The U.S. Department of State has scaled back its Passport Agency operations and will no longer be issuing new passports in view of the situation surrounding the still-escalating coronavirus-outbreak” target=”_self” rel=”nofollow noopener noreferrer”>COVID-19 pandemic.
Travel + Leisure pointed out that the release of this directive in late March coincided with the State Department’s issuance of a Level 4 travel advisory, which warns Americans to avoid all international travel and instructing those outside U.S. borders to return home immediately or risk being covid-19-pandemic.html” target=”_self” rel=”nofollow noopener noreferrer”>stranded abroad for an indefinite period of time.
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The Passport Divisions’ recent covid-19.html” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow noopener noreferrer”>policy change mentioned that those who had already applied to obtain a new passport or renew an existing one prior to March 20, 2020, will not have their orders affected. The agency said that it would honor its commitment to fulfilling those expedited-service orders placed on or before March 19 within two to three weeks, door-to-door.
Moving forward, passports will be available only to persons facing qualifying life-or-death emergencies, such as serious illnesses, injuries or deaths in their immediate family, which require them to travel outside the United States within 72 hours’ time.
Such persons will need to not only provide their passport application and supporting documents, and proof of planned international travel (e.g. reservation, ticket or itinerary), but also proof of the life-or-death circumstance. This might include documents like a death certificate, a statement from a mortuary, or a signed letter from a hospital or medical professional, and must be translated into English.
To make an appointment at a passport center in the event of a life-or-death emergency, one must call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 8:00 a. m. and 5:00 p.m., or Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (EST); or call (202) 647-4000 outside of regular business hours.
No indication was given as to when the State Department would again begin accepting passport applications. As is now the case among most organizations that are attempting to respond to the continually evolving pandemic, its future plans remain up in the air. The announcement only stated, “The status of our operations may change quickly. We will update this notice as the status changes.”
For more information, visit travel.state.gov.
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Expedia Group Lends a Hand With $275 Million Program
Expedia Group has announced its commitment of $275 million USD to help partners rebound from the impact of COVID-19 and fuel industry-wide recovery efforts.
Expedia Group’s recovery program is comprised of global initiatives to support industry recovery and property-level relief designed to help independent partners and small chains rebuild their business, attract high-value guests, and optimize cash flow.
Below are some of the program highlights.
To Restore Partners:
– Expedia Group is committing $250 million in marketing credits and financial relief. For each property that participates in the program, the company will reinvest 25% of the compensation earned in 2019 from the property into marketing credits for use with Expedia Group.
– To better understand when demand will return to a market, Expedia Group is providing proprietary data to track trends through a new analytics tool called Market Insights. The dynamic dashboard provides trends on website traffic, stay dates, and demand source markets.
– To support chains and owner groups, Expedia Group released a streamlined version of its optimized distribution solution that allows lodging suppliers to more effectively manage the distribution of wholesale rates among third party travel providers.
To Restore Destinations:
– To re-ignite demand through market awareness, Expedia Group Media Solutions is opening a $25 million fund for destinations. This recovery plan focuses on destination-led and co-op campaigns, which bring together destination and supply partners with similar audiences to manage their advertising spend while maximizing their conversions.
– To keep travel top of mind, Expedia Group is rolling out a series of global brand campaigns. For example, an online campaign from Media Solutions called Where Next? helps customers discover new destinations.
To Restore the Industry:
– To help furloughed and displaced workers advance during this time, Expedia Group has created a complimentary training and education program called Expedia Group Academy. The program offers skill development through online learning modules and live content led by Expedia Group subject matter experts and travel industry leaders.
– To ensure customers can book with confidence, Expedia Group created a new feature for lodging partners to highlight the health and hygiene measures at their properties.
– To meet the needs of cautious customers and ensure booking flexibility, nearly 70% of lodging rate plans on Expedia Group sites are now refundable.
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