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3 Nov, 2014

Luxury train pulls into Tehran amid Western tourism push

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 03 November 2014 (10 Muharram 1436). 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.




Int’l Seminar on Language Heritage to be held in Tehran

Tehran, Nov 1, IRNA – Cultural Heritage and Tourism Research Center plans to organize International Language Heritage Seminar on February 22-23, 2015 concurrent with International Mother Language Day.

The event is aimed at reinforcing Persian language as a contributor to national unity.

Topics for discussion during the two-day event include linguistic researches, inscription studies, modern researches on Iranian ancient languages, numismatics and lingual heritage.

Safeguarding Islamic Iran’s valuable lingual works, identifying commonalities of various Iranian languages and unifying various Iranian cultures are among the other objectives of the seminar.

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Jakarta Fashion Week 2015 Begins

JAKARTA, Nov 1, 2014 – (ACN Newswire) – The biggest fashion week in South East Asia, Jakarta Fashion Week (JFW) 2015 officially begins today in Senayan City Mall. For seven days, 1-7 November 2015, JFW 2015 will showcase the creativity of highly awaited international and local designers. Thousands of outfits presented on this event will set next year’s fashion trends.

This year, the scale of JFW 2015 is getting even more fabulous. The festivity of this event is highlighted with a number of important facts, namely:

  • 10 international designers from 4 countries – the United Kingdom, Japan, Thailand and Korea.
  • 18 Moslem wear designers
  • 30 Indonesia Fashion Forward labels
  • 42 labels from renowned fashion schools
  • 70 shows
  • 220+ local and international fashion designers and labels
  • 230+ models
  • 2600+ looks – from ready-to-wear collections, Muslim wears, kebaya, to haute couture.

More than a demonstration the Indonesian fashion splendour, JFW 2015 is significant to strengthen Jakarta’s position as one of Asia’s fashion hub. As the event is covered by numerous international journalists, the participating designers may get the widest possible exposure, be it in Italy, Australia, Japan, Norway, Singapore or Malaysia. A couple of the most notable international journalists who will appear in JFW 2015 are Sarah Kate Watson-Baik from Korea, the host of StarWorld’s K-style, and Collin McDowell from England, the world’s leading fashion commentator also known particularly for his many years as the Sunday Times’ chief fashion writer.

JFW 2015 will also be the moment of truth for Indonesia Fashion Forward designers. After having been forged in a strict mentorship program by fashion experts from London-based Centre for Fashion Enterprise, the designers will present their best collections in front of a mass of fashion enthusiasts. A number of shows by these designers will mark the opening of JFW 2015 on the first day. Behold the spectacle with million other audiences via live streaming at www.jakartafashionweek.co.id.

For seven days, JFW 2015 will house various fashion shows, talk shows, and competitions for designers, journalists, and fashionistas. All the shows will be held not only in collaboration with our partners, but also with different organizations and cultural centers, including British Council Indonesia, Thai Department of International Trade Promotion, Centre for Fashion Enterprise, Erasmus Huis (Jakarta-based Dutch cultural centre), Japan Foundation, Korean Cultural Center and Japan Fashion Week Organization.

About Jakarta Fashion Week

Jakarta Fashion Week (JFW) is held annually and aims to provide direction to the Jakarta Fashion Week is the leading platform for fashion industry in Indonesia. As the primary fashion week in Indonesia, Jakarta Fashion Week showcases the talent and creativity for Indonesian designers as well as providing a direction for Indonesian fashion industry. Throughout the year, Jakarta Fashion Week also holds a variety of training programs for prominent figures in Indonesian fashion world. We aim to develop Indonesian fashion business and creativity in preparation to penetrate the international market. Jakarta Fashion Week 2015 is organized by Azura Activation,a part of the Femina Group.

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Indonesian students receive gold medal at Int`l Exhibition of Young Inventors

Jakarta (ANTARA News) 2 Nov 2014 – Four Indonesian students received gold medals at the International Exhibition of Young Inventors (IEYI) 2014 which were held from October 30 to November 1, a press release from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) said here on Sunday.

The four students who received the gold medal were Dayu Laras Wening and Luthfia Adila from State Senior High School 3 in Semarang (Central Java province) and Naufal Rasendriya Apta and Archel Valiano from Islamic School Al Azhar 26 in Yogyakarta.

“Participation in global competitions is one of the ways to build the confidence of young inventors,” said Chairman of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) Zulkarnain.

The 2014 International Exhibition of Young Inventors (IEYI) was organized by LIPI and participated in by 60 Indonesian students and 142 students from abroad namely from Japan, Egypt, Nigeria, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, India and Iran.

There were several categories being competed during the young inventors event namely disaster management, education and recreation, food and agriculture, green technology, safety and health and technology for special needs.

About 202 inventions were displayed during the exhibition. The participants who received the most number of gold medal was a student from Taiwan with 13 gold medals, followed by Indonesia with two gold medals, Japan with two gold medals, Malaysia with one gold medal, Thailand with one gold medal and the Philippines with one gold medal.

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Supervising Committee On Omani Tourism Strategy Meets

MUSCAT, Oman, Oct 28 (NNN-ONA) – The Main Committee overseeing the project for the study of the Omani Tourism Strategy, held a meeting today, under the chairmanship of Ahmed bin Nasser al-Mahrzi, Oman Minister of Tourism.

The agenda of the meeting included several key items, including the most prominent developments in the project, the current status of the study, preliminary results after the team has held several meetings, introductory seminars to the strategy and carrying out field visits to a number of governorates of the Sultanate, during the period.

The 3-day specialised seminar, hosted by the working team of the Omani Tourism Strategy, was launched under the auspices of Maitha bint Saif al-Mahrouqiyah, Under-secretary of the Ministry of Tourism.

The seminar includes presentations, meetings and focus group to analyse all the results, the data and information that have been obtained through introductory seminars, meetings and field visits by the strategy team to six governorates across the Sultanate in Oct, 2014.

Those governorates are: South and North Al Batinah, Al Buraimi, A’Dhahirah, A’Dakhiliyah and Dhofar. The rest of the governorates would be visited next month.

The specialised seminar included, in its first day meetings that dealt with the main themes of the agreement on the basic elements of the Sultanate’s 2030 vision, as a Tourist Destination and find out the best methods and plans that can be applied on the ground, for the development of the tourism sector in the Sultanate.

The second day programme will include basic themes that relate to the governorates management and development system (GMD), the vision, objectives, mechanisms of implementation and enforcement, the main challenges faced by each governorate, in order to advance the process of the development of tourism.

The programme of the last day of the seminar will include tourism promotion and challenges facing it, the main tourist markets that should be targeted and to know the best future vision and marketing system that can be implemented.

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Air France Negotiating For Direct Flights To Maputo

MAPUTO, Oct 29 (NNN-AIM) — The Air France/KLM Group has begun talks with the government of Mozambique on the resumption of direct flights between Paris and Maputo, says Air France Managing Director for Africa Franck Legre.

He told the media that he hoped the service could begin within the next two years, saying “the economy of Mozambique is growing fast and the discovery of natural gas deposits makes this country attractive”.

Legre was speaking in the Ivory Coast on Sunday during a ceremony to launch a new Air France service between Abidjan and Paris using the Airbus A380 aircraft.

There have been no direct flight between Maputo and Paris for around two decades. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Mozambique Airlines (LAM) operated a weekly flight, using a DC-10 aircraft, from Maputo to Paris, Copenhagen and Berlin.

One of the main reasons for this service was that a large Mozambican community lived in the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany) thanks to a migrant labour agreement between the governments of Mozambique and the GDR.

With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of State socialism in the GDR and the subsequent re-unification of Germany, the Mozambican migrants left en masse, and the route ceased to be viable.

Currently the only direct flights from Mozambique to Europe are between Maputo and Lisbon, operated by the Portuguese airline, TAP.

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Uganda To Host Two International Tourism Events

KAMPALA, Oct 29 (NNN-NEW VISION) — Uganda will take part on the prestigious World Travel Market (WTM) in London and host two international tourism events next month as part of efforts to enhance the country’s tourism potential.

Tourism Minister Maria Mutagamba said here Tuesday that Uganda would take part in the WTM expo, a premier global travel industry event which will be held at the Excel Dockland centre in London with Uganda will to be represented by a 40-member delegation to the event which will run from Nov 3 to 6.

A week later Uganda will host the 39th annual Africa Travel Association (ATA) Congress, followed by the Uganda International Tourism Expo. The ATA will run from Nov 11 to 16, the Tourism Expo take place from Nov 14 to 16.

The four-day WTM is a vibrant business to business event at which Uganda will showcase its tourism potential on 120 square metres of space already secured at the Africa Hall AF240.

“Alongside the expo, Uganda will hold a business-to-business cocktail on November 4 at the Uganda High Commission at Trafalgar Square, organized by the Kamageo Company,” Mutagamba said.

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World Premieres Of Arab Films Um Ghayeb And The Silence Of The Shepherd

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, Oct 28 (NNN-WAM) – Two Arab films are celebrating their World Premieres at Abu Dhabi Film Festival 2014, (ADFF) today (Tuesday).

In the Documentary Competition of the festival, SANAD-funded Egyptian documentary film, UM GHAYEB (MOTHER OF THE UNBORN), directed by Nadine Salib, convincingly captures the stigmatisation of female infertility in Egypt.

The second film to have its World Premiere is the Iraqi film, THE SILENCE OF THE SHEPHERD, featuring in the New Horizons category of the festival. Director Raad Mushatat will grace the premiere with his all-Iraqi cast and crew. The film, set against a rural backdrop, deals with silence in the village community, when a thirteen-year-old girl suddenly disappears.

The ADFF will present two award-winning, much acclaimed movies, for the first time in the region. BLACK COAL, THIN ICE, which won the Golden Bear award at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival, is a dark Chinese detective thriller, written and directed by Diao Yinan. BLACK COAL, THIN ICE is competing in the festival’s Narrative Competition.

Winner of the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes festival, WINTER SLEEP, directed by Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan, will be screened. Set against the snowy panoramas of Anatolia, the film is an intimate character study of the protagonist that touches epic dimensions. The film delineates the deep chasms between the rich and poor, as well as of the powerful and powerless in Turkey. WINTER SLEEP will be presented as part of the ADFF Showcase.

Watch the intense acting by the father-adolescent son duo in FEVERS on screen. Competing in the ADFF Narrative Competition, directed by Moroccan filmmaker, Hicham Ayouch, portrays situations that arise in the life of 13-year-old Benjamin in France, who is suddenly thrusted into the company of his North African immigrant father he never knew he had, when his mother goes to jail.

Winner of the Audience Awards at Sundance and at Berlinale this year, DIFRET, will have its red carpet premiere at the Emirates Palace tonight at 1830. The Ethiopian drama, produced by Angelina Jolie, will have its director Zeresenay Mehari and producer Mehret Mondefro attending the red carpet. The film that spotlights the gender-based violence in Ethiopia and the ancient practice of abduction into marriage is included in ADFF’s New Horizons Competition.

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Bahrain’s Archaeological Riches Showcased In Sharjah

SHARJAH, Bahrain, Oct 30 (NNN-BNA) – An exhibition, showcasing Bahrain National Museum’s artefacts, depicting the period spanning from 2000 BC to 300 AD, today opened at Sharjah Archaeological Museum.

UAE Federal Supreme Council Member and Sharjah Ruler, Dr. Shaikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, patronised the opening ceremony, in the presence of Culture Minister, Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al-Khalifa.

The exhibition, which will run until Mar 29, 2015, is being held at the provisional exhibition hall, at Sharjah Archaeology Museum, under the theme: “Ancient Bahrain: The Power of Trade” (2nd Millennium BC – 3rd Century AD).

Sharjah Museums Department is holding the heritage exhibition, in coordination with the Ministry of Culture in Bahrain.

Commenting on this event, Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, Bahrain Minister of Culture, said, “Our present is merely the continuation of a long history that our nations share. Our ancestors turned this coast into a harbour for civilization and this exhibition sheds new light on the historical significance of Bahrain’s contribution to humanity, and the Bahraini heritage, as a part of the wider Gulf region.”

The exhibits are categorised into four main groups. These are: “Dilmun and Tylos, Centuries of Commerce and Prosperity”; “Dilmun: The Storage of the Gulf in the Bronze and Iron Ages (2000-500 BC)”; “Tylos, the Trade Routes Cross-Road (300-200 BC)”; and “Beyond Trade Influence: A Rich Local Culture.”

The exhibition is a successful illustration of Dilmun and Tylos as prosperous markets on important marine trade routes.

The exhibition displays about 150 selected artefacts, from the Bahrain National Museum’s permanent collection, including stone stamps, pottery, glassware, ivory, and alabaster kitchen pieces, in addition to golden pieces and stone exhibits that testify to the richness of the region’s trade activity during that era.

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Malaysia: Cyberjaya On Track To Be Creative Content Hub

CYBERJAYA, Oct 28 (NNN-Bernama) — Cyberjaya is on the right track to be a creative content hub by 2020 based on the provision of the best support ecosystem services, says the entity spearheading the development of Malaysia’s first ‘intelligent city.’

Cyberview Sdn Bhd head of technology hub division Nazri Tumin said the company already has 8,000 creative industries students in its two universities.

To make Cyberjaya an information and communications techology (ICT) hub, Cyberview is focusing on information security, mobile Internet, cloud computing, big data analysis, green technology, biotechnology, renewable technology and smart grid besides creative content, he told reporters after a media event with creative multimedia companies operating in Cyberjaya here today.

They included Animonsta (known for the Boboiboy animation) and Sead Studio (The Amazing Awang Khenit cartoon series). Nazri said the industry’s products are marketed in some 40 countries, with even Japan showing an interest in collaborative efforts.

“This is a multi-billion ringgit industry and we want to showcase local talent abroad,” he said, adding the company aims to attract 200 ICT companies to invest over the next six years in the township, where 52 creative multimedia companies have already set up base.

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Brunei To Host Commonwealth Young Entrepreneurs Summit

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 28 (NNN-Bernama) — The Commonwealth Asia Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs (CAAYE) will be organising the CAAYE Summit from Nov 16-18 in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei.

CAAYE 2014 President Nurul-Huda Mohamed Afandi said this year’s summit will be hosted by the Young Entrepreneurs Association Brunei (YEAB), following the success of previous summits in Mumbai, India in 2012 and Colombo, Sri Lanka in 2013.

“The focus of the Brunei summit will be on sharing best practices around the central theme of “Innovate with Purpose”, to build a more sustainable and socially responsible youth entrepreneur ecosystem.

“Delegates will jointly prepare a final communique articulating their commitments and recommendations, which will be submitted to Member Governments through the Commonwealth Secretariat,” she said in a statement to Bernama.

CAAYE, formed in November 2011, comprises member organisations from eight Commonwealth Asia countries, and this year the alliance has grown to include Nepal as an observer state, she said.

“It is a ‘network of networks’, with one or two youth-led and/or youth-focused entrepreneurship organisations representing Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, India, Malaysia Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Singapore and Sri Lanka,” she said.

She said the organisations engage with governments, the private sector, the media and other stakeholders to champion the cause of young entrepreneurship at the local, national, regional and international levels.

Supported by the Commonwealth Secretariat, CAAYE members have collectively adopted a charter to raise awareness and support the development of youth entrepreneurship.

“At CAAYE, we recognise that young people form a vital part of the global entrepreneurship equation, therefore the summit aims to inspire entrepreneurs to have businesses that serve a global purpose.

“This year, we will showcase the next innovative businesses that have the ability to make a great impact in the world,” she said.

Those interested in joining the delegation to the summit can email Nurul-Huda at president@caaye.com. Closing date for registration is Nov 7. More information can be found at http://www.caayesummit.com

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Africa’s Biggest Trade Bloc Shaping Up

KAMPALA, Oct 29 (NNN-NEW VISION) — The Tripartite Sectoral Committee of Ministers meeting in Bujumbura, Burundi, last week has agreed that the Tripartite Summit of Heads of State and Government to be held in Egypt in mid-December 2014 will be the occasion for the launch of the Tripartite Free Trade Area (FTA) to create Africa’s biggest trading bloc.

The decision to launch the Tripartite FTA took into account the fact that the majority of the Tripartite Member/Partner States have made ambitious tariff offers and are agreed on Rules of Origin to be applied in the interim while further work continues on product-specific Rules of Origin.

The Tripartite TFA encompassing 26 Member/Partner States from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

It will have a total population of 625 million people, a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of 1.2 trillion US dollars, will account for half of the membership of the African Union and 58 per cent of the continent’s GDP.

The Tripartite FTA popularly known as the Grand Free Trade Area, will be the largest economic bloc on the continent and the launching pad for the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Are (CFTA) in 2017.

The Tripartite FTA offers significant opportunities for business and investment within the area and will act as a magnet for attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) into the Tripartite region.

The business community, in particular, will benefit from an improved and harmonized trade regime which reduces the cost of doing business as a result of elimination of overlapping trade regimes due to multiple memberships.

The launching of the Tripartite Free Trade Area is the first phase of implementing a developmental regional integration strategy that places high priority on infrastructure development, industrialization and free movement of business persons.

In order for the Tripartite FTA to realize inclusive and equitable growth, the meeting agreed on the need for expeditious formulation and implementation of a regional industrial programme.

The Chairperson of the Ministerial meeting, Chiratidzo Iris Mabuwa, the Deputy Minister of Commerce and Industry of Zimbabwe, hailed the agreement to launch the Grand FTA as a milestone in regional and continental integration.

“Africa has now joined the league of emerging economies and the grand FTA will play a pivotal and catalytic role in the transformation of the continent”, she declared at the close of the meeting.

“We have made significant progress in negotiations on trade in goods, and we now need to expedite negotiations on trade-related areas, including trade in services, intellectual property and competition policy to ensure equity, among all citizens of the wider region.”

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Malaysia, UAE To Build Up On Islamic Capital

DUBAI, UAE, Oct 29 (NNN-Bernama) — The Securities Commission Malaysia (SC) and the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA) exchanged a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to forge a strategic partnership in capacity building between the two leading regulators of Islamic capital markets.

In a statement, SC said its Chairman Ranjit Ajit Singh, together with SCA Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Al-Turifi, exchanged the MoU at the 10th World Islamic Economic Forum in Dubai, with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak witnessing the ceremony.

The MoU sets out the foundation of further co-operation between the SC and SCA, which includes allowing for collaborative initiatives in human capital development, with key emphasis on the development of capital market and financial services industry professionals in both Malaysia and the UAE.

“This aims at enhancing the mobility of talent and professionals between the two leading Islamic finance markets,” the statement said.

The MoU will also enable collaboration in research and regional thought leadership events to jointly promote the capital markets.

Securities Industry Development Corporation (SIDC), the SC’s capital market talent development centre, will undertake the task of driving the collaboration with the UAE authority, according to the statement.

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LEAD STORY: Luxury train pulls into Tehran amid Western tourism push

TEHRAN – Agence France-Presse – A luxury train filled with Western tourists pulled into Tehran on Oct. 27, after an almost two-week journey from Budapest taking in Iranian cities that reportedly cost up to $31,000 a head.

Around 70 passengers, mostly from Britain and Australia, visited the cities of Isfahan, Shiraz and Yazd before reaching the Iranian capital where the travellers will spend two days before flying home.

The “Jewels of Persia” tour left Budapest on October 15 with the organisers billing it a five-star experience in 13 lavishly decorated, wood-panelled 1950s carriages.

En route for Iran on the Golden-Eagle-Danube Express train, operated by Hungarian Railways, the passengers passed through Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey.

Another 12 trips are scheduled for next year — eight leaving Budapest and four departing Tehran — with the price of the most expensive tickets jumping to $37,000.

The number of foreign visitors to Iran has risen sharply since the election last year of President Hassan Rouhani whose government wants to boost tourism.

Official figures released in March showed tourist numbers were up 35 percent year-on-year to 4.5 million, bringing $6 billion in revenue.

“In every city, every town we’ve seen people to be very friendly,” said Bob, a retired pharmacist from Adelaide, who had made the trip to Tehran with his wife Janet. “You get the wrong impression (of Iran) from newspapers,” he said of media back home. “They give the wrong side.”

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Bangladesh Showcase: 60 Companies To Woo Malaysian Investors

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 29 (NNN-Bernama) — Sixty companies from Bangladesh will participate in Showcase Bangladesh 2014 on Nov 14-16 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, to attract more Malaysian investments to the South Asia country.

Organising committee chairman Syed Nurul Islam said besides reducing the trade gap between the two countries, the trade show is also aimed at strengthening the Bangladesh brand abroad. “The time has come to tell the world about a positive Bangladesh,” he said in a statement.

He said Bangladesh’s Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed and Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali would take part in the event.

He added that big business delegations from various sectors in Bangladesh will join the trade show including those from banking and insurance services, textiles, infrastructure, cosmetics, handicrafts, Ayurvedic and Halal products .

Showcase Bangladesh 2014 is organised by the Bangladesh-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BMCCI), in collaboration with the Bangladeshi High Commission in Malaysia, Malaysia South-South Association (MASSA) and Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE). Bangladesh, with a population over 150 million, is currently the second largest economy in the South Asia region.

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Halal Middle East Expo In UAE On Dec 8 -10

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 29 (NNN-Bernama) — The 3rd OIC Halal Middle East Exhibition and Congress to be held at the Expo Centre Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Dec 8-10 will be a great platform for global halal players to explore the food and beverages segment of the industry in the region.

Expo Centre Sharjah chief executive officer Saif Mohammed Al Midfa said the latest market reports show consumer spending on food in the region is expected to reach US$106 billion (RM$346.62 billion) in the next five years, with a recent study expecting the global halal food and beverage industry to hit US$1.6 trillion (RM5.23 trillion) by 2018.

In a statement, he said food and beverages is the largest segment of consumer expenditure in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, which has one of the fastest growing populations in the world.

“This, coupled with rapid economic growth and relative youth of the population, is set to drive demand for halal food and beverages in a big way, thus stressing the importance of a platform like the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Halal Middle East Exhibition & Congress,” he said.

The event, comprising a trade fair, congress, workshops and the 2nd Kitchen Equipment and Technology Exhibition Middle East, will also host special pavilions from Malaysia, China, Pakistan, Thailand, India, Iran and South Africa.

It is organised by Expo Centre Sharjah in association with the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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10th World Islamic Economic Forum Kicks Off In Dubai

DUBAI, Oct 29 (NNN-KUNA) — The 10th World Islamic Economic Forum kicked off here Tuesday with the participation of several heads of state, prime ministers, senior officials and economic experts.

The UAE news agency (WAM) reported that the forum was inaugurated early Tuesday by UAE Vice-President, Prime Minister and Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

The forum is organized by the World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) Foundation and Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry (Dubai Chamber).

Themed “Innovative Partnerships for Economic Growth”, the Forum aims to forge greater collaboration between nations, bringing a new era of prosperity for the global economy.

The 10th WIEF is attended by more than 2,500 participants from 140 countries, offers a global platform to form innovative partnerships based on the seven pillars of the Dubai Capital of Islamic Economy initiative launched in 2013: Islamic finance, halal food industry, halal tourism, Islamic digital economy, Capital of Islamic art and design, Centre for Islamic economy standards and certification, and International centre for Islamic information and education.

The three-day event will tackle a wide-array of issues including Global Economic Outlook; Developing a Resilient Model for Developing Economies Global Financial Landscape Islamic Finance’s Pivotal Role in Enabling Trade and Streamlining the Halal Supply Chain Socializing Education and the Role of Universities Retaining Young Talents Sustainable Urban Planning – Creating Smart Infrastructure and Holistic Communities Rise of Women Entrepreneurs – Developing a Peer Network.

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Zilzar.Com Can Be Muslims’ Alibaba, Says Malaysian Pm Najib

DUBAI, Oct 29 (NNN-Bernama) — Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak today launched Zilzar.com, the world’s first Muslim Lifestyle Marketplace e-commerce platform for trade, content and community for the massive US$2.5 trillion Muslim consumer market.

He hoped that Zilzar.com could be as successful as Alibaba in the Chinese market, taking global halal trading to a new and exciting level.

“The environment and conditions are perfect for this new innovative partnership for economic growth,” he said at the launch of zilzar.com in conjuction with the 10th World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF).

Najib also said there were more than 1.8 billion Muslims, living in 150 countries around the world; and their appetite for e-commerce was strong and growing.

Present were former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and ZILZAR Chairman Dr Vaseehar Hassan Abdul Razack.

The prime minister said the Islamic market was larger than China’s and growing faster that Amazon and e-Bay combined. “What Alibaba is to the Chinese market, Zilzar.com can be for the Muslim lifestyle sector, creating new businesses and jobs, and bringing Islamic finance to new markets,” he said.

On Zilzar.com, Najib said the new online platform was designed to make it easier for halal traders around the world to conduct business online ethically and efficiently.

“It is free-to-use and will connect millions of consumers while offering businesses a slice of the US$2.5 trillion Muslim lifestyle market.

“The halal industry encompasses everything from food to pharmaceuticals. But its small and medium enterprises in particular are globally dispersed. They are crying out for greater connectivity, and for clearer and more concise information about market access and opportunities,” said Najib who is also WIEF Patron.

Noting that this year’s WIEF was focused on ‘Innovative Partnerships for Economic Growth’, he said Zilzar.com was a perfect example of such partnership coming together for the common good of the halal industry and Islamic finance.

“A long overdue merger that could fuel the Islamic economy for decades to come,” Najib added.

Overall, the prime minister said the halal market economy was worth US$7 trillion, the fourth largest economic bloc in the world.

“And by bringing the two most distinctive aspects together, we can unlock new economic opportunities, for our people, our businesses, and our countries. Halal bonds Muslims throughout the world, and also forms part of our identity but it can also have a much wider appeal, he said.

In Malaysia, halal certified goods and services are everywhere and “they are used by everyone, regardless of religion. In fact, our diversity is one of the reasons that Malaysia is so prominently represented in the global halal market. We are used to creating products which are not only Shariah compliant but also consumer friendly and building institutions to support them.

“That includes Islamic finance,” he said, adding that Malaysia launched the world’s first sovereign sukuk a decade ago. The total global financial assets of the Islamic financial industry is now estimated to be worth more than US$2 trillion.

“It is bringing new opportunities for investors, businesses and nations,” said Najib, who is on a three-day working visit to Dubai from Oct 28 in conjunction of the 10th WIEF.

Saying that Islamic banking was largely unaffected by the global financial crisis, Najib added that it should now have the mandate and the confidence to move forward and take on a stronger leadership position in the world of banking.

As the global Islamic economy matured, these two key sectors – halal goods and Islamic finance – are converging, and creating whole new classes of economic activity, he added.

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Malaysia Opens Agro Bazaar In Dubai

DUBAI, UAE, Oct 30 (Bernama) — Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak on Wednesday announced the establishment of Agro bazaar in Dubai by the Federal Agriculture Marketing Authority (FAMA).

“We need to be closer to the marketplace to enjoy higher percentage of income. The nearer we are, the more benefit we get,” he said at the launch of the Malaysian Agrofood Festival and a gathering of 300 Malaysians.

Najib, who is also Finance Minister, said getting closer to the global supply chain was part of the government’s deliberate strategy. “In moving up the value chain in agriculture sector, FAMA is expected to open more Agro bazaars abroad, including in Hong Kong,” Najib said.

Aimed at promoting premium Malaysian fruits and agro-based products, the first Agrobazaar was opened in Singapore in August, he said.

Najib said, the premium ‘Musang King’ durian fruit is really treated like a ‘king’ in Singapore. “The durian is stored fully in an air-conditioned room. It is sold at S$26 per kg. And after conversion (into Malaysian Ringgit), you can’t get the same price anywhere in Malaysia,” he said.

During the first seven months of 2014, exports of fruits increased 44.7 per cent to RM298.8 million.

Present at the event which was held at the Arena, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, was his wife, Rosmah Mansor, and Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

Earlier, Ismail said Dubai’s Agro bazaar, a one-stop centre for Malaysian fruits and agro-based products, would open for business in the third quarter of next year.

Dubai Agro bazaar would also be a trading and distribution hub, as well as, a gateway for Malaysian fruits and agro-based products to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, he said.

Some 6,000 Malaysians live and work in the UAE, the highest in the country followed by Saudi Arabia. They are mostly involved in the aviation, oil and gas, as well as, Islamic banking.

Najib is in Dubai to attend the three-day 10th World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) which began on Oct 28 at the Madinat Jumeirah. The WIEF is organised by the WIEF Foundation in collaboration with the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry. This is Najib’s second visit to the UAE after visiting the capital city of Abu Dhabi in May.

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Vietnam-Malaysia Trade To Reach $10 Billion

HANOI, Oct 31 (NNN-VNS) — Bilateral trade value between Malaysia and Viet Nam is expected to garner more than US$10 billion in 2014. Malaysian Ambassador to Viet Nam Azmil Mohammed Zabidi made this statement after attending a dinner with the Malaysian contingent to the ASEAN Skills Competition here.

Azmil said that although the trade value seemed small, it was an encouraging figure since Viet Nam was still in the early stages of its development.

The Viet Nam News Agency quoted the ambassador as saying trade ties between the two countries should be further enhanced to enable Kuala Lumpur and Ha Noi to benefit from closer relations.

Azmil revealed that Malaysia’s investment in Viet Nam reached $20 billion in the past 20 years and currently, more than 400 Malaysian companies were doing business with Viet Nam, mostly in real estate projects.

Malaysian companies seeking foreign labour should turn to Viet Nam, as it is equipping its youths with skills for the plantation and manufacturing sectors before sending them to work abroad, Azmil said, adding that currently, about 20,000 Vietnamese workers were working in Malaysia.

With a population of about 90 million, Viet Nam provides a significant opportunity in real estate development and Malaysian products, explained Azmil.

“In fact, Malaysian companies are involved in about 450 projects worth $11 billion, either wholly owned or on a joint venture basis,” he noted.

He revealed that currently, about 1,500 Malaysian entrepreneurs were registered with the Malaysian Embassy in Viet Nam, with 700 of them doing business in Ho Chi Minh City and the rest in Ha Noi.

Azmil added that apart from enhancing trade and investment between both countries, the embassy was also ironing out constraints faced by Malaysian companies operating in Viet Nam.

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Emirates Launches Halal National Mark

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, Oct 26 (NNN-WAM) – The Emirates Standardisation and Metrology Authority (ESMA), has launched the ”Halal National Mark” as part of the U.A.E. Scheme for Halal Products, to regulate and certify the Halal industry and its various products.

The ESMA grants the Mark, indicating that the product, service and production system was in conformity with the approved requirements.

Dr. Rashid Ahmed bin Fahad, Minister of Environment and Water, and Chairman of ESMA, said that ESMA, as the exclusive owner of the Mark’s intellectual property rights, had also rolled out the mandatory U.A.E. standard (technical regulation), and had registered the Mark’s logo with the Ministry of Economy.

”The certification mark was launched as part of the U.A.E. Scheme for Halal Products, which will be mandatorily applied as per the resolution No (10), issued by the Federal Cabinet in 2014,” the minister said.

The scheme outlines the properties, descriptions, features, quality, dimensions, sizes or safety requirements of a commodity, material, service or each measurable item, including terminology, symbols, testing methods, sampling, packaging and labelling.

According to the regulation, the Halal certificate is a document certifying that the product, service or their respective schemes are Shariah-compliant. This includes Halal slaughtering certificates, certificates of establishments, farms, slaughterhouses and facilities classified as ‘Halal,’ certificates of raw food materials, food additives, ingredients with meat derivatives, extracts, as well as animal smells, gelatine, fats, oils and their derivatives.

The minister noted that the U.A.E. Scheme for Halal Products, is the first of its kind at the Arab and Gulf levels, and supports a strategic initiative launched by Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, for developing the Islamic economy sector and making Dubai the ‘Capital of Islamic Economy.’

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Japan to import Halal products from Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur, Sunday, 02 Muharram 1436/ 26 October 2014 (IINA) – Japan will import Halal food products from Malaysia in prepration for the thousands of atheletes that will descend upon the country to compete in the 2020 Olympic Games.

“The entry of Halal products into Japan is a move to prepare for the Olympic Games to be held in Japan in 2020,” Malaysian Agriculture and Agro-Based Industries Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said in statements carried by the Malaysian news agency Bernama. “There will be many Muslim athletes who will need Halal food,” he explained. Halal products will make their way into Japan through China and will be marketed through Japanese hypermarket giant Aeon’s 1,800 outlets.

The Malaysian products will be certified as Halal by the Department of Islamic Development in the country. Malaysia will establish a joint committee to oversee the export of the products. Malaysian Halal products have enjoy a wide market Yaakob said, adding that he has received several enquiries from countries such as China, Bahrain, Qatar and other Middle Eastern states.

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Islamic capital markets role in fostering economic stability highlighted

Dubai, Wednesday, 05 Muharram 1436/ 29 October 2014 (IINA) – A number of global experts in Islamic finance speaking at the 10th World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) in Dubai on Tuesday emphasized the role played by Islamic capital markets in fostering stability in the global economy and getting reasonably priced funding for infrastructure development in emerging economies. UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum opened the forum, organized by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry in cooperation with Islamic Economy Forum Corporation and Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC).

In the inaugural session ‘A dialogue on ‘Sukuk Development and Financial Stability’ delegates from both developed and developing nations and leading multilateral organisations reviewed the relevance of sukuk as an innovative financing tool. At the opening of the Forum, Hamad Bu Amim, President & CEO of Dubai Chamber, said that the event will further define Dubai as the global capital of the Islamic economy, and presents a new opportunity for the world to leverage the potential for growth offered by Islamic finance. “This prestigious Forum, celebrating its special 10th anniversary, is an important occasion for Dubai as we seek to build strength and prosperity of the global Islamic economy,” he said.

Andrea Leadsom MP, Economic Secretary to the Treasury of the United Kingdom, said the country has taken concerted measures to further engage with fast-growing economies in Islamic finance. She said that the Bank of England has commenced feasibility work for establishing Sharia-compliant facilities. On the dialogue on Sukuk Development and Financial Stability, moderated by Mushtak Parker, Editor of Islamic Banker magazine, the focus was firmly on the role that Islamic finance can play in promoting project finance, thus contributing to greater economic stability. Masood Ahmad, Director, Middle East and Central Asia Department of the International Monetary Fund, said Sukuk issuances can help deal with the infrastructure deficit in the region, particularly the oil-importing nations with little recourse to funding. He said that oil-exporting nations, despite the falling prices, maintain high levels of cash surplus that depress profits and increase systemic risks, reiterating the need to foster linkages between Islamic finance and the macroeconomy.

Kairat Kelimbetov, Governor of the National Bank of Kazakhstan said that Kazakhstan serves as the gateway to Islamic securities in the CIS region, and underlined the strong regulatory measures being adopted by the Government to promote Islamic finance. He also highlighted the importance of linking Islamic finance to project financing for promoting durable financial stability. Dr. Abdul Aziz Al Hinai, Vice President Finance of Islamic Development Bank, highlighted the challenges and opportunities in Islamic finance, reminding the audience that sukuks are not to be perceived as debt, particularly given its linkages to projects.

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‘Arabic Month’ to be observed in many Indonesian cities

Jeddah, Sunday, 02 Muharram 1436/ 26 October 2014 (IINA) – King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Center for Arabic Language Service announced they are organizing more than 10 training courses on ‘One-Month Arabic Language Program’ in a number of Indonesian cities.

The program is being implemented by the center in its second session within the framework of its international programs which kicked off on Oct. 16 and will end in November, 2014. Dr. Ahmad Fuad Effendy, a member of the Board of Trustees of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Center of Arabic Language, head of Arabic Teachers Union in Indonesia and the national coordinator of the Arabic Month said that various parties in Indonesia have welcomed the Arabic Month in Indonesia which was initiated by King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz International Center for Arabic Language. He said this move of the Saudi government reflects the excellent relationship between the two countries and that it was a wonderful opportunity for Indonesians to learn the Arabic language in their own country.

Effendy further told Arab News that there are a number of Indonesian coordinators for this program. The Arabic Month has various activities including writing a book about Arabic teaching in Indonesia which involved ten authors from a number of universities whose work was presented in the seminar held on Oct. 16 in Jakarta. The other three books were about Arabic scholarship/experts and Arabic teaching institutes in Indonesia including a compilation of Arabic international seminar articles in Indonesia. Training for teachers and lecturers is being held in five universities located in Java, Sumatera and the islands of Nusa Tenggara by nine trainers from Imam Muhammad Ibnu Sa’ud University, Riyadh.

“The participants have appreciated the program and felt that they will benefit from the training,” Effendy said, adding that the coming years will see a number of programs for Arabic learning in Indonesia. Prof. Dr. Taufiq Ahmad Dardiri, chairman of the Indonesian Arabic Teachers Association, stated that his association was proud of being appointed as a partner to organize the Arabic Month. Dr. Tulus Musthofa, general secretary of the association, added that IMLA (Indonesian Maritime Law Association) has a wide range of networks covering various universities in Indonesia that have facilitated the implementation of this nationwide event. Dr. Abdullah bin Saleh Al-Washmi secretary general of the Center said that a number of professors from Saudi universities are participating in the one-month Arabic language program.

He added that the Center is also organizing training courses in a number of Indonesian universities in different cities of the Republic of Indonesia, in collaboration with Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University. The top event of the Arabic month in the coming days will be held in Malang City. It will consist of the following: Indonesian Children Writing Arabic Letter Festivals, Saudi-Indonesian International Scientific Meeting, an Arabic Festival that will be attended by several Arab countries’ embassies in Jakarta, competition of Arabic language skills: Arabic poetry recitation, Arabic calligraphy, Arabic theater, Arabic Debating Competition, article writing and its presentation in Arabic and an innovative Arabic teaching model video.

“On the closing night of this event, we will give away awards to institutions and personalities who have contributed to the development of the Arabic language in Indonesia,” Ahrul Sani, Indonesian embassy spokes person said. The Arabic Month program is considered especially beneficial for Indonesian students who have studied Islamic teachings and the Qur’an as it will offer them the opportunity to improve their knowledge of Arabic, their second language and learn it from native speakers.

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Tourist arrivals increase by 10 percent

Sun.mv – October 27, 2014 – Tourist arrivals to the Maldives has increased by 10 percent over the first nine months of the year, by the end of September 2014.

Tourist Arrivals and Growth Rate January – September 2014, published by the Ministry of Tourism, states that a total of 901,004 tourists visited the country by the end of September 2014. As tourist arrivals in the first nine months of 2013 was 818,275, this is an increase of 10.1 percent.

The Ministry said that during this period, the highest tourist arrivals from one region, at 450,296, was from Asia and the Pacific. This is also a 17.3 percent increase in tourist arrivals from this region when compared with the same period last year.

The second largest market generating region to the Maldives, Europe, saw a decline in arrivals during the month of September 2014. However, total arrivals growth from the region stayed positive at 1.6 percent with a total of 386,914 tourists at the end of the period from January to September 2014, compared with the same period of 2013.

Tourist arrivals from China was 286,838 in the first nine months of 2014, and 34,425 in September 2014. The Chinese market registered a negative growth of 1.7 percent for the first time in September 2014, since becoming the number one market in 2010.

Tourist arrivals for September 2014 was 95,114 – a 3.1 percent increase compared with 92,298 in September 2013.

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Lufthansa says joint venture with Turkish Airlines likely partner for low-cost long-haul

BERLIN-Reuters – Lufthansa said talks to make SunExpress, its joint venture with Turkish Airlines, a partner in its new low-cost long-haul Wings concept were progressing well.

“The negotiations are progressing. If we do choose to do it with a partner then SunExpress is the likely partner,” Lufthansa Chief Executive Carsten Spohr told analysts and journalists after the group reported third quarter results.

Lufthansa will in December present a concept for a new low-cost brand under the ‘Wings’ umbrella for long-haul flights to its supervisory board for approval. The brand could start operations from Germany with Cologne and Munich among airports being considered at the end of 2015 using seven A330 planes.

Meanwhile, Lufthansa has lowered its profit guidance for 2015 for the second time this year, due to a stuttering global economy and falling ticket prices, and said any further strikes could also impact the target for this year.

The airline, Europe’s largest by revenue, said it now expected its 2015 operating profit to be “significantly above” the 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) seen for 2014, compared with a previous forecast for 2 billion.

Even before this warning, analysts had on average predicted operating profit of 1.5 billion euros for Lufthansa in 2015, according to a Reuters poll.

The airline, which is expanding low-cost operations and reducing costs to better compete with budget carriers and Gulf rivals, is also being affected by inflation in pension costs, swings in oil prices and foreign exchange rates, it said.

Weak European currencies mean airlines in the region are seeing less immediate benefit from falling fuel prices than their rivals in the United States.

Analysts have also said falling oil prices can indicate a period of weak yields, a measure of pricing for airlines, because a drop in the price of crude is often linked to a weakening of the global economy.

Analyst Robin Byde at brokerage Cantor Fitzgerald said given that airlines should benefit from reduced fuel costs next year, the lowered guidance is likely related to airlines adding more seats on long-haul routes and resulting pressure on yields. Airlines generally have to lower prices to fill more seats.

Chief Financial Officer Simone Menne said yields would be stable rather than rise in 2015 and Lufthansa would react by reducing capacity plans. “We still have a yield pressure, not in Europe, but in other regions, especially North America,” she told journalists.

Yields fell a currency-adjusted 3.9 percent in the third quarter, after a drop of 2.6 percent in the previous quarter.

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Turkey tourism income up 11% to $12.9 bln in third quarter

ANKARA – Hurriyet Daily News – Turkey’s tourism income jumped by 11 percent to $12.9 billion in the third quarter of 2014 from the same period of last year, the Turkish Statistics Agency (TÜİK) revealed on Oct. 30.

“Tourism continues to break records in Turkey despite the instability surrounding the country,” Tourism Minister Ömer Çelik said in a written statement.

Income from foreign visitors accounted for 81.8 percent of the total revenue, with the remaining 18.2 percent coming from Turkish citizens living abroad, according to TÜİK data.

The average spending was $712 per foreign visitor and $963 per Turkish citizens living abroad.

Turkey’s total tourism income was $32 billion in 2013, and the country was the world’s sixth top destination in terms of tourist numbers last year, according to the World Tourism Organization.

Over 30 million tourists visited Turkey between January and September 2014, compared to the 28.3 million over the same period last year, according to Tourism Ministry data.

Sector representatives expect around 42 million tourists to come to Turkey by the end of the year and for tourism revenues to reach $35 billion, which would mark a 6 percent boost in the number of tourists compared to last year.

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Russian tourists flooding into Turkey

ANKARA – Anadolu Agency – Turkey remains one of most favored tourism destinations for Russian tourists, amid the growing flight network between the two countries and a concerted promotional campaign in Russia by the Turkish Tourism Ministry.

The number of Russian tourists who visited Turkey in the first nine months of this year increased to 4.1 million from 3.8 million in the same period last year, according to data from the Tourism Ministry. Russian tourists’ favorite location remained the Mediterranean province of Antalya, with 3 million Russians visiting Antalya in the first nine months of 2014.

A recent airport by trade body ACI Europe has shown that passenger traffic at non-EU airports such as Russia, Norway and Turkey posted a year-on year rise of 8.2 percent in August 2014 compared to August 2013, while EU airports posted a year-on-year increase of 6.6 percent.

Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport, which is in Group 1 of the ACI Europe with more than 25 million passengers per year, increased its number of passengers by 11 percent in August from the same month of 2013, while Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen, which is in Group 2 with annual passengers between 10 and 25 million passengers per year, increased its passenger volume by 25.6 percent.

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Rezan Has Museum opens Urartian jewelry collection to public

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News – Showing off the glory and wealth of the ancient Urartians, a new exhibition has opened at Istanbul’s Rezan Has Museum featuring around 1,110 items of jewelry from the civilization, which inhabited what is now eastern Anatolia during the Iron Age.

Thanks to a grant from Bank of America Merrill Lynch as part of their global Art Conservation Project, the museum’s collection of Urartian jewelry is considered one of the most comprehensive in the world.

The exhibition showcases a broad variety of jewelry that belonged to the Urartian Kingdom, a civilization unique to Anatolia. The collection included pins, rings, earrings, bracelets, fibulas, belts and belt pieces, votive plaques, armbands, neck collars, necklaces, hair spirals and pectorals which were created in the middle of the ninth century B.C. Additionally, 74 belts, conserved under the expertise of Professor Rafet Çavuşoğlu, will be on view.

“With a large collection of archaeological artifacts extending from the Neolithic Era to the Seljuk period, the Rezan Has Museum spent the last year completing the restoration and conservation of more than 1,000 pieces of jewelry from the Urartian period with the contributions of Bank of America Merrill Lynch,” Kadir Has University Chairman of the Board of Trustees Can Has said at a recent ceremony to open the exhibition.

“Having been selected to be part of the same project as globally acclaimed museums including the Metropolitan, Louvre, Hermitage, and the British Museum is a source of pride for all of us. We are thrilled to share with you the Urartian Jewelry Collection,” he said.

Urartian Jewelry from Rezan Has Museum Collection

The Rezan Has Museum Collection, which has the most comprehensive inventory of Urartian pieces, includes approximately 1,100 artifacts.

The Urartian Kingdom, which was rich in mineral deposits, forged bronze, gold, silver and iron with great artistry. Craftspeople used objects like belts, necklaces, bracelets, arm bands, neck collars, pectorals, pins, fibulas and earrings both as ornaments and as objects with religious functions.

Through the restoration of the belts in particular, several previously unknown characteristics were discovered with figurative, geometric and herbal ornaments in Urartian art.

The ornamental belts include some important data like rich scenes from Urartian art, the aesthetic values of the period, class distinctions and the religious functionality of the belts.

The Urartians’ successful administration meant that they survived for about 250 years. It is not known what kinds of symbols were used to differentiate the status of state officials during the time, but the belts, along with other pieces of jewelry, are presumed to have played an important role. Furthermore, the religious depictions on the metal belts used widely by the Urartians were likely to have been engraved for personal protection against evil, as well as for courage and strength.

The exhibition can be visited until July 31, 2015, at the Rezan Has Museum at Kadir Has University’s Cibali campus alongside the Golden Horn in Fatih.

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Afghan Social Media Summit 2014 becomes talk of the town

Centralasiaonline.com 2014-10-27 KABUL – The second Afghan Social Media Summit (ASMS) in Kabul, which attracted more participants than last year’s event, indicates that Afghanistan is putting more of an emphasis on sharing opinions and gathering information through social media.

“All educated Afghan youth need to have access to social media and share their opinions,” said Faisal Karimi, professor of online journalism at Herat University. “On the basis of subjects discussed (at the 2013 and 2014 summits), I am sure more people will entertain and develop networking among themselves by using social media.”

Afghanistan’s first such summit, held September 21-22, 2013, attracted 260 participants. This year’s event October 19-21 drew more than 500 participants per day and featured international and Afghan technology specialists who spoke and participated.

Summit participation the first two days was tremendous, attracting mostly tech-savvy college and university students. Unlike last year, this year the attendance was open to the public.

Social media’s future in Afghanistan

ASMS is expected to become a permanent annual fixture that brings into focus technology, innovation and social media. More than 2.4m Afghans have internet access and roughly 1.7m of them use social media, and those numbers are expected to rise, summit leaders said.

The high-profile speakers from Afghanistan and other countries spoke at length about how social media have become a powerful tool in recent years, influencing public opinion on significant issues of our time.

“It feels good to be here, listen to discussions on social media and how they impact our lives in diverse ways,” Maroof Jawed, a Kabul University student who attended the summit, said.

This year’s discussions centred on construction of identity through social media, the challenge of social media to a conservative culture, the effectiveness of hashtag activism, social media’s impact on elections, cyber security, the internet and entrepreneurship, and other topics.

Social media are becoming a bigger part of popular discourse in Afghanistan, Eileen Guo, the summit curator, said. Besides organising the summit, Guo has started the largest citizen journalism platform in the country and designed the concept for SadRoz (a Twitter effort designed to track the new Afghan government’s achievements) and the upcoming Kabul Street Harassment project.

One discussion this year focused on the role of social media during the 2014 presidential election. The two candidates who advanced to the run-off both relied on such campaign efforts.

“Our purpose was to reach all people, regardless of where in the country they were,” Jawed Faisal, a representative of Abdullah Abdullah’s campaign, said.

Ashraf Ghani’s team, meanwhile, took advantage of social media to “share its campaign objectives,” Amrullah Moheb, who worked on Ghani’s campaign, said.

Online interaction gives people a voice in the political process, a social media specialist said. “People can talk about their grievances or share their opinion,” Azar Tabish said. “Social media are a tool that can help in bridging the gap between the government and citizens.”

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Premier Talk: Muslims’ Scientific Discovery Preceded West

30 October 2014 BruDirect.com BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN: The West should thank the Islamic civilization which acts as a catalyst to the development of science and technology in this era. This was among the content of a Premier Talk at the Convention Knowledge 2014 entitled ‘Sains Umat Islam Mendahului Zaman’ (Muslims’ Science Ahead of its Time).

Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha consented to attend the premier talk at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Berakas. The premier talk is part of the national programs marking the 68th birthday anniversary of the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and the Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam.

The Deputy Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office, in his capacity as the Chairman of the Committee of the Premier Talk of the Knowledge Convention 2014 in his welcoming speech among others touched on the theme of this year’s Knowledge Convention, ‘Sains dan Teknologi Pemangkin Pembangunan dan Meningkatkan Kualiti Kehidupan Ummah’ (Science and Technology – the Catalyst of Development and Improves the Quality of Life of the Ummah).

Invited lecturer, the Managing Director of Danial Zainal Consultancy Malaysia, Dr Danial Zainal Abidin in his Premier Talk entitled ‘Sains Umat Islam Mendahului Zaman’ among others shared on the greatness of Muslim scholars and scientists.

Her Majesty and other members of the royal family then view the Knowledge Convention Exhibition 2014. The exhibition features on materials with the concept of knowledge and information on the role of science and technology as the catalyst in providing infrastructure as well as in enhancing the quality of life of the people in this country. The exhibition also displays the achievement of Muslim scientists in the era of Islamic Civilization.

The exhibition also showcases the country’s policies in protecting environment and efforts carried out by the government of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam in enhancing the quality of life of the Ummah through the contribution of science and technology.

Also exhibited are achievements made by the country’s higher learning institutions’ researchers in the field of science, technology and innovation as an encouragement as well as to provide awareness on the importance and research opportunities given by the government.

The Almarhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien Memorial Gallery, meanwhile, focuses on the excellent leadership of His Majesty and His Majesty’s father, Almarhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien in developing Brunei Darussalam. The eight-day Knowledge Convention Exhibition is to conclude on November 4 2014 (Tuesday).

Her Majesty presence at the Premier Talk portrays Her Majesty’s strong support for the country’s Muslims to always strive harder towards enhancing the knowledge for the development of individual, Muslim community and the nation.

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‘Safe Cities for Women’ project launched in Bangladesh

DHAKA, October 28, 2014 (BSS0 – Action Aid launched a new project – ‘Safe Cities for Women’ campaign, with funding support from UKaid to address violence against women and girls and mobilise communities and offer support to victims of violence.

UK minister for international development Lynne Featherstone launched the project at a programme in the city today (Tuesday)

The project aims to highlight sexual violence against women and girls living in urban areas, provide a platform for women and girls to make their experiences of sexual violence in cities recognised, understood and acted upon and help men and boys to understand and reject social norms and behaviour that support violence against women.

Under the project, training would be given to law enforcing, education and transport authorities on how to prevent and respond to violence against women.

The project would also gather evidences to influence national policies on violence against women.

At the launch of the Safe Cities for Women campaign, the minister recalled her discussion with Shabnaz, one of the girls who lives at Rahmat Camp in the capital’s Mirpur.

Earlier, the minister met women and girls in Manikganj and Mirpur to see how UK aid is contributing to their education and security, helping them to support their families, and supporting their communities in reducing violence against women and girls, including preventing child marriage.

A study conducted by ActionAid on safety and security of women in 7 cities in Bangladesh found over 49 percent of women and girls surveyed do not feel safe in the city or when using public transport. Over 14 percent said they feared sexual violence in the workplace.

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Nigeria: ‘Lokoja, Lafia, Abeokuta, Others to Get Airport Soon’

The Guardian (Lagos) – 27 October 2014 – Abuja — Minister of Aviation, Osita Chidoka, yesterday unveiled plans by the Federal Government to start the construction of airport in the capital cities of Kogi, Nasarawa, Ogun, Bayelsa and Kebbi states inline with government strategy of linking states together and establishing of cargo terminals across the country.

The minister disclosed this yesterday in Abuja when the Kogi State Governor, Captain Idris Wada, paid a courtesy call on him to seek for the collaboration of the Federal Government in the construction of airport in the state.

Disclosing plans by the Federal Government to construct airport in all the capital cities, he said the plan would further enhance the establishment of cargo terminals for the export of agricultural produce and increase value addition capabilities in the country.

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Egypt Organizes Holy Family’s Trip Festival

Egypt State Information Service (Cairo) – 27 October 2014 – The festival was held at the religion complex area in Old Cairo with the attendance of Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab, Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria and Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou.

A number of ministers, ambassadors, governors and representatives of international travel agencies and delegations of 71 countries were present at the event. The Holy Family’s path through Egypt was launched as an international tourist product.

The trip of Virgin Mary and infant Jesus Christ continued for three years and six months 20 centuries ago.

The trip will range between five and seven days, during which tourists will follow the path Virgin Mary traveled to escape King Herod’s decree to kill all newborns.

The Holy Family trip sets off from the town of al-Arish in North Sinai and moves through the Eastern Delta and Wadi al-Natroun. The tour will eventually reach Assiut and el-Muharraq Monastery.

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LCCI, NTDC, Others Chart Way Forward for Nigeria’s Tourism Industry

This Day – 28 October 2014 – Bothered about the nation’s underutilised tourism industry, which has promising potentials for economic growth and development, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) ‎and stakeholders in the tourism industry, are charting the way forward for Nigeria’s tourism industry.

President, LCCI, AlhajiRemi Bello explained that the industry and allied sectors, which contributed significantly in the rebased Gross Domestic Product (GDP)‎ figures, are yet to attract the necessary attention they deserved.

Bello who was represented by the Director General, LCCI, Mr. Muda Yusuf, during the chamber’s annual symposium organised by the hotel, tourism and entertainment group of the LCCI, added that the arts, entertainment and recreation sector recorded an average real growth rate of 63.54 per cent between 2010 and 2012.

“This is an indication of the potentials of entertainment, recreation and the arts sub-sectors. It is also interesting that this can mitigate the problem of rising youth unemployment in the country if well positioned to thrive,” he said.

“This is evident in the influx of new hotels into the country in the past three years. International brands in the world of hotels are establishing their business presence in Nigeria,” he added.

He said the job creation report of the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) for first and second quarters of 2014, revealed that the sector recorded a percentage of 0.11 per cent and 0.17 per cent respectively.

However, he called on the government to pay attention to the supporting services sector such as, aviation, transport, modern technology that powers electronic transactions and security to promote tourism in Nigeria.

According to him, the Ebola virus disease (EVD) also affected the industry sending fears into potential foreign tourists to the country; but stressed that with the right regulations, infrastructure and requisite investments, the sector can get stronger.

Also speaking at the event, the Director General, NTDC, Mrs. Sally Mbanefo stated the need for a national tourism policy thrust to develop sustainable tourism by capitalising on heritage diversity as the basis for promoting domestic and international tourism.

According to her, the sector contributed about N1.3 trillion to the GDP, but stressed that very little was attributed to the industry. She therefore called for a strong collaboration between the private and public sectors to drive tourism in the country.

She also stated the need to market the nation’s tourism potentials shareholders to the rest of the world, saying that domestic tourism market has very high revenue and job creation potentials.

Mbanefo said NTDC is currently in discussions with State governments about ways to develop new and existing tourism sites, and had also gotten commitments from over 10 embassies to market Nigeria to their nations.

“One of the main focuses of our current efforts at NTDC is on domestic tourism which encourages Nigerians to celebrate our values, our tourist attractions and cultural heritage as the cornerstone for building a sustainable tourism industry that can attract investment,” she said.

She said, going forward, there is the need for proper training of the corporation staff; regular collaboration with the private sector operators in forging new ideas for the sector; effective marketing and promotion of Nigeria locally to boost domestic tourism.

‎Operations Manager, Moorhouse Properties Limited, Mr. Bruce Prins, said the general tendency observed is that tourism sites promotes their services aggressively but do not deliver on what is promoted when tourists get the actual experience, saying that the inconsistency and purely revenue driven strategies employed by the majority of hospitality owners and managers are at the expense of tourists.

“Costs are cut and facilities and equipments are not maintained at the expense of the guest. In addition, other areas that affect standards such as energy supply, water supply and labour skills suffer as a consequence and also affect the guest’s experience as a whole,” he said.

He said the use of gimmicks and rate manipulation is also an issue affecting the industry, pointing out that in a competitive environment, owners especially those who own and promote their local brands, have to resort to gimmicks and unstable rate manipulation to attract and keep guests.

“The latter is not sustainable because it affects the businesses themselves who cannot maintain the costs to operate their hotels at the premium or original conditions they started with. As a result of this, they begin to fall in their delivery of the basic and additional services they had once operated,” he said.

He recommended a grading system for the industry, maintaining that a credible grading system in place assures that laws are complied with and also shows that standards are maintained and measured.

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Tunisia visa waived for Chinese, Indian Group Tourists

Tunis Afrique Presse (Tunis) – 28 October 2014 – Chinese and Indian tourists, who come to Tunisia as part of organised trips, are now exempted from entry visas, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced in a statement Tuesday.

They, however, must meet two conditions: have valid travel documents and pre-paid hotel bookings, noted the statement.

Application procedures for entry visas to the Tunisian territory remain in force for Chinese and Indian nationals wishing to visit Tunisia outside the framework of organised trips (private or business tours), added the department.

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Gambia Abounds With Tangible, Intangible Cultural Products

The Daily Observer (Banjul) – 28 October 2014 – Baba Ceesay, the director- general of the National Centre for Arts and Culture has informed that the country is abound with both tangible and intangible cultural products. These, he said, constitute the country’s identity, as well as distinguish The Gambia from other destinations in the world.

Ceesay was addressing tourism stakeholders, especially the six public relations and marketing firms, who represented the Gambia Tourism Board (GTBoard) in key European and West African markets, where Destination Gambia is aggressively marketed.

He dilated on this at the just concluded two-day in-country Destination Stakeholders Forum, organised by the GTBoard, under the tutelage of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture (MoTC).

The NCAC boss in his full presentation to the stakeholders said there is a need to brand them as a unique selling point, as acoording to him, many others have beautiful beaches and hotels.

He explained further that the intangible products consist of the folklore, music, dance, masking traditions, performance traditions, among others, while the tangible are the heritage sites-cultural, architectural, museums and lots more.

DG Ceesay described national monuments, like the stone circles as very important to the country’s identity, noting that they are one of the earliest signs of human habitation in The Gambia. “This also manifests a highly organised society with knowledge of iron working and a belief in God,” and then stated that “though the burials are pre-Islamic.”

Internationally, he said, The Gambia is particularly strong and have international recognition of its heritage sites, such as Kunta Kinteh Island. He added that this was inscribed in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage list in 2003 and the Stone Circles of the Senegambia in 2006.

He quickly stated that the relationship between world heritage status and the number of visitors is uncertain, but certainly the status is an incentive for visit.

For a job well-done, he commended the efforts of Kunta Kinteh Island and related sites, through the revamp project at Albreda – Juffureh, initiated by Hon. Benjamin A Robert, the former director-general of the Gambia Tourism Board, who is now the Minister for Tourism and Culture.

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The Gambia Int’l Boat Fishing Competition 2014

The Daily Observer (Banjul) – 29 October 2014 – One among the latest activities making waves that tourists and holidaymakers to Destination Gambia can enjoy during their holiday in The Gambia is tourism and fishing competition dubbed as ‘The Gambia International Boat Fishing Competition.’ It is one of the sporting activities that every registered participant and fan can involve in and experience the wonderful beaches across The Gambia Tourism Development Area (TDA).

It is a local sporting activity in The Gambia but it has gained weight andm became an international competition, the inaugural edition of which was organised by Bernard Westgarth in partnership with Tony Taabal in April 2012. This was followed by second and third editions in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

In this 4th edition slated from 11th to 16th November, 2014, Fish The Gambia are pleased to support The Gambia Tourism Board (GTBoard) and their partners with the pilot event of The Gambia International Boat Fishing Competition which has become one of the sought-after sporting event in the destination that anglers from different countries will participate.

This upcoming edition will attract large numbers of international anglers that will be joined by the eager local anglers to struggle for the best place especially that scores of world best anglers will make it to Destination Gambia to participate in this much awaited Boat Fishing Competition.

This four-day boat competition provides another opportunity to experience the splendid beaches and enjoy the culture, tradition, cuisine and hospitality of the people of The Gambia. It is also another chance to experience river cruising, one among the untapped products of the country for foreign direct investors.

For the experienced and more competitive angler, targeting different species from a range of venues that include the beach, coral reefs and river estuaries can be particularly rewarding. Even night fishing is an option, especially early season when large specimens can be targeted.

For the more sedate pleasure angler who is looking for a leisurely day out, a venue can be chosen to suit where patience will be a virtue while catching the sun’s rays.

You are encouraged to travel with the family to experience not just the fishing, but also the “trip” to the venue, birdlife and wildlife and even if the fish are not biting, the day will have memories to take home and recount to friends and family for many years.

Detail of this competition as regarding registration can be found at www.fishthegambia.com.

In brief, as regards the competition, there will be a welcome ceremony at the Green Mamba for all the participants on November 11th and this will be followed by the 4 days of boat competitions which will start on the 12th to 15th November while the closing of the event is 16th with a prize giving dinner.

The Gambia International Boat Fishing Competition is on full insurance cover with support from Gambia Maritime Administration, the Gambia Fire and Rescue Services, Gambia Navy and Department of Fisheries and sponsors include Gambia Toursim Board; Elton; GNPC; Total; Discovery Tours; Julbrew; West African Tours Limited; African Adventure Tours; SAM; Gambia Bird; Brussels airlines; McPhillips and The Gambia Experience.

Fish The Gambia are pleased to support The Gambia Tourism Board and their partners with the pilot event of The Gambia International Boat Fishing Competition.

For more information visit the GTBoard on Facebook as ‘Gambia Tourism BOARD’

Join GTBoard Newsletter by subscribing through the link http://mad.ly/signups/93794/

www.visitthegambia.gm www.fishthegambia.com

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Gambia: TTAG Promotes Cooperation, Professionalism

The Daily Observer (Banjul) – 30 October 2014 – The chairman of the Tourism and Travel Association of The Gambia (TTAG) has asserted that her institution is formed to promote cooperation, encourage high standards, discipline and professionalism in the tourism industry.

Liane Sallah-Burgers, who disclosed that the institution was first called the Association of Ground Tour Operators and Equipment Hirers, made these remarks in her presentation delivered during the international Public Relations and Marketing firm with stakeholders forum, recently organised by the Gambia Tourism Board, and presided by Benjamin A Roberts, Minister of Tourism and Culture.

She noted that TTAG, among other things, objects to cooperate with any organisation, both nationally and internationally to provide a central organisation of tourism enterprises in The Gambia, as well as increase the volume of tourism in The Gambia and attract ‘up market tourists,’ with more spending power.

She explained further in her presentation that Tourism and Travel Association of The Gambia membership was later broadened to bring onboard other operators with the intension of making the association more accommodating inclusive businesses that have a common interest, such as restaurant owners, beach bar operators, laundry services to ground tour operators and equipment hirers.

In creating awareness and improving on their quest to achieve their objectives, she said, the Tourism and Travel Association of The Gambia has over the years been able to put in place a dedicated and active website for promotional purposes, publication of a TTAG guidebook; contributed to the marketing of the destination and provide tourists with an insight of Gambian culture and tradition, as well as created social media awareness, like Facebook, Twitter, among others.

Madam Sallah informed that TTAG’s services include ground handling services, tour operator representation, hotel accommodations, excursions, cruiseship handling, airport transfers, restaurant services, and self-catering services.

“In spite of TTAG well-being, the association still faces both internal and external challenges, such as technological advancement. Internally-face challenges include the menace of ‘bumsters’ ; high cost operations; standards and quality control; lack of innovation and illegal operators,” she added.

She however concluded her presentation on the public/private partnership (PPP), which involves working together to integrate plans, identify and develop new markets, to put in place conducive investment climate and training to improve capacities and innovation.

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Nigeria: NTM Launches Online Publication On Aviation, Others

The Guardian (Lagos) – 31 October 2014 – NIGERIATRAVELSTART.COM (NTM), a new online publication has been launched to serve the aviation and travel industry in Nigeria, as well as the hospitality and tourism sectors.

The publication would fill the gap in the industry for real-time online magazine to cater for stakeholders and key decision makers.

According to MTN, the mission of the company would be to transfuse responsible journalism, with the aim of shaping a strong virile Nigerian travel industry for the pride of all stakeholders.

It would educate readers about the travel industry and the standard expected of stakeholders, especially service providers and policy makers.

The website, www.nigeriatravelsmart.com will support those who want to implement responsible and responsive policies to make travel industry a pride for all stakeholders.

Furthermore, the site would unearth policies in line with global standards, and challenge service providers and policy makers to meet these standards.

Speaking at the launch of the website at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA2), Lagos on Tuesday, the Publisher, Mr. Simon Tumba noted that there are two unique sections of the site, which include: the punctuality rating of domestic carriers, which is aimed at making carriers more responsible to their schedules. He said that the i-Complain section would be for travelers who experience poor customer services to file their complaints to the Consumer Protection Directorate of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) through NTM.

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Nigeria Improving Airport Passenger Technology

The Guardian (Lagos) – 31 October 2014 – AS passengers traffic continues to increase at airports across the world, there have been need to improve on the information technology such as mobile apps, social media and other intelligent services to make passenger travel experience better.

Consequently, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has urged aviation stakeholders to develop and use information technology (IT) to drive improvements in the passenger experience.

According to IATA, two-thirds of travellers would prefer to check-in online or automatically via a text message or email from the airline, while 63 per cent would prefer a self-boarding gate to board the aircraft rather than the current procedure.

However, to address the growing gap between the rich content and additional products available on airline websites and more commoditized travel options available through travel agents, IATA is working with its partners in the travel value chain on the New Distribution Capability (NDC).

NDC will update the standard for electronic communications between airlines and travel agents from the pre-Internet standard to XML, and ensure consumers have the ability to access and compare all of an airline’s products and services wherever they shop.

Travellers have now come to expect access to the Internet at every stage of their journey, including while they are in the air, and this trend is well reflected among carriers across Asia. Japan Airlines has invested heavily in onboard Wi-Fi and through its partnership with Gogo, plans to have 77 domestic aircraft Wi-Fi enabled by 2016.

Meanwhile, airports in Nigeria are currently undergoing some remodeling, process, some have been completed, and others are still under construction. Commenting on the issue, the Managing Director of Caverton Helicopters, Captain Josiah Choms expressed his delight over the contributions of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) towards the development and remodelling of the airports across the country.

Also at the recent Abuja trade fair, visitors were also enlightened on the available investment opportunities at the Nigerian airports in line with Government’s Policy of attracting private investments to the aviation industry, which has already yielded five new international airport terminals in Enugu, Port Harcourt, Abuja, Lagos and Kano through a memorandum of understanding between the Nigerian and Chinese Governments.

The 9th annual SITA survey, in partnership with Airports Council International (ACI) and Airline Business, reported that improving the passenger experience is the number one driver of IT investment by the majority of the world’s airports. An example of changes passengers will see is a rapid increase in mobile and social media apps delivering a more personalized customer experience.

Keeping passengers informed about their flight status and wait times is the top reason for airports providing mobile apps, with 88 per cent planning to invest in them by the end of 2015.

During this period, 78 per cent of airports also plan to invest in social media with two thirds of these currently focused on evaluations or trials.

Therefore, as passenger numbers continue to rise at airports across the world, optimizing the use of the available real estate is a priority and passenger flow management will become more and more important; half of the airports see geolocation as a top priority for reducing passenger congestion.

Within the next three years, new way-finding services are set to become commonplace on mobile devices, allowing passengers to navigate easily through the airport. Just 10 percent of airports provide them today but this is set to jump to 70 per cent by 2015.

Airports are also investing in business intelligence solutions to deliver an improved passenger experience. Some 86 per cent of airports see it as a priority for sharing information and collaborating with partners; 83 per cent to ensure more accurate service information for passengers; and 76 percent to reduce flight delays due to ground operational issues.

“We know that our customers want to be able to do more things for themselves because they’ve told us so. Why not use IT to let them do it at their own pace and convenience?”

“We must always remember that we fly people and cargo, not planes. So our mindset has to be oriented to view things from the perspective of the customer in all that we do–including how we design, integrate and implement IT systems,” said the Director General, IATA, Tony Tyler,

“Everything begins with the shopping experience. The most successful brands–whether they are fast food chains or five star hotel groups–aim to deliver a predictable and consistently pleasant shopping experience. In the case of air travel, the simple truth is we can’t always do that yet”.

“It is no secret that airlines, travel agents and travellers face limitations owing to the pre-internet language standard powering most travel agent and online travel agency displays. As a result, beyond price and schedule, travel agents are not able to offer product differentiation among airlines, except on a limited and airline-specific basis”, he added.

Tyler also cited two other programs to improve the passenger experience:

Innovation in Baggage (InBag) is aimed at reducing the percentage of mishandled bags worldwide from 1 percent currently to 0.5 percent by 2020. Smart Security, which IATA is developing jointly with Airports Council International under a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2013, will improve security by allocating resources based on risk, while enabling passengers to proceed through security checkpoints with a minimum of queuing and disrobing.

“With technology advancing rapidly, we find ever more new services we can provide to passengers, yet we cannot always implement them because regulations are not keeping pace. An example is home printed bag tags. The standards have been defined and the technology has proven itself. Now regulations have to catch up in many parts of the globe in order for large scale implementation to occur,” said Tyler.

Getting to a seamless journey requires many different IT systems to be able to exchange information. IATA’s Industry Data Model will provide the technology to avoid information gaps. Structured information will be available in an electronic warehouse for all to see and use.

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North Sulawesi can become gateway to Asia-Pacific trade

29 October 2014 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – North Sulawesi has the potential to serve as the gateway to the Asia-Pacific economy due to its strategic geographical location, stated Deputy Speaker of the Peoples Consultative Assembly (MPR) Evert E. Mangindaan.

“So, it needs the support of the government and local communities to meet these expectations,” Mangindaan noted here on Wednesday.

According to him, North Sulawesi was located on the edge of the Pacific. The central government has disbursed significant amount of funds to build infrastructure facilities.

The former transport minister pointed out that the government built the Miangas Airport in Talaud Islands and Sitaro Airport in the District Sitaro and also carried out the runway extension of the Sam Ratulangi International Airport.

In addition, the government also built a multifunctional giant dam in Bitung.

“Once the line is opened, North Sulawesi will be like sugar, and the ants will come by themselves. As the location of North Sulawesi is very strategic, the investors will invest,” he affirmed.

“Hopefully, I can come in for a consultation to assert that North Sulawesi has potential,” he revealed.

He was hopeful that the momentum could be utilized by preparing qualified human resources in order to compete with workers from outside the region.

“Let us support each other. We must encourage the younger generation to perform in the future. Let us help bright children who have shown significant achievements but do not have the funds to study further,” he emphasized.

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Britons Recognize Muslims WWI Hero

OnIslam & Newspapers Friday, 31 October 2014 CAIRO –Acknowledging the heroism of Muslims during the First World War, British former army chiefs have called for recognizing the first Muslim soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross, in a bid to reveal the true face of Muslims whose image has been tarnished by the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL).

“The quiet dignity of our commemoration of Khudadad Khan’s bravery and service is perhaps the most powerful riposte we could possibly send to the sickening extremism of ISIL,” Dilwar Hussain, a Muslim academic and one of the signatories of the letter wrote to the Telegraph on Friday, October 31.

Hussain is one of the signatories of a letter sent to the Telegraph by former army chief Lord Dannatt and General Sir David Richards who called for a “greater recognition” of Sepoy Khudadad Khan, the first Muslim soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

The letter, signed by group of peers, MPs, historians and religious leaders, calls for educating children on the role played by Muslim troops in WWI.

Khudadad Khan, a machine gunner in an Indian colonial regiment, fought on the Western front during WWI in support of the British Expeditionary Force.

Khan was a member of the 129th Baluchis regiment fighting near in Belgium.

On 31st October, 1914, at Hollebeke, Sepoy Khudadad carried on firing the gun on his own, after the five other men of his gun detachment were killed.

Despite having been wounded, he fought on long enough to hold off an enemy advance until Indian and British reinforcements arrived. He was awarded the highest military award for gallantry by King George V in December that year.

According to the letter, acknowledging the role of more than 400,000 Muslim soldiers fought for Britain in WWI is vital to “fully understand the multi-ethnic Britain that we are today”.

“Exemplified Courage”

Among the signatories of the letter were Lord Ashdown, the formal Liberal Democrats leader, Sir Hew Strachan, the military historian, Baroness Warsi, the former Coalition minister and Sughra Ahmed, president of the Islamic Society of Britain.

“We wish today to highlight one man whose service exemplified the courage of many who served in the First World War,” they wrote.

A commemorative stone for the Muslim hero, Khan, will be laid at the National Memorial Arboretum in his honor.

“In honoring the courage of Khudadad Khan we not only remember our shared history, we are also cherish the long tradition of Muslims fighting bravely alongside British soldiers, for a just cause in the service of this country,” Lord Ahmad, the Communities Minister, said.

Earlier this week, British Muslim women have been urged to wear a new “Poppy Hijab” as a way to declare their pride in being British and Muslim, to mark 100 years since the first Muslim soldier was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery during WWI.

Each year on November 11th, the British people and the Commonwealth people stand still for two minutes; in recognition of all those who sacrificed their lives during WWI.

Just like soldiers of other faith groups, Muslims paid with their blood for the freedom Great Britain enjoys and cherishes today.

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Handicrafts depicting Emirati culture take centre stage

Khaleej Times – 01 November, 2014 – The Heritage Village of the coming second edition of the Dubai World Hospitality Championship (DWHC) has added 53 new traditional crafts — which will be part of the many activities and programmes designed to highlight authentic Emirati hospitality during the exciting three-day competition.

Alia Rasheed Al Shanqeeti, events manager and director, Heritage Village, DWHC, said: “The DWHC is the first global event of its kind to celebrate Emirati culture, along with its rich heritage, cuisine, antiquities and the hospitality that Emiratis are well known for. The event, which is being organised by Zabeel Palace Hospitality and held in cooperation with the Emirates Culinary Guild and WACS, will also have an Emirati Celebrities competition, a Guf Exhibition and Heritage Village that will display traditional Emirati handicrafts.”

Al Shanqeeti further explained: “The Heritage Village will involve 710 participants, including 130 participants within the traditional crafts category while 40 children will be taking part in workshops and events for children. In addition, the traditional crafts section will include 57 different categories — ‘Alkerkhana,’ ‘Talli,’ ‘Sadu’, ‘wool yarn’, ‘wool dyeing’ and ‘Kaytan.’ Many participants will participate in the village’s activities ranging from popular games and workshops teaching kids and workshop like colouring pottery as well as folk art.”

She added that the championship plays a pivotal role in maintaining the popular tradition and the arts of traditional cooking and creation of household products — keeping at pace with the age requirements of time itself, as well as highlighting the global spotlight on the nobility of the heritage of the state and its people. The DWHC also aims to encourage dialogue and exchange of information about the UAE culinary segment.

Al Shanqeeti highlighted the 12 popular types of Emirati folk arts, which will be highlighted to the public during DWHC. Zaabeel Palace Hospitality is keen to highlight these arts in the championship as it represents a part of Emirati folklore and its showcase of cultural diversity among the people and society.

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WIBC ’14 to transform global Islamic finance

Saudi Gazette – 30 October, 2014 – The organizers of the annual World Islamic Banking Conference (WIBC 2014) has launched the 21st annual edition of the event, which is scheduled to be held in Bahrain on Dec. 1-3, 2014. The 21st annual WIBC, which is held under the patronage of Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, The Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bahrain and supported by the Central Bank of Bahrain, is set to gather industry pioneers, thought leaders, key regulators and leading industry players for discussions focused on further boosting the global expansion of Islamic finance.

Outlining new plans for WIBC 2014, David McLean, Chief Executive of WIBC noted that “for more than two decades now the World Islamic Banking Conference has remained the world’s largest and most influential annual gathering of international leaders in the global Islamic finance industry.

At last year’s WIBC we were honored to have such inspirational industry figures as Sheikh Saleh Kamel address the audience on the past, present and future of Islamic finance as seen through the eyes of a genuine pioneer, and the 21st annual WIBC will continue to build on it’s tradition of supporting growth, excellence and innovation in the industry.”

Speaking about important new developments in the industry, Khalid Hamad Abdul-Rahman Hamad, Executive Director of Banking Supervision at the Central Bank of Bahrain, noted that “the rise of Islamic finance in key countries across the globe over the past decade has been largely based on strong demand in both the traditional markets of the GCC and SE Asia combined with the appetite of new markets such as in the UK and Africa, which have truly internationalized the industry.

The next crucial stage in the development of Islamic finance is to continually strengthen the backbone that will ensure the stability and future success of Islamic finance. The World Islamic Banking Conference provides an important platform to tackle key issues such as building the technical infrastructure vital to the success of the Islamic finance industry and adapting to challenges such as the implementation of Basel III in Islamic banks.”

Picking up on key industry trends identified in the recent ICD Thomson Reuters Islamic Finance Development Indicator (IFDI), Mustafa Adil, Head of Research and Development and Lead for the Islamic Finance Development Indicator from Thomson Reuters, said “Bahrain is the most developed Islamic finance market in the region, and the second most developed globally, after Malaysia. The Kingdom has one of the strongest Islamic finance eco-systems in the world, performing well in all the different areas covered in the IFDI.

In particular, Bahrain was the top global performer in terms of Governance, second in terms of Knowledge and Corporate Social Responsibility and third in terms of Awareness. This eco-system has supported the country in building up Islamic banking assets in excess of $ 60 billion and issuing sukuk with a total outstanding value of over $ 4 billion. All these factors help to cement the Kingdom’s claim to being one of the premier Islamic finance hubs in the world.”

McLean noted that the theme of WIBC 2014 “will focus on Moving Islamic Finance Towards the New Paradigm Shift in Global Financial Markets and will tackle key areas in the Islamic finance sector, including regulatory, strategic, Shariah, and risk transformation.

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Islamic banking growing at 14-18%

Khaleej Times – 30 October, 2014 – Islamic banks have been growing at an average of 14 to 18 per cent in recent years, compared to four to eight per cent by conventional banks, underlining the tremendous potential of the sector, said Jamal bin Ghalaita, CEO of Emirates Islamic.

Ghalaita said that Dubai has a unique mix of characteristics that entitles it to claim the right to be capital of the Islamic economy.

“As an established international business hub with state of the art infrastructure in a strategic location and time-zone, Dubai continues to be a magnet for businesses across the world. This is complemented by a strong foundation based on Islamic principles and traditional heritage, long rooted in the community and society, which has led to Islamic finance gaining prominence quickly across the UAE,” he observed.

Ghaliata said that Islamic banking grew out of the UAE, and the UAE government has made significant efforts to drive and consolidate growth in the country’s Islamic finance sector.: “The Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC) was established in 2013 under the supervision of Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai to develop and promote Dubai as the global capital of Islamic economy.We have already started to see early signs of success, with Dubai being the third largest sukuk venue globally, with $ 20.38 billion in total value of sukuk listings.”

With innovative products and a deep customer driven approach, Islamic finance solutions have surged in popularity, said Ghalaita, adding that “the Islamic economy is here to stay and grow to claim a sizeable part of the economic activity.”

“Shariah-compliant economic activity is attractive to customers, not simply for religious reasons, but because the value proposition is much higher. In Islamic banking, term depositors share in the profit of the bank while still maintaining a senior status towards other liability holders and enjoying central bank protection.”

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Qatar Airways launches ‘Double the Luxury’ offer

Gulf Times – 30 October, 2014 – In celebration of its first anniversary of joining the oneworld global alliance, Qatar Airways is offering customers in Doha a “Double the Luxury” offer.

Passengers booking a business class ticket will receive a second business class ticket for free, for their travelling companion.

The promotion runs until tomorrow (October 31) and is valid for travel until March 31, 2015, to select destinations across Europe, Africa, Asia Pacific and the Americas.

Ehab Amin, senior vice-president (commercial), Qatar Airways, said: “It is our constant endeavour to provide our customers with enticing and exciting incentives. This ‘Double the Luxury’ special promotion will enable our business class customers to take advantage of a fantastic two-for-one opportunity with our award-winning business class service.”

The airline’s customers from Qatar can avail of this offer by visiting any Qatar Airways sales office, appointed travel partners or qatarairways.com

The offer also allows Qatar Airways’ frequent flyer programme – Privilege Club – members a chance to earn 50% bonus Qmiles on their travel by registering at least 24 hours before their travel.

Awarded Best Business Class for two consecutive years by industry audit Skytrax, the airline provides a premium travel experience to passengers. While flying with Qatar Airways, passengers are also able to experience the world’s latest international gateway, Hamad International Airport, Doha.

Qatar Airways’ award-winning five-star service continues on board with its renowned entertainment system, which offers passengers up to 1,000 channels of the latest in-flight entertainment.

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Bahrain boost as trade set to be streamlined

Gulf Daily News – 30 October, 2014 – Bahrain is ready to enter into a new era of streamlined trade.

The kingdom, following the signing of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Agreement on Trade Facilitation in December 2013 in Bali, is preparing to enter into a new trade bracket.

The Industry and Commerce Ministry, under the patronage of its minister Dr Hassan Fakhro, and in co-operation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), hosted a conference bringing together all trade involved sectors, both public and private, to discuss the process as well as the progress.

The two-day conference on Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA): Self Assessment, Needs, and Potential for Bahrain, that began yesterday brought together trade entities, including the Industry and Commerce Ministry, Custom Affairs, WTO, UNDP, Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Ministry and other main importers.

The conference is being held at the Crowne Plaza Bahrain.

Dr Fakhro, in his speech, stressed the importance of the agreement because it will achieve significant competitive advantages to Bahrain in developing its exports of goods and services, as well as its logistics and productive integration at the regional and international level.

‘Bahrain’s record for the implementation of WTO agreements and rules was praised at our trade policy review sessions in 2000, in 2007 and in 2014,’ the minister added.

‘Therefore, we are hopeful that the proper implementation of the (TFA) at bilateral, regional, and international levels will contribute to attaining of the trade and development objectives of the Economic Vision 2030.

‘It would also help achieve the projected socio-economic growth and Bahraini knowledge-based economy targets.’

The minister pointed that the present King Fahad Causeway connection with Saudi Arabia and the additional new causeways with Qatar and Saudi Arabia would enhance connectivity and the expansion of Bahraini regional trade in goods and services.

‘The linkage between all these logistic infrastructures and the GCC rail network, hopefully to be operational in 2018, could also boost Bahrain’s supply chain logistics potential and its prospective distribution, networking and industrial opportunities,’ he added.

‘It’s a comprehensive engagement of a lot of departments between the private sector and the public sector,’ said Customs Affairs president Shaikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Khalifa.

‘You have to pull everybody to the same level to be successful in trade facilitation.

‘You cannot do it as one single entity or government agency.’

WTO representative Alejandro Gamboa Alder said that the main points that need to be covered were increased co-operation as well as co-ordination between government entities, improvement of transparency and a simplification of the process in regard to the number of document required for trade.

Shaikh Mohammed explained that the process did not only have to be implemented but it would have to be evaluated by the WTO too. Bahrain is among the list of countries with the best practices.

‘The people who want to export to our country have to know what they have to do and we have to stick to a written and transparent path of action so that everybody knows it and so it can be published on the website and distributed.

‘This will in fact increase trade ‘“ Bahrain is very focused on trade and they keep ratifying the laws to increase trade.

‘Trade is the most important thing for Bahrain ‘“ we have to be like a magnet to bring business to the kingdom.

‘It is a successful story that you have to individually prove to yourself ‘“ then the WTO will make an assessment of each and every country,’ he said.

‘We have to do our homework now ‘“ to be assessed by the WTO as one of the countries with the best practices ‘“ it is no small feat,’ he added.

Dr Fakhro explained that the agreement needed to be studied by all the parties involved but was confident that Bahrain would prove itself.

‘These things don’t move in a supersonic manner, they move bit by bit and you have to get all your homework done and move in the right direction,’ said Dr Fakhro.

‘Hopefully by the middle of next year, it will be ready,’ he added.

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Iran rises in World Bank Doing Business rankings

Tehran Times – 30 October, 2014 – Iran has risen two positions in the new Doing Business rankings of the World Bank, to 130th place. The WB rating assesses the comfort of doing business in 189 countries around the world.

The Doing Business 2015 report updates all indicators as of June 1, 2014, ranks economies on their overall ease of doing business, and analyzes reforms to business regulation — identifying which economies are strengthening their business environment the most.

Doing Business illustrates how reforms in business regulations are being used to analyze economic outcomes for domestic entrepreneurs and for the wider economy.

Iran is in 62nd place for starting a business, 172nd place for obtaining a construction permit, and 89th place for acquiring credit.

Singapore remained the country where launching a business is the easiest in the world, according to the report. New Zealand has risen to second place, above Hong Kong, in that category.

In 2016, new indicators will be added to the assessment processes.

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UAE hospitality industry steady

Khaleej Times – 30 October, 2014 – The UAE’s hospitality industry sustained steady growth during the summer by posting a nominal rise in occupancy levels last month ahead of high season in the emirate, according to a report.

Abu Dhabi hotels turned the corner as average room rates, or ARR, began an upward trend in line with occupancy while the hotels in Dubai profits rose despite marginal decline in ARR in September.

TRI Consulting, which released the latest HotStats survey of full-service four- and five-star hotels in the Middle East and North Africa region, said the recovery of the Abu Dhabi hotel market continued to gain momentum with positive performance in September compared to the same period last year.

The survey said ARR increased by 4.2 per cent to $ 128.96 while occupancy grew by 6.6 percentage points to 76.6 per cent, resulting in revenue per available room, or RevPar, rising 14 per cent to $ 98.76.

“Abu Dhabi’s hotel market is going from strength to strength with a strong performance in September boosting year-to-date figures. The continual increase in occupancy levels to 74.2 per cent up to September has allowed hoteliers to drive higher average room rates for the first time higher than 2013 levels,” Peter Goddard, managing director of TRI Consulting, said in a statement to Khaleej Times on Wednesday.

Total revenue per available room, or TRevPar, was impacted by decline in beverage revenues of 5.3 per cent, however the strong room performance led to a 9.4 per cent increase over the same period last year to $ 219.13. The growth in RevPar directly impacted gross operating profit per available room, or GopPar, which increased by 42.4 per cent to $ 47.73.

“We project this upwards trajectory to continue as the city braces itself for the high season with notable events such as the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the opening of the much-anticipated Yas Mall in November,” Goddard said.

Four- and five-star hotels in Dubai witnessed a mixed performance in September with occupancy levels growing 2.1 percentage points to 78.2 per cent. However, ARR declined marginally during the month, falling 3.2 per cent to $ 231.36 and as a result RevPar reduced by 0.5 per cent to $ 180.88.

The survey said contraction in room revenues did not materially impact the overall top-line performance as food and beverage revenues increased by five per cent, boosting TRevPar by 2.1 per cent to $ 353.86. A reduction in a number of operational expenses had a significant impact on profitability levels as GopPar increased by 8.3 per cent to $ 111.58, according to the survey.

“Dubai hotels showed a growth in occupancy levels in September as the market witnessed a return to business after the summer period. Although, hotels recorded a 2.1 percentage point increase in occupancy, a rare decline in average rates directly impacted RevPar levels for the month,” Goddard said.

“Year-to-date figures indicate that hotels in Dubai have managed to increase ARR by 3.8 per cent while occupancies have remained stable, which confirms the strength of the market particularly with the increase in hotel room supply witnessed during the year,” he added.

Mat Green, head of research and consultancy for the UAE at CBRE Middle East, said the demand for mid- to low-end residential offerings is expected to remain strong in the short term due to limited supply and high demand.

“Much of this demand is being generated by solid growth in the services sector, particularly from the retail and hospitality industries. With 53,000sqm gross leasable area of retail space and 6,000 hotel and hotel apartment rooms expected by 2015, the demand for executive staff accommodation is also forecast to remain high, particularly with many existing staff accommodation facilities achieving occupancy levels of over 90 per cent,” he said.

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GCC offers huge growth opportunities to Islamic banks

Khaleej Times – 30 October, 2014 – GCC offers huge opportunities for Islamic banks for growth, but Shariah-compliant financial institutions need to address perception issue and improve service levels, according to a latest survey.

In conjunction with the 10th World Islamic Economic Forum in Dubai, PwC survey said Islamic banks may be missing a huge opportunity within the Muslim population due to a perception gap.

“A perception seems to exist amongst customers, and potential customers of Islamic banks, that they may not be true to Shariah values. In the survey only 52 per cent of Islamic banks customers agreed that their provider ‘was an Islamic bank and followed Islamic Shariah’. This perception gap amongst banking customers is also a huge opportunity,” says the PwC report.

PwC commissioned a survey of more than 500 retail banking customers in the GCC to find out what customers really want; the findings of which they say can help inform the growth strategies of the region’s banks. However, better communicating and demonstrating Shariah values is just one of the areas Islamic banks should consider as part of their strategy to compete, differentiate and grow.

The findings also suggest that service levels are lacking — non-Islamic banking customers were more likely to agree with the statement “My bank provides a fast service” than Islamic bank customers. “But again, there is opportunity,” says PwC, as customers are willing to switch to Islamic banks if they feel that service levels at least match what they get from non-Islamic (or conventional) banks. So, enriching the customer experience can help to drive growth.

“The findings of our Voice of the customer survey suggest that part of the reason customers may not be entirely convinced by Islamic finance may be due to the industry’s tendency to mirror conventional banking products,” said Ashruff Jamall, PwC partner and Global Islamic Financial Services Leader.

“There are huge opportunities for the region’s Islamic banks to grow; expanding populations and economies, with a high proportion of Muslims, create a market with huge potential. But to achieve that potential, Islamic banks will need to address this perception issue and also improve service levels to be competitive with other banks — Islamic and non-Islamic — from a customer service perspective. ”

Key findings

Banks looking to grow by attracting a greater market share of the Muslim population need to build trust amongst their core customer base by clearly communicating and demonstrating their Islamic values. Currently, only 52 per cent of existing Islamic bank customers believe their bank lives up to Islamic Shariah values.

The forecast demographics of the GCC predict a huge increase in the elder population, or ‘silver economy’ by 2050, and with it, an opportunity for Islamic banks to grow together with their customers. The challenge Islamic banks must overcome is reversing the current trend amongst the Muslim population of using conventional banking as customers get older. Generally, older Muslims were most aware of Islamic banking, however, this does not necessarily translate into usage — the proportion of Muslims using a non-Islamic, or ‘conventional’ bank rises with age.

The report finds that 23 per cent of Muslims between the ages of 18-24 years old use non-Islamic products, but the use of non-Islamic products grows to a 58 per cent for Muslims between 45-64 years old.

The survey also highlighted changing banking trends as customers are spending less time in branches and are increasingly using the internet and mobile banking platforms.

“Internet banking is the preferred channel for both men and women, and 51 per cent of respondents said internet banking was an important factor in determining who to bank with. For those institutions looking to achieve scale and grow market share, this customer behaviour offers Islamic banks the opportunity to leapfrog the development of an extensive branch network by creating something more innovative and virtual,” the report said.

Muslim women continue to prefer having women-only branches available, but in reality they are rarely using them, they also express a preference for online banking and they cited online and mobile banking as very important when selecting a bank. This suggests that a compelling digital offering could be a far more significant factor in attracting new female customers than a much costlier effort to develop a network of women only branches. Women are loyal and less likely to switch providers than men, so, if banks can create a strong online and mobile offering that appeals to young females, they will find themselves with a more loyal customer base for the future.

The study finds that retail banking customers are willing to switch to Islamic banks, but will only do so if they feel that service levels match what they get from conventional banks — a fifth of non-Islamic finance customers would consider switching to Islamic banks if service levels matched those of conventional banks.

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Gulf Air launches Russia flights

Gulf Daily News – 29 October, 2014 – Culture Minister Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa and Minister of State for Information Affairs and the government’s official spokeswoman Sameera Rajab yesterday took off on Gulf Air’s inaugural flight to Russia.

Shaikha Mai said the flights to Moscow would enhance tourism, and cultural and civilisational exchange between the two countries. “The air bridge completes the cultural bridge consolidated by the King’s recent visit to Russia,” she said.

Ms Rajab underlined Bahrain’s resolve to continuously build bridges of communication with countries and commended services provided by Gulf Air.

Present were Russian Ambassador Victor Smirnov, Gulf Air acting chief executive Maher Salman Al Musallam and senior officials.

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