Tourism Breaking News

Govt inaugurates first project under Swadesh Darshan Scheme in Manipur

Dr Najma A Heptulla, Governor of Manipur, has recently inaugurated the project ‘Development of North East Circuit: Imphal & Khongjom’ implemented under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme of Ministry of Tourism, Government of India in the presence of N Biren Singh, Chief Minister of Manipur; K J Alphons, Union Minister of State (I/C) for Tourism and Rashmi Verma, Union Tourism Secretary in Imphal at a function held at Kangla Fort. Speaking on the occasion, Heptulla drew the attention of Government of India on the huge potential of the tourism industry of the state which comes in the form of culture, sports, arts, eco, histor, handloom and handicrafts. Alphons, in his speech, congratulated the Government of Manipur for its commendable work in tourism sector of the state and suggested to come up with even more brighter projects and express his willingness to be generous on the projects to be taken up in North East. Singh, in his remarks, has proposed for three more projects for development and strengthening of eco, ethnic and sports tourism at Loktak Lake, Mapithel Dam and Shadu Chiru. He also expressed his happiness on the progress of Kangkhui cave tourism project. The project under inauguration was sanctioned by the Ministry of Tourism in September 2015 for Rs 72.30 crores. The project covers two sites, namely, Kangla Fort and Khongjom.

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Easy visa application process ups Indian arrivals to Australia by 20%

Since the introduction of the new visa system by the Department of Home Affairs (HA), arrivals from India to Australia have surged by 20 per cent. The online application process provides a more convenient option for Indians looking to visit Australia, by allowing them to apply for their Australian tourist visa within the comfort of their home, without any biometric requirement or physically submitting their passport to the Department. Tania Gerlach, Chief Migration Officer, Department of Home Affairs, commented, “The expansion of online lodgement to Indian applicants is an important step in managing the large number of visitor visa applications processed in India. Processing times for these visas are now faster, as both applications and supporting documentation are immediately available to the processing office.” Nishant Kashikar, Country Manager – India, Tourism Australia, said, “We see the introduction of online visitor visa lodgement as a progressive and innovative measure to ease travel logistics. In addition to destination delights to woo potential tourists, ease of access is usually seen as a catalyst that drives decision making.” Consumers can conveniently apply for their Australian visitor visa through the Department’s Immi Account portal. Online visa lodgement offers benefits such as 24/7 accessibility, electronic payment of the visa application charge and the ability to check the status of applications lodged online.

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TAAI unveils its digital empowerment initiative ‘TAAI Connect’

The Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) unveiled its new initiative on digital empowerment called TAAI Connect. This will support member agencies to encounter the fast evolving, challenging and demanding market scenario. TAAI Connect will enable agents to have their own website, combine their website with a booking platform integrated with their GDS and ticketing, connect the website with payment gateway linked with their own bank, a corporate booking tool and a mobile application to manage bookings through smartphones and many more services. TAAI has associated with TPConnects, a Dubai based technology company for TAAI Connect which will provide all technical support and integration. Speaking at the launch in Mumbai, Sunil Kumar, President, TAAI said, “TAAI Connect is a revolutionary initiative in the area of technology offering handholding and empowering travel agencies to go digital. A lot of online companies have lost money in creating the online platform rather than running it. Here the agents do not have to invest in technology and integration that TAAI is offering. This will also be available to non-IATA travel agents and non-TAAI agents while they would have to take up membership with TAAI. We will be working with all suppliers in the industry.”  

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Israel opens Visa Application Centre in Kolkata

In an effort to encourage more Indian travellers to visit Israel, the Embassy of Israel in India has opened a Kolkata Israel Visa Application Centre for West Bengal and Northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. Additionally, visa applications in jurisdiction under the New Delhi centre are also acceptable at the new Kolkata Centre. The visa application categories include B1 for employment, B2 for business, tourism, meeting or conference and A2 for students. Commenting on the new opening, Hassan Madah, Director, Israel Ministry of Tourism – India & Philippines said, “Israel is experiencing a tourism boom like never before. India has recorded a half yearly growth of 82% as compared to the same period in 2015 and has become one of the best performing markets in Asia for Israel. The new centre in Kolkata will no longer require residents from West Bengal and Northeastern states to send in their documents to the Embassy in New Delhi.” Among other initiatives, Israel recently announced a reduction in visa fees to Rs 1,100 from its previous Rs 1,700 charge for Indian citizens. In December last year, relaxed visa documentation was brought in for applicants who have availed visas of Schengen countries, US, Canada, Australia or Israel and have completed their travel to these destinations. Madah added, “The Ministry of Tourism will be conducting a roadshow in Kolkata on August 29 to increase interest for the destination among consumers and trade fraternity.”

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Kannur airport to start operations from October 1

Commercial operations are all set to start from Kannur International Airport in Kerala from October 1, 2018. This was recently announced at a joint press conference by Suresh Prabhu, Union Minister, Civil Aviation, along with KJ Alphons, Minister of State (I/C), Tourism; Jayant Sinha, Minister of State, Civil Aviation; as well as RN Choubey, Secretary, Civil Aviation. The officials shared that all the pending licences would be cleared before September 1 and the final aerodrome licence would also be given by that date. The airport will play a major role under the UDAN scheme of the government. Also, three domestic carriers will be operating international flights from this airport. Jet Airways will be flying to Abu Dhabi; Go Air would ply to Dammam and IndiGo will be flying to Doha from Kannur airport.

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4th OTOAI Convention kicks off in Cape Town

The Outbound Tour Operators Association of India (OTOAI) inagurated its annual convention in Cape Town, South Africa on August 12. The four-day convention is themed on ‘Digitalisation – The Way Forward’. Speaking at the inaugural event, James Vos, Shadow Minister, Tourism South Africa, said, “It is a great opportunity for us to network and find out the best practices in the industry. Technology is an important part of the discussion and very relevant today. As a sector, tourism needs to become more resilient and sustainable. For every 12 international arrivals, we create one job for the domestic population. We welcomed more than 1 million conference delegates to South Africa in 2018. That shows the type of tourism infrastructure we can offer.” The association has also organised  pre- and post-familiarisation trips to two different locations – from Sun City to Johannesburg to Garden Route and Kruger National Park. This year is special for South Africa because 2018 marks the centenary of the birth of Nelson Mandela with year-long celebrations being organised. OTOAI has held its past conventions in Manila, Bali and Ras Al-Khaimah.

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Delhi’s IGI Airport is among the world’s top 20 busiest

In 2017, Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport handled 63.5 million passengers and made it to the list of the top 20 busiest airports of the world. As per the Airports Council International (ACI), which has come out with these rankings, the IGI Airport is now one of the fastest growing airports in the world. According to ACI, “Delhi, the country’s busiest airport for passenger traffic, grew by 14.1 per cent year-over-year at 63.45 million, pushing it up from 22nd to the 16th busiest airport in the world.”

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ADTOI elects new team for 2018-20

The Association of Domestic Tour Operators of India (ADTOI) held its biennial elections on August 11, 2018 and announced the new team for the 2018-20 period. The voting was conducted under the supervision of returning officer Harbans Singh, Retd Secretary, Election Commission. PP Khanna has been re-elected as the President, while Rajesh Arya was voted as Vice President for the association. Chetan Gupta was re-elected as General Secretary, Dalip Gupta as Treasurer and Anil K Rajput as Joint Secretary for the association.

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IATO gears up for 34th Annual Convention in Vizag

In an aim to update its members about the 34th Annual Convention set to be held from September 6-9, 2018, IATO recently hosted a luncheon meet at Le Meridien, New Delhi. The association felicitated Mukesh Kumar Meena, Secretary Tourism, Andhra Pradesh and Himanshu Shukla, CEO, Andhra Pradesh Tourism Authority. Convention Chairman Rajeev Mehra said, “We are getting close to our desired goal in meeting the required number of professionals of the trade from various parts of the country to make our 34th Annual Convention successful.” With the utmost support of Andhra Pradesh Tourism, IATO is confident of its convention. Meena, while addressing the members, said, “We are excited to be the hosts for IATO convention as we’ve been looking forward to it since 2016. We will also be hosting post tours for the delegation of about 200 or more.”

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IHG signs deal for four Holiday Inn hotels to develop Buddhist Circuit

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has signed a management agreement with Lotus Trans Travel to establish a four hotel portfolio under the Holiday Inn banner. Slated to open between 2020 and 2023, Holiday Inn Bodhgaya, Holiday Inn Kushinagar, Holiday Inn Gorakhpur and Holiday Inn Shravasti together will add over 450 rooms to IHG’s system and establish the company’s presence at the Buddhist tourism circuit. As a part of the agreement, Holiday Inn hotels in Bodhgaya, Kushinagar and Shravasti will be refurbished and upgraded to ensure the portfolio is fully representative of the Holiday Inn brand globally. Holiday Inn Gorakhpur will be will be a new build hotel. Bodhgaya in Bihar, Gorakhpur, Shravasti and Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh are some of the main pilgrimage centres for Buddhism in India and together form a part of ‘The Buddhist Circuit’ in the country that drives a great deal of religious visitors and international travellers to these states. Sudeep Jain, Vice President—Development, South West Asia, IHG said, “We are excited to be collaborating with Lotus Trans Travel, who have a strong presence and a deep market understanding of Buddhist destinations in India. This signing adds to the rapidly growing presence of our well-recognised Holiday Inn brand across the country.” Karan Rai, Director, Lotus Trans Travel, added, “We feel there is a need for quality branded accommodation in cities with immense travel potential such as Bodhgaya, Kushinagar, Gorakhpur and Shravasti, and are delighted to be partnering with IHG for our business in these markets.”

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