KERALA TOURISM TO LAUNCH ITS NEW TOURISM POLICY WITH ‘GREEN CARPET’ INITIATIVE

The Kerala government will be launching its new tourism policy soon with a spotlight on ‘green carpet’ initiative, which is aimed at transforming holiday destinations into clean and hygienic surroundings with a local partnership.
At a press meet, the state tourism minister Kadakampally Surendran said that steps are on to make the tourist destinations ‘plastic-free’ and friendly for the ‘differently-abled’.
The minister said, “The LDF government is yet to announce its new tourism policy. It will be announced soon with a focus on green carpet initiative. Our aim is to implement responsible tourism in the state.” 
The green carpet initiative is aimed at building a sustainable destination management system in Kerala through participation and partnerships and making destinations better places for people to visit and live in. 
The minister also expressed hope that the new liquor policy of the state government would help increase foreign tourist arrivals to the state and would again make Kerala a sought after destination for meetings and conferences. Surendran said the LDF government aimed at creating at least 80,000 jobs in the next two years.


LARGEST CRUISE VESSEL OF THE WORLD SETS SAIL FOR THE FIRST TIME

Symphony of the Seas vessel belonging to the fleet of Royal Caribbean started setting sail for the very first time on 10th June this year. This cruise ship is actually the largest cruise vessel in the world, measuring about 230,000 tons and 1,188-foor-long. It departed from STX France shipyard in St. Nazaire on Friday following the completion of its exterior, as per a statement of the company in one of its press releases.

 The Symphony of the Seas would be sailing the Mediterranean in 2018’s summer. It would be travelling to the United States, winding up at the Royal Caribbean’s new terminal at Port Miami. It is scheduled to commence a four-night cruise on 9th November 2018. One of its stops would be in the region of Cozumel in Mexico. Thereafter, it would alternate seven-night eastern and western Caribbean cruises.

 The rooms of the cruise ship would comprise neighborhood balconies overlooking Central Park and virtual balconies would be created for inside staterooms.

 It can hold 5,494 passengers at double capacity and 6,780 people at full capacity along with a 2,175-person crew. And, the cruise ship would include Bionic robot bartenders, waterslides, Broadway-styled entertainment facilities and a waterfront AquaTheater.


AIRBNB TO DONATE $5.6 MILLION FOR PHILANTHROPIC TOURISM PROJECTS

In order to cope with the constant pressure from city authorities across the continent, Airbnb is all geared up to increase its philanthropic efforts in Europe. An investment of $5.6 million (€5 million) to aid a new Community Tourism Program has been assured by Airbnb. This home-sharing platform would provide the cash to projects, which it describes as “use innovation to help preserve and boost the best of local customs, traditions and landmarks that make communities unique.” 
The company is prepared to accept submissions from different organizations like charities, NGO’s and community groups with the target of confirming those that would receive funding by February 2018.  
Although the program has been described of being different from the Airbnb platform, those eager to apply are therefore suggested to “look at how they can take advantage of the Airbnb marketplace to enhance their impact.” A series of ad hoc projects are already under the belt of Airbnb has already run across Europe in the previous year and the new scheme comes when the company is going through severe criticism in some key European cities.


MTDC TIES UP WITH AIR BNB

 Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) has tied up with Airbnb a global aggregator in the hospitality sector on Tuesday. The government will use Airbnb's global platform. Airbnb will help MTDC to take its unique experiences and some of the less explored by high potential destinations in the state to a larger audience.

"Through this partnership we are aiming to not only reach a larger audience but all create at least 50,000 micro-entrepreneurs in the hospitality sector in the next five years. We are also aiming to build a homestay eco-system in the state and improve the hospitality standards," said Jaykumar Rawal, tourism minister.

Senior official from MTDC said that since 90% of their bookings are made online, this tie up will help boost their business. On an average 22 lakh foreign tourists visit Maharashtra every year. Airbnb will verify all these accommodation facilities to check for safety and cleanliness and only then give their approval to list them on their website.

"MTDC has 1400 bed and breakfast accommodations, which is the highest in the country but the 72 unique experiences which have been categorized under the 'Mahabhraman' will need to be marketed and this is a great opportunity," said Minister for tourism, Jaykumar Rawal. MTDC resorts are well received and are full most of the times in the year, as they are affordable and suitable for family vacations.


PERU'S ANDEAN EXPLORER: A LUXURY TRAIN

Long train journeys are inescapably romantic. They're all about the journey; the destination is irrelevant and distance is an ally. Which is what makes the new Belmond Andean Explorer so exciting. Crossing the spine of the Peruvian Andes, more than 12,000 feet above sea level, between the cities of Cusco, Puno and Arequipa, three days and 456 miles one way, this is the first ever luxury sleeper train in South America.It's a New World version of Europe's Orient Express, adventure and Champagne on the roof of the world.

Belmond Andean Explorer: A luxury sleeper train comes to South America. The train itself, a transplant from a former luxury line in Australia, shipped over and renovated from head to toe, evokes an earlier age of exploration. The elegant rooms, like miniature Art Deco apartments, range from bijou fold-down sofa booths to opulent suites with double beds and idyllic window nooks to watch the world go by. Period details are everywhere: polished silver filigree along the walls, a baby grand piano, cast iron railing in the open-sided observation car to lean over and catch the Andean breeze. So is Latin flair: lampshades the color of Andean lupins, hand-woven textiles in bright Inca patterns, a local three-piece band, which joined us for the last night, and had the entire train dancing salsa as we rattled along under the stars. As well as the 24 guest rooms, and observation car, the 16-carriage train also features a lounge, bar and two restaurants, overseen by celebrated Peruvian chef Diego Muñoz who fuses local recipes with gourmet twists. Plans are also afoot for a spa carriage later this year too. Now that truly is luxury elevated: back rubs and pedicures at 14,000 feet.


CARIBBEAN ISLAND HAS WORLD'S MOST SCENIC AIRPORT LANDINGS

The world’s shortest commercial runway on the Caribbean island of Saba has topped a global travel poll of the world’s most scenic airport landings. The 2017 Scenic Airports poll was conducted by private jet booking service PrivateFly, and a panel of major names in the travel industry formed the shortlist for the public vote.

The top 10 airports are 1. Saba (Juancho E Yrausquin Airport), Dutch Caribbean; 2. Donegal Airport, Ireland; 3. Nice Cote d’Azur, France; 4. Gibraltar Airport, Spain; 5. Queenstown Airport, New Zealand; 6. London City Airport, UK; 7. St Maarten Airport (Princess Juliana International), Caribbean; 8. Orlando Melbourne Airport, US; 9. Barra Airport, Scotland, UK; 10. Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, Canada.

Saba’s runway is just 400 metres long, and thanks to its challenging approach, pilots must have special training to land at the airport. Only certain turboprop aircraft such as the BN-2 Islander or Grand Caravan are agile enough to perform the short stop required. As you land, the waters of Cove Bay are to the left and the Caribbean sea is to the right of the runway.

The island’s dramatic crags and valleys made it the ideal silhouette of Skull Island in the original 1933 King Kong movie, and some of the scenes set deep in the jungle were filmed here. “Flying into Saba is extraordinary – something I’ll never forget and recommend highly to any aviation enthusiast,” says Adam Twidell, CEO of PrivateFly.

 “You approach the mountainous island towering out of the sea, to see an impossibly tiny runway appear perched on a cliff. Only highly-skilled pilots can qualify to fly to Saba, so even as an experienced pilot I felt completely at ease throughout the approach. Saba has an exceptional safety record, making it one of the most memorable civilian aviation experiences available anywhere in the world.”


NEW BOULDERING FESTIVAL IN THE HIMALAYAS

The organisers of a rock climbing event in Manali, India, are hoping to put this small Himalayan town on the map as a serious bouldering venue. Raju Chatak and Nryan Dav, founders of the Manali Bouldering Festival, claim there is around ten-square-kilometres of bouldering potential in the region.

Much of this is uncharted, untouched, and one of the main purposes of the festival, according to Raju, is “to open new lines and help explore the bouldering area. There are no competitions or prizes. We all love adventure and are starting this festival to grow and inspire a community of climbers and outdoor enthusiasts.”  The festival, running until 14 May, is open to climbers of all experience levels, and in addition to bouldering, will include guided trips around the region, meditation events, and plenty of good Indian food. The organisers are expecting relatively small numbers for this first year, but Manali has a good chance of hitting the big leagues quickly, says Joshua Cook, a climber from Colorado who is attending the festival.

 “The most popular climbing area [in India] is Hampi, in Karnataka,” says Joshua. “Once it gets too hot in Hampi, in February or March, climbers who want to stay in India head north to the Himalayas. Manali, and its surrounding area, is now the next main destination. I’m guessing it will be getting more and more attention in the next few years, because word-of-mouth does a lot in the climbing community.” It’s also simply a beautiful place to climb, he says.

 “Here you are in a place that looks like the Alps. It’s green with pine trees, and has four-thousand-metre snow-capped peaks around it. It’s also cleaner and less crowded than in and around Indian cities, so it is easy to relax and find a semblance of peace. “Personally, I think the climbing is really good. The granite is very featured, which makes for a variety of different routes that can engage climbers of many different skill levels. The boulders are in quiet forests and apple orchards and you can find beautiful vistas at just about every climbing spot.”


INDIAN TOURISM ACHIEVES RECORD FIRST QUARTER

India welcomed a record number of international visitors in the first quarter of 2017. The total of 2.85 million arrivals for the January-March 2017 period marked a 13.7% increase compared to Q1 2016 and new first quarter record. International tourism revenues also soared to record levels, rising 14.6% to INR463.1 billion (approx. US$ 6.9bn).

In March 2017 alone, India welcomed a total of 905,000 international visitors, 10.7% up year-on-year.

Bangladesh was the country’s top source market during the month, accounting for 21.3% of the total, followed by the US (10.4%), UK (10.3%), Russia (4.3%) and Malaysia (3.4%). Canada (3.3%), Germany (3.0%), Sri Lanka (2.9%), China (2.8%) and France (2.8%) completed the top 10.

India’s e-tourist visa scheme also grew in popularity in Q1; the country issued 467,000 e-visas during the three-month period, up 45.6% year-on-year.


CHANGES AT MACHU PICCHU WILL SEE VISITORS ENTERING IN 2 SHIFTS

Hiking up to the historic Inca citadel of Machu Picchu in Peru is a travel goal on many people’s bucket lists, but the Unesco World Heritage site has proved so popular that visitors will soon have to enter the site in shifts.

According to the Peruvian Times, starting on 1 July there will be two shifts in which visitors can head to Machu Picchu, one in the morning and on in the afternoon. The first group would be able to visit from 6 am until noon, and the second group from noon until 5:30 pm.

The move is designed to help protect the site from the impact of its incredible popularity, and the efforts to deal with overcrowding have been in the works for years.

Unesco notes that the site is the country’s top attraction for both domestic and international travellers. Due to its archeological significance, it must be protected from the impacts of too many tourists visiting at once. Already there are limits on the number of permits for travellers who want to take the four-day hike along the Inca Trail to get to the spot, though there are other ways for travellers to visit.

What is Machu Picchu? Machu Picchu was built in the 15th century during the Inca Empire. According to Unesco, it was abandoned “after the Inca Empire was conquered by the Spaniards in the 16th century”. Covering more than 32,000 hectares and containing nearly 200 structures, the existence of the site was not known to much of the world until 1911 when an archaeologist came across the incredible mountain-top city once only known to locals.

But, if you’re looking to beat the crowds and get further off-the-beaten-path in Peru, consider the hike to Choquequirao, a set of Incan ruins that are apparently three-times larger than Machu Picchu and see only a handful of visitors every day


SEEKING SOMETHING DIFFERENT IN ASIA?

Asia has enough incredible destinations to keep travellers on the road for a lifetime. But naturally, there are always new spots are on the rise, and a recent study from accommodation site Agoda has revealed the top ten fastest-growing destinations.

The Travel Smart study reveals the top ten destinations gaining popularity with travellers, based on Agoda travellers visiting Asian destinations in 2016. It found that more travellers are seeking out “lesser-known destinations that promise unique experiences”. The spot that has seen the fastest rise is Niseko, Hokkaido, which is a ski resort town, with four interconnected resorts. The area sees and annual snowfall of more than 15 metres, according to Agoda, and offers off-trail skiing.

The top ten fastest-growing destinations are: Niseko, Japan; Banaue, Philippines; Koh Kood, Thailand; Koh Lipe, Thailand; Koh Rong, Cambodia; Koh Lanta, Thailand; Harbin, China; Tangalla, Sri Lanka; Siquijor Island, Philippines; and Khao Lak, Thailand.

Seven of the ten destinations are in South East Asia, with a number of islands on the list, such as Thailand’s Koh Kood, Cambodia’s Koh Rong and the Philippines’ Siquijor Island.

 “It’s clear that more travellers are adopting a more adventurous approach to travel, exploring new, undiscovered places rather than the traditional ‘holiday’ to a well-trodden destination. We’re seeing an increase in bookings made in areas that bring travellers closer to local culture and nature, where life is experienced at a different pace, and against a different backdrop,” said Andy Edwards, the company’s global director brand and communications.

 


LUFTHANSA'S AIRBUS A350-900XWB FROM MUNICH DEBUTS AT CSIA MUMBAI

The Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) witnessed the fly-in of the Airbus A350-900 XWB by Lufthansa German Airline, making it the only airport in India to handle daily operations of two Airbus A350-900 XWB, the world’s most advanced premium passenger aircraft. The newest addition to the Lufthansa fleet will embark on daily 8-hour flights to Munich, which is also one of the airline’s hub location. With a maximum seating capacity of 293 passengers, the cabin has 48 passengers in Business Class, 21 in Premium Economy Class and 224 in Economy Class. The luxury aircraft ensures a spacious atmosphere with its wide seating and high ceilings, and provides a quiet, well-lit cabin, with a relaxing environment and the best of in-flight amenities, in all classes. The aircraft is fitted with state-of-the-art in-flight entertainment with a Wi-Fi adaptive cabin that offers passengers access to movies on demand and mobile phone connectivity, letting them keep themselves updated with work, news or even browse social media and play games online. The Airbus A350-900 XWB marks a generational shift in long haul aircrafts, emphasizing passenger comfort and environment-friendly operations as much as flight range and load capacity. With increasing number of passenger travelling to international destinations, CSIA, Mumbai, one of the busiest airports in the world with single runway system, has through the development of its state-of-the-art infrastructure, actively encouraged airlines to operate on new foreign routes with wide bodied aircrafts so as to meet the rising passenger demand, despite constraints. With over 46 international airlines operating to/from Mumbai, handling more than 12.4 million international passengers in a year, the airport is a key gateway into India, connecting it to key European and other global destinations.


JET AIRWAYS TO OFFER UPI FOR PAYMENTS

Jet Airways’ passengers can now buy tickets online using the industry’s latest payment mechanism – Unified Payments Interface (UPI). The new system allows funds to be transferred instantaneously between any two bank accounts, using a smartphone. UPI becomes the airline’s 21st digital payment option and Jet becomes the only Indian airline to offer this payment solution. “We are continuously exploring ways to embed technology by way of smarter solutions to provide value to the connected traveller. Our latest payment interface – Unified Payments Interface (UPI), backed by leading banks – is yet another smart solution that is simple, convenient and secure,” said Jayaraj Shanmugam, Chief Commercial Officer, Jet Airways. Guests booking via Jet’s website or mobile apps can now opt for the ‘UPI payment option’ during the booking process, in order to transact via a Virtual Payment Address linked to their bank account. This means that customers don’t need to enter their bank details online.


NEW VISA SCHEME IS LIKELY TO ATTRACT MORE INDIANS TO MALAYSIA THIS YEAR

‘Namaste India’ will be a traditional greeting for Malaysia as it eyes this country and takes its outbound tourism to 50 million by 2020. By offering easy and cheap new visa scheme to the Indians, Malaysia aims to cross its outbound spending to US$28bil (RM123.9bil) mark. It would be announced by the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s official trip to India in the coming days. As per this scheme, Indian tourists will only require to pay US$20 (RM88.50) as a processing fee for a 15-day visa to Malaysia making it totally free.
Previously, the company charged additional RM270 per application while managing the e-visa applications apart from the RM108 payable to the Malaysian and Indian governments with a total fee of RM378. President Datuk Hamzah Rahmat believes that the new visa scheme can provide million Indian tourists to Malaysia this year as compared to 722,141 in 2015 and 638,578 in 2016 respectively.
In another 15 to 20 years, India could be second to China in terms of business travel spending as conferred by the report by FCM Travel Solutions. As more and more Indian tourists were willing to visit Malaysia, this scheme would facilitate thousands of enthusiastic travelers from here on. To quote Hamzah, ‘It’s not so much about the price but the ease of obtaining the visa. Travelers want things easy for themselves, including not having to send their passports to the embassy for the application.’


SINGAPORE SAYS INDIA IS A TOP MARKET FOR CRUISE HOLIDAYS

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is targeting Indian tourists as its primary source market consumers for cruise packages after the reports portray that in 2016, out of the 1.2 million people on board, about 100,000 were from India and that marks a 29% increase from the 2015 statistics. Also, on account of the potential number of the nationals, the STB had hosted the second Indian Cruise Forum in Mumbai with an aim to deal with the challenges and opportunities of the Indian travel industry.

This one-day event was attended by more than 120 people hailing from varioustourism sectors including GB Srithar, Regional Director for South Asia, Middle East & Africa who have been leading the seminars. He said in a recent press release to the local media that India is an important key source market for cruising options out of Singapore. Srtithar mentioned that nearly 34% of Mumbai families are ready to spend $1,500 to $3,000 on a cruise ship vacation.

And, nearly 500 travellers would be willing to cruise in Singapore. The STB would be interested in strengthening its tourism initiatives in order to promote South Asian cruise travels in general. Peter Kollar, the head of International Training and Development at Cruise Lines International Association also spoke about the branding and marketing aspect of cruise travel to potential customers.

Annie Chang, the Director of Cruise at STB have the idea that Singapore continues to be the leading cruise destination is Southeast Asia. At the end of the year, the nation would see the docking of two gigantic cruise vessels in its harbors. Royal Caribbean International and Genting Dream have announced plans to stay at Singapore for its global holiday tour. Also, in the year 2018, there would be 72 sails from the Mariner of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas.


JAMMU TO GET ARTIFICIAL LAKE

Jammu will be getting an artificial lake as part of an integrated project executed by the irrigation and flood control department, housing and urban development department and the tourism department.

Responding to queries regarding the progress of the project, J&K Minister for Education, Naeem Akhtar said that the Jammu Artificial Lake is a multi-phase project involving several departments and executing agencies.

Giving details Akhtar, who is also the state government’s spokesman, said, “31 barrages are to be constructed by the irrigation and flood control department on river Tawi near Belicharana as part of the Artificial Lake project.”

He said out of these, 20 barrages are to be constructed on Nikki Tawi and 11 barrages on Baddi Tawi.

Beautification works are also to be carried out along the banks of the River Tawi by the tourism department. As part of the beautification project, a park was inaugurated by the former Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in the area in 2015.

The minister reiterated the government’s commitment to develop Jammu as an independent tourism destination for which, he said, several flagship projects area apace in varied sectors.