Your global travel news digest

Christmas nears. Wintertime joys are settling in – many are looking forward to concluding the end of the year with high and low notes. The pandemic might have forced people to put on hold their wanderlust and travelling plans this year. However, with the advent of 2021 and vaccination, the following months maybe more than just a glimmer of recovery.


US to control international access to vaccine

The current US administration is set to sign a COVID executive order preventing international vaccine assistance until Americans have received the shots. This occurred before the convention by the Food and Drug Administration to consider Pfizer and BioNTech’s application for urgent approval of their vaccine. Alex Azar, Health and Human Services Secretary, quipped that the average American can expect to be vaccinated by the second quarter of 2021. More specifically, the executive order will help organize international efforts and resources to deal with the demand. An administration official commented: “The priority is to make sure we distribute these vaccines to Americans before we start shipping them around the world to get international access.”

United Airlines launches virtual airport customer service

Passengers of United Airlines will now enjoy a unique virtual, on-demand customer service. The platform provides accessible and contact-free real-time information. Passengers can simply dial an “Agent on Demand” on any mobile device, or text an agent to get crucial details such as seating assignments and boarding times. Currently, the system is available at Chicago O’Hare and Houston’s George Bush International Airport.  Linda Jojo, United’s Executive Vice President for Technology and Chief Digital Officer, remarked: “Agent on Demand allows customers to bypass waiting in line at the gate and seamlessly connect with customer service agents from their mobile device, ensuring they continue to receive the highest levels of service while also prioritizing their health and safety.” United Airlines is the only airline to have deployed this technology so far; agents will be primarily working on responding to inquiries and completing pre-departure tasks.


Co-working camps: the most anticipated trend of 2021

Co-working camps are a digital nomad’s paradise. They are being set up by entrepreneurs who spot a hot demand for exotic workplaces in the market – venues which usually lie outside conventional hotels and accommodation. Asia, Europe, and Latin America have already established co-working camps; Desa Potato Head in Bali operates as a work hub with access to a wide range of facilities such as a music studio, exhibition space, and events programme; in Mexico, Ethos Remote Habitat offers digital nomads a unique working environment in gorgeous locations such as Tulum. Janko Milunovic, CEO and co-founder of Ethos Remote Habitat remarked: “Unlike just renting your own Airbnb or staying in a hotel, with us, you get to live in a community alongside inspiring individuals and revitalise your mind and body through nourishing and organic food, transformational workshops, group activities and learning immersions.”

Europe is the most sought-after destination in 2021

According to a study conducted by ITB Berlin and IPK International, Europeans demonstrated a vested interest in travelling to the continent. More specifically, Germans, Swiss, Dutch and Austrians showed an above-average desire in travelling abroad in the next 12 months. However, the vast majority of the survey respondents placed a high priority on health standards in wake of post-COVID-19 recovery.  The survey also unearthed that increased security standards are incredibly important for potential visitors. A couple of the main driving factors for travel security include strict safety protocols and a positive safety image regarding places. Additionally, key findings summed up interesting travel attitudes such as increased confidence in air travel, high satisfaction with international travel amidst the pandemic, and a substantial number of German travellers.

Middle East

Oman reopens its doors to visitors 

Travellers are required to brandish two negative COVID-19 PCR tests before entering Oman. The decision to continue approving and issuing tourist visas by the Supreme Committee allowed a breath of fresh air for the Sultanate to operate its tourism sector. Because of the decision, travellers to Oman can only visit if they have a hotel booking or sponsorship from a local travel agency. Visitors are required to partake in a period of one week quarantine on arrival and quarantine for seven days once they have arrived at their original destination. Oman News Agency reported: “The Supreme committee decided to allow the issuance of tourist visas to enter the Sultanate, provided that the arrival of tourists is within the framework of tourist groups organised by hotels and tourism companies,”

Abraham Accords: Israelis enjoy UAE’s hospitality

Since the historic and ground-breaking Abraham Accords agreement between Israel and UAE, Israelis are already relishing the new-found opportunities for travel in the Gulf kingdom. The israeli-Emirati activity has rocketed to one of its highest points; many visitors touched upon the land of UAE for business and leisure purposes. A large number of Israelis came for the GITEX Technology Week conference in Dubai; others merely travelled to get away from Israel’s partial lockdown. The government-owned airline Flydubai added a third daily Tel Aviv-Dubai today. Besides, business and academic interest and activity blossomed as a result of the agreement. Corsight, a facial-recognition business part of the Cortica autonomous AI company, is said to be in talks with UAE police forces. Nir Tsuk who is a professor of innovation at New York University’s Tel Aviv campus, came to Dubai to offer training for the Dubai chapter of the Young Presidents Organization – a non-profit conglomeration that connects business leaders.  

Asia Pacific

Aerion develops supersonic business jet 

Supersonic aircraft company Aerion and Avion Pacific have announced a strategic partnership to develop Aerion’s Asia-Pacific presence and provide ultra-luxury supersonic flight to customers in the region. The new collaboration means that Aerion’s reach is augmented to a higher global degree and ushers in a new path to the market in Asia. Avion Pacific, which provides general aviation services in Asia, has placed an order for the AS2 supersonic jet, expected to start production in 2023. According to Tom Vice, Chairman and CEO of Aerion, the partnership marks another major milestone as they look to establish Aerion as a global leader in supersonic travel. He said: “We are delighted to welcome Avion Pacific to our ever-expanding global team and look forward to our future collaboration as we bring a new era in sustainable supersonic travel, encapsulated in a unique luxury user experience to customers around the world.” Avion Pacific will be helping Aerion with expert intel in the Asian market and streamline its sales and marketing operations.

Singapore to introduce flying taxis by 2023

Germany’s Volocopter GmBH plans to have Singapore hosting its electric air taxi service as soon as 2023. The services will offer travellers the chance to partake on an exhilarating 15-minute trip, particularly over Singapore’s Marina Bay. CB Insights, a business analytics platform, reported that venture capitalists have invested $140 million per year in flying cars since 2016. The recent interest in the flying taxi industry is factored to unearthing developments in technology and business models. The market has attracted global automotive manufacturers such as Toyota, which put in roughly $400 million in aerospace firm Joby to create an all-electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.  Due to Singapore’s lenient regulatory environment, technological firms are attracted to the nation’s wide range of grounding for projects and experiments. Florian Reuter, CEO of Volocopter, said: “Singapore is renowned for its leading role in adapting and living new technologies,”


South Africa lifts international travel restrictions 

South Africa is now open to all international and business travel visitors from all over the world. Visitors to South Africa would need to submit a negative PCR COVID-19 test not older than 3 days from the date of departure from their original country. This follows the positive atmosphere set by the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa who said that South Africa would be shifting the nations threat level to 1 – therefore allowing borders to be open for international flights starting from November 11. Sisa Ntshon, CEO of South Africa Tourism, remarked: “We are excited by the full opening of our international borders because this is a strong testament of the fact that we are open for both business and leisure travel. This opening brings certainty for South Africa, as a travel destination putting us back on the map and on the radar for many travellers who want to come explore our beautiful country,”

AndBeyond launches virtual safaris

Due to the effect of the pandemic on tourism in Africa, the wildlife reserves struggled with the downturn of travellers. Tour operator AndBeyond has launched private virtual safaris to contribute to conservation initiatives. The firm has been hosting live twice-daily safaris during the pandemic and is now offering armchair travellers the opportunity to participate in privately guided tours managed by expert staff. The spokesperson of AndBeyond asserted: “Across Africa, there are far fewer vehicles moving through the reserves meaning an increased threat of poaching. Over the long term the lack of movement in larger state reserves, compounded with a lack of staff and monitoring, can result in an increased threat for wildlife, simply because there are fewer eyes on the ground.” A group of six can book AndBeyond’s “My Wildwatch Online” private virtual safari which lasts 1.5 hours and costs US $250. Spectators have the chance to watch a recorded real-life safari in the company of a professional guide, who provides commentary on the sightings. There are options for kids too; children can indulge in a session which teaches them key skills that AndBeyond’s rangers use in their day-to-day lives and entice them to complete challenges in their homes.

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