Two other airports newly approved for Hajj pilgrims are Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh and Agartala in Tripura….reports Asian Lite News
India has approved four new embarkation points for pilgrims for the Hajj in 2023, two of them in Kerala state.
Kannur and Calicut in the Malabar area of the state are the new airports of embarkation for Keralites.
The Gulf region hosts millions of expatriates from Kerala and the new embarkation points will come as a consolation for them when their families and relatives go on Hajj from this year onwards.
Two other airports newly approved for Hajj pilgrims are Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh and Agartala in Tripura.
“The final number of embarkation points will be subject to a minimum number of passengers opting for an airport and the feasibility of setting up of the related infrastructure,” India’s Minister of Minority Affairs, Smriti Zubin Irani, told Parliament. “Pilgrims have been given options to travel from 25 embarkation points for Hajj 2023.”
She said that during interactive sessions with stakeholders, including Hajj Committees in states, demands for more embarkation points were received. After analysing all the feedback, new airports for Hajj departures were added to reduce the difficulties pilgrims face due to fewer embarkation points.
Kerala already has a third designated Hajj departure airport, Cochin.
According to the reports, Mumbai was the most visited city for domestic business trips (50 per cent of respondents), while internationally, the United States (44 per cent of respondents) emerged as the most popular destination…reports Asian Lite News
With business travel across domestic and international markets showing a rebound post pandemic, majority of Indian businesses (67 per cent) expect a rise in business travel in 2023 and 77 per cent of businesses are expecting to increase their travel budget in 2023 as compared to 2022.
These findings were revealed in the business travel and entertainment (T&E) survey report titled ‘Revival of business travel: An India perspective’ commissioned by American Express, India with the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr).
The report further indicates that 79 per cent of Indian businesses surveyed use business travel data analytics to assist with travel booking and expenditure, showing how important technology has become for the travel sector. As with the broader technology sector, the travel technology sector is constantly innovating. In the post-pandemic period, 43 per cent of financial decision makers surveyed said that the use of better software to manage expenses and travel is a key innovation.
Manish Kapoor, Vice President and Head, Global Commercial Services (GCS), American Express Banking Corp, India said: “The sentiment is upbeat for corporate travel in India. While the past two years resulted in a temporary decline in business travel, domestic travel has resumed, and almost surpassed pre-pandemic level. International travel is also picking up and we can expect a sustained recovery. With increased average ticket prices expected to remain high in the medium term, Indian companies will be exploring technologies, and should adopt smarter solutions for better cost efficiencies.”
In terms of the practical methods used to pay for travel expenses, the most common way, used by two thirds of companies (66 per cent), is that the business has company accounts with third party booking systems. However, most businesses reported using multiple methods, with 61 per cent saying they let employees pay and expense, and 57 per cent saying they provide employees with access to a company credit card.
Business travel trends: Current and Future
53 per cent of businesses said that just over half of their employees had taken an international or domestic work trip in H2 2022.
Government/public sector employees followed by marketing, sales, real estate, professional services, and pharmaceuticals lead trips. 64 per cent of government or public sector employees took international or domestic trips for work.
One of the reasons preventing a full bounce-back of business travel is that more meetings and events are now being conducted virtually.
Reasons for travel and key locations to visit in the second half of 2022
The top reason for business travel, selected by 41 per cent of businesses, was attending, hosting or presenting at conferences, presentations or events.
Mumbai was the most visited city for domestic business trips (50 per cent of respondents), while internationally, the United States (44 per cent of respondents) emerged as the most popular destination.
Budgets and payment
77 per cent of businesses expected to increase their travel budget in 2023.
Agriculture, manufacturing, construction, utilities and engineering topped the list with largest travel budgets on average, at Rs 70 lakh per year for each business.
79 per cent of Indian business surveyed said they use business travel data analytics to assist with travel booking and expenditure, showing how important technology has become for the travel sector. Three quarters also said they use travel management software.
As with the broader technology sector, the travel technology sector is constantly innovating. In the post-pandemic period, 43 per cent of financial decision makers surveyed said that that use of better software to manage expenses and travel is a key innovation.
92 per cent businesses have a travel policy with a further 6 per cent in process of making a travel policy. 46 per cent businesses selected cost limits for bookings, including hotels, airfares and ground transportation as the topmost component when asked about what is included in their travel policy.
43 per cent of financial decision makers also selected that they consider special exceptions or rules for more expensive cities in their policy document, while 43 per cent also selected that routes and approval processes for trips that exceed typical limitations are included.
Environmental sustainability considerations were also selected by over a third (36 per cent) of respondents, highlighting that this is an increasingly important topic.
The survey report was conducted amongst 500+ Indian businesses across cities in India. It focusses on larger businesses, with half of the respondents seeing annual revenues greater than Rs 600 crore. 82 per cent of businesses in the survey report have 250 employees or more.
Holy city of Varanasi, which is famous across the world for its Ghats and temples. Located on the banks of the River Ganga, considered sacred by Hindus, Varanasi is home to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas…reports Lothungbeni Humtsoe
Across the globe, India is one nation that is known to be the land of spirituality and where people truly value its culture. The country has worshippers in plenty and large groups of them often venture off from faraway corners for pilgrimage. India, being one of the most renowned places for pilgrimage tourism, also has one of the strongest rail networks for it.
Here are five pilgrims you can easily visit by rail shared by Dinesh Kumar Kotha, the Co-founder and CEO of Confirmtkt – an online train discovery and booking platform – and should absolutely check out if you’re looking to connect with your spiritual side:
Amongst some of the most famous pilgrimage sites is the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple, located in the Tirupati city of southern state Andhra Pradesh. The site is so popular that it is visited by almost 60,000 devotees on an everyday basis. In order to reach the holy site by train, the pilgrims can board either the Tirumala Express or the Venkatadri Express.
Named after the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple, Tirumala Express is a train that shuttles between Visakhapatnam and Kadapa, covering a distance of 872 kilometers. On the other hand, the Venkatadri Express is also a popular train for the Tirumala pilgrimage and connects the Kacheguda in Hyderabad (Telangana) to Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh. Both trains are equipped with modern amenities to provide ease and comfort to travelers.
Meenakshi Temple – Tiruchendur Express (16105)
Lying in the temple town of Madurai, Tamil Nadu is the Meenakshi Amman Temple, which is a place of great religious importance. The temple is dedicated to the goddess Meenakshi, who is a form of Shakti, and her consort, Sundareshwarar, who is a form of Shiva. Throughout the year, devotees flock to Madurai to perform religious practice at the temple. The travelers use the popular train Tiruchendur Express, which stops at several major stations along the way, including Chengalpattu, Villupuram, Trichy, and Madurai. According to reports, the train covers a distance of around 700 kilometers.
Deoghar – East Coast Express(18045) and Simhapuri Express(12710)
Deoghar in Jharkhand is a crucial Hindu pilgrimage region and home to the Baidyanath Temple. Every year, between the months of July and August, 7 to 8 million devotees embark on the DeogharYatra, wherein they bring holy water from various areas of the Ganges. Some of the popular trains which carry these pilgrims from across the country are the 18045 – East coast Express and the 12710 – Simhapuri Express. Both the trains cover a distance of 1,586 kilometers and 643 kilometers respectively and are equipped with modern amenities for smooth travel.
Shiridi – BZA SNSI Express(17208)
Everyone knows of Shirdi in Maharashtra as one of the most prominent religious sites. It is immensely famous for the Sai Baba Mandir, which is visited by thousands of devotees every day. Devotees can travel to the site by boarding the 17208 SainagarShirdi-Vijayawada (BZA SNSI) Express, which runs between SainagarShirdi and Vijayawada Junction. Travelers can enjoy facilities like air-conditioned coaches, food service, and onboard entertainment.
Varanasi – Kashi Vishwanth Express(15128)
Last but not least is the holy city of Varanasi, which is famous across the world for its Ghats and temples. Located on the banks of the River Ganga, considered sacred by Hindus, Varanasi is home to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas.
An important train that takes devotees to the sacred land of Varanasi is the Kashi Vishwanath Express, which is named after the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. The train operates daily while covering a distance of 794 kilometers. It offers first A/C, second A/C, third A/C, and sleeper-class coaches and pantry-car services and offers a very good running speed.
The bipartisan bill, according to Krishnamoorthi, will end country-based discrimination in high-skilled immigration…reports Asian Lite News
A bipartisan bill has been introduced in the US House of Representatives to properly utilise the employment-based visas currently allocated each year under existing federal immigration law.
Democrat Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi and Republican Larry Bucshon introduced the Eliminating Backlogs Act of 2023 to provide “greater flexibility to use existing allotted work visas”.
This legislation would give greater flexibility to use existing allotted work visas that employers desperately need, but does not change the overall number of visas available.
“Even as our country’s high-skilled immigration system helps us draw top talent from around the world, current law caps the number of employment-based visas available based on workers’ country of origin, leaving thousands of visas that would otherwise help our economy unused,” Krishnamoorthi said.
The bipartisan bill, according to Krishnamoorthi, will end country-based discrimination in high-skilled immigration.
It will ensure every allotted visa is used to draw skilled workers from across the globe to help strengthen the US economy and create jobs as America also continue to invest in their domestic workforce.
Under current federal immigration law, there are a certain number of visas allocated annually for skilled workers, such as doctors and engineers, to ensure our workforce can meet the demands of the US economy in Indiana and across the country.
“Unfortunately, bureaucratic policies and delays have prevented hundreds of thousands of these visas from being used, despite a serious need for more skilled workers across our nation,” Bucshon said.
The bill will help to “eliminate this backlog and ensure that visas allocated under existing federal immigration law can be properly used. This will help support an immigration system that incentivizes and rewards legal applicants and boosts our economy”, Bucshon added.
Every year Congress allows for a set number of foreign nationals with specific skills and training to come to the US for work.
This helps ensure that American businesses have access to the skilled labour force they need to succeed.
Each nation is capped at receiving only seven percent of the allotted employment-based slots in any year.
Due to this per-country limitation and bureaucratic delays, US immigration officials failed to utilise approximately 9,100 employment-based visas in FY2020 and over 66,000 in FY2021.
On behalf of the state tourism delegation, the Indian Ambassador and the Union Tourism Secretary were welcomed in traditional Rajasthani style…reports Asian Lite News
Rajasthan Tourism is participating in the ongoing International Travel Bourse, the world’s largest tourism trade fair, in Berlin with focus on the European market.
Among the European tourists visiting the international tourism circuit, about 65 per cent come to Rajasthan, said Principal Secretary (Tourism), Gayatri Rathod.
“Rajasthan tourism has a unique identity on the international tourism map. It is the endeavor of the tourism department that the tourists coming here return with an indelible impression and memories of Rajasthan. In such a situation, the tourism department is constantly motivating tourists to come to Rajasthan in maximum numbers through innovations,” she said.
On March 7, the pavilion of the Rajasthan Tourism was inaugurated in Berlin by Indian Ambassador to Germany, P. Harish, and Union Tourism Secretary, Arvind Singh, in the presence of the state tourism delegation.
On behalf of the state tourism delegation, the Indian Ambassador and the Union Tourism Secretary were welcomed in traditional Rajasthani style.
Joint Secretary Rajesh Sharma and officials of the tourism department are participating in the International Travel Bourse (ITB) under the leadership of Gayatri Rathore, Chief Secretary, tourism department.
The main objective of the tourism department is to attract more and more European tourists to Rajasthan.
International tour and travel operators have shown a lot of interest in the Palace on Wheels, a luxury tourist train that was launched by the Indian Railways in association with the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation to promote tourism in the desert state.
An exhibition on Rajasthan tourism has also been set up in the state’s pavilion at ITB. Officials of the tourism department are participating in more than 30 B2B meetings in Berlin.
The national flag carrier’s net income for the fourth quarter of 2022 rose to 11.15 billion baht from 4 billion baht registered a year earlier…report Asian Lite News
Thai Airways International (THAI) reported a nearly triple profit in the final quarter of last year as foreign arrivals to the Southeast Asia destination picked up further, data showed on Friday.
According to an annual financial statement, the national flag carrier’s net income for the fourth quarter of 2022 rose to 11.15 billion baht from 4 billion baht registered a year earlier, Xinhua news agency reported.
Operating income for the period grew more than fivefold to 8.9 billion baht from a 2.6 billion baht deficit in the previous year, making the airline’s total revenue soar by 367 per cent to 36.9 billion baht, according to the statement filed with the Thai Stock Exchange (SET).
THAI reported an 84.3 per cent decrease in operating loss excluding one-time items to 4.59 billion baht last year, down from a 29.19 billion baht loss in 2021, while total operating revenue in 2022 increased 342 per cent to 105 billion baht, the statement said.
After filing for bankruptcy protection in 2020, THAI planned to exit its rehabilitation earlier than scheduled in late 2024 and resume trading on SET in two years, its new chief executive officer said earlier in February.
Since early this year, THAI has started to operate flights to China’s major cities to meet the rising demand. It is also expected to boost the number of flights, add new routes, and expand its fleet to achieve its rehabilitation plan.
The implementation of Digi Yatra under phase I is also planned at Kolkata, Pune, Vijayawada, and Hyderabad airports by March 2023….reports Asian Lite News
More air travellers have started using the Digi Yatra app as over 1.6 lakh passengers have taken advantage of the mobile application for seamless airport entry, an official said on Thursday.
Digi Yatra is being implemented across airports in a phased manner. In the first phase, it was launched by Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia on December 1, 2022 at Delhi, Bengaluru, and Varanasi airports, a statement noted.
The implementation of Digi Yatra under phase I is also planned at Kolkata, Pune, Vijayawada, and Hyderabad airports by March 2023.
According to the officials of the Civil Aviation Ministry, the total number of passengers who have used the Digi Yatra process at the airports from December 1, 2022 to February 14, 2023 is 1.6 lakh+.
The total app user base of Digi Yatra on the Android Play Store and iOS Apple App Store is over 4 lakh.
Officials said that Digi Yatra is a biometric boarding system using Facial Recognition Technology to provide a seamless and hassle-free experience for passengers at airports.
It enhances passenger experience by eliminating the need for verification of tickets and IDs at multiple touchpoints and provides better throughput through existing infrastructure using a Digital Framework.
Digi Yatra is a voluntary facility.
In the Digi Yatra process, there is no central storage of passengers’ Personally Identifiable Information data.
All the passenger’s data is encrypted and stored in the wallet of the passenger’s smartphone and shared only for a limited time duration with the airport of travel origin where the passenger’s Digi Yatra ID needs to be validated.
The data is purged from the system within 24 hours of the flight.
To give wide publicity to Digi Yatra, airport operators and airline operators are doing in-flight announcements, publicity through boarding passes, providing help desk support and displaying banners and films etc., at the airports.
Publicity is also being done through social media.
Airports Authority of India (AAI) has awarded the work for the implementation of the Biometric Boarding System at Kolkata, Pune, Vijayawada and Varanasi airports.
The wintry mix hit hard in the northern U.S., closing schools, offices, even shutting down the Minnesota Legislature..reports Asian Lite News
A brutal winter storm closed interstate highways from Arizona to Wyoming Wednesday, trapped drivers in cars, knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of people and prompted the first blizzard warning in Southern California in decades — and the worst won’t be over for several days.
Few places were untouched by the wild weather, including some at the opposite extreme: long-standing record highs were broken in cities in the Midwest, mid-Atlantic and Southeast.
The wintry mix hit hard in the northern U.S., closing schools, offices, even shutting down the Minnesota Legislature. Travel was difficult. Weather contributed to more than 1,600 U.S. flight cancellations, according to the tracking service FlightAware. More than 400 of those were due to arrive or depart from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Another 5,000-plus flights were delayed across the country.
In Wyoming, rescuers tried to reach people stranded in vehicles but high winds and drifting snow created a “near-impossible situation” for them, said Sgt. Jeremy Beck of the Wyoming Highway Patrol.
“They know their locations, it’s just hard for them to get them,” he said.
Wyoming’s Transportation Department posted on social media that roads across much of the southern part of the state were impassable.
In the Pacific Northwest, high winds and heavy snow in the Cascade Mountains prevented search teams from reaching the bodies of three climbers killed in an avalanche on Washington’s Colchuck Peak over the weekend. Two experts from the Northwest Avalanche Center were hiking to the scene Wednesday to determine if conditions might permit a recovery attempt later this week.
Powerful winds were the biggest problem in California, toppling trees and power lines. By Wednesday evening, more than 65,000 customers in the state were without electricity, according to PowerOutage.us.
A 1-year-old child was critically injured Tuesday evening when a redwood crashed onto a home in Boulder Creek, a community in the Santa Cruz Mountains south of San Francisco, KTVU reported.
For the first time since 1989, a blizzard warning was issued for the mountains of Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, effective from 4 a.m. Thursday to 4 p.m. Saturday, the National Weather Service said.
“Nearly the entire population of CA will be able to see snow from some vantage point later this week if they look in the right direction (i.e., toward the highest hills in vicinity),” UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain tweeted.
A more than 200-mile (320-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 40 from central Arizona to the New Mexico line closed due to snow, rain and wind gusts of up to 80 mph (129 kph). More than 8,000 customers were without power in Arizona.
In the northern U.S. — a region accustomed to heavy snow — the snowfall could be significant. More than 18 inches (46 centimeters) may pile up in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin, the National Weather Service said Wednesday evening. According to the weather service, the biggest snow event on record in the Twin Cities was 28.4 inches (72 centimeters) from Oct. 31 through Nov. 3, 1991.
Temperatures could plunge as low as minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 29 degrees Celsius) Thursday and to minus 25 F (minus 32 C) Friday in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Wind chills may fall to minus 50 F (minus 46 C), said Nathan Rick, a meteorologist in Grand Forks.
Wind gusts may reach 50 mph (80 kph) in western and central Minnesota, resulting in “significant blowing and drifting snow with whiteout conditions in open areas,” the weather service said.
The weather even prompted about 90 churches in western Michigan to cancel Ash Wednesday services, WZZM-TV reported.
The storm will make its way toward the East Coast later this week. Places that don’t get snow may get dangerous amounts of ice. Forecasters expect up to a half-inch (1.3 centimeters) of ice in parts of southern Michigan, northern Illinois and some eastern states.
The potential ice storm has power company officials on edge. Nearly 1,500 line workers are ready to be deployed if the ice causes outages, said Matt Paul, executive vice president of distribution operations for Detroit-based DTE Electric. He said a half-inch of ice could cause hundreds of thousands of outages.
A half-inch of ice covering a wire “is the equivalent of having a baby grand piano on that single span of wire, so the weight is significant,” Paul said.
More than 192,000 customers in Michigan and nearly 89,000 in Illinois were without electricity Wednesday evening, according to PowerOutage.us.
As the northern U.S. dealt with the winter blast, National Weather Service meteorologist Richard Bann said some mid-Atlantic and Southeastern cities set new high temperature marks by several degrees.
The high in Lexington, Kentucky, reached 76 F (24 C), shattering the Feb. 22 mark of 70 F (21 C) set 101 years ago. Nashville, Tennessee, reached 78 F (26 C), topping the 1897 record by 4 degrees. Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Atlanta and Mobile, Alabama, were among many other places seeing record highs.
India and Guyana are signatories to the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention)….reports Asian Lite News
The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the signing of the Air Services Agreement between the Government of India and the Government of Co-operative Republic of Guyana, as per an official release.
According to an official release, the Air Services Agreement will come into force after the exchange of diplomatic notes between the parties confirming that each party has completed the necessary internal procedure for entry into force of this Agreement. Indians have a sizeable presence in Guyana and are the largest ethnic group comprising about 40 per cent of the population as per the 2012 census. The signing of the Air Services Agreement with Guyana will enable a framework for providing air services between the two countries.
“In view of the growing aviation market and developments such as the liberalization of the aviation sector in India, an air services agreement has been signed with many countries for paving the way for International air connectivity,” it read.
Air Services Agreement (ASA) provides the legal framework for air operations between two countries which is based on the principles of sovereignty of nations, nationality of carriers and reciprocity in terms of commercial opportunities for the designated airlines of each side. There is currently no Air Services Agreement (ASA) between the Government of India and the Government of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana.
India and Guyana are signatories to the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention). The delegations representing the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana met in Nassau, Bahamas on 06 December 2016 during the ICAO Air Services Negotiations event where both countries had initialled the text of an ASA for scheduled air services between the two countries in terms of the Memorandum of Understanding dated 06 December 2016 between India and Guyana.
The new Air Services Agreement between India and the Co-operative Republic of Guyana will provide an enabling environment for enhanced and seamless connectivity while providing commercial opportunities to the carriers of both sides. (ANI)
From Auckland, you can hop on a short ferry ride to Waiheke, the Island of Wine. If you’re visiting Queenstown, make sure to visit one of the many local wineries in Central Otago…reports Asian Lite news
The long, rolling valleys, the majestic mountain top peaks, the glittering coasts, and the brilliant colours that change the horizon from dawn to twilight are just a few of the natural beauties of New Zealand that inspire love. There is no better place to take a loved one and enjoy the beauty in their presence than here, where it’s difficult not to become fascinated by the postcard pictures all around.
Nothing beats a romantic getaway in New Zealand, whether it’s a picnic amidst breathtaking scenery or a flight in a hot air balloon among the sky. Here are the top 5 activities that will make your loved one happy and are recommended by Cupid:
A romantic leap of faith
Leap into the unknown from heart-stopping heights as you take a romantic tandem bungy. All over the country you can leap from bridges, rail viaducts, specially made platforms perched on the edge of cliffs, and stadium roofs. Hold your lover’s hands and take a leap of faith from the Auckland Harbour Bridge against the backdrop of the beautiful Waitemata Harbour and the city skyline. In the Central North Island, just upstream from the Huka Falls, lies the Taupo Bungy — 47 metres above the Waikato River. You can also choose to be dunked in the Waikato River below at the end of your jump.
Experience a magical ride with Bubbles and balloons
Clink your Champagne glasses at dawn as your balloon lifts you quietly over an ornate natural tapestry of pastures, vineyards, forests, rivers, lakes and mountains. As you float over a world that is only just waking up, your partner’s smile will be as wide as the horizon as a romantic breakfast marks the end of your flight.
Wander among the vineyards
Toast yourselves with New Zealand’s world-famous wines, from silky Pinot Noir to crisp Sauvignon Blanc as you cycle through the gentle vineyard trails. New Zealand is a paradise for food and wine lovers. Take the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail to experience three of our best wine regions (Wairarapa, Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough). From Auckland, you can hop on a short ferry ride to Waiheke, the Island of Wine. If you’re visiting Queenstown, make sure to visit one of the many local wineries in Central Otago.
Gaze into your loved one’s eyes beneath the Southern Cross and be awestruck by New Zealand’s dark night skies. Stargazing in New Zealand is a breathtakingly magical experience when experienced with a loved one, thanks to the dark, clear skies, unique celestial features, and otherworldly landscapes. For the best views, choose from five locations across New Zealand: Lake Tekapo, Aoraki Mount Cook, Wairarapa, Dunedin, or Great Barrier Island.
Picnic in private
Swoop in by helicopter to a secluded spot where a gourmet picnic hamper, fine New Zealand wine and an intimate setting just for two awaits your private indulgence. Try the Heli-Picnic — Alpine Luxury Tours in Queenstown. This is a once in a lifetime dining opportunity, an unforgettable picnic under the numerous waterfalls and dramatic glaciers off the beaten track. Fly over sheer cliff faces, pass the blue ice of a hanging glacier before descending 1,000m into a valley below.