SUC logo
SUC logo

Knowledge Update

South Africa targets Indian tourists

​Durban, May 14 (IANS) South Africa has identified India as a key focus market for boosting tourism and it will shortly launch an aggressive campaign to attract tourists from there.

South African Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom announced this at the INDABA tourism fair here. He said that the country had received more than 80,000 Indian tourists last year and his ministry planned to dedicate to India a significant part of its advertising budget of nearly $8 million this year, with the objective of boosting significantly the arrivals from India.

"India has a huge potential and our challenge is to see what is needed in order for this market to grow and for us to get a fair share of the huge pool of Indian travellers," Hanekom told this correspondent.

He said Indian travellers felt at home in South Africa as they had a very large population of people of Indian origin, especially in Durban.

"Mahatma Gandhi had also lived here in Durban. Here, just like in India, we have different cultures and different religions living in harmony with one another," he added.

INDABA, which means gathering in Zulu, has positioned itself as the largest tourism fair in the African continent and attracts participation from all African countries which come to display their new products and services, as tourism is an essential sector for creating employment as well as economic growth in the least developed continent in the world.

"The safari experience is certainly one of the key selling point of Africa. We don't have the Taj Mahal or some of the incredible sites that you have in India, but here in South Africa, you can be guaranteed to see the Big 5 (Lions, Elephants, Rhinos, Buffaloes and Leopards) in just one, single safari," Hanekom said.

Tourism to South Africa and other African countries was severely hit by fears arising from the fresh outbreak of Ebola epidemic in West African nations of Liberia, Sierre Leone and Guinea. The market has begun to show signs of recovery, now that the outbreak has subsided.

The minister said that tourists' fears were misplaced about contracting the virus in South Africa. "In fact, Europeans were much closer to where Ebola was happening than we were in South Africa," Hanekom said.

Apart from a subsiding Ebola, Hanekom placed his hopes on boosting arrivals from India on the ease of visa regulations for Indians visiting South Africa. Earlier, the visa regulations were strict and it would take up to three weeks for getting permission to travel. In April this year, after Hanekom's visit to India, the norms have been eased and visas should be easier and quicker to obtain for Indians.

"The problem is that our consulate and embassies were having difficulties in answering and handling the visa demands during the peak travel season in India and it often took up to three weeks for delivering visas. That is simply too long. I am convinced that if we manage to make the visa easier we can double the numbers in a couple of years," Hanekom explained.

For many Indians, the country is also perceived as an elite and expensive destination just like European countries, but in recent months a weakening Rand has allowed more Indians to visit and spend more.

Another peculiarity of the Indian travellers is that they like to visit several countries on a trip. While in Europe and North America it is simpler due to visa-free travel between nations, it is still a challenge in Africa.

This point was a focus of discussions at the INDABA this year and various African countries have begun looking at how to facilitate such seamless travel in Africa. Hanekom admitted that security and instability issues in some African nations remained an important barrier to visa-free travel within the continent.

The minister also allayed fears of travellers that that some areas in South Africa were unsafe.

Hanneli Slabber, country manager of South Africa Tourism in India, said: "I guess you have to beware of pickpockets anywhere in the world. Indians visiting South Africa enjoy adventure and activities and they buy triple the amount of activities than those from other nations. Indian women are actually leading in terms of numbers and they like the country and feel safe."

Slabber said that now a lot of vegetarian options, including vegan and Jain food, are available in the country and there were several Indian restaurants. "Our cuisine is influenced by Indian curries as well and a lot of South Africans, not necessarily of Indian origin, can cook good Indian cuisine," he added.

However, in a blow to tourism from India, the national carrier, South African Airways, facing a shortage of aircraft, has stopped the only direct flights from India (Mumbai) to South Africa, forcing Indian tourists to go for alternatives like Emirates or Qatar with one-stop flights.​

Tourism to Egypt almost halved

Cairo, May 10 (IANS/AKI) The number of tourists visiting Egypt fell by 47.2 percent between March 2015 and the same month this year, according to official statistics cited by state-run daily Al-Ahram.

A total of 440,700 tourists visited Egypt in March, compared with 834,600 in the same month last year, said the country's central statistics office, quoted by Al-Ahram. 

Egypt's authorities blame the slump in tourist bookings on fears caused by the downing of a Russian passenger jet over Sinai in October which killed all 224 people on board.

The Islamic State jihadist group claimed it brought down the flight which was travelling from the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh to St Petersburg. 

Western Europeans formed the biggest group of visitors to Egypt (slightly over one-third) followed by tourists from the Middle East and eastern Europe. 

Egypt was most popular with Germans, Saudi Arabians and Ukrainians.​

Lack of English proficiency mars Russia's tourism potential

​Moscow, May 6 (IANS) Tourism authorities in Russia want customs and immigration officials to brush up on their English, even as they acknowledge that not knowing the language could prove an impediment to increasing tourist inflows from the English-speaking world, especially India. Random delays at immigration counters and a dearth of English signages have emerged as some of the red flags for Russian tourism authorities, who have begun to focus on the outbound market from India, which is expected to grow to $40 billion by 2020. "There is very little excuse for the discomfort caused by the conduct of the customs officers. We regret it. Knowledge of English among customs officials in Russia has to increase, there is no question about it," Rimma Sachunova, deputy chairperson of the St. Petersburg Committee on Tourism Development told IANS after a group of travel agents from India were detained for nearly three hours at Moscow's Domodedovo airport. "We will write an official letter to the customs service because now we have a lot of hope and expectation from the Indian tourist market," Sachunova said. Tourism experts believe that while the need for Russia to open up its locales for tourism is very real and necessary, the transition from being a country that was once "behind the Iron Curtain" to a democracy with open transit norms is not an easy one. "Give us a little bit of time for us to change our borders," said Marina Sokolov of Indigo Tour, which caters to the bulk of the inbound Indian tourists to Russia. Ekaterina Borisova, attached to the Moscow Tourism Office, hoped that the federal government's plan to set up a tourist office at major transit points used by international tourists could help cut down on the delay at Russian immigration and customs counters. "We are trying to make customs (and immigration) more open, but unfortunately it takes time. Hopefully, we will open a tourist office at the airport, railway stations and all places where tourists arrive," she said. Sachunova also said that efforts to include the English language in the city's road and Metro signages were already underway. "We are working at ensuring that there are more signages in English at St. Petersburg. In fact St. Petersburg is the only city in Russia that has English signages in all its Metro stations," she said. While the lack of knowledge of the English language both among officials and amongst the populace is an acknowledged impediment, when it comes to enhancing tourist inflows to Russia from India, Paresh Navani of the Russian Information Centre, India, claimed that visa norms should be tinkered to allow easy access to Indians to visit Russia as tourists. "With the Russian Federation opening up its policies and borders to ease tourism, this gives Indians the opportunity to tour these locations with ease, safety, comfort and at very reasonable costs compared to any other European destination and even in comparison to domestic destinations in India," Navani said. Over 50,000 Indian tourists visit Russia annually, while around 200,000 Russians visit India, especially Goa, every year.​

Air rage a product of class difference

​Toronto, May 4 (IANS) Apart from the usual jet lag, the stress associated with air travel also includes air rage -- aggressive behaviour provoked in a passenger on board an aircraft. Initially thought as the result of long flight delays, shrinking seats and a general decline in civility, a new research claims that air rage occurs because of class inequality, that is, the division between business and economy class in the aircraft. "Air rage incidents are more likely when the plane has a first class cabin," said lead researcher Katy DeCelles, associate professor at the University of Toronto in Canada. The findings showed that simply having a first-class compartment made an air rage incident nearly four times more likely, equivalent to the effect of a nine-hour flight delay. Also, the odds increase when economy passengers have to pass through first class to get to their seats, reinforcing the inequality. In addition, the bad behaviour was higher not only for economy passengers, but for those in first class too. Other factors such as crowdedness, alcohol consumption and long flights can also contribute to disruptive incidents, the researchers said, but added that their impact was smaller than one might expect. The study, published in the journal of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, have implications for any physical environment where differences in class or status are apparent -- such as a tiered stadium or a workplace where lower-level employees have to pass by executive offices to get to their cubicles. Further, it also shows that even temporary experiences of inequality can have negative effects. The team used a database of thousands of documented disruptive flight incidents over several years for a large international airline. The incidents were serious enough to be considered a threat to onboard safety, such as passengers refusing to sit down, yelling obscenities at a flight attendant or interfering with smoke sensors so they could sneak a cigarette. Airlines can reconsider ways to reduce negative behaviour between different passenger groups by using a dual gating system, the researchers suggested. "The more you can use those dual gates to board airplanes, separating the first-class cabin from the economy cabin, you're going to have less air rage in both cabins," DeCelles concluded. ​

Russia 'gunning' for tourists with MiGs, tanks, AK-56s

​Moscow, May 2 (IANS) Firing Kalashnikovs, flying gunships, stomping about in tanks and sweating it out in army fatigues, that's Russia's cutting edge arsenal of ideas for attracting tourists. Amid the annexation of Crimea and the conflict with Ukraine, "military tourism" appears all set to boom in Russia. Inbound tour operators are offering tourists a quasi-combat experience, be it firing AK-47 assault rifles in underground firing ranges, roaring on in T-90 tanks or an edge-of-the-space flight in a MiG-29. And tourists like Japan's Toshihiro Yokoi and his friend, who are willing to shell out upwards of 15,000-18,000 euros for a spin in the MiG-29, are relishing the opportunity. "The emotions (we felt) during the suborbital flight were both exciting and interesting," Yokoi said, shortly after the flight, where he experienced the 9G (G-force). Next on his agenda is a zero gravity flight experience in a four-engine IL-76 at Nizhniy Novgorod in the Volga federal district. For those who would feel peevish in a fighter jet and more at home close to land, there's Uralvagonzavod, one of the world's largest manufacturers of tanks located around 1,000 miles (1,600 km) from Moscow, which has been offering tourists a ride in the mighty T-90 from April this year, or a visit to the armour museum in the national capital, where tanks from the great war, armoury and other military equipment are on display. For those with vintage taste and World War buffs, Russian leader Joseph Stalin's bunker in Moscow is now a tourist attraction too. If one wishes to have a live and feel about what's it to be like in the army, a new tourism circuit allows you to spend a day in a military training camp and train with soldiers in fatigues. The objects of war and the thrill of handling tanks and weapons is catching up as a tourism offering. Three years ago Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu even offered to organise a new sport-military show - a tank Biathlon for tourists, which involves a speed race through manoeuvres and taking precision shots from the tank's canon. "All guests can witness military flight, fireworks, military music and tanks across many models. The military museum is also popular with Russian and China tourists during summer," Marina Solokov of the Moscow-based Indigo Tour told IANS. Paresh Navani of the Russian Information Centre, says Defence Tourism in Russia is just about to zip off the blocks. "Defence tourism is also taking off in Russia with options like MiG 29 flights to the edge of space where passengers are also allowed to control the aircraft, World War II bunker visits, firing Kalashnikov rifles, visits to battle tank ranges with the ability to control the systems. In the region of Crimea tourists can also visit nuclear submarines that are in active service," he said. Chinese tourists, who top the list of tourists visiting Russia with a million of them visiting Russia in 2015, have already cottoned to military tourism and are driving the demands, says Pavel Kretov of Academservice, an inbound tour operator based in Moscow. "It (military tourism) has just started. Chinese tourists are very interested. It was started because of the demand fuelled by the Chinese tourists," Kretoc says, adding that in Moscow there are numerous shooting galleries where one can spray a few live bullets from a pistol to an AK-56. However, while the guns and tanks await, revved up for tourists, there's one issue which continues to niggle the tourism administration, which can prove to be a dampener to takers of such tourism: pricing. It is something which Valery Korovkin, head of the International Development division of the Federal Agency for Tourism, believes will be levelled out over a period of time. "You have to start with something. It's expensive now, but in a year it can go down if there is enough demand," Korovkin said​

UAE's Emirates expands fleet with two more Airbus A380

Dubai, April 13 (IANS) Dubai's state-owned carrier Emirates Airlines on Wednesday said it has ordered an additional two new A380 aircraft with an estimated delivery date in the fourth quarter of 2017. Emirates Airlines is the UAE's international airline and the world's fastest growing carrier, currently operating the world's largest fleet of A380s Airbuses, with 75 in service and a further 65 on firm order, Xinhua reported. The two additional aircraft will be powered by Rolls Royce Trent 900 engines and will bring Emirates' total A380s order book to 142. Tim Clark, president of Emirates Airlines said: "From now till the end of 2017, Emirates will retire 30 older aircraft from our fleet." In addition, Clark said that in order to meet growth forecasts "we will receive a delivery of 24 new 777 Boeings, and 33 new A380 aircrafts including the two additional A380 aircrafts just ordered." He also pointed out that the orders are according to the carrier's target of operating a modern and efficient fleet which offers the best possible service for its customers. "We've always been open about how the A380 has been a big success for Emirates," Clark said. In March 2015, Clark said if Airbus produced an upgraded Superjumbo aircraft version with enhanced cost-efficient engines, Emirates may order an additional 200 double-deck, wide-body A380 passenger aircrafts, which were introduced into the market for the first time in October 2007 with Singapore Airlines. Emirates Airlines operates a total fleet of 234 planes flying to 164 destinations throughout all continents from Dubai's International Airport. ​

Singapore bans smoking in reservoirs, parks

​Singapore, April 12 (IANS) Singapore will ban smoking in reservoirs and parks from June 1, a senior minister said on Tuesday. The ban will affect 17 reservoirs and parks in public housing estates in Jurong town corporation, Xinhua quoted Environment and Water Resources Minister Amy Khor as saying. The banned premises will also include neighbourhood parks within private housing estates. The owners of these premises will have the option to set up designated smoking points. The National Environment Agency said this was in line with the government's ultimate goal of prohibiting smoking in all public areas. "To protect non-smokers, we have progressively prohibited smoking in public places since the 1970s. The smoking prohibition was last extended in 2013, and today there are more than 32,000 premises and locations where smoking is prohibited," said Khor. For the first three months of implementation, a warning will be given to those caught smoking in the newly prohibited places. Repeat offenders can result in fines of up to 2,000 Singapore dollars ($1,480).​

China's 'Hawaii' vies to become tourist destination

​Hainan (China), April 6 (IANS) Coconut and straws featured in the opening speech by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang which largely revolved around the economic travails of his country at the Boao Forum here. Li, who did not mince words about the difficult times ahead for the world's second largest economy, said how a small piercing tool had made drinking coconut water with straws more hygienic for tourists in Hainan, an island province in southern China. The reference to coconut water and tourists in Hainan was aptly made to underline China's plan to develop this island into a world-class tourist hub, which hosted the four-day economic summit in Boao city in March. Having seen its economy slow down to a 25-year low of 6.9 percent in 2015, China seems to be making a transition from industry to service sector, which grew by 8.3 percent as compared 6 percent manufacturing growth last year. Described as Oriental Hawaii by the Chinese media, Hainan, located in the South China Sea, is blessed with pristine beaches, volcanic mountains and tropical rain forests. The place is a heaven for those who have a fondness for seafood. The island, which until 2010 was more known for producing tropical fruits, is vying to catch up with established international tourist destinations in neighbouring Thailand and Malaysia. It was only in 2010 that the Chinese government decided to turn the laid-back island into a global tourist spot. Over the years, Beijing seems to be fiercely promoting tourism in Hainan but it is yet to become popular with international tourists. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, 97 percent of the tourists who thronged Hainan in 2014 were Chinese. "After agriculture, tourism is the next big thing in Hainan. The goal is to make this island as an international tourist spot by 2020," Zhao Hong, division director of Hainan Tourism Commission, told IANS. Hainan generated over 57 billion yuan as revenue from tourism in 2015, an increase of 13 percent from the previous year. In February, the provincial government doubled the cap for buying duty free products from 8,000 yuan to 16,000 per trip for domestic tourists. The resort town of Sanya has one of the world's largest duty-free shops. Hainan has 82 five-star hotels, some located on a 7.5-kilometre long Yalong Bay in Sanya. A total of 23 international hotel groups are operating in Hainan. Besides scenic beauty, Sanya's infrastructure is developing rapidly. The tree-lined roads and magnificent high-rises give a sense of infrastructure and environment going in hand in hand. Zhao says that heavy industries are not allowed in Hainan. The sail-shaped skyscrapers on the man-made Phoenix Island in Sanya look magnificent. The government is planning to expand the Sanya Phoenix International Airport. The Hainan Airlines is already in the list of Fortune 500 companies. The island also boasts of a 650-km high-speed rail network which connects all the major airports. China claims it to be the world's first circular high-speed railway line. The train, which runs at a speed of 250 km per hour, takes a little over three hours for a trip of the entire island. Travelling on this train, which has a cafeteria and other modern facilities, is a real treat since it passes through tropical forests and man-made tunnels. Sanya also has tourist police - a first of its kind. It was launched in December last year to protect tourists. It was set up after a tourist complained that he was charged 1,520 yuan for a dish of prawns. The tourist was in for a shock when he was told that the price per prawn was 38 yuan. "The number of tourists is increasing from Italy, France, Germany, Spain and Russia," Li Yongquan, a tour guide in Hainan, told IANS. Locals say more and more "white-skinned" people can be seen smashing volleyball on Sanya's beach over the years. But the Chinese outnumber the foreigners​

India's fastest train reaches Agra from Delhi

Agra, April 5 (IANS) India's fastest train, Gatimaan Express, reached the Taj Mahal city from New Delhi on Tuesday in 99 minutes, with an official saying it had set a new benchmark for railways. "It sets a new benchmark for Indian Railways. We have to keep doing better," said Divisional Railway Manager Prabhash Kumar, who welcomed the passengers at the Agra Cantt station at 11.50 a.m. The passengers got off the 12-coach train looking fresh and excited, officials said. The train includes eight Chair Cars of 78 seats each and two Executive Chair Car coaches with 56 seats each. "A total of 411 passengers came in the inaugural run including a contingent of journalists," a Northern Railway official in New Delhi told IANS. Officials admitted there were many empty seats on Monday. The train will ply six days a week. The train was flagged off by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu at 10.11 a.m. from the Nizamuddin station in south Delhi, said Neeraj Sharma, the chief public relations officer. From now on, the Gatimaan Express will leave Delhi every morning at 8.10. It will make its return journey from Agra at 5.50 p.m. "Launching of Gatimaan Express is an important step for railways. Our drive to scale new heights continues unabated," said Prabhu at the launch. He also inaugurated an executive lounge at the Agra Cantt station via remote from Delhi. The earlier fastest train connecting New Delhi and Agra was the Bhopal Shatabdi, which used to take 117 minutes to reach the Taj Mahal city from the national capital. It completed its return journey in 122 minutes. The Gatimaan Express runs at a maximum speed of 160 km per hour and claims to provide improved onboard service, upgraded food menu and free onboard WiFi entertainment. For the first time, the railways have experimented with train hostesses. The train has bio toilets, radium strips on both sides of the coaches so that light is reflected back for security, jerkless draft gear system as well as braille signs. The fare for a Chair Car seat is Rs.750 and for an Executive Chair Car seat Rs.1,500. On Monday, a team of railway officials found shortcomings at 14 spots between Delhi and Agra. Workers toiled till late at night to set things in order. The Shatabdi started in 1988. It was originally meant to cover the distance between New Delhi and Agra in 90 minutes but this was extended for safety reasons. Meanwhile, the loco pilots of the Agra railway division continued their protest on Tuesday for being denied permission to run the train. The ministry has asked the Delhi division to provide the staff. Among those not really excited about the new high speed train are the tourism industry leaders. "All three premier tourist trains -- Taj Express, Shatabdi and now the Gatimaan -- reach Agra in the morning and return in the evening," said Rakesh Chauhan, president of the Agra Hotels and Restaurants Association. "The tourists do not see the necessity of spending the night in Agra after seeing the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. At least one train must run from Delhi to Agra in the evening," he said.

Goa beaches to be WiFi-enabled: Minister

Panaji, April 1 (IANS) Beaches in Goa will soon be WiFi-enabled and also covered by closed-circuit television, Tourism Minister Dilip Parulekar said on Friday. The state, known for its beach and nightlife, had tapped into a central government scheme to ensure internet service along the coastal hotspots, he told reporters on the sidelines of a media event here. "All the beaches in Goa will be covered by Wi-Fi, thanks to tourism ministry's Swadesh Darshan scheme under which the Goa government has got Rs.100 crore," Parulekar said. Goa attracts nearly 40 lakh tourists every year, including half a million from abroad. Parulekar said under the scheme, CCTVs would be installed along the beaches for strengthening security. ​