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18 Jan, 2016

Malindo Air To Launch first Kuala Lumpur – Lahore flight

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 18 January 2016 (08 Rabee’ al-Thaani 1437). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.




Herbal Asia, Asia’s Premier Herbal, Green & Natural Exhibition & Conference, will be held from 5 – 8 October 2016 at MATRADE Exhibition Convention Centre (MECC), Kuala Lumpur. This is 10th consecutive year, the Herbal Asia show is organized in Malaysia. Herbal Asia this year features more excitement in business opportunities and trade networking. Natural, Green & Herbal Product & Services received great interest by consumers, trade buyers & professionals. Herbal Asia is organized by and GITEX Global Exhibition Services (M) Sdn Bhd. This timely event will showcase the industries finest, from Herbal, Natural and Green products and services, technology to the latest in traditional and alternative medicine now seen as potential markets in health tourism industry. It will be a global platform for producers, manufacturers, investors, health and industry-related professionals to meet, exchange ideas and promote this rapidly growing industry. Click here for more information. Or contact: Safinah Yaakob, Project Director, +6017.326.3715 asiaherbal11@gmail.com, Ms. Nur Athirah Hamdan, Event Secretariat, +6019.205.1003 asiaherbal3@gmail.com

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.




Malaysia Airlines To Codeshare Emirates On Kl-Dubai Route

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Jan 13 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia Airlines will code-share Emirates on the four times daily service to Dubai from Kuala Lumpur, effective Feb 15, as part of the partnership sealed between both airlines in early December 2015.

In a statement Wednesday, Malaysia Airlines said the Kuala Lumpur to Dubai flight frequency will therefore increase from one to four times daily. All flights will be operated on Emirates aircraft.

“The new codeshare will give customers convenient connections to Emirates’ more than 90 global destinations.

“This includes 38 destinations in Europe on a daily and even double daily basis for key European cities such as Paris, Rome, Munich, Frankfurt, Madrid, and Barcelona, as well as Canada and Latin America,” it said.

The partnership will also see the Malaysia Airlines and Emirates frequent flyer programmes aligned, giving customers expanded opportunities to earn and redeem points.

Chief Executive Officer Christoph Mueller said the partnership allows guests to travel seamlessly to major cities around the world, whilst enjoying increased rewards through the loyalty programmes.

“We will be able to offer Kuala Lumpur as a hub to connect to South East Asia and Dubai for connections to Europe, Middle East and North and South Africa,” he added.

The details of the benefits will be shared progressively over the next quarter. The service to Dubai will be operated thrice daily on a Boeing 777 and once, on the Airbus 380.

Malaysia Airlines will also suspend its Kuala Lumpur-Dubai route by Feb 15 and re-accommodate passengers on the codeshare flights with Emirates.

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Turkish Textile Firms Eye Malaysia, Aec Markets For Growth

FRANKFURT, Jan 15 (NNN-Bernama) — Faced by the loss of their traditional export markets because of political and security problems in their neighbourhood, Turkish textile companies are looking to penetrate into new markets to sustain their export growth.

At the ongoing four-day Heimtextil show of Frankfurt, the world’s biggest trade fair for the home-textile and contract textile industry, Turkish exhibitors are trying to intensify their links to Malaysia and the ASEAN markets.

Turkey, as Turkish exhibitors and representatives of various textile and garment associations were saying, is surrounded by a violent neighbourhood: a war-ravaged Syria, an unstable Iraq and a sanction-plagued Russia.

The number of Turkish exhibitors at the show has sharply increased from 159 in 2015 to 211 in 2016.

M. Atilla Bulut, the deputy general coordinator (fairs) of the Turkish Home Textile Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association, said in an interview at the show that Turkish exhibitors occupy the second largest display space — about 16,000 sq. m. — after Germany.

“Our advantage over China is our proximity to Europe — we know and understand Europe’s needs and are familiar with the region’s economic and cultural idiosyncrasies.

Turkey has a problem on its borders with Syria, Iraq and Russia, even though it has no internal security problem,” Bulut told Bernama.

As a result, Turkish exporters are forced to look for markets beyond their borders to Southeast Asia, where the ASEAN Economic Community was recently formed.

Malaysia, as one of the so-called ‘core countries’ of the community, is seen as an attractive market by many Turkish exporters, some of whom said they plan to visit Malaysia and other ASEAN countries in the near future to promote their exports.

Turkey’s total global textile exports in 2015 amounted to US$14 billion, of which home textiles accounted for US$3 billion. Turkey’s home-textile exports in 2014 amounted to US$3.3 billion.

The 2015 shortfall in exports is attributed to the crisis in Russia, which has faced huge sanctions because of the Ukraine crisis, resulting in less buying by its consumers who could not afford to buy more from the U.S.

“We are looking at markets such as Japan, the ASEAN region and Canada,” Bulut said.

Turkey is also organising its own textile trade fair called EVTEKS, the Istanbul International Home Textiles Exhibition, on May 17-21.

“We are launching a promotional campaign to attract buyers from Europe, the ASEAN region and other Asian countries,” he added.

Luks Kadife T/C Ve San, AS, of Istanbul, which manufactures curtains, upholstery and fabric material for garments, is already exporting to Malaysia and has built up contacts over the year.

However, the company is now keen to increase its exports to Malaysia and other ASEAN countries in the face of uncertainties in other markets. It has been shipping mainly to the United States, the European Union and the Middle Eastern and North African countries.

“Though our business with Malaysia has been smaller than with our major markets, we consider Malaysia a stable country. China is passing through turbulent economic times. We expect Malaysia, along with Singapore and Indonesia, to grow in the future. We are going to actively increase our contacts with the Malaysian textile sector. Some 30 per cent of our production is sold in the domestic market while 70 per cent is exported,” general manager Feramin Celiktas told Bernama.

Osman Canik, the chairman of the Uludag Turkish Exporters’ Association and the vice president of Elvin Tekstil San Vetic A.S., headquartered in Turkey’s textile city Bursa, pointed out that some 1.5 billion potential consumers live within its reach in the direct neighbourhood.

He expressed hope the war in Syria would soon end and the reconstruction of the country would begin immediately so that hotels, buildings and other infrastructure could be constructed, generating demand for home and other textiles.

He said there will be some “good news” in regard to Syria in the second half of 2016.

“The slowdown in Europe has adversely affected our business but it is improving gradually. Our major markets are Europe and the Middle East, but we are exporting to the USA, South America and the Far East,” Canik said, emphasising after the latest deadly bomb attack in Istanbul that Turkey is a “very safe and hospitable place, as any other place elsewhere”.

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Malaysia Urged to Tap Potential In Wellness Tourism

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Jan 11 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia’s wellness and fitness industry has the potential to become a big revenue earner for the tourism sector, according to Minister of Youth and Sports Khairy Jamaluddin.

He said Malaysia should try to capture a slice of the market by developing wellness tourism alongside medical tourism, which the country has been promoting aggressively.

Medical tourism, which was introduced in Malaysia in 1998, was among the strategies taken by the government to diversify the economy during the Asian economic crisis.

“Health or medical tourism focuses on healthcare like seeking treatment or undergoing surgeries or checkups (at private hospitals). We need to have a broader context by inserting the wellness aspect,” he told Bernama.

Khairy said programmes like Malaysia Urban Retreat Festival (Murfest), yoga and spiritual retreats, as well as fitness weeks, could be organised in Malaysia on a regular basis to lure tourists from all over the world who were interested in such activities.

“There’s much potential for wellness travel to be turned into a revenue-generating industry. Tourists coming to Malaysia for medical treatment can be given an opportunity to participate in wellness and fitness programmes offered by the industry players here,” he said.

Murfest 2015, held in November last year, had attracted some 5,000 local and international participants. Attaining health and well-being through physical, psychological, or spiritual activities has now become an international trend among health-conscious people.

Citing Bali in Indonesia as an example, Khairy said the authorities there organised a yearly international yoga festival to attract visitors who were into fitness and spirituality.

He said Malaysia could also come up with similar offerings as it has the infrastructure, as well as numerous tourist attractions.

Khairy, meanwhile, said his ministry would continue to grow the Fit Malaysia brand, launched in September 2014, by combining sports activities with other elements that enhance mind-body connection, similar to some of the programmes presented during the three-day Murfest.

Fit Malaysia is the brainchild of Khairy, who wants to use the brand to encourage Malaysians to adopt healthy lifestyles and to excel in sports.

“Murfest is a very suitable platform to start with… we work with Murfest as a strategy to broaden Fit Malaysia’s concept. At the moment, we are focusing on the physical aspect but we want to incorporate the mental aspect as well.

“We want to see fitness in a wider scope and more comprehensively too. (So it’s) not (going to be) all about physical sports, running, cardio, boxing, self-defence or cycling, but also (about) mind-body wellness,” he said.

He said for a start, fly yoga or aerial yoga, a new form of exercise that makes use of hammocks, was being considered as one of the activities for this year’s Fit Malaysia event.

“I’ve noticed that Murfest’s holistic activities are not only great for the young generation but also people from all walks of life who want to maintain a healthy mind and body,” he said.

Meanwhile, Malaysia Major Events (MME) General Manager Tony Nagamaiah said to promote wellness tourism, there has to be an active partnership between the tourism authorities and wellness industry players.

MME is a division of Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB), an agency under the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.

“We want to grow this (wellness tourism) business so that it will become a big product, which we can showcase to not only this region, but the whole world.

“To do this and enable wellness tourism to contribute to our economy, there must be a collaboration between the tourism and wellness sectors,” said Tony.

He added that Murfest could be a good platform for the international market to get to know Malaysia’s wellness and fitness industry.

Tony also said that Malaysia’s medical tourism industry was growing fast and the country was one of leading destinations for health tourism in the region.

“We’re also committed to promoting wellness travel… we believe that we’re already on the right track and will be successful in a couple of years,” he said.

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LEAD STORY: Malindo Air To Launch first Kuala Lumpur – Lahore flight

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Jan 12 (NNN-BERNAMA) – Malindo Air, winner of the Airline of the Year award and Top Performing Airline 2015, by Travelport, becomes the sole airline to offer direct flights between Kuala Lumpur and Lahore, the capital city of the province of Punjab in Pakistan, via four times weekly flights, which will commence from Mar 2, 2016, onwards.

Lahore is the second largest metropolitan area in Pakistan and the 16th most populous city in the world.

Bookings can be made online at malindoair.com or for smartphone devices at mobile.malindoair.com or via the Malindo Air App, available for download on Google Play and App Store.

The flight will depart KLIA2 on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 5.30 pm (local time) and touch down at the Allama Iqbal International Airport, Lahore (LHE) at 8.15 pm (Pakistan time). The return flight will depart from Lahore at 9.05 pm and arrive in KLIA2 the next morning at 5.50 am. The flight time is 5 hours and 45 minutes.

Malindo Air’s CEO, Chandran Rama Muthy, said, “We are elated to extend our reach to Lahore and for being the only Malaysian-based airline to offer direct services between Kuala Lumpur and Lahore. The route will also signify one of our furthest route yet from Kuala Lumpur, using our young fleet of Boeing 737-900ER aircraft.

Malaysians and transiting visitors from neighbouring Singapore can now look forward to a smooth flight to Lahore via Kuala Lumpur whether for business, leisure or religious purposes. Lahore is also an important religious centre, as it is home to hundreds of temples, mosques, churches and shrines.”

The city of Lahore is also referred to as the cultural heart of Pakistan, as it hosts most of the arts, cuisine, festivals, music, film-making, gardening and intelligentsia of the country. The city has always been a centre for

publications, where most of Pakistan’s books are published, and it remains the foremost centre of literary, educational and cultural activity in Pakistan.

Forget the hassle of paying a hefty penalty for flight change! Malindo Air’s new No Change Fee policy that allows unlimited date and time change up to 24 hours before departure, at no extra charge is a first of its kind in Malaysia. Only non-promo fares are applicable and subject to higher fare difference.

For bookings and enquiries, visit malindoair.com, write in to Customer Care at info@malindoair.com or contact the Call Centre at (60)3-7841 5388 from 9.00 am to 9.00 pm daily.

Malindo Air is a Malaysian airline with main hubs at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2) and the convenient KL down town city airport, Subang Skypark in Selangor, Malaysia. The airline took to the skies in Mar, 2013, with domestic flights and has since grown to operate routes to all major airports in Malaysia and across regional destinations in Indonesia, Thailand, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Southern China and Australia.

The fleet itself has grown leaps and bounds to 11 ATR72-600 and 16 Boeing 737NG, as of Dec 31, 2015. Today, the airline operates over 800 flights weekly across a continuously growing network of about 40 routes in the region. More recently, the airline won Airline of the Year (Passenger) at the KLIA Awards 2014, and Top Performing Airline 2015, by Travelport.

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Malaysia Invests in Skyscanner Travel Search Engine

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 12 (NNN-Bernama) — Khazanah Nasional Bhd, the Malaysian government’s sovereign wealth fund, is among five new investors which have invested US$192 million (RM824.35 million) in Edinburgh-based Skyscanner. (US$1 = RM4.38)

The other four partners in the travel search engine company, which provides free search of flights, hotels and car hire around the world, are Artemis, Baillie Gifford, Vitruvian Partners and Yahoo!Japan, said Skyscanner in a statement.

Founded in 2003, Skyscanner has enjoyed high double-digit growth rates for some years now and has been profitable since 2009.

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Malaysian Tourism Chief Urges More Domestic Tourism

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA Jan 13 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysians are encouraged to visit more local tourist spots instead of holidaying abroad to help boost the country’s economy and domestic tourism industry.

Tourism Malaysia director-general, Mirza Mohammad Taiyab said domestic tourism could not be stepped up without the participation of the local populace.

“Domestic tourism had generated encouraging income for the national economy with the 11.6 per cent increase in local tourists from 54.4 million in 2013 to 60.7 million in 2014.

“Domestic tourists’ expenditure also increased by 16.3 per cent from RM35.6 billion in 2013 to RM41.4 billion in 2014, and we hope for a bigger increase this year,” he said at the MITA Tourism Fair 2016 (MTF) press conference, here, Tuesday.

Mirza said MTF 2016 from this Jan 29 to 31, promised visitors exciting domestic holiday offers by 150 display booths put up by 100 tourism operators to market their products.

The event, organised by the Malaysia Inbound Tourism Association (MITA), targets 20,000 visitors and sales worth RM10 million.

On the holding of the tourism fair, Mirza said Tourism Malaysia welcomed such an initiative to create a local travel culture in a planned manner.

“This fair will also enable all levels of our society to purchase directly the domestic tourism packages at reasonable and competitive prices.

“Besides that, the small tourism product suppliers could expose their products and services to the public,” he added.

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Jakarta Bomb Attacks Not Affecting Tourism to Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Jan 17 (NNN-Bernama) — The terrorist attacks in Jakarta on Thursday has not stopped the public and foreign tourists here from frequenting popular areas in the capital such as the Petronas Twin Towers and the Suria KLCC and Pavilion shopping centres.

Ovaeall, those met by Bernama yesterday did not express any fear for their own safety, on the contrary they were confident of the ability of the authorities in curbing terrorist activities in the country.

A tourist from Indonesia, Yan Sugianto, 40, said he knew of the terrorist attacks as its happened a day before he flew from the Indonesian capital to Malaysia.

“I had planned to holiday in Kuala Lumpur for three days and have no fear because I’m confident with the level of security in the country.

“In fact, Malaysia is already well known as a safe destination to visit and I have never heard of any violent incidents involving foreign tourists here,” he said.

However, Yan Sugianto, who is a pilot, said at the same time said he would take precautions by avoiding going to places that could trigger violence such as entertainment centres.

A tourist from Bangladesh who gave his name as Moulik, 20, who had come with his family, said he was taking a cautious view of every tourist location that he visits after the incident.

“We were already in Malaysia when the bomb attacks took place… so we just have to be cautious and take precautions at all time. We just avoid being near persons wearing something that hide their faces or with suspicious luggage or bag,” he said.

Meanwhile, a tourist from Brazil, Miguel Sousa, 40, said he had no choice because he had made early plans to travel to several countries in Southeast Asia, including Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

“Actually, it is an isolated incident and will not happen all the time. I believe the Malaysian authorities have increased security in public places and will be monitoring in order to avoid such an incident from occurring here,” he said.

In the meantime, security has been bolstered at public spots by motorcycle patrolling units and patrol cars (MPVs) constantly conducting periodic patrols and the number of policemen has also been intensified compared with normal days.

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Jakarta Attacks’ Impact on Tourism Is Limited

JAKARTA, Indonesia, Jan 16 (NNN-ANTARA) – Indonesia is a safe state and the negative impact of Thursday’s terrorist attacks in down town Jakarta to tourism industry is limited, Indonesian tourism minister said.

The Islamic State-linked attacks, which involved deadly bombings and gun blasts, left seven people dead, including one foreigner, and 24 others injured.

In an exclusive interview, Minister Arief Yahya said that, there have been no cancellations for hotel reservation and travel bookings, so far, in Jakarta and other big cities in the country.

Arief stressed that, the attacks only happened in a small part in Jakarta and the situation is fully under control.

“The vast Jakarta and Indonesia at large are safe and comfortable for foreigners,” though the terrorist attacks in Jakarta could mean a dip in foreign tourist arrivals, at the start of the year, he said.

The Indonesian capital city is not the main entry gate for overseas visitors, who prefer Yogyakarta in Central Java and Bali, the other tourism destinations in the archipelago.

Indonesia has set an ambitious target to attract 12 million foreign tourists in 2016.

The country is now mainly relying on the sustainable growth of Chinese visitors, Arief said, adding that, the Indonesian tourism ministry is expecting more direct and charter flights during the Chinese New Year holiday, in the coming weeks.

The ministry will hold calligraphy and lantern-flying competitions and other Chinese New Year-related events, in some cities, to attract more Chinese visitors, he said.

Official data show that China is Indonesia’s third largest source of foreign tourists, after Singapore and Malaysia, with around 1.3 million arrivals a year.

The tourism ministry expects the figure to become 2 million this year.

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Majalengka’s Kertajati Airport to open in 2017

14 January 2016 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Kertajati Airport in Majalengka District, West Java, is set to become operational in 2017, according to President Joko Widodo (Jokowi).

“I have given a target for the Kertajati Airport to become operational next year,” the president stated while inspecting the construction site of the airport in Majalengka on Thursday.

President Jokowi expressed hope that the Kertajati airports physical construction, which had lasted for six years, would be completed as soon as possible, so that it becomes operational next year in order to improve the economy of the surrounding community.

Built on a 1.8 thousand-hectare plot of land, the airport will have a three thousand-meter-long runway after completion.

In the meantime, Transportation Minister Ignatius Jonan remarked that the airport will be able to accommodate wide-bodied aircraft such as Airbus A380 as it will have a runway measuring three thousand meters in length and 60 meters in width.

The minister has set a target that by no later than the start of 2018, the airport should become operational, with a passenger capacity of some 8-10 million per year in the first phase.

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Palembang LRT project to be completed on time

9 January 2016 Workers of Light Rail Transit (LRT) project in the Sultan Mahmud Airport Badaruddin (SMB) II, Palembang, South Sumatra, on December 20, 2015. (ANTARA/Nova Wahyudi)

Palembang (ANTARA News) – Transport minister Ignasius Jonan assured here Saturday that the Palembang Light Railway Transit (LRT) development project now in progress would be completed on time as no obstacles have been found.

So, before the Asian Games 2018, the LRT will be open for use, he said after meeting with South Sumatra Governor Alex Noerdin at the Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II airport here.

Based on the report, construction of the light railway lines has progressed as expected, and this showed that the program would be finished as planned, he said.

He emphasized the importance of coordination because development projects are very much connected with public facilities.

Many public facilities could be affected due to the project such as gas pipes, the electricity network as well as clean water supply lines, and so coordination must be prioritized, he said.

After the meeting, the minister and entourage inspected the development of LRT project site in front of the airport. On the occasion the minister held a dialog with Waskita the contractor, regarding the progress of the project before heading to Kertapati railway station to continue his journey to Prabumulih.

South Sumatra and Jakarta will co-host the Asian Games in 2018.

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Plan mulled to establish Toba Tourism Authority

11 January 2016 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Five ministers have met to discuss a plan to set up Lake Toba Tourism Authority to improve the management of the tourism destination in North Sumatra.

The meeting held at Del Institute of Technology in Laguboti, Toba Samosir on Saturday was led by Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Rizal Ramli.

In a press statement received here on Sunday four ministers attending the meeting included Tourism Minister Arief Yahya, Public Works Minister Basuki Hadimulyono, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Panjaitan and Minister of Forestry and Environment Siti Nurbaya.

It was also attended by acting governor of North Sumatra, Tengku Erry Nuradi, North Sumatra police command chief and seven heads of districts located around Lake Toba.

Rizal said he has full commitment to set up the agency to assure better coordination in the management of Lake Toba so that it would become a “Monaco of Asia” or an international standard tourism destination and attract more foreign tourists.

He appealed to the people of North Sumatra as well as regional administrations to support the governments to make it the icon of Indonesian tourism.

Luhut Panjaitan hailed the initiative to develop Lake Toba tourism destination saying that it had been awaited for tens of years by the indigenous Batak community.

“I have also reported it to President Jokowi (Joko Widodo) and he welcomed it. He said that it was part of the most important governments programs,” Luhut who hails from the Batak community said.

He said besides Lake Toba the government also plans to set up tourism authorities in nine main other tourist destinations in the country this year, namely Tanjung Kelayang, Tanjung Lesung, Kepulauan Seribu, Borobudur Temple, Mt Bromo, Mandalika, Komodo Island, Wakatobi, and Morotai.

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Indonesia, Singapore to boost agricultural trade

12 January 2016 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan held a bilateral meeting to discuss efforts to boost agricultural trade.

“To strengthen our economic cooperation, we discussed the possibility of boosting the export of Indonesian agricultural products to Singapore. We believe that we have the capacity to fulfill Singapores need of agricultural products,” Marsudi stated here on Tuesday.

Moreover, Indonesia has also encouraged increasing cooperation to provide jobs to Indonesian skilled migrant workers who could be employed as caregivers and therapists in Singapore.

The Singaporean foreign minister lauded the improvement in economic cooperation between the two nations, especially referring to the proposed visit of Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Long to Indonesia this year.

“We can see that the relationship between the two nations has grown over the years. There are several areas of potential to be developed in future,” he stated.

Singapore is Indonesias second-largest economic partner after China, with trade reaching nearly US$42 billion in 2014.

Singapore became the largest investor in Indonesia in 2014, with total investment reaching US$5.8 billion.

In the field of tourism, nearly 1.5 million Singaporean tourists visited Indonesia.

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Komodo Island named Indonesia’s main marine tourist destination

12 January 2016 Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara (ANTARA News) – The Ministry of Tourism has mapped Komodo Island as one of the 12 major marine tourist destinations in Indonesia.

The other destinations included in the list are Wakatobi in Southeast Sulawesi, Derawan in East Kalimantan, Raja Ampat in Papua, Nias in North Sumatra, Mentawai in West Sumatra, Ujung Kulon in West Java, Anak Krakatau in Sunda Strait, Tomini in Central Sulawesi, and Bali and Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara.

“The twelve islands are included in the blueprint of the marine tourism development plan for natural resources and creative economy in promoting the brand Wonderful Indonesia,” Welly Rame Rohimone, acting head of the provincial tourism and creative economy office, stated here on Tuesday.

Komodo Island, the natural habitat of the Komodo dragon (Varanus kommodoensis), has been selected as one of the new seven Wonders of Nature. The tourist area is ideal for diving and cruise tourism.

“East Nusa Tenggara will be developed as Indonesias tourism gateway besides Bali, West Nusa Tenggara, and ten other islands,” Rohimone noted.

The Komodo dragon in Komodo National Park can be found on the islands of Rica, Padar, and Komodo.

“Sail Indonesia, being held since 2009, has also been organized in East Nusa Tenggara in 2013 under the name of Sail Komodo,” he emphasized.

Komodo Island, with a land area of 390 square kilometers, has a population of over two thousand.

The island has a beach with sand that appears pink as it contains a mixture of white sand and red sand, formed from pieces of Foraminifera.

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Garuda opens another flight route to China

14 January 2016 Denpasar, Bali (ANTARA News) – The nations flag carrier Garuda Indonesia has opened a new route to China between Balis Denpasar and Shanghai starting on Wednesday.

Earlier Garuda already had regular flights between Denpasar and Beijing and between Denpasar and Guangzhou.

Commercial Director of Garuda Indonesia, Handayani, said in a statement on Thursday China has been one of the focuses for international flights of the airline aiming to facilitate tourists from the worlds most populous country.

China is one of the most potential tourism markets in the world with around 100 million Chinese traveling abroad every year.

The number of Chinese visitors to Indonesia has increased from year to year – up 25 percent on year in the first eight months of 2015.

“Chinese are the second largest in number after Australians visiting Bali every year. Certainly China is a potential market for Garuda,” Handayani said.

Garuda Indonesia serves the Denpasar – Shanghai route three times a week round trips every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday using A330-300 aircraft with a seat capacity of b360 passengers.

The first flight by GA 858 took off at 16.15 local time from Balis Ngurah Rai airport and arrived in Shanghai at 23.30 local time on Wednesday. Meanwhile, GA 859 took off from Shanghai at 01.00 and landed at Denpasar at 08.35 local time on Thursday.

The opening of the new route is expected to contribute to reaching the countrys target of increasing the number of foreign tourists to 12 million in 2016 and 20 million in 2020.

From Denpasar as a hub of Garuda Indonesia, foreign tourists could proceed to other tourist destinations in the country such as Lombok, Makassar, Menado, Labuan Bajo, and Yogyakarta, Handayani said.

Including from Jakarta, Garuda serves 10 direct flights per week from Indonesia to Shanghai.

Altogether Garuda serves 26 flights from Indonesia to China a week with the three destinations – Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai, via Jakarta and Denpasar.

In the flights to the Chinese cities, Garuda uses Chinese nationals as cabin crew to make it easier in communications with Chinese passengers.

Garuda also plans to serve charter flights from Chinese cities like Chengdu, Chong Qin, Hefei, Kunming, Ningbo, Zhengzhou, Shenyang, Jinan, Tianjing, Taiyuan, and Xian to Indonesia in January and March, 2016.

In February, 2015, and July in the same year, Garuda Indonesia already opened charter flights from Chengdu, Chong Qin, Ningbo, Kunming, Junan, Harbin, Xian, Shenyang dan Chengzhou to Denpasar and Menado.

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Indonesian President to encourage more mass transport systems

15 January 2016 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has said he supports the development of mass transport system not only in Jakarta and Bandung but also in other big cities in Indonesia.

“I will continue pushing for the development of mass transport system not only in Jakarta or Bandung but also in other big cities in Indonesia. Light Rapid Transit system has already been developed, for example in Palembang, and it will probably be developed later in Bandung, Surabaya and other cities,” he said at a meeting on high speed railway projects.

President Jokowi said he wished to know what were the obstacles being faced by current projects.

“I want to receive reports regarding the Jakarta-Bandung high speed train system as well as licensing and setting up of the state-owned railway company,” he said.

He also wished to know issues related to environmental impact analysis and sought an assurance that everything is ready to start the development, including a consortium for the train service.

He also asked about the state of preparation for capital participation and other aspects.

“I wish to know the detailed concept, its connection with the LRT and other preparations,” he said. He said areas that the high speed train must pass must be prepared well.

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Zarb-e-Azb paves way for self-empowering of women in tribal areas

Jan 17 (APP): Minister of State and Chairperson Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) Marvi Memon Sunday said the operation Zarb-e-Azb has not only brought peace but also paved way for self-empowering of womenfolk in the tribal areas. The BISP chairperson, who visited here to formally launch “Beneficiaries Outreach and Communication Strategy said that the government would also provide interest free loans and training to the women in order to empower them.

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Pakistan to establish two new universities in capital’s rural areas

Jan 13 (APP): Minister of State for Capital Administration and Development Division (CA&DD) Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhary announced that two new universities one each for men and women will be established in rural areas of federal capital. He stated this while inaugurating the newly Constructed Building of Islamabad Model College for Boys, Sihala here Wednesday.

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Pakistan to prioritise Urdu as official language

Jan 13 (APP): The government has started work on adoption of Urdu as official language on priority, Advisor to Prime Minister on National History and Literary Heritage Irfan Siddiqui said here Wednesday. Addressing the meeting of officers of National Language Promotion Department (Idara Faroogh-e-Quami Zuban), he said that implementation of Urdu as official and office Language in the country is a constitutional obligation.

Mr. Siddiqui also said that a nationwide drive was being launched to promote the culture of book reading and encourage positive trends in society, especially the youth. “In view of the current scenario we need to join hands to inculcate positive spirit and constructive tendencies in society and most importantly among the youth,” he said during a briefing session held in NBF as head of the newly created division of NH&LH.

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Islamabad Airport to be operational by year end

ISLAMABAD, Jan 16 (APP): Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Aviation Shujat Azeem said on Saturday that the newly constructed Islamabad International Airport would be fully operational by year end. “The previous government had allocated Rs 36 billion for PC-I in which only runway, taxi tracks and building was planned but an international airport can never be complete by merely with these features,” he said this while talking to a news channel.

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Pakistan to be 25th big economy in 10 years

LAHORE, Jan 16 (APP): Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms, Prof. Ahsan Iqbal on Saturday said that efforts were afoot under Vision 2025 for making Pakistan 25th largest economy of the world in next ten years. Addressing the three-day Pakistan Coating Show (January 15-17) here at Expo Centre, he viewed that export sector had the key to achieve this goal and private sector’s role was very crucial for expansion of exports.

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Bangladesh PM calls for direct air link with Canada

DHAKA, Jan 17, 2016 (BSS) – Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today put emphasis on introduction of direct air link between Bangladesh and Canada for mutual benefits of the two countries.

The Prime Minister expressed this view when newly appointed Canadian High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Benoit-Pierre Laramee, paid a courtesy call on her at her office here this morning.

After the meeting, PM’s Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim briefed reporters.

Sheikh Hasina congratulated the newly elected government of Canada and hoped the relations between Dhaka and Ottawa would reach a new height under the leadership of new Prime Minister Justin Pierre James Trudeau.

She said a huge number of expatriate Bangladeshis are living in Canada and they are contributing a lot to the economy of both the countries.

The Prime Minister appreciated the contribution of the Canadian government to Bangladesh’s development efforts and said her government has given top priority to education to achieve desired development.

In this connection, she mentioned that her government has also taken steps to strengthen private sector and local governments to this end.

Mentioning readymade garments as the main export product, the Premier said Bangladesh is exploring new areas like IT and software for diversifying its exports.

Spelling out her government’s measures for development of the garment sector, she mentioned that the government appointed inspectors to look into the security issue in the garment industries.

Sheikh Hasina said the gap between the rural and urban people is narrowing down while migration to urban areas is declining due to creation of employment at villages.

Appreciating Canada’s cooperative system, the Prime Minister noted that Bangabandhu had introduced such a system in Bangladesh.

She said her government is trying to encourage setting up small- and medium-scale argo-based industries in the country.

When the Canadian envoy raised the issue of airport security, the Prime Minister assured him that her government had already taken necessary measures in this regard.

The Premier also recalled the invaluable support of the Canadian government during the Great War of Liberation in 1971.

At the meeting, Laramee said Ottawa values partnership with Dhaka to ensure regional security.

“We want to work with Bangladesh in a number of sectors like gender equality and health,” the envoy said.

He also mentioned that the newly elected Canadian Prime Minister explicitly wants to work with Bangladesh on clean environment and climate change issue.

In this regard, the envoy said the Canadian Prime Minister is keen to work with the Bangladesh Premier to combat adverse impact of climate change.

Highly appreciating Bangladesh’s contribution to UN peacekeeping missions, the Canadian high commissioner said Bangladesh is the leader of UN Peacekeeping.

Laramee highly appreciated the significant measures undertaken by the Bangladesh government for ensuring security in diplomatic zone.

He also lauded Bangladesh’s stunning successes in various sectors, saying the country is marching forward towards economic development and prosperity under the charismatic leadership of the Prime Minister.

The Canadian envoy stressed the need for holding of high-level policy dialogue between the two countries.

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Dhaka to host South Asian meeting on boosting sanitation

DHAKA, Jan 10, 2016 (BSS) – Bangladesh is set to host a three-day South Asian sanitation conference called SACOSAN drawing over 500 officials and experts in the three-day meet beginning tomorrow.

Officials said the theme of the 6th South Asian Conference on Sanitation (SACOSAN-VI) at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre(BICC) was set to be “Better Sanitation, Better Life” in the city.

“More than 500 delegates and participants from our South Asian neighbours and foreign development partners are to join the SACOSAN,” a spokesman of the Local Government Division (LGD), the host of the meet told a media briefing at Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) auditorium here.

Deputy Secretary of LGD Khairul Islam added that SACOSAN aimed to develop a regional sanitation agenda, enable neighbours to share experiences and set a coordinated regional action plan to expedite expansion of sanitation coverage for hygiene promotion in South Asia.

President Abdul Hamid is expected to inaugurate the conference.

Delegates of the participating countries spoke at the briefing while they expected the SACOSAN-VI to provide a scope to review the development of sanitation campaign in the past several decades at the end of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015.

They, however, noted that the sanitation campaign achieved a remarkable progress in South Asia particularly in the past 15 years in the region compared to its success in the other parts of the global.

DPHE’s additional chief engineer M Waliullah and heads of delegates from South Asian countries Engr. Ghulam Qader of Afghanistan, Rinchen Wangdi of Bhutan, Balasubramaniam Govindasamy of India, Mohamed Musthafa of the Maldives, Rajan Raj Pandey of Nepal, Ranjit Balssuriya of Sri Lanka spoke at the briefing.

SACOSAN is a government-led biennial convention on sanitation in South Asia, which is held on a rotational basis in each SAARC country.

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Digitisation to accelerate Bangladesh development

RANGPUR, Jan 11, 2016 (BSS) – The digitisation programme has factually become the driving force in accelerating development speeding up the process of building a middle income nation and improving life standard of the common people.

The digitisation has made civic life easier and completely dependent on online services creating social renaissance in the process of building a Sonar Bangla as dreamt by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

According to development experts, academics, officials, professionals, educationists, IT specialists and students, everybody at all levels in the society is reaping tremendous benefits from digitised facilities available in the country.

Launching of the union digital centres (UDCs) and web portals at upazila and district levels has turned digitisation into an irreversible process making the common people completely dependent on the digitised internet facilities.

The massive activities, being implemented by the government through

different ICT based-projects as part of its digitisation initiatives, has been producing skilled workforce to build an economically and technologically developed country.

In addition, launching of the multimedia classrooms at the secondary level educational institutions has been contributing a lot in promoting utilisation of ICT in education sector to ultimately produce a digital nation as the programme.

The government through the ICT division has already set up thousands of multimedia labs at the educational institutions in the process establishing over 3,000 multimedia labs to enhance use of ICT by the young students in the education sector.

The government has also been imparting training to the students at higher education levels to turn them into IT professionals in meeting their growing demand in the job markets both at local and international arena.

Talking to BSS, university students Borhan Uddin, Sukumar, Fatema, and Abul Hossain said they got admitted to different public universities and seats of higher education using online digital facilities in applying to take part in the admission tests in recent years.

Educated youths Lokman Ali, Jewel Hossain, Amirul Islam, Mominul Haque and Parul Rani and Abul Khayer said they got training on computer, internet and other digitised facilities at different UDCs three to four years back.

Presently, they have set up their own computer centres to earn well through outsourcing and providing ICT and digital services to the common people to contribute their own part in the process of building a middle income nation.

Farmers Abul Kalam, Musfikur Rahman and Lokman Mian said they are easily getting information on crop farming, pests management, cropping pattern, technologies, seed, fertiliser, fertiliser dealer, pesticide and e-purjee from the UDCs in their areas.

Senior journalists Chitta Ghosh and Rafik Sarker and System Analyst and Programmer of RangSoft ICT Services Mahbubul Huda said the digital facilities have made admission process and access to all other government services easier and hassle-free.

Associate Professor Dr Tuhin Wadud of Begum Rokeya University said the youths have become dependent on digital internet facilities as the process of digitisation has become an irreversible making life easier for every citizen.

Social workers Akbar Hossain and Nasima Akhter said the common people are getting immense benefits from UDCs on e-agriculture, e-health, e-education,e- purjee, e-employment, human rights, marketing produce and all other services.

Executive Director of Northbengal Institute of Development Studies Dr Syed Samsuzzaman said digitisation has become driving force to accelerate development by reducing poverty, producing skilled human resources and preventing social curses.

“Digitisation has become a reality now creating renaissance in all sectors to speed up development in the process of building a middle income nation and, subsequently a developed Bangladesh, as envisioned by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina,” he said.

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Bangladesh Cabinet okays draft of Hajj Package-2016

DHAKA, Jan 11, 2016 (BSS) – The cabinet today approved the drafts of the ‘National Hajj and Omrah Policy-2016′ and ‘Hajj Package-2016′.

The approval was given in the weekly meeting of the cabinet held at Bangladesh Secretariat with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.

Briefing reporters after the meeting Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam said the cabinet also approved a proposal of the Minister of Public Administration to fill up some 2,475 technical/professional posts of the government from 34th and 35th Bangladesh Civil Service (BCS) examination.

Under the Hajj Package-2016, a total of 1,13,868 pilgrims including 5,000 ballotee hajjis could perform holy hajj this year under two packages. In the first package a pilgrim would cost Taka 3,60,028 including Kurbani and in the second package cost will be Taka 3,04,903 without Kurbani.

Private hajj agencies would ascertain the hajj package separately under certain government conditions. Identical costs for both ballotee and non-balottee pilgrims has been fixed at Taka 1,55,441, the cabinet secretary said.

This year every pilgrim must register online and they will be given pilgrim identification card by Saudi government.

Shafiul Alam said the cabinet discussed negligence of some private hajj agencies this year caused suffering of the pilgrims particularly carrying and receiving their belongings timely. The civil aviation minister assured the cabinet of looking into the matter seriously, the cabinet secretary said.

About the filling up the government posts through 34th and 35th BCS, the cabinet secretary said the decision was taken due to unavailability of suitable candidates for the reserved posts of technical/professional cadres.

He said 672 posts would be filled up from the candidates of 34th BCS and 1,803 posts would be filled up from the candidates of 35th BCS.

The cabinet also discussed a report placed by the Cabinet Division on the scenario of adopting and implementing the decisions of the cabinet during the fourth quarter (October-December) of 2015.

The cabinet expressed satisfaction over the execution of the decisions of the cabinet, the cabinet secretary said.

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Bangladesh charts 10-year roadmap to run e-government

DHAKA, 15 Jan, 2016 (BSS)- The government has taken initiatives to prepare a 10-year ICT roadmap under Bangladesh National Enterprise Architecture (BNA) to operate e-Government activities smoothly, official sources said.

The World Bank financed Leveraging ICT for Growth, Employment and Governance (LICT) Project of Bangladesh Computer Council (BCC) under ICT Division is implementing it.

The LICT project has already appointed the UK based firm ‘Ernst and Young’ to prepare the 10-year ICT roadmap. It is preparing the roadmap following the internationally recognized ‘The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF)’ standard 9.1, the officials said.

Workshop will be held on 17 January with the participation of experts and stakeholders about BNA and 10-year ICT roadmap.

Talking to BSS State Minister for ICT Zunaid Ahmed Palak said that firstly a 10-year roadmap is being prepared for the ICT division and it is being done in a structured and such a way that other ministries, divisions, departments and directorates could use it as a model.

“The plan and policy are being formulated under ICT roadmap by incorporating all initiatives and the opportunities created so far on way to journey towards digital Bangladesh in a coordinated and structured way,” he said.

Palak said the ICT Division is putting emphasis on internationally recognized standard to establish Bangladesh Enterprise Architecture and prepare the 10-year ICT roadmap.

“If BNA is established and 10-year ICT roadmap is prepared, the implementation of the operation of e-government activities will be smoother and the information and data of ministries, divisions, directorates and departments will be interoperable,” he said.

BCC Executive Director S M Ashraful Islam said as part of preparing a 10-year roadmap initiative has been taken to digitize the info and services of Food Directorate and the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education.

Primarily the food procurement system of food directorate and pension giving system of the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education are being digitized, he said.

LICT deputy project director Tarique M Barkatullah said TOGAF 9.1 standard is the internationally recognized and many countries of the world are following the same to establish National Enterprise Architecture and ICT roadmap.

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Azerbaijan simplifies visa regime with Japan

15 January 2016 – TODAY.AZ – Citizens of Japan will be able to travel to Azerbaijan on a simplified procedure starting from February 1.

Japanese can obtain entry visa upon arrival, valid for 30 days’ stay, at the Baku’s Heydar Aliyev International Airport.

Azerbaijan and Japan enjoy fruitful cooperation in various fields and their mutual relations are developing both in the political, economic and cultural fields.

The diplomatic relations between the two countries were established in 1992. Japan was one of the first countries to support Azerbaijan’s forward-looking oil strategy.

Today two major Japanese companies Itochu and Impex are involved in the Contract of the Century. Leaders of Japanese business, Mitsubishi, Mitsui, Marubeni, and Sojits are involved in energy and infrastructure projects in the country.

Azerbaijan is considering further cooperation with Japan in the field of high technology, particularly in the field of manufacture of innovative production, with their further entering the regional markets.

So far, Japanese companies were involved mainly in projects in the energy sector, but in recent years their interests to cooperate in areas such as petrochemicals, oil refining, energy, medicine, high-tech and space industry have increased.

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Azerbaijan National History Museum acquires valuable jewelry

15 January 2016 – TODAY.AZ – The National History Museum of Azerbaijan has added precious jewelries and decorative items to its collection.

The Museum acquired a national adornment, particularly a woman necklace entitled Sinaband, as well as a silver perfume vial from Russia and a handbag made in Europe. These precious objects date back to the 19th-20th centuries.

One of the adornments of women of these centuries, used in Azerbaijan was necklaces, including sinaband, bogazalt, jajik, qarabatdaq and others.

The gilded silver necklace Sinaband acquired by the Museum is made in the form of shebeke, one of the most delicate and difficult ornaments. To achieve the desired ornament, a jeweler should well know the math, and not to miss any smallest detail.

The center of the necklace is convoluted from double shebeke. The necklace has a pendant which depicts a crescent-star decorated with colored stones, embellished with pearls and also hanging on the pendant in the form of a flower. The necklace also has a number of small pendants in the form of fish.

Since ancient times, the jewelry making was one of the most developed fields of handicraft in Azerbaijan. Jewelers in comparison with other masters occupied a privileged position in the society, since their main customers were the dominant class, especially the women of rich families.

Although gold was among the most preferred precious metals among the buyers and masters, silver and platinum were also widely used.

Earlier this month the Museum also obtained a gold necklace dating back to the 20th century. The jewelry consists of 31 gold beads, with a coin medallion related to the Austrian Empire.

The Azerbaijan National Museum of History is one of the architectural pearls of the country, dating back to the 19 century. Built in 1895-1896, the largest museum in the country, was originally the private residence of Haji Zeynalabdin Taghiyev, who was the famous national oil baron remembered for his generous philanthropy.

Over 300,000 items are assembled in 10 collections in the museum, including a valuable library consisting mainly of unique books. The collections allow visitors and researchers to investigate the history of the country and the daily life and culture of the nation from ancient times to the present.

In recent years the Museum were restored, which enabled to return many invaluable art samples, lost abroad, back to the country. A total of 4,000 new exhibits were purchased and 1,200 exhibits gained a second life after restoration.

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Azerbaijan strives to become medical tourism destination

15 January 2016 – TODAY.AZ – Health tourism is one of the developed forms of traveling around the world. While some countries experience lack of credible healthcare institution, prices for medicine in others force people to seek medical help abroad.

This type of tourism is well developing in the modern world, as it combines health with pleasure: recreation combined with medical check-ups or treatment if needed.

The CIS residents prefer Germany, Israel, Austria, Switzerland, the U.S. and South Korea countries whose medical institutions offer regular checkups, targeted diagnostics, conservative and surgical treatment and complex rehabilitation.

Azerbaijan that is developing its tourism potential has a lot magnificent places to show to visitors. Turning the country into the international center of medical tourism is a win-win idea, as it will be profitable for the state and advantageous for the population.

The country having a number of professionals in the field strives to provide its population with well-deserved medicine.

“We have to make sure that people throughout Azerbaijan can receive quality medical care,” Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev said while opening the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic Hospital last December.

The head of state noted that despite the fact that some people travel abroad to receive treatment, Azerbaijan should aim to become a country, where people come for examination and treatment from abroad.

The country has long-term plans to focus on further developing the medical facilities, which can be privatized, according to Deputy Prime Minister Ali Ahmadov.

He noted that in recent years the government reconstructed and renovated hospitals and supplied them with the most modern equipment.

“Azerbaijan spent huge funds and they (hospitals) must be sold at enough high prices. Therefore, these health facilities will remain in state ownership; at least until their depreciation period expires,” he believes. “If there evolves a need for the reconstruction of medical institutions, the country will decide on the transfer of its major part to the private sector in consistent with the practice of neighboring countries.”

Many health facilities have been renovated in the country. More than 500 objects related to this area were built and renovated in Azerbaijan over the past 10 years. The National Health Center is expected to open in Baku in 2016.

However, Azerbaijan has all conditions to develop health tourism. Azerbaijani nature, which attracts several millions tourists a year, can also be healthy.

The fresh mountain air, pure water, organic fruits of the Azerbaijani regions and beach recreation on the Caspian Sea Shore have already known among many tourists. The oil producer Azerbaijan also offers unique medical institution that treats with Naftalan crude oil, renowned for its curative properties.

This center of medical tourism in Azerbaijan has unique natural treatments that cannot be seen anywhere else in the world. Medical specialists believe that this oil kills viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Numerous scientific studies along with more than 100 years of treatment experience confirm curative properties of this oil.

Ashraf Hasanzadeh, PhD, surgeon, graduate of the First Moscow Medical University after I.M. Sechenov, said there is a prospect in turning Azerbaijan into the center of medical tourism.

“There is a prospect and in some areas it is already topical. This applies to cardiovascular surgery, particularly surgery in Azerbaijan. This direction is at a high level. There are prospects in other areas as well and the price of treatment can be of a particular importance here. The price for treatment in our country is not very expensive. So, I think, certain results can be achieved if we work in this direction,” he noted.

The special attraction of Azerbaijan is not only in price for treatment, Hasanzadeh believes, but also in the aspiration of the Azerbaijani doctors to learn and gain experience abroad.

“Speaking of the neighboring countries, we can compete in a certain area with Iran, especially in terms of oncology. With Georgia, it is difficult to compete due to comparably lower service prices. We probably can leave them behind, but it will take a lot of time,” he added.

Moreover, return of the Azerbaijani specialists who studied abroad could add incentive.

The state has sent a very large number of different professionals, not just doctors, to study abroad, Hasanzadeh said, noting that he also studied in the framework of this program in Russia.

“In general, in the coming years up to 1,000 physicians studying in Germany, the U.S., UK, and France will return to Azerbaijan with the most advanced technology and knowledge,” he noted.

The surgeon believes that their return will be an additional incentive to attract patients from abroad. “First, it will be our compatriots living abroad, then their neighbors, friends and so on. I think that such a scheme is possible.”

Speaking about the current situation in medicine, Hasanzadeh said it also depends on certain areas. He also noted a problem that is running into the lifestyle of Azerbaijanis, who refuse to anatomize dead body of their relatives. For this reason, it is very difficult to judge the causes of morbidity and mortality in the country.

Hasanzadeh said that Azerbaijanis are free to go abroad for medical purpose especially with certain diseases which treatment have not succeeded yet in the country as compared to the best European, American or Japanese clinics.

However, he believes that there are diseases where good results have been achieved in Azerbaijan.

Now it is difficult to say that the whole system is well built, but the system is young, 20 years old, and it could not mature during this time.

“Now in Azerbaijan it is difficult to say that the whole system is well built, the system is young, it is not mature yet. Today it is at the stage of maturity and there are certain medical conditions where success has been obtained,” he added.

For instance, 10 years ago there were no specialists in Azerbaijan dealing with eye ground pathology, he said, while today there are at least two specialists who treat this disease at the level of the best clinics of Israel and Canada. Moreover, the price is lower.

“The price is definitely lower, but even if the price is the same as there, people do not pay for the road, visa, and stay abroad,” he stressed.

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Ihlara Valley in Cappadocia breaks tourist record

AKSARAY – Anadolu Agency – The number of tourists visiting the Ihlara Valley, one of the most important routes of Cappadocia in the Central Anatolian province of Aksaray, increased by 12 percent to 491,380 last year compared to 2014.

The Ihlara Valley is a site of stunning natural beauty and is home to a series of ancient Christian churches and frescoes tucked away in stone caves.

Located between the Ihlara and Selime neighborhoods of Aksaray’s Güzelyurt district, the valley is nearly 14 kilometers long and 100-150 meters deep.

“Tourists visiting the Ihlara Valley see churches with frescoes and trek on the shores of the Melendiz River,” said Aksaray Culture and Tourism Director Mustafa Doğan, adding that the route was “indispensable” for tourists visiting the Cappadocia region.

“It is one of the indispensable routes for Cappadocia tours. Ihlara is a symbol for the region. Those coming to the valley see nature and history together. The Ihlara Valley is also a proper place for trekking, especially thanks to arrangements that have recently been made. Many visitors use the four, seven, and 14-kilometer-long tracks to walk to Belisırma and Selime,” Doğan stated.

He also said the number of local and foreign tourists visiting Ihlara was increasing every year.

“We have seen a 20 percent increase in the number of tourists every year. Ihlara was visited by 344,418 people in 2013 and saw a 27 percent increase in 2014 with 438,903 tourists. Although overall regional tourist numbers dropped in 2015, the Ihlara Valley’s visitors increased by 12 percent and reached 491,380.

That marks the highest number of people visiting the valley ever,” Doğan stated.

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Sagalassos artifacts enchant visitors

BURDUR – Anadolu Agency – Artifacts unearthed during excavations at the ancient city of Sagalassos in the southern province of Burdur’s Ağlasun district and put on display at the Burdur Archaeology Museum draw thousands of visitors every year.

According to written sources, the history of Sagalassos dates back to 333 with the conquest of Alexander the Great, and the city had been one of the five most important ceramic production centers in the Roman era. Excavations in the city were initiated in 1989 by Belgian Professor Marc Waelkens.

After Waelkens retired two years ago, he was replaced by his deputy head of the excavations, Professor Jeroen Poblome from Belgian Leuven Catholic University.

A team of Turks and foreigners led by Leuven University have been continuing excavations in the ancient city of Sagalassos for 26 years, with their work inspected by the Culture and Tourism Ministry. Among the artifacts unearthed were five-meter-tall sculptures of Emperor Marcus Aurelius and Emperor Hadrian.

Among the other significant artifacts unearthed in the city are friezes of a dancing girl, the goddess of victory Nike and Dyonisos, Nemesis, Asklepios and Kronis sculptures.

Burdur Archaeology Museum Director Hacı Ali Ekinci said the museum where Sagalassos’ ancient artifacts were on display was one of Turkey’s most significant museums.

He said after the ancient city was abandoned, the artifacts there were not moved to other cities but rather protected in the ancient city, which helped them survive.

Ekinci said the Roman bath had been excavated between 2007 and 2008 and the statues of emperors Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius were discovered.

The Burdur Archaeology Museum was visited by 11,134 people last year, while the number of visitors to ancient Sagalassos was 27,058.

The ancient city was founded on the slopes of the Taurus mountain range and was the metropolis of the Roman province of Pisidia. It is seven kilometers away from the Ağlasun district. The city is on the UNESCO Tentative World Heritage List.

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Ara Güler biopic to premiere at Washington Film Festival

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – “The Eye of Istanbul,” a feature-length documentary film on the life and works of legendary Turkish-Armenian photographer Ara Güler, has been nominated for the Washington Film Festival.

The movie was chosen as a finalist in the official selection of the Washington D.C. Independent Film Festival, the oldest independent film festival in the U.S.

The film, apart from screening in the competition, will also be making its U.S. premiere at the film festival in March.

The “Eye of Istanbul” tells the story of Guler in conjunction with the preparatory stages of a retrospective exhibition of his in Istanbul. The documentary follows a non-linear narrative and explores the artistic process and impulses which lead to his works of art. Guler’s curiosity, resourcefulness and fearlessness – all of which play a part in making him who he is – are showcased through a series of stories in the film.

Even at the age of 87, Guler remains a complex and unforgettable character; he is still sharp, irreverent, witty and philosophical.

The core team members behind “Eye of Istanbul” include Producer Umran Safter, Co-directors Fatih Kaymak and Binnur Karaevli, Director of Photography Zafer Bir, Script Writer Ahsen Diner, Editor Engin Yıldız, Composer Derya Türkan and Project Consultant Nezih Tavlas.

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Muğla’s ancient sites, museums increasingly popular among tourists

MUĞLA – Anadolu Agency – The Bodrum Underwater Archaeology Museum, located inside the Bodrum Castle, received the highest number of visitors last year in Muğla.

The Bodrum Underwater Archaeology Museum, located inside the Bodrum Castle, received the highest number of visitors last year in Muğla.

Museums and ancient sites in the western province of Muğla were visited by nearly 850,000 people last year, with the revenue from these visits topping 6 million Turkish Liras.

Home to many ancient sites on UNESCO’s temporary list of world heritage sites, Muğla’s Sedir Island and Bodrum Underwater Archaeology Museum were the most popular places for tourists in 2015.

Muğla Mayor Amir Çiçek said Muğla was important in terms of tourism as well as its historical heritage and natural beauty.

He said the city was home to 192 ancient sites, noting archaeological excavations were carried out in at least 10 ancient sites every year. He also said work was continuing to open the city’s Beçin Castle, Kayaköy, Lagina, Kaunos, Stratonikeia and Tloss to tourism. “Visitors prefer to see the artifacts in their original places,” he said, adding that the number of visitors increased in 2015 compared to the previous year.

“The Bodrum Underwater Archaeology Museum, located inside the Bodrum Castle, built by the Saint John knights, is the one and only in Turkey.

“It was visited by 206,091 people last year. It was followed by the Marmaris Museum with 50,168 people and the Zeki Müren Museum with 32,964 people,” the mayor said.

Çiçek said Sedir Island, around 25 kilometers away from Marmaris, also draws interest from tourists, adding it was visited by 149,984 people last year.

“Fethiye’s Kayaköy and Dalyan’s Kaunos ancient city follow the Sedir Island in terms of the number of visitors,” he said.

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Istanbul to host World In Love Festival

ISTANBUL – Anadolu Agency – The 360 Degree Love Festival, which features various art disciplines, will be organized in Istanbul between Feb. 9 and 29 around the theme “World in Love.”

The 8th edition of the festival was launched at a press conference on Jan. 13. The curator of the festival, Işık Gençoğlu, said they had started eight years ago as a small event and now hosted more than 100 artists.

Gençoğlu said the festival supported the Audrey Hepburn Foundation and they had created joint projects for children.

“Audrey Hepburn’s son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer, is a producer and has a company in Los Angeles. He believed in us and this festival. He believed that the world could see better days through love. This is why he will bring his production team. They will make a 45-minute film to promote Istanbul. He will also attend a conference at the Kadir Has University to talk about Audrey Hepburn and her goals,” she said.

Noting that children would be at the center of the festival, Gençoğlu said it would also be organized in the same term with the Feb. 14 Valentine’s Day events.

She said, “We don’t deny Feb. 14 but we will make all of February the month of lovers with a critical view. Istanbul will be the center of it.”

The festival events will be organized at Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah, Uniq Istanbul, Uniq Gallery, Paladium AVM, Capacity AVM and Adahan Hotel.

“Divine Love Night,” “Lover’s Bazaar,” “Love concert with Mercan Dede and Hayko Cepkin,” “Love Films Marathons,” “Wishing Balloons” and a conference on love will be among the events of the festival.

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China, Egypt Launch Joint Cultural Year

CAIRO, Egypt, Jan 15 (NNN-MENA) – The Egyptian Ministry of Culture and the Chinese Embassy in Cairo, launched the 2016 Sino-Egyptian Culture Year, which marks the 60th anniversary of joint diplomatic relations.

“The Chinese-Egyptian cultural year is a mean to intensify the already strong cultural ties,” The Minister of Culture, Helmy al-Namnam said.

The announcement came during a press conference, at Egypt’s National Archive and Documents House in Cairo.

“We will hold cultural events in both countries throughout this year. Our cultural events will tour China, and the Chinese events will be held everywhere is Egypt,” the minister said.

Marking 2016 as a cultural year was the fruit of agreement between Chinese President, Xi Jinping and his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, during their meeting in Beijing in Dec, 2014.

“It is also meant to celebrate six decades of the two countries’ bilateral diplomatic relations,” the minister said.

Egypt was the first Arab and African country to recognise the People’s Republic of China.

China and Egypt are among the oldest human civilisations and their relations have deep roots back in history, he added.

The cultural year will boost friendly ties and enhance mutual understanding and future development between the peoples of the two nations, the minister said.

For his part, Minister Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy, Qi Qianjin, said that, the Chinese-Egyptian cultural exchange has always been rich and expanding.

“Since the start of the mutual diplomatic relations, China and Egypt have signed dozens of cultural agreements that are meant to enable fruitful cultural exchange,” he said.

Qi added that, Egypt embraced the first cultural Chinese centre outside the borders of China, adding that, Egypt has been the link between China and the Arab countries.

More than 100 cultural events will be held throughout the cultural year, with China alone holding more than 60 activities covering music, folkloric dance, cinema, literature, food, seminars and exhibitions.

The Egyptian minister said that, artistes from China and Egypt will perform in the huge opening ceremony of the cultural year in Luxor, later this month.

During his meeting with Sisi in Beijing in Dec, 2014, Xi Jinping decided to elevate the bilateral relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries.

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Nigeria: Tourists Enjoy Visit to National War Museum

15 January 2016 – This Day (Lagos) – Charles Ajunwa Tourists from all over the world visit the National War Museum, Umuahia, Abia State, to enjoy the serene atmosphere and also to satisfy their curiosity about the Nigerian Civil War.

The documentalist in the National War Museum, Mr. Julius Ogar, told THISDAY they are doing everything to ensure that the place is well maintained.

“Our dream is to make this place a tourist haven since there are no much tourist sites in Umuahia. We have a tall dream to make this place very attractive, tourists are invited to the National War Museum because it’s a public centre and anybody that wants to know about the Nigerian Civil War, the unity of Nigeria should endeavour to visit here.

The National War Museum, Umuahia is one of the seven wonders of Nigeria. The museum was established some 25 years ago. Initially this place was run by the military before it was transferred to the National Commission for Museum and Monuments, which is holding it in trust for the Ministry of Defense,” Ogar said.

According to him, the museum has well furnished gallery, recreation centres, multi-purpose hall, museum kitchen, children play ground. “We are proposing to open an exhibition hall where our visitors will watch films, power points and slides.

“We have three sections here, the army section, the air force section and the navy section. In the army section, we have both hardwares used by the federal troop and the secessionist troop. The famous one being the Biafran Red Devil, Ogbunigwe, relics of Radio Biafra and Biafran cooking pot which is the local refinery.

“In the air force section, we have the eye-catching aircraft which is the unicorn known as the Biafran mosquito, we have the Egyptian donated aircraft, locally made anti-air craft gun, rocket launchers.

“In the naval section we have the NNS Bonny (the craft ship), assault boat that was locally made by the Ministry of Transport, patrol boat guns and the anti submarines,” he noted.

According to Ogar, the relics of the war are preserved and maintained by the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM).

The Nigerian-Biafran war, was a political conflict caused by the attempted secession of the Southeastern provinces of Nigeria as the self-proclaimed Republic of Biafra. The war, which started on July 6, 1967, came to an end on January 15, 1970.

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Foundation Stone Laid of EGP14 Billion Tourist Project

10 January 2016 – Egypt State Information Service (Cairo) – Matrouh Governor Alaa Abu Zaid on Saturday 9/1/2016 laid down the foundation stone of an EGP 14 billion mega tourist project in Marsa Matrouh in Egypt’s north coast. The project is planned to include seven hotels, 25,000 residential units, a hospital, schools, and a public university. Services facilities, water and electricity stations, sports and entertainment areas and a police station will be established as part of the project.

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Africa: Ugandan Firm in First Virtual Brochure

10 January 2016 – East African Business Week – Kampala — Matoke Tours has unveiled what it claims to be the travel industry’s first true virtual reality (VR) travel brochure designed to be experienced in your home or on the go with an Android app.

“This app enables us to convey the intensity and emotion of the travel experience before the journey has even started. Travellers are then better able to decide which excursions they want to book.” Wim Kok the Director of Matoke Tours Uganda said.

The VR experience offers many benefits for travellers who are considering Uganda as a destination.

According to a release last week, the “Virtual Gorilla” app provides six unique chapters that provide a stunning experience of a trip through Uganda.

Track gorillas in the Bwindi rainforest, explore Uganda in a hot air balloon, and traverse land and water on safari. Become fully immersed in the beauty of Uganda and meet “Big Sam,” your tour guide who highlights real-world lodges where you can spend the night on your follow-up vacation.

The VR experience from Matoke Tours is designed to work with Android smartphones and multiple VR systems.

For the best user experience, we suggest the Samsung Gear VR or Google Cardboard VR device designed for smartphones. Begin your virtual experience by placing your smartphone in the viewer and firing up the Virtual Gorilla app.

Users of Apple’s iPhone can expect a similar experience in February when the technology is expected to become compatible with iOS devices.

Now all users can enjoy the 360° videos on the Matoke Tours website that provides a look at experiences and lodges.

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Egyptian PM Opens Nile Museum in Aswan

12 January 2016 – Egypt State Information Service (Cairo) – Prime Minister Sherif Ismail inaugurated on Sunday 10/1/2016 Nile Museum in Aswan in a large ceremony attended by Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Hossam Moghazi and a host of senior officials, public figures as well as a group of media men, writers and journalists.

The inauguration of the museum is clear evidence that Egypt is keen to establish its relations with Nile-basin countries. The museum features hundreds of photos and exhibits about the history of the Nile and the Egyptian projects built on it.

Also, it includes displays of the civilizations and traditions of the Nile Basin member states.The opening of the museum coincides with Aswan National Day and the anniversary of building the High Dam, he said.

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Gambia’s Sand Beach Hotel & Resort Making its Mark

12 January 2016 – The Daily Observer (Banjul) – With Gambia Tourism Board, (GTB), tourism industry in the Smiling Coast of Africa has witnessed many a major boost in terms of product development at resort level. One among the resort developments is Sand Beach Hotel and Resort (SBHR), located in the serenity of Point Zone Kotu.

Sand Beach Hotel and Resort is a brand new exquisite facility that proudly joined the stock of emerging new and trendy resort facilities already hitting a mark in the tourism sector, since fully joining the market this season. This cute, trendy and exquisite resort facility is the home-grown and brainchild of Farimang Max Mane, a dynamic Gambian entrepreneur with vast experience in the hospitality industry. He’s a proprietor and CEO who has earned a name for himself as a leading travel specialist in the dynamic Scandinavian travel scene, and a savvy tourism entrepreneur.

Set on its own private beach and nestled within the pristine surroundings of Kotu tourism cluster, just a stone’s throw from the Palma Rima Junction, Sand Beach Hotel and Resort offers guests luxury accommodation, fine food and wine; while also providing access to the latest in spa technology, and an extensive range of holistic therapies and entertainment at the Galaxy- a mega entertainment complex located on the main Senegambia Highway.

Sand Beach Hotel and Resort has all it takes to satisfy the appetite of the most discerning and active tourists, as well as the laidback sun craver, given the range of cosy facilities available in the hotel and on the vast expanse of the unspoilt beach. It is therefore no surprise to see delightful holiday makers frolicking leisurely around the beach front and near the pool side, which serves as a magnet for those who just want to chill out in the Gambian sun.

The design and decor of the hotel has put on board the latest imagination in hospitality with 30 spacious villas and 20 comfortable air-conditioned rooms, a functional swimming pool, including the African inspired “Bantaba” restaurant, all designed to suit the taste, and budget of all categories of guests from the trendy holidaymakers, discerning tourists to the savvy businessmen yearning for a break.

Among the villas are Dolphin, Monkey, Kingfisher, and Crocodile. Among the faciltities in Sand Beach Hotel and Resort is a mini market, clinic with doctors, gym, and full wifi. All these and more make it a convenient place for your different activities. Apart from relaxation it is a place for hosting events such as conference/seminar, birthday party, reception, shooting of movies with panoramic stage.

“Tourists are becoming more discerning”, thus the felt need to craft a more imaginative product that suits the taste and needs of all category of tourists and other visitors to the Smiling Coast says, Farimang Mane, General Manager of the resort. This is all the more reason “the Galaxy – a major entertainment and spa complex has also been developed alongside the resort, managed by Musa Mane, who is also a partner in this family venture.

The motivation for this investment is purely because “tourists and related clientele are beginning to realize the need to invest more in themselves. They want their holidays to have a purpose to relax, to eat well, to have fun and to unwind the body and soul. When it comes to hospitality; we are second to none and we strive hard to exceed guests’ expectations by providing not only high quality service, but service with a smile, recognising that guests from diverse socio-cultural orientations come to the resort with different objectives and we focus on achieving them, whatever they may be.” the general manager was quoted as saying.

“This and more reasons we are making a foray into Halal tourism, which has recently become an increasingly popular niche within the travel and holiday industry. The product is tailored around the needs of Muslim tourists and travellers, which has become a lucrative tourism niche.

In this regard we want to take a cue from Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya AJJ Jammeh, who has exhorted us all to be in-ward looking and value our heritage. This is our inspiration and we are ready to develop Halal Tourism as an emerging niche to complement our already existing tourism products and services with a view to making The Gambia a world class tourism and business centre.” He revealed.

Accordingly, Mane fondly called Max further disclosed that a brand new company, Al- Baraka Halal Hotels and Resorts Gambia Ltd has been launched to develop and promote halal hotel concept, and already plans are in the pipeline to attend the 4th Conference on Halal Tourism slated to take place from the 16th – 18th January 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey with a view to networking with the global private sector Halal and Islamic Tourism stakeholders and investors. In that regard, the Embassy of Turkey has been very supportive in terms of providing the necessary contacts and information about Halal Tourism, given that Turkey is one of the foremost destinations for Islamic friendly tourism.”

Mane further emphasised that the brand value and essence of Sand Beach Hotel and Resort Ltd and Al-Baraka Halal Hotel Group is premised on innovative service delivery “The travelling market is tired of going for a beach holiday, they want more and we should recognise this and provide a holiday with a purpose”.

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Kenya Opens the Only Marina Between Cape Town and Cairo

12 January 2016 – Kenya Presidency (Nairobi) – The tourism industry today received a major boost as President Uhuru Kenyatta opened a marina in Mombasa, the only one of its kind between Cape Town in South Africa and Cairo in Egypt. And the President announced a raft of incentives that will revitalise the industry.

He said the Government has set aside Sh1.2 billion incentives for charter planes to stimulate demand at the Coast by that category of tourists.

“This will encourage those already flying in to increase the frequency of their flights,” President Kenyatta said.

The President disclosed that visa fees for children under 16 will also be waived with effect from February 1.

To bring park entry fees down, President Kenyatta directed the National Treasury Cabinet Secretary to initiate the amendment of the VAT Act and incorporate the amendments in the Finance Bill for financial year 2016/2017.

“With this measure, the Kenya Wildlife Service will cap the park entry fees at $60 (Sh6,000) down from $90 (Sh9,000),” President Kenyatta said.

The Head of State spoke on Tuesday when he opened the English Point Marina, a multi-billion shilling landmark resort in Mombasa County. First Lady Margaret Kenyatta and Cabinet Secretaries Judy Wakhungu and Eugene Wamalwa were also at the event.

President Kenyatta said the resort is a major endorsement of the recovery strategy of the country’s tourism and hospitality industry, adding that it heralds good tidings in the sector.

The four-acre ocean view resort features a 26-room hotel, conferencing facility, a roof-top restaurant, a casino, swimming pool, 96 serviced apartments – including 8 penthouses – seafront restaurant, gym, spa, a boardwalk with retail outlets, water-sports centre and fully-serviced 88-berth marina. This will diversify Kenya’s tourist products.

President Kenyatta also said the waiver of the landing fees at Mombasa and Malindi airports for charter planes will be extended to June 30 2018 to help the industry regain its full strength.

“In return, I must ask all players to respond to these initiatives, and to the ongoing consultations, with the seriousness they deserve. It is time to make the most of our heritage and our gifts,” President Kenyatta said.

He said the Government has also supported tourism in three key areas: infrastructure, security and renewal of partnerships with stakeholders in the industry. “The improvements in security are there for all to see. We dare not allow that momentum to be lost,” he said.

On infrastructure, President Kenyatta cited the recent launch of the construction of the Port-Reitz-Airport Road in Mombasa, and the planned Dongo Kundu bypass – that will allow tourists to get from the mainland to the South Coast without using the ferry – as some of the measures that will promote tourism.

“Even as we work on the bypass, I have instructed the Kenya Ferry Services to step up their management of passenger transportation through Likoni Channel,” President Kenyatta said.

He said the ongoing expansion of Malindi Airport and the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) will enable the facilities to cater for more visitors, noting that JKIA will soon receive direct flights from the US.

The President thanked the United States, United Kingdom and French governments for the recent lifting of travel advisories.

“They recognise, as well as we do, that security here has vastly improved, and that there is much to be gained by partnering with Kenya and the region,” the President said.

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala praised the President’s commitment to the Government’s tourism revival strategy, saying the future looks brighter.

“We are developing a programme to make our tourism products affordable and attractive,” CS Balala said.

Other speakers were Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, Kenya Commercial Bank Chief Executive Joshua Oigara and English Point Marina Director Alnoor Kanji.

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Nigeria: Ooni Declares Ife Tourism Zone

15 January 2016 – Vanguard (Lagos) – A new dawn in the history of Ile Ife occasioned by the recent appointment of 40 years old Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja 11, as the Ooni of Ife, has continued to resonate with the Ooni set to declare Ife as a tourism zone in furtherance of his promise to foster peace and unity and bring economic prosperity to his people by opening up Ife to the world through tourism.

The Ooni who is a business czar and owner of Inagbe Resort, one of the few privately run resorts located across Lagos waters, has from the first day of assumption of office not hidden his resolve to elevate the historical and abundant cultural wealth of his people and town by opening it to the world through massive investment in tourism related projects, which are aimed at transforming Ife from a mere tourism attraction to a mega tourism destination.

To this end, the Kabiyesi, his newly appointed chief tourism adviser and consultant, Otunba Wanle Akinboboye, who is the Founder of La Campagne and Motherland Beckons, disclosed that Oba Ojaja 11 is set to declare Ife a tourism zone on February 26 and to kick start the development of the zone into a tourism destination of world class standard has concluded plans to build a N7.6 billion Ife Grand Resort.

Also in line with his resolve to foster peace and unity amongst his people, a major ingredient for sustainable tourism development, and put to rest the ghost of the over 200 years old conflict between Ife – Modakeke, the Ooni over the week brushed aside all protocols and barriers to attend the Modakeke Day celebration even as he announced the employment of 20, 000 widows from the over 40, 000 widows recorded in the last Ife – Modakeke crisis to work in the tourism zone project with a promise to absolve the remaining 20, 000 widows alongside the teeming population of unemployed as the project gathers traction.

The Ooni’s attendance at the Modakeke Day celebration has been hailed by many people as a deft move by the Kabiyesi to finally bury the Ife – Modakeke intermittent conflict that has lingered for over 200 years as this has never been done by any Ooni in the past 200 years, as attending Akoraiye Day Modakeke, is a way of not only healing the wounds of the past but also clearing the negative past and replacing it with a prosperous future through tourism.

As part of the grand design to secure life and property in Ife, the Kabiyesi has approved the construction of a watch tower with standby rapid response squad that is fully equipped and which response time to any distress call should not be more than 10 minutes and this time frame hopefully would be cut to five minutes in the days ahead.

Speaking on these new initiatives by the Ooni, Akinboboye, who has also announced the Kabiyesi as the grand patron of Motherland Beckons, said it is a grand design by the Ooni to redesign the tourism map and agenda of Ife by drawing the attention of Africans, the Diaspora and the entire globe to it in a way that has never been done in the history of the former Ife Kingdom, which is not only regarded as the Source of Yoruba but the cradle of South west civilisation.

According to him, “the glory of Ife is finally coming to light. Ife is now the new destination in Africa as the sleeping giant of tourism in Africa wakes up to a new reality,” insisting that henceforth the whole world would come to Ife on religious, cultural, economic, educational, and archaeological tourism among others, as the new Ooni constructs a new agenda for the kingdom of Ile Ife.

Akinboboye revealed that the declaration ceremony and the kick off for motherland beckons has been fixed for February 27 with the president of Black Lawyers in England and Wales, Peter Herbert, billed to deliver the key note address while the chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO) America, among a host of other dignitaries are expected at the event.

This development from the palace, he said is in partnership with La Campagne with Motherland Beckons serving as a multi – purpose vehicle for bringing to fruition the agenda of the Ooni.

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Iran gives big welcome to Russian tourists

Tehran, Jan 16, IRNA – A significant increase in Iranian tourists visiting Russia was witnessed in 2015, the Association of Tour Operators said on its website.

Nearly 34,000 Iranian tourists visited Russia in the first nine months of 2015, a rise of 111 percent when compared to the same period a year ago.

In November, Iran and Russia agreed to reciprocally launch tourism offices in their countries.

A world leader in the number of historical and artistic highlights, Iran boasts over a thousand world-class hotels and nearly as many recreational facilities are now under construction.

During a meeting with Mortaza Rahmani Movahed, Rostourism head Oleg Safonov said that Iran was one of the safest places for Russian tourism and that Russia was ready for closer cooperation in this field.

“There are many beautiful places in Russia and Iran that tourists could visit and I hope that, with the visa regime lifted, there will be more tourist exchanges between our two countries… Today we invited the heads of Russia’s leading tour companies to come to Iran and see for themselves what we can do to have more Russian tourists traveling to our country and Iranians to Russia,” Mortaza Rahmani Movahed told Radio Sputnik.

He also said that Iran could fill the void Russia’s tour industry has experienced as a result of worsening relations with Egypt and Turkey.

“Russian tourists are welcome to come any time of year and enjoy any kind of service they possibly need. We carefully study the Russians’ mentality and tastes and will try to offer them the very best service money can buy,” Mortaza Rahmani Movahed emphasized.

Meanwhile, an official with the Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization said that Iran planned to inaugurate a tourism representative office in Russia in the near future.

The head of the organization’s marketing and publicity department, Mohammad Kazem Kholdinasab, added that Iran was keen on hosting Russian tourists and would work out the details.

Iranian Ambassador to Russia Mehdi Sanaei said on Thursday that Iran could abolish its visa regime for tourists arriving in the country from Russia on a unilateral basis.

Iranian airline Mahan Air will launch direct flights between Moscow and Tehran beginning January 21.

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World music managers heading to Iran

Tehran, Jan 17, IRNA – A number of managers of important world festivals will travel to Iran during the 31st Fajr International Music Festival to exchange music information and increase cultural cooperation with Iranian musicians.

The foreign managers are heading to Iran to choose the best music pieces to get them performed in the world festivals, IRNA reported.

Fouzia Saeed from Pakistan, Joseph Eichinger from Austria, Camille Jones and Francois Degeorge from France are among the foreign guests of the festival.

The 31st Fajr International Music Festival is scheduled for February 13-20.

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Bahrain Launching Little India Market

MANAMA, Bahrain, Jan 9 (NNN-BNA) – Bahrain’s “Little India Market” will be officially launched today (Saturday), in the heart of the Manama Suq, near the Indian Temple.

Held weekly, between 4:00 pm and 8:00 pm, the Little India Market will host a variety of Indian food, crafts and music, for the whole family to enjoy.

“The ‘Little India in Bahrain’ project, celebrates and documents the contribution of the Indian community to the history and progress of Bahrain, with almost 4,000 years of history shared between the two countries.

According to BNA, Little India in Bahrain is tantamount to Bahrain’s Cultural Tourism (and part of the “Seven Experiences” of the Kingdom).

“The project will give back to the Indian community, while promoting the area to cultural tourists and locals, through a series of site-specific interventions along Al Hadrami and Al Muatasim Avenues,” the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities (BACA), said.

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Muscat Festival Under Way

MUSCAT, Oman, Jan 14 (NNN-ONA) – Muscat Festival will open today (Thursday), under the theme “Live Oman“ in all its details and beauties, in the greatness of man, place and time, within the spacious splendour bouquets of events and pleasant atmosphere, during the period from Jan 14 to Feb 13.

The Al A’mirat and Al Nassim Public Parks, will be open from four in the afternoon until 11:00 in the evening, during the festival days, except weekends, when it will be extended until 12:00 midnight, to enjoy the activities of the festival.

The festival will launch daily firework shows for a few minutes each day, in Al A’mirat and Al Nassim Public Parks, at half-past-eight in the evening, to bring more dazzling and interesting atmosphere for visitors.

Muscat Festival sites are numerous for this year, in addition to Al A’mirat and Al Nassim Public Parks.

These sites include the city’s theatre, Oman Automobile Club, Kalbouh Park, Oman Tour’s courses, in a number of governorates, Omani Society for Writers and Literati, Photographic Society, Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Cultural Club and a number of galleries and arcades and squares.

This festival is also intended for those interested in the revival of the Omani heritage, cultural heritage, the preservation of the traditional identity and the traditional heritage, as a prominent feature of Oman Renaissance and originality, and the attention to inventions and creations, which manifested itself during an era of Islamic civilisation.

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Jordan to Launch Heritage Village Project

AMMAN, Jan 11 (NNN-Petra) –– Jordan’s Council of Ministers has approved a JD6 million loan to the Petra Region Authority from the Cities and Villages Development Bank to bankroll the launch of a heritage village project, which will showcase traditional products.

The decision is within a series of steps the government had recently taken to boost the world tourist destination of Petra and the Kingdom’s tourism sector, which had witnessed a slump in the past years due to the regional turmoil.

Authorities had cut the hotel electricity tariff, abolished visas for tourists of all nationalities arriving via Jordanian tours agents, gave Arab tourists equal treatment to Jordanians when entering tourist sites and revoked other visa fees and reduced the fees for arrivals via land crossings from 40 dinars to 10, in addition to other exemptions.

The measures would largely help to upgrade services to visitors, diversify the tourist product and prolong a visitor’s stay that will reflect positively on improving the economic and living situation of the local community and spur tourism.

The ministers also discussed other items on the agenda during the meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour, including the national health strategy, and also endorsed protocols to increase the trade volume with Tunisia.

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‘Shop Bahrain’ Attracts More Visitors, Shoppers

MANAMA, Bahrain, Jan 14 (NNN-BNA) – ‘Shop Bahrain,’ the largest event in the Kingdom, has attracted a vast amount of visitors and shoppers, to take part in the various events and activities for the entire family, since its launch on Dec 24 last year.

The event, taking place in Seef District, drew shoppers and mall visitors, who enjoyed a unique shopping experience, combined with the sounds of authentic songs performed by well renowned Moroccan singer, Asma Lmnawar.

Meanwhile, ‘The Taste Tour’ event encouraged visitors to try the most delicious sampler dishes, presented by the participating restaurants in Adliya, a district well known for culture and entertainment, and is considered as one of the four centres of Manama’s night-life.

The multicultural aspect of Bahrain, such as traditional souqs and modern tourist attractions, were also presented.

The largest outdoor ice-rink in the region, also opened its doors during the launch, and instantly witnessed a huge interest, receiving more than 10,000 visitors from Bahrain and abroad, while the market surrounding the ice-rink provides opportunities for local businesses to showcase their products to a larger audience.

This year’s edition involved the participation of 18 malls and more than 2,000 retail outlets, that attracted more than 32,000 shoppers.

The ‘Family Fair’ event took place at Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Park in Hidd, a town in Bahrain, during the New Year’s weekend, to introduce them to the festival and its events.

‘Shop Bahrain’ aims to mirror the Kingdom’s position as an accessible and welcoming destination for families and visitors from across the region, by providing a distinctive shopping experience filled with special offers and entertainment.

It is the largest nationwide festival with a unique 30-day celebration of Bahrain’s heritage, hospitality and tourism offering the entire family, running until Jan 23, 2016.

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Egypt’s banks to launch 4-year financing programme for SMEs

Cairo, Ahram Online, 11 Jan 2016 – Egypt’s central bank has called on banks to increase financing of small and medium-sized enterprises nationwide, key contributors to the state’s investment and production sectors.

In a release issued on Monday on the bank’s website, the bank said it would require lenders to apportion 20 percent of their total loaning portfolio for SMEs, with interest rates below 5 percent imposed on firms generating between LE1 and LE20 million a year in revenue.

The banks participating in the four-year programme will be able to deduct the loans from their required reserves at the central bank, according to the statement.

The bank’s new SME financing programme was announced as part of an ambitious plan by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi on Saturday to assist smaller businesses.

El-Sisi said that the loans, which will total an estimated LE200 billion, could benefit up to 350,000 projects, providing jobs to over four million employees.

Egypt’s 2015/16 GDP growth rate is expected to register 5.5 percent compared to 4.2 percent recorded in the 2014/15 fiscal year, according to the planning minister.

The most populous Arab nation has been suffering from an ailing economy since the toppling of president Hosni Mubarak in 2011, which spooked investors and tourists.

Small enterprises employing less than 10 workers account for 97 percent of Egypt’s businesses, according to a 2012/13 census published last year by state-run statistics body CAPMAS, while medium-size businesses account for 2.7 percent, and large firms with over 50 employees account for 0.4 percent.

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Art Alert: ‘The sciences of Islam, between repetition and innovation’ in Cairo

Ahram Online , Monday 11 Jan 2016

Bringing together international speakers and researchers, “The sciences of Islam, between repetition and innovation” conference will be held in Cairo over three consecutive days, between 14 and 16 January.

The event is organised by the Dominican Institute for Oriental Studies (IDEO), Cairo, in partnership with Bayt al-Sinnari, an affiliate of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.

Lectures will tackle several topics, focusing on texts and traditions.

The topics of the lectures include: the oral origins of commentaries on early Islam, commentary on post-classical Kalām; commentary on Ashʿarī creeds in 17th century Medina; Phrenitis in the Arabic Hippocratic Aphorisms; and studies on tafsīr d’al-Qurtubī.

The event will host representatives from Egypt, Belgium, Netherlands, Austria, Italy, France, USA, Pakistan, Indonesia and Australia.

The lectures will be delivered in French, Arabic or English. No translation will be provided.

The complete programme can be found here.

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Mahan Airlines to set up Sari-Aktau flight

Sari, Jan 13, IRNA – Representative of Mahan Airlines in Northern Province of Mazandaran Reza Toyserkani said on Wednesday that the company decided to set up flight between Sari, capital of Mazandaran province, and Aktau city in Kazakhstan.

He made the remarks in a meeting to study tourism problems in Mazandaran.

He said that the northern province of Mazandaran has plenty of capacities in the field of tourism and that the company is ready to increase its flights to help boost tourism of Mazandaran.

Aktau Port is on Caspian Sea shore and close to Mazandaran, in south of Caspian Sea.

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Bangladesh Folk Arts Festival begins Jan 14

DHAKA, Jan 12, 2016 (BSS) – The “Folk Arts Festival and Fair” will start from January 14 at the Folk Arts’ and Crafts’ Foundation at Sonargaon, Narayanganj.

Cultural Affairs’ Minister Asaduzzaman Noor told a press conference at the Secretariat here today.

Begum Simin Hossain (Rimi), chairperson of the parliamentary standing committee on Cultural Affairs, will inaugurate the festival at 11 in the morning.

The festival will continue till February 12. As many as 48 craftsmen from the rural areas will participate in the festival.

It includes the arts of Naogaon and Magura, decorative bowls from Rajshahi, palm fans from Chittagong, carpets from Rangpur, wooden dolls, embroidered quilt and rattan furniture from Narayanganj, cold mats from Munshiganj, copper crafts from Comilla, products of the ethnic groups of Chittagong Hill Tracts and terracotta from Kishoreganj.

There will be a special exhibition of embroidered quilts and 12 best artists of the particular art will be present in the festival.

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