March 17, 2020 at 6:47 am PDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Coronavirus inflicts serious blow to LGBTQ travel industry
Paris’ Eiffel Tower in August 2018. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The coronavirus has inflicted a serious blow to the LGBTQ travel industry.

Atlantis Events, which caters to gay men, has cancelled a cruise on the Celebrity Summit that was scheduled to leave San Juan, Puerto Rico, on March 21, and would have made stops in St. Maarten, Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao before returning to Puerto Rico on March 28.

Virgin Voyages has postponed Atlantis Events’ Virgin Caribbean Cruise that was to have departed from Miami on May 31. The cruise was scheduled to sail to Key West, Fla., Cozumel and Costa Maya in Mexico and Bimini in the Bahamas before returning to Miami.

Atlantis Events Vice President of Marketing Jim Cone on Monday told the Los Angeles Blade in an email the company’s Club Atlantis Resort in the Mexican resort city of Cancún “is still scheduled to operate as planned” on April 25.

Media reports that emerged last week before Atlantis Events cancelled its Southern Caribbean Cruise indicate customers who cancelled their reservations were unable to receive refunds.

“We are currently working on accommodating our guests with options relative to cancellations,” Cone told the Blade. “Once we have this updated information I’ll be able to share.”

Olivia Travel, a company that caters to lesbian travelers, has a cruise on a Holland America ship that is scheduled to leave San Diego on April 23 and make stops in Santa Barbara; Calif., San Francisco; Astoria, Ore.; and Seattle before arriving in Vancouver on April 29.

Holland America has suspended operations through April 14.  

Olivia Travel Strategic Marketing Director Maggie Beaumier on Monday told the Blade during a telephone interview from San Francisco that “everything is still influx.”

“We are addressing this trip by trip,” said Beaumier.

Beaumier told the Blade that Olivia Travel is also “proactively reaching out to our guests.”

“it’s a very complex situation,” added Beaumier.

The World Health Organization on Monday said there are 167,511 coronavirus cases in more than 100 countries. Statistics also indicate the virus has killed 6,606 people around the world, with 1,808 of the reported deaths in Italy.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday announced his country will close its borders to anyone who is not a citizen, permanent resident or an American. Germany, El Salvador and Kenya are among the dozens of other countries that have also their closed their borders in an effort to curb coronavirus’ spread.

The State Department on Sunday issued an advisory that advises Americans to “reconsider travel abroad” because of coronavirus.

“Many areas throughout the world are now experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and taking action that may limit traveler mobility, including quarantines and border restrictions,” it reads. “Even countries, jurisdictions, or areas where cases have not been reported may restrict travel without notice.”   

The State Department on March 9 also urged Americans not to travel on cruise ships.

“In order to curb the spread of COVID-19, many countries have implemented strict screening procedures that have denied port entry rights to ships and prevented passengers from disembarking,” reads the advisory it issued. “In some cases, local authorities have permitted disembarkation but subjected passengers to local quarantine procedures.  While the U.S. government has evacuated some cruise ship passengers in recent weeks, repatriation flights should not be relied upon as an option for U.S. citizens under the potential risk of quarantine by local authorities.”

President Trump last week announced the U.S. will ban foreign nationals from entering the country from Europe and the U.K. for 30 days. The U.S. last month issued a ban on foreigners who had previously been in China and Iran.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also urged Americans to “avoid discretionary travel.” Airlines in the U.S. and around the world continue to cancel flights and waive cancelation fees.

Axel Hotels, which caters to LGBTQ travelers, on Monday announced its hotels in Spain and Italy will remain closed through at least April 30. The company on its website says it will provide guests with bookings with a voucher for “the total amount of your booking” that is valid through April 30, 2021.

The International LGBTQ+ Travel Association has postponed its annual convention that was to have taken place in Milan from May 6-9. The LGBTQ travel group on Monday shared a tweet from the Brazilian Association of Travel Agents that urges travelers to postpone their trips.

Pride in the Americas, which was to have taken place next month in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is among the myriad events that have been cancelled and postponed because of coronavirus.

Officials in Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach on Sunday announced beaches will remain closed until April 12 and restaurants and bars must operate at 50 percent capacity and close by 10 p.m. Miami Beach officials have also imposed an 11 p.m. curfew in the city’s entertainment district.

Hotel Gaythering, a complex in Miami Beach with a gay clientele, on Sunday closed its bar after officials announced the curfew.

“It is with a heavy heart and sadness, but we feel that this is the best action we can take to protect our beloved staff and patrons,” reads a statement on the Gaythering’s Facebook page.

Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, Fla., on Feb. 14, 2020 (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Bear Tavern PR, a gay bar in San Juan’s Ocean Park neighborhood that reopened eight days after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in September 2017, will remain closed until April 2 because the island’s governor, Wanda Vázquez, has imposed an island-wide curfew and ordered non-essential businesses to close.

“The decision is not easy, but we understand it is the best thing for our employees, clientele and country,” wrote the bar on its Facebook page. “It’s important to stop the mode of transmission.”

“Puerto Rico has experienced various tragedies in recent years,” adds the post. “We do not want more deaths.”

Yariel Valdés González contributed to this story.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Los Angeles Blade. Follow Michael

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