A talented new school of British designers is making its mark on hotels, both in Britain and further afield. They come from backgrounds that encompass architecture, art and furniture design. Olga Polizzi, the doyenne of our group, says: “It’s like fashion, nothing comes back quitRead More »
‘The Malaysian government seems to be sinking even deeper in its disregard for human rights’
The coronavirus pandemic may have limited our travel, but it hasn’t stopped us dreaming about how we might holiday in 2021. One answer is the staycation, with camping seeing a resurgence last summer and looking set to be just as popular this year. Sales of motorhomes, caravans and campervans shot up last year and show little sign of letting up in 2021 and even if people don’t want to buy their own, there are plenty of opportunities to rent, with Cool Camping joining the ranks by launching their own range of campervans to hire. Long before coronavirus, my husband and I decided to invest in a VW campervan. With two dogs to take with us, the flexibility of his shifts as a firefighter and my ability to work anywhere with a mobile signal, it seemed the perfect way for us to holiday. In the past five years we’ve embraced ‘van life’, escaping for breaks from our home in Warwickshire to everywhere from Wales to Cornwall, the Lake District, Scotland, Norfolk and more. We’ve toured Europe, made our way through the Pyrenees, camped next to lakes in France and Switzerland, road-tripped to Tuscany and spent New Year’s Eve in a car park on the shore of Loch Lomond. At times it’s idyllic. Hitting the open road without any kind of plan, pitching up in beautiful places without a soul around, and starting a day in one place then ending it in a completely different one, taking everything with you as you go. After years of experience we’ve got everything we need in our little tin can ready to get going at a moment’s notice, as well as tried-and-tested routines that mean we can set up or pack everything away in a matter of 15 minutes or so.
January 2021 began with a conversation on Twitter I could have done without. A follower, commenting on my coverage of the ‘Verbier Midnight Express’ kept insisting skiers were narcissists for wanting to go to Switzerland for a holiday.
‘It is our intention that all crew members be vaccinated before boarding our vessels to begin their duties,’ says Norwegian Cruise Line spokesperson
No one loves wearing a mask, and plenty of us hate them, so how much longer might we expect to be lumbered with them? Professor Chris Whitty has suggested we'll still be wearing them next winter, even with the majority of the population vaccinated. Other scientists have made the case for encouraging their use during every flu season. Indeed, face coverings are commonplace in parts of Asia, having persisted even after epidemics like SARS, and not just for hygiene reasons. For some, in Japan, they are fashion statements or even social firewalls; akin to the wearing headphones on the Tube, or sunglasses inside – the ultimate ‘don’t start a conversation with me’ ploy. But some cultures lend themselves better to the customary shielding of people's faces. We asked our experts stationed across Europe and beyond to report on the general public mood surrounding masks in various countries, and how likely they might be to keep their place in society even post-pandemic. In France, no way, we're told – but in New York, just maybe... Ireland Nicola Brady In Ireland, a lot of people started wearing masks even before it was required to do so. And while there is a minimal anti-mask movement, it's incredibly rare to see a person without one on. Those who do go mask-less are very much looked upon with a sense of barely concealed disdain. As a nation, we’re quite Nordic in our sense of order. You only have to see the militant precision with which people line up at a bus stop to see how rigidly we follow the rules. But all that said, as soon as the restrictions are lifted, I’m sure those masks will be flung into a corner and forgotten about. We’re doing it because we have to, not because we want to. France Anthony Peregrine Despite its seam of anarchy, France has been remarkably disciplined, mask-wise, and generally intolerant of non-mask wearers in public places. Certainly I’ve not seen anyone not wearing a mask when I’ve been out and about in recent times. That said, if and when the pandemic lifts, I think two things will happen. Firstly, people will ditch the masks as fast as they can, on the grounds that they’re a bore to wear and a hindrance to normal conversation. But, secondly, I’ve a feeling that France will not go back to all the social kissing and hand-shaking which heretofore characterised meetings and greetings. As a French friend said: “It’s such a relief not to have to kiss and shake hands with everyone when you arrive for work, or at a social event. Just saying, ‘Hi everybody’, as the British do, saves such a lot of time, energy – and germ-spreading”. This would be a huge change in French social intercourse but, as far as I can see, it’s quite on the cards. Italy Lee Marshall There has been widespread take-up of masks in Italy. In shops, bars, restaurants, banks and public offices, non mask wearers are simply not admitted. But even outdoors, while walking the dog or just going for a stroll, 95 per cent of Italians in my experience keep them on. And there has been resentment of non mask wearing tourists. I watched a table of them, from northern Europe, being given icy looks by mask-wearing locals in a bar in the Umbrian town I live in back in August. In Positano on the Amalfi Coast I watched at least three groups of tourists, who were simply walking along the street, being stopped by a traffic warden and told to put masks on. The pandemic has confirmed what many of us already knew – that Italians are strangely law-abiding, more so than many from further north or across the Atlantic. As soon as the law on mask-wearing changes, so will their habits. I don’t honestly see many continuing to wear masks when all of this is over. Face-to-face communication is so important in Italy, they can’t wait to be rid of them.
Earlier the prime minister had called for ‘maximum possible protection against reinfection from abroad’
An international law firm has suggested that quarantine hotels could contravene our basic human rights, under the European Convention of Human Rights. The Government is considering tightening border measures, with one possibility being mandatory quarantine in hotels for all arrivals – including UK residents. Other countries, including Australia, Thailand and New Zealand, have already brought in similar measures to stop the spread of Covid-19. However, international law firm PGMBM has suggested that enforced quarantine constitutes a breach of our human rights. Article 5 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) states that everyone has the right to liberty and security of the person, except in very specific circumstances. Such circumstances include “the lawful detention of persons for the prevention of the spreading of infectious diseases.” But law firm PGMBM argues that the suggested quarantine – which would be enforced regardless of whether the person is known to have Covid-19 or not, and therefore whether they are infectious – could potentially breach Article 5 of the ECHR. Tom Goodhead, Barrister and Managing Partner of PGMBM, said: “These proposals of a blanket imposition of hotel quarantine, at travellers’ own expense, raise fundamental questions about the denial of liberty of those subjected to it. “Article 5 of the ECHR specifically states that no one shall be unduly deprived of their liberty. Whilst there is a provision that may allow the denial of that liberty to prevent the spread of infectious disease, under these proposals inbound travellers would be detained even if they did not test positive for Covid-19. “Some European states have already grappled with the issue and decided that detention of people without confirmed infection may not be covered by the provisions of Article 5. “Cabinet ministers are now debating whether to funnel people off airplanes straight into enforced quarantine without evidence that those people are carrying any variant of Covid-19. There is certainly a very credible perspective that this could amount to illegal detention, thus contravening the ECHR.” The Government's Covid-O committee is due to meet today to discuss tightening border measures, as Boris Johnson comes under increasing pressure to prevent new variants of Covid-19 entering the UK. On Monday, the Prime Minister confirmed that the hotel plans were being "actively worked on", saying: "We need a solution that gives us the maximum possible protection against reinfection from abroad." Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, and the Health Secretary Matt Hancock are understood to be pushing for a mandatory quarantine in Government-approved accommodation for all arrivals. There is a chance, however, that the Government will opt to quarantine those coming in from ‘high-risk’ destinations with known outbreaks of new variants, such as South Africa and Brazil. The cost of 14 days in a quarantine hotel for an adult is £1,692 in Australia, £1,630 in New Zealand and £642 in Thailand – three countries that have introduced the measure so far. Paul Charles, CEO of the PC Agency, said: “Such a move would destroy confidence to book and would lead to a collapse in booking revenues for airlines, tour operators and many other travel specialists. As well as a collapse in visitor numbers spending money inbound. “Boris Johnson needs to give a timeline for when they will be removed and be upfront on the economic impact on the aviation and travel sector.”
My childhood holidays to Austria were full of food, chocolate, love, fantastic scenery and fresh air. Every time we’d go, I’d always look forward to my grandmother’s fabulously rich creations that she concocted in her small kitchen. My mum is from Austria, so my parents, my younger brother and I went there every year, sometimes two or three times, from when I was very small. We would drive from the UK. At the beginning we would take a ferry but later we would go via Eurotunnel. My Austrian relatives all live up one mountain in Feldkirch in Vorarlberg. It is on the west side of Austria, bordered by Switzerland. They live in what is essentially a family compound; my aunts, uncles, great-aunt, cousins and grandmother are distributed between three houses that are next door to each other. So at Easter, we would literally hop from one house to the next, and do an Easter bunny hunt at the different houses. Feldkirch is a medieval town with cobbled streets. It has a beautiful medieval castle. Actually, they filmed one of the James Bond car chase scenes for Quantum of Solace there one year. My uncle, who is a volunteer fireman, reported that the fire brigade had to spray the cobbled streets with water to add a bit more drama! In the summer, they have lovely farmers’ markets for the local produce. We would go into town to get an ice cream and walk around. People really go to that part of Austria for the skiing, but my visits were often in the summer and we would go hiking in the mountains.
Although the UK is knee-deep in lockdown, probably for some time, there are still reasons to stay positive about travel. For those looking forward to a time when you can leave our shores again, I suggest you turn your attention to Egypt. Although it’s never been on the mothballed travel corridor list, the country has reported low levels of Covid that are still falling. Just as important, the attitude there towards travellers is noticeably different from that found in the many countries where tough lockdowns have been enacted. On landing the welcome is warm and the procedures polite and hassle-free with minimal queuing at immigration. Importantly, as I discovered when travelling there late last year, it also offers you a once in a century chance to see one of the world’s most mystical yet heavily touristed countries free from the hoards that have swarmed its iconic sites for decades. Want to experience the Pyramids all to yourself? Stay in beautiful historic 5-star hotels for a fraction of the standard price? Look no further. Stress-free travel British Airways and Egyptair are both running direct flights from London Heathrow to Cairo and Business Class flights can be found for as little as £700. My BA flight to Cairo was on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, a wide-body plane usually used on long haul routes, complete with lie-flat seats. My flight was less than half full. Egyptair is operating Boeing 777s, a good option if you want the wide-body aircraft experience and the BA 787s aren’t available. Check-in and security at both Heathrow and Cairo were a breeze, although most lounges are closed. The time from disembarking the plane in Cairo to standing outside the airport terminal was 20 minutes, which includes immigration, Covid test results check, buying a visa and collecting my luggage. A personal record. These absurd Covid-19 rules have actually made airports more civilised Ancient sites without crowds The Pyramids, the valley of the kings, Karnak, Abu Simbel and the rest of Egypt’s world-famous sites are practically deserted. I enjoyed both the temples of Abu Simbel and the Temple of Hatshepsut in Luxor quite literally to myself. There will likely never be a better opportunity to see these attractions without busloads of tourists blocking the view and vying for selfies. However, while it’s a great time for tourists, the locals are suffering terribly. Lockdowns cause devastation not just at home but abroad too in poor tourist-dependent economies. It was apparent all around from the emaciated horses pulling empty tourists carts in Luxor, to the exacerbated penury of the locals. My tour guide at the Pyramids told me I was only his second customer since April. These are difficult times and your tourist cash helps them a good deal.
Members of the pub and bar industry have weighed in on the latest news that any return to normality may be delayed by at least a further three months for the hospitality industry. According to a source familiar with the discussions, a 12 to 14 week ‘halfway house’ lockdown is potentially in the works for after Easter, delaying a full reopening of hospitality venues until all over-50s have had their second dose of the vaccine. Proposals currently being considered by government ministers would see pubs and bars allowed to open in April under similar restrictions to those in place last summer – including a return of the ‘rule of six’ and social distancing measures. Responses from those in the industry have been mixed, ranging from rampant upset to enthusiasm for anything that provides some kind of plan for reopening. A uniting thread, however, has been a call for more clarity. “It's all just very confusing, isn’t it?” said Simon Thompson, the owner of Present Company in Liverpool. “I feel the same way most hospitality venue owners feel now – we just want some clarity as to when we’ll be able to trade again. At least then there’s a way to plan for the future rather than this open-ended purgatory.” A clear strategy “What do ‘halfway house’ measures mean? How do they change the rules?” asked Mario Sandgren, who works for drinks company, Indie Brands and Camden Cocktail Academy. “We need clarity.” The news has also prompted further demands for the creation of a Minister for Hospitality, as many were dismayed to once again see the government making potential decisions about the industry without any feedback from its members. “First and foremost we want to be able to open and operate safely for our teams and for our guests,” said Anna Sebastian, the Artesian’s head bartender, “so we are happy to do whatever it takes to make sure the virus is under control and we can resume some sort of normality for everyone.” She adds: “saying that, we need a clear strategy, advance warning, all types of support from the government so we can prepare and align our businesses instead of facing more closures and redundancies as an industry.” So far, the UK government has been lacking in this regard. “We need notice,” agreed Sandgren. “This Christmas we got a couple of days. That's not good enough. The government needs to more clearly work in tandem with leaders in the sector to guide a safe transition out of lockdown and also to provide clear instructions on the implementation of rules. It seems like a lot of rules are being made for us rather than with us, and that's a problem. Hospitality is such a large part of our social interaction and we are losing it, seemingly largely over a lack of communication.” Either way, there is clamour for some kind of answer. “If it is going to last until June, so be it, but tell us now so we can plan for that,” said Thompson. “Every business owner I know feels the same to be honest. I really do not mind restrictions lasting five months, as long as we get it right and as long as we know that's how long it is going to last.”
It is estimated that between 80,000-100,000 people are still arriving into the UK every single week. Given that non-essential travel is banned, that figure might surprise you. But it illustrates just how much essential travel needs to take place to keep large parts of our economy ticking over. It also raises doubts about the feasibility of the Government’s proposal to quarantine arrivals in Covid-secure hotels over fears about new variants. Where are all these people coming from? Between January 5-12, according to data shared by analytics firm Cirium and travel consultants the PC Agency, 227 flights came to Britain from Spain, making it the largest source of arrivals during the current lockdown. More than 100 flights originated from five other countries – the Netherlands (198), the US (177), Poland (128), Romania (106) and the UAE (105) – and more than 50 flights came from Portugal (87), Italy (81), Germany (71), France (67), Qatar (62).
Ski resorts in Bulgaria are among the few in Europe that have reopened during the pandemic, but how do they compare to their Alpine cousins for a family ski holiday?
Exclusive: After Saga and the Seychelles offered paths for opening up travel, Twitter poll finds only one in three against making jabs mandatory for tourism