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Spectacular photos of America’s national parks



Slide 1 of 31: There are 62 national parks in the United States, each beautiful in its own right. And while it would be great to visit all of them, chances are you don’t have the time or resources. Lucky for you, we’ve got the next best thing.Here are some of the most spectacular photos of America’s national parks.
Slide 2 of 31: The best time to see this 40,000-acre (162 sq. km) Maine recreation area just outside of Bar Harbor is in October, before it gets too cold. Best of all, you’ll be just in time to see the colourful fall foliage.
Slide 3 of 31: As the only American national park in the southern hemisphere, there’s really nothing quite like the National Park of American Samoa, which spans three islands (Tutuila, Ofu, and Ta‘ū). It’s the only place in the country where you can immerse yourself in a 3,000-year-old Polynesian culture and enjoy pristine beaches and lush rainforests.
Slide 4 of 31: Of the two thousand or so natural sandstone arches that make up this stunning national park in eastern Utah, the most famous is the Delicate Arch, which stands 52 feet (16 m) tall and can be found on the state’s licence plate. Arches welcomes more than 1.5 million visitors each year.

Slide 5 of 31: Though technically not a national park, Adirondack is the largest protected park in the contiguous United States, made up of more than six million acres (24,280 sq. km) of land (that’s bigger than Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier, the Grand Canyon, and the Great Smoky Mountains combined). Located in northeastern New York, the park is made up of more than 10,000 lakes and 30,000 miles (48,280 km) of rivers and streams.
Slide 6 of 31: Made up of “heavily eroded, intricate mazes of narrow ravines, v-shaped gullies, knife-sharp ridges, buttes, and colorful pinnacles,” it’s no wonder it’s called Badlands. Good thing you can enjoy a peek at this beautiful South Dakota park from a safe distance.
Slide 7 of 31: The largest chamber in Carlsbad Caverns, located in Eddy County, New Mexico, is the Big Room, which has a floor space of 357,469 square feet (33,210 sq. m) and was described by comedian Will Rogers as “the Grand Canyon with a roof over it.”
Slide 8 of 31: It’s hard to believe that something called Death Valley could be so beautiful. For the best sight line in the park, be sure to check out Dante’s View. It looks out onto the Owlshead Mountains to the south, the Funeral Mountains to the north, and the salt flats below. Be sure to have your camera ready.
Slide 9 of 31: There’s not a bad view to be had in all of Denali, a park in the northern boreal forest biome that boasts a heavily forested landscape flanked by distant snow-capped mountains.

Slide 10 of 31: Everglades National Park in Florida is the country’s largest subtropical wilderness. It is home to many species of birds, fish, mammals, reptiles, and marine creatures, including alligators and crocodiles, over a dozen species of turtle, the critically endangered Florida panther, bottlenose dolphins, and, perhaps most famous of all, the West Indian manatee, which can weigh up to 1,000 pounds.
Slide 11 of 31: Gates of the Arctic is the least-visited national park in the country—not for lack of natural beauty, but because, as its name suggests, it is extremely remote. Located north of the Arctic Circle, the park is unreachable by road or trail. If you do manage to make your way up there, you’ll be rewarded with some of the most stunning views in Alaska.
Slide 12 of 31: At less than 200 acres (0.8 sq. km), the Gateway Arch National Park is the smallest national park in the country, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for with its spectacular views of St. Louis’s iconic landmark. Built in 1965 to represent the city’s role in westward expansion, the Gateway Arch is the tallest arch in the world, standing 630 feet (192 m) high.
Slide 13 of 31: The best way to see Glacier National Park is on foot, and with over 700 miles (1,127 km) of hiking trails, you’ll never run out of places to go or things to see. One place you won’t want to miss is Lake McDonald, which is 10 miles (16 km) long and 472 feet (144 m) deep. The water is so calm and peaceful that you can make out the colourful pebbles just below the surface.
Slide 14 of 31: This landmark is a sight to behold at any time, but few places in America are as breathtaking as the Grand Canyon at sunset and sunrise, when the rocks casts unusual shadows and the sky resembles a watercolour painting.

Slide 15 of 31: Just down the road from Yellowstone is Grand Teton, which offers striking views of the Teton Mountain Range and makes a strong case for being Wyoming’s most visually arresting national park. The park contains eight peaks with elevations above 12,000 feet (3,658 m); the highest, the Grand Teton, has a summit 13,770 feet (4,197 m) above sea level.
Slide 16 of 31: Matador Network named Nevada’s Great Basin America’s most underrated national park. What makes it so special? For starters, it offers some of the best views not just in the universe, but of the universe, thanks to its pitch-black night skies. You won’t need a telescope to spot the Milky Way.
Slide 17 of 31: The tallest sand dunes in North America can be found in Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park, with some reaching as high as 750 feet (229 m) above the San Luis Valley. To put that into perspective, that’s roughly half the height of the Empire State Building.
Slide 18 of 31: Tallying more than 11.4 million visitors in 2018, Great Smoky Mountains, split between North Carolina to Tennessee, is the most-visited national park in the United States. With breathtaking views like this one of the seemingly endless Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s easy to see why.
Slide 19 of 31: Located in Northwestern Indiana along the southern shore of Lake Michigan, Indiana Dunes is one of America’s newest national parks. It earned the designation on February 15, 2019, and is the first national park in Indiana’s history. Though it gets its name from the many sand dunes in the area (including Mount Baldy, a 126-foot-tall [38 m] moveable dune), the park also contains forests and prairies.
Slide 20 of 31: With its seemingly barren landscape, a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of the city, Joshua Tree is a great place to get away. And upon closer inspection, you’ll find “a thriving ecosystem of plants and animals perfectly adapted to the harsh desert environment.”
Slide 21 of 31: There’s nothing quite like Mount Rainier in the summer, when the meadows are covered with wildflowers (everything from avalanche lilies and asters to cinquefoil and purple shooting stars). One of the most popular locations to view these colourful blooms is an area aptly named Paradise.
Slide 22 of 31: No need to adjust your screens. The waters of Diablo Lake in Washington’s North Cascades National Park really are that vibrant, a phenomenon caused by rocks that have been ground to powder by the surrounding glaciers. Diablo Dam Overlook off Hwy 20 offers some of the best views of the emerald-green lake.
Slide 23 of 31: Washington’s Olympic National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. The park is home to four rainforests: Bogchiel, Hoh, Queets, and Quinault.
Slide 24 of 31: California surpassed Alaska as the state with the most national parks (nine) with the addition of Pinnacles in 2013. The park’s landscape, known for its namesake pinnacle rock formations, was formed as a result of multiple volcanic eruptions 23 million years ago.
Slide 25 of 31: While summer is the busiest time of year for Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, there’s something to be said about the way it looks in the winter, when the entire landscape is covered in snow. The cold months are also a great time to catch a glimpse of some of the area’s large mammals, including elk, mule deer, and moose.
Slide 26 of 31: Dating back 2,300 to 2,700 years, the General Sherman in California’s Sequoia National Park is the largest living tree on the planet, standing 275 feet (84 m) tall and with a diameter of 25 feet (8 m). Standing at the base and looking up at the top of this giant sequoia will leave you feeling dizzy.
Slide 27 of 31: This Minnesota park’s location along the Canadian border makes it one of the best spots in the lower 48 states to catch a glimpse of the awe-inspiring northern lights. Montana may be Big Sky Country, but Voyageurs is clear sky country, “free of the excessive, misdirected, and obtrusive artificial light produced by the large urban cities across America.”
Slide 28 of 31: White Sands is the newest national park in the U.S., having seen its status upgraded at the end of 2019. With its dreamlike landscape, this New Mexico destination is popular among filmmakers, serving as the backdrop in Western, sci-fi, and apocalyptic films, including 2007’s Transformers.
Slide 29 of 31: America’s oldest national park, Yellowstone is famous for its wildlife. It boasts the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48, including black bears, Canadian lynx, gray wolves, bighorn sheep, pronghorns, and many more. In this photo, an American bison can be seen standing by a geothermal hot pool in the winter.
Slide 30 of 31: El Capitan in California’s Yosemite National Park is roughly 3,000 feet (914 m) from base to summit along its tallest face (or 2.5 times the height of the Empire State Building), making it one of the most popular—and challenging—climbs in the country.
Slide 31 of 31: One of Zion’s most popular attractions, the Checkerboard Mesa gets its name from the checkerboard-like pattern of cracks in its sandstone hills. Although it saw a decline in visitors between 2017 and 2018—a first in five years—this Utah park is one of the most-visited in the country, welcoming more than four million sightseers each year.

Spectacular photos of America’s national parks

There are 62 national parks in the United States, each beautiful in its own right. And while it would be great to visit all of them, chances are you don’t have the time or resources. Lucky for you, we’ve got the next best thing.

Here are some of the most spectacular photos of America’s national parks.

Acadia

The best time to see this 40,000-acre (162 sq. km) Maine recreation area just outside of Bar Harbor is in October, before it gets too cold. Best of all, you’ll be just in time to see the colourful fall foliage.

American Samoa

As the only American national park in the southern hemisphere, there’s really nothing quite like the National Park of American Samoa, which spans three islands (Tutuila, Ofu, and Ta‘ū). It’s the only place in the country where you can immerse yourself in a 3,000-year-old Polynesian culture and enjoy pristine beaches and lush rainforests.

Arches

Of the two thousand or so natural sandstone arches that make up this stunning national park in eastern Utah, the most famous is the Delicate Arch, which stands 52 feet (16 m) tall and can be found on the state’s licence plate. Arches welcomes more than 1.5 million visitors each year.

Adirondack Park

Though technically not a national park, Adirondack is the largest protected park in the contiguous United States, made up of more than six million acres (24,280 sq. km) of land (that’s bigger than Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier, the Grand Canyon, and the Great Smoky Mountains combined). Located in northeastern New York, the park is made up of more than 10,000 lakes and 30,000 miles (48,280 km) of rivers and streams.

Badlands

Made up of “heavily eroded, intricate mazes of narrow ravines, v-shaped gullies, knife-sharp ridges, buttes, and colorful pinnacles,” it’s no wonder it’s called Badlands. Good thing you can enjoy a peek at this beautiful South Dakota park from a safe distance.

Carlsbad Caverns

The largest chamber in Carlsbad Caverns, located in Eddy County, New Mexico, is the Big Room, which has a floor space of 357,469 square feet (33,210 sq. m) and was described by comedian Will Rogers as “the Grand Canyon with a roof over it.”

Death Valley

It’s hard to believe that something called Death Valley could be so beautiful. For the best sight line in the park, be sure to check out Dante’s View. It looks out onto the Owlshead Mountains to the south, the Funeral Mountains to the north, and the salt flats below. Be sure to have your camera ready.

Denali

There’s not a bad view to be had in all of Denali, a park in the northern boreal forest biome that boasts a heavily forested landscape flanked by distant snow-capped mountains.

Everglades

Everglades National Park in Florida is the country’s largest subtropical wilderness. It is home to many species of birds, fish, mammals, reptiles, and marine creatures, including alligators and crocodiles, over a dozen species of turtle, the critically endangered Florida panther, bottlenose dolphins, and, perhaps most famous of all, the West Indian manatee, which can weigh up to 1,000 pounds.

Gates of the Arctic

Gates of the Arctic is the least-visited national park in the country—not for lack of natural beauty, but because, as its name suggests, it is extremely remote. Located north of the Arctic Circle, the park is unreachable by road or trail. If you do manage to make your way up there, you’ll be rewarded with some of the most stunning views in Alaska.

Gateway Arch

At less than 200 acres (0.8 sq. km), the Gateway Arch National Park is the smallest national park in the country, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for with its spectacular views of St. Louis’s iconic landmark. Built in 1965 to represent the city’s role in westward expansion, the Gateway Arch is the tallest arch in the world, standing 630 feet (192 m) high.

Glacier

The best way to see Glacier National Park is on foot, and with over 700 miles (1,127 km) of hiking trails, you’ll never run out of places to go or things to see. One place you won’t want to miss is Lake McDonald, which is 10 miles (16 km) long and 472 feet (144 m) deep. The water is so calm and peaceful that you can make out the colourful pebbles just below the surface.

Grand Canyon

This landmark is a sight to behold at any time, but few places in America are as breathtaking as the Grand Canyon at sunset and sunrise, when the rocks casts unusual shadows and the sky resembles a watercolour painting.

Grand Teton

Just down the road from Yellowstone is Grand Teton, which offers striking views of the Teton Mountain Range and makes a strong case for being Wyoming’s most visually arresting national park. The park contains eight peaks with elevations above 12,000 feet (3,658 m); the highest, the Grand Teton, has a summit 13,770 feet (4,197 m) above sea level.

Great Basin

Matador Network named Nevada’s Great Basin America’s most underrated national park. What makes it so special? For starters, it offers some of the best views not just in the universe, but of the universe, thanks to its pitch-black night skies. You won’t need a telescope to spot the Milky Way.

Great Sand Dunes

The tallest sand dunes in North America can be found in Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park, with some reaching as high as 750 feet (229 m) above the San Luis Valley. To put that into perspective, that’s roughly half the height of the Empire State Building.

Great Smoky Mountains

Tallying more than 11.4 million visitors in 2018, Great Smoky Mountains, split between North Carolina to Tennessee, is the most-visited national park in the United States. With breathtaking views like this one of the seemingly endless Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s easy to see why.

Indiana Dunes

Located in Northwestern Indiana along the southern shore of Lake Michigan, Indiana Dunes is one of America’s newest national parks. It earned the designation on February 15, 2019, and is the first national park in Indiana’s history. Though it gets its name from the many sand dunes in the area (including Mount Baldy, a 126-foot-tall [38 m] moveable dune), the park also contains forests and prairies.

Joshua Tree

With its seemingly barren landscape, a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of the city, Joshua Tree is a great place to get away. And upon closer inspection, you’ll find “a thriving ecosystem of plants and animals perfectly adapted to the harsh desert environment.”

Mount Rainier

There’s nothing quite like Mount Rainier in the summer, when the meadows are covered with wildflowers (everything from avalanche lilies and asters to cinquefoil and purple shooting stars). One of the most popular locations to view these colourful blooms is an area aptly named Paradise.

North Cascades

No need to adjust your screens. The waters of Diablo Lake in Washington’s North Cascades National Park really are that vibrant, a phenomenon caused by rocks that have been ground to powder by the surrounding glaciers. Diablo Dam Overlook off Hwy 20 offers some of the best views of the emerald-green lake.

Olympic

Washington’s Olympic National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. The park is home to four rainforests: Bogchiel, Hoh, Queets, and Quinault.

Pinnacles

California surpassed Alaska as the state with the most national parks (nine) with the addition of Pinnacles in 2013. The park’s landscape, known for its namesake pinnacle rock formations, was formed as a result of multiple volcanic eruptions 23 million years ago.

Rocky Mountain

While summer is the busiest time of year for Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, there’s something to be said about the way it looks in the winter, when the entire landscape is covered in snow. The cold months are also a great time to catch a glimpse of some of the area’s large mammals, including elk, mule deer, and moose.

Sequoia

Dating back 2,300 to 2,700 years, the General Sherman in California’s Sequoia National Park is the largest living tree on the planet, standing 275 feet (84 m) tall and with a diameter of 25 feet (8 m). Standing at the base and looking up at the top of this giant sequoia will leave you feeling dizzy.

Voyageurs

This Minnesota park’s location along the Canadian border makes it one of the best spots in the lower 48 states to catch a glimpse of the awe-inspiring northern lights. Montana may be Big Sky Country, but Voyageurs is clear sky country, “free of the excessive, misdirected, and obtrusive artificial light produced by the large urban cities across America.”

White Sands

White Sands is the newest national park in the U.S., having seen its status upgraded at the end of 2019. With its dreamlike landscape, this New Mexico destination is popular among filmmakers, serving as the backdrop in Western, sci-fi, and apocalyptic films, including 2007’s Transformers.

Yellowstone

America’s oldest national park, Yellowstone is famous for its wildlife. It boasts the largest concentration of mammals in the lower 48, including black bears, Canadian lynx, gray wolves, bighorn sheep, pronghorns, and many more. In this photo, an American bison can be seen standing by a geothermal hot pool in the winter.

Yosemite

El Capitan in California’s Yosemite National Park is roughly 3,000 feet (914 m) from base to summit along its tallest face (or 2.5 times the height of the Empire State Building), making it one of the most popular—and challenging—climbs in the country.

Zion

One of Zion’s most popular attractions, the Checkerboard Mesa gets its name from the checkerboard-like pattern of cracks in its sandstone hills. Although it saw a decline in visitors between 2017 and 2018—a first in five years—this Utah park is one of the most-visited in the country, welcoming more than four million sightseers each year.

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Travel

United and American Airlines cancel Hong Kong flights over crew Covid-19 tests



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Ryanair flights: Warning to customers needing refunds over ‘unauthorised’ sites

Ryanair has issued a warning to its customers today over refunds. The budget airline has claimed third party websites are responsible for “blocking thousands of Ryanair customer refunds.” Ryanair has now launched a new way to help passengers.

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The Irish carrier recently announced plans to have 90 percent of all coronavirus-related refunds complete by the end of July.

At the end of June, around 50 percent of the refund claims for April had been cleared.

Ryanair has since confirmed that by July 15 all refunds for customers due to fly in April will be issued.

Then, by the end of July, the airline anticipates all May refunds will be cleared along with the majority of those claims made for June.

Today, Ryanair revealed it has introduced a new process and instruction video for those trying to get their hands on refunds.

The airline claimed a number of “screen scraper travel websites” had been blocking holidaymakers from getting their refunds.

Web scraping is a technique of extracting data from websites.

These “unauthorised” websites are said to have passed fake customer contact details to Ryanair.

The sites then added customer names to “virtual” credit cards which in turn block refunds being paid directly to Ryanair’s customers.

Ryanair said in a statement: “In recent weeks, the Ryanair Customer Service team has been inundated with complaints about these unauthorised screen scraper websites who refuse to deal with or assist Ryanair customers.

“Ryanair now calls on all customers who have been misled and overcharged by these unauthorised screen scraper websites to apply directly for a refund with Ryanair through the new “Customer Verification” form on Ryanair.com.

The airline claim this new “Customer Verification” option will help “thousands” of customers who have been unable to obtain a refund.

They blame the unauthorised screen scraper websites for “masking customer contact and payment details from Ryanair and then refusing to answer customers refund requests.”

Ryanair CEO, Eddie Wilson said: “We have been unable to deal with thousands of customers who booked through these unauthorised screen scraper websites because they provide false/fictitious customer contact and payment details when booking on Ryanair’s website.

“These anti-consumer practices should be investigated by consumer associations and regulators (CAA & CAR) to ensure that these unauthorised screen scrapers are forced to supply accurate customer contacts so that Ryanair can process customer refunds, flight changes and urgent travel notifications.”

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Wilson continued: “To protect customers, Ryanair has now created a simple online ‘Customer Verification’ process and instruction video that allows customers to get refunded directly by Ryanair.

“Customers should always book direct with Ryanair to ensure they receive the lowest fares as these screen scrapers mislead customers with hidden additional charges and provide fake contact/payment details which makes it impossible for customers to receive refunds or important travel information directly from Ryanair.”

On The Beach and Love Holidays were just two of websites accused of screen scraping by Ryanair.

Both have denied the claims. An On The Beach spokeswoman said: “On the Beach refutes these allegations. On the Beach books flights as an agent for its customers and Ryanair has all the information required to process and fulfil refunds back onto the card on which the flights were paid, which are then passed back to the customer without delay.

“Despite a requirement for airlines to refund flight monies within 7 days, On the Beach has been waiting for refunds for many months.”

A Love Holidays spokeswoman said: “As one of the UK’s leading online travel agents, loveholidays absolutely refutes the allegation that we have provided any fake customer information or deliberately delayed the receipt and processing of airline refunds to our customers from any airlines.

“We do book airlines on behalf of customers, with their permission. We are aware that some OTA’s use fake customer details, but we absolutely do not.

“We use customers’ email addresses and details in 100 percent of cases, and all communication from that airline goes directly to the customer. The refund comes to us because we pay the airline and we forward the refund on to the customer following receipt.

“We have introduced automated processes to speed up our refund procedures and where we receive cash refunds from airlines, we are committed that this payment will be processed to customer’s accounts within five working days of us receiving the funds from the airline into our system and we are consistently doing this.

“However, to date we have only received a very small percentage of the total cash refunds due from various airlines. We would welcome contact from any airlines to help the process of getting refunds to customers as quickly as possible.”

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Cruises

Hyatt To Expand Alila Brand in Americas With First New-Build Resort

WHY IT RATES: For travelers looking for another resort option, Hyatt’s brand expansion in California is great news.—Donald Wood, Breaking News Senior Writer.

Hyatt Hotels Corporation announced plans for the first new-build Alila resort in the Americas, located in Encinitas, Calif., a quintessential beach town in San Diego’s North County Coastal region. Developed by JMI Realty and Fenway Capital Advisors, Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas will add to Hyatt’s growing Alila brand portfolio, joining Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort, as the brand’s second hotel in California and the U.S., along with 14 other luxury properties worldwide. The Alila brand features luxury hotels and resorts in unique locations, distinguished by innovative eco-design, a strong commitment to sustainable tourism as well as rare and intimate destination experiences.

“We are thrilled to announce the development of the first new-build Alila resort in the Americas, marking a significant milestone for Hyatt. California’s legendary coastline has long captured the hearts of our guests, World of Hyatt members and customers, and we’re excited to continue to expand in California with this landmark oceanfront project,” said Susan Santiago, Global Head of Lifestyle and Miraval Operations at Hyatt. “The Alila brand has long been a leader in crafted luxury and responsible tourism, and Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas will embody that same ethos when it debuts in Southern California.”

Situated along coastal bluffs and overlooking Grandview and South Ponto Beaches, Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas will be a luxury oceanfront hotel with 130 guestrooms, including 16 suites. Expected to open in early 2021, the resort will offer an ocean-view restaurant with rooftop patio, a pool with pool bar and an infinity-edge hot tub, a luxury Spa Alila and spectacular wedding and events venues, all with panoramic Pacific Ocean and lagoon views.

Also announced today is the appointment of Bob Harter as the new resort’s director of sales and marketing. Harter oversees the resort’s sales and marketing efforts while developing business strategies designed to successfully open the resort, drive revenue and exceed the resort’s business goals. Harter brings more than 25 years of experience in hospitality management and is a veteran sales and marketing leader in the San Diego’s luxury hotel market, most recently, serving as director of sales and marketing at L’Auberge Del Mar.

Designed by San Diego-based Joseph Wong Design Associates with interior design by Mark Zeff Associates, Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas will seamlessly blend into the bluffs with natural building materials and native plants, delivering on the brand’s reputation of innovative eco-design. With the hotel’s namesake, “Marea,” meaning “tide” in Italian and Spanish, the resort will provide a distinctly Southern California feel, with bespoke experiences inspired by the area’s natural landscape, as well as its vibrant surf and beach culture.

Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas will offer a signature Spa Alila, as well as the Alila Experience, a series of uniquely curated moments that integrate indigenous nature, traditional culture and the local community for an authentic destination experience. Other health and wellness-centered activities for guests will include surf and paddleboard lessons, cycling, hiking and beachside yoga. Additionally, the new resort will feature a roadside grab-and-go cafe along Coast Highway 101 to serve guests as well as the North County Coastal biking, jogging and beach-going communities. To welcome locals and visitors alike, Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas will also offer a bike valet, electric vehicle charging stations and a new, publicly accessible staircase and walking path, which will provide direct access to the beach below the resort.

“We are honored to work with the Alila brand and Hyatt Lifestyle team to bring this oceanfront luxury resort to Encinitas in early 2021,” said John Kratzer, Chief Executive Officer, JMI Realty. “Our goal is to provide a destination that locals and travelers will treasure, and we’re confident the Encinitas community will be proud to share their unique energy and beautiful shoreline with the new resort.”

SOURCE: Hyatt Hotels Corporation press release.

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Cruises

Cruise holidays: UK government warns against cruises in major new caution to Britons

Cruise holidays continue to be advised against by the UK government. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) first warned against cruises in March. An FCO spokesperson said at the time: “The nature and design of cruise ships – where passengers are contained and the virus can spread faster – makes them a particularly risky environment for vulnerable people.

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“We’ve already seen the impact a coronavirus outbreak can have on board a cruise ship and we have changed this advice with the safety of British nationals in mind.”

However, despite lockdown easing in Britain and certain travel restrictions relaxing, the Foreign Office is not shifting on its stance concerning cruises, in the latest cruise news.

The FCO updated its travel advice for cruises today.

It continues to warn against cruise ship travel.

“The Foreign & Commonwealth Office advises against cruise ship travel at this time,” the FCO website explained.

“This is due to the ongoing pandemic and is based on medical advice from Public Health England.

“The government will continue to review its cruise ship travel advice based on the latest medical advice.

“If you have future cruise travel plans, you should speak to your travel operator or the travel company you booked with, for further advice.

“The Foreign & Commonwealth Office continues to support the Department for Transport’s work with industry for the resumption of international cruise travel.”

This comes after the government updated its general travel advice.

The current COVID-19 travel guidance states: “The Foreign & Commonwealth Office currently advises British nationals against all but essential international travel.

“Travel to some countries and territories is currently exempted.

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“This advice is being kept under constant review.

“Travel disruption is still possible and national control measures may be brought in with little notice, so check our travel guidance.”

Travel experts have previously voiced concern over the death of the cruise industry.

Last week Simon Calder spoke to Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield on ITV about the future of cruising.

He revealed he was not sure when cruises will be back.

“Travel is the industry of human happiness,” he said, “but I must say I’m not confident that cruising will come back.”

Calder added: “I think we’re going to see a change in holiday styles… Who knows when [cruising] will come back.”

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Travel

‘Stay away,’ Europeans tell British tourists

Most citizens of top holiday nations do not want UK holidaymakers, a YouGov poll has found.

As England prepares to relax quarantine rules for travellers returning from Spain, opinion in the UK’s favourite holiday nation appears strongly opposed to British visitors.

Sixty-one per cent of Spanish people polled said they did not want UK holidaymakers. That compares with 46 per cent average opposition to tourists from other European countries.

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The second-most popular nation for British travellers, France, is almost as antagonistic with 55 per cent of respondents unhappy to see UK holidaymakers. The average for other European nationalities is 38 per cent.

The only nationalities less popular than the British are Americans and Chinese people.

In Italy, though, only 44 per cent of locals are against British visitors (10 per cent higher than the average for other travellers from Europe).

Out of major EU nations, Italians are also the most likely potential visitors to the UK – with 15 per cent saying they would consider visiting this summer. That compares with only 13 per cent of Spanish people, and just five per cent of French citizens.

Danes and Norwegians are almost as reticent, with only six per cent contemplating a visit to Britain.

The survey also looked at the UK propensity to travel abroad.

Both Spain and France are being considered by 21 per cent of prospective British holidaymakers. The surprise third place is taken by Germany, with 18 per cent of UK travellers considering a visit. They would not, though, be universally welcomed, with 58 per cent of Germans wanting borders closed to British travellers.

The impact of the coronavirus crisis is proving devastating.

Matthew Smith of YouGov said: “The vast majority of people who might normally consider going somewhere on holiday are refusing to do so specifically because of coronavirus.”

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Travel

Qatar Airways makes face shields compulsory for economy passengers

Qatar Airways has said passengers should wear face shields as well as masks on board its flights.

The new rule is compulsory for those in economy class, but business class travellers can forgo the shield “at their discretion”.

The disposable shields, which come in two sizes for adults and children, are issued to passengers as part of the airline’s hygiene kit.

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It also comes with hand sanitiser, gloves and a face mask.

Passengers are expected to wear the shields at all times apart from when eating or drinking. Children aged under two are exempt.

Cabin crew will wear even more PPE, with face masks, safety glasses, gloves and disposable gowns worn over their uniforms.

Travellers in economy should be in no doubt that the shields are mandatory: “Anyone refusing to wear the face shield during the boarding process will be not allowed to travel,” an airline spokesperson told CNN Travel.

Qatar Airways Group chief executive Akbar Al Baker said of the move: “By introducing these additional onboard safety and hygiene measures, our customers can rely on us and our unparalleled expertise to fly them safely to their destination.

”As the largest international airline flying consistently throughout the pandemic, we have become one of the most experienced in safety and hygiene.

“We will continue to lead the industry in terms of the services offered to our passengers, so that they can travel with confidence.”

Flights from the UK are expected to ramp up from 10 July when the blanket two-week quarantine for all in-bound arrivals is lifting for those entering the country from certain destinations.

England and Scotland have both announced their lists of exempt countries, which are identical barring the omission of Spain and Serbia from the latter’s.

Wales and Northern Ireland are expected to publish their own lists in due course.

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Travel

Ryanair, Virgin and Love Holidays among worst companies for travel refunds, survey finds

Ryanair, Virgin and Love Holidays have been named the worst-performing big firms in a new travel survey of over 77,000 people.

Conducted by MoneySavingExpert, the report assessed satisfaction rates of people trying to get refunds for cancelled trips following the coronavirus epidemic and subsequent travel ban – and how many had actually received a refund so far.

Ryanair came bottom of the list of major companies, with a net score of -89 per cent, followed by Virgin (-88 per cent) and Love Holidays (-81 per cent).

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The survey, which ran between 30 June and 6 July, revealed that only four per cent of Ryanair, Virgin Holidays and Love Holidays customers polled said they’d had a refund to date – while the majority of Ryanair and Virgin Atlantic customers polled stated they’d been waiting more than two months for a refund since first asking.

At the very bottom of the list was travel agent Alpharooms, with a net score of -99 per cent, followed by Jetline (-97 per cent) and Teletext Holidays (-96 per cent).

Out of the 326 survey respondents who had booked with Alpharooms and Air Transat, not one had received a refund for a cancelled trip, while Virgin Atlantic and Teletext Holidays had a refund payout rate of just one per cent amongst those who’d had trips cancelled.

At the other end of the spectrum, Travel Counsellors came out on top, with a net score of +84 per cent, followed by Trailfinders (+81 per cent) and both Jet2 Holidays and Jet2 (+79 and +77 per cent respectively). Of these, 87 per cent of Jet2 and Jet2 Holidays customers surveyed said they had received a refund from the firm.

When approached, Ryanair told The Independent that they were “not commenting on this survey specifically” and instead cited a recent press release dated 3 July stating that it was making “rapid progress” in processing customer refunds. It continued to state that 90 per cent of the backlog would be cleared by the end of July.

A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said that the firm continues to be “inundated” with enquiries, including refund requests, following the global travel restrictions, but that its “absolute focus remains on supporting all of our customers to amend, rebook or cancel plans.

“We would like to reassure all customers that if they’ve requested a refund for a cancelled trip, it will be repaid in full, and the work to process refunds is our priority. In order to accelerate the process, we have boosted the size of the teams handling refunds and trained additional staff to use the required systems, which is increasing our capacity to process refunds.

“We are making every effort to reduce this timeframe wherever possible in these extraordinary circumstances and would like to thank all of our customers for their patience.”

A Love Holidays representative shared a statement with The Independent which claimed that more than 42,000 refund requests had been “actioned”, representing over 25 per cent of affected customers.

“Unfortunately, due to the scale of cancellations involved, while we are working as hard as possible to process refunds, it is taking longer than we would like,” it read.

“We are listening to customers and appreciate they have had trouble contacting us as our live chat has been overwhelmed but we are working on improving that. Automated processes have been introduced to speed up the refund procedures with further improvements being worked on.

“We will continue to review and evaluate our refund processes and will try to make this as fast as we possibly can and we would like to apologise to customers affected.”

Air Transat and Alpharooms have been approached for comment.

The 10 worst firms for travel refunds

1. Alpharooms

2. Jetline

3. Teletext Holidays

4. Opodo

5. TravelUp

6. Ryanair

7. Air Transat

8. Virgin Holidays

9. Virgin Atlantic

10. Fleetway

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Cruises

Major cruise lines join forces to implement new measures set to change holidays for good

Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) have joined forces following the coronavirus pandemic in a bid to develop new standards on board their ships. The companies hope to find new ways to enhance the health and hygiene measures currently implemented on big-name cruises.

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In the midst of the pandemic, the cruise industry was hard hit due to a number of fast-growing outbreaks on cruise ships around the world.

Cruises have also had a spotlight shone on them over the rapid spread of norovirus in the past.

Now, experts from Royal Caribbean and NCL are working together to employ new hygiene and safety methods to instil customer confidence when ships return to sailing.

By the end of August, the “Healthy Sail Panel” will put out its initial recommendations, which can then be used by a number of industries which deem the advice relevant to their operations.

“This unprecedented disease requires us to develop unprecedented standards in health and safety,” said Richard D. Fain, chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Group.

“Bringing aboard these respected experts to guide us forward demonstrates our commitment to protecting our guests, our crews and the communities we visit.”

“We compete for the vacationing consumer’s business every day, but we never compete on health and safety standards,” added Frank Del Rio, president and CEO, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.

“While the cruise industry has always had rigorous health standards, the unique challenges posed by COVID-19 provide an opportunity to raise the bar even higher.”

A team of industry specialists, doctors and medical professionals are working to find the methods that will best protect guests and crew, whilst also not impeding on the holiday experience.

“In convening the Healthy Sail Panel, we sought the participation of a diverse group of leading experts in areas of science and public health that are directly relevant to the considerations listed by the No Sail Order,” said Governor Mike Leavitt, who is one of the chairs of the panel.

“We view our work as a profoundly important public health effort.

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“The health and safety of passengers, crew, and the communities that cruise ships visit will be the principal focus of this project.”

Though a full list of changes has not been announced, industry expert Rob Gower who has over 20 years of experience in the travel sector, has predicted some likely changes.

“Like many sectors of the travel industry, there will many changes as a result of the pandemic,” he told Express.co.uk.

“One of these will be about the focus of heath and well-being of passengers.

“The key to this is how cruise lines can gain back the trust and the cost of what this takes. Some will survive and others will fall.”

Measures will range from the boarding experience to port days according to Mr Gower.

He continued: “As well as new health measures to implement and the need to create some form of social distancing, temperature checking and testing, the other main challenge will be number of passengers that any one cruise liner is able to carry.

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“Some current views on this is that cruise ships may have to operate with up to 40 percent less passengers than capacity to meet the new measures which will, of course, have a major impact on profitability for the cruise companies.

“There is also the issue with visiting destinations whilst on the cruise and countries accepting cruise liners.

“Canada has already stated that it will not allow operational cruises in their waters until after the end of October 2020. Currently, the Seychelles are saying they do not want cruise liners visiting their islands until 2022.”

Both Royal Caribbean and NCL have been forced to cancel cruises amid the pandemic.

At the time of writing, Royal Caribbean plans to return to sailing as of September 16 2020.

NCL has outlined a return to sailing as of September 2020.

Despite the ongoing fallout from the pandemic, though, Mr Gower remains positive the industry will recover.

“The cruise industry is far too popular and in-demand not to come out of this pandemic,” he said.

“However, like a lot of travel at the moment, this is all about restoring customer confidence and building trust to convince people that cruise holidays are safe.”

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Travel

UK holidays: Simple way to get cheap deals following VAT slash for staycations revealed

Domestic tourism is set to boom in the coming months following the relaxation of lockdown measures in England. In a bid to further stimulate the sector, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that VAT would be slashed on accommodation including hotels, B&Bs, campsites and caravan sites.

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Along with the VAT saving, experts have revealed that there is one simple way holidaymakers can ensure they get the best deal on their holiday stays.

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel has pointed out that while price comparison sites may make it look like they are shining a light on the cheapest options, they could have hidden costs associated.

“With the government announcing a VAT cut for the hospitality and tourism industry, lots of holidaymakers will now be considering a UK trip for their next break – so it’s a good time to remind anyone booking a hotel or B&B to always book direct for the best deal,” explained the expert.

“Customers shouldn’t be duped into thinking they’re getting the best price from a hotel booking site when more often than not, they can get a better deal by avoiding its commission and booking directly with the hotel.”

Instead, he suggests going directly to the business itself.

Mr Boland continued: “Hotel booking sites might be a good place to start your search, but you should always call or email the hotel for the best chance of getting the cheapest deal – even in cases where they can’t offer a better price, there’s a good chance they’ll throw in a freebie or two.”

Research conducted in March of this year found that, compared with some big-name price comparison sites, in eight out of the 10 instances, the hotels were able to offer a better deal, with one hotel offering a £20 discount – saving 12 percent of the cost of the same room booked online – as well as a free upgrade.

He added: “Even if they can’t knock anything off the price, you’ll usually get a room upgrade or a bottle of fizz thrown in for free.”

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The Which? expert also explained that going directly to the hotel can actually provide a massive boost to small or local businesses.

“Additionally, booking direct means hotels and B&Bs don’t have to pay commission on the booking, meaning more of your money goes towards supporting local businesses,” he said.

The way in which you contact the establishment can play a part too.

Which?’s 2020 research also discovered that it is usually more expensive to book a hotel room online than booking directly by phone or email.

Yesterday’s announcement by the Chancellor will see tourists paying just five percent VAT as opposed to the standard 20 percent.

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Mr Sunak said: “First, at the moment VAT on hospitality and tourism is charged at 20 percent.

“I’ve decided for the next six months to cut VAT on food, accommodation and attractions.

“Eat-in or hot takeaway food from restaurants, cafes and pubs, accommodation in hotels, BnBs, campsites and caravan sites, attractions like cinemas, theme parks and zoos – all these and more will see VAT reduced from next Wednesday until January 12 from 20 percent to five percent.

“This is a £4billion catalyst for the hospitality and tourism sectors benefitting over 150,000 businesses and consumers everywhere, all helping to protect 2.4 billion jobs.”

It is welcome news for Britons, who are already gearing up for plenty of UK holidays.

According to Skyscanner’s latest customer survey, 65 percent of travellers believe the domestic travel situation is getting better.

Jon Thorne, traveller expert at Skyscanner said: “With this new incentive, many who were considering travelling this summer will be galvanised to do so, and many who weren’t considering it will be prompted to plan potential trips.

“As a traveller-first business, we welcome any change which empowers people to explore and make memories with their loved ones, something we have all been looking forward to.

“We have seen pent-up demand turn into action, with the UK beginning to embrace travel again, and we’re already seeing a sharp rise in interest in international travel as well as domestic getaways.

“As a member of the travel industry, we are delighted to see encouraging signs for our partners who have reacted swiftly to a changing landscape with new measures to protect their guests.”

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