Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Low cost flying arrives in luxury loving Japan


NARITA, Japan (AP) — Japan has a reputation for loving expensive things like overpriced real estate, gourmet melons and luxury brands. But the nation is finally discovering the joy of flying cheap, with the arrival this year of three low-cost carriers.

The takeoff of AirAsia Japan, Peach Aviation and Jetstar Japan could change lifestyles. No longer will air travel be mostly confined to business trips and fancy once-in-a-lifetime vacations to places such as Hawaii. Flying is suddenly growing more casual, including for weekend dining, visits with friends, even day trips. Ticket prices are plunging by about half, to 16,000 yen ($200) trips to the southwestern resort island of Okinawa or a 5,000 yen ($60) hop to Seoul.

The airlines are not only out to woo Japanese away from regular leisure activities such as spending money at Disneyland or watching a movie. They are also out to convince the notoriously workaholic Japanese not to work so hard. They may revitalize Japan’s 3 trillion yen ($38 billion) aviation market — already the world’s third largest, comprising about 5.5 percent of global traffic and 11 percent of industry revenues — that critics say is untapped for its tremendous potential.

Helping to drive the change is the expansion of two Tokyo airports, Haneda and Narita, which has opened up more landing slots for airlines. Twenty-two-year-old graduate student Chie Kodama recently used Jetstar for an urban planning research trip to Okinawa, and was surprised at how the planes were ‘‘normal,’’ like any other airline's.

‘‘And it is so cheap you forgive any shortcomings,’’ she said. As with other low-cost carriers around the world, flyers get charged for meals and extra luggage. Efficiency is critical and so the airlines use online advertising and reservations, fit more seats into each jet, and take off quickly after landing.

Booking early is a must for the best deals, and refunds and schedule changes aren’t allowed. The gates are typically at the farthest end of airports. Flights are sometimes delayed. The wait feels longer because LCC users have to check in extra early. Masato Yamaguchi, 22, said his friends had to run like mad when their AirAsia flight back to Tokyo from Okinawa was delayed, and they barely had time to catch the last bus.

As he noted: What would be the point of having to pay hundreds of dollars for a cab home, if they had endured the cramped space of a low cost carrier to pinch pennies? ‘‘There was no way to cross your legs,’’ Yamaguchi grumbled. ‘‘You wouldn’t want to use it if you’re going someplace far away.’’

Still, the carriers are doing well so far. During the nation’s Obon holidays in August, domestic flights at Peach were 94 percent filled, those at AirAsia were at 91 percent and at Jetstar, 89 percent. The companies are hoping to do as well for the year-end and New Year’s holidays.

‘‘It’s not that the meals on standard fares were ever free. The charge was just part of the ticket price,’’ Kazuyuki Iwakata, president of AirAsia Japan, told The Associated Press. ‘‘With us, people pay only for what they need.’’

Monday, September 10, 2012

Chicago tops nation in tax burden for travelers

For an average visit to downtown Chicago, a traveler will pay about $40.31 in combined taxes per day, a study finds. Three Florida cities tied for lowest cost. Chicago, the city that brought us deep-dish pizza, Oprah and "da Bears," is also home to the nation's highest tax burden for travelers.

The lowest taxes imposed on travelers can be found in the Florida cities of Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers and West Palm Beach. Those are among the findings of new research by the GBTA Foundation, the education and research arm of the Global Business Travel Assn., a trade group for travel managers.

The foundation created a ranking of the destinations with the nation's highest and lowest tax burden on travelers by combining general sales taxes and taxes charged to travelers each day for car rentals, hotel stays and meals.

For an average visit to downtown Chicago, a traveler will pay about $40.31 in combined taxes per day, according to the research. Also high on the list of travel taxes were New York ($37.98), Boston ($34.83), Kansas City, Mo., ($34.58) and Seattle ($34.43), the study said.

On the other end of the list, the study found that the three Florida cities tied for the lowest combined taxes: an average of $22.21 a day. Orange County ($22.79), Burbank ($22.74) and Ontario ($24.08) made the list of the 10 cities with the lowest combined taxes.

The foundation conducted the study to highlight such charges as bed taxes on hotel rooms and airport surcharges added to car rentals that may discourage visitors. "Cities and states must think carefully about the sales that local businesses will lose because of the higher costs that travel taxes impose," said Joseph Bates, senior director of research for the foundation.

A spokeswoman for the group that promotes travel to Chicago declined to comment, saying she had not seen the study. LAX joins other airports offering free Wi-Fi

Before flying to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa touted last week the news that Los Angeles International Airport now offers free Wi-Fi service in its terminals.

Several large airports around the country already offered free wireless Internet service, including Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport, San Francisco International Airport and Long Beach Airport.

Until last week, visitors to LAX had to pay a fee, starting at $9.99 an hour, to jump on the Web. Now LAX visitors get free Wi-Fi for 45 minutes of regular access, or they can pay $4.95 for an hour of high-speed service or $7.95 for an uninterrupted 24-hour period.

Airport officials acknowledge that LAX — the nation's third-busiest airport — is not the first to jump on the free Wi-Fi train.

"Given passenger expectations and trends at major airports and other public facilities, providing free Wi-Fi service at LAX allows us to meet the demands of today's travelers," airport Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey said in a statement. JetBlue offers flight deal for pets Here's a deal that might make your travel companion howl, bark or purr.

JetBlue Airways Corp. recently unveiled a package that lets pets travel an unlimited number of times for three months for $299. It's called the All Your Pet Can Jet deal and was unleashed at about the same time that JetBlue launched the Go Pack, a deal that lets human passengers make 10 flights in three months, ranging in price from $700 to $2,500, depending on the city where the trips start.

But like the deal for humans, the pet package includes some restrictions. The deal runs Sept. 7 to Dec. 31 and pets must accompany a human with a separate ticket. Under the deal, pets fly in the cabin and are exempt from the standard pet fee of $200 per round-trip fare.

But don't start packing your pet boa constrictor, rooster or armadillo just yet. JetBlue will only transport small cats and dogs that, along with their carrier, weigh no more than 20 pounds. The pets can go anywhere JetBlue flies except — sadly for your pets — to the Caribbean islands of Jamaica, St. Lucia and Barbados.

Dave Lindahl Scam 

Monday, September 03, 2012

Warning over delays at Australian airports

Visitors to Australia have been told to expect delays at the country’s airports following the introduction of new restrictions on duty-free tobacco. Air passengers have been warned that customs officials will be seeking to enforce the regulations which allow passengers to enter the country with just two packets of cigarettes – down from the existing ten.

The rules, which came into force on Saturday, also limit inbound passengers to 100g of tobacco products – down from 250g. Increased bag searches are likely, and Australia’s Tourism Transport Forum said that “confusion and mayhem” could ensue.

It said it expects around 400,000 cartons of cigarettes to be seized before Christmas at Sydney Airport alone. The travel industry has criticised the Australian government for enforcing the restrictions too quickly, and had asked for the move to be delayed until next year.

“Travellers are already experiencing delays being processed as they enter Australia at a number of our international airports due to last year's cuts to customs staff,” said Caroline Wilkie, chief executive of the Australian Airports Association.

“This ill-considered implementation date for the duty-free tobacco cuts is going to make an already dire situation disastrous.”

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Italian Palaces, Castles Put on Market

For investors longing to own an Italian palace, castle or other historic property, now might be the time to strike. The Italian government and numerous cities and other public agencies are putting billions of euros of surplus properties on the block as a way of raising revenue.

Prime Minister Mario Monti's plan for the economy, which is close to final passage, includes the sale of 350 buildings along with cuts to public spending and other austerity measures. The government hopes to raise about €1.5 billion ($1.86 billion) through the property sales, according to the Agenzia del Demanio, the agency that manages the state's real-estate assets.

The 350 properties include army barracks in Bologna, which were formerly occupied by the Defense Ministry, and Soriano nel Cimino's Orsini Castle, in the Lazio region, which was built by a pope in the 1270s and later used as a prison.

The city of Venice has put a €19 million price tag on the 18th century Diedo Palace, which served as a criminal court for years and is now being marketed to foreign investors by Hera Immobiliare. It is one of 18 properties Venice has put on the block.

Milan is selling more than 100 buildings, including the Palazzo Bolis Gualdo at 12 Via Bagutta, in the city's famous fashion district. That building's price tag: €31 million.

Italian agencies at all levels of government own about €42 billion of properties that are surplus or underused, according to a report by Edoardo Reviglio, chief economist of Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, a bank that is 70%-owned by the government.

Turning some of this real estate into cash would be a fast way to raise revenue for the country's cash-strapped municipalities, states and national government.

But the plan to sell properties faces headwinds. Many institutional investors, fearing a collapse of the euro, essentially have redlined Italy as well as other members of the euro zone with the biggest financial problems, including Spain and Greece. Moreover, investors would have to assume the risk of dealing with the notoriously slow Italian bureaucracy, fixing up the properties and then finding tenants at a time of anemic economic growth.

That isn't to say some investors aren't giving the properties a look. Alessandro Mazzanti, chief executive of real-estate services firm CBRE Group Inc.'s Italian operation, says many U.S. opportunity funds, which look for high-risk, high-return deals, are looking. "Names that you know have been in here the last week talking to us," he said, declining to be more specific.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Kuwaiti students visit historical sites in Istanbul

ISTANBUL, July 9 (KUNA) -- A delegation of excelling Kuwaiti students continued Monday a tour of historical sites in the city of Istanbul under the sponsorship of the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development's (KFAED) (be outstanding) program.

The students told KUNA that they have visited historical significant monuments in the city of Istanbul, namely the Hagia Sophia (Mosque), The Sultan Ahmed Mosque (the Blue Mosque), and the Topkapi Palace.
The students affirmed that their tour of various historical sites have increased their knowledge of Istanbul, noting that the tour had showcased the significant contribution of Islam to world heritage.
On her part, the delegation supervisor and Ministry of Education Representative Dalal Al-Qabandi told KUNA that the students were very thrilled to be visiting Istanbul and learning from the history of this great city.

She also thanked KFAED for sponsoring the tour which helped expand the students' knowledge.
Al-Qabandi also lauded the Turkish authorities for facilitating the visits to historical sites, affirming that they have done a tremendous job in preserving the Islamic heritage of the city of Istanbul.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

China plans huge tourism project in Tibet capital

China on Sunday started work on a 30-billion-yuan ($4.8-billion) tourism project in Lhasa city, state media said, as it seeks to draw more travellers to the restive Tibet region.

The massive development in the regional capital will include a theme park, commercial district and residential area, Lhasa Vice Mayor Ma Xinming was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua news agency.

Construction on the first phase of the planned project, about two kilometres (just over a mile) from downtown Lhasa, will take three to five years, it said.

Lhasa was the scene of violent anti-Chinese government riots in 2008 and authorities have kept the city under tight security since then.

Tibetans have long chafed under China's rule over the vast Himalayan plateau, saying that Beijing has curbed religious freedoms and their culture is being eroded by an influx of Han Chinese, the country's main ethnic group.

Beijing, however, says that Tibetans enjoy religious freedom and have benefited from improved living standards brought on by China's economic expansion.

Ma said the project would create a "living museum" for Tibetan culture as well as relieving pressure on tourist attractions in Lhasa's old city and developing Tibet's tourism industry, Xinhua reported.

Buddhist pilgrims and tourists flock to Lhasa to visit the Jokhang temple in the city centre and the Potala Palace, former home of Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

On May 27, two Tibetans set themselves on fire in front of the Jokhang temple, the first such incident to hit the city following a string of similar acts in parts of China inhabited by the ethnic group.

Travel agents said Chinese authorities closed Tibet to foreign visitors shortly after the incident, though state media later denied any travel ban.

The tourism project will include a theme park dedicated to Princess Wencheng, a member of the Chinese royal court during the 618-907 AD Tang Dynasty who married a Tibetan ruler, Xinhua said.

Beijing has used the story to illustrate close historical ties between China and Tibet. Other features of the development include centres for highlighting Tibetan arts and customs, the Xinhua report said.

Last year, 8.5 million tourists visited Tibet, up more than 24 percent from 2010, official figures showed. The regional government is targeting 10 million visitors this year, producing tourism revenue of 12 billion yuan, the government has said.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Pushkar offers 'mini Israel' experience

Signboards and menus in Hebrew, shopkeepers greeting visitors with "shalom" and familiar food like humus, wraps and soup with dumplings. It's a mini Israel out here with hotels and other businesses tailoring their offerings to suit tourists from the 'promised land'. Even in the scorchingsummer heat, hundreds of tourists from Israel are holidaying in this town, 11 km from Ajmer and about 130 km from the state capital Jaipur. Pushkar, an attractive tourist destination with its lake, desert safaris, camel rides and more, is home to the only temple in the world dedicated to Lord Brahma.

And Israeli tourists are flocking to soak in the experience. Moving around, the unsuspecting visitor could be forgiven for wondering just where they were with hoardings and signboards in Hebrew splashed at many places.There is even a Chabad House, a community centre for the Jewish community run by missionaries.

Food familiar to Israeli visitors is easier to find than traditional Indian food. Where else will you see a menu featuring jachnoon, the traditional bread with tomatoes and eggs! Moussakas, cinammon cakes and even the humble vegetable cutlet are found in plenty, with menus printed in both English and Hebrew.

Local residents, including some priests who perform rituals at the ghats of the Pushkar lake, and shopkeepers have started speaking fluent Hebrew. And some are taking classes to learn the language.Some hotel owners even accept shekels, the Israeli currency.It all makes business sense.

According to the state tourism department, 46,425 foreign tourists visited Pushkar during April 2011 to March 2012. Israelis, many of them young men and women holidaying after their compulsory army training, counted as the highest.

"Israeli tourist arrivals increased up to 64 percent in the last three years and about 13,500 Israelis visited Pushkar last year," said a police official.Israeli tourists usually come in September and stay for several months - mostly till April.

"Even at present there are about 500 foreign tourists in Pushkar despite the scorching heat and most of them are Israelis," said Ravindra Kaushik, a hotel owner in Pushkar, a key attraction in the desert state of Rajasthan.The numbers have encouraged hotel owners to make that extra effort to ensure that the visitors feel at home.

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Friday, June 29, 2012

Visit Dubai to Watch Annual Summer Turtle Release

Visitors to Dubai, UAE, this weekend can see an annual summer turtle release programme conducted by Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project.

The event is being held on June 29, 2012, at Madinat Jumeirah beach in Dubai. Jumeirah, a UAE-based luxury hospitality company, is sponsoring the event, which is open to the public.

The event will see around 100 Hawksbill Turtles being released back into their natural habitat by children participating in the event; these turtles were brought to Dubai’s Wildlife Protection Office or to the Aquarium team at Burj Al Arab at very sick or injured states, where they have been nurtured to health over many months, and will now be released into their natural environment.

While being nurtured to health, the turtles were examined by veterinarians, and treated with proper medication or surgery. Once they are out of the medical treatment, these turtles are transferred to the Mina A’Salam turtle enclosure, where they flourish, until they are fit to be released into the sea.

The event also will feature the Big Jumeirah Sea Turtle Race, where six satellite tagged sea turtles will be released into the Arabian Gulf, with each tagged turtle sponsored by a Jumeirah property: Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Madinat Jumeirah, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, Wild Wadi, Jumeirah Living and Burj Al Arab. The winning turtle will be decided by using satellite technology to track their travels.

Children especially are likely to have a fun and entertaining time at the event, which will also offer complimentary entertainment and refreshments to them, and parking will be available for visitors at Mina A Salam.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Cadel confident he has team to win Tour

Cadel Evans says his BMC Racing team named on Tuesday for the Tour de France is stronger than last year's and he now knows he can retain the title.

The 35-year-old Australian will have the support of Americans George Hincapie and Tejay van Garderen, Briton Steve Cummings and Belgian Classics ace Philippe Gilbert, plus Germany's Marcus Burghardt, Amael Moinard of France, Italian Manuel Quinziato and Swiss rider Michael Schar.

Burghardt, Hincapie, Moinard, Quinziato and Schar all helped Evans win in the 2011 Tour and seven of the eight raced together at this month's Criterium du Dauphine - where Evans finished third behind Bradley Wiggins, his main rival for glory in a Tour which features more than 100 kilometres of time-trials.
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Team director John Lelangue made it clear the team was selected solely to support Evans in his bid for a second Tour de France triumph in the three-week classic starting on June 30.

"We have one objective: to defend Cadel's title and bring him to the podium in Paris," Lelangue said.

"Everyone will know clearly what their job is during the three weeks of racing. Our roster has a really good balance, especially considering the parcours."

Evans was delighted with the strength of the team.

"I know now that I can win it and my lead-up this year is nearly identical to what we did last year," he said.

"We're bringing an even stronger team to the Tour this year and the route would seem to favour me.

"The time-trials will change the dynamics of the race and some of the tactics of my rivals.

"But like last year, I'll go to the Tour with my own plan, to ride my own race."

American Brent Bookwalter and Steve Morabito of Switzerland have been named as reserves.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Greece’s Tourism Woes Continue As Tour Operators Slash Prices

Amid speculation about a Greek euro exit and fears of ensuing social unrest, tourism officials worry that Greece could have a terrible summer season this year.

A repeat election on June 17 will likely determine whether Greece retains the common currency or returns to the drachma. The gloomy forecast has travel agents across the world offering discounted fares to try and convince travelers to visit the sun-soaked Greek Isles and historic monuments.

Agents in the UK and Germany, in particular, have offered steep discounts to help kick-start slumping demand as the economic crisis hits travel spending across Europe. Residents of the two nations account for a large percentage of Greece's visitors, but reports of anti-German sentiment and the fear of being stranded amid protests has left several would-be visitors leery. Many of the 2.2 million Germans who holidayed in Greece last year appear to be headed for other destinations this year such as Spain or Turkey.

London-based Olympic Holidays, a major seller of Greek package holidays in the UK, reduced its rates by up to 25 percent for peak season travel. Meanwhile, online hotel prices in Greece show an 8 percent decline this month compared with June 2011, according to Trivago.gr, with rates in Athens down by 22 percent over last year. Overall hotel rates in Greece average 100 euros for a twin room, considerably lower than most other European nations.

"The immediate result is the devaluation of our country in the international tourism market," the head of the Hellenic Association of Tourism and Travel Agencies, Giorgos Telonis, told Athens-based ekathimerini.com. "We are all feeling the impact on the tourism industry and the Greek economy and society."

Rick Steves, the popular European guidebook writer and television host, said tours in the country have been "as smooth and fun as ever -- virtually unaffected by the local political and economic events."

Monday, June 04, 2012

China advisory against India travel is tit-for-tat, say sources

Beijing: China has cautioned its citizens against travelling to India because of protests held in different cities over the increase in petrol prices. However, sources in  Delhi say they believe China's travel advisory is in retaliation for the Indian government's warning to traders to avoid doing business in the Chinese trading hub of Yiwu. However, the sources said, "both sides are mature enough to handle this."

An advisory has been posted on the Chinese Foreign Ministry website as well as Chinese Embassy in New Delhi dated June 1 which warned about travel disruptions due to protests.

"According to Indian media reports, many places in India are witnessing protests and strikes due to the recent hike in oil prices. Railways and highway transport have either come to a halt due to strikes or have been impacted to different degrees," China says on its Foreign Ministy website, as well as that of its embassy in Delhi. "The Chinese Embassy in India would like to alert the Chinese citizens about this and request them to confirm their itinerary with related agencies to avoid delays....at the same time, during this period, they should be careful about personal safety and safeguard their personal belongings," it adds.

The advisory comes on the eve of a visit to Beijing by India's External Affairs Minister SM Krishna. He is participating in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit scheduled for June 6 and 7.

Beijing: China has cautioned its citizens against travelling to India because of protests held in different cities over the increase in petrol prices. However, sources in  Delhi say they believe China's travel advisory is in retaliation for the Indian government's warning to traders to avoid doing business in the Chinese trading hub of Yiwu. However, the sources said, "both sides are mature enough to handle this."

An advisory has been posted on the Chinese Foreign Ministry website as well as Chinese Embassy in New Delhi dated June 1 which warned about travel disruptions due to protests.

"According to Indian media reports, many places in India are witnessing protests and strikes due to the recent hike in oil prices. Railways and highway transport have either come to a halt due to strikes or have been impacted to different degrees," China says on its Foreign Ministy website, as well as that of its embassy in Delhi. "The Chinese Embassy in India would like to alert the Chinese citizens about this and request them to confirm their itinerary with related agencies to avoid delays....at the same time, during this period, they should be careful about personal safety and safeguard their personal belongings," it adds.

The advisory comes on the eve of a visit to Beijing by India's External Affairs Minister SM Krishna. He is participating in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit scheduled for June 6 and 7.

In January, Indian traders were held hostage in Yiwu over bills that had not been settled by their companies. The incident provoked diplomatic intervention. While one trader was released and returned home a fortnight ago, two others remain stranded in Shanghai fighting their case in a Chinese court.

Indian businessmen are reported to have transacted about USD two billion last year, buying massive supplies of Chinese goods for Indian markets.

Monday, May 14, 2012

High-speed rail's competing visions

As roads become more crowded each year, transportation planners have been looking for a game-changer that can reduce congestion and efficiently move millions of people.Enter rail — a centuries-old mode that may be a shining savior to those hoping to push the United States into a new way of getting people around at high speeds. But it won’t work everywhere — a lot depends on simple geography.

And lawmakers are torn between how to use limited funds: along the densely packed East Coast, which has a history of commuter rail, or out West, where California has ponied up billions of dollars to build a high-speed system, much of it from scratch.

Amtrak’s Acela service from Boston to Washington runs the fastest trains in the country, maxing out at 150 mph and increasing soon to 160 mph. The 12-year-old service has gobbled up airlines’ market share and allows the railroad to make an operating profit on the line that can be reinvested in the system, which needs more than $100 billion to reach speeds envisioned at 220 mph.

Three thousand miles away, California is inching ever closer to its high-speed rail vision, having formally approved the initial Central Valley route and scheduling a May 17 meeting with design-build teams. If constructed, California’s system will exceed 200 mph and, for many Americans, be the first example of “true” high-speed rail touted by China, Japan and Europe.

The state is using $3.3 billion in federal funds with $2.7 billion in state funding to construct the Merced-Fresno route, with a completion deadline of 2017. The project could break ground as early as this year — provided state Republicans don’t overturn funding and that an impending investigation by House Oversight and Government Operations Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) into use of the federal funds doesn’t raise red flags. Clouding the debate: Many think the best starting point for 200-mph rail speeds is the Northeast Corridor rather than a state known for its driving culture.

Dan Richard, the newly appointed chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, recognizes the challenge. A new business plan shaved $30 billion off an eye-popping $98 billion price tag for the rail project and embraced integrating high-speed trains into existing rail services.

“A big part of high-speed rail’s problem is that it’s been viewed as this stand-alone, insular — frankly, arrogant — organization that’s singularly focused on fast trains. Wrong starting point. Right starting point: What do we do to meet the mobility needs?” Richard said.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Missing tourist from Taiwan

A Taiwanese tourist is missing after a tour boat capsized in the reservoir of Ratchaprapa dam in Ban Ta Khun district of Surat Thani province on Thursday afternoon.

Surat Thani police confirmed that the missing tourist was a 47-year-old pilot from Taiwan. He was travelling with his friends from Taiwan, Singapore and Thailand.Initial reports said the missing tourist was from Singapore.

Rescuers from the Kusol Sattha Foundation plucked four survivors from the water after the accident. One of them was the Thai boat operator, identified as Adipong Wichiankaew, and three others were foreign tourists, who were not immediately identified.

The Ratchaprapa dam is a tourist attraction inside Khao Sok National Park.Eyewitnesses said four foreign tourists hired the long-tailed boat operated by Mr Adipong to take them out onto the lake for fishing and sightseeing. The boat capsized after hitting a floating tree trunk.

National park officials went out in a speed boat on a search and rescue mission but had still not found the missing tourist as evening fell.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Safe Arab tourism destinations thrive

DUBAI — The Arab Spring has resulted in a sharp drop in tourism in countries at the centre of the turmoil, to the benefit of safe destinations in the region, experts say.Major tourist destinations such as Tunisia and Egypt saw the numbers of visitors plummet because of uprisings last year that spread to other nations where confrontations with autocratic regimes turned deadly.

The Gulf city state of Dubai, as well as popular destinations outside the Middle East, became the focus of diverted tourism."The Middle East and North Africa saw a drop as a whole in international arrivals, mainly in Egypt and Tunisia," said Ahmed Youssef, MENA director of marketing and operations at Amadeus.

"Tourist flows from Egypt to Turkey increased by 400 percent in 2011," said Youssef, speaking at the Arabian Travel Market last week in Dubai. His company provides IT solutions for the travel industry.According to the World Tourism Organisation UNWTO, international tourist arrivals in the Middle East declined 8.4 percent to 54.8 million in 2011, after growing 14.9 percent the year before.

UNWTO statistics also showed that tourist inflows to North Africa slipped 9.9 percent to 16.9 million after increasing by 6.5 percent in 2010."Due to the social and political developments," Syria saw a drop of 41 percent, Egypt by 32 percent, Tunisia 31 percent and Lebanon 24 percent," UNWTO statistics showed in March.

In autumn last year Jordan reported a 16-percent drop in its tourism revenues in the first seven months of 2011. The sector contributes 14 percent to the kingdom's gross domestic product.In Tunisia, where tourism accounted for seven percent of economic output in 2010, the sector's receipts plunged by a third in 2011.

Syrian state newspaper Al-Baath reported last week that four million tourists visited Syria in 2011, despite insecurity in the country where thousands have been killed since anti-regime protests erupted in March 2011.But the number reveals a drop of more than 40 percent from the seven million tourists registered in 2010.

On the other hand, Turkey received 1.4 million Arab tourists in the first eight months of 2011: up from 1.2 million in 2010.And Dubai last year posted a 10-percent rise in guests at hotels and hotel apartments, reaching 9.09 million, with revenues hitting 15.97 billion dirhams ($4.4 billion), 20 percent up from 2010.

In the first quarter of 2012, the number of guests increased nine percent to 2.6 million guests, according to Dubai authorities. They hope the number of tourists will hit 10 million this year."The Arab Spring has left an impact," said Khaled al-Mazroui, general manager of Fujairah International Airport in the United Arab Emirates.

Monday, April 23, 2012

At a Crossroads of Continents, Ancient Turkish Port City is Modern Logistics Hub

The Aegean Free Zone, located at the port city of Izmir on Turkey’s Aegean coast, takes advantage of Izmir’s desirable maritime hub and a favorable business environment.  Known as ESBAS, the Turkish acronym for Ege Serbest Bölge, the Aegean Free Zone Corporation has been an engine for economic development.

An important Mediterranean port for centuries, Izmir is also a modern-day commercial center for Turkey and the region.“Turkey’s economy is a success story, especially in Izmir,” said Ertugrul Isiksoy, ESBAS director of marketing.  The free zone’s location is in the center of a vibrant market, he says.  “Within a three hour flight radius of Izmir, there are 1.5 billion people with $25K or more purchasing power.”

Officially known as the Aegean Free Zone Development and Operating Company, ESBAS is located near the port of Izmir, which along with several other nearby ports, are growing in containerized traffic, and is just five minutes from the international airport

There are 19 free zones in Turkey, which, like ESBAS, were established to create jobs.  ESBAS was the first free zone run privately, and had a mandate to bring in high-tech employers to take advantage of the well-educated and qualified work force in the Izmir area. “There is no difficulty finding skilled labor,” said Isiksoy.

With a total population of nearly four million people, Izmir is Turkey’s third largest city after Istanbul and the capital city of Ankara. The basic advantage is the human resources,” he says.  “We have eight universities nearby, and can offer high-quality workers at competitive prices compared with the rest of Europe.

“Hugo Boss is our largest company in terms of employment, with 3,500 workers, and land, with 122,000 square meters,” Isiksoy says.  “Hugo Boss started their plant at ESBAS with 24 German engineers.  Now there’s just one.  The rest are from the domestic market.”

Murat Ozgurtas, marketing manager at ESBAS, said the free zone is near capacity.  “When the new investments start operating in the Aegean Free Zone, the employment will have reached over 21,000 people, and US$5,5billion in trade.”

ESBAS
To qualify as a free zone, the majority of goods processed or produced must be exported outside of Turkey.  For trading, companies can maintain commodities and large inventories here for unlimited time without paying either customs duties or levies.  Electronic companies can maintain stocks of components for just-in-time delivery to customers.

And the free zone offers two important tax breaks. Manufacturing companies get 100% exemption from corporate tax, and if a manufacturing company exports 85% or more of its production, the company’s employee are exempt from income tax.

The raw materials for food processing and packaging, as well as textiles, can easily be obtained locally, which buoys the region’s economy.  The ESBAS tenants have the opportunity to buy Turkish products at export prices without Value Added Tax (VAT).Almost all the lots on the 550-acre industrial park are built upon or reserved for construction.  19,500 people work there, with many plants operating in three shifts.

International tenants include Eldor Electronics from Italy, Stean AB from Sweden, German apparel maker Hugo Boss and Delphi Automotive from the U.S.   Some tenants are Turkish companies that locate within the free zone to import materials from outside the zone and then export finished products abroad, while enjoying the tax advantages.Manufacturing companies can obtain 45-year operating licenses, while trading companies are able to procure 15-year operating licenses.

ESBAS embraces the ‘build, operate and transfer’ business model.  In addition, there are many services for tenants.  ESBAS can provide security, water, power, stock management, processing services, trash, and an industrial kitchen that serves 18,000 (and delivers) meals a day.  There are five banks located within the zone.  There is a world-class child care facility, medical and dental clinics, a concert and sports hall, and a nursery to support the ornamental plants and trees for the well landscaped grounds.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

MakeMyTrip’s Tripalong App Seeks To Sync Travel Ecommerce With Social Networking

MakeMyTrip has launched Tripalong, a social application for travellers, which basically integrates with the user’s social networks and maps their travel itinerary so that they can connect with friends while travelling.

For using the app, users have to enter the travel details of their flights and if by chance their flight is ‘intersecting’ with that of the other members from their social networks (who are also Tripalong members, mind you), they are notified of the same. Users can also make new friends on Tripalong according to their profiles and interests.

Users can choose to create new accounts, sign-in with their existing MakeMyTrip accounts or login with their Facebook account (which makes sense since the app makes use of the social network anyways). Also, if you login through Facebook and allow Tripalong to post on your behalf, the app automatically posts a message on your wall mentioning the fact that you have joined Tripalong (pretty standard with such syncing).

After logging in, users can link their Facebook and LinkedIn accounts with Tripalong. They can also import information on flights booked through MakeMyTrip or individually add flight details. Once the flight details are added, users can view ‘Trip Pals’ on the same flight (if any) and they can also connect with other Trip Pals based on their profiles and interests.

Tripalong also updates users on friends who are in the same city as they are travelling to. The company claims that apart from the travel details, no other user-related data is exchanged with Tripalong members who are not authorized by the user.

The app has been conceptualized and developed in association with TenTenTen Digital Products Pvt Ltd, a Bangalore-based app development company.

Ramesh Srivats, MD & CEO of TenTenTen Digital Products said, “Social networks are more than just new ‘media’, they have changed the very way in which people interact with each other. Tripalong leverages the customer’s own networks to make his or her travel a lot more fun.”

What’s In It For MakeMyTrip?
With the app, the company will gain access to a large amount of travel data of both the app users and their friends (if they join Tripalong), and this data will include details of both users who have booked their flights using MMT, and also of flights booked elsewhere (who are potential future customers). Also, with the app, MMT can keep track of the flying pattern of frequent flyers who will most probably account for a large per cent of the people that will join Tripalong in the first place.

So the company has the user’s flight details (both MMT users and others), their flying pattern and their contact details (since they are signing up for the app). This basically means that the company will have the opportunity to attract new users who are booking their flights elsewhere and also get long term users in the form of frequent flyers (via in-direct advertising). A Win-Win, don’t you think?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tourism for Tomorrow winners unveiled

SINGAPORE, April 18 — The Norwegian town of Røros has been handed a prestigious sustainable tourism award by the World Travel and Tourism Council.

The town, a former mining centre, was recognised April 17 by the WTTC’s Tourism for Tomorrow Awards, one of the most high-profile events in responsible travel.

The judges, an international team of travellers, entrepreneurs, environmentalists and academics, concluded that Røros’s tourism efforts have been monumental in reversing the area’s environmental degradation, awarding it the ‘Destination Stewardship’ gong.

The Conservation award, which requires winners to have made a direct contribution to the preservation of nature, wildlife and biodoversity, was given to Inkaterra in Peru, a biodiversity research company which doubles as a luxury travel experience.

Guests at Inkaterra’s five hotels are promised a carbon-neutral stay, along with the knowledge that their vacation is helping the group to work with local people on projects designed to underline the importance of the fragile habitats in the Andes and Amazon.

The Community Benefit award went to the Saunders Hotel Group, a chain in the US which supports local charity and non-profit groups with financial backing, volunteer time and other in-kind help.

The Global Tourism Business Award went to luxury chain Banyan Tree, which beat US-based adventure holiday specialist REI Adventures and South Africa-based conservation tourism firm Wilderness Group.

The hotel chain was praised for its sustainability monitoring across its businesses, as well as for being one of the first global hospitality companies in the world to ban the sale of shark’s fin in all of their hotels, an example only just beginning to be matched by competitors.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Travels into Greene-land

As a guide to far-flung places," the blurb on the book's front cover proclaims confidently, "Pico Iyer can hardly be surpassed."

The travel writer's latest volume however goes on a journey into a little more outre territory - his very own 'Greeneland', a place where obsession with Graham Greene mixes with an examination of the uncanny, if sometimes affected, links between Iyer's life and that of the celebrated English author. Both Greene and Iyer went to strict Empire-building British boarding schools, both were afraid of dentists, both were overshadowed by their fathers, both saw their houses burn down. But Iyer's lifelong fascination with Greene, chronicled across this book's 238 pages, goes beyond matching up coincidental quirks.

"I never wanted to seek out Greene's manuscripts or letters in research libraries; I made no conscious effort to track down those people who'd known him," Iyer writes. "He lived vividly enough inside me already, in some more shadowy place."

The Man Within My Head is in parts a biography (of Greene, the author), a memoir and literary criticism (covering the span of Greene's work), all sewn together by Iyer's patented and always insightful travel writing. The travel portions - like Greene's characters, Iyer spends time in destinations as desolate as Bolivia and Bhutan - somehow manage to combine the book's disparate genres into an engaging package that's much harder to put a label on.

Never having met the man, Iyer decides to take Greene on as an adopted parent. He is constantly haunted by the presence of the Englishman, both in his 'head' and in his writing. Rather than delving into the political or religious themes of Greene's work, not to mention the rumours that he lived a double life as a spy, Iyer decides instead to look at something more fundamental: questions of morality and innocence.

Greene's most famous work, The Quiet American, is to Iyer an "anguished and unending" internal debate between youth and adulthood; his debut novel, The Man Within (which Iyer's own title pays tribute to), is the story of a boy who is violently torn between "the romantic in him and the would- be cynic".

Your conscience, in Greene's work, is the real source of grief, not your evil. "The world of Greene is a world of greys," Iyer writes. "It is not that good and bad do not exist, but that they are so improbably mixed, in constant shifting proportions, that we cannot begin to tell friend from foe or right from wrong."

What seems like a simple parsing of literary themes, however, quickly becomes a way to understand the man himself. Iyer tells us how Greene fought tenaciously to stop a journalist from publishing a presumptuous book titled (in French) My Friend, Graham Greene , but then inexplicably sent the man's son through an expensive private school and then paid his way through studies in Oxford.

After unhappy attempts to appreciate Greene through his discovered love letters or his travel writing, Iyer decides the man is only at home and honest in his fiction. "And the reason I love him and he moved me so much was that he had the gift of seeming at last to set aside his evasions and false selves as soon as he began writing in another voice," Iyer writes.

Taking moral cues from an adoptive parent, however, forces Iyer to examine the relationship with his own father - celebrated Gandhi scholar and theosophist Raghavan Iyer, who was always too bright, too real and occasionally too spiritual (Pico chafes at his palmistry). Greene, on the other hand, seems to offer something more subtle.

But while attempting to discover the world through Greene's morality, the two father figures start to get muddled up. Greene's private correspondence turns out to be disappointing, but one of Raghavan Iyer's old letters to a friend ends up revealing a side his son never got to see. A chance meeting with an old student of his father's reveals that the two of them also shared coincidental quirks - both introduced the same obscure book to their classes, both loved the same unsung Yeats poem - even if they never discussed it.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

The shrinking holiday globe for tourists

Despite threatened strikes, fuel shortages, a lack of security staff and fewer pennies in our pockets, it seems escaping austerity Britain has never been more appealing. Some two million holidaymakers will be flocking to our ferry ports, train stations and airports this Easter for a foreign break. What has changed is not whether we go, but where, as socio-political issues, terrorism, natural disasters and monetary constraints have combined to tear up the holiday map as we once knew it.

The British travelling public has long been stoical in the face of adversity. After bomb attacks, disease outbreaks, earthquakes and floods, Britons were usually the last ones out and the first back in – particularly when there were bargains to be had. But no longer.

As social unrest swept the Arab world after President Ben Ali fled Tunisia in January last year, so tourism to North Africa went with it. Since the turn of the millennium, increasing numbers of Britons had grown tired of the Spanish costas’ traditional package fare and expensive euro, favouring instead Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt for good value and guaranteed sunshine. Britain’s operators adjusted their brochures accordingly. Then suddenly Tunisia was in revolt, President Mubarak was pushed from office in Egypt, Colonel Gaddafi was felled, Yemen’s president was forced to sign away his powers, Morocco and Bahrain were witnessing waves of protests, and Syria was ablaze.

A year later, Mounir Abdel Nour, Egypt’s minister of tourism, has announced that the number of tourist arrivals fell by a third last year, while many in the industry claim that the situation is far worse. As Nigel Richardson wrote in these pages following a visit to Egypt last month, some hotels are only 10 per cent occupied, and key historical sights are still only attracting a fraction of the normal tourist crowds.

Even the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh – 320 miles from the turmoil of Cairo’s Tahrir Square – is struggling. The regular stream of British and Russian tourists in search of sun, sea and scuba-diving, has fallen to a trickle. Everyone, from hoteliers and restaurateurs to market stallholders and belly-dancing troupes, is feeling the pinch; some are defaulting on rent, others are temporarily closing shop. Even with a promised £8 billion investment in tourism from the government over the next five years, Egypt will need a lengthy period of social and political stability if it is to win back the holidaymakers.

Tunisia has suffered just as keenly from tourist apathy, but here it is more an issue of perception than reality. The sensationalist television coverage of the short-lived Jasmine revolution seemed to exaggerate the severity of the uprisings, which took place far from tourist areas. The country remains as safe and peaceful as it ever has been; yet visitor numbers have fallen by half in the year after the revolution. The new regime needs to play the public relations game – and fast – which is not easy when 50 per cent of your foreign exchange has been wiped out by the tourist decline.

Morocco, too, has seen a marked fall in visitors, though protests there against King Mohammed VI were comparatively limited. Jordan and Lebanon are also suffering a downturn in tourism as the architectural treasures of Petra and Baalbek remain unseasonably quiet.

In Kenya, it is terrorism and kidnappings that are keeping Britons away. At least six people were killed in Nairobi in a series of explosions last month, but it is a spate of recent tourist kidnappings near the Somali border that have preyed on holidaymakers’ worst fears. The Foreign Office warning against travel in this area has put a large number of resorts, including those in the popular Lamu Archipelago, out of reach of ordinary travellers, but the impact is being felt farther afield. According to Niel Alobaidi, commercial director for Hayes & Jarvis, one of Britain’s leading long-haul tour operators, bookings to Kenya are down by almost 60 per cent on last year.

“What has surprised us is that South Africa and Tanzania have also seen much reduced booking levels,” he said. “Previously these destinations have performed strongly whenever Kenya has suffered, but the current issues appear to be affecting demand all across eastern and southern Africa.”

The big winner seems to be Spain, with visitors up by eight per cent since the Arab Spring began. Portugal, France and Italy have also experienced rises, while Florida and Dubai are enjoying extra bookings as alternatives to Egypt and Tunisia for early-season sun.

Greece, however, is bracing itself for another summer of discontent. The wave of violent protests in Athens and Thessaloniki against the government’s austerity measures is deterring some holidaymakers from visiting even far-flung Greek islands. That wasn’t helped by William Hague’s warning earlier this month that British holidaymakers should register with authorities in Greece and prepare to evacuate if the crisis escalated.

“To claim that Britons living in Greece or visiting on holiday are likely to need emergency evacuation is ridiculous,” said Derek Moore, chairman of the Association of Independent Tour Operators. “The riots in London, Manchester and Birmingham last summer were on a significantly bigger scale than anything in Greece – yet did the Home Secretary, Theresa May, advise people against visiting the Cotswolds or the Lake District?” The reality, however, is that bookings have slowed considerably – and the tourist board is desperately short of funding, just when promotion is vital to remind holidaymakers of Greece’s appeal.

It is not just the short-haul holiday map that is being redrawn. Japan continues to suffer from the fallout from the tsunami and subsequent Fukushima nuclear catastrophe. Even hotels in Niseko, the leading ski resort in the far north of Hokkaido, have struggled to fill their rooms despite one of the greatest seasons for snow in living memory.

Turmoil has also reached the sandy shores of the Maldives, where the country’s first democratically elected leader was overthrown earlier this month. The Foreign Office has removed its warning against travel to the capital, Malé, although it says that further demonstrations are “likely”, and human-rights groups continue to urge holidaymakers to avoid any resorts linked to those involved in the coup.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Goa tourism industry to offer cheaper off-season packages

Panaji: Planning a vacation in Goa during the monsoon season would be cheaper now, as the hotel industry is designing attractive packages following the concessions provided by the state government.The Manohar Parrikar-led BJP government has offered 50 per cent concession on the luxury tax to mid and upper segment hotels during the off season.

Reacting to the sops, the tourism and trade industry has said that the relaxation in the luxury tax will help them to mitigate the hike in the air fares which had made off season packages expensive.

Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who is also the state Finance Minister, has proposed in the budget that all hotels are granted 50 per cent concession of tax payable during the off season commencing from May 01, 2012 to September 30, 2012, subject to prompt payment of tax and filing of returns in time.

Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG), which has been lobbying for such concession, said the move will help in making monsoon package more attractive, as the skyrocketing air fares had forced the off-season packages to be expensive.

"The hoteliers will be able to pass the benefit of concession directly to the customers," TTAG spokesman Ralph D`Souza said.Unofficial estimates reveal that around 1,500 medium and big hotels will be benefited from the incentives, while smaller hotels are exempted from paying luxury tax.

Last year`s off-season was blessed with the long weekends, which saved the industry from facing losses, D`Souza said adding that the average occupancy was around 75 per cent during weekends and approximately 60 per cent during the week days.

Last year`s off-season was blessed with the long weekends, which saved the industry from facing losses, D`Souza said, adding that the average occupancy was around 75 per cent during weekends and approximately 60 per cent during the week days.

In its pre-budget memorandum submitted to Parrikar, the TTAG had urged for concessions to the industry.The Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) has termed this reduction as a "smart move", which will keep economy vibrant even during the off-season.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Halloween style show at the ILS March 2012

Although they are advertised in the trades individually, several years ago the International Lingerie Show (ILS) and the Las Vegas Halloween dress trade show effectively merged, doing their shows at the same time and venue.  The Rio Hotel and Casino can handle crowds of that size, and there is a good pact of overlap between the buyers for the two shows, so it just made sense.

Formally there are two fashion shows for each of the trade shows, but they are put on in series on the Monday night of the trade show.  The Halloween part - which is all sexy “adult party” attire, not the kinds of ghosts, witches and monsters costumes you can get at Wal-Mart - is put on first, and this year included 58 different clothes in a show lasting nearly 45 minutes.  The viewers of buyers and exhibitors stays, obviously, for the lingerie show which follows, which means the audience is there for nearly two hours after the shows start.

It would never do to have tired, hungry buyers get grouchy in the middle of the show from low blood sugar, so the producers have a lavish “heavy hors dousers” and an open bar to keep the multitudes pacify.  And to keep enthusiasm high, at everyday intervals throughout the shows models come down the runway with a range of swag to throw to the crowd.  It’s a joyful crowd.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Take a cruise holiday around the globe

Imagine experiencing the wonders of the world without ever setting foot on a plane. When it comes to a complete travel experience, little compares to a circumnavigation of the globe. And sailing the seven seas on an elegant ship brings back all the romance and excitement of the explorers of yesteryear. P&O Cruises makes it possible to do this in supreme style, on board sophisticated Aurora. It’s an incredible journey, beginning in January 2013, which takes in a kaleidoscope of famous cities, beautiful landscapes and man-made wonders.

This 105-night world cruise passes through two of the greatest feats of maritime engineering – the Suez and Panama canals — and calls at 40 ports, including leisurely overnight stops at Hong Kong, Dubai and San Francisco.

After Aurora sails from Southampton, its first stop is Ponta Delgada in the volcanic Azores. The adventure continues with a transatlantic crossing to the sun-soaked Caribbean islands of Barbados, St Lucia and Curaçao and a gentle introduction to the joys of life at sea.

Aurora is a sophisticated ship with three pools, a gorgeous spa, a bistro created by Marco Pierre White and plenty of lounges in which to while away the evening. You can also make the most of the balmy Caribbean nights by eating at the al fresco grill.

While your days at sea pass in a relaxed haze, the excursions offered at each destination are an exciting cocktail of colourful cultures, iconic architecture, unforgettable scenery and rewarding activities.

Aurora sails through the world-famous Panama Canal to Mexico’s eco-tourism hub Huatulco, before calling at the party town of Acapulco. Then, clam chowder replaces beach cocktails as the ship reaches the west coast of the USA for an overnight stay at San Francisco. After sailing beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, you’ll be ready to visit Alcatraz and ride the photogenic cable cars.

You only have to unpack once, so it’s easy enough to pull out your beachwear again for Honolulu and Hilo, the two exciting stops in verdant Hawaii.

South Pacific idylls
At the picture-perfect French Polynesian islands of Bora Bora and Tahiti, you could choose to float in a blue lagoon, explore the volcanic atolls or learn more about the fascinating culture of these South Pacific islands.

Just over a month into your adventure, you’ll reach New Zealand in time for its summer. There’s the “City of Sails”, Auckland, the art deco delight of Napier and the cultural hotspot of Wellington to explore — along with some great wine and truly unforgettable scenery.

Next on this epic cruise is Australia. Aurora spends a full day and evening in Sydney, where the marvellous Harbour Bridge and Opera House are must-sees. Vibrant Brisbane and Cairns — a gateway to the stunning Great Barrier Reef — complete the antipodean sector of the cruise before it’s time to head towards Asia, via the exotic nation of Papua New Guinea.

The itinerary takes in some of the most glorious sights across the great continent. Japan is a special place, from the neon streets of Osaka to the serene temples of Kyoto and poignant city of Nagasaki. Then Aurora sails to China, with excursions to the Great Wall, Beijing’s elegant Summer Palace and the immense Tiananmen Square.

A full day and evening in the “Pearl of the Orient” Shanghai follows, checking out the tea gardens and ornate temples, before an overnight stay in the buzzing metropolis of Hong Kong.

There’s plenty of fun in the Far East at the Vietnamese beach destination of Nha Trang. Also on the list are a visit to Thailand’s popular island, Ko Samui; the chance to explore Ho Chi Minh City; the vivid delights of Bangkok and the soaring towers of Singapore – an unmissable glimpse of the Asia of the future.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Budget 2012: Families to pay more for holidays as Air Passenger Duty rises

Holidaymakers face a sharp increase in the cost of flying following a 10 per cent increase in Air Passenger Duty.The tax on holidays, to be imposed next month, will add £250 to the cost of a family of four flying to Florida and about £360 to the cost of a four-strong group traveling to Australia.

Visitors to Britain must also pay the duty on their return journey, meaning the tax could harm the important tourism sector in the Jubilee and Olympics year.Owners of private aircraft are to be made liable to pay the duty for the first time, but not until April 2013.

Airlines said the tax would price ordinary families out of flying abroad and could be the ruin of smaller tour operators already struggling to survive the recession.

The Government was accused of “burying bad news” after the Chancellor made no reference to the tax during his Budget speech and instead outlined the increases in papers released by the Treasury. In the past the Air Passenger Duty (APD) has been described as a green tax to put people off flying but the Government was recently forced to admit it is primarily a revenue raiser.

The Treasury hopes to recoup about £2.6 billion from the tax in 2011-12, up from £2.2 billion during the previous financial year.The announcement is a grave disappointment to holidaymakers, more than 70,000 of whom have signed Telegraph Travel’s petition calling for the tax to be scrapped.

In a joint statement, Carolyn McCall, Michael O’Leary and Willie Walsh, the chief executives of easyJet, Ryanair and IAG, respectively, condemned the Government’s decision.

“In the cause of UK economic recovery, APD is an own-goal and the Chancellor has just scored another one,” they said. “By increasing this tax by double the rate of inflation, he is further deterring inbound tourism and foreign investment, and choking off yet more job opportunities for young people.”

Simon Buck, the chief executive of the British Air Transport Association, said that the whole economy would slow down if people were not able to travel at reasonable prices.

“Passengers departing from UK airports already pay the highest taxes on flying in the world and this further increase will do nothing to support the Government’s aspiration to grow UK tourism and support British jobs.”Airlines are already struggling to cope with a carbon tax, the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, which was imposed in January. 



Monday, March 19, 2012

Play Hide-and-Seek Deep in the U.S. Southwest


Backroads’ multisport loop through Bryce, Grand Canyon, and Zion National Parks is the ideal family primer to the American Southwest. The all-hike-and-bike itineraries quickly get you into the high-desert landscape beneath hoodoos and rock spires—and except for a few shuttle points, you’re on your own power the whole way.

Day one takes you directly to the Grand Canyon, where you’ll camp right on the North Rim. Kids ride mules along the edge of the canyon while adults can opt to descend into its depths on a windy nine-mile (14-kilometer) hike down the Kaibab Trail. Next, a Backroads van will leapfrog you on to another park: Bryce Canyon, where you’ll hike out from a maze of arches, walls, and pinnacles to Inspiration and Bryce Points. Then join a 33-mile (53-kilometer) out-and-back biking trip through blue spruce and Douglas fir forests to Rainbow Point, Bryce’s highest lookout, at 9,115 feet (2,778 meters).

“We have terrific van support,” says marketing manager Lee Micheaux. “So older kids can pedal ahead, and younger ones can shuttle out to the Point and ride back.” Then it’s on to Zion, where you’ll wade into the inner gorge of the Virgin River, with canyon walls jutting up 1,000 feet (300 meters). If your clan’s not up for camping, nights are spent traveling from inn to inn—where a massage or a swim in the hotel pool is on the roster.
Where to Play

“There’s always an option kids can do easily,” says Micheaux, and parents choose between mellow and more intense activities. While kids do an eight-mile (13-kilometer) pedal from Bryce toward Red Canyon, adults can make theirs up to 49 miles (79 kilometers). Kids spend their final day scrambling slots at Water Canyon. While youngsters rappel down canyon walls, adults can tackle steep climbs to Angels Landing, a sheer rock wedge looming 1,500 feet (457 meters) above the valley floor.
At Day's End

“For a mother, it’s like heaven,” says Micheaux. “The guides do everything!” While guides set up camp, cook dinner, and organize games, parents sit back with a cold brew. One night is set aside for staff to take kids into town for pizza, while grown-ups hang back for an adults-only fireside dinner.

Diamond Earrings

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Turkey the tourist destiny


Turkey might be the world’s most contested country. Its landscape is dotted with battlegrounds, ruined castles and the palaces of great empires. This is the land where Alexander the Great slashed the Gordion Knot, where Achilles battled the Trojans in Homer’s Iliad, and where the Ottoman Empire fought battles that would shape the world. History buffs can immerse themselves in marvels and mementos stretching back to the dawn of civilisation.

Then again, if you want to simply unwind, spend an afternoon being pampered at a hamam, or let the warm waters off the Mediterranean coast lap at your toes. Adventure lovers can head east to Nemrut Daği National Park. Bon vivants need look no further than İstanbul, where the markets and bars are among the most stylish and atmospheric, and the mod Ottoman cuisine rates as the tastiest, in the world.

The country’s tumultuous history has left a deep legacy. People who’ve never had to suffer for an idea or fight for a patch of land can be overwhelmed by the passion of ordinary Turks for their country. But for ordinary Turks that passion finds its outlet, not in martial ardour, but in simple pleasures: family, food, music, football, and friendship. Turks have an inspiring ability to keep things in perspective, to get on with everyday life and to have a bloody good time in the process. Sharing their joy in the simple things is a highlight for every visitor.

Treat Turkey as that most quintessential of Turkish dishes, the meze, a table piled high with scrumptious treats. Throw away the menu, order a plate of everything and feast till you can’t go on.

Diamond Earrings

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Pigeon Island National Landmark


Pigeon Island National Landmark is heralded as one of the most important monuments of Saint Lucia’s history. It is a vivid representation of the cultural and historical monuments of international, civil, military and marine cross currents, characteristic of West Indian historical change.

A living museum within a natural setting, Pigeon Island is being nurtured through careful protection and intelligent development to serve the intellectual, cultural and recreational needs of all who visit this historic site. The picturesque, 44 acre island reserve, off the North West, was originally surrounded by water but was joined to the mainland by a man-made causeway in 1972.

Recognising the need to secure this site where the balance of late eighteenth century naval power was decided, the Government of Saint Lucia designated Pigeon Island as a National Park in 1979 and as a National Landmark in 1992. It is open to visitation 365 days a year with user fees charged at US$2 for residents and US$5 for visitors to Saint Lucia. There is also a fee of US$1 for children 5 years to 12 years old.

Pigeon Island National Landmark has a number of heritage attractions and amenities which include:

  • Ruins of military buildings used during the battles between the French and the British for the island of Saint Lucia.
  • An Interpretation Centre describing the rich history of the island.
  • Two beautiful beaches.
  • A restaurant featuring local cuisine.
  • A pub and restaurant with a historical theme.
  • A lookout point at the top of the Fort which gives a panoramic view of the Northwest coastline.

Pigeon Island was first occupied by the Amerindians, mainly Caribs. The island was later occupied by pirates whose leader was a Norman Captain called Francois Le Clerc. He had a wooden leg and was known to the French as Jambe de Bois. The French who owned the island in 1778 declared war on the British, who retaliated by attacking them in Saint Lucia and capturing the island. The British then built a Naval Base at Gros-Islet Bay, heavily fortifying Pigeon Island. From there they were able to monitor the French fleet in Martinique which resulted in the defeat of the French at the Battle of the Saints in 1782. Pigeon Island was therefore a key factor in the Battles between the British and the French. In 1909 a whaling station was established at Pigeon Island. Legislation to control whaling in 1952 put an end to this operation.

Pigeon Island was leased to Josset Agnes Hutchinson, an actress with the D'Oyle Carte Theatre of England in 1937. When the American established a Naval Base at Rodney Bay in 1940 she left the island. In 1947 she returned to establish a thriving yachting industry, entertaining many guests and giving the island the reputation of a paradise island. She relinquished the lease in 1970, finally retiring to England in 1976.

Pigeon Island was restored by the National Trust as a landmark encompassing all aspects of the rich heritage, with emphasis on the glorious period of the late eighteenth century, when the spill-over from the American War of Independence reached the Caribbean.

Diamond Earrings

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Thursday, March 01, 2012

Filitheyo Island Resort


Filitheyo Beach Island Resort Hotel is in Faafu Atoll and is a very beautiful all in one four star resort hotel in the Maldives where your dream of walking barefoot along a white beach, on sand so soft your feet sink into it comes true. This beautiful beach resort hotel is said to be four star but many consider it as five star due to its great standard and quality of service. All around you will see the sea and is an astonishing array of blue tones and white sand you never thought possible that the earth could bring you. Palm trees swaying in the sea breeze and tropical flowers make this exotic picture complete. On Hotel Filitheyo Maldives your dream comes true, a paradise island, where you are pampered by nature. Filitheyo is the only island resort in the un-spoilt Faafu Atoll. A natural tropical Island, which is lush in vegetation and surrounded by a stunning house reef. The resort offers guest what can be only be described as a barefoot luxury four star retreat.

Spend your days enjoying the beautiful sandy beaches and swimming in the Azure blue water of the Indian Ocean. A laid back life style awaits you that promise fun, relaxation, adventure and unforgettable memories.

Choose from a choice of excellent accommodation at Filitheyo all of which have been sympathetically designed to ensure that guests go home having experienced a truly Maldivian retreat.

On Filitheyo all Villas have been designed and furnished with your comfort in mind to make you feel at home. Every morning you will be greeted by the magnificent sea view and your room will be a cool retreat after a sunny day on the beach. All bungalows blend in harmoniously with their natural surrounding which named as 15 Deluxe Villas (Kihaa Villa), 94 Superior Villa (Miri Villa), 16 Water Villa (Kaashi Villa).

The international and experienced chefs know how to delight your taste buds with sumptuous exotic buffets and creative tropical cocktails. You will be spoilt for choice!

Main Restaurant: Buufet style international cuisines from all corners of the world for breakfast, lunch and dinner with 14 days cycle menus with guaranteed satisfaction.
Serving:
  • International and Asian cuisine
  • Sashimi/Sushi counter
  • Home-made pastries, breads & Jams
  • New World Wine list

Sunset Restaurant & Bar: Located at the tip of the island offering freshly blended juice, cocktails, coffees & snacks. Not to forget wide range of fine wine from the wineyards of Europe. Located on the Western side of the Island, the a la carte restaurant has an impressive selection of contemporary international dishes. Take a break from swimming and enjoy a freshly blended juice or a tropical cocktail at the swim up bar next to the Pool.

Serving:

  • Freshly blended juices
  • Tropical cocktails
  • Authentic Italian Coffees
  • New World wine

Filitheyo Bar: Offers varieties or beverages to quench your thirst. Happy hours are not to be missed with buy one get one free from 1600 – 1800 hrs.

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Tourism official compile listing the Alabama road trips

The Alabama Department of Tourism needs to support people to take "road trips" inside the state and has compiled a list of 100 such journeys.

The department has in progress the promotion by release the driving itineraries for the first 10 suggested trips.

The first 10 trips include taking a road trip to watch eagles at Lake Guntersville, driving the Selma to Montgomery civil rights trail, taking a walking tour of downtown Birmingham and visiting Monroeville to see sites mentioned in the novel "To Kill a Mockingbird."

State Tourism Director Lee Sentell said he expects the itineraries will make it easier for travelers to plan their trips.

Sentell said the itinerary would also be included in the 2012 Alabama Vacation Guide.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Virgin Island of Lakshadweep


Lakshadweep or the Laccadive Islands is a group of small islands scattered in the Laccadive Sea. The precise location of these islands would be somewhere around 300 kms of the coast of Kerala (South West State of India).

These tiny islands make up the smallest Union territory of India and cover a total area of 32 square Km. What seem so tiny are actually the tops of an enormous undersea mountain range in the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.

The literal translation of the word Lakshadweepa in Sanskrit is one hundred thousand Islands.

When to Visit
While visiting a place you should always do a little bit of a searching on your and try to figure out what the best time to visit would be. The recommended best time to visit the islands of Lakshadweep is anywhere from October to mid May. The resorts of Lakshadweep are open all year round but the rains make the ship ride a little more difficult. The rains in Lakshadweep occur mostly from mid May to September.

If the monsoons are the time you are looking to visit then you could take a flight and the reach the islands of Agatti and Bangaram which are open even during the monsoons. The monsoons maybe be a difficult time to reach but if you do manage, you get to experience the joy of witnessing vast green patches of vegetation and clear water.

The resorts of Mnicoy, Kadmat and Kavaratti are not easy to access during the monsoons since the only way to reach them is by ships.

So much to see and so much to do
Water sports enthusiast will have a blast with an array of water sports and a beautiful surrounding; these virgin islands provide a perfect setting for experiencing the best of it. You could rent yourself a Kayak or a canoe and sail in the open sea. The glass bottomed boats give you the pleasure to see the best the sea has to offer. Deep sea fishing is also one of the highly recommended water sport even more because of the gifted sea water which breeds fishes like Sail fish, Triveli, yellow fin-tuna and the Baracuda.

Adventure Sports in LakshadweepIf you like to pre plan your trip you could get in touch with the Dolphin Dive Center at Kavaratti, the Minicoy Dive center or the Kadmat Scuba diving center.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

2012 W.Va. travel guide available by request

The 2012 West Virginia Official State Travel Guide has arrived and is available at no cost by request or at Welcome Centers statewide, courtesy of the West Virginia Division of Tourism.

Travelers will find all the information they require at their fingertips. Shopping, dining, lodging, outdoor recreation and entertainment is suitably arranged by travel area. The guide also contains a 2012 calendar of events occurring statewide. Start planning your journey today and discover what makes West Virginia so wild and amazing.

The guide features interviews with well-known West Virginians, a list of what’s new in West Virginia, articles on the new Boy Scout camp and the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and more.

The guide’s compact size makes it easy to carry in a backpack, glove box or saddlebags. In addition, smart phone users can gain instant access to online information via QR codes on select ads.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Tulum beach


A vacation in Tulum beach is all about escaping the Hi-Tech “connected” world, and getting back to nature and the beach is the perfect place to do this. Enjoy a comforting massage while you watch the waves crashing offshore on the 2nd largest barrier reef in the world, go snorkeling or diving in the warm turquoise Sea, explore the jungle and the hidden beaches or simply kick back, relax and soak up the warm afternoon sun; whatever you decide to do, it’s guaranteed that after a beach vacation in Tulum you will feel relaxed and rejuvenated.

The Tulum archaeological site is relatively solid compared with many other Maya sites in the locality, and is one of the best-preserved coastal Maya sites. Its nearness to the modern tourism developments along the Mexican Caribbean coastline and its short distance from Cancun has made it the most popular Maya tourist site in the Yucatan. Daily tour buses bring a constant stream of visitors to the site. The Tulum ruins are the 3rd most-visited archaeological site in Mexico, after Teotihuacan and Chichen Itza. It is popular for the picturesque view of the Caribbean and a location just 128 km (80 mi) south of the popular beach resort of Cancún.

A large number of cenotes are located in the Tulum area such as Maya Blue, Naharon, Temple of Doom, Tortuga, Vacaha, Grand Cenote, Abejas, Nohoch Kiin and Carwash cenotes and cave systems The tourist destination is now divided into four main areas: the archaeological site, the pueblo (or town), the zona hotelera (or hotel zone) and the biosphere reserve of Sian Ka’an.

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