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Dec. 3 update: WTTC digital solution, Omicron and cruiser sentiment, Hurtigruten in Antarctica

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Here's a quick read of some of today’s coronavirus-recovery cruise news. This will be updated throughout the day.

WTTC urges digital solution to prove COVID status

A new report by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) calls on governments to adopt a more internationally coordinated response to COVID-19 and identifies four key digital solutions to restore international mobility.

Following World Health Organization guidelines, WTTC identified four of the most widely used digital COVID vaccination certificates (EU Digital COVID Certificate, ICAO Visible Digital Seal, DIVOC and SMART Health Cards), and urged governments to accept these major international standards as proof of COVID-19 status, while working toward a single global solution.

The report, ‘Digital Solutions for Reviving International Travel,' shows how international travelers, whether fully vaccinated or testing negative, would then have a globally recognized digital COVID certificate that would enable them to travel freely and safely anywhere in the world.

The report addresses the global challenge posed by the existing patchwork of policies and processes, which are complex and unsustainable.

WTTC said governments should create their own ‘Digital Travel Portal,' allowing travelers to electronically share their digital COVID vaccination or test certificates with their destination before they begin their journey.

After booking their trip, travelers would simply go to the online portal managed by the destination, where their digital COVID certificate would be uploaded, verifying the status online and in seconds, avoiding confusing processes and long queues.

WTTC is recommending a single global portal that recognizes the main digital passes currently in use worldwide and acts as a one stop shop for travelers and governments.

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Omicron so far not as impactful as Delta: Cruise Critic

In its new sentiment report, Cruise Critic said the Omicron variant, not surprisingly, has led to a decline in shopping. 'However, this is nowhere near as pronounced as with the Delta variant, and there are encouraging signs that this could just be a short-term blip as we’ve seen a strong pick up in bookings over the past two weeks,' the report said.

In the US, Cruise Critic summed up the past couple weeks as 'shopper instability, with trends and shopper behavior changing daily, typically following the news cycle.

'We did not see overall large shifts though ... ' the report continjed. 'Shoppers looking for near-term cruises still remained strong, with December, January and February having the most action. This is very good news and a noteworthy call out compared to when the Delta variant took hold. While a percentage of shoppers have backed off, the majority of them are not being fazed by the news right now.'

In the UK, traffic and searches took a bit of a hit over the past couple weeks though also not as large as when the Delta variant hit the news. 'Overall, Europe has had the largest decline with the news and cancellation of some Christmas markets, but spots like the Mediterranean and Caribbean are still highly active.'

And in Australia/New Zealand, the site has not seen a decline due to Omicron, 'but we also have not seen the growth of these regions over the past few months like we did for the US/UK.' 

Concerning editorial, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Omicron stories are not making the list of top engagers. Instead, live reports from members’ cruises continue to top Cruise Critic's charts, running at about 40% of the site's weekly Top 10 List.

One of the most notable changes between Cruise Critic's October and November research is the number of people shifting from wanting to take shorter cruises to those wishing to sail for longer. As per the report: 'We are seeing this trend with both the "comfortable cruiser," who say they are already looking to book a future cruise and the "cautious cruiser," who say they will cruise once restrictions and warnings ease.'

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Roald Amundsen, one of two Hurtigruten ships in Antarctica this season

Hurtigruten back in Antarctica

Hurtigruten shared images of its return to Antarctica as its first travelers set foot on Orne Harbour and Duse Bay, surrounded by snow-capped mountains and penguins.

This season the company is deploying two ships from Punta Arenas, Chile: the hybrid battery-powered Roald Amundsen and Fram.

Travelers on Roald Amundsen will have the chance to see the Dec. 4 solar eclipse, visible only in Antarctica.

The return of Antarctica expeditions is great news for South America's travel industry, according Ximena Castro, regional director of the Chilean National Tourism Service (SERNATUR).

'This activity is highly appreciated and of great value. There are no better ambassadors for this region than guests who have experienced and learned about these areas for themselves,' Castro said.

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