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Pakistan Planning to Ease its Visa Policy

Security has since improved dramatically, with militant attacks down sharply in the mainly Muslim country of 208 million people

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FILE - A tourist is seen visiting the national heritage museum in Islamabad, Pakistan, Aug. 2, 2017.

Pakistan is planning to ease visa restrictions for visitors from 55 countries, including most European nations, in a bid to revive tourism that was devastated by Islamist violence in the fallout from the 9/11 attacks in the United States.

“We are reviewing our visa policies. We are trying to bring 55 countries into a visa-free region, which includes most of the European countries,” Pakistan’s information minister, Fawad Chaudhry, told Reuters.

That comes after Portugal this month declared Pakistan safe for travel, while France has also relaxed its advisory on travel to the South Asian nation

“I’m happy our (travel) advisories are changing,” Chaudhry said.

Potentially restarting tourism has been one of the most talked about parts of new Prime Minister Imran Khan’s push to create an Islamic welfare state in Pakistan, but visitors to the country often complain of an arduous visa process.

Former Real Madrid soccer stars Kaka of Brazil and Portuguese playmaker Luis Figo were recently denied visas to the country for a promotional visit, Chaudhry said, highlighting the nation’s laborious visa process.

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FILE – A man rides the chairlift at the ski resort in Malam Jabba, Pakistan, Feb. 7, 2017.

“We refused a visa to Kaka and Figo. Can you believe that? I called the section officer and he never heard of … Kaka,” Chaudhry said, laughing. “I spoke to the interior secretary yesterday and gave him a piece of my mind.”

Pakistan was last a prominent tourist destination in the 1970s when the “hippie trail” brought Western travelers through the apricot and walnut orchards of the Swat Valley and Kashmir on their way to India and Nepal.

Since then, a deteriorating security situation and the imposition of a harsh interpretation of Islamic laws has chipped away at the number of visitors.

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Following Pakistan’s participation in the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington, the country was rocked by a decade of regular large-scale militant attacks.

Security has since improved dramatically, with militant attacks down sharply in the mainly Muslim country of 208 million people.

British Airways on Tuesday announced it would resume flights to Pakistan next year after a 10-year absence that followed a major hotel bombing, becoming the first Western airline to restart such flights. (VOA)

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COVID-19: MakeMyTrip Lays Off Nearly 350 Employees

Covid-hit MakeMyTrip says that there's no respite in sight

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According to MakeMyTrip Founder Deep Kalra, the word of travel has been ravaged due to global Covid-19 pandemic. Pixabay

Covid-hit online travel major MakeMyTrip has laid off nearly 350 employees as the pandemic has changed the context and viability of some of its business lines in its current form.

The company is offering mediclaim coverage for the impacted individuals and their families till the end of the year.

According to an internal letter from Founder Deep Kalra and CEO Rajesh Magow sent to employees, the impacted employees will also get leave, gratuity, retention of company laptops and outplacement support, apart from salary payments as per their notice periods.

“It is undoubtedly the toughest decision we have had to take so far and it’s the saddest day for us as an organization,” read the letter.

The company analysed Covid-19 impact closely and spent considerable time thinking about the path to business recovery.

“It is evident that the pandemic has changed the context and viability of some of our business lines in its current form. Keeping this in mind we have had to take this sad but inevitable decision of rightsizing our workforce in these businesses,” said the duo.

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MakeMyTrip analysed Covid-19 impact closely and spent considerable time thinking about the path to business recovery. Wikimedia Commns

The staff rationalization, they said, is mapped to their future business strategy and “is in no way a reflection of the work done by people in these teams”.

According to Kalra, the word of travel has been ravaged due to global Covid-19 pandemic.

“What’s evident is that the impact of COVID-19 crisis is going to be long drawn for us. It’s unclear when traveling will become a way of life, as it was pre-Covid,” said the letter.

The tourism industry in India is staring at two crore job losses as industry insiders cite central apathy and a predictably long recovery period.

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Indian tourism travel and hospitality impacts 10-12 per cent of India’s employment which covers almost 5 crore plus direct and indirect jobs.

“We are living through extraordinary times which have impacted individuals, communities, businesses, countries and our world at a magnitude unknown before and there is no let-up in sight,” said the MakeMyTrip executives.

The Indian tourism, travel and hospitality sector has already seen over one quarter of accumulated losses which began from February onwards. (IANS)

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Travel Industry Expected To Make a Comeback After Autumn-Winter

Recovery for the travel industry would most likely take three to six more months, suggest experts

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The hospitality and aviation sectors are arguably amongst the most impacted segments due to COVID-19. Pixabay

BY SIDDHI JAIN

With global travel strictly on hold and most wish-list destinations reeling under severe Coronavirus impact, tourism is one of the most most-affected industries. As international air travel remains suspended, inbound tourism (foreigners travelling into india) will be at a standstill in the coming few months.

According to a global luxury businesses panel hosted by S.P. Jain Global, the hospitality and aviation sectors are arguably amongst the most impacted segments due to COVID-19, with the Indian hospitality industry suffering losses to the tune of $4.5 billion. However, the industry is anticipating making a comeback by Q4, with certain sub-segments ruling over the others. In the meanwhile what happens to the travel trade? Well, all eyes seem to have turned to the domestic business and leisure market to make up the losses.

While inbound and outbound tourism is expected to be slow, owing to the restrictions placed by countries on international travellers, domestic corporate travel may also take a hit depending on the state of businesses in the country. However, domestic leisure travel is said to rebound swiftly, and will be a major factor in helping the industry recover post the pandemic.

“Initially, people stuck in different parts of the world will travel back to India. Overall, inbound tourism might witness a slow growth. Though India has always been a favourite and affordable spot for international tourists as well as for locals, we can expect a normality by 2021,” Debashish Maitra, director of IJ Dream Vacation told IANSlife. “In simple terms, the first roadblock to an international tours would be taking a flight, which many would like to avoid unless necessary,” says Krupa Gupta Saraogi of bookittours.

According to Ramesh Ramanathan, Chairman and Managing Director of Sterling Holiday Resorts, with international travel expected to slow down at least for this year, it will only add demand in favour of domestic travel, at least for the foreseeable future. “We are most likely to witness revenge spending once the lockdown is lifted, however, there would be a new set of considerations which will come in to play while shortlisting destinations — like safety, hygiene, social distancing, and proximity. Also, India has a plethora of splendid locations like the hill stations, beaches, forests, cultural sites, and other iconic attractions, and Indian travellers are most likely to plan stress-free pocket-friendly domestic vacation with their close ones,” he shares over email.

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Indian travellers are most likely to plan stress-free pocket-friendly domestic vacation with their close ones. Pixabay

Ramanathan added that many are booking from July onwards, as a way to holiday out the COVID-19 stress, but a recovery would likely take three to six more months. Travel curator Ricky Nakhat does not anticipate a recovery before winter months. Post that, he says that more foreigners might likely tour India as the spread elsewhere is quite high.

How can we promote India as a safe travel space?

According to stakeholders, self-driving to destinations would see a considerable spike due to safety issues. Hotels, resorts, cab operators, airports and local city sights must ensure sanitisation and assure visitors of it, if they want to attract tourists. Medical tests of hospitality staff must be done regularly, apart from following basic norms of social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands. Travel insurance would also be aggressively promoted.

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Visitors, especially the elderly and those with co-morbidities, can be encouraged to look at stays in zones declared Coronavirus-free or where a lower number of infections were reported. Also people are likely to prefer travelling in small groups. Promoting touchless technology might also help. (IANS)

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Here’s Why China is Predictable and Not Inscrutable

India could’ve easily predicted the Chinese coming on 5 August 2019

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The Chinese actions are far away from being Inscrutable. Pixabay

As the tensions rise between India and China along the borders in Ladakh, Shekhar Gupta in his article for The Print invokes an American political satirist P.J. O’Rourke.

Talking about his works Shekhar points out that in his ‘A Brief History of Man’, P.J. O’Rourke writes a small sentence “Meanwhile, in China, there were the Chinese.”. This sentence is relevant to us today.

Shekhar Gupta believes that the sentence conveys us a sense of resignation about the “inscrutable” Chinese. This thought happens to be familiar thought in the West.

“But we don’t live in the West. We’ve lived next door to China for as long as first civilisations grew.”, writes Shekhar Gupta

Let’s look at the history of Indian interactions with China since independance. What is inscrutable about it? Talking about the military assault across two fronts in 1962, it may have been a surprise to our leaders back then, but that is only because they were delusional.

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Chinese actions in respect to India are predictable now. Pixabay

From Chinese ultimatum to India to “return their stolen yaks and sheep” in 1965, to their appearance along the Ladakh frontier this year, China happens to be completely predictable and far from inscrutable. Especially keeping in mind Chinese actions in respect to India.

The push at Nathu La (Sikkim) in 1967 was probably to check out the resolve from India. Which they saw at its weakest — having fought two recent wars (1962 and 1965), famines, ship-to-mouth existence, political instability and a diminished Indira Gandhi. . The Indian response was a lesson they quickly learnt. What did the Chinese do after that? They have kept the peace for 53 years. Will you call that response evidence of Chinese inscrutability? They probed us, got a rude push-back, and decided to wait and stir the pot in different ways, at different times, says Shekhar Gupta in his artcile for The Print.

The Chinese kept the hold of what they wanted in 1962. According to Shekhar the truth is, they had it in their possession almost fully, barring small, tactically important slivers in Ladakh. They asserted their ownership and let their larger claim, Arunachal Pradesh, fully in Indian control, go militarily uncontested.

The Chinese never gave up claim on it. In 1986-87, they again checked us out at Wangdung-Sumdorong Chu (Arunachal), when they saw Rajiv Gandhi take India’s defence budget to a 4 per cent-plus of GDP. And once more, the response was firm and the Chinese backed off. The lesson we learnt according to Shekhar Gupta is that the Chinese won’t open fire randomly for the sake of it, Or when they are absolutely sure of an easy victory so they could be seen like ‘teaching an upstart a lesson’ as they did in 1962. Predictable.

Each and every action and response of China fits a pattern- Deliver a message, add leverage, and return, according to Shekhar Gupta.

India, China and Pakistan shared this unusual ‘triangulation’ in which China was using Pakistan to keep India preoccupied, said Former Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh during his tenure.

His idea was to break this ‘triangulation’ by seeking peace with Pakistan. He thought, that a country as big and powerful as China, would see less of an incentive for peace with India than Pakistan.

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Former Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s idea was to break this ‘triangulation’ by seeking peace with Pakistan. Wikimedia Commons

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Shekhar Gupta believes that today, that option is not so available, as hostility with Pakistan is central to the Modi-BJP politics. They’d rather make peace with China than Pakistan. That is why the lavish welcomes and frequent meetings with the Chinese leaders. The objective, still, is escaping that triangle.

Another instance of Vajpayee explaining the Chinese negotiating style. “Dekhiye, aap aur hum baithe hain aur vaarta kar rahe hain (see, you and I are sitting and negotiating),” he said. If two people require something and the first person asks to let go of something, the other will say no. Then the first person again asks for something little less, then again the other person might say no. But ultimately the second person will relent and let go of some. The Chinese would never do that.

Both these leaders underlined that the Chinese are consistent, and predictable. And that is why we should not be shoched or surprised by what they have unveiled across Ladakh. We should have anticipated it on 5 August last year when we made the big changes in Jammu & Kashmir. This Chinese move, like all others in 60 years, was fully predictable. Even the timing, says Shekhar Gupta in his article for The Print.