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25 May, 2015

Esfahan: The City that’s “Half the World”

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 25 May 2015 (06 Sha’baan 1436). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.




malaysia logo

Click on the image to get a full list of all the great festivals and events right across Malaysia this year.

The fabulous Malaysia Year of Festivals 2015, or MyFEST 2015, will witness an endless celebration of festivals, events and happenings. MyFEST 2015 is set to make Malaysia the top-of-the-mind tourist destination, encouraging tourists to stay longer in order to enjoy the festival offerings nationwide. Themed “Endless Celebrations”, the year-long calender is packed with festivities of every genre; for instance cultural festivals, shopping extravanganzas, international acclaimed events, eco-tourism events, arts, music showcases, food promotion and other themed events. The Malaysia Year of Festivals 2015 campaign leverages on smart partnerships in line with the National Blue Ocean Strategy that nurtures stakeholders engagement, support and participation. The symbiosis enables Malaysia’s tourism efforts to be competitive and to remain one of the prime contributors to the socio-economic development of the nation. As Malaysia is blessed with various cultures, the new campaign seeks to showcase and celebrate Malaysia’s bountiful, diverse cultures and various festivities. The design for Malaysia Year of Festivals 2015 logo depicts a traditional musical instrument known as the Rebana Ubi. The drum is a musical instrument which can be associated with Malaysia’s multicultural society, in line with the spirit of 1Malaysia. Therefore, the logo design reflects an important part of the country’s heritage, traditions and culture.

For a full listing of all the great festivals, activities and events this year, pls click on this link


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.



CIMB Continues Its Support For The Bumiputera Economic Empowerment Agenda

KUALA LUMPUR, May 21 (Bernama) — CIMB Group presented scholarships to two Bumiputera entrepreneurs who were outstanding participants of last year’s CIMB Bumiputera Entrepreneur Skills Transformation Programme (CIMB BEST).

Cik Fazeela binti Gulam Rasul and Encik Azudin bin Daem each received a scholarship to pursue the Bachelor of Business Management (Hons) in Entrepreneurship at Universiti Tun Abdul Razak (UNIRAZAK). They were participants of the pioneer batch of CIMB BEST consisting of one hundred and eighty one graduates. Fazeela attended the track for new entrepreneurs dubbed the Aspiring Entrepreneur programme while Azudin attended the track for entrepreneurs with one to four years of experience, the Emerging Entrepreneur programme.

This is the second year running that CIMB Group has rolled out CIMB BEST. CIMB BEST was developed in 2014 to groom entrepreneurs in the Bumiputera community by providing them with the skills and knowledge to become more competitive in the local and global markets.

Fazeela who is in milk-products business (Milk Stop) and Azudin who is in the printing business (Hays Synergy) both received their scholarship awards from Tengku Dato’ Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, CEO of CIMB Group at a ceremony in Kuala Lumpur today.

Tengku Dato’ Zafrul said, “CIMB BEST is part of CIMB Group’s corporate initiatives to help grow stronger Bumiputera entrepreneurs in Malaysia and support of the nation’s Bumiputera economic empowerment agenda, a national programme launched by the Prime Minister of Malaysia in 2013. Entrepreneurship is the very heart of all economic endeavours and it is through entrepreneurs that some of the most innovative and community-changing ideas are born. CIMB as one of ASEAN’s leading universal banks believes that we have the right resources and is at the forefront to develop potential and successful entrepreneurs with the right mind-set, skills and knowledge.”

Also present at the ceremony were Dato’ Sulaiman Mohd Tahir, Chief Executive Officer of CIMB Bank, Hamidah Naziadin, Chief People Officer of CIMB Group, Associate Professor Dr Hafriza Burhanudeen, Director of Corporate Citizenship, UNIRAZAK, and Associate Professor Mohar Yusof, Programme Director of Bank Rakyat School of Business and Entrepreneurship at UNIRAZAK.

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LEAD STORY: Esfahan: The city that’s ‘half the world’

China Daily, 2015-05-25 — The skyline explodes in a fantasy of blue, yellow and white tiles-a symphony of architecture that a Persian ruler orchestrated to celebrate an empire at its peak.

malaysia logo

Click on the image to get a full list of all the great festivals and events right across Malaysia this year.

Shah Abbas I became known as Abbas the Great, but it was for his capital that he sought true greatness. “Esfahan,” an admiring French poet once declared, echoing a local saying, “is half the world.”

More than four centuries after Abbas, the gleaming tiles of an immense square, its adjacent mosques and palace, and a stunning series of bridges are a magnet for tourists, evoking that golden era when exquisite silk carpets, Chinese porcelain, saffron and other spices flowed in and out from every direction.

The city is located on the main north-south and east-west ancient Silk Road routes crossing Central Asia. Once one of the largest cities in the world, today it is the country’s third largest after the modern capital, Teheran, and Mashhad.

It flourished from 1050 to 1722, particularly in the 16th century under the Safavid dynasty, when Abbas made it Persia’s capital for the second time.

Click here to read the rest: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/travel/2015-05/25/content_20805963.htm

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Maldives Pledges More Chinese-Friendly Hotels And Resorts

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka May 22 (Xinhua) — Maldives tourism ministry has announced plans to build Chinese-friendly hotels and resorts in the Maldives to cater to increasing tourist arrivals from China, an official said on Thursday.

Signaling one such project, tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb has leased the island of Kalhufahalufushi in Thaa Atoll for resort development to the China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC).

The global engineering contractor is set to become the first Chinese company to invest in the Maldives and in the tourism industry.

Maldivian resorts were designed to cater to European holiday makers, Adeeb said. But with the new deal”Chinese tourists will see hotels that are designed for them. But tourists from other countries will also go there.”

The number of Chinese tourists visiting the Maldives tripled from about 100,000 in 2010 to more than 300,000 last year.

With a total of 363,626 arrivals in 2014, Chinese tourists accounted for nearly one-third of arrivals with a 30 percent market share, representing the single biggest source market for tourists to the Maldives. Overall 1 million tourists visited the scenic islands in 2014.

Adeeb said CMEC will now undertake a feasibility study and propose its development concept and other details to the government, adding that a lease agreement will be signed before the end of the year.

The tourism minister said he expects CMEC to invest at least 200 million U.S. dollars in the Maldives.

He also said islands leased by the current administration for resort development will open for business in 2016.

Adeeb claimed development is proceeding rapidly due to concessions from the government, such as waiving import duties for construction material and providing sovereign guarantees for foreign loans.

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Abu Dhabi To Launch Ambitious Golf Tourism Promotional Push

Abu Dhabi, UAE. 25 May, 2015: Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) is teeing up an ambitious golf tourism drive to strengthen the UAE capital’s standing as a world-class golfing destination by targeting expanding golf markets in Europe, China, India and across the GCC as well as across the United Arab Emirates.

Pitching the extensive promotional push to the emirate’s golf industry partners, TCA Abu Dhabi is set to get into full swing through the establishment of a powerful Industry Development Committee (IDC), supported by Abu Dhabi’s leading golf courses, tour operators, hoteliers and destination promotion agencies, which will work together to fulfil the emirate’s expanding golf tourism ambitions.

Targeting a wide range of consumer and travel trade marketing and awareness building activities, a new dedicated golf portal on visitabudhabi.ae, the official Abu Dhabi destination promotion website, will be the focus of the marketing drive for golf enthusiasts and serve as a one-stop-shop to connect them with a range of golf holiday options and direct booking tools connected directly to the emirate’s golf industry professionals.

The IDC is also focussed on facilitating extensive networking opportunities for the leading golf courses and tour operators, driving engagement across the board ahead of the build up to the busy winter golfing season across the emirate.

“Abu Dhabi is now perceived as one of the world’s foremost golf destinations, and through our Golf In Abu Dhabi initiative, we have been able to attract visitors to the emirate to enjoy our golfing experience by growing awareness of the diversity of our courses to develop the golf tourism sector,” said Sameer Taher Bagaber, IDC Golf Clubs Chairman and Section Manager, Strategy & Policy Department, TCA Abu Dhabi.

“Our international golfing footprint is also widening and visitors are becoming increasingly sophisticated in how they research and book their stay, so by expanding the availability of golf information and direct booking access via the visitabudhabi.ae website represents a significant regional competitive advantage and broadens the opportunity to extend our golf tourism message to other regular website users,” added Bagaber.

With over 4.5 million visits and over 100,000 active users of the associated mobile apps, visitabudhabi.ae will host individual pages for each of the emirate’s golf clubs in nine languages, and will be supported by a dedicated packages section and offer the opportunity to book rounds directly with the individual golf clubs.

All global awareness activity will drive users to the site, and the site will also feature unique content from Matteo Manassero, the Golf In Abu Dhabi Ambassador, as well as detailed information on the annual Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, the European Tour’s annual curtain-raising event held on the National Course at Abu Dhabi Golf Club each January.

A priority for the IDC Golf Clubs group is to expand the number of worldwide tour operators featuring Abu Dhabi’s golf proposition in their marketing campaigns and brochures.

Targeting activities in the UK, Germany, France and Italy, the European golf market has been identified as one of huge growth potential, with a series of joint marketing promotions, familiarisation visits and major golf event promotional activities on the cards. The IDC will also be working closely with clubs and domestic Tour Operators to develop packages in the emirate, with the popularity of ‘night golf’ a particular focus.

In the US, golf tour operators will be targeted to expand their Abu Dhabi availability, while in India and South Africa, awareness campaigns aimed at consumers are expected to drive an increase in leisure golf travellers.

The global promotional activity will also be supported by regular golf content across the array of visitabudhabi social media channels, digital advertising and regular newsletters to more than 65,000 subscribers. The activity is anticipated to generate a threefold boost to generate 200,000 visits during the course of the year.

In 2014, Abu Dhabi’s leading golf courses – Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Yas Links Golf Club, Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, Abu Dhabi City Golf Club, Al Ghazal Golf Club and Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting & Golf Club – hosted 139,175 rounds of golf, of which 20,757 were from international overseas guests. In 2011, this figure stood at 6,674. The peak season for international golfers runs from October to April.

“We have made significant progress since launching Golf In Abu Dhabi in 2011, and expect the collaborative approach we are adopting through the work of the IDC Golf Clubs to further boost the number of international rounds for our partners,” said Reem Al Mahri, Unit Head of Hospitality & Attractions Unit, TCA Abu Dhabi.

Established in 2011, the IDC structure was formed to facilitate wider and closer interaction with the private sector to develop improved communication and align industry efforts to increase the volume of visitors to the emirate.

The golf committee, consisting of key industry players will meet quarterly to jointly coordinate and implement a domestic and international marketing and promotions strategy.

A priority for the group will be to forge solutions to stimulate progress in the development of golf tourism across the emirate, with the establishment of a system to accurately survey the sector and identification of opportunities for future golf course development high on the agenda.

The committees covering Hotels as IDC Main Committee, IDC Sales Engagement, IDC Human Resources and Golf tourism are responsible for identifying opportunities which could be exploited by the tourism industry and TCA Abu Dhabi to further increase visitor numbers and also for boosting the number of Emiratis working in the tourism sector.

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Jordan, Bulgaria Discuss Tourism Cooperation

AMMAN, May 24 (NNN-Petra)–Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Nayef Al Fayez stressed the importance of activating tourism agreements with Bulgaria to boost tourism between the two countries.

During a meeting with Bulgarian Tourism Minister Nikolina Angelkova, Al Fayez called for carrying out an agreement that dates back to 2004 and stipulates the exchange of expertise and cooperation to increase the number of tourists from both countries.

Talks at the meeting, which was attended by the Bulgarian ambassador to Jordan, also dealt with the means to forge closer ties in various fields.

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Qatari Filmmakers In Cannes Share Stories From Qatar

CANNES, France, May 20 (NNN-QNA) – Five emerging filmmakers from Qatar are currently in Cannes attending the 68th edition of the prestigious festival, where they are participating in a series of workshops and meetings, arranged by the Doha Film Institute, to support them in furthering their filmmaking careers, Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported.

Ali Al Ansari, Mohamed Al Mahmeed, Yousef Al Modhadi, Amal Al Muftah and Maryam Al Sahli are on the seventh day of their programme at the world’s most prominent gathering of international film industry.

So far, they have participated in workshops, script development advisory sessions and one-on-one meetings, apart from attending screenings of the latest discoveries in quality cinema from all over the world.

In discussing the development sessions attended by the group, Ali Al-Ansari said, he had gained a lot throughout the meetings that the Doha Film Institute has arranged for them.

“We have met producers, distributors, people from all areas in the film industry. I’ve learned a lot of things about the film market, things like selling and distributing and also about producing.

We have met with script advisors and supervisors who we pitched to. They gave us good, productive feedback on our scripts, how to deal and work with our characters and then how to actually start recruiting crew and producers to our script, the whole process from A to Z.”

Yousef Al-Moadhadi, director of the short film, “10%” which won the Made in Qatar award, at the Ajyal Youth Film Festival in Dec 2014, said, he had learned a lot about how to look at, not just the creative parts of making a film, but also the other end of sales and distribution and how to find an audience for your work.

Meanwhile, Mohammed Al Mahmeed discussed the importance of sharing stories from Qatar with the world, in international forums such as Cannes.

“Qatar is very undiscovered, there are so many stories and things that people don’t know about our culture. It is our job as Qataris and as filmmakers, to show the world what we have to offer in terms of good, honest stories from Qatar”, he said.

As part of Qatar’s presence in Cannes, the Doha Film Institute is presenting a special Made in Qatar showcase of short films, at the Cannes’ Short Film Corner, a section of the festival dedicated to showcasing films from more than 90 countries, to thousands of accredited industry guests, festival selectors and short film industry specialists.

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Bahrain To Host International Art Exhibition

MANAMA, Bahrain, May 20 (NNN-BNA) – Bahrain will host the most anticipated art exhibition, “Art Bahrain,” which focuses on creation, communication and inspiration, on Oct 13, Bahrain News Agency (BNA) reported.

The exhibition is under the patronage of Princess Sabeeka bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, Wife of the Bahraini King, and President of the Supreme Council for Women (SCW), it was announced at a press conference here.

The Art Bahrain team, revealed details of participating galleries and artists from around the world, urging young artists to participate in the exhibition and join leading names.

It was also announced that the first edition of Art Bahrain will feature the launch of Sacha Jafri’s 18-year Retrospective International Collection. The full Retrospective Collection comprises 48 artistic works, which include the best four paintings from each of his 12 collections, from 1996 to 2014.

A selection of these pieces have been handpicked and carefully curated by the artist, to be displayed at Art Bahrain, which is the first international event to display these artistic works together, after which it will be displayed at other international exhibitions.

Art Bahrain Co-Founder, Kaneka Subberwal said that, Bahrain enjoys a refined level of appreciation for talent and art, which makes it a great location for international art exhibitions.

The Art Bahrain team expect to host up to 200 international art collectors, close to 2,000 VIP clients and approximately 10,000 visitors, which will gather artists, art collectors and art lovers and serve as a platform where artists and galleries from around the world will share space and inspiration with local artists.

Art Bahrain Co-Founder, Khalid Juman, said that, Art Bahrain was successful at attracting prominent exhibitors, thanks to Princess Sabeeka’s support.

The fair will also see the works of leading Bahraini artists, Jamal Abdul Rahim, Shaikha Lulwa bint Abdulaziz Al Khalifa and Shaikha Marwa bint Rashid Al Khalifa, amongst others.

The first edition of the annual exhibition “Art Bahrain” will be organised by Art Select and Pico International Bahrain.

The exhibition aims to promote the growth and dissemination of artistic thought at the local level and provides an unprecedented opportunity for artists, galleries and art collectors to communicate with the community and art lovers in Bahrain, and the region in general.

It is an initiative designed to encourage individuals and companies to invest in art and displays many gifted artists of South Asia and the Middle East, by hosting regular exhibitions.

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‘Beauty of Islam’ brought to Chelsea Flower Show

Tuesday 19 May 2015 – London, (IINA) – The prestigious Chelsea Flower Show awards are handed out Tuesday in the presence of Emirati exhibitor Kamelia bin Zaal who will be the first UAE national designer to display at the Royal Horticultural Society’s annual show in London, a highlight of the British social season.

Her garden came under the scrutiny of the judges on Monday and she hopes to clinch a gold medal for The Beauty of Islam, UAE’s The National daily reported.

“It would be great but I’ve already got my award because I’m here,” bin Zaal said. “This is the epitome of my life’s ambition, to be at Chelsea. As a garden designer, this is the Oscars.”

“I’m just absolutely over the moon, I’m running on excitement. The garden has just come out so wonderfully,” she said.

Her garden reflects Islamic and Arab culture and includes inspiration from the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. It is dedicated to Sheikh Zayed, the founding President, a passionate garden enthusiast.

Sheikh Zayed exhibited many of his own gardens at Chelsea, including the 2003 gold-medal winner “Garden from the Desert”, designed by Christopher Bradley-Hole. “Hopefully I’m carrying on his legacy,” said bin Zaal, who is also the first female Arab landscape designer to participate at Chelsea.

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Muslim Lifestyle Expo to debut at Ricoh Arena in England

Tuesday 19 May 2015 – Rowley’s Green, England (IINA) – An exhibition, to be launched at the Ricoh Arena in the Rowleys Green district of the city of Coventry, England, is tipped to tap into the growth potential of the Muslim lifestyle sector, Exhibition News (EN) reported.

The Muslim Lifestyle Expo 2015 (MLE) will showcase more than 70 exhibitors from areas such as fashion, food and drink, travel, Islamic finance, creative arts and health and beauty from across the world on August 1-2. The interactive event will also feature a live fashion show called MLE Live, and innovation hub for aspiring technology entrepreneurs, seminars, workshops and a kids zone.

MLE 2015 will feature a networking event with speeches by entrepreneurs and business experts discussing market intelligence, industry forecasts and trends to understand how to market to the Muslim consumer.

Rauf Mirza, director of the Muslim Lifestyle Expo, said, “The exhibition is aimed at being a family-friendly and culturally diverse event and to promote the positive and vibrant aspects of British Muslims.

“Our aim is to showcase the value of the Muslim lifestyle in a fun and enjoyable way and is an inclusive event for all and welcomes people from all faiths and backgrounds. The Expo is a perfect platform to connect businesses to consumers who are seeking growth in this lucrative sector from across the world especially as the UK is a key market.”

From his side, Tahir Mirza, founder of the Expo, said the inaugural event is a great opportunity to showcase the growth of all the Muslim lifestyle sectors to an international audience.

Angela Perkins, head of sales at the Ricoh Arena, added: “This is the first event of its kind so interest is expected to be high among exhibitors and visitors.”

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Ferrari World Abu Dhabi Named Middle East’s Leading Tourist Attraction

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, May 19 (NNN-WAM) – Abu Dhabi’s multiple award-winning tourist destination, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, has been named the Middle East’s Leading Tourist Attraction, at the World Travel Awards Gala event, at the Four Seasons Resort Dubai, reports Emirates News Agency (WAM).

Commenting on the award, Jesse Vargas, General Manager at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, said, “We are delighted to receive this prestigious award and would like to thank World Travel Awards and our fans for recognising us as a key player in the theme park industry.

“Since 2010, the park has been offering visitors an unmatched exhilarating experience and over the past few months we have embarked on an unprecedented expansion to deliver an even more thrilling experience for each family member.”

The park, which is currently undergoing ambitious expansion plans, to create an even more exciting proposition for visitors, has received a number of accolades in recent months. With the latest announcement of another record-breaking roller coaster, Flying Aces, adding even more thrills to the line-up of attractions, it is rapidly cementing its place, as the go-to theme park for enthusiasts from across the world.

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Emirates Expands Its Mobile Footprint, Launches An Android App

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, May 19 (NNN-WAM) – On the heels of the successful launching of its Apple Watch app, Emirates announced the debut of the Emirates App for Android, the world’s largest mobile platform, Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported. With more than one hundred thousand monthly users of its iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch apps, Emirates is ramping up its efforts to enhance its passengers’ travel experience through mobile technologies.

Developed in-house, the Emirates App for Android enables users to book flights and review travel itineraries; Manage every aspect of a booking, from seat selection to on-board menu and what’s on ice; Download their boarding pass directly to Google Now or send it to a phone via SMS or email.

Users can also receive quick updates on flight boarding and gate changes; Get notifications about Emirates’ Chauffeur-driven service; Verify the status of a flight and sign up for alerts to know when it has departed or arrived; Manage all the details of their Skywards account, such as favourite destinations, aisle or window seats, and preferred newspaper.

“Our passengers are mobile and increasingly reliant on mobile devices to stay connected, no matter where they are in the world,” said Alex Knigge, Emirates’ Senior Vice President – Digital.

“We believe the right mobile technology can significantly improve our customers’ experience. As a result, Emirates’ mobile strategy is aggressive and a key element of our digital roadmap. We aim to be trail blazers in the airline industry when it comes to mobile technologies.”

During the development of the Android app, Emirates conducted testing with employees and Skywards members. Feedback from these users was instrumental in fine tuning the overall experience.

“With the popularity of Emirates’ first app for iPhone, many customers have asked for the Emirates App for Android. In fact, half of all users who access our website via mobile devices are on the Android platform,” commented Alex Knigge.

“Not only does this meet the needs of many of our customers, while they’re on the move, it also paves the way for innovation on other devices that use the Android platform.”

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Dubai Week In China A Huge Success

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, May 18 (NNN-WAM) – Senior officials from Dubai’s tourism and finance industry, hailed the recent Dubai Week in China event a success.

The show event, which kicked off on May 8, was attended by more than 15,000 visitors, including government officials and business people.

Issam Kazim, chief executive officer of the Dubai corporation for tourism and commerce marketing (DCTCM), said, the feedback of the week-long tourism and culture promotion programme was very good.

“China is a very important market for us. It is important for us to present the different sides of Dubai, as a tourism hub whether as lifestyle, beach holiday, shopping or cultural destination,” said Kazim.

“We cannot only showcase one aspect of Dubai to the Chinese people.” In 2014, the number of Chinese tourists travelling to Dubai went up by 25 percent, compared to that of the previous year.

The DCTCM aims to double the number of tourists to Dubai to 20 million per year, and Chinese visitors will play a major role in achieving these plans.

“Of the 20 offices we have around the world, four are in China: in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu, all promoting Dubai as a tourism hub,” said Kazim.

Representatives of the Dubai international financial centre (DIFC), a government-run financial free zone, also agreed that the programme was successful.

Arif Amiri, deputy chief executive officer of DIFC, told one of the sessions during the event that, his organisation can serve as a key gateway for Chinese companies to access markets in the Middle East and the wider region.

The DIFC, where 488 authorised entities and two markets are regulated, is already home to branches of four leading Chinese lenders – ICBC, Agricultural Bank of China, China Construction and Bank of China. The centre also aims to attract more banks from individual Chinese provinces and asset managers.

Other participating Dubai bodies were the organising committee of the Dubai Expo 2020, state-owned Emirates Airline, the Jebel Ali Free Zone, state-owned hospitality group Jumeirah (which operated the world-famous Burj Al-Arab hotel), and Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority.

Earlier in the year, Sheikh Majid Al Mualla, a senior official with the Emirates Airline, told Xinhua that the biggest carrier in the Middle East is in negotiations with the Chinese government, to expand its network to the world’s most populous country.

As Chinese travellers prefer holiday destinations where Chinese food and Mandarin-speaking hotel staff are both available, Dubai’s over 600 resorts have been constantly increasing the number of Chinese employees.

Luoluo Deng, Chinese sales manager at The H Hotel in Dubai, told Xinhua that Chinese guests have begun to discover her hotel, located beside the Dubai world trade centre, “and we are keen on attracting more visitors from my country.”

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Algeria, Tunisia To Revive Tourism And Craft Committee

ALGIERS, May 18 (NNN-APS) — Algeria and Tunisia have agreed to revive their joint committee on Tourism and Craft Industry, says Algeria’s Minister of National Planning, Tourism and Craft Industry, Amar Ghoul.

He said in a statement on his meeting with Tunisian Minister of Tourism Selma Elloumi Rekik here Sunday that the two countries had decided to revive the Joint Committee which would examine within a week all the agreements concluded between Algeria and Tunisia in the field of tourism and craft industry so as to set up a new programme for the development of this sector.

Ghoul announced that a project to create a tourist maritime line between the two countries was under consideration to encourage tourism to both Algeria and Tunisia, adding that the facilitation would be introduced at border crossings, especially on matters related to health and safety services.

Other matters which were broached included the strengthening of land and sea transportation, boosting co-operation between tourism agencies in the two countries and promoting tourism investment, he said.

On Saturday, the Tunisian Head of government, Habib Essid, had emphasized the importance of reinforcing the Algerian-Tunisian partnership and co-operation, notably in the field of tourism.

In a media statement issued on the occasion of his visit to the 16th International Tourism and Travel Fair (SITEV) here, Habib Essid underlined the need for “boosting the co-operation between the two countries, notably in terms of tourism”.

He indicated that about one million Algerian tourists visited Tunisia every year and that Tunisia needed to improve the quality of services to meet the tourists’ requirements.

Habib Essid also visited the pavilion of Tunisian operators participating in the fair to enquire about the state of co-operation between the two countries.

Meanwhile, Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal held talks here Sunday with Habib Essid, who arrived Saturday for an official two-day visit to Algeria.

The meeting was also attended by Algeria’s Minister of the Interior and Local Authorities, Noureddine Bedoui, Minister of Maghreb and African Affairs and International Co-operation Abdelkader Messahel and Minister of Trade Amara Benyounes.

On the Tunisian side, Minister of Tourism and Craft Industry Selma Elloumi Rekik, Trade Minister Ridha Lahoual, Secretary of State to the Minister of Interior Minister for Security Affairs Rafik Chelli and Secretary of State in charge of Arab and African Affairs Touhami Abdouli also attended the meeting.

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Qatar Airways Named Mideast’s Best Smart Tourism E-Services Provider

DOHA, Qatar, May 21 (NNN-QNA) – Qatar Airways has won the Middle East excellence award in smart government and smart services, for its smart tourism e-services, Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported.

It received the award at a ceremony held on Wednesday, by the Middle East Excellence Awards Institute at Dubai International Financial Centre.

The Institute recognises the significance of honouring excellent organisations and companies, for their achievements in streamlining their online services that contribute to the competitiveness of the variety of e-services found in the Middle East.

Qatar Airways Country Manager (United Arab Emirates), Rohan Seneviratne, received the award, on behalf of the airline at the ceremony, which attracted more than 500 dignitaries and participants, from the 21st GCC e-Government and e-Services Conference, in addition to media from across the region.

Experts, specialists and the jury nominated Qatar Airways for the award, for the airline’s efforts to develop e-services, including its organisational shift to smart government and its implementation of best practices in modern administration and international competitiveness.

Qatar Airways has seen rapid growth in just 18 years of operation, to the point where, today, it is flying a modern fleet of 157 aircraft to 146 key business and leisure destinations across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific, North and South America.

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Mozambique Invites Tanzanian Businesses To Invest

DAR-ES-SALAAM, May 20 (NNN-AIM) — Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi has told Tanzanian business people that over the last four years Mozambique has attracted a flow of private investment estimated at 23 billion US dollars.

Speaking at the opening of the Mozambique-Tanzania Business Forum in Tanzania Tuesday, on the second day of his official visit to Tanzania, he noted that relations between the two countries had always been close, since it was in Tanzania that the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo) was set up in 1962.

The Tanzanian government, under the country’s founding president, Julius Nyerere, allowed Frelimo to launch the independence war from rear bases in Tanzanian soil, added Nyusi, who declared that Mozambique wants these political and historical relations to gain expression in the economic sphere, generating business empowerment and the well-being and progress of the two peoples.

He said the two countries had great market potential, hence the need for continued efforts to promote their exports and attract investments, as part of the structural transformation of their economies.

Nyusi added that innovation and creativity were decisive factors in competitiveness and economic efficiency and stressed that Mozambique wanted to play a vanguard role in the industrialization of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

He said Mozambique was fully aligned with the industrialization strategy approved at the SADC Extraordinary Summit held in Harare last month.

Nyusi pointed to the potential Mozambique had in areas such as agriculture, fisheries, tourism, industry, energy, transport and communications, which he described as “windows of opportunity” for companies interested in investing.

The Mozambican economy was stable and growing at an annual rate of seven to eight per cent. The prospects for future development were promising, stressed Nyusi, who invited Tanzanian businesses to invest individually or in partnership with their Mozambican counterparts.

“The experience of the past has taught us that we need to advance together to achieve our collective desires and ensure economic emancipation,” he said.

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AirAsia launches Kuala Lumpur-Kaohsiung Route

KUALA LUMPUR, May 20 (NNN-Bernama) — AirAsia will add the Kuala Lumpur-Kaohsiung (Taiwan) route to its network from July 16, with three weekly direct flights. “The new destination makes AirAsia the only airline to serve this unique direct route,” the airline said in a statement.

The new route will be operated by AirAsia Bhd with the flight code AK, and the aircraft type being the Airbus A320 with a capacity of 180. “We have seen strong demand for travel between Malaysia and Taiwan. This new direct route into Kaohsiung will ease travel plans for the communities of southern Taiwan in connecting to Kuala Lumpur and beyond,” AirAsia Bhd’s Head of Commercial, Spencer Lee said in the statement .

In conjunction with the announcement, AirAsia is offering an all-in-fare from as low as RM88 between May 20-27. The travel period for this promotional fare is July 16 to May 31,2016.

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AirAsia set to Fly Direct Johor Bahru To Bangkok

KUALA LUMPUR, May 17 (NNN-Bernama) — AirAsia will commence four times weekly direct flights from Johor Baharu to Bangkok from July 17, 2015. Available for booking from Monday, this will be AirAsia’s eighth route into Thailand after Kuala Lumpur – Phuket, Bangkok, Chiangmai, Hat Yai, Krabi, Surat Thani, and the most recent being Pattaya, it said in a statement.

“Johor Baharu is the third largest city in Malaysia with tremendous travel demand and AirAsia is determined to provide the best connectivity from the south of peninsular Malaysia. Our guests from Johor no longer need to transit through Kuala Lumpur or even commute to Singapore as previously, to get to Thailand,” said AirAsia Bhd’s head of commercial, Spencer Lee.

To celebrate the launch of this pioneer route, the airline is offering promotional all-in-fares from RM69 one way, and available for booking from May 18-May 24 for travel from July 17, 2015 to May 31, 2016.

Concurrently, the airline is also offering a 50 per cent discount to all destinations across its network – except domestic flights to Indonesia – with the same booking period for travel from Sept 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016.

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Malaysia to start Electric Vehicle Production In July

BEIJING, May 18 (NNN-Bernama) — The electric vehicle assembly plant in Gurun, Kedah state which is set to turn Malaysia into a hub for electric vehicles in Southeast Asia, is expected to be operational in July next year with an initial investment of up to RM300 million.

The project is undertaken by China’s Beijing Auto International Cooperation (BAIC), the country’s top and world’s second biggest electric vehicle manufacturer, in collaboration with a Malaysian partner, Amber Dual Sdn Bhd.

Amber Dual managing director Shabudin Md Saman said the project got off the ground with research and development (R&D) in Gurun, mainly to change the left-hand drive system to right-hand drive at the cost of about RM50 million.

He said the prototype electric vehicle developed in Gurun is expected to be ready in December, with the first production expected in July 2016.

The Gurun plant, being built at the cost of between RM200 million and RM300 million, will also serve as a marketing centre for BAIC vehicles not only for the Malaysian market but also that of the Southeast Asia, he said when met at the BAIC production plant here.

Shabudin said BAIC is targeting a production of between 2,000 and 3,000 electric vehicles next year, after which it would be increased gradually yearly as demand for electric vehicles are still low as it is a new technology.

“BAIC has appointed us as its representative that tap into the markets in Southeast Asian and the region.

“Our company has also set our mind on a higher goal as we do not want to rely solely on BAIC technology, instead we aim at adding value in the vehicle design. We aspire to lead Malaysia’s electric vehicle technology.

Meanwhile, BAIC senior vice-president (sales) Li Ji said the company is confident that Malaysia would become an important electric vehicle hub in Southeast Asia as it has good infrastructure to support its growth.

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More Turkish Companies Keen To Invest In Iran

TEHRAN, May 18, (NNN-IRNA) – The number of Turkey’s firms that are interested to invest in Iran is on the rise, a senior diplomat announced.

‘The Turkish companies are keen to come to Iran for investment,’ Turkish Ambassador to Tehran Reza Hakan Tekin told reporters after meeting with Head of Isfahan Chamber of Commerce Seyed Abdolvahab Sahlabadi on Sunday.

He pointed out that the grounds can be paved for the presence of Turkish investors in Iran due to acceptable energy prices and large number of Iranian experts. The Turkish envoy said that his country has already invested over $2.1 billion in Iran.

Iran is a main destination of Turkish goods and Turkey is among the top destinations of Iranian tourists and traders. The two states plan to multiply their trade transactions in the next few years.

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Malaysia’s US$1.5 Bln Islamic Bond A Success

KUALA LUMPUR, May 19 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia’s successful pricing of the US$1.5 billion global sukuk (Islamic bond) has strengthened the country’s position as an international centre for Islamic finance, says Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.

Najib, who is also Finance Minister, said the 30-year tranche was the government’s inaugural sukuk issuance, which is the longest tenured sukuk ever by a sovereign. “This sukuk also fulfils Malaysia’s objective of making the issuance a new benchmark,” he said at the Finance Ministry’s monthly gathering here Tuesday.

The issuance comprises US$1 billion of 10-year and US$500 million of 30-year benchmark Trust Certificates (Sukuk) for a total size of US$1.5 billion.

Najib said the deal was oversubscribed, attracting an aggregate interest of US$9.0 billion from a combined investor base of over 450 accounts.

The 10-year tranche was oversubscribed nearly seven times while the 30-year tranche was oversubscribed about six times. “The success of the transaction shows that international investor sentiment for Malaysia’s credit profile is very high and positive,” he said.

The premier also said the nation’s economy grew robustly in the first quarter of the year despite facing uncertain external challenges like the slump in global commodity prices and depreciation of the ringgit.

He said the Gross Domestic Product grew an encouraging 5.6 per cent, supported by a vibrant domestic economy despite weak external demand.

“In the same period, private investment at current prices rose 13.6 per cent to RM51.5 billion while total foreign direct investment (FDI) netinflows hit RM9.9 billion. This economic performance shows improved investor confidence in the country and reflects the effectiveness of the government’s management of the nation’s economy and finances,” he said.

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Haj pilgrims’ number to reach five million in five years

Saturday 23 May 2015 – Madinah (IINA) – The number of Haj pilgrims is expected to reach five million and Umrah pilgrims 30 million in the next five years, said Haj Minister Bandar Hajjar on Thursday.

Speaking to businessmen in Madinah, he said the ministry has completed preparations to receive a record number of Umrah pilgrims during Ramadan, which is likely to begin on June 18. “We have taken into consideration the huge increase in the number of pilgrims in the coming years,” Hajjar said and urged private service providers to extend the best possible services to the guests of God.

The minister said the opening of the new King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah and Prince Mohammed International Airport in Madinah would help improve services to pilgrims. “The expansion of the Grand Mosque in Makkah and Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah will help accommodate huge numbers of pilgrims,” he said.

Mohammed Al-Khatrawi, chairman of Madinah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the Haj and Umrah sector would contribute immensely to the Kingdom’s GDP and support its diversification drive. “It’s one of the largest revenue earning and job creating sectors,” the chairman said, adding that it was contributing greatly to the region’s economy. It offers the best option to diversify revenue sources for the region, Al-Khatrawi said. “It can also boost investment and reduce dependence on oil revenue.” The meeting discussed prospects of improving services to the millions of domestic and foreign pilgrims who visit Madinah after performing Haj and Umrah.

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Regulatory boost for Dubai World Trade Centre

Wednesday 20 May 2015 – Dubai, (IINA) – Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) was established as a free zone on Monday under a new law and series of decrees issued by Shaikh Muhammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice-president and prime minister of UAE and ruler of Dubai, according to media sources.

Law No (9) of 2015 establishes DWTC “as a free zone subject to supervision” of the Dubai World Trade Centre Authority (DWTC), which was also established under the law, according to a statement from the government of Dubai.

Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, deputy ruler of Dubai and minister of finance, has been appointed as chairman of the Authority under Decree No (11) of 2015.

The new law was established to boost regional and international exhibition’s and conferences in the emirate and to attract local and international investments and “hosting commercial and trade establishments,” according to the statement. DWTC includes the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre, which already hosts a number of regional exhibitions.

The DWTC zones “include free zones and districts managed and supervised by” DWTCA, which include the DWTC, under developing facilities and the Dubai World Trade Centre at Jebel Ali, according to the statement.

The DWTCA will be responsible for “establishing, developing and managing infrastructures and administrative services inside Dubai World Trade Centre.” It will also define business activities, approve the “general plan for DWTC’s zones, licensing, organizing and overseeing construction works in Dubai World Trade Centre, registering and licensing companies in DWTC’s free zone and defining and collecting registration and licensing fees in addition to other authorities and capacities.”

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World Economic Forum to highlight Jordan’s potential

Thursday 21 May 2015 – Amman, (IINA) – Jordanian Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Imad Fakhoury on Tuesday said the World Economic Forum (WEF) on the Middle East and North Africa will include a session entitled “Jordan Re-launched,” which will shed light on the economic potential and investment opportunities in the Kingdom, Petra reported.

The WEF will be officially opened on Friday under Royal patronage. Fakhoury, also the Chairperson of the King Abdullah Fund for Development (KAFD), added that the WEF will see the signing of a number of projects and agreements by ministries and national institutions.

He pointed out that the forum would be an opportunity to give momentum to the national economy after issuing “Jordan 2025″ blueprint, which includes the National Strategic Plan for the next ten years. He also stressed that the forum provides a platform to showcase Jordan’s economic potential, seal projects and economic partnerships and benefit the national economy.

Also, it serves as regional and global platform to highlight challenges and priorities that Jordan continuously deals with, especially regional conflicts and consequences of hosting Syrian refugees, Fakhoury noted.

The Jordan-hosted gathering will be held under the slogan, “Finding a new regional framework for prosperity and cooperation between the public and private sectors,” with wide international and regional participation, including about 1,000 participants representing business leaders, politicians and civil society organizations from around 50 countries in the world.

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Indian Muslims donate land for world’s largest Hindu temple

Thursday 21 May 2015 – Bihar (IINA) – Muslims in the east Indian state of Bihar, in a stellar demonstration of communal harmony, have donated their land to assist in the building of the world’s largest Hindu temple, news agencies reported.

Construction of the temple that is believed to cost an estimated £54 million and has a capacity for nearly 20,000 people is to begin in June. “Muslims not only donated land, but also also provided land at a nominal rate for construction of the world’s largest Hindu temple. Without help of Muslims, it would have been difficult to realize this dream project,” Acharya Kishore Kunal, secretary of the Patna-based cash-rich Mahavir Mandir Trust that is undertaking the ambitious project, told Indo-Asian News Service (IANS).

“It is usual for Hindus to donate land for a temple, but it is unusual for Muslims to donate land for the construction of a temple,” Kunal said. The temple is set to be 2,500 feet long, 1,296 feet wide and 379 feet high.

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Maldives to protect rights of Persons with Disabilities

May 19, 2015 – Sun.mv – Ministry of Law and Gender has announced that efforts are ongoing to establish four regulations to protect the rights of persons with disabilities. Speaking at a workshop at Mookai Hotel this morning to inaugurate these efforts, Acting Minister of Law and Gender, Attorney General Mohamed Anil noted the government’s efforts over the past one and a half years aimed at protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.

He said that much remains to be done in this regard, including the establishment of four regulations to put procedures in place to ensure that persons with disabilities are not subjected to discrimination – a right guaranteed in the Constitution.

The workshop will also include creating a regulation on provision of education and healthcare services to persons with disabilities, said Anil.

He further said that the allocation of funds in this year’s budget for the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities was great progress for these efforts, as lack of funds has been noted as the biggest challenge in providing services required by persons with disabilities. The Law on Protecting the Rights of Persons with Disabilities came into effect in 2010.

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Bus network to connect all of Male’

May 22, 2015 – Sun.mv – Transport Authority has said that they have decided to cover all of Male’ via the bus network in an effort to improve public transportation.

The Chairman of the Transport Authority, Abdul-Rasheed Naafiz told Sun Media that to solve the crowding in Male’, they are trying to improve the public transport system and so, they have decided to expand the bus network covering all of Male’ City.

“Even the bus service is improved and starts coming on time, the people’s complain about difficulty finding a taxi would be lighter.” Naafiz said.

While the bus service began a few years ago, the vehicles in service do not have proper ventilation and there is no guarantee that the busses arrive on time.

Naafiz said that with the establishment of the new system, the vehicles in use would be new with better air conditioning and would have the guarantee of arriving at a specific time. About five bus stations would be established, says Naafiz, and those areas would be a common travelling points.

“Increase in buses and bus routes would allow arriving on time, and a little small, can stay inside with comfort.” Naafiz said.

Naafiz said that with the new system, the target is to expand the service to deliver 4000 people in an hour and the bids for the project would be opened soon. He said that in the near future, bus service would cover all the schools and start the school bus service.

Naafiz said that the aim is to start the expansion project this year and although all the new buses may not be brought in, the service would start early next year.

Transport Authority and the Maldives Police Service believes that the traffic problem in Male’ City cannot be resolved without addressing the crowding in the city. Vehicles can be controlled with a good public transportation service in place.

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Europe’s first airport on an artificial island opens in Turkey

ORDU – Anadolu Agency – Europe’s first airport on an artificial island opened on May 22, as a morning Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul carrying 136 passengers touched down on its runway, the first of its kind outside the Far East.

The new airport, off the coast of the Black Sea provinces of Ordu and Giresun, was officially opened by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu later on May 22.

Erdoğan said the next opening ceremony for a new airport will be in the eastern province of Hakkari, adding the number of airports in the country will soon increase to 60.

Construction of the artificial island in Ordu and Giresun, which cost around 360 million Turkish liras ($132.6 million), began in July 2011.

Around 35 million tons of rocks were used to fill a 1.8-million-square-meter area of the sea.

The airport’s runway is 3,000 meters long and 45 meters wide.

State-of-the-art technology was used to prevent Black Sea waves from damaging the airport, while a special material, called stone mastic asphalt, was used to build the runway.

Although only serving Istanbul and Ankara flights at the moment, the airport has plans to expand to 42 destinations.

The number of tourists and investors in the Black Sea region is expected to increase with the opening of the new airport.

Ordu Governor İrfan Balkanlıoğlu said tourism investors had already begun to come to the city in April, ahead of the opening of the airport.

Underlining a striking increase in the number of investor coming to Ordu, Balkanlıoğlu said the governorship of Ordu was aiming to boost interest in the city with promotions.

“We expect that there will be a huge increase in the flow of tourists… Arab investors bought over 100 residences in Ordu, especially in the districts of Akkuş, Ünye, Fatsa and Kabadüz,” he said in a statement in April.

This number is expected to reach over 600 within this year, Balkanlıoğlu said.

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Turkish Cultural tour to the Valley of Roses

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily news – The Turkish Cultural Foundation’s Culinary Arts Center YESAM in Istanbul has organized a cultural journey to the heart of the rose.

Between May 29 and 31, YESAM invites people on a special cultural and culinary adventure to witness the rose harvest in the western province of Isparta and discover the beauty, fragrance and taste of the rose. The tour will be guided by journalist and food culture researcher Aylin Öney Tan, who has done an extensive study on the culinary culture of the Antique city of Sagalassos and the history and uses of rose within Ottoman and Turkish culinary culture.

The rose holds a unique place in Turkish art and history and has been a symbol of elegance, sanctity and love, as well as the subject of poems, hymns and enchanted tales. In addition, roses are cherished in Turkey for their fragrance, healing and cosmetic properties and their delicate taste. They are used in producing rose oil and rose water, as well as in confectionary, including Turkish delight.

Over the centuries, Isparta has become a center of rose oil and rose water production in Anatolia. This process began with Müftüzade İsmail Efendi, an Ottoman official stationed in Kızanlık (in today’s Bulgaria) in the late 19th century, who observed the cultivation of roses and rose oil production in the strictly guarded “Rose Valley” of the region.

İsmail Efendi brought back a rose cutting to Isparta, planted it in his own garden and began growing roses. He later used a still to produce the first rose oil in Isparta in 1892. His love of roses quickly spread, turning Isparta into the rose capital of Turkey.

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Historic church in birthplace of religion under restoration

ŞANLIURFA – Anadolu Agency – The two-story Germüş Church in the eastern province of Şanlıurfa has survived for centuries. Now, it will become a tourist attraction within the scope of the Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) Action Plan.

The church is located in the Dağeteği neighborhood on the outskirts of the Germüş Mountains, 10 kilometers away from the city center. But since it does not have an inscription, the exact date of its establishment is unknown.

Estimated to have been built with cut stones in the beginning of the 19th century, the church has three lancet windows at the entrance.

The historic church, which has partly lost some of its features during previous restorations done, is located close to Göbeklitepe, one of the world’s oldest temples located in the city.

Şanlıurfa Regional Tourist Guides Chamber Chairman Kamil Türkmen said that the city had recently gained momentum in tourism. He said that foreign tourists came to the region especially for Göbeklitepe and also visited the Germüş Church.

Türkmen said that Armenians lived in the Germüş village during the Ottoman era and that the area was a protected site.

“The church draws attention mostly from foreign tourists. They come here but the church is not completely ready. This is why it should be restored as soon as possible,” he said.

Culture and Tourism Deputy Director Aydın Arslan said that work had been initiated for the church to promote its tourism, adding, “The surveying, restitution and restoration projects have been finished. The restoration project was included in the GAP Action Plan and will start in the coming days. We will also carry out archaeological work in the area.”

The former village head of the neighborhood, 85-year-old Mansur Özdemir, said that they had been trying to protect the church and structures in the vicinity but treasure hunters had done excavations and damaged the church. He said some Armenian families used to live in the region in the past, and later moved to their relatives in Syria.

Özdemir said that his father told about the stories from the World War I and explained:

“In the final years of the Ottoman state, young people from neighboring villages joined the war and only old people and women remained in the houses. Since the Armenians did not join the war, they continued living here. But the French and Russians took advantage of this and made them massacre people in the neighboring villages. When they heard our soldiers were returning, they left their houses and escaped the village.”

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Turkey ready to put up capital for Islamic megabank

ISTANBUL – Reuters – Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan has said Turkey, Indonesia and the Islamic Development Bank have accelerated their efforts to establish a “megabank” with the aim of creating a platform to serve as a “central bank” for the world’s Islamic lenders, as reported by Reuters.

“Turkey is ready to put up $300 million of equity for the establishment of the bank,” he said on May 20, at a meeting of the Participation Banks of Turkey, which represents Islamic lenders in the country.

He said they wanted to position the bank to help Islamic lenders to manage their cash flows. The new bank, which is aimed to get a kind of central bank status for the Islamic banks, may also have investment banking capabilities in the future, he said.

“The Islamic Development Bank has worked for the establishment of the megabank for the last three to four years. We saw some slowing down in the activities to launch the bank. Then, as the representatives from Turkey, the Islamic Development Bank and Indonesia, we drew a road map to set up the bank last month,” Babacan said.

“As Turkey, we have promised to put up $300 million in equity to launch the bank. The representatives from Indonesia also showed their intent to mobilize the same amount. Some leading institutions want to be part of the bank as well,” he said.

Babacan also said the latest global economic crisis showed that “interest-free financial methods are much more reliable, much more stable and much more robust,” as quoted by Anadolu Agency.

Stating that “musareke” (profit-loss sharing) was a positive form of risk management, he said, “We believe that when this system becomes widespread in our country, our financial system will become much more robust.”

His remarks came after one of Turkey’s largest state-controlled banks, Ziraat Bank, was authorized by the country’s banking regulator to start operations in its Islamic banking division last week.

There are over 300 Islamic financial institutions in 75 countries, according to Babacan.

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James Bond’s bridge in Adana to be illuminated

ADANA – Anadolu Agency – A project has begun to illuminate the historic Varda Railway Bridge in the southern province of Adana’s Hacıkırı village, where some scenes of the latest James Bond movie “Skyfall” were filmed in 2012.

The 172-meter-long and 98-meter-high bridge was featured in the opening 15-minute act of the series’ 25th film. After its appearance in the film, the bridge has become very popular.

Provincial Culture and Tourism Director Sabri Tari said the Varda Bridge was very important for Adana and Turkish tourism, adding the bridge had become one of the most popular places in the region for tourism.

He said work has begun to illuminate the bridge. “The environmental arrangements are done. Now the next work is to illuminate the bridge. The project is finished and if it is approved, the bridge will be a wonderful sight in the night, too.”

Tari said the project would also create a walking trail between Kapıkaya Canyon and the bridge. He said the region offered many natural and historical beauties, and added, “When the nearly six-kilometer walking track is finished, mountaineers, nature lovers, walkers and photographers will have a chance to see this beauty. They will discover nature.”

The bridge is remembered for a scene where actor Daniel Craig is seen falling off the bridge from a train. With the bridge’s popularity after the release of the film, groups of people board trains in the morning and get off the Hacıkırı station to visit the bridge and its surrounding area.

As the number of visitors has increased, the bridge has also become a new income channel for local villagers. Some offer the local tastes of Adana in their cafes around the bridge.

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Erdoğan launches Turkey’s first space research center

ANKARA – Hurriyet Daily News – The opening of the country’s first space system integration and satellite testing center constitutes Turkey’s first step towards space, making it an assertive country on space studies, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on May 21.

“This facility is, for us, in a real sense a first step into space,” he said in his address on the occasion of the opening of the Spacecraft Assembly, Integration and Test Center. Work to craft the Göktürk-3 satellite is to begin soon, Erdoğan also said.

“Today, Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) has already become one of the world’s largest companies in the aviation field,” Erdoğan said, noting Turkey’s aim was to join the list of the top 20 companies.

In 2002, TAI, with $90 million in revenue and 2,000 workers, was almost closed, but now its revenue is exceeding $1 billion, the company has around 5,000 workers and is stands as the world’s 80th largest company in its field, the president said.

These facilities are found in a few countries that have expertise in space studies, Erdoğan noted.

The Spacecraft Assembly, Integration and Test Center, located northwest of Ankara, in Kazan, will initially test the Göktürk-1 satellite, a civil and military observation satellite to be launched in November.

The center, situated near a military air base, will be capable of testing satellites weighing up to five tons, the company said in a statement May 19. The center, funded by the Defense Ministry and telecommunications firm Türksat, is part of Turkish efforts to break into the international space industry.

Vibration tests, acoustic tests and solar array deployment are among the tests to be conducted at the TAI-operated site. The production of Turkey’s first native satellite, Türksat 6A, a Turkish communications satellite currently under construction, will be conducted at the center.

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Three Airlines to be launched in Mozambique

Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique – 20 May 2015 – Maputo — Three other airlines intend to compete with the national carrier LAM (Mozambique Airlines) on the domestic market, according to the chairperson of the Mozambican Civil Aviation Authority, Joao de Abreu, interviewed by the independent television station STV.

He gave few details, but said that two of the companies will operate fixed wing aircraft, and the third will operate helicopters. Two of the companies are in the final phase of obtaining auuthorisations.

Abreu named two of the companies as Fly Africa and MAIS, Fly Africa is a budget airline based in South Africa, which claims to fly from Johannesburg to Harare, Victoria Falls and Windhoek with fares over 60 per cent lower than those charged by its competitors.

The Fly Africa website gives the company’s mission as “to be always affordable. We will offer low fares every day. We will use technology to make travel hassle free, so you can travel happy”.

AIM has so far obtained no information about MAIS or the third company, which Abreu did not name. He said that one of the companies will be based in Beira and a second “probably” in Nacala. He expected at least one of them to start flying in September”.

“Aviation is not just about large planes”, said Abreu. “We are inviting businesses also to fly to the districts, and not to think solely of large aircraft”. One of the challenges, he added, is to persuade companies to explore the possibilities of flight to more remote parts of the country.

Meanwhile, the general secretary of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), Raymond Benjamin, who has been attending an African Aviation Seminar in Maputo, told STV that he is opposed to the European Union’s decision to put LAM, and all other Mozambique-registered air companies, on the blacklist of airlines banned from European airspace.

The EU took this decision in 2011, and has renewed it every subsequent year. The reason given concerns failings, not in the airlines themselves, but at the IACM.

“We are against the banning of airlines. This decision was taken by the EU”, said Benjamin. “But if our organization, together with the Mozambican aviation authorities, shows that Mozambique is evolving in air safety, then your country will get out of this position”.

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Indonesia plans more modern, efficient airports

18 May 2015 – Banjarmasin (ANTARA News) – Vice President M. Jusuf Kalla expects more modern and efficient airports to be developed in Indonesia to provide better services to passengers.

“In the past, people built airports adopting local architectural and cultural elements. While these are important, they do not make them (airports) efficient,” Kalla said here during the ceremonial groundbreaking of the Syamsudin Noor International Airport on Monday.

Kalla added that the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Cengkareng now provided less efficient services. Passengers want to exit the airport immediately upon landing. So the design of the airport should accommodate this demand, he explained.

An airport should also have comfortable waiting areas and forms of entertainment such as food courts and shopping areas. “Most airports nowadays are built to resemble a mall to relieve the boredom of waiting passengers,” he pointed out.

Furthermore, Minister of Transportation Ignasius Jonan noted that the Syamsudin Noor International Airport will be made 20 times wider.

The Syamsudin Noor International Airport, which is located in Banjarbaru, some 24 kilometers west of Banjarmasin, is being expanded from 6.6 thousand square meters to 125 thousand square meters.

Earlier, the airport served 1.3 million passengers annually, but last year, it received 3.7 million passengers. On completion of the expansion project, the airport will be able to serve 10 million passengers per year.

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Indonesia to increase investment in Sabang, Aceh

21 May 2015 – Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The Indonesian government will increase investment in the tourism sector in Sabang, Aceh province, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Indroyono Susilo said. “We will attract many investors to invest in Sabang,” he stated on the sidelines of the Aceh Investment Forum here on Thursday.

Susilo pointed out that many infrastructure services such as ports, airports, electricity and other supporting facilities have been adequate in Sabang.

He added that Sabang has advantages because it is a free port region, besides being exempted from income tax (PPH) and value-added taxes (PPN). The government has also relieved the region from paying import tax.

“Sabang also has beautiful places and sites,” he remarked. Therefore, the local government should promote Sabang optimally to increase investment in the region in the future.

The minister further noted that the facilities and infrastructure owned by Sabang can attract investors in large numbers to invest in the tourism sector. The Aceh Investment Forum was opened by Governor of Aceh Zaini Abdullah and was attended by mayors, regents, entrepreneurs and ambassadors.

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APEC backs Indonesia on development product trade

24 May 2015 – Boracay, The Philippines (ANTARA News) – The Policy Support Unit (PSU) of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) supports the Indonesian proposal to boost the trade of development products of the region to improve economic balance between advanced and development countries.

“A study by the PSU of APEC gave a positive signal to support the proposal, which was forwarded by Indonesia a year earlier to promote the trade of development products of Asia Pacific,” Trade Minister Rachmat Gobel said here on Sunday.

The proposal was made to identify correlations between trade of products being studied and rural development and eradication of poverty, Gobel said at a meeting of the Commission for Trade and Investment (CTI) held on the sidelines of a meeting of APEC trade ministers on this Philippine island of Boracay May 23-24.

Development products from Indonesia include palm oil, rubber, rattan and fishery products, Gobel said

The PSU saw the relevance of promoting trade of development products through cut of tariffs, he said. The PSU also saw there are many development products, which are highly competitive and potential to increase in trade.

“In general farm products have more positive correlation with rural development and eradication of poverty compared to industrial commodities,” the minister said.

The PSU was also of the opinion that support from a number of non trade factors is needed to make rural development and eradication of poverty more successful. The factors include adequate transport and telecommunication infrastructure, education, training and financial services, health security, etc.

The Indonesian minister welcome the result of the PSU study and expressed gratitude to the co-sponsoring economies — Brunei Darussalam, Peru, China and Vietnam.

Proposal to promote the trade of development products was one of the focuses of the Indonesian trade minister in meeting of APEC trade ministers in 2015. As a follow up of the result of the study by PSU, Indonesia will hold dialogs on trade policies on development products in August in Cebu, the Philippines, Gobel said.

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Inter-island sea connectivity crucial for development

22 May 2015 – Makassar (ANTARA News) – President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has emphasized on the importance of developing sea connectivity among the islands of the country to develop the economy and all other sectors.

“We must focus on the sea because two-thirds of Indonesian territory is the sea. In view of that, connectivity among islands is important,” he said while inaugurating the development of the Makassar New Port here on Friday.

He added, “The cheapest (transport) service is by ship, and with regard to sea connectivity, the development of a sea toll road will play a crucial role in ensuring good competition and cheaper costs.”

The president stated that with good connectivity, the cost of distribution of goods will also drop. “This is what we will continue to stress on so costs will be equal, after which transportation costs will be cheaper and logistics costs will also reduce,” he remarked.

Moreover, the government has decided to give funding to port operating company PT Pelindo in the eastern region, the head of state revealed.

“Projects in the eastern region must be given capital injection because they will not proceed unless they receive funding. Therefore, Pelindo IV will be given capital injection. I am confident that in three to four years time, all prices in the country will decline and competitiveness of our industrial products will increase,” he affirmed.

In addition, Director of PT Pelindo IV Mulyono said that the development of the Makassar New Port is part of efforts to develop the quality of sea transportation in the eastern Indonesian region.

He added that they have also developed and revitalized the Angin Mamiri passenger terminal to provide better services to commuters.

PT Pelindo IV will develop a 1,000-meter-long pier with a capacity of 1.5 million TEUs in the first stage. In the second stage, another 1,000-meter-long pier will be built with a capacity of 1.2 million TEUs. The existing capacity of the Makassar Port is only 550,000 to 700,000 TEUs a year.

According to the plan, the Makassar Port covering an area of 250 hectares will be integrated with a cargo railway system project in Southeast Sulawesi to further ease the distribution of goods.

Furthermore, the development of the Makassar New Port was financed by state-owned Bank Mandiri. The Rp3 trillion investment loan for the project from the bank for six to seven months will also be used to finance maintenance, the development of port facilities and modernization of loading and uploading systems in various working areas of PT Pelindo IV.

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Indonesia doubles agricultural budget to Rp32 trillion

22 May 2015 – Bantul, Yogyakarta (ANTARA News) – The government will double budget funds for the development of the agricultural sector this year to Rp32 trillion to support its program to achieve self-reliance in food production, a legislator stated.

“We, the House of Representatives, have agreed to double the budget funds to Rp32 trillion from Rp16 trillion allocated previously,” Deputy Chief of the House Commission IV Titiek Soeharto stated on the sidelines of her visit to Bantul district to distribute agricultural tools in a bid to provide assistance to farmer groups on Friday.

The budget funds will be used to improve the tertiary irrigation system and to procure fertilizers, seeds, and agricultural tools to increase productivity in a bid to support the governments program to achieve self-reliance in food production, she affirmed.

“Just in Bantul district, the assistance includes 10 hand tractors and five water pumps. The assistance has been handed over to farmer groups who are entitled to it and are registered with the local agricultural office,” she remarked.

According to her, the budget fund to boost farm production may be further increased in the revised 2015 state budget, and the House Commission IV will make the necessary efforts.

“In the revised 2015 state budget, there will be additional budget funds earmarked for registered farmer groups. Therefore, if farmer groups have not been registered, they should register with the relevant office,” he added.

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Bangladesh seeks Tk 200 crore allocation for tourism

DHAKA, May 22, 2015 (BSS)- Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon today said he sought Taka 200 crore allocation in upcoming budget to make a breakthrough in tourism sector by 2016, declared as tourism year by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

“We also sought Taka 30 crore extra apart from celebrating the tourism year. I believe we will be able to make a breakthrough by 2016 during the tourism year, targeting 10 lakh foreign tourists,’ he said.

He was speaking as the chief guest at a pre-budget discussion, organized by Aviation and Tourism Journalist’s Forum of Bangladesh (ATJFB) at Hotel Abakash in Mohakhali here.

Chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Civil Aviation and Tourism M Faruk Khan spoke as the special guest while ATJFB Convener Nadira Kiron moderated the discussion.

Chairman of Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) Air Vice Marshal Sanaul Haque, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Bangladesh Tourism Board Akhtaruz Zaman Khan Kabir and Director Commercial of Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation (BPC) Dr Nasir Uddin spoke as the Guest of Honour while additional director (research) of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Khondaker Golam Moazzem presented the key note paper.

Menon said all possible development works were finalised or underway to celebrate Tourism Year in 2016. A committee has been formed comprised the tour operators targeting the year, he added.

He said a regional conference on tourism will be organised here targeting to make the programme of tourism year a success. He urged the tour operators to focus on inbound tourists than outbound tourists in order to earn revenue.

Noting that presently citizens of seven countries are enjoying on arrival visa facilities for entering Bangladesh, the minister said all Bangladesh foreign missions have been directed to take steps to ease the Bangladesh visa procedure for attracting more foreign tourists here.

Menon called for public-private partnership for building up tourism based establishments in order to attack inbound tourists. “We can build hotels under private public partnership in order to boost tourism.

The minister said work order for upgrading domestic airport to international airport in the tourist destination Cox’s Bazar has been awarded while three bridges connecting Kuakata beach would be completed by December.

Primary works for Khanjahan Ali Airport in Bagherhat has been started targeting the Sundarbans bound tourists, he said. Faruk Khan laid emphasis on negotiating with the finance ministry for giving stimulation package to the tour operators. “I have already submitted a policy guideline to the finance ministry in this regard,” he said.

Moazzem recommended for building up infrastructure in the different domestic tourists locations considering the regional trans-boundary connectivity among the neighbouring countries. He recommended for splitting the civil aviation and tourism ministry considering the recent rapid growth in the country’s tourism industry.

Representatives from Tour Operators’ Association of Bangladesh (TOAB) put forward a set of recommendations, including deployment of tourist police, in the major tourist destinations.

President of Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh (ATAB) Manjur Morshed, TOAB director Syed Mahbubul Islam Bulu and Executive Director of Bengal Tours Masud Hossain took participation in the discussion, among others.

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Bangladesh prepares events for 2016 Tourism Year

KHULNA, May 19, 2015 (BSS) – Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon said here today that the government would prepare an event calendar incorporating various tourism activities to attract more foreign and domestic tourists ahead of 2016 that was earlier declared as a tourism year.

The minister said this while he was addressing as the chief guest in a reception ceremony given to him held at the auditorium of Khulna Officers Club in the city with Khulna city unit Awami League president Talukder Abdul Khaleque, MP, in the chair.

Awami League (AL) led 14 party alliance organized the reception for taking decision for construction of Khanjahan Ali airport in greater Khulna. Recently, the government has taken the decision for construction of an airport at Rampal upazila in Bagerhat involving Taka 555 crore.

“We’re planning massive programmes targeting the year. We’re even planning to hold a regional tourism conference in the capital involving World Tourism Organisation(WTO) to create enthusiasm among the foreign tourists to visit Bangladesh,” the minister said.

Menon said the government is working to develop more tourist spots side by side with the existing ones like Sunderban, Cox’s Bazar and Kuakata.

Among others, Workers party leaders comrade Hafizur Rahman Bhuiyan, advocate Mina Mizanur Rahman, JSD leader Rafiqul Haque Khokon, Al leader Sheikh Harun-ur-Rashid and advocate saiful Islam, also spoke.

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Tripura tourism eyes on Bangladesh beach

DHAKA, May 21, 2015 (BSS) – A sound connectivity between Bangladesh and Tripura can attract more Indian tourists to visit Cox’s bazaar, the longest unbroken sea beach in the world. “If direct communication between Bangladesh and Tripura is improved, lots of people from my province will visit Bangladesh to see your sea,” visiting Tripura Tourism Minister Ratan Bhoumik said when calling on Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon at Secretariat here today.

The visiting minister urged the Bangladesh minister to take steps for utilizing the ample opportunity for the country’s tourism industry. Lauding socio economic advancement of Bangladesh, Bhoumik said Bangladesh and Tripura can work together in the commerce and trade sector basing on the existing excellent friendly relations between Dhaka and Delhi.

Rashed Khan Menon said similarity in culture and language has been working as the bridge between peoples of Bangladesh and Tripura.

Recalling with gratitude the contribution of people of Tripura during the War of Independence of Bangladesh, Menon said though people of Bangladesh and Tripura are divided by borders, they are connected through souls.

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Qatar to hold tourism roadshows in Saudi Arabia

The Peninsula – 24 May, 2015 – Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) will lead a delegation from Qatar Airways and 11 hotels on a three-city road show in Saudi Arabia from today. The road show follows the opening of QTA representative offices in Jeddah and Riyadh last year and forms part of a strategy to enhance promotional efforts in key target markets in the GCC.

In Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam, QTA and partners will update over 120 Saudi-based travel agents and tour operators on tourism opportunities in Qatar and plans for the 2015 Qatar Summer Festival launched during Arabian Travel Market in Dubai earlier this month.

“The number of visitors from Saudi Arabia to Qatar increased by 28 percent in the first quarter of 2015 to over 240,000. Qatar is not standing still. Luxury hotel construction continues, transport infrastructure grows and bold new developments continue to be planned,” said Rashed Al Qurese, Chief Marketing and Promotions Officer, QTA.

“We will continue with new promotional initiatives in the region and QTA, with partner participants at the road show, will provide agents with insight into an excellent cross-section of Qatar’s hospitality offerings, focusing on the five-star, four-star and boutique hotel sectors and hotel apartments.

“Family-orientated tourism from the region remains prominent and we will always ensure that there is a focus on activities to meet the needs of this important target market,” he added.

He said the festival throughout August will include entertainment and cultural activities to attract an increasing number of tourists from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.

QTA will also recognise travel agents who have completed its online destination training programme, Tawash, which offers agents and other tourism professionals opportunity to register and start the process of becoming accredited tourism experts on Qatar by giving extensive online training information to enhance their knowledge on Qatar as a destination and better understand the offerings.

The programme, which has qualified over 600 tourism professionals internationally, aims to develop an international team of ‘tourism ambassadors’ for Qatar, in their home markets. The Qatari delegation will be led by Hamad Al Abdan, Director of Exhibitions, QTA.

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Free WiFi coming at Bahrain tourism hubs

Gulf Daily News – 21 May, 2015 – Free WiFi will be rolled out at some of the most popular tourist hubs in Manama. The Capital Trustees Board yesterday approved the creation of WiFi ‘hotspots’ in all tourist zones including the old Manama Suq, the restaurant area of Adliya, major public parks and walkways, Bahrain National Museum and in future at the Manama Central Market.

More locations will be added based on feedback from the public.

As Bahrain’s capital embraces technology, a new smartphone app will also be launched, highlighting attractions in Manama such as restaurants, cafés, shopping centres, cultural sites, entertainment and events.

‘Most tourists switch off their mobile data roaming when coming to Bahrain and depend on Internet networks at hotels or cafés, which is why many don’t stay at tourist locations for long. They want to rush to be online again,’ said Capital Trustees Board acting chairman Mazen Alumran.

‘We will be a leader in the region as many are still without the service in major tourist locations, with tourists being forced to sit at restaurants and cafés to get WiFi.

‘People will soon walk around the old Manama Suq and Bahrain National Museum with free WiFi and in the next few days we will work with providers to have this service installed.’

He said the service would also benefit people who live in Bahrain.

‘This is why we are planning to have it at major public parks and walkways, where many families spend time and some like surfing the Internet while their children are playing as they keep a careful watch on them,’ he added.

‘New locations are also in mind and we are planning to introduce it at the new Manama Central Market whenever it is rebuilt, among other areas that the public may suggest.’

The Capital Trustees Board is responsible for the Capital Governorate, which covers Manama, Juffair, Hoora, Gudaibiya, Sitra, Tubli, Jidhafs and the Seef District.

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Saudis to get free business visas in Bahrain

Gulf Daily News – 21 May, 2015 – Businessmen entering Bahrain from Saudi Arabia via the King Fahad Causeway can get free business visas, a top government official has announced. Nationality, Passport and Residence Authority (NPRA) Visa and Residence Permit director Shaikh Ahmed bin Abdulla Al Khalifa said that the regulation had been in place since April.

He was addressing businessmen at the second open meeting of the Bahrain Asian Traders Committee (BATC) at the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) in Sanabis. BATC chairman Mohammed Sajid said this was the first time in the GCC such a facility was extended to businessmen.

‘As we learn from Shaikh Abdulla, anyone living in Saudi Arabia, who holds a managerial position, can enter Bahrain without any fees,’ he told the GDN.

Shaikh Abdulla also said the NPRA was supporting traders and investors keen to do business in Bahrain. ‘Anyone with a business visa to any GCC country can get an online visa to Bahrain and doesn’t need a sponsor, which is another business-friendly measure we have adopted,’ he said.

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Abu Dhabi airport upgrades baggage handling systems

Khaleej Times – 21 May, 2015 – Abu Dhabi Airports announced the successful completion of the installation and renovation of Baggage Handling Systems at Terminal 1 and Terminal 3. The work was carried out by Abu Dhabi Airports’ subcontractor Siemens Logistics and Airport Solutions.

The state-of-the-art baggage handling systems use highly innovative technology that guarantees smooth baggage flow and helps to deliver an enhanced passenger experience. The existing systems in Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 have been expanded to include five new incline carousels, new conveyor connections and the respective control system adaptations. The fully integrated high-speed systems will have a throughput capacity of more than 4,800 items of baggage per hour. The project was completed ahead of schedule and in time for the peak travel season ahead.

The expansion and refurbishment of these vital airport facilities is part of Abu Dhabi International Airport’s Capacity Enhancement Programme, or CEP that has been implemented to manage the increasing growth in passenger numbers ahead of the completion of the Midfield Terminal Building. The new systems are also a further example of Abu Dhabi Airports’ determination to deploy innovative solutions at every opportunity.

Eng Ahmad Al Haddabi, chief operations officer at Abu Dhabi Airports, said: “AUH has consistently achieved year on year double digit growth in passenger numbers for the last decade. This growth will only continue, with current passenger numbers likely to increase by more than 20 per cent by 2017. Streamlining processes by adopting the latest technological solutions is essential for the efficient operation of our airport against this backdrop of growth. These efforts exemplify our commitment towards delivering the highest levels of customer satisfaction and offering a world class travel experience.”

This year, during the first quarter passenger traffic at Abu Dhabi International Airport increased by 21 per cent — a total of 5,521,110 passengers passed through the airport, compared with the same period in 2014.

“Siemens have a proven understanding of airport logistics and a track-record of successful projects around the world and we are delighted to have partnered with them,” Al Haddabi added.

AUH has also renewed a contract with Siemens Logistics and Airport Solutions to continue operation and maintenance services for the baggage handling systems at Terminal 1, Terminal 3 and the cargo hub of Abu Dhabi International Airport.

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Outstanding turnout at Omani expo in Saudi Arabia

Oman Daily Observer – 21 May, 2015 – The Omani Products Exhibition (OPEX 2015), which was inaugurated on Monday in Jeddah, is witnessing outstanding turnout of Saudi visitors, investors and businessmen.

During the first two days, more than 2,000 visitors have called on the exhibition and have been introduced to various Omani products. Statistics indicate that following the exhibition, which was previously held in Riyadh, the Omani export volume has doubled to the Saudi market.

OPEX in Jeddah will open new outlets for Omani products and thus increase trade exchange between the Sultanate and the kingdom of Saudi Arabia during the coming period. Basim bin Ali al Nassri, Director General of Marketing and Media at the Public Establishment for Industrial Estates (PEIE), member of the organising committee for OPEX, emphasised that Saudi investors and business owners from have expressed their positive impression on the excellent quality of Omani products during OPEX 2015.

“The positive feedback from the visitors is the result of constant efforts undertaken by the industrialists in the Sultanate and the support provided by the Omani government for local and foreign investors,” Al Nassri Said.

The participants taking part in the event expressed their satisfaction on the impressive turnout to the exhibition and stressed the significance of Jeddah market for their products.

Amina bint Ali al Balushi, Owner of A’Zari Projects who is participating in OPEX for the first time, says: “It’s a chance to get to know Saudi customers and their favourites in terms of clothing and materials. It is also a chance to promote our products and spread the culture of Omani customs.”

Khamis bin Mohammed al Alawi, representing General Leather Manufacturing company LLC, says that taking part in these events is a golden chance for any manufacturer to find investors and agents for their products.

“We always make sure to be part of OPEX as we have been there in Riyadh and Dubai exhibitions. Here in Jeddah we have noticed a good turnout from Saudi visitors and expect more in coming days,” he added.

Showcasing products in their stall, agents of Diana Med Equip believe that quality impose completion. Mahmood Husam Saleh from the company says it is very important to showcase products in such spots so that everybody will be able to compete for quality and the customer is the judge.

We already have met with Saudi importers who expressed their desire to buy from our products in order to distribute them to hospitals in Jeddah.

Saad bin Said al Balushi, Managing Director of Muscat Wet Wipes Co, notes that OPEX is a one of kind event that has its own footprint. In a market as the Saudi one, Omani products would be able to find many outlets and that was approved after OPEX in Riyadh two years ago. Al Balushi indicated that visitors show great interest in his company products as well as in other products shown in the exhibition.

Assad bin Said al Farhi, Deputy Commercial Director of Majan Glass Company SAOG, says his Company has been part of all OPEX editions from day 1.

“We believe in supporting Omani products locally and internationally and always make sure to participate in this exhibition because we could expand our industry abroad and get new investors and outlets outside local borders.”

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Optimism over KSA domestic tourism expenditure growth

Arab News – 22 May, 2015 – A planned portfolio of 20 hotels and 6 residential complexes in Saudi Arabia over the next seven years with SR1.5 billion investments will definitely enhance Dur Hospitality’s leadership position in Saudi Arabia and will reflect positively on its revenues, which are expected to increase 3 times by 2023.

The hospitality industry in the Middle East including Saudi Arabia was discussed during the Regional Leaders’ Panel at Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) 2015.

Badr Al-Badr, CEO of Dur Hospitality, said: “The market is promising as reputable sources expect 25 million visitors to Makkah and Madinah by 2025.”

He added: “The domestic tourism expenditure growth is forecasted to increase by 11 percent annually and inbound tourism by 13 percent annually especially after the completion of the two Holy mosques and the mega infrastructure projects.”

Dur Hospitality also revealed its expansionary plan targeting the emerging cities in Saudi Arabia such as Jubail, Yunbu and Tabuk, thus attracting business visitors. It announced the first Holiday Inn in Tabuk. This is the first hotel to be developed under the master development agreement (MDA) inked between IHG and DUR Hospitality Company last year.

Badr Al-Badr added: “Hotels are one of the investors’ most favorite choices but they require professional expertise and operational capabilities.

He said: “Dur therefore developed its operational strategy to cope with the investors who are looking for the perfect hospitality partner, by introducing 3 operational models — The Dur-owned hotels operated by international brands that rely on management agreements with international operators, under which falls our partnership with Marriott since 1979 and will soon announce 2 new projects in Riyadh.

Another model, are hotels operated by Dur Hospitality under its 10-year-old operational brand, Makarem that has recently re-launched its new brand identity and announced operating 10 new hotels in the coming 5 years. And finally Franchise agreements, represented by our partnership with IHG”

Badr Al-Badr highlighted the stability of the Saudi economy, which was not affected by the geo- political environment and the oil prices. On the contrary, he said the government expenditure did not change and with the fresh young leadership, things will become better.

Badr Al-Badr pointed out the Saudization is one of the major challenges for the hospitality industry. He stressed on the importance of attracting Saudi staff to work in the hospitality industry. Their contribution is required for healthy and sustainable development.

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Oman Convention Centre shines on world stage

Oman Daily Observer – 22 May, 2015 – The Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre (OCEC), the Sultanate’s landmark business events hub, revealed its latest 3D structures and aerial drone images in the lead up to the opening in 2016 at a press conference held in IMEX Frankfurt 2015, the leading worldwide exhibition for incentive travel, meetings and events.

OCEC General Manager, Trevor McCartney said the opening of the Exhibition Halls and hospitality suites will be a truly memorable occasion, changing the face of events in the region and putting the global spotlight on Oman as the new centre of opportunity.

“Our collaboration with the Oman Ministry of Tourism at IMEX over the last four years, and this most recent one in particular, has showcased the Sultanate as a formidable international events destination and intellectual knowledge hub, with the OCEC as its driving force and catalyst,” explained Trevor McCartney.

Oman’s current meetings and conventions industry offer, ahead of the opening of the OCEC, was recently endorsed when it was ranked, for the first time, in the top 80 countries worldwide, by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) — one of the most preeminent global meetings organisations.

The attraction of Oman as a business events destination has also been underpinned by the latest statistics from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) report, placing Oman at an impressive 9th position out of 141 countries worldwide under the security and safety criteria.

Sharing the statistics at an IMEX media conference, the OCEC general manager said “The most recent WTTC report on Oman, and indeed the many international accolades the Sultanate has received in the last year, is a positive affirmation of Oman’s tourism strategy. Striving to become a pioneer in business events in the Arabian Gulf, the OCEC is enormously proud to be a major force in the momentum of the industry.”

Indeed, as well as creating 8 per cent of the 72,000 jobs created in the travel and tourism sector by 2025, the OCEC with its surrounding precinct, is expected to contribute well over USD 400 million to GDP by the same year. In addition, the OCEC will be the impetus for a multitude of opportunities for SMEs in areas of food and beverage supplies, equipment hire, transportation, IT support, design and printing and event production.

According to Dr Ali bin Masoud al Sunaidy, Minister of Commerce and Industry and Chairman of Oman Tourism Development Management (Omran), said the OCEC will play a key role in achieving the vision of the government on the ground and in the achievement of a comprehensive economic diversity of the Sultanate, adding that it will also be a focus of the programme of Oman in the development of business that would put the Sultanate in the leading position and make it a major centre for hosting regional and international events which will reflect positively on the facilities and services of business tourism in the Sultanate and enhance the contribution of this vital sector at wider range.

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Demand soars for hospitality jobs in Middle East

Khaleej Times – 23 May, 2015 – Demand is soaring for jobs in the hospitality industry, the Monster Employment Index Middle East revealed. The banking and financial sector continues to be the best performer, closely followed by the hospitality industry. Oil and gas registered the steepest online job recruitment decline of all sectors in the region.

Egypt (up 38 per cent) and Saudi Arabia (32 per cent) continue to lead regional recruitment activity, but the UAE market picks up as well with a 16 per cent increase year-on-year across industries.

The Monster Employment Index is a monthly gauge of online job posting activity in the Middle East, based on a real-time review of tens of thousands of employer job opportunities culled from a large representative selection of career Web sites and online job listings. The index does not reflect the trend of any one advertiser or source, but is an aggregate measure of the change in job listings across the industry.

“The countries which are hiring the most continue to be Saudi Arabia and Egypt, with an increase of 32 and 38 per cent, respectively, in online recruitment activity, as compared to April 2014. Bahrain is also one of the top performers for the month of April 2015, with an increase in online job postings of 27 per cent year-on-year, making it the third-best performing country in the region. Online job listings in the UAE are picking up as well, having increased by 16 per cent in April 2015,” said Sanjay Modi, managing director of Monster.com for India, Middle East, Southeast Asia and Hong Kong.

“Once again, the banking and finance industry remains strong, taking the lead in online recruitment activity, showing a 79 per cent increase for the region, and a 30 per cent increase for the UAE, as compared to the same period last year. Demand for finance and accounting professionals increased by 79 per cent since April 2014 for the region, and 34 per cent since April 2014 for the UAE.”

“We attribute this growth to the positive developments in the region’s financial and banking sector, including the regulatory updates and the visible push from local governments to adhere to international best practices, good corporate governance and transparency.”

“At the same time, we are happy to see a bounce back in hiring activity in the hospitality industry, which was the second-best performer in the region, with a 54 per cent increase in job listings in April 2015, as compared to the same period last year.”

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Dubai Transport Authority to consider Smart Car Rental initiative

Khaleej Times – 24 May, 2015 – The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) is currently examining in detail the implementation of the Smart Rental initiative whereby cars will be on offer to ease the mobility of public transport riders, especially the Dubai Metro, to their final destinations.

It is believed that the initiative will have three-fold benefits in terms of increasing the ridership of public transport, reducing car ownership, and minimising carbon emissions.

Mattar Al Tayer, Director General and Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of RTA, said: “A team from the RTA has commissioned a study of the Smart Rental initiative to review the best global practices in this field.

The team developed the initial strategy towards exploring the possibility of implementing the initiative in the Emirate of Dubai, examined the impact of the initiative on traffic safety, and reviewed the most suitable operational model.

The gist of the initiative is that a person rents a car for a short period, not exceeding six hours, by using smart apps on mobile phones or online, and the vehicle will be collected from a public place without involving employees in the process.

Once the mission is accomplished, the car has to be returned to a specific location nearby metro stations.

The RTA is currently mulling three models of smart rental. The first is two-way rental model; where a person will collect the car from a specific location (near a public transport station) and the car has to be delivered back after use to the same location. The second is a one-way rental model; where a car will be collected from one location and delivered to another location. The third model is station vehicles; where a number of users will share the same vehicle.

The RTA is planning to offer the project to private companies in the near future,” explained Al Tayer.

“International practices reviewed by the RTA proved that the Smart Rental model has a host of benefits including reducing the ownership of private cars; where 25 to 71 per cent of respondents refrained from buying new vehicles, and 15 to 20 per cent of them disposed of their private vehicles.

Benefits also include reducing the distance covered by vehicles and accordingly curbing congestion as well as carbon emissions. It also contributed to increasing the use of mass transit means by as much as 13 to 54 per cent.

The RTA has then commissioned a questionnaire covering about 1000 samples to figure out places and scope of the anticipated demand for the Smart Rental model in the Emirate of Dubai.

Results showed that about 66 per cent of respondents welcomed the idea, and 80 per cent of them reported they would use the cars when provided.

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