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Florida gambles on reopening, as virus numbers rise



Florida is reporting record daily totals of new coronavirus cases, but you’d never know it looking at the Sunshine State’s increasingly busy beaches and hotels.

Republican Governor Ron DeSantis wants tourists to return en masse to help bolster the local economy — and in so doing, help his ally President Donald Trump win over voters.

But many of those visitors are not wearing masks and ignoring social distancing guidelines, and striking a balance between protecting public health and saving people’s jobs is tricky.

On both Monday and Tuesday, Florida confirmed more than 2,500 new virus cases, bringing the state’s total caseload to more than 82,000, with more than 3,000 deaths.

While the number of deaths per day is not rising, the percentage of positive tests is, hitting 10.3 percent on Wednesday, compared to 5.5 percent the week before, according to the state health department.

Despite the worrying data, Floridians seem to have hit peak quarantine fatigue — they are fed up with the pandemic and the measures suggested to help keep it in check.

That means tempers are flaring between people who wear masks and those who refuse to do so.

“It’s not easy,” said Kathia Joseph, the owner of a French bakery in Miami Beach, a barrier island off the city itself.

“We really have to be after them, ask them to wear a mask, ask them to stay away. Some people, they’re not happy when you ask them to do that.”

Out in the street, a mask-free man trying to get into an Uber car argues with the driver.

On the beach, a so-called safe distancing ambassador is taunted by a group of people who are drinking and dancing.

Kathia Joseph, who owns a French bakery and bistro in Miami Beach, says only about half of her customers obey guidelines aimed at containing the spread of the novel coronavirus. PHOTO: AFP / Eva Marie UZCATEGUI

Joseph says only about half of her customers obey guidelines designed to contain the spread of the virus.

That proportion sounds about right, says Diane, a 60-year-old woman who drove from Texas to relax in Miami Beach.

“It seems that some people just want to get on with their lives, and they’re going to take the chance,” said Diane, who declined to give her last name.

Then she went for a swim wearing her mask.

Controlling risk

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber is certainly aware of all the friction, and is trying to adopt a conciliatory tone.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber says even without 100 percent compliance with anti-virus guidelines, many lives can be saved. PHOTO: AFP / Eva Marie UZCATEGUI

“We realize that this is not about eliminating risk — it’s about managing the risk,” Gelber told AFP.

“So even if we don’t get 100 percent compliance, if most people follow the rules, we’re going to reduce the virus tremendously and save lives.”

The two and a half months of lockdown dealt a severe economic blow to Miami Beach, home to 93,000 people.

Before the pandemic, it would welcome seven million visitors a year. Now, some businesses are shutting down for good.

Therein lies the problem, as the city needs tourists desperately.

Interacting with customers safely is “a big challenge for us,” Joseph says. “But we are really happy to be back to work because it’s been two and a half months.”

Nevertheless, she is closing her bakery and opening a Cuban-style cafe near Ocean Drive, the waterfront main drag that is home to what is left of Miami Beach’s commercial buzz.

Officials note that hospitalization and death rates from the coronavirus have remained stable, and partly attribute the overall rise in case numbers to an increase in testing.

But the increase in the percentage of positive tests is worrying and many people are alarmed.

They fear the reopening of businesses and huge protests over the death in police custody of George Floyd are to blame.


This Texas couple wore face masks while sunbathing in Miami Beach. PHOTO: AFP / Eva Marie UZCATEGUI

“We are not shutting down. We are going to go forward,” DeSantis said Tuesday.

Florida is crucial to Trump’s reelection hopes, and DeSantis wants to help him over the finish line.

Last week, the governor offered up Jacksonville as a new host city for Trump’s nomination acceptance speech at the Republican convention, after North Carolina balked at allowing the president to address a packed arena.

Florida started to reopen its economy slowly in May and most businesses are open — albeit with limited occupancy and with instructions on social distancing.

But in recent days, several bars and restaurants in Tampa, which began to reopen before Miami, were forced to close after some workers were infected with the virus.

In Jacksonville Beach, at least 12 friends tested positive for coronavirus after a night out for a birthday celebration, one of the group members told US media.

DeSantis is “shooting himself in the foot,” Aileen Marty, a Florida International University pandemic expert, told Politico.

Not all beachgoers in Florida are practicing social distancing. PHOTO: AFP / Eva Marie UZCATEGUI

“He thinks in downplaying the threat of the virus that’s going to help the economy,” Marty said.

“It’s going to backfire because if people fail to understand how dangerous this particular virus is, they’re going to act in irresponsible ways.”

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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