Chinese province to ban rooftop Christian crosses

first_img Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility BEIJING (AP) — A Chinese province where authorities have forcibly removed hundreds of rooftop crosses from skylines of cities and towns has proposed a ban on any further placement of the religious symbol atop sanctuaries at both Protestant and Catholic churches.The draft, if approved, would give authorities in the eastern province of Zhejiang legal grounds to remove rooftop crosses.Since early 2014, Zhejiang officials have toppled crosses from more than 400 churches, sometimes resulting in violent clashes with congregation members. They say the crosses violate building codes, but critics say the rapid growth of Christian groups have made the ruling Communist Party nervous. “The authorities have attached great importance to this religious symbol,” said Zheng Leguo, a pastor from the province who now lives in the United States. “This means no more prominent manifestation of Christianity in the public sphere.”A draft of rules on religious structures released by government agencies this week says the crosses should be wholly affixed to a building facade and be no more than one-tenth of the facade’s height. The symbol also must fit with the facade and the surroundings, the proposal says. The draft does not provide the rationale for the proposal.Fang Shenglan, an engineer at Zhejiang Provincial Institute of Architectural Design and Research who was involved with the research for the draft rules, confirmed that rooftop crosses would not be allowed under the proposed rules, but declined to explain why over the phone and did not respond to a written request.Zhu Libin, president of a semi-official Christian association in Wenzhou, in southeastern Zhejiang, declined to comment. Calls to the provincial Christian association were unanswered Thursday.“This new draft law is just another attempt by the government to legitimize its existing illegal violent campaign of destruction and removal of the cross,” said Bob Fu of U.S.-based China Aid, which has documented that 448 churches have had crosses removed or buildings destroyed. Sponsored Stories 4 ways to protect your company from cyber breaches 5 treatments for adult scoliosis Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvementcenter_img The Zhejiang city of Wenzhou is known as China’s Jerusalem because it has half of the province’s 4,000 churches. Rooftop crosses used to dominate the city’s skylines, and local churches — often funded by well-off businesspeople — raced to build the largest church and the tallest cross as a display of their blessings.Compared to the Communist Party’s previous militant-style campaigns aiming at wiping out the religion, the latest crackdown is milder and its primary target is a symbol rather than the belief itself, Zheng said.Still, he called it “a restriction on the public space for Christianity.”The campaign comes amid Beijing’s increasing restrictions on civil liberty, Zheng said, as authorities have stepped up persecution of advocates for civil society and rights lawyers, and placed more restrictions on non-governmental groups.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Top Stories “To continue to forcefully remove and ban the cross on the rooftop of the church buildings demonstrates the Chinese regime’s determination to contain the rapid growth of Christianity in China,” he said in an email.Yang Fenggang, an expert on China’s religious issues at Purdue University, said the new restriction might be a power play by authorities and may not have real effects on beliefs. “I think this is a formal statement that we are in control,” Yang said in a phone interview. “It is that ‘you have to obey whatever orders we give. If we don’t like the cross, you have to change.’”Christianity has been expanding in China since the 1980s, when Beijing loosened its controls on religion.Estimates for the number of Christians in China range from the conservative official figure of 23 million to as many as 100 million by independent scholars, raising the possibility that Christians may rival in size the 85 million members of the ruling Communist Party. The religion’s tight-knit parishes, proclivity for civil society, and loyalty to God have made the ruling party edgy about its own rule.Last August, Beijing authorities called Christian pastors and religious scholars into meetings to deliver an edict that the Christian faith must be free of foreign influence but “adapt to China,” a euphemism for obeying the Communist Party. Comments   Share   The difference between men and women when it comes to painlast_img read more

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Papal visit puts Andes presidents ecorecord under scrutiny

first_imgIn this June 25, 2015 photo, Guarani guide Albino Flores walks over a recently sealed oil well of the state-owned YPFB oil company inside the Aguarague National Park in the southeastern Bolivia’s Chaco region. A May decree will permit drilling in in all 22 of Bolivia’s protected wilderness areas despite objections from indigenous communities. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)) AGUARAGUE NATIONAL PARK, Bolivia (AP) — In the vine-entangled forests of the Aguarague National Park, crude that seeped for decades out of abandoned wellheads saturates the soil and has stained the bedrock of creeks that provide water to the indigenous Guarani who live nearby.The petroleum stench is overpowering as David Benitez, who lives in the park and grazes his cattle among the wells, sifts tainted soil between his fingers. “The odor is much stronger in the summer, when there’s no water to wash the oil downstream,” says the 47-year-old farmer.Pope Francis is expected to raise concerns about the environmental costs of development next week when he meets with Bolivian President Evo Morales and his counterpart in Ecuador, Rafael Correa, on the first two stops of a three-country tour. Francis’ weeklong trip follows his landmark encyclical demanding dramatic measures to halt climate change and ensure future generations aren’t living in “debris, desolation and filth.”The Guarani for years have fought to protect their native lands in and around this narrow 70-mile-long park in the southeastern Chaco region that flanks Bolivia’s richest natural gas fields. Francis has called on governments to better engage such indigenous peoples, calling them nature’s best caretakers because the land, for them, is sacred.Respecting native peoples, working to alleviate the poverty and living less wasteful lives are part of Francis’ calls to action. But his critics say such prescriptions are unrealistic for developing economies like those of Ecuador and Bolivia that rely on mining and oil and gas extraction. Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall “We’re in an emergency,” he said. “The government is doing away with Mother Earth.”Pope Francis will have an opportunity to hear that message directly in the nearby city of Santa Cruz during his tour, which takes him first to Ecuador and later to Paraguay.The Argentine pontiff is well-versed in regional environmental issues and will raise them in private with both Morales and Correa, said Peruvian Archbishop Pedro Barreto, who coordinates a Roman Catholic Church network launched last year to fight deforestation and contamination in the pan-Amazon region.Barreto said the pope would give each a copy of his encyclical, which accuses politicians of listening more to the oil industry than Scripture, common sense or the cries of the poor.Both Morales and Correa have moved recently to restrict environmental groups.In December 2013, Ecuador shuttered the non-governmental group Pachamama, which fought Correa’s decision to drill for oil in Yasuni National Park and defended indigenous groups opposed to Canadian and Chinese-owned mining projects in the Amazon. The government accused it of inciting violent protests.That same month, Morales expelled the Danish non-governmental group IBIS, accusing it of creating divisions among indigenous groups. Comments   Share   Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Sponsored Stories Top Stories 5 people who need to visit the Ultrastar Multi-tainment Center Early signs of cataracts in your parents and how to help New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Morales, an environmental hero to many for demanding rich nations do more to halt global warming, is assailed by conservationists at home who say he puts extraction ahead of clean water and forests.After taking office in 2006, Morales renegotiated contracts to give Bolivia a bigger share of natural gas revenues, which account for half its exports, helping him cut the poverty rate nearly in half.But with demand outpacing production, Morales has pushed to expand oil and gas drilling. A decree issued in May will permit drilling in in all 22 of Bolivia’s “protected” wilderness areas despite objections from indigenous communities.Lacking major industries, Bolivia has no other option, he argues.“If we don’t drill for gas, what will Bolivia live off?” he told state oil workers last year.The Guarani, the nation’s third-largest indigenous group, believe the drilling only will make them poorer. Aguarague park is the sole water source for the roughly 150,000 people in Bolivia’s hottest, driest region.They point to the legacy of drilling by the state-owned YPFB oil company along the narrow ridge on which the park sits.Oil began oozing from wellheads in the 1980s after drilling ended, but nothing was done until 2010 when Guarani protests spurred the government to promise a cleanup. Even so, the work didn’t begin in earnest until this year, and the job is not done. Tons of petroleum-soaked soil need to be hauled away. Wells remain unsealed. And on June 18, the same day Francis released his environmental treatise, Morales threatened to expel any group “that works against natural resource exploration.”Speaking at the inauguration of an oil well in the Chapare region, he accused rich nations of unfairly imposing protected wilderness areas on countries such as Bolivia.They destroyed their own forests, he said, so now they want to be stewards of ours.___Associated Press writers Carlos Valdez and Paola Flores in La Paz, Bolivia, contributed to this reportCopyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Officials defending the stepped-up extraction say new technology will keep production clean. But the Guarani are skeptical. Environmental protection is weak in Bolivia. Highlands mines dump toxic tailings into rivers unhindered while fines have been set so low that polluters would rather pay than clean up, environmentalist say.Bolivia’s environment and energy ministries did not respond to Associated Press requests via email and phone calls for current data on polluters and fines levied. It’s not known, for example, whether a fine was ever levied against the operator of a gas pipeline across Aguarague after a 2006 spill into the Pilcomayo river.“There’s no information. No one knows,” said Marco Ribera, a biologist with the Environmental Defense League, or LIDEMA.Benitez said there’s also less wildlife in the park, which was established as a natural reserve in 2000 and is habitat for jaguar, foxes and anteaters. With few rangers patrolling the area, there’s little to stop illegal logging and hunting.As for working with local natives, as Pope Francis has urged, that’s not happening, according to Celso Padilla, a top leader of the Guarani, who are nominal co-administrators of Aguarague park. Mesa family survives lightning strike to home 4 ways to protect your company from cyber breacheslast_img read more

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Tibetan groups campaign against 2022 Olympics going to China

first_imgThe campaign against Beijing becoming 2022 host city comes amid a wide-ranging crackdown on civil society, or groups outside of Communist Party control. In the past two months, authorities have rounded up more than 200 “rights-defender lawyers” and the activists associated with them, accusing them of being troublemakers. Dozens remain detained and may eventually stand trial.Highlighting the cases, an open letter signed initially by around 40 lawyers, students, professors, activists and writers within China and elsewhere and which has now become an online petition urges IOC members to reject Beijing’s bid, saying China is facing a “human rights crisis with a scale of violations that is unprecedented since 2008.”“The human rights environment is now generally considered probably the worst environment since 1989 because of the crackdown on civil society,” Human Rights Watch researcher Maya Wang said. “This is not limited to the detention of individuals but also a significant hardening of ideology,” which has become “more hostile towards human rights and democracy than in the past.”Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of BEIJING (AP) — Tibetan activists and others are calling on the International Olympic Committee not to award the 2022 Winter Games to Beijing, saying China’s human rights record after the 2008 Olympics in the Chinese capital worsened rather than showing a hoped-for improvement.The IOC will choose Friday between only two cities: Beijing and Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, after all other bidders dropped out for financial or political reasons. Both countries are frequently criticized over their record on human rights and press freedoms. 5 treatments for adult scoliosis Golog Jigme, a Tibetan activist, said he had co-signed a letter to the IOC last week along with groups representing other ethnic minorities urging it not to award another Olympics to China “out of disappointment and frustration.”He broke out of police custody and escaped from Tibet in May 2014. He had been initially arrested after helping make a film that showed Tibetan nomads expressing their discontent over Chinese rule in Tibet just ahead of the 2008 Olympics, and alleges he was beaten severely and given electric shocks during detention.“What we have seen since 2008 is that there is more repression, Tibetan intellectuals are being forcefully disappeared and the situation in Tibet is getting more urgent every day,” Golog Jigme, 46, said through an interpreter by phone from Switzerland, where he has applied for asylum. He said Tibetans faced more obstacles to traveling, even from village to village, and there was a big military presence that extended to monasteries and schools.Independent reporting from Tibet is virtually impossible because the government restricts access to the region.The Communist Party has governed Tibet since troops occupied the Himalayan region in 1951. Beijing says it has been part of China for centuries, but Tibetans say it was independent for much of that time. Tibetan rights groups and human rights activists have written letters to the IOC, delivered a report to the IOC on human rights abuses and tried to disrupt the city’s lobbying to try to prevent the decision from going to Beijing as it did in the 2001 vote for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.“In 2001 what we saw was some optimism on the part of the IOC that the games might help to improve human rights in China. Exactly the opposite happened,” said Alistair Currie of London-based Free Tibet, which is one of the groups coordinating the campaign by the International Tibet Network.Giving the games to China again is tantamount to saying “‘you are a full member of the global community, you can receive all the honors and prestige that go along with that — that will embolden its approach to repressing human rights in Tibet and elsewhere,” Currie said.The Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday that the Chinese bid is intended to promote the Olympics in the country and would inspire more than 300 million Chinese to participate in winter sports. “While Chinese people are heartily looking forward to the holding of a successful and wonderful Winter Olympics, a few people with ulterior motives politicize the Games, which is not in keeping with the Olympic Spirit and will not be popular.” Wang Hui, Spokeswomen of Beijing bid committee, answers a question during a press conference at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Monday, July, 27, 2015. Malaysia is hosting the 128th International Olympic Committee executive board meeting where the vote for the host cities of the 2022 Olympic Winter Games and for the 2020 Youth Olympic Winter Games will take place. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian) Mesa family survives lightning strike to home 0 Comments   Share   New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Sponsored Stories Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall Early signs of cataracts in your parents and how to help Top Stories last_img read more

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South Africa DMC opens office in Australia

first_imgSource = e-Travel Blackboard: D.M Southern Africa destination management company (DMC), Fairfield Meetings & Incentives has announced its first venture in Australia with the opening a Brisbane office, riding on its business success during the World Cup.Part of the Fairfield Group, Fairfield Meetings & Incentives provides customers with “outstanding experiences” throughout Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, the company said.“Whilst we have enjoyed a very successful World Cup in South Africa we are now looking to the future and developing the Australian and New Zealand market is part of our strategic development plan,” Fairfield Meetings & Incentives Managing Director Johan Smal said.“I look forward to personally welcoming groups from Australia and New Zealand to Southern Africa.”The DMC will be led locally by Rebecca Smith of the PillowMINT Group in Brisbane.Southern Africa boasts a number of international convention centers, unique venues, luxury accommodation and abundant wildlife.  The DMC is also supportive of various social development initiatives within local communities in its region. <a href=”http://www.etbtravelnews.global/click/207f5/” target=”_blank”><img src=”http://adsvr.travelads.biz/www/delivery/avw.php?zoneid=10&amp;cb=INSERT_RANDOM_NUMBER_HERE&amp;n=a5c63036″ border=”0″ alt=””></a>last_img read more

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Americas to open up with TAM JetBlue

first_imgSource = e-Travel Blackboard: M.H JetBlue and TAM Airlines have announced a new interline partnership offering passengers of the airlines new connections throughout the Americas via hubs NY and Orlando in the US, and Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in Brazil. Under the agreement, TAM customers will be able to connect onward to JetBlue destinations such as Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington DC, while JetBlue customers will be able to connect with South American metropolises Asuncion, Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Santiago among others, as well as 45 cities across Brazil.  JetBlue director of airline partnerships Scott Resnick said the airline was looking forward to “welcoming TAM’s customers to the JetBlue experience and to introducing more Americans to the excitement and beauty of Brazil and other TAM destinations throughout South America”.Similarly, TAM Airlines planning and alliances vice president Nelson Shinzato said JetBlue clients could look forward to the carrier’s “spirit to serve, modern airplanes and high quality services”.“Brazilians are travelling more frequently to other countries and this partnership is important to enhance our reach in the United States, one of the preferred destinations of our clients,” Mr Shinzato said.Offering travellers the ease of one-stop ticketing and baggage check-in, the deal will allow passengers to purchase a single e-ticket itinerary, combining flights on both carriers’ networks. Low cost carrier JetBlue is based in New Yorklast_img read more

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One Ocean Expeditions expands fleet

first_imgSource = e-Travel Blackboard: N.A Akademic Sergey Vavilov will join Akademik Ioffe as the second polar expedition vessel for One Ocean Expeditions next November.The Russian Academy of Science built both ships in the late 1980’s with Vavilov offering 92 berths onboard.  OOE founder, Andrew Prossin, is a 20-year veteran of Antarctica and the Arctic and has worked extensively with both vessels. “This addition to our fleet was both necessary and timely for OOE. It is necessary because our 2011/12 season has almost completely sold out and we definitely need a second vessel. It is timely because the opportunity to take the Vavilov now puts us in a leading position with the two best expedition vessels in the world,” said Mr Prossin. With an initial deployment to Antarctica, she will head to the Arctic for the 2013 season after extensive refurbishments including redecorated cabins, enhanced public areas and a wellness centre. last_img read more

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Qatar Airport City masterplan

first_imgMasterplanners OMA beat out international competition to develop the new 10km² Airport City in Qatar.The development will provide work and housing for 200,000 people through a series of four circular districts, surrounding and linking the new Hamad International Airport (HIA) with Doha, Qatar.Each of the four districts of Airport City will be unique within the master plan’s overall identity; the business district, the aviation campus, the logistics district and the residential district.“We are delighted and honoured to participate in the exciting growth of Doha, in a project that is perhaps the first serious effort anywhere in the world to interface between an international airport and the city it serves,” OMA founder Rem Koolhaas said.OMA expect the project to be mostly complete by the time the 2022 World Cup is hosted by Qatar.Source = e-Travel Blackboard: P.T. Developers to complete project in time for 2022 World Cup.last_img read more

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Windsor Hotel luxury hotels must distinguish their brand

first_imgLuxury property, Windsor Hotel Melbourne. Luxury hotels must continue to define the guest experience, in order to survive budgetary constraints and traveller’s expectations, according to Windsor Hotel Melbourne boss David Perry.Despite the trend in the United States to eliminate room service at four and five star hotels, including the Hilton Midtown New York, the demand for full-service accommodation will persist.“For many travellers, on business and leisure, it is the experience of the hotel stay itself that is important,” Windsor Hotel Melbourne chief executive David Perry said.“They expect, and are happy to pay for, quality room amenities and extras, whether that’s being able to order room service at midnight or enjoy the services of a private butler and the experience and local knowledge of a great concierge.”Matching customer expectations with the price of accommodation is a difficult task, particularly for mid-range properties that struggle with increasing costs and the need to reduce overheads.“For many, that has to mean upgrading and not downgrading the offer. A four or five star hotel cannot offer budget hotel service and should not.”The Windsor Melbourne has no plans to sever exclusive services, such as its private butler service.“For the guest who is prepared to pay, the best of everything – services, food, in-room amenities, valet parking, technology – has to be available, otherwise the premium product can’t compete,” Mr Perry said.“Our focus now is on what else we can add, rather than take away, and other five star hotels will have to do the same.”Source = ETB News: P.T.last_img read more

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Hyatt announces new General Managers

first_imgHyatt Announces New General ManagersHyatt is pleased to announce the advancement of a number of its colleagues to General Manager positions.Adrian Slater has been selected as General Manager of Grand Hyatt Seoul, effective since July 1, 2015. Slater commenced his career with Hyatt in 1987 at Hyatt Regency Auckland, before working at Hyatt Regency hotels in Dubai, Perth, Saipan, Guam and Incheon. His first General Manager role was with Hyatt Regency Jeju in 2005, then with Park Hyatt Seoul, and most recently, Park Hyatt Dubai between 2010 and 2015. Slater succeeds David Pacey, whose next assignment will be announced shortly.“I am thrilled to be moving back to Seoul, a dynamic city that I came to love after many years working at Hyatt Regency Incheon and Park Hyatt Seoul,” he says. “I am excited about exploring the new opportunities the city presents today.”Paul Wright has been selected as General Manager of Park Hyatt Beijing, effective from August 17, 2015. Wright started his tenure in 1994 at Hyatt Regency Perth, before advancing in various food-and-beverage management positions at Hyatt Regency Sanctuary Cove, Hyatt Hotel Canberra, Grand Hyatt Melbourne and Grand Hyatt Bali. In 2008, he became Hotel Manager of Park Hyatt Dubai and subsequently Grand Hyatt Beijing, before his most recent assignment as General Manager at the rebranded Grand Hyatt Incheon since 2012. Wright’s replacement at Grand Hyatt Incheon will be announced in the near future.“My family and I are very excited to be returning to Beijing, a wonderful and culturally rich city we called home during my tenure at Grand Hyatt Beijing,” he says. “I am honoured to be joining the leadership team of Park Hyatt Beijing and look forward to contributing to the ongoing growth and success of the hotel, which under the guidance of Ronald Kang, established a market-leading position and a global reputation as a top-class luxury hotel.”Ronald Kang, currently Area Vice President and General Manager of Park Hyatt Beijing, will be temporarily assigned to the Beijing Support Centre for Hyatt Special Projects, effective from September 1, 2015. Ronald’s next assignment will be announced in the near future.“I am proud to have been at Park Hyatt Beijing for the past six years, during which time, we have consistently been the market leader and the main hospitality address within Beijing’s CBD,” says Kang. “I pay tribute to every associate at Park Hyatt Beijing for their support and dedication during my tenure, and look forward to my assignment at the Beijing Support Centre, assisting and focusing on our China priorities.”Johnny Kiu has been selected as General Manager of the newly reflagged Hyatt Regency Wuhan Optics Valley, effective from August 17, 2015. Kiu has vast hospitality experience working for a number of international hotel chains—including Four Seasons, Marriott, Peninsula, Shangri-La and Intercontinental—while located in Hong Kong, Indonesia and various cities in China. He joined Hyatt in 2013 with his first General Manager assignment at Hyatt Regency Guiyang, where his replacement will be announced in the near future.“I am very excited to lead the first Hyatt hotel in the Central China region and also the first Hyatt reflagging project in China,” Kiu says. “I look forward to working closely with different corporate functional heads and our other colleagues in the new location, and to the continued expansion of the Hyatt Regency brand in China.”Mark Lyons has been selected as General Manager of the Hyatt-managed Roppongi Hills Club, effective from July 15, 2015. Lyons began his Hyatt tenure at Hyatt Regency Sydney in 1995, before progressing through various rooms-management positions at Grand Hyatt Melbourne, Park Hyatt Melbourne, Grand Hyatt Taipei, Grand Hyatt Beijing and Grand Hyatt Shanghai. Since 2010, he has been Hotel Manager at Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi.Coming to Tokyo brings me an enormous amount of personal satisfaction and enthusiasm and I am delighted to be selected as General Manager of Roppongi Hills Club,” says Lyons. “Roppongi Hills Club has an excellent reputation and I look forward to working with its passionate and dedicated team to deliver sincere and authentic hospitality.”Sarah Wang has been selected as General Manager of Hyatt Place Luoyang, effective from August 1, 2015. Wang began her career with Hyatt in 2002 as the Front Office Assistant Manager at Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, before progressing in various rooms-management positions at Hyatt Regency Xian, then advancing to become Director of Rooms at Hyatt Regency Jinan in 2011. Since 2014, she has been the pre-opening and opening Executive Assistant Manager for Rooms at Grand Hyatt Dalian.“I am excited to have been selected to launch the first Hyatt Place hotel in North China, and look forward to working with a great team of people at Hyatt Place Luoyang,” says Wang “2015 has opened up a new challenging chapter in my life and I sincerely hope to make it a great success.”“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all our colleagues on their new assignments,” says Group President of Hyatt Asia Pacific, David Udell. “They have all worked incredibly hard to get to where they are, and these advancements are more than deserved. I have no doubt that they will continue to meet each new challenge with enthusiasm, passion and the wisdom that comes with experience, and we wish them continued success and the very best of happiness in their exciting new roles.”Source = Hyattlast_img read more

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First new flight with Tigerair Australia lands in the Whitsundays

first_imgFirst new flight with Tigerair Australia lands in the WhitsundaysFirst new flight with Tigerair Australia lands in the WhitsundaysThe first of the new Tigerair Australia flights into Whitsunday Coast Airport commences today.The airline is increasing return services from Sydney, to six weekly return services, and is introducing four new return services from Brisbane, resulting in an additional 55,000 visitor seats into Whitsunday Coast Airport each year.The move has been welcomed by the region’s tourism operators and Tourism Whitsundays.Tourism Whitsundays CEO Craig Turner said the new flights would help the region fulfil its “massive potential”.“While the Whitsundays has always been highly aspirational, one of the barriers to converting this into visitation has been the challenges around ways to get here and the convenience of flights,” he said.“With the additional six flights into region with Tigerair, starting on March 23, this will go some way to breaking down that conversion barrier.“The Whitsundays is in a very strong position and the addition of these flights will allow us to continue to fulfil the massive potential that the Whitsundays has.”Whitsunday Regional Council Mayor Andrew Willcox said the additional flights and increased visitor seats would provide a significant boost for accommodation houses, tour and transport operators, restaurants and retail businesses in the region.“It is certainly happy days in the Whitsundays so far in 2017 and the new direct morning return service from Brisbane is a massive vote of confidence in our region by Tigerair.“As owners of Whitsunday Coast Airport this council has worked closely with Tigerair to secure the new flights, which will also provide better connectivity for overseas visitors.“Basically more choice and availability of flights makes it easier for international tourists to visit our region,” Mayor Willcox said.The new flights mean it has never been easier or more affordable to visit the Whitsundays. Source = Tourism Whitsundayslast_img read more

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SIVB Hapi Isles Specialist agents numbers crack 200 mark

first_imgSIVB ‘Hapi Isles Specialist’ agents numbers crack 200 markThe Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau’s ‘Hapi Isles Specialists’ agents’ online training program has signed up more than 200 consultants on both sides of the Tasman within five weeks of its launch.SIVB CEO, Josefa ‘Jo’ Tuamoto said the result underlined the steadily growing interest the industry is taking in the destination and mirrored the Solomon Islands’ steadily growing international visitation which has continued to increase year on year by some 7 per cent for the past four years.A total of 125 Australian and 85 New Zealand agents have signed up for the program which was launched in mid-September.The focus of the program is intended to equip key front like sales staff with product knowledge via a series of online modules designed to help them learn about the Solomon Islands and the destination’s vast array of niche product.To date the newly-recruited ‘Hapi Isles Specialists’ have completed over 700 of these modules which include information on the Solomon Islands’ unique culture, reef and wreck diving, WWII history, sport fishing, weddings/romantic travel, surfing and bird watching.Source = Mike Parker-Brown, PR – Solomon Islands Visitors Bureaulast_img read more

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Internationally renowned Ramada brand to debut in Sydney

first_imgInternationally renowned Ramada brand to debut in SydneyTapping into Sydney’s booming western region, Wyndham Hotel Group – the hotel giant with an unmatched global presence of more than 8,400 hotels – today announced plans to introduce its first location in the city under its globally recognised Ramada® brand.Formerly Ibis Styles Sydney Lansvale, the 81-room Ramada Hotel and Suites Sydney Cabramatta will rebrand on March 12 as part of a franchise agreement between Wyndham Hotel Group and property owner Z Hotels Pty Ltd.“Western Sydney has experienced significant tourism growth in recent years, with visitors injecting $4.2 billion into the New South Wales economy in 2016,” said Barry Robinson, President and Managing Director of Wyndham Hotel Group South East Asia and Pacific Rim.“There has never been a better time to debut our global Ramada brand to the capital city. With the predicted influx of international tourists from the planned Western Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek, as well as the New South Wales Government’s goal of doubling overnight visitor expenditure by 2020, Ramada Cabramatta will be well placed to cater to growing demand for high quality hotels and best-in-class hospitality in the region.”The independently accredited four-star hotel is ideally located on the Hume Highway in Cabramatta, Western Sydney, 27 kilometres from Sydney’s CBD providing easy access to the M5, M7 and M4. It is close to the business centres of Cabramatta, Fairfield and Liverpool, and is a 30-minute drive from Sydney airport.One of the country’s major growth corridors, the Western Sydney region boasts a multicultural population, 3,600 square kilometres of national parks, a strong calendar of major events and popular attractions including the Wet’n’Wild theme park, Sydney Olympic Park, Calmsley Hill City Farm, Warwick Farm Race Course and Riverside Stables.Managing Director of Z Hotels Pty Ltd, Fazila Farhad, said the company was proud to be partnering with Wyndham Hotel Group.“The Ramada brand is known worldwide for delivering personalised service, warm hospitality and excellent facilities, and we think it is an excellent fit for the South West Sydney market as it continues to grow and attract more global travellers,” she said.Ms Fazila Farhad, who also serves as Vice President of the South West Sydney Tourism Task Force Inc NSW, added, “We are passionate about driving tourism in Sydney’s south west and support from businesses like Wyndham Hotel Group, as well as the announcement of major projects such as the new airport and Sydney Zoo, are signs of confidence in the region.”Ramada Cabramatta offers a range of quality accommodation for all types of travellers, from tour groups to independent travellers, families and corporate guests. There are plans to add an extra 19 rooms to the property, bringing the room count to 100 keys before the end of the year.Other features include a meeting room and conference facilities accommodating up to 60 delegates, a swimming pool, complimentary parking and free Wi-Fi. The onsite Milano Grill and Bar is known locally for its modern cuisine, popular events and adjoining TAB/VIP lounge.Upon rebranding, Ramada Cabramatta will join five Wyndham Hotel Group hotels and resorts in key New South Wales destinations under its Wyndham Hotels and Resorts® and Ramada® brand flags, including Sydney CBD, Shoal Bay, Ballina, Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie.The hotel will participate in Wyndham Rewards®, the simple-to-use, a revolutionary loyalty program that offers members generous points earning structure along with a flat, free-night redemption rate. Visit www.wyndhamrewards.com for more information.Source = Wyndham Hotel Grouplast_img read more

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MSC Cruises ups fleet expansion plan through 2026

first_imgMSC Cruises Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago and CEO of STX France Laurent Castaing cut the first steel of the newly named MSC Virtuosa.MSC Cruises ups fleet expansion plan through 2026Newly-ordered fifth Meraviglia class vessel brings to up to five total of MSC Cruises’ LNG-powered ships on orderThree MSC Cruises’ ships now under simultaneous construction at STX France as construction on MSC Virtuosa beginsMSC Cruises and STX France signed an order for the construction of a fifth Meraviglia class cruise ship. Due to be delivered in 2023, this vessel will be equipped with a new generation of dual-fuel engines designed to run on liquefied natural gas (LNG). She will also feature other innovative environmental technologies, notably including an advanced wastewater treatment system compliant with the world’s most stringent regulatory standards, including the provisions enshrined in Resolution MEPC.227 for the Baltic Sea.This announcement was made at a unique ceremony held at the Saint-Nazaire shipyard in the presence of Bruno Le Maire, the French Minister of the Economy and Finance. STX France and MSC Cruises celebrated three major ship building milestones: the Steel Cutting Ceremony of the 4th Meraviglia class vessel where MSC Cruises announced that the ship will be named MSC Virtuosa; the Coin Ceremony of MSC Grandiosa; and the Float-out of MSC Bellissima. For the first time in Saint-Nazaire’s history, three cruise ships belonging to a single cruise brand are under simultaneous construction at the shipyard.Speaking before opening the valves to flood the dry dock where MSC Bellissima has been assembled, Pierfrancesco Vago, MSC Cruises’ Executive Chairman, said: “With the announcement of yet another new vessel, the 13th under our 10-year investment plan, we are affirming our commitment to sustainable growth for our Company. I say this while three more next-generation MSC Cruises are now simultaneously under construction.Mr Vago added, “Our fifth Meraviglia class cruise ship will bring a new generation of cutting-edge environmental technology to the market, benefiting from a new generation of LNG-powered engines. This will help us further reduce our environmental footprint and advance in our journey of constant improvement. She will be joined at sea by up to four World Class LNG-powered ships, as part of our overall commitment to environmental stewardship through this and other next-generation technologies and solutions deployed fleet-wide.”The agreement for the additional Meraviglia-Plus ship represents an additional investment of €900 million.About MSC Bellissima and MSC GrandiosaMSC Bellissima will be christened in Southampton on 2nd March 2019 whilst MSC Grandiosa will be christened in Hamburg in November 2019.MSC Bellissima will also be the first ship to feature the industry’s first digital cruise personal assistant, Zoe, as a new feature of MSC for Me, the Company’s digital innovation programme. A bespoke device is being designed specifically for use in the cabins on board and will be available in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Brazilian Portuguese and Mandarin. This digital service will provide guests with a simple and stress-free way to find out information that traditionally is asked in person at the Guest Relations desk. This way the guest can find the information without having to leave their cabin. This will then also be available on MSC Grandiosa.Both ships will bring offer two brand new shows from Cirque du Soleil at Sea, created exclusively for MSC Cruises guests. This is part of a long-term partnership between MSC Cruises and Cirque du Soleil, the world leader in artistic entertainment that will result in a total of eight original shows that will be available on MSC Cruises’ four Meraviglia and Meraviglia-plus generation ships – two different shows on each ship.MSC Grandiosa will showcase an even larger Mediterranean-style promenade, the ground-breaking feature unique to the Meraviglia and Meraviglia-plus prototypes, that serves as the social hub of the ship with an array of shops and specialty restaurants as well as a new bar and lounge, L’Atelier Bistrot that will offer lounge seating with a stage and a dance floor, impressionist art will be on display in this space will also have “terrace “seating with Parisian Bistrot tables and chairs on the Promenade Throughout the day and the evening, this award-winning promenade hosts surprise performances, including flash mobs and themed parties, as well as the awe-inspiring projections on the even longer 98.5-metre, LED Sky screen.MSC Cruises’ award-winning family offering will also see some new features and on MSC Bellissima this will see the introduction of a fun Grand Canyon theme for the Aquapark and a host of new magic inspired kids entertainment for kids of all ages. The family deck will include the DOREMI Studio Lounge, a dedicated lounge for all family activities, DOREMI Tech Lab, a must visit destination for kids who love technology, as well as facilities designed in partnership with family experts including the LEGO Group and Chicco.The five Meraviglia class ships are;o   MSC Meraviglia, launched 2017o   MSC Bellissima, launching March 2019.   Float out ceremony 14/6/18.o   MSC Grandiosa, launching November 2019. Coin ceremony 14/6/18.o   MSC Virtuosa, launching 2020. Name announced at Steel cutting ceremony 14/6/18.o   Meraviglia Plus ship launching 2023The three ships under construction at STX France are MSC Bellissima, MSC Grandiosa and MSC Virtuosa.Source = MSC Cruiseslast_img read more

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Diethelm Travel Group Announces Profitable First Half

first_imgDiethelm Travel Group Announces Profitable First HalfDiethelm Travel Group Announces Profitable First Half Plus More Projected Growth for 2018Diethelm Travel Group, an award-winning inbound tour operator servicing Asia, today announced its two best quarters since 2009, less than one year after CEO Stephan Roemer joined the company.The company’s performance is within planned expectations for a solid profit and projected growth forecasted to hit more than 30% by the end of 2018. With 13 regional offices in countries across Asia plus remote teams in the U.K., U.S., France and Turkey, the leading inbound tour operator is showing growth not only in profitability but also global reach, luxury offerings and rates of incoming travellers.Additionally, Diethelm Travel Group is continuing to meet the highest international standards when it comes to corporate governance and compliance, matching its parent company, the Swiss Diethelm Keller Holding. Along with clean business practices, safety is also of utmost importance for Diethelm Travel Group staff, partners and guests. The company boasts the highest possible third party liability insurance covering all regions, as well as crisis management plans, and health and safety programmes that meet global standards.While Diethelm Travel Group has maintained its superior safety and compliance practices over the years, the company, which employs more than 600 staff worldwide and offers nearly 4,000 custom tours throughout Asia, is enjoying a renewed sense of growth under the stewardship of Stephan Roemer. Roemer is known as a determined hands-on manager and took over as CEO in October 2017 while merging Diethelm Travel Group with Switzerland-based Asian travel specialist, Tourasia. The merger marked Diethelm Travel Group becoming one of the largest incoming tour operators in Asia.“Since opening in Bangkok in 1957, Diethelm Travel Group has long been considered a pioneer in the region,” said Stephan Roemer, CEO of Diethelm Travel Group. “Now, we’re proud to say that Diethelm Travel Group is staying true to its roots while surpassing our goals for 2018 and moving forward into a new era of service.”With more than 60 years of operation and one-of-a-kind authentic experiences in Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam, Diethelm Travel Group is not only well positioned to serve seasoned travellers Journeys of a Lifetime but business partners and agents with sustained service backed by respected business practices.For more information, please contact us at press@diethelmtravel.comSource = Diethelm Travel Grouplast_img read more

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Argentina tourism conducts threecity roadshow in India

first_imgINPROTUR (National Institute of Tourism Promotion in Argentina) recently conducted a multi-city roadshow to promote Argentina in India. The roadshow took place in the three major Indian cities namely Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.The roadshow, which was entitled ‘Has it all,’ brought the Argentine suppliers and India’s travel buyers closer to each other. The event presented the right platform for the suppliers to provide information and interact directly with India’s leading tour operators, key decisions-makers from the industry, airline representatives and travel agents.Also present at the event were H.E. Maria Cristina Ueltschi – Ambassador of Argentina, Georgina Fernández Destéfano-Deputy Chief of Mission-Embassy of Argentina at the Delhi roadshow and H.E. Alejandro Zothner Meyer –Acting Consul General of Argentina, Andrea Alba Gonzalez – Deputy Consul – Argentina at the Mumbai roadshow.The events also showcased top ten cities of Argentina along with over two hundred unique experiences that have been developed to tempt, motivate and cater to needs of the Indian travellers.Argentina has witnessed an encouraging growth of 18.3% in 2015 and 22% in the first months in 2016.last_img read more

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Axios Approved as AMC for Flagstar

first_img Axios Valuation Solutions, a wholly owned subsidiary of eMortgage Logic, has been named as an approved appraisal management company (AMC) by Flagstar Bank.”We are privileged to be a part of the Flagstar Bank family of vendors. Flagstar is an industry leader in the mortgage origination sector and we are honored to partner with them,” said Tony Pistilli, EVP and chief appraiser with Axios.”Our current regulatory environment requires more than just delivering a standard appraisal product. The focus is on transparency and compliance. Our foundation is based on delivering high quality valuation services while strictly adhering to regulatory guidelines,” Pistilli added.Pistilli is an appointed Representative Member of the Appraisal Subcommittee Advisory Committee for Development of Regulations. In his role, he is able to actively participate in the interpretation of federal regulations, as well as an opportunity to voice opinions from the appraisal and financial services industries regarding how regulations impact the industry.Axios Valuation Solutions provides a full suite of compliant valuation services nationwide, including residential appraisals, reconciliations of values, retrospective field reviews, desk reviews, Texas Regulatory Reviews, and AVMs. Axios Approved as AMC for Flagstar Appraisals Axios Valuation Solutions Company News 2014-04-18 Colin Robins in Headlines, News, Uncategorizedcenter_img April 18, 2014 462 Views Sharelast_img read more

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RedVision Welcomes New VP of Operations

first_img RedVision 2017-05-16 Seth Welborn Recently, Tim Padgett joined RedVision, a company that provides title and real property research solutions. As its new vice president of operations, Padgett will be manage RedVision’s regional and national operations, concentrating on continuous customer success and satisfaction.“As a previous RedVision customer and a long-time member of the title industry, I have a sincere appreciation for voice of the customer and the businesses they serve, along with a deep understanding of the title transaction,” said Padgett. “I hope to combine my experience as both a customer and solutions partner to further enhance RedVision’s commitment to consistently provide its clients with a quality product and superior customer service.”Coming from strong background in title operations, closings, settlement services and title insurance, Padgett has 30 years of industry-related experience under his belt. He has served in roles at various organizations, including Westcor Land Title Insurance Company, the American Land Title Association (ALTA), the Mortgage Industry Standards Maintenance Organization (MISMO), and Altisource Premium Title Services, Inc., his most recent employer before RedVision.“Tim Padgett has extensive experience in management, development and risk assessment,” said Brian Twibell, president of RedVision. “He will apply his industry expertise in multi-state operations, onshore and offshore operations, vendor management and underwriting to strategically manage our day-to-day operations and optimize service delivery to RedVision’s national and regional customers.” in News Sharecenter_img May 16, 2017 528 Views RedVision Welcomes New VP of Operationslast_img read more

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Analyzing Mortgage Applications

first_img Mike Fratantoni Mortgage Applications Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey 2019-01-16 Donna Joseph Share January 16, 2019 827 Views in Daily Dose, Featured, Market Studies, News, Origination, Servicingcenter_img Analyzing Mortgage Applications Mortgage applications recorded an increase by 13.5 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis, compared to last week, according to the latest Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey.”Mortgage applications rose to their strongest level in years last week, with purchase applications rising to the highest since 2010, and refinance applications up to their highest level since last spring,” said Mike Fratantoni, SVP and Chief Economist at MBA. The survey, released on Wednesday, revealed a 45 percent increase from last week in mortgage applications on an unadjusted basis. The Refinance Index reflected an increase of 43 percent in the unadjusted Purchase Index compared to last week—11 percent higher than the same week one year ago.”Uncertainty regarding the government shutdown, slowing global growth, Brexit, a more patient Fed, and a volatile stock market continued to keep rates from increasing. The spring homebuying season is almost upon us, and if rates stay lower, inventory continues to grow, and the job market maintains its strength, we do expect to see a solid spring market. The 11 percent gain in purchase volume compared to last year is a promising sign,” Fratantoni said.The volume of refinance loan applications recorded the highest level since January 2018 increasing to 46.8 percent of total applications. The refinance share of mortgages was at 45.8 percent the previous week. An increase in adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) activities reflected at 9.2 percent of total applications—reaching its highest level since October 2014. In government loan applications, the FHA increased to 10.9 percent from 10.3 percent in the past week. The survey revealed a drop in VA share of total applications at 10.4 percent this week compared to 11.6 the week prior. The USDA share of total applications also recorded a decline at 0.5 percent from 0.6 percent the week prior.Here’s how the average contract interest rates performed for various loans:For 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances remain unchanged at  4.74 percent. The effective rate recorded a decline from the week prior. The rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with jumbo loan balances increased to 4.53 percent, from 4.52 percent last week. The effective rate decreased from last week for this loan type. FHA-backed 30-year fixed-rate mortgages increased to 4.76 percent from 4.70 percent. It recorded an increase in effective rate compared to the past week.The 15-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 4.13 percent, the lowest level since April 2018, from 4.16 percent. The effective rate for this loan type remained unchanged. The rate for 5/1 ARMs increased to 4.08 percent from 4.05 percent, also recording an increase in effective rate from the week prior.last_img read more

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What Is Fueling SFR Growth

first_img March 20, 2019 1,165 Views in Daily Dose, Data, Featured, News CoreLogic Home Prices homes HOUSING Rent Single-Family 2019-03-20 Radhika Ojha A rising demand for low-end rentals along with the stabilization of rent prices since February 2016, have propelled the growth of single-family rentals, according to CoreLogic’s latest Single-family Rent Index (SFRI) report.According to the report single-family rental (SFR) prices climbed between 2010 and 2016. However since February 2016, when the price growth peaked at 4.2 percent, the overall year-over-year rent price increases have slowed and “have stabilized over the last year with a monthly average of 3 percent.”“Rent prices for single-family homes increased 3.2 percent in January, which was the fastest increase in more than two years,” said Molly Boesel, Principal Economist at CoreLogic.The report indicated that low-end rentals, which increased 3.8 percent year-over-year in January, “propped up” the national rent growth. CoreLogic defines this tier as properties with rent prices less than 75 percent of the regional median. High-end rentals, properties with rent prices greater than 125 percent of the region’s median rent, grew at a slower year over year pace at 2.9 percent. However they were up from last year’s pace of 2.4 percent.“Demand for single-family rentals has remained brisk, and while employment growth has played a role in rental demand, demographics have as well,” Boesel said. “Households headed by someone under the age of 35 are more likely to rent than own, and with nearly a quarter of the U.S. population between the ages of 18 and 35, this age group continues to feed the demand for single-family rentals.”At 7.7 percent Phoenix, Arizona, recorded the highest year-over-year rise in SFR in January, according to the report, followed by Las Vegas, Nevada at 7 percent. Another Arizona city, Tuscon, experienced the third highest growth in SFR at 5.9 percent. The report indicated that this was the first time that Tuscon was among the top three metros for rent growth in more than 12 months.However, Houston, Texas, which had seen a steady growth in SFR throughout 2018, experienced the lowest rent increases of all for the second consecutive month in January at 0.8 percent.center_img What Is Fueling SFR Growth? Sharelast_img read more

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