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UAE F&B industry will take over a year to recover, says The Coffee Club CEO

Ravi Chandran believes the country’s brunch scene will take time to adapt to ‘new normal’

Chandran revealed he kept four branches open throughout the lockdown, two in Dubai and two in Abu Dhabi, which were available for delivery orders only.

A member of the Middle East Restaurant Association (MERA) has warned the industry will not recover to pre-Covid-19 levels until the second quarter of 2021.

Ravi Chandran, CEO of The Coffee Club, welcomed the partial reopening instructions from the government, but warned it would take some time to regain the confidence of consumers, who have been reeling from the global spread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

Chandran told Arabian Business: “It’s all about the fear factor from the customers and consumers. If I’m going to go out and eat or if I’m going to be served cooked whatever it is, am I going to get the virus, because the virus can come back again?

“Until a vaccine is found, there is going to be a fear factor. How hygienic is this place? Are they following all the guidelines? Even the delivery stuff, we don’t know who is delivering and if this person is free of coronavirus.”

He added that the ‘new normal’, once Covid-19 is consigned to the history books, may have a huge impact on the country’s famous Friday brunch scene, in particular.

“For sure. For the brunches, there is a particular community that goes to brunch. It is going to take a while. But that’s buffet. You can go and cough in front of a buffet and you never know,” he said. “But people are so attached to buffet and Friday brunch here, it’ll take a while to come back.”

According to KPMG Lower Gulf’s latest report, ‘Navigating the pandemic’, F&B outlets in the UAE reported sales drops of up to 80 percent for the first week in March compared to the same period last year.

Chandran revealed he kept four branches open throughout the lockdown, two in Dubai and two in Abu Dhabi, which were available for delivery orders only. A further six are to gradually open this month – three in the capital and two in Dubai – with a particular focus on community malls.

There are currently 29 branches of The Coffee Club across the country, 21 of which have been granted rent relief from landlords.

However, measures of up to three months’ rent waivers have been welcomed, Chandran said further negotiations are necessary going forward, including the potential for turnover-related rent payments.

“What happens after three months is the question mark. Three months is not enough because your business is not going to pick up for the next six to 12 months. My rent is 18 percent of my sales and if I don’t make those sales now, how am I going to pay that,” he said.

“We need to negotiate with landlords to get an extended holiday or some rent relief or let’s work on turnover rent. There’s going to be conflicts.”

Arabian Business magazine: Read the latest edition online

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Sabre ends bid to acquire Farelogix

Sabre has abandoned its plans to acquire Farelogix after the U.K.’s Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) ruled against the acquisition last month.

The merger agreement between the companies expired at midnight on April 30.

The U.S. Department of Justice had sought to block the acquisition, but Sabre won that lawsuit just days before the CMA’s ruling.

“We continue to believe that the transaction was not anti-competitive, a result confirmed by the U.S. federal district court’s decision in Sabre’s favor,” Sabre president and CEO Sean Menke said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority — acting outside the bounds of its jurisdictional authority — has prohibited the transaction. We strongly disagree with the CMA’s decision.”

Sabre initially announced the $360 million acquisition in November 2018. In August 2019, it called the DOJ’s review of the acquisition “lengthy and exhaustive” and was met with the DOJ’s lawsuit a few days later.

The acquisition was viewed as one that would bolster Sabre’s work on IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC).

“We remain committed to our long-term goal of creating a new market for personalized travel,” Menke said. “Positioned at the center of the business of travel, Sabre is a critical component of the travel ecosystem.

“We are uniquely situated to create solutions that expand the distribution access of rich content via the global distribution system marketplace and also help airlines create personalized offers for their customers, including the development of NDC-enabled solutions,” he added.

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Riviera Nayarit Strives for Environmental Protection and Wildlife Conservation

The coronavirus outbreak continues to have a major effect on the travel industry, including airlines, hotels and resorts, tour operators and destinations, among other sectors.

The Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit area is a destination that implements environmental protection and wildlife conservation programs throughout the year, and it is extra special to be able to see the enhanced benefits of these initiatives during this time.

From rigorous environmental protection requirements for all construction projects to working closely with EarthCheck, this destination continues to strive for sustainable development throughout the region.

Even though the area is enduring challenges like everywhere else, it’s choosing to find the light in a dark situation. In order to keep everyone informed regarding the COVID-19 impact, updates are available each day and can be found at www.RivieraNayarit.com.

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Hawaii Tourism Authority Paying for Visitors to Return Home

The Hawaii Tourism Authority is helping to fund flights home for visitors, including those who aren’t obeying the state’s mandatory 14-day self-quarantine established earlier this month amid the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

According to a press release from Hawaii’s Department of Health on Thursday, the agency has provided the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii (VASH) with $25,000 to pay for the return flights. So far, VASH has sent at least 19 people back to their airports of origin, including a pair from San Diego and a Los Angeles woman.

“We’ve been helping victims of crime or other adversity they may have experienced in Hawaii for the past 23 years,” VASH President and CEO Jessica Lani Rich said in a statement. “During this unprecedented public health crisis, we are supporting the return of individuals who arrive from the mainland, who do not have pre-arranged lodging and may need financial assistance for their return flights.”

“The ability to return people quickly to their airports of origin during the coronavirus crisis greatly assists law enforcement’s ability to ensure the success of our statewide emergency measures,” added Hawaii State Attorney General Clare Connors. “The fact scarce government funds do not need to be expended for these return trips also helps fulfill the mission of keeping Hawaii safe.”

To this point, flights have been arranged to at least six different mainland airports and to Guam.

According to the state’s Health Department, visitors arrested for violating self-quarantine rules have the option of arranging payment of fines with the courts in lieu of returning to Hawaii for trials.

It’s been over a month since Hawaiian officials asked travelers to postpone their travel plans to the islands and nearly three weeks since Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau President John Monahan sent a letter to multiple publications requesting they temporarily stop promoting travel to Hawaii in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent overwhelming of the state’s healthcare system.

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Plenty of places to assist conservation humanitarian efforts in Africa

For those travelers who are in a position to offer financial assistance, there are a number of worthwhile conservation and community causes that could desperately use the help:

The Covid-19 Village Support program: The Natural Selection Foundation (registered in Botswana and the U.S.) has launched the Covid-19 Village Support program. This program will be transporting food parcels to remote villages in Africa to improve nourishment of communities in the face of this unprecedented viral threat and address human-wildlife conflict by reducing the need for bushmeat. Education materials will be distributed along with the parcels. A donation of $75 will feed a family of six for a month.

The Isibindi Foundation: The foundation is going from homestead to homestead distributing face masks, soaps, hand sanitizer and information sheets in local languages, sharing World Health Organization advice and giving demonstrations. For further information, visit the foundation’s Facebook page at or visit its website.

The Wilderness Wildlife Trust: The trust is asking partners, guests and Africa enthusiasts to donate at its website.

Singita: The company is directing travelers and all those who want to help to its website to the following projects: In South Africa, the Singita Lowveld Trust; in Tanzania, the Grumeti Fund; and in Zimbabwe, the Malilangwe Trust.

The Africa Foundation: AndBeyond said that it is critical to increase the resilience of rural communities to the threat posed by the coronavirus. For this reason, the organization has reprioritized a number of projects, particularly those to do with the provision of water. They are also supporting the Africa Foundation with their fundraising efforts for:

• Borehole creation, which will provide clean, safe and accessible water.

• The provision of Hippo Water Rollers, 90-liter barrels that roll easily over the ground, providing an easy means of transport and storage for large volumes of fresh water.

• The provision of basic supplies to clinics in rural areas.

To find out more about these initiatives and to donate go to www.givengain.com/cc/covid19fund/.

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Las Vegas Mayor Wants Casinos to Open

The Las Vegas Mayor, Carolyn Goodman, has said in multiple interviews that she wants Las Vegas businesses, including casinos, to open amid the coronavirus outbreak.

During an interview with MSNBC’s Katy Tur, Goodman said:

“Assume everybody is a carrier,” the mayor told Tur. “And then you start from an even slate. And tell the people what to do. And let the businesses open and competition will destroy that business if, in fact, they become evident that they have disease, they’re closed down. It’s that simple.”

She went further during an interview with Anderson Cooper saying that it was the business’s responsibility to maintain the health of its workers and customers.

When asked “how do you do social distancing in a casino?”

The mayor replied that she didn’t know.

“Well, I don’t know. I don’t own a casino, that’s up for them to decide.”

Goodman went on to say that “for a restaurant to be open or a small boutique to be open, they better figure it out. That’s their job. That’s not the mayor’s job.”

The mayor is the mayor of downtown Las Vegas, and her jurisdiction does not include the Las Vegas Strip.

Matt Maddox, the CEO of Wynn Resorts, noted in an op-ed in the Nevada Independent that decisions should be led by science and data, not opinion.

“I commend our governor for making the difficult decision and taking early action in the fight against COVID-19,” wrote Maddox. “I believe his decisions saved lives as we were facing potential exponential growth in COVID-19 exposure, given that Las Vegas caters to millions of people from all over the world. Some of our elected officials have questioned the closure, calling it ‘insanity.’ That opinion has no basis in science or data and should be ignored.”

He also put forth a detailed plan shedding light on how to safely reopen Las Vegas and keep employees and customers safe.

The plan calls for increased testing, modeling, physical distancing, temperature checks and more. If Nevada continues to flatten the curve, Maddox believes the Strip could slowly reopen.

“I understand that if we incrementally reopen we might have to pull back if a spike in cases occurs that jeopardizes our health care system capacity,” he wrote. “However, the only way to cross this river is one stone at a time, and we need to put our feet in the water before it is too late.”

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Mayakoba launches weekly giveaway

Mayakoba, home to Andaz Mayakoba, Banyan Tree Mayakoba, Fairmont Mayakoba and Rosewood Mayakoba, has put together a promotion called #MeetMeAtMayakoba, giving away a stay at each of the four hotels. Each week will introduce a hotel stay at a different hotel and will announce winners. 

To enter:

On Facebook, share Mayakoba’s post announcing the contest and instructions. Tag Mayakoba and use the #meetmeatmayakoba hashtag.

On Instagram, share Mayakoba’s post announcing the contest and instructions, tag Mayakoba and use the #meetmeatmayakoba hashtag. Invite three friends to follow Mayakoba.

By the end of the week, the post with the most likes will win a trip to one of the four hotels.

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Rattlesnake season 2020 is arriving in Colorado — so be careful, hikers

Rattlesnake season across the Front Range doesn’t really arrive until early May, but you might want to watch where you sit if you’re taking a rest while out hiking on a warm day before then.

There was a rattlesnake sighting on Green Mountain in Lakewood on April 5, a warm, sunny day when lots of folks with coronavirus cabin fever were out recreating. Temperatures along the Front Range are expected to reach into the 60s this week, so it could happen again.

Rattlesnake expert Mary Ann Bonnell, who is the visitor services manager for Jefferson County Open Space, said rattlesnakes aren’t likely to stray far from their winter hibernation dens until May when the “snow-heat-snow-heat cycle” that is common in spring has abated. When that ends, they will be more active as they begin moving to their summer foraging areas.

But they will come out of their winter dens before then on warm days to sun themselves on trails, which are warmer than areas with a cover of vegetation, Bonnell said.

“So, if you sit down to have a picnic on a rock, and you happen to be right next to a wintering den, you may encounter rattlesnakes on a warm, sunny day,” Bonnell said.

Even so, Bonnell said it’s important to stress that snakebites are extremely rare. From 2015 through 2019, six snakebites were reported at Jeffco Open Space Parks.

“Considering that we have seven million visitors estimated annually,” Bonnell said, “that’s not a lot of bites.”

Still, if you’re recreating in rattlesnake habitat on a warm day, you need to be on your guard. If you are bitten, Bonnell advises you to stay where you are, call for help and wait for first responders to carry you out on a wheeled litter. Walking out on your own is a bad idea because it will elevate your heart rate and increase the circulation of the snake’s venom in your body.

And if you need to be evacuated, of course, that’s another area of concern for open-space managers and first responders coping with the coronavirus threat. For wheeled evacuations, Jeffco typically wants two or three of its rangers assisting emergency medical responders from the fire district that has jurisdiction for the location of the emergency. That means 10 to 11 people could be involved in the rescue.

“You don’t always have that luxury,” Bonnell said, “but you want someone ahead, spotting rocks, calling out hazards; a certain number of people helping to steady the litter; then someone at the back making sure no one comes up from behind (such as) a mountain biker or trail runner moving quickly.

“As you can imagine, in a wheeled-litter situation, there isn’t social distancing. That’s not really an option.”

Crews work on the assumption that the victim may have the coronavirus, so ideally they will be wearing N95 masks. The victim is likely to be issued a surgical mask so rescuers are protected from sneezes or coughs.

And there’s another coronavirus consideration. “The patient will go to the hospital,” Bonnell said.

To avoid being bitten, Bonnell recommends wearing high-top boots and long pants when hiking in rattlesnake habitat because the most common place for a rattlesnake to strike is the inner ankle area. As a rule of thumb, Bonnell said the strike distance of a rattlesnake is two-thirds of the length of its body. Front Range prairie rattlesnakes are usually 3 to 4 feet long.

“I always assume I’m dealing with an athletically gifted snake, so I give them three to four feet,” Bonnell said. “I want to err on the side of caution.”

If you encounter a snake on a trail, it’s best to wait for it to move away on its own. Do not throw rocks or prod it with a stick, because that will make it angry and want to strike. And when a rattlesnake is agitated, that’s when it can strike the farthest and administer the most venom.

If you decide not to wait, Bonnell recommends carefully going around the snake a few feet off the trail, making sure you’re not stepping on one of his pals. If you have a walking stick, test the ground in front of you to make sure you’re not startling a snake hiding in the grass.

“And you want to keep your eyes on the snake,” Bonnell said. “If it starts to track you (visually) and rear up, that’s a good time to just stop moving and let it calm. It may even move off the trail at that point. If it’s tracking and rearing up, that means it’s getting ready to strike. You don’t want to be in motion if that happens. I would give the snake space and time. If it’s getting riled up, stop moving.”

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Organisers cancel Arabian Travel Market 2020 in Dubai over global Covid-19 pandemic

Virtual ATM event scheduled to take place from June 1-3

Over 39,000 travel professionals, government ministers and international press, visit ATM every year. Image: ITP Media Group

This year’s edition of Arabian Travel Market (ATM) has been cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Organisers Reed Travel Exhibitions had previously postponed the event, which was due to start today at Dubai World Trade Centre, and rescheduled it to run from June 28 to July 1.

However, ATM has become the latest high profile casualty of the Covid-19 crisis.

A statement said: “We appreciate that this is disappointing news, however everyone’s health and safety is our top priority.  We are fully aware of the important role that ATM plays for industry professionals right across the Middle East region and beyond, and we believe it is our responsibility to deliver a safe and successful event when we are able to do so.”

Over 39,000 travel professionals, government ministers and international press, visit ATM every year to network, negotiate and discover the latest industry opinion and trends.

The annual business-to-business (B2B) exhibition showcases over 2,800 products and destinations from around the world to over 28,000 buyers and travel trade visitors.

While the live event will go ahead on May 16-19, 2021, there will be an ATM Virtual Event from June 1-3, made up of webinars, live conference sessions, speed networking events, one-on-one meetings.

Digital magazine: Read the latest edition of Arabian Business online

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Castlewood Canyon State Park receives award for Leave No Trace work

Castlewood Canyon State Park has become the 12th park in the United States and the second in Colorado to receive a special designation from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.

The designation marks Castlewood Canyon as a “Gold Standard Site” for exemplifying the spirit of “leave no trace” recreation and showcasing “strong organizational commitment to the promotion of outdoor skills, ethics and stewardship in order to preserve and protect the natural landscape for generations to come,” according to a news release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The other Colorado park to receive that designation was Roxborough State Park, also located in Douglas County. Colorado and Washington are the only states with two parks on the list.

According to its website, the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics “protects the outdoors by teaching and inspiring people to enjoy it responsibly … by delivering cutting-edge education and research to millions of people every year.”

Roxborough State Park achieved its gold status in 2018. Volunteer groups at both parks collaborated in the Castlewood Canyon application.

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