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Thailand gets more Indian tourists during Songkran

By Deepak Arora

BANGKOK, April 25: The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has revealed that tourism revenue earned from international visitor arrivals to Thailand and domestic trips during the 2019 Songkran holiday all showed year-on-year increases over the same period in 2018.

TAT Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said that during the holiday period of 12-16 April, 2019, total revenue from the international arrivals and domestic trips amounted to 22.07 billion Baht, an increase of 15 percent year-on-year.

The number of international arrivals reached 543,300 (up eight percent year-on-year) and generated revenue of 10.23 billion Baht (up 14 percent). There were 3.27 million trips by domestic tourists (up three percent) generating 11.84 billion Baht (up seven percent).

According to Yuthasak, international visitor arrivals performance was, overall near the projections. The East Asia market accounted for the majority of foreign arrivals during the Songkran Festival. Arrivals from Hong Kong and India were higher than expected thanks to the visa-on-arrival fee waiver in place.

The domestic market also performed close to the expectation.

To showcase local traditions of the annual Thai water festival, TAT staged Songkran 2019 festivities in the three emerging destinations of Tak, Mukdahan and Ranong. It also supported activities in 10 other provinces (Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Chachoengsao, Chon Buri, Chiang Mai, Sukhothai, Lampang, Udon Thani, Songkhla and Phuket).

“Together these destinations saw 1.03 million domestic trips during the holiday period with 5.11 billion Baht generated for the local economy. Hotel occupancy in these destinations averaged 80 percent,” said Yuthasak.

While the Songkran or traditional Thai New Year holiday normally takes place from 13-15 April every year, there are some locations that stage unique local festivities a little later. These include in Samut Prakan’s Phra Pradaeng district in the Central Thailand region, where the local Mon people observe New Year traditions from 19-21 April.

In the Na Haeo district of Loei in Northeastern Thailand, locals celebrate the Thai New Year with a procession of flower trees – the only tradition of its kind in the country. This year the procession is on 19 and 27 April.

In the Eastern region, Chon Buri’s Pattaya-Naklua districts celebrate Wan Lai (water day) on 18-19 April, Map Ta Phut in Rayong’s Songkran is from 19-21 April (with 21 April being Wan Lai), and the country’s easternmost Songkran celebration takes place at Laem Ngop in Trat on the last Friday of April (26 April 2019).

Indian billionaire turns Scotland Yard building into luxury hotel

LONDON, March 23: Great Scotland Yard – the iconic building that housed the London Metropolitan Police for over 60 years until 1890 – acquired by Indian billionnaire Yusufalli Kader for 110 million pounds in 2015 is set to open as a luxury hotel later this year.

It is one of high-profile acquisitions by Indian investors in London’s property market in recent years. The room tariff for the hotel is reported to push back customers by thousands of pounds, up to 10,000 per night.

The leasehold of the iconic building was sold in December 2013 to Galliard Homes as part of the ministry of defence’s efforts to sell assets to raise funds. Kerala-origin Kader bought the leasehold of the building from the company in 2015.

Transformed at a reported cost of 75 million pounds, the hotel located close to Trafalgar Square has over 150 rooms, some converted from what were previously cells where criminals were incarcerated. The building was constructed in 1829.

“Hotel guests will be reminded of London’s famous criminals during their stay. As well as military uniforms and artwork by prisoners, features include a chandelier made of glass shards that references the Forty Elephants, a 19th-century gang of women known for smashing shop windows to steal jewellery”, The Times reported on Saturday.

“Cells have been transformed into meeting rooms and workspace areas that can be rented. Guests will also be able to use a secret whisky bar, a tea parlour, a ballroom and a restaurant”, it added.

Don O’Sullivan of Galliard Homes said at the time of its sale to Kader: “The Great Scotland Yard Hotel will be a brand synonymous with exceptional service and refined luxury and quality.”

Kader, who heads the Abu Dhabi-based Lulu Group, is among Indian investors acquiring prime London property in recent years, benefiting from falling value of the pound and relaxation in RBI norms for purchasing real estate outside India.

The Mumbai-based Lodha Group bought the Canadian high commission building in November 2013 and the Hinduja group purchased the Old War Office in December 2014. The Great Scotland Yard building is located near the Old War Office.

Upper Egypt's Aswan wins 2019 UNESCO Learning Award

CAIRO, Feb 4: The UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) has named Upper Egypt's Aswan as one of the ten winners of the 2019 UNESCO Learning City Award.

The award's committee said these cities introduced ideal development and commitment to promote education and learning through innovative and determined policies and programs.

Developing the strategy of bringing together and diversifying projects, including gardening and water conservation in schools, and providing diverse training opportunities for all segments of society were among the most important factors for winning the award, said Mervat al-Samman, a coordinator for Aswan in the UIL.

The awards will be presented at the 2019 International Conference on Learning Cities in Colombia's Medellin. Medellin is one of the ten winning cities.

The cities also include Malaysia's Petaling Jaya, China's Chengdu, Greece's Heraklion, Nigeria's Ibadan, Ukraine's Melitopol, Mexico's Santiago, South Korea's Seodaemun-gu, and Denmark's Sonderborg.

The UNESCO Learning City Award aims at recognizing and displaying cities' good practices in introducing quality education and providing lifelong learning opportunities for all citizens at the local level.

This award is presented every two years to cities in each of the five UNESCO regions that have managed to achieve significant development in learning. Also, the progress should be achieved by implementing the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities guiding documents.

As Egypt chairs the African Union for this year, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi declared in November, at the closing ceremony of the World Youth Forum, Aswan as the capital for African Youths in 2019.

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