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7 Dec, 2015

US$250m ADB Loan to Improve Management of Pakistan’s Land Border Points

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 07 December 2015 (25 Safar 1437). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.




malaysia logo

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

The fabulous Malaysia Year of Festivals 2015, or MyFEST 2015, 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.




US$250m ADB Loan to Improve Management of Pakistan’s Land Border Points

4 December 2015 ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (ADB media release) – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $250 million loan to boost cross-border trade activity with its neighboring countries by reducing customs processing time for cargo and goods at the three key border points of Charman, Torkham, and Wagha.

“Customs operations have improved substantially since 2010, but border point performance has lagged due to poor infrastructure and facilities, weak governance, insecurity and remoteness, and the lack of Internet access,” said Dong-Soo Pyo, Lead Transport Specialist in ADB’s Central and West Asia Department. “The project seeks to improve current infrastructure and facilities and to help the government establish transparent border point management. ”

The project is part of the ADB-supported Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) program, a 10 country-partnership for regional cooperation in transport, energy, trade facilitation, trade policy, and other key sectors of mutual interest. CAREC member countries are Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, the People’s Republic of China, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. To improve border services with other CAREC countries, Pakistan will streamline transport, trade, logistics, customs, and other trade-related border control operations.

malaysia logo

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

The project will construct modernized border point infrastructure and facilities, compliant with internationally accepted standards in Charman and Torkham—the two main transit stations for cross-border Afghan trade—as well as in Wagha, the only open land route connecting South Asia to Central Asia. The works will include ICT equipment and connectivity to link each border point with the central customs database, security trade facilitation equipment, and the construction of border point infrastructure.

The assistance will help the government establish the Pakistan Land Port Authority to manage national land border points and develop modern administrative and financial procedures so that project facilities will be under the custody and management of a specialized land port operating agency. The project will also train officials and professional staff from relevant agencies to adequately run the modernized border point infrastructure and facilities, and to provide quality border point services.

The $250 million loan comes from ADB’s ordinary capital resources ($150 million) and its concessional Asian Development Fund ($100 million), with the government providing another $50 million in counterpart support. The project will run for 5 years, with a target completion date of December 2021.

ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members – 48 from the region. In 2014, ADB assistance totaled $22.9 billion, including cofinancing of $9.2 billion.

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Muslim Cycles 29,000 kms from London to Malaysia

BUKIT KAYU HITAM, Malaysia Dec 1 (NNN-Bernama) — A normal flight from London to Kuala Lumpur takes about 16 odd hours but a German-Malaysian Institute graduate took 16 odd months to reach Malaysia from London – because he had decided to cycle the distance of 29,000 km.

Muhammad Adib Mohamad Ali, 26, started his journey from London on Aug 1, 2014 with five friends and encountered various obstacles like weather, unfamiliar road terrains, geographical chances and logistics.

According to Muhammad Adib, throughout his journey that covered 25 countries, including England, France, Belgium, Bosnia, Turkey, Italy, Russia, Vietnam and Thailand, he and his friends faced various challenges.

The salesman (textile), said his most challenging moment was in Turkey when he nearly suffered frostbite (hand) due to the extremely cold weather conditions in Turkey.

“Despite wearing winter cloths, my fingers were almost damaged by frostbite. Fortunately, every country that we passed through, there were people to help in providing food and place to sleep.

“Most of them who did us such favours had been to Malaysia and enjoyed the hospitality of Malaysians,” he said when met at the Bukit Kayu Hitam Immigration, Customs and Quarantine Complex (ICQ), today.

Muhammad Adib from Masai, Johor said he cycled about 50km a day to arrive at the stopover spots that he had pre-planned.

Second in a family of four siblings, Muhammad Adib said he had to trade his mountain bike that he had used to ride from London to Germany since it was not suitable for long distance and endurance.

“I was offered a 50 percent discount to buy a touring bicycle to continue my treacherous journey from Germany. Fortunately, throughout the journey I only experienced a burst tyre once,” he said.

He said along the way, he was also able to collect RM1,400 as donations for the children of Syria and had handed his collection to the responsible people.

“Thank God, my family gave me a lot of encouragement and support. I always kept in touch through WhatsApp and Skype,” he said.

Muhammad Adib who had also set out on an expedition around Asian countries in 2013 said he would challenge himself to a destination that would be further than what he had accomplished now.

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Malaysia Unveils Tourism Guidelines To Be More Muslim-Friendly

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Dec 2 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia has come up with tourism guidelines to make it a more Muslim-friendly nation.

The guidelines – called MS2610:2015 Muslim-Friendly Hospitality Services Requirements – are to set up a system to “preserve and protect the integrity of our Islamic tourism products and services”.

Unveiling the guidelines at the Putra World Trade Centre here today, Deputy Tourism and Culture Minister Mas Ermieyati Samsudin said that Malaysia is recognised as the leading country for Islamic tourism.

“For five consecutive years we have been named the number one destination for Muslim travellers,” she said. This is the finding of studies conducted by international bodies such as Thomson Reuters, Mastercard and Crescentrating.

She attributed the success to the developed Islamic economy ecosystem in this country.

From its halal industry to Islamic finance to Islamic tourism, Malaysia has become a model of a moderate yet progressive Muslim country, envied and emulated by the rest of the global Islamic community, Mas Ermieyati said.

MS2610:2015 was developed by the Department of Standards Malaysia in collaboration with the Islamic Tourism Centre.

The guidelines are to ensure that products and services provided for Muslim travellers complied with Syariah (Islamic law) principles.

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Malaysia Airlines, Emirates pact to expand partnership

Kuala Lumpur, (IINA) – Malaysia Airlines (MAS) and Emirates have announced a new partnership that will give their customers access to a “dramatically expanded” range of travel options, The Star Online reported.

The Malaysian national carrier said in a statement that this would give its customers access to 38 European and 15 American destinations as well as 38 destinations in the Middle East and Africa and the Indian Ocean.

Under the agreement signed by Emirates President Sir Tim Clark and MAS Chief Executive Officer Christoph Mueller, MAS will add its code on flights of Emirates to Europe, Middle East, Africa and the Americas. In return, Emirates will add its code on flights of MAS to domestic routes in Malaysia, South-East Asia and selected cities across the Asia-Pacific region.

MAS said that the codeshare would be implemented progressively throughout 2016, noting that sales under this codeshare agreement will begin from Feb 1 next year.

Mueller said that the improved connectivity would enable MAS customers to reach up to 38 destinations in Europe on a daily and even double daily basis for key European cities such as Zurich, Rome, Munich, Frankfurt, Madrid, and Barcelona.

“This partnership gives our customers access to a dramatically expanded range of travel options. It is a great way for customers to travel seamlessly to major cities across the world. Furthermore, Dubai is a tourism, trade and logistics hub which has earned itself the reputation as being the gateway between the East and the West”, he said.

Mueller said this was part of the national carrier’s initiative towards enhancing air connectivity with key priority markets overseas for increased tourist arrivals into Malaysia

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Tunisia Eyes 5% Growth in Next Five Years

3 December 2015 – Tunis Afrique Presse – Tunis — Tunisia’s five-year development plan 2016-2020 eyes a 5% growth in the next five years, against an average of 1.5% a year between 2011 and 2015, said Minister of Development, Investment and International Co-operation Yassine Brahim.

“The broad lines of Tunisia’s development plan provide for a series of bold reforms, a gradual recovery of economic growth for a sustained growth and a noticeable reduction of unemployment,” the minister noted in his remarks at the opening of the 2nd edition of the Tunisian-German economic forum held under the theme “Germany and Tunisia for a successful economic co-operation.”

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Moroccan Art Exhibition Held in Abuja

29 November 2015 – Leadership (Abuja) – The Moroccan community in Abuja as well as top Nigerian dignitaries were yesterday, in Abuja, hosted to an art exhibition on Moroccan lifestyle.

In his brief remarks at the event, minister of information, culture and tourism, Lai Mohammed expressed his excitement at the exhibition, describing it as a great initiative.

Also in his remark, the Vice-President of ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Toga Gayewea Mcintosh called for more cultural exchange between African countries.

He thanked the organisers for their foresight and called for more cultural exchange among more African countries.

The organiser of the exhibition, Hajiya Hadiza Tangaza, said having spent several years in Morocco, she fell in love with Moroccan culture and art.

Though a Nigerian, Tangaza expressed hopes that the exhibition will strengthen ties between Nigeria and Morocco.

She said, “Initially, I started collecting art work each time I travelled. But at some point, I decided to turn my passion to business”

Also speaking, the Director General of the Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Mrs. Sally Mbanefo, described the exhibition as a great initiative that would go a long way in boosting the cultural relationship between the two countries.

She said, “I think it will be very good because Nigerians and Moroccans have a lot in common culturally. They are Africans just like us. You can imagine; his is like visiting Morocco. It is sharing of culture; that is what it is all about

“The beautiful thing is that it is a Nigerian woman that is doing this, that is bringing the culture together. It is a great initiative.”

Those who graced the occasion included, Nigeria’s minister of information, culture and tourism, Lai Mohammed, Moroccan Ambassador to Nigeria, chairman of LEADERSHIP Group, Mr Sam Nda-Isaiah and a host of other top dignitaries from both countries.

Other participants who spoke to LEADERSHIP Sunday expressed satisfaction and excitement at the event

The guests were treated to special Moroccan music and dishes as well as arts and culture.

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Mozambique Confirms It Is Free of Land Mines

1 December 2015 – Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique – London — Mozambique has formally confirmed that it is free of land mines. The declaration was made at a meeting in Geneva of the States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, commonly known as the Ottawa Convention

The announcement was made by Mozambique’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Pedro Comissario, who stressed that “the greatest indicator of our success is not the number of square metres cleared or the number of land mines destroyed, but the incalculable improvement to the development of Mozambique and the removal of fear from our communities”.

He added, “a great measure of success is that 2015 will mark the first year in decades without any new landmine casualties”.

The director of the National Demining Institute (IND), Alberto Augusto, lamented that “land mines have claimed tens of thousands of victims in our territory, and leave behind a large number of land mine survivors who require assistance, care and rehabilitation, as well as social and economic reintegration in society, on an equal basis with others as mandated by the Convention”.

In addition to having cleared all known anti-personnel mines, Mozambique has also destroyed 37,818 stockpiled mines.

Land mines had been planted during three conflicts – during the colonial war prior to Mozambican independence in 1975, during the incursions by the Rhodesian armed forces in the late 1970s, and during the war of destabilisation waged by the apartheid regime through the Renamo rebels up to the peace agreement signed in October 1992. Since 2000 about 214,700 land mines have been removed and destroyed.

Comissario was confirming the declaration made in Maputo on 17 September by Foreign Minister Oldemiro Baloi. At the time, Baloi said Mozambique had become the first of the five most severely mined countries in the world to comply with the mine clearance obligations of the Ottawa Convention (the other four are Afghanistan, Cambodia, Angola and South Sudan).

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Malaysia Remains Main Growth Driver Of Global Islamic Assets

BAHRAIN, Dec 2 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia, which plays a fundamental role in the modernisation of Islamic banking practices, will remain one of the major growth drivers of global Islamic assets.

Thomson Reuters Acting Head of Islamic Finance Mustafa Adil said the global share of Islamic banking assets is expected to increase to 80 per cent in 2020 from 74 per cent as at end of 2014.

“The expected increase is underlined by the strength of the Islamic banking system in many nations, especially Malaysia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates,” he said during his presentation at the 22nd Annual World Islamic Banking Conference here today.

Mustafa also revealed the findings of the Islamic Finance Development Report 2015, which is a joint initiative between the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector and Thomson Reuters.

The report assessed 108 nations’ progress in the Islamic finance industry using five indicators, namely quantitative development, knowledge, governance, corporate social responsibility, and awareness.

According to the report, Islamic banks are expected to be the biggest growth drivers for Islamic finance with a projected growth of 11 to 12 per cent per year, reaching US$2.6 trillion in 2020.

This, along with the growth of Islamic funds, takaful, sukuk and other Islamic financial institutions, would enable Islamic finance assets to reach US$3.2 trillion by 2020.

The report also quoted Moody’s Investors Service Global Head of Islamic Finance Khalid Ferdous Howladar as saying that Malaysia is well on track to transform its Islamic banks into full-service, asset manager-type of organisations from merely banking services.

He said at this juncture, only Malaysia was able to do this, given the country’s new regulations which ensured a clean disclosure on deposit versus investment-type products.

“The Malaysian government is highly supportive of fostering a more equitable and investment-type activity for Islamic banks,” he added.

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Malaysia’s Halal Exports Hit Rm19.5 Billion In Q2 2015

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia Dec 2 (NNN-Bernama) — The contribution of halal products to Malaysia’s economy continues to grow with exports reaching RM19.5 billion in the second quarter (Q2) of this year, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Dr Wee Ka Siong said.

He said the country’s halal exports in 2014 was valued at RM37.7 billion amid growing demand in recent years.

“It is a massive market and the growth is exponential…the number of Muslims worldwide is expected to increase by 73 per cent from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.8 billion in 2050,” he said in his opening address at the Halal Forum 2015 here, today.

He said many international bodies and businessmen were looking for the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia’s (Jakim) logo as a proven standard bearer and a simbol of quality.

The minister urged Jakim to have greater marketing and promotion of the logo and certification, not only in Malaysia but also in its trading partner nations especially China, India and West Asian countries.

Wee also asked Jakim to expedite the set up of Halal Professional Board to provide a database of halal consultants to advise businesses on the procedures of applying and maintaining halal certificates.

“We would like our businesses to work much more closely with Halal Industry Development Corporation (HDC) and Jakim to make halal development an integral part of the ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR),” he said.

OBOR is China’s initiative to recreate the ancient Silk Road land and maritime trade routes for the 21st Century and beyond.

Wee pointed out that the support and initiative of Sime Darby Bhd’s investment in its Weifang Sime Darby Port could be an advantage and become a major foothold in China for halal exports.

“We invite excellent small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to work with HDC and Jakim to bring Malaysian outputs and investments to Weifang. Let the Weifang Sime Darby Port be our window for halal trade in China,” he said.

In another development, Wee said the government and related agencies had strived to make Malaysia as the leader in the global halal industry.

He said a bigger achievement could be attained if such efforts get the full support from all parties especially the SMEs.

Meanwhile, International Trade and Industry Minister, Mustapa Mohamed, who was also at the forum, said next year would be the phase to further boost the halal products at the international level.

“We will create an ecosystem consisting of Jakim, banks and other forms of assistance that will be able to help local halal entrepreneurs penetrate foreign markets.

“Eventhough the potential in foreign markets are broad, we have not achieved the maximum level,” he said.

Mustapa said Japan and South Korea were more interested to invest in the halal industry in ASEAN countries following high demand for such products.

“They (Japan and South Korea) are interested to make Malaysia as the halal hub to enter the West Asian markets and other Muslim countries,” he said.

Also present at the forum was Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Jamir Khir Baharom.

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Oman Takes Part In 26th Doha Int’l Book Fair

MUSCAT, Oman, Dec 2 (NNN-ONA) – The Sultanate of Oman, represented by the Ministry of Heritage and Culture, is taking part today (Wednesday), in the 26th Doha International Book Fair, which is being organised by the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage, of the State of Qatar, till Dec 12.

The participation comes within the framework of activating the Omani attendance in the international book fairs and achieving goals, most importantly to highlight the Omani book and the Sultanate’s intellectual, literature and historic aspects, as well as enhancing the cultural cooperation, intellectual communication and the cultural exchange on various fields.

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Tourists Can Explore Jordan’s Wonders Via Google Street View

AMMAN, Nov. 24 (NNN-Petra) — Queen Rania Al Abdullah has lent her support to Google as it launches its biggest Street View capture yet in the Arab world. Queen Rania narrated a video tour of Petra and wrote a blogpost for Google Blog in the occasion of the launch.

Google announced the launch of 360-degree street view imagery of Petra and 30 other landmarks in Jordan for the first time.

Street View Special Collects is a feature of Google Maps that lets users explore places around the world like landmarks, natural wonders, as well as culturally and historically significant sites.

Today, anyone with an internet connection can explore Rose-city of Petra, The Dead Sea, and the monuments of Jerash, Qasr Al Kharana, Mount Nebo and more.

Queen Rania, in a blog post about the launch, said that with Google Maps Street View, “people all over the world now have a window into our magical Kingdom in the heart of the Middle East.”

The Queen added that this technology also ” provides a lens on the past. And when we understand more about each other’s stories and cultures and histories, we realize that we are more alike than we are different. That’s why we must preserve these treasures for future generations. They’re a doorway to our shared narrative.”

The Office of Queen Rania worked closely with Google as Her Majesty’s was very pleased to lend her support to the global initiative.

Queen Rania also helped in the selection of the sites at the initial stages of the project and provided an exclusive narration of the global launch video that was widely spread across the internet.

Ulf Spitzer, Global Head of the Google Street View Program, stated: “The Google Street View team tries to go to amazing places around the world because we know that our users love to see them and experience them online. Jordan is one of the most spectacular places that we have visited – thanks to the amazing support and warm hospitality that was extended. We hope our imagery conveys all the grace, beauty and deep heritage of the country.”

To create this imagery, Google used the Trekker which is a wearable Street View backpack with a camera system on top that is designed to go down footpaths, tracks and narrow pathways to get images of areas of natural beauty or tourist sites.

This is the fifth Street View imagery collected of a major landmark in MENA, after Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the Liwa desert in Abu Dhabi and the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt.

Google Maps Street View began in 2007 and today covers thousands of cities in 72 countries. The program includes capturing 360 degree imagery of theme parks, university campuses, pedestrian malls, landmarks and zoos.

The imagery of the 30 historical sites and other sites is now available on Google Maps and can be viewed on g.co/Jordanhighlights and g.co/Petra.

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‘A Journey Through Time’ To Boost Malaysia Tourism

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Nov 28 (NNN-Bernama) — The showcase, ‘A Journey Through Time’ by world watch and jewellery brands is expected to help the government achieve 26 million tourists with RM168 billion in revenue by 2020.

Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Abdul Aziz said such an effort by the corporate sector is also in line with the government’s effort to place Malaysia as a world shopping destination for luxury brands.

“I was pleased to know that this year, A Journey Through Time has evolved itself to become more inclusive by widening its target audience and reaching out to younger consumers.

“Since its inception nine years ago, it has included experiences that will appeal not only to seasoned collectors and watch and jewellery aficionados but also to beginners or those who are curious and wish to get to know the beautiful world of watch and jewellery,” he said when speaking at the Tourism and Culture Gala Night: Watch and Jewellery of the Year Awards Presentation 2015, here Friday night.

Therefore, he said ministry would remain strong in support of such a prestigious event that is revered and anticipated by all watch and jewellery enthusiasts in Asia.

Therefore, he said the ministry would remain strong in support to such a prestigious event that is revered and anticipated by all watch and jewellery enthusiasts in Asia.

The tourism calendar event featured thousands of collections from 125 international watch and jewellery brands to showcase their special collections.

The event was held for eight days since Nov 20 until yesterday at Starhill Gallery.

At the event, Hermes’s Slim d’Hermes Perpetual Calendar watch was announced as the Ministry of Tourism and Culture’s Most Revered Award 2015 recipient.

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Gulf Air Launches Three BBC Brands Onboard

MANAMA, Bahrain, Dec 2 (NNN-BNA) – Gulf Air, the national carrier of the Kingdom of Bahrain, is bringing the airline’s passengers a new entertainment experience, as it becomes the first airline in the Middle East to launch BBC’s worldwide three newest genre brands onboard: BBC Brit, BBC Earth and BBC First.

BBC Brit is the home of Top Gear and so much more – blending expertise with entertainment, BBC Brit covers a rich variety of subjects: cars, adventure, life-changing moments, quirky British characters, chat show and comedy.

Nature lovers can now enjoy watching BBC Earth onboard their Gulf Air flight – a channel dedicated to sharing the incredible wonders of our planet, showcasing the work of the world’s foremost factual film makers.

Fans of British drama now have BBC First – the home of the very best original, innovative and compelling dramas.

Gulf Air A/Chief Commercial Officer, Ahmed Janahi said, “We are delighted to partner with BBC Worldwide, to share their premium new channels with our passengers, giving them a greater selection of programmes. I don’t doubt that our enhanced onboard entertainment will please travellers and I look forward to receiving their invaluable feedback.”

Zina Neophytou, Director – Travel & Special Markets, BBC Worldwide said, “BBC Brit, Earth and First, offer customers the very best of British entertainment, documentary and drama, and we are thrilled that Gulf Air passengers will be the first in the region to be able to enjoy all three channels in-flight.”

Gulf Air’s entire fleet is equipped with the latest in-flight entertainment technology, offering hundreds of channels of entertainment that include religious programmes, movies, TV shows, a channel dedicated to local Bahraini productions and an instructional and informative health channel, in addition to a variety of games for the airline’s younger passengers.

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Tourism Malaysia To Promote Shopping Complexes

GEORGE TOWN, PENANG, Dec 3 (NNN-Bernama) — Tourism Malaysia will promote shopping complexes in Malaysia to Brunei, Vietnam and China to attract tourists to come and shop here.

Head of Shopping Malaysia secretariat (Domestic Promotion), Baizuri Baharum said the initiative followed a strong shopping trend among tourists over the past two years, since apart from accommodation, shopping accounted for the second highest expenditure.

“In October we launched a pilot project to promote shopping complexes in the country to Indonesia through road shows in hotels, shopping complexes and through travel agents in their country.

“The feedback we received was very encouraging and according to 15 shopping complexes, including KLCC, Bukit Bintang, Jakel and Bukit Jambul, the number of tourists shopping at their places had increased,” she told eporters after launching a 1Malaysia Year End Sale at Plaza Gurney, in the island resort.

She said about 20 shopping complexes were currently participating in the promotion and the number is expected to increase next year.

“Apart from promotions in Asian countries like Brunei, Vietnam and China, we also have plans to carry out such promotions in Australia and New Zealand,” said Baizuri.

According to Baizuri, as of July this year, the amount spent by tourists for shopping had surpassed the amount spent for accommodation and the ministry remains confident of achieving the RM22.7 billion target.

“From the RM33.8 billion revenue recorded by the Tourism sector in the mid-year, spending for shopping was 29.6 percent or RM10 billion. Our target for 2015 is RM22.7 billion or RM1,016 for every tourist. As of June, we have been able to achieve 50 percent of the target,” she said.

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Cameroon: Institution Reveals Disability Services to Disabled Persons

Cameroon Tribune – 3 December 2015 – In line with events marking the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the institution with services for the promotion of persons with disabilities in Yaounde best known by its French acronym Promhandicam last Wednesday, December 2, 2015 within its premises at the Mimboman II neighbourhood organised free consultation for people with eye and body malformation as well as an open-door event to make known to the public, the different activities that take place at the institution.

The Permanent Correspondent of Promhandicam, Laurent Bila Kibambe said even people living at the Mimboman neighbourhood do not know what takes place at the institution. According to him Promhandicam is an educational and rehabilitation project for people with disabilities in Cameroon. The institution has a school which integrate disabled and non-disabled children in the same learning environment, offers community based rehabilitation programme, Braille literature production and distribution, special needs and education centre as well as eye examinations.

While noting that the institution has a set of four-projects according to the needs of children with disabilities, the school within the institution accommodate visually, physically and mentally impaired children as well as integrates children with disabilities and non disabled children in the same learning environment. A special pedagogic method is used in the school to enable all children participate at same level. The Braille production center facilitates the distribution of Braille literature to other institutions for visually impaired people in the country on regular basis. The Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) programme offered in the institution aims to ensure the proximity of services (vocational training and eye screening) to people with disabilities in the communities.

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Cameroon: Fcfa 403.9 Billion for Road Infrastructure

Cameroon Tribune – 3 December 2015 – The Ministry of Public Works, MINTP, will if the 2016 budget is adopted in plenary in Parliament, bag home the highest amount in terms of budgetary allocations. The Ministry will in 2016, carry out investments and operations worth FCFA 403.9 billion, a figure that has increased by 78.1 billion compared to the FCFA 325.7 billion of 2015. Public Works Minister, Emmanuel Nganou Djoumessi, defended the draft budget at the Commission on Finance and Budget of the National Assembly on December 1, 2015, with the Committee Chairperson, Hon. Rosette Ayayi presiding. FCFA 325.7 billion will be used for operations and FCFA69 billion for investment.

The detailed programme was presented to members of the Committee, with the Ministry intending to continue construction work on roads like a 68 km Yaounde-Douala (phase 1) highway, Sangmelima-Ouesso; Sangmelima-Bikoula; Bikoula Djoum and Djoum-Mintoum, the Foumban-Manki, the Ndop-Kumbo ring road amongst others.

Road projects to begin in 2016 include the construction of the Kribi-Edea motorway, the first phase of which concerns the Lolabe-Kribi town stretch, the construction of the Mbama-Messamena road, the development of the access roads to the stadiums under construction as well as the monitoring and control of construction works on 10 stadiums and the rehabilitation of five others for the 2016 and 2019 AFCON. Rehabilitation projects earmarked for execution in 2016 shall concern the Moro-Dabanga and Dabanga-Kousseri, Yaounde-Douala, Yaounde-Bafousam-Bamenda and the rehabilitation of the Ngolbang-Zoetele-Sangmelima-Mezesse-Meyomessala road.

Minister Nganou Djoumessi stated that “Apart from the Ebebda Bridge and Babdjou-Bamenda Road sections for which funds have already been made, the financing for the other projects are yet to be secured. He told the press after hours of grilling in the chambers that his team was going; “to emphasise on the necessity to open up production basins so that the people from most remote areas of the country can feel concerned with the progress made, by the conveyance of rural products to commercial centres.”

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Egypt Ministers Mull Plan to Boost Arab, Domestic Tourism

28 November 2015 – Egypt State Information Service (Cairo) – Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou met on Friday 27/11/2015 with Civil Aviation Minister Hossam Kamal to discuss ways to increase the flow of tourists to Egypt and operate new airlines to support tourism movement to Egypt.

During the meeting, Zaazou said that his ministry is focusing now on Arab and local markets. Promotion campaigns will be launched as of December with the aim to attract tourists around the world, especially in Eastern Europe and China, the tourism minister said.

Other campaigns with preferential prices will be launched to activate Arab and domestic tourism, especially with the beginning of the holiday season in December and January, he added.

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Uganda Remains Tourism Supportive

29 November 2015 – East African Business Week – Kampala — The Prime Minister and leader of government business in Uganda, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, has reassured government support towards the Uganda tourism sector.

“Government is more than ready to give support/money to the sector because investing in tourism is a very profitable business for the country.” Rugunda said while officiating at the recent Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), Tourism Excellence Awards Ceremony.

He said government doors to tourism are more than open and if knocked, government will be entirely responsive.

“I believe Uganda is sitting on a goldmine whose potential has not yet been exploited to the limit. I want to salute you (key players in the sector) for opening this goldmine.” Rugunda said.

He said Uganda has enormous resources to offer to the world but that, these resources are hidden because issues related to marketing Uganda have not been taken as a wild shared duty in the country. He asked the people of Uganda to jointly publicize these resources to the rest of the world.

“Our duty is a collective one. Let us inform the world that Uganda has something substantial to offer to the world.” Rugunda said.

The Chairman Uganda Tourism Board, James Tumusiime asked the media in Uganda to give time and space to cover such relevant issues like tourism.

“I know it is the responsibility of the media to give people what they want to know like the current political campaigns but it is also your duty to give people what they ought to know like what is happening in tourism and business.” Tumusiime said.

He thanked the government of Uganda for realizing that tourism was now a profitable sector better than coffee among other exports and her subsequent response to reinvigorate the sector by increasing the budget on tourism over the years.

Tumusime said government gave money to the sector on condition that they will realize returns on the money. He said the sector has continued to improve its fortunes which he (Tumusiime) said is a sign that Ugandans can do it when they want to do it.

Tumusiime said tourism faced challenges in the past because Uganda was marketed in “kiosks”. He said they have changed the model for marketing the country from “kiosks” to “supermarkets” which he said will help demystify all the negative perception about the sector.

He said tourism is a green and clean business not comparable to even oil. He asked Ugandans not to leave the issue of promoting Uganda only to the hands of those employed in or by the sector but should join hands and promote Uganda.

Uganda Tourism board recently hosted the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo 2015 exhibitions which run from 17-19 November.

The Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo is one of the annual events in the East African region organized by Uganda Tourism Board (UTB). Now in its second year, Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo aims at raising the profile of Destination Uganda both domestically, regionally and internationally.

The Expo brought together tourism stakeholders and other service providers along the tourism value chain. It is a unique opportunity for the tourism business operators to meet new clients, network, promote and market their businesses.

Over 8 African Regional Tourism boards, Travel agents, Tour operators, hoteliers, destination managers and other service providers along the tourism value chain and international press attended this year’s exhibition/expo.

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Kenya: Tour Firm Seeks Deals for Halal Products

The Star – 30 November 2015 – A German tour firm is seeking local partnerships for products for Sharia-compliant tourist products.

Frankfurt-based Soultreat Tour Company said the number of Muslim tourists seeking beach and safari holidays – products that Kenya is endowed with – is increasingly rising.

They include beach hotels at the Coast, camps in the national and game reserves and hotels in the Mount Kenya region.

“The Muslim community in Germany is now interested to travel across the world. We have to develop Halal products and promote them. We are seeking to partner with a local firm and capitalise on the flight frequencies from Germany to Kenya,” Soultreat marketing manager Abier Qashgish told the Star in an interview on Saturday.

She said most Muslim families prefer privacy especially female travelers, making private villas, hotels with private swimming pools and sea front most popular.

“What we will need to do is identify hotels and villas that can provide a conducive environment, good and decent entertainment for the Muslim ,” she said, adding Kenya has an advantage as it offers Halal food in majority of its facilities.

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Dubai Tourism Wins Best International Stand At Akwaaba 2015

By Jimoh Babatunde

1 December 2015 – Vanguard (Lagos) – Dubai’s debut presence at this year’s African Travel Market (ATM), taking place in Lagos, Nigeria from 22-24 November, highlights the emirate’s interest in the continent, with Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) delivering the message that the city is a must-visit destination for African travellers in 2016.

Speaking at the ATM, Stella Obinwa, Head of Africa Region, Dubai Tourism, said: “Dubai already holds great appeal among African travellers, particularly those who love shopping, entertainment and family fun. We are here to show that Dubai is going to out-do itself in this regard in 2016, with incredible new attractions and opportunities that can’t be missed.”

Nigeria is one of Dubai’s best-performing African markets, with over 300,000 visitors arriving in Dubai from the region in 2014. Emirates operates three flights daily out of Nigeria, augmented by additional flights from within the region operated by Ethiopian Airlines, Etihad Airways, Rwandair, Kenya Airways, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines and Royal Air Maroc.

Shopping is a major attraction among African travellers, and Dubai is highlighting its incredible retail offering to Nigerians in several innovative ways. Dubai Tourism recently rolled out an advertising campaign in Nigeria highlighting Dubai Shopping Festival in January – the month when shopping bargains and festivities can be found across the city, including the world’s most-visited mall, The Dubai Mall.

Furthermore, Dubai Tourism is running an incredible prize giveaway for consumers, on radio with Soul & Liquid Lounges and with travel partners Tour Brokers International and World N Travel, offering 200 people the chance to win a trip to Dubai Shopping Festival 2016.

Stella Obinwa commented: “The scale of the competition is unprecedented and hasn’t been done by any other tourism board or company. We are working with our top travel agencies and radio stations to give Nigerians an amazing Dubai experience. When it comes to shopping, nobody does it better than Nigerians.”

Dubai Tourism is also enlisting style leaders to highlight its status as a fashion capital, and the Department recently worked with Nigerian-American artist Jidenna to highlight the city’s shopping and destination offerings.

The emirate’s ambitious plans to make Dubai the world’s number one family holiday destination will also be demonstrated during ATM, spurred by the openings of four major theme parks in Dubai next year. Opening in early 2016, IMG Worlds of Adventure will be the world’s largest indoor theme park, offering year-round fun and excitement for all ages. Conveniently located 20 minutes from both of Dubai’s airports, the project comprises four themed zones – Cartoon Network, Lost Valley Dinosaur Adventure, MARVEL and IMG Boulevard.

All of these are housed within a 1.5 million square foot, temperature-controlled indoor space that also includes a vast retail and dining offering. IMG Worlds of Adventure will be followed by the opening of Dubai Parks and Resorts later in the year in October, when the project’s three theme parks – Legoland Dubai, Bollywood Parks Dubai and Motiongate Dubai – will start welcoming visitors.

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Emirates Airlines Launches Online Booking, Check-In

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Dec 3 (NNN-BNA) – Emirates has launched an Arabic version of its popular mobile site, allowing customers in the Middle East and North Africa to book flights, check-in online, change or upgrade their flights and receive their boarding pass.

It will also allow them to download Apple Passbook boarding passes to their smartphone, according to UAE News Agency (WAM).

The Arabic mobile platform has been rolled out simultaneously across 15 countries in the Middle East and North Africa, including the UAE, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco and Sudan, among others.

Sheikh Majid Al Mualla, Divisional Senior Vice President, Commercial Operations Centre for Emirates, said, “Mobile device penetration in the Middle East and North Africa is steadily growing and we have been seeing strong usage on emirates.com from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt and Lebanon. In fact, almost two million people access emirates.com from those countries each month, and almost half of them access our site through their mobile devices. We saw a clear need for an Arabic mobile site, which would allow us to significantly improve the customer experience.”

In addition to its newly launched Arabic mobile site, Emirates also has mobile sites in English, Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Russian, Chinese and Turkish. By the end of this year, the airline plans to roll out mobile sites enabled in Greek, Italian, Korean, Polish and Taiwanese. Amongst other features, customers using the Emirates mobile site, in any language can: book flights, check in online, upgrade their class of travel, manage their travel bookings, as well as, view and download their boarding passes.

Emirates continues to be a leader in enhancing the mobile experience for its customers. Earlier this year, after the overwhelming popularity of the Emirates App for iPhone, the airline extended its mobile App for the Android platform to serve its customers who use Android enabled devices – a move which helped pave the way for innovation on other devices that use the platform.

Emirates was also the first airline in the Middle East to launch an App for Apple Watch in Apr, enabling customers from around the globe to be able to enjoy the smart features and sleek interface of the Emirates app for Apple Watch, designed to complement the Emirates iPhone app, WAM reported.

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Guyana Tourism launches ‘Know your Consumer Rights’ campaign

Georgetown, GINA, November 27, 2015 – The Consumer Affairs Division of the Ministry of Tourism today, launched the ‘Know your Consumer Rights’ campaign, as it seeks to build consumers’ confidence, and educate them on how to seek recourse.

Many Guyanese are unaware that they have recourse to a Department of Government specially designed to intervene on their behalf whenever any of the rights that are accorded to them under the laws of Guyana are breached.

At the launch this morning at the Ministry’s Colgrain House office on Camp Street, Georgetown, Tourism Minister Cathy Hughes said that more recently consumers across the board have been experiencing difficult times with the poor quality of goods available on the market.

These, she said, include goods ranging from utensils to clothing, household appliances, technological instruments – cellular phones, and industrial machinery, children’s and adult shoes and babies’ clothes.

“The troubling part is the hint of disrespect and laissez faire attitudes that seem to be creeping into our commercial relationships with sellers and providers of goods and services. We at this Ministry have the task of eradicating it. We have to nip this in the bud,’ the Minister explained.

The rights of Consumers are detailed in the Consumer Affairs Act 2011 which outlines in simple terms the responsibilities of both the supplier and the purchaser of goods or services.

According to the Act, if or whenever a consumer is dissatisfied with the performance or appearance of a purchase, be it food; electronics/appliances; furnishing; tools; construction materials; interior or exterior décor; clothing or any sundry item such as umbrellas, cookware or jewellery, they have the right to return it to the place of purchase and seek redress.

“I just wish to say that this Rights campaign that we’re launching today is more about sensitising the public to the rights that they have in any buyer/seller scenario. It offers a set of advisories and how-tos. It is meant to build consumer confidence to accept and pay only for the products and services they are satisfied with. It’s a win-win situation really since the business community will also receive the information they need to purchase and sell products and services of better than average quality,” Minister Hughes further stated.

In her remarks, Director of the Division, Muriel Tinnis-Duke stated that, “this knowledge will not only allow you to make the right choices when buying items, it will also empower you to demand value for your money. Over the past years research has shown how consumer education worldwide has evolved a great deal. It is heartening to see increasing recognition of the importance of consumer education in Guyana today.”

The Consumer Affairs Division in collaboration with supporting consumer related agencies such as the Guyana National Bureau of Standards; the Government Analyst, Food and Drugs Department; the Competition and Consumer Affairs Commission; the Public Utilities and NGOs like the Guyana Consumers Association, have been developing a coherent strategy and focal point for consumer education. The beneficiaries will be consumers and enterprises across the board.

“The launch of this initiative during this time which we all know as the “Peak Season”, is testimony to the fact that we regard consumers as the drivers in any vendor/purchaser situation,” the Director advised.

The general public and the business community are assured that this campaign is in no way intended to lambaste them or their businesses. In fact, this campaign has a lot of benefits for business owners and operators.

“Principally it will give you even more knowledge of what consumers want and the standards they want it to come with. You will therefore have more knowledge about the goods that you, the entrepreneurs, purchase to retail to consumers. You too are customers and you have these same rights.”

The Consumer Affairs Division has been in existence for more than 25 years, but its services have not been fully utilised for a range of reasons. More than 60 percent of Guyanese were unaware of its existence; many had no confidence in the division’s ability to resolve their purchasing issues; and the prevailing socio-political climate prior to May 2015 dulled the effectiveness of the division.

The Consumer Affairs Division’s campaign will be launched on every information platform in Guyana and will span a wide spectrum of Consumer Rights including, the right to Choose, the right to Safety, the right to be Informed, the right to be Heard, the right to a fair Settlement of Claims, the right to Consumer Education, the right to a Healthy Environment and the right to Redress.

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Guyana Museum staff benefit from training programme

GINA – November 27 2015 – The Ministry of Tourism and the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) continue to demonstrate their commitment to capacity building and institutional strengthening within the sector, by facilitating numerous training programmes and by providing opportunities for the development of skills.

The Guyana National Museum was the most recent entity to benefit from a training session on Effective Customer Service, held during their Staff Development Workshop on November 25 at the National Museum.

During the half-day session, facilitated by the Director of the Guyana Tourism Authority, Mr. IndranauthHaralsingh, the participants were reminded that positive interaction is key to delivering effective customer service.

He emphasisedtoo that all members of staff play an integral role in improving the visitor experience.

“Every support member can master the skills of excellent customer service, this will drastically improve your interactions with customers, visitors and tourists,” Mr. Haralsingh explained.

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Researchers: Statue of Liberty was inspired by Arabian woman

Thursday 03 Dec 2015 – New York, (IINA) – Researchers said on Wednesday that the Statue of Liberty, a symbol of democracy and freedom in the United States, was inspired by a project representing an Arab woman guarding the Suez Canal, AFP reported.

The recent findings are especially startling for some in the US amid a heated debate over the arrival of refugees from war-torn Syria and other Muslim majority countries.

French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, who traveled to Egypt in 1855-1856, developed there a “passion for large-scale public monuments and colossal sculptures”, said the US National Park Service, which guards the Statue of Liberty in New York.

When the Egyptian government sought proposals in 1869 to build a lighthouse for the Suez Canal, Bartholdi designed a huge statue of a robed woman holding a torch, which he called “Progress Brings Light to Asia”. Others say he called it “Egypt Brings Light to Asia”.

The sculpture originally took the “form of a veiled peasant woman”, explained Barry Moreno, author of “The Statue of Liberty Encyclopedia”, as quoted by the US-funded Smithsonian Institution.

“Bartholdi produced a series of drawings in which the proposed statue began as a gigantic female fellah, or Arab peasant, and gradually evolved into a colossal goddess”, added Edward Berenson, historian and author of “The Statue of Liberty: A Transatlantic Story (Icons of America)”.

In 1870, Bartholdi began designing the statue based on his previous design. It was later inaugurated in 1886.

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New financing deal inked to build world’s tallest tower in Jeddah

Monday 30 Nov 2015 – Jeddah, (IINA) – Saudi Arabia’s government stated on Sunday that Jeddah Economic Company and Saudi Arabia’s Alinma Investment have signed a financing deal for $2.2 billion to renovate Jeddah City and build a sky-piercing tower, which will become the world’s tallest building, CNN reported.

The tower, which is expected to be completed by 2020, is currently built up to the 26th floor. It is estimated to be 1 kilometer tall, 173 meters higher than the current tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa or Khalifa Tower in Dubai.

“With this deal, we will reach new, as yet unheard of highs in real estate development, and will fulfill the company’s objective of creating a world-class urban center that offers an advanced lifestyle, so that Jeddah may have a new iconic landmark that attracts people from all walks of society with comprehensive services and a multitude of uses”, said Mounib Hammoud, Chief Executive Officer of Jeddah Economic Company.

The building will boast 200 floors and overlook the Red Sea. Its construction will require about 5.7 million square feet of concrete and 80,000 tons of steel, according to Saudi Gazette.

Experts say that building a structure that tall on the coast where saltwater could potentially damage it is no easy feat. The foundations, which will be 200 feet (60 meters) deep, need to be able to withstand the saltwater of the nearby ocean. As a result, Advanced Construction Technology Services will test the strength of different concretes.

Wind load is another issue for buildings of this magnitude. To counter this challenge, the tower will change shape regularly.

“Because it changes shape every few floors, the wind loads go round the building and won’t be as extreme as on a really solid block”, Gordon Gill explained to Construction Weekly. Gill is a partner at Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, the design architects for the project.

Director of the Council on Tall Buildings noted that building the Kingdom Tower should be feasible. “At this point of time we can build a tower that is one kilometer, maybe two kilometers. Any higher than that and we will have to do a lot of homework”, he told Construction Weekly.

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Islamic fashion program ready to go global

Tuesday 01 Dec 2015 – Kuala Lumpur, (IINA) – The Islamic Fashion and Design Council (IFDC) is working now with fashion design schools worldwide to introduce a program on modest fashion for the Muslim fashion industry, Philippine Canadian Inquirer news reported. The IFDC is one of the world’s leading modest fashion and design councils.

Founder and Chairwoman of IFDC Alia Khan said the council wants to educate international designers on modest fashion guidelines, which is receiving more attention, not only from Muslims, but also from those aspiring to dress up within modest perimeters.

She said, “Today’s fashion encompassing Muslims does not only mean wearing the Abaya, the robe-like dress worn by Middle-eastern women, but also other options such as the maxi dress, loose trousers, kaftans and high-waist skirts.

“There is a huge demand in the industry from women who want to dress modestly, while following the latest trends, and Muslims aspiring to obey conservative Islamic principles. This is what we are here for,” she added.

According to Alia, the IFDC has launched iFash at Esmod Dubai for students there to learn about the challenges, intricacies and delights of Islamic clothing.

“The three-month course is the first Islamic fashion design program and we hope to produce students to develop traditional Middle Eastern clothing,” she said.

Esmod is the United Arab Emirates branch of the French fashion school. She said the council is now in talks with other schools on introducing a similar program. It was reported that the Muslim consumer expenditure in the clothing/fashion sector will increase to US$ 322 billion by 2018 from an estimated US$ 224 billion in 2012.

The IFDC was established last year in New York and currently operates in Italy, South Africa, France, and Dubai.

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GCC Islamic banking assets up 18% last year

Wednesday 02 Dec 2015 – Dubai, (IINA) – Islamic banks expected to see strong growth across the GCC with total Shariah compliant commercial banking assets surging 18 percent ($91 billion) year on year in 2014, Gulf News reported citing the World Islamic Banking Competitiveness Report 2016 from EY (Ernst & Young).

Globally, Islamic banking assets with commercial banks are set to exceed $920 billion growing at a compounded annual growth rate of about 16 percent.

Islamic banking assets of commercial banks based in Qatar, Indonesia, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, the UAE and Turkey (together denoted as QISMUT) are set to exceed $801 billion in 2015 and will represent 80 percent of international Islamic banking assets.

Data shows in some of the traditional markets such as Indonesia and Turkey, Islamic asset growth has either plateaued or declined marginally.

“Growth trajectories of some of the historically strong markets are seen diverging with different factors impacting the asset growth. In turkey, geopolitics has impacted growth but the slowdown is temporary. Indonesia will require more regulatory stimulus to lift growth in the sector,” said Ashar Nazim, Partner, Global Islamic banking centre, EY.

In some of the high growth markets such as the UAE and Malaysia, Islamic banking asset growth appears to be converging to that of traditional banks in the range of 20 to 25 percent. “This calls for new initiatives to boost the market share of Islamic banks. There are efforts in both these countries to drive growth by linking Islamic banking to Islamic economy initiatives. In addition, these markets will need to upgrade the overall industry infrastructure such as regulations, supervision, legal and accounting infrastructure to gain market share,” Nazim said.

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Russian official channel urges citizens to visit Morocco

Wednesday 02 Dec 2015 – Rabat, (IINA) – State-owned channel Russia 24 has aired a special report, inviting Russian travelers to visit Morocco.

The Russian report highlighted Morocco’s tourism assets and portrayed the North African kingdom as “a stable and tolerant Muslim country with great tourist attractions.” Morocco World News reported.

Urging Russians to visit the country, the report brought under the spotlights Morocco’s main tourism attractions, such as Marrakech, Casablanca and Agadir.

This comes as Russian holidaymakers are searching for new travel destinations, which are not banned and sanctions free.

Meanwhile, Russia suspended flights to Egypt following the Russian plane crash in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt and in recent days, it banned travel to Turkey after the Turkish military shot Russian Su-24 warplane.

Multiple media reports suggested that Morocco, which seeks to attract 800,000 Russian tourists in 2020, could be an ideal alternative summer destination for Russia holidaymakers.

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UAE to launch space probe to explore Mars’ climate

Wednesday 02 Dec 2015 – Abu Dhabi, (IINA) – The United Arab Emirates (UAE) will be first in the Arab world to announce the launch of a space probe, Al Amal, that will explore Mars’ climate in 2021, Khaleej Times reported.

The ambitious project will contribute to mankind’s quest to know more about the Red Planet. The UAE, being at the forefront of firsts, has now joined the league by launching its own expedition into outer space. The UAE Space Agency, formed in July 2014 under an order of the President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, aims to lead the first Arab-Islamic venture.

The Emirates Mars Mission, better known as Al Amal or “Hope” Mars probe, comprises the first all-Emirati team that will design, manufacture and launch an unmanned device for a scientific voyage in the year 2021. The year will coincide with the UAE’s 50th National Day.

Led under the supervision of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), the Hope Mars probe aims to study Mars’ atmosphere and record climate changes as it travels through seasonal cycles. The information collected will be shared among 200 global institutions.

The 75-member Emirati team is divided into seven groups including spacecraft, logistics, mission operation, project science education and outreach, ground station, and launch vehicle. The programme is also integrating the teaching community to encourage future engineers and scientists in the field.

Another interesting project is KhalifaSat. Announced in 2013, the satellite follows its predecessors, DubaiSat-1 and -2, to open up doors to the UAE’s technological advancement and bring in a new segment in the country’s list of space ventures.

Developed by Emirati engineers, phase one of the satellite project began in South Korea. Further development and testing will continue in the UAE, once the nation establishes the necessary facilities to support the project.

The launch date for the satellite has been slated in 2018. It will provide high-resolution images and important data required for disaster relief management, urban planning, environment protection and marine detection, to name a few.

Developed by the engineering students of American University of Sharjah under the supervision of MBRSC, the UAE’s first cube satellite will take off on a Falcon 9 rocket in 2016 from the US. Once launched, the nano-satellite will be controlled from a ground station in the UAE, which will be based in the University.

The UAE Space Agency along with the International Astronomy Centre recently took part in observing the entry of artificial space debris to the earth’s atmosphere in mid-November this year. The team took off from Abu Dhabi in a private aircraft and remained airborne over the Indian Ocean, using special equipment to record their findings.

Prior to the mission, Dr Khalifa Al Rumaithi, Chairman of the UAE Space Agency, had stated: “Our participation in such space-related events comes in line with the country’s strategic plans for the UAE Space sector, which aims at enhancing and supporting scientific research in the Space field. The emirate’s delegation and its participation in the observation efforts will highlight the country’s position in the international space community, and support scientific discovery, which benefits the whole of humanity.”

The cooperative mission involved renowned scientists from the US Space Agency (NASA), the European Space Agency (ESA), and other international space observatories.

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Canada to become Islamic finance hub of North America

Thursday 03 Dec 2015 – Toronto, (IINA) – Canada is looking to position itself as the regional hub for Islamic finance in North America, Emirates 24/7 news reported. According to the World Economic Forum, Canada is considered to having one of the most effective and safest banking systems in the world.

Its main competitor in the region, the United States, is a much larger market overall, but Canada has a proportionately larger Muslim population.

This advantage is coupled with an arguably more favourable federal regulatory regime and an outward looking orientation that is potentially more favourable and conducive to the growth of Islamic finance.

“Canada’s commercial ties with the countries of the Organization of Islamic Corporation (OIC) are growing fast. Canada is keen to explore ways to forge new partnerships and to create new opportunities for long-term, collective prosperity both in Canada and in the Muslim world”, said Arif Z Lalani, Canada’s Special Envoy to the OIC and current Ambassador of Canada to the UAE.

Thomson Reuters, the provider of information for businesses and professionals, and the Toronto Financial Services Alliance (TFSA), a public–private partnership dedicated to growing Toronto’s financial services cluster, today unveiled a major study, the Canada Islamic Finance Outlook 2016, during the World Islamic Banking Conference (WIBC) held in Bahrain.

The domestic Islamic banking system has a strong potential to develop, with a growing domestic Muslim population estimated to be more than 1.3 million (3 percent of the population) in Canada and expected to rise to 3 million (6.6 percent of the population) by 2030. Currently, there is a potential of over $2 billion in Shariah-compliant mortgages in Canada, a figure that is expected to increase to $18 billion by 2020, which provides a strong base to support the development of the domestic Islamic banking system.

International sukuk (Islamic bonds) is another area where Canada can potentially attract more foreign capital to support infrastructure need amounting in total to $130 billion, or 9 percent of Canada’s GDP.

It is also noteworthy that Canada’s asset managers have a wealth of international experience in the responsible finance and Shariah compliant investment space that positions them well to capture a share of the estimated $23 billion responsible Islamic investments market across the OIC. This is in addition to the potential for domestic Shariah compliant assets.

Furthermore, Canada has significant trade links with Muslim majority countries around the world, which can be leveraged. “Canada and Toronto have all the ingredients to become a North American hub for Islamic finance a sound economy and stable political environment; a wealth of assets that are conducive to Islamic finance, traditionally strong risk management skills, a large and growing Muslim population; an openness to doing business with the world; and an effective regime of regulation and supervision,” said President and CEO, Toronto Financial Services Alliance Janet Ecker.

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Turkey, Qatar sign visa-free agreement

Thursday 03 Dec 2015 – Doha, (IINA) – Turkey and Qatar have signed a visa-free travel agreement on Wednesday, World Bulletin (WB) reported citing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The first meeting of Qatari-Turkish Supreme Strategic Committee was held here on Wednesday under the Co-chairmanship of Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and Turkish President Erdogan, Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported.

“From now on, visas between Turkey and Qatar have been removed,” Erdogan told reporters in the Gulf state, adding that people from both countries will now be able to visit each other much more easily, according to WB

The Turkish president said that the visa-free agreement was a “last second” decision, for which he thanked the Qatari Emir.

Erdogan and al-Thani also chaired the Turkey-Qatar high strategic committee’s first meeting in the Qatari capital of Doha during which 15 bilateral agreements were signed. Erdogan said that the visa-free agreement was the 16th agreement between the two countries.

It is noteworthy that during the meeting the two sides reviewed the close relations between their countries and the means to develop and enhance them in various fields to attain the mutual interests of their peoples. They also discussed a host of regional and international issues, particularly the Palestinian problem and the situation in Syria.

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Sharjah halal exhibition to highlight tourism vertical

Monday 30 Nov 2015 – Dubai, (IINA) – The 4th Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Halal Middle East Exhibition in Sharjah is launching a new vertical targeting the halal tourism segment — Halal Tourism Middle East 2015 (HTME), according to a statement on Sunday from the Expo Centre Sharjah.

The exhibition will be held at Expo Centre Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates from December 8 to 10.

To be held as part of Halal Middle East, the HTME is an acknowledgement of long-held credentials of Sharjah as a pioneer in culture, religion, education, art, architecture and a family friendly destination.

“Halal Tourism Middle East celebrates Sharjah’s selection as the ‘Capital of Arab Tourism’ for 2015, as well the recognition of Sharjah’s unique tourism offerings that have been growing in stature at local, regional and international levels over the years,” said Saif Mohammed Al-Midfa, CEO, Expo Centre Sharjah.

The statement added that the HTME 2015 will help ministries of tourism, other government departments, travel agencies, hotels & resorts, airlines and the likes to tap into this growing market, which globally saw Muslims spending $142 billion on travel in 2014.

The statement said that by 2020, the market is expected to reach $233 billion, adding that experts have pointed out the boom was driven by the increasing Muslim population in many countries and supported by a young, educated and assertive demographic.

“Halal Middle East, along with its focus on tourism, will take advantage of new market opportunities, which is strongly led by the food & beverage and finance sectors, and has expanded into the pharmaceutical, cosmetic, personal-care and other segments. The global halal industry is going to converge on Sharjah to take advantage of a range of compelling opportunities in the region,” added Al-Midfa.

Held under the patronage of Dr. Sheikh Sultan Al-Qassimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, Halal Middle East will feature more than 100 exhibitors from prominent halal-producing countries.

Besides, aiming to promote member states’ portfolio, the OIC Islamic Center for Development and Trade will lead a pavilion of exhibitors from countries such as Azerbaijan, Egypt, Jordan, Malaysia, Mozambique, Palestine, Senegal, Turkey and the UAE.

Halal Middle East also has a special focus area – Halal Cosmetics, apart from international pavilions from China, Iran, Malaysia and Netherlands featuring a comprehensive range of halal food and beverages, apart from a wide variety of other halal products & services.

At the show, visitors can also meet Islamic promotion & development associations, certification & classification bodies, hotels, restaurants & franchises, apart from service providers such as Islamic banks, insurance firms, and tourism agencies etc.

Halal Middle East is also featuring an expanded Kitchen Equipment – Horeca Middle East 2015, providing an A-Z sourcing opportunity for all the needs of the hospitality sector.

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Indonesia to boost tourism sector in push for economic revival

Friday 27 Nov 2015 – Jakarta, (IINA) – The Indonesian finance minister said on Thursday that the government’s focus next year will be on developing the tourism industry as it looks to steer economic growth away from reliance on exports suffering a commodity price slump, Jakarta Globe reported.

“Bali and Nusa Tenggara (Indonesian islands) have proven that they were not affected by falling commodity prices because those are tourism-driven areas”, Finance Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said at a business forum in Jakarta.

“That means we’ve found a way to tackle slower economic growth by focusing more on one sector, namely the tourism sector”, he added.

The combined economies of Bali and East and West Nusa Tenggara provinces was 11.75 percent in the third quarter of 2015, according to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), compared to 4.73 percent nationally.

Indonesia has taken a massive hit from a slump in global coal prices. The country is one of the biggest exporters of the fossil fuel, whose price has dropped by 50 percent over the last four years.

Bank Indonesia Governor Agus Martowardojo said at Thursday’s forum that commodity prices were expected to drop by a further 5 to 9 percent in 2016.

President Joko Widodo, who attended a later program at the forum, said he expected tourist arrivals to double in four years. “We had nine million tourists in 2014 and Malaysia had 24 million tourists, yet we have 10 times as many tourist destinations as Malaysia”, he said.

“I have set a target for the minister of tourism to boost tourist arrivals to 20 million in four years”, he added.

The government has embarked on a series of programs to boost the numbers, including revamping its tourism campaigns, waiving visas for visitors from 45 countries, and improving border services. Foreign tourist arrivals in September were up nearly 10 percent from a year earlier.

“I see the marketing campaigns and the promotions are on the right track. It’s time to improve local products and the local hospitality industry to boost our income from the sector from the current $11 billion to $20 billion in four years”, said the Indonesian president.

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Saudi women campaign in municipal polls for first time

Sunday 29 Nov 2015 – Riyadh (IINA) – Saudi female candidates running for municipal councils have begun campaigning in elections, marking the first time women are allowed to vote and contest polls in the Kingdom.

Around 865 women are among 6,140 Saudis standing in the local elections due to be held on December 12, according to official figures. Two thirds of seats at the Kingdom’s 284 councils are up for grabs. The other third of members will be appointed by the government. Women’s participation in the polls, the third of their kind in the Kingdom, was decreed in 2011 by the-then King Abdullah.

Women standing for municipal councils are prohibited from holding rallies attended by men, an electoral official said on Sunday. “The female candidate can only communicate with the electorate via a TV circuit,” spokesman for the official election commission Jadeeh al-Qahtani said in a tweet. “A spokesman for her can communicate with men on her behalf.” Contenders from both sexes are also barred from displaying their pictures in public during the 12-day campaigning, AlJazeera reported.

The restrictions are expected to prompt contestants, mainly women, to rely on social media to reach potential voters. Aljazi al-Hossaini, a candidate in the capital, said she had hoped to set up a campaign tent in Riyadh’s Diriyah area. “When I asked the man to give permission for his land … he refused,” she told the AFP news agency.

Like other contenders, Hossaini plans to focus online, and has her own website. In the Red Sea city of Jeddah, Sameera Abdullah al-Shamat was also relying on Twitter, Instagram and other internet forums widely used in the kingdom. “My daughter and two sons are running my campaign,” said Shamat, a charity worker. The country’s first municipal elections were held in 2005, followed by another vote in 2011. In both cases, only men were allowed to participate.

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Maldivian special flights to Bangkok during holidays

December 2, 2015 – Sun.mv – National Airline Maldivian has announced two special flights to Bangkok during school holidays. The flights from Malé to Bangkok have been scheduled for 14 and 21 December, and from Bangkok to Malé on 21 and 26 December. “Many Maldivians travel to Bangkok during school holidays for pleasure and medical reasons. These flights are targeted at this group,” a Maldivian official told Sun Media. Return tickets are priced at $355.

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Turkish Airlines inks deal with ancient city of Petra

PETRA – Anadolu Agency – Turkish Airlines and the Petra Development and Tourism Authority have signed a “marketing sponsorship” agreement, granting Turkish Airlines passengers who travel to Petra generous discounts on entry tickets into Jordan’s most popular heritage sites when they present their boarding passes.

The agreement was signed by Turkish Airlines Deputy General Manager Ahmet Olmuştur, Jordanian Tourism Minister Nayif Al-Fayiz, Petra Development and Tourism Authority President Muhammet Al-Nawafelh and Petra Development and Tourism Director Dr. Emad Hijazeen on Nov. 18.

“This deal will enable us to attract more tourists as Turkish Airlines will offer several discounts to our potential guests. Many Jordanian people see Turkish Airlines as if it were their own domestic company,” said Al-Fayiz at the signature ceremony.

Emphasizing the historical importance of Petra, Al-Fayiz said Jordanian authorities have been in a bid to revive the site and increase its popularity.

“An autonomous administration was organized to meet this goal. We use all ways to lure more tourists. Our deal with Turkish Airlines will also make positive contribution on Turkish-Jordanian ties,” he said.

Adding to this, Turkish Airlines will also be promoted at the entry of the Petra Visitor Centre by Jordanian authorities, and in exchange for this, the airline will offer special discounts to tour agents for events organized in other countries by the Petra Development and Tourism Authority.

Olmuştur said Turkish Airlines will work to promote Petra as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World through various channels.

“We plan to support this historic destination by promoting Petra through our internal channels and Skylife, our inflight magazine. The airline will also promote the city in its external communications by supporting their marketing and development projects,” he said.

Throughout their collaboration, Turkish Airlines and the Petra Development and Tourism Authority will participate in international tourism fairs together, while the two entities will host agencies, press and public figures from other countries across the world to promote Petra’s tourism appeal, said Omuştur.

“In line with our deal, our passengers who show their boarding passes will benefit from a 15 percent discount on Petra’s entrance ticket, which is $72,” he said.

Established possibly as early as 312 B.C. as the capital city of the Arab Nabataeans, Petra is a symbol of Jordan, as well as Jordan’s most-visited tourist attraction. While more than 1 million people visited the ancient city in 2010, this figure fell to around 650,000 in 2014 due to regional conflicts and security concerns.

Turkish Airlines offers four weekly flights to Aqaba and 14 weekly flights to Amman.

The company carried around 25,000 passengers to Aqaba in 2014 and this year aims to increase this figure to around 29,000, according to company representatives.

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Ancient tomb in house finally at museum

YOZGAT – Anadolu Agency – An ancient marble tomb that has been protected by a local man in his garden for 30 years has finally been relocated, to be placed in front of the recently excavated Roman bath in the Central Anatolian province of Yozgat.

Mustafa Doğan first discovered the marble tomb while excavating the garden of his house 30 years ago. He subsequently protected the tomb, which dates back 1,500 years, without moving it from his own garden.

However, upon his application, the tomb was recently delivered to local officials. “I got in touch with the Yozgat Museum Directorate and officials then came to examine the tomb. They said Roman bath excavations were ongoing and the tomb could be visited there by tourists. They then moved it there,” Doğan said.

“We kept the tomb in our garden for 30 years. We cared very much for the tomb, which has great historical value,” he added.

Yozgat Museum Director Hasan Kerim Şenyurt said the Sarıkaya neighborhood, where the tomb was found, was a site known as Basilica Therma in the late Roman era.

Şenyurt said the neighborhood was home to many Roman artifacts as well as discovered written documents. The Roman Bath was among the rare artifacts from the late Roman era found in the district. Excavations of the Roman Bath have been ongoing for six years and three thermal pools have so far been unearthed, Şenyurt added.

“We believe the tomb (found in Doğan’s garden) is a 1,500 year-old tomb from the Imperial Roman era in the 5th century. Probably a religious Christian man was buried there. It doesn’t have a cover and it was empty,” he said.

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Japanese Garden popular in Kırşehir

KIRŞEHİR – Anadolu Agency – A Japanese Garden that was created 22 years ago by the Japanese government at a museum in the Central Anatolian province of Kırşehir’s Kaman district, has received 45,000 visitors over the past 11 months, already surpassing the total figure from last year.

The museum’s director, İzzet Esen, said the garden was located in the same complex as the Japanese Archaeology Institute and the Kalehöyük Archaeology Museum.

Esen said 35,000 tourists visited last year, but that figure has risen to 45,000 in the first 11 months of 2015. “Most people are curious about the Japanese Garden and come to see it. They also visit the museum. We are trying to make more promotions for the museum. Entry fees are resulting in a reduction of the number of museum visitors. But generally, we have a visitor potential that increases all the time. Ten percent of the tourists are foreigners. It should increase,” Esen said.

Esen said a large number of their visitors came from Kırşehir and neighboring provinces, adding that many among them were newlyweds.

The Japanese Garden was opened in 1993 by the Japanese Middle Eastern Culture Center in the Çağırkan village of Kaman.

The garden includes a mini waterfall, as well as many trees and shrubs.

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Istanbul set to host major gastronomic events

Aylin Öney Tan – Sirha Istanbul, the benchmark event for hospitality and food service professionals, will take place at the Istanbul Congress Center on Nov. 26-28, 2015.

Sirha Istanbul will host several prestigious events including the finals of the Bocuse d’Or-Turkey and Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie-Turkey competitions. The very best chefs of Turkey will compete in front of a live audience to represent Turkey in the European Continental Selections.

The visitors to Sirha will also have a chance to attend tastings and visit several exhibitors, including a section dedicated to the “Taste Inventory of Anatolia,” a concept launched with the support of Mutfak Dostları Derneği/Friends of the Kitchen Association and Metro Cash & Carry Turkey, where local original products and their producers from all over Turkey will be presented.

There will be visiting chefs to present special Chef’s Table events, such as “The Taste Pairing” by Paul Da Costa-Greaves for Metro Cash & Carry and Le Cordon Bleu chefs’ demonstration about French and Peruvian tastes. Among the other not-to-miss events are the “6th Sense Gastronomy Platform” and several conferences including the “Sirha World Cuisine Summit.” The conference will be in English and Turkish, and simultaneous translation will be provided.

Sirha will also host the Omnivore World Tour. The famous Omnivore Festival will once again make a stopover in Istanbul to feature master classes delivered by reputed international and local chefs. Most events are free to all. Check the program and register on-line at http://sirha-istanbul.com/en/

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Islamic finance ‘can boost investment in Mediterranean’

BARCELONA – Anadolu Agency – Islamic finance is emerging as one of the main tools for further economic development in the Mediterranean region, a panel of experts said Nov. 27.

Speaking at the 3rd Mediterranean Islamic Finance Forum at the 9th Mediterranean Week of Economic Leaders in Barcelona, experts said Islamic finance provides an alternative source of funds that could help financial institutions broaden their sources of funding.

Experts in the banking sector at the forum said that though the volume of Islamic finance has grown steadily, there are many challenges for Islamic finance, including the deteriorating global economic environment, lack of product awareness in the industry, technology risk, liquidity risk and legal and tax issues.

Marcos Eguiguren, the executive director for the Global Alliance for Banking on Values that was established seven years ago by several global banks, said no economic activity makes sense if serving people and society is not its main goal.

“Islamic banking is based on values. We should build bridges between value-based and Islamic banking,” Eguiguren said.

Pablo Moreno, head of Financial Organizations and International Relations of the Spanish Central Bank, said Islamic finance has grown 5 percent since 2008, faster than normal banking.

“Islamic finance is useful for infrastructure finance and for financing SMEs (small- and medium-sized enterprises). Spain is highly dependent on SMEs for employment and growth. We face challenges in financing them, and, despite many attempts by EU to help, it is still not enough,” Moreno said.

Moreno said there are regulatory challenges for Islamic finance. “There is a need for greater harmonization of regulations that govern Islamic finance around the world,” he added.

Experts estimate Islamic finance currently manages assets of $2 trillion globally, an amount that is projected to increase to $6.5 trillion by 2020.

However, the decline in oil prices means that governments and companies in the Middle East –which represents about 40 percent of Islamic finance in terms of assets– will have less to invest in Islamic financial products, according to a report by credit agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) released on Oct. 19.

In parallel there will be two Omnivore Pop-up Dinners to take place at Salt NeoLokal and the party Omnivorious by Badoit at Mamas Shelter. The tickets are almost sold out, check at: http://www.biletix.com/etkinlik/SSER1/ISTANBUL/tr

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9 Balinese dances become world cultural heritage

4 December 2015 Denpasar, Bali (ANTARA News) – UNESCO has declared nine Balinese traditional dance forms as an Intangible World Heritage, following the announcement of results of the UNESCOs meeting held in Namibia, Africa on December 2.

The Head of the Bali Provincial Cultural office, Dewa Putu Beratha made the statement on Wednesday night, adding that he had received such information from a ranking official of Education and Culture Ministry later on the day.

The nine dances (tari) that have become the Intangible World Heritage are Tari Barong Ket, Tari Joged Bumbung, Tari Legong Keraton, Drama Tari Wayang Wong, Drama Tari Gambuh, Topeng Sidhakarya, Tari Baris Upacara, Tari Sanghyang Dedari and Tari Rejang.

“We are very happy and grateful with this designation. Thus, Bali does not only receive protection relating to the preservation of traditional dance, but it will also result in economic benefits in the future,” Dewa explained.

According to him, after UNESCO recognized the nine Balinese dance forms, it was now the responsibility of the central government, the Bali provincial government and district/city governments to prepare the infrastructure for the preservation and development of traditional Balinese dances.

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South Sumatra offers double tract development projects

3 December 2015 Palembang (ANTARA News) – South Sumatra is offering a project to build railway double track from Muara Enim to special economic zone of Tanjung Api-Api and its seaport.

A senior official of the provincial administration Ruslan Bahri said so far seven countries have indicated interest in the project including China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and France.

“We need only follow-up with talks with prospective investors,” Ruslan said here on Thursday.

He said the track would be use mainly for coal train and the transport of other commodities like palm oil and rubber.

Based on data from the Capital Investment Coordinating Board, the double railway track project will cost around US$2.97 billion and the monorail project at special economic zone at Tanjung Api Api will cost around US$550 million.

South Sumatras deputy governor Ishak Mekki said construction of infrastructure would be brisk in South Sumatra , adding from 2015 to 2018 there would be many infrastructure project ahead of Asian Games the 18th to be hosted by Indonesia.

A number of big infrastructure projects to be built in 2016 include railway double track between Lubuk Linggau and Api-Api port to cost Rp11.1 trillion and special economic zone of over a 12,000 hectare to cost Rp54.2 trillion, Musi bridge IV and Musi Bridge VI, toll road, etc.

Construction of most of the projects would start in 2016, Ishak said.

Secretary of the capital and investment service of South Sumatra Sofyan Alipanca said foreign capital investment in the province grew fast reaching Rp10.24 trillion in the third quarter of 2015 or an increase of 118.43 percent on-year.

The high increase was attributable to development of the largest pulp and paper factory in Southeast Asia, APP OKI Pulp & Paper di Kabupaten Ogan Komering Ilir to cost Rp32 trillion to be operational in 2016.

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Indonesia President inspects Trans-Sulawesi Railway Project

25 November 2015 Makassar, S Sulawesi (ANTARA News) – President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) visited South Sulawesi Province here on Wednesday to inspect the first phase of construction of the Trans-Sulawesi Railway Project that will connect Makassar and Pare-pare.

President Jokowi and First Lady Iriana arrived by car in Makassar at noon local time and headed to Telumpanua village, Tanete Rilau, Barru District, according to Bey Machmudin, the spokesman of the presidential secretariat office.

Telumpanua village is located about 75 kilometers from Makassar.

In the evening, the president and his entourage will attend the opening of the fifth national congress of the All Indonesian Provincial Government Association (APPSI).

After staying overnight in Makassar, the president will proceed to Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan. The head of state will thereafter visit the Sultan Alam Forest Park located in East Mandiangin village, Karangintan sub-district, Banjar District.

Jokowi will attend a function at the park to commemorate the Indonesian Tree Planting Day, National Tree Planting Month, and National Fauna and Flora Love Day 2015.

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90% route of Jakarta-Bandung rapid train in West Java

2 December 2015 Bandung, W Java (ANTARA News) – West Java Governor Ahmad Heryawan revealed that 90 percent of the route of the Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway is located in West Java Province and the rest is in Jakarta area.

“It is a great opportunity for the people of West Java, and they should utilize it,” Heryawan said after a meeting to discuss the accelerated construction of the Jakarta-Bandung fast train project here on Wednesday.

To accelerate the construction of the project, the governor has urged the heads of districts and mayors to jointly coordinate and consolidate their efforts.

Meanwhile, Secretary of West Java Province Iwa Karniwa ensured that the construction of the Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway Project will be adjusted in the spatial arrangement.

“It will be applicable for mainly four areas in Bandung Raya: Bandung City, Cimahi City, West Bandung City, and Bandung District,” Karniwa pointed.

The West Java administration has taken into account the spatial arrangement by signing an agreement of the draft presidential decree (Raperpres) related to spatial planning of national strategic areas of the urban basin of Bandung Raya.

“The construction of the rapid train should be in line with the availability of space and protecting the environment,” he stated.

Karniwa said that the coordination meeting between the representatives of the West Java government, Indonesia-China Rapid Railways, and districts and cities had anticipated the agreement in the Raperpres related to spatial planning of national strategic areas of the urban basin of Bandung Raya, except for Bekasi and Purwakarta.

“As a result, the development of the rapid train can be accommodated in the Raperpres,” he said.

He hoped that the Raperpres would be part of a presidential decree. As a result, the development of the high-speed train will be based on the applicable regulations.

“The determination of the location and environmental impact analysis (Amdal) can be conducted in accordance with the rule,” he said.

Director of the Indonesia-China Rapid Railways Hanggoro Budi Wiryawan stated that the route is 150 kilometers in length, and the train will operate at a speed of 250 kilometers per hour.

The rapid train will help commuters cover the distance between Jakarta and Bandung in 30 minutes.

“So, the presence of a high-speed train is expected to reduce congestion and improve mobility of the population,” he pointed out.

The initial phase of the construction of the Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway Project will be started on the Halim Perdanakusuma, Jakarta, to Tegalluar, Bandung District, West Java, route.

“The high-speed railway will be constructed from Halim Perdanakusuma, Jakarta, to Tegalluar, Bandung District, West Java,” West Java Governor Ahmad Heryawan noted after a meeting to discuss the accelerated construction of the Jakarta-Bandung fast train project here on Wednesday.

“The West Java administration will coordinate and consolidate with the Indonesian state enterprise consortium and its Chinese counterpart,” he remarked.

The districts and cities involved in the project are Bekasi City, Bekasi District, Karawang District, Purwakarta District, West Bandung District, Cimahi City, Bandung City, and Bandung District.

“The meeting was attended by district heads and mayors. We agree and welcome the implementation of the Jakarta-Bandung fast train project,” the governor said.

The governor emphasized that the involvement of the head was important. The development of the high-speed railway network would be integrated with the development of new economic growth centers in West Java.

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Minister to support tourism development in Wakatobi

27 November 2015 Wangiwangi (ANTARA News) – Coordinating Minister for Cultural and Human Development Puan Maharani made assurance to support the development of the tourism industry in Wakatobi District to attract more tourists to the maritime tourism destination.

“As the coordinating minister in charge of cultural and human development, I will coordinate with all relevant ministries relating to the tourist destination to help develop infrastructure to support tourism in Wakatobi,” Minister Maharani stated here on Thursday evening.

She emphasized that Wakatobi should have necessary infrastructure to support tourism, such as adequate supply of electricity, clean water, means of transportation, restaurants, and hotels.

“District Head Hugua, please write a letter to the coordinator minister for cultural and human development on what Wakatobi needs to boost the tourism sector,” she stated.

She pointed out that there were power blackouts on four instances last night due to the shortage of electricity supply in Wakatobi.

Starting next year, Wakatobi should no longer endure power blackouts as it will impact tourism, she affirmed.

Coordinator Minister Maharani was in Wakatobi for two days to officially open the Wakatobi Wonderful Festival and Expo (Wakatobi Wave) 2015 organized by the Wakatobi administration in cooperation with the tourism ministry.

Maharani, accompanied by Hugua and lawmaker Wiryanti Sukamdani, visited a construction site of a cruise dock and Sombu Beach, which is known as the best diving site in Wakatobi.

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“Wonderful Indonesia” promotion held in Mumbai

3 December 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Indonesia will be promoting “Wonderful Indonesia,” its country branding, in Mumbai, India, from December 2-4, 2015 in order to market tour packages featuring attractive cultural performances and festivals.

Assistant Deputy for Asia Pacific Market Development, Ministry of Tourism, Taufik Nur Hidayat, said here on Wednesday that India is a potential market as most Indian tourists are high-class travelers.

Indian tourists generally prefer hotels with five star facilities, so a specific strategy has to be put in place to attract more tourists to Indonesia.

“We must prepare what they need, such as adventure tour packages as well as comfortable and safe environment, Indian food, and a pleasant night atmosphere,” he said.

The Ministry of Tourism, according to Taufik, is targeting Indian tourists, hoping that around 250 thousand people will visit the country in 2015, especially Bali, Jakarta and Batam (Riau Islands).

The tourism ministry also facilitates various Indonesian tourism players to participate in the South Asia Travel & Tourism Expo (Satte), last of which was held in New Delhi recently.

Taufik explained that the promotion of Wonderful Indonesia in Mumbai is part of the cultural diplomacy to strengthen emotional ties between the two countries, emphasizing that Indonesia has a close relationship with India in terms of history and culture.

In the ninth century, some Hindu kingdoms flourished in Java. Many Hindu relics are preserved by the people and the Indonesian government.

The spread of Islam in Indonesia also involves traders from Gujarat, India, who developed trade in various port cities in Indonesia.

In modern times, Indonesia, along with India, initiated the Asian-African Conference (AAC) in 1955 which resulted in Dasa Sila Bandung (the ten principles of Bandung).

The number of Indian tourists visiting Indonesia in 2016 is expected to increase by 10 percent to 300,000 visitors.

The Wonderful Indonesia promotion campaign in Mumbai is a combination of the two programs, namely selling tour packages and cultural festivals such as dance performances, culinary exhibitions and sasando music performances (featuring a Timorese traditional musical instrument).

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Iran to facilitate visa issuance for foreign businessmen

Tehran, Dec 2, IRNA – Head of Tehran Chamber Of Commerce has announced the government plan to issue visas for foreign businessmen on their arrival at Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKIA) to facilitate their visit and activity.

Addressing the Iran-Italy joint trade session, Chairman of Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, and Mines Masoud Khansari said “Iran possesses big governmental industries who have established good relations with foreign companies over the past few months while the chamber of commerce will provide necessary grounds for bilateral cooperation between small and medium industries.”

“In the past years, certain issues have hindered the development of economic relations between Iran and different world countries and which are being resolved with the government’s measure,” added Khansari, according to MNA.

He further asserted “the government has decided to grant visas at Imam Khomeini Airport to provide the ground for businessmen to enter Iran without barriers or cumbersome bureaucracies.”

“Entrepreneurs are hoping that the Iranian President’s trip to Italy will lead to the signing of crucial agreements that affect trade and investment relations between the two counties,” noted the official.

Mohammad Mehdi Behkish, member of Iran-Italy Chamber of Commerce, stressed Iran’s economic opportunities adding “currently, various investors are eager to enter Iran’s economy while Iran looks for implementation of investment, finance as well as economic and competitive projects.”

“Italy should not lag behind carrying out economic projects in Iran,” maintained Behkish reiterating “the main target is development of exports since the main focus in merely on oil at the time being.”

The official stressed the existence of good markets around Iran which are outside the reach of the Italians in terms of language and culture; “Italian companies can gain access to these markets through their Iranian counterparts,” he concluded.

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Contemporary Iran cinema in Toronto

Tehran, Dec 1, IRNA – The first edition of the Cine-Iran Festival of Toronto (CIFT) was held November 27-29 in the Canadian city screening 12 feature films from contemporary Iran cinema.

The movies, all having won international awards, were shown in three days and each was followed with a panel discussion attended by Iranian cineastes about the films and independent movies in Iranian cinema, Financial Tribune Daily reported.

The festival opened with the screening of ‘I Am Diego Maradona’ by Bahram Tavakoli and ‘Death of Fish’ directed by Seyed Ruhollah Hejazi, was later presented.

On Saturday, five other films were shown, ‘Night Shift’ by Niki Karimi, ‘Confessions of My Dangerous Mind’ by Hooman Seyedi, ‘Ashkan, the Charmed Ring, and Other Stories’ by Shahram Mokri, ‘Jameh Daran’ by Hamidreza Qotbi and ‘I Want to Be a King’ by Mehdi Ganji.

On the final day, ‘Taboo’ by Khosro Masumi, Soheila Golestani’s Two, Abbas Rafei’s ‘Oblivion Season’, Payman Haqqani’s ‘316’ and ‘What’s the Time in Your World?’ by Safi Yazdanian were screened.

Director Shahram Mokri, noted Iranian actress Sareh Bayat and actor Hamed Behdad were present at the event.

The festival aims to bring the most acclaimed Iranian films of the year to Toronto screens in an effort to present a comprehensive cross-section of this national cinema. CIFT’s films exhibit the most prominent filmmakers and cinematic movements in Iran and are selected from a wide range of genres and modes, from documentaries and artistic films to domestic commercial hits.

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Iran, Luxembourg to expand air transport cooperation

Tehran, Dec 1, IRNA – Director of Luxembourg foreign ministry’s international economic relations in a meeting with Head of the Iranian Civil Aviation Organization Ali Abedzadeh reviewed different ways for the expansion of aviation cooperation between the two countries.

During the meeting in Tehran on Tuesday, the two sides agreed to sign an air transport contract and an aviation memorandum of understanding (MoU).

The Iranian and Luxembourg officials also agreed to exchange the proposed text for preliminary investigations.

The two sides also touched on the case of Luxembourg’s Cargo Lux Company.

Luxembourg is active in the field of aviation, specially air transport in Euro zone and the flights of the Cargo Lux company plays an important role in air transportation.

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