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Terrorist warnings: Are these short-haul Christmas breaks safe? | Travel News | Travel

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Christmas is an ideal time to enjoy a holiday abroad but with the current raised terror threat across Europe, travellers need to be careful. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issues terror advice on all countries. So how safe are the short-haul destinations popular with Britons, from France to Spain, at this time of year?

France

The FCO warned terrorists are “very likely” to try to carry out attacks in France and the attacks could be “indiscriminate.”

There have been a number of high profile terrorist attacks since 2015 across France.

The FCI said: “Due to ongoing threats to France by Islamist terrorist groups, and recent French military intervention against Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL), the French government has warned the public to be extra vigilant and has reinforced its own domestic and overseas security measures.

“You should be vigilant in public places and follow the advice of local French authorities.”

Germany

Terror attacks are also classed as “very likely” in Germany.

On 19 December 2016, a lorry was driven into a crowd at a Christmas market in central Berlin causing 12 deaths and a number of injuries.

The FCO advised tourists to be vigilant. They added: “The German government has announced that increased security has been put in place as a precaution at public buildings, major events, transport hubs and large public gatherings.”

Egypt

The FCO warned that terrorists are “very likely” to carry out attacks across Egypt.

They advised: “You should avoid crowded places and gatherings (including in or around religious sites) during religious festivals or times of heightened tensions.

“Terrorist groups have sometimes called for attacks at these times. Take extra care over local holiday weekends, as some terrorist attacks have occurred during these times.”

The FCO added: “The authorities in Egypt maintain a significant security presence across the country, including armed security officers stationed at important sites, critical infrastructure, and road checkpoints. Extra measures are in place at tourist sites.”

Morocco

Morocco is also classed as a country where terror attacks are “very likely” and tourists should be vigilant.

“Attacks could be indiscriminate or target foreigners,” cautioned the FCO.

“Protective security measures, including security personnel, may be visible in certain areas including hotels and sites popular with tourists.”

Spain

In Spain terrorists are considered “likely” to carry out attacks, making it one of the safer holiday destinations.

The FCO said: “Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.

“The Spanish authorities take measures to protect visitors, but you should be vigilant and follow the instructions of the local authorities.”

Turkey

Terror attacks are ”very likely” to happen in Turkey and a number of terrorist groups are active there.

On New Year’s day in 2017, there was an attack on the Reina nightclub in Ortakoy, Istanbul; 39 people were killed and 69 injured.

Terrorist groups, including Daesh and the TAK, have publicly threatened to attack tourist sites in Turkey.

“There is a heightened risk of terrorist attack against the aviation industry in Turkey,” warned the FCO. “You should co-operate fully with security officials at airports.

There are only two countries in the world that haven’t been given “likely” or “very likely” warnings for terrorism by the FCO.

Instead, Iceland and Japan are classed as countries where terror attacks “can’t be ruled out.”

The safest places in the world have recently been revealed by new research. 

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Travel & Escape

Opinion: Are we ready for the tourism rebound?

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Canadians are ready for the borders to be re-opened and will be flocking to sun destinations this winter like never before. The number of people who have said that they are ready to “get out of Dodge” and “fly the coop” is an indication that there is a pent-up demand for travel and excursions that has been bolstered by a two-year sabbatical from vacations of any semblance. 

While Canadians are going to be heading south, we can expect some of our citizens as well as those from other nations to be looking to Canada for their adventure holidays. When the requirements for the two-week quarantines are lifted, we will be seeing a quick rebound of tourism as other countries who have already lifted their restrictions have seen. 

But are we ready?

In 2019, tourism contributed $105 billion to the Canadian economy. Tourists from outside of Canada spent over $16 billion dollars.  Those numbers were down considerably in 2020 and it is only natural that many people in the industry suffered as a result of the effects of the pandemic and lockdown restrictions.

While some folks, fearful of the spread of variants, believe that the borders should never be re-opened, the reality is that to save our tourism industry and the economy, we need tourist traffic from outside of Canada as well as interprovincial travel. As Canadian and foreign tourists start their migration towards our tourist and nature attractions, there is some hesitancy about the readiness of the industry to manage the coming tsunami of people.

Hit harder than many sectors, the tourism industry has been affected by the pandemic in ways that other industries haven’t. The closure of attractions, fairs, tour bus companies, sporting events, concerts and community events with any semblance of a large group has forced workers in this industry to look for jobs elsewhere to survive. As a result of this migration of talent there will be many tourism related businesses that will have difficulty scaling up to meet demand.  According to Statistics Canada, 32 per cent of accommodation and food service companies expect that attracting workers is going to be an obstacle for them this year.

Even if you have some warm bodies to fill your positions, having well-trained staff will remain a problem for many tourism and food service companies. Most business leaders in the industry understand the result of having improperly trained staff working in positions serving the public. The consequences of poor customer service can be long lasting and devastating. Unfortunately, as a result of the constant opening up and shutting down scenarios that have been seen in the economy over the past 18 months, most operators have been reluctant to increase the staffing levels that will be necessary to meet demand. The consequences will be that there will be no other option but to have staff that are not fully trained or optimally equipped to take care of the flood of vacationers.

In order to adjust to the coming demand, tourism-related businesses will need to be prepared to hire and train new employees to promote and deliver their services. This should include systematization of training, hiring and onboarding processes to enable companies to get up to speed quickly when the demand starts.  

While tourism deserves to have their days in the sun and profit from increased business, we need to recognize as Canadians that it takes a country to host visitors and we need to encourage and support those people in the industry who have been hit so hard.

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Travel & Escape

COVID-19: Tourism bookings start increasing as B.C. opens up

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Tourism in B.C. is restarting but don’t expect it to be the same as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic.

While B.C. Ferries is welcoming recreational travellers and relaxing its mask requirement at terminals, face coverings will still be mandatory on board whenever you’re not in your vehicle.

Several Indigenous tourism businesses and locations that were closed to visitors are planning to reopen July 1.

Other tourism businesses are welcoming back visitors but won’t be in a position to handle big volumes because of a lack of staff, said Anthony Everett, president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver Island.

“Everyone needs to travel with a great deal of patience,” Everett said from Nanaimo. “Most businesses are running at a fraction of capacity of what they did prior to COVID.”

Many tourism sector workers have left the industry and found work elsewhere, Everett said. Particularly hard hit are restaurants that can’t find kitchen workers and companies doing tourism-related activities such as kayaking.

He said the benefits of tourism won’t be evenly distributed.

Last year, Victoria struggled all summer long and while bookings for accommodation have increased, some of the city’s restaurants are only open for lunch, others only for dinner.

“This is all going to take time to build up,” Everett said.

“Frankly, I think it will take years. This summer, bookings are going up, that’s what we’re been waiting for. It’s not going to be the exact same experience you were used to prior to the pandemic. I hope people remember and recognize that.”

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Travel & Escape

Mountain biking the Sea to Sky Trail

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With the 700-metre granite dome of the Stawamus Chief as a backdrop, my friend, Ken, and I climbed on our bikes in Squamish and began pedalling north. Our destination was Whistler, an uphill trek of some 80km that we hoped to cover in two days.

It would be easier to ride the opposite way—from Whistler to Squamish—because it’s downhill. But it wouldn’t be the Sea to Sky Trail if we rode that way. Besides, how hard could an elevation gain of more than 600 meters be?

I have driven the Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler many times. It’s arguably one of the best drives in Canada, but when I learned about the Sea to Sky Trail, I knew I needed to experience it on a bike. It’s a slower pace, and largely away from the highway, so it would allow us to appreciate the journey—the valleys, river gorges, lakes, and forests—in a way you can’t in a car.

While the Indigenous peoples of the Coast Salish and Interior Salish have used this corridor as a historic travel and trade route, the idea of a multi-purpose Sea to Sky Trail was first imagined in the early 1990s. But given the geographical and funding challenges, it’s only been in the last decade or so that the vision of the 180km trail from Squamish to D’Arcy, north of Pemberton, has been realized.

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