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RISE IN TAXES, AIRFARES HIT TOURISM


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ATTOI TOURISM MAN OF THE YEAR AWARD 2011




ONEWORLD NAMED WORLD'S BEST AIRLINE ALLIANCE, KINGFISHER AIRLINES CONFERRED 3 TOP AWARDS

Oneworld has been named World's Best Airline Alliance in an award scheme based on the only truly global, independent passenger survey of airline standards and Kingfisher Airlines, which has signed a memorandum of understanding as its first step towards oneworld membership, took three top awards - Best Airline in India and Central Asia, Best Economy Class Seats and Staff Service Excellence Award for airlines in India and Central Asia.

Almost 18 million air travellers, representing more than 100 nationalities, took part in the 10-month study, conducted between July 2009 and April 2010 for Skytrax, the independent airline quality organization.

This latest prize – announced today as part of the 2010 World Airline Awards – enables oneworld to build on its lead as the alliance winning the most honours in the various industry international award schemes.

It is the current holder of the World’s Leading Alliance title presented by the World Travel Awards. oneworld has retained this accolade seven years running – ever since it was first presented. oneworld is also a three-time winner of the Best Airline Alliance title from Business Traveller magazine.

The Best Airline Alliance trophy was received on behalf of oneworld by Vice-President Corporate Affairs Michael Blunt from Skytrax Chairman Edward Plaisted at a ceremony on the sidelines of the global Aircraft Interiors Expo at Hamburg.

Skytrax Chairman Edward Plaisted said: "This is a fantastic achievement for oneworld to be named Best Alliance. The World Airline Awards are known as 'The Passenger's Choice', underlining the fact that oneworld is succeeding in satisfying the hardest critics - actual air travellers."

oneworld Vice-President Corporate Affairs Michael Blunt said: "oneworld aspires to be the world’s premier alliance, so we are thrilled to be judged the best by the people who really count – customers – in the biggest ever independent survey of international air travellers. We’ll be working hard to retain this coveted title in the future, with two more top-ranking airlines joining our collection of the highest quality carriers from each region – in Russia’s leading domestic operator, S7 Airlines, boarding oneworld later this year and India's leading carrier Kingfisher Airlines lining up to follow."

oneworld's member airlines also flew high in 2010 World Airline Awards categories for individual airlines:
• LAN Airlines took two awards – as Best Airline South America and Excellence Award for Staff Service, South America.
• Qantas also took two top prizes – for Best Premium Economy Class and Best Premium Economy Class Seat.
• Cathay Pacific Airways was named Best Transpacific Airline.
• Its Dragonair affiliate took the World's Best Regional Airline title.
• Finnair was judged Best Airline North Europe.
• Malév Hungarian Airlines was named Best Airline Eastern Europe.

MoT INTRODUCES INTEREST SUBSIDY SCHEME FOR UPGRADATION OF GUEST HOUSES IN NCT, DELHI

the Ministry of Tourism (MoT) has introduced an 'Interest Subsidy Scheme for the upgradation of Guest Houses' in the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi. The scheme has been introduced in view of the forthcoming Commonwealth Games, Delhi - 2010 and in order to encourage growth of budget accommodation of the approved / licensed guest houses in NCT of Delhi.

The scheme applies to all licensed guest houses in the NCT of Delhi which have been approved by the Department of Tourism (DoT), Government of Delhi, MoT, Government of India as per the schemes for approval of guest houses. The interest subsidy will be applicable for loans taken to upgrade the existing facilities which are allowed as per the prevailing civic bylaws of Delhi Development Authority / Municipal Corporation of Delhi / New Delhi Municipal Council etc. In order to be eligible for the interest subsidy, the permissions, if any, of the concerned civic authorities on civil works to be undertaken (wherever applicable) should be obtained by the guest houses.

The interest subsidy will be applicable to loans for up gradation of rooms (flooring, furniture like bed, table, chair, luggage rack / cupboard, bathroom fixtures including WC and wash basin, geyser, RO machine for drinking water, A/C, electric light fittings), common areas like lobby / reception area, façade and infrastructure development like supply of electricity, water and installation of solar heating and lighting etc. The guest house will require incurring a minimum of 7.5 per cent of the loan amount availed from the Financial Institution (FI) towards the improvement / beautification of façade / outside improvements, signages and lighting as per the permissible norms.

Since the proposed interest subsidy scheme is meant for upgradation of guest houses for Commonwealth Games 2010, the subsidy will be applicable for loans that are sanctioned and first installment has been released up to July 31, 2010 with the up gradation works to be completed by September 20, 2010. A certificate of completion of the upgradation works has to be furnished by the FI. The subsidy will be released on quarterly basis by MoT directly to the Financial Institution / scheduled bank on submission of claim in the prescribed manner.

Interest Subsidy proposals will take into account the number of rooms as licensed by MCD / Delhi Police. MoT will provide interest subsidy on loan of maximum Rs two lakh per room basis. Guest house may seek higher loan but the payment of interest subsidy will be calculated at Rs two lakh per room subject to an overall upper limit of Rs 60 lakh per guest house.

The scheme will be operated through Tourism Finance Corporation of India (TFCI), scheduled and nationalised banks. The interest on loan will be charged as per policy of the FI and rate of interest charged by it and the terms and conditions of the loan agreement between lender and borrower will be as per the government policy.

JET AIRWAYS AND REGUS ENTER INTO STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP

Jet Airways and Regus, one of the world’s largest provider of innovative workplace solutions, have entered into an exclusive partnership that offers all the members of the frequent flyer programme, JetPrivilege, membership to the Regus businessworld gold programme at exclusive rates. The Regus businessworld gold card provides professionals immediate access to office facilities in more than 1,000 business centres in 450 cities worldwide.

As per the company release, JetPrivilege members can earn up to 10,000 JPMiles on a wide range of Regus products and services worldwide such as long and short term office rentals, meeting rooms and virtual offices. JetPrivilege members will also be provided with a Jet Privilege-Regus co-branded card to enable access to a Regus Business Centre as soon as they activate their membership. Regus has 22 business centres across India including at Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai and more than 150 across the Asia Pacific region.

Madhusudan Thakur, Regional Vice President, Regus India said, “We are delighted to be working with Jet Airways, the leading airline in India, on this exciting venture. JetPrivilege Members are frequent travellers and with that comes the challenge of maintaining productivity and comfort while on the move. As such we are pleased to be able to provide them with world-class facilities and services, so that they can work productively whether travelling and working across, India, Asia or the world.”

Sudheer Raghavan, Chief Commercial Officer, Jet Airways said, “The Regus businessworld programme is an important value-add for our frequent flyers providing them with access to world-class, business-ready office facilities around the world, wherever their work takes them.”

TURKEY INTRODUCES VISA ON ARRIVAL FACILITY FOR INDIAN VISITORS

Turkey has introduced Visa-on-Arrival facility for Indian visitors. Indian arriving in Istanbul can avail Visa-on-Arrival by paying a nominal fee of 15 Euro or USD 20. The Visa will be valid for 30 days. The facility will also be available to travellers holding the UK, US and Schengen Visa.

About 55,000 Indians visited Turkey in 2009. While this year, Turkish Tourism expects around 25 per cent improvement in visitor numbers. In order to create awareness about Turkish destinations and products, Turkish Tourism has already launched a major marketing campaign in India with the punch line – ‘Turkey is Ready’.

PASSPORTS TO BE PROCESSED IN 3 DAYS SOON

The government is all set to issue regular passports in three days and tatkal ones the same day. As part of the Passport Seva Project, foreign minister S M Krishna will inaugurate four Passport Seva Kendras which will make this possible in Karnataka on Friday.

Government sources said 77 such centres will come up across the country by the end of this financial year. These centres will ensure issuance of tatkal passports to applicants within hours.

The Passport Seva Project aims to issue passports in three days as against the current 45 days. A parliamentary panel had earlier this month blamed the external affairs ministry for failing to meet the deadline for the project. It was supposed to be first launched in July last year.

The contract for implementing the Rs 1,000 crore project was given to TCS in October 2008. Passport Seva Project, based on a public-private partnership model, aims to provide passport-related services to citizens in a speedy, convenient and transparent manner.

In the new system, soon after the application is submitted, the verification list will be forwarded to the district police chief.

The same day, it will be segregated station wise and will be forwarded to the respective police stations.

IMMIGRATION STAFF TO GET TRAINING FOR A MORE TOURIST FRIENDLY APPROACH

After training tourist guides and cab drivers, the tourism ministry has set its sights on training immigration officers for a more tourist-friendly approach.

Immigration officers are the first people foreign travellers meet when they land in the country and their experience is not always pleasant. In the run-up to Commonwealth Games, all that is set to change.

Tourism minister Kumari Selja has written to home minister P Chidambaram urging that officers be given training for a more "tourist-friendly approach". The ministry has also suggested that officers be given a uniform and separate counters for domestic and foreign tourists for quicker clearances.
In most airports worldwide, officials at passport check and immigration counters have a uniform. The tourism ministry has offered to design and pay for the uniforms.

The letter also suggested separate counters for domestic and foreign tourists to ensure quicker clearances. "This will ensure not just faster clearance but avoid overcrowding of counters. There has been a demand for setting up of a separate immigration counter for Indian nationals arriving at major international airports in India for easy facilitation," a source said.

The tourism ministry, in coordination with the Bureau of Immigration, has already conducted a two-day programme to bring about a "behavioural and attitudinal change" in officials while dealing with foreign tourists. The training programme was conducted by the Indian Institute of Tourism and Travel Management in September 2009 which was attended by 127 officials. The ministry wants to extend this to all officers at the Delhi international airport and other airports as well.

With Commonwealth Games scheduled in October, the tourism ministry has been pushing for a more tourist-friendly approach by service providers including cab drivers, tourist guides, tourist police and others who will be in touch with tourists during their visit.

AIR INDIA STRIKE ENDS AFTER BEING RULED ILLEGAL; WORKERS SACKED

The two-day Air India strike came to an end on Wednesday after the Delhi high court said it was illegal and the national carrier dismissed 17 officials, including union leaders, and suspended 15 engineers, in the strongest action it has taken against labour unrest.

The airline said as many as 73 flights were affected, with revenue losses running into Rs12 crore. The international services disrupted included flights to Singapore, Kathmandu, Dubai, Muscat and Abu Dhabi, a Delhi airport official said.

“We don’t want to compromise on three issues—accountability, discipline and service to passengers,” Air India chairman and managing director Arvind Jadhav said at a press briefing in Delhi, justifying the action taken by the management.

J.B. Kadian, general secretary of the Air Corporation Employees Union (Aceu), which claims the support of more than 12,000 of the 31,000 Air India employees, was among those sacked. He couldn’t be reached for comments.

“The way the passengers have been treated is completely unacceptable,” said a senior civil aviation ministry official. More people may be sacked or dismissed with the number rising by as many as 40 more, he said. The official said the carrier had wanted to take similar action in September, when pilots had reported sick on four days in a row to protest against salary cuts. That disruption had cost the airline some Rs80 crore in lost revenue. The carrier and the government are prepared to face a partial lockout if labour trouble persists, this official said.

While schedules are expected to be restored on Thursday, any further action by workers will continue to throw flights out of gear. “Now it’s going to get bad, this is going to precipitate (events),” said an Air India official who did not want to be named.

The airline management has said it will crack down on erring employees and has asked departments to prepare a list of those signing in, but performing their tasks. Employees found to be participating in any labour action will be counselled and then issued a warning, Jadhav said. Flights will take two-four days to get back to normal, the chairman said.

Earlier on Wednesday, aviation minister Praful Patel signalled the government’s backing for Jadhav.
“Air India management is free to take all appropriate action and I am sure they are going to adequately respond,” he said after briefing the Union Cabinet and the Prime Minister. “The management needs to act adequately and firmly.”

CLEARTRIP.COM LAUNCHES NEW SECTION - SMALL WORLD ON ITS WEBSITE

Cleartrip.com has launched a new section called Small World on its website which offers travel guides and tips on 3.2 million destinations across the word. According to a report in Hindustan Times, for each, the site provides details on the cheapest flight from India, average hotel rates, temperature, local time, sights to visit, restaurants to go to, entertainment, Visa requirements and other tips, along with pictures. For each destination, ten recommended eating, shopping and entertainment spots are mentioned, and the company plans to further increase the number. One can also book hotels, flights and pan-India trains through the site.

Hrush Bhatt, Founder and Director, Cleartrip said, “Lonely Planet offers this information, but on their site you can’t book, whereas on our site you can. The site links in with the existing booking mechanisms of Cleartrip. The travel guides and content on each destination are provided by our partners, who include Lonely Planet, Yahoo and flickr. Three staff members spent four months getting the Small World section ready. We have been wanting to do this for four years, but we had to wait till all the technology was in place.”

Bhatt added, “Traditionally when you visit any travel site, they are largely limited to 2,000 to 3,000 destinations, we did not think that was enough, so we have put in 3.2 million destinations. Therefore on our site you can search for London Eye, Eiffel Tower and Disneyworld.”

GOA LOOKS TO POLES AND RUSSIANS FOR TOURISM REVIVAL

After losing tourists from Western Europe, Goa is now banking on travellers from Russia and Poland to revive the sagging tourism industry in the state.

Travel Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) has said the scene was disappointing on the Western Europe tourist front, but the loss is, to some extent, compensated by Russians' attraction towards the state.

Also, arrivals from Poland went up, giving a fillip to the foreign exchange earning sector reeling under the impact of a global economic slowdown and the Mumbai terror attacks.
"Around 2,000 Polish tourists arrived in the state, which was a new feature this season," says Ernest Dias, a TTAG official.

The tourism industry was expecting a 25 to 30 per cent drop in tourist arrivals from English-speaking countries. But arrival of 40,000-odd Russians made up for the loss.

GUJARAT TO GET MORE CONNECTIVITY THROUGH REGIONAL AIRLINES

Gujarat’s skies will become one of the busiest in the country in the next couple of months with at least two airlines starting operations to connect various cities of the state. Eight flights daily will connect Bhuj, Rajkot and Jamnagar to Ahmedabad and Surat, making it the only state in the country with such connectivity.

While Luan Airways, a start-up regional airline from Guwahati, would be based in Surat, Ventura Airlines is in the process of starting operations soon.

“Luan would connect Surat with Bhuj, Rajkot and Bhavnagar initially , while Ventura would connect Ahmedabad with Jamnagar, Bhavnagar , Bhuj and Surat,” Gujarat tourism and civil aviation secretary Vipul Mittra told the Media. Luan has obtained requisite permissions from the central agencies and is to start flying in two months.

The aircraft will be 80-seater or less. To start with, Luan will place two aircraft at Surat, a 19-seater Beechcraft to connect the diamond city with Bhavnagar and Rajkot and a 50-seater aircraft for other destinations.

New flights would cut travel time drastically, especially between cities like Surat and Rajkot, and Ahmedabad and Jamnagar. Use of smaller aircraft and no-frills services would help airlines run their business, a government official said.

Gujarat’s civil aviation department has set up a special purpose vehicle called Gujarat Civil Aviation Company to develop private airstrips to fly small planes between tourism centres for quick movement of tourists. The government resolution formalising the formation of the company was issued on Tuesday.

The department has also put in place a new civil aviation policy, which aims at improving connectivity, airstrips and helipads across Gujarat . The state has 12 main airstrips, and several smaller ones, a government official said. There are seven helipads in the state.

AIR INDIA STRIKE HITS FLIGHTS

Air India has cancelled 76 domestic and international flights scheduled for today on its network in the wake of strike by 20,000 employees of the national carrier who are protesting against airline management's gag order.

"We have cancelled a total of 76 flights scheduled to be operated on domestic as well as international sectors from Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore on May 26," an airline official said.

The airline has decided to cancel these flights after reviewing the situation of the availability of the executive engineers, who are not part of the employees' unions.

No flight could be operated until it is certified by an aircraft engineer. Since the number of executive engineers are less so Air India decided to cancel these 76 flights, said the official.

Yesterday, over 20,000 employees went on a flash strike to protest Air India's gag order that hit flight operations.

Management has threatened stern action including termination of service if the agitation continued.

GLOBAL BRANDS LINE UP TO OPEN MORE HOTELS IN INDIA

Global hotel groups are persisting with their push into India, encouraged by the resilience of its economy and the shortage of hotel rooms in a country.Canada-based Fairmont Raffles Hotels International, Thailand’s Amari Group, Luxe Worldwide Hotels, Zurich-headquartered Mövenpick Hotels and Resorts, and luxury hotel brand Waldorf Astoria Hotels and Resorts all have plans to enter or extend their business in India through the addition of five-star properties.

The country’s hospitality business needs investments of Rs60,000 crore over the next five years to meet the unmet demand of 150,000 rooms, according to a January study by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and Evalueserve.

“In India, there is a market for all players,” said Kaushik Vardharajan, executive director of HVS Global Hospitality Services, a hotel consultancy firm. “The country still needs a lot of rooms.”
While most companies are looking at management contracts, which involve running hotels without any equity investment, some such as Luxe, which runs about 200 luxury boutique hotels, and Mövenpick are seeking acquisitions to gain a quick entry.

According to estimates by HVS, around 95,000 rooms are expected to be added in India over the next five years, with half in the mid-market and budget category, and the rest in the luxury segment.
Hilton Worldwide is in the process of introducing six of its brands into the country—Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, Hilton, DoubleTree, Hilton Garden Inn and Hampton.

Waldorf Astoria is looking at signing up two hotels in the country in the next three-five months.
Fairmont Raffles, majority owned by an affiliate of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, is targeting 15-20 hotels over the next three years. The first of these—a Swissôtel in Kolkata—is set to be launched next month and is being developed by Harsh Neotia’s Ambuja Realty.

It will open two Fairmonts— its luxury brand—in Jaipur and Hyderabad over the next two years, as part of plans to open 20 hotels in eight years. The company is open to all options—the conversion of already operational properties, ones that are under construction and greenfield projects, said Feisal Jaffer, executive director (strategy and development) at Fairmont Raffles.

“With the backing of the Qatar government, we are looking to expand aggressively around the world and India is one of the destinations we want to tap into,” he said. The group is looking at opportunities in Mumbai and Delhi for its Raffles brand, besides Fairmont hotels in Jaipur, Hyderabad and Bangalore, apart from a resort in Goa.

“The hotel rooms inventory in India is very small keeping in mind the potential of this large country and the rate at which tourism is expected to grow in the next decade,” said Mandeep Lamba, managing director and chief executive of Onyx Hospitality India Pvt. Ltd, which is bringing the Amari Group to India. Apart from overseas visitors, domestic demand is also expected to rise, given economic growth and changes in lifestyle.

More rooms may lead to an easing of rents, which will make India more popular, Jaffer said. “Although some correction in long-term tariffs is bound to take place, this will only make the destination more affordable and attractive,” he added. Tariffs rose to levels higher than some developed markets before the global financial crisis, for instance in Bangalore, rents climbed to $600 (Rs 28,000) a night, higher than comparable rooms in Paris.

Those “rates were unsustainable. However, that is not the case now”, Jaffer said. “In five years, the room supply will double in India. But in my opinion, there will be demand-induced capacity like it happened in the case of Singapore if India improves its infrastructure and takes other measures like relaxing the visa norms, etc.”

Amari is looking at introducing freshly launched brands Saffron and Ozo. The first is positioned at the top-end of the luxury market and the second is a boutique mid-scale brand.
The company is in discussions with several parties to manage properties and is expected to announce its first tie-up soon. It wants to have seven properties by 2017, along with another seven at various stages of completion.

While interest in the premium category has not waned amid the rush of mid-scale and budget category hospitality companies into India, the downturn has made premium hotel brands cautious about location.

Acquisition targets are not always easy to find in India’s biggest cities as Luxe Hotels has discovered. The company is looking for properties in Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkata and Hyderabad, “which is a challenge”, said Kishore Luthria, regional director (India). It has signed up one hotel in Bangalore—Mark Boulevard in Whitefield, which is already operational—and has two greenfield properties coming up in Chennai and Alibaug in Maharashtra.

Though the group operates on a franchise model, providing marketing and sales support without management or investment, it may consider the acquisition of a hotel chain to fill the gap.
“Any chain with good quality properties, which has a presence in key locations, will be a good buy,” Luthria said. It has set aside Rs100 crore for its Indian plans, “a fund that could also go up as and when required”. Luxe is in the process of signing up 14 hotels.

Mövenpick is also looking at potential acquisition targets, which “could hoist the brand flag in the country in one go”, said Lokesh Kumar, vice-president (development and marketing), India. “Either we will acquire a majority stake in a hotel or will go for a greenfield project as it is very difficult to bring changes in an existing property.” A hotel project typically takes 30-36 months to complete.

The company has one hotel coming up in Bangalore, which is a 182-room property on a management contract, and is in advanced discussions for hotels in Gurgaon, south Mumbai, Jaipur, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Goa.

MALAYSIA OFFERSTRANSIT WITHOUT VISA FROM JULY

Malaysia will once again offer transit travellers from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh a chance to visit the country without the need for a visa.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the Government, had decided to reinstate from July 1 the “transit without visa” offer to travellers from the four countries after considering the advantage it would offer in terms of attracting more tourists from the region.

He added Malaysia previously offered a similar privilege to travellers from the Indian sub-continent but it was later revoked. “The Home Ministry has suggested some methods that will avoid abuse of the facility.

“We will discuss them with our local airline companies as we will need their cooperation for the offer to work,” he told a press conference after chairing the Cabinet Committee on Tourism meeting here yesterday. He said the details of how the offer would work and conditions would be announced soon.

It is understood that Malaysia is targeting an additional 8,000 to 10,000 visitors this year through the move that will only be offered to travellers with tickets for connecting flights.
Muhyiddin said the committee also agreed yesterday to the Tourism Ministry's proposal to increase accessibility to the country and had asked local airlines like Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia and AirAsia-X to seek more landing rights abroad. He added the committee had asked for promotions to attract tourists from the Middle East during the fasting month of Ramadan.

The committee also endorsed the proposal to add parks and gardens in Malaysia to the list of tourism sites and asked the ministry to work with the Housing and Local Government Ministry to look into upgrading them.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen later told reporters that parks and gardens were not listed as tourist attractions even though there were many travellers who loved visiting such places.

GOA TO OPEN SECOND INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT AT MOPA

Goa government is completing the land acquisition for the second international airport at Mopa in North Goa. According to Swapnil Naik, Director of Tourism, Government of Goa, the state government has already acquired nearly 30,000 sq. meters of land and an additional 50,000 sq. meters will be acquired by June 2010 for the Greenfield airport which will be Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) venture on Build Operate and Transfer (BoT) model. Naik further informed that International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) conducted a feasibility study on the site of the proposed new airport and has given its approval for the same.

The state government, which received a nod from Union cabinet in 2000, recently received the ‘go ahead' from the central government for the second airport. The state government will roll out global tenders for PPP next month and will finalize the private player by year-end. The second international airport is slated to commence operations within three years of appointing a private partner. Following the Union Cabinet's approval for the second airport in Goa, there have been opposition from various local factions regarding the location of setting up the new airport and also to the closure of the existing airport at Dabolim. On account of the opposition for the latter, Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) had drafted a request to Union Cabinet to allow the existing airport at Dabolim to continue operations after the introduction of the new airport at Mopa. If the cabinet approves the request Goa will have two international airports posts 2014.

“After being in dispute for quiet some time, the Mopa international airport has finally got sanctioned and will hopefully start operations by 2014. The new airport will ease the increasing traffic at the existing airport in Dabolim. The new airport will enhance easy access to the state for both international and domestic travellers and will further benefit the tourism industry,” added Naik.