TRAVEL NEWS
 
Eventful time at San Francisco this November

San Francisco has always been one of the most preferred destination for both leisure and business travellers. As the year comes to an end, the city brings double reason to make the season more interesting.

The 40th American Indian Film Festival (November 7-14)

The world’s oldest festival dedicated to films by and about Native Americans showcases new and exciting work. American Indian Film Institute recognises the continuing opportunity and responsibility to empower American Indian voices by weaving the possibilities of film as a transformational storytelling tool into the fabric of Native communities, and by bringing our stories and voices into the mainstream. The American Indian Film Institute is planning a slate of screenings, special events, memorable entertainment and VIP appearances for its historic 40th year, and the public is invited.

San Francisco Hip-Hop Dance Festival (November 20-22)

The San Francisco International Hip Hop Dance Fest (SFIHHDF) is the first ever festival of its kind that honours the artistry of hip hop dance in a non-competitive environment. In one spectacular weekend, the SFIHHDF creates a convergence of global phenomena by presenting groundbreaking performances from professional dance companies from all over the globe. In addition, master classes taught by some of the visiting artists will be offered, along with a VIP/Performer party to celebrate the convergence of artists with the public. 2015 marks the 17th year for the SFIHHDF! All ages event.

 
 
Hot-air balloon rides in Goa

Goa Tourism has launched its hot-air balloon services for the benefit of tourists visiting the coastal villages. The service was inaugurated by Dilip Parulekar, Minister for Tourism and Woman & Child Development, Government of Goa , Nilesh Cabral, Chairman, Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) and others at the parking at Baga. Parulekar said, “Goa Tourism has come out with its first innovative activity in the form of hot-air balloon services for the tourists visiting Goa for holidays. The services will be available from morning till 9 in the evening and it would cost around INR 1,000 for a ride.” Similarly, more activities like amphibian vehicle, sea planes will be started by the tourism board in mid-November while the ropeway from Miramar to Reis Magos will be tendered with directives to make it operational next year, he added.

 
 
Six-month multiple-entry visa for Thailand

Thailand’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA) has confirmed that it will be launching a new six-month multiple-entry tourist visa (METV) on November 13, 2015. The visa, costing INR 10,000 (5,000 baht) will grant travelers multiple entries during a 6-month period, for up to 60 days per entry. All foreign nationals are eligible to apply for METV. There has been speculation about the METV since August this year with travellers and travel trade in India excited about the prospective added convenience. Soraya Homchuen, director, TAT Mumbai office says, “I expect that frequent travellers from India as well as Indian travel agents, will be very happy with the news of the METV. Of late, Thailand has gained popularity for weekend getaways, especially on long weekends, in addition to already being India’s favourite for family vacations and annual holidays. I am certain that the convenience of already having a visa in-hand will encourage more under the current rules, tourist visas are valid for just 60 days, after which visitors must leave the country or apply to a local immigration office for an extension.” The new visa will allow visitors to enter and leave the country as often as they want over the six-month period; provide they leave the country Indian travellers must be able to show a proof of funds in excess of INR 400,000, 12-months’ validity on their passports and must display an intention to travel to Thailand at least twice during the six-month period in order to be eligible for the METV.

 
 
China offers tourists helicopter tours

Hangzhou Bay in Zhejiang province is showcasing its province in a novel way, where tourists can go on tours in Robinson R44 helicopter to experience the destination in low altitude chopper rides. The helicopter rides cost 680 yuan (HK$830) for 10 minutes and luxury tourists will find this trip to be highly entertaining. Within the past two years, scenic air tour services have flourished from megacities such as Beijing to fourth-tier cities such as Haining, where Jianshan is situated. The popularity of the helicopter tour will not be limited to the high end tourists but will expand to the middle class as well feels Cheng, a pilot and co founder of Zhejiang BLS General Aviation.

 
 
India aims to attract one million UK visitors

Vinod Zutshi, Secretary, Ministry of Tourism headed the Indian delegation at World Travel Market in London  said that India is aiming to attract one million UK visitors by 2020 through a number of key pro-active initiatives. India will also be appointing new tourism marketing representatives in Argentina, Brazil, Russia, China and Japan in the next two years. Vinod Zutshi announced on the creation of a new Medical Tourism Board and Golf Promotion Committee, both of which are charged with developing the infrastructure, product and appeal of both medical, wellness tourism and golf. Vinod Zutshi announced that many of the new initiatives will form part of India’s proposed new National Tourism Policy to catapult tourism to greater heights. Global tourism arrivals to India in 2014 were 7.68 million, up 10.2% over 2013 – India is outperforming global inbound tourism which rose by just 4.7% in the same period. From the UK, visitor arrivals were 838,860 in 2014, an increase of 3.8% over 2013.

 
 
Sikkim’s first airport to be operational in 2016

Sikkim’s first airport is expected to be operational from December 2016, with provision for direct connectivity to the land-locked state thereby boosting tourism. “Preparations are afoot and we are hopeful that the state will have its first airport operational from December 2016,” said Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma at the 4th International Tourism Mart. Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling announced that the airport will come up at Pakyong, 35 km from Gangtok. Currently, the nearest airport is Bagdogra in West Bengal from where one has to drive down to Sikkim. The state is also going to be declared as an ‘organic state’, first in the country, by next year. This green initiative had been formulated to make the entire farming activities environment friendly. There will be no use of pesticide, chemical fertiliser or any non-biodegradable material. Crops will be grown with organic manure.

 
 
Poland to have direct connect with India

Poland and India will have direct air connectivity in two yearssays Tomasz Lukaszuk, Ambassador of Republic of Poland, India. “We plan to have direct flights between the two countries, which will boost tourism between both the nations. We are still in talks for the same, and expect the direct flights to start in the next two years. Most of the Polish tourists visit Delhi, Kerala, Goa and Jaipur. Ayurveda and Yoga are very popular among them. There is great potential of tourism exchange between Poland and India.” In Poland, the most visited towns are Zamosc – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Kazimierz Dolny, revealed Lukaszuk. The Embassy of India in Warsaw issues 20,000 visas for Indian tourists annually. 

 
 
Direct flight from Chennai to Bangkok

SpiceJet announced new direct international flights to Bangkok from Chennai, flying 6 days a week. Flight services on this route will commence from December 10, 2015, and this will be SpiceJet’s second direct international flight from Chennai. SpiceJet is offering an exciting all inclusive introductory promotional return fare of just `9,999 (Chennai-Bangkok-Chennai) / THB 5400 (Bangkok-Chennai-Bangkok) for a limited period.

 
 
Timetable changeover at Munich Airport

The end of October has seen the launch of many attractive new routes. Airlines are offering 221 destinations, including 192 with scheduled services. Alongside 15 airports in Germany, travelers in Munich can choose from among 128 continental destinations. In the intercontinental segment, 49 routes will be served. Over the winter timetable period, which will end on March 26, 2016, airlines have booked slots for more than 1,45,000 flights. Meridiana, an airline making its debut in Munich, will be departing twice a day to Linate Airport in Milan with a Boeing 737. Luxair is expanding its Munich to Luxembourg service to 25 flights a week. For the first time, SAS is adding Stockholm to its Munich schedule, with three departures a week for the Swedish capital. Also new:  a twice-weekly service to Iasi in Romania operated by Tarom. During the coming winter period Transavia is offering flights to Paris-Orly every day except Saturdays, and starting in February will also be flying to Eindhoven in the Netherlands. Aeroflot is stepping up its service from Munich to Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport to four flights a day.

 
 
Chandigarh Intl. airport ready for flights

Chandigarh International Airport Ltd, subsidiary of Airports Authority of India, will commenced all domestic scheduled and non scheduled flights from the newly constructed Integrated Terminal Building at Civil Airport. It was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 11 and will handle both domestic as well as international flights. It can be accessed from Aerocity Road from either side - Mohali Sector 66 or Patiala Road. The new Terminal has facilities like two aero-bridges, baggage conveyors, 48-Check-in Counters, prepaid taxi counters, snack bars, visitor entry ticket counter, car parking Space and differently abled passenger friendly facilities, said Suneel Dutt, Airport Director, Chandigarh International Airport. 

 
 
Revolutionising railway maintenance

A smart technology revolution which is helping frontline Network Rail workers do their jobs more safely, efficiently and effectively has been captured in a short film featured on Apple.com. Over the past four years, Network Rail has rolled out more than 25,000 iOS devices – both iPad and iPhone – to its workforce, with more than 18,000 of these across its frontline maintenance, operations, and safety and engineering teams. The introduction has helped modernise the workforce, banishing bulky and impractical paperwork and helping improve the performance and safety of those working on the railway. It’s also estimated that the use of modern technology will help realise over £700m worth of efficiencies over the next ten years. 

 
 
IRCTC boosts online services

To emerge as an efficient, single window solution for e-ticketing, catering, tourism and online shopping, IRCTC has applied a string of IT-driven passenger-friendly initiatives to its operations in tune with Railway Budget proposals. Of late, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd. (IRCTC) has launched new initiatives in all its verticals – e-ticketing, tourism, catering, online shopping and Rail Neer. “We have launched a series of initiatives that are in tune with the proposals of the Railway Budget 2015-16. In particular, we have started leveraging IT in a big way to extend the portfolio of passenger amenities,” said Dr AK Manocha, Chairman & Managing Director, IRCTC.

 
 
Buddhist Tourism Circuit Special train begins

Indian Railways is operating Buddhist Tourism Circuit Special Train through its PSU Indian Railways Tourism & Catering Corporation (IRCTC). This train has six trips in the season 2015-16, which started on October 31, 2015 from Delhi Safdarjung Station. During its 7 nights / 8 days journey from Delhi, it would cover important sites such as Bodh Gaya, Rajgir, Nalanda, Sarnath, Kushinagar, Lumbini, Shravasti and at the end The Taj Mahal (Agra). The future scheduled departures dates of this train for the season 2015-16 are December 26, 2015; January 9, 2016; February 13, 2016; March 12, 2016.

 
 
MP, Gujarat Bag Top Tourism Awards

Gujarat bagged the top award for Comprehensive Development of Tourism, besides winning in three other categories, while Madhya Pradesh was ranked first in six different segments of National Tourism Awards for 2013-14. President Pranab Mukherjee presented the National Tourism Awards in different segments of the travel, tourism and hospitality industry for the year 2013-14 at an event in New Delhi which was attended by Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma, senior ministry officials and representatives of states and various stakeholders of the sector. Madhya Pradesh bagged a total six awards in different categories including ‘Best Maintained and Disabled-Friendly Monument’ for Bhojpur Temple. It also got an award for tourist-friendly railway station at Habibganj. Besides bagging the Best State Award for Comprehensive Development of Tourism, Gujarat also got three more awards - Best Rural Tourism Project for Rann Utsav, Best Tourism Promotion Publicity Material for ‘Gujarat’s 50 Golden Destinations’ coffee table book, and Best Film Promotion Friendly State. Speaking on the occasion, Sharma said, “India has got vast scope of tourism as we have eco-tourism, desert tourism, hill tourism, rural tourism and many other schemes.” He, however, said safety and security is of paramount importance for the tourism sector as any incident related to safety and security of a tourist is a setback for the sector. The Tourism Minister said the government has launched a tourist helpline 1363, which will soon have facility in 12 more foreign languages like Russian and Japanese. Currently the helpline operates in Hindi and English only. ‘The Great Backwaters of Kerala’ got award for the best tourism film. Indira Gandhi International Airport got award in the best airport category. Tourism Secretary Vinod Zutshi highlighted the ‘Atithi Devo Bhavo’ theme, and said India still has vast untapped areas which are of great tourism potential and the country can be made the most preferred destination.

 

 
 
PATA Gold for Muziris Heritage Project

Kerala Tourism has won the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Gold Award in the Heritage and Culture category, in recognition of the state’s efforts in reinventing the millennia-old Spice Route heritage through the Muziris Heritage Project. The international award was presented to Kerala Tourism at a ceremony during then recent PATA Travel Mart in Bengaluru. The PATA awards, which are sponsored by the Macau Government Tourism Office (MGTO), praised Kerala Tourism for the Muziris project’s conservational aspect, uniqueness, and impact on local community. G. Kamala Vardhana Rao, Secretary Tourism, Government of Kerala, received the award. He stated, “The Muziris Heritage Project is a vital element in the restoration of the historical Spice Route led by Kerala Tourism and supported by the Central government and international organisations like UNESCO. The revival of the rich cultural heritage of Spice Route, which occupies a vast geographical area from Kerala to countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Far East, will play a significant role in cultural tourism in the world.”

 
 
Uttarakhand unveils ‘Homestay Policy’

In order to promote rural tourism in the state, Uttarakhand Tourism is focusing on homestay development. For the same, it recently launched a ‘Homestay Policy’, and announced logo exchange and link exchange between Youth Hostels Association of India (YHAI) and Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board (UTDB). The policy was launched by Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat along with Tourism Minister Dinesh Dhanai. Ninety-seven villages (and counting) and 37 clusters have been identified to develop rural tourism, with the assistance of the respective district magistrates, informed Poonam Chand, Deputy Director, Uttarakhand Tourism. “`50 lakh have been set aside to develop each village and about `20 lakh will be invested in skill development and capacity building of locals,” highlighted Chand.

 
 
Frankfurt to celebrate 25 years of unity

This year’s official ceremony commemorating the Day of German Unity will be held in Frankfurt from October 2-4 with a celebration attracting young and old from the four corners of the republic. Taking place throughout downtown Frankfurt, this three-day festival will feature a colourfully diversified programme of events, with countless highlights guaranteed to appeal to people of all ages and walks of life. The event area will stretch from the banks of the River Main across St Paul’s Square to the Zeil pedestrian promenade. The festival’s centrepiece will no doubt be the so-called “country mile”, set up on both sides of the river. Here, Germany’s 16 federal states will be presenting themselves to the general public, with the offer range including everything from sightseeing attractions and historical highlights to culinary delights and live-music performances. Best of all, the programme is absolutely free of charge.

 
 
Royal rickshaws flagged off in Varanasi

An online portal, in association with UP Tourism, celebrated World Tourism Day in an innovative manner by introducing ‘royal rickshaws’ under its initiative ‘Mr. Rickshaw Wala’. The initiative aims to offer a memorable ride of the holy city to tourists as well as to provide employment to rickshaw pullers.  Divisional commissioner Nitin Ramesh Gokarn flagged off the ‘royal rickshaws.’ Several leading hoteliers and tour operators took part in the event. A cultural programme was also organised on the occasion. The co-founder of the online portal, Avinav Peshwani said with the official inauguration of the services of ‘Mr. Rickshaw Wala’, the tourists and denizens could now enjoy a heritage ride of the ancient temple town. These ‘royal rickshaws’ are well equipped with an audio-enabled informative tablet which gives a detailed intro of the heritage sites and famed ghats. Besides, basic necessities including water bottles, sanitizers, first-aid kit, mini-lockers and journals, magazines are also made available for those willing to enjoy a ride.

 
 
Odisha’s culture at the forefront

Bhubaneswar witnessed a unique carnival showcasing the rich cultural heritage of India through a procession of tableaux, dances and folk arts on the occasion of World Tourism Day. The carnival, jointly organised by the tourism department in association with the Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Association of India, was flagged off by Governor SC Jamir. A vintage car rally and a biker’s rally were also the major draws of the rally from Master Canteen to Ram Mandir Square. “We wanted to make the general public aware about the importance of tourism. Each and everyone can contribute as well as gain from the tourism industry. The carnival is an attempt to showcase the vibrant and the rich cultural heritage of the state and the huge potential in this sector,” said state tourism minister Ashok Chandra Panda.

 
 
Dhoni to be face of Jharkhand tourism

Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das recently indicated that India ODI captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni might be the state tourism ambassador. “Our aim is to convert Jharkhand into a tourism destination at par with international standards in the next five years. We will ensure state-of-the-art infrastructure is made available in terms of hospitality,” said Das, who unveiled a new tourism policy at Ranchi recently. The state government will acquire the services of brand ‘Dhoni’ to give its objective of promoting tourism a heady start in coming months. “Dhoni has agreed. However, an official announcement is yet to come out,” tourism secretary Avinash Kumar said.

 
 
Air India’s Discover India special fares relaunched

On the occasion of World Tourism Day, Ashwani Lohani, CMD, Air India, along with Dr. Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State with Independent Charge for Tourism & Culture and Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Government of India, relaunched ‘Discover India’ special fares for travellers to India. Pankaj Srivastava, Director Commercial, Air India, had announced the relaunch at this year’s IATO Convention in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. Dr. Sharma said that under the scheme, a tourist can discover India in 1 or 2 weeks at a reasonable travel cost. A tourist can buy 5 coupons for `32,500 (15 days’ validity) or 10 coupons for `60,000 (30 days’ validity) for travelling to Indian destinations, serviced by Air India and Alliance Air, without getting affected by ticket price fluctuations, he stated. Lohani added that the national carrier is working on starting new domestic connections soon.

 
 
MTDC launches heli tourism in Mumbai

Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) along with Girisons Airways has started heli tourism in Mumbai. The helicopters will operate from Juhu airport every Sunday for 15 minutes, and the fare is `3,939, excluding taxes. Paraag Jaiin Nainutia, MD, MTDC, at the launch, said, “Mumbai has the most amazing skyline, an impressive and breath-taking view. There are many tourist spots that look outstanding from an aerial view. The idea is to provide an enthralling experience to tourists and boost tourism in state. Mumbai attracts many foreign and domestic tourists, and heli tourism will definitely help in increasing footfalls.”

 
 
‘Made-in-India’ airline software goes global

Amidst a raging debate about whether or not India has the abilities to produce world-class software products, a Chennai –based travel technology firm has bagged an enviable partnership with global industry giant Sabre solely on the strength of its innovations. Infiniti Software Solutions, started in 2005 and headed by IIT alumnus Ananth Narasimhan, has entered into an agreement with Sabre to cater to the latter’s present and prospective global clientele. Under the strategic agreement, Sabre will leverage Infiniti’s flagship software for group revenue management to further automate and expand capabilities within the Sabre AirVision Commercial Planning suite. Infiniti’s group revenue management solution, GroupRM, allows airlines to efficiently manage group requisitions, pricing, negotiations, payment and fulfilment through a single and simple web-based interface.

 
 
AI flights from San Francisco to New Delhi

Air India will be launching a non-stop flight between New Delhi and San Francisco from December 2 this year with  a thrice a week frequency. This will meet a long-pending demand of Indian IT professionals. Air India will now fly to four US airports including the earlier three: New York, Newark and Chicago (daily non-stop flights). Air India will be using its Boeing 777-200 (Long Range) aircraft to operate its new route. The three weekly flights will take off from Indira Gandhi International Airport on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays every week. Similarly, the return flight would depart early morning departure from San Francisco and arrive in Delhi in the afternoon.

 
 
Google to set up Wi-Fi at 400 Indian stations

Google has announced plans to make Internet accessible to one crore passengers at 100 busiest railway stations in India by the end of next year and will later expand it to 300 other stations, making it one of the largest public Wi-Fi projects in the world. “I’m very proud to announce that it’s the train stations of India that are going to help get millions of people online. In the past year, 100 million people in India started using the Internet for the first time,” Google’s India-born CEO Sundar Pichai said in a blog post yesterday after his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The network will expand quickly to cover 100 of the busiest stations in India before the end of 2016, with the remaining stations following in quick succession, he announced.

 
 
Paperless ticketing to be a reality

Monthly season tickets and platform tickets will soon go paperless as railways is planning to launch a mobile-based application for the same shortly. Paperless monthly season tickets and platform tickets in cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata have been launched in September, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said while launching the paperless unreserved ticketing system for Delhi-Palwal suburban section. Two other initiatives cash/smart card-operated ticket-vending machine at the New Delhi Railway Station and a mobile app for freight operation monitoring ‘Parichaalan’ have been launched as well.

 
 
Trial run of vacuum toilets

Stinking washrooms on trains may become a thing of the past with the railways launching the trial run of vacuum toilet on Dibrugarh Rajdhani. Vacuum toilet, a first in railways, will be on trial in Dibrugarh Rajdhani from September 14. Fitted in the First AC coach at an estimated cost of about 3 lakh, the vacuum toilet is also equipped with the bio-digester system. Vacuum toilets are currently operational in aircraft.

 
 
Knowledge Portal launched

Railways Minister Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu has launched the “Indian Railway Knowledge Portal” for dissemination of information about the Indian railroads. “Knowledge, innovation and research plays a very important role in any organisation; the spread of knowledge must be such that whole society contributes towards the development of the nation,” Prabhu said at an event to launch the web-based portal. The ministry elaborated in a statement that the portal is an ‘one stop’ arrangement for those who are interested in Indian Railways, both from a technical point of view, as well as enthusiasts.

 
 
6 trains shifted from New Delhi station

In order to decongest busy stations, Indian Railways has shifted several trains from New Delhi railway station to Anand Vihar and Sarai Rohilla in December as per the new time table. In December, some trains will also be leaving from Old Delhi station to Sarai Rohilla station. However, Kathgodam Shatabdi, popular with tourists, will be shifting from Anand Vihar to New Delhi in December. Howrah Express, Bhubaneswar Express and Yuva Express are among the six trains which have been shifted from New Delhi to Anand Vihar. Sultanpur Express and Raxaul Express have shifted from Old Delhi to Sarai Rohilla station.

 
 
Indian Railways new time table is out

The ‘Train at Glance’ schedule will contain information about new stoppages in Duronto train service, details about train reservation, tatkal scheme and refund rules. The new Indian Railways time table known as “Train at Glance” has user-friendly features like how to read a table, route map, station index, trains between important stations, station code index, Train number index and train name index. Information about advance reservation period, reservation through internet, Tatkal scheme, refund rules, disaster management, rail travel concessions and catering services has been retained in the new Indian Railways Time Table. Since there were no announcement of new trains in the Budget 2015-16, only six new express trains introduced recently owing to public demand find place in the new Time Table.

 
 
Women’s special trains to continue

The Eastern Railway took a U-turn on its decision to offer coaches in women’s special trains to men. The decision was reverted after a lot of agitation and blockades by the female passengers and also by male passengers who claimed to have been pushed out of the Mathrubhumi train.

 
 
Modification in Tatkal rules

If a group of passengers are travelling on Tatkal tickets, only one passenger needs to produce an identification proof during the journey, according to an Indian Railways news release. No photocopy of proof is required at the time of booking of a Tatkal ticket to indicate the same while booking through the internet.

 
 
Alternative trains for waiting list passengers

Indian Railways is thinking about providing a back-up train for those passengers on wait-list who still want to reach their destination the same day. The Railways is thinking of provide a place in another train running on “the same route, the same ticket.” This may help to reduce last minute cancellations.

 
 
Vizag-New Delhi AP Express started

The train announced to be introduced in the railway budget 2014-15 has commenced. With train no 22415, it is a tri-weekly service that will leave Vishakhapatnam at 7:45 am on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday and will reach New Delhi at 7 pm on Thursday, Saturday and Monday respectively. While from New Delhi to Vishakhapatnam, the train 22416 will depart from New Delhi on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6:40 in the morning and will reach Vishakhapatnam at 6:45 pm the next day.

 
 
New AC coach with improved features

The Integrated Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai, has made a new coach unveiled by the Indian Railways. This AC 3 tier has wider stainless steel ladders for people to climb, Braille stickers for the visually impaired, two CCTV cameras at the entrance of the coach, both way swinging door to ensure faster evacuation and bio toilets. 

 
 
Air Astana introduces ‘Economic Sleeper’

Inspired from Air New Zealand’s Sky couch concept, Air Astana has introduced ‘Economic Sleeper class’. Belonging in the first few rows of the Economic class, the passengers opting for ‘Economic Sleeper Class’ are brought mattress layers, duvets and pillow seats to transform seats into beds allowing them to stretch their legs and sleep. It perfectly blends the Skycouch and Premium Economy concepts. 

 
 
AI flies from Varanasi to Sharjah

Air India Express has commenced its 186 seater Boeing 737-800 aircraft which will depart from Varanasi thrice a week at 5 pm and arrive at Sharjah at 7:30 pm. The return flight will depart from Sharjah at 10:50 am and will arrive in Varanasi at 4 pm. A hub and spoke service from Varanasi has also been introduced which will help connect it to various international destinations via Air India flights.

 
 
Direct flight from Mumbai to Beijing

Air China is launching a direct flight from Mumbai to Beijing with effect from October 25. This flight will fly from Mumbai four days a week – Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 2:30 IST and arrive in Beijing at 11:20 CST. The return flights will operate on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, leaving Beijing at 19:40 CST and arriving in Mumbai the next day at 1:00 IST. The Airbus A330-300 has a seating capacity of 301 passengers offering 30 seats in Business class, 16 in Premium Economy and 255 in Economy class.

 
 
Chennai Airport terminals to be rebuilt

The old Kamaraj Domestic and Anna International terminals will be rebuilt on a par with ultra modern structures at a cost of about Rs 1000 crore, a top official has said. “We have decided to upgrade the old terminals through reconstruction and these will be merged with new ones,” Airports Authority of India chairman RK Srivastava said. The to-be built facility will be linked with the terminals commissioned three years ago, he added. He said the project is expected to cost about Rs 1000 crore. Member (Planning) S Raheja said structural issues with terminals commissioned in 2013 will be rectified during the construction of new terminals. Collapsing glass ceilings was among the major issues confronted by the authorities in the new terminals.

 
 
Air India allowing 25Kg free baggage

Air India has allowed 25kg free check-in luggage for passengers travelling in economy class in domestic flights until February 7, 2016. While other airlines allow only 15kg, Air India has gone a step further. This offer will, however, not be available to passengers travelling exclusively on Alliance Air flights.

 
 
For sale: London City Airport for £2 billion

London City Airport has been put up for sale with its owners reportedly hoping to attract a price tag of up to £2 billion on the fast-growing airport. It is majority owned by US investment fund Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), which has appointed advisers to work on a deal for the airport. London City has seen passenger numbers more than double from 2 million in 2005 to an expected 4.1 million this year. Michael McGhee, GIP director for transport, told the FT market conditions were favourable for a sale. He said: “The market demand for quality airports is very high.” GIP also holds stakes in Gatwick and Edinburgh airports, but the investment firm added it has no plans to sell its stakes in these firms. It bought the airport from Irish businessman Dermot Desmond in 2006 for £750 million.

 
 
‘The Google Cultural Institute of India’ unveiled

Dr Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State for Culture (Independent Charge), Tourism (Independent Charge) and Civil Aviation has unveiled new online content on ‘The Google Cultural Institute’, an initiative to make India’s heritage accessible for global audiences and to preserve it digitally for generations to come. The initiative began as a joint effort between Google and the Union Ministry of Culture in 2012 with the National Museum and the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi as initial partners. 
The latest content loaded on the site includes material from new partner institutions across the country. The new partners include the Archeological Survey of India, Salar Jung Museum (Hyderabad), Victoria Memorial Hall (Kolkata) along with other prominent institutes Dastkari Haat Samiti, Devi Art Foundation, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Academy of Fine Arts and Literature, Kalakriti Archives, Heritage Transport Museum, Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres & Ashrams and the RamamaniIyengar Memorial Yoga Institute. Together with new exhibitions from long­standing partners such as the National Museum, over 2,000 new images and 70 virtual exhibits have been added to the platform. The collection also includes 26 new virtual tours of famous sites such as the Ekattarso Mahadeva Temple and the royal saloon that once was part of the Palace on Wheels, captured by Google’s Street View.
The collections are available on www.google.com/culturalinstitute/collections. In an effort to make the content more accessible, Dastkaari Haat Samiti, Devi Art Foundation, Heritage Transport Museum and Kalakriti Archives are launching mobile apps. In addition, Dastkaari Haat Samiti, Kalakriti Archives, RamamaniIyengar Memorial Yoga Institute and Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres will use embedding technologies to deliver these virtual exhibits on their 
own websites. 

 
 
North Korea changes time zone by 30 mins

North Korea has announced it will create a new time zone called ‘Pyongyang time’. North Korea currently operates on the same time zone as South Korea and Japan (GMT+9). However, the new time zone will be 30 minutes behind Seoul and Tokyo (GMT+8.5). In an official statement, the KCNA, North Korea’s state news agency, said that the move was to coincide with the 70-year anniversary of the end of Japanese colonial rule in Korea in 1945. North Korea has announced that it is winding its clocks back by 30 minutes to create a new “Pyongyang Time” - breaking from a time standard imposed by what it called “wicked Japanese imperialists” more than a century ago.

 
 
Nepal passports for transgender citizens

Nepal has become the latest country to start issuing third gender passports to its transgender citizens. Instead of ‘M’ for male or ‘F’ for female, Monica Shahi’s passport is marked with an ‘O’ for other, the first time the designation has been used in the Himalayan country. Despite being generally conservative when it comes to matters of sex and gender, Nepal has joined a small but growing club who have decided to recognise transgender people as a distinct legal entity, alongside Bangladesh, India, Denmark and Australia.

 
 
SF paints city walls with anti-pee paint

San Francisco has painted nine walls with a repellent material that makes pee spray back off them in a bid to tackle public urination. The walls have been coated with the clear liquid repellent material, which goes on much like paint. Any urine that hits the material sprays back on a person’s shoes and trousers. Mohammed Nuru, director of the city’s public works department, got the idea from St Pauli quarter in Hamburg, Germany, where walls are painted with the clear material to discourage late-night beer drinkers from urinating in alley ways. It is San Francisco’s latest effort in its battle against public urination. The city also has solar-powered rolling toilets in one neighbourhood and attendants manning public toilets to encourage people to use them.

 
 
Wifi services at heritage sites

Twenty five Adarsh monuments have been identified by the Archaelogical Survey of India where free wifi would be available for the first 30 minutes and thereafter it would be chargeable.  Red Fort, Humayun’s Tomb, Ruins at Hampi, Taj Mahal, temples in Khajuraho are among the 25 monuments.

 
 
Taj Mahal gets a Twitter account

This Independence day saw the launching of the official twitter account of Taj Mahal by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. Taj Mahal became the first historical monument in the world to get a twitter account. Within an hour, it had more than 2,000 followes and in two days, over 13,000.

 
 
Three special trains for Kawad Yatra

Northern Indian Railway has announced that it will run three special trains for the annual Kawad Yatra which is slated to begin on August 1 this year. Two trains will run on a daily basis from Delhi to Haridwar via Shamli while another special train is slated to run also on a daily basis via Hapur from August 1 through August 12. Kawad Yatra starts on August 1 this year and the devotees will pay obeisance at various Shiva temples till August 12.

 
 
Korea Rail to build 500km line in Vietnam

Korea Rail Network Authority and Seoul University are to conduct a feasibility study for a new rail link between the Laotian capital Vientiane and the southern Vietnamese port of Vung Tau. The study is being funded by a $US 3m grant from the Korea International Cooperation Agency and is due to be completed in 2017. The project is likely to involve building a 500km line from Vientiane to join up with the existing coastal railway in Vietnam. A new line would also be required in southern Vietnam to connect the main line from a point east of Ho Chi Minh City to Vung Tau.

 
 
Rate your railway on the go

Passengers on the Indian Railways will now be able to give their rating of services while travelling following the launch of an IVR-based feedback collection drive. The feedback system questions passengers on six service parameters including the cleanliness of the station, platform, train, catering quality, air conditioning efficiency, food quality, punctuality of the train and the quality of bedrolls, the Indian Railways said in a statement. However, of the six services, feedback is being sought for only two services immediately, the statement said without specifying which two. The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has been entrusted with the responsibility of obtaining the feedback through an interactive voice response (IVR) system.

 
 
Indian Railways launches Suvidha train

Ministry of Railways had earlier announced to run Suvidha trains replacing the Premium Trains from July 2015. The first such Suvidha Train was started from July 13, 2015 between Gorakhpur and Anand Vihar (Delhi). This train ran from July 13 to July 30 this year. The train number 05027 Gorakhpur-Anand Vihar biweekly Suvidha special train started from Gorakhpur at 20:55 hrs and reached Anand Vihar next day at 11:00 hrs. Suvidha types of trains are planned to be run during peak summer, winter rush seasons, festivals and on other occasions. Only confirmed and RAC tickets will be issued on these trains. Advance Reservation Period (ARP) of the train will be maximum 30 days and minimum 10 days. Tickets for the train will be available both at counters and through IRCTC. No concession, no free/complimentary pass will be applicable, and, for children full adult fare shall be charged.

 
 
Indian Railways crosses 50,000 coaches

The Indian Railways rolled out its 50,000th coach marking a significant juncture in the public carrier’s history, with Minister Suresh Prabhu saying we have to “think differently” for the 100,000th coach. Launching the coach, manufactured at the Integrated Coach Factory (ICF) at Chennai, through video conferencing from, Prabhu said it is totally different from the first coach rolled out from the factory over 60 years ago. “There have been many changes in terms of quality, interior design, speed, fuel consumption, noise reduction in the coach manufacturing technology since the first coach was manufactured here 60 years ago,” he said, dedicating the 50,000th coach, a three-tier AC coach, to the nation.

 
 
Jet Airways’ new website

The new website jetairways.com has been built around the theme ‘Designed to Delight.’ The all new website features user friendly navigation, simplified and integrated booking process and responsive design for a seamless experience across desktops, tablets and smartphones. The website features 61 country specific sites including sites in eight languages besides English. 

 
 
NY LaGuardia to be razed and rebuilt

Air travellers who love to hate New York’s crummy LaGuardia Airport are digesting unexpected news: long debated plans to upgrade its facilities, especially its dilapidated central terminal, have been shelved in favour of simply razing the existing benighted mess and starting all over again. What is proposed is an entirely new LaGuardia that will bring together its existing four terminals into one single hub that will be shifted about 600ft to the south and significantly expand taxi- and gate-space for aircraft and deal with the airport’s dismal on-time record. LaGuardia, which offers only short-haul flights to domestic destinations as well as to Canada – Denver is the farthest you can fly – is the 20th-busiest airport in America.

 
 
15 kg check-in bags won’t be charged

Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has rejected the plea of some airlines to allow them to charge for the check-in baggage less than 15 kg. More than 15 kg can be charged separately on opt-in basis as part of the unbundling of services. The DGCA circular came days after the government asked it not to accept a proposal by three budget airlines – IndiGo, AirAsia India and SpiceJet – to allow them charge for the check-in baggage. The carriers had approached the regulator with the idea of “zero bag fare”, whereby passengers having no check-in luggage would be given a discount on ticket. In April this year, DGCA had allowed domestic carriers to unbundle their services and charge separately for facilities such as preferred seats, meals on board and use of lounges.

 
 
Trial of e-Gate system at Bengaluru

Bengaluru International Airport Limited (BIAL) has started the trial run of the automated e-Gates at Kempegowda International Airport (KIAB) at the domestic pre-embarkation security check areas. To pass through this gate, passengers can flash their 2D bar-coded paper or mobile boarding pass at the e-Gate, which opens automatically upon verifying the validity. The relevant details are also displayed on the associated screen inbuilt into the e-Gate. After the mandatory security check, passengers enter the Security Hold Area (SHA). The e-Gate eliminates the need for a manual security stamp on the boarding pass and CCTV cameras have been deployed for additional security measure, a release states. Once passengers cross the e-Gate, they do not produce their boarding pass again until boarding begins. This facility is being deployed on select flights only for one lane and will progressively expand in scope, subject to mandatory government clearances. The e-Gate unit has been provided by KABA, Germany - a provider of access solutions for the air transport industry.

 
 
First ever extreme bike tour to Cuba

Adventure seekers have a brand new destination to explore by motorbike, with one of the world’s leading motorcycle tour companies, Extreme Bike Tours, launching its first-ever Cuban tour in 2016. The first tour outside Asia offered by the company since its formation by adrenalin provider, Zander Combe, in 2011, the new 13-day Cuba Motorcycle tour will have two departures in 2016 – February 21 and March 6. Adventurers will enjoy the personalised, small-group feel as they ride a Harley Davidson, BMW 800cc or Suzuki VStrom across the exotic Caribbean island. Famous for its rustic, colonial buildings, cigar factories, salsa clubs and 1950s American classic Chevrolets, mysterious, time-warped Cuba is tipped to modernise soon so 2016 is an ideal time to experience a taste of the past before the country catches up to the 21st century.

 
 
Seychelles announces video competition

The Seychelles Tourism Board has announced a major international video competition which starting July 29, 2015, involving participants to register their personal details via a dedicated website and, once the competition commences, uploading a personal video of their holiday experience in the Seychelles (My Seychelles Experience) of maximum two minutes’ duration. The competition, which is part of the ‘I Love Seychelles’ national theme for 2015, boasts one of the richest prizes ever offered by the Seychelles Tourism Board: a once-in-a-lifetime, all inclusive, VIP holiday to Seychelles including business class air tickets; VIP transfers upon arrival in and departure from Seychelles; a 3-night stay on fabulous North Island; a four-night stay at Four Seasons Resort’s luxurious Ocean Villa; optional two-day sea cruise among the islands, plus a special surprise holiday gift package courtesy of the Seychelles Tourism Board.

 
 
Maccabi Games for first time in Berlin

For the first time ever, the European Maccabi Games, a sports meet for Jewish athletes from 36 countries, will be taking place in Berlin at the city’s Olympiapark. More than 2,300 participants will compete in 19 sports from July 27 to August 5, 2015. On July 28, the Maccabi Games opened at the Waldbühne with a speech by Federal President Joachim Gauck and the entrance of the participating nations. Singers Adel Tawil and Matisyahu and Berlin band Jewdyssee provided music for the ceremony which will close with a fireworks display over Olympiapark. Athletes participating in the games will go up against professional and celebrity teams in “Let’s Play Together” matches on 2 and 3 August. The DFB All-Stars with former German national team players will take on the athletes in football; players from Maccabi “Electra” Tel Aviv and Alba Berlin, in basketball. Admission is free.

 
 
President inaugurates heritage clock towers

Two 1920-era heritage clock towers housed in the sprawling campus of the Rashtrapati Bhawan have been carefully restored and President Pranab Mukherjee inaugurated the vintage structures last month. The towers in schedule ‘A’ and schedule ‘B’ areas of the President’s Estate were built by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1924 and 1925 respectively. Lutyens was the chief architect for the design of the imperial capital of New Delhi, who also co-designed the Rashtrapati Bhawan. The schedule ‘A’ clock tower was built as an institute for men of the President’s Bodyguard. Since 1947, it has been occupied by the President’s Bodyguard as its Regimental Head Quarter. The schedule ‘B’ clock tower was known as ‘Band House’ and used for residential purposes. Both the clock towers are centrally located in the avenue that runs diagonally and is part of the original design intent of Lutyens. The event also marked the completion of the third year of his presidency.

 
 
Unesco to the aid of Humayun’s Tomb

More than 20 years after Humayun’s Tomb was declared a world heritage site, six other monuments around it have been covered in the same glory.  After the statement issued by Unesco, a United Nations agency, Nila Gumbad, Afsarwala Complex, Isa Khan’s garden tomb, Bu Halima garden tomb and Arab ki Serai are officially part of the World Heritage site. The heritage zone of the complex has thus more than doubled from 26 acres to 54 acres, and its buffer zone has also increased. This has been made possible by a boundary clarification and retrospective recognition for the other monuments within the complex as “contemporary 16th-century garden tombs within the property forming a unique ensemble.” An Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) official said the 11-acre Batashewala complex where conservation was recently completed is now in the buffer zone. So are Sundarwala Mahal and Sundarwala Burj inside Sunder Nursery and Sabz Burj on Mathura Road.

 
 
SMS alert service for cancelled trains

Indian Railways have begun sending SMS alerts to passengers if the train they have booked tickets for is cancelled. The Ministry of Railways said it had started another passenger-friendly measure on a pilot-basis, under which SMS messages would be sent to passengers if the train in which they have booked their tickets is cancelled. “We commenced the SMS-based service from June 21 on all India basis. Under this pilot project, the SMS messages are sent to those passengers who are boarding at originating station. At a later stage, this will be extended to cover en-route stations also, a Railway Ministry spokesman Anil Kumar Saxena has said. “The SMS will be sent to the mobile number entered by the passenger in ticket reservation slips. The cancellation information would be sent in advance to the passengers to help them plan alternative arrangement,” he said.

 
 
Mobile app to get your coach cleaned

In line with Modi government’s ‘Swachh Bharat’ mission, the railways is to launch ‘Clean My Coach’ mobile app for all long-distance trains. Once operational, a passenger can file an online complaint which will be attended within 15 minutes. After successful testing of the scheme in Central Railways, the transporter plans to extend it to long routes across the country. It will ensure speedy cleaning of coaches or toilets in long-distance trains which have housekeeping facilities on-board.

 
 
Indian Railways to revive Bandra station

Union Ministry of Railways and UNESCO entered into an agreement to upgrade Bandra railway station, a heritage structure, and develop it into a tourist destination. Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and UNESCO representative to India, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka Shigeru Aoyagi signed the agreement in this regard during a programme held on the premises of Bandra station, which is listed as a grade-1 heritage building. “Bandra railway station is the first national heritage building that would be upgraded with the help of UNESCO, after the Victoria Terminus (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus- CST), which was in the list of World Heritage buildings, upgraded by the UN body,” Manu Goel, Executive Director, Heritage, Railway Board.

 
 
Katra-Kalka train for Vaishno Devi pilgrims

Catering to the growing demand of pilgrims travelling to the cave shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi, Indian Railways is running a new bi-weekly train for Katra from Kalka. The schedule of the inaugural run of Kalka-Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra train from Kalka is 1.40 pm and from Katra at 9.30 pm the next day, said a senior Northern Railway official. The new train will have AC2, AC3, sleeper, and general second-class accommodation. The train will depart from Kalka at 7 pm on every Tuesday and Friday to arrive at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra station at 4.45 am the next day. From Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra station, the train will depart at 9.30 pm on every Wednesday and Saturday to arrive at Kalka at 7.50 pm the next day. The train will travel to Katra en route Chandigarh, Jalandhar, Jammu, and Udhampur.

 
 
New international airport in Oman

A new international airport has opened in Salalah, Oman. The airport is among the most modern in the world, and offers the latest facilities and equipment, as per a release. The Salalah airport includes a passenger terminal of more than 65,000 sq mtr and can accommodate two million passengers per annum. It has a four-km-long and 75-mtr-wide main runway suited for big aircraft like the Airbus A380. The airport also has the latest air navigation and auto landing systems as per international standards and regulations, and a 57-mtr-high control tower equipped with modern systems and technologies. The Salalah airport includes 29 lifts, 13 escalators, and eight tubes for passengers to board the aircraft. It also includes a VIP lounge in addition to a car parking area that accommodates 2,200 vehicles, including VIP and taxi parking lots.

 
 
Attractive ‘Hand Baggage Only’ fares

SpiceJet has introduced ‘Hand Baggage Only’ fares, offering a discount for those passengers who carry hand-baggage only. With this, SpiceJet is helping lower fuel consumption and emissions as well, as per a release. The Hand Baggage Only fare will be available on most direct domestic flights (including via flights), with minimum 30 days advance purchase. International and connecting flights are not included. Travellers with check-in baggage can still check in their 15-kg baggage for free using the SpiceSaver and other fares. The airline has made it clear that it is not charging for checked baggage for those who select the normal fares that exist today.

 
 
New weekend flights on Mumbai-Goa route

Vistara will commence weekend flights between Mumbai and Goa from July 17, 2015. From September 14, however, the flights will operate daily. Bookings for the flights are open currently on the airline’s website and travel partners. With the addition of the Mumbai-Goa flights, Vistara now operates 243 weekly frequencies connecting ten destinations - Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Bagdogra, Guwahati, Goa, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Mumbai, and Pune.

 
 
Airports to be entry points for e-Tourist

Seven more airports, including Varanasi and Ahmedabad, will soon be declared as entry points along with the existing nine where citizens from eligible countries can land with an e-Tourist Visa. Besides these two, Jaipur, Amritsar, Gaya, Lucknow, and Tiruchirapalli will be declared as entry points as the government is expecting a rush of Chinese tourists to India when the e-Tourist Visa facility is finally rolled out to the citizens of the neighbouring country. The existing nine airports where one can land with an e-Tourist Visa are Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Goa, Kochi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Thiruvananthapuram. “We are also planning to set up additional counters in the existing nine airports as we are expecting a rush of Chinese tourists,” an official from the union Ministry of Home Affairs said.

 
 
Top 10 fastest WiFi airports

A recent survey conducted by users of the Rotten WiFi app revealed the best airports in terms of their WiFi service. Dublin Airport (DUB)/Ireland in Europe, Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK)/Thailand in Asia and Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport (CHA)/USA in America emerged as the best in business. The survey, which was conducted by users of the Rotten WiFi app and website, tested and evaluated the quality of WiFi services in more than 130 airports in 53 countries. The Top 10 airports in terms of the fastest download speeds (Mbps) feature five airports in Europe, two in the US and three in Asia.
Here is the list of the top 10 Airports with the fastest WiFi:
1. Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK)/Thailand – 41.45
2. Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport (CHA)/TN,USA – 30.98
3. Dublin Airport (DUB)/Ireland – 19.45
4. Vilnius International Airport (VNO)/Lithuania – 18.04
5. Helsinki Airport (HEL)/Finland – 17.46
6. JL Airport Ngurah Rai/ Indonesia – 16.01
7. Kaohsiung International Airport (KHH/RCKH)/Taiwan – 15.55
8. Stockholm Arlanda Airport (ARN)/Sweden – 15.48
9. Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport – 15.28
10. Frankfurt Airport (FRA)/Germany – 14.47

 

 
 
India’s popularity surges globally

India is fast emerging as an increasingly popular destination among foreigners, finds global travel search engine, Skyscanner. With the Indian government placing emphasis on boosting Inbound Tourism, the introduction of the e-Tourist Visa for 150 countries is a major milestone for driving the tourism industry, a study by the travel site reveals. Currently applicable to 77 nations, the e-Tourist Visa scheme has given an impetus to India’s inbound travel. “A staggering growth of 1024.4 per cent in tourist arrivals on e-Tourist Visa between January and May 2015 proves that India is fast becoming a more popular destination amongst foreigners,” states Skyscanner. Kavitha Gnanamurthy of Skyscanner India, said, “The decision to include tourism at the centre of its manifesto has signalled a new dawn for India’s tourism sector. With the introduction of the e-Tourist Visa facility to 77 countries, travelling to India has become much more convenient, and has further propelled tourist arrivals from around the world. With the government’s pro-tourism initiatives, India has witnessed an upswing of 9.2 per cent in inbound travel from January to May this year.”

 
 
Steffi Graf to endorse Kerala’s Ayurveda

Tennis legend Steffi Graf has been appointed as the Ayurveda brand ambassador of God’s Own Country Kerala. A decision in this regard was taken by the cabinet, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said. The Kerala tourism department was given sanction to sign an agreement with Graf to become Ayurveda brand ambassador as part of the department’s ‘Visit Kerala Scheme’, Chandy said. “The sanction has been given for the tourism department to see that talks are held with her agents to ensure she endorses Kerala Tourism and ayurveda,” he told reporters . The tourism department had already held discussions and reached an agreement with the German former World No. 1 tennis player, who has bagged 22 Grand slam single titles.

 
 
Free Wi-Fi at the Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal gives you a new experience as now you can upload selfies or photographs directly from Taj with the monument offering free Wi-Fi to all its visitors. The free Wi-Fi facility will be for half an hour. The facility was launched by the Union Minister for Communications Ravi Shankar Prasad. Anyone willing to go beyond the stipulated half an hour span would need to pay `30 an hour. This facility is being introduced by BSNL with support from a Bengaluru-based company, Quadgen. There are future plans of introducing Wi-fi in Fatehpur Sikri complex. The Agra Cantt railway station is already Wi-Fi enabled. Taj Mahal is a major tourist attraction in India which welcomed six million tourists in 2014.

 
 
8th Conventions India Conclave in August

After the success of the Bureau’s seven Preceding Conclaves, the “8th Conventions India – the Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Events Conclave” is being organised from the August 7-9, at The India Expo Mart Limited, Greater Noida. The Conclave will provide an opportunity to interact with the Bureau’s members who are specialists in the organisation of Meetings and Conventions and also other suppliers who would showcase their products during the Conclave. With the aim of strengthening the brand positioning of ‘Incredible India’ as a MICE destination, buyers from overseas have also been invited to meet with suppliers from India’s MICE industry and experience the products for themselves. During the Conclave, they would have opportunities to explore the possibilities of furthering their business opportunities in this emerging segment of the booming Indian Economy.

 
 
All eyes on the lighthouse at Fort Aguada

The towering 85 m-lighthouse with a spiral staircase on the Aguada plateau is among the many landmarks in India that are on the radar of the Directorate General of Lighthouses and Lightships for promotion as a tourism spot shortly. A policy is being drafted to develop lighthouses as tourism points, considering that globally they are tapped for their tourism potential. “The broad outlines for such a policy to leverage these assets for tourism are being finalised,” a directorate official said. Lighthouses are located at vantage points on the coastline and form picturesque locations. “They also attract local visitors and tourists due to their heritage value,” the official stated. The 37-year-old lighthouse at Fort Aguada is one of 13 such landmarks in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Gujarat and Lakshadweep that have been shortlisted by the directorate as sites with tourism potential.

 
 
New double-decker train to Lucknow

Indian Railways has started a much-awaited AC double-decker train for Lucknow from New Delhi. The train was flagged off by Home Minister Rajnath Singh. There had been a demand for the double-decker train from residents of Lucknow. Indian Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu, East Delhi MP Mahesh Girri and senior railway officials were present on the occasion. The AC double-decker train will be a bi-weekly service (Fridays and Sundays) starting from May 1. It will depart from Anand Vihar station at 2.10 PM and will reach Lucknow at 10.50 PM the same day. In the return leg, the train will depart from Lucknow at 5 AM to reach Anand Vihar at 1 PM.

 
 
Free WiFi at Secunderabad

Secunderabad railway station became the first in South Central Railway and the sixth across the Indian Railways to offer free WiFi to passengers. The railway station follows Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, New Delhi and Varanasi to offer free WiFi to passengers for a half an hour duration. The facility was inaugurated by Union Minister of State for Labour and Employment Bandaru Dattatreya in the presence of Rama Rao and SCR General Manager PK Srivastava.

 
 
Seaplane tourism in Goa from August

Tourists desirous of getting a bird’s eyeview of Goa can look forward to a thrilling experience as the state is set to launch a seaplane facility in August. Introduction of facilities like seaplanes, heli-tourism and amphibious buses would boost tourist inflow into the state by over 14 per cent, State Tourism Minister Dilip Parulekar said on the sidelines of the first ever trial landing of a seaplane in the Mandovi river off Panaji. The service will be owned and operated by Mehair (a private aviation company). Goa is the second state after Maharashtra to allow seaplanes for tourism.

 
 
India’s first private greenfield airport

Kazi Nazrul Islam Airport (Andal Airport) in Durgapur, India’s first private greenfield airport, started commercial operations on May 18 by welcoming an Air India Ltd’s aircraft. The ATR 42-320 with a capacity of 48 seats touched down tarmac of the Andal Airport from Kolkata. The service which takes 35 minutes flying time will operate six days a week, except Friday. The Aerotropolis project, which was envisioned by Bengal Aerotropolis Projects Limited (BAPL), with the technical expertise and guidance of Singapore-based Changi Airports International (CAI), finally realised its dream of enriching the regional air connectivity in India. 

 
 
Germany eyes bigger share of Indian travellers

Keeping in view the richness of Germany’s traditions and customs the German National Tourist Office has introduced its new campaign theme for 2015 – “Germany – Traditions and Customs”. The focus of this year’s campaign is strengthening Germany’s image as a traditional and cultural travel destination, highlighting the culinary delights, living traditions and arts and crafts. The campaign will encourage foreign visitors to sample Germany's many local specialties, to experience traditional festivals and customs in German regions and cities, such as the Munich Beer Festival and the Cologne Carnival, and to discover German cultural events and festivals, arts, crafts and music.
The German Ambassador to India, Michael Steiner, said: “Germany is bustling with more and more tourists every year attracted not only by the most fun city of the world, Berlin, or Munich with its Oktoberfest. In fact, there is so much to see and explore! Germany features an impressive diversity of cultural and natural, historical and contemporary sights and offers a wide range of activities in any season.” Romit Theophilus, Director, Sales and Marketing, GNTO India said: “We have been consistently placed amongst top three most popular European destinations out of India. Our 2015 campaign is focused on increasing the traditional and cultural diversity and supporting cross-cultural dialogue between Germany and other countries across the globe which will boost the rural areas.”

 
 
Vistara’s maiden Delhi-Lucknow flight

Vistara’s inaugural flight from New Delhi to Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh took off recently from Terminal 3 of the Indira Gandhi International Airport. This is the ninth destination in the airline’s network, which offers 239 weekly frequencies across metros and non-metros—Delhi, Lucknow, Pune, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Goa, Hyderabad, Guwahati, and Bagdogra. While there will be one daily flight on the Delhi-Lucknow-Delhi route to begin with, Vistara will increase the frequency to double daily flights from June 16, 2015. The airline will also soon commence services to Bengaluru

 

 
 
PATA Travel Mart at Bengaluru

The annual PATA Travel Mart will be held in Bengaluru this September. It will be the third time that the annual travel trade event takes place in India and for the first time in Bengaluru. The event has taken place at Hyderabad and New Delhi in earlier years. Among the chief highlights of this year’s event will be a special pavilion to promote “responsible tourism”, continued PTM Talks which are 20 power conferences with members of the travel and trade to improve social networking and sustainable tourism options. The Travel Technology Forum is also a new addition to provide members with the latest on tech developments and the event will also be the launch of the Tourism Investment Forum.

 
 
Madhya Pradesh Tourism Year commences

The first leg of the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Year roadshow was conducted in New Delhi where members of the trade fraternity and guests were treated to a cultural extravaganza in the presence of Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan. The get-together that showcased destinations, handicrafts, tribal dance forms, cuisine, Tourism Year, Simhastha 2016 and investment opportunities in the state was attended by a galaxy of people from the travel trade, industry associations, trade associations, media and dignitaries from various walks of life. The government has gone many steps further in its quest to realise the true tourism potential of the state by adopting a very progressive tourism policy, making a land bank and also offering attractive incentives to investors desirous of investing in the tourism sector in the state. These incentives can be availed of through a transparent online process. Madhya Pradesh has now emerged as the leading state of the country not only in the tourism sector but many other sectors as well. This get-together was a major step in the direction of strengthening this perception and attracting tourists as well as tourism investment in the state

 

 
 
Air New Zealand celebrates 75 years

75 lucky passengers who book economy fares on the New Zealand storefront of Air New Zealand’s website any time today or tomorrow will be randomly drawn to win a refund of their fare. Draws will be made and winners notified throughout the 48-hour period. *Terms and conditions apply. For customers flying domestically today the airline is bringing back the iconic Kiwi quiz show It’s in the Bag on a surprise and delight basis on main city and regional services. Customers will be given the chance to turn contestant and choose between ‘the money’ (Airpoints Dollars) or ‘the bag’ (a mystery prize).

 
 
Vistara to launch flight service to Pune

Tata’s full service passenger carrier Vistara commenced services between New Delhi and Pune from April 9. According to the airline, it will operate daily flight services between Delhi and Pune, the bookings for which have been opened. “We received a very enthusiastic response from customers when we recently launched flights to Goa and Hyderabad, clearly indicating such cities are fast emerging as attractive destinations for leisure and corporate travelers,” Vistara chief executive Phee Teik Yeoh said in a statement. Also, the airline has said it commenced services on Delhi-Guwahati-Bagdogra-Delhi route from April 2. The company, which initially started operations with 68 flights weekly in January, is expected to operate 164 flights a week by month-end. The airline will expand its fleet size to six aircraft by April and will soon announce the addition of more destinations. The airline currently has five Airbus A-320 aircraft. The joint venture (JV) airline between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines started commercial operations from January 9.

 
 
Now fly from Delhi to Dimapur

India’s northeastern state of Nagaland, bordering Myanmar, was on Wednesday connected with New Delhi through a daily IndiGo flight via Kolkata. Nagaland Chief Minister TR Zeliang inaugurated the flight at Dimapur Airport in presence of legislator Imtiwapang and IndiGo President Aditya Ghosh. He said: “In its ninth year of operations these new IndiGo flights to Dimapur are a reflection of airline company’s commitment to grow the northeast connectivity. IndiGo is proud to announce Dimapur as its 33rd domestic and 38th overall destination.” He added that the IndiGo would connect daily flights from Dimapur to Kolkata and Dimapur to New Delhi via Kolkata. “These flights are planned to cater to business and leisure travelers who are constantly on the lookout for new and affordable flying options. These new services would further consolidate IndiGo’s position as the fastest growing low cost airline in India, with its 623 daily flights connecting 38 destinations across the network.”

 
 
First transatlantic service flight

Final preparations are underway ahead of the launch of the first US transatlantic scheduled service from Newcastle International Airport on May 23. The United Airlines service to Newark / New York commences in just one month’s time. As the final countdown begins, thousands of eager holidaymakers and business travellers have already booked on the service, which is running five days a week to the Big Apple. David Laws, Chief Executive at Newcastle International Airport, said: “With just one month to go until the first flight on 23 May, preparations are well underway as we gear up for the arrival of United Airlines at Newcastle. United has a significant number of staff based in the UK and the US planning the operation of the new service this summer. The route will operate five times a week between 23 May and 7 September.”

 
 
Singapore Airlines launches innovative mobile-app

Singapore Airlines has launched an all-new mobile app for both Apple and Android smartphones, as well as for the Apple Watch. Introducing a redesigned user interface with new features, the app aims to provide a functional and seamless user experience.Features include a contextual homepage that displays the most relevant information about upcoming trips. A new ‘My Trips’ page keeps necessary information such as flight dates and booking references at the customer’s fingertips, while also providing customised images that offer a sneak preview of what to expect during upcoming flights.

 
 
Lucknow junction made wi-fi enabled

The Lucknow junction in Uttar Pradesh is now wi-fi enabled. Passengers on the railway station will get wi-fi services free of charge for 30 minutes after which they would be charged, divisional railway manager Anoop Kumar said. The facility, he added, would be available to people after they purchase platform tickets and in a 50 metre area in and around the railway station. This service is being launched by the North Eastern Railways. Earlier this year, Varanasi railway station and the ‘ghats’ (a flight of steps leading down to a river) along the Ganges river were also provided free wi-fi services.

 
 
Japanese maglev train breaks speed record

A Japan Railway maglev train hit 603 km per hour (374 miles per hour) on an experimental track in Yamanashi recently, setting a new world record. The train spent 10.8 seconds travelling above 600 km per hour, during which it covered 1.8 km (1.1 miles). That’s nearly 20 football fields in the time it took you to read the last two sentences. Takeo Ookanda, who runs an exhibition centre next to the test track, said witnesses erupted with applause when the new record was set. A trip that can take nearly five hours by car can be finished by the maglev train in 40 minutes.

 
 
MoU for ‘Railway Design Centre’

An  MoU has been signed for setting up a ‘Railway Design Centre’ in National Institute of Design’s Ahmedabad campus, which will be funded by the interest accrued on the endowment fund of `10 crore. This endowment fund is being deposited by the Ministry of Railways and will develop new concepts in design and innovations in various fields of railway functioning, like passenger amenities at station areas and in trains, improvement in coach layouts, environmental issues, maintenance tools, IT and communication aspects, etc.

 
 
Unreserved ticketing mobile app launched

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu recently launched a mobile application for paperless unreserved ticketing. The pilot project covers 15 stations in the southern region and will be extended to the entire country in phases. The minister said the Indian Railways is committed to ‘operation five minutes’ – whereby a passenger can purchase an unreserved ticket within five minutes and that the pilot project is the first step in that direction. “It (mobile application) will allow the passenger to buy a ticket on the move and allow him or her to board the train with the ticket secured on his or her mobile phone, without any need for printing the ticket,” Prabhu said. According to Ajay Shukla, member traffic, railway board, the unreserved ticketing system is an important revenue generating system developed by CRIS (Centre for Railway Information Systems). Nearly two crore passengers obtain unreserved tickets daily through nearly 11,470 counters at 5,836 locations generating about `52 crore of revenue per day. The application is being rolled out between Chennai’s Egmore and Tambaram suburban section of southern railway covering 15 stations.

 
 
150 Years of Winter Tourism in St. Moritz

To mark the Jubilee ‘150 Years of Winter Tourism’ this winter, the St. Moritz Design Gallery is displaying a collection of posters depicting winter in St. Moritz. The exhibition presents a colourful selection of posters which reflect a sporty, cultural and vibrant St. Moritz. Many of the advertised events and sports on the posters are still an integral part of the contrasting winter season in the Upper Engadine. The posters are from the extensive collection of the St. Moritz Archives and also show the development of graphic design – from the oldest poster of William Burger designed for the major 1911 Ski Race, through to the current designs of the renowned illustrator Christoph Niemann. The exhibition can be seen in 
the staircase of the Serletta parking garage in St. Moritz until June 2015.

 
 
Chile volcano erupts after 40 years

Southern Chile stayed on alert for a third eruption all of last month. Chile’s Calbuco volcano erupted twice in 24 hours and the National Geology and Mining Service of the country indicated more strength in the second eruption than the first one. According to the locals, the explosion caused immediate hysteria among residents and they could not believe what they were seeing. As the mayor of the nearby Puerto Montt, which is a popular tourist gateway of the Patagonia region, said that the residents were extremely frightened, some other locals said they were more excited than afraid. Massive ash clouds forced airlines to cancel flights and drifted as far away as southern Argentina — including the picturesque ski resort of Bariloche, which warned people to stay home to avoid inhaling dust particles.

 
 
World’s famous tourist cities

Euromonitor International’s latest data shows “Top City Destinations Ranking.” It tracks international tourist influxes for 100 major cities around the world. According to data with 25.6 million tourists each year, Hong Kong is the world’s most visited city, up 7.6 per cent from last year. Hong Kong has world class restaurants, high-end shopping at every turn and unparalleled luxury. The city is a mecca for tourists with deep pockets. The world can’t wait to see what this bustling metropolis has to offer. Spain raked in over $60 billion while France rounded out the top three with tourists spending over $56 billion in the country. Macao experienced a sizeable increase in tourism spending over the past year at 18 per cent.

 
 
Amarnath Yatra begins on July 2

The annual Amarnath Yatra (pilgrimage) will begin on July 2 on both the routes of Baltal and Pahalgram and conclude on August 29, official sources said. Registration is necessary for every pilgrim, they said. “Nobody, shall be allowed to undertake the journey without a yatra permit which is valid for the day and the route in question,” an official statement issued here said, adding that the process of registration of pilgrims has started. Pilgrims can secure their permits through selected branches of J&K Bank, Punjab National Bank and Yes Bank in various states and union territories. Pilgrims travelling by helicopter will not be required to register separately. However, the prescribed compulsory health certificate must be produced at the time of boarding the helicopter, the statement said.

 
 
Ghost station uncovered in London

The ghostly remains of a long-lost South London railway station – closed 100 years ago – have been uncovered by engineers constructing the Bermondsey Dive Under, as part of the Thameslink Programme. Southwark Park station, perched on a viaduct above Rotherhithe New Road, only served passengers from 1902 to 1915 before it closed for good. Now engineers working on a massive project to rebuild the railway in Bermondsey have rediscovered the former ticket hall and platforms. Project Manager Greg Thornett said: ““The Bermondsey Dive Under is a key part of the Thameslink Programme, creating the railway necessary to provide a frequent and reliable service through London Bridge and make a huge difference to passengers’ journeys , cutting journey times and making the services more reliable.” Thornett added: “Although the old viaducts will be replaced by modern structures, they are designed to remain in keeping with the older architecture. It’s exciting to see this transformation and it will be a real sense of achievement to see trains running on it.”

 
 
Indian e-visas for more countries

India’s e-tourist visa scheme, earlier known as tourist visa on arrival, has been extended to 31 more countries from May 1. The central government said the facility, started on November 27, 2014 to 45 countries from nine designated Indian airports, is being extended to 31 more countries, including Canada and France. New countries are Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Canada, Cayman Island, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominic an Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, France, Georgia, Grenada, Haiti, Holy See (Vatican), Honduras, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Paraguay, St Kitts and Nevis and Seychelles. With the new addition, the total number of countries under the scheme will go up to 76.

 
 
New efforts for conservation in Delhi

The Department of Archaeology, Govt. of NCT of Delhi and the Indian National Trust for Art & Cultural Heritage (INTACH) Delhi Chapter, have signed an MoU for the Protection and Conservation of 92 monuments in Delhi. The monuments belong to various periods. Work has begun on the conservation of 16 lesser known monuments. The first one is the Baoli located in the newly developed area of Dwarka towards the south west of Delhi. This is one of the very few monuments found in the locality of Dwarka.

 
 
Bogibeel rail bridge to be completed by 2017

Bogibeel Rail bridge, the country’s longest rail—cum—road bridge, originally scheduled to be inaugurated in 2009, would be completed by January 2017, a senior railway official has said. North East Frontier Railway General Manager R S Virdi said that there were certain hurdles during the initial period of construction of Bogibeel bridge over river Brahmaputra in Dibrugarh district. However, the misunderstandings have been cleared and work was progressing fast, he said at a seminar on ‘Mobilising the North East—Railways as agent of Change’. In North East, the railways was executing 34 projects costing `54,000 crore and work valued at `2,000 crore has been completed so far, Virdi said.

 

 
 
AP Express turns Telangana Express

The prestigious Andhra Pradesh Express running  between Hyderabad and New Delhi would soon be renamed as Telangana Express as demanded by the new state of Telangana. This was reaffirmed by Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs M Venkaiah Naidu while interacting with the media in the national capital,  and he assured that AP State would be adequately compensated with the introduction of a new express train on similar lines.

 

 
 
Wi-Fi at Lucknow station from March

From March, Lucknow Junction will start offering passengers free Wi-Fi facility. Under an ambitious move of the railway ministry to make railway stations wi-fi enabled, zonal railways are gradually rolling out the facility in A-1 category stations. Lucknow Junction with annual revenue of more than `60 crore, is A-1 category station and will get the facility before March 31. Initially, it will only be for 20 minutes and only in the passenger area. As of now, it is not planned if the facility will be extended beyond 20 minutes at the station. Keeping cost factor in consideration 20 minutes free facility has been offered initially. It's the signaling department of railways which is responsible for extending Wi-Fi facility to passengers.

 

 
 
CCTV Cameras on some trains

Giving priority to women's safety, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu today announced the utilisation of resources from the Nirbhaya Fund by Indian Railways, adding that surveillance cameras would be provided in select coaches. Mr Prabhu also announced a dedicated toll-free number, 182, for receiving any security-related complaints. "Indian Railways would utilise resources from the Nirbhaya Fund for augmenting security of women passengers... For the safety of women passengers, surveillance cameras will be provided on a pilot basis in selected mainline coaches and ladies' compartments of suburban coaches without compromising on privacy," he said. Additionally, an all-India helpline number, 138, would become functional to attend to the problems of passengers on a real time basis.

 

 
 
Now book your rail ticket 4 months in advance

Railway passengers soon will be able to book your rail ticket four months in advance instead of two months at present. Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha told reporters later that it would come into force in the next fortnight. Incidentally, the advance reservation period earlier was 120 days but was reduced to 60 days about two years back, a step the railways had then said was initiated to also check the tout menace. Member Traffic Ajay Shukla said advancing the reservation period once again to 120 days would discourage the touts as it involves more cancellation charges. Prabhu announced introduction of ‘operation five minutes’ scheme under which ticketless passengers can get regular tickets within five minutes of entering station. Provision of modified ‘hot buttons’, coin vending machines and ‘single destination teller windows’ will drastically reduce the transaction time, the Minister said. For the differently-abled travellers, a special initiative is also being launched whereby they can purchase concessional e-tickets after one-time registration. It is also proposed to work towards developing a multilingual e-ticketing portal.

 

 
 
SpiceJet to fly daily New Delhi-Varanasi

SpiceJet Ltd. has announced a new schedule with two daily return flights for New Delhi-Varanasi, effective March 1, 2015. The new schedule will allow day-returns from both Delhi and Varanasi, with morning and evening flights from both cities, as per a release. The new flights are part of SpiceJet’s enhanced schedule announced recently, with improved metro-to-metro connectivity, attractive day-return options, enhanced non-metro connections, and better timings. The network and schedule will be further enhanced in the Summer Schedule starting from March 29.

 

 
 
More airlines from Amritsar airport

More airlines are likely to start operations from Sri Guru Ram Dass Jee International Airport in Amritsar, Punjab. Besides, massive airport modernisation, plans are on to cater to bigger aircraft, said a top airport official. Gagan Malik, Officiating Director, Sri Guru Ram Dass Jee International Airport, informed that talks were on with many airlines to start operations from the Holy City. He also informed that Amritsar airport was sanctioned Rs 100 crore for modernisation to cater to bigger aircraft used by international carriers. He added that the airport was also declared an "alternate diversion destination" for many flights headed to Delhi.

 

 
 
IndiGo revamps website

IndiGo has revamped its website to enhance customer experience. The redesigned website, which got operational on March 1, features, option to book multi-leg flights, lowest fare display between cities on homepage, seven-day fare calendar, monthly fare calendar, session expiry alert to the visitor on website, and split PNR. The new homepage welcomes visitors with bold colours, an uncluttered design and featured content, according to a release. With a customer-centric layout, the new site is divided into sections, which allow visitors to access step-by-step information, right from the time they search for flights to the itinerary schedule post-payment, including a visual layout of the seats assigned inside the aircraft.

 

 
 
Vistara receives 5th A320 aircraft

Vistara took delivery of its fifth Airbus A320 aircraft in February. Vistara’s A320 aircraft have a capacity of 148 seats and are configured with 16 Business Class seats, 36 Premium Economy seats, and 96 Economy seats. With five aircraft in its fleet and Delhi as its operational hub, Vistara is looking to announce addition of more destinations. The addition of the fifth aircraft to the fleet is in sync with Vistara’s organic growth in route network and in response to the growing demand on its existing routes - Delhi, Mumbai, and Ahmedabad, according to a release. In order to cater to corporate travellers, Vistara is expanding its fleet to mount more services on the routes, besides introducing two destinations. Vistara now offers five daily services between Delhi and Mumbai with a choice of two early-morning departures from the two cities, in response to corporate feedback and demand.

 

 
 
Air India has new international addresses

The loss-making Air India Ltd has shifted its offices in Washington, Los Angeles and Amsterdam to less expensive premises, saving thousands of dollars every month in rentals. The national carrier has embarked on restructuring of overseas offices as part to its overall cost-cutting measures. Faced with intense competition from private airlines and high operational cost, Air India has been grappling with huge losses for the past few years. The airline's decision to shift its Washington office from January this year has brought down its monthly rental expense by more than USD 2,500. The monthly rent shelled out by the carrier for its present premises at Washington is USD 2,495 whereas the expense was more than USD 5,000 at the previous location, according to official data. In the recent past, the airline had shut its booking offices in Zurich (Switzerland), Chittagong (Bangladesh), Vienna (Austria) while the process is on for closing down its offices in Cairo (Egypt) and Tehran (Iran). The booking offices in Chittagong and Vienna were closed down in November last while the office in Zurich was shut in October 2014.

 
 
Travel writing & photography workshop

As part of its efforts to motivate and spread awareness on the subject, Terrascape organised a Travel Writing and Photography Workshop on February 8, 2015 in New Delhi. This was the first of a planned series of workshops. The main speakers were Sohail Hashmi (eminent traveller and writer), Himanshu Joshi (Editor, Terrascape) and Ashish Bhattacharjee (eminent photography teacher). Hashmi and Joshi discussed the finer points of travel writing and what motivates people to travel. Curiosity and the need to explore more than just what is outlined in the guidebooks adds to the travel experience. They also stressed on the need to talk to the locals to learn more about the area. Bhattacharjee explained the fine nuances of photography to the amateur and the professional alike. He also gave some tips on how to plan a photo story. There was lot of interaction with the participants, which was greatly appreciated.

 
 
Wuhan to allow 72-hour visa-free stays

From March, Wuhan will become the twelfth city in China to offer 72-hour visa-free stays. The scheme allows travellers with confirmed onward flights to a third destination to stay in a participating city for 72 hours without applying for a visa prior to arrival. Wuhan, the capital city of Hubei province, joins Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Shenyang, Dalian, Xi’an, Guilin, Kunming and Hangzhou in offering the increasingly popular visa-free option.  Foreigners will be able to visit Wuhan without visas within 72 hours when they are en route to a third country or region via the Wuhan Tianhe International Airport (WTIA), which currently allows 24-hour visa exemptions in a closed-off area of the airport.

 

 
 
Registration on for Amarnath Yatra 2015

The registration of pilgrims for the annual Amarnath Yatra via the Baltal and Chandanwari routes has commenced at 430 designated bank branches across the country. The registration for Amarnath pilgrims has commenced on March 2, for both the Baltal and Chandanwari routes, through 430 designated branches of Punjab National Bank, Jammu and Kashmir Bank and YES Bank all over the country, Rakesh Kumar Gupta, CEO, Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board, said. This year’s 59-day yatra shall commence simultaneously on both the routes from July 2 and culminate on Raksha Bandhan i.e. August 29. Gupta said the step-by-step procedure which the pilgrims need to follow to register for the yatra has been put up on the Board’s website, www.shriamarnathjishrine.com. The website also contains the application form and state-wise list of the bank branches with complete addresses.

 

 
 
Celebration of tourism

Over 650 participants from over 35 countries and 26 Indian States  and more than 12 thousand visitors visited the SATTE 2015 (42 per cent increase over last year) over the three day show. This year, international participants like the Philippines, which has recognised the Indian market as one of the most important contributors participated at SATTE for the first time. Ramon Reyes Jimenez Jr, Tourism Secretary (Minister), Government of Philippines declared the intent of The Department of Tourism of Philippines of 2015 as the “Visit Philippines year” for a boost in tourism of the country which will feature a calendar of events and an exciting mix of activities. Other international players like Swedavia-Sweden Airports, Mexico Tourism and Central Asia along with State Tourism boards like Bihar and Chandigarh have deployed SATTE as their platform of choice and have showcased themselves for the first time in the country. The event saw the launch of Google Hotel Finder, a new age presentation technology that allow the hotelier to showcase the hotel property and the end users to virtually experience the hotel in the same way he would if he would be there. View it on computers, smart phones or tablets. The event also marked the announcement of Lavasa, India’s first planned hill city, in Maharashtra.

 
 
Oman named top destination for 2015

Oman has been named the top travel destination for 2015 by Skift, a global travel industry intelligence firm. The Sultanate was commended for retaining its Arabian hospitality and traditional Bedouin charm amid modern developments, enabling tourists to have an experience of the Arab world, a release states. Additionally, Oman was part of the ‘52 places to go in 2015’ list created by New York Times and the ‘It’ destination for 2015 by Yahoo Travel – USA. Oman has positioned itself as an ideal short-haul destination for Indian tourists, showcasing its cool breeze, pleasant climate, clean beaches, and soaring mountains, along with its leisure, cultural and historical attractions, the release adds.

 

 
 
Six countries added to e-visa list

Citizens from China, the United Kingdom, Spain, France, Italy and Malaysia will soon be able to get online visas to India, increasing the number of countries that can avail this facility to 50. India introduced electronic visa for 44 countries in November last year. “The six countries recommended by the ministry to the department of home affairs for issuance of e-visa are China, the UK, Spain, France, Italy and Malaysia,” tourism secretary Lalit Panwar said. He was speaking at the India Heritage Tourism Conclave by PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry in February. Countries that already have the electronic visa authorization or online visa facility include the US, Australia, Japan, Israel, Germany and Russia. India has already issued 65,000 e-visas in the last 75 days and, on an average, 1000 electronic visa authorisations are being issued a day. There was a 421.6% jump in tourist arrivals during December 2014 compared to the previous year. India had issued 2,700 visas in December 2013 whereas the number of ETAs issued during December 2014 was 14,083.

 

 
 
An extraordinary tourist train

The Seohae Golden G-train, featuring the world’s first train rooms with “ondol”, Korea’s floor heating system, will be kicking into high gear on February 5, 2015. The train will depart from Yongsan Station and travel along the west coast to Iksan Station. The route of G-train is specially designed for travelers stopping by major tourists. These seven top tourist spots are nestled along the west coast, and for convenient access, the train will make stops in Asan, Yesan, Hongseong, Boryeong, Seocheon, Gunsan and Iksan. The train is made up of seven cars, divided into three sections; an engine, a generator and five cabin cars. One car is constructed with ondol, where passengers can stretch their legs out in the room and chat with others. Ondol maru rooms can accommodate three to six people. Also, passengers can relax their feet in a foot spa while sipping tea. Tickets for the foot spa and ondol rooms are available in the train café, located in the third train car.

 

 
 
Kochi Metro to launch in 2016

A new urban rail network will launch in the Indian city of Kochi in June 2016. A leading financial daily reported officials as saying that trials of the new transport system are scheduled to get underway by the start of next year, with full operations to start in summer. Costing an estimated INR51.8 billion to develop, the Kochi Metro will initially stretch almost 17km from the suburb of Aluva to the Maharajas College, in the centre of the Kerala city. The line will have 16 stops, including the two terminal stations. The line would then be extended in a second phase, with eight more stations.

 
 
Tatkal tickets on dynamic pricing

The railways ministry has decided that 50 per cent of the existing tatkal quota tickets shall be sold under dynamic fare scheme, said Central Railway chief spokesperson Narendra Patil. “After booking of the first 50 per cent of tatkal tickets under tatkal quota, the subsequent tickets will be sold on dynamic pricing,” he said. The fare shall increase by 20 per cent after each slab of 10 per cent berths are sold subject to the existing cap (maximum fare chargeable) on dynamic fare. This scheme is further implemented in following trains of Central Railway with immediate effect. 11005 Dadar – Puducherry Tri-weekly Express; 11021 Dadar – Tirunelveli Tri-weekly Express; 11050 Shri Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj Terminus (Kolahpur) – Ahmedabad Express; 11088 Pune – Veraval Express; 11090 Pune – Bhagat ki Kothi (Jodhpur) Express; 11092 Pune – Bhuj Express; 11096 Pune – Ahmedabad Ahimsa Express; 12051 Dadar – Karmali Jan Shatabdi Express; 12101 Lokmanya Tilak Terminus – Howrah Jnaneshwari Express; 12129 Pune – Howrah Azad Hind Express; 12809 Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Mumbai – Howrah Mail Via – Nagpur; 16351 Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Mumbai – Nagarcoil Express; 16381 Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Mumbai – Kanyakumari Express; 18029 Lokmanya Tilak Terminus – Shalimar Express; 11061 Lokmanya Tilak Terminus – Muzaffarpur Express and 11065 Lokmanya Tilak Terminus – Darbhanga Express. “This scheme is already in force on 15 Mail and Express running on CR,” he added.

 
 
High-speed Metro between Lucknow-Kanpur

The Akhilesh Yadav-led government is working on yet another ambitious project. This time the focus is on connecting Lucknow and Kanpur with a high-speed metro rail network and develop an industrial corridor between the two cities. This one-of-its-kind project in the country will also address residential problems in the two cities and create new job opportunities in the region. All authorities concerned with the project, particularly the UP State Industrial Development Corporation (UPSIDC), the Lucknow Industrial Development Authority (LIDA) and the Kanpur Development Authority (KDA), have reached to a consensus for putting the project on fast track. A feasibility report would be prepared soon. “Chief Secretary Alok Ranjan has already held a meeting of senior officials of the three authorities where the project was discussed threadbare…These authorities have agreed to bear financial burden of the feasibility report. The project will boost planned development of Lucknow and Kanpur besides Unnao and create a major industrial corridor,” a senior official said. Stating that it has been envisaged to extend Lucknow metro to Unnao and Kanpur, just 80 kms away, the official said the metro rail was being planned till the outskirts of Lucknow after which only about 50 kms would remain to cover till Kanpur. This metro rail would lead to faster access between the two cities and ease pressure on the highway. “The extended metro line would also give boost to two other ambitious projects of the State government in Kanpur – the upcoming hi-tech city and a mega housing project that is being developed by 

 
 
Poll reveals why women don’t fly

Sixty-three per cent of women said they were put off a career as a professional airline pilot when they were growing up for reasons including a lack of visible role models and being told it was a man’s job, according to a British Airways poll. 20 per cent said when growing up, pilots were played by men on TV and in films. 20 per cent said they thought women could only be cabin crew. 13 per cent said they had never been on a plane flown by a female pilot. 10 per cent said they were told it was a man’s job when growing up. The airline recently launched an awareness campaign for more female pilots in the aviation industry with TV presenter and pilot, Carol Vorderman. In 2015 British Airways will be recruiting pilots, including those new to flying through the airline’s cadet training scheme, the British Airways Future Pilot Programme. The programme, aimed at anyone aged 18 to 55 with no previous flying experience required, opens to new applicants on February 23, 2015 and the airline hopes that its recent campaign for more female pilots will encourage more women to apply.

 

 
 
Record year for Birmingham Airport

Birmingham Airport has reported its busiest year ever in 2014, which ended with another record month in December. Over the twelve month calendar year, the airport handled 9,707,449 passengers; an increase of 6.5% compared to 2013. It also celebrated seven record months in April, May, June, July, August, November and December and recorded Dublin, Dubai and Amsterdam as the top three routes. During December, 622,317 passengers travelled through the airport, an increase of 8.4% compared to the same period the previous year and the busiest December since 2008. Paul Kehoe, the Airport’s Chief Executive, said, “During 2014 we experienced seven record months and saw the completion of a major package of infrastructure works that has prepared the airport for future passenger growth.”

 

 
 
Flight search tool for India

Search giant Google has introduced Flight Search tool for Indian Internet users. It has roped in Goibibo as partner for the feature. Flight Search will allow users to search for flights within Google, as well as compare and book flights on mobile devices. Users planning a holiday can make use of this tool to immediately see the price and duration of flights based on users’ preferences and previous searches. A user has to just enter the departure and destination cities and he/she will get all flight details. So far, these travel portals would get queries from searches conducted on Google. But now Google will make use of this data for Flight Search. When you click on the departure date field, you’ll see a calendar with the lowest fares for the route highlighted for each day. You can also use the lowest fares graph below the calendar to see how prices may fluctuate based on the season, holidays or other events. Scrolling through a couple of months quickly shows you when it’s a great time to fly. Once you select your departure and return dates, you’ll be presented with a list of ‘Best Flights’, which represents the best trade-off between convenience and price. You can always view other flights by scrolling through the summary list or selecting, ‘Show longer or more expensive flights’.

 

 
 
Maharaja’s new clothes

The mascot for Air India, the official airline for the Indian Government, has undergone a change. The red sherwani-clad “at-your-service” badshah image was created in 1946. In 2015, a younger ‘Maharajah’ sporting spiked hair, jeans and sneakers has been unveiled to represent the new age common man. However, the distinctive long twirling moustache of the Maharajah is still on. A senior Air India official who handled the Maharajah makeover explained to the media, “The new Maharajah is aligned with the modern times and with the new AI which is also trying to cut flab to become a lean commercial entity.” While the social media is abuzz with jokes and digs at the new face, there has been no comment from the Prime Minister’s office since it was Narendra Modi who had suggested the makeover. Meanwhile, the loss making airlines received a jolt from the government which has asked the airline to improve its finances. There will be a cut in its cost by `14 billion, about 6 per cent of its total outlays in the next financial year. The airline has been running at a loss for years. It controls close to fifth of India’s domestic air travel market, but unable to deliver as per expectations, it has been criticised for its high cost. The company was bailed out by the government in 2012 with a $5.8 billion bailout package. The airline is determined to do cost cutting and has said that it would identify surplous staff; freeze contractual hiring and will discontinue flights that do not meet fuel cost targets. These steps will help to reduce its variable spending of `140 billion by a tenth. There will be restriction on staff travelling said an airlines spokesperson. High operating costs are making major carriers of India lose money while carriers with lowest fare prices are challenging the cost of these airlines the world over.

 

 
 
Jordan for Ethical Adventure Holidays

Responsible Travel, the leading comparison site for small holiday companies screened for their commitment to responsible tourism, has released booking statistics announcing a week-long trip to Jordan as the most popular holiday for responsible adventure travellers. The list, based on bookings made via the company in 2014, has shown that the Middle-Eastern country has not only successfully weathered the unrest troubling its nearest neighbours, but has actually grown in popularity with adventure travel enthusiasts with bookings increasing by 36 per cent in 2014 compared to the previous year.

 

 
 
Golconda fort's sound & light show shut

The sound and light show at the Golconda fort in Hyderabad is proposed to be shut down for around a month to facilitate installation of modern gadgets, Telangana Tourism Department officials said. The sound and light systems were installed two decades ago and have not been updated to keep pace with times. Adverse criticism has, however, now prompted the Department to go for a revamp. While the script and storyline of the show, which has the voice-over of Bollywood actor, Amitabh Bachchan, would remain the same, what would change are the virtually-outdated systems that are of late seen by some as a drag. While the historical city of Hyderabad is Telangana Tourism's USP, efforts are on to aggressively promote attractions in other parts of the new state, which came into being on June 2 last year, particularly those in Warangal, Adilabad, and Nizamabad districts.

 

 
 
UNESCO’s 70th Anniversary

To celebrate its 70th anniversary, UNESCO has announced the release of a new collection of commemorative coins. The new collection of coins, which are themed on the Great Barrier Reef (Australia), the Rocky Mountains (Canada), Mount Fuji (Japan), the monuments of les Invalides  and le Grand Palais (France), is produced respectively by three of the World’s best-known mints – the Royal Australian Mint, the Royal Canadian Mint, and le Monnaie de Paris. Crafted with great mastery and produced in both gold and silver, the collection reflects not only the natural beauty of each place, but more importantly the everlasting and universal value of each location as a UNESCO World Heritage site. UNESCO established the Commemorative Coins and Medals Programme in 2012, in partnership with the Swiss company Produits Artistiques Métaux Précieux (PAMP).

 

 
 
Visit Kerala Year 2015 to start in April

Kerala Tourism’s Visit Kerala 2015, an initiative to promote the destination and products and thereby increase footfalls, will be kicked off on April 1, 2015 with a series of events ranging from arts to sports. The focus of the year that will conclude in April 2016 will be to strengthen the promotion of tourism products, including Ayurveda, Responsible Tourism, Spice Route, and Muziris Heritage. Kerala Tourism will explore markets in China and Sri Lanka as part of the marketing strategy to tap new markets by organising roadshows and FAM (Familiarisation) tours and attending trade fairs in the two countries.

 

 
 
Tutankhamun mask damaged

The famous blue and gold braided beard, burial mask of Tutankhamun was damaged when the relic was being cleaned in the Egyptian museum where it lays. The bearded part was knocked by a conservationist. The mask among a few other contents is the top exhibit of the museum. It is a highly visited tourist site but not completely kept in full maintenance. Relics as important as the 3,300 year old Tutankhamun mask should be dealt with greater care feel expert conservationists. The conservators from the museum have varied opinions on what actually happened with beard. They say that the mask was knocked off by accident while the mask’s case was being cleaned or removed when it was loose. The beard was fixed quickly with inappropriate adhesive and irreversible material, epoxy which has a high property for attaching and is generally used on metal, stone but was in every way inappropriate for Tutankhamen’s golden mask. The burial mask was discovered by British archeologists Howard Carter and George Herbert in 1922.

 

 
 
Tiger sightings in Indian forests

There has been a remarkable rise in the tiger population almost 30 per cent according to the tiger census which estimated 2,226 tigers compared to 1,706 in 2010. The rise spans in five of India’s 18 tiger range states. Among the five the count is still in two. The rise has taken place in a period of four years where wildlife biologists have worked in clearing the core areas from human interference of reserve forests with effective forest management. In 2008, The National Tiger Conservation Authority took immediate action in rehabilitating people living in the core areas of tiger reserve. This policy has provided enough space for the tigers to grow. Anti- poaching activities have also helped in the increase of tigers in Indian forests. Tiger population has increased in several states like Bihar, Karnataka, Uttarakhand where there were concerns of the loss of tiger habitat. The tiger count has, however, dropped in states of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh.

 

 
 
Legends of Dance Music will descend to Goa for Vh1 Supersonic

Living up to the promises made, Vh1 brings the legends of dance music to Goa for a 4 day extravaganza. A journey that began last year will continue to enthrall dance music lovers with not just an event but an experience par excellence.

Building on last year’s brilliant vibes that put Vh1 Supersonic on India’s list of must experience festivals, this year’s event will see world renowned artists like Paul Van Dyk, Dash Berlin, Above & Beyond, Infected Mushrooms, Roger Sanchez, Carl Craig, The Chainsmokers, Stanton Warriors,Dillon Francis, BL3ND, FUNKAGENGA, HOOK N SLING, MARK KNIGHT, MAT ZO and many more turning up the level of excitement and energy on the sultry sands of Candolim beach in Goa on 27, 28, 29 and 30 December, 2014.

Apart from the world renowned legends on board, Vh1 Supersonic also elevates established Indian artists likeAsh Roy, Tuhin Mehta, Vachan Chinnappa, and many others, making it a perfect blend of international and home-grown talent. From the legends of house to masters of technoto the lords of psychedelic trance… Vh1 Supersonic 2014 provides its audience with a wide range of genres to suit the liking of every dance music lover. With its innovative stage designs, larger than life art installations and to top it all- an unparalleled artist line-upVh1 Supersonic has it all!

 
 
Wi-Fi services across 400 Indian stations

Indian Railways proposes to introduce Wi-Fi services at 400 railway stations ('A1' & 'A' category) throughout the country and in select trains. Wi-Fi facility in three rakes of Howrah Rajdhani Express has been provided as a pilot project and Railway further proposes to provide this facility in select trains (Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Duranto Category). This facility will be provided selecting suitable technology for continuous connectivity with the World Wide Web when the train is on move. Presently, provision of Wi-Fi facility at 75 'A1' category stations is in progress. Wi-Fi facility in three rakes of Howrah Rajdhani Express has already been commissioned. Provision of Wi-Fi facility in other select trains involves bandwidth from Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and modification in Power Cars to house satellite antenna and associated equipments. It will take 18-24 months for completion, subject to availability of funds.

 
 
Snow train to the aid of ski enthusiasts

Onboard the VIA Rail’s snow train, explore the best of winters and vibrant Canadian cities. The route from Toronto to Vancouver offers passengers the spectacular cross-continental four-night travel through the frosted scenery of the Canadian Rockies. Starting from Toronto, the journey includes overnight halts at icebound Winnipeg, isolated Edmonton and quaint Jasper en route to cosmopolitan Vancouver. The journey begins crossing the Canadian Shield - a wild land of frozen lakes, snow covered trees and isolated communities. Sleeper Touring Class’s guests will enjoy the art-deco style Dome Car, its lounges and observation area. Here, you can relax with fellow travellers whilst enjoying the passing scenery with refreshments. During the journey, staff on board will keep educating you about your points of interest.

The train stops at Winnipeg in the morning, giving passengers an opportunity to explore this railway city. The train continues westwards from Winnipeg, crossing the prairies and arriving in the province of Saskatchewan in the evening. After a brief stop at Edmonton in the morning, the train begins the climb into the foothills of the Rockies, experiencing some truly spectacular scenery. Relax and enjoy the journey as the train passes glaciers, lakes, plunging canyons, frozen waterfalls and soaring snow-covered peaks. The train arrives into Vancouver in the morning. The city of Vancouver enjoys a fabulous natural setting, with beautiful snow-covered mountains and deep fjords providing a dramatic backdrop to the urban landscape of modern skyscrapers.

 
 
Help at hand for women

The Ahmedabad Railway Division, which also covers Mumbai, has become the first in the country to set up ‘help posts’ for women in distress at the various stations having a CCTV surveillance system. In the first project, eight designated points facing CCTV cameras have been created on some of the platforms at the Ahmedabad station. Any harassed woman or child just has to stand at these spots, dial the helpline numbers given on the board there, and armed guards of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) will come to their rescue in not time. Apart from Ahmedabad, the ‘help posts’ will be set up at 19 other stations of the Western Railway this month itself. They include Surat, Rajkot, Vadodara, Surendranagar, Jamnagar, and several local train stations in Mumbai like Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Churchgate, Dadar, Bandra, etc.

 
 
‘Kerala Green Express’ Runs on Mumbai Metro

Commuters on the new Mumbai Metro can now experience the flavour of ‘God’s Own Country’ with a ‘Kerala Green Express’ running on the network under a branding agreement with the state tourism department. Kerala has become the first destination in the country to be associated with the newly-launched Mumbai Metro network. The ‘Kerala Green Express’ began running on the Mumbai Metro’s Versova-Ghatkopar corridor from November 3 and will do so for the next three months. All the four coaches of the train will have images showing Kerala’s beautiful landscapes and greenery on the outside and inside. The Mumbai Metro carries more than six lakh passengers every day. The ‘Kerala Green Express’ will travel a stretch of 11.07 km, passing through 12 elevated station on the Versova-Ghatkopar line.

 
 
Lufthansa flies A380 to India

In a colourful ceremony filled with traditional pomp and fervor at the Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport, Lufthansa began its A380 services to India with the first A380 flight arriving in the early hours of November 8, 2014 from Frankfurt. The all new A380 was welcomed with the traditional water canon ceremony at the airport and the in-flight crew was received with a traditional lamp lighting and felicitation ceremony. Delhi becomes the first city in India to welcome Lufthansa’s flagship carrier and the world’s largest commercial passenger jet. Mr. Wolfgang Will, Director South Asia, Lufthansa, said, “This is a really proud moment for us and we are delighted to welcome the first A380 to India today. It’s a milestone event for us and we are very pleased to welcome the world’s largest commercial passenger jet which offers the finest in terms of flying comfort, luxury and efficiency. With the new A380, Lufthansa customers will be able to experience Lufthansa’s latest in-flight products and services including the latest business class and state-of-the art First Class.”

 
 
AirAsia India adds Pune to its network

AirAsia India has announced the addition of Pune to its growing network. This brand new route fortifies the airline’s vision to make flying possible for every Indian. Direct flights daily from Bengaluru to Pune, Pune to Jaipur and vice versa will commence on 17th December 2014. AirAsia India is the first airline to operate on the Pune-Jaipur route. Mittu Chandilya, CEO, AirAsia India said, “At AirAsia, we are determined to innovate at every stage and it is our constant endeavor to provide greater flexibility of choice to our passengers. With the surge in business and leisure travel, we truly believe Pune has tremendous potential. We have done a complete analysis of this sector and it is a part our growth strategy to provide convenient, comfortable and enjoyable flying experience via Direct flights to first time and frequent flyers’. To stimulate and encourage affordable air travel, AirAsia India has also increased the frequency on the Bengaluru- Jaipur route. One additional flight has been added from Bengaluru to Jaipur and vice versa. The flight frequency from Bengaluru to Jaipur has increased from 7 times a week to 14 times weekly. 

 
 
IndiGo adds Kozhikode from Jan

Low-cost airline IndiGo will add Kozhikode to its route network from January. The airline’s 2015 schedule will see introduction of six daily non-stop services between—Kozhikode and Dubai, Kozhikode and Mumbai, Kozhikode and Delhi (via Mumbai) and 15th service between Delhi and Mumbai. Also, from December 15, 2014, IndiGo will also launch a daily non-stop flight between Bengaluru and Dubai. This will be the very first international flight by the carrier out of Bengaluru. "2014 has been a great year for IndiGo and we promoted routes and connectivity that added immense value to our passengers' travel in addition to a great flying experience," said Aditya Ghosh, president and executive director of IndiGo. Earlier, IndiGo also announced the launch of first time ever 'family fares' which offer discounts up to 25 per cent for a family of four or more travelling together in a single PNR, for a maximum of nine passengers.

 
 
Not mandatory for disabled flyers to produce documents

The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has stated that it is not mandatory for sick passengers to produce a medical certificate, in order to avail of wheel chairs at airports. According to civil aviation ministry officials, paragraph 4.1.26 of Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR), Section 3 Air Transport, Series M, Part-I for "Carriage by air of persons with reduced mobility", passengers with disability or reduced mobility are required to inform airlines at the time of booking of air ticket about their requirements for assistance. Minister of state for civil aviation, Dr Mahesh Sharma stated: "Separate requirement to produce medical certificate, for availing wheelchair facility by sick passengers, have not been specified in the CAR, and hence, it is not mandatory.

 

 
 
Smells from around the world at Heathrow

A scent-dispensing globe at London’s Heathrow Airport aims to give travellers the smells of faraway places before they’ve boarded the plane. The installation produces the scents of five destinations – South Africa, Brazil, Japan, China and Thailand. The promoters claim Brazil’s smell ‘embraces the scents of its rich rainforest fauna with a palette of coffee, tobacco and jasmine’, while South Africa’s, which contains petrified rock hyrax excrement, ‘captures the adventure of safari with notes of tribal incense, wild grass and musky animalics’. Japan comes to life right before your nose “through cool, oceanic tones with a mix of seaweed and shell extracts, green tea and Ambergris [a waxy substance, solidified in the digestive systems of whales].” Employing China’s “mystical temple incense and subtle Osmanthus Fragrans [an exotic flower native to China],” evidently creates “an orient explosion.” Thailand “tantalizes the taste buds with an appetizing mix of lemongrass, ginger and coconut.” The airport worked with Design in Scent to bottle all their local goodness and create bespoke scents for the misting globe in Terminal 2. 

 
 
India.com launches travel guide iTripTo

India.com, a joint venture between Mail.com Media Corporation and Zee Entertainment Enterprises, has launched a travel information lookup platform called iTripTo. This platform is essentially a revamped version of India.com’s travel section which was previously a travelogue. iTripTo, which is currently in beta, is a travel guide that provides users information for Indian destinations across categories like hill station, beaches, weekend getaways, adventure, nature, deserts, religious, historical, islands, leisure and wildlife among others. Users can also search for their preferred place to view more detailed information on it.

 
 
Wearables to transform travel

The World Travel Market (WTM) Global Trends Report 2014 has identified key trends that will transform the travel industry in the future, including wearable technology and big data analytics. The report, which was revealed at the four-day WTM last month, predicts that wearable technology will go mainstream by 2016, as wearable, internet-connected devices are expected to rise from 9 million units sold globally in 2013 to a forecasted 180 million in 2016. This trend will lead to a sharp growth in travel bookings made through wearable technology. In February, Virgin Atlantic launched a six-week Google Glass pilot scheme for travellers. The research also revealed that mobile technology is currently transforming the landscape, with mobile bookings expected to reach 35 per cent of online travel bookings by 2018. Currently, global online travel sales amounts to 27 per cent of a total sales figure of £368bn (US$590bn).

 
 
World’s rarest stamp to be exhibited

The world’s only example of a British Guiana One-Cent Magenta stamp, the world’s rarest postal stamp, is going to be put on display at the National Postal Museum in Washington, DC from April 2015. The stamp dates from 1856 and was last sold in June 2014 to an anonymous buyer for $9.5 million, the most ever paid for a single stamp. The anonymous buyer is lending it to National Postal Museum. The stamp will be exhibited in the William H. Gross Gallery of the museum for three years, the longest and most publicly accessible showing it has ever had, the Smithsonian said in a statement. The stamp is the only surviving example of the British Guiana One-Cent Magenta. Printed in black ink on magenta paper, it bears the image of a three-mast ship and the colony's motto in Latin: "We give and expect in return."

 
 
MP Tourism tent houses at Pachmarhi

Catering to increasing trend of vacationers during New Year at Pachmarhi, Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation (MPSTDC) is going to set up tent houses from December 20 to January 4 to accommodate the large flow of tourists. General Manager MN Jamali said that for the last few years, a large number of tourists turned up during New Year at Pachmarhi during which hotels and resorts were booked well in advance. "We had to say no to hundreds of visitors due to non-availability of space. But this year to deal with the situation, it has been decided to erect 100 tent houses," said Jamali. The New Year vacation trend is catching up and many people prefer to travel to picturesque locations for short vacation, setting up tent houses is an effort to address the need of footloose people. "Tent houses will have all facilities and it will provide a unique experience to the people," he claimed.

 
 
India expands visa on arrival scheme

Tourists visiting India from the United States, Australia, Brazil, Germany and Japan have been added to a growing list of visitors who are able to get visas on arrival in the country. Visitors from 43 countries no longer have to queue up at local consulates, but can instead apply for their visas online and collect them at airports. India previously offered visas-on-arrival to visitors from only 12 countries. Most other foreigners had to wait several weeks before learning whether they would be allowed to enter India after submitting their applications at visa processing centres. The new visa-on-arrival will be available at nine major airports in India.

 
 
Virgin Trains upgrades onboard, station wi-fi

Virgin Trains passengers will see wi-fi speeds up to four times faster while travelling at 125mph thanks to an overhaul of onboard technology. A contract signed this week with Nomad Digital will see the West Coast operator’s entire train fleet installed with upgraded wi-fi equipment which can transmit up to 12MBPS. Work is due to start later this year and will be completed next summer. Discussions with Network Rail are continuing over trackside infrastructure which would allow onboard speeds far beyond this. A separate programme will also see superfast broadband with speeds of between 80MBPS and 100MBPS installed at all 17 stations Virgin Trains manages by summer 2015. The upgrades have progressed as a result of a three-year deal signed with the Department for Transport in June under which Virgin Trains promised a number of service improvements

 

 
 
Journey to Nelamangala easier

The South-Western Railway is introducing a new peak-hour Bangalore-Nelamangala train. According to SWR, the new train will leave Bangalore City station at 7.15 am and reach Nelamangala at around 8.15 a.m. On its return, it will leave Nelamangala at 8.30 am and reach Bangalore city station by 9.30 am. The train, which was announced by Railway Minister D V Sadananda Gowda in his maiden Railway Budget, will start its services from November 1

 

 
 
First high speed train from Delhi to Agra

The first high-speed train between Delhi and Agra with a speed of 160 km per hour is expected to run on November 10 as Kapurthala Rail Coach Factory is all set to roll out the first rake of fourteen coaches of the train. Rail Coach Factory (RCF) has manufactured four coaches of the high speed train so far and the work was going on war-footing to manufacture the remaining 10 coaches by November 10 to turn out the first rake, RCF General Manager Pramod Kumar said

 

 
 
Bangalore becomes first Indian station to have wi-fi facility

The Indian Railways has successfully implemented Wi-Fi facility at the Bangalore City Railway station for providing high speed internet to the passengers. “RailWire” - the retail Broadband distribution model of RailTel Corporation of India Ltd, a PSU of the Ministry of Railways, is the powering engine for distributing internet bandwidth through WiFi. The facility at Bangalore is taken up as a pilot project. The Minister of Railways, DV Sadananda Gowda inaugurated the facility and dedicated the service for passengers. This service will be great help for the commuters at Bangalore City Railway station to stay connected and surf internet on the go. With the implementation of this service, Bangalore railway station becomes the first station in the country to have WiFi facility. The facility shall be available to the passengers on their mobile phones free of charges initially for a period of 30 minutes. For usage beyond 30 minutes, the user may purchase scratch cards, which will be made available at the Help Desk. These are priced at `25 for 30 minutes and `35 for 1 Hour and are valid through 24 hours. Additional browsing time can also be purchased on-line using Credit/Debit cards

 

 
 
Introducing the SkyCruiser

An airplane that can function as a helicopter and turns into a car upon landing. Sounds unreal? But, this is what Arizona-based startup Krossblade has come up with – the SkyCruiser. This is an electric hybrid aircraft that can switch between airplane and quadcopter modes, and also be driven like a car. Sources reveal that Krossblade’s SkyCruiser can fly at 314 mph. It has a range of 1,006 miles. The road drive configuration is suitable for short trips on land and it can attain a maximum speed of 75 mph. On Road, SkyCruiser can go from 0-62 mph in just 7 seconds.

 
 
New lounge at Abu Dhabi airport

Abu Dhabi International Airport, in cooperation with Plaza Premium Lounge Management Limited (PPLML), the pioneer and industry leader in premium airport services, has revealed its newly renovated Al Reem lounge by Plaza Premium Lounge in Terminal 1 as part of its commitment to providing world-class services to travellers using the international hub. The airport has undertaken extensive upgrades to its facilities to ensure it continues to meet passengers’ expectations as Skytrax’s ‘Best Airport in the Middle East’. The 4,500 square feet lounge is based on the concept of providing comfort and convenience to travelers and aims to deliver an ambience of luxury while providing a ‘home away from home’. The lounge spans three floors and offers a wide spread of Arabic, Asian and Continental Cuisines made daily in the state-of-the-art kitchens, must-try multi-cultural dishes are on offer. The lounge offers free Wi-Fi connection and laptops upon request for those wanting to catch up on some work in between destinations. A fully-serviced shower room is on hand with amenities to refresh between flights

 

 
 
Frankfurt Airport T-2 celebrates 20 years

In the early morning hours of October 24, 1994, the first flight arrived at Frankfurt Airport’s sparkling new Terminal 2: a Cathay Pacific B747-400 jumbo from Hong Kong, carrying 350 passengers and 22 crew members on board. During the past two decades, more than 147 million passengers have been served at Terminal 2. Frankfurt Airport (FRA) marks the 20th birthday of this iconic terminal – which can be easily recognised when driving by the airport on the A3 autobahn near the “Frankfurter Kreuz” interchange. Designed by JSK Architects of Frankfurt, Terminal 2 set new standards in design and comfort.  The spacious and airy architecture – suffused by natural light from the glass facade and skylights – enhances the overall air travel experience. Terminal 2 has registered more than 1,200 movements with the world’s largest commercial passenger plane. A total of 18 airlines moved into the new terminal in 1994. Over the years, this figure has tripled to over 70 airlines from Europe, Asia and North America, including the SkyTeam and OneWorld alliances

 

 
 
Airport chauffeurs in London

London City Airport has welcomed Airport Chauffeurs London to its terminal. The company is the exclusive on-site provider of executive car services at the airport. Passengers can order a car on the spot as well as pre-booking, with fares to central London from £49. Matthew Hall, Chief Commercial Officer at London City Airport said: “The airport enjoys a great location just a few miles from central London, making a chauffeur a real option. Two thirds of our passengers are business travellers and can make the best use of their time making calls and sending emails in the car en route to their office or meeting. Having a service on-site offers our passengers convenience.”

 

 
 
The world’s first windowless plane

The world’s first windowless plane, developed by scientists and engineers of Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), will now allow passengers to see the sky while they fly! With ultra-flexible, high-definition display technologies, the interior walls of cabins will line and display the live footage from the external cameras which will give a crystal clear panoramic view. Using OLED screens (a high-end, thin-film display technology) with protective coatings, the plane would preserve the displays for its lifetime. The passengers will also be able to set and see their respective screens to show a live stream of outside surroundings from a completely different portion of the plane. The passengers will be able to personalise their environment, adjust lighting or change the view from this interactive ‘digital wallpaper’

 

 
 
Etihad Airways wins top award

More than 400 guests attended the awards, voted for by the travel industry and the public, which were organised by Northern Ireland Travel News at the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa in Newcastle, Co. Down. Beatrice Cosgrove, Etihad Airways’ General Manager Ireland said: “Northern Ireland is a key market for Etihad Airways, and this award caps a strong six months which has seen us increase our frequency from Dublin to double daily. We have also launched new services to Perth which joined our highly successful Australian flight network, and are set to begin flights to Phuket in Thailand.

 

 
 
Indian cities on the map for Swiss aviators

Ahmedabad and Varanasi are the two Indian cities among the dozen landing stops planned by two renowned Swiss aviators for their round-the-world trip on a solar-powered aircraft in March next year. "If we get the permission from the Indian authorities, we will be landing in Ahmedabad and Varanasi during the first- ever round-the-world flight on a solar powered aircraft in March 2015," Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg told a visiting team of Indian reporters. 56-year-old Piccard, who completed the first non-stop flight around the world in an air balloon in 1999, said he and his team were hopeful of getting permission for landing in the two Indian cities. "The discussions are ongoing with various authorities including Director General Civil Aviation, Ministry of External Affairs and Civil Aviation Ministry and we are hopeful of getting the permission," he said.

 
 
India’s largest Ferris Wheel in Delhi

Delhi has got its own giant Ferris wheel called the Delhi Eye. Built by Vekoma Rides, a Dutch company that has installed 20 such wheels of varying heights around the world, it only took three weeks to complete. However, despite being ready since 2010, it remained closed as it was deemed illegal by a committee, formed by the Delhi High Court in 2005, to protect land near the Yamuna River from encroachment and commercial development. Permits are now in place to begin operations.

The Delhi Eye's wheel stands 45 metrEs (148 feet) tall. This is about as high as a 15-storey building. Although it's the biggest Ferris wheel in India, it's much smaller than the London Eye (135 metres tall) and Singapore Flyer (165 metres tall). On a clear day while riding on the Delhi Eye, it's possible to spot some of Delhi's top attractions, including Qutub Minar, Red Fort, Akshardham Temple, Lotus Temple, and Humayun’s Tomb. You can also get a bird’s eye view of Connaught Place and Noida.

The total capacity of the Delhi Eye is 288 passengers. It has 36 air-conditioned glass pods that can seat up to eight people in each. The pods have controls that enable passengers to select lighting and music, and vents in case anyone starts feeling claustrophobic.  There's also a VIP pod, with plush couches, a television and a DVD player, phone connected to the control room, and champagne cooler. The inaugural cost of tickets is `250 per person. Senior citizens pay `150.  A place in the VIP pod costs `1,500 per person. Delhi Rides is open daily from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. The nearest Metro train station is Jasola on the Violet Line.

 
 
Eiffel Tower’s new glass floor unveiled

The first floor of Paris’ Eiffel Tower has had a facelift with a new glass floor that was unveiled on October 7. Visitors will be able to peer down 57 square metres and feel as if they are walking on air on the solid glass floor. It’s hoped that the revamp will attract more people to the first floor of the ‘Iron Lady’, previously the least visited part of the tower.  Its owners hope the formerly dowdy and draughty first floor will become as big an attraction as the viewing platform on top of the 325-metre tower - the most visited paying monument in the world. Visitors will be able to look down through a solid glass floor to the 57 metres below, with transparent and eco-friendly pavilions built around the tower's enormous central void. To heighten the frisson of walking on air still further, the glass safety barriers around the edge have been inclined outwards. Previously the floor was the least visited part of the tower, but its operators hope tourists will now linger at the end of their visit behind sheltering floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook Paris.

 
 
2015 as the Year of Festivals in Malaysia

Following the momentum of Visit Malaysia Year 2014, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia, has designated next year as Malaysia Year of Festivals 2015, or MyFest 2015. Theme: Endless celebrations. MyFest 2015 heralds the country’s biggest ever fiesta of celebrations, events and happenings all year long; encompassing all genre including culture, shopping, festivals, destination marketing, food and other themed events. 

 
 
Goa launches women only taxi service

Goa Tourism has rolled out a taxi service exclusively for women residents and tourists. The swanky new taxis will also be driven only by women. As an added bonus, the women drivers will also act as guides and receive training in self defence. Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar flagged off the special service at Miramar; thus making Goa one of the few states in the country to have taxis driven by women, for women passengers. Dilip Parulekar, Minister of Tourism Goa, added, "For all the taxis we will provide meters and Wi-Fi. For self defence, the women drivers have been trained in karate and martial arts. With this project, definitely, tourists will enjoy." In the past, the issue of taxi services had often threatened to stall the progress of tourism in Goa and the government initiated this move to encourage tourism and empower women.

 
 
Berlin advertises itself with worldwide film

Berlin will have its own image spot broadcast worldwide by international broadcaster CNN. This joint campaign by visitBerlin and be Berlin will run until the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9. The thirty-second film will be broadcast in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, North America and Asia. The spot concludes with an invitation to the celebration, from November 7-9. Burkhard Kieker, CEO of visitBerlin said: “Berlin and its people want to show what they have made out of their opportunity: from a divided city to one of the most exciting cities in the world.”

 
 
Photo Competition to Find Essence of France

FrenchEntrée, the French travel and property specialists for overseas buyers, is launching a competition to find the best images of France taken this year. Photographers of all ages and abilities are invited to upload pictures of their French travels to FrenchEntrée to win a high specification camera from the Olympus Travel range. The competition celebrates the 10th anniversary of the website, which has been re-designed to appeal to increasing numbers of users accessing it from a tablet or smartphone. The winning photographer will receive an Olympus SH-60. 

 
 
Patong prepares to host Phuket Carnival

The annual Phuket Carnival returns with the 29th edition scheduled to be held from November 1-3, 2014 at Patong Beach. The event was first held in 1985 to mark the start of the high season for tourism in Phuket. Anoma Vongyai, Director of the TAT Phuket Office said, “The event has been organised under a concerted effort of the public and private organisations in Phuket. In part, it is being held to covey the enthusiasm and unity among the local people in the various tourism sectors to be good hosts and welcome tourists to Phuket, one of Thailand’s most popular beach destinations and the gateway to the Andaman region.”The three-day Phuket Carnival 2014 will take place at Patong Beach from morning to midnight daily. The theme for this year’s event is ‘Blissful Beach’. 

 
 
Taylor Swift is NY welcome ambassador

As part of the collaboration with Taylor, NYC & Company today launched a global tourism campaign - Welcome To New York - named after Taylor’s song of the same name from her top charting new album, 1989. “Welcome To New York” celebrates how welcoming New York City is to everyone, inviting the world to visit New York City and explore its five boroughs. As New York City’s Global Welcome Ambassador, Taylor will showcase the City’s unparalleled vibrancy that inspired her to write “Welcome To New York,” reinforced by the refrain “It’s been waiting for you.”

 
 
Virtual Tour of UK/Ireland Region

World Travel Market has linked up with US-based VPiX to produce an interactive 360-degree tour of the UK and Ireland region which will be used to drive engagement between visitors and exhibitors after the event. VPiX has worked with resorts, hotels, nightclubs and estate agents in the past, and this is the first time its technology has been used in an events context. A 360-degree image of the UK and Ireland region will be posted onto www.wtmlondon.com website after this year’s event closes on November 6. Icons will be superimposed onto the participating stand. Visitors to the site then click on that icon and are connected to the exhibitor’s page within the Exhibitor Directory channel on the WTM web site. Contact details, brochure imagery and marketing materials such as embedded video and web content can be hosted on the exhibitor’s page and shared with virtual visitors. It will help further maintain the relationship with visitors throughout the year.

 
 
Delhi’s highest sky bar

The Royal Plaza hotel will launch ‘Sky’, a lounge, bar and grill on the twentieth floor of the hotel for guests to soak in the Capital’s skyline in November. It is set to be the highest sky bar planned in Delhi. Spread across an expansive space of 18,000 sq. ft., it is divided in two interconnected terrace spaces, the Moon Bar and the Presidential Lounge. The strategic location of the venue provides a panoramic 360 degree view of the national capital, with key highlights including Lotus Temple, Rashtrapati Bhavan, Qutub Minar and other significant landmarks in the city. A telescope has also been positioned for astronomy enthusiasts to get better views of the moon and constellations.

 
 
Gandhi's South Africa journey

A guide to over a dozen sites in South Africa related to Mahatma Gandhi, including the Pietermaritzburg station where he was thrown off a train and the Old Fort prison complex where he was jailed for two months, has been launched. A statement by the South Africa Tourism said that the 13 spots situated in and around the cities of Durban and Johannesburg were seminal in the formative years of Gandhi's life in South Africa, where he arrived in 1893 and left 21 years later in 1914. "We believe the guide will be very informative to both South African and international visitors and will resonate particularly with those who wish to learn more about Gandhi's South African experience," Hanneli Slabber, country manager, South African Tourism - India said. The guide can also be integrated into a wider visitor experience by highlighting places where Gandhi created history - Constitution Hill and Johannesburg's Old Fort Prison, a jail where Gandhi and Madiba were held, Slabber said. The other historical sites include the bronze statue of Gandhi in Durban that was unveiled by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 1993, Satyagraha House in Johannesburg where Gandhi and his great friend, Hermann Kallenbach, stayed.

 
 
MoT launches Android travel app

The Android Mobile Application of Incredible India’s official trip planning and destination discovery app Tripigator.com was launched by the Ministry of Tourism. Being the first and only instant travel planning engine Tripigator.com, the app creates personalised itineraries matching user preferences. It has integrated maps and geo-location based discovery of details which further improves travellers’ in-destination experience. Being a first of its kind personalised traveller planning engine, Tripigator.com instantly generates personalised travel itinerary on fewer inputs and significantly reduces user’s effort by replacing 10 tabs to 1 tab. The website www.tripigator.com is already an official travel planner of Ministry of Tourism and is available on Incredible India’s website.

 
 
Railways launches smart card Go-India

In a major initiative to improve railway interface, Indian Railways has launched five improved IT-enabled platforms both in passenger facilitation and freight transportation areas. The most significant of the new platforms was the launch of Go-India Smart Card, which is a pan-India smart card to enable passengers to pay for tickets for long distance reserved, unreserved and suburban journeys. It can be used at nominated UTS (Unreserved Ticketing System) counters and automatic ticket vending machines for unreserved tickets and nominated PRS (Passenger Reservation System) counters for reserved tickets.  The event also witnessed the official launch of New Generation e-Ticketing System (NGeT) which would be able to deliver an estimated 7,200 tickets per minute. The state-of-the-art, hi-performance platform, will also be able to manage and handle 1.20 lakh concurrent users without impacting the performance of the site. Besides NGeT and Go-India Smart Card, CRIS has launched three other software platforms including a Train Enquiry and Train Tracking mobile application, e-demand Registration system for freight booking and an e-diversion platform for freight. Also, keeping public convenience in view, the Indian Railways is soon going to open railway reservation counters in various locations. Based on the public-private partnership model, Indian Railways will open these reservation counters in various localities. Under the new reservation model, you can book tickets from the railway reservation agents who have been authorised by the railways to issue rail tickets. However, these facility centres will only be opened after an hour of the opening of railway station counters. During week days you can avail the facility between 9 am and 10 pm. You can also book tatkal tickets through such reservation centres. Tatkal booking at such centres will, however, start at 11am instead of 10 am.

 
 
MasterCard multi-currency prepaid card

MasterCard and Access Prepaid Worldwide announced the launch of MasterCard Multi-currency Cash PassportTM, a prepaid card that can be preloaded with up to seven currencies for extra-convenient international travel. Issued by Travelex Japan, the card will enable cardholders to pay for purchases at over 38 million merchant locations around the world. The card can be preloaded with Japanese Yen, US Dollar, Euro, British Pound, Australian Dollar, New Zealand Dollar and Canadian Dollar. When overseas, the Multi-currency Cash Passport can be used to withdraw cash in local currency, for cashless purchases and for online shopping.

 

 
 
France still top destination

A report released by the UN World Tourism Organisation says France holds on to its position as the top tourism destination in the world. France topped the list drawing 84.7 million tourists in 2013, up 2 per cent from the previous year. While, the United States nabbed a distant second, attracting 69.8 million visitors during the same period. With 60.7 million tourists, Spain, regained the third-place spot it had cede to China in 2010. China was fourth this year, with 55.7 million visitors. This year Thailand made its entry in the top-10 rankings with 26.5 million visitors. The reports are good news for France, which has been suffering from a tame economy and high unemployment. Asian visitors contribute much of the tourism success to France. The number of Chinese tourists visiting France shot up 23.4 per cent from the previous year, while tourists from India grew by 15.7 per cent.

 

 
 
Myanmar e-visa to boost tourist arrivals

Myanmar's immigration authorities have formally introduced online electronic e-visa for all foreign tourists in a bid to boost tourist arrivals in the country. The formal launch of the e-visa came after a trial period in August for a limited number of applications. The system will ensure all tourists destined to Myanmar to get e-visa within five days. According to the hotels and tourist authorities, the number of tourist arrivals in Myanmar reached 1.6 million in the first seven months of this year, up 43 percent from the same period of last year. Since taking office by the civilian government in 2011, tourist arrivals in Myanmar remarkably grew from 1.06 million in 2012 to 2.04 million in 2013 and it targets 3 million tourists in 2015 and over 7 million by 2020 under the 2013-2020 Myanmar main tourist project. Of the foreign visitors, those from Asia accounted for 70 per cent with others from Europe, America, Africa and the Middle East also growing. Myanmar's tourist development is also highlighted by the visit of foreign tourists to Myanmar's world-known Shwedagon Pagoda and the number of visitors to the pagoda reached 245,586 in the first half of 2014, up 30,000 from the same period of last year.

 

 
 
SpiceJet international flight from Kolkata

Budget carrier SpiceJet started its first international flight from Kolkata with a service to Nepal's capital Kathmandu via West Bengal's tourist hotspot Bagdogra. The airline had last month announced a promotional fare of Rs 99 for the Bagdogra-Kathmandu leg while Rs 4,289 for Kolkata-Kathmandu journey. SpiceJet has deployed Boeing 737 Next Generation aircraft on both these routes. The airline has already seen 5,260 bookings for its newly-launched sector since it was announced last month. The Kolkata-Bagdogra-Kathmandu flight will operate three times a week - Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It’s SpiceJet second service to Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport from the country. The airline already operates its flight services from New Delhi to Kathmandu. SpiceJet is the first Indian airline to operate on Kathmandu-Bagdogra route. This new three times weekly Kathmandu flight is in addition to the 11 weekly direct flights SpiceJet already operates on Delhi-Kathmandu route.

 

 
 
New UAE multiple-entry visa system

Recent regulatory changes to the United Arab Emirates’ visa system will have a transformative effect on Dubai’s cruise sector and further boost medical tourism in the emirate. A new ruling in the UAE (Cabinet Resolution No. 22 of 2014) which took effect on 1 August 2014, will ensure implementation of a new visa and fees system. Amendments include a new multiple entry tourism permit for cruise passengers and a range of new entry permits for medical tourists and their companions. The ruling was signed by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. These visa options will make travel between UAE and visiting nearby countries easier for travellers who need to make multiple stops whether by air, land or sea. The new multiple entry tourism permit for cruise passengers at just 200 dirhams (c. US$50) will now make their travel more cost effective and logistically more convenient with particular impact on a number of key markets for which previous regulations made the cost significantly higher, including India, China, Russia and CIS, South Africa, and Brazil.

 

 
 
Sikkim most favoured destination

Sikkim has become the most favoured destination of foreign tourists in the north-eastern states of the country. While the state received 23,602 tourists in 2011, the figures were 26489 in 2012 and 31698 in 2013, respectively, a press release issued by the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front quoting the latest figures of the tourism ministry issued by the centre said. Sikkim is followed by Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura respectively, the release said. Tourism development has been the ‘priority’ of the SDF government and the state government has been working for tourism development for a long time creating ‘world class tourism infrastructure in the state’, the SDF release said. The release said the state has already been recognised as the best place to visit, in the world famous travel guidebook ‘Lonely Planet’.

 

 
 
It’s party-time aboard the HOHO bus

Bored of celebrating birthdays at home or at a restaurant? Take your folks out for a proper celebration on wheels cruising across the major tourist destinations in New Delhi. And, get a cake! Quite a number of parents have already opted for the concept for their children’s parties, which is slowly gaining popularity. According to Delhi Tourism and Transport Development Corporation (DTTDC) officials, the buses run on two pre-decided routes–red and green–between 8am and 8pm. “Since you will get the bus for nearly eight hours, you get to decide the spot where you want to spend the maximum time or which ones to skip,” DTTDC general manager Ravi Dadhich said. For such parties, the department decorates the bus. Every bus has a guide on board. To book a bus, all you need to do is call on the DTTDC helpline 011-40940000 or visit their Baba Kharak Singh Marg office. The fee is  Rs 11,000 for a party

 

 
 
Delhi-Katra train service launched

The railways has introduced a daily train service from New Delhi to Katra, the base camp for pilgrims visiting the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine.The AC superfast Shri Shakti Express will depart from New Delhi station at 5:30 pm daily and arrive at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra station at 5:10 am the next day. Similarly, in the return direction, it will depart from there at 10:55 pm daily and reach New Delhi at 10:45 am the next day. Comprising one first AC, five AC two-tier and nine AC three-tier coaches, the train will have stoppages at Ambala Cantt, Ludhiana, Jalandhar Cantt, Pathankot Cantt, Jammu Tawi and Udhampur stations enroute in both directions. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had flagged off the first train from Katra while commissioning the 25-km-long Udhampur-Katra line, built at an estimated cost of `1,132.75 crore. The shrine attracts about 10 million pilgrims annually. The train connectivity to Katra is part of the ambitious Kashmir rail link project marking region’s rail connectivity with the rest of the country.

 
 
Egypt Air to launch flights to Delhi

In a bid to boost tourism, Egypt's flagship carrier Egypt Air will start operating three weekly direct flights between Cairo and Delhi from October this year, adding to its four flights to Mumbai. Navdeep Suri, Indian Ambassador to Egypt, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the flight launch with Hossam Kamal, Minister of Civil Aviation, Egypt, and Hisham Za’zou, Tourism Minister of Egypt. The Egyptian Ministries of Tourism and Aviation are trying to boost tourism by increasing flights to many cities and capitals and connecting them directly with Egyptian cities. Tourism in Egypt has always been one of the biggest economic factors. However, since the 2011 revolution that ended the autocratic rule of Hosni Mubarak, tourism has gone down sharply, as many tourists have stopped coming to Egypt, regarding the country as unsafe. Egypt Air is already operating four direct flights a week to Mumbai, and with the new three direct flights to Delhi, they will be operating seven flights a week to India.

 
 
Dubai International track reopened

Dubai International Airport has been reopened after an 80-day upgrade programme. Airport’s runways were closed consecutively from May 1 for refurbishment. The project involved the resurfacing of the entire 4,000-metre long northern runway as well as the upgrading of runway lighting and construction of additional taxiways and rapid exits on the southern runway. The upgrades were needed to accommodate an increasing number of aircraft as traffic at the airport continues to grow rapidly. The rehabilitation and construction work required the use of 800,000 tonnes of aggregates, 11,000 airfield lighting luminaires, 1,050 Km of cabling, 1,750 new manholes and 8.3 Km of drainage piping. The opening of the northern runway paves the way for the return to Dubai International of airlines – including flydubai – which temporarily operated selected flights to Al Maktoum International at Dubai World Central (DWC) for the duration of the refurbishment programme. Four scheduled airlines – Wizz Air, Gulf Air, Jazeera Airways and Qatar Airways – which operated at DWC before the runway closure will continue to fly from Dubai’s second airport. Passengers are again advised to check with their airline which airport they will be flying from during the transition period. The opening of the northern runway and ramp up to a full schedule, when combined with the upcoming Eid holidays, will result in a significant surge in passenger numbers.

 
 
Etihad Airways to expand India services

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, will provide travellers with even more connections between India, the UAE and other key markets around the world, following a major service upgrade to Kochi, Bangalore, Chennai, Kozhikode and Hyderabad this summer. Due to strong demand from business and leisure travellers, a double-daily frequency will be operated to Bangalore, Chennai and Kozhikode, and Hyderabad from October. As a result, guests have the option of daytime or overnight flights, and improved connections between India and key markets in the GCC, Middle East, Africa, Europe and North America. The airline will utilise new Airbus A320s, scheduled for delivery this year, to accommodate much of the increased frequencies. Larger wide-body aircraft were also introduced on selected routes in November 2013, with a three-class A340 on overnight Mumbai flights, marking the debut of Etihad Airways’ First Class product on the route, and A330s on overnight Delhi flights. Kochi flights have also been upgraded with the recent introduction of new Airbus A321 aircraft, while overnight Delhi flights will be further enhanced with three-class Boeing 777 in July. In addition to the seven existing or planned double-daily services, Etihad Airways operates daily to Ahmedabad, Trivandrum and most recently, Jaipur, where flights commenced in April 2014. As part of the expansion, Etihad Airways has placed its ‘EY’ code on domestic services in India for the first time, with the codeshare agreement now including 31 Jet Airways routes.

 
 
Air India resumes Delhi-Moscow flight

National carrier Air India has launched direct non-stop operations between Delhi and Moscow, the Russian capital and Europe’s second largest city in July, with the B787 Dreamliner aircraft. The non-stop service on the Delhi-Moscow-Delhi sector will operate four days a week on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Flight AI-155 will leave Delhi at 0155 hrs to arrive in Moscow at 0615 hrs early in the morning. The return flight will leave Moscow at 0820 hrs as AI-154 and reach Delhi in the afternoon at 1530 hrs. A long-standing need of Indians settled in Russia as well as of Russian locals visiting the Indian sub-continent, has now been met with the resumption of this service, which had been suspended 15 years ago due to operational reasons. To mark the resumption of services, a function was held at Domodedovo International Airport (DME), Moscow. The new service assumed significance in view of the strong relationship that India and Russia have shared for the last 60 years in tourism, education, industry, culture etc. The new service will cater to different segments of air travellers. At present about 10,000 people travel between the two countries every month including a large number of Government of India officials. The flight will serve Indians travelling to St Petersburg as well as the over 1000 Indian students in Russia. Also, once the Air India service becomes financially stable, Air India will examine connecting other cities in Russia. The flight will be a boost to tourism as well. This flight has generated a lot of enthusiasm in the Indian Diaspora in Russia.

 
 
Grand Canyon 'threatened'

The US National Parks Service has expressed fears that the Grand Canyon is facing the biggest threat in its history, thanks to enthusiastic property developers. Two developments have been proposed for the area. One is a shopping and entertainment complex near the confluence of the Colorado River and the Little Colorado River, with a $1.5million cable car attraction that would stretch into the national park boundary and allow tourists to easily reach the canyon floor. The second is a housing and retail development with a proposed entertainment stage on the south rim of the Canyon that would add 2,200 homes and three million sq. ft of retail space to Tusayan, a town that currently has a population of less than 1,000. Both present different threats to the park, say park officials. The first would potentially threaten the habitats of endangered species at the Canyon, as well as encroaching on National Park Territory and crossing a neighbouring Hopi tribe’s sacred site (said to be located at the confluence of the rivers). The second would be a potential noise and light pollution threat. Both developments would also place intense strain on the already scarce water resources in the area.

 
 
Thailand launches tourist insurance

Tourists planning a visit to Thailand can now avail of a special online insurance coverage scheme known as the “Thailand Travel Shield”, which will be set up by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) in cooperation with four reputed Thai insurance companies, Muang Thai Insurance, Chao Phaya Insurance, Siam City Insurance, and Krungthai Panich Insurance. All are reputable, publicly-listed companies. Effective July 25, 2014, visitors will be able to buy the insurance coverage online for a broad range of unforeseen events ranging from accidents, trip cancellation, loss or damage of baggage / personal belongings, emergency hotel accommodation, etc. The period of coverage ranges up to 60 days, but it can also cover visitors making annual trips to Thailand.

 
 
Plan to extend hours at Machu Picchu

The Governor of Cuzco wants to open Machu Picchu for longer hours in a bid to attract an extra 5,000 tourists a day to the Inca site. Rene Concha Lezama has suggested keeping the ruins open until 8pm daily in a bid to double the number of people who can visit the hilltop site. The current opening hours are from 6am to 5pm and conservationists have already warned that the ruins are put under undue strain by the quantity of visitors, but Mr Lezama feels the extra three hours will help meet the huge demand from tourists. The ruins, named one of the New Seven Wonders Of The World in 2007, currently undergo maintenance every day in a bid to prevent long-term damage by visitors. But there are fears extra visitors could further damage the terraces, although it would also be a money-spinner for the nation. Currently there is a limit of 2,500 people allowed daily, but the extra three hours could see that number soar to as many as 5,000. Meanwhile, a 500-year-old road to the Incan site was recently discovered by archaeologists. The road is about a mile long and ends near a site overlooking the ruins of Machu Picchu. The road includes a tunnel—around 15 feet long and 12 feet high—built with the rocks typical of Inca architecture.

 

 
 
Wizarding World opens at Osaka

Universal Studios Japan has unveiled its long-awaited Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Based on the phenomenally popular book series by British author J.K. Rowling and subsequent films produced by Warner Bros, the new Osaka attraction is Universal Studios’ second Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park. Originally opened at Universal Studios Florida in 2010, which recently launched Diagon Alley, a second area of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The Osaka version of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter has many of the same attractions found in its Orlando counterpart. This includes Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where visitors will find the signature “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” ride, an amazing flight simulator filled with special effects. Getting there is half the fun as guests get to tour the castle filled with some of Hogwarts’ most famous spaces, such as the portrait room, Dumbledore’s office, the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, Gryffindor common room and the Room of Requirement. It even boasts of a few features not found in Orlando like the Hogwarts’ Black Lake and live owls. Universal Studios Osaka can be accessed by train. The nearest station is JR Universal City. Park hours vary according to day/season, Tickets from 6,980 yen per adult, 4,880 yen per child.

 
 
Partial rollback of rail fare hike

The Centre announced a partial rollback of the unprecedented rail fare hike. Besides not hiking second-class daily ticket fares for up to 80 kms, first-class daily tickets and first and second-class season tickets will now be increased by a flat 14.2 per cent. The unprecedented hike announced on June 20, 2014 ranging between 100 per cent and 187 per cent, had drawn criticism from over 75 lakh Mumbaikars who commute by local trains. The new fares will be effective on June 28, 2014. The rollback was announced by the Railway Board after a delegation of MPs from Mumbai met Sadanand Gowda, Minister for Railways, Government of India, urging him to cancel the hike. 

 
 
New time table to come in September

The new Railway Time Table will now come into effect from September 1 instead of July 1 this year. Keeping in mind the possible announcement of new trains in the Rail Budget, to be presented on July 8, railways have decided to come out with a new time table in September. The new Railway National Time Table and Zonal Railway Public Time Table will now come into effect from September 1. It has been decided to extend the validity of the time table upto August 31, which was scheduled to expire on June 30. While about 65 new trains were announced by the then Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge in the interim Rail Budget, the present Railway Minister Sadanand Gowda is also expected to announce some trains in his maiden budget.

 
 
No entry for agents at reservation centres

Railway ticket booking agents will not be allowed to book tickets at the computerised reservation centres of the railway administration. The ban came into effect in Pune division a few days ago. The Railways authorises the Rail Travellers Service Agents (RTSA) to book tickets for train travel. Agents charge passengers an additional sum for the service. There are 20 authorized RTSAs, who have photo identity cards and letters of appointment, active in Pune division. Agents will not be allowed at the counters, but people can walk in at any reservation centre to book their ticket. The counters, if designated for agents, will now be open for all. However, there are no concrete checks in place to ensure agents are weeded out of the queue. Besides, a ban may not have much impact on ticket booking as many people book tickets online. As per a rough estimate, about 40 per cent tickets in Pune division are booked on the IRCTC site. The RTSA Association wants agents to be allowed in till the railway administration appoints RTSAs as e-ticketing agents.

 
 
Railways to launch braille train

Railways will launch a new train with all its coaches equipped with Braille-embedded signages on berths, toilets, wash basins and doors as part of the 100-day agenda being finalised by the national transporter. Flagging off train to Katra, long awaited for clearance from Railway Commissioner for Safety, too is on the agenda. Launching of the 20-coach train with Braille signages, a first of its kind, for facilitating visually-impaired passengers, will be part of the Railway's 100-day agenda to be submitted to PMO shortly. The visually-impaired-friendly coaches in both AC and Sleeper classes were made on the basis of inputs received from Research Designs and Standards Organisation, Railways' research arm, and in consultation with associations for the blind.  The long-awaited train service to Katra, the base camp of Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu and Kashmir, will soon be a reality as the Railways is gearing up to make the 25-km long Udhampur-Katra rail line operational shortly. The commissioning of the Udhampur-Katra line is likely to be part of the 100-day agenda. Getting down to business, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked all his Cabinet colleagues to set a 100-day agenda with focus on efficient governance, delivery and implementation of programmes.

 
 
Cleanliness Drive in trains and stations

With an aim to make rail premises clean and hygienic, Railways have begun a two-week long massive cleanliness drives at all important stations and in trains across the country. The objective of this drive is to make a visible impact in passenger areas on cleanliness. The drive, which began on June 7 and will conclude on June 21, includes cleanliness of platforms, toilets, waiting and retiring rooms and other areas involving passenger movement. According to the Chairman Railway Board (CRB) directive, circulating areas will be cleaned, unclaimed vehicles will be towed and pre-paid taxi areas will also be made proper. Cleanliness drive will ensure white-washing of stations, including the concourse, covering of water booths and drains at stations especially in passenger areas and check for any water leakage in trains or station premises. The CRB has also asked Divisional Railway Managers (DRMs) to check one station everyday for the next two weeks and Assistant General Managers (AGMs) of the concerned Zonal Railways will also inspect the 
stations for cleanliness.

 
 
Railways to install CCTV in coaches

In a bid to provide a sense of security to millions of its passengers, Indian railway authorities are planning to install CCTV cameras in new coaches of nearly 1,000 trains. The decision to install CCTV cameras in coaches was taken in the wake of projected threats, complaints of drugging of passengers and robberies on trains in the last few years. Several rounds of consultations between members of Railway Board and its traffic management were carried out and the railway officials have agreed in principle to roll out the plan shortly. Motive to equip coaches with CCTV cameras is to cover all security aspects, especially unreserved coaches to foil drugging and dacoities on board. Installation of CCTVs in general coaches would be taken up first in zones where drugging of passengers and crimes on running trains have been reported frequently. All RPF train escort parties would have smart mobiles to establish contact and collect evidence and report to seniors in real time. At present, RPF and the Government Railway Police escort over 3,500 trains daily across India.

 
 
World’s largest international airport to come up in Istanbul

A groundbreaking ceremony for Istanbul’s third international and the world’s biggest airport was held on June 6. With a capacity of 90 million passengers, space for 500 planes and a 76-million-meter-square area, the airport will be the largest in the world and the biggest aviation hub in Europe. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, along with a large number of ministers, businessmen and local governors, gathered for the ceremony in the remote Arnavutkoy neighborhood of Istanbul to attend the event. Istanbul’s two airports, currently operational, were visited by a total of over 70 million passengers in 2013, raising concerns of capacity issues as the number continued to rise. The first phase of the airport, meant to service 90 million passengers, would be operational on Oct 29, 2017, marking Turkey’s 94th Republic Day. Turkey’s passenger numbers increased by 11 million last year. In 20 years’ time, Istanbul airports’ commercial aircraft traffic is expected to exceed 1 million aircraft, carrying 118 million passengers per year, according to a 2010 forecast by Turkey’s Middle East Technical University. The airport will be connected to the city center through a new highway, the upcoming third bridge on the Bosporus and railway systems. The ultra-modern new airport will include four separate terminal buildings connected via a rail system, eight control towers, six airfields, 16 taxi roads, a 6.5 million square meter apron, cargo and general aviation terminal, a parking garage with capacity for about 70,000 cars, medical aviation center, hotels and a convention center. Turkish Airlines CEO Temel Kotil said the third airport would play a crucial role in making Istanbul a regional hub.

 
 
Dining experience on Malaysia Airlines

The next time you fly Malaysia Airlines, why not opt for an ‘MH Gourmet’ meal? Starting 3 June 2014, passengers flying on Malaysia Airlines can replace their complimentary meal on Economy Class to a premium meal package from ‘MH Gourmet’ meal, in advance.  ‘MH Gourmet’ offers six premium meals with selections from Malaysian, Western and Japanese cuisine to bring a fine dining experience onboard Economy class. Choose from braised beef cheeks, grilled lamb cutlets, chicken cordon bleu, skewer of prawn piccata, glazed cod teriyaki style or beef rendangtok. The meals are served with appetizer, dessert, chocolates and fresh bread rolls; priced at just RM70 each.  As an introductory offer, starting from 3rd June to 3rd July these premium meals are priced at RM49 each. The ‘MH Gourmet’ is offered on board Malaysia Airlines flights from Kuala Lumpur to destinations in Asia, North Asia, India, Europe, Middle East and Australia/New Zealand. Passengers may use their Credit or Debit Cards when payment is made at Malaysia Airlines Global Customer Contact Centre by calling 1 300 88 3000 or +603 7843 3000 for customers outside Malaysia whereas for Ticket Offices, passengers may use cash, credit or debit cards as their payment modes.

 
 
Heathrow Terminal 2 opens to passengers

The long awaited new Terminal 2 building has opened at London Heathrow Airport. The new building replaces the old Terminal 2, which has been demolished, and is part of a plan to revitalize Heathrow. The airport has long suffered from overcrowding. The 2.5 billion pound ($4.2 billion) building is designed to handle 20 million passengers each year. The new terminal has been named The Queen's Terminal in honour of Queen Elizabeth and is a part of a huge £11 billion overhaul at the airport aimed at making it one of the best in the world.  Airport planners are phasing in the new building, scheduling just 34 flights on its first day. They hope to avoid the large scale baggage handling problems and other delays that marred the opening of Terminal 5 in 2008. Terminal 2 has welcomed its first passengers, with the airport insisting it has learned lessons from the opening of Terminal 5. The airport will open in stages to avoid the chaos in 2008 when Terminal 5 opened and staff struggled to cope with the computer and baggage systems. At The Queen’s Terminal passengers there are 60 check-in desks and 66 self-service kiosks and there are 634 toilets. It has 28 gates, eight A380 piers, 33 shops and 17 restaurants. Drivers will have plenty of choice when parking their cars as there are a total of 1,340 spaces.

 
 
Indigo to link Delhi, Jammu and Pune

India’s largest carrier by market share, Indigo, has launched four new flights connecting Delhi, Jammu, Pune and Chennai in June. With these new additions, the low cost airline now operates 500 flights every day in the country. IndiGo, which is expected to face tough competition from the local subsidiary of the Malaysian airline AirAsia has launched four new flights on its domestic routes, starting from June 10. The addition of these new proposed services would take the airline's total number of flights to 502, from 498 across 36 destinations with a fleet of 78 aircraft. The new flights would be launched on the Delhi-Jammu- Delhi and Pune-Chennai-Pune sectors, which include a second daily non-stop service between Delhi and Jammu. These services would commence operations from June 10 and June 15. In its commitment to provide maximum connectivity from across the country on its network, IndiGo will provide increased frequencies on the routes and offer greater travel options to passengers across these cities.

 
 
AI to fly Delhi-Rome-Milan route

Air India Ltd has started direct flights to Italy. The triangular route from Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi to Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport, Rome, and further to Malpensa Airport, Milan is being operated with a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The Delhi-Rome-Milan-Delhi route operates on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. AI 123 departs from Delhi at 1420 hrs and arrives in Rome at 1905 hrs. The flight AI 122, leaves Rome at 2040 hrs and reaches Milan at 2200 hrs. The return flight AI 122 departs from Milan at 2330 hrs and arrives in Delhi at 1015 hrs the following day. The opposite route Delhi-Milan-Rome-Delhi operates on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Flight AI 123 leaves from Delhi at 1420 hrs and arrives in Milan at 1930 hrs. It then proceeds to Rome as AI 122 at 2100 hrs and lands at 2210 hrs. The return flight AI 122 from Rome departs at 2335 hrs and arrives in Delhi on the following day at 1015 hrs. Air India’s B787 Dreamliner has a two-class configuration, with 18 Business Class seats and 238 Economy Class.

 
 
flydubai to start sevices to Tier-II cities

Dubai-based flydubai is planning to operate services to Tier-II cities in the Indian market. With India emerging as the second source market for hotels in Dubai for two consecutive years, flydubai believes this is the right time to operate flights to under served cities and airports. flydubai, which is operating flights to the Indian cities of Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Lucknow since 2010, expanded its route network in the country by launching services to Delhi, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram earlier this month. The low-cost carrier started operating four weekly flights to the national capital while connecting the two states in South India with three-times-a-week service, as per a release. Currently, with flights to six points in India, flydubai has a total seat entitlement of 5,140 till summer 2015, of which they are using 3,441. Additionally, with increasing demand for business travel to and from India, flydubai has started offering Business Class seats on its flights from Delhi, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram. flydubai offers Business Class passengers access to faster check-in and baggage services, comfortable and spacious seating and a variety of internationally-inspired menus. flydubai operates a fleet of 36 new Next-Generation Boeing 737-800 aircraft. India is the third largest country that flydubai operates to by number of points. The airline has 74 destinations on its route network, 48 of which were previously underserved markets from Dubai including Armenia, Iraq, Kabul, Georgia, Romania, Serbia and Kazan and Ufa in Russia.

 
 
Bangalore-Kochi flights for Rs 500

After the inaugural flight AirAsia India, continuing to trigger price wars in the Indian aviation market, has announced flights between Bangalore and Kochi with a limited offer of an all-inclusive fare of `500. Just four days after breaking into the Indian domestic aviation space, the airline said it will start daily flights between Bangalore and Kochi from 20 July. AirAsia India will operate twice-daily flights on the Bangalore-Chennai-Bangalore route from 19 June, besides the daily flight between Bangalore and Goa. Air Asia India's advent has forced the country's other carriers like IndiGo, SpiceJet, GoAir to offer comparable discounts on the same routes. But Air India Express, and JetLite, the country's other two 'budget' carriers, have not yet declared their intentions in this regard.

 
 
AirAsia launched in India

The country's fourth budget carrier AirAsia India, the domestic arm of Malaysian low-cost carrier AirAsia Berhad, finally commenced operations with its first flight taking off from Bengaluru's Kempegowda International Airport for Goa. The new entrant had last month announced the opening of bookings for the inaugural flight and offered fares as low as `990 for the Bengaluru-Goa flight. AirAsia India, whose top officials have promised to offer low and competitive airfares, will focus on connecting tier-II cities to begin with. AirAsia fares will be about 35 per cent lower than the current market rates. Following Directorate General of Civil Aviation’s guidelines, AirAsia India has stopped rule of charging every check-in baggage. The airline decided to not charge for any check-in luggage up to 15 kg. The airline has opened its bookings last week for its inaugural routes, Bengaluru-Goa and Bengaluru-Chennai. The budget airline had earlier decided to continue with its international practice of not offering free check-in luggage. It had announced a fee of `199 for up to 15 kg, and more over that weight. However, DGCA took objection to the airline charging fees without informing it. While airlines in India are allowed to unbundle services (charge for services), they need to inform the aviation regulator before introducing them.

 

 
 
Air India teams up with Star Alliance

Star Alliance is the longest serving global airline alliance, offering worldwide reach and a smoother travel experience. Air India has now joined the group that already has 26 leading international carriers in its fold. The national carrier is the first Indian airline to have been inducted into the group. The Star Alliance network offers more than 18,000 daily flights to 1,293 airports in 193 countries. Being a member of the alliance has been of tremendous value to the carriers, in terms of revenue generation as well as cost reduction. Member carriers continue to work on joint purchasing initiatives which include fuel, fleet coordination, collocation and information technology projects. As a Star Alliance member, from July 11 this year, Air India will offer seamless travel experiences across the Alliance network across the world. Speaking on the occasion, Jeremy Cooh of Star Alliance told Terrascape, “We consider this a government to government alliance. The Air India has been able to complete the required safety and other protocols within a record six months. Every member of the Alliance is required to pass these certifications.” Talking about the delay in bringing Air India into the Alliance, since the first request had been sent out in 2009, he added, “The Air India has undergone several changes for the better in their services. They have improved in matters of punctuality among others and we feel that this is the right time for this collaboration.”

 
 
DISNEY'S HARRY POTTER PARK: GRINGOTTS AND DIAGON ALLEY OPEN FOR PUBLIC

Universal Orlando Resort opened its new, richly detailed Harry Potter-themed area to media and other travel industry insiders in June. The new park zone, called The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley, will delight fans of the hit book and movie series with a marquee ride, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.

But Diagon Alley is also heavy on experiential retail, with stores so entertaining and visually stimulating that you almost forget you’re shopping. Diagon Alley even has its own currency, so guests can swap U.S. dollars (muggles money) for wizard cash, to spend or to keep as a souvenir.

The attraction doubles the size of the Harry Potter footprint on Universal’s property. Diagon Alley opens to the public July 8 at Universal Studios. A train called the Hogwarts Express connects the new area to the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hogsmeade, which opened in 2010 at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Universal Studio’s sister park.

Even the train ride between the two parks is immersive. Visitors board at either King’s Cross Station (built like a real Tube station) or Hogsmeade Station for a two-minute trip in enclosed compartments. A video screen (instead of windows) shows a passing urban landscape, then countryside, along with Harry Potter characters. Outside the car door, silhouettes flit in the corridor and familiar voices from Potter movies are overheard.

If fans want to ride the train, a two-park ticket is required. For adults, a two-park ticket for one day costs $136; for children, it’s $130.

The new Harry Potter area has one main eatery called the Leaky Cauldron. It’s a large restaurant with large group tables just inside the entrance. There are also street kiosks with food and drink, plus Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour.

Here are some must-try culinary adventures from Diagon Alley for us ordinary muggles.

Butterbeer ice cream: When Universal’s original Harry Potter attraction – the Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Hogsmeade – opened in 2010, butterbeer – a sweet, butterscotch, non-alcoholic beverage – was instantly popular. Diagon Alley offers butterbeer soft-serve ice cream, and it’s just the thing for a hot Orlando day. The ice cream shop also sells other unusual flavors, such as Earl Grey and lavender, or chocolate chili. Cost: $4.79.

Mini-pie combination: If you’re unsure whether you’ll like a large portion of traditional British meat-and-potatoes pies, try the mini. It includes two smaller savory pies with a side salad. One pie is salmon, shrimp and cod, the other is beef and vegetables, both baked under a mashed potato crust. Cost: $12.99. (And if you’re still hungry, add on a toad in the hole – sausage baked in a flour-egg batter, $8.99.)

Ploughman’s platter: This is like an English charcuterie plate, with cheeses, crusty bread, cornichon pickles, apple-beet salad, Branston pickle (pickled diced vegetables) and a Scotch egg (hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat and baked). Cost: $19.99 (serves two).

Sticky toffee pudding: This moist, spongy cake is covered in gooey toffee and topped with vanilla ice cream. Yum. Cost: $6.99

Gillywater: In the Harry Potter stories, Gillywater is made from Gillyweed, a magical plant. In real life, it looks like plain bottled water, but costumed Universal employees add magical and colorful elixirs for a slightly sweet taste. The names of the elixirs are fun: Draught of Peace, Babbling Beverage, Elixir to Induce Euphoria and Fire Protection Potion. Cost: $4.

 
 
World’s longest cable car at La Paz

The world's longest urban cable car has opened up the cities to travellers and commuters. The route between La Paz and El Alto has long been arduous: it's only 10 km as the crow flies, but the twisting roads and heavy traffic make it an hour-long journey at times. However, a new cable car system, inaugurated by Bolivian President Evo Morales last Friday, is set to transport passengers between the cities in under 20 minutes – great news for visitors, and an essential asset for commuters. The glass pods now glide between La Paz and El Alto, the world's highest major city (4,150m), over the traffic queues and hillside housing. It is the longest urban cable car in the world. The cable car will make the journey much more bearable for La Paz's commuters, who have traditionally tackled the route in white minivan buses. It's also good news for travellers: not only is the travel time quicker, but the views of the snow-tipped Andes and sprawling cityscape are impressive too. Tour companies are set to add the cable car to their local itineraries: Tellez-Garside's HighLives has already announced its La Paz city trip will include a ride. One-way tickets on the cable car cost Bs (Bolivar) 3.00 (25p). Concessionary tickets (for children, students, pensioners and the disabled) cost Bs 1.5 (12p).

 

 
 
New timings, tariffs for Italian museums

Changes have been announced to opening hours and entry fees at State-run museums and monuments to bring Italy "into line with Europe". From July 1, visitors under the age of 18 will have entry free of charge, while people aged 65 and over - who, until now, have had free entry - will have to pay. There will also be reductions for young people aged 18-25. Opening at major sites such as the Colosseum in Rome and the Uffizi gallery in Florence will be extended by two hours until 10 pm on Fridays, while on the first Sunday of the month entry to all State-run monuments, museums and archaeological sites will be free. In addition 'museum night' involving late-night openings for a nominal ticket price of 1 euro will be held twice a year.

 

 
 
'Frozen' frenzy boosts Norway tourism

The popularity of the Disney movie "Frozen" has not only led to box-office profits, sold-out merchandise and long lines to meet "Frozen" characters in Disney parks. It's also motivating fans to visit Norway to see the landscape that inspired the animated movie setting. Harald Hansen, US spokesman for Visit Norway, said the number of US tourists to Norway increased markedly since the film's release in November, with booked hotel nights up 37 percent for the first quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2013. He said tour operators have also seen a 40 percent sales increase this year, compared to the same period last year, while Oslo Airport Gardermoen reported a 57 percent increase in arrivals from New York for the first quarter. "We noticed a huge increase from the US already in November and December last year, just after we started our marketing with Disney in October," Hansen said. He added that the increase in traffic is most noticeable in the fjord region, but that there is also more interest in Oslo and Northern Norway, where visitors can see the northern lights - a phenomenon that is also shown in the movie. Norwegian Air has also just begun flying direct to Oslo from Orlando, Florida, the airport nearest to Disney World.

 

 
 
Mud-pack for Taj Mahal

A radical stain-removing treatment promises to peel away the years on the pollution-ravaged Unesco World Heritage monument. Archaeologists have turned to cleaning treatments based on a traditional recipe, to remove unsightly yellow pollution stains that blight the monument which was built as a mausoleum by Emperor Shah Jahan in 1653. The mixture of lime-rich clay, used by Indian women to restore a natural glow to their faces, will be plastered over the affected areas and left to dry over night. When it dries, the flakes will be removed from the surface with soft nylon brushes and washed with distilled water to remove any impurities sticking to the surface. The marble mausoleum has been given this treatment three times in the past: in 1994, 2001 and 2008.

 

 
 
Special trains on Banihal-Bla-Bud route

Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has decided to run two special tourist trains on Banihal to Budgam and Banihal to Baramula route of Kashmir. From June 2, in order to cater the needs of tourists visiting Kashmir, the trains will be on track till June 30 and will run between Banihal –Baramulla and Banihal-Budgam railway stations on six days a week except Sundays and make 25 trips in this period. Train number 04611 Banihal-Baramula will depart from Banihal station, everyday expect Sunday at 8.10 am from June 2 to reach Baramulla at 11.45 am on the same day. On the return journey, train number 04614 will depart from Baramulla Station at 12.00 noon to reach Banihal at 03.05 pm on the same day. Banihal-Baramula special train will stop at Hillar Shahbad Halt, Qazigund, Sadura, Anantnag, Panjgam, Bijbihara, Awantipura, Kakapora, Pampore, Budgam, Srinagar, Mazhom, Pattan, Hamre and Sopore stations enroute in both the directions. Similarly special train number 04612 Banihal-Budgam will depart from Budgam at 06.05 am from June 2 to reach Banihal at 07.55 am, the same day. 

 
 
Online booking for retiring rooms started

Travellers can now book retiring rooms online as the Railways has operationalised the retiring room application system for more than 60 stations including all metro cities across the country. Rooms at the originating station or at the destination station could be reserved online at 67 stations including Amritsar, Patna, Jammu, Shimla, Ahmedabad. Earlier online facility for booking retiring rooms was available for a few stations like Mumbai and New Delhi only. The facility has been extended at several stations like Allahabad, Lucknow, Amethi and Rae Bareli among others and a passenger having a confirmed ticket can use the electronic system to book retiring room at the website of www.railtourismindia.com.

 

 
 
New tourist train from Chennai to Nepal

IRCTC has launched a tourist train from Chennai to Nepal, primarily aimed at pilgrims from south India. Those opting for this tour will be taken around Hindu and Buddhist pilgrimage destinations in north India and Nepal. It will be an exclusive AC tourist train for a round trip from Chennai, covering Allahabad, Varanasi (Kasi), Ayodhya, Kathmandu, Manakamana, Pokhara and Kushinagar. The train will pass through Vijaywada and Warangal for the benefit of pilgrims from Andhra Pradesh. The train will comprise of four first AC, three AC-II tier and one AC-III tier coaches. These have been called the Luxury, Deluxe and Comfort classes. All coaches have been specially renovated for additional passenger comfort. The train is exclusively meant for tourists and will have a separate pantry car to serve vegetarian food to the pilgrims. There will be tour escorts on board as well as security personnel. The train also has a PA system for discourses and instructions on day to day conduct of the tour. The tour includes travel by the AC Tourist Train, AC hotel accommodation at places where night stay will be required, buses for transfers and sightseeing, on-board and off-board vegetarian catering, services of tour escort and security. IRCTC is a Government of India enterprise and our customers are assured of quality services. In this trip, the tourists will get an opportunity to bathe in the Triveni Sangam in Allahabad, visit the famous Vishwanath temple and Visalakshi temple in Varanasi, visit Pashupathinath Temple, Swayambhunath and Budha Nilkantha temple in Kathmandu. Also included in the package are visits to Lumbini in Nepal, the holy birth place of Lord Buddha and Kushinagar, another principal centre of Buddhism, where Lord Buddha passed away. Visit to Ayodhya, the epic Ramayana-fame site and Sightseeing at Pokhara, Nepal will also be other attractions in this tour. Government sector and PSU employees can avail LTC facilities for this tour.

 

 
 
Jet Airways launches check-in service app

Jet Airways Ltd has launched a self check-in service application (app) on mobile devices, which can be downloaded from the websites, www.jetairways.com, and m.jetairways.com. This app offers enhanced features such as unique system recognising check-in members, interactive seat map, and convenient check-in for code-share and interline flights, etc.  The app can be used on Android, iOS, Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10 devices. The new check-in system operates on a unique platform that intelligently identifies a Jet Airways or JetKonnect booking reference (PNR) issued by the airline itself or a travel agent. In addition, the system has been enhanced to check-in guests travelling with a child or infant as well as groups booked on a single PNR. It also provides guests the convenience to check-in for code-share and interline flights. Moreover guests will have the option to update their frequent flyer number, as also meal preference. Similarly, the service offers interactive seat map with an additional feature, which displays emergency exit seats, companion seats and non-reclining seats during the check-in process. Upon successful check-in, guests will receive their e-boarding pass via email. Passengers can print or email their e-boarding pass and change existing checked-in seat.

 

 
 
SpiceJet allows use of mobile during flight

In light of the recent changes in the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) regulations, SpiceJet Ltd has started allowing the use of mobile phones and Personal Electronic Devices (PEDs) that are on ‘flight’ or ‘airplane’ mode, during the flight. The phones and devices must be put into flight mode and then switched off prior to takeoff, and cabin crew will inform passengers when it is safe to use the devices once the aircraft airborne. With this move, SpiceJet becomes the first airline in India to implement the DGCA's recently amended regulation regarding use of phones on flight. Previously phones and other devices were required to be completely switched off during the flight. However, as of now the use of phones and PEDs on SpiceJet flights will be prohibited during take-off/landing even in flight mode, and can be used only above 10,000 feet. This is primarily because landing and take-off phases require additional aircraft-related certifications which require time to complete, and in addition SpiceJet is reviewing all of the implications of allowing the usage during these stages of flight. Flight mode disables the phone's transmission functionality, so phones will not be used to make calls or use any other transmission-related functionality during the flight.

 

 
 
Lufthansa becomes Fanhansa

In the coming weeks leading up to and during the football World Cup, a total of eight aircraft in the Lufthansa fleet will swap their well-known lettering for the new ‘Fanhansa’ logo. This is first time that for a limited period Lufthansa has changed its name on the aircraft fuselage since commencing operations almost 60 years ago. The first ‘Fanhansa’ Airbus A321-200 will depart Munich as Lufthansa flight LH2478 bound for London Heathrow with a scheduled arrival time of 17:00. The special aircraft will then depart Heathrow at 18:05 for its return flight to Munich. An additional two short-haul aircraft and a total of five long-haul aircraft, including the Boeing 747-8, the world’s longest aircraft, are also being re-painted to feature the ‘Fanhansa’ logo. With Fanhansa, Lufthansa will be flying not just the German national team to Brazil, as partner of the German Football Association, but also thousands of football fans, media representatives and officials.

 
 
Light up the night at HK Disneyland

Using a magic paintbrush and his vivid imagination, Sorcerer Mickey will light up the night with dazzling colours at the launch of “Disney Paint The Night”, the new nighttime spectacular coming to Hong Kong Disneyland in October 2014! The parade will mark Hong Kong Disneyland's newest chapter after the completion of its three-part expansion project last year. “Disney Paint The Night” will immerse guests in the colour, energy and magic of an all-new nighttime spectacular through interactivity, inviting them to paint the night with their favourite colours. Hong Kong Disneyland will continue to bring magical experiences to guests from far and wide. Apart from the nighttime spectacular, the resort will launch new offerings to celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2015. The first ever Marvel-themed area based on Iron Man will debut in Hong Kong Disneyland in late 2016. Another new resort-style hotel with 750 rooms will open by early 2017 after all necessary approvals have been obtained.

 

 
 
Shahjahanabad to be renovated

As part of a two-pronged strategy being adopted by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) to restore Shahjahanabad in the Walled City of Delhi to its pristine glory, owners of havelis in the city will soon be able to avail of loans to convert their premises into hotels or tourist lodges. INTACH will also act as a facilitator between the proprietors of havelis and banks. “The idea is to make owners go to the banks to get loans for renovating their havelis. The havelis would not be spoiled because we would have limited number of guests from India and abroad. This move is intended to give a boost to tourism. Normally, tourists come to Delhi for a day and then head to Agra or Jaipur. If the havelis are beautified and made visitor-friendly, then tourists would like to stay for a few days to enjoy the cultural heritage of this place,” said a senior INTACH official.

This move is aimed at tapping backpackers and not high-end tourists who live in luxurious resorts or five-star hotels. In a bid to persuade UNESCO to accord Delhi the title of World Heritage City, INTACH wants to showcase Shahjahanabad in a renovated light replete with history. As part of its strategy to preserve the erstwhile imperial city, which has havelis belonging to families who belonged to the royal court of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, INTACH will first work on cleaning the streets from Chawri Bazar to Ajmeri Gate. Removal of garbage, solving the drainage problems, installation of proper sign boards and sprucing up the streets have been chalked out. Secondly, INTACH will negotiate with owners of havelis to convert them into tourist lodges. “Once the streets are beautified and the dangling electricity wires, which mar the façade of these havelis, are removed we would be in a better position to start negotiations with owners of about 700 havelis at Shahjahanabad. Our job is to make all these havelis identifiable,” the official said.

The European model of making the area look like a veritable museum would not be adopted. “In the name of conservation, we cannot empty Shahjahanabad. But we certainly want more order to be brought in. Rickshaws, e-rickshaws, street vendors and biryani and kebab sellers would still be there, but we can make the place a bit cleaner by building public conveniences and increasing the heritage value of streets,” the official added.

 
 
Replica tomb of King Tut unveiled

An exact replica of King Tutankhamun’s tomb has been unveiled near the 3,000-year-old original version, in the West Bank of Luxor beside the home of Howard Carter, the legendary British archaeologist who discovered the original tomb in 1922. Laser scanners and high definition printers were used to recreate the precise textures and colours of wall murals depicting the afterlife. King Tutankhamun's original tomb, built following the 19-year-old ruler's death in 1327 BC, was discovered almost intact by archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922. But decades of tourism have taken their toll.  Moisture from the breath of visitors has damaged the murals and walls, while temperature fluctuations have caused paint to flake off and cracks to expand. With the intention of preserving Egypt’s heritage, the Egyptian Government signed a protocol with the “Society of Friends of the Royal Tombs of Egypt”, a Swiss-based heritage preservation group, to replicate Pharaonic sites of significance. The Tutankhamun facsimile tomb has been created and funded by Spanish-Based firm ‘Factum Arte’ under the supervision of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquates. Both the tombs are currently open to the public, but the plan is eventually to close the original to allow for conservation work.

 

 
 
India’s official one-stop travel engine launched – TRIPIGATOR

The month of May saw the launch of Tripigator.com in association with Incredible India of the Ministry of Tourism in New Delhi. Tripigator is an instant travel planning engine that allows its users to generate a personalised travel itinerary on the basis of their preferences. The general confusion created by opening multiple tabs to plan an itinerary will now be a thing of the past, claim the makers of the portal. It will significantly reduce the effort to be put in by the user. The website has been chosen as the official travel planner by the Ministry of Tourism and will also be available on Incredible India Tripigator.com is not an online travel agent or a tour operator but a first-of-its-kind personalised travel planning service. The website was unveiled by Parvez Dewan, Secretary Ministry of Tourism, Govt of India and its three founders - Mukul Garg, Piyush Grover, and Karteek Narumanchi – protégé of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). 

Tripigator will help both domestic and international travellers in planning their trips seamlessly by asking basic inputs such as timeline, budget, areas of interest (adventure, romantic, nature) and destinations of choice. The technology creates a range of travel itineraries in no time and ranks them as per users experience. The portal aggregates the information from all over the web to create structured travel data and applies decision science and remarkable technology to create personalised holiday itineraries with live prices. It not only creates personalised itineraries but also helps users to share it with their travel companions, enabling them to collaborate on their travel plan.
Speaking on the occasion, Parvez Dewan emphasised on the increase in safety and welfare of visitors from international countries. “While we cannot create a portal to earmark unsafe destinations in the country because there is no such thing, we have provide a comprehensive list of women hotline number, local as well as central police stations and other agencies to ensure the safety of the travellers to our country. We have ensured that the site contains as much information as possible to aid the travelers. Every city has a section of well-known as well as lesser-known details incorporated into it,” he said.

Mukul Garg, co-founder of Tripigator said “A traveller spends approximately 20 days and visits 22 websites for planning the holiday and most are troubled in the process. With Tripigator, the whole process is done in a few seconds. We foresee potential in the way Internet, will power the entire travel decision-making funnel in the coming years to provide improved travel experiences.”

 
 
India’s first cycling championship

Put on your riding gears, sunglasses, old jacket and the running shoes, clean up your cycles, the water can, the helmet and prime up your body. For, India is to make its mark in the world cycling circuit with the Northern Escapes’ Manali Khardungla Cycling Championship – 2014 – and everyone is invited to make it a grand success. Northern Escapes brings India’s first ever cycling championship to India this year from July 5-13. Amidst a clear blue sky, the Manali Khardung La route is very soothing and picturesque with snow capped mountains, rocky terrain, deep valleys, shimmering high altitude turquoise lakes and a deadly desert which have always attracted cyclist and motorists from across the world. But, it has never had a cycling championship, and hence Northern Escapes brings the experience of unparalleled beauty and adventure in this 520 Km’s race directed by long distance cyclist Anil Uchil, where the eligibility for entering the race is 18+ and physically fit with good amount of endurance. The winners will win high end championship grade cycles.

 

 
 
Egypt visa fee to be raised

From May, the cost of tourist visas to Egypt will increase from 15 to 20 dollars, said the country's tourism minister, Hesham Zazua. However, he is convinced that the increase is insignificant and should not affect negatively the flow of tourists to the country of pyramids. The measure announced was not a surprise. Even a year ago, the Egyptian authorities have planned to increase from November 1, the cost of visas for by $10, but decided to postpone the increase until May, reducing it to $5. During the first two months of this year, the number of foreign tourists in Egypt registered a drop of 28 per cent compared to the same period last year.

 

 
 
New Asiatic Lion Lodge at Gir

If you're planning on heading to Gir National Park in Gujarat to try your luck at spotting the Asiatic lion and love spending time in the great outdoors, you might want to check out the brand new Asiatic Lion Lodge. A venture of Terra EcoTourism, the owners (who are keen wildlife photographers) have been in the hospitality industry for the past 20 years. The Lodge is apparently the first eco-tourism property at Gir. It has 16 cottages, constructed in an environmentally friendly manner amongst nature near the village of Haripur. This is a serene location in the western part of the Gir jungle, around six kilometers from Sasan Gir village (the entry point to the national park). All cottages have air conditioning, flat screen TVs, mini bar, tiled bathrooms with eco-friendly toiletries, and free wireless internet.

 

 
 
Kingdom Tower to be the tallest building

Saudi Arabia is all set to give Dubai competition on having the highest building of the world. If Saudi Arabia succeeds in its plans to construct the even larger Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, where  is most likely to begin in May, Burj Khalifa will occupy second place in the Guinness Book. The Kingdom Tower, estimated to cost $1.23 billion, would have 200 floors and overlook the Red Sea. Building it will require about 5.7 million sq. ft of concrete, and 80,000 tonnes of steel.

 

 
 
New superfast linking Delhi, Lucknow

A direct daily train between Lucknow and New Delhi, AC superfast express, will start operating from June 15. The advance reservation period for the train is on. The new train, 12529 will start plying from Lucknow from June 15 and train 12530 will run from New Delhi from June 16. Lucknow-New Delhi AC express (12233/12244) and Lucknow-New Delhi Duronto 12271/12272 will stop plying from June 15 after the new train starts operation. Train number 12529 will leave Lucknow at 11.30 pm to reach New Delhi at 7.30 am. On its return journey, train 12530 will leave New Delhi at 11.30 pm to reach Lucknow at 7.10 am, stopping only at Bareilly, Moradabad and Ghaziabad.

 

 
 
Itanagar now on India’s railway map

Arunachal capital Itanagar was put on the country’s railway map in April, with the first passenger train of about 400 commuters arriving at Naharlagun.
The train with 10 passengers and two goods compartments, towed by a diesel engine, left Dekargaon at 7 am and arrived at 12.30 pm, covering a distance of 181 km. The journey included moving on the newly built 20-km Harmuti-Naharlagun railway line. Itanagar thus becomes the second state capital among the eight north-eastern states after Guwahati to be put on the railway map of India. A Rajdhani Express would also be introduced between Itanagar and the national 
capital in a phased manner.

 

 
 
New mobile app to track train schedules

Now rail users can get information on expected arrival and departure timings of a particular train on their mobile phones besides tracking its position on a real time basis. The Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS), the IT arm of railways, has launched a new mobile application which can be used for various enquiries including train timings. CRIS has enhanced the train enquiry system by developing the mobile app and a desktop application on Windows 8 platform for train enquiries with support from Microsoft. National Train Enquiry System (NTES) is the railways' back-end system which provides information about train schedules on a real time basis through various interfaces like nationwide unique rail enquiry number 139, website (www.trainenquiry.com), mobile interfaces, touch screens, enquiry counters and display boards at stations. Among the many features of the new app is the 'spot your train' feature which offers information such as its current position, expected time of arrival and departure at a particular station. The 'train schedule' feature provides complete schedule of a train with all stoppages enroute and its scheduled arrival/departure at the station, distance and day count. The mobile app also has "cancelled trains" option which displays all trains marked as cancelled. It displays trains which are cancelled through the entire route as well as trains which are cancelled on partial route.  Besides, it also provides features for query on rescheduled and diverted trains. 

 

 
 
Air India restarts flights to Kullu

Air India, on April 16, recommenced operations to this Himachal Pradesh town after snapping air links on this route almost two months ago, an airport official said. The flight between Delhi and Bhuntar (near Kullu) will now operate all days in a week, except Tuesday. Air India authorities suspended the Delhi-Kullu flights on February 20, citing fall in passenger numbers. The flight will arrive at Bhuntar from Delhi at 7.20 am and return at 7.40 am. Travel agents have welcomed the restoration of flights, which would help attract high-end tourists to visit the Kullu-Manali circuit.

 

 
 
SIA to operate A380s to India

Passengers flying out of Delhi and Mumbai airports will soon be able to board an Airbus A380, with Singapore Airlines (SIA) announcing the launch of daily flights operated by the world’s largest commercial aircraft from May 30. While SIA’s Boeing 777s offer over 330 seats in a three-class configuration, the A380s have a total seat capacity of 471 passengers in a three class configuration — 12 first class, 60 business class and 399 economy class seats. Singapore Airlines currently operates 19 A380s and will have five more A380s that are likely to be delivered from 2017. The civil aviation ministry allowed operation of Airbus 380 from Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore airports in January this year. Air India had opposed any move to allow foreign carriers to fly in Airbus 380s.

 

 
 
Dubai flights cut as runway shuts from May 1

Indian carriers are cutting more than a third of about 275 weekly flights to Dubai as one of the two runways at its airport — the world's second busiest — remains shut for nearly three months starting May 1. The carriers have either cancelled flights or rescheduled them to Sharjah, which is half an hour from Dubai. On the other hand Emirates will cancel 21 weekly flights out of its total of 185 to India. The reduction is however unlikely to have a significant impact on passenger traffic flying to Dubai for the IPL as UAE will host matches only till April 30. The remaining matches will be played at venues in India. The flight reductions from India will have the clearest impact on the airport's international traffic. India contributed the biggest chunk — 8.4 million — of 66.43 million passengers handled by the Dubai airport last year. Starting May 1, Dubai will close its Southern Runway for routine maintenance till end of the month and the Northern Runway till July 20 once the first one becomes operational, thereby effectively operating one runway for 80 days. The move will reduce its daily capacity by 25 per cent. IndiGo will be operating from the Dubai airport with some reduction of frequencies from Delhi and Mumbai. It currently operate 56 weekly flights to Dubai which will be reduced to 37. Jet Airways has shifted about 18 flights from Mangalore, Delhi and Mumbai to Sharjah, while SpiceJet while filing its summer schedule diverted 14 of its 42 weekly flights from Dubai to Sharjah. Air India has taken out 17 of its Dubai flights while its subsidiary Air India Express, which has the highest number of flights to Dubai has diverted 27 of them from Amritsar, Jaipur, Lucknow, Pune, Mangalore and Trichy to Sharjah.

 

 
 
World’s largest aquarium in China

A new aquatic theme park in China has broken five Guinness World Records and is now officially recognised as the largest aquarium on the planet. Chimelong Ocean Kingdom is the brainchild of PGAV Destinations, which served as the attraction’s lead strategist, planner, designer, and product developer. It is the company’s first full theme park design in Asia, although PGAV has previously designed Hong Kong’s Grand Aquarium and an attraction at the Museum of Qin Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses in Xi’an, China. The park, is part of Chimelong Hengqin Bay Hotel, the largest ocean ecological-themed hotel in China. As well as the largest aquarium accolade, Chimelong Ocean Kingdom has set records for having the world's biggest underwater viewing dome, aquarium window, acrylic panel, and aquarium tank, which contains 22.7m litres of water. There are seven themed areas, each representing a part of the ocean. It also features rides, thousands of animals, a 5-D cinema, a circus, retail and dining.

 

 
 
Red Fort to switch to LED

The Archaeological Survey of India has decided to install LED lights at the Red Fort to cut back on electricity costs at the monument. At present, the ASI spends an annual approximate of `2.5 crore on electricity for the same. This includes the streetlights, security lights, lights in the front garden and inside the three museums that fall within the ramparts of the Fort. Although, the ASI will be required to make a considerable investment for the shift, using LED lights will help reduce the expense to one-third. The pilot phase is being said to be initiated by the end of May this year. If the project is successful, ASI plans to take it to other sites across the Capital including the Qutub Minar, Humayun’s Tomb, Jantar Mantar and the Old Fort among others. 

 

 
 
'A History of the World in 100 Objects' in Abu Dhabi

Leading up to the eagerly anticipated opening of Zayed National Museum in 2016, the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority in collaboration with the British Museum, will showcase ‘A History of the World in 100 Objects’ – an exhibition that captures a history of the world through a vivid display of compelling objects. Open for 100 days from April  23 – August 1 at Manarat Al Saadiyat on Saadiyat Island, the exhibition will allow visitors to travel back in time and across the globe to see how humans have shaped the world, and been shaped by it. Curated by Becky Allen from the British Museum, ‘A History of the World in 100 Objects’ presents 100 significant objects in a narrative that brings contemporary audiences face-to-face with cultures across time and space. Bringing to life the material culture of the past, the exhibition will feature a variety of objects such as a lifelike cast bronze hand from Yemen that was made between 100 and 300 CE, an Egyptian granite statue of the Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II discovered on Elephantine Island at the Temple of Khnum, and the famous Royal Game of Ur, found in a royal cemetery in southern Iraq and estimated to be around 4,500 years old. Within the exhibition narrative the story continues to contemporary time and to the celebration of today’s objects such as Reem Al Marzouqi’s recently conceived Prototype foot-controlled car. An Emirati student from the UAE University, Reem’s car showcases how inventors of today create objects that add new stories to our history. There will be a full public programme of workshops, tours and seminars derived from the objects in the exhibition. For example, in a workshop dedicated to juniors, participants can create a blue-and-white design on pre-glazed earthenware using ceramic paint, or in another for adults, in a workshop inspired by the German artist Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) and his famous Rhinoceros woodcut (1515), people can learn about techniques and processes of woodblock printmaking.

 
 
‘Madiba Inspired Tourist Attractions’ in South Africa

Marthinus van Schalkwyk, Minister of Tourism, South Africa has launched ‘Madiba Inspired Tourist Attractions’, a travel map that encourages tourists from around the world to come to South Africa to walk in former President Nelson Mandela’s footsteps. “To make it as easy as possible for people to personally experience Mandela’s story, we have developed the ‘Madiba Inspired Tourist Attractions’ map, that encapsulates the key points of his life’s journey,” Van Schalkwyk said. He was speaking at the Drakenstein Correctional Centre in Cape Town, the last place that Nelson Mandela was held captive before he took his first steps to freedom on February 11, 1990. Developed by South African Tourism in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, the map highlights tourist sites as well as general places of interest in the four main provinces that defined Mandela’s life. These include: the Eastern Cape, where he was born, grew up and attended Fort Hare University; Gauteng, where he worked as a human rights lawyer and became instrumental in South Africa’s political struggle; KwaZulu-Natal, where he was captured and the Western Cape, where he was imprisoned and ultimately freed. The Madiba Inspired Tourist Attractions map includes well-known attractions such as UNESCO World Heritage Site, Robben Island, where Mandela was imprisoned and Mandela’s house on Vilakazi Street in Soweto, the only street in the world to have had two Nobel Peace Prize winners as residents, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. It also features some the lesser-known attractions: Kliptown Open-Air Museum, also in Soweto, which marks the spot where the Freedom Charter was adopted by the Congress of the People. The Nelson Mandela Youth and Heritage Centre in Mandela’s childhood home, Qunu, where he was buried is also featured in the map.

 
 
Inner-city direct road to Taj Mahal

In two years, tourists from Delhi and Kanpur will be drive to the Taj Mahal from the Yamuna Expressway without entering the congested Agra city. This will be made possible with the `306 crore inner-city Ring Road that will connect the Yamuna Expressway with Fatehabad tourism complex near the Taj Mahal, the foundation stone of which by Akhilesh Yadav, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, was laid recently. The foundation stone of the long-pending `108 crore Taj Ganj beautification project was also laid alongside.  The work will be completed in two years. In the first phase the 10.9 km elevated stretch will have six lanes. Two more lanes will be added subsequently.

 
 
Name the dino, win a trip to Jurassic Park

A massive 155-million-year-old dinosaur skeleton was put on permanent display at The Dubai Mall. The exhibit is open to free public viewing at the mall’s Grand Atrium and a naming contest is on to decide what the female giant will be called. Registration for the free-to-enter contest can be made through facebook.com/TheDubaiMall, twitter.com/thedubaimall, or instagram.com/thedubaimall. Suggestions can be posted using the hashtag #NameTDMDino. The winner will receive a five-day/six-night trip for four people to visit Jurassic Park at Universal Studios, Orlando, USA. The prehistoric dinosaur remains are from the late Jurassic period and belong to the Diplodocus longus variety, characterised by an endless whip-like tail, long slender neck and small head. Nearly 90 per cent of the fossil’s bones are original.

 
 
Electronic visa facility in India this year

With a view to liberalise the visa regime, officials in the Tourism Ministry are busy finalising introduction of the electronic visa facility within this year as that would enable India to figure amid top four countries in global tourism. “A historic decision has been taken in which the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), the National Security Advisor (NSA) and all the related agencies have unanimously supported introduction of electronic travel authorisation (ETAs),” said the Tourism Secretary, Parvez Dewan while inaugurating a seminar titled ‘Think Tourism-Think India: Thought Leadership Meet,’ organised by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM). “Though the decision has been taken, the orders have not been issued as the implementation does take time and while the software for the system is in place, there is a need to train the manpower,” he said. 

 
 
Disney, Universal raise prices

Hot on the heels of a price hike at Disney, Universal Studios have done the same. With two increases, Disney has put prices up by US$10 (£6, €7) in less than a year. Now an adult can expect to pay US$95 ($57, €41) for entry to EPCOT, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdon, and US$99 (£59, €71) for Magic Kingdom. Universal Studios has followed suit, by adding US$4 (£2.40, €2.90) to its single-day price, bringing costs up to US$96 (£57, €69) and US$90 (£53, €65) for kids aged 3-9. Multi-day park packages have also increased. This year Universal is expanding the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, with Diagon Alley and new attractions, including the Leaky Cauldron and Gringotts Bank.

 

 
 
Now, heli-hike Middle-earth

Visitors to the South Island alpine resort town of Queenstown can now enjoy a unique slice of Middle-earth with a newly launched luxury tour of some of the most dramatic locations to be seen in the Sir Peter Jackson directed “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” With exclusive access to the waterfall filled, snow-capped Earnslaw Burn area, Queenstown Helicopter Company Heliworks – and luxury private guiding company Alpine Adventures – have joined forces to unleash the thrilling Middle-earth Waterfalls heli-hike. The heli-hike offers unrivalled access to one of the most spectacular filming locations featured in the first instalment of The Hobbit Trilogy. Tolkein fans are now able to visit the fantasy world of Anduin Valley, the cascading waterfalls at Earnslaw Burn, with the expert help of Heliworks and their experienced pilots, pilots who have intimate knowledge of the area after they were drafted in by Peter Jackson to film aerial shots for the movie, as well as carry cast and crew. The heli-hike is suitable for anyone who can comfortably walk for a couple of hours and hiking boots are required. The tour departs for private groups on demand and therefore departure times and exact routes are flexible.

 
 
Grey whale spotting in Mexico

Till early April, some 10,000 grey whales gather along Mexico’s Baja Peninsula to mate and give birth. These gentle giants of the sea world, at up to 16m long and 40 tonnes, are otherwise quite elusive, spending most of their time underwater. During whale-watching season, which begins in January, it is common for them to swim right up to tourists’ boats – sometimes even allowing themselves to be stroked. It is advisable to head to the small town of Guerrero Negro, 740km from Ensenada, for the annual migration. The local fishermen keep a watch for the first sighting of the season and there are many operators, as well as fishermen, that offer trips to the area’s popular Scammon’s Lagoon, where you are nearly guaranteed a sighting of the whales and their newly born calves.

 
 
Turkey to make e-visas mandatory

From April, travellers to Turkey will have to apply for an electronic visa in advance of their trip. The documents are already available online but from April 10, 2014 they will replace entirely the 'sticker-' and 'stamp-type' visas, which can currently be purchased on arrival in Turkey. Turkish e-visas allow for multiple entries to the country and are valid for 90 days. At $20 (£13), payable by credit or debit card, they are only slightly more expensive than the existing 'stamp-type' visas. Visitors have been advised to apply for the e-visas using the official website of the Turkish government (www.evisa.gov.tr) and to avoid unauthorised sites, which may charge users an additional application fee. The new system is designed to speed up the application process and to avoid queues at Turkish airports. Applicants are required to complete an electronic form with their passport details. If their request is successful, they will be emailed a link through which to download the visa. It should then be printed out, shown on arrival in Turkey and safeguarded for the remainder of the visit.

 
 
Sikkim to showcase Kanchenjunga peaks

The Government of Sikkim has announced plans to attract more tourists to the iconic Mt. Kanchenjunga, the world's third highest mountain. Sikkim's Tourism Minister Bhim Dhungel said that as a first step, the state government has decided to strengthen tourism infrastructure in and around Kachenjunga, Rabong, Kaluk, Mangan and Pelling. This would include setting up new home stay units, village resorts and a yatri niwas for accommodating visiting tourists. In addition, the state government has started a 15-minute helicopter service from Gangtok to provide breathtaking views of the peaks which change colour during different times of the day. The helicopter services are available around the year on demand. The 28,169-feet-high Kachenjunga can be viewed from every corner of Sikkim. It is considered a sacred mountain by natives of Sikkim, and regarded as the guardian deity of the Sikkim people. Plans also include providing modern facilities at the base points of Kaluk, Tashi, Mangan and Pangthang, from where all 28 snow-capped peaks can be seen.

 
 
Special tours for Shakespeare’s 459th birth anniversary in April

Shakespeare’s 459th birth anniversary will be celebrated with fanfare in April 2014 in Stratford-upon-Avon, the town where he was born. Special events have been organised keeping the bards immense contribution to the world of literature in the picturesque locale. The journey starts from the place where he was born to his experiences in life and with the people who were a part of his life. The Shakespeare Anniversary Tour includes:

• The Birthday parade through Stratford-upon-Avon, starting from Shakespeare’s Birthplace to Holy Trinity Church where he is buried, on Saturday 26th April 2014.

• Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Gardens, Mary Arden’s authentic Tudor Farm and Shakespeare’s final home, Nash’s House and New Place.

• Enjoy a pre-theatre dinner at Shakespeare’s daughter’s home at Hall’s Croft, before watching a performance by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

• The refurbished Visitor Centre and new audio visual exhibition. The exhibition is an introduction to the life and times of Shakespeare and will consider Shakespeare’s enduring legacy and the global impact of his work and his influence on opera, pop music, ballet and orchestral arrangements. Highlights of the exhibition include a rare First Folio.

• Learn more about the history of the theatre and take a Theatre tour. Discover the public and private areas of the theatre, learn about the origins of the Royal Shakespeare Company and its theatres in Stratford-upon-Avon and explore a production in more depth to learn about the theatre making process. Alternatively take in one of the many ever changing exhibitions such as costume or set design.

• A talk on ‘Hidden Treasures’ by an expert from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, showing important items from the Trust’s library, archive and Collection.

• The Tour includes the option of an extension to London and a performance at the Globe Theatre, plus a behind-the-scenes tour of London theatre life during the time of the Bard and/or live demonstrations of Elizabethan dressing, sword fighting and the printing of the plays.

 
 
Amarnath Yatra to open March 1

The registration of pilgrims for this year's annual Yatra to the Himalayan cave shrine of Amarnath in south Kashmir will start from March 1, simultaneously for both the Baltal and Chandanwari routes. The pilgrims can register themselves through 425 designated branches of J-K Bank, Yes Bank and Punjab National Bank across the country. Full details of all the Registration Centres was made available on Board's website, www.shriamarnathjishrine.com. This year's Yatra shall commence on June 28 and culminate on Raksha Bandhan day August 10. The applicant must have to submit Compulsory Health Certificate while seeking registration for this year's Yatra.

 
 
Partnership to save snow leopards

WWF India has partnered with real estate firm Tata Housing to launch a project for conservation of endangered species 'snow leopards' in the country. Snow leopards population is estimated at 400-700 in India out of 7,000 worldwide. They are found across 1.3 lakh sq km in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world's oldest and largest global environmental organization, has listed snow leopards as 'endangered' species. WWF-India and Tata Housing launched the project 'Save Our Snow Leopards' and also an online fund raising system for conservation of this species. Project aims to study status and distribution of snow leopards in India, address conflict of this animal with human being and provide base-line data to government's programme. Tata group's realty arm Tata Housing would donate Rs 15 lakh per year in the project. Through online crowd funding platform, WWF-India and Tata Housing aims to raise at least Rs 15 lakh. The funds would be utilised to set up camera traps to study the exact status and distribution of snow leopards in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh to start with. For effective management of snow leopard-human conflict, the fund would be used to support the construction of predator proof livestock pens for local communities.

 
 
Olympic Museum back in business

The Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, has re-opened to the public after a 23-month transformation costing approximately $61 million. Overlooking Lake Geneva, the Olympic Museum documents the complete history of the Games, spanning from ancient Athens to the present day. A major renovation of the original 1993 building, by Swiss architects Brauen & Wälchli, has virtually doubled the display areas, as well as creating new exhibition space totalling nearly 10,000 sq.ft. The new presentation aims to reflect the "diversity and richness of the Olympics," and the relationship between the Games and society as a whole, according to Frédérique Jamolli, the museum's Head of International Cultural Development. Three levels of completely redesigned galleries incorporate the latest technological innovations, using specially commissioned films and interactive displays to explore the history, values and competitors that have helped shape the Olympic Movement.

 
 
Swamp Soccer in four Indian metros in April

Convergence Events Pvt Ltd, an event management company, has signed exclusive rights with a Scotland-based company, Swamp Soccer UK Ltd, to bring Swamp Soccer to India. The maiden Swamp Soccer India tournament will be held in four metro cities, namely New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru. The tournament will be kicked-off on April 5 in New Delhi and will end with a championship match on April 27 in Mumbai. “We will be limiting the tournament to only four metro cities initially, and we will extend it to 10-12 cities in the subsequent years,” Sanjay Parekh, Partner, Swamp Soccer India, said. Swamp Soccer is similar to football and is played on a wet marshy swamp pitch.

 
 
Universal’s new Harry Potter attraction

Universal Orlando Resort has announced details for its new Harry Potter experience, which will be linked to Universal’s existing boy wizard attraction at Islands of Adventure to create the world’s first centrally-themed multi-park experience. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley will open this summer at the Universal Studios theme park in Florida, featuring many of the shops made famous in JK Rowling’s franchise and centred around a 3D multi-sensory ride that takes passengers on a daring escape from goblins at the Gringotts wizarding bank. In addition, visitors will be able to board the Hogwarts Express train from a recreation of London’s King’s Cross Station - complete with platform 9 and ¾ - to leave the Universal Studios Park and visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade attraction at nearby Islands of Adventure.

 
 
Sand castle at Calangute beach

Sand Cult, in association with Goa Tourism, presents Goans and visitors to the state with a visual treat – a chance to see the 20-foot tall sand castle which has been put up at Calangute Beach. Jerry Jose, founder of Sand Cult, said, “Tourism in the state will derive the maximum benefit from this. Sand Art is a very fragile, delicate and complex art; through these installations we want to promote this art form.” Simon Smith, World Master People Champion has volunteered to help promote this art in Goa and he has created an elaborate installation around the animated character Shrek and his castle. The sand castle at Calangute Beach will be open to public till May 31, 2014. 

 
 
New visitor centre at Stonehenge

For the first time, visitors will have a proper introduction to one of the world's most important prehistoric monuments – Stonehenge. Since the end of the 19th century, Stonehenge has been severely compromised by the intrusion of roads and traffic, with outdated and inadequate visitor facilities. Now, there is a new world-class visitor centre, housing museum-quality permanent and temporary exhibitions, plus a spacious shop and café. The transformation is the largest capital project ever undertaken by English Heritage. Over the festive period you can visit Stonehenge without booking. Advance booking is required for visits from Saturday 1 February 2014 onwards, as entrance to Stonehenge will be managed through timed tickets. Advance booking will be the only way to guarantee entry on the day and at the time of your choice. The chief attractions you’ll see at the visitor centre are a 360 degree virtual experience, which puts you inside the stones across the millennia and through the summer and winter solstices and a comprehensive, well laid out exhibition of 250 artefacts, including Neolithic implements and 14th century manuscripts believed to be the first drawings of the stones, many previously unseen. But the star of the show is the uncannily lifelike reconstructed face of a 5,500 year old man found buried close by. An ancestor of Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees or actor Jeff Bridges? Modern facilities for the centre's visitors include a 'bright, spacious' cafe and shop. The facilities are housed in a pair of single-storey 'pods', sitting beneath an undulating canopy that mimics the rolling plains nearby. More than a million people visit the site each year. About two-thirds of them come from overseas. The Avenue, Stonehenge's ancient processional approach, has now been reconnected to the monument, and the landscape around the stones has been improved, with the road running past the Heel Stone closed and tall fences removed. Specially trained volunteers will start building a group of Neolithic houses in January, complete with furniture and fittings. These will be the highlight of an outdoor gallery, to open at Easter 2014.

 
 
Guide to wildlife lodges

Hot on the heels of the tourism ban in 2012 by Delhi’s Supreme Court, the Travel Operators for Tigers (TOFTigers) initiative has published the second edition of its TOFTigers Good Wildlife Travel Guide to India. At last there is now an innovative travellers’ guide to all the best lodge accommodation in India’s most well-known wildlife destinations. Featuring cutting edge articles on what India’s best nature tourism is doing to support wildlife and communities, the best practices of today’s finest responsible lodge owners and a complete directory of over 150 world class eco-conscious lodges, inbound operators, agencies and travel businesses leading the field in India and from across the world, including such well-known brands as Cox & Kings, Abercrombie and Kent, Tajsafaris and Pug Dundee Safaris. One can choose between a tree-house lodge in Bandhavgarh in Madhya Pradesh or a small home stay in a 20 acre conservancy on the borders of Tadoba in Maharashtra. If you decide to travel with a specialist Indian ground agent or one of the best known travel brands in the world, the guide supplies it all. “The guide’s a real opportunity to both show the traveller what is out there to enjoy without compromising their natural surroundings, but also to show the travel industry and governments these pioneers in sustainable nature tourism. Change is happening across India, real consciousness of our collective impacts, and now we need to raise the levels of awareness of both travellers and the authorities to ensure this growth is sustainable and can be a real tool for conservation.” says TOFTigers’ Director, Minakshi Pandey. The TOFTigers Good Wildlife Travel Guide is available as a free download on http://toftigers.org/GWTG.

 
 
New mobile app ‘Step Out, Macau’

Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) has launched an iPhone App named “Step Out, Macau” so that citizens and visitors can enjoy easy access to information about the four walking tour routes of the project “Step Out, Experience Macau’s Communities” on phone. With the new mobile app, users can explore various walking tour routes. The first route was unveiled under the theme “Step Out, Experience Macau’s Communities” in September, encouraging visitors to explore different quarters in Macau for fascinating encounters and local traditions. The four routes include “A Tour of Historical Trails”, “A Tour of Nature and Creativity”, “A Tour of East Meets West” and “A Tour of Arts and Culture”. The app not only provides maps and videos of the routes but also introduces various tourist spots along the routes as well as transportation tips in the first stage. The app is available in Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, English and Portuguese. Citizens and visitors are welcome to download the app for use. Users may search and download the app for free from App Store by entering the key word “Step Out, Macau”.

 
 
Etihad photo competition

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, will capture the spirit of the upcoming holiday season with an exciting photo competition on its social media channels. The competition invites people across the globe to submit original photos from their travels on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, using the hashtag #EYFollowYou. The background of the photo can reflect any aspect of the holiday experience, such as visiting a world-famous landmark, having dinner at a local restaurant, or relaxing onboard an aircraft. The competition is open until January 31, 2014 and a selection of the best entries will be showcased on Etihad Airways’ global Facebook page. The lucky winner will receive a pair of Coral Economy return tickets to any destination in the Etihad Airways network, subject to terms and conditions.

 
 
Indians head for Greece

Leading global travel search company Skyscanner has compiled a travel trends report identifying the travel preferences and patterns of Indian travellers. Comparing flight search data for the period January to October 2013 over the corresponding period last year, the travel search site has revealed that Greece has emerged as the fastest growing outbound destination in 2013 forecast as the ‘destination of the future’ for Indian travellers in 2014 followed by Brazil.  The neighbouring countries of Bangladesh and Pakistan have also seen a steady increase in flight searches from India as compared with last year.  Thus the year 2014 will see Indian tourists travelling to these new and unexplored destinations for that much needed holiday break. The report compiled by the travel search site indicates that the US has emerged as the international destination of choice for Indian families and couples

 
 
Cruising in the Arabian Gulf

The Ministry of Tourism Oman (Oman Tourism), Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) and Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) have announced a partnership to promote cruise tourism in the GCC. Dubai is the cruise hub of the region, with state-of-the-art infrastructure and services, including the cruise facility in the Middle East - which is set to be bolstered further by a substantial expansion in the 2013-2014 season. Costa, Aida and MSC has confirmed gulf cruise itineraries out of Dubai for 2013/2014 season. The port of Oman and Abu Dhabi are a vital part of these itineraries.

 
 
Burj Al Arab parties in style

The world’s most luxurious hotel, Burj Al Arab, celebrated  the 42nd United Arab Emirates (UAE) National Day in magnificent style with perhaps the greatest visual performance ever to grace her sail. A stunning laser and digital 3D display, accompanied by spectacular choreographed music, captured the historic 42-year journey back to when the UAE was founded in 1971.  For those not being able to see the remarkable 15-minute show, huge screens were mounted in key locations across Dubai, including Downtown Dubai, Dubai Mall and the open beach offering a dazzling evening.

 
 
Malindo Air to fly KL-Delhi daily

Malindo Air, a joint venture, hybrid airline between National Aerospace & Defence Industries Sdn Bhd of Malaysia and Lion Air of Indonesia, will fly daily from Kuala Lumpur to Delhi from December 30, 2013. The flight will depart from Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) at 22.20 hrs and will arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) at 06.10 hrs (local time). The return flight will take off at 18.35 hrs and arrive at Delhi at 21.25 hrs. The airline will also begin daily services from Kuala Lumpur to Tiruchirappalli (Trichy) from January 2, 2014 and to Mumbai from February 15, 2014. The airline will start all three services with Boeing B737-900ER aircraft featuring two-class configuration consisting of 168 Economy Class seats and 12 Business Class seats. As per information on the airline’s website, as a special introductory offer, Malindo Air will offer tickets to Delhi and Mumbai from Kuala Lumpur at RM 599, and to Trichy from Kuala Lumpur at RM 329.

 

 

 
 
Skiing package for Narkanda

Located at an altitude of 8,600 ft on the Hindustan Tibet road (NH - 22), just 44 km away from Shimla, Narkanda is the closest skiing point in North India, offering spectacular views and is a skier’s paradise in the winter. V Resorts Narkanda Cottage offers activities for the skier and non-skier alike. For non-skiers, there's plenty to do and see, mountain bike, rappelling, valley crossing, tree climbing, Burma Bridge. The package includes accommodation, daily breakfast, lunch or packed sandwich, juice and dinner, pick-up and drop facility from resort to ski point, instructor fees and equipment charges. Skiers need to bring gum boots, mountaineering boots for walking on snow, small torch with cells, woollen or leather gloves, heavy woollens, wind proof or padded jacket, dark glasses. A three-night stay for an individual will cost Rs 13,800 and for a couple it will be Rs 16,800. If you want to stay for four nights, it will cost Rs 18,800 and for a couple it will cost Rs 23,000. An individual will need to pay Rs 22,500 and a couple will have to pay Rs 27,500 for five days. The offer is valid till January 31, 2014. Visit www.vresorts.in 

 
 
Visit Goa's first micro-brewery

SinQ Beach Club has announced 'SinQ Brew', the first ever micro-brewery in Goa. SinQ Brew is an in-house brewery in the club at Candolim, North Goa and will serve more than 15 international varieties of beer in exquisite flavours, starting from American Ale, Canadian light, Irish Stout, Vienna, Porter to Honey Beer. It is the first ever micro brewery in the world that does not require ETP (Effluence Treatment Plant).  “We are happy to announce that Goa now has its first and only micro-brewery. SinQ Brew is an in-house brewery at SinQ and we have launched it in association with HouseBrew. We are inviting our guests to come and enjoy tasting of our very own beer, brewed in-house at SinQ. All the guests at SinQ can come taste a batch of Dark Ale," said Sahil Adwalpalkar, Director, SinQ Hospitality Group. SinQ Beach Club at Candolim, North Goa, is a complete party haven for food, dance, music and leisure lovers. Launched in December 2012, SinQ Beach Club has been conceptualised keeping varied moods of party lovers in mind and comprises of a classy nightclub, an open-air lounge area with a discotheque and poolside area with stylish cabanas. 

 
 
Take a tour of Bollywood

Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC), in association with Dadasaheb Phalke Chitranagari (Film City), is set to launch Bollywood Tourism package tours from January 20, which is its Foundation Day. Through the packages, tourists will be taken on guided tours of Film City where they will be able to witness film shoots and visit famous movie sets. There will be three packages costing Rs 499, Rs 1,999 and Rs 3,250, respectively. Dr Jagdish Patil, Managing Director, MTDC, said, “Bollywood is one of the biggest film industries in the world. People come from remote parts of India just to get a glimpse of their favourite film stars, camping outside their homes and even waiting for several days.” The lowest of Rs 499 per head has been labelled as ‘Hit’, which will be a three-hour guided tour of Film City from a 25-seater video coach. It includes visits to locations like helipads, lakes, filmy courts, famous reserve gardens and Khandala bridge. The four-hour ‘Super Hit’ package, priced at Rs 1,999 per head, will include guided tours of Bollywood’s very own Beverly Hills in Bandra to see bungalows and residences of their favourite stars. Besides, they will be able to discover Bollywood gully, museum, café and costume gallery and witness how special effects are used in movies; tours of the sets of famous television serials; watching live shootings and celebrity-spotting. The third package, ‘Blockbuster’, is a four-to-five-hour tour, wherein tourists will be allowed to take part in a live shoot. Bookings can be done online at www.mumbaifilmcitytours.com. Tickets will be available at MTDC counters.

 
 
A delightful gift for golf lovers

The “Turkish Airlines Open Mobile Golf App” is now available on mobile platforms. The “Turkish Airlines Open 2013”, the European Tour’s new US$7 million event was full of exciting moments. The tournament included the participation of Tiger Woods and ended with the championship of French golfer, Victor Dubuisson. The “Turkish Airlines Open Mobile Golf App” was introduced for golf lovers at the start of the event and is now available free of charge at the Apple App Store and is compatible with iPhone 3, 4 and 5 as well as iPad2 and its subsequent upgrades. The Turkish Airlines Open mobile golf application allows players to compete with rivals on links that are identical to the Maxx Royal course where the event was played. The App includes real course simulations and stunning visuals that will make it a favorite of golfers worldwide.

 
 
IndiGo launches 10 new flights

IndiGo, India’s favourite on-time performer is further enhancing its customer experience with the launch of 10 new flights on its domestic network. Starting December, Indigo will operate its fifth daily non-stop flight between Chennai and Hyderabad, fourth daily non-stop flight between Chennai and Kolkata, and daily non-stop flight from Hyderabad to Chennai, and Goa. 6E will also connect Chennai to Goa (via Hyderabad). The airline will also operate its ninth daily non-stop flight between Delhi and Bengaluru and third daily non-stop flight between Delhi and Goa. The new flights will provide increased frequencies on the routes and offer greater travel options for its customers. 

 
 
Kalka-Shimla rail to get additional coach

UNESCO World Heritage Kalka-Shimla rail line will have another attraction. The Indian Railways is all set to introduce a special ‘Jharokha’ coach open from the front and the rear. The first of a kind in India, the coach will be attached to the train on demand only. While railway authorities are adding new attractions to the 97-km track, the Himachal Pradesh government has demanded fresh survey of tunnels and bridges on the track to assess their strength for the safety of passengers. Sources said during peak tourist season, rail cars were much in demand as small groups of high-spending tourists, especially foreigners, preferred to have special coaches for their upward journey to Shimla. The new coach has been introduced with the aim to serve the needs of high-end tourists.

 
 
AI-SBI travel card launched

Air India and SBI Card have launch of a distinct travel credit card for Indian customers. The new Air India SBI Credit Card will provide best in class travel experiences and benefits to business and leisure travellers. With an unmatched proposition, the Air India SBI Card allows a customer spending Rs 5 lakh in a year to earn up to 3 Delhi Mumbai return tickets on Air India.  The Air India SBI Signature Card will come with a joining gift of 20,000 reward points, for the customer. In addition to the joining gift, the new Air India SBI Signature Card will offer 4 reward points for retail spend of every Rs. 100 and 20 reward points for every Rs. 100 spent on the Air India website and booking offices for purchase of air tickets. To create a rewarding experience, the Signature Card offers bonus reward points at various spend milestones such as- 20,000 reward points on spending Rs 3 lakh; another 20,000 reward points on spending Rs 5 lakh and 50,000 reward points on spending Rs 10 lakh. These reward points can be redeemed for Air India Air mile in a ratio of 1:1; making it a quick and easy way to earn free travel with Air India.

 

 
 
New Singapore attractions

Singapore Tourism is set to 
welcome tourists with many new added attractions. Singapore expects to propel tourism industry to new heights.  Be it malls or must-see events, be it splashy new rides for its theme parks or even a safari, the Asian island city-state has opened the vista for more tourists to make room. This has been possible due to five years’ worth of planning and construction. The remainder of 2013 will see the opening of several new shows and rides based on movies in Sentosa 4D Adventure land, including ‘Journey 2: The Mysterious Island’ (2012) and ‘Happy Feet’ (2011). A BBC Earth Production called Great Escapes: Life in 4D’ s also being added to the roster. Meanwhile, Wildlife Reserves Singapore has added three attractions, Singapore Zoo’s Frozen Tundra, a Giant Panda Forest, and Asia’s first river-themed wildlife park, the River Safari. Featuring eight of the world’s great rivers (the Yangtze, the Ganges, the Amazon, the Missisippi, the Congo, the Nile, and the Murray), the safari also has over 300 animal species and over 5,000 plant specimens living within it. The Amazon River Quest will be ready for visitors at the end of 2013. Even Universal Studios Singapore has a new attraction with the world’s first Sesame Street ride, called the Spaghetti Space Chase. For cruise lovers, there is the Mariner of the Seas Luxury Cruise, the largest cruise ship in Asia, offering all these comforts and entertainments.  And for those who don’t want to walk all the way, Singapore is offering guided city tours.

 

 
 
Street Views of airports and stations

Google has debuted an interactive map with Street Views of 16 international airports, more than 50 train and subway stations, numerous museums around the world, and even a Hong Kong cable car station. Now you can visit the check-in counter of your airline in Madrid, map out the way from baggage claim to the bus at Tokyo International Airport and check out where to pick up your rental car at Eindhoven Airport; you can even scope out your seat on an Emirates flight from Dubai! Or, if you’re planning to take the train, navigate through Waterloo station so you can be one step ahead, whether you’re with a group of friends, family or a baby stroller. Once you click on a pin detecting an airport, station or museum, you navigate to a Google Map for a Street View of the destination. You get a glimpse of what the airport, museum or rail station look like at that particular moment, and you can rotate the image, and then access driving directions, etc. But, Street View still doesn’t provide a lot of the unglamorous details that a traveller would need.

 
 
SpiceJet flies direct Pune to Bangkok

SpiceJet has started direct flights between Pune and Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand, which is also a popular holiday destination in Southeast Asia. Bookings for this route are now open. SpiceJet flight SG 93 will depart from Pune Airport at 1340 hours every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday and the return flight, SG 94, will arrive in Pune at 1245 hours. The airline is offering an introductory fare of Rs. 15,999 return (inclusive of all taxes) on the route. The airline will be deploying its New Generation Boeing 737-800 (189-seater aircraft) on this route. Bangkok is also due to get connectivity from Bengaluru.

 

 
 
Tel Aviv goes wireless

The Israeli city has almost completed a project to cover the entire city with free WiFi coverage. The Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality, working with the Tel Aviv Global and Tourism Administration, has installed 80 WiFi hot spots around the city, with another 20 access points to be installed in the near future. Travellers will now be able to access the free WiFi service on a computer, tablet or smart phone with a bandwidth of at least 20MB. Locations where Wifi hotspots haven been installed include the beach, entertainment centres, parks and tourist attractions. The service allows visitors and residents free WiFi access from virtually anywhere in the city.

 

 
 
Follow Aristotle's trail in Greece

Aristotle's Walk is the first of eight historically-based walking trails on the peninsula of Chalkidiki, in northern Greece. The next seven trails will be launched in 2014, with Xerxes’ Walk the second route to be introduced. Aristotle was a Greek philosopher, with writings covering many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theatre, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology. He was also a teacher of Alexander the Great. Beginning at the Natura 2000 network at Aristotle’s Grove and concluding at ancient Stageira in Olympiada, the philosopher’s birthplace, the 22km trail follows the path of the Aristotelian Mountain overlooking the Aegean Sea. The new trail has been described as an environmental tour and historical walk.

 

 
 
Smoking banned on Hawaii's beaches

From January 1, 2014, smoking will be banned on all Hawaiian beaches as well as parks, swimming pools and bus stops. The ban will be enforced by beach lifeguards who will issue offenders with a $100 fine and ensure the environmental threat to the ocean and eco-system is abated. A statement from the Hawaii Tourist Board said that the new move would allow tourists to: “truly enjoy and relax in a healthy and beautiful smoke-free environment”. It is hoped that the new prohibition will dramatically lessen the amount of cigarette butts left on the shore as well as prevent non-smokers from breathing in second-hand fumes. A campaign to increase the awareness among locals and holidaymakers about the new rules will be held prior to the new law taking effect. The ban is an expansion of already existing laws regarding smoking, which prohibits smokers lighting up within 20 feet of entrances to shops, offices, and restaurants. E-cigarettes will not be included in the new move and may still be used on beaches.

 

 
 
Kerala backwaters enter cyber-space

Kerala Tourism has launched its path-breaking new Great Backwaters campaign. The campaign was launched on Twitter in October, unveiling the state’s majestic backwaters as a single destination and a once-in-a-lifetime experience such as the Great Wall of China or the Grand Canyon of the United States. The fans of Kerala Tourism on Twitter (@KeralaTourism) have already welcomed the campaign’s launch by enthusiastically tweeting with the hashtag #GreatBackwaters.Kerala Tourism has set up a separate micro-site (www.greatbackwaters.com), in which a frontline image of the campaign is hidden. An aerial photograph of the backwaters under the campaign is revealed bit by bit with each tweet with the hashtag #GreatBackwaters. The entire image will be revealed once a considerable number of tweets with the hashtag appears. Kerala Tourism is offering souvenirs of the state as prizes to two winners from the tweets every day. The aerial photography for the ‘Great Backwaters’ campaign was conducted by an international team of experts led by Ville  M J Hyvonen from Finland. The campaign was conceptualised and designed by Stark Communications. Remote controlled, helicopter-mounted cameras were used in the shooting of the backwaters from above. During the last monsoon, Kerala Tourism had launched a gesture-controlled website (http://when-it-rains.com/) showing images of rain captured by the department’s Facebook fans to showcase the imagery of the monsoon season. The Twitter campaign will be replicated on Facebook. Kerala Tourism will also start a blogger outreach campaign. The social media campaign will also be extended to Kerala Tourism’s official Pinterest account asking people to create a backwater board on their Pinterest profile. The best backwater profile of boards not exceeding 10 photos will earn a free holiday in Kerala for its creator. The campaign’s launch on Twitter will be followed by its release in the traditional media both nationally and internationally.

 
 
World’s First Ecomobile City

One neighbourhood, one month, no cars. When it kicks off the world’s first EcoMobility Festival on September 1, the City of Suwon in South Korea will aim to prove that a truly ecomobile city – one where citizens can move freely, safely and sustainably – can exist. A major city with over a million residents, Suwon lies about 30 km (19 miles) south of the capital Seoul.
There, on the first day of September, 4,300 residents will exchange their 1,500 petrol-powered cars for ecomobile vehicles, and adopt what festival organisers are calling “the ecomobile lifestyle” for the entire month. Haenggung-dong, one of the 
most crowded neighbourhoods in Suwon, will be designated as a car-free zone, where various cultural and arts performance will take place. 
On August 15, Haenggung-dong residents began moving cars outside the festival area. Some 1,500 cars within Haenggung-dong will be stationed in parking lots outside the festival neighbourhood, freeing up space for ecomobile vehicles to move freely and for street activities to flourish.
ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, the world network of cities for sustainability, is organising the festival together with the City of Suwon and UN-Habitat. Around 5,000 international visitors, led by mayors, policy makers, CEOs and concerned citizens, will witness the transformation of the Haenggung-dong neighbourhood. They will test drive human-powered and electric vehicles offered by some 40 manufacturers from eight countries, including the United States, Germany, Taiwan and South Korea.
The festival will feature a wide range of bicycles. There’s Yikebike, a tiny bike to ride, fold and walk away with under your arm; there are electric bikes by Inskey, and there’s Trimobile, a tricycle that can carry three people at a time but only requires one to pedal. Then there’s Gobax, a customised ambulance bike, Row-n-Go, a bike that the rider pedals and rows simultaneously, and the child carrier bicycle by Zigo.
Alongside month-long exhibitions and vehicle test tracks, visitors and residents can take part in concerts, movie festivals, singing contests using pedal-powered karaoke, art fairs, street tours, conferences and workshops – all celebrating the ecomobile lifestyle. A grand opening parade through the converted ecomobility streets of Jeongjo Road will mark the start of the Festival and the Ecomobility 2013 Suwon Congress.

 
 
Guangzhou launches 72-hour visa-free stays

South China's mega-city Guangzhou has started offering international transit passengers 72-hour stays on Thursday. Guangzhou is the third Chinese city to introduce the visa-free policy, following capital Beijing and commercial hub Shanghai. The visa-free scheme covers travelers from 45 countries. Under the plan, transit travelers are allowed to freely visit Guangdong Province, where Guangzhou City is located

 

 
 
China releases new visa rules

China has released new visa rules for foreigners to enter and leave the country. The regulation, which takes effect on September 1, divides ordinary visas into 12 categories. The Q visa applies for those who come to China to visit relatives. The other new visa, the R visa, will be issued for high-level foreign professionals. According to the regulation, financial, educational, medical or telecommunication institutions will be able to verify foreigners’ identities with local public security organs. Finally, the regulation clarifies circumstances of illegal residence.

 

 
 
Venice added to Google Street View

Google Street View provides Internet users the chance to get up-close views of some of the hardest-to-reach places on earth. The website has already added the inside of the White House and the Great Barrier Reef to its offerings, but noticeably absent was Venice - until now. Google recently dispatched a technician to map the famous Italian city by foot thanks to a backpack with a mounted camera. Capturing Venice on Google Street View has long been a goal of the search engine giant, but the city was particularly challenging because many of its roads do not allow cars. The company had to devise new technology so its cameras could navigate the steps and bridges that cross the Venice's iconic canals. Google dispatched the backpack-wearing techs in April, and they hope the images they capture are online by the end of the year. Anybody who wants to experience Venice in person, rather than on their computer, should be sure to check out a few landmarks

 

 
 
Christchurch gets a cardboard cathedral

While Christchurch works to repair its famous cathedral that was damaged in a devastating 2011 earthquake, a cardboard version (top photo) has gone up in its place. While Christchurch works to repair its famous cathedral that was damaged in a devastating 2011 earthquake, a cardboard version has gone up in its place. The Neo-Gothic cathedral was a major landmark and easily recognizable element of Christchurch’s skyline, and its destruction was a major blow to the city, which sustained an enormous amount of damage when a massive earthquake hit in February 2011. As reported, the decision to replace the historic cathedral with a temporary one was highly controversial at first, but now that the new structure is finished, its opening on August 6 has been symbolic of Christchurch’s rejuvenation after the natural disaster. The cathedral was designed by Shigeru Ban, who specialises in creating temporary buildings for areas impacted by disasters. The cathedral is indeed made of cardboard, with steel, wood and concrete incorporated into the structure that utilises cardboard tubes in its design. The building is intended to last for 20 years, which should be long enough for a permanent cathedral to be designed and built. The cardboard cathedral resembles an A-frame structure, and is fronted with an entire wall of beautifully coloured windows. A series of concerts were held to usher in its presence in the revitalised community.

 

 
 
SpiceJet to start Pune-Sharjah flight

Low-cost carrier SpiceJet has announced the launch of a direct flight service between Pune and Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates from September 21. The airline has opened bookings for the new service. This will be the third flight service connecting Pune with an international destination, following Air India Express' service on the Pune-Dubai route and German airline Lufthansa's service on the Pune-Frankfurt route. SpiceJet said it will deploy its new generation Boeing 737-800 aircraft, with the capacity to take 189 passengers on the Pune-Sharjah route. The airline is offering an introductory fare of Rs 6,499 one way, inclusive of all taxes, on the Pune-Sharjah route.

 

 
 
Kuoni launches Windows 8 travel app

Kuoni together with SOTC have launched a user friendly Windows 8 app. The App uses native features of the newly launched operating system to provide users with a re-imagined browsing experience helping them explore vacation destinations through the touch of a finger providing truly immersive interactions in base with the company’s current website www.sotc.in. The Kuoni Travel app has a completely overhauled navigation which allows users to Touch, Swipe, Pinch and Zoom to explore their next travel location, plan their personal holiday, check out latest deals and offers, plan group and customized holidays and ask for a call back from a Kuoni travel agent to book their travels.

 

 
 
Cycle rickshaws to be banned in Hanoi

In an attempt to reduce congestion and traffic, Vietnam's capital too is to bid farewell to its iconic cycle rickshaws. Also known as the cyclo, the bicycle rickshaws are as iconic on Hanoi's streets as black cabs are on London's but it is now in its final days. The three-wheeled, human powered pedicabs have already been restricted to providing rides for tourists and in a limited area of the city only. As a long-popular form of transport in Vietnam, the cycle-rickshaw has also been an invaluable amenity in transporting heavy goods from side-streets and alleys that are too small for larger vehicles to access. As the ban takes full effect, Hanoi's cyclos will be bought by the government and new jobs will be provided for their drivers.

 

 
 
Iconic Mumbai taxi facing extinction

Mumbai's famous black and yellow taxis will soon disappear as the Indian government calls for cars over 20 years of age to be taken off the road. A government order that aims to reduce emissions in the city took effect in August, meaning 4,500 of 9,500 Padmini taxis will not have their licences renewed and will be scrapped. Production of the cars ended in 2000, and so the remaining 5,000 cars will be slowly phased out over the coming years as they hit the 20-year marker

 

 
 
Instant car rental service

Culture Holidays, a travel management company, has taken a significant step towards changing the face of the car rental industry in India and launched “Instant Cabs” 24x7 online car rental service.  Instant Cabs is the only online car rental service which provides economy to luxury cars in more than 100 cities in India. The unique feature of Instant Cabs is that one can plan and book an entire itinerary including multi cities by seeing the shortest route on map provided on Instant Cabs website. The system is completely online, from selection to confirmation and there are no hidden terms, making for transparent dealing and comfortable journeys. 

 

 
 
Moscow to introduce night bus

From September 1, four night bus routes will begin operation in Moscow. Moscow was one of the few cities in the world that does not offer residents public transportation at night. The metro ceased service at 1am, although many restaurants and retail outlets throughout the city remain open 24 hours a day. The first night routes will be those already existing between Luzhniki Stadium and VDNKh metro station, the trolley route around the Garden Ring, and the city's southern tram route to Ulitsa Akademika Yangelya from Chistiye Prudy. A bus route between Sheremetyevo Airport and Leninsky Prospekt will also be added and will only run at night. Each will operate every 30 minutes and will charge regular daytime fares.

 

 
 
Singapore top MICE destination

Singapore has retained its position as the leading meeting city and country in the world, according to the Union of International Associations (UIA) 2012 Global Rankings. Named Top International Meeting Country for the second year running and Top International Meeting City for the sixth consecutive year, Singapore has once again reinforced its value proposition as a top choice international meeting destination. Singapore's international appeal, strategic location and access to key Asian markets provide a strong impetus for organisers to move or locate their events in Singapore

 

 
 
New AI flights from Sep 9

Air India is to start new flights linking Mumbai to Gwalior and Agra. In addition, the airline will also start operating on the Delhi-Allahabad-Mumbai sector. In a communication to travel agents, the airline has said that the Mumbai-Gwalior return flight will operate on Monday and Thursday, while the Mumbai-Agra return flight will operate on Tuesday and Friday. The airline is also starting a four days a week service connecting Delhi to Allahabad and then onwards to Mumbai. This flight will operate on Monday, Tuesday,Thursday and Friday. In addition, the airline will also operate a flight connecting Mumbai to Allahabad and then onwards to Delhi. This flight will operate on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. The flights will become operational from September 9 and a 70-seater CRJ aircraft will be used to operate these flights.

 

 
 
Campaign Clean India: ONGC adopts Taj

At the initiative of the Ministry of Tourism, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has agreed to the proposal of ONGC for adopting five more monuments under the Clean India Campaign, which include Ellora & Elephanta Caves (Maharashtra), Red Fort (Delhi), Golconda Fort (Hyderabad) and Mahabalipuram (Tamil Nadu). The Tourism Ministry launched Clean India Campaign as part of a strategy for the 12th Five Year Plan for improving the quality of services and environs in and around tourist destinations across India. The campaign is aimed at undertaking both sensitisation and action at the field level on bringing tourism destinations and their surroundings to an expectable level of cleanliness and hygiene. The campaign is being implemented with the involvement of private and public sector stakeholders.

 
 
Indian paintings in Wales

Visions of Mughal India: The Collection of Howard Hodgkin, an exhibition of Indian paintings from the exceptional private collection of one of Britain’s most celebrated artists, Howard Hodgkin, opened at National Museum Cardiff in Wales.The collection, never shown in Wales before, comprised most of the main types of Indian court painting that flourished during the Mughal period (1550–1850). They include, the refined naturalistic works of the imperial Mughal court; the poetic and subtly coloured paintings of the Deccani Sultanates; and the boldly drawn and vibrantly coloured styles of the Rajput kingdoms of Rajasthan and the Punjab Hills. This group of works has long been considered as one of the finest of its kind in the world. On tour from the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, this exhibition of Indian art will include an exciting new addition. A largescale temple hanging painted on cloth, showing four young maidens dancing in a forest, is a recently discovered missing pair to a similar work that has been in the Hodgkin collection for many years. 

 
 
Get a 3D shot with Photosynth

Thousands of photo apps out there, but how many allow you to take 3D and 360-degree pictures? 3D  pictures is something even most DSLR cameras can't do. For travellers who want to remember everything around them, Photosynth offers an upgrade from the average photo app. It captures images not only from left to right, but also up and down, stitching them together to create a 360-degree view of your surroundings. Once you've created a Photosynth, you can share it on social media.

 

 
 
India is Abu Dhabi's highest tourism mkt

According to recent reports, India has replaced Britain to become Abu Dhabi’s largest overseas tourist market. Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) said 80,179 Indian nationals stayed in the city’s hotels from January until the end of June, registering a 22 percent rise on last year. They accounted for 334,238 guest nights, which is up 43 percent on 2012 and stayed an average of 4.17 nights, an increase of 17 percent. During the first six months 78,053 Britons stayed in the emirate’s hotels – a 9 percent increase on last year. They delivered 362,690 room nights, which was up 21 per cent and stayed for an average of 4.65 nights – 11 percent more than last year.Germany came in as the third largest overseas market with 62,488 of its nationals staying – 27 per cent up on last year.

 

 
 
EasyCabs launches 24 X 7 service

Radio taxi service EasyCabs has announced the launch of its 24x7 service assurance guarantee across four cities - New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad. The campaign is aimed at improvising the anguish of customers of booked cabs not arriving. EasyCabs has a fleet strength of 2,500 across these cities.  Rajiv Vij, CEO and MD, Carzonrent (I) Ltd said in a release, "This approach will mitigate the issue of cab delivery in our approximately  6 million valued customers and will enhance their trust." EasyCabs said that the company ensures that if it fails to serve the accepted booking, customer will be eligible for a free ride up to Rs. 500. To avail this benefit, the customer must book the cab for more than 10 km and at least 1 hour in advance.

 

 
 
JET Airways’ new flights

Jet Airways has announced that it will be enhancing domestic connectivity with fresh air links to Vijayawada and Trichy in the South. The airlines also announced the introduction of daily flights between Bengaluru and Vijayawada, and two additional services - a day to Mangalore and an afternoon service to Trichy (Tiruchirapalli) via Kochi six days a week with effect from July 25 this year. With the introduction of new flights, Jet Airways offers five flights a day between Bengaluru and Mangalore and three flights a day to Kochi, the only carrier to do so, the airways release said. Jet Airways will deploy the ATR 72-500 aircraft on these routes and operate an early morning flight to Vijayawada and two additional services to Mangalore.  The airline will also link Bengaluru with Kochi, and onwards to Trichy (Tiruchirapalli) with the 62-seater aircraft. Jet Airways flight 9W 2461 will depart Bengaluru daily at 0610 hrs and arrive at the commercial city of Vijayawada at 0745 hrs. On the return leg, flight 9W 2462 will depart at 0815 hrs and arrive Bengaluru at 0950 hrs.

 

 
 
Sterling’s first resort turns 25

Sterling Holiday Resorts (India) Ltd has announced  25 years of successful operation of its first resort,  ‘Kodai - By The Lake’ (earlier called Lake View), which was built in 1987 and opened its doors on July 20, 1988. In the 25 years of its operations, ‘Kodai – By The Lake’ has played host to scores of Sterling Vacation Ownership members and witnessed Vacation Ownership member families get together year after year to relive old memories and create new ones. Some of the members, who go by the name ‘Sterlingers’, organised a get-together at the resort to mark the resort’s Silver Jubilee. The resort also organised a 10-day long programme, encompassing theme nights and fun-filled recreation activities, to celebrate the occasion with all members and guests who were booked in during that period.

 
 
Space Shuttle AtlantisSM is open

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida has now opened the doors to the world’s most comprehensive and interactive attraction devoted to NASA’s 30-year Space Shuttle Program – Space Shuttle AtlantisSM.  Of the three space-flown orbiters distributed by NASA to science centres and museums throughout the country, only Atlantis is the focal point of a $100 million, 90,000-square-foot attraction containing four multimedia and cinematic productions and more than 60 interactive experiences that invite guests to “be the astronaut” and to celebrate the people, passion and patriotism behind the shuttle programme. Space Shuttle Atlantis is included in regular admission to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

 

 
 
Goa resort offers monsoon package

The hospitality arm of the Ajmera Group, Adamo - The Bellus, Goa recently announced a special Monsoon package valid till September 30, 2013. The monsoon special packages range from Rs 15,000 plus taxes for a Regent room (for three nights and four days) to Rs 18,000 plus taxes for a Regency room (for three nights and four days) with the fourth night complementary. The special rates include breakfast and dinner with compulsory meal supplement of Rs 2,000 on MAP for double. Additionally, there are free one full day sightseeing by a/c vehicle, free laundry worth of Rs 300 and free head massage on arrival day at the La Soin Spa at the hotel in addition to the usage of swimming pool and the kids play area. The resort also offered a free kids creche service while 'parents' enjoy their special moments.

 

 
 
British Airways’ offer for Indian students

British Airways has launched an annual student promotional offer for Indian students travelling to UK, USA, Europe or Canada from Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai, as per a release. Along with permitted check-in luggage of 20 kg, students can carry an extra piece of luggage weighing up to 23 kg for free. The offer is valid for travel till October 31, 2013. In the case of a return trip, the excess baggage is only valid one way, on the outbound half of the journey. To avail this offer, students need to present their British Airways ticket and student ID card at the respective retail stores. Four students also stand a chance to win an iPad Mini each upon booking their flight tickets on ba.com. The lucky draw is valid until September 30, 2013.

 

 
 
Bonderam festival on Aug 24 in Goa

This year Goa’s Bonderam festival will be celebrated on August 24 at Divar Island in the state, stated a release. The annual festival is celebrated on the fourth Saturday of August. Dilip Parulekar, Minister for Tourism, Woman & Child Development, Government of Goa, said, “We are happy to promote this annual festival on the Divar Island which showcases our rich Goan history and culture. There will be colourful décor, flag parades, floats, music and revelry all over the island during this time. We welcome all tourists to experience this traditional festival.”  The name Bonderam originates from the Portuguese word ‘Bandeira’, which means flag. The otherwise laid-back island of Divar comes alive on the day of the Bonderam festival. The day begins with a flag parade from the main Divar junction, which is accompanied by a brass band.

 

 
 
Rail Europe launches Coupon Book

Rail Europe has launched a Coupon Book, which is available on its website www.raileurope.co.in, stated a release. The Coupon Book is offered to every customer purchasing a train ticket to travel in one of the participating cities. London, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona and Prague are the destinations where the coupon is valid to be used. Zurich and Brussels will be added to the list shortly. The coupons offer discounts or gifts on tourist attractions classified in three categories: shopping and fashion; landmarks and attractions; city tours and sightseeing. The main partners of Rail Europe Coupon’s Book are Galeries Lafayette, Chic Outlet Shopping, I Was In, Fragonard, Paris Charms & Secrets, Bateaux Parisiens, Segway City Tours, Fat Tire Bike Tours, Les Cars Rouges, 4 Roues sous 1 Parapluie, Moulin Rouge, Montparnasse 56, Paradis Latin, Musée Grévin, Cultival, Lido, Ô Chateau

 

 
 
Scuba diving with a difference

Mumbai-based Karina Tourism & Adventures Pvt Ltd has introduced India's first live-aboard scuba diving packages in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. According to a report, this is being done through Infiniti, a brand launched under its banner to specialise in water sports activities. The key diving points are Barren Island, Narcondam Island, Cinque Island in the Mahatma Gandhi Marine Park, Havelock Island, Neil Island, Sir Hugh Rose Island, Little Andaman and Passage Island. The duration of the trip is four to five nights, ex-Port Blair.

 

 
 
Badges for awareness

A meeting of The National Tourism Advisory Council came up with a novel solution for improving India's image in regards to women's safety.  The Council, which provides advice and ideas to the Tourism Ministry, decided to get badges declaring ‘I Respect Women’ distributed to people in the tourism industry to wear. According to a news report, the badges are being funded by the World Travel and Tourism Council in India and a "few crore" (30 million) of them will need to be made, as they'll be given to all auto rickshaw drivers, taxi drivers, guides, coolies, travel agents, and cutting edge personnel in tourism trade. The badges will be produced in various languages: Hindi, English, Chinese, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean and Russian.

 

 
 
Registration must for Manimahesh Yatra

Taking a lesson from last month's tragedy in Uttarakhand's Char Dham Yatra, the Himachal Pradesh government has made it mandatory for devotees to get themselves registered for the famous Manimahesh Yatra dedicated to Lord Shiva this month. The devotees during the pilgrimage to the Manimahesh Lake, located at an altitude of 13,500 feet in Chamba district, will be allowed only after registration with the local civic authorities, Deputy Commissioner Sandeep Kadam was quoted as saying in a news report. This year the pilgrimage will start Aug 28, on the eve of Janmashtami festival dedicated to Lord Krishna's birth, and will conclude on Radhashtami  (the birth of Lord Krishna's consort Radha) on September 13. For the safety of the devotees, the administration has also decided to form rescue teams with the help of locals. The administration is also planning to set up barricades at a few places on the way to Manimahesh. This would ensure that the pilgrims are dispatched in groups

 

 
 
Gandhi’s glasses from UK to Udaipur!

Udaipur’s City Palace Museum has now added another legendary piece to its vast collection – the classic spectacles worn by actor Ben Kingsley in the film Gandhi. Released on November 30, 1982, Gandhi is an epic biographical film directed by Richard Attenborough which dramatises the life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. It was nominated for Academy Awards in 11 categories, winning eight awards, including ‘Best Picture’. Oscar award-winning producer, Lord David Puttnam presented the legendry glasses to Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar, the managing trustee of Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation (MMCF), at a Celebratory Charity Gala event hosted in the honour of Lord Attenborough in London. At the gala event, Lord Puttnam was extremely appreciative of the generous support provided to Lord Richard Attenborough during the making of Gandhi and as a mark of gratitude, he presented the glasses to MMCF. Speaking on the occasion, Lord Richard Attenborough, director of the movie, said, “I was in Udaipur during 1980s for shooting a sequence for my film Gandhi. My wife, my family and colleagues were given such a warm welcome by the royal highness, I don’t think I have seen anywhere on earth as beautiful as this. The time we spent in Udaipur was simply miraculous. In my heart, my second home is India and I don’t think it will ever change. I know the famed Gandhi’s glasses have found a good home where they are likely to be appreciated by many over the coming decades.” Meanwhile, the City Palace had recently unveiled a royal gallery of musical instruments – Symphony of Mewar at The Zenana Mahal and – a photo exhibition titled Long Exposure: The Camera at Udaipur, 1857–1957 at The Bhagwat Prakash Photo Gallery.

 
 
Go Grec in Barcelona

This performing arts festival takes its name from its main venue, the Theatre Grec on Barcelona's Mount Montjuïc, an amphitheatre built in 1927 in the Greek tradition. Hundreds of performances from Catalan and international groups will take over the Grec and other spaces around the city. This year, the theme is circus, so expect some impressive contortions. The festival runs through July and more details can be found at grec.bcn.cat

 
 
3 Delhi restaurants among Asia's best

Three of New Delhi’s tony eateries are among a list of 101 Best Restaurants in Asia 2013. Varq at The Taj Mahal Hotel that serves Indian cuisine was ranked at number six and ITC Maurya's Bukhara, frequented for its delectable north Indian cuisine, was at number 24. The Taj Palace Hotel's Orient Express, which specialises in French cuisine, was ranked at 55. The other Indian restaurants which made it to the list include Indigo in Mumbai and Karavalli in Bangalore. The former serves modern European cuisine and the latter serves Indian cuisine. The restaurants have been judged on the basis of cuisine, style, decor, service, value and don't miss categories by the panelists of 101 Best Restaurants in Asia 2013, which was conducted by New York-based food website The Daily Meal.

 
 
No Char Dham yatra for 3 years

Pilgrimage to the shrines of Kedarnath and Badrinath in Uttarakhand are unlikely to resume for three years due to extensive damage caused by heavy rains and floods. Officials of the two shrines have said that the two places have been so badly devastated that there was nothing "but mud, devastation and death" around the highly revered temples visited by millions. BD Singh, Chief Executive Officer of the Badrinath-Kedarnath Temple Committee, is reported to have said that the chances of reviving the pilgrimage “for the next few years” was grim. “What we are seeing is very painful and unbelievable,” he said. “We don't expect the Char Dham Yatra to resume in the next three years.”

 
 
… get ready for The Migration

It is called the Eighth Wonder of the World and is the single wildlife event that can be identifiably defined by two words: The Migration. This massive movement of wildebeest and zebra and accompanying ungulates and predators from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the sweet red-oat grasslands of Kenya's Mara plains between June and August is wildlife drama writ large.

 
 
Get close to big cats in Maasai Mara

The Mara Plains Camp, the latest Kenyan family safari experience, opened in June, close to Maasai Mara National Park in the 30,000-acre Olare Motorogi Conservancy. The plush camp comprises seven "rooms under canvas" on raised decks with views over the savannahs. Activities include early morning, late afternoon and night-time 4x4 game drives, balloon safaris, wildlife walks and local village visits. The camp costs from US$975 per adult, full board but not including park fees or flights. Children ages 8 and older are welcome. Book at www.greatplainsconservation.com.

 
 
Lost City discovered in Cambodia

Travellers looking to explore the ruins of ancient civilisations may soon be able to add another location to their bucket list, after Australian archaeologists discovered a lost city buried under jungle undergrowth in Cambodia. Using remote-sensing technology, the ancient city of Mahendraparvata, is believed to have remained hidden from the world for over a millennium and is said to even pre-date Cambodia’s popular tourist attraction, the Angkor Wat temple. Although archaeologists are yet to the determine the size of the city, University of Sydney archaeological research centre director Damian Evans said the group had mapped an outline of Mahendraparvata. "This is a collapsed temple that was part of a bustling civilisation that existed 1200 years ago . . . it looks like the looters were unaware it was here," he said in a report. Searches thus far have uncovered two dozen temples in the region and a cave with holy carvings.

 
 
Taiwan launches free WiFi for tourists

Taiwan has become the latest country to roll out free WiFi for international visitors. Based on the country’s existing free WiFi programme for locals, iTaiwan is being expanded to give tourists equal online access. To enroll, tourists can present their passport at Travel Service Centers which are found at major airports, train stations and mass rapid transit (MRT) stations across the country. After providing an email address, users are then given an account number that can be used to gain free online access at major indoor public areas and hotspots. Tourists with a native mobile phone number or native prepaid card number can also register for an account the same way as locals: by simply inputting their mobile phone number on iTaiwan's website, entering a code and activating their account with an authorization code which is sent via SMS.

 
 
AI to connect Birmingham from Aug

Air India is all set to launch Birmingham-Delhi flights from August 1 on its new Boeing 787-800 aircraft. The flights will commence four times a week. AI will also connect Sydney-Melbourne from August, Rome and Milan from October and Moscow from early next year with its Boeing 787s. The airline has ordered a total of 27 787 Dreamliner aircraft of which six are already being used for commercial operations and another eight are likely to get inducted in its fleet by year-end. 

 
 
Nicobar declared biosphere reserve

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) has declared and designated the Nicobar Islands in India as a world biosphere reserve under its Man and the Biosphere Programme. Member countries establish such reserves. UNESCO recognizes them under the programme to promote sustainable development based on local community efforts and sound science. They are considered as sites of excellence, where new and optimal practices to manage nature and human activities are tested and demonstrated. The island chain is home to 1,800 animal species and some of the world's most endangered tribes. It is among 12 new sites added to the global network of biosphere reserves. Such reserves are located in 117 countries and nine of them are now located in India.

 
 
Malaysia Airlines gets 5-Star certification

Malaysia Airlines has received its 5-star Airline Certification at the SKYTRAX World Airline Awards 2013, joining an elite group of airlines for their truly consistent and high quality of product and service. The World Airline Awards are the global benchmark for airline excellence, with travellers from over 160 countries and more than 100 nationalities taking part each year in the world’s largest independent passenger satisfaction survey to decide the award winners. These awards are significant achievements for Malaysia Airlines as it recognizes the essence of Malaysian hospitality and is integral to the Malaysia Airlines’ experience. Malaysia Airlines’ on-board dining was also selected as the best in the skies, with the signature Satay, Malaysian grilled chicken and beef skewers in spicy peanut sauce, given the accolade of best signature dish on-board any airline. Receiving the awards at the ceremony, Malaysia Airlines’ Group CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya thanked his team for their commitment in providing true Malaysian Hospitality. "With so much competition, even within our niche of premium full service carriers, it is an honour that Malaysia Airlines is once again recognised for its high service delivery levels and products”

 
 
Women tours from MakeMyTrip

MakeMyTrip has introduced a special, all-inclusive package, Women's Special Holidays, covering Ladakh, Kashmir, Bhutan and the North-East region of India this year. The activities included in the packages are rafting, local interaction, art/cookery classes, school visits, spa, meditation sessions, local shopping, in addition to sightseeing. These packages will cater to women with children as well, a release stated. Tours for the Amazing Ladakh Women's Special package will start on July 21, August 9, August 25, and September 1, while those under the Bhutan, Land of the Thunder Dragon - Women's Special will start on July 17.

 
 
ONGC adopts 6 monuments

At the initiative of Ministry of Tourism under the aegis of Dr. K. Chiranjeevi, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has agreed to the proposal of ONGC for adopting six monuments under Campaign Clean India. The six monuments/tourist destinations are: Taj Mahal at Agra, Ellora Caves in Maharashtra, Elephanta Caves in Maharashtra, Red Fort in Delhi, Golkonda Fort Hyderabad and Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu. To expedite the process, Ministry of Tourism has taken up the matter with ASI to work out details of various activities, cost estimates, identification of executive agencies and nomination of nodal officers for each monument without losing any time.

 
 
Germany with Deutschland-Pass!

Experience Germany during this summer! Deutsche Bahn offers to travel one month through Germany with the ‘Deutschland-Pass’. Go wherever you want as often as you like... Travel a whole month through Germany for only 309 euros. Young people under 27 years of age pay only 259 euros and teenager under the age of 19 can buy the pass for 109 euros. This year a special family arrangement allows parents to travel together with their own children for just 459 euros. This offer can be used till August 31, 2013. Please note that the passes are individual: The holders' names (including childrens' names) as well as the first day of validity have to be specified at the moment of purchase. For more information on the Deutschland-Pass and to buy the Deutschland-Pass, please visit: www.bahn.com/international.

 
 
Finnair tops in world punctuality rankings

Finnair has been the most punctual international airline for the past two months, according to travel data provider FlightStats. With 93.83 per cent of flights arriving or departing within 15 minutes of schedule in May and 91.14 per cent in April, Finnair is currently the world’s most reliable international carrier according to the data services firm, which supplies the travel industry and general public with real-time global flight tracking information. In FlightStats’ rankings for the year 2012, Finnair was runner-up for lowest global cancellation rate and a runner-up for most punctual European airline. The oneworld alliance, of which Finnair is a member, was named the alliance with the best on-time performance.

 
 
Book train tickets via SMS

Train passengers will be able to use their mobile phones to book tickets through a simple text-messaging-based facility or a menu-based dialling service from July 1. The two non-internet systems developed by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) can be used with even simple feature phones. In the menu-based dialling service, a system called unstructured supplementary data (USSD) is used where you have to dial the numbers on the menu offered. Payment is made through mobile wallet. There is no need for an internet connection and customers will not have to pay any data charges. The IRCTC said that it has provided a simple user-guided menu to book tickets, search stations and check the availability of berths. For the SMS-based ticket service, customers need to register with their banks to generate Mobile Money Identifier (MMID), a seven-digit random number. For the menu-based USSD system, there is no need to register with the bank and payment can be authorised through a mobile wallet. Six berths or seats can be booked in a single transaction through the new systems.

 
 
GoAir to shift operations to Terminal 1A at Mumbai Airport

Mumbai-based Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) has announced that GoAir will be moving its operations from Terminal 1B to Terminal 1A from July 1, 2013. The move aims to create a quicker turnaround time from check-in to boarding. GoAir currently operates 360 movements per week from Mumbai. A dedicated aisle of check-in counters at terminal 1A will become available for GoAir passengers. The airline will also be moving its ticketing office to the new premise.

 
 
IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir cut fares by 15%

IndiGo, SpiceJet Ltd and GoAir have cut prices by 15% on tickets booked up to five days in advance hoping to boost passenger traffic in the traditionally lean June-September. The cost of the flight ticket on the Delhi-Mumbai route has come down from Rs 9,300 to Rs 7,900. On tickets booked a week in advance, the fares go down even further to Rs 6,000.Spicejet has also introduced a new window allowing passengers to book 90 days in advance, at a price of Rs 3,379 on the same route. It is also allowing passengers to carry 20 kg baggage while other airlines are allowing only 15 kg. Prices on the Delhi-Chennai route have also decreased by about 8-10%. However, Delhi-Bangalore remains unchanged.

 
 
Full body scanners removed from American airports

The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has got rid of its full body scanners, Rapiscan from American airports over privacy concerns. The scanners caused chaos for taking semi-scandalous snapshots of the fliers at security checkpoints. The congressional mandate and various privacy-rights activists likened the scanners to 'virtual strip-search'. According to reports, TSA had spent 40 million on Rapiscan, which are now going to be replaced with scanners that show only generic images of the body. The full-body scanners were launched in 2007.

 
 
AI reduces domestic free baggage allowance to 15 kg

Air India has lowered the free baggage allowance from 20 to 15 kg on the domestic sector and is charging a flat rate of about Rs 200-250 per kilo on excess baggage. Till now, the excess baggage charges varied between Rs 150-400 per kg depending upon the sector. There will be no charge for hand baggage up to 7 kg, the release said, adding that registered frequent flyers would however be allowed to carry up to 20 kg of checked-in baggage as prevalent. This follows a Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) circular allowing the airlines to charge fees for 'unbundled services' like check-in baggage, preferential seats, meals, snacks or drink (barring drinking water) and sports and musical instruments on their domestic flights.

 
 
Rohtang Pass re-opens for tourists on May 26

Rohtang Pass, the gateway to Lahaul and Spiti and Ladakh region, which is still covered in a white blanket of snow, was thrown open for tourists on May 26. The ban on the plying of vehicles with registration numbers from outside states would remain in force. Tourists would have to hire local taxis from Kothi, 15 km from Manali, if they wish to visit Rohtang Pass.From Manali, the vehicles would be allowed to leave for Rohtang Pass between 6am to 11am and from Rohtang Pass to Manali between 1pm to 5pm only and on Tuesday the tourists would be allowed only up to Marhi.Rohtang Pass links Manali with Leh in Jammu and Kashmir playing a significant role in the movement of the armed forces and military vehicles to Ladakh.

 
 
Mystic Point opens at Hong Kong Disneyland

Mystic Point, the final chapter of Hong Kong Disneyland’s current expansion project, will officially open on May 17, 2013. Rich in storytelling, Mystic Manor, an all-new, original attraction within Mystic Point, is home to brand new characters, special effects and architecture, each of which seamlessly blends with technology designed to transport guests into a strange and fantastic universe beyond their imaginations. The story of Mystic Point follows the adventures of eccentric explorer and art collector Lord Henry Mystic, who invites Guests to board the Mystic Magneto-Electric Carriage for a tour of his private museum located within his Victorian manor house. When Lord Henry’s companion monkey Albert mischievously opens a newly acquired magical music box, the enchanted Music Dust inside is released and, a mysterious journey begins.

 
 
All Dreamliner airlines to resume flights

The eight airlines around the world that have the Boeing 787 Dreamliner in their fleets are set to resume commercial flights of the aircraft by early June.Qatar Airways was the latest airline to confirm it would resume Dreamliner flights between Doha and Dubai this week and a longer service from Doha to London's Heathrow starting May 15. Ethiopian Airlines was the first to recommence passenger flights with a service from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Kenya, on May 4.Polish carrier LOT is planning to resume services June 5, while Air India has said in local reports it is planning to reintroduce its Dreamliners to the skies in May. Chilean airline LAN has announced it plans flights in June.All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines, which account for 24 of the 50 Dreamliners delivered by Boeing thus far, earlier announced they would resume commercial 787 flights on June 1.United Airlines -- the only US airline to take delivery of the 787 -- has announced it would resume Dreamliner flights from May 31, initially serving the domestic Houston-Denver route.

 
 
Great Barrier Reef in danger:UN

The Great Barrier Reef is set to be named as a World Heritage Site in danger by UNESCO next month.  A long-awaited assessment of the reef by UNESCO and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), released on May 3 says decisive action must be taken to avoid a listing in June. The report claims the federal and Queensland governments have failed to improve water quality or halt coastal developments that could impact the reef. Only one annual water quality report card has been published, in 2011, which covered 2009. A second report card was due in early 2012, but it's yet to be delivered. The report also says there's been no clear commitment by the either federal or Queensland governments to limit port developments near the reef. In the picture, fish swim amongst bleached coral near the Keppel Islands in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Ocean acidification has emerged as one of the biggest threats to coral reefs across the world. The only other world heritage sites in danger that aren't in a developing country or an active war zone are the UK's Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City and Florida's Everglades.

 
 
Goa bans drinking on beaches

Drinking on beaches has been banned in Goa, as authorities tackle littering and drunken behaviour. The ban was announced under the Goa Tourist Places (Protection and Maintenance) Act. Hotels and beach bars will continue to sell alcoholic beverages, however under the new rules, all alcoholic drinks will have to be consumed on the premises. Travellers hoping to walk and sit elsewhere, bring their own alcohol to the beach, or find a private spot will not longer be able to do so. Picnicking locals will also be affected by the new ban. People visiting the beaches will no longer be able to carry glass bottles with them either, no matter what they contain. The new rules will be enforced by the Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB), which has been deployed on Goan beaches to provide security 24 hours a day. Those caught drinking on the beaches will first be warned, before the IRB confiscates liquor and glass bottles.

 
 
Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum's $489M mega makeover

Closed for 10 years for an all-encompassing, €375 million ($489 million) refurbishment, Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum -- the national museum of arts and history founded in 1800 -- has emerged transformed and resplendent. Gone is the labyrinth-like gloomy edifice that, for all its artistic treasures, felt rooted in the past and imbued with melancholy. The lead architects of the redesign, Spanish practice Cruz y Ortiz, have harkened back to the original design of architect Pierre Cuypers, who completed the project in 1885. The airy atrium is back, where visitors can plan their route around eight centuries, 80 rooms and 8,000 artworks.

Museumstraat 1, Amsterdam, Netherlands; +31 20 662 1440; open daily 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; €15 ($20) for adults, free for 18 and under; www.rijksmuseum.nl 

 
 
J&K opens Suchetargh area for tourism
The Government of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) has opened the Scuhetgarh area near the International Border for the tourists visiting Vaishno Devi and other places in Jammu. During British rule, the Suchetgarh sector had a rail line connecting it with Sialkot in Pakistan. The tracks still exist. Another attraction is the over 100-year-old Octroi building, which was used by officials before partition. And there is a huge tree which is right on the international border and half of its portion is on our side and rest on Pakistani side. There are several small and big shrines including Radha Krishan temple, RS Pura and Raghunath temple located en route to the Suchetgarh from Jammu and the government also plans to include them in the Border Tourism circuit.
 
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