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23 Jun, 2014

Biggest red light area in Indonesia permanently closed

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil & Sana Shamsi

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 23 June 2014 (25 Sha’baan 1435). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.



The Islamic Tourism Centre in Malaysia has launched a vibrant new website presenting Malaysia as a prime destination for Islamic tourism and a global halal hub. The website offers a wealth of information on Mosque trails, Islamic Museums, Ramadan & Eid-ul Fitr, Muslim-Friendly Tour Highlights, as well as a Muslim Visitor’s Guide, Halal Directory and Souvenirs Directory. Located strategically at the heart of Southeast Asia, Malaysia is well-known for its natural beauty and diverse cultural landscape. At its social core are three of Asia’s oldest civilisations – Malay, Chinese and Indian – as well as the ethnic communities of Sabah and Sarawak, resulting in a unique and inspiring blend of cultures. With an abundance of halal food, prayer facilities and Islamic attractions, Malaysia perfectly caters to the needs of Muslim travellers. The ITC plays a pivotal role in bringing Malaysia to the forefront of Islamic tourism. It works with industry players to build their capacity in Islamic tourism, thus ensuring that the needs of Muslim visitors are better served. ITC has also taken several initiatives in standardising industry’s best practices through research, seminars, workshops and industry outreach programmes. Now is the perfect time to experience the country’s multitude of Muslim-friendly tourism products – Islamic architectural heritage, halal gastronomic delights, vibrant Islamic festivals and world-class Islamic events – all guaranteed to give visitors an incredible time.

Click here to see the fabulous new website

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 http://www.tourismmalaysia.gov.my

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.



Moroccan hosts revealed for 2014-2016 World Travel Awards Grand Finals

London, 23rd June 2014 – Following the signing of an official three-year hosting deal with the Office National Marocain du Tourisme, World Travel Awards has unveiled the host cities for its 2014, 2015, and 2016 Grand Finals.

On November 29th this year the showcase Grand Final will head to the Palais de Congres, part of the exclusive Palmerais Golf Palace, in the country’s pre-eminent tourism destination of Marrakech.

The spiritual heart of Morocco, Fez, will pick up the mantel in 2015, while economic powerhouse Casablanca will follow in 2016.

Tourism operators in all three cities are expected to enjoy a boost in their global exposure given the attention World Travel Awards commands.

The announcement of the host cities was made by World Travel Awards President Graham Cooke, Moroccan Minister of Tourism, His Excellency Dr. Lahcen Haddad, and Mohammed Arkobi, Chairman of Innovate Marketing Solutions, following a fact finding mission to the country.

World Travel Awards President Graham Cooke said: “Preparations for the World Travel Awards Grand Final 2014 are now taking shape, with the Palmerais Golf Palace selected to host the exclusive event. One of the iconic hotels in Marrakesh, the property is the beating heart of Moroccan tourism and an ideal host.”

He added: “Today we are also revealing that Fez will be honoured with hosting rights for the 2015 Grand Final, while we will be headed to Casablanca the following year for the 2016 Grand Final. With Moroccan tourism presently benefiting from a secure political environment, visionary political leadership and high-levels of private investment, World Travel Awards is looking forward to showcasing the best of Morocco over this three year period.”

The Grand Final 2014 will take place in the beautiful city of Marrakech. The city is a pearl polished by history, with a tradition of hospitality which, for centuries, has known how to welcome visitors. Luxury shops, tearooms and cafés adorn the streets of the ‘red city’ as it effortlessly reconciles its prestigious past with contemporary dynamism. A worthy host of the World Travel Awards Grand Final, Marrakech is a city full of life and enthusiasm.

The imperial city of Fez will welcome World Travel Awards for the Grand Final 2015. The city is considered the capital of traditional Moroccan culture; a cradle of knowledge, for which its superb medersas are a flamboyant symbol. Its UNESCO listed medinas are famous around the globe, forming part of the best-preserved old city in the Arab world. Peppered with mosques, madrassas and palaces, its trades and crafts have barely changed for centuries, while its heritage nourishes a community of poets, musicians and intellectuals.

Not to be outdone, Casablanca is the hotbed of Moroccan commerce. A thriving port community, it is the largest city in the Maghreb and one of the largest cities in Africa, both economically and demographically. Dynamic, yet relaxed, everything happens in Casablanca and its vibrancy is infectious.

Moroccan Minister of Tourism, Dr. Lahcen Haddad, offered his support to the event.

He explained: “Over the last decade, Morocco has become a major North African tourist destination, it aims to be among the top 20 destinations worldwide by the year 2020.

“To host the next three editions of the World Travel Awards Grand Final in Marrakech, Fez and Casablanca, is a great opportunity for the Kingdom to promote these historical destinations, and further enhance their visibility in a global scale.

“Morocco has considerable assets, which will guarantee the World Travel Awards participants the chance to live a unique and unprecedented experience; the event will undoubtedly reward hospitality industry actors who have chosen excellence and quality; I hope many of them will apply and win.”

“We are delighted to be able to bring the WTA to morocco,” enthused Dr. Mohammed Arkobi, chairman of Innovate Marketing Solutions.

“We are true believers that morocco will be among top 20 tourist destinations in the world shortly. We believe in Moroccan hospitality and Moroccan ability.

“It was easy to the decision to host the World Travel Awards; it will showcase Morocco to the World Travel Awards’ global audience.”

The World Travel Awards Grand Final 2014 will follow a series of regional Gala Ceremonies, with events this year scheduled for Athens (Greece), Quito (Ecuador), Abuja (Nigeria), New Delhi (India), and the fantastic holiday island of Anguilla in the Caribbean.

The 2014 Grand Tour kicked off in Dubai in May.

World Travel Awards was established in 1993 to acknowledge, reward and celebrate excellence across all sectors of the tourism industry.

Today, the WTA brand is recognised globally as the ultimate hallmark of quality, with winners setting the benchmark to which all others aspire.

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Iran celebrates registration of Burnt City as World Heritage

Tehran, June 23, IRNA – Vice-President and Head of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization Masoud Soltanifar felicitated registration of the Burnt City in the list of World Heritage to the Supreme Leader, the President and the whole Iranians.

Soltanifar said here on Sunday afternoon that with hard work of the organizationˈs experts, the city was registered as World Heritage in the 38th session of the UNESCO in Doha, Qatar, with overwhelming votes of participants in the meeting.

Burnt City is an ancient city in Iran located 56 kilometers from Zabol on Zabol – Zahedan Road in eastern province of Sistan and Baluchestan.

The great city was established concurrent with Bronze Age associated with Jiroft Civilization and Iranians lived there 6000 years ago.

Based on the archeological studies, the city sprawls in an area measuring 280 hectares, 80 hectares of which was residential areas.

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Sculpture city planned in Iran

Tehran, June 22, IRNA — A sculpture city will be set up soon in Tehran to educate and organize programs for art students attracted to the field.

According to the Iranian artist and sculptor Hossein Fakhimi, the city to be named ˈArt Cityˈ will accommodate art students from elementary school to postgraduate levels.

“Art City is where thought, imagination as well as artistic and social needs will be created and produced,” Monday edition of the English-language newspaper Iran Daily quoted Fakhimi as saying.

Fakhimi said he presented the plan for the city prior to the victory of the 1979 Islamic Revolution; however, the executive works were delayed due to his own will.

“I think that now is the time for constructing the city to help educate the youth,” he said.

“It will also help revive domestic and international markets, providing grounds for introducing sculptureˈs role in various handicrafts, architectural and urban atmospheres and creating jobs fro the youth.”

Fakhimi noted that arts and industry are interrelated. “When Iranians lost touch with arts, they became dependent on the West. Despite the fact that many of the western designs are rooted in oriental arts.

“For instance, wax casting is one of the ancient methods in sculpture that I learned in Spain. However, excavations in Shahr-e Sukhteh (the Burnt City) in the southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchistan proved that this method was current in Iran in the past centuries.”

The artist said that by constructing the city, a generation of Iranian artists will learn sculpture from scientific and practical aspects.

“We can hope that everything from urban furniture to our costumes will be inspired by genuine Iranian designs,” he said.

Fakhimi holds a PhD from Madrid Fine Arts Faculty. He is among the founders of the Iranian Organization of Scientific and Industrial Research.

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Pakistan’s Balochistan province to spend Rs51bn on development in 2014-15

QUETTA, Dawn, June 20th, 2014: Balochistan has allocated Rs50.7 billion for next fiscal year’s Annual Development Programme (ADP), an increase of 13 per cent from the last year’s Rs43.91bn.

The development budget includes foreign project assistance and identifies “core priority areas” of education, health, power generation, women development, road transport and water supply.

Presenting the budget 2014-15 in the provincial assembly on Thursday, Mir Khalid Langove, finance adviser to the Balochistan chief minister, said the political leadership has brought all stakeholders on the same page to bring about directional changes in the development budget by focusing on social sector and improving productivity instead of investing in bricks and mortar.

This would help bridge gaps in current health and education indicators and their targets in the millennium development goals (MDGs), he said.

The government has decided to increase spending on education by 23.09pc, health by 8.63pc, agriculture and power generation by 7pc each, and road transport by 20pc. Mr Langove said the provincial government has “firm commitment to deliver on its promises and would improve the Human Development index (HDI)”.

The total number of schemes to be executed in the financial year 2014-15 will be 1,693, of which 616 are ongoing and 1,077 new.

According to budget documents, “The prime objective of the state is to provide basic amenities to citizen. Keeping in view this objective, the Balochistan government through its development budget has tried its level best to contribute in the socio-economic uplift of the common man.”

During the outgoing fiscal year, Balochistan set aside Rs43.91bn for the ADP, of which 23.07pc was for education, 9.07pc for health and 18pc for communication.

In Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2013-14, the total number of schemes was 739, of which 638 schemes were old and 101 new.

In education sector, major development initiatives include scholarships for higher education, in and outside the country, provision of facilities in schools and colleges, repair and reconstruction of schools affected by earthquake and establishment of colleges.

As for health sector, the government would focus on improving Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) coverage, purchasing ambulances, training community midwives, preventing hepatitis and providing medical equipment to public sector hospitals.

In agriculture sector, the province would launch the second phase of green-Balochistan programme, construct an agriculture university, introduce tissue culture and reduce waste of irrigation water.

It also plans to construct 6,500km roads, set up coal power projects, convert tube-wells on solar power, and develop fisheries sectors.

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Biggest Red Light Area In Indonesia Permanently Closed

Jakarta (ANTARA News) June 19 2014 – Dolly, Indonesia’s biggest red light area located in Surabaya city, East Java province, was permanently closed on Wednesday night (June 18).

The closing was marked by a gathering held at the Islamic Center building in Surabaya city and was attended by Social Minister Salim Segaf Al Jufri, East Java’s Governor Soekarwo, Surabayas Mayor Tri Rismaharini, Surabaya’s Chief of Police, members of the regional legislative council, Ulema, prostitutes, and people living around the Dolly area.

“What needs to be maintained is something positive. If it is not positive then there is no need to maintain it,” Social Minister Salim Segaf Al Jufri stated during the gathering event on Wednesday.

The minister lauded the related authorities who were willing to close the Dolly area, which was not only the biggest red light area in Indonesia but also in the Southeast Asian region.

“We have been working hard during the past 2-3 years to handle this issue,” noted the minister.

The Wednesday gathering was also marked by a declaration signed by the local people pledging to keep their area prostitution-free.

Meanwhile, Governor of the East Java province Soekarwo appreciated the decision to close the Dolly area.

“This is a humanitarian effort. When Surabaya’s Mayor Risma proposed to close Dolly, I approved her plan,” stated Soekarwo.

When asked about the plan to send former Dolly prostitutes back to their respective hometowns, Soekarwo said that the local government had provided the funding for that plan.

Following the closing of Dolly area, related authorities such as the Social Ministry and government of East Java province gave a total compensation of Rp1.5 billion to Dolly’s prostitutes and the people who will be affected by the decision.

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Laos, Indonesia National Airlines To Operate Direct Flights

VIENTIANE, June 13 (NNN-KPL) — Lao Airlines and Indonesia’s national flag carrier Garuda are conducting a feasibility study into the opening of a direct flight between Vientiane and Jakarta to increase bilateral trade and cooperation between Laos and Indonesia.

“It is possible to open the direct flight between our two countries, but we are now studying into market and travelling demand of tourists because passengers are main factor of operating a commercial flight,”said Vice President of Lao Airlines, Sengpaseuth Mathouchanh during his participation at the First Laos-Indonesia Business Forum held in Vientiane on Thursday.

“It is our plan to connect Laos with other ASEAN member countries in order to provide facilitation to business and people-to-people communication. According to our plan, we expect to open the flight after 2017 and we focus on foreign passengers,” Sengpaseuth said.

The opening of direct flight between the two capital cities is possible because Laos and Indonesia signed an Air Transport Agreement in February 1997.

“I think Laos is geographically competitive as it borders China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar. So it is very necessary for us to develop and enhance our trade cooperation with Laos as a partner to tap markets Laos accesses,”said Indonesian Ambassador to Laos, Irmawan Emir Wisnandar.

In the future, we need to have closer cooperation with Laos because it is located strategically, abundant of law materials, and has very positive economic growth, he pointed out.

Wisnandar continued that it is very important for Indonesian businessmen to open their eyes as Laos would be their wonderful partner.

“My future objective is how we can link direct flight between Jakarta and Vientiane because without the direct link from Indonesia to Laos at the moment, business-to-business and people to people contacts cannot develop in positive way, but if we can have that kind of flight or services I think business to business between our two countries will be strengthened and increased. Currently, our bilateral trade is still low compared to Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand because they have direct flights to Vientiane,”added Wisnandar.

Vice President of Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Oudeth Souvannavong said that trade cooperation between Laos and Indonesia is slowly increasing. The main cause is lack of air transport facilities between the two countries.

Currently, many Indonesian investors show an increasing interest in investing in Laos especially in areas of mining, hydropower and agriculture.

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Malaysia-Southern Thailand Can Boost Production Of Halal Products

BETONG, (Thailand), June 15 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia and Southern Thailand can work together to promote products from rural areas through the ‘One Tambun One Product (OTOP)’ and One District One Industry’ (SDSI) programmes.

Yala governor, Dejrath Simsiri said since OTOP products are produced by Muslims in Southern Thailand, they are ‘halal’ and safe for consumption in Malaysia.

He said SDSI products on the other hand were suitable to be marketed in Southern Thailand because the Muslim community there choose ‘halal’ food.

The existing relationship between Thailand and entrepreneurs under the SDSI can be further enhanced with the support of the Federal government, said Dejrath when opening a Malaysia-Thailand OTOP exhibition in Betong, Southern Thailand, here.

The exhibition saw 20 entrepreneurs from the Northern SDSI zone, namely Kedah, Perlis, Penang and Hulu Perak plus 180 entrepreneurs under the OTOP from Southern Thailand, exhibit their products.

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Malaysia To Have 1,000 Telecommunication Towers In Three Years

KUALA LUMPUR, June 18 (NNN-Bernama) — A total of 1,000 telecommunication towers will be built nationwide in three years to achieve a broadband speed of 48 mbps to 50 mbps by 2018.

Communications and Multimedia Minister Ahmad Shabery Chik said Malaysia recorded a speed of around 5.8 to 5.9 mbps currently compared to Myanmar and Vietnam which only achieved speeds of around 5.6 to 5.7 mbps, based on a speed test study made by ‘The Ookla Global Net Index’.

“We know that three to four years ago, a speed of one mbps was adequate and the response was encouraging from companies which offered RM140 to RM144 to get an internet speed of one or two mbps.

“But now the speed of 20mbps is not enough because the use of internet is very widespread not only to surf Google but also for transportation, education, health and numerous fields which need a good broadband speed,” he said when replying to a question from Member of Parliament Khoo Soo Seang in the Parliament Wednesday.

Khoo wanted to know about the government’s plan to boost broadband service in the country and why the nation’s broadband speed was only 126th among 196 countries studied.

Ahmad Shabery said with the construction of telecommunication towers under the High Speed Broadband project (HSBB) via a government-private sector cooperation, at least 96 per cent of the people could enjoy the benefits of a fast broadband speed.

“Under HSBB, the speed targeted for major towns is as high as 100 mbps and at least 20 mbps for residents on the outskirts of town,” he said.

To a supplementary questions by Khoo on the expensive charges for using the broadband, Ahmad Shabery said Malaysia was among the cheapest in Asia in terms of broadband charges because the government received the cooperation of the private sector in providing capital to provide facilities to boost services.

“This is because not all the capital used for the purpose came from the government. If the government has to come up with the entire capital to boost the broadband service, it could not provide other infrastructural facilities for the people.

“We must take pride that the telecommunication sector always seeks to reduce its rates. If we notice, the broadband charge for a speed of 2 mbps was RM144 in the past, now we are only charging RM200 for a speed of 20 mbps,” he added.

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Kuwait Airways To Boost Business Network Through Regional Operations

DUBAI, June 20 (NNN-KUNA) — Kuwait Airways (KAC) is seeking to boost business networks through increasing operations at regional offices, head of marketing and sales at the KAC Mohammad Al-Enezi said late Thursday.

This statement came after the KAC opened its new regional headquarters in Dubai.

Speaking to KUNA, Al-Enezi said that the opening of the new headquarters was reflective of KAC commitment’s to better its services.

Al-Enezi thanked the authorities in the Emirates for their cooperation and assistance in opening the new headquarters, noting their efforts is much appreciated.

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Malaysia Welcomes 7.09 Million Tourists In Q1 2014

PUTRAJAYA, June 13 (NNN-Bernama) — In tandem with the “Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) 2014,” the country has welcomed 7.09 million tourists for the first quarter of this year from 6.45 million tourists during the same period last year, a hike of 10 per cent.

Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board (Tourism Malaysia) said Friday the top 10 tourist generating markets to Malaysia were Singapore, Indonesia, China, Thailand, Brunei, India, Australia, Japan, the Philippines and the United Kingdom.

“The Asean region continued to be the largest contributor of tourist arrivals with 72.1 per cent share of 5.1 million of Malaysia’s total arrivals.

“Among Asean countries, Vietnam registered the highest growth of 30.1 per cent, followed by Thailand (20.9 per cent), Cambodia (12.6 per cent), the Philippines (10.3 per cent) and Singapore (10.2 per cent),” it said in a statement here.

Tourism Malaysia said the medium-haul markets contributed 20.1 per cent or 1.4 million tourists to Malaysia’s total arrivals.

Countries that registered double-digit growth were South Korea (37.1 per cent), Saudi Arabia (21.4 per cent), Australia (19.2 per cent), New Zealand (14.6 per cent) and India (11.2 per cent), it said.

In the long-haul markets, a total of 0.5 million tourists or 7.9 per cent of Malaysia’s total arrivals were noted.

“The markets that posted double-digit growth are Russia (25.3 per cent), Italy (18.3 per cent), France (17.5 per cent), Germany (15 per cent), United States (12 per cent), the Netherlands (11.8 per cent) and Canada (10.4 per cent),” it added.

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Jordan, Palestine Mull Joint Tourism Cooperation

AMMAN, June 18 (NNN-Petra) — Jordan is keen to increase cooperation with Palestine in the sector of tourism through joint tourism projects, Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said.

At a meeting with Palestinian Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Rula Ma’ayah, Ensour said that tourism promotion in Jordan and Palestine must be carried out through joint programmes because of geopolitical reasons.

These programmes, he added, must focus on the Islamic and Christian holy sites besides environmental and medical tourism.

The visiting Palestinian official, on her part, said that Jordan and Palestine both enjoy tremendous tourism potential and have innumerable destinations, including Islamic and Christian holy sites, that will be of interest to global tourists.

She also stressed the need to involve the private sector in promoting tourism in both the countries.

The premier was briefed by Jordanian Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Nidal Qatamin and the Palestinian minister on the executive tourism cooperation programme between Jordan and Palestine for 2014-2017, which was signed Monday.

The programme aims to boost tourism cooperation and attract more domestic and foreign tourists to the two countries.

Meanwhile, Foreign minister Nasser Judeh said that the political turmoil in the Middle East should not divert attention from the Palestinian issue, which is a core issue and the crux of the conflict in the region.

He spoke during a meeting with United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry to discuss developments related to the Palestinian cause and hurdles facing the Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations.

Judeh and Serry agreed that coordination and consultation should be ramped up among all parties in order to bring about peace.

The foreign minister reiterated Jordan’s support for the reinstatement of Palestinian rights, foremost of which is the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state along the June 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital as stipulated by international terms of reference and the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.

The UN envoy said he backed Jordan’s peace efforts under His Majesty King Abdullah, expressing his willingness to continue coordination with the Kingdom.

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Iran’s Tourism Industry Flourishing

TEHRAN, June 20 (NNN-FNA) — Iranian Vice-President and Head of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO) Massoud Soltanifar expressed pleasure that more foreign tourists are showing interest in traveling to the country in recent months.

Soltanifar said that the flow of the foreign tourists to Iran has witnessed a 200-percent growth.

“The visit of foreign tourists to Iran has witnesses a considerable and outstanding growth over past 8 months,” he stated.

In relevant remarks in March, Soltanifar invited foreigners to visit Iran’s various tourist destinations, stressing that the country enjoys high level of security for the foreign tourists.

“The security for tourists is in an ideal state in the country,” Soltanifar said.

He pointed to the latest figures released by the World Tourism Organization (WTO), and said, “Tourists’ requests to visit Iran in the past months has had a remarkable growth.”

The senior official noted that the growth is the result of easing some of the anti-Iran sanctions in the past months which has taken place as a result of interim agreement reached between Tehran and the Group 5 1 (the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany) in November 2013.

On November 24, Iran and the five permanent United Nations Security Council members sealed a six-month Joint Plan of Action to lay the groundwork for the full resolution of the West’s decade-old dispute with Iran over the latter’s nuclear energy program.

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Malaysia Urged To Play ‘Catch-Up’ In Medical Tourism Field

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia June 22 (NNN-Bernama) — In 1997, Thailand’s hospital sector faced its greatest challenge yet in the wake of the global financial crisis.

The Thai Baht collapsed, and many hospitals which had ramped up their capacity, saw patient numbers plunge.

They then came up with an idea. Why not market Thailand an affordable healthcare destination to reduce the supply glut and bring in foreign currency?

And now, Thailand boasts itself as one of the world’s top medical tourism spots.

The country ushered in 2.5 million tourists last year seeking medical treatment, translating into total receipts of US$4.31 billion.

Malaysia, on the contrary, received 770,134 medical tourists last year.

Despite the figure having doubled since 2010, industry watchers said Malaysia had a lot of catching up to do.

According to Villa Media International Corporate Director of Medical Services, Professor Dr Nor Shahidah, Malaysia is well positioned to win more medical tourist dollars.

“Malaysia has an affordable and good healthcare system. We are a multiracial, multicultural society with good food, and all this bodes well for the industry,” she told a forum here recently.

Citing figures from the World Health Tourism Congress, she said Malaysia’s medical tourism sector revenue is expected to jump to RM630 million this year, from RM288 million in 2009.

However, the country has to find its niche in fending off the intense competition from neighbouring rivals such as Singapore and South Korea, industry watchers said.

One area is halal healthcare, Shahidah noted.

“Demand for halal personal care products and pharmaceuticals is driven by increased consumer knowledge and ingredients used in the formulation of such products as well as the way it is produced.

“Conscientious consumers are specifically reaching out for halal-endorsed products and choose to spend money on cosmetics and pharmaceuticals to fit religious and cultural requirements,” she added.

The global Muslim consumer base is estimated at 1.8 billion across 100 countries.

According to CIMB Securities Thailand Equity Research Head, Kasem Prunratanamala, Malaysia should take advantage of Thailand’s existing political turmoil as tourists are refraining from visiting the country.

Thailand has faced months of unrest beginning with anti-government protests in Bangkok in November. The military took power via a coup last month.

Despite Thailand still holding on to the crown, its medical tourism sector is not without a fair share of challenges, Kasem said.

“These include a shortage of medical staff, a lack of foreign language skills, weaker research and development, and incomplete medical malpractice regulations,” he added.

Industry watchers also advised local players to pay attention to the location of their medical facilities.

Family members accompanying the patient would want a location near shopping malls and hotels, so that they can enjoy a hassle-free vacation, while the person concerned seeks treatment, they said.

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Muslim woman aspires to become New Zealand lawmaker

World Bulletin / 17 Jun 2014 – Anjum Rahman, mother of four, is a candidate for the New Zealand Labour Party in the upcoming September general elections. She unsuccessfully stood for the Hamilton City Council last year. If chosen this year, she will be the first veiled Muslim lawmaker in New Zealand history.

“For me, running for public office is an extension of the community work I’m already doing,” Anjum Rahman told The New Zealand Herald on Sunday, June 15. The New Zealander Muslim, who comes from an Indian origin, had performed well at a recent Labour Party conference. Therefore, she is expected to be ranked inside the party’s top 30 candidates for the September 20 general election.

Living in Hamilton for 41 years, after arriving from India in 1972, the Muslim activist went to Australia for her education. Currently, she has a Bachelor and Masters in Management Studies from the University of Waikato and works as Chartered Accountant with 20 years of experience.

“I’d be really pleased to be the first (female Muslim) MP, but that’s not the only thing about me, I want it to be that no one even bats an eyelid, when people realize New Zealanders come in all hues, shapes and sizes. But for that to happen, someone has to be first.” she said.

The aspirant politician has a number of top priorities, including supporting small businesses and creating a society where everyone felt included.

“I bring the governance, financial and management skills from my educational background and my professional career to these roles,” she is quoted on her website.

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Malaysia seeks to expand halal food industry to Turkmenistan

Source : Halal Focus / 17 Jun 2014 – Malaysia plans to expand its halal food industry to Turkmenistan following the huge potential in the Central Asian nation.

Malaysia’s ambassador to Turkmenistan, Norman Muhamad said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak will bring up the matter during his meeting with the country’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov.

Najib arrived in Turkmenistan on Monday for a second two-day official visit.

He will be accompanied by his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor,Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman, Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar.

“There are many opportunities to explore prospects in the halal industry in Turkmenistan. This is among the areas that Malaysia seeks to diversify in enhancing relations between both countries,” he told the Malaysian media on Sunday.

He said through this initiative, Malaysia hopes to make Turkmenistan its halal hub partner in Central Asia.

About 93 per cent of Turkmenistan’s six million populations are Muslims.

Norman said Malaysia also wants to enhance gas exploration in Turkmenistan by opening up opportunities for other local companies.

“The government is encouraging more Malaysian to venture into oil and gas exploration in Turkmenistan. To date, one company has already expressed its interest in participating in the sector in the country,” he added.

At present, the oil and gas exploration industry in Turkmenistan has had only the participation of Petronas, operating in the Caspian Sea from 1996.

Norman said Petronas had entered into a production sharing contract with Turkmenistan, whereby, the Malaysian company undertakes exploration activities, before selling any oil and gas through Turkmen Gas.

Turkmenistan is ranked fourth among countries with proven gas reserves after Iran, Russia and Qatar, with an area of 17.5 trillion cubic metres.

He said Malaysian companies are also being encouraged to participate in the construction sector in Turkmenistan as the country is actively undertaking various development projects.

Norman said in the Central Asian region, Turkmenistan was Malaysia’s third largest trading partner.

Total trade between the two countries in 2013 was recorded at US$33.13 million compared to US$11.68 million in 2012 and US$24.27 million in 2011.

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Jordanian prince set to become UN’s next rights chief

AFP / 17 Jun 2014 – The United Nations (UN) General Assembly on Monday approved the nomination of Jordan’s Prince Zeid al-Hussein as the next human rights chief, making him the first Muslim and Arab to hold the post.

The top diplomat, currently Amman’s ambassador to the United Nations, will take over as UN high commissioner for human rights on September 1, replacing Navi Pillay of South Africa.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon nominated Zeid, who holds a PhD from Cambridge University, for a four-year mandate last week.

Widely respected, Zeid is steeped in peacekeeping and international justice and played a key role in the establishment of the International Criminal Court.

For more than two years, he chaired complex negotiations on the elements of individual offenses for the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

In a first reaction, Zeid told the General Assembly he was “very honoured by the confidence” instilled in him, noting he will be the first high commissioner from the Asian continent, as well as the Arab and Muslim world.

“This reflects the willingness of the international community to advance this matter on this continent as well as in other parts of the world, taking into account the independence and the mandate of the high commissioner,” he added in a brief address in Arabic.

Zeid currently represents Jordan on the UN Security Council, where Amman has a two-year term. He was also his country’s ambassador to the United States and Mexico.

Zeid is married and has three children.

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UK’s Blackburn to host Islamic lifestyle exhibition

World Bulletin / 19 Jun 2014 – Visitors to Blackburn’s Islamic Lifestyle Exhibition in the UK later this month will be given a strong health and well-being message.

On Sunday June 22, the event is going to take place in Jan’s Conference Center where cross-community organisation One Voice is bringing its award winning Baiter Sehat campaign.

It is sponsoring the Health and Well Being Zone at the exhibition to offer free medical checks.

Health stands include Macmillan Cancer Improvement Partnership, No Smoking Campaign, Humraaz, Deaf Aware, Refresh Health Check, Cardiac Rehabilitation, Bowel Cancer Screening, Elements Health and Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service.

Participants will be able to find information on organ donation, forced marriage, drugs and alcohol as well.

It is hoped the event, celebrating the Islamic lifestyle in the UK, will become an annual event in the lead up to Ramadan.

One Voice vice-chair Abrar Hussain said:“It is imperative members of the community receive vital information about factors that influence their health and well being.”

“The Islamic Lifestyle Exhibition is a great opportunity to spread our message.”

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Islamic exhibition to be held in Bakhchysarai

islam.ru / 19 Jun 2014 – The opening ceremony of the photo exhibition “Mosques of Crimea”, dedicated to the 700th anniversary of “Uzbek” mosque” will be held on the territory of the Bakhchisaray Historical and Cultural Reserve at the building of “Zyndzhirly” madrassas.

It will be displayed two sets of previously unknown photographs, which are keeping in the Bakhchisaraysky Reserve and Archive of the Russian Academy of Sciences, on which depicted the expedition of Crimean people, which took place at the beginning of the 20th century. “This year marks the 700th anniversary of “Uzbek” mosque, built in 1314 in Solkhat – Old Crimea. During the expedition carried out in the 20-ies of the 20th century, was identified a significant body of archaeological material associated primarily with the madrassas and the cemetery, which were part of the “Uzbek” mosque complex”, – the press-service of the reserve.

Organizers said that the main objective of the exhibition is to show mosques of Crimea, which were built in different historical periods and located in different regions. “Our photo exhibition is unique, because a quantity and variety of Muslim religious sites of the Crimea will be presented for the first time. The exposure would help to learn the Islamic past of Crimea “- said in a statement.

After the exhibition to be held in Bakhchisarai it will be presented in Moscow at the building of the All-Russia State Library for Foreign Literature.

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Denmark’s first ‘real’ mosque opens

World Bulletin / 20 Jun 2014 – Denmark’s largest purpose-built mosque, including the country’s first minaret, opened on Thursday in Copenhagen’s northwest district after receiving a 150 million kroner ($27.2 million) endowment from Qatar.

After years of wrangling, the Copenhagen Muslims are celebrating the opening of their 6,700 square meter complex that will house a mosque, a cultural center, a television studio and a fitness center.

Representatives from the Church of Denmark as well as from the Jewish community were invited to Thursday’s inauguration.

Some sceptical far-right parties have noted that the mosque has been financed by Qatar, and suspect that Qatar may use the mosque to spread its influence among Danish Muslims.

However, Mohamed Al Maimouni, spokesman for the Danish Islamic Council, which owns the mosque said, “We’re not involved in Qatari politics and we have nothing to do with the domestic situation there.”

“The Danish Islamic Council has full power over the rhetoric used here. And that’s why we were so happy with this donation: it’s a generous gift that comes with no demands,” he added.

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UNESCO lists Palestinian village as heritage site

Presstv / 21 Jun 2014 – The UN has decided to put a Palestinian village in the West Bank on its list of world heritage sites, potentially blocking Israel from building parts of its apartheid wall through the area.

After a Friday emergency meeting in the Qatari capital, Doha, the United Nations Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said the agricultural community of Battir village will enjoy a protected status.

UNESCO said the village was recognized urgently in view of “construction of a separation wall that may isolate farmers from fields they have cultivated for centuries.”

The decision will also bolster the Palestinians’ case in a high-profile court battle against the Israeli regime, attempting to force Tel Aviv to change the route of the apartheid wall.

The Palestinian ambassador to UNESCO, Rula Ma’ayah, has described the decision as courageous.

Ma’ayah said the move would be “etched in the memory of my people.”

“Today you have taken… a courageous decision against confinement, exclusion and domination,” he said.

Rula Ma’ayah, who also serves as Palestinian minister of tourism and antiquities, added that the decision guaranteed the village international protection against “allowing the Israeli occupation authorities to damage it.”

The history of the village of Battir goes back to ancient times, and its Roman-era irrigation system is still used by Palestinian farmers.

The Palestinians joined UNESCO in October 2011 and quickly moved to submit a number of sites for recognition.

An emergency application for Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity was also approved by UNESCO in June 2012, despite Israeli objections.

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Jeddah to enter world heritage list of UNESCO

Arab News with Unesco.org / 22 Jun 2014 – Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), announced on Saturday that the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has decided to include the historical sites in Jeddah in the World Heritage List during its meeting in Qatar.

Prince Sultan expressed his appreciation to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, Crown Prince Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, and Second Deputy Premier Prince Muqrin, for their support for this historic achievement, the Saudi Press Agency said.

Prince Sultan said: “The significance of this decision lies in the fact that it sheds light on the historical position of the Kingdom, which has a rich heritage and lofty position in history.”

The prince also commended the efforts made by the former governors of Makkah Prince Majed, Prince Abdul Majeed and Prince Khaled Al-Faisal for boosting the image of the city, adding that the UNESCO’s approval came after all the conditions and specification for the inclusion of Jeddah in the list have been fulfilled.

The historical area of Jeddah is located in the center of Jeddah city, along the western coast of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the Red Sea.

Some historical resources refer to the history of Jeddah as dating back to the era before Islam. However, the major changing point in the history of Jeddah occurred in the era of the Rashidi Khalifat Utham Ibn Affan (may Allah be pleased with him) on the year 647 AD, when he ordered it’s transference to a harbor receiving pilgrims heading to Makkah for Hajj. At that time, it was named the country of consuls (Balad Al-Qanasil) and until today, Jeddah remains the main route for sea and air access for pilgrims, as well as many of those arriving by land transportation. Jeddah has always remained under the influence of the following successive Islamic Khilafat.

The historical area of Jeddah is considered to be one of the most important areas in the city of Jeddah due to its authenticity, its distinguished planning, and its unique architecture. It contains many historical landmarks and buildings such as: the Old Jeddah Wall and Gates, the old quarters (Al-Mazloom Quarter, Al-Sham Quarter, Al-Yaman Quarter, and Al-Bahar Quarter), there are also a number of historical mosques (Uthamn Ibn Affan Mosque, Al-Shafeey Mosque, Al-Basha Mosque, Ukash Mosque, AI-Meamar Mosque, and Al-Hanafi Mosque). The old Area also houses a number of old Souqs (Al-Nada Souq, AI-Khasequiyyah Souq, Al-Alaweey Souq, Al-Saghah (Jewelry) Souq) and a large number of heritage buildings that are all still in use.

The historical area of Jeddah is considered an eminent and unique pattern for architecture in the Red Sea zone, which includes the beautiful residential buildings and palaces that still maintain a lot of its urban heritage including its planning, architectural features, artistic features that form a homogeneous urban fabric along with its paths, quads, and market places (Souqs), providing a living example of a genuine Arabic Islamic city.

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Malaysia top family tourist destination

Mumbai, Saturday 16 Rajab 1434/ 14 June 2014 (IINA) – Malaysia was crowned as this year’s best family tourist destination at the Lonely Planet Magazine India Travel Awards 2014 in Mumbai.

Director of Tourism Malaysia (India) Manoharan Periasamy said the award was a recognition of Malaysia’s achievements in promoting the country as a leading ASEAN family destination. “The rapid development of various theme parks and children entertainment centres in Malaysia such as Legoland, Puteri Harbour Family Theme Park, Kidzania, and i-City, to name a few, is a testament to the fact,” he said in a press statement. Potential candidates were chosen by readers after nominees were shortlisted by an expert panel. Lonely Planet is perhaps the world’s most well-known travel guidebook, with over 100 million copies of various countries sold worldwide.

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Britain to issue first Islamic bonds

London, Saturday 16 Rajab 1434/ 14 June 2014 (IINA) – The British government has mandated banks to arrange a five-year 200 million pound sukuk – the world’s first Islamic bond to be issued by a Western sovereign fund.

The Islamic bond could be issued in the coming weeks, subject to market conditions, The Treasury said in a statement late on Thursday. The roadshow will start on June 17 in Jeddah and Kuala Lumpur, then moving to Riyadh, Dubai, Doha, and Abu Dhabi, ending in London on June 20, lead banks said.

A sovereign sukuk is the centrepiece of Prime Minister David Cameron’s bid to position London as a leading hub for Islamic finance, as competition heats up with financial centres in the Middle East and Asia. The bond would be issued before similar transactions planned by Luxembourg, Hong Kong and South Africa, all keen to diversify their funding sources and tap liquidity provided by increasingly wealthy Islamic investors.

In January, Britain appointed HSBC to arrange the deal and it has now added four more banks to the syndicate: Qatar’s Barwa Bank, Malaysia’s CIMB, National Bank of Abu Dhabi and Standard Chartered. The sukuk will use an ijara structure, a Shariah-compliant sale and lease-back contract, allowing the rental income of three central government offices to underpin the transaction. In an ijara sukuk, a party leases equipment, buildings or other facilities to a client for an agreed rental price – a popular format among both sovereign and corporate issuers.

Britain has six full-fledged Islamic banks and over 20 institutions in the country that offer Sharia-compliant financial services, which follow religious principles such as a ban on interest and gambling. A sovereign sukuk could help Britain’s Islamic banks to help manage their short-term liquidity needs. In March, The Bank of England said it was studying ways to increase the number of Sharia-compliant assets that Islamic banks can use in their liquidity buffers, a step towards reducing concentration risks in the sector. Britain considered a sovereign sukuk six years ago, but that issuance never materialized as the Debt Management Office decided the structure was too expensive at the time.

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Muslim foreign ministers meeting begins in Jeddah

Jeddah, Wednesday 20 Rajab 1434/ 18 June 2014 (IINA) –The 41st Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member countries began here on Wednesday morning.

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas, OIC Secretary General Iyad Ameen Madani, Arab League Secretary General Nabil Al-Arabi, Lonsi Val, foreign minister of Guinea, and other leaders are attending the opening session. The meeting started with recitation from the Holy Qur’an.

In his speech, Lonsi Val, chairman of the 40th Session of the Council, underlined the need for joint Islamic work and strengthening avenues of cooperation among the member countries besides confronting challenges facing the Islamic world. Then, Prince Saud Al-Faisal opened the meeting. In his speech, Prince Saud called on Muslims to close their ranks in addressing the crises facing the Islamic world.

He said that the Syrian crisis contributed to worsening the sectarian differences in Iraq, which is on the brink of a civil war. He blamed the United Nations for its failure to resolve the Syrian crisis. Prince Saud urged the international community to take quick steps to halt the massacres being perpetrated against the Syrian people.

Terrorism, extremism and sectarian differences threatening security and stability of the region will top the agenda of the meeting. Latest developments in Palestine, Syria and Iraq will also find a place in the deliberations of the two-day meeting that comes at a critical juncture for the Muslim world. Mahmoud Abbas, OIC Secretary General Iyad Ameen Madani, Arab League Secretary General Nabil Al-Arabi, Lonsi Val, foreign minister of Guinea, and other leaders are set to address the opening session.

More than 30 foreign ministers from the member countries are taking part in the meeting under the theme “Exploring areas of Islamic cooperation.” Syria was suspended from the 57-member grouping of the Islamic countries. Envoys of US, Britain, France, Canada, Australia and Italy to the OIC, as well as heads of international and regional organizations will also take part in the meeting.

OIC chief Madani will present a report in which he will review the situation in the Muslim world and major developments in the Middle East region, notably Palestine and the OIC efforts for the cause of occupied Jerusalem (Al-Quds). The secretary general is expected to touch on the OIC’s endeavors with regard to resolving the ongoing crises in Central Africa, Myanmar, Nigeria and Mali. The meeting will discuss the situations in Iraq, Syria and Libya in view of the latest developments and their implications for security and stability in the region, in addition to the situation of the Muslim minorities in Myanmar, the Philippines and Central Africa.

The meeting will conclude on Thursday with adoption of the Jeddah Declaration, that is likely to emphasize the need to strengthen Islamic solidarity, sources said. The final communique is expected to make an appeal to powerful Islamic states to support the efforts for establishing an independent Palestine state with Jerusalem as its capital. “Participation of Abbas shows the significance given by OIC to Palestine and Jerusalem as one of its core issues,” Riyad Al-Maliki, foreign minister of Palestine, said.

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Civil Aviation Authority transferred from Defence Ministry to Tourism Ministry

Sun.mv – June 22, 2014 – Maldives Civil Aviation Authority has been transferred from Ministry of Defence and National Security to Ministry of Tourism.

The President’s Office said that this change was made by the President, with reference to the Civil Aviation Authority Act.

Maldives Civil Aviation Authority is responsible for the development and administration of policies and regulations to ensure safety and security in aviation in the Maldives.

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Traditional Anatolian dolls in demand as gift

SİVAS – Anadolu Agency – A villager in Sivas is producing dolls using wood and other materials. The dolls receive great interest from people and are sent to foreign countries, too

An old Turkish woman living in the central Anatolian province of Sivas’ Karacaören village is producing wood dolls and clothing them with traditional dresses. Gülizar Sağlam, 62, sells the dolls to guests visiting the village and sends them to foreign countries.

Sağlam learned how to cut trees by working with her carpenter husband for some time, has been producing wooden dolls for nearly four years with a simple method she invented. She makes the body of the wooden doll and covers it with unused fabric pieces. She uses plastic materials for the head and hands and uses traditional dresses for their clothing. Every doll is given a different name and Sağlam sells them mostly to families who live abroad, but also to those who come to visit the village.

She develops the wood using a simple cutting and nailing process. She said the first doll she made was life-sized and was able to dress it with her own clothing. “Later, I made a few more dolls and people wanted to buy them, but I did not want to let them go. I sell what I produce and earn my pocket money. I supported my husband’s expenses when he was being treated in the hospital,” she said.

Explaining how she produces the dolls, she says: “I choose the woods from unspoiled trees. I first cut the wood for different body parts, I cut hands and legs. I make arms using wire. I only prepare the head and hands. I cover the wooden legs and arms with fabric or sponges and strengthen them with rope. Finally, I attach the head and hands and dress them up with clothes. After completing them, I name them.”

Sağlam said she lives in Ankara during the winter and continues making dolls there. “I produce the unique dresses of our region for the dolls. I visit open bazaars and spare part sellers. I also cut the unused dresses at home. I look for regional pieces and find them. I sew baggy trousers, skirts, shoes, blouses and waistcoats at night. I make everything myself. This makes me forget the pain of my deceased husband and helps to pass the time,” she said.

Sağlam said at the same time she also makes the dolls to keep their culture alive, adding, “We grew up with these clothes, but they are just worn for folklore plays these days. We don’t wear them anymore, either. I want to give life to the woods and show the culture of our region in these dolls.”

One doll in four days

One doll is finished in four days, including the preparation of its dress. “I make seven or eight dolls a month. I sometimes receive orders and then make more dolls. I sell them to people visiting the village. They take them to countries like Germany and the Netherlands as gifts. I make the body according to the size of the doll’s head. Their height changes upon demand. The smallest one is about 70 centimeters. I sell the small ones for 50 Turkish Liras and the bigger ones for 70 liras,” said Sağlam.

She wants to teach other women how to make dolls and open a course in the village. “There are many women who want to learn the skill,” she said.

She also said she will apply for the establishment of a museum in their village to display their regional products. “I will continue making these dolls. I will also start making male dolls. I want to establish a museum and display these dolls there.”

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Turkmenistan hopes ‘Door to Hell’ will boost tourism

KARAKUM DESERT, Turkmenistan – Agence France-Presse – Locals call it the Door to Hell, a giant burning pit that has spit out angry flames for more than 40 years, casting a yellow-orange glow into the evening sky.

“It takes your breath away,” said Gozel Yazkulieva, a 34-year-old visitor from the Turkmenistan capital Ashgabat. “You immediately think of your sins and feel like praying.”

Few foreigners have seen the crater in the heart of the Karakum, one of the world’s largest deserts, although Turkmen authorities are hoping to change that as they seek ways to bolster tiny visitor numbers to the former Soviet republic.

Still one of the world’s most isolated countries almost a quarter-century after the fall of the Soviet Union, Turkmenistan welcomes just 12,000 to 15,000 tourists from around 50 countries each year.

Tourism officials say the Door to Hell, also called the Derweze crater after a nearby village, could be developed into a key draw for adventure tourists.

“The burning crater… is attracting more and more interest every year, especially among foreign tourists,” an official on Turkmenistan’s state committee on tourism told AFP.

“The ‘lifeless’ desert could soon become a hugely interesting destination for different types of tourism — from eco-tourism to extreme sports,” he said.

The Karakum, or Black Sands, covers 80 percent of the Central Asian republic. In summer, temperatures soar to more than 50 degrees C (122 F), while in winter they plunge to minus 20 C (-4 F).

There are no road signs to the pit in a natural gas field some 270 kilometres (170 miles) north of the capital, but guides know where to turn onto a track leading to a fantastic view.

Flames dance out of cracks in its floor and around the sides, and a burning blast of air emanating from the pit shifts with the wind. The extreme heat and the roar of the flames have a mesmerising effect.

The phenomenon was the result of a simple miscalculation by Soviet scientists.

“Soviet geologists started drilling a borehole to prospect for gas at this spot in 1971,” said Turkmen geologist Anatoly Bushmakin. “The boring equipment suddenly drilled through into an underground cavern, and a deep sinkhole formed. The equipment tumbled through but fortunately no one was killed.”

“Fearing that the crater would emit poisonous gases, the scientists took the decision to set it alight, thinking that the gas would burn out quickly and this would cause the flames to go out,” Bushmakin said.

But they never did, and now serve as a potent symbol of Turkmenistan’s vast gas reserves, believed to be the fourth largest in the world.

Despite the obvious danger, the pit is not fenced off and those looking for extreme thrills can stand right on the edge. But this is very risky since the sandy soil often crumbles away.

“Foreign tourists who visit the burning crater feel mixed emotions — awe at the sight but also at the profligacy of the Turkmen people, who have simply let the gas burn for so many years,” said 40-year-old Begli Atayev, who works at a travel agency in Ashgabat.

Last year Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov created a state nature reserve in the Karakum desert covering an area of 90,000 hectares (220,000 acres), including the Derweze crater.

“The main task of the new reserve is to preserve one of the largest deserts on the planet and solve its environmental problems,” said Ovez Kurbanov of the National Institute of Deserts, Flora and Fauna.

The region’s diversity of flora and fauna also made it ripe for scientific and eco-tourism, he added. “Landmarks such as the burning crater are hugely interesting both to people who love to travel and to researchers in various areas,” he added.

Travellers could go on safari in jeeps and quad bikes or ride camels along the shifting sand dunes of the Karakum, the state tourism official suggested.

“Our main task is to create an attractive image of Turkmenistan as a tourism destination,” he said.

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Turkish tourism sector expects local holiday makers

ISTANBUL – Anadolu Agency – TÜRSAB predicts the share of local tourists in hotels will rise up to 40 percent in Bordum, while it will remain at around 15 percent in Antalya resorts. AA Photo

With the aim of compensating for its losses from decline in European tourists, the Turkish tourism sector will try to allure local tourists.

This summer’s season is expected to witness a boom with the Ramadan holiday, according to a report released by the top sector organization.

“2014 Tourism Season Report” released by the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB) says the tourism sector is suffering from a retreat in some markets including Germany, Ukraine and Belgium and looks to raise the number of Turkish tourists.

“The sector will have up to 30-40 percent price reductions during Ramadan in order to not leave their business up to chance,” the report read.

The three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday, also known as the Ramadan Holiday, will fall between July 27-30 this year, creating a five-day vacation opportunity at country’s coastal beauties or culture attractions for local holiday makers.

According to the report, southeastern holiday town Bodrum and the southern province of Antalya that accommodates scores of shores will remain the favorite destinations for Turks who want to take a little time off.

The report predicts the share of local tourists in hotels will rise up to 40 percent in Bordum, while it will remain at around 15 percent in Antalya resorts.

Despite a decline foreseen in foreign tourists, the number of tourists to Turkey, which was 39 million in 2013, is expected to rise to a record high of 43 million this year, with a moderate increase in tourism income also projected.

A total of 57 million people mobility is expected for the whole year, according to TÜRSAB’s calculations.

Nearly 5 million of 14 million Turkish tourists expected for this year will spend their holiday at touristic facilities like hotels and pensions. Most of those 5 million are predicted to take their vacation during the busy summer season that comprises of the May-September period.

The figure of income from tourism exceeded $34 million last year, according to figures by TÜRSAB. Although TÜRSAB predicts a rise to $36 million this year, it also foresees a fall in income per tourist.

In his remarks quoted in the report, TÜRSAB chairman Başaran Ulusoy also warned of the losses suffered by illegal tourism agencies.

“People should be cautious about these agencies, which are preferred because of the perception of having lower prices. Unlicensed agencies cause unfair competition, as well as threaten safety,” he said.

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İzmir to revive with international rhythms

İZMİR – Hurriyet – The 28th International İzmir Festival will be held between June 14 and Sept. 3, hosting the great masters of rhythm. The 600th year of Turkey-Poland diplomatic relations will be celebrated at the ancient theater of Ephesus, with attendees including renowned artists from both countries. In addition, friendship ties with current EU term president Greece will be improved with an unforgettable concert in Ephesus.

Along with the ancient theater of Ephesus, the Library of Celsus, the Kültürpark Openair Theater, the Çeşme Hagia Haralambos Church, the Ahmet Adnan Saygun Art Center, İzmir Economy University and the Şirince St. John Baptist Church will host the festival’s events this year.

Opening by Warsaw Philharmonic

World renowned Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra Sinfonia Varsovia, under the baton of one of the most efficient composers of the 20th century, Krzysztof Penderecki, will be at the ancient theater of Ephesus for the opening concert of the festival on June 14. The Sinfonia Varsovia, one of Poland’s best known musical institutions, will perform with Turkish pianist and composer Hüseyin Şermet. Artists from Turkey and Poland will celebrate the 600th anniversary of their diplomatic relations during the concert.

On June 18, Arte dei Suonatori, the pioneering group of Baroque music in Poland, will perform its new program “Alla Polacca, Alla Turca” with violin virtuoso Rachel Podger at the Library of Celsus. The concert will include not only the works of well-known composers such as Telemann, Haydn and Mozart, but also cultural pieces from the Ottoman era.

The Hagia Haralambos Church, one of the most significant cultural venues in Çeşme, has recently been transformed into an arts center after a restoration process, and will host the Amaryllis Quartett at the festival.

After winning the Finalists’ Prize at the Premio Paolo Borciani 2011 in Reggio Emilia and then, only four weeks later, winning First Prize and the Grand Prize at the 6th Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition, the Amaryllis Quartett now numbers among the first rank of string quartets of its generation.

The İzmir State Opera and Ballet Orchestra, under the baton of Lukas Karytinos, will also be performing at Ephesus with Mario Frangoulis on June 27. Italian composer Frangoulis has released more than 15 solo albums and 10 compilation albums. Voted Best Male Classical Crossover Artist of 2011, Frangoulis is also known for his humanitarian work and serves as International Ambassador for the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans in the U.S., and Ambassador of Peace for the World Centers of Compassion for Children International, which was founded by Nobel Peace Laureate Betty Williams in Europe and abroad.

A first at the festival

On July 7, the festival will hold a first. The IKSEV Chamber Orchestra, under the baton of Orhun Orhon, will play at İzmir’s Economy University with the Star Students concert. The young talents who will participate in the International Violin Master Class will perform in concerts between July 2 and 5. The concert will be accompanied by Dora Schwarzberg, Tuncay Yılmaz, and pianist associate professor Gökhan Aybulus.

On July 9, the St. John Baptist Church will host famous Polish mezzosoprano Liliana Zaesinska and pianist Szczepan Konczal. Zalesinska studied singing at the Music University in Lódz, graduating with honors in musical performance and opera. She also holds a postgraduate diploma with honors from the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna. She is also an alumna from Warsaw University’s Institute of Art History.

On July 11, Italian Quartetto Di Venezia will be performing at the Celsius Library. Formed by Andrea Vio and Alberto Battiston (violin), Giancarlo Di Vacri (viola) and Angelo Zanin (violoncello), Quartetto di Venezia makes annual appearances throughout Italy as well as Europe and the U.S. The band will perform works by Beethoven, Wolf and Brahms.

Established by Martha Graham as one of the most important dancers and choreographers of the 20th century, and recognized as the “Picasso of dance,” the Martha Graham Dance Company will take the stage at the İzmir Kültürpark on July 17. With its iconic program that consists of choreographies that are full with rich historical and thematic narrations, the company will present a visual feast at the Izmir Festival.

With the motto “Dance is a secret language of spirit,” Graham has forever changed the boundaries of this art form with her works on the basis of social, political and psychological contents.

The festival will end on Sept. 3 at the Ahmet Adnan Saygun Arts Center with the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who has won 17 Grammy awards. Ma will performwith the “Silk Road Ensemble,” with whom he has fulfilled many memorable musical experiences.

Ma and the “Silk Road Ensemble” will perform Adnan Saygun’s piece “Partita,” which has not been performed by Ma since 2001 and is included in his new album “A Playlist without Borders.” In addition to Saygun, Ma also plays 17 pieces of American, Chinese, Egyptian, Iranian composers in the special new album.

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Ballet stars to compete in Istanbul

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet – The countdown has started for the 4th International Istanbul Ballet Competition and Festival, which will be a platform for dancers from around the world to show their talents

The countdown has started for the 4th International Istanbul Ballet Competition and Festival, which will be a platform for dancers from around the world to show their talents. The festival will kick off on June 21 at the Zorlu Center PSM with the ballet rendition of “Count Dracula.” The semifinal of the competition will be held June 24 at the Bakırköy Leyla Gencer Opera Stage with “Bach Ala Turca.” The final competition will be held June 25 and the festival will end June 26 with a Gala Night and an Award Ceremony at the Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hall.

Organized by the State Opera and Ballet (DOB), the competition aims to highlight Turkey’s artistic identity. The event will be organized into two age groups, 15-19 and 20-25 and in male and female categories. The winner of the competition will receive 8,000 euros.

DOB General Director Professor Rengim Gökmen, speaking to Anadolu Agency, said he gave great importance to the competition, adding, “I believe this competition makes great contributions to Turkish ballet in terms of opening it to the world. As of June 21, Istanbul will be the place where the heart of world ballet will beat.”

Gökmen said ballet required passion and working conditions harder than many other sports. “This is why I appreciate the ballet dancers who took ballet classes from the age of 7 to 17 and work as a professional from 18 to 33,” he added.

He said they had worked hard for a ballet competition to be organized in Turkey, especially with the competition aimed at supporting young dancers. “I am happy this competition proved itself and was accepted to the International Ballet Competitions Federation in the first year. Our competition is respected in the ballet world in line with the competitions in New York, Tokyo, Varna and Rome,” he said.

Gökmen noted that the competition gained the status of being a festival this year and important ballet pieces would be staged. “We want to draw the ballet world’s attention and promote the art of Turkish ballet because this is what we can boast about. Our wish is to use the techniques the world uses,” he said.

After DVD eliminations, the competition’s semifinalists were selected. Among 32 dancers, 12 will be competing in the children’s category. The competition has so far hosted world renowned dancers such as Irek Mukhamedov, Julia Bocca, Vladimir Malakhov, Fabiene Cerrutin and Margarita Parilla.

Ballet in Turkey

The first steps toward ballet were first taken in the Ottoman-era with the efforts of Giuseppe Donizetti during the reigns of Mahmud II and Abdulmecid. Donizetti was the instructor general of imperial Ottoman music.

Ballet instructor Lydia Krassa Arzumanova, who came to Turkey after the Russian revolution, opened a ballet studio in Istanbul in 1921 and staged the first performance with her dancers in 1931. Dame Ninette de Valois, the founder of the British Royal Ballet and one of the leaders of contemporary ballet, was invited to Turkey in 1947 for the foundation of Turkish ballet. A school was opened in 1948 in Istanbul and enrolled 11 male and 18 female students. The school moved to Ankara in 1950 and became affiliated with the Ankara Conservatory.

Later on, Dame Ninette de Valois sent her assistant Alaine Phillips to Turkey. Phillips reorganized the choreography of Lev Ivanov and Enrico Cecchetti and staged Leo Delibes’s ballet “Coppelia” in 1961. This was the first ballet performed by Turkish ballet dancers.

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Kyrgyzstan focuses on exporting organic food

Centralasiaonline.com 2014-06-20 BISHKEK – Kyrgyz farmers and livestock herders – who have typically eschewed chemical fertilisers, herbicides and growth hormones for livestock – are producing and exporting more, with an eye on making big gains in the lucrative organic food market.

The farmers have been signing agreements to export to Turkey, Kazakhstan, the UAE and the EU.

Agriculture represented 23% (24.3 billion KGS (US $464.9m)) of Kyrgyzstan’s exports in 2013, the Economy Ministry said. The agricultural, forest and fishery portion of the Kyrgyz GDP in the first quarter of 2014 equalled 21.3 billion KGS (US $408.7m), a 1.2% increase in real terms from the same period in 2013, which officials attribute to growing livestock production.

Kyrgyzstan exports kidney beans, meat, dairy products, fruits and vegetables, and other foods, benefitting the state budget and farmers, said Marat Sharshekeyev, chairman of the country’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“It’s been a delight to see that our produce has enjoyed great demand abroad during the past several years,” Sharshekeyev said.

The export success is leading to some changes for farmers.

Asanbek Karimov, a resident of Nookat District, said he started growing kidney beans to sell them abroad. “Kyrgyz farmers never cultivated (kidney beans) before, sticking to crops like cotton and tobacco that have been dropping in price every year,” Karimov said. “That’s why my friends and I planted kidney beans this year and plan to sell them to Turkey.”

Kyrgyzstan also is witnessing growth of livestock production. In the first quarter of 2014, it produced 82,400 tonnes (live body weight) of livestock, 1.4% more than in the same period of 2013, according to government data.

One option is raising sheep for export, Satybaldy Jakyshev, a resident of Bekjar village, Osh Oblast, said.

“There’s a lot of new (spring) grass in the (summer) pastures, so our flocks will have gained weight by fall,” he said, adding that livestock dealers would export the marbled meat to the UAE, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

He also raises horses for meat, which Kazakhstan buys, he said.

Local farmers have been taking advantage of exporting agricultural products to non-CIS countries, Parliamentarian Talant Uzakbayev said, citing Batken Oblast as an example. Three years ago, Batken Oblast created the “Gifts of Batken” trademark, Uzakbayev said, and they use the trademark to export apricots, apples, dried plums, rice and kidney beans.

The oblast’s farmers – who process up to 10,000 tonnes of fruit in a season – are turning fruits and vegetables into value-added foods, he said, explaining that they intend to produce organic jams, jellies and juices.

Uzakbayev said he expects the global demand for healthy foods to drive economic growth. “Demand for organic food grows every year,” Uzakbayev said. “Therefore, our farmers’ business partners are increasing their orders for produce, including not only fruits and vegetables, but also meat and dairy products that foreign customers want.”

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Uzbekistan marks Museum Month

Centralasiaonline.com 2014-06-19 TASHKENT – Uzbekistan is hoping to use Museum Month to inspire pride in its history. Various peoples have left their mark on Uzbekistan: Buddhist, Greek, Arabic, Turkic and others, and the country has a well-developed museum network to preserve its rich historical legacy.

Out of 120 museums nationwide, 110 belong to the Uzbek government, while the others are community or private properties, the Ministry of Culture and Sports said.

“At this time, (the government) is working out a strategic development programme for the republic’s museums,” Alisher Sanayev, spokesman for the state Uzbekmuzey foundation, said. “This programme envisages providing museums with more-modern equipment, renewing exhibitions and optimising funding.”

Organisers of Museum Month, held in May, sought to imbue visitors with a love of museums. “At least 50,000 young people from all over the country visited our museums since May,” Sanayev said. “We organised competitions, master classes, concerts and meetings with artistic figures for them.”

Several strategies are being used to boost attendance. A government-backed bill, for example, proposes letting children visit any state-owned museum for free on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Another innovation is the introduction of “SKM-MUZEY,” a programme of certifying and computerising the country’s museums.

“This programme will become a unique electronic catalogue, a large database, which will enable every internet user to know the location of each exhibit and learn more about it,” Sobirjon Yakubov, a spokesman for the telecom firm UZInfocom, said. “The programme passed state certification, and work is in progress on introducing it into all the country’s museums.”

Museums are also printing up-to-date guidebooks to help people get more out of their visit.

The State Museum of the Arts of Uzbekistan, which is more than 135 years old, has published a guidebook for its more than 300,000 exhibits.

“Our illustrated guide (describes) the artworks on exhibit in chronological order,” Yelena Khanina, a museum employee, said. “It can be used to learn the details of all the periods in art that interest the visitor. It has been produced in Russian, Uzbek and English.”

One of the best known museums in Uzbekistan is the Karakalpakstan State Museum of Art, founded by Russian artist and ethnographer Igor Savitsky in 1966.

Apart from a collection of Russian avant-garde artwork matched only by that of the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, it houses the most significant collection chronicling the history and way of life of the Karakalpaks.

“It is a phenomenal museum,” art scholar Anna Boiko said. “Here, in the steppe, not far from the Aral Sea, they have collected the second-largest collection in the world of the works of the Russian avant-garde. … Its great distance from the centre in Soviet times made it possible to assemble an impressive number of ‘banned’ works.”

This year, the government has allocated funds to construct a second building for the museum, enabling it to display more of its holdings. That building is expected to open in 2016-2017.

“Fifteen thousand people have already visited … since January,” Marinika Bobonazarova, the museum director, said. “And the flow of visitors can only increase.”

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Bangladesh well on course to be a Middle Income Country by 2021

DHAKA June 15, 2014 (BSS) – Foreign Minister A H Mahmood Ali has said Bangladesh was set on due course to be a middle income country by 2021 as he presented a keynote paper at the British parliament, a foreign office statement said here today.

“The Foreign Minister showcased Bangladesh’s globally acclaimed socio-economic achievements as he presented a comprehensive narrative of a vibrant Bangladesh which is often missed in the media headlines,” the statement said.

Ali, it said, referred to Bangladesh its sustained robust economic growth, sound macro-economic indicators, diversification of a burgeoning exports, attainment of MDGs, impressive social indicators, exceptional pace in women’s empowerment, food self- sufficiency, strengthening of democratic institutions and promotion of human rights and the rule of law.

The foreign minister made the keynote presentation at a seminar on ‘Bangladesh Beyond the Headlines’ at the British House of Lords in London on last Friday.

Underscoring the sound economic policies of the government, Ali reaffirmed the government’s determination to move faster towards Bangladesh’s attaining Middle Income status by 2021.

Reflecting on the present government’s foreign policy towards the UK, he said “Consolidating relations with the UK based on shared values of democracy and secularism, our common aspirations for economic prosperity and welfare of our talented British- Bangladeshi Diaspora would remain high on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s foreign policy agenda towards Britain”.

He conveyed appreciation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government towards British Parliamentarians both in London and at Brussels for their sustained support to Bangladesh and its present government on a wide range of issues of mutual interest.

The seminar was chaired by Lord Sheikh, Vice Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Bangladesh, and joined by Lord Karan Bilimoria, Baroness Pola Uddin, Jean Lambert MEP, Dr. Charles Tannock MEP.

Representatives of mainstream international media including BBC World Service, Al Jazeera, The Economist, Asian Voice, Bangladesh News Papers including The Daily Star and Prothom Alo and prominent members of British Bangladeshi Diaspora including Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury, Rashed Suhrawardy and Iqbal Ahmed, OBE also attended the seminar.

In the same morning the Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali attended a breakfast meeting at the Asia House in London organized by its Business and Policy Programme and spoke on ‘Bangladesh Foreign Policy 2014 and Beyond’.

The event was attended by senior executives of the Asia House, a London-based leading think tank and its corporate members. The briefing covered a range of policy issues, including on trade, investment, regional connectivity, energy cooperation, relations with neighbours as well as post-election political situation in Bangladesh.

“Bangladesh under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been experiencing a booming economy and a steady growth over 6 percent on an average that have had tremendous impact on overall socio-economic development in the country and attracting unprecedented investments from China and Japan for infrastructure mega projects,” Ali told the meeting.

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OIC lauds socio-economic development in Bangladesh

DHAKA June 18, 2014 (BSS) – Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has appreciated Bangladesh role in its endeavors for peace and development in the Muslim world as Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali called on OIC’s secretary general Iyad Ameen Madani in Jeddah, a foreign office statement said here today.

“Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Iyad Ameen Madani paid tribute to Bangladesh for her constructive role in OIC endeavors for peace and development in the Muslim world,” it said.

While Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali, MP, held a meeting with him at the OIC Headquarters in Jeddah yesterday, the OIC secretary general also commended the socio-economic development achieved by Bangladesh particularly in empowering women.

“He pledged all-out support for further enhancing the existing cooperation between Bangladesh and OIC in various fields,” the statement said. It said the OIC chief and Ali also exchanged views on various developments in regional and international arenas.

The Foreign Minister briefed the Secretary General on Bangladesh’s pivotal role in forging greater cooperation at the regional and sub-regional level, particularly under BIMSTEC and BCIM processes.

Earlier Ali joined a working lunch hosted by Bangladesh Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Shahidul Islam for the OIC’s assistant secretary general and other officials of the General Secretariat of the organization.

The Foreign Minister reached Jeddah yesterday in connection with the two-day 41st session of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) that began today.

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PM receives Guinness World Record certificate for “Lakho Kanthe Sonar Bangla”

DHAKA, June 22, 2014 (BSS) – Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today received the certificate of Guinness World Record for successfully holding the “Lakho Kanthe Sonar Bangla Programme” in the capital on March 26 last. Over 2.50 lakh people sang the national anthem at the National Parade Ground in the capital creating a new Guinness World Record.

The Prime Minister also received another certificate for her participation in the programme. Cultural Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Noor handed over the two certificates to Sheikh Hasina at her Jatiya Sangsad office here this evening.

Principal Staff Officer of the Armed Forces Division Let Gen Abu Belal Muhammad Shafiul Huq was present. The certificate of Guinness World Record will be preserved at the Prime Minister’s Office.

Bangladesh was listed in the Guinness World Record for singing the national anthem by the largest number of people together in Dhaka on March 26. The Guinness World Record later made the announcement on its official website.

“The most people singing a national anthem simultaneously is 254,537 and was achieved by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Government of the Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh at the National Parade Ground in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on 26 March 2014,” said the website.

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Gambia: Sanyang Nature Camp Refurbished

19 June 2014 – The Daily Observer – In line with government’s efforts to promote eco-tourism, by establishing tourist attractions across the length and breadth of the country, Sanyang Nature Camp, which has been in existence for over 20-year has been given a thorough facelift and it’s now fully operational.

The camp located some 300 metres away from the Atlantic Ocean along the pristine beach of Sanyang Village, a coastal, cultural settlement in Kombo South West Coast Region, was established in 1992 by Saikou Demba – a veteran Gambian hotelier. Saikou initially became a private entrepreneur in the hotel and hospitality industry back in 1977, when he first emerged as the founder of the then ‘Netis Bar and Restaurant,” but that was after several years of hotel work. He is also the founder and current owner of Laybaatoo Hotel in Bakau and Laybaatoo Sunrise in Sanyang. According to the proprietor,the nature camp created with a view to complementing government’s efforts, particularly in promoting eco-tourism, could be referred to as the Gambian version of the “Hanging gardens of Babylon,” due to its strategic location on the bank of the Atlantic Ocean.

Inspite of been existing for several years, it’s the newest kid on the block of the tourism and hospitality industry, given the degree of renovation and refurbishment it recently went through, all geared towards ensuring quality service delivery. The camp has been generally overhauled with improved products and services, including a new conference hall that could cater for about 100 people, plus standard rooms and state-of-the-earth equipment, as well as adequate and reliable water and electricity supply.

Sanyang nature camp one of the most ideal places for seminars, picnics, birthday parties and wedding ceremonies as a result of its serene environment and proximity to the ocean, also has an upgraded kitchen that operates 24/7 and offers catering services at unbeatable prices. The manager Saikou Demba described the new look of Sanyang Nature Camp as a “must go destination for eco-tourists and social travellers”.

As the Manager of the revamped camp contributing his quota to the socio-economic development of the country especially in the areas of tourism and employment, Demba is calling on all and sundry including government and private institutions, to support what he described as a “home grown and locally owned business initiative”.

Dilating on the economic importance of the River Gambia, Saikou Demba urged both public and private institutions, as well as individual and group entrepreneurs to invest in the River, in order to diversify the Gambia’s tourism products and services, enhance income generation, and strengthen the country’s image as a tourist destination of international repute.

He commended the government of The Gambia under the leadership of Sheikh Professor Alhagie Dr Yahya Jammeh for creating the enabling environment for the participation of the private sector in the tourism and hospitality industry, through sound policies and programmes.

Demba wished the country’s leadership and its entire populace, a peaceful and blessed Ramadan and joyous July 22nd anniversary in advance. Any one interested in hiring the services and or facilities of the camp at the cheapest possible price, can contact him on 9902408

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Nigeria, Iran Sign Agreements On Tourism, Geology

19 June 2014 – Premium Times – The ministers also signed agreement on industrial cooperation between both countries and visa waiver for holders of diplomatic passports.

Nigeria and Iran on Thursday in Abuja signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, to cooperate in tourism, geology, mining, mineral processing and metallurgy sectors.

The Minister of State (1) for Foreign Affairs, Viola Onwuliri, and the Iranian Minister of Industry, Mine and Trade, Mohammed Nematzadeh, signed the agreement at the end of the 5th session of Nigeria-Iran Joint Commission.

The ministers also signed agreement on industrial cooperation between both countries and visa waiver for holders of diplomatic passports.

According to Mr. Onwuliri, the signing of the agreements demonstrates the seriousness both countries attach to the need to collaborate more and boost their economic ties.

She said Nigeria and Iran had very low volume of annual bilateral trade, which official figures was put at less than $50 million annually.

She stressed the need for the countries to encourage people-to-people contact to raise the level of trade and economic relations between them.

“It is important to note that Nigeria and Iran have shared great historic and diplomatic ties for a very long time.

“This is evident in the mutual understanding and support between the two friendly nations at various multilateral engagements,” she said.

Ms. Onwuliri, a professor, also requested Iran’s support in the fight against terrorism in the country.

“The problem of terrorism has become universal and it is imperative for the countries not to stand by and watch terrorists kill and maim innocent citizens.

“As a developing country, Nigeria needs understanding, encouragement and assistance of its friends, of which Iran is one,” she said.

Earlier, Mr. Nematzadeh had said that Iran and Nigeria’s membership in international organisations, such as D8 and OPEC, was a great advantage to deepen economic ties.

“In recent years, Iran has achieved great successes in the fields of science and economy and I express our readiness to share these potentials with the Nigerian people.”

He called on the governments of both countries to identify and remove obstacles inhibiting economic development to encourage private sector participation.

He also recommended the establishment of trade centres to further develop trade relations. “Removal of obstacles regarding banking relations, finance, insurance, investment and customs are highly necessary to facilitate trade flow between the two countries.”

The Iranian minister said Nigeria and Iran had great potentials for cooperation in the fields of maritime and air transportation, power, water resources and agriculture.

He condemned the spate of killings, abductions and assignations perpetrated by insurgents in the country. He said that Iran was strongly opposed to terrorism, citing the country’s experience in counter-terrorism.

“We hope Nigeria will come out of this situation, which is not acceptable to any human being in the world,” he said.

The Iranian delegation comprises government officials and a 25-man delegation from the private sector. The Iranian private sector had indicated interest to invest in Nigeria’s oil and gas sectors, pharmaceuticals, housing, agriculture and manufacturing sectors.

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Nigeria: Royal Jordanian Woos Travel Agents

15 June 2014 – This Day – In a move to ensure that majority of travelling Nigerians have access to its services, Royal Jordanian Airways has taken its promotional campaign to Ibadan, Oyo State. From there, the company intends to reach out to other South West states. The latest interactive campaign inaugurated by Yousef Suileman, General Sales Agent, Royal Jordanian Airways, Nigeria, is an attempt at spreading the tentacles of patronage of the airlines beyond the borders of Lagos and Port Harcourt.

Addressing over 80 travel and tour agents in Ibadan recently, Yousef said “I am happy to be in Ibadan, the political heartbeat of the nation, the city which has unique history of hosting many first of its kind monuments and sites and the underestimated economic bedrock of Nigeria.” He revealed that Royal Jordanian operating in Nigeria today was as a result of the untiring efforts of Ambassador Taofeek Arapaja, the Nigerian Ambassador to Jordan and a native of Ibadan “who made sure that Royal Jordanian Airways management commenced a direct flight from Amman to Lagos last year.

“Hence, our airline holds this city and the people of Nigeria in high esteem.” he said. “Apart from this, we at Royal Jordanian place a high premium on travellers and travel agents. You are the souls of our business. We see you as the engine that keeps us in the air and in the business, hence we are not waiting in our cozy offices for you to come but we, because of our respect for you, we come to Ibadan to sell to you the regal service of the Royal Jordanian Airways.”

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Nigeria: Stakeholders Move to Revive Investment in Tourism

19 June 2014 – Daily Independent – Lagos — Going by the efforts and the focus of the Federation of Tourism Associations in Nigeria (FTAN) towards the development and promotion of tourism in Nigeria, the prospects of the industry may soon be sufficient to enhance increased level of development and reduce the unemployment rate in the country.

For this to be realized however, Nigerians must appreciate and encourage the abundant tourism potentials the nation is blessed with.

To make things work, the federation has taken it upon itself to champion the revival of the tourism hospitality sector, through thorough sensitisation of the private investors to invest in the sector, stimulation of government to provide the basic needs and environment for the sector to thrive and at the same time encourage local patronage of tourism sites by all and sundry.

The second edition of the Nigeria Tourism Investors Forum and Exhibitions held in Abuja, organised by the FTAN in collaboration with Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), was attended by various experts who spoke on various challenges of tourism and how the potentials in the sector can be fully utilised for the development of Nigeria.

FTAN President, Tomi Akingbogun while explaining the rationale behind NTIFE 2014 said, “FTAN decided to bring together investors, the public and private sectors, destinations owners, Hotels Travel and Tour Agencies and, airline operators and others. We decided to bring everybody that matters in this sector together to let us draw a roadmap for ourselves, organise a proper exhibition in Nigeria and promote it to a level where foreigners will start coming in.

“Typically you find Nigerians going abroad for World Travel Market in London, China, Dubai, spending a lot of money and here we cannot point to a particular event promoting Nigerian tourism to Nigeria, yet we have the potentials, that is why we have decided to put up this event together to promote our businesses, our country and create employment because tourism has been identified as the tools to reduce poverty and the power is with us, so why then are we blaming everybody and we are optimistic that with the concerted effort we will be able to get to the destinations.”

He identified security, multiple taxes, lack of infrastructures, poor patronage from the government, high level of poverty, economically unrealistic bill and taxes, delay in passage of budget, among others.

Continuing, he said: “Nigeria is a blessed country, we don’t need to go elsewhere to look for what to use in developing our nation, we’ve got the population, we’ve got the resources, and we got the revenue which several countries have relied on and used to develop fantastic economy for their country; but where we are now in Nigeria is not where we are supposed to be and typically we are very good in blaming someone, the president is not doing this, the governor is not doing that, this is not what should be done.

“Meanwhile, we are not showing love for our country, so when we suddenly have the opportunity of being in a position of leadership there is no way one can represent the interest of the masses and that is why FTAN has decided, that we are not going to be crying over the past.

“We in the private sector, are more than the public sector, we are in the majority, and so why don’t we use our power in doing what is supposed to be done instead of waiting for the government to do everything? Of course, it is the duty call of any government to do all.”

He, however, called on investors in the sector to invest more on destinations in such otherwise forgotten areas “as medical tourism, destinations we have collaboration with some states that already know the importance of developing their tourism potential, of course less than five percent of the states are really aware of the potentials of tourism.

“The only thing most of them know about tourism is generation of revenue from hotels. We are trying to let them know that hotel is just a place of rest but, everybody that want to go into tourism now build hotel. We need to Nigerians know that hotel is not everything about tourism. Why will I leave my house to stay in a hotel for a week if there is no reason for me?

“So we need to develop destinations and most Nigerians are not thinking about it, sometimes, I wonder what do people come to Abuja to do, why do Nigerians have to go to Disneyland, Florida or France, because there is something for them to see? We are actually using this opportunity to actually awaken Nigerians to the potentials that are here, we don’t have to build the Disneyworld for the superstar coming, we should explore the nature at best and make money. We are trying to stimulate all these. There are states that are already into this, but it is still very small and we believe there will be improvement with time.”

At the forum also, Director General of Nigeria Tourism Development Commission (NTDC), Mrs Sally Mbanefo, in her presentation, exposed the audience to the contributions of tourism to the growth of many nations saying: “Many developing countries have managed to increase their participation in the global economy through the development of tourism.

“Tourism development is increasingly viewed as an important tool in promoting economic growth, alleviating poverty, job creation, as well as contributing to national development goals. Numerous studies have demonstrated that tourism can play a significant role in balanced sustainable development, and that it can be effectively harnessed to generate net benefits for the poor (UNWTO, 2002). Tourism is a principal export for 83 per cent of developing countries, and it is the most significant source of foreign exchange after petroleum.”

She said “most recent data show that current global tourism contributions to GDP is approaching US$7 trillion, accounting for 9.3 per cent of total global GDP and that the industry accounts for 8.7 per cent of global employment with an estimated annual growth rate of 2.4 per cent while Nigeria according to available data recorded a total 4,037,808 tourist arrivals in 2013, while US$649,468,486 forms their expenditure.”

Mbanefo urged the country to put in place mechanism through which benefits can be derived from all departures.

“The NTDC is coming up with a recommendation to government on how domestic tourism can benefit from this. We must develop domestic tourism, not just for paid travellers alone, but leisure infrastructure in our various communities for citizens who cannot afford to travel. Tourism can help us achieve the Nigeria of our dreams, not only for the present but also for generations to come.

“Therefore, I am appealing to big businesses and individuals to adopt tourist sites and develop them as part of their contributions to the development of domestic tourism in Nigeria.”

Minister of State for FCT, Jumoke Akinjide said “the strategic importance of tourism sector is reflected not only in the President Goodluck Jonathan transformation agenda, and the drive to diversify the revenue base of the economy, but also in the FCT’s economic development strategy for the capital city, in fact the recently launched Nigeria Industrial Revolution plan identified tourism as one of the key priority sector.”

Akinjide who was represented by the Director of Tourism in the FCTA, Mrs Adebola Elegbede identified the multiplicity of taxations, multiplicity of departments regulatory and enforcement agencies and other problems facing the sector said the FCT administration have ordered the setting up of a multi-agency committee in partnership with the private sectors and other stakeholders to explore ways of harmonising and integrating all levies, charges, and taxes and to come up with investors-friendly recommendations which may include initiating challenges through appropriate legal process to bring about a desirable work.”

She appealed to both public and private investors, event promoters, and travel planners to invest and bring tourists and organise more meetings, conferences shows, fairs and exhibitions in the city as more as critical facilities and good security network are being put in place.

Minister of Tourism and Culture and National Orientiation, Edem Duke raised the hope of Nigerians that soon the dividends of the sectors who soon become evident, commending FTAN for the initiatives.

FTAN chairman, board of trustees, Chief Samuel Alabi in his address advocated the setting up of Tourism Development Bank or provision of loan facilities through which investors in the sector will have access to and utilise for development and urged the government to create a platform that will ensure accuracy in the data of tourism visiting the country.

Some of the problems bothering on employment of professionals in the industry by both the private and public sectors, condition of service and other related issues were discussed with an assurance from the FTAN’s president that he will do the follow up and ensure that implementations of the resolutions in such a way that it will be mutually beneficial to both the employers of labour and the employee. He also approved the induction of students association of tourism, hospitality and related courses into the membership of the apex organisation.

Various private and public organisations, airline operators, travel agencies, hotels, service providers and states like Bayelsa, Rivers and Anambra, were represented at the exhibition during the programmes which lasted two days.

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Expo Centre Sharjah to host 2015 Islamic Travel Summit

Khaleej Times – 21 June, 2014 – Sharjah, the Capital of Arab Tourism for 2015, is set to play a bigger role in promoting cooperation within OIC member states in the tourism sector.

Bringing spotlight on the $137 billion global Islamic tourism market, Expo Centre Sharjah (ECS), for the first time, is set to host the inaugural World Islamic Tourism Summit & Exhibition, incorporating the second OIC Tourism Fair in 2015.

Sharjah, which has been chosen as the Capital of Arab Tourism for 2015, is set to play a bigger role in promoting cooperation within OIC member states in the tourism sector.

An MoU to bring the two events together at Expo Centre was signed last week by Saif Mohammed Al Midfa, CEO of Expo Centre Sharjah, and Dr El Hassane Hzaine, director general of the Islamic Centre for Development of Trade (ICDT), in Casablanca. ICDT is the subsidiary organ of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, which is entrusted with trade promotion and investment among the OIC member states.

“This is a double honor for Sharjah and Expo Centre. Being chosen as the Capital of Arab Tourism for 2015 at the Arab Tourism Ministers’ Summit in itself is an achievement and adds to the list of awards and accolades Sharjah has received in the recent past.

“Now, the decision to organise the summit and the fair will literally be a feather in the cap for Sharjah and ECS. This also reiterates the coordination and cooperation between ECS and OIC, which has resulted in Expo Centre hosting several OIC events and playing host to several OIC delegations and dignitaries,” said Al Midfa.

“The World Islamic Tourism Summit & Exhibition partnered with the OIC Tourism Fair aims to change this by strengthening cooperation and partnership between the OIC member states in the field of tourism, and encourage investment and partnership in the sector,” added Al Midfa.

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Turkish fashion brand to open four stores in UAE

Khaleej Times – 22 June, 2014 – Turkey’s leading fashion brand LC Waikiki will open four new stores in the UAE in the next six months, its international retail managing director Yenal Gokyildirim told Khaleej Times during his recent visit to the country.

Last month, LC Waikiki opened its first store in Abu Dhabi in partnership with Dubai-based Apparel Group in the presence of Turkish ambassador to the UAE S. Vural Altay, Apparel Group chairman Nilesh Ved, and Gokyildirim, among others.

It was the Turkish company’s first entry into the UAE, but it already has operations in some parts of the Middle East. “Actually we are almost in all Middle East region. Entering the UAE is an important milestone for us, as it is a market with a huge potential,” Gokyildirim said.

Talking about global expansion, he said: “At the end of 2014 we are aiming to reach over 120 stores in 25 different countries. Our new markets will be Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, Armenia and Tajikistan.”

Born in France, fostered in Turkey, LC Waikiki is a multi-cultural fashion brand with global appeal. It offers clothes and accessories for men, women and children of all ages, including babies, style-aware individuals or families. LC Waikiki has 381 stores in Turkey and 85 stores in 21 other countries across the globe.

“Women and children segments generate more sales volume,” according to Gokyildirim. In terms of pricing of its products, he said: “We see ourselves in the level of affordable price.”

LC Waikiki offers a range of home grown brands such as XSIDE, which caters to the young, trendy, and youthful segment of the market. LWC Teen, another sub-brand under the LC Waikiki label, targets kids within the age group of 9-16 years. Designed with comfort in mind this range is inspired by the season’s current trends, colours and cuts. LC Waikiki Kids’ offer a variety of clothes and accessories for kids aged 2-9 years and the LC Waikiki Baby range includes fun and colorful collections for babies aged 0-36 months.

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Dubai Tram project 93% complete: Al Tayer

Emirates 24/7 – 22 June, 2014 – Dubai Tram project’s completion rate hits 93 per cent, according to Mattar Al Tayer, Chairman of the Board and Executive Director of the Roads and Transport Authority, RTA.

He revealed that the completion rate of the tram’s depot has exceeded 92 per cent and expected all works in this maintenance and storage facility to be completed next August, adding that the completion rate for the tram system’s stations is currently hovering around 91 per cent.

Al Tayer made this statement during a site tour of the project that included the depot, stations and footbridges, during which he was accompanied by Abdullah Yousef Al Ali, Acting CEO of the Rail Agency, along with a host of directors and engineers and the project contractor.

During the tour, he inspected the work progress in various sites of the project, particularly bridges, stations and completion rates in various components of the project which is progressing according to the approved time chart that sets next November as a cut-off date for the project completion.

Al Tayer inspected the depot, which comprises 11 environment-friendly buildings, and has a capacity to accommodate 25 trams. The facility includes a control centre for rail operations which verifies the safety of doors, brakes and motors of each tram in addition to air-conditioners along with other sophisticated ancillary electronic systems, maintenance workshops and washing and cleaning workshops.

The RTA Chairman also inspected work progress in the 11 stations along the tramway where he inspected the final finishing works and the automated door technology used in passenger platforms which are synchronised with the opening and closing mechanism of the tram doors.

Al Tayer also inspected the progress in road works in the vicinity of the tram project as well as pedestrian crossings, and the safety rail separating the tram from pedestrians throughout the tramway. He directed officials to attach paramount attention to the traffic safety aspect, particularly the management of overlapping traffic movement of vehicles and trams in order to explain the security aspects to all road users, be it pedestrians, tram riders or motorists.

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Sharjah set to attract global heavyweights

Gulf Today – 22 June, 2014 – The Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) has announced that Sharjah will be hosting the 12th edition of the prestigious World Forum for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), the annual event that covers the latest news on corporate strategy concerning location requirements, people and future expansion.

Shurooq’s participation in this event comes in line with the Authority’s strategy to promote the rewarding investment opportunities in Sharjah and in line with the directives of Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, to encourage and facilitate investment in Sharjah.

Sheikha Bodour Bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), stressed on the importance of hosting this global forum — which is considered the world’s premier FDI platform — in Sharjah. She pointed out that the event’s arrival in Sharjah comes as the Emirate is receiving increasing international attention, particularly by major international firms and investment authorities, as one of the GCC’s most attractive markets for foreign direct investment.

Sheikha Bodour added: “By hosting the 12th edition of the World Forum for Foreign Direct Investment, we are looking forward to welcoming investors and investment authorities from across the world and familiarising them with the FDI opportunities prevalent in the emirate of Sharjah and the UAE. As the forum is expected to attract wide international participation, we are confident it will contribute to boosting economic activity in the region and achieving higher levels of growth in all fields”.

The announcement follows on the Authority’s participation in 11th edition which this year took place from the 16th to the 18th of June in Philadelphia, USA.

The move comes few months after the Emirate has received strong sovereign credit scores: A-class from Standard & Poor’s and long term rating of A3 from Moody’s, reflecting the confidence of the international credit rating agencies in the emirate’s economy.

Ahmed Obaid Al Qaseer, COO of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) stated that Shurooq had made use of their participation in 2014 Forum to promote Sharjah’s investment potential, with specific focus on the four key growth sectors — travel and leisure, healthcare, transport and logistics, and environmental services.

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Qatar Airways touches down in Tokyo Haneda

The Peninsula – 22 June, 2014 – Qatar Airways touched down at Tokyo Haneda International Airport for the first time on June 18 marking the airlines’ third destination in Japan and 143rd globally. The inaugural flight also marked the first time that a Qatar Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner has operated to one of their three destinations in Japan.

“Qatar Airways is thrilled that we have further expanded our operations to the dynamic city of Tokyo. This new route will provide our passengers, both in Japan and throughout the rest of our network, with even more options and flexibility when travelling, whether it be for business or leisure,” said Akbar Al Baker, Chief Executive Officer, Qatar Airways addressing a press conference held on June 19 to announce the airline’s new daily direct flight to Tokyo Haneda International Airport.

Qatar Airways has been operating to the Land of the Rising Sun, with routes to Osaka and Tokyo Narita, since 2005 and 2010 respectively.

Al Baker, who was joined by Qatar Airways Senior Vice President Commercial, East Asia & South West Pacific, Woo Yew Seong, and Qatar Airways Country Manager, Japan, Tomohiko Matsumoto, added: “We have enjoyed a very strong relationship with Japan since we began operating flights to this culturally rich and beautiful country in 2005. Since then we have enjoyed a steady growth which allowed us to expand our operations to Tokyo Narita in 2010, and now Tokyo Haneda. This bond is reflected in not just the presence of our airline in Japan but also in the trade, art and culture that is shared between our two wonderful countries”.

The flight signalled the start of a daily service to Tokyo Haneda International Airport, which joined the daily flights already in operation to Tokyo Narita International Airport. For passengers, this means two dedicated flights into Japan’s largest city on a daily basis.

The route, which is operated by an Boeing 787 Dreamliner, with 22 seats in Business Class and 232 in Economy, will bring the number of Qatar Airways’ flights to Japan up from 14 to 21 frequencies each week.

With the new route, Qatar Airways will be serving travellers from the central area of Tokyo in addition to Tokyo Narita which currently services the population in the greater city area.

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Iran is UK tourists’ new holiday hotspot with 400% surge in bookings

Tehran Times – 22 June, 2014 – Iran is experiencing a surge in tourism from Britain, with bookings at travel agencies up by as much as 400 percent.

Even the Iranian law requiring women to cover up and the ban on alcohol have not discouraged British tourists.

For years, the administration of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad put off all but the most adventurous travelers. But the arrival of Hassan Rouhani as his successor last year appears to have made the Middle Eastern country seem friendlier.

Jonny Bealby, managing director of Wild Frontiers, which has been organizing trips to Iran for ten years, hopes to send up to 150 customers this year, compared with a few dozen in 2013.

Mr. Bealby said: “With the new man in charge and the easing of relations, a lot more people feel safe to go there.”

In the Ahmadinejad years, Bealby said his company would provide just one or two organized tours for up to 12 people at a time, and arrange ‘a handful’ of trips for individuals or couples.

“Things have changed completely this year,” he said. “In 2012, it was hard to sell Iran at all and in 2013 we had just two group tours running. This year we are running nine.

“We are also providing tailor-made trips for dozens more people. In total, we are approaching 150 bookings so far in 2014.”

Wild Frontiers’ group tours cost £2,795 per person for a fortnight or £1,995 for 10 days, taking in ancient fortresses, mosques, bazaars, royal gardens, and Iran’s National Museum in Tehran, which displays its crown jewels and peacock throne.

There are no direct flights from the UK to Iran so travelers have to change in either Istanbul or Dubai.

Bealby said: “Travel to Iran has never been a problem in the years we’ve been running tours. As long as people going there are sensible, we have partners in Iran who know what they are doing and our customers are well looked-after.”

Sarah Bareham, marketing executive at Brighton-based Responsible Travel, which also organizes tours of the country, said: “Since January we have had the same number of bookings that we had in the whole of 2013.”

Michael Pullman, marketing manager at Wild Frontiers, based in Barnes, south London, has just returned from one of the company’s tours to Iran and describes the country as ‘amazing’.

He said: “It was a really interesting place, full of history, amazing architecture and mosques.

“Probably the biggest surprise was how friendly and welcoming the people were – everywhere we went we were surrounded by people wanting to ask us questions about topics ranging from politics to the Premier League.

“The officials were very low-key and although they probably knew where we were, there wasn’t any visible presence monitoring our movements.”

But despite the friendly welcome, Pullman said women have to disguise their body shape and wear scarves and, while men are permitted Western clothing, shorts are not allowed.

Other down-sides include Western credit or debit cards not working in Iran, so tourists need to bring cash to exchange.

Wild Frontiers’ brochure describes ‘fascinating’ Iran as ‘one of the most misunderstood countries on earth’.

Other specialist travel agencies have also reported rising bookings for Iran in the last 12 months.

But UK government advice on trips to the Middle Eastern country remains cautious. A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said: “We would advise people to keep up to date with our relevant travel advice on Iran.”

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100,000 expected at Ramadan festival

Arab News – 22 June, 2014 – A new festival, to be launched during Ramadan and Eid, is expected to attract 100,000 local and foreign visitors, according to a senior official.

Abdullah Al-Dawi, head of the festival’s executive committee, told Arab News that “Ramadana Kida” and “Eidna Kida” festivities will be an extension of Jeddah Historic Festival that took place last year.

Speaking at a press conference here, Al-Dawi said that the first edition of the Jeddah Historic Festival attracted more than 750,000 guests.

Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s secretary-general, Adnan Mandoura, director of urban heritage projects, Sami Nawar and Mohammed Omari, director general of the Western Region for the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) were also present.

The festival will be launched in downtown Jeddah on the first day of Ramadan and will continue until the fourth day of Eid Al-Fitr. The event will be divided into two parts.

The first one will start from the first of Ramadan and will end on Ramadan 19. It will be called “Ramadana Kida” (Our Ramadan Is Like This). The second part, called “Eidna Kida” (Our Eid Is Like This), will begin on Ramadan 24 and end on Shawwal 4.

People of Jeddah are looking forward to the festivities, he said.

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Commerce minister to open first Riyadh global exhibition

Arab News – 18 June, 2014 – Minister of Commerce and Industry Tawfiq Al-Rabiah will on Sunday (June 22) open the first Riyadh international exhibition, the first and the biggest of its kind in the Kingdom and the GCC countries.

The event, being joined by 16 GCC, Arab and world countries, will be supervised by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and organized by Alagat International Expo & Conferences (AIEC).

The event is sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), the Saudi Development Bank and the Council of Saudi Chambers (CSC), while the Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG) will join the event as a strategic partner through its media organs, notably Asharq Al-Awsat Arabic daily, Al-Eqtisadiah Arabic business daily and Arab News English daily.

Meanwhile, Board Chairman of AIEC Osama bin Mohamed Makki Al-Kurdi expressed pleasure over Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah’s sponsorship of the global event and its opening by the minister of commerce and industry. This reflects concern of the Saudi government over strengthening of business and trade relations with sisterly and friendly countries and its objective of benefiting from experiences provided by mega global companies.

He underscored the pivotal role, which is being played by the exhibition sector in the economies of the developed countries. In this context, he praised the Council of Ministers for its approval of the organization of a national program of exhibitions and conferences whose supervisory committee is chaired by Prince Sultan bin Salman, chairman of the Supreme Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA).

He expressed thanks and appreciation to all government bodies for supporting the event, and the embassies and all local, Arab and global firms, corporations, agencies and banks for their participation and support.

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Egypt back in favor for Saudi tourists

Saudi Gazette – 18 June, 2014 – Egypt, which was once the most favored tourist destination for Saudis, is now back in the sights of Saudi tourists after the election of Abdul Fattah El-Sisi as Egypt’s new president. Many Saudi families are now booking their flights to their most favorite tourist attraction in the country.

Tourism in Egypt was recently hit hard after the country witnessed two revolutions, in addition to the political instability that swept the country.

With the exception of Saudi families that own homes in Egypt and travel there every once in a while, the vast majority decided to visit countries in Europe and Asia. Egypt’s economy was greatly affected as the number of tourists dropped sharply, affecting more than 4 million people working in this sector.

Egypt has always been a preferred destination for families during the summer vacation and for others who want a close weekend getaway. This year, there are many Saudis who are planning to travel to Egypt for their summer vacation.

Essam Abdel Ghaney, supervisor at Nile Travel & Tourism Agency in Jeddah, said the number of Saudis traveling to Egypt is on the rise. He said the percentage of Saudis traveling this year is expected to increase compared to last year.

He added: “This year has witnessed changes in the type of travelers going to the country because the number of families traveling is increasing. Last year, because of political instability, only single youths were traveling to Egypt,” he said. He said families’ making travel plans to Egypt is a good sign that things are gradually returning to normal and that there is no fear anymore. Before, families were avoiding traveling with their children as Egypt’s security situation was unpredictable.

He added that the holy month of Ramadan would not have any effect on tourism in Egypt as many Saudis still prefer to spend Ramadan in that country. “People will still have the chance to travel to Egypt after Ramadan because there will still be the full month of Shawwal left for vacation before school starts,” added Essam.

Motea Al-Shanqiti, a Saudi who is a frequent traveler to Egypt, said that since 2010, he did not travel to the country with his family because of the political unrest.

“Going to Egypt was a risk that I did not want my family to be exposed to. I used to take my family with me to Cairo whenever I had business trips. For the past three years, I was visiting Cairo only if it was necessary and left immediately after the job was done. This time, I am going back with my family and planning to spend the whole month of Shawwal traveling all over Egypt.”

Abu Feras, a Saudi father of five and an owner of a house outside Cairo, said his family did not travel to Egypt since the revolution. He is now planning to travel after Eid with his family since the political situation is stable.

“Egypt is a beautiful country and it is about time it reappears again in the tourism map as a favorite destination.”

He said he booked his flight after Ramadan and found the tickets very cheap for him and his family.

An owner of travel agency in Egypt, who refused to mention his name, said a positive of Saudis is that they consider Egypt their second home.

“This year I expect more Saudis to come to Egypt, especially Cairo. In the past, a good number of Saudis visited Egypt, but many of them spent their vacation in the Red Sea resorts away from Cairo, which was the center of tension,” he said.

He added that they have many reasonable tourism packages that offer good prices for tourists.

“Before the revolution, our main target was to earn more money. Now our aim is to get back as many tourists as possible to Egypt. We want to restore faith in the heart and minds of Saudi tourists that Egypt is a safe place,” he added.

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Five Haramain train stations to be ready by year-end

Saudi Gazette – 18 June, 2014 – Minister of Transport Jubarah Al-Suraisri said five of the Al-Haramain train stations will be completed this year, Al-Watan daily reported.

He explained that the 450-km long railway will greatly facilitate travel between the two holy cities, especially by Umrah and Haj pilgrims. He said the Haramain trains will travel at an average speed of 300 kilometers an hour.

“The railway passes through many cities, valleys, mountains and desert areas, and has more than 137 bridges and 450 crossovers,” he said. Al-Suraisri noted that 70 percent of the work on the stations has been completed.

He pointed out that Al-Rusaifah station in Makkah is the largest station, which can accommodate up to 20,000 passengers an hour and 10 trains at a time.

“The station being built in a rundown neighborhood will be one of the best train stations in the world,” he added.

Emir of Makkah Prince Mishal Bin Abdullah made an inspection tour of the train station in Al-Rusaifah on Sunday.

Al-Suraisri explained that trial runs will be conducted for a few months to ensure that the trains are ready to carry passengers.

He also mentioned that the train project faced a number of obstacles since it passes through difficult terrain.

Feasibility studies indicate that the train service will carry 20 million passengers a year.

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Oman’s Ministry of Tourism to woo Japan, US, China visitors

Times of Oman – 18 June, 2014 – In its effort to woo global tourists, the Ministry of Tourism is planning to open its offices in America, Japan and China, a statement issued on Tuesday said.

Asma Al Hajri, the acting director of the Tourism Representative Offices Department at the Ministry of Tourism, said that currently the overseas tourism representative offices are promoting Oman tourism in 21 countries across the globe. “For that, it had established 10 offices in Europe, Asia, Australia and the Gulf,” the statement added.

According to the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI), the number of Americans who visited the Sultanate was 26,847 in 2013 and 11,121 by the end of April 2014.

The number of Asians who visited Oman was 59,675 in 2013 and 24,407 in the first four months of 2014, according to the NCSI. No break up was available for tourists visiting from China and Japan. China is currently the world’s secondly largest economy and the largest holder of foreign exchange reserves. In 2013, Chinese tourists made 98 million trips abroad, resulting in a total tourism spend of $ 117 billion.

China is a fast-growing outbound tourism market, with travel and tourism spend anticipated to increase 15 per cent year-on-year between now and 2030.

“There is a huge tourism potential from China and Japan. We will be able to bring more tourists from these sectors once we have full-fledged offices there,” a senior official associated with the top echelons of the hotel industry said. He also said that the United States is another potential country for Oman’s tourism industry. “This is also a very big market,” the official opined. Besides tourists, the ministry is also promoting Oman as a business destination where businessmen can investment in oil, mining and transport sectors in Oman.

With the campaign — ‘Side Trip of a Lifetime’ — tourist arrivals from Australia are growing at a very rapid pace after it set up an office in Sydney.

The Oman Tourism’s Sydney office represents the Sultanate’s Ministry of Tourism in Australia and New Zealand with the aim to increase public awareness about the country as a great holiday and business events destination.

In India, it is planning to promote Oman as a wedding destination in the country besides wooing tourists. The focus has been to promote the regions of Muscat, Jebel Shams, Nizwa, Sur, Wahiba Sands, Ras Al Jinz, Salalah, etc., as tourist spots all over the world.

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Dubai among top three popular destinations for Chinese

Arab News – 18 June, 2014 – Dubai has ranked in the top three most popular destinations among high-net-worth Chinese travelers, rising from 8th place in 2013 to 3rd place in 2014.

The findings were published in a research study conducted by the Hurun Report in association with ILTM Asia and The Chinese Luxury Traveler 2014, which also detailed that 10 percent of those surveyed named Dubai as a must-visit destination in the next three years and placed the UAE within the top 10 most popular countries for shopping.

In 2013 China was one of the top 10 source markets for visitors to Dubai. The Emirate welcomed 275,675 visitors from China, an increase of 11 percent compared to 2012 and the market remains a key focus for Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM).

“The continual increase in guests from China can be attributed both to the emerging middle-class and increasing propensity for people from China to travel overseas and to the focus of DTCM and our partners on growing this high potential market. With sightseeing and shopping high on the agendas of Chinese leisure travelers, Dubai is an ideal destination; while for business travelers, through its superior business offering, the Emirate provides access to the wider MENASA (Middle East, North Africa, South Asia) region and also to the markets of Africa and South America. Dubai also offers the largest Chinese trading hub outside of China — DragonMart, with plans for expansion currently under way,” said Issam Kazim, CEO of the Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing.

“The results are consistent with our customer research, ‘destination Dubai,’ a magnet for Chinese travelers and business. Operating to three cities across China, Emirates’ 35 weekly services to Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou are operating at maximum capacity.

Emirates has been operating passenger flights to China since 2004 and has progressively grown; market access permitting we are committed to further expanding the connectivity between China and Dubai via additional services and launching new routes to cities,” said Barry Brown, Emirates’ divisional senior vice president, commercial operations East.

DTCM regularly conducts road shows and market specific-campaigns to ensure Dubai is positioned as a destination of choice with the Chinese traveler, and the 2013 opening of DTCM’s fourth office in China was followed in April of this year by the emirate welcoming the single largest incentives group in its history, comprising of over 14,500 delegates from China — an achievement made possible by the combined efforts of a number of Dubai’s governmental and private entities

“The Chinese market is incredibly important to us and our strategy is to position Dubai as a foremost destination for both leisure and business travelers by continuously evolving our broad and diverse tourism offering to cater to the more experienced traveler as well as targeting a new generation of first-time travelers,” Issam Kazim added.

As well as an increase in visitors from China, there is also a growing Chinese community in Dubai, with important dates such as Chinese New Year taking center stage on the city’s events calendar.

Celebrations in 2014 included the Burj Al Arab illuminating its sail with a red dragon; the hotel also hosted lion dances, musical performances and calligraphy demonstrations

Special Chinese tasting menus were on offer throughout Dubai’s restaurants and hotels as well as promotions, traditional dance performances and fireworks.

Lafayette Gourmette at the Dubai Mall also hosted Chinese cookery lessons with discounts on Chinese merchandise.

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