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20 minutes with: Juan Fernandez from Elli Travel Group | Instant News



The pandemic has made 2020 the year of tranquility. As the vast majority of Americans were confined to their homes for long periods of time, few industries suffered as much as travel, with flights, hotels and vacations canceled. Last year, travel spending in the United States fell 42% to just $ 679 billion, according to a Tourism Economics study. International and business travel were particularly hard hit, with spending by the former falling 76% and spending by the latter 70%. But with millions of Americans now vaccinated, the future looks brighter for travelers and the industry as a whole. Penta spoke with Juan Fernandez, operational partner of the travel agency Elli Travel Group, based in Larchmont, New York, to find out what to expect for the industry as the pandemic subsides. slowly. PENTA: How did you feel when the pandemic hit? Juan Fernandez: It was a surreal experience. The first few months we were under overwhelming pressure as we navigated an ever-changing landscape and made sure all trips were reimbursed. Then frustration set in, as states, countries and cities implemented different restrictions. On a personal basis, the biggest frustration was not being able to see family in Puerto Rico. After 10 long months, we were grateful to land on the island and celebrate Christmas with my parents. What does the travel slowdown mean for small travel providers like you? The downside of the pandemic was that our revenue was down 64% from 2019. The upside is that our customers have become more loyal than ever. Small boutique agencies have never had the high fixed costs of large agencies, which struggle with many in-house staff responsible for booking air and hotel travel for leisure and corporate clients. Our cost structure has always been weak, but we were still able to reduce our costs by renegotiating contracts. What will the pandemic mean for the travel industry as a whole? I think the pandemic shock of 2020 is the complete opposite of the slowdown we saw during the economic crisis of 2009-2010. This period took several years to recover the lost ground. This time around, the devastating downturn will translate into increased demand for luxury travel. During the lockdown, people stayed home and spent less on dining, entertainment, or traveling. Do many clients now have more disposable income than ever before? Research by private equity firms shows credit card fees in 2020 are down 14%. Meanwhile, high-end luxury customers have seen their investments rise in value as stock markets hit all-time highs. The balance sheet of the traveler is in the best shape possible. So are people eager to hit the road? Our avid travelers call their current planning “revenge journey”. These clients send us an 18 month travel plan and have already booked their trips for 2021. Currently, our summer bookings are comparable to 2019. The big difference, however, is that 80% of trips are domestic, for example. compared to our typical summer where domestic travel would have been 25%. Bookings in Europe are still down 85% from 2019. What destinations are people looking to go to? In the short term, we will see moderate demand for urban destinations. Places like New York or London will experience more difficulties in the next few years. But destinations that focus on the outdoors will recover very quickly – we’ve seen this before, as spring trips to national beach destinations like Florida and South Carolina are extremely strong and the best luxury hotels are close to full capacity. For the summer, Hawaii is the perfect place for families and honeymooners. Demand has doubled from summer 2019. Yellowstone and Jackson Hole are another popular destination. Do you plan more vacation in the car? Driving vacations will again be in high demand in 2021. Federal testing guidelines make traveling abroad extremely risky, so we believe families who typically travel to Europe will explore domestic destinations. For example, we anticipate that New Yorkers will continue to head to luxury destinations on Cape Cod, Rhode Island and New England. How will traveling itself – from checking in on planes to hotels – be different in 2021? It will be a complex problem that will evolve slowly. Each country, city, state will have different ways of implementing policies. It’s impossible to put all travelers into one category when it comes to tests, passports, or policies that interfere with privacy and freedom. In the United States, attitudes differ regarding the new protocols. In general, everyone welcomes the new sanitation programs and intensified cleanings implemented by the airline industry. But many of our luxury customers would really like to see the plexiglass disappear. As one client who checked into a luxury hotel in Miami put it, “It felt like walking into a bodega.” What technologies are used by industry to keep people safe? Recently, during a visit to the Cliff House in Maine, management highlighted the sensors in the lobby measuring their guests’ temperature during check-in. On a recent visit to the Ocean House in Rhode Island, they highlighted the new HEPA air filters located in each of their rooms. Major hotel brands have also invested in new technologies to disinfect rooms with misters before customers arrive. What is the impact of the vaccine on travel? Since February 1 he has been extremely busy. We have customers calling and saying, “I have the vaccine! Where can I go tomorrow? And in a few days, they fly to Mexico or the Caribbean. We are already seeing the positive impact of vaccines on travel. It may be a bit early to find out if [vaccine] passports will belong in the future, but we are already seeing investments in this type of infrastructure. What type of person calls you to book a vacation? Most of our calls came from parents exhausted from work, homeschooling and lack of family activities like sports. These families book national beach destinations like Florida and South Carolina. Couples without children and with working flexibility extend their usual vacation and work remotely. For example, we had a couple at Belmond Cap Juluca in Anguilla who was originally planned for a seven night stay but eventually left after 15 days. Considering the adverse health consequences of the pandemic, both physical and mental, are you seeing an increased interest in wellness travel? The need for wellness travel has certainly increased, but local guidelines are hampering some of the services that customers need. To insist, most spas have had to limit class sizes or cancel some experiences due to local health guidelines. As these are lifted, we believe we will see a marked increase in trips to spa and fitness hotels. In the meantime, customers are on the lookout for great hiking and biking spots. Finally, what will “luxury” travel mean in a post-pandemic world? For some, this means being able to have the privacy that will help protect their families from Covid; but others crave the exact opposite. They want the freedom to appreciate and explore the human relationships that only travel can bring. This interview has been edited for clarity and length. .



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NRA CEO LaPierre reportedly told travel agent to hide certain stops on his private jet flights | Instant News



A travel consultant who testified in the National Rifle Association bankruptcy case said chief executive Wayne LaPierre asked her to omit certain flight stopovers from invoices she sent to the human rights group. firearms for Mr. LaPierre’s private jet trip, a disclosure that NRA lawyers are disputing. keep out of court record. The travel counselor testified, in a video filing released in bankruptcy court Thursday, that some invoices she sent to the NRA omitted stopovers in Nebraska and the Bahamas, at Mr. LaPierre’s request. Some of Mr. LaPierre’s relatives who frequently traveled on private jets paid for by the NRA live in Nebraska. The NRA chief previously said he travels frequently to the Bahamas to stay for free on a 108-foot yacht in the Bahamas with family members, provided by an NRA vendor, for safety reasons. Testimony that Mr LaPierre sought to hide some private jet stops from the NRA’s own accountants could be evidence that he knew what he was doing was wrong and that he was deliberately hiding it, legal experts have said . “If this is true, it appears to be a clear and documented example of misusing NRA assets and covering up this abuse,” said Elizabeth Kingsley, a Washington nonprofit lawyer. .



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Travel and leisure topped list of evolving corporate credit ratings during pandemic | Instant News


The COVID-19 pandemic has been disrupting not only lives and businesses around the world for over a year, but also the credit ratings of major corporations. Corporate credit ratings are a key measure of creditworthiness, but can also determine borrowing costs. They range from AAA to blue chip companies like Johnson & Johnson JNJ, -0.39% and Microsoft Corp. MSFT, + 1.34% to D for defaulting companies. Increasingly, credit ratings may also point to a potential path of recovery for industries hard hit by the protracted public health crisis. Take, for example, travel and recreation, an industry that has seen half of all blue chip companies in the world transition to high yielding, or “junk” status during the pandemic, according to a new report from Credit Benchmark . Even as parts of Europe remain stranded to contain the coronavirus, travel and leisure has seen the highest share of ‘fallen angels’ (at 11.1%) revert to investment grade status during the crisis (see graph below). Fallen Angels, Rising Stars Credit Benchmark The report identified 1,051 fallen angels out of 6,895 companies sampled around the world, or about 15% of the total. He found that about 5% went back to the investment grade. The retail, oil and gas, and auto and parts sectors have also been volatile on the credit ratings front over the past year, according to the report, with migrations between the two main tranches being now a key objective for investors. Read: The next rising stars in the debt world? Probably the Fallen Angels of Businesses Upgrades and downgrades can make a big difference to a business in terms of borrowing costs. The average yield on bonds issued by investment grade US companies is now in the 2.21% range, while it is almost double for those in speculative grade territory at around 4.21%. These rates are important, especially in the past year, as cruise lines including Carnival Corp CCL, -1.52%, Royal Caribbean Group RCL, -1.37% and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd NCLH , -2.20%, borrowed billions because their ships were largely idle. See: White House pushes back cruise industry efforts to restart in July, as Florida sues Biden administration But with other ‘clawback’ deals, Carnival shares rose 31.9 % year-to-date Thursday, while those of Royal Caribbean and Norwegian were up about 20%, according to FactSet data. This compares to the Dow Jones Industrial Average’s DJIA, + 0.17%, up 9.5% for the same period, while the S&P 500 SPX Index, + 0.42% was up 9.1%. .



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New US Airline Avelo Enters Competitive Travel Market | Instant News



A new airline is launched, bringing more competition to a domestic travel market that has been ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic but has shown signs of recovery in recent months. Avelo Airlines aims to serve smaller airports and routes that big carriers have ignored or left behind. The new airline is expected to operate its first flight at the end of the month, connecting Burbank to Santa Rosa, Calif., And will initially serve 12 airports in the western states. Avelo was designed before the pandemic disrupted the airline industry. After raising $ 125 million from investors in January 2020 – months before air travel came to a virtual halt in the spring – the airline delayed its launch until demand for travel returned. Andrew Levy, managing director of Avelo, said the time is right. The vaccinations sparked a renewed appetite for the holidays. Passenger volumes at U.S. airports are still down 30-40% from pre-pandemic levels, but airports are busier than they have been for more than a year. While public health officials discourage people from taking travel, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that the risks are low for those who have been fully immunized. The pandemic has forced thousands of businesses across the country to close their doors, but has also created opportunities to open new ones. Entrepreneurs are looking to pounce, as states lift restrictions on business activity, betting that consumers with cash to spend are willing to start spending again. .



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Slow vaccine rollout in EU and Easter travel restrictions blamed on low passenger numbers at Ryanair | Instant News


Ryanair RYA, + 0.95%, said on Wednesday it expects losses for the year to be slightly less than initially thought, but predicted it would carry less passengers over the next year due to Easter travel restrictions and the European Union’s slow rollout of COVID. 19 vaccination program. The Irish budget carrier plans to report a net loss before exceptional items of between € 800 million and € 850 million ($ 949.9 million to $ 1.01 billion) for the year ending March 2021 , slightly better than its previous forecast in February, between 850 million euros and 950 million euros over the period. It now forecasts the number of passengers for the year ending March 2022 down a previously guided range of between 80 million and 120 million passengers. “” Easter travel restrictions / lockouts and a delayed resumption of traffic in peak S.21 season, due to the slow rollout in the EU of COVID-19 vaccines, means FY22 traffic is likely to be towards the lower end of our previously guided passenger range from 80m to 120m. “” – Ryanair “Although it is not possible at the moment to provide significant profit forecasts for fiscal year 2022, we do not share the recent optimism of some analysts as we believe that the result for the fiscal year 2022 is currently close to breaking even, ”Ryanair said in a statement on Wednesday. Ryanair shares, which have risen 3.16% year-to-date, rose 1.10% at the start of trading in London on Wednesday. The news also boosted the shares of rival carrier easyJet EZJ, + 1.33%, which saw its shares increase by 1.06%, while the owner of British Airways International Airlines Group IAG, + 1.63%, saw its share increase by 1.42%. Airlines such as Ryanair RYAAY, -0.77% have introduced new summer routes in a bid to attract vacationers to travel when coronavirus restrictions ease. In March, Ryanair announced 26 new destinations in Greece, Portugal and Spain and plans to operate a total of 2,000 weekly flights on 400 summer routes. Read: Amid vaccine hurdles, EU battles to save summer vacation with COVID pass Under Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s four-step roadmap to get UK out of its third foreclosure, holidays abroad are prohibited until May 17 at the earliest. However, Johnson on Monday warned people not to book a summer vacation yet, saying it was too early for the government to commit to allowing overseas vacations due to the risk of importing variants. most contagious of the coronavirus, which is causing a wave of infections sweeping through Europe. Read: US and Alaska actions are upgraded on ‘clear path to reopening’ for the air travel industry When the ban on non-essential overseas travel is lifted, it will be replaced by a risk-based three-tier traffic light system to classify countries for international travel to and from England. “This new category will accommodate countries where we deem the risk to be lower, for example based on vaccinations, infection rates, prevalence of variants of concern and their ability to genome sequencing (or access to genomic sequencing), ”the government said in a statement. The Government’s Global Travel Task Force will release its report, giving more details on the system, later this week. .



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