Singapore takes Lonely Planet’s top country destination award

Lonely Planet has named Singapore as top destination among countries in Best in Travel 2015, its 10th annual agenda-setting collection of the best trends, destinations and experiences for the year ahead.

Singapore expands INSPIRE programme for Indian incentive travel market

The ‘In Singapore Incentives & Rewards (INSPIRE)’ programme has been updated with brand new activities such as customised food menus and VIP access to popular attractions. The programme aims to provide unique and value-added leisure programmes in Singapore to Indian incentive travel groups, and offers an array of specially-curated offerings that give Indian business travellers a chance to experience Singapore beyond the typical tourist attractions.

“The revamped INSPIRE programme is set to bring more exclusive privileges and activities customised to satisfy the evolving preferences of India’s incentive travel segment, who are now looking for experiences that are compelling, immersive and sophisticated,” said Chang Chee Pey, Executive Director, South Asia, Middle East and Africa, Singapore Tourism Board. “Significantly, more industry stakeholders are also recognising the value of the INSPIRE programme and have indicated their interest to partner STB in bringing on board more customised and exclusive activities. We are confident that the improved line up of programme for INSPIRE will continue to develop well-differentiated experiences for our Indian business travellers.”

Tigerair to right-size operations with sublease of aircraft to IndiGo

SINGAPORE: Tigerair has signed a deal to sublease 12 of its surplus aircraft to the Indian budget carrier IndiGo. In a news release on Thursday (Oct 9), Tigerair said this will help the budget carrier “reduce excess capacity significantly and hence lower related leasing cost”.

Most of the aircraft were previously operated by Tigerair Philippines and Tigerair Mandala which were either sold or folded earlier this year. The aircraft will be subleased to IndiGo for a period of between three and four years and Tigerair expects the agreement to reduce its cash flow burden by S$162 million over the sublease periods.

The Singapore-based airline has been struggling to turn in a profit. It booked a net loss of S$65 million for the quarter ended in June 2014.

In its news release, the budget carrier said its liquidity “remains at a healthy level”, but that it would be reviewing various funding options, including the possibility of a rights issue to strengthen its balance sheet.

“The sublease agreement resolves our excess capacity issue and puts us in a better position to focus on our Singapore operations. We will actively explore options for the placement of the surplus aircraft subsequent to their return from IndiGo,” said Mr Lee Lik Hsin, Group CEO of Tigerair.

The budget carrier has taken other steps as part of its turnaround blueprint. These include the sale of ‘non-performing cubs’ and cancellation of nine aircraft ordered in 2007, and due for delivery this year or the next. Tigerair will continue to review its network operations and may trim its fleet by a further two to four aircraft if need be, the release added.

KL’s Railway Station among World’s Most Beautiful Train Stations

Architectural Digest, an international magazine on designs recently published a list of some of the world’s most beautiful train stations on their online publication. Kuala Lumpur’s Railway Station was included at No. 4 among 26 other train stations. The list can be viewed here.

The Kuala Lumpur Railway Station was built in the year 1910 to replace a much older station. Located along Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin, the station is well-known for its beautiful architecture which has a mix of Eastern and Western designs.

The station was designed by a British Architectural Assistant to the Director of Public Works, Arthur Benison Hubback.  Hubback is also credited for the designs of 25 other buildings in Malaysia, of which 13, or more than half, are considered national treasures today. All of his work, save one which was bombed during the war, still stand in all their glory. The first building Hubback designed in Malaysia was the Sultan Abdul Samad building.


Singapore passport ranked fifth in the world

Singapore joins New Zealand and Switzerland in fifth place, where passport holders enjoy visa-free access to 170 countries around the world.

SINGAPORE: Singapore passport holders now possess the world’s fifth best-rated passport – up from sixth last year – according to a report by residence and citizenship planning firm Henley Global, released on Thursday (Sep 25).

Joining New Zealand and Switzerland in the fifth spot, Singapore passport holders can now travel to 170 countries around the globe without a visa, the Henley and Partners Visa Restrictions Index stated.

Countries at the top of the index include Finland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States. Citizens of these countries are able to travel visa-free to 174 destinations.

(Graphic: Henley and Partners)

“Visa requirements continue to play an important role in controlling the movement of individuals across borders,” said Dr. Juerg Steffen, Head of Asia Pacific at Henley and Partners. “Visa policies are also an expression of the relationships between individual nations and generally reflect the relations and status of a country within the international community,” he added.

The report also noted that passport holders from Hong Kong, which is in 15th position, have much better travel accessibility than their counterparts in China, which is 83rd.

Travel agency loses growth

BANGKOK, 18 February 2014: Association of Thai Travel Agents’ member companies handled 293,980 international tourists at Suvarnabhumi Airport in January representing a decline of 24.40% from 388,888 visits during the same month last year.

ATTA released its data, late last week, based on fees member agencies pay to the airport to provide a meet-and-greet service for international clients. It is considered an accurate barometer for the tourism industry, but is limited to travel through Bangkok’s main aviation hub.

The decline of arrivals in January reflected the ongoing political instability in Thailand that is now entering its fifth month. The situation seriously escalated in December through to mid-January when the to government announced a state of emergency.

Travel agency business was growing steadily every month until December last year, a positive trend that started in 2011.

The association reported in January Russia led the supply markets with 97,827 visits, but it was a decrease of 15.84% from 116,235 during the same month last year.

China followed in second with 65,666 visits down a whopping 57.57% from 154,752.

That trend according to travel agents is the most worrisome as China has been fuelling the tourism boom in the country since 2012.

The Japan market declined 59.80%. The country ranked third with 15,900 visits compared to 39,552 during the same month last year. South Korea, in fourth place with 12,302 visits dropped 55.02% from 27,350. India supplied 8,890 visits, a decrease 58.43% from 21,386 visits.

The next five markets were: Germany (8,342; -38.64%); France (5,717; -30.54%); the United Kingdom (4,520; -54.67%); Taiwan (3,799; -70.00%); and the United States (3,495; -29.34%).

ATTA president, Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, said the association has lost hope that it can realise an earlier forecast that would have grown its members’ business by 7% to 10% from last year’s 4.5 million. Now a 5% growth looks more realistic.

“Normally, the first quarter of the year is considered our high season, but with ongoing political disorder, the industry has been definitely hit and the situation cannot be controlled by tourism-related operators.”

A new China law on outbound tourism, enforced last October, also worsened the situation, but the main cause of losses was the political chaos and sporadic violence on the streets of the capital.

Tourism industry leaders have called on the government to revoke the 60-day state of emergency decree in Bangkok and surrounding provinces to improve tourist confidence.

Top 10 source markets for ATTA agents January at Suvarnabhumi Airport

news source :ttrweekly

Travel advisories lifted for THAILAND

Six countries—Cambodia, Laos, Maldives, Vietnam, Iran and the UAE—have lifted their travel advisories for citizens planning to visit Thailand, according to the Department of Tourism (DoT) acting director-general Second Lieutenant Arnupap Gaesornsuwan.
He said the announcement was a good sign, after the Kingdom installed a new government and is anticipating lifting martial law in major tourist destinations.
About 50 countries, however, have kept their travel advisories, which warn citizens to exercise caution when visiting Thailand.
Only four countries—Greece, Malta, Oman and Uruguay—still advise citizens to avoid unnecessary trips to Thailand.
There are no countries which have banned citizens from travelling to Thailand, he said.
“We expect to see more countries to lift their travel advisories in the near future, due to the increasing confidence in safety issues and Thailand’s political stability,” Arnupap said.
Department statistics show that the total number of tourists in the last three months has increased. The total number of visitors in June was 1.5 million, a number which rose to 1.9 million in July and a little bit over 2 million in August.

NEWS: bangkokpost

Sky Bridge in Langkawi to Reopen in December

Langkawi’s Sky Bridge, which has been closed for maintenance and upgrading since 2012, will reopen in December this year.

According to The Star, the Langkawi Sky Bridge, considered as one of Malaysia’s biggest tourists’ attractions, will reopen in December, as 77% of the maintenance and upgrading works are complete. The delay, according to Langkawi Development Authority (Lada) chief executive officer Tan Sri Khalid Ramli, was due to bad weather.

The main structures of the bridge will be replaced with stainless steel and there will also be a 10m-long walkway in the middle to allow visitors to look down the valley. There will also be an “inclinator to bring visitors down from the top of the station,” said Khalid.

Another new attraction to look out for is the Langkawi Sky Dome, Southeast Asia’s first outdoor “full” dome. Built at a cost of RM1.53mil, the dome will give visitors a panoramic view while watching animated films.

news : star

Thailand introduces new visa regulations

BANGKOK: Thai authorities have implemented new visa regulations aimed at boosting tourism and tightening loopholes often abused by those who want to extend their stay.

Previously, tourists from 48 countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Singapore, could stay in Thailand for 30 days with a visa-exemption stamp from the Thai immigration. Now, for a small fee, they can extend their stay for another 30 days at immigration checkpoints within Thailand, without leaving the country. But this can only be done once.

While this is good news for those who want to stay in Thailand legitimately for a longer period of time, it affects those who are used to abusing the previous system, which allowed visitors to use the 30-day tourist visa extension stamp multiple times. In the past, some visitors had even gone on so-called “visa runs” – constantly leaving and entering Thailand’s border to get their passports re-stamped, to extend their stay indefinitely.

An expat from Canada who requested anonymity, going only by the name of John, said that the impact of the new ruling has already been felt. “People are worried about what’s going to happen,” he said. “I’ve been to farewell parties for friends who really wanted to stay here but now can’t.” 

The new regulation also tackles those who exploited loopholes in the education visa system. Prior to the changes, some education visa holders enrolled in fake study courses to extend their stay by a year, or in some cases, several years. The new law however only allows for a 90-day extension for education visa holders.

Authorities have also vowed to scrutinise more closely the schools in which the visa holders are enrolled.

“Officers are very strict now,” said Dr Prachern Tiyapunjanit, an immigration barrister with a firm associate with Baker&‎McKenzie. “They will look at documents from the school, attendance records, fees received before extending for another 90 days; every 90 days students will have to verify their authenticity as students.”

Still, Thailand’s new Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has said that the authorities will act with restraint on visa runners, despite the tough new measures. Thai authorities refused Channel NewsAsia’s request to comment on the new regulations. Details of the new rules are available on the Immigration Bureau’s website but it is unclear as to how the authorities will actually enforce the regulation on foreigners who regularly enter Thailand.