There’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news, as far as tourism goes, is that an increasing number of countries are accepting tourists who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 without insisting on quarantines. China and Japan may still be closed but Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, the Philippines and Singapore are among those that have laid out the welcome mat for tourists – at least from specified, significant markets – in the past few weeks. Malaysia and South Korea will join their ranks on April 1. Australia has reopened and New Zealand, after allowing in Australians on April 12, has said those from many other countries can visit from May 2. The above countries join Sri Lanka, Thailand and the Maldives, which have been back in business for longer. From Bali to the Raffles London, the best new hotels to see in 2022 “The pandemic seems to be over for travellers,” announced a recent headline on the Australian-based Traveller website. “Look further afield [than Asia-Pacific] and you find even fewer regulations and requirements,” writes Ben Groundwater, the author of the article. Listing Britain, Denmark, Norway, Ireland, Hungary, Switzerland and Mexico as all being “wide open”, Groundwater writes, “These countries appear to be less outliers and more leaders, showing the way for the rest of the world, which is moving in its entirety in that same direction, though at varying pace.” It would be unwise to rule out the emergence of yet another worrying variant of Covid-19 but, with apologies to Hong Kong readers still chafing under quarantine-upon-return requirements, it does feel as though a corner has been turned. And the confidence to travel seems to be flooding back along with the ability. “Are we approaching a ‘new normal’ that looks very much like the old normal?” asks Groundwater. “Looking around, you would have to say yes.” Destinations Known is not so sure, particularly when it comes to people wishing to fly west from East Asia. For a start, there’s a war on; one that involves a country with an enormous amount of now-restricted airspace. It didn’t happen in Hong Kong but seaplane services might take off nearby “In lieu of using Russian airspace, some flights from Europe to Asia are flying south of the country or, in some cases [Finnair flights primarily], taking a painfully long reroute over the Arctic,” according to a recent CNN report. Using data from Flightradar24, the news network estimates that “Since Russia closed its airspace to airlines from dozens of countries at the end of February – in response to sanctions levied for its invasion of Ukraine – about 400 flights per month that had previously been routed over the country are being forced to take a wider berth.” And that’s even as flight frequencies remain lower than they were pre-Covid. The new routes take longer, so use more fuel. “Japan Airlines Flight JL43 from Tokyo to London, for instance, uses a Boeing 777-300ER aircraft that burns roughly 2,300 gallons of fuel per hour,” according to the article. “The rerouted JL43 flight – which now heads east over the North Pacific, Alaska, Canada and Greenland – added 2.4 hours of flight time and likely burned around 5,600 gallons more fuel, a 20 per cent increase.” All that extra fuel will not just be pushing up the cost of tickets, it is also adding to planet-warming emissions. “Flight JL43 could be emitting an additional 54,000 kilograms, or 60 tons, of planet-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, according to calculations by Paul Williams, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Reading, for CNN. That’s the same amount of carbon dioxide as the average car driving 137,000 miles, or nearly six times around the planet.” The little island that could have been Hong Kong Startling heatwaves at the Earth’s poles this month (40 degrees Celsius above normal in Antarctica, 30 degrees above normal in the Arctic), fatal flooding in eastern Australia and the March 22 tornadoes that hit New Orleans – the strongest the American city has endured since accurate records began – suggest the pace of climate breakdown is accelerating, explaining why United Nations secretary general António Guterres recently suggested that everyone on the planet should be covered by an early warning system against extreme weather and climate-related disasters within five years. “As climate breakdown takes hold, more people are likely to be affected by extreme weather, including flash floods, heatwaves, more violent storms and coastal storm surges, made worse by sea level rises,” according to an article in The Guardian newspaper. Guterres is quoted as saying, “Human-caused climate disruption is now damaging every region. The most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change details the suffering already happening. Each increment of global heating will further increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.” The increasing uncertainty is going to push up travel costs, not least in terms of those related to delays and cancellations, and insurance. Travellers will also need to build more flexibility into their plans. All in all, even in a world that has learned to live with Covid-19, the “new normal” is probably going to offer a much bumpier ride than the old normal. Lotte World opens second theme park in South Korea Also offering a bumpy ride – albeit of the fun variety – will be Lotte World’s second adventure theme park. Having opened in South Korea’s second city, Busan, on March 31, the new amusement park is, at 158,000 square metres, considerably larger than the first Lotte World, in Seoul. “Themed as a fairy-tale kingdom, the park offers six thematic zones with 17 rides as well as original architecture and parades,” according to The Korea Times . “Lotte World Busan’s most awaited rides include Giant Digger, a roller coaster with a maximum speed of 105kph, and Giant Splash, the country’s first water-coaster which falls 44.6 metres at 100kph.” Hold on to your hats. Venice tourists given water pistols to ward off seagulls Seagulls have become such a menace in Venice, Italy, that tourists dining on the terraces of luxury hotels are being supplied with water pistols to ward the pests off, reports The Independent . Having seen one guest lose an entire steak, the four-star Monaco & Grand Canal hotel took action after a gull snatched a croissant out of a guest’s hand as he was lifting it to his mouth. “Water guns are now placed on diners’ tables, with guests encouraged to take aim to keep the persistent birds away,” the newspaper reports. The Gritti Palace hotel, on the Grand Canal, also hands out water pistols, but these ones are orange. Seagulls apparently take exception to the colour of the weapon more than they do to its ammunition.