IATA mulls launch of e-travel pass in March 2021

IATA mulls launch of e-travel pass in March 2021
The Middle East airlines recorded the biggest decline of 72.9% in travel demand. (File/AFP)
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Updated 06 February 2021

IATA mulls launch of e-travel pass in March 2021

IATA mulls launch of e-travel pass in March 2021
  • The move will support the re-open of borders and safe resumption of the aviation sector's operations

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) plans to launch its IATA Travel Pass in March 2021, Al-Ittihad newspaper reported, citing Muhammad Albakri, IATA's Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East.

He added that the association is currently testing the mobile app in cooperation with Etihad Airways, Emirates Airlines and Qatar Airways, indicating that after the launch of the first version, another one including more updates will be introduced in April.

The move will support the re-open of borders and safe resumption of the aviation sector's operations, especially as the app is based on information security, ease of use and verification of information, Albakri said.

He added that this safe app includes documented health information about passengers, such as checks and vaccinations, which supports and accelerates the resumption of operations at the aviation sector.

The Middle East airlines recorded the biggest decline of 72.9% in travel demand, due to reliance on long-term international routes which are still almost closed.

Meanwhile, the Middle East transportation firms showed better performance in December 2020, recording a 2.3% growth in international demand, Albakri said, noting that the region's airlines received fewer aircraft in 2020, which is 44% lower than 2019.

IATA forecast demand for international travel to improve by 50.4% in 2021 compared with a year earlier, which will boost the industry levels to 50.6% compared to the pre-COVID-19 era.


Abu Dhabi creates tourism company to promote the emirate

Abu Dhabi creates tourism company to promote the emirate
Updated 6 min 9 sec ago

Abu Dhabi creates tourism company to promote the emirate

Abu Dhabi creates tourism company to promote the emirate
  • Tourism 365 will support ADNEC’s broader rule to position Abu Dhabi as a key tourist destination in the region

DUBAI: The Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (ADNEC) has launched a new company to develop the UAE capital’s tourism sector, state news agency WAM has reported.
Tourism 365 will support ADNEC’s broader rule to position Abu Dhabi as a key tourist destination in the region.
It will work with big industry players in Abu Dhabi and the UAE’s tourism scene, including the emirate’s Department of Culture and Tourism, as well as private firms locally and abroad.
The new company aims to increase leisure visitors in the emirate, and ultimately enhance guest experiences.
While Dubai has long been the UAE's dominant tourism market, other emirates within the country are raising their profile and positioning themselves in slightly different segments. Ras Al Khaimah, the UAE's northernmost emirate is also heavily investing in the sector and targeting outdoor adventure-seekers while Abu Dhabi has in the recent past focused on its cultural offering.
“Over the coming months, Tourism 365 will collaborate closely with other tourism-focused entities, helping to collectively grow the future of the tourism sector,” its executive director, Roula Jouny, said.
“Our subsidiaries will bolster the wider tourism offerings of not just Abu Dhabi, but the UAE as a whole, increasing visitor numbers and promoting the nation’s tourism assets across the globe,” she added.
It comes as the UAE gradually eases travel restrictions for both incoming and outgoing travelers


Lebanon raises price of bread amid crippling economic crisis

Lebanon raises price of bread amid crippling economic crisis
Updated 11 min 58 sec ago

Lebanon raises price of bread amid crippling economic crisis

Lebanon raises price of bread amid crippling economic crisis
  • Lebanon is grappling with the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s economy ministry on Tuesday raised the price of subsidized bread for the fifth time in a year amid the tiny country’s worsening economic and financial crisis.
The ministry said the reason behind the latest increase is that the central bank has ended sugar subsidies, which adds to the cost of bread production. .
Lebanon is grappling with the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history — one that the World Bank has said is likely to rank as one of the worst the world has seen in the past 150 years.
The World Bank said in a report this month that Lebanon’s gross domestic product is projected to contract 9.5 percent in 2021, after shrinking by 20.3 percent in 2020 and 6.7 percent the year before.
Lebanon’s currency has lost 90 percent of its value, breaking a record low earlier this month of 15,500 Lebanese pounds to the dollar on the black market. The official exchange rate remains 1,507 pounds to the dollar.
The central bank has been cutting back on subsidies as foreign currency reserves have dropped from $30 billion at the start of the crisis in October 2019, to nearly $15 billion at the present time.
Most Lebanese have seen their purchase power drop and more than half the population now lives below the poverty line. There are severe shortages in gasoline, medicines and other vital products. Electricity cuts last for much of the day.
The government in June last year raised the price of flatbread, a staple in Lebanon, by more than 30 percent — for the first time in a decade. It has since raised the price three times before Tuesday.
The Ministry of Economy says 910 grams (2 pounds) of bread will be sold for 3,250 pounds. It used to be sold for 2,750 pounds before the latest increase.


Row erupts in parliament as Kuwait approves budget

Row erupts in parliament as Kuwait approves budget
Updated 32 min 24 sec ago

Row erupts in parliament as Kuwait approves budget

Row erupts in parliament as Kuwait approves budget
  • Parliamentary guards entered the hall to restore order as opposition and pro-government MPS quarrelled

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait’s parliament approved the 2021-22 state budget in a tense session that managed to temporarily break a deadlock with the government that has blocked reforms in the Gulf state.

But chaos broke out after the vote, supported by 32 out of 63 lawmakers in attendance including 50 elected members and government ministers. Parliamentary guards entered the hall to restore order as opposition and pro-government MPS quarrelled.

The session had gone ahead despite opposition lawmakers once again occupying seats reserved for ministers, a tactic they have used in recent weeks to try to highlight their demand to question the prime minister.

Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanim called for a special session to discuss the budget at a time when the OPEC nation is trying boost state finances and support an economy that shrank 9.9 percent in 2020 due to low oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic.

The budget, proposed by the government in January, had projected 23.05 billion dinars ($76.65 billion) in expenditure for the fiscal year that started on April 1, and a deficit of 12.1 billion dinars.

“We have the right to request a special session because all regular sessions have been disrupted,” Ghanim said.

Ministers stood at an entrance to the hall after MPs took their seats and some lawmakers had rapped on tables to try to disrupt the discussions.

Frequent rows between the government and assembly have over decades led to successive cabinet reshuffles and dissolutions of parliament, hampering investment and reform.

Lawmakers want to question Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah over the constitutionality of a motion passed in March delaying any questioning of the premier until the end of 2022 along with other issues such as corruption.

Although the emir has final say over state matters, Kuwait is the only Gulf monarchy to give substantial powers to an elected parliament, which can block laws and question ministers.


Dubai investment arm posts $5.1 billion loss amid pandemic

Dubai investment arm posts $5.1 billion loss amid pandemic
Updated 55 min 19 sec ago

Dubai investment arm posts $5.1 billion loss amid pandemic

Dubai investment arm posts $5.1 billion loss amid pandemic
  • It marks the first loss in years for the investment arm of Dubai government, which boasts a range of assets, including the Middle East’s largest airline, Emirates

DUBAI: Dubai’s state-owned sovereign wealth fund announced Tuesday a net loss of $5.1 billion over the past year, highlighting the toll that the coronavirus pandemic has wrought on the company’s vast assets and the uncertainty around the emirate’s post-pandemic recovery.
The Investment Corporation of Dubai, the huge holding company behind many of the emirate’s industrial powerhouses, reported revenue of $37 billion in 2020, a sharp drop of over 40 percent compared to the year before.
It marks the first loss in years for the investment arm of Dubai government, which boasts a range of assets, including the Middle East’s largest airline, Emirates, the lucrative Dubai Duty Free and master-developer Emaar Properties, which built the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower. The firm turned a profit of $4.9 billion in 2019.
In reporting the loss, the conglomerate cited the severe effects of the coronavirus on travel, hospitality, retail and real estate — all industries that power Dubai, with its cavernous malls and luxury hotels. With 40 major holdings, the firm is often viewed as a barometer for the health of the city’s service-heavy economy.
Any profits churned out last year largely stemmed from the fund’s holdings in financial services such as Emirates NBD, among the top banks in the United Arab Emirates, which it said remained solid amid the pandemic’s upheaval.
The Investment Corp. report came a week after long-haul carrier Emirates posted a staggering loss of $5.5 billion in 2020 — its first in three decades as the travel industry faced a downturn like no other. The Dubai government extended the struggling airline a $3.1 cash infusion as its revenue dropped 66 percent — a vivid sign of just how critical Emirates Air is to Dubai, a futuristic city-state between Europe and Asia founded on the promise of globalization. For comparison, during the 2015-2016 fiscal year, Emirates netted profits of $1.9 billion — a record it has not repeated since.
In its statement, ICD described the many headwinds of 2020, from grounded flights to low oil prices. Although Dubai is not oil-rich like the UAE’s capital of Abu Dhabi, its economy feeds on petrodollars.
Despite the challenges, Mohammed Al-Shaibani, the company’s CEO, focused on hopes for a rebound in tourism and travel, stoked by the UAE’s vaccination campaign, among the fastest in the world.
“Our businesses are today strongly positioned to seize the opportunities presented by global economic activities now gaining momentum with the international vaccine roll-out,” Al-Shaibani said.


Abu Dhabi opens up free COVID-19 vaccines to tourists

Abu Dhabi opens up free COVID-19 vaccines to tourists
Updated 22 June 2021

Abu Dhabi opens up free COVID-19 vaccines to tourists

Abu Dhabi opens up free COVID-19 vaccines to tourists
  • Infections have risen in the UAE in the past month, and Abu Dhabi still has restrictions on entry, including home quarantine and PCR testing at intervals after arrival

DUBAI: Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, is offering tourists free COVID-19 vaccinations that were previously restricted to UAE citizens and residency visa holders.
There is no indication that the change applies to Dubai, the most populous emirate, or the other five emirates that make up the UAE.
Visitors with visas issued by Abu Dhabi and passport holders eligible for tourist visas when they arrive in the UAE through Abu Dhabi can book free vaccines, according to information provided by the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA), which operates the emirate’s public health infrastructure.
Holders of expired residency or entry visas are also eligible for free vaccinations, Abu Dhabi Media Office said on June 11.
Job losses and travel restrictions during the pandemic mean some people’s residency visas have expired or have been canceled when they were made redundant.
UAE Health authorities said this month nearly 85 percent of the eligible population had received at least one vaccine dose, but did not say how many had had two doses.
Infections have risen in the UAE in the past month, and Abu Dhabi still has restrictions on entry, including home quarantine and PCR testing at intervals after arrival. People driving from other emirates are tested to show they are not infected.
Travelers from 27 countries including China, Germany and the United States can enter without quarantine on arrival.
SEHA offers COVID-19 vaccines by China’s state-owned drugmaker Sinopharm and by Pfizer/BioNTech in Abu Dhabi.
Dubai Media Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether eligibility criteria was to change. Dubai Health Authority information says vaccines are given only to citizens and holders of valid Dubai residency visas.