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Spain to reopen to tourists as South America named virus hotspot

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Spain said on Saturday it would let in foreign tourists and restart top league football in the coming weeks, accelerating Europe’s exit from strict coronavirus lockdowns, even as the disease continued its deadly surge in parts of South America.

Brazil saw its death toll passing 22,000 on Saturday from more than 347,000 infections, the second biggest caseload of any country in a pandemic.

And as much of the United States tiptoed out of lockdown at the start of the Memorial Day weekend which unofficially marks the beginning of summer, President Donald Trump sent a clear signal he was personally embracing normalization — he went golfing, his first such outing since March 8.

Some 5.26 million people have been infected globally, and 340,000 killed by the virus.

But with infection levels stabilizing across Europe, many governments were trying move away from economically ruinous lockdowns toward lighter social distancing measures that they hope will revive moribund business and tourism sectors.

In Spain, which has enforced one of the world’s strictest lockdowns since mid-March, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced the resumption of tourism — a vital sector for much of Europe — and football.

Sanchez sought to reassure visitors, saying that from July 1, “entry for foreign tourists into Spain will resume in secure conditions” and La Liga football could return on June 8.

Spread of the coronavirus. PHOTO: AFP / Simon MALFATTO

The United States, meanwhile, still faces the world’s worst outbreak — the toll is less than 3,000 deaths away from the grim milestone of 100,000 — but Trump has aggressively pushed to reopen the economy, defying the advice of health experts.

The US economy has shed almost 40 million jobs this year and many companies, most recently car rental giant Hertz, have gone to the wall. But most states have begun easing their lockdowns and many on Saturday reopened public beaches.

“We just get tired of being stuck in the house. There’s not much else to do. So I came to the beach,” stay-at-home mother Kayla Lambert said, as her two children played in the surf in Galveston, Texas.

New York, once a virus epicenter, on Saturday announced its lowest daily statewide death toll since early March — 84.

“We are making real progress,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Latin America

As Europe and the United States took clear steps toward reopening, Latin America emerged as a new virus hotspot.

“In a sense, South America has become a new epicentre for the disease,” WHO emergencies director Mike Ryan said, singling out Brazil.

In the world’s most populous Muslim country, Indonesia, people were scrambling to get around the rules to celebrate Eid al-Fitr. PHOTO: AFP / CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN

Many deaths in Brazil have been among younger people, who are often driven by poverty to work despite the threat of infection.

Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who like Trump has played down the severity of the pandemic, has faced increasing pressure amid a rising death toll, with two of his health ministers resigning within weeks.

Scrutiny intensified after release of a video of a cabinet meeting on April 22 — as the country was fast becoming a virus flashpoint — in which Bolsonaro and his deputies barely mentioned the pandemic.

One of the few mentions of COVID-19 came when the environment minister suggested the government take advantage of the distraction created by the pandemic to relax environmental protection rules.

Neighbouring Peru was also struggling. The country of 32 million has registered more than 3,100 deaths.

Ecuador, however, has seen nearly that many deaths — 3,096 — in a country of just 17 million. Tourism Minister Rosi Prado told AFP the pandemic could cost the country’s important tourism sector $400 million a month.

Brazil led the surge across South America, with its death toll passing 21,000 from 330,000 infections, the third highest caseload of any country. PHOTO: AFP / DANIEL CASTELLANO

By contrast, China, where the virus was first identified late last year, passed a milestone on Saturday with no new infections reported for the first time since January.

The outlook was also brightening elsewhere in Europe, particularly in hard-hit tourist hubs.

Italy is due to reopen its borders to foreign tourists from June 3.

Scenes on a beach near Rome looked strikingly normal — except for the occasional mask-wearing sunseeker.

“I was in such a hurry, I missed the sea so much,” said Rome resident Arianna Tucci. “Breathing a little iodine, putting my feet in the sand, in the water, eating a little plate of spaghetti! And that’s enough for me.”

British scandal

In the Middle East, Iran’s museums and historical sites will reopen on Sunday, with holy shrines following on Monday.

And Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre will reopen on Sunday, the Christian authorities there said, but with tight restrictions.

Thousands gathered in Madrid to demand an end to the virus restrictions and the resignation of the prime minister, in a protest led by far-right party Vox. PHOTO: AFP / JAVIER SORIANO

However, the virus is still a cause for concern in the region, with tightly packed Gaza registering its first death on Saturday.

Illustrating the political difficulties of managing virus restrictions, Britain faced a scandal on Saturday: top government advisor Dominic Cummings was seen visiting his parents 250 miles (400 kilometres) away from his London home during the lockdown, despite suffering from virus symptoms.

He denies any wrongdoing but faces calls to quit.

‘It’s like 20 years ago’

Experts have warned that restrictions will be needed in some form until a vaccine or treatment is developed.

An aerial view shows painted circles in the grass to encourage people to social distance at Washington Square Park in San Francisco, California. PHOTO: AFP / Josh Edelson

With no end in sight, sporadic anti-lockdown protests have been taking place across the world.

Thousands gathered in Madrid on Saturday to demand an end to the rules and Sanchez’s resignation, in a protest led by the far-right party Vox.

People were scrambling to get around rules in the world’s most populous Muslim country, Indonesia, so they could reunite with family for the Eid al-Fitr festival.

One man told AFP he got a fake certificate for his daughter to travel home from university in the capital, Jakarta.

“We want to celebrate Eid al-Fitr together like in past years,” he said.

Some Europeans were finding a bit of solace in their new mode of life, reclaiming their cities and towns from the tourist hordes.

Laia Torra, in Barcelona’s UNESCO-listed Park Guell, said the park has become too crowded in recent years.

“It’s wonderful, it’s like going back 20 years,” she said as her children played.

Reporting and photos: AFP

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Emirates undertakes largest known fleet retrofit project

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Emirates has kick-started its plans to upgrade the entire interior cabins of 120 Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft – two of the largest commercial aircraft types in service today.

This ambitious project, representing a multi-billion dollar investment to ensure Emirates’ customers “fly better” for the coming years, officially commences in November and is managed entirely by Emirates’ Engineering team.

The target is to completely retrofit four Emirates aircraft from start to finish every month, continuously for over 2 years. Once the 67 earmarked A380s are refreshed and back in service, 53 777s will undergo their facelift. This will see nearly 4,000 brand new Premium Economy seats installed, 728 First Class suites refurbished and over 5,000 Business Class seats upgraded to a new style and design when the project is complete in April 2025.

In addition, carpets and stairs will be upgraded, and cabin interior panels refreshed with new tones and design motifs including the iconic ghaf trees which are native to the UAE.

No other airline has handled a retrofit of this magnitude in-house, and there’s no blueprint for such an undertaking. Therefore Emirates Engineering teams have been planning and testing extensively, to establish and streamline processes, and identify and address any possible snags.

Trials began on an A380 in July, where experienced engineers literally took each cabin apart piece-by-piece and logged every step. From removing seats and panelling to bolts and screws, every action was tested, timed and mapped out. Potential impediments to completing the installation of Emirates’ new Premium Economy Class or the retrofit of the remaining three cabins in just 16 days were flagged and documented for expert teams to review and address.

As part of the programme, new purpose-built workshops will be set up at Emirates Engineering to repaint, re-trim and re-upholster Business and Economy Class seats with new covers and cushioning. First Class suites will be carefully disassembled and sent to a specialised company to replace the leather, arm rests and other materials.

From the trials, Engineers discovered several unexpected solutions for instance: that existing food catering trucks could be easily repurposed to move parts destined for refurbishment from the aircraft to the workshop for their refresh, as these vehicles had doors of the right width and offer sufficient space.

Until the retrofit programme starts in earnest in November, a cross-disciplinary team has been assembled to regularly review the planning process, address any issues, and track updates on various aspects of the project such as procurement, staffing, and training.

Emirates’ new Premium Economy cabin class, which offers luxurious seats, more legroom, and a service to rival many airlines’ business offering, is currently available to Emirates customers travelling on popular A380 routes to London, Paris, Sydney. More customers will be able to experience the airline’s new Premium Economy cabins starting from year end, as the retrofit programme picks up momentum.

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Eleanor helps over 30 Maldives hotels elevate guest services

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Eleanor has been named as one of the top 10 concierge software providers globally.

Based on accurate, timely reviews from real users, the HotelTechAwards rank the world’s best hotel software firms and products and it also provides hoteliers direct access to a growing network of hotel technology professionals and decision-makers.

“The guest experience is the cornerstone of our platform. Our unified resort wide solution, Eleanor, has been built for resorts off the back of many years working in the industry and addresses the needs of both Sales and Marketing departments and perhaps just as importantly, the operational requirements of the team on the ground at the property. The days of resorts working with disjointed systems are now behind us,” says Darren Caple, co-founder and CEO.

“We are on a mission to make the guest’s resort experience as easy and as frictionless as possible. Whereas traditional providers in the market have come at this purely from a guest communication perspective, our background in resorts has allowed us to combine this basic requirement with the streamlining of operational processes. The result is truly a resort wide solution that removes the need for countless different systems to be deployed.

Eleanor allows resorts to deliver consistent, superior service levels to guests across all stages of their journey with contactless features helping to alleviate sensitive touch-points in the post pandemic period. More than 30 properties in the Maldives use our Eleanor platform to help butlers and guest services elevate the guest experience. These properties are seeing an increase in incremental revenue by over 30% and operational efficiencies of 600+ man hours per month. We are also beginning to roll out the platform in some Caribbean properties!”

Eleanor is making waves in the hospitality industry by pushing the conventional limits of what a resort guest app can achieve through its unique ability to facilitate direct bookings for services and activities. The traditional ‘request to book’ feature that is common amongst almost all other hotel apps is removed by a power booking and operational platform sitting at the heart of the solution that covers all the resorts’ departments. It’s this module which realises enormous operational benefits and insights for the resort.

“We, at Eleanor, are humbled and honoured that our clients have provided such positive reviews. Feedback from our clients, partners and hoteliers are incredibly valuable for us and we will continue to improve our offering and services”, said Caple.

To celebrate this success, Eleanor is currently offering resorts a free one month trial, together with free setup and training and discounted monthly fees.

Eleanor, founded in 2018 and has its headquarters in the United Kingdom. Created from over 15 years of hands-on expertise, Eleanor allows resorts to deliver consistent, superior service levels to its guests across all stages of their journey with contactless features helping to alleviate sensitive touch-points in the post pandemic period. Eleanor also helps to unlock operational efficiencies and boost incremental revenue and guest loyalty.

Hotel Tech Report’s Best Concierge Software 2022 Runner Up, reviewed as a preferred and reliable hotel software product by the global hotelier community.

For more information, visit www.eleanorapp.com.

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Emirates’ recruiters scour the world for cabin crew talent with 30 city stops

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Emirates, the world’s most global airline, is seeking talented people with a passion for service to join its award-winning cabin crew team.

As air travel returns with a vengeance, the airline’s recruiters are busy meeting and hiring candidates in 30 cities from now until the end of June. In this latest drive, Emirates’ teams will travel from Australia to the UK, and dozens of European cities in between, as well as Cairo, Algiers, Tunis and Bahrain.

Abdulaziz Al Ali, Emirates Group’s Executive Vice President for Human Resources said: “There’s no more exciting airline than Emirates for anyone interested in a flying career, and we’ve received tremendous interest since we began our recruitment drive for cabin crew in November.”

“While parts of the application process are done online, we always make the effort to meet our candidates in person whenever we can, and that is why our Talent Acquisition team is doing a whirlwind 30-city tour over the next 6 weeks to assess prospective candidates.”

Emirates’ truly global cabin crew team represent 160 nationalities, reflecting its customer mix and international operations in over 130 cities on six continents.

All Emirates crew are based in the exciting cosmopolitan city of Dubai, with company-provided accommodation, tax-free salary and more benefits.

Interested candidates can read more about the Emirates cabin crew role, and apply online at: https://www.emiratesgroupcareers.com/cabin-crew/

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