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11 Mar, 2013

Europeans Dominate Visitor Arrivals to Palestine 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 11 March 2013 (28 Rabee’ al-Thaani 1434). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.



The Malaysian delegation led by the Director General of Tourism Malaysia Dato’ Mirza Mohammad Taiyab strongly promoted the country’s fourth Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) and its comprehensive promotional activities at the 47th ITB Berlin, held in the German capital between 6-8 March. The 5-day annual travel trade show offered Malaysia an excellent platform to market and create global awareness of VMY 2014. The VMY 2014 promotional campaign was launched last month by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, with the theme “Celebrating 1Malaysia Truly Asia”. Malaysia’s presence at At ITB 2013, the Malaysian delegation comprised 91 participants from 48 organisations that include 24 hotels and resorts, 17 tour operators, the country’s national carrier Malaysia Airlines (MAS), the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA), as well as representatives from the Langkawi Development Authority (LADA), the State Economic Planning Unit Perlis, the Johor Tourism Department, Sabah Tourism Board and Sarawak Tourism Board. A Malaysia Evening was held on 7 March. Dato’ Mirza attended several travel trade meetings with tour operators and gave several media interviews. Tourism Malaysia also seeks to promote Malaysia as a business tourism destination, in line with the Malaysia Tourism Transformation Plan 2020, where the country aims to attract a larger share of high yield travellers to achieve its target of 36 million tourist arrivals and RM168 billion (about 40 billion EURO) in receipts by the year 2020. Malaysia provides compelling advantages for tourism industry businesses. The country provides tax incentives and up to 100 percent foreign ownership for tourism projects including ecotourism, agro-tourism, hotel businesses, and theme parks. To date, Malaysia has welcomed many international tourism projects such as Legoland, Hard Rock Café Melaka, and Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur.

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.


“Weighing the Causes And Costs Of Global Wars And Conflict” 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 (Sunday Post Editor Paul Ruffini and Managing Editor Chiratas Nivatpumin) 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. Click on the link to read this column Weighing the causes and costs of global wars and conflict, and several others, by clicking here.



Bradford Muslims help to preserve Jewish synagogue

Bradford, 26 Rabi Al-Thani 1434/09 March 2013 (IINA) – Extending their hands to their Jewish neighbours to save their worship place, Muslims in the northern British city of Bradford are rallying efforts to raise funds for preserving the last remaining synagogue in the city.

“In Bradford we are working hard to bring people of different faiths together, and to support one another as good neighbours,” Zulfi Karim, secretary of Bradford Council for Mosques, told Telegraph & Argus. The umbrella group said it would raise funds for local authorities to help renovate the Bradford Reform Synagogue, the last remaining Jewish worship place in the city. “We are delighted by the way people have rallied to save the Bradford Synagogue, which is not only a work of art in itself, but represents so much in the way of Bradford’s heritage, faith and culture,” said Karim.

Built in 1880, the Jewish synagogue stands as an example of Moorish Victorian Architecture. The synagogue is still used for Shabbat and major festivals although the community is small and has been in decline for years. The Muslim help has won praise from Jewish leaders in Bradford. “The contribution of immigrants to this region has been outstanding, and the current wave has followed in that tradition of mutual help, communal involvement and harmony,” said Rudi Leavor, chair of the Bradford Synagogue. “We are all working together to save the synagogue with the help of the local authority.” Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2.5 million. The majority of the multi-ethnic minority has Indian, Bengali and Pakistani backgrounds.

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Former far-right Dutch politician converts to Islam

AMSTERDAM (Al-Jazeera English) – A leading member in far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders’ party has reverted to Islam after an extensive study about the Islamic religion and Muslims.

“I can understand people are skeptic, especially that it is unexpected for many of them,” Arnoud Van Doorn told Al-Jazeera English satellite channel. “This is a very big decision, which I have not taken lightly.”

The news about Doorn’s reversion first came to the surface last month when he tweeted “new beginning”. He later posted a tweet in Arab pronouncing the Shahadah (proclamation of faith). The politician later announced that he reverted to Islam, giving no more information about the reasons behind the decision.

“In my own close circle people have known that I have been actively researching the Qur’an, Hadith, Sunnah and other writings for almost a year now,” he said. “In addition, I have had numerous conversations with Muslims about the religion.”

Driven by his party’s anti-Islam discourse, Doorn decided to dig in for the truth about the religion himself. “I have heard so many negative stories about Islam, but I am not a person who follows opinions of others without doing my own research,” he said.

“Therefore, I have actually started to deepen my knowledge of the Islam out of curiosity. “My colleague Aboe Khoulani from the City Council in The Hague has brought me further into contact with the as-Soennah mosque, which has guided me even further.”

A member of the Dutch parliament and The Hague city council, Doorn’s name has long been associated with Wilders’ anti-Islam, far-right PVV party. Wilders himself is known for his rants against Islam, Muslims and the Noble Qur’an.

Doorn’s decision to embrace Islam has won mixed reactions in the Netherlands. “According to some people I am a traitor, but according to most others I have actually made a very good decision,” he told Aljazeera. “The reactions are generally positive and I also received quite some support via twitter. It feels good that people who do not know me personally have understanding of my situation and support me in my choice.”

For the Dutch politician, finding Islam was finally guiding him to the true path in his life. “I have made mistakes in life as many others. From these mistakes I have learned a lot,” Doorn said. “And by my conversion to Islam I have the feeling that I finally found my path. I realize that this is a new start and that I still have much to learn as well.”

Departing from his earlier life as a PVV member, Doorn expects much resistance in his political life. “The expectation is that I will continue to face much resistance, also from certain government institutions,” he said. “I have all faith in Allah to support me and to guide me through these moments.”

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Europeans Dominate Visitor Arrivals to Palestine in 2012

RAMALLAH, March 6, 2013 (WAFA) – More than 40% of the guests who stayed in Palestinian hotels in the West Bank during fourth quarter 2012 were from European Union countries, a report by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) said Wednesday. It said over 150,000 guests stayed in hotels in the West Bank during that quarter and while the Europeans made 40% of the guests, 11% were Palestinians and 9% from the United States and Canada.

Percentage of hotel guests increased by 11% compared to the previous quarter and also increased by 4% compared to third quarter of 2012, it added. Room occupancy rate was 28% in the fourth quarter of 2012, which was 0.4% lower than in the previous quarter and 0.1% lower than in the fourth quarter of 2011. Most of the hotels were concentrated in the center of the West Bank, such as Ramallah, and Jerusalem where each area had 30 hotels even though the Jerusalem hotels had more rooms than those in the center of the West Bank.

The southern area of the West Bank, which includes the biblical city of Bethlehem, had 27 hotels and the northern areas had 11 hotels.

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Tourism Malaysia To Woo More Wedding Tourists From India

NEW DELHI, India March 7 (NNN-Bernama) – Tourism Malaysia, which is eyeing 780,000 tourists from India in 2013, is all geared up to woo more wedding tourism from the country, its Director, Amran Abdul Rahman said. Last year, a total of 691,271 Indians visited Malaysia.

“Indians spend lavishly on weddings, especially in the northern region. It is a great market indeed,” he said, adding, spending between RM3 million to RM4 million for weddings is very common.

Tourism Malaysia, he said has identified places such as Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Lucknow, as the major markets for wedding related tourism. “We started this tourism strategy just four to five years ago and really want to go big on it. The market is so huge that the package could also include chartering a whole aircraft,” he told Bernama.

There have been a few weddings held to date in Malaysia and the favourite destination of wedding couples was Langkawi, Pangkor, Penang and Kuala Lumpur. “Malaysia also offers exotic destinations like Sabah and Sarawak for Indians who are seeking locations closer to nature,” said Amran.

On why there have been only a few weddings, despite the huge potential, he said, the segment is still at a very early stage of development. “One reason why we receive less weddings in Malaysia compared to Thailand, is that the product owners, namely hoteliers are not ready to host such big weddings. Of course, they are used to having Malaysian weddings. But the requirements for Indian weddings are different, especially in terms of food, which a majority of the hoteliers can’t cater for,” he added.

However, a number of hotels now understand the market and are well prepared to host, “Big Fat Indian Weddings.”

On the part of Tourism Malaysia, he said, India’s leading wedding planners have been taken on hosted tours to Malaysia, to discover the best on offer. “We have also tied-up with wedding related magazines to showcase our products as well as participate in wedding fairs,” he said. The aim, he added, is to attract more quality weddings and not just quantity.

Besides weddings, he said Tourism Malaysia also aims to promote high-end tourism like spas, eco tourism, golf, exotic destinations as well as event related tourism such as the Formula One, Moto GP, and International Shoe Festivals. Amran said there is also a huge demand for “single women” outbound travelers, which Tourism Malaysia would tap on, by coming up with customized travel packages.

“Besides spa, entertainment and shopping, we are also promoting diving activities for them in places like Tioman and Redang. “Indian holidaymakers will continue to spend this year despite the global economic strain. Hence, we will be promoting various attractive destinations in Malaysia through various media and other activities, including campaigns on television, newspapers, magazines and the social media,” he added.

Amran said Tourism Malaysia also does joint promotions with local tour operators, airlines, other tourism boards and select brands, to entice the tourism traffic from India.

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UNESCO, Turkey to celebrate Jazz as “language of freedom”

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Irina Bokova, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogue Herbie Hancock, Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ahmet Davutoglu and its Minister of Culture and Tourism, Ӧmer Ҫelik, are pleased to announce that the main event for the second annual International Jazz Day will be hosted by Turkey in the city of Istanbul.

Held every year on 30th April, International Jazz Day brings together communities, schools and groups from across the world to celebrate jazz, learn about its roots and highlight its important role as a form of communication that transcends differences.

This year, the main concert for International Jazz Day will be held in Istanbul, Turkey. UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova, stated, “A meeting place of global cultures, Istanbul is an ideal location to highlight the extensive influence of jazz. Official celebrations, concerts and educational programs will take place in Istanbul and around the globe, expanding on the tremendous success of last year’s inaugural International Jazz Day.”

Taken forward in partnership with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, International Jazz Day was adopted by UNESCO Member States on the initiative of UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock, in order to encourage and highlight jazz’s unique power for advancing intercultural dialogue and understanding across the world. International Jazz Day is recognized on the official calendars of UNESCO and the United Nations. Its programs and events will be coordinated with all 195 Member States of UNESCO.

“International Jazz Day is a means to highlight, support, and leverage the unifying attributes of music through worldwide celebratory events and activities on 30thApril each year,” said Herbie Hancock. “On International Jazz Day, jazz is celebrated, studied, and performed around the world for 24 hours straight. Collaborations abound among jazz icons, scholars, composers, musicians, dancers, writers, and thinkers who embrace the beauty, spirit, and principles of jazz, freely sharing experiences and performances in our big cities and in our small towns, all across our seven continents.”

Mr Ahmet Davutoglu and Mr Ӧmer Ҫelik, stated: “On this occasion we shall celebrate jazz music not only as a global language of the human soul, but also as that of more inclusive societies, mutually enhancing civilizations and UNESCO ideals.” Tom Carter, President of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, said, “Last year’s celebration reached more than one billion people through educational programs, performances and media coverage. This is a phenomenal figure that we believe will be surpassed in 2013.”

Celebrations in Istanbul will kick off with a special early morning performance for high school students conducted by Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and others. The evening concert at Istanbul’s famed Hagia Irene will feature performances by stellar musicians from around the world.

Dating back to the 4th century, the Hagia Irene, located in the outer courtyard of Topkapi Palace – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – is regarded as an international treasure for music lovers because of its brilliant atmosphere and enchanting acoustics. The concert will be streamed live on the internet via the UNESCO, U.S. State Department and Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz websites, and will be taped for future broadcast on public television stations around the world.

For more information about International Jazz Day, please visit: www.unesco.org/new/en/jazz-day and www.jazzday.com. Organizations that would like to participate can register their activities on each of them.

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A Look at Indonesia’s Tourism Future

Berlin / Jakarta, 08th March, 2013: the commitment as the official partner country of ITB 2013 is only the first step in Indonesia’s future as a tourist destination. Headed by Tourism Minister, Dr. Mari Elka Pangestu, the world’s largest archipelago is repositioning itself and its strategy. With the campaign “WONDERFUL INDONESIA. Heart of the World’s Wonders”, concrete plans for infrastructure, destination management and sustainable tourism the country wants to achieve sustainable growth of tourism as an economic sector in Indonesia. Those efforts show first results: The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2013 ranked Indonesia four places up compared to the last report from two years ago (2011: rank 74; 2013: rank 70). The biannual report compares and ranks 140 countries worldwide according to their potential of attractiveness and ability to develop their travel and tourism industries.

Over the last several years, tourism in Indonesia has had steady growth figures. Arrivals from all major markets are rising and even during the global economic crisis of 2008, Indonesia’s tourism industry had a comparatively low decline of 2.8 percent. The tourism sector is one of the most important economic factors in Indonesia: around 9.2 million people are employed in tourism, which corresponds to 8.4 percent of the Indonesian labour market. The GDP contribution from tourism sector reached US$ 33.8 billion, equals to 3.9 % from the national GDP.

Overall, the archipelago counted 8.04 million international arrivals in 2012, an increase of 5.2 percent compared to last year. Using this trend, the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy under Minister Dr. Mari Elka Pangestu, wants to address a broader audience of travelers. The neighboring countries of Singapore, Malaysia and Australia traditionally constitute the largest groups of travelers. The aim is now to attract more tourists from Europe and emerging Asian countries such as Thailand and China. Approximately 153,000 German tourists show an increase of 7.6 percent compared to the previous year. From 2011 to 2012 the arrivals from China notably rose by 25.4 percent. At the same time, domestic tourism is becoming more important due to the growing middle class.

Clear Goals, Clear Roadmap

To strengthen this positive overall development, Indonesia is presenting a clear strategy. The Minister Dr. Mari Elka Pangestu focuses on the diversity of the archipelago with more than 17,000 islands, over 300 ethnic groups and many different landscapes. The country wants to particularly strengthen the areas with high tourism potential but which are not yet known as major tourist destinations. Tourists can look forward to relatively untapped and unknown places. 88 destinations have been selected so far.

Over the next three years, the ministry will focus on 16 destinations which will be expanded in terms of public transport and tourist infrastructure and thus made more accessible for visitors Toba Lake (Sumatera); Thousand Island and Old Town Sunda Kelapa nearby (Jakarta); Borobudur nearby (Central Java); Mount Bromo – Tengger – Semeru nearby (East Java); Kintamani – Batur Lake nearby, Menjangan and Kuta – Sanur – Nusa Dua nearby (Bali); Mount Rinjani nearby (West Nusatenggara); Ende – Kelimutu and Komodo nearby (East Nusatenggara); Tanjung Puting nearby (Central Kalimantan); Bunaken, Wakatobi nearby and Toraja nearby (Sulawesi); Raja Ampat nearby (Papua).

Furthermore, the quality of tourism possibilities and information will be strengthened. Tourists increasingly ask for different activities and opportunities and they are to be found in Indonesia. Besides beaches and coral reefs, the potential for tourism of the mountains, rainforests and the cultural diversity will be increasingly promoted. For a structured development and a simplified guide for visitors, different tourist activities were categorized: history and culture, sports and recreation, food and shopping, spa and wellness, cruises and events tourism. The MICE sector is already contributing 30 percent towards the tourism revenues of the country.

Positive Investment Climate

These efforts are already being rewarded by the rapidly growing investments of the private tourism industry. According to TripAdvisor Industrial Index 2012, Indonesia is the most profitable investment market for the hospitality industry – ahead of Brazil, Russia or the United States. The study states that 44 percent of accommodations in Indonesia are completely or very profitable. Positive signs like these lead to foreign direct investment in the hotel and catering sector having reached a record high of 786.3 million U.S. dollars in 2012 – three times more than the previous year. From 2011 to 2012, domestic investment has also more than doubled from 39 million U.S. dollars to 101.5 million U.S. dollars.

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Iran Culture Week Held In Austria

VIENNA, Mar 5 (NNN-IRNA) – Islamic Republic of Iran Culture Week began on Monday in Austrian capital city, Vienna and other major cities in Austria. According to IRNA, the Iran Culture Week is being held in collaboration with the Österreichische Orient-Gesellschaft Hammer-Purgstall, Cultural Deputy of the Culture and Islamic Communications Organisation (CICO) and the Islamic Republic of Iran Cultural Attaché in Vienna.

The first programme in the framework of the Iran Culture Week was held in Austriaˈs Innsbruck City, the capital city of the federal state of Tyrol (Tirol) in western Austria.

Holding calligraphy-painting exhibition, photographs of Iranˈs tourist attractions and beautiful natural scenes and performing traditional Iranian music by Keyvan Musical Troupe were among the programmes on the first day of the Iran Culture Week.

A top Iranian chef, Hossein Najmi, who has several licences from reputable Iranian and international cooking organisations, would hold an Iranian food workshop in Vienna. At this workshop some 60 Austrians interested in Iranian cooking would be shown how to cook a number of Iranian dishes, appetisers and deserts.

There would be an exhibition and workshop of contemporary Iranian calligraphy and calligraphy-painting works, in the presence of Master Hassan Jahani-Vakil in Vienna.

An exhibition of Iranian calligraphy-paintings and miniatures, and performance of traditional Iranian music conducted by Master Keyvan Saket, would be held in Austriaˈs Gratz city, which is the second-largest city in Austria after Vienna the capital city. The city is famous for gourmets, pleasure seekers and nightlife buffs.

On the fourth day, Thursday Mar 7, a miniature exhibition and training workshop, led by Master Amir Tahmasbizadeh would be held in Vienna.

The fifth day of the Iran Culture Week, at the closing ceremony, exhibitions of Iranian handicrafts, calligraphy, miniature, and also a book exhibition will be held at the Diplomatic Hall of Vienna, that would end with the performance of a piece of Iranian traditional music, conducted by Master Keyvan Saket.

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First university from Bangladesh joins Virtual Institute network

07 March 2013 – Bangladesh’s Jagannath University (JNU) has become the 73rd university member of the Virtual Institute (Vi), joining Vi think tanks the Bangladesh Enterprise Institute and the Centre for Policy Dialogue to become the third institution to represent the country in UNCTAD’s programme for academic cooperation.

The initiative for JNU to join the Virtual Institute was taken by Sharif Mosharraf Hossain, who is a graduate of the Master in International and Development Economics (MIDE) programme of core Vi member the University of Applied Sciences, Berlin, and is also a former Vi intern and participant in several Vi workshops and online courses. After graduating from MIDE and spending some time at a research institute in his country, Mr. Hossain opted for an academic career at JNU and spared no effort to establish cooperation with the Vi.

Dhaka-based Jagannath University, which has a history going back to 1858, was transformed into a university by government decision in 2005. The university aims to become a centre of excellence for educating successful and productive citizens for the country.

The Vi will cooperate with JNU’s Department of Economics, which is part of the Faculty of Social Sciences. The department’s main objective is to provide students with the highest-quality education, and to conduct academic research on various issues related to economics. At present, the department teaches undergraduate and graduate programmes in economics, offering courses in international, development, monetary, environmental, agricultural and industrial economics, as well as regional integration, economic development, and the Bangladeshi economy.

There are also plans to introduce PhD and MPhil programmes in the near future to strengthen the department’s research base and orientation. Faculty members of the department publish both in the yearly Jagannath University Journal of Social Science, and in national and international journals. Topics recently covered by their research include investment, export sectors’ competitiveness, trade facilitation, regional integration, and poverty.

The cooperation with the Vi will be coordinated by Mr. Hossain, who is currently responsible for courses on international economics and advanced microeconomics. His research interests encompass regional integration in South Asia, economic relations between Bangladesh and Japan, and agricultural trade liberalization.

The other colleagues taking part include:

Ishtiaque Selim, who teaches development and regional economics and quantitative decision-making techniques, and researches economic relations between Bangladesh, the Gulf countries, Japan, China and India, as well as regional integration and FDI.

Tareq Muhammad Shamsul Arefin, who is involved in courses on monetary economics and banking and financial institutions, and publishes on competitiveness and manufacturing sectors in Bangladesh, and trade facilitation and poverty.

Tabassum Zaman, who teaches development, international and agricultural economics, as well as macroeconomics and public finance, and has research interests in the macroeconomic determinants of investment and human development.

Habibur Rahman, who teaches international and development economics, macroeconomics and econometrics, and undertakes research on regional integration and cooperation, the impact of exchange rates on Bangladesh’s manufactured exports, the multilateral trading system, globalization, and poverty reduction.

The department is ready to exchange information and teaching materials on trade and development issues, and to conduct collaborative research projects with Vi members in areas of mutual interest. The department expects Vi membership to help it in designing courses and developing teaching materials on trade and development related issues, and to provide opportunities to participate in training workshops, courses and the Vi fellowship programme, and to cooperate in research with other members.

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Emirates Launches Triple Daily Flights To Perth

DUBAI, Mar 5 (NNN-WAM) – Emirates recently launched its third daily flight from Dubai to Perth, demonstrating the demand for international flights to and from Western Australia, as well as the airline’s commitment to the state.

This ongoing commitment to tourism and trade in Western Australia sees Emirates’ flights to Perth rise from 19 to 21 per week, offering an extra 1,440 seat capacity between Dubai and Emirates’ global network and Western Australia each week.

“Emirates is dedicated to providing greater travel opportunities for our passengers to and from Western Australia, through the introduction of this new, third daily flight and by providing state-of-the-art aircraft across the three daily Perth services,” said Salem Obaidalla, Emirates’ Senior Vice President, Commercial Operation Far East & Australasia.

“In addition, Emirates has also announced it will increase the capacity on one of its other flights to Perth – EK424 and EK425 from Jun 1, by using a Boeing 777-300ER, providing passengers with the highest quality aircraft across all of our cabin classes and more opportunity to secure a seat on these popular flights, with the number of economy class seats increasing from 216 to 304,” Mr Obaidalla added.

Tourism Western Australia CEO Stephanie Buckland said, the introduction of Emirates’ third daily Perth service was a tremendous boost for the state’s tourism industry. “Since it started flying to Perth in Aug 2002, Emirates has become a major player in West Australia’s international market,” Ms Buckland said. “In that time, Emirates’ services between Dubai and Perth have increased from four a week to 21, which represents a strong vote of confidence in West Australia as a holiday and business destination,” she added.

“With the extra flights and Emirates’ vast network Perth has a new level of one-stop connectivity to the world, and in particular WA’s key European and North American markets,” she concluded.

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Malaysia Promotes Kelantan As Cultural And Ecotourism Destination

Singapore, 5 March 2013: Kelantan, a state on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, is full of culture, natural attractions and delicious food. To bring the sights, sounds, tastes and aromas of Kelantan to life in Singapore, Tourism Malaysia has partnered with the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) and Firefly airline in a tourism programme specifically for the Singapore travel agents and media.

The Let’s Go to Kelantan, Malaysia, by Firefly programme will be held today at the Raffles City Convention Centre to promote Malaysia, and specifically Kelantan, as a destination for Singapore tourists as well as provide the Singapore tourism trade with an update on Kelantan’s tourist attractions.

The highlight of the event is the launching of the Firefly Tourism Packages by the Minister of International Trade and Industry, Dato’ Sri Mustapa Mohamed, who is the guest of honour at the event.

The programme will include an exhibition of Kelantan’s culture especially on batik painting and silversmithing; a seminar on Kelantan’s tourism products and a presentation by Firefly on its latest tourism packages. This will be followed by a buffet lunch of Kelantan cuisines and cultural performances for guests. The Ministry of International Trade and Industry is bringing in ten Kelantan companies to showcase their products during the event.

Some 500 guests comprising travel industry members, associations, travel media, guests from MITI, Firefly and High Commission of Malaysia in Singapore are expected to attend the seminar, which is part of Malaysia’s efforts to promote Visit Malaysia Year 2014; the nation hopes to bring in 28 million international tourists in 2014.

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Oman to Develop New Sports Complexes

MUSCAT, Mar 4 (NNN-ONA) – Sheikh Sa’ad bin Mohammed al-Mardhouf al-Sa’adi, Minister of Sports Affairs unveiled a tender to build new sports complexes in the Governorates of North A’Sharqiyah and South Al Batinah and the building of a sport stadium in the Governorate of Musandam and the expansion of Al Sa’ada Sports Complex in the Governorate of Dhofar.

The Sports Affairs Minister said that these new sports complexes will be an important addition to Omani sports, which reflect the great and continuous interest of the Sultanate’s Government for sports and youth sector under the Royal care of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said.

He added that there is a comprehensive strategy to build sports complexes and centres in all governorates of the Sultanate, affirming at the same time that these complexes must be in accordance with international standards, which will place the Sultanate on the international map.

He also said that these complexes and their multiple facilities will allow sports unions and clubs to host continental and international championships and domestic league matches and they will give young people the opportunity to practice different sports and youth activities.

Sheikh al-Sa’adi added that the Khasab Sports Complex will include a football stadium with an international measurements that accommodate up to 12,000 spectators and other sports and service facilities, such as fitness halls for men and women, noting that that the complex will be equipped with technical requirements for live-broadcast of sport activities, in addition to Sports Affairs Department building in the Governorate of Musandam.

For A’Rustaq Sports Complex in the Governorate of South Al Batinah, Sheikh Sa’ad bin Mohammed explained that the project will include a football stadium, hockey playing ground, a football training ground, 2 tennis courts, a covered Olympic pool and sports multi-purpose gymnasium, adding that the complex will be equipped with live-broadcast of sport activities, such as broadcasting requirements, fitness halls for men and women, management and sports medical centres.

He pointed out that football playing ground will be packed in accordance with international specifications and standards and will accommodate 17,000 spectators.

He added that the complex will initially contain two swimming pools according to Olympic measurements and accommodate up to 800 spectators. The covered gym will be according to international standards and is dedicated to handball, volleyball and basketball and will be equipped with auditoriums that can accommodate about 1,100 spectators.

As for Ibra Sports Complex in the Governorate of North A’Sharqiyah, Sheikh al-Sa’adi, explained that the project consists of a football stadium with international measurements and can accommodate up to 12,000 spectators and sport facilities and services, such as a conference room, fitness halls that will be equipped with TV live broadcast devices, in addition to the complex management building. Later a multi-purpose hall will be added as per international standards for handball, basketball and volleyball.

The Minister of Sports Affairs said that a tender will be floated soon for expansion of Al Sa’ada Sports Complex in the Governorate of Dhofar, as the second stage of the project. The seating capacity of the stadium will be doubled to 18,000 spectators in preparation for future increase to about 25,000, in addition to upgrading some utilities in the complex.– NNN-ONA

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Malaysia: RM600 Mln To Help Indigenous Entrepreneurs Go Global

KUALA LUMPUR, March 4 (NNN-Bernama) — The Malaysian Government will allocate RM600 million to further strengthen the position of Bumiputra (indigenous) entrepreneurs in efforts to boost their participation at the global stage, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said Monday.

In announcing the additional allocation, Najib said RM400 million would be managed by the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) in the Prime Minister’s Department. He said RM100 million would be handled by MARA for corporate development to increase Bumiputeras’ equity.

The remaining RM100 million would be disbursed to Perbadanan Usahawan Nasional Bhd (PUNB) to help Bumiputera entrepreneurs secure strategic business locations at popular shopping centres to sell international brand products and services, he said before opening the Bumiputera Entrepreneurs’ Assembly.

Najib, who is also Finance Minister, announced that the ceiling for loans for Bumiputera entrepreneurs under MARA and TEKUN has been raised to RM100,000 from RM50,000 currently. The Prime Minister also announced that the limit for financing under MARA has been increased to RM1 million from RM500,000 previously.

He said the EPU would use the additional fund to set up strategic programmes to help the entrepreneurs by adopting innovative approaches to expand their market and provide adequate infrastructure. Other than that, Najib said, the government encouraged the entrepreneurs to boost their performance and skills to become competitive and not just depend on government assistance to succeed.

Najib said if an entrepreneur was capable, there was no need for any endorsement from anybody as he was qualified to compete to bid for the project. “We do not want this type of entrepreneurs because if we were to give the contract to them based on endorsement, we will create a new culture among the Bumiputera entrepreneurs,” he said. He said Bumiputera entrepreneurs were awarded 45 per cent of the total value of the mass rapid transit projects based on merit.

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Malaysian Expertise Can Facilitate US$15 Bln Bangladesh Projects

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia March 7 (NNN-Bernama) — Investments and the expertise of Malaysian companies are much needed in various infrastructure and power generating projects worth US$15 billion in Bangladesh. In stating this, the President of the Bangladesh-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce & Industry Syed Nurul Islam said the government projects, can be through the participation of Malaysian companies via public-private partnerships (PPPs).

He said Malaysia’s expertise, proven through various landmark projects worldwide, is a critical need in uplifting Bangladesh’s infrastructure as well as power generation industry. He said among the projects is a 2,000-kilometre road venture and a power generation undertaking, to increase the power generated in the country by 2,000 megawatts to 10,000 megawatts.

“These investments are needed immediately. We prefer to give the projects to Malaysia as it is more of a business-friendly nation. Bangladesh is currently seeking to elevate itself to a middle-income nation. So, these infrastructure and power developments are crucially needed,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the “Business Opportunities in Bangladesh” seminar here today.

The event was organised by the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade). As of 2010, Malaysian investments in Bangladesh stood at US$25 million, mainly in the transport, telecommunication and manufacturing sectors. Earlier this week, Malaysia and Bangladesh reached a preliminary agreement on the final terms of implementation of the US$2.3 billion Padma Multipurpose Bridge project.

The Padma Bridge is a 6.15-kilometre multi-purpose road-rail bridge across the Padma River in Bangladesh and upon completion, it will be the country’s biggest infrastructure project to date. It will also be declared the largest bridge in the country.

Meanwhile, Matrade’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Zakaria Kamarudin said efforts are being made by both Malaysia and Bangladesh, to enhance trade activities between both countries. Specifically, he added, it is to increase the export of Bangladeshi products and services to Malaysia.

He said Malaysia’s total trade last year with Bangladesh, a country with a 152 million population, stood at US$1.57 billion. Exports from Bangladesh to Malaysia was only US$73.9 million.

“Although Malaysia’s import numbers from Bangladesh is very small, last year’s value was a jump of more than 80 per cent from previously. This indicates that businesses from both nations are looking forward to having more transactions,” he added.

Among Malaysia’s top exports to Bangladesh are refined petroleum products, palm oil as well as chemical and chemicals products. The top imports from Bangladesh are textiles and apparels, refined petroleum products as well as vegetables, roots and tubers.

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Iran exports Persian carpets to 70 countries despite sanctions

Mar 7, 2013 (PressTV) – A senior Iranian business official says the Islamic Republic has exported Persian carpets to 70 countries despite the obstacles that the US-engineered sanctions on Iran have created.

Mohammad Baqer Aqa-Alikhani, the chairman of Iran’s National Carpet Center, said on Wednesday, “Forty-five percent of Iran’s carpet is exported to Asian countries, 43 percent to European countries, and three percent to other countries.”

He added that the exports reached USD400 million in the first eleven months of the current Iranian calendar year (started March 20, 2012).

Aqa-Alikhani said although some of the Iranian markets were faced with difficulties due to the sanctions, the Islamic Republic could tackle those problems through taking effective measures for creating new markets.

The Iranian official further pointed out that China and Brazil were among the new markets of Iranian carpet and Tehran is also studying the markets of South Africa and Vietnam.

“Eight million people, who constitute 10 percent of Iran’s population, are active in the field of carpet industry,” Aqa-Alikhani stated.

Experts attribute the increasingly lucrative market for Persian carpet worldwide to its quality, color and design.

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Afghan women unleashing their business potential

by Nangyalai Attal

MAZAR-E-SHARIF, Afghanistan 01 March 2013 (ILO News) – Afghans have been immersed in a conflict that has affected every aspect of their ordinary lives. For Khalida Yaqobi, the conflict has been an obstacle, not an obstruction.

After graduating in engineering from Balkh University, she secretly studied English at a time when women seeking an education risked being executed by the Taliban. “I was studying English in a private house, without textbooks or notebooks, going in a burqa to a hidden English language course,” she says.

At first, she couldn’t get a job but things started to look up for the 35-year-old mother of two after the fall of the Taliban regime. In 2003, she was invited to follow an entrepreneurship and handicraft course for Afghan women, held at the ILO’s International Training Centre (ITC-ILO) in Turin, Italy, with funding assistance from the Italian government.

It was the first time Yaqobi had travelled outside Afghanistan. She was keen to learn new skills, and excited at the prospect of showing that Afghan women are committed to contribute – shoulder to shoulder with Afghan men – to the sustainable development of their country.

“I learned what business is and how to do marketing and how to start a business. The interesting topic was marketing – how to find customers – and that I did very well.” During the course they held an “Afghan night” for the public, and the 30 participants were put to the test. The other women had brought Afghan handicrafts to sell. All Yaqobi had was a roll of henna – traditional red dye.

“I rented two chairs, and when the programme started, guests came to me and asked, ‘what is thisg’ I explained and showed them how I had used henna on my hands. Then everybody came to do henna, including the media.”

Yaqobi was greatly inspired by what she learned at the ITC-ILO. She decided to become an entrepreneur, although many thought this was impossible for a woman in Afghanistan. Upon her return to the country, she founded Balkh Business Development Services, which focuses mainly on business planning, budgeting, English for business and information technology. She leads a team of 26 employees, and says her company is capable of managing projects worth millions of dollars.

Some 500 women have been trained by her organization, 200 of whom have started their own businesses. “By becoming entrepreneurs we are not only creating jobs for other women but moving from traditional customs to the 21st century,” she says.

According to Hervé Berger, the ILO representative for Afghanistan, Yaqobi’s example shows “what a little quality training, combined with determination, can do to improve lives.”

“Afghan women represent half of the untapped potential of Afghanistan. If even a fraction of that potential was unleashed, imagine how that would improve Afghanistan’s competitiveness vis-a-vis its competitors! The future of Afghanistan will be much brighter if Afghan women are given the opportunity to enter the labour market as skilled workers.”

Yaqobi herself believes thousands of Afghan women could benefit from business training, and she hopes the ILO will be able to help more young women in the country. Entrepreneurship training “will enable them to become more confident in making a decent life for themselves and their children, as I did for myself and so many others,” she says.

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2nd World Hajj & Umrah Convention 2013

The above event will be held at the Olympia Exhibitions Hall in London, UK, between 21-22 May 2013. Exhibitors are still invited for the event which is projected to attract over 300 buyers (delegates – Tour Operators) from different Islamic Countries. This is a Business to Business event only, Opportunities also available to provide services to Government Buyers from International Hajj Missions.

Rates for Exhibitors as follows:

18 SQM (Shell Scheme). GBP 7750.00 (Platinum Package).

12 SQM (Shell Scheme). GBP 5500.00 (Gold Package).

9 SQM (Shell Scheme). GBP 4600.00 (Silver Package).

6 SQM (Shell Scheme). GBP 3250.00 (Bronze Package).

Special discount on the above rates:

40% discount for booking during 10th February – 10th March 2013.

20% discount for booking during 11th March – 11th April 2013.

0 % discount for booking during 12th April – 12th May 2013.

For more information, please contact:

Mr. Mohsin Tutla, Sponsorship Manager, London – U.K., Mobile:+447424293514, mohsin@whuc.org

Mr. Motaz Othman, Exhibition Sales Manager, Amman – Jordan, Mobile:+962785557778, motaz.othman@whuc.org

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Czech Republic eager to boost tourism cooperation with Morocco

Prague – March 05, 2013 (MAP) – The Czech Republic is keen to promote cooperation with Morocco in the tourism sector, Minister of Tourism Lahcen Haddad said on Monday. In a statement to MAP after the signing, in Prague, of a cooperation agreement between the two countries on tourism, Haddad said his department seeks to increase the number of Czech tourists visiting Morocco to 20,000 people in 2013.

Morocco has a good reputation in the Czech Republic as a promising tourist destination, he said, noting that the Czech market offers great opportunities in the light of the emergence of a large middle class in this countries. Haddad added that many destinations will be open for Czech tourists through the development of air routes between Prague and Agadir. Under the said agreement, the two parties agree to exchange information and expertise in order to boost tourism, support participation in trade fairs in both countries, and organize tourist and gastronomy weeks.

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WB funds to develop Tunisian ecotourism, preserve desert biodiversity

A $ 4.72-million grant agreement was signed March 6, 2013, by Mr. Riadh Bettaieb, Minister of Investment and International Cooperation and Mrs. Eileen Murray, Resident Representative of the World Bank in Tunis.

This new donation will help promote the sustainable development of ecotourism in certain disadvantaged areas, and preserve the biodiversity and sustainability of desert wastelands in three national parks in the south, including the parks of Dghoumès (Governorate Tozeur) Jbil (Governorate of Kebili) and the national Park Bouhedma (Governorate of Sidi Bouzid).

The project will support activities that create jobs and generate income related to ecotourism development for communities, including farmers’ associations, women’s organizations, youth organizations and environmental NGOs, and through their participation in the preparation and implementation of management plans for parks and through training programs to enhance skills development.

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Japan provides $117 million for Afghanistan development projects

Kabul March 06, 2013 (BNA) The documents of four projects with the total value of USD117 million was signed by Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Japanese embassy in Kabul.

On the basis of this agreement standing ground for planes will be expanded and the power system in Kabul airport will be further expanded. Also, attention will be made on improving the roads, water supply of New Kabul City to be constructed and USD 34.6 million will be provided to finance ministry for purchase of petroleum products.

Talking at the signing ceremony Dr. Zalmai Rassoul said that Japan after the US is the biggest donor to Afghanistan in the past one decade and most of this country’s aid has been focusing on strengthening of government foundations, reconstruction and peace building.

The Japanese ambassador said that the aid provided is in addition to the USD3 billion committed by Japan for Afghanistan at the Tokyo conference, the document for which was signed today. He added that last week Japan has signed another agreement with the value of USD 200 million. He assured that the Japanese people and its government remains on the side of the people of Afghanistan.

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Troy ancient city to have own museum

ÇANAKKALE – Anatolia News Agency, March/09/2013 – Excavations at the site of the ancient city of Troy, in the northwestern province of Çanakkale, began over 150 years ago, yet experts believe two or three more centuries of work will be needed to fully discover it.

There is huge potential for further excavation at the site, Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University academic Rüstem Aslan told Anatolia news agency. “For the past 15 years, everyone has been discussing the dream of a Troy museum. The construction of the museum will start soon.”

Troy has been under excavation for 150 years by five different archeologists. “When digging first began in the soil of Troy, in 1863, the excavations were directed by Frank Calvert,” Aslan said. “It was later continued by German archaeologist Professor Manfred Osman Korfmann, in 1988. During that time the excavation area underwent huge changes.”

After Korfmann, Professor Ernst Pernicka took over the excavation works, but due to insufficient resources the excavation works stalled. Aslan said he himself had been involved in the excavations for 25 years.

Excavations at the site have also been carried out by foreign institutions. Germany’s Tübingen University has been conducting excavations since 1988, first headed by Professor Korfmann and then taken over by Professor Ernst Pernicka in 2005. The university halted excavations due to of financial problems in 2012.

During the time of Korfmann, The Troy Foundation managed to accumulate sufficient resources to support the excavations.

The long-running excavations are of great significance to the Aegean side of Turkey and its archeology, Aslan said, as Troy is the place where pre-history began. “Troy is the place where the first archeological data relating to Homer’s epic was found. This means that this is not a surreal ancient city; this is the birthplace of archeology,” he said.

In 1996 the area was turned into a national park, and in 1998 it was added to the list of UNESCO world heritage sites. Noting that it is possible to excavate the ruins of Troy for another 300 years, as many parts of the site are still yet to excavated.

Aslan said Troy would become a source of huge prestige for Turkey. “The area is very important and it will contribute to the tourism in Çanakkale and the western side of Turkey a lot,” he added. A recently published book of articles on Troy retraces the city’s excavation and its relation to Anatolian culture.

Articles by Manfred Osman Korfmann, the former head of excavations at Troy, have been collected in a book entitled “Troia Rüzgarı” (Troy Wind), published last year in Turkish, English and German.

Aslan said the articles in the book explain how the ancient city had been transformed from ruins into a tourism center, the as well as shedding light on the excavation process and the city’s ties with Anatolia.

The articles had previously been published in magazines but were not easily accessible. “They are hard to find and have been forgotten over time. This is why we thought that we should collect important articles by Korfmann, and especially select those focusing on the fact that Troy is a part of Anatolian culture.”

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Three giant Turkish firms Plan Global Markets Pursuit

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News, March/09/2013 – Turkey’s three largest conglomerates, Koç Holding, Sabancı Holding and Yıldız Holding, all posted lower-than-expected financial figures for 2012 due to slower economic growth in Turkey and falling demand in debt-choked Europe, which has been the traditional export market for Turkish goods. However, the three companies hope to get their incomes back on track in 2013 with new domestic and overseas projects.

Koç Holding, the largest of the three and also Turkey’s largest listed conglomerate, announced on March 8 its net profit had risen 9 percent to 2.3 billion Turkish Liras last year.

Koç, a backbone of the Turkish economy, undertook 10 percent of Turkey’s exports last year, and it hopes its outlook will improve next year, along with the Turkish economy.

The company had invested 4.9 billion lira in 2012, its highest investment level ever, despite slower Turkish economic growth, Chief Executive Turgay Durak said, adding they planned a record 6.8 billion lira of investment in 2013, much of it expected to be for the upgrade of its Tüpraş oil refining business.

“We expect growth dynamics to accelerate again in 2013 and for Turkey to grow by 4.5 percent,” Durak also said in an emailed statement.

Koç Holding’s consolidated sales rose to 77.5 billion lira from 69 billion, with every sector except automotive contributing to the growth.

Koç’s 2012 figures may not be as high as expected from a giant company of its size, but they appear to be higher than its archrival Sabancı Holding, the second largest company in Turkey, whose profits slipped by 1.2 percent to 1.86 billion liras from 2011’s 1.88 billion, despite sales rising by 9 percent to 11.6 billion liras.

The company’s fourth-quarter net profit was 657.3 million lira, up 93 percent, but this failed to save the overall figures.

“Despite the economic growth slowdown in Turkey hitting corporate profits last year, Sabancı exceeded its targets,” Sabancı Chief Executive Zafer Kurtul said. The company is holding its breath for higher growth helped by new projects in 2013.

“Our hydropower plant projects will become operational in 2013 and 2014 and will make a significant contribution to our income and profitability in the coming years,” Kurtul said. Initial public offerings for energy unit Enerjisa and insurer Avivasa will boost Sabancı share values further, he added, without specifying dates for these.

Meanwhile, despite raising its net profit by 78.9 percent, Turkey’s largest food group Yıldız Holding also eyes to stimulate its growth which remained at modest levels last year since “it it was a year to set its house in order,”as Chief Financial Officer Cem Karakaş expressed.

“So (sales) growth was 6-10 percent in 2012. This year growth should be double-digit,” Karakaş said.

Having exhausted growth opportunities at home, Yıldız has set its sights on doubling its overseas sales within five years, its executives told Reuters on March 7.

Ülker says it is aiming for overseas sales of $2 billion by 2018, more than double 2011’s $790 million, with western China, sub-Saharan Africa and Central Asia. Yildiz already has a 50 to 60 percent share in some categories of the food market in Turkey, CFO said.

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AzerTAc employees study Chinese language

Baku, March 2 (AzerTAc). Employees of the Azerbaijan State Telegraph Agency (AzerTAc) have an opportunity to study the Chinese language. A course of study of the Chinese language conducted by Ms. Hu Fenghua, director of the Confucius Institute functioning at the Baku State University started in the Agency.

Before the first lesson, responsible editor of AzerTAc Nargiz Sadikhli reported that the courses are held at the initiative of the Confucius Institute and supported by the Director General of AzerTAc Aslan Aslanov. Noting that these studies are the first Chinese language courses for Azerbaijani journalists, Sadikhli said that the Chinese language is the most widely spoken language in the world with a total of over a billion people, and one of the six official and working languages of the United Nations.

“The relations between Azerbaijan and China have always been at high level. Special achievements in their establishment and development belong to the national leader of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev. Relations of friendship and cooperation between the two countries, founded by this prominent politician, are now successfully continued by the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev”, she stressed.

“The journalists, too, make their contribution to the development of relations between the two countries. In December last year, in the building AzerTAc, it was arranged a photo exhibition of Chinese News Agency Xinhua, titled “China – the friendship that comes from the East” and dedicated to the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Azerbaijan and China. One of the organizers of the exhibition was the Confucius Institute”, underlined N. Sadikhli, who expressed confidence that current courses will also be another bridge between Azerbaijan and China. She also noted that the opening of the courses coincided with the day of establishment of AzerTAc. Just it was March 1, 1920, when the Government of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic made a decision on the establishment of the Azerbaijani Telegraph Agency.

Ms. Hu Fenghua noted with satisfaction that in Azerbaijan there is a great interest in learning the Chinese language, and described the features of this language. As stated, the lessons will be held once a week.

In Azerbaijan, the Confucius Institute functions since April 2011, at the Baku State University as the Azerbaijan-China Education and Research Center, based at the University’s Oriental Studies Faculty. It promotes full and continuous cycle of learning the Chinese language, beginning with learning the basics of the Chinese language and ending with fluent language in accordance with international standards, introduces students to the ethnography, ethno-psychology and philosophical schools of China, peculiarities of calligraphy, traditional faiths, culinary traditions, martial arts and Chinese traditional medicine.

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Agreement signed For Restoration Of Medina Of Fez

FEZ, MOROCCO, March 5 (NNN-MAP) — Morocco’s King Mohammed VI Monday presided over the signing ceremony of agreements at the city’s R’cif Square relating to the restoration and rehabilitation of historical monuments and addressing buildings in danger of collapse within the old medina of the city.

Fez, second largest city of Morocco with a population of approximately one million (2010), is the capital of the Fès-Boulemane region and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its medina is believed to be the world’s largest contiguous car-free urban area.

Also to be found in Fez is Al-Qarawiyyin, founded in AD 859, the oldest continuously functioning madrasa in the world. The city has been called the “Mecca of the West” and the “Athens of Africa”.

At Monday’s signing ceremony, Housing, Urban Planning and Urban Policy Minister Mohamed Nabil Benabdellah made a presentation on the programme of restoration and rehabilitation of historical monuments of the old medina of Fez, action carried out since 2004 to preserve the old medina of Fez and those provided for under the new programme to handle buildings in danger of collapse (the old medina and Mechouar Fez Jdid).

The minister added that in accordance with the Royal guidelines for actions to be carried out to preserve the city of Fez, a participatory approach was adopted between the relevant government departments and local stakeholders, which culminated in the development of two programmes, respectively the restoration and rehabilitation of historical monuments, and handling buildings in danger of collapse in the old medina of Fez.

The historical monuments restoration programme will mobilize investments of about 285.5 million dirhams (about 33.5 million USD), said the minister, who noted that the programme provided for the rehabilitation of five madrasas, four Borjs, three Foundouks, three tanneries, two walls, two bridges and eight various monuments.

The various actions set under this programme will contribute to strengthening tourist visits to the old medina, improving the built area, enhancing socio-economic development of the city and preserving the authentic character of this age-old city, recorded in 1981 as World Heritage of Humanity by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), he added.

As for the programme to handle buildings in danger of collapse in the ancient fabric, he stressed that the actions carried out since 2004 had resulted in relocating 476 households, shoring up 1,592 buildings and reinforcing 283 others.

The new programme, which covers the period 2013-2017, concerns handling 3,666 buildings in danger of collapse in the old medina, he said. The 330-million dirham (about 38.7 million USD) action plan, the minister pointed out, provided for the demolition of 143 buildings and handling 1,586 buildings classified as dangerous (1st degree).

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Air Arabia takes delivery of second aircraft in 2013

Sharjah, Mar 09th, 2013 (WAM)–Air Arabia today announced that it has taken delivery of its second Sharklet equipped Airbus A320 aircraft in 2013. Last month, Air Arabia took delivery of A320 equipped with Sharklet wing tip devices, becoming the first carrier in the Middle East to do so. Sharklets are an option on new-build Airbus A320 family aircraft, which are equipped with fuel-saving large wing tip devices.

Air Arabia has now received 16 of the 44 A320 aircraft it has ordered from Airbus in 2007. Once completed in 2016, the order will more than double the size of Air Arabia’s existing fleet. The low-cost pioneer expects four more aircraft to be delivered in 2013.

The carrier took delivery of its latest A320 at the Airbus facility in Tolouse, and the new aircraft has gone straight into service across Air Arabia’s global network of 84 destinations, which it serves from three hubs in UAE, Morocco and Egypt.

“Barely a month after receiving the region’s first sharklet equipped aircraft, we are pleased to take delivery of the second aircraft as per the fleet plan schedule,” said, Adel Ali, Group Chief Executive Officer, Air Arabia. “The delivery of the new aircraft marks yet another step in Air Arabia’s fleet expansion strategy, while creating the industry’s most modern fleet. We look forward to the delivery of four more aircraft this year as we continue to expand our footprint in the wider Arab world and beyond.” WAM/MN

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Etihad Airways Appoints More UAE Nationals Across Its Global Network

Abu Dhabi, 4 March 2013, (WAM)– Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has appointed 34 Emirati employees to key roles across the airline’s global network.

The UAE Nationals were appointed as Airport and Airport Duty Managers in 25 destinations across Europe, the United States, Middle East, South East Asia and the Pacific region.

Most of these appointments are part of the Airport Operations Management Program, a structured three-year training initiative that develops talented Emiratis who are carefully selected and trained in all aspects of airport operations.

The program is underpinned by a recognized International Air Transport Association Diploma aimed at elevating the aviation knowledge and experience of the airport graduate managers and, as a result, helping them build their careers in the aviation industry.

The international appointments are based on the business needs of the airline and the capabilities of the staff. This means that high-performing employees are assigned to busy destinations where they can gain even more exposure and face more challenges, it said in a statement.

“The expertise of Emirati staff is crucial to the growth of our airline. These appointments are part of our strategy to attract and develop top Emirati talent for key roles in our expanding global network,” said Captain Richard Hill, Etihad Airways’ Chief Operations Officer.

The Etihad Airways Emiratisation program continues to grow with an increasing number of Emiratis working in senior roles at the airline within Abu Dhabi and across Etihad’s expanding network.

The program offers a wide range of training opportunities for UAE Nationals, including a cadet pilot scheme, a contact center development program, a technical engineering development program and a graduate management development program.

Currently Etihad Airways has more than 1,200 UAE nationals employed in various jobs spanning the spectrum of its operations.

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News from Algeria

(APS) Thursday 7 March 2013, ALGIERS- A collective painting exhibition entitled “Women’s Equinox,” displaying the paintings of 28 female painters, including illustrious names, was inaugurated Wednesday at the National Museum of Fine Arts in Algiers.

(APS) Friday 8 March 2013 ALGIERS- About one hundred paintings by six Algerian visual artists of different generations are exhibited in Algiers, in a collective exhibition entitled “Female palette” on the occasion of the International Women’s Day.

(APS) Thursday 7 March 2013 LONDON (UK)- A Sahrawi Cultural Week will be organized in London from April 20 to 27 by the charitable organization “Sandblast” which militates in favour of the Sahrawi human rights and culture, said Wednesday the event’s organizers.

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ISESCO, BADEA launch women’s project to boost small income generation

Rabat 08/03/2013 – The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), jointly with the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA), has initiated the implementation of a socio-economic project for the empowerment of 200 African women in the management techniques of small income-generating projects. The benefiting women belong to Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Niger and Togo.

The project aims at enhancing employment opportunities for African poor women and helping them improve their families’ living conditions through managing small income-generating projects.

The project features a series of workshops on (Importance of small projects in combating poverty and developing national economy), (Enhancing knowledge and techniques on management of small income-generating projects), and (Enhancing employment opportunities for poor women).

Under ISESCO’s supervision, local experts will, with the technical support of international experts in microfinance, run these workshops dedicated to local development.

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2nd OIC Tourism Fair To Be Held in Cairo

The Islamic Centre for Development of Trade (ICDT) and the “Egypt Expo & Convention Authority” (EECA) will organize under the auspices of the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism the 2nd Tourism Fair of the OIC Member States from 19th-22nd March 2013 in Cairo under the theme ” OIC Tourism : Meeting Point of Peace and Tolerance”.

The objective of this fair is to further strengthen cooperation among the OIC Member States in the tourism sector, promote the historic monuments and tourist sites of Member States and encourage investment in this sector.

The price per square meter of exhibition space has been set as follows:

The square meter equipped (shelf scheme): 200 US$.

The square meter is not equipped (indoor barespace): 190 US$.

For more information or booking, Kindly contact:

Mr. Ahmed El-Dib

Head of Central Department for External Exhibitions and Fairs

Egypt Export and Convention Authority (EECA) Fair Ground, Nasr City

P.O BOX: 11783, Cairo / Egypt

Phone : + 202 2260 7847

Mobile : + 202 41 80 563

Fax : +202 2260 7845 / 48

E-mail: aeldib@cairoexpocity.com / aeldib2002@yahoo.com / info@cairofair.com

Web site: www.cairofair.com / www.cairoexpocity.com

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1st OIC Commercial Handicrafts Exhibition To Be held in Morocco

Morocco will organize in collaboration with the Islamic Centre for Development of Trade (ICDT) and “La Maison de l’Artisan” of the Kingdom of Morocco and the “Office des Foires et Expositions de Casablanca (OFEC)”, the 1st Commercial Handicrafts Exhibition of the OIC Member States on 11-14 April 2013 in the Exhibitions Grounds of the “Office des Foires et Expositions de Casablanca (OFEC)”.

This Exhibition will be attended by the actors of the Handicrafts sector (handicraftsmen, services providers, professional associations,…) in the OIC Member States seeking business and partnership opportunities. This event constitutes an opportunity for the enterprises and actors of the sector to promote their productions through a professional exhibition that will gather within a common exhibition space, the handicraftsmen, the countries of the OIC endowed with a well-established reputation in the handicrafts sector and the finance Institutions to foster intra-OIC trade and investments in this domain.

The price per square meter of exhibition space has been set as follows:

Equipped square meter (shelf scheme): 150 US$

Not equipped square meter (indoor bare space): 120 US$

For more information or booking:

Tel: +212 522 201 157 / 522 200 654 Fax:+212 522 264 949

Email: contac@ofec.ma, Web site : www.ofec.ma

Islamic Centre for Development of Trade (ICDT)

Tours des Habous, 11th Floor, Av des F.A.R P.O Box : 13545

Casablanca 20 000 / Kingdom of Morocco

Tel: +212 522 314 974 – Fax: +212 522 310 110

Email: icdt@icdt-oic.org,

Web site: www.icdt-oic.org

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Oman Air makes Business Class seat “talk”

Coinciding with the ITB Berlin tourism fair, which ran from 6th to 10th March 2013, the national carrier of the Sultanate of Oman, building on the popularity of its spacious and comfortable Business Class seat, made it a fun and engaging character in a two-phase Facebook campaign.

Wayne Pearce, Chief Executive Officer of Oman Air, comments, “Social media offers Oman Air the opportunity to engage with our customers and the world at large in a more personal, informal and often more effective way. As an airline that is built around the renowned and ancient Omani tradition of warm hospitality, we take pride in building lasting relationships with air travellers and this campaign helped us strengthen links with today’s customers, and those of tomorrow.”

Mohammed Mubarak Al Shikely, General Manager Marketing of Oman Air, adds, “Facebook is a great way to communicate customers, but to do this effectively, we need to make it both informative and fun in order to keep our audience engaged.

This initiative enabled both Oman Air’s fans and others to interact with our Business Class seat in a fun way on our Facebook page. The aim is to build and sustain strong relationships between Oman Air and our air travellers around the world.”

The first phase of the campaign saw Oman Air post a picture of the Business Class seat character on the airline’s international Facebook page. The picture featured the seat inviting its fans to suggest a name for it. The winner will win one Business Class ticket to any destination within the Oman Air route network.

In the second phase of the campaign, users will be able to make the seat smile with a click of their mouse, and send it on a holiday to the Sultanate of Oman, where it will continue to explore the country. Every participant will also be offered the opportunity to win a Business Class ticket to Oman and personally test the comfort of the seat.

By engaging Facebook users in this interactive campaign and sending the seat on its digital journey, Oman Air also aims to increase awareness and understanding of Oman as a unique and awe-inspiring destination.

The campaign was created by Oman Air’s German PR agency, Munich-based C.O.M.B.O. Communications, in cooperation with Oman Air´s digital solutions agency Havas Worldwide, based in Muscat. The artwork was produced by art director Mathias Vetterlein, from the longsunday design studio in Munich.

In order to boost the social media campaign, Oman Air plans to use a variety of channels, including pro-actively addressing travel-bloggers and partners within and beyond the tourism industry who can help raise awareness of the promotion by using their own Facebook profiles and external links.

“This campaign is a key part of our digital marketing strategy for 2013, which aims to give our social media presence a more personal feel”, adds Mohammed Al Shikely. “Within this people-focused framework, we are going to place increased emphasis on the individuals and faces behind the company, as well as strengthening relationships with bloggers around the world.”

The link to Oman Air Business Class seat campaign on Facebook can be found in https://www.facebook.com/omanair.

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Qatar Airways to move to new airport by year-end

Saudi Gazette – 08 March, 2013 – Qatar Airways Group will move to Hamad International Airport in Doha toward the year-end, Gulf News said on Thursday, quoting the airline company’s CEO Akbar Al-Baker.

The $15.5b Hamad International Airport, also known as New Doha International Airport, to be managed and operated by Qatar Airways will receive first passengers on April 1, when the facility will be opened to a dozen airlines that don’t require lounge utilization. Initially, Hamad International Airport will have a handling capacity of some 28 million passengers a year, increasing to 50 million in its final phase of development beyond 2015, Gulf News said.

The current airport (Doha International Aiport) will remain open to passenger services until Qatar Airways moves its entire operations to the new facility by the year-end, Al-Baker told the newspaper.

Al-Baker said Qatar Airways was looking forward to becoming a fully-fledged member of oneworld, the first of the major Gulf carriers to announce intentions to join a global airline alliance.

He said: “These are exciting times for Qatar Airways and Qatar. The opening of Hamad International Airport, our new home, will be a formidable milestone in the country’s relatively short history in the aviation industry.

“This is an airport being watched closely by industry observers around the world, an airport that will set the standards and benchmark globally in the quality of facilities, services and finishings, not seen anywhere in the world.

“We look forward to welcoming the first airlines next month followed soon after by cargo operations and freighter flights moving across to Hamad International Airport. Qatar Airways will move its entire operations to the new airport by the year-end.”

Highlights of the new facility include more than 40,000 square meter of retail space and passenger lounges, some 41 contact gates, dedicated gates for the Airbus A380 superjumbo, a VVIP terminal, an iconic mosque, cargo complex and two runways, one being the longest in the world, and much more, Gulf News said.

Al-Baker told the paper: “The new airport is an architectural masterpiece that promises to be a great new travel experience, meeting the exciting expansion plans for Qatar Airways, which currently operates some 121 aircraft to 125 destinations worldwide. Within three years, we will surpass 170 aircraft flying to more than 170 destinations.

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Riyadh to undergo SR 278 bn face-lift

Arab News – 07 March, 2013 – The Riyadh Development Authority (RDA) yesterday approved a comprehensive plan to overhaul the capital city, keeping wide, open areas in the city center and building a ring road around them.

“The project will bring about a facelift of downtown Riyadh and make it an outstanding historic, administrative, economic and cultural center in the Kingdom,” said Ibrahim Al-Sultan, a member of the RDA and head of its center for projects and planning.

He was speaking to reporters after an RDA meeting in Riyadh, which was chaired by Riyadh Gov. Prince Khaled bin Bandar and attended by Deputy Gov. Prince Turki bin Abdullah.

Al-Sultan said the plan also includes development of housing projects in the city center and pedestrian pathways that would enhance the look of the city and make it more comfortable for citizens and residents.

“The central region will have three main railway lines and several bus routes,” he said. It will also house the main railway station, which will be part of the city’s public transport system.

“We’ll create a new cultural, heritage and tourism route, beginning from the King Abdul Aziz Historical Center to the Government Palace (Qasr Al-Hukm),” the official said.

Saudis and expatriates in Riyadh have welcomed the plan to develop the city center, saying it would ease traffic and make it more environmentally friendly.

Al-Sultan said 3,088 development projects worth SR 278 billion are being implemented in different parts of the Riyadh region.

Sixty-two agencies have been authorized to follow up on the implementation of these projects. These agencies will also generate proposals for the development of the region and ways to remove obstacles facing development. They will present regular progress reports to the governor.

The RDA meeting approved the rules and regulations for the development of Wadi Haneefa and surrounding valleys. The project aims to make use of the area as a tourist and amusement center while protecting its agricultural and heritage sites.

The meeting also reviewed the region’s investment climate and highlighted its various investment opportunities, Al-Sultan said.

There was a visual presentation of the public transport system for Riyadh city, including two networks for trains and buses. The meeting discussed RDA’s preparations to implement the public transport project while reviewing its specifications, administrative and technical aspects and routes.

Four international consortia are competing to build a metro network in Riyadh. They include 33 companies from 15 countries.

The bidders for the project include Vinci and Alstom of France, Italy’s Ansaldo, Canada’s Bombardier, Germany’s Siemens and Stadler Bussnang of Switzerland. Six lines of electric rail, totaling 175 km, are planned across Riyadh to serve the airport and the King Abdullah Financial District currently under construction.

The RDA indicated that it might award the contract to more than one consortium considering the project’s huge size.

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Qatar has become tourism spot for families: Official

The Peninsula – 08 March, 2013 – With its rich and authentic cultural offerings and safe and welcoming atmosphere, Qatar has become the destination of choice for families, which is reflected in the increase in the number of family visitors in 2012, said Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) Chairman Issa Al Mohannadi.

Qatar is also an established destination for business in the Meetings Initiatives and Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) sector and will continue to be a hub of international sports with an increasingly significant role to play in the region and on the international stage, Al Mohannadi told The Qatar News Agency on the sidelines of an ITB exhibition in Berlin.

Al Mohannadi said that the QTA is about to finish its new tourism strategy, noting that the authority was keen to take into consideration all remarks of the concerned parties inside and outside Qatar.

“QTA sees ITB as an all-important event to showcase Qatar and all our stakeholders as we develop a new tourism strategy for the country that looks to raise awareness of all that Qatar has to offer in Europe and further afield” said Al Mohannadi.

The new strategy is being developed in collaboration with Qatar Airways, the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage, Katara Cultural Village and the Qatar Museums Authority. “The first phase of the strategy will extend until 2016 … and this phase will form a leap in achieving such a strategy,” said Al Mohannadi.

“It will be followed by a second phase which ends before Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup, whereas the third stage copes with Qatar National Vision 2030,” said Al Mohannadi.

He said QTA saw ITB Berlin as an opportunity to outline the major development of tourism infrastructure taking place in Doha and highlight latest developments.

“With the opening of several major hotels and many more under construction in the country, Qatar is ready to welcome the world to its shores.

“QTA has also staged cultural festivals and supported several international business events and sports fixtures to underline the country’s appeal,” said Al Mohannadi.

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flydubai to operate flights to Salalah from May 21

Oman Daily Observer – 06 March, 2013 – Dubai-based budget carrier flydubai yesterday announced the start of its new route to Salalah, expanding its presence in the Sultanate of Oman. Flights to Salalah will begin on May 21 and operate three times a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

flydubai started operations to the capital, Muscat, in 2010. The new route expands flydubai’s GCC network to 14 destinations, underlining the carrier’s commitment to supporting business ties and leisure traffic between Dubai and the neighbouring region.

Commenting on the launch of the new route, flydubai’s CEO, Ghaith al Ghaith, said: “Oman was flydubai’s third GCC destination, and we look forward to strengthening the relationship between the UAE and Oman by offering passengers a quality, affordable travel option.” Salalah, located on the Indian Ocean, is the second largest city in Oman. It is well known for its natural diversity as the vast coastline blends with the rocky mountains, offering a perfect location for the outdoor enthusiast.

The annual Salalah Tourism Festival, which is held between July and August, welcomes more than 1.8 million visitors from all over the world. During these months, visitors enjoy cooler climates which sets it apart from the neighbouring countries. “We are very excited about adding Salalah to our network. The two hour flight makes this popular city even more accessible and thanks to our convenient flight schedule, the new route will offer passengers a less stressful way to get to a perfect weekend getaway spot without the need for a long commute by car,” added Ghaith al Ghaith.

Flights to Salalah will operate three times a week and will commence on May 21, 2013. FZ093 departs Dubai Terminal 2 on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 1620 hours, landing in Salalah Airport at 1820 hours local time. The return flight, FZ040, departs at 1920 hours, arriving in Dubai at 2130 hours local time. Round trip fares from Dubai to Salalah start at AED 1,000 and fares from Salalah to Dubai start at RO 105. Fares include one piece of hand luggage weighing up to 7 kg and one small laptop bag or hand bag. Checked baggage starts at AED 50 ($ 14) for 20 kgs. A seat with extra legroom costs AED100 ($ 28) extra.

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Malaysian state of Kelantan has more to offer to S’pore tourists

SINGAPORE, March 6 (NNN-Bernama) — Kelantan has much to offer in environmental attraction, to lure Singapore tourists to the state. Malaysian High Commissioner to Singapore Md Hussin Nayan said Singaporeans loved to tour places rich in unspoilt natural environment.

“Kelantan, which is largely untapped, has huge potential to draw tourists from the island nation.

“We need to plan well to make Kelantan an attractive holiday destination,” he told a Kelantan investment and tourism mission here yesterday.

The mission, led by International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed, was also participated by Tourism Malaysia’s domestic marketing division director Musa Yusof and the tourism minister’s special advisor, Sulaiman Ismail.

Md Hussin said, there was no need for tourism agencies in Kelantan to fret about attracting tourists from this country, so long as it was well planned.

“Through Firefly, there are four flights a week to Kelantan to facilitate the promotion,” he added.

He said Singaporeans were quite bored with looking at the concrete jungle and wanted a different environment for recreation.

Md Hussin said, Kelantanese food could also be another attraction for Singaporeans to try out the unique culture in the state.

He hoped more Malaysians, including Kelantanese, open up more restaurants in the country.

For the investment mission, four chefs from Hotel Renaissance Kota Baharu were specially brought in to prepare East Coast delicacies such as ‘Nasi Dagang’, which was served to investors and tourism industry players here.

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Qatar Airways flight to boost Cambodia tourism

The Peninsula – 02 March, 2013 – Cambodia expects the new flight from Doha to Phnom Penh launched on February 20 by Qatar Airways will bring in more visitors from emerging markets in Europe and Asia.

Coincidently, the number of visitors that travelled to and from Cambodia from the Middle East saw an increase of 21.4 percent in 2012, reaching 1,082.

However, an official from Cambodia Airports said that Qataris and people from the Gulf countries (or even from the Middle East) have not yet appeared significantly on their radar as visitors.

The European continent has always been a dominant traffic contributor into Cambodia, especially from France, Germany, and the UK.

At the same time, awareness about Cambodia is steadily spreading across other European countries, such as Russia and Italy, said Patrine Tay, Marketing and Sales Director of Cambodia Airports.

He added: “Doha is strategically located to capture the connecting traffic. We are optimistic that Qatar’s connectivity will open up new and emerging markets across both continents.”

Local hospitality establishments were very optimistic about the new connection with Doha. Nevertheless, the number of Qatari or Middle Eastern clients is still very low in the small five-star offer of the Cambodian capital, which includes three hotels.

In the tourist city of Siem Reap, widely known for its temples, the number of high range hotels is higher but the figures regarding visitors from the region is also low, with Asia and Europe being the strongest markets for this destination, which according to an official from a local travel agency, will also be benefited from the Doha-Phnom Penh flight.

Qatar Airways became the only Middle Eastern airline flying to the South East Asian nation. During a ceremony in Cambodia, Qatar Airway’s CEO, Akbar Al Baker, said that it was in the airline’s plans to implement a direct flight between the two capitals, given that the current one stops in Ho Chi Minh city.

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Jeddah Islamic Port making its mark as a global shipping hub

Arab News – 04 March, 2013 – The Jeddah Islamic Port ranks among the top 100 global ports annually. In fact, the establishment of an integrated project will ensure the presence of a security system that fills any gaps or security breaches at a financial cost of SR 15.98 million.

Capt. Saher bin Musa Altahlawi, general manager of the Jeddah Islamic Port, confirmed that the port entered the competition more than a decade ago and became classified as a regional and global hub port, as well as assuming a high ranking position among the most important 100 international ports annually.

In an exclusive interview with Nadim Al-Hamid of Arab News, Altahlawi revealed that the port currently has the energy and operational capacity to meet growing demand for its services over the next five years and can meet the requirements to handle more than 7 million containers and more than 130 million tons of various goods. He also pointed out that the capacity and actual operational levels reached 70 percent of all containers and 58 percent worth of the tons of various goods at the end of last year.

The statement came in a bit to deny rumors circulating in local media sources indicating that the port is suffering from an overpopulation of goods. According to Altahlawi, this accounts for only part of the truth.

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Oman tourism ministry opens office in Riyadh

Saudi Gazette – 04 March, 2013 – The Ministry of Tourism in Oman has announced that it has set up a representative office in Riyadh, that will tap the Kingdom’s image as a major outbound market in the GCC region.

The average spending of Saudi tourists overseas ranks among the highest in the world. Another key factor in the decision to open the new office cited by the Ministry is the preference of Saudi travelers to take trips as a large family group.

The Ministry’s new office will improve destination brand awareness among Saudi nationals and secure more participation in major local tourism and travel exhibitions and events held in the Kingdom. Oman’s tourism sector will also benefit from joint marketing activities targeting the main holiday seasons.

The Riyadh office will directly report to the Dubai office of Oman’s Ministry of Tourism and will take charge of planning for KSA-targeted yearly marketing and activities.

“Our new Saudi presence will help Oman’s hospitality and tourism stakeholders gain a firmer foothold on the Kingdom’s outbound travel market, which is considered one of the most attractive in the world. The Riyadh office will also immensely improve communications with Saudi travel players who will learn more about the authentic Arabian experience Oman offers. Moreover, our new office paves the way for more solid joint sales and marketing ventures between Omani and Saudi interests,” said Maitha Al Mahrouqi, Undersecretary, Oman Ministry of Tourism.

In 2012, travel guide publisher Lonely Planet named Muscat as the Second Best City to visit in the world.

The city was also chosen as the Capital of Arab Tourism for 2012 in honor of the diversity of its environment and its particular focus on cultural tourism. Oman’s Ministry of Tourism is pursuing stronger ties with key travel markets in the region such as Saudi Arabia to sustain the momentum and maintain Oman’s claim as a must-visit destination in the Middle East.

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Etihad Airways launches new global advertising campaign

Saudi Gazette – 04 March, 2013 – Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE, has launched a new global brand advertising campaign, which started March 3 when its new television commercial (TVC) was aired.

With the theme “The World Is Our Home, You Are Our Guest”, the airline’s first major campaign in three years will be supported regional and international TV, print, outdoor, and digital media advertising.

The campaign reinforces the airline’s “guest” proposition and explains how Etihad Airways draws inspiration from around the world to provide industry-leading ‘signature moments’ on the ground and in the air.

Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways’ Chief Commercial Officer, said: “This is our first brand advertising in many years. Having focused on product innovation and service excellence, the time is now right to make a bold and confident brand statement to the world.

“This is not a rebranding exercise, but a continuation of our brand story drawing from the values of our home in Abu Dhabi and our inspiration from around the world.”

The concept for the TVC, which is central to the campaign, was created by Etihad Airways’ international advertising agency, M&C Saatchi, and was produced by Rogue Films in London. David Edwards directed the TVC which was filmed in Abu Dhabi, Bangkok, Prague and Sydney between mid-December 2012 and mid-January 2013.

The split screen technique used in the TVC juxtaposes the airline’s award-winning onboard service with lifestyle scenes from international destinations, fine dining restaurants and five star hotels around the world. This illustrates how the airline has established itself as a world leader in the provision of hospitality services by benchmarking itself against best-in-class hospitality establishments rather than other airlines.

The TVC uses high production values and a soundtrack of Bobby Darin’s 1967 classic, “Beautiful Things” to create a visually stunning TVC that brings to life the flair, glamour and inspiration of Etihad Airways and its home of Abu Dhabi.

It also highlights the airline’s dedication to sourcing the best products and ingredients from around the world to provide ‘signature’ and ‘outstanding as standard’ service to all its guests.

Meanwhile, Etihad Airways has concluded a transaction with Jet Airways to purchase the Indian carrier’s three pairs of Heathrow slots for $ 70 million. The purchase is part of a sale and lease back agreement signed last month. Jet Airways will continue to operate flights to London utilizing these slots.

The deal further strengthens the existing commercial relationship, which came into effect in July 2008, making provision for codesharing between the two airlines.

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Turkey, KSA to boost trade

Saudi Gazette – 05 March, 2013 – Turkish Economy Minister Zafer Caglyan signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the members of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) on March 2 during a recent visit to Saudi Arabia, in a move to build more economic bridges in the Islamic world by boosting trade and investment among the parties. Caglayan called for Turkish contractors to take a share from Saudi Arabian infrastructure investments in order to reach $ 1 trillion in 20 years.

The MoU signed by Caglayan and the head of the IDB, Ahmed Muhammed Ali El Medeni, includes the detection of fields of cooperation between the countries to encourage bilateral trade and investments. The trade finance instruments and compliant insurance products will be developed to introduce new trade opportunities between financial institutions of IDB members and Turkey. The Turkish investors’ insurance against political risks in IDB member countries will be incented, according to the protocol. In a bid to enhance the bilateral relationship further, Caglayan also gathered with Saudi businessmen, making the opening remarks at the Turkey-Saudi Arabia Business Forum.

In his speech, the Turkish minister said Turkish businesspeople should seek opportunities in infrastructure projects in Saudi Arabia, where investments reaching $1 trillion for the next 20 years are planned. In his remarks, he praised the work of Turkish contractors in projects around the world and said they would bring and use their expertise in Saudi Arabian projects as well.

Caglayan also invited Saudi businesspeople to come to Turkey for investment, saying that his country had made major improvements in the investment environment with a new package of incentives.

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Japan to finance construction of Nacala port in Mozambique

MAPUTO, March 6 (NNN-AIM) — The Mozambican and Japanese governments have signed an agreement under which Japan will provide a loan of 889 million yen for the first phase of the development project for the northern Mozambican port of Nacala. The agreement was signed here Monday by Mozambique’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Eduardo Koloma, and Japanese Ambassador to Mozambique Eiji Hashimoto.

The first phase includes dredging the north quay, and expanding and paving the container terminal to raise the capacity of the terminal from the current 89,000 containers to 240,000 containers a year.

The project should also lead to an increase in the number of ships calling at Nacala from the current 75 a year to about 180 a year. Speaking at the agreement signing ceremony, Koloma said that improving Nacala port was one of the government’s major priorities. He hoped that Mozambique would be able to count on continuing Japanese support, not only for port infrastructure, education and health, but also for the prevention and management of natural disasters.

Hashimoto said that the development of the port would contribute to accelerating Mozambique’s development, and also facilitate the trade of landlocked countries such as Malawi and Zambia.

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Nigeria: Benin Airport Set for Commissioning

7 March 2013 – Daily Trust – Lagos — The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria will tomorrow commission the remodeled Benin Airport terminal in Benin City, Edo state. The airport is the third to be commissioned among the 11 airports listed under the first phase of the Airport Remodelling Project.

The two already commissioned are the Murtala Muhammed Airport Domestic Terminal 1, on October 22, 2012 and the General Aviation Terminal of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja on January 21st, 2013.

The remaining eight airports under the first phase, that is Kano, Yola, Kaduna, Calabar, Enugu, Jos, Owerri and Port Harcourt, which are at various stages of completion, will soon be commissioned, FAAN said. The second phase of the project involving the remaining 11 airports in the country is expected to commence by mid 2013.

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Nigeria to Celebrate Culture Week in China – Minister

3 March 2013 – Daily Trust – The Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke has said that with the success recorded by Nigeria during the culture week held in Beijing, China, last year, the cultural event is going to be an annual one.

The minister disclosed this yesterday during a meeting with the Chinese Culture experts from Jiang Shu Nanjing, China.

Duke noted that the cultural and educational co-operation between the two countries, which was signed in 1990, have been vibrant, as made evident by series of exchanges in the fields of music, dance, exhibition, capacity training for cultural experts, cultural troupes, arts and crafts.

He said, “These exchanges significantly enhance and promote mutual understanding and appreciation of our dynamic cultures and afford our experts opportunities to exchange ideas, and global best practices in all aspects of our cultural heritages. Today’s meeting is therefore an opportunity for both stock-taking and interaction where present challenges and constraints can be shared and discussed in order to strengthen and broaden future implementation strategies of our agreements.”

He extended the country’s invitation to China to Nigeria’s centenary celebration by presenting cultural performance in at least three states in Nigeria as well as the annual Abuja Carnival.

Responding, Cultural Chancellor of the Chinese embassy, Mr. Jin Hong Yue, who led the delegation, announced the donation of 250 books to the National Library and commended Nigeria’s efforts in cementing mutual and cultural cooperation with China.

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Sierra Leone Shedding ‘War-Torn’ Image to Attract Tourists

8 March 2013 – allafrica.com – Freetown — On the fourth floor of a new office block in western Freetown, Cecil Williams sits beneath posters of idyllic tropical landscapes as he discusses the many natural attractions that once brought tourists flocking to the small West African nation of Sierra Leone.

“Very few countries have the mountains dropping down to the sea, with unspoilt beautiful beaches,” he tells IPS. “Sierra Leone is just waiting to be explored.”

Williams is the head of the National Tourist Board, and the man tasked with reviving an industry that used to provide much needed jobs and revenue to Sierra Leone. In other circumstances, his job should not have been difficult – the country boasts a coastline unrivalled in West Africa, with dazzling sandy-white beaches.

Indeed, such is the beauty of one beach near Freetown that before the war it was featured as the backdrop to an advertisement for Bounty chocolate bars, offering the consumer “a taste of paradise”. Beaches line much of the country’s 360 kilometres of Atlantic coastline, the majority of them strangers to tourism.

But unlike Ghana or the Gambia which have managed to cultivate thriving tourism industries – over 800,000 tourists visited Ghana in 2009, according to the latest World Bank figures – on Sierra Leone’s unspoilt beaches you are likely to be the only tourist.

Eleven years after the end of Sierra Leone’s civil war, which lasted from 1991 to 2002, the country is fighting a new battle – to change its image in the eyes of potential tourists in Europe and America who tend to associate it more with child soldiers and blood diamonds than they do with sunshine and beaches.

Ibrahim Kargbo, a former minister of information and current special advisor to President Ernest Bai Koroma, acknowledges the problem. “We have always said that we need to rebrand the country,” he tells IPS. Kargbo explains that the ministries of tourism, foreign affairs and information are the core of the extensive rebranding exercise, “so that people can know what is happening here and be happy to come to the country.”

The tourist board is also heavily involved in trying to alter perceptions of Sierra Leone, but Williams says a lack of funds is imposing limits on the effectiveness of the project. “We have to market Sierra Leone in a more aggressive manner, but it takes money,” he explains.

The board is currently restricted to what it terms “soft marketing” – attending international travel fairs, producing brochures, posters and short videos, and inviting foreign journalists to come and see the country for themselves.

But after peaceful elections last November, deemed to be largely free and fair by observers, there is a feeling that Sierra Leone is ready to put its troubled past behind it, and finally shed the violent image that has kept visitors at bay for so long. Freetown now feels no less safe for a European than parts of London.

At his inauguration in February, Koroma, embarking on a second five-year term in office, addressed an audience in the national stadium about the potential for tourism in Sierra Leone: “We have a country with beautiful landscapes…our beaches are unsurpassed…the physical beauty of our hills is breath-taking, and our land is home to rare species of animals and birds.”

Thomas Armitt, founder of travel company West Africa Discovery, is also confident that a tourism revival is imminent. “I’m sure international tourists will start arriving in the next year or two,” he tells IPS. “I first came here in 2011…and I feel in the air that things are changing here.”

Armitt, who is from the United Kingdom, is set to launch a new company in Sierra Leone, offering off-the-beaten-track tours with a focus on sustainability and community living. He sees West Africa as “the last frontier of tourism.”

“People are looking for new destinations,” he explains. “And this is, for me, an ideal destination which can’t be kept a secret for much longer.”

He does, however, acknowledge that challenges remain in doing business in Sierra Leone. “You have to get used to a whole new business culture, so we are expecting a slow start,” he says, though he sees enormous long-term potential.

Sierra Leone is also still affected by a fundamental lack of tourist infrastructure. Simply getting from the airport, which is situated on one side of a wide estuary, to a Freetown hotel usually requires a lengthy journey over land and water. Hotels are generally expensive for the mediocre service they provide, and road transportation can be tricky.

But here too, change is in the air. Against the backdrop of an economic boom driven by the mining sector, new roads are being built across the country, as well as a new and more accessible airport. A school for workers in the tourist industry is also being revamped, in a bid to improve standards of service.

“Tourism facilities are being constructed in every district,” the president’s spokesperson, Unisa Sesay, tells IPS, adding that there are also improvements in telecommunications, internet connections and accommodation. He says the government is also working on creating an “enabling environment” for private sector investors in the tourist industry.

The Radisson and the Hilton are just two of the hotel chains due to start operating in Freetown in the next two years, while at least two cruise liners have also added Freetown to their itineraries.

Sinneh Bangura is a fisherman living in the village of John Obey on the Freetown Peninsula. He too is keen to see more visitors coming to Sierra Leone. “It would be good for everyone. It could bring development to our community,” he says.

Youth unemployment stands at over 60 percent in Sierra Leone, and it is hoped that a revival of the tourism industry could bring much-needed jobs to coastal communities.

Williams also sees enormous potential in the tourist industry, particularly at the top end and in eco-tourism, as a driver of development in Sierra Leone.

“In five to 10 years’ time tourism will be the number one sector….the number one industry in terms of revenue, in terms of benefits,” he tells IPS, arguing that ultimately it is Sierra Leoneans themselves who are the key – “because despite all we’ve been through, this is a country visitors can come to and feel at home.”

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Indonesia seeks expanded palm oil exports to Nigeria

Wed, February 27 2013 Medan, N. Sumatra (ANTARA News) – Indonesia intends to expand the Crude Palm Oil (CPO) and its derivative products export to Nigeria which has potential demand about two million tons per year. “Our intention was in line with the efforts of Nigeria to increase their national CPO production which is still low. Thus, they also should meet the need through import,” said Chairman of Indonesian Palm Oil Board (DMSI) Derom Bangun in Medan on Wednesday.

He added Indonesia was following up the intention to export its CPO to Nigeria after the DMSI joined the Presidential visit to Abuja, Nigeria in early February 2013.

“The domestic need of CPO in Nigeria is very potential as their production is just 850 thousands tons per year, meanwhile the need grows 10 percent per year,” he said.

Bangun noted Indonesia`s CPO export to Nigeria is also still low which accumulated 3,215 tons in November 2012, but recognized as the biggest export amount in Nigeria.

“Those show us that Nigeria is a huge potential export market for Indonesia`s CPO and its derivative products,” he said.

Moreover, Bangun added Indonesia has tied a cooperation with Nigeria farmers association and Cote d`Ivoire palm association to reduce anti-palm oil campaign in international market, particularly in Europe.

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Egypt govt launches infrastructure projects in Menoufiya

MENA, Friday 1 Mar 2013 – The Egyptian government is implementing nine projects worth a total of LE57 million to development the health sector and sport facilities Menoufiya governorate, Yassin Taher, deputy governor of Menoufiya, told state news agency MENA on Friday. The projects will provide better services and improve transportation infrastructure significantly, explained Taher.

A government committee formed by local officials and housing ministry representatives will oversee the projects, said Ahmed Wakil , deputy housing minister. President Mohamed Morsi has promised to address Egypt’s crumbling infrastructure, especially in remote governorates that have been suffering from long-term government neglect.

Menoufiya is in the Nile Delta and is one of the most densely populated areas of Egypt.

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EU starts push for new trade pacts with North Africa

Reuters, 2 Mar 2013 – The European Union began talks with Morocco on a free-trade deal on Friday, the EU’s first in a planned series aimed at deepening trade ties with North African nations two years after a wave of Arab uprisings. “Just announced the launch of negotiations for a free-trade agreement with Morocco,” European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on his Twitter feed from Rabat.

The negotiations are the first part of a European strategy to draw North African neighbours closer to the 27-country EU. Arab uprisings toppled Arab leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya in 2011, but King Mohammed VI defused protests in Morocco by announcing constitutional changes and holding an election that brought an Islamist-led government to office.

The European Council, which represents the member states, approved the idea of deep and comprehensive free-trade agreements with Morocco, Jordan, Egypt and Tunisia in 2011. Trade between the EU and Morocco amounted to roughly 24 billion euros of goods in 2011, and the EU is keen to open up trade in the services sector.

Morocco is the largest recipient of European neighbourhood aid, money given to the EU’s immediate periphery, with 580.5 million euros ($760 million) earmarked for 2011-2013, according to the European Commission.

“Smooth negotiations of the free-trade agreement are crucial because they serve as an example for other countries in the southern Mediterranean,” said Marielle De Sarnez, a French member of the European Parliament. “This agreement will also allow in the long term greater regional integration for the Maghreb countries.”

Morocco’s exports to the EU are mainly clothing, agricultural products and machinery. The EU sold roughly 15 billion euros of goods to the North African country in 2011, with exports growing at roughly 5 percent a year from 2007-2011.

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Closer Iran-Egypt ties about tourism, not religion: Egypt Tourism

Dalia Farouk, Ahram Online, Monday 4 Mar 2013 – Egypt’s tourism minister, Hisham Zaazou, has spoken about the ongoing rapprochement between Egypt and Iran, describing the deepening of relations between the two states as aimed at promoting tourism, and not political” or “religious.”

A recent visit by Iranian President Ahmadinejad to Cairo in February was considered by many observers to be a groundbreaking step in relations between Egypt, a majority Sunni nation, and the Shia state of Iran.

Promoting Iranian tourism in Egypt is not part of an Iranian “Shia-ization” scheme for the Middle East, and will not undermine Sunni values or dogmas, said Zaazou in an interview with Ahram’s Arabic website.

Egypt and Iran signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Wednesday, promoting cooperation between the two countries in the tourism sector, in a development that was seen as unprecedented. “We were keen to protect Egypt’s national security and sovereignty during the negotiations, and all security risks were taken into consideration before signing the agreement,” said Zaazou.

Tourism between the two countries has been almost non-existent since all bilateral relations were severed following Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.

The Fatimid area of Cairo holds religious sites and the graveyards of important Shia figures that could be a potential point of interest for Iranian tourists. Ahmadinejad shed tears during a visit to the Sayyeda Zeinab Mosque in Old Cairo last month. Several Salafist groups held angry demonstrations, protesting the visit.

“Iran has normal relations and diplomatic missions with a lot of countries in the world except for the United States and Israel,” said Zaazou, dismissing reports that rapprochement with Iran presents a security risk to Egypt.

Almost 10 million Iranian tourists visit Gulf countries and Europe each year, and Egypt should start benefiting from this significant flow of tourists, the minister of tourism said. “Turkey alone receives almost 2 million Iranian tourists annually.”

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Safranbolu’s facade to change with restorations

KARABÜK – Anatolia News Agency – A total of 1,300 artifacts are set to be restored in the Anatolian town of Safranbolu, including mosques, houses, fountains and mansions. While Turkey has a total of 50,000 registered buildings, around 250 of them are in Safranbolu. The mansions of Safranbolu were built in the 18th and 20th centuries, without adhering to any architectural plans.

Forty percent of the buildings have already been restored, and Safranbolu has been able to attract a rising number of tourists with its restorations.

Water has long been a defining characteristic of Safranbolu, with small pools and fountains in residential gardens adorning much of the Ottoman-era district. A total of 20 fountains were therefore restored according to their original design. Speaking to Anatolia News Agency, Karabük mayor İzzettin Küçük said the aim was to pass historical heritage onto future generations.

Every part of the city will be restored according to its original historical appearance, said Küçük, adding that the finance for the restorations was all ready. “We have received a lot of support from different associations. The development ministry has also allocated 1.5 million Turkish Liras,” he said.

Noting that only 20 fountains had been restored so far, despite there having earlier been a total of 150 fountains in the town, Küçük stressed that more fountains were being restored with the new projects.

Most of the town’s fountains were built by Sultan Selim III’s grand vizier, İzzet Mehmet Paşa, at the end of the 18th century. Fountains in the İncekaya village, which is 7.5 kilometers away from Safranbolu, and others have already been restored with the support of locals and state officials. There are 50,000 buildings registered as protected artifacts in Turkey, and 250 of them are in Safranbolu, Küçük said, adding that the restorations were being conducted by a professional team.

The local mosques are also undergoing restoration. The mosques in the region belong to associations and their restoration projects are being conducted by those associations. The restorations of the Kavaklar and Asiye Hatun mosques are being conducted with particular care, and the largest of the 32 mosques in the district has already been restored.

The Asiye Hatun Mosque was built in 1939, while the Kavaklar Mosque was constructed in 1945.

The team that is undertaking the restoration is trying to restore the mosques in line with their originals.

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Maldives’ Women contribution to national development is increasing: President

March 8, 2013 – Sun.mv – President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has said that women’s contribution to national development is increasing and that this is a great advancement for the country.

The president said this in his message to Maldivian women on the occasion of International Women’s Day. He said that International Women’s Day is marked to reflect on the status of women, assess their empowerment, and advocate for greater opportunities for women to progress in the future.

He said that it is a high priority of the Maldivian government to support efforts in attaining gender equality in the society.

“The increase in women’s contributions to and participation in the development of the country showed the change in the outlook of the people on gender related issues,” he said.

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