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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Myanmar - Mrauk-U still struggling to woo tourists

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Mrauk-U, a town surrounded by hills in northern Rakhine State, is known as the ‘Stone City’. It was given the name because its 14th-century pagodas are made of stone.
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Mrauk-U is home to 1552 ancient stone pagodas – historic structures that are still standing strong today, owing to the wisdom of the old Rakhine kings who ordered them to be built from stone that can withstand the weather on top of the hills.
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“These pagodas are over 800 years old, but younger than those in Bagan in the Mandalay Region that were built in the 11th century,” local hotelier U Hla Myint from the Mrauk-U Princess Hotel said.
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Although Mrauk-U’s pagodas are similar to Bagan’s pagodas in being located close to residential areas, giving the location huge tourism potential, Mrauk-U has not attained international stardom like Bagan.
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Mrauk-U’s tourist arrival numbers are still much lower. While Bagan recorded 280,000 tourists in 2016, Mrauk-U only managed to hit 4000 the whole of last year.
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Hoteliers said the reason for the poor numbers was the instability affecting Rakhine, even in areas far from Mrauk-U, since 2012.
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Since the crisis that brought political instability, the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism imposed an order prohibiting hotels from accepting guests without official permission.
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Foreign ministries abroad also notified their citizens of the danger in Rakhine and discouraged them from visiting the state.
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Tourism in Mrauk-U has not been able to recover since then, even though the town is more developed, better connected, and even has an airport in the pipeline.
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Rakhine Hoteliers Association member Daw Ohnmar Khin said travellers needed to be informed that Mrauk-U was safe.
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 She said there should be more familiarisation trips organised with the collaboration of hotels and tour companies.
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“For Mrauk-U’s tourism growth, we need political stability. But we also need to get the right information out to let people know that Mrauk-U is a safe place to visit.
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“Not everyone knows about us so we need better promotion. We need to help travel agents bring visitors here,” she said.
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Mrauk-U has several prominent heritage sites such as the palace, Shit-thaung (80,000 Buddha images) Pagoda, Htukkanthein Pagoda, Koe-thaung (90,000 Buddha images) Pagoda and Laungbanpyauk Pagoda.
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In the Chin ethnic villages in Mrauk-U, visitors can meet women who have kept the tradition of having tattoos on their faces. For beautiful sceneries, tourists can visit the Laymro River that has water so clear the stones on the river bed can be seen.
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In 1996, local authorities first applied to UNESCO to get Mrauk-U’s archaeological zone recognised as a world heritage site, but were unsuccessful.
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The Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library of Mrauk-U is now trying again, with a team of experts conducting surveying work such as 3D mapping of the ancient architectural and cultural site, to draft a new application.
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There had been some conservation challenges when work was carried out to restore some of the ancient pagodas in Mrauk-U.
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One example was the the loss of the Shit-thaung Pagoda’s heritage value when conservation was not properly done.
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There were also concerns by nearby locals that they would be forced to move if the sites became UNESCO world heritage sites, Mrauk-U guide association chair U Kyaw Hla Maung said.
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“The people are worried about possible relocation. The authorities should talk to them and hear their views and suggestions before proceeding.
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“Do it like what State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi suggested for Bagan. Then they can also educate the people and help them understand why the UNESCO listing is a good thing,” he said.
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U Hla Myint said tourism would bring prosperity to the locals, who could sell crafts and find jobs in tourism-related businesses.
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Source - The Myanmar Times
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Monday, April 3, 2017

Indonesia - Sumba preparing to host sandalwood horse parade, 'tenun ikat' festival

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Sumba in East Nusa Tenggara is set to host an international festival that will highlight sandalwood horses and tenun ikat (traditional woven fabrics).
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Slated to kick off in May, kompas.com has reported that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo will attend the event, which will feature a parade of thousands of horses and a tenun ikat exhibition.
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 The parade will begin in Waingapu in East Sumba regency, then continue to Waibakul in Central Sumba regency, Waikabubak in West Sumba regency and end in Tambolaka in Southwest Sumba regency. Meanwhile, the exhibition will be held across all regencies and will involve both local administrations and residents.
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East Nusa Tenggara Creative Economy and Tourism Agency head Marius Ardu Kelamu said the event aimed to promote the island’s landscape and cultural beauty.
“The festival will help create the island’s brand and promote to the world that sandalwood horses originate from Sumba,” he said.
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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Tour de Lombok Mandalika to welcome international cyclists

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The 2017 Tour de Lombok Mandalika is set to run from April 13-16.
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Located in West Nusa Tenggara, the race will begin and end in Central Lombok.
Divided into four stages, the route will pass through Lombok's premier cultural and tourist attractions.
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The province’s head of tourism, Lalu M. Faozal, said the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) had granted a license for the Tour de Lombok Mandalika.
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During a press conference on Thursday at Dharmawangsa Hotel in South Jakarta, Lalu said the event would involve three national teams and 17 international teams.
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Throughout the event, the cyclists will stay in Mataram, Central Lombok.
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The organizers have teamed up with the local police to ensure the safety of the event.
Meanwhile, West Nusa Tenggara Deputy Governor Moh. Amin offered his appreciation for the event.
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“Every event helps to support the hospitality industry in West Nusa Tenggara. [The 2017 Tour de Lombok Mandalika] will help to promote tourist destinations in the province ,” he said. 
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Source - TheJakartaPost
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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Lombok to welcome thousands of cruise passengers in 2017

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The tourism industry in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), is looking forward to welcoming for 24 cruise ships expected to make fast on the island this year and bring in thousands of tourists through the Lembar seaport.
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The shipping companies behind the 24 vessels had confirmed the planned stops in Lombok, NTB Tourism Agency head Lalu Muhammad Faozal said, adding that the number marked an in...

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Miss Malaysia World stripped of title

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Petaling Jaya - In an unprecedented move, Miss Malaysia World has revoked the title of the current holder.

Tatiana Kumar Nandha has been stripped of her crown for what the organisation calls “offensive” comments online. The announcement was made via the organisation’s Instagram account (@miss_world_malaysia) on Monday.
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The post, signed in the name of former national director Datuk Anna Lin, stated that Tatiana, 18, had breached the code of conduct and contract.
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First runner-up Shweta Sekhon, 19, was named as the new Miss Malaysia World 2016/17.
When contacted, Lin said that Tatiana and her family had made several offensive posts on both the Internet and social media regarding the Miss Malaysia World organisation.
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“There are certain formalities, and she has also breached one involving an important sponsor. This has led to the contract being terminated,” added Lin, who is currently in London.
Tatiana was crowned Miss Malaysia World 2016/17 in August last year. She represented Malaysia on the world stage in the finals in December in Maryland, the United States.
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Lin was the national director and official licensee for Miss Malaysia World from 2013 to 2016. She had announced that she was stepping down from her role as of January this year, with the reason that her term had ended.
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Tatiana’s father, Kumar Nandha, confirmed that she had been served a legal letter about the termination through email on March 3. “She has done nothing wrong,” Kumar said over the phone but declined to comment further.
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Source; TheNation

Friday, March 3, 2017

Japan Travel Fair

Japan Travel Fair to promote destinations outside Tokyo, Osaka

Wakayama is one of the destinations slated to be promoted in the upcoming Japan Travel Fair in Jakarta. 
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 The Japan Travel Fair is set to return for the seventh time to the Kota Kasablanka Mall in South Jakarta on March 3 to 5.
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Six destinations are set to be highlighted at the event, namely the Kyushu (Fukuoka, Kagoshima, Kumamoto, Miyazaki, Nagasaki, Oita and Saga), Okinawa, Setouchi (Ehime, Hiroshima, Kagawa and Okayama), Tohoku (Akita, Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi and Yamagata), Wakayama and Hokkaido areas.
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“Tokyo and Osaka have already become the most popular destinations among Indonesian travelers. This year, we want them to visit other places in Japan,” Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) for Jakarta executive director Hideki Tomioka said in a press conference in South Jakarta on Thursday. He added that the selected destinations were equipped with adequate infrastructure and the local administrations and travel agents were keen to tap into the Indonesian market and were set to participate in the fair to promote their attractions.
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The Tohoku region, for instance, an area still recovering from the 2011 earthquake that had damaged nuclear plant reactors in Fukushima, is said to attend the event to promote places it deemed safe for tourists. Meanwhile, Okinawa is described as a "popular resort destination among local and overseas travelers" that is still foreign to Indonesian tourists, with attractions like picturesque beaches and diving spots.
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isitors of the event can also expect to enjoy discounts from participating airlines, travel agents and partnering banks, with the lowest price for return tickets reportedly Rp 3.9 million (US$292).
The travel fair is part of Japan's effort to attract 40 million foreign visitors from all around the world by the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Last year, up to 271,000 Indonesians reportedly visited the country, representing a 32.1 percent growth from 2015.
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Exploring Angkor Wat gets pricier despite increased numbers of tourists

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Future visitors to Cambodia may be unhappy to hear that if they want to visit the iconic Angkor Wat, they’re going to have to pay nearly double the previous admission fee.
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At the beginning of February the cost of a one-day pass to the temple went up from US$20 to $37.
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Officials justify the increase by saying that this was the first price hike in nearly 25 years for many of the sites and was long overdue.
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Angkor Wat is not the only Cambodian tourist destination to increase its prices.
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According to the English newspaper, The Phnom Penh Post, three-day passes to the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap went from $40 to $62 and week-long passes are now $72, up from $60.
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The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh was the first tourist spot to announce price increases, with fees going from $6.25 to $10. Tickets to the National Museum and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum also rose from $3 to $5.
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“The move comes amid reports of increased tourist visits last year, but lower total revenues,” according to AFP. (sul/kes)
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