Thursday 30 June 2016

NIGERIA: Abuja City

Abuja National Mosque

Abuja is the capital of Nigeria. Since most Nigerian government agencies are now headquartered in Abuja and most other countries' embassies have been relocated from Lagos to Abuja, it is a surprisingly expensive city.

In the aftermath of the Nigerian-Biafra War, the Nigerian government sought to locate its capital in a location not predominated by any one ethnic group.

The site of Abuja was chosen for the Federal Capital Territory as it was centrally located and had few existing residents. Plans for Abuja were first announced by decree in 1976. Most of the construction for city began in the 1980's. Today, it is Africa's only purpose-built capital city.

It has an excellent road network, beautiful rolling terrain and modern Nigerian architecture, however this focus on the car means it is a difficult city for pedestrians. As in the rest of Nigeria, electric power is erratic.

International flights to the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport are offered by several airlines, notably, Egypt Air, Ethiopian Airlines, Lufthansa, KLM, and British Airways. There are no direct flights to Abuja from the United States.

Although it is possible to fly directly from the U.S. or other locations to Lagos, and take a domestic flight to Abuja, this is not recommended.

The international and domestic terminals in Lagos are not connected and transferring between terminals is a hassle. Furthermore, domestic Nigerian airlines will allow only one bag to be checked on without charge, even if your international arriving flight had a larger baggage allowance.

The airport is located approximately 40 kilometers from the city center. Although construction has begun on a light-rail system to the city center, for now cars are the only realistic way to get to the city.

If your hotel or employer is sending someone to pick you up, get the name of that person and the license plate number of the vehicle in advance. If you do not have a vehicle pre-arranged, take an official (green-colored) taxi.

You can travel to Abuja by bus from major cities like Lagos, Benin, Kano and Port Harcourt. Reliable services include: ABC Transport (with air conditioned luxurious bus rides), Ekene Dili Chukwu, Chisco Transport (CTN) and Young Shall Grow. The preferred bus service would be ABC transport.

However, you are advised to take only day trip buses from Lagos or Kano. You must be conscious that bus trips are not the safest as in rare situations buses have been attacked by robbers. If you're unfamiliar with the country, do not take a bus without an escort.

Buses allow you to appreciate the terrain, the towns and cities and the subtle changes in these and culture as you drive towards the capital either from the south or the north. The building is 150 meters wide and 150 meters long and 50 meters high.

Abuja was a city planned for cars, with loop highway around the city and broad avenues.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to get around without a car, and the strict zoning laws mean that residences are usually far for commercial areas. Abuja does not have the problem of enormous traffic jams or "go slows" as in Lagos. However, the higher speed that cars travel at presents a higher risk of dangerous accidents.

Compounding this are the traffic signals which will stop working during the frequent power outages and the tendency of drivers to ignore lanes and drive dangerously close to other vehicles. Traffic accidents are frequent,so drive defensively. For safety's sake, keep your doors locked and windows rolled up at all times.

Abuja has a few strict driving laws that are enforced. Seat belts are required of both the driver and front seat passenger. Failure to obey this law leads to significant inconveniences as the vehicle is impounded and not released until the fine is paid.

Fortunately, for the visitor, taxis are plentiful and cheap. Most are green and some very beaten up, but they get you there. Fares around town (eg a 5km trip) are N300-N400 depending on the mood of the driver and your bargaining skills.

Always agree the fare in advance and try to have exact change. Having a GPS app on your phone and a rough idea of where you should be heading also a good idea. Private taxi companies are also available - offering phone dispatch and better cars, fares for these companies are about N1,500 - N2,000 for a trip across town.

Abuja is a beautiful city. The tourist attractions would be:

5 Abuja Parks
- The Abuja Millennium Park
- The National Mosque
- The Ecumenical Center
- National Assembly Complex
- Aso Rock

Currency Museum of the Central Bank of Nigeria.This small museum, located inside the modern Central Bank of Nigeria building, shows the history of currency used in modern Nigeria as well as ancient mediums of exchange used in west Africa.

The Abuja Millennium Park is being expanded in an ambitious tourist project to include the Millennium Tower and a Cultural Center and Museum that would boast of some of the most expansive collections of African Art. As of February 2009, the Millenium tower is several years from completion.

Other upcoming projects include the Heritage City Theme Park that would be the largest theme park of African civilizations.

- Go shopping at Wuse Market, the main market in Abuja. Everything is available, from fresh food to clothes, music, and electronics. And as markets go, not expensive.

Art & Craft village (across the road from Sheraton Hotel)

Abuja has two cinemas

- Silverbird Cinema, Silverbird / Shoprite mall (near Sheraton hotel). Multiscreen googolplex showing recent Hollywood offerings. N1,000 to N2,000 depending on showtime.

- Ceddi Plaza, 7th Street, CBD. Three screen cinema also run by the Silverbird group.

There is some interesting artwork all over Abuja. Wood carvings, paintings and leatherwork. Everything is available in surrounding countries quite a bit cheaper, but if you are here you might as well buy it here.

Food prices in Abuja are high, especially for Western food. There are, however, many good restaurants in Abuja that are arguably worth the money. The Wuse II area is arguably the restaurant hub for Abuja, with new places opening and closing frequently.

Of course, whether you live in Abuja or are just visiting, there are times when you are willing to pay a little extra for the simple fact that there are few to no alternatives.

Exclusive Supermarket 1202 Adetokunbo Ademola Crescent, Wuse II. A cafe/coffeesho p at the back of the supermarket sells good salads, a few Lebanese dishes, icecream, coffee and standard pizza and grilled food. Cheap (Nicoise Salad takeout for N1000).

Mr. Biggs. All over. Burgers.


Rockview Classic Hotel Bar - Adetokunbo Ademola Crescent, Wuse II. Low key bar/ restaurant overlooking the swimming pool in this mid-range hotel (not the indoor restaurant). Worth mentioning as the price/ quality ratio is good by Abuja standards. Tenderloin steak and chips N1,900, Malaysian-style chicken Satay N1,900, Chinese style chicken wings and chips N1,400.
Love Pizza, The Gourmet Pizza People. Freshly baked Italian Pizza made with the finest ingredients. Pizza, wings, salads. Pizzeria, Take out & Delivery; 2 Bouar close, Bangui street, off Ademola Adetokuno Crescent, Wuse 2. (beside Jevenik)
First Turkish Cuisine, 33B Gana Street, Maitama (quite near the Hilton hotel). lunch & dinner. Abuja's only Turkish restaurant? Offers a range of grilled meats, kebabs and lamb chops. The chef is from Turkey and the portions large and tasty by Abuja standards. Mains N2,000 - N2,500.
Schwarma Shop, adjacent to Amigos Supermarket, Wuse II. 700 Naira for Schwarmas and they offer pizzas for somewhere from 1500 Naira.
Southern Fried Chicken. A local knockoff of KFC, but ask them to go easy on the mayo.
Woks & Koi, Silverbird / Shoprite Mall (2nd floor) (near Sheraton hotel), lunch & dinner. Standard shopping mall Chinese restaurant serving moderately unexciting east Asian cuisine, such as beef in oyster sauce. Prices don't include 15% in service & tax, but serving sizes are large, meaning you could share 2 dishes between 3. Mains around N3,000.
Schwarma Shop, adjacent to 212 Supermarket, Usuma St., Maitama. These Schwarmas have cabbage on them. About same price as the one by Amigos
City View, Cape Town Street, Off IBB Way, Wuse Zone 4. Perhaps the best Lebanese food in Abuja, excellent prices, they also host large groups, indoor or outdoor sitting.
Ceddi Plaza has a fast food Chicken restaurant on Second Floor - and Ice Cream
Drumstix, Aminu Kano Crescent. Fast food, Nigerian dishes, Grill, Shawarma and Ice cream.
Tantalizers Burgers. All over.
Cafe at Grand Square, Mohammadu Buhari Way.
Treehouse Grill, 66 Ademola Adetokubo cresent,Beside Mikano Generators, They offer delicious continental dishes with Steaks, Grilled Fish,smoothies, Chicken Kebab with wings and their Milk shake is the best in Abuja.
Cafe at Dunes, Aguiyi Ironsi Street, one on the main floor and one upstairs. Yeah!, Delivery service. Picks up your orders and brings to you for a small fee!
Spice Food In front of Sahad Store, across from Bolton White Hotels, Ahmadu Bellu Road. 07031111005, 08034500653. Delicious Indian food and snacks at very reasonable prices. Main course N1000-N1500, snacks N300-N600. Su-F buffet 12PM-3PM N2000. Dinner 6PM-10PM
AJ's Pizza, adjacent to the Park and Shop in Wuse II, Aminu Kano Crescent, call your order in before you get there 0803 314 0469 or 0804 410 4567, if your order 5 pizzas, ask for free juice.


Ciao, Jitau Plaza, Plot 1173, Ademola Adetokunbo Crescent, After AP plaza, Wuse II. A good Italian restaurant with the usual Italian dishes. Expect to pay around 2000 Naira for a dinner with wine. Good Pizzas, but AJ's have more to them.

Chopsticks, Plot 66 Mississippi St, Maitama. Good Chinese food, a couple should share one order of a main dish and either rice or noodles. 2000-about 5000 Naira for main dishes. Has cocktail bar.
Sitar, 46 Usuma St, Maitama. Indian food.
Wakkis, Like Sitar but more reasonable prices, this might be considered moderate instead of Splurge. Amino Kano Crescent, follow signs, Wuse II. 1500-2500 main dishes, good seafood. Amazing King Prawns!
Blakes, Fish bar, add unknown, Garki District.
Ubudu Grill Steakhouse at the Sheraton You won't spend less than $50 USD here, but the steaks are excellent.
Chez Victor Reasonably high quality French food and some francophone African dishes such as yassa poulet. Sandwiches with lunchtime specials. Nice house converted into comfortable restaurant. Nigerian owned. 2000+ Naira for main dishes. Ganges Street off Alvan Ikoku Way, Maitama. Next to NEPAD Nigeria offices.
Al Basha Palace Good Mediterranean & Continental food and Pizzas, Shisha. Outdoor, indoor events & parties... 11 Cassandra Street, off Usuma St, Maitama.
LaZeez Place Recently Opened, Usuma Street, Maitama.
Golf Course Has a restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating, would be a good place to have large group gathering, not called Golf Course, but that is where it is.

Drinks are available all over Abuja and are very overpriced. Average $20 US for some mixed drinks. 5-9 dollars for a local beer. Buy beer from the Market and you will save a lot of money. The major hotels have bars and restaurants - watch out for the call girls, if you ignore them, they get really offended. If you are not interested, just say so and have a short conversation, then they will leave you alone.

Smoothies Parlor
Ceddi Plaza Has a bar on the basement level.
Blakes Has live music or a DJ and drinks as well as the fish bar
British Village Requires a membership to enter and is popular during different sporting events, especially during soccer games and rugby.
Amber Lounge is in Silverbird Galleria, Central Business District
Orchard Garden. Local outdoor place near Millenium Park, set in a grove. Beer around 250N, small BBQ serving e.g. whole grilled fish for 2000N.
saffron, 1,iyaraclose,off misau crescent,off ahmadu bello way,garki 2,abuja. lunch and dinner. saffron,the rooftop restaurant and bar serves INDIAN and CHINESE cuisine together,best place to have the fusion cuisine at one place,open ambience on rooftop makes the evening beautiful as you can see complete view of Abuja city....... 2000 naira to 5000 naira.
City view Resturant. Labnese food.But Awesome best in Abuja.
911 Black, Verdict Plaza, 35 Adetokunbo Ademola Crescent. 8PM - 5AM. A more local crowd and more reasonably priced drinks than some of its Abuja nightlife counterparts, most lively on Fridays (obviously), ladies' night on Wednesdays. Beer - 500 Naira, liquor/champagne 7000+ per bottle.
Emeka's Beer Garden, Wuye (Across from the Peace Haven Hotel, follow the road past the local Water Board. 5PM-3AM. Charming beer garden in a relatively undeveloped part of the city, near Finance Quarters and Family Worship (use these landmarks to guide your cab driver). Owned by the friendly Emeka, recently repatriated from Japan, where he lived for 20 years. Fluent English, Japanese spoken. Food and drink both available, soccer matches screened regularly. Cheap.


Hotels in Abuja do not score well on the price/ service/ quality ratio.

Many hotels offer large discounts for Friday and Saturday nights. Be sure to confirm if your agreed rate includes tax (typically 10%) service charges, breakfast, internet, parking fees, if there is any early departure fee (i.e if you check out a few days early) even if the bottle of water in your room is complementary etc. and have this written down at check-in.

Most hotels expect payment up front, with the more established ones having credit card machines who are happy to block out some money on your card to cover the bill. Typically it is better to pay in cash if you can, as the black market rate is about 10% better than the official rate (March 2015).

The beacon suites, Garki 2, 1,Iyara close off Misau Crescent, off Ahmadu Bello way, Garki 2.

The Nordic Villa A brand new 4 bedroom boutique hotel furnished in a modern Scandinavian style. The villa is located in a peaceful and safe environment suited for both business and leisure travelers. No. 52, Mike Akhigbe Way, Jabi, Abuja,

Rockview Classic A little dreary but decent. Has gym, tennis courts, pool. The pool bar menu has some better offerings than the bar or restaurant. The 'Classic Hotel is better, and cheaper, than the Rockview Royale/ Annex next door.

King's Inn Hotel, Lobito Crescent Wuse 2, Abuja, Abuja Capital Territory, Nigeria (opposite from UK visa application centre). checkin: sep 4; checkout: sep 5. 10000.

Hotel De Bently N. Okonjo Iweala Way, Utako Abuja. Best Architectural design in Abuja. Its a decent place to stay.

Reiz Continental Hotel Plot 779, Cadastral zone AO, Central Area. Similar to Rockview in terms of standard, but with better service. Has pool too and free minibar (non alcoholic)

Immaculate Plot 111 Adetokunbo Ademola Crescent, Wuse II opposite Cubana Bar, near Diamond Bank. Modern hotel with nice-size rooms and suites. Noisy on weekends because of night club next door, and rooms above kitchen are noisy all the time. Lacks social space like bar/terrace but this is good because there are less prostitutes than in larger hotels. Basic gym and small pool area. Restaurant ok. Reasonable prices and well-located.


Decent hotels in Abuja tend to cost well above $200 US per night, despite mediocre.

Hawthorn Suites Abuja - the service is good and the Hotel is beautiful. Part of the Wyndham Group. Five Star. Food is very good. Located at 1 Balanga Street off Ahmadu Bello Way, Garki, Abuja. First left before Sahad. Good Alternative to Hilton and Cheaper - Rates from about N43,000
Transcorp-Hilton - Part of the Hilton Group, this hotel sits on a huge lot and its convention facilities make it something of a social hub in the town. Rooms are small, in serious need of renovation, and terribly overpriced. Located at 1 Aguiyi Ironsi, Maitama Abuja. Rates from About N50,000. Good for weekend lounging by the pool (N2000 entry for non-residents of the hotel) at least.
Sheraton - free wifi for guests over the whole hotel area, rooms are being renovated. The tennis, squash courts are excellent. There is now a new gym overlooking the pool. The old gym is a bit cramped but a big plus for the steam sauna. Hotel rooms are in process of renovation and everything in the hotel (eg. food, laundry) is unreasonably expensive. Although they have a nice breakfast buffet (costs extra). Service has worsened over time but the outdoor food and steakhouse are still good.
Dunes This is a well-known Lebanese-run supermarket with imported goods. Above are hotel rooms. Well run, convenient, restaurant on site.
Protea Hotels All over the city. Clean and nice.

Staying safe
Abuja tends to be a sharp contrast against the background of the rest of Nigeria. While car hijackings and armed robbery are high in Lagos, and kidnapping of foreign oil workers is prevalent in the Niger delta, Abuja in sharp contrast, is one of the safest metropolitan cites in Nigeria.

General security measures like elsewhere in the world should be observed. Like anywhere else in the world, it's always a good idea to have company when exploring unfamiliar places. If you're driving, observe simple measures like keeping your car door locked when parked to avoid opportunistic crime. Armed robbery at gun point is the most prevalent form of crime. A calm disposition and full cooperation with robbers is the best line of action in the unlikely event that you are the victim of a robbery.

Robbers tend to become violent when victims try to pull tricks. Contact your embassy in Abuja and the police if you are robbed. Occasional pick pockets target mobile phones and wallets as well. Do not carry large amounts of cash. Usually, $250 US cash (or N30,000) would more than suffice for impulsive purchases and other daily costs.

Use only the official Green Cabs. Drivers of regular cars frequently cruise around seeking paying passengers; accepting such a ride is dangerous and passengers have been robbed in this manner. Stick with licensed green cabs. Cab fares would be around N500 ($4) for trips within the city. Cab rides to the airport are significantly higher. Negotiate a fare before you enter a cab.

There have been many reports of fraudulent use of credit card details almost immediately after people have used their cards to pay hotel deposits, even in the very top hotels.

Embassies and High Commissions
Australia,Belgium,Canada,Egypt,Czech Republic,Finland,France,Hungary,Germany,Greece,India,Ireland,Israel,Italy,Malaysia,The Netherlands, Norway,Turkey,Romania,Russia,Serbia,Switzerland,Trinidad and Tobago,United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,Ukraine,United States of America,Venezuela,Zambia.

Wednesday 29 June 2016

Jambojet To Fly Into East African Region

Jambojet, Kenya Airways' low cost subsidiary, has been flying on domesti routes for some time now but was last year also given the designation to fly into the Eastern African region.

Out of Nairobi does the airline serve the coastal destinations of Lamu, Malindi, Mombasa and Ukunda while also operating flights to Eldoret and Kisumu.

Comments attributed to the airline's CEO Willem Hondius however now suggest that the airline could turn its attention to widening its network and begin flights into the Eastern African region, which if correct will no doubt intensify the battle for the skies with airlines like Fastjet, also a low cost carrier presently operating out of Dar es Salaam to Nairobi and Entebbe, while serving Zanzibar, Kilimanjaro, Mwanza and Mbeya on domestic routes.

Lusaka, Harare, Lilongwe and Johannesburg are additional destinations FN flies to out of Dar.

Jambojet's air service license allows them, subject to landing rights from the respective countries' civil aviation and transport authorities, to target Entebbe, Juba and Dar es Salaam, among other overall 9 regional destinations.

For East Africa's aviation pundits it is of particular interest that Entebbe is a likely early target, as Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni last week laid into airlines of EAC member states and NCIP countries, short for Northern Corridor Integration Projects, otherwise also known as the coalition of the willing in the EAC to fast track various developments.

President Museveni declared that the country felt let down over the high level of airfares when he told his new cabinet that the formation of a national airline therefore should be a priority, no doubt rattling the cages of the leading regional carriers from Addis to Nairobi.

Should indeed Jambojet opt to begin operations from Nairobi to Entebbe - Kenya Airways presently flies five times a day and serves both point to point traffic but most notably connecting traffic into the wider region and the rest of Africa - it could indeed lead to lower fare levels, taking the wind out of plans to relaunch a Ugandan national carrier.

'When you look at traffic numbers between Nairobi and Entebbe, remember that Air Uganda, before the Ugandan CAA killed that airline off, flew three times on working days and twice over the weekend alongside Kenya Airways' five daily frequencies.

Now there are some smaller airlines from Kenya on the route but their passenger numbers are relatively low as they only offer point to point to Nairobi, no frequent flyer bonuses, less desirable departure times and most important, they operate oldish aircraft.

Now were Jambojet to come to Entebbe they would probably start off with one flight a day before expanding to twice a day but the main challenge for them will be the aircraft they use. Their B737's are probably too large with over 140 seats to make economic sense and their two leased Bombardier Q400, with less than 80 seats more suitable, are fully occupied with flights in Kenya.

They would need to source additional aircraft and when that happens it will give us a better idea how they intend to roll out into the region.

Air Uganda's initial success was based on their use of CRJ200's with just 50 seats and break even on such an aircraft is much easier to accomplish than on a relatively larger Boeing. Turboprops are also planes of choice because they too operate at lower cost than a jet and breakeven is accomplished with more ease than when using larger jets.

If Entebbe becomes their first destination, they will clearly lay down a challenge to any new upstart from Uganda because the more crowded the skies are, the bigger will be the challenge to a start up airline to capture that vital traffic share.

Air Uganda took several years and those fundamentals have not changed much' offered a regular source as his opinion when discussing Jambojet's apparent expansion plans.

The speculation over Jambojet's regional plans was further fueled when news broke over the weekend that the airline employed a fully fledged CFO amid rumours that Kenya's main LCC had gone active in the market to source additional aircraft.

Out of Entebbe does RwandAir presently also fly twice a day to and from Nairobi under fifth freedom rights and is said to be eying a third daily flight, made more viable through the triangular routing which always includes one leg either to or from Kigali.

Watch this space for breaking and regular aviation news from across the entire Eastern African region and Indian Ocean islands.

ZAMBIA: Tourism Expo Opens

The mighty Victoria Falls, aka 'Mosi oa Tunya | The Smoke That Thunders' is just one of the many attractions which feature prominently at ZATEX 2016, short for Zambia Tourism Expo. The second edition of the event went underway yesterday in the capital city of Lusaka.

Venue is the sprawling complex of the Mulungushi International Conference Centre where nearly 50 exhibitors from Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Malawi, the Seychelles, Mozambique, Botswana but notably also from as far as Indonesia are showcasing their companies and attractions.
RETOSA, the Regional Tourism Organization of Southern Africa, which brings together 15 member countries, was also represented at the expo.

65 hosted buyers had come to Zambia to meet the local tourism industry, as well as regional tourism authorities like Zimbabwe, airlines present like RwandAir - one of the key sponsors of ZATEX 2016 - Air Namibia or local carrier ProFlight, to talk business and the 'speed dating' set up in the afternoon turned out to be a beehive of activities as buyers and sellers met face to face though working on the clock. This was later followed at an easier pace when the Radisson Blu Lusaka hosted all participants, invited guests from Lusaka's business community and the media for a social evening which turned out to be more of a second networking event then a mere cocktail party.

Main host, Zambia Tourism Agency's CEO Mr. Felix Chaila, welcomed his guests, who came from as far as Japan, India, Germany, France and the UK while African participants traveled to Lusaka from South Africa, neighbouring Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Mozambique, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania including Zanzibar, Uganda but also Ghana.

While, in comparison to last week's Sanganai 2016 - Zimbabwe's 15th edition of their tourism trade show, ZATEX was more compact, it is a valiant effort to showcase Zambia's tourism attractions, given that this is only the second edition of the event and that the dates, due to circumstances beyond ZTA's control had to be shifted. Nevertheless has the exhibition literally doubled in size compared to the inaugural event in 2015, a sign that Zambia may at last become the 'en vogue' destination the local tourism marketers were long hoping for.

Twelve travel trade journalists too attended the show on invitation of Zambia Tourism, aiming to make an impact in their home countries like India, South Africa, Germany, France but also Angola, Zimbabwe and Uganda, where global market leader's eTurboNews Africa Correspondent is based.

Today's proceedings will be marked by the official opening of ZATEX 2016. Zambia's Minister for Tourism and Art, the Hon. Jean Kapata will tour the exhibition in the morning to meet hosted buyers, exhibitors and the media. She will then, later in the afternoon, invite the Guest of Honour who is none other than President Edgar Lunga to officially open the event.

CURACAO: Best Hotels In Curaçao

With more than 30 beaches; a location just beyond the hurricane belt; and a fascinating Dutch-influenced heritage, Curaçao is a must for travelers in search Caribbean with a serving of culture on the side.

But it’s so much more than that — from dozens of world-class dive sites to a burgeoning foodie culture, Curaçao is increasingly on the radar of travelers, particularly in the United States.

And with several non-stop flights from the US, there’s no better time than now to plan a visit than right now. If you’re headed to the Dutch-Caribbean isle, take our tips for some of the best places to stay

Baoase Luxury Resort With just 23 suites and villas, this south-side boutique is perfect for vacationers in search of high-end tranquility.

Elegant Bali-inspired rooms (some with outdoor tubs and showers); a beach complete with it’s own tiny island; and a superb restaurant make Baoase a standout. This is the best hotel in Curaçao, bar none.

JAMAICA: Jamaica Tourism Arrivals Increase By 2.2%

Stayover tourist arrivals in Jamaica this year are up 2.2 percent, according to the country’s Director of Tourism, Paul Pennicook.

That number covered the winter tourist season from Dec. 15 to April 30.

That is roughly in line with the average results of the Caribbean (excepting Cuba) in the last year, and represented a total of 773, 110.

While tourism arrivals from the United States have shown strong growth of 5.9 percent, Canadian stopover arrivals are down by 11.6 percent.

“The Jamaica Tourist Board will be doing a lot of work in Canada,” Pennicook said at the recent JHTA annual general meeting in Ocho Rios.

Stayover arrivals lagged cruise visits, however; the country reported 745,220 cruise passenger arrivals in the winter tourist season.

Pennicook said the country’s tourism officials had been looking to new markets, particularly the developing world.

“We have identified three regions in terms of emerging markets which will help us to meet our targets. They are Latin America, Northern and Eastern Europe, and Asia,” he said.

JAMAICA: New Luxury Resort For Jamaica

A major new luxury all-inclusive resort is coming to Jamaica this year.

Royalton Luxury Resorts’ newest property on the island, Royalton Blue Waters, is slated to debut on the shores of White Bay near Montego Bay in November.

The 228-room all-inclusive hotel will include unlimited, reservation-free dining, 11 restaurants and bars and a choice of balconies with either ocean views or private swim-out pools.

The property will also include free unlimited long-distance calls to North America and parts of Europe and complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi for all devices.

The hotel will additionally include the option to upgrade to Royalton Blue Waters Diamond Club, which offers guests access to an exclusive lounge with premium drinks and canapés, exclusive a la carte restaurants and bar areas, a private beach area with waiter service and rooms with dedicated butler service, among other amenities.

Royalton Blue Waters will feature a Royal Spa and the company’s signature C/X Culinary Experience focused on molecular gastronomy.

For families, the hotel will also offer a Kids Adventure Program that features a supervised Clubhouse Kids Club and a Hangout Teens Club.

BAHAMAS: Hilton Opens New Hotel

A major new hotel has opened its doors in the Bahamas.

Hilton at Resorts World Bimini held its grand opening this weekend, a highly-anticipated debut that brings a cutting-edge hotel to the 700-island chain.

Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie, who was on hand for the junkanoo-style opening ceremony, said the hotel’s debut was a “defining experience” for the Bahamas.

The property, which joins what was already one of the region’s top casinos, has a total of 305 rooms including 18 suites.

It immediately becomes one of the most modern hotels in the country and the wider region.

The opening marks the completion of the hotel’s second phase, which included meeting rooms, restaurants including a sushi bar in the lobby, rooftop amenities, a spa with five treatment rooms and a new connection to the casino.

That’s all in addition to what is the largest combined marina in the Bahamas.

Also on hand are suites for high rollers and Diamond members.

One of the highlights is a rooftop infinity pool with a dramatic wraparound walkaway, along with the hotel’s signature swim-up suites.

“This is an example of how public-private partnership can work with development and service-oriented business,” said Bahamas Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe. “It will ensure that when we say it’s better in the Bahamas. we mean it.”

The wider Resorts World Bimini project has already catapulted Bimini into the second-most visited Out Island of the Bahamas, Christie said.

That’s been boosted, too, by the recent launch of daily seaplane flights from Fort Lauderdale to Bimini on Cape Air. The flights, which began operating earlier this year, mean the trip takes about 30 minutes. More crucially, passengers return to Fort Lauderdale though the private aviation terminal, meaning a far less crowded customs and immigration experience.

The resort should stabilize at around 720 employees, a significant boost on an island with a population of about 2,000 people.

The hotel becomes the second Hilton-branded property in the Bahamas, joining Hilton British Colonial in Nassau.

BAHAMAS: Major Airport Overhaul

The Bahamas has embarked on a major country-wide overhaul of its airports.

The first phase of the program involves infrastructural projects geared toward increased capacity at thirteen of the country’s airports.

“Over the last four years we have undertook a number of infrastructural projects and improvements including the Mayaguana runway improvement project, the reconstruction and extension and increase of capacity of the Staniel Cay, Exuma runway inclusive of solar lighting and perimeter fencing, and the refurbishment and reconstruction of San Salvador airport,” said Bahamian Minister of Aviation Glenys Hanna-Martin.

She noted that the redevelopment of the Bimini Airport includes an enlarged terminal building and a runway, which has been extended 5,400 feet to 6,400 feet and outfitted to facilitate night flights.

The project also includes the completion of the Marsh Harbour International Airport, which will be renamed next month as the Leonard M. Thompson International Airport, as part of the country’s official independence celebrations.

Other improvements include the completion of phases two and three of the Lynden Pindling International Airport.

The government is also working on development projects for the Exuma International Airport, the North Eleuthera Airport, the Moores Island Airport, the Great Harbour Cay Airport and the Mayaguana terminal.

Hanna-Martin said the government has responsibility for 29 airports, which requires capital investment from the public treasury.

“To this end, my Ministry has obtained grant funding from the Inter-American Development Bank for the conduct of study (technical and financial) to determine the feasibility of attracting private investment through a Public-Private Partnerships scheme for Family Island airports, and to develop a financial model of selected airports and concession alternatives,” she said.

She added that the first phase involved a preliminary outlook of potential opportunities for PPPs, a study that featured areas including: a market assessment, preliminary demand projection, review of infrastructure development plans, and a selection of most feasible options for airports.

Several elements were reviewed including: capital expenditure required, earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, Net Present Value and Internal Rate of Return.

The second phase will involve a detailed market assessment and traffic forecast, independent capital expenditure verification, environmental assessment and the concession financial model.

“The intention is to seek public private partnerships, which will attract the capital for infrastructural redevelopment of select airports while at the same time maintaining government ownership, oversight and controls. It is hoped for a ‘win-win’ situation for the Bahamian people,” she said.

The minister also said that the government is preparing for the acquisition of a number of crash fire rescue trucks for Exuma, Marsh Harbour, North Eleuthera and Rock Sound airports.

“The last four years have seen great strides in the aviation sector, and I believe the platform is being created for great economic growth and development throughout our country.”

BAHAMAS: Sunwing’s New Bahamas Flight

Travel giant Sunwing has officially made its newest flight to Grand Bahama.

The new flight from Houston, Texas arrived with 189 visitors last week.

It was welcomed by a delegation including Bahamas Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe and Minister for Grand Bahama Dr Michael Darville.

Tourism officials said they anticipated that the new route would bring tourists to the island from as many as eight US cities.

Texas is apparently a growing market for Bahamian tourism, officials said.

BAHAMAS: New Courtyard Nassau Opens

A room at the new Courtyard Nassau

Another new hotel is debuting in Nassau: the new Courtyard Nassau.

Marriott’s latest property in the Bahamas officially opens July 1, with 112 rooms set at the former Sunset Resort Nassau in the downtown area.

The property includes a pool and sun deck, a fitness center, a signature restaurant called The Bistro and a lobby bar and lounge.

“We’re excited to introduce the Courtyard Hotels brand to the Bahamas market,” said Donald J. Urgo, Jr., Senior Vice President, General Counsel for Urgo Hotels & Resorts. “The Courtyard Nassau’s location, just steps from Junkanoo Beach punctuates the resurgence and revitalization of downtown Nassau.”

The hotel will provide another option for travelers to the capital, whether for business or a stay on the city’s Junkanoo Beach.

“Courtyard Hotels has become a very popular brand in the Caribbean and is expanding rapidly,” said Tim Sheldon, President of the Caribbean & Latin America at Marriott International, Inc. “It offers excellent value in the mid-tier market that is currently underserved. The hotels adapt well to the lifestyle needs of both domestic and international guests.”

Colin Child Remains Fastjet Chairman

Stelios Haji-Ioannou, one of Fastjet's shareholders with holdings in the 11 percent region, has proven to be as difficult a character to deal with for Fastjet's management and board as he was previously for the EasyJet management and board after he had yielded control of one of Europe's leading LCC's.

His attempt at the just concluded general meeting of the company to get Fastjet Chairman Colin Child dismissed backfired at him, after Child remained in the chair while the airline prepares for the arrival of its new CEO Nico Bezuidenhout.

Stelios had been meddling in company affairs for too long now, according to a usually well informed source, most notably when he earlier this year launched an attack on former CEO Ed Winter and the company's general counsel, after Ed had already announced his resignation from the company and said that SHI needed to be put in his place.

Results announced at the general meeting were mixed, and while passenger numbers rose growth was lower than anticipated due to the challenging business environment in the airline's core market Tanzania. Loadfactors most notably dropped as a result of capacity increases and the new CEO will no doubt already be burning midnight oil figuring out a way forward before he officially joins Fastjet on August 01st.

Given the entry into the Kenyan market, expected to happen during H2 of 2016 with no concrete dates given as yet, the airline is presently undergoing the KCAA process of attaining an AOC. Hard decisions will need to be taken by Fastjet's management in regard of its future fleet with a particular eye on the Kenyan market.

Some of the Kenyan routes given to Fastjet do not have sufficient traffic to justify the deployment of the airline's choice of aircraft, an Airbus A319, namely the city of Kisumu and the town of Eldoret.

Even Kenya's own LCC Jambojet, had to find out at their expense that the use of a Boeing B737-300 failed to achieve a black bottom line, even after combining the two destinations for some time. Now, Jambojet has changed course and is deploying Bombardier Q400NextGen turboprops with 78 seats on the routes also serving the coastal destinations of Lamu, Malindi and Ukunda, with each destination being served on its own.

Initial plans by Fastjet some years ago were to use CRJ200 aircraft in Kenya, but after the 'marriage' with Kenya's Fly540 spectacularly failed is it now anyone's guess if Fastjet on entry will use an A319 or else consider different and maybe smaller jets which are easier to fill up. Should such a fleet change become reality, the A319's could all go back to the lessors in favour of a smaller jet type as LCC's do not ordinarily operate with different aircraft types, Jambojet of Kenya excluded.

Loadfactors according to information sources declined from the 70 percent margin during the last financial year to slightly under 50 percent for the just concluded financial year. Given the average fare levels achieved this too will be subject to a full review of how to both restore loadfactors or else put less seats on the market through a potential fleet change across the board.

Chairman Colin Child, after surviving Stelios' ouster attempt, acknowledged the difficult business environment but also expressed his confidence that the fundamentals were in place to further reduce operational losses and move towards a positive balance sheet over the next few years.

A fresh cash call is likely to be made to shareholders before Bezuidenhout joins Fastjet and a change in direction vis a vis the continued use of the A319 may be the first step the new CEO will take, apart from looking at other areas where operations can be streamlined and savings accomplished.

Another major change coming up maybe when answering the question of where the airline should be headquartered. Fastjet PLC is presently based in London while the two operational units Fastjet Tanzania and Fastjet Zimbabwe are thousands of miles away in Africa with ongoing efforts to bring both Kenya and Zambia on line this year.

No doubt will this be a goldmine for aviation pundits and analysts in coming months who will watch closely which major decisions and perhaps revisions Nico Bezuidenhout will take in conjunction with the board of directors after he formally takes charge in just over a month's time.

RETOSA New Online Training At ZATEX 2016

RETOSA, the Regional Tourism Organization of Southern Africa, part of SADC, short for the Southern African Development Community, has been highly visible at the ongoing Zambia Travel Expo in Lusaka this week.

The presence of RETOSA, besides showing solidarity and support to a member country, was however also aimed at promoting their new online learning programme, which is now available for travel agents, staff of tour and safari operators and more to attain higher levels of competence.

Those completing the various modules, there are 16 of them, are then certified as a Southern Africa Travel Expert by RETOSA.
Apart from a mandatory introductory module on the wider region - RETOSA has 15 member countries - are then 15 country modules on offer.

Graduates of the online training can aim for the Bronze Level which includes 5 countries and the regional module, while the Silver Level requires completion of 10 country modules and the regional module.

Top tier graduates then get awarded the Gold Level for which they must complete the regional module and all 15 country modules, making them undisputed champions of knowledge about the RETOSA region.
Notably are the courses free of charge and students can determine their own pace and time frame in which they are getting ready for their exams.

RETOSA member countries, besides Zambia, are Angola, Botswana, Congo DR, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

Also on the RETOSA stand was impromptu visitor Jeremiah L. E. Manussa, the Director of Marketing of the Mozambique Tourism Authority who was particularly keen to meet hosted buyers who had come to ZATEX 2016 to have them consider add on segments in Mozambique, where some of the continent's finest beaches and most charming resorts await visitors.

ETHIOPIA: Ethiopian Airlines Acquires Africa's First Airbus A350XWB

Ethiopian Airlines yesterday took delivery of Africa's first Airbus A350XWB, being launch customer for the continent.

The aircraft will be deployed on the routes between Addis Ababa and Lagos and Addis Ababa and Dubai, clearly aimed to impress the Nigerian market to travel with them, now that Emirates has reportedly cut their services down to one frequency a day.

The aircraft, named Simien Mountains, was handed over to the top management of Ethiopian Airlines in Toulouse where the aircraft was assembled and tested before delivery.

ET has ordered an initial 14 of these state of the art wide body aircraft and expects delivery of another 13 after today, though there is speculation that the airline may up the order as it remains Africa's leading airline in terms of fleet, African and other international destinations.

The new aircraft is registered as ET-ATQ, MSN 40 while a sistership, due to join her in a few weeks, will be known as ET-ATR with MSN 43. There have been fears that the various challenges Airbus is encountering right now with its supply chain could have impacted on the delivery of this aircraft type to airlines around the world but is would appear that Airbus is pulling out all stops to ensure that new customer Ethiopian Airlines is not let down.

The new aircraft has 343 seats in two classes, offering a 3x3x3 configuration in Economy Class while Business class with 30 seats has a 2x2x2 cabin layout.

This however is in stark contrast for instance with the A350's operated by Qatar Airways which offer a 1x2x1 layout in their premium cabin.

Additional destinations of the new aircraft will be announced in due course when more of these planes have been delivered.

Tuesday 28 June 2016

INDONESIA: Four Seasons opens in Jakarta

While today’s travellers are more likely to arrive in Jakarta by commercial aircraft or private jet, the city has long welcomed the world as one of history’s most storied marine ports. Now, the start of a new era in Indonesian hospitality begins with the much-anticipated opening of the all-new Four Seasons Hotel Jakarta.

Ideally situated on Jalan Gatot Subroto within the city’s Central Business District, the all-new Capital Place, an award-winning architectural landmark by César Pelli, is home to leading businesses, and now, the stunning new Four Seasons Hotel Jakarta. With its excellent dining options, sumptuously appointed spa and handsome event spaces, it promises to be the preferred address of the city’s elite, as well as business and leisure travellers from around the world.

Internationally-renowned interior designer Alexandra Champalimaud was inspired by Jakarta’s long-established position on the global stage, and by its commercial trading history and the influence of many cultures on its character, in particular Indonesia’s Dutch colonial period. From the moment one enters the soaring lobby with its grand staircase lit by a magnificent crystal chandelier, a classical European aesthetic is reflected in the colour palettes, materials and finishes, fine furnishings and sophisticated lighting.

With its complete commitment to showcasing the art of Indonesia, Four Seasons presents throughout its public and private spaces a carefully-curated collection of works by contemporary and historic artists. The city itself is the theme connecting the diverse collection, creatively depicting and interpreting its landmarks, history and culture.

Although strategically placed amid the city’s financial and business hubs, Four Seasons Hotel Jakarta has an element of urban resort style as brought to life by the landscape design of Bill Bensley. Known for his expertise in creating lush outdoor spaces with exotic flora, water features and resort-like terraces and open-air rooms, Bensley’s signature style is particularly well known to travellers who have visited Four Seasons resorts in Thailand.

Intimately scaled with just 125 accommodations, the all-suites Four Seasons Hotel Jakarta feels as much a luxurious residence as a modern hotel. With sliding pocket doors separating sleeping areas from living areas, guests are free to settle in and make each suite their own – whether setting up a workspace and hosting impromptu meetings with colleagues, booking an adjacent suite so the whole family can enjoy a weekend in the city, or closing the doors on a long day of sightseeing, shopping or working and simply falling into quiet slumber.

Champalimaud’s refined design details and rich furnishings are punctuated with discreet, at-one’s–fingertips technologies and thoughtful considerations for which Four Seasons is known, including well-placed task lighting, a personal refreshment bar, and a spa-like bathroom.

Coming soon: The lavishly appointed 19th floor Presidential Suite featuring views from every room, plus the glamorous Ambassador Suite will complete the city’s finest accommodations selection later this year.

Four Seasons introduces a selection of all-new food and beverage concepts in Jakarta to welcome in-house guests and local clientele.

Located just off the grand lobby, the Palm Court is a glorious space. A glittering chandelier, custom made by world-renowned Lasvit is suspended from a rotunda ceiling 13 metres (43 feet) above, illuminating a grand yet inviting space for breakfast, lunch, cocktails and dinner, with tall windows opening to a garden terrace. While the menus are international in flavour, tradition reigns supreme in the daily Palm Court High Tea, with exquisite sweets by Executive Pastry Chef Lorenzo Sollecito, and savouries accompanied by a choice of TWG Teas.

The inspiration for Nautilus Bar comes from the sea, and the cargo-laden ships that have traded the world’s treasures for Indonesia’s riches since the 7th century. Choosing from a signature cocktail selection rooted in the country’s most famous exports – nutmeg, galangal, clove and lemongrass – guests may contemplate their place in Jakarta’s living history as they study the panoramic mural of the old port of Sunda Kelapa behind the bar.

Temptation is around the corner at La Patisserie, where Chef Lorenzo’s expertise is on full display in cases of confections from gâteaux and macarons to éclairs, financiers and madeleines. In an elegant, robin’s egg blue salon that would have made Marie Antoinette herself feel at home, La Patisserie offers the finest handmade sweets to take away in beautiful gift boxes and signature bags, or for those who simply can’t wait, to be devoured at one of its café tables.

No time to savour? Dolcetto is a grab-and-go venue for barista-prepared coffees and beverages, as well as light fare including gourmet sandwiches and salads. Dolcetto also offers catering options for local businesses or informal meetings held at Capital Place.

This fall, Executive Chef Marco Riva will introduce a new authentic Italian dining concept in a dazzling space atop the Hotel. At Alto Restaurant and Bar, large windows frame sparkling skyline views, while plush interiors invite leisurely enjoyment of fabulous cuisine with friends and colleagues. An outdoor terrace literally puts the city at one’s feet.

Like the Hotel itself, the Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Jakarta takes its inspiration from Southeast Asian cultures woven with global influences and updated with the most advanced therapies. In this opulent sanctuary, discerning guests can choose from traditional Balinese massage, Ayurvedic journeys and high performance European skincare from phyto-aromatic French brand Yon-Ka.

Spa Director Arie Sunia recommends signature treatments such as the Royal Body Boreh (a boreh is a traditional Balinese body mask of fresh herbs and warming spices), and the Luxury of Lulur, based on ancient Javanese beauty rituals. A special Soak & Sip menu pairs a choice of soothing baths with jamu – a traditional Indonesian herbal elixir made with locally-sourced spices. For today’s time-strapped traveller and local businesspeople, the innovative Express menu offers a 30 minute treatment followed by either a light poolside lunch, or a chill-down cocktail at the end of the workday.

Extensive facilities include eight treatment rooms with two couple’s suites and a hammam, a relaxation lounge, men’s and women’s locker facilities, a spa shop and 24/7 fitness centre. A secluded outdoor pool on the fifth floor rooftop is surrounded by tropical landscaping.

Coming soon: A women’s beauty salon as well as a dedicated nail bar and a gentlemen’s barbershop.

Getting Together, for Business or Pleasure

With more than 1,800 square metres (close to 20,000 square feet) of flexible function space, Four Seasons Hotel Jakarta is set to become the city’s preferred address for business meetings, conferences, social galas and weddings. In partnership with Four Seasons expert event team led by Director of Catering and Conference Services Ika Pranato, meeting planners and hosts can relax and enjoy themselves, assured that every detail is anticipated and executed to perfection.

The Grand Ballroom with its own pre-function area and adjacent Garden Terrace is easily split in two for multi-space events or smaller invitation lists. Up to 700 square metres (7,500 square feet) accommodate 350 people for a sit down meal, and as many as 1,250 for a traditional Indonesian wedding celebration.

Additional function spaces include two salons on the second level, accessed via the lobby’s grand staircase that are ideal for product launches. Three additional meetings rooms are on the third floor, and the Pool Terrace offers a sunbathed garden landscape by day, or an exotic setting by night.

GREECE: Wyndham Hotel Group Opens In Greece

Wyndham Hotel Group announced that accessible luxury is coming to Athens when the Wyndham Grand Athens, the first Wyndham Hotel Group hotel in Greece, opens in the city centre early next year. Travel is the best excuse to enjoy the grand things in life, and Wyndham Grand hotels and resorts offer truly unforgettable travel experiences.

Wyndham Grand is decidedly not pretentious, but approachable by design, featuring pristine guestrooms, relaxing spas, one-of-a kind dining experiences, and more. The Wyndham Grand Athens will be situated on Karaiskaki Place (2, Meg. Alexandrou St.), where Zeus International, a company that operates nine hotels across Eastern Europe, is transforming the building owned by VIOHALCO which formerly housed the Hotel Athens Imperial.

When renovations are complete, the Wyndham Grand Athens will boast 273 rooms, 2,500 sq. m. of conference and event space, a restaurant, a bar, a spa and an amazing roof-garden of 450 sq. m. with a pool and a 360° view of the city skyline. In addition, the hotel’s proximity to the Metro and many of Athens’ cultural points of interest will make it a destination for business and leisure travellers alike.

Dan Ruff, President and Managing Director EMEA, for Wyndham Hotel Group, said: “Wyndham Grand hotels are located in some of the world’s most sought after destinations, including Shanghai, Istanbul, Doha, Salzburg, Chicago, Orlando and now Athens. This is only our first stop in Greece, as we see opportunities for many of our brands across the country, from city centres such as Athens and Thessaloniki to resort destinations in the Greek islands and mainland.”

Haris Siganos, Founder of Zeus International, noted: “Our Company is engaged in a variety of consulting and advisory projects from hotel management and development to turnaround management. We have been monitoring the Greek market for the right hospitality investment opportunity.

We believe that Athens has been missing a flagship hotel offering a one-of-a-kind experience with a compelling local flavour, and we intend to change this when the Wyndham Grand Athens opens next year.”

All Wyndham Grand hotels in the region participate in Wyndham Rewards®, the simple-to-use, revolutionary loyalty programme from Wyndham Hotel Group that offers members a generous points earning structure along with a flat, free-night redemption rate in 73 countries across the world – the first of its kind for a major hotel rewards programme. To learn more or to join for free, guests should visit

TURKEY: Park Inn by Radisson Opens In Ankara,

Park Inn by Radisson today announced the opening of a new 114-bedroom hotel in Ankara, Cankaya.

Operated by The Rezidor Hotel Group, this latest addition to the group’s portfolio is conveniently located in the Eymir Lake district, in the diplomatic heart of the city.

The hotel is perfectly located for the area’s main attractions including the Presidential Palace, international embassies and universities as well as shopping malls. Esenboga International Airport is 30 kilometers from the hotel, and public transport makes it easy for guests to get around the city.

The Rezidor Hotel Group, Area Vice President Middle East & Turkey, Mark Willis, said: “We are committed to expanding in Turkey especially in the mid-market segment. The opening of our second Park Inn by Radisson brand in Turkey demonstrates the growth potential and attractiveness of our highly popular brand, that is designed to add color to life.”

The hotel features 114 spacious guest rooms and suites, each offering utmost comfort, privacy and amenities, including free high-speed, wireless Internet access and smart TV. The hotel’s design elements are unique and include a choice of ceiling colors, headboard with mood lighting and colored shower screen.

The main restaurant serves a selection of Italian, American and Turkish cuisine, as well as a buffet breakfast each morning. Wellbeing is essential to the Park Inn by Radisson guest experience philosophy. The hotel features well-equipped spa and gym facilities and a 20-meter heated indoor pool. Also on offer are six modern meeting rooms with a total combined meeting space of over 1360 sqm that can be adapted to accommodate small meetings or large banquet events.

General Manager Park Inn by Radisson Ankara Cankaya, Ahmet Sezici, said: “With the opening of the Park Inn by Radisson, Ankara Cankaya, we are bringing a hotel experience that is vibrant, colorful, cosy and stylish.

“Guests staying with us can expect an accommodation option that harmonizes traditional Turkish hospitality with the needs of the modern traveler whether travelling for business or leisure.”

Dusit Eco-friendly Amenity For Guests

Dusit International has teamed up with PressReader to offer unlimited access to over 5,000 leading publications and magazines worldwide to its valued guests.

PressReader HotSpot is an impressive, cost-effective and environmentally-friendly service available to guests staying in participating hotels and resorts where they can download the PressReader application on any digital device such as smartphone, tablet, eReader or access content using a laptop via web browser.

With the application, guests can download and enjoy full content, with real replica newspapers and magazines available. The extensive variety of local and international titles includes USA Today, Daily Mail, Shanghai Daily, The Nation, Post Today and magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Vogue, Men’s Health, Bazaar, Business Traveller, Elle and Forbes Daily, amongst many more.

Mr. Silvano Trombetta, Corporate Director of Rooms Division, Dusit International, said that as a leading Asian hotel group, Dusit International is committed to providing exceptional experiences for guests while playing an active part in conserving the environment.

“Dusit International continues to seek out the latest technologies that will improve our guest’s experience. This new service fits right in to our year round initiatives to offer more green and eco-friendly products and services whilst delivering great experiences to our guests.”

The first batch of participating hotels and resorts include: Dusit Thani Bangkok, Dusit Thani Hua Hin, Dusit Thani Pattaya, Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket, DusitPrincess Srinakarin, DusitPrincess Korat, DusitPrincess Chiang Mai, dusitD2 Chiang Mai, Dusit Thani Abu Dhabi, Dusit Thani Dubai, Dusit Thani Maldives, Dusit Thani Manila, Dusit Thani LakeView Cairo, Dusit Thani Guam Resort and dusitD2 Nairobi with more to come on line in the months ahead.

CHINA: China's Dog Eating

The annual Lychee and Dog Meat Festival (21- 30 June), is currently in full festive swing in Yulin, Guangxi, China.

It is widely reviled among those from the West, who do not consider eating dog to be the done thing at all. And with good reason! During the summer solstice, about 10,000 to 15,000 dogs are paraded in steel and wooden crates, killed, cooked and eaten along with the lychees. They say it helps festival-goers to cope with the summer heat.

It’s safe to say that no travel agents in Western countries are using this festival as a draw card for tourists. The dog in the West is considered ‘man’s best friend’, and has the cultural privilege of being a ‘companion’. You just don’t eat your friends, especially not your best one. For most in the West, this oversteps the bounds of acceptability.

But in China, dog meat is not considered a cultural perversity. Rather it is given the same status the West gives to ‘meat animals’ such as pigs, bovines and chickens. It has, in other words, the rather dubious status of ‘yummy’.

The Humane Society International and other animal welfare and rights groups are outraged and have set up online petitions to try and end this cruelty. I am an animal rights activist and I stand right beside them.

But I also stand beside my animal rights colleagues at regular slaughter house protests in New Zealand. I do this in order to demonstrate my outrage at cruelty toward other species routinely killed in order to satisfy our own cultural food lust. There is cultural hypocrisy in decrying the killing of dogs in Yulin, while resting all our faith in the myth of ‘humane slaughter’ and ‘high animal welfare standards’ in the West.

Yes, I know that there are abuses in this festival that we don’t like. As Animals Australia declares, the dogs are, “[f]orced to travel long distances and crammed into crowded wire cages, the dogs languish without food or water as they await their fate. They watch on as those before them have their throats slit. Many are reportedly beaten — even burned or boiled alive”.

This description reminds me of the fate of bobby calves in New Zealand as demonstrated by the bobby calf cruelty expose on Sunday Show documentary in November last year. They may not have been boiled to death, but they were beaten. The new regulations by MPI don’t offer much hope either.

Currently, even when ‘best practice’ is followed, young calves can legally be required to travel up to 12 hours to their deaths and go for 24 hours without food. In short, there is no guarantee your food got to your plate without intense and horrific suffering.

Westerners need to think about the cultural biases employed when petitioning to have the Yulin dog Festival shut down. Just because the animal is a dog, does his/ her life matter more than a calf? There is sameness beneath the obvious differences; in many ways a dog is a cow is a human.

As scientist Marc Beckoff has demonstrated, both humans and animals share the same capacity for joy, sadness, hope, and pain. The idea that some species matter more than others, and that animals are ‘beneath us’ are cultural ideologies only. And they serve to justify the continued exploitation of animals.

It’s time we faced the truth as a society and stopped clinging tight to cultural myths about ‘humane slaughter’.

There is abuse in animal agriculture and the dog meat festival alike. We just need to take the cultural blinders off.

CHINA: Yulin Dog Meat Festival

Campaigners submit an 11 million signature petition calling for an end to China’s Yulin dog meat festival at Chinese Embassy London
Lychee and Dog Meat Festival, otherwise known as the Yulin Dog Festival, kicked off in southern China this week, amid a fevered pitch of demands from the international community for the city to halt the controversial event.

Critics of the festival, which this year have included celebrity condemnations from Matt Damon, Rooney Mara, and Joaquin Phoenix in a widely circulated PSA from non-profit organization Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation, have said that the festival is barbaric and baseless. Proponents meanwhile have argued that the practice of eating dog in Asia is a cultural one that predates modern history, and should be respected as a cultural tradition.

The festival has only existed since 2010, though dog hot-pots became popular within Yulin in the 90’s.

Consumption of dog meat has taken place in China and the rest of Asia since before written history, however.

Dog meat purportedly helps alleviate heat exhaustion, which has led to popularity on summer menus.

Beyond cruelty concerns, many opponents of the festival cite serious hygienic concerns of the meat itself. In line with the belief that tortured dogs will provide better meat, conditions with which dogs are transported and slaughtered are often poor and treated with little oversight. Many of the dogs are unvaccinated, and rabies is a high concern.

THAILAND: Phuket Farmers Club

The founders of the Phuket Farmers Club have announced the opening of a new organic farm in Pa Klok, and are inviting local residents to join in the club's first 'Workshop', to take place from 10am on Saturday, April 23.

A spokesman for the club says that the founders hope to fill the needs of outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy gardening, eating, and being close to nature.

"We are dedicated to offering you a blend of fruits and veggies grown organically as well as other homemade products at an attractive price. We select the finest products available, so you can be sure they are grown in the most natural ways.

"We also organize workshops regularly on Saturday mornings for people who wish to learn how to grow in the most sustainable ways and prepare homemade products," he says.

The Phuket Farmers Club center is located on Soi Nanua, less than 3km east of the Heroines Monument. Residents are free to visit it by appointment, or for any of the Saturday morning workshops.

At this Saturday's workshop, the focus will be on compost and why it is so important to organic farming. Participants will also be able to taste some homemade products and to learn more about the farm's goals.

THAILAND: Amatara Resort & Wellness Ocean-view Restaurant Serving Spa Cuisine

Amatara Resort & Wellness, one of Thailand’s most comprehensively equipped resort wellness experiences, introduces The Retreat, a restaurant outlet dedicated to serving healthy and nutritious food and beverages.

Previously known as The Club, the newly refreshed venue The Retreat better harmonises the resort’s F&B offerings with its high quality spa and luxury wellness programs and facilities.

The Amatara wellness cuisine concept is deeply rooted in ancient traditions, making it a peaceful sanctuary to embrace authentic healing and living foods. The menu is based on local Thai cultural inspiration, which encourages the nurturing of harmony with spirit, the environment and to re-connect with one another.

Amatara’s mind, body and spirit approach to wellness and wholefood supports an organic healing process to naturally heal and improve the body and state of wellbeing; a key part of this is of course superb nutrition.

Amatara’s Wellness Director, Phoebe Boonkerd, explains, “Through the guest's experience of our simple, balanced, creative and delicious wholefood cuisine, it is our hope that the guest returns home feeling nourished and rejuvenated, and inspired to continue the journey of good health through optimal nutrition.

The menu is designed by our head chef and our nutritionists; it offers a delicious and healthy composition of the highest quality local and imported ingredients, organic fruits, vegetables and free-range meat and poultry.

The menu features seasonal, innovative cuisine with a diverse array of traditional and modern healthy eating influences. For example, the delicious-yet-healthy menus feature Soft Cured Ocean Trout with Organic Leaf Salad, Poached Prawns & Quinoa Salad with Ginger and Ginseng Dressing, Goji & Mussel Chowder Soup, Stir Fried Beef Tenderloin with Ginger and Yuzu Soy Sauce, Young Coconut Pudding and many more.

For operating hours at The Retreat, breakfast is served from 06:30 - 10:30 a.m.; however, this is exclusive for Wellness Retreat and Pool Villa guests only. The Retreat will open to all guests for lunch during 11:30am - 2:00pm and for dinner from 5:00.

THAILAND: Swedish Tourist Beaten Up By Patong Tuk Tuk Driver And Friends

A tuk tuk driver and four accomplices were arrested yesterday for ganging up on a Swedish tourist and beating him unconscious in Patong in the early hours of Monday morning.

Police responding to reports of the beating found Frederik Gustav Wilhelm Erikson Holm, 32, lying unconscious at the end of Soi Bangla at 3.45am. He was sent to Bangkok Phuket Hospital for treatment.

“According to witnesses, Mr Holm appeared drunk when he staggered out of Soi Bangla onto the Patong beach road and began arguing with tuk tuk driver Natee Det-oop, 27,” said Phuket Tourist Police Chief Maj Naruewat Puthawiro.

“The pair came to blows and then several other locals joined in to help the tuk tuk driver. Mr Holm was knocked unconscious and fell to the ground.”

Police soon arrested the suspects after reviewing CCTV footage. The four who came to the aid of the tuk tuk driver were named as Yosphat Chaona, 21; Sompong Wichienrat, 29; Jirawat Pratumchat, 34; and Busaron Kalupae, 28.

Police charged the five with assault.

Mr Holm’s injuries were not serious and he was later discharged from hospital.

THAILAND: Landslide Narrowly Crashes Family

A family of three narrowly escaped being crushed to death in a landslide in Krabi that completely destroyed their house on Friday.

The 56-year-old owner, Rorya Marya, was staying at her house in Baan Thapradoo, Khlong Thom District with her nephew and mentally unstable son when she heard rumbling sounds and went outside to check.

“I saw a landslide moving very fast toward our house, so I shouted to my son and nephew to get out. Moments later, the landslide swept our house into the Khlong waterway nearby. We didn’t get a chance to take any of our valuables,” said Ms Rorya. “I also lost 6,000 baht in cash in the disaster.”

The house, as well as all of the family’s possessions, were lost in the slide. Officials later surveyed the area and advised neighborhood residents to move out to prevent similar incidents in the future.

The family is temporarily staying at a neighbor’s house, as they have no place to go.

“Ms Rorya doesn’t have any land at the moment, so we are trying to see if we can find her some to build a new house on,” said Vivek Phiwdam, president of Huay Nam Khao OrBorTor. “I am willing to support some of the budget for its construction as well,” he added.

THAILAND: Battle To Protect Thai Tourism

The recent arrest of a businessman for allegedly faking a Thai national identification card is just the latest development in the seemingly never-ending battle to protect the Thai tourism industry from illegal foreign opportunists.

Thai authorities are, of course, correct to prosecute, to the full extent of the law, any foreigner who would resort to forgery in an attempt to carve out a slice of the lucrative Thai tourism pie. We hope, however, that future enforcement as it pertains to guides adheres to the true intent of the law – otherwise it could serve as a high-capacity vehicle for extortion, collusion and nationalist-driven folly.

As has often been pointed out in this space over the years, existing Thai Labor Law is intentionally vague when it comes to defining what exactly constitutes work. The modern classic ‘Working of Alien Act (2008)’ defines work as follows: exerting energy or using knowledge whether or not for wages or other benefits.

Indeed, under such a sloppy definition, one could easily run afoul of the Act simply by getting out of bed in the morning, or, in the more specific case of ‘guiding’, by simply directing a spatially-confused foreigner to the nearest bank, bus stop or brothel.

Fortunately, reports of authorities taking undue advantage of the absurd wording of the Act have been fairly few and far between. However, a few high-profile cases, such as the arrest of volunteers here to assist in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami disaster and the arrest of a foreigner caught ‘red-handed’ working on a boat in his own backyard, serve to remind all of our friends in the expat community just how tenuous day-to-day life can be in Thailand – especially if one has managed to rub someone in a position of authority the wrong way.

Of course, with each emerging inbound market, there are corresponding outcries from legally-registered guides who see their turf, quite literally, being encroached upon. First, it was the South Koreans. Then the Russians. Now we are seeing similar whining over the mainland Chinese, who comprise the greatest, and final, frontier of Phuket tourism.

We hope that the government at senior levels will continue to reduce the number of instances in which their more junior officers abuse the law for their own personal benefit, at the expense of Thai tourism and the country's long-challenged image overseas.

TRINIDAD & TOBAGO: Health Expert Wants Higher Taxes On Unhealthy Foods

A chronic disease expert is not backing down from her call for higher taxes on unhealthy foods.

Director of the Barbados-based Chronic Disease Research Centre, Dr Alafia Samuels said the measure would serve the dual purpose of raising funds that can be invested in the health care system and residents would also be dissuaded from eating the wrong foods.

“I am saying lets tax french fries because, just like tobacco, the french fries are going to give you a heart attack down the road and you may as well start saving money little by little. Government should start saving it for you so that you can pay for the heart attack when it comes,” said Dr Samuels, a former advisor to the WHO/PAHO on chronic diseases.

She pointed out that the Caribbean is leading the Americas in the non-communicable disease epidemic, with Trinidad and Tobago topping the region, followed by Belize, Cuba and Barbados.

In Barbados, eight of the 10 leading causes of deaths are non-communicable disease (NCD)-related, including heart attack, diabetes, stroke and high blood pressure.

“Not only is this causing an obesity problem in the region but over time it is getting worse,” she said. “Men are catching up and it’s not only the adults, it’s also the children. We have a third of school children who are not getting enough physical activity. In the Caribbean, about 10 percent or more of children are already obese and it is increasing over time.”

Dr Samuels accused one of the largest fast food restaurants on the island of unfairly marketing itself to children, saying that contrary to international standards, it was having its name printed on material at learning institutions.

“You should not market to children in schools but we are doing it here and we are allowing it to happen. So in schools, in general, we’re not doing well and in Barbados, in particular, I have to call out [the company],”she said.

Dr Samuels, the deputy dean of Research and Postgraduate Studies in the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, said it was particularly worrying that 40 percent of NDC deaths in the Caribbean occur in people younger than 70 years old.

“In North America it’s older people who are dying from heart attacks and strokes. In the Caribbean its 40-year-old people and 50-year-old people in the prime of life, in the workplace, who are dying from heart attacks and strokes,” she asserted.

“In the Caribbean we are saying there are too many people less than age 70 who are dying from chronic diseases when we know that a lot of those could be prevented or delayed. These premature deaths are mainly from heart attack, strokes, diabetes and cancer. High blood pressure is the leading risk factor for most of these diseases and the problem with high blood pressure is that they call it the silent killer.”

The lecture delivered at the Cave Hill campus by Dr Samuels was titled Accelerating the NCD Agenda – Towards a Better Caribbean, Stronger Together.

BARBADOS: Disruptive Passenger On Air Canada Flight Causes Problems

A middle-aged man who reportedly made threats on an Air Canada flight to Barbados has been detained by police after his behaviour caused the more than 100 other passengers to remain on the plane for more than two hours after it landed.

Police in Barbados say they are continuing investigations into the matter.

The man, whose identity has not been disclosed, became disruptive on Flight AC1966 that left Toronto around 8:35 a.m. with 114 passengers for a five-hour journey.

The plane landed at the Grantley Adams International Airport around 1:40 p.m., but it was not until more than two hours later that the passengers were allowed to disembark, after police and other security officials investigated the threat and conducted a full search of the aircraft.

“Nothing was found that would cause further alarm or distress. The identified male passenger was detained,” police said in a statement issued late yesterday, adding that there was no harm done to the crew or passengers.

Air Canada spokesperson Isabelle Arthur also said that after the search was completed, passengers were transferred to the terminal.

TRINIDAD & TOBAGO: Leak Of Nude Photos Of Trinidadian women

Law enforcement officials in Trinidad and Tobago are may have to subpoena a US-based company to retrieve the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of the persons responsible for posting and trying to sell nude photos of young Trinidadian woman and under-age girls, according to local media reports.

The hundreds of photos were leaked on social media on Wednesday.

But police say that the operators of the website where the photographs were uploaded had recently switched to a new server based in the US.

Law enforcement officials will therefore have to go through Central Authority to subpoena the company, which has been identified as Digital Ocean Inc.

Police Corporate Communications Manager Ellen Lewis said victims have been coming forward and reporting the crimes to the Fraud Squad, which is leading the investigation with support from the Cyber Crime Unit. She urged others who are similarly affected to come forward as well.

Some of the 500 women who were pictured have come together and have identified a group of men they say is behind the spread of the photos.

They have pointed fingers at medical students of the University of the West Indies (UWI) St Augustine campus.

JAMAICA: Brexit, Jamaica Tourism To Secure UK Market

The United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union (EU) is significant to Jamaica’s tourism industry, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett says, but there’s no need to panic as every effort will be made to secure the UK market.

Last Thursday, in a referendum on Britain’s exit (Brexit) from the EU, the United Kingdom voted to leave the 28-member bloc.

Bartlett told the media over the weekend that the decision “is of significance to us in tourism for a number of reasons, perhaps, foremost of which is the fact that, based on the economic and political implications, it will have an impact on the travel and tourism community across the region.”

He noted that the Caribbean was most dependent on British visitors on this side of the globe and “it is important for us to consider what implications that will have on the flow of visitors into our destinations.”

“For us in Jamaica, the British market is our third largest and is a growing market and with it comes also important connectivity from other areas of Europe, so that whatever is happening in that economy, in that political space, is of tremendous interest and importance to us,” Bartlett noted.

He gave the assurance that proactive steps were being taken to secure the UK market, but said it was recognized that the immediate short-term impact was the devaluation of the British pound in the wake of the Brexit vote.

This, the minister noetd, had implications for British travellers and their ability to afford visits to the Caribbean and Jamaica, “especially against the background that our prices are predicated on the US dollar.”

On a positive note, he suggested that the immediate impact on arrivals for Jamaica “may not be severe at all.”

“Our immediate market arrangements are covered by a series of packaging which have taken place already; payment for which have either been in the system already or are about to be made,” he explained.

However, Minister Bartlett said Jamaica had to look beyond the next winter season.

“As a result I will be leading a team to the UK in September for the Jamaica Travel Market and thereafter to do a roadshow in the British Isle,” he said, stressing that this is important to shore up partnerships in the area and bolster the country’s market position in relation to the type of products, pricing and general arrangements that will be made “to ensure the competitiveness of destination Jamaica.”

“We are always proactive and, interestingly, our programme for the UK in fact predates the results of the UK’s referendum. So we will continue to monitor the situation and take additional steps as required,” the tourism minister added.

INDIA: India To Introduce long-term Multiple-entry, Visa For Tourists And Business People

India may soon roll out a long-term multiple-entry comprehensive visa by merging tourist, business, medical and conference visas into one to attract more visitors and boost trade.

Tourists, businessmen or people coming for treatment or to attend conferences or even for film shoots can be covered under the proposed new category, which was first mooted by the Commerce Ministry following a suggestion by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) to boost services trade.

The long-term, multiple-entry visa is likely to be given upto 10 years but under this category the visitor will not be allowed to work or stay permanently, a government official, who is part of the deliberations, said.

As per the proposal, if a foreigner is granted long-term, multiple-entry non-working or non-permanent stay visa and his or her stay is restricted to 60 days on a visit, the government may waive the visa fee as well.

However, the visitors have to give biometric details and fulfil certain security obligations, the official said.

The Home Ministry is working on the proposal and, hopefully, it will be implemented soon, the official said.

The plan is part of the Commerce Ministry's initiatives to boost India's services trade.

India is said to be missing out on a huge opportunity worth about $80 billion annually in terms of attracting foreigners and foreign exchange.

Medical tourism in India alone is estimated at $3 billion and projected to grow to $7-8 billion by 2020.

Foreign patients travelling to India for medical treatment in 2012, 2013 and 2014 stood at 1,71,021, 2,36,898, and 1,84,298 respectively.

Small countries like Thailand attract millions of people whereas tourists flow in India is far less.

India will not ask for reciprocal visa liberalisation as it is an old concept now. To achieve the objectives of major government programmes like 'Make-in-India' and 'Digital India', the country needs to have an easy visa regime, the official said.

For sensitive countries, the government may consider extending group visa to tourists and business persons.

Discussions are also being held on whether to incorporate the new category visa with the online e-tourist visa on arrival scheme for short term visits.

TVoA (tourist visa on arrival), enabled by Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA), popularly known as e-tourist visa scheme, was launched on November 27, 2014.

Under the e-tourist visa scheme, an applicant receives an email authorising him or her to travel to India after it has been approved. The tourist can travel with a print-out of this authorisation.

On arrival, the visitor has to present the authorisation to the immigration authorities who would then stamp the entry into the country.

Till now, the scheme has been extended to 150 countries at 16 Indian airports designated for providing e-tourist visa service. On an average, 3500 e-tourists visa are being granted every day.

The proposal for new category visa assumes significance as the services sector constitutes about 60% of India's GDP but its share in global export of services remains at a low 3.15%.

Services has emerged as a prominent sector in India in terms of its contribution to national and state income, trade flows and FDI inflows.

The sector contributes around 28% to job creation. Its contribution to total trade is 25%-- around 35% to exports and 20% to imports.