Crowds Pack Popular Chinese Tourist Attractions Despite High Risks

With China gradually easing restrictions after an alleged decline in coronavirus cases, large crowds packed the country’s popular tourist sites over the weekend despite health authorities still encouraging residents to take precautions.

According to CNN, park officials at the Huangshan mountain park in Anhui province had to stop accepting visitors as early as 7:48 a.m. on Saturday after the park had reached its 20,000 capacity. The Bund waterfront in Shanghai and the streets of Beijing were similarly crowded with flocks of people.

China residents had been under quarantine for about three months in an effort to contain transmission of the virus.

At its peak, thousands of coronavirus cases were recorded in China every day since it was first detected in the city of Wuhan. As of Monday, China reported only 39 new cases, and the government had gradually relaxed restrictions in an effort to return to normalcy.

However, healthcare professionals warn residents that the virus still poses a risk within the country.

“China is not near the end but has entered a new stage. With the global epidemic raging, China has not reached the end,” said Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The People’s Daily newspaper also warned Chinese residents and tourists not to gather after pictures of the dense crowds in Huangshan appeared on social media. According to the newspaper, Huangshan will no longer be receiving tourists as a result of the crowds.

Many businesses and tourist attractions remain closed as officials stay wary of sparking a second wave of infections in the country. Plans to re-open movie cinemas were canceled in late March, and several Shanghai attractions were open for just 10 days before they were shut again on March 31.

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Cancun’s 50-Year Evolution

A mere half-century ago, Cancun comprised virtually nothing more than a deserted strip of land with mangroves, jungles and gorgeous virgin beach.

What a difference 50 years make.

In April, the destination is celebrating its 50th anniversary and until the coronavirus crisis, it welcomed an increasing number of arrivals each year.

In 2015 for instance, Cancun welcomed 4,622,286 tourists (overnighters) and 3,829,987 visitors – travelers such as cruise passengers who do not stay overnight. In 2019, those numbers swelled to 6,006,763 tourists and 7,247,606 visitors.

While arrivals numbers have slowed to a trickle in wake of the coronavirus, tourism officials noted that scheduled anniversary celebrations are expected to be rescheduled later in the year.

Cancun, after all, is nothing if not resilient.

“Its strength was tested … when Hurricane Gilbert struck back in 1988 and later in 2005 with Hurricane Wilma,” said Dario Flota, tourism director of the Quintana Roo Tourism Board, adding that the “visible marks of these natural disasters are nowhere to be found,” thanks to “the strong character of its inhabitants, who quickly put the destination back on its feet twice.”

Resort development took root in 1970, albeit at a very slow pace, until FONATUR, Mexico’s National Fund for Tourism Development, stepped in with a tourism master plan for the destination in 1974.

One of the destination’s pioneers, Club Med, began welcoming guests at Club Med Cancun Yucatan upward of 40 years ago.

“For 70 years, Club Med has had a history of uncovering now-popular vacation destinations, and back in the 1970s, Club Med was searching for the perfect spot to open its first resort in Mexico,” said Sabrina Cendral, senior vice president of marketing and sales for Club Med North America.

The company, she added, “found an incredible parcel of land that would allow our guests access to three private beachfront spaces and today, our resort is still the only one in Cancun with private beachfront areas and a quick swim to the world’s second-largest barrier reef.”

Suffice it to say such coveted parcels are a thing of the past. As a case in point, FONATUR is assessing the possibility of limiting growth in Cancun and possibly new complexes in the Hotel Zone.

Indeed, Cancun has come a long way.

“The first time I was in the area was on a family trip in the 1970s, and it was otherworldly,” said Ben G. of FROSCH, a Mexico specialist. “There were very few gas stations and very narrow roads through the jungle.”

One thing that has remained a constant is the destination’s wide-ranging appeal.

“Cancun’s popularity is the result of the perfect combination [of] its tourist attractions: blue sea and white sand beaches; great weather; the Mayan culture and communities; archaeological sites; and [excellent] air connectivity,” said Flota.

And its success has spurred the development and subsequent popularity of the Riviera Maya and beyond.

“To the south and north of both destinations the growth has been steady; an example is the recent development of the exclusive Costa Mujeres destination, which houses the most luxurious resorts of the Mexican Caribbean,” Flota said.

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Kauai Ocean Discovery comes to Lihue

Kauai Ocean Discovery, a free interactive educational center, opened in early 2020 at the Kukui Grove Center in Lihue.

The center, which is affiliated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, includes displays and exhibits on humpback whales, Hawaiian monk seals, sea turtles, albatrosses and other marine life. Videos, hands-on activities and staff help explain life in the ocean, animal adaptations and the impacts of humans on sea conditions. 

The center also features a “Keiki Corner” with ocean-themed activities for small children. There are rotating exhibits, monthly special events, and a weekly ocean talk and tour every Thursday at 10 a.m.

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Meydan Hotel and Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa temporarily closes

Meydan Hotels and Hospitality announced closure as part of precautionary measures to prevent spread of coronavirus

Bab Al Shams Desert Resort and Spa.

The Meydan Hotel and Bab Al Shams Desert Resort and Spa have both closed their doors as a result of the coronavirus restrictions announced in the UAE.

In a statement, Meydan Hotels and Hospitality revealed that both hotels would temporarily close as a precaution against the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

The UAE currently has 570 confirmed cases, while the deadly virus has claimed the lives of two people in the country.

The statement said: “With people encouraged to stay home and practice social distancing, our main priority is to safeguard the well-being of our community therefore both properties will remain closed from March 26 until 15 April 2020. All facilities, including the swimming pool, gym, spa and restaurants will be closed. The Meydan Grandstand event operations will also be temporarily closed.

“Meydan Hotels and Hospitality is devoted to ensuring the health and safety of its staff, residents and visitors and is adhering to the Government’s regulations and directives.

“It will use the following two weeks to deep clean, refresh amenities and make product improvements to provide guests with unmatched services and experiences upon reopening. Henceforth, Meydan Hotels and Hospitality remains vigilant and will be monitoring the situation in order to support and update our employees and the community.”

Customers who have made a booking for this time can change to a later date, accept a full refund or choose the option of staying at other hotels in the area.

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Coronavirus: Carluccio's no plans to shut Middle East restaurants, despite UK money troubles

Italian restaurant brand was bought by Dubai’s Landmark Group in 2010

Carluccio’s was founded in 1998 by Antonio Carluccio and his then wife Priscilla.

Carluccio’s, the Italian restaurant chain bought by Dubai’s Landmark Group in 2010, is set to go into the administration in the United Kingdom, due to the impact of the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak, but none of its Middle Eastern operations will be affected.

It was confirmed last week that FRP Advisory, the UK-based restructuring specialists, had been appointed to work with the restaurant brand, which has 73 branches and about 2,000 employees, according to media reports in the UK.

The Guardian reported that Carluccio’s is understood to be preparing to file for administration.

However, Carluccio׳s Middle East, a division of Landmark Group, said the outcome of the talks in the UK would have no impact on operations in the region.

“The Middle East operations of Carluccio’s are independent from the UK business, and remain unaffected by the decision of Carluccio’s UK to pursue going into administration,” Carluccio׳s Middle East said in a statement to Arabian Business on Sunday.

Carluccio’s was founded in 1998 by Antonio Carluccio and his then wife Priscilla. Carluccio, who died in November 2017, sold the business to Dubai-based Landmark Group in 2010.

In June 2018, Landmark Group said it was set to invest £10 million ($13.2m) as part of a rescue plan for the Italian restaurant chain.

Landmark Group has not commented on its wider global plans for Carluccio’s in the UK or outside the Middle East.

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Coronavirus: Zomato launches loans initiative to support UAE restaurants

Food delivery app has also launched a relief fund for delivery partners

Zomato is offering loans to partner restaurants “severely hit due to lockdowns immobilising their workforce”.

Food delivery app Zomato has launched a number of initiatives, including offering loans to its restaurant partners and free subscription extensions, to help its UAE customers survive the financial impact of the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak.

“From loans for restaurants, and funds to cover lost earnings for delivery partners, to voluntary staff pay cuts to conserve cash flow, Zomato has moved quickly to activate a number of initiatives to help support the food and beverage industry and the public alike through the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic,” the company said in a statement.

Zomato is offering loans to partner restaurants “severely hit due to lockdowns immobilising their workforce”.

It has also launched the Delivery Partner Relief Fund to help its delivery partners who have suffered lost earnings.

For Zomato Gold memberships across the UAE, they will also be given a two-month membership extension for free.

As part of its “Meals of Hope” initiative in the UAE customers can also order a meal for someone else in need.

Zomato claims to be the world’s largest restaurant search and discovery platform, with more than 70 million users every month.

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US Travel says The rescue bill will not be enough

The U.S. Travel Association called the coronavirus rescue
bill, named the Cares Act, a “lifeline for the travel industry,” but emphasized
it was a relief package and that more help would soon be needed. 

“There are a lot of really good things in here that will
help travel and tourism businesses of all different sizes and types, and that’s
what our goal was,” said Tori Emerson Barnes, U.S. Travel’s executive vice president
of public affairs and policy. “But suffice to say it’s a relief package and not
a stimulus. It’s a bridge but it’s likely we’ll need to have additional help.
This is a really good step and there’s a lot of really good help in here,
assuming the government can execute quickly and get the money out the door.” 

The bill includes many things for which U.S. Travel had
lobbied, such as $377 billion in loans and loan forgiveness for small travel
businesses and self-employed individuals; $454 billion in federally backed
financial assistance for impacted businesses; tax relief to mitigate losses and
allow businesses to use cash to pay employees and temporarily defer tax
liability; and access to an Employee Retention Tax Credit. 

The organization also praised the $10 billion in airport
grants to support vital air operations.

Barnes said this relief would help travel and tourism
businesses “keep the lights on and keep employees” in hopes that the public
health crisis will subside. She emphasized this was not a “bailout,” which she
said can imply there was bad behavior on the part of those needing to be “bailed

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African Bush Camps plans tented outpost in Botswana

African Bush Camps plans to open a new luxury tented camp on the banks of the Khwai River at the edge of the Moremi Game Reserve in July this year.

The new camp, Khwai Leadwood, is located in the community-run Khwai Concession in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. The camp will offer a range of immersive activities including mokoro adventures, game drives beneath the sun and stars, and walking safaris among abundant wildlife.

Renowned as one of the leading wildlife areas in southern Africa, Moremi Game Reserve covers more than 40% of the Okavango. It is home to most predator species, including wild dogs, leopards, hyenas and lions.

Catering for 16 people, the camp features six luxury twin/double tents and one family unit. All rooms are designed for comfort, and modern amenities include cooling fans, charging facilities and private en-suite bathrooms. The tents all offer indoor and outdoor showers and private decks with day beds.

The camp features a communal dining deck as well as a lounge, reading area and a bar serving African-inspired cocktails as well as wine and beer. The camp’s swimming pool will be a popular spot to chill out and sip sundowners after daylong ventures in the bush.

Khwai Leadwood will welcome guests age 7 and older year-round, with access from the Khwai Airstrip just minutes from camp, reachable by plane from Maun (30 minutes) and Kasane (1 hour).

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Real ID rollout postponed coronavirus

President Trump on Monday said he will extend the Real ID
deadline due to the Covid-19 coronavirus crisis and the need for social

The deadline had been Oct. 1 for domestic airline passengers
to secure a Real ID driver’s license for use as identification at the airport. No
new implementation date has been set.

“We’re postponing the deadline for compliance with Real ID
requirements,” Trump said during a press conference at the White House. “At a
time when we’re asking Americans to maintain social distance, we do not want to
require people to go to their local DMV. We will be announcing the new deadline
very soon.”

The U.S. Travel Association, which has long warned that the
Oct. 1 deadline would leave many Americans unable to fly, applauded the delay
in implementation. 

U.S. Travel CEO Roger Dow said, “The already difficult task
of bringing the country closer to Real ID compliance is now clearly impossible
due to the coronavirus crisis.” 

Dow added, “We’ve asked the Department of Homeland Security
that the delay of the Real ID enforcement deadline remain in place until the
current economic environment improves and DHS can certify that access to air
travel will not be negatively impacted after Real ID enforcement begins.”

Real ID driver’s licenses must meet security standards laid
out in the Real ID Act of 2005. More data is required for the issuance of Real IDs, and compliant
IDs are to have security features intended to prevent tampering or

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Emirates, Etihad, flydubai to suspend all flights immediately from Tuesday night

Suspension of flights follows a new directive from the General Civil Aviation Authority

Airlines in the UAE have announced they will bring forward plans to suspend all flights in and out of the country, following a directive from government authorities late on Tuesday.

“The UAE’s National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority, and the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), have brought forward their directive to suspend all inbound, outbound, and transit passenger flights in the UAE to today. This decision has been made to limit the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus and to protect citizens, residents, and international travellers,” Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways said in a statement late on Tuesday.

Etihad Airways initially announced on Monday it would temporarily suspend all flights to, from, and via Abu Dhabi from the end of Wednesday.

Travel Update: The UAE Government has made the decision to bring forward the date of suspension for all inbound, outbound, and transit flights to Abu Dhabi. Per this directive, Etihad will be temporarily suspending all flights departing Abu Dhabi effective immediately. (1/4)— Etihad (@etihad) March 24, 2020

The ban on flights, including transit flights, will be in place for 14 days, subject to further directives by the relevant authorities. 

The airline said any of its aircraft currently outside the UAE from Tuesday, March 24, will continue to operate to Abu Dhabi as planned, with the final arrival on Wednesday, March 25.

“We deeply regret any inconvenience and disruption this will cause our customers during this challenging period. Our teams will continue to make every effort to assist its customers and to advise them of their options,” Etihad said in its statement.

Dubai’s Emirates airline also issued a statement on its website stating that “as per the UAE government’s directive, Emirates will temporarily suspend all passenger services from 25 March 2020. We are very sorry for any inconvenience caused to our customers and travellers. These measures are in place to contain the spread of COVID-19, and we hope to resume services as soon as feasible”.

The Dubai carrier had also announced on Monday it planned to suspend flights from March 25.

Low-cost carrier flydubai also confirmed it will suspend flights from Tuesday, March 24

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