19 Oct

Saudi quarantine offers temporary lifeline to struggling hotels

first_img ‘Associated with virus’ Saudi Arabia’s hotel industry faces a sharp downturn after the kingdom launched tourist visas last September with much fanfare and ambitions to welcome 100 million visitors by 2030.The kingdom has spent billions in an attempt to build a tourism industry from scratch, one of the main planks of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s drive to wean the economy off its decades-long dependence on oil revenues. The announcement led to a rush to build new hotels, with officials at the time estimating 500,000 rooms will be required nationwide over the coming decade to fill the current infrastructure gap. More than 138 hotel projects with 54,143 rooms were due to be unveiled in the kingdom in 2019-20, according to industry projections.But the projects are bound to suffer delays and funding setbacks amid COVID-19 shutdowns, said the manager of a five-star Riyadh hotel that declined government offers to be used to quarantine people.He said such deals offered a “short-term cash benefit” at a time when his hotel was forced to slash staff salaries and force many to go on unpaid leave.But, he added, the move could affect the hotels’ brands and guests will be afraid to return to a “hotel associated with the virus”. ‘Vacation’ The ministry has said it is committed to hosting Saudi returnees, including in the “most prestigious hotels”.Saudi football coach Abdulhakeem al-Tuwaijri told AFP his free-of-charge quarantine experience in Mecca after he returned with his team from a football training camp in Barcelona “beats any five-star hotel in Europe”.Despite the pressures of round-the-clock confinement, Tuwaijri — who was put up in a plush suite — said it felt like “going on a vacation”.A group of South Asian transit passengers at one Riyadh hotel took advantage of the all-expenses-paid quarantine to order “too much” room service, the industry source said.But the quarantine system has also seen complaints of misplaced luggage and food delays from some passengers who were hauled by authorities from Saudi airports to hotels without any prior warning.Saudi nationalists have attacked such critics online as being ungrateful.”Saudi Arabia is not a champion of human rights, but it is keen to show it is pampering people quarantined in hotels,” Quentin de Pimodan of the Research Institute for European and American Studies told AFP.”With this, it is hitting two birds with one stone — it is also trying to save hotels and its nascent tourism industry.” One four-star hotel in central Riyadh with 100-plus rooms was left with only five guests in mid-March when the Saudi government offered four million riyals ($1.06 million) a month for it to be used as a quarantine facility, an industry source told AFP.One of its larger sister hotels was offered six million riyals, added the source, who requested the names of the properties be withheld because of the stigma attached to the disease.”This is better than running an empty hotel,” the source said.”The staff had been preparing for layoffs, up to 50 percent pay cuts or leave without pay.” But things are looking up, for now.Such was the desperation from a slump in business that multiple hotel chains are chasing similar deals with the government, despite some reservations that being linked with COVID-19 could hurt their brand image in the long term, the source said.Nearly 1,900 rooms in hotels and other tourism facilities in Riyadh had been reserved for quarantine cases, along with more than 2,800 in Mecca and another 1,900 in the kingdom’s eastern region, the tourism ministry said on its website at the end of March.This week the ministry said 11,000 rooms around the kingdom had been prepared to quarantine Saudis stranded abroad who are expected to return to the country.The government spending comes despite a precipitous fall in state revenue as oil prices plunge to multi-year lows. center_img Saudi Arabia has quarantined thousands of people in hotels, some in luxury suites, to combat COVID-19, throwing a temporary lifeline to an industry struggling just months after tourist visas were launched.Faced with nearly 4,500 novel coronavirus infections — the highest in the Gulf — the petro-state  has halted air travel, locked down cities and imposed nationwide curfews in a crisis that has dealt a blow to the nascent tourism sector.Offering a ray of hope, however, the government is splurging millions of dollars to quarantine thousands of overseas travellers and those exposed to infected people in otherwise empty hotels around the kingdom. Topics :last_img read more

16 Sep

Syracuse’s 19-goal explosion keyed by spoiling Louisville’s game plan

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ The fourth goal of SU’s eventual 11-goal run to end the game was the one that sent the Syracuse fans into a frenzy. Following a score by Julie Cross, the Orange’s usual draw-specialist, the SU sideline erupted.The midfielder skipped off the field with a smile and tapped the stick of a player who’d hardly found her name in the scorebook. It was Emily Hawryschuk, who headed out on the next play to take the draw.That was the blueprint Syracuse (9-8, 1-6 Atlantic Coast) had to work within its 19-8 win over Louisville (6-10, 0-7). Hawryschuk, the Orange’s top goal scorer, was given little space to work with all game due to being face guarded all game by UofL’s Sarah Blalock. While the face guarding formula has worked against Syracuse in the past — specifically targeting Nicole Levy — the Orange overcame it when it needed to, capturing its first conference win leading into ACC Tournament play.Louisville was determined in its game plan from the get-go. Starting from the opening whistle, Blalock identified Hawryschuk and never left her side. Even on the sideline, Blalock locked her eyes on a motionless Hawryschuk, who was away from the action having conversation with SU head coach Gary Gait.“You just get used to it,” Hawryschuk said. “You just know that she’s going to be there.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe Orange has had plenty of time to get used to it. The formula has been used against SU before, when opponents held Nicole Levy without a point in three of the last five games before Sunday.During a recent practice at Ensley Athletic Center, SU players went through the motions of a drill that mimicked those game situations. The Orange set up plays for Levy to receive the ball cutting across the net, giving her space to contribute despite having a defender locked at her hip. Levy cut across again and again, but in a drill that featured her, sometimes she struggled to get a hold of the ball.“We practiced that all week,” said Molly Carter, a freshman attack. “So we were prepared for anything they might do.”But then the Cardinals came with a game plan that gave Levy what she sought for each of the last six games: space. Carter added that Hawryschuk’s absence from the offensive end for much of the game opened a lot of space for the Orange to work with.Levy, who scored for the first time since a six-goal game against Virginia Tech 15 days earlier, laughed when asked if she was relieved that finally, the focus wasn’t on her. It opened up opportunities for her to return to the finesse she’s displayed all season. With the Orange holding a nine-goal lead, the junior darted in a straight line from the left side of the net and spun in midair, firing a shot through her legs to push the Orange lead to double digits.“I don’t think much was really going through my head, we were up by a lot so we were just having fun,” Levy said. “And I figured, I don’t know, I want to have fun.”While the offense didn’t present itself often, Hawryschuk’s contributions still remained strong. In Syracuse’s season-long struggle with the draw, Gait has experimented with multiple players to give SU a boost. The lack of possessions have plagued the Orange on both offense and defense, but on Sunday, a handicapped Hawryschuk was able to anchor the unit, leading SU to an 18-11 victory at the faceoff X.“I think it’s just the mental preparation that you have to do beforehand,” Hawryschuk said. “You have to focus on the offensive game plan but at the same time you have to study the draw and know what you have to do.”But for much of the game, the star sophomore stood still. But, in the play that started SU’s run, Hawryschuk decided it was best for her to move.Gait couldn’t remember at first, but the two exchanged laughs postgame as they discussed Gait’s defensive advice that Blalock inadvertently had listened upon, still eyeing the every motion of Hawryschuk. Instead of playing defense, the sophomore did was she’s always done best. She faked right, she faked left and sent the ball into the net to break a tie that Syracuse never looked back from.Then she retreated back toward the outer edge of the SU offense, similar to the strategy SU has employed with Levy, but this time the absentee was not needed.“I took myself out of the game,” she said.And, finally, it worked. Comments Published on April 22, 2018 at 5:38 pm Contact Michael: [email protected] | @MikeJMcClearylast_img read more