(CNN) — The 2021 summer travel season started out full of hope and promise, but by the day, two words are threatening to dismantle it all. Delta variant.This more transmissible variation of the coronavirus was first detected in India in February, just when the United States and some other places around the world were starting to really gear up their vaccination efforts. It turned out to be a race against time: vaccines vs. Delta. And just like all other waves of the pandemic, travel feels the Covid impact quick and hard.From new travel advisories issued this week to Google searches on the topic in the past 24 hours, it’s clear the Delta variant is causing increasing worry and disruptions for governments and would-be travelers. New US travel advisoriesThe Alfama district can be seen in Lisbon. The US moved Portugal to a “Level 4: Do not travel” advisory on Monday.Patricia de Melo Moreira/AFP via Getty ImagesOn Monday, the US State Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new advisories for five nations, citing the rise in Covid-19 cases: — Cyprus (Level 4: Do not travel)– Israel (Level 3: Reconsider travel)– Spain (Level 4: Do not travel)Other places you’re advised not to visitThe pandemic has hit São Paulo and the rest of Brazil hard.ShutterstockSpain and Portugal join a growing list of popular travel destinations in the “Level 4: Do not travel” category, which is the highest on the State Department’s scale. Level 4 is also the highest alert for the CDC.Some of the other places on Level 4 as of Tuesday that are traditionally popular with travelers around the world:– Argentina (which has been closed to most international tourism during the pandemic)– South Africa (many nations will not allow visitors to enter if they have recently been to South Africa)– United Kingdom (the CDC warns that even if you’re fully vaccinated, you may be at risk for getting and spreading Covid-19 variants).White House: Existing restrictions will stay for nowMore evidence of the mounting concern and its effect on travel:On Monday, the White House decided to keep existing coronavirus travel restrictions in place, press secretary Jen Psaki said.”We will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point for a few reasons. The more transmissible Delta variant is spreading both here and around the world,” Psaki told reporters. “Driven by the Delta variant, cases are rising here at home, particularly among those who are unvaccinated and appear likely to continue in the weeks ahead.”The announcement came as the Biden administration has been under growing pressure from the travel industry and US allies to lift restrictions limiting who can travel to the US. People who have been in Brazil, China, the European Schengen Area, Iran, India, Ireland, South Africa and the United Kingdom in the past 14 days are denied entry to the United States.What people want to know — on Google at leastMexico has maintained a rather liberal travel policy during the pandemic. This is a general view of the Templo Mayor archaeological area, a popular tourist spot in Mexico City. Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty ImagesIf you want to know what’s on people’s collective minds, just check Google searches. The Delta variant is a rising trend.World searches: Around 1:30 p.m. ET Tuesday, Google Trends posted a 100% increase in searches for the term “Delta variant travel restrictions” in the past 24 hours worldwide.Other rising searches around the world focused on restrictions for particular places: Victoria (Australia) and Mexico were on top.In the state of Victoria, Australia, they are set to end their fifth lockdown on Wednesday even as they tighten the border with neighboring New South Wales, according to the Guardian newspaper. (Victoria holds the city of Melbourne while Sydney is located in New South Wales.)Mexico, on the other hand, has had the opposite response. It has been — and continues to be — one of the easiest countries to visit.Its land border with the United States has been closed for well more than a year now, but air traffic has been flowing in from all over the world. You don’t even have to provide a negative PCR test result or quarantine on arrival. Mexico was at “Level 3: High” on the CDC’s advisory list.People across the world were also looking at the US for guidance on broader concerns with searches for “US International restrictions” or “CDC restrictions” also rising in the past day.US searches: Search queries originating from the United States mostly looked outward. Very few US states at the moment have any domestic travel restrictions despite the sharp rise in infections among the unvaccinated.There was a 450% increase in search in 24 hours for the term “Spain travel advisory,” spurred by Monday’s announcement. And also big spikes for more general international searches such as “Can US citizens travel to Europe?” The answer to that second query varies by country and by day as restrictions are constantly changing. But most of Europe — including heavyweights such as France and Germany — opened up to US citizens earlier this summer and remained open Tuesday despite the US travel ban still blocking many Europeans.Greece is a rising search term on Google in the UK. And it’s open for people there who’d like to visit places in Greece such as Santorini.ShutterstockUK searches: In the United Kingdom, the United States and Greece were of the highest international interest.For UK travelers eager to visit America, the ban is still in effect for them. As for Greece, it was one of the first European countries to open back up. It is open to UK travelers — and many others around the world. The EU and Schengen Area countries can visit, along with places such as Canada, China, Japan, the United States and the United Arab Emirates.Internally to the UK, there’s been a huge spike in search interest — more than 2,600% — regarding Scotland’s plan to offer free bus travel for the young set. It would be for people 21 and younger staring January 31, according to the BBC. CNN’s Jeremy Diamond and Kate Sullivan contributed to this story from previous reporting.Top photo: Papagayo beach on the Spanish Canary island of El Lanzarote. Desiree Martin/AFP/Getty Images.
See the World – Our Travel Articles
Editor’s Note — The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer. CNN is showcasing the work of The Conversation, a collaboration between journalists and academics to provide news analysis and commentary. The content is produced solely by The Conversation.(CNN) — Across the US, Covid-19 cases are rising again, primarily in unvaccinated populations. Most of these cases are due to the highly infectious delta variant of SARS-Cov-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. Many children are among those who aren’t vaccinated, simply because no vaccines have been authorized for children under 12. About a quarter of children aged 12-15 years have been vaccinated. Given the rise in cases and the inability to vaccinate young children, many parents are concerned about the safety of traveling this summer.The risk of Covid-19 associated with travel is largely determined by how you will travel, where you’re going, who will be there and what you will do there. By assessing these variables, parents can make informed decisions about their travel plans.1. How much risk does Covid-19 pose for kids?When thinking about Covid-19 and unvaccinated children, two types of risk should be considered — both the direct risk for the child and the risk of transmission to others. Children develop severe disease from Covid-19 far less commonly than adults, and they die much less often. But children do die from Covid-19. Covid-19 has caused nearly 500 deaths in children 17 years of age and younger in the US. And some children also suffer from long Covid-19 — the lingering effects of Covid-19 that are still not well understood.To put that in perspective, the number of deaths due to influenza in a typical flu season is about 150 to 200 children in the US. But only one child is known to have died from the flu in the 2020-2021 influenza season. In the past year, Covid-19 has been one of the most common infectious disease-related causes of death in children.But even when children do not get seriously ill with Covid-19 or show symptoms, they can still transmit the virus to other children and adults. The rate of child-to-adult transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is roughly half the rate of adult-to-child transmission. So even when the risk is low for children, transmission to other unvaccinated kids and adults is still a serious concern.2. Are road trips safer than air travel?People can encounter others more often when they are traveling than in their daily lives, which automatically increases the possibility of being exposed to someone with Covid-19.With air travel, families need to consider the number of people they’re exposed to in airports, as well as on the airplane. In airports, travelers are exposed indoors to many people, potentially from different parts of the country and world. But risk is reduced by the requirement to wear masks indoors at all times in US airports.On an airplane, travelers may sit near several people outside of their own family for a few hours, and some of these people may not comply with mask requirements consistently. Although outbreaks have been associated with air travel, fortunately these reported outbreaks have been rare.In general, traveling by car is likely to be safer, with exposures limited to infrequent rest stops and short meal breaks.3. How does the destination affect the risk?Whether in one’s own community or when traveling afar, a serious risk factor to consider is the rate of Covid-19 cases, including the incidence of delta variant in that community. When Covid-19 rates rise in a community, that destination becomes less safe, generally, than a community with low, stable rates.In recent weeks, the highest Covid-19 infection rates have been seen in communities with the lowest vaccination rates. One way to assess the risk of a particular destination is to compare recent Covid-19 and vaccination rates in your destination to the rates in your own community using the CDC website.4. What kinds of gatherings are safe right now?When people travel, they come into contact with strangers, friends and extended family whom they would not encounter at home. These interactions, what epidemiologists call “mixing,” increase the chances for people to be exposed to SARS-CoV-2.The added risk from that mixing depends on the vaccination status of the people encountered, the number of people encountered, the nature of that encounter and the duration of the encounter. If you are near many people for several hours, the risk is greater than if you are near a few people for a short time. If almost everyone you’ll come into contact with is vaccinated, the risk will be very low. But as the number of unvaccinated people goes up, the risk will go up as well.5. What types of activities are safe?A family enjoy a picnic in London’s Greenwich Park in April 2020. Peter Summers/Getty ImagesAn important rule of thumb is that being outdoors is safer than being indoors. Indoors, the virus can hang in the air for some time, increasing potential exposure. Outdoors, the virus disperses quickly, greatly reducing the chances you’re exposed to virus shed by someone infected with the coronavirus.The primary concern outdoors is when people are close to one another for extended periods. Sitting near other people for several hours outdoors, like at a baseball game or a music festival, could carry some risk, especially if people aren’t wearing masks and the vaccination rate in the community is low. For kids playing together, an activity like wrestling in the grass is going to be less safe than playing soccer or tossing a Frisbee.6. What steps can lower the risk of infection?No decision is going to be right for everyone. Every parent will need to weigh the risks and make their own decisions. Traveling will inevitably lead to exposures to unvaccinated kids and adults. But the risk will be determined by the extent of that exposure.It’s important to remember that vaccination is only one of the tools that can be used to reduce risk. Consider using masks indoors whenever possible. Masks reduce transmission and have been proven to be an effective complement to vaccination. Wearing a mask indoors and in public spaces part of the time — even if not all of the time — further cuts down on risk.Before traveling, families should talk through expectations and concerns, both within their own family and with others they will be meeting up with. These conversations can be difficult. People should talk openly, honestly and without judgment about who has been vaccinated and who hasn’t and agree up front on a set of rules.And then do your best to enjoy your vacation.William C. Miller is Senior Associate Dean of Research and Professor of Epidemiology at The Ohio State University. He receives funding from the US National Institutes of Health, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association.
(CNN) — Stepping into Pandora Cheng’s qipao rental store in central Hong Kong is like stepping back in time. A brown leather Chesterfield sofa sits in one corner beside a gramophone, opposite row-upon-row of tailor-made qipaos, the traditional high-neck Chinese dress. Cheng offers tourists in Hong Kong “dress-up experiences” that use fashion as a way to explore culture. She was inspired by geisha makeovers in Japan and other cultural dress activities she has taken part in on her travels. “I think if tourists wear the qipao like us, then they can go into the culture, (explore) the old Hong Kong style,” she says, adding, “It’s an experience of knowing a culture deeply.”But for many tourists traveling abroad, the idea of “dressing up” in another culture’s clothing can raise questions about cultural appropriation — and make them reluctant to take part. So, what are the rules?Appropriation or appreciation?When looking at issues of cultural appropriation, it is important to consider who is the cultural “insider” and what the power dynamic is, says Erich Hatala Matthes, a professor of cultural ethics at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. Culture is “constantly morphing, evolving and hybridizing,” and determining who is a cultural insider or outsider is “always going to be a negotiation,” he adds. Matthes says in instances like the geisha or qipao makeover experiences, tourists are being invited by cultural insiders — but it is often cultural outsiders raising issues of appropriation on social media, for example.Qipaos are usually referred to as cheongsams in English.Shutterstock”Context is so key to thinking about charges of appropriation,” says Matthes. “If you have cases where people in Japan or China are inviting tourists to wear this clothing, to refuse because you’re worried about cultural appropriation ends up being its own kind of troubling assertion of authority, to delineate what’s acceptable in that context.” He adds that this can have negative economic consequences on traditional artisans who rely on selling culturally specific crafts or experiences to make a living.While an invite from a cultural insider often means the activity will be appreciation rather than appropriation, social media “tends to decontextualize” the situations says Matthes. However, he doesn’t think the answer is for people to not share these experiences online as it can help “drum up further business” for those choosing to share their culture with tourists.Matthes says the most important thing for cultural outsiders to do is listen: “Try to be deferential to those who have the cultural experience and knowledge, and listen to what they’re telling you about how to wear the clothes or how to act respectfully within that context.” A symbolic dressCheng is one of the “cultural insiders” inviting foreign tourists to try on a qipao at her rental store in Hong Kong. While the dress is symbolic for Cheng, she doesn’t think it should be reserved for traditional use, or only worn by those with Chinese heritage. “The qipao doesn’t have such a heavy meaning,” she says.Once a loose-fitting everyday staple, the qipao (also known as a cheongsam) was popularized in Shanghai in the 1920s and became increasingly fitted as women gained more agency over their lives and bodies. “The qipao is a starting point of (Chinese) fashion, and also the starting point of women’s independence,” Cheng says. She opened her store in 2017 to offer tourists a tactile way to connect with the fast-disappearing old Hong Kong. With more than 200 handmade qipaos to choose from, customers can pick from a range of styles and sizes handmade by Cheng, before having their hair and makeup done for an additional fee. Then, accompanied by a photographer, customers visit nearby historic locations including Man Mo Temple and Cat Street Antique Market for a photoshoot (starting from $164).Travelers, some of whom are wearing traditional hanboks, gather in Seoul.ShutterstockBefore the pandemic, most of her customers were overseas tourists. Now, her main visitors are Hong Kongers looking to explore their city in a new way. With strict Covid-19 mask rules in the city, Cheng expanded the retro photo sets in her shop so people could immerse themselves in old Hong Kong without stepping outside. In addition to advertising on Airbnb Experiences, Klook, and KK Day, Cheng has partnered with local hotels, including the boutique heritage Hotel 1936 and the Hyatt Centric Victoria Harbour Hong Kong to offer “qipao staycation experiences.” She says that many local Hong Kongers also haven’t worn a qipao before, or had a chance to connect with its cultural significance. “Hong Kong people love this item, but they can’t find the one they want to use. That’s why we do the qipao rental, for them and other (tourists) to experience it,” says Cheng. Preserving ancient artsCultural dress experiences have proven popular with both foreign and domestic tourists around Asia.In South Korea, a government initiative started in 2013 gives free entry to Seoul’s five palaces to anyone wearing a hanbok, Korea’s national dress worn by both men and women. This initiative aims to preserve tradition, educate people, and “popularize and globalize” the hanbok, says Danny Park, executive director for the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO).As a result, there are now many local businesses around the palaces that offer hanbok rental, plus accessories and hairstyling. “Most Korean people enjoy seeing tourists wearing different styles of hanbok in Korea,” Park adds. Similar to Cheng, KTO partnered with Hyatt Centric Victoria Harbour Hong Kong to offer a Korea-inspired staycation that included a hanbok dress-up experience. With a tea ceremony and VR tour of famous sites, the package provided grounded Hong Kongers an immersive taste of Korea, says Park — with hopes it will inspire them to visit in the future. In Japan, Geisha dress-up and kimono-wearing experiences are another common bucket list activity. Studio Geisha Cafe in Tokyo offers full Geisha and samurai makeovers, which founder and second-generation wig maker Mitsuteru Okuyama launched 15 years ago to teach both foreigners and locals about Japanese culture and the art of “katsura” (wig-making). Pre-covid, Okuyama says half of his customers were foreign tourists, predominantly from the US and Europe. Offering experiences for both men and women, Okuyama welcomes a diverse mix of people to his store.While Okuyama is happy to dress anyone up as a geisha — including Good Morning Britain host Richard Arnold — his only rule is that men must shave before asking for the full face of “shiro-nuri” (white makeup). Okuyama’s mission is to show “the true form” of geisha art, preserve the culture, and correct caricatures and misinformation. “Geishas sometimes appear in American movies, and it’s too unreal,” Okuyama says. Foreigners dressing as geishas isn’t offensive as long as it is done properly, he says. Hoping to familiarize foreigners with authentic Japanese etiquette and culture, Okuyama says he wants to give tourists an immersive and enjoyable experience. “I just want them to have fun with Japanese culture.”
Amtrak Connects US: A Vision to Grow Rail Service Across America
New or improved routes to add millions more passengers over 15 years
With a growing and diverse population, a global climate crisis and longer traffic jams, America needs a rail network that offers frequent, reliable, sustainable, and equitable train service. Amtrak has the vision and expertise to deliver it.