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6 Oct, 2014

Merged Islamic Tourism Mart – Indonesian Travel Fair to be held 24-26 Oct

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 06 October 2014 (12 Dhul Ḥijjah 1435). Pls click on any of the headlines to go to the story.



Malaysian handicraft store Karyaneka has launched its first online portal and mobile application, which allows customers worldwide to purchase Malaysian-made handicrafts of outstanding craftsmanship. Karyaneka teamed up with two leading local e-commerce portals, FashionValet.com and Groupon.com to set up the online portals: http://www.karyaneka.my and http://www.karyanekastore.my. The full catalogue of its products includes pewter, woodcarving, silver brassware, Malaysian fabrics like songket and batik, and many more. This initiative was made possible through its partnership with Tukul Cipta Industri Sdn Bhd (TCI). Executive Director of TCI Abdul Munaf Dr. Sultan believes that this new venture will help the globalisation of the local arts and crafts industry. TCI will also introduce Karyaneka through various platforms such as online sales, vending machines at strategic tourist spots and kiosks, online and offline catalogue-based sales as well as boutiques in major cities around the world. Currently, the catalogues are available at all hotel rooms in the Klang Valley. The initiative aims to bring Malaysia’s heritage to greater heights internationally, even to London, Paris and New York City via the Karyaneka International boutique cafés, which will create a positive impact on Malaysia’s arts and crafts industry.

For more information, visit Karyaneka’s website at http://www.karyaneka.my and http://www.karyanekastore.my.


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.




Haj operation plan worked well – Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman

Mina, Sunday, 11 Dhul Hijjah 1435/ 05 October 2014 (IINA) – Pilgrims performed their main rituals in a hassle-free and much comfortable manner, thanks to the excellent outcome of the government’s Haj operation plan, according to Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki, spokesman of the Ministry of Interior.

Addressing a press conference at the headquarters of the Public Security in Mina on Saturday, Al-Turki said almost all pilgrims arrived in Arafat before 10.30 a.m. Their movement to Muzdalifah, Mina and Makkah and the performance of four main rituals was done in the smoothest and most flexible manner. “The well-managed Haj operation plan as well as train facility and the shuttle bus services have contributed significantly to this success. The operation plan and crowd management mechanism have brought about outstanding outcome,” he said. Hatem Qadi, deputy minister and spokesman of Haj Ministry, said the number of lost pilgrims reached 49,000 on the first two days of Haj.

Col. Sami Al-Showairekh, commander of awareness and media at the Public Security, said a total of 351,681 people without Haj permits were sent back from various entry points to Makkah. At least 95,985 vehicles have either been impounded or sent back, besides transferring the file of 1,517 drivers who tried to transport illegal pilgrims and 58 fake Haj firms to the concerned authorities for penal action. Dr. Khaled Mirghalani, spokesman of Health Ministry, said that there were no single cases of corona or Ebola viruses or other contagious diseases reported among the pilgrims. The ministry facilitated 346 hospitalized pilgrims to perform Haj by taking them to Arafat. These included 90 pilgrims from Madinah hospitals and 218 pilgrims from Makkah hospitals.

Col. Abdullah Al-Harthy, spokesman of Civil Defense Directorate, said the forces stationed at 46 points at Jamarat evacuated 92 sick and elderly pilgrims who had health problems while performing the stoning ritual. Meanwhile, Mousa Al-Akasi, director general of IDB’s Sacrificial Meat Project, said that a total of 545,025 heads of sheep, cattle and camels were slaughtered at seven slaughterhouses till Saturday evening.

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Record number of Syrians performing Haj this year

Mina, Sunday, 11 Dhul Hijjah 1435/ 05 October 2014 (IINA) – The number of Arab pilgrims this Haj season stands at 265,217 pilgrims, according to figures released by the National Tawafa Establishment for the Pilgrims of the Arab Countries.

For the first time in three years, Syrian pilgrims came in record numbers this year, 9,185, with the Syrian National Coalition taking on the task of organizing the sending of pilgrims from the capitals of the countries surrounding Syria, namely Beirut, Amman, Cairo and Ankara. Egypt topped the list of the number of Arab pilgrims with 68,749, followed by Algeria at 28,543, Morocco at 26,790, and Iraq at 26,259. From Sudan came 25,719 pilgrims, while the number of Yemeni pilgrims, despite the crisis in the country, stood at 19,360 pilgrims.

The number of Jordanian pilgrims was put at more than 10,000 pilgrims. The number of Syrian pilgrims who performed the holy rituals two years ago was the least among the Arab pilgrims, 1,000, while last year 4,000 pilgrims came to perform Haj. Their number increased two times this year, refuting rumours that said they were prevented from coming to perform the holy rituals. From Tunisia came 8,895 pilgrims, Somalia 7,142 and a lesser number came from Libya with 6,123 pilgrims as the quota of pilgrims coming from Arab countries was also reduced by 20 percent because of the ongoing mataf expansion.

The number of Palestinian pilgrims coming from Ramallah and Gaza sector stood at 5,990, against 1,577 pilgrims of the Arab Palestinians of 48 territories. 99 Palestinian pilgrims came holding Syrian identification documents, 98 with Lebanese one and only one Palestinian with a Jordanian document. The statistics of the National Tawafa Establishment for the Pilgrims of the Arab Countries recorded 5,204 Lebanese pilgrims, of which 1,200 were Palestinian pilgrims living in Lebanon. From both Kuwait and Oman 16,000 pilgrims came. From Kuwait, 17 pilgrims of the Bedoons came to perform Haj this year. From Mauritania came 2,515 pilgrims, Djibouti 874, Comoros 844, and from Eritrea, 432 pilgrims.

The surprise was the entry of international pilgrims from Asia, Europe and South America through Arab countries, including 4 Colombians, 17 Chinese, 93 Indonesians, 39 Pakistanis, 37 Malaysians, 15 Turks, 11 Brazilians, 8 Venezuelans, 7 Uzbeks, 7 Russians, 5 Australians, 2 Panamanians and one pilgrim each from Paraguay, Myanmar, Denmark, Germany, Uganda, Macau, Italy and Bosnia. King Abdulaziz International Airport received the largest number of pilgrims with 121,139 pilgrims, followed by Jeddah Islamic Port with 13,375, while Prince Mohammad bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah received 89,002 pilgrims. 5,677 Arab pilgrims came by road.

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LEAD STORY: Merged Islamic Tourism Mart – Indonesian Travel Fair to be held 24-26 Oct

The combination of the WORLD ISLAMIC TOURISM MART (WITM) and INDONESIA TRAVEL and HOLIDAY FAIR has produced a stunning new event that caters for the travel and tourism industry of Indonesia as well as the region. The event named WITM ASIA-ITHF 2014, will be held at the Karthika Expo, Balai Kartini from 24-26 October 2014 and organized in collaboration between WITM EVENT SDN BHD of Malaysia and RajaMICE.com of Indonesia, is set to be the trend setter for future events in Indonesia.

At the Press Conference in Jakarta, the Vice Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy of Indonesia, Dr. Sapta Nirwandar, “encouraged the travel and tourism industry players of Indonesia to participate and take this opportunity to network with the foreign trade buyers in order to bring into Indonesia more foreign tourists especially from the Islamic countries”. As there are only limited booths left, Pak Sapta, stressed that “the Travel and Tourism industry sector whether in Indonesia or in South East Asia should immediately sign up so as not to miss out on the benefits of being a part of WITM ASIA-ITHF 2014”.

Pak Sapta further added that “ITHF is an established travel fair in Jakarta and is definitely a must visit travel fair whereby the consumers would be able to get the best deals to travel within Indonesia and beyond”.

WITM ASIA-ITHF 2014 supported by the Ministry of Tourism & Culture Malaysia, Tourism Malaysia, Ministry of Tourism & Creative Economy Indonesia, Tourism Indonesia will have a Trade Mart for the tourism industry to network and negotiate and basically talk business on expanding the travel and tourism sector between Indonesia and other participating countries.

WITM ASIA-ITHF 2014 has a Consumer Travel Fair catering for value for money consumers who want the best travel deals in town. Finally, WITM ASIA-ITHF 2014 will also have an International Conference with the theme, “EMERGING TRENDS IN ISLAMIC TOURISM, TRAVEL AND HOSPITALITY SECTOR”

Dr. Sapta further added, “WITM ASIA- ITHF 2014 held in Indonesia, which is the largest Muslim country in the world, is projected to enhance the unrealized potential of the Islamic Tourism sector. With over 1.7 billion Muslim population worldwide and a growing affluent Muslim society, the Muslim Tourism market is a gold mine waiting to be tapped”.

Dato Mohd Khalid, Chairman of WITM Events stressed “By combining WITM with its emphasis on the expanding Islamic Tourism market and ITHF, the organizers plan to provide the one-stop platform for all sectors of the travel and tourism industry not only in Indonesia but also globally, to network and expand into new market segments as well as to strengthen the existing Muslim Tourism markets”.

Dato Khalid further added, “Visitors, be it trade buyers, corporate figures, consumers and government representatives will find value-for-money travel and tour packages. As for the travel and tourism industry players, WITM ASIA-ITHF 2014 is targeted to be an annual event in Indonesia and provides the travel industry the opportunity to target the consumers, the trade buyers and to learn from the international speakers and panelists”.

For more information please contact: Email: Ms Shaidah at witmeventmalaysia@yahoo.com.my / nurshaidah@witmevents.com / or Ms Zara at witmeventmalaysia@gmail.com / zara@witmevents.com

Website: www.witm-ithf.com

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Nasi Lemak As Malaysian Food Icon for Japan Market

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Sept 29 (NNN-Bernama)– Nasi Lemak (rice cooked in coconut milk) has been selected as the icon dish in an effort to introduce Malaysian food, culture and holiday destinations to the Japanese Market.

Tourism Malaysia in a statement today said the selection of Nasi Lemak was a part of the ‘Sudah Makan?’ (Have you eaten?) campaign launched on Sept 25 in Tokyo, with the help of Japanese food celebrity Kentetsu Koh as Malaysian Food Advisor.

“The campaign will follow through with several food promotions including a Malaysian Jazzy Night and Food from Oct 17 to 31 in Tokyo as well as a restaurant carnival at Kai Jyo Row in Chubu Centrair Airport Nagoya, from Sept 7 to Nov 16,” the statement said.

Tourism Malaysia added, 15 Malaysian restaurants in Japan would also be taking part in a similar restaurant promotion from Nov 1 to Jan 31 to showcase Malaysia’s delicious cuisine to the Japanese.

The campaign gained ground with Tourism Malaysia’s 36th participation in the Japan Association of Travel Agents (JATA) Tourism Expo 2014 from Sept 25 to 28.

Malaysia’s presence at this year’s expo was grand with a total of 17 organisations comprising Tourism Malaysia, Malaysia Airlines, Sarawak Tourism Board, Sabah Tourism Board, hotels and travel agencies under the Malaysia Pavilion themed ‘Year of Festivals 2015’.

The Malaysian Pavilion, dressed up in a ‘Festival and Culture’ theme was opened by Tourism Malaysia’s Director of International Promotion Division (North and East Asia) Nor Aznan Sulaiman.

Japan has been a major tourist market for Malaysia with 513,000 arrivals in 2013.

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Oman Air Plans Flights To Goa, Dhaka Next Year

MUSCAT, Oman, Sept 29 (NNN-ONA) – Oman Air announced plans to launch flights to Goa in India and the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, from next year.

The announcement was made at a press conference, addressed by Paul Gregorowitsch, chief executive officer, Oman Air and Abdulrahaman al Busaidy, its chief operating officer.

“We will start flying to Manila (the Philippines) and Jakarta (Indonesia) by this Dec. In 2015, we will start flying to Goa and Dhaka as well. We plan to increase frequency to Europe, the Indian subcontinent, and south-east Asia beginning Jan,” Busaidy said.

Oman Air currently possesses 31 aircraft and flies to 43 destinations. It plans to add 16 new aircraft to its existing fleet, over the next one year.

“With further additions, there should be 5 aircraft by 2017. We plan to have more codeshare agreements with other airlines, and increase flights to Duqm, Sohar and Salalah,” Gregorowitsch said.

The airline is also counting on completion of the expanded Muscat International Airport, which has been delayed. “The delay has affected us. (The airport’s) very crowded,” added Busaidy.

The expansion announced by Oman Air, is part of the airline’s ten-year plan, developed with a consulting firm in 2013, and endorsed by the Omani government. “The plan calls for increased investments that will put the airline on a path to become profitable,” said Gregorowitsch.

He likened investments in the airline sector to other major government investments in the infrastructure sector, such as roads and rail, which are intended to benefit a future post-oil economy.

Gregorowitsch said that the airline is operating at 60 per cent Omanisation, against a government target of 70 per cent.

“In a couple of years, an Omani should sit in my position,” he said. Oman Air contributes RO400mn a year to the country’s economy. “We believe in Oman and in the possibilities of Oman Air,” he added.

Gregorowitsch has said that Oman Air, which is currently operating at an annual loss of RO100mn, must become profitable within three years. “If we haven’t earned profits by 2017, we’ve failed,” he said.

He said, part of the loss is due to heavy investments in new aircraft. The expansion plan includes acquiring new aircraft, launching new routes and increasing frequency of existing routes.

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Iran Is One Of The Top Countries For Tourists

TEHRAN, Sept 29 (NNN-IRNA) — Iran is one of the top 10 attractive countries for tourists, Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism Organization (CHTHO) Director Masoud Soltanifar said.

He made the remarks in an interview with the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, channel 2. However, Soltanifar noted that Iran ranks 55th globally in terms of tourism income.

He stressed that CHTHO will do its best to facilitate foreign and domestic investment in Iran’s tourism sector.

Soltanifar also said that 4.5 million tourists visited Iran last year, half of whom visited the country’s pilgrimage cities, mainly, Mashhad and Qom.

He added that during the six months of the current Iranian year (began on March 20, 2014), the number of foreign tourists visiting Iran increased 35% compared with the same period the previous year.

President Hassan Rouhani’s administration has opened the doors to tourists and Iran is becoming a top 2014 tourism destination.

With its ancient monuments, glittering mosques and spectacular landscapes, Iran is home to some of the world’s cultural treasures.

The new administration of Rouhani is taking steps to open up Iran to foreigners in an effort to bring in much-needed foreign currency to an economy reeling from years of sanctions.

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Mobile app provides health assistance during Haj

Arab News – 04 October, 2014 – The Ministry of Health has launched a mobile-based application enabling pilgrims to have access to important health-related information and resources available during the ongoing Haj.

Anees Sindi, deputy head of the command and control center at the MoH, said the ministry was committed to provide fact-based information about infectious diseases with a view to reassuring those traveling to and within the Kingdom.

He added that there is no need to worry about health concerns. “The Ministry of Health encourages all those traveling to perform Haj this year to make use of the newly launched mobile-based application,” he pointed out.

A ministry official said Friday that pilgrims using android-powered smartphones had to search for the “MOH Hajj App” and download it from Google Play.

The application includes daily health alerts, location of the nearest health care facilities in Makkah, Madinah and the other holy sites, useful contact details, and tips on dealing with the basic health diseases and health tips, he said, adding that it also includes instructions on how to make emergency calls for getting the requisite medical assistance.

It comprises a live Twitter-based brief that will focus on providing real-time health-related tips by the MoH.

The application provides users with additional information on the symptoms of common diseases, tips on what to do if one develops such symptoms and when to seek medical assistance.

The app also provides guidelines on what to do if a fellow pilgrim contracts an infectious disease.

The ministry has taken various initiatives to protect the health of citizens and pilgrims, which include imposing travel restrictions on the countries affected by the Ebola virus, designating three distinctive centers for containing and treating infectious diseases, launching awareness and educational programs focusing on infectious disease control among the public and health care workers.

Additionally, the ministry has created emergency response infrastructure, including the MoH-related Command and Control Center in Jeddah and multiple mobile laboratories in Makkah and Madinah.

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Muslims from Cuba perform Haj for first time

Makkah, Saturday, 10Dhul Hijjah 1435/ 04 October 2014 (IINA) – Five pilgrims from Cuba are performing Haj this year as guests of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah. This was the first time, Muslims from Cuba arriving in the Kingdom to perform Haj, according to Abdullah Al-Modlej, executive director for the program of the King’s guests at the Ministry of Islamic Affairs.

Al-Modlej said the five-member team includes leader of the Muslim community in Cuba. He noted that the ministry deputed one preacher to lead taraweeh prayers for Muslims of Cuba during the last Ramadan. There are no mosques in Cuba and therefore the Muslims hired a wedding hall to offer prayers.

“On the first day, the number of worshippers who came to attend prayers was around 130 and the second day their number shot up to 500, and this number increased further by the end of the fasting month,” he said. Several new Muslims from Korea and Europe have also arrived to perform Haj as the King’s guests, Al-Modlej added.

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Bahrain To Launch E-Visa Policy Oct 1

MANAMA, Bahrain, Sept 29 (NNN-BNA) – The new visa policy that now allows nationals from over 100 countries to obtain a visa either online ahead of travel, or on arrival, will start to be implemented in Bahrain from Oct 1, 2014.

The new visa policy is an important development that places Bahrain among the countries with the most flexible visa policies in the region. The new policy will also be accompanied by improvements to the individual screening process, ensuring faster and more effective processing of applications. It will further enable expatriates who do business in Bahrain, to easily travel in and out of the Kingdom, as well as boosting the tourism industry.

Under the new policy, visitors from 66 countries will be able to receive visas upon arrival in Bahrain. These visitors will also be eligible to apply for their visas electronically ahead of their arrival in the Kingdom, further easing their travel experience.

Visitors from a further 36 countries will also be able to exclusively obtain electronic visas, bringing the overall total of countries eligible to receive e-visas to 102. E-Visas can be obtained ahead of travel through a simple online application process, making the process of travelling to the Kingdom practical and convenient, for both business and pleasure. Eligibility can be quickly checked via the Bahrain government’s e-Visa website (www.evisa.gov.bh).

From early 2015, both business visitors and tourists will be able to spend longer periods of time in the Kingdom, as the new policy dictates that visas will be valid for a month and can be renewed for up to three months. Multiple entry visas will also begin to be issued.

The new visa policy was presented by Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, First Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Economic Development Board, in a Cabinet meeting in July 2014, and he emphasised that reforms such as this, which support the business environment in the Kingdom, will help to continue to attract inward investment and drive forward economic growth and quality job creation.

Shaikh Ahmed bin Isa Al Khalifa, Assistant Undersecretary for Nationality, Passports and Residence Affairs, at the Ministry of Interior, commented, “This policy will provide easier and quicker access for businesses with operations in Bahrain, and will also help to attract more tourists to the Kingdom.

During the build-up phase, we have worked closely with a range of stakeholders in the public and private sectors, to ensure the new policy provides immediate benefits to visitors, and are pleased to be in a position to launch the new policy from Oct 1, 2014. The changes are being implemented as part of wider efforts to continually develop the passport and immigration processes and systems.”

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Tourism Generated 174 Billion Dirhams Over Three Years For Morocco

RABAT, Oct 1 (NNN-MAP) — The tourism sector, a major engine for Morocco’s economic and social development, has achieved over the past three years positive and encouraging results with an increase in tourist arrivals, bed capacity and employment, says Tourism Minister Lahcen Haddad.

The sector, which showed resilience in a difficult international juncture, generated 174 billion dirhams (about about 19.9 billion US dollars) in foreign exchange earnings for the country and achieved a turnover of more than 310 billion dirhams, said Haddad at the opening of the 11th Tourism Conference here Monday.

“These results show the sector’s resilience and its capacity to overcome crises and difficulties,” he said, adding that in order to enhance these results, the government had confirmed its commitment to making the tourism industry a real development lever and a source for wealth and employment for the benefit of youth.

The Cabinet, he added, had continued on the path of the dynamics triggered by Morocco’s Strategy 2010, which represented a real platform and a roadmap for the sector, by launching the Vision 2020 strategy, an ambitious and innovative tourism industry strategy seeking to include Morocco among the world’s top 20 hot destinations and making it a reference in terms of sustainable development in the Mediterranean region.

This vision, which aims to increase the sector’s size two-fold, is based on equitable division of wealth throughout Morocco. “It is meant to enable the emergence of eight tourist territories offering diversified and complementary products,” said Haddad.

The conference has brought together representatives of the public sector and national and foreign tourist organizations, and seeks to assess the progress of the Vision 2020 programme as well as the main achievements over the past four years.

In order to make this vision operational across the kingdom, a series of consultations were launched along with the parties concerned leading to the signature of regional programme contracts providing for nearly 1,000 tourism industry projects, he said.

The minister also highlighted the importance of developing tourist products, notably the Azur Plan, noting that the government will reprogramme, in collaboration with the private sector, the building or the remaining phase of work at the level of Mogador, Mazagan and Oued Chbika before 2020.

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Uganda Expects US$2Bln From Tourism In Next Few Years

KAMPALA, Oct 1 (NNN-NEW VISION) — Uganda’s earnings from tourism are expected to exceed 2.0 billion US dollars per annum in the next few years, according to projections from the Tourism Master Plan launched at the weekend.

The projected earnings are about a third of the 2014-15 annual budget, a figure which highlights the immense contribution the sector will have in the future, surpassing almost every sector before commercial oil production begins.

The plan, prepared with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), also forecasts the creation of more than 150,000 additional tourism jobs by 2024, almost the same number as that which will be created at the peak of oil production.

The master plan estimates the average total expenditure of leisure tourists on a pre-booked package tour at 1,200 USD per capita, and that of international business tourists at 900 USD, excluding air fares in the key high-yield tourist markets.

“The forecast growth of these markets is likely therefore to have a substantial impact on receipts in Uganda and it is projected that attracting 100,000 additional leisure tourists would add 11 per cent to exports and 1.6 per cent to GDP,” reads the 2014-2024 Master Plan launched by Tourism Minister Maria Mutagamba in Mbale on Saturday during the World Tourism Day celebrations.

“Persuading every tourist to spend one additional night in Uganda would add 7.0 per cent to exports and 1.0 per cent to GDP while 8.0 per cent annual growth in leisure and conference tourists would generate an additional 220 million USD in receipts per annum,” the plan quotes results of a World Bank survey done in 2013.

It places focus on destination marketing and competitiveness and recognizes Uganda’s exceptional range of natural and cultural tourism assets. It thus also prescribes strategies to unlock their potential which will enable deliver a significant boost to the tourism sector over the next ten years.

Mutagamba noted that the plan’s success will depend on the commitment and co-ordination of all sector players, it requires increased investment along the tourism value chain. She called for professionalism from the industry players including marketers, private sector and guides noting that working together will see the industry go places.

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Qatar Airways, Spanish Airline Sign Pact To Boost Hubs

DOHA, Qatar, Oct 1 (NNN-QNA) – Qatar Airways and Spanish low-cost airline, Vueling Airlines have signed an interline agreement that will see Qatar’s national airline, increasing the number of passengers to Europe, while strengthening Vueling’s hubs in Rome and Barcelona, Qatar News Agency (QNA) reports.

The agreement, which came into effect on Sept 1, will also improve trans-European traffic by providing passengers with more options for long-haul connections, Qatar Airways said in a statement. The agreement follows a codeshare set up with British Airways, a fellow member of Oneworld, along with Qatar Airways in June.

“This agreement with Vueling is the first step in offering our clients seamless access to and from Europe via Fiumicino Airport (Rome) and Barcelona’s El Prat Airport,” said Qatar Airways group chief executive, Akbar Al Baker.

“Over the last five years, Vueling has been the engine of growth at El Prat Airport and this agreement will give us, Qatar and Vueling, opportunity to further improve Fiumicino’s network,” he said.

Barcelona’s El Prat Airport is Vueling Airlines’ main hub, where the company holds 38 percent market share and where the airline offers direct flights to 121 destinations and up to 11,000 connections across Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Vueling currently offers 40 direct routes from Fiumicino Airport, the airline’s second operational hub and 850 possible connections to destinations across Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Qatar Airways has been operating in Spain since 2005, and offers 10 flights, seven days a week to Barcelona, and seven flights per week to Madrid. The airline also flies to three destinations in Italy, with a twice daily service to both Rome and Milan, and daily flights to Venice.

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Tourism To Indonesia In August up 7%

JAKARTA, Oct 1 (NNN-Bernama) — The number of tourists visiting Indonesia in August rose by 7.24 percent to 826,800, Xinhua news agency reports citing the national statistics bureau. In Bali, the number of foreign visitors increased 8.92 percent to 336,600 last month, bureau head Suryamin told a press conference at the office’s headquarters on Wednesday.

Tourist arrivals from China posted the second highest record in August with 102,325.

Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Mari Elka Pangestu said the government forecast the number of international visitors will reach more than 10 million this year, up from 8.80 million last year.

Indonesia’s tourism industry has recovered from the Asian financial crisis and terrorist attacks in recent years. The industry registered a growth of 7.72 percent and contributed US$10.05 billion in revenue to the government in 2013. Indonesia has projected 25 million foreign tourist arrivals in 2025.

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Egypt Targets Full Tourism Recovery In 2015

CAIRO, Oct 2 (NNN-Xinhua) — Egypt targets the tourism sector to be fully recovered in 2015 after three years of recession due to political turmoil, Egyptian Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou said.

Over the past three years, Egypt has seen recurrent mass protests that led to the overthrow of two heads of state and hence chaotic political, economic and security conditions, causing recession to the country’s tourism industry.

“We would like to tell the whole world that Egypt is safe now and that security conditions are noticeably getting better compared to last year,” Zaazou said, reassuring tourists around the globe to visit Egypt.

He continued that his ministry is working together with the defense and interior ministries on the security issue that is improving every day, “which is a clear message we send to the world.”

Since the political chaos following the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak in 2011, the number of annual tourists has decreased to 9.8 million. It returned to 11.5 million in 2012 after the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi was elected as president, and declined again to 9.5 million in 2013 following his ouster.

Being one of the main sources of national income in Egypt, tourism generated about 13 billion U.S. dollars in 2010 alone, with over 14.7 million visitors being served by about four million Egyptians working in the industry.

“We will not restore tourism overnight. But we can work on getting 12-13 million tourists in 2015 and try to increase them to 15 millions in 2016 and so on,” the tourism minister told Xinhua.

Zaazou admitted that average stay rate for tourists decreased from 11 nights in 2010 to one week in 2014, “which significantly affected the tourism revenues.”

He added that his ministry is currently working on producing two promotional films: one is about the Red Sea and its South Sinai tourist destinations and the other is about the Egyptian culture in general and the cultural tourist destinations nationwide.

“The second film is titled ‘Magic of the Pharaohs’ and we will get it after Eidul Adha, the Muslim Sacrifice Feast,” Zaazou pointed out.

With regards to cooperation with China in the tourism field, Zaazou revealed that there is “good news” in November about irregular direct flights from China to Upper Egypt’s Aswan.

“We expect in November the first irregular direct flights from four points in China to Aswan according to an agreement with a number of Chinese tourist companies,” Zaazou revealed to Xinhua, noting that the journey will then go on from Aswan to Luxor, Hurghada and finally Cairo.

“If things go well, we expect 142,000 Chinese tourists in the first year as per the 3-year agreement that includes alone half a million Chinese tourists,” the minister added.

Zazzou explained that the number of visitors to South Sinai’s resort cities of Sharm el-Sheikh and Dahab is promising compared to that of tourists visiting Luxor, Aswan and Cairo.

“This summer, the tourism season was not bad in terms of numbers. We are willing to continue on the right track and recover tourism for Luxor, Aswan and Cairo, the basic destinations for cultural tourism,” he said.

He lamented that the media sometimes magnifies protests and chaotic incidents that scare off people abroad, arguing that all foreigners in Egypt are safe and life is going on normally. “Understanding that, tourists from neighboring countries started to visit Egypt again. We hope that China understands the real situation in Egypt as well,” the minister concluded.

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New Project For Businesswomen In Makkah

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, Sept 29 (NNN-SPA) – Saudi Ministry of Labour will soon announce its new project for Makkah region businesswomen, said Eman Rajkhan, director of Department of Female Workers’ Affairs, Ministry of Labour, Makkah branch.

The project comes in line with the department’s policy to provide facilities to businesswomen and encourage them to invest in the private sector.

“The ministry wants businesswomen to contribute to the private sector, which is a big sector and yields a lot of profit. We want them to participate in developing the nation’s economy,” said Rajkhan.

The ministry invites businesswomen to its meetings, with the female owners of private and foreign schools, beauty salons, recruitment offices, and private-sector businesses, in order to allow them to increase their participation in the private sector.

Rajkhan said, the private sector provides working women and businesswomen with a lot of opportunities that they previously did not have, thanks to the ministry’s efforts.

Businesswomen can focus on several fields to enhance female participation in the workforce. Businesswomen and working women can also benefit from the ministry’s programmes and workshops, that shed light on the rights and duties of workers, as per the Saudi Labour Law, which is accessible on its website.

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Malaysia: Malindo Aims To Fly 2.25 Mln Passengers By Year-End

SEPANG, Sept 30 (NNN-Bernama) — Malindo Air aims to attract about 2.25 million passengers by year-end following the introduction of new routes, including to Singapore and Bandung, Indonesia, by November and mid-December, respectively.

The hybrid airline’s target is lower than the one made late last year, which aimed to achieve over three million passengers by end-2014.

Chief executive officer, Chandran Rama Muthy, said late last year the airline had about one million passengers.

“Currently, we managed to get more than half of the target and since the last three months of the year are high peak season we are confident to achieve the target,” he said.

Chandran said this at a media briefing after the launch of Malindo’s new ticketing office by Malaysia Airports Bhd’s senior general manager (operations), Azmi Murad, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (klia2) here.

For next year, he said, the airline planned to spread its wing to China, focusing on the southern region. He said Malindo operated six Boeing jets from klia2 and one each was expected to be delivered next month and in December respectively.

“We also took delivery of our 10th ATR-72-600 last week to operate even more flights and destinations via our Subang hub,” he said.

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Nigeria Plans To Privatise Its Airports

LAGOS, Oct 3 (NNN-XINHUA) — The Nigerian government has announced that the privatization of airports in the country would commence soon.

“We are planning to commence the privatization of airports; the airports will be more efficient if the private sector is running them,” said Benjamin Dikki, the Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE), in Abuja on Thursday.

He said although the government had made substantial investment in the aviation sector, a lot still remained to be done, adding that it was the reason why the government was considering privatizing the airports.

“Very soon, we will engage the Minister of Aviation and we will start a new process of privatizing or concession of airports just like we have done with the seaports,” he added.

“We are likely to grant concession of maybe 15 to 20 years, according to the business model agreed on, so that investors can make a reasonable return on the investment during the concession period,” Dikki said.

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Iran Keen To Enhance Trade Ties With Azerbaijan

BAKU, Oct 3 (NNN-FNA) — Head of Iran’s Customs Administration Massoud Karbasian announced Tehran’s eagerness to further develop trade and economic relations with Azerbaijan.

Iran is determined to expand trade ties with Azerbaijan and will do its best to implement the deal to operate customs checkpoint at the border with Azerbaijan Republic round-the-clock as soon as possible, Karbasian said after meeting with Azerbaijan’s Minister of Economic Development Shahin Mustafayev in Baku.

Mustafayev, for his part, said customs plays an important role in boosting transactions, specially in the private sector, and added, “Azerbaijan is ready to launch a joint chamber of commerce (with Iran).”

In a relevant development on Tuesday, Iran and Azerbaijan voiced readiness for easing customs regulations to help each others’ traders boost their interactions.

In a meeting between Karbasian and Chairman of the Azeri State Customs Committee Aydin Aliyev in Baku on Tuesday, the two sides vowed to do their best to promote bilateral trade relations.

Karbasian underlined Iran’s resolve to build the remained part of Qazvin-Rasht-Astara railway, and said that extension of the railroad inside the Republic of Azerbaijan would complete the North-South corridor which will be highly effective in strengthening of bilateral relations.

Tehran has in recent years focused seriously on development of ties with neighboring countries, including the Republic of Azerbaijan, which enjoys various commonalties with Iran in religious, historical and cultural fields.

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Indonesian Batik Foundation Launches “Batik On Fashion” 2014

JAKARTA, Indonesia, Oct 4 (NNN-ANTARA) – The Indonesian Batik Foundation (YBI), launched an event called “Batik on Fashion” to commemorate National Batik Day on Oct 2, 2014.

“Batik on Fashion aims to encourage the public, especially the youth, to develop and preserve traditional batik patterns,” YBI’s Chairwoman, Yultin Ginanjar Kartasasmita, said, during the launch at the Industrial Ministry office, here.

Yultin added that Batik on Fashion’s theme this year was “Sogan, a Classic Art of Batik,” which was displayed until yesterday.

In Indonesia, Sogan batik is dominated by a classic pattern and brown color. The name “sogan” was taken from a tree, whose wood is used as a natural dye for batik clothes.

With regard to the classic patterns, Yultin explained that it referred to the Javanese palaces. “We are displaying 27 sogan batik clothes, designed by some famous batik production houses, including Danar Hadi, Djongko Rahardjo, Joko SSP and Ayok Dwi Pancara, along with Wicaksono Aji, and Parang Kencana,” Yultin mentioned.

Based on Presidential Decree No. 33/2009, Indonesia annually observes the commemoration of National Batik Day on Oct 2, following the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO’s) decision to include batik in its list of “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” items.

Indonesia’s Batik, along with the Tango of Argentina and Uruguay, the traditional Ainu dance of Japan, and Frances Aubusson tapestries, were among the 76 elements inscribed on Sept 30 in UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, the United Arab Emirates news agency (WAM) reported on Wednesday.

UNESCO’s list describes Indonesian Batik as “the technique, symbolism, and culture surrounding hand-dyed cotton and silk garments, known as Indonesian Batik that permeate the lives of Indonesians from beginning to end. Infants are carried in batik slings decorated with symbols designed to bring the child luck, and the dead are shrouded in funerary batik.”

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Exhibition “Caspian Halal Expo” opened in Makhachkala

islam.ru / 26 Sep 2014 – The II International Exhibition “Caspian Halal Expo”, which will be held from 26 to 28 September, opened today in Makhachkala. The exhibition opened at the National Library of the republic of Dagestan named after Rasul Gamzatov.

The exhibition is organized with the assistance of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Dagestan, the government the republic of Dagestan, Chamber of Commerce and Industry of RD, Committee on standard “Halal” at the Spiritual Administration of Dagestani Muslims.

According to Director of the Organizing Committee Ibrahim Abdulaev the exhibition is attended by fifty over companies from different regions of Russia and abroad. Companies and manufacturers present wide range of products that meet the standards of halal.

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Organic farming gaining popularity in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Gazette / 27 Sep 2014 – Last week, Saudi Agriculture 2014, the 33rd international agriculture, water, and agro-industry trade show, took place at the International Convention and Exhibition Center in Riyadh.

Organic farming was one of the topics addressed at the exhibition. Under the patronage of the Ministry of Agriculture, the Department of Organic Agriculture (DOA) participated with its own organic farming pavilion, a joint venture with on one side the ministry and the German GIZ International Services’ “Organic Farming Project” and on the other the Saudi Organic Farming Association (SOFA).

The pavilion gave organic farmers and other stakeholders the opportunity to showcase their products and services. Also present was the Qassim-based Organic Research Center, which not only provided an insight to its fields of research, but also displayed a range of organic products.

Saudi Gazette spoke to Ayman Al-Ghamdi, general manager of the Department of Organic Agriculture as well as general supervisor of the Organic Farming Project, who said this was the 7th time his department participated in the show – this year with a pavilion that was three times the size of the first one in 2008.

According to Al-Ghamdi, organic agriculture in the Kingdom is currently booming: “The number of certified organic farming was 10 in 2000. The awareness of the society was weak regarding organic products. Today, there are more than 112 organic farms, certified according to Saudi organic standards,” Al-Ghamdi said, adding that awareness and knowledge about organic products had been slowly but steadily increasing over the past years.

As a result, the demand for Saudi organic products, especially fresh produce, is continuously increasing. Nowadays, consumers are able to purchase organic products not only at local food markets and specialized organic dealers, but also in hypermarkets. Due to the high demand, however, meeting local production with local demand has been among the main challenges the Saudi organic sector faces, according to the general manager.

Before 2000, less than a handful of agricultural companies and individual farmers grew their produce organically. Five years later, the Ministry of Agriculture incorporated the organic farming activity and contacted GIZ International Services (the consultancy service of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit or German Federal Enterprise for International Cooperation) to develop the organic sector in the country.

As of 2014, the number of organic farmers reached 112, the organic land area is 33,709 hectare and the under-conversion land area 2,889 ha. The latter refers to land that is in the transition of becoming organic, which usually takes two to three years, depending on the type of crop.

The organic animal production is 3,575, while the number of under-conversion organic animals is 803, in addition to 772 beehives. The number of under-conversion birds is 883, Al-Ghamdi noted.

In the relatively short period organic agriculture has been present in the Kingdom, various major goals have been achieved, Al-Ghamdi further said. “All procedures and legislations in addition to the administrative, monitoring, surveillance, and research have been formulated.” He added that creating awareness regarding the environmental benefits, or “spreading the culture of organic farming among Saudi organic farmers and consumers” had been the first important step.

Throughout the years, he continued, milestones were “the foundation of the Saudi Organic Farming Association (SOFA) in 2007, the foundation of the Department of Organic Agriculture in the Ministry of Agriculture in 2008, and the conversion of Qassim Farming Research Center into an organic Farming Center related to the Ministry in 2011.”

Recently, an Organic Farming Law has been approved by the Council of Ministers, which will further enhance the organic farming movement in the Kingdom.

Al-Ghamdi is convinced organic agriculture is here to stay, and that its importance cannot be overestimated: “It conveys a clear and strong message to all farmers that high-quality and healthy foods can be produced without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs).”

The main principle of organic farming, he continued, is to grow fresh, tasty and healthy foods with environmentally friendly methods, respecting the farm ecosystem balance and protecting biodiversity.

A few years ago, the minister of agriculture requested Al-Ghamdi’s department to develop a national organic farming policy to set the framework for the implementation of the future organic agricultural policy in Saudi Arabia. This project was concluded in 2012, the general manager said. “This year, we elaborated a future 5-year organic agricultural action plan to implement the most essential goals of the organic agricultural policy. This plan is proposed to be implemented in the beginning of 2016 or 2017.”

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First prayer in South Cyprus mosque in 40 years

WorldBulletin / 27 Sep 2014 – Turkish Cypriots have been allowed to pray in a mosque in the Greek Cypriot-controlled southern Cyprus for the first time in 40 years.

The head of Religious Affiars in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), Prof. Dr Talip Atalay, led prayers at the Kebir mosque and visited Muslim cemeteries in the city of Baf (Paphos) and its surroundings on the invitation of Greek Cypriot Archbishop Chrysostomos II.

After the prayers held at the Ottoman-era mosque, which was converted into a mosque by Mehmed Bey Ebu Bekir in the late 1500s, Dr. Atalay expressed his happiness, thanking the Turkish Cypriot Foreign Ministry – which arranged the visit – and the Swedish embassy for it mediating role.

Dr. Atalay’s visit marks the first visit of a Cyprus Mufti to Baf and its surroundings since the island of Cyprus was split in 1974 following an intervention from Turkey in response to a Greek-backed military coup on the Cypriot government.

Meetings between the religious leaders of Cyprus have become a regular opportunity to encourage dialogue between the two major religious groups on the island – Muslims and Christians – as the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot governments seek to resolve the Cyprus dispute.

Turkey has maintained a military presence in the island’s north as a constitutional guarantor of peace after Greek extremist militant group EOKA, which sought to unite the island with Greece, conducted a coup on the government in July 1974 after having forced Turkish Cypriots to flee enclaves.

Failure to reunify the island led to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) declaring independence in 1983, which is today only recognized by Turkey.

A 2004 referendum saw Turkish Cypriots vote ‘yes’ to reunify the island, but plans failed when the vast majority of Greek Cypriots voted ‘no’. Nonetheless, the Greek Cypriot administrated southern Cyprus was accepted into the EU while the TRNC remained under international embargoes.

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‘Virtual Haj’ performed by 600 school pupils in Dubai

The National / 01 Oct 2014 – They may be a long way from Mecca but children at a private school in Dubai said they learnt a lot from a “virtual Haj” on Tuesday.

More than 600 children at Emirates International School (EIS) in the Meadows carried out the religious observance using carefully decorated cardboard props.

They took seven turns around a home-made representation of the Kaaba, threw tinfoil balls at three posts representing the Jamarat and recited a verse from the Quran on a carpet representing Mount Arafat.

“We have taught them all about this in lessons this last week and now they have the opportunity to learn more by actually putting it into practice,” said Abir Alkhatib, head of primary school Islamic education.

“We’ve had great feedback from the children and from the parents. They have all learnt a great deal more about Haj by going through the stages and learning about the significance of each one.”

The “mini Haj” is common not only among public schools in the Emirates but around the world. However, EIS is one of the first international schools to hold its own.

Ms Alkhatib said that about 60 per cent of the school’s pupils were Muslim and there were plans to open it up for non-Muslims to learn about the history of Eid Al Adha next year.

Sumayya Seedat, from South Africa, was one of the volunteer parents who helped to make the props for the event.

Ms Seedat said the black and gold fabric draped around two stacked tables for the Kaaba was specially made. “We tried to get it as close as possible,” she said. “It took many trips to Satwa.”

She said they had made small adaptations, such as the tinfoil balls for the stoning of the devil. “We don’t want the children to injure one another,” Ms Seedat said.

The observance was a solemn one but the natural ebullience of the children shone through on several occasions. Ms Seedat said the experience was intended to be an educational one.

“The Islamic department felt that it was time for children who haven’t gone to Saudi Arabia to experience what it is like,” she said. “They’re an average of eight years old but we want them to develop a respect at an early age. The intention is to teach the children.”

Ms Seedat has taken her family to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah twice, but her daughter Layla, 7, said she still learnt a lot from the mini Haj at her school.

Another parent, Marwa Drea from Syria, praised the school for offering an education not only to children but also for the adults who came to watch. “It’s important for children but it’s important for parents, too,” Ms Drea said. “I didn’t know much about the Haj but I’m learning now. We plan to go and do Umrah at the end of the year, so this is a practice for them and a practice for me.”

Enida Mujanovic, from Belgium, said she was proud of her son Nader, 6, for performing the observance. “I learnt a lot of things I didn’t know about Haj from watching this today,” Ms Mujanovic said. “Although it was only a practice performance, I found it really emotional to see all the children doing it so well.”

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SR 2 billion project to turn Arafat into a smart city

Makkah, Saturday, 10Dhul Hijjah 1435/ 04 October 2014 (IINA) – Seven government authorities are awaiting royal approval for a SR2 billion project to transform Arafat into a smart city.

Sources told Okaz/Saudi Gazette that the “Modern Arafat Tent Project” will focus on rebuilding the entire infrastructure of Arafat including huge drain canals, protective barricades, establishment of electricity stations, a separate train and the setting up of large dams on the outskirts of the valleys.

Habib Zain Alabideen, undersecretary for central projects at the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, said the project will be approved because it is a vital project, which once completed, will change Arafat and drastically improve its infrastructure.

Muhammad Al-Qarni, adviser to the Minister of Haj, said it was high time such a project is implemented. “The project has become a strategic need. It will include building fire-proof tents all over Arafat, which are important in light of the recent fire that engulfed 120 tents. Also, we all remember the floods that took place in previous seasons and caused damage to tents and posed danger to pilgrims,” Al-Qarni said.

The sources said the new tents will be taller and fire-resistant just like the ones at the Pilgrims’ City, King Abdulziz International Airport, which covers 8 million sq. meters that can accommodate 5 million pilgrims.

The new tents will consist of two floors in order to increase their total capacity by up to 71 percent to accommodate 8 million pilgrims. The government has already implemented projects worth billions of riyals to develop and maintain the Holy Sites. Prince Mansour Bin Miteb, minister of municipal and rural affairs, said this week that over a billion riyals have been spent for the purpose for this Haj season.

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World Bank approves $519 million for Morocco’s solar complex

Thursday 02 Oct 2014 – Rabat (IINA) – The World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors approved a loan of US$ 519 million to support Morocco to develop its solar power production.

The loan will help finance the second part of the largest solar complex in the world, ‘Noor-Ouarzazate’ (southeast of the country), with a capacity of 500 MW, said the World Bank in a statement reported by Morocco news agency on Wednesday.

Morocco announced in November 2009 the adoption of a “blueprint for solar energy,” at the cost of US $ 9 billion, which is an ambitious program for the production of electricity through the use of concentrated solar power technology.

This solar energy complex is aimed for supporting the country’s ongoing efforts to reduce its dependency on fossil fuels by developing its renewable energy resources. This project will contribute to the country’s electricity needs by 42 percent within 6 years. Morocco is the Middle East’s largest energy importer, and depends on fossil fuel imports to generate over 97 percent of its energy.

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Dhaalu Atoll Education Centre holds Recycled Craft Exhibition

Sun.mv – September 28, 2014 – The Dhaalu Atoll Education Centre has held a Recycled Craft Exhibition. In a statement issued last night, the Education Centre, located in Dhaalu Kudahuvadhoo, said that the exhibition was organised by its environment club ‘Eco Friends’.

The centre said that the purpose of the exhibition was to save the environment from harmful material, reduce the amount of waste, and encourage recycling. The exhibition also helped encourage craftsmanship and economic skills among students, read the statement.

Crafts were presented in eight categories, made from plastic, paper, cloth, glass, dried leaves, wood, and other material, at the exhibition held yesterday.

The Education Centre said that the exhibition helped increase environment awareness, and encouraged creativity and innovation among students. The centre has held the Recycled Craft Exhibition yearly since 2012.

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Maldives: Bicycle ride event held to mark Tourism Day

Sun.mv – September 28, 2014 – The Ministry of Tourism, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), has held a bicycle ride event to mark World Tourism Day 2014.

The ministry said in a statement that over forty people participated in the event held in Hulhumale’ on Saturday.

The participants included staff of the Tourism Ministry, staff of the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), staff of the Tourism Adaptation Project, staff of the UNDP, and members of the Keen on Bright organisation.

The ministry thanked guest-house operators in Hulhumale’ for their cooperation and assistance.

The focus of the event was raising awareness on the issue of environmental change. The ministry said that the idea was to promote the use of bicycles, or replacing motorized vehicles with climate friendly transportation means.

This year’s Tourism Day theme is Tourism and Community Development.

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Turkey launches its own brand, logo

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – Turkey has unveiled the “Turkey” brand and its logo, which will be used on Turkish exported goods, as part of efforts to upgrade the country’s trade, which has long been dependent on contract manufacturing.

The country’s top export organization, the Turkish Exporters’ Assembly (TİM), launched the “Turkey, Discover the Potential” brand, which is hoped to become a joint identity mark for Turkish goods.

Turkey has been aiming to develop and reinforce the perception of its goods abroad and labeling them with this brand and logo is hoped to be a milestone step as a part of these efforts.

“Hopefully we will promote Turkey and Turkish goods with this logo and ‘Discover the Potential’ all around the world as of today,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, speaking at the launching ceremony held in Istanbul Sept. 28.

He said when a company puts a new phone in the market, people line up days before just to be able purchase the new model, “but the commodity there is not the phone, it’s the brand.”

“You can see that these brands are the power that keeps economies alive and strong,” giving Japan and South Korea as examples of “maintaining firm growth thanks to global brands,” said Erdoğan.

TİM Chairman Mehmet Büyükekşi, who spoke at the event, said this branding program is an “invitation to the world to discover potential and add value to them.”

“Discover the Potential; this is not a brand. Turkey is the brand itself,” he said.

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Turkish tourism numbers on rise

ANKARA – Anadolu Agency – Turkey witnessed a 7 percent rise in the number of tourists visiting the country in the first eight months of 2014, the Turkish tourism minister has reported.

Minister Ömer Çelik said Sept. 27 that nearly 25.7 million tourists came to Turkey between January and August, compared to 23.7 million over the same period last year.

“This is a very good record because the World Tourism Organization has forecast world tourism growth at 4 to 5 percent this year, but Turkey’s growth is exceeding 7 percent,” he said.

“Tourism in Turkey continues to break records despite there being so much instability surrounding the country,” he added.

Germans topped the list of foreign visitors to Turkey, followed by Russians and Britons, according to figures provided by the minister.

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Modern reflections in miniatures at CKM

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News – A miniature exhibition displaying the modern reflections of art of miniatures is opening today at the Caddebostan Culture Center (CKM) on the Asian side of Istanbul.

Miniature artists Canan Demirel, Raif Aydın and Serap Derinkök aim to surprise art lovers in the exhibition with their style, color and viewpoints. In this meeting, which is a first for the three artists together, interpretations, details and different materials used in their works are expected to draw the viewers’ attention.

Demirel, who is known for her graphic designs, uses Byzantine mosaics in her art, using miniature techniques. Aydın mostly uses the theme of Istanbul in his works, reflecting the city with miniatures showcasing fine details. The other artist, Derinkök, loves playing with colors and adds modern details to her pieces.

Curated by Ceylan Harmancı, the exhibition of some 40 artworks will continue through Oct. 13.

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Istanbul gets a new art and culture venue

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – Istanbul now has one more independent contemporary art center, Summart.

Summart, which opened on Sept. 30 as an independent and non-profit foundation in the Seyrantepe neighborhood of the city, is a new platform for visual arts, music and literature, a meeting point that aims to bring together art lovers with national and international artists, musicians, collectors, curators, critics, academics, galleries, museums, art foundations, writers and journalists.

Summart also aims to organize at least one international cultural art project every year at its 500 square-meter facility.

While presenting a balanced and harmonious synthesis of art, literature, music and philosophy, Summart also intends to become a space where guests can escape from their daily hectic routines, relax and spend quality time.

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Historic factory becomes Turkey’s first paper museum

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – The SEKA Paper Factory in the northwestern province of İzmit, one of the first industrial enterprises in the history of the Turkish Republic, is being converted into Turkey’s first and Europe’s biggest paper museum.

“People will learn about the history of paper here,” Kocaeli Metropolitan Municipality Secretary-General Tahir Büyükakın recently said.

The construction of the factory started in 1934 and opened in 1936 with an annual production capacity of 12,000 tons. It was one of the most modern factories in the world at the time and produced the first local paper on April 18, 1936.

HDN In an article titled “Paper,” which was published on April 21, 1936, in daily Cumhuriyet, famous writer Peyami Safa said: “April 18 is worthy of being launched as a paper festival for our profession because while it can survive without bread, it can’t without paper. Paper is everything to us.”

Thanks to the factory, Turkey’s dependence on imported paper ended, and newspapers began to be published with national paper produced in İzmit.

During the construction process, there were concerns that the plant would suffer loss, but the factory grew within a short time, coming to employ thousands of people in the region. Sports facilities and movie theaters in the area also met the social needs of people.

Investments in the factory were halted in 1997 amid privatization attempts. The process elicited reactions among workers and locals, but production activities were ended in 2005 after the factory was handed over to Kocaeli Metropolitan Municipality.

The municipality initiated Turkey’s largest industrial transformation project on the 110-hectare site. As a result of works, Sekapark was opened in 2006 as one of Turkey’s largest entertainment areas, which includes the Seka Science Center and Seka Paper Museum. After 1.5 years of work, historical machines used in the paper productions have been restored. Work is continuing on the indoor space at the factory, which will reopen next year as the largest paper museum in Europe.

“Works have been continuing for the ‘Seka Cultural Field,’ including museums, the science center, memorial houses and a film set. The factory has been restored to its original. There is no such a museum in Turkey and the world,” he said.

Büyükakın said the museum was set to open in mid-2015. “As well as displaying restored machines, there will be video screening areas in the museum.

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Uzbek theatre festival for young directors from Central Asia

Centralasiaonline.com 2014-09-30 TASHKENT – The artistic troupe that went from being the first independent theatre in the USSR to Tashkent’s Centre for Modern Art is looking to try some different things to expand its popularity this season.

“For Tashkent, the Ilkhom Theatre is more than a stage,” local art critic Lidiya Yeliseyeva said. “It’s a living organism, an integral part of our city’s past and present.”

But the theatre is not content to sit back and reflect on past successes; rather, it wants to continue attracting audiences and allowing professional growth for stage artists.

It’s a strategy that some say will help keep the Ilkhom vibrant. If you liken cultural life to seething, boiling water, then you could say that Ilkhom is now the only teapot in the city whose water remains hot,” Tashkent photographer Timur Karpov said.

Director Mark Weil founded the theatre in 1976. It became one of the first professional non-state theatres in the USSR. In the 1990s, the theatre won global recognition by touring abroad in Germany, Japan and elsewhere.

This year, Ilkhom is offering new productions, the Laboratory for Young Directors from Central Asia project and a new jazz festival (IlkhomJazzClub). It’s continuing the popular Ilkhom Rock Fest and IlkhomCinemaClub projects.

“This year, we’ve opened our 39th season … with mixed emotions,” theatre artistic director Boris Gafurov said. “As always, we have many plans, but there are problems with implementing them. The eternal problem for theatres is financing.”

The unique Laboratory of Young Producers from Central Asia, taking place October 1 through 30, promises to be a central event in the first half of the new season. Fifteen directors from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan will take part in the project.

“Our task is to develop and nurture our directors,” Gafurov said. “Theatres rarely take on the risk of giving young directors an opportunity to stage one of their productions. We give them that chance. … The magic should be palpable. … You can have a theatre anywhere imaginable.”

Ilkhom’s management presently envisions it as the Centre for Modern Art, a cultural umbrella. Artists, dancers, musicians from various genres, and devotees of film, literature and other art forms have the chance to meet and come together under the theatre’s roof.

This year, the spectrum of events includes the IlkhomJazzClub project, which gives Uzbek jazz musicians a venue to express themselves.

“Our capital needs the IlkhomJazzClub so that jazz musicians can have the opportunity to perform on the big stage and express themselves… we want to enable jazz lovers to hear live performances from various groups once a month,” Saidmurat Muratov, producer of the jazz venture, said. “At present only volunteers are working on the project – all the musicians are taking part in the club to popularise and develop jazz.”

Meanwhile, the Ilkhom Rock Fest has opened for its eighth season. Contemporary Uzbek plays are another priority for this season.

“Our theatre is actively searching for Uzbek playwrights’ works,” Gafurov said. “They’re there, and perhaps they’re good, but they haven’t been staged, so we don’t know. The theatre is looking for material … in which a modern person in modern language discusses our problems.”

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Bangladesh mulls e-visa to boost tourism

DHAKA, Sept 28, 2014 (BSS) – Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) has proposed to home ministry for issuing electronic visa (e-visa) to foreigners for giving a boost to the country’s highly potential but untapped tourism sector.

“Through Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry, we have sent a letter to the home ministry for easing visa system as well as issuing frequent multiple entry to help us in increasing foreign tourists,” Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of BTB Akhteruzzaman Khan Kabir told BSS today.

He said visa procedure is a major challenge for country like Bangladesh to attract tourists. If the e-visa initiated, it will be a milestone for the country’s tourism industry as the number of foreign tourists defiantly increased, chief of the national tourism organization said.

As per the UNWTO, many countries now easing their visa procedure for further flourishing their respective tourism industry, he said adding, recently Turkey and Sri Lanka initiated e-visa system and they have already started to get fruit of it.

Kabir said presently foreign tourists face lots of inquiries when they seek multiple entry for Bangladesh. “We proposed to ease the multiple entry system to give the foreign tourists flexibility in their tour plans,” he said.

Under the proposal of e-visa, any foreign nationals will be able to apply for Bangladesh visa by sending scan copy of their passport and paying visa fees by international credit card through Bangladesh Home Ministry’s website.

Bangladesh immigration office will issue visa through a barcode after getting all clearance from foreign missions and other agencies. The foreign national just need to print the barcode and show it while entering Bangladesh.

Shafiqul Islam, Additional Secretary (security and immigration) of Home Affairs Ministry said they agreed with the idea of initiating e-visa in principle and have the plan to introduce it. “We will start the work for introducing e-visa shortly, but we need some infrastructure setup for initiating the new kind of visa,” he said.

Firstly, he said immigration police department needs to setup high internet connectivity with all Bangladesh missions abroad and to procure modern barcode reader machines to launch e-visa.

Wiping out any possibility of security hazard of e-visa, Islam said “We would have to introduce e-visa for attracting more foreign visitors as other countries have already started to initiate it.”

Tourist arrival dropped 50 per cent in 2013 as the country passed through political violence, frequent hartals and uncertainty giving a negative image to tourists about the country. The tourist arrival in Bangladesh in 2013 was 278,780 as against 588,193 in 2012, official sources said.

Though tourist arrival posted more than 50 per cent drop in 2013, earnings recorded over 20 per cent growth during the same year. The earnings from the tourism sector stood at 121.5 million US dollars in 2013 compared to 100.75 million US dollars in 2012, Bangladesh Bank source said.

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has forecast that total contribution of travel and tourism sector to Bangladesh GDP will rise by 7.9 percent in the 2014.

“The total contribution of travel and tourism to GDP was Taka 460.3 billion (4.4 percent of GDP) in 2013 and is forecast to rise by 7.9 percent in 2014 and to rise by 6.5 percent per year to Taka 935.5 billion (4.7 percent of GDP) in 2024,” WTTC said in its recently published Bangladesh Economic Impact Report 2014.

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Bangladesh Air Force museum inaugurated

DHAKA, September 28, 2014 (BSS)-For retention and representation of the glorious history, success and gradual development of Bangladesh Air Force (BAF) to the new generation, the BAF Museum was inaugurated today at the western side of Tejgaon runway adjacent to Agargaon in the capital.

Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Muhammad Enamul Bari inaugurated the museum as the chief guest. Senior BAF officers of Dhaka area, airmen and other members were present on the occasion.

The museum is located at the eastern side of computer city (IDB Bhaban) and western side of the Tejgaon runway. Glider F-86, FT-5, MI-8 helicopter and AN-24 transport aircraft of BAF including ‘Otter’ aircraft used in our Liberation War are kept in the museum, an ISPR press release said here.

Besides, various display galleries pertaining to BAF, one children park and a food court for visitors are under construction.

The museum will remain open for all public viewers from 29 September and onward, the timing will be Monday to Thursday (1400-2000 hours), Friday and Saturday (1000-2000 hours) and it will remain closed on Sunday for maintenance purpose.

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US-Bangla Airlines starts Dhaka-Syedpur flight

DHAKA, Oct 2, 2014 (BSS) – The newly commenced local private US-Bangla airlines today started its new Dhaka-Syedpur-Dhaka route with its 76-seat aircraft. The new airlin will operate four flights on the route in a week (Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday), the airlines sources said.

The flight will take off Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport to Syedpur at 9.55 am and leave Syedpur to Dhaka on 11.15 am.

Apart from the new airline, another private airlines United Airways operates four flights in a week on the same route.

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Single window system at Kualanamu airport inaugurated

2 October 2014 Medan, N Sumatra (ANTARA News) – Agriculture Minister Suswono inaugurated and publicized the use of the Indonesian National Single Window (INSW) system at Medans Kualanamu aiport on Thursday.

A Class 2 Agriculture Quarantine located within the Kualanamu airport was also inaugurated on the occasion. Minister Suswono explained that the INSW system had been established in stages in several other locations since 2007.

In 2010, the system was fully implemented at five main seaports: Tanjung Priok in Jakarta, Tanjung Mas in Semarang (Central Java), Tanjung Perak in Surabaya (East Java), Belawan in Medan (North Sumatra), and at the Soekarno-Hatta airport in Jakarta.

The INSW system is aimed at accelerating the flow of goods, as the exports and imports were often hampered by the bureaucratic system. “We hope that with this system the services will increase,” the minister said.

He said that the system will cut costs, usually paid by businessmen, which will in turn cut production costs. With lower production costs, businessmen can improve the quality of their products.

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Jakarta National Museum displays oldest Buddha statue

1 October 2014 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The National Museum of Indonesia has kept on public display the oldest statue of Buddha Dipangkara, a heritage treasure from the second century, to educate the people about their cultural history.

“The Buddha Dipangkara statue, which is made of bronze, is among the oldest collection of 141 thousand statues that belong to the National Museum,” the National Museums Education Service staff member Asep Firman said here Wednesday.

He explained that the Buddha Dipangkara statue, which was found in Sikendeng, Mamuju, in West Sulawesi, is a relic from, approximately, the second century.

Looking at its structural style and shape, the Buddha Dipangkara statue has similarities to the statues from the same period found in South India.

“The fishermen in Sulawesi believe that the statue could bring them blessings and good luck in the form of abundant fish supplies,” Asep said.

According to him, the statue might have reached Mamuju through sailors, as no traces of Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms have been found in this area or other regions in Sulawesi.

“Until now, no Hindu or Buddhist archaeological artefact has been found in Mamuju. It is estimated that the Buddha Dipangkara statue, which is considered a symbol of the sea protector, was brought by the sailors from outside Sulawesi,” Asep said.

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Nigeria mulls use of ID Card As Travel Document

This Day – 3 October 2014 – The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) is pushing for the use of the new national e-Identity card as travel document.

One of the applets imbedded in the card has all the travel details and requirements contained in Nigeria’s e-passport and it is known as Travel Applet, so it could easily be used as travel document with the approval of the international community.

Head, Card Management Services, NIMC, Mr. Tunji Durodola, told THISDAY that the back of the NIMC eID Card contains three lines called MRZ Lines (Machine Readable Zone) just like the Passport.

In addition, NIMC also has included all the details found on the e-Passport in the chip of the card, which makes it eligible and legal to be used as travel document.

But for other countries to recognise the use of the nation e-ID card, its usage must be included in the bilateral agreement among countries that partner with Nigeria and this agreement must be recognised by the countries’ immigration and such countries must have inspection devices that Durodola also explained that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) support the use of electronic visas (e-Visas) as travel document but with specification that dovetails with ICAO recommendation.

“The NIMC e-ID Card has support for e-Visas when they become acceptable worldwide,” he said. But for this to work NIMC and the Nigeria Immigration Service must have to sit down and agree on the process. Also, it is not certain that other countries would be willing to work with Nigeria, which seems to be ahead of many other countries on the e-ID card programme.

If adopted, it will make travelling easier, especially for frequent travellers who have to renew their passports too often and it is a better way to document travel information, as the loss of the identity card would not impair the information therein and would not be accessed by other people.

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Gambia Tourism Board Warms-Up for 2014/2015 Winter Season

The Daily Observer – 1 October 2014 – The 2013/2014 Winter Tourism Season has been one of the most successful years of tourism industry in The Gambia, under the aegis of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture (MoTC) that every stakeholder and holiday-maker would always look forward to something similar in every season to come. The season was full of countless activities, events and memorable moments. The season was fulfilled to the optimum.

Last season, among other things, the destination Gambia witnessed large numbers of tourist arrivals. The tourists were of different nationalities, such as Dutch; British; Swedish; Polish; Spanish even Nigerian. Tourists to the Destination enjoyed their holiday with different range of activities, namely resorts and accommodation; cultural; adventure to other forms of leisure and sporting activities; excursions. Skydiving event, tagged as the Gambia Beach Boogie; Food and Beverage Festival; Tourism and Fishing Competition, entitled ‘The Gambia Beach Championship.

The Gambia is no doubt a peaceful nation that restores faith, hope and puts a smile on the face of everyone, as the country is known and addressed ‘The Smiling Coast of Africa.’ Among other celebrations that tourists and visitors enjoyed and participated fully were the celebration of the 11th International Roots Homecoming Festival; a series of community cultural festivals and the recently hosted 8th Session of Islamic Conference of Tourism Minister (ICTM) where The Gambia was handed the baton of the ICTM chairmanship to be at the helm of the affairs of ICTM for the next two years, starting from the enthronement date.

Tourists and visitors also enjoyed different attractions across the country to have more information that updated their knowledge about the country. Such places of attraction included Kunta Kinteh Island; the Remains of Slave Market and underground Slave House in Janjangbureh; Katchikally Crocodile Pool in Bakau; Makasutu Cultural Forest, Kembuje in West Coast Region; Abuko Nature Reserve; Fort Bullen, Barra, with lots of other available sites.

For another winter season, Adama Njie, Director of Marketing at the Gambia Tourism Board (GTBoard) assured willing tourists and visitors to the destination, irrespective of their nationalities safety, peace and tranquility as usual with exceptional, quality, and good standard service delivery.

On preparation for the 2014/2015 Winter Season, the GTBoard is working closely with the Minister of Tourism and Culture, Benjamin A Roberts and other tourism stakeholders in ensuring that The Gambia “is a country where tourists can always have an all-year-round tourism experience.”

As one of the usual ways of marketing and selling the destination Gambia to the rest of the world, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, in conjunction with the Gambia Tourism Board will continue the marketing campaign at the World Travel Market, scheduled for the first week of November in London, about 31 days away.

World Travel Market is ‘the leading global event for the travel industry.’ That is ” It is a vibrant must-attend business-to-business and business- to-Customers event, presenting a diverse range of destinations and industry sectors to the UK and International travel professionals with a unique opportunity for the whole global travel trade to meet, network, negotiate and conduct business.”

Adama Njie noted as part of their agenda to WTM next month that the team which will be led by the Minister of Tourism and Culture will meet different tour operators and have meetings with different stakeholders.

The team will as well meet other stakeholders and other decision-makers in the industry in other places in Europe, Scandinavia as The Gambia still remains the most sought-after destination on the continent.

The Gambia is still the country the whole world would like to enjoy their holidays. At WTM, there will be more discussion on the destination’s new products which has already been initiated by the former GTBoard’s Director General, who is now the Minister of Tourism and Culture. Among the new products are the fishing competition; food and beverage festival, bird watching activities.

All these plus the existing products, notably among them, are ecotourism lodges; bird watching; community tourism; sport-fishing; River Gambia excursions; fishing excursions; cultural amusements; golfing; River lodge; cruise excursions; and all other niche products that The Gambia is having will be showcased at the World Travel Market, November 2014.

However, it is another way of showing the tourism fraternity across the world about the Ministry of Tourism and Culture; and GTBoard’s commitment to their partners not just for this season alone, but for more seasons to come in the future.

In the destination, tourism facilities are well intact as the country is known through high standard and good service delivery.

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Morocco Tourism Conference Focuses On Jobs

Magharebia – 2 October 2014 – Rabat — Morocco’s travel industry is performing well. That was the conclusion that came out of the 11th annual Tourism Conference held on Monday (September 29th) in Rabat.

Over the past three years, foreign-currency revenues from tourism totalled 174 billion dirhams. Over the same period, the sector’s turnover was in excess of 310 billion dirhams. The flight capacity offered by Morocco grew by more than 10% between 2010 and 2013.

In terms of employment, some 50,000 additional jobs were created.

To develop the sector’s human resources, the government is creating a training system, according to Tourism Minister Lahcen Haddad. Centres of excellence in vocational training have begun to be set up through a partnership with the private sector.

A 2014-2020 human resources contract between the various stakeholders and hotel and tourism training providers was signed during the conference. The purpose is to co-ordinate and create synergy between stakeholders in order to achieve the goal of the 2020 Vision, which is to train 130,000 graduates, the minister said. Between 2010 and 2013, 40,000 graduates were trained.

“This will contribute to the national effort to train young people and get them into the job market,” Haddad said.

The president of the National Tourism Confederation, Ali Ghannam, welcomed the number of jobs created by the tourism sector, which is 2.5 million direct and indirect jobs. To enable the sector to employ more people, Ghannam called for it to be developed and for failings to be addressed.

“Tourism has developed in Morocco over the past few years. But there are imbalances between regions and professions in this development. We need to work on several aspects to boost the sector, such as access to finance, public-sector investment, governance and so on.” he said.

The tourism minister gave an assurance that the government was determined to support the sector in this effort. He called on banks to make it easier for tourism start-ups to access finance and underlined that the government would soon create a guarantee fund to encourage banks to provide financing.

Haddad also said that his department was working to overcome limitations, such as the small budget for promoting Morocco as a tourist destination, which is just 500 million dirhams. Particular attention is also being paid to domestic tourism, which needs to be boosted, the minister said.

Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane highlighted the need to overcome even the smallest obstacles and said that despite the efforts made by the authorities to boost tourism, the results still fall short of expectations.

“We need to focus on the details, because they are what will make the difference,” the premier said.

Economist Mehdi Chtaibi agreed, saying that Morocco must improve its airport and flight capacity. In terms of domestic tourism, he said the government must develop real offers aimed at Moroccan families in order to achieve targets in this sector.

As for the public, Hanane Sellam, a 21-year-old student, said that the government was focusing mainly on foreign tourists when it should develop other niches in domestic tourism. She said she hoped that the tourism department would consider offering something for youths. She also welcomed the plan to diversify the training provided to young people in tourism careers, which would enable graduates to access the job market easily.

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New Flydubai Flights to three East African cities

East African Business Week – 28 Setpember 2014 – Dar es Salaam — Dubai based low-cost airline, flydubai is introducing flights to Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar and Kilimanjaro starting October.

The airline’s Chief Executive Officer, Ghaith Al Ghaith told East African Business Week, “With the addition of these three new destinations in Tanzania we have doubled our network in North and East Africa this year, strengthening our commitment to serving previously underserved markets,” he said.

This will be a good news to the country’s hospitality industry as the availability of flydubai is expected to increase flight connections to Tanzania as well as East Africa as a whole.

Ghaith said that flydubai recently announced the launch of flights to Bujumbura in Burundi, Entebbe in Uganda and Kigali in Rwanda and flights to these destinations will commence at the end of September.

Tanzania is rich in tourist attractions specifically in the northern tourist circuit whereby Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater and Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa are situated.

With regard to historical sites, Zanzibar’s Stone Town and Bagamoyo’s Kaole ruins become the most attractive and most tourists from Europe and United Arab Emirates.

The airline said Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar and Kilimanjaro join flydubai’s East African network.

On February 13th, 2013, flydubai announced that it was in talks with Boeing and Airbus for a 50-plane order. Flights to Tanzania will continue the airline’s network in Africa to 12 destinations.

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Japan Hosts First Int’l Halal Expo

OnIslam & Newspapers Friday, 26 September 2014 CAIRO – Extending its Muslim-friendly tourism services, Japan will host its first international forum and exhibition for halal environment and business later this year to raise awareness about the thriving industry in the far-east Asian country.

“This Expo aims to contribute to the development of a domestic Halal environment and the cultivation of Islamic markets by Japanese companies,” a statement on Japan Halal Expo 2014 website was seen by OnIslam.net.

Themed of “Global expansion of Made in Japan Halal and development of a domestic Halal environment”, the halal expo is scheduled to be held on November 26-27.

Called “Japan Halal Expo 2014”, the expo will include trade fair of “Made in Japan” Halal products and services, forum featuring domestic and international corporate stakeholders, Halal experts, and certification organizations, according to the website.

Muslim visitor arrivals in Japan grew at an average of 7.2% from 2004-2013. According to CrescentRating, this pace is likely to accelerate to an average 18.7 percent in the next seven years.

Japan’s rank in Islamic tourism has jumped from the 50th place to the 40th within a year, a recent survey showed.

“The number of foreign tourists visiting Japan exceeded 10 million for the first time in 2013 and the resulting economic effect is attracting a great deal of attention,” the website said.

Islam began in Japan in the 1920s through the immigration of a few hundreds of Turkish Muslims from Russia following the Russian revolution.

In 1930, the number of Muslims in Japan reached about 1000 of different origins. Another wave of migrants who boosted the Muslim population reached its peak in the 1980s, along with migrant workers from Iran, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Japan today is home to a thriving Muslim community of about 120,000, among nearly 127 million in the world’s tenth most populated country. Japan has announced earlier several steps to guarantee a larger share of the thriving halal tourism industry.

“Many Muslims have complained upon arrival that they don’t know where to go for a prayer, or that scant information is being made available about ingredients on food labels,” chief organizer Yoshichika Terasawa, executive managing director of Makuhari Messe, told The Japan Times on Thursday, September 25.

“I hope an event like this will help make us aware of the needs of Muslims, the same way we are today regarding vegetarians, for example.”

Last December, international airports in Japan opened new prayer rooms and started offering halal food for Muslims, amid a wider plan to make Japanese ports more Muslim friendly.

The new steps followed Japan’s decision to relax the rules for issuance to visas to visitors from Indonesia, Malaysia and three other Southeast Asian nations in July. The expo also aims to boost the number of halal-certified restaurants in Japan.

“I don’t think it will be much difficult for Japanese restaurants to learn how to make their meals halal-certified,” said Hj Burhanuddin Md Radzi, the expo’s co-organizer and president of the Malaysian animation production company Les’ Copaque Production Sdn Bhd, agrees.

“Take Tokyo Banana, for example,” Radzi continued, referring to the famous souvenir sweet. “It’s very famous and has a strong following (among tourists), but it’s non-halal because the ingredients include gelatin.

“But you can make it halal-certified by making the ingredients vegetable-based. I’m sure Japanese companies will be able to figure out a solution using their know-how.”

Muslim travelers globally are expected to reach $200 billion by 2020, or 13.5 percent of the global total, up from $140 billion in 2013. A recent study, conducted in 47 countries, found that spending by Muslim tourists is growing faster than the global rate and is forecast to reach $192 billion a year by 2020, up from $126 billion in 2011.

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Al Rafd mulls tourism fund for SMEs

Oman Daily Observer – 01 October, 2014 – With a view to encouraging youths to take up entrepreneurial jobs, the Al Rafd Fund has mooted the idea of setting up a separate tourism fund for those small and medium entrepreneurs (SMEs) who want to pursue career in tourism sector.

Though Al Rafd is already supporting all sorts of SME activities, the modalities for the upcoming initiative is under process keeping in mind Oman’s tourism potential and the government’s thrust on making the Sultanate a tourism hub of the region.

Several issues concerning the problems of ongoing SME projects in the tourism sector and those who are willing to take up fresh initiatives in the sector were discussed at an open forum yesterday. The forum was attended by the senior officials of Salalah chapter of the Al Rafd Fund, the Ministry of Tourism and local entrepreneurs.

Imad Ahmed al Rawas, Head of Support and Assistance Al Rafd Fund in Dhofar Governorate, told the Observer that the Directorate of Tourism in Dhofar and Al Rafd Fund have joined hands to promote youths to take up entrepreneurial jobs in the tourism sector.

He also hinted at efforts to make funding rules easy so that starting a business becomes more affordable and feasible for the youths. “We are evolving start up mechanism to support local people and have tied up with the Ministry of Tourism to ensure that any individual initiative kick starts after proper orientation and training,” he said.

Shaikh Salem Mohammed al Mashni, Shura Council member from Taqah, welcomed the initiative and called upon youths to avail the opportunity from the joint venture of the Al Rafd Fund and the Ministry of Tourism.

The forum is part of the ongoing First Winter Tourism Promotion campaign of the Directorate General of Tourism in Dhofar. Khalid bin Mussalam al Rowas, Director-General of Tourism in the Governorate, took part in the forum and addressed issues raised by the participants.

Said Salem Rafeet, Assistant Director for Administration and Investment Development, Directorate of Tourism, Dhofar, commented on the Al Rafd’s initiative and said the SMEs interested in tourism sector would get interest free loans for a long period so that they set their goals and achieve them.

“We will take care of the feasibility of the projects and recommend to Al Rafd to sanction the loan. There would be training, assessment and advice facilities to the beneficiaries to ensure that the investment is going in right direction,” he said.

Some successful entrepreneurs shared their experiences to encourage them to go for self employment instead of looking for jobs in government private sectors.

Yousuf Hamad al Mahrooqi, Head of Salalah Diving and Water Sports Centre, called for offering training to entrepreneurs before giving them loans, as it would be risky for them to jump into business without having any practical experience of the sector.

He called upon all the stakeholders of different departments to make the rules and regulations easy for smooth sailing of business activities in the tourism sector.

“All the stakeholders should sit and talk on one table to simplify things instead of making an entrepreneur run to different departments to get things done,” suggested Yousuf.

Some women entrepreneurs called for giving business opportunities to local women and provide an environment in which women were encouraged to take up small businesses as their career.

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Oman Air launches new passenger facilities

Oman Daily Observer – 01 October, 2014 – With the aim of improving the performance level in the airport facilities and services provided by the national carrier, it has opened new business and first class immigration and bag screening counters at the Oman Air departure hall under the auspices of Dr Mohammed Nasser al Zaabi, CEO, PACA yesterday.

The opening of the new counters comes in line with the efforts made by the Oman Aviation Management Company (OAMC) and Oman Air to provide high-quality and competitive services to passengers travelling via Muscat International Airport and facilitate their travel procedures, particularly for first class and business class passengers.

“We are aiming at an increased number of hi-fly passengers with the opening of the new facility”, says Paul Gregorowitsch, CEO, Oman Air.

“We have also launched a ‘Stay on the Way’ package which we call ‘Oman’ by design with highly favourable rates from the newly opened Hormuz Grand hotel next to the airport, this will enable us to get high additional business and first class guests from Europe and elsewhere to stay in Oman and they can use these facilities”, he said.

He called all the positive factors that contribute to the surge in national tourism “a perfect amalgam of all positive factors” and added:

“All positive things are coming nicely together. Our new fleet, our investments in our new business class, in new facilities and our investments in new destinations, refurbishment of the existing ones, important guests who will be given an appetiser of Oman and certainly, more Euros and Dollars will be spent in the country in the coming years”.

Shaikh Ayman al Hosni, Director-General of Muscat International Airport said: “OAMC, in coordination with the PACA, the ROP, and Oman Air, is studying all options and alternatives to facilitate travel procedures for all passengers travelling via Muscat and Salalah airports through a provision of a variety of top-class services to the business and first class passengers as well as the economy and transit passengers”.

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Kuwait to host Gulf tourist meeting mid-October

Kuwait News Agency – 01 October, 2014 – The State of Kuwait is set to play host to the first meeting of GCC ministers of tourism on October 14 as a springboard for launching joint Gulf cooperation in the tourist field.

During the meeting, the tourism ministers of the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states are expected to thrash out a uniform Gulf strategy to promote and develop tourism in the Gulf region, a senior official of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry said here on Wednesday.

Fresh visions and suggestions involving a single tourist visa and an independent tourist promotion agency will be high on the agenda of the gathering, Assistant Undersecretary of the Ministry’s Tourism Department Samira Al-Ghreib said in a statement.

Bahrain will present a report on the implementation of an agreement for the protection of urban heritage in the Arab world, together with a Gulf crafts union, the official added. She pointed out that her ministry is interested in involving the private sector in the execution of tourist development projects.

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Bahrain Tourism Strategy Highlighted

Gulf Daily News – 02 October, 2014 – PROJECTS to promote Bahrain’s tourism sector were highlighted yesterday. This came as Deputy Prime Minister and head of the ministerial committee for social services, media, transportation and telecommunications Shaikh Ali bin Khalifa Al Khalifa chaired a meeting.

Culture Minister Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa briefed the meeting on the ministry’s tourism strategy, in line with the Premier’s directives to support the sector.

The committee underscored the importance of supporting the sector and developing it, pointing out the importance of partnership with the private sector in carrying out projects.

The panel reviewed the objectives behind a proposal to issue a Spanish sport magazine in Arabic in Bahrain, in line with a decision by the Cabinet to refer a memo by Minister of State for Information Affairs Sameera Rajab. It decided to submit a recommendation to the Cabinet to approve the issuance of the magazine.

The panel also discussed a memo by Ms Rajab on the publication of a specialised magazine covering school activities.

After studying all technical and legal aspects, the committee decided to allow more study on the magazine’s compatibility with regulations and the Press and Publications Law before any authorisation is given.

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Oman’s female photographers talents on show

Oman Daily Observer – 02 October, 2014 – The imaginative photographic works of forty-seven talented Omani female photographers, featured in the Photographic Society’s 5th Omani Female Photographers Exhibition, was officially opened at the Society’s premises in Mawaleh yesterday.

Row-upon-row of these distinctive photographs that cut across different photographic styles and artistic genres, can be viewed at the Society’s galleries daily from 8 am to 10 pm up until October 18.

In his statement Ahmed bin Abdullah al Busasidi, Director of the Photographic Society, noted, “This edition of the Omani Female Photographers Exhibition comes in its fifth year with creative vision that reflects the level reached by Oman photography, in terms of creativity, accuracy and artistic taste. The exhibition here takes us deep within ourselves to tell us about what the gifted photographers have brought forth.

“We thank the Omani women photographers who contributed to the success of this exhibition, which enriches us with various insights.”

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Omani plan to raise efficiency of tour guides

Oman Daily Observer – 02 October, 2014 – The tourism authorities have decided to train and equip tour guides with latest information on tourism and rules and regulations with a view to raising their efficiency and standards.

As a first step, it has been decided to organise regular workshops and seminars to impress upon the guides how to communicate with the tourists and importance of passing on the right information about the places of importance.

A meeting of tourist guides was held yesterday at the Hilton Salalah Resort under the auspices of Khalid bin Mussalam al Rawas, Director-General of Tourism in the Governorate of Dhofar.

He exhorted the tour guides to give proper attention to their guests and raise level of efficiency by improving communication and inter personal skills.

Rawas Hafidh Abdullal al Rawas, Director of Investor Services and Quality Assurance Dhofar, termed tour guides as ‘local ambassadors of tourism’ and exhorted them to take advantage of technology and work for the maximum satisfaction of their clients.

“They are our real ambassadors, as they spend maximum time with the tourists, who judge the country as per their hospitality and information shared by them,” said Abdullah al Rawas.

The tour guides were told to reciprocate nicely with the guests and know the country protocols so that they can guide the guests accordingly.

Out of 250 registered tour guides in the Sultanate, about 90 are registered with the Director-General of Tourism in the Governorate of Dhofar. To ensure quality among the tour guides there is a committee, which go through the applications of aspiring tour guides and issue a license only after proper scrutiny and personal interview.

The committee, according to Abdullah al Rawas, is empowered to review, renew or reject the licenses on the basis of merit.

Yousuf Hamad al Mahrooqi, Head of Salalah Diving and Water Sports Centre, raised the issue of clash of interest between tour operators and taxi owners, as on several occasions the taxi drivers confront with the tour operators on the issue of taking the tourists for conducted tours.

“Since they are not trained tour guides, they should be responsible only for picking and dropping passengers, eg from point A to B, and refrain strictly from taking them for long tours,” said Al Mahrooqi. He called for a proper mechanism to address the issue.

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New Dubai Ferry tourist route introduced

Khaleej Times – 03 October, 2014 – The new tourist route of the Dubai Ferry, which was launched on October 1, was tentatively operated during weekends (Thursdays and Fridays).

The Marine Transport Department of the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has launched a new tourist route for the Dubai Ferry from Al Mamzar Marine Transport Station on Thursdays and Fridays.

Hussein Khansaheb, Director of Marine Transport, said, “The Public Transport Agency is operating scheduled tours for the Dubai Ferry at both Dubai Marina and Ghubaiba stations. At the behest of the Dubai Ferry commuters, we have decided to expand the scope of marine services and access new destinations by operating a new tourist trip … in Al Mamzar area.

“The new tourist route of the Dubai Ferry, which was launched on October 1, was tentatively operated during weekends (Thursdays and Fridays), with an average of one trip per day at 4.30pm. The trip, which lasts for an hour, costs Dh75 for the Gold Class whereas the Silver Class costs Dh50,” said Khansaheb.

Fares remain unchanged.

The Dubai Ferry is the latest and largest RTA marine transit mode in Dubai, with four boats currently in operation and an additional one that will be added at Ghubaiba station. The ferry, which is an express means of transport to access new areas, serves Dubai Creek, and the coastline stretching along Jumeirah beaches, in addition to Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Beach Residence, waterfront projects, and Al Mamzar area.

The ferry, which has a capacity of 100 passengers, extends 32 metres in length and eight metres in width, with a speed of 24 knots per hour.

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Iranian Tourism seen as economic saviour

Islamic Republic News Agency – 04 October, 2014 – “Documents and observations reveal the fact that during the first six months of the current (Iranian) year (1393, began on March 20, 2014) the tours that bring foreign tourist to Iran hosted twice as many guests compared to the same period a year before,” said Mas’oud Soltanifar, addressing a session of a work group of the Arak Province Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization.

He said that the statistics on Iranian and foreign tourists together in all sectors, too, shows a 35% increase during the first half of the current Iranian year compared with the same period last year.

“Most of the four and five star hotels in such metropolitan cities as Tehran, Shiraz, and Isfahan are facing and influx in room reservation for the upcoming months and some have filed requests for permits to further expand their service rendering complexes,” he further elaborated.

The head of Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Handicrafts Organization said that under such conditions that the world nations have hosted more than one billion and 187 million tourists and gained 250 billion US dollars from their tourism industry last year, Iran’s share despite its strong attractions in natural, historical, spiritual, cultural and health tourism fields is only about 0.5% of that amount.

“Iran ranks 10th in the world in terms of miscellaneous attractions, and in terms of its cultural and historical attractions it is potentially among the top three countries in the world,” added Soltanifar.

“During the past 80 years despite the entire power of archeology, only a small portion of the potential historical and cultural capitals of our country have been excavated from the heart of the earth, while more than 96% of the country’s wealth in this field has remained untouched,” he reiterated.

The vice president said that although 31,100 sites, cultural, and spiritual buildings have been registered nationally, Iran with more than one million historical buildings, sites, and areas righteously deserves to be titled a country-museum.

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