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As Tropical Spots Reopen, Here’s What You Need to Know



With travel to much of the world from America still shut down, countries in the Caribbean and Latin America are counting on their relative proximity to the United States (meaning short flights) and appeal as outdoor destinations (meaning social distancing) to restart tourism.

“We have a very interesting competitive advantage in these Covid times because we have such a natural setting, with over 30 percent of our land surface as protected areas,” said Ivan Eskildsen, Panama’s minister for tourism. That country reopened its borders to Americans Oct. 12.

Most of the newly reopened destinations are requiring visitors to show negative coronavirus test results before entry. That has airlines, as well as airport-based testing services, jumping in: American Airlines announced that it will offer preflight testing for travelers bound to the Bahamas, Costa Rica and Jamaica from some airports beginning this month.

If testing is not enough to reassure tourists, the countries are using tactics like restricting visitor numbers, limiting where they can go and requiring medical insurance.

Many of the region’s resorts and hotels are relying on an old-fashioned strategy: deals, from 20 percent off in Mexico to room upgrades in Costa Rica. Resorts “are offering much more attractive rates, many discarding their three- to six-month cancellations and eliminating minimum stays,” said Jack Ezon, the founder of the New York City-based travel agency Embark Beyond.

The region usually sees a slowdown in visitors in the fall and destinations are taking advantage of the slower visitor traffic to prepare for the traditionally busy December holidays and what they hope will be a return to more normal tourist numbers in 2021.

“It gives them a runway for a soft opening before bigger crowds come in peak season,” said Rob Harper, the co-owner of the Panama-based agency Namu Travel.

The gradual approach reflects a lesson learned over the summer when the Bahamas reopened, only to backtrack as coronavirus cases spiked. Other destinations in the region are taking a piecemeal approach, including Curacao, which recently allowed in American travelers from Florida, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut only. Still others, like the Cayman Islands have not announced dates for restarting leisure travel.

Here’s how five tropical countries are handling reopening. All but Mexico have received the World Travel & Tourism Council’s Safe Travel certification for implementing public health protocols, including hotel staff training in Covid-19 prevention.

Across the 700 islands of the Bahamas, new rules instituted this month take a cautious approach to reopening, with the focus on testing: All travelers over age 10 must submit negative results from a coronavirus test taken no more than five days before arrival and apply for a visa at a government website that includes a health checklist. Until Oct. 31, travelers must “vacation in place” at their resort or rental for up to 14 days, a restriction that will be lifted Nov. 1.

After that, the negative test must be no more than seven days old and visitors will be subject to a rapid antigen test on arrival (or at the Miami airport for American Airlines passengers). Anyone staying longer than four days will be subject to a second and final antigen test four days after arrival.

“We do hope these new protocols will afford peace of mind for travelers seeking to book a trip for the holidays and beyond,” Joy Jibrilu, the director general of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation, wrote in an email.

Still, the Bahamas’ largest resorts, Atlantis Paradise Island and Baha Mar, as well as the islands’ Hilton Hotels, have not announced reopening dates. There are deals on offer at some hotels — has the all-inclusive Warwick Paradise Island at half off for about $300 a night — but the choices are limited for now.

The Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Resort on Paradise Island, not far from the shuttered Atlantis, has been open since July, attracting travelers via private charter flights and yachts. The resort closed two of its three restaurants and offers private dining across its 36 acres. Now occupancy at the 107-room hotel, where rooms start around $800, is nearing 70 percent, a high figure in the off-season.

“They’re here to celebrate being alive,” said John Conway, the resort’s general manager.

Costa Rica reopened for tourism this summer by welcoming travelers from Europe and Canada. In the months of August and September, about 6,000 visitors arrived. By comparison, the country drew 3.1 million travelers in all of 2019 — but the government said Costa Rica had experienced no travel-related coronavirus transmission.

“Basically, tourism is about a tenth of our economy,” said Gustavo J. Segura, Costa Rica’s tourism minister. “We really needed economic reactivation. Through this gradual process, we’ve been able to prove international travel is not a problem.”

While some Americans from lower-transmission states have been able to visit Costa Rica since September, starting Nov. 1, despite the fact that cases in the United States are rising, Costa Rica will welcome all American travelers.

The government requires all visitors to complete a Health Pass online, provide negative test results taken within 72 hours of arrival and buy travel insurance from one of two local agencies to cover accommodation and medical expenses if the traveler contracts the coronavirus (the cost depends on age and length of stay, but a 45-year-old staying two weeks will pay roughly $10 a day). Travelers with international insurance policies must provide certification from the insurer, uploaded to the Health Pass, that the policy is effective in Costa Rica, and covers medical and lodging expenses related to the virus, for a total of about $50,000.

The country is relying on its reputation for nature-based tourism, from the volcanic interior to the coasts, to attract visitors. Of its hotels, 94 percent have 40 or fewer rooms, making it easier to avoid other guests.

“The government tells us we can have 100 percent occupancy in hotels but in restaurants and public areas it’s 50 percent so we have put a limit on being only 75 percent occupied at most hotels,” said Hans Pfister, the president and co-founder of the Cayuga Collection, which operates five lodges in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is not the place to look for bottom barrel rates, which tend to be easier for large hotels to dangle. With similar fixed costs, most small hotels are more likely to offer an extra night free or a room upgrade.

Jamaica was among the earliest of the Caribbean islands to reopen to tourism on June 15, restricting travelers to what it called a Resilient Corridor between Negril and Port Antonio. Since then, it has periodically updated its entry policies, now requiring everyone age 12 and older to show negative test results taken no more than 10 days before arrival and to fill out a travel authorization form, which includes a health questionnaire.

There are now two Resilient Corridors, with the second running between Milk River and Negril. Businesses within these zones have all received government training in safe practices.

“We are pleased to note that there has been no known case of Covid-19 transmission along our Resilient Corridors, which we conceptualized and implemented in our key tourism regions specifically to keep travelers, tourism workers and residents safe,” said Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s tourism minister, in a statement.

Most hoteliers praise the corridors approach, which allows travelers to explore about three-quarters of Jamaica’s shoreline.

“What makes Jamaica a dynamic destination is seeing Jamaica, the waterfalls, the ocean,” said Adam Stewart, the deputy chairman of Sandals Resorts, the largest locally owned hotel group on the island, which is encouraging travelers by including medical insurance in its rates through year’s end. “The street food vendors even went under this training.”

With business down about 60 percent island-wide through September compared to last year, hoteliers have relied on discounts and perks to fill rooms. currently has three nights at the all-inclusive Grand Palladium Jamaica Resort and Spa from $450 a person, including flights.

At the boutique hotel Rockhouse in Negril, occupancy has run from 60 to 90 percent recently and rooms currently start at $95.

“It’s still challenging even at these relatively good occupancy levels,” Paul Salmon, the chairman of Rockhouse, wrote in an email. “Nevertheless, we have been able to re-employ our full team and have been able to maintain, even when closed down for three months, health benefits and weekly payments for everyone throughout the crisis.”

Though land borders remain closed to all but essential travel, destinations in Mexico are open to American visitors arriving via air. Travelers are not required to show a negative Covid-19 test or produce proof of insurance.

Instead, the Mexican government has been setting capacity limits for each state, based on its assessment of new coronavirus cases, hospital occupancy and case rates, according to the U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Mexico. In the state of Quintana Roo, destinations like Cancún and the Riviera Maya are limited to 60 percent occupancy. In Baja Sur California, Los Cabos resorts recently lifted their occupancy limits to 50 percent. In the state of Jalisco, home to Puerto Vallarta, occupancy is capped at 50 percent, while next door in Nayarit, it is 30 percent.

Most tourism destinations have implemented public health protocols with social distancing and ample supplies of hand sanitizer.

In Los Cabos, masks are required in public, including when entering a beach. Restaurants and activities such as boat tours are limited to 50 percent capacity and subject to sanitation inspections. Clubs and discos remain closed and there is an 11 p.m. curfew that applies to resort bars as well as public ones.

Infection rates “have been a flat line in September and October and that is encouraging us to keep the very conservative approach,” said Rodrigo Esponda, the managing director of the Los Cabos Tourism Board.

In Guanajuato, the town of San Miguel de Allende has underscored its public mask mandate by strapping masks on its public statues. Visitors must show a hotel or rental reservation to gain access to the city.

Across popular Mexican tourism destinations, hotel deals tend to prevail at larger resorts. Occupancy caps have helped keep the rates up at Cabo luxury resorts like Las Ventanas Al Paraiso, a Rosewood Resort, where rooms in November start at $845, but in the same month the Grand Fiesta Americana Los Cabos All Inclusive Golf & Spa is offering half-off rates starting at $375 a room.

High-end resorts like Chablé Yucatán in the state of Yucatán, where rooms start at $680, have survived on a steady stream of Mexican visitors, with October and November trending 30 percent better than last year, even before American Airlines flights from Miami resumed service into nearby Merida in October.

When Panama reopened to international visitors last week it maintained its countrywide Sunday quarantine, kept its beaches closed and retained its Monday through Saturday curfew of 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

This week, the country plans to reopen its beaches and drop the Sunday quarantine, though the curfew will remain in effect.

Mr. Eskildsen, the tourism minister, called the approach “conservative” in order to evaluate protocols as arrivals increase.

Before arriving, travelers must complete a health affidavit confirming that they are healthy, will provide lodging details and comply with local sanitary measures. Upon arrival, visitors must show a negative coronavirus test taken within the prior 48 hours. Passengers who have not been tested will undergo a test at the airport at their own expense ($50). All travelers will be temperature-screened and those with high temperatures will also be tested; those who test positive will be quarantined for seven days, paid for by the government, before another test is administered.

In Panama, face coverings are mandatory in public. Restaurant tables are separated by six feet. Tour operators and attractions are limited to 50 percent capacity.

In the run up to the holidays, boutique hotels were offering 10 percent off nightly rates, according to the deals site, while bigger all-inclusive resorts could be booked at nearly half off, with free cancellation.

By: Elaine Glusac
Title: As Tropical Spots Reopen, Here’s What You Need to Know
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Published Date: Wed, 21 Oct 2020 09:00:29 +0000

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What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?




People have always liked to drink on board flights, especially people from Australia. Therefore, it should be no surprise to anyone that there was an inflight bar offering in the 1970s.

Ansett Airlines were a major player in the Australian domestic market up until their demise in September 2001. For many years, there were two domestic airlines, Trans-Australia Airlines (TAA) and Ansett.

Ansett’s Inflight Bar

At the time, Ansett operated Boeing 727s, Douglas DC-9s and Fokker F27 Friendships on domestic routes in the country. Airline tickets were quite expensive, with tariffs agreed upon by both airlines thanks to Australia’s weird two-airline policy at the time.

While tickets were expensive and food complimentary, you still had to pay for a drink at the bar. Here is an inflight bar menu from the era, showing the drinks available and their prices.

Clearly the pricing is astounding by today’s standards – 30 cents for a beer? I’ll have thirty-three please! I like how Australian gin is 35c while the imported gin is just 5c more. Which would you choose?

You can tell it is from another era as you can buy cigarettes on board. These price up at 45c, a far cry from the extortionate prices people in the west pay these days for a smoke!

Overall Thoughts

The on board offering is pretty comprehensive for internal flights, and I imagine you’d be hard pressed not to find something you might like. In those times, all payments would have been by cash as well, which would have meant a lot of coinage being handled on board.

Of course, things haven’t changed too much over the years. On many airlines you pay for your drinks just as they did back in the 1970s. Shame the prices aren’t the same of course!

Did you ever buy drinks on board flights from the inflight bar back in the day? Do you still? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by Daniel Tanner on via Wikimedia Commons.
Menu image by Ikara on Australian Frequent Flyer.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?
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Published Date: Thu, 19 Nov 2020 15:03:14 +0000

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These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?




The shrimp stop swimming at dusk and gather near the river’s edge. After sunset, they begin to climb out of the water. Then they march. All night long, the inch-long crustaceans parade along the rocks.

The parading shrimp of northeastern Thailand have inspired legends, dances and even a statue. (Locals also eat them.) During the rainy season, between late August and early October, tourists crowd the riverbanks with flashlights to watch the shrimp walk.

Watcharapong Hongjamrassilp first learned about the parading shrimp, and the hundred thousand or more tourists who come each year to see them, about 20 years ago. When he started studying biology, he returned to the topic. “I realized that we know nothing about this,” he said: What species are they? Why and how do they leave the safety of the water to walk upstream on dry land? Where are they going?

Mr. Hongjamrassilp, a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, decided to answer those questions himself. His findings appeared this month in the Journal of Zoology.

Working with wildlife center staff members, Mr. Hongjamrassilp staked out nine sites along a river in Thailand’s Ubon Ratchathani province. They found shrimp parading at two of the sites — a stretch of rapids, and a low dam.

The videos they recorded revealed that the shrimp paraded from sundown to sunup. They traveled up to 65 feet upstream. Some individual shrimp stayed out of the water for 10 minutes or more.

“I was so surprised,” Mr. Hongjamrassilp said, “because I never thought that a shrimp can walk that long.” Staying in the river’s splash zone may help them keep their gills wet, so they can keep taking in oxygen. He also observed that the shells of the shrimp seem to trap a little water around their gills, like a reverse dive helmet.

DNA analysis from captured shrimp showed that nearly all belonged to the species Macrobrachium dienbienphuense, part of a genus of shrimp that live mostly or fully in freshwater. Many Macrobrachiumspecies spend part of their lives migrating upstream to their preferred habitats.

Most parading shrimp that Mr. Hongjamrassilp captured were young. Observations and lab experiments showed that these shrimp probably leave the water when the flow becomes too strong for them. Larger adult shrimp can handle a stronger current without washing away, so they’re less likely to leave the water.

Walking on land is dangerous for the little shrimp, even under cover of darkness. Predators including frogs, snakes and large spiders lurk nearby, Mr. Hongjamrassilp says. “Literally, they wait to eat them along the river.”

And the shrimp can survive on land for only so long. If the parading crustaceans lose their way, they may dry out and die before they get back to the river. A few times, Mr. Hongjamrassilp came across groups of lost shrimp dead on the rocks, their once-translucent bodies baked pink.

Yet most navigate upstream successfully, and scientists have spotted other freshwater shrimp around the world performing similar feats, scaling dams and even climbing waterfalls.

Leaving the water when the swimming gets tough may have helped these animals spread to new habitats over their evolutionary history, Mr. Hongjamrassilp said. Today, the number of parading shrimp in Thailand seems to be declining. He thinks tourist activity may be a factor, and learning more about the shrimp might help protect them.

The study’s authors made “some really excellent observations,” said Alan Covich, an ecologist at the University of Georgia who was not involved in the research. But understanding why the Ubon Ratchathani shrimp move upstream, and how far they travel, will require more research, he said.

“The most surprising thing to me was that it attracted so many tourists,” Dr. Covich said. He doesn’t know of any other example of people gathering to appreciate a crustacean in quite the same way.

“We have crayfish festivals, we have all kinds of things,” Dr. Covich said, “but generally it’s people eating them, not watching them move.”

By: Elizabeth Preston
Title: These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?
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Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 17:02:07 +0000

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Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?




There are reports that Aer Lingus have applied for 1,500 slots at Manchester Airport for the Summer 2021 season. This will allow the airline to base four aircraft there and service flights to the United States.

At present, there have been no press releases from the airline stating what is going on. Even so, it probably makes sense for the Irish airline to do this in the current market.

Aer Lingus And Manchester

From what is known, there will be three Airbus A321LRs and an A330 based at Manchester. These will operate non-stop services to New York JFK, Boston, Chicago and Orlando, and the season starts on 28 March 2021.

With Thomas Cook having gone out of business, there is likely space for another competitor. New York and Orlando will see competition from Virgin Atlantic, while the other two routes have no airline flying at the moment.

Aer Lingus has been connecting passengers over Dublin very successfully from the UK regions for a while now. Due to this, they will have visibility on traffic patterns, potential yields and more, making this an informed decision.

I imagine they also hope to cream off some of the connecting traffic that routes through London Heathrow on British Airways and Amsterdam on KLM among others. It would prove to be quite successful.

Transatlantic Joint Venture Approval

The US Department of Transport has tentatively given its approval for Aer Lingus to join the oneworld transatlantic joint business. This is operated by American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia and Finnair.

These airlines coordinate schedules and pricing, share revenues and expenses. For the consumer, it means more choice – those making a booking on British Airways across the Atlantic will also see options on American Airlines on the BA web site as one example.

Theoretically, it would allow people seeking flights on the British Airways web site to automatically be given options to fly non-stop with Aer Lingus, along with the Manchester-London Heathrow-US city connecting itinerary.

Whether Aer Lingus will join the oneworld alliance, even in a oneworld connect capacity remains to be seen. Frequent flyers would welcome it, especially those in Ireland.

Overall Thoughts

No doubt the boffins have been working behind the scenes to see if the business case for transatlantic flights from Manchester stack up. As things have proceeded as far as a slot application, I would guess chances are good that it will go ahead.

Either way, let’s see if this happens and if it does, whether Aer Lingus will stay for the long haul. If they can make more money elsewhere, they’ll up sticks and leave. Regardless, it is an interesting development in European aviation.

What do you think of Aer Lingus starting transatlantic services from Manchester? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

To never miss a post, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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Featured image by N509FZ via Wikimedia Commons.
Aer Lingus A321neo LR by Pitmanaaron via Wikimedia Commons.
Business class cabin via One Mile At A Time.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?
Sourced From:
Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 18:03:48 +0000

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