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Indian billionaire turns Scotland Yard building into luxury hotel

LONDON, March 23: Great Scotland Yard – the iconic building that housed the London Metropolitan Police for over 60 years until 1890 – acquired by Indian billionnaire Yusufalli Kader for 110 million pounds in 2015 is set to open as a luxury hotel later this year.

It is one of high-profile acquisitions by Indian investors in London’s property market in recent years. The room tariff for the hotel is reported to push back customers by thousands of pounds, up to 10,000 per night.

The leasehold of the iconic building was sold in December 2013 to Galliard Homes as part of the ministry of defence’s efforts to sell assets to raise funds. Kerala-origin Kader bought the leasehold of the building from the company in 2015.

Transformed at a reported cost of 75 million pounds, the hotel located close to Trafalgar Square has over 150 rooms, some converted from what were previously cells where criminals were incarcerated. The building was constructed in 1829.

“Hotel guests will be reminded of London’s famous criminals during their stay. As well as military uniforms and artwork by prisoners, features include a chandelier made of glass shards that references the Forty Elephants, a 19th-century gang of women known for smashing shop windows to steal jewellery”, The Times reported on Saturday.

“Cells have been transformed into meeting rooms and workspace areas that can be rented. Guests will also be able to use a secret whisky bar, a tea parlour, a ballroom and a restaurant”, it added.

Don O’Sullivan of Galliard Homes said at the time of its sale to Kader: “The Great Scotland Yard Hotel will be a brand synonymous with exceptional service and refined luxury and quality.”

Kader, who heads the Abu Dhabi-based Lulu Group, is among Indian investors acquiring prime London property in recent years, benefiting from falling value of the pound and relaxation in RBI norms for purchasing real estate outside India.

The Mumbai-based Lodha Group bought the Canadian high commission building in November 2013 and the Hinduja group purchased the Old War Office in December 2014. The Great Scotland Yard building is located near the Old War Office.

Upper Egypt's Aswan wins 2019 UNESCO Learning Award

CAIRO, Feb 4: The UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) has named Upper Egypt's Aswan as one of the ten winners of the 2019 UNESCO Learning City Award.

The award's committee said these cities introduced ideal development and commitment to promote education and learning through innovative and determined policies and programs.

Developing the strategy of bringing together and diversifying projects, including gardening and water conservation in schools, and providing diverse training opportunities for all segments of society were among the most important factors for winning the award, said Mervat al-Samman, a coordinator for Aswan in the UIL.

The awards will be presented at the 2019 International Conference on Learning Cities in Colombia's Medellin. Medellin is one of the ten winning cities.

The cities also include Malaysia's Petaling Jaya, China's Chengdu, Greece's Heraklion, Nigeria's Ibadan, Ukraine's Melitopol, Mexico's Santiago, South Korea's Seodaemun-gu, and Denmark's Sonderborg.

The UNESCO Learning City Award aims at recognizing and displaying cities' good practices in introducing quality education and providing lifelong learning opportunities for all citizens at the local level.

This award is presented every two years to cities in each of the five UNESCO regions that have managed to achieve significant development in learning. Also, the progress should be achieved by implementing the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities guiding documents.

As Egypt chairs the African Union for this year, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi declared in November, at the closing ceremony of the World Youth Forum, Aswan as the capital for African Youths in 2019.

Indians arrival to Thailand jumps over 12 pc to 1.42 million

By Deepak Arora

In Photo (from left to right): Mrs. Kulpramote Wannalert, Director of TAT’s ASEAN, South Asia and South Pacific Market Division; Mr. Tanes Petsuwan, TAT Deputy Governor for Marketing Communications; Mr. Pornpoth Penpas, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Interior and Member of the TAT Board of Directors; Mr. Boonyarit Kalayanamit, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce and Acting Chairman of the TAT Board of Directors; Mr. Yuthasak Supasorn, TAT Governor; Mr. Klissada Ratanapruk, Executive Director of TAT’s ASEAN, South Asia and South Pacific Market Division; and Mr. Isara Sathapanaset, Director of TAT New Delhi Office, joined Thailand’s participation at SATTE 2019NEW DELHI, Jan 20: The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) together with 70 Thai exhibitors participated in the South Asia Travel and Tourism Exchange (SATTE 2019) from January 16 to 19 at the India Expo Mart here. It is the largest contingent of Thai exhibitors at SATTE, a significant increase over the total of 54 in SATTE 2018.

This year marks the 11th year of Thailand’s presence at SATTE. The 70 exhibitors include 28 hotels and resorts, 21 tour operators and travel agents, five airlines and 16 tourist attractions, and related agencies.

According to TAT Governor Yuthasak Supasorn, “We are very pleased with the strong turnout at SATTE this year. Indian buyers will find an extensive range of products and facilities catering to many different market segments. We also look forward to learning from our Indian friends and partners on how we can expand our presence and brand image in emerging Indian cities and markets.”

On January 15, TAT Deputy Governor for Marketing Communications Tanes Petsuwan also delivered a speech at the Amazing Thailand Product Briefing Networking Lunch. He provided an update of Thailand’s tourism situation, strategies, and new products and services.

India is now one of the top 10 sources of visitor arrivals for Thailand, a member of a small club of countries that generate more than one million visitors a year. In January – November 2018, arrivals from India were up by 12.03% to 1.42 million, generating an estimated 63 billion Baht in tourism income.

TAT Deputy Governor for Marketing Communications Tanes Petsuwan giving a product presentationThe growing sophistication and maturity of the Indian traveller has given enormous opportunity to promote Thailand’s diverse range of niche-market products to women travellers, high-net worth individuals, weddings and honeymoons, and family groups.

Today, a new strata of experienced, well-heeled and Internet-savvy Indian travellers are venturing beyond the long-standing Bangkok-Pattaya circuit to new destinations; such as, Chiang Rai, Rayong, Trat, Hua Hin and Samut Songkhram.

Bilateral airline capacity is at an all-time high with 307 weekly flights between Thailand and 16 major cities in India by 13 airlines: Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Air India, Thai Smile, Bhutan Airlines, Druk Air, Jet Airways, Air Asia, Spice Jet, Thai Lion Air, Indigo, Nok Scoot and GoAir.

In August this year, TAT will undertake an Amazing Thailand Roadshow to secondary Indian cities; such as, Ahmedabad, Pune, Amritsar and Bhubaneswar. The roadshow to the four cities, all of which have been given international gateway status by the Indian government, is part of TAT’s strategy to tap the rich potential of India’s populous secondary cities. Thailand expect to welcome 5 million Indian visitors within the years 2023.

Currently, TAT has two offices in India (New Delhi and Mumbai) and is also expanding marketing representation and services in secondary cities like Ahmedabad, Chandigarh and Pune.

Drinking, cooking in public on Goa beaches to attract Rs 2,000 fine, imprisonment

PANAJI, Jan 24: Following intense pressure from civil society and tourism industry stakeholders, the Goa cabinet, which met on Thursday evening, approved amendments to the Tourist Trade Act, imposing a fine of Rs 2,000 on errant tourists who cause ‘public nuisance’.

Announcing this, minister for tourism Manohar Ajgaonkar said that the tourists defying the law in large groups would face a fine of Rs 10,000 and could also face imprisonment if they continue to defy the new law.

“Nobody can carry bottles or drink alcohol on our beaches and tourist places. Food also cannot be cooked in the open. All these offences will attract a fine of Rs 2,000,” Ajgaonkar announced.

“If the fine is not paid, the scale of offence registered will increase. The offender can be arrested and imprisoned for three months,” Ajgaonkar also said.

The amendments will be tabled in the upcoming three-day budget session of the Goa Assembly.

Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has repeatedly promised to ban drinking in public especially along the beaches but never got done to make good on his promises.

An especially poor tourism season this year has led to persistent calls from the tourism industry to crack down on the tourists who drive others away.

“It’s not that we can stop low end tourists from coming to Goa. But you have to control the behaviour of tourists. When Indians go overseas, they won’t be spitting around the place or running around without proper clothes or drinking on the roads and what not,” Savio Messias, president of the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG), the state’s apex hospitality industry lobby group said, stressing that it was the loutish behaviour by some tourists that was keeping good tourists and foreigners away.

A similar uproar was echoed by deputy speaker Michael Lobo who represents Calangute constituency, arguably the epicentre of the state’s tourism industry.

“Stop people drinking on the footpath, on the promenades, on the beaches, breaking bottles. The minute you stop this, you will see that this crowd will stop coming to Goa. They don’t want to drink in a shack or a restaurant, because they know it is expensive. They just want to buy and come on the beach and get drunk and look at women,” he said.

“Our chief minister is responsible for this. He should have brought out an order banning drinking of alcohol on beaches. The orders have not come, so nobody can act. We are all helpless. A tourist comes and does what he wants,” Lobo also said.

Goa’s tourism inflow grew at above 30% in 2014 and 2015, taking the number from a little above 30 lakh tourists a year to around 60 lakh.

The numbers continued to grow, albeit at a slower rate and are believed to have breached the 80 lakh figure in 2018.

But the sheer numbers and the pressure of the state’s infrastructure have provoked fears among stakeholders that more numbers will mean a worse experience for everyone and drive the good tourists away.

Five years ago, foreign tourists comprised nearly 20% of the total numbers but today it stands at only around 10%.

Cruise tourism set to take off in India: Shipping Secy

VISAKHAPATNAM, Jan 24: Cruise tourism is growing at an impressive pace during the past four years or so in the country, with several steps being taken by the Union Government, and in the next few years the growth will be manifold, Union Shipping Secretary Gopalakrishna has said.

He was speaking here on Thursday morning at the Visakhapatnam port on the occasion of the first call of an international cruise liner, Silver Discoverer, at the port. The vessel arrived here from Trincomalee in Sri Lanka via Chennai.
He said it was a remarkable occasion as Visakhapatnam was one of the important destinations identified by the Government and the industry to promote cruise tourism. The call charges have been reduced for international cruise liners and each port is making special efforts to create facilities for such liners.

"The Vizag port authorities are also taking steps to build a cruise terminal here and even before that some cruise liners are calling here. It augurs well for the port," he said.

He said cruise tourism would bring in high-end tourists from abroad and it would generate a lot of economic activity, even though the port may not be directly benefited directly to any great extent.

"Therefore, many ports in the country, such as Mumbai, Mangalore, Chennai and Kochi, are building new cruise terminals and promoting such tourism," he said and added that clean conditions should be maintained at the ports and a proper regulatory mechanism should be evolved. There should not be any hassles.

"The international tourists should take back a positive experience and that would give the greatest boost to the sector," he added.

Vizag port chairman M.T Krishnababu said an air-conditioned modern cruise terminal would be built at a cost of Rs 77 crores in the port and it had already been sanctioned by the Shipping Ministry. The Union Tourism Ministry would also participate in the project.

"Once the construction begins, it will take 18 months to complete the project. The designs have been sent for approval," he said.

Meanwhile, he said, three international cruise liners would make calls here during the current year. The Andhra Pradesh Government was also keen to build a tourist circuit here, he added. Nevil Malao, the Assistant Vice-president, J.M Baxi and Co., the shipping agent, also spoke on the occasion.

India great market for S Africa: Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom

BANGALORE, Jan 24: South African Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom visited India to engage with key representatives of the travel and tourism ecosystem in an ongoing effort to strengthen tourism ties between the two nations.

Accompanied by Sisa Ntshona, CEO, South African Tourism, and Maropene L Ramokgopa, Consul General, South Africa, the Minister reiterated commitment to enhance destination marketing support in India, which has consistently been among the top 10 source markets for South Africa.

The delegation shared a positive outlook for the Indian market, noting that as of June 2018, total spend by Indian travellers in South Africa had increased by 20% and that there was an upswing in the average length of stay (+7.7%) and total bednights (+4%).

“We want 2019 to be the year of the great leapfrog for tourism from India. The growth in total spend and the average length of stay signifies that Indians travelling to South Africa are staying longer, exploring more and experiencing newer activities than ever before. This certainly is a positive indicator of the potential growth in the market and gives us the confidence to continue introducing new regions and experiences,” the Minister stated.

Reinforcing India as a key source market, Sisa Ntshona, CEO, South African Tourism, added, “India has been a key source market for us and will continue to play a critical role in our long-term vision of attracting 5 million additional visitors, including 4 million international tourists by 2021. We aim to surpass 100,000 visitors from Indian in the current year of 2019. Towards this ambition, we remain committed to continue investing in our promotion and engagement efforts, both with our Indian trade partners and travellers, while bringing diversified products to the market.”

The Minister indicated that a Visa Simplification Agreement, addressing various initiatives to simplify ease of travel to South Africa from India, was expected to be signed between the two nations.

“There has been a lot of improvement in the length of time it takes between the application and issuance of South African visas for Indian travellers. We recognize the need for a more solutions-driven approach that eases visa regulation to unlock the full potential of tourist arrivals from India. We are currently running a pilot for e-visa processes and on successful completion, the intention is to begin rolling-out e-visas in other countries,” the Minister added.

Speaking about new initiatives to ease visa applications, Maropene L Ramokgopa, Consul General, South Africa, said, “The Consulate of South Africa will work closely with South African Tourism to accredit select travel agents and tour operators to allow fast-tracking visa applications from preferred partners. The efforts would seek to further to reduce the time for visa issuance, which is currently, between 5 to 7 days from time of application, while enabling faster turnaround times during peak seasons.”

The Minister acknowledged air connectivity as a key driver for outbound travel particularly MICE and business tourism from India.

Speaking about direct flights between India and South Africa, the Minister said, “There are currently serious discussions about the possibility of resumption of the direct route.”

From January to June 2018, MICE accounted for 28% of the Indian traveller visits while 23% Indians travelled for business. On the other hand, leisure travel continued to gain an increasing share of the traveller pie currently contributing to 25% of the total visits from India.

Ms. Neliswa Nkani, Hub Head, Middle East, India, South East Asia, South African Tourism, added, “With the depth of experiences and breathtaking natural beauty of South Africa, there is immense potential to diversify our promotions of innovative and unique experiences. We are focused on transforming the way we promote our destination in India and will adopt a more localized approach to selling South Africa through the lens of the Indian traveller.”

Tourism is one of the key contributors of growth to the South African economy. Travel and tourism supported 1.5 million jobs in South Africa in 2017 – 9.5% of total employment in the country. The WTTC report estimates that by 2028 almost 2.1 million jobs in South Africa will depend on travel and tourism.

Minister Alphons co-chairs 7th ASEAN-India Tourism Ministers meeting

HA LONG City (Vietnam), Jan 18: India's Tourism Minister K. J. Alphons attended the Seventh Meeting of Tourism Ministers of ASEAN and India held in Ha Long City. K J Alphons co-chaired the Tourism Ministers’ meeting with the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Vietnam Nguyen Ngoc Thien.

The Ministers’ meeting noted the strengthened tourism performance of ASEAN and India in 2018 with preliminary numbers of 139.5 million tourist arrivals to ASEAN and India in the year with an increase of 7.4 per cent as compared to the previous year.

During the meeting, the Ministers welcomed the decisions of the ASEAN-India Informal Breakfast Summit held on 15 November 2018 in Singapore. As a follow up to the Summit, the Ministers launched the ASEAN-India Tourism Cooperation Year 2019, and looked forward to enhancing cooperation with a view to increasing two-way tourist visits and promoting greater people-to-people exchanges between ASEAN and India.

Earlier, during the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit in January 2018, Prime Minister Modi had proposed designating the year 2019 as ASEAN-India Tourism Year.
This was also discussed during the 20th ASEAN-India Tourism Working Group meeting in Thailand, and it was decided to prepare a calendar of activities commemorating the ASEAN-India Year of Tourism. The Ministry of Tourism has prepared and shared a calendar including various events for celebrating tourism year.

The Ministers’ meeting agreed to further enhance ASEAN-India cooperation in tourism under the framework of the 2012 Memorandum of Understanding between ASEAN and India on Strengthening Tourism Cooperation with intensified efforts and activities.

The meeting also noted the progress made in the implementation of the MoU through several activities in 2018 like Sharing the best practices, resources and facilities, Exchanging information pertaining to statistics & development strategies and the International Buddhist Conclave held on 22-25 August 2018.

The Tourism Ministers of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand also attended the meeting.

Taiwan listed in The Guardian’s top 40 holiday destinations for 2019

By Deepak Arora

TAIPEI, Jan 10: Taiwan was listed among the world’s top 40 travel destinations for 2019 by U.K. newspaper The Guardian in a feature that highlighted the cultural appeal of attractions in the south of the country.

Headlined “Where to go on holiday in 2019—the hotlist” published recently, the article spotlighted such Taiwan attractions as the 9.9-hectare National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts, also known as Weiwuying, that opened last October in the southern port city.

NKCA, the world’s largest performing arts facility under one roof, houses the biggest organ in Asia as well as an outdoor theater on the roof and a 2,000-person concert hall.

The southernmost county of Pingtung was also highlighted for hosting this year’s Taiwan Lantern Festival running Feb. 19 to March 3 and for Kenting National Park with its “mountains, white-sand beaches and rainforests.” Eluanbi Cape, also in the county, featured in a separate list of the world’s top 10 most welcoming destinations published recenlty by Netherlands-headquartered online travel platform Booking.com.

Other attractions mentioned in The Guardian report were the 940-kilometer cycling route around the country, traveling on scooters and the fortresses and temples tucked away in the former capital city of Tainan in southern Taiwan.

Gujarat state in India, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Macau, Samarkand city in Uzbekistan, Singapore and northern Vietnam were the other Asian destinations that made the list alongside Taiwan.

Taiwan listed among top 10 travel destinations deserving of more attention in 2019

By Deepak Arora

TAIPEI, Jan 8: Taiwan was ranked eighth among the top 10 destinations worldwide deserving of more attention in 2019, according to a list published Jan. 3 by international travel website Globe Spots.

Classified as a classic and convenient location with great sites, the country was lauded for its unique attractions and diverse landscapes ranging from soaring peaks and traditional rural communities to neon-flashing cosmopolitan cities.

According to the website, Taiwan’s mountains offer excellent hiking opportunities and natural hot spring getaways, while the nation’s famous night markets serve up unlimited choices to spoil any food lover.

But what really sets Taiwan apart is its compactness, Globe Spots wrote, adding that “you can circumnavigate the whole island in a matter of days, but to do the place justice you will need weeks.”

Noting that the country is growing in popularity as a vacation destination, the website encouraged readers to visit sooner rather than later.

This is the second time Taiwan has made the annual top 10 list after placing sixth in 2010. Sao Tome and Principe, Belarus and Sweden lead this year’s ranking, in that order.

According to the Tourism Bureau under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, Taiwan received a record 11 million foreign visitors in 2018, underscoring the effectiveness of government initiatives to attract more overseas travelers.

Related measures include easing visa regulations for tourists from New Southbound Policy target nations and fostering a Muslim-friendly environment through promoting halal certification and installing prayer rooms at major transportation hubs, the bureau said.

A central plank in the government’s national development strategy, the NSP is enhancing Taiwan’s agricultural, business, cultural, education, tourism and trade ties with the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations member states, six South Asian countries, Australia and New Zealand.

Taiwan records 11 million foreign visitors for first time

By Deepak Arora

TAIPEI, Jan 2: Taiwan welcomed its 11 millionth foreign visitor of 2018 on December 30 at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, marking the first time it has reached the milestone and underscoring the effectiveness of government initiatives to promote the country overseas.

Japanese doctor Shinobu Nishikawa was greeted with gifts prepared by the Tourism Bureau under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications including airline tickets, coupons for free stays at several luxury hotels and a laptop.

A frequent visitor to Taiwan, Nishikawa was traveling with his family and planned to tour the historic mountain town of Jiufen in New Taipei City, Sun Moon Lake in the central county of Nantou, as well as the southern cities of Kaohsiung and Tainan.

According to the bureau, it has focused on encouraging foreign tourists to visit destinations in central and southern Taiwan by placing billboards and advertisements on public transportation systems abroad as well as helping overseas travel businesses explore locations in the country.

Tourism Bureau Director-General Chou Yung-hui said the government will continue to foster a welcoming environment that offers smart services and unique experiences. The four-year Tourism 2020 initiative that designates a theme each year has helped deepen collaboration between the public and private sectors to offer better quality trips, Chou added.

Taiwan has also received international recognition as an environmentally friendly tourist destination, the bureau said. Netherlands-headquartered nonprofit Green Destinations listed Nanliao in outlying Penghu County, Northeast and Yilan Coast National Scenic Area and Pinglin District in New Taipei among its Top 100 Sustainable Destinations of 2018.

Taiwan welcomed 10.74 million visitors in 2017, with China, New Southbound Policy target countries and Japan the top three sources, in that order, according to bureau statistics.

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