Changi Airport welcomes the arrival of Ethiopian Airlines

January 8, 2014

EAL-ChangiAirport1

By Theodore Koumelis

SINGAPORE – Changi Airport Group (CAG) welcomed the arrival of Ethiopian Airlines, the latest addition to the family of airlines operating at Singapore Changi Airport. The East African carrier will operate a thrice-weekly service between Singapore and the capital city of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia via Bangkok, utilising the 234-seat Boeing 767-300 aircraft in a two-class configuration.

To commemorate this new link, Ethiopia’s State Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr. Taddesse Haileand Singapore’s Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development, Mr. Lee Yi Shyan, were on board the inaugural flight that landed at Changi yesterday at 1811 hours. They were accompanied by the Chief Executive Officer for Ethiopian Airlines, Mr. Tewolde Gebremariam, among other senior government showing strong support for bilateral Ethiopia-Singapore ties, the Ambassador of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia to Singapore, His Excellency Seyoum Mesfin, was also present to welcome Ethiopian’s first flight to Singapore.

The emerging African market Singapore shares strong economic ties with Africa. The African continent’s accelerated growth in recent years has stimulated domestic consumption, making it one of the world’s fastest growing regions. Trade flows between Singapore and Africa has flourished at a compounded annual growth rate of 20% since 2009, and registered S$13.8 billion in value last year.

Singapore is also Africa’s largest ASEAN investor, with significant investments in the sectors of consumer products, water preservation and construction. Similarly, African companies have been progressively using Singapore as a springboard to venture into the
burgeoning Asia-Pacific region.

In terms of passenger movements, point-to-point traffic between Africa and Southeast Asia has grown steadily over the past five years. More than 1.08 million passengers travelled between these two regions in the 12 months ending September 2013, an increase of about 45% from the corresponding period five years ago.

CAG’s Executive Vice President for Air Hub & Development, Mr. Yam Kum Weng, said, “We are proud to welcome one of Africa’s fastest growing and most reputable airlines to Changi Airport. Ethiopia is one of Africa’s largest economies, with its GDP growing faster than the rest of the continent. More significantly, the cooperation between Ethiopian Airlines and Singapore Airlines not only connects Singapore with Ethiopia but also on a broader scale, Southeast Asia, Southwest Pacific with the entire Eastern and Central Africa region. This cooperation will further strengthen Singapore’s air hub position.”

Mr. Tewolde Gebremariam, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, said, “Singapore’s strength and competitiveness as a well-connected aviation hub is the primary reason behind our decision to utilize Singapore as the gateway to Southeast Asia and the Southwest Pacific. Code share agreements with Star Alliance partners such as Singapore Airlines will offer Ethiopian Airlines the opportunity to extend our network to Australia. This new connection will contribute to the strengthening of trade, investment and tourism ties between a booming Ethiopia and a highly developed, innovative and business-friendly Singapore.”

Addis Ababa is a new city link for Changi Airport and follows the addition of Mandalay, Kalibo, Jinan and Lijiang to Changi’s network this year.

Discover the wonders of Africa

Holiday-makers in Singapore who are looking for exciting and exotic destinations can now consider exploring Ethiopia’s stunning natural landscapes and the unique cultural experiences from the birthplace of coffee. The carrier’s new Singapore service provides travelers with unparalleled access to explore more points in the African continent such as Nairobi, Lagos, Accra, Luanda and Dar es Salaam.

With an end-of-day departure out of Singapore and Addis Ababa, Ethiopian’s flight schedule is also specially timed to meet business travel needs. Business travelers will appreciate the early morning arrival into Addis Ababa to connect to 50 major cities in the airline’s dense intra-Africa network.

 

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Kenya Tourism Board hosts buyers from around the globe to showcase destinations

October 17, 2013
magicalkenya
BY PROF. DR. WOLFGANG H. THOME, ETN AFRICA CORRESPONDENT

The Kenya Tourism Board, ahead of the much-anticipated Magical Kenya Travel Expo 2013, has decided to tackle global perception about the destination head-on by sending Hosted Buyers across the country to experience Kenya’s star attractions and see for themselves that the destination is fundamentally safe to travel to and for tourists to visit. The buyers who come to attend Kenya’s premier international tourism showcase on home soil, held from October 18-20 at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, has attracted over 150 high-powered individuals responsible for making decisions on which destinations will feature in their vacation programs for the forthcoming seasons, forming basically a panel of “judges” on the future of Kenya’s tourism industry.

Kenya has seen arrivals in the first half of this year decline below last year’s figures by double digits, a trend which the industry says needs reversing, though the opinions are divided on how best to accomplish this turnaround.

Hosting buyers and international media is of course an excellent start to bring the spotlight back to the destination, and a positive spotlight for that matter, as key decision makers gain their own experience on site rather than by googling the destination. Travel writers worth their salt of course also have the ability to attract the attention of their readers to a particular destination and create those images in their minds, vibrant and colorful and enticing, to have them just want to come to a place like Kenya. A unique destination, offering sundrenched beaches along the Indian Ocean shores to the shores of Lake Victoria and the UNESCO World Heritage Site Rift Valley lakes in between, dozens of national parks, game reserves and private conservancies giving the Big Five experience a new dimension and of course Mt. Kenya right in the middle of the country, where the snows fall right on the equator.

Therefore, KTB’s efforts are commendable and targeting the right groups, hoping for returns on this significant investment they are injecting into the generic marketing of the destination.

At home though challenges have arisen too which need urgent attention, and strangely the position is maintained in much of the mainstream media as if the last few weeks would not have had a very significant impact on hotel, resort and lodge occupancies. To the contrary I should say after only a day in Nairobi, as all my calls to contacts in the Kenyan hospitality industry confirmed one thing – a downward trend.

Equally strangely it seems also that industry leaders have not yet come out in force, standing united, and telling government from an open platform what needs to be done on the home front to reverse this negative trend.

When discussing the issue with several key stakeholders yesterday, they all agreed with me that an immediate five point plan may be the start to inject new growth into the vital tourism industry, which for decades has been in the top three of Kenya’s economy in terms of foreign exchange earnings and job creation.

For one, the ridiculous VAT impositions must be reversed immediately. They have added a huge extra cost burden on packages at a time when – just compare Egypt here where resort prices were dropped by over 50 percent from regular contract levels to stay in business – special offers are needed and not higher prices. Tourism, which the same government professes to be an invisible export, must be treated like any other export, made free of VAT, full stop. This the government can fix with ease, and if they do not it will be a harsh lesson when the wake up to reality in coming months.

Secondly, investment incentives, including the availability of affordable low cost loans, is needed to allow in particular the coastal resorts to finally invest in modernization and refurbishments across the board. Some resorts have excelled in doing this persistently, like the Serena, the Whitesands, the Leopard Beach, Hemingways to name but a few, but most still are stuck in the time warp of 20 years ago, same old menus and same old entertainment. Here is a chance for Kenya to in one fell swoop ‘reform’ the sector and raise quality and ratings to the levels of competing destinations like Zanzibar.

Moving on to the next point, the airlines need to be engaged to come on board with joint promotions but also to find a welcome reception when it comes to traffic rights. I am a friend of Kenya Airways, no doubt there, but at times the objectives of one have to take into account the objectives of many. Offer airlines that key access to Mombasa, including where asked for fifth freedom rights, because that is one thing the coast this year lacks, enough seats to bring enough clients to fill those empty beds. Qatar Airways is just one case in point and the ball is firmly in this government’s court now.

Fourth point would be to make a very public and very visible statement vis-a-vis the darned visa fees – I wrote about that yesterday from my own experience where the attitude of the immigration officer was basically telling me – and hopefully she was the one and only rotten apple in that lot at JKIA – to either pay up or get lost. Half the fees like done in 2008, or scrap them altogether. Some might say the 25 or 50 US Dollars are hardly making a dent into the holiday budget of travelers coming to Kenya, but there is a psychological value in such a move when Kenya tells the world, “Hey we are open for business and until whatever date, you can actually come in for free…”

Lastly and perhaps one of the key issues, this government must write a check big enough to take KTB’s fight to the global market places, beyond the home soil like this week at the Magical Kenya Expo, beyond the traditional trade fairs like WTM and ITB. Give KTB the funds to go global, blitz the new and emerging markets hand in hand with those airlines flying there, first and foremost our own flag carrier Kenya Airways of course, and give KTB the ability to allow the private sector to back pack on such activities at a largely subsidized cost. Airlines should be more than happy to extend AD 75 tickets, not as recently seen a frugal 10 percent and expecting a big hug and thank you for THAT, because they will fill their seats to Kenya.

There sure will be other measures one can take, but knowing the attention span of politicians, outside election campaigns that is, a five point plan for now must do. I hope that leading stakeholders will stand up this week and tell their Minister and their President what must be done, as the time for asking nicely seems to have run out. Time to act, time to do it now or carry the burden of induced failure when the sector missed forecasts and targets by a large margin, impacting on foreign exchange earnings and the job market.


Egypt travel advice: is it safe to go?

August 15, 2013

Egypt Travel

By 

As Egypt reels from the worst violence in decades, the nation’s vital tourism industry seems certain to suffer. Egyptian security officials are forcefully dispersing sit-ins, resulting in a spiralling toll in deaths and injuries, while the country is under emergency law until further notice. So what to do if you’re already booked to holiday there?

The Foreign Office (FCO) currently advises against all but essential travel to the country, except for the Red Sea resorts, such as Sharm el-Sheikh and Dahab. Meanwhile, the Egyptian daily newspaper al Alhram reports that the ministry of state for antiquities has closed all archaeological sites and museums across Egypt.

British Airways says it has altered flights schedules to Cairo so that they do not land in the evening, into the dusk-to-dawn curfew that has been imposed across the capital and other major areas. “We are keeping the situation in Egypt under constant review,” a British Airways spokesperson said. “We are also offering customers the option of rebooking to a later date, or to another destination.”

Britain’s biggest travel operator, Thomson and First Choice, states: “The majority of our customers are in Sharm el-Sheikh which is a considerable distance – indeed, an eight-hour drive – from Cairo. There have been no related incidents in Sharm el-Sheikh or any of the other popular Red Sea tourist areas.” Booking conditions for the resort destinations of Sharm el Sheikh, Marsa Alam, Taba and Hurghada remain “as normal”, with tourists flying into the resorts airports. The operator currently has 11,769 British tourists in Egypt.

The vast majority of travellers heading to the Red Sea resorts fly there directly. EasyJet runs flights to Sharm el-Sheikh, which land outside of curfew hours. A spokesperson for the airline said the company can refund tickets that have already been booked, but added they haven’t seen any demand for this.

The UK travel association Abta also states that conditions relating to travel to Red Sea resorts are continuing as normal, although customers travelling outside of this area “will be offered the option of deferring their date of travel, transferring to another destination or having a full refund for as long as the advice remains in place”. It assures that: “Red Sea resorts are largely self-contained and autonomous with the majority of customers staying in large complexes, often all-inclusive with a wide selection of bars and restaurants.”

But the FCO has further cautions on what travellers should do when they actually get to these resorts. Its latest statement says: “Travel advice for Red Sea resorts remains unchanged but local authorities in Sharm el-Sheikh have temporarily stopped tourist excursions. In Hurghada the police have advised tourists to remain within hotel grounds. We advise British tourists to follow the regulations set by the local authorities and to obey curfews. British tourists should also ensure they keep valid identification with them at all times.”

Travel journalist Matthew Teller, who specialises in the Middle East, says that there is an inherent difficulty around travel advice in such cases.

“What the FCO does or doesn’t say rules the roost in terms of what tour operators can and can’t offer clients.” Even if it doesn’t seem like you can do much while you’re there, major tour operators aren’t likely to let you change plans if you’re booked to travel to an area the FCO has deemed to be safe for travel.

Meanwhile, cruise operators MSC, Costa and Holland America Line are all reported to have pulled their Egypt-bound ships. This latest crisis will be a sharp blow to the Egyptian tourism industry, which is struggling to recover in the turbulent period following the uprising of 2011, which deposed Hosni Mubarak.

In 2010, a record 14m tourists arrived in Egypt and the industry represented 13% of GDP, directly or indirectly employing one in seven workers. But even before the recent crisis, the Egyptian tourism federation estimated hotel occupancy rates in Cairo to be around 15% while in Luxor – the site of the Valley of the Kings, that figure was barely in single digits.


Arab tourism sector still recovering from Arab Spring

May 31, 2013

arab spring

The Arab tourism sector has recorded a $ 15 billion loss as a result of the Arab Spring, in addition to the loss of around 10 million tourists, according to Bandar Al-Fuhaid, director of the Arab Tourism Organization (ATO).

“We expect that global expenditure on tourism will be around $ 570 billion and provide more than 450 million jobs. We also expect that there will be more than 1 billion international tourist arrivals worldwide by the end of the year,” he said.
“Many people have lost their jobs in the tourism sector as a result of the Arab Spring. This has prompted the ATO to hold conferences in an attempt to arrive at solutions to cut losses in the sector,” he said.

A number of activities were announced on the sidelines of the visit of Mamdouh Aquz, governor of Isparta in Turkey, to the city of Taif. These include an agreement between Turkey and Saudi Arabia to initiate training and educational exchange programs. In addition, Isparta will provide training in the production of rosewater.

“At the beginning, we will invite 10 investors to be trained in the latest technology for the production of rosewater. There are 5 million domestic tourists who visit Isparta every year and we hope that we can get the same number of international tourists,” he said.

“Cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Turkey will not be confined to the rosewater industry. There is also a project in aviation, with a budget of 30 million euros. Another project in the pipeline is to guarantee investments launched by the Islamic Development Bank to protect investor rights in case of political crisis,” he said.

“Saudi Arabia sees investment in Turkey as a strategic step,” he concluded.


Dubai aims to become top destination for health tourism in the Middle East

May 21, 2013

Medical tourism.1

Medical tourism has been brought to the fore with renewed optimism and a host of projects as announced by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) on Sunday.

The projects are part of the authority’s strategy for 2013-2025, which build on His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai’s long-term sustainable development vision to promote Dubai as a favoured destination for health tourism in the Middle East.

The line-up of projects will give Dubai an assured portion of the global healthcare market.

In this, the emirate is well placed with world-class healthcare and niche specialities. Furthermore it has a reputation as a politically stable, modern and developed city and provides for regulatory environment, capacity planning and the encouragement of Public Private Partnerships (PPP).

According to the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the UAE healthcare market is expected to reach Dh43.7 billion in 2015.

The DHA strategy takes into account a market needed to serve people accompanying patients. The authority has plans of two five-star hotels towards this.

In an earlier interview, Eisa Al Maidour, director-general of the DHA, said that the medical tourism initiative will be implemented by hosting medical exhibitions, participating in overseas exhibitions, encouraging global healthcare providers to set up businesses and increasing government and private investment in healthcare.

He said that the authority looks into identifying gaps in services, building capacity and increasing investors.

“We expect a steady increase in healthcare requirements. Within the DHA network of health centres and hospitals, we have increased capacity by about 12 per cent. We are looking into different parameters to ensure sustainable growth,” he said.

The medical tourism initiative was announced in 2012 by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council. Since then, several measures have been taken to unify medical tourism procedures in collaboration with the DHA, General Directorate for Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) and the Department of Tourism and Commercial Marketing (DTCM), among others.

Source: albawaba.com

Traveling with the lions

May 10, 2013

lion-feeding

Zambia is fully engaged in the rehabilitation and subsequent release of lions back into the wild. This is not just an opportunity for the country to lend a hand to Mother Nature by helping to preserve these majestic animals, it is also a tourism opportunity for visitors to have an up-close and personal experience with the lions.

Lion Encounter operates stage one of the African Lion and Environmental Research Trust’s four stage Rehabilitation and Release into the Wild Program. The first stage of the program involves the young lions being taken out into the Bush, allowing them to build confidence in their natural habitat and practice their hunting techniques before being released into stage two of the program.

Joining the lions walks, participants are actively assisting in the pre-release training for the cubs as well as giving funding for ALERT to develop all stages of the release program, implement conservation and research programs to protect Africa’s precious habitat and wildlife, and engage in a variety of community development and empowerment schemes for those living in and around wildlife conservation areas.

For Lion Encounter Zambia, guests are collected from their lodges and comfortably transported a short distance to the Boma – a hospitality suite overlooking the Zambezi River within the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park – where a friendly hospitality team is waiting to greet participants with a welcome soft-drink or teas and coffees for the early risers, after which they are shown to their seats.

Guests enjoy a short film to give them information on the lion release program, and the film explains why it is necessary to facilitate such a project. It also shows guests some behind the scenes footage regarding ALERT’s others efforts, which benefit communities bordering conservation areas run by the ALERT Communities Trust (ACT) and its other wildlife conservation and research programs through the Conservation Centre for Wild Africa (CCWA).

All participants of the walk then receive the all-important dos and don’ts in a safety talk delivered by their guide. Guests are then ready to meet the lions who are already waiting for them in the Bush.

During the walk itself, guests will be accompanied by experienced guides, handlers, and scouts that ensure rigorous safety procedures are upheld, allowing guests to enjoy watching the lions play, hunt, and enjoy their natural habitat. At times, the lions may rest, allowing guests for some close encounters and opportunities to get a photo with the lions. Guests’ experiences will be enhanced by hearing about the lion as a species as well as receiving the latest updates on the progress of the release program.

For more information, visit the Zambia Tourism Board website: www.zambiatourism.com .


An American Tourist in Seoul

May 9, 2013

By Julie Alvin 

I have a history of incredibly bad timing in my travels. In 2010, I arrived in Quito, Ecuador mere hours before the police kidnapped the president and held him hostage in a coup attempt that ended in a dramatic standoff. We could hear the gunfire and see the tear gas from the apartment where we were huddled, waiting for the danger to pass. That same year, I pulled into Jakarta just as authorities were storming a local terrorist cell, and this was only after leaving the sleepy Javanese beach town of Pangandaran because an offshore earthquake had precipitated tsunami warnings for the whole coast. So, it was typical that I’d have a visit to Seoul scheduled just as the country teetered on the brink of war with the North.

I’d spent the last several weeks going back and forth on whether or not to make the trip. The belligerent threats from Kim Jong Un were all over the news in the west but Aja, my friend living in Seoul, swore that it was business as usual there, that locals seemed so unworried that they weren’t even discussing it. I motivated myself to make the trip with all sorts of internal “Carpe diem!” and “You can’t let fear govern your life!” talk. I realize that sayings typically used to convince someone to, say, take a ride on a rollercoaster seemed a bit flimsy when the thing to fear was nuclear war, but I clung to the mantras anyway. Plus, I was already all the way over here in Hong Kong! I spent $500 on a ticket! I just… thought Seoul sounded really cool! On Friday, April 19, I packed my bags and headed to the Hong Kong airport for my afternoon flight.

I arrived in Seoul to an airport so serene and uncrowded it was practically spa-like.  Perhaps it was the Western media that had me envisioning expats clamoring to exit the country and armed guards overseeing the melee, but this place was practically jarring in its lack of chaos, so much more pleasant it was than a typical arrival into JFK. I boarded a bus to Gangnam Station to meet Aja and once there, I ditched my bag and we went out into the famously stylish streets of her neighborhood to find dinner. The bright alleys and avenues of Gangnam were packed with people: impeccably dressed women waltzing arm-in-arm; packs of teenagers laughing and shoving; couples flirting in doorways; buttoned up businessmen staggering from too much soju. There wasn’t a hint of fear, not a whisper of it. It was Friday night and the only anxiety seemed to be in choosing the restaurant in which to dine or bar in which to drink.

The next day I was intent on finding the action, as surely there had to be some. Was there some plaza where there would be police presence? Were there protests going on? In a small demonstration a few days before, a couple hundred Seoul citizens (in a city of 11 million, mind you) had burned pictures of Kim Jong Un and his predecessors, the images defaced with clown noses, black Xs and angry — I’m guessing, here — slogans. The North had responded by saying it wouldn’t hold talks with its neighbor until the South apologized for anti-North actions, and that it could take retaliatory measures at any time.  By the weekend, there were no protests to be found but it seemed less because Seoul citizens had taken the North’s admonishment to heart and more because Southerners were just getting on with their lives and didn’t want to expend any more energy on the issue. When I asked Aja and her boyfriend Paul what their South Korean coworkers were saying about the situation, the answer was ‘they’re not having the conversation.’ It seemed that talking about it would be tantamount to dignifying a child’s tantrum with a thoughtful response.
Protest plans dashed (much to my mother’s relief), we spent the following days wandering Seoul’s lovely neighborhoods, touring modern art museums and historic streets, drinking beer and eating various forms of barbecue. And though I appeared to be among the only Western tourists in Seoul, Aja informed me that many of the people taking in the cherry blossoms and boutiques alongside us were visitors too, from the southern part of the country. People weren’t just continuing their lives unfazed — they were traveling, coming up to a city that sat a mere 35 miles from the DMZ, while the North Koreans rattled their sabers.

What was remarkable about the visit was how unremarkable it was. The lack of outward concern, the minimal departure from the routine of daily life, the refusal to stop traveling, reveling, shopping and dining — this was as revealing as any protest could have been about what it’s like living in South Korea when, mere miles away, there’s a regime of madmen that make a habit of threatening your safety. You get used to it. You stop giving the threats credence, taking the wind out of the madman’s sails. I can only imagine how disappointed Kim Jong Un would have been to see the people of Seoul carrying on with their lives. Seoul won me over by keeping its cool.

After four days, I left for Beijing where, of course, they were experiencing an outbreak of the bird flu.

Source Huff post-Travel

 


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