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Apple to launch online store in India on September 23

Retail|Technology|: Mumbai: Apple Inc. will this month begin direct sales online in India - more than 20 years after the world's most valuable tech company first began operating in the South Asian country that's one of world's fastest-growing smartphone markets. It will launch its online store  on September 23 and offer its full range of products from iPhones to Mac computers and provide support directly to customers for the first time, following years of lobbying New Delhi to get around regulations that force foreign companies to source 30 per cent of components locally. See More This Japanese restaurant is trying to sell curry to Indians In Pictures: Madrid fashion week kicks off Ferrari unveils the 620 horsepower Portofino M In Pictures: Hurricane Sally’s aftermath Smartphones account for the bulk of India's online retail by value, and Apple will be among the first global companies to sell directly online before it opens a brick-and-mortar store. Apple's India online store will offer customer support in both English and Hindi, allowing it to reach out to the country's 1.3 billion people just ahead of the October-November festive shopping season that culminates with Diwali. The iPhone maker has been boosting investments in the South Asian country to reduce its dependence on China both as a market and manufacturing base amid escalating tensions between Washington and Beijing. The company previously only offered its devices in India through stores owned by franchise partners and via online platforms including Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc.-owned Flipkart Online Retails Services Pvt. It intends to open a second physical store in the technology hub of Bengaluru, following an outlet in Mumbai that will be its first brick-and-mortar store in India.

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Dubai's hotels await the business traveller from October 1

Tourism|: Dubai: Starting October 1, Dubai’s hotels will be getting back the business traveler. Or those visiting the city to be part of conferences or exhibitions and want to book a hotel room for the period. Hotels in the city are reporting an increase in enquiries, though it may still take time for these to translate into bookings and stays. The sense of caution over COVID-19 is still very much there – but Dubai’s tourism authorities and its hotels are learning to cope with it. See More Dog swim day: Munich's canines take a dip This Japanese restaurant is trying to sell curry to Indians Ferrari unveils the 620 horsepower Portofino M COVID-19 delays completion date for Spain's Sagrada Familia Dubai has given the green light to host meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE), and expects the last three months of the year to provide some lift to the ailing hotel industry. Last year, 2.3 million visitors landed in the city for business purposes, and a significant number from this took part in events. Now, if Dubai can get back a portion of that in the next three months, it will help businesses salvage something from 2020. It would also help hotels shift their attention slightly from the extra focus they had been giving to generating local demand via staycation offers. Some of the high-profile events have shifted to 2021, but if enough visitors turn up for those that will open in the next few weeks, that would still be a win-win for hotels. This year, hotels are aiming for incremental gains.  The response to the staycation promotions offered partial relief to UAE hotels. Now, heading into the last few months of what has been an unprecedented year, hotels will hope that business travellers will make a return. Plus, all those wanting to catch the winter sun. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News Touching 60% would be a win “It is still early to predict month-on-month occupancies, but we do expect many of the UAE hospitality submarkets to tip over the 60 per cent occupancy,” said Philip Wooller, Area Director at STR, a consultancy focused on the hotel industry. “The UAE [hospitality sector] is fast approaching the traditional season whereupon tourists arrive for the winter sun. “But it will still be some way off from 2019 numbers.” But confidence is brewing The lead times between making a booking and the guests turning up are reducing sharply, according to Alexander Lee, Chief Commercial Officer of Jumeirah Group. This is an “important shift in booking behavior from key international source markets,” he added. What this could mean is that the leisure or business traveler are once again making those travel and hotel stay plans in the city. But instead of making those plans well ahead of a future visit, those decisions are being taken almost overnight. The re-launch of exhibitions and conferences from October should see more of that happen. But 2021 is when a full-scale improvement is most likely to show up. “Upcoming events such as the Arabian Hospitality Investment Conference, Arabian Travel Market, Expo 2020 signify a positive step towards the recovery of the city’s MICE and hospitality industry,” said Lee. The Jumeirah Group recently opened in Dubai Marina, with the Marina Gate’s serviced apartments catering to “anticipated demand for long stays and business travels in the near future.” “The opening of Dubai in July to international visitors had a positive impact on our bookings, especially from Europe and Russia. We are optimistic we will continue to welcome more overseas guests as well as the domestic staycation market Alexander Lee of Jumeirah Group A new source market in the making The signing of the Accord with Israel opens up opportunities across sectors, and UAE’s hospitality space will be no exception. Launch of direct flights, and if it happens the earlier the better, should see hotels pick up some traffic and guests by December or January. Much depends on what rates will be in place during the period, even though many in the industry reckon that room tariffs are unlikely to see major gains even with higher demand. The feeling is that there will still be plenty of rooms to take care of it. Build on the staycations Mask up... There will be no dilution in the strict health and safety protocols. It will also go a long way in reassuring guests. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News There is no doubt that UAE hotels’ refocusing on getting residents to spend part of their enforced local breaks at their properties went off much better than many in the industry had hoped for. The staycation promotions clicked… and in a fairly big way. Even with all the extra precautions that had to be taken, these guests meant a few percentage point improvements in occupancy rates. And after a bleak four months, the July and August tally did come as much needed relief. “In the last month, as restrictions began easing up in Dubai, we have seen a significant increase in enquiries for conferences, product launches and weddings,” said Akshay Bajaj, Group Manager at Five Hotels and Resorts, which operates two properties in the city. “We have some bookings for corporate events from the local market… but also from the UK. With our current occupancy levels, fully booked dining events along with our food and beverage offers, the increase in enquiries hasn’t come as a big surprise. If more hotels in Dubai can start saying the same from October onwards, these would be the post-pandemic breakthrough the hospitality industry was searching for.