COVID-19

GulfNews Business

Dubai's hotels are back to hiring mode, but with extreme caution

Tourism|: Dubai: Hotel operators in the UAE are hiring again, boosted by strong occupancy levels generated in December and which have sustained into the initial weeks of this month. Even with lockdowns and travel restrictions being extended in some of the key overseas markets, the local hospitality sector seems confident that the worst of the pandemic created hit is behind it. While visitor numbers are nowhere close to levels seen in 2019, operators seem optimistic that the period up to March will somewhat make up for an abysmal 2020. At least optimistic enough to hire new staff after the industry, as per some estimates, shed a third of its jobs last year. “The measures the UAE has put in place to contain the spread of the coronavirus have allowed the economy to remain open even as lockdowns have been re-imposed in Europe, the UK, parts of Asia and the US, making it an attractive destination for those still willing and able to travel,” said Khatija Haque, Chief Economist at EmiratesNBD Research, in an industry report earlier this month. This return to hiring is being confirmed by multiple industry sources as well as listings made on job portals. Read More What entertainment activities have stopped in Dubai and why UAE-Qatar ties: Reopening of borders to benefit UAE and GCC economies Customer facing roles Marriott in Dubai Marina is looking for waiters, bartenders and a hostess, as per the property’s Linkedin posting. The roles will include key responsibilities such as providing professional services to guests, having strong service and beverage skills, and promoting hotel facilities. The mid-market brand Premier Inn is searching for a receptionist for its hotel in Dubai. According to the company’s post on LinkedIn, the right candidate should have at least a year’s worth of experience in the same role, apart from having a high school diploma and knowledge of English and Arabic. Visitor numbers to Dubai were at 1.1 million between July and November, according to some estimates. The year-end holiday season helped push occupancy rates across UAE hotels well past the 50 per cent mark. These gains are helping with the return of jobs as well. During the worst of the pandemic months, hotels sent all non-essential staff on furlough or even went in for outright job cuts. Language matters One of Dubai’s most famous hospitality names – Kempinski – is on the lookout for a front-office staffer for its Palm Jumeirah property. The candidate must have at least one- to two years of experience in a similar role, at a - preferably - luxury 5-star chain along with “excellent” communication skills in English as well as Russian. Further up the chain For those with slightly different skillsets, the roles available are diverse. The Shangri-La Group is in need of a marketing communications manager at its Abu Dhabi hotel. The appropriate candidate for should have minimum two years of experience in communications or marketing with a five-star hotel. Holding a degree in marketing, communications or business administration will definitely help along with expertise in food and beverage marketing, media and promotions. UAE’s hotels are in hiring mode again as the months-long holiday season keeps occupancy rates high by bringing in tourists from different parts of the world. There’s good news for those passionate about crunching numbers. Hilton Abu Dhabi wants an assistant revenue manager who will be responsible for analyzing and presenting financial data that will help senior executive teams make well-informed decisions. The normalising of relations with Israel allowed direct flights to commence between the UAE and Israel in December and an estimated 50,000 Israeli tourists have reportedly visited since Khatija Haque, Chief Economist at EmiratesNBD Research Critical phase How hotels fare in the first three months will be decisive in ensuring job creation actually takes place. The industry is closely monitoring travel patterns to gauge where the next guests are likely to come from. More delays to a return to normalcy in one part of the world will have its ripples here as well. And on jobs in the industry…

GulfNews World

Mystery winner: Who won the $731 million Powerball?

Americas|: Someone in Maryland is suddenly $731 million richer. A jackpot-winning Powerball ticket was sold at a convenience store in Lonaconing, a down-on-its-luck former mining town in the virus-battered northwestern corner of the state. The ticket matched all six numbers during Wednesday evening's Powerball drawing. The $731.1 million jackpot is the fourth largest in Powerball's 28-year history and the sixth largest lottery jackpot ever in the United States, Powerball announced on Thursday. The drawing was the highest the Powerball jackpot has been since March 2019, when it rose to $768 million. Powerball did not immediately name the winner. Lottery winners in Maryland can choose to remain anonymous, and they have at least 182 days to claim the prize. The winning ticket was sold at Coney Market, a convenience store that sells subs and pizza in Lonaconing, a small town - population 1,200 - in Allegany County, which has the most COVID-19 cases per capita in the state. About a quarter of the population of Lonaconing lives below the poverty line, according to census data. "We were surprised and very happy," Richard Ravenscroft, the store's owner, said in an interview Thursday. "We don't know for who, but we are happy for somebody." The store will receive a $100,000 bonus from the Maryland Lottery for selling the winning ticket. The winning numbers in Wednesday's drawing were 40, 53, 60, 68, 69 and a Powerball of 22. According to Powerball, the winner can choose to have an estimated pretax annuity of $731.1 million paid in 30 payments over 29 years, or a lump sum of $546.8 million, also before taxes. The odds of winning a Powerball jackpot are 1 in 292.2 million. Another national lottery closed in on a record jackpot this week: Before its drawing Friday, Mega Millions estimates that its jackpot will reach $970 million, which would be the second-largest prize in the game's history. Is good fortune bad? A lingering mythology holds that the winners of big jackpots become cursed after their strokes of good fortune. There are numerous accounts of winners who, unequipped to manage their newfound wealth, go on to struggle with substance abuse, ruined relationships and insolvency. One influential study in 1978 found that lottery winners were not any happier than their neighbors or more optimistic about the future. But other studies have countered the notion of the so-called lottery curse, suggesting that the winners' general psychological well-being bounces back over time after cashing in the prize. Ravenscroft, who has owned Coney Market for six years, said he wished the winner luck. "I really think that they have quite an opportunity, and I hope they use good judgment," he said. The Powerball jackpot was last hit in New York in the Sept. 16 drawing. Since then, there had been 35 games in a row without a jackpot winner until Wednesday. The next drawing will be Saturday, when the Powerball jackpot resets to $20 million.

GulfNews Entertainment

COVID-19: James Bond movie 'No Time to Die' delayed again

HollyWood|: Los Angeles: The global release of the James Bond movie “No Time to Die” was postponed to October from April, its producers said on Thursday, another setback for movie theatres trying to rebuild a business crushed by the coronavirus pandemic. The movie’s new debut date is October 8, according to an announcement on the James Bond website and Twitter feed. “No Time to Die,” from MGM and Comcast Corp’s Universal Pictures, had originally been set to hit the big screen in April 2020 before moving to November 2020 and then April 2021. The film, which cost an estimated $200 million to produce, marks actor Daniel Craig’s last outing as agent 007. Cinema owners were hoping “No Time to Die” would kick off a rebound in moviegoing. The pandemic devastated the film business in 2020, and ticket sales in the United States and Canada sunk 80%. That hurt independent theaters and big chains including AMC Entertainment, Cineworld Plc and Cinemark Holdings Inc . With the virus still rampant in many areas, including in the key Los Angeles market, Hollywood studios appear reluctant to send their biggest films to theaters. Many cinemas are closed, and ones that are open enforce strict attendance limits to allow for social distancing. The Bond franchise is one of the movie world’s most lucrative, with 2015’s “Spectre” raking in $880 million at the box office worldwide, while “Skyfall” in 2012 grossed more than $1 billion globally. The next closely watched movie is “Black Widow” from Walt Disney Co’s Marvel Studios, currently scheduled to debut in theatres on May 7.

GulfNews World

Coronavirus: Fauci relieved Biden ready to 'let the science speak' on COVID-19

Americas|: Washington: President Joe Biden unveiled sweeping measures to battle COVID-19 on his first full day in office on Thursday, with his chief medical adviser, Anthony Fauci, praising his new boss’ willingness to “let the science speak” in contrast to the Trump administration. Biden said he was stepping up the federal response to the virus including by taking steps to expand testing and vaccinations and increase mask-wearing. “This is a wartime undertaking,” the Democratic president said at a White House event where he signed executive orders to establish a COVID-19 testing board to ramp up testing, address supply shortfalls, establish protocols for international travelers and direct resources to hard-hit minority communities. The pandemic has killed 405,000 people and infected more than 24 million in the United States, the highest numbers anywhere in the world. Former President Donald Trump, who left office on Wednesday, often sought to play down the severity of the country’s worst public health crisis in a century and left much of the planning to individual states, resulting in a patchwork of policies across the country. Fauci, who served under Trump but has been promoted to Biden’s chief medical adviser, was at Biden’s side during the event and then spoke to reporters in the White House briefing room for the first time in weeks, after Trump largely banished him from the podium. Fauci said he was “uncomfortable” at times during the Trump administration. He did not mention the Republican former president by name, but referred to comments about the drug hydroxycloroquine, which Trump boosted as a treatment for COVID-19 before its efficacy had been proven, which Fauci said “were not based on scientific fact.” “I take no pleasure at all in being in a situation of contradicting the president,” said Fauci, adding that he felt free under Biden to speak without “repercussions.” “The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know, what the evidence, what the science is, and know that’s it — let the science speak — it is somewhat of a liberating feeling,” he said. One of the new things in this administration is if you don’t have the answer, dont guess. Just say you dont know the answer, Fauci added. The United States was still in a very serious situation with the virus, but that seven-day averages suggested the infection rates were plateauing, he said. If 70% to 80% of Americans are vaccinated by the end of summer, he added, the country could experience “a degree of normality” by the fall. Top of his list At the earlier event, Biden said the rollout of the vaccine in the United States had been a “dismal failure so far,” and disclosed a White House plan that increases the federal government’s role in the response. Biden made a personal plea to all Americans to wear masks over the next 99 days to stop the spread of the virus. “The experts say, by wearing a mask from now until April, wed save more than 50,000 lives,” he said. Among other actions signed by Biden on Thursday was an order requiring mask-wearing in airports and on certain public transportation, including many trains, airplanes and intercity buses. The administration will expand vaccine manufacturing and its power to purchase more vaccines by “fully leveraging contract authorities, including the Defense Production Act,” according to the plan. The Trump administration had invoked the law, which grants the president broad authority to expedite and expand the supply of resources from the US industrial base for protective gear, but never enacted it for testing or vaccine production. The White House plan also has the United States taking a larger global role in tackling the pandemic, and Biden will direct government departments to support efforts to get vaccines to poorer countries. Biden has also rescinded Trump’s planned withdrawal from the World Health Organization. The president has pledged to provide 100 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine during his first 100 days in office. His plan aims to increase vaccinations by opening up eligibility for more people such as teachers and grocery clerks. As of Thursday morning, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it had administered 17.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine out of some 38 million distributed. Biden has put fighting the disease at the top of a daunting list of challenges, including rebuilding a ravaged economy and addressing racial injustice, and has proposed a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 package that would enhance jobless benefits and provide direct cash payments to households to alleviate the financial pain from the coronavirus. The House of Representatives is planning to bring the bill to a vote the first week of February, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday.