COVID-19 Update: ACTA, Trafalgar, Insight and More

FITCUBA Postponed

Cuba has postponed its annual international tourism fair, FITCUBA.

The event, which is Cuba’s major tourism gathering each year, was to have been held from May 4 to May 9 in Varadero.

Officials indicate that a new date for FITCUBA will be announced shortly, noting that the postponement was a “direct response to the international spread of COVID-19.”

In announcing its decision, officials also said: “Cuba is grateful to all the international tourism industry partners for their ongoing support and collaboration throughout the years and looks forward to welcoming all of you to Cuba very soon.”

ACTA Shares Feds’ Economic Support Plan

“On March 18, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan. The plan entails new economic measures to protect the safety and jobs of all Canadians, particularly to help those affected by the impacts of COVID-19.

“The plan will provide up to $27 billion in support to Canadian workers and businesses, plus $55 billion to meet liquidity needs of Canadian businesses. The support will help Canadians struggling to pay for groceries and rent, and it will help businesses to pay their employees and bills.

Support for Businesses

“The Government of Canada is taking action to support Canadian businesses facing financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Allow the deferral of the payment of any income tax that become owing on or after March 18 to after Aug. 31, 2020;

Increase the credit available to small, medium, and large Canadian businesses through a new Business Credit Availability Program that will provide more than $10B of additional support to businesses experiencing cash flow challenges through the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada;

Further expand Export Development Canada’s ability to provide support to domestic businesses;

Provide flexibility on the Canada Account limit, to allow the Government to provide additional support to Canadian businesses;

Provide flexibility on the Canada Account Limit; and

Launch an Insured Mortgage Purchase Program to purchase up to $50 billion of insured mortgage pools through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), to provide stable funding to banks and mortgage lenders.

Support for Workers

“The government has also introduced measures that may help independent contractors:

Introduce an Emergency Care Benefit of up to $900 bi-weekly for up to 15 weeks to provide income support to workers who must stay home and do not have access to paid sick leave. This measure could provide up to $10B to Canadians and includes:

Workers, including the self-employed, who are sick, quarantined, or who have been directed to self-isolate but do not qualify for Employment Insurance (EI) sickness.

Workers, including the self-employed, who are taking care of a family member who is sick with COVID-19, such as an elderly parent or other dependants who are sick, but do not qualify for EI sickness benefits.

EI-eligible and non EI-eligible working parents who must stay home without pay because of children who are sick or who need additional care because of school closures.

Introduce an Emergency Support Benefit delivered through the Canada Revenue Agency to provide $5B in support to workers who are not eligible for EI and who are facing unemployment.

Applications for the Benefit will be available in April, and require Canadians to attest that they meet the eligibility requirements. They will need to re-attest every two weeks to reconfirm their

eligibility. The National Bank of Canada, Royal Bank (RBC), the Bank of Montreal (BMO), Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), the Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank), and Toronto Dominion Bank (TD) have all committed to help their banking customers who are financially impacted by COVID-19, by being flexible and offering solutions.

“All of these new measures will be implemented through emergency legislation that is expected to be introduced in Parliament next week.

“ACTA continues to work with provincial and federal government stakeholders to advocate on behalf of our membership at this critical time. We have voiced the special circumstances of our industry and have provided critical employment and economic information about the Travel Agency network across Canada. We will continue to update you as the COVID-19 situation evolves.”

Canadian Carriers Layoff Staff

With the imminent closing of the Canada-US border and the reduction of its flights, Air Canada is laying off over 5,000 members of its cabin crew for both its mainline operations and rouge.

The carrier’s move follows similar actions from other Canadian air carriers.

Following the announcement of the temporary suspension of its services, Porter Airlines’ president and CEO, Michael Deluce advised that it was issuing layoff notices.

Said Deluce: “It is regrettable that this situation requires us to issue temporary layoffs across the business. We are doing everything possible to support our team during this period and intend to welcome back all of our team members as operations restart.”

He also said that: “Executive chairman Robert Deluce and I will not receive any salary during this time, in alignment with the impact on our team members. All other management who remain during the temporary suspension will see salary reductions of up to 30% until flights resume.”

Sunwing Airlines’ president, Mark Williams advised that because it can’t confirm when its commercial southern flight operations will resume, it has had to layoff its flight and cabin crews.

Said Williams: “Our pilots and flight attendants play a crucial role in our operations and this was not a decision that we took lightly. Once we have confirmation on a return to service date of our southbound flights, we fully intend to recall our flight and cabin crew members.”

And he added: “These are incredibly difficult decisions to make. But the circumstances we face are dire and we must take action to ensure the long-term viability of our business.”


Insight, Luxury Gold, Trafalgar, Contiki Suspend Operations

In accordance with travel restrictions imposed by government advisories worldwide, Insight Vacations, Luxury Gold, Trafalgar and Contiki are temporarily suspending all guided vacations globally for trips departing up and until April 30.

“Our guests’ well-being is of the utmost priority and we will provide them the necessary assistance. We are closely monitoring this evolving and fluid situation and evaluating conditions with our operations teams.”

For the latest travel updates for each brand, visit:

Postponement of the 42nd Passion Play to 2022

Germany’s 42nd Oberammergau Passion Play is being postponed due to the current situation caused by the corona pandemic.

The Administrative District Office of Garmisch-Partenkirchen is prohibiting the performance, keeping the health of guests and participants as its highest priority.

The premiere of the Passion Play which was planned for May 16 has been postponed to 2022.

Etihad Introduces ‘Etihad Credit’

In response to the current travel situation, Etihad Airways has introduced “Etihad Credit” to give travellers the freedom to delay their travel plans by permitting a free cancellation and is offering the original value of their booking to be used as credit towards their next trip.

As the situation around COVID-19 continues to evolve, these new measures will provide maximum flexibility and ensures guests that need to travel, do so safely and conveniently.

Robin Kamark, chief commercial officer, Etihad Aviation Group, commented, “In these unprecedented times, we understand that some of our guests are either unable to, or choose not to travel and it is our responsibility to help them as much as possible.

“Now, more than ever, there is a global effort to care for one another and halt the spread of COVID-19 and under these challenging circumstances. Etihad Credit is our way of helping to relieve some of the unnecessary burden many of our customers are facing.”

Etihad Credit is available for all guests who have booked to travel before June 30. Guests have until Sept. 30 to rebook their trip for travel until Dec. 31 – any ticket, any fare type, any Etihad destination. Any fare difference from the original ticket price will be charged. Additionally, Etihad Guest Members will be gifted monthly bonus Tier Miles from March 31 for three months to help them maintain their Tier Status. Eligible Members will receive further information directly.


IATA Disappointed with European Commission Guidelines

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Airlines for Europe (A4E) reacted with dismay to the European Commission’s new guidelines on the application of the EU261 passenger rights regime.

According to officials, the new guidelines are disappointing and unhelpful, falling far short of the simple and temporary alleviation airlines had requested for:

Recognition that no compensation is due in the event of cancellations due to COVID-19;

A limitation on the extensive obligations to provide care and assistance in the event of cancellations due to COVID-19;

Flexibility to allow airlines to offer rebooking or vouchers in place of refunds in the event of cancellations due to the pandemic.

IATA notes there was some limited help in the new guidelines. They recognized that cancellations caused by externally imposed measures (such as flight bans) or because of the very low demand are to be considered as an extraordinary circumstance. This would mean that in most current cases compensation for cancellation will not apply.

However, on the limitations on providing care and assistance due to COVID-19, and particularly the flexibility on refunds or vouchers, IATA says the Commission’s response is inadequate. No flexibility on the limitation of obligations was offered during a period of crisis for the aviation industry. This means that airlines are potentially responsible for unlimited care to passengers who have been stranded as a result of government decisions to close borders. On the request for flexibility to offer rebooking or vouchers in place of refunds, the Commission specifically rejected that possibility.

“The Commission appears to considerably underestimate the crisis afflicting airlines in Europe. Faced with a cash flow catastrophe, many airlines can only offer vouchers in lieu of immediate cash refunds for cancelled flights. The Commission must accept that this solution – which many people would regard as reasonable in the current extraordinary circumstances – should be facilitated. The Commission needs to understand that fiddling at the edges will not keep airlines in any shape to get the economy moving again when the health crisis abates. This is not a short-term issue—air connectivity will not be back to normal for many months. And for some airlines, things will never be the same again,” said Rafael Schvartzman, IATA’s regional vice-president for Europe.

“These guidelines unfortunately don’t provide the clarity that cash-strapped EU airlines need. Given the extraordinary circumstances and financial pressures our airlines are facing, if this is the Commission’s view – then an emergency amendment to Regulation 261 may be needed, and would be welcomed by the sector,” said Thomas Reynaert, managing director, Airlines for Europe (A4E). “In the meantime, we also expect member states in the European Council to come to an agreement on the review of the Regulation before the summer.”

Dream Hotel Group Relaxes Cancellation Policies

Dream Hotel Group is advising agents and their clients that any individual bookings (new or existing) for stays through April 30 at any of its hotels (including those reservations originally booked as non-cancellable) may be re-booked at the same property for a future stay within one year of the original booking date.

The company is waiving any modification/cancellation penalties and will apply any previously collected deposits to the future stay.


Nayarit Still Virus-Free

The Mexican state of Nayarit reported Wednesday that it didn’t have any reported cases of COVID-19 as of March 18.

There were 93 confirmed cases elsewhere in Mexico, with those patients having “shown light symptoms and are isolated. The state of Nayarit remains one of the least affected by the COVID-19 or coronavirus, with zero cases detected until now. Mexico, the State of Nayarit and the Banderas Bay Hotel and Motel Association adhere to strict international guidelines and protocols related to the prevention, detection, and treatment of many diseases, following the protocols and the Mexican Federal Government Health Ministry based on the alignments of the World Health Organization (WHO), and are very well prepared for this contingency. The health and well being of our visitors and population is our top priority. Given these facts, there is no reason for travellers to consider changing their plans to visit, and we’d like to share protocols already in place in the State of Nayarit,” authorities said.

Local and state authorities are in permanent communication with the private sector, associations and tourism suppliers to determine any potential risk related to the COVID-19. Additionally, hospitals and medical personnel are reviewing best measures to take should a potential case in the destination arise.

Nayarit, along with the Banderas Bay Hotel and Motel Association (AHMBB) are in constant communication to determine measures, best practices, or assessment measures and know to keep us informed about any potential risks or cases in the destination.

“The state of Nayarit remains abreast with the most up-to-date information and recommendations from the World Health Organization and other relevant national and international health organizations,” authorities said in a statement.

Explora Announces Hotel Closures

South American resort company explora says it has been “constantly monitoring the global situation with the COVID-19 coronavirus in order to adopt the best measures to protect the health of our travellers and take care of their exploration experience with us.”

Governments both in Chile and Peru have declared the total closure of their air, land and ocean borders, meaning that no foreign travellers can enter both countries at least until March 31. Facing this scenario, explora has contacted all travellers impacted by this measure with reservations between March 16 and April 1 so as to address their concerns and provide prompt solutions.
“Understanding the huge challenge faced by the world in terms of entrance restrictions, quarantines, and transportation-related issues, as a company we have decided to interrupt the operations of our hotels in Chile between March 22 and April 1, and of our hotel in Peru from March 17-31, since a state of emergency has been decreed during such period in the latter country.

“Facing such exceptional circumstances, as a company we are adopting a new flexibility policy for bookings: For bookings made before March 9, the date may be rescheduled in up to 18 months after the original check-in date, except for the period between Dec. 20, 2020, and Jan. 2, 2021. For bookings made as of March 9 and thereafter and with a check-out date up until Nov. 1, 2020, guests may cancel their stay without fines up to seven days before the date of arrival and may only pay 10% of the booking as guarantee, unlike the 30% usually required.

“Our customer service team is operating under the home office modality to, above all, ensure their safety and security. However, our communications channels will be fully operative and willing to hear any questions and concerns from travellers and partners. Please contact us by e-mail at [email protected].”

explora adds that it is implementing all the protocols, actions, and recommendations made by the authorities and by the World Health Organization to contain coronavirus.