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Holiday

Expo 2020 expected to be postponed until next year

Authorities in the United Arab Emirates are expected to announce the postponement of Dubai Expo 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage global hospitality.

The jamboree was expected to begin on October 20th this year, kicking-off six months of celebrations in the emirate.

However, with global tourism in a virtual lockdown, organisers hope to allow time for a full recovery before the event.

Discussions are ongoing with the Bureau International des Expositions, the France-based organisation that awards hosting rights to the event, with a year-long delay expected.

A final decision can only be made by the bureau and the general assembly of nations.

In a statement on Monday, officials said they agreed to explore “the possibility of a one-year delay to the opening of Expo 2020”.

Many countries have been significantly impacted by Covid-19 and have consequently expressed a desire to postpone the opening of Expo 2020 Dubai.

Reem Al Hashimy, Expo 2020 Dubai director-general, explained: “While they remain firmly committed to Expo 2020, many countries have been significantly impacted by Covid-19 and they have therefore expressed a need to postpone the opening of Expo 2020 Dubai by one year, to enable them to overcome this challenge.

“The United Arab Emirates and Expo 2020 Dubai have listened.”

Al Hashimy added: “We supported the proposal to explore a one-year postponement at the steering committee meeting.

“We look forward to welcoming the world, which we are certain will only come out of this pressing challenge stronger, and more resilient than it ever was.”

The announcement followed a virtual meeting of the Expo 2020 steering committee, representing UAE officials and foreign countries that were set to exhibit at the world fair.

Global events have been thrown into disarray by the coronavirus pandemic, with the Tokyo 2020 summer Olympic and Paralympic games postponed last week.

That decision followed an earlier move from UEFA to delay the European championships for a year – leaveing Expo 2020 as the only major event still on the calendar.

If confirmed, the delay of Expo 2020 will come as a significant blow to the tourism market in Dubai.

Officials had hoped to welcome as many as 25 million international visitors to the event, with many of these trips likely to be postponed.

However, with both Emirates and Etihad having suspended virtually all operations, severely limiting access to the United Arab Emirates, hosting the event has become untenable.

Dubai itself is currently under lockdown, with all restaurants, beaches, gyms and other public meeting places closed to limit the spread of the new coronavirus.

To date there have been over 600 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United Arab Emirates, with six confirmed deaths.

Confirmed cases worldwide now number 725,000, with 34,000 dead.

Dimitri Kerkentzes, secretary general of the Bureau International des Expositions, said he remained “confident that we will collectively overcome the challenges caused by this global crisis”.

He added: “The United Arab Emirates’ decision to support a one-year postponement demonstrates pragmatism, openness, and commitment to delivering an Expo that lives up to our shared ambition.

“We retain full confidence in the United Arab Emirates’ ability to host a world expo that inspires and delights millions, when the time is right.”

Authorities in Dubai are believed to have spent more than US$7 billion in preparation for the launch of Expo 2020.

Alongside the 4.38 square kilometre site on the outskirts of the city, dozens of new hotels have been built, while there has also been significant investment in wider infrastructure.

As the coronavirus pandemic has grown, work has been halted on construction, with as many as 30,000 workers downing tools as a result.

The news comes at a delicate time for hospitality in Dubai, which has been in the doldrums in early 2020.

Room rates have fallen, largely due to an excess of accommodation in advance of the expo debut, with visitor numbers also down on last year.

The cost of the hosting Expo 2020 had also raised concerns given the economic outlook in the Middle East.

Local authorities had hoped to resell the vast majority of the new expo facilities to private investors once the six-month event finished – a prospect increasingly unlikely during what is set to become a major global recession.

The market had already been teetering, with DAMAC Properties, the largest fully private real-estate developer in Dubai, announcing its first yearly loss since becoming a publicly traded company earlier.

Ratings agency S&P also downgraded the investment rating for Dubai real estate giant Emaar Properties, which is a third owned by the government.

When it opens Expo 2020 Dubai will be the first global showcase to take place in the Middle East, following successful events in Milan and Shanghai.

Organisers are gearing to offer events over 173 days, with 192 nations participating.

The theme centred on innovation, with countries and companies set to display projects in areas such as green energy, artificial intelligence and accessibility.

The event is designed to be a once-in-a-lifetime celebration – the largest event ever staged in the Arab world.

Guests will experience warm Emirati hospitality at its finest.

Youth are at the heart of the World Expo 2020, with the event aspiring to create a meaningful legacy that will benefit generations to come, both locally and globally, spanning everything from innovations and architecture to friendships and business opportunities.

Commenting on the current situation, director general Al Hashimy added: “As hosts of the next World Expo, scheduled to open in seven months’ time, we always knew that 2020 was going to be demanding, that we would have to be at our very best to deliver the most inclusive, most meaningful event in the history of our region.

“What we could not predict is that we would be doing so in the midst of the biggest global health crisis in generations.

“These are difficult, uncertain times, which makes it even more heartening to see communities around the world facing this challenge together and to witness the incredible resilience of the human spirit against a menace that does not recognise international borders or timelines.”

She added: “Today, however, for the United Arab Emirates and the world, our immediate priority is to overcome, together, this unprecedented menace and protect the health of all people, everywhere.”

More Information

For all the latest on Expo 2020 take a look at the dedicated Breaking Travel News feed, or head over to the official website.

For more on tourism in the emirate – considered the World’s Leading MICE Destination by voters at the World Travel Awards – visit the Dubai Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing website here.

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Travel

Nakheel pledges financial support to customers

Master developer Nakheel has announced an AED230 million economic relief package for customers in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak. 

The initiative is in line with the economic stimulus launched under the direction of sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai.

The Nakheel economic relief package aims to help reduce the financial burdens faced by businesses and individuals during the current global challenges.

Nakheel customers include property owners, retail and hospitality tenants and small business operators.

The package includes free rental periods for retail and hospitality partners who operate within the Nakheel Malls portfolio.

This will take effect when the malls, which are currently closed under government directives, reopen.

Small retail business owners who lease space at master communities will also receive a rental holiday.

Nakheel is also waiving administration charges across various services for three months, and, as per government directives, reducing district cooling charges by ten per cent for three months for commercial and residential customers. 

Mohammed Ibrahim Al-Shaibani, chairman of Nakheel, said: “Every business and individual in Dubai – and across the globe – is affected in some way by Covid-19.

“As a leading, responsible developer, we must support and work with our loyal customers and business partners who are facing economic challenges during these unprecedented times.”

Nakheel is contacting eligible business partners with details of how the stimulus package will specifically apply to them.

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Transport

Korean Air leadership takes pay cuts, looks for further asset sales

All Korean Air executives will forgo part of their salaries in response to the worsening business environment due to the Covid-19 virus outbreak.

Korean Air announced that salaries of its executive vice presidents and above will be reduced by 50 per cent senior vice presidents by 40 per cent, and managing vice presidents by 30 per cent, starting from April.

Korean Air will also take other self-rescue measures to improve its financial structure.

In addition to the previously announced sale of idle assets, such as the Songhyeon-dong site, the airline will actively seek to raise funds by selling other non-core assets.

An internal emergency response committee and a special task force team has been established to evaluate and respond to the current crisis caused by Covid-19.

Also, while striving to reduce operation costs, the airline is proactively exploring business opportunities such as boosting cargo operations by utilising passenger jets as freighters.

Korean Air is currently offering services to 21 destinations, having grounded the majority of its aircraft, including all ten Airbus A380 superjumbos.

airBaltic

President and chief executive of airBaltic, Martin Gauss, has announced that he will give up his salary during the crisis thus supporting the company in coping with this extraordinary situation.

Gauss said: “Starting from April until we can start scheduled operations again, I will receive no salary and members of the board, the supervisory board and managers have taken already a volunteer pay cut of 20 per cent from their salary.”

The ongoing coronavirus crisis has forced airBaltic to ground all flights.

The carrier is currently working on restarting its scheduled operations once it is possible.

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Transport

Chancellor Sunak rules out support for UK aviation sector

The UK chancellor has ruled out government help for struggling airlines, at least in the short term.

Having previously pledged to work with carriers to overcome the financial difficulties created by the coronavirus pandemic, Rishi Sunak has now advised airlines to find other forms of funding.

Demand for tickets has collapsed forcing companies to ground aircraft.

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are operating severely restricted schedules, while Ryanair and easyJet are grounding nearly their entire fleets.

Aviation bosses have been lobbying the government for a targeted aid package to stop firms going under as a result of the slump in demand.

However, in a letter on Tuesday, Sunak said the government would only step in as “a last resort”.

The chancellor instead urged airlines to try and raise money from shareholders.

He added the government would only enter into negotiations with individual airlines once they had “exhausted other options”.

Richard Branson yesterday announced he would invest $250 million in Virgin Group in order to avoid redundancies.

At the same time, Norwegian has been able to access government funding for its operations.

IATA

The government decision comes as IATA predicts global aviation revenue could fall by nearly half this year.

The group said annual worldwide revenues from ticket sales would fall by $252 billion if travel bans remain in place for three months, a drop of 44 per cent compared to last year.

“It did not seem possible, but in a matter of days, the crisis facing airlines worsened dramatically.

“We are 100 per cent behind governments in supporting measures to slow the spread of Covid-19,” said IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac.

“But we need them to understand that without urgent relief, many airlines will not be around to lead the recovery stage.

“Failure to act now will make this crisis longer and more painful.

“Some 2.7 million airline jobs are at risk.

“And each of those jobs supports a further 24 in the travel and tourism value chain.

“Some governments are already responding to our urgent calls, but not enough to make up the $200 billion needed,” added de Juniac.

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Transport

Aegean latest airline to ground all international flights

Aegean has confirmed the temporary suspension of all international flights from Thursday.

The move comes as the airline battles the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic.

Travel restrictions imposed by Greece, the EU and other states, as well as the newly adapted measures for the restriction of unnecessary movements in the country, have made operations impossible, Aegean said.

The carrier added the move, which will remain in place until at least April 30th, would ensure the sustainability of its long-term operations.

A small number of weekly flights from Athens to Brussels will be operated, in order to maintain Greek connectivity with the administrative centre of the European Union.

Aegean said it would also operate repatriation or other emergency flights in cooperation with the general secretariat for civil protection and the ministry of foreign affairs.

A total of eight repatriation flights have already been operated by Aegean, from Morocco, Spain, Czech Republic, Poland, Serbia and Georgia on behalf of the Greek state.

A further flight, from London to Larnaca, took place on behalf of the republic of Cyprus.

A limited frequency service to all domestic airports will be maintained, aiming to facilitate minimum essential connectivity for the needs of the islands.

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Travel

Rich Kids of Instagram refuse to ditch holiday mode as they sip champagne abroad

Got the autumn blues? You may want to look away now…

The Rich Kids of Instagram haven’t realised summer holiday season is over.

As the colder months roll around, the wealthy socialites continue to party it up abroad.

Here are the most envy-inducing snaps we’ve spotted in recent months.

  • Inside the £423k James Bond-style hotel that floats and features underwater rooms

Dorothy Wang is one of the privileged twenty-somethings to extend their summer vacations.

The self-confessed “Rich Kid of Beverly Hills” is daughter of Roger Wang, CEO of Golden Eagle International Group.

This undoubtedly provides her with plenty of disposable income.

And during a recent trip to Indonesia, the 28-year-old certainly put her money to good use.

Dorothy has been taking in stunning views of Nihi Sumba Island by splashing around in an infinity pool.

The bikini-clad socialite shared pictures of herself clutching a fresh coconut drink as she enjoyed the scenery.

It’s not just Indonesia holiday photos that Dorothy has been sharing in recent weeks.

The influencer recently posed on the stairs of a private jet.

She cooly slung a denim jacket over her shoulders as she struck a pose for a photographer.

Dorothy isn’t the only Rich Kid of Instagram to travel in luxury.

Many have spent their holidays on board lavish yachts.

One of these lovely ladies is Johanna Olsson, who sat in the hot tub of a private boat.

The bombshell sipped on a flute of champagne as she bobbed along the French Riviera.

A similar snap was posted by Jamie Ching, who has also been holidaying in the Cote D’Azur.

For her birthday, the 22-year-old posed in a bikini as she took to the waves in style.

In the glamorous image, the French coastline can be spotted behind her.

  • Conde Nast Traveller names top places to visit in 2020 – and Plymouth makes the list

Want to read more about the Rich Kids of Instagram?

Here are the lavish gifts the rich influencers got for Valentines Day.

Meanwhile, here’s how Mexico’s rich kids have been flaunting their wealth online.

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Categories
Transport

Qantas to stand down majority of staff as travel virtually ceases

Qantas and Jetstar have confirmed the majority of their 30,000 employees will be asked to stand down until at least the end of May as global travel comes to a virtual standstill during the coronavirus outbreak.

Earlier this week, cuts to 90 per cent of international flying and about 60 per cent of domestic flying were announced by the carriers.

During the stand down, employees will be able to draw down on annual and long-service leave.

Additional support mechanisms will be introduced, including leave at half pay.

Employees with low leave balances at the start of the stand down will be able to access up to four weeks’ leave in advance of earning it.

However, periods of leave without pay for some employees are inevitable, Qantas said in a statement.

Senior group management executives and the board have increased their salary reductions from 30 per cent to 100 per cent until at least the end of this financial year, joining the chairman and group chief executive in taking no pay.

Annual management bonuses have also been cancelled.

Qantas Group chief executive, Alan Joyce, said: “The efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus have led to a huge drop in travel demand, the likes of which we have never seen before.

“This is having a devastating impact on all airlines.

“We’re in a strong financial position right now, but our wages bill is more than $4 billion a year.

“With the huge drop in revenue we’re facing, we have to make difficult decisions to guarantee the future of the national carrier.”

With the federal government now recommending against all overseas travel from Australia, regularly scheduled international flights will continue until late March to assist with repatriation.

They will then be suspended until at least the end of May.

As the national carrier, Qantas is in ongoing discussions with the government about continuation of some strategic links.

More than 150 aircraft will be temporarily grounded, including all of Qantas’ A380s, Boeing 747s and Boeing 787-9s and Jetstar’s B787-8s. 

Discussions are progressing with airports and government about parking for these aircraft, Qantas said.

Essential domestic, regional and freight connections will be maintained as much as possible.

Joyce added: “The reality is we’ll have 150 aircraft on the ground and sadly there’s no work for most of our people.

“Rather than lose these highly skilled employees who we’ll need when this crisis passes, we are instead standing down two-thirds of our 30,000 employees until at least the end of May.

“Most of our people will be using various types of paid leave during this time, and we’ll have a number of support options in place.

“We’re also talking to our partners like Woolworths about temporary job opportunities for our people.”

Given the current extraordinary circumstances, a decision has been made to defer payment of the shareholder dividend announced on February 20th from April until September.

This is in addition to the cancellation of the off-market buy back, previously announced.

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Transport

Philippines quarantine sees Cebu Pacific ground flights until April

Cebu Pacific will suspend all flight operations from Thursday until April 14th.

The Philippine government recently implemented an enhanced community quarantine over Luzon, and similar directives across various provinces in the country.

Cebu Pacific has taken the decision to ground its planes in compliance with the quarantine measures, land travel restrictions and regulations in place.

“We are also working closely with the authorities to assist in flying stranded passengers in and out of the Philippines,” the carrier said.

Cebu Pacific will offer a small number of flights from Singapore, Bangkok, Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Ho Chi Minh and Taipei to Manila today.

All passengers can check their flight status on the Cebu Pacific website website.

“As this is a developing situation that is unprecedented, Cebu Pacific will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as soon as possible.

“We thank everyone for their patience and understanding, as our flight, operations and frontline teams continue to do their best to assist passengers,” added a statement.

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Transport

IAG announces huge capacity cuts, Walsh to remain as chief executive

International Airlines Group plans to cut capacity by at least 75 per cent in April and May as the company battles the coronavirus pandemic around the world.

The group – which operates British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus – said it was also taking drastic actions to reduce operating expenses and improve cash flow.

These include grounding surplus aircraft, reducing and deferring capital spending, cutting non-essential and non-cyber related IT spend and freezing recruitment.

At the same time, IAG is implementing voluntary leave options, temporarily suspending employment contracts and reducing working hours.

In light of the exceptional circumstances facing the aviation industry due to Covid-19, and in particular the developing situation in Spain, it has been decided that Luis Gallego will continue in his role as Iberia chief executive for the next few months to lead the response in Spain.

In the meantime, Willie Walsh, who had been due to this month, will continue to act as group chief executive.

Javier Sanchez will remain in place as Vueling chief executive.

Walsh said: “We have seen a substantial decline in bookings across our airlines and global network over the past few weeks and we expect demand to remain weak until well into the summer.

“We are therefore making significant reductions to our flying schedules.

“We will continue to monitor demand levels and we have the flexibility to make further cuts if necessary.

“We are also taking actions to reduce operating expenses and improve cash flow at each of our airlines.

“IAG is resilient with a strong balance sheet and substantial cash liquidity.”

The group – which saw its share price dip a further 20 per cent this morning – said it had a “strong liquidity” position, with cash, cash equivalents and interest-bearing deposits of €7.35 billion as at March 12th.

In addition, undrawn general and committed aircraft backed financing facilities amount to €1.9 billion, resulting in total liquidity of €9.3 billion.

To date, IAG has suspended flights to China, reduced capacity on Asian routes, cancelled all flights to, from and within Italy and made various changes to our network.

The US presidential announcement to restrict entry of foreign nationals who have been in countries in the Schengen Area, the UK and Ireland has added to the uncertainty on North Atlantic routes, IAG said.

In addition, many other countries have banned or are restricting inward travel including Argentina, Chile, India and Peru.

Spain has also been the subject of travel advisories, for example by the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

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Cruises

Cunard and P&O Cruises suspend sailings until April

As a result of the continued impact of Covid-19, Cunard will be suspending new cruises on its ships until April 11th.

The move follows a recommendation by the Cruise Lines International Association for cruise lines to voluntarily and temporarily suspend operations from United States ports for 30 days.

Cunard president, Simon Palethorpe, said: “Having reviewed all of our ship operations and industry recommendations, we have decided no new guests or crew will be joining our ships as we suspend operations until April 11th.

“This pause in operations has been done in an abundance of caution to support the global effort to contain the spread of Covid-19.”

All guests impacted directly by this temporary suspension are being contacted regarding their voyage and their options.

Palethorpe continued: “These truly are unprecedented times, the likes of which we have certainly never seen before.

“We are really sorry for the disruption and disappointment that this extraordinary measure will cause.

We hope everyone will understand that we have to take these measures in the interests pf protecting the wellbeing of our guests and crew.”

P&O Cruises

P&O Cruises, which is also owned by Carnival Corporation, took a similar decision.

P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow added: “Having reviewed all of our ship operations and industry recommendations, we will bring our ships back to Southampton and suspend any new cruises until April 11th.”

For all guests impacted by this temporary suspension, P&O Cruises will provide a 125 per cent future cruise credit.

This credit will be applied automatically to a guest account for use on a P&O Cruises holiday departing before the end of March 2022.

Ludlow continued: “Given the immediate situation we are also looking at Iona’s itineraries in light of current restrictions in Norway and will provide an update to guests when we have more clarity.”

Carnival Cruise Lines announced it would suspend sailings earlier.

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