Saturday 29 August 2015

INDONESIA: Korowai, Cannibal Tribes Of Papua, Indonesia

In the dense tropical forests of Guinea, Indonesia, scattered across mountain ranges, there lives a jungle tribe known as the Korowai. Their first contact with the outside world was in 1970’s, when a group of missionaries discovered a group of people living in timber treehouses and using stone tools.
The primitive Korowai tribe of Papua, Indonesia was first contacted in the 1970s by archaeologists and missionaries, at which point they were still using stone tools and living in wooden treehouses. Since then, they pretty much still just do the stone tool and treehouse scene.

The Korowai believed that the entire world would be destroyed by an earthquake if they ever changed their customs. The indigenous Korowai tribe have been building their towering tree houses probably long before we ever had skyscrapers, on the isolated island of New Guinea, part of Papua in the Indonesian Rainforest.

Now that's either a batshit crazy level of commitment to tradition or a really killer excuse for when whitey comes around and asks you to stop living in your bitchin' treehouse. Regardless, it worked: The missionaries decided to take a hands-off approach and not risk the angry earthquake god of the Korowai.

More importantly, the Korowai's location is so densely forested and mountainous that most of its villages don't even have contact with each other, let alone with the outside world. When the tribe was surveyed by census officials in 2010, they first had to walk for two weeks -- after a long trip by boat from the nearest (still extremely friggin' remote) villages.

Plus, instead of discouraging tourism via a liberal application of murder, like the Sentinelese, the Korowai seem content to just prank society until it goes away. In addition to the totally-for-real earthquake that they "swear" will happen if they "ever put on pants," the Korowai also duped an Australian news team who trekked out to the area in 2006. The tribe put forward a young boy for the reporters to film, telling them a heart-rending story about how he was in danger of being eaten by cannibals. After the team somberly filmed the story and left, another news crew flew in to stage a dramatic on-screen rescue ... and was immediately arrested for not having visas, presumably to the tune of raucous Korowai laughter.

An expert on the tribe insists that this is exactly the kind of thing they do and assured reporters that the cannibalism story was embellished from the start, that the Korowai are likely just a tree-bound band of merry pranksters and that the only thing they want with the modern world is to see the looks on our faces.

ETHIOPIA: Bodi Tribesmen Drink Mixture Of Blood & Milk To Grow Fat

Ethiopian men compete to be the fattest in the village by drinking a gruesome mixture of blood and milk while living in isolation for SIX months

Men from the Bodi tribe compete to become the fattest during the new year or Ka'el ceremony
They spend six months guzzling a mixture of blood and milk in a bid to fatten up as fast as they can
The winning fat man doesn't get a prize but is feted as a hero for life by the rest of the tribe
Bodi want to retain their traditions but they are threatened by government resettlement plans

The tribe where big is definitely beautiful: Ethiopian men compete to be the fattest in the village by drinking a gruesome mixture of blood and milk while living in isolation for SIX months.

Slim might be in elsewhere but for Ethiopia's Bodi or Me'en people, bigger is always better. The tribe, which lives in a remote corner of Ethiopia's Omo Valley, is home to an unusual ritual which sees young men gorge on cow's blood and milk in a bid to be crowned the fattest man.

Every child wants to become one of the fat men, according to Lafforgue, who are feted as heroes by the rest of the tribe for their incredible feat

Six months after starting the regime, the men emerge to show off their newly engorged physiques and for a winner to be chosen. The champion fat man is then feted as a hero for the rest of his life.

The contest begins six months before the ceremony. Every family is allowed to present an unmarried man for the challenge, who, after being chosen, retires to his hut and must not move or have sex for the duration.

Food comes in the form of a cow's blood and milk mixture, served regularly to the men by women from the village. The cows are sacred to the Bodi tribe so they are not killed. The blood is taken by making a hole in a vein with a spear or an axe, and after that, they close it with clay.

On the day of the Ka'el ceremony, the tribe's fat men walk for hours around a sacred tree, watched by other men and helped out by the women.The feat begins six months before the Ka'el ceremony when participants retire to their huts where they stay, while the women bring them food.

Sadly, the Ka'el ritual and the Bodi's traditional way of life is under threat from the Ethiopian government who plan to resettle 300,000 people from all over the country on their lands.

For now, the tribe continue as they always have, and still celebrate Ka'el in traditional style each June.

Because of the scorching temperatures, the men have to drink the two-litre bowl of blood and milk quickly before it coagulates , not everyone can handle drinking so much at speed.

The contest begins six months before the ceremony. Every family is allowed to present an unmarried man for the challenge, who, after being chosen, retires to his hut and must not move or have sex for the duration.

Food comes in the form of a cow's blood and milk mixture, served regularly to the men by women from the village. 'The cows are sacred to the Bodi tribe so they are not killed,' explains Lafforgue. 'The blood is taken by making a hole in a vein with a spear or an axe, and after that, they close it with clay.'

Because of the scorching temperatures, the men have to drink the two-litre bowl of blood and milk quickly before it coagulates but as Lafforgue reveals, not everyone can handle drinking so much at speed.

'The fat men drink milk and blood all day long,' he says. 'The first bowl of blood is drunk at sunrise. The place is invaded by flies. The man must drink it quickly before it coagulates but some cannot drink everything and vomit it.'

On the day itself, the men cover their bodies with clay and ashes before emerging from their huts for the walk to the spot where the ceremony will take place.

The fat men drink milk and blood all day long. The first bowl of blood is drunk at sunrise. The place is invaded by flies. The man must drink it quickly before it coagulates but some cannot drink everything and vomit it.

On the day itself, the men cover their bodies with clay and ashes before emerging from their huts for the walk to the spot where the ceremony will take place.

Thanks to the weight gain, many of them find covering the short distance tougher than the weeks spent fattening up. Some fat men are so big that they cannot walk anymore.

The dress code for the ceremony also includes a selection of beautifully worked headdresses, in this case, one made from cowrie shells and ostrich plumes.Every part of the men's bodies are daubed with the ash and clay mixture and the men also wear colourful beaded necklaces and bracelets.

Once the men are ready to go, they walk to the sacred tree where the ceremony takes place - a challenge for them because of their weight

During the walk and the ceremony that follows, the Bodi women are on hand to help out the fat men with drinks of water and fortifying alcohol

Thanks to the weight gain, many of them find covering the short distance tougher than the weeks spent fattening up. 'Some fat men are so big that they cannot walk anymore,' explains Lafforgue.

'One asked me if he could use my car to go to the ceremony area. Once in the car, he started to drink milk and blood again because he said he wanted to keep trying to be the fattest until the very last moment.'

The ceremony itself involves spending hours walking in a circle around a sacred tree, watched by the other men and helped by the women who ply them with alcohol and wipe away the sweat.

Once the fattest man has been chosen, the ceremony ends with the slaughter of a cow using a huge sacred stone. Village elders will then inspect the stomach and the blood to see whether the future will be a bright one or not.

After the ceremony, the men's lives return to normal and most lose their enormous bellies after a few weeks of eating sparingly. But a few weeks later, the next generation of competitively fat Bodi men will be chosen and the cycle will begin again.

Becoming a fat man is the dream of every Bodi kid. 'A few weeks after the ceremony he will recover a normal stomach but he will remain a hero for life.'

Because the men are so overweight and have been unable to exercise for six months, they need regular breaks during the ceremony

The ceremony itself involves spending hours walking in a circle around a sacred tree, watched by the other men and helped by the women who ply them with alcohol and wipe away the sweat.

Once the fattest man has been chosen, the ceremony ends with the slaughter of a cow using a huge sacred stone. Village elders will then inspect the stomach and the blood to see whether the future will be a bright one or not.

After the ceremony, the men's lives return to normal and most lose their enormous bellies after a few weeks of eating sparingly. But a few weeks later, the next generation of competitively fat Bodi men will be chosen and the cycle will begin again.

Becoming a fat man is the dream of every Bodi kid.

A few weeks after the ceremony the fat men will recover a normal stomach but he will remain a hero for life.

JORDAN: Dead Sea Dying Slowly

The Dead Sea, occupied West Bank - On the Dead Sea's coast in the occupied West Bank, Israeli settlers, Palestinians and tourists make the downhill trek from the former waterline to its new resting place.

The Dead Sea, a unique body of water marked by mineral-rich, unusually salty water - nearly 10 times saltier than the world's oceans - is dying. Its water level is dropping by roughly one metre each year.

"We think that the current situation is an ecological disaster," said Gidon Bromberg, director of EcoPeace Middle East (EPME), an organisation that brings together Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian environmentalists to protect their shared environmental heritage.

"It's unacceptable: The unique ecosystem is in severe danger, threatening biodiversity, and you see dramatic sinkholes opening up along the shore," Bromberg said, referring to the large, unpredictable cavities that have appeared recently. Some are so cavernous that they swallow entire structures.

The two main reasons for the dropping water level are mineral extraction by Israeli and Jordanian companies in the artificially shallow southern basin, and the fact that 95 percent of the Jordan River - the Dead Sea's main source of replenishing water - is being diverted. The river used to provide 1,350 million cubic metres of water each year (mcm), but that flow has dwindled to just 20 mcm.

Israel, Jordan, and the occupied West Bank all border the Dead Sea, and have taken steps to deal with its disappearance. The first concrete plan was signed in 2005, when all three parties signed a letter to the World Bank that allowed the international financial institution to investigate the feasibility of a $10bn project to pump 850 mcm of water from Jordan's section of the Red Sea to a desalination plant at the southern end of the Dead Sea.

The 2,000 mcm of ultra-saline brine that results from the desalination process would then be pumped to the Dead Sea over the course of 40 years. Bromberg said EPME was unable to support this project, because the "environmental impact was unknowable".

A main concern for environmental groups has been the effect that introducing such high volumes of foreign brine water would have on the Dead Sea's unique ecosystem, which features unique bacterial and fungal life forms.

After years of consultations involving government officials and civil society groups, including EPME, the original project was put on hold. However, the parties continued negotiations, and in February, a final agreement emerged: a $950m "pilot programme" water-sharing arrangement, in which Jordan will construct a desalination plant near Aqaba, on the coast of the Red Sea.

The scheme will produce about 85 mcm of fresh water a year. Up to 50 mcm will be sold to the southern Israeli resort city of Eilat, leaving about 35 mcm for use in Aqaba city. As part of the agreement, Israel will sell another 50 mcm of freshwater to Amman from the Sea of Galilee.

EPME supports the new water change agreement between Israel and Jordan. Bromberg said that this much smaller project "will have manageable environmental impacts that make a lot more sense". However, EPME does not support the deal’s proposed pipeline that will pump desalinated water to the Dead Sea from Aqaba, saying the projected cost of $400m is “not realistic” and would only halt the drop in the Dead Sea's water level by about 10 percent, without addressing related environmental concerns.

Jordan, as one of the world's most water-scarce countries, stands to gain from the agreement. But the Palestinian Authority (PA), the governing body of the occupied West Bank, was left out. Israel and Jordan are approaching the new arrangement bilaterally.

The PA is awaiting negotiations with Israel on a separate agreement, in which Israel would sell another 20-30 mcm a year to the West Bank.

Clemens Messerschmid, a German hydrogeologist who has been working on water projects in the Gaza Strip and West Bank since 1997, said that these agreements were nothing more than an attempt by Israel to cement the current status quo, in which it controls water extraction from the occupied territories and the Jordan River basin then sells this water back to Palestinians.

"Palestinians, by default, are the real loser of these agreements, whether the 'pilot programmes' or the $10bn World Bank scheme," Messerschmid said.

Israel became a water-surplus country in 2013. Often, programmes encouraging conservation and recycling of waste water are cited as the reason for Israel's water surplus, but Messerschmid said the overwhelming majority of the surplus comes from the five desalination plants constructed along Israel's Mediterranean coast.

The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics says that roughly 100 mcm of water are extracted for use in the occupied territories from their own resources, namely aquifers in the West Bank, every year. The West Bank's yearly water need is 400-450 mcm, leaving a gap that must be filled by purchasing water from Israel.

"Under international law, Palestinians in the West Bank have the right to access the water of the Jordan River, but they haven't seen a drop since 1967," Messerschmid stated. "Furthermore, Israel doesn't allow them access to more than microscopic amounts from the local mountain aquifer sources."

The Eastern Mountain Aquifer sits almost entirely within the West Bank, and has no inflows or outflows to or from Israel. However, according to Ayman Rabi, director of the Palestinian Hydrology Group (PHG), this aquifer has been pumped nearly dry by Israeli settlers living in the West Bank, and has "no more potential" for water extraction.

"I would say that the situation in the West Bank is worse than ever before, with water access and availability at dire levels," Rabi said.

Both Rabi and Bromberg were hopeful about one aspect of the new water reality in the region: Israel's water surplus should make negotiations on Palestinian water rights easier.

"Five years ago, had you wanted to share the water more fairly, Israeli farmers would have blocked every road. With this surplus, natural water can be shared more fairly," Bromberg said.

As for the Dead Sea, Bromberg predicted that it will "never completely dry up". Surrounding springs will continue to replenish some of the water, but the current water level of 417 metres below sea level could fall to more than 700 metres below sea level in the coming years. The reduced water level could even more seriously endanger biodiversity.

Messerschmid, meanwhile, believes that the uproar over the Dead Sea's water needs pales in comparison to the water needs of the Palestinians. "These are real people, with real concerns regarding access to water; 4.6 million Palestinians have been held hostage to Israel's hydro-apartheid for half a century," he said.

"Their rights should be held above that of the bacteria at the bottom of the Dead Sea."

VENEZUELA: Venezuela-Colombia Border Closed

Venezuela's president has escalated his country's dispute with Colombia by expanding the partial closure of their shared border to four new frontier towns.

More towns partially closed by President Maduro as part of crackdown in response to attack on anti-smuggling patrol.

Acting again a day after the two countries recalled their ambassadors, Nicolas Maduro extended on Friday the border closure, which originally applied to a heavily trafficked stretch of border comprising six towns.

Venezuela and Colombia have been locked in a diplomatic row since Maduro closed part of the border last week after unidentified assailants attacked a Venezuelan anti-smuggling patrol, wounding three soldiers and a civilian.

He blamed the attack on right-wing paramilitaries from Colombia.

Venezuelan officials have deported more than 1,000 Colombian migrants and another 5,000 have left voluntarily, with some carrying all of their belongings across a muddy river.

"To clean up paramilitary activity, crime, smuggling, kidnapping and drug trafficking, I have decided to close the border for zone number two in the state of Tachira," Maduro said in a speech in Caracas on Friday.

He said he was sending 3,000 troops to "search high and low for paramilitaries, even under rocks".

He said he was open to meeting Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to discuss the mounting tensions wherever and whenever his counterpart chooses, but was leaving the next day for a trip to Asia.

'Attack on economy'

Maduro accused Colombia of waging "an attack on Venezuela's economy" - a reference to the rampant smuggling of heavily subsidised food and other goods out of Venezuela, where more than five million Colombians live.

In Caracas, thousands of government supporters created traffic jams on Friday as they marched to the presidential palace in support of the new measures, which they said were not aimed at Colombian migrants themselves.

Maduro danced on stage to live music and told cheering supporters that he had waited long enough for Colombia to rein in the violence and crime seeping over the border.

However, the UN high commissioner for human rights called on both sides to work to resolve the crisis, and put extra emphasis on Venezuela's responsibilities.

"We urge the Venezuelan authorities to ensure that the human rights of all affected individuals are fully respected, particularly in the context of any deportations," said Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

A meeting of the two countries' foreign ministers on Wednesday failed to bear fruit, and on Thursday both countries recalled their ambassadors for consultations, the diplomatic equivalent of lodging a complaint.

Santos has called for an emergency meeting of the Union of South American Nations and the Organisation of American States (OAS), saying: "We want to tell the world what is happening."

The OAS is expected to meet to discuss the situation next week.

The porous, 2,200km border has long been rife with fighters from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN), as well as drug gangs and smugglers.

The Colombian gangs include the remnants of right-wing paramilitary groups that once battled FARC and ELN fighters but were disbanded a decade ago.

FARC issued a statement from Havana, Cuba, where it is negotiating a peace deal, saying it supported Venezuela's actions.

Maduro blames Colombian smuggling for severe shortages of basic goods in Venezuela, a problem that led to violent protests in the country last year.

Venezuela has long used its oil wealth to fund price controls that keep goods like rice and toilet paper up to 10 times cheaper than in Colombia.

TANZANIA: Politicians Use Witchcraft To Win Elections

Tanzanian politicians have been warned to steer clear of witchcraft ahead of elections later this year after the nation's parliament heard lawmakers could be involved in a wave of attacks on albinos whose body parts are prized in 'black magic' rituals.

The East African country imposed a ban on witchcraft earlier this year to try to stop a trade in albino body parts used in spells and charms claiming to bring luck and wealth, as the United Nations warned of a marked increase in attacks.

Pereira Silima, Tanzania's deputy home affairs minister, urged politicians to be wary of promises from witch doctors to help them secure victory in the October general election.

"I want to assure my fellow politicians that there won't be any parliamentary seat that will be won as a result of using albino body parts," Silima told the national parliament late last week.
Africa Investigates - Spell of the Albino.

Albinos face attack in many parts of Africa, but kidnappings, attacks and killings are more common in Tanzania.

At least 75 albinos - who lack pigment in their skin, hair and eyes - including children, have been killed in Tanzania since 2000, according to UN figures. Many of them were hacked to death.

Witch doctors will pay as much as $75,000 for a full set of albino body parts, according to a Red Cross report.

The United Nations warned in March that 2015 could be a dangerous year for albinos in Tanzania as politicians turn to witch doctors to widen their chances of winning the polls.

In the first admission of its kind in parliament on Monday, Silima said reports linking politicians to albino killings could be true since attacks rose during elections.

Vicky Ntetema, executive director of Under The Same Sun, a Canadian non-profit working to defend albinos, said an investigative report eight years ago exposed politicians who sought magic potions from witch doctors to win elections but this was the first time that the link was made in parliament.

"As sad and as disgusting as it is to hear a government minister admitting that politicians are involved in albino killings, I am glad that finally this is an official acknowledgement," Ntetema said.

Ntetema said the parliament had not seriously discussed the plight of albinos after the atrocities were first reported in 2006 and had failed to take strong enough action.

It was not until this year that President Jakaya Kikwete vowed to stamp out the practice he said brought shame to his nation, imposing a ban on witchcraft and with police arresting over 30 witch doctors in recent months to stop the attacks.

Albinism is a congenital disorder which affects about one in 20,000 people worldwide, according to medical authorities. It is, however, more common in sub-Saharan Africa, affecting an estimated one in 1,400 in Tanzania.

SOUTH AFRICA: Police Seize Cocaine Valued At R50m At Tambo International Airport

Authorities discovered the drugs on Friday in the cargo section hidden in 147 hair product bottles.

Police have seized 143 kilograms of cocaine with an estimated value of R50 million at the OR Tambo International Airport.

Authorities discovered the drugs on Friday in the cargo section hidden in 147 hair product bottles.

The parcel arrived from Brazil and was in transit to Cotonou in Benin.

Police say this is one of their largest drug busts.

Spokesperson Vishnu Naidoo says no arrests have been made.

“We’re constantly employing our measures we have in place to ensure drugs pumping through our airports destined for South Africa or neighbouring countries don’t get onto the streets.”

THAILAND: Erawan Shrine Suspected Bomber Arrested

Thai police have arrested a suspect in a bombing that killed 20 people and wounded scores more at a shrine in Bangkok this month, authorities said Saturday.

The man, also suspected of involvement in a second blast a day later in Bangkok, was arrested at an apartment in a suburb of Bangkok, police spokesman Lt. Gen. Prawut Thavornsiri said.

However, he is not the man in a yellow T-shirt and dark-framed glasses who was identified from surveillance video as the chief suspect in the bombing, Prawut said.

"The man we have is not the man in the sketch, but we believe he is part of the network which carried out the two bomb incidents," he said.

Prawut initially said the suspect arrested Saturday was a Turkish national. But he subsequently said: "At first we thought he is Turkish. But we just found out two Turkish passports he is holding are all fake.

"We also found many empty fake passports, also various kinds of evidences."

Prawut said investigators hunting for clues had "also found the same type of ball bearings in this man's apartment."

High ranking police officers, forensic experts and army personnel were all seen outside the building shortly after news of the arrest broke.

The apartment is in the Nong Jok suburb, an area known to house a large Muslim community.

The deadly explosion at Bangkok's Erawan Shrine -- a spot popular with tourists and locals -- wreaked havoc on August 17. The second blast, which occurred at a pier on the Chao Phraya River that flows through Bangkok, did not cause any casualties.

TANZANIA: Karibu Travel Market Tanzania

The Karibu Travel Market Tanzania is organized by the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators and is a 3-day International Travel Market attracting participants, business men and women and public visitors from East Africa, Central & the Southern African territories.

It is now being held at the Heron Recreational Centre and our Google map link shows you exactly where the centre is situated – opposite Arusha Airport.

Karibu Travel Market Tanzania has since grown into Africa's second biggest tourism event of the year and one of the most competitive and most dedicated Travel Markets for the East & Central African region. Formerly the event was centered on informal networking and developing relationships amongst all stakeholders within the Tourism industry in an atmosphere similar to a fair. It now however serves a wider purpose, with intensified market opportunities, superior quality, increased professionalism in great surroundings that provide more services to the exhibitors, delegates, VIPs and visitors.

The overriding goal of Karibu Travel Market Tanzania is to bring the whole of East Africa to one place, at the same time, providing overseas tour agents the perfect opportunity to meet and network with members of the East African tourism industry. It also is the perfect opportunity to launch new destinations, facilities and products to overseas agents.

Karibu Travel Market Tanzania offers the perfect venue for:

Global tour and travel agents to form professional relationships, new deals and partnerships in a short period of time.
Allowing overseas tour agents to visit the national parks and properties and familiarize themselves with Tanzania as a prime travel destination.
Generating direct business for local hotels, restaurants and transport.
Creating employment, directly and indirectly by assisting development for small and medium enterprises as well as large corporate operators.
Raising the City/Regional profile.

List of exhibitors 2015

96 I & M BANK

Welcome to Karibu Travel Market Tanzania’s new Booking System
This EASY TO USE REGISTRATION & BOOKING SYSTEM allows you to register quickly and efficiently.

Pick the tent you wish to book in. Within that tent choose from 1 up to 3 stands, according to the space you want. IT IS IMPORTANT YOU NOTE:
AN ORANGE COLOUR indicates that some stands in the tent have been booked
A RED COLOUR indicates that all stands within a tent are booked & paid for.
IMPORTANT: Priority is given to the triple stands (a whole tent). The Organizer reserves a right to re-allocate double and single stands to another suitable location of a similar standard.
After your booking is done, Karibu staff will confirm the booking by issuing an invoice and emailing payment instructions. We need to emphasize that invoices will be sent by the Karibu office after the reserved booking is done.
Full NAMES OF PARTICIPANTS and extra Karibu COCKTAIL INVITATION CARDS must be submitted by email to Karibu TMT, once you have indicated these on your booking form. Please ensure you refer to your 'Tent Stand Number' when doing so.
PLEASE NOTE: NO CASH transactions are possible. ONCE YOU HAVE RESERVED YOUR TENT STAND, an invoice will be emailed to the Exhibitor. When payment is received the Karibu administrator will turn your tent stand to RED and issue you an official receipt.
The Organiser's bank account details are as follows:
(Beneficiary):KARIBU TRADE FAIR LIMITED, P.O. Box 6162, Arusha, Tanzania
Account Number (USD): 0725330307
Account Number (TZS): 0725330001
(2015 applicable exchange rate: 1,850 TZS per 1 USD)
(2015 applicable exchange rate: 1,850 TZS per 1 USD)
Swift Code: EXTNTZT


Our new Karibu TMT office team has already entered many tent stand bookings for exhibitors who booked or reserved stands prior to this new website & booking facility.
If you have not done already please check that your tent stand has turned RED. If you have questions please contact us to confirm your BOOKING STATUS: E-MAIL:; TEL: +255 27 254 5633 for verbal assistance.


SWAZILAND: 38 Swazi Girls Killed En route To Traditional Reed Dance

At least 38 young Swazi girls have been killed and 20 others critically injured while on their way to cut reeds for the Umhlanga Reed Dance in Swaziland.
Reports say the girls were travelling in an open truck along the Mbabane Manzini highway on Friday night when their vehicle hit a car.

The accident comes just a day before King Mswati the third is expected to choose a new wife.
It's understood police and the local media have been barred from reporting on the incident.

The Swaziland Solidarity Network's Lucky Lukhele says the death toll is expected to rise.

“We can confirm that 38 died and that was confirmed on the spot and some have been admitted to hospital.”
The network says the Swazi government must be held accountable

In a statement on Saturday, the group said: "What saddens our network is the fact that the loss of life was avoidable. To begin with, carrying people in trucks is against traffic laws." Reports say the girls were at the back of an open truck when the collision occurred.

The group further went on to call for the reed dance to be cancelled, and for the royal family to help the respective families bury their children.

The Times of Swaziland reported that the accident involved two trucks carrying the girls, and a Toyota van. Witnesses reportedly said traffic police officers pulled over the Toyota and the first truck smashed into it. The second truck crashed into the back of the first truck.

PERU: Inca Festival Of The Sun In Cusco, Peru

Tika t'akaqkuna, the emperor's chosen women, scattering flowers ahead of his arrival.

Five centuries ago, the approach of the winter solstice must have been an anxious time for llamas grazing the Andean mountainsides near Cusco in modern-day Peru.

Here at the heart of the vast Inca empire that stretched from Colombia to Chile, the Inca emperor and his subjects would gather as the Sun reached its furthest point from the land and order a mass sacrifice of llamas to appease the Sun god, Inti. The Incas believed that the spilling of llama blood and other rituals would ensure Inti and his life-giving warmth and light would return; crops would grow and thus save them from starvation.

The Inca emperor arrives on a replica of the original golden litter.

Today, during the re-enactment of the ceremony that takes places annually in Cusco, llamas are once again centre stage, but, like the crowds who come to watch, they all get to go home afterwards unscathed.

Inti Raymi (Festival of the Sun) celebrations take place in Cusco over several days but the most important rituals occur on June 24, the day of the winter equinox. Thousands of Peruvians, augmented by many hundreds of overseas visitors, start the day by making their way to the plaza beside the ruins of what was once the richest temple in the Inca Empire, Qorikancha.

Cusco was the capital of the Incas' vast empire and was built in the shape of a puma, an animal they held sacred. Now probably best known as the builders of the stupendous "lost city" of Machu Picchu, the Incas for just over 100 years controlled the largest empire in the Americas. Springing from modest origins, probably as Andean llama herders, the Incas first began to figure in South American history during the late 12th to early 13th centuries but, for a relatively brief golden era between the 1430s and just before their final defeat by the Spanish in 1572, the Incas ruled the Andes and an empire encompassing most of modern-day Peru, along with parts of Colombia, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile.

The representatives from the expanse of the Inca empire saluting the sun during the ceremony.

When the Spanish conquistadors fought their way through to Cusco in 1533 they found the walls of the Qorikancha temple lined with gold, 700 sheets of it, about 1400 kilograms in total. Subsidiary small temples dedicated to the moon and the stars were lined with sheets of solid silver. The temple, which had been built by the Incas' 10th emperor in the mid 15th century, was stripped of its treasures by the Spanish. By 1536 the temple had been handed over to the Dominican religious order, which converted it to a church and monastery, and banned the Inti Raymi for good measure.

Although the Incas' veneration of the Sun, along with their fascination and plethora of beliefs connected with the night skies, imply a heritage of age-old beliefs, the first Inti Raymi was in fact held for the first time in only 1412. It would not be reinstated until 1944.

On the morning of the 2015 re-enactment, Cusco's streets were a jostling mass of humanity... and a few llamas. Most of the locals were Quechua, direct descendants of the Incas. Traditionally dressed women, small in height but due to the voluminous nature of their skirts almost circular in breadth – posed artfully in their bowler hats beside immaculately groomed llamas. Some even added a snowy white lamb to the composition and ruthlessly pursued any tourist who neglected to pay a tip for a photo.

A sacred fire, lit from the rays of the sun, takes hold.

The aroma of giant heaps of freshly cooked popcorn drifted over the crowds; I resisted and chewed on coca sweets instead. At 3300m, Cusco can be literally breathtaking and coca leaves (from which cocaine is derived) are a recognised treatment for keeping mild altitude sickness at bay (quaffing coca tea is the more regular way to imbibe one's perfectly legal dose of coca, but to me it's akin to trying to drink a cupful of bay leaves steeped in hot water).

There was roast guinea pig available for lunch too. It's surprisingly rich and rather greasy but, if the painting in Cusco's cathedral is any indication, it received divine approval – it was the main dish served at the Last Supper, according to an 18th-century Quechua artist.

We watched the first part of Inti Raymi from a classroom overlooking the temple ruins and the grassy expanse of the adjacent plaza. Accompanied by a band of drummers and panpipers, hundreds of performers in an array of traditional costume danced their way into the open space. Above them, on the Inca-built stone terraces on which the temple was built, more participants emerged – Inca high priests, sweepers cleaning the path before the emperor, his chosen women scattering flowers ahead of him, and finally the emperor himself, along with the empress.

The Inca emperor’s handmaidens make their ceremonial entrance.

The rhythmic beat of the drums, the repetitive melodies from the panpipes and the swirl of colour and pageantry below was mesmerising. After addressing the Sun, the emperor, now borne on a golden litter, was carried in procession for 5km through the city and up to the former Inca stronghold of Saqsaywaman.

We made a less splendid journey to the site by bus. Saqsaywaman had, until the Spanish arrived, been a centre for Inca religious and military events and, with a backdrop of snow-capped Andean peaks, now made a spectacular setting for a second re-enactment of the Inti Raymi.

There were temporary stands for tourists but the hill behind had disappeared completely under a sea of locals; balloon sellers, wares bobbing overhead, wove among them, while down at our level, paramedics stretchered away at least two spectators with breathing problems.

A Quechua woman and companion making the most of one of the busiest days in Cusco's tourist calendar.

Dancers, some clad in multi-coloured skirts, other with feather headdresses, and others in rather scanty Amazonian-inspired attire (who were noticeably shaking with cold as the sun dipped low after about 4pm), filled the grassy square. The emperor descended from the fortress ruins, heralded by plumes of red smoke. His subjects paid homage, each section of the assembly dancing before him and offering tributes.

Corralled at the base of some of the original fortifications were a dozen or so llamas. As the climax of the ceremony approached several minions were sent to collect the chosen animal which was then "sacrificed" on the central altar.It could have been even more dramatic as apparently the Incas regularly made blood sacrifices of children or slaves.

The llama was either exceptionally well trained or tranquillised as it lay totally still, giving an extremely good impersonation of a sacrificially dispatched offering. Bonfires were lit and as one, the entire cast of hundreds turned towards the setting Sun and saluted its wintry light.

Yes, it was all very stage-managed and far more of a choreographed spectacle than what would have transpired 500 years ago. However, as the emperor, breastplate gleaming gold in the light, arms raised, pleaded with the Sun to return, it was impossible not to be transported, albeit briefly, back to a time of Sun gods, Earth mothers, sacred pumas and revered llamas.

SOUTH AFRICA: Africa's Only Penguins Perish

They're cute, knee-high, they bray like donkeys and are a tourist attraction near Cape Town. But African Penguins - the continent's only species of the flightless bird - are at risk of extinction.

As shoals of anchovies and sardines have migrated south into cooler waters, the population of African Penguins that feeds on the fish has plummeted by 90 per cent since 2004 along South Africa's west coast, once the stronghold of Africa's only penguin species.

This decline, recorded by South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs, led to four key fishing grounds being declared off limits seven years ago in an experiment to see if the measure could help save the penguins. But scientists are still debating whether fishing has helped push the species to the brink of extinction.

The debate has gotten so acrimonious that the Island Closures Task Team, which oversaw the experiment and determined management actions, disbanded last year. Meanwhile, the fishing bans remain in place.

If effective management of the situation is not carried out, the black-and-white seabirds could soon disappear, experts say.

In the 1930s, South Africa's largest penguin colony had 1 million African Penguins, and there were many other colonies. Now, only 100,000 of the birds remain in all of South Africa and neighbouring Namibia, the only two countries where the species exists. In 2010, the International Union for Conservation of Nature declared the African Penguin endangered.

Of the 17 species of penguins in the world, the IUCN has named four others as endangered: the Yellow-Eyed Penguin and Erect-crested Penguin from New Zealand, the Northern Rockhopper Penguin from islands in the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean and the Galapagos Penguin in Ecuador. Reasons for declines include sea temperature change causing shifts in forage fish, predators, disease, fishing and toxic algae.

Both fisheries scientists and bird specialists agree that the decline of the African Penguin began around 2004 with a southern shift in anchovies and sardines away from the hub of colonies along South Africa's Atlantic coast. Scientists are unsure why the fish have moved, considering as possible causes climate change, overfishing or natural fluctuations.

Now, penguins must swim farther to catch fish, leaving adults weakened. Many have died or abandoned their chicks, with hundreds winding up in the crowded, outdoor pens of a seabird rehabilitation centre, nestled on the edge of Cape Town's Table Bay. It is run by the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds, or SANCCOB. On a recent morning, workers there were feeding and medicating 106 orphans and putting them in pools for a morning swim. Some waddled up to this reporter and gently pecked at her legs. In an attempt to slow the decline, SANCCOB releases rehabilitated penguins into the wild every week.

Relocating penguins to within reach of the masses of anchovies and sardines is only a possibility for chicks - and a difficult one with no guarantee of success.

So, in 2008, the South African government began the experimental ban on fishing in a 20-kilometre radius alternating around four key penguin colonies: Robben and Dassen Islands in the Atlantic Ocean and St. Croix and Bird Islands in the Indian Ocean. Some of these waters were hotspots for sardine and anchovy fishing.

Anchovies and sardines comprise, in volume, the biggest component of South Africa's fishing industry. In terms of revenue, it's the second-biggest.

They are also the penguin's primary food source.

Recently, a team led by Janet Coetzee, a fisheries scientist with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, was on a small, motorised boat among dolphins, seals and giant shipping vessels and towing a hefty oblong device through a banned fishing area. The device determines how many fish are around. Despite the fish migration, such surveys found there were plenty of anchovies for penguins during certain months.

Penguin biologists believe that closing areas to fishing leaves more fish for penguins and boosts chick survival by 18 percent.

But mathematical modelers of fish populations have reservations about that statistic and insist that the impact of fishing is minimal. Coetzee says fishing quotas already allow only approximately 10 per cent of the sardine and anchovy population to be taken, leaving plenty of fish for penguins.

These fisheries experts blame predators like fur seals and sharks, nest flooding, heat stress or disturbances from large fishing vessels for exacerbating the penguin decline - not fishing itself.

Penguin biologists say it's too early to tell.

"These sorts of issues must be teased out and the assumptions clearly understood," said Dr. Rob Crawford, who heads the penguin biologist research. Crawford's team wants to keep the fishing grounds closed for several more years. Fisheries scientists are calling for its end.

The fishing industry is losing its patience and wants to know whether seven years of closures has amounted to anything.

Fishermen follow shoals of fish along the coast. When fishing areas are closed, vessels must take more costly circuitous routes and they suffer losses in catch, said Mike Copeland, strategic project manager for Lucky Star Ltd., a fishing company. An economic analysis of the impact of closures is underway.

"We've been very puzzled as to why the two parties cannot work together to actually come up with sound science that shows exactly what's going on," Copeland said.

An international panel of experts, called for by the South African government to review the experimental closing of the fishing grounds and to find a way forward, met for the first time last year and will reconvene in December.

"There's a lot at stake," said Ross Wanless, conservation program manager of BirdLife South Africa, a non-governmental organisation that supports bird conservation efforts. "We need to act now. "

UNITED KINGDOM: Flight Grounded After Champagne Cork Hits Plane Ceiling

A cork that misfired mid-air was bad news for EasyJet passengers on a flight between Britain and Turkey.

A flight from Britain to Turkey had to be grounded after a misfiring champagne cork brought down oxygen masks.

A stewardess on EasyJet flight EZY8845, on its way from Gatwick to Dalaman, was opening a bottle of bubbly when the stopper shot out and hit the ceiling, The Sun reported.

The impact caused oxygen masks to drop above cabin crew seats at the back of the plane. Already four hours into its journey, the flight had to be diverted to Milan for repairs.

One passenger told The Sun: "It wasn't very funny at the time but I can see the lighter side now.

"All that hassle, delay, and money wasted by EasyJet - all over a champagne cork. No one on the flight could believe it and the people I have spoken to have found it hilarious."

It was reported two off-duty stewardesses were already drinking the champagne when a couple of holidaymakers also ordered a bottle.

Another passenger said after the cork smashed ceiling tiles, the guilty stewardess was "laughing about it".

"The pilot then came on to apologise and sad: 'We've got to divert to Milan to have it repaired because we can't fly with the masks hanging down'."

The jet's arrival was delayed by seven hours.

The airline has confirmed the incident, and apologised to passengers.

World's Worst Airlines Revealed.

Skytrax has released its annual world airline star ratings, which are recognised as a global benchmark of airline standards. Once again, the industry’s worst performers have been named and shamed with a star rating of two or lower. Here are the worst offenders that you will probably want to avoid while travelling abroad.

It doesn’t matter how frugal you are — choosing the cheapest available plane ticket is usually a bad idea. The below airlines have consistently demonstrated a below-average performance across multiple Skytrax rating sectors, indicating that their front-line product and staff service standards are barely acceptable.

According to Skytrax’s website, a two-star airline rating “normally signifies poorer or inconsistent standards of product and front-line staff service for the cabin service and the home-base airport environment.”

A one-star rating, meanwhile, represents “a poor quality of Product delivered across the assessment sectors, combining with low and/or inconsistent standards of front-line Staff Service for the Onboard and home-base Airport.”

Topping the list as the world’s worst airline is North Korea’s Koryo Air. It is the fourth year in a row that the airline has received the lowest rating and the only receiver of a dreaded single-star rating.

Listed in alphabetical order, here are 23 airlines that received two stars or less from Skytrax, earning themselves the title of the world’s worst airlines. As you’d expect, many of the airlines featured on this list come from developing countries, although there are a few from affluent nations including Ireland and the USA.

Airline Country Skytrax rating
Air Italy Italy 2 stars
Air Koryo North Korea 1 star
Bahamasair Bahamas 2 stars
Biman Bangladesh Bangladesh 2 stars
Bulgaria Air Bulgaria 2 stars
China United Airlines China 2 stars
Cubana Airlines Cuba 2 stars
Iran Air Iran 2 stars
Lion Air Indonesia 2 stars
Mahan Air Iran 2 stars
Nepal Airlines Nepal 2 stars
Onur Air Turkey 2 stars
Pegasus Airlines Turkey 2 stars
Rossiya Airlines Russia 2 stars
Ryanair Ireland 2 stars
SmartWings Czech Republic 2 stars
Spirit Airlines USA 2 stars
Sudan Airways Sudan 2 stars
Syrianair Syria 2 stars
Tajik Air Tajikistan 2 stars
Turkmenistan Airlines, Turkmenistan 2 stars
Ukraine Int’l Airlines Ukraine 2 stars
Yemenia Yemen 2 stars

Has anyone had the displeasure of flying with one? Let us know in the comments!

JAPAN: Haneda Airport Secures 5-Star Rating

Tokyo Haneda Airport

Tokyo Haneda Airport achieves the highest global 5-Star Airport rating status for the 2nd consecutive year

Haneda International Airport in Tokyo has been awarded the highest 5-Star Airport quality ranking for the second consecutive year by Skytrax, the air transport rating organisation. This 5-Star Airport rating recognises the highest standards of Product and Service delivery across the Airport environment, and honours airports that are at the forefront for service quality and airport facilities and amenities provided to customers. Haneda International Airport is the only Japanese airport to achieve this top level, 5-Star Airport rating.

Tokyo International Airport Haneda handled 72.8 million passengers in 2014, and is ranked as the second busiest airport in Asia and the fourth busiest in the world.

Edward Plaisted, CEO of Skytrax said: “Haneda International Airport is again recognised for meeting 5-Star targets in terms of what an airport should do, namely to look after and satisfy customers. It delivers very consistent standards of service efficiency and consistency, it is clean and beautifully presented, and makes the process for both departing and arriving passengers as simple as possible. The domestic Terminals (T1 and T2) continue to set Best Practice levels for the quality of shopping and food and beverage outlets located landside, and the International Terminal has been further improved in the last 12 months with the opening of a Terminal Hotel, together with more shopping and food and beverage choices.”

The domestic terminals (Terminal 1 and 2) at Tokyo International Airport Haneda are operated by Japan Airport Terminal Co Ltd, with the international terminal being operated by Tokyo International Air Terminal Corporation. The airport is very popular with customers due to it’s close proximity to downtown Tokyo.

Terminal 1 and 2 are connected by an underground walkway, and there is also a free shuttle bus that operates between the Terminal 1 and 2 and the International Terminal. Tokyo International Airport Haneda will play a very important role in the future in furthering Japan’s development as a tourism-oriented nation and in strengthening air transport hub functions in Japan by making the most of the nation’s domestic air transport network.

World Airport Rating
Skytrax World Airport Star Rating is the leading, professional Quality Benchmarking system evaluating standards of front-line Product and Service quality for airports worldwide. Airports are Rated on the basis of a complex, multi-faceted Product and Service quality assessment system.

Airport Ratings are based on a comprehensive study of front-line airport product and service items. Criteria includes key items of process efficiency, terminal comfort and cleanliness, passenger facilities and staff service. Service ratings covers both official staff (immigration, police, security and customs), as well as more general airport staff (shops, restaurants and cafes, help counters etc).

MONGOLIA: Ordos Airport Awarded 4-Star Rating

Ordos Airport Chairman (right) accepts the 4-Star Award Airport from Mr Edward Plaisted of Skytrax (left)

Ordos Airport in Inner Mongolia, China has been awarded the 4-Star Airport quality ranking for the first time by Skytrax, the air transport rating organisation.

The Skytrax Star Ranking of Ordos Airport evaluated departure, arrival and transfer processes, standard of terminal facilities and services, security and immigration processes. This included airport cleanliness, airport signage, shopping and dining facilities, luggage handling and other front-line areas around the airport.

At an awarding celebration held at Ordos Airport on 12th August 2015, Mr Edward Plaisted (CEO Skytrax) said: “Ordos Airport is responsible for welcoming both Chinese and foreign visitors, many for the first time, acting as a type of ambassador for Ordos. We are pleased to see Ordos Airport delivering a world-class package, showcasing the best attributes of Chinese culture and hospitality, and this reflects a dynamic and successful management approach at Ordos Airport. Skytrax is delighted to today announce that Ordos Airport is awarded the status of a 4-Star Airport, and this is an exceptional achievement for Ordos Airport, to meet the demanding requirements of the global 4-Star Airport ranking.”
About Ordos Airport

Ordos Airport is located in the Ordos Kangbashi district, close to the tourist attraction mausoleum of Genghis Khan. The runway length is 3200 meters, satisfying the Boeing 747 and other large cargo aircraft take-off and landing.

The new terminal was put into use in January 30, 2013, its design concept is “eagles of the grassland”. The terminal building totals some 100,300 square meters, equipped with 11 airbridges, and 11 stands. In the terminal there are 32 check-in counters, 7 domestic passenger security dual channels, 3 international passenger security single channels.

The VIP Wing of the airport covers an area of 10,000 square meters, with 34 separate lounges. The terminal design capability is optimised to meet the needs of 12 million passengers by 2020.

CHINA: Air China First Class Flight Review

Flying on Air China Boeing 777-300ER From Beijing to London

The only benefit of Air China First Class seems to be getting a comfortable seat. This, and the flight departure time was my main reason for choosing to fly Air China from Beijing to London. Having suffered yet another delayed domestic flight from Ordos to Beijing the night before, I was glad of a few extra hours sleep before leaving Beijing, instead of taking the British Airways flight 3 hours earlier.
At the Airport

Check-in at the massive Beijing Capital International Airport was quick, although devoid of any Premium service and with a check in agent that couldn’t understand English. All very disappointing with this being the hub for Air China, and since they have only a small number of First Class customers you would think they might take more interest in them. This trip was on a full fare First Class ticket, not an upgrade or discount price.

From check in there is a train to the E wing of Terminal 3, a journey of about 5 minutes. Exiting the train, you line up for Immigration and then Security screening – there is a First / Business class Fast Track security, but this is often slower than standard processing.

Airside in Terminal 3 there is the usual plethora of scent spraying tax free shops, higher end brands such as Bulgari, Mont Blanc, Salvatore Ferragamo and others. More shops have been squeezed in at the expense of customer comfort, and useful items such as Flight Departure screens are now almost impossible to find.

One noteworthy point is that you will find Beijing Capital International Airport very hot in summer and cold in winter, supposedly because of Chinese energy saving rules. This day in August and the temperature inside the airside section was 26 degrees Celsius, as you queue at immigration even hotter.

Air China First Class Lounge

Air China have First and Business class lounges on the floor above the shopping area. Without proper air conditioning and in full sunshine from the glass exterior walls, the temperature inside was closer to 27 degrees. There is a check of boarding cards as customers enter the lounge, but no proper greeting or welcome is offered by these staff.

Facility wise, this lounge is very poor by first class standards. Overcrowded because Air China sell lounge usage to many other airlines, the lounge remains unchanged since opening in 2008. Chairs are worn and grubby, carpets stained and unpleasant.

The 2 showers are cramped, humid and unhygienic. This theme is replicated in the washroom facilities which are a health hazard. During this visit, the gents washroom cleaner was using the same hand cloth to wipe around the urinals and then proceeding to wipe the counter areas by the washbasins (same cloth, no rinsing etc). For anyone familiar with China, this is a fairly common cleaning technique in China and seriously underlines the problems they have.

Lounge food is Chinese options primarily, and the quality is awful. You rarely see a western or non-Chinese customer eating in this lounge.

Whilst taking a photograph of the hot food display, a member of catering staff quickly came over shouting that it was illegal to take photos of the food, and then repeating the word delete! 1 red and 1 white wine is available, usual soft drinks and beer. You cannot get a proper coffee in this lounge, aside from the most disgusting and unpalatable stewed coffee that sits untouched on a hot plate. Air China lounge WiFi uses the airport free 5 hour WiFi service, and with the firewall restrictions and poor speed of service, it is not worth trying to log on.
Boarding the flight

Time to board cannot come soon enough, and staff warn that Gate E62 it is a 10-15 minute walk to the boarding gate. Air China first class customers are supposed to get a complimentary buggy service from the lounge, and staff had to be reminded twice about this before a buggy was arranged. They also forgot to say that boarding was to be via bus from a very remote stand, almost off the airfield.

Despite the sign for Priority boarding, staff take no notice and First Class queue up behind all others to await transport to the aircraft. As boarding card slips are taken, staff point to a small VIP/First Class bus outside. The theory of some premium service is quickly dissipated when all following economy cabin passengers realise nobody is in control and they quickly board and fill the bus. The bus driver looks puzzled, but being China he is not going to ask questions and prepares to drive off. It transpires the London bound aircraft is a 10 mins bus dive away, parked by the maintenance hangar.
First Class Onboard Air China

A quite new Boeing 777-300ER on this flight, fitted in a 3 cabin configuration with 8 First class suites (1x2x1 layout), 42 Business class flat bed seats (2x2x2 layout) and 261 Economy class seats. To their credit, Air China is one of few airlines that retain a 9-across seat layout in Economy class, most airlines having squeezed in 10-across seating.

The first class seat is comfortable for sitting, relaxing and sleeping, and has reasonable privacy. When you want to sleep, staff will lay down a cover and offer a nice duvet.

The IFE does not start until about 30 minutes after take off, and closes down before top of arrival descent. Screen size is good in First, but the choice of Western/International movies and TV programmes reminds you this is a Chinese airline, and well below standards in this area.

Two local English language Chinese newspapers are offered, but no English language magazines or foreign newspapers are available. A small amenity pouch labelled as L’Occitane is at the seat; aside from a small L’Occitane lip balm and body lotion, all other products are non-branded, cheap Chinese amenity items. You don’t get anything better in the First Class washrooms, with a poor quality Chinese brand (Herborist) trying to imitate western products.

The 3 cabin staff (one Purser and 2 First Class attendants) are quite smiley, and provide the first welcome of the day from any Air China staff. A request for pyjamas confuses the younger female attendant, and after seeking translation help from a colleague, she does eventually return with these. Her service throughout the flight followed a similar pattern, and whilst cheerful and willing, she didn’t understand a word of English aside from the dozen standard phrases she had been taught. These two First Class attendants did provide a fairly good level of service and attention, but for Air China’s top international service one does expect staff to understand and be able to converse English.
Air China First Class Meals

The meal service is little different to Air China business class, and it simply doesn’t come close to international First Class standards. A very chilled appetiser is served with plastic pots of dressing.

The soup has to be re-heated because the first serving was not even tepid. The entrée, billed as “grilled beef tenderloin with truffle cream sauce and duchess potato” would be questioned as Economy cabin food, and was wholly unacceptable. Things didn’t get any better, a pre-plated cheese plate offering 5 pieces of dried up cheese and 2 stale cracker biscuits. This was followed by a stodgy and tasteless “opera” cake.

Usual choices of Chinese teas, but very poor coffee choice and coffee taste. A request for chocolates as listed on the menu was met with a simple and unapologetic response “we don’t have any”.
Air China First Class Trip Summary

It is apparent that despite the Air China statement to be recognised as a “world-class” airline, there is little hope of this at the present time, and Air China standards make it one of the weaker members of Star Alliance from a Quality perspective. As the country’s flag carrier, Air China is being outperformed by government owned rival China Southern Airlines, and privately owned Hainan Airlines.

Thinking about whether one would want to repeat the Air China first class experience, the answer is no – unless a “very” cheap or discounted fare was available, to get the only benefit which is a comfortable seat.

For the price paid for this trip, Air China First Class is a real disappointment.

CHINA: Hainan Airlines Parent To Buy Swissport

Hainan Airlines 5-Star cabin staff

HNA Group, owner of the Chinese 5-Star Airline, Hainan Airlines, has agreed to buy airport luggage handler Swissport International Ltd from PAI Partners SAS for USD $2.81 billion.

HNA will operate Swissport as a stand-alone business within the group. Swissport has approximately 60,000 employees, operating in 48 countries, and is the world´s largest ground and cargo handling company, providing service for about 224 million passengers and handles more than 4.1 million tonnes of cargo a year.

Under HNA ownership, Swissport will continue to expand its global footprint and continue to deliver the highest quality and value added services to existing and future customers. On announcement of the sale, Swissport Chairman Dr Thomas Staehelin commented: “We are pleased to become part of HNA Group and to continue to further strengthening our service offering and global network.”

Adam Tan, President of HNA Group, said: “HNA is excited to support Swissport’s world class management team as they continue to provide the highest quality service to the airline industry and their passengers. HNA is committed to Swissport’s future success in the global aviation market”.
About the HNA Group

HNA Group was founded in 1993, and is a Chinese conglomerate encompassing core divisions of aviation, holdings, capital, tourism and logistics, and has 11 listed companies.

In 2014, HNA Group had more than 110,000 employees worldwide, it is one of the Top 4 in China’s aviation industry, ranking the 120th in China Top 500 Enterprises, and HNA Group entered Fortune Global 500 in 2015 for the first Time, ranking No. 464 with annual revenue of approximately US $25.6 billion.

As at December 2014, HNA Aviation has a fleet of 528 aircraft, serving over 640 Chinese domestic and international routes, flying to over 250 cities, and carrying 72 million passengers annually.

It operates and manages Hainan Airlines, Tianjin Airlines, Deer Jet, Lucky Air, Capital Airlines, West Air, Fuzhou Airlines, Urumqi Air, Yangtze River Express, My CARGO, Africa World Airlines, and Aigle Azur. The aviation division has been maintaining a high level of operation standard and quality. The flagship airline, Hainan Airlines, is a SKYTRAX 5-Star Airline.

NORTH KOREA: World’s Worst Airline, Air Koryo

For the fourth year in a row, North Korean airline Air Koryo has been ranked as the world’s worst airline, achieving a one star rating out of a possible five.

Of the 600 carriers assessed by aviation consultancy Skytrax, none achieved as low a score the secret state’s national airline.

But just how bad is it to fly with the airline?

Reports of luggage being weighed by hand, in-flight entertainment dedicated solely to Kim Jong-un and aircraft dating back to the 1960s suggest it can’t be much fun.

However, generally, reviews of the carrier on the internet aren’t quite as bad as you’d imagine.

The airline’s average customer rating on Skytrax's website is an adequate, if not spectacular, 6.0 out of 10 and of the 41 users to have left reviews, 24 said they would recommend flying Air Koryo.

There are a few worrying comments, but even so, many seem to have been enjoyed their experience.

On Instagram, users have been posting with the #airkoryo hashtag, and even the worst airline in the world has its customers taking photos of their food.

All in all, it's quite a mixed bag. While some customers understand why Air Koryo has such a low rating, others touch down feeling pleasantly surprised.

That's the thing about being 'the world's worst' - you only have to beat low expectations.

CHINA: Woman Can't Carry Bottle of Cognac On Plane, Chugs It On Spot

A woman reportedly downed a $200 bottle of cognac after airport security officials attempted to confiscate the liquor - only to be denied boarding as she was “too drunk to fly”.

The woman, who is being identified only by her surname of Zhao, was allegedly seen rolling about on the floor of Beijing Capitol International Airport, according to the Beijing Times.

Police officers described the woman, believed to be in her 40s, as screaming and shouting.

“She was so drunk… she couldn’t even stand up herself. We took her to a room in a wheelchair so she could rest,” the South China Morning Post reported an officer as saying.

The woman had attempted to carry a bottle of Rémy Martin XO Excellence – typically sold for at least $200 – onto her flight to Wenzhou, having bought the alcohol in the United States.

Passengers can only carry liquids under 100ml in their hand luggage on flights.

After she downed the cognac, the captain of her flight barred the woman from boarding as he was concerned she might hurt herself. Zhao was collected by her relatives after sleeping it off.

THAILAND: Thailand Raises From 19 Million To 20 Million Arrivals In Only 10 Days

Thailand’s visitor arrivals count surged by one million in only ten days with the arrival of the country’s 20th million visitor today. This indicated that the widely projected temporary downturn in arrivals following the 17 August attack in Bangkok had failed to materialize.

The 20 millionth visitor, Mr. Shoji Omori, from Japan, was given the traditional surprise welcome at Suvarnabhumi Airport today by the executives and representatives of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), Thai Airways International Public Co., Ltd., the Immigration Bureau, the Airports of Thailand Public Co., Ltd., and True Corporation Public Co., Ltd.

The 19 millionth visitor was welcomed at Phuket International Airport on 16 August, 2015.

As part of a “Green Season” marketing strategy that began 30 June, every millionth visitor to the country is being welcomed at Thailand’s international aviation gateways, until 30 September, 2015.

The lucky visitors are being pleasantly surprised to receive two economy-class return air tickets from their international port of origin to Thailand along with a five-night accommodation voucher, a “Thailand’s Luckiest Visitor” certificate as well as other prizes from TAT’s project partners. The trips have a validity period of one year.

The activity is designed to support the “2015 Discover Thainess” umbrella campaign, which aims to highlight the endless charm of Thailand, the diversity of destinations, the flavors of Thai cuisine, fascinating uniqueness of the traditions and culture, as well as the friendliness of its people.

Thailand’s Luckiest Visitor Date of arrival Number of days between every millionth visitor

13th million visitor 13 June 2015 –
14th million visitor 21 June 2015 8
15th million visitor 5 July 2015 14
16th million visitor 15 July 2015 10
17th million visitor 28 July 2015 13
18th million visitor 7 August 2015 10
19th million visitor 16 August 2015 9
20th million visitor 26 August 2015 10

Mrs. Juthaporn Rerngronasa, TAT Acting Governor and Deputy Governor for International Marketing (Europe, Africa, Middle East and Americas) said, “Hitting the 20th million visitor mark is particularly important because it clearly indicates that arrivals have been virtually unaffected by the 17 August attack. This is a very good sign indeed.

“If this pace continues, we are likely to exceed our projection of 28.8 million visitors in 2015. As always, we extend our warm thanks to all visitors for their continued confidence in our country and our people.”

THAILAND: Thailand Is Welcoming Tourist Destination

Thai authorities and global tourism bodies have today stepped forward to reassure the world that Thailand remains a welcoming tourist destination, saying the recent explosion incidents in Bangkok will inevitably have short-term impacts and that the kingdom’s tourism industry will bounce back strongly and quickly towards the end of the year.

The message of assurance and confidence was raised during this morning’s press conference organised by Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism and Sports and presented by representatives from the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the Tourist Police Division, the United Nations’ World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), and the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). The event was held at the Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok Hotel.

H.E. Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, Minister of Tourism and Sports said, “We intentionally use this hotel as it is located next to the Erawan Shrine to reassure our confidence. I am deeply sorry for what has happened, but I do believe that the impact from this tragic incident will be short term and that Thailand will bounce back very quickly thanks to good friendships of our friends. The UNWTO and WTTC have taken immediate actions to reaffirm their confidence in Thailand through international media. My special thanks to Australian Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Abbott, who urged his fellow citizens to continue to travel here and all friends of Thailand from across the globe who insisted via social media on visiting Thailand no matter what.”

H.E. Kobkarn expressed her confidence that the target of 28.8 million tourist arrivals and 2.2 trillion Baht revenue, including 1.4 trillion Baht from international tourists, will be achieved based on the booking trend in the remaining months the year and the significant growth in the tourism performance in the first half of this year.

Mr. Carlos Vogeler, UNWTO’s Executive Secretary of Member Relations said, “I would like to convey our heartfelt condolences to the affected people, and reiterate our support to the people of Thailand. Thailand has a long tradition of being a hospitable and welcoming country and we fully believe it will continue to be so.”

Through discussions with Thailand Ministry of Tourism and Sports, UNWTO has lined up a number of supports for the Thai tourism industry, starting with Mr. Vogeler’s presence at today’s press conference as a short-term action to reiterate that “Thailand is not alone.” In the next steps, UNWTO Secretary-General, Mr. Taleb Rifai, is to pay a visit to Thailand to further reaffirming the confidence in the kingdom while H.E. Kobkarn will be invited to deliver a message from Thailand at some of UNWTO’s meetings this year. In addition, Thailand has been chosen as the host country for the World Tourism Day 2016 which is scheduled on 27 September, 2016. “All these actions and directions show our solidarity to reiterate that Thailand has our full support,” Mr. Vogeler concluded.

Mr. David Scowsill, WTTC’s President and CEO said, “It is highly regrettable that Thailand, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, has been the target of this violence. Fortunately, Thailand has shown its resilience in the past from national disasters and other disruptions, and we hope that the situation will stabilise and return to normal very quickly.”

Mr. Areepong Bhoocha-oom, Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Tourism and Sports said prior to the 17 August’s incident, Suvarnabhumi Airport recorded around 85,000 arrivals per day. He said the number was expected to fluctuate within these couple of weeks, pointing out as “not a significant drop,” and that the figure is still higher than last year.

Going forward, Thailand is set to further strengthen security measure as prevention approach to ensure safety and security for the locals and tourists.

Colonel Winthai Suvaree, Spokesman of the NCPO, said “In the initial response, security and safety measures have been heightened through increased presence of security forces at destinations and venues popular with tourists or densely populated. Extra security, including strict checks of security measures at venues, has also been in place to address any loopholes and ensure proper management of these measures in a systematic manner.’

Police Colonel Supaset Chokchai, Deputy National Commander of the Tourist Police Division said, “Increased security and safety measures have been in place at all key tourists areas across the country. In Bangkok alone, there are 1,600 military personnel and 2,400 police officers providing 24 hours security for locals and tourists in all precincts under 48 police stations.”

H.E. Kobkarn concluded, “I’d like to convey my heartfelt appreciation to the unity of the Thai people. In crisis, all Thai rises up, extends a helping hand, and are united in their promises to carry out the tasks of assisting our affected friends until the very end, until the last injured tourist is sent home. In crisis, there are many unknown angels who come together not only for short term but also for medium and long term to counter any issues as this is Our Home, Our Country, Stronger Together.”

Thailand welcomed the 20 millionth visitors on 26 August 2015. For this year, TAT has set a target of 1.4 trillion Baht tourism income for the Thai economy.

PATA Launches New Study On Tourism

The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) has launched a new study focusing on the way young people from Northeast and Southeast Asia experience travel, and how the future expected increase in outbound travel from Asia can be managed to ensure that both large and small destinations can benefit from growth.

Following the Association’s first report on millennial travel trends "The Rise of the Young Asian Traveller," the second study is sponsored by PATA Premier Partner Visa Worldwide Pte Ltd with the aim of helping PATA members worldwide to understand the implications of future outbound tourism growth from Asia. The final report, to be released by the end of 2015, will involve research gathered directly from young travellers in leading outbound markets in the region, as well as case studies and insights which PATA members are invited to contribute. During the study, PATA will carry out research through an online survey on the travel trends of young consumers in the Asia Pacific region. The survey will go online shortly and PATA encourages all members to assist in distributing the survey to provide the largest sample of young people as possible. In addition to providing further ground-breaking insights into the preferences of young Asian travellers, the report will also present practical advice on how public and private sectors can work together to encourage greater tourism dispersal in the years to come.

How to encourage tourists to go ‘off the beaten track’ and enjoy enriching experiences that benefit local communities has become a subject of major interest to destination management organisations around the world. PATA is making a concerted effort to align advocacy on the matter, while supporting national tourism organisations across Asia Pacific and beyond to understand and react to future growth.

“Over the next five years PATA forecasts arrivals from China will increase by 62% collectively across all Asia Pacific destinations, while arrivals from China to countries such as Thailand could be by as much as 220%. As a result, destinations that are already popular will have to implement strategies to control large numbers of visitors, while maintaining the quality of the visitor experience and protecting cultural heritage and natural resources. At the same time, this growth presents an opportunity for smaller destinations to benefit from the economic impact that young Asian travellers can bring, so long as this growth is managed responsibly,” said PATA CEO Mario Hardy.

“As young people travel further and more frequently, they gain confidence to discover the hidden corners of the places they visit, spending with local businesses and gaining an authentic experience of the lifestyle of local people,” said Rajiv Kapoor, Head of Marketing & Cross Border Asia Pacific. “This will further add to the data and insights we have been building and we are pleased to work with PATA to help provide further information to the industry.”

The research and report on ‘Stepping Out of the Crowd’ is being managed by Peter Jordan, Senior Tourism Analyst at Toposophy Destination Marketing Agency and author of PATA’s first report on young travellers. Toposophy has significant experience in helping destinations to promote and manage their lesser-known assets, as well as an understanding of how to cater to NextGen travellers. “As the constantly-connected generation, Millennial travellers from emerging markets are better equipped than ever to explore further and encourage their friends to do the same via social media. I look forward to seeing how this theory works in practice as I speak to the contributors to this report,” said Peter.

The study on young Asian travellers who want to ‘step out of the crowd’ is just one of the many activities PATA is carrying out to promote a greater understanding of tourism dispersion in the coming months. The recently launched PATA CEO Challenge 2015 aims to promote and enhance the number of visitors to emerging destinations (regions, states, or provinces, and second-tier/third tier cities), while enhancing tourism development in the most sustainable manner. The award programme, through an exclusive partnership with TripAdvisor, will allow two winners to get a chance to work with TripAdvisor to develop and create a digital marketing campaign to showcase their destination, valued at US$500,000 each.

Furthermore, this year’s PATA Aligned Advocacy Dinner, to be held on November 2 at Stationer’s Hall in London will be based on the theme of tourism dispersal, and provide guests the opportunity to reflect on the importance of the need for both the public and private sectors to work together for the responsible development of emerging destinations.

HONG KONG: Hong Kong Airlines Launches Multi-Currency Pricing Payment Solution

AsiaPay, the premier ePayment service and technology player in Asia and Hong Kong Airlines, the internationally-acclaimed Skytrax 4-star airline, have today announced a collaboration with FEXCO, the leading independent global provider of Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) and Multi-Currency Pricing (MCP) technologies which will see FEXCO's world class MCP solution offered to passengers of Hong Kong Airlines.

As a premier electronic payment solution and technology vendor and payment service provider, AsiaPay, strives to bring advanced, secure, integrated and cost-effective electronic payment processing solutions and services to banks, corporate and eBusinesses in the worldwide market. The solution developed by AsiaPay and FEXCO aims to assist merchants with customer retention, brand awareness and in attracting international customers.

The partnership will see FEXCO's Currency Risk Management MCP solution fully integrated into the Hong Kong Airlines core operating system and website offering multiple benefits to both the airline and the passenger including a more customised and transparent shopping experience. Through FEXCO's MCP platform, the airline can offer their fares and ancillary products in multiple currencies. The passenger selects their preferred currency in which to browse the website and ultimately make payment in providing them with clarity on the price in a currency they are familiar with.

"We are proud to implement this new real-time currency conversion service to Hong Kong Airlines together with FEXCO. Being leading ePayment service player in Asia, we understand and strive to address the ever-changing consumer needs for more user-friendly, safe and convenient way to pay for online travel services," said Mr. Joseph Chan, CEO of AsiaPay.

Mr. Denis Cleary, Managing Director of FEXCO DCC, comments, "The integration of FEXCO's MCP technology into the Hong Kong Airline's system brings significant benefits to both the airline and to the passenger. The solution delivers a more customised shopping experience for the passenger, simultaneously creating a risk free opportunity to generate increased revenue for the airline. We are delighted to announce this partnership and greatly look forward to working together."

Mr. Li Dianchun, Commercial Director of Hong Kong Airlines, comments, "This is a welcome advancement both for our passenger base and indeed for the airline itself. Our goal is to continue to innovate so we can better serve our passengers, this partnership delivers them a tailored and transparent payment solution allowing them to better determine value on their purchase, in a currency they're familiar with - ultimately saving them valuable time."

THAILAND: Villa Zolitude Phuket Appoints New General Manager

Jitsak Lim-Pakornkul leads the team at Villa Zolitude Resort & Spa, Phuket as the new General Manager
Villa Zolitude Resort & Spa, a new latitude of hideaway, is pleased to announce the appointment of Jitsak Lim-Pakornkul as General Manager. Jitsak Lim-Pakornkul is an innovative, inspiring and driven hotelier with over 17 years of hospitality experience spanning the globe. Jitsak will lead the brand refresh initiative for Villa Zolitude Resort & Spa and chart a new and exciting direction for this all-pool villas resort.

From a short stint in the Caribbean in 1998, Jitsak contributed and worked across the region, notably in Rayavadee Krabi, Hilton Phuket Arcadia and both Sheraton Phuket and Pattaya, before supervising the overall brand management in Asia Pacific for four Starwood hotel brands; aloft, Four Points by Sheraton, Sheraton and Westin Hotels & Resorts. Jitsak was part of the opening team for W Retreat Koh Samui and was Resort Manager for Anantara Maldives. Jitsak was also hotel manager for Le-Meridien Chiangmai prior to a trip back to the south that saw Jitsak opening the first resort in Thailand under the GLOW by Zinc brand in Phang Nga before yet another relocation up to Chiangmai to oversee the development and opening of Sireeampan Boutique Resort & Spa.

"Missing the unspoiled natural side of Phuket from my childhood memories, I want to bring back an escape, a rural retreat for myself, my staff and other hideaway seekers. I am so glad to have found Villa
Zolitude, a place to hide, to work and to live laid-back in lush tropical landscapes on my island home, enthused Jitsak.

"Much like anyone, I found the pace of city life, the pollution, the stress, debilitating. I wish to transform the hotel stay into an energising environment where guests and my team can stay whole. With space to eat right, sleep well, exercise and relax at their pace and on their schedule, balance is a way of life!"

To Live life sensationally, the Zolitude way, the main pool will be enhanced and several new dining concepts will be introduced so guests can look forward to a refreshing approach in a hideaway experience.