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Deadlock as Qatar embargo marks three-year anniversary



A bitter feud between Qatar and a Saudi-led alliance drags into a fourth year on Friday with no end in sight.

In June 2017, Saudi Arabia led its Gulf allies the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, along with Egypt, to cut all ties with Qatar, accusing it of backing radical Islamist movements and Iran — a charge denied by Doha.

There were indications of an imminent thaw around the turn of the year, but all overtures have so far come to nothing.

Here is a recap:

Ultimatum to Doha

Saudi Arabia, under the de facto rule of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, led its Gulf allies the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, along with Egypt, to cut all ties with Qatar. PHOTO: POOL/AFP/File / MANDEL NGAN

On May 24, 2017, a statement attributed to Qatar’s ruler appears on the state news agency’s website, apparently endorsing Islamist movements and criticising US President Donald Trump.

Qatar says the site has been hacked and that the statement is fake, but it is picked up and published in regional media.

On June 5, Saudi Arabia and its allies abruptly cut all air links, land crossings, direct shipping and diplomatic ties with their neighbour.

Other countries impose their own, lesser sanctions.

A day later, Trump wades in and tweets that during his recent visit to the region a number of Middle East leaders “pointed to Qatar” for allegedly supporting “Radical Ideology”.

Later that month, the Saudi-led coalition issues 13 sweeping demands including the closure of Doha-based Al-Jazeera news network and the shuttering of a Turkish military base in return for lifting their boycott.

They also demand Doha curb its relations with Riyadh’s arch-rival, Iran.

Qatar rejects the demands, calling them “unrealistic” and “not actionable”.

The schism complicates regional travel, divides families and raises costs faced by Qatari businesses.

The anti-Doha alliance doubles down, issuing in late July 2017 a list of 18 allegedly extremist individuals and entities, while demanding Qatar takes action against them. It later expands the list to 90 names.

Game of two halves

In August 2017, satellite channel beoutQ begins broadcasting events, including top-flight football, to Saudi audiences.

Qatar-based sporting broadcaster BeIN accuses Saudi of pirating its production. BeIN’s efforts to sanction Saudi Arabia are the subject of an ongoing legal dispute.

Throughout 2018, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates trade accusations over access to airspace, in a row that ends up at the International Court of Justice.

Qatar’s defender Bassam al-Rawi celebrating his team’s win over Japan during the 2019 AFC Asian Cup final football match in Abu Dhabi. PHOTO: AFP/File / Giuseppe CACACE

The following year sees the UAE host the Asian Cup soccer tournament. Qatar wins, but the stands are empty of the country’s fans who have been barred from entering the UAE. One British attendee wearing Qatari colours is arrested.

Trump strikes a more conciliatory tone when Qatar’s ruler, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, visits Washington in April 2019, calling him “a friend”.

Back on the football field, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain reverse a decision to boycott a regional tournament in Qatar, with Bahrain going on to lift the trophy on December 8, 2019.

Just two years before, the same nations had refused to play another edition of the tournament in Qatar until it was moved to neutral Kuwait, so the teams’ presence raises hopes of imminent reconciliation.

As the tournament gets underway, Qatar’s foreign minister says there has been “some progress” in talks with Saudi Arabia.

More details emerge of mediation efforts by neutral Gulf nations Kuwait and Oman.

‘Doubts’ over GCC

But in December 2019, Qatar’s emir declines an invitation by Saudi Arabia to attend a Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Riyadh, sending then-prime minister Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al-Thani instead.

In February 2020, Qatar’s foreign minister reveals that talks with Saudi Arabia were suspended a month earlier, but says Doha “remains open if there are any benign efforts to resolve the issue”.

In the weeks leading up to the three-year anniversary of the rift, a flurry of posts aimed at Qatar surface on social media, including claims it is considering quitting the Gulf Cooperation Council. PHOTO: AFP/File / KARIM JAAFAR

Reporting and photos: AFP


Nika Zorjan’s ‘V Postelji’ music video showcases timeless beauty of Maldives



Released just three weeks ago, Nika Zorjan’s latest music video, ‘V Postelji’ (meaning “In Bed”), has captivated audiences with its stunning cinematography set against the breathtaking backdrop of the Maldives. Directed by videographer Niko Karo, who accompanied Nika to film the video, the project was organised by Moji Maldivi, an agency based in Slovenia dedicated to promoting the Maldives as a premier holiday destination in Balkan region.

The video beautifully captures Nika strolling through serene pathways shaded by iconic coconut palm trees at Villa Park, later walking along the sun-kissed beaches of Villa Nautica, and finally enjoying the golden sunset on a bed at the beach of Furaveri Maldives. Each scene showcases the natural beauty and tranquil ambiance of the Maldives, enhancing the emotional depth and visual splendour of the music video.

Nika Zorjan, renowned as a Slovenian pop star and Eurovision contestant, has also gained fame for her cover songs, including her most popular rendition of Sia’s Cheap Thrills, which has amassed nearly 50 million views on YouTube, with over 60 million total views on the platform. “Shooting a video in the Maldives is heavenly,” she added. Filmed in one of the world’s most captivating tourist destinations, the Maldives serves as more than just a scenic backdrop; it becomes an integral part of the video’s narrative.

V Postelji not only showcases Nika Zorjan’s musical prowess but also pays homage to the Maldives’ timeless allure and cultural richness. The video has resonated deeply with audiences, garnering praise for its artistic vision and the mesmerising beauty of the Maldivian landscape. The lush greenery, crystal-clear waters, and pristine beaches depicted in the video create a sense of paradise that complements the song’s evocative lyrics.

As viewers continue to immerse themselves in the captivating visuals and emotive melodies of V Postelji, it reinforces the Maldives’ reputation as a destination where natural beauty and tranquility converge effortlessly. Nika Zorjan’s collaboration with Niko Karo underscores their shared appreciation for the Maldives’ serene ambiance and its ability to inspire creativity and emotional expression. This partnership, facilitated by Moji Maldivi, highlights the agency’s dedication to showcasing the Maldives as an unparalleled holiday destination to the Balkan market.

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Emirates undertakes largest known fleet retrofit project



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



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

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