EU plots travel restart, saying ‘Europe needs a break’

EU plots travel restart, saying ‘Europe needs a break’
People surf in Barcelona, Spain, which reopened beaches for sporting activities after lockdown measures imposed due to coronavirus, were relaxed. (● Tourism, travel, hospitality business hit the hardest by virus. ● EU to unveil plan on Wednesday for gradual reopening. ● Brussels eyes state guarantees for canceled travel.AP)
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Updated 10 May 2020

EU plots travel restart, saying ‘Europe needs a break’

EU plots travel restart, saying ‘Europe needs a break’
  • Continent’s flailing tourism sector, worth as much as ten percent of economic output, at heart of plans to kickstart revival

BRUSSELS: EU states should guarantee vouchers for travel canceled during the coronavirus pandemic and start lifting internal border restrictions in a bid to salvage some of the summer tourism season, the bloc’s executive will say next week.

Tourism, which under normal circumstances contributes almost a tenth of the EU’s economic output, is among the sectors hardest hit by the global outbreak that has grounded nearly all domestic and international travel.

Germany and other member states have urged a suspension of EU rules that force cash-drained airlines and the hospitality industry to offer full refunds for canceled flights and trips instead of vouchers for future travel.

In response, the European Commission will tell member states to guarantee vouchers to make them more attractive to customers, according to a strategy document seen by Reuters ahead of official publication due on Wednesday.

“To provide incentives for passengers and travelers to accept vouchers instead of reimbursement, vouchers should be protected against insolvency of the issuer and remain refundable by the end of their validity if not redeemed,” the draft document said.

“Insolvency protection needs to be assured at the national level and secured vouchers need to be accessible to all passengers and travelers,” it added.

The EU executive will also tell the bloc’s 27 member countries to gradually lift internal border restrictions and restart some travel to help the ailing tourism sector.

Tourism normally brings in some €150 billion every season from June through to August, with some 360 million international arrivals, according to the commission.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Tourism, travel, hospitality business hit the hardest by virus.
  • EU to unveil plan on Wednesday for gradual reopening.
  • Brussels eyes state guarantees for canceled travel.

But Europe’s external borders are now bound to be shut for any non-essential travel until at least mid-June, an emergency measure to limit the spread of the virus.

“Our tourism industry is in grave trouble,” the commission is due to say, warning that 6.4 million jobs could be lost in the sector that has reported falls in revenue ranging from up to 50 percent for hotels and restaurants, to around 90 percent for cruises and airlines.

The pandemic set the EU on a path toward its worst-ever economic downturn and bitterly tested unity between member states fighting over medical equipment, export bans on drugs, chaotic border curbs and money to salvage their single market.

Titled “Europe needs a break” the commission’s tourism strategy will call for targeted restrictions to replace a general ban on travel and seek a gradual lifting of internal border checks where the health situation has improved.

With Europeans most likely to stay at home or travel shorter distances this summer, peripheral EU regions and islands are likely to be shunned and will take longer to bounce back.

“Until a vaccine or treatment is available, the needs and benefits of travel and tourism need to be weighed against the risks of again facilitating the spread of the virus ... possibly leading to a reintroduction of confinement measures,” the draft plan said. 


Lebanon must fix debts, end prosecutor action or face power cut, says Turkish firm

Lebanon must fix debts, end prosecutor action or face power cut, says Turkish firm
Updated 11 May 2021

Lebanon must fix debts, end prosecutor action or face power cut, says Turkish firm

Lebanon must fix debts, end prosecutor action or face power cut, says Turkish firm
  • Turkey’s Karadeniz supplies electricity to Lebanon from power barges

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s Karadeniz, which supplies electricity to Lebanon from power barges, told Beirut to halt action by the Lebanese prosecutor to seize its vessels and said it must draw up a plan to settle arrears to avoid a cut in supplies, a spokesperson said.
The spokesperson for Karpowership, a unit of Karadeniz that operates floating power plants, was speaking on Tuesday after Lebanon’s Finance Ministry cited a lawmaker saying the country had been threatened with a cut to its supplies.
A Lebanese prosecutor issued a decision last week to seize the barges and fine the firm after TV channel Al-Jadeed reported corruption allegations tied to the power contract. The firm denies the charges and says it has not been paid for 18 months.


Suez Canal boss reveals expansion plans as revenues jump on trade rebound

Suez Canal boss reveals expansion plans as revenues jump on trade rebound
Updated 11 May 2021

Suez Canal boss reveals expansion plans as revenues jump on trade rebound

Suez Canal boss reveals expansion plans as revenues jump on trade rebound
  • Revenues rose almost 16 percent in April to $551million

RIYADH: Suez Canal revenues rose almost 16 percent in April to $551 million compared to a year earlier, Asharq Business reported, citing Suez Canal Authority Chairman Osama Rabie.
Rabie also discussed plans to expand and deepen the southern sector of the canal in which the container ship Ever Given was stuck in March, creating chaos across the global supply chain.
That incident which brought a large proportion of seaborne trade to a near halt for a week, highlighted the need to ensure the  smooth operation of the key trade artery.
Rabie also revealed plans for dredging works for the maintenance of the navigational channel of the canal.
A plan is being implemented to restructure the authority’s companies, he said.
This year witnessed a slight increase in the number of ships passing through the waterway to 1,840 in April 2021 from 1,731 in April 2020, Al Arabiya reported.


Egypt jobless rate rises amid pandemic second wave

Egypt jobless rate rises amid pandemic second wave
Updated 11 May 2021

Egypt jobless rate rises amid pandemic second wave

Egypt jobless rate rises amid pandemic second wave
  • The size of the workforce was estimated at 29,284 million, compared to 29,965 million during the previous quarter

RIYADH: Egypt’s unemployment rate reached 7.4 percent of the total labor force in the first quarter of 2021 — up from 7.2 percent in the previous quarter.
The new data from the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), reflects the impact of the second wave of the pandemic.
The size of the workforce was estimated at 29,284 million, compared to 29,965 million during the previous quarter, representing a decrease of 2.3 percent, Al Arabiya reported.
The labor force in urban areas reached 13,034 million, with 16,250 million living in rural areas.
Gehan Saleh, economic affairs adviser to Egypt’s prime minister said in April that the second stage of the country’s economic reform program would be launched soon.
She said the plan aims to improve the quality of life of citizens and tackle unemployment through job-creating investments.


Smugglers post gold from Dubai to India hidden in Tang

Smugglers post gold from Dubai to India hidden in Tang
Updated 11 May 2021

Smugglers post gold from Dubai to India hidden in Tang

Smugglers post gold from Dubai to India hidden in Tang
  • It is the latest ruse by smugglers trying to avoid hefty import duties for the precious metal by employing increasingly intriguing methods

DUBAI: Indian customs have foiled an attempt to post gold from Dubai disguised in containers of the popular Tang drink.

After sieving the contents of the drink mix, Chennai customs officials discovered it had been mixed with gold granules, according to a statement from the Commissioner of Customs at Chennai International Airport.
Officials probing the racket found that the address of the receiver had been misused.
It is the latest ruse by smugglers trying to avoid hefty import duties for the precious metal by employing increasingly intriguing methods.
Earlier this year officials at Chennai airport also nabbed two men trying to smuggle gold through the airport underneath their wigs.
The hapless pair were nabbed after their unusual hairstyles caught the attention of officials.

They were found to be carrying two gold paste packets weighing almost 700 g


UK-based tower operator to acquire Omantel sites in $575m deal

UK-based tower operator to acquire Omantel sites in $575m deal
Updated 11 May 2021

UK-based tower operator to acquire Omantel sites in $575m deal

UK-based tower operator to acquire Omantel sites in $575m deal
  • The move signals Helios Towers’ entry to the Middle East market as a major tower infrastructure provider

DUBAI: British telecommunications company Helios Towers has signed a deal with Omantel to acquire 2,890 sites for $575 million from the sultanate’s largest mobile network operator.
The move signals Helios Towers’ entry to the Middle East market as a major tower infrastructure provider.
The deal is expected to bring in a $59 million bump in revenues in the first full year of operations.
It also involves a $35 million plan to add 300 new build-to-suit sites over the next seven years.
“We view Oman as a very attractive and supportive market for foreign investments, with strong growth and exciting future prospects,” the UK-based company’s chief Kash Pandya said in a statement.
He said the acquisition strengthens its business through “further hard-currency revenues and diversification” in what the CEO described as the fastest growing markets in the region.
“We look forward to working with Omantel and the other MNOs over the coming years to further develop next generation mobile infrastructure solutions and services in Oman,” he added.
The partnership reflects Oman’s FDI aspirations, Omantel CEO Tala Said Al-Mamari said, adding it will create jobs and opportunities in the country.
“This move also allows the monetization of our towers at attractive valuation levels, de-lever our balance sheet, and will accelerate network development in next generation advanced technologies,” he noted.
He said it would allow Omantel’s management to focus on innovation and product development while outsourcing infrastructure management to an independent firm.
The transaction will close by the end of 2021, and the long-term partnership will last for an initial period of 15 years.