Ayodhya, Aug 22 (IANS) Ayodhya, which is all set to be catapulted onto the world tourist map, will soon have a high-speed train between Delhi and Ayodhya.
The superfast train will cut the travel time to just three hours between Delhi and the holy city.
Anoop Kumar Agarwal, executive director of National High-Speed Rail Corporation, visited Ayodhya last week to finalise the site for the railway station.
He said that there is a "plan to directly connect the city of Lord Ram with the national capital".
An aerial survey has been done and the plan has also been approved by the Centre.
A 130km railway track will be laid connecting Ayodhya to Lucknow, which will be part of the 941.5km high-speed railway corridor linking Delhi to Varanasi via Agra-Lucknow-Allahabad. A portion of the high-speed train railway corridor may go underground in Lucknow and Agra, the official said.
"National High-Speed Rail Corporation will begin work as soon as we receive a no-objection certificate from the AAI. It will take seven years for completion of the project," he added.
Guwahati/Itanagar, Aug 19 (IANS) With private airline Flybig launching its operations on the new route connecting Assam's Guwahati with Arunachal Pradeshs Tezu on Thursday, air connectivity powered by the Regional Connectivity Scheme -- UDAN -- expanded further in the hilly northeastern region, officials said.
According to Airport Authority of India (AAI) officials, Flybig on Thursday started direct flight services from Guwahati's Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport to Tezu in eastern Arunachal Pradesh's Lohit district.
A water cannon salute was accorded to the first flight at the newly developed Tezu airport, where a new terminal building spread across an area measuring 4,200 sq mt, a runway, and a new Air Traffic Control tower is being developed at a cost of Rs 140 crore.
India's scheduled commuter airline Flybig operates flights to Indore, Bhopal, Raipur, Kolkata, and five airports in northeast India -- Guwahati, Rupsi, Dibrugrah, Pasighat and Agartala -- along with the newly-added Tezu. It also offers charter services from Delhi to Shillong.
Thursday's flagging off function was attended by Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu, the state's Aviation and Tourism Minister Nakap Nalo, and AAI's Regional Executive Director Ravi Kant, among others.
Ravi Kant said that the AAI has always been pivotal in connecting the remote and small places through air transportation, and the expansion of air connectivity in the northeastern states would boost tourism and trade in the region.
The ATR-72 type aircraft of the FlyBig would operate on the Guwahati-Tezu-Guwahati route every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
A FlyBig statement said that commemorating India's 75th Independence Day, the airline is offering a special fare of Rs 75 for Army officers, their immediate family members and senior citizens, honouring their exemplary service to the nation.
"In order to reinforce its network, the airline is adding two new aircraft to its fleet in September and another two in October. The new planes would be stationed at Guwahati and Indore hub," the statement said.
An AAI official said that the RCS-UDAN scheme would offer flight fares lower than the normal rates.
The scheme was launched by the Union Civil Aviation Ministry in October 2016 to stimulate regional air connectivity and make air travel affordable to the common people.
Currently, there are 15 airports in the northeast region -- Guwahati, Silchar, Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Tezpur, Lilalabari and Rupsi (Assam), Tezu and Pasighat (Arunachal Pradesh), Agartala (Tripura), Imphal (Manipur), Shillong (Meghalaya), Dimapur (Nagaland), Lengpui (Mizoram) and Pakyong (Sikkim).
The AAI at a cost of Rs 650 crore is also developing the Hollongi airport near Arunachal capital Itanagar, to boost air connectivity in the mountainous areas.
New Delhi, Aug 10: With a view to boost film tourism, the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had set up a Film Facilitation Office which paid handsome dividends as a number of filmmakers have started shooting in India.
Before the Covid pandemic hit the world, in 2019 itself, more than 10 foreign film projects were shot in India. This included the box-office hit and critically acclaimed Tenet by Christopher Nolan, which was shot in Mumbai and the locations included the Breach Candy Hospital, Cafe Colaba Market, Gateway of India, Royal Bombay Yacht Club, and the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel among others.
In fact, to ease filmmaking in India, the National Film Development Corporation operated FFO, offers a single-window clearance online system for international film shoots in India.
With film tourism gaining currency, India is now going to face competition from other nations in the region, which too are providing facilities and environments for shooting movies. These include Singapore where the global superhit Crazy Rich Asians was shot, Eat, Pray, Love, starring superstar Julia Roberts, which launched several holiday trips to Bali, Angelina Jolie's Lara Croft: Tomb Raider which put Cambodia's exquisite temples on the tourist map. among others.
Now, Bali, the Indonesian island -- which has been the backdrop for several films since the 1930s -- is inviting investors, both local and foreign, to build film studios. This plan was unveiled at last month's Cannes Film Festival by the local group United Media Asia and Creative Artists Agency in the US.
According to an article in asia.nikkei.com, Missy Davy, Creative Artists Agency spokesperson in statement said: "Through their productions, UMA will employ thousands of local talent[s] to bolster the Bali economy, which has been severely impacted by the global pandemic. Bali is the ideal location to create a production destination."
The statement also reflects the Indonesian Government's backing for this project as evident from a comment by Sandiaga Uno, the Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy said: "I am very excited to see United Media Asia's effort to build and cultivate Bali as a world-class hub for international content."
Founded in 2018 by Indonesian actress and producer Michy Gustavia, UMAZ received a $20 million investment from media conglomerate Kompas Gramedia with its focus on local content in the language of 270 million people of the country.
Films have been doing well in Indonesia as box office receipts have registered a growth of seven percent annually over the past five years. Viewers love offerings of over-the-top platforms like Netflix which is predicted to have 50 million as its users there.
Talking about this, Davy said: "Indonesia's entertainment market is one of the fastest-growing in the world, if not the fastest, outside of China [and] UMA is strategically positioned to capitalize on the increasing global appetite for local content."
Despite its natural calamities like floods and lack of power, can Bali attract filmmakers as it competes against Australia and South Korea? Andre Dananjaya feels it can. "From sound and costume designers to cinematographers, Bali has thousands of talented creative professionals that could be engaged by foreign production houses if they do start operating in Bali." Dananjaya represents NGO Kopernik that produces films on human rights issues.
Dananjaya added: "Studios are limited but with Bali's diverse landscapes it is more likely that producers would choose to shoot on location rather than in a studio.And when it comes to steady electricity, film production companies almost always use backup generators, so main electricity supply isn't an issue."
On a similar vein, US national who is Bali based, Lakota Moira, who produced a Pulau Plastik or Rubbish Island, stated: "There is so much good talent on this island but too much of it is spent on creating commercial content for Instagram or weddings -- work that does not necessarily foster their potential. And when they are hired by filmmakers from overseas, it's usually just as fixers or [microphone] grips. But if we had a platform that could expose their work to wider audiences, it would broaden their horizons and give them much more creative license."
With the pandemic playing havoc with economies across the world, filmmaking too has been adversely hit due to lockdowns and restrictions on cinema halls. Indonesia too is no exception. Much like India, it too needs Government support.
The Indian film industry was pegged around 183 billion rupees in 2020 and has been severely dented with the postponement of big releases and halting of film, television and web series shootings.
Government support is vital as other nations like Australia have given $665 million as Government rebates to the film industry in the last 10 years. Likewise, South Korea's Korean Film Council has announced a $17.8 million package as a stimulus for its movie industry to bail it out of Covid created limbo.
To keep the local industry afloat, the Indonesian Government directed the State-owned production house Perum Produksi Film Negara to invest in potential blockbusters and homegrown content. Reportedly 1.97 trillion rupiah ($137 million) has been set aside to finance 135 hours of film and content production this year.
Besides this laws need to be tweaked to facilitate visas for filmmakers to come to shoot while also providing them tax incentives to make Bali as the most preferred location for shooting films.
New Delhi, Aug 10 (IANSlife) Indicating an intent to travel, USA, Russia and Maldives are among the top 3 most searched international destinations for August 2021 as Indians hope for ease in international travel restrictions revealed a survey by Booking.com. Closer to home, in addition to metro cities, travellers are looking forward to enjoying nature and escaping to the outdoors - searching for leisurely destinations like Lonavala and Leh which are amongst the topmost searched domestic destinations by Indian travellers in August 2021.
With a bank of accrued vacation days and restrictions finally starting to ease in India and other parts of the world, travellers are looking to escape their lockdown surroundings.
Destination preferences for international travel:
With hopes for ease in international travel restrictions, especially for fully vaccinated travellers, Indians have shown interest in travelling to international destinations. For travellers who are open to flying and cross borders again, USA, Russia, Maldives, Switzerland and Qatar are amongst the top 5 most searched destinations for outbound travel as per the list which includes
Domestic travel preferences
Domestic travel continues to remain prevalent with many Indian travellers looking forward to exploring their own country and choosing destinations closer to home. Booking.com data backs this, with earlier research revealing 52 percent of Indian travellers are looking forward to exploring their home country this year. Metro cities such as New Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru continue to be the top searched destinations. Closer-to-home and leisurely destinations such as Lonavala, Jaipur and Leh are also some of the top searched destinations.
1. New Delhi
Top searched domestic destinations by Indian travellers in the month of August 2021*:
New Delhi, July 9 (IANS) Newly-appointed Culture and Tourism Minister G. Kishan Reddy said on Thursday that his ministry will work to fulfil Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision of a 'New India' by investing in strengthening the nation's cultural roots to promote the tourism sector.
The BJP MP from Secunderabad, who was elevated as Union Cabinet minister on Wednesday, said after assuming office on Thursday, "I will sincerely make an endeavour to live up to his (Prime Minister Modi's) expectations and that of my people."
Reddy had earlier served as the Minister of State for Home Affairs.
Reddy was at the forefront of the Telangana agitation in undivided Andhra Pradesh, rejuvenating the movement when it had seemingly died down with his 25-day 'Telangana Poru Yatra' in 2012.
He was already a two-time MLA in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly when he undertook the yatra and when the state was eventually bifurcated, Reddy was made the chief of the BJP's state unit. He was also a member of the first legislative Assembly of Telangana.
With his elevation on Wednesday, Reddy became the first person from Telangana to hold a Cabinet rank. He also holds the Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) portfolio.
Passenger carrier AirAsia India has operated nine flights with fully vaccinated crew including cabin crew and pilots.
According to the airline, the flights were operated on Friday.
"The sectors flown by fully vaccinated crew included Bengaluru-Kolkata, Kolkata-Bengaluru, Bengaluru-Chennai, Chennai-Guwahati, Guwahati-Bengaluru, Bengaluru-Pune, Pune-Jaipur, Jaipur-Pune and Pune-Bengaluru," the airline said in a statement.
"The operating crew members on these sectors are fully vaccinated, having received both doses in line with guidelines from health authorities and after going through all the mandatory tests and certified by the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Sangeeta Kujur."
AirAsia India is a venture between Tata Sons and AirAsia Investment.
It commenced operations on June 12, 2014.
( Courtesy IANS)
Low base effect, due to Covid restrictions in 2020, pushed India's domestic air passenger traffic higher in May 2021.
The country's scheduled domestic flight operations recommenced on May 25, 2020 after suspension due to Covid-19 in end March.
However, during the second wave in 2021, limited civil aviation operations were permitted.
According to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), passengers ferried by domestic airlines during last month rose to 21.15 lakh as against over 2.8 lakh during the corresponding period of the previous year.
"Passengers carried by domestic airlines during Jan-May 2021 were 312.23 lakh as against 331.94 lakh during the corresponding period of previous year thereby registering annual growth of (-) 5.94 per cent and monthly growth of 651.96 per cent," the DGCA said in its May data report.
Strict enforcement of protocol for entry to Goa, quarantine centre for tourists and putting off high-capacity events like electronic dance music (EDM) festivals till March 2022, are some of the measures recommended by tourism industry stakeholders in the state to Chief Minister Pramod Sawant in order to "re-build the image of Goa to all tourists".
The Travel and Tourism Association of Goa, one of the state's oldest industry stakeholder bodies has also called for a collaboration with the Goa Tourism Ministry in order to make good the negative publicity which the state had received in the wake of the second wave of the Covid pandemic, which saw hundreds of lives lost and hospitals overflowing with patients.
"No high capacity events such as Hunar Haat, Sunburn, religious or entertainment events to be allowed till March 2022. These events are super spreaders," the Association's president Nilesh Shah said in a letter addressed to Chief Minister Pramod Sawant on Tuesday.
"Keeping in mind, the second wave of the pandemic and the negative publicity that Goa has generated over the past month, we at TTAG feel that we need to rebuild the image of Goa in the eyes and minds of all tourists," the letter also said, adding that the tourist state had suffered negative publicity over the last two to three months and the damage caused by it to Goa's image needed to be undone.
The Association also said that the government should ensure and amplify the availability of enough oxygen beds, testing centres, quarantine centres, on-time treatment, quick recovery rates, emergency response teams to build tourist confidence.
The letter has also called for setting up special quarantine centers near the airport, railway and main bus stands for arriving tourists, while also advocating strict enforcement of entry protocol, including setting up of mandatory testing facilities or vetting of Covid-19 negative certificates.
"Officers at these entry points should be properly trained and strict enforcement with accountability of officers posted with strict penalties for any mistakes and negligence of duty," Shah said in his letter.
Clear and no-nonsense signages urging tourists to follow Covid-19 protocol should also be set up at high traffic locations like tourist sightseeing points, beaches, religious institutes, monuments, casinos, cruise boats, etc, the letter also said.
The Association has also said that all tourism related businesses should be issued notices to ensure functioning up to only 50 to 75 per cent of their carrying capacity for the next six months.
"All tourism related businesses should only take 50-75 per cent of their actual carrying capacity for at least six months to ensure social distancing. Actual carrying capacity of each premises should be clearly displayed and the reduced capacity should be stated," the letter said.
Goa, one of the top beach tourism destinations in the country has had to virtually shut down the tourism industry in the wake of the second Covid wave, which saw the state top the rate of positivity charts in the country.
Amidst Covid pandemic, passenger carrier SpiceJet had enhanced booking as well as baggage allowance options.
Accordingly, under the offer 'Extra Seat-Extra Baggage', passengers can avail an additional check-in baggage allowance of 10 kg on booking a private row and 5 kg on booking an extra seat.
"This is a limited period offer available on all direct domestic flights of SpiceJet for booking and travel till June 30, 2021. For passengers who have booked a double seat, baggage allowance will be an additional 5 kg and for those who have booked a private row, the airline will provide them an extra baggage allowance of 10 kg."
"These allowances are over and above the existing 15 kg which all customers are eligible for while booking a SpiceJet ticket."
Besides, the company said the offer entitles passengers to enjoy complimentary priority service.
"To enjoy the benefits 'SpiceJet Extra Seats' must be booked up to 6 hours prior to the scheduled departure of the flight."
"Extra seats are subject to availability on a first come first serve basis. It is non-refundable, non-transferrable and is not applicable for group bookings."
Hundreds of holidaymakers once again started gathering across resorts in Himachal Pradesh on Monday with the partial lifting of Covid-induced interstate travel restrictions after over a month and a half.
Members of the hospitality industry told IANS the most sought-after destinations after partial lifting of the restrictions on the first day were Shimla, Kufri, Narkanda, Kasauli, Dharamsala, Palampur, Dalhousie and Manali.
Most of the hotels in the state capital have been seeing less than 15 per cent of the occupancy, an official with the state tourism department said.
He said by weekend the occupancy could reach between 70 per cent and 80 per cent, a good business.
"The occupancy in our property is around 20 per cent on the first day. We are expecting to do a good business in the weekend," Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC) Manager Nand Lal, who is posted in Holiday Home hotel here, told IANS.
According to him, most of the tourists prefer to stay on the outskirts like Mashobra and Kufri rather staying in Shimla, known for the imperial grandeur of buildings that were once institutions of power when it was the summer capital of British India.
But a word of caution for the holidaymakers. The police have advised them to follow the protocol as threat of Covid-19 very much looming.
The state has made mandatory e-registration for all travellers entering the state from Monday midnight. It has only relaxed the mandatory RT-PCR negative report and home quarantine for the interstate travellers.
The statewide curfew will remain imposed daily from 5 pm to 5 am. Only intrastate public transport would be allowed with 50 per cent occupancy.
Priya Grover, a senior executive with a Chandigarh-based multinational company, said: "It is really pleasant to be back in the hills of Shimla after a long break."
Her husband Prashant added: "We are coming here every year to spend a few days when the plains are sizzling. Thank god for giving us the opportunity to enjoy cool climes."
Shimla's meteorological office Director Manmohan Singh told IASN the southwest monsoon reached the state on June 13, in its earliest onset in the past 21 years. Its normal arrival in the state is June 26.
"Most of hill stations likely to experience widespread rains on June 15 and 16," Singh told IANS.
Anoop Thakur, Manali Hoteliers Association President, said most of the hoteliers are back to business after a long break when the arrival of tourists had almost stopped and hotel bookings vanished as the state closed its borders and imposed lockdowns.
Manali and its nearby places support no less than 1,500 hotels, lodges and home-stay accommodations that had witnessed a downturn since the coronavirus pandemic hit the country in the late March in 2020.
Justifying the reopening of state borders for the outsiders, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur told the media that the government has removed the mandatory condition of carrying the negative report of RT-PCR to enter the state. "But we are ensuring that nobody can flout the norms to check the spread of the coronavirus."
Thakur said free interstate movement has been allowed throughout the country.
"We have also decided that the people visiting the state would be monitored through registration in Covid e-pass software. All the persons desirous to enter the state are now required to enter their particulars on the online software and details of their arrival were being shared with all stakeholders concerned," he said.
Issuing a warning to the hoteliers to strictly follow the standard operating procedures, the Chief Minister urged the tourists to adhere to the guidelines and wear the masks and maintain social distancing.
Himachal Pradesh has no tourist accommodations in far-off areas. Rural home-stays that started in 2008 have been driving tourists to the interiors and that are the best option to stay and enjoy the virgin nature.
The state's economy is highly dependent on tourism, besides hydroelectric power and horticulture.
Dubai, June 7 (IANS) Several United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based Indian expats have either cancelled or put their summer vacation plans on hold in the fear of getting stuck amid Covid-induced travel curbs, a media report said on Monday.
The Khaleej Times report said the period between June to August are usually peak travel times for Indian expatriates, as they coincide with school summer holidays.
"However, uncertainty over the ongoing suspension on incoming passengers from India, as well as the intensive vaccination campaign for teenagers in the UAE, are primary reasons for the low demand," the report said citing travel agents and expats.
Raheesh Babu, general manager of Musafir.com, an online travel agency, said: "Peak travels to India are closely tied with school holiday seasons. In this case, the UAE has announced a robust vaccination campaign for students aged 12-15. Parents are concerned that, if they travel over the summer, their children might miss their vaccination schedule.
"Due to this, there is a high chance that school students may have to return to campus in September.
"Since the travel situation to India is highly volatile, residents are avoiding the trip because they also fear getting stranded."
Babu added that the agency has already received several cancellations on bookings.
The UAE had first suspensied incoming passenger traffic from India on April 24.
It was later extended on May 4 by the UAE's National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) in light of a deadly second wave of Covid-19 currently affecting India.
Flag carrier Emirates Airlines announced an extension on the suspension of passenger flights from India to the UAE until June 30.
Currently, only a certain category of travellers, including golden visa holders, diplomats, and those with special permissions are allowed to travel.