Σάββατο, 28 Φεβρουαρίου 2015

Norwegian Escape’s Captains and Senior Leadership named

Wiesbaden– Norwegian Cruise Line today announced the seasoned captains and senior officers who will serve on Norwegian Escape, the line’s newest and largest ship that will homeport in Miami year-round beginning in November 2015.
Captain Evans Hoyt, an experienced seafarer with more than 30 years at sea, will take the helm of Norwegian Escape upon delivery of the ship in Germany this October. Currently serving as Captain of Norwegian Breakaway, Captain Hoyt will be responsible for all aspects of the ship, her guests and crew. He joined Norwegian Cruise Line in 2005, and has served as Captain aboard four ships within the Norwegian fleet, including the U.S. flagged Pride of America. Born in Morocco, the son of a U.S. diplomat, he has lived in many different countries. Hoyt graduated from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in New York in 1982. When Captain Hoyt is on holiday, Captain Gunnar Hammerin will take command of Norwegian Escape. Currently serving as Captain of Norwegian Pearl, Captain Hammerin began his nautical career more than 40 years ago serving in the Merchant Marine. He has more than 30 years of experience as a Captain, 20 of those years with Norwegian Cruise Line and Star Cruises.
Staff Captains Robert Lundberg and Preston Carnahan will be on board to introduce the vessel to guests during her very exciting inaugural season. As Staff Captains, they are second in command and report directly to Norwegian Escape’s Captain. They are responsible for the Deck Department and are versed in all of the responsibilities and duties of the Captain. The Staff Captains will also assist Norwegian Escape’s Captain with all operations, including being responsible for the safety of guests, crew, the ship and the environment. Originally from Sweden, Lundberg joined Norwegian in 2006 and since has served as Chief Officer on Norwegian Breakaway and Staff Captain on board Norwegian Getaway. Hailing from Texas, Carnahan joined the company in 2003 and has held positions on several ships, including Norwegian Pearl and Pride of America. He currently serves as Staff Captain on Norwegian Epic.
Zoran Posa will launch Norwegian Escape in the position of Chief Engineer and when on holiday will be relieved by Edin Huskanovic. The Chief Engineer has full responsibility of the entire technical operation of the ship, plays a key role on the ship’s senior management team and works closely with the Staff Captain and Hotel Director. Posa, who is from Croatia, has been a member of the Norwegian team since 2002 and has spent the majority of his time working on board Norwegian Sun and Norwegian Sky, and most recently as Chief Engineer on Norwegian Breakaway. Huskanovic, from Sweden, joined Norwegian in 2001, holding positions on Norwegian Star and Norwegian Dawn. He currently serves as Chief Engineer on Norwegian Jade.
Sean Wurmhoeringer will serve as Norwegian Escape’s Hotel Director. Sean began his career at Norwegian in 2002 on board Norwegian Sun and has since held a variety of positions on numerous ships in Norwegian’s fleet. As Hotel Director, he has led teams on several ships, including Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Breakaway and most recently, Norwegian Getaway, where he led the hotel team that successfully launched and delivered the ship in 2014. He is from Salzburg, Austria.
Cruise Director Julie Valeriote will lead Norwegian Escape’s entertainment team. Valeriote, who hails from Canada, joined Norwegian in 1999 and has led entertainment teams on Norwegian Epic, where she was also part of the ship’s inaugural team, and most recently launched Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway, where she has cultivated a strong following of guests who admire her unending enthusiasm and positive energy.
Norwegian Escape
Currently being built at Meyer Werft in Germany, Norwegian Escape will sail weekly 7-night cruises from her year-round homeport of Miami to the Eastern Caribbean beginning on November 14, 2015. The 164.600 gross ton ship will be the largest ever to home port year-round in Miami, carrying 4.200 guests to tropical Caribbean destinations including St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; Tortola, British Virgin Islands and Nassau, Bahamas. Norwegian Escape’s signature hull artwork is designed by marine wildlife artist and champion of ocean conservation, Guy Harvey.
Norwegian Escape’s dining and entertainment will include outposts of several popular land-based outlets, including the first-ever floating Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville restaurant and 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar, a music venue and outdoor bar on The Waterfront that will feature live nightly performances. James Beard Award-Winning Iron Chef Jose Garces will have two concepts on board, a Latin seafood speciality restaurant and Pincho Tapas Bar, while Miami-based The Pubbelly Restaurant Group will develop the menu for the Food Republic, an upscale food emporium. The District Brew House, a hip, urban craft beer hall featuring an exclusive partnership with Miami’s own Wynwood Brewing Company, will serve up more than 24 draft beers while The Cellars, A Michael Mondavi Family Wine Bar, features an array of immersive wine experiences, focusing on tasting, education, and the enjoyment of wine. Norwegian Escape will also feature Miami’s oldest and most legendary bar, Tobacco Road.
Continuing with Norwegian’s commitment to excellence in entertainment, Norwegian Escape will feature two Tony Award-winning Broadway musicals headlining in the Escape Theater: After Midnight, the smash-hit musical that combines the big-band songs of Duke Ellington and the best dancing from Broadway; and Million Dollar Quartet, the smash-hit musical inspired by the famed recording session that brought together rock 'n' roll icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. In a new concept exclusive to Norwegian Escape, the Supper Club has been re-imagined for an unforgettable dinner and show. For The Record: Dear John Hughes is a critically acclaimed Hollywood night that celebrates classic soundtracks of motion picture masters in a one-of-a kind 360° post-modern cabaret.
The ship will feature the largest ropes course at sea, a three-storey multiplex of heart-pounding challenges complete with two planks and five Sky Rails, zip tracks that allow guests to soar through the air. Norwegian Escape’s Aqua Park will be the largest at sea and includes a new Aqua Racer slide, while the expansive sports complex boasts a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle miniature golf course. Adding to the family fun, Norwegian Escape will also feature an expanded Kids’ Aqua Park; entertainment from Nickelodeon, the number-one entertainment brand for kids; along with the line’s first dedicated nursery for young cruisers two and under.
Accommodation includes the company’s signature luxury ship–within-a-ship complex: The Haven by Norwegian; along with Studios, designed and priced for solo travelers; and many options for families, multi-generational groups, spa enthusiasts and more.
For more information on Norwegian Escape, visit www.escape.ncl.eu

Castaway Island Named Number One Resort In Fiji

PHUKET, THAILAND – Idyllic Castaway Island Fiji has triumphed in both the AON Fiji Excellence in Tourism Awards and Readers' Choice Top 10 Awards announced by Holidays with Kids magazine (Australia).
The resort won four awards at the Excellence in Tourism Awards and was named Number One Family Resort in Fiji by Holidays with Kids magazine, Australia.
At the Excellence in Tourism Awards, Castaway Island Fiji won best deluxe accommodation. Its 1808 restaurant received the best fine dining accolade, its second consecutive win.
The island's Executive Chef Lance Seeto received the award for best back of house performance. Lingo Reece of Castaway Island and Eunice Molia of South Sea Cruises shared the award for the best front of house performance.
Castaway Island Fiji
Download image here
Castaway Island Fiji General Manager Steven Andrews said he was both proud and humbled by the recognition.
"The Castaway family of hosts are the secret to our achievement and our continued success. They are the cornerstone of our culture. Their commitment to providing the best quality service and memorable holiday experiences to our guests has been fittingly rewarded," he said.
Australian born Executive Chef Lance Seeto said winning two awards for culinary excellence vindicated his philosophy that the local produce, culture, history and flavours could match or exceed the best the world has to offer.
"With soft white sand replacing polished floorboards, the stars and moon replacing the chandeliers, and cooling tropical winds in place of air conditioning, 1808 is a barefoot, tactile experience that diners can see, feel, hear, smell and taste.
"I am also humbled by my personal award for back of house in recognition of the activities and programs that extend beyond my kitchen that benefit our guests," he said.
In naming Castaway Island the number one resort in Fiji, Holidays with Kids said the privacy of the island seemed to have enchanted many Holidays with Kids families.
"Guests here are wrapped up by the warmth of the local staff members, supremely comfortable in air-conditioned accommodation (its Family Beach Bure is right upon the sand and sleeps up to 10) and endlessly engaged by water sports, a kids' club that is intentionally 'unplugged', and myriad other island joys," the magazine said.
For the latest seasonal packages or further information visit castawayfiji.comoutrigger.com or contact your local travel specialist.

White label mobile app for travel companies

epteca apps
E-commerce giants like Ebay and Amazon may dominate selling merchandise online but now there is a revolutionary ‘smart selling’ platform with white label mobile app that connects travel companies to people. It delivers these powerful marketplace capabilities to tour operators, hotels, airlines, OTA’s and travel agencies to sell relevant products and services directly to their customers before, during and right after their trip.
The revolutionary ‘smart selling’ platform with white label mobile app is announced by Epteca which is trusted by hundreds of travel partners and vendors. Epteca is offering thousands of carefully hand-selected products and services, and has already impressed millions of happy customers. Acting as a GDS for ancillary offerings, Epteca curates hundreds of fragmented 3rd party offerings from countless product and service categories. The proprietary smart algorithms match the context and intent to predict what travelers need based on factors like location, destination, preferences and much more. From beachwear and adapters to transportation and destination services, there are thousands of options available in the dynamic catalogue, but only the top 3-4 that serve the customer’s needs best are presented at any given time – less is more.
Studies show that 3rd party ancillary sales will grow ten times faster than general sales in travel and that 79% of travelers want to be offered relevant products and services by their travel supplier after the booking. Epteca's Marketplace Platform is a fully managed end-to-end solution delivering results by enabling travel companies to contextualize relevant ancillary offerings when and where customers need them.
•   No investment or running costs for travel companies
•   Up-and-running in just a few weeks
•   Monetizes "long tail" ancillaries
•   Increases customer satisfaction and positive brand image
Unlike most travel marketing campaigns focused on sending the same message to everyone, Epteca’s dynamic and informative multi-channel white-label communications via app, text, and email are personalized, highly relevant and engaging. The fully managed service adds value to every step of the customers’ journey and helps travel providers reach new revenue streams with existing bookings.
To learn more or try the Marketplace Platform for free, visit http://www.epteca.com.

Skyscanner finds Easter break has major psychological and health benefits

easter Egg basket680
A recent survey by global travel search engine Skyscanner has found that two fifths of travelers wouldn’t consider a holiday over Easter. However Skyscanner research, in association with Psychologist Dr Rebecca Spelman, highlights why getting away at this time of year has a wealth of health benefits.
The survey revealed that half of travelers leave more than four months between holidays, with 15% waiting a massive nine months between holidays. However, it appears that regular short breaks might be a more effective way to holiday; research by behavioral economist Dan Ariely shows that the benefits of a holiday wane over time, meaning that as we adjust to the time off, we appreciate the opportunity to unwind and de-stress less.
Psychologist Dr Rebecca Spelman suggests “a more effective way to use leisure time is to try to take shorter breaks, every three or four months, rather than one big blow-out once a year.” So if you haven’t taken a break since Christmas, Easter could be the perfect chance to unwind with a holiday.
The first quarter of the working year (Jan – March) is more stressful than any other period, according to 34% of workers questioned in Skyscanner’s survey. Easter this year is at the beginning of April so is the perfect time to get away from the stress and recharge batteries. Dr Spelman explains: “When we work too much it causes stress, which can start to interfere with everyday life. The longer this goes on for the worse it becomes for your body and mind. You might feel tired, have difficulty concentrating and start feeling irritable and experiencing mood swings triggered by very minor situations and taking a holiday will help us relax and get some energy back.”
The combination of short days and cold weather over winter can have a negative psychological impact on some and so getting some guaranteed sun at this time of year can really lift spirits. Dr Spelman explains: “The short days in winter can affect our natural biorhythms and our hormone balance making some of us feel down or depressed so, by the time Easter comes around, a holiday in the sun can make a real contribution to our psychological well-being as it will boost our mood and make us feel more positive.” She continues: “The very process of booking a holiday gives you something to look forward to, people can feel excitement about the forthcoming holiday which can be incredibly mood enhancing.”
Another psychological hit with an Easter break can come in the form of getting a bargain. Dr Spelman explains: “Getting a bargain has positive effects on people psychologically, it results in people feeling clever, skilled and fulfilled”.
With flight prices in Easter often substantially cheaper than during peak summer season (see below), combined with recent analysis that shows that the best time to book is eight weeks in advance of travel – now is a great time to pick up an Easter bargain and a sense of smugness too!
With only 13% of those surveyed looking forward to the Easter holiday period most (in comparison to summer and winter), our expectations are at their lowest for a break at this time of year. However that is no bad thing - holidays with the lowest expectations mean it is easier to exceed them, giving a greater sense of satisfaction and boosting general feelings of happiness. “With lower expectations, you increase your chances of exceeding them and this will directly influence your mental health, doubling your level of happiness.” states Dr Spelman.

Princess Cruises opens bookings for 2016 Alaska Cruise

Island Princess Hubbard Glacier
Next summer, six Princess Cruises ships will sail Alaska’s scenic wonderland, offering multiple itinerary options, expanded Alaska seafood offerings, innovative onboard native cultural experiences and a variety of land and sea vacation packages for further exploring the 49th state.
The line’s signature Voyage of the Glaciers itinerary, with its unrivaled glacier-viewing opportunities, will be offered on Coral Princess, Star Princess and Island Princess between Whittier (Anchorage) and Vancouver; while cruises through the Inside Passage, with its ever-changing scenery from picturesque shores to friendly coastal towns, will be offered aboard Ruby Princess and Crown Princess from Seattle and Grand Princess from San Francisco.
In addition, the cruise line’s land and sea vacation packages will offer flexible ways to delve deeper into the fascinating Alaska frontier. Land tours are combined with a seven-day “Voyage of the Glaciers” cruise and include the company’s premier wilderness lodges, luxurious “Direct to the Wilderness” domed rail service, plus visits to the top two attractions in Alaska – Glacier Bay National Park and Denali National Park.
All 2016 Alaska cruises open for bookings on March 19, 2015.
Additional information about Princess Cruises is available through a professional travel consultant, by calling 1-800-PRINCESS (1-800-774-6237)

Venue for the European Tour Destination in Thailand

Black Mountain Golf Club
The Hua Hin-based resort opened in 2007 that recently hosted True Thailand Classic has been announced as the tenth European Tour Destination, continuing European Tour Properties’ growth outside Europe. In late 2013, Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai became the first Middle East Destination in the world class network of member venues, and the expansion has now continues into South-East Asia.
Black Mountain Golf Club becomes the new venue of the event. Black Mountain will benefit from European Tour Properties’ focused, year-long sales, marketing and operational support.
It is the only Thai course to be named in Golf Digest’s Top 100 Courses (outside the United States), and hosted three Asian Tour events before agreeing to be the home of the co-sanctioned Thailand Classic on The European Tour International Schedule until 2017. Indeed, Black Mountain played a significant part in bringing The European Tour back to Thailand for the first time since 2007.
The inaugural edition, played in the second week of February 2015 and won by Australian Andrew Dodt, earned rave reviews, particularly for the Phil Ryan-designed par-72 layout and its high-quality greens.
A number of European Tour players make Black Mountain their winter home for off-season training and preparation, including Thailand’s most successful player, Thongchai Jaidee, his compatriot Prom Meesawat and Swedes Johan Edfors, Rikard Karlberg and Alex Noren.
Accommodation options range from luxury pool villas to stylish apartments, and extensive building plans are underway to add a choice of large and luxurious course-side villas and townhouses, all available for purchase. Land plots are also available adjacent to the par-three course or along the ninth hole of the Championship course, with bespoke design and specifications.
David MacLaren, Director of Property & Venue Development at The European Tour, said: “I am absolutely delighted to welcome Black Mountain as our latest European Tour Destination and our fourteenth member venue. Black Mountain joins a network of world class venues that includes outstanding facilities in Europe, the Middle East and now Asia.
“We offer our partner venues a high level of sales, marketing and operational support, and for the venues themselves, their members and guests can enjoy the benefits of reciprocal arrangements across the world. The True Thailand Classic, which was staged last week in conjunction with our partners from the Asian Tour, was a huge success and showed the golfing world what an outstanding golf destination Black Mountain is.”
Harald Elisson, Managing Director of Black Mountain Golf Club, said: “Black Mountain is delighted to join the European Tour Properties portfolio. It is an honour to become part of such a prestigious group of European Tour championship golf resorts in Europe and the Middle East and to become the first member in Asia.”
“Having just hosted the inaugural and highly successful True Thailand Classic, Black Mountain's profile as a world-class golf destination has been considerably enhanced and we look forward to working closely with European Tour Properties to become even better known in the future.”
For further information please visit www.blackmountainhuahin.com

Georgia’s e-visa website goes live

georgia evisa
Georgia’s electronic e-Visa portal went online on the 10th of February 2015. This system enables foreigners coming to Georgia as tourists or for business to obtain an e-Visa without having to apply to Georgia’s consular offices abroad.
People wishing to obtain an e-Visa must go to www.evisa.gov.ge.
People applying for an e-Visa must go through 3 stages: 1) registering their application; 2) paying for the e-Visa online; 3) printing out the e-Visa.
Before filling out the online application form, every applicant must familiarize him or herself with the detailed information regarding the rules and terms which apply to e-Visas.
At the end of the first stage, i.e. when the e-Visa application has been registered, an email explaining the terms which apply to entering Georgia and containing a link for online payment will be sent to the address which the applicant provided.
After paying for the e-Visa online, and if the application is successful, the e-Visa will be sent to the applicant’s email address. It must be printed out and presented along with other valid travelling documents when entering Georgia.
Depending on the applicant’s nationality, there may be different requirements in terms of travelling documents, and the duration of the e-Visa’s validity may vary. Applicants are advised to familiarize themselves with these requirements; detailed information can be consulted during the registration process.

easyJet officially opens the Business Travel Show

easyjet rabbit businesstravelshow
easyJet’s officially opened the Business Travel Show on 25 February at London Olympia. Frederic the Rabbit, the star of easyJet’s first ever business-focused television advertising campaign highlighting the airline’s industry-leading punctuality record, opened the show with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
Travel industry professionals attending the show were greeted by Frederic and easyJet cabin crew offering the chance to win free flights.
Anthony Drury, Head of Business for easyJet, said, “Passengers travelling for business now account for more than a fifth of easyJet's passengers with more than 12m choosing the airline every year – and that number continues to grow.
“We are excited to be back at the Business Travel Show this year and for Frederic to have officially opened the show today. As with previous years, there is an extremely high-quality of corporate buyers and visitors due to attend to the show so we look forward to meeting with them so we can make business travel easier and more affordable for even more business travellers.”
easyJet’s UK sales team can be found at stand B735.
Over the last few years easyJet has been successfully growing its share of the managed corporate travel sector. Alongside famous low fares, a raft of innovations including TMC partnerships, new product enhancements like allocated seating, Inclusive Fares and Fast Track security, have all contributed to enabling easyJet to compete more effectively with legacy carriers and gain a larger slice of the business travel market.
Additionally, easyJet was one of the first in the low cost sector to make its inventory available to business travel bookers through GDS and SBT systems and the partnerships easyJet has built across the managed travel industry have meant the airline has been able to successfully grow its presence across the sector.
With flights to more of the major airports on the top 100 European routes, high frequency flights, Business Fares, Fast Track Security, speedy boarding, mobile boarding passes with the easyJet app and allocated seating as standard, easyJet is helping make business travel easy and affordable for everyone.

QMS Medicosmetics debuts in Dubai at Burj Al Arab Jumeirah’s spa

Medicosmetics products
QMS Medicosmetics - the pioneering skincare treatments designed exclusively for Talise Spa has been introduced at the world’s most luxurious hotel of Burj Al Arab Jumeirah. The hotel’s bespoke QMS menu was created with Burj Al Arab’s philosophy in mind to use only top-of-the-range products from the QMS line. The signature treatments include The Burj Pearl Touch Experience, Ultimate Oxygen Renewal and Complete Collagen Skin Lift.
The two-hour Burj Pearl Touch Experience, priced at AED1,695, is a customised facial treatment that uses precious pearl extract and unique skin-identical ingredients to effectively re-invent, re-surface and re-activate the skin. The facial combats the loss of collagen and restores skin’s natural elasticity.
Lasting 90 minutes and priced at AED 1,195, the Ultimate Oxygen Renewal treatment breathes new life into skin by stimulating cell renewal at the deepest levels. It supports and enhances the skin’s own stem cells and increases elastin levels resulting in a firmer and brighter complexion.
Combating the signs of aging, Complete Collagen Skin Lift, priced at AED 1,195, offers 90 minutes of pure bliss with deep cleansing, specific lifting techniques extending to the neck and décolletage with the use of innovative collagen contouring creams.
This new elite medical skincare range further complements Talise Spa’s exclusive products and treatments selection, which includes the luxurious La Prairie, Sundari and THÉMAÉ lines.

IAPCO Annual Meeting to be organized in Dubai

Dubai will host the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers (IAPCO) Annual Meeting & General Assembly in 2017. World's leading conference organizers from 40 countries will convene in Dubai. By welcoming IAPCO members to Dubai in 2017, local tourism industry stakeholders will have the opportunity to build relationships with key meetings decision-makers, and showcase their products and services first hand.
Michel Neijmann, current President of IAPCO, said, "The quality of Dubai's bid was outstanding and truly reflected the local co-operation of all stakeholders. The bid showed a great understanding and support of IAPCO's quest for quality in the meetings industry, and there is no doubt that the spirit of Dubai will inspire the members of IAPCO to keep learning and developing their businesses."
Medhat Nassar, CEO Meeting Minds Experts, the Dubai headquartered IAPCO member company, said, "IAPCO offers a unique quality assurance platform recognised by association, corporate and government clients, through applying a strict Quality Control process for its members. Wining the bid to host IAPCO 2017 is an excellent recognition of the Dubai meetings industry and a vote of confidence by highly influential Professional Conference Organizers in 40 countries."
"We are truly delighted by the outstanding support extend by our bidding partners Dubai Business Events, MCI Dubai, Emirates and Madinat Jumeirah, which has been instrumental in putting forward this successful bid," he added.

UNWTO identifies criteria for hotel classification systems

hotel stars680
The new UNWTO report Hotel Classification Systems: Recurrence of Criteria in 4 and 5 Star Hotels, identifies the common criteria among 4 and 5 star hotels, providing valuable insights for destinations wishing to revise existing or establish new hotel classification systems.
Benchmarking international accommodation standards can help destinations establish hotel classification systems which are more relevant and useful to consumers, hotels, intermediaries and destinations alike. Against this backdrop, the new UNWTO report Hotel Classification Systems: Recurrence of Criteria in 4 and 5 Star Hotels compares criteria recurrence in 30 European destinations and six destinations in other regions.
Prepared jointly by UNWTO and Norwegian Accreditation (NA), an agency of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries of Norway through its QualityMark Norway programme, the report reveals that despite the existence of many types of classification systems across the globe, there are more similarities than differences, both between geographic groups and between 4 and 5 star categories.
The report also provides a general overview of the existing types of hotel classifications, their benefits and challenges, and offers general guidance on areas to consider when setting up an official classification system.
Findings also suggest that more regular reviews of hotel classification systems can be useful to keep them up-to-date with rapidly evolving consumer needs, particularly with regards to technology and accessibility.
This is the second joint UNWTO/Norwegian Accreditation report on the topic of hotel classification, following Online Guest Reviews and Hotel Classification Systems: An Integrated Approach, published in 2014.

Grant to boost local business participation in Barbados’ tourism industry

barbados seaside
The Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) has approved a US$417,000 grant for a project that will boost local business participation in Barbados’ tourism industry. The Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) and local businesses will provide an additional $285,000 in cash and in-kind resources for a total project investment of over $700,000.
The project seeks to integrate micro and small businesses as suppliers to key hotels and restaurants operating in Barbados. At least 150 local businesses supplying a range of products and 30 hotels and restaurants are expected to participate.
The Barbados tourism industry recognizes the need for greater local content, but hoteliers often face high costs purchasing from small businesses. The MIF has experience in integrating small firms and producers into the supply chains of large enterprises in Latin America and the Caribbean, and will provide technical support as well as financial resources to the project.
The project will pilot an innovative model using an independent consolidator who will support negotiations between buyers and small firms and develop a quality assurance scheme. It will also establish a digital networking and trading platform, develop a financial model for working capital management, and support targeted business exchanges between small and micro businesses and key buyers for the island’s hotels and restaurants.

Win a free return trip to Scotland’s Islands

Brodick Castle scotland
Eight thousand people are being given the chance to enjoy a free return trip to one of 23 islands in Scotland as part of a special VisitScotland competition. After the overwhelming success of Brilliant Island Moments last year, VisitScotland has once again teamed up with Caledonian MacBrayne and Serco NorthLink Ferries to encourage people to discover for the first time or reacquaint with Scotland’s islands.
The new campaign, which is open to UK residents from 25 February 2015, offers 8,000 free passenger tickets for an offshore adventure. There will be a draw each week, up until 25 March with 4,000 winners receiving one pair of foot passenger tickets for their chosen route.
In 2014, a record-breaking 63,000 people from the UK entered the Brilliant Island Moments prize draw, nearly double the amount of entrants for 2013’s campaign (35,000).
Brodick on the beautiful Isle of Arran was the most popular destination with 9,470 requests. In second place was Shetland (8,989), Lewis (7,048), Mull (6,710) and Orkney (6,204) took third, fourth and fifth respectively.
The Islands Survey revealed that of the 425,000 visitors who went to the Outer Hebrides, Shetland and Orkney between 2012 and 2013, around three quarters said that they would be likely to return in the next five years for a holiday or short break. The Survey also revealed visitors contribute over £100m to the local economies.
Brilliant Island Moments is part of a £1.4 million UK & Ireland marketing campaign (January – March) to encourage more domestic visitors to Scotland.
As well as being highlighted on VisitScotland’s TV advert, Brilliant Island Moments will also be promoted via a mix of press, radio, online and social media.
VisitScotland’s Brilliant Island Moments prize draw runs from 25 February – 25 March 2015, to enter, visitwww.visitscotland.com/brilliantislands

Visit Tallinn this March, enjoy its festivals

tallinn oldtown2
Visit Talinn this March, you will want to visit again. If you have a chance to visit, do it on the last days of March. Why? Because of festivals you may want to experience. Tallinn Music Week held on 25-29 March, brings out the best of early spring Tallinn. The festival fills the town’s finest venues with outstanding new music, complimented by free pop-up concerts, pub-quiz style chatter, culinary delights. If you like beer, you should not miss the city’s first ever Tallinn Craft Beer Weekend.
Seventh Tallinn Music Week, the biggest indoor music festival in the Baltic-Nordic region  fills Tallinn’s most popular venues & music clubs with more than 200 local and international artists and an enthusiastic audience of around 20,000 to the capital of Estonia for three days of music – from metal to pop, from classical to dance, from young upstarts to established crowd-pleasers. The audience includes both local music fans as well as visitors across the boarders from neighbouring Finland, Russia and Latvia.
talinn music week15

In addition to the main festival programme Tallinn Music Week presents traditional free afternoon City Stage concerts around town, a talk show series TMW Talks and the restaurant festival TMW Tastes. As a brand new addition the festival, TMW Arts, organized by Estonian Contemporary Art Development Centre, presents a series of exhibition openings of living classics and contemporary artists. A two-day Tallinn Craft Beer Weekend, a showcase for best international micro-breweries in Telliskivi joins great artisan beer with a special TMW stage.
Music festival
26-28 March, different venues around town
Among international participants are new-folk legend Vashti Bunyan, Swedish electro-pop star KateBoy and Polish art-pop princess Julia Marcell. Internationally acclaimed Estonian acts in the line-up include folk-stylist Maarja Nuut and indie orchestra Tartu Popi ja Roki Instituut.  The festival features a special focus on Denmark – currently one of the most exciting new music sources in Europe. Another highlight of this year’s programme is classical music rave taking place in recently opened creative centre Kultuurikatel.

City Stage programme
25-29 March
Free intimate pop-up concerts and special sets from festival acts in Tallinn’s various cafés, galleries, bookshops and other public places.

TMW Talks
25-29 March, TMW pop-up restaurant at the Design- and Architecture Gallery
Series of free, public interviews, discussions and experiments on music related topics . This year’s discussions tackle womens role in the rather male-centred music business and the life and current status of Estonian pop idols from the 90s. We will also see local music critics' death match, an experiment testing a possible new angle of the classical pop-quiz and many more. Everyone is welcome, most of the talks-discussions are in Estonian if not marked differently.

TMW Tastes
25-29 March, different restaurants aroun Tallinn
A handpicked selection of the town’s best restaurants, cafés and eateries that offer special menus and discounts to festival guests.
For the second year Tallinn Music Week will open a special pop-up restaurant at the Design- and Architecture Gallery. In addition to that renown Estonian chef Peeter Pihel will introduce a special “B-sides” menu at the restaurant Kaks Kokka. A delicate soundtrack is provided by DJ-s Heidy Purga and Sander Mölder.
*To participate at “B-sides” dinner, book your table from 5th March at www.tmw.ee

TMW Arts
24-29 March, different galleries
For the first time Centre for Contemporary Art Estonia will put together a special arts programme featuring local contemporary classics and young artists as well as international names. TMW Arts also includes a programme of art films.
*Film programme is free for TMW delegate's and festival pass owners, 3.50€ for everybody else.

Tallinn Craft Beer Weekend
27-28 March, Telliskivi 57
A craft beer showcase, introducing the hippest breweries across the Nordic-Baltic area. The venue also features as TMW City Stage with suitable musical additions to go with a glass.
* Access to the area must be bought separately from Piletilevi.
Festival passes for 45€ are on sale at tmw.ee. From 16th March the pass costs 55€. Single tickets to concerts are available from 5-15€ at Piletilevi.
Book your accommodation & bus/ferry ride with a special TMW price from tmw.ee.

ASEAN countries to have more competition in tourism industry

vietnam halongbay
The ASEAN Community, which is scheduled to establish in 2015, is expected to greatly benefit tourism sector as the Mutual Recognition Arrangement on Tourism Professionals (MRA-TP) among ASEAN members when it takes effect in all member countries. The MRA-TP will serve as the foundation to lift tourism cooperation among ASEAN countries.
ASEAN has built common standards for six tourism areas, including reception, restaurant service and tour operation, with a total of 32 work titles, except for tour guide.
According to the experts, tourism companies in Vietnam can use the standards to improve their service quality and competitiveness. Furthermore, they can recruit qualified workers from other ASEAN countries. With the free movement of tourism professionals among ASEAN countries, Vietnamese tourism workers will face fierce competition from their regional rivals who are predicted to flock to Vietnam. Meanwhile, the sector also faces a high risk of brain drain when qualified staff goes elsewhere for better working conditions and payment.
In that context, improvement of human resources quality is becoming urgent for Viet Nam’s tourism, which is considered key for the growth of the sector as well as a perquisite condition for its international integration.
According to the Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), around 1.8 million employees are working in Viet Nam’s tourism sector, a surge from only 12,000 in 1990. Each year, the sector needs nearly 40,000 new workers, but domestic training establishments graduate only 15,000, resulting in a serious shortage of qualified staff.
In Ho Chi Minh City, as many as 45 percent of local tour guides and operators, and 80 percent of receptionists lack adequate foreign language skills, according to the municipal Department of Tourism.
So far, a number of response efforts have been carried out, including the issuance of a revised set of tourism occupational standards (VTOS) to suit international standards. The new VTOS was built by the EU-funded environmentally and socially responsible tourism capacity enhancement programme.
According to statistics from VNAT, ASEAN countries welcomed 97.2 million foreign visitors in 2014, up 3 percent over the previous year, including 28.5 million who travelled inside the bloc.
Source: VN

Cruise passenger arrivals in Martinique up 71 percent in 2014

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Martinique’s cruise sector continued to net strong results in 2014. According to the latest statistics from The Martinique Tourism Authority, cruise passenger arrivals for calendar year 2014 (January–December) were up 71.3% when compared to the same period in 2013. One of the fastest growing cruise destinations in the Caribbean, Martinique has experienced a 524% increase in cruise passenger arrivals since 2010.
“We could not be more pleased and proud of the results we’re seeing from the cruise sector,” said Karine Roy-Camille, commissioner of the Martinique Tourism Authority. “Without a doubt, the cruise sector is blossoming here in The Isle of Flowers, and with all the room we still have to grow and improve our tourism product, the best is yet to come.”
For the 2014-2015 cruise season (November 2014–April 2015), The Martinique Tourism Authority is projecting 220,000 cruise passengers among the 176 scheduled port calls.
“All of the major North American and European cruise lines have stops planned in Martinique this year, including visits by Royal Caribbean’s celebrated Quantum of the Seas in her inaugural season, and the magnificent Carnival Splendor,” said Roy-Camille. “We are committed to further investment in the cruise sector and improving our overall tourist product to ensure that the strong results of the past few years will continue in 2015 and beyond.”

Meliá Hotels to sell seven of its largest resort hotels in Spain

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Meliá Hotels International announced the sale of seven of its largest resort hotels in Spain to Starwood Capital Group for €176 million. According to a binding agreement, a controlled affiliate of Starwood Capital Group will take a majority stake in seven hotels currently fully owned by the Spanish hotel company. The final completion of the transaction is subject to the final approval of bank financing, and clearance to be obtained by the EU Merger Control Office.
The assets will be held by a new joint venture company in which a controlled affiliate of Starwood Capital owns 80% and Meliá 20%. The agreement also includes the continued management of the properties by Meliá under the Sol Hotels brand.
The deal between Starwood Capital and Meliá Hotels International marks the beginning of a fruitful relationship as part of a plan announced a few months ago to transform and reposition the Sol Hotels brand, which includes a large number of the company’s resort hotels. Meliá has created new and innovative concepts to adapt hotels to the needs and expectations of modern travellers and transform traditional “sun and beach” hotels into something more inspirational and competitive, just as it has already done with other brands such as ME by Meliá, Paradisus Resorts, or Innside by Meliá and other city hotels.
This association will create unique opportunities to grow, and expand these new concepts throughout different locations and markets, and the transaction confirms the strong interest of global investors in having a presence in the Spanish hotel market. The fact that this deal has borne fruit on the basis of a joint venture to re-launch the Sol brand confirms the investment market´s interest in Meliá, and represents a unique opportunity for growth for both parties, both domestically and internationally.
The seven hotels included in the deal represent 2.933 keys, comprising the Sol Príncipe in Malaga, the Sol Lanzarote and Meliá Gorriones (Fuerteventura) in the Canary Islands, the Sol Ibiza and Sol Pinet Playa in Ibiza, and the Sol Mirlos and Sol Tordos (Palmanova, Mallorca). The hotels will all be fully refurbished, the two companies having designed a joint investment plan starting this winter that will see the renovation of hotel facilities and their adaptation to the new Sol Hotels product and service standards to bring about their immediate repositioning and provide a better response to the needs of modern leisure travellers.
After the changes, the Sol Príncipe, Sol Lanzarote, Sol Mirlos and Sol Tordos will continue to operate under the new Sol Hotels brand (with the Sol Mirlos and Sol Tordos being renamed as the Sol Palmanova). Sol Ibiza will become Sol Beach House Ibiza and, in 2016, Sol Pinet Playa will be renamed Sol House Pinet Ibiza. The main portion of the Meliá Gorriones property will continue to operate under the Meliá brand, and the current annex shall be rebranded to Sol Beach House Fuerteventura.

Starwood’s new app eases life of meeting planners

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Meeting planners can now manage events on-site, right from the palm of their hand, thanks to a powerful new app launched by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc.. Through ProMeetings planners who are SPG or SPG Pro members, can submit on-property requests – from an extension cord, to coffee service, to a change in lighting and everything in between – directly to associates who can fulfill requests in real time.
“Like our guests, our meeting planners and SPG Pro members are inherently mobile and want solutions that match the way they live their lives today,” said Chris Holdren, Senior Vice President, Starwood Preferred Guest & Digital. “Our new ProMeetings app gives them the personalization and flexibility they need to deliver flawless experiences for their attendees.”
ProMeetings is in pilot at several Starwood hotels around the world, including W Singapore - Sentosa Cove, The Westin Singapore, Sheraton Atlanta Airport, W Atlanta Midtown, and The Westin Charlotte. Starwood will take key learnings from the pilot to enhance the offering before a full global rollout, which is expected in 2016.
“The ProMeetings app provides a faster and more efficient way for our properties to receive and complete on-property requests,” said Jonathan Kaplan, Starwood’s Director, New Business Development and Prospecting. “More importantly, it gives valuable time back to meeting planners so they can focus on the content of their meeting while our hotel teams can deliver better service.”

Starwood Hotels Debuts Sheraton McKinney Hotel and Conference Center in Texas

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Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. announced the opening of its 14th hotel in Texas; the Sheraton McKinney Hotel and Conference Center in McKinney. The hotel offers 186 guest rooms and suites, ample meeting facilities and all of Sheraton’s signature services and amenities. The property will celebrate its opening today with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and private reception attended by McKinney Mayor Brian Loughmiller and members of the McKinney Chamber of Commerce.
Sheraton McKinney is located 30 miles northeast of downtown Dallas and a short drive from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. Guests will enjoy convenient access to shopping and dining in historic downtown McKinney, plus a wide assortment of recreational activities, such as world-class golf, tennis, and hike and bike trails. Nearby businesses include Emerson Process Management, Raytheon, Torchmark Corporation and Encore Wire.
“We are delighted to welcome travelers to Sheraton McKinney and to one of the fastest growing cities in the United States,” said Ryan Miyamoto, General Manager, Sheraton McKinney. “We look forward to bringing the brand to life and are eager to witness the impact that this hotel will have on the community. As Sheraton embarks on another year of record-breaking growth, the opening of Sheraton McKinney will further reinforce Sheraton as the most global hotel brand.”
The heart of the lobby will feature “Link@Sheraton® experienced with Microsoft®” – the brand’s signature social hub. The hotel’s stylish and comfortable guest rooms are each equipped with an oversized work desk, custom-designed ergonomic chair, high-speed Internet, LCD flat panel television, MP3 docking station and the all-white Sheraton Sweet Sleeper® bed, designed to meet AAA’s Five Diamond Award® criteria. Sheraton Club guests will enjoy upgraded amenities, as well as complimentary breakfast, beverages and evening hors d’oeuvres in the Sheraton Club Lounge. Guests will also be able to experience Sheraton Social Hour, the brand’s signature, premium wine program, sampling a selection of highly-rated wines.
Sheraton McKinney features more than 20,000 square feet of flexible meeting space. The hotel features an outdoor pool, contemporary dining at Sweetwater Bar & Grill and a fully equipped fitness facility featuring the brand’s revolutionary new health and fitness program, Sheraton Fitness by Core® Performance.
"The Sheraton McKinney Hotel and Conference Center was designed to provide hospitality, conference and meeting spaces that are all in demand from residents, businesses and visitors to our city,” said MCDC Board Chair Scott Elliott. “We're excited and looking forward to opening day, and the continuing expansion of the city's vision for McKinney's 'front door'."

First Class available on all long-haul Lufthansa flights from Munich

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This winter, a total of 24 A340-600 and A330-300 aircraft will serve 22 intercontinental destinations from Munich and at the end of last week, the final Airbus A340-600 in the airline’s Munich-based long-haul fleet was retrofitted with the new First Class cabin. From now on, Lufthansa passengers can experience the airline’s new First Class service on all long-haul flights from Munich.
Lufthansa’s new First Class and the corresponding range of services provided have received the highest recognition worldwide and been honoured with several international awards. In the Skytrax Star Ranking, the new travel class was awarded five stars – a synonym for outstanding quality, first-rate comfort and individual service. This summer, the retrofit of the new First and Business Class cabins on the remainder of the long-haul fleet will be completed. By the end of 2015, all Lufthansa long-range aircraft will feature the new Premium Economy cabin. Altogether 11,000 seats are being installed on 105 aircraft.
In the award-winning First Class cabin, passengers can look forward to individual service and a wide selection of top-quality food and drinks. Each of the eight First Class seats can be extended to create a lie-flat bed measuring 2.07 metres in length and 80 cm in width, enabling passengers to enjoy a deep, relaxing sleep. The new Business Class seat offers exceptional comfort, whether in an upright or a reclining position. At the press of a button, the seat converts into a comfortable bed with a horizontal sleeping surface measuring 1.98 metres in length. In Business Class, passengers can select what they want to watch from the expanded inflight entertainment programme and view it on their personal 15-inch monitor. The new Premium Economy Class offers 50 per cent more space plus an enhanced service, and passengers can also check in two items of baggage. In the course of this year, Lufthansa will offer its Business Class passengers a new, more personalized, restaurant-style service.

Ethiopian to fly double daily to Mumbai

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Ethiopian Airlines, the largest and the fastest growing airline in Africa, will begin double daily flights to Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport from March 2015. Ethiopian has been providing reliable air service to Mumbai for over 43 years with the launch of its first flight in December 1971. The airline currently has daily flights to Mumbai and New Delhi. Both daily flights to Mumbai will be operated with the ultra-modern B787 Dreamliner aircraft.
CEO of Ethiopian Airlines Group, Tewolde Gebremariam, said:"We are very bullish on the prospects of Africa-India market. By increasing our frequency to double daily to Mumbai and expanding our codeshare agreement with Air India, fellow Star Alliance partner with the inclusion of domestic points in India and major destinations in Africa, we aim to become the airline of choice for travel between Africa and India by offering seamless and convenient connections thru our main hub in Addis. Going forward, we plan to increase our current frequency to New Delhi and start operations to additional destinations in southern India."
Ethiopian is Pan-African global carrier serving 84 international destinations across 5 continents and operating the youngest fleet in Africa with less than 7 years average, including the B737 Next Generation with Sky Interior to African points, and the B787 Dreamliners, the B777-200LRs, the longest range commercial aircraft in activity and the B777-300 ER on its mid and long haul routes.

Africa Travel Association organizes Aviation, Travel & Trade Summit in Atlanta, GA

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The Africa Travel Association (ATA) in partnership with the African Union Mission to the United States and Global Strategies for Good organizes Aviation, Travel & Trade Summit in Atlanta, GA. Sponsored by the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport with Honorary Chair Ambassador Andrew Young, the event will be held at the Georgia International Convention Center on July 12-13, 2015.
Inspired by the theme Elevating Africa’s Aviation & Tourism Industry, the Summit will bring together leading global airlines, aviation experts, travel and tourism professionals, corporations, business leaders, government officials, travel buyers and suppliers who have an interest in the advancement of the airline industry, business development and tourism in Africa.

The Summit will commence with an Africa Cultural Night Reception on the evening of July 12th, followed by a full-day of sessions on July 13th.

The Summit will provide networking events, professional development, and learning opportunities. We look forward to seeing you and your colleagues in the exciting City of Atlanta, GA this summer!

Stay tuned for details on the program, speakers, and registration here

Turkish Airlines' sales revenue increased in 2014

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Turkish Airlines’ 2014 consolidated financial results were announced today. Compared to 2013, Turkish Airlines sales revenue increased by 13 percent in 2014, reaching a total of 11 billion USD. While operating profit stood at 638 million USD, more than doubling compared to previous year 845 million USD net profit was recorded.
In 2014 Turkish Airlines recorded a capacity (ASK) growth of 16,3 percent, significantly above the industry growth rate of 5,6 for the same period, resulting in an increase in global market share from 1,6 percent to 1,8 percent. Turkish Airlines carried 54,7 million passengers in 2014 implying a 13,3 percent increase year over year and once more became the second largest carrier in Europe according to number of passengers. In 2014 passenger load factor stood at 79 percent.
Flying to more countries than any other airline in the world and inviting its passengers to explore the unknown with its ‘‘Widen Your World’’ motto, today Turkish Airlines flies to 264 destinations in 108 countries. Having one of the youngest airline fleet in the world Turkish Airlines now operates 263 aircraft comprising 55 wide body, 199 narrow body, 9 cargo aircraft.
In 2015, Turkish Airlines is targeting to increase its’ capacity by 15 percent. While passenger load factor is expected to be above 80 percent, total number of passengers carried is targeted to reach to 63,2 million, including 26 million on scheduled domestic routes, 36 million on scheduled international routes, and the rest on charter and hajj flights. By the end of 2015, the fleet size is planned to reach to 293, including 214 narrow-body, 68 wide-body and 11 cargo aircraft. During 2015, Turkish Airlines is planning to add 2 new domestic and 7 new international destinations to its network, thus bringing the total number of destinations to 273.
Growing sustainably and profitably Turkish Airlines tripled its global market share in the last ten years and has been awarded the “Best Airline in Europe” for the last four consecutive years. In a vision of making Istanbul a global aviation hub, Turkish Airlines will keep on improving its brand name and service quality and continue to serve Turkey together with its 43 thousand employees group wide.

Australia’s OneSky: the most advanced, integrated air traffic control system in the world

Australia’s new OneSky initiative will bring civil and military air traffic control together under one air traffic management system for the first time, improving aviation efficiency and safety.

Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Warren Truss has announced that Airservices Australia, in partnership with the Department of Defence, will enter into an Advanced Work contracting arrangement with Thales Australia – the critical next step for delivering OneSky.

Making the announcement at the Australian International Airshow in Avalon, Victoria, today, Mr Truss said that the single, modernised system will enhance navigation and communication capabilities to allow Australia to keep on top of global changes in aircraft technology.

“This will unify Australian skies,” Mr Truss said.

“Once implemented, Airservices Australia and Defence will share technology and information, givingAustralia the most advanced and integrated air traffic control system in the world.

“It will place us in a position to manage forecast growth of air traffic movement in Australia, of as much as 60 per cent by 2030, minimising delays for the travelling public.

“It will also ensure that Australian aviation remains at the forefront of technologically advanced air traffic management and safety, while optimising newer technologies on modern aircraft to drive greater efficiencies and seek opportunities to improve environmental outcomes.”

Minister for Defence Kevin Andrews said that a harmonised civil-military air traffic management system would help to streamline infrastructure and processes between military and civilian air traffic controllers.

“This program will make Australia the first country in the world to commission an integrated joint civil military air traffic management system,” Mr Andrews said.

“This will deliver safety and efficiency benefits, through shared access to common flight data. Controllers will also be able to better manage the various mix of air traffic and create a seamless flow of national and international air traffic.”

OneSky will be introduced via a phased transition from 2018 to 2021.

OneSky will replace the current civilian system, The Australian Advanced Air Traffic System, which was first developed and commissioned in the late 1990s.

The procurement of a single system takes advantage of a once-in-a-generation opportunity where both civil and military systems are due for renewal. The shared approach will realise combined savings of several hundred million dollars.