October 2021

American dreams

October 2021
Editor’s letter

Travelling in the right direction

Welcome to the October issue of ABTA Magazine. Two recent changes – the end of the traffic light system and the opening of the US – have provided a much needed and long overdue boost for the travel industry.

As ABTA’s Mark Tanzer said, these measures represent a step in the right direction, but it “will not in itself be enough to undo two years of damage to the overseas travel industry, caused as a direct result of government policies. Targeted financial support for travel agents and tour operators is the only way to make good this damage and stem further job losses following on from the nearly 100,000 jobs which have already been lost in the outbound travel sector”.

In this issue, we reveal the most beautiful gardens in Japan, look at the US destinations we can’t wait to return to and head off on a whirlwind tour of Malta. We hope you enjoy reading.

Contact

Get in touch with the team

ABTA Magazine is produced by Waterfront Publishing on behalf of ABTA, The Travel Association.


Contacts

Editorial
Anthony Pearce, director
anthony@waterfront-publishing.com

info@abtamag.com
020 3865 9360

Design
DJMWeb, The Studio

Sub-editors
Nathaniel Cramp, Emily Eastman

Sales and partnerships

Sam Ballard, director
sam@waterfront-publishing.com

Bryan Johnson, senior sales manager
bryan@waterfront-publishing.com
0203 865 9338
075 3270 9734


About ABTA

Waterfront Publishing is an independent publisher based in central London. It has an in-house magazines, Cruise Adviser, which is aimed at the travel trade. It has also produced magazines on behalf of ABTATravelzoo; and Emerald Waterways. Its design agency The Studio by Waterfront offers copywriting, proofreading and design for print, digital, advertising and branding.

Get in touch

Waterfront Publishing
Hop Exchange,
Southwark Street,
London, SE1 1TY
info@waterfront-publishing.com
020 3865 9360
News

ABTA welcomes lifting of US ban

The White House has announced the easing of restrictions for fully-vaccinated travellers from the UK from November


ABTA has welcomed the lifting of the US ban on double-jabbed UK travellers from November, hailing the move “great news for holidaymakers”.

The White House has announced an easing of restrictions for passengers from UK and most European Union countries that has been in place since March last year.

The travel restrictions were lifted after lobbying from Brussels and London.

From early November, Brits visiting the US will need to show full proof of vaccination before boarding a flight, and provide proof of a negative Covid test taken within three days of departure. Children not yet eligible to be vaccinated will be exempt from the rules.

Fully-vaccinated visitors will not need to quarantine on arrival.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “I’m delighted I can confirm vaccinated Brits can travel into the US from early November, recriprocating policy we introduced in the summer.”

He added: “The past 18 months has been hugely frustrating for anyone wanting to travel abroad. In 2020, our only weapon we had to fight spread of Covid was to keep people apart. However, this year we’ve seen significant progress.”

ABTA hailed the move as “great news for holidaymakers, business travellers and those who have been separated from friends and family for so long”.

A spokesperson added: “The USA is by far our most popular long-haul destination and in a normal year attracts almost five million visitors from the UK.

“The announcement will come in time to allow people to, among other things, take the ever-popular Christmas shopping trips to New York and is a very welcome boost for the winter sports market whose customers love the country’s high quality ski resorts.”

Prime minister Boris Johnson hailed the news as “a fantastic boost for business and trade”.

More

Read the ABTA Magazine Guide to Greece

Cruise operations to return to 80% by end of 2021

By Anthony Pearce
Most of the cruise industry’s 220 ocean-going ships will be back in service by the end of December

  Scroll for more

Most of the cruise industry’s 220 ocean-going ships will be back in service by the end of December


The cruise industry has announced that worldwide operations will return to 80 per cent by the end of the year

Out of the cruise industry’s 220 ocean-going ships, many of these are projected to return to service with passengers by the end of December 2021.

MSC Cruises’ executive chairman and global chair of CLIA Pierfrancesco Vago said 16 per cent of the sector was operating in June, and operations are currently at 56 per cent, with a projected 80 per cent before the end of the year.

Speaking at the Seatrade Cruise Global conference in Miami – and also online – Vago told delegates that 30 million passengers were carried annually throughout the industry before the global pandemic, with services resuming from summer 2020, carrying two million customers.

“The future is bright for all of us here, we have emerged as one of the world’s safest holidays,” Vago said, noting the industry’s global work to introduce strict health and safety protocols.

With unsteady vaccination programmes in the southern hemisphere, however, Vago said bookings for winter aren’t as strong as usual: “Spring 2022 bookings are coming back and 2023 is better; stronger volumes are coming in.”

Royal Caribbean Group’s chairman and chief executive, Richard Fain, has said he expects the company to be running at 100 per cent by the end of the year within its core markets, adding that it’s “very important to get the fly-wheel going” and get cruises booked in for peak periods. “We need that period of stability; getting more ships operating is a good way to do that. Also, word of mouth is important; people are coming back from these cruises and raving about them.”

Also on the panel was Arnold Donald, president and chief executive of Carnival Corporation. Donald said the industry was heading towards a “brighter future” but that we should expect “potholes and detours” along the way.

The panelists agreed that customer satisfaction was higher than ever since the introduction of health and safety protocols, with some measures set to remain after the pandemic.

Environmental credits was a key issue raised by the panelists, a topic recently raised by MSC, who have pledged to reach net zero emissions by 2050. CLIA’s Vago said: “We have not lost sight of the need to press forward in the area of sustainability.”

During the discussion, the panel also welcomed the arrival of Virgin Voyages, which launched in Summer 2021.

News

More speakers revealed for Travel Convention

New additions to the hybrid event include Julia Simpson, the new president and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council


ABTA has unveiled the latest line-up of expert speakers for this year’s hybrid Travel Convention on Wednesday October 13.

New additions include Manuel Butler, director of the Spanish Tourist Office in the UK, who will discuss how destinations can rebuild following the impact of the pandemic, and how Spain is leading the way in adapting to changing consumer behaviour.

Also announced is Julia Simpson, who took up her new role as president and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council last month. Simpson will address delegates on the importance of strong leadership as the travel and tourism sectors emerge from the Covid-19 crisis.

MD of Intrepid Travel, Zina Bencheikh, and vice president EMEA at Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ben Bouldin, will join a panel discussion exploring how the industry can place sustainability at the heart of its recovery.

These four new speakers join a list of travel industry big hitters and senior figures from the wider business world, including:

  • Zina Bencheikh, managing director, Intrepid Travel
  • Ben Bouldin, vice president EMEA at Royal Caribbean Cruises and Chair, CLIA UK & Ireland
  • Manuel Butler, director, Spanish Tourist Office
  • Richard Carret, vice president Alliance development & communications, Star Alliance
  • Mark Colley, managing director, Sunways
  • Susan Deer, director of industry relations, ABTA
  • Graham Hales, brand and marketing expert
  • Suzanne Horner, chair of the Business Travel Association and CEO, Grey Dawes Travel
  • Lucy Huxley, editor in chief, Travel Weekly Group
  • Rachel Johnson, journalist and broadcaster
  • Ailsa Pollard, CEO, dnata Travel Group (UK & Europe)
  • Tom Johnson, managing director, Trajectory
  • Alistair Rowland, ABTA chair and CEO, Blue Bay Travel
  • Julia Simpson, president and CEO, World Travel & Tourism Council
  • Andrew Swaffield, CCO for the Virgin Group & CEO for Virgin Red
  • Mark Tanzer, chief executive, ABTA
  • Brian Young, managing director, EMEA, G Adventures
  • Mohsin Zaidi, author of A Dutiful Boy
  • Moderator: Chris Ship, royal editor, ITV News

The conference’s theme is ‘Leading the Way – envisaging and inspiring in extraordinary times’.

Topics on the agenda in this year’s keynote speeches, business sessions and panel discussions include how innovations in the world of travel are set to shape the industry, what the future holds for business travel, and how we can adopt new ways of working to build better and fairer organisations.

This year’s Travel Convention is offering delegates the option to attend either in-person at East Wintergarden in London’s Canary Wharf or online via a customised digital platform.

Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive of ABTA – The Travel Association said: “As the travel industry’s flagship event, the Travel Convention always brings together an esteemed list of speakers to debate the most pressing issues facing the travel sector – and this year’s event is no exception.”

News

ABTA launches series of autumn events

Hybrid events, virtual training days and free webinars will be available through ABTA this autumn


ABTA has launched an events schedule for this autumn for the travel industry and its members.

The events are designed to aid travel businesses, large and small, to stay in-the-know on important industry issues, give insights on recovery strategy and provide quality service to customers.

Members and partners will be able to ‘attend’ the events at a reduced rate, while the schedule remains open for the whole travel industry.

To mark the launch of the autumn schedule, ABTA is offering a 10 per cent discount on bookings made until October 8, using code ABTAAUTUMN21 when booking.

Eve Coburn, ABTA’s head of events, said: “We’re offering events on topics that have been in demand, from marketing and finance, to travel law and health and safety, presented by high calibre speakers and experts. We’re pleased to also be offering hybrid events, giving people the choice to attend in person – offering a much missed opportunity to network with industry colleagues – or to attend online. I look forward to seeing you face-to-face or virtually.”

The hybrid events offer participants a choice to attend in person at a central London venue, or to watch the live content virtually through a custom-built platform.

In November, there will be two events taking place in this format, the Travel Trends conference on November 24 and the Travel Regulations Conference on November 30. The former will give participants up-to-date insights on key sector trends, popular destinations, customer sentiments and marketing strategies. The latter will explore practical lessons learnt from the global pandemic, what the industry can expect from new major regulations and what this could mean for travel business.

Virtual training days, meanwhile, will focus on: Travel VAT Training, October 19; Introduction to Health and Safety Risk Management and Auditing for Travel, October 21; and Consumer Law in the Marketing and Selling of Holidays, December 8.

The business resilience webinars will be free to attend for ABTA Members and Partners. Upcoming webinars in this series include: Decarbonising Tourism in November; and Accessible Travel Tourism in December, with more to be announced shortly.

ABTA has produced new guidance to help members understand the role of merchant acquirers and their approach to risk in our industry and assist members with liaising with merchant acquirers on topics including chargebacks and requests for additional security.

The new webpage is available in the Member Zone in the Running Your Business area. See more here.

ABTA

Ask the experts

Have a burning question you can’t find the answer to? Be it travel trends, a regulatory riddle or destination dilemmas, send us your query for an expert response


Last month’s announcement of the simplification of the traffic light scheme and taking more countries off the red list was great news for the industry and I’m now getting a lot more booking enquiries. However, I’m still a bit unsure of what advice to give customers, particularly those with children. Could you tell me what I need to know to book help them book with confidence and where I should look for the most accurate and up to date information?

It is good to see that the changes introduced to the traffic light system on October 4 are encouraging bookings. We understand that it can still be a difficult process to navigate and provide guidance to customers and know that being able to offer support to ensure they meet any travel requirements in place will enable them to prepare in advance for their well-earned holiday and book and travel with confidence.

Although it often receives the most attention, it is worth remembering that the traffic light system only determines the rules for entry back into the UK and solely focuses on Covid-19 tests and quarantine requirements that may be needed for this purpose. Alongside this advice, as was the case before the pandemic, it is also important to check the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) country travel advice.

We always recommend checking the FCDO travel advice as a starting point to see if there is any advice against travel to a destination and whether there are any other restrictions on entry, including vaccination and Covid-19 testing requirements. As well as entry restrictions, this is also the place to check what other mandatory requirements are in place in a destination such as wearing face coverings or providing proof of vaccination or a negative test result when accessing restaurants or other public places. Rules for children are often different and vary by country, you will find details of any specific requirements here.

Once you have shared this information with your customer, checking the traffic light rules that apply on their return to England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland will provide additional details for vaccinated and non-vaccinated travellers on any testing and quarantine requirements as well as completing Passenger Locator Forms. A great place to find out more information is the #ReadySteadyTravel hub on ABTA.com which features up-to-date information for customers including what you need to know about foreign travel from October along with a wealth of other useful information such as travel blogs and top tips.

Heather Pennock, Destinations Manager – Health, Safety, Crisis & Operations

ABTA

Meet the team

Each issue, we’ll be introducing you to a member of the ABTA team. This time, it’s Eve Coburn, head of Events


 

I joined the events team at ABTA in February 2017. At that point we were a team of six and were running approx. 30 events across the year in addition to ABTA’s flagship Travel Convention. Skip forward to February 2020, just before the pandemic hit, and we were on track to run over double the amount of events and with a team of nine.

It has been amazing to watch the events programme develop and evolve over the past four years as demand from members increased and we ran practical seminars and conferences alongside new initiatives, new regulation and policy. I don’t think anyone will forget when GDPR came in!

I joined ABTA having taken six months to travel around the world and with international event experience working for a publishing company specialising in central banks and monetary policy. Prior to that I lived in Amsterdam, so it is fair to say I have always loved travel.

My role at ABTA is to lead the events team and manage our portfolio of conferences and events. ABTA offers a varied and high quality events programme, designed to keep the travel industry up to date on important, business critical issues, with practical guidance and training. It has been a strange period since the pandemic hit and I am very proud of how the team has adapted and worked throughout, alongside other departments, to provide support for members. From the beginning the team pulled together to react to the needs of members via a new weekly webinar series in collaboration with ABTA’s partners to provide free support. Our first webinar took place at the beginning of April 2020 and they are still going strong. We have also been organising bi-weekly member conference calls that I moderate.

One of the most exciting aspects of my job, and something I am really looking forward to, is regrowing the events schedule as we recover from the pandemic. Having consulted with members, we have just launched our autumn events series and I am pleased to say we are now offering virtual training days and hybrid conferences – giving delegates the flexibility to attend in person or virtually. Another important aspect of my job at the moment is to ensure that we balance everyone’s needs with changing circumstances and concerns. I am looking forward to bringing people together, but I am also conscious of ensuring maximum value for those who are unable to travel at the moment. The team have therefore put a lot of work into not only the content we offer, but also the new formats and platforms. We have worked closely with other ABTA departments, including the partnership team, and have just launched two hybrid conferences that I am particularly excited about, firstly the Travel Trends Conference on November 24 and, secondly, the Travel Regulations Conference on November 30.

ABTA is uniquely positioned to offer support and guidance in a number of areas: from complaints handling and crisis management to marketing techniques and regulatory and financial matters. We will be offering practical training days on a variety of topics and will be continually launching these throughout the year.

Never has there been a more important time for members to come together at our events, hear updates from peers in the industry and get practical guidance and questions answered from ABTA and industry experts. I am continually grateful for the feedback we receive from members and their willingness to speak and share their experiences.

We will soon begin work on our largest 2022 events, the two-day travel law, travel finance and travel marketing conferences, as well as Travel Matters, which brings together industry leaders to discuss the most pressing issues facing the industry.

ABTA’s virtual conferences, training and webinars

ABTA offers a high quality and diverse events programme designed to offer practical guidance for travel businesses of all sizes to stay up-to-date on the most important issues.

In the current climate, we are pleased to offer a range of events and formats. From free webinars for ABTA members and partners, to practical training days online, and hybrid conferences which give you the flexibility to attend virtually or in person.

Visit abta.com/abtaevents to find out more and register.

Get 10 per cent off all places booked using the code ABTAAUTUMN21. The discount will expire at midnight on October 8.


 

NEW Hybrid Conferences

ABTA’s one-day hybrid conferences give you the choice to attend in-person, joining industry peers at a central London venue, or to tune in to the live content virtually through a custom platform.

Travel Trends

November 24
10:00-17:00

ABTA’s new Travel Trends conference will provide insight on the latest industry and product trends, popular destinations, customer sentiment and marketing strategies to support the continued resurgence of your travel business. Get specific insight on luxury, cruise, youth and over 50s travel, explore changes in consumer behaviour and learn how to adapt your marketing strategies to build trust among consumers. Find out more

The Travel Regulations Conference

November 30
10:00-16:00

ABTA’s practical one-day conference will consider the impact that industry regulations have on your business model. With the ATOL reform consultation underway, explore what the future of financial protection could hold for travel businesses and how to prepare for possible changes. Consider the impacts of FCDO and other advice on the PTRs, and get practical advice on chargebacks; supplier risk management; refunds and cancellations; and customer information obligations. Hear the latest case law update and the impact on tour operator liabilities. Find out more


 

Virtual training days

ABTA’s virtual training days offer practical guidance in key areas for travel businesses of all sizes on a range of topics. ABTA members and partners benefit from discounted rates.

Travel VAT Training

October 19
10:00-15:00

This virtual training day offers practical guidance on VAT in travel and a comprehensive update on travel VAT post-Brexit, including changes to TOMS. Understand the potential VAT registration requirements in the member states, learn about the EU VAT reform, the One-Stop-Shop EU VAT return and EU commerce package OSS. Benefit from interactive sessions and put your questions to tax experts. Find out more

Introduction to Health and Safety Risk Management and Auditing for Travel

October 21
10:00-16:00

This virtual training day will give practical guidance on supplier health and safety risk assessments and auditing. Understand how to carry out risk assessments of the products and services you offer and how to effectively manage the auditing process across accommodation, transportation and excursions. Find out more

Consumer Law in the Marketing and Selling of Holidays

December 8
10:00-15:30

ABTA’s updated virtual training provides practical guidance for travel businesses on the latest consumer protection legislation surrounding the marketing and selling of holidays. Understand the existing regulations – what the law says, how it applies to the travel industry and examples of compliant selling and marketing practices, as well as advice for a post-pandemic industry. Find out more


 

Free webinars

ABTA’s business resilience webinars are free for ABTA members and partners, providing practical guidance for travel businesses to navigate the challenges of Covid-19 and beyond. More webinars will be announced shortly, upcoming webinars include:

Decarbonising Tourism

November 11
10:30-12:30

ABTA’s new webinar will showcase action across the industry to transition towards net zero. Hear a summary of key implications of COP26 for travel businesses and listen to discussion around innovation in tour operator business models. Discover how tour operators can set and meet science-based carbon targets with examples from hotels, aviation, ground transport and tourist destinations. Find out more

Accessible Travel and Tourism

December 1
10:30-12:00

Hear from experts on topics spanning your legal responsibilities, providing clear information about the accessibility of your products, inclusive customer service and marketing accessible travel. Learn how to incorporate inclusivity into your business and product offering in order to broaden your target markets. Find out more

Paid partnership

Why Canada should be top of your 2022 to-do list

The world’s second biggest country is increasingly in demand and Destination Canada are freshening up their agent programme ahead of a very big year


Ah, Canada. The land of bucket list adventures – from the northern lights to awe-inspiring scenery and natural wonders of the world, not forgetting its buzzing, culture-rich cities. In 2022, extra special holidays are going to be in big demand – and Canada offers unforgettable experiences for intrepid solo travellers and family groups alike.

With demand growing for this dream getaway, Destination Canada are making it easier than ever for travel agents to equip themselves with all of the latest info for their clients with the relaunch of their Canada Specialist Programme (you can find out more at the bottom of this article).

Here are just some of the reasons Canada should be on travellers’ must-visit lists for the coming year.

It’s one of the least crowded places on the planet
If post-pandemic times have made you value your personal space more than ever before, Canada is literally the perfect place with just four people per square kilometre (source: Statista) versus a staggering 432 in England. A trip here guarantees you loads of room to roam. 

It’s perfect for an epic road trip
Knocking the neighbouring USA into third place in the world’s biggest countries stakes, its sheer vastness makes for an unbeatable off the beaten track road trip. Whether you’re exploring its snaking coastal routes, or checking out wildlife in its national parks, all roads lead around Canada next year.

It’s an animal lover’s paradise
Out in Canada’s endless wilderness, you can get up close and personal with everything from polar and grizzly bears (not too close, mind) to orca whales.

It’s ideal for adrenaline junkies
Biking, hiking, kayaking, canoeing, skiing, snowboarding, surfing, white river rafting – whatever activity gets your pulse racing, you can find a world-class version of it here.

You can go from city to scenic spot in no time at all
One of the beauties of Canada is that you can be soaking up music and culture in one of its lively cities one moment and hiking hills or lakes within an hour or two.

It has a bucket list experience for every season
From the northern lights to Niagara Falls and the Rockies, Canada is a country that rewards the adventurous. If you plan ahead, it’s a land where you can tick off multiple bucket list adventures in the space of a couple of weeks.

Calling all agents!
Whether you have participated in the Canada Specialist training modules previously or not, Destination Canada are excited to be launching a fresh training programme of webinars, interactive workshops and online modules, which are perfect for equipping yourself with everything you need to know.

The Canada Specialist Programme allows agents to learn at their own speed and gives them all the know-how they need to inspire customers to choose Canada in 2022.  It goes live on November 1. To register your interest click here.

Five of the best gardens in Japan

Garden design is an important part of Japanese culture, an art form that has been cultivated for more than 1,000 years. While it’s not possible to visit Japan at the moment, it’s good to plan. Here, Janine Kelso looks at five of the best gardens to visit around the country


Japan’s glorious gardens use ponds, streams, stones, hills and islands to resemble natural scenery and provide a place of serenity. They can be found all over the country, but Kyoto is particularly famous for its abundance of dazzling gardens. Meanwhile, the Three Great Gardens of Japan – Kenrokuen in Kanazawa, Korakuen in Okayama and Kairakuen in Mito – encompass setsugekka, meaning snow, moon and flowers.

Korakuen Garden, Okayama

Step into a bygone age at the dreamy Korakuen Garden, which dates back to 1700. The exquisite garden is dotted with carp-filled ponds, waterfalls, bridges, teahouses, shrines, manicured lawns and cherry trees. See red-crowned cranes in the crane aviary and climb up Yuishinzan Hill for panoramic views over the huge pond Sawa-no-ike. Visit during summer nights to see the trees and flowers artfully lit by bamboo lanterns. Towering over the gardens is the grand Okayama Castle, known as ‘crow castle’ thanks to its black façade. Inside the castle, visitors can get crafty with pottery workshops, or dress up as a feudal lord or princess. One of the Three Great Gardens of Japan, Korakuen is a 25-minute walk from Okayama Station.

Kairakuen Garden, Mito

Find tranquillity in the scenic bamboo grove and cedar woods of Kairakuen Garden in Ibaraki Prefecture. Built by feudal lord Tokugawa Nariaki in 1842 to inspire a sense of calm, the gardens were originally designed for military students to recharge their batteries after an exhausting day of training. Filled with more than 3,000 plum trees of 100 different varieties, the garden comes alive with plum blossoms in early spring. Visit during the annual Mito Plum Blossom Festival (mid-February to late-March) to enjoy magical illuminations at night, plum wine events, tea ceremonies and traditional music concerts.

Adachi Museum of Art, Yasugi

An art gallery with an eye-popping garden, Adachi Museum of Art is a must-visit attraction during any Shimane Prefecture itinerary. Voted the best garden in Japan since 2003, the photogenic space has been described as a “living framed painting”. The museum was founded in 1970 by Adachi Zenko, who had a passion for gardens and Japanese art, and devoted himself to gardening until his death at the age of 91. Dramatically backed by mountains, the 165,000 square metre gardens are stunning year-round: visit in winter to see it blanketed in snow; autumn for its patchwork of red and brown shades; and spring for its lush lawn. The gardens can only be viewed from the museum building, which also merits exploration for its permanent exhibit of masterpieces by big-name Japanese artist Yokoyama Taikan.

Kenrokuen Garden, Kenazawa

Another of the Three Great Gardens of Japan, Kenrokuen Garden in Kenazawa is an idyllic landscape garden, perfected over hundreds of years by the Maeda family. Prepare to be wowed by tumbling waterfalls, ponds, trees, flowers, pavilions and teahouses. Iconic architectural gems include the two-legged Kotojitoro lantern, and Seisonkaku, a beautifully preserved samurai villa. Most Japanese gardens seek to encompass six qualities, including spaciousness, seclusion, artifice, antiquity, waterways and panoramas. Kenrokuen literally means ‘garden that combines six characteristics’, which means it’s got the whole shebang. Open 365 days a year, it is worth exploring year-round: admire the cherry blossom in spring during the sakura season; visit at sunset during the summer to see fireflies magically illuminating the water features; during autumn trees are dramatically lit with a spectacular light display; winter sees the garden covered in snow.

Ryoanji Temple Rock Garden, Kyoto

One of Kyoto’s star attractions, this iconic temple and gardens are a Unesco World Heritage site. The temple was converted from an aristocrat’s villa to a Zen temple in 1450, but mystery swirls around the Rock Garden as its creator is unknown. Created between the 14th and 16th centuries, the reflective garden features 15 stones on white sand spread across 248 square metres. The rocks are arranged so that there is always one rock that can’t be seen. Some believe that that they symbolise a tiger and her cubs crossing a river, while others think they represent islands or mountains.

Feature

Time to cross Malta off your travel list

With a beautiful coastline that provides some of the best diving spots in Europe, as well as historic jewels amid its walled capital city, the Mediterranean archipelago works as a balmy autumnal destination. By Tamsin Wressell


Malta’s capital city, Valletta, sits in the Southern Region. The 16th century walled city was built by the Knights of St John on a peninsula that stretches out for just one kilometre and has since been named a Unesco World Heritage Site, being one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world.

It’s a labyrinth of side streets, beautiful gardens and buildings, with museums, hotels, boutique shops, restaurants and bars, too. St John’s Co-Cathedral is one of its most popular sites in the city, with the Opera House and the modern Parliament House being other renowned spots of architecture. The Lower and Upper Barrakka Gardens, overlooking the harbour, are a great spot for some peace.

Outside the city, the prehistoric Hal Saflieni Hypogeum is one of the most popular sites in Malta, reachable in 15 minutes by car from Valletta. The Unesco World Heritage Site was carved 5,000 years ago as an ancient temple and burial site in the Neolithic period. Elsewhere in the region, the Three Cities (Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua) all trace their origins to the Middle Ages. Today, the three medieval fortified cities are filled with historic architecture, with boutique hotels, wine bars and restaurants opening up in their small, winding streets.

Mdina, the historical former capital of Malta

In the Northern Region of Malta, the former capital Mdina sits atop a hill, overlooking much of the rest of the archipelago, with views stretching out to Sicily and Mount Etna on a clear day. It’s surrounded by towering fortifications and has many centuries-old buildings, plus the megalithic temple complex of Hagar Qim. Mdina itself is a Unesco World Heritage Site, while the nearby village of Rabat is another popular attraction. It’s more rural and surrounded by natural beauty, including one of the few forested areas in Malta. Nearby, St Paul’s Catacombs is a network of underground tunnels used by the Romans as cemeteries until the fourth century that’s ripe for exploration.

Mellieha is one of the northernmost villages in Malta and offers the largest sandy beach (a rarity for the rocky-shored island), Mellieha Bay, as well as beautiful surrounding valleys. Further north, on the shores of Anchor Bay, is Popeye Village. What started out as a film set for Robin Williams’ Popeye musical comedy has since become a large tourist attraction and fun park, which can be discovered through a documentary of its creation before a round of mini-golf.

The second of the largest islands in the archipelago, Gozo sits above Malta’s mainland. The population is rather small here (there’s a few villages and small towns), with neighbouring island Comino being home to just three residents. It’s a more rural and traditional version of Malta, accessible by ferry. There’s a 16th-century citadel (all roads on the island lead here), a museum of archaeology, towering cliffs and a beautiful coastal hiking path around the island, but the main draw is in the surrounding water.

Salt pans line the coast of the island, with shops selling the produce as souvenirs, along with local cheese, oil and tomato paste. Beyond this, Gozo is one of the best places in Europe for diving – the waters remain warm enough year-round and there’s a range of shipwrecks to explore. There’s also the Blue Hole and Double Arch cave to dive, as well as the Azure Window – a famous rock formation that collapsed in 2017. Comino is a smaller island in the Gozo region – in between Gozo and Comino, there’s the Blue Lagoon, a natural site that’s often considered to be one of the best swimming spots in Malta.

Feature

Reunited with the states of America

With travel restrictions finally lifting from next month, the cities and open spaces of the United States are the perfect place for Britons searching for adventure and familiarity, writes Anthony Pearce


In the pre-Covid world more than five million Britons visited the US a year, making it the fourth most popular holiday choice behind Spain, France and Italy. In fact, when it comes to long-haul travel, no other destination really compares, with its diverse cities, geography and culture providing myriad holiday choices.

With travel restrictions to the US finally lifting from November, the pandemic seemingly under control and the unrest that occurred in the aftermath of Joe Biden’s election victory abated, travellers will be keen to return to this favoured destination. “There is a strong appetite from leisure travellers wanting to return to the US for their holidays,” says Scott Balyo, executive director of the Capital Region USA, which includes Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia. “We remain hopeful that, as the vaccine begins to roll out globally, it will begin the process of borders reopening sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, testing capabilities continue to progress, with many international airports now able to offer pre-departure testing which will be another key factor in commencing travel to the US.”

According to ABTA’s Six Trends for Travel in 2021 report, just 32 per cent of people said they would now be likely to visit a new country, compared to 45 per cent in 2019. This may manifest itself in tourists returning to old haunts within their countries of choice or exploring new destinations within favoured countries. The US is particularly ripe for exploration, given its vastness, cultural familiarity and close bonds with the UK, which bodes well for the many second and third visit destinations – that is, those outside of New York City, San Francisco, Orlando and the like.

Covid-19 may be a global pandemic, but it has impacted each country differently, so it remains unclear when travel will start again in earnest. Balyo admits that “we do not anticipate tourism levels to return to pre-Covid-19 levels until 2023, perhaps even 2024”. He adds that, once restrictions lift, “we know there will be pent up demand and travellers will return to explore more of America. From conversations we have had with our tour operators and trade partners we know that late 2021 through to 2022 is looking strong for bookings”.

Kuoni, meanwhile, notes that a proper recovery might not be forthcoming until summer 2022, because most holidays are taken in the summer months.

“There are also many questions remaining about airline capacity and routes once travel restarts,” a spokesperson for the operator said. “With the likelihood that many businesses will heavily reduce their travel needs, many of the airlines may reduce frequencies and fares may well increase – both will have an impact on touristic travel.”

However, Kuoni notes that, as with destinations across the world, travellers will be looking for private and secluded experiences. “In the US this is likely to mean an uplift in road trips. We also expect to see the people who do choose to go long-haul travelling for longer and trying to maximise time and experiences, so we anticipate a rise in the multi-centre or combination trip where travellers try and fit in a variety of locations. There is also a significant city break market and we are already seeing New York featuring prominently in UK search traffic, suggesting this market may come back much quicker once travel is permitted again.”

Technology might help to get things back to pre-Covid levels: “Advancement in tech offerings, like touchless and biometric technology, will aid the industry’s recovery,” says Jerad Bachar, president and CEO of VisitPITTSBURGH, “especially when it comes to prioritising travellers’ health and safety.”

Meanwhile, away from the cities, the rise in popularity of ‘slow travel’ will mean people will be looking for more immersive experiences. “People are booking trips to rediscover our National Parks and open spaces in ways that we haven’t in more than 50 years,” says Jonathan Farrington, executive director, Yosemite Mariposa County Tourism Bureau. “People are anxious to get out of the cities and into open spaces and that is also the safest type of trip they can take right now. I’m sure our European visitors will be doing the same once they return.”

Balyo notes that people are looking for a variety of different US breaks: “From wanting to experience those big bucket-list trips and reconnecting with family post-pandemic, to a desire for space when travelling and bubble holidays.”

The Capital Region is one, which like many others in the US, is well-connected to the UK – or at least has been traditionally – and offers fascinating, culture-rich cities with great access to nature. Washington DC, for example, is the greenest city on the East Coast and home to the largest urban National Park, Rock Creek Park, while Virginia has more than 20 National Parks, including Blue Ridge Parkway and the Appalachian Trail; and Maryland is home to Assateague Island National Seashore, which is known for its beaches and wild horses.

Once restrictions do ease, the US – with its strong air network, its place as a long-standing favourite, vast swathes of openness including the more adventurous options of Alaska and Hawaii and many major cities overlooked by most tourists – is incredibly well placed to offer adventure and familiarity in an uncertain world.

“The US is at the beginning of an exciting new chapter,” says Balyo, “and we are looking forward to welcoming tourists back once restrictions are lifted.”

“When it comes to travel sentiment, people are ready to go now,” adds Farrington. “We’re all itching to get out suitcases out of the closet and begin travelling again soon.”