Tag: urgent

UK travel industry calls for urgent government action

Planes on the apron at London City Airport which has been closed after the discovery of an unexploded Second World War bomb.
Planes at London City Airport. Photo: PA

UK travel group ABTA said the government is not doing enough to support the sector, which has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.

It criticised the government for “ever-changing quarantine rules and a dwindling number of destinations for holidaymakers to visit,” and demanded tailored support, including further grants.

ABTA said it is “vital that the Global Travel Taskforce launched this month to consider a testing regime, and other measures to support recovery of the travel industry, acts decisively and urgently to help increase consumer confidence and get the industry moving again.”

The taskforce was set up by the government and is meant to report to prime minister Boris Johnson no later than early November, setting out recommendations for how the UK can support the recovery of international travel.

According to new figures released by ABTA, only 15% of people took a foreign holiday between February and July 2020 compared to 51% over the 12-month period, and 64% the previous year.

READ MORE: EU gets approval to slap $4bn worth of tariffs on US imports in Boeing dispute

More than half (53%) of the people surveyed said they took fewer overseas holidays this past year compared to the previous year, with 87% of those saying they took fewer holidays because of coronavirus. 

Government restrictions were a contributing factor to a hesitation to travel, with 93% of people concerned about potential last-minute changes to foreign office travel advice and four in five people (80%) concerned about having to quarantine when they return to the UK.

The findings are from research based on a sample of 2,000 consumers and related to holiday booking habits in the 12 months to July 2020.

Meanwhile, figures also revealed that more than half of people (52%) believe that the travel industry should reopen in a greener way. 

A new report by ABTA identified the sustainability challenges faced by the industry, including the need to accelerate decarbonisation and to ensure that tourism generates greater benefits for destinations and local communities.

READ MORE: Turbulent times ahead for airlines as UK travel quarantine measures kick in

Mark Tanzer, ABTA’s CEO said: “There is no doubt that people’s confidence and trust in the industry has taken a huge hit — and we must work hard to earn that trust back. Not only is that by being creative and flexible in terms of the holiday and customer experience we offer, but also by making sustainability a fundamental principle of travel.”

Earlier this week a survey was reported to show that nearly two-thirds (64%) of business leaders see domestic and international travel as “key to their future prospects.”

The research, commissioned by London City Airport, also indicated that 48% believe the government’s quarantine restrictions are the biggest barrier to business air travel.

In other news showing the toll the pandemic has taken on the travel industry, British Airways chief executive Alex Cruz has quit the top job with immediate effect, to be replaced by

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Humane Society of Kitchener Waterloo in ‘urgent need’ of foster families

WATERLOO REGION — The Humane Society of Kitchener Waterloo and Stratford Perth is calling on anyone thinking about fostering a rescued or surrendered pet to step forward.

“We are in urgent need of fosters,” said Anya Barradas, spokesperson for the organization.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a reduction of staff and volunteers at the organization’s centres. Adoptions are still happening, but only “fast trackers” — kittens, puppies or unique breeds that quickly go up for adoption after they arrive — are kept at these shelters.

All other animals are moved into foster care once they’re cleared by the medical team. The problem is there isn’t enough foster families to take them.

In July, there were close to 100 families fostering animals on a regular basis. At that point in the pandemic, many people were sticking close to home.

But now that the province has opened up a bit more, the number of foster families has dropped significantly. There are now 70 families in the program.

“If it wasn’t for covid, 70 foster families would have been a great number for us to have,” Barradas said. In pre-covid times, foster families would only care for those animals that are too sick or too young to be put up for adoption.

“Under these circumstances (during the pandemic), a drop of 30 foster families is significant. The more foster families we’re able to recruit, the more animals we’re able to care for.”

Anyone over 18 and interested in becoming a foster volunteer can learn more online at kwsphumane.ca.

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Want to solve society’s most urgent problems? Cash prizes can spur breakthroughs

Innovation is a critical part of tackling problems in areas as diverse as transportation, housing, public health and energy. But the scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs who might generate creative solutions often investigate issues or pursue economic opportunities in other less urgent fields. Incentives for science and innovation try to steer efforts toward the most pressing societal problems.

Prizes – cash rewards for scientific, engineering and other achievements – are one form of incentive that has been around for a very long time. In the 18th century, for example, organizations such as the Royal Society in the U.K. awarded medals to scientists for their breakthrough research.

Today, in addition to this type of scientific award, there are also prizes for solutions to diverse problems including the invention of new transportation means for disabled people, the engineering of new battery recycling methods, and even the development of technologies to treat COVID-19 patients. There are also “open innovation” websites, such as InnoCentive, that companies use to source ideas and inventions from thousands of problem solvers in exchange for prizes.

All these prizes seek to focus creativity and investment by attracting the smartest and most creative people who, with the right incentive, might focus on the highlighted problem and in turn come up with amazing breakthroughs. Researchers like me work to determine how effective these prizes really are as drivers of innovation.

people on stage holding awards
Breakthrough Prize winners, onstage in 2019, are recognized for remarkable achievements in fundamental physics, life sciences and mathematics.
Xinhua/Wu Xiaoling via Getty Images

Reward past achievements, motivate future breakthroughs

There are two main types of prizes. Scientific awards, which include both historic medal awards and the more recent Nobel Prizes, for example, are a retrospective recognition for outstanding contributions to science rather than an incentive to embark on one specific line of inquiry. To award them, every year, a number of judges examine the achievements of the nominees and pick winners.

Grand prizes, in contrast, offer rewards to the first participant who achieves a particular feat that is of interest to the prize organizer. For example, in the 1990s, the Ansari X Prize offered US$10 million for the first private manned spacecraft that went to space twice within two weeks. Participants had to meet these specific criteria to be able to claim the prize, which ultimately sought to promote space tourism. Generally, this type of prize names a single winner who takes home all the prize money. But sometimes there are smaller second and third prizes too.

Thanks to the Ansari X Prize and other popular competitions like the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize for Moon exploration and the $5 million DARPA Grand Challenges for the development of autonomous vehicles (all case studies that I investigated), companies, governments and nonprofit organizations began using prizes more actively and, with help from the internet, made them more popular and exciting.

astronaut stands on top of SpaceShip One holding American flag
SpaceShipOne took home the $10 million Ansari X Prize in 2004.
AP Photo/Laura Rauch

Analyzing prizes’ effects on innovation

When I started researching

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