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UN charts future of tourism investments in Middle East

The UN Tourism focuses on empowering women entrepreneurs and navigating tourism investments in the Middle East….reports Asian Lite News

UN Tourism made a resounding impact at the AIM Congress 2024 with two insightful side events, focusing on empowering women entrepreneurs and navigating tourism investments in the Middle East. The 2024 AIM Congress took place at ADNEC in Abu Dhabi from May 7-9, 2024, acting as a convergence point for global leaders, international organizations, entrepreneurs from around the world.

On May 8th, UN Tourism hosted a dynamic session centred on “Investing in Innovation and Enabling Women Entrepreneurs.” The event, spearheaded by Basmah Al-Mayman, Regional Director of the Middle East, UN Tourism, aimed to address the pressing need for support and funding for women-led startups in the tourism sector across the region.

The highlight of the session was the launch of the second edition of the Women in Tech Middle East startup competition, emphasizing sustainability and inclusive growth. The competition garnered significant interest, showcasing the region’s burgeoning entrepreneurial spirit among women.

Distinguished speakers, including Dawood Al Shezawi, President of AIM Global Foundation, and Natalia Bayona, Executive Director of UN Tourism, provided invaluable insights into fostering innovation and empowering women in the tourism sector. Panel discussions led by industry experts explored key challenges and opportunities, with a focus on bridging the gender gap and promoting sustainable practices.

Keynote speeches and panel sessions delved into the needs of women entrepreneurs, the role of public and private sectors in empowerment, and investment opportunities in sustainable tourism. The session also featured engaging pitching rounds, providing a platform for aspiring women entrepreneurs to showcase their innovative ideas.

Building on this momentum, UN Tourism continued its impactful presence on May 9th with a compelling discussion on “Quo Vadis Tourism Investments: The Middle East Chapter.” Esteemed panelists, including industry leaders and experts, shed light on the evolving landscape of tourism investments in the region.

Insights shared during the session underscored the Middle East’s growing prominence as a hub for tourism investments, with notable greenfield FDI projects totaling USD 6.8 billion. Speakers emphasized the region’s resilience and strategic vision in driving tourism growth, highlighting initiatives to promote sustainable investments and economic diversification.

Peter Janech, Coordinator of Innovation, Education, and Investments at UN Tourism, reiterated the organization’s commitment to fostering sustainable tourism practices and facilitating collaborative efforts for economic development. Alejandro Sabarich Scattaglia shared statistics showcasing the region’s robust FDI inflows and UAE’s emergence as a key investment destination.

Panelists provided valuable insights into exploring untapped destinations, promoting halal tourism, and leveraging technology to enhance visitor experiences. Discussions also centered on strategies to address challenges such as over-tourism and the importance of inclusive growth for local communities.

Lubna Bader Salim Al Mazroei, Manager of Economic Diversification Investments at Oman Investment Authority, highlighted Oman’s ambitious plans to attract investments worth 20 billion Omani riyals by 2040, emphasizing sustainable employment opportunities and support for SMEs.

As the AIM Congress 2024 draws to a close, UN Tourism reaffirms its commitment to driving inclusive and sustainable tourism growth in the Middle East and beyond. Through collaborative partnerships and innovative initiatives, UN Tourism continues to pave the way for a more resilient and equitable tourism sector.

AIM Congress 2024 hosted more than 150 high-level dignitaries, with 900+ speakers and over 12,000 participants from 175 countries around the world participating for three days from May 7-9 at ADNEC in Abu Dhabi. AIM Congress has also organized 27 joint events in cooperation with over 330+ local, international, and global partners.

Investment, trade partnerships

Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, engaged in high-level talks and panel discussions at the recently concluded AIM Congress, exploring strategic investment opportunities and fostering partnerships with global stakeholders.

Al Zeyoudi stressed the importance of strategic partnerships, future-focused policies and bold economic initiatives to deliver a sustainable and prosperous future, highlighting how that approach has established the UAE as “a beacon of stability, a hub for global investment and a catalyst for progress.”

He emphasised how the country’s attractive investment climate, supported by a favourable regulatory framework and a thriving business ecosystem, has made the UAE the third-largest destination for FDI in 2023, attracting $23 billion across 1,277 projects spanning a wide range of industries.

ALSO READ: UAE mourns death of Sheikh Hazza

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Minor Hotels Accelerates Expansion Plans in India

Eyeing hotel management contracts and with an emphasis on greenfield developments, Minor Hotels will look to identify opportunities in up-and-coming locations, continuing a strategy of destination creation that has been the foundation of the group’s 46-year history…reports Asian Lite News

Minor Hotels’ growth strategy in India is part of an ambitious global expansion plan for the Bangkok-based group, which is targeting to add more than 200 hotels in the next three years.

The global hotel owner and operator with more than 540 properties in 56 countries, is set to intensify its presence in the dynamic Indian hospitality market, targeting 50 new openings within the next decade.The group will focus its strategy on the upper-upscale and luxury hotel segments, where it expects strong interest from owners in its well-established Anantara, Avani, and NH Collection brands.

For Anantara Hotels & Resorts, the group is building on core brand differentiators by targeting opportunities in Ayurvedic wellness retreats, wilderness lodges, and historical palaces. It also believes Avani Hotels & Resorts is well positioned to fill a significant gap in the lifestyle hotel space across India, while NH Collection Hotels & Resorts will prove attractive for upper-upscale conversion opportunities.

It has also identified strong potential for the upscale NH Hotels & Resorts, particularly in rapidly developing tier two cities and airport locations.

Eyeing hotel management contracts and with an emphasis on greenfield developments, Minor Hotels will look to identify opportunities in up-and-coming locations, continuing a strategy of destination creation that has been the foundation of the group’s 46-year history.

Amir Golbarg, SVP for Middle East, Africa and India for Minor Hotels, said: “We are bullish on the potential of India, and have already been overwhelmed with owner interest, but are proceeding with a ‘partnerships over properties’ approach. It means we are being very selective in the hotels that we add to our portfolio, with our focus on cultivating meaningful alliances with partners who align with our values and vision. Minor’s strength has always been in our ability to think globally while acting locally, meaning we are well versed at adapting our standards and operations to suit the unique characteristics of each market we operate in – a
trait we believe will give us a strong advantage in India.”

Minor Hotels has been present in the India market since 2017, when it launched Oaks Bodhgaya in the northeast Indian state of Bihar. But the group will mark a significant milestone later this year with the opening of Anantara Jaipur Hotel, the debut of its flagship luxury brand in India.

The group recently appointed Vijay Krishnan as Vice President of Operations for India, overseeing a growing team on theground. By establishing a permanent strategic presence in Bengaluru, it has positioned itself at the forefront of emerging opportunities in southern India, anticipating significant growth potential in the region.

Dillip Rajakarier, CEO of Minor Hotels and Group CEO of its parent company Minor International (SET:MINT), said: “We believe in India. We believe in its potential as a world- class inbound destination. And we believe in the enormous opportunities that lie in its surging domestic market. It’s why we have made substantial investments in establishing our operations there, and will continue to invest there to realise our growth ambitions. With our extensive experience in managing world-class hotels in emerging destinations, coupled with the strong recognition of our existing hotel brands within the Indian market, we are confident in our ability to play a significant role in India’s ongoing tourism success story.”

Minor Hotels brands have already built strong recognition amongst Indian travellers. For Anantara in particular, India is one of the fastest-growing international source markets, with annual room night production across its Asia and Middle East properties growing 72 percent in 2023 versus 2022. That trend has continued to date in 2024, with Q1 figures up 36 percent on last year.

Minor Hotels is also a member of GHA DISCOVERY, the world’s largest alliance of independent hotel brands. Revenue generated by GHA hotels in India hit a record US$68 million in 2023, with GHA loyalty members in India also topping 500,000 for the first time, a 21 percent year-on-year increase. Indian members also spent more at GHA hotels last year than ever before, generating a record US$60 million in hotel revenues, up 46 percent year-on-year.

According to research from GHA, its Indian members are planning on average four leisure trips, three staycations and five business trips in 2024, with the top three destinations being Europe, Thailand and Maldives. Minor Hotels is one of the largest players in each of those markets, with more than 300 properties in Europe, 25 in Thailand and seven in Maldives.

ALSO READ-Welcomhotel Brand Expands Reach

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Bespoke Getaways Across the Globe Await

Amanoi’s programme of craft activities include traditional coconut-leaf weaving – the intricate but easy-to-learn process by which the region’s children make their own toys…reports Asian Lite News

As the summer temperatures continue to soar in India, you can start planning a unique vacation filled with new experiences that promise to remain etched in your memory. Whether you’re traveling with family or seeking a romantic escape, here’s a guide to bespoke getaways across the world that bring to you, a variety of immersive journeys, rare experiences and exceptional cuisine.

Soneva Fushi, Maldives

Spark discovery this summer at Soneva Fushi and explore exclusive entertainment, rare experiences and vast beachfront and overwater villas. Indulge in a culinary experience inspired by the movie ‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’ at the overwater theatre, Cinema Paradiso. From sustainable arts and crafts to island-wide treasure hunts, there’s so much to enjoy at The Den. Pick ‘The Secret Day at Soneva Fushi’ experience and let the team curate a magical, personalised secret itinerary inspired by the Slow Life philosophy.

Soneva Jani, Maldives

Make a splash this summer in Soneva Jani’s turquoise lagoon, where luxurious overwater residences and unparalleled marine experiences await. Enjoy intimate dinners with visiting Michelin-starred chefs, reach new fitness goals or unlock the secrets to integrative wellness at Soneva Soul. Personalised secret experience, ‘The Secret Day at Soneva Jani’ and culinary experience inspired by the movie ‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’ will both be available at Soneva Jani.

Amankora, Bhutan

Amankora offers a number of enriching journeys through Bhutan’s spectacular central and western valleys, Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey and Bumthang. Five distinct lodges offer a circuit of Himalayan sanctuaries, inviting you to embark on a multi-destination itinerary with the opportunity to experience the Kingdom of Bhutan’s remarkable landscape and rich cultural heritage. Between March-May, the season of renewal sees Bhutan at its most beautiful as the Himalayan landscape comes alive with colour. Hikes around Gangtey are enlivened by forests of resplendent rhododendrous, while the jacaranda trees surrounding Punakha Dzong erupt into mauve clouds of blossom. The pleasant air is perfect for picnics and the rivers around Punakha offer perfect conditions for Whitewater rafting.

Amanoi, Vietnam

Amanoi’s programme of craft activities include traditional coconut-leaf weaving – the intricate but easy-to-learn process by which the region’s children make their own toys. At the Beach Club, the Amanoi activity team celebrate the art of sand sculpture, incorporating shells, stones and driftwood into grand sandcastles and other creations. At night, the library can transform into a screening room, with a selection of family films on offer – accompanied by popcorn and cookies. This year, Amanoi’s residency programme draws an international roster of holistic health experts and wellbeing practitioners who curate limited-edition retreats and experiences, including: Rajeshwari Nerurkar, 1-31 May – Master of her craft since 2004, Rajeshwari focuses on energy healing to treats the cause of physical symptoms.

Anantara Uluwatu Bali Resort

Immerse yourself in a transformative journey of wellness as you cleanse and balance the seven chakras under the guidance of a Balinese High Priestess. Experience the restorative powers of ancient healing practices in one of the most inspirational settings imaginable. Located on the southern tip of the Island of the Gods, Anantara Uluwatu Bali Resort is an all-suite-and-villa cliffside paradise boasting innovative architecture and untamed natural beauty.

Anantara Layan Phuket Resort

Dara Cuisine Phuket and Sky Observatory at Anantara Layan PhuketResort offer a unique experience this summer combining modern Thai dining with stargazing. Named after the Thai word for ‘Star’, Dara celebrates Thai culinary heritage and seafaring traditions. The Sky Observatory provides an intimate rooftop setting with a custom-built Ash dome, where guests can
enjoy craft cocktails inspired by constellations while Sky Storytellers guide them through the night sky with Phuket most powerful telescope.

ALSO READ-India’s Advantage in Health-focused Travel

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Explore Nature’s Beauty with These Top Trekking Paths

Belgrad Forest features the Bahçeköy Wildlife Production Station and ancient dykes, some of which were built during the Roman Empire period to carry water from northern forests to İstanbul…reports Asian Lite News

If you’re planning a business or city trip to İstanbul, make sure to include a few extra days for a beautiful outdoor adventure. Trekking paths in and around İstanbul allow “Bleisure” travellers to unwind after meetings and touristic visitors to discover distinct natural landscapes. Here are the greatest trekking paths in and around Istanbul.

Natural Wonder of İstanbul: Belgrade Forest

The Belgrad Forest in Sarıyer district is ideal for nature lovers in İstanbul. Belgrad Forest, described as the “lungs of İstanbul,” covers 5,300 hectares and offers tree-shaded picnic areas and different hiking routes. The 6.5-kilometre-long Neşet Suyu Trail is a favourite among runners and walkers.

Remember: Belgrad Forest features the Bahçeköy Wildlife Production Station and ancient dykes, some of which were built during the Roman Empire period to carry water from northern forests to İstanbul.

Paradise Next to the City: Ballıkayalar

Ballıkayalar Nature Park is just an hour’s drive from İstanbul. This natural park in Tavşanlı village of Gebze, located in a 2-kilometre valley with a stream, is well-known among nature lovers, rock climbers, and hikers. It offers easy to moderate trekking experiences. The valley’s lake, waterfalls, and travertine terraces leading to the Ballıkaya Stream are spectacular. Furthermore, the park’s abundance of fauna and flora contributes to its popularity. While trekking, you may observe roe deer, wild rabbits, wild boars, moles, martens, and various bird species in their natural habitat.

Remember: Ballıkayalar, home to rare birds, butterfly species, and 20 types of orchids, is an essential route near İstanbul for bird, butterfly, and flower watchers for its outstanding biodiversity. Spring is a perfect season to explore this route.

Hidden Treasure of Tekirdağ: Uçmakdere

Uçmakdere, located in the Şarköy district of Tekirdağ, is a popular destination for nature lovers and trekkers from İstanbul. The region is covered with lush pine forests and offers incredible views of Ganos (Işıklar) Mountain and the Marmara Sea. This natural area is known for its local village products, lifestyle, and culture, making it a popular route for cyclists, motorbike travellers, and campers.

Remember: Uçmakdere is also perfect for paragliding. Professional guides will take you paragliding on Nişantepe, 650 meters high. Şarköy, famous for its vineyards, also offers lovely Turkish wines.

Escape to Nature: Erikli Plateau

The Erikli Plateau, located in Yalova’s Çınarcık district, is another popular trekking destination close to İstanbul. The plateau, about a two-hour drive from Istanbul, offers a fantastic hiking trail surrounded by apple, fir, linden, chestnut, and elm trees. While the trails in the area have a slight slope, offering a moderate rather than easy level of trekking, encountering a waterfall during your walk is a delightful reward. After camping on the Erikli Plateau and exploring the region to your heart’s content, you can explore the region’s Teşvikiye City Forest, Double Waterfall, and Small and Big Bottomless Lakes.

Remember: After the Erikli Plateau, you can visit the Delmece Plateau, another well-known plateau in Yalova that is famous for camping.

ALSO READ-Bhutan welcomes travellers with easier access

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A Historic Retreat in Shimla’s Verdant Haven

Set amidst lovingly-tended gardens, the rooms offer unparalleled privacy and intimacy. Exquisitely manicured lawns, fragrant nooks and a fire pit provide the perfect setting for a brisk game of croquet, a quiet read or a romantic evening under the stars…reports Asian Lite News

The Shimla home of HH Princess Kusum of Bharatpur has an illustrious history that dates back to the late 19th century. A witness to the heydays of the Raj, Independence and the birth of Himachal Pradesh, the home has welcomed nobility and royalty and, it is said that even a Vicereine once dropped by for a chat.

Perched on a sunlit spur at over 7,700 ft on Jakhu Hill, Jungle House commands sweeping views of the Middle Himalayas. Nestled in ancient woods a mere 700 meters from Jakhu Temple, with a motorable approach, and a picturesque three-kilometre walk from The Mall. The 19th-century royal summer house’s unique location offers unsurpassed levels of privacy and solitude while ensuring easy access to all areas of tourist interest.

Unsurpassed levels of privacy, luxury and highly personalised service

The estate offers two exquisite suites in a standalone stone cottage that effortlessly combines contemporary style with colonial hill architectural design. The cottage has been meticulously renovated to preserve its original features while providing exceptional levels of modern comforts and luxury.

With teak floors, high ceilings, sumptuous furnishings, elegant spacious bathrooms, thoughtfully selected amenities, original artworks and breath-taking views, each generously proportioned suite – Chelsea and Holly – has been thoughtfully designed to help you unwind and enjoy the finer things in life. Luxuriate in a tub as you watch snowflakes drift by or snuggle up in a king-size bed with a book. Each room has been designed to pamper you while reflecting the home’s unique heritage and a strong sense of place.

Set amidst lovingly-tended gardens, the rooms offer unparalleled privacy and intimacy. Exquisitely manicured lawns, fragrant nooks and a fire pit provide the perfect setting for a brisk game of croquet, a quiet read or a romantic evening under the stars.

Dining at Jungle House

Friendly and informal, dining at Jungle House represents the relaxed elegance of dining at a gracious country house. Feel more at home than in a hotel, and experience home-cooked meals from jealously guarded family recipes. Savour caringly prepared dishes that use only the finest locally sourced ingredients.

A delightful and extensive breakfast to start your day, and Jungle House’s signature afternoon tea to welcome you home from your adventures. Aperitivo Hour by the firepit, and as the finalé, indulge yourself in a delectable dinner followed by scrumptious pudding.

Whether you desire Continental favourites like Chicken Kiev, Himachali and Indian cuisine, breakfast staples like Eggs Benedict and fluffy, melt-in-the-mouth pancakes with homemade jams and preserves or delightful desserts like lemon tarts and chocolate cake, each meal at Jungle House is an experience in itself.

Specially crafted experiences

Uniquely located in the middle Himalayas, the “Queen of Hill Stations” and the former summer capital of the Raj, Shimla is the repository of legends and some of the best-kept secrets of India.

There is an experience crafted for every season and mood to create memories and add to your stay at Royal Summer House.

Idyllically nestled in an ancient forest, Jungle House presents itself as the perfect location for celebrating the outdoors, no matter the weather forecast. Shinrin–yoku or forest bathing is all about connecting with nature, and taking time to slow down and appreciate the outdoors. We all know how good being in nature can make us feel. It offers the sanctuary of mindfulness and release.

For those in the mood for something a little more energetic, there’s always a walk through the magnificent Shimla Catchment Sanctuary or hiking through the Himalayan countryside accompanied by an experienced guide. Weather permitting, you could also experience ice skating at an open-air skating rink.

For the spiritually minded, Jakhu Mandir, the ancient temple dedicated to Hanuman sits atop Jakhu Hill, an exhilarating 500m trek up from Jungle House. According to the Ramayana, Hanuman stopped to rest at the location while searching for Sanjeevni Booti to revive Lakshmana.

The more adventurous may wish to retrace the steps of famous authors and raconteurs such as Rudyard Kipling, to explore the summer capital of the empire. Enjoy a bracing heritage walk accompanied by the foremost authority on colonial Shimla or browse for antiques and take in the scene on The Mall.

If a round of golf at 7200 feet sounds like fun, then the Jungle House butler will be delighted to assist you with booking tee-off slots at the historic Naldehra Golf Course which dates back to 1905 and is one of India’s oldest and most scenic golf courses. It is a par 68, 18-hole golf course with 16 greens and 18 tees.

Jungle House is available to accept reservations for rooms starting from Rs 25,000 (plus taxes) per room per night, which includes full daily breakfast and dinner for up to two persons, afternoon tea, Aperitivo hour – daily sundowner refreshments accompanied by hors d’oeuvres, free flow of tea, coffee and soft beverages throughout the day, complimentary bottled water in the room and unlimited WiFi throughout the premises.

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Discover Qatar: Where Tradition Meets Innovation

Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum, a must-visit destination for sports enthusiasts of all ages. Immerse yourself in Qatar’s rich sporting heritage, uncovering captivating exhibits and interactive displays that celebrate the nation’s athletic achievements on the global stage…reports Asian Lite News

A dazzling desert oasis in the heart of the Middle East, every corner of Qatar tells a story of the meeting of old and new. Nestled along the Arabian coastline, the country captivates visitors with its rich and diverse cultural landscape and stunning views across the Persian Gulf.

While thrill-seekers are drawn to the Inland Sea’s exhilarating adventures, The Pearl-Qatar invites with its pristine beaches for a luxurious escape. Whether your heart beats for avant-garde architecture, or the timeless charm of traditional districts, this country offers something for all kinds of travellers, promising unforgettable adventures in every season.

With an assorted array of experiences to suit every taste, here are neighbourhoods you simply cannot miss while exploring Qatar.

Dive into The Pearl-Qatar for a splash of glitz and glamour

Just north of the city centre, set amidst the coastal shores of the Arabian Gulf, is Qatar’s upscale island district – The Pearl. Indulge in the lavish lifestyle of The Pearl, where impressive yachts line the jetties and fine dining awaits at every turn. Named after its former pearl diving site, this Mediterranean-inspired area boasts fancy villas, elite hotels, and designer boutiques. The island is home to modern dining spots like the Nozomi which serves up Japanese cuisine or the Toro Toro which offers a full Latin experience. The famous Medina Centrale particularly stands out for its Mediterranean charm and aura with its public plazas, colourful houses, and inviting cafés. Whether you seek luxury or simply wish to stroll along the canals and admire the picturesque surroundings, a visit to The Pearl is an absolute must.

Embrace Qatar’s history at Al Jasra

Step into history at Al Jasra, Doha’s significant centre that is steeped in tradition. Named after the Arabic word for “bridge,” this neighbourhood features iconic landmarks like the Old Well and the bustling Souq Waqif, Qatar’s largest marketplace. Dating back to the late 19th to early 20th centuries, this area used to be a gathering place where Bedouins and locals would trade a variety of goods including falcons and camels. Now, you can wander through its narrow passageways that are lined with stalls selling antiques, handicrafts, spices, artefacts and much more. Stroll further to the falcon souq where you can pose with a falcon perched on your arm or head to the camel pen to see these doe-eyed creatures.

Get your game on in Al Baaya

Experience the charm of Al Baaya (also known as Al Waab), a suburban haven just a stone’s throw away from Doha’s busy city centre. Popular among multi-generational families this neighbourhood boasts the expansive Aspire Park, home to the thrilling Jungle Zone indoor theme park and the iconic Aspire Lake. Dive into luxury at the prestigious Villagio Mall, offering upscale boutiques, a cinema, and a dreamy Italian-themed canal complete with gondolas. But the real gem of Al Baaya is the 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum, a must-visit destination for sports enthusiasts of all ages. Immerse yourself in Qatar’s rich sporting heritage, uncovering captivating exhibits and interactive displays that celebrate the nation’s athletic achievements on the global stage.

Step into the future at Lusail

Palm trees swaying gently in the breeze and yachts bobbing in the turquoise water, streets lined with perfectly designed Lego block-like buildings, Lusail is a blend of innovation and sustainability. Lusail is often hyped as Qatar’s “City of the Future” and claims to be the most technologically advanced city in the region, if not the world. Whether it’s taking a break from the hustle and bustle and immersing oneself in Crescent Park’s eco-friendly beauty that is inspired by the serene Qatari desert or indulging in some upscale shopping at the Paris-inspired leisure hub – Place Vendôme or visiting Lusail Stadium that held the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ finale, it’s a city that pulsates with vibrancy.

Where sand meets the sea at Khor Al Adaid

Prepare to be enchanted by Khor Al Adaid, a breathtaking landscape where the desert meets the sea in a spectacle unlike any other. Here, the turquoise waters of the sea gracefully merge with the golden sands, forming an Inland Sea, which is as mesmerizing as it is extraordinary. As the day unfolds watch in awe as the beach transforms into a resort-like oasis with water gently lapping onto the desert shores. As evening approaches, witness the magic of the desert sunset, as the dunes take on a warm, golden hue that casts a spellbinding glow over the landscape. Amidst the towering dunes, one can encounter an abundant variety of fauna, ranging from desert foxes and antelopes to migratory birds like ospreys and pink flamingos, making it a paradise for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike.

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Unveiling South Africa’s Untouched Beauty

Laced with stunning views and opportunities to hike around the free-flowing rivers, the Augrabies Falls National Park is located in the vicinity of Upington along the banks of the formidable Orange River…reports Asian Lite News

As the year gains momentum and travellers embark on checking off their bucket lists, numerous hidden gems await discovery, eager to be unveilled. For wanderlusts, these destinations project new desires to explore the unexplored and charter the roads less travelled. With the landscape of travel continuously evolving, play along and embark on an exploration of novel experiences that transcend geological boundaries. 

The essence of travel lies in the discovery of unfound gems and underrated cultures. Enriched by multiple less frequented destinations, the idea of exploring the Rainbow Nation appears ever so appealing. Often associated with iconic destinations such as Cape Town and Johannesburg, the country has so much more to offer if one goes beyond these well-trodden paths. Trading the familiarity of popular, mainstream destinations with untouched landscapes could be your very first stepping stone to embrace the thrill of the unknown, and when you get there, your camera lens will finally experience the unparalleled beauty that it has been missing all along.

Serenade By the Sounds at Augrabies Falls National Park

Laced with stunning views and opportunities to hike around the free-flowing rivers, the Augrabies Falls National Park is located in the vicinity of Upington along the banks of the formidable Orange River. Appreciating the incredible sounds generated from the powerful flow of the 56-metre-high waterfall here the Khoi people of South Africa often refer to the park as “Aulkorebis”. translating to “the place of great noise”. While there are no large predators here, expect to encounter Giraffes, Zebras, African Wild Cats, Springbok, and more along with rare sightings of Leopards. Besides, the park is also home to multiple fascinating rock formations to check out. One can also go against the currents of the Orange River and enjoy water sports such as white-water rafting and kayaking. 

Become Captive to The Natural Beauty of Coffee Bay

Tucked away in the Wild Coast of South Africa, Coffee Bay is famous for its prominent geographical marvel – Hole in the Wall. Placed right in the path of Mpako River the elements of the rock stacked offshore have eroded a hole thus creating a beautiful arch. The Xhosa mythology credits the phenomenon to a romantic tale of semi-deities. Coffee Bay is surrounded by a rich diversity of wild flora and fauna, inviting you to embark on hour-long strolls and become captive to the town’s scenic beauties. Try taking a leisurely break under the canopy of milkwood trees or dive for a swim right before lunch. You can conclude the day driving back along a picturesque road and return in time to sip your favourite sundowner drink. 

Gaze The Turquoise Waters of Langebaan Lagoon

Safeguarded within the West Coast National Park, Langebaan is a saltwater lagoon and a remarkable international treasure. A paradise for bird enthusiasts, the intertidal area of this 16-km-long waterbody attracts as many as 55,000 water birds in the summer. Striking an intense turquoise blue shade, the lagoon is also responsible for supporting a huge population of crabs and snails along with 70 different marine algae serving as a nursery to juvenile fish. What makes it unique is its self-sustaining nature where the lagoon shapes itself by the rise and fall of sea levels. If you are a beachbody, make your way to the coast for a relaxing swim or a comforting picnic or spend time exploring a series of unique salt marshes that make up the biggest salt marsh area in South Africa. 

Hide In the Mountains with The Hidden Village of Hogsback

A charming village hidden in the elevated Amatola range, Hogsback is an enigmatic world of mountains and forests.  Wrapped in the native Afromontane Forest, the village offers a rejuvenating experience. Posing dramatic natural beauty, the mountains are host to numerous hiking trails attracting adventure seekers from around the world taking them through an exploration journey of glorious waterfalls. This little sanctuary is also the home to the last surviving Cape parrots and vibrant Knysna Loerie as well as long-crested eagles and crowned eagles. With breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, Hosgback is a haven for wanderers. During winters you will also find the lower-lying parts of the village covered in a blanket of snow.

Stand Above the Valley of Desolation

Offering breathtaking views from the top, the Valley of Desolation in the Eastern Cape is essentially a geological phenomenon that surrounds the town of Graaff-Reinet.  A national monument located within the Camdeboo National Park, the valley is popular for its Karoo Landscape and the charming Karoo-styled homes of the town it encompasses as well as its historic museums. Being just 14 km away from the town’s borders, the valley poses a remarkable diversity of plants, mammals, and bird species. The inspiring vertical cliffs and dolerite columns stand tall at 120 meters above the floor of the valley is an unusual feature resulting from the volcanic and erosive forces that have taken 100 million years to form. If you find yourself strolling the Graaf Reinet, be sure to seize the opportunity to embark on an invigorating hike in the valley for a fun-filled outdoor experience. An enduring force of nature, this majestic beauty provides a momentary escape from the ordinary.

South Africa is abundant with natural beauty and peculiar landscapes and while the above spills the beans to a few, many more hidden gems of the Rainbow Nation await to be unearthed.

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Turkiye’s Hidden Treasures

In Kütahya, a part of the Phrygian Valley, there are numerous open-air temples and altars dedicated to the mother goddess Cybele, as well as rock-carved tombs. Visit these fantastic structures while you’re in the region…reports Asian Lite News

A treasure located in one of the world’s most essential geographies, where the history of civilisation was written and shaped, Turkiye is an open-air museum of ancient sites. The country offers a rich wealth of history with 21 World Heritage Sites listed under the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, and 79 on the Tentative List.

Let’s look at some of Türkiye’s lesser-known archaeological treasures to inspire your next adventure!

Treasure of the Inner Aegean: Aizanoi

Aizanoi, on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List, is a remarkable ancient site in Kütahya, in the Inner Aegean. As the principal settlement centre of the Aizanitis living in ancient Phrygia, Aizanoi became a wealthy and prominent city during the Roman period due to grain cultivation and wine and wool production. Aizanoi is home to the world’s first trade exchange building, the Macellum, and Anatolia’s best-preserved Temple of Zeus.

Don’t miss: In Kütahya, a part of the Phrygian Valley, there are numerous open-air temples and altars dedicated to the mother goddess Cybele, as well as rock-carved tombs. Visit these fantastic structures while you’re in the region.

Kaunos and its rock tombs

Kaunos, an important port city of the ancient world, is among Turkiye’s most exciting ruins, with its rock tombs. On the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List, Kaunos lost its port as silt filled the sea over time. Like Stratonikeia, Kaunos is in the Muğla province and accessible via a 10-minute boat ride from Dalyan. The Kaunos rock tombs, which can also be seen from Dalyan, were produced in the fourth century BC and used during the Roman period.

Don’t miss: Tour boats can bring you to İztuzu Beach, a true natural wonder where you can observe the Caretta caretta sea turtles. During the incubation and spawning periods of the Caretta carettas, human visitors are prohibited from the beach from evening to morning, as the beaches are reserved exclusively for sea turtles during this critical time.

Kibyra, with water flowing from an Ancient Fountain

Located in Burdur, the geography of ancient civilisations, Kibyra is among the region’s most important ancient cities, along with Sagalassos. Since 2016, the structures in Kibyra, on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List, have been planned symmetrically to offer unobstructed views. In addition, following a comprehensive restoration, Kibyra’s lovely 2,000-year-old monumental fountain once again flows with potable water. The city’s peak occurred during the Roman period. Its other noteworthy structures include a stadium with about 10,000 people, where gladiator fights occurred, and the Odeon, which features a unique Medusa mosaic.

Don’t miss: Sagalassos is another stunning ancient city in Burdur, on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List. It is well worth a visit to bask in its 5,000 years of history and see the Antonine Fountain. Also worth visiting is Salda Lake, a natural wonder of the province with a white sandy beach.

Grid-planned city of Priene

Dating from 2000 BC, the ancient city of Priene is near the town of Güllübahçe, in Aydın. Built by the grid layout developed by the Miletian architect Hippodamus, Priene, on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List, it is considered among the finest examples of ancient urban planning. Ruled by kingdoms such as the Seleucid and Pergamum during the Hellenistic period, Priene was annexed to Rome after the death of the Pergamum king, Attalus II. The city served as a bishopric during the Eastern Roman era and was completely abandoned at the end of the period.

Don’t miss: After Priene, you can visit Kuşadası and enjoy a blue cruise in an area that, for most of the year, is warm enough for swimming.

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Boosting Rural Homestays, Empowering Locals

To encourage operational efficiency and excellence in service, the scheme offers an operational subsidy of up to Rs. 2.5 lakh per year if the group achieves a minimum of 100 paid room nights by guests, for 5 years…reports Asian Lite News

The “Amar Aalohi” homestay scheme which has been implemented by the Tourism Department, Govt. of Assam through Assam Tourism Development Corporation Ltd, aims to promote homestay facilities, create self-employment opportunities, and provide authentic hospitality experiences to tourists.

Five clusters including Dima Hasao Adventure Association (Dima Hasao), Umswai Valley Green and Clean Protection Committee (West Karbi Anglong), Dichang Welfare Foundation/Siupaatphaa Social Foundation (Charaideo), Dihing Patkai SHG (Dibrugarh), Chiram Social Foundation Deori Community (Majuli) were awarded the sanction letters on the occasion.

Under the Amar Alohi Rural Home-Stay Scheme, a community-based tourism organization consisting of 10 members will receive substantial benefits to kickstart their homestay ventures. These benefits include:

Capital Subsidy: Beneficiaries will receive a capital subsidy of 90% of the total project cost, up to a maximum of 1 crore. This subsidy is intended for the construction of new homestay units, comprising a minimum of 2 rooms in 10 households, ensuring a significant boost to local infrastructure and tourism facilities.

Promotional Subsidy: The group will receive a promotional subsidy covering 50% of the total promotional cost incurred, up to a maximum of 2.5 lakh per year, for 5 years. This subsidy aims to enhance the visibility and marketing efforts of the homestay units, helping attract more tourists and boost local economies.

Operational Subsidy: To encourage operational efficiency and excellence in service, the scheme offers an operational subsidy of up to Rs. 2.5 lakh per year if the group achieves a minimum of 100 paid room nights by guests, for 5 years. This subsidy serves as a performance-based incentive, rewarding the successful operation of the homestay units.

The sanction letters were issued subject to compliance with the terms and conditions of the scheme, including the execution of an agreement with ATDC. The agreement will be valid for seven years and includes provisions regarding the use of the unit, maintenance of standards, and attendance at training programs.

The Department of Tourism/ Assam Tourism Development Corporation Ltd will provide publicity and marketing support to the units through print and electronic media and other means. Such enlistment is subject to satisfactory periodic review based on customer review and inspection. Local Village Tourism Committees are formed will monitor the different aspects regarding cleanliness, safety, and security of the tourists and other issues so that their day-to-day management is transparent and conducive to the image of the localities. ATDC remains committed to promoting sustainable tourism and empowering local communities in Assam.

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Discover the Timeless Charm of Bali

Bali’s rich history shapes its vibrant cultural scene today, with numerous temples dotting the island’s landscape…reports Asian Lite News

Nestled in the Indonesian archipelago, Bali has truly earned its nickname “Island of the Gods.” This captivating destination offers something for everyone – from serene beaches kissed by turquoise waters to majestic temples steeped in history. No wonder for years, travellers have sought its shores to restore and revitalise their spirits.

So what sets Bali apart from the other sought-after spots in the world? CRED Escapes invites guests to take a trip down these bustling, narrow streets to find out.

Tracing the history

The history of the Balinese people reflects a series of migrations. Thousands of years ago, people from nearby islands like Java and Kalimantan sailed over to Bali and made it their home. In the 15th and 16th centuries, as Islam gained prominence in Java, many Hindus, including both nobles and commoners, sought refuge in Bali. This mix of people and beliefs over time shaped Bali’s unique culture, visibly evident in Bali’s architecture, traditions, and even daily life. 

The Present Landscape

Bali’s rich history shapes its vibrant cultural scene today, with numerous temples dotting the island’s landscape. From grand landmarks to intimate household shrines, these temples symbolize resilience and community spirit. Balinese culture is renowned for its warm hospitality, providing a refreshing contrast to the hustle and bustle of contemporary living. 

Before ending a trip to Bali, don’t miss out the chance to witness the centuries-old traditions at Tirta Empul’s water cleansing ritual, join a family-hosted cooking class and learn the art of creating authentic Balinese dishes. Savour the flavours of these vibrant markets and check out the ancient art of Batik, a renowned dyeing technique. Participate in a hands-on workshop, learn from local artisans, and you can even create your personalised souvenir.

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