Summer in London still a hot choice for Gulf visitors

Shoppers cross the road in Oxford Street in London, last August. (Reuters)
Updated 06 July 2017

Summer in London still a hot choice for Gulf visitors

DUBAI: London seems to be as popular as ever with visitors from the Arabian Gulf this year, with regional airlines reporting the usual summer surge in visitors to the UK capital.
Some observers had predicted a fall-off in the annual flights to London and other UK tourist destinations in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in the city, and political uncertainty after the vote to leave the EU and the recent general election.
But travel analysts say that has not happened, and that the weaker value of the British pound could actually encourage more Gulf tourists this year, though they warn it is early in the season and patterns could change as the summer progresses.
Three big airlines that fly Arab tourists to the British capital said demand for seats to London was as good as usual.
A source at Dubai-based Emirates, the biggest carrier in the region, said: “We have not seen any fall off at all. The demand is still there and our planes are pretty full, not just to London but the whole of the UK.”
Etihad Airways also reported “robust” traffic between Abu Dhabi and London, and highlighted the feeder traffic that is coming from Saudi Arabia. “There has been no slowdown, all the planes are pretty full at the level we’d expect (at) this time of year.” Saudia, also known as Saudi Arabian Airlines, also said traffic was “normal” to London.
Fazal Bahardeen, chief executive of CrescentRating, an organization that studies global travel trends by the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims, said: “The UK, especially London, has always been a popular destination for Muslim travelers. The recent incidents may only have a short-term impact, and a weaker pound will definitely interest the tourist as well.”
That is part of an overall surging trend in Muslim visitors to the UK, according to CrescentRating. “From a Muslim-friendly destination perspective, the UK ranks pretty high on the global Muslim travel index,” Bahardeen said.
So far this year, the UK was third in the table of favored destinations to non-Islamic countries, and No. 20 overall, Bahardeen added.
There was also some evidence international travelers, including Muslims, were deciding to spend time in the UK rather than in the US, where the travel restrictions introduced by President Donald Trump have hit the tourism sector and the country’s global image.
ForwardKeys, an organization that analyzes travel data, said that as of the end of May, international bookings were 18 percent ahead for the UK but 3.5 percent down for the US. More than half of tourists to Britain travel to London.
The organization noted there had been a slight drop in British bookings after the recent terrorist attacks there, but these were marginal and could be explained by other factors, like the disruption to international travel following the ban on laptops and the closure of airspace in the wake of the actions against Qatar, which took place during a prime holiday-booking period.
London & Partners, an organization that promotes the city, said the long-term figures for visitors from the Arabian Gulf region showed a rising trend, with visitors from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in particular, showing a clear affection for the British capital. In the five years between 2011 and 2016, Emirati visitor numbers increased 57 percent, with 185,000 visits last year, the highest number from the Gulf region.
Visits to London by other Gulf citizens grew at a faster rate, however. Visitors from Saudi Arabia increased by 62 percent over the same period, with 109,000 visits in 2016, while Kuwaitis showed a 73 percent rise in numbers traveling to London, at 91,000.
Individual Arab travelers said they would not be deterred by security threats in the British capital. Lubna Qassim, a lawyer from the UAE who was preparing to fly to the UK for her annual vacation, said: “London is a special place, and Arabs react differently. Economic and political disruption does not affect us in the same way as other people.”
However, the tense situation in the Arabian Gulf was clearly on the minds of some in the London luxury hotel business, in which Middle East investors are particularly active. Requests for comment to two big London hotels were declined on the grounds of the “sensitivity” of the situation in the Gulf over the actions taken against Qatar.
And Bentley, the luxury car business, which has a big clientele from the Middle East at its Mayfair dealership, also declined to comment on what it called London’s “problems.”
Visitors from the Gulf are also expected to spend as much as usual while in London. Michel Roux, who runs the two-Michelin-starred restaurant Le Gavroche in Mayfair, which has been a traditional dining venue for Gulf visitors, said: “Business is as good as ever though Brexit was a shock. We still have a good clientele from the Gulf though not as good as in the halcyon days of $100 oil.”


Sweden bans Huawei, ZTE from upcoming 5G networks

Updated 20 October 2020

Sweden bans Huawei, ZTE from upcoming 5G networks

  • European governments have been reviewing the role of Chinese companies in building their networks
  • Sweden’s security service called China ‘one of the biggest threats against Sweden’

STOCKHOLM: Swedish regulators on Tuesday banned the use of telecom equipment from China’s Huawei and ZTE in its 5G network ahead of the spectrum auction scheduled for next month.
The Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS) said auctions the setting of the license conditions followed assessments by the Swedish Armed Forces and security service.
European governments have been reviewing the role of Chinese companies in building their networks following pressure from the United States, which says they pose a security threat because, among other concerns, Chinese companies and citizens must by law aid the state in intelligence gathering.
Sweden’s security service called China “one of the biggest threats against Sweden.”
The United Kingdom in July ordered Huawei equipment to be purged completely from Britain’s 5G network by 2027, becoming one of the first European countries to do so.
Huawei and ZTE did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the decision by Sweden, home to Ericsson, one of Europe’s leading telecoms equipment suppliers.
“The ban leaves network operators with less options and risks slowing the rollout of 5G in markets where competition is reduced,” said Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight.
The ban is likely to benefit rival telecom equipment makers Ericsson and Finland’s Nokia.
PTS said companies taking part in the auction must remove Huawei and ZTE gear from existing central functions by Jan. 1, 2025.
The regulator defined central functions as equipment used to build the radio access network, the transmission network, the core network and the service and maintenance of the network.
PTS said the license conditions were decided to address the assessments made by the armed forces and security service.
It has approved the participation of Hi3G Access, Net4Mobility, Telia Sverige and Teracom in the planned spectrum auction of 3.5 GHz and 2.3 GHz, key bands crucial for the rollout of 5G.
Tele2 and Telenor will participate together as Net4Mobility to secure spectrum for a joint nationwide 5G network.
Tele2, which uses Huawei equipment in its network, which had earlier called Huawei an important vendor, said the PTS decision “does not change our plans substantially.”
“We may have to phase different costs differently between years to meet security conditions on time,” a spokesman told Reuters.
The 5G spectrum auction was originally planned for early 2020, but last year PTS said it would delay the auction due to a security review. PTS announced in April this year that the auction would begin in November.