Istanbul Tourism Center Taksim Square under attack

June 1, 2013

istanbul-hagia

Massive protests in Turkey spread to the heart of the tourism center in central Istanbul today – to Taksim Square.

Tourists from all over the globe escaped the violence in Istanbul while other parts of this town were calm.

Turkish police have fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse a massive demonstration against the demolition of a park in central Istanbul. The rally grew into a wider anti-government protest and is spreading across the country.

13:27 GMT: Nearly 1,000 people have been injured in clashes with the police in Istanbul alone, and at least six of them lost eyes after being hit by gas canisters, Reuters reported citing Turkish Doctors’ Association.

The European parliament and human rights groups such as Amnesty International raised their concern about excessive use of force by police in Turkey. The US State Department said it is concerned about the high number of injuries.

“The severity shown by the police is completely disproportionate and is leading to a spreading of the protests,” Martin Schulz, head of the European Parliament and a leading member of Social Democratic Party of Germany said in a statement.

Please check out RT news for up to the minute updates, pictures and TV reports on this story
http://rt.com/news/istanbul-park-protests-police-095/


Holiday travel safety tips for Memorial Day Weekend

May 22, 2013

holiday Travel
WASHINGTON, D.C. – As tens of millions of Americans prepare to travel this Memorial Day Weekend, the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA), the worldwide association representing toll facility owners and operators and the businesses that serve them, offers holiday travel safety tips while traveling on America’s roadways, bridges and tunnels.

“For anyone who will be traveling this busy holiday weekend, safety has to be the number one priority,” said Patrick D. Jones, IBTTA Executive Director and CEO, who recorded a Memorial Weekend video message for travelers. “From driving safely to choosing the most effective and safest routes, drivers should plan ahead. We hope our safety tips help better prepare Americans to have a safe and fun holiday weekend.”

MEMORIAL DAY HOLIDAY TRAVEL SAFETY TIPS

Be prepared for a safe drive: Prevent a breakdown by making sure your car is in top working order. Check your tire pressure, and fill your tank before you head out on the highway.

Watch out for the other driver: Defensive driving is all about situational awareness. Pay attention to everything on the road. If you see another driver make a mistake, be ready to get out of the way and prevent an accident.

Choose the safer road: Toll roads are among the safest roads in America. Toll authorities know their customers expect a higher maintenance standard, and tolls give them the funds to deliver on that promise. Toll roads have safety cameras and teams that constantly monitor the roadway to respond quickly to any accident.

Choose the more direct, less congested route: Today’s electronic toll collection systems allow you to pay for your ride without slowing down or waiting in line. With All Electronic Toll collection (AET), stopping at a toll booth is a thing of the past – it’s now go, go, go.

Know the upcoming weather forecast: With so much severe weather developing across the country, know the expected weather in the locations you are traveling this holiday weekend so you can be better prepared for the best and safest routes.


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

 


11 million tourists visit UAE in 2012

May 7, 2013

Dubai-UAE

International arrivals to the UAE increased healthily in 2012, reaching an estimated 11 million tourists delegates heard today at the latest WTM Vision Conference – Dubai held at Reed Travel Exhibition’s event Arabian Travel Market.

Overall performance of inbound trips to the Middle East region were down 5% last year mainly due to the decline of arrivals to those countries hit by the Arab Spring, which took place in 2011 effecting countries such as Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Syria.

However, the UAE witnessed a substantial increase with an estimated 11 million tourist arrivals visiting the Emirates; over 8 million visiting Dubai, 2 million to Abu Dhabi and the rest to the other 5 emirates. All states continuing to show the best hotel occupancy rates due their strong leisure appeal and strong MICE sector.

Of the 11 million arrivals to the UAE, neighboring country Saudi Arabia made up the top source market for inbound tourism, with 1,500,000 tourists coming from Saudi Arabia alone. Visitor numbers from the largest Arab state to the UAE are predicated to double over the next 5 years to more than 3,000,000 arrivals.

Speaking at the WTM Vision Conference – Dubai, Euromonitor International’s Senior Research Analyst Sana Toukan explained that the UAE offers a culturally similar but more relaxed tourist destination for Saudis and is particularly popular among the growing young population.

Toukan explained: “The UAE promotes itself as a luxury shoppers’ paradise, with elaborate destination malls, shopping festivals, no sales tax and lower prices than in many surrounding countries. Luxury brands are a huge focus for incoming tourists from all over the globe.”

Another Middle Eastern country to prosper since the 2011 Arab Spring was Egypt, recording a strong 18% growth in 2012, although arrival numbers are still far from the 14 million recorded in 2010.

Also, as highlighted in the World Travel Market 2012 Industry Report, Libya has vast tourism potential with its long Mediterranean coast and Roman antiquities, but it has yet to achieve much progress since the revolution finished in 2011.

WTM Vision Conferences were also held in Moscow, Beijing and Sao Paulo earlier this year, with Rimini Italy (October 17) also confirmed.

Reed Travel Exhibitions Director World Travel Market Simon Press said: “It is great to hear that recovery has been seen in a number of Middle Eastern and North African countries such as the UAE, Egypt and Tunisia. However the danger still remains with the unrest and on-going violence in Syria which could affect neighboring countries.

“The content delegates have heard today confirms the growing importance of the Middle Eastern market, particularly the UAE, taking into consideration the pressures and conflicts that countries have witnessed over the last few years.  I’m sure the research revealed to delegates at WTM Vision Conference – Dubai will enable them to get a head start of their competitors in maximizing their future potential.”

Source: wtmlondon.com

Etihad-Jet Airways deal likely to change business dynamics of Indian aviation

May 4, 2013

Ethad Airways

MUMBAI, India – The recent decision of UAE’s flag carrier, Etihad Airways, to buy 24% stake in Indian carrier Jet Airways Ltd, according to aviation experts, is likely to change the business dynamics of the aviation industry in India. This partnership will result in greater dominance of Middle East-based carriers in Indian skies especially on Westbound routes (see box on number of destinations and flights operated per week in India by leading carriers on pg 10) and could also result in Etihad-Jet combine grabbing the numero uno position in the Indian market, with a significant global impact.

The operational synergy between the two airlines will also enhance connectivity. Competition for Westbound traffic from India is also likely to heat up and a resultant fare war may break out with passengers enjoying lower fares, which could lead to increase in the number of passengers and overall may boost travel and tourism to and from India.

What has suprised many in the aviation industry is that while the deal was in the air for some time, the official announcement was made the same day when India and UAE signed a new air travel bilateral agreement raising the existing weekly seats of 13,300 each side to 50,000 over the next three years.

While the deal with the cash-rich Etihad will see Jet Airways slip out of the debt trap, the Middle East carrier will be eyeing the expansive domestic network of the Indian partner and leverage on it to feed its network of destinations through its hub Abu Dhabi. It is estimated that an additional half million to one million passengers will be flying through the new hub using the Jet and Etihad combined networks. Jet is also looking at setting up a hub in Abu Dhabi. Industry observers feel that the while the benefit out of this partnership for Jet Airways will be short-term, Etihad will be the long-term beneficiary.

“The strategic alliance will have a short-term benefit for Jet helping the airline to clear its debts by having secured access to world’s fastest growing markets. On the other hand, Etihad will use Jet’s domestic network to compete with other Gulf carriers. In the long-run Etihad will be benefited with this partnership and will strengthen its share in the Indian market,” stated a top official of a Middle East carrier.

“The merger is expected to help Jet Airways retire its debt and save on interest cost that goes straight to its bottomline. Besides that the deal will help Jet expand its route network in India and abroad through self-operated and code-share flights. Jet and Etihad will gain against their competitors by way of incremental passengers and some cannibalisation from other airlines. The strategic alliance could bring considerable  synergy benefits to the partners including joint procurement of aircrafts; fuel; personnel; Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) and other goods and services; cross-utilisation of aircraft; joint training of pilots and cabin crew; shared sales forces in common destinations. All this is likely to show its impact on bottomlines of both airlines in the next 12-24 months,” observed Amber Dubey, Partner and Head-Aviation at Global Consultancy, KPMG.

The two airlines that are likely to be adversely impacted because of this deal will be Emirates and Air India. According to Dubey, increasing competition for Westbound traffic from India will force other regional carriers from the Gulf to work out counter strategies. “With Jet-Etihad deal, Westbound traffic out of India to Europe and the USA is going to be impacted considerably. Etihad’s other competitors in the Gulf may have to counter that through collaboration with other Indian carriers. There could be similar thoughts in the minds of other leading carriers in South East Asia after the landmark Tata-AirAsia deal,” he informed. Dubey also foresees intense fare wars between competitors to lure traffic on these routes. He further added, “We are sure other Indian carriers will have drawn up their war strategy. The intense competition may lead to sporadic fare wars during the upcoming summer season. Unless the vexatious Aviation Turbine Fuel and MRO taxes and airport levies are rationalised, we may see some consolidation or alliances in the domestic market in the next 12-18 months.”

However, the increasing competition among carriers will work in favour of passengers, feel industry observers. “The deal will have an extremely positive impact on passengers. They can expect more competition, better regional connectivity, higher efficiency, more choices, better services and lower fares. People in Tier-II and III cities will see enhanced global connect and that may give a fillip to the trade and tourism in those locations,” said Dubey.

Etihad Airways has agreed to subscribe for 27,263,372 new shares in Jet Airways Ltd at a price of Rs 754.74 per share. The value of this equity investment is USD 379 million and will result in Etihad Airways holding 24% of the enlarged share capital of Jet Airways Ltd.

Source: travelbizmonitor.com

Air India pilots put A320 with 166 passengers on autopilot, go to sleep

May 4, 2013

air india

Two pilots have been suspended from an airline after they allegedly left an Airbus carrying 166 passengers on autopilot and air hostesses in charge while they slept in business class.

The Air India flight was travelling from Bangkok to New Delhi when both the co-pilot and the pilot left the cockpit after having spent some time instructing two flight attendants how to fly.

But the pair had to rush back and seize the controls of the A-320 after one of them accidentally turned off the autopilot setting, sources said.

On Friday, the national carrier suspended a pilot, the captain of the April 12 Airbus A-320 Bangkok- New Delhi flight, his co-pilot, and two flight attendants who had accidentally switched off the autopilot in the cockpit momentarily.

According to sources, pilot B.K. Soni and co-pilot Ravindra Nath napped in business class, leaving flight attendants Kanika Kala and J. Bhatt in charge of the plane.

A senior member of the cabin crew witnessed the entire drama and brought the matter to the notice of the airline’s management. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has started a probe into the incident.

An Air India official admits the cockpit was in air hostess control for 20 minutes, sources say 40, but Director General of Civil Aviation Arun Mishra has said that the air hostesses stayed in the cockpit for the ‘larger part of the three-hour flight’.

Air hostesses are allowed in the cockpit, but only for the amount of time it takes to serve a cup of tea or a snack.

‘It is a serious matter. We are investigating the case,’ Mr Mishra said.

The flight took off from Bangkok at 8.55 am. Half-an-hour and 33,000 feet into the flight, First Officer Ravindra Nath excused himself from the cockpit to visit the washroom. He asked flight attendant J. Bhatt to occupy the co-pilot’s seat in his absence.

Minutes after Nath exited, Captain B.K. Soni called Kanika Kala and asked her to take his seat. Soni did not leave the cockpit immediately, however.

According to a source, he spent some time teaching the two airhostesses how to operate the aircraft before joining Nath in business class.

After the flying lesson, Soni put the plane on auto-pilot, leaving the stewardesses by themselves in the cockpit for around 40 minutes.

Auto-pilot does not mean pilots can leave the cockpit. They have to be present to monitor the flight path and can turn off auto-pilot mode if required.

A statement issued by Air India on Friday stressed that ‘at no point of time was the cockpit left unattended by the cockpit crew’.

It then went to say: ‘During the incident, due to distraction the co-pilot had touched the auto pilot disconnect button momentarily. But the same was connected back.’

Captain Mohan Ranganathan, a member of Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Council, a government-appointed aviation safety panel, blamed the ‘lackadaisical attitude’ of the DGCA for the increase in air safety violations.

‘The DGCA should be held responsible for the increase in such cases as they have failed time and again to effectively enforce safety guidelines,’ said Ranganathan.

Source: dailymail.co.uk

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