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After the nuclear deal, Iran’s fragile tourism industry to face problems  

Monitoring Desk

TEHRAN: In 2016, as an indication of confidence in the renewed harmony between the West and Iran, three of Europe’s most prestigious airlines returned to the Middle Eastern country’s capital Tehran.

The resumption of direct flights by British Airways, Air France and KLM, from London, Paris and Amsterdam, followed the lifting of a number of sanctions against Iran in the wake of a groundbreaking nuclear deal spearheaded by Barack Obama.

BA said Tehran, which had not been visited by the British flag carrier after 2012, represented an “important destination” for the airline. The blurb on its website says of the city: “Tehran is a bustling metropolis with a large, friendly population. Iran is a beautiful place, and Persians are a welcoming and hospitable people, with an ancient culture and rich heritage that deserves to be explored.”

The flights did not spawn an interest in travel to the Middle Eastern country, however, but catered to an existing one.

In 2003, Iran welcomed some 300,000 international visitors. This figure rose exponentially as interest in one of the world’s most enigmatic and beguiling countries grew. By the fiscal year 2014-15, more than 5 million travellers visited Iran. As relations with the West improved from 2015 to today, the number grew further to 6 million in the year ending March 2017.

“In 2013 we took 40 people to Iran; in 2016 we took more than 600,” said Jonny Bealby, founder of tour operator Wild Frontiers.

“Once [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad was gone and [Hassan] Rouhani was in power – shaking hands with Obama at the UN, orchestrating the talks that would eventually lead to the nuclear deal, generally talking in more conciliatory terms – the perception of Iran changed and suddenly people wanted to travel there.”

More and more visitors were witnessing first-hand Tehran’s colourful Golestan Palace, the striking architecture of Isfahan and exploring the country’s growing number of art galleries and museums. Iran boasts 22 Unesco World Heritage Sites, the 11th most in the world.

Hotel chains, including Melia and Accor, unveiled properties in the Islamic Republic, while UK-based EasyHotel signed an agreement to open 500 rooms in the country. Tour operators who had grown used to taking only a handful of people to the Islamic Republic were now inundated. Bolstered with optimism, the Iranian tourism ministry set a target of welcoming more than 20 million visitors by 2025.

Now, the fledgling industry, which accounts for more than 550,000 jobs, is threatened once again by political ill will. Officials say threats made by President Donald Trump have already impacted the year’s tourism numbers, with a 15 per cent fall in arrivals anticipated for 2018.

Trump has until May 12 to decide if he will renew a waiver of sanctions imposed on Iran, retaining positive relations with the country, though it seems clear he will not. A flare-up of tempers in Syria where Iran is all-but fighting a proxy war with Israel is making matters worse.


This week the Foreign Office updated its advice to warn of a “heightened risk of politicised demonstrations targeting Western interests” in the run up to the nuclear deal deadline.

Justin Francis, founder of Responsible Travel, which operates trips to Iran, is confident that the unrest will not put off British travellers from visiting. He says an “imagined hostility towards Westerners simply doesn’t exist”.

“From a tourism perspective, [Iran] has suffered with its safety image for many years,” he said. “However, the type of travellers that go to Iran will already have their very own, strong reason for wishing to visit the country which will most likely be based on its astounding culture.

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“These people have a passion and a pull to see the buildings, the arts, the textiles and to experience the warm and wonderful hospitality the country and its people can offer.

“Travellers interested in Iran are those who want to go to places that no one else really visits, and in my opinion that will continue.”

David McGuinness, director of Travel the Unknown, however, says he has seen a “pause” in bookings.

“The number of clients from the US booking with us has decreased in the last few months,” he says. “Doubts about President Trump’s course of action have caused people to hold off on any decision. We expect that pause to continue for the moment while people watch how this develops, and whether Iran will be content with what the EU can offer. Obviously we hope they will find a way to agree.”





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Saudi carrier begins offering flights to Turkey’s Izmir

Monitoring Desk

RIYADH: Saudi Airlines, the oil-rich kingdom’s national carrier, launched a new flight route to the Turkish city of Izmir on Wednesday.

Flights to Izmir, located on Turkey’s Aegean coast, will depart from Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport.

In a statement issued late Tuesday, the airliner said that four Jeddah-Izmir flights would begin operating on a weekly basis.

Saudi Airlines intends to eventually offer flights to Izmir every day of the week — starting June 10 — with the addition of three more flights out of Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport.

Izmir is the airliner’s third destination in Turkey after Istanbul and capital Anakra. AA




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Sri Lanka tourist arrival up by 13%

Monitoring Desk

COLOMBO: Tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka for the month of April rose 12.6 percent year-on-year (YoY) to 180, 429 amid higher arrivals from Asia & Pacific and Europe, the data released by Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) showed.

Arrivals from Asia & Pacific, which include North East Asia, South East Asia, Oceania and South Asia grew 8.5 percent YoY to 82, 976, with South Asia accounting for the larger share. 

Arrivals from South Asian nations rose 4.7 percent YoY to 38, 299 with India leading the pack with 29, 860 tourists, up 13.4 percent YoY.

Arrivals from China, which represents the North East Asia region, dropped 11.9 percent YoY to 17, 462. Japanese arrivals also grew by only 3.2 percent YoY to 3, 512.

Arrivals from Oceania, which include mainly Australia and New Zealand saw a 101.3 percent YoY surge to 15, 585. A large Sri Lankan expatriate community lives in both Australia and Sri Lanka and they tend to visit Sri Lanka during April to celebrate Avurudu with their family members living here.

Tourist arrivals from Europe during the month of April rose 9.7 percent YoY to 76, 366, led by United Kingdom and Germany. Tourists from UK rose 46.1 percent YoY to 26, 063 while arrivals from Germany fell by 9 percent YoY to 10, 803.

Arrivals from Central and Eastern European countries fell 7.2 percent YoY 11, 597 with tourists from Russian Federation declining 12.5 percent YoY to 4, 027.
Tourists from Middle East fell 26.1 percent YoY to 3, 736 with lower arrivals from all the countries in the region except for Bahrain. The anti-Muslim riots that broke out in Sri Lanka’s central hills may have contributed to this decline.

Tourist arrivals from Indonesia, which is the world’s largest Islamic nation, also fell 81.3 percent YoY to 352.

Meanwhile, for the first four months of this year, tourist arrivals rose 16.1 percent YoY 888, 353.

Sri Lanka achieved 2.1 million tourists in 2017 despite the partial closure of the country’s main airport for about three months. The floods and the dengue epidemic also contributed to the lower than expected arrivals. 

The government aims to attract three million tourists this year.


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Turkey expects three millions British tourists in 2018

Monitoring Desk

ANTALYA: Almost three million British tourists are expected to visit Turkey in 2018, the UK Ambassador to Turkey Dominick Chilcott said on Monday.

Visiting Governor of Antalya Munir Karaloglu in his office in Antalya, Chillcott said the tourists from the UK would reach record numbers this year.

“There is a rapid comeback. So, we are really excited about that. We expect three million tourists to come to Turkey,” Chillcott said.

He said the main reason for UK tourists to visit Antalya was not only its nature or attractiveness as a tourist destination, but also its being a safe city.

Chillott said he himself would do his best to increase the number of British visitors to Turkey and the quality of their holidays in Antalya.

Karaloglu emphasized that Antalya was a major tourist destination and their priority was always providing security for tourists.

“The comeback of tourists to Turkey is pleasing for us. British tourists would mostly choose Aegean coasts; however, in recent years, they have also been preferring Antalya coasts,” Karaloglu said. AA



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Etihad Airways offers free hotel stay to passengers in Abu Dhabi

Monitoring Desk

ABU DHABI: Etihad Airways is offering one night’s free accommodation in select hotels in Abu Dhabi to all guests travelling in Economy Class from certain destinations in the Middle East, Africa and Pakistan, and stopping over in the UAE’s capital.

The hotels participating in the offer are the Radisson Blu Yas Island and the Yas Island Rotana. The offer is valid from May 1, 2018 until September 15, 2018 and the travel period is valid until September 30, 2018.

Etihad Airways executive vice president commercial Mohammad Al Bulooki, said: “Etihad Airways is delighted to invite guests to experience Abu Dhabi, a city which has so much to offer every type of traveller, especially during a short stopover.”

In 2017, the emirate recorded 5 million guests and the new offer for transit passengers is part of the capital’s efforts to draw in more guests in the coming years. Etihad Airways has been running stopover programmes since 2011, and offering guests a number of services including airport meet & assist, transportation, accommodation, tours, and visa processing services.

The countries included in the offer are South Africa, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Nigeria, Kuwait, Tanzania, Kenya, Bahrain, Oman, Sudan and Lebanon.

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Passenger plane lands 200 passengers on wrong, unfinished runway

Monitoring Desk

An airline crew has been suspended after landing a passenger jet carrying more than 200 passengers on the wrong runway.

Vietnam Airlines Flight VN7344 from Ho Chi Minh City touched down on a runway still under construction and soon to be Nha Trang Cam Ranh International’s second landing strip. The runway is not yet connected to the airport and it remains unclear how the carrier will retrieve the stranded Airbus A321.

During landing, the aircraft’s engines sucked in “a number of foreign objects from the runway surface”, according to the Aviation Herald, and suffered minor damage.

“Vietnam’s Civil Aviation Authority rated the occurrence a serious incident, suspended the flight crew, and opened an investigation,” the specialist news site said.

It is believed weather and conditions were good at the time of the incident, which took place on Sunday.

Tracking data from shows the aircraft landing parallel to Cam Ranh’s single operational runway. The second runway is scheduled to open later this year.

Telegraph Travel has contacted Vietnam Airlines for comment. The airline is the Vietnamese flag carrier, flying to 64 destinations around the world including London Heathrow. It was founded in 1956.

Misidentifying runways is not unheard of in aviation, with the global governing body, the ICAO, issuing guidelines on how runways not in use should be painted with a large X to avoid confusion.

In 2014, a Lufthansa aircraft flying from Frankfurt to Katowice in Poland was cleared to land on runway 27 but instead touched down on a parallel strip adjacent to the runway.

In 2000 a Singapore Airlines 747 attempted to take off on the wrong runway during a typhoon at Chiang Kai-shek in Taiwan only to crash into construction equipment, killing 81 of the 179 on-board.

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Egypt to fine traders for harassing tourists with different tactics

Monitoring Desk

CAIRO: Tourists could be saved from over-zealous touts at Egypt’s most popular archaeological sites after the country’s government approved a new fine of to 10,000 Egyptian pounds (£406) for those caught overstepping the line.

The new rule, part of the broader Antiquities Protection Law, will target those in and around tourist sites or museums such as the pyramids of Giza, selling goods or offering services in an aggressive manner.

“There is no deterrent so far for those who carry out such acts that badly affects tourism,” said minister of archeology Khaled al-Anani.

Oscar Saleh, who offers camel rides at Giza, told the Guardian the fines were addressing a problem that wasn’t there. “Go visit the Egyptian Museum, go visit the pyramids – no one will bother you,” he said.

However, the government thinks differently, with some MPs proposing heftier fines of up to 20,000 Egyptian pounds.

The British Foreign Office warns visitors to “high-profile sites” that they may be “confronted aggressively for money or business, even while travelling by car or taxi. Visitors using a pre-booked guide, or taking an organised tour to visit the Giza Pyramids are likely to face fewer difficulties”.


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Air France pilot unions announce strikes in May

Monitoring Desk

PARIS: Three Air France pilots unions have announced new strikes for May 3, 4, 7 and 8 in the latest move in a long-running pay dispute with the French flag carrier.

“We must continue to keep up the pressure for our wage demands,” the unions said in a statement, arguing that their objectives were to “sign an agreement that is reasonable for everyone”.

The announcement of new strikes, after 11 previous days of strikes, called by unions representing employees from pilots and cabin crew to ground staff, comes ahead of an airline consultation on the management’s salary proposals.

The embattled CEO of Air France-KLM, Jean-Marc Janaillac, last week threatened to resign if Air France staff continued to reject his wage proposals.

Staff and management at the French carrier have been locked in a dispute over pay since February.

Unions say workers deserve to benefit from years of belt-tightening that have returned the carrier to operating profitability, after seeing their wages effectively frozen since 2011.

Management says it cannot afford their demands of a 5.1 per cent increase this year, saying it would undo the benefits of the restructuring efforts.

It is offering an increase of 2 per cent for 2018, with another 5 per cent staggered between 2019 and 2021.

Mr Janaillac said he would circumvent the unions to put the proposals directly to staff in an online ballot.

The strikes have chiefly affected short-haul flights.

The airline says the dispute has set it back by 220 million euros (S$361 million).

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British holidaymakers returning to Turkey: Cook

Monitoring Desk

LONDON: British holidaymakers are returning to Turkey and package holiday bookings to Turkey are currently up 84 percent year-on-year, a global travel company said Monday.

“Package holiday bookings to Turkey are currently up 84 percent year-on-year while Egypt bookings have increased by 89 percent year-on-year,” according to Thomas Cook’s 2018 Holiday Report.

“Turkey’s growth is being driven by families who make up 61 percent of package bookings for this summer. Egypt is similarly popular with over half (51 percent) of overall bookings coming from families,” the report added.

“So far this summer, Turkey is the standout destination for British holidaymakers and we are seeing substantial growth in bookings compared to last year. With just one week to go until the summer holiday season officially begins, Egypt and Tunisia are also selling well with price and quality driving a return to these much-loved destinations,” said Chris Mottershead, managing director for Thomas Cook, UK.

Based on summer 2018 bookings to date, Spain (combining mainland, Balearics and Canaries) comes out on top for the second year running.

“Turkey is at number three but is, in fact, currently outselling mainland Spain and the Canary Islands combined,” according to the report.

The top five destinations for summer 2018 is listed as Spain (mainland Spain, the Balearics and the Canary Islands), Greece, Turkey, U.S. and Caribbean. AA



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The perfect way to use Your Airplane Oxygen Mask

Monitoring Desk

The frightening and tragic accident on a Southwest Airlines flight on Tuesday, in which one passenger died, is an uncomfortable reminder to always pay attention to those pre-flight safety instructions.

Except for a few minor injuries, the other passengers on the flight were safe and were instructed to use their oxygen masks after the incident. Photos of passengers started circulating shortly after the accident, and it’s pretty easy to see what’s wrong with this picture.

Many of the passengers did not seem to know how to properly put on their oxygen masks, putting their safety and health at risk. It can be difficult to remember what to do in an emergency, which makes it all the more important to pay attention to safety instructions at the beginning of every flight.

Pull the mask toward you, place it over your NOSE AND MOUTH! Secure the elastic band and breathe normally

At tens of thousand feet in the air, the air is thinner and there’s less oxygen, so plane cabins use a pressurized system to help people breathe normally. Southwest Flight 1380’s engine malfunctioned at 32,000 feet, causing a window to break and damage to the plane’s fuselage. This also caused a drop in cabin pressure, which, if you’re familiar with pre-flight safety presentations, makes the oxygen masks on most commercial jets drop from above.

If you ever find yourself in a situation in which you have to use one of these masks, it’s important to remember to always cover both your nose and mouth with the mask, using the elastic straps to tighten it. The mask does not need to be perfectly tight to provide oxygen. Even if the mask seems like it is too small or just more comfortable fitted only on your mouth, using it in this way could affect how much oxygen you get.

According to the FAA, the masks are capable of giving passengers enough oxygen to prevent oxygen deficiencies in emergencies up to 40,000 feet, SF Gate reported. However, this is only true when used properly. Breathing only through your mouth can block a sufficient flow of oxygen to your lungs.

Think of it this way: When you’re hyperventilating, one of the first things you’re told to do is calmly breathe through your nose. The nose is actually the main, direct pathway to the lungs. Using your nose to breathe also creates greater air pressure and gives the lungs more time to extract oxygen from the air, according to Livestrong. Mouth breathing is considered inefficient, and can actually cause hyperventilation, rather than prevent it.

Hopefully, you’ll never have to use the skills provided in pre-flight safety presentations. But just in case, make sure you pay attention on your next flight.