Tourists return to US capital as pandemic ebbs

Tourists return to US capital as pandemic ebbs
In 2019, Washington welcomed 1.8 million visitors from abroad, led by China, Britain and India, and 22.8 million domestic visitors, according to Destination D.C.
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Updated 15 May 2021

Tourists return to US capital as pandemic ebbs

Tourists return to US capital as pandemic ebbs
  • Reopening highlights the country’s steady transition back to normality

WASHINGTON: With the park in front of the White House reopening this week, selfie-snapping tourists have suddenly reappeared.

Washington DC, home to some of the toughest anti-virus regulations in the country, is now reopening, highlighting the US’ steady transition back to normality.

Boasting imposing landmarks such as the US Capitol and the Supreme Court, Washington began reopening the doors of its museums on Friday, including the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the National Portrait Gallery, which will soon host a painting of former President Donald Trump.

By next Friday, six museums run by the famed Smithsonian Institution, and the National Zoo, will once again welcome visitors as vaccination rates climb and infections continue to plunge.

The question now is how to attract more tourists and spur an economic rebound after a year of pandemic restrictions that left the US federal capital city, normally a hub for conferences and meetings of international institutions, stricken.

“For the moment, I have very few customers,” said Ngre Phung, whose mobile souvenir shop is parked near the African American museum.

So far, DC residents, who are packing the terraces of restaurants and bars, have not rushed downtown to peruse Phung’s selection of caps, T-shirts and other trinkets. Instead the shopkeeper relies heavily on visitors to nearby museums.

“It’s very key with the museums opening,” said Anne Purcell, director of hospitality market analytics for the northeast region at CoStar Group.

Between the 555-foot (170-meter) Washington Monument obelisk and a memorial to World War II, Read Scott Martin sat on his pedicab, patiently waiting for customers to emerge from the crowd.

At the moment he gives about three or four tours a day, but that can double on weekends.

“The last few weeks, it was improving,” he said, especially since the city’s Cherry Blossom Festival in the spring. His optimism is boosted by increasing arrivals of tourists from Asia and Latin America.

One of them is 17-year-old Valeria, who came from Peru for a week-long visit, posing for photos in front of the White House with her little sister and parents.

“We wanted to come before the COVID-19 but we have to cancel our trip,” she said.

However, the overwhelming majority of visitors are from other US states coming to see family, or tourists stopping by on their way to New York.

Ghania and Abdel, who live in Los Angeles, were in Washington to visit their daughter Shiraz, 26, who just graduated from Georgetown University.

“This is our first trip in just over a year,” the couple originally from Algeria said in French. “We were waiting to be fully vaccinated and for the city to get a little busier.”

But these leisure travelers are not the ones who typically fill hotel rooms.

Hotel occupancy in Washington, DC on Saturday, May 1 was only 43.4 percent, slipping to 42.4 percent the following Saturday, according to STR, which provides data and analysis for the industry.

That is far from the 80.3 percent and 78.6 percent recorded on the first two Saturdays in May 2019.

“Tourism is only one component of the city’s business,” said Purcell, noting that Washington is “very reliant” on conventions and business travel.

With travel restrictions still in place for many countries including large parts of Europe, the tourism sector is still struggling and its recovery is uncertain.

“It’s still very unclear whether business travel will return to pre-pandemic levels because everyone has gotten so used to doing so much online,” Purcell said.

In 2019, Washington welcomed 1.8 million visitors from abroad, led by China, Britain and India, and 22.8 million domestic visitors, according to Destination D.C.

While waiting for the return of international business travelers, the organization will soon launch a major advertising campaign to target the American public.


OPEC+ has a role in containing inflation, says Saudi oil minister

OPEC+ has a role in containing inflation, says Saudi oil minister
Updated 35 min 21 sec ago

OPEC+ has a role in containing inflation, says Saudi oil minister

OPEC+ has a role in containing inflation, says Saudi oil minister
  • The minister also warned that the increase in oil prices was not clear and could be due to “real supply and demand” or due to “expectations and trajectories that are excessively optimistic”

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman said the OPEC+ alliance will play a role in “taming and containing” inflationary pressures, just hours after Brent crude surged back above $75 a barrel, Bloomberg reported.
“We also have a role in taming and containing inflation, by making sure that this market doesn’t get out of hand,” he said Wednesday at a conference organized by Bank of America Corp., according to a recording of his remarks obtained by Bloomberg News.
The minister also warned that the increase in oil prices was not clear and could be due to “real supply and demand” or due to “expectations and trajectories that are excessively optimistic,” he said.
He said the group should remain cautious because the oil market wasn’t out of the “doldrums” created by the coronavirus pandemic. He also warned traders against conflating caution with inaction, Bloomberg said.
“We have to be cautious. But caution doesn’t mean we don’t have to do something,” he told the conference. “It means we have to ensure that we don’t make


Bitcoin Fund breaks new ground in Middle East with debut on Nasdaq Dubai

Bitcoin Fund breaks new ground in Middle East with debut on Nasdaq Dubai
Updated 47 min 33 sec ago

Bitcoin Fund breaks new ground in Middle East with debut on Nasdaq Dubai

Bitcoin Fund breaks new ground in Middle East with debut on Nasdaq Dubai
  • The fund has roughly $1.5 billion in assets under management and plans to double that next year

DUBAI: The Bitcoin Fund debuted on the Nasdaq Dubai on Wednesday, becoming the Middle East’s first listed cryptocurrency fund.
The fund, which was listed by Canadian digital asset management firm 3iQ on the Toronto Stock Exchange last year, has roughly $1.5 billion in assets under management and plans to double that next year.
“With the listing of the Bitcoin Fund, it’s going to give people access in the region to this fund on the Dubai exchange in the hours that the Dubai exchange trades at,” Frederick Pye, the chief executive officer of 3iQ, told Reuters.
“If the volumes are significant, we’ll be looking to raise capital to increase the size of the Bitcoin Fund here in Dubai and we will continue to issue shares based on the demand that comes from the region,” Pye said in an interview.
The listing will help satisfy demand for investment diversification in the region, as well as environmental, social and governance (ESG) needs, such as for pension funds and family offices, Pye said.
Dalma Capital, a Dubai-based alternative investment firm, was lead arranger for the Nasdaq Dubai listing. Corporate finance adviser 01 Capital and investment firm Razlin Capital, both based in London, advised on the listing and Pinsent Masons was legal counsel for the listing process.
“Today’s secondary listing of existing units from Canada was met with very strong demand, which has validated the need for an additional offering to satisfy the demand from regional investors,” said Zachary Cefaratti, CEO of Dalma Capital, declining to say when that could be.
Pye acknowledged that China’s recent crackdown on mining cryptocurrencies has hit digital currency prices, but he said the timing of that move would help those who bought into the Dubai listing.
“We’re very excited because when we hit an all-time high, our investors and our clients and our friends will have doubled their money,” Pye added.


Backing grows for new IMF COVID and climate fund

Backing grows for new IMF COVID and climate fund
Updated 55 min 49 sec ago

Backing grows for new IMF COVID and climate fund

Backing grows for new IMF COVID and climate fund
  • The COVID crisis is expected to leave 47 of the 82 vulnerable countries with gross debt already above levels deemed sustainable.

PARIS: Plans for a new IMF “Resilience and Sustainability” fund that would expand its support to dozens more vulnerable countries gained key international backing on Thursday ahead of crucial meetings.
IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva this month proposed the new trust to allow rich countries to channel some of their new IMF reserves to poor and middle-income counterparts ravaged by COVID or climate change.
“This is something we certainly support” said Lars Jensen, a senior economist on the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the author of a new report on how the IMF’s new funding should be directed.
The UNDP estimates the IMF’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust (PRGT), which is also expected to play a key role in a voluntary redistribution of new ‘Special Drawing Rights’ (SDRs) money, is only open to 55 of the world’s 82 most debt-vulnerable developing economies.
The Group of Seven (G7) wealthy nations alone will receive $283 billion of the overall $650 billion SDR allocation. All “high-income” countries will get $438 billion, whereas 75 of the poorest countries will get $62 billion among them.
The COVID crisis is expected to leave 47 of the 82 vulnerable countries with gross debt already above levels deemed sustainable.
Additionally, nine of the 10 most climate-change vulnerable countries are also highly debt-vulnerable developing economies.
“As a possible development objective of an SDR channelling to vulnerable countries, it would be natural to target climate due to its global implications,” Jensen said, adding that the fund could even bulked up by leveraging it in borrowing markets.
G7 leaders have already signaled their backing to redistribute $100 billion of the new SDR money. Georgieva has said that China has expressed interest in participating and that she expected other major emerging economies to do the same.
The IMF’s executive board will meet on Friday on the next steps and finance officials from the Group of 20 major economies will discuss the SDR reallocation issue when they meet in Venice in July.
Scott Morris of the Center for Global Development said funding for the proposed new IMF trust was already earmarked in the US Treasury’s recent budget request to Congress, underscoring Washington’s support.
The US Treasury is working closely with the IMF to explore options and design mechanisms for channelling SDRs to vulnerable countries, one US Treasury official told Reuters on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
“The IMF’s proposed Resilience and Sustainability Trust is one of the options under discussion,” the official said, without elaborating on other options.
Jensen said he hoped the new fund would also give debt-strained countries who have so far resisted restructuring their debt for fear of losing access to borrowing markets, a safety net to take that step.


Arab share of India’s oil imports hits 25-month low

Arab share of India’s oil imports hits 25-month low
Updated 24 June 2021

Arab share of India’s oil imports hits 25-month low

Arab share of India’s oil imports hits 25-month low
  • To replace Middle Eastern oil, refiners hiked imports from Latin America, the United States and the Mediterranean

NEW DELHI: The share of Middle Eastern crude in India’s oil imports fell to a 25-month low in May, tanker data provided by trade sources showed, as refiners tapped alternatives in response to the government’s call to diversify supplies.
India, the world’s third biggest oil importer, in March directed refiners to diversify crude sources after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, led by top exporter Saudi Arabia, ignored New Delhi’s call to ease supply curbs.
Asia’s third-largest economy imported about 4.2 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil in May, just below the previous month but about 31.5 percent higher than a year earlier, the data showed.
The Middle East’s share dropped to 52.7 percent, the lowest since April 2019 and down from 67.9 percent in April, the data showed.
Imports from Saudi Arabia, India’s second-largest supplier after Iraq, slipped by about a quarter from a year earlier, while supplies from the United Arab Emirates, which dropped to No. 7 position from No. 3 in April, fell by 39 percent, the data showed.
This comes after Indian state refiners nominated to lift less oil from Saudi Arabia in May.
Lower purchases of oil from the Middle East dragged OPEC’s share of Indian oil imports to a record low.
To replace Middle Eastern oil, refiners hiked imports from Latin America, the United States and the Mediterranean.
Indian refiners bought higher volumes of gasoline-rich US oil in March, expecting a recovery in local gasoline demand to continue in the months ahead, said Ehsan Ul-Haq, lead analyst for Oil Research and Forecasts at Refinitiv.
Strong demand for light crude saw Nigeria improving its ranking by two notches to become the No. 3 supplier to India in May.
Private Indian refiners Reliance Industries and Nayara Energy, however, boosted purchases of Canadian heavy oil to a record 244,000 bpd, equivalent to about 6 percent of India’s overall imports.
“Indians bought Kazakhstan’s CPC blend and Canadian oil due to attractive discounts in comparison to dated Brent and WTI, respectively,” Ul-Haq said.
Tanker arrival data showed higher imports in contrast to preliminary government data, as cyclones along India’s coast line last month delayed discharge of cargoes.


Dubai jet ski tour named world’s top activity by Tripadvisor

Dubai jet ski tour named world’s top activity by Tripadvisor
Updated 24 June 2021

Dubai jet ski tour named world’s top activity by Tripadvisor

Dubai jet ski tour named world’s top activity by Tripadvisor

DUBAI: A jet ski tour of Dubai has emerged as the world’s top tourism experience according to Tripadvisor.
The company announced its annual list of Travelers’ Choice “Best of the Best Things To Do Awards,” which is based on data from January to April this year.
The jet ski tour which gives travelers panoramic views of Dubai’s iconic buildings and beaches beat competition from a long list of rival activities from around the globe, from white water rafting in New Zealand to paragliding in Turkey.
Tripadvisor noted this year’s list was largely dominated by outdoor and water-based activities, as travelers became more excited about going outside after months of lockdown.
The UAE has been investing heavily in activity-based tourism with Dubai seeing greater competition from other emirates including Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah which recently revealed 20 new outdoor attractions.