Week in Review: F.A.A. Task Force Created, Cruise News

This week, the United States Senate introduced a bill (S. 66) “to establish a task force on improvements for notices to air missions (NOTAM), and for other purposes.” The bill, known as the “NOTAM Improvement Act of 2023,” would create a task force comprising air carrier, airport, labor union, aviation safety, computer systems and other representatives to review the Federal Aviation Administration’s (F.A.A.) existing protocols and regulations, while also improving on these and other processes.

Earlier this year, the F.A.A. system that sends out these notices to pilots went down and caused over 4,500 flights within, into and out of the U.S. to be delayed or canceled. This bill’s intentions is to ensure incidences like this don’t happen to this level.

Following the bill’s publication, U.S. Travel Association EVP of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes said, “This bipartisan legislation, forming an expert task force, will create the opportunity to strengthen aviation safety and help prevent the system failures that grounded air travel nationwide earlier this year. As Congress addresses F.A.A. reauthorization, it must modernize all aspects of our air system that is stretched under increasing demand. This Senate bill, like its House companion, will lead to a more seamless, reliable experience for air travelers.”

An updated air travel system is a top priority for U.S. Travel. Separately this week, the group’s president and CEO Geoff Freeman said the increased travel demand from spring break will be a stress test that will “reveal the inadequacies of our current system.” He added: “Demand may be high now, but countless frustrating air travel experiences may cause passengers to choose other modes of transportation or simply stay home in the future.”

Amalfi, Italy
Fifty-nine percent of trips booked to Italy (Amalfi shown here), France, Spain, the U.K. and Greece are booked three-plus months out. (Photo by Aleh Varanishcha/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

Coupled with that, many signs point to a return to pre-pandemic levels of travel. For one, proprietary booking data from ToursByLocals shows that traveler booking hesitancy is finally dissipating. Suggesting a busy summer in Europe, ToursByLocals’ data shows that 14 percent of tours booked in Italy, France, Spain, the U.K. and Greece are for six to nine months out and 45 percent of tours in the same countries are booked for three to six months out. Just 9 percent of bookings are within the 30-day window.

Other research by InsureMyTrip looked into the spending and travel habits of four generations: Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z. Not surprisingly, travel spend increased with age, as Boomers spend the most on average per trip (over $6,000), while Gen Z comes in at the bottom (just under $2,800). Millennials and Gen X ranged from about $4,000 to $5,000 spent per trip. Older travelers were also more likely to purchase travel insurance policies.

Travel Requirement Update

Brazil will again require travelers from the U.S., Canada, Australia and Japan to complete an entry visa for travel to the country. The renewed requirement will go into effect from October 1, 2023. The move to suspend visa requirements took place in 2019 by then-president Jair Bolsonaro in order to facilitate tourism; however, the aforementioned countries continued to require visas from Brazilians for travel into each. Current Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva reverted to the “old way” as the visa exemption was a "breach of the pattern of Brazil's migration policy,” according to a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Brazil.

Cruise News

American Queen Voyages' American Queen is shown on the Mississippi River outside St. Francisville, LA.
American Queen is the flagship of the AQV fleet, but very different from the other ships in the fleet, which each have their own look and style. (Photo by Susan J. Young)

Norwegian Cruise Line Holding’s (NCLH) president and CEO Frank J. Del Rio will retire June 30, 2023. Following his retirement, Harry Sommer, currently the president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line, will take over the role at NCLH. In turn, David Herrera will become the cruise line’s new president. Herrera, who currently serves as NCL’s chief consumer sales and marketing officer has been with NCLH since 2015, and previously served as a senior advisor to the chief executive officer and chairman of Prestige Cruise Holdings from 2012 through 2015.

On the U.S. rivers, Travel Agent sailed on American Queen Voyages’ (AQV) “President’s Cruise” aboard the 417-passenger American Queen. During the sailing, we spoke with the line’s president Cindy D’Aoust, the vice president of marketing Angela Composto, and its founder and chairman John Waggoner about what to expect in the years ahead for the line. One highlight is a focus on culinary experiences onboard; another is targeting new crowds through its variety of ship styles.

Elsewhere, on the high seas, Windstar Cruises has partnered with the National Health Association (NHA) to create a new vegan menu onboard all six of the line’s yachts, starting June 2023. The plant-based, gluten-free offerings are also prepared without added salt, oil and sugar. (Vegetarian options, as well as the line’s existing menu items will continue to be served as usual.)

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