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28 Jan, 2013

China’s Ethnic Muslim Province of Xinjiang Enjoys Tourism Boom in 2012

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil & Sana Muqbil

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 28 January 2013 (16 Rabee’ al-Awwal 1434). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.



Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak launched the Visit Malaysia Year 2014 campaign on January 19 with a call for it to be turned into a “national mission” to achieve the target of receiving 28 million visitors next year. He said the project must involved every ministry, agency and state government, to ensure its success. “All of us have a role to play to make Visit Malaysia Year 2014 a success. From the entry point, Immigration officers who stamp the tourists, passports, Customs officers, taxi drivers, hotel staff, business people, tour operators and the Malaysian people. We must show our warm welcome. We must give them the feeling that if they visit Malaysia, they will be treated with warmth and courtesy from all of us.” With the PM at the launch his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen, Information Communication and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim and wife Datin Seri Masnah Rais and Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein and his wife. Najib also said the government would continue supporting the tourism industry which is targeting 36 million visitors by 2020. The Malaysian tourism industry provided 1.8 million jobs and contributed RM168 billion to the national gross income. “This year, we’ll implement all programmes, spruce up, plant trees and prepare everything. We must have all this in place. If we do this, I believe and am confident that 2014 will be a successful year,” he said. Click here to download the full calendar of exciting festivals and events planned for this year in the build-up to VMY 2014

For more information about what makes Malaysia one of the most popular destinations in the Islamic world, as well as on planning your next holiday or MICE event in Malaysia, please click: http://www.tourism.gov.my/ or

facebook: http://www.facebook.com/friendofmalaysia

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

Blog: http://blog.tourism.gov.my


Watch Islamic Travel Newswire Executive Editor Imtiaz Muqbil’s landmark TEDx lecture on “Peace through Tourism” on YouTube — the first travel industry journalist in Bangkok invited to speak at this prestigious forum. CLICK HERE.


“Home-Grown Terrorism: One Swamp The U.S. Cannot Drain” and other columns gagged by the Bangkok Post

For 15 years (January 1997-July 2012), Imtiaz Muqbil penned a hard-hitting fortnightly column called “Soul-Searching” in the Bangkok Post. In July 2012, two editors of the so-called “newspaper you can trust” censored and muzzled it, with no explanation. In defiance against that unprecedented action, and at the behest of many upset readers, a selection of the nearly 400 columns are reproduced here, with more to be added regularly. Read the censored column, and several others, by clicking here.

Xinjiang Tourism Booms in 2012

URUMQI, Jan. 24 (Xinhua) — Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, which has a significant ethnic Muslim population, saw booming tourism in 2012, with tourist arrivals reaching 48.6 million, sources from the region’s tourism bureau said on Thursday.

The number visiting the region surged 23 percent compared to the figure for the previous year, thanks to strong government promotion along with improved infrastructure and service at tourist attractions, according to the sources.

Tourism revenues totaled 57.6 billion yuan (about 9.17 billion U.S. dollars) last year in Xinjiang, a year-on-year increase of 30 percent.

The regional government launched a campaign on infrastructure construction and environmental protection at tourist sites in 2012.

Affluent municipalities and provinces such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong have launched new train and flight services to bring more tourists to Xinjiang, as part of their efforts to help support the region’s development.

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India confers National Communal Harmony Award 2012

Ministry of Home Affairs, 25-January, 2013 – The Foundation for Amity & National Solidarity, Delhi has been selected for the National Communal Harmony Award for the year 2012 by the Jury headed by the Vice-President of India.

Formed in 1984, the Foundation for Amity & National Solidarity (FANS) is a Delhi based Trust which works for spreading amity and communal harmony. It has organized numerous seminars, workshops, symposiums, inter-religious meets, youth camps, sadbhavana sabhas and rallies to promote social amity. The Foundation has instituted ‘National Amity Award’, which is given every year to an eminent personality. A serial ‘Yeh Gulistan Hamara’ produced by the Foundation on national integration was telecast on Doordarshan. It has awarded numerous scholarships under its Amity Scholarship Scheme to promote education amongst the economically backward students. It has extensively contributed for promoting solidarity and communal harmony.

The National Communal Harmony Awards were instituted in 1996 by the National Foundation for Communal Harmony (NFCH), an autonomous organization set up by the Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, for promoting communal harmony and national integration. The ward has been instituted with a view to demonstrating due appreciation and recognition of the efforts of individuals and organisations for promotion of communal harmony and national integration in a sustained manner over a sufficiently long period of time. In addition to a citation, the award carries a cash prize of Rupees five lakh for the Organisation.

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Malaysia Wins Most Charming Asian Island Destination Award

Beijing, 25 January 2013: Malaysia was recognized as the most charming Asian island destination by New Voyage Magazine at its annual awards ceremony held at Sheraton Beijing Dongcheng Hotel on 15 January 2013.

The win is seen as a boost to Malaysia’s tourism plans for 2013 as it prepares to receive tourists this year, which has been designated as a promotion year for the Visit Malaysia Year campaign in 2014.

Malaysia’s many islands and beaches have long been a favourite destination for many. Langkawi is known for its natural attractions such as forests and 500 million-year-old rock formations which earned it the status of World Geopark by UNESCO in 2007.

Penang island, meanwhile, is a melting pot of cultures, beautiful architecture, rich history and delicious food, and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pangkor Laut Island is known for its truly luxurious “one island, one resort” concept and has attracted celebrities the likes of actress Jodie Foster, golfer Nick Faldo, and world-renowned tenor Luciano Pavarotti.

The east coast of Malaysia also boasts of jewels such as Perhentian, Redang, Gemia and Sibu islands.

Equally captivating are the islands and beaches in Sabah and Sarawak, with Sipadan Island leading the pack for the world-class diving experience it offers. Mabul and Mataking islands are also gaining popularity as diving destinations in Sabah, while the five islands within Tunku Abdul Ramman Marine Park offer visitors an island experience close to the city.

Nominations for the New Voyage Magazine awards for Best Outbound Travel Destinations were received throughout 2012 for voting by its readers, media, travelers and tourism industry players. Besides Malaysia, AirAsia also emerged the top winner for favourite airline.

About 200 guests from airlines, hotels, national tourism boards, China’s tourism bureaus, and members of the media attended the function. The monthly magazine has a circulation of about 310,000.

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Malaysian Tourism Minister Urges Standardisation Of ASEAN Spa Rating

VIENTIANE, 21 Jan. 2013: Tourism Minister the Hon. Dato’ Sri Dr. Ng Yen Yen arrived at the 2013 ASEAN Tourism Forum in Laos today and co-chaired the Fourth Meeting of ASEAN-India Tourism Ministers (4th M-ATM+India), along with the Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Lao PDR, H.E. Prof. Dr. Bosengkham Vongdara; and the Minister for Tourism, Government of India, H.E. Dr. K.Chiranjeevi.

During the meeting, Dato’ Sri Dr. Ng highlighted Malaysia’s achievement in developing the country’s spa industry. The Tourism Minister strongly encouraged her ASEAN counterparts to standardise the rating of the spa industry in the region.

The Ministry of Tourism, Malaysia, has been giving special attention to this industry for the past few years. In order to upgrade the image of the industry, the Tourism Ministry has undertaken the rating of spas. It has streamlined the growing spa industry in the country, which includes having a self-regulatory rating system for spa operators and the Ministry’s recommendation to the Immigration Department for approval to employ foreign spa therapists.

To increase the number of Malaysians working in the industry, the Tourism Ministry has come up with the Centre of Excellence (COE) initiative, which conducts spa therapy training programmes. The Government aims to have 6,000 certified Malaysian spa therapists by 2020. With more concentrated efforts in capacity building and rating of the spa industry, it is set to contribute RM0.4bil to the GNI of the country.

During the meeting, the Ministers welcomed the adoption of the Vision Statement of the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit held on 20 Dec 2012 in New Delhi, India, particularly on enhancing the ASEAN Connectivity through supporting the implementation of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity.

The Ministers also supported the close collaboration of ASEAN and India to enhance air, sea and land connectivity within ASEAN and between ASEAN and India through ASEAN-India connectivity project.

The Ministers agreed to sign the Protocol to amend the Memorandum of Understanding between ASEAN and India on Strengthening Tourism Cooperation, which would further strengthen the tourism collaboration between ASEAN and India national tourism organisations at the earliest possible opportunity.

In order to further promote tourism exchange between ASEAN and India, the Ministers launched the ASEAN-India tourism website as a platform to jointly promote tourism destinations, sharing basic information about ASEAN Member States and India, and a visitor guide.

The 33rd ASEAN Tourism Forum will be held next year from 16 to 23 January in Kuching, Sarawak, which will coincide with the celebration of Visit Malaysia Year 2014.

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Islamic treasures unveiled at Fine Arts Museum, Houston

01.26.13 – The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston unveiled more than 10 centuries of Islamic art Saturday, starting a year-long exhibition highlighting roughly 60 pieces from the renowned Kuwaiti museum Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah (DAI).

Thanks to the massive geographic size of the Muslim world — which, at its height, maintained an influence that stretched from Spain to China — Islam has evolved as a particularly inclusive culture, incorporating countless artistic influences through the centuries.

“We’ve selected items to give people a broad overview of Islamic art,” explains curator Giovanni Curatola, a scholar at the University of Udine who assisted in creating the MFAH show. “The artwork is so incredibly varied that we’ve decided to concentrate on showing a range of periods and materials: stone, glass, metal, wood, ivory and jewelry.”

Further details, click here: http://houston.culturemap.com/newsdetail/01-25-13-22-39-islamic-treasures-unveiled-at-mfah-much-anticipated-exhibit-goes-back-11-centuries/

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OIC Chief Reminds Obama of his famous “New Beginning” Cairo Speech

23/01/2013 The Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, sent a letter to the President of the United States, Barack Obama, on the occasion of his re-election. In it, Ihsanoglu recalls the great strides of US-OIC collaboration on a range of issues during the past four years of Obama’s administration including health, humanitarian aid and women’s empowerment in the Muslim world and that he looks forward to furthering the cooperation in key areas of mutual interest and concern in the upcoming four years. He underlined that peace in the Middle East, socio-economic development and combating religious intolerance are priority areas for the OIC.

The letter was handed to President Obama’s Special Envoy to the OIC, Rashad Hussein, during the visit of Hussein to OIC General Secretariat in Jeddah today, 23 January 2013. The Secretary General stated in his letter to President Obama that his reelection is testimony to the trust placed in his dynamic leadership by the American people and could be viewed as a vote of confidence in his policies signifying ‘change’ with particular reference to the policy of engagement with the Muslim world. He pointed out that OIC, being essentially a political organization operating along the principles of moderation and modernization, aims at sustaining a policy of engagement and not confrontation.

Ihsanoglu stressed that the Palestinian issue remains at the heart of the most pressing concerns to the OIC and the international community, which requires firm commitment by the US, and that the status quo of political stalemate and continuation of Israeli occupation and settlement policies in the occupied Palestinian territory including East Jerusalem are neither acceptable nor viable. Ihsanoglu stated that upgrading the status of Palestine to non-member observer state at the UN General Assembly last November is a golden opportunity that should not be lost and urged Obama to accelerate the realization of peace and stability.

Ihsanoglu referred to Obama’s speech to the Muslim world in Cairo in 2009, which he attended, calling it visionary and a positive statement with far reaching implications that raised expectations for a common future anchored in mutual respect and understanding. In this context, Ihsanoglu mentioned that OIC will continue to combat extremism, terrorism, intolerance and incitement to hatred and violence on religious grounds. The consensual passage of UN Human Rights Council resolution 16/18 on combating religious intolerance, which codified the eight points identified in his address to the 15th Session of the Human Rights Council, has been widely acknowledged as a positive development and a triumph of multilateralism, Ihsanoglu added. It must also be seen as a poster child of OIC-US cooperation, he said, pointing out to the Istanbul Process that he initiated with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to build on the consensus achieved.

The Secretary General also highlighted the issue of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar in his letter. While he acknowledged Obama’s efforts to bring the issue of the Rohingya Muslim community to the attention of the national authorities during his recent visit to the country, he urged Obama to support protect the human rights of the Rohingya ethnic minority and to restore their citizenship.

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McDonald’s pays out $700,000 for false halal food

Michigan, 11 Rabi Al-Awwal 1434/23 January 2013 (IINA) – McDonald’s has paid $700,000 to members of a U.S. Muslim community in Michigan after one of its franchise restaurants falsely advertised its food as prepared in accordance with Islamic law (halal).

A Muslim Detroit resident, Ahmed Ahmed, claimed he bought a chicken sandwich in September 2011 but found it was not halal, reported the Daily Mail yesterday. The restaurant is one of two in the locality which sells halal products to cater to one of the nation’s largest Arab and Muslim communities. The Detroit area is home to about 150,000 Muslims of different ethnicities. The two McDonald’s branches advertise that they exclusively sell halal Chicken McNuggets and McChicken meals. Ahmed approached lawyer Kassem Dakhlallah, together they pursued an investigation before launching a class-action lawsuit against the fast-food heavyweight.

McDonald’s and Finley’s Management agreed to the tentative $700,000 settlement. The money will be shared by Ahmed, a Detroit health clinic, the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan and lawyers. McDonald’s and Finley’s Management deny any liability, but they claim the settlement is in their best interests. Dakhallah alleges that one franchise sold non-approved products when it ran out of its halal equivalent.

Finley’s Management said it “has a carefully designed system for preparing and serving halal food such that halal chicken products are labeled, stored, refrigerated, and cooked in halal-only areas.” Dakhlallah does not believe the chain deliberately set out to deceive Muslim customers. “McDonald’s from the very beginning stepped up and took this case very seriously,” he said. “They made it clear they wanted to resolve this. They got ahead of the problem.”

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Arab Economic summit ends; Joint initiatives launched

Riyadh, 11 Rabi Al-Awwal 1434/23 January 2013 (IINA) – The two-day Arab Economic and Social Development Summit concluded here Tuesday after adopting a communique dubbed the Riyadh Declaration. On behalf of King Abdullah, Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdul Aziz, Deputy Premier and Minister of Defense, chaired the concluding session, which endorsed the declaration. In the Riyadh Declaration, the Arab leaders have agreed to encourage inter-Arab investment, adopt the strategy to develop renewable energy applications and diversify energy sources, implement the Millennium Development Goals, improve the level of health services and disease control and ensure food and water security for the region.

Arab League Secretary-General Dr. Nabil Al-Arabi said that the leaders stressed the importance of joint Arab initiatives to serve Arab citizens, raise the standards of their living and provide them with full health care. In this context the leaders called for the convening of a forum for Arab youth in the Kingdom to discuss the priorities of the youth and find out mechanisms to create employment opportunities for them and provide opportunities of decent work. They also stressed their determination to continue efforts to issue regulations and legislation so as to provide opportunities to women for social, economic and political participation.

The leaders welcomed the initiative of King Abdullah for increasing the capital of common Arab financial institutions by at least 50 percent to meet the growing development needs. The Riyadh summit adopted a unified agreement to invest capital in Arab countries (as amended) to conform with developments in the Arab, regional and international arenas, and provide the proper climate to increase the flow of inter-Arab investments. The Arab leaders also confirmed their commitment to create an investment climate in their countries and enact national laws and legislation to help attract more investments.

The summit also adopted the Arab strategy for the development of renewable energy applications (2010-2030) to meet the growing demand for energy, diversify its sources, meet the needs of sustainable development, open the way for the establishment of an Arab market for renewable energy, and work to provide new job opportunities with the active participation of the private sector. The leaders reiterated their commitment to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and support the efforts of least developed Arab countries to achieve those goals. They adopted the recommendations of the Arab Conference on Implementation of the Millennium Development Goals to crystallize an Arab vision that contributes to the development of the global vision of sustainable development objectives after 2015. They also pledged to improve the level of health care, paying more attention to the issue of noncommunicable diseases.

The Riyadh Declaration expressed full support for the process of Arab economic integration by increasing the volume of inter-Arab trade and the formation of an Arab solid economic grouping. The leaders affirmed their determination to complete the requirements for Greater Arab Free Trade before the end of 2013 and work to complete the rest of the requirements for the launch of the Arab Customs Union in accordance with the timeframe that has been agreed upon, leading to its full implementation by 2015. The leaders directed the relevant bodies and organizations to speed up the implementation of the Emergency Program for Arab Food Security. They pledged to follow up on the implementation of the Strategy for Water Security in the Arab Region and Integrated Water Resource Management Project to meet the future challenges and requirements of water resources.

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Islamophobic Lego toy angers Austrian Turks

Vienna, 14 Rabi Al-Awwal 1434/26 January 2013 (IINA) – Austria’s Turkish community has threatened to sue Lego because it thinks the firm’s “Star Wars: Jabba’s Palace” box set might teach children to associate Islam with violence and terrorism.

One of the buildings is a “one-to-one copy” of the Hagia Sophia mosque in Istanbul, while the figure with an axe and machine gun in the minaret-like structure could be a muezzin, the Turkish Cultural Community said. The “terrorist” Jabba the Hut, the malevolent slug-like alien kingpin from the “Star Wars” movies, meanwhile “loves smoking a water pipe,” it said in a statement. “It is obvious that the hideous villain Jabba the Hut’s figure and the entire backdrop encourage the depiction of Orientals and Asians as sneaky criminals,” it said.

The organization said it was considering filing criminal complaints against Denmark’s Lego in Austria and Germany for alleged incitement to racial hatred. It is also mulling legal steps in Turkey. A Lego spokeswoman, Katharina Sasse, told AFP that the buildings in the box set were faithful copies from “fantasy” structures in the “Star Wars” movies and that the firm was “very sorry” if offense was caused. “We can guarantee that we definitely did not copy the mosque mentioned or any other building,” Sasse said. She added that Lego had no plans to withdraw the product before its scheduled phase-out at the end of 2013.

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Sharjah keen to tap potential of luxury cruise tourism

Khaleej Times – 24 January, 2013 – The Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Authortiy is keen to tap into the immense potential of the international luxury cruise tourism in the emirate. Buoyed by the recent surge in arrivals of international luxury cruiseliners with thousands of passengers onboard in Khorfakkan, the deep water port on the East Coast, the emirate is taking bold steps to make the most of the opportunity in the interest of the tourism sector and the economy.

As part of the initiative, the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority today launched a six-day special training and orientation course for senior officials and decision makers of the Sharjah government departments on the importance of the cruise industry for the emirate. The course was formally opened today by SCTDA director-general Khalid Jassim Al Midfa at the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

In view of the phenomenal growth of cruise tourism in the past few years in the emirate, the course entitled, Cruise Tourism: Opportunities and Challenges, seeks to raise awareness about the role and importance of cruise tourism industry for the region in general and Sharjah in particular.

Senior officials representing various Sharjah government departments including Department of Seaports and Customs, General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs, Department of Culture and Information, Sharjah Transport Corporation, Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) and Sharjah Museums Department are taking part in the training and orientation course.

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SR10 bn investment to boost Saudi tourism

Arab News – 24 January, 2013 – An official from the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) recently announced that the Kingdom plans to build and operate 233 hotels in the next two years.

The hotels will have 85,620 rooms and the plan involves investments worth SR 10,229 billion to improve services and provide more choices at affordable rates in the tourism sector. Speaking to a local newspaper, Ahmad Al-Eisa, assistant deputy chairman of the SCTA for licenses, said the accelerating growth in facilities of hospitality is a result of the standards provided and of the excellent price-services ratio. “This was reflected in the competition and rivalry to improve services, as well as the extensive entrance of international companies specializing in hotels and hospitality,” he said.

Al-Eisa pointed out that Makkah would witness the highest number of hotel rooms, with the expected number of hotels to be built at more than 50. Jeddah will see the construction of 15 new hotels, and several hotels will be built in Qassim, Tabuk, Al-Ahsa, the Northern Border Province, Madinah, Riyadh, Najran, Jazan, Dammam, Asir and Hail. Two new hotels will be constructed in Taif and another two in Al-Baha.

“A large number of hotels are being built across the country, with different classifications and categories. Some international chains will enter the Saudi market for the first time, while other existing hotels are being expanded,” explained Al-Eisa. He said the hotel sector in the Kingdom is experiencing a surge in investments, which would surely reflect on tourism growth. According to the assistant deputy chairman, when the SCTA initiated the national tourism development plan five years ago, aspirations and forecasts were for another 20 years ahead.

“On these grounds, a five-year plan was set up. But the speedy development in tourism in the Kingdom, thanks to the SCTA and the suitable investment environment, resulted in much larger hotel investments than we had expected,” he noted.

License procedures for a large number of construction projects and furnished apartments are currently being finalized. “In addition to these current investments, we are familiar with reports and conferences in this context that confirm the strength and attractiveness of the Saudi market. This indicates that demand must be met with enough supply from investors,” he said.

The SCTA launched earlier the second phase of the electronic system for granting licenses to tourism facilities. The second phase includes switching to instant electronic communication; filling forms, notices, violations and complaints electronically and handling them on the spot; and identifying all details of the facility through an online central database.

The first phase of the electronic system included a number of procedures concerning licenses, categorization, pricing, ownership transfer, changing the commercial name and violations.

The system allows investors in the hospitality sector to register and submit applications for licenses online, which will save time and effort, and to follow up the application process to the very end, with the service of sending instant massages at the end of each stage of the application process. In addition, the system provides all necessary information to the SCTA.

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Assembly approves law to privatise Kuwait Airways

Kuwait Times – 24 January, 2013 – The National Assembly yesterday approved an Amiri decree calling to transform Kuwait Airways Corporation (KAC) into a shareholding company operating on a commercial basis. Twenty-nine MPs and Cabinet ministers voted for the law, nine voted against it while six lawmakers abstained. Chairman of the new Kuwait Airways Company Sami Al-Nasef told the Assembly that only 10-12 aircraft of KAC’s ageing fleet of 17 planes were operational while the rest were under “extended maintenance”.

“Initially we plan to replace the current old fleet of 17 aircraft. We look to purchase 20-21 new aircraft within the next two years, and the process will be gradual,” Nasef said, adding it was still premature to put a price on the planned purchase of aircraft, half of which will be small and the other half large. Nasef later told reporters that the new company is actively negotiating with aircraft manufacturers in order to buy new planes as early as possible.

Nasef and Communications Minister Salem Al-Othaina, who oversees the carrier, had warned that without passing the decree, the loss-making KAC will incur more losses. Othaina said that during the past four years, KAC posted a loss of KD 105 million and the airline took loans from local banks worth KD 180 million. Under the legislation, the government will pay all the losses posted by KAC because it is a totally state-owned establishment. Some MPs estimated the losses the government will pay at KD.450 million while others said the government is obliged to pay all the losses posted by KAC since 2004.

The new decree amended several key articles in a law passed in Jan 2008 to privatize KAC within three years, but the law could not be implemented because of no foreign or local investors bid to purchase the 35 percent stake of KAC under the law. Othaina said major obstacles obstructed the implementation of the law because it was issued just before the global financial crisis and that it continued to post losses. MP Safa Al-Hashem said KAC is “clinically dead” and the decree was needed to revive it, adding that it only has just KD 5 million in cash and without passing the decree, it will need to borrow more money.

Nasef said KAC has been badly affected by political disputes between the government and previous assemblies and as a result, previous assemblies refused to pass the final statements of KAC since 2004, thus preventing the government from paying its losses and forcing the company to borrow, which complicated its losses. The Assembly also passed the new corporate law which replaces the old law that was issued in the 1960s and was described as outdated.

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Qatar to apply global norms to exhibitions

Gulf Times – 24 January, 2013 – The Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) organised a workshop to discuss its involvement with UFI, the global association of the exhibition industry. During the workshop attended by UFI MEA members, UFI rules and regulations covering international procedures and classification of exhibitions under the MICE (meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibition), were reviewed. The rules will now apply to exhibitions being held in Qatar.

Issa al-Mohannadi, chairman, QTA, said: “This meeting confirmed that QTA is now an active member of UFI. It was significant for the QTA to ensure that we align our exhibitions as part of MICE to international standards in every way. This will benefit Qatar’s exhibition industry enormously and will enable QTA to regulate the selection and approval of events being held in Qatar.”

He mentioned that QTA has already announced that individual exhibitions will need to meet the relevant criteria to be admitted. Other discussions during the workshop covered the close link between the exhibition industry and business tourism in Qatar, particularly the focus on MICE events that attract significant business to the country.

“The workshop comes at a crucial stage for QTA as we develop our new strategy for the tourism sector involving stakeholders and partners throughout the country to show Qatar at its best. MICE is a core part of our strategy moving forward,” al-Mohannadi added.

Ibrahim Alkhadi, regional manager, UFI, commented: “It is vital for us to have an in-depth understanding of the Qatar exhibition market with its ambitions, targets, concerns and challenges. It is UFI’s main mission to provide members with valuable industry knowledge, timely information and help them find the best co-operation and partner opportunities through the unique UFI professional network. We will always maintain contact with QTA as the official representative of the Qatar MICE sector.”

UFI regional trends during 2006 – 2011 show that the Middle East is the second fastest growing region in the exhibition industry after Asia Pacific with a 16% growth rate, double that of Europe and South America, between 2006 and 2011. UFI represents some 616 global members and promotes and supports the exhibition industry worldwide through information, news gathering, education, research and networking.

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Saudi conglomerate ready to fund Egypt-Saudi bridge

Saudi Gazette – 23 January, 2013 – The Saudi Binladin Group (SBG) has responded to Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s call to build a bridge between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Egyptian state news agency MENA reported Monday. The Yehia Binladin Group announced it was willing to fund the project in cooperation with Egyptian state-owned construction giant Arab Contractors. The group explained that the project was feasible, but would need the necessary “political will” and the approval of both the Egyptian and Saudi authorities.

President Morsi Monday morning called upon a group of Egyptian and Saudi businessmen in Riyadh to “seriously” consider funding the $ 3 billion project to build an Egypt-Saudi bridge, which would, he asserted, bolster the region’s economies. During his current visit to the Kingdom, Morsi also called for the revival of a common Arab market.

Morsi gave the opening speech at the Economic Development Forum in Riyadh, where he asserted that Egypt would only regain its leading regional role with the support of its Arab “brethren.” He added that regional economic integration was vital to the region’s development and the welfare of its citizens. “We must fight as an Arab and Muslim nation the drawbacks of globalization together, through mutual cooperation,” Morsi said in his opening address.

The Egyptian president added that countries in the region were facing the same economic obstacles, including huge income gaps and widespread youth unemployment. Morsi warned that such obstacles could lead to disastrous consequences if Arab countries failed to act to overcome them as “partners.”

“The Arab region must take advantage of its natural resources, so as to become competitive in international markets and pave the way for sustainable development,” Morsi urged his Arab counterparts.

Morsi said that the time had come to start implementing an “effective” and full-fledged “common Arab market, to which the Arab people have aspired for a very long time.” “Let us not dwell on the weakness of Arab trade and commerce. What is necessary is common political will and a shared vision to set a timely agenda for the implementation of a common Arab market,” he said.

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Governor gives boost to “Made in Makkah” project

Arab Times – 23 January, 2013 – Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal yesterday reaffirmed his full support for the “Made in Makkah” project and called upon the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and businessmen to work together to make it a big success. Addressing a ceremony marking the inauguration of new headquarters of Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the governor highlighted the important position of Makkah, to which Muslims all over the world turn during prayer.

“I always call for serious work. If we have determination and good management we can surely reach the top,” the governor said, while commending the chamber members for putting much effort to establish the SR 160 million building.

Prince Khaled reminded government officials and businessmen in Makkah of their great responsibility in serving the millions of Muslim faithful who come from all over the world to perform Haj and Umrah. “We should provide them the best possible services and we should behave in the most civilized manner, representing people of this blessed land,” he said.

Prince Khaled urged MCCI and Makkah mayoralty to give utmost importance to “Made in Makkah” project to make it a reality in the near future. “It’s our project and it’s the duty of Makkah people to make it successful.”

During the function, Prince Khaled honored prominent businessmen Saleh Kamil, Yahya Binladen, Yousuf Al-Ahmedi and Mishaal Al-Zayedi. He also watched a documentary on MCCI and its achievements. Earlier, the governor toured the new building and inspected its facilities.

Speaking at the ceremony, Saleh Kamil, who is chairman of Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, praised Makkah businessmen for constructing a state-of-the-art headquarters to promote their activities. He commended Prince Khaled for his efforts for the development of Makkah and playing active role in its achievements. “Makkah has all the potentials to become a major world business center and we hope to see a large number of ‘Made in Makkah’ products,” he said.

MCCI Chairman Talal Mirza said the new headquarters, covering an area of 13,000 square meters, would serve Makkah businessmen and industrialists for the next 50 years. He said it took 14 months to complete the project. MCCI’s new headquarters is designed to serve 50,000 businesspeople in the city, said Mirza, adding that it would stand out as a cultural landmark, providing better facilities for the business community.

“We have decided to construct the building as part of the chamber’s 10-point development plan,” the chairman said, adding that it would serve the trade, industrial and service sectors. The five-floor high-tech building has seven conference halls for various activities including a large hall to conduct conferences and forums and another for staging exhibitions of products and services. It has a businessmen’s club and a training institute.

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Second Gulf Conference on Halal Industry

Kuwait News Agency – 23 January, 2013 – Kuwaiti Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs plays a main role on spreading Islamic knowledge among people, Ministry Undersecretary Dr. Adel Al-Falah said on Tuesday.

That came during a speech he presented on behalf of the Minister of Justice, Minister of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs Shareeda Abduallah Al-Muosherji during the opening ceremony of the Second Gulf Conference on Halal Industry held last night, entitled “Towards the Effective Management of the Halal Industry”.

A large number of experts are taking part in the three-day conference, which is organized by the Ministry of Awqaf in cooperation with Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR), he stated.

The Islamic world is facing immense challenges concerning the food it consumes which is not guaranteed to being “halal”, at times where the media and the interest of large corporations play a main role in effecting the quality of foodstuff, he affirmed. This conference would be of great interest to Muslim communities living in non-Islamic countries, he said.

Ministry’s Undersecretary for Administrative and Financial Affairs, Fareed Assad Amadi, called on participants to shed more light on subjects discussed to best serve the Islamic societies, and contribute in developing its economies.

The ministry sponsoring this conference will positively reflect on promoting scientific researches that serve the public health of Muslim societies, Chairman of KISR Dr. Naji Al-Mutairi. Secretary General of World Halal Council, Dr. Salah Ayyed, praised Kuwait’s initiative represented by the Ministry of Awqaf in adapting such leading researches. The real need for such conferences stems from the increasing keenness of Muslims towards consuming halal products, he added.

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Qatar Airways voted ‘Best long-haul airline’

Gulf Times – 24 January, 2013 – Qatar Airways has been voted ‘Best long haul airline’ at the 18th annual Business Travel Awards ceremony held at the Grosvenor House hotel in London recently. Organised by Buying Business Travel magazine, the UK travellers awarded the five-star carrier for its commitment to quality and superior in-flight service.

Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar al-Baker said he was delighted that the airline’s award winning streak has continued into the New Year. “This is a great start to 2013 and we thank our loyal UK travellers for giving us this vote of confidence. We are very proud to receive this honour, testament to the world-class service and personalised treatment that we provide all of our customers.

“2013 will be another big year for Qatar Airways as we continue to expand our worldwide network, welcome more aircraft into our ever-expanding fleet, and of course look forward to the opening of the new Hamad International Airport on April 1,” al-Baker said.

Qatar Airways vice president (Commercial Europe) Paul Johannes collected the award on behalf of the airline. Johannes said, “We are very pleased with the level of support we have received from our UK customers, which further highlights the appreciation of our attention to detail and passenger comfort. We look forward to continuing to serve our existing UK-based travellers and welcoming new customers onboard.”

Buying Business Travel Editor Paul Revel said: “The judges felt that Qatar Airways is right up there with the best. A very impressive submission, underlining the youth and dynamism of this carrier. A great product, rapidly expanding network and plenty of innovation.”

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30,000 strong workforce for Jeddah airport expansion

Arab News – 24 January, 2013 – About 40 percent of work on King Abdulaziz International Airport expansion project has been completed, said a top official. “We want to complete the project on time by deploying more workers,” Prince Fahd bin Abdullah, president of the General Authority of Civil Aviation, told reporters after inspecting the project.

He said 18,500 workers currently involved in the project. They include supervisors and technicians in addition to 1,800 engineers. Prince Fahd said the number of workers would increase to 30,000 when the project reaches new phases. He commended the work of contractors saying it was in line with the plan.

“There is good coordination with Jeddah Mayoralty to improve the airport’s southern entrance in a way that would impress visitors,” the prince said, adding that GACA would develop areas around the airport. Prince Fahd said GACA would go ahead with expansion and renovation of the Kingdom’s airports to meet the country’s development requirements and increasing numbers of passengers and pilgrims.

GACA wants to invest SR 200 billion on air transport industry over five years. The new Jeddah airport is expected to be operational next year. Its capacity will also increase from 30 million passengers a year. The KAIA expansion project is estimated to cost SR 27 billion.

The capacity of KAIA will rise to 80 million passengers in 20 years to meet future needs. The new Jeddah airport is designed to become one of the largest hubs in the world. The new airport, covering an area of 670,000 square meters, will consist of 82 domestic, international and VIP lounges in addition to 96 air bridges.

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Malaysian tourism delegation shines at ASEAN Tourism Forum

VIENTIANE, Jan 22 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysian Tourism Minister Dr Ng Yen Yen has reached out to the international audience, via meetings with international tourism package buyers and travel writers, to promote the Malaysian tourism industry during the Asean Tourism Forum (ATF) here. Hosting an open house at a hotel here tonight, she briefed them on the development of the Malaysian tourism industry and its aspirations, including campaigning for the Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) 2014.

They were treated with the taste of Malaysian food and cultural show. More than 470 buyers from 56 countries, as well as 150 travel writers, attended the ATF 2013, the annual Asean leading tourism trade show. Earlier in the day, Tourism Malaysia chairman Dr Victor Wee and its director-general, Mirza Mohammad Taiyab, hosted lunch in a packed dining hall for foreign travel writers.

They hailed from Australia, Greece, Italy, Hong Kong, Poland, Canada, Russia, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, United Kingdom, Turkey, United States, Ireland and India. They were shown a video presentation on the Malaysian tourism industry’s achievement and vision.

Later, Dr Mirza briefed them on the development and future direction of the Malaysian tourism industry in promoting the VMY 2014 and the challenges in meeting the target of doubling the number of tourist arrivals and tripling the receipts by 2020, at the Lao International Trade Exhibition and Convention Centre (Lao ITECC) here.

Dr Ng also opened the Malaysian Pavilion comprising 52 booths of Malaysian exhibitors and tourism package sellers at the Lao ITECC. She also gave several interviews to the local media.

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UAE-Turkmenistan non-oil trade rises

Khaleej Times – 20 January, 2013 – The Ministry of Foreign Trade on Saturday said that UAE-Turkmenistan non-oil foreign trade has achieved a 52 per cent growth from 2010-2011, reaching around $ 266 million in 2011, or $ 513.6 million if free zones non-oil trade is added. According to the study, which was conducted by MoFT Economic Researcher YousefDiab, the UAE imports from the country rose by 11.9 per cent during the same period.

The study also pointed out that these indicators have positively affected trade between the two countries during the said period in the UAE’s favour as a result of the increase in the value of exports and re-exports from the UAE. It also pointed out that the UAE has achieved a trade surplus with Turkmenistan for more than the last 10 years, more recently going up by 53 per cent from $ 170.2 million in 2010 to $ 260.3 million in 2011.

The value of free zone trade between the UAE and Turkmenistan reached $ 247.6 million in 2011; six per cent ($ 14.6 million) of which were non-oil exports; 9.7 per cent ($ 23.9 million) were imports; while re-exports were 84.5 per cent at $ 209.1 million. UAE exports to Turkmenistan grew by 150 per cent in 2011 while UAE imports from Turkmenistan increased by 12 per cent from $ 2.37 million in 2010 to $ 2.65 million in 2011.

The value of UAE re-exports to the country increased by 42 per cent from $ 156.4 million in 2010 to $ 222.7 million in 2011. The study pointed out that although the UAE contributes a share of Turkmenistan’s primary imports, this contribution is considered small and is still not competitive with the most important countries exporting these commodities to Turkmenistan.

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Flydubai plans 5 new routes, increase frequencies in 2013

Khaleej Times – 20 January, 2013 – Flydubai on Saturday termed 2012 as a remarkable year in terms of growth in passenger numbers and opening new destinations and it expects the same process will continue in 2013, airline’s chief executive officer Ghaith Al Ghaith said ahead of its inaugural flight to Male, the capital of Maldives. Al Ghaith mentioned that the carrier is planning to open at least five new destinations during the year and continue to increase frequencies on existing routes. The airline already operates 52 destinations, he added.

“The low-cost carrier recorded 285 per cent growth in passenger numbers from the Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) plus the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) markets, and 65 per cent growth generated from GCC routes in 2012,” Al Ghaith told reporters at a news conference.

The latest figures from Dubai International Airport reveal that passenger traffic from the CIS and Russia increased by 34 per cent in the third quarter of 2012 compared to the same period in 2011, in large part due to flydubai’s on-going expansion in this region.

Al Ghaith was joined by Laila Suhail, chief executive officer, Dubai Events and Promotions Establishment (DEPE) and Hamad bin Mejren, executive director, Business Tourism, Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) and Anita Mehra, vice-president-Marketing & Corporate Communications, Dubai Airports.

Anita Mehra said: “Flydubai’s growth, particularly within Russia and the CIS, has provided a tremendous boost to passenger traffic through linking Dubai to many cities in this region for the first time.” DEPE’s Laila Suhail said: “Dubai has established itself as one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, offering visitors a variety of attractions and experiences including shopping offers, family entertainment, cultural events, international sport tournaments, music festivals, and much more.”

DTCM’s Mejren said: “Flydubai has been vital in helping promote tourism in Dubai, especially in key areas such as the CIS, CEE and the GCC markets. Tourist numbers from these areas grow each year; a fact that is undoubtedly driven by growth in airline connectivity.”

He mentioned that flydubai and Dubai Airports have made DTCM job easy. There are 88,000 hotel and hotel apartment rooms in Dubai and expected to add more than 16,000 keys in two years, he added. Al Ghaith, commenting on the new flight, said: “Commencing today, the new Male route will attract passengers from across the flydubai network, in particular those from the CIS, CEE and GCC.”

More than 40 per cent of flydubai’s route development in 2012 concentrated on CEE and CIS cementing the airline’s commitment to expansion and connectivity. The airline now operates to 16 destinations in the region including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Turkmenistan and Ukraine. Flydubai’s GCC network is also the largest of all Middle Eastern carriers, with 265 flights per week to Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

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Iran plans to boost agricultural exports by 11 million tons

Tehran Times – 21 January, 2013 – Iran plans to increase its agricultural exports to 118 million tons in the current Iranian calendar year, which ends on March 20, from 107 million tons in the past year, IRNA quoted Iran’s Agriculture Ministry official Naser Tavakkoli as saying. Agricultural exports grew by 15 percent during the first eight months of the current calendar year compared to the same period in the preceding year, he added.

Over 15 trillion rials (some $ 1.2 billion) has been paid to farmers during the 8-month period in the form of banking facilities, henoted. Iran’s agricultural exports grew last year, with pistachio and saffron sales almost doubling, despite Western sanctions on trade with the country, the Fars News Agency quoted Iran’s deputy agriculture minister Jahangir Pourhemmat as saying on January 6.

Between March 21 and December 20, Iran’s pistachio exports doubled to $ 587 million, making the nuts Iran’s biggest agricultural export by value. Exports of saffron rose 87 percent to $ 213 million, according to Reuters.

“Export of farming products has increased 15 percent compared to the previous year, while the agricultural exports are still on the increase on a daily basis,” Pourhemmat added. “Over 95 percent of Iran’s needed products are produced inside the country which is highly important for the country’s political independence.”

Meanwhile, Iran’s fruit exports have faced a 30 per cent decrease from the beginning of the current Iranian calendar year (March 20, 2012) and so far in comparison with the same period the previous year, the head of Iran’s fruits and vegetables sellers union said on January 18.

Iran needs to work on the packaging in order to boost its fruits exports, the ISNA News Agency quoted Mostafa Darayinejad as saying. Turkey is becoming a great exporter of fruits in the region, decreasing Iran’s share of exports, he added.

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Saudi company signs deal to boost domestic tourism

Arab News – 22 January, 2013 – ITL World, a travel management company with offices across the Gulf and India, will cooperate with the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities to strengthen the Kingdom’s tourism sector, said Siddeek Ahmed, CMD of Eram-ITL Group yesterday. Speaking to Arab News following the inauguration in Jeddah of ITL World’s 25th and largest office in Asian network, Ahmed said his company would train Saudis to take up key jobs in the tourism industry.

Prince Turki bin Abdullah Al-Faisal opened ITL’s office in Jeddah in the presence of well known Indian film star and politician Sarath Kumar, Philippine Ambassador Ezzedin Tago, Indian Consular General Faiz Ahmed Kidwai, Muslim League leader Syed Sadiq Ali Shihab Thangal and other dignitaries. “We will select and train a large number of efficient Saudis to work for tourism. We want to make use of them to promote inbound and outbound tourism,” the CMD said.

He said ITL has signed agreements with SCTA and the Saudi organization has offered them every support. “We are paying high salaries to Saudi employees including women,” Ahmed said and commended Saudi workers. More than 30 percent of the company’s employees in the Kingdom are Saudis. By 2015 their number will reach 50 percent of the total staff. ITL intends to have 50 branches across the Kingdom by 2015, depending on market situation, the CMD said.

Asked whether ITL World has any plan to promote Saudi tourism, Ahmed said: “We will work together with SCTA to boost Saudi tourism. We will promote desert safari and conduct tours to different tourist centers in the Kingdom including Taif, Abha and Al-Ahsa. We intend to organize three-day trips to these places in the weekends.”

Saudi Arabia being a young market has a lot of tourism potentials, Ahmed said. “We want to make use of it properly for the benefit of the country and its people. Many companies are engaged in tourism but we want to make use of this industry not only for business but also for the Kingdom’s development.”

Located on the Madinah Road opposite Al-Fitaihi Center, the Jeddah office will be ITL World’s 15th in the Middle East and 8th in Saudi Arabia after branches in Alkhobar, Jubail, Dammam and Riyadh. ITL World is a major player in the region with more than two decades of experience in the industry.

“We provide unmatched solutions for our client’s travel & tourism needs. Ever since its inception, ITL World has always operated the business with discipline while simultaneously positioning itself for the future,” said Ahmed.

With hands-on experience in all segments of the business including business travel, retail, leisure and logistics, ITL is all set to tap the immense growth potential of Saudi Arabia’s Western Province by offering a broad range of travel related products and services.

ITL World Saudi Arabia has signed up with WIN (Worldwide Independent Travel Network), an international group of travel specialists based in UK working together to grow the business. This means ITL World now has a partner in about 35 countries worldwide.

ITL World is the GSA of Disney Portfolio in KSA and Bahrain in addition to Thomas Cook, MSC Cruise, Costa Cruise GSA and Maldivian Tourism Office in KSA. Alkhobar and Jeddah offices has separate sections for Disney sales and family customers.

“We have also setup an exclusive ladies branch in the Kingdom to enable us to cater to the needs of women community and open up opportunities for competent women workforce,” the CMD said.

Ahmed added: “Today, Saudi Arabia is clearly progressing as a center of business and has reached beyond its limits. We look forward to servicing the dynamic area with high quality service for our new and returning customers. The new office reflects our commitment to the Kingdom and the region as a whole.”

Having spent many years in the Kingdom and seeing its growth and potential, ITL World, being the trendsetter in the region, is optimistic about the future. “We intend to use our strong and ever growing network to serve our customers and make them feel at home, be it in any part of this world,” said Rafeeq Mohammed, regional head for ITL World-ME.

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Investment up 24.6 percent in Indonesia last year

JAKARTA, Indonesia Jan 22 (NNN-ANTARA) — Realization of domestic and foreign investment in 2012 from January to December rose 24.6 percent to Rp313.2 trillion from Rp251.,3 trillion in 2011. “Investment has jumped very high. This is encouraging as it is the highest in the investment history in Indonesia,” the chief of the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM), Chatib Basri, said here on Tuesday.

He said the investment record of Rp313.2 trillion was 110.5 percent higher than the target that had been set at Rp285.5 trillion. Chatib said domestic investment in the year reached Rp92.2 trillion up from Rp76 trillion in the year before while foreign investment was recorded at Rp221 trillion rising from Rp175.3 trillion.

“The realization of domestic and foreign investment in 2012 also surpassed the targets respectively by 120.2 percent and 106.2 percent,” he said. Chatib said the growth was driven by the government`s ability to manage the investment climate well.

“Various efforts have been taken to improve investment climate including improving investment services at central and regional levels through the opening of a one-stop service, giving investment incentives and holding an integrated promotion program that has been responded well by both domestic and foreign investors,” he said.

Chatib said mining sector has drawn the biggest foreign investment in 2012 reaching US$4.3 billion (17.3 percent), followed by transportation at US$2.8 billion (11.4 percent), chemical US$2.8 billion (11.4 percent), basic metal industry US$2.5 billion (10 percent) and shipment and transportation US$1.8 billion (7.5 percent).

Based on countries of origin Singapore was the biggest investor with its investment reaching US$4.9 billion, followed by Japan US$2.5 billion, South Korea US$1.9 billion, the US US$1.2 billion and Mauritius US$1.1 billion.West Java meanwhile was the biggest recipient of foreign investment in the year reaching US$4.2 billion, followed by Jakarta US$4.1 billion, Banten US$2.7 billion, East Java US2.3 billion and East Kalimantan US$2 billion.

The sector that attracted the biggest domestic investment in 2012 meanwhile were food industries drawing Rp11.2 trillion in investment (11.2 percent), following by non-metal mineral industries Rp10.7 trillion (11.6 percent), food crops Rp9.6 trillion (10.4 percent), transportation and telecommunication Rp8.6 trillion (9.3 percent) and others Rp41.6 trillion (45.1 percent).

Based on locations of domestic investment projects East Java was the biggest recipient of the projects worth Rp21.5 trillion, followed by West Java Rp11.4 trillion, Jakarta Rp8.5 trillion, East Kalimantan Rp5.9 trillion and Central Java Rp5.8 trillion.

“The domestic and foreign investments calculated by BKPM are investments outside oil and gas, banking, non-bank financial institutions, insurance, leasing and household industries,” Chatib said. He said total domestic and foreign investment projects employed 307,960 workers consisting of 149,617 in domestic investment projects and 158,343 in foreign projects. “This shows that investment projects in Indonesia are more capital intensive and therefore the hike of minimum wage did not affect much,” he said.

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Malaysian PM sees World Economic Forum as golden chance to promote country

DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan 24 (NNN-BERNAMA) — Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak sees the four-day World Economic Forum (WEF) as a golden opportunity to promote Malaysia as an investment, trade and tourism destination. “I’m taking part in this year’s WEF to realise several objectives, the main one being to promote Malaysia,” he told Malaysian journalists here today. Najib, in his first visit to the annual event as Prime Minister, was personally invited by WEF founder Prof Klaus Schwab.

Najib said the prestigious forum, which brings together world political and business leaders and which this year has drawn some 3,000 participants, is an opportunity not to be missed. He will have bilateral meetings with several world leaders, including with Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Pascal Lamy, Canada’s Minister of Finance James M. Flaherty and Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte.

“At the bilateral meeting with the Canadian Finance Minister, I will convey the Malaysian government’s appreciation to his government, which has approved a large Petronas investment in Canada,” he said. Petronas completed its C$5.2 billion takeover of Progress Energy Resources Corp in December 2012.

Najib, who will also be meeting world corporate leaders, said: “I will listen to their proposals to invest in Malaysia.” The conglomerates that will be meeting him today include Mercuria Energy Switzerland, Itochu Corp, Hanwha Group and dan Evonik Industries AG. The highlight of Malaysia’s participation at the WEF will be the Malaysia Night to be held tomorrow, he added.

“We will hold several interesting events to showcase Malaysia,” he said, addding the country’s Economic Transformation Programme and New Economic Model as well as future plans are sure to draw the attention of the attendees.

“We have a very good story line to tell the world. We will highlight the Malaysian story not only through these meetings, but also through media such as newspapers, magazines and television,” he said, referring to promotions of Malaysia in The Economist, banners and US cable news channel CNN throughout the WEF.

“When they get to know what we are doing in Malaysia especially for the future, I believe we will be a country that they will find most attractive to invest in, whether as foreign direct investment (FDI), in the capital market or just as tourists,” he said.

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Indonesia projects huge response at ITB Berlin

JAKARTA, Indonesia Jan 20 (NNN-ANTARA) — Indonesia is expected to see robust tourism trade at the Internationale Tourismus-Borse Berlin, better known as ITB Berlin, in Germany this year. Recognised as the world`s largest travel trade expo, ITB Berlin will be held at the Messe Berlin International Convention Center for five days from March 6 – 10, 2013.

Indonesia has participated in the travel trade expo since 1967, playing a significant role over the years, and now, it is the first Asian country to be named an official partner country for ITB Berlin 2013.

“By becoming an official partner country for ITB Berlin 2013, the government of Indonesia will attempt to capture the European tourism market,” the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry`s promotion director, Esthy Reko Astuti, said. According to her, ITB Berlin will give Indonesia a major opportunity to optimally increase the number of tourists from European countries who visit Indonesia.

Esthy noted that during the event, European tourists will be encouraged to visit not only the main tourist destination of Bali but also other tourist attractions across Indonesia. “Therefore, we are going to intensively promote other potential tourist attractions in Sumatra, Java, Lombok, Flores, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Maluku, and Papua,” she went on.

According to www.indonesia.travel, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is expected to attend the opening ceremony of ITB Berlin 2013 on March 5, along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel; Indonesia`s Minister for Tourism and Creative Economy, Mari Pangestu; Governing Mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit; President and CEO of ITB Berlin, Raimund Hosch; and more than 4,500 distinguished invitees, delegates, and members of the press.

As the co-host of the Opening Dinner, Indonesia`s cultural troupes of musicians as well as master chefs from a number of provinces around Indonesia will be specially flown in to provide an exquisite Indonesian atmosphere and warm hospitality at the Opening Dinner.

Guests and delegates at the Opening Dinner will be warmly welcomed by traditional dancers from Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, and Bali, who will perform Indonesia`s dramatic and colourful dances to traditional music. Dancers from the province of Aceh will perform the highly synchronized Saman Dance, a UNESCO Intangible World Cultural Heritage icon.

Meanwhile, the deputy minister for Tourism and Creative Economy, Sapta Nirwandar, has said Indonesia would offer great potential for Germany, its foremost trading partner in the European Union.

“Our participation in ITB Berlin 2013 will provide a long-term boost to our popularity in the German and international market, and with our wide range of tourism products, we will send out a positive signal to both trade visitors and the general public,” he stated.

He noted that during the event, Indonesia would warmly welcome all its guests and would serve them with all the luxuries a tourist could ever want. ITB Berlin 2013 is expected to attract more than 170,000 visitors. Of these, some 113,000 trade visitors and 11,000 exhibitors from 180 countries have confirmed their attendance.

At the same time, 91 companies from various parts of the Indonesian archipelago, and offering all tourism services, will be ready to network with German and other international tour operators, airlines, and agents from the worldwide travel industry.

They will also try to answer questions posed by ITB participants and visitors regarding family holidays in Indonesia, covering everything from luxury resorts to diving; surfing; and adventure tours that include meeting orangutans at Tanjung Puting in Central Kalimantan, getting close to Komodo dragons, climbing the rugged volcanoes of Mt. Rinjani on Lombok, and scaling the heights of Mt. Bromo in East Java.

Nirwandar said last December that Indonesia would promote itself as a tourist destination not only at ITB Berlin but also at Cruise Shipping Miami and IMEX Frankfurt in 2013. IMEX Frankfurt from May 21- 23, 2013, is a unique international trade show that will host thousands of meetings and will attract incentive-travel executives and buyers from around the world, including Indonesia.

More than 8,500 visitors from 90 countries, including thousands of German decision-makers, are expected to attend the world`s third-largest outbound-meetings and incentive-travel market. Meanwhile, the Cruise Shipping Miami event to be held from March 11 – 14, 2013, in Florida in the United States is one of the most professionally organized trade shows in the global cruise industry.

Nirwandar pointed out that funding for the nine major events would be provided by the Marketing Directorate General of the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy.

“Some Rp607,700 billion will be required for tourism promotion programs and the improvement of Indonesia`s image, among other things. The state budget has allocated Rp2,052 trillion to the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy in 2013,” he noted.

Besides this, six other tourism events being held at home this year include the Semarang Marathon in Central Java in June; the Pilgrim Tourism event in Surabaya, East Java, in June 2013; the Tour de Singkarak V in West Sumatra in June; Sabang International Regatta II in Sabang, Aceh, in September; Festival Timoresia II in Ambon, Maluku, in October; and Musi Triboatton II in Palembang, South Sumatra, in November.

In light of the intensive promotion, Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Mari Elka Pangestu remarked that Indonesia saw a significant improvement in the contribution of the tourism and creative economy to the nation`s gross domestic product throughout 2012.

Marie said the industry has a strategic role in advancing the national economy since it has made a significant contribution to the country`s GDP growth and workforce recruitment and has helped boost business amongst small-middle enterprise firms.

Marie explained that the tourism industry alone has contributed four percentage points to the GDP growth, amounting to Rp296.97 trillion (some US$30.8 billion), and has employed 8.53 million people, which accounts for 7.72 percent of the country`s overall workforce recruitment in 2012. Marie noted that Indonesia will see robust tourism trade in 2013 as it gains the trust of the international community in hosting many international events across the country.

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Three Women Entrepreneurs On the Rise in Morocco, Egypt, and Jordan

22 January 2013 – Moroccan American Center for Policy – We often hear that it’s difficult for women entrepreneurs to found companies- they face social stigma as founders, or they have difficulty being taken seriously as leaders.

Yet sometimes, these challenges aren’t unique to being a woman; they could strike any entrepreneur. When Maha first launched a children’s teaching program in rural Morocco, authorities didn’t take her seriously- they thought she was “too young.” Amira still has a hard time finding competent employees for her NGO in Egypt, while Afnan in Jordan has suffered through a lack of technological support to build a mobile human heater. Yet all three of these women are overcoming these challenges to transform the way that people learn, rebuild societies, and build tech innovations.

Maha Laziri, Founder of Teach4Morocco – Morocco

Seeing the widening developmental gap between Moroccan rural and urban areas, Maha Laziri felt an urge to look beyond city life and contribute to building new schools where children could benefit from education that included entertainment. Maha also decided to make contact with village schools in order to negotiate adding recreational hours to their curriculum. “I feel my own personal wounds closing when I do that,” she says proudly.

Despite her enthusiasm, her road was not straightforward. Barely 20 years old when she developed her idea, she wasn’t old enough to deal independently with official parties or NGOs; rather, she had to turn to her father. Fortunately, he was very supportive; today, with the help of 10 team members and many volunteers, she has been able to rebuild a primary school in Ichbaken, a village in the Atlas Mountains. She continues to focus on improving education in terms of school buildings or curricula.

Now, as she continues to focus on improving education curricula in Morocco’s schools, she’s found that the way forward is through gaining the trust of local communities and parents. “These marginalized communities keep hearing empty promises, so their responsiveness to new projects is very slow. But once we advised them that we would have to return the funding if the project was not completed on time, and they saw our commitment, the excitement began,” Maha explained. Better education also means that Morocco’s youth will be better equipped to build new businesses and contribute to economic growth.

Amira Salah, co-Founder of Kherna.com – Egypt:

In Egypt, several NGOs are in place, ready to help rebuild infrastructure following the revolution, but often, civil society organizations simply don’t communicate will with citizens, or each other, says Amira Salah, the founder of Kherna.com.

In January 2011, she and two of her colleagues quit their jobs in e-marketing to found a crowdsourced mobile app company called Social Fruits, which gave birth to their first non-profit project, social network Kherna. Kherna is designed to facilitate charity and developmental work by connecting organizations, volunteers and donors.

It was difficult to find the right talent in a post-revolution context, she says. “We spent a long time setting up the team because it’s so hard to find equally competent, engaged and excited employees, ready to invest all their power and ability into making this project a success story.” Yet she persevered in creating a unique work culture that preserves the traditions of every entity involved.

To help NGOs and civil society organizations define the issues they are tackling and leverage local communities, Kherna provides statistical information on volunteering in Egypt, and they work with a group of Egyptian organizations in the U.S. to help develop legislation that can further create economic growth in Egypt and support young ventures.

Afnan Ali, Founder of TEPLO – Jordan:

In Jordan, Afnan, an electrical engineer, is working to create a different kind of infrastructure, building new hardware products to boost the country’s medical sector. Specifically, she created a mobile personal heater that consists of thin adaptable plates that can be placed directly on the body to transfer heat consistently in any environment.

Built with a rechargeable battery, the device can be used in a medical context to stimulate blood circulation, relieve muscles, and alleviate hypothermia or infections where a patient might feel cold. After signing an agreement with a buyer in Saudi Arabia, Ali had trouble finding manufacturers in Jordan with the appropriate experience and expertise, and decided to outsource production to China.

Despite winning several prizes, including the Queen Rania National Entrepreneurship Competition, she still hasn’t secured the investment she needs to scale manufacturing. Local investorsprefer to invest in software rather than industrial manufacturing, she says, because it is perceived as high risk. She hopes to change this perception, and opportunities for tech entrepreneurs, by launching a technology education academy that will help Arab youth develop their creativity and turn innovative ideas into products.

For each of these women, being an Arab woman alone was not necessarily a challenge, but as they overhaul antiquated systems and push for change, they stand as role models for fellow female entrepreneurs, demonstrating that the best way around a roadblock- whether economic, political, or personal- is to look for alternative solutions and not be afraid to create something completely new.

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Nigeria: Aviation Ministry Inaugurates First Private Jet Terminal

22 January 2013 – This Day – The Federal Ministry of Aviation has inaugurated the first-ever private jet terminal at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport. The brief ceremony according to an online platform, The Citizen, was led by Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu. The completely remodelled terminal is in line with the Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah transformation agenda.

Speaking at the inauguration, Ekweremadu said: “This is a ministry which has done everything to appropriate properly, the monies allocated to it. I would like to comment the commend the president for helping us re-engineer the aviation sector.” In the same vein, the Chairman House Committee on Aviation, Nkiruka Onyiocha dispelled rumours of the House and the Ministry of Aviation being at logger heads.

“We will continue to support you to ensure that the aviation sector will continue to move at this pace. We assure you of our support, and assure Nigerians that with the help of the National Assembly, we wish to see more transformation in other sectors,” she said.

Also present at the ceremony was the Director General of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mr George Uriesi, Director General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Harold Demuren, and the Director General of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA).

Highlighting the achievements of the event, Uriesi said the inaugurated private commercial terminal was the first of such recorded, stating that it opened business opportunities for Nigerians. “The private flight industry has grown the most all around the world, and the commercially important people will be provided these facilities, as also the business opportunities. I have no doubt in my mind, that we can be anything we choose to be. With the support we get from you. We will be able to change the passenger service we provide in Nigeria.”

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Uganda: Govt to Build 10 Mini Hydro Power Plants

22 January 2013 – The Observer – In a bid to extend power to rural areas under the rural electrification programme, the government with a grant from development partners, plans to construct 10 mini hydro power plants in the country. The construction of the mini hydro power plants will be coordinated by Uganda Energy Credit Capitalisation Company (UECCC), a state-owned company using funds from the Dutch ORIO Infrastructure Fund.

Roy Nyamutale Baguma, UECCC’s Manager in Charge of Transaction Execution, said each hydro power plant is expected generate between 1-1.5 megawatts of electricity. The construction of the mini hydro power plants is expected to reduce on power outages, especially in rural areas. The project will be developed in two phases. The first phase of carrying out feasibility studies is expected to kick off next month, and will take 18 months.

It is estimated to cost Euros 900,000 [approximately Shs 3.2bn). The studies will be undertaken by Royal Haskoning, an international engineering and consulting firm. The energy minister, Irene Muloni, is expected to officially launch the project today at Sheraton hotel in Kampala.

After the development phase, the real construction of the mini plants will be funded by ORIO [50%] and other development partners. “The total cost of the construction phase for all the 10 hydro mini plants is estimated at Euros 24.4 (approximately Shs 8.5bn),” Baguma said.

After construction, Baguma explained, the mini hydro sites will be concessioned to the private sector for management. It is not yet clear on which small rivers the power plants will be constructed. However, Baguma says it will most likely be in western Uganda. Once completed, the project is expected to connect electricity to 340,000 households and spur social-economic growth.

The project is also expected to connect over 800 small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) to electricity and also reduce the use of firewood, Baguma stressed. The project is expected to be completed in 2016. According to government policy, mini hydro power plants, which are less than 20MW, are supposed to be developed by the private sector and not government.

Government only develops hydro power plants that have capacity to produce more than 20MW, said Baguma. UECCC’s mandate is to provide a reliable framework for pooling resources from government, investors and development partners and channel them to viable renewable energy projects. UECCC’s main function is to enhance the flow of private sector financing resources towards small-scale renewable energy projects with a capacity of up to 20MW and/or rural electrification projects in Uganda.

Renewable energy investments include solar energy, biofuels, biomass, just to mention a few. These energies will take the form of products such as hydropower plants, geothermal plans, cooking stoves, and baking ovens, among others. Renewable energy remains a crucial energy component for government. Under the Renewable Energy Policy of Uganda, which was approved in 2007, government intends to increase the component of renewable energy, within the total energy consumption, from the current levels of roughly 10% to 61% by 2017.

According to the renewable energy policy, government needs $3.5 billion to achieve that target. The policy estimates that 86% of this money will be invested by private players, while the remaining amount will be sourced from government and foreign donors.

Government has zeroed in on the energy industry to drive its growth over the next two decades. The energy sector currently accounts for the largest investments in the country.

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Gambia: 40 International Participants Register for 6th GCCI Trade

23 January 2013 – The Daily Observer – Up to 40 international participants are billed to take part in the sixth edition of the Trade Fair organised by the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), officials disclosed at a press conference convened Tuesday morning at the Kerr Jula Building in Bijilo.

The officials also disclosed that about 164 local participants have been registered to take part in the Trade Fair slated from the 2nd -10th February, 2013. Participants from countries such as Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Congo Brazzaville, Benin, Guinea Conakry, Guinea Bissau, Senegal, Niger, Nigeria, amongst others will take part in this year’s Trade Fairwith the theme; “More business opportunities, more jobs.”

The GCCI’s Trade Fair is a biennial event organised to create a platform for Gambian and international companies to showcase and sell their products in the quest of creating a market for them. However, it has been brought to the attention of the Daily Observer that the Trade Fair will in fact be organised every year with a view to creating a market and more opportunities for businesses, especially for Gambian companies or enterprises.

Briefing journalists on the state of preparedness of the Chamber for the event, its chief executive officer, Almamy Fafanding Taal, explained that the main objective of the Trade Fair is to showcase Gambian enterprises and businesses as well as provide opportunities for business individuals to meet and interact. “We organise the event so that our members principally can come to market and have the opportunity to interact for a period of 10 days,” he added.

The Chamber’s corporate service manager, Beatrice A. Prom, disclosed that plans are in the pipeline to provide training for those members that are not literate in information technology because they miss lots of opportunities that are out there for them. She revealed that the training will be supported by NETPAGE. She also hinted that the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is partnering with them under their “One village one product project”, while also acknowledging the support of the National Training Authority (NTA).

A representative of the Ministry of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment, Baturu Camara Ceesay, described the theme for the event as apt in that it is inline with the government’s trade policy objectives. She added that her ministry has been working with the GCCI in the area of policy dialogue and capacity building.

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Saudi Arabia grants $100 mln to Palestinian Authority

Ahram Online, Thursday 24 Jan 2013 – The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, announced that the kingdom would grant the Palestinian Authority (PA) $100 million in budgetary support. “This royal approval came as a response to the diplomatic success achieved by the Palestinian Authority in obtaining an Observer Status in the United Nations General Assembly,” Ahmed Kattan, Ambassador of Saudi Arabia in Cairo, said in a Thursday press statement.

Kattan explained that Saudi Arabia will support the PA financially to help the Palestinians meet the consequent financial obligations in the upcoming period and also to help ease the government’s financial crisis. The statement indicated that the Kingdom will offer the PA further grants in the future and that it would increase its’ regular contribution from $14 million to $20 million.

Recently, during an “economic summit” in the capital Riyadh, Arab leaders including President Mohamed Morsi called on all Arab countries to provide the necessary financial support for the Palestinian government to meet the demands of its people. Arab leader also urged the donor countries and the international community to take serious steps to bring about an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people.

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Nigeria raised food production by 8 mln tonne in 2012

Reuters, Thursday 24 Jan 2013 – Nigeria is beating its target to raise food production, lifting output by 8 million tonnes last year, in efforts to diversify Africa’s second-largest economy away from a reliance on oil, the agriculture minister said. President Goodluck Jonathan laid out ambitious targets to raise food production such as rice and cocoa by 20 million tonnes within four years after his 2011 election victory.

This would represent an increase of around 15 per cent by 2015, based on the latest United Nations data. In 2012, the first full year since the pledge, the West African country produced an additional 8.1 million tonnes compared with a 5 million tonne target, Akinwumi Adesina said.

“Nigeria has no business importing food. We should be a global power house on food,” he said at a round-table discussion on agriculture in Geneva this week, ahead of meetings with investors at the Davos conference.

Africa’s most populous nation was a major exporter of palm oil and cocoa in the 1960s but production has slumped as the country has instead shifted its economy towards the oil sector, which accounts for 80 per cent of government revenues. Since an oil boom in the 1970s, a series of administrations have promised to support the agricultural sector to boost employment and alleviate poverty but policy has been inconsistent and lacked commitment.

Poor infrastructure, corruption and mismanagement mean most farming remains at a subsistence level. Nigeria spends around $11 billion on food imports annually, Adesina said.

Nigeria, the world’s second largest rice importer according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is on track to end imports of rice and double cocoa production to 500,000 tonnes by 2015, Adesina added, but gave no specific update on the progress of meeting these targets, which were first set in mid-2011.

“We have launched an aggressive rice production programme to make us self-sufficient in rice and we put in place incentives for private sector to produce rice locally and it’s working,” he told Reuters on the sidelines of the meeting.

He said Nigeria had built 14 new rice mills in 2012 with a capacity to produce 250,000 tonnes. Adesina said private sector investment in agriculture was $8 billion in 2012, without citing a figure for 2011.

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London’s Shubbak fest opens call for projects for 2013

Ahram Online, 21 Jan 2013 – The organisers of Shubbak: A Window on Contemporary Arab Culture open a call for Arab artists and organisations to submit their suggestions for projects for the 2013 programme, which is currently under construction. The next festival is scheduled to take place from 22 June – 6 July 2013.

Shubbak: A Window on Contemporary Arab Culture was first held in July 2011 and presented over seventy events, including visual arts, film, music, theatre, dance, literature, architecture and lectures in more than 30 key cultural venues throughout the city of London.

In a statement released in 2011, Mayor of London Borris Johnson described Shubbak as “a unique chance for Londoners to glimpse the breadth and excellence of contemporary Arab culture and its influence on London’s cultural scene today.”

The festival reflected a growing interest in Arab culture following the series of uprisings sparked in the region. “At a time of remarkable political and social change, Shubbak marks an exciting moment between artists in the capital and across the Arab world,” said Johnson.

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Remains of 1st Hijri century castle unearthed in Madinah

Madinah, 09 Rabi Al-Awwal 1434/21 January 2013 (IINA) – An ancient castle that dates back to the first century Hijra was discovered in Al-Aqeeq valley in Madinah. Historical ruins of the castle were unearthed in excavations carried out by a team of archeologists from the Supreme Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, said Dr. Khaled Bin Muhammad Askoubi, head of the team. The discoveries also included a variety of pottery, glasses, tools made of stone, and steatite utensils, the Saudi Press Agency reported Sunday.

Askoubi said that the Antiquities and Museums Department of SCTA carried out excavations over two seasons continuously in the valley near the ancient castle named after Urwah Bin Al-Zubair, grandson of the first Caliph Abubakr. He said the remains of the Umayyad era castle included foundations of eight rooms on an area spreading over 40×30 sq. meters, and the walls were made of volcanic stones.

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New facilities set to tidy up Turkish tourism areas

MUĞLA – Anatolia News Agency – Turkey is preparing to establish new tourism facilities and tourism areas with the goal of attracting 33 million foreign tourists this year, according to the culture minister. The latest projects are in the ghost town of Kayaköy and the ancient city of Telmessos in Muğla, while Ölüdeniz will also undergo a pilot project to enhance its infrastructure. Overall, the country will have 69 new tourism areas in 24 different cities.

Culture Minister Ertuğrul Günay visited Telmessos’ ancient theater, where restoration work began two months ago. The Fethiye Museum manager İbrahim Malkoç and architect Esin Tuzcuoğlu informed Günay about the work.

After visiting the area Günay said Fethiye demonstrated the importance of culture and heritage very well. In 2011 the area attracted many tourists despite economic and political problems, but in 2013 the same problems may interfere with the tourism target, Günay said. “There are many interesting developments in the area, and we would like to finish the promised restoration on time,” he said, adding that the work in Telmessos would return a lost and forgotten monument to Fethiye. This year 69 new tourism areas will be designated in 24 cities, with 23 of them near the seaside and 23 of them in thermal areas, he said.

The new areas, ranging from the Aegean to eastern parts of Turkey, will attract golf, mountain and winter tourism. The village of Kayaköy is located 8 km south of Fethiye, where Anatolian Greek speaking Christians lived until approximately 1923. The ghost town now consists of hundreds of rundown but still mostly intact Greek-style houses and churches which cover a small mountainside.“Kayaköy has been abandoned, however its nature and heritage are beautiful and valuable … We need to look after the area and make it available for tourism,” he added.

This year, Kayaköy will be restored and a 300-bed facility will be built there, the minister said, adding that a few investors were interested in the area. Kayaköy might become a very important tourism center in Turkey, according to Günay. “If we have a high-quality tourism center, then we will receive lots of tourists.” These developments will contribute to the area’s economy and welfare, he added.

The minister said this year a pilot project would be launched in Ölüdeniz, “because Ölüdeniz has very important environmental beauty and we have had some infrastructure problems there. This year we will look at every kind of problem in Ölüdeniz and try to improve the environment.” Günay said Turkey had a good year in tourism despite most African visits being canceled. Last year’s numbers were not lower than 2011’s and economic and political problems were the main reasons for not receiving enough tourists, he said.

“We have lost 400,000 tourists because of the political problems in Israel, and the problems in Syria and Iran also cost us 1 million tourists,”

Despite all of these problems Turkey has surpassed the figure from 2011 and ended last year with a 500,000-tourist increase, he said. “Currently we are at almost 32 million [foreign tourists] and aim to reach 33 million.” Günay also said the traditional architecture and heritage of Anatolia was another asset for Turkey and they were currently working to develop the region.

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Turkish Airlines set to be named five-starred

ANTALYA – Anatolia News Agency – Turkish Airlines turnover reached $9 billion in 2012, setting the carrier up for an upgrade to five-star airline status this year, the company’s chief executive has said. “THY was named as the best airline in Europe twice, and it carried the second highest number of passengers in 2012. And this year it will become a five-star airline,” Temel Kotil, the chief executive, said at a recent management summit in Antalya at which the works and targets of the company were announced. Kotil said the company was continuing an annual growth trend that reached $9 billion in turnover in the past year, while aiming to reach $10 billion in 2013. Kotil declared the company’s desire to serve 250 points this year and become the airline that flies to the highest number of destinations.

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Turkey unveils plan for world’s biggest airport

Reuters, 23 Jan 2013 – Turkey plans to build what it said would be the largest airport in the world in Istanbul, eventually able to handle 150 million passengers per year, in a project seen costing more than 7 billion euros. Transport Minister Binali Yildirim said on Wednesday the deadline for bids to build the airport, which will be Istanbul’s third and have a total of six runways, would be May 3. It was not clear when the contract would be awarded.

The airport will add vital capacity in the region and enhance the role of Istanbul, the hub for flag carrier Turkish Airlines. “At full capacity the new airport will be the largest in the world in terms of passengers,” Yildirim told a news conference in Ankara. “We calculate the whole project will cost more than 7 billion euros excluding financing costs.”

Turkey’s economy, the fastest-growing in Europe, has advanced rapidly over the past decade under the leadership of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and become a major trading partner with Europe and the Middle East. The tender will be for a 25-year lease in a four-stage project, with annual capacity of 90 million passengers planned for the first stage, Yildirim said.

“The final annual capacity of the airport will be 150 million. The first stage will be operational in 2017,” he said. Prime Minister Erdogan said on Tuesday the tender would be launched on Thursday with the first stage of construction to be completed in 3-4 years. Turkish airport operator and builder TAV and construction company Limak are among the companies that have expressed interest in bidding for the contract.

TAV also has the operating rights for Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, the country’s largest, until 2021. It said the Turkish airports authority would compensate it for any losses if the third airport opened while it was still running Ataturk. TAV shares were up 2.3 percent at 11.2 lira on the Istanbul Stock Exchange.

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Turkey’s largest tourism fair to host 70 countries

ISTANBUL – Anatolia News Agency – The East Mediterranean International Travel and Tourism Exhibition (EMITT), one of the world’s largest tourism fairs, is opening its doors to visitors in Istanbul today and will remain open until Jan. 27. Around 4,500 professionals from the tourism sector, including companies and development agencies coming from both Turkey and 70 other countries will participate in order to promote 150 cities in the 17th EMITT, held in the TÜYAP Exhibition Center in the Beylikdüzü district of Istanbul.

Turkey ranked sixth in the world in terms of tourism volume, hosting 30 million tourists last year. Fair officials said EMITT 2012 was the world’s fifth largest tourism fair, hosting a total of 4,500 participants and 128,000 visitors. However, they expect the participant and visitor numbers to hit a record this year.

Cities from Turkey will promote a number of tourism places in the category of mountaineering, trekking, botanical tourism, religion tourism, bird watching, plateau tourism, and winter tourism, as well as several modern accommodation options.

Portugal will attend the fair for the first time this year, while Libya will also participate in the fair after a break following its civil war. Argentina will be the guest country that will attend the fair from outside the Mediterranean region and give free tango lessons to visitors.

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Turkmenistan to revive book publishing industry

2013-01-22 – Centralasiaonline.com – ASHGABAT – Turkmenistan is reviving its long-dormant book industry with hopes of boosting nationwide readership by publishing more foreign classics and popular books in Turkmen.

The State Publishing Service this year plans to publish one-third more books than it did last year, it said in a press release. The service said it would make it a priority to translate foreign literary works and to increase the number of new books translated into Turkmen.

The books on the 2013 publishing calendar will include international classics such as Shakespeare’s plays, as well as works by Chingiz Aitmatov, Mark Twain, Nodar Dumbadze and Ken Derby, said Resulberdi Khalilov, a representative at the Ashgabat Press House’s printing shop who expressed excitement about the prospect of more books being published in Turkmen.

“The more good books are published, the more opportunities people will have to learn about the world and expand their horizons,” he told Central Asia Online.

Books and other literary works translated into Turkmen – spoken by the country’s ethnic majority – largely were out of print or circulation under the 1990-2006 regime of Sapamurat Niyazov, except for those penned by the president himself or items promoting his rule. Niyazov, who died in 2006, even ordered the closure of Turkmenistan’s public libraries. In 2010, the government re-opened the long-shuttered libraries.

Until 2007, book printing virtually ceased in Turkmenistan, and publishing foreign literature was prohibited, Khalilov recalled. “During the Niyazov era, only his books were available and all the other authors were banned,” said Orazmyrat Boriyev, a book collector from Ashgabat. “Now, thank God, authors who had long been forbidden are being published. And this makes me happy.”

During those years of restrictions, whatever books were available in Turkmenistan were printed in Russian, a language primarily spoken by Turkmenistan’s elite and its small ethnic Russian minority. “Russian speakers have greater access to world literature, since almost everything gets translated into Russian, but very little is translated into Turkmen,” said Aleksey Nakhimov, a literary critic. “What can we do for mono-lingual pupils? This was a particularly big problem in the provinces. It’s a good thing that more books will now be translated into Turkmen.”

However, apart from publishing Turkmen-language books, more needs to be done to pull Turkmenistan out of its long period of literary stagnation and to repair educational damage caused by the Niyazov regime’s decision to ban the study of great books in public schools, Ashgabat literature teacher Amaliya V. told Central Asia Online.

Creating public forums – TV shows or book fairs, for example – for spotlighting books could help to rekindle interest in reading, she said. One Turkmen citizen who is an active reader was thrilled to hear about the State Publishing Service plan for 2013.

Akmaral Tatykova, who lives in Asghabat’s Parakhat-2 neighborhood, hopes to expand her home library by adding titles on the year’s publishing calendar, including epics like Gorkut Ata and Oguznama and poetry collections by Andalib, Azadi, Rumi, Omar Khayyam, Seidi, Zelili, Bayram Khan, Saadi, and Pushkin.

“Just think: now I will get the collection of works called the Four Wanderers from Oriental writers, the collection of poems called Constellation from Turkmen classic writers, and the works of contemporary Turkmen poets who, unfortunately, have almost been forgotten,” she told Central Asia Online.

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Dhaka International Trade fair draws huge response

DHAKA, Jan 18, 2013 (BSS) – The Dhaka International Trade Fair which began on the New Year Day, witnessed a large number of visitors today, the second weekend after the start of the fair. An increased assembly of men and women especially youths were seen in a hurry at all ticket counters to enter the fair premises at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar in the city on this public holiday.

“Daily average turnout of the visitors hit over one lakh. We are hopeful of earning Taka 45 crore including all expenditures from the trade show”, Shubhashish Bose, Vice Chairman of EPB, told BSS. Bose credited the possible revenue earning to the introduction of online trading, eco-park with theme of the Sundarbans, e-park, smoking zone, separate foreign zone and count down clock.

“Every year I wait for the fair to purchase household necessities because I get discounts here. I use to come to the fair on Fridays round the month every year,” said Dr Fahrina Rahman (Shamon), a visitor of the show. Majority of the visitors were seen assembling at different stalls which were displaying home appliances, kitchenware and textiles or clothing items.

Different local companies including Walton Hi-Tech Industries Ltd (Walton HIL), MyOne and Marcel have increased their item’s sales this year by offering competitive price, price discounts and improved services.

Besides, Chittagong Dry Dock under state-run Bangladesh Steel and Engineering Corporation (BSEC) is displaying different models of ships at the fair. Jewel Hossain, pavilion officer of Walton, said increased interest of visitors has been shown for locally made products especially electronic goods.

“We’ve brought 136 models of locally made electronic products including TV, android LED TV, refrigerator, motorcycle, air conditioner, generator, micro oven and mobile set,” he said. “Our new model LED TV, motorcycle and mobile set got huge response among visitors. Sale of those items is satisfactory,” said Jinnath Ara Ferdows, a pavilion officer of Walton.

M Osman Gani, proprietor of Jamdani Ghar, said the trade fair is gaining momentum as visitors are on sharp rise. Gani, whose stall is displaying Jamdani sarees, 3-piece and ladies bag, said the main objective of his company’s participation is to know the customers’ choice and attitude so that the quality of traditional Jamdani clothing could be improved further.

Export promotion Bureau (EPB) and Ministry of Commerce jointly organized the show where 30 companies from twelve countries are participating.

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Bangladesh Railway implements two big rail line projects

RAJSHAHI, Jan 21 (BSS) – The West Zone of Bangladesh Railway has been implementing two big new rail line construction projects at an estimated cost of Taka 2084.19 crore. In addition to construction of 141-kilometer new line, 85- kilometer existing rail line would be rehabilitated under the projects in Rajbari, Faridpur, Gopalganj, Natore and Pabna districts.

The projects are construction of 63-kilometer Kasiani- Gopalganj-Tungipara new line, rehabilitation of 85-kilometer Kalukhali-Bhatiapara line and construction of 78.4-kilometer new railway line from Ishwardi to Dhalerchar via Pabna.

Rafiqul Alam, Chief Engineer of the zone, told BSS here today that 55- kilometer mainline and eight-kilometer loop line are being constructed from Kasiani to Tungipara via Gopalganj at a cost of around Taka 745.78 crore while 80.25-kilometer mainline and five- kilometer loop-line are being rehabilitated by spending Taka 276.22 crore.

The project has been designed to construct 55 bridges including an important and four majors, seven stations, eight station-platforms, 12 approach roads and other requisite and relevant infrastructure like level crossing and modern signaling, he added. The new railway line project had acquired 850 acres of land in Rajbari, Faridpur and Gopalganj districts by spending Taka 45 lakh.

In this regard, he said, the scheme is likely to complete by next December which will establish railway connection between huge people coupled with the mazar of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at Tungipara for the first time as large number of people visit there round the year. Rafiqul Alam said around 65 percent work of the project Has already been completed.

On the other hand, the new 78.40-kilometer mainline from Ishwardi to Dhalerchar via Pabna together with 10.87-kilometer loop line would be constructed at an estimated cost of around Taka 982.87 crore in Natore and Pabna districts.

The project has been designed for construction of eight stations, 15 major and 31 minor bridges and 74 level crossings and the total land requirement for the project is 1103 acres. After completing the works of land acquisition, earth filling works of the project are progressing fast at present.

On successful implementation of the projects, Engineer Rafiqul Alam hoped that a new horizon would be created in the field of railway communication together with passengers and good transportation in the region as it enriched with various natural and economical resources.

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NYT lauds Bangladesh “Chobi Mela” festival

DHAKA, Jan 23, 2013 (BSS) – The New York Times termed country’s most prestigious photography festival Chobi Mela as world’s most demographically inclusive festival, that is set to showcase works of 34 photo artists of 24 countries, from January 25 to February 7 simultaneously at eleven venues in the capital.

“Chobi Mela is not only truly international, but is also perhaps the world’s most demographically inclusive festival,” The New York Times wrote in one of its recent articles on the festival.

The seventh edition of the photo festival – ‘Chobi Mela-VII’ has also drawn attention of many other international media like The Guardian, Time Magazine and a number of leading European art magazine, online photography websites and blogs as they counted the Mela the largest photo showcasing in Asia.

“The eyes of world renowned photo artists, institutes and media are now on Chobi Mela as we have been able to prove that Dhaka is one of the uppermost places of nurturing photography with struggle against various social obstacles and oppression,” said Shahidul Alam,an internationally crowned photo artist of Bangladesh, also director of Chobi Mela.

He said alongside the participating artists, more than 100 photo artists and critics including picture editors of Time Magazine, The Guardian and Geo Magazine are coming to Bangladesh to join the festival.

“All the photo critics are giving importance on Chobi Mela as we established that Bangladesh has a history of strong photography movement having top class photography training,” he said.

The medium has put Bangladesh on the global map and it is time the nation itself began to recognize the phenomenal achievements of its photographers who contributed in the development of the medium, Shahidul said.

Photographs of 34 renowned photo artists of 24 countries – Australia, Belgium, Bosnia, Brazil, China, Croatia, Egypt, France, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, the UK, the USA, Vietnam and host Bangladesh will be exhibited during the festival with the theme of fragility, organized by Drik Gallery.

The festival includes 34 solo print exhibitions, numbers of digital presentations, workshops, portfolio reviews, discussions, seminars, lectures, picture presentations, review of image- related publications and book, publication ceremony, film screenings, video conferences and lifetime achievement awards.

The festival will be inaugurated at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy on January 25 and photo exhibitions to be held at Alliance FranOaise of Dhaka, Bengal Gallery, Dhaka Art Center, Drik Gallery, Chobir Haat, Lichutola-Dhaka University.

Seven Bangladeshi photo artists Mohammad Anisul Haque, Afiqul Shuvo, Rasel Chowdhury, Saifur Huq Omi, Samsul Alam Helal, Sarker Protik and Shumon Ahmed will participate in the festival with legendary international photographers like Graciela Iturbide of Mexico, Max Pam of Australia and Richard Bartholomew of India.

The other celebrated award winning artists of Chobi Mela are Eugene Richards from the USA, Gideon Mendel from the UK, J D Okhai Ojeikere from Nigeria, Lu Guang, Muge and Zhang Hai from China, Ziyah Gafic from Bosnia and Sandra Vitaljic from Croatia.

During the festival ‘artist’s talks’ will be given by Pablo Bartholomew of India, Richard Billingham of UK, Morten Krogvold of Norway, Nasir Ali Mamun of Bangladesh, Max Pam of Australia and Graciela Iturbide of Mexico and Jodi Bieber of South Africa.

Other participants who will share knowledge and experience include Director of Photography for GEO magazines Germany, Ruth Eichhorn, International Picture Editor of TIME Magazine, Patrick Witty, President of Contact Press Images of the US, Robert Pledge, long-time Contributing Editor for National Geographic Traveler Magazine, Chris Rainier, Anthropology and Visual Culture Professor of University College, London, Christopher Pinney and Curator and Exhibition Co-ordinator of Brisbane Powerhouse Arts in Australia, Jody Haines.

The first Chobi Mela was held from December 1999 to January 2000 and since then it is held every two years in Dhaka, organizers said. The festival examines the dramatic shifts in image production, ownership and distribution brought by new developments in the media landscape, they said.

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Brunei Sultan Calls for Upgrade of Nationwide Mosques

January 24, 2013 – Borneo Bulletin Online – As the main symbol and landmark of the Sultanate, The Sultan the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam in a titah yesterday called for the glorification of mosques nationwide and emphasised that its progress should go in line with the tide of time and Islam’s presence.

The monarch also focused on the construction of several new mosques recently and noticed their designs lack prominence. “It does not suffice to build mosques without taking into account a design which suits Islam’s eminence,” the Sultan said in his titah to mark the Maulidur Rasul or the birthday anniversary of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) for the year 1434 Hijrah at the Istana Nurul Iman yesterday evening.

“It seems that we desire to be brought back to an era where mosques had standard designs that paid no attention to Islamic teachings. As a centre for charitable activities and expansion of knowledge, it must not be forgotten that mosques are a main symbol of the country and its presence cannot be dim and weak,” the Sultan said.

The monarch also reminded to inculcate an attitude of progression, not declining or turning back against time. “Allah the Almighty brought Islam as a superior religion. Relative to this, we are obligated to heighten its eminence as much as possible,” the Sultan added. “If the presence of our mosques is felt similar to typical buildings, where does the eminence lay here?”

The Sultan in the Titah went on to say that the government has allocated more than B$100 million for the construction of new mosques across the country. “Apart from increasing facilities for prayers and worship, we hope it should continuously shape up its roles as a centre for community activities, also not exempting it as an avenue to spread knowledge consistently,” The Sultan said.

Earlier in the titah, the monarch said he is grateful for the Maulidur Rasul celebrations that the country has long been organising along with ‘Dikir’ resonating across all mosques for twelve consecutive nights. The Maulidur Rasul procession nationwide is the highlight and the ‘Dikir’ ceremony at the Istana Nurul Iman will be held on the eve of the celebration.

This kind of atmosphere, the Sultan said is rarely seen anywhere else but has become accustomed to the country, adding that it is a unique Bruneian characteristic that we can be proud of.

Touching on the theme of the Maulidur Rasul celebration this year, “Rasulullah Teladan Sepanjang Zaman” or loosely translated as “Prophet Muhammad, Role Model of All Time”, the Sultan said it connotes the relevance to all aspects of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as an example of an unprecedented role model, regardless of time.

“The Prophet is a perfect role model in all stages of life, be it during childhood, adulthood and senior age. We do not need to look toward others as a role model,” the Sultan added. Because of the Prophet’s superiority and his pure and noble image, the Sultan said these are the reasons we become affected should this image be tainted by irresponsible and malicious individuals.

“Muslims all across the world condemns anybody that insults the Prophet,” the Monarch added. Hence, religious education is the finest path to incorporate valuable examples, the Sultan said, adding that the enforcement of the Compulsory Religious Education Order 2012 earlier this year is timely and appropriate. “It will be a platform to generate a more knowledgeable generation that have higher moral values who can resist negative social ills that burdens the country.”

The Sultan added that notably, whereas lifelong learning is essential, formal religious education may be limited in its time-frame. “Therefore, for this to thrive we need other institutions to accommodate them and in this respect, I see the mosques as one of the essential platform towards achieving the objective,” the Sultan said.

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