Dubai Airport CEO: More Passengers, but Years to Recover | World News

By ISABEL DEBRE, Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest for international travel, handled 20% more passenger traffic in the third quarter of 2021 compared to the same period last year, its chief executive said Monday, signaling cautious optimism for the ravaged aviation industry.

Yet a full recovery remains years off. More than 86 million people squeezed through the airport before the coronavirus hit in 2019. So far this year, it’s welcomed just 20.7 million, up until October. But CEO Paul Griffiths said the figure still represents a sharp turn in fortunes for the crucial east-west transit hub that was clobbered by the pandemic last year.

“We’re still optimistic for recovery being very strong,” Griffiths told The Associated Press amid the aroma of jet fuel and noise of plane takeoffs at Dubai Air Show, the biennial aviation trade expo that kicked off here on Sunday. “It’s going to be a couple of years, but I hope I’m wrong.”

The airport saw 6.7 million passengers over the third quarter, with flights surging 17% between January and September compared to the same period last year. It’s a welcome change from the steady stream of bad news in 2020, when the airport slashed 34% of its staff and mothballed a main terminal as the coronavirus closed borders around the world.

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“Growth is returning very strongly,” Griffiths said, citing a 40% spike in bookings last month. The airport is gearing up for flying to rebound for the rest of the year, betting that accelerating vaccinations and relaxing travel curbs will allow Europeans to flee wintry weather for Dubai’s beaches and tourists to visit the giant world’s fair in the city that runs until March.

Griffiths said confidence also grew with the loosening of travel restrictions from India and Pakistan, which remained the airport’s largest market this quarter and routinely send legions of laborers and visitors to the United Arab Emirates. Airlines are expanding their flying schedules as the United States recently welcomed back vaccinated Europeans and India reopened for quarantine-free tourism on Monday.

Still, signs linger that the industry’s worst-ever crisis may not be over. Behind Griffiths, tails of scores of Emirates’ iconic fleet of double-decker Airbus A380s, largely grounded amid the pandemic, loomed at Dubai World Central, the Gulf city’s second airport that went out of use for commercial flights last year.

The Middle East’s biggest carrier, Emirates, reported receiving an additional $681 million from the Dubai government earlier this month, bringing the total cash aid close to $3.8 billion as it posted $1.6 billion in losses for the third quarter.

Yet as demand for long-haul travel picks up and more superjumbo jets fill the skies, the airport’s dedicated A380 terminal, Concourse A, will return to life later this month, Griffiths said.

“We’ve been cash positive throughout the pandemic and not relied on any subsidy from any other entity,” Griffiths added, while acknowledging that the region’s airlines have struggled with the slow return of long-haul and business trips.

Even as virus variants continue to course through inoculated populations and economic recovery remains slanted toward wealthier Western countries with vaccine access limited across Africa and Asia, Griffiths described a torrent of pent-up travel demand after a year and a half of financial pain.

“We’ll see people having the confidence to rush back to travel,” he said. “I don’t think it will be a trickle. It will be a flood.”

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Dubai Airports CEO on travel recovery, passenger numbers

The air travel industry is “not quite out of the woods” — but the future could be brighter than the last 20 months, says Paul Griffiths, the chief executive of Dubai Airports.

“We have room for optimism that the future, hopefully, is much brighter than the last 20 months,” he told CNBC’s Dan Murphy on Sunday at the Dubai Air Show, the first major international air show since the Covid pandemic began.

The city’s airports have seen 20.7 million passengers this year, a “far cry” from pre-pandemic levels, which may only be achieved in 2025, he said.

But there are signs of recovery as the world relaxes restrictions and major international traffic flows start up again, he said. Traffic numbers at Dubai International grew 40% in the last six weeks, he added.

Dubai Airports owns and manages Dubai International and Dubai World Central Airports in the United Arab Emirates. Dubai International alone served 86.4 million customers in 2019.

Passenger forecasts

By the end of this year, Griffiths expects Dubai Airports to see 26.7 million passengers. That figure could jump to 56 million or 57 million in 2022, he said.

The CEO said he’s cautiously optimistic that passenger numbers could be even better.

Emirates Airlines airplanes at Dubai International Airport on February 1, 2021.

Karim Sahib | AFP | Getty Images

If airlines and airports respond with a quality product, and good value for money, people are so desperate to get back in the air again, they will respond.

Paul Griffiths

Dubai Airports, CEO

Griffiths added that many people likely do not have the confidence to travel because of strict regulations, expensive Covid testing protocols and the fear of rules changing quickly.

“The last thing you want to do is embark on a journey and then get stuck somewhere having to quarantine,” he said, though he acknowledged that that is less of a risk now.

The economic situation — whether people have the disposable income to go on trips the way they used to — is another factor that will affect the recovery of the aviation sector, he said, but added that he is “fairly confident” about the demand.

“If airlines and airports respond with a quality product, and good value for money, people are so desperate to get back in the air again, they will respond,” he said. “We’re starting to see the green shoots of that already.”

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Neiman Marcus CEO says a more normal social and travel calendar will help the luxury retailer

As customers return to their social lives, Neiman Marcus believes it has a tailwind of higher sales to build on during the holiday season.

Men’s apparel, women’s shoes, handbags and jewelry have been the top-selling categories that drove a 6% sales increase in its fiscal fourth quarter that ended on July 30 compared with the same quarter in 2019, said Neiman Marcus CEO Geoffroy van Raemdonck.

“The social calendar is not where it was, and that’s why women’s apparel is still not where it was before,” van Raemdock said. “Lifestyle is still constrained, but we continue to do well with our loyal customers, and we’ve increased the number of new customers.”

The Dallas-based company reported its latest results privately to its owners and corporate debtholders on Tuesday and shared some of those financials with The Dallas Morning News. It declined to disclose total sales and actual dollar results.

“We expect that the social calendar and travel calendar will really drive demand this holiday season,” van Raemdonck said, noting that many people “haven’t had a chance to do proper holiday gifting and shopping for almost two years.”

Luxury and much of retail are using 2019 as the year to beat as the pandemic temporarily closed stores and canceled events that drive fashion spending.

Van Raemdonck said that while most of Neiman Marcus’ goods come from Europe, the company has a series of contingency plans if more supply chain disruptions surface and labor tightness for seasonal workers worsens.

“What we’ve learned during the pandemic is this organization is very resilient and can move very quickly,” he said. “So we look at the holidays with a lot of confidence.”

The healthy sales increase in the spring-summer quarter came as inventories were down 21%, which means the retailer was able to sell its merchandise at full price. Van Raemdonck said that resulted in “a very strong quarter for us” with a profit margin of 10% of revenue in the quarter, higher than pre-COVID levels.

The big important European brands such as Christian Louboutin, Saint Laurent, Brunello Cucinelli and Dior continue to drive results.

The retailer’s top 20 brands were significant contributors to the improved financials and were up 50% from pre-pandemic levels, he said. “Everything we sold was at a higher price.”

The new customer is being watched closely, he said. Many of them had a higher disposable income during the pandemic because they weren’t going out socially or commuting to work.

New customers are making return visits at a more frequent rate: 1 in 5 new customers comes back within 3 months, an improvement from 1 in 6 before the pandemic.

“We are tracking them and then when we attract them, they buy full price and they come back quicker,” he said, “which is all about our strategy of focusing on quality customers that we can develop to have high lifetime value with us.”

Neiman Marcus is serious about being the luxury leader, he said, noting that it shut down its Last Call operation last year, leaving just a few locations to operate as true clearance centers instead of having a separate off-price brand.

A “roaring ‘20s” could reshape the U.S. luxury market, according to Bain & Co. The firm’s annual forecast in May predicted a rebound in the U.S. based on an improved economy, buoyant stock market, increasing consumer confidence and a fast vaccine rollout.

Worldwide, Bain forecasted that the global market for personal luxury goods will be 5% larger in 2021 than it was in 2019.

Twitter: @MariaHalkias

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Lufthansa CEO Sees Business Travel Recovering Faster Than Thought | Investing News

VIENNA (Reuters) – Business air travel is recovering faster than expected and should remain solid through the winter, the chief executive of Germany’s Lufthansa said in remarks published on Monday.

Meanwhile private travel is seeing an “extension of the summer season” as people catch up on flights they were not able to take immediately after the onset of the pandemic, Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr told Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung.

“In addition, we are seeing a positive trend in business travel, which was still at a low level in the third quarter and is now picking up strongly,” Spohr said in an interview.

Global air travel was brought to a standstill by the coronavirus pandemic, forcing Lufthansa into a multi-billion dollar bailout by the German government.

Lufthansa expects the level of business travel in the medium term to be around 90% or more of what it was before COVID-19.

“There will … be no sudden drop in demand in winter this year,” he said of the outlook for business travel as demand tends to fade less in that segment in winter and the “good development” in bookings is expected to last until December.

“Business travel has returned faster and more strongly than expected,” Spohr said, adding that it was being felt in particular in the German, Swiss, Austrian, Belgian and northern Italian markets, where more flights have been added.

(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Additional reporting by Riham Alkousaa in Berlin and Ilona Wissenbach in Frankfurt; Editing by Alexander Smith)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.

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Royal Caribbean CEO Urges Travel Advisors to Rebuild – Cruise Industry News

Two Royal Caribbean Ships

Appealing to travel advisors to start to sell cruises again, Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain states his case in a newly released video.

The time has come, he said, to focus on how we come out of the pandemic, rather than how we should live during it. The time has come to look forward and do what we have done for decades, sell cruises.

Fain said a surge of interest has come mainly via the internet rather than from travel advisors, as people became used to buying things online during the pandemic, and continue to do so, while many travel advisors cut down on staff and marketing.

“Now, we need to rebuild so travel advisors need to do more,” he said. Appealing to travel advisors, Fain said: “We need you to reach our full potential. It was the personal contact with travel advisors that built up the knowledge and awareness (of cruising) in the first place.

“We need you and we need your personal touch, and the clients need you to help them understand the complexity of the product.”

Fain noted that while the pandemic is not over, its prevalence in the industrialized world is falling, and the main drivers behind the disease are understood and can be controlled.

He also noted that cruise ships have advantages over land-based comparables with the vast bulk of people onboard being vaccinated, and the sanitation being controlled, including air filtration, and with strict health and safety protocols being enforced.

“As a result, we can make ships safer than shore-based alternatives,” Fain said.

Comparing to a CDC color-coded COVID-19 map of the United States, Fain said that cruise ships would be blue, representing the lowest category of risk, and better than most of the counties in the U.S.

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Best Western CEO Shares Insights On 2022 Travel Recovery And Loyalty Program News

The incoming president and chief executive officer for Best Western Hotels Group, Lawrence (Larry) M. Cuculic, shares how the pandemic affected his company and what’s next for its 18 hospitality brands. Cuculic was previously senior vice president and general counsel for the company. He begins his new role on Dec. 1.

As he prepares for being at the helm of the international hotel group, he discusses how the company fared during the height of the pandemic and what it has its sights set on for 2022.

What are Best Western’s goals as the industry recovers?

The hospitality industry has endured its greatest crisis in history. Best Western is tremendously proud of how the organization and its hoteliers responded to the pandemic. The company is fortunate to be in the strongest financial position in its history allowing it to leverage this position of strength to increase revenue delivery to hotel owners.

As the industry continues to recover, Best Western is planning to strengthen its loyalty program, work to increase brand revenue and drive development efforts across key markets in North America and across the globe.

How will Best Western strengthen the loyalty program?

Best Western Rewards launched a new Pay with Points program providing greater access to travel regardless of how many points members have in their account. Through this program, consumers who do not have enough points for a free room can discount their room rate by using points. This is especially helpful since Best Western Rewards points never expire.

A recent McKinsey report showed that Best Western’s loyalty program, which spans 18 brands, delivers a higher revenue contribution than those for Wyndham, IHG or Choice, but that increasing enrollment is key. In regards to revenue contribution from the loyalty program, the report shows that Best Western Rewards has the third highest in its competitive set.

During the pandemic, acquiring new loyalty program members became a challenge for hospitality reward programs. As travel rebounds and consumers are traveling, Best Western Rewards is hoping to expand its membership, which currently stands at 47 million members worldwide.

New promotions are helping such as one for this fall that awards a $20 gift card for each night a member stays at a Best Western family hotel in the United States, Canada or the Caribbean (up to five nights) between now and Nov. 22.

What plans do you have for Best Western Plus?

Best Western Plus has always been a preferred brand among both business and leisure travelers. According to that same McKinsey survey, Best Western Plus was underperforming in its competitive set on average rate and revenue per available room (RevPAR). There is potential for the brand to increase the average daily rate, occupancy, and RevPAR. Best Western is focused on attracting more weekday business to make that happen.

As a membership organization, the company has asked hoteliers to consider incorporating enhancements including a variety of potential new amenities, such as specialty coffee machines in the lobby and breakfast areas, in-room Keurig coffee makers, larger televisions in guest rooms with streaming/casting capabilities and enhanced fitness equipment.

How did Covid-19 affect Best Western’s balance sheet?

The balance sheet is stronger than ever thanks to the organization’s quick response implementing an aggressive austerity plan. Best Western was able to provide over $65 million in financial relief to hotel owners over the past 18 months, and the brand is seeing both an increased average daily rate and occupancy due to the pent-up demand. In addition to the austerity plan, Best Western was among the first to roll out enhanced cleaning protocols and operational best practices during the pandemic.

What’s next on the tech side for the brand?

The revamp to has led to remarkable results. This past summer, the website set several records of performance exceeding 2019’s prior record performance by over $70 million year-to-date.

So far this year, Best Western had over 140 days with sales over $3 million. On 34 of those days, sales were over $4 million. Consumers are relying more and more on the mobile experience, and the brand is working to make digital experiences more user-friendly.

Best Western is also developing the ability to accept additional forms of payment. This includes making gift cards easier to use by enabling them to be redeemed online and the ability to use points to reduce the room rate (Pay With Points).

Where would Best Western like to add more hotels?

The company is focused on putting the right brands in the right markets to meet consumer demand. At the moment, the focus is on growing representation in urban and dense suburban markets where more of Best Western’s brands can expand and see success.

What is Best Western’s view on social media advertising?

When it comes to changing perception and showing guests the “Best Western of today,” social media continues to be an important tool. It allows for special connections with key audiences.

Recent data shows that 23% of travelers will pick a destination based on what they see on social media, and 17% select a specific hotel based on social posts. Best Western highlights each of the 18 brands on BW Travel Zone and on platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. The company also works with a network of influencers to introduce Best Western to new audiences and spotlight hotels across their various platforms.

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Lola Travel news: The startup led by CEO Mike Volpe is being acquired by Capital One – Boston Business Journal – Philadelphia Business Journal

Lola Travel news: The startup led by CEO Mike Volpe is being acquired by Capital One – Boston Business Journal  Philadelphia Business Journal

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Best Western Names Cuculic to Succeed Kong as CEO

Lawrence Cuculic
Lawrence Cuculic

BWH Hotel Group named SVP and general counsel Lawrence Cuculic its next president and CEO Thursday at the company’s annual convention in Las Vegas. Cuculic will assume his new role Dec. 1, when current president and CEO David Kong, the industry’s longest-serving top executive, retires. Cuculic has been with Best Western for 12 years. 

“We have been thoughtful and diligent in this decision,” said BWH Hotel Group board chairman Ishwar Naran, who added the company hired Korn Ferry to assist in the eight-month search, and considered both internal and external candidates. “We agreed that our organization needs a president and CEO who can bring stability, engagement and continued progress. We have hired an individual we know who has the right experience, knowledge and skills to lead our organization. The board is in total agreement that [Cuculic] is the best person for the job.”

“I stand before you today determined, excited and exhilarated. I will work hard and do my best,” Cuculic said. “When I met with the board regarding the position, I assured them I would serve them and each of you through hard work, dedicated service and a collaborative spirit that has as its sole purpose the success of our members.”

“I have worked alongside Larry for 12 years and have been continually inspired by his thoughtful leadership and strategic thinking,” Kong said in a statement. “Throughout his tenure, Larry has gained valuable experience through a wide range of responsibilities, including our central reservations and contact centers.”

Prior to joining Best Western, Cuculic was SVP, general counsel and corporate secretary for Wabash National Corp. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Notre Dame Law School, the U.S. Army Advocate General’s School and the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, he has served as a judge advocate general’s corps officer in various legal positions, including appointment as a military judge. 

Kong announced his retirement in mid-September after 17 years in the position. During his tenure, he helped Best Western grow from one brand to 18, set successive records in revenue per available room growth and win numerous industry awards. In December, BTN will induct Kong into the Business Travel Hall of Fame.

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Lufthansa CEO Concerned About China’s COVID Travel Restrictions | World News

BOSTON (Reuters) – Lufthansa is very concerned about coronavirus travel and border restrictions in China hurting the German air carrier’s recovery, its Chief Executive Carsten Spohr said on Sunday.

China sharply reduced transport links with other countries as the coronavirus, which first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, spread around the world.

Visitors to mainland China, regardless of nationality, face tough requirements prior to travel including multiple medical tests and stringent quarantine rules upon entry.

Airlines, both Chinese and non-Chinese, also face the risk of their flight routes being suspended temporarily if a certain number of infected passengers are detected on arrival in China.

“We are not only slowing down our recovery at Lufthansa, which is also my concern, we are slowing down the recovery of the economic relations between China and Germany,” Spohr told reporters on the sidelines of a conference of airlines group IATA in Boston.

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(Reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.

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United CEO Thinks Full Travel Recovery Could Happen by January

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said this morning that while the delta variant of COVID-19 has been a nuisance, he believes the country has reached its peak and expects a full travel recovery in January.

“The Delta variant has obviously caused a downturn in travel, (but) it’s particularly business travel. A lot of offices were expecting to be open again in September, and the Delta variant has pushed those opening dates back a few months. My guess is it will now be January,” Kirby said on the CBS Sunday news program, ‘Face The Nation.’


United CEO Scott Kirby
United CEO Scott Kirby (United Airlines)

“It appears that we’ve peaked in cases. Let’s hope that that’s the case. Let’s hope that as we continue to get more people vaccinated, we really can get back to normal across the country. But the demand (for) recovery has, really, probably been pushed back to January.”

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Reopening from COVID-19

Appearing with host Margaret Brennan, Kirby touched on a variety of subjects.

On whether airline contractors or passengers can be confident they won’t cross paths with an unvaccinated United employee, Kirby said simply it was a matter of wearing a mask.

“One of the things that’s important when you’re traveling on an airplane, particularly once you’re on the airplane, it’s really the safest place you can be because the airflow on an airplane, the safest place you can be indoors,” he said. “And so, wear your mask in the airport. That’s a rule. And before long, we’ll have everyone in the airports vaccinated thanks to the administration’s order.”

Brennan asked Kirby if the Biden Administration should roll out a mandate that all passengers who want to fly be vaccinated, saying the TSA could check for vaccination cards.

Mandating fliers to be vaccinated is something that has been discussed, and it received an endorsement from White House adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Kirby said it would be easier for people to be vaccinated en masse at work.

“You can get a high percentage of the country as opposed to making it a burden on people that are vaccinated every time you get a plane, a train, any kind of public transportation to prove that you’re vaccinated,” he said. “So, for now, I think their approach of focusing on the employment and focusing on work is probably the right way to go. But they’ve got great data and science, and if they tell us that they want us to check everyone, we’re prepared to do that as well.”

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