Seabourn Extends Relaxed Cancellation Policy for Sailings Through 2021

Luxury cruise line Seabourn has enhanced its “Book with Confidence” policy that eases cancellation policies.

The enhanced policy, which now applies to 2021 departures, also includes a “Best Fare Guarantee” benefit so guests can request the lowest publicly available fare for their voyage if fares fall after booking.

Seabourn suspended its global operations through October and November of 2020, depending on the ship, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

For existing and new bookings made by July 31, 2020, on sailings departing by Dec. 31, 2021, guests may cancel up to 30 days before departure and receive a 100 percent future cruise credit of any payment made to Seabourn and currently within cancellation fees.

The future cruise credit will be valid for 12 months and can be used to book sailings through Dec. 31, 2022.

In addition, the new “Best Fare Guarantee” benefit will let guests who booked by July 31, 2020, request an adjustment if fares drop for their specific voyage and suite category.

Guests and travel advisors should contact Seabourn directly if they see a lower rate listed on Seabourn’s website, but they must do so at least 30 days before departure. For details, click here.

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Stranded Cruise Ship Employees Finally Disembark in Barbados

As several cruise ships remain stranded at sea with hundreds of crew members still on board, Barbados has remained a haven for the vessels despite concerns about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

According to Loop News Barbados, around 370 Royal Caribbean employees who had been quarantined at sea since March 16 were permitted to leave their ship on Sunday after sailing to Barbados from The Bahamas several days before.

The crew members disembarked from the ship with “smiles and laughter” as they began the long process of returning home. Many were forced to wait up to five hours at Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) in Barbados while going through immigration, health and security screenings.

The line of Royal Caribbean employees extended throughout the airport, with people sitting on benches, their luggage and even the floor as they waited to board their rescue flight arranged by British Airways and local authorities.

“In the beginning, it was not a lot of information,” an unnamed crew member on the ship told The Loop. “I don’t think anybody knew cause the rules kept changing. Nobody knew what was happening or what to do.”

Employees said living on a ship without guests was “no fun and nothing close to normal,” but they had Wi-Fi to help them get by since everything onboard was closed.

Last week, Royal Caribbean executives confirmed the company would extend its temporary suspension of global cruise operations through July 31, except for its China business.

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How Will the US Hotel Experience Change Post COVID-19?

As hotel occupancy ticks up ever so slightly, the lodging industry is putting new standards in place to enhance cleaning and ensure guest safety.

One organization working overtime to make sure that these new measures are clear and communicated effectively to the public is the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA), which has created Safe Stay guidelines for the industry.

“Safe Stay was developed specifically to ensure enhanced safety for hotels guests and employees. While hotels have always employed demanding cleaning standards, this new initiative will ensure greater transparency and confidence throughout the entire hotel experience,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA. “The industry’s enhanced hotel cleaning practices, social interactions, and workplace protocols will continue to evolve to meet the new health and safety challenges and expectations presented by COVID-19.”

Travelers in states where shelter in place and stay at home orders have been lifted may be looking to travel and stay in a hotel soon. What will that look like in the “new normal?”

Hygiene will be the number one priority. The Safe Stay guidelines promote frequent handwashing for employees, hand sanitizer dispensers, signage, instructions for mask-wearing and more.

Major hotel brands have launched their own programs, too, partnering with brands such as Clorox and Lysol and the Mayo Clinic.

Hilton CleanStay was launched in partnership with the makers of Lysol as well as the Mayo Clinic. Marriott announced a Global Cleanliness Council, a panel of experts on everything from food and water safety, infection prevention and hygiene, and hotel operations.

Visitors will have a much more contact-less experience when they visit properties while maintaining social distancing guidelines and new standards of cleanliness.

Hilton will have a CleanStay room seal on guestroom doors and guests will no longer find shared amenities such as pens and paper in the room and room directories will be made digital.

Travelers are also likely to find keyless entry to rooms and disinfecting wipes for touching elevator buttons. Room service menus and ordering will likely be done on mobile apps.

Guests should also arrive expecting to self park their vehicles. Resorts such as Omni have limited valet services and instituted social distancing protocols where self-parking is unavailable.

There will also be limits on the number of people allowed to congregate in different areas with limited seating in lobbies, bars and restaurants in order to observe social distancing guidelines. The days of buffet dining may also be a thing of the past. AHLA guidelines say that room service should use contactless delivery and that buffets should be limited and served by an attendant in personal protective equipment. Pre-packaged and grab and go options are encouraged.

Guests may have to plan out their visits to the gym. Expect fitness centers to close multiple times per day for cleaning as well as socially distanced pool areas with lounge chairs six feet apart.

Behind the scenes there will be new cleaning technologies utilized.

One example is Marriott’s deployment of electrostatic sprayers and the use of the highest-grade disinfectant products. Electrostatic cleaning really gives a deep clean to surfaces, the spraying is a method where a device is used to apply an electric charge to a disinfectant, enabling the disinfectant to more effectively cover a surface than traditional cleaning methods.

One of the aspects of hotel stays that remains unknown is how many properties will institute temperature checks but travelers should expect the practice may become quite common.

The Venetian in Las Vegas said that it will use thermal scanners at entry points for a non-invasive temperature check.

Many properties will screen the health of their employees and include temperature checks.

Caesars Entertainment said that it will institute health screenings for all employees that include taking temperatures and COVID-19 testing.

While most hotel guidelines call for near-constant cleaning and disinfecting, travelers can also do their part.

Hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer should be frequent when traveling. Many properties plan to provide face masks and disinfectant wipes, but it doesn’t hurt to bring your own and wipe down surfaces, doorknobs and buttons.

Wearing a face mask is also recommended to protect both you and those around you.

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Apple Leisure Group Joins ‘Buy One, Give One’ Campaign to Jump-Start Travel

Apple Leisure Group Vacations (ALGV) announced today that it’s coming together with other hospitality operators to participate in a new ‘Buy One, Give One’ program, which serves the dual purpose of generating immediate revenue for hotels suffering from the effects of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and providing a “thank you” gesture to the dedicated healthcare professionals who’ve worked tirelessly on the front lines of the pandemic.

As such, ALGV becomes the only wholesale tour operator thus far to join in the “pay it forward” campaign. Restarting leisure travel is a major priority for the whole hospitality industry, which has been among the most severely impacted economic sectors amid COVID-19. According to recent data from the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), 70 percent of hotel employees have been laid off or furloughed, and 80 percent of hotel rooms sit empty.

The ‘Buy One, Give One’ promotion is stackable atop massive travel deals, such as Dream Now, Travel Later rate reductions and Steal of a Deal, which is offering limited-time, rock-bottom pricing on vacations to inspire would-be travelers to take action now in planning their future getaways.

“One of the most important values we hold as a company is that WE CARE,” said Jacqueline Marks, Executive Vice President of Apple Leisure Group’s Trade Brands division. “We have been consistent with that from the beginning, and are proud to inspire action, own results, and show passion for all that we do because we care. With this initiative, we are delighted to have an opportunity to show that commitment once more, thanks to partnerships with organizations such as MMGY Global and Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International.”

Travel advisors and consumers can support the program by booking a future air-inclusive stay of six nights or more at participating properties in the Caribbean or Mexico through one of ALGV’s tour operators (namely, Apple Vacations, Funjet Vacations or Travel Impressions) by June 30, 2020. Each reservation made generates a room-night that will be banked by ALGV (for up to 500 nights) and distributed to eligible medical professionals, who will be able to use them toward future stays at participating hotel properties.

For more information, visit buyonegiveonestay.com.

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Wyndham Looks Ahead to Recovery with Continued New-Construction Growth

WHY IT RATES: Amid the travel industry’s slump caused by COVID-19, Wyndham is positioning itself to best recover in the long term, continuing its new-construction and independent-hotel conversion projects, and building upon its proven track record of growing net rooms during lodging cycle downturns. — Laurie Baratti, TravelPulse Associate Writer

Wyndham Hotels & Resorts—the world’s largest hotel franchising company with approximately 9,300 hotels across 90 countries—continues forging ahead with new-construction growth, opening eleven newly-built hotels across the U.S. in the first quarter and breaking ground on a number of hotels in its new-construction pipeline.

In the same period, the Company executed agreements for more than 25 future new-construction hotels in the U.S., further expanding its pipeline and planting roots for travel recovery in the long term.

Welcoming New Openings
The Company’s eleven new-construction openings in the U.S. represent nearly 1,000 rooms. The recent openings, including properties across its La Quinta by Wyndham, Wingate by Wyndham, Days Inn by Wyndham, and Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham brands, are situated in destinations primed for domestic, drive-to leisure travel such as Miramar Beach, Floria; Houston, Texas; Spokane, Washington; and Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin.

Laying Foundation for the Future
Developers are also starting construction on hotels in the pipeline, reinforcing optimism for the industry’s recovery. Developers for Wyndham-branded hotels broke ground on approximately ten new hotels in the U.S. year-to-date, including a Microtel hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas; a La Quinta hotel in San Antonio, Texas; an extended-stay Hawthorn Suites hotel in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and a Trademark Collection by Wyndham hotel in Leavenworth, Kansas.

“Despite a rapidly changing landscape for hotel developers around the world, a number of our owners are pressing forward with new-construction projects in the economy and midscale segments, reinforcing our overall confidence in the long-term viability of our industry,” said Krishna Paliwal, head of Architecture, Design and Construction for Wyndham. “New-construction growth, however gradual, represents our optimism for the future of travel. Not only do our highly recognizable brands provide significant value to hotel owners who join the Wyndham family, especially during difficult times, but they also represent the consistent, trusted and affordable experience travelers will be seeking now more than ever before.”

Igniting the Conversion Engine
Though construction has generally slowed across the industry, Wyndham continues to welcome new projects while igniting its powerful conversion engine, which is fueled by the strong value proposition across its portfolio of well-known brands.

In the first quarter, Wyndham’s conversion pipeline increased eight percent globally year-over-year. The Company has a proven track record of growing net rooms during lodging cycle downturns and, with over 15,000 independent economy and midscale hotels in the U.S., converting independent hotels to Wyndham brands remains an important source of consistent rooms growth for the Company through both up and down cycles.

Well-Positioned for Recovery
The impact of COVID-19 continues to rapidly evolve and many factors remain uncertain. As the pandemic begins to abate in the U.S., Wyndham’s existing franchisees are likely to be well-positioned for recovery. The Company operates a nearly 90-percent drive-to business in the U.S. with a concentration in the select-service chain scale segments—which have outperformed higher-end, full-service hotels during the pandemic—and over 95 percent of its domestic guests originate within the U.S., making them less reliant on air travel.

Wyndham also recently announced “Count on UsSM”, a new long-term, multi-faceted initiative to build confidence among guests and to support franchisees as it prepares to welcome travelers back to its U.S. hotels. The initiative will immediately focus on further elevating health and safety protocols at Wyndham hotels in the wake of COVID-19, shoring up critical supply chains and introducing new standards, training and guidelines grounded in guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wyndham has expanded its relationship with industry leader Ecolab on requiring consistent use of Ecolab’s EPA-approved disinfectants in guestrooms and public spaces nationwide.

Those interested in developing a hotel under one of Wyndham’s brands may visit development.wyndhamhotels.com for additional information.

For more information, visit wyndhamhotels.com.

SOURCE: Wyndham Hotels & Resorts press release.

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MGM’s Vegas Hotels To Bring Back Free Parking

MGM Resorts will be bringing back a welcome complimentary feature to its Las Vegas hotels.

Three years after many hotel-casinos in the city started charging to park your car in their respective garages, MGM said Monday it will offer free self-parking at all nine of its Vegas properties as soon as it begins to reopen its hotels.

A spokesperson said free parking will be “for the foreseeable future.”

“MGM Resorts is updating many of our offerings as we prepare to welcome guests back, and that includes implementing free parking,” MGM Resorts spokesperson Brian Ahern said in a statement to Fox5 Las Vegas. “We couldn’t be more excited to open our doors and get back to doing what we do best.”

MGM Resorts properties include:

—MGM Grand

—Park MGM

—Mandalay Bay

—New York-New York

—Bellagio

—ARIA

—The Mirage

—Luxor

—Excalibur

The Bellagio and New York-New York will be the first two MGM properties to open on the Las Vegas Strip later this month.

In 2017, at least eight major casinos on the Strip quietly began to charge for parking, which started when MGM began to implement paid parking followed by Caesars Entertainment.

Casino executives admitted that charging for parking would have a negligible impact on the company’s balance sheet. Mostly, the fees went to pay for the lighting and signage and other costs associated with the parking garages.

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IHG Hotels & Resorts Introduces ‘Clean Promise’ and Global Cleanliness Board

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) is rolling out its new, science-led program of protocols and hygiene measures to battle against further spread of COVID-19 and provide its guests around the world with heightened confidence in their own safety during their stays.

IHG has partnered with industry-leading experts at Cleveland Clinic, Ecolab and Diversey and upped the ante on its existing, rigorous cleaning program called the ‘IHG Way of Clean’ (launched in 2015) with a fresh ‘IHG Clean Promise,’ to be implemented globally beginning June 1, 2020.

The IHG Clean Promise expands upon the existing program with added, COVID-19-targeted sanitation measures and best practices, many of which are already part of existing protocols, in keeping with recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local public health authorities in each destination.

The IHG Way of Clean already incorporates deep cleaning practices with hospital-grade disinfectant products. Additionally, guests will notice new and enhanced procedures in all areas of IHG hotels, including:

Reception: Check-in will involve reduced contact, touchless transactions, front-desk screens, hand-sanitizer stations, sanitized key cards and paperless checkout.

Guest Rooms: Visible verification of items sanitized (e.g., glassware, remote controls), scale-back of in-room furnishings and high-touch items, altered laundry protocols and incorporation of new technologies.

Public Spaces and Facilities: Intensified cleaning of high-touch surfaces, “last cleaned” logs, social distancing protocols and enforcement of best practices in such shared spaces as pools, fitness centers and lounges.

Food and Beverage: New standards and altered service approaches to buffets, banquets, catering and room service.

“By combining IHG’s world-class knowledge and processes, with cutting-edge expertise from Cleveland Clinic, Ecolab and Diversey, we can reassure guests and colleagues that we’re focused on protecting their health and wellbeing,” said Keith Barr, Chief Executive Officer of IHG. “This includes looking at where technology can make a difference, deploying enhanced, highly visible and more frequent cleaning measures, and different approaches to food and beverage, all underpinned by our new IHG Clean Promise.”

We’re enhancing our global cleaning protocols in partnership with @ClevelandClinic @Ecolab and @Diversey. It’s all backed by our new IHG Clean Promise to give guests confidence. When they’re ready to travel, we’ll be ready to welcome them #TrueHospitality https://t.co/h63V33UYwh pic.twitter.com/er2UuKhXLy

IHG is working closely with teams of medical experts at the acclaimed Cleveland Clinic to develop new guidance and resources for employees on updated methods as they return to work, to keep both themselves and guests safe in this new environment.

—Information on cleanliness standards and techniques available in hotels and via IHG’s booking channels

—Signage and special operating procedures to ensure social-distancing is observed

—Instructions on use of personal protective equipment (PPE) as necessary

—Updated training and certification

—Making individual guest amenity cleaning kits available

—Hand-sanitizer and disinfecting wipes provided in guest rooms and in high-touch areas throughout hotels

IHG is also instituting a new ‘Global Cleanliness Board’ to lead these efforts—a group which consists of IHG experts in Operations, Health and Safety and Guest Experience, who’ll work with external specialists at the Cleveland Clinic to come up with updated solutions and best practices and ways to implement these at IHG properties worldwide.

For more information, visit ihg.com/clean.

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Cruise secrets: Ex crew member reveals what can happen if you’re fired onboard a ship

Cruise ship holidays offer passengers the chance to explore different destinations and holiday spots around the world. The cruise ship experience is like a floating hotel where passengers can enjoy days out in different destinations and return to their rooms for a good night’s sleep. But sometimes things do go wrong on cruises – especially onboard a ship with thousands of people.

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And sometimes cruise ship workers have to face the consequences when they misbehave onboard.

Former cruise ship crew workers have now revealed what can happen when you’re fired during a cruise.

Social media and forum site, Reddit, saw a question posted by one user who asked cruise ship workers what their worst moments were on board the ships.

The post was inundated with replies from cruise ship workers who revealed some of their worst experiences – from the embarrassing to the hilarious.

One former cruise ship worker revealed what allegedly can happen when you’re fired onboard a ship.

One user said: “Speaking of firing, it was not in our contract for the company to pay for your return flight if you get fired in an area where you are a citizen.

“So let’s say you were hired on the US West Coast by some big cruise company and you get a ship on the East Coast (some people want to change it up a bit if they get tired of the same route).

“If you get fired on your ship then the return trip is on you.

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“I can’t really give too much info without saying exactly which ship/company I was with but those return flights could cost $600 (£492) to $900 (£738).

“The local McDonald’s had some ex-cruise ship workers saving up money to get home.”

Another said they had allegedly heard the same story when they went for an interview to work on a cruise ship.

They said: “If you get fired they drop you off at the next stop no matter where it is and you’re on your own for getting back home.”

However, another said that to do that you’d need your passport and the right Visa for that country.

They replied: “If a ship docks somewhere, every crew member onboard needs to have the right visa, permit, whatever it is for that port.

“They are extremely careful with paperwork.

“If you get fired or finish your contract, if your Visa is only for work onboard and not tourism, you have 24 hours to leave the country.”

Another former crew member said that sometimes the crew get a little carried away when they party.

They said: “I used to be a crew member, and one time a guy working at the front desk jumped overboard after a crew party.

“He was found a few hours later by the coast guard.”

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Carnival Corp executives Ashford and Meadows departing

Holland America Line president Orlando Ashford and Seabourn
president Richard Meadows will both step down at the end of May.

The two Carnival Corp. cruise brands have not said who will
replace them. 

Ashford will leave Holland America at the end of May after
five years at the helm of Carnival Corp.’s premium cruise line. 

While at Holland America, Ashford spearheaded a brand
revitalization through an emphasis on onboard entertainment, live music and
culinary experiences.

Holland America Group CEO Stein Kruse said that Ashford
brought “a renewed energy” to the line. “His dynamism will be greatly missed.” 

Meadows’ retirement caps a 35-year career with Carnival Corp.
Meadows has been president of Seabourn, Carnival’s luxury line, since 2011. He
previously held roles at Holland America Line and Cunard Line.

“Rick’s contributions to the cruise industry and his
leadership in elevating Seabourn to the ultimate ultra-luxury cruise experience
— bar none — are legendary,” said Kruse. “He will forever be part of our
Carnival Corporation story, and he has made us all better through his
professionalism, authenticity and leadership.”

Between 2014 and 2016, Meadows was president of Cunard North
America. Prior to that, he served in a dual role as president of Seabourn and
executive vice president of marketing, sales and guest programs for Holland
America Line, where he had global revenue responsibility.

He was also vice president of corporate marketing at
Carnival Corp., vice president of sales and marketing of Windstar Cruises (a
former subsidiary of Holland America Line) and director of sales for Carnival
Cruise Line, his first position with Carnival Corp., in 1985.

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Is Now the Time to Install New Hotel Panic-Button Technology?

Hospitality industry players are beginning to roll out many new health and safety measures to contend with COVID-19 transmission concerns, and, while prioritizing the implementation of preventive measures is important, some hotels are also taking this time to reevaluate their level of preparedness to react to on-site emergencies once already in progress.

According to React Mobile, a market-leading hospitality safety technology provider, its client companies (consisting of some of the world’s leading hospitality brands) have realized the value in providing hotel employees ready means by which to request immediate assistance within mere seconds of an incident.

From alerting management to unforeseen medical emergencies to witnessed security breaches or assaults on individuals, React Mobile’s personal panic-button devices are proving the most effective and instantaneous way of calling for help. And, being cloud-based without requiring hardware or cabling, they can be installed quickly, at minimal cost and customized to fit the needs of any property.

Using the latest Bluetooth, GPS and IoT technology, React Mobile’s platform can pinpoint the location of a distress call down to the specific room number, and even to track an employee in real-time who may be on the move away from danger, indoors or out. In an emergency situation, response time is critical, and the ability to deploy resources to the exact location of a distress signal within seconds can make all the difference.

React Mobile’s worldwide support capabilities, 24/7 accessibility, and impressive implementation infrastructure have made it a leader in providing cutting-edge employee safety solutions. It’s now the preferred panic-button vendor for Hilton Worldwide, Accor Hotels, Wyndham, Choice Hotels, Caesars Entertainment, Sands and other leading hotel management companies.

Robb Monkman, Founder and CEO of React Mobile, was compelled to launch the company after having himself been the victim of an armed robbery and hostage situation. After discovering that thousands of people daily found themselves desperately in need of help, but unable to make a call, he set out to develop a powerful, yet simple, solution.

Our employee safety technology is deployed in over 460+ hotel properties and totaling over 50,000+ panic buttons.

Learn more about our support for hotels here: https://t.co/lvLAaOAgP9#hotel #hospitality #Safety #technology #panicbutton pic.twitter.com/d544nskP2j

Monkman thinks that the pandemic’s effect on the hospitality industry could offer at least one small advantage. He posited, “As hotel occupancy dwindles around the globe, properties can tackle projects that are easier to accomplish with low occupancy,” including, “installing much-needed technology updates, such as employee safety devices. The implementation of a new platform (or in some cases, a total technological overhaul) is often time-consuming, and the training of staff can pose a potential disruption to hotel operations. Understandably, this means that ‘high-season’ typically isn’t the best time to approach any major renovations, whether technical or property-specific. And so, an opportunity presents itself.”

He argued that hospitality companies might make productive use of their downtime (just as we’re trying to do while locked-down at home) to future-proof their businesses in a variety of ways, such as performing maintenance and repairs; updating staff training and resources; reformatting operations; developing new offerings; readying marketing initiatives; or switching their systems over to updated, improved software, so that they can hit the ground running when demand does resume.

“Ultimately, those brands which utilize this time to proactively improve upon their offering, support their community and emerge a market leader are sure to make a swift recovery,” predicted Monkman.

For more information, visit reactmobile.com.

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