"There are no tourists in Thailand, which elephant tourism relies on to feed elephants at camps and sanctuaries. A high percentage of the elephants are going hungry, many are chained most of the day, with some camps on the verge of closure," said Louise Rogerson, the Project Director at Tree Tops Elephant Reserve in Phuket. On a regular day, Tree Tops would welcome about 40 visitors a day, each spending £70 to enjoy a hands-off ethically-led experience with elephants rescued from riding camps and the illegal logging industry. But with Thailand's borders closed since 25 March and the tourist tap turned off, funds have dried up. "It is very worrying for us here at Tree Tops with seven elephants to feed and mahout salaries to pay. We need 200,000 (£5000) just to feed our seven elephants each month," says Rogerson. Veterinary costs would come on top of that. Previously working in fashion, Rogerson has launched a series of fundraising initiatives including opening an online clothes store, wildandgrey.com, and collaborating on graffiti elephant designs with artist and musician Goldie, who lives in Phuket. Tree Tops is one of a small number of ethical camps in Thailand but for every do-gooder there are dozens of less scrupulous elephant riding camps, where the situation is far bleaker. As their businesses fold, elephants are being sold into the black market or, if the elephants are lucky, taken to rescue organisations which still have some funds. But, with between 2,500 and 4,000 captive elephants in Thailand even the largest charities are going to struggle to care for more elephants than they already have. "The future seems to be very uncertain,' said Rogerson. "The reality is that tourism won’t return to the way it was for a long time. We were hoping that tourists would be coming back in time for Christmas, but this doesn’t seem likely. We just have to sit this out and do the very best we can to care for our elephants and fund ourselves until a new normal is established." To make a donation to Tree Tops visit treetopselephantreserve.com. Elsewhere, The World Elephant Foundation has launched a 'Help the Starving Elephants' campaign to support elephants across South East Asia.
Viking Cruises have cancelled all voyages for the rest of 2020 as the cruise industry continues to find its restart a challenge.
‘It’s known as the ecology of fear,” Our guide, Laurie, grins. “The sense something might leap out from behind a tree and eat you.” In truth, I’m not expecting a lion or a leopard to leap out in front of me, but I am enjoying the frisson of walking through an emerging wilderness that just 20 years ago was a monoculture of grain fields and dairy herds.
You can always rely on Ernest Hemingway for a travel reference. Especially in difficult times. In his 1929 book A Farewell To Arms – loosely based on his own experiences as an ambulance driver on the Alpine Front in 1918 – the American novelist has his protagonist Frederic Henry flee military police and charges of desertion by rowing his pregnant girlfriend Catherine up the middle of Lake Maggiore in the night – swapping wanted status in Italy for safety in Switzerland.
Silver linings have become familiar commodities in this strangest of years – straws that we are all happy to clutch as normality falls apart around us. They have appeared in the middle of clouds of various sizes – as the fall in air pollution that (initially) accompanied lockdown; in the enforced extra time with families and children as Covid raged; in the commuting-free hours suddenly available for Netflix binges. True, the rainy skies are still above us, but when life gives you lemons – as the cliche goes – you construct an elaborate metaphor about owning a citrus garden in Tuscany, and spend the afternoon daydreaming.
I went to an all-night party on Botany Bay a couple of summers ago, when such things were still allowed. Despite it being the good sort of party where everyone cleaned up at the end, it proved that I’m not the all-night type – I skipped off home before midnight as the tide was coming up and our little cove would be cut off from the outside world until dawn.
Tour operators are reporting a huge demand for gap year travel despite the coronavirus closing international borders and bringing existing trips to an abrupt halt. With A-level results released today, operators report that – rather than being put off travelling – students are pursuing potential projects while keeping an open mind about which country they may end up in.
Wizz Air is launching a new base in Doncaster Sheffield Airport and seven additional destinations, including Spain and Portugal, as demand has proved ‘extremely strong’ despite the pandemic. Speaking exclusively to Telegraph Travel, Owain Jones, managing director of Wizz Air UK said that since being the first carrier in Europe to relaunch flights post-lockdown, its routes to Spain and Portugal have proved “a runaway success”. After the Foreign Office (FCO) dropped Spain from its ‘green list’ of quarantine-exempt countries, demand did go down, Jones says, but it still continues to maintain fairly steady numbers for trips to the country. Wizz Air plans to fly at 80 per cent capacity by the end of the year; a higher number than any other European airline has announced. The Hungarian-owned airline has switched its focus chiefly to the Greek islands as Britons flock there due to low numbers of local infections. Its first direct service to Santorini took off this week and the flight was close to full. Bookings to Greece have been “extremely strong,” Jones confirms. Not that trips to the country have been without problems. As we’ve reported, Greece’s requirement that passengers submit a PLF (passenger landing form) and obtain a QR code at least 24 hours before travel hasn’t been reaching all customers, leading to some being turned away from boarding. “One of the challenges has been the completely unjoined up approach we’re seeing to policy across Europe,” Jones states, adding that Wizz Air customers are warned about Greece’s requirement five and three days before travel. With the creation of a new base at Doncaster Sheffield Airport, Wizz Air will launch new connections for October half term to destinations including the Spanish cities of Alicante and Malaga, Larnaca in Cyprus, Faro in Portugal, Lublin in Poland, Kosice in Slovakia and Suceava in Romania – with one-way fares starting at £17.99. The airline will allocate one Airbus A320 aircraft to the Yorkshire airport, and increase the annual capacity by 150,000 seats to more than one million. “The creation of our second base in the UK is a major milestone for Wizz Air UK, and testament to both our long term commitment to serving the UK market and the strength of the Wizz Air business model, as we continue to expand our footprint during this challenging time for the industry,” Jones said today. Robert Hough, Chairman of Doncaster Sheffield Airport states: “With strong performance there is now a real possibility for the base to grow from one aircraft initially to a multi aircraft base further broadening the range of routes available. “There is no doubt that the aviation sector faces its greatest challenge in modern day history at this time. It is essential that the UK Government acknowledges and supports airlines and airports that bring much needed investment into the UK economy. Doncaster Sheffield Airport contributes over £60 million to the Sheffield city region and offers job security for thousands of people.”
The plan was simple. Ten Bordeaux châteaux, three days and two nights: tasting wine on the premises. All this was pre-lockdown, of course. In wine there is truth. But there are other things as well.
New Zealand recorded its first four community-transmitted cases of Covid-19 for 102 days on Tuesday. In response, it locked down the city of Auckland (where the cases where detected) and placed the rest of the country under tighter restrictions.
The economic catastrophe unleashed by lockdown came into sharp focus today as it was revealed that the UK is officially in the largest recession on record. One of the hardest hit sectors is, of course, the tourism industry and many UK attractions are facing an uncertain future after three-month closures were followed by tepid reopenings.
Returning from Spain to the United Kingdom was very strange. Having written in these pages about the idiosyncrasies of the Spanish reaction to the coronavirus, I was reminded that the British are peculiar in their own, distinct way.
Normally, August on a popular Devonshire beach would be my idea of hell – shoulder to sunburnt shoulder with loud families, frazzled kids demanding endless Mr Whippys and overcooked Nanas complaining about the heat – but this year, like for many for British seaside resorts, it’s a whole different kettle of fish. Last weekend, I swapped the pebbled beaches of my hometown of Brighton for the sandy shores of Torquay on the English Riviera.
Somewhere along the line, “out of season” came to be seen as a negative notion. It is a phrase loaded with imagery – of empty hotels; chairs stacked on restaurant tables; a sleepiness that has gone beyond snoozing in the sun, to a state bordering on the comatose.
For the vast majority of human history, tourism didn’t exist. Only in the last half a century or so, since the rise of the middle class and since aviation has joined almost every dot on the map across the planet, has leisure travel become the industry giant it is today.
Gill Charlton helps a reader with a query about Covid cover on his travel insurance policy Kevin Powell writes In May we renewed our annual travel insurance with Staysure. The new policy document says that there is no cover for Covid-19 under any section of the policy. This is of great concern to us as we have several trips already booked including a cruise visiting several South American countries. I can understand why there would be no cancellation cover in the future due to the uncertain nature of further outbreaks. But a real concern would be the costs associated with getting Covid-19 abroad or being forced into quarantine. As well as any medical treatment, it appears that we are responsible for all additional costs associated with self-isolating and repatriation to the UK. And what happens if we are not allowed to board the flight in the first place due to an elevated temperature which could have many causes? Gill Charlton replies Since you wrote in, Staysure has confirmed that all its travel insurance policies will provide cover for emergency medical treatment and repatriation if a customer is infected with the virus abroad. However, there is no cover for holiday cancellation (unless the trip was booked before March 13). This enhanced cover applies to all active policies and is only valid for countries listed as safe to visit by the Government. As we start to travel again, insurers and their underwriters are looking at ways of covering Covid-19. CoverForYou (020 3137 8981; coverforyou.com), whose policies are underwritten by insurance giant Axa, is one of the few insurers to offer Covid-19 cancellation cover as well as medical and repatriation cover. All of its policies now include cancellation cover if you fall ill with Covid-19, or if you have to self-isolate, or if you are not allowed to board a flight due to detected Covid symptoms. But there is no cover if you have to cancel due to the reimposition of Government restrictions because of Covid-19 unless you are already on holiday and are required to return home. If you contract coronavirus abroad, the insurer will pay for medical treatment, the additional costs of quarantine or an extended stay, and repatriation. Options include cover for scheduled airline and supplier failure. An annual worldwide Silver policy for someone aged 60 with no pre-existing conditions is good value at £60 with zero excess. Trailfinders (020 7084 6510; trailfinders.com) and Coverwise (01903 255650; coverwise.co.uk) offer similar levels of Covid-19 cover. Nationwide is the only bank offering any kind of Covid-19 cover. Its FlexPlus current account is also unique in providing insurance if you have to cancel a holiday due to a change in Government travel advice as happened when quarantine measures were imposed after visits to Spain last month. Note that, if you have an annual policy which is due for renewal, you should still be covered for coronavirus-related claims (including cancellation) on any holiday that was booked prior to March 13 – if you renew with the same insurer. This won’t be the case if you change to a new insurer.
Holidaymakers travelling with British Airways could be offered pre-flight Covid-19 tests, the airline has confirmed. Britain’s flagship carrier is contending with the global slump in air travel demand, which is not expected to rebound to pre-Covid levels until 2024. More than 6,000 BA staff have accepted voluntary redundancy and thousands more could face compulsory layoffs. The UK’s introduction of a blanket 14-day quarantine for arrivals on June 8 further hampered demand and, while the creation of travel corridors has made some international trips more feasible, there are just 26 countries which Britons can travel to without restriction. Many destinations that have reopened to tourism require visitors to present a negative Covid test on arrival, often at the traveller’s cost, and by providing customers with the option of a Covid test through a third party – Boots has been mooted – BA could boost passenger numbers. Dubai, for example, requires passengers produce evidence of a negative test on arrival. “We are currently discussing the possibility of helping our customers access pre-flight testing through third parties if their destination requires this, but no plans have been finalised. We will share more in due course,” said a BA spokesperson. “We are doing everything we can to make travel as safe and stress-free as possible for our customers in these unprecedented times,” they added. Emirates claimed to be the world’s first airline to offer pre-flight Covid tests back in April. The Dubai state-owned carrier worked with the Dubai health authority to run tests with results delivered in 10 minutes. Both Emirates and Etihad have since made pre-flight Covid tests mandatory for every passenger; BA does not plan to follow suit. “British Airways is not making pre-flight testing mandatory for all customers,” it said. A possible partnership with Boots was reported by the God Save the Points website. “Sources within British Airways, with direct knowledge of the matter, suggest British Airways will partner with Boots Pharmacy to offer Covid-19 testing at a considerable number of UK locations for both passengers and crew,” it claimed. As it stands, Britons who have symptoms can get a free Covid test through the NHS. Those without symptoms who are due to travel – and with many destinations requiring a negative test taken fewer than 72 hours of arrival, time is of the essence – there are online and in-clinic testing options. However, these can be pricey; The Private Harley Street Clinic in London, for example, offers tests for £250. The British Government has yet to approve Covid testing as an alternative to quarantine. “It’s not the case that you can simply test somebody and be sure that they don’t have the disease. It can incubate over a period of time so there’s not a silver bullet of just testing immediately at the border,” said culture secretary Oliver Dowden.
Travel insurance has never been more important. The global lockdown left millions of holiday plans in tatters, while ongoing uncertainty about the virus, along with the prospect of having your destination removed from the UK quarantine-free list, remain major issues.
After four months of living under virtual house arrest in Acton, I desperately needed a break. I know the lockdown is tough on everyone, but it’s particularly difficult to endure if you think it’s a catastrophic mistake. Since the beginning of April I’ve been running a blog called LockdownSceptics.org, pumping out daily reminders of the harm the lockdown is doing, whether to schoolchildren, cancer patients or elderly care home residents. Not that it makes any impact on public opinion. It’s as if the entire world is suffering from ‘psychotic delirium’, to use the phrase of Bernard Henry-Levi, the French philosopher.
I’ve lived in Margate for four summers, and every year, Margate Pride has grown bigger, brighter and bolder. In August 2019, 9,500 people attended this arts-led event, with 192 artists performing at 26 different events, culminating in former Spice Girl Mel C’s performance at Dreamland, our revamped amusement park. Many of us who’d watched this LGBTQIA+ parade grow over the years from fairly humble beginnings were moved to tears by the numbers of businesses displaying rainbow flags or Pride artwork in their windows, the local families that turned out to line the streets cheering and clapping each passing float parading the promenade, and the turnout by older people living in the sheltered housing and residential care homes in Cliftonville.
Savvy British holidaymakers should swap contemporary consumerism for Victorian romance. Chris Moss reports from two resorts having very different coronavirus seasons
Never mind the two-metre rule, how does 500 sound for adequate social distancing? That’s how far you are from another soul when you bed down for the night inside Norfolk’s Appleton Water Tower. Discount the tiny village of West Newton and your nearest neighbour might even be the Queen.