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Cruises

Victory Cruise Lines Suspends Service Through 2020 Season

Victory Cruise Lines is canceling all voyages for the remainder of 2020 due to “prolonged governmental restrictions and uncertainties of future travel through Canadian waters” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company said it will focus on the 2021 season, which includes the debut of the Ocean Victory in Alaska and new itineraries on the Great Lakes, Canadian Maritimes, New England and the Southeastern U.S.

“The decision to suspend service for 2020 was a difficult and disappointing choice but necessary in response to uncertainties of Canadian travel in the coming months,” said John Waggoner, founder and CEO of American Queen Steamboat Company. “In anticipation of operating, we have taken this time to implement cutting-edge health and safety protocols. We will now focus on our exciting new itineraries planned for 2021, including the Ocean Victory in Alaska.”

In 2021, Victory will roll out new itineraries including the 12- and 13-day Alaska expedition cruises on the upcoming Ocean Victory between Vancouver, B.C., and Sitka, Alaska.

The Victory I and Victory II will also return with refreshed routes, including a 12-day Southeastern U.S. cruise that sails roundtrip to Amelia Island, Fla. (Fernandina Beach). Early booking discounts up to $1,400 per stateroom are now available for 2021 cruises.

In the coming weeks, Victory will announce plans for new winter itineraries for both the Victory I and Victory II, so guests with future cruise credits will have more choices.

For guests booked to sail on the Victory I or Victory II in 2020, no action is necessary at this time. The company’s customer service team will reach out directly to guests and travel agents to answer questions and advise on available options, which include the opportunity to rebook on a later date, a 125 percent cruise credit or a full refund.

The 125 percent cruise credit can be used toward any Victory itinerary, including the Alaska expedition cruises. All full refunds will be processed within 90 days.

For more details on Victory’s current policies, click here.

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Cruises

Cruise Companies Launch Promotions for National Travel Advisor Day

Windstar Cruises is now paying commission on all future cruise credits and has launched a popular agent promotion “Sell 3, Sail Free.” The company made the announcements for National Travel Advisor Day and National Travel and Tourism Week.

“Travel advisors have always been important partners of Xanterra Travel Collection,” said Xanterra and Windstar Cruises CEO Andrew Todd. “A few years ago, Windstar Cruises introduced Star Promise – our commitment to travel advisors. In keeping with that pledge, it is important to update our policy to recognize the hard work and support of our travel advisor partners.”

Windstar’s Travel Assurance Booking Policy already allows travelers to cancel their cruise up to 15 days before departure and receive a 100 percent future cruise credit to be used on all sailings through Dec. 31, 2021. Starting immediately, however, Windstar is changing its policy to pay agent commissions on all future cruise credits.

The “Sell 3, Sail Free” program, which will begin on May 18, awards a free cruise for two to agents who sell three fully deposited staterooms. The free cruise will have to be taken by April 30, 2021. Travel advisors will be confirmed 60 days out, based on availability, and will pay only taxes, fees, and port expenses, plus gratuities. For details on booking guests with Windstar, click here.

Here are other cruise line promotions announced for National Travel Advisor Day.

Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours and Emerald Waterways are offering a 2 percent bonus commission on all new river cruises booked by May 30, 2020, for travel in 2020 or 2021. Additionally, every travel advisor who books a river cruise will be entered into a giveaway – with one winner receiving a complimentary Scenic or Emerald river cruise. More details can be found here and here.

The bonus commission applies to the river cruise portion of a booking only, excluding port charges, land days and extensions, and do not apply to bookings made using a future cruise credit. Included in this offer are all river sailings in Europe, Mekong, Russia and Egypt. Dalmatia sailings are also included except those scheduled in 2021 on Emerald Azzurra.

Norwegian Cruise Line is offering prizes to bookings made through 6 p.m. ET May 6. A select number of travel partner bookings made through the Guest Services team will be eligible to win VIP packages or a $200 onboard credit. In addition, 10 travel partners will win $500 Amazon gift cards. From the 10 winners, three will be selected to win a Haven suite aboard a seven-day Norwegian cruise. The three winners will be announced via the Partners First Facebook page by NCL Chief Sales Officer Katina Athanasiou via Facebook Live at 8 p.m. ET.

Riviera River Cruises is offering an incentive to advisors and their clients for new bookings made between May 4 and May 8 for 2020 and 2021 European river cruises.

Advisors will receive a $100 gift card per cabin booked and their clients will receive a $100 shipboard credit per person booked.

“We’ve always supported the travel agency community, and this is our way of saying ‘thank you’ to advisors and their clients during these difficult times,” said Marilyn Conroy, Riviera River Cruises’ executive vice president-sales and marketing North America. “At Riviera, we’re the only cruise line that won’t accept bookings directly from consumers – instead, we turn them back over to advisors who work proactively with us and are located where the consumer lives. In due time, we’ll return to Europe’s rivers and waterways, and we hope to be the go-to cruise line for you and your clients when they’re able to travel again.”

The incentive does not apply to existing bookings being amended under the temporary flexible booking policy. For more information, click here.

MSC Cruises is protecting commissions and adding flexibility and resources. For National Travel Advisor Day, Ken Muskat, executive vice president and COO of MSC Cruises USA, released a video of interviews with travel advisors conducted earlier this year (before social distancing was the norm) to hear their perspective on what makes them successful as an advisor.

Last week, the company announced an extension of a temporary pause of cruises through July 10, 2020. MSC Cruises USA will protect commission for travel advisors on the original booking, plus advisors will earn full commissions on a rescheduled cruise that they book for their client.

For affected sailings, MSC Cruises USA will continue offering guests a full future cruise credit on the amount paid, plus an additional 25 percent toward a future cruise, on any ship and any itinerary, departing on or before Dec. 31, 2021.

The Cruise Assurance Program has been extended to Sept. 30, 2020, so booked guests can cancel or reschedule their reservations up to 48 hours before departure. Advisors can also take advantage of reduced $49 deposits through Sept. 30, 2020, and reduced single stateroom supplements at 150 percent from Aug. 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021.

Travel advisors are encouraged to join MSC Cruises’ next webinar on at 2-3 p.m. EDT May 13 with Michelle Lardizabal, senior vice president and commercial sales officer. She’ll share the love with advisors and discuss MSC Cruises’ programs and educational opportunities for the trade.

Travel advisors are encouraged to post a photo showing their favorite cruise destination to sell on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Tag MSC Cruises’ handles and use #TravelAdvisorDay and #MSCCruises, and they’ll have a chance to be featured on MSC Cruises’ social pages.

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Cruises

Carnival Cruise Line Using Its Ships to Return Crew Members Home

Eighteen Carnival Cruise Line ships will rendezvous in The Bahamas over the next several days as they prepare to repatriate more than 10,000 healthy crew members.

When plans are finalized, nine of the ships will sail home, due to restrictions limiting air travel to Asia, Africa, Europe, India and Latin America during the coronavirus pandemic.

The ships have been at various U.S. homeports provisioning supplies and bunkering fuel for their journeys, Carnival said in a press release. Certain crew members will join ships using water shuttles off the coast of The Bahamas.

The other nine ships will mostly stay in anchorage positions in The Bahamas or Panama, and eventually, all ships will reduce their crew numbers to safe operational manning levels.

“The safety and well-being of our team members continues to be a top priority. Given the pause in our operations, we are committed to getting our crew members safely home to their families. We sincerely thank them for their hard work, patience and understanding during this process,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line. “We would also like to thank the government of The Bahamas for their support of this operation, as well as the CDC, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and local port agencies.”

Crew members heading home have undergone a health check and cleared fit for travel by Carnival’s medical team. The company has been working closely with immigration officials in arriving countries on an efficient debarkation process. All crew members have their temperature taken daily and will do so again during the debarkation process.

Before Carnival’s pause in operations that began on March 13, its fleet of 27 ships had nearly 29,000 crew members on board. Since that time, Carnival has already repatriated more than 10,000 crew via flights, and another 10,000 will be traveling on the nine voyages leaving this week.

About 6,000 additional crew will be repatriated by air charters or three ships that already departed from Australia and Long Beach. By the time all these movements are completed, the Carnival fleet will be down to approximately 3,000 crew members identified for safe operational manning, plus several hundred that will be repatriated as quickly as possible.

Carnival sister company, Princess Cruises, is taking similar steps.

“Due to air travel restrictions, we (along with Holland America Line and Seabourn) have actioned a repatriation plan to sail our team members home to Europe, Africa, Asia and Canada,” the company tweeted on April 27. “Thank you to every teammate who continues to take care of all who remain onboard and get them safely home.”

Earlier, on April 18, Princess posted a notice on its website that said the repatriation was “an extremely challenging and complex operation” due to international air travel and government restrictions.

“Over recent weeks, we have been successful in repatriating thousands of teammates aboard non-commercial aircraft, and we continue working to find ways to return our teammates to their home countries including by way of our ships,” the company said. “During their time on board, we have moved all remaining teammates into their own balcony guest stateroom to allow for self-isolation in addition to maximizing comfort, health and well-being. While maintaining social distancing they have the opportunity to spend time on the top decks.”

A small complement of crew will remain on each ship to maintain essential operations during the operational pause. Compensation information during this time has been communicated directly to crew.

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Cruise Ship Leaves Australia After Coronavirus Debacle

The controversial cruise ship that was Australia’s largest single source of coronavirus infections departed from the country on Thursday.

According to the Associated Press, Princess Cruises’ Ruby Princess is currently under investigation after it was linked to 19 deaths caused by the viral pandemic in Australia and two in the United States.

The Australian government is trying to determine how around 2,700 passengers and crew members were permitted to leave the ship in March despite the results of coronavirus tests not being known yet.

The Ruby Princess was originally asked to leave the country by local authorities, but was forced to delay its departure from Port Kembla near Sydney due to a coronavirus outbreak among crew members that left several dead.

As the vessel departed with a skeleton crew, it displayed a large banner strung across its stern that said “Thank You Illawarra,” which is the coastal region where the ship had been docked.

Princess Cruises has not revealed where the ship is scheduled to dock next.

Police are investigating the management team of the Ruby Princess for possibly downplaying the extent of the coronavirus outbreak on board, which gave local authorities the confidence needed to allow passengers to disembark.

Health officials revealed all crew members on the ship have tested negative for the virus.

As a result of the worldwide travel restrictions, Princess Cruises is offering two cancellation options. Guests who paid in full will receive a future cruise credit equivalent to the cruise fare paid and, as an added incentive, an additional 25 percent credit.

Travelers must use their credits on a cruise that sails on or before May 1, 2022.

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Travel

Cruise Planners Focuses on Positive Messages to Help Travel Advisors

Cruise Planners CEO and founder Michelle Fee and COO and co-owner Vicky Garcia addressed the travel industry, discussing the company’s pivot from selling travel to supporting travel advisors during the coronavirus outbreak.

“It’s no secret that the travel industry has been hit hard,” said Fee.

On the bright side, she noted that Cruise Planners is seeing an uptick in purchases after the shutdown.

“We are trying to take every little win we can,” Fee said. “Nobody has a crystal ball but we are hopeful that these numbers are a sign that we are moving in the right direction.”

Cruise Planners also reported that cruise bookings are currently holding for 2021 and that the outlook for the coming year was trending up by 15 percent.

“While the numbers are changing daily and being closely monitored, right now, cruise departures for 2021 are leading with Europe as a top destination at 38 percent of the mix with a large focus on European River cruising, followed by the Caribbean making up 23 percent of the mix and Alaska trending with 15 percent according to the company’s latest revenue reports,” said Fee.

Fee also noted that homebased agents, which make up the Cruise Planners franchisees, are more in touch with their customers and have been faring better than their call center counterparts, who are experiencing deeper cuts and more layoffs.

“We are doing comparably well because Cruise Planner’s Home Office Team is fully invested in supporting its nationwide travel advisor network and protecting their client’s travel investments,” said Fee. “The foundation of our home-based model is based on grassroots community networking and personal relationships which is why we feel we may be faring better compared to online travel agencies and brick and mortar agencies.”

Fee and Garcia also touched on how Cruise Planners was navigating the current crisis.

“We are pivoting our marketing to what we are seeing,” said Fee. “We know that there are thousands and thousands of future cruise credits that haven’t rebooked, and we think that those people are in that wait and see mode.”

As the company switches from marketing focused on selling to a message of support, Fee and Garcia are focusing on the good.

“We are trying to keep things positive,” said Garcia. “We are encouraging agents to share the good news stories and started a campaign to encourage positive thinking…It’s not all doom and gloom and I think that we need to focus on that because it makes our heart feel good and our clients feel better.”

Right now, the company is focused on its “For the Love of Travel” campaign. The Facebook photo contest runs through April 30, 2020, and encourages travelers to keep their fond memories of travel alive by sharing vacation photos.

“This contest is a fun way to spark some joy across our travel advisor network, their clients, and travelers who are spending days, and even weeks, inside their homes,” said Fee. “I can’t wait to be inspired by the travel photos submitted as I am already reminiscing about my favorite travels and dreaming of where to go next once the world opens up again.”

Participants can simply post a photo of their favorite vacation memory using the hashtag #CruisePlannersLove on their personal Facebook wall or on a Cruise Planner’s travel advisor’s Facebook business page.

Going forward, Cruise Planners plans to concentrate on more land travel but is also looking to clients with future cruise credits.

“There are thousands of people holding on to future travel credits that still need to be rebooked. We are hearing straight from the experts how to adjust travelers’ itineraries and take advantage of the rebooking offers available to them,” says Garcia. “It is a win/win for clients and agents when a client rebooks a future vacation since many suppliers are offering value adds and perks to those who apply their future cruise credit towards an upcoming vacation.”

Cruise Planners is also giving its travel advisors the tools to keep in touch with clients in a meaningful way during this crisis.

Advisors have access to information on the latest cancellation policies and updates from industry executives. Cruise Planners has also built tools for agents to reach out to clients one-to-one.

Garcia also noted that advisors can take advantage of the downtime in other ways.

“This is a good time to take advantage of training,” she said. “Cruise Planners has increased training webinars.”

The company is offering live Facebook messages and has waived its administrative fees for the last two months. All marketing, print and digital, is free.

“We all need to make a collective sacrifice now to ensure we can operate as a business when the cruise ships are back to providing amazing vacation experiences and airplanes are transporting travelers instead of medical supplies,” Fee said. “We know the value of the travel advisor will be key to help reignite the travel industry.”

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Cruises

Cruise lines fight to stay afloat

Through February, the cruise industry looked like a model of
success. A record number of passengers took cruises last year. In 2020, more
ships were to be delivered than at any other time in history. Wave season was off
to another strong start. 

Then came coronavirus. 

Historically, cruise lines have had an advantage over hotels
and resorts because they could move ships away from trouble, redeploying from
the site of terror attacks, hurricanes and other natural disasters. After 9/11,
they brought ships to U.S. homeports when people preferred to avoid air travel.

Covid-19 has proven to be a different kind of crisis, one
that the cruise industry can’t outrun because it has been a big part
of the Covid-19 story. Ships have been stranded at sea with sick passengers aboard. In several instances, ports have refused to let ships dock and disembark. This has likely damaged the
industry’s reputation to a still-unknown extent.

And now, cruise corporations face a financial hurdle the
likes of which they haven’t known. They’re facing a zero-revenue situation,
having paused operations since mid-March, with no access to help from the U.S.
government’s stimulus package because they are not U.S.-based corporations.
Cruise shares have nosedived since January.

As a result, cruise lines have looked to the private
markets to increase liquidity. Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund acquired an
8.2% stake (43.51 million shares) in Carnival Corp. The purchase helped
Carnival Corp.’s share price increase 22% when it was announced, after it had
fallen about 80% since mid-January.

Prior to that, Carnival Corp. shored up its liquidity by
securing $500 million from a stock sale and $5.75 billion on the bond market,
at a very high cost: 11.5% interest on $4 billion in three-year senior secured
notes and 5.75% interest on $1.75 billion in three-year senior convertible
notes.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCCL) in late March secured a
$2.2 billion loan facility to improve liquidity, and Norwegian Cruise Line
Holdings (NCLH) on March 12 tapped into an existing $1.55 billion credit line. 

Analysts have viewed the moves as necessary. 

Ben Cordwell, a travel and tourism analyst at research firm
GlobalData, said that absent help from the U.S. government, “it will be vital
for [cruise] companies to raise funding themselves to ensure they survive this
turbulent period.”

“By taking a proactive approach to the crisis, Carnival can
reassure investors and greatly increase their chances of surviving the months
to come,” Cordwell said. 

Wall Street has also estimated how long cruise companies
can survive a zero-revenue situation. UBS analyst Robin Farley asserts that
Carnival has the “longest runway of liquidity to stay afloat” at 12 to 13
months, RCCL has 10 months and NCLH has seven to eight months.

Carnival has taken other approaches to strengthen its
finances, including saying in a regulatory filing this month that it would put “the
substantial majority” of its 104 ships into a “prolonged ship lay-up,” in which
the ships are manned by a very limited crew. 

Farley said that given Carnival’s calculation that managing a
ship in cold layup costs $1 million per month while an active ship costs $2
million to $3 million, its costs could be reduced by $100 million to $150
million per month and extend Carnival’s liquidity by two to three months. 

Carnival’s regulatory filing also made clear that it does
not anticipate being up and running at full capacity anytime soon, saying the
length of its service pause “may be prolonged.”

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Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line Resumes Sailings Mother’s Day Weekend

Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line announced today that it’s extending the suspension of all sailings through May 6, 2020, as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Its ship, the Grand Celebration, is now scheduled to resume operations on Friday, May 8, 2020, with the expectation that it will be able to welcome passengers aboard just in time to celebrate Mother’s Day weekend.

Oneil Khosa, CEO of Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, stated, “At Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, the wellbeing of our passengers and crew is always our top priority. While we understand that this news is disappointing for many of our valued guests, we believe that further suspension is necessary to ensure their continued safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are in communication with all guests booked on a canceled sailing, as well as with our travel advisor partners, and we are offering a 125-percent Future Cruise Credit for all guests booked on a canceled sailing. We wish everyone the very best at this time and look forward to providing you a better way to getaway again soon.”

The Caribbean carrier’s updated “Sail with Ease” policy automatically issues a 125-percent Future Cruise Credit for guests who have two-night cruise and ‘Cruise & Stay’ bookings that need to be canceled due to the extended COVID-19-related suspension. Affected guests need only call customer service at (800) 374-4363 to transfer their booking to any future sailing date through December 31, 2021.

While the cruise line is encouraging guests to opt for the incentivized Future Cruise Credit, those who would prefer their money back are entitled to receive a 100-percent refund of the two-night cruise or ‘Cruise & Stay’ package price, including taxes, fees, charges and any pre-paid amenity or package.

For more information, visit bahamasparadisecruise.com.

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Cruise Planners Unveils ‘For the Love of Travel’ Facebook Contest

To keep travel top of mind with consumers in a quarantined world, Cruise Planners introduced a Facebook “For the Love of Travel” contest, whose grand prize is a seven-night Celebrity Cruises’ Caribbean cruise for two in 2021.

The campaign is in effect through April 30, 2020, and also includes weekly Cruise Planners’ gift items.

“This contest is a fun way to spark some joy across our travel advisor network, their clients and travelers who are spending days, and even weeks, inside their homes,” said Michelle Fee, CEO and founder of Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative. “I can’t wait to be inspired by the travel photos submitted, as I am already reminiscing about my favorite travels and dreaming of where to go next once the world opens up again.”

Those interested in participating need only post photos of their favorite vacation memories using the #CruisePlannersLove hashtag on their personal Facebook walls or on a Cruise Planner travel advisor’s Facebook business page.

However, to qualify, it is mandatory posters provide details about why the vacation was their favorite along with the picture and #CruisePlannersLove hashtag.

“A love of travel brings us all together, and it’s during these uncertain times, that we need to virtually come together and keep that passion alive,” Fee said.

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Cruises

Cunard and P&O Cruises extended sailing suspension until May

Cunard and P&O Cruises have extended the suspension of all voyages as the coronavirus pandemic continues to grow around the world.

Both Carnival Corporation-owned lines will not set sail again until at least May 15th.

Cunard said it would continue to monitor government guidelines and travel restrictions in ports of call around the world, and this may mean there are further changes to the timing of when each of the ships returns to service. 

Simon Palethorpe, president of Cunard, said: “The impact of Covid-19 is affecting personal routines and businesses as well as placing significant travel restrictions around the world.

“Everyone in the Cunard team is aware of the need to support the management and containment of Covid-19 globally.

“This includes protecting the health and safety of our guests and crew. It is therefore right we extend the pause in operations.”

Cunard and P&O Cruises guests who were due to sail between April 11th and May 15th will automatically receive a 125 per cent future cruise credit. 

P&O Cruises president, Paul Ludlow, added: “It is clear that our original date of April 11th to resume sailings, which would have been a 30 day pause in operations, is just not feasible in light of the government announcements last week.

“Regrettably, therefore, we are now extending this pause until May.

“Given the current guidelines it is prudent and practical to extend the pause until normal operations can be resumed.

“As we work through the evolving restriction on ports around the world future itineraries may be subject to change and so we are looking at how we phase our ships back into service.”

Coronavirus

For all the latest from Breaking Travel News on the coronavirus pandemic, take a look here.

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Travel

Cruise Lines to Miss Out on Relief From US Stimulus Bill


The cruise industry is among the hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak, but the $2 trillion stimulus bill working its way through the government will not provide bailout funds for cruise companies.

a boat in the water: Manhattan, Cruise, Terminal

According to The Washington Post, United States Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the bill would allot $500 billion in loans or guarantees to distressed businesses, but he revealed the companies must be based in or work primarily from the U.S.

Several of the top cruise lines in the world are not incorporated in the U.S. as a way to avoid paying higher taxes and the country’s more stringent minimum wage requirements, including Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International.

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) applauded the stimulus package Thursday thanks to its inclusion of relief for more than 30,000 CLIA travel agent members. The industry trade group thanked lawmakers for “reaching a historic agreement to address the unprecedented crisis.”

The CLIA said it would continue working with the government to protect the cruise industry as companies continue to secure loans to improve liquidity, which experts believe should become an industry-wide trend.

“As it relates to the rescue package, cruise lines are not lobbying for a bailout. CLIA and our members agree that the most important stimulus the government can provide on behalf of the wider cruise community in the United States is help for small- and medium-sized businesses, including a vast network of travel agencies, tour operators and suppliers, with a presence in all 50 states,” CLIA spokeswoman Bari Golin-Blaugrund wrote in an email.

The possible exclusion of cruise companies in the bill came as a shock to some considering U.S. President Donald Trump expressed his desire in previous interviews to help the pillars of the hard-hit travel industry, including cruise lines, airlines and hotels.

In addition, executives from the cruise industry recently met with Vice President Mike Pence.

During a press conference Thursday, President Trump said he would support cruise lines being forced to register in the U.S. to receive aid from the government, saying, “We’re going to work very hard on the cruise line business and we’re going to figure something out.”

The stimulus bill also provides $10 billion in direct assistance to airports across the country, but they would be required to retain at least 90 percent of their workforce through the end of 2020 in exchange for the funds.

For travel agents and advisors, the legislation includes assistance for those affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

WATCH: President Trump speaks about cruise companies (provided by Fox Business)


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