Omicron: New Threat or Nothing Significant? Aviation Feature, Aviation News

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Omicron: New Threat or Nothing Significant?

 

Indications are that future hotel bookings, meetings, and other hotel-related activity will be impacted by the presumed expectation of future travel impediments, whether self-imposed, company-imposed or government-mandated, according to HotStats.

October data, which had only Delta to deal with, saw a striking resurgence in the Middle East, bolstered by Expo 2020 in Dubai, a 182-day World Expo that began at the beginning of October and runs through March.

Other global regions were not able to replicate the success of Dubai and the broader Middle East. In the US, major indices were still down double digits in October 2021 v. October 2019.

Since a rapid uptick in occupancy from the beginning of the year through the summer, hitting an apex in July, occupancy in the US has since more or less flatlined, a signal that the leisure boom could not be sustained at the same levels prior.

After Austria reinstituted a lockdown on November 22, it has extended it until December 11, becoming the first EU country to take such a measure in the face of the COVID-19 surge.

Portugal reintroduced tighter restrictions, making face masks mandatory and mandating a digital certificate proving vaccination or recovery from COVID in order to enter restaurants, movie theaters and hotels.

As Asia-Pacific continues to piece together its comeback, it, too, is tightening borders in response to the Omicron specter. Japan this week announced the country would bar foreign arrivals, only weeks after easing restrictions for visa holders, including short-term business travelers and international students. And the Philippines has barred arrivals from seven European countries, including the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy.

What about flights?

On the other hand, as many travel experts ponder whether the new Omicron variant will crash holiday travel plans, a recent survey by Medjet (run in mid-November, sent out to an email opt-in base of over 60,000 travelers), showed that prior surges and variants didn’t have travelers rushing to cancel plans. The airline also announced, as of close of business yesterday, the highest November overall sales in the company’s almost 30-year history.

As of November 15, over 84% of the airline’s members who responded had future travel plans in place. 90% reported planning to take a domestic trip in the next nine months (65% within the next three months), and 70% expected to take an international trip within the next nine months (24% within the next three months). While 51% of them reported that previous variants and spikes had affected their future travel plans, only 25% of respondents reported having actually canceled because of them.

Additional findings included:

•             51% said previous variants and spikes had already affected future travel plans (27% answered “no,” 23% weren’t sure yet).

•             45% said becoming infected with COVID-19 and variants was of concern, while 55% listed other illnesses, injuries or safety threats their top concern.

•             Of those concerned about COVID, only 42% were worried about testing positive and not being able to return; 58% were more concerned about being hospitalized for COVID while away from home.


•             Business travel was still way (way) down, with only 2% responding that their next trip would be for business.

•             70% intend to travel with family, 14% with friends, 14% solo.

As a reminder, the current US Omicron restrictions only apply to foreign nationals. For US citizens and visa holders returning to the US, the re-entry requirements are still the same: a negative COVID viral test no more than 3 days prior to return flight for fully vaccinated passengers, no more than 1 day for unvaccinated passengers. More information on requirements, and definitions of “fully vaccinated” can be found on the CDC website.   

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