ATM to focus on Chinese outbound travel market

Hoteliers in China reported 45% occupancy levels over a recent national holiday as country recovers from Covid-19-related restrictions

The upcoming Arabian Travel Market (ATM) Virtual event will see Middle East travel professionals looking at how and when to start planning for inbound Chinese visitors.

The upcoming Arabian Travel Market (ATM) Virtual event will see Middle East travel professionals looking at how and when to start planning for inbound Chinese visitors.

The event taking place from 1-3 June 2020 will feature the Virtual China Tourism Forum about the potential of the Chinese outbound leisure market following the country’s easing of Covid-19-related restrictions and the growth of its domestic tourism. 

“Travel and tourism professionals around the globe will not need reminding that the global industry has been hit badly by the effects of Covid-19 – but in China we are witnessing the green-shoots of recovery,” said Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director Middle East at ATM.

“The relatively swift rebound of domestic travel during the May Golden Week Holiday in China for example, underscores the bullish view of certain analysts regarding China’s integral role in leading the global tourism industry post Covid-19’s closed borders,” he said, adding some hoteliers in China were reporting occupancy levels of over 45% during the recent national holiday, with resort markets seeing close to 70% occupancy.

The Virtual China Tourism Forum will also focus on the potential recovery of outbound travel, and how Chinese travellers have changed the way they contact local hotels, tour operators and ground handlers. Moderated by Dr Adam Wu, CEO of leading outbound travel portal CBN Travel & Mice and World Travel Online, it will take place on Tuesday June 2 at 11am to 12pm GST and will feature panellists Dr. Taleb Rifai, Chairman, International Institute of Peace for Tourism (IIPT) and former Secretary General of the UNWTO; Khalid Jasim al-Midfa, Chairman, Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority; Helen Shapovalova, Founder & Director, Pan Ukraine; Lisa Dinh, Tourism Director, VIA Outlets and Tony Ong, Chief Business Officer and Vice President of HCG International Travel Group.

The experts will share their insights on how to overcome the current crisis by identifying new buying patterns and demand streams, as well as innovative ways of reaching customers.

Members of the online audience will be able to ask questions through a Q+A function at the end of the session.

Over three days, ATM Virtual will also feature comprehensive webinars, live conference sessions, roundtables, speed networking events and one-to-one meetings. 

Sessions will include ‘The Hotel landscape in a post-COVID-19 world,’ ‘Bouncing Back: Tourism Strategies for the Future,’ and ‘Restructuring to attract sustainable investment and customers in the new world order’ among others. 

The yearly physical ATM event which takes place in the UAE has been postponed to 16-19 May 2021.

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Travelers Appear to Enjoy Memorial Day Weekend as Places Reopen

It was a weekend of mixed results as many Americans engaged in a dual celebration – the Memorial Day Holiday combined with the first real release from lockdown and shelter-in-place restrictions that have been prevalent since March due to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

While some folks at beaches and lakes and other public areas wore face masks and practiced social distancing, others did not. That prompted authorities to, literally, police areas and ask crowds to be more diligent, while health officials warned that disregarding safety measures could trigger a second wave of COVID-19.

At some spots in Florida and California, authorities closed parking lots near beaches to discourage more people from setting up shop on the sand.

It prompted warnings and advisories on social media.

The public parking lots on Clearwater Beach are all currently at capacity. There is still room in the Hyatt parking garage. Be sure to check for beach and parking lot closure updates throughout the day.

But in other places like Maine and Virginia, where swimming was prohibited, people were respectful and simply walked quietly on the beach.

And even in New Jersey, one of the hardest-hit states by the virus, people were diligent.

Big wide beach&big beautiful blue skies&sunshine in Wildwood for easy social distance summer of 2020 start. And beautiful blowing USA flag, reminding of sacrifices of so many on foreign beaches in past wars who died for freedom. Thanks Wildwood Beach Patrol for pic @FOX29philly

But this was the scene at St. Simon’s Island, Georgia.

Social distancing…

And Ocean City, Maryland, one of the most popular and densely packed tourist areas on the eastern seaboard because of its famed three-mile boardwalk, was packed with visitors from Washington D.C., Baltimore, Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey.

Chris Sexton, who traveled to Ocean City from Baltimore, told a local television station it was ‘heaven.’

“Hallelujah! I would think there would not be that many people, but it was more than I expected,” he said.

With the relaxing of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions, visitors crowd the boardwalk on Memorial Day weekend in Ocean City, Maryland. REUTERS Photo by Kevin Lamarque

And folks were not afraid to visit destinations far from home.

“I mean, I think we are keeping our distance from other families and other groups of friends. I feel really safe out here,” Carolina Camp, who drove from Nashville, Tenn., told 4News in Folly Beach, S.C.

Folly Beach looked similar to Memorial Day Weekends of the past, even though there’s plenty that’s different going on.

But if you want to get to the sand at some point this weekend, mayor Tim Goodwin stresses to show some patience when it comes to traffic and parking. @ABCNews4

But perhaps no place was wilder than Lake of the Ozarks in Osage Beach, Missouri.

This video is on Snapchat in the Lake of the Ozarks? Unreal. What are we doing?

John Olivarri, mayor of Osage Beach, said that short of shutting down the popular destination there was little he could do.

“My concern is for our workers and whether some of the folks that have come down might be creating a health problem for the community, absolutely,” Olivarri said. “But the only other thing that you could do would be shut it down. I don’t know how you would shut down Lake of the Ozarks. There’s no way to control that.”

Alan Hull, the front-desk manager at the Days Inn told the St. Louis Dispatch, “We are a lot busier this year. All the hotels here around the lake are busy.”

But at Disney Springs at World Disney World in Orlando, capacity was trimmed to help aid social distancing, according to TravelPulse writer Brooke McDonald, who traveled from Illinois to Florida this past weekend.

Crowds were light enough at Disney Springs today that social distancing came naturally. Orange and lime garages both had a ton of spaces at 3:45pm. #DisneySprings

The death toll from the virus is expected to reach 100,000 shortly in America. But it’s not just in the U.S. where people are stretching their legs, so to speak, after being confined to their homes for the better part of two-plus months.

This was the scene at Bournemouth Beach in England on Monday.

The Cummings lockdown-ignoring effect… Bournemouth beach today.

The Memorial Day holiday weekend was certainly different this year because of the global pandemic, but that didn’t stop some from traveling to nearby destinations to partake in festivities.

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Top 5 places in Africa to see endangered animals – A Luxury Travel Blog

Most animals in Africa are to some extent endangered, though the term usually refers to an animal that is in danger of extinction. The causes are mostly linked to mankind – poaching for food or the pet and “medicinal” trades, as well as loss of habitat due to climate change and competition for land.

High quality safaris positively contribute to helping endangered animals and the people who live nearby.  Many of the best safari lodges are located on private reserves where the owners actively partner with local people to conserve wildlife and where tourism income reaches those people. This greatly reduces poaching, protects land for wildlife and encourages people to see animals as beneficial rather than things that eat crops or provide dinner. Here are stories of five lodges doing just that.

Tswalu Kalahari, South Africa – Pangolins

It’s estimated that 1 million, primarily Asian pangolins were trafficked in the last ten years to meet demand for scales prized for their supposed medicinal properties, and meat which is seen as a delicacy.  These curious and delightful looking creatures are also found in Africa where the threat is increasing, partly due to climate change causing habitat decline.

Tswalu Kalahari is pioneering the restoration of natural habitats on the edge of the Kalahari Desert. It’s a fascinating place to see arid savannah creatures like eland, brown hyena, meerkat and African wildcat. Valery Phakoago is based there, conducting  PhD research into ground pangolins, so we can understand these shy creatures better. On a walk you may see a young pangolin curl into a protective ball as you approach before she relaxes and moves off to forage for ants and termites.

Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Uganda – Mountain gorillas

The world’s remaining mountain gorillas live in the misty volcanic hills where Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo meet. The main threats to these mighty creatures are accidental snaring, hunting and disease. Determined efforts by national parks staff and high value tourism mean that populations have risen from 620 in 1989 to just over 1,000 today, with numbers growing steadily in all three countries.

Making your way through the “King Kong” setting of mists, forests and volcanoes in search of gorillas is an experience of a lifetime, and the eventual encounter is awe-inspiring. The cost of doing so is high, but funds from gorilla permits help pay for armed rangers and conservationists who protect these great primates. From Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge in Uganda, you can enjoy a unique morning spent in the company of a semi-habituated gorilla family, assisting the conservationists in their efforts and experiencing one of the most raw and immersive encounters imaginable.

Namiri Plains, Tanzania – Cheetah

A cheetah can go from 0 to 60mph in three seconds, rivalling the fastest sports cars. Watching one of these lithe felines racing across the plains in pursuit of a gazelle is to see poetry in dazzling motion. But speed is not everything – in the Serengeti and Masai Mara combined there are only 300 cheetah compared to 3,000 lion. The smaller cat suffers from competition with its bigger cousin and is killed by farmers and hunters. Cheetah cubs are seen as the ultimate feline pet in some middle eastern countries.

In the remote plains of the eastern Serengeti, over an hour from any other camp, is Namiri Plains. Previously closed to the public for 20 years, the oceans of undulating grasslands surrounding camp have been the setting for a successful cheetah conservation project. Now, with exclusive access to the area and with the option to meet the research team, it is one of the best places in Africa to see cheetah, alongside the other cats and the entire range of Serengeti wildlife. Incidentally, the 10 stylish tented suites are unashamedly luxurious, each with a bathtub on the deck where you can drink in the pristine views while soaking in bubbles.

Old Mondoro, Zambia – Elephant

You’re staying at the intimate and charming Old Mondoro Camp. As you watch elephant roaming past you to swim and wallow in the Zambezi waters, you would be forgiven for thinking that these mighty creatures can hardly be endangered. Yet the 30,000 people who live in villages adjoining the Lower Zambezi National Park see elephants trampling and stealing crops, while ivory poachers from neighbouring Zimbabwe and Mozambique are a constant threat.

The exclusive little camps dotted along the Lower Zambezi are actively involved in ‘Conservation Lower Zambezi’, which operates anti-poaching patrols. They have also developed state-of-the-art ideas like helping village farmers grow “chilli fences” which deter elephants from entering farmland and produce a cash crop for sale. An elephant can knock over a tree and chew his way through a huge branch but they can’t stand chillies!

Lewa Wilderness, Kenya – Rhinoceros

Between 1960 and 2000, southern Africa’s rhinoceros population declined by a staggering 98% due to poaching for their horn. It’s still a serious problem as 80 rhinoceros are poached each month, especially in South Africa where the largest number of survivors remain.

One strategy for saving rhinoceros is to move them to safer locations, and in recent years some have been taken to Botswana where the vast private wildlife concessions and smaller populations of people provide safety. In Kenya, the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy pioneers rhinoceros conservation in dynamic partnerships with local communities and are so successful that they are able to send rhinos to newer conservation projects. You might stay at Lewa Wilderness Lodge with the Craig family, founders of Lewa, where these wonderful creatures and a spectacular array of other wildlife are thriving.

Laura Burdett-Munns is Managing Director at Africa Exclusive. Africa Exclusive has been creating the finest tailor-made safaris since 1990, specialising in luxurious accommodation in beautiful remote places.

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Wyndham Looks Ahead to Recovery with Continued New-Construction Growth

WHY IT RATES: Amid the travel industry’s slump caused by COVID-19, Wyndham is positioning itself to best recover in the long term, continuing its new-construction and independent-hotel conversion projects, and building upon its proven track record of growing net rooms during lodging cycle downturns. — Laurie Baratti, TravelPulse Associate Writer

Wyndham Hotels & Resorts—the world’s largest hotel franchising company with approximately 9,300 hotels across 90 countries—continues forging ahead with new-construction growth, opening eleven newly-built hotels across the U.S. in the first quarter and breaking ground on a number of hotels in its new-construction pipeline.

In the same period, the Company executed agreements for more than 25 future new-construction hotels in the U.S., further expanding its pipeline and planting roots for travel recovery in the long term.

Welcoming New Openings
The Company’s eleven new-construction openings in the U.S. represent nearly 1,000 rooms. The recent openings, including properties across its La Quinta by Wyndham, Wingate by Wyndham, Days Inn by Wyndham, and Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham brands, are situated in destinations primed for domestic, drive-to leisure travel such as Miramar Beach, Floria; Houston, Texas; Spokane, Washington; and Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin.

Laying Foundation for the Future
Developers are also starting construction on hotels in the pipeline, reinforcing optimism for the industry’s recovery. Developers for Wyndham-branded hotels broke ground on approximately ten new hotels in the U.S. year-to-date, including a Microtel hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas; a La Quinta hotel in San Antonio, Texas; an extended-stay Hawthorn Suites hotel in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and a Trademark Collection by Wyndham hotel in Leavenworth, Kansas.

“Despite a rapidly changing landscape for hotel developers around the world, a number of our owners are pressing forward with new-construction projects in the economy and midscale segments, reinforcing our overall confidence in the long-term viability of our industry,” said Krishna Paliwal, head of Architecture, Design and Construction for Wyndham. “New-construction growth, however gradual, represents our optimism for the future of travel. Not only do our highly recognizable brands provide significant value to hotel owners who join the Wyndham family, especially during difficult times, but they also represent the consistent, trusted and affordable experience travelers will be seeking now more than ever before.”

Igniting the Conversion Engine
Though construction has generally slowed across the industry, Wyndham continues to welcome new projects while igniting its powerful conversion engine, which is fueled by the strong value proposition across its portfolio of well-known brands.

In the first quarter, Wyndham’s conversion pipeline increased eight percent globally year-over-year. The Company has a proven track record of growing net rooms during lodging cycle downturns and, with over 15,000 independent economy and midscale hotels in the U.S., converting independent hotels to Wyndham brands remains an important source of consistent rooms growth for the Company through both up and down cycles.

Well-Positioned for Recovery
The impact of COVID-19 continues to rapidly evolve and many factors remain uncertain. As the pandemic begins to abate in the U.S., Wyndham’s existing franchisees are likely to be well-positioned for recovery. The Company operates a nearly 90-percent drive-to business in the U.S. with a concentration in the select-service chain scale segments—which have outperformed higher-end, full-service hotels during the pandemic—and over 95 percent of its domestic guests originate within the U.S., making them less reliant on air travel.

Wyndham also recently announced “Count on UsSM”, a new long-term, multi-faceted initiative to build confidence among guests and to support franchisees as it prepares to welcome travelers back to its U.S. hotels. The initiative will immediately focus on further elevating health and safety protocols at Wyndham hotels in the wake of COVID-19, shoring up critical supply chains and introducing new standards, training and guidelines grounded in guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wyndham has expanded its relationship with industry leader Ecolab on requiring consistent use of Ecolab’s EPA-approved disinfectants in guestrooms and public spaces nationwide.

Those interested in developing a hotel under one of Wyndham’s brands may visit for additional information.

For more information, visit

SOURCE: Wyndham Hotels & Resorts press release.

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MGM’s Vegas Hotels To Bring Back Free Parking

MGM Resorts will be bringing back a welcome complimentary feature to its Las Vegas hotels.

Three years after many hotel-casinos in the city started charging to park your car in their respective garages, MGM said Monday it will offer free self-parking at all nine of its Vegas properties as soon as it begins to reopen its hotels.

A spokesperson said free parking will be “for the foreseeable future.”

“MGM Resorts is updating many of our offerings as we prepare to welcome guests back, and that includes implementing free parking,” MGM Resorts spokesperson Brian Ahern said in a statement to Fox5 Las Vegas. “We couldn’t be more excited to open our doors and get back to doing what we do best.”

MGM Resorts properties include:

—MGM Grand

—Park MGM

—Mandalay Bay

—New York-New York



—The Mirage



The Bellagio and New York-New York will be the first two MGM properties to open on the Las Vegas Strip later this month.

In 2017, at least eight major casinos on the Strip quietly began to charge for parking, which started when MGM began to implement paid parking followed by Caesars Entertainment.

Casino executives admitted that charging for parking would have a negligible impact on the company’s balance sheet. Mostly, the fees went to pay for the lighting and signage and other costs associated with the parking garages.

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Is Now the Time to Install New Hotel Panic-Button Technology?

Hospitality industry players are beginning to roll out many new health and safety measures to contend with COVID-19 transmission concerns, and, while prioritizing the implementation of preventive measures is important, some hotels are also taking this time to reevaluate their level of preparedness to react to on-site emergencies once already in progress.

According to React Mobile, a market-leading hospitality safety technology provider, its client companies (consisting of some of the world’s leading hospitality brands) have realized the value in providing hotel employees ready means by which to request immediate assistance within mere seconds of an incident.

From alerting management to unforeseen medical emergencies to witnessed security breaches or assaults on individuals, React Mobile’s personal panic-button devices are proving the most effective and instantaneous way of calling for help. And, being cloud-based without requiring hardware or cabling, they can be installed quickly, at minimal cost and customized to fit the needs of any property.

Using the latest Bluetooth, GPS and IoT technology, React Mobile’s platform can pinpoint the location of a distress call down to the specific room number, and even to track an employee in real-time who may be on the move away from danger, indoors or out. In an emergency situation, response time is critical, and the ability to deploy resources to the exact location of a distress signal within seconds can make all the difference.

React Mobile’s worldwide support capabilities, 24/7 accessibility, and impressive implementation infrastructure have made it a leader in providing cutting-edge employee safety solutions. It’s now the preferred panic-button vendor for Hilton Worldwide, Accor Hotels, Wyndham, Choice Hotels, Caesars Entertainment, Sands and other leading hotel management companies.

Robb Monkman, Founder and CEO of React Mobile, was compelled to launch the company after having himself been the victim of an armed robbery and hostage situation. After discovering that thousands of people daily found themselves desperately in need of help, but unable to make a call, he set out to develop a powerful, yet simple, solution.

Our employee safety technology is deployed in over 460+ hotel properties and totaling over 50,000+ panic buttons.

Learn more about our support for hotels here: #hospitality #Safety #technology #panicbutton

Monkman thinks that the pandemic’s effect on the hospitality industry could offer at least one small advantage. He posited, “As hotel occupancy dwindles around the globe, properties can tackle projects that are easier to accomplish with low occupancy,” including, “installing much-needed technology updates, such as employee safety devices. The implementation of a new platform (or in some cases, a total technological overhaul) is often time-consuming, and the training of staff can pose a potential disruption to hotel operations. Understandably, this means that ‘high-season’ typically isn’t the best time to approach any major renovations, whether technical or property-specific. And so, an opportunity presents itself.”

He argued that hospitality companies might make productive use of their downtime (just as we’re trying to do while locked-down at home) to future-proof their businesses in a variety of ways, such as performing maintenance and repairs; updating staff training and resources; reformatting operations; developing new offerings; readying marketing initiatives; or switching their systems over to updated, improved software, so that they can hit the ground running when demand does resume.

“Ultimately, those brands which utilize this time to proactively improve upon their offering, support their community and emerge a market leader are sure to make a swift recovery,” predicted Monkman.

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Scenic Group Looks to the Future as Construction Begins on Eclipse II in Croatia

The Scenic Group has started building its second ocean ship. Steel-cutting is taking place on Croatia on the 228-passenger, luxury mega-yacht Scenic Eclipse II.

The first ocean ship, Scenic Eclipse, was christened on Sept. 10, 2019, by Dame Helen Mirren. The ship accommodates 200 passengers when sailing in polar regions. It has all verandah suites, 10 dining experiences, butler service for all guests, two onboard six-guest helicopters, and a six-guest submarine capable of diving nearly 1,000 feet.

A newly formed company, MKM Yachts, wholly owned by the Scenic Group, will now take full responsibility for all new ocean ship builds starting with the Scenic Eclipse II.

MKM Yachts confirmed an agreement with the Croatian government to begin shipbuilding operations in a dedicated section of the Maj 3 Shipyard in Rijeka.

“This outcome has been the result of a massive effort by our entire Croatian team, and in particular, our new managing director of MKM Yachts, Sasa Cokljat,” said Glen Moroney, owner and chairman of The Scenic Group. “The Croatian government has committed to supporting the redevelopment of the shipyard and assist in the funding of our new building program, which will comprise five custom-built vessels over the next six years. All vessels will be of the highest six-star standard with the ability to navigate the polar regions.”

The start of construction “heralds an exciting new era for the Scenic Group, as we continue to develop our luxury ocean products under both Scenic and Emerald Cruises brands,” Moroney said.

Scenic Eclipse has the highest Polar Class 6 rating and uses custom-built stabilizers that are 50 percent larger than those of other ships to provide greater stability. The GPS dynamic positioning allows the ship to maintain location without dropping anchor onto sensitive water beds. The Advanced Wastewater Treatment Systems, plus the highly efficient engines, will reduce emissions, noise and vibrations, for minimal disturbances to the marine life environment.

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Frontier Allows Passengers to Social Distance by Paying for Empty Seats

Frontier Airlines has announced a new policy giving travelers the opportunity to socially distance on flights.

Passengers will now be allowed to purchase the empty middle seat through the More Room policy.

The airline says that the new option complements its mandatory face-covering requirement for all passengers and flight crews and is in line with other initiatives that the airline has introduced to achieve high levels of well-being and comfort in flight.

“While we believe the best measure to keep everyone healthy is to require face coverings, for those who want an empty seat next to them for extra peace of mind or simply additional comfort, we are now offering ‘More Room,’” said Frontier CEO Barry Biffle.

Passengers can purchase the More Room seats starting at $39 per passenger, per flight when booking new tickets, managing their booking or at check-in starting on May 8.

There will be 18 More Room seats available to passengers, including Stretch seats in the first three rows of the aircraft, which also provide extra legroom and recline.

In addition to the More Room seats, starting May 8, passengers will be required to wear a face-covering and accept a health acknowledgment prior to completing check-in.

Passengers are required to certify that:

—Neither they nor anyone in their household has exhibited Covid-19 related symptoms in the last 14 days

—They will check their temperature before heading to the airport and not travel if they have a fever

—They will wash their hands/sanitize before boarding the flight

—Information on the airline’s face covering policy will be added to the health acknowledgment

Frontier also introduced the use of a fogging disinfectant in addition to rigorous aircraft cleaning and sanitation policies.

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Careem to lay off 31% of staff as business drops 80% amid Covid-19

CEO Mudassir Sheikh expects recovery in late 2021

The aim of the reorganisation is to make Careem a self-sustaining company by the end of this year.

Dubai ride-hailing company Careem is laying off 31 percent of its workforce to cope with the impact of Covid-19, which has led to an 80 percent drop in its overall business, according to a letter from its CEO addressing staff.

Coronavirus-related restrictions have also led to a 90 percent drop in the company’s ride-hailing business and 60 percent in its delivery business across the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan.

CEO Mudassir Sheikha told The National he expects recovery only in late 2021, and has paused investment plans in mass transport venture Careem Bus mass.

“There is no easy way to say this, so I will get straight to the point: starting tomorrow and for the next three days, 536 of our colleagues who make up 31 percent of Careem will leave us. We delayed this decision as long as possible so that we could exhaust all other means to secure Careem,” Sheikha said in the letter.

“Over the last seven weeks the company has looked critically at its cost base and stopped all non-essential spending, which also includes indefinitely halting the new benefits announced earlier in the year. While we have achieved significant savings from these efforts, they have sadly not been enough,” he said.

Sheikha said the details vary slightly from market to market, but that Careem has arranged at least three months of severance pay, one month of equity vesting, and extended visa and medical insurance for employees and their families until the end of the year.

The aim of the reorganisation is to make Careem a self-sustaining company by the end of this year, he said without specifying how much Careem would save in costs. 

Careem was acquired by US ride-hailing giant Uber in a $3.1 billion deal last year, but said its decision to layoff staff is independent.

Uber is also expected to let as many as 5,400 staff go globally over the next few weeks, according to reports by The Information. 

Uber Eats announced today it is shutting down its food delivery app in the UAE to combine it with Careem’s.

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Gear up for a bike ride to Turkey – without leaving your sofa

The Armchair Traveller: Gear up for a bike ride to Turkey – without leaving your sofa

  • Follow Helen Moat’s 3,000-mile cycle to Istanbul in her book A Time Of Birds
  • Absolutely India charts three TV brothers as they trace their roots in Mumbai  
  • Listen to Jane Clarke’s exploration of remote valleys in County Wicklow, Ireland 

Here we pick a selection of the best travel-related programmes, books and radio shows that will provide some isolation inspiration for the week ahead. 

On the page . . .

Spin across Europe

Glorious: Beat the blue with Helen Moat’s tales of Istanbul in her book A Time Of Birds

Helen embarks on a 3,000-mile cycle ride with her 18-year-old son Jamie

Midlife crises come in many forms: shiny sports cars, gym memberships, flashy clothes. For Helen Moat, a 50-year-old teacher from Northern Ireland, it was slightly different, as she describes in her travel book A Time Of Birds.

One day, out of the blue, Moat declares she wishes to cycle to Istanbul. She asks her startled 18-year-old son Jamie to join her, and soon they are off on their 3,000-mile journey.

Moat’s ‘blunted’ feelings and the ‘dullness’ in her brain quickly lift as the pair pedal away on an inspiring adventure through the Netherlands, Germany, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.

On her travels, Moat thinks often of her 92-year-old father, who found solace in birds, and reflects on the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Yet this is not a downbeat read. There are humorous encounters and joyful times as they whizz along, plus some hairy moments — especially near Istanbul on a crazy ‘suicidal service road’.

  • A Time Of Birds by Helen Moat (Saraband, £9.99).

Walk through time

Robert Twigger sets forth on a 390-mile hike from Christchurch in Dorset to Lindisfarne, Northumberland, in Walking The Great North Line

Veteran travel writer Robert Twigger, 57, is contemplative, too, as he sets forth on a 390-mile hike from Christchurch in Dorset to Lindisfarne, Northumberland, in Walking The Great North Line.

He has noticed a straight line of 42 ancient sites between the two places, including Stonehenge, Avebury, Mam Tor, and Ilkley. He dubs this the Great North Line.

With a couple of friends and some rum, Twigger heads north, his pals tagging along until Avebury, sharing midlife woes, and complaints about blisters and sleeping bags.

Twigger continues wild camping alone, avoiding upsetting landowners while enjoying the mystic histories of the barrows and stone circles.

This is a warts-and-all tale, with plenty of uncomfortable nights spent in hollows in sheep fields.

At Lindisfarne, Twigger has a ‘mini-enlightenment’ that it is ok to be ‘non-conformist, an eccentric’. By then, you can’t help but agree.

  • Walking The Great North Line by Robert Twigger (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £20).

Apocalyptic adventure

Mark O’Connell’s intriguing Notes From An Apocalypse is all about the Irish writer’s ‘anxiety’ around the planet’s precarious future

With uncanny timing, new father Mark O’Connell’s intriguing Notes From An Apocalypse is all about the Irish writer’s ‘anxiety’ around the planet’s precarious future.

This prompts an offbeat adventure to see escape bunkers in South Dakota, remote landscapes in New Zealand where billionaires are building retreats, hideaway camps in the Scottish highlands, and Chernobyl — where a tourist bus takes him to the site of a modern day ‘apocalypse’. An uneasy read for uneasy times.

  • Notes From An Apocalypse by Mark O’Connell (Granta, £14.99).


Camels & whale sharks

Watch on as camels race one another while being ridden by remote control ‘jockeys’, and whale sharks (the world’s largest fish) swim in waters near oil platforms in a behind-the-scenes look at the Arabian peninsula.

  • Wild Arabia (Sunday at 8pm, one hour, BBC4).

Mancs in Mumbai

Culture shock: Absolutely India charts three TV brothers as they trace their roots in Mumbai

When the three Thomas brothers — Ryan, Adam and Scott, from Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Love Island respectively — swap the North of England for Mumbai to trace their roots, they are in for many culture shocks. Accompanied by their droll father Dougie, this week they find their inner Zen, while Scott has a hair styling session involving flames.

  • Absolutely India (Wednesday at 8pm, 30 minutes, ITV).

Inside North Korea

As rumours circulate about the health of Kim Jong-un, find out more about his secretive nation with this Michael Palin documentary.

  • Michael Palin In North Korea (Thursday at 9pm, two hours, Channel 5).


Desert island survival

When William Golding wrote Lord Of The Flies, his classic tale of boys surviving alone on a Pacific Ocean island after a plane crash, it was initially rejected by publishers for being ‘rubbish and dull’. Luckily one disagreed!

Enjoy this first part of an excellent BBC adaptation that will run over several days.

  • Lord Of The Flies (Tuesday at 6pm, 30 minutes, BBC Radio 4 Extra). 

Hiking in Ireland

Listen to Jane Clarke’s exploration of remote valleys in County Wicklow, Ireland

Travel along the Miners’ Way, exploring remote valleys in County Wicklow, Ireland, in the company of Jane Clarke, who has written poetry to complement the gorgeous landscape.

She also interviews locals about old mining ways and how life has changed over the years.

  • The Miners’ Way (tomorrow at 4.30pm, 30 minutes, BBC Radio 4).


Maldives sunshine

Anyone for crystal clear waters, white-sand beaches and baking hot sunshine? Save 40 per cent on a six-night, post-travel restrictions, half-board stay at Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas — now from £7,070 for two. This includes lunch in its underwater restaurant, a manta ray snorkelling trip and a stargazing experience (

French spa treat

Imagine being on a seven-night spa break at the Evian Resort Hotel Ermitage on the peaceful banks of Lake Geneva in the French Alps — and then book it, if you like. The post-restrictions B&B price is from £942 pp, 20 per cent off — flights are extra ( 

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