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Cruises

An Update From Palace Resorts and Le Blanc Spa Resort

As increasing numbers of hotels are temporarily closing their doors in the wake of the coronavirus, two Palace Resorts’ properties – The Grand at Moon Palace Cancun and Le Blanc Spa Resort Cancun – remain open for business, the company said.

For the time being, the company has closed Moon Palace Cancun, Beach Palace, Sun Palace, Isla Mujeres Palace, Playacar Palace, Moon Palace Jamaica and Le Blanc Spa Resort Los Cabos.

“We aim to have all of our properties re-opened as of May 1, 2020,” a Palace spokeswoman said.

All existing and new reservations made for March and April can be modified to any alternative dates from now through Dec. 15, 2020. All penalties associated with date changes are waivered, including non-refundable reservations.

The company’s cleanliness processes are in compliance with the Mexican government, whose standards are based on the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points system.

Preventative measures at Palace and Le Blanc resorts include providing supplies of hand sanitizers for all guests upon arrival and cleaning commonly used objects in the lobby with SANI 950 every half hour. Front desk clerks use hand sanitizers or wash their hands with soap after attending to each guest, and hand sanitizers are available at every desk.

For questions regarding the company’s coronavirus policies and steps it has taken to keep its guests safe, visit palaceresorts.com/en/relevant-information.

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Holiday

My thoughts from 33 years in the travel industry on the implications of the COVID-19 coronavirus – A Luxury Travel Blog

Before beginning this article, I’d like to wish all our readers, their families and communities, a safe and healthy few months ahead as we all come to terms with the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus. And for my many colleagues who work in the travel industry, I wish you all the resilience that will be needed to get through these difficult times.

At a travel industry event I attended recently, people were saying they had not seen anything like the current situation since 9/11. I hate to say it, but I think this virus poses a much greater threat to the industry than was brought about by that fateful and tragic day.

A bigger impact than 9/11?

After the 9/11 attacks, stock markets around the world plummeted anything from 5-10%, even causing trading to be cancelled. Recently, we have seen multiple daily drops of that order and cumulative falls of some 30% in the past week or two. 2,977 victims were tragically killed in the 9/11 terror attacks. Double that number have already sadly lost their lives due to COVID-19.

US tourism saw declines of up to 50% in the immediate aftermath and the last 4 months of 2001 saw a global tourism decline of 11%. Goodness knows what the impact of the COVID-19 will be upon tourism in 2020, but even at this stage I’d be confident that it will be significantly greater.

The moment President Trump opened his mouth and declared there was nothing to fear by saying “we have it totally under control” and “it’s going to be just fine” should probably have been sufficient cause for concern.

In my opinion, the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus is already much greater than that of 9/11 and I suspect will be felt for some time to come. Airlines are closing operations and laying off staff, hotels (and entire regions) have been quarantined, cruise ships have been unable to dock, countries are closing their borders and more.

Whether you see it as media hysteria or a serious threat to human health is immaterial. There has never been a threat quite like this to the travel industry in modern times. Without doubt, there will be many travel businesses that are unable to withstand this turmoil. CAPA Centre for Aviation – one of the world’s most trusted sources of market intelligence for the aviation and travel industry – has already warned that most of the world’s airlines could be bankrupt by the end of May without help from the government and industry.

For travel businesses that can weather the storm, there will be light at the end of the tunnel. They say that in times of crisis, it is those that keep marketing and who are creative with their business strategy, that win through in the end. Of course, this is hard to justify – if not impossible – when no income is coming in and there is no apparent sign of people booking travel.

So how long will it be until the travel industry bounces back?

How long is a piece of string? One person in the industry I spoke to said the travel industry would be reeling for decades to come from this virus. I strongly disagree with this assertion.

Of course, confidence within the industry is at a very low ebb – the lowest I have ever known. But the industry has shown many times how resilient it can be. Not only has it come through 9/11, but it has also faced many other challenges such as volcanic ash clouds, SARS, swine flu, bombings, terrorist attacks on hotels, hijackings and more.

Have these events stopped people travelling? Sometimes, yes. But not usually for long.

I am a little reticent to make predictions about the year ahead. It will depend on multiple factors: the seasonality of the virus, the control of its spread, statements from the World Health Organisation, government policies around the world and people’s willingness to travel to name just some.

If there is to be an upturn later this year, it of course won’t compensate for the many losses that will have already been experienced by the industry.

Looking further ahead, and assuming no other crises or unforeseen events, I anticipate that we could be looking at anything up to 18 months before we start seeing any return to normality. At some point next year, we will hopefully have a vaccine that has successfully undergone clinical trials in order that it meets with regulatory approval.

Time will tell, but I certainly don’t foresee it taking decades – or even several years – for the travel industry to recover.

Where does this leave travel businesses in the meantime?

For some, this will sadly be too little too late. That might seem very pessimistic, but it is simply the reality. There are bound to be a number of casualties. For others, the temptation will be to cut costs in every way possible, to lay off staff, put an end to any spend on marketing and do whatever is possible to ensure survival.

Pulling the plug on marketing is a seemingly natural reaction – especially when there is nothing to immediately ‘sell’ – but will not necessarily be the wisest decision for all. The CMSWire has a good article on marketing in a time of crisis if you are interested in some further reading.

Just because you might not be selling flights, hotel rooms, tours, etc. doesn’t mean to say there aren’t things you can be doing. Just remember that the travel businesses that truly persevere through these tough times will be the ones that are best positioned to reap the benefits when tourism finally picks up again.

Whther you’re making some strategic changes to the way your business runs, fixing your website, working on your SEO or preparing some blog posts, there is plenty you can be doing, assuming you can weather the financial turmoil in the interim.

Just keep in mind that the travel industry WILL recover… it just may take time.

In the same way, there will also be opportunities for investors in travel stocks, but knowing when to invest and which companies to invest in will be the tricky part. As one reporter put it recently, when the markets are in freefall, it’s like trying to catch a falling knife.

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments. If you are involved in the travel industry, what have been your experiences to date? Can your business survive? How long do you think it will take for the industry to recover? If you are a traveller, how long will it be before you choose to travel again?

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Travel

Exploring Chicago, from skyscrapers to the works of Frank Lloyd Wright

Chicago? It’s a delight by design: From stunning skyscrapers to the magical creations of Frank Lloyd Wright, the city is a feast of architecture and art

  • Start your trip to Chicago with an evening cruise on the Chicago River 
  • Loop district is crammed with iconic buildings and world-class museums
  • See incredible structures by 20th Century design giant Frank Lloyd Wright

Chicago towers above the Midwest in the same way that the Emerald City perches above the Land Of Oz (it’s no surprise that The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz was written here). The city can also be just as magical: come here for Lake Michigan’s beaches and parks (temperatures hit 95F in summer), grand avenues full of designer stores, or for vintage bargains at Randolph Street Market, the largest antiques market in the US.

Come also for the central Loop district, which is crammed with iconic buildings, world-class museums and friendly locals who want to tell you about their city. But, above all, come for the views.

And if you want to see America’s city of architecture for one reason, then make it because of the incredible structures by 20th Century design giant Frank Lloyd Wright, whose influence reigns supreme.

Breathtaking views: The city skyline with its tall skyscrapers and buildings 

The gleaming city is amazing by day but dazzling by night, so start your trip with an evening cruise on the Chicago River. Odyssey Cruise’s Chicago Architecture tour departs from the dock by NBC Tower and takes two-and-a-half hours, following the course of the river past developments such as the mid-1960s corn-on-the-cob-like blocks of Marina City and then out to Navy Pier by Lake Michigan. 

Here, when the boat pauses and turns, Chicago will hover, illuminated in the night before you.

If you want to make sense of all this by day, the Chicago Architecture Center Experience has a 3D model of the city featuring more than 4,200 buildings.

From here you can book a staggering 85 different tours by boat, bus, foot or L train, the elevated railway system that covers much of the inner city.

Chicagoans say they invented skyscrapers, but right now they are celebrating some smaller but equally significant structures. Last May, Unesco recognised the world heritage status of eight buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, giving them the same cultural ranking as the pyramids at Giza, Statue of Liberty and Taj Mahal.

Wright is most famous for two revolutionary projects, Fallingwater, a split-level private home built above a river in Pennsylvania, and the spiral-like Guggenheim Museum in New York.

But his genius first emerged here in the early 20th Century, where he developed the Prairie House style. Long and low, like the Illinois horizon, perhaps the greatest example is Robie House at the Chicago University campus, where Wright conjured magic with horizontal planes, brick and glass.

Catch a Metra train from Millennium station, get off at 57th Street and jump on a CTA bus or walk through the sprawling campus.

It’s a long way down: Join the queue for Tilt, a terrifying attraction that does exactly what it says on the ticket

On your way back, take a peek at Annik, the beluga whale calf born last summer at The Shedd Aquarium. Next door at the Field Museum, you can catch Sue, a 67 million-year-old tyrannosaurus rex and one of the best preserved and most complete fossilised dinosaur skeletons in the world. There are also 23 Egyptian mummies and a multitude of other treasures.

North of the Loop, Charnley-Persky House Museum, where Wright was a junior architect, has flowing interior spaces and integrated design features, and is regarded as a key early work of American Modernism. It is also near to the beaches and zoo at Lincoln Park, and to the boutiques, cafes and bars of Halsted Street.

Beyond that, stop at Oz Park, named as a tribute to The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz author Frank L. Baum, and complete with statues of Dorothy, Toto, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and Scarecrow.

If you want to do Wright in one hit, go to Oak Park. This strange and enchanting suburb is the site of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio at 951 Chicago Avenue (take a green line L train from Clinton station and get off at Ridgeland).

Time to reflect: Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate in Millennium Park

Modern masterpiece: See Grant Wood’s American Gothic at the Art Institute of Chicago

Oak Park society was scandalised when Wright left his wife and children and fled to Europe with his lover in 1909. Before he went, Wright built this remarkable home and place of work, where potential clients could marvel at his talent.

There are 25 Wright buildings scattered around Oak Park, including the wonderful and recently restored Unity Temple, one of the first reinforced concrete buildings in America. Standing in the hushed yellow and grey interior, illuminated with pendant globes and ingenious skylights, is a little like a zen meditation break – you are guaranteed to come out calmer.

Like it so much that you want to experience life in a Frank Lloyd Wright house? You can rent the Emil Bach House on the north side of the city for £390 a night. It sleeps up to six. If you’d rather be looked after by someone else, then the Chicago Athletic Association hotel, in the heart of the Loop district, is a uniquely Chicagoan institution. 

Created out of what was a famous gentleman’s club, and built in 1893 after the 1871 Great Chicago Fire destroyed much of the city, it retains the original panelling and grand wooden interiors. There are secret passageways and a genuine Prohibition-era hidden bar, called the Milk Room, where you no longer have to be secretive about drinking a whiskey sour.

The hotel is opposite Millennium Park and Cloud Gate, a giant polished stainless steel work by British-Indian sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor. Known by locals as The Bean, it’s often crowded with people watching their reflections bend and distort.

The Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Emil Bach House, which you can rent for £390 a night

There is more out-there architecture next door at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, a futuristic concert venue designed by Frank Gehry.

From June until the end of August, free classical concerts are given by the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra and this year it celebrates the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. Take some food an d picnic under the stars and skyscrapers, or load up first on Chicago’s famous deep-pan pizza at a branch of Gino’s East, one of the best in town.

Millennium Park is overlooked by one of the world’s greatest art galleries, the Art Institute of Chicago. The permanent collection is peerless: there are walls full of major Impressionists and a Modernist section is packed with works by Picasso, Miro and Braque.

The American gallery has two iconic pictures – Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks and Grant Wood’s American Gothic. If you are at all scared of heights, this is your chance to take to the air without going that high. The floor-to-ceiling windows in the Modernist gallery are only three floors up but they still give you an intimate view of the cityscape.

Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago

If you’re of the opposite persuasion and like your architecture with added thrills, take the fastest elevator in America to the 360 Chicago Observation Deck on the 94th floor of the John Hancock Building on Michigan Avenue. Join the queue for Tilt, a terrifying attraction that does exactly what it says on the ticket. Stand in a window hold on as the bay lurches you forward.

It’s 1,000ft to the pavement below. You can’t fall but, somehow, that doesn’t seem to settle the nerves.

Not scary enough? At 1,450ft, the Willis – formerly Sears – Tower on Wacker Drive was the tallest building in the world until 1998 and it still claims to be the tallest in the Western hemisphere. Visitors can even gather in The Ledge, an enclosed glass box which juts out from the 103rd floor.

You can see four different states from here and the views stretch for 50 miles. Somewhere below, there’s a Frank Lloyd Wright house looking back at you. 

TRAVEL FACTS 

Michael Hodges was a guest of Enjoy Illinois (enjoyillinois.com). He flew with American Airlines (americanairlines.co.uk) and stayed at Chicago Athletic Association (chicagoathletichotel.com).

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