Recovering travel industry tries to forge ahead as questions surround Omicron variant

The travel impacts come as many questions still remain about the highly mutated variant and how it may be compared to other strains.

News, Travel

12/2/2021 2:16:00 AM

The travel impacts come as many questions still remain about the highly mutated variant and how it may be compared to other strains.

The travel impacts come as many questions still remain about the highly mutated variant and how it may be compared to other strains.

also dropped 2.1 percent, MarketWatch reported.Stocks for cruise lines also took a hit when Omicron drew international attention, though they have since recovered slightly.For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.As countries shut their doors to foreign tourists or reimpose restrictions because of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, tourism that was just finding its footing again could face another major pandemic slowdown amid the uncertainty about the new strain. A man walks through a deserted part of Johannesburg OR Tambo Airport, South Africa, November 29, 2021.

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Jerome Delay/AP PhotoLess than a month after significantly easing restrictions for inbound international travel, the U.S. government has banned most foreign nationals who have recently been in any of eight southern African countries. A similar boomerang was seen in Japan and Israel, both of which tightened restrictions shortly after relaxing them.

Israel's decision to close the country to foreign visitors is hitting the nation's tourism industry as it geared up for the Hanukkah and Christmas holidays. The country only opened to tourists in November, after barring most foreign visitors since early last year.

Just over 30,000 tourists entered Israel in the first half of November, compared to 421,000 in November 2019, according to government figures.Joel Haber, a Jerusalem-based guide, said during a typical Hanukkah holiday his calendar would be chock full of food tours through Jerusalem's colorful Mahane Yehuda market. Instead, he has just one tour a day.

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"Tour guides like me are the first to get hit and the last to emerge and are directly prevented from working by a government decision," Haber said.In the West Bank city of Bethlehem, revered by Christians as Jesus' birthplace, local businesses expected a boost from Christmas tourism. The Bethlehem Hotel, one of the largest in the city, has operated at a fraction of capacity for the past 18 months.

"Everyone who had bookings over the next two weeks has canceled, while others are waiting to see what happens next," said the hotel's manager, Michael Mufdi."I don't know how much longer we can last, but we are doing our best."

The pandemic already caused foreign tourism in Japan to shrink from 32 million visitors in 2019 to 4 million last year, a trend that has continued through this year.

Read more: Newsweek »

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First confirmed US case of Omicron coronavirus variant detected in CaliforniaThe US' first confirmed case of the Omicron coronavirus variant has been identified in California. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said the case was an individual who traveled from South Africa. “The person was fully vaccinated and is experiencing 'mild symptoms, which are improving at this point,' Fauci said.”

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Face masks reintroduced in Guernsey over new variantFace coverings are mandatory in some public areas in Guernsey in response to the Omicron variant.