Monday, 16 January 2012

Airline alliances and the Rule of Three

In the business world, three is an iconic number. The USA has three major automobile makers. In fast food you have McDonalds, Burger King and Wendy's. There are even three leading peanut butter brands (Peter Pan, Jif and Skippy). In an open market, three major competitors often emerge. And so it is in the travel industry. For many years, three large U.S. network airlines dominated the skies. And in turn those mega-carriers — American, Delta and United — created three global alliances — oneworld, SkyTeam and the Star Alliance respectively. It is also no accident that the three largest European airlines — British Airways, Air France/KLM and Lufthansa — have each joined a different alliance.
Since 1997, when United Airlines, Lufthansa and a few other airlines formed the Star Alliance, the race commenced to enroll the most airlines and offer the most destinations and routes worldwide. Today more than 40 of the world's largest airlines are alliance members (see chart below). The three alliances carry approximately 60% of airline traffic globally.
Airline alliances have greatly changed the way we travel. In this first of a two-part series I will address the airline alliances from a consumer perspective. In a subsequent column I will go behind the scenes at an airline alliance to see how it works and what the alliances are doing to make international travel a more seamless experience.
The alliances began as a way for airlines to expand their international networks. For many years protectionist rules in most countries restricted the number of foreign airlines or flights from operating to, within or beyond a country to a third country destination. For example, U.S. airlines cannot ferry passengers between cities in Canada and cannot fly passengers from a Canadian airport to Europe. These rules were written to protect national airlines and their employees.
Although some protectionist rules have eased over the years, international growth is still limited. In most cases, U.S. airlines still cannot fly between foreign countries and therefore cannot compete with foreign airlines that can fly passengers from U.S. gateways to that foreign airline's home country and then on to hundreds of additional destinations.
The airlines soon realized they could overcome this handicap with the help of alliance partners, according to Mark Haneke of InterVISTAS, a travel industry consulting firm. Haneke worked on alliances at Lufthansa, American Airlines and other major airlines when the alliances were formed.
Airline alliances allow U.S. airlines to route transoceanic traffic to a partner airline's hub and beyond using that partner airline for the connecting segment. So now you can travel from almost anywhere in the U.S. to almost anywhere in Europe without forfeiting miles in your preferred program, for example, by flying American Airlines to London connecting to British Airways, United Airlines to Frankfurt connecting to Lufthansa, or Northwest to Amsterdam connecting to KLM .
Staying in a single network has been a boon for frequent fliers. "The alliances allow business travelers to move throughout the world with greater ease," Haneke says. When it works correctly, "code sharing" (see related article) allows alliance partners to seamlessly share the passenger. In most cases, alliances also allow passengers to accrue and consolidate frequent flier miles and redeem awards on their alliance partners. For example United Airlines had no award seats available for an upcoming trip to Asia but offered me seats on Star Alliance partners ANA, Asiana, Singapore or THAI airlines.
Alliances also offer corporations a single contract for global access. But the alliances also create issues. When two competing airlines become partners in the same alliance, it often means a reduction in service and diminished competition on shared routes.
Even with 40+ allied airlines there are still major geographic gaps. Coverage in North America and Europe is good, but the alliances have very limited operations in India and South America. South African Airways is a member of the Star Alliance and Kenya Airways will be joining SkyTeam later this year, but no other African airlines are alliance members.
In China, where air travel is growing rapidly, the four largest Chinese airlines are in the process of joining the alliances. China Eastern Airlines will most likely go to oneworld, China Southern Airlines to SkyTeam, and Air China and Shanghai Airlines to the Star Alliance.
Not all airlines see alliance membership as a necessity, but competitive pressures are a strong motivation. "ANA was a domestic carrier originally and wanted to compete with Japan Airlines," says Eva Traunmueller from ANA's alliances department. "The best strategy was to join a global alliance," she says. Now that ANA is a Star Alliance member, their cross-country rival and long time holdout Japan Airlines is joining oneworld.
Royal Jordanian Airlines will be the first carrier in the Middle East to join an alliance when it enters oneworld this year. "We're a small airline in a small country," says Samer Majali, president and chief executive officer. "By linking with oneworld partners we're extending our network without incurring the costs of doing so," Majali told me. Perhaps Royal Jordanian will trigger a competitive response causing other carriers in the region to join an alliance.
Low cost carriers (LCCs) have generally resisted the alliance lure. Haneke believes that alliance membership could complicate their business model. Ireland's Aer Lingus and Brazil's Varig are actually leaving their alliances this year. With discounter Ryanair in Ireland, Aer Lingus is restructuring to pursue a low fare, point-to-point strategy that is not compatible with the connecting passenger alliance model.
Airline mergers could also wreak havoc on the alliances. America West Airlines gained access to the Star Alliance when they acquired US Airways, but some recently contemplated airline combinations, such as Continental-United, Delta-United or Delta-US Airways, would cross alliance boundaries and could have a major impact on the composition of those alliances if any of those pairings come to fruition.
The recently announced open skies deal between the U.S. and the European Union could also affect the alliances. Open skies could obliterate any remaining protectionist rules making alliances superfluous. But don't expect major changes, at least in the short term. With so much invested already, any changes will be very slow and even without flight restrictions, it's far less expensive to sell tickets on someone else's airplane than to operate your own.
Alliance Name oneworld SkyTeam Star
Number of members (projected by end of 2007) 11 13 23
Number of flights/day 9,190 14,615 16,000
Number of destinations served 692 728 855
Number of countries served 142 149 155
Annual passengers (millions) 320 373 413
Members American Airlines
British Airways
Cathy Pacific
China Eastern Airlines*
Japan Airlines*
Royal Jordanian*
Air Europa*
Air France/KLM
China Southern Airlines*
Continental Airlines
Copa Airlines*
Czech Airlines
Delta Airlines
Kenya Airlines*
Korean Air
Northwest Airlines
Air Canada
Air China*
Air New Zealand
Blue 1
Croatia Airlines
Lot Polish Airlines
SAS Scandinavian Airlines
Shanghai Airlines*
Singapore Airlines
South African Airways
TAP Portugal
Turkish Airlines*
United Airlines
US Airways
*airlines expected to join that alliance
Source:USA Today

Bangalore-Mysore track doubling work to be complted by 2013

Speaking to media here, he said the project had registered significant progress and the stretch between Bangalore and Mandya would have double track by the end of the 2012. However, doubling of the tracks on the stretch between Mandya and Mysore would be completed by 2013.

"We are focusing on completing the major bridge works and once they are ready the railway tracks would also be laid," he added.

The Minister was here to participate in the 69th birthday celebrations of Sri Balagangadharnath Swamiji of Adi Chunchunagiri Math.

He said the State Government should expedite the land acquisition process and hand it over to the railways at the earliest for the speedy completion of the important project.

The railways require nearly 30 acres of land and the revenue department had been sounded off to take up the issue on a priority basis. Alongside the track doubling work, the railways has also taken up electrification of the entire stretch between the two cities and the work is expected to be completed concurrently.

The project has been taken up at an estimated cost of Rs 530 crore on a cost sharing basis with the State Government contributing one-third of the amount and the Railways pitching in with the remaining one-third of the cost.

Referring to delay of the project to compelte by this year end he said the railways hit a road block in Mandya district where land acquisition process is slow while the 18th century armory belonging to the era of Tipu Sultan lays along the track alignment and hence warrants shifting. (UNI)

View the original article here

Air India's new offer for web-based customers

Under the 'Get Lucky Offer', valid till March 31, every 100th ticket will win a return complimentary ticket on the domestic network of Air India, an Air India release here said.

Winners will be informed through the online Booking Confirmation page while booking an Air India Flight as well as individually by e-mail. A list of the winners would be posted on Air India website daily by 1200 hrs on the following day. The weekend winners will be notified on Monday.

Passengers can look up the list by clicking on List of winners of the 100th free ticket contest on the homepage of Air India website-, the release said.

The e-mail authority for the complimentary ticket would be valid for a period of one month after the completion of at least one coupon of the originally booked international journey, the ticket on which the lucky winner is declared.

If the originally booked travel was domestic, the entire journey must be completed, it said, adding the complimentary ticket can be obtained from any Air India booking office on production of e-mail, ID proof and all boarding cards of his previous journey, based on which the ticket was granted.

The Basic Fare and Airline Fuel Charge will be absorbed by Air India and all applicable taxes will be borne by the passenger on the complimentary ticket valid for six months from the date of issue and can be availed for any direct flight on the airline's domestic (within India) network.

Hopping or connecting flights, however, would not be permitted.

The award ticket will be non-transferable and non re-routable, it said. (UNI)

View the original article here

Airport Metro goes hi-tech with wi-fi connectivity

"Commuters now can surf internet, check emails sitting at the Airport Metro Express station itself. All the six stations on the line will be wi-fi enabled," said a spokesperson of Reliance Infrastructure.

According to the official, the wi-fi connectivity will be more useful for frequent air travellers.

"Many commuters check in their luggage anytime between six hours to a minimum of two and a half hours before their flight departure, so they can pass time on surfing internet," the official said.

Reliance Infrastructure has tied up with You Broadband, which will provide internet connectivity free of cost, as an inaugural offer.

Built at a cost of Rs.5,700 crore, the 23-km AMEL has six stations: New Delhi Railway Station, Shivaji Stadium, Dhaula Kuan, Delhi Aero City, Indira Gandhi International Airport and Dwarka Sector 21. (IANS)

View the original article here

STR Reports on Growth in Regional Centres Across China

According to STR Global, the Chinese hotel market's performance has remained positive year-to-November, with RevPAR growing 2.8% compared with the previous year.

 Tracking more than 315,000 daily rooms across China and reporting on 22 cities, STR Global analysed the performance of the burgeoning secondary cities-cities with less than 10 million inhabitants.

Most of the reviewed cities reported higher RevPAR growth YTD than the national average. China's secondary cities, not including Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, are of more strategic importance to hotel developers and operators as governmental policies are encouraging the development of export trade centres in technology and manufacturing in those provinces.

Limited new supply and strong demand growth boosted RevPAR in the cities of Xiamen (+30.8%), in southeast China, and in Chengdu (+20.3%), located in southwest China, both of which are considered important financial and economic centres. Wuhan, located in the central province of Hubei and known for its car and steel manufacturers, experienced a shortfall in occupancy (-4.1%), whilst ADR grew 18.2% contributing to RevPAR growth (+13.4%). Destinations with a more balanced mix of visitors such as Hangzhou, a UNESCO world heritage city, saw occupancy decline 8.0% YTD compared to the previous year. The decline was the result of additional room supply (+5.6%) and increased ADR (+10.4%). Located only 45 minutes by train from Shanghai, Suzhou, also named the "Venice of the East" for its historical canals and temples, saw occupancy decrease by 4.0% whilst ADR and room supply grew by 2.0% and 5.5%, respectively.

Hotel supply growth from city to city is supported by an expanding real estate market and a growing regional economy. The pipeline until 2014 indicates that supply growth will increase across all the secondary cities with Sanya (+50.1%) and Xiamen (+25.9%) leading the market growth. Suzhou (+11.3%), Xian (+12.0%) and Hangzhou (+9.0%), despite experiencing lower growth, will remain buoyant with new hotel openings, as international brands venture farther away from larger hubs.

"Hotel development by international and regional hotel chains over recent years has focused more and more on secondary cities across China," said Elizabeth Randall, managing director for STR Global. "This development reflects the growing importance of these markets as economic centres and demand generators for inbound and outbound visitors. In 10 out of 15 cities, demand grew at higher rates than supply; however, the right balance between supply and demand will be crucial to the future success of hotels in these markets."

See other recent news regarding: Airlines, Airports, Awards, Flights, Codeshare, FFP, Inflight, Lounges, First Class, Business Class, MICE, GDS, Rewards, Miles, Hotels, Apartments, Promotions, Spas, Yoga, Retreat, New Hotels, Traffic, Visitor Arrivals, Cruises, Free Deals, Interviews, Videos, Tickets, China, STR

View the original article here

STR: 3,377 New Hotel Rooms Opened in Canada in 2011

According to data from the STR/McGraw Hill Construction Dodge Pipeline Report, 34 new properties comprising 3,377 rooms opened in Canada in 2011, representing a 1% increase in new supply over last year.

Among the Chain Scale segments, the Upper Midscale segment reported the most new rooms, opening 14 properties with 1,328, followed by the Upscale segment with six properties and 884 rooms.

The Economy segment reported the largest increase (135.8%) in new rooms, compared to 2010, with 6 properties opening with 408 rooms.

In 2012, there are 46 properties expected to open in Canada with 6,206 rooms.

The Upper Midscale segment is expected to open the most rooms with 19 projects and 2,051 rooms, followed by the Unaffiliated segment (12 properties with 1,767 rooms) and the Upscale segment (8 properties with 1,369 rooms).

In December 2011, the Canadian hotel development pipeline comprised 187 projects totalling 20,957 rooms. This represents a 4% decrease in the number of rooms in the total active pipeline compared to December 2010.

See other recent news regarding: Airlines, Airports, Awards, Flights, Codeshare, FFP, Inflight, Lounges, First Class, Business Class, MICE, GDS, Rewards, Miles, Hotels, Apartments, Promotions, Spas, Yoga, Retreat, New Hotels, Traffic, Visitor Arrivals, Cruises, Free Deals, Interviews, Videos, Tickets, STR, Canada

View the original article here

Strong Growth for India's Hotel Industry

According to date compiled by STR Global, India's hotel industry showed overall year-to-date (YTD) November 2011 growth in performance data and supply pipeline.

YTD hotel performance results showed that all major regions, with the exception of Kerala and Maharashtra, reported continuous RevPAR growth.

Looking at the hotel pipeline, India's hotel inventory is expected to increase by more than 61,000 rooms in the next three years with over 30,000 rooms currently under construction based on STR Global's pipeline database.

Regional India

The central region of Madhya Pradesh reported the largest RevPAR growth (+19%), led by a 12.7% increase in occupancy YTD. The neighbouring regions of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan saw RevPAR increase by 10.8% and 3.3%, respectively, driven by increased average daily rate in Uttar Pradesh of 2.8% to INR5,527.43, whilst occupancy rates in Rajasthan increased by 6.8% to 40.8% during the same period.

In Kerala and Maharashtra, occupancy and ADR growth declined moderately YTD when compared to the same period last year. Demand in Kerala, following strong growth between 2009 and 2010 (16.3%), remained flat at 0.7% between 2010 and 2011. In Maharashtra, demand growth jumped by 10.6% YTD compared to a negative trend between 2009 and 2010.

Main Indian Cities

RevPAR grew across most Indian cities, with the exception of Chennai (-1.1%) and Delhi (-10.6%). Chennai's demand and supply increased almost in equal measures (6.0% and 5.4%, respectively) making it more difficult to hold average room rates. Delhi reported the highest supply growth (+13.0%) of the cities for the period. Likewise, Jaipur and Bangalore experienced stronger new supply growth compared to demand and saw their occupancy decrease YTD.

Leading the best performing markets in terms of RevPAR growth, Goa reported an 8.0% RevPAR increase, led by year-on-year demand growth of 4.1%. Second was Mumbai with the highest ADR of all Indian cities sampled at INR8,450.84. This financial capital also saw demand growth reaching 9.1%.

See other recent news regarding: Airlines, Airports, Awards, Flights, Codeshare, FFP, Inflight, Lounges, First Class, Business Class, MICE, GDS, Rewards, Miles, Hotels, Apartments, Promotions, Spas, Yoga, Retreat, New Hotels, Traffic, Visitor Arrivals, Cruises, Free Deals, Interviews, Videos, Tickets, STR, India, Hotels in India

View the original article here

Westin Grande Sukhumvit Bangkok Opens New MICE Space - Altitude

Altitude is the new rooftop function space at The Westin Grande Sukhumvit, Bangkok.

Altitude includes an indoor function space, a break-out room called The Library and The Terrace. The new function space is located on the 25th floor and takes advantage of dramatic views of downtown Bangkok.

Altitude provides the personalized service and amenities to make any event stand out from the crowd. With no access to the public, Altitude also benefits from total privacy and security.

At Altitude, the expansive 400-square-metre indoor room is bathed in natural daylight and is ideal for meetings, events, conferences and cocktail receptions for 80 to 300 guests. Guests can also enjoy delectable dining and refreshments from a buffet island and live cooking stations with a talented culinary team serving gourmet a la minute cuisine.

The 56-square-metre Library makes the ideal break-out room or meeting space for up to 30 guests. It includes comfortable lounge seating, a large LCD TV, and a refreshment centre stocked with your favourite beverages and snacks.


The Westin Grande Sukhumvit has also given its swimming pool area a refreshing makeover.

Sun loungers arranged on teak decking around the pool offer the opportunity to soak up the sun while savouring tasty cuisine and refreshing drinks from the pool bar. 

See other recent news regarding: Airlines, Airports, Awards, Flights, Codeshare, FFP, Inflight, Lounges, First Class, Business Class, MICE, GDS, Rewards, Miles, Hotels, Apartments, Promotions, Spas, Yoga, Retreat, New Hotels, Traffic, Visitor Arrivals, Cruises, Free Deals, Interviews, Videos, Tickets, Starwood, Westin, Bangkok, Sukhumkvit

View the original article here

Thailand (TAT) Responds to Bangkok Alert

Mr. Sansern Ngairungsi, Deputy Governor - Asia and South Pacific Market of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) last week responded to a question about the Bangkok Terrorism Alert that hit global news media on Friday, 13 January 2012.

Mr. Ngaorungsi was speaking in Q&A session following a press conference at the ATF 2012 in Manado, Indonesia.

More video from the press conference which covered 2011 visitor arrival numbers, targets for 2012 as well as many other interesting topics related to tourism in Thailand will be featured later this week.

ASIA Travel also has a large number of exclusive video interviews which took place at the ATF 2012 in Manado, Indonesia. These will be featured in our travel news this week and next.

See other recent news regarding: Airlines, Airports, Awards, Flights, Codeshare, FFP, Inflight, Lounges, First Class, Business Class, MICE, GDS, Rewards, Miles, Hotels, Apartments, Promotions, Spas, Yoga, Retreat, New Hotels, Traffic, Visitor Arrivals, Cruises, Free Deals, Interviews, Videos, Tickets,

View the original article here

Wyndham to Launch Howard Johnson Brand in India

Executive team members at Wyndham Hotel Group are traveling throughout India this month to explore development opportunities in the country.

The company plans to expand its presence in India in 2012 and beyond with a non-exclusive development agreement to launch the iconic Howard Johnson brand in India with 3,000 rooms across 35 new properties by 2017.

This agreement with Unique Mercantile India Private Limited, a large firm in India with investments in real estate development in Gujarat and Hyderabad, India, also includes the development of a new 120-room Ramada resort in Udaipur that will feature a spa, swimming pool, games room, a poolside bar and international cuisine. The hotel?s first 72 rooms are due to open in April 2012 with 48 additional rooms completed by December 2014.

These properties will add to Wyndham Hotel Group's 14 hotels already in operation and the 15 properties that are currently under development in the country.

Given the rise in tourism, India is full of growth opportunities, said Eric Danziger, Wyndham Hotel Group president and chief executive officer. We are happy to start the New Year with such exciting expansion plans and look forward to many more opportunities. We remain committed to developing hotels with distinctive services and offerings while strengthening our global presence in sought after destinations.

The agreement with Unique Mercantile India Private Limited increases Wyndham Hotel Group's portfolio in the Asia Pacific region, which currently consists of 466 properties and over 65,453 rooms under the Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, Ramada, Howard Johnson, Days Inn, Super 8, Microtel Inns & Suites and Dream brands.

The planned expansion in India follows the recent opening of the 154-room Wyndham Grand Agra under the Wyndham Hotels and Resorts flag. The hotel, owned by Shekhar Resorts Limited, is lavishly designed and offers a true feel for the area?s vibrant architecture. Spread over 18 acres of landscaped gardens, Wyndham Grand Agra is a mere five minutes from one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Taj Mahal.

See other recent news regarding: Airlines, Airports, Awards, Flights, Codeshare, FFP, Inflight, Lounges, First Class, Business Class, MICE, GDS, Rewards, Miles, Hotels, Apartments, Promotions, Spas, Yoga, Retreat, New Hotels, Traffic, Visitor Arrivals, Cruises, Free Deals, Interviews, Videos, Tickets, Wyndham, India, Howard Johnson

View the original article here

Rains disrupt train service on Howrah-Kharagpur section

The snapping of OHE between Haur and Baliachak stations in Kharagpur division forced SER to cancel/suspend/short-terminate and control many mails and express trains betweeen 0735 hrs and 1315 hrs.

Besides these, seven long distance trains--the 12821 Howrah-Bhubaneswar-Puri Dhauli Express, 12021 Howrah-Barbil Jan Shatabdi Express, 22861 Shalimar-Bankura Rajyarani Express, 12871 Howrah-Titlagarh Ispat Express, 12703 Howrah-Secunderabad Falaknuma Express, 12885 Howrah-Santaldih Aranyak Express and 12262 Howah-Mumbai CSTM Duronto Express were delayed by an average of three hours.

The down trains of 12809 Mumbai-Howrah Mail, 18029 LTT-Shalimar Express, 12859 Mumbai?Howrah Gitanjali Express, 12074 Bhubaneswar-Howrah Jan Shatabdi Express, 12129 Pune?Howrah Azad Hind Express were also delayed by about ninety minutes.

The SER also short-terminated the 12021 Howrah-Barbil Jan Shatabdi Express, which left Howrah this morning, at Tatanagar and will run back as 12022 from Tatanagar to Howrah.

As a result, services of 12021/12022 Howrah-Barbil Jan Shatabdi Express will remain cancelled between Tatanagar-Barbil-Tatanagar.

Besides, 3 passenger trains have been short terminated at different stations--Mecheda, Uluberia and Panskura and some local trains were cancelled.

Train services resumed at 1315 hours after the OHE was repaired. (UNI)

View the original article here

MoU with ASEAN will boost joint tourism, feels India

Sahai signed the MoU on strengthening tourism cooperation at the third meeting of ASEAN-India Tourism Ministers at Manado, Indonesia, Thursday. The meeting was jointly chaired by Sahai and Mari Elka Pangestu, Indonesian tourism and creative economy minister.

According to an official statement, Sahai expressed happiness over the progress made by ASEAN-India cooperation in Buddhist pilgrimage tourism including the production of material and documentary films. He said India was looking forward to more joint-tourism promotion activities.

Sahai said since the number of tourist arrivals between ASEAN and India had shown a steady growth, establishment of an ASEAN promotional chapter in Mumbai would act as a tourism marketing and promotion agency of the ASEAN National Tourism Organisation.

Sahai also welcomed the forthcoming ASEAN-India car rally to be held this year.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced during the ASEAN Summit at Bali last year that an MoU on strengthening tourism cooperation between India and ASEAN would be signed preferably at the ASEAN-India tourism ministers' meet in early 2012.

Besides cooperation in facilitating travel and tourist visits, the MoU speaks of enhancing human resource development in the tourism sector and exploring new possibilities for development and promotion of tourism. (IANS)

View the original article here

Night trains on key Jharkhand section resume after 19 months

The Purusottam Express, the Tata-Kharagpur passenger and other trains services were resumed Thursday night. The Purusottam Express left at 12.10 a.m. and the Tata-Kharagpur train left at 12.40 a.m. from the Tatanagar station.

Night trains were halted on the Tata-Kharagpur and Rourkela-Chakradhapur sections after the Gyneshwari train accident in May 2010.

Night train services on the Rourkela-Chakradhapur section were resumed on December 20, 2011.

The resumption of night train services has brought relief for the passengers.

"We had to face difficulties. The passengers had to wait the whole night at Tatanagar station. Now we are feeling relieved," said Santosh Kumar, a passenger.

The night train services were to resume from December 13 last year, but this was put on hold due to security reasons.

Political parties like BJP and others on many occasions had disrupted train services to demand the resumption of night services. (IANS)

View the original article here

Delhi Metro through foreign eyes: global system lacking global etiquettes

Like 1.5 million other people in Delhi, I ride on the Metro every day. To get to work, I spend almost 45 minutes on the rail, including switching train lines, before reaching my destination.

The first couple of times I rode the Metro, I thought two things: people are staring at me and why do women not use the Metro. It took me days to realize there were 'women only' compartments at the front of each train. Since starting to use these reserved compartments, I enjoy watching men enter and look around to see only women. They quickly make their way down the train to the general compartments looking as though they mistakenly walked into the wrong washroom.

I am not sure why I didn't originally migrate towards the pink signs when I began riding the Metro. Perhaps it is because I have never seen 'women only' compartments or sections in my home country of Canada. Most times when I walk through security or ride the bus, I do so in a co-ed environment.

Although I never had a problem at the back with the men, I feel safer with other women around, especially when the train is so full there is not enough room to move. I have seen people trying to jump into trains that were full, while Metro security try to pull them out so the door can close.

Not to say the women that ride the Metro are not a little aggressive when they rush for seats. When two girls go for an open seat, neither backs down which usually results in them both semi-sitting on each other in one spot.

Even though the women's compartments are usually busy, less women ride the Metro. One day, the line for men to go through security was so long it extended outside the station and on to the stairs. There was no line for the women's security check. I was able to walk straight in.

There is no Metro in Winnipeg, my home in central Canada. The city of about 680,000 people has been trying for years to build a rapid-transit system, but does not have the funds. In order to raise the money (and pay for the transit system), the cost of riding the city bus is 2.45 CAD (Rs.125) for a regular fare anywhere in the city. Even with inflation, this is much more expensive than the Metro here, which only costs me 16 Rs for my ride across the city.

I am jealous of the Metro system in Delhi and wish we had a progressive alternative to the bus and taxi systems in Winnipeg. I have ridden on other Metro systems in Vancouver and Toronto, Canada's largest cities, and feel that the Delhi Metro can compete on a global scale.

The Metro also offers a fixed rate for everyone, including foreigners. When taking taxis and auto-rickshaws in Delhi, foreigners usually get quoted a much higher price than locals. It can get frustrating when you get overcharged for transportation just because you are not from here. The Delhi Metro does not discriminate in this matter. No matter their religion, sex or race, everyone pays the same price.

Tanya Tonning, who is from Norway, is starting her tour of Asia from Delhi and has been using the Metro to get to markets for shopping. She says it was an easy system to understand and was better than walking the streets of Delhi.

"It was very clean. I didn't expect it to be that clean when you look around outside," Tonning said.

She stays at a backpacking hostel in Saket where most clients are foreigners wanting to see the sights of Delhi. The hostel encourages its visitors to use the Metro to get around the city and provides them with a map of how to reach the nearest station.

Foreigners beware that some etiquette existing in other countries does not exist on the Delhi Metro. There is almost no waiting for people to deboard the train before rushing in, sometimes resulting in getting a shoulder push. Even when seats are reserved for women in the general compartments, I usually see just men sitting there. People hold on to their seats and rarely offer them to people who may need it more. When someone asks someone for a seat, they simply squish over and give them a portion of the seat. Then when someone on the bench gets off, you can spread back out.

On my first day ever on the Metro, two people on different trains gave up their seats for me. Maybe they saw in my face it was my first time and I was a little nervous, because the luxury of getting offered a seat has never happened again.

(Alyssa McDonald is a Canadian journalist interning with IANS. She can be contacted at (IANS)

View the original article here

Tourists resorts in HP record fresh snowfall, services hit

The state administration claimed that it had rescued 40 snowbound people after introducing emergency chopper flights from Bhuntar to two helipads of Lahaul Spiti this afternoon.

Meanwhile, rain or snow spell was likely to continue and Met department has forecast fresh western disturbance was likely to advance by January 14.

World-famous tourist resort Manali experienced 15 cm fresh snowfall, Shimla 8.4 cm and Kalpa in Kinnuar 5.6 cm respectively. Nearby tourist resorts of Kufri, Narkanda, Chail and Mashobar also received 10 to 15 cm of fresh snowfall.

Rain also lashed parts of the state as Gohar in Mandi registered 8 mm rain, Seobagh in Kullu 6 mm, Bhuntar and Karsog of Mandi had 4 mm each and Jogindernagar 2 mm, respectively.

According to Secretary, General Administration Ajay Bhandari as many as 40 people were rescued in snowbound Lahaul Spiti district today as three sorties were conducted from Bhuntar to Stingeri and Bhuntar to Udaipur this afternoon.

Intense cold and snowy weather took a toll as three lives were lost in the state during the last 24 hours and two people were reportedly buried under a house that collapsed after heavy snow while one person died of cold in Chamba district, ADM Chamba Sunil Kumar confirmed. With this, the toll went up to six while dozen of others either got snow injuries or were frostbitten.

Vehicular traffic remained disrupted in this capital town as hundreds of small vehicles were trapped under the snow carpet and transport buses were not plying in snowbound areas.

The night temperature showed slight improvement as Keylong in Lahaul Spiti was minus 10.4 degrees Celsius which was minus 15 degrees yesterday, Kalpa in Kinnuar minus 5.6 degrees against minus nine degrees yesterday, Manali minus 2 degrees from minus 6.6 degrees yesterday, Shimla minus 1.8 degrees and Solan minus 1.4 degrees, respectively.

Una was low at two degrees, Palampur 2.5 degrees, Dharmshala 2.7 degrees, Sundernagar 3.6 degrees and Bhuntar 3.5 degrees, Mandi four degrees and Nahan 6.4 degrees, respectively.

The Met office has forecast fresh Western Disturbance (WD) as an upper air system would affect the western Himalayan region and adjoining plains from January 14 onwards. However, it has predicted dry weather in plains and high reaches and rain or snow in parts of middle hills in the next 24 hours. (UNI)

View the original article here

Train to real India: On road to entrepreneurship

Jagriti, an NGO, brought together an odd assortment of 'yatris' (travellers with a mission) in a train that criss-crossed the country, exposing them to institutions that have developed unique solutions to India's challenges, in an effort to awaken the spirit of entrepreneurship among them.

Odd because they included both rural and urban, rich and not-so-rich, Indians and foreigners, culturally refined and the street styled, chapati eating and rasam loving, men and women - bound by the common ability to be affected by the socio-economic condition of the country and a dream of bringing in change.

In the fourth year of the Jagriti Yatra, the train passed through Tamil Nadu's Madurai, Andhra Pradesh's Visakhapatnam, Rajasthan's Tilonia, among other places, before culminating in Mumbai.

"The idea is to promote entrepreneurship-led development. Every person who takes part in the yatra goes back a different person," Jagriti co-founder Swapnil Dixit told IANS.

The programme focusses on 20-25 age group of "middle India". "It's the segment between the rich and poor -- where your per day income is Rs.40-120. We want to convert these job seekers into job creators," Dixit said.

An Indian Railways train was booked for the Dec 24-Jan 8 journey with specially equipped bathrooms and private caterers.

Around 15,000 people registered, of whom 450 were selected on the basis of a questionnaire. There were 35 foreign nationals from countries as diverse as Israel, Britain, South Africa and Argentina. "We include foreigners as they give an outsider's perspective to things," Dixit said.

But as theatre director Lewis Hallam famously put it, 'a journey is not undertaken without money', the yatra cost Rs.34,000 per person. And for those who couldn't afford it, it was just Rs.4,000 as the sponsors took care of the rest.

At a stopover for the yatris in Delhi, there was electrifying energy in the packed Kamani auditorium. The hall resonated with words like "amazing", "awe-inspiring", "incredible", "challenging" as participants sat down to review the journey.

"When you put 450 smart, bright people in a crazy train, amazing things happen. You have real high-level conversations about philosophy, education, history and everything," said Shay Eyal, owner of a start-up firm in Israel, shouting to make himself heard in the noise.

Then there was Abdul Kaleem from Uttar Pradesh's Deoria who participated as he wanted "to work for a sustainable model of education" in his district.

The participants got to witness the development taking place in the far corners of the country through innovative development initiatives, and interacted with those at the forefront of change.

The gender ratio inside the train was 60 males to 40 females.

According to Quinton Fivelman, currently working in Britain, "the train is like a pressure cooker with many cultures coming together. When you live in a small place, there's certain intimacy you develop."

"Some people from south India hadn't even got their winter clothes because they had never been to cooler climates, so there was a lot of sharing," Fivelman told IANS.

The participants met Infosys' N.R. Narayan Murthy; S. Aravind, who founded one of the most productive eye care facilities in Madurai; R. Elango, credited with transforming Kuthambakkam Village in Chennai, among other role models.

But how much of this initiative leads to tangible results? "Around 120 of our ex-participants have become entrepreneurs," said Dixit.

Britain's Richard Russell had been working in an Odisha NGO for a year. Ask him about his train experience and he takes a moment's pause to put his thoughts in order.

"I've been able to learn about enterprise models and ways of approaching development problems. We went to a village transformed by solar power, another one redeveloped by social enterprise," Russell told IANS.

(Mohita Nagpal can be contacted at (IANS)

View the original article here

Pedal your way to discovering the real India

Pradeep Sharma and his two friends are engineers working for multi-national companies (MNCs) in Bangalore. But their quest for adventure and green concerns has driven them to launch cycle tours and encourage people to take to pedalling for fun.

Pradeep hails from Morena district of Madhya Pradesh, while his friends Pankaj Mangal and Gaurav Mehendiratta respectively are from Jaipur (Rajasthan) and Delhi. The three are aged 28 and studied together in an engineering college in Ahmedabad.

They use films, music, songs, poetry, painting, photography, creative writing, books and rides to popularise bicycle tours and have also started a store in Bangalore - Art of Bicycle Trips.

The novel idea came to them during a cycle trip in July 2010. The trio went on a 120-km bicycle trip from Bangalore to a Cauvery fishing camp.

"After riding for around 60 km we sat under a statue of Mahatma Gandhi and started discussing our trip. We thought that for some bicycle is a utility and for others a revelation of human potential, but for us it was more of a new experience," Sharma recalled.

"Through that experience, the idea of a bicycle movement and Art of Bicycle Trips emerged," Sharma told IANS from Bangalore.

"India's beauty actually lies in its rural areas. And bicycle is the best medium to get connected with its nature and people, directly. So we offer a simple and unique way to experience the real India. Bicycling opens up a whole new world of adventure, freedom and mysticism on every spin," Sharma said.

The firm designs unique bicycle trips from day-long tours of within a city to safaris to other states including Karnataka, Kerala, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh.

One day-long safari has been named after the 1970s Bollywood hit "Sholay" and is called Sholay Adventure. Under it, riders can tour the region where the blockbuster was shot.

"We have 15 bicycles specially designed for different tours. So far 70 to 80 groups (comprising 5-6 people) have taken our service, mostly foreigners. Among them only 10-15 groups were Indian but we hope the number will increase in future," Mehendiratta told IANS.

The ambitious trio plans to open branches in Bhopal and Indore in Madhya Pradesh. While Mangal looks after the strategy and planning, Sharma manages the finance and operations and Mehendiratta looks after overseas marketing. Sharma and Mehendiratta hold B.Tech degrees, while Mangal has also done his MBA.

"In foreign countries there are many organisations promoting bicycle tours. And some foreign tour operators offer such tours in India too, but no Indian organisation is involved in such activities," said Sharma.

"We would like to spread out across the country and make it a true movement," he said.

The packages range from three-hour tours to day-long tours and three-day corporate safaris. The rate is 20 dollars for a three-hour tour, and can go up to USD 2,000 - depending on the tour. Food and lodging are in the package.

Art of Bicycle Trips run a website They also have a page on a social networking site.

(Shahnawaz Akhtar can be contacted at (IANS)

View the original article here

Tourism can boost Kashmir's economic development: Omar

Addressing a meeting of the tourism officials here, Abdullah noted that the Vaishno Devi pilgrimage crossed 10 million mark in a calendar year Wednesday, and asked the tourism and other departments to divert the pilgrims to other places of tourist interest across the state.

According to officials, the Vaishno Devi pilgrimage alone annually generates Rs.2,000 crore for the state while the tourists visiting the valley contribute Rs.1,000 crore. This year, nearly two million tourists, including Amarnath pilgrims, visited Kashmir region.

"It's important that we focus our attention on tourism in a big way and offer a very hospitable environment to the visitors," Abdullah said.

"There is also need to divert pilgrim tourists visiting Mata Vaishno Devi in large numbers to other parts to help generating economic activities holistically," he said, adding that the steps initiated in this direction require a further boost.

Abdullah said the government has focused attention on creating befitting infrastructure at tourist places in consonance with ecology and environment requirements to maintain the balance between the two. (IANS)

View the original article here

Andaman all set to host Island Tourism Festival 2012

A and N Governor Lt. Gen (Retd.) Bhopinder Singh will inaugurate the festival.

This year the added feature of ITF will be that, coinciding with the Island Tourism Festival, a five-day CARNIC fest from January 7th to 11th is also being organised. It will also be inaugurated by the Lt. Governor, Mr Satish Mathur, Secretary of Andaman?s Information Publicity and Tourism Department told reporters today.

Mr Mathur said Island Tourism Festival was also being taken to all the three districts.

During ITF, cultural programmes have been arranged in Diglipur, Long Island in North and Middle Andaman, Neil Island, Havelock Island, Wandoor, Wimberleygunj, Bathubasti in South Andaman, Amphitheatre at Anarkali Basti and Netaji Stadium in Port Blair Municipal Area and Car Nicobar in Nicobar District.

Another feature of this year?s Island Tourism Festival is the participation of mainland state tourism corporations. States like Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Delhi, Karnataka and Meghalaya are participating, the secretary added.

Mr Mathur added that like every year, the ITF Exhibition will have stalls with exhibits of different departments.

A special event ?Euphoria? Rock Band, a nationally reputed band of Dr Palash Sen, will perform at Netaji Stadium on January 12 and entry to this show will be tree for all Islanders, Mathur said.

Artists from Sikkim, Meghalaya, Arunachal, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Odhisha, West Bengal will perform. Apart from this, 'Song and Drama Division of Kolkata' will also send their artists.

To promote local talents, as many as 40 local Orchestra, Cultural Associations are also being invited to perform their skills in various parts of these Islands. There will be Hasya Kavi Sammelan during ITF and also fireworks for the inaugural and closing functions, the Secretary added. (UNI)

View the original article here

Srinagar-Jammu highway opened to one-way traffic

Border Roads Organisation's chief engineer Brigadier T.P.S. Rawat, who is supervising the road opening operations, said: "Traffic will move on the road from Jammu to Srinagar. No vehicles will be allowed to travel in the opposite direction."

He said all the stranded vehicles on the highway were allowed to move towards Srinagar Monday morning. "Stranded vehicles carrying passengers and essential supplies to the valley have been allowed to move on priority basis on the highway," Rawat told IANS.

"I have been personally supervising the road clearance operations from Patnitop to Banihal tunnel. Our boys had a tough time cutting through the 15-foot-high avalanche that struck the road yesterday (Sunday) at Panthal," he said.

"Tonnes of snow was removed from the road by snow clearing machines despite the bone-chilling cold and strong winds in the Banihal sector of the road," he said.

The Srinagar-Jammu national highway is the lifeline of Kashmir Valley, as all essential supplies are moved along it, and continued blockade of this crucial road often results in unscrupulous traders resorting to profiteering and black-marketing. (IANS)

View the original article here

Emirates launches A-380 flights to Malaysia

The first A-380 flight from Dubai arrived at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) Sunday.

"We have been eagerly awaiting the start of our Airbus A-380 service to Malaysia, a country that we have been operating flights to since 1996," said Richard Jewsbury, Emirates' senior vice president, commercial operations.

"The start of 2012 will be a busy time for Emirates, in addition to launching our A-380 aircraft on one of our three daily non-stop flights between Dubai and Kuala Lumpur.

"We are also expanding our network to include Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro from Jan 3 and Dublin from Jan 9, opening up more opportunities for Malaysian travellers and businesses," he added. (IANS)

View the original article here

'Discover Bihar' roadshow launched

Exhibiting the culture and heritage of Bihar, the two day-long roadshow will have performance from the Sangeet Sangam Seva Group of Bihar on folk songs in local languages like Bhojpuri, Maithili, Magadhi and others.

People do not know about Bihar's wildlife and its camping sites, and adventure sports. We want people to know that our state also has all these things,? said Navin Kumar, deputy general manager, Department of Tourism.

In 2011, Bihar attracted about 1,32,33,304 tourists out of which only 5,27,773 were foreign ones.

To further increase the number of tourists, the Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation Ltd. unveiled the various plans it has undertaken to accomplish its objective of popularising the state's tourism, which includes developing basic infrastructure,? Kumar said at the launch.

It is the beginning and we hope that Bihar will do some good tourism. This event will be a window into Bihar tourism,? said Navin Kumar. (IANS)

View the original article here

Foreign Tourist Arrivals grow 5.2pc

There has been a growth of 5.2pc in December, 2011 over December, 2010 as compared to a growth of 10.4 pc registered in December 2010 over December, 2009.

The growth rate of 5.2pc in December 2011 is higher than 4.7pc growth rate observed in November, 2011.

FTAs in India during 2011 were 6.29 million with a growth of 8.9pc as compared to the FTAs of 5.78 million with a growth of 11.8pc during the year 2010 over 2009.

The growth rate of 8.9 pc in 2011 for India is better than UNWTO?s projected growth rate of 4pc to 5pc for the world in 2011 and 7pc to 9pc for Asia and the Pacific.

Foreign Exchange Earnings (FEE) during the month of December 2011 were Rs. 8870 crore as compared to Rs. 7039 crore in December 2010 and Rs 7042 crore in December 2009.

The growth rate in FEE in Rs terms in December 2011 over December 2010 was 26.pc as compared to no growth in December 2010 over December 2009.

FEE from tourism in rupee terms during 2011 were Rs.77591 crore with a growth of 19.6pc , as compared to the FEE of Rs. 64889 crore with a growth of 18.1pc during the year 2010 over 2009.

FEE in USUSD terms during the month of December 2011 were USUSD 1688 million as compared to FEE of USUSD 1558 million during the month of December 2010 and USUSD 1510 million in December 2009.

The growth rate in FEE in USUSD terms in December 2011 over December 2010 was 8.3pc as compared to the growth of 3.2 pc in Decemmber 2010 over December 2009.

FEE from tourism in terms of USUSD during 2011 were USUSD 16564 million with a growth of 16.7pc , as compared to USUSD 14193 million with a growth of 24.6 pc during the year 2010 over 2009. (IBNS)

View the original article here

Railway announces Pongal Specials

Chennai Central-Nagercoil Special and Nagercoil-Chennai Central Superfast Special (via Erode, Karur, Dindigul, Madurai, Virudunagar, Tirunelveli): T No 06021 Chennai Central-Nagercoil Special will leave Chennai Central at 2230 hrs on January 13 and arrive Nagercoil at 1400 hrs, the next day.

T No 06022 Nagercoil-Chennai Central Superfast Special will leave Nagercoil at 1240 hrs on January 17 and arrive Chennai Central at 0330 hrs, the next day.

Chennai Central-Nagercoil-Chennai Central Superfast Specials (via Erode, Karur, Dindigul, Madurai, Virudunagar, Tirunelveli): T No 06023 Chennai Central-Nagercoil Superfast Special will leave Chennai Central at 2000 hrs on January 14 and arrive Nagercoil at 1100 hrs, the next day.

T No 06024 Nagercoil-Chennai Central Superfast Special will leave Nagercoil at 1940 hrs on January 16 and arrive Chennai Central at 1040 hrs, the next day.

T No 06626 Coimbatore-Chennai Central Superfast Special will leave Coimbatore at 2345 hrs on January 17 and arrive Chennai Central at 0745 hrs, the next day.

T No 06625 Chennai Central-Coimbatore Superfast Special will leave Chennai Central at 2230 hrs on January 18 and arrive Coimbatore at 0650 hrs, the next day.

Advance reservation for the above trains will commence on January 7, a Railwasy release here said. (UNI)

View the original article here