Saturday 27 July 2019

SAUDI ARABIA: Zam Zam Water Is Colourless And Odorless,

The Well of Zamzam is a well located within the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, 20 m (66 ft) east of the Kaaba, the holiest place in Islam.

According to Islamic religion, it is a miraculously generated source of water from God, which sprang thousands of years ago when Ibrahim's or Abraham's infant son ʾIsmaʿil or Ishmael was left with his mother Hajar in the desert, where he was thirsty and kept crying.

Millions of pilgrims visit the well each year while performing the Hajj or Umrah pilgrimages in order to drink its water.

Islamic tradition states that the Zamzam Well was revealed to Hajara, the second wife of Ibrahim and mother of ʾIsmaʿil.

By the instruction of God, Ibrahim left his wife and son at a spot in the desert and walked away. She was desperately seeking water for her infant son, but she could not find any, as Mecca is located in a hot dry valley with few sources of water.

Hajara ran seven times back and forth in the scorching heat between the two hills of Safa and Marwah, looking for water. Getting thirstier by the second, the infant Ishmael scraped the land with his feet, where suddenly water sprang out.

There are other versions of the story involving God sending his angel, Gabriel or Jibra'il, who kicked the ground with his heel or wing, and the water rose. A similar story about a well is also mentioned in the Bible.

The name of the well comes from the phrase Zome Zome, meaning stop flowing, a command repeated by Hajara during her attempt to contain the spring water.

According to Islamic tradition, Abraham rebuilt the Bayt Allah or House of God near the site of the well, a building which had been originally constructed by Adam or Adem, and today is called the Kaaba, a building toward which Muslims around the world face in prayer, five times each day.

The Zamzam Well is located approximately 20 m (66 ft) east of the Kaaba. In other Islamic tradition, Muhammad's heart was extracted from his body, washed with the water of Zamzam, and then was restored in its original position, after which it was filled with faith and wisdom.

Interestingly in the Maltese language the common expression minn żmien żemżem, which means something which is extremely old, has its etymological origins from this well.

The well originally had two cisterns in the first era, one for drinking and one for ablution.

At that time, it was a simple well surrounded by a fence of stones. Then in the era of the Abbasid caliph Al-Mansur 771 CE (154/155 AH) a dome was built above the well, and it was tiled with marble.

In 775 CE (158/159 AH), Al-Mahdi rebuilt the well during his caliphate, and built a dome of teak which was covered with mosaic. One small dome covered the well, and a larger dome covered the room for the pilgrims.

In 835 CE (220 AH) there was further restoration, and the dome was covered with marble during the caliphate of Al-Mu'tasim.

In 1417 (819/820 AH), during the time of the Mamluks, the mosque was damaged by fire, and required restoration. Further restoration occurred in 1430 (833/834 AH), and again in 1499 (904/95 AH) during the time of Sultan Qaitbay, when the marble was replaced.

In modern times, the most extensive restoration took place to the dome during the era of the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II in 1915 (1333/1334 AH).

To facilitate crowd control, the building housing the Zamzam was moved away from its original location, to get it out of the way of the Tawaf, when millions of pilgrims would circumambulate the Kaaba.

The water of the well is now pumped to the eastern part of the mosque, where it was made available in separate locations for men and women.

The Zamzam well was excavated by hand, and is about 30 m (98 ft) deep and 1.08 to 2.66 m (3 ft 7 in to 8 ft 9 in) in diameter.

It taps groundwater from the wadi alluvium and some from the bedrock. Originally water from the well was drawn via ropes and buckets, but today the well itself is in a basement room where it can be seen behind glass panels but visitors are not allowed to enter.

Electric pumps draw the water, which is available throughout the Masjid al-Haram via water fountains and dispensing containers near the Tawaf area.

Hydrogeologically, the well is in the Wadi Ibrahim (Valley of Abraham). The upper half of the well is in the sandy alluvium of the valley, lined with stone masonry except for the top metre (3 ft) which has a concrete collar.

The lower half is in the bedrock. Between the alluvium and the bedrock is a 1⁄2-metre (1 ft 8 in) section of permeable weathered rock, lined with stone, and it is this section that provides the main water entry into the well.

Water in the well comes from absorbed rainfall in the Wadi Ibrahim, as well as run-off from the local hills. Since the area has become more and more settled, water from absorbed rainfall on the Wadi Ibrahim has decreased.

The Saudi Geological Survey has a Zamzam Studies and Research Centre which analyses the technical properties of the well in detail. Water levels were monitored by hydrograph, which in more recent times has changed to a digital monitoring system that tracks the water level, electric conductivity, pH, Eh and temperature.

All of this information is made continuously available via the Internet. Other wells throughout the valley have also been established, some with digital recorders, to monitor the response of the local aquifer system.

Zamzam water is colourless and odorless, but has a distinct taste, with a pH of 7.5–7.7, and so is slightly alkaline.

The water has potential health risks.

The British Food Standards Agency has in the past issued warnings about water claiming to be from the Zamzam Well containing dangerous levels of arsenic; such sales have also been reported in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where it is illegal to sell Zamzam water.

The Saudi government has prohibited the commercial export of Zamzam water from the kingdom.

In May 2011, a BBC London investigation found that water taken from taps connected to the Zamzam Well contained high levels of nitrate, potentially harmful bacteria, and arsenic at levels three times the legal limit in the UK, the same levels found in illegal water purchased in the UK.

Arsenic is a carcinogen, raising concerns that any who regularly consume commercial Zamzam water in large quantities may be exposed to higher risks of cancer.

Later in that month the Council of British Hajjis stated that drinking Zamzam water was safe and disagreed with the BBC report.

They also noted that the Government of Saudi Arabia does not allow the export of Zamzam water for resale. They also stated that it was unknown whether the water being sold in the UK was genuine, and that people should not buy it and should report the sellers to the Trading Standards if they saw it for sale.

The BBC's findings have drawn mixed reactions from the Muslim community.

Environmental health officer Yunes Ramadan Teinaz told the British broadcaster about commercially marketed Zamzam water that, People see this water as a holy water. They find it difficult to accept that it is contaminated, but the authorities in Saudi Arabia or in the UK must take action.

The Saudi authorities have stated that water from the well was tested by the Group Laboratories of CARSO-LSEHL in Lyon, licensed by the French Ministry of Health for the testing of drinking water.

According to reports of these results, the level of arsenic in Zamzam water taken at its source is much lower than the maximum amount permitted by the World Health Organization.

The Saudi authorities have thus said that the water is fit for human consumption. Zuhair Nawab, president of the Saudi Geological Survey (SGS), has claimed that the Zamzam Well is tested on a daily basis, in a process involving the taking of three samples from the well.

These are said to be examined in the King Abdullah Zamzam Water Distribution Center in Mecca, which is equipped with advanced facilities. An article written in Skeptic magazine in 2017 states that the methodologies of testing used by Saudi authorities are incomplete, inadequate and biased.

Tourism Observer

USA: Meet Kimberly Anyadike The Youngest African American Pilot

Kimberly Anyadike, who was born in 1994, is a pilot from Compton, California. In 2009, Kimberly Anyadike, an African American teenager of Nigerian descent made history and became the first African American female and the youngest African American to fly an aeroplane across the United States.

Kimberly achieved this great heights and set the record after just two years of pilot training through a special after-school programme she enrolled in .

The programme was ran by the Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum in Compton where she lives with her family.

While on the 13-day flight, Kimberly successfully flew from Compton to Virginia and back. In an interview with CNN, she described the experience as a dream come true and an amazing experience with only a light storm and bad weather as her challenge.

Kimberly fell in love with planes and flying at the age of 12 while learning about the African American pilots who flew in the World War.

The lessons in history school inspired the teenager who had dreams of becoming a cardiovascular surgeon to achieve more and also become a certified pilot breaking records in America and for the black community at large.

Anyadike was accompanied by an adult safety pilot, and by a retired Air Force pilot who had served with the WWII Tuskegee Airmen.

Her plane was autographed by about 50 Tuskegee airmen as she stopped at different cities across the US, and she completed the round-trip journey in a single-engine Cessna 172 in 13 days.

Kimberly enjoyed a lot of fame and recognition for her achievements, thereby, encouraging young girls and black people, in general, to follow their dreams and never stop believing in them.

During her flight, she made stops to speak with several young people and meet many of the Tuskegee Airmen who signed her plane.

In 2015, Anyadike received the first Young Aviator’s Award from the Tuskegee Airmen in recognition of her achievements.

In 2016, she graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with an undergraduate degree.

Born in 1994, Anyadike grew up in Compton, California. She has an older brother and sister. Her parents are originally from Nigeria, and their surname Anyadike means “eye of the warrior” in the Igbo language.

Anyadike took dance lessons at the Lula Washington Dance Academy, served as a junior lifeguard at Venice Beach for five years, and volunteered as a youth leader at her local church.

At a young age, she showed a strong interest in medical science and anatomy; her mother taught her to identify and name all 206 bones in the body.

Anyadike later attended science classes at the Charles Drew University Saturday Science Academy, an L.A.-based STEM subjects program for youth ranging in age from preschool to grade 12.

Anyadike took her first flying lessons at the age of 12, attending an after-school aviation program offered by Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum for disadvantaged youths.

She was inspired to take lessons after reading about Jonathan Strickland, an earlier participant of the program who became the youngest person to fly a fixed-wing aircraft and a helicopter solo in a single day.

Anyadike paid for her flight lessons with “museum dollars” earned by washing airplanes and working odd jobs around the Compton Airport. As part of the program’s requirements, she maintained a strong academic record throughout the period.

Despite having a fear of heights, Anyadike said that being in the cockpit of a plane is an amazing experience.

As Anyadike gradually built up 100 hours of flight time, she conceived the idea of flying across the country. She wanted to inspire other youths, while also honouring the Tuskegee Airmen, an African-American air combat unit that served during World War II.

Departing on June 29, 2009, 15-year-old Anyadike flew a single-engine Cessna 172 from Compton, California to Newport News, Virginia and back, completing the journey in 13 days.

She was accompanied by adult safety pilot Ronnell Norman, and Major Levi H. Thornhill, an 87-year-old retired U.S. Air Force pilot who had served as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Anyadike made at least a dozen scheduled stops along the way, and navigated through thunderstorms as she flew across Texas.

In Washington, D.C., Congresswoman Laura Richardson came to congratulate the young pilot, and in Tuskegee, Alabama, Mayor Omar Neal proclaimed July 2 to be “Kimberly Anyadike Day”.

During stops in different cities, Anyadike’s plane was autographed by about 50 different Tuskegee Airmen. Major Thornhill acted as Anyadike’s representative to make the necessary introductions with regional chapters of the airmen.

Although the record had never been officially tracked before her journey, Anyadike is considered the youngest black American woman and possibly the youngest person of any race or gender to have successfully piloted a plane coast-to-coast across the United States.

Upon her arriving home on July 11, 2009, Anyadike received an award from the County of Los Angeles, and was personally invited by governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to visit the California State Capitol.

In May 2015, Anyadike received the Tuskegee Airmen’s inaugural Young Aviator’s Award in Tuskegee, Alabama, in recognition of her achievements as a pilot.

In 2017, Anyadike was interviewed about her transcontinental flight for a special Disney Channel segment for Black History Month entitled ‘True Heroes Are Timeless’.

Earlier in 2018, Pilot Kimberly Anyadike was invited to speak at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day event at West Covina Civic Center where she spoke as a 23-year-old full of hope and determination encouraging the youth to be inspired by their history and not let race limit them to achieve their dreams.

For her college education, Anyadike enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), majoring in physiological science with minors in African-American studies and Spanish.

During her senior year, she was also working as a registered emergency medical technician, and was volunteering for her local chapter of the Flying Samaritans to bring medical care to Tijuana, Mexico.

She graduated with her undergraduate degree from UCLA in June 2016. When asked about future aspirations, Anyadike has said that she plans to enroll in medical school and become a cardiovascular surgeon.

Anyadike’s elder sister, Kelly, also took aviation lessons at Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum. In 2008, on her sixteenth birthday, Kelly became the youngest African-American woman to pilot four different fixed-wing aircraft in a single day.

In interviews, Anyadike has said that a friendly rivalry with Kelly helped inspire her to complete her own piloting achievements.

Tourism Observer

UNITED KINGDOM: Passengers Stranded At Heathrow Airport Just To Wait For Their Luggage

Desperate air travellers are still waiting to be reunited with their luggage after technical issues at London Heathrow Airport forced them to fly without their bags.

Passengers were confronted by staggering piles of suitcases at Terminal Two last night, after a major glitch with the airport’s baggage handling system.

A day later, scores of people still have no updates on their belongings, with some complaining of feeling helpless and cheated at the airport's alleged communication failings.

One passenger said it wasn’t until he and his fellow passengers had boarded their flight to Oslo that they were told they would be travelling without their luggage.

The woman at the check-in desk told passengers there was a problem with their computer system, but reassured us everyone’s suitcases would still make it on.

So he turfed out everything from my suitcase that wouldn’t make it through security and manually gave it to staff at the gate.

he added, i think there were about 10-15 suitcases that made it onto a flight of around 240 people.

Another passenger said she was continuing to demand updates on her belongings 16 hours after landing.

“No one’s telling me if I’m going to get my bags today and the tracking system just says tracing continues. Please check back later,she said.

My flight landed at 8.50pm but they made us wait till midnight, just to get the phone number for the incident report.

People at the check-in area at Terminal Two should have told us there was a crisis – I wouldn’t have checked my bag.

I have a conference today and I don’t have anything to wear, but the worst part is I don’t know where my bag is.

A spokesperson for Heathrow Airport acknowledged their had been an issue but said it was working closely with its airline partners to reunite passengers with their luggage.

Yesterday there was a technical issue in Terminal 2 preventing some bags from being input into the system.

Our engineers quickly worked to resolve the issue and the system is working as normal today.

We are now working closely with our airline partners to reunite passengers with their luggage as soon as possible and those affected should contact their airlines for more information.

It comes after thousands of passengers suffered chaos at the Terminal Five bag drop on Friday, with many forced to miss their flights due to queues of up to two hours.

However, Heathrow travellers have received some good news , as strikes planned for the airport this weekend have been suspended, according to union Unite.

Tourism Observer

NIGERIA: Medview Airline Makes Emergency Landing After Depressurisation

Medview Airline has confirmed that its flight VL2105 en route Lagos from Abuja on Tuesday experienced cabin depressurization while descending from 32,000ft altitude.

The airline’s Chief Operating Officer, Mr Michael Ajigbotoso said this in a statement in Lagos on Thursday.

Ajigbotoso said the Captain noticed a warning sign of cabin depressurisation while descending from 32000ft altitude and immediately briefed passengers on board on the development.

He said the pilot then referred to the checklist and applied the necessary procedure to mitigate the situation.

The oxygen masks dropped and were in good working condition for the passengers’ usage.

The captain called for priority landing because he had been on number seven on queue.

Ajigbotoso said the pilot-in-command was obliged and he made a safe landing, adding that the passengers were calm since it did not pose a serious danger.

He said the incident was promptly reported to the necessary authorities and investigation was ongoing.

Ajigbotoso said the situation was professionally handled according to required operational standard procedures.

The Med-View Airline Boeing 737-500 aircraft, with registration number 5N-BQM, was coming from Abuja when the incident occurred around 3:10 p.m.

The aircraft had 27 passengers and six crew members onboard and there was no fatality.

The Accident Investigation Bureau has already begun an investigation to unravel the remote and immediate cause of the incident.

Med-View Airline is an airline based in Lagos, Nigeria. The airline was founded in 2007 as a charter airline, mainly operating Hajj flights, and has offered domestic passenger services since November 2012.

It has since expanded into regional and long-haul scheduled passenger routes. Med-View Airline Plc was listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange on January 31, 2017.

The airline recently laid off 90% of its employees between November 2017 and June 2018. Med-View Airline owes sacked and existing workers at least N1.5billion in salary arrears, pension and other entitlements.

The airline is currently banned from operating in the European Union.

Med-View Airline had previously operated to nine domestic and nine international scheduled destinations in states across Nigeria, West Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

Med-View Airline now operates to only the Nigerian capital Abuja.

Tourism Observer

VIETNAM: South Korean Tourists Love Visiting Vietnam

South Korean arrivals are soaring and Vietnam’s increasingly lucrative tourism industry is changing to accommodate the influx. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are abuzz with Korean culture while beachside destinations like Da Nang, Hoi An and Phu Quoc are tailored for Korean tastes

Vietnam for a long time has been a backpackers’ paradise. Its vibrant street-food culture, a host of colourful heritage sites and breathtaking scenery offer plenty to adventure-seekers on a budget.

But this is beginning to change. Once-sleepy beach towns are transforming into five-star resorts. For better or worse, city streets once filled with hostels and homestays are being replaced with one-stop shopping centre/hotel complexes.

Vietnam’s tourism and hospitality industries have expanded rapidly in the past few years. Alongside on-trend international hotspots such as Iceland and Mongolia, Vietnam was in 2017 identified by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation as one of the world’s 10 fastest-growing travel destinations.

During the first half of 2018, Vietnam welcomed 8 million international visitors, an increase of 27.2 per cent from the previous year. Overall tourism revenue was an estimated 312 trillion dong (US$13.4 billion), 22.5 per cent more than in the first half of 2017.

The government has ambitious plans, aiming for 20 million international visitors per year by 2020. In turn, it aims to develop the tourism industry into a sector worth US$35 billion annually, one that would be 10 per cent of Vietnam’s GDP.

This growth has been driven partly by a spike in South Korean visitors, with knock-on effects in the tourism, hospitality and aviation sectors.

Last year, mainland China accounted for the most visitors to Vietnam, with 3.4 million arrivals. South Korea was not far behind, with 3.16 million, an increase of 46.5 per cent from the previous year, according to local media.

Flights from Vietnam to South Korea accounted for a remarkable 44.5 per cent of the country’s outbound traffic in 2018. By comparison, China-bound flights made up 14.8 per cent in the same year.

South Korean airlines Asiana and Jeju Air began offering daily flights between Busan and Da Nang, the Vietnamese coastal city, increasing the route’s capacity by 86 per cent.

As a result, Da Nang, known for its resorts and pristine beaches, became the top foreign destination for South Koreans last summer.

Many South Koreans fly the route to visit Hoi An, a resort town about 30km from Da Nang. According to Vietnamese reports, more than 240,000 South Koreans visited Hoi An last year, an increase of 70 per cent from 2016. They now outnumber the 200,000 mainland Chinese visitors arriving annually.

Vietjet prides itself on having served more than 2 million Koreans, many of whom were travelling overseas for the first time. In December, the budget carrier announced a new route linking Seoul and Phu Quoc island, another destination attracting South Koreans.

The north of Phu Quoc island caters to Koreans, with resorts built specifically for this market. Most Koreans never leave their resort, which is equipped with a medical centre and golf course.

From the 1960s until the late 1980s, South Koreans were not allowed to travel freely and passports were issued only for special reasons. After the nation’s democratisation in 1988, overseas travel was finally permitted and, as its middle class expanded over the next three decades, many South Koreans began to explore the world.

You will see more and more Korean brands and cafes every time you visit Vietnam. There are a lot of Korea-related businesses. Vietnamese people also love Korean culture.

As in many Asian countries swept up by the so-called K-wave, South Korean culture has begun to exert a broad influence on Vietnam’s urban environment.

Korean retail brands, cafes and eateries are popular, and cater to local populations as well as the growing influx of Korean visitors.

K-pop musicians sell out large arenas. Korean soap operas have been popular on local television for years. Korean movies are in theatres every week. Korean barbecue and noodle restaurants can be found all over the major cities and even appear in smaller cities.

Chinese visitors, on the other hand, have not been as warmly embraced. Vietnamese media reported two years ago that the coastal city of Da Nang would publish a booklet in Chinese on do’s and don’ts for tourists, after reports surfaced of mainland tourists and tour guides behaving badly.

Some of the mistrust and hostility towards the Chinese stemmed from historical conflict between the two countries that has flared up in recent times.

Four years ago, China moved an oil rig into Vietnam’s territorial waters and several Chinese-owned factories in Vietnam were burned down, with protests resulting in the death of at least 20 Chinese expats.

China restricted tourists coming to Vietnam, which really hurt the tourism industry. South Korea’s economic support for Vietnam has also contributed to the warm relations.

South Koreans are by far the largest foreign investors in Vietnam with over US$65 billion in registered capital in the country. Samsung has opened several enormous factories that manufacture phones and electronics.

Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City both have Korea towns where a significant amount of South Korean expats live.

Many younger Korean travellers forego a Korean experience while in Vietnam. But older travellers often with larger budgets still expect access to Korean services.

Those in their 40s and above look for Korean food and services during their stay. People of older age don’t travel a lot and need tour guides.

It has become second nature for Vietnam’s hospitality industry to offer Korean-language options.

Companies provide Korean brochures and Korean language menus. Travel agencies describe their information in Korean, and their staff can speak Korean fluently.

Vietnam’s jet fuel demand will surge to a record this year as its tourism industry attracts a wave of new visitors and the country’s airlines are rapidly expanding.

The country is on track to have 38 million international passengers and 16 million visitors this year, according to data from CAPA Centre for Aviation. That is up from 18 million passengers and 8 million visitors in 2015, according to the data.

Aviation demand in Vietnam is booming, Fuel consumption in Vietnam will reach a record high this year and will keep rising for the years to come, said Tran Hoai Nam, vice-president of Vietjet, Vietnam’s biggest private airline.

He added Vietnam’s growth in foreign arrivals was the highest in Southeast Asia, rising 8.7 per cent annually.

The surge in traffic has translated into a rush of jet fuel demand in Vietnam. Through November, the country has imported 1.87 million tonnes of the fuel, according to customs data, equal to 14.8 million barrels, and up 18 per cent from the same period last year.

For 2018, jet fuel demand in Vietnam was estimated to be increased by about 20 to 25 per cent in comparison with 2017, mostly due to the increase in consumption of the international flights, said a Hanoi-based trader at one of country’s jet fuel suppliers, who asked to remain unidentified due to company policy.

Vietnam currently consumes about 18 million barrels of jet fuel per year, according to data from Petrolimex Aviation.

By 2035, Vietnam will have 150 million airline passengers per year, nearly four times what it was in 2015, according to a 20-year forecast from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Over the same period, India will have 442 million passengers, 3.6 times what it was in 2015, while China will have 1.3 billion passengers, 2.7 times what it was in 2015, IATA said.

In November, Vietnam issued an aviation licence to Bamboo Airways, which would be the country’s fifth airline after Vietnam Airlines, Jetstar Pacific Airlines, Vietjet Aviation and Vietnam Air Services Co.

Bamboo signed a provisional deal to buy 20 of the wide-body 787-9 jets from US manufacturer Boeing and agreed a memorandum of understanding with Europe’s Airbus for up to 24 of the narrow-body A320neo jets in March.

VietJet, which currently operates 60 Airbus jets, has signed a US$6.5 billion agreement to buy 50 new jets.

Vietnam’s jet fuel imports will continue to surge as the country only has two refineries, Dung Quat in the central province of Quang Ngai and Nghi Son in Thanh Hoa province, near to the capital Hanoi, which only started operations last year.

Vietnam imports most its jet fuel from refineries in Singapore, Thailand and China, trade data showed.

Despite the steep growth outlook for Vietnam’s aviation sector, passenger growth might may be uneven as the country grapples with capacity constraints at its airports.

Vietnam’s biggest airport Tan Son Nhat, serving Ho Chi Minh City in the south, receives about 10 million more passengers per year than it is designed to serve.

The government is planning a second international airport at Long Thanh, 40km east of Ho Chi Minh City, that will serve 25 million passengers a year starting in 2025.

Tourism Observer

Wednesday 24 July 2019

IRAN: US Sanctions Boost Iran Tourism

The annual International Exhibition of Halal Industry - Halal Expo - was held as at the end of April in Russia's Republic of Tatarstan as part of the XI International Economic Summit: “Russia - Islamic World: Kazan Summit 2019”.

An Iranian travel agency Persepol, that's registered in Kazan took part in the Expo.

Persepol offers travellers to see Iran in a different light. The company's owner Amir Mousavi said how Russians are interested in visiting Iran, whether halal tourism is attractive to them, what difficulties they have, and how the tourism industry has changed with the introduction of tough US sanctions on Iran.

How long have you been working in tourism? How comfortable is it to promote halal tourism?

Amir Mousavi said: I have been living in Tatarstan for a long time, I have my own carpet business. We've not been in the tourism sector we've so long. For the first time my company has taken part in the Russia Halal Expo.

During the 2018 World Cup a lot of tourists from Iran came to Tatarstan. I must thank the leadership of the republic for creating all the necessary conditions.

Iranians love Tatarstan very much and willingly come here. On the other hand, we noticed that residents of Tatarstan are very interested in Iran, especially when the country is represented in the media in a negative way.

It is for this purpose that we decided to set up a travel agency in order to introduce Russians to the ancient culture of Iran. We are not after big financial gains in tourism; we are rather working to improve the image of Iran in the eyes of foreign tourists.

Taking into account the fact that in Iran there are a number of restrictions for foreigners, in particular with regard to clothing, halal tourism seems to be the most profitable category. More than 50 million Muslims live in the Russian Federation, so halal tours to Iran are in demand.

So you offer tours only for Muslims? Or are there any special offers developed for other tourists?

He said: We also offer basic tours to show a number of the most famous cities in Iran. There are also non-standard extreme tours with special routes.

For example, the desert rally or mountain climbing. We have organised trips for around 500 tourists from Russia in the last two years.

We also offer Iranians tours to Moscow, St. Petersburg, Volga cruises (Tatarstan), as well Golden Ring tours. All our clients, especially those who have travelled to Iran for the first time, leave only positive feedback, their attitude towards Iran changes completely after they visit the country.

It is also pleasant that our countries have simplified the visa regime. This makes our work much easier.

How have the US sanctions affected Iran's tourism industry?

Amir responded: The US has failed to paralyze the tourism industry, on the contrary, it made it more attractive to foreigners. As the saying goes, the forbidden fruit is always the sweetest, foreigners want to learn more about the country that the US wants to enslave with sanctions.

In addition, the fall of Iran's national currency has made Iran much cheaper for foreigners, especially if you look at prices in foreign currency euros or dollars.

The image of Iran that has been created in the Western media is very frightening. This has led to the decline of the total number of foreign tourists to Iran.

But those who have previously visited this country, continue to come and travel around it. Therefore, I believe that the sanctions did not have a significant impact on the tourism industry in Iran.

Russia plans to develop tourist relations with Iran, the Association of Tour Operators of Russia (ATOR) said.

The advisor at the Iranian embassy in Russia, Hassan Saleh Majd, said that Russia and Iran currently operate 8-9 flights between the countries per week and plan to restore railroad traffic between Moscow and Tehran.

Russia and Iran are also currently developing an agreement on a visa-free regime for tourist groups.

The diplomat also noted that Iran is particularly interested in more and more Russian tourists coming to Iran despite the fact that it is not the easiest direction due to strict religious laws.

The executive director of the Association of Tour Operators of Russia, Maya Lomidze, and the Vice-President of ATOR, Alexander Kurnosov, represented Russia at the meeting.

Tourism Observer

INDIA: Hyatt Opening 14 Hotels Within 2 Years

Hyatt Hotels Corporation announced that 2019 will mark record growth for Hyatt in India. Expansion plans foresee the addition of over 2,100 guestrooms through the opening of more than 14 new properties over the next 24 months.

Aside from growth in the larger capital cities, the emphasis will be on leisure and cultural destinations, with a focus on emerging cities within India.

As a result of an increasingly favorable business climate and heightened tourism spend, encouraged by relaxed visa rules and a growing upper middle class, there is a general demand for growth in the hospitality industry in India.

This expansion includes hotels in eight new markets in the country, thereby establishing Hyatt’s brand presence across 27 cities in India over the next 24 months.

Hyatt is one of the longest-running international hotel management brands in India, the first Hyatt hotels in India opened over 30 years ago, said Dhruva Rathore, Vice President Development-India, Hyatt.

Our heritage and experience in this complex market, paired with the strong relationships we hold with local developers and owners has helped make India one of the top three growth markets for Hyatt globally, he added.

This year’s expansion began with the introduction of the Hyatt Centric brand through the opening of Hyatt Centric Candolim Goa.

New to the Hyatt portfolio as part of the Two Roads Hospitality acquisition in November 2018, the Alila brand also added two new properties in India, located in Diwa Goa and Fort Bishangarh.

Later in the year, Hyatt plans to expand its brand footprint in Kerala with the opening of Hyatt Regency Kochi Malayattoor, a resort property on the banks of the Periyar river, and Hyatt Regency Thrissur, providing travelers with the first premium hotel in Thrissur.

Hyatt also plans to add its first resort in The Himalayas with the anticipated opening of Hyatt Regency Dharamshala Resort in the second half of 2019. Gurgaon will also be in focus in later 2019, with the scheduled opening of Grand Hyatt Gurgaon.

These hotels will add over 1,000 guestrooms to Hyatt’s existing offering in India and will establish its brand presence in four new markets.

For Hyatt, India has a high growth potential and remains a market where we can expand our brand representation. Being focused on intentional growth gives us a unique edge as Hyatt can differentiate by having the right assets in its portfolio, said Sunjae Sharma, Vice President Operations-India, Hyatt.

We look forward to collaborating with owners who want personal, flexible relationships and to stand out in a slightly overcrowded market. Most importantly, we want to be where our guests are traveling, and our growth strategy is in line with their preferred destinations.

Openings Planned For 2019:

- Hyatt Regency Kochi Malayattoor (Q2 2019)

- Hyatt Regency Dharamshala Resort (Q3 2019)

- Hyatt Regency Thrissur (Q3 2019)

- Grand Hyatt Gurgaon (Q4 2019)

Openings Planned For 2020:

- Hyatt Place Bangalore Urbana (Q3 2019)

- Hyatt Regency Jaipur Mansarovar

- Hyatt Regency Dehradun

- Hyatt Place Vadodara

- Hyatt Regency Trivandrum

- Hyatt Place Jaipur Malviya Nagar

- Hyatt Regency Udaipur

Tourism Observer

TURKEY: Marvelous Antalya Expecting 7 Million Tourists

Antalya, one of Turkey’s most popular tourist attractions in the Mediterranean region, has welcomed a total of 6.9 million foreign tourists between January and July 18, marking a strong 16 percent annual increase.

Some 86,000 tourists arrived in the city each day through Antalya and Gazipaşa airports, but on July 14 the city saw a record 96,191 arrivals.

The previous daily arrival records were broken again this year on June 22 with 86,308 and June 29 with 90,989.

We wake up to a new day with a fresh record. If this trend continues we will easily meet our target of hosting 16 million tourists set for this year, Ülkay Atmaca, the head of the Professional Hotel Managers’ Association (POYD), said.

What matters is not only breaking records but also creating a sustainable tourism industry, Atmaca noted. We need to receive 90,000 tourists every day throughout the year, he added.

The Russian and European markets are performing well so far and there have been increases in the number of tourists visiting the city, according to Atmaca.

He reiterated hoteliers demand that the government extends the upcoming Eid al-Adha holiday to nine days to give boosts to domestic tourism activity.

Foreign tourist arrivals have been in line with expectations so far, said Erkan Yagcı, the president of the Mediterranean Touristic Hoteliers’ Association (AKTOB).

Yagcı stressed that Russian tourist visits have particularly been satisfying.

Last year we hosted 4.8 million Russian holidaymakers. We predict a 5 percent to 10 percent growth in the number of Russian tourists per year. We target to welcome more than 5 million Russian tourists, he said.

In remarks he made in June, Yagcı said that at least 250,000 Russian police officers and their families are expected to visit Turkey starting from August after Moscow removed a ban that had prevented members of the Russian security forces from traveling to some countries.

Full of archaeological sites, Antalya is a haven for those who love to delve into history. One of the best-preserved theaters in the world, with a seating capacity of 15,000 spectators, Aspendos is a site to marvel at! During summer, this theater comes to life with Opera performances.

Perge, an important trading port back in 1300 BC, is another great site to see ancient ruins. It was conquered by Alexander the Great and was used as a base for his future conquests. Phaselis, Termessos, Olympos, Myra – these are some of the interesting sites that will take you back in time!

If you are a hiking enthusiast then you must take the Lycian trail – a marked trail around the coast of Lycia in southern Turkey, from Fethiye to Antalya.

Unique and breath-taking, the Lycian Way is a darling of avid hikers and has been rated as one of the most beautiful long distance hikes in the world!

Stretching over 540 kilometers, this trail promises an abundance of wow moments. Passing through several ancients ruins, villages, mountains, and offering some stunning views of the Mediterranean – head for the Lycian Way, your trails will never be the same again!

In the old town of Kaleici, the historic centre of Antalya, it is easy to get lost in the maze, but at the end of the day you will be truly satisfied. Walk in the narrow, cobbled streets, admire the stone and timber houses built during the Ottoman-era; most of them converted into hotels.

As the day draws close, sit by the ancient harbour, while admiring the most enigmatic sunset. The harbour is home to boats and yachts and has plenty of restaurants and bistros offering the best of Mediterranean cuisines.

Enjoying a meal or two by the harbour front or by a beach, or on a mountain – the dining experience in Antalya is quite different.

From a five-star rated restaurant to a traditional, homely food joint, or a quaint cafe near a waterfall, there is no dearth of great places to enjoy a good meal in this city.

Antalya is one of the best places in Turkey to experience luxe living! Stunning beaches dotted with luxury resorts and hotels, life is a retreat here in this picturesque town.

Whether you fancy a sprawling resort near a beach, or a cozy hideout with an old world charm, Antalya has it covered for you!

Night owls can look forward to having a gala time in Antalya! As the sun goes down, this summer town dons a different look.

The town is filled with big, fancy discs, as well as small, cosy pubs and bars – catering to the needs of different types of travellers. Antalya’s nightlife is legendary!

The old town of Kaleici is the best place to shop for local goods and souvenirs from Antalya. Clothes, jewelry, antiques, and carpets – everything is available in the market.

Antalya’s biggest street bazaar, Lara Street market is yet another great place to shop and hone your bargaining skills; it opens every Saturday.

Tourism Observer

TURKEY: Turkish Hoteliers’ Federation Wants Ban On Russian Tourists Lifted

Turkish hoteliers have welcomed the Russian government’s decision that allows Russian police to spend their annual leave in Turkey as they expect this move to boost tourism activity.

Russian police were prohibited to go abroad in 2014, when the Russian Foreign Ministry published a list of 116 countries not recommended for traveling.

However, on June 22, Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev signed an order, authorizing Russian police to spend their annual leave in Turkey as well as Thailand.

The removal of the ban is a very important development for the Turkish tourism industry, said Osman Ayık, the head of the Turkish Hoteliers’ Federation (TÜROFED).

According to Ayık, there are some 1 million personnel working for the Russian police force.

Together with their families, we are talking about some 2.5 million people. Another 1 million staff are in the Russian army. The Russian government has not yet removed the ban for that personnel, but we expect a similar move soon, Ayık said.

We may see a significant rise in the number of Russian tourist visits to Turkey. The positive impact of the removal of the ban will be felt much stronger in 2020. We are expecting at least 1 million additional visitors from Russia.

The latest data from the Tourism Ministry showed that Russian tourist arrivals increased by 34 percent on an annual basis to 392,000 in April.

In the first four months of the year, a total of 710, 293 Russian nationals spent their holiday in Turkey, a 35.5 percent rise from a year earlier.

In 2018, 5.96 million Russian tourists visited Turkey, up from the previous year’s figure of 4.7 million.

In 2016, only 866,000 Russian holidaymakers came to Turkey.

Tourism Observer

TURKEY: Tourists From Russia, Germany And Bulgaria Are Most Important To Turkey

A mid greater-than-expected mobility so far this year, tourism professionals expect Turkey to end 2019 with an over 10 percent rise in both the number of tourists and income.

The number of foreign arrivals in Turkey surged 11.3 percent year-on-year in the January-May period, Culture and Tourism Ministry announced late last month.

Nearly 12.8 million foreigners visited the country in the first five months, compared to 11.5 million in the same period in 2018.

The country's two most popular tourist spots Istanbul and Antalya have particularly come to the fore as they have so far enjoyed a buoyant season and have seen a significant surge in the number of foreign arrivals.

The country's most populous city, Istanbul, attracted a record number of tourists in the January-May period. The city welcomed 5.4 million foreigners, an 11 percent increase compared to the same period of last year, posting a five-year high.

Last year, Istanbul hosted 13.4 million foreign visitors from 199 countries.

Latest figures, on the other hand, showed that the number of tourists arriving in the Mediterranean resort city of Antalya so far this year surged by 16 percent year-on-year.

Around 6.91 million foreigners arrived at Antalya Airport and Gazipaşa Airport from January until June 18.

It hosted 12.4 million foreign visitors in 2018, according to the Culture and Tourism Ministry.

Dubbed Turkey's tourism capital and known for its luxury hotels, sea, ancient ruins and cultural structure, Antalya has recently seen an all-time high for daily passenger entry as well.

The city first broke the daily record on June 8 when 85,205 tourists arrived. The record was renewed later on, firstly on June 22 with 86,308 and then on June 29 with 90,989 tourists arriving in the city within one day.

Finally, the city posted an all-time on July 14 when 96,191 tourists arrived on a daily basis.

Turkey welcomed 39.5 million foreign visitors last year, a 21.84 percent increase year-on-year, according to the Culture and Tourism Ministry, while the country's tourism income surged 12.3 percent to $29.5 billion, according to Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat).

Turkish Hoteliers Federation (TÜROFED) Chairman Osman Ayık said the industry welcomed the latest figures, adding that tourism in the country was currently going through its liveliest period.

According to our projections, there will be a growth of over 10 percent in Turkey this year, the figures so far confirm this. We will break a historic record in 2019. We will see an overall figure of over 50 million across the country, Ayık said.

Ayık said there was an increase not only in the number of tourists but in the income per capita and in the number of overnight stays as well.

This year, we expect over 10 percent increase in tourism income, which hit nearly $30 billion last year, he added.

Emphasizing that in accordance with the structure of products, Turkey welcomes guests of all profiles.

In line with the structure of products, Turkey has stressed that welcomes guests of all profiles, Ayık said.

We can accommodate people from the top income group as well as guests with low income and limited budgets. Every region of Turkey could become a separate destination product.

Every region of our country has facilities able to accept guests, and products are gradually being revealed. There is a different trend in the world right now, people want to experience, taste and experience different things.

Turkey has this kind of diversity and richness. Therefore, the future is extremely bright from our perspective. We can make every point of Turkey a tourism region, destination, a point to visit, he added.

Ayik went ahead to say Turkey welcomes tourists from over 180 countries, noting that Russia and Germany were the two most important source markets, while serious mobility was experienced in the British market in recent years.

According to Culture and Tourism Ministry data, Russians made up 13.1 percent of foreign visitors or 1.8 million, followed by German citizens at 9.5 percent 1.2 million and Bulgarians at 7.7 percent more than 980,000 of the foreign tourists arriving in the country in the January-May period of this year.

Ayık also pointed out that Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and other countries in Balkans have started becoming important markets for the country.

He added that the Scandinavian market has also started to become lively and a return to Turkey was being experienced. He said there would be no need to worry much about the future in case this market is weighed on as well.

We can realize our 2023 goals very easily. There is a period of three to four years ahead, if we can continue our path with double-digit growth, it could be possible to reach the 70 million target even before 2023, he added.

TÜROFED head also pointed out that markets, such as India, China, South Korea and Japan, known as far markets, are also important for the country's tourism. Ayık said South Korea has become a vibrant market in recent years, also noting the significant mobility in China as well.

It is expected that over 30 million Chinese will travel to Europe in the 5-year medium-term period. We are on this route. We need to get the maximum share from here.

We can increase the number of Chinese tourists to one million in a very short period in case difficulties such as visa between Turkey and China are overcome. India also has such potential.

Looking at South Korea and Japan, we have very positive relations. We have serious golf potential in Japan and Korea, said Ayık.

On the other hand, praising the latest developments in terms of the holiday resort Antalya, Professional Hoteliers' Association (POYD) Chairman Ulkay Atmaca said if the raise in figures continues the city would exceed the target of 16 million foreign tourists at the end of this year.

Besides the positive situation in Russian and European market, Atmaca stressed there was a growth in most of the other markets as well.

Indicating that in the case July, August and September figures come in parallel to the expectations, Mediterranean Touristic Hoteliers and Operators Association (AKTOB) Chairman Erkan Yagcı said the industry would post a major growth at the end of this year.

Lauding the developments regarding the Russian market, Yagcı said: "Last year, we hosted 4.8 million Russians in Antalya. We foresee that there will be a growth between 5 percent and 10 percent in the Russian market this year."

Tourism Observer

TURKEY: Russians To Visit Turkey Without A Passport

Tourism professionals expect that visa-free travel to Turkey for Russian citizens will increase the number of visitors from the country by 600,000, extend vacation periods and boost travel frequency.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu announced that Turkey and Russia are holding talks to allow Russian citizens to travel to Turkey without a passport.

"We've started meetings in order to pave the way for Russian citizens to come to our country only with their ID cards, without a passport, Çavuşoğlu said and noted that he will meet Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov tomorrow in Antalya and in Moscow in April.

Minister Çavuşoğlu's statements were hailed by tourism professionals who estimate that the number of Russian visitors to Turkey will see a 10 percent increase, adding 600,000 more visitors from the country.

This new practice, they said, will extend the season in Turkey and the traveling frequency from Russia to Turkey will be higher.

Russia was the top country with 5.96 million visitors last year, 15.1 percent of all foreign visitors to Turkey.

Turkey welcomed 39.5 million foreign visitors in 2018, a 21.84 percent increase year-on-year, according to the Culture and Tourism Ministry.

Erkan Yagcı of the Mediterranean Touristic Hoteliers Association (AKTOB) confirmed that there are a great number of Russian tourists that have high traveling potential but do not hold any passport.

This particular group will directly prefer Turkey for vacations, Yagcı said. He also added that the Russians who visit Turkey once a year may visit the country twice a year, or even three times.

Therefore, he said, Turkey is likely to record a 10 percent rise in the number of Russian tourists.

Tez Tour General Manager Sezgin Ozer highlighted that if visa-free travel is implemented, it could even boost the number of Russian visitors to Turkey by 1 million.

Now that the hotels are already booked for the period of June to September, visa-free travel could also extend the season from April to November.

Tourism Observer

NORTH KOREA: Defectors Discourage Anyone Visiting North Korea

Despite its image of being secretive, North Korea invites foreigners to discover its attractions. But traveling as tourists comes with strings attached, as special guides shadow their every step.

Curious to witness a nation that is consistently in the news for all the wrong reasons, record numbers of tourists are booking visits to North Korea, although defectors who have fled a regime that has imprisoned their families and friends say they wish travelers would choose a different destination.

The vast majority of the tourists are from neighboring China, there has been a sharp increase in arrivals from China in the first half of the year.

In the first three months of the year, as many as 2,000 people were crossing the border into North Korea from China.

With limited tourist infrastructure such as hotels and restaurants, the North Korean government in March announced that a limit on foreign arrivals would be set at 1,000 people per day.

In total, around 100,000 tourists visited North Korea last year, all members of groups that were carefully taken to sites that the regime of Kim Jong Un wanted them to see.

Those sites included the vast expanse of Kim Il Sung Square, usually seen on television with hordes of soldiers marching in long parades, as well as the Tower of Juche and a replica of the mountain hut in which North Koreans are taught Kim Jung Un, the father of the present dictator, was born.

Another major attraction is the Mass Games, in which thousands of children perform tightly choreographed dances and performances in the Rungrado 1st of May Stadium with 114,000 seats, the largest stadium in the world, in praise of the nation and their leaders.

Performances for this year have been abruptly halted after Kim expressed his displeasure and it is not clear when they might resume but still the tourists come.

Tourists should not set foot in North Korea, a North Korean defector said. Anyone who goes there is being manipulated by the regime and told only what the North wants them to hear, he added.

Unfortunately, if they have no other sources of information on what life is really like in North Korea, and they have no chance to see how miserable the lives of ordinary people are, then they will come out thinking that North Korea is a safe and happy place, another South Korea-based defector said. It is not safe and it is not happy.

This defector fled North Korea in 2008 after becoming disillusioned with the regime. His father was a political prisoner and was taken from the family home when he was 9. One of his older sisters has also been sent to a political prison and he does not know if she is dead or alive, he said.

He believes his other sister is alive and still working as a doctor in the North, but he has made no effort to contact her in several years because it would be dangerous for her if the North's state security officials discovered that she was communicating with someone outside the country.

Visitors to North Korea are being told about the 'victory of the Juche ideology' of the country. They are being told of the greatness of the Kim family, he said. I know this because it is exactly what I was taught when I was at school. But it is a lie.

Another defector who defected from the North in 1985 and took two years to reach safely in South Korea, says Pyongyang has two prime motivations for attracting more foreign tourists; one is to feed them propaganda, the other is to earn hard currency, he said.

Since the United Nations introduced sanctions, they have been really struggling, he says. Tourism is one of the few ways that they still have of making any money.

The money that tourists spend to go there, and anything that they use when they are in the North, goes directly into Kim's political funds and is used to buy the loyalty of the political factions and the military leaders that he needs to keep happy to stay in power, said Heo, who is now chairman of the Seoul-based Committee for the Democratization of North Korea.

Tourism is helping to keep the North Korean regime alive and I believe it should also come under the international sanctions to stop that money going to Kim.

Tourism does not support the North Korean regime and the people who visit the North are not expressing their support, said Simon Cockerell, general manager of a North Korea travel agency, Koryo Tours.

In the same way, no travel company that is taking visitors to China would say that their travelers were supporting the Chinese government.

Cockerell also denied that money from the tourism sector is funneled to the national government, pointing out that the hotels, restaurants and their other travel partners in the North all have to pay their own staff and have other overheads.

Most North Koreans never have the opportunity to interact with a foreigner. These are people whose only understanding of foreigners is what they are told by their own government. So when they do meet foreigners, they have a very different perspective.

And when they realize that everything that the state has told them previously was incorrect, he said, they then begin to question other truths that they have been fed all their lives.

Tourism Observer

Sunday 21 July 2019

GEORGIA: Russia Flight Ban Causes Tourism Losses To Georgia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tourism Observer

RUSSIA: Aeroflot Stops Flights To Georgia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tourism Observer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tourism Observer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Airport authorities suspected that the defendant might be travelling illegally.

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

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

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

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

Tourism Observer

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

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

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

Nobody was injured as a result of the incident.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A spokeswoman for the airport directed inquiries to Southwest.

Tourism Observer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tourism Observer

Sunday 14 July 2019

USA: Engine Trouble Makes Delta Go Into Emergency Landing

A Delta Air Lines flight was forced to make an emergency landing in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Monday after a problem with one of the plane's engines.

Flight DL-1425 was carrying 148 passengers from Atlanta to Baltimore when it declared an emergency and made an unscheduled landing at Raleigh-Durham International Airport at 2.27 p.m. ET.

The MD-88 elected to divert after receiving an indication of an issue with one of the aircraft’s engines, Delta said in a statement, adding that the flight landed without incident.

One passenger described on Twitter hearing a loud bang and seeing smoke in the cabin, followed by a burning smell.

The vibrations of the roof and the cabin itself was intense, John Leonard, another passenger on the flight, wrote. The experience was beyond scary.

In a video posted by passenger Logan Webb, the plane's right engine is seen glowing red-hot while an engine part is visibly loose.

Residents left stranded as Tropical Storm Barry brings heavy rains, extreme floods

Passengers praised the crew's response, with one woman saying they "did an amazing job in staying and keeping us all calm, while preparing us for an emergency landing."

A Delta spokesperson said that passengers were placed on an alternate aircraft after the incident.

We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience this diversion may have caused, she said.

Tourism Observer

SOMALIA: Hotel Attack, Foreigners Among 26 Killed, Over 100 Wounded By Al-Shabaab

Somalia's security forces shot dead a group of Islamists who tried to storm a popular hotel after detonating car bombs outside it. Authorities said dozens were killed in the explosions and gunfire, with over 100 wounded.

At least 53 people were killed in a series of blasts in Mogadishu, authorities said on Saturday, a day after al-Shabab militants detonated four car bombs and attacked a popular hotel in the Somali capital.

The death toll includes seven terrorists who tried to storm the Sahafi Hotel, which is often visited by government officials.

Some families are searching for their loved ones because they are still missing, as several whose bodies were burned badly beyond recognition were found in civilian vehicles, local hospital director Muhammad Yusuf told the DPA news agency.

Four car bombs exploded outside the Sahafi Hotel, which is located across the street from the Somali Police Force's Criminal Investigations Department, Friday afternoon. After the three explosions in front of the hotel, a fourth blast hit as ambulances rushed to rescue the injured.

The suicide bombers tried to storm through a hole blown into the hotel's wall but did not succeed in entering, said police officer Muhammad Hussein.

Although they failed to access the hotel, the blasts outside the hotel killed many people, said Hussein.

The street was crowded with people and cars, bodies were everywhere. Gunfire killed several people, too.

The al Qaeda-linked militant Islamist group al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack.

Violence and lawlessness have spiked in the African country since dictator Muhammad Siad Barre's government was toppled in the early 1990s.

Somalia's security forces shot dead a group of Islamists who tried to storm a popular hotel after detonating car bombs outside it.

Authorities said dozens were killed in the explosions and gunfire, with over 100 wounded.

Tourism Observer

CHINA: Beijing Daxing International Airport To Become Busiest In The World

Construction of China’s mega-airport has finally been completed. When it opens for business on September 30, Beijing Daxing International Airport will be the world’s largest single-terminal airport covering an area of over 1.4 million square metres – that’s more than double the size of Heathrow’s four terminals combined.

With a total of seven runways planned, the new airport will ultimately handle over 100m passengers each year and rub shoulders with Atlanta International in the US as the world’s busiest.

The total budget for the airport, which took just under five years to build, came to a total of £9 billion. To put that into perspective, building a third runway at Heathrow is projected to cost £14bn, and won't be operational until 2026 at the earliest.

The Chinese capital already has an enormous airport in the northeast. Ahead of the Olympics in 2008, Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) opened a third £3bn terminal to bump up the total capacity to 85m passengers a year.

But the city has seen a strong surge in air traffic growth and Capital airport has become overcrowded since 2016, exceeding the 100 million mark in 2018.

Located 46 kilometres south of Tiananmen Square, Daxing (PKX) will act as a second international airport for Beijing and relieve its overloaded sister site. The much smaller Nanyuan Airport – the oldest in China – will be closed once Daxing opens.

Building an airport of this capacity is not straightforward. The designers had to find a way to bring all facilities under one roof whilst laying the foundations for the next phases of the airport expansion.

To prepare for the influx of passengers, the architects had to fundamentally rethink how an airport is designed.

The result is a seven-floor complex with an underground structure linking to a satellite building – which is yet to be built, but will increase the annual capacity to 72m passengers, with further expansion to come.

Unlike the typically linear design of airport terminals, Daxing resembles a starfish. We wanted to design a building that is the most compact with minimal walking distances, says Jean-Charles Content, lead architect at ADP Ingénierie, an engineering subsidiary of the company that operates the Paris airports.

In 2014, the company was awarded a contract to design the terminal building, alongside several partners including late British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, and the Beijing Institute of Architectural Design (BIAD).

The building is designed to allow for sufficient space between each pier to fit all aircraft and organise the flow, Content says.

The layout was inspired by traditional Chinese aesthetics, which often feature spaces centred around courtyards, and has 79 aircraft stands arranged across five piers.

Once passengers reach the commercial area in the centre of the structure, Content explains, they will have to walk no more than 600m – the equivalent of eight minutes – to the furthest gate. The sixth pier is separate, and will host administrative offices and parking.

High-speed, regional, and subway trains will connect the airport to the city of Beijing and other parts of the country. The big difference with this train station is that it’s not a dead end, it’s not located in front of the terminal.

The train station is literally underneath the terminal, says Content. From the platform of the airport express service, lifts will take passengers directly to the departure levels.

But to house a railway station inside an airport complex – with trains that run at 250km per hour – BIAD had to earthquake-proof it, says lead architect Wang Xiaoqun.

Some 1,000 anti-seismic isolation bearings were built into the concrete slabs of the ground level to prevent the terminal building from shaking. As a result, the airport is capable of withstanding an 8.0 magnitude earthquake.

Daxing will be the first airport with two departure levels. Because we designed a terminal for 45 and then 72 million passengers and there is a lot of equipment to fit in for check-in and security, we needed to create a second level for departures.

That is one of the biggest features, says Jean-Yves Coulot, ADP Ingénierie's general manager for China. We wanted to keep it compact and under the same roof.

The top level will have traditional check-in facilities for international and domestic flights, the one below will be dedicated to frequent flyers who are primarily travelling domestically.

The separation is meant to speed up the check-in and security process, Coulot says, particularly for people who checked in on their phones and want to leave their luggage at a self-service bag drop.

From facial recognition at check-in to real-time baggage tracking on mobile phones, travelling through Daxing will be a paperless experience for passengers, according to a spokesperson for SATS, which services aircraft while they are on the ground.

The Singapore-based company will be responsible for the ground handling and inflight catering at the new airport, it already is at Beijing Capital International Airport.

The architects were not only tasked with designing an airport that would make the travel experience as efficient as possible, but also with executing it at speed.

It took less than five years to actually build the airport. We have been extremely impressed by the speed of this project, says Coulot.

At a stone-setting ceremony held on December 26, 2014 the site was still farmland, he recollects, adding that they have been able to build one of the largest airports in the world in such a short time.

The design, however, was a long time in the making. ADP Ingénierie was involved in an initial master plan phase and, from 2011 to 2014, was shortlisted several times and then finally awarded the architecture contract.

Once the concept design was honed, BIAD took over to carry out the development.

It’s a pretty impressive piece of execution, says Richard Gammon, managing director of global aviation at engineering firm Aecom, which was not involved in the project. He compares Daxing airport to Abu Dhabi’s new Midfield Terminal – of similar scale and complexity, that building was commissioned more than ten years ago and, in 2017, had to be delayed to late 2019.

When the airports have strong government backing, and particularly when there is alignment between airlines and airport operators, they tend to move quickly, he says.

But the making of this airport has been a truly international endeavour: Germany’s Thyssenkrupp delivered 155 elevators and 22 escalators whilst Wirtgen machines were used to pave the apron area.

Xsight Systems, an Israeli company, provided an AI-powered detection software that will help keep the runways safe from bird strikes and other potentially damaging objects.

The challenge with any airport project is the long timeline and complexity. The aviation industry is fairly fast-moving, so I would be interested to see what level of adaptation and flexibility was built into that design, says Gammon, adding that industry changes can affect what technology and equipment is used or the way airlines operate, which in turn, dictates the number and types of aircraft stands needed at an airport.

In Europe and the US, for instance, airlines are increasingly moving from larger aircraft to operating smaller, more efficient ones at higher frequency, he says.

My experience of Asia is that typically they would rather go fast and implement changes after the opening. However, if the design is not adapted and updated, airports risk becoming a construction site again shortly after opening.

BIAD may have preempted those risks. The airport will handle 45m passengers a year when it opens, increasing to 72m passengers and two million tonnes of cargo by 2025 once a satellite building has been built.

The whole satellite design and construction will start once the airport is in use, says Xiaoqun.

In the long run, Daxing airport will be able to accommodate 620,000 flights and more than 100 million passengers a year – in the hope of taking away traffic from other Asian hubs such as Dubai and Tokyo – but this will require constructing three additional runways and a whole other terminal building.

ADP Ingénierie’s Content proposes mirroring the design of the first terminal, but only time will tell if that is the right approach.

Of course, in time, there will be another competition, there will be new ideas, he says. The future may not look exactly like that.

Tourism Observer