Week in Review: Government Shutdown Avoided, Iceland Latest

With one day to go before a federal government shutdown, President Joe Biden signed a two-step stopgap spending bill into law, which was passed by both chambers of Congress earlier this week. The bill will avert what could have been a nightmare scenario the week of Thanksgivingwhen 55.4 million Americans are set to travel. Should a shutdown have taken place, the U.S. Travel Association warned of TSA workers and air traffic controllers refusing to work for no pay (as they did in 2018, the last federal government shutdown), which would have caused significant airport delays.

The new measure extends the deadline for passing full-year appropriations into two dates: January 19 and February 2, 2024, according to The Associated Press.

The Latest in Iceland

Local authorities continue to monitor seismic activity outside of Grindavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula. There have been no major updates from the Icelandic Met Office since Wednesday but its most recent update notes that “the probability of an eruption is still considered high.” While flights into the nearby Keflavik Airport, Blue Lagoon—which is in the immediate vicinity of the potential eruption site—has extended its temporary closure through November 30. As part of the closure at Blue Lagoon, all of its facilities—including Blue Lagoon, Silica Hotel, Retreat Spa, Retreat Hotel, and the Lava and Moss restaurants—are shut to visitors.

When an eruption could occur and to what magnitude are nearly impossible to predict. That said, it’s important to keep an eye on the situation as AccuWeather’s chief meteorologist says an eruption could potentially impact flights to Europe, depending on the timing. Should an eruption happen in the coming days, wind patterns would most likely affect travel to Scandinavia, Ireland and the United Kingdom.

What’ Hot for 2024

Cherry blossoms at Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul, South Korea
South Korea is a popular destination for those wanting to see cherry blossoms, while avoiding Japan's crowds, according to Audley Travel. (Photo by wittaya mongkhonrotkun/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

Country specialists from Audley Travel this week shared their insights into what clients are booking for 2024 and why. What are they seeing? “Destination Switching,” “Offseason Travel” and “A Move Back to Curious Travel” are among the top trends. With availability tight for many popular destinations, Audley’s specialists report clients are opting for alternatives to enjoy popular or iconic sights and experiences away from the crowds. For instance, South Korea is a popular “switch” for clients wanting to see Japan’s cherry blossoms. Client looking to visit those popular destinations, however, are looking to book in the offseason, such as a winter trip on the popular Glacier Express in Switzerland.

In addition, as many travelers checked off bucket-lit items in the form of their “revenge travel” when borders reopened, those clients are now moving back to a more “curious travel,” exploring off-the-beaten-track destinations, looking for adventure.

Along those lines, American Express Travel released its annual “Trending Destinations” list for 2024, with a focus on off-the-beaten-path destinations. Some of its suggestions?

  • Instead of the popular Blue Mountains of New South Wales, consider the Adelaide Hills with its charming villages and bustling culinary scene for your Australian rural retreat.
  • If you love the history and energy of IstanbulBodrum, Turkey is home to beaches on the Aegean, bustling bazaars, fresh seafood, and active nightlife.
  • Pastel-hued Porto Cervo, Italy on the island of Sardinia is a more exclusive alternative to the iconic Amalfi Coast that is still known for celebrity glamour and its cuisine.

Running Your Business

Brad Tolkin, co-CEO/chairman, World Travel Holdings, speaks at Dream Vacations, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. conference on Celebrity Apex in November 2021.
Brad Tolkin speaking at the recent Dream Vacations and CruiseOne National Conference. (Photo by Reeves Watson Photography, Courtesy of Dream Vacations)

Dream Vacations and CruiseOne’s cruise sales for 2024 travel are up a whopping 73 percent compared with 2019, the last normal cruise-selling year. For 2023, the two franchise agency groups also expect to post record cruise sales. Land sales, too, are booming, up 26 percent for 2024 travel on the books. This year is expected to be the group’s best ever land sales year.

Brad Tolkin, co-chairman/co-CEO of World Travel Holdings, parent company of the two agency groups, noted a few reasons why business is booming. “First, you are very good at what you do,” Tolkin told the advisors at the recent National Conference aboard Carnival Celebration, also noting the ability to work remotely, the influx of new cruise product and more as such reasons.

Travel tech startup FamGuru announced it has secured over $100,000 in seed funding on Wefunder, an equity crowdfunding portal. The app, which debuted at Virtuoso Travel Week this year, is a way for agencies and suppliers to organize FAM trips, with innovative ways to record photos, reviews and more. Since its debut, it has had more than 1,000 FAM trips organized through its platform.

Digging Into the Data

Married women traveling without their spouses are among the most common solo traveler, according to Road Scholar, an educational travel provider for older adults. According to its internal research, at least 60 percent of Road Scholar’s solo travelers in 2022 were married but traveling without their spouse. Further, 27 percent of married women surveyed have never traveled with a spouse on a Road Scholar program.

Caribbean Hotel Development

Kempinski Grace Bay
Kempinski Grace Bay (Kempinski Grace Bay)

Kempinski Hotels has been named operator of a new luxury resort and residences project located on Grace Bay Beach in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos. The low-footprint design calls for four beachfront villas and 72 condominium residences. Other facilities include three dining venues, a beach club, two resort-style pools, an indoor spa and fitness center, tennis and paddle courts, a kids club, as well as an indoor golf simulator. Situated on the eastern end of Grace Bay Beach, the property is just minutes from the Royal Turks and Caicos Golf Club, shops and restaurants, other attractions and conveniences, and a short drive to the destination’s international airport.

At the recent World Travel Market in London, the Jamaica Tourist Board announced that major international hotel group Lopesan—which has over 17,000 hotel rooms across Europe, Asia and the Caribbean—is “urgently seeking to develop a 1,000-room luxury resort on the island.” Since these were only preliminary talks, there is no official word on which Lopesan brand or brands would be part of the complex, where it will be located or when it would open.

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