news
19-21 november
IBTM World 2019
announces brand new speaker showcase and final keynote double bill.
UNiversities means meetings
Abu Dhabi
launches worlds first university of artificial intelligence.
Hotel News
Scandic
to open central Helsinki’s largest conference hotel.
flight news
Flybe
to become Virgin Connect.
sustainability
Lapland Airports
receive international climate certification.

Spain ‘to suffer 500 hotel closures’
due to Thomas Cook failure.
Safety & Security
Viparis:
a two-time winner at the annual Safety Awards.
May 27-30, 2020
Italian Exhibition Group:
Finalized the purchase of Firmast.
DAIS
Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane,
and Clarence Seedorf to speak at AI conference in Dubai.
Award Winning
Gothenburg
is The European Capital of Smart Tourism 2020.
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IBTM World 2019 announces brand new speaker showcase and final keynote double bill

IBTM has revealed a double bill of not one but two inspiring speakers for their third keynote speaker slot, as well as a brand new ‘TED talk’ style speaker showcase event for IBTM World 2019, taking place at Fira Barcelona from 19-21 November.

The third keynote speaker session, taking place on Wednesday 20 November, will this year be shared by two outstanding speakers who will each give a 28-minute talk: Aric Dromi and Margarita Mayo.

Aric Dromi, founder of the strategic think tank Tempus.Motu and in-house futurologist of Volvo Cars Group, will present an exciting session on future trends and new technologies, applying disruptive thinking to question how we experience the world, the way we think about thinking, and the way we understand change.

Margarita Mayo, Professor of Leadership at IE Business School in Madrid, keynote speaker and author, will discuss how to remain authentic in both leadership and life. Margarita features on the Thinkers50 ‘Guru Radar’ as one of the world’s top management experts and was a nominee for the 2017 Leadership Award, considered the “Oscars of Management Thinking” by the Financial Times.

Immediately following the two keynotes will be a brand-new TED talk style speaker showcase; a fascinating bite-sized programme of three 23-minute speakers, sponsored by Thinking Heads Speaker Agency.

Moderated by event MC and keynote speaker Oisin Lunny, the speaker showcase will open with ex-Formula one racing driver Jaime Alguersuari. The subject of Jaime’s talk is personal re-invention, and to illustrate this he will take us on a journey from competing in the Hungarian Grand Prix aged just 19, to his transition to electronic music producer and DJ.

Next up will be CEO and founder of Wordly, Lakshman Rathnam. Based in the heart of Silicon Valley, Worldy provides real time simultaneous translation into 15 different languages. Lakshman will discuss why re-thinking how we communicate across different cultures is so important.

Concluding the showcase will be Mariano Sigman; neuroscientist, two-times TED speaker and author of books including ‘The Secret Life of the Mind’. Mariano will use his extensive knowledge of neuroscience to explore the fascinating workings of the brain and the factors that influence the decision-making process.

David Thompson, Event Director, IBTM World, said: “We know from speaking to event attendees that an important part of attending an event is to gain new knowledge and ideas, and perhaps a new perspective on the world. We’re excited to introduce our new speaker showcase and third keynote double-bill, which is packed full of engaging content and speakers to leave attendees feeling invigorated and inspired to apply some of these ideas to their own lives and businesses.”

The IBTM World Knowledge Programme is a three-day schedule of diverse and high-profile talks designed to provide relevant and tangible take-home learnings to attendees. The full Keynote Programme is Lucy Bloom, award-winning business expert, author and international master communicator (Tuesday); Aric Dromi and Margarita Mayo and the speaker showcase (Wednesday); and John Volanthen, the world-record holding British cave diver who played a major role in the astonishing 2018 Tham Luang Thailand cave rescue (Thursday).

 

Photo: Margarita Mayo, Professor of Leadership at IE Business School in Madrid, keynote speaker and author, will discuss how to remain authentic in both leadership and life.

Abu Dhabi launches worlds first university of artificial intelligence

Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence will welcome first students in September 2020, according to ArabianBusiness.com Newsletter.

Abu Dhabi has announced the establishment of the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI), the first graduate level, research-based AI university in the world.

MBZUAI will enable graduate students, businesses, and governments to advance artificial intelligence, a statement said.

The University is named after Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, who has long advocated for the UAEs development of human capital through knowledge and scientific thinking to take the nation into the future, it added.

MBZUAI will provide all admitted students with a full scholarship, plus benefits such as a monthly allowance, health insurance, and accommodation. The university will also work with leading local and global companies to secure internships, and will also assist students in finding employment opportunities.

The first class of graduate students will commence coursework at MBZUAIs Masdar City campus in September 2020.

MBZUAI will introduce a new model of academia and research to the field of AI, providing students and faculty access to some of the worlds most advanced AI systems to unleash its potential for economic and societal development.

Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of State, who has been appointed chair of the MBZUAI board of trustees and is spearheading the establishment of the University, said: “Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence aligns with the vision of the UAE leadership that is based on sustainable development, progress and the overall well-being of humanity and underpinned by capacity-building and active participation in finding practical solutions based on innovation and state-of-the-art technology.

"As such, the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence is an open invitation from Abu Dhabi to the world to unleash AIs full potential.

“AI is already changing the world, but we can achieve so much more if we allow the limitless imagination of the human mind to fully explore it,” he added. “The university will bring the discipline of AI into the forefront, molding and empowering creative pioneers who can lead us to a new AI empowered era.”

Experts from around the world have been selected for the universitys board of trustees. They include MBZUAI interim president, Professor Sir Michael Brady, professor of Oncological Imaging at the University of Oxford in the UK; Professor Anil K Jain, a University Distinguished Professor at Michigan State University, US; Professor Andrew Chi-Chih Yao, Dean of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Information Sciences at Tsinghua University, Beijing, China; Dr Kai-Fu Lee, a technology executive and venture capitalist based in Beijing, China; Professor Daniela Rus, director of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), US, and Peng Xiao, CEO of Group 42.

The trustees will be supported by an advisory board, chaired by Omar Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence.

The announcement comes as AI is set to have a transformational impact on the global economy, with experts estimating that, by 2030, AI could contribute nearly $16 trillion. Experts now estimate that, by 2030, AIs contribution to the UAEs GDP will rise to nearly 14 percent – the largest GDP share in the Middle East.

Al Jaber added: “The launch of the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence is a clear demonstration of the UAEs commitment to encouraging innovation and empowering younger generations in the UAE and around the world.”

The university will offer Master of Science (MSc) and PhD level programs in key areas of AI – Machine Learning, Computer Vision, and Natural Language Processing – while also engaging policymakers and businesses around the world so that AI is harnessed responsibly as a force for positive transformation.

MBZUAI will also bring together experts from the AI community by hosting regional and international conferences, seminars and workshops.

Professor Brady said: “Following decades of research into machine learning and artificial intelligence, we are now at a turning point in the widespread application of advanced intelligence. That evolution is—among other things—creating exciting new career opportunities in nearly every sector of society. At MBZUAI, we will support students to capture those opportunities and to magnify their contribution to the field of AI globally.”

Scandic to open central Helsinki’s largest conference hotel

Scandic has signed a lease agreement for a new meeting and conference hotel in Helsinki. The hotel, Scandic Avenue, will have 350 rooms and will be located near the Old Church Park in the heart of the city. It is scheduled to open in 2022.

Scandic Avenue will be the largest congress hotel in central Helsinki. In addition to 350 hotel rooms, there are plans for 2,000 m2 of meeting space as well as a restaurant and bar. Housed in a historic printers’ building from the 1920s and within walking distance of subway and train connections, Scandic Avenue will be a long-awaited addition to the city’s hotel scene. The building is owned by the Varma Mutual Pension Insurance Company and today it is being used as office space.

"Central Helsinki has been lacking a larger conference hotel for some time. When Scandic Avenue opens, we’ll be able to welcome guests and at the same time create an exciting new event venue in the middle of the city", says Aki Käyhkö, Managing Director, Scandic Hotels Finland.

Construction will start during 2020 and the hotel is expected to be completed during the third quarter 2022.

"This historic building at Annankatu 18 was originally built as the Tilgmann printing house and has since then served as an office building. Finding alternative uses and securing a long lifecycle for our property is important to us as a responsible investor. This is why it feels great that we’re now able to welcome Scandic and repurpose the building as an attractive hotel", says Ilkka Tomperi, Head of Real Estate, Varma.

With a growing number of international guests and good flight connections to the east, Helsinki is an important market. Today, Scandic is the leading hotel company in the area and in addition to the hotels that Scandic operates under the Scandic brand, the company also has seven IHG and three Hilton hotels in its portfolio. In addition to Scandic Avenue, Scandic plans to open two more attractive hotels in the area that together will offer 670 rooms: Scandic Pasila, which will open next spring and Railway Station, a hotel that will open during 2021.

 

Flybe to become Virgin Connect

The new owner of Flybe has announced the airline will be renamed Virgin Connect in 2020 following its acquisition, according to BBT (Buying Business Travel).

Connect Airways, a consortium of investors consisting of Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Group and Cyrus Capital, bought Flybe earlier this year for £2.8 million.

The company said Flybe’s recognisable purple planes will be repainted red as the airline transitions to its new branding.

Forward bookings will not be affected by the change, according to Connect Airways.

Announcing the new name, Connect Airways CEO Mark Anderson said: “We are hugely excited by this milestone in our airline’s 40-year history. We will remain true to our heritage and reason for being, which is offering essential regional connectivity to local communities.”

Anderson said Virgin Connect would work to become “Europe’s most loved and successful regional airline”. He added the carrier would incorporate the experience customers “naturally expect” from other Virgin-related brands.

Passengers can continue to book flights through the Flybe website for the time being.

The news comes after Flybe announced it would cease flights from Doncaster Sheffield airport by summer 2020. Following its acquisition, the carrier took the decision to drop Embraer jets from its fleet in favour of its smaller Bombardier Q400s, which went along with the airline closing its bases at Doncaster and Cardiff.

Lapland Airports receive international climate certification

The Finnish Airport company Finavia has achieved carbon neutrality at all its airports this year after having worked towards this goal for a long time. The next target is zero emissions.

“We have worked hard to cut emissions resulting from our own operations and do our part in reducing emissions from air traffic. All our 21 airports have achieved carbon neutrality this year. The reduction of the carbon footprint of our Lapland Airports has now also been recognised with an international ACA (Airport Carbon Accreditation) certification. Helsinki Airport was already certified in 2017,” says Henri Hansson, Finavia’s SVP and Technical Director, who is responsible for company’s sustainability.

According to Hansson, CO2 emissions per passenger at the airports have fallen by 68% over the past ten years thanks to measures taken by Finavia to curb climate change. Between 2007 and 2018, CO2 emissions per passenger fell from 2.2 kg to 0.7 kg.

“We only use wind power. Helsinki Airport also has its own solar power plant on the terminal roof. At Helsinki Airport and Lapland Airports, the fuel for our ground fleet vehicles has been replaced with renewable diesel produced from waste and residue.”

At regional airports, Finavia uses renewable sources of energy, such as pellets, for heating when possible. Half of them are heated using Finnish wood biofuel.

Finavia has offset the remaining emissions, which consist of emissions such as those resulting from company’s business travel. This way, Finavia has been able to achieve carbon neutrality. Now, the share of emissions that is being offset is 45%.

“We are constantly working to reduce emissions by taking practical measures such as increasing the use of renewable sources of heat as well as renewable diesel and acquiring electric cars and electric ground fleet vehicles for our airports,” says Hansson about future measures.

By offsetting emissions, Finavia funds Gold Standard-certified projects, which reduce emissions elsewhere. At the moment, Finavia supports a large-scale project in Ghana that aims to reduce the cutting down of local forests for firewood with the help of more efficient stoves. Thanks to the project, Ghana can reduce its CO2 emissions by a million tonnes while generating local jobs and wealth.

According to Hansson, the carbon neutrality of airports is an important sustainability step. Finavia’s next target is zero emissions.

“This means zero CO2 emissions without offsetting. In June, we signed a pledge by Airports Council International. With this pledge, dozens of airport operators commit to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. In Finland, we will seek to reach this goal as early as during the 2030s.”

Finavia is part of the joint commitment of European airport operators to have 100 carbon-neutral airports in Europe by 2030. Finnish airports operated by Finavia comprise 20% of this goal.

Finavia joined the ACA programme eight years ago. Helsinki Airport was certified as carbon neutral in 2017 and Lapland Airports in 2019. Thanks to offsetting, other Finavia airports also achieved carbon neutrality in 2019, a year earlier than planned. Due to the faster schedule, the other airports were not yet part of the certification process.

The international ACA programme consists of four levels. At Level 1, the airport must monitor the CO2 emissions resulting from its operations. At Level 2, the airport must show that emissions are being reduced. At Level 3, the airport operator must engage other businesses operating at the airport in emissions reduction. At the highest level, Level 3+, the airport must offset its remaining CO2 emissions. The airport can then be certified as carbon neutral.

Spain ‘to suffer 500 hotel closures’ due to Thomas Cook failure

As many as 1.3 million holidaymakers will be unable to fly into Spanish destinations this autumn and winter due to the Thomas Cook collapse, writes spanish travel media today.

This will result in at least 500 hotels being shut down, generating losses to the tourism sector running into hundreds of millions of euros, according to the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodation.

The Spanish government previously announced a package of measures worth €300 million, including emergency credit lines and a reduction in airport fees, particularly for hubs in the Balearic and Canary islands, plus plans to spend €500 million in improving tourism infrastructure.

It calculates that the favoured winter sun destination of the Canary Islands alone will lose 400,000 visitors.

The Fuerteventura Princess, which had an exclusive deal with Thomas Cook covering 95% of its 688 rooms up to 2023, is reportedly going to lay off its 160 staff, a fate to be shared by at least 3,400 others in the sector, according to estimates.

Ramón Estalella, head of Spain’s leading hotelier association, told the BBC: “They need to do something to get airlines to pick up the slack and take more slots by slashing costs. We need to take a bigger risk.

“Meanwhile, it’s unfair that hotels are having to pay VAT on bills charged to Thomas Cook and its subsidiaries which they know they’ll never be paid.”

More than 700 staff at Thomas Cook’s largest subsidiary in Spain say they are the biggest victims of the travel giant’s crash, having not been paid since the summer and now finding themselves in a legal limbo.

The Palma-based In Destination Incoming agency went into liquidation days after Thomas Cook ceased operations, reportedly announcing debts of a €57 million.

“We have no guests in any resorts, but due to Spanish law we have to present ourselves at work every day to complete our 40 hours,” one worker told the BBC on the condition of anonymity due to what she described as “ongoing legal proceedings”.

“If we do not go, they will take it as our resignation instead of an official dismissal or redundancy, and we won’t be able to claim anything at all,” she added.

Pep Ginard, of the CCOO services sector union in the Balearics, confirmed that staff at In Destination Incoming faced a “long and difficult process” to claim back pay and redundancy which, under Spanish labour laws, should be worth at least 20 days’ wages per year of service.

Rafael Gallego, president of Spain’s CEAV travel agency association, said the Thomas Cook debacle should jog policymakers into realising that increasingly few travellers merely sign up to a package based on a destination’s climate or vibes.

“People travelling today don’t go so much to a place, but rather to do something specific,” he told the newspaper El Mundo.

Nowadays, tourists were looking for a product, either active holidays such as playing golf, paragliding and diving, or more leisure-based breaks involving nature, gastronomy and cultural tourism, he argued..