Saturday 30 June 2018

FRANCE: Philippe Capron Withdraws From Air France-KLM Race For Chairman And CEO

Philippe Capron, who had been interested to take over at the head of Air France-KLM, has withdrawn interest in the job and criticised the French state’s intervention in the process.

In the context of recent events, I wish to inform you of my withdrawal from the ongoing recruitment process. I am no longer a candidate for the position of chairman and CEO of Air France-KLM, wrote Mr Capron in a letter to the airline’s interim chairwoman Anne-Marie Couderc.

His withdrawal is the latest setback for the struggling airline— formed by Air France’s merger in 2004 with Dutch KLM — which has been trying to find a new boss to replace Jean-Marc Janaillac, who quit in May after putting his job on the line in an effort to end strikes over pay.

Mr Janaillac’s resignation in the face of union opposition has reignited concerns about Air France-KLM’s ability to reform the French arm of its business.

Its share price has dropped almost 50 per cent so far this year.

On Wednesday, the group said the recruitment process for the future governance would be implemented as quickly as possible. 

Mr Capron, who is currently chief financial officer at French water and waste group Veolia, had been on course to be named as the new boss but, KLM and shareholders Delta and China Eastern Airlines, which each hold 8 per cent of the group, have expressed concern, partly because of his lack of aviation experience.

The position of the French state has also seemingly turned against Mr Capron with finance minister Bruno Le Maire saying last weekend that the race was still open.

Capron is one of the possible candidates but he is not the only one. It takes experience. 

There is also a suggestion that two bosses might now be recruited, one for Air France and one for Air France-KLM.

Mr Capron’s letter which is dated July 2 but was emailed to Ms Couderc on Friday evening defends his ability to do the job, questions the potential governance change and suggests the state had interfered in his candidacy.

After being chosen by the appointment committee I began to introduce myself to other managers when an external intervention blocked this process, marking a curious deviation in the governance of this private company in which the state holds only 14 per cent, said Mr Capron in the letter.

Along with the premature revelation of my candidacy, following little information from the public authorities, this decision opened Pandora's Box, giving an opportunity to all those who believe they have the right to co-manage the company to advance their particular agendas and to interfere in the process, added Mr Capron.

Without naming the hotel group directly, the letter also hits out at France’s Accor, which has been pressing ahead with efforts to buy the government's stake in the airline.

Everyone agrees that seeing the exit of the state from the capital of Air France-KLM is one of the conditions of the recovery of the group.

But this exit should not be for the benefit of private interests, determined to take creeping control, said Mr Capron.

Tourism Observer

Best, Worst Airlines And Airports In The World

Qatar Airways has been ranked the best airline in the world, according to a new study.

The research, carried out by consumer group AirHelp, has put the Middle Eastern airline on top with Hamad International airport, also based in Doha, the capital of Qatar.

The group ranked 72 airlines and 141 airports analysing a series of key performance indicators (KPI) including on-time performance and service quality. Twitter sentiment was also used to measure the KPI of the airports.

Closely followed by Qatar Airways is Lufthansa in second and Etihad Airways in third and Singapore Airlines and South African Airways in fourth and fifth respectively.

Among the worst airlines were Air Mauritius, EasyJet, Pakistan International Airlines, Royal Jordanian Airlines and Wow Air.

In terms of airports, Greece's Athens International came in second place, followed by Tokyo Haneda, Germany's Cologne Bonn and Changi, Singapore.

The worst were Stockholm Bromma, Sweden; Paris Orly; Lyon; London Stansted and Kuwait International.

London Heathrow did not make it into the top 10, coming in at number 81 out of the 141-strong list.

The report found that Stansted's poor standing was due to a large volume of negative tweets. Gatwick was the worst airport when considering this metric alone, it said.

AirHelp CEO and co-founder Henrik Zillmer said: For some time now UK airports have seemingly been in the news for all the wrong reasons and that has been realised in this data.

The UK is enviably positioned when it comes to physical movement of people globally, but this report needs to serve as a wake-up call when it comes to actual performance.

Passengers are clearly not happy and while it will be a challenge to address the issues highlighted in this report, it is also an opportunity to halt the decline in performance and provide consumers with a better experience.

Best And Worst Airlines

Best And Worst Airports

Tourism Observer

UNITED KINGDOM: Fastjet In Financial Trouble, Fastjet In $10m Capital Search

Low-cost African airline Fastjet could effectively go out of business if further funds are not found from its shareholders and investors.

The troubled airline set up by easyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, flies in several African countries including South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe but has been in financial trouble for some time and withdrew its flights from Kenya in 2016.

It lost an average of $50m a year up until 2016 and has yet to file its 2017 results, which have to be published by Friday for it to remain listed on London’s AIM exchange

The company now says that if no new funds emerge, Fastjet may not be able to continue trading as a going concern.

The result was that within hours of the announcement Fastjet lost more than two-thirds off the value of its shares in a matter of hours.

Whilst initial discussions with certain shareholders have been positive, discussions are ongoing and there can be no guarantee of a successful outcome, it warned on Wednesday.

The airline started operating in 2012 with the backing of easyJet’s founder but has continued to consume cash, and it now had just $3.3m in its reserves.

Fastjet launched in Tanzania with an ambition to become a pan-African low-cost carrier, but it has struggled throughout with problems.

Fastjet announced plans to raise new funds through a proposed capital raising to bring in $10m (£7.6m) to see off turbulence looming over its future.

The company said the funds should deliver enough working capital to keep it in the air for the rest of 2018.

The African airline said today it plans to raise $10m made up of a placing by way of an accelerated book build to raise $7m and a subscription by its largest shareholder, South African airline Solenta Aviation.

The company also plans to raise up to £1.6m by way of an open offer made to qualifying shareholders.

Shares soared on the news after nosediving earlier this week.

Solenta Aviation boss Mark Hurst will join the board of Fastjet from 2 July as a non-executive director to work with the carrier's chief executive Nico Bezuidenhout.

Bezuidenhout said: Today's capital raising will give Fastjet the adequate headroom it needs for the remainder of 2018.

Although there were some unexpected headwinds in 2017, the stabilisation plan put in place by the board has significantly reduced the cost base of the company and right-sized the business.

Trading in the year to date has been in line with market expectations and the company is now well-positioned to capitalise on future growth

Around half of the net proceeds raised will be allocated to support the working capital requirements of Fastjet's Zimbabwe and Mozambique operations, and repayments of certain loans, with the balance then used to support operations in Tanzania and for the launch of services in South Africa.

The news came after the airline's shares slumped earlier this week on the warning that should it be unable to reach an agreement with shareholders over new funding, it could cease trading.

Today, Fastjet said there were a number of challenges over last year but it delivered a significant reduction in its underlying cost base with operating costs slashed by nearly half.

The airline reported a $25.3m group operating loss - though that was down on the year before's $65.6m total. Revenues fell from $68.5m to $46.2m for the year ended 31 December 2017.

It did noted some unexpected headwinds over the course of the year including greater than expected accumulation of restricted cash in Zimbabwe, an unforeseen engine event, and the late entry of two aircraft in Tanzania due to regulatory delays which had a financial impact of around $5m on revenue.

This month is expected to be the most challenging in terms of financial headroom for the company, with Fastjet saying the capital raising announced today should provide adequate headroom for the rest of the financial year.

Looking further ahead, it plans to look into financing and possibly joint venture options in South Africa to support its push there.

Tourism Observer

Cou Cou Or Coo Coo National Dish In Caribbean Islands

Cou-cou, coo-coo as it is known in the Windward Islands, or fungi as it is known in the Leeward Islands and Dominica, makes up part of the national dishes of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, British Virgin Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

It consists mainly of cornmeal or corn flour and okra (ochroes). Cornmeal, which comes readily packaged and is available at supermarkets island wide, and okra, which can be found at supermarkets, vegetable markets and home gardens, are very inexpensive ingredients.

Because these main components are inexpensive, the dish became common for many residents in Barbados' early colonial history. Cou-cou derives from the island's African ancestry and was a regular meal for those slaves who were brought over from Africa to Barbados.

In Ghana, a similar and probably the original African meal of fermented corn or maize flour eaten with Okra stew and fish is known as Banku, a favourite dish of the Ga Tribe in Accra.

It has historically been proven that most slaves taken to Barbados came from Ghana, as further evidenced by some shared names.

A unique cooking utensil called a cou-cou stick, or fungi stick, is used in its preparation. A cou-cou stick is made of wood, and has a long, flat rectangular shape like a 1-foot-long (30 cm) miniature cricket bat.
It is believed by Barbadians to be essential in stirring the cou-cou, as the dish takes on a firm texture and the cou-cou stick makes it easier to stir in a large pot.

Flying fish prepared fried or steamed is a usual complement to cou-cou. Cou-cou and flying fish has become Barbados' national dish.

Corned beef, or just beef stew, is also a common accompaniment to cou-cou.

Traditionally, cou-cou is served on Fridays at homes across Barbados and local food establishments.

Cou-cou can also be prepared using breadfruit instead of cornmeal.

In Trinidad and Tobago cou-cou or coo-coo)is often prepared alongside callaloo and either stewed or fried fish.

In some islands, e.g. Barbados, Antigua, or the Virgin Islands, cou-cou may be cooked without okra, and goes by the name fengi, fungie, or fungi.

Tourism Observer

Paella, A Valencian Rice Dish

Paella is a Valencian rice dish that has ancient roots but its modern form originated in the mid-19th century in the area around Albufera lagoon on the east coast of Spain adjacent to the city of Valencia.

Many non-Spaniards view paella as Spain's national dish, but most Spaniards consider it to be a regional Valencian dish. Valencians, in turn, regard paella as one of their identifying symbols.

Types of paella include, Valencian paella, vegetable paella or paella de verduras in Spanish, seafood paella or paella de mariscos, and mixed paella or paella mixta, among many others.

Valencian paella is believed to be the original recipe and consists of white rice, green beans or bajoqueta and tavella, meat such as chicken, duck and rabbit, white beans or garrofon, snails, and seasoning such as saffron and rosemary.

Another very common but seasonal ingredient is artichokes. Seafood paella replaces meat with seafood and omits beans and green vegetables. Mixed paella is a free-style combination of meat from land animals, seafood, vegetables, and sometimes beans.

Most paella chefs use bomba] rice due to it being less likely to overcook, but Valencians tend to use a slightly stickier and thus more susceptible to overcooking variety known as Senia. All types of paellas use olive oil.

Paella is a Valencian word which derives from the Old French word paelle for pan, which in turn comes from the Latin word patella for pan.

The word paella is also related to paila used in many Latin American countries. Paila in the Spanish language of Latin America refers to a variety of cookware resembling metal and clay pans, which are also used for both cooking and serving.

The Latin root patella from which paella derives is also akin to the modern French poêle, the Italian padella and the Old Spanish padilla.

Valencians use the word paella for all pans in the Valencian language, including the specialized shallow pan used for cooking paellas.

However, in most other parts of Spain and throughout Hispanic America where the Spanish language is spoken as opposed to the Valencian language, the term paellera or paella pan is more commonly used for the specialised pan while paella is reserved for the rice dish prepared in it.

Although both terms are deemed correct for the pan, as stated by the Royal Spanish Academy, the body responsible for regulating the Spanish language in Spain.

Paelleras are traditionally round, shallow, and made of polished steel with two handles.

Some claim that the origin of the word paella comes from the Arabic, pronounced baqiyyah, meaning leftovers. This claim is based on the 8th century custom where Moorish kings' servants would take home the rice, chicken, and vegetables their employers left at the end of the meal.

On the Mediterranean coast, Valencians used seafood instead of meat and beans to make paella. Valencians regard this recipe as authentic, as well. In this recipe, the seafood is served in the shell. A variant on this is paella del senyoret which uses seafood without shells.

Later, however, Spaniards living outside of Valencia combined seafood with meat from land animals and mixed paella was born. This paella is sometimes called preparacion barroca or baroque preparation due to the variety of ingredients and its final presentation.

During the 20th century, paella's popularity spread past Spain's borders. As other cultures set out to make paella, the dish invariably acquired regional influences.

Consequently, paella recipes went from being relatively simple to including a wide variety of seafood, meat, sausage including chorizo, vegetables and many different seasonings. However, the most globally popular recipe is seafood paella.

Throughout non-Valencian Spain, mixed paella is less rare. Some restaurants both in Spain and abroad that serve this mixed version refer to it as Valencian paella.

However, Valencians insist that only the original two Valencian recipes are authentic, and generally view all others as inferior, not genuine, or even grotesque.

Basic cooking methods

According to tradition in Valencia, paella is cooked over an open fire, fueled by orange and pine branches along with pine cones. This produces an aromatic smoke which infuses the paella. Also, dinner guests traditionally eat directly out of the paellera.

Some recipes call for paella to be covered and left to settle for five to ten minutes after cooking.

Valencian Paella
This recipe is standardized because Valencians consider it traditional and very much part of their culture. Rice in Valencian paella is never braised in oil, as pilaf, though the paella made further southwest of Valencia often is.

- Heat oil in a paella.

- Saute meat after seasoning with salt.

- Add green vegetables and saute until soft.

- Add garlic (optional), grated tomatoes, beans and saute.

- Add paprika and saute.

- Add water, saffron or food coloring, snails (optional) and rosemary.

- Boil to make broth and allow it to reduce by half.

- Remove the rosemary once flavour has infused or it starts to fall apart.

- Add rice and simmer until rice is cooked.

- Garnish with more fresh rosemary.

- Seafood paella

Recipes for this dish vary somewhat, even in Valencia. The recipe below is based on the two cited here.

- Make a seafood broth from shrimp heads, onions, garlic and bay leaves.

- Heat oil in a paellera.

- Add mussels. Cook until they open and then remove.

- Saute Norway lobster and whole, deep-water rose shrimp. Then remove both the lobster and shrimp.

- Add chopped cuttlefish and saute.

- Add shrimp tails and saute.

- Add garlic and saute.

- Add grated tomato and saute.

- Add rice and braise in sofrito.

- Add paprika and saute.

- Add seafood broth and then saffron or food coloring.

- Add salt to taste.

- Add the deep-water rose shrimp, mussels and Norway lobster that were set aside.

- Simmer until rice is cooked.

Mixed paella

There are countless mixed paella recipes. The following method is common to most of these. Seasoning depends greatly on individual preferences and regional influences. However, salt, saffron and garlic are almost always included.

- Make a broth from seafood, chicken, onions, garlic, bell peppers and bay leaf.

- Heat oil in a paellera.

- Sear red bell pepper strips and set aside.

- Sear crustaceans and set aside.

- Season meat lightly with salt and saute meat until golden brown.

- Add onions, garlic and bell peppers. Saute until vegetables are tender.

- Add grated tomatoes and saute.

- Add dry seasonings except for salt.

- Add rice.

- Braise rice until covered with sofrito.

- Add broth.

- Add salt to taste.

- Add saffron or food coloring and mix well.

- Simmer until rice is almost cooked.

- Re-place crustaceans.

- Continue simmering until rice and crustaceans are finished cooking.

- Garnish with seared red bell pepper strips.

After cooking paella, there is usually a layer of toasted rice at the bottom of the pan, called socarrat in Spain. This is considered a delicacy among Spaniards and is essential to a good paella.

The toasted rice develops on its own if the paella is cooked over a burner or open fire. If cooked in an oven, however, it will not. To correct this, place the paellera over a high flame while listening to the rice toast at the bottom of the pan.

Once the aroma of toasted rice wafts upwards, it is removed from the heat. The paella must then sit for about five minutes, most recipes recommend the paella be covered with a tea-towel at this point to absorb the remaining broth.

It has become a custom at mass gatherings in the Valencian Community such as festivals, political campaigns, protests, etc. to prepare enormous paellas, sometimes to win a place in the Guinness World Records book. Chefs use gargantuan paelleras for these events.

Valencian restaurateur Juan Galbis claims to have made the world's largest paella with help from a team of workers on 2 October 2001. This paella fed about 110,000 people according to Galbis' former website.

Galbis says this paella was even larger than his earlier world-record paella made on 8 March 1992 which fed about 100,000 people. Galbis's record-breaking 1992 paella is listed in Guinness World Records.

Many chefs around the world have taken the traditional dish and added ingredients, such as chorizo, that are considered not to belong in the dish by Valencians. Spaniards, especially people from Valencia, have complained about this many times and it is a recurrent topic online.

The alternative name proposed for these dishes, although pejorative, is Arroz con cosas or rice with things. Famous cases are Jamie Oliver's paella recipe which included chorizo and Gordon Ramsay's.

Traditional Valencian cuisine offers recipes similar to paella valenciana and paella de marisco such as arros negre, arros al forn, arros a banda and arros amb fesols i naps. Fideua is a noodle dish variation of the paella cooked in a similar fashion, though it may be served with allioli sauce.

Other similar rice dishes:

- Thieboudienne

- Biryani

- Arroz a la valenciana

- Arroz con pollo

- Arroz con gandules

- Arros negre

- Jambalaya

- Pilaf

- Risotto

- Jollof rice

- Arroz meloso

- Bisi Bele Bath

- Locrio — This Dominican dish is thought to be a descendant of paella.

Tourism Observer

MEXICO: Valladolid Is Less Touristic, But Has More Historic Significance And Charm

Valladolid is a small city in the state of Yucatan. Located about a 45 minute drive from the east entrance of Chichen Itza.

It offers an alternative base for the ruins, while having its own charms as well, although further from the ruins than the town of Piste, Valladolid is less tourist-oriented and has more historic charm.

Valladolid is a city located in the eastern part of the Mexican state of Yucatan. It is the seat of Valladolid Municipality.

As of the 2010 census the population of the city was 45,868 inhabitants the third-largest community in the state, and that of the municipality was 74,217.

The municipality has an areal extent of 945.22 km² (364.95 sq mi) and includes many outlying communities, the largest of which are Popola, Kanxoc, Yalcoba, and Xocen. Valladolid is located approximately 160 km east of the state capital Merida, 40 km east of Chichen Itza, and 150 km west of Cancun.

On August 30, 2012, Valladolid became part of the Pueblo Magico promotional initiative led by the Mexican tourism department.

Named after Valladolid, at the time the capital of Spain. The name derives from the Arabic expression Ballad Al-Walid, which means city of Al-Walid, referring to Al-Walid I.

The first Valladolid in Yucatan was established by Spanish Conquistador Francisco de Montejo's nephew on May 27, 1543 at some distance from the current town, at a lagoon called Chouac-Ha in the municipality of Tizimin.

However, early Spanish settlers complained about the mosquitos and humidity at the original location, and petitioned to have the city moved further inland.

On March 24, 1545, Valladolid was relocated to its current location, built atop a Maya town called Zaci or Zaci-Val, whose buildings were dismantled to reuse the stones to build the Spanish colonial town. The following year the Maya people revolted, but were put down with additional Spanish troops coming from Merida.

Valladolid had a population of 15,000 in 1840. In January 1847, the native Mayans rioted, killing some eighty whites and sacking their houses.

After a Mayan noble was shot by firing squad, the riot became a general uprising. It was led by Jacinto Pat, batab of Tihosuco and by Cecilio Chi of nearby Ichmul.

The city and the surrounding region was the scene of intense battle during Yucatan's Caste War, and the Ladino forces were forced to abandon Valladolid on March 14, 1848, with half being killed by ambush before they reached Merida. The city was sacked by the Maya rebels but was recaptured later in the war.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, Valladolid was the third largest and most important city of the Yucatan Peninsula, after Merida and Campeche.

It had a sizable well-to-do Criollo population, with a number of old Spanish style mansions in the old city. Valladolid was widely known by its nickname The Sultana of the East.

It is worth noting that principal sites are very well marked with bi-lingual signage, making this a truly hospitable place for English speakers. The local police are very friendly, speak English well and are happy to give directions.

Valladolid is a great city to spend the day exploring the history and culture the Yucatan peninsula has to offer.

From colonial era churches and architecture to natural wonders like cenote notable sights to visit in Valladolid are the colonial era cathedral Ex-convent and church Convent of San Bernardino de Siena named after saint Bernardino of siena which was built by Franciscan missionaries between 1552 and 1560.

Located in the Sisal neighbourhood and a short 10-minute walk from downtown it also has a wonderful park where you can sit and enjoy tranquility and peacefulness. In downtown Valladolid, you can find the cathedral of San Servacio located in the main square of the city.

Valladolid has a chessboard like street grid and at the city center it’s a plaza with a park square in the middle surrounded by stores where you can enjoy a walk and purchase souvenirs, food or refreshments.

Located a couple of blocks from the heart of the city is the Cenote Zaci, a landscaped freshwater cenote or underground sinkhole in which you can access the inside and explore its cave. There is also a restaurant in the premises of the Cenote Zaci and artisans selling handcrafts.

Valladolid is a popular base for visiting nearby major Mayan ruins such as Chichen Itza and Ek' Balam, as well as Cenote Ik Kilso.

Places to visit in Downtown Valladolid

- Cathedral of San Servacio o Gervasio

- Main center park - Francisco Canton Rosado

- Municipal Palace or Palacio Municipal

- Cenote Zaci

- House of the Culture or Casa de la Cultura

- House of the Deer or Casa de los Venados

- Mercado de Artesanias or Handcraft Market

- Centro Artesanal Zaci or Handcraft center Zaci

- Bazar Municipal

- Museo San Roque

- Parque de los Heroes or Park of the Heroes

- Las 5 Calles

Sisal Area

- Temple and former Convent de "San Bernandino de Siena"

- Calzada de los Frailes

- Park of Sisal (parque de Sisal)

Candelaria Area

- Church of Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria

- Park of Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria

- Ex Telar - La Aurora

- Municipal Market or Mercado Municipal - Donato Bates Herrera

Santa Lucia Area

- Church de Santa Lucia

- Park de Santa Lucía

San Juan Area

- Church de San Juan de Dios

- Park de San Juan de Dios

Other Places

- Cenote Suytun

- Cenote Xkeken

- Cenote Samulha

The typical dish of the region is Lomitos de Valladolid which is a pork dish in fresh tomato sauce; Cochinita pibil meat marinated in achiote, which comes from the Bixa orellana bitter orange, and spices, wrapped in Banana leaf and barbecued or baked in a pit.

Lechon al horno, bistek de cazuela, relleno negro which is turkey cooked with a paste of charred chillies and vegetables with bits of hard-boiled eggs, frijol con puerco and chicken in escabeche.

Valladolid is also known for its Longaniza which are a type of pork based salami sausage with traditional condiments. Local traditional candies are based on materials from the region such as honey, coconut, corn and others.

Traditional ice cream is very popular and a must have on your visit. The most common flavours are coconut, corn and fruits of the region as guanabana or Soursop, mamey or Pouteria sapota Sapote and others.

The climate in the Yucatan peninsula is hot and dry. There is also tropical rain with hot and predominate trade winds most times of the year.

Valladolid features a tropical wet and dry climate. The city lies in the trade wind belt close to the Tropic of Cancer, with the prevailing wind from the east.

Valladolid's climate is hot and humidity is moderate to high, depending on the time of year. The average annual high temperature is 33 °C (91 °F), ranging from 28 °C (82 °F) in January to 36 °C (97 °F) in May, but temperatures often rise above 38 °C (100 °F) in the afternoon in this time.

Low temperatures range between 18 °C (64 °F) in January to 23 °C (73 °F) in May and June. It is most often a few degrees hotter in Valladolid than coastal areas due to its inland location and low elevation.

The rainy season runs from June through October, associated with the Mexican monsoon which draws warm, moist air landward. Easterly waves and tropical storms also affect the area during this season.

Valladolid has a structured road service which makes it easy to travel around. Travellers driving through the peninsula have the option of taking the federal road or the toll route and both roads go through Valladolid.

In the city there are taxi services at reasonable rates and public transportation which is popular for students and locals but not recommended for tourists.

There is an Autobuses de Oriente bus terminal situated in the heart of the city which serves to the travellers going to all mayor cities in the Yucatan peninsula, such as Merida, Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum as well as archeological sites such as Chichen Itza Coba and Ek' Balam

Valladolid is just off the toll highway (180D) between Cancun and Merida; the exit is about 3 mi/4.8km north of the center of town. The old highway (180) runs east-west through the centre of town as Calle 39 westbound and Calle 41 eastbound as one way streets.

Highway 295 runs north-south through the centre of town as Calle 40 northbound and Calle 42 southbound as one way streets going south towards Chetumal and north to the toll highway (180D) and Ek Balam.

Both highways run right through the centre of town on one-way streets, forming the four sides of the central town square - Parque Francisco Canton.

Frequent collectivo vans and ADO buses connect Valladolid to Cancun in the east, Merida in the west (2 h 15 min), and Tulum in the south (1 h 30 min). The bus stations are at:

Terminal de Autobuses the main bus station, Calle 39 No. 221, Centro NE corner of Calle 39 & 46, for first class (ADO, ADO GL) and second class services find Oriente, Mayab.

Old Terminal de Autotransportes de Oriente or Del Centro Terminal, Calle 37 por 54. Second class bus station for Autocentro, Mayab and Oriente.

The rest are taxi stands along the street or in parking lots for taxis and colectivos which are shared ride taxis/shuttle vans to/from other surrounding towns and villages. They are generally quicker and more reliable then second class buses.

Unlike buses that operate on a fixed schedule they wait for more people and leave when full. They are:

Sitio de Taxi UnTrac, Calle 37 entre 42 y 44. Taxis and colectivos the shared ride vans or taxis going up to Ek Balam and Hunuku.

Taxi-Colectivos to Ek Balam, Calle 44, entre 35 y 37. 30min to the car park of the sight.

Colectivos & Taxis to Tizimin, Calle 40, entre 35 y 37. Behind the Estacionmento Centro along door post at left if going north.

Valladolid is small enough to make walking a reasonable choice within town. To explore the city you can also rent bicyles at a reasonable rate. Other alternative choices are taxis. Be aware the drivers do not speak English.

More places you may wish to see

Parque Fransisco Canton Rosado, the central town square, is surrounded by pretty colonial style buildings that maintain much of their historic character.

The Catedral de San Gervasio, located on the south side of the town square.

Cenote Zaci. A spectacular sinkhole located in a public park only few hundred meters from the central plaza, this cenote is traversed by a walking path that passes under a curtain of stalactites in an overhang area. Come early if you want to avoid the tour buses. 30 MXN.

The Calzada de los Frailes - Calle 41A located a 10 minute walk south from the town square. This street consists of colonial homes with great architecture. It commences at the cinco calles and it ends at the park of the ex-convent San Bernardino de Siena.

The Ex-Convent San Bernardino de Siena, located in the neighbourhood of sisal approx. 10~15 minute walk south from the town square. This 15th century ex-convent and church is situated around a public park where you can sit and enjoy tranquility.

The Museo de San Roque located a few hundred meters from the central plaza. This museum contains mayan and colonial artifacts as well traditional items.

Valladolid due to its tranquility and sleepy, small town charm previously was thought to be just a one-day getaway. But because of its central location, it is a wonderful hub from which to explore the entire northern Yucatan peninsula.

It is a major crossroad of north/south and east/west highways. Tourist facilities are readily available from a wide variety of lodging options, many restaurants and street-food choices and lots to do, see and buy.

Day trips in any direction can take you to varied locations as the beaches of Tulum on the Caribbean or Rio Lagartos on the Gulf of Mexico to see flamingos and crocs, explore numerous Mayan ruins including Chichen Itza, Coba, Ek Balam, Ake, Mayapan, Uxmal and many more.

Almost 50 colonial churches can be visited via day trips.You can visit many of the 3,000 cenotes within the area and at least ten are close enough to go by bicycle. Many of them are open for swimming.

Numerous caves and caverns can be explored on foot while some cenotes and wet caves can be explored by SCUBA. All of the small villages surrounding Valladolid are the homes of the Mayan people and their language, culture and food.

Arrangements can be made to visit them in their homes. Nature preserves offer opportunities to view birds, animals and plants.

Buy wood carvings and traditional clothing and bags made from henequen from the vendors on the central Plaza and the grounds of Cenote Zaci, Hand made shoes and sandals at the central Plaza.

Visit Yalat Boutique right at the Main Square, the place is filled with original artwork, fine jewelry, and is dedicated to master works and fine Mexican artcrafts including exquisite ceramic Jainas and Maya vessels that are exquisite.

Visit the Coqui Coqui Perfumery and Spa in the Calzada de los Frailes on the way of the Convent. All the perfumes they sell are from the yucatan peninsula, amazing fragrances as the agave or the flor de mayo. Also a very nice garden.

Casa de los Venados, Calle 40 #204. Private residence / with a Mexican folk art collection of approx. 3,000 Museum quality pieces. American owners, when they are in residence, very generiously show people the collection.

Places To Eat

El Meson de Marques, a hotel located on the north side of the town square, offers dining beside a charming interior courtyard, with excellent food. Entrees in the $M 50 range.

Casa Italia is a small and charming Italian restaurant on the south edge of the square in Candelaria, four blocks north and one block west of the main square. Their pizzas, baked in a wood-fueled oven, are wonderful and inexpensive.

Taberna de los Frailes, Parque Ex-Convento San Bernardino (Barrio de Sisal). 11am to 11pm. Serving contemporary cuisine utilizing Mayan herbs and spices surrounded by Valladolid’s 16th century Ex-Convento de San Bernardino. Full service bar, VIP areas, groups, parking, credit cards. US$10-50.

Restorante la calzada, calzade de Los frailes. A very nice mid-range priced restaurant with healthy options. Mexican fondue, super tacos and sea food options as well. Also includes full bar. Open late.

Wabi Gelato, 197a calle 41, Valladolid, Between calle 38 and 40, 60m from the town square. 12h-22h (weekdays), 11h-22h saturday and sunday. This little family-run ice cream shop offers delicious homemade ice creams.

The flavours change with seasons and inspiration of the very friendly swiss and mexican owners, but are always issued from local and creative ingredients. Vegan options available. 30-100 pesos.

Maruja Cafe, Bar y Galeria, Calle 41 #202A - South side of the main Plaza. 8am to 10pm. Full service bar, great Mayan organically grown coffee & chocolate, deli style menu, outdoor sitting overlooking the main park. Credit Cards.


AAA Hostel La Candelaria. A friendly well kept Hostel about 5 minutes walk from the main square. Located at the Candelaria park, just 3 blocks from the ADO busstation. Very well managed, extremly clean and provides a lot of updated information.

It has an excellent garden to relax and good kitchen facilities - 2 kitchens, one inside and one in the garden. Mixed and girls dorms, private rooms with cable tv, lockers and locks are provided, all year hot shower, continental breakfast included fruitsalad, yoghurt, coffee, tea and bread and free internet (Wi-Fi).

It offers bikes for rent, which is a good alternative for going to the cenotes of Dztitnup and Samula. Good and safe place to explore the surrounding countryside.

Casa Quetzal, Calle 51 No. 218 entre 50 y 52 col. Sisal, Valladolid, Yucatan, Mexico. Four-star Boutique Hotel offering various spas and therapeutic massages. Yoga and Chi Kung classes offered. From ~US$ 75.00.

Hostal Kinbe, Cnr Calle 38/Ave 41. Very clean. doubles from 120 Pesos.

Hostal Cinco Estrellas, Calle 41 No 213, entre Calle 44 y 46. Kitchen, free drinking water, big lockers, little pool, very clean. dorm bed from 120 Pesos.

Hotel Maria De La Luz. Friendly and well kept. It is located on the main square. You can get a double with A/C for US$50. The restaurant opens up to the square and has great food. US$6.50-$10.

Hotel Santa Lucia, about 6 blocks north of the main square. A two floor hotel with a variety of rooms ranging from a Single with no A/C for about US$20 up to a Quintuple with A/C for about $90.

Hotel Tunich Beh, near downtown on Calzada De Los Frailes. Eight air-conditioned guestrooms and a swimming pool with a small palapa by the side. 450 Pesos per night.

Casa de los Pianos, Calle 21x18, frente al parque central, 97796 Uayma, Yucatan. A beautiful house with everyday room cleaning and breakfast. You can get rooms up to 3 persons, 30 EUR per night and room.

Casa Hamaca Guesthouse, Parque San Juan, Calle 49 #202-A entre 40 y 42, 4 blocks south of the main square in the historic district. checkin: noon; checkout: 11:00AM. A charming guesthouse for the wealthy independent traveler or small groups. Eight Mayan/Yucatan-themed rooms.

All rooms have AC, ceiling fans, screened windows, original wall murals, walk-in showers with pressurized hot water, WiFi and a Mayan hammock. All Mayan-speaking staff. Full breakfasts included. On-site secure parking. Massage available. Plunge pool. Authentic, friendly, helpful.

TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice award winner for 2013. TripAdvisor Certificates of Excellence for 2010,2011,2012 and 2013. TripAdvisor ranked as #1 bed and breakfast in Valladolid, #4 in the entire Yucatan peninsula and #11 in the country of Mexico. Lush, jungle-like gardens in the center of the city. USD$80-150.

Casa del Mayordomo, Calle 46, #189, Esquina Calle 35, Valladolid, Yucatan, Mexico. Small Boutique Hotel with green areas in the heart of Valladolid From ~US$ 46.00.

Valladolid has a good modernised bus station near the main square which connects it with the surrounding towns and tourist destinations. There are frequent services to all major destinations. Main companies are ADO and Oriente.

Cenote Dzitnup. Two amazing sinkholes, Samula & Xkeken located a few km south of the city, just before the town of Dzitnup. A big tourist plaza has been build around these crystal clear cenotes, but the tours only get there in the afternoon. 60 MXN to visit one or 90 MXN for both.

Collectivos from town are available for 20MXN per person.

Visit the Maya ruins of Ek Balam, an impressive archaelogical site about 25 minutes drive north of Valladolid, one-way cab fare $17 USD. You are allowed to climb the tallest ruin which has been partially restored. This gives you a 360° view of the surroundings.

Chichen Itza, the largest and most famous ancient Maya site in Yucatan, is to the west; Valladolid is close enough to the ruins to be a convenient base.

You can take a collectivo, simply stand next to the main bus station, 30-40 min; $12 USD; also all of the Oriente buses to Merida stop in Chichen Itza - 60-90 min, $2 USD one way.

Cancun and the popular tourist coast of Quintana Roo is to the east.

Further west than Chichen are another charming small Yucatecan city, Izamal, and beyond that Merida, the Yucatan's capital and largest city.

Tourism Observer

VIETNAM: Best Vietnamese Street Foods

From commoner’s rice to the delights of the city’s famed Chicken Street, there are many street food dishes you simply can’t miss when you visit Hanoi.

Hanoi is a street food wonderland. Follow almost any lane in this vivid, motorbike-clogged city and you will find a cacophony of food stalls with colourful signs shouting the names of mysterious Vietnamese dishes.

Behind them, scores of people slurp, munch, drink and chatter, huddling on the city’s iconic miniature plastic stools.

You can spend two weeks in this burgeoning city and never eat the same meal twice. So when all you have is two days in between, say, visiting the well-trodden northern Vietnam tracks of Halong Bay and Sapa, the choices can be overwhelming.

How can you get the most taste out of your stay?

Day 1

Breakfast: Pho

This soup is Vietnam’s de facto national dish, and Hanoi lays claim to its origin. It consists of a steaming bowl of rice noodles served in a delicate beef- or chicken-based broth that has simmered for hours in the pot, and comes with sprinkles of fresh herbs.

In Hanoi, there are two main pho variants: pho bo (beef noodles) and pho ga (chicken noodles).

There’s no bad pho in Hanoi, but if you happen to be around Hanoi’s West Lake area, go to Tu Hung Pho Bo at 164 Yen Phu. The restaurant is popular for its pho bo tai chin, which consists of beef brisket, thin slices of steak, and flank meat.

Enjoy it with a plate of banh quay – Chinese-style savoury doughnuts.

Coffee break: Ca phe trung

Vietnam is crazy about coffee. Finding a good coffee in Hanoi is easy, but for something that is truly different – and decadent – try ca phe trung, or egg coffee. This deliciously eggy concoction is airy and creamy, poured over strong espresso or iced coffee.

The mother of all ca phe trung in Hanoi is Cafe Giang, at 39 Nguyen Huu Huan street. It is tucked down a back alley; follow the alley until you arrive at a charming den that looks like it could be from a Wong Kar-wai film with its muted, time-worn walls, potted plants and low wooden tables.

The cafe is a throwback to Hanoi’s communist era and is usually full of people of all ages.

Lunch: Com binh dan

Com binh dan roughly translates to commoner’s rice. Shops offering it usually have many classic home-cooked Vietnamese dishes on offer and are excellent places to get a taste of local fare.

There are countless com binh dan eateries throughout the city, but one excellent spot to try is Com Binh Dan New Day at 72 Ma May Street. Skip the main entrance and enter through the side alley where you can see all the dishes being made and displayed.

Don’t order from the flashy menu; simply point at what you want and the server will arrange the dishes on your plate. To drink, order the canh chua (sour soup) to go with your rice, and nuoc rau ma (pennywort juice) to drink.

Dinner: Chicken Street

Ly Van Phuc street has for decades been known as Chicken Street by locals and expats alike for its rows of ga nuong (barbecued chicken) vendors.

During the day, the sleepy alley might not look like much, but once the sun sets, the barbecues start to crackle, the plastic stools are set on the pavement, and hundreds of skewers of various chicken parts, together with honey baguettes, begin to sizzle on the grill.

Best places to eat Taiwanese beef noodle soup in Hong Kong

The chicken on Chicken Street is succulent, has crispy skin and comes with mildly hot barbecue sauce. You’ll get to choose between chicken legs, breasts, wings and feet, with pickled morning glory or fresh slices of yam to go with your meal.

But the real star here is the crisp grilled honey baguettes, a leftover of Vietnam’s French colonial heritage.

Of the dozens of vendors on Chicken Street, the two to try are Binh Minh Ga Nuong – said to be the first that opened on the street and Quynh Nga Ga Nuong, which serves the best barbecued wings in the neighbourhood.

Day 2

Breakfast: Xoi

Xoi is Vietnam’s take on steamed glutinous rice. The most famous variant typically eaten for breakfast, is xoi thap cam, which is served with generous add-ons including Vietnamese and Chinese sausages, pork skin or pork belly, pate, strips of steamed chicken and egg, shavings of dried mung bean paste, and fried shallots.

It is delicious, but filling, so share a plate if you want to save some precious room in your stomach for the rest of your street food expedition.
Locals flock to Xoi Co Son Cau Go at 44 Cau Go Son street for its generous thap cam toppings, while others go to Xoi Ba Gia at 146 Quan Thanh street, which has been in operation for more than 40 years.

Lunch: Bun cha

Perhaps the tastiest dish known to man, bun cha consists of freshly grilled chunks of pork patty and roasted pork belly served in a bowl of broth a mix of fish sauce, vinegar and lime, with slices of pickled kohlrabi, green papaya, and carrots – that is slightly sweet and tangy.

This feel-good soup is typically eaten with Vietnamese bun - a thin vermicelli-like noodle - and a generous serving of greens such as fresh Thai basil, cilantro, fish mint, lettuce, banana flower and coriander.

If that is not enough goodness for you, some bun cha shops also offer a side of spring rolls, fried to crisp perfection.

The most famous place to eat bun cha is Bun Cha Huong Lien, which became known as Bun Cha Obama after the US president ate there with celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain in 2016.

When Bourdain’s death was announced earlier this month, Obama tweeted a photo of the two of them at the humble eatery in tribute to the late chef.

The restaurant brims with tourists and local patrons day in and day out, but its bowl of bun cha is worth the hype. Those who prefer to dodge the crowds can go straight to the locals’ favourite at Bun Cha Binh Chung.

This establishment has been around for more than 30 years and offers thit xien or pork skewers and shrimp cakes to go with its bun cha bowl.

Evening snack: Nem chua ran

Nem chua ran is a popular snack in Hanoi consisting of deep-fried cured pork sausage that is eaten on a tiny stick with lard-fried fries and hot sauce. It is a tasty companion for your cold glass of bia hoi or draught beer.

Nem chua ran can be found in the Ngo Tam Thuong alley close to Hang Bong street. As soon as the sun sets, this small alley is usually crammed with locals, and the shop at 40 Ngo Tam Thuong is an all-time favourite.

Dessert: Kem caramen

Providing you have saved some room, head to Hang Than street – Hanoi’s dessert lane – where you can indulge your sweet tooth day or night. The must-try here is kem caramen, a Vietnamese twist on the French creme caramel.

Served on a small plastic plate, this bouncy custard pudding is bathed in a layer of tan caramel, and steamed instead of cooked in the bain-marie style like its French counterpart. It is the perfect sweet treat for those humid, Hanoian days.

Kem Caramen Duong Hoa on Hang Than street opened in 1995 and offers a wide selection of desserts such as mango che xoai or mango pudding, home-made yogurt and coconut ice cream.

Tourism Observer

VIETNAM: Chinese Tourists In T-shirts With Controversial South China Sea Territory Map Spark Anger

The visitors arrived in southern Cam Ranh airport on Sunday night and were stopped by security at the immigration desk who asked them to take the T-shirts off before allowing them to leave.

A photo of Chinese tourists wearing T-shirts depicting Beijing’s claims to the disputed South China Sea has sparked online anger in Vietnam, prompting calls for the visitors to be deported.

The shirts featured a map of China and its so-called nine-dash line – the sea boundary found on some 1940s-era maps which Beijing says proves its claim to most of the waterway, despite partial claims from Vietnam and other nations.

The territorial dispute is a hot-button issue in Vietnam, which has a turbulent history of conflict with its powerhouse neighbour.

The visitors arrived in southern Cam Ranh airport on Sunday night and were stopped by security at the immigration desk, an airport police officer confirmed.

We asked them to take the T-shirts off before allowing them to leave the airport, said the officer, without providing his name because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Photos of the tourists in their nationalist attire made the rounds on social media – with the nine-dash line crossed out with an “X”.

Some netizens said the tourists were not welcome in Vietnam.

Immediately deport them and ban them permanently from coming to Vietnam, Facebook user Nguyen Ngoc Hieu posted.

Another, Quan Hai, wrote: We must be determined, not allowing anyone passing through our border gates if the passports, T-shirts or anything else with the dash-line maps.

Vietnam and China have long sparred over the resource-rich sea, where Beijing has built artificial islands and installed airstrips and military equipment.

This is not the first time the dispute has trickled into the tourism sector.

A Chinese passport featuring a map of Beijing’s sea claims was defaced in 2016 by a border agent in Ho Chi Minh City’s airport with an unfriendly welcome note.

Border officials in tourist hotspots Da Nang and Phu Quoc island have also reportedly refused to issue visa stamps in Chinese passports with maps of the nine-dash line.

More than four million Chinese visitors went to Vietnam last year over 30 per cent of all foreign guests and Chinese tourists are a major cash cow.

Some guides say this can put them in a spot, especially when visitors dispute Hanoi’s version of historical events.

We don’t like the Chinese tourists but they bring us profits, so we cannot resist them, Hung, a Hanoi-based tour operator, said, using only his first name.

A group of guides petitioned authorities in Da Nang last year, complaining that unlicensed Chinese guides were leading tours with their own interpretation of history – and sea claims.

Hung said guides have to push back.

We are Vietnamese, we can’t let them distort the truth about our homeland and our history.

Tourism Observer

HONG KONG: Chinese Tourists Made More Than 130 Million Outbound Trips In 2017 And Spent US$115 Billion

From T-shirts declaring disputed territories to brawls in luxury boutiques, the antics of Chinese tourists overseas have generated many a headline recently.

However, those who have made viral news are but a small percentage of the millions who now travel overseas, 130 million did so in 2017, a number that is expected to rise this year, according to a report by a think tank, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Eager to cash in on the significant spending power of the newly intrepid population, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, China accounts for more than a fifth of the money spent by outbound tourists.

Destinations around the world are clamouring to attract travellers from the Middle Kingdom. But do places actually experience a net benefit from the boom?

Here in Hong Kong, one of the most popular destinations for mainland Chinese tourists, the advantages are often overshadowed.

Tourism is one of the major pillars of the SAR’s economy, with the total expenditure associated with inbound tourists amounting to HK$296.7 billion last year, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

Nevertheless, a 2017 study published in the Kasetsart Journal of Social Sciences, which explored local residents’ perceptions towards visitors from across the border, found that although economic and educational gains are recognised, they are far outweighed by social and cultural concerns.

Those surveyed, pointed out that mainland Chinese are rude, and lack social etiquette and education.

However, a new generation of Chinese tourists who are opting out of tour packages in search of more authentic experiences is doing what it can to subvert the stereotype.

This demographic is of particular interest to developing destinations such as Laos, which welcomed 639,000 Chinese visitors in 2017, according to and where tourism officials and local residents alike are hopeful increasing numbers of visitors will have a positive effect.

Having declared 2018 the year to Visit Laos, authorities are working hard to improve infrastructure, much of it with the help of investment from China, which is not always welcomed with open arms.

Of course, there are many horror stories that illustrate the environmental and societal pressures brought to bear by the unfettered growth of tourism on a destination that is not completely prepared for it.

But, with strategic planning, a more sustainable approach and increased local involvement, there have been success stories.

Laos’ own Vang Vieng is a prime example, having overcome a tainted reputation to emerge as a destination popular with travellers from China and South Korea in search of a very different experience to that of the backpackers who came before them.

And while it may not be reaping quite the economic rewards it was at peak party time, Vang Vieng is now doing its thing with an eco-tourism tagline and without the heavy loss of life.

Tourism Observer

THAILAND: Thailand Approves New Phuket Airport For 10 Million Additional Tourists

Phuket International Airport
Thailand’s Maya Bay, the beach made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio, officially closed to tourists for four months on June 1, becoming the latest addition to a growing list of destinations that have become victims of their own appeal.

Others include Boracay, in the Philippines, which is almost six weeks into its six-month hiatus, and Koh Tachai, another Thai island, which stopped receiving visitors in May 2016, although it has since reopened.

How, then, do officials in Thailand hope to combat the problem of overtourism led by a sharp increase in the number of Chinese travellers? By investing in infrastructure to facilitate yet more arrivals, of course.

Airports of Thailand, which became the world’s most valuable airport services company earlier this year, recently approved second airports for Chiang Mai and Phuket.

With a combined budget of 120 billion baht (US$3.7 billion), construction on both is expected to begin next year, with completion slated for no later than 2025.

Any one of the 3.5 million passengers who passed through immigration at Phuket International Airport in the first four months of this year might welcome the news.

That figure represented a not insignificant 19 per cent rise on the same period in 2017, according to a report by hospitality consulting firm C9 Hotelworks.

But Phi Phi Leh, home to Maya Bay, Koh Racha Yai and Koh Khai Nok – all favourite destinations for Chinese tour groups and individuals from Phuket – may be less accommodating to an additional 10 million visitors a year.

The economic rewards for such investments are obvious the tourism industry accounted for 9.2 per cent of Thailand’s GDP in 2016, a contribution that is expected to grow to 14.3 per cent by 2027, as detailed in a report by the World Travel & Tourism Council.

However, even high-ranking officials have expressed concerns over the country’s aggressive approach to tourism.

Science and technology minister Suvit Maesincee said: Our strategy was more for less, not less for more, so we invited a lot of tourists from China. I think in the near future we need to change from volume to value.

We are trying to push for CBT or community-based tourism to disperse tourists away from popular sites beyond Bangkok, Chiang Mai or the beaches to promote the unseen Thailand, said Jiraporn Prommaha from the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, speaking to travel industry publication TTG Asia.

Building additional airports at two of the country’s most popular entry points might not seem an obvious strategy for the dispersal of tourists, but who are we to judge!

Tourism Observer

Friday 29 June 2018

JAPAN: Japanese Culture Doesn't Condone Sharing, Airbnb And Uber Struggling

With thousands of Airbnb reservations scrapped and Uber reduced to delivering food, life is hard in Japan for the giants of the sharing economy. They’re stuck between tough regulation and popular suspicion.

Japan may be the world’s third-largest economy and a high-tech hub but it has been surprisingly slow to warm up to the sharing economy that has disrupted markets across the globe.

According to 2016 figures compiled by research institute Yano the sharing economy accounted for ¥50 billion ($455 million) in Japan.

While that’s a 26 percent year-on-year rise, it is a drop in the ocean compared with the Europe, U.S. and China markets, which are worth tens to hundreds of billions of dollars.

This is partly due to confusion among the public about what the sharing economy is: only 2.7 percent of the population are familiar with the concept according to a 2017 survey by PwC professional services firm.

Strict local regulations have also held back the sector ,as flat-sharing firm Airbnb found out recently to its chagrin.

On June 15, a new law came into effect that sought to regulate the short-term rental sector.

Although welcomed by Airbnb as a way to clear up the legal gray zone in which it has been operating, the new law has become somewhat of a double-edged sword, with thousands of owners forced to cast off property after failing to comply with the new requirements.

This stinks and that’s an understatement, fumed Airbnb as it announced it was canceling thousands of reservations with owners who had failed to obtain a registration number by June 15.

In addition, the law prevents owners from renting out properties for more than 180 nights per year and local authorities can impose further restrictions.

In Kyoto for example, the tourist-magnet city sees residential area rentals are only allowed between mid-January and mid-March, when there’s a slump in tourism.

Such restrictions are in effect choking the sector, says Hiroyuki Kishi, a former trade ministry official and now professor at Tokyo’s Keio University.

Vested interests are so strong in Japan, regretting that such measures are coming into force only two years before the Olympic Games when Japan hopes to welcome 40 million tourists.

For Airbnb, the laws seek to protect the hotel industry and ryokans traditional Japanese inns whereas the taxi lobby has made it difficult for ride-sharing app Uber to set up shop in Japan.

To promote the sharing economy, we have to loosen regulations to allow new players to enter the market, said Kishi.

He believes that despite the economical reform efforts of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the government has no intention of opening up the sector for fear of a backlash in sectors which have enjoyed a monopoly until now.

Sharing economy firms have faced pushback elsewhere too, with Uber being accused of skirting regulations and making long-standing jobs obsolete, and Airbnb criticized for pushing up prices and transforming residential areas in many popular tourist destinations.

In Japan, public opinion is very much against services like Airbnb and Uber.

We have tried to change this mentality but it is very difficult. It takes time,one Taxi operator says.

One reason is that Japanese are very protective of their privacy.

The culture of sharing is not ingrained in society and in the case of Airbnb, they do not like the noise and security risk caused by a procession of tourists in their backyard, he said.

In addition, unlike in many developed economies, the quality of service is very high in Japan.

Hailing a taxi in a major city rarely takes more than a few seconds, lowering demand for Uber-type services.

Despite this bleak picture, there are some successes, notes Sabetto, with younger generations showing a greater interest in the sharing economy.

Car and bike sharing schemes are taking off and meal delivery service UberEATS has been a hit in Tokyo since arriving in 2016.

But local startups struggle to stay financially afloat, Sabetto said, in a country that tends to pride monozukuri or craftsmanship above innovation.

Some firms are moving away from the cities into the countryside, where a steady trend of depopulation has made the sharing economy more attractive.

Uber last month said it would launch a pilot program this summer to hook up tourists and residents with available drivers in the western Awaji island.

But Sabetto said a change in culture was needed for the sharing economy to really take root.

I would like foreigners that are aware of the sharing economy to make their voice heard more to change the situation, he said.

Tourism Observer

TAIWAN: Hotel Occupancy Drastically Declining, Hoteliers Protest Against Short-stay Flats And Airbnb

Hotel occupancy rates across Taiwan have been declining and hoteliers are not happy about it.

Hoteliers from across Taiwan assembled at Taipei Railway Station on June 12 to protest against short-stay flats and sites such as Airbnb, which are illegal on the island.

According to data analyst CEIC, the hotel occupancy rate in Taiwan fell to a 12-month low in January, although it rose slightly, to almost 60 per cent, in February.

The drop can be attributed to tourists choosing short-lets. Chang Jung-nan, chairman of the Hotel Association of ROC, said that the industry estimates annual losses of NT$30 billion (US$1 billion) because of illegal operators.

They do not pay taxes and they work with internet platform operators, said Chang. Many legal hoteliers will go out of business.

Taiwan’s minister for transportation and communications, Hochen Tan, has taken a more diplomatic stance, encouraging a progressive approach from traditional hoteliers and possible partnerships between the existing industry and home-sharing operators.

Tourism Observer

JAPAN: Thousands Stranded And Dissapointed After Airbnb Japan Cancellations

Thousands of travellers to the Land of the Rising Sun found their itineraries affected when Airbnb Japan was forced to cancel countless reservations scheduled between June 15 and 19 at the behest of a sudden announcement from the Japan Tourism Agency.

The push came as hosts were racing to license their properties ahead of changing legislation, which came into place on June 15.

All those without the permit – totalling 80 per cent of Airbnb Japan’s listings, were required to delist their properties and cancel bookings, even if the licence had already been applied for.

We are incredibly sorry about this, we know it stinks, said the home-sharing company, in a statement, which offered a full refund and a US$100 coupon to all those affected.

It also set up a US$10 million support fund to cover additional expenses incurred.

Needless to say, social-media users took to their preferred platforms to air their grievances.

Tourism Observer

VIETNAM: Will Vietnam Declare Code Of Conduct For Only Chinese Tourists?

Last year March, Vietnam’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism announced that it had released a nationwide code of conduct for tourists for the first time, instructing visitors on how to behave while on holiday.

Details such as where and how the guide was distributed are scant, but the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism’s (VNAT) official website declared that it would help international and local tourists, and tour operators “respect local customs and culture, abide by regulations at both tourist and public sights, provide help for the disabled, the elderly, children and women, and protect the environment.

Unfortunately, the code does not seem to contain any information pertaining to China’s controversial nine-dash line.

If it had, the headline-grabbing incident in May that saw a group of Chinese tourists having to remove T-shirts asserting Beijing’s claim over disputed South China Sea territory upon arrival at Cam Ranh International Airport, south of Nha Trang, might never have happened.

To say that relations between the two neighbours are strained is to put it mildly, with anti-China sentiment culminating in protests across Vietnam over the past few days against proposed special economic zones critics believe would favour Chinese investors.

And disapproval is not confined to government policy, with calls to restrict or even refuse visitors from the Middle Kingdom, according to an article published on June 15 by online newspaper VietnamNet, which went on to suggest that a code of conduct should be created specifically for Chinese tourists.

This follows widespread condemnation of zero-dong package tours, which inject little into the local economy, and the fining of Vietnamese tour guide Tran A Hung, in Da Nang, for having allowed a Chinese woman in his charge to spread distorted information about the history of Vietnam, in April.

The woman, Wang Jihong, told fellow travellers that the traditional Vietnamese dress, the áo dài, was based on the cheongsam and that Vietnam used to belong to China.

In the first five months of the year, Vietnam received 6.7 million tourists, an increase of 27.6 per cent on the same period in 2017, according to VNAT. Of those, 2.1 million came from China, 37 per cent more than in the corresponding months last year.

However, the current tension is likely to affect arrivals. Travel agencies were hurrying to alter routes and schedules as demonstrations broke out, while social-media users have announced that tour companies have begun cancelling trips following embassy and consulate warnings.

Following widespread anti-China protests in May 2014, the number of Chinese visitors to Vietnam fell sharply. If history repeats, the country might lose its top source of tourists, and that targeted code of conduct will not be necessary.

While Vietnam may be willing to lose out on Chinese travellers, Scottish businesses are hoping to cash in on a recent uptick, with the introduction of the first ever direct flights between the mainland and Scotland.

Hainan Airlines launched the Beijing to Edinburgh route on June 12, and already businesses are scrambling to fulfil Mandarin-speaking positions.

A hotelier in the Highlands, said: I struggled to get a Mandarin-speaking receptionist. There aren’t very many Mandarin speakers in Drumnadrochit.

While current numbers remain modest – a mere 41,000 Chinese tourists visited Alba in 2016, spending a total of £36 million (US$47.7 million) between them, according to VisitScotland, the castle-filled country wants a slice of the world’s most lucrative wedding market and is courting Chinese couples with its countless wedding-picture-perfect locations.

We are seeing more and more Chinese couples choose Edinburgh’s historic heart to take official photos prior to their wedding, said Rob Lang, chairman of Edinburgh Tourism Action Group’s China Ready initiative.

That such a drive exists just goes to show how serious Scottish destinations are about making this particular union a happy one.

Tourism Observer

MEXICO: Exploring Gastronomic Experiences In Playa del Carmen

The municipality of Solidaridad where Playa del Carmen is located, has less than 30 years of life, but Playa del Carmen has more than 100 years of history, so it is important to rescue its rich past, including the fantastic dishes that were originally prepared in the region.

Manuel García Maldonado, director of the National Chamber of the Restaurant Industry and Seasoned Foods (Canirac) of Playa del Carmen, said that they are about to consolidate this gastronomic rescue, together with the municipal authorities and residents of the area.

He said that there have been previous efforts to provide an identity based on gastronomy, but after organizing contests, the winning dishes have not been adopted at local restaurants.

He stressed the importance of looking into the past, to know what the old settlers used to eat, and there was no confusion, as with the Tikin Xic fish, which is associated with Isla Mujeres, because although it was created there, it happened when the territory was still part of Yucatan.

In other topics, Garcia Maldonado said that May used to be low season for tourism, but today, it is turning into a busy month for the hosting and the restaurant sector.

Tourism Observer

USA: Trump International Hotel & Tower Panama To Become JW Marriott Hotel After Dispute

The former Trump International Hotel & Tower Panama is trading the name of one famous hotelier for another.

The sail-shaped tower will be managed by Marriott International Inc. as a JW Marriott hotel, according to a statement from owner Ithaca Capital.

The Miami-based firm, led by managing partner Orestes Fintiklis, took control of the property from the Trump Organization in March after a struggle that included court cases in the U.S. and Panama and the use of a crowbar to strip Trump’s name off the building.

Lawyers for the Trump Organization had asked the president of Panama to intervene in the dispute.

Company executives didn’t know about the letter until after it was sent, the lawyers said.

The owners of former Trump hotels in New York and Toronto also have rebranded their properties to distance themselves from U.S. President Donald Trump.

A spokeswoman for the Trump Organization, Amanda Miller, didn’t immediately respond to request for comment.

Ithaca also owns Marriott hotels in the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica.

The hotel in Panama City will be the 12th JW Marriott property in the region, Laurent de Kousemaeker, Marriott’s chief development officer for the Caribbean and Latin America, said in the statement.

Tourism Observer

MEXICO: Tourism Expected To Shoot Upwards In Valladolid In Summer Holiday Season

After carrying out various promotional activities, both in the tourist sites of the city and in the lodging centers, a good influx of visitors is expected for the next summer holidays in Valladolid, Yucatan.

The growth is expected in both national and foreign visitors, so the hotel occupation would improve, said Noe Rodríguez Cervera, secretary of the Hotels and Hostels Association of Valladolid.

Rodriguez Cervera said that the tourism growth expected would be 60% national and 40% foreign, especially from the United States, and a large number of visitors are expected to spend the night in any of the hotels in the city.

Until now hotel occupancy is low, according to the reports is 35%, he said.

He commented that in the Tourist Tianguis that took place recently in Mazatlan, Sinaloa, members of the Association went to promote the hotels of the city and the tourist sites that are offered.

The stand was very visited and it was noted the intention of tourist operators to include Valladolid in their packages, therefore there are good expectations, he said.

In addition, individually they continue to promote the destination on their own internet pages, therefore good occupation is expected this summer holiday season with a daily average of 75% during the weekends.

Hoteliers in the city are ready to welcome the tourists, some lodging centers are hiring staff, as waiters, waitresses, cooks, to offer a better quality service, he said.

Rodríguez Cervera commented that due to the dollar exchange rate, the purchasing power of foreigners improves and they can come to Mexico to spend more money during their vacation.

For example, a beer in Mexico in an economic restaurant costs around $ 35 pesos, which represents around 1.60 US dollars; while the same beer in the United States can cost between 4 and 5 US dollars - between $ 80 and $ 100 pesos, which is why their purchasing power is so powerful, Rodriguez Cervera said.

Tourism Observer

RUSSIA: Yekaterinburg Man Who Beat Up A Swedish Football Fan Arrested

Police officers have identified and detained the suspect in attacking a Swedish fan after the game Sweden-Mexico in Yekaterinburg.

Sverdlovsk expert in law enforcement familiar with the events around the Mundial said.

According to the source, today at around 7.00 pm, officers of the Criminal Investigation Department of the MIA Directorate in the Sverdlovsk region and their colleagues from the police department No. 5 managed to identify and detain a previously convicted resident of Yekaterinburg, born in 1989, as part of investigative measures.

The details of the incident have become known.

It happened after the match at the exit from the café, where the Swedish fan accidentally ran into the man from Yekaterinburg and spilled some beer on him.

It was due to this, and not due to sports or other differences, that gave rise to the mutual dislike.

As a result, the Russian hit the Swede several times and fled the scene.

It is important to note that the incident occurred outside the stadium. The police have not allowed a single incident over the period of all four matches at the Yekaterinburg Arena.

The detainee has fully admitted his guilt, made a confession, and repented.

He is ready to sincerely apologize to the injured man, but the latter has already left Yekaterinburg without filing a report with the police.

The materials of the case and the detainee himself have been referred to the Investigative Committee for further interrogation.

Tourism Observer

RUSSIA: Ural Airlines To Start Sochi-Tashkent Flights From July 18, 2018.

Russian carrier Ural Airlines will launch new regular Sochi-Tashkent flights from July 18, the Russian company announced.

The flights will be carried out on Airbus A320 airplanes on Wednesdays. Return flights will be carried out on Thursdays.

The flight ticket will cost 10,661 Russian rubles ($168) including all taxes and fees.

Earlier it was reported that Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan agreed to increase number of flights between the two countries.

Uzbekistan and China announced in mid-June 2018 that that the countries may launch charter flights soon.

Ural Airlines ranks among top Russian airlines in terms of passenger traffic. At year-end 2017, it carried 8,000,474 passengers.

45 Airbus airliners (24 A320, 14 A321, and 7 A319) of the carrier serve more than 200 routes.

Ural Airlines is the owner of such international and national awards as Wings of Russia, Safety Leaders Awards, Best Russian Social Projects, National Geographic Traveler Awards, Time for Innovations, and others.

Ural Airlines is an airline based in Yekaterinburg, Russia, operates scheduled and chartered domestic and international flights out of Koltsovo International Airport. In 2012, the company transported 3.5 million passengers.

The airline was founded in 1943 as Sverdlovsk State Air Enterprises, and later became part of Aeroflot, the Soviet state airline, being in charge of Yekaterinburg Airport.

Following the split-up of Aeroflot, Ural Airlines became a joint stock company incorporated under the laws of the Russian Federation on 28 December 1993, and the airline business was separated from the airport.

In 2010, Ural Airlines retired all of its Antonov An-24s, Ilyushin Il-86s and Tupolev Tu-154B2s. The airline's Tupolev Tu-154M, in 164-seat two-class configuration, was retired on October 16, 2011.

Ural Airlines has 2262 employees. The technical base of the airline is one of the biggest and most modern in Russia. Its technical equipment and experienced engineers allow Ural Airlines to provide necessary services in-house. In 2012, the airline opened its training complex for pilots.

The system of training for Airbus A320 was 7.5 million euro. The complex included the construction works too, with 9 million euros. The airline's CEO says that pilot training now is not 4 days, but 4 hours. The airline also plans to buy the training complex for the Airbus A330-300.

In 2017, Skytrax gave Ural Airlines 3 stars, which made it the fourth airline with three stars in Russia and CIS after S7 Airlines, Uzbekistan Airlines and Air Moldova.

Currently, main hubs of Ural Airlines are Moscow-Domodedovo and Yekaterinburg. In plans of Ural Airlines is to increase its number of hubs, by developing hubs at Moscow-Sheremetyevo and Moscow-Zhukovsky.

Ural Airlines has codeshare agreements with the following airlines:

- Azerbaijan Airlines

- Czech Airlines (SkyTeam)

- S7 Airlines (Oneworld)

- Uzbekistan Airways

Ural Airlines also started considering updating its fleet with newer Airbus A320neo family or Boeing 737 Next Generation and is still considering purchasing Airbus A330. The airline also considered purchasing Irkut MC-21, however the plans were most likely withdrawn.

Lately, Ural Airlines announced the purchase of 2 Airbus A321neoLR, that will be delivered in 2019, with a possible replacement of older Airbus A321-200.

The airline moved up its plans to increase its fleet size from 43 to 50 in 2018, moving up its original plans to do so by 2020.

As of June 2018, the Ural Airlines fleet consists of the following aircraft:

- Airbus A319-100: 7

- Airbus A320-200: 24

- Airbus A321-200: 14

- Total: 45

Tourism Observer