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1 Feb, 2016

Turkey’s first female mosque guide introduces Islam to tourists

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 01 February 2016 (22 Rabee’ al-Thaani 1437). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.




Malaysia Truly Asia, the brand that promises global travellers the authentic Malaysia experience, was well featured at the 36th edition of FITUR Madrid, an international travel show targeting global trade buyers for markets in Spain and the Latin Americas, which was held at Feria de Madrid from 20 to 24 January. This was Malaysia’s 14th participation at FITUR. Tourism Minister Dato’ Seri Mohamed Nazri met with top Spanish travel agents and airline representatives from Emirates, Qatar and Etihad. He also met with leading Spanish leisure trades and MICE partners, which included Catai Tours, El Corte Ingles with 700 retail travel outlets, and Carlson Wagonlit – MICE. Malaysia’s presence in the Spanish market was massively enhanced through strategic brand marketing partnerships with world-renowned sports partners in Spain such as the premier Sevilla FC and co-branding actions with Red Bull KTM Ajo Team for the Moto Grand Prix Aragon and Valencia. These marketing initiatives reached millions of spectators through sports events, extensive media coverage via print, web, radio, television and social media engagements. The Spanish market has recorded a phenomenal growth of 35.3% in 2014. Up until September 2015, a total of 27,791 Spanish tourists visited Malaysia, an increase of 3.9% compared to 26,735 tourists in 2014.

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.




Azerbaijan announces visa waiver for GCC citizens

Manama, January 29, 2016, Gulf News : All citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will be granted visas upon arrival in Azerbaijan starting February 1, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry has said.

Under the new procedures, Bahrainis, Kuwaitis, Omanis, Qataris and Saudis will be given the entry visa when they land in the Asian country. They now join the citizens of the UAE who have been enjoying the facilitation procedures since November 10.

“From February 1, facilitation of visa procedures in all international airports of the Republic of Azerbaijan will be applied to the citizens of Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Japan, China, South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore,” the foreign ministry said in a statement posted on its website.

The decision aims “to increase people-to-people contacts and promote tourist visits and business ties in regard with the tasks given by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan at the meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers dedicated to the results of socio-economic development of the first half of 2015 and objectives for the future,” the ministry said.

Azerbaijan’s normal procedure requires foreigners to obtain a visa from one of its diplomatic missions ahead of travelling.

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Indonesia to pair 100 SMEs with South Korean SMEs

Jakarta, January 28 2016, Jakarta Post – The Indonesian and South Korean governments have agreed to pair 100 small and medium enterprises (SMEs), allowing Indonesian SMEs to promote products in South Korea and attract more investment from the country.

South Korea’s Busan Indonesia Center (BIC) has prepared an exhibition center for Indonesian SME products and reliable marketers to promote the products, said the secretary to the cooperatives and small and medium enterprises minister, Agus Muharram.

“One hundred Indonesian SMEs will partner with South Korean SMEs. They manufacture metal goods, mechanical tools, information and technology components, software and processed foods,” he said as quoted by kompas.com in Jakarta on Thursday.

The partnership, he continued, could also boost South Korea’s investment in Indonesia as well as encourage technology transfer between the two countries. It is a follow up on cooperation previously agreed to with the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.

“The cooperation is aimed at developing high-class, locally manufactured products through the one-village-one-product approach carried out by cooperatives,” Agus said. (ags)

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Malaysia To Draw Eight Million Chinese Tourists Annually

ALOR GAJAH, Jan 28 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia has set the target to draw annually from China over the next five years eight million tourists with RM22.1 billion spending power, said Deputy Prime Minister Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

He said the figure of eight million would seem huge compared to the 1.3 million Chinese tourists who visit Malaysia annually now, but it was not impossible to attain with proper planning and effective promotion.

“The RM22.1 billion spending power may seem very big but it is not impossible to garner because each Chinese tourist spends on the average RM3,345 now on food, lodging and shopping,” he said when opening the Freeport A’Famosa Outlet that offers fashion, sport and accessories brands.

Melaka Chief Minister Idris Haron, Deputy Tourism and Culture Minister Mas Ermieyati Samsudin and A’Famosa Group managing director Alex Lau were also present at the event.

Ahmad Zahid said that though Malaysia recorded a large number of tourist arrivals last year, the government wanted to focus on attracting tourists from certain countries over the next five years.

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First direct flight links Xinjiang, Bangkok

URUMQI, (Xinhua), 2016-01-24 — The first direct flight linking northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region and a southeastern Asian country, has been launched, sources with the Urumqi international airport announced.

The flight is operated by China Southern Airlines between Urumqi and and Bangkok of Thailand, the airport said in a statement.

Flights are arranged on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday each week, with a stopover at Lanzhou, capital of northwest China’s Gansu province.

The direct flight shortens the travel time between the two places to around six hours from the previous more than 10 hours when passengers used to transit via Beijing and Shanghai to travel to Bangkok.

In 2015, the Urumqi airport saw the transit of 280,000 passengers, up 35.34 percent year on year.

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British firm to build cultural museum in Makkah

MAKKAH, ARAB NEWS, 25 January 2016: A British firm, Mossessian Architecture, is set to build a cultural museum in Makkah called “The Oasis of Faith.”

Mossessian Architecture has already announced that it has won the competition to build the cultural museum in Makkah which will focus on Islam, Islamic culture and history, according to a publication.

The museum will be built in an area of 5,600 sq. meters, 7 km from the Grand Mosque. The museum will feature a reception area, gallery space for exhibitions pertaining to the history of Islam, an auditorium, a book store, a teaching space, and a roof top climate-controlled garden space and restaurant.

The outside wall of the museum will incorporate stone sourced from every country in the world where Islam is currently practiced. Hijazi rock from the mountains around Makkah will be used for the interior.

A statement from Mossessian quoted by the publication said: “The Makkah Museum will offer a unique interpretation and reflection of faith to the millions of Muslims who visit Makkah from around the world and who, up until this point, have had no cultural institution of this kind to enhance their visit to the holiest of Muslim cities.”

Established in 2005, the London-based firm, Mossessian Architecture, has worked on a number of projects in the Middle East and Africa.

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Malaysia’s budget Air Asia eyes flights to Tehran

Kuala Lumpur, Jan 25, IRNA – Air Asia, the Malaysian low cost airline, announced on Monday that it is planning to start scheduled flights to Tehran.

Air Asia has announced that it is likely to operate two flights per week from its operating base at Kuala Lumpur to Tehran.

Air Asia was a pioneer of low-cost flights in Asia and has an established network of sister airlines including Indonesia Air Asia and Thai Air Asia.

It described Iran as a ‘massive’ opportunity, and planned to resume services to London and Paris if costs made sense.

Speaking at the CAPA Iran Aviation Summit in the Iranian capital, Chief Executive Benyamin Bin Ismail said, ‘We flew to Tehran in the past but had to stop due to sanctions. We are looking to come back and are exploring it again.’

‘(Air Asia co-founder) Tony (Fernandes) sees markets like this as an opportunity…I think Iran is going to be massive for us,’ Bin Ismail said.

Air Asia previously flew A340 jets to London and Paris but halted the service due to high oil prices.

‘London and Paris are still in the plans,’ Bin Ismail said. ‘We have options but need to make sure it doesn’t devalue our yields and that the costs make sense for us.’

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Saudi Arabia issues 2.18 million Umrah visas

Jeddah, ARAB NEWS, 31 January 2016: The Kingdom issued 2.182 million Umrah visas for pilgrims until Thursday.

According to the Ministry of Haj, 1.8 million pilgrims have arrived and 500,000 more people with visas are still to come. They are expected to arrive in the coming days. Incoming pilgrims include 455,000 Egyptians and 333,000 Pakistanis.

“The Umrah traffic has been experiencing a slowdown; last year marked a decline by about 250,000 pilgrims compared to the previous year,” said Marwan Shabaan, head of the Haj and Umrah Committee.

“This decrease is due to the developing conditions in the region, including the low currency exchange, the economic condition of the people, the political and security situation in the world and the instability in the region. These factors are affecting Umrah visitors.”

Shaaban believes that Umrah visitors will increase during the coming Ramadan, especially if the ministry raises the visitors’ ceiling as opposed to previous years when the cap was put at 500,000 in the holy month of fasting.

He hoped the ceiling will be raised to enable maximum number of pilgrims to travel during this Umrah season.

Waleed Abu Saba, an investor in Umrah and hospitality services, said this season has been the worst compared to the past years. ‘We expected this season to compensate the losses from the previous season when numbers were low because of the development projects and expansion of the Haram in Makkah.

During this season, a number of countries like Yemen, Tunisia and Bangladesh exited from the list as no visas were issued to any nationals from these countries despite the fact that these countries were prominent in last Umrah season’s list. They included 100,000 Bangladeshis, 12,000 Tunisians and 30,000 Yemenis.

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LEAD STORY: Turkey’s first female mosque guide introduces Islam to tourists

Tuesday 26 Jan 2016 – Istanbul, (IINA) -Turkey’s first female mosque guide Elif Zeynep Yılmaz, delivers presentations on Islam to foreign tourists visiting the information center adjacent to Sultanahmet Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, according to media reports.

Yılmaz said that they have been providing tourists with information about Islam by the dozens on a daily basis. “Every day, a large number of tourists knock on our door to learn about Islam and rid themselves of false perceptions which have been based on prejudices,” said Yılmaz.

The female guide also stated that most of the tourists who visit the mosque to receive information are from the U.S., the U.K. and several Latin American countries.

“Especially in the U.S. and the U.K., people are generally misinformed about Islam. However, at the mosque we guide them by providing accurate information and teaching them how to pray, if they prefer to learn,” the guide said.

“Many of the visitors are shocked to see that I am, as a woman, a responsible person because they have the wrong perception of Muslim women; namely, that we don’t participate in daily life and just stay at home,” she added.

Yılmaz underlined that “Our visitors confess that their minds were full of prejudices. However, we are happy about their desire to seek the truth.”

Recalling an encounter she once had with a French national, Yılmaz said that “Once, a French tourist told me that he wanted to convert to Islam all of a sudden which touched us and made us really surprised.”

The information sessions are being held in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet district, where a suicide attack blamed on Daesh recently claimed the lives of 10 foreigners.The recent bombing did not have an effect on Yılmaz’s informative sessions; on the contrary, a higher number of tourists are attending the sessions daily.

The Turkish Presidency for Religious Affairs (DİB) has assigned mosque guides to Turkey’s prominent mosques to inform local and foreign tourists regarding Islamic culture. For the last two years, Yılmaz has been delivering information sessions at the mosque. Yılmaz told an Anadolu Agency (AA) that she receives good feedback from foreign visitors. They are pleased to see a woman, she says. The information sessions at Sultanahmet take place at noon and in the afternoon.

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Lahore Literary festival to kick off on Feb 19

LAHORE, Dawn, January 31, 2016: The fourth edition of the three-day Lahore Literary Festival (LLF) will start from Feb 19.

“This year’s three-day, free and open-to-public event will feature some of the most insightful voices from home and abroad in rewarding, thought-provoking discussions on literature and arts,” said Razi Ahmed, founder and chief executive officer of the LLF, in a statement on Saturday.

“Lahore has historically been the firmament of big ideas,” he said.

“The LLF is all about celebrating the intellectual and creative vitality of this city, its cosmopolitan and syncretic past, its storied cultural contributions, and its place in the global literary world today.”

“The LLF 2016 will feature panel talks, book launches, recitals and performances, screenings, art exhibitions,” added Nusrat Jamil, chairperson of the LLF Organising Committee and board member.

“We are very excited about the fourth edition of the festival, and are confident that it will make for an even more rewarding audience experience,” added Ms Jamil.

“Audiences will have more to choose from this year. We will have five parallel sessions happening at any given time, spanning fiction, film, music, architecture and urbanism, poetry, history, travel and more.”

Evening performances will include A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters with Rehana Saigol and Imran Aslam and recitation of selected works of Ghalib and Iqbal by Zia Mohyeddin. The exhibitions will showcase the works of British-Pakistani artist Anwar Jalal Shemza, to coincide with the launch of a new monograph on the late artist, and of legend of the world of art Rasheed Araeen.

“We have a terrific line-up of speakers from Afghanistan and Central Asia in a wide array of talks,” said Ahmed Rashid on behalf of the LLF Advisory Committee.

“We are very pleased to announce that the widely regarded archaeologist and travel writer Nancy Dupree will be at LLF to discuss the remarkable restoration of the Kabul Museum and her other notable endeavors in Afghanistan.”

He said the LLF’s interdisciplinary programme would bring together fresh angles and insights into a wide array of theme spanning over arts and humanities, politics, current affairs, social sciences.

The scheduled speakers at LLF 2016 include Ali Akbar Natiq, Asghar Nadeem Syed, Attiya Dawood, C. M. Naim, Fahmida Riaz, Hamid Ismailov, Haji Noor Deen, Intizar Husain, Javed Majeed, Marion Molteno, Mick Conefrey, Mohsin Hamid, Ned Beauman, Rana Dasgupta, Reza Deghati, Sorayya Khan, Zehra Nigah, and Zukiswa Wanner.

The detailed schedule for the LLF 2016 will be announced days ahead of the event.

The LLF board of governors includes Iqbal Z. Ahmed, Hameed Haroon, Dr Parvez Hasan and Nayyar Ali Dada.

The Advisory Committee includes Muneeza Shamsie, Zareena Saeed, Salima Hashmi, Khaled Ahmed and Mohsin Hamid.

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Malaysia To Draw Eight Million Chinese Tourists Annually

ALOR GAJAH, Jan 28 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia has set the target to draw annually from China over the next five years eight million tourists with RM22.1 billion spending power, said Deputy Prime Minister Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

He said the figure of eight million would seem huge compared to the 1.3 million Chinese tourists who visit Malaysia annually now, but it was not impossible to attain with proper planning and effective promotion.

“The RM22.1 billion spending power may seem very big but it is not impossible to garner because each Chinese tourist spends on the average RM3,345 now on food, lodging and shopping,” he said when opening the Freeport A’Famosa Outlet that offers fashion, sport and accessories brands.

Melaka Chief Minister Idris Haron, Deputy Tourism and Culture Minister Mas Ermieyati Samsudin and A’Famosa Group managing director Alex Lau were also present at the event.

Ahmad Zahid said that though Malaysia recorded a large number of tourist arrivals last year, the government wanted to focus on attracting tourists from certain countries over the next five years.

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Visa-Free Entry Offer To China Timely – Malaysian Minister

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia Jan 29 (NNN-BERNAMA) — The move to offer visa-free entry to tourists from China will help Malaysia tap the potential of the republic’s outbound tourism market which is growing significantly every year.

MCA president Liow Tiong Lai noted that it would generate more tourism receipts from China for the country. (MCA is one of the component party in the ruling Barisan Nasional)

In his recalibrated 2016 Budget unveiled here yesterday Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said that tourists from China would not require a visa to visit Malaysia between March 1 and Dec 31 this year.

However, he said the visa-free offer for Chinese tourists was subject to specific conditions for a period of stay not exceeding 15 days.

Najib also said more focus would be given to the tourism sector as the increase in tourist arrivals would stimulate domestic economic growth, particularly in the current economic scenario.

On the announcement that the government would provide a special tax relief of RM2,000 to individual taxpayers with a monthly income of RM8,000 or below for the year of assessment 2015, Liow, who is also Transport Minister, said the move would definitely cushion the impact of the rising cost of living the people were facing.

“The government’s move to increase the students of MyMaster programme to 15,000 and 5,000 for MyPhD will also help Malaysia to become a education excellence centre,” he said.

Meanwhile, Chief Secretary to the government, Dr Ali Hamsa said the recalibrated Budget 2016 had additional programmes with high impact centred on the philosophy of the people economy.

He said the civil servants had received many goodies through the revised budget where the prime minister himself had given assurance that the government would not terminate the services of civil servants, including those appointed on contract basis.

“As such, news spreading in the social media saying that the government will terminate their contracts is not true,” he said.

Ali also welcomed the move by Najib to continue the implementation of one annual increment for civil servants on July 1, 2016 as promised in the 2016 Budget.

In MELAKA, State Tourism Committee deputy chairman Ghazale Muhamad also welcome the visa-free entry for tourists from China as it would become the catalyst in Melaka state government’s efforts to increase the number of tourist arrivals to the state.

“Last year, the number of tourist arrivals from China to Melaka was 697,050, the second highest after those from Singapore. With the announcement on the visa-free entry, we expect the number of Chinese tourist arrivals to Melaka to see a two-fold increase,” he told reporters yesterday.

In KOTA BAHARU, Kelantan state Tourism Malaysia deputy director Mohd Faizul Zakaria also lauded the announcement, saying that it was also expected to increase the number of tourist arrivals from China to the state.

He said 724 Chinese tourists visited the state via the border crossing points in Pengkalan Kubor, Tumpat and Rantau Panjang, Pasir Mas last year.

“With the visa-free entry, it is hoped that the number of tourist arrivals from China to Kelantan state would rise this year in conjunction with the Visit Kelantan Year 2016,” he told Bernama.

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Malaysia Tourism Likely To Maintain 9.6% GDP Contribution This Year

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Jan 29 (NNN-Bernama) — The tourism industry is expected to maintain its 9.6 per cent contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) this year driven by campaigns such as ‘Go Domestic’ and ‘Cuti-cuti 1Malaysia Dekat Je’.

“All this while we have been at 9.6 per cent (contribution). We believe we can maintain that, but if the overall number of tourism enterprises expands, that would be better.

“When there are more enterprises, the GDP contribution from the tourism sector will increase,” Tourism Malaysia director-general Mirza Mohammad Taiyab told reporters after the launch of Mita Tourism Fair 2016 here today.

The three-day event is organised by the Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (Mita), with the support of Tourism Malaysia.

This year, the industry projects 66.8 million local tourists with RM45.7 billion in domestic tourism revenue, up from last year’s 63.7 million tourists with RM43.5 billion revenue.

The Mita Tourism Fair 2016 promises visitors exciting domestic holiday offers by 150 display booths put up by 100 tourism operators to market their products which targets 20,000 visitors and sales worth RM10 million.

On foreign tourist arrivals, Mirza said, they were also expected to increase this year with many foreigners taking advantage of the more favourable foreign exchange rate to make Malaysia their tourist destination of choice especially from Singapore, Indonesia and China.

As of September 2015, foreign tourist arrivals stood at 19.05 million compared to the previous year’s target of 28 million, he said, adding the number was expected to increase to 30.4 million this year.

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Malindo Air launches KL-Ho Chi Minh Flight

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam Jan 29 (NNN-Bernama) — Frequent flight connectivity between Kuala Lumpur (KL) and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, is expected to strengthen the relationship between the two ASEAN countries.

Consulate General of Malaysia in Ho Chi Minh City, Sofian Akmal Abd Karim said the flight frequencies would result in higher tourists volume between Malaysia and Vietnam.

“In 2015, a total of 265,000 Vietnamese travelled to Malaysia,” he toldreporters after welcoming Malindo Air’s inaugural flight from KL to Ho Chi Minh City today.

According to Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, Malaysian tourist arrivals to Vietnam were over 329,000 people in 2013, increasing to more than 339,000 in 2014 and totalled 300,000 in the first 11 months of 2015.

Malaysian hybrid airline, Malindo Air today launched its first flight to Ho Chi Minh City, flying with Boeing 737-800 aircraft and offers seven times weekly flights for the service.

This is a part of the airline’s international network expansion, bringing its current route network to 33 destinations in 10 countries.

Meanwhile, in a separate statement, Malindo Air Chief Executive Officer Chandran Rama Muthy said the airline’s new flight service offered passengers competitive low fares between KL and Ho Chi Minh City.

“Our direct daily service to Ho Chi Minh City is likely to open it up as more of a relaxation destination, meeting the increasing travel demand and economic exchange between Malaysia and Vietnam,” he added.

Promotional fares for KL-Ho Chi Minh City starts from RM129 for Economy Class and RM399 for Business Class one-way, all inclusive.

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AirAsia To Introduce Airbus A320neo

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Jan 30 (NNN-BERNAMA) – AirAsia Bhd will introduce four Airbus A320neo aircraft to its fleet, in the second half of this year and 200 more by 2028.

The new A320neo aircraft are powered by CFM International’s new LEAP-X engines and will fly all routes operated by the budget airline.

Group Chief Pilot, Technical and Efficiency, Rajesh Gill, said, the A320neo aircraft will deliver fuel savings of up to 20 percent and have the ability to carry two tonnes more, in terms of payload for a given range.

“AirAsia placed orders for four A320neo aircraft earlier, and the first delivery is slated for either June or July of this year,” he said, adding, the engines are still being certified at the moment, by the manufacturer.

“The move to bring in the A320neo aircraft is in line with the company’s commitment towards climate change and taking proactive steps to reduce the carbon footprint,” he told reporters, after the #GREEN24 community event here today.

Rajesh said, AirAsia will be the first airline globally to use the Airbus A320 Sharklet-equipped aircraft, which reduces carbon emissions caused by wing-tip drag.

AirAsia Bhd Chief Executive Officer, Aireen Omar, said, the A320neo is expected to replace some of the existing aircraft, which are too old and consume more fuel.

“The new aircraft, to be delivered in stages until 2028, is more fuel-efficient and produces less carbon for the environment,” she added.

Meanwhile, the two-day #GREEN24 community event, which began yesterday, across the AirAsia Group and all its global offices, is aimed at saving energy, reduce wastage and encourage recycling.

Aireen said, all across Malaysia, AirAsia offices are conducting activities such as beach, park and hill clean-ups, as well as, recycling drives to further promote good environmental habits among staff and the public.

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Tourism Malaysia Targets Tourists In Tier-2, Tier-3 Indian Cities

NEW DELHI, India Jan 31 (NNN-Bernama) — Tourism Malaysia (TM) will take advantage of the Indian government’s move to simplify the travel (passport) process for its nationals by intensifying the agency’s promotion in India’s Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities.

Its International Promotion Division senior director Musa Yusof said other than Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and New Delhi, TM had already identified other cities to promote Malaysia as a family leisure and shopping destination.

“These cities have potential as the next growth areas, where Indians can receive their passports within a week, compared to one to two months previously.

“Furthermore, India has been showing good GDP growth of seven to 7.5 per cent for the past few years with people here enjoying better purchasing power and traveling opportunities,” he said.

He said other than traditional destinations in Peninsula Malaysia, TM would also step up efforts to promote tourist destinations in Sabah and Sarawak.

Speaking to Bernama in conjunction with the South Asia Travel and Tourism Exchange (SATTE) travel fair here at the Indian capital, he said about 770,100 Indians visited Malaysia in 2014 and 650,989 in 2013.

Malaysia earned RM2.2 billion and RM1.9 billion respectively from the arrivals, which was a growth of 18.3 per cent.

Only 539,820 arrivals were recorded between January and September 2015, a decrease of four per cent compared to the same period in 2014.

Musa attributed the drop to two incidents involving MH370 and MH17, as well as the world economic slowdown.

“However, India is still among the top 10 tourist generating markets for Malaysia and TM is working closely with local tour operators and regional airlines to bring in more visitors from this sub-continent (India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Maldives),” he added.

He said Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia and Malindo provide a total of 172 flights weekly to Malaysia.

Meanwhile, a member of TM’s Board of Directors, Daljit Singh Dalliwal who headed the Malaysian delegation to the 23th edition of SATTE, said 63 million Indians hold valid passports and are therefore considered potential tourists to Malaysia.

“Even though our budget has been slashed by one third compared to last year by the ministry, we already restrategised ourselves with minimum funding with better tourist arrivals,” he added.

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Tourism Malaysia holds shopping seminar, travel mart in Brunei

Borne Bulletin Online – January 27, 2016 – MALAYSIA’S shopping attractions were highlighted to some 150 Brunei travel agents, tourism associations, the media and private sector at a shopping seminar and travel mart organised by Tourism Malaysia Brunei at The Rizqun International Hotel yesterday.

Led by the Domestic Promotion Director of Tourism Malaysia, Iskandar Mirza bin Mohd Yusof, the event gave an opportunity to the Malaysian delegation, consisting of nine shopping mall and tourism product operators, to promote their attractions.

The Malaysian delegation included representatives from IOI City Mall; Jakel Mall; Suria Sabah Shopping Mall; Sogo KL Departmental Store Sdn Bhd; Sunway Pyramid; Sunway Putra Mall; Mitsui Outlet Park KLIA Sepang; Batu Road Retailers Association (BARRA) and Malaysia Shopping Malls Association (PPK).

Iskandar Mirza in his speech said that Tourism Malaysia looked forward to partnerships and collaborations between the Malaysian and Bruneian parties to encourage more Bruneians to choose Malaysia for their leisure and shopping holidays.

“I believe the favourable currency exchange rate, the extended border crossing hours until midnight, and the diversity of tourist attractions in Malaysia, are factors that will attract more Bruneians to shop in Malaysia,” he noted, referring to the extension of land border crossing hours from 6am to midnight (previously only until 10pm) introduced in September last year.

He said that shopping is a lucrative sector of Malaysia’s tourism industry where as of September 2015, tourist expenditure on shopping registered RM15.34 billion or 30 per cent of total receipts of RM51.08 billion, which was an increase of 2.9 per cent compared to the same period in 2014.

Malaysia’s success can be attributed to its strategy of promoting Malaysia as a holistic shopping destination that not only offers value-for-money shopping, but also provides leisure, wellness and lifestyle experiences to tourists.

This year, Malaysia’s shopping campaign consists of its thrice-yearly sale events, namely the 1Malaysia Super Sale, which will begin from March 1 to March 31; the Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival from June 15 to August 31; and the 1Malaysia Year End Sale from November 1 to December 31, 2016.

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Total solar eclipse 2016 will boost Indonesian tourism: Minister

25 January 2016 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The March 9, 2016 total solar eclipse is expected to give a boost to the tourism sector, Indonesias Coordinating Minister of Maritime Affairs Rizal Ramli has stated.

In an effort to prepare for the upcoming natural phenomenon, Minister Ramli on Monday held a meeting with Tourism Minister Arief Yahya and governments of the regions that fall within the footprint of the eclipse.

“It is a very rare phenomenon which will last for only two minutes. If we can catch the tourists imagination with good promotional efforts and are able to underline how rare is this event, tourists will surely visit with enthusiasm and happiness,” the minister pointed out.

According to him, the phenomenon which is said to be happening in Indonesia after 350 years, should witness a number of scientific, educational, and tourism activities.

The rare natural phenomenon will be used as an attraction to attract more tourists. It will help in achieving the target of 12 million foreign tourist arrivals and 260 million domestic tourists this year, Ramli explained.

The total solar eclipse with a duration of about 2-3 minutes will happen across 12 provinces in Indonesia, namely, Bengkulu, West Sumatra, South Sumatra, Jambi, Bangka Belitung, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, East Kalimantan, West Sulawesi, Central Sulawesi, and Maluku. It will also occur in major cities such as Palembang, Tanjung Pandang, Palangkaraya, Balikpapan, Palu, Ternate and Sofifi.

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Jakarta’s airport train to be operational in 2017

27 January 2016 Tangerang, Banten (ANTARA News) – Development of rail track between Jakarta’s Manggarai railway station and Soekarno Hatta airport is expected to be completed in 2017.

“We already coordinated with PT Railink. It is to be completed in February 2017,” President director of the state owned airport operator PT Angkasa Pura II Budi Karya Sumadi said here on Wednesday.

PT Railink is a joint venture between PT Angkasa Pura II and state owned railway company, PT Kereta Api Indonesia.

PT Railink to revamp old track and build new track totaling 38.3 kilometers between the Manggarai railway station in Jakarta and the airport and operate the train.

Budi said the train would take 54 minutes between Manggarai and Soekarno Hatta airport and there would be departure of train every 15 minutes.

Everyday there would be 61 trips with a carrying capacity of 35,000 passengers.

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Indonesia encourages Japanese investors in tourism sector

28 January 2016 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) has encouraged Japanese investors to diversify their investment into the tourism sector, especially in hotels and restaurants.

“The hotel and restaurant sector has its own market. The number of Japanese holidaymakers visiting the country has increased sharply,” Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) head Franky Sibarani said here Thursday.

Moreover, the government planned to open up foreign ownership restrictions in the tourism sector through the revision of Presidential Decree (Perpres) No. 39 in 2014 on List of Business Fields Closed and Business Fields Open with Conditions to Investment.

“The tourism sector will be opened. Indonesia has offered visa-free travel to 40 countries including Japan,” he said.

The realization of investment increased 48.9 percent worth Rp49.6 trillion, Sibarani remarked.

“Hotel and restaurant business areas increased 69.9 percent or Rp12.1 trillion in 2015 as compared to 2014 which recorded Rp7.3 trillion,” he stated.

With the revision of the regulation, Japanese investors could open a restaurant or cafe in Indonesia in accordance with the taste of the Japanese people to make Japanese tourists to feel more comfortable in Indonesia.

Based on data from BKPM, the Japanese investment in the hotel and restaurant sector in 2015 amounted to Rp175 billion or increase by 95 percent compared to 2014 Rp89 billion.

However, the number is still small compared to the total investment in the hotel and restaurant business, which reached Rp12.1 trillion.

In terms of realization of the investment based on the country of origin for the period 2010-2015, Japan ranked in second place, while, Singapore ranked first with a value of US$31 billion.

The United States ranked third with an investment of $8.2 billion, followed by South Korea with an investment of $8 billion, and Malaysia with an investment of $7.1 billion.

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Indonesia plans to build aerospace design center

25 January 2016 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The Ministry of Industry is planning to build an aerospace design center in the Bandung Institute of Technology.

Director General of Metal, Transportation Machine and Electronics of the Ministry of Industry, I Gusti Putu Suryawirawan, stated here on Monday that the design center will help the country excel in the aerospace program.

“We are still developing the plan in hopes of restoring the glory of the national aerospace industry,” Suryawirawan remarked after attending a meeting with the Indonesia Aircraft and Component Manufacturer Association (Inacom) in the ministry.

The design center will be the hub for implementing some aerospace programs, such as identifying the potential of the national aircraft component manufacturing industry.

Moreover, the center will provide technical guidance to enhance the competency and standards of the national aircraft component manufacturing industry.

Despite an ongoing plan, the government has conducted some technical guidance on rubber sealing, interiors, metal components, tools and jig, aircraft components’ quality standards, retreaded aircraft tires, and main and nose landing gear for the N-219 commuter aircraft.

The ministry is helping to develop synergy in the national component industry, which has the potential to collaborate with the state-owned aircraft manufacturer PT Dirgantara Indonesia and PT Regio Aviasi Industry (RAI) to encourage the national industry involved in the manufacture of N-219 components.

The N-219 is a 19-seater passenger aircraft produced by PT Dirgantara Indonesia using the expertise of local engineers and technicians. It will be head to head with the famous bushmaster Canadian DHC-6 Twin Otter.

The growing national aerospace industry is expected to boost Indonesia’s economic growth, provide jobs, attract investment, and help the nation excel in technology.

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Indonesia Expects 2.1 Mln Chinese Tourists in 2016

JAKARTA, Indoensia Jan. 31 (NNN-Xinhua) — Indonesia expects the arrivals of holiday makers from China to jump this year as it has offered special historical destinations, boosted supportive policy and stepped up promotion, a senior tourism official said here.

China and Indonesia, the two largest economies in Asia and Southeast Asia respectively, have strong historical background which has become one of the main engines for the tourism industries in both countries, said Deputy for Overseas Promotion of the Indonesian Tourism Ministry I Gde Pitana.

“This year we expect 2.1 million Chinese holiday makers visiting Indonesia, compared with last year’s target of 1.3 million arrivals,” he said during an exclusive interview with Xinhua recently.

That is a big part of the country’s 12 million foreign tourist arrivals target this year, after witnessing over 10 million last year, according to the ministry.

Pitana explained the significant hike of the target of Chinese tourist arrivals this year is based on the country’s great tourism promotion, offer of some historical cultural destinations and events, and new visa on arrival policy which took effect in June 2015, as well as the special event of total solar eclipse that will be visible from parts of Indonesia.

Indonesia has strong confidence in offering attractive destinations and services, and sees China as a huge potential market for its tourism industry, he said, adding that the Indonesian tourism ministry believes that collaboration of the two sides will be mutually beneficial, he said.

“China is the main market for us. In 2016, it will be the biggest market, defeating Singapore, Australia and Malaysia,” said Pitana.

Over 118 million Chinese people travel annually, but so far only a small number of them is tapped by the Southeast Asian region – 6 million by Thailand, 2 million by Singapore and 1.3 million by Indonesia, the official said.

Indonesia has secured some acknowledgement from the international tourism industry, including three awards out of four at the 12th United Nations World Tourism Organization Awards Forum and three out of six awards at the ASEAN Travel Association Forum, said Pitana.

“This indicates what we have done is in line with international standard, We have done the right thing in the right way,” said Pitana.

“By receiving the awards, we expect Chinese visitors to be convinced over the appropriateness of Indonesia as a tourist destination.”

Since September last year, Indonesia has prepared for the arrivals of Chinese holiday makers, particularly for the celebration of the Lunar New Year or locally known as Imlek in February, he said.

“For the preparations of the Imlek, we have cooperated with all stakeholders and made preparations in several provinces, including how to organize celebrations for welcoming Chinese visitor fiends.”

After Imlek comes the total solar eclipse in the tropical country on March 9, when thousands of foreign visitors, including tourists and scientists, will flock to Indonesia, from eastern parts to western parts of the country, said Pitana.

“There will be 10 cities to witness the eclipse which happens once in hundreds of years. The longest period is six minutes in Sulawesi Island. Please come to the cities as preparation has been made to welcome visitors to experience the rare event, including the facility at sea,” he said, referring to the eastern parts of the country.

The event will be centered in Bangka Belitung Island in western parts of the country with a parade of over 100 yachts and a duplicate of the legendary ship from Indonesia’s prominent kingdom of Majapahit, according to the tourism ministry.

Besides, Indonesia also has several destinations linked with the famous Chinese explorer, Zheng He who made seven expeditions in the 15th century that sailed to present day Indonesia and many other countries, the official said.

“We have a celebration of journey of Commodore Cheng Ho (Zheng He) every year. We link it with the Silk and Belt in China,” Pitana said.

Regarding to the recent terror attacks in Jakarta, Pitana said that the country is safe for traveling as security has been tightened to prevent such danger.

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Indonesia Wins Three UNWTO Awards For Excellence And Innovation

JAKARTA, Jan 25 (NNN-ANTARA) — Indonesia wins three awards of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in a ceremony held in Madrid, Spain, recently,

The Banyuwangi administration with its “Re-inventing the Government in Tourism” project is the first winner for the Innovation in Public Policy and Governance category of the 12th UNWTO Awards for Excellence and Innovation in Tourism, the UNWTO said in a press release.

Garuda Indonesia’s Bali Beach Clean-Up campaign has come out as the First Runner-up for the UNWTO Award for Innovation in Enterprises category.

Indonesia’s NGO, Karang Lestari Foundation with its “Coral Reef Reborn” project is also the First Runner-Up for the UNWTO Award for Innovation in Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) category.

The Awards recognizing innovation in four categories – Public Policy and Governance, Enterprises, NGOs and Research and Technology-, were announced on Jan 20 at the UNWTO Awards Ceremony in the Spanish Tourism Fair (FITUR) in Madrid.

Besides Banyungawi, first winners for the other three categories are the Itaipu Technological Park (Brazil), the Treetop Walking Path (Lithuania), and the Sisterhood of Survivors Program (Nepal) .

The projects were selected among more than 100 candidatures from 30 countries.

“The UNWTO Awards aim to honor those that everyday work for the benefit of host communities, supporting the livelihoods of local people and protecting our environment and our culture for future generations. All 16 finalists are an example to all of us of how the principles of the UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism and the objectives set in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can inspire sustainable tourism,” UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai said.

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Workshop on toolbox development for tourism held

Borneo Bulletin Online – January 29, 2016 – AS PHASE two of the Asean-Australian Development Cooperation Programme (AADCP) is set in motion, the Tourism Development Department, Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism in cooperation with the William Angliss Institute, Australia held a ‘National Workshop on Toolbox Development for Tourism Labour Divisions of Travel Agencies and Tour Operations’ at the Rizqun International Hotel in Gadong.

The workshop was attended by representatives from the National Accreditation Council, Institute of Brunei Technical Education, Sultan Saiful Rijal Technical College and travel agencies, which was facilitated by Project Director Wayne Crosbie and Project Officer Daniel Chee from the William Angliss Institute.

The workshop was part of several upcoming projects encompassing ‘Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) on Tourism Professional’ that has been signed by all Asean member states in 2009.

The implementation of MRA-TP in the region is a supporting component to the Asean Community initiative.

As part of the programme’s objectives, the William Angliss Institute organised a ‘Housekeeping Front Office, Food and Beverages Services and Food Production’ in all Asean member states in 2012 and 2013, which aimed to provide further information and a toolbox guide book consisting of contents in the field of tourism operation, which included competency standards, manual trainee coaching and manual assessment.

The programme also aims to obtain valuable feedback from relevant agencies and information achieved from the workshop that will be analysed by consultants on the MRA development in all Asean member countries and produced in a report on the Asean tourism professional monitoring committee meeting, to be held in March 2016 in Vietnam.

Among the benefits achieved was invaluable information relevant in the field of ‘Travel Agencies and Tour Operations’ including training procedures and competency assessment.

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FAMA to feature Halal products

Borneo Bulletin Online – January 26, 2016 – Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (FAMA) of Malaysia’s Ministry of Agriculture & Agro-Based Industry is back to showcase their products to fellow Bruneians at the 17th Consumer Fair which will be held from 27-31 January at the International Convention Centre (ICC), Berakas from 10am to 10pm daily except Friday when the door closes from 12pm to 2pm for Friday prayer.

As one of the familiar faces, FAMA has joined Brunei Consumer Fair several times and has successfully introduced their products to the market. A number of new products are expected to be found this time to impress distributors in the Sultanate.

FAMA has taken a vast number of 14 booths at the Multi-Purpose Hall (Blue Zone) to display their wide varieties of Halal products including biscuits, cakes and convenience foods.

Their presence is indeed convenient for those who would like to purchase snacks and gifts for the upcoming festive season.

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Essay writing competition aims to promulgate Brunei’s rich history

Borneo Bulletin Online – January 27, 2016I – THE Brunei History Association (PESEBAR) has announced the commencement of its very first History of Negara Brunei Darussalam (1906-2015) Essay Writing Competition.

In a press conference held yesterday, the PESEBAR Honorary Secretary, Associate Professor Dr Haji Awang Asbol bin Haji Mail, said that the competition is designed to promulgate Brunei’s history, as stated in the association’s charter.

The competition is also being held to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of the Coronation of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam.

It is also aimed towards improving the documentation of history, to be used as a guide for studying the aspects of Brunei society in ancient times.

According to Associate Professor Dr Haji Asbol, the submitted entries should encompass Brunei’s political, social and economic history, between 1906 and 2015.

The political scope should cover various topics, including the historical administration of the Brunei Sultanate, the British Residency, the Legislative Council, the Japanese Occupation, the 1959 Constitution of Brunei Darussalam – and also Brunei’s relations with Britain, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.

Meanwhile, the social viewpoint should be based around the history of education, religion, law, customs and traditions, womenfolk, orna-mentation, clothing, handicrafts, communication and the mass media. Essays on Brunei’s economic history should look into elements of the oil industry, agriculture, fishing and commerce.

At the same time, PESEBAR Assistant Honorary Secretary, Dr Haji Muhammad Hadi bin Muhammad Melayong expressed the hope that the competition would promote a better understanding of Brunei history among the younger generation.

The competition is open to Brunei citizens and permanent residents, and the submitted essays must be original work, not derived from previously published material.

The essays should be written in Malay, with primary and secondary sources as a reference guide. The subject matter should not attack or defy government policies.

All essays must be submitted by August 31, in four hardcopies and a CD containing one softcopy, along with a completed entry form, addressed to: “Setiausaha Kehormat PESEBAR, Program Pengajian Sejarah dan Antarabangsa, Fakulti Sastera dan Sains Sosial, Universiti Brunei Darussalam, Tungku Link BE 1410, Negara Brunei Darussalam”.

Entry forms can be obtained from Hanafi bin Haji Salleh at the Brunei History Centre, or by contacting Associate Professor Dr Haji Asbol at 8888531, or Dr Muhammad Hadi at 7171539.

The first-prize winner of the competition will receive $2,500, while those in second and third place will receive $2,000 and $1,000, respectively. In addition, there are four consolation prizes of $500.

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Bangladesh plans handicrafts development institute

DHAKA, Jan 25, 2016 (BSS) – Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu today said a modern institute will be established at the city’s outskirt Dhamrai for the development of crafts industry in the country.

He said while addressing as the chief guest at a discussion on “Handicrafts Policy-2015: Process of Implementation” at a city hotel this afternoon.

Bangladesh Handicraft Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BHMEA) organised the discussion with its president Ashrafur Rahman in the chair.

The minister said land for the institute will be allocated in the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC)’s commercial area at Dhamrai.

The institute will impart training and create scopes for research on diversification of handicrafts industry.

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Menon for upholding beauty of Bangladesh to exploit tourism

DHAKA, Jan 26, 2016 (BSS0 – Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon today urged the young generation to uphold the beauty of Bangladesh before the world through photography with a view to exploiting the potentialities of tourism.

The civil aviation and tourism minister made the call as the chief guest while addressing the concluding and prize distribution ceremony of the three-day “Ajanta Fashion Beautiful Bangladesh Photography Contest 2016” held on Daffodil International University campus here.

Tourism Hospitality Management Department of the university and media communications organization “Chhayabani” jointly organized the programme with a view to reinforcing the tourism industry of the country and also to make Tourism Year-2016 announced by the government a success.

The main theme of the photography competition was nature, history, cultural tradition and festivals of the traditional Bangla.

“Photographs depict people’s happiness, sorrow, pleasure, painfulness, optimism, pessimism, laughs and cries,” the minister said.

Chaired by Dafodil International University Trusty Board Chairman M Sabur Khan, the programme was also addressed by Chief Executive of Bangladesh Tourism Board Aktaruzzaman Khan Kabir as the special guest.

Vice-Chancellor of the University Professor Dr Yousuf Mahbubul Islam, Tourism and Hospitality Management Department Head Mahbub Parvez, Chief Executive of Chhayabani Media Communications Ajanta Pal and Director Arif Rasel also spoke on the occasion.

A total of 30 photographs, out of 250, were finally nominated by the jury board.

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Main works of metro-rail begins in March

DHAKA, Jan 27, 2016 (BSS) – The main construction work of the much-awaited 20.1 kilometer metro-rail link from the capital’s Uttara to Motijheel will begin in the late of March this year, said Mohammad Mofazzel Hossain, project director of Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Development (DMRTD) Project.

He said while exchanging views with journalists at the DMRTD Project Officer at Probashi Kalyan Bhaban here.

Mofazzel Hossain said the work of metro-rail under DMRTD project is going on. Its work would end partially in 2019 and would completely end in 2020, he added.

The Project Director said, “Different surveys and basic design of the project has completed and detail design is at final stage.”

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Govt committed to protect ethnic minority cultural heritage

RAJSHAHI, Jan 25, 2016 (BSS)- Speakers at a discussion here observed that the present government is committed to protect the issues of ancestral festival and cultural heritage of the plain ethnic communities for their peaceful and successful livelihood.

The issue of ancestral festival and cultural heritage of the plain ethnic minority people has given importance for protecting those from further degradation.

They termed the culture of the ethnic communities as heritage, resource and integral part of the society, so all quarters should take the responsibility to protect it.

They came with the observations while addressing the closing and prize-giving ceremony of the ethnic minorities’ largest social and cultural festival ‘Sohorai and Tusu’ at Rajshahi Divisional Ethnic Minority Cultural Academy in the city on Sunday evening.

Deputy Inspector General of Police of Rajshahi Range Iqbal Bahar attended and addressed the ceremony as chief guest with Deputy Director of the academy SM Shamim Akter in the chair.

Principal of Rajshahi Court Degree College Prof Shafiqur Rahman, Ethnic Minority Leader Rabindra Nath Hembrom and District Unit President of Jatiya Adibashi Parishad Bimol Chandra Rajoad also spoke.

The chief guest said the present government is working to increase cultural practices of the ethnic minorities as well as development of many infrastructures for cultural activities.

Everyone should come forward to develop the cultural sector of the region to construct an evil and violence free society, he added.

“To face communal forces, culture is the biggest tool. If cultural practices flourish and more people engage with cultural activities, an environment of free thinking will emerge. Cultural practices should be increased in counter to political evil,” he added.

SM Shamim Akter said the present government has taken many projects and programmes especially to build cultural institutes, museum and infrastructures. “We have to work together to make a culturally vibrant Bangladesh,” he said.

He observed the government is very positive and cautious to uphold the dignity. As a result, the country is now being widely adjudged as a unique example of communal harmony as people of all religions live with equal rights alongside peace and tranquility.

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‘Green-Pakistan’ plan being devised to promote forestry

ISLAMABAD, Jan 29 (APP):The Ministry of Climate Changed had devised a comprehensive plan ‘Green Pakistan’ to promote forestry across the country. “Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has directed the ministry to prepare a comprehensive strategy for the purpose and we have started work on it,” said an official of Climate Change Ministry.

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Int’l standard museum to be established in Islamabad: Irfan Siddiqui

ISLAMABAD, Jan 27 (APP): Advisor to the Prime Minister on National History and Literary Heritage Irfan Siddiqui on Wednesday said that a national museum of international standard would be established in Islamabad. “We believe that the establishment of a national museum would help promote and preserve the cultural, literary and historical heritage of the ountry.” Siddiqui was talking to the media persons after a meeting held here at Department of Archeology and Museum. He said the government was striving to begin construction in the current year and directions had been issued in that regard.

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Pakistan, Maldives can benefit from trade, tourism potential: PM

ISLAMABAD, Jan 28 (APP): Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on Thursday said Pakistan and Maldives need to benefit from the vast potential in trade and tourism, and assured to support Maldives under Special Assistance Programme for South Asia.Talking to Foreign Minister of Maldives Dunya Maumoon at the Prime Minister House, the Prime Minister said Pakistan attaches high importance to its relations with Maldives that are based on cordiality and common interests.

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High-security features for new Maldivian passport

Sun.mv – January 24, 2016 – The new Maldivian biometric passport has been introduced with 34 security features including fingerprint and biological information.

The new passport introduced tonight by President Abdulla Yamin Abdul Gayoom has 34 security features at 54 places on the passport.

With traditional and historical artwork decorating the pages, the new Maldivian passport is similar to the ones used by the citizens of Singapore and Malaysia.

Department of Immigration and Emigration said that the new Maldivian passport introduced tonight is the strongest passport in the region.

The E-passport currently in use was introduced on 26 July 2007 as the first electronic passport in the region.

Immigration introduced the biometric passport and e-gates in the country with the help of the German company, Dharmalog.

The cultural artwork on the biometric passport was designed by Hussain Ali Manik.

In the presentation at the passport launching tonight, Immigration said that some of the security features on the passport are visible. Those security measures are hidden in the passport picture and artwork.

The new passport is designed so that water damage would bleed the picture to the data page. Immigration said that it was a big ease to the people using the passport. And since the passport would have a black and white picture, it would be easier to take the picture to the specifications required by Immigration.

Germany’s Dharmalog Company designed the country’s passport, ID cards and introduced some of the Police technologies. The company’s technology is being used in the border control systems of Switzerland, Ukraine, Brunei, Kuwait, Malaysia and Cambodia.

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MATATO to take part in the eighth Riyadh travel fair

Sun.mv – January 27, 2016 – Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) have decided to take part in Riyadh Travel Fair 2016 held in Saudi Arabia.

Riyadh Travel Fair is the biggest travel fair held in Saudi Arabia with a large number of companies in the tourism sector around the globe.

As MATATO makes the decision to take part in the fair, they have opened the opportunity for all travel agents, resorts, hotels and guesthouses to take part in the Riyadh Travel Fair this year.

The deadline to join MATATO at Riyadh Travel Fair 2016 closes on 4 February.

And official from MATATO said that the purpose of taking part in such a fair is to advertise Maldivian tourism to the Middle Eastern market while it has now become a good market in tourism.

This year’s Riyadh Travel Fair is scheduled to be held from 12 – 15 April at the Prince Sultan Grand Hall of Al Faisaliah Hotel Riyadh.

Countries from the Middle East, North Africa, Asia and Europe are taking part in the fair this year.

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Maldives attends Mediterranean tourism exhibition

Sun.mv – January 28, 2016 – The Maldives have taken part in the East Mediterranean Tourism and Travel Exhibition (EMITT) lead by Turkey.

Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) said today that they are taking part in the EMITT exhibition with five companies in the local tourism sector.

Managing Director of MMPRC, Mohamed Adam and Chief Operations Officer, Mohamed Hamzeel are scheduled to take part in the exhibition.

The 20 year old annual exhibition hosted by Turkey is a network that connects the international tourism sectors. And so it would have a positive impact on the Maldivian tourism according to MMPRC.

A total of 4500 companies, organizations and resorts from 70 countries are taking part in the EMITT exhibition.

Maldives has received a 60 square meter space at the 70,000 square meter exhibition hall 11 of the Tuyap Fair Convention & Congress Center in Turkey.

MMPRC say that adverts of Visit Maldives Year have been posted on some of the staircases and floor spaces.

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Archaeology makes use of laser technology

BURDUR – Anadolu Agency – Digital models of artifacts unearthed during excavations in the ancient city of Kibyra are being created with the use of laser technology, within the scope of a project initiated by the Mehmet Akif Ersoy University (MAKU) in the southern province of Burdur.

MAKU Technical Sciences Vocational School Director Serkan Öktem said the project had been initiated with deputy director Sualp Deniz and the support of the West Mediterranean Development Agency (BAKA).

He said that as part of the project, they scanned artifacts that had been unearthed from the ancient city of Kibyra and delivered to the Burdur Archaeology Museum using the laser technology. The ancient city is located in the Gölhisar district and is known as the city of gladiators.

Öktem said the university’s goal was to turn the artifacts into digital models so people would be able to “visit” them on the Internet.

By the end of the project, which will be finished in about two months, Öktrm said they would make a virtual museum. He said, “The unearthed artifacts are being displayed in parallel at the museum but as these (physical) opportunities are limited, thousands of artifacts are being kept in the museum’s storage and cannot be displayed. We scan these artifacts with the laser scanning technology and model them on a computer. Then we transfer them to the Internet so that people can see (them). Archaeology and history aficionados can see these centuries-old artifacts easily on the Internet.”

Öktem said the project had two stages. First the objects will be scanned one by one. Then the stadium, agora and the assembly building in the ancient city of Kibyra would be scanned.

He said the laser tools used were imported from abroad and were used in the industrial, automotive, machine, construction and restoration sectors.

“We use these tools for archaeological purposes. They are brand new technologies. Technology is progressing very fast. Maybe we will have opportunity to make 3-D prints of these artifacts in the future,” he said.

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Cappadocia coming to rely on winter tourism

NEVŞEHİR – Anadolu Agency – Winter tourism needs to be diversified in Cappadocia, which is famous for fairy chimneys, rock-carved boutique hotels, underground cities and natural rock formations, according to local tourism representatives.

“We are seeking new alternatives to draw more tourists in winter,” Göreme Tourism Development Cooperative Chairman Mustafa Durmaz said, adding that organizing tours to the Erciyes Ski center, which is close to Cappadocia in Kayseri, was among the alternatives.

Tourism has become increasingly active in Cappadocia between the spring and the fall, Durmaz said. “Now tourism is active throughout the year.”

Tourists from East Asia are especially coming to Cappadocia during the winter months, Durmaz said. “Tourists from countries like China, Malaysia and Indonesia, prefer Cappadocia in winter months. It has become a tradition for those people to come to Cappadocia in winter. But European tourists go to warm countries in these seasons.”

Durmaz said low prices in airline transportation and accommodation made the region more attractive for tourists from the Far East.

According to the Culture and Tourism Ministry, the region was visited by 125,927 tourists in November 2015. In December, the month of the lowest number of visitors every year, 78,242 people visited the region, said Durmaz.

“The outflow of tourist numbers grew apace during the New Year and Christmas holidays. Nearly 3 million tourists visit Cappadocia every year. One fourth of this number prefers winter tourism. If initiatives had not been made to revive tourism in winter, this number would barely exceed 2 million.”

Durmaz said tourists were enchanted by the snow-covered scene of the region and that hot balloon tours drew great interest from tourists who wanted to view the blanket of white panoramically.

“In past years, tourism was active for seven-eight months in Cappadocia, but now it is active for 12 months. After snowfalls the scene is magnificent in the region. As foreign tourists’ demand is high, winter tourism has become irreplaceable. The fall in prices in winter months is attractive for Far Eastern tourists and leads them to opt for Cappadocia. Also, the long holiday season starts in January and continues until the end of February in countries like China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan. Foreign tourist groups are captivated by snow-covered rock-carved churches, underground cities and fairy chimneys,” Durmaz said.

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Zengibar Castle to open to tourism

KONYA – Doğan News Agency – Zengibar Castle, located among the remains of ancient Isaura in the Central Anatolian province of Konya, which is considered the Ephesus of the region, will soon open to tourism.

The ancient city of Isaura, estimated to have been built in the Byzantine era some 2,000 years ago, is located 16 kilometers away from the Konya city center on an 1860-meter-high hill. The Zengibar Castle in the ancient city surrounded by steep cliffs overlooks Konya and the Taurus mountains.

Aksaray University’s archaeology department conducted a surface survey at Isaura in 2010 and the third-degree archaeological site was cleaned in 2013.

Following these works, the Konya Metropolitan Municipality made a six-year mid-term plan for the ancient city, while organizations like UNESCO and UNICEF decided to include the ancient site among its places to visit.

As part of a long-term plan for the site, the remains of the castle will be collected and a new castle will be constructed.

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Istanbul ranks ninth in world’s top destinations list

ANKARA – Anadolu Agency – Istanbul took ninth place, and Antalya was ranked 11th in Euromonitor’s “Top 100 City Destinations” list, a report which monitors the number of international tourist arrivals has said.

Artvin, a Black Sea destination in Turkey’s northeast, was placed at number 100 in the list, which was released Jan. 29.

Wouter Geerts, a travel analyst at Euromonitor in London, noted that top cities like Istanbul and Antalya saw increased tourism in 2014 despite geopolitical tensions. He attributed the positive performance to continuing economic growth at key destinations.

“Arrivals continued to grow in global urban centers in 2014, illustrating the economic importance of tourism to the world’s cities,” Geerts said.

Hong Kong remained number one in the ranking, as it has been for the past five years, according to the report.

London came next, while Singapore was third.

Istanbul moved up two places to enter the top 10 at number nine, registering a 13.2 percent increase in the number of visitors to 11.8 million in 2014. The report noted that an increasing numbers of visitors are coming to Istanbul from the Gulf and other Arab states.

Antalya attracted 11.1 million tourists to its luxury resorts and famous beaches.

Artvin pulled in 1.8 million tourists in 2014, just behind Taichung in Taiwan.

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Gulf tourist influx to Bosnia fuels luxury developments

SARAJEVO – Agence France-Presse – With 360 villas and apartments around an artificial lake, swimming pools, a halal supermarket and a Muslim prayer area, the ‘Sarajevo resort’ is one of Bosnia’s most ambitious residential projects to date.

It is one of dozens of real estate ventures in the picturesque hills surrounding the capital of the Balkan country that are specifically targeting visitors from Gulf states.

The lush greenery of the country has in recent years become a magnet for wealthy Arabs looking to escape the Middle Eastern summer heat. The result has been a massive boost to tourism in what is one of Europe’s poorest countries.

“People from the Gulf are attracted by the natural beauty, the presence of Islam and the warmth of Bosnians,” said Tarek Al Khaja, Emirati co-owner of tourist and real estate agency Al Suwaidi and Al Khaja. “They feel welcome here.”

Al Khaja, who opened his business three years ago in a Sarajevo suburb, said the housing and real estate market was in “constant growth”.

Prices, he said, had increased “up to 100 percent in three years” in the Sarajevo region of Bosnia, a nation still rebuilding after its devastating 1990s inter-ethnic war.

In 2010 Bosnia began phasing out visas for nationals of most Gulf countries and the number of tourists from the region have since steadily increased to 24,500 out of 360,000 visitors to the Sarajevo area last year, according to official figures.

150 euros per day

“They are not the most numerous, but these Gulf tourists spend much more than others, about 150 euros per day per person in addition to hotel costs,” said Asja Hadziefendic Mesic, spokeswoman for the Sarajevo tourist board.

At the October opening of the Sarajevo resort, a 25-million-euro ($27-million) Kuwaiti investment, local schoolchildren waved the flags of both Bosnia and Kuwait as Bosnian Muslim political leader Bakir Izetbegovic hailed the country’s rivers and greenery.

“Bosnia is a European country… it has water, forestry, mining, and energy and tourism potential. Our brothers (from the Gulf) spotted this,” he said.

About 20 kilometers (12 miles) away in Blazuj village, another residential area is being built by the Kuwaiti company Al-Diyar, which sold almost all of its luxury apartments in advance to Gulf nationals.

“So far we have invested 14 million euros. The customers are different, there is no profile,” said director Abdullah Al-Kulaib.

“We had those who knew nothing about Bosnia, who never set a foot here, even some who do not like nature, but they are buying,” he said, adding that the company was preparing another six similar projects.

The grandest of the proposed ventures comes from Emirati company Buroj Property Development, which in October announced a 930-million-euro investment to build an entire “tourist city” on a plot of 137 hectares (338 acres).

Work is set to begin in April on the complex at the foot of Bjelasnica, one of four mountains surrounding Sarajevo. The design includes thousands of homes, several hotels, a shopping mall and a hospital.

One of the key drivers in attracting Arab investment has been the Bosna Bank International (BBI), founded in Sarajevo in 2000 by Gulf banks on Islamic banking principles, which organises an annual conference to draw such finance to the Balkans.

“This is just the beginning, we just opened the door,” said Amer Bukvic, BBI director.

He suggested that political instability in the Middle East has also fueled Gulf nationals’ interest in buying a pied-a-terre in Europe, “in case it is needed.”

The facilities already in place for Bosnia’s Muslims — about 40 percent of the 3.8 million-strong population — make the country an especially attractive choice for such visitors.

Caution in minds

“When they want to eat in restaurants, they don’t have to ask whether it is halal. There are also mosques everywhere where they can pray,” said Al Khaja.

During and after Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war, Gulf countries offered humanitarian aid and financed the reconstruction of homes and mosques, often accompanied by stricter interpretations of Islam, such as Saudi Wahabism.

A small minority of Bosnian Muslims adopted these stricter forms, and local analysts have consistently warned against the religious influence that accompanied foreign aid.

While hoteliers and restaurateurs now welcome the injection of Arab tourists’ cash — even offering menus in Arabic — others have observed the phenomenon with caution.

Some media outlets and users of online forums have spoken of an “invasion” or even suggested that the region around the capital is becoming an “emirate.”

A hotelier in the capital, declining to be named, told AFP that he had benefited from the “rush” of Gulf tourists in recent years, but was firmly opposed to the construction of neighbourhoods intended only for Arab customers.

“They will use these houses and apartments maybe a month or two a year, paying once at the beginning and never again.

“The best tourist for a country is the one who rents a hotel room,” he said.

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Morocco In Top 10 Trendiest Tourist Destinations For Portuguese

TAROUDANTE, Jan. 31 (NNN-MWN) — Morocco ranks first in the top 10 in vogue tourist destinations for Portuguese travelers in 2016, according to a ranking by Go4travel, a website for tourist services in Portugal.

According to a statement released on Friday by the delegation of the Moroccan National Tourist Office (ONMT) to Portugal, Morocco is at the top of Go4travel’s list of trendy tourist destinations for Portuguese travelers.

Morocco is followed by Brazil (2nd), Italy (3rd) and Mozambique, which came in fourth place in the ranking.

In the same ranking, Spain occupies 6th place, while Madeira, Azores and Croatia ranked 7th, 9th and 10th respectively.

The same source said that the ranking linked Morocco’s top spot among in vogue tourist destinations for Portuguese travelers to a number of reasons including geographical proximity and the high quality services offered by Morocco’s tourism industry.

The Portuguese consider the Kingdom “a perfect destination, which is nearby and transports them to a world of Arabian nights.”

“In a tour of the imperial cities, the Portuguese heritage is present in several fortresses; delicious Moroccan cuisine, beaches, and simply the adventurous spirit are also strong arguments for travel to Morocco,” according to Go4travel as reported in the ONMT statement.

Cultural events like “the Gnaoua and World Music Festival of Essaouira—which this year will take place from May 12 to 15—are also reasons that attract Portuguese to Morocco,” said the same source.

According to the same source, Vitor Filipe, chairman of Go4travel said that this classification “is the result of an internal consultation with 38 shareholders of the Group which aims to create a list of inspiring destinations for 2016 that will be the key travel trends for this year.”

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AFDB Lends $112m To Improve Tangier-Casablanca-Marrakech Railway

ABIDJAN, Jan 28 (NNN-AfDB) — The African Development Bank (AfDB) has approved a loan of US $112.3 million to Morocco for the improvement of infrastructure on the Tangier-Casablanca-Marrakech railway route.

Allocated to the Moroccan National Railways Office (ONCF), the funds will be used to dual the line linking the cities of Settat and Marrakech.

The doubling of this 142-kilometre stretch will generate time savings and allow increased passenger and freight traffic between Casablanca, the economic capital of the Kingdom, and Marrakech, its main tourist centre. The annual passenger volume could, thus, increase from the current 4.5 million to more than 7.4 million in 2020, when works are due to be completed. Freight volumes could more than double.

The project approved Wednesday extends cooperation between AfDB and ONCF which began in 1993 and is aimed at making Morocco a leading country for railway transport.

In 2010, AfDB made a US $396-million loan to modernize other sections of the Tangier-Casablanca-Marrakech line, a project which is currently being completed. These successive investments are a response to the rapid increase in demand for transport in recent years. Between Casablanca and Marrakech, passenger volumes have particularly increased, by nearly 20% between 2010 and 2014.

“The quality of rail transport is a pull factor for economic actors. The promotion of rail is in line with the Bank’s desire to invest in modes of transport that are effective, sustainable and low CO2 emitters,” said Amadou Oumarou, Director of the Transport and ICT Department at the AfDB.

More than 8 million Moroccans live in the project’s area of influence. Improving the efficiency of rail transport contributes to the competitiveness of logistics and to poverty reduction in these areas. The project was designed using a participative approach that involved local residents. It consists of a series of related actions, financing field programmes that are particularly geared towards women.

Project partner the National Initiative for Human Development (INDH) will promote income-generating activities, the creation of multi-purpose centres, women’s centres (maternity homes), the provision of support facilities for young people in the form of student centres, and the creation of daycares and pre-school facilities in poor areas.

Another partner, the Moroccan Social Development Agency (ADS), will work on the commercialization of local products, on the creation of individual entrepreneurship platforms and on capacity-building through local activities and the socio-economic integration of young people.

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Algeria, Tunisia to boost co-operation in Tourism Training

ALGIERS, Jan 26 (NNN-APS) — Algeria and Tunisia have signed three agreements between training institutions in the field of tourism in their countries to exchange experiences and to strengthen bilateral cooperation in this field.

The signing ceremony was chaired by Minister of National Planning, Tourism and Craft Industry Amar Ghoul and the Tunisia’s Ambassador in Algiers, Abdelmadjid Ferchichi.

Two agreements were signed by the Director of the National Hotel and Tourism Institute of Boussaada (INHT), Larbi Khiri, with the Director of Competence Development at the Tunisian Ministry of Tourism and Craft Industry, Saad Khemiri, to encourage the exchange of experiences between INHT’s managers and trainers and the Tunisian Tourism School El-Kantaoui.

Thanks to these two agreements, training sessions will be organized for trainers and trainees, in addition to the exchange of programmes, pedagogical references and teaching methodologies between the two institutions.

The two agreements also provides for the planning of short-term training sessions in the two institutions for Algerian and Tunisian trainers in the field of tourism and hotel business.

The third agreement was signed by the Director of Tizi Ouzou’s INHT, Nabil Boulemkhali, and the technical Director of Tourism Training Centre of Hammamet, Libya, Lasaad Djelidi.

This agreement will allow organizing training sessions and workshops for Algerians in the Tunisian city of Hammamet and also organizing various activities with the participation of the two countries’ trainers in the field of hotel management.

Ghoul reiterated Algeria’s willingness to strengthen co-operation and partnership with Tunisia in various fields, notably tourism.

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Growth In Islamic Finance To Benefit Kenyan Economy

NAIROBI, Jann26 (NNN-KBC) — The growth of the Islamic finance sector is set to improve investments in infrastructure and offer support to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Kenya, says National Treasury Cabinet Secretary(Minister) Henry Rotich.

The government has embarked on a process to guide the development and operations of the financial sector which will facilitate the growth of Shariah finance in the country, he said here Monday when opening the inaugural International Islamic Finance Conference of Africa (IIFCA).

The government was keen to ensure that the financial services sector was efficient and globally competitive, said Rotich, who added that Shariah=compliant financing was the key to financial inclusion of the large under-served Muslim populations in Kenya’s marginal areas.

“The government is keenly exploring the issuance of Kenya’s own Sukuk bond in order to diversify its sources of financing,” said the Cabinet Secretary.

At the same time, the government has initiated discussions for Kenya to joint the International Islamic Development Bank (IIDB) and Organization of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) in order to leverage opportunities arising in the sector for the socio-economic transformation of the country.

The two-day conference is aimed at promoting and harmonising Islamic Shariah principles of banking and to present a platform for networking among banking sector stakeholders in Africa.

National Bank Managing Director Munir Sheikh said the conference would bring together policy makers, bankers and business influencers around the globe to spur economic growth and development in continental Africa.

He revealed that the Islamic Banking Window of National Bank attracted more than 25,000 customers in 2015 and the figure was expected to double in 2016.

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Uganda Hires Three Global PR Firms to Market Tourism

25 January 2016 – The Monitor (Kampala) — Uganda Tourism Board has recruited three Public Relations firms to represent the country in source markets.

This is a UTB strategy hatched to increase the country’s tourists arrivals, a plan if succeeds will not only generate more revenues for the country but also create more employment opportunities.

The firms to represent Uganda are PHG Consulting for the North America market, Kamageo for the United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland; and KPRN for the German speaking Europe.

UTB Chief Executive Officer, Mr Stephen Asiimwe said, “For the first time ever, Uganda will now have public relations and marketing representatives in our three major source markets of North America, Ireland & UK, and the German speaking Europe”.

This program is being funded under the World Bank’s Competiveness and Enterprises Development Project (CEDP).

Agencies role

Asiimwe said that the agencies are expected to raise the profile of Uganda as a preferred destination, increase inbound numbers to Uganda and promote investment opportunities in Uganda’s tourism sector.

Once this campaign sets off, it will help clear the negative perception people know about Uganda for Ebola or Idi Amin.

Currently tourist arrivals into Uganda have reached 1.3 million as of 2014 records and this is up from 600,000 the country received in 2006.

These numbers have too seen the country’s earnings from tourists arrivals go up to $1.4 billion (Shs4.9 billion) in 2014 down from $600,000 (Shs1.2 billion) earned in 2006.


Mr Edris Kisambira Managing Director Africa Uzuri Safaris -a tour operating company reacting to this news said: “First of all it is some of the best news the struggling sector has received in a long while”.

Kisambira said that this achievement means more prospects for the tour operators.

“More tourist arrivals mean that new jobs will be created while those jobs that have been lost over the last two years because of low arrivals will be redeemed,” Kisambira added.

Trek East Africa Safaris Mr Geoffrey Baluku in an interview about this development said: “This is a positive move particularly for the fact that the selected firms are from those very continents/ countries, they understand their target markets better and will be able to promote the hidden treasures of Uganda. I expect the PR firms to start projecting Uganda as top notch tourism and investment hub I also expect the international firm’s mandate to include those engaging foreign governments in activities that promote Uganda as a preferred destination. I am of the school of thought who believes that I also hope the PR firms help in undercutting foreign critics who are always portraying Uganda negatively.”

Baluku advised that UTB should ensure that these firms include tour operators, travel agents, airlines, and transportation providers in their programs if they are to better understand Uganda’s tourism offer and how they can sell it to their clientele.

“However that said: “We also need to put our house in order. PR and Marketing firms can only market and promote what we have, we shouldn’t expect them to re-create imaginary things,” He added.

He said to achieve this Uganda needs to zero down on a brand that can best sell the country so that even the PR firms can know what message to put out.

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Tunisia Eco-Tourism Project Prompts Signing of Thirty Contracts

28 January 2016 – Tunis Afrique Presse (Tunis) — Some thirty project contracts have been signed to date with young entrepreneurs and local associations as part of the pilot project “Eco-tourism and Conservation of Desert Biodiversity in Tunisia,” launched since 2013, according to data presented Thursday in Tunis.

These contracts concerning beekeeping, small home gardens, forest exploitation, distillation, intensive farming and crafts, cover 3 protected areas in Dghoumes (Tozeur), Jbil (Kebili) and Bouhedma (between Sidi Bouzid and Gafsa).

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Nigeria: Med-View Gets Nod for 17 International Destinations

28 January 2016 – Daily Trust – Lagos — The Federal Government has granted Med-view Airline permission to fly 17 regional and international destinations.

Managing Director of the airline, Alhaja Muneer Bankole, disclosed this on Wednesday during a forum organized by Med-View for travel agents and tour operators in Abuja.

The forum was an avenue for the airline to introduce its new routes to the travel agents and also interact with them.

As part of its expansion drive, the airline recently flagged off Lagos- London and Lagos – Kano- Jeddah international operations and also commenced local flight from Lagos to Kano.

Bankole, who spoke through the company’s Executive Director, Business Development, Mr. Is’haq Na’Allah, disclosed that the airline would soon commence international operations into other countries it has been designated to fly.

Among the new routes which the government has granted the airline approval to fly into, according to the MD, were Lagos – Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Dakar Senegal; Freetown Sierra Leone; Monrovia in Liberia.

He added that plan is also in top gear to procure additional aircraft to beef up its fleet this year.

Bankole stated that travel agents and airlines are like Siamese twins in the aviation industry.

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Nigeria: First Nation Airways Acquires IOSA Certificate

29 January 2016 – The Guardian (Lagos) – FIRSTNATION Airways, one of Nigerian carriers has bagged the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) Certificate, which will enable it, attains the globally recognised best practise in aviation safety

The certificate was presented to the airline’s Director of Flight Operations, Capt. Chimara Imediegwu by IATA’s Area Manager, South West Africa, Mr Samson Fatokun in Lagos.

Speaking during the presentation, Imediegwu said the IOSA programme is an internationally recognised and accepted evaluation system designed to assess the operational management and control systems of an airline.

He said: “Created by IATA in 2003, IOSA uses internationally recognised quality audit principles and is designed to conduct audits in a standardised and consistent manner.

“Successful companies are included in the IOSA registry for a period of 2 years following an audit carried out by an organisation accredited by IATA

“According to him, with the presentation, FirstNation Airways has now joined Arik Air and Aero Contractors as the only IOSA certified airlines operating in Nigeria.

The process of certification began in January 2014 when the airline received a request to enrol for the programme, noted Imediegwu

He said this was in line with the Abuja Declaration of 2012 that all African airlines should complete their IOSA certification by December 2015 towards enhancing air safety in the continent.

He stated that, out of the 10 airlines chosen to undergo the certification, FirstNation Airways was the first to complete the process.

Imediegwu expressed appreciations to the staff and customers of FirstNation for the support and patronage, stressing that the airline would not relent in its quest to enhance safety.

In his message, Fatokun said many airlines which started the programme could not complete it due to its rigorous nature. “It is a thing of joy for any airline on this part of the globe to be on IOSA register. That means you are operating on the same level of safety with other globally known airlines on the IOSA register, he added.

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Morocco ranks 2nd safest country in Africa for investors

Sunday 31 Jan 2016 – Rabat, (IINA) – A new study released by a French consulting firm rated Morocco as the second safest country for investors in Africa, Morocco World News reported.

The Compagnie Française d’Assurance pour le Commerce Extérieur (COFACE) maintained Morocco’s risk ratings for investors at A4, whether for country risk ratings or business climate assessment.

COFACE reassessed the risk to investors to open business in 160 countries worldwide in its annual report published in Paris this month titled “Country Risk Barometer: Key Issues 2016.”

COFACE kept Morocco’s ratings unchanged at A4 low risk, suitable for investors naming it the safest country in the MENA region.

Most countries in Africa were ranked D (high risk) and C (elevated risk) with the exception of Namibia ranked A3, while Morocco and Botswana ranked A4.

The French firm listed Morocco’s strengths to be its geographical location, its proximity to the European market, strategy and product diversification (automotive, aerospace, electronics, offshoring, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, textile, food …), as well as its macroeconomic and political stability.

Conversely, COFACE highlighted Morocco’s weaknesses to be its highly dependent economy on the agricultural sector, social and regional disparities (high poverty rate), as well as low productivity and competitiveness coupled with high unemployment.

Based on macroeconomic, financial and political factors, COFACE assigns seven risk ratings to the countries it monitors, ranging from A1 (lowest risk), A2 (low), A3 (satisfactory), A4 (suitable), B (unsteady), C (elevated risk), to D (high risk).

The countries that ranked A1 as having the lowest risk for investors are the United States as well as Norway, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

According to the study, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong are the only states ranked A1 in Asia, while no country was ranked higher than A3 in Africa.

Middle Eastern states varied in their ranking ranging from A2 or low risk (Qatar and Kuwait) to D or highest risk, such as Syria Iran and Iraq. The UAE, and Oman were ranked A3 or satisfactory for investors.

COFACE is an international credit insurer and world leader in trade-credit information protection serving hundreds of thousands of clients in 160 countries.

It offers solutions to protect companies against the risk of financial default of their clients, both on the domestic and export markets.

The French insurance company noted the decline in Morocco’s government deficit in 2015 and predicted its significant reduction in 2016.

“The low hydrocarbon prices would promote further reform of subsidies that enabled a saving of MAD 31 billion in 2015 or 3 percent of its GDP,” COFACE noted.

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Qatar Winter Festival 2016 Starts At Katara

DOHA, Qatar, Jan 25 (NNN-QNA) – The third edition of Qatar winter festival 2016, was inaugurated on Sunday, by the General Manager of the Cultural Village Foundation-Katara, Dr Khalid bin Ibrahim al Sulaiti. The activities of winter festival will continue till Jan 28 at Katara esplanade.

Speaking on this occasion, Dr Khalid said, “We are pleased to announce today the launch of the 3rd edition of the Winter Festival for year 2016 in Katara. This year’s edition draws a significant participation of institutions and entities. Katara strives to set up this festival during schools’ winter break-time. It aims at presenting several useful activities that would contribute towards educating, entertaining and raising children’s awareness.

“The festival presents various activities and events that hold numerous cultural and educational messages, aimed at those children to benefit them during their daily life and at school as well,” Dr. Al Sulaiti added.

The Katara General Manager stressed that, the festival goes in line with Katara’s objectives to attract all family members to take part in cultural events. He further added that all visitors, and especially children, will find what interest them at this festival, since Katara has been keen on collaborating with several sectors in the country, to organise fascinating and remarkable features to present to the audience.

For his part, the Head of Winter Festival Organising Committee, Abdulrahman bin Jassim al Tamimi, called for Katara visitors to seize the opportunity of spending constructive and useful time while participating at the fruitful events of the winter festival.

It’s noteworthy that in this 3rd edition of the festival, the Childhood Cultural Center is planning several children activities, including competitions and games, with gifts distribution. While Qatar Heritage and Identity centre is featuring a unique educational theatrical show, highlighting the winter season besides numerous entertaining activities, organised with an aim of a acquainting the public and children with the Qatari cultural and national identity, and Qatar’s flora.

To raise awareness on healthcare during the winter season, two health campaigns are set to launch during the festival this year. One campaign will be delivered by Bin Muftah’s medical centre, to raise the visitors’ awareness on winter common diseases, foods to eat during the season, and some healthy habits to follow. The other campaign is by Al Rabiee medical centre to raise awareness on skincare during the winter season.

During a visit to an introductory expo by Qatar News Agency (QNA), organised as part of the festival, Dr Al Sulati underpinned QNA’s important role of dissemination of information and awareness in a society.

Meanwhile, AlGannas Society is organising information sessions aimed at junior falconers, and other sessions for falconry and hunting using salouki dogs. The festival will also feature a variety of events and activities including; exhibitions and workshops by Al Galayel competition.

Birds and animals exhibition by Kanari World pet store, performances by various cultural bands, assorted activities by the ministry of municipality and urban planning, games at the beach front organised by Katara, a photo exhibition, kids workshops, painting workshops for adults, and a display of handicrafts by Qatar University’s alumni association, and an introductory expo by Qatar News Agency (QNA). QNA’s educational exhibition at the Katara Esplanade focusses on the role of dissemination of information and awareness in a society.

Cultural Village Foundation-Katara has always been keen to organise these educational and entertaining festivities in winter with the participation of the private and government sectors in Qatar.

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Iran To Export Saffron To U.S. After 15 Years

TEHRAN, Jan 28, (NNN-IRNA) – Iran plans to export the first shipment of saffron to the US after 15 years following the implementation of nuclear deal, announced Head of Iran’s Saffron Exports Development Fund Tuesday.

Mohammad Javad Rezaie, Head of Iran’s Saffron Exports Development Fund evaluated the current saffron market as ‘satisfactory’ and estimated its worth at $2000 per kilo; “this shows that considering the increase in saffron production in the country, the sales figures are satisfactory both in domestic and foreign markets,” he said, according to MNA.

“Following the implementation of the nuclear deal between Iran and the 5 1, certain European countries such as Spain expressed their interest in purchasing Iranian saffron directly,” he said.

Rezaei explained that with the sanctions having been in place for years, the export of saffron to European countries had faced a lot of limitation and went through a drastic decline, since the banking sanctions posed many difficulties for the money transfer.

“The US has called for buying Iran’s saffron and the first 20kg shipment of saffron will be soon ready for export after 15 years,” said Rezaei, adding the shipment is expected to be sent by next week.

“During the sanctions period, certain countries such as the UAE and even Spain played middleman for Iran’s ‘red gold’ market and bought this valuable product from Iran and exported it to global markets in their own packaging and brand,” he said.

According to Rezaei, Iran’s direct saffron export to European countries can flourish Iranian saffron market by 40 percent.

Iran is the world’s largest producer and exporter of saffron, the most expensive and most-sought after spice in the world, which is used to flavor food and pastries, with further application in medicine and cosmetics. First harvest of the reddish, aromatic plant dates back to 3,000 years ago in Iran.

With a monopoly over more than 90% of saffron output, Iran exports to more than 50 countries across the world. Iran’s saffron is globally known for its matchless quality, fascinating fragrance, pleasant flavor, and superb coloring strength.

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Jordan Takes Huge Steps To Attract Investments

AMMAN, Jordan, Jan 27 (NNN-KUNA) – Jordan has taken huge steps to attract and facilitate local and foreign investments, in accordance with the Jordan Investment Commission, that gathered industrial cities, development areas, Jordan Investment Board (JIB), exhibitions and free trade zones all under its roof.

The commission aims to promote a trustworthy investment environment and develop exports by activating different sectors in the country.

Jordan also launched the Investment Window Licensing Guide, as part of the commission to overcome obstacles in the field, provide support for investors, facilitate registration and licensing procedures and provide investors with detailed information on the process of executing their projects.

The country’s investment law obliges all governmental bodies to approve investment requests within a period that does not exceed 30 days.

Meanwhile, the government is aiming to make Jordan one of the top destinations for investing in the communications and information technology sectors, through issuing a number of incentives and exemptions for both fields.

The facilitations included reducing income taxes for the two sectors from 20 percent to 14 percent.

Moreover, the country is developing the transportation sector by providing it with tax and customs exemptions for companies that own 20 buses.

The commission also established development areas in less-developed cities, to improve their infrastructure and attract investments to these zones.

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Qatar Airways To Launch Direct Maputo-Doha Service

MAPUTO, Jan 26 (NNN-AIM) — Qatar Airways has announced that it is increasing connections between Mozambique and Qatar by introducing direct flights between Doha and Maputo beginning in March this year.

According to a report in Monday’s issue of the Maputo daily, Noticias, the announcement was made at a ceremony where Qatar Airways distinguished Cotur Tours as its main agent in Mozambique.

The current twice weekly Qatar Airways flights between Maputo and Doha stop at Johannesburg in both directions. Cutting out the stop in Johannesburg will reduce travel time by two hours.

The decision to introduce non-stop flights between thew two cities reflects confidence that there is enough traffic to make the route profitable, without stopping in Johannesburg to pick up more passengers.

The new direct flight may also prove attractive to passengers who wish to travel on to other destinations in the Middle East, Europe and Asia. The Maputo-Doha route will use the most modern large aircraft, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Cotur Director Noor Momade told Noticias that their award by Qatar Airways was of great importance since this is generally regarded as one of the best airlines in the world, and this is the first time it has awarded prizes since beginning operations in Maputo.

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Oman Hosts International Car Event

MUSCAT, Oman, Jan 27 (NNN-ONA) – The Sultanate of Oman is hosting an international event, promoted by the Ministry of Tourism and organised by Super Cars Club Arabia until Jan 28 (tomorrow).

The team, comprising 50 members at the club, will make a tour, using the most luxurious car brands and promote for tourism potentials and attractions of the Sultanate, as well as, inviting luxurious car lovers to make a tour in the Sultanate with their vehicles.

The tour covers 1,200 km of the Omani landscapes, as it started in Muscat up to Al Ain and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) through crossing Sur and Nizwa. The tour will be concluded in Dubai.

The sponsorship of the Ministry of Tourism to this event, comes in a bid to highlight features of the advanced local infrastructure, and encouraging such events to enhance the leading position of the Sultanate, as one of the major cultural and tourism destinations in the world.

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Dubai Welcomes Record 14.2 Million Visitors In 2015

DUBAI, Jan 28 (NNN-WAM) — Dubai attracted over 14.2 million overnight visitors in 2015, recording a strong 7.5% increase over 2014 – double the United Nations World Travel Organisation’s (UNWTO) projected 3-4% global travel growth for the same period, annual figures released by Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) showed.

The emirate’s tourism sector once again proved the tenacity and strength of its economic contribution, as it made steady progress towards the target of 20 million visitors per year by 2020, despite a year afflicted by macro-economic uncertainties, and amidst a particularly turbulent geo-political climate during the second half of 2015 internationally.

Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General, Dubai Tourism, said: “Under the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, last year was a very strong year for Dubai’s travel sector, achieving double the global industry growth levels and our international visitation hitting 14.2 million, which firmly positions us as the fourth most visited city in the world. 2015 was volatile for travel globally, as we have all witnessed a range of disruptive factors, ranging from slackening economic growth in Asian and European markets to currency fluctuations across the world.

”Yet if Dubai is to hit its 20 million visitors per year target in the next five years, we must deliver a threshold 7-8% annual growth consistently, which has put even greater emphasis on strong sector-wide collaboration.

“Our performance over the past 12 months is undeniably reflective of the resilience of our diversified market strategy, our unified industry-level responsiveness, and ultimately the sustained strength of Dubai’s proposition.”

Through the pursuit of a multi-geography visitation mix strategy, Dubai furthered the performance achieved in the first half of the year to deliver strong growth across key feeder regions, mitigating the downward trends in specific countries.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) remained the regional foothold, supporting continued demand from near-markets to Dubai, consequently delivering the highest share of visitor volumes for 2015, with a total of 3.3 million, up 12.8% over 2014.

In terms of country-specific volumes from the GCC, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia remained the lead market, contributing 1.54 million visitors, followed by Oman accounting for over 1 million travellers. Kuwait and Qatar were also among the top 20 markets, with the former the only one to register a decline in growth versus 2014 yet retaining its top 10 position, and the latter recovering strongly from mid-year with a high 32% year-on-year increase for the full year of 2015.

Despite a sluggish economy and a strong US Dollar constraining Dubai’s competitiveness, Western Europe remained the second highest regional contributor to visitor volumes, bringing in nearly 3 million tourists, reflecting a solid 6.1% growth in numbers.

The UK remained within Dubai’s top 3 source countries with 11% growth, accounting for nearly 1.2 million visitors. Germany also stayed in the top 10 list with 7% growth generating over 460,000 visitors, followed by two others in the top 20 traffic generators – France showing a slight decline primarily in the last quarter of 2015, and Italy remaining flat versus 2014.

Northern European markets across the Nordics and the Benelux, while independently small in volume, have been frontier growth generators for tourism traffic in 2015, on the back of growing direct flight capacity from the region.

South Asia was the next largest region by volume, bringing in 2.3 million visitors, reflecting a 21.7% increase versus 2014. India dominated the region, becoming Dubai’s number one source market for the first time by bringing in over 1.6 million tourists, and the country was the second fastest growing market with a 26% year-on-year growth, followed by Pakistan that ranked just outside the top five, ending 2015 at 11% growth and 513,000 visitors. Efforts to serve highly segment-specific messaging in cities with the highest connectivity and latent capacity, as well as building stronger trade ties in market with digital travel intermediaries, have yielded results and will continue to enable Dubai to capture a share of the growing Indian upper middle-class family and business segments.

Over 1.6 million visitors came from the wider Middle East and North Africa region, representing a 1.3% growth – a strong outcome in the face of heightened regional disturbances. Iran delivered a reliable 6% increase to enter the top 10 rankings as a key source market, with much of the remaining volumes attributable to Egypt and Jordan, each independently registering robust 15% growth versus 2014 for the full year.

Asian markets (excluding the Indian sub-continent) were the next largest regional contributors with a total of 1.2 million travellers to Dubai – a 17.9% increase for 2015 compared to the previous year. With 450,000 Chinese tourists to Dubai last year, inbound traffic from China dominated the uptake from this region, topping the leader board of year-on-year growth trends with a 29% increase in numbers. The Philippines delivered 325,000 tourists, with a particularly strong third quarter performance raising it to number 11 in the source market rankings.

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Kuwait Determined To Operate Direct Flights Instead Of Transit

MANAMA, Jan 24 (NNN-KUNA) — The Kuwait Airways Corporation (KAC) is determined to restore its market quota by cancelling transit flights and working on direct ones (point to point) to its destinations, KAC CEO Rasha Al-Roumi has affirmed.

Speaking at a news conference held by the corporation on the sidelines of the 2016 Bahrain International Airshow (BIAS) on Saturday, she added depending on direct flights will be in favor of all destinations and will create a good competition.

She revealed that the corporation will appear in a new look to cope with the coming period, but will maintain the same slogan.

Asked about the participation in the BIAS, she said the company is taking part in such an event for the first time and this is a new achievement.

In a reply to reporters on meeting commitments amid the continued decline in oil prices, Al-Roumi stressed that the corporation meets its financial commitments regularly without any delay.

On his part, Abdullah Al-Sharhan, a KAC senior official, said the company’s financial performance improved during 2014 and indicators in 2015 gave better results, expecting that financial data of 2015 would be announced in February.

He revealed that about ten 777-300ER passenger aircraft from manufacturer Boeing will arrive in Kuwait next November and 15 A320 aircraft in 2019-2022, noting that some 10 A350 aircraft will be added to the fleet in 2020-2022.

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Oman ranked world’s 16th fastest growing tourism destination

Tuesday 26 Jan 2016 – Muscat, (IINA) – According to the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Travel Barometer, Oman has been ranked the world’s 16th fastest growing tourism destinations, Times of Oman reported Sunday.

The Sultanate is the only Arab and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) country to make the list of top 17, it comes ahead of Romania and behind Columbia.

In 2005, the Sultanate saw about 891,000 tourists’ arrival, while in 2015, the number doubled to around 1.78 million visitors.

Notably, Oman still continues to attract tourists, despite the Middle East suffering in recent years due to the rise of the Arab Spring, break out of civil wars and emergence of terrorist organizations in the North,

According to the National Centre for Statistics and Information’s (NCSI) latest monthly bulletin report, 964,956 guests had checked into 3-5 star hotels by the end of October 2015 in Oman.

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Oman to establish first low-cost airline

Wednesday 27 Jan 2016 – Muscat, (IINA) – Muscat National Development & Investment Company (Asaas) has been awarded an air services operator license to establish Oman’s first low-cost carrier, Times of Oman reported.

Given by the Omani Public Authority for Civil Aviation, this new venture is expected to fuel economic growth underpinned by high air traffic demand, which is expected to grow by 40 percent by 2019.

Asaas’s CEO Khalid Al-Yahmadi said: “At Asaas, our aim is to become one of the main development and investment arms for the government and pension funds in the country. To that end, we have identified a portfolio of potential development projects for the next 5 to 10 years across various industries”.

He Added: “One of the core sectors is tourism, and we are adopting an integrated approach that covers its entire supply chain of which transportation plays an instrumental role as an enabler for the development of the economy in general and tourism in particular”.

The CEO pointed out that the “national budget airline will provide access to economical and efficient means of transport and further advance the aviation sector in Oman”.

Established in late 2014, Asaas’s mandate is founded on identifying new investment opportunities and intelligent solutions that meet public needs to enrich the quality of life of people in Oman.

The company’s business model revolves around collaborating with different public and private sectors efforts in tourism, logistics, healthcare and education to contribute to the diversification of the national economy.

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Obama to make first visit to a U.S. mosque during his presidency

Washington, (IINA) – US President Barack Obama will make the first visit during his presidency to a U.S. mosque this week, the White House announced on Saturday.

On Wednesday, the president will visit the Islamic Society of Baltimore, a sprawling community center in the city’s western suburbs that serves thousands of people with a place of worship, a housing complex and schools, according to its website, The Washington Post reported.

It is one of the Mid-Atlantic region’s largest Muslim centers and describes itself as aspiring “to be the anchor of a growing Muslim community with diverse backgrounds, democratically governed, relating to one another with inclusiveness and tolerance, and interacting with neighbors in an Islamic exemplary manner.”

The president is making the visit “to celebrate the contributions Muslim Americans make to our nation and reaffirm the importance of religious freedom to our way of life,” a White House official wrote in an email Saturday. “The President believes that one of our nation’s greatest strengths is our rich diversity and the very idea that Americans of different faiths and backgrounds can thrive together that we’re all part of the same American family. As the President has said, Muslim Americans are our friends, and neighbors; our co-workers, and sports heroes and our men and women in uniform defending our country.”

At the Islamic Society, the president will hold a roundtable discussion with community members, the official said.

“When politicians insult Muslims, whether abroad or our fellow citizens, when a mosque is vandalized or a kid bullied, that doesn’t make us safer,” Obama said in his State of the Union address earlier this month. “That’s not telling it like it is. It’s just wrong.

“It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. It betrays who we are as a country.”

Obama has visited mosques overseas, but never one in this country while serving as president.

“I think it would be enormously comforting and also send powerful message to Americans about recommitting to religious freedom especially if we had Bush and Obama visit together,” Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, a legal advocacy group, said last month when she met with the president’s aides.

Obama’s relationship with American Muslims has been complicated. They are among his most enthusiastic backers, but some feel he has not done enough to address their concerns at a time of social unrest.

However, concern about profiling and domestic surveillance at mosques has escalated under Obama, and some Muslim leaders expressed concern last year when he held a key summit about violent extremism that focused significantly on Muslim extremism.

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First Spanish-speaking Islamic center opens in Houston, US

Sunday 31 Jan 2016 – Houston, (IINA) – A non-profit organization called IslamInSpanish has opened a centre on Saturday in Houston that will help educate Latinos about Islam in Spanish, World Bulletin online news reported.

After much deliberation, they decided to build the first ever Spanish-speaking mosque in the United States. The 5,000+sq ft. center includes a mosque, museum, lounge, information showroom, multi-purpose hall, and state of the art production studio that will aim to broadcast and live stream Spanish programs. The entire production will also be available online.

“The heart of what inspired IslamInSpanish was responding to the need for information on Islam in Spanish,” says CEO Jaimie Fletcher, a Colombian-American who founded the organization, “My family had a lot of questions when I became Muslim. This is something that’s foreign to a lot of Latinos.”

After converting to Islam in order to help his father understand the religion in Spanish of which there were no books or audio material – Fletcher, who has a background in multimedia and film began to create audios translating books on Islam. What started off as one CD created to educate Fletcher’s family and his wife’s skeptical aunt, turned into a venture that saw him distributing the audio books across the country. Not long after, Fletcher was then invited to speak at conferences, universities, and various places of worship.

IslamInSpanish then began to have their own events and started meet-ups with hundreds of Spanish-speaking Latinos who were genuinely interested and curious about Islam.

“We’re creating a whole new identity. It’s a subculture literally, Latino Muslims,” says Fletcher who realized it was time to create a center for everyone in the community to meet. The lack of materials and Spanish-speaking mosques made it difficult for Latinos to really learn about the religion.

“There was a huge need to have a center,” adds Fletcher. We asked the community if they felt we needed a place and everyone raised their hand and said yes. For Latino converts, many of them feel alienated from their families who might think they left their culture to become Muslim and even in mosques where the majority of folks speak Arabic.

But the center doesn’t just consist of a mosque, it will also feature an exhibition on the history of Islam in Latino America, along with a state-of-the-art production studio where they will be broadcasting and streaming live Spanish programs. People who are not able to visit the center will be able to access information directly online.

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