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Business Travel Travel Industry

Starting In 2021, Americans Will Need Visas To Travel To Europe

Along with other countries and regions in the world, Europe has recently decided to improve their security levels regarding illegal immigration and terrorism. One way they’re becoming more secure? Requiring visas to enter, specifically to the Schengen Zone. That’s right, starting in 2021, all Americans traveling to a European country in the Schengen Zone will need to apply for the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) in order to enter.

What is the European Schengen Zone?

26 countries in Europe make up the Schengen Area. Within it are 22 countries from the European Union (EU), 4 countries that are part of the EFTA (European Free Trade Association) and 3 microstates.

The countries making up the Schengen Zone are:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Luxembourg
  • Netherlands
  • Germany
  • France
  • Spain
  • Portugal
  • Sweden
  • Finland
  • Denmark
  • Lithuania
  • Latvia
  • Estonia
  • Poland
  • Slovakia
  • Hungry
  • Italy
  • Greece
  • Czech Republic
  • Malta
  • Iceland
  • Liechtenstein
  • Norway
  • Switzerland
  • Monaco
  • San Marino
  • Vatican City

 

Apart from the 26 total Schengen states, there are 6 non-Schengen European Union members. They are currently not a part of the Schengen Zone and will not require a ETIAS to enter.
They include:

  • United Kingdom
  • Ireland
  • Romania
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus

 

What does this mean for Americans?

So far, the requirements for an American to obtain a European visa waiver is pretty basic. The U.S. Citizen will need to have a valid passport, a credit or debit card, and an email account. When applying, the passport must be valid for 3 months beyond the period of intended stay. The ETAIS visa waiver must be paid in advance through secure online payment via credit or debit card.

The ETAIS visa waiver will be valid for 3 years. During this 3-year validity of the ETIAS for U.S. travelers, it will be possible to enter the Schengen Zone European countries as many times as necessary.

What does this mean for business travel?

The new requirement does not go into action for another two years. At this time, visas are not required for Americans to visit Europe. It should also be expected for some details to change by the time it is required, so stay informed if your company frequently travels to Europe from the United States.

The requirements for the visa are relatively low and obtaining one should be streamlined. The applicant will be notified via email if they are granted or denied the ETIAS. The main hurdles for travel managers and travelers will be remembering to allow time before a trip to apply and receive the visa. Remembering to re-apply after the three year validity time will also be a hurdle in the distant future. As you may recall, when a passport was required to travel to Mexico or Canada from the U.S., a rush of passport applicants caused lengthy delays to the whole process. This rush should also be expected with the ETIAS process, and it would be wise to apply as early as possible.

Categories
Business Travel Travel Industry Travel Management

Topaz Travel Spend Forecast for 2013


Topaz International
has, for the first time, forecast future travel spend around the world with the disclaimer from CEO, Brad Seitz, “While some unexpected global events could skew these estimates, we believe this is a solid forecast for business travel in 2013.”

Their forecast is based upon general, targeted, and industry research, resulting in their view of what the future holds for travel spend in the areas of air, hotel, and rental car, divided among five regions of the world.

Topaz International Forecast for 2013

North America:

  • Air +3.5%
  • Hotel + 5.0%
  • Car Rental +3.0%

Latin America:

  • Air +2.0%
  • Hotel +5.0%
  • Car Rental +2.0%

Europe:

  • Air +3.5%
  • Hotel +2.0%
  • Car Rental +2.0%

Middle East and Africa:

  • Air +2.5%
  • Hotel +1.0%
  • Car Rental +1.5%

Asia Pacific:

  • Air +3.5%
  • Hotel: +3.0%
  • Car Rental +4.0%
Categories
Travel News

What Happens When……..

For the second time in less than a decade, we have seen a continental wide shut down of an air traffic system. The first time was in 2001, starting on 9/11 and lasting a little over a week. The second time was last month’s shut down of the European airspace as a result of volcanic ash.
So what happens when a major event such as these occurs? Are the airlines obligated to do anything for you and if so, what? What about hotels and car rental agencies? And cruise lines and tour companies, what do they have to do in such an event? Do you know where to find out what their legal obligations are and what your legal rights are?
As has been discussed here previously the EU and the US have different regulations concerning flight cancellations. Both governing bodies require the airlines to do more when it is something that the airline should be able to control. Similarly, both are more forgiving when it is beyond the control of the airline. In the case of 9-11, it was the government shutting down the airspace and the airlines had no control over that. And in the case of the volcanic ash, well, Mother Nature gets the blame and no one has control over that. Legally the airlines are not obligated to do much for a traveler when it is something beyond the airline’s control. If they cancel your flight, the airline can offer you a refund or they can reschedule your travel at a later date. The first one isn’t so bad if you are just starting your trip and your trip was time sensitive. The second is generally used if travel has commenced or you need to go sooner or later. We saw a great many people opting for the second. At Christopherson Business Travel, we spent hours finding alternative schedules, getting waivers from the airlines and then reissuing tickets for our clients. If, by chance, you had booked your travel direct with the airlines, you would have been the one on the phone for long periods of time to get your new flight arrangements made.
How do you know what the airlines will do for you? Each and every airline flying into, out of or through the US, has what is known as a Contract of Carriage and they must have it available at the ticket counter and the gate should a customer need or want it. Most have them on their websites as well. These contracts will vary from airline to airline so don’t assume that because one airline says one thing, that all of them will say the same thing. While it sometimes seems that the airlines are a bunch of kids playing follow the leader, it is not safe to assume that everything is exactly the same. So when in doubt, get a copy of the contract of carriage and read those parts that are pertinent to your needs.
Now what happens to you if you no show a hotel due to a volcanic eruption? Well, most hotels will waive a no show billing provided you contact them as quickly as possible. If you wait a week or two, well, they aren’t as forgiving as if you either call them as soon as you know that you aren’t going to make it or within a day of your scheduled arrival. I must point out, not all hotels will waive it. There are some hotels that don’t worry about good customer service and/or about creating good will. Here again, if you booked your hotel direct with the hotel or through Hotwire, Priceline or via the hotel chain websites, you will be spending your time and money tracking down the number of who you need to speak with and then calling them. If you booked through Christopherson Business Travel, your agent would take care of this at the same time he or she was taking care of your airfare.
Hotels are generally regulated by local authorities, such as cities or counties and in a few places states or even national governments will regulate them. There is no equivalent to the airline contract of carriage. This makes it much harder to know what your specific rights are and in the cases of hotels overseas can make it very hard to get things resolved in a manner that one would expect.
Car rentals are generally easier since most car rentals are not prepaid or guaranteed with a credit card. If it isn’t prepaid or guaranteed, basically the car rental agency has a car sitting on their lot that they were hoping to have rented to you. You aren’t stuck with a bill for it. Now if you prepaid the car rental or you reserved a car that required a guarantee and you no show, you may find yourself in a similar situation as you would with your hotel. The sooner you are able to contact the car rental agency and explain what has happened, the easier it to get them to work with you. If you did it yourself, well, I’ve covered that already.
Cruises and tours operate more like the airlines than hotels and rental cars. They have contracts that specify what they will and won’t do. The contracts also specify their policies for cancellations. These contracts are very specific as to what they have to do. It is a good idea to go over those before you put your money down. One thing that all the cruise lines and most of the tour operators offer is some form of “insurance” or “cancellation waiver”, that allows customers to cancel for a variety of reasons. Again, these have their own contract and each one varies from company to company, so it is VERY important to read and understand the terms of coverage before purchasing it. One downside to purchasing it from a vendor is that it only covers what you purchased from the vendor. For example, if you are going on a cruise and you purchase their cancellation coverage, it will cover the cruise, but if you didn’t get your airfare through the cruise line or you booked your own hotels or maybe you booked a shore excursion on your own, none of those things would be covered by the cruise line’s cancellation policy. So what are you to do to insure that you get your money back from those items?
There are travel insurance policies offered by third party insurance companies. There are many different options available in the marketplace. They range from policies that cover the minimum amounts and things, to policies that allow you to cancel at anytime, for any reason, that include trip interruption coverage, medical evacuation, to your baggage being lost, stolen or damage. And the idea that you only need insurance if you are elderly or just taking a cruise, isn’t really valid. We had someone who was going to Cancun on a family vacation who ended up in the hospital and couldn’t make the trip. Without the insurance the money spent purchasing the airfare and prepaying the hotel would have been lost. However with the traveler had purchased insurance and was covered. Christopherson Business Travel has agents licensed and trained to sell travel insurance. So when you booking your next trip, take a moment to consider if you want to get travel insurance.
Hopefully we won’t have any more major disruptions of travel in the future however even small disruptions can be trying for the person traveling. Let Christopherson Business Travel help make it a little easier for you by allowing us to utilize our knowledge, contacts and expertise on your behalf.

Categories
Business Travel Vacation Travel

Why Now Is A Great Time To Travel

I know many people are planning on staying close to home during these tough economic times in order to save money or just because it seems like the right thing to do. Actually this is a very good time to travel for a variety of reasons, ranging from lower costs to smaller crowds to fewer competitors calling on clients. And I’m sure that there are other reasons that I haven’t thought of but apply to many people.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these reasons starting with the last one first.  As many companies opt to cut their travel expenses they are removing the sales call from their sales staff’s bag of tricks.  While it is true that much can be accomplished via the phone, webinars and the like, there is an equally important truth, which is when you actually visit the client face to face it gives you the opportunity to actually meet the client, see what the client needs and wants, as well as create a relationship based in part, on the perception that you consider this client important enough to show up, even when times are tough.  I have heard of a number of companies that have cut their travel by as much as 70%.  This means that a significant portion of their sales force isn’t traveling and as such isn’t competing at the personal level.  Airfares are down, hotel stays are down, even car rental rates are down, so this is a very good time to go.  As an example, the Marriott Marquis at Time Square in NYC, was $450.00 and up per night, this time last year, now the rates start at $254.00 a night.  This time last year, the lowest one way fare from Los Angeles to New York City was $161.00, today you can get it for $109.00.  Those are pretty typical savings that are available right now, which means that it is a much better deal to travel for business right now.

In terms of vacation travel, this year is shaping up to be a great year to go on vacation.  With so many people opting to do staycations, many of the places that are normally packed with tourists during the summer months, such as Disneyland and Disneyworld, Europe, Hawaii and cruises, are looking like they will be relatively uncrowded this summer.  So if you’ve always wanted to visit the Louvre in Paris but the thought of the massive crowds kept you away, this may be the best time to go and not have to be in line for hours.

This coupled with the discounts that are being offered the airlines, hotels, tour companies, cruise lines, etc., it makes this summer look like a terrific bargain.  When you compare prices between last year and this year, the difference is amazing.  Just before the end of March, there were roundtrip airfares between New York City and London, starting at $68.00, plus taxes and surcharges.  Now, they start at about $90.00 roundtrip plus taxes and surcharges and yes, there are very limited number of seats available at these prices and they do require a Saturday night stay and travel must commence no later than May 26th, 2009 and they have a number of other restrictions, such as the tickets must be issued within 72 hours of making the reservation and ticketed no later than 5 days prior to departure, whichever comes first.  However when compared to 2008, where the lowest roundtrip fare was $236.00 roundtrip plus taxes and surcharges, this year’s fare looks awfully enticing.   Then when you look at the difference of the relative strength of the US Dollar vs. the Euro and other European currencies, Europe looks much more affordable.

This clearly is the time to go because who knows when prices will be this low again.  So if you’ve been saying to yourself I want to go on a cruise but I want a really good deal or if you want to go to Disney or Europe or really anywhere, now is the time to go.