Barcelona goes from overtourism to no tourism


In recent years, nearly 30 million tourists annually have descended on Barcelona, in northeastern Spain, to savor its sites, beaches, and Catalonian culture. A large number of them (an estimated 3.2 million in 2019) were day-trippers who arrived by cruise ship to the city’s port, the largest in the Mediterranean.

a flock of birds flying over a city: Because of the coronavirus, Barcelona’s Sagrada Família has been closed to visitors since March 13, but a spokesperson for the site finds inspiration in the buliding itself, which “has survived wars and many other obstacles in its time.”

Because of the coronavirus, Barcelona’s Sagrada Família has been closed to visitors since March 13, but a spokesperson for the site finds inspiration in the buliding itself, which “has survived wars and many other obstacles in its time.”

Though tourist spending accounts for nearly a fifth of the revenue generated by the city’s commercial sector, this profit engine has been polarizing, with many of Barcelona’s 1.6 million inhabitants lamenting the negative effects of overtourism.

a large stone statue in front of a building: During the coronavirus outbreak, normally bustling streets like those near the Catalan Gothic-style Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar in the El Born neighborhood have been deserted.

During the coronavirus outbreak, normally bustling streets like those near the Catalan Gothic-style Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar in the El Born neighborhood have been deserted.

But now everything’s changed, for travelers and locals. Soon after the coronavirus arrived in late February, tourism evaporated and residents began to shelter under one of the world’s strictest lockdowns.

So what’s Barcelona like these days?

Mood on the street

a young boy standing in front of a building: A shopper returns from buying groceries, one of the few outdoor activities permitted during the coronavirus lockdown in Barcelona.

A shopper returns from buying groceries, one of the few outdoor activities permitted during the coronavirus lockdown in Barcelona.

On a quiet morning in early April, sunlight illuminates Barcelona’s medieval alleyways. It may sound idyllic, but the silence suggests that all is not well. Squares that a few weeks ago were packed now sit eerily empty. Occasionally a resident hurries by, wearing a face mask and carrying shopping bags, eyes turned downward to avoid attracting attention.

a statue in front of a building: On La Rambla, Barcelona’s best-known boulevard, stacked café chairs await the return of patrons.

On La Rambla, Barcelona’s best-known boulevard, stacked café chairs await the return of patrons.

Spain has been under lockdown since March 14, and the instructions are clear: leave home for anything other than essential work, groceries, or medical reasons, and face a hefty fine of anywhere from 100 euros to a prison sentence. Even more than the legal ramifications, people fear the virus, which has claimed some 15,000 lives in Spain to date, placing its COVID-19 death toll behind only those of Italy and the United States.

a narrow city street with buildings in the background: Despite now-empty streets, such as Carrer de Ferran, above, many Barcelona residents feel hopeful about the post-coronavirus future.

Despite now-empty streets, such as Carrer de Ferran, above, many Barcelona residents feel hopeful about the post-coronavirus future.

(Related: Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease it causes.)

Being confined to their homes is not something people here take lightly. Spain has a high percentage of apartment-dwellers, at about two-thirds of the population. This, combined with a favorable climate and long summer evenings, helps explain why residents spend a lot time en la calle, or in the street. Under the lockdown rules, no outdoor exercise or socializing is permitted. But every night at 8 p.m., people take to their balconies to give a standing ovation to healthcare professionals working in the country’s hospitals, a communal movement that’s spreading across the globe.

Reactions at tourist sites

Lines of visitors normally snake around Sagrada Família, Antoni Gaudí’s unfinished basilica and the city’s biggest tourist draw. Since its closure on March 13, the icon stands empty. “While we can’t foresee the future, we’re confident we’ll be able to reopen in a few weeks,” said Oriol Llop, communications and brand director for the site. “Despite the challenges, we’ll remain standing, following the example of La Sagrada Família itself, which has survived wars and many other obstacles in its time.”

At La Pedrera-Casa Milá, another of Gaudí’s famed landmarks, visitor numbers for the month of March were already down 65 percent before it shuttered on March 14.

Marwa Preston, who runs gastronomic experience company Wanderbeak, said her business was on track for its best year ever before the virus hit. Yet she remains hopeful: “Unlike the financial crisis of 2008, where people lost a lot of money, this pandemic has us staying at home, refraining from spending. Once things improve, people will be thirsty for travel and experiences, with money in their pockets,” said Preston, who has already launched a “post-quarantine” wine and vermouth tasting tour to support the comeback of local bars and restaurants.

Her optimism is shared by Inés Miró-Sans, co-founder of Casa Bonay boutique hotel. “This situation has created a sense of community like nothing I’ve seen before,” she said. “People are helping each other in any way they can. Hotels that would normally be competitors are working together as one.”

Questions of identity

Unity has been a central theme of Spanish government statements in recent weeks, a change from the political climate of recent years, which has seen Catalan separatism dominate the news. While some might argue that issues of independence be set aside during the pandemic, others disagree.

Oriol Arechinolaza i Escuer, a lawyer, and Marta Ginebra Domingo, a law and political science student, both have long-standing links to the independence movement. Ginebra says many residents—pro-independence or not—were dismayed by the Spanish government’s refusal to allow Catalonia to isolate itself from the rest of Spain to limit the spread of the disease. “When the central government makes bad decisions, it causes resentment among those who believe an independent Catalonia would have done better,” she said.

Looking to the future, Ginebra and Arechinolaza think the Catalan separatists may set themselves apart through a willingness to invest in better public services. “The COVID-19 crisis could create an opportunity for the pro-independence parties to propose more left-wing economic policies than the Spanish state, thereby garnering more support,” added Arechinolaza.

Reasons for hope

The desire for self-determination is not the only trait for which Catalonia is known. People here tend to place a high value on seny, a Catalan word that translates as common sense and levelheadedness. While the virus is putting seny to one of its toughest tests yet, this mindset may be something that helps the people of Barcelona get through the ordeal.

Xavier Bas, director of public affairs at the Catalunya La Pedrera Foundation, which manages visits to La Pedrera-Casa Milá and tackles social issues, echoed the sentiment. “We’re approaching the situation with a sense of calm and responsibility. By joining forces as a society, we’ll overcome this health crisis together, despite having no means of knowing how long it will take.”

The people of Barcelona have a reputation for resilience in the face of adversity, from nearly four decades under Franco’s dictatorship to the terrorist attack in 2017, when residents gathered in Plaça de Catalunya to chant “no tinc por,” or “I am not afraid.”

At Casa Bonay, Inés Miró-Sans is already preparing for the return of tourism to Barcelona. “This is a rare opportunity to slow down, take stock, and think whether we could be doing things differently or better,” she said. “I believe we’ll come out of this stronger, together.”

Isabelle Kliger is a Barcelona-based writer focusing on travel, culture, and lifestyle. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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Judge Blocks Government’s Effort to Stop Sabre-Farelogix Deal

A federal judge has blocked an attempt by the United States government to stop the Sabre Corporation from purchasing Farelogix Inc. in a $360 million deal.

According to The Associated Press, U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Stark in Delaware ruled Tuesday the U.S. Justice Department did not provide enough evidence to prove the deal would have substantially reduced competition.

The two companies planned to provide information about airline tickets to travel agents.

The Justice Department filed the lawsuit last summer after it said Sabre made the deal to eliminate a competitor with better technology, which would lead to higher prices and less innovation.

As a result of Tuesday’s ruling, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim announced the government would analyze the decision and develop a plan before responding.

Judge Stark announced he did not consider the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the travel industry when reaching his decision. Sabre officials said they are still waiting on a decision from the U.K.’s antitrust regulator.

For agents and advisors impacted by the industry shutdown, TravelPulse is offering three upcoming webinars to prepare them for when travel restrictions are lifted.

The informative events include a breakdown of MGM Resorts’ newest resort on the Las Vegas Strip, a guide to successfully selling Crystal River Cruises and a Luxury Travel Expo.

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Bear prosciutto and cave castles – welcome to Slovenia

A hotel where you can listen to classified recordings of secret agents, the largest cave castle in the world – and bear prosciutto: Discovering why Slovenia is a truly unique destination

  • Built in 1971, Hotel Jama is metres from the entrance to the country’s enormous Postojna Cave 
  • When the property was renovated in 2016, workers found surveillance rooms in the basement 
  • Now members of the public can listen to classified recordings of former government agents there

There can’t be many hotels where guests are required to hand over their mobile phones prior to visiting certain areas of the property. But then again, Hotel Jama, 35 miles south of the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana, isn’t your average hotel. 

It’s the only place in Slovenia where members of the public can listen to national archive-owned, classified recordings of former government agents – hence the ban on mobiles.

Built in 1971, Hotel Jama is metres from the entrance to the country’s enormous Postojna Cave, which has attracted various famous visitors, most notably Tito, the controversial former president of Yugoslavia, of which Slovenia was a part for most of the 20th century. He’d often bring high-profile celebrities and politicians for long weekends.

Predjama Castle – the world’s largest cave castle – sits at the entrance of the jaw-dropping Postojna Cave

Built in 1971, Hotel Jama is metres from the entrance to Postojna Cave. Members of the public can listen to national archive-owned, classified recordings of former government agents there

So perhaps it’s hardly surprising that, when the property was renovated in 2016, workers found surveillance rooms in the basement, believed to date back to communist-era Yugoslavia. Dust covered tape recorders and switchboards were inside, all of which can be seen on a new guided tour. Despite its troubled past, this tiny country – half the size of Switzerland – is now one of Europe’s most popular destinations.

But Tito wasn’t the only high profile visitor. Much earlier, in 1883, Emperor Franz Joseph became one of the first tourists to visit the Postojna Cave, discovered in 1818. His arrival prompted the installation of electric lighting – 15 years before it reached Ljubljana. Back then, visitors sat in carts pushed by guides. Luckily, it’s an electric train which takes me to the starting point for my tour, two miles from the cave’s entrance.

I’m shown stalagmites taller than my house, an underground river (which can be explored in a dinghy) and rock formations I’ve never heard of. This includes curtains – paper thin sheets of rock dangling from cavern walls – and pearl pools, formed where raindrops fall in the same spot for millions of years, creating tiny water-filled indentations and slowly wrapping individual grains of sand in white limestone shells.


Predjama Castle dates back more than 800 years and sits in the middle of an 800ft cliff 

Postojna Cave, the country’s second-largest, is full of vast stalagmites and stalactites

But after three hours underground, I’m keen to explore Slovenia’s wide open spaces. It takes just over an hour to drive to the forest-fringed Jezersko valley, a few miles from the border with Austria. My base is the Vila Planinka, a 23-room chalet hotel where a sign in the lobby proudly reveals the water has the highest magnesium content of any water in Slovenia, and is thought to be especially good for the heart.

On the right of the hotel, at the end of the valley, is a towering slab of granite – a snow-dusted mountain separating Jezersko from Ljubljana, an hour’s drive away. On the left is a patchwork of forests carpeting the lower slopes of mountains dividing Slovenia from Austria.

One day I drive towards the Italian border to tackle a mountainous hiking trail. I’m hoping to spot one of the region’s notoriously shy ibexes – twirly horned, sure-footed mountain goats that cling to the wild flower speckled cliff faces. 

Despite Slovenia’s large caves, much of the country is full of wide-open spaces, like Jezersko Valley

Sadly, the goats don’t put in an appearance, but I’m compensated with other weird and wonderful species, such as jet-black mountain salamanders and rare orchids.

I spot hundreds of marmots, and, unlike the rodents in the French Alps, they’re fearless. I eat my picnic lunch yards from a burrow, under the watchful gaze of a mama marmot. I’m disappointed not to spot a bear – Slovenia has Europe’s largest bear population, a fact which helps offset my guilt that evening when I tuck into a plate of delicious bear prosciutto.

It’s served by a waiter who tells me this part of Slovenia has so many bears that, as a child, he’d roll his eyes when he saw his mother heading out with her shotgun, knowing bear was on the menu again. Slovenia’s bears might have eluded me, but its jagged mountains, river-carved caves and marmot- dotted valleys have more than made up for their absence

TRAVEL FACTS 

EasyJet (easyjet.com) London to Ljubljana from £69 return. Doubles at Hotel Jama (postojnska-jama.eu) from £72 and at Vila Planinka (vilaplaninka.com/en/) from £185 per night. Find out more at slovenia.info. 

 

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JetBlue consolidating flights in New York, Los Angeles and 3 more big cities



a person standing in front of a window

JetBlue Airways will consolidate flights to just one or two airports in five of the nation’s largest metro areas, including New York, Los Angeles and Washington. The changes are part of the company’s latest response to the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The New York-based carrier will suspend flights to select airports in the Boston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington, areas that are served by several commercial airports from April 15 to June 10, JetBlue said Wednesday. The consolidation comes as the airline plans to reduce capacity by 80% in April, 10 percentage points more than previously disclosed.

JetBlue will consolidate service in the following areas with planned departure levels in April:

  • Boston: 28 departures from Boston Logan (BOS), suspending Providence (PVD).
  • Los Angeles: five departures from Long Beach (LGB) and Los Angeles (LAX), suspending Burbank (BUR) and Ontario (ONT).
  • New York: 30 departures from Newark Liberty (EWR) and New York John F. Kennedy (JFK), suspending Newburgh (SWF), New York LaGuardia (LGA) and White Plains (HPN).
  • San Francisco: two departures from San Francisco (SFO), suspending San Jose (SJC).
  • Washington: five departures from Washington Reagan National (DCA), suspending Baltimore/Washington (BWI).

Get Coronavirus travel updates. Stay on top of industry impacts, flight cancellations, and more.

JetBlue retro livery at BWI!

JetBlue retro livery at BWI! A post shared by Ned Russell (@airbus777) on Feb 24, 2017 at 4:36am PST

JetBlue’s plans to consolidate service in the five regions was first reported by PaxEx.Aero.

The suspensions are designed to meet requirements for the funds from federal coronavirus relief bill — formally the CARES Act funds — that JetBlue applied for on April 3. The guidelines require airlines to continue service to all destinations in their network deemed reasonable by the Department of Transportation. However, they allow carriers to consolidate flights to one airport in designated metro areas with several airports.

Airlines are getting creative in how they continue flights to all of their destinations. Alaska Airlines is consolidating service to 12 cities by ending nonstop flights between Seattle (SEA) and six cities and “tagging” them on to existing service to six other cities. American Airlines is suspending many routes to its nine domestic hubs and consolidating service at its two largest bases in Charlotte (CLT) and Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW).

However, more airlines are expected to follow JetBlue’s lead in consolidating flights to just one or two airports in regions served by several gateways as the number of travelers flying in the U.S. continue to drop on a daily basis.

Related: JetBlue backtracks on its strict schedule change policy

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened just 97,130 passengers at airports across the U.S. on April 7. That is less than 5% of the number of travelers screened a year ago, and possibly the first time in the agency’s history the number has fallen below 100,000.

“[This] is the biggest crisis we have ever had in front of us,” International Air Transport Association (IATA) director general Alexandre de Juniac said of the impact of the crisis on the world’s airlines on April 7.

The organization has warned that, without government support, half of the world’s airlines could collapse or merge with others. In the U.S., regionals Compass Airlines and Trans States Airlines will or have shut their doors, and RavnAir in Alaska has shut down with hopes of resuming flights under bankruptcy protection.

It is an open question whether JetBlue, or any other carrier that consolidates flights to one or two airports in large U.S. cities, will ever return to their previous service levels. Airlines will be smaller when they rebuild post-COVID-19 with the number of flights on busy routes likely the first casualty, but industry experts anticipate each carrier to carefully evaluate what routes and destinations to resume.

Related: How will airlines rebuild their route maps after the coronavirus?

Featured image by SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images.

SPONSORED: While travel is limited right now due to COVID-19, you need your everyday purchases to give you flexible, forever useful cash. In general, TPG gives preference to transferable points and using your points to travel, but on some days, cash is king.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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China to release tourist blacklist after Great Wall vandalized


Officials in China are hoping the threat of public shaming will prevent tourists from defacing the country’s most famous icon — the Great Wall. 

a person standing on the side of a mountain: BEIJING, CHINA - MARCH 27: A Chinese boy wears a protective mask as he walks on a nearly empty section of the Great Wall on March 27, 2020 near Badaling in Beijing, China. A limited section of the iconic tourist site was re-opened to the public this week allowing a smaller number of visitors to reserve tickets online in advance and to enter after passing health screening. With the pandemic hitting hard across the world, China recorded its first day with no new domestic cases of the coronavirus last week, since the government imposed sweeping measures to keep the disease from spreading. For two months, millions of people across China have been restricted in how they move from their homes, while other cities have been locked down in ways that appeared severe at the time but are now being replicated in other countries trying to contain the virus. Officials believe the worst appears to be over in China, though there are concerns of another wave of infections as the government attempts to reboot the worlds second largest economy. In Beijing, it is mandatory to wear masks outdoors, retail stores operate on reduced hours, restaurants employ social distancing among patrons, and tourist attractions at risk of drawing large crowds remain closed. Monitoring and enforcement of virus-related measures and the quarantine of anyone arriving to Beijing is carried out by neighborhood committees and a network of Communist Party volunteers who wear red arm bands. A primary concern for Chinese authorities remains the arrival of flights from Europe and elsewhere, given the exposure of passengers in regions now regarded as hotbeds for transmission. Since January, China has recorded more than 81,000 cases of COVID-19 and at least 3200 deaths, mostly in and around the city of Wuhan, in central Hubei province, where the outbreak first started. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

The popular Badaling section of the Great Wall reopened on March 24, after being closed for two months due to the coronavirus outbreak. That very same day, a visitor was reportedly caught on camera defacing the historic site with a key.

The news quickly went viral, enraging Chinese netizens. The hashtag #八达岭长城恢复开放首日被刻字, which translates to “Great Wall vandalized the first day it reopened,” became a trending topic on Weibo, China’s most popular social media platform.

“How could such uncivilized behaviors happen repeatedly?” asked Weibo user Wuhan Luyoujia on a discussion board.”I think these people should be arrested and locked away for five days so they would remember the lesson.”

In response, the Great Wall Office, which is responsible for the administrative and public affairs within the Badaling special tourism zone, has implemented a series of new disciplinary measures against vandalism starting from April 6.

According to the Yanqing County Badaling Special Zone Office’s Weibo account, it “will impose administrative penalties on seven types of vandalism towards cultural relics including carving and other intentional damages.”

Misbehaving tourists will be added to a blacklist that will be announced to the public regularly to “increase awareness and apply pressure [on tourists] with public opinion.”

Offenders will reportedly face restrictions when they attempt to purchase online tickets to the Great Wall in the future, though the announcement doesn’t specify what those are.

Meanwhile, the Information Office of the Beijing Municipal Government said Yanqing County is considering banning blacklisted tourists from entering other tourist attractions in the district. If they’ve committed a criminal offense, violators will also be handed over to law enforcement agents.

Both netizens and media welcomed the new regulations.

“The epidemic has already ‘injured’ the tourism industry greatly, making the defacement of the Great Wall even more unbearable,” said an opinion piece on the state-run Beijing Youth Daily.

“Increasing exposure to the tourist blacklist will put more pressure on the offenders with public opinion, putting a tight chain on the tourists who ignore the rules,” commented another state-run media outlet, Beijing Daily.

Around 70 kilometers (43 miles) from Beijing, Badaling is the most popular section of the wall for tourists. According to the Information Office of the Beijing Municipal Government, the vandal was found and confessed to carving the wall with a key.

It isn’t the first time China has created a tourist blacklist.

Parks in Beijing have also blacklisted “uncivilized visitors” and used face scanners to bar those visitors from entering the park last year during the annual Tomb Sweeping Festival.


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Airlines and hotels are still booking travel months away, but experts caution against making any reservations you can't cancel



a person standing in front of a mountain

  • All non-essential travel is off the table for now, but airlines and hotels are still accepting reservations for the future – often at deeply discounted rates.
  • If you’re considering booking travel for several months out, consider sticking to refundable tickets and reservations made with points or miles so there’s less risk of losing money if your plans need to be canceled.
  • You should also prioritize having an emergency fund of savings over booking a future vacation.
  • If you’re in good financial standing, you could open a new rewards credit card now and earn its welcome bonus so you have a stash of points ready to go when you’re ready to book a trip.
  • See Business Insider’s list of the best travel rewards credit cards.

As a result of the coronavirus, our lives have become very small in scope. If you haven’t had to cancel an upcoming trip, at the very least the current situation has likely put your vacation plans on hold. But while the world is largely housebound at this time, travel brands continue to sell flights and hotel rooms for dates in the future, and prices can be extremely low.

With airlines and hotels offering cheap rates and carriers such as JetBlue letting you book as far out as January 2021, you may be wondering whether it’s worth jumping on any of the current travel deals to book vacation in the future. If you’re considering pulling the trigger on a cheap flight or hotel room now for travel dates in the future, here’s what you need to know.

Booking a trip for the early fall may seem like a safe bet now, but no one knows when life will be back to normal. Given this uncertainty, you’ll want to treat any travel reservations you make as subject to change.

Many travel brands have released customer-friendly change and cancellation policies. For example, American Airlines will waive change fees for travel through May 31, 2020, and it will waive change fees for travel booked by April 30, 2020.

Hotels generally let you cancel a few days before check-in without any penalty, but be sure to double-check a property’s policy before you make a reservation.

Zach Honig, Editor at Large at travel website The Points Guy, recommends steering clear of nonrefundable tickets and hotel stays. “Personally, I’m not purchasing any nonrefundable travel right now, though I have booked several award flights that I hope to take, since I’ve found business-class availability to be outstanding, for travel later in the year,” he tells Business Insider.

Refundable tickets and hotel stays are often more expensive than their nonrefundable counterparts, however, which leads us to the next point …

While most travel brands have adjusted their cancellation policies for paid reservations, if you have points or miles, consider booking any speculative flights or hotel stays with your rewards.

It’s usually easier to cancel award tickets than cash reservations, and Honig notes that United is waiving award redeposit fees for the rest of 2020 as long as you cancel more than 30 days before departure. If you’re looking to book through another airline program, check to see if they’re offering award redeposit fee waivers as well.

If you can’t resist pulling the trigger on booking an expensive trip for the future, buying supplementary travel insurance could be a smart idea. While travel rewards credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, and the Platinum Card® from American Express offer strong travel coverage, including trip cancellation and interruption insurance, their coverage limits the reasons for which you can cancel and receive a full refund.

While the urge to book travel is understandable given that we’re all cooped up at home, it’s wise to balance that wanderlust with the need for financial security.

GALLERY: How to cancel your trip during the coronavirus pandemic 

a person in a blue suitcase:   Airlines are waiving cancellation and rebooking fees, but  getting a full refund is unlikely.    Amtrak train tickets are refundable, but canceling without a  fee requires speaking with an agent.    Many hotels are waiving cancellation fees and refunding  trips, and Airbnb is fully refunding reservations made before  March 14.    Many rental car companies are waiving change and cancellation  fees, but there are some restrictions.    Most cruise lines have suspended all upcoming trips and are  offering different refund and credit options.       Visit   Insider's homepage for more stories.     The coronavirus  pandemic has devastated the travel industry and upended  travel plans for people around the world. Whether you were set to  travel for vacation, an event, or to visit family, chances are  you've had to rethink your itinerary.   Here's how to adjust your travel plans with minimal financial  losses.

“Given the vast amount of uncertainty that we’re dealing with at this moment, my advice as a financial planner would be to focus on what you can control,” says Eric Roberge, CFP and founder of Beyond Your Hammock. “Right now, that comes down to your personal saving, spending, and investment contributions.”

“My priorities before spending on travel would be to pad my emergency fund (even if it was ‘full,’ having a little extra cash right now only adds security and stability), maintain or even increase my investment contributions, and do what I can to support others in my local community who may be struggling,” Roberge continues.

That’s not to say you can’t book future travel and save money, but it’s hard to overstate the importance of being financially prepared for any unforeseen circumstances during this uncertain time – especially as unemployment claims continue to skyrocket. 

If you have travel points, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards, keep in mind that you can redeem them for cash back. This won’t get you maximum value in most cases, but if you’re short on cash, this is an option for building your emergency fund.

 

You don’t have to stop dreaming about an exotic vacation, even if you ultimately decide to hold off on booking future travel for now.

In fact, this is a great time to start earning points and miles so you’ll be ready to go whenever we return to normalcy. Signing up for rewards credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card and earning their welcome bonuses will put you in a perfect position to book award travel in the future.

Consider cards that earn transferable points (like Amex, Chase, or Citi points, or Capital One miles) as opposed to those that earn rewards with an airline or hotel program, so you’re not locked into just one option for redeeming them. And remember that many cards offer bonus rewards on purchases such as online shopping, food delivery, and groceries.

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Royal travel: How many times has the Queen travelled around Earth? SHOCK stats revealed

The Queen is known for having travelled around the world multiple times to meet people from various nations. In fact, she is officially the most travelled head of state of all time. Her Majesty is even known to have had some bizarre travel traditions such as having to include a black outfit in her luggage and always carrying boiled sweets.

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  • Queen’s message to PM Boris Johnson’s family in full HERE

But over the years she has clocked up a huge amount of air miles.

Surprisingly, the Queen has travelled more than a million miles.

In fact, she has travelled 1,032,513 miles which is the equivalent of 42 journeys around the entire length of the Earth.

She took most of her trips in the 1970s when she visited 48 different countries.

These countries included the likes of Canada, Fiji, Malaysia, New Zealand, Barbados and Australia.

In total, she has visited 110 countries which has earned her the right to join the Traveller’s Century Club which represents travellers who have visited 100 or more countries and territories.

Meanwhile, the average Briton will visit just ten countries in their lifetime.

Her longest trip was a 44,000-mile tour of the Commonwealth in 1953.

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The journey was so huge that the Queen took an impressive 12 tons of luggage with her.

She visited Canada the most with 27 trips, followed by Australia with 18 trips.

But there are some places that she has never visited during her official trips.

One of the countries she has never visited includes Egypt.

This is potentially due to security issues and the Suez Crisis of 1956.

Other destinations that she has not visited include Libya, Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Cuba, Albania, Costa Rica, Madagascar and Israel.

In her role as Queen, she also never visited Greece which may be because of her husband Prince Philip’s family history.

But out of all 195 countries, she has only missed out 91.

The Queen’s last state visit was in 2015 to Malta.

But the Queen didn’t fly commercial, despite other members of the Royal Family having to do so.

Back in 2002, Prince Philip explained how the planes that they use have had improvements for their own comfort.

He said: “If you travel as much as we do, you appreciate the improvements in aircraft design of less noise and more comfort – provided you don’t travel in something called economy class, which sounds ghastly.”

The Queen is the only member of the royals who does not have to take a scheduled flight unlike Prince William and Prince Harry and their families.

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Hotels on Italy’s Amalfi coast are selling holidays to beat coronavirus

While most holidaymakers are scrambling to get refunds on their booked trips after countries around the world imposed strict travel bans, a group of hotels in Italy, which was at one point the epicentre of Covid-19 in Europe, is encouraging people to book holidays with them.

But far from shamelessly drumming up trade during a crisis, the hotels involved, all situated along the Amalfi coast, are actually hoping to use the initiative to raise money to go towards medical research in the fight against coronavirus.

Four hotels – Le Sirenuse and Il San Pietro in Positano, Palazzo Avino in Ravello and Hotel Santa Catarina in Amalfi – plus the Michelin-starred restaurant Don Alfonso 1890 in Sant’Agnata sui Due Golfi are involved in the scheme.

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Each of the hotels has listed 10 vouchers worth €5,000 (£4,405) for sale, bookable by contacting the hotels directly. The vouchers entitle the holder to a two-night stay for two people at the property, as well as dinner at Don Alfonso 1890, to be redeemed by the end of the holiday season in 2022.

The host hotels will also be laying on extras, such as romantic dinners, spa treatments, cocktail-mixing classes and private tours of the area, The Telegraph reports.

In total, they hope to raise €200,000 (£176,226), which will be donated to the Italy-based G Pascale Foundation, to help with researching a Covid-19 vaccine.

This isn’t the only way the travel industry has clubbed together in the fight against coronavirus.

Hotels around the UK are offering discounted meals for NHS workers as well as the vulnerable.

Some hotels are also offering free accommodation for NHS workers who may need to isolate from their families.

A similar global initiative was also launched by Airbnb, with up to 100,000 homes available around the world for frontline workers.

It comes after the UK Foreign Office updated its travel advice at the weekend, with British citizens now warned against non-essential travel abroad for an “indefinite” period.

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United Airlines sued by passenger for refusing to refund cancelled flights

United Airlines is being sued by a passenger after allegedly refusing to refund him for cancelled flights amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Jacob Rudolph filed a lawsuit in Chicago’s federal court following the airline’s refusal to approve his request for refunds on three plane tickets purchased in January for travel on 4 April, reports Bloomberg.

He was due to fly from Hilton Head Island in South Carolina to Minneapolis/St. Paul, but the service was cancelled.

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“United has engaged in unfair and deceptive conduct through its policy to issue refunds, limiting and forcing customers into a rebooked flight or travel voucher instead of returning their money,” Rudolf alleged in the lawsuit.

“The need for monetary refunds over travel vouchers is pressing now. Travel vouchers provide little security in this public crisis, particularly where many individual Americans need money now to pay for basics like food and rent, not restrictive, temporary credits towards future travel.”

Rudolf claims he was offered a voucher for future travel by United instead of a full refund, which is his legal right.

The US Department of Transportation reminded carriers just last week that they are obliged to offer customers a refund for cancelled flights, regardless of the reason.

“US and foreign airlines remain obligated to provide a prompt refund to passengers for flights to, within, or from the United States when the carrier cancels the passenger’s scheduled flight or makes a significant schedule change and the passenger chooses not to accept the alternative offered by the carrier,” the Department said in a statement. 

“The obligation of airlines to provide refunds, including the ticket price and any optional fee charged for services a passenger is unable to use, does not cease when the flight disruptions are outside of the carrier’s control (e.g., a result of government restrictions).”

The Department of Transportation said it was receiving “an increasing number of complaints” from passengers who said they had been denied refunds by airlines for cancelled or significantly delayed flights.

Customers reported being told they would receive credit vouchers instead of their money back.

“The Aviation Enforcement Office will monitor airlines’ refund policies and practices and take enforcement action as necessary,” warned the Department.

The Independent has asked United Airlines for comment.

It’s not the only case of passengers taking legal action during the pandemic.

Five Canadian airlines are being sued for breach of contract after refusing to issue full refunds to travellers for cancelled flights.

The class-action lawsuit has been taken out against Air Canada, WestJet, Swoop, Air Transat and Sunwing.

The carriers, all of which have been heavily curtailing flight schedules since the Canadian government advised against all non-essential travel in mid-March, have been accused of only offering affected customers the option to rebook their journey for a later date.

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Berlin: A love letter to cities in lockdown

Berlin, how’ve you been?

You’re often overlooked when travel destinations come to mind but that shouldn’t be the case.

While the Alicantes and Romes of the world are despairing at their vanishing visitors and empty beaches, you’re the level-headed, Teutonic city we need at the moment.You’ve lived through being bisected by a wall and two World Wars, after all. We shalln’t get into who started them.

Then there’s the fact that your concrete blocks and dirty cobbles are never going to appear on a brochure any time soon. Arschhässlich is an ugly word, but Berlin you’re a mess. However, the fact you don’t care is to your credit.

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