SpaceX All-Civilian Orbital Crew Completes Historic Mission


This September 16, 2021, image courtesy of Inspiration4 shows the Inspiration4 crew (L-R) Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Christopher Sembroski and Sian Proctor in orbit. SpaceX’s all-civilian Inspiration4 crew spent their first day in orbit conducting scientific research and talking to children at a pediatric cancer hospital, after blasting off on their pioneering mission from Cape Canaveral the night before. Handout / Inspiration4 / AFP

 

Four SpaceX tourists returned to Earth safely on Saturday after spending three days in space, successfully concluding the first orbital mission in history with no professional astronauts on board.

The SpaceX Dragon capsule, whose heat shield allowed it to withstand descent, was slowed down by four large parachutes before splashing into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida at 7:06 pm (2306 GMT), according to a video feed by the company.

“That was a heck of a ride for us, and we’re just getting started,” billionaire captain Jared Isaacman, who financed the trip with a goal of making space a bit more accessible, said shortly after landing.

A SpaceX boat immediately retrieved the capsule, before its hatch was opened and the space tourists, smiling broadly and waving their arms in the air, exited one by one.

They were next headed for the Kennedy Space Center, where their mission had begun on Wednesday.

The stated goal of the mission, called Inspiration4, was to encourage the democratization of space by proving that the cosmos are accessible to crews that have neither been handpicked nor in training for years.

“Congratulations @Inspiration4x !!!” SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted after the landing.

The four space novices — Isaacman and three other Americans — spent three days orbiting Earth, traveling farther than the International Space Station (ISS), at an orbit of about 575 kilometers (357 miles) high, and circling the globe more than 15 times each day.

Isaacman, who paid SpaceX tens of millions of dollars, offered the other three seats to strangers: Hayley Arceneaux, a 29-year-old nurse; Sian Proctor, a 51-year-old professor; and Chris Sembroski, 42, a US Air Force veteran.

However, the exact price that the 38-year-old founder of Shift4 Payments and seasoned pilot shelled out for the mission has not been revealed.

The Inspiration4 crew bonded over the course of six months’ training, compared with years for professional astronauts.

During the flight, the members’ vital signs, including heart rate, sleep, blood oxygen levels and cognitive abilities, were monitored to study the effects of space on complete novices.

But they also enjoyed the view through a brand new observation dome fitted onto the capsule, spoke with actor Tom Cruise from the vessel, ate pizza and listened to music.

[READ ALSO]: ‘Experience Of A Lifetime’: Billionaire Branson Achieves Space Dream

 ‘Second space age’ 

This screen grab shows the first all-civilian crew aboard SpaceX’s Inspiration4 before splashdown during their return to Earth off the Florida coast on September 18, 2021. The four private space tourists aboard a SpaceX capsule are due to return to Earth on Saturday night, touching down off the coast of Florida after three days of orbiting the planet. Handout / NASA / AFP

 

“Welcome to the second space age,” mission director Todd Ericson said at a press conference after the landing.

With its completion, “space travel becomes much more accessible to average men and women.”

There was only one minor issue during the flight, with the capsule’s toilet system, but a solution was quickly found, Ericson said, without giving further details.

“Best ride of my life!” Proctor tweeted after disembarking from the capsule.

The mission served as a huge fundraiser for St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, a leading facility in Tennessee. Arceneaux received treatment there as a child, and now works there.

The crew took with them various objects — including a ukulele, which Sembroski briefly played live from the vessel on Friday — that will now be auctioned off with proceeds going to the hospital.

The landing marked the third time that Musk’s company has taken humans to space and back, after the return of two NASA missions, one in August 2020 and another in May of this year. Both were bringing astronauts back from a stay at the ISS.

Unlike NASA astronauts, the members of the Inspiration4 mission did not go to the ISS but remained in orbit around the Earth.

The space adventure comes after a summer marked by the battle of the billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos to reach the final frontier. However their separate suborbital flights only offered a few minutes in zero gravity.

SpaceX is already planning further space tourism flights. In fact, “the amount of people who are approaching us through our sales and marketing portals have actually increased significantly,” said Benji Reed, SpaceX’s director of human spaceflight programs.

The next trip is scheduled for January 2022, with three businessmen on board.

AFP

Earth’s Richest Man Bezos To Blast Off Into Space

In this file photo Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos addresses the audience during a keynote session at the Amazon Re:MARS conference on robotics and artificial intelligence at the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 6, 2019. Mark RALSTON / AFP
In this file photo Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos address the audience during a keynote session at the Amazon Re: MARS conference on robotics and artificial intelligence at the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 6, 2019. Mark RALSTON / AFP

 

Jeff Bezos, the richest person in the world, is set to join the astronaut club Tuesday on the first crewed launch by Blue Origin, another key moment in a big month for the fledgling space tourism industry.

The mission comes days after Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson crossed the final frontier, narrowly besting the Amazon magnate in their battle of the billionaires.

Blue Origin’s sights are, however, set higher: both literally in terms of the altitude to which its reusable New Shepard craft will ascend compared to Virgin’s spaceplane, but also in its future ambitions.

Bezos founded Blue Origin back in 2000, with the goal of one day building floating space colonies with artificial gravity where millions of people will work and live.

Today, the company is developing a heavy-lift orbital rocket called New Glenn and also a Moon lander it is hoping to contract to NASA under the Artemis program.

“They’ve had 15 successful New Shepard uncrewed flights and we’ve been waiting years to see when they’re going to start flying people,” Laura Forczyk, founder of space consulting firm Astralytical, told AFP, calling it an “exciting time” for enthusiasts.

New Shepard will blast off at 8:00 am Central Time (1300 GMT) on July 20 from a remote facility in the west Texas desert called Launch Site One, some 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of the nearest town, Van Horn.

The event will be live streamed on BlueOrigin.com beginning an hour and a half before.

Richest, oldest, and youngest

Joining Bezos on the fully autonomous flight will be barrier-breaking female aviator Wally Funk, who at 82 is set to be the oldest ever astronaut, Dutch teenager Oliver Daemen, the company’s first paying customer, who will become the youngest astronaut.

Rounding out the four-member crew is Jeff Bezos’ brother Mark, a financier who directs the Bezos Family Foundation and works as a volunteer firefighter.

The pair are best friends, and Jeff shared the moment he asked his younger sibling to join him in a viral video on Instagram last month.

Notably absent is the mysterious winner of a $28 million auction for a seat, who had “scheduling conflicts” and will take part in a future flight, and has asked to remain anonymous, the company said.

After lift-off, New Shepard will accelerate towards space at speeds exceeding Mach 3 using a liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine with no carbon emissions.

The capsule soon separates from its booster, and the astronauts unbuckle and begin to experience weightlessness.

The crew will spend a few minutes beyond the Karman line — the internationally recognized boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space, at 62 miles altitude (100 kilometers), as the spacecraft peaks at 65 miles high (106 kilometers).

They will be able to admire the curvature of the planet — and the inky black of the rest of the universe — from large windows that comprise a third of the cabin’s surface area.

The booster returns autonomously to a landing pad just north of its launch site, while the capsule freefalls back to Earth before deploying three giant parachutes, and finally a thruster, to land gently in the west Texas desert.

Bigger prizes

Beyond the first flight, relatively little is known about Blue Origin’s future tourism plans.

The company has a history of secrecy, its existence only becoming public knowledge three years after its creation. It then pursued a policy of “self-imposed silence” until 2015.

Unlike Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin hasn’t officially started selling tickets — Daemen won his spot through the auction process. The company wants two more flights this year, then “many more” in 2022, it told AFP.

Forczyk, the analyst, said it will all depend on the level of demand that is generated by these early flights, and how well the industry recovers from accidents “which there inevitably will be, because spaceflight is inherently risky.”

Elon Musk’s SpaceX will enter the fray in September with an all-civilian orbital expedition on its Crew Dragon, and is tying up with another company, Axiom, for visits to the International Space Station.

Beyond tourism, Blue Origin would like to supplant SpaceX as NASA’s leading private sector partner, and sees New Shepard as “sort of the stepping stone and also the way to make money along the way for the greater ambition,” said Forczyk.

AFP

‘Experience Of A Lifetime’: Billionaire Branson Achieves Space Dream

Sir Richard Branson speaks on stage with other crew members, after they flew into space aboard a Virgin Galactic vessel, a voyage he described as the "experience of a lifetime" -- and one he hopes will usher in an era of lucrative space tourism at Spaceport America, near Truth and Consequences, New Mexico on July 11, 2021. AFP
Sir Richard Branson speaks on stage with other crew members, after they flew into space aboard a Virgin Galactic vessel, a voyage he described as the “experience of a lifetime” — and one he hopes will usher in an era of lucrative space tourism at Spaceport America, near Truth and Consequences, New Mexico on July 11, 2021.

 

British billionaire Richard Branson flew into space Sunday aboard a Virgin Galactic vessel, a voyage he described as the “experience of a lifetime” — and one he hopes will usher in an era of lucrative space tourism.

“Congratulations to all our wonderful team at Virgin Galactic for 17 years of hard, hard work to get us this far,” he said during a live feed as the VSS Unity spaceship glided back to Spaceport America in New Mexico.

It reached a peak altitude of around 53 miles (85 kilometers) — beyond the boundary of space, according to the United States — allowing the passengers to experience weightlessness and admire the Earth’s curvature.

The trip proceeded without drama, and touchdown occurred at around 9:40 am Mountain Time (1540 GMT), about an hour after take-off.

The mission’s success means Branson has beaten fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos in the race to be the first tycoon to cross the final frontier in a ship built by a company he founded.

Earlier, a massive carrier plane took off and ascended to 50,000 feet before dropping VSS Unity to complete the rest of the flight using its rocket-powered engine.

The spaceplane carried two pilots and four passengers, including Branson.

The ship then re-entered the atmosphere, lowered its flexible wings and glided back to the runway.

A smiling Branson hugged loved ones after the trip.

“It’s a beautiful day to go to space,” the brash Brit wrote in a tweet earlier where he posted a video of himself biking to the base and meeting with his crewmates, all Virgin employees.

He also posted a picture of himself standing in a kitchen with SpaceX boss Elon Musk, who’d come to show his support.

Several tourists journeyed to the International Space Station in the 2000s, but on Russian rockets.

Branson’s official role is to evaluate the private astronaut experience to enhance the journey for future clients.

Space base

Branson, who founded the Virgin Group that today has interests in everything from commercial aviation to fitness centers, is known for his appetite for adventure and has set world records in hot air ballooning and boating.

“As a child, I wanted to go to space,” the 70-year-old wrote a few days ahead of his trip.

He founded Virgin Galactic in 2004, but the dream almost came to an end in 2014 when an in-flight accident caused the death of a pilot, considerably delaying the program.

Since then, VSS Unity has successfully reached space three times, in 2018, 2019 — which included the first crew member who wasn’t a pilot — and finally in May this year.

Sunday’s flight left from Spaceport America, a huge base built in the Jornada del Muerto desert, around 20 miles southeast of the nearest town, Truth or Consequences.

Financed largely by the state of New Mexico, Virgin Galactic is the principal tenant.

Paying passengers in 2022?

After Sunday, Virgin Galactic plans two further flights, and then the start of regular commercial operations from early 2022. The ultimate goal is to conduct 400 flights per year.

Some 600 tickets have already been sold to people from 60 different countries — including Hollywood celebrities — for prices ranging from $200,000 to $250,000.

And though, according to Branson, “space belongs to us all,” the opportunity for now remains the preserve of the privileged.

“When we return, I will announce something very exciting to give more people the chance to become an astronaut,” he promised.

The competition in the space tourism sector, whose imminent rise has been announced for years, has come to a head this month.

Bezos, the richest person in the world, is due to fly on July 20 on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket.

Blue Origin posted an infographic Friday boasting the ways in which the experience it offers is superior.

The principal point: New Shepard climbs up to more than 60 miles in altitude, thus exceeding what is called the Karman line, the frontier of space according to international convention.

Bezos himself wished Branson “best of luck” in an Instagram post.

AFP

Two Shot Dead On Greek Resort Island Of Corfu

A file photo of Greece flag.

 

Two people were shot and killed on Sunday near a hotel on the Greek resort island of Corfu, police said.

“We got a report on gunshots being fired at 11:30 am (0830 GMT), near a hotel,” a police source in Athens said.

“The first information we have is that two people have been fatally wounded. It has yet to be confirmed by a coroner,” the officer said.

The incident occurred in the coastal resort of Dasia.

A police manhunt is underway to locate the gunman, Greek media reported.

State TV ERT had earlier reported that a local man had fired on a French couple living permanently on the island, apparently over a private dispute.

Nigeria In Safe Hands Despite Security Challenges – Lai Mohammed

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, presenting a souvenir to the Oluyin of Iyin-Ekiti, Oba Adeola Adeniyi Ajakaiye, during a courtesy visit to the Minister by the Royal Father in Abuja on Thursday.

 

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has assured Nigerians that in spite of the current security challenges,
the country is in safe hands.

The Minister, who gave the assurance while receiving the Oluyin of Iyin-Ekiti, Oba Adeola Adeniyi Ajakaiye, on a courtesy visit to his office in Abuja on Thursday, urged Nigerians not to succumb to the apocalyptic or doomsday predictions about the country because such predictions won’t come to pass.

He appealed to leaders at all levels to give the people a message of hope instead of making comments that can only aggravate tension.

Alhaji Mohammed stressed the critical role of traditional rulers in the maintenance of peace and security, saying they cannot and must not be ignored, as the nation seeks to restore peace and security across the country.

READ ALSO: Buhari Appoints New Chief Of Army Staff, Major-General Yahaya

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and the Oluyin of Iyin-Ekiti, Oba Adeola Adeniyi Ajakaiye, during a courtesy visit to the Minister by the Royal Father in Abuja on Thursday.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and the Oluyin of Iyin-Ekiti, Oba Adeola Adeniyi Ajakaiye, during a courtesy visit to the Minister by the Royal Father in Abuja on Thursday.

 

He appealed to Oba Ajakaiye to work with his fellow traditional rulers, as well as the Government of Ekiti State, to ensure peace and security in the state.

Responding to a request by the traditional ruler to help put the tourist sites in the town on the national and global map, the Minister pledged his readiness to leverage the media and technology to showcase and popularize the historic ‘Esa Cave’ as well as the ‘Okuta Abanijorin’ (the rock that accompanies you on your trip), both foremost tourism sites in Iyin-Ekiti, in the Irepodun/Ifelodun local
government area of Ekiti State.

”Putting the tourist sites on the national and global map will attract tourists, which will, in turn, boost the economy of not just Iyin town but indeed the entire Ekiti State,” he said.

Alhaji Mohammed, therefore, directed the Directors-General of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), and the National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR) to undertake a working visit to the two tourist sites and report back to him.

In his remarks, Oba Adeola Adeniyi Ajakaiye said Iyin-Ekiti is blessed with numerous tourist attractions that have the potentials to bring the community to the national and global limelight and create jobs for its youths. He highlighted the need for the Federal Government to leverage on the tourism industry in its drive to diversify the economy away from oil.

Lonely Christmas In Santa’s Homeland As Tourists Stay Away

The Arctic Snow Hotel is pictured on December 17, 2020 in Rovaniemi. – In Finland’s snowy far north, international visitors normally flood the Santa Claus Village amusement park, in search of reindeer rides, snow castles and a meeting with the jolly, red figure himself. (Photo by Sam KINGSLEY / AFP)

 

In Finland’s snowy far north, international visitors normally flood the Santa Claus Village amusement park, in search of reindeer rides, snow castles and a meeting with the jolly man himself.

Under the pandemic travel restrictions, however, crowds in the Lapland town of Rovaniemi have dwindled to just a trickle and the joyful winter wonderland feels ghostly and abandoned.

“It’s been an exceptional and difficult year,” Santa tells AFP from behind a plexiglass screen installed in his grotto, adding that his visitors have appreciated being able to forget a tough year and enjoy the Christmas cheer.

Those who can’t make it to Lapland can still purchase a remote one-on-one with Santa, at 79 euros ($97) for five minutes, and the service has proven popular.

“People this year have most of all asked me for happiness, health and then a bit more happiness,” although the children still want toys and games, he says.

“Santa actually had time to chat!” Andrea Karjalainen, on a short break to Rovaniemi from southern Finland with her family, tells AFP.

“You would expect that there are thousands of people now, but we’re more or less alone,” adds Teppo, her partner.

– Livelihoods in danger –

Since the 1980s, tourism chiefs have marketed the Arctic Circle town of Rovaniemi as the “real” home of Santa Claus, helping Finnish Lapland attract a record 2.9 million overnight stays last year, especially from Europe and Asia.

This year, however, visits have plummeted to half a million, most from early 2020 before the virus hit.

“The local livelihoods are really in danger,” Sanna Karkkainen, CEO of Visit Rovaniemi, tells AFP.

“We’ve already got news of the first bankruptcies and there’s going to be more.”

Santa and his elf, Vanilla, read letters separated by a plexiglass screen to slow the spread of coronavirus, on December 17, 2020. (Photo by Sam KINGSLEY / AFP)

 

With Finland effectively shut off to international tourists, the impact on Lapland has been stark: 5,000 jobs and 700 million euros in revenue have already been lost, a drop of up to 70 percent, Karkkainen says.

Many businesses have tried to stay open, such as the family-run Husky Park, whose current footfall is nothing like the normal 600 international visitors a day.

“But we’ve been positively surprised that there have been home-grown tourists, and the snow here has started bringing people in the south to Lapland,” chief of operations Kristian Erkkila tells AFP over the noise of 90 huskies barking.

Behind him, a Finnish family is being helped into a sled, lined with warm reindeer fur, which is then pulled away by twelve huskies following the shouted commands of the musher.

“We’re delighted to welcome everyone, but the whole time we’re thinking what we need to do differently to be able to survive next summer,” Erkkila says, but adds that the vaccine provides “some light at the end of the tunnel”.

– Waiting for decisions –

At the nearby Santa Park underground theme park, owners Ilkka and Katja Lantinen have opted to cut their losses and reopen in winter 2021.

Their staff of 400 seasonal and permanent workers has been slashed to just 36.

That number will now be cut even further as the pair’s luxury hotel, the Arctic Treehouse, will also close for the season after the government’s promised lifting of travel restrictions did not materialise.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Atmosphere Tense For UK Passengers Held At German Airports

“We had the team in, everybody was in really high spirits about opening the season,” Ilkka tells AFP.

“It seems our government is only capable of making decisions one month at a time. Unfortunately, we can’t live like that,” Lantinen says.

Although the Lantinens’ takings are down 98 percent this year, winter 2021 bookings are “looking really good,” assuming that the virus situation allows.

– ‘Stressing doesn’t help’ –

Half an hour away on the shore of a frozen lake, Ville Haavikko and his team are putting the final touches to the Arctic Snow Hotel, using chainsaws to carve steps and stacking thick blocks of clear ice into a wall.

“We’ve tried to keep the business running and people at work because we have permanent employees with their own families and mortgages,” Haavikko tells AFP.

Usually there would be “hundreds of customers every day” who also stay in the glass igloos hoping to glimpse the northern lights.

But all rooms are currently empty and only a handful of bookings await.

With only the domestic market available they designed a half-size snow hotel with 11 rooms — each carved with intricate ice sculptures on themes ranging from Arctic forest to circus.

Back at his grotto, Santa and his elf, Vanilla, are reading through some of the many thousands of Christmas wishlists that, despite the pandemic, children around the world have sent him.

Won’t the border closures make it difficult to deliver all those presents?

“I have brilliant news for you,” Santa laughs, “Christmas is happening this year too.”

“So remember to be good, and enjoy it safely.”

Finland Relaxes COVID-19 Rules To Boost Tourism

FILE PHOTO: Medical personnel takes test samples for the COVID-19 coronavirus from drivers at a coronavirus testing station in Salo, Southern Finland on August 18, 2020. (Photo by Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva / AFP) / Finland OUT

 

Finland will allow holidaymakers to visit the country for up to three days in order to help the struggling tourist industry, ministers announced on Friday. 

Under the new measures, travel restrictions will be eased to allow visitors from Germany, Sweden, and other countries with fewer than 25 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the past fortnight.

Arrivals from countries with higher levels of infection, such as France and the UK, will also be admitted without quarantine requirements if they are traveling with a charter flight or organised tour group and if their stay does not exceed 72 hours.

In recent years tourist numbers in Lapland, in Finland’s far north, have grown to record levels.

Among three million overnight stays in 2018, British tourists were the largest group.

Husky sled rides, seeing the Northern Lights and a visit to the “real” Santa’s grotto are among the most popular attractions.

The Finnish government has come under heavy pressure to ease travel restrictions to help businesses in Lapland, where tourism generated one billion euros ($1.1 billion) of revenue in 2018 according to the area’s regional council.

Currently, Finland’s tight border restrictions ban arrivals from all but a handful of EU countries in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Economic Affairs Minister Mika Lintila told a press conference on Friday that the new policy “will bring clarity to the business and tourism sectors.”

“The decision takes into account safety and the needs of business.”

An official told reporters the health ministry had been “critical” of the idea of loosening border restrictions.

But “these decisions have been made based on broad cabinet discussions,” health ministry strategic director Liisa-Maria Voipio-Pulkki said.

The country of 5.5 million has registered 337 COVID-related deaths and around 8,500 cases, though there has been an uptick in infections after the summer.

AFP

Sanwo-Olu Approves N1bn Seed Capital For Investment In Tourism

A file photo of Lagos state Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
A file photo of Lagos state Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

 

The Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has approved one billion naira seed capital for investment in tourism.

Governor Sanwo-Olu, who made the announcement on Wednesday said the fund will drive new growth in hospitality business.

He said the investment was required to bolster the hospitality sector by providing key operators in tourism business with soft loans to boost their capacity in driving growth.

The initiative, Sanwo-Olu observed, is necessary to position the tourism business as a new frontier for job creation and economic prosperity in the post-Coronavirus era.

The seed capital will be domiciled in the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF), the Governor said, adding that the funds will be made available specifically to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) operators in the sector.

The Governor noted the state would also be collaborating with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to further create access for funds to support the hospitality business.

The event with the theme: “BOS Meets Business, was attended by the captains of industry, manufacturers, and members of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN).

Governor Sanwo-Olu disclosed that the state had started the first phase of the 6,000km optical fibre being laid across Lagos, with the aim of providing technological infrastructure to support MSMEs.

He said the state had continued to strengthen its Ease of Doing Business policies to drive private investment and economic growth. This, he said, is being made possible by the digitisation of business registration and asset acquisition processes, which, he said, removed administrative bottlenecks.

“We have just given approval for N1 billion support that will be given out through the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund to support the hospitality business in the State. The beneficiaries of this fund will go through screening in line with the requirement of the agency. We are making this investment because of the huge potential for job creation and inclusive growth this sector can bring about.

“We will be working with the CBN for more funding to fully develop the potential of our tourism sector. This effort is being completed with the rolling out of 3,000 km optical fibre across the State to provide technological infrastructure for the MSMEs whose operations would depend on fast Internet networks to drive their businesses.”

With Lagos’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP) valued at $130 billion and over three million Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), which make the State the fourth wealthiest city in Africa, Sanwo-Olu said it was time for the State to strengthen its economy with right policies for accelerated growth and prosperity.

The Governor noted that there will be a review of the dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed in the State by the Federal Government in response to requests by businesses across the State, noting that the ongoing rehabilitation of major bridges and roads had impacted business activities in the State.

According to him, the repeal of 2018 laws on Land Use Charge was to further create incentives for more growth in the corporate sector, stressing that the new Land Use laws had addressed controversial provisions and remove ambiguity in the levies paid by companies in Lagos.

The Governor granted a three-year waiver on penalty for those that defaulted the payment of land use charge from 2017. He also offered a 25 per cent discount for those who make early payment of the Land Use.

He said: “We are granting a waiver of three years in late payment, which covers 2017, 2018 and 2019. We are also giving 25 per cent special discount on early payment. By this, we have achieved a 48 per cent reduction for businesses in chargeable rates by repealing the 2018 Land Use Laws.

“We are taking these steps to show that we are not being insensitive to the plight of businesses and residents, especially in this period of the pandemic that has slowed down activities. We have been doing everything possible to make sure businesses are not choked by taxes.”

Sanwo-Olu told the business leaders and MSMEs operators to see his administration as a “real partner” in driving growth. He said the Government would continue to introduce more incentives to strengthen its partnership with the private sector to keep Lagos economy on the path of growth.

Representatives of corporate organisations praised the Governor for the reviews of the Land Use Laws. They, however, called for harmonisation of taxes and levies payable to the Government.

Deputy President of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Chief Olawale Cole, hailed the State Government for the three-month moratorium given to MSMEs, noting that the incentive would stimulate more commitment in the sector.

Commissioner for Commerce, Industry and Corporative, Dr. Lola Akande, noted that Lagos Government had taken steps since the last meeting with the Organised Private Sector to sustain the momentum of growth.

She said: “We recognise that creating an enabling business environment is the key to job creation, poverty eradication, and growth of the State economy. Lagos State is positioned to support businesses and the industrial sector to maximise their potential for greater contribution to the State’s GDP.”

Tourism Faces Minimum $1.2-Trillion Hit From Coronavirus – UN

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 04, 2018 The “Palais des Nations”, which houses the United Nations Offices, is seen at the end of the flag-lined front lawn in Geneva. – The United Nations said on June 18, 2020, it was resuming resettlement travel for refugees, which was suspended in March due to the coronavirus crisis, delaying departures for some 10,000 refugees. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP.

 

The coronavirus crisis could cost global tourism and related sectors from $1.2 to $3.3 trillion in lost revenue, the United Nations said Wednesday.

Lockdown restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19 have hammered the tourism sector particularly hard, the UN Conference on Trade and Development said in a report.

The world tourism industry is expected to lose at least $1.2 trillion in the best-case scenario, UNCTAD calculated.

In a report entitled “COVID-19 and Tourism: Assessing the Economic Consequences”, UNCTAD modelled three scenarios that included the sector’s supply chain.

The scenarios are moderate, where a third of annual inbound tourism expenditure is removed, equivalent to a four-month standstill; intermediate, removing two-thirds, equivalent to an eight-month halt; and dramatic, where all expenditure is removed, equivalent to a 12-month shutdown.

In the most optimistic scenario, the world’s tourism sector could lose at least $1.2 trillion, or 1.5 percent of global gross domestic product.

That rose to $2.2 trillion or 2.8 percent of global GDP during an eight-month halt.

In the most pessimistic scenario, UNCTAD projected losses of $3.3 trillion or 4.2 percent of global GDP.

– Jamaica, Thailand hit hard –

The report said that unemployment could rise in some countries by more than 20 percentage points and some sectors could almost be wiped out if the standstill lasted an entire year.

Developing countries are among those set to suffer the steepest losses in GDP terms.

In just the moderate scenario, Jamaica would lose 11 percent of its national output; Thailand nine percent, Croatia eight percent, and Portugal six percent.

The Dominican Republic, Kenya and Morocco would all lose five percent.

In some countries, such as small island developing states, tourism accounts for more than half of GDP.

“These numbers are a clear reminder of something we often seem to forget: the economic importance of the sector and its role as a lifeline for millions of people all around the world,” said Pamela Coke-Hamilton, UNCTAD’s director of international trade.

“For many countries, like the small island developing states, a collapse in tourism means a collapse in their development prospects. This is not something we can afford.”

In absolute terms in the moderate projection, the biggest losses would be felt by the United States (-$187 billion), China including Hong Kong (-$105 billion), Thailand (-$48 billion), France (-$47 billion), Germany (-$46 billion) and Spain (-$44 billion).

– Knock-on effects –

UNCTAD also warned of heavy knock-on losses for other economic sectors, such as the goods and services used by holidaymakers, including food, beverages and entertainment.

The agency estimates that for every $1.0 million lost in international tourism revenue, a country’s national income could decline by $2.0 million to $3.0 million.

“The damage incurred in the tourism sector goes beyond cancelled flights and hotel bookings,” the report noted.

In 2019, the tourism sector accounted for around 300 million jobs globally, according to the UN World Tourism Organization. The leading destinations were France, Spain, the United States and China.

AFP

Greece Reopens Islands To Flights In Bid To Save Tourism Season

A street with shops near the beach in Pefkochori on Halkidiki Peninsula, Greece, on June 20, 2020. – One of Greece’s most popular tourism destinations, the Halkidiki peninsula provides hotels and apartments with around 100,000 rooms. Nearly 60 percent of business activity relies on the travel sector. Last year, some 1.5 million travellers visited the area, mainly from neighbouring Balkan countries. But for now, most of the resorts lie empty. And many operators dread an outbreak that would kill off their season for good. Sakis MITROLIDIS / AFP,

Greece prepared to welcome tourist flights to its island destinations on Wednesday for the first time in months, as it raced to salvage a tourism season shredded by the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 100 flights from other EU nations and a select group of non-EU countries are expected at 14 regional airports including Corfu, Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes and Crete, airport operator Fraport said.

Flights from Britain, one of its most lucrative travel markets, are not due to restart until July 15 at the earliest, in line with EU recommendations. The same applies to the United States, Russia, Turkey and Sweden.

Greece halted most flights three months ago as part of restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of coronavirus, but the measures have seen the sector’s revenues plummet.

All Greek airports are now receiving international flights and the ports of Patras and Igoumentsa will again receive ferries from Italy.

Fourteen non-EU countries — including Australia, Canada, Japan and Uruguay — have been deemed safe enough for visitors to be allowed back.

But travellers from China, where the virus first emerged late last year, will be allowed to enter only if Beijing reciprocates and opens the door to EU residents.

Travellers will be given scannable bar codes after they fill out a questionnaire with personal details such as their country of origin and the countries they have travelled through in the last 15 days.

Those who are tested will be told to isolate at the address provided on the questionnaire while waiting for the results.

“It will be a very difficult tourism season. We will do the best we can,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told the cabinet this week.

Greece, which has a relatively low coronavirus death toll under 200, has launched a promotional campaign to revive tourism, which accounts for a quarter of its gross domestic product.

The country hopes to reassure potential travellers as well as Greeks, who fear a resurgence of the pandemic with the return of tourists.

Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis on Tuesday signed an agreement with German tour giant TUI aiming to bring in some 1.5 million tourists — 50 percent of the number the agent brought to Greece in 2019.

“We’re trying to save the season,” Amelia Vlachou, a jewellery shop owner on Corfu, told AFP.

“Of course it doesn’t compare with previous years when we had lots of people.”

According to Bank of Greece figures, the country in 2019 had more than 34 million visitors who spent over 18 billion euros.

Operators say a realistic revenue goal this year is up to five billion euros.

On land border crossings, travellers from Albania, North Macedonia and Turkey are only allowed in for emergency reasons or by special permission.

AFP

Zambia Opens Airports As Tourism Sector ‘Resumes Operations’

Zambian President Edgar Lungu gives a press briefing on July 6, 2017 at the Zambian State House in Lusaka. Zambian President Edgar Lungu on Thursday justified invoking a state of emergency by alleging that opposition parties were behind a string of arson attacks intended “to create terror and panic”. DAWOOD SALIM / AFP

 

Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu on Thursday announced the immediate reopening of all three of the landlocked country’s international airports to help revitalise the tourism sector hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

Lungu said decreased economic activity since the start of April caused a loss in revenues of 20.8 billion kwachas ($1.1 billion).

He announced the reopening of the three international airports with “immediate” effect to help boost earnings, adding: “In the tourism sector… we have also got to get back to work.”

Zambia’s tourism industry — with the stunning Victoria Falls as its flagship attraction — contributed $1.8 billion to the national economy in 2018, according to data by the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Lungu directed the ministers of communication, finance, home affairs and tourism to work together to devise stringent health guidelines for arriving tourists.

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Over the last 24 hours, Zambia recorded eight new coronavirus cases, for a total of 1,497 with 18 deaths. The number of recoveries now stands at 1,223.

The president urged Zambia’s more than 17 million citizens to observe high standards of hygiene as the winter season peaks in the southern hemisphere, warning that the numbers of coronavirus cases in Zambia could soar.

However, bars and nightclubs remain closed.

AFP

Italy’s Tourism Industry Expects Unprecedented Slump

People shop at the outdoor market and walk about in central Rome on May 9, 2020, during the country’s partial lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Tiziana FABI / AFP.

 

Italy’s tourism sector is expecting a steep fall in visits this summer and its worst revenue figures in over 20 years, an industry survey found on Thursday.

The country, which welcomed over 60 million foreign tourists in 2018, according to the World Tourism Organization, is now expecting 56 million fewer overnight stays, found the survey from Florence’s Centre for Tourism Studies (CTS).

That translates into a 3.2 billion euro ($3.6 billion) drop in turnover for the industry, one of the engines of Italy’s economy, representing the worst results since 1998, the survey found.

Nearly half of the drop in revenue will come from the hotel sector, found the study, which surveyed more than 2,100 entrepreneurs in the sector.

“A decrease was expected, but if it continues like this it will be the worst drop in the history of our tourism industry,” said Vittorio Messina, president of Assoturismo, Italy’s tourism federation, which commissioned the survey.

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After a two-month lockdown, Italy allowed European tourists to return on June 3, but incoming tourists from outside the Schengen zone are still prohibited.

“We have to make a plan for the revival of the sector which represents 13 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and our calling card abroad,” Messina added.

AFP