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Bill Would Disclose Noem’s Security Costs for Trump Travel | South Dakota News

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PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A House bill endorsed by both parties seeks to disclose the security costs for Gov. Kristi Noem’s travel on behalf of former President Donald Trump’s campaign last year.

Requests for the information by The Associated Press and other media outlets have been rejected with officials citing security concerns.

Republican Rep. Taffy Howard says the proposed legislation would not only require future costs to be disclosed, but would be applied retroactively to Noem’s security costs during her travel across the country on behalf of Trump and other Republicans.

Howard says the governor’s office has told her the Trump campaign covered Noem’s travel costs, but officials would not disclose the cost of security provided by the South Dakota Highway Patrol.

“This should be disclosed to every citizen,” Howard told the Argus Leader Tuesday. “We’ve asked several times and keep getting stonewalled. Taxpayers have a right to know. This governor wants to be the most transparent administration, and this bill is all about transparency.”

Noem’s deputy general counsel, Katie Hruska, has said she can’t provide the cost of Noem’s security detail, citing a law that says “public safety information that would create a substantial likelihood of endangering public safety or property, if disclosed” can’t be shared.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Boeing (BA) Reports Staggering Q4 Loss

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Dow component The Boeing Company (BA) is trading lower by more than 3% in Wednesday’s pre-market session after reporting a staggering fourth quarter 2020 loss of $15.25 per share, much worse than $1.63 loss estimates. Revenue fell 14.6% year over year to $15.39 billion, matching modest expectations. The company cited COVID-19 and 787 production issues for the shortfall but delivered over 40 MAX-737 jetliners and returned another five to its fleets.

Key Takeaways

  • Boeing reported a much greater-than-expected quarterly loss of $15.25 per share.
  • The stock is trading below $200 for the first time since November.
  • The aerospace giant pushed delivery dates toward 2023 and beyond.
  • Delivery projections may be too optimistic due to huge supply issues.

Commercial airline revenue fell 37% year over year, rising 31% compared to the third quarter. The 737-MAX program is expected to deliver 31 jetliners per month in 2022, when 787 production rises to just five per month. The company pushed back 777x deliveries to late 2023, but all projections are suspect because Boeing has done a poor job predicting demand since the Ethiopian jetliner crash in 2019.

The MAX-737 jetliner returned to the skies in the fourth quarter, but there’s little demand for the aircraft, with severe travel restrictions around the world. In addition, the pandemic has forced carriers to mothball hundreds of aircraft, generating a massive supply that will lower demand for new planes well into the future. Adding to long-term concerns, many analysts now believe that business travel will never return to pre-pandemic levels because corporations have adapted to the virtual meeting space, saving billions in travel budgets.

Wall Street consensus on Boeing hasn’t improved in the past three months despite positive 737-MAX developments, with a “Hold” rating based upon 10 “Buy,” 1 “Overweight,” 11 “Hold,” 2 “Underweight,” and 3 “Sell” recommendations. Price targets currently range from a low of $150 to a Street-high $306, while the stock will open Wednesday’s session nearly $30 below the median $222 target. There’s room for a little upside with this placement, but the huge quarterly loss won’t stir buying interest.

Tip

Demand is an economic principle referring to a consumer’s desire to purchase goods and services and willingness to pay a price for a specific good or service. Holding all other factors constant, an increase in the price of a good or service will decrease the quantity demanded, and vice versa. Market demand is the total quantity demanded across all consumers in a market for a given good.

Boeing Weekly Chart (2013 – 2021) 

TradingView.com


The stock returned to the 2007 high at $107.83 in 2013 and broke out, entering a broad trading range on top of new support. It held within those boundaries into a secondary breakout in 2017, with committed buyers generating impressive returns into March 2019’s all-time high at $446.01. A second MAX crash then triggered a worldwide grounding, sending price into a tailspin that initially found support near $320 in the third quarter.

Boeing broke range support in February 2020, plunging to a seven-year low in the double digits, and bounced back above $200 in June. A multi-month consolidation carved a higher November low, yielding a strong buying impulse that mounted second quarter resistance before fizzling out below the 200-week exponential moving average (EMA) in December. The stock has been pulling back since that time and is trading below $200 for the first time since November.

The monthly stochastic oscillator is grinding through a buy cycle, while the weekly indicator’s sell cycle has crossed into oversold territory. Taken together, this downswing is likely to bottom out quickly, allowing bottom fishers to take exposure at cheaper prices. Even so, the November gap between $158 and $172 remains unfilled, potentially acting as a magnetic target when investors realize that the old Boeing may be gone for good.

Tip

A stochastic oscillator is a momentum indicator comparing a particular closing price of a security to a range of its prices over a certain period of time. The sensitivity of the oscillator to market movements is reducible by adjusting that time period or by taking a moving average of the result. It is used to generate overbought and oversold trading signals, utilizing a 0–100 bounded range of values.

The Bottom Line 

Boeing is selling off after posting a much worse-than-expected fourth quarter loss and announcing delays in key milestone dates. 

Disclosure: The author held no positions in the aforementioned securities at the time of
publication.

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ALG Vacations Creates Agent Resource Toolkit for COVID-19 Testing Requirements

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WHY IT RATES: ALG Vacations continues to work hard for agents and advisors.—Donald Wood, Breaking News Senior Writer.


At the beginning of the pandemic, global tour operator ALG Vacations promised to “give travel advisors MORE,” pulling together a comprehensive info hub (www.vaxvacationaccess.com/ALGVAdvisorUpdate) to help them navigate through quick-changing times and their challenges.

Now, as the situation and adaptations around the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) new requirement for COVID-testing for re-entry into the U.S. begin to take form, ALG Vacations has once again created a centralized resource and toolkit to provide advisors with guidance and clarification on how to advance their business past this new hurdle.

INFORMATIONAL RESOURCES

Travel professionals can rely on www.vaxvacationaccess.com/cdcguidelines for immediate access to information and policies pertaining to this CDC update as ALG Vacations receives it, as well as additional resources to help them adapt their business to these changing needs.

Trending Now

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats.

On this new, frequently updated page, ALGV provides:

—CDC U.S. entry testing requirements

—An evolving FAQ section

—Partner airline policies

—Necessary forms and documents

—Hotel and destination official protocols

—Daily-updated destination and hotel grids showing:

—The availability of on-site testing for specific properties

—Cost per test if applicable, including for antigen testing

—Minimum stay requirements for free testing

—Travel date validity

—Local clinics should on-site not be available

—Quarantine offers

On Friday, 1/22/21, a webinar hosted by ALG Vacations executives was attended by more than 900 travel advisors, centering on the new CDC regulations and guidelines, and what ALG Vacations is doing to support travel agencies during this time.

With an ALG Vacations-hosted FAM to Punta Cana currently in resort, and another departing to Cancun on 1/27, travel advisors have the opportunity to be part of the new testing and departure experience in resort. ALGV is currently sharing these experiences on its social channels, and will share more content and video in the upcoming days.

FUNCTIONAL RESOURCES

On VAX VacationAccess, agents will now find hotel-specific messaging regarding on-site COVID testing, along with a new browsing filter for easy, at-a-glance shopping. This dynamic, on-demand supplement to the daily-updated hotel grid on the CDC Update page will help provide immediate answers while agents are searching for the best fit for their customers.

TRAVEL AGENT BUSINESS PROTECTION EFFORTS

In addition, ALG Vacations has announced several new developments and policies in support of travel agent business. This includes enhanced during-travel trip protection coverage; namely, increased trip delay protection for packages with Travel Protection Plus. The plan will now reimburse up to $3000 per person (formerly $500 per person maximum) for expenses such as meals, lodging, and local transportation costs for ALGV customers delayed 6 or more hours due to a defined Hazard, such as a Common Carrier delay or Quarantine (imposed by a physician or government authority). This benefit is valid for all current and new bookings for departures 2/1/21 onward for Apple Vacations, Funjet Vacations, Travel Impressions, United Vacations, Blue Sky Tours, and Southwest Vacations. This increase in coverage, funded by ALG Vacations, is in addition to the standard values, which includes medical coverage up to $50,000; emergency evacuation, Cancel for Any Reason, and much more.

In yet another effort to protect bookings and the customers who made them, the successful, popular Rebook Now. Recharge Later. 125% refund consumer incentive has temporarily returned to the marketplace for those eligible for a cash-back refund. Would-be cancellers are being offered an extra 25% in bonus travel credit toward their rebooking if they choose to convert their refunds into credit with ALG Vacations instead. More information on this promotion, as well as explanatory infographics and usage guides, can be found at www.vaxvacationaccess.com/RebookRecharge.

For customers who aren’t eligible for this incentive, ALG Vacations has streamlined the process of changing air dates, and is publicly providing insider recommendations on how to best maximize vacationers’ investment value, such as how to bypass cancel fees as they take advantage of ALGV’s waived brand change fees.

“We at ALG Vacations are intent on being problem-solvers for our travel partners and their customers,” says Executive Vice President, Trade Brands Jacki Marks. “We believe that creating multiple options for customers in a wide range of scenarios; developing tools and technology that proactively increase agent efficiency; and providing an all-encompassing but thoughtfully curated hub of resources are all critical components of supporting travel advisor success during tough times. Through a multi-angle approach, we’re making it a priority to proactively protect the travel agent community and our shared industry. We cannot emphasize more that our guiding value is that ‘We do it together,’ and will continue to listen closely to our partners and work on providing resources that meet or exceed their needs.”


SOURCE: ALG Vacations press release.



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US issues Level 3 travel advisory for Jamaica

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The US Embassy said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued the Level 3 Travel Health Notice for Jamaica, due to COVID-19 to its citizens traveling to Jamaica.

The embassy also advised that effective January 26, all airline passengers to the United States aged two years and older must provide a negative COVID-19 viral test result that was done within three calendar days of travel.

Travelers to the US may provide documentation from a licensed healthcare provider of having recovered from COVID-19 within 90 days preceding travel.

The Embassy’s website on Friday stated – “Reconsider travel to Jamaica due to health and safety measures and COVID-related conditions. Exercise increased caution in Jamaica due to crime. Some areas have increased risk.”

“Jamaica has resumed most transportation options, (including airport operations and re-opening of borders) and business operations. Other improved conditions have been reported within Jamaica,” the advisory also stated.

Jamaica to date has recorded 14,772 coronavirus cases, with 2,413 of the cases being still active. A total of 11,850 persons have recovered from the virus, while 336 COVID-19 patients have died.

This new advisory comes just as the new Joe Biden administration on Thursday signed an executive order outlining new rules for travel to the US in its fight against the coronavirus, which has so far claimed more than 400,000 lives there.

Everyone flying to the United States from another country will need to test before they get on that plane, before they depart, and quarantine when they arrive in America.



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Cleaning robots are powering an automation revolution in hospitality

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One day last summer, the newest member of YOTEL Boston’s housekeeping team pulled up to work in a big crate.

“It was an imposing box,” recalled general manager Trish Berry, who watched as a team of robotics professionals then unpacked the employee, a tall cleaning bot nicknamed “Vi-YO-Let.” After getting programmed to understand the property’s floor plan, Vi-YO-Let (pronounced like “violet”) began roaming like a germ-zapping Roomba — becoming, in the process, one of the first ultraviolet bots to arrive in a United States hotel.

While Vi-YO-Let, the product of a partnership with Denmark-based UVD Robots, might play cute tunes and light up as she moves, she has a serious job: disinfecting the air and surfaces around her. And she does so remarkably well: Her array of UV lights, which look like a bundle of lightsabers, kill more than 99 percent of viruses and bacteria, including the coronavirus.

“It gave me a little peace of mind that I could offer something extra for our guests,” Berry said, and it seems to give travelers the same. More and more guests are requesting the robo-cleaning package, currently a complimentary add-on. “Cleanliness is now the new luxury,” Berry said.

The cleaning routines at most busy airports and hotels had remained relatively unchanged for decades. But as the pandemic rages into its second year, major brands are increasingly turning to the world of high-tech disinfection to strengthen their cleaning protocols. It’s a trend that’s slowly transforming housekeeping — and accelerating the pace of automation in hospitality.

Welcome to the ‘pathogen-free sanctuary’

Until recently, only health-care workers would frequently interact with disinfecting bots, which cost upward of $125,000 each. It’s a steep investment, but if it boosts travelers’ confidence, it’s worth it, said Morris Miller, CEO of Xenex, one of several leading companies in UV robotics.

When an epidemiologist founded the San Antonio-based firm in 2008, “the robots were designed and typically used in hospital settings,” Miller explained. But starting last spring, Xenex found rising demand in other sectors, and has raced to keep up since.

The appeal to the hospitality sector of virus-slaying UV light is obvious. Hospitals have found Xenex’s patented machines kill “22 times more pathogens” when compared with a room cleaned to CDC standards alone, Miller said. “The robots [are not] dependent on housekeeping,” he added, framing their consistency in cleaning as a scientifically backed “competitive advantage” travelers can trust.

Claims about the rigor of robot cleaning routines have recently become rather surreal marketing campaigns. Take the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif. The iconic hotel, famous for hosting the annual Golden Globe Awards ceremony, boasts in one promotional video that its Xenex robot staff “zaps every inch before your arrival,” leaving you a “pathogen-free sanctuary” where you’ll “rest assured you’re sleeping in the safest room possible.”

Today, travelers might stumble on UV bots anywhere from five-star hotels and convention centers to train stations and cruise ships. Upscale Hilton and Marriott hotels, airports such as Heathrow and Key West International, London’s St. Pancras train station, and convention centers in Oklahoma City and San Antonio are only a few of the notable hospitality hubs that have hired disinfecting robots, according to spokespeople for several major robotics companies.

In Odense, the “robot capital” of Denmark, the rise of cleaning bots in hospitality has led to a “big increase” in sales for UVD Robots, said PR coordinator Camilla Almind Knudsen. And she predicts the pandemic is only the tipping point.

“We expect the market for autonomous cleaning robots to grow in hospitality as well as other sectors,” Knudsen wrote in an email. She cited a May 2020 forecast from Verified Market Research that projects the market for UV disinfecting bots will grow to more than $5.5 billion by 2027. A fresh class of cleaning bots unveiled at this year’s virtual CES — including a more affordable model from LG — shows how many tech firms believe the robots are here to stay.

A new wave of automation

This is not the first time robots have beeped and booped their way through hospitality.

Aloft Hotel in Cupertino, Calif., rolled out two of the world’s first robotic butlers in 2014. A 2016 partnership between Hilton and IBM led to a trial of Connie, a novelty robot concierge. Before the 2018 Winter Olympics, South Korea’s Incheon International Airport unveiled robots that could help travelers find their gate, among other tasks. And Japan’s famous Henn na Hotel has claimed to be the first hotel staffed by robots, though in 2019, the hotel fired about half of its 243 bots for underperforming (and, alarmingly, potentially exposing guests to hackers and peepers).

But the new wave of pandemic-era robots stands out from such predecessors, both because of the bots’ wider adoption and the more practical jobs they fill. Some robot makers refer to these kinds of bots as “cobots,” a portmanteau of “collaboration” and “robots,” because they’re intended to work alongside people rather than replace them. And while current bots like Vi-YO-Let may not compete with housekeepers, experts say such a future now seems more likely than ever.

Back in 2017, spatial economist Johannes Moenius, a professor at the University of Redlands in California, co-authored a report that predicted more than 60 percent of jobs in hospitality-dominated cities like Las Vegas could be automatable by 2025 — job losses that would exacerbate income inequality and disproportionately harm women of color.

At the time, he reasoned that certain hospitality jobs, those where face-to-face customer service is a key part of the experience, were less vulnerable. “If you had asked me a year ago how likely it is we would see a robot waiter, I would say, ‘Yeah, in Tokyo,’ ” Moenius said with a laugh. “That [analysis] has entirely changed now.”

He’s joined in that appraisal by a growing number of experts, who argue the pandemic is likely to accelerate the automation of jobs in sectors like hospitality. “Some share of the population now seek out places where human interaction is avoided,” Moenius said. “That was pretty much impossible for me even to conceive, to imagine, a year ago.”

Workers’ uncertain future

Where do people go if the robots come for our jobs? It’s a question labor leaders in hospitality have been grappling with for some time.

“I’ve been focused on [the rise of automation] for four years. Candidly, I got focused after going to the CES show here in Vegas in ’17,” said D. Taylor, international president of the Unite Here union, which represents workers in hotels, casinos, food service and more. “If they can develop driverless cars, if they can develop the whole variety of different things I saw there, certainly the jobs in our industry are going to change.”

Elected officials continue to underestimate the economic threats of automation in sectors like hospitality and tourism, Taylor says, which is why Unite Here negotiates “extensive technology language” into its labor contracts. This helps ensure that workers can retrain for new skills, transition to other roles or at least receive severance pay if their jobs are automated out of existence.

But the union also acknowledges the reality: Even as new technologies create new roles, some types of jobs may go away for good. “We’re not a bunch of Luddites. We want to collaborate, not be run over by technology,” Taylor said. That will require hospitality brands not to “disregard the workers that, frankly, got them to the dance in the first place.”

Rest assured, self-sufficient androids like Rosie from “The Jetsons” still seem a far way off. In the nearly six months since starting her new job, Vi-YO-Let has acquired no new skills in folding sheets or fluffing pillows — that isn’t what she was made to do. She has, however, created some new work for the staff.

A few team members at YOTEL Boston have become certified to drive Vi-YO-Let through the hotel’s smaller, harder-to-navigate rooms. “It’s kind of like playing video games,” Berry said. For now, even a state-of-the-art robot sometimes requires the delicate human touch.

Read more:

The U.S. is requiring covid-19 tests for international entry. Experts say the approach is flawed.

Hitting the road? Here’s what to know about your rest-stop risks.

6 ways the Biden administration could change travel

Will cruises require vaccines? One line just set a standard.

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Viking Aton to join fleet in Egypt next year | News

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Viking has announced an expansion of its Egypt fleet with Viking Aton, a new state-of-the-art river vessel.

Inspired by the design of the award-winning Viking Longships and built specifically to navigate the Nile River, Viking Aton is currently under construction and is scheduled to debut in late 2022.

Sailing on Viking’s popular Pharaohs & Pyramids itinerary, the new vessel will join Viking’s existing Egypt river fleet, which includes its identical sister ship Viking Osiris and Viking’s first owned and operated ship on the Nile, Viking Ra.

“Egypt remains a top destination for many of our guests who are inspired to discover the rich history and beauty of the region,” said Torstein Hagen, chairman of Viking.

“We will always maintain our commitment to creating meaningful experiences that are focused on the destination.

“The addition of Viking Aton is a reflection of our continued investment in Egypt; we look forward to introducing the country’s cultural treasures to even more Viking guests in the future.”

Hosting 82 guests in 41 staterooms, Viking Aton will be a state-of-the-art ship with the clean, elegant Scandinavian design for which Viking is known.

The brand offers culturally enriching, destination-focused river and ocean cruises for travellers curious about the world, its rich culture and varied history.



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My travel dream for 2021: top 12 readers’ tips | Travel

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Winning tip: A perfect ’stan

Covid willing, we’ll be heading to Kyrgyzstan. It’s at that perfect point where the infrastructure supports a great travel experience, but it’s not become spoiled by tourists. Bishkek is modern and vibrant, and in the stunning rural areas it’s possible to stay with nomads living the traditional life. It’s one of the most beautiful countries in the world, with delicious locally sourced food. Kyrgyz community-based tourism proved an affordable way to experience the life of horse-riding nomads living in yurts, and the money goes into the community itself.
Minnie Martin

Where the map takes us, Wester Ross

Evening sunlight over Achnahaird Bay, Wester Ross.
Evening sunlight over Achnahaird Bay, Wester Ross.
Photograph: Lorraine Yates/Alamy Stock Photo

The west coast of Scotland is our wild goal. During the neverending house tidy of 2020, we found the Gairloch & Ullapool area OS map and pored over it – a bit of geography home learning for my son, who liked the wriggly contour lines and the consonant-heavy names of the lochs and mountains. We’ll take the high road to Gairloch to see orca and minke (Hebridean Whale Cruises, £64 adult, £35 child), stay in a wooden wigwam at Sands campsite (from £52pp), and walk to the beach humming the Skye boat song.
Nancy Gladstone

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Readers’ tips: send a tip for a chance to win a £200 voucher for a Canopy & Stars stay

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Guardian Travel readers’ tips

Every week we ask our readers for recommendations from their travels. A selection of tips will be featured online and may appear in print. To enter the latest competition visit the readers’ tips homepage

Island dream, Lundy

Tourists land from MS Oldenburg on Lundy Island.
The MS Oldenburg landing on Lundy. Photograph: Backyard Production/Getty Images

My son, daughter and I have been making lists of where we want to go since the first lockdown. We’ve booked a few days on Lundy for next August in the hope that it will be safe to travel again by then. It only involves a five-hour drive to Ilfracombe, Devon, and then a couple of hours on HMS Oldenburg (which for my three-year-old boy will be the holiday made before we even get there). We’ll stay in Castle Cottage, in the keep of a castle built by Henry III in 1250. There’s nothing to do but explore cliffs, beaches and lighthouses, and look for the crashed bomber plane in the heather. And there’s no internet.
Kate Attrill

All a-Twitter for York

Curtor holding an 800-year-old figure of Christ
An 800-year-old figure of Christ returned to York last year and on display at the Yorkshire Museum. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA

I’d love to go to York and visit the Yorkshire Museum as their wonderful tweets – mainly about odd or mysterious items in their collection – have kept me entertained and brought history alive this year. A pint or two in the city’s ancient pubs and a wander home to characterful lodgings would just cap a cultural visit off nicely!
Liz

Mind-Boggling Whitby, North Yorkshire

Boggle Hole YHA, Robin Hood’s Bay.
Boggle Hole YHA near Robin Hood’s Bay. Photograph: Ian Bottle/Alamy

Low cost and close to home, a stay with the YHA at Boggle Hole is always a welcome relief. A converted watermill with a reception, bar and cosy sitting room complete with a log fire and leather couches, it’s in a pebbled cove overlooking the sea, with wooded cliffs on either side. Go in spring or early autumn and the prices are as low as £29 a night. Walk across the sandy beach to Robin Hoods Bay or over the jagged cliffs to Ravenscar to see the seals.
Safiya El-Gindy

Golden Glasgow

Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow.
Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow. Photograph: Black Jake/Getty Images

I long for the wide expansiveness of Glasgow boulevards: west-facing, bathed in the golden glow of light glancing off sandstone. I long for the cobbled alleyways, armpit-piled bookshops, curiosity shops crammed with treasure; and also the glitzy, glassy, high street emporiums filled with unafforded luxuries. I long for views of the university, the Campsie Fells, the high flats, the rivers snaking through. And the tearooms, pubs, gastropubs, curry houses, Asian street food haunts, delis and restaraunts high end and greasy spoon. It’s only two hours away but has been impossibly out of reach. I long for full immersion, to be sated by all its gritty, impossibly romantic, unabashed grandeur.
Fiona

Simply sublime, Cotswolds Way

The Cotswold Way at Crickley Hill.
The Cotswold Way at Crickley Hill. Photograph: Alamy

In 2021 I want to carry on enjoying the benefits of the simple pleasures of travelling that 2020 led us to – like walking and talking. I want to walk the Cotswolds Way from Broadway to Bath, breathing in fresh air, wondering at big skies, scanning rolling hills in the distance while getting fitter without going to gyms or swimming in chlorinated pools or using mobile apps. Its 120 miles should take about a week, staying in village pubs along the way. Travel, like life, should be about connecting reality to your imagination by inspiration, which can come in the purest, most simple of forms.
Nick

Faroes football

My dream is to fulfil a Covid-delayed bucket-list trip to see the ultimate sporting underdog story, and take my football-crazy nine-year-old on a once-in-a-lifetime trip. We will be travelling to see the Faroe Islands play an international match on home turf. They’re due to play Scotland on 12 October in a World Cup qualifier. Fly into the capital, Torshavn, and you can walk to the stadium. Hire a car for the full Faroes experience: it’s the bird-watching capital of Europe. Hotel Streym in Torshavn has Atlantic views and doubles from £90.
John Connolly

Harvest festival with a difference, Ukraine

Harvest time on a farm near Lviv, Ukraine
Harvest time on a farm near Lviv, Ukraine. Photograph: Martin Charlesworth

It will take the best part of a day and a half but here’s my plan: a few buses, some trains and a flight from my home in the Ribble valley to Ukraine, crossing the Polish border at Przemyśl. I’m expecting Lviv to be “bruised but not broken” as the Ray Davies song goes, with coffee, cake and varenyky (dumpling) culture still largely intact. I plan to go in August for the Saviour of the Apple feast, an Eastern Orthodox celebration of harvest. The reason for going is not necessarily the destination or the festival but the sweet joy of a long journey to a foreign land and interaction with strangers at long last.
Martin Charlesworth

Totally ore-some, Mauritania

The iron ore train, Mauritania

For 2021, I want to travel somewhere that is remote with low population density and gives me an adrenaline rush. After a bit of research, I’ve chosen to go on the iron ore train in Mauritania. The 700km journey on a cargo train from the north of the country to the west coast takes around 34 hours. This train is among the world’s longest and heaviest and riding it is totally free. From time to time, I look at the photos and videos of the journey on the internet and instantly get goosebumps. See for yourself. It’s total madness.
Venkata K C Tata

Silk Road: Samarkand to Baku

The Registan place in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
The Registan place in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Photograph: Andrey Vishin/Alamy

As we enter 2021 with unbridled hope and optimism for a better year filled with limitless freedom and a vaccinated global population, never have I wanted more to return to completing my journey of the Silk Road, started in 2019. Beginning in Xi’an and Kashgar, China, I headed west to Almaty, Kazakhstan, before crossing over into Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. My trip allowed just enough time to reach dazzling Samarkand in Uzbekistan. My trip ended at the Shah-i-Zinda necropolis, a breathtaking marvel from which I hope to restart my adventure in 2021. My aim is to reach Tehran, from where I will return to Baku, one of my favourite cities, for a deserved cup of coffee.
Scott Strachan

Mountain overload, Georgia

Kazbegi, Georgia.
Kazbegi, Georgia. Photograph: Franka Hummels

I want to be overwhelmed by Georgia’s Kazbegi region again. I want to get so exhausted by marvellous hikes – where I will not meet a soul – that the next day will be spent on a balcony with a book that gets little attention because the mountains take my breath away. I will only leave that balcony to eat terrific vegetarian Georgian food, with the same view. That balcony I left and want to return to is at Rooms Hotel, where doubles go for $100 – steep by Georgian standards but worth it and not as steep as those mountain slopes.
Franka Hummels



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China city offers cash for tip on test evaders

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BEIJING (AP) — A city in northern China is offering rewards of 500 yuan ($77) for anyone who reports on a resident who has not taken a recent coronavirus test.

The offer from the government of Nangong comes as millions in the city and its surrounding province of Hebei are being tested as part of efforts to control China’s most serious recent outbreak of COVID-19.

The offering of cash or other rewards for information on political or social nonconformists has a long history in China, but the pandemic is putting a new face on the practice. Those found noncompliant will be forced to undergo testing and a two-week quarantine at their own expense.

China has largely controlled local transmission through the use of measures considered by some to be extreme and highly intrusive, including lockdowns of entire cities and close electronic monitoring of bans on traveling to and from parts of the country.

With next month’s Lunar New Year travel rush looming, the government is telling people to stay put as much as possible and not travel to or from the capital Beijing, disrupting the country’s most important time for family gatherings. Schools are also being let out a week early, although many, including those in Hebei, have already reverted to online learning.

China on Friday reported 53 new cases, including 33 in Hebei. Of those, 31 were in the provincial capital of Shijiazhuang, host to some events for next year’s Winter Olympics.


In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— Thailand reported 205 new virus cases, a slight dip from previous days as it tightened controls on domestic travel. Taweesilp Visanuyothin, a spokesperson for the COVID-19 coordinating center, said Friday that 131 of the new cases were local transmissions, 58 were migrant workers and 16 international arrivals. That brought the country’s total to 9,841, including 67 deaths. Of that total, 5,367 cases have been found since the start of the new surge on Dec. 15. Infections have surged following months that saw only a handful of cases. Most of the new cases have been migrant workers from neighboring Myanmar employed in seafood markets and factories in a province next to Bangkok. Most were quarantined in their dormitories and in quickly established field hospitals. Many of the remaining cases have been blamed on itinerant gamblers, most of them stemming from a single hotspot outside Bangkok last month.

— Australia is nearly halving the number of passengers allowed to arrive by plane in a bid to prevent the spread of a highly contagious variant of the coronavirus first identified in Britain. A cleaner at a Brisbane quarantine hotel diagnosed with COVID-19 on Wednesday is the first person infected with the variant found in the Australian community. Other cases have been detected among travelers while in hotel quarantine, where there is little risk of community spread. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said state leaders had agreed that international arrivals to New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia state airports would be halved until Feb. 15. Arrivals at Victoria were already relatively low and would remain unchanged. Quarantine workers would be tested for the virus daily. Authorities in Brisbane are locking Australia’s third-most populous city down for three days beginning Friday evening to contain the spread. Australian Chief Health Officer Paul Kelly said anyone who had been in Brisbane since Jan. 2 should also isolate.

— Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong received a vaccine against the coronavirus on Friday as the island nation started immunizing its small population. It took delivery of the first vaccines, manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech, on Dec. 23 and hopes to cover its entire population of about 4.5 million and its foreign residents. The vaccine will be free. It has not said how many it has purchased but hopes to inoculate everyone by the third quarter of 2021. Health workers and the elderly will be among the first to receive the vaccine.

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