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British retail to lose further 5,000 jobs in blow to economy

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LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s high street faces more than 5,000 job cuts after two of its biggest names said that customers were unlikely to return to their old shopping habits after the coronavirus crisis, in the latest blow to the country’s ailing economy.

Health and beauty chain Boots and department store John Lewis on Thursday joined other retailers in warning that they had to close stores to survive after customers moved online and remained wary of returning to town centres.

Boots, owned by Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA.O), announced 4,000 cuts in a blow to British finance minister Rishi Sunak, who announced his latest plan to save jobs on Wednesday, while John Lewis said it could lose 1,300.

Thousands of job losses have already been announced by the menswear shop TM Lewin, department stores Harrods and Debenhams, fashion stores Oasis, Warehouse, and Arcadia, and the DIY outfit Travis Perkins (TPK.L) since the coronavirus outbreak.

John Lewis, known as middle England’s favourite department store, said it proposed to close eight stores as online would make up to 70% of sales this year and next, from 40% pre-crisis.

“We believe closures are necessary to help us secure the sustainability of the Partnership,” said Sharon White, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership.

A spokesman for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the government stood ready to help after Boots also said it had decided to close 48 optician stores after its UK shopper numbers plunged 85% in April at the height of the lockdown.

The world’s sixth-biggest economy shrank by 25% in March and April and could be heading for its biggest fall in 300 years in 2020, with an unemployment rate on course to more than double to about 10%, according to official projections.

That fear of what could lie ahead has put an intolerable strain on retailers, already battling high rents, business rate taxes, tight margins and a rapid shift online.

Since the outbreak, many have failed to pay their rent, in turn hitting commercial property owners such as Intu which has called in administrators due to high debts.

Julie Palmer, partner and restructuring expert at Begbies Traynor, said many businesses would implement drastic change.

“Investment will be poured into parts of the business that are strengthening and pulled from areas that are unsuitable for these modern ways of trading,” she said.

Reporting and photo: Reuters

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Maldives celebrates arrival of 2024’s 1 millionth tourist

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Maldives on Thursday welcomed the one millionth tourist to visit this year.

The one millionth tourist is a Thai named Sutapa Amonwivat, who arrived from Singapore with her husband and two children. This is her second visit to Maldives.

Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) and the Ministry of Tourism gave a warm welcome to Sutapa at the Velana International Airport (VIA) Thursday afternoon. She was welcomed at the VIA by tourism minister Ibrahim Faisal, MMPRC Managing Director Ibrahim Shiury and senior officials of various relevant agencies.

After welcoming her with traditional offerings, she was presented with various gifts by the ministry, MMPRC, customs, immigration, Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) and Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA).

Maldives reached one million tourists in June, three weeks earlier than last year. The number of tourists reached one million on July 16, 2023.

Maldives expects to reach 2 million tourists this year.

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New air route connects Chongqing to Maldives

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Chongqing Airlines on Monday began its inaugural flights to Maldives.

The Chongqing-Male route, scheduled three times a week, is expected to strengthen the bonds between China and the Maldives, opening up exciting new opportunities for tourism and cultural exchange.

The inaugural flight was welcomed upon its arrival at Velana International Airport (VIA) in Maldives, where local officials and tourism representatives expressed their enthusiasm for this new development.

“We warmly welcome our friends from China to our beautiful islands. This new connection strengthens our bonds and opens up new opportunities for tourism,” the tourism ministry said on X.

Maldives currently welcomes four airlines from China, including China Eastern, Beijing Capital Airlines, Xiamen Airlines.

In January, Maldives government urged tourism stakeholders in both Maldives and China to ramp up efforts to restore China’s position as the primary source market for Maldives tourism, a status held before the onset of Covid-19.

China, being the largest source market for Maldives tourism before the pandemic, saw a resumption of tourist arrivals from January 2023 after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic. In 2023, the Maldives welcomed 187,118 Chinese tourists, marking a significant recovery in numbers. This year, the Maldives has welcomed the most number of tourists from China, with over 107,940 or 11.5 percent of total arrivals by June 12. 

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CROSSROADS Maldives Introduces Weixin Pay at resorts for seamless guest experience

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CROSSROADS Maldives has introduced WeChat Pay, widely known as Weixin Pay in China, across its world-class resorts, SAii Lagoon Maldives, Curio Collection by Hilton, and Hard Rock Hotel Maldives. This payment option is made available to enhance the convenience and overall experience for guests from China, making their stay in the Maldives more enjoyable and hassle-free.

Understanding the needs of the diverse guests, CROSSROADS Maldives has integrated WeChat Pay into operations, allowing guests from China to easily and securely conduct transactions using a payment method familiar to them. The introduction of WeChat Pay is a testament to CROSSROADS Maldives’ dedication to enhancing guest satisfaction by offering exceptional experiences at every turn. What is also expected through this initiative is that the guests could benefit from better foreign exchange rates, translating to better savings on their expenditures during their stay.

The option is available for guests in-house conveniently at both resorts as well as across the Marina at CROSSROADS Maldives where a wider variety of unparalleled dining and retail experiences are available for all guests. The day visitors from China will also therefore equally benefit from this new introduction at the Maldives’ premier multi-island integrated leisure destination.

SAii Lagoon Maldives, Curio Collection by Hilton, is a vibrant tropical escape that offers unique and locally inspired experiences. The resort features spacious rooms and villas, a variety of dining options, and an array of recreational activities designed to cater to the desires of modern travellers. Guests can escape to the island’s SAiisational natural beauty, enjoy water sports, and indulge in spa treatments, all while relishing the personalised service that defines Hilton’s Curio Collection.

Hard Rock Hotel Maldives brings the iconic Hard Rock spirit to the tranquil shores of the Maldives. This family-friendly resort offers a perfect blend of relaxation and entertainment, featuring music-inspired experiences, live performances, and the brand’s signature amenities. With luxurious accommodations, diverse dining options, and a plethora of activities for all ages, Hard Rock Hotel Maldives ensures an unforgettable holiday experience for every guest.

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