LONDON — This week, Marisha Wallace finally had to admit that her planned five-day ski holiday in Switzerland in mid-December was not salvageable: The Swiss government’s sudden decision to impose a 10-day quarantine on some international travelers meant she wouldn’t be able to leave her hotel or return home to London on her scheduled flight.
“It’s the way of the world right now,” said Ms. Wallace, an actress and a singer. “You can’t plan anymore.”
That provisional state, amplified across the world, has left the still-fragile economy in a state of suspense as spiking coronavirus infections and the new variant Omicron have popped up around the globe.
“There’s no way to know how bad it will get,” said Ángel Talavera, head of European economics at Oxford Economics.
report released Wednesday from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development showed, although growth has been uneven, the world economy this year bounced back more quickly and stronglythan had been anticipated. The report, compiled largely before the latest coronavirus news, nevertheless warned that growth was projected to slow: in the eurozone, to 4.3 percent next year from 5.2 percent in 2021; and in the United States, to 3.7 percent in 2022 from 5.6 percent.
The organization characterized its outlook as “cautiously optimistic.” But it reiterated how much economic fortunes are inextricably tied to the coronavirus: “The economic policy priority is to get people vaccinated,” the report concluded.
a fourth wave of infections transformed Europe into a Covid hot spot and prompted new restrictions like lockdowns in the Netherlands and Austria.
During earlier outbreaks, trillions in government assistance helped quickly resuscitate the struggling U.S. and European economies. It also brought some unexpected side effects. Combined with pent-up demand, that support helped produce a shortage of labor and materials and rising inflation.
Given how much debt was racked up in the past 18 months, such aid is unlikely to recur even with a sharp downturn — and neither are wholesale closures. Vaccines provide some protection, and many people say they are unwilling to go back into hibernation.
People and business alike have shifted into a wait-and-see mode. “A lot of things do seem like they are on hold, like labor market or overall consumption decisions,” said Nick Bunker, director of economic research for the job site Indeed.
How that will affect unemployment levels and inflation rates is unclear. Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, indicated on Tuesday that concern about stubborn inflation was growing. The O.E.C.D. also warned that inflation could be higher and last longer than originally anticipated.
Omicron’s appearance just adds to the uncertainty, Laurence Boone, the organization’s chief economist, said in an interview.
governments have reacted with a confusing hodgepodge of stern warnings, travel bans, mask mandates and testing rules that further cloud the economic outlook. That patchwork response combined with people’s varying tolerance for risk means that, at least in the short term, the virus’s latest swerves will have a vastly different effect depending on where you are and what you do.
In France, Luna Park, an annual one-month amusement fair held in the southern city of Nice and slated to open this weekend, was called off after the government suddenly requisitioned the massive warehouse where roller coasters, shooting galleries and merry-go-rounds were being set up in order to convert the space to an emergency vaccination center.
“Today I find myself trying to save my company, and I’m not sure that I can,” said Serge Paillon, park’s owner. He feared he would face huge losses, including 500,000 euros (about $566,000) he had already invested in the event, as well as refunds for tickets that had been on sale for several months
Mr. Paillon furloughed 20 employees. Another 200 festival workers who were coming from around the country to manage the 60 games and rides were told to stay home.
“For a year and a half, it was already a disaster,” Mr. Paillon said. “And now it’s starting again.”
Israel’s decision on Saturday to shut its borders to all foreign tourists for two weeks is likely to reduce the number of tourists in Israel and the occupied territories this December by up to 40,000, or nearly 60 percent of what was expected, according to a government estimate.
Wiatt F. Bowers, an urban planner, had planned to leave Jacksonville, Fla., for Tel Aviv on Wednesday but had to cancel — the fifth time in 18 months that he had to scrap a planned trip to Israel. He will rebook, but doesn’t know when.
Foreign tourism, which brought a record 4.55 million tourists to Israel in 2019, had already nearly vanished. Between March 2020 and September 2021, nonresident foreigners were barred from entering Israel — and, by extension, the occupied territories, where entry and exit are controlled by Israel.
In Bethlehem, where tourism is the main industry, income consequently fell more than 50 percent, said the mayor, Anton Salman, in a phone interview.
Elias al-Arja, the chief of the Arab Hotel Association, which represents about 100 Palestinian hotels in the occupied territories, said he was concerned less about the short-term effect of the sudden travel ban than about the long-term message of unpredictability it sent to potential visitors.
“The disaster isn’t the groups who canceled over the next two weeks,” Mr. al-Arja said. “How can I convince people to come to the Holy Land after we promised them that you can come, but then the government closes the border?”
Reluctance to travel, though, could mean an upswing in other sectors if the new variant is not as harmful as people fear. Jessica Moulton, a senior partner at McKinsey & Company in London, said previous spending patterns during the pandemic showed that some money people would otherwise use for travel would instead be spent on dining.
She estimated that the roughly $40 billion that British consumers saved on travel last summer was used for shopping and eating out.
At the moment, Ms. Moulton said, “to the extent that Omicron decreases travel, which will happen as we head into Christmas, that will benefit restaurants.”
In Switzerland, where travelers from Britain and 22 other countries must now quarantine, the effect of the policy change on hotels was immediate.
“The majority of travelers from England — between 80 to 90 percent — have already canceled,” said Andreas Züllig, head of HotellerieSuisse, the Swiss hotel association.
Ms. Wallace, who canceled her trip to the Cambrian Hotel in Adelboden, was one of several people who changed their reservations at the hotel after the Swiss government made its announcement on Friday, just one week before the slopes open.
“This obviously has an impact on our very important winter and Christmas business,” said Anke Lock, the Cambrian’s manager, who estimated that 20 percent of the hotel’s December bookings were at risk.
For now, though, most guests are watching and waiting, Ms. Lock said: “We’ve changed the bookings from guaranteed to tentative.”
Extreme uncertainty about the economy may turn out to be the only certainty.
Patrick Kingsley contributed reporting from Jerusalem, Melissa Eddy from Berlin and Léontine Gallois from Paris.
The problem is not just Britain’s stricter immigration rules. Other workers, in Britain and elsewhere, have left the hospitality industry looking for more stable employment, said Kate Shoesmith, the deputy chief executive of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, which represents recruitment companies and agencies.
Daily Business Briefing
Restaurant and hotel workers, who can’t work from home, have been scarred by unexpected changes in lockdown rules that have pulled them in and out of work at short notice. Despite the success of Britain’s vaccination program, the delta coronavirus variant is threatening to delay the full lifting of social distancing restrictions in England later this month.
Some people “are not confident there won’t be another lockdown,” Ms. Shoesmith said.
Many workers have moved on to less strenuous jobs that don’t require such late nights and long shifts, such as in call centers or in retail or other customer service roles. Adecco, a large recruitment agency, sent out a request to tens of thousands of job seekers to gauge their interest in working in hospitality. Just 1 percent responded.
Ms. Shoesmith said recruiters expected some European Union nationals to eventually return to Britain to work, “but the vast majority won’t; that’s the anticipation.”
To help fill the gap, there is a broad sentiment that the industry must make hospitality an appealing career for Britons, one worth aspiring to, with training and opportunities for promotion. For now, though, this work is often considered just “a job you do in between other things,” as Ms. Shoesmith put it.
UKHospitality has teamed up with work coaches in government job centers. It wants them to promote hospitality as a “career of choice” and think beyond entry-level or front-of-house positions.
Until then, the shortage of workers is a drag on countless businesses.
In more than three decades in the industry, said John Crompton, the director at Hillbrooke Hotels, he had never known a staff shortage like this. The company, which has four “quirky luxury” hotels and inns in eastern and southern England, needs to hire at least 50 people.
Hotel flexibility will vary, so read the fine print
By now, most of the large American-run chains have reverted to their pre-Covid cancellation policies for reservations made before a certain date (that has come and gone), and for travel through a certain date (that has come and gone). But some companies are still being flexible: Hilton has always had generous cancellation policies, and Four Seasons has been consistently easy about changes and cancellations during the pandemic.
Travel-industry insiders also have noticed flexibility among independent hoteliers.
“We’ve felt that small, family-run luxury properties are actually more nimble than some of the big hotel chains,” said Louisa Gehring, the owner of Gehring Travel, an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso luxury travel agency. “Rather than lay off all their employees or point to an overarching corporate cancellation policy, they’ve had flexibility to keep the teams on, work with clients on a case-by-case basis and really step up to the plate.”
Policies vary by property, she added, but even some of the more rigid ones now include exceptions for Covid.
One thing to watch for is the credits-versus-refunds flash point: Even in cases when a hotel won’t swallow a deposit or prepayment outright, will you get a cash refund or will you be asked to rebook? Last year, Greece and Italy both passed laws allowing hotels and other travel companies to issue credits, rather than cash refunds, for canceled bookings. Although vaccines, the eagerness to travel and pandemic fatigue may make the idea of a credit less odious than it seemed last spring, always ask about policy specifics, including blackout and expiration dates.
Realize that Paris won’t look exactly like the Paris you remember
The Palace of Versailles is open and President Emmanuel Macron is sipping espresso outside Parisian cafes, but nightclubs will remain closed even after France’s countrywide curfew ends in June. At restaurants and bars in Madrid, groups are capped at four people inside and six people outside. Germany and the Netherlands remain closed to American tourists.
“Clearly, we will not come back to ‘normal’ straight away, and travelers will have to be conscious of health measures and respect rules at the destination,” said Eduardo Santander, the executive director of the European Travel Commission, a Brussels-based nonprofit that represents the national tourism boards across the continent. “We all — destinations, businesses and guests — cannot let the guard down too soon both for our own health and for the safety of people around.”
In short, any trip to Europe this summer will come down to managing expectations.
“Save the ‘must check all the boxes’ trip to Europe for a bit later, once all new protocol kinks have smoothed out,” Ms. Gehring said. But you may still have an unforgettable experience regardless.
The fortune of Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates exceeds the size of Morocco’s annual economy, combines the value of Ford, Twitter and Marriott International and is triple the endowment of Harvard. While few know how their wealth will be divided in the divorce, one thing is clear: breaking it up can’t be easy.
Mr. Gates built one of the great fortunes in human history when he founded Microsoft in 1975 with Paul Allen. The Gateses’ net worth is estimated to be more than $124 billion, and includes assets as varied as trophy real estate, public company stocks and rare artifacts.
There’s a big stake in the luxury Four Seasons hotel chain. There are hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland and ranch land, including Buffalo Bill’s historic Wyoming ranch. There are billions of dollars’ worth of shares in companies like AutoNation and Waste Management. There’s a beachfront mansion in Southern California. And one of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks.
“The amount of money and the diversity of assets that are involved in this divorce boggles the imagination,” said David Aronson, a lawyer who has represented wealthy clients in divorce cases. “There have rarely been cases that are even close to this in size.”
2019 divorce between the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his now ex-wife, the novelist and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, was bigger. Mr. Bezos had an estimated fortune of $137 billion, though mostly in Amazon stock, and Ms. Scott kept 4 percent of Amazon’s shares, worth $36 billion at the time.
But Mr. Gates has for decades been diversifying his holdings; he owns just 1.3 percent of Microsoft. Instead, his stock portfolio includes stakes in dozens of publicly traded companies. He is the largest private owner of farmland in the country, according to The Land Report. In addition to the Four Seasons, he has stakes in other luxury hotels and a company that caters to private jet owners. His real estate portfolio includes one of the largest houses in the country and several equestrian facilities. He owns stakes in a clean energy investment fund and a nuclear energy start-up.
Forbes, or $146 billion, according to the research firm Wealth-X. Including the Gates Foundation’s endowment and the Gates personal fortune, Cascade most likely oversees assets that put it on par or beyond some of the world’s biggest hedge funds in size.
Mr. Larson operates Cascade with an obsessive level of secrecy, going to great lengths to cloak the firm’s transactions so that they can’t easily be traced back to the Gateses. In a 1999 interview with Fortune magazine, Mr. Larson said he chose the name “Cascade” because it was a generic-sounding name in the Pacific Northwest.
that questions about the future of the Gates Foundation immediately arose following news of the divorce. The foundation directs billions to 135 countries to help fight poverty and disease. As of 2019, it had given away nearly $55 billion. (In 2006, Mr. Buffett pledged $31 billion of his fortune to the Gates Foundation, greatly increasing its grant making.)
Since he stepped down from day-to-day operations at Microsoft in 2008, Mr. Gates has devoted much of his time to the foundation. He also runs Gates Ventures, a firm that invests in companies working on climate change and other issues. Over the decades, Mr. Gates shed the image of a ruthless tech executive battling the United States government on antitrust to be viewed as a global do-gooder. And he appears to be keenly aware of the stark contrast between the scale of his wealth and his role as a philanthropist. “I’ve been disproportionately rewarded for the work I’ve done — while many others who work just as hard struggle to get by,” he acknowledged in a year-end blog post from 2019.
told The New York Times last year. “There’s just none.”
PARIS — For six months, Christophe Thiriet has been waiting for France’s grinding national lockdowns to be lifted so he can reopen his company’s restaurants and hotels in a picturesque corner of eastern France and recall the 150 employees who were furloughed months ago.
But when he asked them to return for a reopening in mid-May, he faced an unexpected headache: At least 30 said they wouldn’t be coming back, leaving him scrambling to hire new workers just as he needed to swing into action.
“When you close things for so long, people think twice about whether they want to stay,” said Mr. Thiriet, a co-manager of the Heintz Group, which owns 11 hotels and three restaurants around the riverside city of Metz, near the border with Luxembourg.
Restaurants and hotels across the country are facing the same problem. After months on furlough, workers in droves are deciding not to return to jobs in the hospitality industry. It’s a particular concern in France, which typically tops the list of the world’s most visited countries.
lost revenue since last year.
“We know we’re going to have customers again this summer — that’s not the problem,” said Yann France, the owner of La Flambée, a restaurant in the popular northern seaside city of Deauville. “The concern is that we won’t have an adequate work force at a time when we need to make up for a huge loss in sales.”
make ends meet, could eventually fill any shortfall.
NT Hotel Gallery group, which owns five hotels and three restaurants around Toulouse. “Will things stay open, or could there be another shutdown because of a new virus?”
For those already facing signs of a labor squeeze, it’s now clear that a generous state-subsidized furlough scheme intended to help French employers keep staff on standby has also created unexpected downsides. In the half year in which hospitality employees received 85 percent of their salaries to stay home, many have had ample time to re-evaluate their futures.
“Many people are deciding they have other things to do than continue in a profession where nothing has been happening,” said Mr. Thiriet, who is also a representative of France’s biggest hospitality trade organization, UMIH, the Union of Hospitality Trades and Industries. He added that thousands of other employers in the organization have reported the same recruiting difficulties.
Catherine Praturlon is among those who decided to shift gears completely during the pandemic. A manager of a hotel in the Moselle region of eastern France for nearly 30 years, she had thought of doing something different but never made the leap.
When the government shuttered hotels on and off for months, and travelers slowed to a trickle, the job became boring, she said. “You had no perspective on the future,” Mrs. Praturlon said.
Instead of returning from furlough, she recently quit her job and took one in a different industry. (She said a confidentiality agreement prevented her from naming the field.) “The pandemic lit a fire under me to make that change,” she said.
announced this past week by President Emmanuel Macron.
imminent lifting of a yearlong ban on all but the most essential travel from the United States to the European Union, just in time for summer vacation, will draw back free-spending Americans after a long absence.
Breakfast in America, a popular pancake restaurant in Paris, said the furlough schemes, while essential to the restaurant’s survival, had paradoxically put some of his higher-paid workers at a disadvantage.
While waitstaff earning France’s monthly minimum wage of €1,539 get their full pretax salary under the furlough program, cooks and managers, who earn more, took about a 15 percent pay cut to stay home until the pancake house reopens.
For one manager, a single father with two children, the reduced pay means “he’s really struggling,” Mr. Carlson said.
At Mr. Thiriet’s restaurants and hotels in Metz, the 30 unexpected job vacancies are not yet debilitating, since restaurant reopenings will come in stages and tourism and bookings at hotels are not likely to return to prepandemic levels quickly.
Still, he said, it’s a challenge to replace employees with years and even decades of experience who decided during the pandemic that the work was no longer what they wanted.
“At first people said this is nice, one or two months relaxing at home,” Mr. Thiriet said. “Now, there’s a lack of long-term visibility about this industry, and some people are not so sure they want to be in it.”
He is working with other hotel and restaurant owners in the area to create retraining programs, in hopes of luring new candidates.
Mr. France said he and local restaurant and hotel owners were also working with unemployment offices in hopes of securing applicants in need of seasonal work to be ready for the anticipated crowds.
“We’ll try to limit the damage that’s been done to our business,” Mr. France added.
“But if we don’t have workers, it will be really hard.”
“Certification can be a tool in the toolbox, but don’t be limited by that,” Dr. Miller said. “It’s about choices, and travelers do have the choice.”
Susanne Etti, the environmental impact specialist at Intrepid Travel, a global tour operator based in Australia, had other tips for travelers. She said they could start by checking the list of the more than 230 travel organizations that have joined the Tourism Declares initiative, members of which have pledged to publish a climate action plan and cut their carbon emissions.
Another reliable indicator, she said, is whether a company has been classified as a “B Corporation” — a rigorous sustainability standard that’s not limited to the tourism industry. Her company, Intrepid, has achieved the distinction, as have the apparel company Patagonia and ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s. The B Corporation website lists some three dozen companies in the “travel and leisure” sector — from a paddle sports company in Hawaii to an Ecuadorean tour bus operator. A number of other tourism businesses are listed under “hospitality,” including Taos Ski Valley and Orlando-based Legacy Vacation Resorts.
Dr. Etti also shared some of the advice that she follows in her own travels. “When you fly, make it count,” she said, adding that, before the pandemic, when she would travel from her current home in Australia to her native Germany, she would do the long-haul flight, but then choose trains or other less-polluting ways to get around Europe, even when cheap short-haul flights were readily available.
Dr. Etti also recommended that travelers learn to slow down. “Stay in one location longer,” she said, “to really understand how life works in that community.”
Rethinking what travel means
Many travelers also need a shift in mind-set, said Dominique Callimanopulos, the head of Elevate Destinations, an international tour operator based in Massachusetts that has won a number of awards for its commitment to sustainability. People should learn to see their travels as an opportunity for exchange with a host community rather than a simple consumer transaction. Ms. Callimanopulos said that even her sustainability-inclined clientele rarely do their homework: She has received more questions about the availability of hair dryers than about the company’s environmental or social practices.
“There are a lot of operators and owners who aren’t accustomed to being fully booked, and it can be tough to make sure they’re sorting out cleaning schedules and things like that,” said Jeremy Gall, a vacation-rentals industry veteran and the chief executive and founder of Breezeway, a property care and cleaning operations platform.
But, he added, “I think it’s all generally good news, especially in the context of the last 12 months. I don’t think there’s an owner, host or manager who would trade off the uncertainty that they felt this time last year for a fully booked summer.”
You’ll probably pay more than you did in 2019
According to Transparent, a vacation-rentals data company, the countywide average nightly rate for Airbnb vacation rentals in July and August is expected to be around $220. Last year, it was $194; in 2019, it was $185.
At Evolve, a hospitality company that manages more than 14,000 short-term rentals around the United States, nightly rates are up 27 percent in July and 19 percent in August, over those same months in 2019.
“I’d be remiss to say that we didn’t raise our rates significantly,” said Jon Mayo, whose Airbnb in Palm Springs has more nights booked this summer than ever before, despite the sure-to-be-sweltering desert temperatures. “I’m renting at rates I wouldn’t have even dreamed of three years ago.”
Across the 1,000 vacation homes managed by Twiddy & Company, a hospitality and asset management firm in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, weekly summer rates have risen 8 percent since 2019, from $8,406 to $9,152. On StayMarquis, a luxury vacation-property management company, average rates in the Hamptons this summer — around $1,360 a night — are up 12 percent over 2019. Nightly rates across the 270 rentals managed by Hawai’i Life, a luxury brokerage and rental management company in Hawaii, are up 11 percent from 2019.
You’ll probably stay for a while
The elongated travel patterns that emerged last summer, from monthlong stays to four- and five-night “weekends,” are back in full force this year.
If 2020 was the summer of the pandemic-enforced road trip, many people seem to be hoping that 2021 will be the summer they can travel overseas. But that’s a big “if.” Roadblocks abound, among them, the rise of variant cases in popular destinations like Europe and confusion about the role that vaccine “passports” will play as people begin crossing borders. The recent pause on Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine adds a new wrinkle.
Still, there is reason for optimism. The number of vaccine doses administered each day in the United States has tripled in the last few months, and President Biden has said the United States is still on track to vaccinate every American adult who wants it by the end of May. Globally, the number of shots has been rising, with more than 840 million vaccines administered worldwide.
Currently, Americans are restricted from entering many countries for nonessential trips. Travelers can check the U.S. State Department website for specific country entry restrictions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website to view recommendations for international travelers (vaccinated and unvaccinated), and the C.D.C. COVID Data Tracker to monitor country conditions.
Iceland announced on March 16 that it would allow all vaccinated travelers into the country, Delta Air Lines followed soon after with an announcement that in May it would resume its Iceland routes from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and Minneapolis St. Paul Airport, and offer a new route from Boston.
it’s been reported that the Biden administration may cancel existing travel restrictions for foreign nationals coming from Britain, Europe and Canada, around mid-May.
Still, the market is very much in flux, Mr. Grant said, so even though airlines may be increasing their flight schedules, they will continue to adjust to demand, possibly consolidating some of the flights.
United Airlines plans to increase international flights, but will still be operating just about half of its 2019 schedule. Among the flights it is eyeing are those between Chicago and Tokyo’s Haneda airport and Tel Aviv. The company also plans to increase service from Los Angeles to Sydney and Tokyo Narita.
Beach destinations that are open to Americans have seen an increase in demand and United is scheduling 90 more flights per week to or from the Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America than it had in May 2019.
Patrick Quayle, the vice president of the United Airlines’ international network, said the company had been adding more flights to countries that were open, but was uncertain when additional destinations like Canada — which is currently closed to American tourists and which has recently seen a rise in cases — would be added to that list. United is trying to be nimble, he said, so “if something were to open up, we can put our aircraft in the sky quickly.”
At American Airlines, new routes are planned this summer from New York to Athens and Tel Aviv, and from Miami to Suriname and Tel Aviv. (Israel has announced it would allow some vaccinated tourists into the country beginning May 23.) American also announced it was restarting a number of flights to Europe. Beyond that, the company won’t speculate on where air travel will open next.
Travel-Ready Center allows passengers with booked tickets to view country-specific entry requirements and schedule tests, and will soon allow customers to upload and store their vaccination records on the website before they travel. American’s online travel tool on the company’s website already allows passengers to store required documents like proof of negative coronavirus tests.
One airline that has been focusing on flights between the United States and international destinations is not a U.S. carrier, but a Middle Eastern one: Emirates. The United Arab Emirates opened up to leisure and business travelers last July and Emirates is already offering direct service to Dubai from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Washington, D.C., New York and Boston. Passengers can also connect from there to other destinations in the Middle East, Africa and West Asia. The company recently announced it would resume its flight between Newark and Athens on June 1.
health and cleaning protocols they put in place during the pandemic. Some have been adding on-site virus testing. In addition, so-called “touchless technology,” like phone apps for ordering food, will continue to be rolled out. A report by Medallia Zingle, a communications software maker, found that 77 percent of consumers surveyed said the amount of in-person interaction required at a business will factor into their decision on whether or not they visit that business.
Marriott, one of the world’s largest international hotel companies, with some 7,600 hotels under 30 brands, has implemented a set of practices it calls Commitment to Clean that includes sanitizing properties with hospital-grade disinfectants, using air-purifying systems and spreading out lobby furniture to facilitate social distancing. Some properties offer free coronavirus testing.
Recently the company announced a pilot program introducing self-serve check-in kiosks that create room keys and allow guests to bypass the front desk. It is also adding more “grab and go” food options.
Hyatt, another major international brand, is also continuing to focus on cleanliness. Currently, it is working with the Global Biorisk Advisory Council and Cleveland Clinic to create its Global Care and Cleanliness Commitment. Those practices will “remain in place during the pandemic and beyond,” Amy Weinberg, Hyatt’s senior vice president of loyalty, brand marketing and consumer insights, wrote in an email.
its Hôtel du Palais in Biarritz, France, one of its last remaining closed properties. Almost all Hyatt properties have been open since last December, and in February the company began arranging for guests staying at Hyatt resorts in Latin America who planned to travel back to the United States to get free on-site coronavirus testing.
IHG’s Kimpton brand with 73 hotels in 11 countries plans on modifying its protocols this summer where it feels they are safe and local ordinances allow — for example, bringing back the manager-hosted social hour, a guest favorite.
The four Kimpton hotels in Britain that closed because of the pandemic are currently scheduled to reopen by the end of May. A new Kimpton property in Bangkok that opened in October of 2020 to local guests will welcome international travelers this fall. The company also plans to open a new hotel in Bali and one in Paris later this year.
“Hoteliers are chafing at the bit” to reopen and are able to do so quickly, said Robin Rossman, the managing director of the hospitality analytics company STR. The global hotel sector, though, will likely take up to two years to make a full return, he said.
Geographic Expeditions, which did not run any trips last summer, reported that its bookings have picked up significantly in the past few months. It plans to run 20 international trips this summer, both to familiar destinations such as the Galápagos, and some off the beaten path, including Pakistan and Namibia. There are only about 25 percent fewer guests signed up now than there were for 2019 summer trips, according to the chief executive, Brady Binstadt, and they are “spending more than before — they’re splurging on that nicer hotel suite or charter flight or special experience.”
The company chose its first destinations based on entry requirements and client interest and then adjusted itineraries to avoid crowds, minimize internal flights and make sure guests had access to required testing. One expedition required flying a Covid-19 test into a safari lodge in Botswana via helicopter.
A guest recently moved a Geographic Expeditions trip planned for 2022 departure forward to 2021. The company hopes this will become a trend.
Abercrombie & Kent restarted its small-group and private trips last fall and early winter to places like Egypt, Costa Rica and Tanzania, and is continuing to expand choices as countries open up. “There’s been a noticeable spike in people calling who have had their first vaccine,” said Stefanie Schmudde, the vice-president of product development and operations. Bookings in March rose more than 50 percent over bookings in February, according to the company.
Ms. Schmudde monitors global travel conditions intently, and can rattle off names of countries that have been open to tourists for a few months and those she expects to open soon. She predicts Japan and China will open up this fall, but does not expect Europe to welcome many visitors any time soon.
“Many of our guests came here reluctantly at first,” said Jason Kycek, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Casa de Campo. “Many were borderline ready to cancel.”
Mr. Malbon said his family had felt safe during the vacation. “There were five other families at the entire water park,” he said. “You could ride the rides as many times as you wanted.”
Of course, the lengths that people go to stay safe can still backfire. My doctor in Greenwich, Conn., told me about three couples who had flown back on a private plane from Aspen, Colo., after a ski trip, and all six of them subsequently tested positive for the coronavirus. It turned out that they had been infected by the person who owned the plane.
Choosing a hotel is even more complicated. Hotels of the same brand may have different owners or management companies. So Covid-19 protocols at two resorts that share the same brand may be vastly different.
Sarah Eustis is the chief executive of Main Street Hospitality, which owns or manages nine hotels in the Northeast, including the historic Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Mass., and Hammetts Hotel in Newport, R.I. She traveled to Boca Grande, Fla., with her husband this past week to get away from the gloomy Massachusetts winter.
“We’re in the hospitality business, and we realize that the protocols do work,” Ms. Eustis said. “You can go to restaurants and be safe. But friendship and family lines are being drawn on this issue.”
She said she was only moderately concerned about Covid-19 while traveling. But, she said, there is something that many people on both sides of this issue are not acknowledging.
“People with means can fly above the fray,” Ms. Eustis said. “I just had a massage, and I felt completely safe. I had my mask, on and so did the masseuse. To have the opportunity to decompress after a very stressful year, it’s a real privilege.”
In 2020, governments across the world closed borders, airlines grounded flights, hotels shuttered and cruises were canceled or postponed.
The measures imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus decimated the livelihoods of millions of travel and hospitality workers, whose jobs depend on tourism. Efforts by governments to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the pandemic and stimulate the recovery of the travel industry have fallen short, especially in developing countries where many workers have received little or no support.
In the United States alone, more than four million travel jobs were lost in 2020, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Across the globe, between 100 to 120 million more direct tourism jobs are gone or at risk, the World Tourism Organization has warned.
The cruise and aviation sectors were hit particularly hard. After cruise ships were grounded last March, every one percent of cruisers lost resulted in a reduction of 9,100 industry-related jobs, the Cruise Lines International Association, the industry’s trade group, found. Each day of the suspension caused direct and indirect industry losses of 2,500 jobs. The downturn in air traffic last year resulted in a loss of around 4.8 million direct aviation jobs, a 43 percent drop from pre-pandemic levels, the Geneva-based Air Transport Action group said.
Six travel workers, from a cruise-ship worker in Manila to a tour bus driver in East Jerusalem, spoke with us about the challenges they and their families have faced over the past 12 months without work. In their own words, they shared how the prolonged shutdown and its uncertainty upended their lives. While they all feel they have survived the worst of the pandemic, many of them have accumulated significant debt and worry about their future job prospects. Most of them feel optimistic that travel will pick up soon following the global inoculation drive, but are concerned that it could take years for the industry to recover to pre-pandemic levels.
These interviews were edited and condensed for clarity.
Alvin Villorente, 44, cruise-ship wine steward
After nearly 10 years working as a wine steward for Norwegian Cruise Line, I was repatriated to the Philippines last April, unsure when the coronavirus would be brought under control and I would be called back to work.
When we were still on board the cruise ship, they gave us severance pay, but when we came home, it suddenly stopped. I have been a seafarer for almost 24 years, and this is the first time I have not received any money for nearly one year. It is very, very challenging.
In my job, I was responsible for sales and inventory of beverages and assisting passengers to pick out wines to accompany their meals. I would earn around $2,000 a month, including tips, and sent my entire salary home to support my wife and four children, who are 26, 23, 16 and 12.
We were quite comfortable. We even had savings and used the money to start construction on a new home. But now we cannot even afford our electricity bills and we are drowning in debt.
We had to move out of our home in Manila last year because we could no longer afford the rent. Now we are living in the house we bought, which is still under construction. I had to buy cement to put it on the floor so that my children wouldn’t have to sleep on the mud and I put up tarp so that we would have a roof over our kitchen.
We have been resourceful, but I don’t know how much longer we can live like this. We are behind on our mortgage payments and we have almost $5,000 in debt. I looked for work but there is nothing. My daughter works in a fast-food chain and my son does courier work, but that is only enough for our meals.
I cannot sleep at night worrying about the next day when the sun comes up. Will someone call to ask for the money? Will they come and take the house? How can I give anyone an honest answer when I don’t know how long before I can work again?
Mustafa Abu Sarah, 53, tour bus driver
I used to spend most of my time crisscrossing Israel and the occupied West Bank, transporting tourists from around the world to centuries-old holy sites, open-air markets and seaside hotels.
But after the pandemic emerged in Israel and the occupied West Bank in early 2020, I lost my job. I am still without work and have racked up a significant amount of debt.
The pandemic has caused tremendous anxiety for me. It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel because nobody can tell us when tourism will finally come back. Every time, we hear another estimate — one day they say it will return in the summer and the next day they say it will return in the fall.
I have managed to put food on the table for my wife and my son through monthly $1,160 welfare checks from the Israeli government and some support from my former employer, but I am still facing enormous financial challenges. My bank account is in deficit, my rent is in arrears by nine months, and I have a growing number of unpaid bills piling up.
For the past decade, I worked for a variety of tour bus companies, which paid me about $1,530 per month. I would work almost every day of the month during peak tourism seasons.
I have tried to find new employment but was only offered a job as a truck driver. Earlier this month, I sold my car for $3,050 to buy myself some breathing room.
My situation is better than the people I know in the West Bank, but it’s still very difficult because I’m always thinking about how I can make ends meet.
Despite the challenges, I still have hope I will eventually be able to return to my old job.
If I weren’t optimistic, I wouldn’t know what to do. If God wills, I’ll be back in the driver’s seat soon.
I was working as a housekeeper at two resorts in March when the borders shut down and immediately our managers sent us home. Since then, I have had no income or assistance and it is impossible to find any work.
The hotels that have opened in Jamaica are all operating at reduced capacity, so they are not employing as many people as they used to. In season, I would make around $250 a month cleaning 30 rooms a day. Now, housekeepers are cleaning five to 10 rooms at most and are making less money.
My eldest son is taking care of our family now. God bless him, he has managed to make some money selling electronic parts online. My husband passed away many years ago and my daughter is only 15 so we have a small family and manage to get by, but we desperately need the money I used to make.
We had to leave our two-bedroom home because we could not afford the rent. For months now we have been living in a small room in our friend’s house. We sleep on the floor on mattresses and have a small seating area where we watch television together. I do all the cooking and cleaning for both our families, which has been demanding, but it is all I can do in return for a roof over our heads.
I want so much more for my children. I want them to finish university and get good, respected jobs. They deserve so much more than this and it breaks my heart that I cannot do more for them in this moment.
The hardest part is not knowing when I will be able to work again and provide for my family. It could be a very long time before the hotels are full again and it is very competitive to get other housekeeping work, especially in private residences.
I went for a few trials last June when things opened up, but it was backbreaking work with too much attitude from the residence owners. In the resorts there is a daily routine that I am used to, and when I finish my work I go home without a headache.
Maybe I didn’t appreciate my work so much then, but I would do anything to go back there now. As soon as I am given the vaccination I will go from hotel to hotel until one of them takes me in.
Augustine Kikomeko, 46, safari guide
My last safari was in February last year. We almost did not finish the tour because our European clients had to rush back home before their countries went into lockdown.
I was working every day — around 15 days as a guide on the field and 15 days doing logistics in Kampala. When everything suddenly stopped, I lost all my income and unfortunately, the government did not give us any help. We were on our own.
It has been a very very hard time for safari guides. Most of us have had to sell our property, land or vehicles just to survive. It is only by God’s grace that some of us are still surviving after all this time.
I got a small job washing cars. As a safari guide, I made around $800 a month, and now I make $100. I have a wife and three children aged 18, 12 and 8, and right now our main target is to be able to eat food. If we get food for a day, then we thank God.
We were renting a house with three bedrooms, one sitting room, and a kitchen for about $150 per month, but around May I had to move my family to a smaller house, which is around $75 per month. Now we have two bedrooms, a living room and the kitchen is outside.
My biggest problem now is sending the kids back to school. They go to a private school and my son is in his final year so I cannot pull him out. I am fighting tooth and nail so that he can finish and go to university. I sold two small pieces of land and borrowed some money, which I will have to pay back in the near future.
There are days where I feel running mad. Where I can’t think anymore, but then I think of people who are in a worse position than me and I feel grateful. I always have hope that tomorrow will be a better day.
If the vaccine has success, I have hope that a few tourists will start traveling and maybe we can get a few safaris in June or July. It will not be the same, but it is something and that is where our hope lies.
Joe Townshend, 33, commercial airline pilot
The first blow to my career came before the pandemic, in September 2019, when the Thomas Cook group collapsed. That was my first commercial pilot role and I had worked for them for 11 years before I lost my job.
Thankfully, the industry was quite buoyant at that time and I managed to get a job in January last year with a small company called Titan Airways that specializes in V.I.P. charter work and high-end travel.
Then the pandemic hit in March. They realized there was no money coming in for the foreseeable future, so they let me go. In the aviation industry, it is common for the last one to join to be the first one to leave.
I couldn’t believe it. I have a partner, two small children and a mortgage. I knew I wasn’t going to get another flying job with the way the travel industry was, so I had to look for something that would bring in any sort of income. In May, I managed to get a job as a delivery driver for Ocado, the U.K. online supermarket.
I took an 80 percent pay cut from my pilot job. We had to go through our finances and shave off everything that wasn’t a necessity like private health care, subscriptions, gym memberships. It has been a really trying time to live on one salary, which is effectively minimum wage. The numbers don’t always match up on a monthly basis in terms of what comes in and what goes out, even after selling my car and taking other measures to save money.
I’ve also started a specialty coffee company called Altitude Coffee London. It’s heavily themed in aviation, which is obviously my background. I built it myself with my dad, who had a commercial property that we turned it into a production factory for roasting specialty grade coffee, which we sell to consumers online.
I have a few people come in and help, but it’s basically just me roasting the coffee, packing it up and getting it out to customers when I’m not delivering for Ocado. The reception so far has been really positive, but obviously we have some way to go to establish ourselves in the market, which is highly competitive.
I’ll definitely go back to flying when jobs become available, but I think it will be a while for people like me who have been made redundant. We’re probably looking at 2022 or 2023. Flying is something that is ingrained in you forever and there’s not really any other experience you can liken it to. Everyday going to work and seeing a blue sky and beautiful scenery and chatting away to someone who is as passionate about the job as you are for eight to 10 hours.
Matteo Gabbrielli, 46, tour guide
My wife, Erika Cornali, and I have both been full-time tour guides in Venice for 11 years, and like 90 percent of tour guides in Italy, we are self employed. Until the pandemic, the job was very rewarding and allowed us to settle down. We bought a house that we love, and thankfully we do not have to pay a mortgage anymore.
Venice has a deep history in tourism. It has been in the Grand Tour since the 1600s and 1700s. Our association of tour guides in Venice dates back to the end of the 1970s. So, for a city that is so deeply involved in the tourism sector, this pandemic has been a big shock and it’s still a dramatic situation.
I keep an Excel spreadsheet of my services and when I look at 2019, I see that I gave 290 tours all year round. In 2020, I gave just 55.
We are lucky because we have some savings, so I am not worried about tomorrow, but I am worried about what happens after tomorrow. I know we can manage until the end of this year with this crisis, but we have two children, and we need to think about their future.
It seems that things will come back slowly, which is worrying because there will not be as much work to go around. We are used to millions of tourists each year, thousands on a daily basis, but now you see very little activity, and tour guides find themselves in a desperate situation some of them going to the train station holding up signs.
It has also been tough on the mental condition. If you are used to working everyday of your life, sometimes twice or three jobs per day, and then suddenly you find yourself with nothing to do. You need something for your mind, not only for your pocket.
I know life will go back to what it was eventually, just as it did after the London and Paris terrorist attacks, but how long will this crisis last we just don’t know. I worry for Venice, because our local population is already in decline and with no economic activity, more people will be forced to leave.