British Airways to temporarily halt Gatwick operations

British Airways will temporarily suspend operations at Gatwick Airport in London as travel demand continues to stall in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

International Airlines Group – owner of British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus – has already announced huge cuts to services, with the British flag-carrier to focus efforts on Heathrow in the short term.

Gatwick itself is currently operating from a single terminal, following a sharp fall in flights.

easyJet, a major operator at the south London airport, yesterday said it would suspend all departures for the foreseeable future in response to the crisis in global travel.

A brief statement from British Airways said: “Due to the considerable restrictions and challenging market environment, like many other airlines, we will temporarily suspend our flying schedule at Gatwick. 

“We are contacting affected customers to discuss their options.”

The carrier yesterday extended its American revolving credit facility as it seeks to boost its liquidity situation during the virtual shutdown of aviation.

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Rocky Mountaineer delays 2020 travel season

Rocky Mountaineer will extend the delay of its 2020 travel season and suspend all train departures until July 1st.

The season was scheduled to start on April 13th.

Guests on suspended departures will receive a future travel credit for 110 per cent of the value paid, which can be applied to a new departure in the 2020, 2021 or 2022 seasons.

Guests can contact their travel professional or the Rocky Mountaineer sales centre before November 30th next year to apply the future travel credit. 

“Our team is incredibly disappointed in not being able to start our season as originally planned.

“With the Canadian borders closed to international travellers until June 30th and other global travel mandates, it has become impossible for us to operate while these restrictions are in place,” said Steve Sammut, president and chief executive officer of Rocky Mountaineer.

“In addition to the future travel credit for guests impacted by the suspended departures, we have waived all fees associated with changing travel dates, so guests who are proactively calling us can move their train journey to later this year or 2021.

“Our hope is this will offer guests greater flexibility and time to make a decision regarding their travel plans.

“We sincerely thank our partners, guests, and team members for their patience and understanding as we work through these challenging times.” 

The resumption date of Rocky Mountaineer’s operations will be determined in accordance with travel restrictions and mandates from the Canadian and other international governments, the company added.

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Expo 2020 organisers to discuss possible delay

Organisers of Expo 2020 will meet via video conference on Monday to consider a delay to the event.

According to reports from the Middle East, a year-long postponement is one of several options to be discussed.

With the event due to begin on October 20th this year, a postponement to the spring is also possible.

Any final decision would have to be made by member states of the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions, which awards the event.

However, beginning on time has not yet been ruled out.

In their most recent public statement, Expo 2020 organisers said only that they were keeping the coronavirus pandemic under observation.

Since then both Emirates and Etihad have ceased virtually all flights in the United Arab Emirates, while lockdowns on international travel have come into force around the world.

Government officials in Dubai have for years touted Expo 2020 as a potential bonanza for the destination, and have spent billions of dollars building hotels and facilities.

Dubai had previously expressed hopes to welcome 25 million international arrivals this year, with the event as a key driver.

A spokesman for the Bureau International des Expositions said the steering committee meeting would “reassess and adjust planned preparations”.

Any change of date requires a two-thirds majority vote from members.

The International Olympic Committee earlier this week took the previous unthinkable decision to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Games for a year.

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Thames Clippers services to be suspended until further notice

Thames Clippers services will be halted from tomorrow as the capital is locked down to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Sean Collins, chief executive Thames Clippers, confirmed all services will be temporarily suspending until further notice.

He explained: “Further to a significant drop in passenger demand in recent days, following UK government’s direction to travel only when absolutely necessary, from Saturday March 28th, we will temporarily be suspending all Thames Clippers services until further notice.   

“This decision has not been taken lightly.

“However, at this time, as a privately owned business, it is no longer viable for us to continue to run our services.

“Over the past week, services have been increasingly reduced to keep in line with the latest travel guidance, whilst being mindful of doing all that was possible to continue to support those Thames Clippers customers for whom commuting to work is critical.”

Thames Clippers offers a frequent service on the River Thames.

Services run at 20-minute intervals between key London piers including North Greenwich for the O2, Greenwich, Canary Wharf, Tower, London Bridge City, Westminster and London Eye for Waterloo, as well as several residential piers.

“We continue to closely monitor the situation, and will reinstate our service to keep London moving as soon as it is safe to do so,” added Collins.

Season ticket holders are advised to visit the Thames Clippers website for further details.

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Global Tourism Resilience Centre to lead coronavirus fight in Caribbean

Jamaica minister of tourism, Edmund Bartlett, has argued the Global Tourism Resilience & Crisis Management Centre will be charged with driving the recovery of tourism in the destination and elsewhere in the region post Covid-19.

Speaking to Jamaica Information Service News recently, Bartlett noted that: “While nobody knew that a pandemic like no one has ever seen would bring global tourism to a virtual standstill, the GTRCM, fortunately, was created to deal with recovery and in whatever form.”

He added: “When world leaders, legislators and academics from around the world convened in Montego Bay last year January to commemorate the opening of the Global Tourism Resilience & Crisis Management Centre, we were thinking about the possibility of hurricanes, earthquakes, flooding and other disasters that we have experienced in the past – nothing like the coronavirus.

“While we were cognisant that there could be pandemics and other threatening diseases, nobody could have foreseen anything of this magnitude where an invisible enemy… a phantom, basically… would emerge that would close borders, shut down airports and seaports, close hotels, essentially shutting down travel, and having everybody retreat to the confines of their homes.”

The minister said it is incumbent on countries to have a strategy for recovery in place, so as to be ready to get the industry rolling again when things return to normal.

“This is where the GTRCM, will come into play,” he noted “serving as a reference point for information, communication and research on best practices in tourism recovery, which will effectively provide the road map on where we need to go to get back on our feet.”

Bartlett said that the facility will liaise with various stakeholders to promote resilience and build human capacity “so that growth can be recovered in the fastest possible time”.

In noting the sector’s resilience, he added: “Of all the major industries globally, none face greater exposure to disruptions as the tourism industry, which has proven again and again that it has the greatest capacity for recovery.”

The Global Tourism Resilience & Crisis Management Centre, which is based out of the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, is a tourism resource centre dedicated to conducting policy-relevant research and analysis on destination preparedness, management and recovery due to disruptions and crises that impact tourism and threaten economies and livelihoods.

It involves collaboration with domestic and international policymakers and practitioners at all levels of government, private and non-profit sectors and academia.

Bartlett said that the facility will be even more committed to making Jamaica and the Caribbean among the safest destinations in the world.

“We will continue to focus on four core areas of challenge – climate change and disaster management, security and cybersecurity, entrepreneurial management and data analytics, and pandemic and epidemic management,” he concluded.

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Minister Bartlett earlier spoke to Breaking Travel News about the actions the world must take to overcome the coronavirus pandemic.

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Royal Caribbean Cruises extends sailing suspension

Royal Caribbean Cruises has extended the suspension of sailings of its global fleet until May 12th.

In light of the developing Covid-19 pandemic, the cruise line – which also operates Celebrity Cruises, Azamara and Silversea Cruises – had originally scrapped all sailings until early April.

“We are working with our guests to address this disruption to their vacations, and we are genuinely sorry for their inconvenience,” a statement added.

“We are also working with our crew to sort out the issues this decision presents for them.”

Royal Caribbean Cruises added, because of announced port closures, the line expects to return to service for Alaska, Canada and New England on July 1st.

Earlier this week the company raised additional funds to secure its financial viability during the suspension of sailings.

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