woensdag 4 december 2019

#Emirates offers up plenty of reasons to visit Dubai for winter break

Dubai, home to the 830-meter-tall Burj Khalifa, massive Dubai Mall and seven-star Burj Al Arab hotel, is a city that many people dream to visit. Ranked ninth on the Lonely Planets’ Best City to Visit list of 2020, Dubai is also well-known for its cultural heritage.

This upcoming holiday season might be the right time to finally put that dream in motion, as Emirates airline is offering a special promotion for tickets to Dubai on Dec. 2-15, for travel dates Dec. 5-27 and Jan. 3 to May 31, 2020.

During the special promotion, return tickets for economy class start from Rp 7.9 million (US$ 566.61) and business class Rp 29.9 million. The prices include a two-night stay at Rove at the Park or Rove Healthcare City for economy flyers and Address Sky View or Address Dubai Mall for business and first-class flyers.

When booking the flight, travelers simply need to enter the code FEDUBAI before making their payment.
Emirates will also sponsor 30-day Dubai Tourist Visas for travelers from Cambodia, the Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam and Indonesia for trips booked before Dec. 17.

Other facilities include 10 kilograms of extra baggage space for each passenger and a My Emirates Pass — an exclusive membership that offers 30 percent discounts from retail stores and 50 percent off for leisure activities — valid for travelers flying between Jan. 1 and March 31, 2020, by showing their Emirates boarding pass.

Travelers of Boeing 777’s business and first-class can enjoy wider and ergonomic seats that recline into a flat position for a more comfortable sleep and the Ice in-flight entertainment system. Meanwhile, business class passengers on board the Airbus A380 will enjoy a personal minibar, an onboard lounge, as well as a fully flat cozy mattress.

Economy class travelers will also be pampered with a comfortable flying experience, receiving amenity kits, eco-friendly blankets and inflight meals inspired by traditional dishes from the United Arab Emirates.

Source - TheJakartaPost

maandag 2 december 2019

#Vietnam - Mekong Delta tourism charm waning

The Mekong Delta province of An Giang in the flooding season.

Poor transport facilities and a lack of diverse tourism products mean the Mekong Delta struggles to keep visitors for more than a day.

Nguyen Huu Tho, Chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association, said the region's tourism remains undeveloped. The delta, which includes Can Tho City and 12 provinces, attracted 3.4 million foreign visitors in 2018, a modest figure compared to the potential. Less than half stayed overnight, according to the association.

Many travel agencies only use the region as an adjunct to their itinerary for international visitors, which centers on Ho Chi Minh City.

Nguyen Quoc Ky, General Director of Viettravel, a leading travel company, said the delta does not have a developed port while its four airports at Can Tho, Rach Gia, Ca Mau, and Phu Quoc have yet to become transport hubs for the region.

International visitors usually fly into HCMC and travel to the delta by road, but the highway network is not good enough to help tourism flourish, Ky said at the recent Mekong Delta Tourism Development Forum held in Can Tho.

Vo Anh Tai, Deputy General Director of another travel giant Saigontourist, said it currently takes visitors up to an average of 70-90 minutes to travel 50 km in the delta.

Tai cited the Hanoi - Lao Cai Expressway in northern Vietnam as a typical example of how good transport infrastructure can strongly drive tourism growth. Tours to the mountainous resort town of Sa Pa in Lao Cai Province have dramatically increased thanks to the expressway, Vietnam’s longest which openned to traffic in 2014, shortening the Hanoi-Lao Cai travel time by half.

Vu The Binh, Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association, said the delta’s tourism products are monotonous due to a lack of investment.

The attractiveness of many of its traditional offerings like floating markets, orchard visits and river tourism is waning, and local authorities have paid little attention to creating more tourism products, which is mostly being done by enterprises, he said.

"But 95 percent of tourism businesses in the delta are small, medium or even micro sized, and lack the resources to invest in new tourism products. So they only use old ones and end up duplicating each other."

Vo Xuan Thu, Regional Director of Thien Minh Group, a leader of Vietnam's travel and hospitality industry, said it is difficult for Mekong Delta localities to attract customers because they have not invested in destination marketing.

In fact, the delta is not in the tour programs of many international travel agencies, and is only offered as an optional tour, he said.

"The provinces need to invest in promoting the delta as a destination with their own distinctive features.

"While it is not too far from HCMC, if the transport infrastructure is improved, combined with good promotion, we can take advantage of the large number of international visitors coming to Ho Chi Minh City," he added.

Last year three out of the 13 world's best destinations listed for year-end travel by U.S. publication Business Insider were in the Mekong Delta.

CNN in September this year said exploring the world’s largest cave, eating pho noodle soup in Hanoi and cruising down the Mekong Delta are among the 13 most memorable experiences in Vietnam.

Hai Tac (Pirate) Archipelago is a famous tourist attraction in the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang, known for its crystal clear water and pristine landscapes.
Source - VN Express

zondag 17 november 2019

'Red lights' as over-tourism threatens #Corsican nature reserve

"It's nature's magical design," says a tourist guide, waxing poetic as he comments on the impressive red cliffs plunging into a turquoise sea at the Scandola nature reserve on France's Corsica island.

"Amazing!" exclaims Irena Snydrova, a Czech tourist visiting the UNESCO World Heritage site with her family, along with groups from Italy, Spain and France.

Their boat sidles up to the Steps of Paradise, rocks shaped into a stairway some 15 meters long, then glides on to Bad Luck Pass, a former pirates' redoubt.

The ages have sculpted the volcanic cliffs into myriad shapes that beguile the visitor, who might imagine a kissing couple here, a horse's head there, Napoleon's two-cornered hat further on...

The park, created in 1975, is an ecological dream, being a nature reserve and a protected marine zone that is listed by France's coastal protection agency and Natura 2000, in addition to its recognition by UNESCO.

It is a prime destination for the some three million people who visit Corsica each year, 75 percent of them in the summer.

The paradox is that growing numbers of tourists are drawn to Scandola's pristine waters and stunning geological vistas, endangering its fragile ecosystem.

The park, reached only by boat some 40 minutes from the tiny port of Porto, stretches over 10 square kilometers of sea, and a somewhat smaller area of land.

"The reserve is a jewel for Corsica and the Mediterranean, but several red lights are flashing," says marine biologist Charles-Francois Boudouresque, listing flora and fauna at risk, including ospreys, seagrass and fish species such as the brown meagre.

The tourist season coincides with the ospreys' mating season, notes Boudouresque, an emeritus professor at the Mediterranean Institute of Oceanography.

Because of over-tourism, ospreys' "reproductive success is zero or near zero, with either no chicks or just one chick" per year, he says.

 Boudouresque, who also heads Scandola's scientific advisory council, says the osprey could become extinct in 50 years.

 Golden egg'
Since last month, at the urging of the scientific council, boats must keep a distance of at least 250 meters from ospreys' nests during the breeding season. 

"It's a good start," Boudouresque says.

As for the marine park's fish species, Boudouresque says he thinks the thrumming of the tourist boats is scaring them away.

But a crew member, who gave his name only as Diego, blamed groupers for the declining population of corb. "They eat everything," he told AFP.

Tensions have arisen pitting tour boat operators and fishermen against the reserve's conservationist Jean-Marie Dominici.

Boudouresque says the seagrass "is not in the best shape," blaming the anchors dropped by the many boats -- some of them private vessels without authorized guides.

 "It's bizarre for a nature reserve to see all these boats," said Pierre Gilibert, a 65-year-old doctor, who is a regular visitor. "It might be wise to allow access only to professional boats."

 Many share the opinion that private boats are not sufficiently monitored or informed of ecological concerns. 
"This morning we saw people climbing on the rocks and berthing their boats in narrow passageways, which is not allowed," said Gabriel Pelcot, chief mechanic on a cruise ship of the Corsican company Nave Va.

Nave Va, as well as rival Via Mare, uses hybrid vessels: they are powered by diesel up to the edge of the marine park, then switch to electric for a quieter and less polluting presence.

Pelcot notes that this green option is 30 percent more expensive, but he expects it to catch on.
"We must find a compromise between the need for tourists to enjoy this natural treasure and that of not killing the goose that laid the golden egg," Boudouresque says.

The marine biologist is optimistic that general awareness of the problems is growing.

He envisions ways to marry tourism with preservation. One example, he says, would be to focus cameras on ospreys' nests so that they can be observed without being disturbed.

Source - TheJakartaPost 

maandag 28 oktober 2019

#Vietnam - Pirate Islands lurk in the shadows of famous peers

Hai Tac (Pirate) Archipelago in southern Vietnam is not very well known, but it holds its own very comfortably as an outstandingly beautiful beach destination.  

 Hai Tac archipelago is not as prominently known as Phu Quoc or Cat Ba islands, but its pristine landscape has been drawing an increasing number of visitors in recent years.

The archipelago is located in Tien Hai Commune, Ha Tien District, in the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang. From the pier in Ha Tien Town, it takes over an hour to reach Hai Tac, which includes 16 islands. A high-speed boat ticket costs VND100,000 ($4.3) one way.
 In late 17th early 18th centuries, pirates used the archipelago as a base to attack merchant ships of other Southeast Asian countries, giving the archipelago its current name. The picture shows the model of a pirate ship on the Tre Van Islet.
 Most boat owners taking visitors around the fishing village on the edge of Tre Van Islet. Tran Quy Thanh, a boat owner who has lived on the islet for 36 years, said each tour takes about four to six hours depending on visitors’ preferences.

"Tourists started coming more four years ago. They have helped improve lives here, because locals earn more by selling them food and providing them with accommodation. People here also get to hear many interesting, new things from the tourists," Thanh said.
A string of hammocks on the beach of a small island next to Doc islet.
   Some local shops where locals sell refreshment.

There is a concrete road that runs around the Hon Tre island. It takes two hours to cover it on foot.

Source - VN Express

woensdag 4 september 2019

The Eiffel Tower is the world's most popular tourist attraction according to Instagram

With Instagram having replaced the good old postcard in the hearts of travelers, the Iron Lady has become the most immortalized attraction on the social network, garnering some 5,849,737 hashtags, according to a report by application Motif. 

How many among us have taken a photo of an iconic monument over the holidays? Chances are that those who did took a photo of the Eiffel Tower, which dominates the listing of the most hashtagged tourist attractions on Instagram.

The Parisian icon is ahead of the Las Vegas Strip, (4,802,560 mentions), and NYC's Times Square (3,949,217 hashtags). The US is further represented on the list by the Grand Canyon, with its 3,433,049 tags. 

There are no Asian destinations in the listing, while the Middle East is represented by the tallest tower in the world, Dubai's Burj Khalifa (3,502,116 hashtags). London comes in with Big Ben (3,007,317 hashtags) and the London Eye (2,980,066 hashtags). 
MacOS-native photo-integration Motif came up with the listing by analyzing the number of hashtags published to Insta since the social network's October 2010 debut, extrapolating the data to identity the most visited destinations and cities worldwide.

The next two most popular French destinations on the ‘Gram are Disneyland Paris (3,940,249 hashtags) and the Louvre (2,919,469 hashtags).
Source - TheJakartaPost

woensdag 28 augustus 2019

#Philippines - Freedivers showcase ‘under the sea’ wonders of Moalboal

CEBU CITY, Philippines–They are not mermaids (or mermen) but freedivers, the collective term used to describe individuals who swim with no scuba gears, have definitely spent time with turtles and schools of fish under the sea.

Freedivers practice an underwater sport called freediving, which does not rely on any breathing apparatus. Instead, freedivers are master breath-holders wearing only fins and snorkel masks to commune with nature underwater.

Freediving is often described as “extreme” but the sport is not about throwing caution to the wind.

It requires ample amount of discipline, training, and patience.

Taking advantage of the long weekend from August 25 to 26, some freedivers gathered at Nicco’s Place, an affordable accommodation which serves as the home for many freedivers in the southern Cebu town of Moalboal.

Moalboal is about 85 kilometers from Cebu City.

Nicco’s Place, which is located in Barangay Basdiot, was their base for a two-day adventure.

It is only 1.9 kilometers from Panagsama Beach. Right across Panagsama Beach is Pescador Island, one of Moalboal’s main dive spots known for its rich marine life which attracts divers from all over the world.
One of the freedivers 

was Xyza Cortes, a practicing nurse.

“(As freedivers), we advocate for seeing or interacting with the underwater creatures in their natural habitat,” says the 30-year-old former swimmer.

Xyza was born in Cebu and raised in the town of Aurora in Zamboanga del Sur.
She came back to Cebu during her college years and finished her Nursing degree at the University of Cebu Banilad.

Xyza then worked in Abu Dhabi from 2015 to 2017.

In 2017, she left Abu Dhabi and then worked as a nurse in a private hospital in Cebu. Currently, she works as a US registered nurse in a private company in Cebu.
 Nobody introduced Xyza to freediving.

“I worked overseas so basically, I am not a fan of any sport until I ‘met’ freediving,” says the resident of Barangay Labangon, Cebu City.

But perhaps the ocean called her because she saw a freediver while she was snorkeling/scuba diving in Moalboal.

“I asked a few locals. I gave it a try. It was way beautiful and marvelous than I expected,” she shares.

Xyza then took an introductory course and the love affair with underwater creatures developed from then on.

Hendrix Gil Lato, an architect by profession, spent most of his childhood years in Barangay Libas, Merida, Leyte where he learned how to swim.

“I grew up in a provincial setting. Our house was in between the mountain and the sea so I had that connection to nature as a child,” he shares.

Hendrix, also a painter and illustrator, says he learned about freediving from Lester Taboada, a fellow friend from an artist group called Artkada.

It was Lester who introduced him to Sawum Freedivers in 2017.

Hendrix has been freediving for two years, a hobby that helped him appreciate the ocean and opened his eyes to protect it even while having fun.

“I joined clean-up drives and ocean conservation groups. The freediving skills I learned came in handy when I was doing volunteer works to protect the oceans,” says the 29-year-old artist and resident of Barangay Banilad, Mandaue City.

Source - Cebu Daily News

dinsdag 27 augustus 2019

#Italy - Lovers of Tuscany's 'paradise' beach have factory to thank

Holidaymakers splash in the turquoise waters of the Rosignano Solvay beach in Tuscany and laze on its pristine white sands -- most of them fully aware that the picture-perfect swimming spot owes its allure to a nearby factory.

"I discovered it on Google Maps," said Dutch tourist Lieuya, who traveled to the beach with his family to enjoy a setting more reminiscent of the Caribbean than of northern Italy.

"I was told it's not dangerous, that the colour comes from the soda factory next door," he told AFP.

Questions have lingered for decades over why the sea and sand are such startling colours -- with some environmentalists suggesting the phenomenon is caused by heavy metals emitted by the plant.

The beach, about four kilometers (two-and-a-half miles) long, is named after the Solvay factory, which produces soda ash for making glass as well as sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda.
The plant strenuously denies polluting the surrounding coastline.

Tourists taking a dip or settling down in beach chairs for a light pasta lunch are not worried about the striking contrast between the waters off Rosignano Solvay and those of the nearby Monte alla Rena beach.

"Every time I come here, I think that if swimming is allowed by local, regional and national authorities, we can believe them when they say that the water is clean," says Italian teacher Marina, who declined to give her last name.

A notice from the regional environmental protection agency Arpat at the beach entrance says the water quality is "excellent".

Swimming is banned along a small stretch of the beach, but that is because of a strong current in the area.

The plant, some 25 kilometers south of the port city Livorno, opened at the start of the last century and a new town -- Rosignano Solvay -- sprang up to house workers and their families.
Today, the global chemical giant operates in 61 countries and boasts some 24,500 employees.

- Reflection of the sky -

"Solvay was like a mother to this area of Tuscany. We called it 'mamma'," Leonardo Martinelli, a journalist born in the town and whose mother worked at Solvay for half a century, told AFP.

Belgian industrialist Ernest Solvay, the plant's founder, "guaranteed well-being by opening a school, a hospital and a theater," he said.

The factory has ensured "the unemployment rate has always been low," he added.

The group's industrial director Davide Papavero told AFP the company "respects all the rules of a high-risk site".

"The plant... only discharges powdery deposits of limestone, a harmless substance that is safe for the environment, but explains the white color of the sand," he said.

The startling blue of the water is caused by the reflection of the sky against the white sea floor, Papavero added.

Local mayor Daniele Donati also insists the plant's activities "do not pose any health problems".

But Maurizio Marchi, from Italy's Medicina Democratica health association, says the plant is a blight.

"The reality is that for a century, this place has been a Solvay landfill, an industrial landfill," he insists.

Environmentalists have also deplored the gutting of limestone hills near San Vincenzo and mass extraction of rock salt.

Manolo Morandini, a journalist with local daily Il Tirreno who has written extensively on the subject, says Marchi's concerns would once have been valid, but no longer.

"In the 1980s it was indeed a toxic beach. But the production cycle that used mercury and heavy metals has been changed," he said.

He says the famous white beach is nothing more than an "artificial" construct -- one which nonetheless offers holidaymakers a slice of paradise.

Source - TheJakartaPost