is contributing to it.
This fact underlies the paradox facing modern day islanders: a battle to survive the climate crisis while simultaneously relying on an industry that is contributing to it.
“Where else are you going to get national income from if it's not tourism?” says James Ellsmoor, CEO at Island Innovation, a global network helping drive sustainable change across island communities.
“As much as everyone agrees that it's a problem to depend on tourism, there are not enough viable alternatives. I think these places are looking inwardly and seeing what they can do to reduce the impact of tourism, which they rely on so heavily.”
An existential crisis
As the future of the Maldives hangs in the balance, it's little wonder that some hoteliers are embracing greener ways to host their guests.
"36 years ago, Villa Hotels Resorts were founded with an idea of sustainability in mind,” says Khadheeja Sana, spokesperson at the Maldives resort.
“Today we are very proud to lead the way in maintaining and promoting sustainability, conservation and preservation."
One of the eco solutions on offer to visitors at the resort is the ‘Zero’ restaurant - a farm-to-fork initiative promising negligible food miles with every meal.
"Guests are able to choose organic produce from our local farms, have it prepared by a professional chef and enjoy it immediately," explains island host, Ibrahim Aleef.
"We also hand pick certain ingredients in these farms such as lettuce, passion fruit and many more."
Just around the corner from the garden, a bottling plant recycles glass containers for use around the holiday complex.
"We prepare over 2,000 bottles to be distributed to our rooms and facilities,” adds Aleef. “By doing so, we drastically reduce the need for plastic bottles on the island."
These bottles are then filled with purified rainwater, a process which produces drinkable water for guests and locals alike.
The coral is dying
Measures such as these offer practical solutions to offset the island’s emissions. But for many islanders, the question remains: is it really enough?
As well as rising sea levels, ocean temperature increases are also impacting life on the island nation.
The Maldives has around 2,500 coral reefs, making them the dominant ecosystem found across the archipelago.
As ocean temperatures rise, symbiotic algae in the coral turn white - a process called bleaching. This can have dire consequences for the vitality of the entire reef.
Already, more than 60 per cent of coral on the Maldives has already been bleached, according to a report in The Guardian.
"As a local living here I am worried about the health of our reefs and marine life,” says Ismail Hisham, a resident from Baa Atoll.
“I am very proud of the beauty of our coral but at the same time we should be protecting it for the future generations to come.”
This sentiment is echoed by experts on the island nation, who are working hard to conserve the world’s eighth largest coral reef system.
“What we hope to achieve is to try and preserve as much biodiversity as we can,” says Aya M Rahil, a marine biologist at the Coral Institute in the Maldives.
“We want to try and restore areas that we can't protect and hopefully be able to maintain biodiversity in the future as well."
The Maldives currently spends 50 per cent of its national budget on efforts to adapt to climate change.
The Maldives currently spends 50 per cent of its national budget on efforts to adapt to climate change, such as building sea walls to protect coral reefs.
In 2019 alone, 1.7 million people visited the archipelago, contributing to over 56 per cent of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP).
But the coronavirus pandemic brought with it serious economic consequences, decimating the tourism industry and shrinking the economy by over a third.
“The big issue over the last two years was that so much of the national income depended on tourism,” says James Ellsmoor.
“With such a huge amount of national income coming from tourism, there was no money left to respond to the climate crisis.”
Could the Maldives lose everything?
Now the nation is attempting to rejuvenate its primary industry, while continuing to encourage a more sustainable approach to travel and tourism.
"Ten years from now, it is our vision to see a world where people and nature live in perfect balance and harmony,” says Khadheeja Sana.
“A world where people learn to respect mother nature. A world where our children will see a better Maldives. I want my children to play on the same beaches, enjoy the same tropical gardens where I grew up. That is my dream."
But while there is optimism, the reality of the ongoing climate crisis speaks for itself.
The 2015 Paris climate accord intended to limit global temperatures rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above levels recorded in the late 19th century.
But a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change claims that the world is on track to exceed this target by the year 2030 - far earlier than originally anticipated.
"This is an existential thing for us and what we need is for the temperature to stay below 1.5 degrees Celsius,” says Rahill.
“Even at two degrees Celsius, the predictions are that 99 per cent of corals will die globally. For the Maldives, this means that we lose our livelihoods, we lose our physical security, we lose our land, we lose everything.”
Like many citizens, Rahil believes that the future of her country rests not with sustainable tourism - but with the world leaders who have the power to enact change.
"My hope is that leaders will make drastic changes right now and take this as an emergency situation, because it is not only going to affect us - it is going to affect the whole world. This is a matter of life and death."
Watch the video below to find out more about the Maldives’ battle against the climate crisis.
Jan. 18, 2022 - WILLEMSTAD
One of the Curacao Apartment Small Hotel Association’s (CASHA) important policies is a Level Playing Field: a level playing field for all participants. Its members think this is one of the most important issues.
In recent years, various meetings have been held with the authorities involved, but unfortunately without actual results. The subject is even more topical than before because on the one hand Curacao needs money to get out of the financial crisis and on the other hand people start offering illegal services every day, so that the much-needed money does find its way to the treasury but disappears in the bags of the unregistered landlords.
The government is sleeping. They don't need liquidity support, the money is just out there!
CASHA members meet all requirements regarding permits, registration Chamber of Commerce and Crib (tax number), hygiene, safety, comfort and personal attention.
Besides those who rent out neatly according to the rules, there is a huge group of landlords who flout the rules and rent out their 2nd house, outbuilding, shed to tourists without contributing to the economy.
According to the brokers, more than ever 2nd houses are sold to foreigners with the intention of renting out, they often do not bother to register, also because they are not informed about the rights and obligations as a landlord.
The house is rented out from abroad, the income comes into a foreign account and no one says anything.
At well-known booking sites such as Airbnb, Booking.com, anyone can offer their accommodation for rent, there is no control over whether tax is actually paid.
This does not motivate the honest landlord.
Property management is doing very well, the management company is usually registered but the owners of the houses are not. The management company often pays taxes, but the owners of the properties do not. Sometimes a management company manages more than a hundred houses. Neighborhoods are full of villas for rent both on Banda Abou and Banda Riba and in the city, you stumble across the range of accommodations for rent.
There is an explosion of accommodation on Facebook in the illegal sphere, many providers of accommodation rent out without paying the legally required sales tax and without reporting the income.
The "illegal" landlord feels untouchable because in the last 15 years there has been no visible action to address this massive problem. The government does not monitor and hardly enforces.
At the SBAB they do not know where to start and they check business owners who are properly registered instead of tackling these abuses. One of the SBAB employees who was commissioned to investigate the illegal rental came to CASHA to ask about the occupancy figures of the members, to the reaction of one of the board members of CASHA: “you are not going to inspect the people that meet all the requirements?” The answer was: "We have to start somewhere".
What has happened to the National Decree Level Playing Field, for which a task force was set up in May 2018 with the intention of creating as much support as possible for a level playing field, in which the various sectors adhere to the unambiguous rules and contribute jointly?
Then came Turi, the obligation to register your tourist accommodation. Only a few have complied with this request. Mainly because of the lack of communication.
Already in 2017, at the request of the Ministry of Economy (MEO) and the Ministry of Finance, a proposal was received from Airbnb, in which Airbnb wants to collect tax directly from the landlord.
Now there is a bill on the table that is very secretive and which CASHA has still not had access to. According to our contact person at MEO, the bill is on the priority list of the Minister of Economic Affairs, Mr. Cijntje.
Until now, only a small number of people have had access to this new legislation, which is very important for many CASHA members, business owners in the tourism sector.
Because why would you work hard and pay taxes if your neighbor doesn't?
In addition to accommodation rentals, which are the easiest to control by the government, illegal activities can be found in all aspects of our economy. For example, diving schools are troubled by illegal colleagues, the so-called "cowboys" who do not meet the requirements set in the field of safety, permits and registration. The illegality is rampant. Every day we see divers and people with snorkeling trips paying cash on the street.
It is so frustrating that some registered business owners are thinking of adopting the same system.
Following an investigation, the diving schools have had a report made in which it appears that the participating diving schools are good for a contribution of 50 million to the economy. During this investigation, they found about 98 diving schools offering their services through social media, only 30 were found to be legal.
At the moment there is no more car available, illegal rental is going well, these cars are often offered with only third-party insurance. Suitable for private use but not for rental.
Colleagues in the tours offer services in an uninsured car, we hold our breath.
The problem of illegality is not only about money but also about safety. What if an apartment burns out that was not insured for rental? What if a tourist causes a serious car accident and the insurance refuses to pay out because the car was not allowed to be rented? What if a diver drowns because the diving school did not follow the rules? What if...
Last Sunday we were able to see what happens when boat charters don't follow the rules. CASHA members who provide boat charters guarantee the safety of crew and passengers. It would be a shame if boat charters that do have the necessary paperwork, make their payments properly and meet all the requirements, risk being hit by government sanctions because there are a few "cowboys" who don’t follow the rules.
One of our members recently said, "it's been more than enough".
IATA Reports Passenger Traffic Improved in November; Omicron Restrictions Likely to Affect Period Ahead.
Geneva - The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that the recovery in air travel continued in November 2021, prior to the emergence of Omicron. International demand sustained its steady upward trend as more markets reopened. Domestic traffic, however, weakened, largely owing to strengthened travel restrictions in China.
Because comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted all comparisons are to November 2019, which followed a normal demand pattern.
Total demand for air travel in November 2021 (measured in revenue passenger-kilometers or RPKs) was down 47.0% compared to November 2019. This marked an uptick compared to October’s 48.9% contraction from October 2019.
Domestic air travel deteriorated slightly in November after two consecutive monthly improvements. Domestic RPKs fell by 24.9% versus 2019 compared with a 21.3% decline in October. Primarily this was driven by China, where traffic fell 50.9% compared to 2019, after several cities introduced stricter travel restrictions to contain (pre-Omicron) COVID outbreaks.
International passenger demand in November was 60.5% below November 2019, bettering the 64.8% decline recorded in October.
“The recovery in air traffic continued in November. Unfortunately, governments over-reacted to the emergence of the Omicron variant at the close of the month and resorted to the tried-and-failed methods of border closures, excessive testing of travelers and quarantine to slow the spread. Not surprisingly, international ticket sales made in December and early January fell sharply compared to 2019, suggesting a more difficult first quarter than had been expected. If the experience of the last 22 months has shown anything, it is that there is little to no correlation between the introduction of travel restrictions and preventing transmission of the virus across borders. And these measures place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods. If experience is the best teacher, let us hope that governments pay more attention as we begin the New Year, ” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.
International Passenger Markets
European carriers’ November international traffic declined 43.7% versus November 2019, much improved compared to the 49.4% decrease in October versus the same month in 2019. Capacity dropped 36.3% and load factor fell 9.7 percentage points to 74.3%.
Asia-Pacific airlines saw their November international traffic fall 89.5% compared to November 2019, slightly improved from the 92.0% drop registered in October 2021 versus October 2019. Capacity dropped 80.0% and the load factor was down 37.8 percentage points to 42.2%, the lowest among regions.
Middle Eastern airlines had a 54.4% demand drop in November compared to November 2019, well up compared to the 60.9% decrease in October, versus the same month in 2019. Capacity declined 45.5%, and load factor slipped 11.9 percentage points to 61.3%.
North American carriers experienced a 44.8% traffic drop in November versus the 2019 period, significantly improved over the 56.7% decline in October compared to October 2019. Capacity dropped 35.6%, and load factor fell 11.6 percentage points to 69.6%.
Latin American airlines saw a 47.2% drop in November traffic, compared to the same month in 2019, a marked upturn over the 54.6% decline in October compared to October 2019. November capacity fell 46.6% and load factor dropped 0.9 percentage points to 81.3%, which was the highest load factor among the regions for the 14th consecutive month.
African airlines’ traffic fell 56.8% in November versus two years’ ago, improved over the 59.8% decline in October compared to October 2019. November capacity was down 49.6% and load factor declined 10.1 percentage points to 60.3%.
Domestic Passenger Markets
Australia remained at the bottom of the domestic RPK chart for the fifth consecutive month with RPKs 71.6% below 2019, albeit this was improved from a 78.5% decline in October, owing to the reopening of some internal borders.
US domestic traffic was down just 6.0% compared November 2019 – improved from an 11.1% fall in October, thanks in part to strong Thanksgiving holiday traffic.
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.