It was the good news that gave the world hope.
On Nov. 9 it was announced that one of the candidates for a COVID-19 vaccine, made by Pfizer and BioNTech, was over 90% effective in preventing volunteers from contracting the virus.
The beleaguered travel industry immediately got a boost, with airline and cruise company share prices rallying, and tour operators seeing upticks in searches and bookings for 2021. Finally, it feels as if vacations might be in our future.
But will travel post-vaccine go back to how things were, or has your vacation been irrevocably changed?
For starters, it’ll be a while before we know the answer to that, says travel specialist Dr Felicity Nicholson, lead doctor at Trailfinders Travel Clinic in the U.K.
“I think it’s just a matter of time before things come back to some degree of normality, but it’ll take quite a long time,” she says.
“At the moment, travel is way down the pecking order of vaccination.” She says that countries will first be looking to vaccinate the vulnerable, then healthworkers and keyworkers, before making inroads into the general population. That’s not to mention the practical issues around the transportation and storage of the Pfizer vaccination, meaning that if that’s the one that wins the race, it could take even longer to distribute.
“We should be encouraged but understand it’s unlikely to be as rapid as governments are suggesting,” she says.
“If they can find a way to transport it properly (it needs to be stored at minus 70 C, or minus 94 F), it could be early next year before things start to get going. Countries whose economies are based on tourism will be desperate to get people back and moving, but most people (in the travel industry) aren’t hopeful that things will really pick up until the fall of 2021.”
And don’t assume that once a vaccination program starts rolling out, you can jump on the next plane, whether or not you’ve had it. Nicholson reckons that proof of vaccination might become advisory, or even mandatory, for destinations.
An international certificate of vaccination or prophylaxis (ICVP) — which travelers must carry to enter certain countries which mandate a yellow fever vaccination, or to exit those with high polio risk — could be the next addition to your travel kit.
“I think we’ll have a formal certificate, either online or on paper, showing that you’ve been vaccinated at a recognized, accredited clinic, as we do for yellow fever,” she says.
“It’ll be the destination demanding it — and that could be everyone.
“Most countries where there’s a vulnerable or older population will certainly be demanding proof because we know how devastating the disease can be.”
MAKING UP FOR LOST TIME
So, you’ve had your jab, and are carrying your certificate — what next?
Well, you might be off on the trip of a lifetime, according to tour operators.
John Bevan, CEO of Dnata Travel Group, which owns brands Travelbag, Travel Republic and Netflights as well as trade brand Gold Medal, says that there’s been a noticeable uptick in bookings since news of the vaccine was announced.
And of those who can afford to go abroad next year, many are splashing out, he says, with the average booking value increasing by about 20% this week, compared to pre-COVID times. “People didn’t get a vacation this year, so they’re treating themselves. They’re booking higher category rooms, and we’re seeing more family groups, too,” he says. Netflights just took a booking for a group of 19 people to go to Dubai for Easter 2021.
Tom Marchant, co-founder of luxury tour operator Black Tomato, agrees.
“People have desperately missed the chance to travel, and want something to look forward to,” he says. “They’re saying, ‘That first trip, I’m going to make it special’.”
The demand for something out of the ordinary is so strong that in October the company launched a new lineup of once-in-a-lifetime trips, Journeys to Come — anything from seeing the solar eclipse in Patagonia to swimming with whales under the midnight sun in Iceland. “We wanted to create something to make people say, ‘That’ll get me through these challenging times’,” he says.
Interestingly, in what he thinks might be a “Biden bounce”, Bevan says his brands have seen a triple-digit growth in trips to the U.S. for next year, from May onwards. The Maldives and the UAE are other popular destinations for Europeans wanting to escape next year — he earmarks Dubai in particular as a destination that’s working hard to get tourists safely back, and also predicts the Caribbean will do very well.
However, he thinks Australia and New Zealand will be off-limits until the last quarter of 2021.
Marchant says his clients are starting to look towards Asia — although he thinks that the typical country-hopping trip through Southeast Asia will be off the cards for a while, because of the bureaucracy of testing and certificates at every border or on every flight.
“Instead of hopping around, I think people will just go to a couple of places and really immerse themselves, and I think that’s really positive,” he says. “There’ll be a shift in how people enjoy places — it won’t be just box-ticking anymore.”
For the same reason, he thinks that multiple weekend breaks will be replaced by longer, two-week trips.
BUCKET LIST SAFARIS
However, it’s not all plain sailing yet. According to Nigel Vere Nicoll, president of the African Travel and Tourism Association (ATTA), the trade body for travel to sub-Saharan Africa, the biggest problem with travel in 2021 won’t have anything to do with a vaccine — it’ll be to do with flight availability.
This is particularly the case for this part of the continent, which has just three main international hubs: Addis Ababa, Nairobi and Johannesburg. South African Airways, based at the latter, are currently not flying, while Kenya Airways is hoping for a cash injection from the government. Ethiopian Airlines, however, is expanding.
“From there, you have to get an extra flight and domestic airlines have cut back,” says Vere Nicoll. “And airlines won’t increase flights unless they’re sure there’s enough business. It’ll take time but we have to support them.
“The vaccine is a very, very exciting step — the first brick in rebuilding everything — but I can’t see it rolling out until the middle of next year.” For what it’s worth, he doesn’t think African countries — which have emerged relatively unscathed by the pandemic — will mandate the vaccine for travelers.
Safari destinations have been particularly hard hit by the collapse of tourism, with poaching on the rise in national parks, and economic devastation for those working in lodges.
And “grossly unfair” travel bans from the likes of the U.K. government — who impose a two-week quarantine on travelers coming from any African country, most of which have seen under 1,000 deaths from the virus, compared to the U.K.’s 50,000 — haven’t helped.
And yet, Vere Nicoll says that the future could be bright for those looking for the holiday of a lifetime. “The Great Migration was better this year than it has been for years, and there are great initiatives going on — people have used this time to get tourism ready for when we come.” And, of course, a safari trip is largely outdoors.
CHAMPING AT THE BIT TO GET TO EUROPE
Are there any destinations which have been so marred by the virus that we won’t want to go there for a while?
Despite the U.S. heading up the league table of COVID-19 deaths, from John Bevan’s data it appears that visitors are keen to get there — he thinks that could be optimism regarding the Biden administration’s pledge to curb the virus.
But he warns that Europe, which has been in the center of the pandemic, may not be so attractive to travelers from countries who’ve controlled it better.
However, Tom Jenkins, CEO of the European Tour Operators Association (ETOA), disagrees.
“The response to being told you can’t do something is to want to do it, so if you’ve not been to Europe for a year, you’ll want to go to Europe,” he says.
“You’ll never see it this empty, you’ll never see prices this competitive, you’ll never have this experience again. There’s real latent demand.”
He says that tour operators are already looking at a relatively good year, with plenty of trips postponed from 2020 to 2021, and search engine data showing big interest in travel to Europe from other continents.
And with numbers not expected to recover until 2022, the continent will be emptier than it has been in many of our lifetimes.
However, he warns that “there’s no momentum in the market” — nobody traveling to Europe and inspiring people to follow them. Post-vaccine, it’ll all hinge on the airlines to lay on flights, and the destinations making sure they’re ready to go. “Cities bounce back fairly quickly but it may not be that straightforward,” he says.
Even with a potential vaccine, John Bevan thinks that the travel experience itself will have changed — particularly at the airport, where he thinks airlines will move to a largely touchless experience.
On board, he thinks the COVID-induced rule of deplaning row by row will continue — and that’s a great thing.
“I flew on EasyJet to Greece in August and it was immaculate — they made us stay seated till the row in front had got off, and there wasn’t that horrendous bunfight. It was so calming,” he says.
And at the other end, he thinks the restrictions on buffets, with staff doling out the food, will stay “till people feel more comfortable.” Ditto keeping our personal space — “I think we’ll be more careful for a long time,” he says. “I can’t see us hugging or shaking hands with people we don’t know for quite a while.”
FLEXIBILITY IS HERE TO STAY
One good thing to come out of the pandemic? Flexibility. Many deals on offer for 2021 are fully flexible, and it looks like that will continue, at least in the short to medium term.
“The industry has handled the refunds (from earlier in the pandemic) with various degrees of effectiveness, and I think the consumer is going to be far more mindful of what they’re booking and what they expect,” says Tom Marchant.
“Suppliers should be able to offer flexibility, and the customer will expect transparency.”
Under a new policy, Black Tomato is offering a full refund up to 30 days before departure on most new bookings — and although Marchant won’t be drawn on how long that’ll last, he says, “I don’t see it as a flash in the pan.”
Bevan agrees, and reckons flexibility is how the industry will recover. For the traveler, he says, the flexibility that airlines are currently offering means that there’s “not a huge amount of risk” for those wanting to book. His only caveat — he advises would-be travelers to book as soon as they see a deal with flexible terms, because airline capacity will still be low in 2021.
A WAKEUP CALL FOR US ALL
Other upsides might emerge from the pandemic, too.
Dr Nicholson thinks that the resources poured into the vaccine effort will benefit the fight against other diseases — and predicts better vaccinations for viruses including Ebola.
And she thinks travelers’ own attitudes towards health while on the road will improve.
“People are much more aware of infectious diseases now,” she says, adding that, before the pandemic, the number of travelers who booked a pre-trip consultation was pretty low. “Before, they might have gone abroad without consulting anyone. (If the vaccine is mandatory) they’ll have to come in for a consultation and we can talk to them about other risks in that destination.
“In western countries, we tend to be cavalier, but perhaps people will respect how serious viruses can be now.
“Everyone’s had a wake-up call and learned about virology, and that can only help.”
Doug Ford rebuffs calls to reopen retail shops at 25 per cent capacity in Toronto, Peel region – The Globe and Mail
Ontario Premier Doug Ford is rejecting a push from prominent retailers to reopen non-essential stores in Toronto and Peel, a day after they published an open letter urging the government to allow 25 per cent capacity in retail shops in lockdown regions.
Mr. Ford on Wednesday said he feels the pain of business owners who are forced to close until at least Dec. 20 during the lockdown, but said he is listening to the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and others guiding his government during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’d switch those things open in a heartbeat. But I can’t. I have to listen to the health experts,” Mr. Ford said during his daily press briefing at Queen’s Park.
“I’m a businessperson. I don’t want to close these down. But health trumps my personal belief.”
As part of the lockdown, big-box stores selling essential items – such as Costco and Walmart – are allowed to open at 50 per cent capacity, while other retail stores and small businesses cannot offer in-store shopping and are forced to sell items for delivery or curbside pickup only.
A coalition of nearly 50 retailers, including Canadian Tire, Indigo, Hudson’s Bay and others, this week called on the Ontario government to lift the COVID-19 restrictions that have shuttered stores just in time for the crucial holiday shopping season.
In an open letter released on Tuesday, the group said that the closing of retailers deemed non-essential in Peel Region, which includes Mississauga and Brampton, and in Toronto is “an ineffective policy” that puts retail businesses at risk of failure. The group called for Ontario to implement store capacity limits at 25 per cent of the building capacity for all retailers – not selective lockdowns with big-box stores open at 50 per cent capacity.
Signatories pushing for the changes said Wednesday they felt unfairly targeted by the government’s rules.
“[Retailers] feel undeservedly singled out as an initiative to stop the spread of COVID-19, when in fact the government’s own statistics indicate that retail is not a significant source of spread,” Leon’s Furniture Ltd. president and chief executive officer Edward Leon said in an e-mail on Wednesday.
David Bensadoun, CEO of the Aldo Group Inc., said the decision to keep non-essential stores shuttered would drive customers to American stores.
“Every time we do a lockdown of specialty stores, we’re hurting Canadian retail,” he said.
“Even though Canadian retailers have terrific online experiences, they cannot compete with the big American players for ad dollars, so when we shift consumers online, we’re largely shifting them to Amazon, Walmart and other American mega-players. I don’t envy Ford’s position, I don’t think it’s easy. But in this case I think he’s made a mistake, and the sooner he corrects it the better, because these are the biggest weeks of the year for shopping.”
Heather Reisman, CEO of Indigo Books & Music Inc., said by funnelling more people into fewer stores, “you actually cause longer waiting lines with chance for closer contact. … This could create higher health risk while doing devastating damage to hundreds of businesses.”
Mr. Ford acknowledged that keeping big-box stores open for in-store shopping is “not fair,” but said they are intended to be a one-stop shop for groceries and other essential items. However, those stores also sell non-essential goods such as clothing, toys and gifts.
Ryan Mallough, director of provincial affairs for Ontario at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said small businesses are also calling for the government to present data that back up the need to keep independent retailers shuttered. His group has called for limited in-person and appointment-only shopping during the holiday season.
“If there’s any evidence that shopping at a busy big-box store with a couple hundred other people, even at 50 per cent capacity, is safer than at a small business with two or three other people, then show that data. Because right now that is one of the immensely frustrating things,” he said.
Ontario reported 1,723 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, as well as 35 new deaths owing to the virus. Toronto and Peel account for more than half of the new infections, with 500 cases reported in Peel and 410 in Toronto. There were 196 new cases in York Region, north of Toronto, which is not in lockdown and still allows in-person shopping in malls and stores.
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Charity tree festooned with Dr. Strang's ties fetches $8K at auction – CBC.ca
As Nova Scotians get ready for Christmas, one anonymous person is celebrating with a tree like none other after winning it at auction for $8,250.
Instead of snowflakes or angels, this tree is adorned with ties from Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang.
Strang’s eclectic tie collection has been thrown into the spotlight during the province’s regular COVID-19 updates, which are streamed online. It was his wife’s idea to wear a different one every day.
“It became a part of the briefing, me wearing a different tie each time,” said Strang, who started receiving ties as gifts from people as he became a household name among Nova Scotians.
“I don’t think of myself as famous. In some ways, it’s kind of embarrassing. I just happen to be, because of my job, I’m the front face of this.”
‘Light bulb’ idea
A few months ago, Strang was at a book launch and ran into Starr Cunningham, president and CEO of the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia.
Cunningham said she’s always trying to come up with ideas to decorate items for the charity’s big Festival of Trees fundraiser. That encounter led to what she called a “light bulb moment.”
“I thought, ‘Wow, what if we got those ties and got them on a tree?'” she said. “I just reached out to him on a whim and he replied immediately and said, ‘How many do you want?'”
Strang dug through his collection and found 22 ties, each with their own story. One was from Sawyer Burke, an 11-year-old from Hatchet Lake who has become Strang’s penpal.
“He was very excited that what he’s given to me, I was then giving forward to contribute to the fundraiser for broader contributions to mental health,” said Strang.
The tree, trimmed with ties and bottles of hand sanitizer, was placed on the auction block where Cunningham said it received an immediate response.
“We were amazed,” she said. “We were watching the bids all night, because the auction closed at 8:30 and it just kept growing and growing and growing.”
The final price tag was $8,250 — the highest price for any item in the auction.
A timely cause
Strang said the tree was the first direct request he’s received to support a charity, and he was particularly interested in the cause.
“As part of our pandemic response, we need to be paying attention to the mental health impact,” he said. “There’s significant increases around stress, anxiety, depression — particularly in young people.”
Cunningham said the money raised from the tree’s sale will be used to create grants for various programs. This year, the foundation has helped connect people to their families and clinicians during the pandemic through technology.
“Something as simple as a phone in their hand has helped them cope in the pandemic,” said Cunningham.
So far, she is tight-lipped about the tree’s anonymous buyer. But she said people will soon know who spent thousands on Strang’s ties.
“We’re not able to say at this point in time, but it will certainly be shared with the community very soon.”
Pfizer cuts COVID-19 vaccine delivery by half for 2020 due to supply chain issues – Global News
Pfizer has confirmed to Global News that it will be distributing half the amount of COVID-19 vaccines that it had originally proposed for 2020 due to supply chain issues.
In an emailed statement to Global News, the pharmaceutical company confirmed what was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, that it will be delivering up to 50 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of 2020 worldwide, down from the 100 million doses previously promised.
“Based on current projections we expect to produce globally up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021,” Pfizer said in a statement.
Pfizer said there are two reasons the number of doses expected has changed.
“For one, scaling up a vaccine at this pace is unprecedented, and we have made significant progress as we have moved forwards in the unknown,” the company said.
“Additionally, scale up of the raw material supply chain took longer than expected.”
Coronavirus: Canadian officials expect Pfizer vaccine ‘likely’ to arrive first
Pfizer also noted that results of its clinical trial were received later than expected.
The company said finished doses are currently being made at a “rapid pace.”
“We are confident in our ability to supply at a pace of approximately 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021,” Pfizer said.
Pfizer had adjusted its supply outlook in 2020 from 100 million to 50 million in November in publicly available statements, but had promised up to 100 million doses as late as September.
The vaccine has been found to be 95 per cent effective against COVID-19 in recent tests, and the United Kingdom became the first country to approve the vaccine on Wednesday.
Canada is set to receive up to four million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine between January and March 2021, and will finish its review of the vaccine “soon,” according to Health Minister Patty Hajdu.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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