Covid-19 Update: September in Review

Bannikin | October 2, 2020

Covid Enters the Shoulder Season

Welcome to our September media and communications newsletter, designed to help you track travel- and coronavirus-related developments that continue to affect our industry at large.

After a season of border reopenings, optimistic marketing efforts and outdoor living made easier by warmer weather, recent reports would suggest the summer’s reprieve is giving way to earlier pandemic realities. This month, the global Coronavirus death toll hit one million, as countries which formerly managed to contain the virus in June-July began reporting higher infection rates than the U.S. in mid-September.

In terms of international tourism, organizations are forecasting continued drops, with the effect of travel restrictions on the spread of Covid-19 still not fully understood. UNWTO is now projecting arrivals for 2020 will be down 70% from 2019, while IATA has reported that 2020’s drop in traffic is now estimated at 66% compared to 2019 (as opposed to a previously-forecasted 63% drop).

The airline industry continues to be something of a bellwether for what to expect. Not only have a number of U.S. airlines announced an end to change fees, United has faced mass furloughs, and expects to remain 45% of its pre-pandemic size for the next 15 months, when its CEO believes a vaccine will be widely available.

A vaccine arrival date is still unclear however, and in the meantime, governments have had to make more difficult choices in response to industry and economic pressures, and regarding consistent border restrictions and closures. Most recently, the White House blocked a new order from the CDC to keep cruise ships docked until mid-February, 2021. The No Sail Order will now end on Oct 31, 2020.

Yet, with six months of the global pandemic now behind us, the tourism industry has done its level best to reimagine a way forward. The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) released Safe Travels, a new set of protocols for the adventure travel sector, meant to “set clear expectations of what travellers can experience after the coronavirus pandemic, providing safe environments as restrictions are eased.” CLIA adopted guidelines for a phased-in return to cruise operations from the U.S., and Tourism Australia launched its Covid Travel Portal to educate domestic travellers on what Covid-19 measures are currently in place.

Even knowing more now than we did in the early days of the pandemic, the available data continues to offer limited perspective, other than which safety precautions are—and which are not—effective. As always, tourism resilience remains the outlook du jour, and as we approach colder months, a U.S. presidential election, the holiday season and the uncertainties therein, the creative interpretations and predictions of how we all might keep coping are, at this point, as necessary for our health as the scientific advances we’re all still waiting for.

Below is our monthly roundup of news, expert insights and food for thought about what has been happening in the travel industry. If you can’t access an article due to a pay wall, let us know and we may be able to send it through to you.

Keep well,
Your friends at Bannikin


The month at a glance

Sept 1-5

Sept 6-12

  • New U.S. Travel campaign encourages travel planning
  • European tourism bodies plead for coordinated travel restrictions
  • WTTC releases ‘safe travels‘ protocols for adventure travel
  • Marriott to lay off 17% of corporate workforce
  • What month is it? Pandemic scrambles the travel calendar
  • TrekAmerica axed as Travelopia streamlines head office
  • Private travel takes off
  • Tourism Australia unveils new Covid-safe travel tool
  • Groups urge U.S. to help develop Covid-testing protocols for air travel
  • U.S. ends health screenings for some international arrivals

Sept 13-19

  • UNWTO: Tourism arrivals are down 65% in first six months
  • Most U.S. airlines are getting rid of change fees for good
  • Economic damage from Canada’s travel restrictions could become permanent, IATA warns
  • These countries crushed Covid-19 — but are now reporting higher infection rates than the U.S.
  • Carnival Corp. to reduce its global fleet again by selling more ships
  • Covid is hurting Africa’s nature tourism. Now the continent is looking for solutions.
  • Covid-19 medical coverage now available even though Canadians advised to avoid international travel
  • A bill to set a course for U.S. cruise industry’s return is introduced in the Senate
  • Nearly 11,000 people have been exposed to the coronavirus on flights, the CDC says
  • Cruise execs: Europe sailings show that U.S., too, is ready

Sept 20-26

Sept 27-30


What the media is saying…

New York Times — The travel rules that let Covid-19 take flight
Snippet: Before the pandemic, a few studies had demonstrated that travel restrictions delayed, but did not stop, the spread of SARS, pandemic flu and Ebola. Most, however, were based on mathematical models. No one had collected real-world data. The effect of travel restrictions on the spread of the latest coronavirus is still not understood.

Outside — What you need to know about wearing a face mask outside
Snippet: By late spring, several states were mandating mask use in public places, in some cases even in the outdoors. Research suggests that while the outdoors is safer than indoor spaces, there are still higher risks for those who go without face coverings than those who wear them.

Conde Nast Traveler — 6 ways travel has become more accessible during the pandemic
Snippet: Pre-pandemic, I faced a multitude of challenges when traveling: excessive fees when debilitating symptoms forced me to postpone or cancel a trip; ill-prepared tour operators that excluded me from activities without offering an alternative, or worse, put me in danger due to their lack of forethought. During the pandemic, I’ve seen glimmers of hope and guidelines for reopening safely for travelers with disabilities.

Travel Weekly – Why dropping change fees is big. Really big.
Snippet: The permanent dropping of change fees is a biggie and a sign of things to come… All of this suggests that other segments of the industry are likely to imitate the permanent dropping of their least popular pricing strategies in order to stimulate bookings. In doing so, they will be acknowledging that the recovery will, by necessity, be slow and painful for suppliers while consumers are likely to see deals like never before.

Independent — How a trip to Rwanda has likely sparked the end of the travel influencer game as we know it
Snippet: As borders have tentatively reopened news stories of influencers shocked at ongoing restrictions have felt like histrionics. At best, they come across like brats, at worst they seem to have not bothered finding out the most basic travel restrictions.


What experts are saying…

Skift — Forget 2021: Science writer says pandemic is a 36-month event
Snippet: Many of the favored interventions or touted safety precautions are also not as effective as they seem. Temperature checks, for example, don’t have the efficacy they had during SARS because people tend to be most contagious with Covid-19 before they get a fever — if they show symptoms at all.

Travel Weekly — Studies chart in-flight transmission of Covid-19 early in the pandemic
Snippet: Three recently published studies document instances of Covid-19 transmission on aircraft during the early stages of the pandemic.

AHLA Survey 74% of hotels will lay off employees without further aid
Snippet: A new survey of American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) members shows that the hotel industry remains on the brink of collapse because of the pandemic. AHLA conducted the survey of hotel industry owners, operators, and employees from September 14-16, 2020, with more than 1,000 respondents.

Travel Weekly AU – Who will be the first international travelers post-Covid-19?
Snippet: COVID-19 is reshaping our national psyche. It seems certain that we’ll remain a nation of travellers, but we’ll be asking more questions of our travel suppliers and seeking more reassurance to reduce any perceived risk. For brands, this may mean it’s time to revisit your audiences and start to understand more about the first wave of travellers – not to mention rethink what’s important to them, what their purchase barriers are, and what experiences will make them feel truly alive.


What made us smile this month…

The summer of canceled plans: How 14 pro travelers spent the season
Washington Post

The Flight Goes Nowhere. And It’s Sold Out.
New York Times

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