Couples Resorts launches new villa offering with unlimited spa treatments

first_imgCouples Resorts launches new villa offering with unlimited spa treatments Share Tags: Couples Resorts, Jamaica, Wellness Travel OCHO RIOS — Pinch us, we must be dreaming! Couples Resorts has announced a new spa-inclusive offering that gives guests complete, private and unfettered access to all spa services and treatments at no additional charge.Available at its flagship resort, Couples Tower Isle, Ocho Rios, Jamaica, the Oasis Spa Villas is Jamaica’s first Spa-Inclusive offering that pampers guests with each stay, on each day. Considered a one-of-a-kind experience not found at any resort in Jamaica or across the Caribbean, the Oasis Spa Villas was crafted to appeal to guests who may not have an all-inclusive resort in their consideration set.“For us, this was not simply a new room category…but a whole new concept that stays true to our vision of providing the most comprehensive all-inclusive experience while providing our unique brand of barefoot elegance not found at any other all-inclusive offering,” said Abraham Issa II, director of operations and third generation ownership.The concept has been in consideration for some time and a vision of the Issa family, owners of Couples Resorts, as they continually seek to stay true to the vision of their founder, Abraham Issa, who is generally considered the father of Jamaican tourism.More news:  CIE Tours launches first-ever River Cruise CollectionThere are two variations of the Oasis Spa Villas. First is the Oasis Spa Villa featuring 493 sq. ft. of luxurious relaxation, a 60-inch LCD television, numerous in-room spa amenities and large bathroom. The second is the Signature Oasis Spa Villa with an expanded 639 sq. ft. of lounging space, a separate sitting area, two LCD televisions and very spacious bathroom facilities. Coupled with the private outside features, surrounded by privacy walls and hedges, each villa features more than 1000 sq. ft. of pure relaxation.All Oasis Spa Villas feature a king size bed with locally hand-carved headboards, private sun terraces and private plunge pools along with private walkways to and from a private entrance for arrivals and departures at the Oasis Spa. Along with unlimited access to Oasis Spa, Oasis Spa Villa guest also enjoy specifically designed treatments that are performed in the comfort of their spacious villa.The Oasis Spa Villas’ first arrivals are set for Dec.27, 2016.More news:  Direct Travel names Smith as Senior VP, Leisure Marketing, North America“We soft launched the product through our website and to our loyal guest database and, frankly, the popularity has been beyond our expectations,” said Dean Sullivan, vice president of sales and marketing. “This truly is a game changer for Couples Resorts and it seems we have tapped a desire among all-inclusive loyalist and new consumers not typically considering a luxury all-inclusive getaway.”For more information go to Monday, December 12, 2016 center_img Posted by Travelweek Group << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more

WestJets global era begins with delivery of its first B7879 Dreamliner

first_img CALGARY — WestJet’s first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, emblazoned with chairman and founder Clive Beddoe’s name, has touched down in Calgary.The delivery of the brand new Dreamliner marks a new global era for WestJet, says WestJet President and CEO Ed Sims.“Today’s delivery marks a new chapter for WestJet. Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner is one of the most technologically advanced aircraft ever flown and is the perfect platform for our transition to a global network carrier,” said Sims yesterday. “We look forward to bringing Canadians to the world and the world to Canada in comfort and style.”The aircraft departed Everett, WA on Thursday after a naming ceremony with Beddoe, members of the WestJet executive team and several WestJetters.“Because of the leadership, vision and commitment of our Founder and Chairman, Clive, we had the opportunity to fly our Dreamliner home today,” he added. “It’s fitting the aircraft bears our founder’s name as we welcome the future of WestJet.”More news:  Marriott Int’l announces 5 new all-inclusive resorts in D.R. & MexicoSims said WestJet will use its 320-seat Dreamliner to begin longer-range flying while giving guests a choice of Economy, Premium and Business cabins.WestJet’s Dreamliners feature WestJet’s first lie-flat business cabin seats accompanied by high-end blankets and pillows, turndown service and in-seat TVs, “offering a premium service with a distinctly Canadian feel”, according to the airline.WestJet Premium will offer seats in a 2x3x2 configuration, an elevated guest experience with a separate and private cabin and blankets and pillows available on every seat along with a self-serve social area.The aircraft also has Boeing’s turbulence-dampening technology, improved air quality with an eye to reducing jetlag, and larger windows.The first Dreamliner will fly passengers domestically on Toronto/Calgary routes starting Feb. 20 to assist with crew familiarisation before the first international service from Calgary to London (Gatwick) starts on April 28.WestJet’s second and third Dreamliners are currently on the production line at Boeing’s factory and will be delivered in February and March 2019, and will service the Calgary-Paris and Calgary-Dublin routes.More news:  Sunwing ready to launch Mazatlán-Quebec City direct this winter“We are excited to welcome our friends at WestJet to the Dreamliner family,” said Ihssane Mounir, Senior Vice-President of Commercial Sales & Marketing for The Boeing Company. “The airline has achieved impressive growth with the Boeing 737 and will now use the 787’s unmatched performance and passenger comforts to profitably launch a new ‘global era’.” Tags: boeing, Dreamliner, New Plane, WestJet WestJet’s global era begins with delivery of its first B787-9 Dreamliner Friday, January 18, 2019 Sharecenter_img Travelweek Group Posted by << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more

They need to go where the bucks are Agents on ACTA partnership

first_img<< Previous PostNext Post >> Posted by Thursday, April 18, 2019 This story originally ran in the April 18, 2019 issue of Travelweek magazine. To get Travelweek delivered to your agency for free, subscribe here.TORONTO — The original announcement about ACTA’s new Consortium Partnership with Virtuoso was a complete bungle, and a misunderstanding that the deal was ‘exclusive’ (it wasn’t) initially drew howls of outrage. But while some agents raised an eyebrow at the Virtuoso partnership, many acknowledge that ACTA needs to bring in money. If anyone knows how important it is to survive in tough times and find new revenue streams, it’s travel agents. When Virtuoso first announced the partnership as an ‘exclusive’, competing retail groups including consortia and host agencies were furious, questioning ACTA’s mandate and their own membership.Things calmed down somewhat when ACTA issued an explanation, and an apology for the confusion, in the wake of the Virtuoso announcement. “There is not and never will be exclusivity in the program. Any prior statements claiming so were not accurate or approved by ACTA,” said ACTA Board Chair Mary Jane Hiebert.She added: “Although newly formed and still being finalized, the Consortia program is equally available to all ACTA members. ACTA would welcome discussions with all interested parties.”Hiebert’s statement was a follow up to one issued by ACTA President Wendy Paradis: “ACTA would like to clarify that we do not promote one travel agency organization over another and we do not have an exclusivity agreement with any one Travel Agency, Chain, Consortia or Host Agency that impedes other travel agency organizations from working with us in a similar capacity.”The gate was opened and now everyone has to be allowed in. So will there be any takers? ACTA’s explanation and apology soothed some ruffled feathers, but for some it won’t be enough. Others were still positive. “ACTA is an industry-led organization that advocates on behalf of all of us,” says Christine James, VP Canada, TL Network. “TL Network has a great working relationship with ACTA and our advisors are members. The more advisors associated with the organization, the stronger we all are as a whole, working together in the best interests of the retail travel sector. The support of ACTA is something we all believe in and something we all need.”As part of the Virtuoso agreement, Virtuoso’s 185 Canadian travel agency locations will receive an annual 30% rebate, shouldered by Virtuoso, on their ACTA membership, up to $750. ACTA will also provide Virtuoso members with a 30% discount on the price of Certified Travel Counselor and Certified Travel Manager registration fees.All the heated debate surrounding the Consortium Partnership could even drive up demand for more of the $5,000 partnerships, because no big retail group wants to be outdone by a competitor, especially one as high profile as luxury behemoth Virtuoso, now with $2 billion in sales in Canada and climbing.Flemming Friisdahl, Founder of The Travel Agent Next Door, says: “The reality is that ACTA is a not-for-profit organization, however it still needs to find ways of raising funds to sustain itself. I feel to have this program is not an issue [but] I think the way they have launched it seems odd and a lot to be desired in the order they did it. They should have put the program together, then put it on their site and pushed it with everyone and THEN have found their first organization to launch it with. The way it came around was 100% backwards and very poorly executed.”Friisdahl adds: “It does come back to all agents should be part of ACTA and then there would be no requirements for ACTA to work with supplier or programs like this to raise funds. I am not sure why all agents don’t support ACTA even if they do not agree with everything ACTA does, it is important we have one voice. I have to say the ACTA Board and ACTA President Wendy Paradis certainly are willing to listen and pick up the phone and this is very important.”The Consortium Partnership ushers in a new system of 2-tier retail membership in an association that represents all Canadian travel agency members. The optics aren’t great. But “ACTA like everybody else needs to change its model of business,” says Travel Is owner Ray Warner. Warner was one of the first home-based agents in Nova Scotia, and “stands alone after all of these years as an independent.” He gave up his ACTA membership years ago but still followed the ACTA-Virtuoso developments. “They need to go where the bucks are … I can’t blame ACTA for changing directions.”Opening the Consortium Partnership up to all comers creates “one of those situations where everyone is preferred, so really no one is preferred,” says Niche Travel Group owner Faith Sproule in Dartmouth, NS. However, she adds, “I think that [ACTA] had to make these partnerships to stay top of mind and viable.”ACTA’s high-profile supplier Partnerships are bad enough for many retailers, who years ago fought against allowing suppliers as ACTA members in the first place. ACTA’s supplier Partnerships took those relationships to a new level and stoked long-simmering tensions. And now this Virtuoso partnership crosses over into retail territory.In the words of one industry insider, “ACTA started down this road about seven years ago, getting cash infusions from companies to be named their ‘exclusive partner’ in various categories. They have signed up an airline, car rental company, cruise line, insurance company … a total conflict of interest as ACTA was supposed to represent agents to governments, regulators and suppliers as needed.”As the consortiums have risen to have more size and influence, ACTA’s profile and clout at the front-line agent level has dropped, she adds. “However you still need a strong agency association to represent companies to governments and supplier categories as needed, and also to IATA.”ACTA’s work behind the scenes on behalf of Canadian travel agents runs the gamut, from anti-fraud initiatives that bring together industry stakeholders with the RCMP, to work on the Air Passenger Bill of Rights from a travel agency perspective for submission to the federal government, to consumer media interviews with reporters looking for the travel agent angle.As a not-for-profit trade association, all of ACTA’s resources go towards supporting its work in advocacy, education and promoting the value of travel agents. Share “They need to go where the bucks are”: Agents on ACTA partnership Kathryn Folliott Tags: ACTA, Virtuoso About Latest Posts Kathryn FolliottEditor at TravelweekKathryn is Editor at Travelweek and has worked for the company since 1995. She has travelled to more than 50 countries and counts Hong Kong, Jerusalem, the Swiss Alps and the Galapagos Islands among her favourite destinations. Latest posts by Kathryn Folliott (see all) “They need to go where the bucks are”: Agents on ACTA partnership – April 18, 2019 As the cost of doing business climbs, host agencies, retail groups say they have options – April 4, 2019 As of 2021 Europe-bound clients will need to apply online for a visa waiver and pay a fee – April 3, 2019last_img read more

Costa Rican exports up 78 percent

first_imgCosta Rican exports of goods increased by 7.8 percent between January and October this year compared to the same period in 2011, the Foreign Trade Promotion Office (Procomer) reported.During the period, the country sold products worth $9.4 billion, which represents $678 million more than in 2011.Exports from the Free Trade Zone sector increased 11.7 percent, while companies outside the regime increased sales 3 percent, according to Procomer.Sales from companies in free zones increased from $4.5 billion in the first 10 months of 2011 to nearly $5 billion in the same period this year.Among the most important products are: pineapple, with increased exports of 9.7 percent, from $594 million to $651 million; electric wires, with an increase of 33 percent; coffee, up 17 percent; and medical supplies, which registered a whopping 130 percent increase, according to the report. Facebook Comments No related posts.last_img read more

New mall set to open in Puntarenas in 2015

first_imgThe first shopping mall in the Pacific province of Puntarenas is expected to be ready in early 2015 and will include 136 stores, 6 cinemas and a supermarket, according to developer Puntarenas Ocean Mall S.A.The project consist of 22,000 square meters of construction space on a six-hectare property. It will be located in Barranca, next to the intersection of Routes 23 and Route 17.Arnoldo Ramos, vice president of the corporation formed by members of three families, told the weekly El Financiero that the projects’s initial investment will total $20 million.Representatives of Ocean Mall in February filed the necessary paperwork to obtain environmental viability permits, and they hope to begin construction in early 2014.Developers also will build a 3,000-square-meter building that will host facilities for a private university.Costa Rica’s real estate development sector has been highly active this year, with other mall projects recently announced including City Mall in the province of Alajuela, set to begin construction next month.City Place, in Santa Ana, southwest of San José, will begin construction in November, and Zona Centro Mall in Desamparados, south of the capital, is scheduled to open next March. Facebook Comments No related posts.last_img read more

Venezuela municipal elections a test for Chávez heir

first_imgCARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro faced a big test Sunday as municipal polls, seen as a referendum on his performance amid soaring crime, high inflation and household shortages, closed.Maduro, the handpicked heir of leftist icon Hugo Chávez, was narrowly elected to office in April, one month after his popular predecessor died of cancer.Balloting ended at 6 p.m. local time to pick 337 mayors and more than 2,000 city councilors. Preliminary results were expected within three hours.No major incidents were reported during the voting, which took place at nearly 14,000 polling stations.Shortly before the end of the 12-hour voting window, the National Electoral Council (CNE) estimated in a tweet that more than 50 percent of Venezuelans had voted, the same proportion seen in recent years.The opposition, which now controls about 50 municipalities, is vying to double that number.After casting his ballot in the capital Caracas, Maduro called on citizens to “respect” the outcome of the vote as the “decision of the people.”“What the National Electoral Council says will be sacred,” he told reporters. “I ask the victors to win with honor and respect of their adversaries and those who lose to accept defeat.”Opposition leader Henrique Capriles, meanwhile, alleged that the vote was marred by irregularities at polling places, including broken machines.“There are many reports of abuses,” he said after casting his ballot at a Caracas school.In several regions, thousands of government supporters formed lines as they waited to cast their votes, while the opposition used social networks to make sure their supporters could get to polling stations.The opposition’s greatest challenge will be to retain control of the country’s biggest cities – especially the Caracas metropolitan area and the oil city of Maracaibo.“We need to vote to inflict a defeat on the government because this country is in a hole,” said Neida Pernia, a shopkeeper who voted in the affluent Caracas neighborhood of Chacao. “Insecurity gnaws at us.”In the capital’s 23rd of January area, voters appeared keen to keep Chávez’s legacy alive.“We have to win in order to pursue the revolutionary process,” said 34-year-old Lenin López. “Now is not the time to let the opposition gain ground.”Maduro, a former bus driver, leftist stalwart and Cabinet minister, has tried to present himself as a man of action on the economy. But Venezuela, a country with the world’s largest oil reserves, teeters on the verge of chaos.In November, the National Assembly granted Maduro’s request for power to rule by decree for one year in order to fight corruption and respond to what he has called an “economic war” unleashed by the opposition with U.S. support.He immediately rolled out a series of measures to force price cuts, notably on household appliances and cars, and threatened speculators with prison. However, the nation remains torn by economic uncertainty.Pre-election surveys indicated that Venezuela’s middle class welcomed Maduro’s populist show of force, and seemed less inclined than expected to punish his party at the ballot box.“Maduro appears to be governing for the first time” since he was elected, pollster Luis Vicente León told AFP. “Now his speeches are accompanied by action, so he is seen as president who, whether you like what he’s doing or not, has taken the bull by the horns.”At a time when Venezuela has been experiencing months of record 54 percent inflation and is facing shortages on items as basic as toilet paper “a crazy paradox occurs: the one who is benefiting from the crisis is Maduro,” León said.‘Historic moment’ for the oppositionThe main opposition coalition Democratic Unity Table, or MUD, says the elections will be decisive for the country’s future.Its leader Capriles, who lost to Maduro in April, has called it a “historic moment” that will assess the balance of power after 14 years of “Chavista” rule.Opposition candidate Antonio Ledezma is expected to be re-elected in Caracas, but the ruling party candidate Miguel Pérez Pirela – a 36-year-old philosopher whose appearances on state television have made him a celebrity – may win in Maracaibo. Facebook Comments No related posts.last_img read more

Costa Rica expected to plummet in new FIFA rankings

first_imgPor lo que veo, el adelanto del próximo ranking FIFA ha causado bastante impacto en México y Costa Rica— MisterChip (Alexis) (@2010MisterChip) July 6, 2015 Another case in point: Wales jumps to 10th in the newest ranking, leaping over Copa America champion Chile and 2010 World Cup champion Spain, which fall in the two spots behind the Welsh. For Wales, the surprising rise sets a new record for a country that has not qualified for a World Cup since 1958.And although Argentina just lost the Copa America final to Chile, it overtakes Germany for the top spot in the newest rankings, just one year after the Germans beat La Albiceleste in the World Cup final. Facebook Comments Related posts:Costa Rica draws with Jamaica in Gold Cup opener La Sele announces 23-man roster for Copa América tournament Copa America Group A: Costa Rica faces stiff opposition Costa Rica heads into must-win game against United States New FIFA Ranking top 10: 1 Argentina 2 Germany 3 Belgium 4 Colombia 5 Netherlands 6 Brazil 7 Portugal 8 Romania 9 England 10 Wales— Dale Johnson (@DaleJohnsonESPN) July 5, 2015center_img The U.S. team also takes a slide with its CONCACAF rivals despite friendly wins last month over World Cup champ Germany and perennial top-10 Dutch squad. The U.S. is slated to drop seven spots to 34th in the new ranking, but the Gold Cup favorites should find themselves with ample opportunity to regain positioning if they can pull off a second straight CONCACAF title.FIFA’s rankings often face heavy criticism for the strange, largely unknown formula that the association uses. Friendlies are weighted much lower than actual tournament games or qualifiers, which partially explains the U.S.’s drop even though the team topped elite competition. The shine from Costa Rica’s historic 2014 campaign has now worn off in more official terms, as the latest FIFA rankings for July are expected to see the men’s national football team drop 27 spots.Multiple outlets, including ESPN and, have leaked the latest batch of the ever-controversial rankings, which won’t be officially released until Thursday.La Sele remains winless in 2015 but hopes to shed off the rust in time for its Gold Cup opener Wednesday against Jamaica. Though the dip in rankings is meteoric, the Ticos have multiple opportunities to regain standing against beatable opponents across the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF).Costa Rica’s expected free fall all the way to 41st would put it right behind a Mexico squad that the team drew 2-2 with in a June 27 friendly, according to Alexis Martín-Tamayo of the Spanish soccer daily AS. The ranking would be the lowest of all time for Mexico’s national team, which will also compete in the Gold Cup that starts Tuesday in the United States.last_img read more

Former San José Mayor Johnny Araya to run again for his old

first_imgRelated posts:Ex-San José mayor and presidential dropout Johnny Araya denies rumors of party flip-flop ahead of 2016 elections Johnny Araya will not represent National Liberation Party in 2016 mayoral race National Liberation Party bans former presidential candidate and ex-mayor Johnny Araya from running for office for 4 years Ex-presidential candidate Johnny Araya officially banned from political activity for four years Ex-presidential candidate and former San José Mayor Johnny Araya last Saturday officially announced his bid to run again for mayor, but with a different political party.Araya will run for mayor under the Alliance for San José Party in the Feb. 7, 2016 election, after his failed attempt to do so with the formerly ruling National Liberation Party (PLN).A PLN ethics committee banned Araya from participating in political activities for a period of four years as a result of his decision to drop out of Costa Rica’s presidential race on March 5 of last year.Araya, who ran the capital’s municipality for 22 years, said his goal is “to give San José a new direction,” mostly by resuming projects such as the improvement of the Municipal Police and other public services.He also said he will go door-to-door “to touch the hearts of the people of San José.”Paula Vargas, wife of Costa Rican Renovation Party lawmaker Gonzalo Ramírez, and Mario Vargas, a municipal official, will join Araya as vice mayoral candidates.Paula Vargas said the party mostly brings together members of the Costa Rican Renovation Party, the National Restoration Party, and former members of the Social Christian Unity Party and the ruling Citizen Action Party.In a speech to accept the nomination, Araya said he would present a campaign platform in about three weeks. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Despite Zika fears Guanacaste hotels are booked for Easter holiday

first_imgRelated posts:Guanacaste airport expansion set to begin in January Amid Holy Week traffic, four highways temporarily waive toll fees No new cases of Zika in Costa Rica in recent weeks Construction of Discovery Costa Rica set to begin in 2018 The confirmation of the first cases oflocal transmission of Zika virus in Costa Rica did not have a negative effect on reservations at hotels in the province of Guanacaste ahead of Holy Week, which starts Sunday.Guanacaste Tourism Chamber president Priscilla Solano Castillo said Wednesday that hotels at beaches and other tourist destinations reported an average occupancy of 98 percent for the holiday.Just four weddings and two group trips had been reported cancelled to Guanacaste, one of the most visited areas of the country, out of fear of contracting Zika, she said.Solano applauded a coordinated education and mosquito eradication plan between the Guanacaste tourism sector and government entities for helping keep reservation numbers up.Another factor might also be boosting reservation rates: The Labor Ministry agreed earlier this month to give most of the 300,000 public sector employees the entire week off in order to promote domestic tourism during the holiday.Recommended: Visit The Tico Times Travel section for ideas on where to spend Easter Holy Week in Costa Rica.The Zika prevention plan for Guanacaste includes periodic fumigation throughout the province, collection of garbage — where mosquitos often breed — and distribution of printed information to tourists about Zika and how to prevent mosquito bites.Health Ministry officials are also giving talks about preventive measures at hotels across the northern Pacific province.Fumigation campaigns intensified starting last week as part of efforts to help tourists have a safe stay during Holy Week. The campaign will continue through April 26, Solano said.In February, following confirmation of the first locally-transmitted cases of Zika and also a spike in cases of the mosquito-borne dengue and chikungunya viruses, the Health Ministry declared a state of emergency for 31 cantons located in all seven provinces.The first two confirmed cases of Zika occurred in the Guanacaste canton of Nicoya. The state of emergency is currently in force for seven cantons of Guanacaste province: Liberia, Carrillo, Santa Cruz, Cañas, La Cruz, Abangares and Nicoya.There are now eight confirmed cases of local transmission of Zika in Costa Rica, according to the latest report from the Health Ministry issued Wednesday. All of them occurred in Guanacaste.In addition, health officials have reported Zika in four people who contracted the virus during trips abroad. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Vietnam dissident jailed for political leaflets

first_img More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements HANOI, Vietnam (AP) – A court in central Vietnam has sentenced a dissident to five years in prison for distributing anti-government leaflets.The Kien Thuc newspaper says 53-year-old Phan Ngoc Tuan was convicted of collaborating with “reactionary” groups and individuals in exile to spread propaganda against the Communist state. He was convicted at a half-day trial Wednesday in Ninh Thuan province.The court also ordered Tuan to serve three years of house arrest after serving his sentence. 4 must play golf courses in Arizona Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates 0 Comments   Share   Arizona families, Arizona farms: working to produce high-quality milkcenter_img Top Stories New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths Court officials declined to comment.Vietnam’s Communist government does not tolerate dissent. Challenges to its one-party rule can result in long prison sentences.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Sponsored Stories How men can have a healthy 2019last_img read more

China hauls away activists in congress crackdown

first_img“There is no law in China, especially for us petitioners and ordinary folk,” Wang, 50, said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Even common gangsters and hoodlums get to leave after they serve time for crimes, but for us, if we get locked up, we never know when we might be freed.”Authorities want no surprises as the handover of power begins in the capital Thursday. The transition already has been rocked by the party’s messiest scandal in decades, involving a former high-flying politician now accused of engaging in graft and obstructing the investigation into his wife’s murder of a British businessman.Rights groups say the wide-ranging crackdown on critics bodes poorly for those who hope the incoming generation of leaders will loosen restrictions on activism.“China’s top political leaders are very nervous, as they have since early this year been consumed by one of the most destabilizing and disharmonious power struggles in decades,” said Renee Xia, international director of the Chinese Human Rights Defenders. The group estimates that hundreds or thousands of people have come under some kind of restriction in preparation for the party congress. Associated PressBEIJING (AP) – During her 30-hour train journey to Beijing, Wang Xiulan ducked into bathrooms whenever the conductors checked IDs. Later, as she lay low in the outskirts of the capital, unidentified men caught her in a nighttime raid and hauled her to a police station. She assumed a fake identity to get away, and is now in hiding again.Wang’s not a criminal. She’s a petitioner.She’s among many people attempting to bring local complaints directly to the central government in an age-old Chinese tradition that has continued during the Communist Party era. But police never make that easy, and this week, as an all-important leadership transition begins, a dragnet is aimed at keeping anyone perceived as a threat or a troublemaker out of Beijing. Sponsored Stories Lawyers have been held under illegal house arrest, dissidents sent back to their hometowns and activists questioned. Internet users report difficulties accessing many websites and the failure of software meant to bypass Internet filters.Veteran activist Huang Qi, who runs a website on petitioners like Wang, said nearly 1,000 people have contacted him over the past few weeks to complain that authorities have hired thugs to harass and beat them.“I hope that the Chinese authorities will face up to the social problems,” Huang said in an interview. “Using violence will only escalate the resistance.”The crackdown reflects the leadership’s nervousness as slowing economic growth exacerbates public outrage over corruption, social injustice, pollution and favoritism toward state-run agencies and the elite at the expense of ordinary people.Under normal circumstances, petitioners are relatively safe once they reach Beijing’s outskirts, though in their home provinces they are almost perpetually on the run from hostile local officials or thugs-for-hire who want to nab them before they can get an audience with central government agencies.Now, however, even the capital’s fringes are off limits. ___Follow Gillian Wong on Twitter at 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement The raids are having an effect. The compound that houses her room and others now has only a handful of residents, down from about 30.“They’ve all been chased away, caught or scared home,” said Liu Zhifa, a 67-year-old petitioner from Henan province and one of the holdouts. Liu confirmed Wang’s description of the Oct. 31 raid and described his own encounter with thugs breaking his lock and entering his room three times in one night in mid-October.“I asked them to show their identifications, and they yelled at me, saying `What right do you have to see our identification? Who do you think you are?” said Liu. “They were ruthless. The authorities and the police are working with people in the underworld.”A police officer who would only give his surname, Wei, answered the phone at a Jiujingzhuang police station (not `the’ because the police station has another name) and denied that authorities were raiding petitioners’ villages. “We only act according to the law,” Wei said. Questions about the broader crackdown were referred to the Beijing public security bureau, which did not respond to faxed questions.The crackdown has extended to lawyers such as Xu Zhiyong. He said Beijing authorities have held him under informal house arrest since mid-October, stationing four or five guards outside his apartment in Beijing around the clock. Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Comments   Share   Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Xu has campaigned for years against Chinese authorities’ use of “black jails,” or unofficial detention centers run by local governments to hold petitioners. The government has denied the existence of such facilities, but even the tightly controlled state media have reported on them.“The illegal restriction of a citizen’s personal freedom for a long period of time is criminal behavior,” Xu wrote in an email. “In an authoritarian state, this type of crime takes place everywhere.”Authorities in Shanghai also have ratcheted up pressure on critics, sentencing veteran women’s rights activist Mao Hengfeng to a year and a half of labor camp. Mao, accused of disturbing social order, had been detained in Beijing in late September, said her husband, Wu Xuewei, who indicated she was being put away to silence her before the party congress.Even dissidents’ relatives have come under pressure. Beijing activist Hu Jia said he was warned by police to leave town, and that even his parents told him that police had told them to escort him to his hometown.“My parents said to me: `Hu Jia, you don’t know what kind of danger you are in, but we know,’” he recounted in a phone interview from his parents’ home in eastern Anhui province. “They said: `Beijing is a cruel battlefield. If you stay here, you will be the first to be sacrificed. Don’t do this.’” 4 must play golf courses in Arizona Quick workouts for men Wang, a petite woman with shoulder-length hair neatly tied back, has been trying for two decades to draw central government attention to what she says was police mishandling of a serious assault she suffered in her native Harbin. Not only did her attacker go unpunished, but Wang ended up getting dismissed from her job years later.Wang arrived in late October in Lu Village in Beijing’s southwest, where petitioners have sought refuge for years. A police post guards the road into the village, and residents say officers have lately blocked petitioners from entering.Wang had rented a bed _ a wooden plank on bricks _ in a tiny concrete room shared with two others. A gang of two dozen men barged in one night at 11 p.m., demanded to see her ID, searched her belongings and grabbed her cellphone.“I was scared to death when they suddenly barged in here,” Wang said, pointing at the door, where the lock had just been replaced.The men refused to identify themselves and bundled her into a minivan with other petitioners. At another stop, she saw a couple dragged into the vans in their pajamas, the woman wearing only one shoe.All were taken to a police station in nearby Jiujingzhuang village, where many petitioners say police process them for return to their hometowns. Using someone else’s identity, Wang was able to evade police suspicion and was released. Many of the others were sent back, she said. Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Top Stories last_img

Philippine factory where 72 died suspected of breaking law

first_imgAt least 104 workers at the Kentex Manufacturing Corp. were recruited by an illegal sub-contractor, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said. She said owners will be summoned to answer the charges next week.Officials couldn’t say how many workers were at the factory in Valenzuela city, a northern Manila suburb, because records were lost.It was one of the worst fires in the country after the 1996 disco blaze that killed 162 people. Another fire at a budget hotel in 2001 killed 75.Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles, chairman of the Committee on Labor of the House of Representatives, said he will open an inquiry into the tragedy focusing on the occupational safety practices of the factory.Another representative, Magtanggol Gunigundo Jr., said the building that was gutted did not have fire sprinklers.National police Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina said they will file charges against “all those accountable and those at fault.”The International Labor Organization urged the Philippines to tighten its labor safety and health standards, while national workers’ federations criticized labor officials for lax inspections of workplaces.“Everyone has the right to work in a safe and healthy environment, regardless of the industry they are in or the type of work that they do. We can make workplaces safer by improving working conditions in factories,” ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said in a statement. MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A factory where a fire killed 72 people violated employment laws, the Philippines’ top labor official said Friday, as more witness reports emerged about the victims being trapped behind iron grill bars shouting for help.The workers who died Wednesday fled to the second floor of the two-story rubber slipper factory but iron grills on windows prevented their escape, according to a relative and witnesses. A congressman said Friday that the building lacked fire sprinklers. Workers at a nearby factory told ABS-CBN television that people watched helplessly as many of the victims were begging for help from the windows as flames and black smoke engulfed the building. Top Stories Quick workouts for men Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvementcenter_img Comments   Share   Sponsored Stories Workers slides the coffin of one of the fire victims into apartment type-crypts during a mass interment Friday, May 15, 2015 at a public cemetery in Valenzuela city, a northern suburb of Manila, Philippines. Police will open a criminal investigation into the fire incident at Kentex rubber slipper factory as a relative of several of the victims said the blaze had trapped workers in the building’s second floor where iron grills on windows prevented their escape. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez) Lito Ustarez, vice chairman of the left-wing May One Movement labor federation, said workers at the factory had reported that in addition to barriers on windows, which are used to prevent theft but are a violation of occupational health and safety regulations, the company also did not conduct fire drills.Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian said the fire was apparently ignited by sparks from welding work at the factory’s main entrance door, triggering an explosion of the chemicals used to make the slippers. Workers fled to the second floor where they were trapped, he said.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Men’s health affects baby’s health too 5 people who need to visit the Ultrastar Multi-tainment Centerlast_img read more

3 EU nations pledge cooperation on developing Eurodrone

first_img Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Sponsored Stories The nations also see the project as a way to strengthen defense cooperation in Europe’s fragmented market.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Comments   Share   Top Stories Arizona families, Arizona farms: providing the local community with responsibly produced dairy Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facilitycenter_img New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of Clean energy: Why it matters for Arizona BRUSSELS (AP) — Germany, France and Italy have pledged cooperation to jointly develop a “Euro-drone” for intelligence-gathering and surveillance of the skies.The three on Monday committed to a two-year study to have a Remotely Piloted Aircraft System ready within a decade.They said in a statement that “once operational, the system will perform long-endurance intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.”last_img read more

Figures of French Resistance inducted into Paris Pantheon

first_imgThe coffin of French resistance figure Pierre Brossolette is carried by Republican Guards for a ceremony in the courtyard of the Sorbonne University in Paris, Tuesday May 26, 2015. The event Tuesday is part of two days of national ceremonies honoring the two women and two men, meant to symbolize French efforts against extremist violence in the past and today, four months after deadly terrorist attacks. (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere) French president Francois Hollande made the link between ancient and new hatreds in a solemn speech at the Pantheon, a resting place for heroes of the French Republic.“The French stood up on January 11 because they are never afraid of defending freedom,” Hollande said in a reference to the more than a million people who gathered in the streets of Paris and other French cities following the attacks. “Every generation has a duty to remain vigilant, a duty to resist.”The lives of the four honored figures symbolize “steadiness, commitment and courage,” Hollande said.Coffins representing the two women and two men — Genevieve de Gaulle-Anthonioz, Germaine Tillion, Pierre Brossolette and Jean Zay — were escorted through Paris streets for public viewing Tuesday, and will be interred Thursday after a sound-and-light show Wednesday night.The women’s induction is purely symbolic: Their coffins contain only soil from their gravesites, because their families didn’t want the bodies exhumed.Their inclusion is meant to send a message that women, too, made French history, in the context of a government push to promote gender equality. PARIS (AP) — France is honoring four people who resisted the Nazis during World War II by inducting them into Paris’ Pantheon mausoleum, in a rare and highly symbolic ceremony aimed at uniting the French against extremism and anti-Semitism.Though the names were designated last year, the ceremony and its emphasis on France’s fundamental values of liberty, equality and fraternity takes on special meaning in a country still shaken by deadly attacks in January on a newspaper and kosher market. New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Zay was France’s education minister before the war. He went to Morocco in 1940, intending to form a resistance government in North Africa. He was arrested but continued his resistance efforts from prison. He was assassinated by the French militia, a paramilitary force of the collaborationist Vichy regime, in 1944.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Top Stories 0 Comments   Share   Previously, only one woman was honored in the Pantheon: Marie Curie, the Nobel Prize-winning chemist whose ashes were interred there in 1995. Another woman was buried there, Sophie Berthelot, but only as the wife of politician Marcellin Berthelot.The induction will bring those honored in the Pantheon to three women and 74 men. The writer Victor Hugo was the first person so honored, in 1885.Hollande has chosen to honor people who had “exemplary lives,” said Constance Riviere, the president’s adviser on the matter. “They all stood up extremely young (against the Nazis)… they all represent France’s pride.”De Gaulle-Anthonioz — a niece of Gen. Charles de Gaulle– and Tillion joined the Resistance shortly after Nazi occupation in 1940. Both were active in a Resistance unit based in the Musee de l’Homme, a Paris anthropology museum. Eventually both were captured and shipped to a concentration camp in Ravensbrueck, Germany.After the war, De Gaulle-Anthonioz dedicated her life to fighting poverty and died in 2002 aged 81. Tillion became a renowned ethnologist and died in 2008 at the age of 100.Brossolette, also based at the museum, led several missions as an intelligence agent for de Gaulle’s Free France, and became a Resistance spokesman on the BBC. Arrested and tortured in 1944, he threw himself out of a window and died of his wounds, to avoid disclosing information. Four benefits of having a wireless security system Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Arizona families, Arizona farms: working to produce high-quality milk Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Sponsored Stories Parents, stop beating yourself uplast_img read more

OSCE says ceasefire violations in Ukraine more frequent

first_img Top ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day Hug told the U.N. Security Council by videoconference that OSCE monitors have noted the movement and use of heavy weapons in areas where they are prohibited by the cease-fire agreement signed in the Belarus capital Minsk in February.Since fighting erupted in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russian-backed separatists in April 2014, more than 6,400 people have been killed. The February cease-fire has been violated almost daily, but hostilities had tapered off after the agreement until Wednesday’s heavy fighting near Donetsk which was the most severe in months.UN political chief Jeffrey Feltman, who urged all parties to respect the cease-fire accord, said 28 people including nine civilians were killed in the clashes around Marinka on Wednesday.“We are either looking at a return to a deepening, intractable conflict or a momentary upsurge in parts of the conflict zone,” Feltman said. “We cannot afford either scenario.”U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko Friday and the White House said both leaders expressed their “deep concern” about the fighting near Donetsk. They called on Russia and the separatists to live up to the cease-fire agreement. The call came as Obama prepared to leave Saturday for the Group of Seven industrialized nations in Germany, where Ukraine and Russia are expected to be one of the top subjects of discussion. The White House said Obama underscored a commitment to a diplomatic resolution in eastern Ukraine and to keep economic pressure on Russia until Moscow meets the terms of the Minks accord.Hug said OSCE monitors in many cases have been prevented from accessing heavy weapons holding sites and have been denied entry to specific areas, “notably along the Russian-Ukrainian international border.” OSCE drones have been jammed on a regular basis and monitors have also faced “threats, intimidation and have even been fired upon,” he said.Despite these obstacles, Hug said, the 375 monitors in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions have been able to effectively monitor the situation on the ground, and gather first-hand evidence of cease-fire violations.Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the root of the problem is the Kiev government’s failure to carry out constitutional reforms and implement the cease-fire agreement which would have led to “a gradual normalization and democratic development of Ukraine.” Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober “Now, a critical moment has come,” Churkin said. “If we allow Kiev to continue to not implement the absolutely necessary political measures … this situation could fall out of control with unpredictable consequences.”He urged Security Council members with influence on Ukraine “to do everything possible so that this should not take place.”U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power, who will visit Ukraine next week, accused combined Russian-separatist forces of launching multiple, coordinated attacks on Wednesday, while the Ukrainian government has made good faith efforts to honor the Minsk cease-fire.___Associated Press Writer Jim Kuhnhenn contributed to this report from WashingtonCopyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Top Stories center_img UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The mission monitoring a cease-fire agreement in Ukraine warned Friday that violations are becoming more frequent and severe, with heavy weapons often missing from storage areas and rockets and multiple launchers recently being used again.Alexander Hug, the deputy chief monitor of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s mission in Ukraine, called on all sides to urgently return to the negotiating table. Comments   Share   Sponsored Stories Patients with chronic pain give advice 5 people who need to visit the Ultrastar Multi-tainment Center New Valley school lets students pick career-path academieslast_img read more

Weeklong heat wave in southern Pakistan kills 1233 people

first_imgCopyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. ISLAMABAD (AP) — A devastating weeklong heat wave in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi killed 1,233 people, an official said.Nazar Mohammad Bozdar, operations director at the Provincial Disaster Management Authority, said about 65,000 heatstroke patients were treated by doctors at all of Karachi’s hospitals since June 20 when the heat wave struck Sindh province, where Karachi is the provincial capital. He told The Associated Press that 1,923 patients with heat-related ailments were still being treated.“The government quickly responded by making arrangements for the treatment of heatstroke patients and the situation has improved now,” he said.Pakistan’s deadliest heat wave on record coincided with the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, when Pakistan’s Muslim majority observed a dawn-to-dusk fast.The temperatures in Karachi came down to 34 degrees Celsius (93 degrees Fahrenheit) after reaching 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) a week ago amid chronic power outages, which forced many residents to spend nights outdoors.The heat wave shocked many Pakistanis just weeks after soaring temperatures caused nearly 2,200 deaths in neighboring India.Since then, it has raised fears that South Asia could be seeing some of the devastating effects of human-caused climate change.On Saturday, TV footage showed a charity burying several unidentified bodies of people who died earlier this week because of the heatstroke. Pakistani television stations reported that several unidentified bodies were buried by the Edhi Foundation charity because local morgues were overflowing. Mesa family survives lightning strike to home New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t like Top Stories Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall Arizona families, Arizona farms: A legacy of tradition embracing animal care and comfort through modern technology Comments   Share   Sponsored Stories 3 international destinations to visit in 2019last_img read more

Iran nuclear deal Fine new chapter or historic mistake

first_img Sponsored Stories Mesa family survives lightning strike to home 0 Comments   Share   VIENNA (AP) — Iran, the United States and other world powers struck a historic deal Tuesday to curb Iranian nuclear programs and ease fears of a nuclear-armed Iran threatening the volatile Middle East. In exchange, Iran will get billions of dollars in relief from crushing international sanctions.The accord, reached after long, fractious negotiations, marks a dramatic break from decades of animosity between the United States and Iran, countries that have labeled each other the “leading state sponsor of terrorism” and “the Great Satan.” Washington had sought to maintain the ban on Iran importing and exporting weapons, concerned that an Islamic Republic flush with cash from sanctions relief would expand its military assistance for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, Yemen’s Houthi rebels, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and other forces opposing America’s Mideast allies such as Saudi Arabia and Israel.Iranian leaders, backed by Russia and China, insisted the embargo had to end as their forces combat regional scourges such as the Islamic State.Another significant agreement will allow U.N. inspectors to press for visits to Iranian military sites as part of their monitoring duties, something the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had long vowed to oppose. However, access isn’t guaranteed and could be delayed, a condition that critics of the deal are sure to seize on.Under the accord, Tehran would have the right to challenge U.N requests, and an arbitration board composed of Iran and the six world powers would then decide on the issue. The IAEA also wants the access to complete its long-stymied investigation of past weapons work by Iran. The U.S. says Iranian cooperation is needed for all economic sanctions to be lifted. “This deal offers an opportunity to move in a new direction,” President Barack Obama declared at the White House in remarks that were carried live on Iranian state television. “We should seize it.”In Tehran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said “a new chapter” had begun in his nation’s relations with the world. He maintained that Iran had never sought to build a bomb, an assertion the U.S. and its partners have long disputed.Beyond the hopeful proclamations from the U.S., Iran and other parties to the talks, there is deep skepticism of the deal among U.S. lawmakers and Iranian hardliners. Obama’s most pressing task will be holding off efforts by Congress to levy new sanctions on Iran or block his ability to suspend existing ones.House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, predicted the deal would embolden Iran and fuel a nuclear arms race around the world. It will be difficult for congressional Republicans to stop Obama, however, because of his power to veto legislation.Israel, which sees Iran as a threat to its existence, strongly opposes leaving the Islamic republic with its nuclear infrastructure in place. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has furiously lobbied against a deal, called the agreement a “stunning historic mistake.” Arizona families, Arizona farms: working to produce high-quality milk In a phone call Tuesday, Obama sought to reassure Netanyahu that the agreement doesn’t diminish U.S. concern about Iran’s threats toward Israel and its support for terrorism, the White House said. Netanyahu’s office said the prime minister told Obama the deal will allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons as well as more money to use in menacing Israel.Economic effects could be substantial for both Iran and the world.In trading Tuesday, benchmark U.S. crude oil prices were volatile, falling quickly then rising. Iran is an OPEC member, but its oil production has been affected for years by sanctions over its nuclear program. Any easing of the sanctions could see Iran sell more oil, which could bring down crude prices. That doesn’t automatically mean lower gasoline prices, however.Iran also stands to receive more than $100 billion in assets that have been frozen overseas and an end to various financial restrictions on Iranian banks.The nearly 100-page accord announced Tuesday aims to keep Iran from producing enough material for an atomic weapon for at least 10 years and imposes new provisions for inspections of Iranian facilities, including military sites.With Obama’s final term ending in January 2017, the long-term agreement is sure to be a hot topic for the many candidates vying to take his place. Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton praised the deal and declared herself ready to enforce it “vigorously, relentlessly” as president. Republican Jeb Bush issued a denunciation, saying the deal only delays the danger and “over time it paves Iran’s path to a bomb.”The deal was finalized after more than two weeks of furious diplomacy in Vienna. Negotiators blew through three self-imposed deadlines, with top American and Iranian diplomats both threatening at points to walk away from the talks.Secretary of State John Kerry, who did most of the bargaining with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, said persistence paid off. “Believe me, had we been willing to settle for a lesser deal we would have finished this negotiation a long time ago,” he told reporters.The breakthrough came after several key compromises.Iran agreed to the continuation of a U.N. arms embargo on the country for up to five more years, though it could end earlier if the International Atomic Energy Agency definitively clears Iran of any current work on nuclear weapons. A similar condition was put on U.N. restrictions on the transfer of ballistic missile technology to Tehran, which could last for up to eight more years, according to diplomats. IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said Tuesday his agency and Iran had signed a “roadmap” to resolve outstanding concerns, hopefully by mid-December.The deal didn’t come together easily, as tempers flared and voices were raised during debates over several of the most contentious matters. The mood soured particularly last week after Iran dug in its heels on several points and Kerry threatened to abandon the effort, according to diplomats involved in the talks. They weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the private diplomacy and demanded anonymity.But by Monday, the remaining gaps were bridged in a meeting that started with Kerry, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Zarif later joined the meeting, and shortly thereafter, the ministers emerged and told aides they had an accord.The deal comes after nearly a decade of international, intercontinental diplomacy that until recently was defined by failure. Breaks in the talks sometimes lasted for months, and Iran’s nascent nuclear program expanded into one that Western intelligence agencies saw as only a couple of months away from weapons capacity. The U.S. and Israel both threatened possible military responses. Check your body, save your life New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall The United States joined the negotiations in 2008, and U.S. and Iranian officials met together secretly four years later in Oman to see if diplomatic progress was possible. But the process remained essentially stalemated until summer 2013, when Rouhani was elected president and declared his country ready for serious compromise.A telephone conversation between Rouhani and Obama marked the two countries’ highest diplomatic exchange since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution and the ensuing hostage crisis at the American embassy in Tehran.___Associated Press writers Bradley Klapper, Julie Pace, Josh Lederman, Darlene Superville and Connie Cass in Washington and Josef Federman in Jerusalem contributed to this report.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Top Stories New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t likelast_img read more

Govt calls inbound tour operators to join ADS

first_img<a href=”” target=”_blank”><img src=”;cb=INSERT_RANDOM_NUMBER_HERE&amp;n=a5c63036″ border=”0″ alt=””></a> Source = e-Travel Blackboard: G.A Inbound tour operators are encouraged to apply for Approved Destination Status (ADS) endorsement which will allow them to service Chinese tour groups.“The China market is booming and expected to grow to $5.5 billion by 2017, becoming Australia’s largest inbound tourism market,” Minister for Tourism Martin Ferguson said.“The Government’s $4.1 million ADS Scheme helps Australian tourism operators to make the most of [this] rapid growth.”Australia was one of the first western countries to receive ADS from the Chinese Government, a move which has facilitated the travel of organised tour groups from China, ensuring quality service for the Chinese and the maintenance of Australia’s visitor visa programme.“The ADS scheme gives travellers confidence about the quality and authenticity of the operator and the experience they have in Australia,” Mr Ferguson said.“Tourism is a people business so customer satisfaction is vital to the continued success of the scheme, and in protecting Australia’s reputation as a high-quality and safe international destination for Chinese nationals.”Inbound tour operators need to apply for ADS approval each year, although the renewal process has been made easier to encourage growth, a government spokesperson told e-Travel Blackboard.“Numbers [of ADS inbound tour operators] have remained in the mid-fifties since 2005,” they said.The government has streamlined the ADS Code of Business Standards and Ethics in an effort to draw more inbound tour operators and better service those already participating in the scheme.“We have responded to industry concerns about the ADS Scheme,” Mr Ferguson said.“When applications open on 22 July, they will remain open on an on-going basis for the next four years.” “We have also introduced a new sanction structure which will allow inbound tour operators that continue to breach the ADS Code to be omitted from the scheme faster than before,” he added.“Through regular compliance checks the Australian Government is ensuring that participating tour operators meet high standards and comply with all relevant fair trading and immigration legislation.”Applications to participate in the ADS scheme open from 22 July 2010.last_img read more

Malaysia Airlines sees Q1 profits burnt by fuel in Q2

first_imgMalaysia Airlines has reported a RM3.9 million operating profit for the first half of 2010, with much of the profit made in Q1 eroded by fuel expenditures in Q2.The airline posted an operating profit of RM289.5 million in Q1 2010 which compensated for the RM285.6 million operating loss in Q2 2010. The second quarter demonstrated strong passenger and cargo performance compared to the same quarter last year, with operating profit improving by 33 percent over the comparison period. Boosts from the economic recovery were felt in passenger revenue, which was up 22 percent to RM2.3 billion in Q2 2010 from RM1.9 billion last year. Traffic was up 18 percent and seat factor rose 8.2 percent from a low of 65.8 percent experienced in Q2 2009.However, these operational gains were diminished by a steep 44 percent rise in fuel expenditure as a result of a global price hike and increased consumption to meet the five percent expansion in capacity. This resulted in RM1.1 billion of expenditure – an increase of RM338 million compared to the second quarter of 2009. Combined with a nine percent increase in non-fuel expenditure, the airline witnessed a RM285.6 million operating loss for the quarter.“While we are doing the right things, and this is reflected in the improved operational performance for Q2 which is traditionally our weakest quarter, we have instituted additional measures to recover more of the fuel cost increase. The volatility of the fuel price remains a key challenge for the industry,” Managing Director and CEO, Tengku Dato’ Azmil Zahruddin said.On the operational front, Mr Azmil said the advance bookings for the second half of the year are strong. “The action is in our back yard as the Asia-Pacific region is demonstrating strong growth. For 2Q10, our passenger numbers are up 14.7 percent. We are recording higher than pre-economic crisis seat factor. As the positive trend is holding up for the rest of the year, we will continue to focus on increasing yield, as well as gaining premium customers. We have put in place an aggressive sales programme to increase corporate sales.”In other aspects, MASkargo continued to demonstrate strong performance with three consecutive quarters of profits. Freight grew 29.8 percent in June 2010 alone, with the uptrend expected to continue, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).The airline has ordered up to 55 B737-800s and 25 A330-300s. A total of three B737-800s will be received in 2010; one each in October, November and December.Source = e-Travel Blackboard: C.Clast_img read more

Pacific Resort Aitutaki wins prestigious Asia Pacific Hotel Award

first_imgA great wave of anticipation is hovering over a select number of Asia Pacific’s leading hospitality professionals. The inaugural Asia Pacific Hotel Awards 2011 in association with Bloomberg Television & Google have now been judged and Pacific Resort Aitutaki has been informed that it is amongst the winning companies. Successful entrants have been invited to attend a high profile gala presentation dinner at the Longemont Hotel Shanghai on May 31st.  Pacific Resort Aitutaki will then discover whether the company has won a five-star or highly commended award in the category of “Best Small Hotel”.In addition to categories for all manner of different sized and specifically targeted hotels, there are also sections for the best hotel architecture, interior design, marketing and website covering the entire range of hotel disciplines.The event is part of the International Property Awards which have been established for 17 years and its award winners’ logo is recognised as a symbol of excellence throughout the global industry. The organisers decided to launch a specific program for the hospitality industry this year due to an increasing number of entries within its commercial categories. Demand for inclusion has been so great that each category was soon full of the required number of entrants. The judges also report that the quality of submissions has been extremely high, giving them a difficult task in selecting the winners.Attaining one of these coveted awards is indisputable evidence that Pacific Resort Aitutaki is capable of beating some exceedingly strong contenders within the keenly competitive Asia Pacific hospitality arena.Later this year, the highest scoring winners from the Asia Pacific Hotel Awards will compete against other winning companies from Europe, Africa, the Americas and Arabia to find the ultimate World’s Best in each category.The judging panel is chaired by Anthony Murkett, managing director of The Sloane Club in London and consists of 20 professionals whose collective knowledge of the hospitality industry is second to none. This year’s judges include James Bacon, UK account manager of Google; Peter Crome, managing director of Skibo Castle in Scotland; Mike McNamara of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS); David Dalby of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and Rebecca Johnson of Bloomberg TV (Hotel Section). Greg Stanaway, chief executive officer of Pacific Resort Hotel Group, said of the award, “This tremendous achievement is the result of a total team effort, the success of Pacific Resort Aitutaki owes much to all of the people involved in the experience that is a visit to the Cook Islands, it is our team and the people of the Cook Islands who underpin the success of Pacific Resort Aitutaki”. Source = Pacific Resort Aitutakilast_img read more