Thursday, December 29, 2011

China became 3rd biggest tourism market

According to a report issued by the National Tourist Administration, China has become the third-largest tourism marketplace in the world. Total income from inbound and outbound sightseeing for the five years leading up to 2010, totals six trillion yuan.
China’s fast-growing tourism industry has become a cash cow for country. In the 16 years from 1994 to 2010, the country’s total tourism income has raised 11-fold. In the 5 years to 2010, China has established 9.3 billion people from at house and abroad. That’s a whooping six trillion yuan in tourism dollars.
According to China National Tourist Administration, the country has not only become the biggest end for tourists in Asian countries, but it also ranks in the top three global destinations for travelers.
During the 11th Five Year Plan, the tourism industry has largely support economic growth in China. It’s contributed over 90 percent to the hotel business, and over 80 percent to the aviation and railway industries. In the process, tourism has created over nearly 14 million jobs in tourism industry, and 60 million jobs in other regions.
During the past five years, China has sign cooperation plans with the U.S., Australia, Japan, Russia, and South Korea. The country is expected to make 100 million new outbound departures each year from now to 2015.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Google Speeds Up Travel Searches, Annoys Travel Search Sites

Using Google, we simply typed "IAD to LAX" into the search box and immediately (or, as Google would prefer, in 0.22 seconds) got the results in the familiar Google format -- paid ads on the top, then the results, then more results for other pages related to the topic.

As on the other sites, we simply select the flight we want and hit "Book." Unlike Kayak, Google didn't try to direct us to, or any other third party; it took us right into the United Airlines reservation system and brought up a final purchase screen confirming the itinerary and price.

Like Kayak's pages, Google's pages contain advertising, which remains Big G's primary revenue source.

Consumers complain about advertising, of course, but it is the basis of the free press that is in turn the basis of American democracy, so perhaps the less said about that the better.

The problem?
So what's the problem? Well, the other travel sites say the problem is that Google will in short order put them out of business by "favoring" its own searches. It's what they've been saying since Google bought ITA Software Inc. last year.

ITA is the mother lode of flight data. It supplies the information used not only in Google flight searches but also in nearly all of the competing searches, including Kayak, Expedia, etc.

The Justice Department allowed the purchase to go forward after Google promised that it would "build tools that would drive more traffic to airline and online travel agency sites." The other sites are now complaining loudly that Google isn't doing that.

Proper role
The question comes down to whether Google must forever more be nothing but a passive search engine, combing through data posted on the Internet by others or whether it should try to live up to its mandate to "organize the world's information."

Providing comprehensive, impartial flight data quickly seems to fit into Google's mandate and also, just in passing, would seem to be a benefit to consumers. Google is not obligated to think first of consumers, of course, but publishing has traditionally been a public service business -- providing information that meets consumers' needs in a reasonably impartial manner.

If other businesses are damaged by that, it may be what in other venues is called collateral damage. It wasn't many years ago that the online travel agencies were being vilified for running bricks-and-mortar travel agents out of town.

Some of those traditional travel agents found ways to adapt and survive. The Expedias of the world may have to do the same.

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Monday, December 19, 2011


World Travel Awards (WTA), “the Oscars of the travel industry”, will host its Grand Final Gala Ceremony in Doha, Qatar, in partnership with Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) on January 11, 2012.

The most important decision-makers in global travel and tourism are set to attend the glittering ceremony, which will be staged at Katara Cultural Village, Qatar’s ground-breaking new arts and exhibitions complex.

Created under the leadership of HH Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, Emir of the State of Qatar, Katara Cultural Village was born out of a vision to position the State of Qatar as an international cultural lighthouse through theatre, literature, art, music, conventions and exhibitions. Katara features a remarkable array of attractions, from an opera house and art galleries to world-class restaurants and a beach.

Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) Chairman, Mr. Ahmed Al Nuaimi, said the choice of Doha to host WTA’s Grand Final reflects the country’s growing importance and stature in the industry and that QTA was lending as much support as possible to make the awards the best ever.

“The staging of the ceremony in Doha is an illustration of the confidence the travel and tourism industry has in Qatar as well as the potential it has to develop further,” said Mr. Al. Nuaimi.

“Qatar has allocated more the US$25 billion for the development of tourism infrastructure in preparation for the 2022 World Cup. WTA’s Grand Final forms part of our country’s growing roster of world-class events, ranging from art and music to sport and travel.”

The evening marks the culmination of a year-long search for the very best travel and tourism brands in the world, and will feature the winners from WTA’s regional heats competing head to head.

The regional ceremonies included Middle East (Dubai, UAE), Europe (Antalya, Turkey), Africa and Indian Ocean (Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt), Asia and Australasia (Bangkok, Thailand), and Caribbean and The Americas (Montego Bay, Jamaica).

Graham E. Cooke, President and Founder, World Travel Awards, said: “We are delighted to host our Grand Final Gala Ceremony in Qatar as it is such an exciting place to be right now.”

“Our Grand Final will see the winners of our five regional heats, who represent the cream of the global travel and tourism industry, compete head to head for the ultimate travel accolade.”

WTA has partnered with tourism marketing firm Phenomena to bring the ceremony to Qatar.

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Egypt's Islamists try to calm fears over tourism

Egypt's main Islamist parties on Sunday launched separate conferences aimed at promoting tourism as they scrambled to allay fears that the lucrative industry is under threat from religious conservatism.

The Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) – the political arm of the influential Muslim Brotherhood – announced a conference in Cairo entitled "Let's encourage tourism" that brought together industry leaders and party members.

Meanwhile, Al-Nur, the ultraconservative party representing followers of the fundamentalist Salafi brand of Islam, said it was launching a conference to promote the industry in the Egyptian southern city of Aswan.

About 15 million holidaymakers visited the country last year, attracted by its Pharaonic sites and Red Sea beach resorts. The industry is a key money earner and source of foreign currency.

Islamist parties won a crushing victory in the first stage of parliamentary elections which wrapped up last week, leading to fears they might impose strict Islamic law that could scare off Western holidaymakers.

Some Islamist candidates or religious scholars have advocated destroying ancient monuments – seen as a form of idol worshipping – and bans on alcohol, mixed-sex beaches, gambling and even bikinis.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

On the World’s Largest Cruise Ship, the Sea Is an Afterthought

I WAS standing in Central Park in the middle of the Caribbean Sea near an Indian mangosteen tree, a Malaysian olive tree, a number of elephant ears and a total of 96 other species of plant. Birds were tweeting and mothers, as diversely global as the plants, pushed strollers along the paths. A little girl twirled in a pink dress.

At the far end of the park was a Coach store and, three decks below, a Starbucks, as if a moment might go by without a chai or a vanilla bean. And I thought: Why am I standing on a land mass on a ship? And: When did ships become less about the water on which they sail and more about the land they have left behind?

Not that ships, going back to the first ocean liners with their ballrooms and bowling alleys, haven’t always appropriated the trappings of land. (Never has a ship tried to adopt the rootless, underwater habitat of a shark or even the loft of a mermaid sitting on a piece of coral).

Yet Royal Caribbean International’s Allure of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, launched in December at a cost of about $1.4 billion, has taken the concept of land to a point where, on a seven-day western Caribbean voyage, from Dec. 19 to 26, with stops in Labadee, Haiti, and Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico, my Aunt Dorothy and I entirely forgot we were at sea.

Is that a good thing? For romantic sensibilities screaming for the sublime, the metaphysical pondering of the deep — no. For those longing to get lost in a strange, wondrous, digital world of lights and colors that is not unlike the high-pitched energy of Manhattan or any world city — yes.

After hearing about the Allure’s size (1,187 feet long and 16 decks high with a capacity for 6,318 passengers and 2,384 crew members), we did not know what to expect. We were frightened, actually. My aunt has primarily been on smaller luxury ships — Crystal, Regent and the lovely and long-gone Royal Viking — ships with 500 to 1,000 passengers, subtle teak decks and very nice Champagne.

She has been on 30 cruises, and I have known the watery high life only because I have been her guest 12 times, either on short cruises like the one on the Allure, or for brief visits during some of the 10 world voyages she has taken that can last four to five months and cost more than $100,000 a person.

Not that she is incredibly wealthy. She started as a Montgomery Ward stock girl in 1936 and worked her way up to diamond buyer. Cruising is what she does with her savings.

And as part of a cruising group for whom smaller is better (meaning cozy dinners with the ship’s officers, quiet afternoon teas and thoughtful lectures by foreign correspondents), my aunt has always thought bigger meant thousands of passengers atop thousands of deck chairs watching television and eating three pieces of pizza at once. Except for a trip on a Princess Cruise she and I took in 2005, she has avoided ships with capacities of 4,000 or more.

But then she heard about the Allure, and how glamorous it was supposed to be as mega-ships go. And she called Malcolm, one of her luxury-cruise-ship friends, who last year went on the Oasis of the Seas (identical to the Allure but two inches shorter). He told her, “Even though there are 24 elevators and 1,700 children, you’re going to love it.”

For hard-core cruisers who go a few times a year, speed of check-in is paramount, and fetishistically discussed; it is imperative to begin the pleasure immediately. On the Allure, check-in was extraordinarily fast thanks to the huge new 5.5-acre, 240,000-square-foot terminal that Royal Caribbean built in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in 2009 to make sure that the thousands of passengers moving on and off the Oasis and the Allure would be able to go “from curb to stateroom in 15 minutes.”

Stepping off the zigzagging gangplank into the enclosed Royal Promenade, we were hit with blinking lights, video screens and shop windows stuffed with jewels and muffins. Where had we come? On smaller ships there is a small area where a social hostess greets you with a little beverage and everyone hugs one another. This place looked like the inside of a shopping mall in Singapore or Dubai, with people from everywhere streaming by — a woman in a Muslim head covering, a tiny wrinkled man speaking Spanish with his arm around a young woman three times taller in bondage shoes, a Japanese couple in formal dress staring up at the top of the Cupcake shop. Still, we were in a crowd of only a few hundred or so; where were the other thousands?

We would feel not only the excitement of being among so many different cultures but also a certain spaciousness the whole week. Never would we be overwhelmed or crowded. One reason for this, it turns out, is that the Allure is not just very long, but hippy in the beam — 215 feet wide, in fact, more than 30 feet wider than Royal Caribbean’s last big ship, Freedom of the Seas.

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