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5 Oct, 2015

Sports Illustrated Dedicates “Sportsman of the Year Legacy Award” to Muhammad Ali

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 05 October 2015 (21 Dhul Ḥijjah 1436). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.




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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, is witnessing 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.




KL PASS Gives Tourists More Reasons To Stay Longer In Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur, 28 September 2015 – The Mayor of Kuala Lumpur, Datuk Hj. Mhd Amin Nordin Bin Abd Aziz, today officially launched the KL PASS™, an integrated tourist pass that offers tourists seamless access to tourism attractions and supporting amenities on top of other privileges and benefits.

The KL PASS™ is listed in the Kuala Lumpur Tourism Master Plan 2015-2025 under section walk the plan initiative 10.4: Developing an Integrated Pass. In his launch speech, YBhg. Datuk Mohd Amin Nordin Bin Abd Aziz said, “the KL PAS™S will be an important medium to increase the awareness of what Kuala Lumpur has to offer, contribute to the overall tourist experience and encourage tourists to increase their length of stay in the city. Even one night additional stay in the city will bring a substantial increase in tourism revenue for multiple sectors that are directly and indirectly connected to tourism in Kuala Lumpur”.

By design, the KL PASS™ is a one card integrated tourist pass mechanism for KL that cover tourism attractions, retails outlets, F&B and soon the public transportation. It has an IT management backend system that will run the pass efficiently and systematic, in accordance to the standard outlined in the Kuala Lumpur Tourism Master Plan. “And I am proud to announce that the KL PASS™ will be the first-of its-kind to be introduced in Malaysia, designed by the local provider with international standard features at par with similar passes available in different cities such as The Paris, London and New York Passes”, added the Mayor.

KL PASS™ is produced, managed and marketed by Meridian Tourist Access Sdn. Bhd. with the endorsement by Kuala Lumpur City Hall and Tourism Malaysia. Tourists purchasing the KL PASS™ will receive a KL PASS™ card together with a free 140-page KL PASS™ Guidebook. The KL PASS™ Guidebook comes in two variants; the Asian Edition, which is in English, Chinese and Arabic, and the European Edition which comes in English, French and German. Packed with information on where to use the KL PASS™ as well as a host of other useful information and tips for when visiting Kuala Lumpur, the Guidebook is a handy tool for any visitor to the city.

With the KL PASS™, tourists are entitled to gain entry without further payment at participating tourist attractions. All they have to do is present their pass at the entrance for verification and once the card’s validity is confirmed, they will be granted entry. The KL PASS™ can also be used to gain discounts and other special privileges when shopping, dining and entertaining in Kuala Lumpur.

Tourist attractions are currently on board of KL PASS™ includes the KL Tower, Aquaria KLCC, The KL Butterfly Park, Berjaya Times Square Indoor Theme Park, Batek Workshop at Kompleks Kraf, the Craft Museum, Discoveria@Avenue K, Escape Room @ Berjaya Times Square, Laser Battle @ Berjaya Times Square, MUD The Musical, The KL City Gallery, The KL Hop-On-Hop-Off, the KL Tram, Sunway Lagoon Theme Park, the Telekom Museum, The Foundry Workshop @ Royal Selangor and Zouk KL.

For the KL PASS™ stakeholders, it will bring benefits including source of new visitors, increase revenue, marketing reach and provide visitors behavior tracking database information. Such data will prove invaluable for future strategic planning and development of the Kuala Lumpur tourism industry.

The KL PASS™ comes in six variants; 1-Day, 3-Day and 6-Day passes for adults and children. The 1-day adult pass is priced at RM165.00 while the 3-day and 6-day passes are priced at RM395.00 and RM675.00 respectively. The 1-day child pass is priced at RM125.00 while the 3-day and 6-day passes are going for RM325.00 and RM515.00 respectively.

Managing Director of Meridian Tourist Access Sdn. Bhd., Farouk Nurish, said that the KL PASS™ is currently at phase one of its development. The Phase 2 will include more establishments and public transportation as well as to introduce a pass that specifically caters to domestic tourists as well as special interest passes that may include the KL Dining Pass and the KL Wellness Pass. “The smart-chip based system that is employed has the capacity to even store digital money, so in the future we hope to introduce the KL PASS™ Purse where tourists can conveniently and safely explore the city without the need to carry a lot of cash with them and yet be able to shop and dine using their KL PASS™,” said Farouk Nurish.

A very conservative figure of 20,000 cards are expected to sell within the first year of operations. The KL PASS™ website has organically attracted over 2,000 unique visitors in less than two weeks since it went live. What is more encouraging is that these hits have come from all over the world, including the UK, France, Germany, Spain, China, India, USA, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and the Middle East.

The KL PASS™ is available for purchase online as well as a number of sales outlets in the city and at KLIA. Foreign tourists may purchase the pass in their home countries and choose to either have the pass sent to them or collect their passes in KL when they arrive. Among the places the pass is currently available is at the KL City Gallery, the KL Concierge Kiosk and at the KL Hop-On-Hop-Off ticket counter. In the near future, a number of tourist attractions will also offer the pass for sale.

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Indonesia Prays For Islamic Banking Boom

JAKARTA, Indonesia Sept 27 (NNN-AGENCIES) — Indonesian teacher Nina Ramadhaniah hopes for “blessings from Allah” by opening a sharia bank account — the sort of pious customer the world’s most-populous Muslim-majority country is praying for as it launches an Islamic finance drive.

Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, has a Muslim population of around 225 million but this huge number of faithful has not translated into success for sharia banks, institutions required to do business in line with Islamic principles.

Now regulators have launched a plan aimed at growing the sector, which currently accounts for less than five percent of banking assets, compared to a quarter in neighbouring, more developed Muslim-majority Malaysia and around half in Saudi Arabia.

Authorities believe it is a good moment, with many Indonesians getting wealthier after years of strong economic growth and an increasing trend towards piety across broad sections of society.

Many of those without bank accounts, estimated at about 40 percent of the population, are soon expected to open one.

“The situation is an opportunity for the Islamic banking business to get bigger,” said Nasirwan Ilyas, a senior official from the Islamic banking division of the Financial Services Authority (OJK).

The OJK is spearheading the drive, and unveiled a five-year roadmap earlier this year that included plans to educate the public about sharia lenders and the establishment of an Islamic finance committee to better manage the sector.

Key features of sharia banking include the prohibition of interest on loans or customer deposits, and a ban on investing in “non-Islamic” businesses, such as those involving pork or alcohol.

For teacher Ramadhaniah, who has an account with Indonesia’s biggest Islamic lender, Bank Syariah Mandiri, the ban on interest is a key attraction.

“Charging interest is haram (against Islam), ill-gotten gains that will not bring me any blessings from Allah,” the 44-year-old said. “I don’t want to live in sin.”

Islamic banks have proven popular in recent years, with the sector expanding on average more than 40 percent a year between 2008 and 2012, according to the OJK.

The growth came after laws were changed to make it easier to establish an Islamic bank, and there are now a plethora of standalone sharia lenders,

Islamic banking units attached to conventional banks, and smaller Islamic financial institutions in the countryside.

Growth in the sector has lost steam due to a broader slowdown in the economy, which is expanding at six-year lows — giving authorities another reason to launch their drive.

Central to the overhaul is a plan to set up a National Islamic Finance Committee this year, to oversee the sector by bringing together representatives from different government agencies and act as a contact point for potential foreign investors.

Currently responsibility for the sector is spread around different bodies, such as the OJK, the central bank and the finance ministry, according to the OJK’s Ilyas.

It is modelled after similar bodies in other countries, such as the International Islamic Financial Centre in Malaysia, where the sector is already far more developed as the government started supporting it some years ago.

In addition to the OJK roadmap, the government has announced plans to merge the Islamic banking subsidiaries of four state-owned banks to create an Islamic mega-bank, which should be able to provide better services than the current Islamic lenders.

While observers have broadly welcomed the plans, they concede that many difficulties remain.

Khalid Howladar, Moody’s global head of Islamic finance, said it would be “quite a challenge” to grow the sector to a substantial level.

“The market is growing faster than conventional but from a very low base,” he said, adding Islamic banks in Indonesia did not offer “substantive competition” to their non-sharia peers.

But for Ramadhaniah and a growing army of devout Indonesians with new-found spending power, Islamic banks remain the only choice.

“I really don’t care that I’m not earning anything or getting lower returns on my investments,” she said. “I can live in peace.”

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Indonesia Explores West African Market

JAKARTA, Sep, 23 2015 – (ACN Newswire) – The Indonesian Trade Promotion Center (ITPC) Lagos is exploring the West African market, which has a more stable economy and does not depend entirely on the industry and export of crude oil.

“ITPC Lagos is targeting the market of three countries, such as Benin, Togo, and Ghana through a business meeting while promoting the 30th Trade Expo Indonesia (TEI),” Head of ITPC Lagos Nino Wawan Setiawan said in a press release received here on Monday, September 21.

In the meeting, ITPC Lagos discussed three main issues: trade, tourism, and investment.

Indonesia is a promising country for investment and business cooperation as it is the world’s fourth-largest population, has a fast-growing middle class, and offers a conducive investment climate.

“Indonesia has immense potential for world investment. Moreover, the three African countries also have the potential for cooperation in trade and investment,” Nino pointed out.

The ITPC invited businessmen from Benin, Togo, and Ghana to gain a firsthand glimpse of Indonesia’s areas of potential through the 30th TEI exhibition to be held on October 21-25, 2015, in Jakarta.

The value of Indonesian non-oil exports to the three countries recorded a positive trend in 2010-2014.

In 2014, the value of Indonesia’s exports to Benin amounted to US$213 million, while its export value to Togo in 2014 amounted to US$132.99 million, and its exports to Ghana amounted to US$212.3 million.

In 2014, Indonesia’s trade balance with Benin recorded a surplus of US$182.01 million, a surplus of US$131.67 million with Togo, and a surplus of US$183.55 million with Ghana.

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Indonesia, China Start Using Direct Yuan, Rupiah Transactions

JAKARTA, Sep, 23 2015 – (ACN Newswire) – Indonesia and China would continue to push for direct transactions between the national currencies of the two nations to boost bilateral economic cooperation, an official said.

“Trade and economic cooperation between the two countries would expand. Therefore, it is better for us to have direct transactions in rupiah and yuan (Renminbi/ RMB),” Minister for State Enterprises Rini Sumarmo told Antara news agency here Wednesday night.

Rini was here to attend the signing of a loan agreement between three state lenders – Bank Mandiri, Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI) and Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI) with China Development Bank (CDB).

The minister said direct transactions using rupiah and yuan would protect both currencies from the negative impact of any change in demand for US dollar.

Increase in demand for dollar would put pressure on rupiah and yuan if the two countries would continue to use the US currency in bilateral transactions, she said.

Bank Mandiri, BNI and BRI received a total loan of US$3 billion from China Development Bank to finance infrastructure projects in Indonesia.

The agreement was signed by Bank Mandiri President Budi G. Sadikin, BRI president Asmawi Syam and BNI president Ahmad Baiquni and CDB president Zeng Zhijie with Rini and National Development and Reform Committee (NDRC) Xu Shaoshi.

The loan was the first part of a total loan of US$20 billion agreed between the Ministry of State Enterprises, CDB and NDRC, Rini said, adding there is also a loan of US$10 billion for PLN, the national power utility company.

The three state banks had a share of US$1 billion of the US$3 billion loan repayable in 10 years.

“Around 30 percent of the loan would be in Renminbi (RMB). This is the first phase. In the second phase the two countries agree to use direct transaction using rupiah and RMB,” she said.

Budi Gunadi Sadikin said Bank Mandiri already proposed the use of RMB in banking transaction by its branch in Shanghai.

“Hopefully by the end of this year we could start using RMB, and no longer has to use dollar especially in banking deals in China,” he said.

Achmad Baiquni said his bank already used RMB in banking transactions in a number of facilities for debtors.

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Sports Illustrated Dedicates “Sportsman of the Year Legacy Award” to Muhammad Ali

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE) September 25, 2015 –Today Time Inc.’s Sports Illustrated announced that it will dedicate the franchise’s Sportsman Legacy Award in the name of boxing legend, civil rights leader, humanitarian and icon, Muhammad Ali.

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

It will now be known as the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award. The Legacy Award was created in 2008 to honor former athletes and sports figures who embody the ideals of sportsmanship, leadership and philanthropy as vehicles for changing the world. There is no better example of this tradition of excellence and influence than Muhammad Ali.

Mr. Ali will be recognized at a dedication ceremony taking place at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Ky., on October 1, which also marks the 40th anniversary of the legendary “Thrilla in Manilla” bout in which Ali defeated Joe Frazier. It is arguably the greatest heavyweight championship fight ever.

“When I was featured on my first Sports Illustrated cover in 1963, it was a huge turning point in my career,” said Muhammad Ali. “Ever since, Sports Illustrated has been there documenting the great moments of my life, a relationship that has been integral to both my boxing career and now, the mission and legacy of the Muhammad Ali Center. It’s a relationship for which I will always be grateful. To have an award named in my honor by Sports Illustrated is something I could have never expected as a young man back in 1963 when I posed for that first cover. I am truly touched. I know there will be a great tradition of champions to receive this award in the future and I look forward to celebrating their spirit and accomplishments.”

Time Inc. and Sports Illustrated are proud to pay tribute to Muhammad Ali as the embodiment of this award. The company is proud to team up with Under Armour which will showcase its performance collection inspired by Ali at the dedication event. The global performance brand recently announced a long-term partnership with The Champ, celebrating his unyielding will as an athlete and humanitarian.

Ali is a true champion whose achievements in the ring only begin to tell his story. Ali was also a catalyst for social, political and humanitarian change that has shaped the global culture and influenced several generations. Furthermore, this honor symbolizes the long and storied relationship between SI and Ali: Muhammad Ali has been on the cover of Sports Illustrated 38 times, was named Sportsman of the Year in 1974 and received the singular distinction of being named SI’s Sportsman of the 20th Century.

Some of the most iconic images of sport in the last century – including famed SI photographer Neil Leifer’s shot of Ali standing over former champ Sonny Liston and his dozens of other images of the man inside and outside the ring – feature Ali and first appeared to the public on the pages of SI. Over the years some of SI’s most esteemed journalists — Mark Kram, Gary Smith, Pat Putnam and William Nack — have documented the Ali story.

Only two individuals have been selected by the SI editorial team to receive the Legacy Award. Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder and driving force behind the Special Olympics, was the inaugural honoree, with her brother Bobby accepting the award in her honor during the annual Sportsman of the Year ceremony. In 2014, Earvin (Magic) Johnson was honored for his two decades as an entrepreneur, philanthropist and social and political activist. He also accepted the honor at the annual Sportsman event, where he was commended by President Bill Clinton and NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

“It is very exciting to have this prestigious award, which I was honored to have received last year, associated with Muhammad Ali, one of the greatest athletes and cultural figures of our time,” said Earvin (Magic) Johnson. “I grew up reading Sports Illustrated and have long followed the career of and looked up to ‘The Greatest,’ and am humbled to now forever have my name linked with both Ali and a true inspiration in Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who was the first to be very deservedly recognized with the tribute.”

“Every time we sat in a room to discuss the Legacy Award honoree we found ourselves measuring the candidates up against the collective work of Muhammad Ali who is the most transcendent figure in sports history,” said Sports Illustrated Group Editor Paul Fichtenbaum. “It’s only fitting that we pay our highest tribute to him by renaming the award in his honor.”

Ali is an Olympic gold medalist, Golden Gloves champion and three-time world heavyweight champion boxer with an all-time record of 56 wins (37 KOs) and five losses. Outside of the ring Ali became an international media phenomenon after his early successes in the sport and used that platform to voice his views on everything from the civil rights movement in the U.S. to his public conversion to Islam and his refusal to serve in the Vietnam War and fight for peace, to his public battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Other awards and accolades for Ali over his lifetime include being named a United Nations Messenger of Peace, receiving a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Constitution Center Liberty Medal and Amnesty International’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He has made goodwill missions to Afghanistan and North Korea; delivered medical supplies to an embargoed Cuba; traveled to Iraq and secured the release of 15 United States hostages during the first Gulf War; and journeyed to South Africa to meet Nelson Mandela upon his release from prison.

In addition to co-founding The Muhammad Ali Center with his wife, Lonnie, Mr. Ali hosts the annual Celebrity Fight Night in Phoenix and contributes substantially to the awareness of and research efforts for Parkinson’s disease. The Muhammad Ali Center, in the Alis’ home of Louisville, Ky., is a cultural center that promotes the six core principles of Muhammad Ali (“Confidence, Conviction, Dedication, Giving, Respect, and Spirituality”) to achieve personal and global greatness, and provides programming and events around these principles.

Muhammad Ali has proven that one person can have a powerful impact on the world and that athletes can discuss subjects outside the arena in order to inspire peace and well-being. Under this new name, the presentation of Time Inc.’s Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year Muhammad Ali Legacy Award will forever honor this legend’s achievements.

For more information, please visit www.alicenter.org

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Iran to hold investment seminar on Transport

Tehran, Sept 29, IRNA — International Seminar on Investment Opportunities in Transport, Housing and Urban Development will be held in Tehran on October 3-4 in presence of 150 foreign companies and 800 businessmen.

Indian and Swiss ministers of transportation and Secretary General of Organization for International Carriage by Rail (OTIF) are slated to attend the upcoming event.
During the two-day seminar, some 121 important projects worth of $25 billion will be presented to the Iranian and foreign investors during the event.

Indian Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari and Swiss Minister of Transportation, Environment, Energy and Communications Doris Leuthard and Secretary General of Organization for International Carriage by Rail (OTIF) François Davenne are to address the upcoming event.

Meanwhile, Ministry of Roads and Urban Development has invited a number of foreign officials including ministers, ambassadors and secretaries general of international organizations.

First International Seminar on Investment Opportunities in Transportation, Housing and Urban Development will be held at the Islamic Republic Of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) Conference Hall.

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Indonesia budgets Rp 105 trillion to develop railways outside Java

Jakarta, October 03 2015, thejakartapost.com – The Transportation Ministry is set to allocate Rp 105 trillion (US$7.126 billion) until 2019 to construct railways outside Java.

According to the ministry’s expert staff, Hadi Mustofa Juraid, of the 6,500 kilometers of railway outside Java, only 3,500 km was in use.

“We are going to optimize the state budget to develop a transportation network outside Java,” said Hadi on Saturday as quoted by kompas.com.

The budget allocation is said to include railway development in Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Papua and several reactivated railways in Java.

For Trans-Sumatra, the ministry is ready to allocate around Rp 41.12 trillion to construct 1,399 km of new railway and reactivate 111 km.

“We will reactivate the 111-kilometer railway, which stretches from the east coast of Sumatra to Riau, Jambi and turns into Padang until Lampung. We will connect it with the railway in Medan, West Sumatra, which already exists,” said Hadi.

Meanwhile, for Trans-Sulawesi, the ministry is set to allocate around Rp 31.25 trillion until 2019 to construct a 1,772 km railway that will connect Makassar and Manado.

According to Hadi, the development of Trans-Sulawesi has begun and is estimated to be launched by the end of this year as the project’s first phase that connects Makassar and Pare-pare has been built.

The ministry will also allocate around Rp 22.9 trillion to build the 2,428 km Trans-Kalimantan railway in five years. The project is currently in the feasibility study phase. The government’s plan is to construct up to 2,500 km of railway from Pontianak in West Kalimantan to Samarinda in East Kalimantan.

“There are plans to use the (Trans-Kalimantan) railway to transport goods and coal. I heard (foreign investors) such as Qatar and Russia are interested (in doing business),” said Hadi.

In Papua, railway is set to reach 390 km, with a feasibility study aimed to begin this year. The budget is estimated to reach Rp 10.33 trillion.

The ministry will also reactivate railway tracks in several areas in Java and complete double tracks in the southern part of the island. It also plans to reconnect a maritime highway with railway by connecting it with seaports such as Tanjung Priok in Jakarta, Tanjung Emas in Semarang and Tanjung Perak in Surabaya.

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Tourism Indonesia Mart & Expo (TIME) 2015 Returns To Jakarta

Jakarta, 3 October 2015. The Indonesian annual travel mart, Tourism Indonesia Mart & Expo (TIME) or Pasar Wisata Indonesia this year is set to take place in Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia. Themed “The Role of Tourism in Stimulating the National Economy: Challenges and Opportunities for Maritime Tourism towards ASEAN Economic Community”, this premier tourism event is scheduled on 13 – 16 October 2015 at Grand Sahid Jaya Hotel Jakarta.

Meity Robot, Chairperson of TIME 2015 said, entering its 21st year of conduct, TIME will be held in Jakarta after being rotated in various provinces in Indonesia for eleven years.

“We are excited Jakarta will host TIME this year. We encourage buyers worldwide and sellers from various provinces in Indonesia to take part in this annual Indonesian travel trade tourism event, to signify interests and confidence towards Indonesia, networking opportunity within the framework of mutually beneficial business alliance, and explore every possibility for expanding their business in Indonesia”, Meity pointed out.

The Chairperson of Indonesia Tourism Promotion Board (ITPB), Yanti Sukamdani said, “Tourism Indonesia Mart & Expo (TIME) reflects our commitment to support the Indonesian tourism industry and at the same time maintain the country’s image to the international market”.

This year Indonesian Tourism Ministry has set a target to receive 10 million foreign tourists and aimed to welcome 20 million of tourist arrivals by 2019. In line with this, the government has moved to waive visa requirements from dozens of countries reaching now to 90 countries as one of important steps to help Indonesia achieve its target of foreign tourist arrivals as well as intensify overseas promotions to realize the target.

TIME has been recognized as the market place for international buyers of tourism and travel products to meet all of Indonesia under of roof. It accommodates the interests of those who offer Indonesia’s tourism products and services to the international markets. The event will feature most of Indonesia’s tourist attractions which include all popular destinations and special interests as well as top tourist facilities available in the country. It is also the best and most effective means for buyers from all over the world to experience and understand the Wonderful Indonesia.

TIME 2015 is supported by the Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia and the entire component of Indonesian tourism, including Indonesia Tourism Promotion Board (ITPB), Indonesian Tourism Council (MPI), Garuda Indonesia as Official Airlines, Association of the Indonesian Tours & Travel Agencies (ASITA), Indonesia Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI), Indonesian Conference and Convention Association (INCCA), and Pacto Convex as the event organizer.

TIME last year was held in Banda Aceh, recorded attendants of 60 Buyers from 18 countries which mostly from Malaysia, Singapore, the Netherlands, Bangladesh, and Indonesia, with 60 Sellers from various provinces of Indonesia dominated by Aceh, Riau islands, North Sumatra, East Java, and Bangka Belitung occupying 36 Booths at the Mart. The percentage of Sellers based on industry is Hotel, Resort & Spa (75%), NTO (10%), Tour Operator/Travel Agent (7%), Adventure/Activity Holiday (3%), Airline (1.5%), and Others (Hotel Management, Tourism Board, Tourism Organization (8.5%).

For further information, please visit www.tourismindonesiamartexpo.com

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Palestinian businesswoman launches fashion line, opens own store with ITC support

Ramallah, State of Palestine, by ITC News, 01 Oct 2015 – Naima Zeyad is doing good business.

‘I feel as if I were a different person,’ said the Palestinian businesswomen. ‘Thanks to ITC, I can introduce myself and my business better, I have a nice new product line and my own brand, and I opened my own store.’

Zeyad is a beneficiary of the International Trade Centre’s (ITC) project on Enhancing Women SME Development in the State of Palestine (EWED), implemented in partnership with the Business Women Forum in the State of Palestine.

The project is designed to improve the competitiveness of women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and increase their participation in export value chains, allowing them to put creative products in the spotlight.

Zeyad previously worked as a producer for various embroidery businesses in the State of Palestine. After joining the EWED project, she decided to open her own business, called Heritage Touch, and product line.
Meeting buyers’ requirements

With support from ITC, Zeyad launched her first jewellery line and began creating a new product line featuring cushions, bags, clutches and hangings, with designs that cater to the taste of customers around the world. She now employs more than 40 women embroiderers.

‘Working with international consultants and designers has enhanced my knowledge about international markets, which enabled me to develop a new line of products with a variety of colors and styles that meets the requirements of different buyers,’ she said.

Thanks to the EWED project, the main telecommunications company in the State of Palestine contracted her business to provide pendants, earrings and necklaces to be given as corporate gifts to customers.

‘We are proud of the results, and we are looking forward to continue working with more women,’ said ITC project manager Eman Beseiso. ‘Women entrepreneurs are enhancing their capacities and international competitiveness, finding buyers and accessing new markets. We believe this will contribute to the Palestinian vision of “Export-Led Prosperity, Made in Palestine.”’
Opening new doors

With the support of the Business Women Forum in registering Heritage Touch with the chamber of commerce, Zeyad opened her own store in Ramallah.

The EWED project – funded by ITC through its Women and Trade Programme in partnership with the Business Women Forum – aims to increase income opportunities for women and improve the livelihoods of 21 women business owners in the State of Palestine.

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Algeria to launch New Nationwide Tourism Project

28 September 2015 – Algerie Presse Service (Algiers) — Minister of Planning, Tourism and Handicrafts Amar Ghoul announced Sunday in Algiers the launching of a new tourism project that will ensure, in the medium term, 500,000 beds nationwide.

“This ambitious project, which will ensure 500,000 new beds in the medium term, includes the construction of hotels, tourist villages and complexes in various provinces of the country,” said the minister on a meeting organized on the occasion of the World Tourism Day.

In this regard, Ghoul insisted on the need to “execute tourism projects meeting the clients’ expectations and matching Algeria’s tourism potentialities.”

He also stressed the importance of “supporting hotel training,” underlining the need to “diversify tourist offers to meet the demand, strengthen reception capacities and suggest reasonable prices to encourage domestic tourism for the benefit of the Algerian families.”

Ghoul insisted on the need to “deal with the concerns of the Algerian community abroad by suggesting offers that meet their expectations in this field, as well as the promotion of the southern regions which conceal major tourist, historic, civilizational and cultural likely to attract foreign tourists.”

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Gambia focuses on ‘One Billion Tourists, One Billion Opportunities’

30 September 2015 – The Daily Observer (Banjul) – Joining the world to celebrate World Tourism Day, Destination Gambia, is obviously one of the tourism countries in Africa that places more emphasis on developing its tourism and hospitality industry which contributes not less than 16-20% to the country’s GDP.

Tourism industry in The Gambia is one of the sectors that can survive the country if everyone continues to work hard for the development of the industry with proper attention taking into consideration the theme for this year celebration – ‘One billion tourists, one billion opportunities.’

Destination Gambia continues to improve year-in-year-out in term of diversification, products, numbers of arrival, accommodation, good service delivery, in quality and standard among other requirements for the sector.

The country becomes the choice of holidaymakers from different countries because of the weather; facilities; the country’s hospitality; tourism sites plus its numerous rich cultural heritages and festivals and easy access to the destination without jet lag.

In an interview with Adama Njie, Director of Marketing at Gambia Tourism Board (GTBoard) explained the important of tourism among other things.

DO: In brief how important is tourism to Destination Gambia?

Adama: The important of tourism to the destination cannot be over emphasised both in term of employment, foreign exchange and its contribution to the country’s GDP. These are three main important things actually derives from tourism. Last year there was Ebola crisis in few part of West Africa countries that many people have to retrench from the industry. This has bad effect on the entire continent because without tourism the level of foreign exchange will actually go down drastically. So, it is not a coincidence for tourism to be one of the most important industries in the country.

DO: As the world celebrates the 35th anniversary of World Tourism Day, can you tell us so far what The Gambia has able to achieved in tourism?

Adama: With tourism the country has achieved a lot. Look at the number of tourism establishments especially hotels since 1965 up till date there is massive development. If you want to compare how tourism actually started then with where it is now there is a wider margin. Taking into consideration the level of employment and the more hotels establish the more people are employ directly or indirectly. More other achievements, is some of the infrastructural development over the years particularly from 1994 to date. There is progress and you can see that with tourism, things are moving that everyone is convinced that there are achievements and they are really and evidence for everyone to see.

DO: In effort to continue developing the sector in The Gambia, can you tell us the activities that GTBoard embarks on in the industry when it comes to training, workshops, skills, creativity among other things for tourism practitioners?

Adama: Not only the Gambia Tourism Board but the Ministry of Tourism and Culture and other stakeholders have taken different strides in term of capacity building, training, attending relevant trade fair, and diversifying our products. Example of this product is fishing competition, food and beverage festival, bird fair festival slated for October 2016. Bird fair has never happen in Africa before and Destination Gambia will be the first to host it for the first time. All these and many more other products like the Roots International Homecoming Festival and other cultural festivals. The Gambia tourism activities can be check out through the national calendar of event on our website – www.go-gambia.com www.visitthegambia.gm

DO: The Gambia tourism sector has become a mentor and role model to some other countries in Africa; many want to learn from the country’s experience. How important is this to GTBoard and tourism fraternity in the country and how do you think this standard can be maintained?

Adama: Very important that we have reviewed hotel standard and classification. Many countries in Africa look at The Gambia as a champion in term of tourism. They are right! This is because they’ve seen the massive development the country has achieved since tourism was known in the destination. The GTBoard under its Ministry has MoU with NTDC because of our experience in tourism that other countries want to learn best practice from us. Ths is actually one thing that we can be proud about. And recently we have some delegation from Ghana and they are as well looking up to having cooperation with the Gambia because of our ways of practicing tourism in the country. We will maintain the as we will continue to do what we know how to do best as we are seeing as Tourism Ambassador in term of tourism development throughout Africa.

DO: In the Smiling Coast, the new winter tourist season 2015/2016 just unfolds and the world celebrating 35th World Tourism Day with theme ‘One billion tourists, one billion opportunities.’ Is there any hope that a lot will be achieved for this year’s winter tourist season 2015/2016 if everything goes well? and what is the assurance?

Adama: We are optimistic that this just started season will be better than last year. The Gambia could have surpassed the 2013/2014 tourist arrival in the last season if not the Ebola crisis in 2014/2015 winter tourism season. But we are very optimistic and well prepared and if all things go well 2015/2016 is going to be a better season compare to 2014/2015 winter tourism season. We would continue with the trend whatever activity we start to counter or to mitigate the negative mentality of the westerners concerning Ebola virus as The Gambia is very free and not affected.

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Morocco to host “Visa for Music” extravaganza Nov 11-14

2 October 2015 – The Point (Banjul) – Visa For Music (VFM) the international market for African and Middle-Eastern music has announced that they will be holding the 2nd edition of professional meetings, conferences, a music exhibition, screenings, and more than 40 showcases to spotlight the artistes from Morocco, the rest of the continent, the Middle East and the Diaspora on 11-14 November 2015 in Rabat, Morocco.

It said they will host the long-awaited event. Here is the first list of the showcases’ programme that reveals its musical diversity.

Among the Moroccan selection, VFM will welcome Jamal Nouman Sextet, the singer Oum, Mazagan& Hamid El Hadri and rapper Dizzy Dros, North Africa will be represented by Nadia Khaless Trio (Tunisia-Morocco), Imed Alibi (Tunisia), Djmawi Africa (Algeria),GabachoMaroconnection (Morocco, Spain, France) and Al-Mu’tamid, the king of the Al-Andalus who offers a journey in a plural Andalusia (Portugal/Espagne/Maroc).

From Africa, there will be also programmed bands whose mixed influences are to be found in their music, such as Moh! Kouyate (France/Guinea), Maya Kamaty (Reunion Island) and Alsarah& The Nubatones (Sudan). Rapper Smockey (Burkina Faso) and jazz singer JemimahSanyu and unit 446 (Uganda) will also hit the stage.

The following Magnetic Middle-Eastern bands will represent their region: indie rock band Autostrad (Jordan), Cairokee (Egypt), Elcontainer Band (Palestine), IlhanErsahin (Turkey) and Tarabband (Sweden/Egypt/France).

As African music esthetics have crossed the Atlantic Ocean for centuries, some bands representing Afro-Caribbean music are naturally part of the selection: Groupe Creole (Colombia) and 7 Estrelo (Brazil).

Brahim EL Mazned, Director of Visa For Music, (VFM) said: “As the first professional music salon for Morocco, the Middle East and Africa, Visa For Music promises to be a unique and indispensable international marketplace for World and New Music of these regions, and a professional platform for the music industry in Morocco and countries of the South”

He noted that it will provide a leading opportunity to showcase the Moroccan musical identity.

He explained that Visa For Music aims to be the essential meeting place for professionals in the music industry at large: Moroccan and international, independent and major labels, producers and broadcasters, publishers and distributors, theatres and festivals, artistic directors, artistes and groups, as well as professional organizations, civil societies, authors, institutions, foundations, media companies.

He added that connections will also be established with a number of industries that are impacted by music, including the film industry and the advertising sector.

“If there is one country in Africa which can legitimately claim the right to organize this event, then it is Morocco. The country has experienced in recent years a growth in the development of its cultural and musical landscape through the creation of large festivals,” he said.

According to him, they have matured and are experiencing a growing international reputation combined with strong popularity thanks to the quality of the programming; balancing guest artistes of international renowned, emerging artistes with high potential, and the promotion of modern Moroccan music, building strong and clear identities for each sector.

“The cultural and touristic reputation and attractiveness of the destination of Rabat, within three hours from major European cities, helps showcase this international event,” he said.

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Algeria Sets New Incentives for Tourism Investment

26 September 2015 – Algerie Presse Service (Algiers) — The Ministry of National Planning, Tourism and Craft Industry launched, in September, the implementation of incentive measures for tourism investment projects, approved during the meeting between Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal and walis (governors) in August, said Zoubir Mohamed Sofiane, in charge of tourism projects at the Ministry.

The new measures aim at “removing administrative and bureaucratic obstacles by simplifying administrative procedures and using new technologies,” he explained.

“The investment projects applications will be processed within one week. The investors of approved projects will be informed by e-mail,” he added.

“Strict instructions” were given to tourism provincial directors on the implementation of the incentives, with the mobilization of all the required technical resources to ensure the prompt processing of investment applications,” he said.

Walis have all the prerogatives and work in coordination with the directors in charge of investment applications to identify the sites for these projects, especially in the sector of tourism, he added.

The Ministry has approved 1,000 tourism projects, which will help create over 50,000 jobs.

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Algeria Mechanisms to Support Local Investment

28 September 2015 – Algerie Presse Service – Laghouat — Minister of Interior and Local Authorities Noureddine Bedoui stressed Monday in Laghouat the State has set up all the mechanisms to support local investment.

“The state will support local assemblies in creating areas of activities and set up all the mechanisms to support local investment, including the granting of loans without interests,” the minister said when inspecting the industrial park under construction in the territory of the municipality of Bennacer Benchohra.

Bedoui emphasized on the “recovery of industrial land and the large land available, so as to attract investors from across the country.”

After emphasizing the importance of knowing the needs of each region in this regard, the Minister stressed the need to “comply with each province’s economic specificities to create wealth and generate employment, while benefiting from incentives introduced by the government in this area.”

While visiting the industrial zone, the minister listened to a presentation on the situation of the existing industrial land in the province of Laghouat which currently covers a total area of 309 hectares, of which 516 plots were allocated to investors.

In this regard, 74 projects entered phase of activity and 157 others are under implementation.

In the same industrial area, the minister visited a plastic recycling unit and manufacturing of plastic ties and cardboard materials, which began its activity in December 2014.

He then visited a unit of electricity pylons, with a production capacity of 36 units/day and an investment of DZD 537 million This unit is expected to generate 150 jobs, including 50 temporary ones in its launch in the first half of 2016, according to the data sheet of the project.

Bedoui also visited the construction site of a brick kiln with a capacity of 350,000 tons/year, extending over an area of six (6) ha, to be commissioned in the second half of 2016, according to the information provided to the ministerial delegation.

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BADEA Approves New Financing for African Countries

2 October 2015 – SudaNow (Khartoum) – The Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) approved new financing for the benefit of sub-Saharan African countries, for a total amount of US$ 38.270 million, out of which US $ 22.800 million were allocated to finance 2 development projects, while US $ 12.000 million were earmarked to finance a line of credit and US $ 3.470 million to finance 12 technical assistance operations.

BADEA’s Board of Directors agreed on the new financing in its 3rd meeting for the year 2015 which was held during the period 30 September-2nd October.

The meeting was chaired by Chairman of the Board Engineer Yousif Ibn Ibrahim al-Bassam, in the presence of Dr. Sidi Ould TAH, the Director General of the Bank.

The beneficiary countries of the financing for the development projects are Rwanda and São Tomé and Príncipe while the line of credit was approved for the East African Development Bank and the technical assistance for Burkina Faso, Gambia, Cote d’Ifoire, Kenya, Madagascar, Swaziland, Senegal, Chad, Guinea and three regional institutions.

The Board also reviewed a number of important issues; foremost was the Director General’s report on the Bank’s activities during the period July – September 2015, in addition to a number of financial reports.

BADEA’s total cumulative financial commitments to African beneficiary countries, including the new commitments, now stands at US$ 4,876 million.

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Somalia Proposes ‘Grand Development Plan’ to Rebuild Infrastructure

1 October 2015 – UN News Service – Applauding the international community’s role in helping Somalia emerge from a difficult past, Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke told the United Nations General Assembly today that a new Somalia is taking shape and proposed the “grand development plan” that would help Somali’s keep building a better future.

“I want to tell you about Somalia,” he said. “But a different Somalia from the one you might have heard of. I am not here to challenge you on our notoriety as a result of a conflict that has spanned two and half decades. However, please allow me to introduce another reality.”

“My people are ambitious,” he continued. “We are survivors and, given the chance, we can drive forward the socioeconomic landscape of East Africa,” he said, noting the country’s untapped oil and gas reserves.

Mr. Sharmarke said that his Government wanted to “ensure a free and fair election,” despite the presence of “an active insurgency, which we are risking our lives to dismantle.”

He also raised the issue of Somali refugees and undocumented migrants living in temporary camps, and urged the General Assembly to help his Government find a solution.

Mr. Sharmarke then turned his attention to the lack of adequate infrastructure in Somalia, saying “the public services that many people around the world take for granted, Somalia lacks completely, or has in very short supply.”

He announced a new “Grand Development Plan” for the country to rebuild roads, schools, hospitals, community centres, ports, airports and markets, a plan that he said was aligned with the new UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Plan, which would be shared with the wider international community in due course, would, among others, ensure accountability and transparency for every investment made. “Each UN Member State will have the opportunity to (help transform) Somalia into an economic powerhouse and future trading partner,” he declared.

Speaking of the insurgents who, he said, has controlled Somalia four years ago, Mr. Sharmarke noted: “We are looking forward to not only bounce back for our benefit, but to also become that shining example to nations that are now in the throes of hardship, nations that are working hard to move from third world to first, and to nations that find it hard to navigate the difficult but worthwhile road of recovery.”

“Somalia has failed my generation,” he continued. “And I will dedicate my life to ensuring it does not fail the next. But I cannot do this alone. Only together, can we be the Somalia the world is waiting for.”

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Nigeria’s Abia Boosts Entertainment, Tourism

30 September 2015 – Daily Independent (Lagos) – The Abia State government has taken measures to make the state an entertainment and tourism destination with a planned revival of the sector. This is part of the transformation programme of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu.

The measures include world class organization of entertainment and cultural events, revival of the culture of the people and talent hunt for abundant potentials in the state to boost tourism and internally generated revenue.

Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Entertainment and Protocol, Mr. Uchenna Ebochuo, who unfolded the plan in Aba on Tuesday said, “We want to make sure that everything that has to do with entertainment is properly handled like in Abuja and Lagos.”

He further declared that part of the measure is that Abia state government will pay special attention to the revival of the tourism sites in the state including Long Juju of Arochukwu, Azumini Blue River as well as Ugwu Abia cultural festival.

According to him, the aim is to make the state a tourist destination, generate revenue for the state and expose the potentials to international events.

Ebochuo also said that the state government would soon convene a stakeholders conference for an interface between the captains of the industry, the state government and young talents to be discovered in the state and groomed for the industry.

The conference, he explained, will also expose the entertainment and tourism potentials in the state for investors to take advantage of, saying that the talents that would be discovered will be part of the measures to create employment for the youth.

The Senior Special Assistant lamented those facilities like the International Conference Canter in the State was not being put to good use because there are no events that will use them, saying that it will be put to proper use soon.

He said Abia State was rich in entertainment, tourism and culture which must be harnessed for the good of the state.

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Mozambique President: ‘Tourism Is an Industry of Peace’

2 October 2015 – Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique (Maputo) — Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi on Friday described tourism as “an industry of peace”, and pledged continued government support for this sector of the economy.

Speaking at the inauguration of the “Diamond Mecufi Beach Resort”, in Mecufi district, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, Nyusi said the government is committed to reforms that will simplify procedures in order to improve competitiveness.

“We want to make the business environment more attractive to investors in the tourist area”, declared the President.

Tourism, he said, brings together people from different cultures, and makes them more tolerant to social, cultural, ethnic or religious differences. “Tourism brings people and nations together and is a great vehicle of dialogue”, Nyusi stressed.

Tourism was “at the epicenter of a vast value chain”, he added. “Tourism is a real maker of jobs, and one of the ways for creating opportunities for generating income”.

Nyusi urged the managers of the new complex to purchase local goods and services – just as they had done in building the resort, when part of the construction material was provided by local communities. 450 workers were involved in the construction, 90 per cent of whom were from Cabo Delgado province.

Construction of the complex began in June 2013 and was completed two years later, covering an area of 27 hectares.

It is part of the Switzerland-based PlanHotel Hospitality Group. The resort, which is within easy reach of the provincial capital, Pemba has 40 deluxe rooms and 10 suites overlooking the Indian Ocean.

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Uganda Marks World Tourism Day

27 September 2015 – The Monitor – Lira — The tourism fraternity has converged in Lira town to mark World Tourism Day today. Celebrated globally, World Tourism Day is meant to raise awareness of the importance of tourism.

The theme this year is “One billion tourists, one billion opportunities.” It is aimed at creating awareness of tourism power to drive inclusive development, create jobs and build the sustainable societies for the future.

“We are going round creating tourism districts but specifically settled for Lira town which is the worst in tourism preparedness, tourism development and getting visitors,” said John Ssempebwa, the deputy Chief Executive Officer of Uganda Tourism Board (UTB).

The body’s strategy is to decentralise tourism. This will be an opportunity to show the tourism potential in the northern region.

As part of the festivities, a week long exhibition of arts and tourism in Uganda was held at Lira Golf Course grounds, as well as discounted drives to Murchison Falls National Park.

Raymond Engena, the director of tourism and business services at Uganda Wild Life Authority (UWA), said: “The drive was a directive intended to show the locals that tourism is not just for foreigners. There are so many wonderful places to visit in this country and this was just one of the ways of showing these people that they can always go there at their convenient time and at a cheaper cost”.

Yesterday, a live tourism concert was held at Lira Hotel to climax the festivities where local artistes such as Cindy Sanyu, Captain Ice, Holy Demsan, Mzee B of 2Stars and Lango traditional dancers put up energetic performances.

Uganda’s monetary policy statement for August 2014 indicated that the tourism sector raked in $ 1.4b (about Shs5 trillion) in the 2013/14 financial year up from $1.1bn (about Shs4.2 trillion) the previous year, eclipsing remittances which fetched $800m (about Shs3b) and coffee which came third with $415m (about Shs1.5b).

As much as the tourism sector in Uganda continues to thrive, Amos Wekesa, a tourism entrepreneur, said today should be a day for reflecting on why some countries are doing better than Uganda in the tourism sector and yet we have some of the rare natural earth resources including the source of River Nile.

“We need to do our research by finding why and thereafter do what is necessary to ensure that our tourism sector does wonders,” he said.

Among some of the problems the tourism sector continues to face include poor service delivery, high transport costs, high rate charges in some of the accommodation facilitates, limited marketing due to inadequate funding, high competition from the neighbouring countries and inadequate physical infrastructure for internal flights.

“The situation is still bad. We still have a lot to work on as a country,” Bosco Opio, a tour operator states.

Despite of the several challenges the country continues to face in the tourism sector, Opio believes that the concerned authorities should first work hard at changing the country’s image out there.

“Some of the tourists think about this country in terms of disease, corruption, war and Idi Amin. It is not fair to us,” he argues.

Opio says our country should not be known for such issues but rather in terms of the wonderful things she has to offer.

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Uganda’s Domestic Aviation Taking Off

27 September 2015 – The Independent (Kampala) – Small planes of operated by the domestic airline industry players INDEPENDENT/JIMMY SIYADespite several challenges, domestic airline companies soldier on thanks to CAA incentives

Dominic, who works for an international NGO, has been flying to various parts of Northern Uganda for the last ten years. He says his organisation found out that at the end of the day, it is cheaper to travel by air than by road. It’s not only faster in terms of time – it takes an hour to fly to Moroto while traveling by road takes a whole day- but it’s also less costly as there are no allowances to pay for a driver, fuel, vehicle wear and tear among other costs. Though some people still feel safer traveling by road than by a small airplane, he says compared to ten years ago more people are traveling by air after seeing those advantages.

The single biggest contributor to the growth of the domestic air travel industry is the growth in the number of African elites as they appreciate use of air transport as they have the cash. Indeed, Uganda is among the countries that are expected to experience a rapid air transport growth.

Godfrey Wandera, the commissioner for transport and planning at the ministry of works and transport, is optimistic about the future. He says Arua is now among the best-performing aerodromes, having transited 15,000 passengers in 2014 followed by Kasese at over 12,000 passengers. With a growing middle class and the oil and mineral exploration industry taking root, the country is bound to see more use of air travel on its numerous aerodromes and small airfields, he adds.

Ignie Igundura, the manager for public affairs at the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), told The Independent that the domestic air industry is growing steadily.

He said domestic passengers are projected to grow to 60,000 in 2018 and to 152,000 by 2023. Domestic aircraft movements are projected to be 6,300 in 2018 and 11,600 in 2023.

The recent commissioning of the expansion of Entebbe International Airport on Aug.29 was aimed at accommodating the increased traffic especially in preparation for the oil industry. Already, the Master Plan and engineering designs for Kasese and Gulu have been completed. Land compensation in Kasese was also effected in 2008. Mbarara has been undergoing limited upgrade like aerodrome fencing to enhance safety.

However, Uganda’s domestic passenger traffic is still low in comparison to other countries.

Igundura says there are a number of factors responsible for this situation. The improved infrastructure in terms of the road network makes it less tiring than it used to be for people to use road transport. In addition, the improved security situation across the country has facilitated safe travel by road especially to Northern Uganda, which used to register many flights to Gulu and Arua.

Uganda has several prominent carriers namely Aerolink, Africa Safari Air, MAF, Asante aviation, Transafrik Uganda, United Airlines, Eagle Air Uganda and Uganda Air Cargo. All have a clean safety record because CAA believes that aviation safety and security are the key pillars of the global industry’s operation and growth.

“Substantial resources are spent on improving the two. This is done through skilling of personnel, procurement of equipment and plant and preparation for the regular safety and security audits,” says Igundura.According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), passenger growth in Africa will be the highest in the world over the next 20 years as population booms. Most of the passenger growth would be in internal air travel within the continent. Uganda had 22,789 passengers in 2014 up from 13,780 in 2012.

In its passenger flight figures for the period 2010-2014 for airlines registered in the respective countries, IATA figures show that South Africa had the highest number of passengers both domestic and international at more than 16.6 million followed by Egypt at more than nine million.

Of the locally-registered domestic air carriers, Eagle Air took the biggest share of domestic passengers in 2014 with 14,850 passengers.

Alfred Esuru, the flight operations officer at Eagle Air, was positive about the growth of the domestic airline industry despite the few challenges they are facing. “The local air industry is growing despite the tough competition. The other challenge is the high cost of aviation fuel and aircraft spare parts,” he says.

The airline operates both chattered and scheduled flights, from Entebbe to Arua, Gulu and Yei in South Sudan on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays. Most of their passengers comprise business people, tourists and NGO staff like Dominic. Esuru says they have remained competitive because of their excellent customer care standards, pocket-friendly fares and consistency in flight schedules. “If a flight is scheduled for 8 am, we will fly even if we have only two passengers on board,” he says.

The cost of an air ticket depends on the airline. For instance, a one way ticket to Arua or Gulu costs about US$135 (Shs 494, 000) and a return ticket about US$235 (Shs 861, 000).

Going forward, Igundura says they are offering incentives to spur the industry. Some of the incentives include a 100% discount on aeronautical charges for one flight out of every seven frequencies a week in/out of Entebbe International Airport on a specific sector for scheduled domestic operators. CAA also gives a 2% discount on aeronautical charges for airlines carrying 20% of the total traffic in a particular year.

Additionally, to encourage investments in air transport in relation to aircraft acquisition, CAA provides a 2.5% discount for local scheduled and non-scheduled airlines on aeronautical charges spread over ten years on condition that aircrafts are registered and utilized in Uganda and a minimum capital investment amount of $300,000. As regards investment in physical infrastructure, CAA also provides rebates on land lease rates and concession fees equivalent to 10% of the capital investment cost spread over ten years to capital projects for aviation infrastructure undertaken in Uganda.

On addition to the incentives government developed an aerodromes master plan to upgrade them to airport levels. While the road infrastructure may be nibbling at the performance of the domestic air industry, the sector is growing. Uganda’s area size is comparatively small compared to that of our neighbours Kenya and Tanzania. Besides, the country enjoys a favourable road network. Road transport therefore competes with air transport, given the short distances between several points of the country.

Uganda also needs to raise her tourism marketing bar to attract more travelers who could opt to use air transport, which definitely the most convenient means of travel. In a recent interview, Amos Wekesa, the proprietor of Great Lakes Safaris said resources spent on improving aviation infrastructure are well-spent. He particularly singled out Kasese Airport as a welcome development for the tourism industry given that it’s close to Semuliki, Queen Elisabeth National Park and Rwenzori National park.

Also, it’s only two hours away from Kibaale National Park and only three and a half hours from Bwindi. He cited Arusha Airport in Tanzania, which he said has four million arrivals a year because it is near a popular national park compared to Entebbe which had only 1.3 million. “I am sure with good airports we will have tourists landing there directly,” he said.

According to Igundura, in 2014 Entebbe received the biggest number of domestic air travels with arrivals + departures amounting to 38,924 while the other 13 aerodromes managed by CAA recorded (arrivals + departures) of 24,375 bringing the average for the 13 aerodromes to 1,875 passengers. Besides interconnections, Uganda’s 13 aerodromes and smaller airfields will provide the feed to Entebbe as many of them are located either near tourist attraction sites or near mineral extraction points.

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Visa Free travel to Russia for Guyanese

Georgetown, Guyana – (September 27, 2015) – Foreign Affairs Minister, Carl Greenidge and his counterpart of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov, today signed an agreement, on behalf of their countries, which will facilitate visa free travel for citizens, between the two States. The signing took place on the sidelines of the United Nations 70th General Assembly, United Nations Headquarters.

Minister Greenidge said it is a process that is aimed at encouraging movement between the two countries. This new agreement will now afford citizens from these two countries the opportunity to travel between the two countries without a visa and stay for a maximum of six months. This new development will also see a major boost for the local tourism and business industries the Minister said.

In addition, the Minister said he views this move as one that will also remove a major barrier and one that will enhance business relations between the two countries.

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Arts and culture to be integrated into Guyana schools’ curriculum

Georgetown, GINA, September 28, 2015 – The Government plans to integrate arts and culture in the general schools’ curriculum. This is according to Minister within the Ministry of Education, Nicolette Henry, who disclosed that the Education Ministry is looking to have drama, literary art, and steel pan taught in schools.

Henry explained that work in this direction has already started. In August, the Ministry arranged for a batch of teachers from various regions across Guyana to be trained in music. “This is part of a program to ensure that our teachers are taught the theory related to music, so that we can have our children in school doing music,” the Minister said.

According to Henry, the Government has embarked on this initiative so as to meet the needs of students who have a passion in these areas. She explained that Government is taking ‘baby steps’ with this approach, as it does not want to overload students.

Minister of Education Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine had earlier noted that it is important for arts and culture to be integrated back into the school system, pointing out that it is not only relevant, but also necessary. This he said will help students to think more creatively and critically.

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St. Cuthbert’s to be a model indigenous community

Georgetown, GINA, September 29, 2015 – Plans are on stream by the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs to make St. Cuthbert’s Mission a model Indigenous community where pilot projects and other initiatives can be implemented before they are done on wider scale. This was disclosed to the residents of the village by 4th Vice President and Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Sydney Allicock, during the opening ceremony of the community’s Heritage Day celebrations, on September 26, 2015.

The Minister advised the residents that development of the Indigenous communities in Guyana remains a priority for the coalition Government and every step is being taken to ensure that Guyana’s first peoples have equal access to the resources of the State.

Minister Allicock urged the residents to continue to work together and unite for the further development of the community. “We would like to work with you to make your lives better,” the minister said, adding that he is proud of the level of cooperation and respect the people of the community have for the Village Council, something he attributed to the leadership style of the recently appointed Toshao, Lennox Shuman.

“We could have pilot projects here to showcase to others how things could be done. We would like to work with you, we would like to see you achieve economic strength, academic strength, as we have been seeing here today. You can be a good example, let us work together to achieve this,” he stated.

Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and wife Mrs. Sita Nagamootoo interacts with Guyanese during the Heritage celebrations

Minister Allicock took the opportunity to solicit the assistance of the community in the reconstruction of the recently destroyed Umana Yana. “We would be joining the Wai-Wais, we would like you to join with them in re-establishing this wonderful building that was sadly destroyed and we would like to start this year,” Minister Allicock said.

He committed the Government and his Ministry towards ensuring that the languages and cultural practices of the indigenous peoples be preserved and protected. The Minister also asked the residents to support the leadership. “Ensure that you touch base with all the ministries, our doors at the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs will always be open for new ideas, new action,” Allicock said.

Meanwhile, in his address, newly appointed Chairman of the National Toshao Council (NTC), Joel Federicks, reminded his Indigenous brothers and sisters that they are the first peoples of Guyana and that they have a rich cultural legacy, something they should be proud of. “This is what I want to implore, never be ashamed of who you are,” Toshao Federicks urged.

Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and Wife Mrs. Sita Nagamootoo is welcomed by a group of young Indigenous Children at St. Cuthbert’s Mission.

In her remarks, Regional Chairperson, Region Four, Genevieve Allen, echoed the sentiments of earlier speakers, explaining that the Toshao is doing an excellent job in representing the interest of the people of the county at the regional administrative level. She advised that the work programme of Region Four entails works to be done in the community for 2015 and 2016. This include work to fence the primary and secondary schools.

To this end, the Regional Chairperson informed the community that a National Development Council was established, and is expected to visit the community soon, to work with residents for the further advancement of the community.

St. Cuthbert’s Mission this year observed its 30th Heritage celebrations, and like all the other years, hundreds of Guyanese from several regions, government functionaries, Members of the Diplomatic Community, and tourists among others participated.

Indigenous Heritage Month, September 2015 was observed under the theme, “Preserving Our Customs and Traditions.”

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Proposals pour in for Project Restore Guyana

Georgetown, GINA, October 1, 2015 – Even as the multi-disciplinary Task Force to restore Guyana as a land of great attractiveness and prosperity is set to complete its regional outreaches, it has already began receiving proposals from several municipalities and regions for enhancement projects, for implementation in Phase One of the programme. This is according to Head of the National Task Force Secretariat for “Project Restore Guyana” Dr. Sewnauth Punalall.

The Secretariat Head told the Government Information Agency (GINA) that the Task Force is set to wrap-up the regional outreach as soon as tomorrow. According to Dr. Punallall, the National Taskforce is today engaged in its final visit, in Mabaruma, Region One.

Prior to visiting Region One, a team headed by Major General (Ret’d), Joseph Singh, on September 29, visited Region Seven and met with more than 30 persons in a meeting held in the boardroom of the Bartica hospital. According to the Secretariat Head, issues such as the need for a new landfill site, proper roads and improved water supply and problems affects small miners were raised. Stressed as well was the need for the regional administration to put in place the necessary services and space critical for creating a township, a status that Bartica is set to attain in May 2016.

The Task Force would have completed visits to the other regions in the months of August and September.

Cabinet approved the establishment of the multi-disciplinary Task Force, which includes representatives from the business sector, professional organisations and members of civil society, to aid with the transformation of Guyana under the new Government. This was in response to the sustained call from the citizenry for a cleaner, safer and more sustainable environment.

The regional visits have been to inform the regions and regional administration of the various areas of responsibility which have to be dealt with by the Taskforce, under “Project Restore Guyana,” and which have be executed by the various regions.

These responsibilities are in regard with national drainage, solid waste management and the removal of derelict vehicles, traffic management, sustainable countrywide renewal, welfare management of the homeless addicted and the mentally challenged.

The Task Force has had committees set up along these lines, headed by senior government officials, the exception being the Public and Stakeholders Consultation Committee, which comprises community representative.

Project Restore Guyana is being rolled out in three phases, the first phase which immediately follows the regional outreaches, will go until May 2016, and will address critical interventions within the regions, as submitted by proposals from the regional administrations. Dr. Punalall explained that whatever is captured in these proposals that are not executed in Phase One will be executed in Phase Two (which goes until 2017) or Phase Three (which goes until 2020).

Thus far, the Task Force has received information from the municipalities of Corriverton, Rose Hall, New Amsterdam and from the Regional Democratic Councils of Regions Five and Six on projects and interventions that they are seeking to have implemented in their communities and regions under Project Restore Guyana, Dr. Punalall said.

He advised that projects that will be implemented in Phase One will be selected based on three criteria; critical to human lives, the environment and the economy.

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Uzbekistan to adopt youth tourism development programme

02 October 2015 Tashkent, Uzbekistan (UzDaily.com) — Uzbekistan is planning to adopt a programme for development of youth tourism, chairperson of Uzbektourism Farrukh Rizayev.

He said that interested ministries and departments are developing the corresponding programme. He said that the programme can approved till the start of new tourism season (spring 2016 – UzDaily).

He said that the programme will cover students of 8-9 classes of schools, students of colleges, lyceums and university. During summer holidays, they will visit tourism and cultural sites of Uzbekistan.

Rizayev said that the progamme will cover 100,000 young people and envisages various discounts for them. He said that the young people can receive discounts for train tickets and hotels.

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Platform for entrepreneurs Business Hub launched in Uzbekistan

02 October 2015 – Tashkent, Uzbekistan (UzDaily.com) — A ceremony of opening of the entrepreneurs’ platform Business Hub was held in Tashkent on 30 September 2015. New platform is directed at supporting entrepreneurship in Uzbekistan.

Veronika Kamishanskaya, Maxim Romanov and Oleg Kuznetsov founded the project. Veronika Kamishanskaya said that Facebook-group Business and Accounting in Uzbekistan was reason behind launching of new project.

She said that number of questions, submitted to the group, and existence of people, who is ready to provide assistance, pushed the organizers to expand the project.

Oleg Kuznetsov said that the mission of BUSINESS HUB is to provide free aid to solving actual issues relating doing business, including legal aid, accounting and audit, internal business processes, etc.

He said that the project will work in several directions – accounting, law, marketing and sales, internal business procedures.

Business Hub representatives noted that experts of various companies and bodies, as well as other professionals will provide their assistance.

Oleg Kuznetsov noted that the project plans to hold meetings with businesses of various sectors and discuss various aspects of doing business in Uzbekistan.

Business Hub plans to launch its own website in early 2016, which businesspeople can receive information on doing business in Uzbekistan and answers to their questions.

Business Hub plans to hold its first meeting on 22-23 October in Tashkent and it will be dedicated to registration of businesses, recruiting personal, brand development, accounting, etc.

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ITE Uzbekistan launches autumn exhibition season

03 October 2015 Tashkent, Uzbekistan (UzDaily.com) — International exhibition company ITE Uzbekistan is launching a new autumn exhibition season with presentation of min-exhibition Beauty Uzbekistan, which will take place at UzExpoCenter on 8-10 October.

ITE Uzbekistan will hold Central Asian Industrial Week on 20-22 October in Tashkent, which will unite seven exhibitions – MiningWorld Uzbekistan, Machinery Central Asia, UzComak, CAIPS, Chemie Uzbekistan, Plastex Uzbekistan and O’ZBEKinPRINT-O’ZuPACK.

One of unique exhibition of ITE Uzbekistan – TransUzbekistan 2015 will follow the Central Asian Industrial Week. The exhibition will unite enterprises of transport and logistics industry.

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Tunisia to embark initiatives for tourism promotion

Saturday 26 Sep 2015 – Hamammet, Tunisia (IINA) – The Tunisian Minister of Tourism Selma Rekik said that Tunisia will take some measures soon to support the tourism sector in the country, TAP reported.

Rekik said that such measures will involve hotels, travel agencies, tourist restaurants as well as handicrafts.

Speaking to TAP on the sidelines of a conference in Hammamet, Rekik noted that these short-term measures will be implemented soon, adding that the delay recorded in this area is due to the concern to complete the entire legal process.

The minister said the crisis in the tourism sector is a national crisis that involves the different components of the economy.

It is noteworthy that four million tourists have visited Tunisia since early September 2015, which is nearly one million less compared to the previous season.

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IRCICA organizes exhibition for OIC day at UNESCO celebration

Tuesday 29 Sep 2015 – Paris, (IINA) – The Research Center for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA) has organized an Islamic Calligraphy exhibition in celebration of the Third Edition of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Day at UNESCO in Paris.

The exhibition starts on September 28 and continues to October 2, and it contains works from outstanding calligraphers as well as reproductions of some IRCICA award winning works.

On the first day of the exhibition, IRCICA Director General Halit Eren briefed the audience on various activities, projects and programs designed by IRCICA to promote the art of calligraphy.

In a related context, the Third Edition of the OIC Day celebration program started with a round-table to discuss “Rapprochement of cultures: the contributions of the Islamic world”, which was convened by the OIC Group at UNESCO.

The round-table aims to promote a constructive debate on the Rapprochement of cultures, an essential subject pertinent to the coexistence of people in an international, stable and secure environment.

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Turkey to build Crimea’s largest mosque

Wednesday 30 Sep 2015 – Simferopol (IINA) – Turkey is going to fully finance the construction of Crimea’s largest mosque, Crimean Grand Mufti Emir Ali Ablayev said on Sunday.

Ablayev told Anadolu Agency that the Russian administration approved the project, which they had been trying to implement for 10 years, before Crimea joined the Russian Federation. He said the mosque will be built in Crimea’s capital in an area of 5,000 square meters, including the worship venue, courtyard and the fountain, and will accommodate around 5,000 worshipers.

Ercan Bekar, the owner of the Istanbul-based construction company Erbek Insaat which will build the mosque, said that the cornerstone of the mosque will be laid within days. He added that the construction company has 36 months to build the mosque, but it intends to finish its construction within 24 months.

The project which represents the Turkish architecture, will be fully finance by Turkey. “Turkish Presidency for Religious Affairs provided every kind of support for the implementation of this project, which will be Crimea’s largest Mosque,” the Grand Mufti said.

He added that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, former President Abdullah Gul, and Head of Presidency for Religious Affairs Mehmet Gormez helped with the project approval, first from Ukrainian authorities, and then from the Russian authorities.

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Maldives reports rise in visitors during August

October 1, 2015 – Sun.mv – Compared to the month of August last year, statistics from the Tourism Ministry has shown that the number of tourists visited the country this August has increased.

Statistics from the Tourism Ministry shows an increase of 5.7 percent with 110,144 tourists visiting this August compared to the last year’s 104,186.

Up to the end of August, statistics shows 823,766 tourists visiting the country in 2015 so far which is a 2.2 percent increase compared to the last year’s period.

Statistics shows China as the highest number of tourists visiting the country in August. And so in August, there were 40,850 tourists from China.

The second highest number of tourists came from England with 7805 tourists. The highest number of tourists came to the Maldives from the Asia Pacific region with 60,856 tourists.

There were 39,881 tourists from the former top market of Europe.

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Indonesia’s Gulf of Tomini, Best Spot For Marine Tourism

PALU, Sulawesi, Indonesia, Sept 28 (NNN-Bernama) — The Gulf of Tomini is perhaps one of Indonesia’s best spot for marine tourism.

It is the largest gulf in Indonesia, bounded by three provinces in Sulawesi and located along the equator.

It is home to a number of endemic species of fish, such as the yellowfin tuna and is the heart of the world’s coral triangle, making it a paradise for divers.

Those who do not dive also have ample opportunity to witness this marvel by renting a boat with a transparent bottom.

Its waters are so clear that one could easily see the marine life beneath from the surface.

The Togian Islands sit near the centre of the gulf, with breathtakingly white sands and 25 diving platforms.

The Indonesian Republic’s Ministry of Communications and Informatics’ Directorate of International Information Service recently brought me to the Gulf of Tomini to witness the beauty of the gulf as well as the annual Sail Tomini event.


Those intending a trip to the gulf will have to board a plane from any capital city that has flights to Palu in Central Sulawesi.

From the capital of Central Sulawesi, travelers can engage land transportation to Parigi Moutong, which would take around two hours.

Parigi Moutong is one of the coastal areas along the Gulf of Tomini.

From there, visitors can hire a water transportation service to bring them to the smaller islands in the middle of the gulf.


The Gulf of Tomini is the heart of the world’s Coral Triangle and is home to the richest of marine biodiversity.

Local authorities say that thousands of fish species reside within the area such as the “cakalang”, “tembang” and “lemuru”.

In fact, it is believed that several species of fish swim up to the Gulf of Tomini to spawn. The fry would remain in the gulf until it is old enough to make its way back into the ocean.

That is why the gulf is a valuable asset to Indonesia and should be preserved for future generations.


To attract more visitors to the Gulf of Tomini, the Indonesian government has introduced an annual event called Sail Tomini. This year’s theme is called “Mutiara Khatulistiwa untuk Kehidupan Masa Depan” (The Jewel of Equator for the Future).

President Joko Widodo when launching Sail Tomini 2015 focused on two points for the betterment of the event in the years to come.

The first was to improve on the promotion of the Gulf of Tomini abroad and the second was to prepare for the event a year earlier.

“International marketing is an essential step in getting more foreign tourists to visit. Sail Tomini, meanwhile, needs to be planned a year earlier. This means that the planning for next year’s Sail Tomini must begin now.”

Sail Tomini 2015 was launched at the Bulihutuo Beach and attended by thousands, including foreign diplomats.

Among the interesting events that took place was the sailing pass of tens of Indonesia’s navy ships and several warships from other countries, including Malaysia.

There are also cultural performances and demonstrations by paratroopers.

The Coordinating Minister of Human Development and Culture, Puan Maharani in her speech said that the government was committed at protecting the gulf’s ecosystem, while at the same time increasing the development along the coastal areas for the benefit of the locals.

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Turkish tourism ministry announces new support package

Umut Erdem – ANKARA – Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry has revealed a new support program to overcome sector losses mainly due to economic problems in Russia and neighboring countries.

The ministry will offer financial support to travel agencies carrying tourists from 13 countries, such as Russia, Iran and Ukraine, through charter airlines. The agencies will take $6,000 grants for each flight, said the ministry in a statement issued to travel agencies.

“Our ministry has decided to offer support to travel agencies with the A Group certificate, which carry tourists through charter flights, in order to prevent any further flight and reservation cancelations and to slash any further negative effects on the sector due to economic problems in Russia,” said the statement.

The support package covers 13 countries in total; Azerbaijan, Moldova, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Iran. The ministry also said several airports will be under the support package’s coverage, including airports in Gazipaşa-Alanya, Antalya, Dalaman, Bodrum and İzmir.

Travel agencies need to submit their proposals and the required documents to become qualified for the support, which lasts until Nov. 30, according to the statement.

“The A Group travel agencies that make charter flights carrying at least 100 passengers from the aforementioned countries to the aforementioned airports … will benefit from the support,” said the statement.

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Eid holiday heats up Turkey’s tourism sector

ANTALYA – Anadolu Agency – After a slow season, Turkey’s tourism sector has recently accelerated, with hotel occupancy rates as high as 90 percent during the Eid al-Ahda (Feast of Sacrifice) holiday.

During the holiday, over 350,000 local tourists visited the country’s coastline, said Turkey’s Hoteliers Federation (TÜROFED) Osman Ayık.

With the postponement of primary and secondary schools by two weeks and the declaration of a nine-day public holiday starting on Sept. 19, with a half-day for public employees on Sept. 23, the sector saw a sharp rise in the number of local tourists, according to tourism players.

“Many local people from all social and economic groups enjoyed their holiday, enabling our sector to rebound despite a huge decrease in the number of Russian tourists. Around 350,000 local tourists visited and stayed in coastline hotels during the Eid holiday,” said Ayık.

He noted that problems with the Russian market still continue and reservations for the winter months from Russia are not better-than-expected.

“It is early to say anything for 2016, but we have some concerns we should accept. The recent moves to postpone the start of the school year and the announcement of a nine-day holiday for public workers really made a big contribution to the sector…We want the new government to take steps to allow local people to take longer vacations,” said Ayık.

The hotel occupancy rates reached over 90 percent on the Mediterranean coast of Antalya, said the head of the Mediterranean Touristic Hoteliers Association (AKTOB), Yusuf Hacısüleyman.

“Around 250,000 local tourists visited the Antalya region during the Eid holiday,” he added.

Around 13 million Turks travelled by bus, train or air to their hometowns to spend time with their families or for an extended summer vacation on the coastlines during the holiday, according to several reports.

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Africa looks to Islamic finance

ABIDJAN – Anadolu Agency – Islamic finance, which shuns the use of interest on loans, is relatively rare in West Africa, where over 90 percent of the total population is Muslim. However, experts believe Islamic finance could represent a viable alternative – and help the development of the continent in the process.

“Islamic finance is the future. Many African countries, especially in West Africa, want an Islamic financial system,” Mouhamadou Lamine Mbacke, general director of the African Islamic Finance Institute, told Anadolu Agency.

“Islamic finance is moral,” he said. “It’s based on the principles of sharing and is in line with African traditions, including solidarity and mutual assistance.”

Beyond the religious aspect, Islamic finance has been identified by many experts as a way to avoid the risks associated with speculation, which is what led to the 2008 global financial crisis.

Global ratings agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) said in a recent report that new regulations and fiscal incentives “could accelerate Islamic finance development in Africa, which could help the continent fund its infrastructural needs.”

Aware of the challenges, the African Institute of Islamic Finance has launched several initiatives aimed at developing the Islamic finance sector in Africa.

Since 2010, the institute has organized three forums in Senegal devoted to the subject and has trained nearly 700 Islamic finance experts.

On Sept. 17 and 18, an Islamic finance forum was held in Côte d’Ivoire by the country’s Planning and Development Ministry.

The aim of the forum was to discuss means of promoting Islamic finance – in Côte d’Ivoire in particular and Africa in general – and how to best mobilize the tools needed to do this.

At the forum, Abdallah Mabri Toikeusse, head of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), said Islamic finance was particularly well-suited for development, “given its low costs and altruistic character.”

He went on to point out that Côte d’Ivoire was about to issue its first sukuk, or Islamic bond, in the amount of 350 billion CFA francs (roughly $700 million) with the support of the IDB.

A sukuk is a certificate that pays a dividend based on a return from a tangible asset. It is similar to a traditional bond in Western finance, with the difference being that a bond bears interest, which is not permitted in Islamic finance.

Ivorian Planning and Development Minister Kablan Duncan said the Islamic finance industry offered “excellent prospects for the African continent, which we should seize.”

According to Duncan, the Ivorian government is working in tandem with the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector to develop a program for issuing five-year sukuks.

Madani Tall, former World Bank director of operations in Côte d’Ivoire, told Anadolu Agency that Islamic finance was “a financing alternative and a complement to conventional financing.”

“This,” she said, “is promising for Africa.”

Also attending the Abidjan forum, Khaled al-Aboudi, general director of the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector, announced that a subsidiary of the IDB would devote 30 percent of its funding to Africa over the next five years – up from a current 13 percent.

In February, Niger, a country in which 95 percent of the population is Muslim, issued its first sukuk, worth $260 million.

The move came after South Africa and Senegal both issued their first sovereign sukuks in 2014 worth $200 million and $500 million, respectively.

The IDB has 55 members, including 22 African countries, 17 of which are in sub-Saharan Africa.

With a view to bolstering its presence in sub-Saharan Africa, the IDB has established a special $12 billion program that aims to finance various sectors in Africa, including agriculture, energy, transport and education.

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European expert: Iran, a land of beautiful tourist sites

Mashad, Sept 30, IRNA – Head of cartography team of international explorers and president of the Balkans Cave Climbing Association Alexi Zhalov said on Wednesday that Iran is land of beautiful and attractive tourist sites and unique caverns.

He made the remarks in a meeting to celebrate the end of cartography operation of Karkas (Vulture) Cave.

Concerning my experience in Iran, ‘I may say that Iran is a country full of attractions in caverns.’

He said that international cartography team has different experts in the fields of geography, zoology, geology and cavern climbing experts and during our stay in Iran he enjoyed desirable cooperation from Iranian experts.

Zhalov appreciated the Department of Environment of the Khorasan Razavi Province for cooperation with the Balkans team.

He said that the outcome of the researches will be published after examination, making clear that Karkas Cave in the province is unique.

Director General of provincial DoE Hamid Salehi said in the meeting that upon investigations the Karkas Cave is the longest one in Eastern Iran.

Salehi added that the international team had also visited two other caves in the area for cartography.

A group of geologist, paleontologist and zoologist from Bulgaria, Romania and Poland under leadership of Alexi Zhalov accompanying Iranian cave climbers in operation for cartography, research for the living creatures in cave and climate study.

Khorasan Razavi province has 200 caverns.

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Oman Air to launch flight to Dhaka

DHAKA, Oct 3, 2015 (BSS) – Oman Air, the national flag carrier of Oman, will initiate Muscat-Dhaka-Muscat flight from October 25 apart from its existing operation to Chittagong.

Initially the airline will operate four flights a week on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, Oman Air official source said here today.

The flight frequency will be increased to six a week, except Saturday, from December 1 this year.

The route would be operated through an Airbus A-330-300 with a configuration of 204 in Economy Class and 26 in Business Class, said the source.

The flight no WI 318 will arrive Dhaka Shahjalal International Airport on Fridays and Sundays at 6 pm and depart at 9.25 pm while flight no WI 316 will arrive at 9.20 pm and depart 12.35 am on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Oman Air currently operates seven flights a week between Chittagong and Muscat, the capital of Oman.

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Bangladesh Visa processing fee goes online

DHAKA, Oct 04, 2015 (BSS) – People now can pay online the visa processing fee for going aboard instead of rushing to the designated banks and waiting in queue to deposit the fee physically.

Bangladesh Bank (BB) on Sunday in a circular said that people might use their international credit card (ICCs) and virtual cards for online payment of visa processing fees as per requirement of concerned embassies and high commissions.

The central bank also advised ICCs issuing banks to issue virtual cards to individuals not holding ICCs so they can pay online the visa processing fee.

Earlier, BB eased the rules and regulations, allowing students open block account abroad and remit necessary money in foreign currency for paying processing fees for visa and admission.

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Bangladesh projects 1m visitors in 2016

DHAKA, Sept 27, 2015 (BSS) – The World Tourism Day (WTD) was celebrated in the capital with high aspiration to attract one million tourists next year, declared as tourism year.

“I urge all to cooperate with the government’s ‘visit Bangladesh – 2016′ campaign to attract one million foreign tourists next year, which was half a million last year,” he said after leading a colourful rally marking the day in the capital.

This year, the WTD is being celebrated under the theme “One billion tourists, one billion opportunities”, set by the United Nations, to foster awareness among the international community of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic value.

The theme is particularly relevant as the international community adopted the post-2015 agenda with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) where tourism has been identified as a sector that “creates jobs and promotes local culture and products”.

Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB), the country’s National Tourism Organization (NTO) observed the day arranging different programmes including the rally.

Rashed Khan Menon led the rally from Matsya Bhaban and paraded up to TSC of Dhaka University while members of the tourist society of Dhaka University made it lively by wearing traditional customs and carrying different folklore gears.

The newly formed tourist police escorted the rally that was participated by different public and private tourism organizations including the BTB, Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation (BPC), Tour Operators’ Associations of Bangladesh (TOAB), Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh (ATAB) and Aviation and Tourism Journalists’ Forum of Bangladesh (ATJFB).

After the rally, Menon said this year’s tourism day carries an extra significance for Bangladesh as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina recently declared 2016 as Tourism Year and launched ‘Visit Bangladesh 2016’ campaign targeting to attract one million foreign tourists.

The Minister said the tourism year campaign will be kicked off by organizing a beach carnival at the country’s most exciting tourist spot Cox’s Bazar on 31st December this year.

“It will be our kick off programme, after that a series of activities will be carried out through the year to attract both foreign and domestic tourists,” he said.

He said the government will celebrate historic days like International Language Day, Independence Day, Bengali New Year and Victory Day of 2016 in a tourist friendly way to make the campaign a success.

Centering the tourism year, Menon said the government will organize a two-day international conference titled ‘National Buddhist Workshop and International Buddhist Circuit Conference’ with participation of 13 Buddhist populated countries in the capital from October 27 aiming at showcasing the Bangladesh Buddhist heritages to the foreigners.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the BTB Akhtaruzzaman Khan Kabir coordinated the rally while Chairman of BPC Dr Aparup Chawdhury was present.

After the parade, the minister also inaugurated a cycle rally of Bangladeshi Cycle Tourist Community at TSC marking the day.

A total of 10 cyclists of the community under supervision of the BTB will carry out a cross-country from the country’s Northwestern end Bangla Bandha to Southeastern end Shah Porir Island from October 2 to 24 as part of the pre-campaign of tourism year.

In the afternoon, thousands of people enjoyed a traditional boat race at the scenic Hatirjheel lake at the heart of the capital visibly intensifying the ongoing Eid holiday festivity.

The BTB grabbed the limelight of the day staging the boat race in collaboration with private Bangladesh Rowing Federation.

Four rowing boats each having 20 rowers joined the race. Apart from the boat race, four decorated horse driven carriages roamed around the Hatirjheel thoroughfares playing folk music in loudspeakers as part of the tourism awareness campaign.

President Abdul Hamid and the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina issued separate messages marking the day.

The President in his message acknowledged tourism to have a major stake in the national development and urged all concerned to develop a sustainable tourism industry in the country.

The Prime Minister, on the other hand, urged the private sector to supplement the government efforts to make the ‘Visit Bangladesh 2016’ campaign a success for the development and expansion of tourism industry.

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23 new more sericulture villages planned in Bangladesh

RAJSHAHI, Oct 2, 2015 (BSS)- Bangladesh Sericulture Development Board (BSDB) has been implementing a project for promoting sericulture and its industry through entrepreneurship development at different levels of production.

According to the officials concerned, the five-year project titled “Extension and Development of Sericulture in Public and Private sector in Bangladesh” is being implemented throughout the country by spending Taka 30 crore.

Side by side with the BSB, two more institutions like Bangladesh Sericulture Research and Training Institute (BSRTI) and Bangladesh Silk Foundation (BSF) are also working as implementing agencies.

The sources said the project has provision of establishing 23 sericulture villages at the potential areas as a model to improve capacity of small and marginal farmers to establish high yielding mulberry garden and produce superior quality of silk cocoon.

The villages will function as a good center for economic activity and people of the adjacent areas will gradually be inspired and involved in income generation process.

Talking to BSS, Serajul Islam, Member (Extension and Motivation) of BSDB, said that the sericulture and silk industry, by its nature, is a family based labor- intensive economic activity that provides employment for the rural people.

More than six lakh people are involved in this industry of which one lakh are cocoon growers and the rest are engaged in silk reeling, spinning, weaving, dyeing, printing, finishing and trading activities.

The multidisciplinary activities provide unique job opportunities to the marginal farmers, landless poor, rural artisans and also the urban silk fabric manufacturing industries and contribute a lot to poverty reduction, he added.

He said, there are around 80 small and medium silk factories in private sector with a capacity of manufacturing 25.50 million meters fabrics annually.

Apart from this, there are about 10,000 private handlooms with capacity of producing 30 million meters silk fabric.

Serajul Islam said the project has been developing suitable mulberry and silkworm varieties besides producing and supplying superior quality mulberry saplings and cuttings and silkworm eggs according to the demands of the farmers.

Some six lakh mulberry saplings were raised and three thousand people were engaged in plantation and nursing of the trees within the project period, under which, 24,000 kg’s of seed cocoons will be produced.

Necessary process for providing essential supports for human resource development, infrastructure development, machinery procurement and raw materials is progressing fast under the project.

In addition to arrangement of training for 2,130 farmers, 330 people are being provided through improved training on reeling, weaving and dyeing and printing.

Another 700 farmers, 200 reelers/spinners and 200 silk weavers are being given need-based training to improve their working efficiency in the field for improvement of rearing of mulberry trees and silkworm and reeling and weaving productivity.

Need-oriented training for more than 4,000 persons is being arranged to develop design and quality of silk products that will expand its market potential at home and abroad and improve the standard of living of silk growers besides extending technical support.

On successful completion by this earend, Serajul Islam expected that the project will help alleviating poverty of some 50,000 people by directly supporting them through employment generation side by side with developing 4,200 new cocoon producers who will produce at least 650 tonnes of healthy cocoons along with increasing overall silk production in the country.

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Indonesia-Mexico discuss reciprocal visa exemption

1 October 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi met her Mexican counterpart Claudia Ruiz Massieu to discuss the policy of reciprocal visa exemption for both countries.

According to a press release from the Indonesian Foreign Ministry received here on Thursday, the bilateral meeting was held in New York on September 29, 2015.

According to the Indonesian Foreign Ministry, Minister Massieu welcomes the Indonesian foreign ministers proposal to implement free visa regulation for Indonesian citizens.

The Indonesian Foreign Ministry considers the offer as a reciprocal gesture relating to the Indonesian governments plan to implement the visa-free policy for several countries, including Mexico.

Additionally, the bilateral meeting discussed about Indonesias support to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and cooperation in the fields of fisheries, agricultural research, and sports.

Retno affirmed that the Indonesian government is still reviewing the modality of the TPP cooperation that is already in an advanced phase.

“Indonesias participation in the TPP will be a significant contribution to the partnership,” Retno emphasized.

Retno also welcomed the Mexican proposal to hold a bilateral meeting between the presidents of Indonesia and Mexico on the sidelines of the G-20 and APEC meetings.

Mexico is one of Indonesias main partners in the economic and political sectors. The total value of bilateral trade between the two countries in 2014 reached US$123.5 million.

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Indonesia plans boost in global coffee consumption

2 October 2015 London (ANTARA News) – The major coffee exporting countries, such as Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, and Indonesia are targeting to boost global coffee consumption amid the world economic slowdown due to the US dollar strengthening against currencies, including the rupiah.

This issue was discussed at the 115th International Coffee Council in Milan, Italy, held between September 28 and October 2, 2015, according to a press release from the Indonesian Embassy in Rome, Italy, received by ANTARA here on Friday.

This initiative has received the support of some coffee importing countries, such as Germany, Italy, the United States, Japan, and Switzerland.

One of the efforts undertaken by Indonesia to realize the target is seeking the support of the International Coffee Organization (ICO) to strengthen the coffee market by increasing the consumption of domestic coffee.

The World Coffee Day was also commemorated on October 1 on the sidelines of a session of the World Coffee Council.

Statistical data recorded an average annual growth of eight percent in Indonesia’s coffee consumption, which is above the average annual growth of two percent in global consumption.

Coffee consumption will grow in line with the increase in global demand and supply of coffee, which is expected to improve the economy and boost the production of Indonesian coffee to about two million tons.

Executive Director of the International Coffee Organization (ICO) Roberio Silva emphasized that the increase in coffee production should be accompanied by systematic measurements to maintain the sustainability of production by taking into account the preservation of the environment and anticipation of climate change impacts.

To this end, every coffee producing country is challenged to continue making innovations through research and development as well as strengthening cooperation among the producing countries, he added.

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Indonesia to promote diving tourism to Japan tourists

3 October 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Indonesia will promote its world-class diving sites to Japanese tourists during a tourism promotion event entitled “Diving Sales Mission”, to be held in Japan on October 8 and 9, 2015.

The promotion is to be held following a successful similar event, carried out in Beijing on Sept. 9, I Gde Pitana, the deputy for international marketing development of the tourism ministry, said here on Saturday.

The government anticipates that revenues from diving tourism could be increased four times from the current amount, according to Pitana.

The promotion event is part of the tourism ministrys tourism marketing strategies, which include branding, advertising and selling (BAS), that was launched by Tourism Minister Arief Yahya.

“The sale event is an effort of the tourism ministry to attract 529 thousand Japanese tourists,” he noted.

In line with presidential regulation No. 69 Year 2015, the Indonesian government now offers visa free entry to Japanese citizens visiting Indonesia.

“The tourism ministry has set a target of attracting some 10 million foreign tourists in 2015,” he remarked.

Indonesia has a large potential for diving tourism, with excellent diving spots spreading from Weh Island in the countrys western most province of Aceh to Raja Ampat isles located in the countrys eastern most province of West Papua.

Between these two tourist destinations, there are other exotic diving sites located in Banda Island (Maluku), Bunaken (North Sulawesi), Wakatobi (Southeast Sulawesi), Lembeh Strait, Alor Isle, TogeBetwan, Gili Air, Komodo Island (East Nusa Tenggara), and Cendrawasih Bay.

Among the worlds best diving spots to be found in Indonesia are those in Raja Ampat, Komodo Isle, Derawan, Togean, Wakatobi, Gilir Air and Bunaken.

Deputy Assistant for Asia and the Pacific Market Development of the tourism ministry Vinsensius Jemadu said some 35 percent of the total earnings from the tourism industry comes from maritime tourism.

Further, an estimated 35 percent of Japanese tourists visiting Indonesia were engaged in maritime-related activities, such as diving.

At least seven representatives selling tourism packages will join the Diving Sale Mission to Japan.

According to a Japanese travel agent, Travelco, Bali is one of the top ten tourism destinations for Japanese tourists.

Indonesia is in the fifth most popular destination for the Japanese, after Seoul (South Korea), Guam, Taipei (Taiwan), and Honolulu (Hawaii).

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Jakarta to build 150 parks across city in 2016

30 September 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Jakarta plans to build 150 “children-friendly public spaces” (RPTRAs) across the city in 2016, Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama stated at the City Hall here on Wednesday.

“This year, we will build 60 RPTRAs, and next year, the number will be increased up to 150. We will speed up their development,” he said.

Until the end of this year, Jakarta will have 60 RPTRAs spread across five mayoralties, and four of them have been inaugurated, while the rest are still under development, he noted.

“Right now, we are focusing on developing RPTRAs in 56 locations across Jakarta. Our target is to complete the development of all the RPTRAs in November or December this year,” he remarked.

Regarding the development plan for 150 RPTRAs next year, the governor said he had instructed all personnel in the city administration to make the necessary preparations for the procurement of land this year.

“So, payment could be done next year, and the project could be immediately carried out,” he remarked, adding that the cost for developing one RPTRA is around Rp700 million.

The governor clarified that no regional budget would be used for the development project as funds for it would come from the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program.

“With the CSR, we will know the price per RPTRA. If the project is financed with the budget, the price could reach Rp3-5 billion,” he pointed out.

Companies that contribute to the development project are allowed to place advertisements in the parks.

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Azerbaijan set to build more economy hotels

02 October 2015 – TODAY.AZ – Azerbaijan is planning to build two-and three-star branded hotels, the Culture and Tourism Ministry said on September 30.

While attending the 2015 International French Travel Market (IFTM) Top Resa, an international tourism exhibition based in Paris, a delegation from Azerbaijan met with Gauran Bhushan, the director general of development at the hotel chain Accor, the parent company of a chain of hotels including Novotel and Ibis.

The meeting resulted in an agreement to organize a major presentation of hotels for local businessman in Baku by the end of this year.

In addition, a memorandum of understanding to attract tourists to Azerbaijan was signed between the famous French company Alesta voyage and the Azerbaijani company Silk Way.

More and more new hotels are opening their doors in Azerbaijan’s capital and regions. At present, the country can accommodate over 35,000 tourists in its 530 hotels.

Azerbaijan features a series of luxury brand hotels — Jumeirah, Excelsior, Hilton, Four Seasons, Fairmont, JW Marriott, Kempinski — as well as many budget hotels for cost-conscious travellers.

Prices for accommodation in the country start from $15 and increase depending on hotel brand and amenities.

The Azerbaijan Tourism Association had already noted the need to build multi-room hostels, which exist in many other countries, in the near future. Foreign investors have already shown interest to this field, according to the Association.

Baku is home to several hostels, budget hotels designed for low-cost travel. Here, of course, tourists have to share a room with a few more people, but prices are much more affordable.

Earlier, the Tourism Ministry reported that prices had been reduced in a number of tourist facilities in Azerbaijan.

About one million tourists visited Azerbaijan in the first eight months of this year. Over 2 million tourists came to Azerbaijan last year, which resulted in about one billion manat (over $950,000 million) in revenue from tourism. In the near future, the country is expected to increase its tourist flow up to 5 million a year.

This year, Azerbaijan hosted the major sport event Baku 2015 European Games, which resulted in an over 8 percent rise in tourist flow in the summer season. In the next coming years, the country will also hold the Islamic Solidarity Games, the Formula 1 race, and the quarterfinals and three group games of the Euro 2020.

An increase in tourist flow to the Land of Fire is inevitable, which means that a change in the hotel infrastructure is certain.

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Azerbaijan, Iran accelerate work to connect their railways

02 October 2015 – TODAY.AZ – The delegations of Azerbaijan and Iran will familiarize themselves with the construction of the Astara (Iran) – Astara (Azerbaijan) railway line October 9-10 within the framework of the North-South international transport corridor, the message of the ministry of economy and industry of Azerbaijan said Oct. 2.

The meetings of delegations headed by co-chairs of the Azerbaijani-Iranian intergovernmental commission on cooperation in economic, trade and humanitarian spheres will be held in Lankaran, Azerbaijani Astara and Iranian Astara.

The Azerbaijani delegation headed by the Minister of Economy and Industry of Azerbaijan Shahin Mustafayev also includes representatives of the ministries of foreign affairs and transport of the State Customs Committee (SCC) of Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani Railways CJSC and the State Border Service. The Iranian side will also be represented at the highest level.

“The parties will discuss the infrastructure to be created and the organization of coordinated work,” the message said.

The length of the Astara (Azerbaijan) – Astara (Iran) railway is 7 kilometers. Its two-kilometer section is being built on the territory of Iran. A decision was made at the meeting to build a cargo terminal in Iran’s Astara.

Iran is interested in the rapid construction of the Qazvin-Rasht-Astara railway. This railway will facilitate the way from Central Asia and Europe to the Persian Gulf and connect Iran with these regions and the Caucasus. Previously, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani instructed to complete the railway construction in 2016.

The Qazvin-Rasht-Astara railway is part of the North-South transport corridor. The investments made in the construction are estimated at $400 million. At the initial stage, it is planned to transport 6 million metric tons per year and up to 15-20 million metric tons per year in the future.

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Oman tourism captains get updates on global trends

Times of Oman – 03 October, 2015 – Staycation, glamping, mancation or being a locavore are some of the travel trends that are becoming increasingly popular, according a tourism expert.

To mark World Tourism Day 2015, the Oman Tourism College (OTC), which offers programmes in the tourism and hospitality fields, organised a talk and panel discussion focusing on the World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO’s) theme “One Billion Tourists: One Billion Opportunities,” at its campus.

OTC Dean, Dr. Abdulkarim bin Sultan Al Mughairi inaugurated the function, which was attended by industry captains in the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors, other invited guests and students.

Internationally renowned guest speakers shared the latest trends and challenges existing in the tourism and allied sectors.

Dipra Jha, Professor-in-residence at The Venetian-The Palazzo, Las Vegas, and Assistant Professor at University of Nebraska, US, spoke about “Experience Design: A New Paradigm in Hospitality and Tourism,” which was followed by a talk on “The Expectation Economy: Metrics and Methods for Marhaba,” delivered by Peter J. Starks, dean of the Hague Hotel School, and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Red Global Group.

Jha spoke about the latest trends and developments in the tourism and hospitality sectors. He focused on concepts, such as guest experience, economic distinction models, moments of truth and the experience ecosystem.

The tourism and hospitality industry is moving away from being service-based to experience-based, he said, citing global examples, and stressed on the importance of effectively engaging guests and creating a ‘WOW’ experience as a means of taking the business forward in a highly competitive industry.

He also spoke on latest tourism trends, including staycations, glamping, mancations, being locavore, bespoke experience and psychographics. “Oman has so many odds stacked in its favour, such as a rich and diverse nature, and an ancient and unique culture,” he noted.

Starks spoke about strategies to convert expectations into opportunities, online reputation management, ROTI (return on training investments) and other key topics in the tourism industry.

A panel discussion on “How to relate UNWTO’s Tourism Day theme of 1 billion tourists: 1 billion opportunities to Oman” ensued, where Jha, Starks, Gautam Broota, CEO of Zahara Tours and Nabil Al Zadjali, executive assistant manager at the Al Bustan Palace Hotel shared their insights on the topic.

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ITUDS to introduce 15 airport projects to investors

Tehran Times – 02 October, 2015 – Iran plans to introduce 15 airport projects to the investors in the first Iran Transportation and Urban Development Summit (ITUDS), according to an Iranian aviation official.

Gholam-Hossein Baqerian, the deputy director for planning and supervision in Iran Airports Company (IAC), said the projects, worth $ 2 billion, are planned to develop five airports in the cities of Tehran, Shiraz, Mashhad, Isfahan and Ahwaz, the ISNA news agency reported on Wednesday.

The projects include construction of airport hotels, VIP salons, terminals, parking lots and infrastructural installations, the official stated.

He said ITUDS provides a very proper opportunity to introduce different transport and urban development projects to the investors.

He anticipated that the investors will welcome the projects, as the investment packages offer many incentives.

ITUDS is estimated to be attended by 800 Iranian and 150 foreign participants.

Iranian Transport and Urban Development Minister Abbas Akhoundi says 121 projects, worth €25 billion, will be offered to the investors at the summit.

He said the investment opportunities will be introduced in the eight sectors of rail transportation, road transportation, air transportation, marine transportation, urban development, energy saving, port industry and airport industry.

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Saudi Arabia estimates 30 million religious tourists by 2025

Arab News – 03 October, 2015 – The number of religious tourists is expected to rise from 17.5 million recorded last year to between 25 and 30 million in 2025, which would be a boost to the country’s economy, say economists.

The contribution of religious tourism to the non-oil sector of the country’s Gross Domestic Product would rise from 5.4 percent to 5.7 percent by the year 2020, according to a local publication recently.

A report from Al-Jazira Capital quoted by the publication said that the government has been preparing for the expected demand by investing heavily in infrastructure projects.

This includes the Makkah metro and the expansion of Prince Mohammad bin Abdulaziz Airport in Madinah. The report stated there could be space to develop more luxury hotels, because 43 percent of Makkah hotels are three star facilities, and 46 percent in Madinah are three star and above.

According to the report, 250 tour companies meet the needs of religious tourists. This number would increase as more people visit, including for holidays and entertainment.

Religious tourism activities are concentrated in the holy cities, Makkah and Madinah, which are in the western part of the Kingdom. The hospitality market in these two cities is linked to Haj and Umrah in Makkah, and visits to the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.

Anees Mo’mina, executive president of Sedco Holding, said the religious tourism sector is undergoing rapid growth and is becoming an attractive environment for investors, and

creating jobs for young Saudis.

He said the government’s investment in infrastructure, including a public transport network, would help grow this part of the tourism industry, and see more private sector investment.

Mo’mina said there is currently extensive support for the industry from various government ministries and agencies, including the Ministry of Labor and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage.

The focus is on training Saudis to take up positions in the tourism industry, which would ensure less dependence on foreign labor. There needs to be a national training program in place to ensure this happens.

He said it was likely that the number of religious tourists would grow from last year’s 17.5 million to an estimated 30 million in 2025 if the country completes all the development in Makkah and Madinah.

Ziyad bin Mahfouth, executive for Elaf group, said the Haj season plays a critical role in religious tourism, with growing numbers over the past few years. It is expected that the number of Haj pilgrims would grow from the current 2 million to 5 million in 2025, he said.

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Oman projects set for record-breaking year

Gulf Today – 03 October, 2015 – Oman’s projects market is set for another record-breaking year, according to the latest data from MEED Projects, the region’s leading online projects tracking service.

After eight months of the year, the sultanate has already awarded more than $ 11 billion worth of contracts, and is on track to beat the $ 14.8 billion signed awards on 2014, which itself was a record performance.

The pace has been set by a raft of major projects, including the multi-billion-dollar Khazzan and Makarem tight gas development, the $ 900 million Yibal Khuff sour gas development, the $ 630 million Salalah independent power project , and the estimated $ 600 million Miraah solar power plant.

Also anticipated this year are awards on the first segment of the Oman Rail project, expected to be worth in excess of $ 1 billion, the four multi-billion-dollar main packages on the Liwa plastics scheme, and the Barka and Sohar independent water projects, valued at about $ 500 million each.

Updates on Oman’s major infrastructure, transport, power, water, social and tourism projects will be shared at this year’s Oman Projects Forum taking place on Oct.26-28, 2015 in Muscat. The forum is under the patronage of Dr Ali Massoud Al-Sunaidi, Minister of Commerce & Industry. Representatives from the sultanate’s key project owners, developers and contractors will participate in candid discussions sharing critical insight into Oman’s capital expenditure plans and the scale of opportunities across these sectors.

“Whether Oman beats last year’s record for contract awards will largely depend on the award of a handful of major contracts by the end of 2015,” says Ed James, MEED Projects Director of Content and Analysis. “However, with most of them at an advanced stage of tender evaluation, we are hopeful that awards will be made soon.”

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