Sunday, 21 July 2019

GEORGIA: Russia Flight Ban Causes Tourism Losses To Georgia.

Residents of the Georgian capital of Tbilisi working in the hospitality industry are upset by Russia’s decision to bar its airlines from flying to Georgia amid bilateral tensions, as tourism will decrease just as the high season begins.

"It has affected tourist flow. Russian citizens often visit. I cannot give you specific information on the number of Russian nationals who are currently living in our hotel. But there are a lot of them", a representative of one of Tbilisi hotels said.

Owners of restaurants and taxi drivers predicted a decrease in Russian tourism, as well.

"It is, of course, very bad. It is the beginning of the season. Tourism is economy, money and investment", they said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin suspended air traffic starting on 8 July, ordering that all Russian citizens currently in Georgia be returned.

Putin also instructed travel companies to remove package tours to Georgia for the ban period.

The Russian Association of Tour Operators said that there are currently some 5,000-7,000 Russians in Georgia on tours organized by travel companies, while up to three times more Russians are traveling on their own.

Putin’s decree was announced after violent protests erupted on Thursday in Tbilisi over the participation of a Russian delegation in an international parliamentary forum in country's capital.

They subsequently grew into an opposition rally with demonstrators calling on the government to step down.

At least 240 people were reportedly injured in the unrest, while around 300 people were detained.

Moscow has slammed the response of Georgian leadership during the international event and said it was outraged by the actions of the protesters.

The majority of people arriving in Georgia in early 2019 are Russians.

In the first quarter of 2019, 222,700 people arrived in Georgia from Russia, which is 21.4 percent of the total number of tourist arrivals. In comparison with the figure for 2018, this indicator has increased by 24.3 percent.

Such an increase in the number of Russians is taking place while the total number of visitors to the country has hardly grown.

In total, in the first quarter of 2019, Georgia was visited by a million foreign visitors, which is 1.7 percent more than the same period last year.

Of these, there were 900,000 tourists, those who stayed in the country for at least a day, this is just five percent more than last year.

In the first quarter of 2019, guests in the country spend about 1.2 billion lari about $437 million, which is 15.2 percent less than the same indicator for last year.

The average expenditure per visit decreased compared to last year by 16.1 percent and amounted to 889.7 lari about $323.

According to data released by the national statistics service, visitors spend the most money on food and drinks.


Tourism Observer

RUSSIA: Aeroflot Stops Flights To Georgia

Aeroflot completely stopped flights to Georgia starting from July 8 in accordance with President Vladimir Putin's decision to suspend traffic of Russian airlines to the neighbouring country, the airline company said.

"Starting from 8 July, 2019, Aeroflot completely suspends flights to Georgia. This measure has been taken in accordance with the Russian president's decree. From now on, the main efforts of Aeroflot will be aimed at returning Russian citizens from Georgia," the statement said.

According to Aeroflot, those passengers, whose flights are scheduled for 8 July or a later date, can change the departure for an earlier date without any additional payments or penalties, or return the full cost of tickets, thereby terminating the agreement on carriage.

​Ural Airlines has also suspended sales of tickets to Tbilisi starting from 8 July, a spokesperson for the company announced.

On Friday, President Vladimir Putin suspended the air traffic with Georgia, starting on 8 July, and ordered to ensure that all those currently traveling across Georgia be flown back. Moreover, he instructed travel companies not to sell package tours to Georgia for the ban period.

Commenting on the decision, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated that the measures are forced restrictions imposed by Russia to guarantee safety of Russian nationals in the light of extremist actions that are going on in Georgia.

The Russian Association of Tour Operators said that there are currently around 5,000 - 7,000 Russian tourists traveling to Georgia on tours organised by travel companies, while up to three times more Russians are traveling there on their own.

The decision followed protests in Georgia, which erupted on Thursday over the participation of a Russian delegation in an international parliamentary forum in Tbilisi.

They subsequently grew into an opposition rally with demonstrators calling on the government to step down. At least 240 people have been injured in the unrest, while around 300 people have been detained.

Moscow has slammed the actions of the Georgian leadership during the international event, with Peskov describing the unrest as a "Russophobic provocation."


Tourism Observer

INDIA: Goa Airport Is One Of The Worst Maintained Airport In India

Tourists were left flabbergasted to see the state of affairs prevailing at an airport in the Indian state of Goa, thronged by thousands of tourists from across the world.

A large number of tourists from all over the world come to Goa, India via Dabolim International Airport, but some might be coming for the wrong reasons.
People took to social media to express their shock and dismay after snapshots of travellers sleeping on the floor or enjoying a nap near the airport’s departure zone, went viral online.

A section of the netizens felt the sight was reminiscent of a railway station, with footwear scattered all around the airport and luggage piled up in heaps.

The outrage prompted the airport authorities to issue instructions and promise this would not happen again.

A journalist Tweeted to share the embarrassment and said, it’s time to take tourism more seriously in the coastal State of Goa, the favourite Indian getaway for westerners.
I have already raised my concern. Goa airport is one of the worst maintained Airport in India.

“We share your concern. This is a one of a kind incident and was noted with due concern. The instructions to the concerned departments have been issued; to be more watchful and we ensure it will not reoccur,” said Gagan Malik, Goa airport director.

Others came to the support of the people sleeping on the floor, saying it was an issue of poor infrastructure and lack of public transport in the state.


Tourism Observer

UAE: Advisory Issued By The UAE Embassy In Bangkok For Visitors Travelling To Thailand


The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Bangkok, Thailand, has warned its citizens from possessing any type of the electronic cigarettes while visiting the Asian country, as it is prohibited under the country's laws.

Possessing any type of e-cigarettes would be punished by fine, imprisonment or both, the embassy noted.

Moreover, the embassy added on its official Twitter account that Thai authorities won't allow travellers to carry more than 200 cigarettes, in 20 packs, according to Thailand's law.

It emphasized that any obtaining more cigarettes would be punished with fines, as well as seizing of the cigarettes.

Meanwhile, an Asian visitor was arrested at the Dubai airport after authorities discovered that he was using a fake travel document.

Airport authorities suspected that the defendant might be travelling illegally.

According to the public prosecution, in May, the airport authorities suspected that the defendant might be travelling illegally, as he bought the tickets just two days before the flight, and had no baggage.

While checking the passport at the departure gate, an officer at the airport found out that the document was printed using normal ink and had no official marks.

The officer also noticed that Indonesian passport had a fake entry stamp on it.

The 30-year-old man was arrested and the public prosecution referred his case to the criminal court for forging official documents.


Tourism Observer

USA: Southwest Planes Collide At Nashville International Airport, Nobody Was Hurt

One of the planes has just landed and was taxiing to the parking lot, while the second was preparing for departure.

During the towing, the Southwest Airlines plane preparing for a flight to St. Louis, Missouri, touched the wingtip of an identical airplane that was supposed to depart for Atlanta, Georgia.

Nobody was injured as a result of the incident.

Judging from the picture, which one of the passengers made during the flight to Atlanta, the other aircraft had damaged the upper part of its vertical stabiliser.

After the collision, both aircraft were temporarily grounded for inspection.

Two Southwest Airlines planes have collided on the tarmac of Nashville International Airport.

Airline officials say no injuries were reported in Saturday (July 21) night's collision.

An emailed statement from Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Michelle Agnew says the winglet of the St. Louis-bound Southwest Flight 1555 "came into contact" during pushback with the winglet of Southwest Flight 4580, headed for Atlanta.

A photograph provided by a passenger onboard the flight to Atlanta showed rainy weather and what appeared to be the top of the other plane's fin clipped off.

The airline says both planes returned to the gate "under their own power" and were taken out of service for evaluation. The Southwest flights will continue towards the scheduled destinations using new planes.

A spokeswoman for the airport directed inquiries to Southwest.


Tourism Observer

EGYPT: Lufthansa And British Airways Suspend Flights To Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh And Cairo

Lufthansa has followed the UK British Airways in temporarily flight suspension to the Egyptian capital as a precaution for security reasons, according to the company's statement, cited by local media.

Lufthansa has said in a statement that as safety is the number one priority of Lufthansa, the airline has temporarily suspended its flights to Cairo today as a precaution, while further assessment is being made.

Lufthansa canceled flights from Frankfurt and Munich to Cairo but is expected to resume service to the Egyptian capital on Sunday. The similar statement was issued earlier by British Airways.

"We constantly review our security arrangements at all our airports around the world and have suspended flights to Cairo for seven days as a precaution to allow for further assessment. The safety and security of our customers and crew is always our priority, and we would never operate an aircraft unless it was safe to do so", the statement said.

A spokesperson for the UK-based company has said that the flights were suspended "for seven days as a precaution to allow for further assessment".

Earlier, the United Kingdom's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised passengers against air travel to and from Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh but has not issued a similar warning on Cairo.

"There’s a heightened risk of terrorism against aviation. Additional security measures are in place for flights departing from Egypt to the UK. You should co-operate fully with security officials at airports", the FCO said.

British staff had been checking security at Cairo airport on Wednesday and Thursday. They reportedly gave no further details.

Russia suspended civilian air traffic to Egypt in November 2015 after a bomb brought down a Russian plane, which took off from Sharm el-Sheikh en route to St. Petersburg, killing all 224 people on board.

Before regular flights between Moscow and Cairo were resumed in April 2018, Egypt had to seriously enhance security at airports. Charter flights between Russia and Egyptian resorts are yet reportedly to be resumed.

The suspension reportedly resulted in massive losses in Egypt's tourism industry, since this was one of the most popular destinations for Russian tourists. It is estimated that Egyptian authorities have spent millions of dollars to ensure the airports’ security.

British Airways said Saturday it had suspended flights to Cairo for seven days as a precautionary measure following a security review.

The British flag carrier said it would not operate its aircraft unless it felt it was safe to do so.

The British Foreign Office updated its travel advice on Saturday with the British Airways suspension. The Lufthansa website also included a link to the British warning page.

In its travel advice for British nationals heading to Egypt, the Foreign Office in London warns: “There’s a heightened risk of terrorism against aviation.”

“Additional security measures are in place for flights departing from Egypt to the UK. You should co-operate fully with security officials at airports.”

Britain advises against all but essential travel by air to or from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on the Sinai peninsula.

“Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Egypt. Although most attacks occur in North Sinai, there is a risk of terrorist attacks across the country,” Britons are warned.

Britain canceled flights to Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh in 2015 after jihadists bombed a Russian airliner carrying holidaymakers from the Red Sea resort, killing more than 220 people on board.

An estimated 415,000 British nationals visited Egypt in 2018.


Tourism Observer