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Travel and tourism during COVID-19

May 27, 2022 | 4:30pm
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Travel and tourism during COVID-19
1 day ago

The government says it will no longer require a pre-departure COVID-19 test for incoming fully vaccinated passengers.

The Department of Tourism says the visitor must be at least 18 years old, and must have received the primary series of COVID-19 vaccines and at least one booster shot. This will take effect on May 30.

1 day ago

Japan announces it will reopen to tourists from 98 countries and regions starting June 10, ending a two-year pandemic closure, but travellers will only be allowed in with tour groups.

The decision comes after the government last week said it would test allowing small group tours with visitors from the United States, Australia, Thailand and Singapore from this month.

On Thursday, the government revised border controls to resume accepting package tours from 98 countries and regions including Britain, the United States, France, Spain, Canada, and Malaysia. — AFP

May 22, 2022

The Philippine Hotel Owners Association says it is grateful to key government agencies that helped in the release of funds to hotels that were used as quarantine facilities by Overseas Filipino Workers or OFWs.

"We wish to convey our heartfelt thanks to Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac for facilitating the release of P1.7 billion to settle the Accounts Receivables (ARs) of hotels that served as quarantine facilities for returning OFWs,” PHOA president Arthur Lopez says.

When the pandemic started in early 2020, PHOA hotels in Metro Manila and neighboring provinces, Cebu, Davao and Clark immediately opened their facilities and services to thousands of OFWs to provide safe and comfortable accommodations to them.

Mr. Lopez added "the release of funds provides a welcome relief to us in the hotel industry. This  has allowed the hotels to pay for basic expenses and to continue operating. Rest assured that PHOA member hotels will continue to partner with DOLE and OWWA in ensuring that the needs of our OFWs and other guests are satisfactorily met."

PHOA is a non-stock and non-profit association composed of around 300 member hotels all over the country.

May 17, 2022

Japan will trial small group tours with travellers from the US, Australia, Thailand and Singapore from this month, the government said on Tuesday, as it experiments with easing strict Covid border rules.

There are no plans to lift border restrictions fully, as other countries have done, with the trial involving only tourists from the four countries who join package tours with predetermined itineraries, according to the Japan Tourism Agency.

"Japanese travel companies will organise the tours and local guides will accompany them," an agency official told AFP. — AFP

April 23, 2022

Rio de Janeiro's carnival, a glittering, sequin-studded festival of the flesh, exploded back to life Friday with the first famed samba school parades since Covid-19 started devastating Brazil.

After two long years, a flood of dancers and drummers reclaimed the iconic beach city's "Sambadrome," its dedicated carnival parade venue, which had been turned into a drive-through vaccination center at the height of the health crisis.

The all-night parades by the city's top samba schools Friday and Saturday nights are the first since February 2020, marking a turning point for hard-hit Brazil, where Covid-19 has claimed more than 660,000 lives, second only to the United States.

"I'm just so happy. I think a lot of people are going to cry when the parades start, including me," said Ana Vieira, a 48-year-old geography teacher, who was dressed in a giant, sparkling white costume awaiting her turn to parade for the Imperatriz samba school.

"Carnival is life. You can see the happiness on people's faces after two long years staying home and missing it," Vieira, who has been parading for 20 years, told AFP.

-- AFP

April 18, 2022

A cruise ship docked in Sydney Harbour on Monday for the first time in more than two years, after a 2020 ban sparked by a mass Covid-19 outbreak was lifted.

On a bright morning, the Pacific Explorer made a dramatic entrance, flanked by tugboats spraying plumes of water and with a large banner that read "We're home" draped across its bow.

Crowds gathered at the base of the Sydney Harbour Bridge to watch the arrival of the ship, which began its 18,000-kilometre (11,000-mile) journey back to Australia nearly a month ago.

International cruise ships were banned from Australian waters in March 2020 after a Covid-19 outbreak that spread from the Ruby Princess ship, which was linked to hundreds of cases of the virus and 28 deaths, many in aged care homes. — AFP

April 1, 2022

Singapore fully reopens its borders to all vaccinated visitors Friday after a two-year coronavirus closure, with arrivals saying it felt "wonderful" to travel again without onerous restrictions.

The aviation hub, a key gateway for people arriving in Asia, joins other countries in the region that have recently dropped travel curbs as they shift to living with COVID-19. 

Previously, only travellers from a handful of places could enter Singapore without quarantining but from Friday all vaccinated arrivals just need a negative COVID-19 test. — AFP

April 1, 2022

Singapore fully reopens its borders to all vaccinated visitors Friday after a two-year coronavirus closure, with arrivals saying it felt "wonderful" to travel again without onerous restrictions.

The aviation hub, a key gateway for people arriving in Asia, joins other countries in the region that have recently dropped travel curbs as they shift to living with Covid-19. 

Previously, only travellers from a handful of places could enter Singapore without quarantining but from Friday all vaccinated arrivals just need a negative Covid test. — AFP

March 27, 2022

Hong Kong announces it will halve the period for which it suspends international flights that bring in passengers infected with Covid-19, as the aviation industry increasingly voices alarm over the continued difficulty of operating in the city. 

In the early hours of Sunday, the government announced the suspension period would be shortened from 14 days to a week, beginning April 1. 

Airlines have been lobbying for its complete removal, but Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said there was "no room for major relaxation" as preventing imported infections remained "a fundamental pillar of Hong Kong's anti-epidemic policy". — AFP

March 25, 2022

The Department of Tourism says that it’s all systems go for the Philippines' much awaited reopening to fully-vaccinated tourists from all countries starting April 1, 2022.

“We thank our colleagues in the IATF-EID and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), as well as our public and private sector partners who have been working with the DOT since the onset of the pandemic to ensure that the country's reopening is carefully planned and carried out with health and safety in mind,” Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat says.

March 24, 2022

Singapore will lift restrictions for all vaccinated travellers from next week, with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday hailing it as a "major milestone" in the aviation hub's efforts to live with Covid-19.

The city-state is the latest Asian country to ease travel restrictions in a region that has generally been more reluctant to lift barriers than Europe and North America. 

A gateway for many travellers arriving in the Asia-Pacific, Singapore had already started quarantine-free travel schemes with some countries in recent months. 

From April 1, fully vaccinated adults and unvaccinated children will be allowed to enter the country without quarantining, as long as they take a pre-departure test, officials said. — AFP

March 22, 2022

The Department of Tourism says it is setting its sights on potential visitors from a major source market — Japan.

Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat led the Philippine delegation to Japan to engage with the latter’s tourism stakeholders and promote the country as a safe travel destination in the new normal.

“Like other tourism ministries, the Philippines Department of Tourism exhausted all possible efforts to revive the industry, primarily to restore jobs and rebuild revenue streams. Now, we are glad to see the fruits of our labor after nearly two years of preparations to push for the recovery of the sector,” the tourism chief says.

March 21, 2022

Hong Kong is set to resume international flights from the United States, Britain and seven other countries, the government said Monday as it announced a loosening of some of the world's toughest Covid-19 restrictions. 

The finance hub has struggled to maintain China's zero-Covid policy during an Omicron-fuelled outbreak.

After the highly transmissible variant fuelled a fresh wave of cases in January, authorities quickly put in place flight bans from eight countries deemed high-risk — including the United States, Britain, France and India — and in February added a ninth, Nepal. — AFP

March 18, 2022

Travellers to Thailand will no longer have to take a Covid-19 test before boarding the plane, under plans announced Friday as part of efforts to reboot the kingdom's pandemic-battered tourism sector.

From April 1, the requirement to take a negative test within 72 hours of travel will be scrapped, and instead visitors will be tested on arrival in Thailand, Taweesin Visanuyothin, spokesman for the country's Covid-19 task force, said.

Draconian travel curbs helped Thailand limit Covid-19 case numbers and deaths in the early stages of the pandemic, but hammered its crucial tourism industry, which accounts for about a fifth of the country's economy. — AFP

March 16, 2022

Vietnam announces an end to quarantine for international travellers on Wednesday, as it seeks to restart its tourism industry after two years of strict Covid-19 restrictions.

The only virus requirement for visitors will be a negative Covid test, the country's ministry of health says in a statement.

The communist state's tourism sector was worth up to $32 billion a year before the pandemic, but it ground to a standstill during the pandemic as the government restricted travel. — AFP

March 11, 2022

Airlines and airports call for an end to pandemic measures for European domestic flights as most countries in the region begin to relax requirements to present proof of vaccination and wear masks.

"COVID-19, and specifically the Omicron variant, is now pervasive throughout all of Europe, and population immunity is at such levels that the risk of hospitalisation or death has dramatically reduced, especially for vaccinated people," says joint statement from ACI Europe and IATA.

ACI Europe, which represents some 500 airports in the region plus IATA, the top trade association for airlines, noted that numerous countries were now dropping requirements to wear masks in public spaces or present proof of vaccination to enter social events.  — AFP

March 4, 2022

Presidential bet Isko Moreno Domagoso vows he will support and promote the tourism industry in Quirino province.

“Gusto koong maiparamdam sa kanila na ngayon pa lamang, inaaral ko, pinipilit kong malaman yung katatayuan nila. Katulad halimbawa yung sinabi ni Mayor (Nieverose) Meneses, turista, e kailangan nila, konting ayuda na lang sa pondo. Meron na silang plano, meron na silang naiisip. Kailangan na lang nila konting suporta ng national government,” Moreno tells reporters after a town hall meeting in this town.

March 2, 2022

The United States advises citizens against travelling to Hong Kong, citing strict coronavirus curbs and the risk of children being separated from parents as the Chinese city battles a wave of infections.

"The Department of State has updated the Travel Advisory for Hong Kong to Level 4 -- Do Not Travel due to COVID-19 and COVID-19 related restrictions, including the risk of parents and children being separated," the US consulate says in a statement. 

"In some cases, children in Hong Kong who test positive have been separated from their parents and kept in isolation until they meet local hospital discharge requirements,” the State Department adds in a statement. — AFP

March 2, 2022

The Department of Tourism welcomes the lowering of the COVID-19 alert level in Metro Manila and other areas across the country, which will boost travel and tourism activities.

“The Department welcomes this development as it not only indicates that we are well on our way to recovery, but is also a testament to the all the work and sacrifices we have made  to reach this point,” Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat says.

Traveling between places under Alert Level 1 status, such as Baguio, Boracay, Ilocos Region, Aurora, Batanes, Laguna, Puerto Princesa City, Bacolod, Guimaras, Camiguin, and Davao City, is now easier and more convenient. The DOT anticipates with optimism the revival of many tourism jobs and opportunities that were once lost to the pandemic,” she adds.

February 26, 2022

Russia says it was closing its airspace to flights from Bulgaria, Poland and the Czech Republic in response to punishment over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. 

"Air carriers of these states and/or registered in them are subject to restrictions on flights to destinations on the territory of the Russian Federation, including transit flights through the airspace of the Russian Federation," the federal air transport agency Rosaviation says.

The measure is set to go into effect from 3 p.m. local time on Saturday. — AFP

February 22, 2022

Tourist arrivals grew in the first 10 days after the Philippines reopened its borders, the Department of Tourism says.

Data from the One Health Pass shows that 21,974 tourists arrived in the country from February 10 to 19.

These include 10,074 Balikbayans and 11,900 foreign tourists.

February 19, 2022

The Department of Tourism welcomes the decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to expand its list of accepted and recognized national COVID-19 vaccination certificates, approving twelve more from countries whose travelers are allowed visa-free travel to the Philippines.

Based on Resolution No. 162 of the IATF-EID, the national/state vaccination certificates of Argentina, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Chile, Denmark, Ecuador, Indonesia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Portugal, and Spain, mainly 12 of the 157 countries that can visit the Philippines visa-free under Executive Order (EO) 408, shall be accepted and recognized as other proofs of vaccination required as entry requirements to the Philippines.

“The DOT commits to working with other member agencies of the IATF-EID in making the travel process and requirements to the country easier for balikbayans and foreign tourists alike. This move will greatly help in restoring jobs under the heavily impacted tourism industry,” says tourism chief Berna Romulo-Puyat.

“We are grateful to the IATF-EID for this development as we aim to make travel as seamless as possible for our travelers from visa-free countries. We look forward to opening our doors to guests from all over the world, but of course, with all the necessary health and safety protocols in place,” she adds.

February 18, 2022

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announces the requirement to show proof of coronavirus vaccination to enter various sites will soon end, as the wave of infections wanes.

Israel had been a early trailblazer of a national vaccine rollout and among the first countries to demand a vaccination certificate, which it called the green pass, to enter a range of facilities.

Bennett says that with a clear decline in both the number of serious COVID-19 cases and the number of confirmed infections, it was a "good time" to scrap the vaccine proof requirement. — AFP

February 15, 2022

Papua New Guinea will reopen to vaccinated travellers from Wednesday, ending two years of strict border closures that virtually sealed the Melanesian nation off from neighbours.

The country's pandemic controller David Manning said on Tuesday that he had revoked rules requiring approval to enter the country and mandatory quarantine.

The rules had hampered production at some of the country's largest copper and gold mines and caused diplomatic spats — most notably with India and China, who were accused of bypassing rules to bring citizens into the country. — AFP

February 12, 2022

The French government says it would scrap the requirement for a negative COVID-19 test for all vaccinated travellers arriving in the country.

From Saturday "proof of vaccination will be sufficient to come to France whatever country you are coming from, just as it was before the spread of the Omicron variant", a government statement says.

The move coincided, the statement says, with "the new phase of the pandemic characterised in most countries by the predominance of the Omicron variant and higher vaccination rates". — AFP

February 3, 2022

An international coalition of travel-related organizations calls on the US government to stop requiring vaccinated passengers to present a negative COVID-19 test before boarding US-bound flights.

"Travel and aviation's recovery is dependent on the government taking steps to remove travel restrictions that are no longer justified by current circumstances," the group argued in a letter addressed to White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeffrey Zients.

Among the 29 signatories were the main advocacy organizations representing Asian, European and US airlines, as well as the US Chamber of Commerce and the US Travel Association. — AFP

February 3, 2022

An international coalition of travel-related organizations called on the US government Wednesday to stop requiring vaccinated passengers to present a negative COVID test before boarding US-bound flights.

"Travel and aviation's recovery is dependent on the government taking steps to remove travel restrictions that are no longer justified by current circumstances," the group argued in a letter addressed to White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeffrey Zients.

Among the 29 signatories were the main advocacy organizations representing Asian, European and US airlines, as well as the US Chamber of Commerce and the US Travel Association.

The leader of the group, Airlines for America — which represents major US carriers including American Airlines, Delta Airlines and United Airlines — posted the letter to its website.

The three companies recently noted that the Omicron variant would delay their recovery by one to two months.  — AFP

January 29, 2022

Leisure travels to Baguio City significantly drop following more restrictions imposed due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases triggered by the Omicron variant.

Supervising City Tourism Operations Officer Engr. Aloysius Mapalo says the sharp drop in leisure travels was also caused by the many hotel travel cancellations by already approved travels to the city after it was placed under Alert Level 3.

Currently, the daily limit for leisure travel to the city remains at 4,000, excluding those visitors who have booked in hotels and accommodation establishments that have been allowed by the city to triage their own guests. — The STAR/Artemio Dumlao

January 29, 2022

Ilocos Norte will open the first floating playground in Northern Luzon at the Paoay Lake, near the Malacañang ti Amianan, in Barangay Suba, Paoay on Sunday.

Paoay Lake Water Park is a 4200-square meter inflatable boasting gigantic slides, swings, launchers and an inflatable pool. 

The Bali-inspired "I’m IN Lounge" by the lake shore also features at least 120 pairs of vibrant umbrellas and bean bags.

The opening of the floating playground will be strictly regulated and subject to government-mandated health and safety protocol, organizers say.

For the attraction’s initial promo, Ilocos Norte residents will be offered discounts. But only fully vaccinated guests will be accepted to ensure the safety of all guests and staff. — The STAR/Artemio Dumlao

January 27, 2022

Hong Kong shortens the mandatory quarantine for international travellers from three weeks to two, even as the city struggles to contain virus outbreaks involving Omicron and Delta variants.

Like mainland China, Hong Kong is one of the few places left in the world still pursuing a "zero-COVID" strategy that has largely kept the virus at bay but left the finance hub internationally isolated.

The emergence of the highly transmissible Omicron variant saw the city increase its travel restrictions in December -- slamming borders shut to arrivals from eight countries and banning transit passengers from more than 150 destinations. — AFP

January 27, 2022

Italy will ease coronavirus restrictions for arrivals from the rest of the EU from February, with passengers required to show proof of vaccination, recent recovery or a negative test, but not quarantine.

Under the decree signed by Health Minister Roberto Speranza late on Tuesday "the 'green pass' will be sufficient for travellers coming from countries within the European Union" from next month.

Italy's so-called green pass shows the bearer has been vaccinated, has recently recovered from the virus, or has tested negative. — AFP

January 26, 2022

Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat says the government's “Pharmacy and Drive-thru Vaccination Sites” program would help in the eventual reopening of the Philippines by ensuring that tourism workers and tourists are protected against COVID-19.

“Now that we are battling an Omicron surge, we are trying to get ahead of it outside NCR by making booster shots as convenient as possible for everyone. There is no longer a need to join a long queue at a centralized vaccination site. Just come by the participating pharmacies like Watsons or Mercury Drugstore and get a free booster shot while you buy your necessities,” Puyat says.

“We look forward to seeing this initiative implemented in other parts of the country in the coming weeks,” she adds.

January 22, 2022

The United States announces that it was suspending 44 Chinese passenger flights from America to the Asian giant in response to restrictive moves by Beijing on US carriers under its COVID-19 protocols.

China maintains strict controls over border entry including slashed flights and a "circuit breaker" policy where routes are halted if too many infections are brought in on the flights.

China's aviation authority used the circuit breaker policy to cancel flights by American, Delta and United airlines when passengers who tested negative for Covid before takeoff later tested positive once arriving in China. — AFP

January 22, 2022

The Department of Tourism launches the “ASMR Experience the Philippines” Project, which aims to bring people to certain destinations through ASMR videos that explore the natural sounds of a place.

“This project of the DOT is anchored on the concept that, when people travel, they go ‘sightseeing’, but it is with their ears that they hear and sense things all around them. Through these videos, people get to share with the travel experience,” says Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat.

The first four ASMR videos that will be released feature the Mountain Province in the Cordilleras, particularly the remote town of Barlig located at the foothills of Mt. Amuyao and the journey to the summit of the mountain. 

January 21, 2022

Foreigners wishing to enter the United States via a land border -- no matter the reason for their trip -- will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 starting Saturday, the Department of Homeland Security says.

The United States, which had largely closed its borders to the outside world at the start of the pandemic, reopened to most travelers in November, on the condition that they were vaccinated.

Foreigners arriving via land or by ferry from Mexico and Canada had been exempt for "essential" trips, especially for professional reasons. — AFP

January 20, 2022

Thailand will resume its quarantine-free travel scheme from February 1, officials say, after the program was suspended due to the fast-spreading Omicron COVID-19 variant.

Pandemic travel curbs have hammered the kingdom's tourism-dominated economy, sending visitor numbers dwindling to a trickle.

Fully vaccinated travellers will now be able to enter under the "test and go" scheme as long as they take COVID-19 tests on the first and fifth days after arriving, spokesman for the country's Covid-19 taskforce Taweesin Visanuyothin tells reporters. — AFP

January 13, 2022

France says it will ease coronavirus curbs introduced last month on travellers from Britain, enabling vaccinated tourists to visit from Friday providing they have a negative test. 

The government has decided to end a blanket ban on non-essential travel, announced on December 16 when "the epidemic was spreading at a spectacular rate in the United Kingdom," the prime minister's office says Thursday. 

Paris was concerned about the spread of the Omicron variant at the time, but daily recorded cases of Covid-19 in France have since surpassed those in Britain. — AFP

January 6, 2022

Macau announces a two-week ban on any inbound passenger flights from outside of China after three coronavirus cases were found in passengers arriving from overseas.

The move came the same day Hong Kong banned flights from eight nations and ramped up social distancing measures, leaving the two neighboring Chinese territories even more cut off from the rest of the world.

Like mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau have maintained some of the world's harshest measures throughout the pandemic — including virtually closed borders, weeks-long quarantines, targeted lockdowns and mass testing. — AFP

January 5, 2022

Hong Kong announced Wednesday it was banning flights from eight nations after an outbreak of the Omicron coronavirus variant that began with aircrew and leaked into a city that is pursuing a strict zero-Covid strategy. 

"Passenger flights from these countries will not be allowed to land in Hong Kong and individuals who have stayed in those countries are not allowed to board flights to Hong Kong, including transit flights," chief executive Carrie Lam told reporters, adding the ban applies to Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, Philippines, UK and US. — AFP

December 27, 2021

US authorities on Sunday were monitoring dozens of cruise ships hit by Covid-19 cases, with several reportedly denied port in the Caribbean.

Over 60 vessels were under observation after "reported cases of Covid-19 have met the threshold for CDC investigation," the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The Washington Post reported that several cruise liners were denied port at their scheduled destinations.

Brenda Hammer, who was set to board the Odyssey of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, told AFP: "I'm a little nervous about it. I wasn't sure I still wanted to come." — AFP

December 25, 2021

A tracking website says over 4,500 flights were cancelled around the world by Saturday and thousands more were delayed as the highly infectious Omicron variant disrupted holiday travel, according to tracking website Flightaware.

One route, however, was thankfully not affected: Santa was on track delivering presents to children across the globe, air defense officials assured US President Joe Biden.

According to Flightaware.com, at least 2,000 flights were cancelled worldwide on Christmas Day, including roughly 700 originating from or headed to US airports, with more than 1,500 delays as of 0720 GMT. — AFP

December 25, 2021

A tracking website says more than 2,300 flights were cancelled around the world and thousands more were delayed as the highly infectious Omicron variant disrupted holiday travel.

One route, however, was thankfully not affected: Santa was on track delivering presents to children across the globe, air defense officials assured US President Joe Biden.

According to tracking website Flightaware.com a total of 2,325 flights had been cancelled worldwide Friday as of 2015 GMT, including 616 flights originating from or headed to US airports, and more than 8,000 delayed. — AFP

December 25, 2021

The United States will next week lift the travel ban imposed on several southern African nations when the Omicron variant of Covid was first detected, officials say.

Countries around the world restricted travel from southern Africa after the variant was detected in South Africa, which reported Omicron to the World Health Organization (WHO) on November 24.

WHO and the United Nations spoke out against the travel bans and officials in South Africa said they were being punished for identifying the strain and being transparent. — AFP

December 22, 2021

The northern Chinese city of Xi'an dramatically tightened Covid travel controls Wednesday to fight a growing outbreak, with people banned from boarding trains without official permission and hundreds of flights cancelled.

With Beijing preparing to host the 2022 Winter Olympics in February, China is on high alert as it fights local outbreaks in several cities.

Xi'an reported 52 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the total to 143 since December 9. — AFP

December 21, 2021

Travellers to Hong Kong from Britain will have to initially quarantine in a government camp from Tuesday, joining 12 African nations and the United States on the city's strictest entry tier.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Hong Kong has maintained some of the world's toughest quarantine restrictions, measures that have kept infections at bay but left the finance hub isolated.

Those policies have been tightened further since the emergence of the Omicron coronavirus variant, which has spread rapidly around the world in the last few weeks.

Most people arriving in Hong Kong must undergo 21 days of hotel quarantine and frequent testing before being allowed out.

But people from countries deemed to have high Omicron infection rates must spend the first four days of quarantine in a government-run camp before seeing out the rest of their isolation in a hotel.

Britain was added to that list from midnight on Tuesday. — AFP

December 20, 2021

The local government unit of Bauko in Mountain Province is now allowing tourists in in its bid to revive the local economy.

Bauko Mayor Abraham Akilit though warned they will be strict in implementing measures in especially among the tourists who are coming from the National Capital Region (NCR).

A negative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test results taken not more than 72 hours upon arrival at the border checkpoints must be presented by inbound tourists, the town executive said.

Akilit added that the continuing decrease of COVID-19 infections in the town allows the gradual opening of tourism of Bauko. He said this is amidst the presence of the Omicron variant in the country.  He stressed that they have to make extra precautions.

The mayor explained that touirsm is a  major economic driver essential for the economic recovery of the different stakeholders in the town who were negatively affected by the pandemic. — The STAR/Artemio Dumlao

December 18, 2021

Canada announces the lifting of a ban on foreign travelers from 10 African countries, while reimposing testing requirements and warning that the Omicron variant of Covid-19 risks quickly overwhelming hospitals.

The travel restriction on flights from South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, Namibia, Nigeria, Malawi and Egypt will end at 11:59 pm on Saturday (0459 GMT Sunday), Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos tells a news conference.

The restriction had been announced last month "to slow the arrival of Omicron in Canada and buy us some time," he said. But with Omicron now spreading within Canada it is "no longer needed." — AFP

December 16, 2021

France is to tighten up restrictions on travel to and from Britain to slow the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 which is causing record numbers of cases on the other side of the Channel, the government says.

"We will put in place a system of controls drastically tighter than the one we have already," government spokesman Gabriel Attal tells BFM-TV, saying returning travellers would need a negative test of less than 24 hours, a quarantine enforced on return to France and trips for tourism limited. — AFP

December 14, 2021

Brazil begins requiring a COVID-19 vaccination certificate for foreign travelers arriving in the country, a move initially blocked by President Jair Bolsonaro's government.

A Supreme Court justice ruled Saturday that proof of vaccination would be mandatory to enter Brazil, in an effort to slow the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

The national health regulator Anvisa said it had "notified this Monday the border posts, especially at airports, about the immediate compliance with the decision of the Supreme Federal Court that determines the requirement of the vaccination certificate for travelers entering the country." — AFP

December 14, 2021

Brazil on Monday began requiring a COVID-19 vaccination certificate for foreign travelers arriving in the country, a move initially blocked by President Jair Bolsonaro's government.

A Supreme Court justice ruled Saturday that proof of vaccination would be mandatory to enter Brazil, in an effort to slow the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

The national health regulator Anvisa said it had "notified this Monday the border posts, especially at airports, about the immediate compliance with the decision of the Supreme Federal Court that determines the requirement of the vaccination certificate for travelers entering the country."

The nine other high court justices must confirm the ruling between Wednesday and Thursday, but Anvisa said the decision had already gone into effect Monday.

"The (court) decision has immediate effect... and, therefore, requires the agency to carry out timely assessments, especially in relation to passengers who were already moving or in transit at the time the decision was issued," Anvisa said in its statement. — AFP

December 10, 2021

A Philippine Airlines airplane "experienced a runway excursion" at the Mactan Cebu International Airport on Friday morning, the airline said in a statement.

The airline said all 29 passengers and four crew members of the De Havilland Dash 8 turboprop aircraft are safe and managed to disembark through the aircraft's airstairs. Nobody was injured in the incident. 

December 8, 2021

Brazil rules out requiring a Covid-19 vaccination certificate for foreign travelers arriving in the country, despite a recommendation from the national health regulator.

The move came after far-right President Jair Bolsonaro compared such a mandate to a "leash" for animals. 

Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga tells reporters after a meeting at the presidency that "people cannot be discriminated between vaccinated and unvaccinated to impose restrictions." — AFP

December 5, 2021

Ten COVID-19 cases have been detected among crew members and passengers on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship returning to New Orleans on Sunday with thousands on board, a US health authority said.

"The Norwegian Breakaway departed from New Orleans on Nov. 28 and stopped in Belize, Honduras and Mexico on its voyage," the Louisiana Department of Health tweeted Saturday.

"There are more than 3,200 individuals onboard."

The health department said every individual aboard would be tested for COVID-19 prior to disembarking.

"Those who test positive for COVID-19 will either (1) travel by personal vehicle directly to their personal residence or (2) self-isolate according to current (US Centers for Disease Control) guidelines in accommodations provided by NCL," the health department tweeted.

The global cruise industry has taken a severe hit during the pandemic. 

December 2, 2021

President Joe Biden will announce that toughened new rules on Covid-19 testing for travelers to the United States will take effect next week, a senior administration official says.

Biden will "announce that we are further strengthening our testing requirements so that starting early next week, all international travelers will be required to test negative within one day of their departure to the United States," the official tells reporters.

This will apply to all travelers, both US and foreign, and regardless of whether they have been vaccinated, the official adds. — AFP

December 2, 2021

The government says Japan has softened its suspension of all new incoming flight bookings to make it easier for citizens to return, a day after it announced the move prompted by worries about the Omicron coronavirus variant.

The transport ministry abruptly said Wednesday it was asking airlines to stop taking all new incoming flight reservations for a month, in a surprise move affecting citizens and foreign residents.

But on Thursday, government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno says it would be amended. — AFP

December 2, 2021

Cathay Pacific has been hit by a wave of pilot resignations in recent weeks as resentment over Hong Kong's strict quarantine regime boils over and crew scramble for emerging opportunities overseas.

The departures come as Hong Kong ties itself to Beijing's closed-border zero-Covid strategy — a move that has kept the city coronavirus-free but internationally isolated.

Hong Kong's leaders say normalising travel with China must come before the rest of the world, a strategy that has caused growing alarm within multinationals in a finance hub that dubs itself "Asia's World City".

AFP interviewed four Cathay pilots who requested anonymity. Each said they knew more than a dozen colleagues who had resigned in the last few weeks.

More were applying for jobs at rivals in places that have shifted to a strategy of learning to live with the virus, they added. — AFP

December 2, 2021

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres slams travel bans targeting specific countries and regions imposed over the new Covid-19 variant as "unfair" and "ineffective."

"With a virus that is truly borderless, travel restrictions that isolate any one country or region are not only deeply unfair and punitive — they are ineffective," Guterres says at a news conference, calling instead for increased testing for travelers.

Dozens of countries imposed restrictions on travel from southern African states after the Omicron variant of the coronavirus was first reported in the region last week. — AFP

December 1, 2021

The transport ministry says Japan has asked airlines to stop taking new incoming flight bookings over concerns about the Omicron virus variant.

The announcement came as authorities announced they had detected a second infection with the new strain in an arriving traveler, a day after confirming a first case.

"We have asked airlines to halt accepting all new incoming flight reservations for one month starting December 1," a transport ministry official tells AFP, adding that existing bookings would not be affected.

December 1, 2021

Canada bans travellers from Egypt, Nigeria and Malawi over fears of the spread of the new Omicron coronavirus variant, bringing to 10 the number of African countries targeted by Ottawa.

"Foreign nationals who have transited or stayed in these 10 countries cannot enter Canada if they have been in those countries in the last two weeks," Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos tells a press conference.

The measure takes effect on Wednesday, the government says. — AFP

November 29, 2021

Singapore and Malaysia eased coronavirus travel restrictions on one of the world's busiest land borders Monday after nearly two years, allowing some vaccinated people to cross without quarantine.

Before the pandemic, about 300,000 people used to commute across the border from Malaysia every day to the neighbouring city-state, to work in areas ranging from public transport to electronics manufacturing.

But most travel was abruptly halted in March last year, leaving many who previously commuted, and other Malaysians in Singapore, effectively stuck there as they needed to continue working. -- AFP

November 29, 2021

The coronavirus pandemic will cost global tourism $2.0 trillion in lost revenue in 2021, a similar amount to last year, the UN's tourism body said on Monday, calling the sector's recovery "fragile".

The forecast from the Madrid-based World Tourism Organization comes as Europe is grappling with a surge in infections and as a new heavily mutated Covid-19 variant, dubbed Omicron, spread across the globe. — AFP

November 29, 2021

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday calls on countries to "urgently" reverse travel bans linked to the discovery of the new coronavirus variant Omicron.

"We call upon all those countries that have imposed travel bans on our country and our southern African sister countries to urgently reverse their decisions and lift the bans they have imposed before any further damage is done to our economies," he says in his first address to the nation following last week's detection of the new variant. — AFP

November 27, 2021

 

The Department of Tourism says that 75.39% or 236,714 of the total active tourism workers in the Philippines are now inoculated against COVID-19.

“We will not stop until we achieve 100% vaccination for all our active tourism workers,” says Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat.

November 26, 2021

Singapore will restrict arrivals from seven African countries, health officials say, after South Africa discovered a new Covid-19 variant with a large number of mutations.

All non-Singaporeans and people without permanent residency in the city-state who have recent travel history to the seven countries will be barred from entering or transiting through Singapore, the health ministry says.

The new restrictions, which will take effect from Sunday, apply to South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, the ministry says. — AFP

November 26, 2021

Britain says it would ban travel from six southern African countries, after South Africa detected a new Covid-19 variant with a large number of mutations.

"The early indication we have of this variant is it may be more transmissible than the Delta variant and the vaccines that we currently have may be less effective against it," Health Secretary Sajid Javid says.

Javid says the new variant, which South Africa attributed to a surge in cases and had also been detected in travellers from the country in Botswana and Hong Kong, had not been found so far in Britain. — AFP

November 26, 2021

The Department of Tourism announces that 95.78% of tourism workers employed in accredited dive establishments across the Philippines have been vaccinated.

Based on the latest data received from 105 Dive Establishments (DEs) and Liveaboards Dive Establishments (LDEs) that are accredited by the DOT's Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving (PCSSD), 1,342 or 95.78% out of 1,401 employees have already been inoculated (first dose and fully vaccinated) against COVID-19, while the remaining 59 employees (4.21 percent) are still for vaccination.

Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat welcomes the development, saying that the vaccination of workers in the dive sector will add to the overall readiness of the Philippines to welcome foreign visitors.

November 25, 2021

Cathay Pacific on Thursday says it will slash passenger flights into Hong Kong next month as the city's strict travel curbs continue to keep international travellers away at a time when rivals are seeing their prospects improve.

Hong Kong has maintained some of the world's harshest quarantine measures and travel restrictions during the pandemic, which has kept infections low but ensured a business hub that dubs itself "Asia's World City" has been cut off internationally for the past 20 months.

The government has tied the city's fortunes to China's strict coronavirus strategy and said normalisation of travel with the mainland must come before any reopening to the rest of the world. — AFP

November 23, 2021

The US State Department urges Americans not to travel to Germany and Denmark due to surging Covid-19 cases in Europe.

The department issued Level 4 travel advisories — the highest level — for both countries, "indicating a very high level of COVID-19 in the country."

Potential travelers were also warned that "there are restrictions in place affecting US citizen entry into Denmark." — AFP

November 22, 2021

Australia announced Monday it will re-open to foreign students and skilled workers from next month, easing some of the world's most stringent pandemic travel restrictions. 

Twenty months after Australia slammed shut its borders, some visa holders — as well as Japanese and South Korean citizens — will be able to enter from December 1.

"Australia is re-opening to the world," said Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews as she announced the news, adding it was "yet another step forward for Australia".

The government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison lifted restrictions on Australians travelling overseas last month, sparking a flood of travel bookings for the southern hemisphere summer. 

But Morrison — who is hoping to be re-elected next year — had pointedly refused to relax travel rules for most non-Australians. — AFP

November 22, 2021

Australia announces Monday it will re-open to foreign students and skilled workers from next month, easing some of the world's most stringent pandemic travel restrictions. 

Twenty months after Australia slammed shut its borders, some visa holders — as well as Japanese and South Korean citizens — will be able to enter from December 1.

"Australia is re-opening to the world," says Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews as she announced the news, adding it was "yet another step forward for Australia". — AFP

November 19, 2021

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat announces that the IATF “has approved in principle the entry of fully vaccinated tourists from Green List countries/territories/jurisdictions.” — Rosette Adel

November 16, 2021

India on Monday opens to foreign tourists from countries with reciprocal agreements after a 20-month ban because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tour operators say, however, that demand was extremely sluggish due to high ticket prices and remaining restrictions on travellers from Britain, China and elsewhere.

The country famous for the Taj Mahal, desert palaces and tiger reserves barred all foreign tourists in March 2020 as the pandemic intensified. — AFP

November 15, 2021

Cambodia has announced that fully vaccinated foreign travellers can visit the kingdom without quarantine from Monday, giving a boost to the Covid-hobbled tourism industry.

Travel restrictions imposed to tackle the pandemic put the brakes on Cambodia's burgeoning tourism industry — revenue plummeted to $1 billion last year, down from nearly $5 billion in 2019, when the country attracted 6.6 million visitors.

Prime Minister Hun Sen made an unexpected announcement on Sunday night that all fully vaccinated international travellers, tourists and businesspeople could visit the whole of Cambodia freely without quarantine from Monday. — AFP

November 13, 2021

The first international tourists arrive in Vietnam almost 20 months after the Southeast Asian nation closed its borders to contain the coronavirus.

Two charter flights brought more than 400 South Korean and Japanese fully vaccinated passengers from Seoul and Tokyo on Thursday to the southern resort city of Nha Trang, state media reported.

The area is popular with golfers, beach lovers and scuba divers, and boasts luxury hotels. — AFP

November 4, 2021

Emirates is to start daily flights between Dubai and Tel Aviv on Saturday, the airline announces, in the latest sign of deepening relations since the UAE and Israel normalised ties in September last year.

The Dubai-based carrier, one of the largest in the world, said the new service would also link Israel seamlessly with its global route network.

Low-cost carrier Flydubai launched the first commercial flights between Tel Aviv and Dubai just a few months after last year's agreement. — AFP

November 1, 2021

Overseas tourists began pouring into Bangkok and the holiday island of Phuket on Monday as Thailand kickstarted its tourism industry after 18 months of Covid curbs.

The coronavirus pandemic hammered the kingdom's tourism-reliant economy, which last year saw its worst performance since the 1997 Asian financial crisis as arrivals dwindled more than 80 percent.

Thai authorities have given the green light to vaccinated tourists from over 60 "low-risk" countries to skip hotel quarantine — providing the sector a much-needed lifeline.

Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport and Phuket's international terminal were the first on Monday morning to receive visitors, with mostly European tourists greeted by staff dressed in PPE gear to process their documents. --  AFP

October 30, 2021

Tourism chief Berna Romulo-Puyat says qualified domestic tourists can now enjoy free Real-Time Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction tests at the Philippine Children’s Medical Center starting November 1.

"As travel restrictions continue to ease up, we aim to encourage more tourists to visit their destination of choice by providing a full subsidy on RT-PCR testing. This program helps ensure the safety of tourists, tourism workers, and local stakeholders in various destinations", says Puyat.

October 29, 2021

The UK government is to remove all remaining countries from its travel "red list", scrapping bans on foreigners travelling to England, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says Thursday.

The minister announces the remaining seven countries on the list — Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela — will be taken off on November 1.

Britons arriving from these countries will no longer need to spend 11 nights in a quarantine hotel, while nationals of those countries will now be allowed to travel to England.

"We will keep the red list category in place as a precautionary measure to protect public health and are prepared to add countries and territories back if needed, as the UK's first line of defence," Shapps says on Twitter. — AFP

October 28, 2021

Vaccinated tourists will be allowed into Israel from November 1, the government said on Wednesday, after a campaign to get booster shots into arms succeeding in driving down infections.

Israel was the first country to launch a mass booster campaign, with more than 3.9 million getting a third dose since the summer.

In late August and early September, cases rose to more than 10,000 a day, a number that has since fallen to just a few hundred. — AFP

October 23, 2021

Vietnam plans to reopen the resort island of Phu Quoc to vaccinated foreign visitors in late November, authorities said, as the country looks to reboot its tourism industry after almost two years of closure.

Phu Quoc, which lies around 10 kilometres (six miles) off Cambodia in the Gulf of Thailand, boasts white-sand beaches and crystal clear waters, as well as mountains and thick jungle.

It attracted around 670,000 visitors and earned more than $18 billion dollars from international arrivals in 2019, with authorities hoping to turn it into a tourist mecca in the style of Thailand's Phuket or Indonesia's Bali. 

From November 20, "charter flights" for international travellers with vaccine passports will be welcomed to the island, the government said late Friday.

After that, between late December and the end of March, the island aims to receive up to 5,000 foreign arrivals on similar charter flights.

Tourists will need to show vaccine certificates together with a negative Covid-19 test result before being allowed in. — AFP

October 19, 2021

Singapore on Tuesday begins quarantine-free entry for fully vaccinated passengers from eight countries, part of a plan to ease restrictions as the business hub gears up to live with the coronavirus.

Singapore Airlines says flights from Amsterdam, London, Los Angeles and New York were scheduled to arrive Tuesday under the programme.

"We have seen very strong demand for our Vaccinated Travel Lane flights," the national airline tells AFP. — AFP

October 18, 2021

Fully vaccinated travellers from eight countries will be able to enter Singapore without quarantine from Tuesday, as the business hub eases restrictions and gears up to live with the coronavirus.

The city-state initially fought the pandemic by shutting borders, lockdowns of varying intensity and aggressive contact tracing but with more than 80 percent of the population fully vaccinated, authorities in the global aviation hub are keen to revive the economy.

They opened travel lanes for vaccinated passengers from Brunei and Germany in September, and will expand the scheme from Tuesday to another eight countries — Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United States.

The lane with South Korea will start November 15.

Under the policy, passengers will not have to quarantine if they have been fully vaccinated and tested negative for the coronavirus before they depart and on arrival. — AFP

October 16, 2021

The United States will reopen its land and air borders on November 8 to foreign visitors fully vaccinated against COVID-19, ending a more than 18-month ban on travel from much of the globe that separated families, hobbled tourism and strained diplomatic ties.

The decision to ease restrictions was "guided by public health, stringent and consistent," said White House assistant press secretary Kevin Munoz in a tweet on Friday announcing the new policy.

He said the "announcement and date applies to both international air travel and land travel." — AFP

October 15, 2021

Sydney is scrapping mandatory quarantine for overseas travellers from next month, officials said Friday, signalling a faster-than-expected end to tough coronavirus restrictions.

New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said that, from November 1, fully vaccinated travellers to the state will have to test negative before getting on the plane, but would not have to quarantine at all on arrival.

"For double vaccinated people around the world, Sydney, New South Wales, is open for business," he said. "Hotel quarantine will be a thing of the past. This is a significant day for our state." — AFP

October 13, 2021

The Ilocos Norte provincial government , through the Ilocos Norte Tourism Office (INTO), has been recording an increasing number of tourists and visitors in the province since it officially opened the province to tourism again on September 24.

As of Wednesday,  a total of 229 tourists arrived in the province, recording its biggest single-day arrival in October 10, with 51 tourists, most from the National Capital Region, Cagayan, Baguio City, La Union, and Pampanga.

"We’re happy to share that we have an increasing number of tourist arrivals in Ilocos Norte. I know that these are not impressive numbers especially before the pandemic, as we were welcoming thousands of tourists back then. With our current situation, this is not bad at all," Xavier Ruiz, INTO officer-in-charge said.

"We can see the trend that people from our neighboring provinces and regions are actually traveling just to visit our province. Most of them would stay in resorts in Pagudpud for staycations and some would go around the province as tourists," Ruiz added. — The STAR/Artemio Dumlao

October 13, 2021

The United States will open its land borders with Mexico and Canada in "early November" to non-essential travelers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, a senior White House official announces.

The official said the administration would give the "precise date very soon" -- both for the land crossings as well as international trips by plane, which the official said would be timed to "go together." 

The US already announced in September that it would lift bans in November on all vaccinated air passengers who undergo testing and contact tracing. — AFP

October 10, 2021

Fiji will ease COVID-19 restrictions and announce its reopening for international travel after the country hit a vaccination milestone.

Changes to the country's virus restrictions would be announced on Sunday afternoon after 80% of the adult population received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama says.

"A full three weeks ahead of schedule! I'm grateful to everyone who's rolled up their sleeves to help make Fiji safe," Bainimarama says in a tweet. — AFP

October 6, 2021

The General Community Quarantine (GCQ) with heightened restrictions that limited movement in and out of Baguio City has prompted pleas from a tourism sector hardly making ends meet.

The Baguio Tourism Council is appealing to the city government to reopen the tourism industry. 

BTC pleads for the reopening, even with certain restrictions, to sustain the livelihood of thousands of industry workers affected by the lockdowns caused by the Delta variant-driven surge of COVID-19.

Through Resolution No. 09-2021, BTC is asking the city to allow the entry of fully vaccinated and RT-PCR-tested visitors even on a limited capacity as allowed by the national Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases. 

It said that the economic sector has been reeling from the havoc wrought by the stringent lockdowns that caused business stoppages and lay-offs. 

— The STAR/Artemio Dumlao

October 4, 2021

World tourism surged in July, thanks to vaccination rollouts and fewer travel restrictions, but traveller numbers still fell far short of pre-pandemic levels, the UN's tourism body said Monday. 

Some 54 million tourists crossed international borders in July, the highest figure since April 2020, in the early months of the coronavirus crisis, the World Tourism Organization said in a statement.

That represented an increase of 58 percent compared with the level recorded in July 2020, but was still a drop of 67 percent from the 164 million recorded in July 2019. 

"This improvement was underpinned by the reopening of many destinations to international travel, mostly in Europe and the Americas... coupled with progress made in the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines" which contributed to "gradually restoring safe mobility in Europe and other parts of the world," it said. 

"Nevertheless, 2021 continues to be a challenging year for global tourism, with international arrivals down 80 percent in January-July compared to 2019," said the Madrid-based organization. — AFP 

October 3, 2021

New Zealand announced Sunday tighter border restrictions, as new cases of COVID-19 emerged in areas previously free of the coronavirus.

"We are introducing the requirement for air travellers aged 17 and over, who are not New Zealand citizens, to be fully vaccinated to enter New Zealand," COVID-19 response minister Christ Hipkins said.

The national flag carrier Air New Zealand also announced it was introducing a "no jab, no fly" policy for passengers on all international flights from February 1.

The country has been hugely successful at containing the virus — reporting just 27 deaths in a population of five million — thanks to tight border controls and lockdowns, allowing pre-pandemic life to mostly resume. — AFP

September 21, 2021

The United States announces it will lift COVID travel bans on all air passengers in November if they are fully vaccinated and undergo testing and contact tracing.

The unprecedented restrictions had kept relatives, friends and business travelers around the world separated for many months as the pandemic grinds on.

Jeffrey Zients, coronavirus response coordinator for President Joe Biden, tells reporters the new "consistent approach" would take effect "early November." — AFP

September 20, 2021

Fiji plans to reopen for international tourists by November, aiming to rebuild a pandemic-devastated economy while battling a Delta-variant coronavirus outbreak.

"Our goal is to free our country –– and our economy –– from the rut of the pandemic," Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said in a statement last week.   

Once 80 percent of Fiji's eligible population is vaccinated, it will offer quarantine-free travel to visitors from a "green list" of locations.

Of Fiji's eligible population, 66 percent is now fully vaccinated and Bainimarama predicts the country's target will be met by November 1.

Fiji's green list includes Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, Korea, Singapore and parts of the United States.

Visitors would need to be fully vaccinated and test negative for COVID-19 prior to departure.

Once in Fiji, they would stay in designated zones where all contacts, from hospitality staff to tour operators, would be fully vaccinated. –– AFP

September 17, 2021

The government pandemic task force updates the list of Red List countries.

Travelers from Grenada, Papua New Guinea, Serbia and Slovenia will not be permitted to enter the Philippines.

This new classification will take effect from September 19 to 30.

September 15, 2021

Iran resumes commercial flights to neighboring Afghanistan, where the Taliban took control last month.

"Today Mahan Air carried passengers between Mashhad and Kabul airport," Fars news agency reports, referring to Iran's second-largest city, in the northeast, and the Afghan capital.

"At present, this airliner is returning to Mashhad with passengers." — AFP

September 13, 2021

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday announced plans to introduce Covid-19 "vaccine passports" amid widespread scepticism of the jab, ahead of an easing of movement restrictions this week.

After sluggish vaccine procurement and a delayed roll out, Africa's worst-hit country for Covid is now struggling with low take-up, particularly among men.

In a televised address to the nation, Ramaphosa stressed that an immunised adult population was key to fully reopening the economy and avoiding a fourth infection wave. — AFP

September 12, 2021

Children clutching glow sticks shrieked with delight and onlookers gazed awestruck as Blackpool's Illuminations lights festival launched to a spectacular volley of fireworks from its 158-meter Victorian tower.

The northwest English town's lights display crowns an extended tourist season as Britain's traditional seaside resorts benefit from a domestic tourism boom during the coronavirus pandemic.

Expensive COVID tests, vaccine certification, quarantines and the UK government's ever-changing traffic-light system for international travel have made overseas trips less attractive and even inaccessible for British holidaymakers.

But the lifting of restrictions has helped domestic tourism, providing a boon to seaside resorts that were once Britons' favourite destinations before the advent of cheap overseas package holidays to warmer and sunnier climes. — AFP

September 3, 2021

Domestic flights are set to resume in Afghanistan on Friday, the country's flag carrier Ariana Afghan Airlines says.

"We have received a green light from the Taliban and aviation authorities and plan to start flights today," Tamim Ahmadi, a senior manager with the airline tells AFP.

August 29, 2021

The United Arab Emirates announced it will resume issuing visas to all tourists fully vaccinated against COVID from Monday, a month before Dubai hosts the delayed Expo 2020 trade fair.

The move comes amid a drop in coronavirus infections in the oil-rich Gulf country, after it reported less than 1,000 cases per day last week for the first time in months.

The UAE's decision to reopen its doors to tourists from all countries was taken in order "to achieve sustainable recovery and economic growth", the official WAM news agency reported on Saturday.

Those eligible would have to be fully inoculated with one of the Covid-19 vaccines approved by the World Health Organization, which include AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, Sinopharm and Sinovac.

"The decision applies to citizens of all countries, including those arriving from previously banned countries," WAM said.

"Passengers arriving on tourist visas must take a mandatory PCR test at the airport," it added. — AFP

August 25, 2021

Iceland's central bank lifted it main interest rate on Wednesday, its second increase in three months, as tourists begin to return and boost the economic recovery.

The 0.25 percentage point increase took the island nation's key rate to 1.25 %.

While its peers in the eurozone, Britain and the United States have kept ultra-low interest rates to boost their economies, Iceland's central bank began to tighten its monetary policy in May as economic prospects began to improve.

It now expects 4.0% growth this year, 0.9 percentage point more than its May forecast.

"The improvement is driven mainly by tourist arrivals, which have increased more rapidly this summer than was previously expected," the central bank's monetary policy committee said in its statement.

Tourism helped drive Iceland's growth before the pandemic and the sudden halt in arrivals as countries shut their borders sent the economy into a tailspin. — AFP

August 13, 2021

The government pandemic task force extends the travel ban in the following areas from August 16 to 31:

India
Pakistan
Bangladesh
Sri Lanka
Nepal
United Arab Emirates
Oman
Thailand
Malaysia
Indonesia

August 9, 2021

Fake versions of anti-COVID "green passes" have begun to circulate in Italy just days after they were introduced, police said Monday, adding they had broken up a network selling false evidence of vaccination, recovery or testing.

The police said they had identified four suspects, including two minors, in an ongoing investigation.

"Thousands of users were registered on well-known communication platforms where fake green passes were offered for sale, with an absolute guarantee of anonymity, to be paid in cryptocurrency or vouchers for online shopping platforms, at a price between 150 and 500 euro ($175 to $590)," Italy's postal police said in a statement. 

Police added they had confiscated 32 groups within Telegram — an instant messaging app — in the investigation. 

The green pass, an extension of the European Union's digital COVID-19 certification, became compulsory on Friday in Italy to gain entry into cinemas, museums, indoor sports venues, or for indoor dining at restaurants. — AFP

August 5, 2021

The United States, which closed its borders to much of the world as the pandemic took hold, plans eventually to begin allowing fully vaccinated foreigners back in, a White House official said Wednesday.

President Joe Biden's administration, recognizing the importance of international travel, wants to reopen to visitors from abroad in a "safe and sustainable manner," the official said.

It is developing "a phased approach that over time will mean, with limited exceptions, that foreign nationals traveling to the United States -- from all countries -- need to be fully vaccinated," the official added, without specifying a timeframe.

The plan marks a tentative but significant evolution in the US approach to stemming the outbreak, with Washington stating as recently as July 26 that it would maintain restrictions on international arrivals, sidestepping European pressure. — AFP

July 29, 2021

Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong says the city, though it has already reached its COVID-19 cases threshold, does not opt to totally shutdown its doors from tourists.

Stricter border control remains to be the best answer (for us), the city mayor says, while citing that COVID-19 transmissions in the city had been churning around 60 a day three weeks ago.

Magalong says "certain testing guidelines for tourists coming from GCQ and MGCQ areas were already put in place as an active defense of the city against surges." But he maintains that Baguio City will strictly bar “visitors from heightened GCQ and MECQ areas” in the country. — The STAR/Artemio Dumlao

July 29, 2021

France will from August 9 enforce new legislation that will make a health pass compulsory to visit a cafe, board a plane or travel on an inter-city train, the government's spokesman said Wednesday.

The legislation passed by parliament at the weekend has sparked mass protests in France but the government is determined to press ahead and make the health pass a key part of the fight against COVID-19.

A valid health pass is generated by two jabs from a recognized vaccine, a negative coronavirus test or a recent recovery from infection. The legislation also makes vaccination compulsory for health-workers and carers. — AFP

July 24, 2021

 

The Department of Tourism renews call for safe personal travels as the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases placed Metro Manila and other areas under a stricter quarantine measure to avoid local transmission of Delta variant of COVID-19.

"Individuals of all ages may still pursue their travel plans, but needless to say, with the threat of the Delta variant, our travelers must practice extra caution and strictly adhere to the rules and guidelines of the LGU of destination," says Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat. 

"The Department is continuously looking for ways to further help the local tourism industry and its stakeholders get back on its feet as soon as possible but we remind everyone who wishes to travel for leisure to follow the imposed minimum health standards and social distancing measures," she adds.

July 17, 2021

English residents who visit France after a July 19 loosening of coronavirus restrictions will still be required to quarantine on returning home even if they are fully vaccinated, the UK government says.

The end of the compulsory quarantine for vaccinated English residents returning from countries on London's "amber" list "will not apply to France following the persistent presence of cases in France of the Beta variant" of COVID-19 first detected in South Africa, the Department of Health says in a statement.

Those arriving from countries on the amber list, which includes other popular European holiday destinations like Italy, Portugal and Spain, currently need to quarantine at home for up to 10 days and submit to two tests. — AFP

July 16, 2021

The Eiffel Tower is to reopen to visitors on Friday for the first time in nine months following its longest closure since World War II.

The lifts of the "Iron Lady" are set to whir back into life, transporting tourists to its 300-metre (1,000-foot) summit, ending a long period of inactivity caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Daily capacity is set to be restricted to 13,000 people, however, about half of the normal level, in order to respect social distancing. — AFP

July 15, 2021

Saudi Arabia will host another downsized hajj from Saturday, with only residents fully vaccinated against the coronavirus permitted and overseas Muslim pilgrims barred for a second year.

The kingdom seeks to repeat last year's success that saw no virus outbreak during the five-day Muslim ritual.

It is allowing 60,000 residents of Saudi Arabia to participate, higher than in 2020 but drastically lower than in normal times. People will begin to arrive on Saturday, a day before the start of rites.

In 2019, some 2.5 million Muslims from around the world participated in the annual hajj -- a key pillar of Islam that is a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime.

Earlier this month, the hajj ministry said it was working on the "highest levels of health precautions" in light of the pandemic and the emergence of new variants.

Chosen from more than 558,000 applicants through an online vetting system, the event is confined to those who have been fully vaccinated and are aged 18-65 with no chronic illnesses, it said.

The pilgrimage, which typically packs large crowds into congested religious sites, is potentially a super-spreader of the virus. — AFP

July 14, 2021

The Philippines adds Indonesia in the list of countries with travel ban starting July 16 until July 31. 

Based on reports, Indonesia’s daily cases surged past India, making it the new COVID-19 epicenter. Indonesia is struggling to contain the Delta variant. 

— The STAR/Christina Mendez

July 11, 2021

The Department of Tourism says it welcomes the decision of the inter-agency task force on COVID-19 to allow children aged five years ild and above to visit outdoor areas.

Fully vaccinated senior citizens are now also allowed to visit outdoor areas as long as they adhere to minimum public health standards.

“This is an opportunity for families to visit outdoor destinations such as Intramuros with their children and fully vaccinated seniors. Staying active, while fully practicing health and safety protocols, is one of the best ways for both adults and children to be mentally and physically healthy,” Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat says.

July 8, 2021

France warns its nationals against travelling to Spain or Portugal on holiday because of a spike in COVID-19 cases caused by the highly contagious Delta variant.

France currently allows people to travel to all other EU members as long as they are fully vaccinated or present a negative PCR or antigen test on their return.

But Europe Minister Clement Beaune pointedly advises the French against crossing the Pyrenees mountains to Spain or Portugal. — AFP

July 7, 2021

London's Heathrow airport says Wednesday it plans to offer fast-track lanes for fully vaccinated arriving passengers, as the UK government winds down its pandemic curbs.

The government is expected to announce on Thursday that travellers coming to England from "amber" countries — the middle ranking for Covid-19 incidence, covering most of Europe — will no longer have to quarantine. 

In advance, Heathrow says it was launching a pilot plan for passengers coming from selected destinations to enter an immigration fast track on arrival, after showing proof they have received both doses of a coronavirus vaccine. — AFP

July 7, 2021

An American Airlines flight from North Carolina to the Bahamas was delayed by a day after around 30 teenagers refused to wear masks, local media said Tuesday.

Flight 893 was scheduled for take-off from Charlotte Douglas airport late Monday but only left the tarmac on Tuesday morning, with the troublemakers still on board. 

An initial delay of several hours was caused by mechanical problems, but when the plane was finally ready to leave arguments broke out between the crew and a group of youths who refused to comply with federal rules that all passengers must wear masks on board flights to fight the spread of COVID-19, local channel WSOC-TV reported.

"It was bad. First, they were yelling. They were cursing. They were being very obnoxious," witness Malik Banks told the station.

The group of around 30 teens were high school students from Boston celebrating their graduation. They ended up agreeing to wear a mask the next day, after spending a night at the airport. Police made no arrests, local media reported.  — AFP

July 6, 2021

Germany's health agency said on Monday it would lift a ban on most travellers from the UK, India and three other countries hit by the Delta variant of Covid-19.

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) said India, Nepal, Russia, Portugal and the UK, currently listed as so-called virus variant countries, would be reclassified from Wednesday as "high-incidence areas".

The change eases a ban on entry for travellers who are not German residents or citizens, instead meaning anyone will be able to enter as long as they observe quarantine and testing rules.

Germany introduced its "virus variant country" travel category in a bid to stop new coronavirus variants that have not yet spread widely on home soil. — AFP

July 3, 2021

The Department of Tourism announces that it has continued its partnership with WarnerMedia’s Cartoon Network to encourage the public to start travelling safely around the country as travel restrictions are eased.

"The S.A.F.E.T.R.I.P. campaign video features Scarlet Snow Belo asking the help of the Powerpuff Girls to find a safe way to explore the Philippines now that leisure travel is allowed," the agency says in a statement.

"The trio of Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup emphasized the need to follow S.A.F.E.T.R.I.P., which stands for Sanitize, Avoid mass gatherings, wear Face masks, use Electronic payments, always have your Temperature checked, follow Rules and regulations, stay updated on latest Information, and observe Physical distancing," it adds.

July 2, 2021

Australia announces a dramatic cut in the number of people who will be allowed to enter the country Friday, as it struggles to contain coronavirus clusters that plunged major cities into lockdown.

With almost half of the nation's population under stay-at-home orders, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says quotas for overseas arrivals would be cut by around 50% to help prevent further outbreaks.

Under the current "zero Covid" strategy, just 6,000 people are allowed to enter Australia on overseas commercial flights each week and arrivals must undergo mandatory two weeks hotel quarantine. — AFP

July 1, 2021

An EU-wide Covid certificate for easier travel comes into force on Thursday, just in time for Europe's busy summer vacation period, but the more-infectious Delta variant is already threatening to curtail its use.

The EU document — essentially a QR code made available in digital form on smartphones or hard copy — shows whether the bearer is vaccinated with one of the EU's approved jabs (from BioNTech/Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson), has recovered from an infection, or has a recent negative Covid test.

Under EU law, the certificate is meant to do away with the need for quarantines or further testing when travelling between the EU's 27 countries or four associated European nations (Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein). — AFP

July 1, 2021

The first international travellers for a quarantine-free scheme will touch down in the holiday hotspot of Phuket, as Thailand tries to reboot its depleted tourism industry despite enduring its worst virus outbreak.

Tourism makes up almost a fifth of the economy. But pandemic-spurred restrictions saw Thailand registering its worst performance since the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

The kingdom is pinning high hopes for a much-needed revival on the so-called "Phuket sandbox" -- a model that will allow vaccinated travellers to visit without a quarantine period. — AFP

June 30, 2021

Travelers coming from the following low-risk countries will have a shorter mandatory quarantine period of seven days when they arrive in the Philippines:

  • Albania
  • American Samoa
  • Anguilla
  • Antigua and Barbuda,
  • Australia
  • Benin
  • Belize
  • The British Virgin Islands
  • Brunei
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi
  • Cayman Islands
  • Chad
  • China
  • Cote d’ Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
  • Eswatini
  • Falkland Islands
  • French Polynesia
  • Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Greenland
  • Grenada
  • Hong Kong
  • Iceland
  • Isle of Man
  • Israel
  • Laos
  • Liberia
  • Malawi
  • Malta
  • Marshall Islands
  • Mauritius
  • Micronesia
  • Montserrat
  • Morocco
  • Mozambique
  • New Caledonia
  • New Zealand
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Northern Mariana Islands
  • Palau
  • Rwanda
  • Saba
  • Saint Barthelemy
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Saint Pierre and Miquelon
  • Sierra Leone
  • Senegal
  • Singapore
  • Sint Eustatius
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan
  • Togo
  • Turks and Caicos Islands
  • Vietnam
  • Zimbabwe
June 30, 2021

The economic impact from the plunge in tourism since the pandemic emerged last year could top $4 trillion, a UN report says.

The joint report by the UN's World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) found that the lack of widespread vaccination in developing countries was leading to mounting economic losses. — AFP

June 29, 2021

Nigeria has barred passengers who are not citizens or permanent residents from entering the country if they have been in South Africa in the past 14 days over Covid-19 concerns.

The decision announced late on Monday comes almost two months after a similar restriction on Brazil, India and Turkey because of concerns over rising cases of more virulent coronavirus strains. 

Those measures would remain for four more weeks, Boss Mustapha, the secretary to the government, said in a statement. — AFP

June 29, 2021

Foreign travelers coming from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, United Arab Emirates and Oman will still not be allowed to enter the Philippines until July 15.

Malacañang says the extension of the travel ban was to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant, which was first reported in India.

The Philippines will also strengthen border protocols for travelers coming from Indonesia

June 29, 2021

Brisbane on Tuesday becomes the fourth major Australian city ordered into lockdown, as officials in Queensland announce three days of stay-at-home orders for several parts of the state.

"These are tough decisions," state Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says. "We are having lockdowns in major cities because the overseas arrivals are bringing the virus here." —  AFP

June 28, 2021

Hong Kong is to ban all incoming flights from the United Kingdom from July 1 to curb the more infectious Delta strain of the coronavirus, the financial hub's government says in a statement Monday.

"All passenger flights from the UK will be prohibited from landing in Hong Kong," the statement says.

The UK would now be designated in the "extremely high-risk" category of countries, it adds, the most severe rating the city has for pandemic travel. — AFP

June 26, 2021

New Zealand announces a three-day suspension of its quarantine-free travel arrangement with Australia on Saturday, with Wellington citing "multiple" outbreaks of COVID-19 in the neighbouring country.

The announcement comes as a two-week lockdown begins in Sydney to contain a rapidly spreading outbreak of the Delta coronavirus variant. — AFP 

June 18, 2021

The pandemic task force's directives on quarantine and testig supercede those of local government units, it says in a press statement through the Presidential Communications Operations Office. 

"[T]he IATF reiterates the strict enforcement of current testing and quarantine protocols duly approved and issued by the IATF for inbound international travelers in all ports of the country regardless of any specific protocols that may be issued the local government units on the contrary," it says.

It adds national government agencies have been instructed "to ensure strict adherence to the abovementioned directive."

June 17, 2021

Japan says it will make a vaccine passport available from next month for Japanese travellers, as governments around the world experiment with ways to relaunch tourism and business trips.

"We are preparing to issue a certificate of vaccination for those who need one... when they visit foreign countries," top government spokesman Katsunobu Kato tells reporters.

The certificate will be paper-based rather than digital and will be issued by local governments from sometime next month, he says. — AFP

June 17, 2021

The Department of Tourism says there has been a 61.2% decrease in the contribution of the tourism industry to the Philippine economy in 2020. 

The Tourism Direct Gross Value Added, based on the data of the Philippine Statistics Authority, dropped to P973.31 billion last year compared with the P2.51 trillion in 2019.

"This is only 5.4% of  the industry’s contribution to the country’s gross domestic product, a steep decline from the 12.8 percent in 2019," the DOT says in a statement.

June 11, 2021

Two guests on one of the first cruise ships to sail from North America since the COVID-19 pandemic hit tested positive Thursday, the cruise company said, adding all passengers and crew had been vaccinated.

The Celebrity Millennium, carrying about 600 passengers and 650 crew, set sail from the Caribbean island of St. Maarten on Saturday for a seven-day including stops in Barbados, Aruba and Curacao.

"Two guests sharing a stateroom onboard Celebrity Millennium tested positive for COVID-19 while conducting the required end-of-cruise testing," Royal Caribbean said in a statement.

"The individuals are asymptomatic and currently in isolation."

It said that the ship exceeded US COVID-19 guidelines, and all guests were required to show proof of vaccination as well as a negative COVID-19 test before sailing. — AFP

June 9, 2021

The US State Department urges Americans to reconsider travel to the Philippines because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice for the Philippines due to COVID-19, indicating a high level of COVID-19 in the country," it says in a travel advisory, saying also that there are restrictions on the entry of US citizens into the country.

"Additionally, exercise increased caution due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, and kidnapping," it also says.

The US State Department says US citizens should not travel to the Sulu Archipelago and Marawi City because of security risks, which include "crime, terrorism, civil unrest, and kidnapping." Travel to other areas of Mindanao should also be reconsidered for the same reasons.

June 1, 2021

The inter-agency task force on the coronavirus pandemic has allowed leisure travel between the 'NCR Plus' bubble and areas under Modified General Community Quarantine from June 1 to 15, the Department of Tourism says.

Travelers must take an RT-PCR test before travel.

'NCR Plus' is under General Community Quarantine but has stricter restrictions than other areas under GCQ.

May 31, 2021

The international airport of Vietnam's capital will suspend inbound flights from abroad beginning Tuesday, the country's aviation body announced, as it grapples with a fresh wave of virus outbreaks.

A "temporary suspension of receiving international flights" will begin at Hanoi's Noi Bai International Airport from June 1 at midnight until June 7, the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam said in a statement on Monday. 

Vietnam's health minister said over the weekend that authorities had discovered a highly infectious "new hybrid variant" — a combination of the Indian and UK variants. —  AFP

May 31, 2021

Close to 1,500 workers from ten tourism business establishments, tourism support service and community-based tourism organizations affected by the COVID19 here were awarded with cash assistance from the Department of Tourism (DOT) and Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat and Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong with DOT-Cordillera OIC Jovita Ganongan and DOLE-Cordillera Technical Support and Services Division Chief George Lubin Jr. led the awarding of certificates of eligibility to ten beneficiary organizations Sunday in a ceremony at the Baguio Country Club.

The financial assistance is a national government program, through a joint memorandum circular between DOT and DOLE. — The STAR/Artemio Dumlao

May 29, 2021

Quarantine-free travel bubbles were hailed as tourism's "godsend" earlier this year, but cancellations and suspensions have deflated hopes they will herald a return to pre-pandemic normality.

Perhaps the world's most high-profile bubble opened between Australia and New Zealand on April 19, leading to emotional scenes as families split when borders closed almost 400 days earlier were reunited.

Since then, New Zealand has ordered partial shutdowns on four occasions due to virus scares in Australian states, the most serious of which forced Melbourne into a snap lockdown this week. — AFP

May 28, 2021

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat orders a stricter monitoring of staycation hotels and other accommodation establishments (AEs) following its reopening in areas under general community quarantine.

AEs in areas under GCQ, according to IATF Resolution No. 117, may accept bookings for as long as the guests will come from the same household, and only up to 30% of the venue capacity.

"While we understand that strict health and safety protocols need to remain in place, DOT is happy with this development. This will bring back significant revenue especially to small hotels and private resorts  in GCQ areas during the summer season. We continue to issue the reminder that the safety of guests, residents and host communities should never be compromised," Puyat says.

May 26, 2021

People arriving in France from Britain will have to self-isolate to prevent the spread of Covid-19, notably its Indian variant, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday.

Attal told reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting that details of the measure would be given in the coming hours.

Germany had already imposed additional measures for people arriving from Britain, he said, "and France will take similar measures".  —  AFP

May 25, 2021

New Zealand suspends quarantine-free travel with Australia's Victoria state over a new coronavirus cluster Tuesday, the fourth time the trans-Tasman travel bubble has been disrupted since it opened last month.

Officials in Wellington say they were taking a cautious approach after Melbourne recorded nine locally acquired cases in the past two days, believed to be related to a leak from a quarantine hotel.

New Zealand's Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins says the suspension would take effect at 8:00pm (0800 GMT) Tuesday and remain in place for at least 72 hours. — AFP

May 25, 2021

The United States warns its citizens not to travel to Olympic host Japan, citing the growing risk of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Asian nation just two months before the Games begin.

The warning comes in a travel advisory issued by the State Department as Japan, which has been criticized for its slow inoculation rate, opened its first mass vaccination centers in a push ahead of the Olympics, which were postponed last year due to the pandemic.

The decision was based primarily on government health advice, as well as "secondary factors such as? commercial flight availability,? restrictions?on US citizen entry, and impediments to obtaining Covid test results within three calendar days," the advisory says. — AFP

May 24, 2021

Saudi Arabia is tightening the screws on vaccine skeptics, barring them from pilgrimages and overseas travel and blocking access to universities, malls and offices in a contentious effort to boost inoculations.

So-called anti-vaxxers threaten to jeopardize global efforts to beat the coronavirus pandemic, health experts say, but Gulf autocracies, including Saudi Arabia, are cranking up the pressure on those refusing to get vaccinated.

Riyadh is accelerating a nationwide vaccination drive as it moves to revive tourism and host sports and entertainment extravaganzas, all pandemic-hit sectors that are a bedrock of the "Vision 2030" program to diversify the oil-reliant economy.

Sparking rumblings of discontent, the kingdom has allowed only vaccinated pilgrims or those who have recovered from COVID-19 within the previous six months to perform the year-round umrah pilgrimage. — AFP

May 22, 2021

A spike in COVID-19 cases in Taiwan has burst its travel bubble with Palau, but the small Pacific island nation's president says Saturday he was ready to reopen the link as soon as practical.

The Palau-Taiwan bubble was hailed as a "ray of light" when it opened on April 1 but was closed on Wednesday until at least the middle of June as Taiwan battles a coronavirus outbreak.

Although the two flights a week attracted fewer than 300 tourists from Taiwan in their seven-week existence, Palau President Surangel Whipps maintained it was a success. — AFP

May 21, 2021

Mountaineer Akash Neggi is fully prepared to take on the world's highest mountain — after spending several weeks sleeping in a tent in his living room in New Jersey.

As Nepal battles COVID-19, a growing number of climbers are using oxygen-deprivation tents ahead of their expeditions to reduce exposure to the coronavirus by cutting down the length of their Himalayan adventure.

Mount Everest aspirants typically spend eight days trekking from Kathmandu to base camp at 5,364 meters, using the journey to acclimatise to high-altitude conditions.

But this year, more than 30 mountaineers have already been evacuated from base camp for medical reasons since the start of the spring climbing season in April — with three known to have contracted the coronavirus.

Neggi, a seasoned climber, used the chamber as he did not have enough vacation leave for his expedition. But he is now relieved to have avoided the extra days on the ground.

"During the trek, people were staying at tea houses together and meeting other teams," he told AFP in Kathmandu ahead of his helicopter flight to base camp.

"It is hard to say where people were infected, but I am glad I was able to skip that crowd." — AFP

May 20, 2021

 The City Government of Baguio is implementing stricter travel protocols as the city is still under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) until the end of May. 

The city government will allow only Allowed Persons Outside Residents (APORs) from Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) and Modified ECQ (MECQ) areas to enter Baguio subject to testing requirements and health assessment at the Baguio City Triage Unit.

Also, even though the status of the National Capital Region (NCR) and provinces of Bulacan, Laguna, Rizal and Cavite or NCR plus is GCQ but with stricter measures, the city will strictly adhere to the guidelines allowing only essential travels into the city.

This is in compliance with the new guidelines provided by the Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID). The task force also urged that active transportation be promoted for such travels. — The STAR/Artemio Dumlao

 

May 19, 2021

Sudan bans travellers arriving from India and imposes new coronavirus restrictions including closing schools, as coronavirus cases rise.

"Entry will be prevented for all travellers arriving directly from India or through any other country after having visited India in the past 14 days," says the country's ruling council in a statement. 

Travellers from Egypt and Ethiopia will be re-tested upon arrival, it says. — AFP

May 14, 2021

The US State Department urges citizens to "reconsider travel to Israel" due to the recent surge in violence between the Jewish state and Palestinians.

The travel advisory level, which had been lowered in recent weeks due to improvement in the country's COVID-19 situation, was stepped up to Level 3, out of a maximum of four.

"Reconsider travel to Israel due to armed conflict and civil unrest," the department says in a statement. — AFP

May 10, 2021

China will set up a "separation line" on the peak of Mount Everest to avoid possible COVID-19 infections by climbers from virus-hit Nepal, state media reported, after dozens were taken ill from the summit's base camp.

While the virus first emerged in China in late 2019, it has largely been brought under control in the country through a series of strict lockdowns and border closures.

Over 30 sick climbers were evacuated from base camp on the Nepalese side of the world's highest peak in recent weeks as Nepal faces a deadly second wave, raising fears that the virus might ruin a bumper climbing season.

Mount Everest straddles the China-Nepal border, with the north slope belonging to China. — AFP

May 9, 2021

New Zealand health officials cleared the way for quarantine-free flights to resume to Sydney Sunday as fears of a Covid-19 outbreak in New South Wales eased. 

Flights were suspended on Thursday after two people in Sydney tested positive for the virus. 

It was the third disruption since the quarantine-free travel bubble between New Zealand and Australia opened on April 18, almost 400 days after both closed their international borders due to the pandemic. — AFP

May 8, 2021

The Department of Tourism welcomes the approval of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases on the point-to-point air travel of tourists from the NCR Plus area to other destinations across Philippines, which will spur economic activities.

“The point-to-point air travel is a temporary means to gradually revive the tourism industry, provide relief to tourism enterprises and generate livelihood to some of the displaced workers in the tourism sector," says Tourism chief Bernadette Romulo-Puyat.

May 7, 2021

Japan Airlines posted an annual net loss of $2.6 billion Friday but did not release a forecast for the current financial year, citing uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic.

The carrier, Japan's second-largest by market share, suffered a net loss of 286.7 billion yen for the year through March -- its first full-year result in the red since it relisted on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in 2012.

"There has been no indication of passenger demand recovery yet" due to restrictions on international travel and tougher immigration measures, JAL said.

"Our situation has been severe throughout this fiscal year." — AFP

May 7, 2021

Australia is likely to remain shut to visitors until late 2022, the country's trade and tourism minister said Friday, as another global coronavirus surge smashed hopes of a quick reopening.

Minister Dan Tehan said a wave of cases on the Indian sub-continent showed Australia's near blanket ban on arrivals was still essential to keep the country Covid-free.

Since March 20, 2020, Australians have been barred from travelling overseas and a hard-to-get individual exemption is needed for foreign visitors to enter the country.

It is "very hard to determine" when borders could reopen, Tehan told Sky News, "the best guess would be in the middle to the second half of next year".

Before the pandemic, around one million short-term visitors entered the country each month. That figure is now around 7,000. — AFP

May 5, 2021

The Palace announces travel restrictions have been expanded to include passengers who have been to Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka within 14 days of arrival.

Those travelers will be barred entry to the Philippines from May 7 to May 14. 

May 5, 2021

With tests, vaccinations and isolation areas, cruise ship companies are hoping for smoother sailing this travel season after fears over COVID-stricken ships rocked the industry last year.

Cruise companies have lost tens of billions of dollars while hundreds of thousands of people have lost jobs as countries banned ships from their ports.

The industry's woes started in February last year when the Diamond Princess and its 4,000 passengers spent weeks in quarantine in port in Japan as coronavirus infections on board climbed, reaching 700. — AFP

May 4, 2021

Australia's prime minister fended off accusations of racism and having blood on his hands Tuesday, as he retreated from a threat to jail Australians trying to escape COVID-wracked India.

Scott Morrison's government moved to ban travellers from India from entering Australia until May 15, threatening rule-breakers — including Australian citizens — with prison time. 

Amid a widespread backlash, Morrison on Tuesday said it was "highly unlikely" that Australians who skirted a ban would be jailed.

"I think the likelihood of any of that occurring is pretty much zero," Morrison said in a breakfast-time media blitz on Tuesday. — AFP

May 3, 2021

New Zealand will open a travel bubble with the tiny Cook Islands this month, adopting quarantine-free arrangements similar to those already established with Australia, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

Ardern said the bubble with the South Pacific island state of about 20,000 people would open on May 17 and initially involve about three flights a week.

"Two-way quarantine-free travel is a significant step in both countries' COVID-19 recovery, and a direct result of both New Zealand and the Cook Islands' successful response to the pandemic," she said.

The remote Cook Islands is one of few places in the world to remain coronavirus-free, while New Zealand has eliminated community transmission and recorded only 25 deaths in a population of five million.

The Cook Islands is self-governing in "free association" with New Zealand, meaning that while it administers its own affairs, Cook Islanders are both New Zealand citizens and Cook Islands nationals. — AFP

May 3, 2021

New Zealand will open a travel bubble with the tiny Cook Islands this month, adopting quarantine-free arrangements similar to those already established with Australia, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

Ardern said the bubble with the South Pacific island state of about 20,000 people would open on May 17 and initially involve about three flights a week.

"Two-way quarantine-free travel is a significant step in both countries' Covid-19 recovery, and a direct result of both New Zealand and the Cook Islands' successful response to the pandemic," she said. —  AFP

May 2, 2021

New Zealand on Sunday agreed to reopen its travel bubble with Western Australia, 24 hours after grounding flights when three people in Perth tested positive for COVID-19.

Health officials said that following consultation with their Australian counterparts they determined the risk to New Zealand was not significant and flight could resume on Monday.

However, anyone who has been at "locations of interest" identified by the Western Australian government cannot travel to New Zealand within 14 days of exposure.

"While the public health risk is deemed low, we must all remain vigilant as we enjoy the opportunities quarantine-free travel has given us," the director-general of health, Ashley Bloomfield, said.

It was the second disruption to the ground-breaking travel bubble between New Zealand and Australia in the two weeks since it opened, ending more than a year since both closed their international borders due to the pandemic. — AFP

May 2, 2021

Foreign tourists are still not allowed into the country, the Bureau of Immigration reminds the public Sunday.

Although the government has eased travel restrictions, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente stresses only those with visas issued before March 22 are allowed into the Philippines. 

"The recent easing of travel restrictions applies only to those aliens who were allowed to come here before March 22 and they should have valid and existing visas at the time of their arrival in our ports of entry," the BI chief adds.

May 1, 2021

People arriving in Australia from coronavirus-ravaged India could face five years jail as the country strengthens an earlier travel ban, the government announces Saturday, in a bid to prevent the outbreak from spreading to its shores.

From Monday, any traveller into Australia who has been in India in the past 14 days could face fines and jail time, adding to a temporary ban announced earlier this week, which will remain in place until at least May 15.

The threat came after travellers on indirect flights from India exposed a loophole in the government's attempt to temporarily block arrivals from the South Asian nation. — AFP

May 1, 2021

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat says that 465,530 tourism workers nationwide have been approved to receive cash assistance under the DOT-DOLE Cash Assistance Program of the Bayanihan 2 amounting to P2,327,650,000.

39,429 workers are from the National Capital Region, 26,908 are from Cordillera Administrative Region, 45,709 are from Region 1, 17,293 are from Region 2, 55,974 are from Region 3, 61,392 are from Region 4A, 56,955 are from Region 4B, 11,468 are from Region 5, 45,429 are from Region 6, 31,712 are from Region 7, 13,327 are from Region 8, 6,609 are from Region 9, 13,939 are from Region 10, 26,095 are from Region 11, 5,661 are from Region 12, and 7,630 are from Region 13.

“We are hopeful that this financial assistance will provide some relief to our most affected stakeholders and tourism workers during these difficult times. While it may help in the short term, we believe that the best way to help stakeholders, in the long run, is to develop a tourism industry that is stronger, more resilient, and more adaptable to change," says Romulo-Puyat.

April 29, 2021

Italy on Thursday tightened the rules on people arriving from coronavirus-hit India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, while extending quarantine regulations for Europeans.

A devastating surge in cases of COVID-19 in India prompted Italy on Sunday to ban arrivals from the South Asian nation, although legal residents were allowed home subject to testing and quarantine.

Twenty-three people on a flight that landed in Rome from India late Wednesday tested positive for coronavirus, out of 213 passengers and 10 crew, regional authorities announced.

Under new rules announced Thursday by Health Minister Roberto Speranza, however, only Italian citizens are allowed in from India — a rule extended to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. — AFP

April 27, 2021

The Philippines is barring the entry of travelers from India or with travel history to India in the last 14 days from arrival, the Palace says.

The travel restriction takes effect on April 29 and will be in place until May 14.

April 27, 2021

Australia bans passenger flights from India until May 15.

April 24, 2021

Airfares soar and demand for private jets booms as Indians who could afford it scrambled to escape a COVID-19 surge before flights to the United Arab Emirates shut down.

All flights from the UAE to India -- one of the world's busiest air corridors -- will be suspended from Sunday as coronavirus cases in the South Asian nation reach record levels and overwhelm hospitals.

Price comparison websites showed one-way commercial flights from Mumbai to Dubai on Friday and Saturday costing as much as 80,000 rupees ($1,000), around 10 times the usual rate. — AFP

April 23, 2021

DOT-accredited establishments using contact tracing up StaySafe are now eligible for Safety Seal Certification.

The Safety Seal Certification Program is a program created to ensure compliance with the minimum public health standards, including the adoption and use of the StaySafe.ph application in covered establishments.

The Joint Memorandum Circular on the Safety Seal Certification Program was signed Friday led by the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Tourism, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Health and the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

April 21, 2021

The United States discourages all travelers from going to the Philippines to the COVID-19 situation in the country.

The Philippines is now under Level 4 of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which means that COVID-19 levels in the country are very high.

"Because of the current situation in the Philippines even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants and should avoid all travel to the Philippines," the US government says in an advisory.

April 20, 2021

At least 49 passengers on a flight from New Delhi to Hong Kong have tested positive for coronavirus, authorities said, as the financial hub introduced an emergency ban on all flights from India in a crackdown over a new wave of cases.

All of the passengers who tested positive flew into Hong Kong on a flight run by Indian operator Vistara on April 4. 

The positive tests are significant as Hong Kong is regularly recording fewer daily cases than the total detected on the flight since it brought a fourth wave under control in January. —  AFP

April 19, 2021

Greece said Monday that travellers from the EU and five other countries who are fully vaccinated or have a recent negative Covid test will no longer have to quarantine on arrival. 

Visitors from the EU, Britain, the United States, Israel, Serbia and the United Arab Emirates will not be subjected to a week-long quarantine, the civil aviation authority said in a statement.

Travellers must present proof they are fully vaccinated or a negative Covid test from the previous 72 hours, it said. 

The quarantine will be lifted from Monday but other restrictions "for domestic or international flights will be in effect until April 26", the aviation authority said. 

The announcement comes despite a surge in coronavirus cases in the country, with dozens of deaths and more than 1,500 new infections per day. — AFP

April 19, 2021

Emotions ran high Monday as excited passengers set off on the first flights to take advantage of a quarantine-free travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand, allowing families split by the pandemic to finally reunite.

The arrangement means that for the first time in almost 400 days passengers can fly across the Tasman Sea without undergoing mandatory Covid-19 quarantine when they arrive.

Australia was New Zealand's largest source of international tourists before the pandemic, accounting for about 1.5 million arrivals or 40 percent of total visitors in 2019. —  AFP

April 15, 2021

Greece plans to open its borders to vaccinated visitors from several countries from next week, the government said Thursday, as the country seeks to restart its badly-hit tourism sector.  

The scheme is part of a pilot project to allow entry to people with the so-called vaccine passports, an exception until now open only to Israeli visitors.

Under the initiative, travellers will be able to avoid a seven-day quarantine currently imposed on visitors.

The European Union has said it wants to get a vaccine passport off the ground for travellers, though plans have not yet been formalised. 

Tourism on the continent — Greece included — has been ravaged by the pandemic, with many nations shutting borders for non-essential travel. 

The vaccine passport trial run in Greece comes before the country plans to restart tourism in mid-May. — AFP

April 6, 2021

New Zealand approves quarantine-free travel with Australia, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saying a two-way corridor for travel between the two largely COVID-free nations to begin on April 18.

"I can confirm that quarantine-free travel will begin in just under two weeks, at 11:59pm on April 18," Ardern announces after the date was confirmed by her cabinet.

The travel bubble comes more than a year after New Zealand closed its doors in the face of the coronavirus pandemic and six months after Australia allowed New Zealanders to fly into selected states without the need to quarantine. — AFP 

April 5, 2021

Britain will on Monday set out plans to restart international travel, using a "traffic-light" system as the country cautiously emerges from lockdown.

The announcement comes as the UK has set a tentative date of May 17 to relaunch international travel.

Travel destinations will be ranked green, amber or red according to virus risk, Downing Street said in a statement late Saturday, with the government to provide more details on Monday.

International travel is currently banned except for a handful of permitted reasons. This has created massive pent-up demand for summer holidays abroad.

"We are doing everything we can to enable the reopening of our country... as safely as possible," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

The government said the new system "will help ensure the UK's vaccine progress isn't jeopardized and provide clear guidance for travellers".— AFP

March 29, 2021

The Zamboanga City Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has suspended all commercial inbound flights from Ninoy Aquino International (NAIA) indefinitely. 

Local IATF chief implementer Elmeir Apolinario, through the authority of Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar, has written all the airline companies and coordinated with the national IATF on the indefinite flight suspension effective Monday and until further notice.

"In view of the confirmed presence of the UK and South African strains of COVID-19 in the country and the re-imposition of Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in the National Capital Region and its neighboring areas, the city will temporarily suspend all commercial flights," the city's IATF said.

The IATF said also affected in the cancellation of flights are connecting flights from Cebu or Davao whose flight origin are from NAIA. — The STAR/Roel Pareño

March 29, 2021

Foreign parents of Filipino citizens with visas may now enter the Philippines, the Bureau of Immigration says Monday.

Foreign parents, however, cannot travel alone even if they have valid visas.

“If they are traveling alone, they will not be allowed entry even if they hold valid visas as the rules provide that they must be traveling with their Philippine spouse or children,” Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente says in a statement.

March 22, 2021

Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong says the city will not accept tourists from NCR, Rizal, Bulacan, Laguna and Cavite in line with the IATF Resolution No. 104 that prohibits non-essential travels. —  Philstar.com/Rosette Adel

March 19, 2021

The National Task Force vs COVID-19 revises its earlier memo on the temporary suspension of travel into the Philippines.

All Filipino citizens, whether a returning OFW or non-OFW, will be allowed to return to the country.

March 18, 2021

The Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force approves saliva RT-PCR test as an alternative to the nasopharyngeal swab RT-PCR as one of the entry requirements to the island.

The DOT and BIATF say the test should only be administered by the Philippine Red Cross and other testing laboratories that have been approved and accredited by the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Health. —  Rosette Adel

March 14, 2021

Australia is "working with Singapore" to create a travel bubble between the two nations as early as July, officials said Sunday, in an effort to restart tourism and travel put on hold by COVID-19.

Early in the pandemic Australia effectively closed its international border to slow the spread of the coronavirus, with non-citizens banned from visiting except in special circumstances.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said Australia was "working with Singapore at the moment potentially for a bubble (beginning) in July".

"As the vaccine rolls out, not only in Australia but in other countries, we will reopen more bubbles," he told public broadcaster ABC.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported the deal would allow Singaporeans and Australians who had been vaccinated to travel between the countries without quarantining. — AFP

March 11, 2021

Almost one million Australians will be able to enjoy half-price flights to domestic holiday destinations, under a government plan announced Thursday to boost tourism as Covid border closures keep international travellers out.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the government would spend Aus$1.2 billion (US$929,000 million) to subsidise 800,000 flights to areas outside major cities that were "heavily dependent on international tourists".

Half-price airfares will be offered to entice Australians to book holidays at places like the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru and the Gold Coast. — AFP

March 10, 2021

Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific said Wednesday it suffered a record $2.8 billion loss last year as the coronavirus pandemic wiped out demand for travel -- and the airline warned of a long road to recovery ahead.

Chairman Patrick Healy described 2020 as the "most challenging" in the airline's 70-year history and said much will now depend on how effective and widespread global vaccination programmes are. 

"It is by no means clear how the pandemic and its impact will develop over the coming months," he warned, saying the group expected passenger traffic to remain "well below" half of pre-pandemic levels throughout 2021.

The company's losses were higher than estimates compiled by Bloomberg News.  — AFP

March 8, 2021

 Ilocos Norte has relaxed its pandemic travel restrictions, reducing COVID-19 test requirements and encouraging minimized movement for all inbound residents and travelers since quarantine has been lifted. 

Awaiting to issue the Executive Order of the new guidelines, Gov. Matthew Marcos Manotoc has temporarily released the travel rules on the Provincial Government Page on March 6, 2021, which took effect immediately. 

Under the new guidelines, Returning Overseas Filipinos (ROFs) are required to present a negative RT-PCR test issued within 60 hours of arrival at the provincial borders. Locally Stranded Individuals (LSIs) coming from high-risk areas are required to submit a negative RT-PCR test with swab collected within 60 hours or undergo a Rapid Antigen test at the border upon arrival.

If the point of origin is in low-risk areas, LSIs are strongly encouraged, but not required, to present either of the two tests. — The STAR/Artemio Dumlao

March 7, 2021

New Yorkers are taking advantage of the absence of tourists during the pandemic to visit iconic sites in the Big Apple that they would normally avoid.

At 10:00 am (1500 GMT) on a recent Friday, barely ten people were on Liberty Island's roughly 200-metre (650-ft) promenade, staring up at the Statue of Liberty.

In normal times, even although it is not peak season, hundreds of tourists would be posing for selfies in front of the copper icon of freedom. — AFP

March 6, 2021

California on Friday paved the way for Disneyland, other theme parks and outdoor stadiums to welcome guests sooner than expected as it relaxed reopening criteria following a sharp decline in Covid-19 cases and pressure from operators.

The move announced by the state health department will permit ballparks, stadiums and mega-attractions including Disneyland, Magic Mountain and Universal Studios to admit visitors from April 1, according to conditions in their county, and at reduced capacities.

With these improvements, "California can begin gradually and safely bringing back more activities, especially those that occur outdoors and where consistent masking is possible," state health secretary Mark Ghaly said in a statement. — AFP

March 4, 2021

German flag carrier Lufthansa says Thursday it lost a record 6.7 billion euros in 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic wiped out demand for travel and left flights grounded.

Europe's biggest airline said it expects to book an operating loss again in 2021, though a smaller one than last year, as capacity will reach only 40-50% of pre-pandemic levels for the full year. 

Underlining the long road to recovery, it added that capacity will climb to 90 percent of 2019's level in "the middle of the decade".

After borders slammed shut as governments scrambled to halt contagion in the first wave of the Covid-19 crisis, the airline faced an uncertain future.

In June, it was offered a lifeline by the German government, which pumped in nine billion euros of liquidity for a 25 percent stake.

"The past year was the most challenging in the history of our company - for our customers, our employees and our shareholders," said Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr. — AFP

March 3, 2021

Australia will extend its year-long international border closure by at least three months to mid-June, continuing the country's self-imposed isolation to keep the coronavirus at bay.

Health Minister Greg Hunt says health officials had advised the government "the Covid-19 situation overseas continues to pose an unacceptable public health risk to Australia, including the emergence of more highly transmissible variants".

As a result, strict border controls will continue until June 17, he says Tuesday. —  AFP

March 1, 2021

Zamboanga City will still require visitors to the city to take RT-PCR swab tests despite the decision of the policy-setting Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to scrap the requirement.

Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar says only those who test negative for COVID-19 will be allowed to enter the city. 

The city will no longer require medical certificates and travel authorities. — The STAR/Roel Pareño 

February 25, 2021

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat visits Siquijor to check preparations for reopening it to tourism, her department says.

She inspected accomodation establishments and tourism enterprises on the the island, where 37 hotels and inns have been accredited to reopen.

The province recorded 143,286 same-day visitor arrivals and 37,651 overnight visitor arrivals in 2020. 

February 23, 2021

EasyJet shares rallied Tuesday on rocketing flight bookings for the British airline over the past week, given a boost by Prime Minister Boris Johnson's pledge to begin easing England's virus lockdown shortly.

Bookings soared 337% by late Monday compared with a week earlier, EasyJet said after Johnson's announcement.

EasyJet shares rallied around five percent on the London stock market -- and there were solid gains for European rivals.

Johnson's four-month roadmap to ease lockdown curbs by the northern hemisphere summer has also sparked hopes of easing restrictions elsewhere in Europe.

"The prime minister... has provided a much-needed boost in confidence for so many of our customers in the UK with demand for flights up 337 percent and holidays up 630 percent already compared to last week," EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said in a statement. — AFP

February 18, 2021

Singapore on Thursday launched what it billed as a coronavirus-secure hotel and meeting complex where visitors communicate via intercom through glass panels, as the Asian financial hub slowly opens up to the world for business.

Short-stay business travellers to Singapore will be able to avoid the official 14-day quarantine rule if they stay at [email protected], a purpose-built facility near Changi Airport.

They will, however, be required to remain within the facility for the duration of their stay to prevent possible transmission to the wider community.

After keeping its borders mostly closed for months, Singapore, which is home to the Asian headquarters of many international firms, will soon allow in business travellers from anywhere in the world as part of efforts to recover from a pandemic-induced downturn. — AFP

February 12, 2021

The Department of Tourism says it is optimistic with the speedy recovery of tourism due to the decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to reclassify industries for the continued reopening of the economy.

“With this development, we see the revitalization of the MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) sector in General Community Quarantine (GCQ) areas and eventually, restoring our competitive advantage in the region. We also expect social events, though on limited scale, to resuscitate our accredited establishments, parks, historical landmarks, museums and other event locations, uplifting businesses along the value chain and more importantly, addressing employment and underemployment concerns,” says Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat.

February 9, 2021

Travellers arriving in Britain from abroad will have to take two coronavirus tests during quarantine, the government is expected to confirm on Tuesday.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is due to announce that people told to isolate at home will be required to get a test two and eight days into a mandatory 10-day quarantine period.

The new measures, which critics say come too late to curb the spread of the virus, are aimed at halting new variants. — AFP

February 9, 2021

Israel and Greece agreed a tourism deal Monday that will allow coronavirus-vaccinated citizens of the two countries to travel between them without limitations, once flights resume.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the agreement "will allow us... to be able to offer Israeli tourists the opportunity to spend their holidays in Greece without any restrictions" at a joint press conference with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu.

This would go into effect once "a significant percentage of the population is vaccinated" and travel restrictions are lifted, Mitsotakis said. —  AFP

February 5, 2021

Drivers who are alone in their vehicles will not have to wear face masks the Department of Transportation and Department of Health say in a joint statement.

"When the driver is with passenger/s, it is mandatory for all individuals inside the vehicle to properly wear a face mask, regardless if they are from the same household," they also say.

The departments say "proper coordination will be made" with law enforcement agencies for the implementation of the policy.

"We hope this clarifies the matter."

February 2, 2021

Spain announces Tuesday that it would restrict arrivals from Brazil and South Africa by air to try to reduce the spread of new coronavirus variants.

Only legal residents or nationals of Spain and the microstate of Andorra will be allowed in from Brazil and South Africa under rules which come in force on Wednesday and last two weeks, government spokeswoman Maria Jesus Montero told a news conference. —  AFP

January 30, 2021

Travelers to Canada will have to quarantine in hotels at their own expense and airlines are suspending flights to southern destinations, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces, further tightening restrictions to slow COVID-19's spread.

New arrivals will have to pay to quarantine in hotels for up to three days under strict supervision, he told a news conference.

Ottawa is also stepping up Covid-19 testing while Canadian airlines have agreed to cancel flights to destinations such as Mexico and the Caribbean until the end of April. — AFP

January 27, 2021

Baguio City is investigating a party held at The Manor where health protocol like wearing masks and practicing physical distancing were not obeserved.

Speaking to TeleRadyo, Mayor Benjamin Magalong says the establishment has been told to explain the incident.

The city's legal office is also looking into the party organized by events host Tim Yap, he says.

Magalong confirms that he was at the event and that safety measures were generally followed.

He says, though, that there were violations, which he attributed to people being excited and being carried away by the mood of the party.

He says he has been in touch with Yap, whose group bought art at an exhibit for Baguio City artists prior to the event.

Fines for not wearing masks in Baguio City range from P1,000 to P3,000, Magalong says.

January 26, 2021

Foreign passengers coming from or who have been within Czech Republic in 14 days will also be banned from entering the Philippines.

The travel restriction will take effect from January 28 to 31.

However, foreign passengers and Filipino citizens coming from Czech Republic before January 28 will be allowed to enter the country.

January 22, 2021

Denmark is suspending flights from the UAE for five days over suspicions that virus tests and checks are not rigorous enough, the Nordic nation's transport minister says. 

All air passengers arriving in Denmark need to show a negative virus test from the previous 24 hours, but Transport Minister Benny Engelbrecht said Danish authorities want to be sure there were no botched screenings or tests that had been bought in Dubai.

"All commercial flights from the United Arab Emirates are cancelled for five days," he says in a statement, adding that it would give officials time "to ensure that the required negative test is a true screening that has been carried out correctly". — AFP

January 18, 2021

Australia's international borders are unlikely to open to travelers this year despite the rollout of coronavirus vaccines, a top health official said Monday.

Health department secretary Brendan Murphy, a key adviser in Australia's virus response, said free-flowing travel to and from the country was not expected to resume in 2021.

"I think that we'll go most of this year with still substantial border restrictions," he told public broadcaster ABC.

"Even if we have a lot of the population vaccinated, we don't know whether that will prevent transmission of the virus. 

"And it's likely that quarantine will continue for some time." — AFP

January 18, 2021

La Trinidad town has cancelled its Strawberry Festival, which was scheduled for March this year.

La Trinidad Vice Mayor Roderick Awingan said that the Strawberry Festival Executive Committee on January 12, through a unanimous vote, cancelled the much-awaited festival that is usually held every first week of March.

Last year, the festival that features the town’s luscious red fruit product farmed in its vast valley plantations, was also cancelled.

Though an indigenous ritual known as  "Panudsuran", where ancestors’ spirits are called and invoked to cleanse the community, was held.  A mass will also be offered where limited participants are invited.

The executive committee is composed of Mayor Romeo Salda as chairman; Vice Mayor Awingan as co-chair; and members of the Sangguniang Bayan and Municipal Tourism Officer Valred Olsim as members. — The STAR/Artemio Dumlao

January 16, 2021

Emirates suspends flights to Australia's three largest cities as the country further restricts international arrivals over fears of new virus strains.

The Dubai-based carrier was one of the last to maintain routes into and out of the country's east coast throughout most of the pandemic but on Friday evening told travellers a handful of planned flights next week would be the last.

"Due to operational reasons, Emirates flights to/from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne will be suspended until further notice," Emirates says on its website. — AFP

January 15, 2021

The Philippines includes United Arab Emirates and Hungary in list of countries affected by travel restrictions, according to Malacañang.

January 15, 2021

The Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases recommends extending until January 31 the travel restrictions on the following  countries, according to the Palace 

  • United Kingdom
  • Denmark
  • Ireland
  • Japan
  • Australia
  • Israel
  • The Netherlands
  • China and Hong Kong
  • Switzerland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Lebanon
  • Singapore
  • Sweden
  • South Korea
  • South Africa
  • Canada
  • Spain
  • US
  • Portugal
  • India
  • Finland
  • Norway
  • Jordan
  • Brazil
  • Austria
  • Pakistan 
  • Jamaica
  • Luxembourg
  • Oman
January 13, 2021

Cebu Pacific (CEB) greets 2021 with a P88 all-domestic seat sale. For sale until January 31, 2021, passengers can enjoy fares as low as P88 to over 30 domestic destinations, for travel from January 13 until December 31, 2021. Whether you miss the warm sunny beaches of Bohol, Coron, Boracay, Cebu and Siargao, or just want to experience the culinary trails of Davao, Bacolod or Pampanga, this special seat sale emboldens everyJuan to further explore and patronize local destinations and products. 

Passengers with travel scheduled until March 31, 2021 will enjoy more flight options with Flexible Bookings. Guests with existing Travel Funds may also use these to book new flights to make way for new travel memories. Payments may also be made online or via payment centers. CEB offers antigen tests for only P700 for its passengers flying from Manila through its Test Before Boarding (TBB) process. The carrier also offers affordable RT-PCR tests as low as P3,300 via its three partner laboratories, namely PADL, Health Metrics, Inc. (HMI), and Safeguard DNA Diagnostics Inc. (SDDI). Passengers booked on Cebu Pacific and Cebgo can easily choose and book appointments via the “Testing Options” tab on https://bit.ly/CEBFlightReminders. 

CEB has been rated 7/7 stars by airlineratings.com for its COVID-19 compliance as it continues to implement a multi-layered approach to safety, in accordance with global aviation standards. These include contactless procedures, thorough cleaning and disinfection protocols for all aircraft and facilities, mandatory wearing of masks and face shields for both passengers and crew, as well as Antigen testing for CEB frontliners before duty.  Their aircrafts are also equipped with hospital-grade HEPA filters with 99.99% efficacy, keeping viruses at bay.  The airlines currently fly to 30 domestic destinations from its Manila and Cebu hubs, on top of five international destinations, namely, Dubai, Hong Kong, Nagoya, Seoul and Singapore. 

January 13, 2021

All air passengers bound for the United States will require a negative COVID-19 test within three days of their departure, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says.

"Testing does not eliminate all risk but when combined with a period of staying at home and everyday precautions like wearing masks and social distancing, it can make travel safer," says CDC Director Robert Redfield. — AFP

January 12, 2021

China, Pakistan, Jamaica, Luxembourg and Oman are now included in the Philippines' list of countries/jurisdictions subject to travel restrictions due to the new COVID-19 variant.

The inter-agency task force on COVID-19 recommends that foreign travelers from these areas will be barred from entering the country from January 13 to 15.

January 11, 2021

Young adults dressed to the nines in kimonos gathered at venues in Japan on Monday to celebrate reaching the age of majority, although many of the usually jubilant events were cancelled over coronavirus fears.

More than a million people in Japan turn 20 this year, the age at which they can legally drink alcohol, smoke and get married without parental approval.

They are traditionally feted each January on "coming-of-age day" with a formal ceremony, originally a rite of ancient samurai families — and now often followed by raucous drinking sprees.

But a record surge in COVID-19 cases and a month-long virus state of emergency declared in and around Tokyo has led many local authorities to scrap or postpone the 2021 festivities. — AFP

January 8, 2021

England is to introduce mandatory coronavirus testing for all international arrivals in a bid to curb the spread of new virus variants, the department of transport says.

Beginning early next week, all international travellers to England will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test taken up to 72 hours prior to their departure, the ministry said.

Those passengers who do not comply with the regulations, which also apply to British nationals, face a £500 ($678, €552) fine. — AFP

January 6, 2021

Upon the joint recommendation of the DOH and DFA, the Office of the President added more countries in the travel ban list over the new COVID-19 variant, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque says.

These include Portugal, India, Finland, Norway, Jordan and Brazil.

Foreign passengers who have been to these areas within 14 days immediately preceding arrival in the Philippines will be prohibited from entering the country from January 8 to 15. —  report from Alexis Romero

January 1, 2021

The US is now included in countries subject to travel restrictions to prevent the entry of the the new COVID-19 strain into the Philippines, News5 quotes presidential spokesperson Harry Roque as saying.

January 1, 2021

Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command center is implementing new travel restrictions "given the recent developments in the global pandemic and the emergence of the B117 variant of the COVID 19 virus," Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs says.

B117 is the strain first reported in the UK and which has spread to the US as well as to countries in Asia.

Under the new guidelines, foreign nationals are barred entry to Taiwan except for the following:

  • Alien Residence Certficate holders
  • Those on diplomatic or official business or are "fulfilling commercial and contractual obligations"
  • Those admitted "for special humanitarian reasons"
  • Spouses and minor children of Taiwanese nationals or ACR holders
  • Others with special permission like students, white collar workers and migrant workers.

Starting January 15, all arivals will have to quarantine at a facility or a quarantine hotel. Those who choose to quarantine at home must sign an affidavit that they are the person at their home.

January 1, 2021

Brazil rang in the New Year with Rio de Janeiro's famed Copacabana beach nearly empty — the usual swarms of revelers kept away by police because of the pandemic — and pot-banging protests against far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.

Rio usually hosts one of the world's biggest New Year's Eve parties, but authorities canceled the festivities this year as COVID-19 racked the country.

"It was a complicated year, with this pandemic that has devastated the entire world," said Claudio Miranda, a 29-year-old salesman who was part of the relatively tiny crowd gathered on Copacabana.

"But we have to celebrate life — our lives, our families' lives, everyone who's still here. Even if our hearts are aching for those who have left us," he told AFP.

Covid-19 has killed nearly 195,000 people in Brazil, the second-highest death toll worldwide after the United States. The South American country of 212 million people is currently in the grips of a nasty second wave. — AFP

December 29, 2020

As it turns out, things are still up in the air regarding a ban in travelers with presidential spokesperson Harry Roque saying the ban is not yet in effect.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea has yet to issue the guidelines for a travel ban that Health Secretary Francisco Duque, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello and the Manila International Airport Authority have acknowledged and referenced.

December 29, 2020

Manila International Airport Authority announces passengers from the following countries will not be allowed into the Philippines "effective midnight of December 29, 2020":

  • United Kingdom 
  • South Africa 
  • Switzerland 
  • Italy 
  • Denmark 
  • Israel 
  • Hong Kong, China 
  • Spain 
  • Ireland 
  • Netherlands 
  • Singapore 
  • Lebanon 
  • Japan  
  • Canada 
  • Germany 
  • Sweden 
  • Australia 
  • France 
  • Iceland 
  • South Korea 

"Passengers already in transit or who had been in any of the flagged countries within 14 days from entry into the Philippines and who arrive before Dec. 30, 2020, will be allowed entry but they shall be subjected to strict quarantine and testing protocols (mandatory 14 day quarantine in OWWA and DOT accredited facilities) despite getting a negative RT-PCR result," MIAA also says.

December 25, 2020

US authorities announce that passengers arriving on flights from the United Kingdom will need to test negative for coronavirus before departure, the latest restriction imposed due to a new COVID-19 variant.

News of the strain, believed to be more transmissible, led to nations around the world closing their borders to travelers from the UK.

The new rule takes effect Monday and requires a negative test within 72 hours of departure, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement. —  AFP

December 25, 2020

Hong Kong extends its compulsory quarantine to three weeks for almost all international travellers from Friday, saying the measure was needed to prevent new, more infectious, coronavirus variants from spreading.

The government says expert advice suggested that the incubation period of the virus could be longer than 14 days in some people — so passengers will now have to undergo compulsory quarantine in designated hotels for three weeks, rather than the previous two.

Only travellers arriving from mainland China, Macau, and Taiwan will be exempt from the tighter restrictions. —  AFP

December 24, 2020

China on Thursday suspends flights to and from Britain after it reported a new, more infectious strain of the coronavirus.

China has largely curbed the spread of COVID-19 within its borders, but authorities remain highly vigilant about the threat of "imported" virus cases.

"Given the exceptional nature of the virus mutation and its potential impact ... China has suspended flights between China and the UK after full assessment," foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin says at a routine briefing. —  AFP

December 23, 2020

Philippine Airlines suspends its flights to and from London until the end of February 2021 in compliance with the latest resolution of the inter-agency task force on COVID-19.

"We are monitoring the situation in the UK. As we keep close watch on this evolving situation, it is in the best interest of all to suspend flights on the route," PAL says in an advisory.

December 23, 2020

The Department of Tourism says its supports President Rodrigo Duterte's decision to suspend flights from the United Kingdom from midnight on December 24 to December 31.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat says in a statement that "ensuring public health and safety takes precedence, even as the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) carefully reviews the restriction on the entry of foreign nationals into the country."

She says the department empathizes with families who will not be able to spend the holidays with relatives expected to come home from the UK.

December 23, 2020

Passengers from the UK disembarked from ferries in the port of Calais early Wednesday following Britain and France's deal easing a crossborder travel ban imposed over the discovery of a new coronavirus variant, an AFP correspondent said.

Much of Europe swiftly banned entry by British travellers and UK freight after a more transmissible strain of the coronavirus was found in Britain.

The "Cotes des Flandres" ferry — the first ship to leave Dover after the restrictions were lifted — arrived at around 3:30 am (0230 GMT), followed shortly afterwards by P&O's "Spirit of France".

A handful of passenger vehicles disembarked from the two ships but port management told AFP traffic was not expected to pick up until late Wednesday morning. — AFP

December 23, 2020

The Philippines has suspended all flights from the United Kingdom until December 31, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque announces,

Accoridng to Inter-agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases Resolution No. 90, which Roque quoted, 

"All flights from the United Kingdom shall be temporarily suspended until December 31, 2020. Effective 0001H of December 24, 2020, Manila Time, until December 31, 2020, all passengers who have been in the United Kingdom within 14 days immediately preceding arrival to the Philippines, including those merely transiting the same, are likewise temporarily restricted from entering the Philippines for the same period."

December 21, 2020

Switzerland on Monday imposes an entry ban on arrivals from Britain and South Africa and orders retroactive quarantine for all arrivals from those countries since December 14.

"This is intended in particular to stop travel from these countries for tourism purposes," the government says in a statement, following the identification of a "new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus" in those countries. — AFP

December 21, 2020

Hong Kong on Monday said it would ban all flights from Britain following the discovery of a new and highly infectious strain of the coronavirus there.

"From midnight there will be no more passenger flights arriving in Hong Kong from the United Kingdom," health secretary Sophia Chan told reporters. — AFP

December 21, 2020

In Finland's snowy far north, international visitors normally flood the Santa Claus Village amusement park, in search of reindeer rides, snow castles and a meeting with the jolly man himself.

Under the pandemic travel restrictions, however, crowds in the Lapland town of Rovaniemi have dwindled to just a trickle and the joyful winter wonderland feels ghostly and abandoned.

"It's been an exceptional and difficult year," Santa tells AFP from behind a plexiglass screen installed in his grotto, adding that his visitors have appreciated being able to forget a tough year and enjoy the Christmas cheer. — AFP

December 21, 2020

Canada will halt the entry of passenger flights from Britain for 72 hours from midnight Sunday, authorities announced, the latest nation to take action over a new fast-spreading strain of coronavirus in the UK.

"Given the high number of cases of a variant COVID-19 virus observed in some areas in the United Kingdom, the decision has been made to suspend entry into Canada of all commercial and private passenger flights from the United Kingdom for 72 hours," said a statement from Canadian health authorities. — AFP

December 16, 2020

Rio de Janeiro's annual New Year's Eve beach bash, already reduced in scope and format, has been canceled due to the raging coronavirus pandemic, the mayor's office said Tuesday.

What is normally a mega-party with live music, a dazzling display of fireworks and hundreds of thousands of people dancing to live music had already been drastically downsized, with the fireworks canceled and several events moved online.

Mayor Marcelo Crivella's office said in a statement that it had "opted to cancel the event out of respect for all of the victims, and to prioritize security for all."

Some 180,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Brazil, population 212 million. It is the world's second highest death toll after the United States, and virus cases are on the rise.

Rio de Janeiro has the highest ratio of COVID-19 victims of any Brazilian state. — AFP

December 15, 2020

The Philippine Coast Guard says its personnel have been enforcing health protocol on boats bringing tourists to and from Boracay, the world-famous resort island that has reopened to tourism.

The coast guard says in a social media post that travelers are reminded to wear face masks and face shields and observe physical distancing.

"Passengers and crew are also reminded to always bserve minimum health standard to ensure a safe journey during the pandemic," it also says in Filipino in its post.

December 14, 2020

New Zealand hopes to open a travel bubble with Australia by April next year and is working to finalize the necessary anti-coronavirus border measures, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday.

Ardern said New Zealand's cabinet had agreed "in principle" to open a trans-Tasman travel bubble in the first quarter of 2021 provided there are no major virus outbreaks in either country.

"It is our intention to name a date for the commencement of quarantine-free trans-Tasman travel in the new year, once remaining details are locked down," she told reporters.

New Zealand closed its borders in March and since then all international arrivals, including Australians, have been required to undergo two weeks of managed isolation.

The country has been widely praised for its strict handling of the coronavirus which has caused just 25 deaths in a population of five million. — AFP
 

December 8, 2020

The Department of Tourism reaches out to tourism workers affected by the closure of establishments or those which scaled down operations to avail of the expanded financial assistance.

This is part of the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act interventions to address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Philippine tourism.

December 2, 2020

Hotel chain OYO, multi-channel Insurtech and Insurance Company of North America enter into a partnership to provide complimentary insurance coverage to guests who book rooms to any of the partner hotels in the Philippines.

"Our partnership with OYO marks an important milestone, especially during these times of high uncertainty. As the economy braces for the new normal, travelers are more wary on how they approach every aspect of travel," Qoala CEP Harshet Lunani says in a press release.

OYO Philippines head Ankit Gupta nnotes that most consumers are still wary of travel. Their Hotel Protection insurance coverage would provide customers with protection during their stay at any one of the 300+ partner hotels in the country.

This partnership between OYO and Qoala us the fourth in Southeast Asia following similar programs in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

December 1, 2020

Hong Kong and Singapore indefinitely delay a "travel bubble" in a new blow to their hard-hit tourism and aviation industries as the Chinese city battles a coronavirus surge.

The arrangement allowing people to travel between the financial hubs without quarantining had been due to launch on November 22, but was postponed for two weeks as Hong Kong saw a sudden spike in cases. 

The delay was not just a blow to the cities, but also other countries which had been hoping the scheme might be a model to replicate during the pandemic. — AFP

November 27, 2020

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque says the Philippines will allow the entry of Filipinos’ foreign spouses and children who are traveling with them, regardless of age, starting December 7.

November 24, 2020

International air travellers will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to fly with Australia's Qantas, the airline's CEO says, adding the rule was likely to become "common" across the industry.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce says the Australian flag carrier would implement the measure once a coronavirus vaccine was made available to the public.

"We are looking at changing our terms and conditions to say for international travellers that we will ask people to have a vaccination before they can get on the aircraft," he says. — AFP

November 23, 2020

Coronavirus has wrought havoc across the world, but for Thailand's "sea gypsies" it has brought welcome respite from the threat of mass tourism.

Since the pandemic began, life has been easier for Sanan Changnam and his people — there's an abundance of fish to eat and real estate projects on their ancestral land in the tourist hotspot of Phuket have come to a standstill. 

In the turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea, connected to the surface by a slender pipe stuck in his mask — a "thread of life" allowing him to breathe — Sanan stalks fish and shellfish, spear in hand. 

A few kicks of his flippers and he skewers three groupers before rising to the surface.

With Thailand closed to foreign visitors for the past eight months, tourist boats have been stuck at the quay and fishing has been easier for the Chao Lay, or "people of the sea". — AFP 

November 21, 2020

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat visits Ilocos Sur as the province reopens to visitors, including tourists from Metro Manila. 

“We are making another big leap forward with the reopening of Ilocos Sur to tourists from the rest of Luzon. Staying true to our strategy of “slowly but surely” reopening our destinations, we have taken careful steps to ensure that the public’s health and safety continues to be the priority in this great undertaking,” says Puyat. 

November 3, 2020

Mists hung low over Machu Picchu, adding an eerie, otherworldly atmosphere as delighted tourists entered the iconic Inca citadel for the first time after eight months of lockdown due to the coronavirus.

Two couples from France and Chile were the lucky first visitors on Monday to the UNESCO World Heritage site. They were brought to the ruins by bus from the tiny Machu Picchu Pueblo village at the foot of the 2,400-meter (7,874 feet) mountain atop which the ruins sit.

"We're really happy to be here today," Frenchwoman Veronique, who declined to give her surname, told AFP.

She was left stranded in Peru with her husband and two children by the pandemic.

Peru ordered a total lockdown and closed its borders in March. It has since become one of the worst-affected countries in Latin America, with the highest mortality rate in the world, after the tiny republic of San Marino. — AFP

October 30, 2020

Few things say Rio de Janeiro like a "roda de samba" legendary jam session where musicians sit in a circle gushing out Brazil's most beloved music and a tight crowd of beer-guzzling revelers surrounds them.

But the coronavirus pandemic has forced the performers who keep this tradition alive to adapt.

"We don't sit in a circle anymore. We play on a stage in front of the audience," said Moacyr Luz, 62, founder of the Samba do Trabalhador (Worker's Samba), which held a Monday evening roda de samba (samba circle) for 15 years until the pandemic hit.

Luz, a giant of Brazilian music who is up for a Latin Grammy this year, said playing samba without a crowd was like a footballer scoring a goal without celebrating.

"It doesn't feel natural. But at least the samba is flowing. We're living in a time of transformation, so everybody has to adapt," the gray-bearded songster told AFP. — AFP

October 24, 2020

The Department of Tourism announces that the Municipal Government of El Nido will ease its travel restrictions starting October 30. 

It will allow tourists to enter the island under a test-before-travel policy. — Philstar.com/Rosette Adel

October 21, 2020

Thailand has welcomed its first group of tourists in seven months, as part of an experiment aimed at testing if a wider opening is possible as the coronavirus cripples the kingdom's economy.

A planeload of 39 Chinese tourists flew into Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport Tuesday evening from Shanghai to a welcome from staff in full protective equipment.

The visitors underwent health checks and had their luggage disinfected, before donning protective clothing themselves and being whisked away for two weeks' quarantine. — AFP

October 16, 2020

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque says the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has lifted the restriction of non-essential outbound travel of Filipinos effective Oct. 21, 2020.

The COVID-19 task force also allows Filipinos aged 15 to 65 years old to go out (previously 18-60 years old).

October 5, 2020

Singapore hopes to start "cruises to nowhere" in a bid to revive its coronavirus-hit tourism industry, but critics warned Monday against a risky move that could spark Covid-19 outbreaks.

The global cruise industry has largely ground to halt due to virus-related travel restrictions, and following a series of outbreaks on packed vessels.

But the tourism board in Singapore, a key port and transport hub in Asia, is holding talks with cruise lines on putting on voyages that depart from and return to the city-state.

Officials will put in place "appropriate measures that will enable cruises to resume in a safe manner," the board's cruise director Annie Chang told AFP. She did not say when the cruises might start. 

However Marcie Keever, oceans and vessels program director at Friends of the Earth, warned about "the potential to have Covid outbreaks" on cruise liners. — AFP

October 5, 2020

Frolibar Bautista, mayor of Malay town in Aklan, says resort island Boracay has been COVID-free because people there have been following minimum health standards.

"Kahit may turista, sinusunod ang health protocols. Talagang safe na safe ang mga tao dito," he says after Boracay was opened to domestic tourism on October 1.

He says at a Palace briefing that there are now 204 establishments that have resumed operating in Boracay and the local government has already issued 365 certificates to operate.

 

 

September 29, 2020

Singapore Airlines says it had scrapped plans for "flights to nowhere" aimed at boosting its coronavirus-hit finances after an outcry over the environmental impact.

With the aviation industry in deep crisis, several carriers -- including in Australia, Japan and Taiwan -- have been offering short flights that start and end at the same airport to raise cash.

They are designed for travel-starved people keen to fly at a time of virus-related restrictions, and have proved surprisingly popular. — AFP

September 23, 2020

Japan is considering easing strict coronavirus border restrictions from October to allow more foreign nationals to enter, local media report.

Tourists would still be banned and only longer-term visas approved, the reports say, as the nation looks to rebuild its economy and prepare for the postponed Olympics next year.

Japan currently bans entry for foreigners from most countries, but has been negotiating the gradual resumption of cross-border business travel. — AFP

Find the latest travel and tourism news from around the world amid the coronavirus pandemic. Main image by AFP/Romeo Gacad

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