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The plan for a new aquatics and recreation center in Great Falls has hit a snag





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The plan for a new aquatics and recreation center in Great Falls has hit a snag

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Support for Japan’s Suga Falls Following Travel Campaign Reversal | World News

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s approval ratings fell five percentage points to 58%, with many unhappy with his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a poll taken over the weekend by the daily Nikkei newspaper.

The dip in ratings follows criticism over his hesitation to suspend a domestic travel campaign as new coronavirus infections rise, and potentially threatens the chances of his premiership extending beyond next autumn, when his current term ends.

Suga’s approval ratings were at 63% in the previous poll conducted in October.

Respondents who disapproved of the government’s coronavirus countermeasures rose 13 percentage points to 48%, topping the 44% who thought the government was doing well, according to the same poll.

In the survey of 993 people, 61% agreed with the government’s decision to partially halt the domestic ‘Go To’ travel campaign, while 25% said the government needed to do more.

Although Japan has been spared the high incidence of the disease seen in Europe and the United State, infections rates are rising as the cold season approaches, with the nation reaching record numbers of daily cases in recent weeks.

New daily infections surged to an all-time high of 2,684 people on Saturday, according to public broadcaster NHK. The number of deaths stands at over 2,100.

The government has been attempting to keep the coronavirus under control while boosting Japan’s hard-hit economy with a national travel campaign that subsidises tourism.

With new cases rising, the government scaled back on the tourism campaign last week by excluding the two cities of Osaka and Sapporo, but has not suspended the programme in Tokyo, which has the highest number of coronavirus cases.

(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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Support for Japan’s Suga falls following travel campaign reversal

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s approval ratings fell five percentage points to 58%, with many unhappy with his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a poll taken over the weekend by the daily Nikkei newspaper.



Yoshihide Suga wearing a suit and tie sitting in front of a curtain: FILE PHOTO: Yoshihide Suga speaks during a news conference following his confirmation as Prime Minister of Japan in Tokyo


© Reuters/POOL
FILE PHOTO: Yoshihide Suga speaks during a news conference following his confirmation as Prime Minister of Japan in Tokyo

The dip in ratings follows criticism over his hesitation to suspend a domestic travel campaign as new coronavirus infections rise, and potentially threatens the chances of his premiership extending beyond next autumn, when his current term ends.

Suga’s approval ratings were at 63% in the previous poll conducted in October.

Respondents who disapproved of the government’s coronavirus countermeasures rose 13 percentage points to 48%, topping the 44% who thought the government was doing well, according to the same poll.

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In the survey of 993 people, 61% agreed with the government’s decision to partially halt the domestic ‘Go To’ travel campaign, while 25% said the government needed to do more.

Although Japan has been spared the high incidence of the disease seen in Europe and the United State, infections rates are rising as the cold season approaches, with the nation reaching record numbers of daily cases in recent weeks.

New daily infections surged to an all-time high of 2,684 people on Saturday, according to public broadcaster NHK. The number of deaths stands at over 2,100.

The government has been attempting to keep the coronavirus under control while boosting Japan’s hard-hit economy with a national travel campaign that subsidises tourism.

With new cases rising, the government scaled back on the tourism campaign last week by excluding the two cities of Osaka and Sapporo, but has not suspended the programme in Tokyo, which has the highest number of coronavirus cases.

(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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Historic Aberdeen Ardoe House Hotel and Spa falls into hand of liquidators

Historic Aberdeen hotel to close with loss of 68 jobs

The Mercure Aberdeen Ardoe House Hotel and Spa in Blairs – three miles outside of Aberdeen city – is being placed into creditors voluntary liquidation after being hit by the oil industry downturn and restrictions put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 19th century Scottish baronial style mansion, set in 18 acres of parkland, suffered from the downturn in the local economy due to the collapse of the oil price and its knock-on effect on related businesses. A statement said the onset of the coronavirus lockdown earlier in the year added to cash flow pressures and the business proved unable to recover its normal levels of trading.

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Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire aren currently under level 2 restrictions set out by the Scottish Government.

Ardoe House Hotel has plunged into liquidation
Ardoe House Hotel has plunged into liquidation

The business, which had 120 rooms as well as restaurants, bars and a spa, employed a total of 68 staff. All have been made redundant.

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Read more: Old Course Hotel in St Andrews to close from today

Ken Pattullo, spokesman for business advisory firm Begbies Traynor, said: “Unfortunately, the hospitality sector has been among the hardest hit by the pandemic with the forced closure last spring having devastating consequences for the Ardoe House Hotel. With Aberdeen currently in Level 2 and coronavirus restrictions continuing, the directors felt the hotel was no longer viable and had no choice but to put the business into liquidation.

“In the face of ongoing uncertainty due to the health measures implemented to help combat the global pandemic, there was no way of saving the business and the jobs it supported; it is sad to see the closure of such a popular hotel.”

A Scotsman travel review of the hotel praised its “warm hospitality” and “spacious, restful and extremely comfortable” rooms. The hotel was built in 1878 for eminent surgeon Alexander Ogston and his family and incorporated many design features inspired by nearby Balmoral Castle. It was converted into an hotel in 1947.

Other luxury Scottish hotels have recently closed their doors, citing increased coronavirus restrictions.

The Old Course Hotel in St Andrews shut this week, while the Gleneagles Resort closed last week, with plans to remain shuttered until the end of January.

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EasyJet revenue falls over 50% as Covid-restrictions stall travel plans

  • EasyJet reported revenue of £3 billion for its full 2020 fiscal year, marking a drop of 52.9% from the previous year.
  • But EasyJet’s CEO Johan Lundgren said the airline was on track to benefit from a recovery phase.
  • “The longer these travel restrictions are in place, it actually increases pent-up demand,” he told CNBC.



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LONDON — Revenue at EasyJet fell more than 50% in the year to the end of September, the company said on Tuesday, after the coronavirus pandemic brought the travel industry to a halt. The British airline said it was only expecting to fly about 20% of its planned capacity in the final three months of 2020.

EasyJet reported revenue of £3 billion for its full 2020 fiscal year, marking a drop of 52.9% from the previous year.

The number of passengers also sank by 50% over the same period on the back of stay-at-home orders, quarantine policies and other Covid-related restrictions.

Other highlights for the year:

  • Capacity fell 45.7% from 2019.
  • Revenue reached £3 billion compared to £6.4 billion a year ago.
  • Load factor (the percentage of seating capacity filled with passengers) was down by 4.3 percentage points.

Despite the troubling times for the business, EasyJet’s CEO said the company was on track to benefit from a recovery phase.

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“We also know the attraction to the brand in terms of the trust it generates for customers, and also, the value for money that we represent gives a good foundation and bounce back strongly when the recovery comes,” Johan Lundgren, EasyJet CEO, told CNBC’s Squawk Box Europe Monday.

He added: “The longer these travel restrictions are in place, it actually increases pent-up demand.”

For example, the airline said that within 24 hours of the U.K.’s government’s decision to remove mandatory quarantine to those arriving from the Canary Islands in late October, sales increased 876% over five days.

In addition, Lundgren said the latest announcements surrounding a Covid-19 vaccine were “definitely good news for us.”

On Monday, Moderna said its coronavirus vaccine was more than 94% effective. Last week, Pfizer and BioNTech also announced their vaccine had an efficacy rate above 90%

“The news of the vaccine is really good and I think it will really help to bolster the demand and the confidence for people to make future travel plans,” Lundgren said.

Shares of EasyJet are around 45% lower since the start of 2020.

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Homeless housing plan for Novato hotel under Homekey program falls through

A proposal to turn a 70-room Novato hotel into supportive housing for homeless people fell through Tuesday when the Marin County Board of Supervisors voted not to buy the complex under the state’s Homekey program.

The board made its decision during a closed-door session, emerging afterward to announce it could not reach an agreement with the Inn Marin Hotel’s owners on the $18 million asking price. Supervisor Judy Arnold, whose district includes Novato, added that she believed there hadn’t been enough opportunity to discuss the plan with neighbors.

“I believe that as a community we need to find ways to support our most vulnerable residents here in Marin and I believe that finding permanent supportive housing is an effective way to do that,” Arnold said in a statement. “That said, my position on this particular project was a result of the inadequate process and timeline we were forced to work within under the state’s Homekey grant process.”

California’s Homekey program uses federal coronavirus aid money to buy hotels and other buildings throughout the state for conversion into permanent supportive housing, but the catch is that all the money has to be spent by the end of the year. To date, the state has awarded $835.6 million for 93 projects with a total of 6,055 units.

The Marin board proposed in October that the county buy the Inn Marin, a stylish complex near Highway 101, apartment blocks and houses. Residents inundated the board and the Novato City Council with reaction that included some support, but more complaints that it was a bad fit for the neighborhood.

The City Council had been considering suing to stop the proposal, but last week opted instead to urge the county board to hold community meetings to vet the idea. Tuesday’s decision makes the point moot.

Marin County’s homeless population of 1,034 is the second smallest in the Bay Area, after Napa. It fell by 7% between 2017 and 2019, when the last federally required, biennial one-night count was taken.

“We’re satisfied and happy with the outcome,” said Pat Davidor, who lives near the Inn Marin. She and her husband, Joe, maintained that they supported housing for homeless people — their son lives on the streets — but thought it would be better situated farther away from subdivisions.

“It was a good try, wrong location,” she said, noting that there is already a large supportive housing facility just across the freeway. “Our hope is that money will become available in some other way and that more homeless housing can be created. But spread it around more, so other parts of the county can take their share.”

Two other Homekey projects fared better on Tuesday before the board. The supervisors voted unanimously to use the state funds to buy an 18-room hotel in Corte Madera for $4.1 million and a 44-unit office complex in San Rafael for $7.2 million.

Kevin Fagan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @KevinChron

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Expedia Group revenue falls 58% despite bright spots in ‘bumpy and unpredictable’ travel market

Expedia Group CEO Peter Kern. (Expedia Group Photo)

You know things have been rough for a company when quarterly revenue plummets 58% from the prior year, taking the business from a $409 million profit to a loss of $221 million, and the trend is seen as relatively good news.

Those are some of the key trends in Expedia Group’s financial report for the September quarter, released Wednesday afternoon. The results reflect what CEO Peter Kern called “basically a stabilization” of the global travel market, which has been decimated by COVID-19 lockdowns and travel restrictions.

Shares of Expedia Group are up more than 5% in after-hours trading.

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“We obviously can’t control what’s going on out there in the travel market or in the scientific community,” Kern said on a conference call with analysts and investors. “We are hoping for all the same things you are in terms of vaccines and other treatments that will help us get through this. We do believe that people have been, up until recently, getting increasingly comfortable with the idea of traveling.”

Elaborating on those recent trends, Kern noted that the “third wave” of the pandemic in the US and elsewhere is having an impact, saying the travel market “will remain bumpy and unpredictable” amid the pandemic.

The Seattle-based online travel giant’s revenue of $1.5 billion in the quarter compared to $3.56 billion the year before. Its quarterly loss was 22 cents/share, down from a profit of $3.38/share a year ago. Both measures exceeded the expectations of Wall Street analysts, who expected revenue of $1.38 billion and a loss of 79 cents on average.

Expedia Group, based in Seattle, includes  travel brands such as vrbo, Orbitz, Hotwire, Trivago, Hotels.com, and Egencia in addition to the flagship Expedia.com. Kern, a longtime Expedia Group board member, has been CEO since April.

For the September quarter, revenue in Expedia Group’s Retail segment was down 52% to $1.25 billion, boosted in part by growth of Vrbo, the company’s alternative accommodations brand, which competes against Airbnb and others.

Revenue fell by 72% to $203 million in the company’s business-to-business segment, “impacted by the slower recovery for corporate travel demand,” the company said in its earnings report. Total gross bookings were down 68% to $8.6 billion for the quarter, below the $9.9 billion expected by Wall Street.

Expedia Group has been cutting costs in part by reducing its workforce, recently making an unspecified number cuts in its Travel Partners Group, following a larger reduction of 12% of its workforce earlier this year, impacting about 3,000 jobs at the time. The company is also consolidating its data and tech platforms across its brands in an effort to streamline its operations.

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Sioux Falls Parks & Recreation ranks among best in the country

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation has been recognized by the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies for the third time in three attempts, dating back to 2010.

There are about 10,000 U.S. park and recreation agencies, and less than 2% are accredited by the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies. That list includes Sioux Falls.

“Really tries to make you better as a department and also holds you to high standard of providing great parks & rec services to your community,” Sioux Falls Parks & Recreation director Don Kearney said.

Accreditation is awarded every five years. This year, Sioux Falls Parks & Recreation met all 151 standards and received a perfect score.

“Sioux Falls Parks & Rec has been around for over a hundred years, and we’ve got a lot of policies and procedures in place, we’ve got systems in place, we’ve got standard operating procedures,” Kearney said.

Experience is where many other communities fall short on accreditation.

“A lot of newer communities that have parks & rec departments that haven’t been around that long, really haven’t evolved enough to really be able to provide that level of compliance with the standards that they set out,” Kearney said.

Sioux Falls was honored during a virtual conference due to COVID-19, but Kearney says Parks & Rec is up and operational. The Midco Aquatic Center and community centers are open and the department is gearing up for winter and spring activities. Allowing the public a short break from the pandemic.

“We want people to get out and recreate and get the exercise and mental break that I think we all need due to this COVID situation that we’re in,” Kearney said.

Registration for hundreds of classes, programs, and activities for the winter season begins Sunday.

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Maid of the Mist in Niagara Falls launches country’s first electric boats

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — With the sun streaming into the Niagara Gorge, visitors lined up in socially distanced groups waiting to shuffle onto the Maid of the Mist, the boats that have ferried tourists to the base of Niagara Falls for the past 174 years.

Whether they knew it or not, these passengers were experiencing a new era of maritime transportation: boats powered by electricity.

Earlier this month, the Maid of the Mist launched two electric catamarans into the gorge, the first of their kind in North America. The hulking double-deckers run on dual banks of lithium-ion batteries. All the power used to charge the batteries is supplied by the nearby Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant, one of the most productive hydroelectric facilities in the United States, making the boats a zero-emission operation.

Maid of the Mist is at the forefront of what observers say is an emerging trend in maritime operations. On the other side of the country, Washington is in the process of electrifying its ferry fleet — the largest in the United States — with the goal of cutting diesel fuel consumption in half by 2040.

Michelle Padgett was among the first to tour the Niagara Gorge in one of the sleek new electric boats. She had driven from Kentucky with her three children to take in the northeastern foliage, stopping in Connecticut before crossing New York to see the famous falls. Being from Kentucky, where so much natural beauty has been sacrificed to coal production, she said she was delighted by the company’s all-electric boats.

“We need to start using resources we have available and quit just destroying our earth,” Padgett said.

The Maid of the Mist launched two electric catamarans into the gorge, the first of their kind in North America.

For Maid of the Mist President Chris Glynn, the decision to electrify the fleet was easy. When the company began looking into replacing its two aging diesel vessels in 2018, a consultant proposed electric boats. He and others at the company jumped at the opportunity, he said.

“As soon as we heard that, we knew that was something we were most interested in doing and wanted to pursue it,” Glynn said, adding that it was important to him to protect the waters of the Niagara River and be part of a larger movement to move into a green future. “It’s a great sustainability statement. Many people appreciate that.” America’s long-standing conflict between industry and nature is threaded through the history of Niagara Falls.

In the state park, visitors experience the raw energy of the river and the 167-foot waterfalls, the noisy rush of the rapids a constant reminder. That natural power was an enormous draw for industrialists, who used the raging waters to drive machinery — first mills and then turbines.

The city of Niagara Falls played a prominent role in the war of the currents, the famous

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Wingate Hotel Great Falls accused of racism against Browning residents

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Racist policies have led to COVID-19 being more dangerous and deadly for Black, Latino, Asian and Indigenous Americans than for white Americans.

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When Kevin Kickingwoman, a teacher who lives in Browning, checked in to the Wingate by Wyndham hotel in Great Falls Tuesday evening, an employee at the desk allegedly told him the hotel does not serve people from Browning due to the Blackfeet Nation’s stay-at-home directive due to coronavirus. 

Kevin planned to get back surgery in Great Falls early Wednesday, and his daughter and her mother, who live in Missoula, met him at the hotel.

Kevin’s daughter, Sharen, 26, took to Twitter after the incident.

“How come they will still serve people from Missoula? We have high covid numbers, (sh*t) every where across the state has high numbers at this point. Sounds like some racist picking and choosing.. is this your policy, Wingate Hotels?” she tweeted Tuesday evening. 

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Wingate by Wyndham hotel in Great Falls (Photo: NORA MABIE/TRIBUNE PHOTO)

Larry Gooldy, general manager of the hotel, said the hotel does not accept guests from any state that has a COVID-19 lockdown. The Blackfeet Nation’s stay-at-home order, which was recently extended through Nov. 8, exempts certain activities, including leaving the reservation to obtain medical services and groceries, and nowhere in the order does the tribe ask businesses located off the reservation to enforce their directive. 

Gooldy said if guests are from Browning, they must present either a verified doctor’s note, with their name and date of visit, or a document from the Blackfeet COVID-19 Incident Command, saying the person is allowed to leave the reservation. 

Gooldy said guests have shown him such travel permits, but the tribe’s public information officer Jim McNeely said that is untrue and those forms do not exist. 

The Blackfeet COVID-19 Incident Command (Photo: BLACKFEET COVID-19 INCIDENT COMMAND)

“The Blackfeet Tribe is currently looking into this matter and will keep the public updated,” McNeely said in a statement Wednesday. 

Gooldy said his policy applies to all states with COVID-19 quarantine orders. 

“Anytime that there’s a lockdown in the United States from any location, we post it up here, and they don’t get a stay,” Gooldy said. “Like we had California guests in here when their state was in lockdown initially. And they didn’t get to stay here at the Wingate in Great Falls. But I wasn’t called a racist either.”

When the Kickingwoman family explained Kevin was getting surgery the next day, Sharen said the employee asked for proof, so Kevin emailed the manager a doctor’s note. Gooldy said the doctor’s note did not have the patient’s name or time of visit, but that his employee alerted him of the situation and checked them in.

The family checked-in to the hotel for about 30 minutes but decided to leave and stay somewhere else. 

More: As COVID-19 spreads, Blackfeet Nation rallies to protect elders, preserve culture

Sharen said her mother, who made the reservation, still had not received a refund as of

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