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International cruise given green light

Foreign Office updates advice to end cruise ban


International cruise will be able to restart as of August 2 after the Foreign Office changed advice against “cruise ship travel” that has been in place since July 2020.

A statement from the Department for Transport said: “Following the close monitoring of epidemiological evidence, gained through the restart of the domestic cruise industry earlier this year, the UK government has also confirmed the go ahead for international cruise sailings to restart from England in line with Public Health England guidance.

“International cruise travel advice will be amended to encourage travellers to understand the risks associated with cruise travel and take personal responsibility for their own safety abroad.”

Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, also confirmed the easing of quarantine restrictions for fully-vaccinated travellers from the EU and US.

An ABTA spokesperson said: “ABTA welcomes today’s announcement that international cruising can restart from England, which follows the successful operation of a number of domestic cruises around the UK over recent weeks, and we’re glad the government has produced updated guidance to assist passengers and the industry. We hope each of the devolved nations will adopt the same approach.

“It’s also good to see the government taking positive steps to open up international travel with the US and the EU, and we hope this will be the first step to reciprocal arrangements that will help the travel industry to get back on its feet.

“However, the industry is not out of the woods and there is more that needs to be done to support travel businesses through to recovery. We know the sector is facing a more gradual relaxation of restrictions than the domestic economy, and we need to see a tailored package of support measures to recognise that, including ongoing furlough and income support schemes, full business rates relief, and consideration of tailored grants schemes.

“We also need to see the government make further progress on making testing more affordable and proportionate, and we need to see more destinations added to the Green list at next week’s review. We are still seeing other countries reopen more quickly than the UK and we need to capitalise on the success of the vaccine rollout by getting our international travel industry moving again.”

Nick Stace, CEO of Saga Travel, said: “We are pleased that the government has confirmed that restrictions will lift on international cruising. The entire cruise industry has been working closely with Government to reach this point and it is a huge boost to receive the news that we will once again be able to welcome guests on non-domestic voyages.

“Ensuring the safety of our guests and crew is our number one priority and we’ve worked tirelessly to create the safest possible environment on-board our ships. Our customers have been eagerly awaiting certainty from Government so they can plan their cruises beyond UK shores and today’s news will give them the clarity they need to do that.”

Andy Harmer, Clia managing director for UK & Ireland, said: “The decision to allow the restart of international cruise is very good news for the industry. The success of this summer’s round Britain cruises has led the way.

“The cruise industry has worked intensively during the last 18 months in collaboration with the Government, health authorities, ports, and other industry bodies to develop enhanced protocols that protect guests, crew, and the destinations we visit. The industry looks forward to welcoming guests back onboard to visit international destinations.”

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Interview

Meet the tourist board: Qatar

We sat down with Qatar tourism chief operating officer, Berthold Trenkel

ABTA Magazine: What are you focusing on within tourism at the moment?
Berthold Trenkel: Our goal at Qatar Tourism and a pillar of the Qatar National Vision 2030 is to establish Qatar as a world-leading destination and welcome more than six million visitors a year by 2030. To achieve this, an extensive tourism development strategy is underway as we work to diversify and build our appeal for residents and visitors.

What should agents and travellers be aware of when planning a trip to Qatar over the next 12 months?
Qatar is a fantastic destination for every type of traveller. It is the safest and one of the most cosmopolitan destinations in the Middle East, rich in art, culture and tradition. With a range of assets including world class hotels, restaurants, stunning beaches and a bustling atmosphere, we offer the best of the Middle East all in one place.

Adventure-seekers can enjoy the thrill of dune bashing across the desert, cultural enthusiasts can explore our world-famous museums and galleries, and there is a variety of fine dining options serving local and international cuisine to suit all tastes.

What safety measures are in place in relation to Covid?
Qatar has been at the forefront of implementing world-leading health and safety measures. Last year Qatar Tourism launched the “Qatar Clean” programme, in partnership with Ministry of Public Health (MOPH), in all hotels and sectors. This June all Qatar Tourism licensed hotels were certified ‘Qatar Clean’, meaning they carry the highest standards of hygiene and cleanliness with rigorous procedures in place.

Passengers arriving at Hamad International Airport (HIA) undergo thermal screening and temperature checks. HIA was the first airport in the Middle East and Asia to be awarded a 5-Star Covid-19 Airport Safety Rating by Skytrax, following an on-site audit.

What can agents expect to see from Qatar ahead of the World Cup? And what else can you tell us?
Qatar re-opened its borders to fully vaccinated travellers on July 12, 2021 with vaccines that are approved for use by the Ministry of Public Health in Qatar. The new arrangements enable fully vaccinated people to bypass quarantine when returning to Qatar but all visitors – vaccinated or non-vaccinated – are required to undertake a PCR test up to 72 hours prior to travel. With over 80 countries on our visa-free list, Qatar is one of the easiest destinations to visit.

Qatar is constantly evolving to ensure visitors have a seamless and unforgettable trip. With a host of new hotels and hotel apartments, activities and attractions, travellers will discover the country’s unique blend of Middle Eastern contemporary luxury and authentic tradition.

Currently there are over 100 hotels and hotel apartments in Qatar’s construction pipeline on top of an existing 184+ properties. The country is also evolving its transport facilities including the Metro and taxis that make getting to and around Qatar, easy, safe and convenient.

In advance of the FIFA World Cup 2022, Qatar has invested in exceptional sports stadiums and facilities such as the new Education City Stadium and Al Rayyan Stadium. The longest distance between stadiums is 75km by road, meaning fans will be able to attend more than one match a day and stay in the same accommodation throughout.

Large fan zones will offer a wide variety of food and beverages and will be situated in locations around the country, including a dedicated fan zone opening as part of the new West Bay North Beach project.

What are your plans for trade engagement?
We have recently appointed a new international markets team to cover 20 key markets, including the UK. This will enhance our communication with visitors, tour operators and online travel agencies.

We have been working closely with the UK travel trade and Qatar Airways to promote Qatar as a must-visit destination. In the short term, we’ve been working on product development and agent-training initiatives to ensure Qatar is front of mind. And now borders are re-open we’ll be launching a flurry of FAM trips – inviting key partners from various European countries.