travel news

Hello India! Now’s The Perfect Chance To Re-Experience The Wonders Of Indonesia

Jakarta [Indonesia]: In light of the readiness to welcome back international travellers, Wonderful Indonesia will proudly present some of the country’s best destination highlights and new experiences at South Asia’s Travel and Tourism Exchange (SATTE) 2022 on 18 – 20 May 2022 at India Expo Mart, Greater Noida, India. The Wonderful Indonesia Pavilion is located at booth number C50.

The country’s participation at SATTE arrives at a time when the country is opening up again to global tourists. Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy, Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno explained, “Bali has welcomed international tourists since early this year, supported by the granting of Visa on Arrival for 60 countries.” Besides the ease of VoA facilities, Indonesia has also lifted entry PCR test requirements for international travellers who are proven asymptomatic upon arrival. Healthy and fully vaccinated visitors can now immediately make plans to enter the country.

Ni Wayan Giri Adnyani, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, Republic of Indonesia, added, “The purpose of Indonesia’s participation in SATTE 2022 is to facilitate Indonesian tourism industry players so that they can reactivate their business in India. This time, Indonesia was chosen as one of the Partner Countries, which is an appreciation to the Ministry for always participating in SATTE activities since 2008.”

Twenty notable Indonesian tourism businesses will participate in the exhibition to offer various attractive packages, including Bali, a favourite destination for Indian tourists. In addition, Wonderful Indonesia will also introduce five super-priority destinations that are no less interesting than Bali, namely Borobudur, Lake Toba, Mandalika, Labuan Bajo, and Likupang.

Indian tourists have been an important market for Indonesia. Prior to the pandemic, India was one of the markets that had the highest increase in tourists every year. This is inseparable from the large potential of the Indian wedding segment, which makes Bali the main destination for their wedding location.

In March, Indonesia successfully held MotoGP at the Mandalika circuit in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara. The event is located at one of the ‘Super Priority Destinations’ promoted by the Government as a strategy for developing destinations outside Bali or ‘The New Bali’.

Later this year in October, Indonesia will host the G20 Meeting in Bali, a global international event that reaffirms global trust in Indonesia after the Covid-19 pandemic.

This story is provided by PRNewswire. ANI will not be responsible in any way for the content of this article. (ANI/PRNewswire).

Australian Airline Announces Program To Bolster Domestic Travel

Sydney [Australia]: The Australian national carrier Qantas is set to launch hundreds of “points planes” offering super cheap domestic flights in a bid to drum up domestic travel during the country’s winter months.

The program is the airline’s latest effort to balance their frequent flyer sheets as customers have accumulated massive stockpiles of points during the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this year, the airline introduced a “Green Tier” program, which awards customers with frequent flyer points based on their sustainable choices.

From June, passengers who are travelling between Australia’s capital cities will enjoy discounts of 30 percent while booking economy seats. Additionally, 1,700 “points planes” are set to launch, where every seat could be purchased using frequent flyers.

Qantas Loyalty CEO Olivia Wirth said on Monday that the programs would help boost tourism across the nation in the coming months.

“We’ve seen a huge increase in demand for regional travel since the start of the pandemic and these Points Planes will help tens of thousands of frequent flyers discover regional Australia this winter.”

This means that jet-setters could pay as little as 41 Australian dollars (about 29 U.S. dollars) to fly between Sydney and Townsville, a small city in the Australian state of Queensland, when used in conjunction with points.

The most recent data from Australia’s federal transport research body, the Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics, showed that domestic aviation is still well below pre-pandemic levels.

In February of 2022, 2.69 million passengers travelled domestically, up from 1.87 million in February of 2021, but well below 4.6 million passengers in February of 2020 before disruptions due to the pandemic. (ANI/Xinhua)

Study: Frequent-Flyer Programmes Increase Business Travel Cost

Washington [US]: Airline frequent-flyer programs are a staple for air travel, particularly among frequent business travellers, but they also add to the cost of business travel for employers, suggests the findings of a new study.

According to the study, frequent-flyer programs are a win-win-lose when it comes to air travel. The airline wins because the programs generate loyally and repeat customers. The points programme member wins because of incentives to receive flight upgrades and free plane tickets. But in cases where the employer is shouldering the cost, they lose because they could be paying more for the travel than need be. The study, published in the current issue of the INFORMS journal Marketing Science, “Reaching for Gold: Frequent-Flyer Status Incentives and Moral Hazard,” is authored by Yesim Orhun and Andreas Hagemann, both of the University of Michigan, and Tong Guo of Duke University.

The researchers analyzed the transactional database of a leading U.S.-based airline’s frequent-flyer program. This included the histories and point accumulations of 3.5 million frequent-flyer program members during the 2010 and 2011 point-earning cycles.

“We found that the closer frequent-flyer program members get to ‘elite status’ the more likely they are to choose an airline even when it may be more expensive than a competitor’s flight,” says Yesim Orhun. “While this decision is based on a number of factors, an important one is whether the air travellers are paying for the flight themselves, or whether it is covered by an employer or third-party.”

Other factors the researchers cited included whether the traveller was well ahead of pace or far behind pace to achieve elite status and whether the traveller’s home airport was the airline’s hub. In cases in which travellers were off the pace to achieve elite status, they were less likely to switch bookings to earn points. At the same time, point members are more likely to choose higher fares and earn points if their home airport is also the hub of the airline sponsoring the points program.

“We found that when travellers are close to their points program’s targeted pace, they are more likely to book with the airline on routes where the airline has lower appeal than competitors,” says Guo. “Loyalty program members, when they were close to target pace, on average showed an 8 per cent increase in the price paid when compared with others taking the same flight.”

The study authors found that when points-program members are travelling for leisure, their behaviour changes.
“More than one-third of the overall increase in the average consumer’s willingness to pay in the marketplace can be attributed to booking instances where the consumer is not likely to shoulder the cost of the ticket,” adds Orhun.

“If travellers had to pay out of pocket, our estimates suggest that companies would save at least 7 per cent of their travel costs.” (ANI)

Delhi Government To Provide Free Bus Passes To Construction Workers

New Delhi [India]: In a move that will benefit nearly 10 lakh construction labourers in the national capital, the Delhi government on Wednesday announced that it will provide free bus passes to them.

Speaking to ANI, the Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said, “All construction labourers earlier had to spend somewhere between Rs 1000 to Rs 3000 per month for travel. Now the government has decided to make bus travel free for such labourers. This will benefit about 10 lakh labourers in the state.” Taking to Twitter, Deputy CM said, “It is the effort of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal that the labourers including masons, painters, welders, carpenters, electricians, guards and other workers should be given maximum assistance.”

“Free bus pass scheme launched today for construction workers in Delhi. Welders masons, carpenters, electricians, guards and other workers working on the construction site can take advantage of this. It is the effort of the Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal that the labourers should be given maximum assistance. He is the creator of Delhi,” tweeted Sisodia.

When the Deputy Chief Minister was asked whether the rest of the development works of Delhi would not be affected due to these free schemes, Sisodia said that if the government is honest then there is no shortage of money for welfare schemes.

“Leaders should get everything free and the labourers should not get anything free, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) does not do this kind of politics,” he added.

Under the ‘Delhi Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Board’, 10 lakh workers including both men and women are registered in Delhi. However, women already have the facility of free bus travel in Delhi. (ANI)

IntrCity Survey: Indian Travellers Prefer Hygiene & Safety As Top Priority

New Delhi [India] : With a steady decline in the number of COVID cases and ease in restrictions pertaining to COVID-19, IntrCity, India’s leading mobility platform, revealed the findings of a travel survey to better understand Indian travellers’ behaviour and preferences while travelling inter-city.

Results illustrate that with long due vacations, visiting family on weekends and work trips, Indians are enthusiastic to travel and yet cautious about hygiene and sanitisation. The importance of hygiene and safety among travellers has skyrocketed. 65 per cent travellers prioritise travelling with an on-board washroom facility, while 60 per cent prefer GPS tracking enabled buses. Indian travellers prefer SmartBuses and are willing to pay more for the additional amenities. Female travellers prefer safety, while men prefer punctuality when choosing the mode of travel. Travellers still prioritise safety and hygiene, while travelling inter-city.

For inter-city travellers, hygiene comes first, followed by safety and punctuality in that order, which is fairly similar to the results of last year’s survey. Even when the pandemic begins to fade, a bias toward hygiene and sanitisation signals a more permanent change to the ‘new normal’. Hygiene and safety are the top two criteria that impact mode of transportation selection, followed by cost and punctuality as the joint third most significant factor.

Nearly 2/3rd of all respondents have stated a clear preference for a SmartBus over a regular bus. More encouragingly, even more respondents (75 per cent) are willing to pay more for these benefits, compared to a regular bus. Out of these benefits, an automated GPS system and an on-board washroom facility comprise two of the most popular features for travellers.

Intercity travellers generally view GPS tracking on their bus as an ideal choice, with 60 per cent saying it will make their ride easier and hassle-free. Similarly, over 65 per cent of all respondents across genders and age groups score an onboard washroom facility in an inter-city bus travel a thumbs up.

Speaking about the survey, Kapil Raizada, Co-founder of IntrCity, said, “Inter-city travel appears to have made a huge comeback in a post-pandemic world, as travel recovers at an unprecedented rate and all COVID restrictions on travel are being eased. We are glad to bring the findings of our survey, which highlight the priority areas of inter-city travellers. The new normal necessitates continued focus on safety, hygiene, punctuality and providing differentiated experience to travellers who decide to travel with IntrCity SmartBus. We look forward to continuing to play a significant role in distinguishing our offerings in this high intensity travel period.”

Travelling begins for both functional and leisure reasons

Among all respondents, more than 70 per cent are intercity functional travellers, out of which, 31 per cent are travelling for work, 32 per cent to meet family/relatives, while 8 per cent are students travelling from or to schools/colleges. However, one-fifth of all inter-city travel is for vacation and leisure purposes, which is in sharp contrast to IntrCity’s last year survey which indicated a drop in planned holidays by more than 70 per cent of respondents. This highlights the resurgence of travel in the country, especially at the outset of the pandemic.

IntrCity SmartBus is a pioneer in Safe+ inter-city mobility initiatives like pre-sanitized private cabins, five-step cleaning and sanitization protocol, mandatory KYC procedures, contactless check-ins, safe and hygienic SmartBus lounges. The Company manages 51+ managed safe boarding zones including SmartBus lounges and partner-managed convenient boarding points. Besides, IntrCity SmartBus offers never-before-seen facilities and innovative features, such as special seat options for extra-tall travellers, pregnant ladies, or women with infants, private cabins, and extra spacious seating areas for plus-size travellers provide both safety and extra comfort.

Survey Methodology

IntrCity performed a nationwide online survey of 3,100 persons aged 18 to 60 years old who travel between India’s metros, tier-1, and tier-2 cities. The survey was conducted between March 15 and April 10, 2022. IntrCity’s data insights team analysed and validated the survey’s results.

Click here to get details of the survey conducted.

IntrCity is India’s leading intercity mobility platform, offering both train and bus services to budget travellers. Its flagship brand IntrCity SmartBus provides safe, trusted, and standardised travel options around India’s long-distance routes, operating across 630+ routes in 16 states. Its companion brand, RailYatri, provides comprehensive train travel information, serving more than 14 million users monthly.

For more information, please visit:
Official website: www.intrcity.com and www.railyatri.in
Facebook: www.facebook.com/intrcity/
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/intrcity/
Twitter- @IntrCity

This story is provided by NewsVoir. ANI will not be responsible in any way for the content of this article. (ANI/NewsVoir)

Condom Themed Cafe In Thailand

New Delhi [India]: Thailand, a place often referred to as a bachelor’s paradise, is a travel destination that boasts of bold and fun-filled spots where tourists can have unique yet memorable experiences.

Speaking about uniqueness, there’s a cafe in Thailand that has taken an eccentric approach to tackle one of the biggest world problems, overpopulation, which is a result of poor family planning and lack of education, among other factors. Digital content creator Mohnish Doultani had recently posted a video on his Instagram handle where he introduced his followers to this place.

https://www.instagram.com/reel/CcVcPSalxl4/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Located in Bangkok, this cafe is named ‘Coffee and Condoms’ and be it the dresses of statues, flowers, Santa Claus’ beard or lamps, almost everything inside this place is made up of different coloured condoms.

Explaining the reason behind this unique concept, in the caption, Mohnish wrote, “Why this name? So boss the founder believes that ‘birth control should be as accessible and as easy to buy as vegetables in the market!’ The cafe uses jokes, props and visuals to overcome ignorance in people to discuss issues such as intercourse, family planning, and diseases.”

Even most of the decorations inside the cafe have been done using condoms including the tables that are inlaid with colourful condoms. The posters displayed across the walls also promote the use of contraceptives.

Ultimately, it’s no wonder that this cafe can turn out to be a fun place to visit with its light-hearted execution of a serious message that seeks everyone’s attention in the world. (ANI)

S. Jaishankar To Visit Bangladesh On Thursday

New Delhi [India]: External Affairs Minister (EAM) Dr S Jaishankar will travel to Dakha on Thursday to invite Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to visit India.

“Yes, the EAM will pay a one-day visit to Dhaka on Thursday,” Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla told reporters in Delhi on Monday. “He will carry a letter from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to invite Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to visit India,” Shringla was quoted as saying by Dhaka Tribune.

Shringla made these remarks in response to queries from journalists at an event at the Bangladesh High Commission in New Delhi.

Foreign Secretary and Bangladesh High Commissioner Muhammad Imran on Monday attended the award-giving ceremony for felicitating winners of a competition conducted on the occasion of India-Bangladesh Friendship Day.

During the event, Shringla shared views on strengthening the bilateral partnership.

Both representatives felicitated the winners of the Maitri Diwas logo and backdrop competition conducted on the occasion of India-Bangladesh Maitri Diwas.

“FS @harshvshringla and Bangladesh High Commissioner Muhammad Imran felicitated the winners of the India-Bangladesh #MaitreeDiwas logo and backdrop competition. Also shared views on further strengthening bilateral ties, including youth connect, innovation and emerging areas,” said Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi tweeted. (ANI)

Mystifly Joins UATP Network

Washington [US]: UATP and Mystifly announced a strategic partnership in which UATP will be integrated into MystiPay, an airline payment solution from Mystifly. The partnership focuses on reducing the cost of acceptance for travel payments.

“We recognize that the airline distribution and payments landscape is complex,” stated Rajeev Kumar, CEO and MD, Mystifly. “Through MystiPay, and with UATP as the scheme, we want to offer a profitable and secure payment solution that unlocks new revenue streams and better rebates, while lowering the cost of acceptance. We take great pride in partnering with UATP as both businesses share a common vision to provide a better payment opportunity for all. We look forward to maximizing the value of this partnership.”

Today, Mystifly is one of the largest global B2B airfare aggregators backed by its strong travel technology vision. Mystifly offers search and retailing, order management, revenue and channel management, ancillary sales, multi-currency payment wallet and automated post booking management processes through their technology SaaS platform. Mystifly’s model is to merge the gaps between aggregation, distribution, fulfilment and payments and settlements.

UATP President and CEO Ralph Kaiser commented, “Mystify continues to grow as a travel tech leader. Becoming an Issuer will enhance supplier relations and increase spending power. Mystifly will help save the industry money by utilizing UATP in its supplier relationships.”

For more information, visit UATP.com or Mystifly.com.

UATP is a global payment solution owned and operated by the world’s airlines and accepted by thousands of merchants for air, rail and travel agency payments. UATP connects airlines to Alternative Forms of Payment which can expand reach and generate incremental sales globally. UATP offers easy-to-use data tools, DataStream(sm) and DataMine(sm), which provide comprehensive account details to Issuers and Corporate Subscribers for accurate travel management.

Accepted as a form of payment for corporate business travel worldwide by airlines, travel agencies and Amtrak®; UATP accounts are issued by: Aeromexico; Air Canada (TSE: AC); Air China; Air New Zealand ( ANZFF.PK ); Air Niugini; Air Serbia; American Airlines (NASDAQ: AAL); APG Airlines; Austrian Airlines; BCD Travel; China Eastern Airlines (NYSE: CEA); Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL); EL AL Israel Airlines; Etihad Airways; Fareportal; Frontier Airlines; GOL Linhas aereas inteligentes S.A. (NYSE: GOL and Bovespa: GOLL4); Hahn Air; Hight Point Travel; Japan Airlines (9201:JP); JetBlue Airways; Qantas Airways ( QUBSF.PK ); Shandong Airlines; Sichuan Airlines; Southwest Airlines; Sun Country Airlines; TUIfly GmbH; Turkish Airlines (ISE:THYAO); United Airlines (NYSE: UAL) and WestJet.

AirPlus International issues the UATP-based Company Account for Lufthansa German Airlines.

Mystifly is a travel tech leader in airline retailing envisioned to bring a positive difference in the experience of the travelers and how air travel is sold. Mystifly is the new operating system for existing or new businesses to start or grow their travel business globally. Certified by IATA as a NDC Level 4 Aggregator, Mystifly offers NDC-aligned tech stacks for businesses of every size. Founded in 2009, Mystifly unifies distribution, fulfilment and payments on a single platform that allows search, ticket, ancillary sales, post-booking services and payment for over 700 airlines including 180 LCCs, NDC and Non-NDC Airlines. Mystifly’s suite of products empowers over 3000 clients globally.

Logo: https://mma.prnewswire.com/media/75542/UNIVERSAL_AIR_TRAVEL_PLAN_LOGO.jpg

This story is provided by PRNewswire. ANI will not be responsible in any way for the content of this article. (ANI/PRNewswire)

‘Tripcart Tours and Travels India LLP’ Introduces Its Thailand Tour Packages

New Delhi [India], April 22 (ANI/TPT): Travel agency ”Tripcart Tours and Travels India LLP” has recently introduced its Thailand tour packages that are affordable yet offer complete satisfaction to the travelers. The package comprises 3 Nights Relaxing Gateway to Pattaya, 4 Nights Relaxing Gateway to Pattaya & Bangkok, 5 Nights Relaxing Gateway to Pattaya & Bangkok, 4 Nights Relaxing Gateway to Phuket & Krabi, 6 Nights combo to Bangkok, Pattaya & Phuket, and much more. Moreover, the prices of the package range from Rs 8999 per person to Rs 23999 per person.

TripCart Tours and Travels, a travel technology startup, has released a beta version of its app on the Google Play Store. The company was founded to encourage domestic and international travel and was conceived by Ved Anand in 2019. The branch office of the brand is in Siliguri, and the corporate headquarters is in Ahmedabad. The package also includes adventurous activities like Rafting, Paragliding, and Scuba diving. Customers will be able to observe the rich sea life in the blue depths of the Indian Ocean, explore beautiful beaches with their loved ones in complete privacy, and stay in overwater villas and luxury resorts with modern amenities thanks to the affordable Thailand Travel Packages. The affordable Thailand Packages allow you to experience the finest of Thailand without breaking the bank.

The founder of the brand Ved Anand says, “TripCart is not just a dream, but a reality created through consistent and consistent efforts. In life, you will face a lot of difficulties. You will pay for your failures. But, if you persevere, if you let those failures teach you and strengthen you, then you will be prepared to handle life’s toughest challenges.”

Customized Thailand Tour Packages allows the customers to connect with core Thai values and culture while also providing them with a one-of-a-kind experience of visiting Bangkok and Rayong’s floating markets. Furthermore, the Thailand travel package also entails popular rentals like car rentals, bike rentals, and cycle rentals. This budget-friendly package takes the travelers through a myriad of retail malls, temples, wildlife sanctuaries, bars and pubs, and tropical beaches and help them explore the destination to a great extent.

The travel company “TripCart Tours and Travels” also offers packages covering countries such as Maldives, Australia, and Nepal. Also, the brand provides seasonal destinations like Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, and Andaman at reasonable price ranges.

For more information please visit www.trip-cart.com

This story is provided by TPT. ANI will not be responsible in any way for the content of this article. (ANI/TPT)

Aaditya Thackeray Inaugurates Mumbai’s First Completely Digital Bus

Mumbai (Maharashtra) [India]: Maharashtra State Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray, on Wednesday, inaugurated the city’s first completely digital bus on the Gateway of India to Churchgate route, with a unique Tap-in Tap-out feature.

“Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) is India’s first bus service to go completely digital,” said Aaditya Thackeray. “We will be implementing this in all 10 buses on this route in a few days and later expand it on all 438 routes across the city,’ he added.

According to Lokesh Chandra, the General Manager (GM) of BEST, “this is the first-ever 100 per cent digital bus service of the country, aiming to increase the digitisation of bus ticketing system.”

“It provides ease and convenience to the travellers as they can tap-in using their smart card or via the ‘Chalo’ app installed in their smartphones,” said GM.

“After completing the journey, the traveller gets a receipt on their mobile phone if they Tap-out using the app and can also collect their ticket if they used the smart card,” he explained.

Initially, the inaugurated Tap-in Tap-out service is a part of two buses only, but the service providers are likely to deploy this digital bus service for 200 routes in the city, soon.

Travellers who commuted through this fully digital bus were found praising the step towards digitisation.

“It was a much-needed initiative for travelling in a city like Mumbai,” said Jatin, a commuter.

He said that the journey became more convenient as it was completely contactless, with no interaction with the ticket checker. (ANI)

India’s Aviation Industry Back To Pre-Covid Level, 15-Day Fare Limit

New Delhi [India]: Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia on Monday expressed confidence about India’s aviation industry getting back to the normal pre-pandemic level.

The aviation industry of India touched over four lakh domestic passengers in a day on Monday. Calling the domestic passengers “historic” Scindia, while speaking to ANI, said, “It was a very difficult time in the previous years due to the covid pandemic. We have seen over 3.7, 3.8 and 3.9 lakhs passengers in a day over the last 10 days. I’m confident that travelling–both domestically and internationally, in India is coming back strong.”

The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has imposed a fare cap for 15 days due to the pandemic, so the government may control the fare hike on the sale of air tickets for the last time as the airlines companies have urged the Ministry to remove the fare limit. The Ministry had issued a hundred per cent capacity operations after two years.

“If we talk about the fare caps, then it is my responsibility to the passengers as well as to the airlines. The passengers should get the accessible fare and the airlines are also able to survive, especially when the Aviation turbine fuel (ATF) has increased at a rapid pace to Rs 1,20,000 per kilolitres; which translates to a difference of about sixty per cent in just one to one and a half years. At present, the fare which is applicable for 15 days is on the rolling system. The decision to remove it will be taken at an appropriate time,” Scindia told ANI.

Meanwhile, he stated that the aviation industry should run under a 100 per cent free market. “It is our endeavour that from the beginning, the aviation market should run on the basis of 100% free market in the sector,” he added.

Notably, Scindia has appealed to all air travelers that although the airline companies are to operate at full capacity, “but do not reduce your defences in the pandemic.”

“It is my humble request to the air travellers to wear masks and follow the rules. Be sure to wear a mask during the flight,” he said.

Further, Scindia stressed that the Ministry has withdrawn the mandatory RT-PCR report for domestic travel but “a few states can conduct the test as per their requirement.”

“The Ministry has abolished the need for RT PCR, but many states keep some rules on the basis of their ideology, worrying about their area. It’s our responsibility to give that right. RT-PCR is not required for domestic flights at the national level. If the state believes that cases are increasing in their place, then this right will be made in their place,” Scindia said. (ANI)

Are You Affected By Auto-Taxi Strike In Delhi? Here’s How You Can Deal With The Situation

New Delhi [India]: Auto and taxi unions in Delhi went on strike on Monday, demanding a hike in fare rates and slashing of CNG prices.

While there are concerns about travelling and commuting between places, there are remedies to this troubling problem. Whether it is about heading to work from your home, visiting your favourite restaurant to grab a meal, or executing your pre-planned travel with your loved ones, here are some options that will help you to deal with the situation better.

1. Bus Services

Delhi’s well-equipped public transport service is the best possible mode of transport for most people travelling across all distances. The effective transport system will run with full efficiency despite the auto and taxi strike today.

2. Online transport services

Online transport services like Ola, Uber and Rapido are the primary substitutes for travelling in the absence of autos and taxis on roads in Delhi.

However, there might be a surge in cab fares as compared to the usual times. If you’re willing to roll out extra bucks, a cab ride would be the most comfortable way for you to travel. Apart from a hike in cab fares, there might also be availability issues depending on your region.

3. Metro

Metro services are a major source for commuting in Delhi. With the auto and taxi services on strike, the Metro’s rapid transit system serves as the most preferred option for the common traveller.

The metro routes and timings can be checked on the Delhi Metro website or app, as well as on Google Maps.

4. Bicycling

Another wise option for a health enthusiast would be the old-school use of bicycles. There’s something about rocking your nostalgia-filled bicycle on the roads on a summer evening.

Also, considering the ever-lasting problem of pollution in Delhi, hitting the roads on your bicycle for one day would rather help in an eco-friendly way.

5. Walking

If you’re travelling across short distances and are comfortable moving on foot, the idea of a pleasant walk on the road would appeal to you. Also, health enthusiasts would probably look for no other option than hitting the road on foot. (ANI)

Sri Lankan Airlines Issues Request For Proposal To Lease 21 Aircrafts

Colombo [Sri Lanka], April 15 (ANI): State-run Sri Lankan Airlines has issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) to lease up to 21 aircraft by 2025 to support its business strategy as the airline is planning to grow its business in the next three years through frequency increases and new destinations are also getting added as international travel is in a trajectory of recovery from the pandemic.

For their business plan, the airlines also need a 35-aircraft-strong fleet by 2025, Daily Mirror reported. Currently, Sri Lankan airlines is having 24 aircraft to operate to 40 destinations in 25 countries and aims to increase its fleet from 24 to 35 by 2025, including the lease replacement aircraft when aircraft leases expire.

“This includes two RFPs covering existing fleet types (320 and 330 family aircraft) and two parallel RFPs to compare with alternative aircraft types. Roughly 60 per cent of the planned aircraft will be for fleet replacement, and the remainder will be to support the airline’s expansion strategy and meet the growing demand for air travel between Sri Lanka and the world,” Daily Mirror reported citing the airlines’ statement.

The statement further read that before the pandemic, in 2019, Sri Lanka had an all-Airbus fleet of 27 wide and narrow-bodied aircraft to service its short and long-haul operations and during Covid, there were no replacements for three aircraft that left the fleet.

Sri Lankan Airlines was launched in 1979. The airline’s hub is located at Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo providing connections to its global network (including codeshare partners) of 126 destinations in 60 countries around the world. The Airline operates an all-Airbus fleet including a state-of-the-art A330-300 and modern A320/321neo aircraft, according to Daily Mirror.

Multiple Countries Issue Travel Warnings For Sri Lanka Amid Ongoing Protests

Colombo [Sri Lanka], April 8 (ANI): As massive protests erupted across Sri Lanka after the economic crisis, multiple countries have issued travel warnings for the island nation.

Along with the US, UK and Australia have issued travel warnings to their citizens to reconsider visiting the Island nation, reported Colombo Gazette. The US has urged its citizens to reconsider travel to Sri Lanka as the country is experiencing shortages of fuel and cooking gas as well as some medicines and essential food items, due to the ongoing economic situation in the country.

“There have recently been protests over the economic situation and queues at gas stations, grocery stores, and some pharmacies. Protests have occurred throughout the country and have mostly been peaceful. In some instances, police have used water cannons and tear gas to disperse protesters. There have also been daily planned power outages across the island, as well as some unplanned power outages, as fuel for backup generators is increasingly scarce. Public transportation in some instances has been limited or curtailed. Travellers should monitor local media for updates on the ongoing situation,” the US State Department said.

Australia has warned that public demonstrations are occurring throughout Sri Lanka and a Public Emergency can be declared, and curfews imposed with limited notice, reported Colombo Gazette.

“Avoid demonstrations and events that draw large groups. Carry relevant travel and identification documents with you at all times. Follow the advice of local authorities and monitor the media for updates. You may experience disruption to fuel supply and planned lengthy power outages. Import delays may impact your ability to access some medicines and food items,” Australians have been warned.

The UK has said that the economic situation is deteriorating in Sri Lanka with shortages of basic necessities including medicines, fuel and food because of a shortage of hard currency to pay for imports, reported Colombo Gazette.

“There may be long queues at grocery stores, gas stations, and pharmacies. Local authorities may impose the rationing of electricity, resulting in power outages. There have been a number of protests since March 31, 2022.

There are reports that further protests are likely to take place across the island. The Government of Sri Lanka may impose local restrictions at short notice. You should be vigilant, avoid any demonstrations or large gatherings, and follow the advice of the local authorities,” the UK Foreign Office said.

Canada noted that on April 1, 2022, the President declared a nationwide state of emergency following protests in Colombo. The state of emergency will give local authorities the power to arrest individuals without a warrant.

Further protests are planned in Colombo and across the country in the coming days. Curfews may be imposed on short notice, particularly in Colombo.

Canadians have been told to expect a heightened security presence, monitor local media to stay informed on the evolving situation, avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place and follow the instructions of local authorities, reported Colombo Gazette.

IRCTC Introduces Navratri Special Menu Available From April 2

New Delhi [India], March 31 (ANI): Travelling while fasting during the Navratri period can be a strenuous task.

Keeping that in mind, the Indian Railways have introduced their new Navratri special menu which will be available from April 2, the first day of the festival.

During Chaitra Navratri, which is a significant Hindu festival dedicated to Goddess Durga and her nine avatars, devotees fast for nine days to please and seek blessings from the deity. Those who are travelling during Navratri can now be tension free as the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has included Navratri special food in its menu, with prices starting from just Rs 99 onwards.

Here are the tasty food options which passengers can avail during the auspicious festival days

Starters (no onion, no garlic, made with sendha namak)

1. Aloo Chaap
A perfect snack for those cravings during fasting is made with fresh coconut, peanuts, sabudana and an overload of flavours.

2. Sabudana Tikki
Sabudana tikkis deep-fried till golden brown and crisp to perfection, served with creamy curd.

Main Course (No onion, no garlic, made with sendha namak)
1. Paneer Makhmali and Sabudana Khichdi Navratri Thali (No onion, no garlic, made with sendha namak)
Includes Sabudana Khichdi, Singhadha Aloo Paratha, Paneer Makhmali, Arbi Masala, Aloo Chaap and Sitaphal Kheer.

2. Kofta Curry and Sabudana Khichdi Navratri Thali
Includes Sabudana Khichdi, Singhadha Aloo Paratha, Kofta curry, Arbi Masala, Aloo Chaap and Sitaphal Kheer

3. Paneer Makhmali with Parathas, Arbi Masala
Includes Paneer Makhmali, Arbi Masala, Singhadha Aloo Paratha

4. Sabudana Khichdi with Curd
Favourite fasting go-to meal, made from sabudana, tempered with green chillies, mustard seeds, and roasted peanuts

Desserts
1. Sitaphal Kheer

Made with fresh custard apple pulp and cream, this Sitaphal Kheer is sure to give a sweet ending to your fasting meal.

Passengers can book their fasting thali on tickets from March 28. They can use IRCTC’s e-catering service or book on the number – 1323.

US Eases COVID-19 Travel Advisory For India From ‘Level 3’ To ‘Level 1’

Washington [US], March 29 (ANI): The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday (local time) has eased its COVID-19 travel advisories for India, taking it from Level 3 (high risk) to Level 1 (low risk).

The CDC in its advisory said it has changed its COVID-19 travel recommendation for India to “Level 1 (Low)” from “Level 3 (High).” “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 1 Travel Health Notice due to COVID-19, indicating a low level of COVID-19 in the country. Your risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing severe symptoms may be lower if you are fully vaccinated with an FDA authorized vaccine,” the US department of state said in a statement.

“Before planning any international travel, please review the CDC’s specific recommendations for vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers,” the statement added.

While giving key information for travellers to India, the CDC said, “Make sure you are vaccinated and up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines before travelling to India. Even if you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines, you may still be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19. Anyone 2 years or older should properly wear a well-fitting mask in indoor public spaces. Follow all requirements and recommendations in India.”

CDC uses Travel Health Notices (THNs) to alert travellers and other audiences to health threats around the world and advise on how to protect themselves.

Travel Industry Hails Centre’s Decision To Reopen International Flights

New Delhi [India], March 27 (ANI): The travel industry stakeholders of the country on Sunday hailed the decision of the Central government to resume commercial international passengers services after a gap of two years from today.

As per the press release issued by the Ministry of Tourism, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation had suspended operations of international commercial services with effect on March 23, 2020, with a view to preventing the spread of the Covid 19 pandemic. Hailing the resumption of normal international passenger services, Rajeev Mehra, President of the Indian Association of Tour Operators said that this would definitely increase tourist traffic to India and from September 2022 onwards, which is the start of the next inbound tourism season, a substantial amount of the affected business is expected to be back, the release said.

The tourism sector has been one of the most adversely affected sectors by the Covid 19 pandemic, impacting the livelihoods of stakeholders related to the tourism industry.

The Ministry of Tourism has extended financial support in the form of credit under the Credit Guarantee Scheme at concessional rates, to tour operators, travel agents and Regional level tourist guides, approved by the Ministry of Tourism, the minister said in its official release.

 

Jammu & Kashmir’s Tulip Garden Set To Reopen For Tourists From Today

Preparations have reached the final stages for opening Srinagar’s Tulip Garden, the largest such garden in Asia.

The preparation for opening the garden for people and for the Tulip Festival has been going on in full swing. The garden is visited by lakhs of tourists every year.

The entire workforce in the garden including gardeners, labourers, masons, painters and electricians are working to make the garden ready with the tourism season in Valley set to begin in April.

Gardeners are doing different jobs under the supervision of the officials of the Floriculture Department.

A large number of tourists had visited Kashmir during winters including the famous destinations of Gulmarg and Pahalgam. After a successful winter season, authorities expect a good spring season, especially after the opening of the Tulip Garden.

“Last year, we had a great tourism show in the garden and that’s why we began early this time. We have been working for nine months and expect more tourists,” said Sheikh Fayaz, Commissioner, Department of Floriculture, Jammu and Kashmir.

The flowers will bloom fully in the famous garden in the coming days.

Zameer, a worker at the garden, said they were giving attention to all aspects including decoration.

Tulip Garden has played a vital role in boosting tourism in Kashmir. Tulip Festival attracts tourists before the summer season from all over the world and also helps open more employment avenues for the locals.

The Tulip garden, situated on the foothills of Zabarwan Range with an overview of Dal Lake, is expected to be thrown open for tourists and locals from March 23.

The garden is built on sloping ground in a terraced fashion. Apart from tulips, many other species of flowers – hyacinths, daffodils and ranunculus – have been added.

US Imposes Travel Bans On Chinese Officials For Repression Of Ethnic, Religious Minorities

Washington [US], March 22 (ANI): The United States has imposed visa restrictions on Chinese officials for their involvement in the repression of ethnic and religious minority groups inside and outside the border of China.

The State Department said it is barring those Chinese officials from traveling to the United States due to their involvement in crackdowns on freedom of speech and religion in China and abroad. The visa restrictions have been imposed on Chinese officials who are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, policies or actions aimed at repressing religious and spiritual practitioners, members of ethnic minority groups, dissidents, human rights defenders, journalists, labour organizers, civil society organizers, and peaceful protestors in China and beyond, including within the US, a statement by the US State Department said.

Express the US’ commitment to defending human rights around the world, the statement said that the US rejects efforts by PRC officials to harass, intimidate, surveil, and abduct members of ethnic and religious minority groups, including those who seek safety abroad, and US citizens, who speak out on behalf of these vulnerable populations.

It added that the US will continue to use all diplomatic and economic measures to promote accountability of such actions.

Further, the US called on the Chinese government to cease its acts of transnational repression, including attempting to silence Uyghur American activists and other Uyghur individuals serving the American people by denying exit permission to their family members in China.

It further asked the Chinese government to end its ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, repressive policies in Tibet, crackdown on fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong, and human rights violations and abuses, including violations of religious freedom, elsewhere in the country.

“We will continue to work with the international community to promote accountability for PRC officials responsible for atrocities and human rights violations and abuses wherever they occur, including within China, the United States, and elsewhere around the world,” said the statement.

Will Thailand’s Lifting Of Pre-arrival COVID Test Attract More Indian Tourists?

Singapore, March 21 (ANI): Last week, Thailand’s Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) approved the lifting of the pre-travel testing requirement for international arrivals beginning April 1, 2022. This will reduce the testing requirement for visitors to the kingdom to just an on-arrival PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test and a self-administered ART (antigen rapid test) on day five.

This is a significant development since many travel experts have argued that excessive testing, and the associated cost and inconvenience, is discouraging many people from travelling.

Pre-COVID, Thailand was a very popular destination for Indians as it offered beautiful pristine beaches, nature reserves, rustic countryside and hillside towns, fascinating cities with stunning temples, delicious food, exciting nightlife and high-quality accommodation, all at very affordable prices.

According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), citing a survey by British travel group, Thomas Cook, Thailand was among the top three most desired destinations among Indians. The other two are the UAE (Dubai and Abu Dhabi) and Maldives.

Based on Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism and Sports data, almost 2 million Indians visited Thailand in 2019 making them the third-largest group of foreign nationals to visit the “land of smiles” that year. Just a year before, in 2018, Indians made up the sixth-largest group of foreign visitors. It is a massive jump from 2008 when 537,000 visited and Indian arrivals was ranked 11th.

The tourism industry in Thailand accounts for about a fifth of its GDP and since borders closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, about 20 to 25 per cent of Thais have been put in financial peril. A United Nations report titled “COVID-19 and Tourism”, said Thailand could stand to lose USD 47 billion due to the contraction of this sector.

Many in the tourism sector have been lobbying the Thai government to reopen the country to visitors as quickly as safely possible.

Thailand has two vaccinated quarantine-free travel schemes. The “Test & Go” scheme and the “Sandbox Programme”. The main difference is that no on-arrival testing is required for visitors entering under the Sandbox Programme.

However, Sandbox Programme visitors can only enter Thailand through Chon Buri, Krabi, Phangnga, Phuket, Surat Thani and Trat and must stay at an approved hotel in those areas. Currently, they must stay at their port of entry for seven days after arrival before being free to travel to any part of Thailand. Effective April 1, with the implementation of the new policy, they only need to stay at their port of entry for five days.

The new policy also increases the approved arrival airports from seven to eight, adding HatYai airport to the existing Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi, Phuket, Krabi, Samui, Chiang Mai, and U-Tapao.

Both Test & Go and Sandbox visitors have to register for a Thailand Pass at least seven days before arrival (the Pass takes three to seven days to process), buy travel insurance with a minimum coverage of USD 20,000 and book at least a one day stay at an approved hotel (seven days for Sandbox visitors, reduced to five from April 1). Test & Go visitors must isolate in their hotel until the PCR test results are known.

With the more relaxed entry requirements, airlines are ramping up flights between the two countries.
On March 15, IndiGo airlines said it will start to operate Thailand flights under the air bubble agreement till March 26 and thereafter the flights will be part of its scheduled commercial operations. This will be the first commercial flights by IndiGo to Thailand since March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic first broke out.

It will operate flights connecting Phuket with Delhi and Mumbai and Bangkok with Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Bengaluru.

Thai Airway, Thailand’s flag carrier had on March 1 announced the resumption of flights between the two countries starting with flights under the air bubble transport agreement. Flights will connect Bangkok with four Indian cities – Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru.

Earlier, in February in response to the news of an air travel bubble arrangement between India and Thailand, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) outlined a marketing strategy to recover one of Thailand’s important visitor source markets.

In line with the “Visit Thailand Year 2022: Amazing New Chapters” marketing campaign, TAT intends to focus on re-building the Indian market with a particular emphasis on special interest groups with high spending. These include weddings and honeymoons, golf, millennials, and digital nomads. Among the activities are familiarisation trips for travel agents and wedding planners, and business events.

TAT will also head up the Thailand presence at India’s largest tourism promotion event – South Asia Travel and Tourism Exchange (SATTE) 2022 – scheduled for May 18-20 in New Delhi.

Thailand hopes to attract at least 500,000 Indian visitors during the current fiscal year, which will end in September.

Tanes Petsuwan, TAT Deputy Governor for International Marketing – Asia and the South Pacific, said, “Thailand was a very popular destination for Indian travellers before the COVID-19 pandemic, and there is every indication this appeal will continue.”

South Korea: Overseas Travel Demand Expected To Recover; ‘Inquiries About Honeymoon Trip Increase’

Seoul [South Korea], March 17 (ANI/Global Economic): As the Korean government will lift the mandatory self-quarantine measure for fully vaccinated residents from March 21, demand for overseas travel is expected to recover.

According to the tour industry on the 16th, flight reservations have continued to increase since the government announced to exempt vaccinated travellers and residents from self-quarantine on the 11st. Flight reservation on Interpark Tour from the 11th to the 13th increased 873% year-on-year and 281% from the previous month. This is also an increase of 54% compared to November 12-14 last year, when expectations for the overseas travel increased before the spread of Omicron variant.

An official from Interpark Tour said, “Flights to vacation spots such as Hawaii, Guam, and Saipan are particularly popular. Following Saipan, which does not require self-quarantine when entering and departing the country, reservations for flights to Guam and Hawaii are also expected to increase after the government lifts quarantine measures.”

Tour agencies are also actively carrying various marketing events.

Hana Tour will resume its marketing campaign ‘As you dream, unfold’ until April 30. It is also offering time sale and early-bird promotions.

In particular, demand for honeymoon trip is expected to increase. An official from Hana Tour said, “Since the government announced that it will lift self-quarantine for travellers, inquiries about honeymoon trip between April and June have been increasing rapidly.”

Hana Tour will hold an ‘Online Honeymoon Fair’ for a month in March to introduce popular honeymoon destinations such as Maldives, Cancun, and Hawaii. It is also preparing group honeymoon tour packages to Europe. In addition, Hana Tour will also release 10-day tour package to France, Switzerland, and Italy departing in late April or early May.

Modoo Tour will also hold a time deal event that offers discounts of up to 31% on overseas tour packages. Customers can receive 1,000 Modoo Tour mileages that can be used as cash by solving the quizzes on its website.

However, there are also some concerns that it is still too early to expect that travel demand will recover to the level of before COVID-19. It is pointed out that the recent surge in travel demand is due to the base effect of falling demand over the past two years.

Vietnam To Welcome Tourists Again With Unclear Quarantine & Testing Rules

Vietnam is poised to welcome international travellers on Tuesday but a lack of clarity on the rules of a wider reopening, while the coronavirus is still rampaging, is causing confusion.

It remains unclear what kind of quarantine and testing rules the Southeast Asian nation will impose on foreign visitors when it reopens after a two-year closure. It doesn’t help that Vietnam has been seeing a surge, with daily cases averaging about 165,000 in the past week through March 14.

The tourism resumption was announced on February 17 with the government saying it would lift most curbs starting March 15 yet until now, the government hasn’t issued specific guidelines.

It said a month ago that tourists must present proof of being vaccinated or having recovered from Covid-19 with a negative test result; and once landed in Vietnam, must undergo 24 hours of self-quarantine. In November, the country started allowing international travellers on group tours and only to select destinations provided they were vaccinated or have recovered from the virus, and can show a negative test taken in the past 72 hours or less.

While the tourism ministry favoured a quarantine-free broad reopening, the health ministry on March 1 proposed ordering tourists to undergo a three-day self-isolation.

A day before the reopening, Deputy Premier Vu Duc Dam directed the health ministry to “promptly revise regulations and requirements” for foreign tourists and send the proposal to the tourism ministry by the end of March 14. Still, there isn’t a guidance available on government websites.

The confusion doesn’t help Vietnam’s travel industry, Pham Ha, chief executive of Hanoi-based tour operator Lux Group, wrote in a March 9 opinion piece in VnExpress International.

Officials showed some movement on rules Tuesday by announcing a resumption of 15-day visa exemptions for citizens of 13 countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and South Korea, according to a post on the government’s website.

Tourism accounted for 9.2% of GDP in 2019, rising from a 6.3% contribution in 2015, according to government data. Vietnam aims to host 18 million foreign travellers by 2026, matching the number of guests pre-pandemic, according to a report by Tuoi Tre.

West Bengal Government Planning Ways To Boost Tourism Infrastructure In The Sundarbans

Indranil Sen West Bengal State Tourism Minister said to the Assembly that the West Bengal government was planning ways to improve tourism infrastructure in the Sundarbans. As per Sen, the state government was linked with the private sector and is planning a host of new infrastructure possibilities in Sundarbans.

In the forests of Sundarbans, infrastructures like eco-friendly hotels, entertainment and various other measures are planning to be implemented and looked into.

Currently, the state of West Bengal offers a range of tours from the city to Sundarbans for travellers. The government has also introduced ferries to jungles. At present, the government is looking at other ways to develop the infrastructure.

The reports states that the West Bengal government were looking forward to starting houseboat services in Sundarbans in the next six months. This would be much similar to one in Kashmir.

The large mangrove forest destination in the country is the Sundarbans. It serves home to Bengal Tigers and unique species. Almost 400 majestic tigers are there. If you are visiting West Bengal, Sundarbans has to be in your travel list.

Turkish Pegasus Airlines To Cancel All Its Flights To And From Russia For Two Weeks

Ankara [Turkey], March 11 (ANI/Sputnik): Turkish Pegasus Airlines decided to cancel all its flights to and from Russia from March 13 for two weeks amid financial sanctions imposed on Russia over its military operation in Ukraine.

“Due to operational risks under these conditions, all our flights to and from Russian Federation have been temporarily suspended as of March 13, 2022 (including) until March 27, 2022,” the company said in a statement, adding that such measures were forced due to sanctions on insurance, leasing and other operations on flights to and from Russia. According to the statement, all passengers on flights to the Russian cities of Moscow, St. Petersburg, Mineralnye Vody, Grozny, Makhachkala and Krasnodar between these dates can change tickets for free or receive a full refund.

The newest wave of EU sanctions introduced against Moscow over its military operation in Ukraine banned the sale of aircraft and parts to Russian companies and obliged leasing companies to take back all leased planes from Russia.

FHRAI Welcomes The Restarting Of International Scheduled Commercial Flights

Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India on Tuesday welcomed the restarting of international scheduled commercial flights, saying it will give a ray of hope to the pandemic-hit hospitality segment and its employees.

“The resumption of scheduled commercial international passenger services from March 27 is a welcome relief. We thank the Govt and Civil Aviation Ministry for it,” said Gurbaxish Singh Kohli, Vice President, Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI).

FHRAI was following up with the government to restart international travel, especially because most countries have already thrown open their gates for international travellers, he added.

“The industry was anxiously awaiting an announcement on this since early bird gets the worm. Foreign Exchange earnings for the last two Financial Years have been entirely wiped out due to restrictions, which also forced approx 30 per cent of hotels & restaurants to shut business and millions lost their jobs,” Kohli said.

He informed that the hospitality industry’s total revenue in FY 2019-20 stood at 1.82 lakh crore, and it employed over 50 million people.

“During the period, the tourism and hospitality industry reported forex earnings of USD 30 billion, making it India’s third-largest foreign exchange earner. The latest announcement has come as a ray of hope for hospitality businesses and those employed in the sector,” Kohli noted.

Australia Announces Fresh Sanctions Against Russia, Imposes Travel Ban On Vladimir Putin

Canberra [Australia], February 28 (ANI): Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday announced fresh sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin and members of the Russian Security Council.

“We are holding Russian President Vladimir Putin to account for his egregious unjustified war against Ukraine. From midnight last night, Australian targeted financial sanctions and travel bans came into effect on the Russian President and remaining permanent members of Russia’s Security Council: Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, and Internal Affairs Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev,” Morrison said in a statement. He added that Australia supports the most recent anti-Russia measures, including disconnecting certain Russian banks from Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT).

“Australia will continue to work with allies and like-minded countries to impose further economic sanctions on Russia, building on the raft of travel bans and asset freezes implemented in recent days against Russia’s most influential political and military actors,” Morrison said.

He reiterated that Australia will work with NATO to provide “lethal” military equipment and other assistance to Kyiv.

“As an immediate measure, Australia will contribute USD 3 million to NATO’s Trust Fund for Ukraine to support non-lethal military equipment and medical supplies. Details of Australia’s contribution of lethal military equipment are being worked through with our partners and will be announced soon,” Morrison said.

According to his statement, the Australian Government strongly supports the announcements by the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States on further restrictive economic measures against key Russian banks, institutions and individuals.

“Together, these measures will impose severe costs on the Russian economy by disconnecting its key banks from the international financial system and disrupting Russian trade and investment flows. They will also paralyse Russia’s foreign reserves and prevent Russian officials and elites from accessing key financial systems,” the Australian Prime Minister added.

Mumbai Airport Blocks Special Corridor For Indian Students Arriving In City Today From Ukraine

Mumbai (Maharashtra) [India], February 26 (ANI): Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA) has blocked a special corridor for Indian students who had been evacuated from Ukraine and would be arriving in Mumbai by AI1944 at ETA at 8 pm on Saturday, said CSMIA spokesperson.

“In light of the current crisis in Ukraine, CSMIA is extending full support to the evacuation of the stranded Indian students who are arriving in Mumbai today by AI1944 at ETA 20:00 hours,” stated the CSMIA spokesperson. The airport has blocked a special corridor for the arriving passengers. As per the guidelines laid down by the Government, the Airport Health Organization (APHO) team at the airport will be conducting mandatory temperature checks, added the CSMIA spokesperson.

Passengers would be required to produce either a COVID-19 vaccination certificate or a negative RT-PCR test report at the time of arrival, stated the CSMIA spokesperson.

In case any passenger is not able to show any of the documents at the time of arrival, they will have to undergo RT-PCR testing at the airport, where the cost would be borne by the airport, as per the CSMIA spokesperson.

These passengers would be able to leave the airport, post-testing negative. If any passenger is tested positive, they shall be clinically managed as per the protocols laid down by the Government.

Besides, CSMIA is undertaking steps to smoothen the process for the young students arriving at the airport. It has fenced in a special area at the airport for the arriving passengers to sit and will provide them with free WiFi codes, distribute food and water bottles, and provide them with any guidance or medical assistance if required at the time of arrival.

Nirmala Sitharaman Holds Meeting With Travel, Tourism & Other Sectors To Discuss Banking Related Issues

New Delhi [India], February 25 (ANI): Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday met with representatives from travel, tourism, and hospitality sectors to discuss various banking-related issues.

Along with the Finance Minister, the meeting was also attended by the Union Minister of State for Finance Bhagwat Karad, Finance Secretary T V Somanathan, Secretaries for Financial Services, Economic Affairs and Revenue; chiefs of public sector banks (PSBs) and Indian Banking Association (IBA), besides senior officials from the finance ministry, the Union Finance Ministry said in a tweet. Travel, tourism and hospitality sectors are among the worst hit due to the COVID pandemic. The industry leaders from these sectors have been pitching for financial support from the government.

In the Union Budget 2022-23 presented in Parliament on the first day of this month, Sitharaman proposed to open an additional Rs 50,000 crore window under the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS) to support the hospitality and related services sector.

“Hospitality and related services, especially those by micro and small enterprises, are yet to regain their pre-pandemic level of business. Considering these aspects, the ECLGS will be extended up to March 2023 and its guarantee cover will be expanded by Rs 50,000 crore to a total cover of Rs 5 lakh crore with the additional amount being earmarked exclusively for hospitality and related sectors,” the Finance Minister had said in the Budget speech.

Air India’s Special Flight Returning Mid-air Due To Closure Of Airspace In Ukraine

New Delhi [India], February 24 (ANI): A special Air India flight returning from mid-air as Ukraine airspace is closed due to notice to airmen (NOTAM) as war has been started between Russia and Ukraine.

An empty flight of Air India AI-1947 is returning from over Iran air space as Ukraine imposed restrictions on civilian aircraft, sources said. “Air India flight AI1947 is coming back to Delhi due to NOTAM at, Kyiv, Ukraine,” Air India informed.

Notice to airmen (NOTAM), is a notice filed with an aviation authority to alert aircraft pilots of potential hazards along a flight route or at a location that could affect the flight.

Air India is scheduled to operate a second special flight for Ukraine to bring back stranded Indian citizens.

Amid the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, several airlines are operating special flights, including Air India, to bring back Indian nationals safely.

“A special flight of Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) landed at Delhi Airport from Kyiv, at 7:45 am today, with 182 Indian citizens, including students,” an official of Ukraine International Airlines in India told ANI on the condition of anonymity.

In the coming days for Indian citizens, more flights are going to be operated from Ukraine (Kiev) amid tension in the country.

Jammu & Kashmir: Flights Delayed At Srinagar Airport Due To Heavy Snowfall

Srinagar (Jammu and Kashmir) [India], February 23 (ANI): Continuous snowfall in Kashmir has led to the delay in flights at Srinagar airport and reduced the visibility to 400m in the area.

The officials at Srinagar airport informed that snow clearing operations are underway on the runway and on the apron following heavy snowfall. “We are having continuous snowfall at our airport. Our snow clearing operations are in continuous progress on the runway and the apron. However, the visibility is only 400m,” the officials said.

Further, they said, “All flights of all airlines are delayed. We will continuously update the status of flights.”

In a bid to monitor the level of snowfall, the Mechanical Engineering Department of the Jammu and Kashmir administration has also set up a snow control room in Srinagar to respond to any emergency calls in case of a snowstorm.

The snow control room is equipped with the latest machinery along with expert staff to respond to heavy snowfall to solve the problem in a short time and depute machinery all over the city after receiving weather forecast warnings from the administration. 

Air India Special Flight Departs From India To Bring Indians From Ukraine

New Delhi [India], February 22 (ANI): The special flight of Tata-owned Air India (AI) will take back Indian nationals, including students, who had registered for safe return from Ukraine (Boryspil) airport tonight. “The first special flight of Air India (AI-1946) out of the three to be operated from Ukraine to India will fly tonight with Indian nationals tonight,” an airline official told ANI on the condition of anonymity.

An Air India ferry flight on Monday left for Ukraine to take back Indians who wished to return home. Air India had already announced that a total of three flights from Ukraine to India would operate for Indian nationals, including students, during the state of war in Ukraine.
“Air India is operating three flights between India and Ukraine on February 22, 24 and 26,” Air India said.

The Boeing Dreamliner AI-1947 flight from Delhi has taken off as part of the special operation for Ukraine. It has a capacity of over 200 seats.

“A Dreamliner Boeing B-787 took off from Delhi airport for Ukraine (Boryspil) in the morning,” an airport official told ANI.

Concerned over the escalating tension along the border of Ukraine with Russia, India on Tuesday strongly emphasized in the special meeting of the Security Council of the United Nations the need for all sides to exercise the utmost restraint and intensify diplomatic efforts to ensure a mutually amicable solution.

This statement was made at the UNSC in the backdrop of Russia’s recognizing the independence of breakaway regions Donetsk and Luhansk of Ukraine. The United States and allies requested an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Russia’s recognition of separatist territories in Ukraine as Independent.

Speaking on the UNSC briefing on developments in Ukraine, India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, TS Tirumurti said that the escalation of tension along the border of Ukraine with Russia has the potential to undermine peace and security of the region.

Tirumurti called for restraint on all sides. “The immediate priority is a de-escalation of tensions taking into account the legitimate security interests of all countries and aimed towards securing long-term peace and stability in the region and beyond,” he said.

The Indian representative emphasized that this issue can only be resolved through diplomatic dialogue.

Will Indian Visitors Return After Singapore’s Latest Re-opening Move?

Singapore, February 21 (ANI): Last week, Singapore signalled its intent to fully reopen the country to vaccinated foreigners by significantly relaxing entry requirements, extending its VTL (vaccinated travel lane) to more countries and tripling the number of VTL travellers allowed to enter the country.

Singapore’s transport minister Mr S Iswaran said at a press conference last Wednesday (February 16) that it is important to resume the reopening of borders and reclaim Singapore’s position as a global business and aviation hub. Iswaran added, “Our ultimate goal is quarantine-free travel for all vaccinated travellers.”

Singapore paused its reopening last December as the Omicron variant emerged and started spreading rapidly across the globe. Now, as the Omicron wave in Singapore looks to be peaking and Singapore begins to understand “with greater certainty over the nature of Omicron variant and its associated risks”, it feels confident to resume its plan to welcome the world.

This confidence also stems from the high vaccination rate among its population with 90 per cent of the entire population considered to be fully vaccinated. Furthermore, it concluded that imported infections are at only about one per cent of the total case count and hence has minimal impact on Singapore’s epidemic situation.

As of February 15, a total of 389,046 visitors have entered Singapore via the VTL programme since its inception.

Starting from Tuesday, February 22, VTL travellers and those from countries deem to be of low COVID-19 risk will just need to take oneself-administered ART (antigen rapid test) at a testing centre under supervision within 24 hours of arrival. This test cost just SGD 15 (about USD 11 or INR 800). They no longer need to take the expensive PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test upon arrival at the airport which cost SGD 125, more than eight times the supervised ART. The requirement to self-test every day for the six days after arrival has been removed.

Visitors are still required to submit evidence of a negative pre-departure ART within 48 hours of departure.

Rules for transiting passengers have also been eased. They will no longer need to take pre-departure ART tests and can enjoy the facilities at Changi Airport without having to isolate in a holding area.

The assessed travel history will be reduced from 14 days to seven days which means to be considered to be travelling from a particular VTL city, the visitor only needs to be in that city for seven days.

From February 25, travellers from Hong Kong, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will be added to Singapore’s VTL scheme and from March 4, Israel and the Philippines.

Presently, there are 24 VTL countries. The addition of the above six will bring it up to 30.
For non-VTL visitors, Singapore will collapse its risk border categorisations. Category 1, a general category for all countries and a third “restricted category” for high-risk countries. At the moment, no country has also been placed in the restricted category.

Category 1 is for countries which are deemed to carry the lowest risk of COVID-19 infection. Currently, only Hong Kong, Macao, Mainland China, and Taiwan are in this category. However, Hong Kong will be taken off this list from February 25 due to the recent surge in COVID cases.

Entry requirements for travellers from Category 1 countries are similar to that of VTL travellers but they do need to be vaccinated.

The relaxation of rules for visitors is a major step towards reopening and is vastly more liberal compared with its neighbours.

Thailand, for example, has touted its quarantine-free entry for visitors to much fanfare but visitors are still faced with a barrage of the more expensive PCR test when arriving. One, before departure, one upon arrival and another on the fifth day after arriving. Travel industry experts deem that such excessive testing is deterring tourism, especially those who are on a budget and those looking for a short vacation.

Following the news, Singapore Airlines (SIA) which is a major beneficiary of the reopening saw its share price close last Friday more than four per cent higher from week’s low.

The reopening announcement is timely for the carrier as in its January operating statistics report, SIAobserved a slight decline in passenger demand in January 2022 compared to a month ago. It attributed this to the suspension of new ticket sales for VTL flights between December 22 to January 20 because of the emergence of Omicron. Since then, ticket sales have resumed and VTL quota has been increased.

Despite this, the SIA Group (including low-cost carrier Scoot) reported a 126 per cent increase in capacity (measured in available seat-kilometres) compared with a year ago and a 2.8 per cent month-on-month growth, reaching 46 per cent of pre-COVID capacity. However, passenger traffic (revenue passenger kilometres) fell 11.7 per cent compared to the previous month, and its passenger load factor for January 2022 declined 6.5 percentage points to 40 per cent. There was however a 28.7 percentage points year-on-year increase.

As of the end of January 2022, SIA’s passenger network covered 86 destinations counting Singapore and about 13 Indian cities including Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Kolkata.

The Singapore tourism industry which saw the lowest international tourist arrivals in 2021 since data was kept in the 1970s, will also stand to gain. Singapore had only 330,000 visitors in 2021. The last full pre-COVID year of 2019 saw 19.1million visitors, out of which 1.42 million people visited from India, making Indians the third largest group of visitors. Indians made up the second-largest group of visitors by nationality to the island in 2021 with 54,000 arrivals.
In 2019, Singapore collected SGD 27.7 billion (USD 20.4 billion) of tourism-related receipts contributing about four per cent of GDP.

As the country started to reopen in the fourth quarter of last year, the Singapore Tourism Board started to see tourist arrivals trend upwards.

Keith Tan, Chief Executive, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) was quoted earlier this year as saying, “While it will take time for tourism numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels, we are encouraged by the resilience of our tourism businesses, and their commitment to preserve good jobs, transform their businesses and invest in new products and experiences. These efforts will strengthen Singapore’s appeal as we prepare to welcome more international visitors.”

If Singapore continues its reopening trajectory, while other nearby countries continue to insist on visitors facing a salvo of COVID tests, there is a good chance that it will capture some of the tourism traffic which used to head for its regional neighbours.

Singapore Relaxes Entry, Testing Requirements For VTL Travellers From Feb 22

Singapore, February 19 (ANI): Singapore Airlines (SIA) announced the country has relaxed its entry and testing requirements for Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) travellers and the flights will be operated from February 22 this year.

However, passengers departing from India and entering Singapore on VTL flights are still required to furnish a negative PCR or professionally administered ART test within two days of flight departure. According to Singapore Airlines (SIA), fully vaccinated passengers travelling to Singapore from next Tuesday on VTL flights from Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai will have their travel history requirement reduced from 14 to 7 days.

“From 22 February 2022 (Singapore time), fully vaccinated passengers travelling to Singapore on VTL flights from Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai can adhere to the new relaxations. Travel history requirement will be reduced from 14 to 7 days. If the traveller has been in Singapore within those last 7 days, his/her stay in Singapore can be counted towards fulfilling this 7-day travel history requirement,” SIA said in a statement.

The second change will be that long-term Pass Holders will no longer have to apply for a vaccinated travel pass (VTP) to travel to Singapore on a VTL flight. However, a VTP is still required for short-term visitors and work permit holders.

“From February 22, VTL travellers need not take an on-arrival Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test at Changi Airport. Instead, they will be required to take a supervised self-swab Antigen Rapid Test (ART) at any test centre located across Singapore within 24 hours of arrival,” it said.

A testing notice with a weblink to book tests will be issued to travellers upon their entry into Singapore. If the above ART is negative, no further ART/PCR tests are required throughout one’s stay in Singapore.

The new changes to Singapore’s VTL entry and testing requirements follow the government’s announcement last month exempting VTL travellers from all testing requirements if they had recently recovered from COVID-19 (within 7 to 90 days of their last infection before departure to Singapore) and can provide appropriate documentary proof of their recovery.

At present, Singapore Airlines operates 52 flights to Singapore from eight cities in India, which includes daily, quarantine-free VTL services from Chennai, Delhi, and Mumbai.

Greece Kicks Off Visitor Season Early To Meet ‘Great Demand’

Greece’s tourism minister on Thursday said the visitor season would officially start in March, earlier than previous years, and there were “positive signs” of a bumper summer ahead.

After COVID-19 brought global travel to a standstill in 2020, Greek tourism suffered its worst year on record with just 7 million visitors bringing in revenues of 4 billion euros ($4.55 billion).

The industry, which accounts for a fifth of the economy and one in five jobs, began to recover last year when a season that officially began in May delivered about 10.5 billion euros in revenues, far less than an all-time record in 2019.

“There is great demand and great dynamic for Greek tourism in 2022,” Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias said. “Big tour operators, big airline companies, want to prolong the period (from March through December).”

“There are strong signs for Greek tourism,” he told Reuters in an interview.

An earlier start means hotels that close over the winter months can reopen earlier and tour operators begin bringing in parties.

IOBE, an influential think tank, projected in its quarterly economic review last month that tourism will help Greece’s economy grow by 4.5% to 5.0% this year. It sees tourism revenues reaching 80%-90% of the record of 2019, when 33 million visitors brought in 18 billion euros.

Kikilias, who was health minister at the height of the pandemic, declined to give a forecast for this year, saying only that it would be better than 2021.

Greece had inched above its targeted revenues for 2021, which he cited as “a positive sign to be optimistic”.

Already Greece has eased travel restrictions imposed to combat the spread of COVID-19 and fully vaccinated visitors do not need a negative test to enter the country.

“Greece is open to everybody, from today. But the actual season, the summer season, is starting for us on March 1 this year,” Kikilias said.

Greece, like most of Europe, saw a surge in infections in January driven by the Omicron variant, but the numbers have been falling and Kikilias said there was demand for travel.

“After this huge crisis of global public health, people tend to want to travel, enjoy their vacations, spend money, and I think Greece is in pole position,” Kikilias said.

“Yes, the pandemic is still here but we have weapons to fight it – vaccination, new drugs.” ($1 = 0.8793 euros).

Barcelona Embraces Saint Eulàlia Festival’s Return As Covid-19 Rules Eased

Crowds gathered in Barcelona’s historic downtown to watch in awe and snap cellphone photos as teams of people in colourful garb formed human towers rising into the air like the spires on the nearby medieval cathedral.

A giant figure in bright blue dress and a floral crown paraded through the streets in representation of St Eulàlia, the city’s patron, a 13-year-old girl who was crucified by Romans in the early fourth century for refusing to renounce Christianity.

After two years of cancelled or muted celebrations due to the pandemic, this Mediterranean city went all-out this past weekend to mark the February 12 feast, or “festa” in the Catalan language, of its longest-celebrated patron.

With the most recent nationwide outdoor mask mandate lifted by the government just days earlier, Barcelonans were especially eager to revel in the three-day “festes de Santa Eulàlia,” with celebrations that make social distancing impossible and require painstaking choreography and training.

Celebrated with a specific protocol since the 1600s, the festival has been gaining renewed popularity since the early 1980s. It includes solemn Masses, intricate dances and parades of “gegants,” larger-than-life historical and fantasy figures usually made of papier maché and borne by revellers.

While rooted in Catholic liturgy, today the festival is primarily a secular expression of pride and shared cultural identity in the Catalonia region in north-eastern Spain, passionately celebrated even if most who take part don’t identify as believers.

“The resurgence started with ordinary people who wanted to do something that would be their own, belonging to Barcelona,” said Nil Rider, a historian who helped organize an exhibit about St Eulàlia at the cathedral’s Diocesan Museum. “This is living heritage that gives people an identity.”

Foremost among the festival’s traditions are the “castells,” or “castles,” as the human towers are called, which have been performed for two centuries by neighbourhood groups not only in Barcelona but in local festivals across Catalonia.

Dozens of “castellers,” or group members, stand packed tightly together, compressing every inch of their bodies into each other to form a base. Progressively lighter-weight members then climb up to establish six or more human tiers until they form a support for the top performer, a young child wearing a mandatory helmet — and, this year, a KN95 face mask.

“What we like is to achieve a challenge that we only are able to do together. It’s very identity-forming,” said Dan Esteban, a casteller and former head of the group representing the neighbourhood of Poble Sec, just outside the medieval core.

Two years of pandemic restrictions and lockdowns in hard-hit Spain have left people out of practice, and Esteban said the group wasn’t able to train at all until September. Even now fewer people than usual show up for twice-weekly sessions, which are crucial for getting everyone to work in concert since budging just an inch can bring the entire structure crashing down.

Cristina Velasco also worried about recovering lost ground as she planned for this year’s “correfoc,” another traditional element of the festival in which adults and children parade in horned devil costumes alongside spinning fireworks displays. Sunday night’s would be the first full parade since the pandemic, with fewer kids taking part as some turned to other activities and haven’t returned.

“We have the feeling we have to do it because otherwise we will lose it,” said Velasco, who has been dressing up as a devil for 30 years and is president of the city’s federation of three-dozen neighbourhood correfoc groups.

Teaching youngsters the allegorical and historic origins of the correfoc tradition is vital, she said, even if “99% of people don’t even know where the devil came from.”

Clutching a statuette of St Eulàlia, 10-year-old Laia Castro, 10, waited patiently in line under a chilly drizzle to enter the majestic Gothic cathedral on Saturday, the day commemorating the saint’s martyrdom. Descending into the crypt where the saint’s remains have been venerated since the 1330s, she signed a registry kept in the sacristy for girls named with the common diminutive for Eulàlia.

“Really we’re not religious, but we like this celebration,” her father, Albert Castro, said.

He hopes for Laia to know the saint’s history and then make her own decision about faith: “And if she believes, she will know she did something extra today.”

The Rev. Robert Baró Cabrera, director of the Cathedral’s cultural heritage patrimony, said the festival’s spotlight on identity and devotion to the saint offers “a powerful environment for evangelization” even as secularism continues to grow.

“Our churches are both cultural and identity references,” he said. “If people want to find the roots of their identity, they can’t help but go into the church.”

In one of the festival’s most evocative celebrations, a performer bearing a giant eagle figure with flowering branches in its beak paraded Friday night from city hall through the old quarter, accompanied by drums, bagpipes and flutes.

Arriving at the soaring Gothic basilica of Santa Maria del Mar, built where St Eulàlia was first buried after her martyrdom, the eagle entered the packed but hushed sanctuary and proceeded to pirouette in front of the altar in a six-century-old ritual.

On hand were Loli García and her 4-year-old granddaughter, Ona, whom she brought to teach her about their roots and culture.

“It’s one thing not to be religious, but they have to know the history,” García said as Ona stood on a pew and watched, spellbound. “I take her to all traditional Catalan celebrations, as I used to do with my daughter.”

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin To Travel To Europe Amid Russia-Ukraine Tensions

Washington [US], February 15 (ANI): Amid heightened tension between Russia and Ukraine, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will be travelling to European countries Belgium, Poland, and Lithuania.

“Austin will depart on an overseas trip February 15 to meet with senior military and government leaders in Belgium, Poland, and Lithuania,” read the US Department of Defense release. In Belgium, Secretary Austin will meet with Allied defense ministers and NATO leadership to discuss Russia’s military buildup in and around Ukraine, reiterate the US commitment to Article 5, and continue the Alliance’s progress on deterrence and defense while ensuring the Alliance is prepared to face tomorrow’s challenges.

In Poland, he will meet with Andrzej Duda, President of the Republic of Poland, and Minister of National Defence of Poland Mariusz Blaszczak to enhance bilateral cooperation in security and deepen the Polish-American partnership, which is vital to addressing today’s current threats and challenges, added the release.

Secretary Austin will also meet with US and Polish troops at Powidz Air Base to tour the facilities and observe the culture and conditions of our rotational presence there.

Secretary Austin will also travel to Lithuania to meet with Gitanas Nauseda, President of Lithuania, Ingrida Simonyte, Prime Minister of Lithuania, and Minister Arvydas Anusauskas, Minister for National Defence of Lithuania, to reaffirm that the United States stands with Lithuania, working together to strengthen the Lithuania armed forces and continuing to stand shoulder to shoulder against threats and adversaries to advance shared interests and values.

Secretary Austin will meet jointly with Minister Anusauskas, Kalle Laanet, Minister of Defense of Estonia, and Artis Pabriks, Minister of Defense of Latvia, and will visit with US Service members stationed in Lithuania, added the release.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday announced of Russian invasion on February 16 in his Facebook post.

Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border. The troop build-up had raised concerns among the US and NATO allies that Russia is planning a military incursion.

However, Russia has continually denied having any such plans.

Europe Dumps Covid-19 Curbs, Puts Its Travel Rebound Ahead Of Asia

A global travel divide is deepening as some countries ditch Covid-19 restrictions including quarantines, isolation and even mandatory testing for good, while others cling to years-old curbs.

Lingering barriers to travel in Asia in particular are isolating the region and its tourism-reliant economies, just as the recovery in Europe and the US accelerates. In the UK, authorities are dumping unpopular pre-flight tests and now only require proof of vaccination as they strive to normalize international air traffic. 

The marquee transit hubs of Hong Kong and Singapore are being shunned as travellers seek to avoid weeks in hotel isolation on arrival or a raft of testing swabs. Airlines, which before the pandemic operated about 30,000 flights a month to the two Asian gateways, have slashed that number to just 4,514 in February, according to aviation data company Cirium.

There’s little prospect of immediate change. Hong Kong — which quarantines overseas arrivals for as long as 14 days, and effectively bars flights from an array of countries deemed to be high risk — is sticking to a goal of eliminating the virus even as cases in the community surge. Last week, authorities there tightened restrictions even further, extending gathering limits to private premises for the first time.

And while Singapore has struck more than two dozen agreements with other countries to set up vaccinated air-travel lanes, it still requires overseas visitors to undergo almost a week of daily coronavirus tests during their stay. Anyone attending the city’s scaled-back biennial air show this week, an event forecast to attract more than 13,000 in-person delegates and 600 companies, must also test negative each day as a condition of entry.

These impediments to flying extend the financial pressure on airlines primarily plying routes in Asia, from Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. and Singapore Airlines Ltd. to budget carriers Cebu Air Inc. in the Philippines and Malaysia-based AirAsia. While China holds the key to a broad recovery — its vast market could trigger a global travel resurgence all on its own — the country is expected to keep its borders sealed for most of this year at least.

The uneven air-travel rebound is likely to continue for the rest of 2022 as countries in Europe and North and South America continue to reopen and Asian restrictions put off travellers, according to Rob Morris, Cirium’s global consultancy chief.

“The two-speed recovery is very evident,” he said. “A significant level of intra-Asia traffic touches China and with borders there likely to remain closed to international arrivals through late 2022, the recovery in Asia will inevitably be slower than other regions.”

Choking the Flow

Within Europe, flying will surpass 75% of pre-pandemic levels next month, according to Cirium data from airline schedules. Inside the U.S., the figure will be 86%.

Asia’s Covid curbs are choking the flow of visitors to the countries that need them most. Australia’s Jetstar recently delayed a resumption of flights to Bali from Melbourne and Sydney, citing the island’s five-day quarantine requirement for vaccinated arrivals. “We look forward to flying into Bali when quarantine restrictions ease further,” said Jetstar, which is owned by Qantas Airways Ltd.

Thailand this month resumed quarantine-free tourism for vaccinated travellers. But the program’s requirements for multiple tests, registration, and a certain baseline of insurance cover have drawn criticism. Thailand expects less than 10 million foreign visitors this year, down from 40 million before the virus.

“The testing requirements are a disincentive,” said Hannah Pearson, founding partner of Kuala Lumpur-based tourism consultancy Pear Anderson. “The fact that Singapore and Thailand, the two leaders of reopening in the region, are still taking this intense approach to testing, may encourage other countries to behave similarly.”

The cost of daily swabbing for a family visiting Singapore is prohibitive enough, said Pearson. The mandatory test on arrival is S$125 ($93). On top of that, visitors run the risk of returning a positive result, then paying to quarantine in a hotel and wasting their trip, she said. The city-state is conducting a study to assess the efficiency of antigen rapid testing kits for passengers arriving at Changi Airport, which would be quicker and cheaper, the Business Times reported.

No Tests

At some point, Southeast Asia’s tourist hubs will need to demand less of overseas visitors, Pearson said. That might mean downgrading to a rapid antigen test on arrival, or waiving tests completely for those who already recorded a negative result before they took off, she said. 

China and Hong Kong, meanwhile, are showing no sign of giving up their battle to contain the virus, even as other parts of the world treat it as endemic. Chinese authorities this month locked down 3.6 million residents of the southwestern city of Baise after identifying fewer than 100 cases.

The central role that China and Hong Kong play in Asia’s aviation market means their Covid-Zero approach weighs on neighbouring nations. The number of scheduled flights into all of Asia from outside the region this month is little more than half the total before the pandemic, Cirium data show. 

Some countries in the Asia-Pacific region are dropping barriers. Australia last week said vaccinated tourists will be allowed to enter from Feb. 21, while New Zealand will finally begin reopening to the world at the end of this month, although arrivals will still initially need to isolate for 10 days. 

The reluctance of travellers to tolerate quarantine after they land is clear: It typically deters at least 90% of potential passengers, Auckland International Airport Ltd. said this month, citing the experience of airlines in other markets.

The speed at which passengers return to the air once restrictions and mandatory tests are removed also indicates how much these rules hinder travel.

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd., for example, reported a surge of interest in long-haul flights in January. That was just days after a requirement that vaccinated arrivals take a Covid test before boarding a flight into England was dropped. On Feb. 11, the UK also stopped requiring vaccinated travellers to take a Covid test after arriving in England. 

‘Spreading Widely’

The UK government is now depending on vaccines as it takes steps to live with the virus, recognizing inoculation certificates from over 180 countries and territories. 

The omicron variant is already “spreading widely in the community,” the government said as it made the change. Testing incoming vaccinated travellers, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said, had “outlived its usefulness.”

Buoyed by that decision, the aviation industry is lobbying the US government to scrap pre-departure tests for incoming vaccinated passengers there as well. 

In a Feb. 2 letter to the White House, travel industry groups led by Airlines for America argued Covid was already widespread in the U.S., and pre-flight tests “are unlikely to change that fact.”

The letter cited the U.K. as a precedent, as well as the European Union’s January recommendation that member states remove intra-Europe Covid travel restrictions.

In Hawaii, talks are taking place to eliminate all travel restrictions — at least for domestic visitors — in coming months, the Washington Post reported last week, citing the state’s lieutenant governor, Josh Green.

Destinations in Asia are likely to continue to struggle to lure travellers for short breaks, said Volodymyr Bilotkach, associate professor in air-transport management at the Singapore Institute of Technology. 

“Why come to Singapore for four to five days and pay for all the extra tests facing the risk of being stuck in your hotel room, when you can go to New York without having to worry about all this stuff?” he said.

Turkey Issues Travel Warning For Ukraine Amid Escalating Tensions

Ankara [Turkey], February 13 (ANI/Xinhua): Turkey’s foreign ministry on Saturday advised its citizens to avoid traveling to eastern Ukraine amid escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

“It is recommended that our citizens refrain from traveling to the eastern border regions of Ukraine unless they have to,” the ministry said in a statement. The ministry also asked citizens to take all possible precautions for their safety and contact the Turkish embassy in Kiev before essential travel.

On Friday, US President Joe Biden reiterated his call for US citizens in Ukraine to leave the country immediately, citing increased threats of military action.

Turkey recently has stepped up for acting as a mediator between Ukraine and Russia to sustain peace in the region.

Tejas Express Resumes Services Between Mumbai-Ahmedabad As Covid Cases Decrease

The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited has announced that the services of Tejas Express between Mumbai and Ahmadabad have been resumed once again from February after a decrease in Covid-19 cases is reported across the country.

“Restrictions have been eased due to a decrease in the number of Covid-19 cases. Passengers will have to follow all Covid safety protocols,” said IRCTC in an official statement.

According to an official, the wedding season is picking up and they felt the service will see higher occupancy levels.

“Passengers have been choosing Tejas Express over other trains due to the high levels of service and best sanitation practices in these Covid-19 times. Will continue our unrelenting efforts to provide punctual and comfortable travel with best-in-class hospitality services and hygiene practices,” said the official.

The train will run for five days a week — Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.  

Bali Reopens To Foreign Travellers From All Countries, Quarantine Mandatory

Direct international flights to Bali have resumed for the first time in two years as Indonesia opens the resort island to foreign travellers from all countries, but mandatory quarantine remains in place for all visitors.

Officials had said in October that Bali would welcome foreign arrivals from 19 countries that meet World Health Organization criteria, such as having their Covid-19 cases under control. But there were no direct international flights to Bali until Thursday, when Garuda Indonesia operated its first such flight in two years from Tokyo.

Singapore Airlines will introduce a regular direct route to and from Denpasar in Bali starting Feb. 16, said Taufan Yudhistira, the public relations manager at Bali’s international airport.

Fully vaccinated travellers need to quarantine for five days in a hotel or on a liveaboard boat certified by the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, and travellers who have received one dose of Covid-19 vaccine must quarantine for seven days.

Indonesia reported 27,197 new coronavirus infections and 38 deaths on Thursday in the latest 24-hour period. The country has seen more than 4.4 million total cases since the pandemic began.

The country’s latest surge in cases, driven by the highly transmissible omicron variant, has mostly been concentrated in Jakarta, but in recent days infections have “increased significantly” in Java and Bali, said Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, the government minister who leads the Covid-19 response in Java and Bali.

The quarantine for foreign arrivals is intended to prevent further spread of the virus, said Pandjaitan.

Before the pandemic, Bali’s airport accommodated more than 200 international flights with at least one million passengers per day in 2019. The island was closed to international flights after Covid-19 hit the world’s fourth most populous country in 2020.

Tourism is the main source of income in Bali, which is home to more than 4 million people who are mainly Hindu in the mostly Muslim archipelago nation. Bali’s tourist areas were deserted two decades ago after visitors were scared off by deadly terror attacks that targeted foreigners, but the island has worked to overcome that image.

The reopening of Bali to travellers from all countries will help boost the island’s economy, which has been badly affected by the pandemic, Pandjaitan said.

The reopening will also serve as a “trial,” said Tourism and Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno, as the government prepares to host G-20 events in Bali later this year.

A G-20 meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors in mid-February was supposed to be held in Bali but has been relocated to Jakarta because of the surge in Covid-19 cases. Some attendees will join the events virtually.

Travel Groups Ask Biden To End COVID-19 Testing For Vaccinated US-Bound Passengers

Washington [US] February 3 (ANI/Sputnik): A coalition of travel and aviation organizations in a letter urged the Biden administration to terminate the pre-departure testing requirement for US-bound travellers that are vaccinated against the novel coronavirus disease.

“On behalf of the many sectors of the travel and aviation industries, we urgently request that the Administration remove the requirement for pre-departure testing for vaccinated passengers travelling to the United States,” the organizations said in a letter to White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients on Wednesday. The letter includes support from Airlines for America, the US Travel Association, the US Chamber of Commerce, Airlines for Europe, Global Business Travel Association, among others.

The letter underscores that a decision to roll back testing requirements for vaccinated travellers would be justified considering increased immunity, higher vaccination rates, new COVID-19 treatments, and the pervasiveness of novel coronavirus cases in all US states.
Travel and aviation industries cannot fully recover unless the US government takes steps to remove travel restrictions that appear to no longer be needed, the letter said.

The Biden administration in December tightened travel restrictions for US-bound travellers amid the spread of the Omicron variant, requiring a negative COVID-19 test a day before passengers depart to the United States.

The Trump administration previously required US-bound travellers have a negative COVID-19 test at least three days before a flight to the United States.

Singapore Tourism Board: Indian Tourists To Singapore Fall To Record Low

Singapore, February 1 (ANI): Last week, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) released numbers that highlighted the dramatic impact COVID-19 had on the tourism industry in the city-state.

The STB release showed that the number of Indian tourists to Singapore dropped dramatically. While during the pre-COVID year, 2019, 1.42 million Indian tourists visited Singapore which dropped to 54,000 in 2021. Singapore had only 330,000 international visitors in 2021, the lowest on record. It is less than two per cent of the 19.1 million tourists who came to its shores in 2019. The year 2020 was a better year with 2.7 million visitors but most arrived in the first two months of the year before COVID forced Singapore to close its borders, said Lee Kah Whye, in an article.

China, India, and Indonesia were the top three visitor source markets last year. Singapore saw 88,000 visitors from China, 54,000 from India, and 33,000 from Indonesia.

During the last pre-COVID year, 2019, the top three sources of visitors was similar. Singapore drew 3.64 million visitors from China, 3.08 million from Indonesia, with India rounding up the top three with 1.42 million visitors, wrote author Lee Kah Whye.

STB said that while the numbers in 2020 and 2021 represent only a fraction of Singapore’s tourism performance prior to the pandemic, it is encouraged by the signs of recovery. The last three quarters of 2021 saw year-on-year growth of 221 per cent in tourist arrivals compared with the same period in 2020.

That it managed to receive some visitors in 2021 was mainly due to Singapore’s gradual reopening as a result of the VTL (vaccinated travel lane) scheme which was launched in September last year, added Lee Kah Whye.

There was also a government grant to the tourism industry through Singapore Rediscover Vouchers (SRV) where each resident was given SGD 100 to spend on local attractions and experiences.

STB reported that by the end of the SRV scheme on 31 December 2021, there were about 2.6 million SRV-linked transactions amounting to almost SGD 300 million, out of which SGD 180 million were vouchers redemptions and SGD 120 million paid in cash.

To further boost the cruise industry, STB is planning for cruises to other Southeast Asian countries later in the year, said Lee Kah Whye.

STB is building up a strong pipeline of MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) events this year. The most important of which is the Singapore Airshow in February. Other MICE events it is planning include Design Fair Asia 2022, Global Health Security Conference 2022, 60th International Young Lawyers’ Congress 2022, World One Health Congress 2022, and Seafood Expo 2022.

Also announced last week on Thursday (January 27) was the renewal of Singapore’s contract to host the Formula One Grand Prix for another seven years from this year to 2028.

The duration of the contract is the longest so far and STB explained in a statement that “This will give Singapore a longer runway to capture pent-up demand as international travel recovers. It also allows STB, Singapore GP and industry partners to develop new experiences to meet the evolving interests of locals and visitors.”

Singapore which hosted Formula One’s first-ever night race in 2008 cancelled the races in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the organisers are working with relevant government agencies and industry stakeholders to refine and implement appropriate protocols to ensure the safety of fans and participants for this year’s race.

There were 268,000 spectators over the three days of the 2019 event, but it is unlikely to attract the same number of fans at this year’s event even as Singapore is gradually relaxing its pandemic border restrictions, added Lee Kah Whye.

Although a pre-departure rapid antigen test and an on-arrival PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test are still required currently, since January 23, visitors only need to conduct self-tests from day 2 to 7 of their arrival if they plan to leave their accommodation. There is no requirement for supervised tests.

It is hoped that with the planned events and as border restrictions begin to lift, Singapore’s tourism sector will soon recover.

Keith Tan, Chief Executive, Singapore Tourism Board (STB), said: “While it will take time for tourism numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels, we are encouraged by the resilience of our tourism businesses, and their commitment to preserve good jobs, transform their businesses and invest in new products and experiences. These efforts will strengthen Singapore’s appeal as we prepare to welcome more international visitors.”

“We must anticipate setbacks and challenges even as the tourism industry recovers slowly.

But I am confident that the tourism industry has learnt from its experiences and is poised to recapture demand when it returns.”

H-1B visa registrations for fiscal 2023 to start from March 1: US immigration authority

           

Washington [US]: US Citizenship and Immigration Services has announced that the initial registration period for the fiscal year 2023 H-1B cap will open on March 1 and run till 18, 2022.

During this period, prospective petitioners and representatives will be able to complete and submit their registrations using our online H-1B registration system, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said in a statement.
The US immigration services said it will assign a confirmation number to each registration submitted for the FY 2023 H-1B cap. “This number is used solely to track registrations; you cannot use this number to track your case status in Case Status Online.”

According to the release, prospective H-1B cap-subject petitioners or their representatives are required to use a myUSCIS online account to register each beneficiary electronically for the selection process and pay the associated USD 10 H-1B registration fee for each registration submitted on behalf of each beneficiary.

“Prospective petitioners submitting their own registrations will use a “registrant” account. Registrants will be able to create new accounts beginning at noon Eastern on Feb. 21.”

Representatives may add clients to their accounts at any time, but both representatives and registrants must wait until March 1 to enter beneficiary information and submit the registration with the USD 10 fee, US immigration services said.

“Prospective petitioners or their representatives will be able to submit registrations for multiple beneficiaries in a single online session. Through the account, they will be able to prepare, edit, and store draft registrations prior to final payment and submission of each registration. If we receive enough registrations by March 18, we will randomly select registrations and send selection notifications via users’ myUSCIS online accounts. We intend to notify account holders by March 31,” it added.

An H-1B cap-subject petition, including a petition for a beneficiary who is eligible for the advanced degree exemption, may only be filed by a petitioner whose registration for the beneficiary named in the H-1B petition was selected in the H-1B registration process. (ANI-Image Instagram)

EU Deplores Russian Decision To Impose Travel Restrictions On Some EU Officials

Brussels [Belgium], January 29 (ANI/Sputnik): The European Union has deplored the Russian decision to extend the list of EU officials that will be subject to travel restrictions, the EU External Action Service said.

On Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that Moscow had extended the list of EU residents on whom travel restrictions are imposed. The list includes heads of several European private military companies and some politicians among others. The Russian Foreign Ministry described the move as a symmetric response to the EU policy toward Russia.

“The European Union deplores the decision by Russian authorities, announced on Friday, to ban an unknown number of representatives of EU Member States and institutions from entry into Russia. This decision lacks any legal justification and transparency and will meet an appropriate response. With it, Russia continues to fuel a climate of tensions in Europe instead of contributing to de-escalation,” the EU External Action Service said in a statement on late Friday.

The relations between Russia and the European Union are facing a sharp crisis as in the past few months, the West and Ukraine have accused Russia of concentrating troops near the Ukrainian border in alleged preparation for an invasion. Russia has repeatedly said that it has no intention of invading Ukraine, while stressing that it has the right to move forces within its own territory.

COVID-19: Venezuela Allows Flights With Spain

Caracas [Venezuelan], January 25 (ANI/Sputnik): The Venezuelan government has added Spain to its list of permitted passenger air travel destinations almost two years after the suspension of flights due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Institute of Civil Aviation (INAC) said in a statement.

“Commercial air travel is only permitted between the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and Turkey, Mexico, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Russia, Cuba and Spain,” the regulator said on Twitter.

Flights to Europe were suspended in March 2020 when the first cases of COVID-19 were detected in Venezuela. Since November 2021, the country’s authorities have allowed flights to Panama, Turkey, the Dominican Republic, Iran and Mexico; later Bolivia and Russia were added to the list of destinations.

Will Omicron Derail Recovery Of Airlines In South And Southeast Asia?

Singapore, January 24 (ANI): In reporting its latest operating data, Singapore Airlines (SIA), co-owner of Gurgaon-based Vistara airlines, revealed that it carried 600,000 passengers in December, nearly doubled the number of passengers it carried a month ago. This is ten times higher compared with the 64,600 it carried in December 2020, and an indication that the battered airlines industry in the region is beginning to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The higher number is also due in part to the year-end holiday travel season in Singapore as well as the success of the VTL (vaccinated travel lane) travel scheme the city-state introduced. As of November 26 last year, a total of 24 countries including India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives are covered under the Singapore VTL programme. Visitors from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were due to be added as VTL countries from December 6, but this arrangement was halted due to the emergence of the heavily mutated and more transmissible Omicron COVID variant. Since then, no other country has been added.

Also due to the Omicron variant, the Singapore authorities announced on December 22 that it will pause the sale of VTL air tickets till January 20 and half the quota for visitor arrivals under the VTL scheme. It had earlier set a daily limit of 10,000 travellers from VTL countries who can enter Singapore.

SIA, in its statement accompanying the release of its December 2021 operating statistics acknowledged this quota reduction. The carrier said that it “will continue to be nimble and manage its network in accordance with the prevailing market conditions and regulations.” It also added that it expects passenger capacity for January and February of 2022 to be around 47 percent and 45 percent of pre-COVID levels respectively.

This of course assumes that its customers do not cancel or change their plans due to travel inconveniences as some countries impose stricter border controls, including more testing and quarantines. If SIA does manage to achieve the expected passenger numbers for this month and next, the airline will continue to improve its performance.

At the end of December 2021, SIA’s passenger network covered 85 destinations including Singapore, up by 13 compared to the end of the previous month.

Despite still losing money, albeit at a slower rate compared to during the height of pandemic enforced border closures, SIA is certainly in a better financial position than its regional peers.

Backed by Singapore government investment firm Temasek, it managed to raise over USD16 billion since the pandemic started and just last week sold another USD600 million of bonds at a very attractive yield of 3.493 percent, nearly a percentage point lower than the average yield at issuance for global airline notes sold in 2021, according to Bloomberg data.

Many regional carriers which lack such government support are only just emerging from the bankruptcy court or still in the midst of such proceedings.

On the last day of 2021, Philippine Airlines has said it has emerged from bankruptcy after a U.S. court approved its plan to slash up to USD2 billion in debt. It also obtained USD505 million of additional capital from its main shareholder, billionaire Lucio Tan via his investment holding companies.

Indonesia’s Garuda is still in the middle of a court-enforced restructuring. Just last week, an Indonesian court extended the period for the Garuda’s debt restructuring by 60 days to allow the airline more time to verify all the claims. It is asking creditors to take a USD6.1 billion haircut to reduce debts to USD 3.7 billion under a court-led process.

Thai Airways is at the moment run by bankruptcy administrators since filing for protection in May 2020, after spectacularly defaulting on over USD3 billion worth of debt. The airline was indebted to the tune of USD9.8 billion at the peak of the COVID pandemic. It is attempting to reduce its day-to-day operating costs and expenses, downsize its business, boost its income, and seek new funding sources.

Air India, after bleeding USD3 million a day of taxpayer’s money for the better part of the last decade, was finally off-loaded to Tata Sons with the handover expected to be concluded at the end of January. The steel-to-salt conglomerate paid about USD 2.4 billion to take over the government-owned airline which includes taking over USD2 billion of debt.

AirAsia which has managed to stay afloat by cost cutting, raising funds, shedding assets and rearranging payments to its creditors, has also been looking at various ways to diversify its revenue stream. They now have a “super-app” and is into ride-hailing, food delivery, online grocery shopping and digital payments.

It has also beefed up its logistics capabilities and in the market to acquire more freighter aircrafts. It has sold down its stake in AirAsia India to raise capital and now owns about 16 percent of the airline down from its pre-pandemic holding of 49 percent.

AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes recently told CNBC that he believes that the recovery in air travel has begun in earnest despite Omicron.

“The good thing is, this time last year, we had no planes flying. Now, we’ve got a large chunk of our fleet flying domestic Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia,” he said, adding that demand has been “very, very robust.”

In a press release published on January 12, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported that total demand for air travel in November 2021 measured in revenue passenger-kilometres for November 2021 improved compared with the prior month. It was down 47 percent compared with November 2019, up 1.9 percentage points from October 2021’s figure of a 48.9 percent contraction when compared with October 2019.

Although the association noted that air traffic continued to recover in November, this was before the Omicron wave which sent some governments re-imposing some border restriction only after lifting them a couple of months earlier.

Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General feels that governments have over-reacted to the emergence of the Omicron variant by resorting to “tried-and-failed methods of border closures, excessive testing of travellers and quarantine to slow the spread.”

“Not surprisingly, international ticket sales made in December and early January fell sharply compared to 2019, suggesting a more difficult first quarter than had been expected,” Walsh said. “There is little to no correlation between the introduction of travel restrictions and preventing transmission of the virus across borders. And these measures place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods. If experience is the best teacher, let us hope that governments pay more attention as we begin the New Year.”

China Enters 40-Day Spring Festival Travel Rush Amid Nationwide COVID-19 Flare-Ups

Beijing [China], January 18 (ANI): The world’s largest human migration, China’s 40-day Chunyun or Spring Festival travel rush, kicked off on Monday amid nationwide COVID-19 flare-ups.

As per Global Times, more than 1.18 billion trips are expected to be made countrywide during the 40-day travel rush. However, due to the ongoing risk of COVID-19 outbreaks, great uncertainties exist for this year’s Chunyun. A total of 280 million railway passenger trips are expected during the travel rush, of which the railway system in Beijing is expected to see 8.98 million trips, and about 9.1 million trips were expected to be made in Shanghai railway stations, according to the transportation departments.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said nearly 600,000 passenger flights during the Chunyun period were scheduled, and some 20,000 extra flights were approved to be arranged as well. The country will see about 35 million trips by air, on par with last year’s number.

If an outbreak occurs, railway services would be immediately suspended or reduced, and flights would also be adjusted dynamically in response, according to the latest anti-epidemic policy, reported Global Times.

Wang Guangfa, a respiratory expert at Peking University First Hospital, told the Global Times that this year’s Spring Festival travel rush comes amid sporadic outbreaks, similar to last year.

The huge flow of passengers would certainly increase the risk of COVID-19 spreading. Affected by the domestic COVID-19 flare-ups, many people couldn’t manage to get back home and decided to stay put.
Municipalities like Beijing and Tianjin, and provinces like Central China’s Henan, East China’s Jiangsu and North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, have called on local residents to stay put during the holidays. Many cities said they will offer some cash or coupons for migrant workers, reported Global Times.

China Railway Shanghai Group previously predicted that the week ahead of the Spring Festival and the week after the Lantern Festival could see more concentrated passenger flows, reported Global Times.
Affected by domestic outbreaks, trains to and from affected regions have been suspended or reduced.
Epidemic prevention is still the keyword of this Chunyun. Health codes and masks are essential for taking the public transportation system.

Currently, 10 provinces and regions in China are registering COVID-19 infections, and eight regions in six provinces have detected the highly contagious Omicron variant.

Few Tips On How To Be A Sustainable Traveller

If you love the environment and you love to travel, you’ve probably already wondered how you can justify taking those long, CO2-emitting plane rides with a green conscience. Earlier there were no great options for the eco-friendly traveller to get to a place speedily and in an environmentally responsible way.

However, now things are certainly changing. So, if you want to respect the environment and take your dream vacation, here are a few tips by Fareportal India’s on how to be a sustainable traveller.

CALCULATE YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT

There are plenty of websites that allow you to calculate your carbon emissions — and then donate the proper amount to offset the impact you’ve made.

For Example, Sustainable Travel International, calculates that amount of carbon emissions a passenger generates when they fly from one destination to another depending on the flight distance. The good news is that you can make a contribution to offset carbon emissions by investing in carbon reduction projects that are verified and/or certified by independent third parties.

FLY WITH AIRLINES COMMITTED TO GOING GREEN

In October 2016, the International Civil Aviation Organization held their annual conference in Montreal where 191 countries agreed to take tangible steps in considerably lowering CO2 emissions from aircraft — starting with market-based measures implemented on a global level. The first airline to take this important step was Alaska Airlines. In November 2016, the airline flew from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to the Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. with a biofuel comprised of reusable forest residuals.

FLY THE MOST DIRECT ROUTES POSSIBLE

By flying on a nonstop route, you’re cutting out tons of pounds of CO2 emissions by eliminating unnecessary stopovers. It indeed is sometimes impossible or way more expensive to take a nonstop route, but if you’re really committed to going green when you travel, you can always opt for a direct flight. It’s worthy to note that a large part of emissions come during take-off and landing making those extra stopovers really add up.

SKIP THE FIRST-CLASS SEAT

If you’re wondering how to be a sustainable traveller without changing up your plans too much, this tip is easy and something most of us are doing anyway. By taking a first-class seat, you’re taking up space that could have been used to transport more people — thus creating a larger carbon footprint as those people now have to get on another flight and so on. So next time your airline asks if you want a free upgrade, think twice before fervently agreeing. Also, be aware of how many passengers your flight can hold compared to other airlines on the same route — if one can carry more passengers, opt for that one, as it spreads the emissions between more people.

BRING YOUR OWN EVERYTHING

Yes, it’s a fact, by bringing a reusable water bottle and filling it up in the airport as well as packing your own snacks, you’ll be making another small yet positive difference aboard the plane. Think of all those plastic or paper cups that are wasted each flight (not the mention the stacks of napkins and crinkly snack packs) that you’ll be saving. Take the little bit of extra effort and throw it back to high school by packing a meal for yourself.

Another easy thing that you can do is start using your mobile phone’s option for e-tickets. Lots of airlines and travel agencies have a feature on their app that gives you an electronic ticket that you can use. By not printing off your ticket on paper every time you fly, you really are making a small positive difference.

RESEARCH AND CHOOSE THE RIGHT DESTINATIONS

When it comes to choosing destinations for your trip, do a little bit of research about the places that you want to visit. Is there a hotel chain or travel company that is more environmentally friendly than others? What modes of transportation are available in the city/town you’re visiting and their environmental impacts? These questions will help you determine if you need to make any changes to your itinerary. For example, research the environmental impact of driving versus taking a bus or train. This could affect where you travel and how you get around town. If you’re doing business travel, choose destinations with public transportation like buses or trains, or choose to fly into an airport that is easily accessible by public transport.

PRACTICE SLOW TRAVEL AND RESPECT THE LOCALS

Slow travel can have many benefits, including being able to enjoy every moment of your trip. Slow travel is also much more environmentally friendly than quick, rushed trips because you’re spending less money on transportation and conserving time and energy that would be wasted in a short trip. When visiting any new place, it’s important to respect the local people and culture! Locals will appreciate your interest in their community and culture. Think about how you can support local businesses, talk to the locals instead of staying holed up at your hotel, volunteer, or give generously when visiting religious sites. These are just a few ways that you can show respect for other cultures while traveling.

USE SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORT

When you arrive at your destination, think about sustainable ways to get around town. Do you have a car that needs to be parked? Try getting around by foot or public transportation instead of driving. When taking the bus, walk, or train, make sure that it’s running on clean energy! If you absolutely must rent a car when visiting your destination, opt for an electric vehicle. If you have to take a flight or your destination does not have public transportation options, try to offset the environmental impact of your travel by choosing carbon-neutral forms of transport like train travel that are powered by clean energy.

EAT AND SHOP LOCAL

Your trip won’t be very sustainable if you’re eating and shopping the same way you do at home. Try to find small local businesses instead of big chains, visit farmers markets or shops where you can buy local goods directly from the producers. These types of purchases will give your money directly to the people who are making your food or crafting your souvenirs. Eat at local restaurants with authentic menus and learn about the food from your hosts.

Turkey Logs Six Omicron Cases

Six cases of the new Omicron coronavirus strain were registered in Turkey, the country’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said Saturday.

“Six Omicron infections have been registered in Turkey. One case was detected in Istanbul, and five in Ankara,” Koca told reporters. None of those who contracted the disease needs hospitalization, according to the minister.

“These are the patients with negligible symptoms, and they are under outpatient observation without any problems,” Koca added.

The Omicron strain was first detected in South Africa in late November. The World Health Organization designated the strain as a variant of concern.

Amid fears of growing COVID-19 infections, many countries imposed harsher travel restrictions on foreigners arriving from Africa. Despite that, the variant has started to pop up in many countries.

Omicron: India Removes Singapore From List Of ‘At Risk’ Nations

Singapore has been taken off from the list of “at-risk” nations, from where travellers are required to follow additional measures on arrival including post-arrival testing.

As per the reports, the current list of “at-risk” countries now comprises countries in Europe including the United Kingdom, Brazil, South Africa, Botswana, Ghana, China, New Zealand, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Israel, and Hong Kong.

This move comes as Omicron has been reported in 57 countries, and the World Health Organization (WHO) expects the number to continue growing.

As per the latest government travel guidelines, passengers travelling from the said countries are required to undergo an RT-PCR test on arrival in India, and will be further required to wait for the test results in the airport. The travellers would also need to follow additional measures on arrival in the country.

The additional measures include seven days of home quarantine, which will be further followed up by an RT-PCR test on the eighth day.

However, those arriving from ‘at no risk’ countries, can proceed forward quarantine-free within India, but will need to self-monitor their health for 14 days.

Reports have it that a random sample of 2 per cent of passengers travelling from Singapore will be required to undergo RT-PCR testing on arrival at Indian airports.

Singapore Airlines (SIA) restarted passenger services from 8 cities in India, including daily Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) services from Chennai, Delhi, and Mumbai from November 29, providing eligible customers with quarantine-free entry into Singapore.

Rajasthan receives best wedding, tourism destination tag

New Delhi [India]: Rajasthan emerged as the ‘Best State’ and ‘Best Wedding Destination’ at the recently declared travel and leisure ‘India’s Best Awards 2021’, said a press release by Rajasthan’s Tourism Department.

In the 10th edition of ‘India’s Best Award’ the winners were decided upon the ratings extended by readers in various categories. Rajasthan while standing simply the best among wedding destinations, its excellence in other categories resulted in the award of ‘Best State’, added the press release.
“Along with Rajasthan’s traditional advantage as a tourist destination, the awards under present circumstances also reflect upon the confidence that the state tourism department and hospitality service providers have inspired among aspiring travellers. Rajasthan continues to be a preferred tourist destination among domestic as well as international tourists,” said Nishant Jain IAS, Director Rajasthan Tourism, as per the statement.

Rajasthan is a land of rich and colourful heritage that for centuries has charmed travellers. The recent developments in infrastructure and modern hospitality have further contributed to making it one of the world’s most preferred tourist destinations, according to the statement.

India permits to operate domestic airlines with 100 pc capacity from Oct 18

New Delhi [India]: Amidst the prevalence of the COVID-19 pandemic, India has permitted to operate domestic airlines with 100 per cent capacity from October 18.

Currently, the seating capacity in airlines is restricted to 85 per cent.
The official statement by the Ministry of Civil Aviation said, “After review of the current status of Scheduled Domestic Operations viz-a-viz passenger demand for air travel in terms of the purpose specified in the initial order dated May 21, 2020…it has been decided to restore the scheduled domestic air operations with effect from 18-10-2021 without any capacity restriction.”

“The airlines airport operators shall however ensure that the guidelines to contain the spread of COVID are strictly adhered to and COVID appropriate behaviour is strictly enforced by them during the travel,” said an official statement.

Earlier today, the Ministry of Civil Aviation circulated a fresh circular to all airlines and airports in India, asking them to provide protocol courtesy support to Members of Parliament at airports. (ANI)

Taj Mahal To Reopen For Night Viewing From Today

The Taj Mahal is set to reopen for night viewing from August 21, after remaining closed for almost a year due to COVID crises. As per the officials, visitors who want to explore the marble monument under the moonlight, can do so from today.

As per the reports, night viewing of the monument had closed on March 17, 2020, during the first lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Referring to this, ASI Superintending Archaeologist (Agra Circle) Vasant Kumar Swarnkar stated that night viewing will be allowed on August 21, 23 and 24 as the monument is closed every week on Friday, while lockdown remains in effect on Sunday.

Here’s all that you need to know about the night viewing timings:

  • There are three time slots available for visitors, i.e., from 8:30 to 9 PM, 9 to 9:30 PM, and from 9:30 to10 PM.
  • In every slot, only 50 tourists will be allowed to visit, which is in line with the guidelines of the Supreme Court, the ASI stated.

Regarding the ticket booking for night booking, tickets can be booked a day in advance from the ASI office’s counter on 22 Mall Road in Agra, Kumar added.

Vice President of the Tourism Guild of Agra Rajeev Saxena lauded the step, but added that it will not attract weekend travellers until the restriction of lockdown on Sunday and curfew after 10 pm were still in place. He added that tourists who want to enjoy the nightlife of the city, won’t want to be packed in their hotels after 10 PM.

Florida’s Domestic Tourism Returns, International Market Still Lagging

Florida’s tourism marketing firm, Visit Florida, reveals that about 30.6 million domestic visitors came to the US state from April through June of this year, a 216% jump from the same time last year during the height of Covid-19 pandemic closures.

The number of US tourists who came to Florida in the second quarter of this year has returned to pre-pandemic levels, though the international market is still lagging, according to figures released Thursday.

About 30.6 million domestic visitors came to Florida from April through June of this year, a 6% increase over the same time in 2019, and a 216% jump from the same time last year during the height of Covid-19 pandemic closures, Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing firm, said in a news release.

Overall, Florida had 31.4 million visitors in the second quarter of this year, an increase of 220% from the same period a year earlier.

Florida’s international market has not yet recovered to pre-pandemic levels due to restrictions on entering the US. Florida welcomed only 1.1 million visitors from overseas and Canada in the second quarter of this year, compared to 3.5 million visitors in the second quarter of 2019.

During the spring of 2020, Florida’s major theme parks and hotels around the state were either shuttered or had limited operations due to the pandemic. The theme parks reopened more than a year ago but with mask requirements, attendance limitations and social distancing. Many of those restrictions were loosened earlier this year.

Disney’s US Parks To Offer Quicker Ride Entry For A Fee

Disney theme parks in the United States will now allow visitors to get quicker access to some of its most popular rides for an entry fee.

Tired of long waits for the Haunted Mansion or the Millennium Falcon? Walt Disney Co’s US theme parks will offer an option to pay for quicker access to some of the most popular rides, the company said on Wednesday.

The feature is part of the rollout this fall of Disney Genie, a digital tool designed to help park visitors maximize their time at Disney’s US parks, now operating at limited capacity due to the Covid-19 pandemic and requiring masks while visitors are indoors.

Disney Genie will be free through the Disneyland and My Disney Experience apps, the company said in a blog post.

An upgrade called Disney Genie will provide access to “Lightning Lanes” for quicker entry at a specific time to more than 15 attractions at California’s Disneyland and 40 rides at Walt Disney World in Florida.

Disney Genie will cost USD 15 per ticket per day at Walt Disney World in Florida and USD 20 at California’s Disneyland.

The company will also let visitors pay individually for Lightning Lane privileges at up to two select rides per day. The price for that access has not been announced.

The new line options will replace the quicker FastPass lines at both parks and the MaxPass queues at Disneyland. MaxPass, launched in 2017, let Disneyland viewers pay to book FastPass access from their phones for USD 20 a day.

The free Disney Genie service also aims to cut wait times by steering guests to their most coveted experiences at the optimal moment. Disney Chief Executive Bob Chapek, who previously ran the theme parks division, told analysts last week: “Guests are going to spend less time waiting and more time having fun.”

Visitors can tell Disney Genie if they are most interested in Star Wars, princesses, superheroes or Pixar, for example, and which rides, restaurants and shows they want to experience. The service will suggest the itineraries based on real-time information and provide updates as circumstances change, the company said.

US Eases Travel Advisory For India To Level 2

The US State Department on Monday (local time) has eased its travel advisories for India, taking it to its second-lowest level and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the South Asian nation now has a “moderate level of COVID-19.”

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a level 2 travel health notice for India due to COVID-19, indicating a moderate level of COVID-19 in the country. Your risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing severe symptoms may be lower if you are fully vaccinated with an FDA authorized vaccine. Before planning any international travel, please review the CDC’s specific recommendations for vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers,” the state department said in a statement. The department also urged American citizens not to travel to Jammu and Kashmir, except the eastern Ladakh region and its capital of Leh, due to terrorism and civil unrest. They have also been advised not to travel within the India-Pakistan border due to the potential for armed conflict.

“Terrorist attacks and violent civil unrest are possible in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Avoid all travel to this state (with the exception of visits to the eastern Ladakh region and its capital, Leh),” its said, adding “India and Pakistan maintain a strong military presence on both sides of the border.”
In April, the US issued a level 4 travel health notice for India as the country was reeling under the second wave of COVID-19.

New Zealand Borders Shut To Overseas Travellers Till The End Of 2021

The New Zealand government on Thursday announced that it will keep its borders shut to overseas travellers until the end of 2021. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the nation won’t reopen for foreign tourism until the COVID-19 vaccination rollout is completed, which is expected to happen by the end of the year.

The PM stressed that the country is “not in a position to fully reopen yet”. Apparently, the vaccination process in New Zealand has been much slower as compared to other developed nations. As per reports, only about 29 percent of the country’s population has received one dose and 17 percent are fully vaccinated.

Till Thursday, the nation didn’t report any new infections in the community. The PM further said that the country wants to move forward carefully and with confidence

She added, “Rushing could see us in the situation other countries are finding themselves in, where after sustained periods in case numbers falling, due to vaccination they’re finding them rise again, after relaxing their settings and opening their borders”.

The island nation with a population of 4.9 million has recorded 2557 COVID-19 positive cases since the beginning of the pandemic and 26 deaths. After that, the country had completely shut its borders for international visitors. With its strict measures, New Zealand has successfully saved its citizens from the adverse effects of the pandemic.

Tourism Sector In Goa Continues To Suffer Due To Covid-19 Pandemic

Travel and Tourism sector in Goa continues to suffer as the state sees low footfall due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Thursday, while speaking to the reporters, Goa Minister Michael Lobo said that “Tourists are visiting Goa with RT-PCR negative certificates. We welcome them but they’ve to wear masks and follow COVID-19 protocols. We’ve to be careful and understand that it’s a pandemic. Resorts have reopened but getting very few customers.” “The whole country is suffering from covid-19, we need to have patience, we are welcoming tourists to Goa with RT-PCR negative report or both doses of vaccination certificate and antigen test when they come to the state,” he further stated.

After the low footfall of tourists, many businesses in the tourism sector has seen losses over the past year, “We have had no business in the last one year. I have 50 vehicles and booking is very low. We are surviving on loans from friends. Government should give us some subsidy.” said Javed Khan, owner of Diana tours and travels.

“Business is low, people are struggling. The business will re-start once tourists come. People are scared and hesitant to come,” Prem Kumar, a restaurant manager said while speaking to ANI.

Earlier, Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant on June 28, this year, welcomed the decision of Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to provide a financial package to revive the tourism sector which has been hit hard due to COVID-19.

Delhi Airport (IGIA) Declared Best Airport In India & Central Asia

Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) has been declared the Best Airport in India and Central Asia. With this, the airport has been adjudged as the best airport for the third consecutive year. The airport was declared so by Skytrax World Airport Awards. Considered to be the most significant award for the airport industry, Delhi has been adjudged after votes by customers in the survey.

Skytrax is known to assess customer service and facilities over 550 airports across the world. The IGIA airport was established in Delhi back in 1986, and today is a major airport for international connectivity in India.

The Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) CEO Videh Kumar Jaipuriar said, “Our agile and effective response to the pandemic and crisis preparedness has led us to be recognised by Skytrax.”

He further said that by adopting the new-normal, DIAL is looking to boost its efforts in providing the best airport experience to all its passengers.

The Delhi airport has also received the COVID 19 Airport Excellence Award. Its ranking has also improved, moving up to 45 in the World’s TOP 50 Airport in the year 2021. The IGI airport was at rank 50 last year.

An interesting development at this award was that Singapore’s Changi International Airport is not on the top ranks that it held for the last nine years. The best international airport award was given to Hamad International Airport, Doha.

US Adds Israel To ‘Do Not Travel’ List Due To Spike Of Covid-19 Cases

The US State Department on Tuesday (local time) added Israel on its “Do Not Travel” list amid a spike of Covid-19 cases in the country.

US State Department issued a travel advisory informing Americans about the move. The advisory list, which is updated weekly, is primarily based on US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Travel Health Notices (THNs) and secondary factors such as commercial flight availability, restrictions on US citizen entry and impediments to obtaining coronavirus test results within three calendar days, reported Sputnik. Israel is joined in the so-called Level Four category by other nations experiencing a surge in cases, including Iceland, France, Laos, Thailand, Eswatini, Aruba and French Polynesia.
The number of cases in Israel has increased in the past couple of months despite the fact that more than 60 per cent of the population has been vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.

Israeli media has reported that a large part of the new cases is among those who have received the vaccines, reported Sputnik.

Israel was one of the first countries in the world to roll out a vaccine programme, and the first to offer a third shot to adults over 60. Despite that, the number of people contracting COVID-19 continues to climb.
Israel recorded over 5,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, the highest tally in over half a year, as it struggled to contain the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus, the Health Ministry said.

Israel last saw over 5,000 cases in a single day on February 14, when it recorded 5,190. Monday’s tally, which does not include the last two hours of the day, will likely be even higher when the full day’s count is announced Tuesday morning, reported Times of Israel.

Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash said earlier Monday that his office was concerned by the increased rate of infections and would weigh expanding restrictions, including limits on businesses, in the coming days.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz also spoke out against implementing a new lockdown, and insisted that less draconian measures could bring numbers down, reported Times of Israel.

Fully Vaccinated People Can Avail Mumbai Local Train Service: BMC Commissioner

Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Commissioner Iqbal Chahal on Monday said around 30 lakh people vaccinated with both doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be allowed to travel in the local trains.

“Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had announced the people who have taken both the doses of COVID-19 vaccine can avail Mumbai local train services from August 15, and we have around 19 lakh people in Mumbai who have fully vaccinated 56 lakh who are vaccinated with one dose, said BMC Commissioner. “The local train doesn’t only run in BMC are but also in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) areas where around 12 lakh people are there who are fully vaccinated. So, around 30 lakh people will be allowed to travel in the local trains as they are fully vaccinated,” he further added.

“After the announcement of the reopening of the local train, we had a meeting with Railways and before that, we had a meeting on last Thursday. We are trying to get the photo passes for the 30 lakh people without any hassle for long lines, the photo passes will have their vaccination certificate and their photo which will help them to avail the local train,” He further added.

Chahal further requests citizens of Mumbai to get the vaccine doses, “I request to the citizen of Mumbai that your fully vaccinated certificate is your immunity certificate. In future, if the malls re-open the certificate may be the requirement and until the covid ends you won’t be able to travel through the local train if you don’t have your vaccine certificate.”

“We have a target of getting the people of Mumbai to get fully vaccinated by November 15 to November 30 this year,” he added.

Earlier on Sunday, CM Uddhav Thackeray announced that Mumbai local train services will start from August 15 for people who have taken both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

UK Retains Pakistan In Red List Due To ‘Deteriorating Covid Situation’

The British Government has retained Pakistan on the ‘red list’ of its travel advisory due to the ‘deteriorating Covid situation’ in the country.

UK senior health official JO Churchill, in a letter dated August 6 explained the reasons for keeping Pakistan on the red list of countries, reported The Express Tribune. She said that UK’s Joint Biosecurity Centre continues to assess risk based on factors including incidence, trends in deaths/hospitalizations, exported cases as well as testing and test positivity rates. Her response comes after Pakistan was retained in the red list of countries at the latest coronavirus travel update while India was removed from it, reported The Express Tribune.

The British government placed Pakistan and India on the red list on April 2 and 19, respectively. However, in an updated list, the government announced that India, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE would be moved to the amber list from August 8.

“In Pakistan, the combination of a deteriorating epidemiological situation, combined with low testing rates and limited genomic surveillance, presents a high risk that an outbreak of a new variant, or existing VoC [variant of concern], will not be identified before it is imported to the UK,” she said in a letter.

The UK health official said the current trajectory of the pandemic in Pakistan is also of particular concern.
“In the past seven days, the incidence of cases in Pakistan has increased by 87 per cent on the previous week (19 – 25 July). The incidence of deaths has increased by 75 per cent in that same period. Test positivity is high and rising, growing from 5.6 per cent on July 26 to 7.9 per cent on August 3,” read the letter.

Major cities like Karachi have reported positivity rates of up to 20 per cent, she added.
The red list of the countries means only the UK nationals and those with residency rights will be allowed to travel to the country if they stayed in Pakistan for the ten days before they arrive. The amber travel list means that returnees can quarantine at home, rather than in a hotel.

Countries That Have Eased Travel Restrictions For Indians

Following diplomatic push, several countries have now eased travel restrictions on passengers from India. In this week, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and Spain have relaxed their international travel rules for Indians and people travelling from India. While these relaxations do not mean that every Indian can fly to these destinations, some Indians will be allowed to travel.

The United Kingdom has moved India from the ‘Red’ to ‘Amber’ list which means fully vaccinated Indians will not have to be quarantined for 10 days. But before travelling to the UK, vaccinated individuals too will have to take tests — three days before the scheduled travelling date and then on or before day 2 after reaching the destination.

Now, Covaxin and Covishield are not recognised by the UK government. So how does moving India from the Red to Amber list help? Unvaccinated Indians will have to quarantine for 10 days. They will have to take a Covid-19 test on or before day 2 and then again on or after day 8.

India was on the Red List of the UK, going by which no Indians were allowed to visit the UK directly from India. Now, Indians are allowed in the UK but Indians may not get the waiver for the vaccinated individuals since UK has not recognised Covaxin, Covishield and Sputnik V.

The change will be effective from August 8.

Spain has opened the doors for fully vaccinated Indians. Covishield is a recognised vaccine in Spain. Indian travellers must have a Schengen visa or apply for a Spanish visa, the new advisory said. Only the Delhi centre to process visa applications has opened.

The United Arab Emirates have allowed people to fly from India but they have to fall into specific categories, identified by the UAE authorities. UAE residents, students, professionals working for UAE government agencies are allowed to travel back to the UAE from India. Transit passengers with negative RT-PCR reports are also allowed to travel from India. In the wake of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in India, the UAE barred all flights from India. It even disallowed UAE residents stuck in India to come back, as only diplomats were allowed to fly.

FAITH Urges For National Coordination Among States For Tourism Sector Revival

During a virtual meeting held with the tourism secretaries of all states and Union territories, FAITH requested for standardised harmonised travel protocols, quarantine-free travel among vaccinated and open spaces for F&B (food and beverages), among others.

The Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism and Hospitality (FAITH) on Thursday has urged for immediate national coordination among states for revival of the tourism sector after the pandemic.

During a virtual meeting held with the tourism secretaries of all states and Union territories, FAITH urged the states for a coordinated support for waiver of statutory obligations of power, utilities, parking, inter-state tax tariffs, state goods and service tax waiver and industry status, it said in a statement.

The apex industry body requested for standardised harmonised travel protocols, quarantine-free travel among vaccinated, and open spaces for F&B (food and beverages), among others.

FAITH urged states to pursue through the tourism ministry and the Union government for opening up inbound travel and issue of tourist e-visas for vaccinated travellers, and abolition of tax collected at source (TCS).

It also urged for tourism demand revival campaigns, fast track registration of travel trade, infrastructure status and special fiscal boost to meetings, incentives, conferencing, and exhibitions (MICE).

FAITH Chairman Nakul Anand said, “It is indeed heartening that all states’ secretaries have committed to the suggestions by FAITH.”

Anand added that some have already implemented the industry status, ensured waiver of property taxes, excise duties and declaration of tourism as front-line staff for vaccination. “All FAITH presidents are optimistically looking forward to great outcome for reviving the travel trade. Indeed, a revolutionary step today towards revival of Indian tourism travel and hospitality.”

RT-PCR Test Report Necessary When Travelling To Chhattisgarh By Air

A new air travel rule by the Chhattisgarh government makes it mandatory for passengers to produce a negative RT-PCR test report. Such a report must be conducted within 96 hours of boarding the flight. The General Administration Department has issued new rules for air travel passengers to all the Divisional Commissioners, Collectors, Superintendents of Police, and Inspector General of Police.

According to the circular, preventive measures must be taken in order to avert a devastating third wave of the coronavirus.

The new rule for air travellers to Chhattisgarh will be applicable from August 8, and at that point, all passengers from any state in India will be required to carry a COVID 19 negative test report. It must be noted that only those reports from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) recognized labs will be applicable. In the event that such reports are from labs that are not recognized by the ICMR, then such passengers will have to go through an RT-PCR test at the airport.

The rule also applies to those passengers who are fully vaccinated. Hence, a negative RT-PCR test report is an absolute necessity when travelling to Chhattisgarh by air.

The circular has also mentioned that the person giving a swab sample for a test at the airport will also have to provide his or her photograph, along with a copy of an ID, and mobile phone number. Chhattisgarh has airports at Raipur, Bilaspur, and Jagdalpur, and the rule is applicable to all three airports.

Goa Extends Covid-19 Curfew Till August 9

The Goa government has announced the extension of the ongoing COVID-19 curfew till August 9 due to the rise in positive cases in the country. Earlier, the government had said that the lockdown will end on August 2.

But, on Sunday, the administration issued a fresh extension order. The order said that all the Coronavirus-related restrictions will continue in the state till further notice. It also said that no fresh relaxation has been granted in the state.

Just a few days back, Goa announced reopening its hotels after the state recorded a dip in the number of COVID cases. The positivity rate in the state dipped below five percent, but the lack of tourists and occupancy rate in the hotel was low even after the government allowed entry to fully vaccinated business travellers without any negative report.

TTAG president Nilesh Shah expressed, “Unless a positive message goes around, we will not see a steady flow of tourists. We may see some footfalls in August as there are a few public holidays, but there won’t be a heavy rush”.

But, after the beach state reported 59 fresh positive cases and one death, the state decided to extend the lockdown.

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