WHY IT RATES: This complete statement is located on the Riviera Nayarit website and is updated daily. —Codie Liermann, Associate Editor
Caribbean Resorts Supporting COVID-19 Fight
Americans Are Facing Never-Before-Seen Interstate Travel…
Airlines Asked to Issue Refunds Following Bailout
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As it is our commitment to keep our employees, partners and travelers well-informed with news from Riviera Nayarit, today’s update focuses on COVID-19’s impact on the destination and the efforts in place to prevent the spread of the virus in our community.
First and foremost, we hope that everyone is safe and healthy as we continue to unite during this critical time. Just a few weeks ago, this virus seemed distant. Its worldwide spread has called on us to not only respond, but also reflect on what is most important.
From Riviera Nayarit, we’d like to share the following information:
—According to the Ministry of Health of Mexico, there are 1,094 confirmed cases in the country, and 28 deaths have been reported. The federal and state governments have and will continue to implement numerous strict measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
—The State of Nayarit remains one of the least affected areas with five cases to date. To avoid further risk to those in the destination, on March 25th the Governor of the State of Nayarit urged travelers to reschedule their visits to the destination. He also announced that public beach access points will be monitored to avoid the grouping of people and reduce the risk of spread and contagion.
—In alignment with the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health in Mexico, the State of Nayarit and the Banderas Bay Hotel and Motel Association adhere to strict international guidelines and protocols as it relates to sanitation as well as the prevention, detection and treatment of many diseases. The situation evolves daily, and we are ready to respond to the needs of the community and the industry.
—Communication is key and constant. Local and state authorities are in continuous communication with the private sector, associations and tourism suppliers to review potential risks, determine measures, review best practices and assess measures in place.
For additional detailed information, please review the complete statement, which is located on the website www.RivieraNayarit.com and is updated every day before 6 p.m. EST.
Riviera Nayarit is one of the youngest destinations in Mexico, born nearly 13 years ago when travelers first began discovering this beautiful Pacific treasure.
We are proud of our achievements and the people who have helped make Riviera Nayarit one of the most awarded and beloved places in Mexico and beyond. Rest assured that when this subsides, we’ll be here with open arms, ready to receive travelers from around the world once again.
In the meantime, we are here and ready to assist. For any additional questions, please contact [email protected]
SOURCE: Riviera Nayarit Convention & Visitors Bureau press release.
Aloha State hotels and resorts are swiftly creating game plans after Hawaii Gov. David Ige requested visitors to the Aloha State postpone trips for at least 30 days and then mandated a 14-day quarantine for all arrivals. Several properties have already decided to close for a month or more.
The Kahala Hotel and Resort on Oahu suspended operations March 24 with plans to reopen on May 1 to help arrest the spread of Covid-19 and respond to the tourism slowdown.
“We are deeply saddened to close our doors but understand we must do our part to stop the spread of Covid-19 in our community and protect all residents of Hawaii. We are committed to acting in the best interest of our employees and guests to prioritize their health and safety,” Joe Ibarra, general manager of the Kahala Hotel and Resort, said in a statement. “We are closely monitoring the situation and following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, government leaders and health experts to determine when it is safe and appropriate to reopen.
The entire property, including the spa, fitness center, restaurant and retail stores, will be closed through April. Guests are being offered the option to stay through their scheduled checkout date or leave early without penalty.
Existing reservations from March 24 to May 1 are canceled, while new reservations are being accepted for May 1 and later.
Sister properties Halekulani and Halepuna Waikiki closed March 26, the same day Ige’s quarantine order was set to go into effect. The closure is scheduled to go through April 30.
“As always, the safety and wellbeing of our guests and our Halekulani and Halepuna Waikiki team is our utmost priority,” Halekulani Corp. said in a statement. “Our management team is working closely with our guests and our staff to help them in every way possible in advance of closing our hotels, as well as doing everything possible to safeguard our guests, our staff and our community from Covid-19.”
The Ko Olina Resort, including Four Seasons Resort Oahu, Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa and the Ko Olina Golf Club, on Oahu’s leeward coast has also closed in response to the pandemic.
The resort’s lagoon beaches and the Ko Olina Marina are also shuttered along with the tour providers, wedding chapels, restrooms and parking lots. The timeshare property Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club remains open for now, along with the independently owned restaurants and retail stores at the Ko Olina Station and Ko Olina Center.
Juan, Nakarid and Pauletti #BringingBucutiToYou from Elements Restaurant at Bucuti! The restaurant team is upgrading, training, creating new recipes and refreshing to make Elements better than its ever been – for your return.
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New videos post several times a week. Upcoming videos will feature Bucuti associates bringing messages from guests’ favorite Bucuti spots, including the sun loungers on Eagle Beach, servers greeting followers from the deck of the oceanfront Elements restaurant and guests taking a dip in the pool.
“At our resort, our associates are our heart and soul. Caring for our guests is paramount whether they are here on property or, in these unique times due to the pandemic, far away,” Biemans said.
“When travel resumes, Bucuti & Tara will be ready to welcome our guests as soon as they touch down,” he said.
Just because COVID-19 has many of us sequestered at home doesn’t mean we can’t dream about (and plan for) our next adventure abroad when travel resumes. Officials at Brazil’s museums are doing their part to keep travelers’ wanderlust alive, teaming with the Google Arts & Culture department to offer virtual tours of some of the country’s most distinguished art and architecture.
Via the newly formed partnership, consumers can take a virtual tour of Brazil’s museums from their homes. Not only do the sites provide full information on the museum collections and fascinating artistic and cultural legacies in South America’s largest country, but they are ideal tools to use in planning activities for a future Brazil vacation.
Here are the 10 museums, found in the signature Brazilian cities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, which virtual visitors can explore now and plan to visit in person later.
São Paulo Museum of Art, MASP (São Paulo): MASP offers a world-class permanent collection highlighted with works by Di Cavalcanti, Van Gogh, Monet and Picasso. Each virtual tour features more than 1,000 virtual pieces. User can expand each piece to learn about each piece’s creator, history and artistic context.
National Museum of Fine Arts (Rio de Janeiro): Opened in 1937, the 193,750 square foot National Museum features 70,000 paintings, drawings, engravings, sculptures, objects, documents and books, focused on Brazilian art. Considered the country’s most important art museum, it offers the additional benefit of its location in Rio de Janeiro’s historic center.
National Museum of Brazil (Rio de Janeiro): Brazil’s oldest scientific institution and largest museum (founded in 1818) partnered with Google for an online display of archives that survived the devastating September 2018 fire. The headquarters in Paço de São Cristóvão is now undergoing reconstruction work.
Museum of Modern Art (Rio de Janeiro): The MAM Rio collection consists of 15,000 works including sculptures, paintings, photographs, drawings, prints, installations and contemporary media. Considered a landmark in modern Brazilian architecture, the museum is housed in a late 1950s building designed by Affonso Eduardo Reidy.
Museum of the Indigenous People (Rio de Janeiro): The facility chronicles the contemporary and historic culture of Brazil’s indigenous people, with 23,176 ethnographic pieces and 15,121 national and foreign publications specialized in ethnology and related areas. The collection features 268,623 photographic images, 599 films and videos and 1,295 sound files.
Immigration Museum (São Paulo): The collection explores the experiences of thousands of immigrants who came to Brazil and stayed at the Casa do Migrante. The displays feature family collections representing communities that arrived in the country during the 20th century.
Football Museum (São Paulo): Located in the Pacaembú stadium, the museum spotlights the country’s signature sport as a cultural heritage and part of Brazil’s identity. The best goals and great names in the sport are featured along “the pioneering women of a discipline that many times denied them access,” according to organizers. It is in the São Paulo capital.
Brazilian House Museum (São Paulo): Dedicated to Brazilian architecture and design, the collection features together furnishings and decorative accessories dating back three centuries.
Brazilian Fashion Museum (Rio de Janeiro): This collection brings together the best of Brazil’s fashion, featuring the nation’s imperial period in beautifully decorated rooms. The collection consists of 3,500 19th century heritage pieces, clothing, accessories, prints and fans.
Castro Maya Museum or Chácara do Céu (Rio de Janeiro): Housed in the former residences of collector and patron of the arts Raymundo Ottoni de Castro Maya, the museum complex incudes creations from Matisse, Modigliani, Degás, Seurat and Miró, plus works by Brazilian artists Guignard and Iberê Camargo. The exhibition also includes an important collection of maps from the 17th and 18th centuries.
COVID-19 has led to a postponement of one of the Caribbean’s most successful music festivals. St. Kitts re-scheduled the 24th annual St. Kitts Music Festival, originally slated for June 24 to 28, 2020, to June 23 to 27, 2021 “to protect its citizens, residents, visitors and the integrity of the Music Festival,” as the tourism-reliant nation confronts coronavirus’ spread.
“The Music Festival has allowed us to promote our St. Kitts brand over the summer months,” said Lindsay F.P. Grant, minister of tourism, in a statement Friday. “We are confident it will remain a cornerstone of our annual marketing and branding activities in the years to come. However, after careful consideration, we chose to postpone it until 2021.”
Dual-island St. Kitts and Nevis closed its borders on March 25 in an attempt to stem the COVID-19 virus’ spread. One day later health authorities today confirmed two coronavirus cases in St. Kitts.
The Music Festival proved a strong visitor draw for St. Kitts during the summer, traditionally a slow tourism period for many Caribbean countries. Last year “was the second in a row we saw a significant increase in air arrivals and attendance with system-wide air arrivals increasing seven percent for June 2019 as compared to June 2018,” said Racquel Brown, CEO of the St. Kitts Tourism Authority.
The festival drew “nearly 30,000 attendees over the three-night event,” Brown said, and “is now achieving the goals that were established for the event to drive and support ‘heads in beds’ for our tourism industry in June,” added Grant.“The Music Festival has allowed us to promote our St. Kitts brand over the summer months. We are confident it will remain a cornerstone of our annual marketing and branding activities in the years to come.”
Travelers who previously purchased tickets online “will be protected and their purchases will either remain valid or can be refunded,” said St. Kitts Tourism officials. The festival’s 2020 lineup included Gladys Knight, Jimmy Cliff, Beres Hammond, Wizkid, Koffee and Chronixx.
“While it was a difficult decision to make, we have postponed the St. Kitts Music Festival to protect the health and safety of all visitors, citizens and residents as well as the integrity of the St. Kitts Music Festival brand,” said Damion Hobson, the festival’s chairman. “We look forward to delivering another epic three nights of performances in 2021.”
African Bush Camps plans to open a new luxury tented camp on the banks of the Khwai River at the edge of the Moremi Game Reserve in July this year.
The new camp, Khwai Leadwood, is located in the community-run Khwai Concession in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. The camp will offer a range of immersive activities including mokoro adventures, game drives beneath the sun and stars, and walking safaris among abundant wildlife.
Renowned as one of the leading wildlife areas in southern Africa, Moremi Game Reserve covers more than 40% of the Okavango. It is home to most predator species, including wild dogs, leopards, hyenas and lions.
Catering for 16 people, the camp features six luxury twin/double tents and one family unit. All rooms are designed for comfort, and modern amenities include cooling fans, charging facilities and private en-suite bathrooms. The tents all offer indoor and outdoor showers and private decks with day beds.
The camp features a communal dining deck as well as a lounge, reading area and a bar serving African-inspired cocktails as well as wine and beer. The camp’s swimming pool will be a popular spot to chill out and sip sundowners after daylong ventures in the bush.
Khwai Leadwood will welcome guests age 7 and older year-round, with access from the Khwai Airstrip just minutes from camp, reachable by plane from Maun (30 minutes) and Kasane (1 hour).
With restaurants closing their doors as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak, will food delivery companies and landlords come to their rescue?
Restaurants must make it through the next three months
Once the main attraction at Dubai darling Akiba Dori, a $40,000 Italian pizza oven has lost all but a few of its most loyal admirers typically swayed by its finest creations cooked at a blazing 500 degrees in just under a minute.
It’s not that its flames are burning any less brighter or that its gifted pizzaiolo Luigi is any less passionate; it’s that – like many of its neighbours in the once buzzing business district d3 – Akiba Dori and its magnificent wood-fired oven has fallen victim to the crippling coronavirus pandemic.
But Samer Hamadeh doesn’t regret his investment.
Food delivery apps are under pressure to support local restaurants
The restaurant owner and managing partner of Aegis Hospitality calls himself “realistically optimistic”. Despite having to shut down his restaurant, in line with measures to curb the spread of the virus and encourage people to stay home, he managed to deliver the same number of pizzas – 100 to be exact – that he sells on a daily basis during dine-in sittings.
“100 doesn’t sound like a lot,” he says, laughing, “but we usually sell 100 pizzas in the restaurant.”
Saved by delivery?
Even without the government’s enforced closures on dining outlets, Hamadeh would be better off delivering than serving its usual crowd of dine-in customers who have moved on to work remotely from their homes, leaving the typically buzzing business district chillingly vacant.
Now Akiba Dori depends mainly on its delivery-only kitchen which operates on a minimal cost yet excels at providing its customers with the finest Italian pizza delivered hot to their doorstep.
But with the number of coronavirus cases rising across the UAE – leading many businesses to lay off staff or shut down entirely – residents have tighter budgets and have less to spend on takeout or even risk dealing with delivery drivers, not that the number of deliveries are anywhere near enough to sustain Hamadeh’s restaurant to begin with.
“A lot of factors influence people’s habits and in a situation like this, less people are ordering food”
“We’re depending on something undependable. Delivery is incremental revenue and is usually treated as such for most restaurants, meaning their main revenue is the restaurant itself, and delivery is the cherry on top,” he says.
“A lot of factors influence people’s habits and in a situation like this, less people are ordering food, more people are cooking at home or ordering from places they’ve been ordering from for years. I don’t think delivery is a saviour.”
And how can it be when delivery companies charge restaurants a whopping 35 percent in commission fees?
While US giant Uber Eats has waived delivery fees for consumers, it has yet to reduce fees to support local restaurants. Its competitor Deliveroo has not announced any changes to its charges, while food delivery service Zomato came under fire in March for offering to provide AED1,000 hygiene audits to restaurants amid the crisis. It later said it regretted having sent the email, but has not announced measures to help local restaurants either. Regional player Talabat was also criticised for asking restaurants to offer 50 percent discounts in return for marketing highlights.
Seafood Souq is a B2B online marketplace launched by enterpreneur Sean Dennis to tackle seafood fraud
In a bid to reach out to the aggregators, independent food blogger Food Sheikh, who maintains an anonymous identity, wrote an open letter urging them to step up and offer support.
“The F&B industry as a whole runs on pretty low profit margins anyway so if you’re giving 30 percent to aggregators then giving off 50 percent discount on food as well, you’re not making any money; in fact you’re paying money to give that order to the customer… They [delivery companies] have a strategy and they’re sticking to it, and not only are they not offering support, they’re being insensitive with their offers of promotions,” he says.
His letter went unanswered, but was quickly picked up by Dubai software company Chat Food, which proposed the launch of a commission-free platform Deliver DXB to encourage consumers to order directly from restaurants and help them retain 100 percent of their revenue to cover costs, including staff salaries. They turned it around in 24 hours and in just a few days, it had attracted 500 restaurants.
“One restaurant said their direct ordering had tripled overnight with the launch of the website; another said her number of orders was on par with one of the large aggregators; and one had to close delivery for one hour because they were so busy with orders,” Food Sheikh says.
“One restaurant said their direct ordering had tripled overnight with the launch of the website”
But Deliver DXB is a temporary solution, and isn’t enough to keep restaurants alive. “The aggregators are really good at what they do especially in terms of customer experience; they serve a purpose. But, at this moment, they need to offer a helping hand. They disrupted the industry because restaurants fell asleep, because they got lazy, but aggregators can also get lazy and they will be disrupted if they do,” he adds.
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Yet many a restaurants are unable to resort even to delivery, as Akiba Dori’s Hamadeh points out that most last mile delivery companies do not cater to areas like d3 where clients are few and far between.
Tech to the rescue
The good news is not everyone is suffering and there are companies attempting to make the lives of restaurants easier. Seafood Souq, a B2B online marketplace initially launched to tackle seafood fraud by connecting international sellers with regional buyers through a traceable supply chain, is currently helping restaurants purchase smaller quantities to adapt to decreasing resources and demand. It has also seen a surge in its orders, having doubled them in March compared to February.
Talabat was criticised for asking restaurants to offer 50 percent discounts in return for marketing highlights
“Orders continue to grow in size, and this is from a food security and agility angle. Being a tech start-up, we’re able to adapt quickly to our source markets if one border closes, because we have multiple options, and can switch very quickly to continue the need for that particular food supply,” says CEO Sean Dennis.
Seafood Souq is also working on digitising fish markets in Dubai to provide access to both the end consumer and small businesses.
“We try to help. When we have orders coming in, they’re able to place smaller orders, especially when we digitise, so one or two fish as opposed to kilos… Working with international suppliers, they’ll often have large purchases so they aren’t able to work with small suppliers locally because of their lack of last mile or payment terms required by larger buyers so by using our platform, we’re able to provide payment terms to certain buyers so they can buy locally, and it’s in the interest of food security as well,” he says.
Dennis points out that the UAE has become too reliant on international markets’ expertise, and that the covid-19 crisis has highlighted the need to strengthen regional supply chains.
“We’re able to adapt quickly to our source markets if one border closes”
“I wish we could have gotten the platform out prior to this but this highlights the desperate need for this so that markets can react very quickly to pandemics… the need to address how globalised we are, we’re becoming too reliant on international and single source markets. I’m not saying we’ve gone too far or that globalisation is bad but the supply chain needs to change,” he says.
Seafood Souq’s digitised fish market will take weeks to complete, but there are plenty of changes that could prolong the life of many F&B players in the UAE; one of them is landlords’ attitudes towards rents.
While Akiba Dori’s Hamadeh says his landlord has delayed rent and is open to negotiations, other F&B players are not as lucky.
“Some people are receiving threatening letters from their landlords, and none of them want to be named because they’re scared. But this is not the time to be politically correct. People need to know who’s doing this. The landlords are saying, ‘we’re collecting rent no matter what happens’, and some of these are big groups. This is not the time to be bullying people. I don’t want to be that guy but I will be that guy: if your landlord isn’t willing to treat you as a partner in this time, you should drop them.
Samer Hamadeh, the managing partner of Aegis Hospitality
“Landlords always have the upper hand and as long as their revenue is secure, they don’t care if the same shop they have changes over 20 times because there’s always that person who thinks they’re the ones who will make it… In shopping malls, it’s the landlords’ responsibility to get footfall so they have to waive rent if they don’t get that footfall, or say okay, we’ll take 5-10 percent of what you’re making in the next few months so we can both make it through this difficult period.
“I’m not saying don’t pay them anything and let their people starve, but at a time like this, if they can cut fees, if I can cut fees, if the government is stepping in and saying the banks will freeze loans, at least it will provide some breathing room for SMEs,” he says.
Hamadeh is hopeful that government entities, like Dubai Tourism, have stepped up to offer help: “I got a call from someone at Dubai Tourism two weeks ago saying, ‘I know there’s a tough period coming up, can you send me an email about what you think we can do to help you survive during this time?’ Imagine the government reaching out to a random guy like me?
Having the government step in and say, ‘we won’t let you go bust, it’s slowly trickling down, it’s the right message,” he says.
Restaurants must make it through the next three months. However, in order to survive, and blogger Food Sheikh is concerned with how many – or how little – will ultimately be able to reopen.
“It’s a cash-to-mouth business. Some of the biggest award-winning restaurants told me directly that they’ve only gotten a couple of months in cash until it’s gone.
“Landlords always have the upper hand and as long as their revenue is secure, they don’t care if the same shop they have changes over 20 times because there’s always that person who thinks they’re the ones who will make it”
“F&B is such a cash-intensive business that, almost immediately, we’re going to start feeling it,” he says.
The takeaway message for those who will be able to make a comeback, according to Food Sheikh, is: “At the end of this, I hope businesses remember who offered that helping hand and who didn’t reply to their emails.”
As for Hamadeh’s $40,000 Italian oven, it continues to perform to a humble audience comprising kitchen staff, the same staff who have banned their boss from going anywhere near it. The reason? “I don’t cook,” he says, “I used to microwave water to make coffee”.
With the lack of tourism, popular tourist destinations around the world are finding alternative ways to support local businesses, hotels, eateries and attractions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Palm Beaches (DTPB) has established a virtual reality experience for individuals looking to maintain some normalcy amidst widespread self-quarantine.
Through DiscoverThe Palm Beaches, residents can participate in an array of different activities from the comfort of their own home. Loggerhead Marinelife Center, a nonprofit sea turtle research, rehabilitation and educational institution, has launched a Virtual Coastal Classroom that broadcasts live each day from the Outdoor Sea Turtle Hospital to educate the public on the conservation of ocean ecosystems.
Through its free app or website, the Flagler Museum is offering digital tours of the “Gilded Age” National Landmark. Hilton West Palm Beach will offer virtual “Namaste at Home” full and new moon yoga classes. Other offers include virtual bike rides, exploring 47 miles of beaches through beach cams and White Glove Service (the MVP of VIP digital shopping).
In addition, the Palm Beach community has banned together to keep all local businesses afloat during this trying time. The Death or Glory Bar in Delray Beach has provided all full-time employees up to $1,000 for their April rents, while the popular LGBTQ+ bar Rooster’s is dipping into emergency funds to support employees and other small businesses.
Culinary photographer Libby Vision has offered complimentary marketing support to local restaurants in need. Renny & Reed at The Royal Poinciana is a florist business that has been handing out bouquets to passerby for donations to help fund the Jupiter-based Scripps Research Institute’s research for a COVID-19 cure.
Boca Raton Marriott has extended a sleeping room rate of $99 to all Florida Atlantic University and Lynn University students and their families after the schools have temporarily closed. The hotel is also offering a $99 Florida Resident Rate for others in need. Booking can be completed online using the promo code FR6 or by calling (561) 392-4600.
Several popular destinations in Mexico have started banning tourists to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
According to Mexico News Daily, municipalities in Quintana Roo, Veracruz and Oaxaca are working on plans to allow only local residents, vehicles carrying departing visitors, essential workers and people visiting medical facilities to use the surrounding roads.
In Lazaro Cardenas, Quintana Roo, a meeting of residents voted unanimously to ban tourists from the area until the viral outbreak subsides. Authorities in Tecolutla, Veracruz, have told tourism officials to stop accepting reservations until further notice.
“The coming weeks are crucial to avoid massive spread,” Mayor Juan Angel Espejo Bovio told Mexico News Daily. “Let’s remember that together we can overcome this risk.”
Tamiahua, Veracruz, Mayor Citlali Medellin announced security guards would be turning away tourists at 71 different communities in the area, with each neighborhood being inhabited by 5-10 guards each.
Other areas in Mexico have not banned tourists, but are setting up medical checkpoints to determine if visitors have a fever. Some regions are also asking taxi drivers to refuse service to foreigners looking to visit the beach.
In the United States, several of the top national parks were closed to the public Tuesday as a result of restrictions put in place to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Sultanate has recorded 15 new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday
The ban excludes flights to Musandam and air cargo.
Oman will suspend all domestic and international flights to and from the Sultanate’s airports from noon on Sunday, in an attempt to control the spread of coronavirus.
The decision has been taken by the Supreme Committee as the number of confirmed cases in Oman reached 99, with 15 new cases confirmed on Wednesday.
The ban excludes flights to Musandam and air cargo.
Seven out of the 15 new cases are linked to contact infection, while a further seven are linked to travel to the UK, USA and Spain; one case is under investigation.
The Ministry of Health also said that 17 patients have recovered and they have been advised to stay at home quarantine and adhere to health instructions.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Committee has opened a bank account to receive donations, in response to national initiatives being undertaken by citizens, private establishments, civil society institutions and local society, to fight the pandemic.
A report on the Oman News Agency added: “The Supreme Covid-19 Committee also gave directives to the departments concerned to allocate safe places for washing the dead in each of the Sultanate’s wilayats and to deal with every corpse as deemed necessary for eliminating infection risks.