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Singapore is becoming a popular Overseas Destination among Indians

The cruise operators offer vegetarian meals, local cuisine and special events reflecting the culture and local traditions that appeal to South Asian guests

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Singapore is becoming a popular overseas destination
Cruise ship Costa Victoria at the Singapore Cruise Centre. Wikimedia Commons
  • Singapore has become a popular overseas destination among Indians not for its food or casinos but for its cruise.
  • Fly cruise tourism has become the new trend
  • The cruise operators offer Indian cuisine, Bollywood songs, cultural events, in order to provide a local touch and please the Indian guests

New Delhi, July 30, 2017: The rank of the hawker food or the city-state’s casinos has dropped in the list of the reasons to visit Singapore, as traveling on a cruise is becoming the current favorite activity among Indians.

Singapore is a destination that most Indians have been choosing for their trip abroad, but the case now is that most people wish to go to Singapore, not for all the exciting things they can do there, but to get on a ship.

Rahul Maini, an Indian architect, and his parents embarked on their first trip abroad in May, and with the similar purpose.

Around 100,000 Indians sailed from Singapore last year, making India the biggest market for cruises departing from the Southeast Asian nation, according to the Singapore Tourism Board. Singapore has become a dynamic entry point for Indian cruise ship passengers.

“We chose to go on a cruise because we could visit three countries in one short trip,” said Maini. The family spent about $7,700, which Maini described as expensive but worth the cost, mentioned the NDTV report.

ALSO READ: India Seeks Recognition of Ayurveda in Singapore As Traditional Medicine

The expenditure is part of the 777.3 billion rupees ($12 billion) that Euromonitor International has predicted to be the amount that the middle-class Indians will shell out on overseas leisure travel this year. The research company further said that the market is expanding about 10 percent annually and is expected to eclipse 1 trillion rupees by 2020.

The Changi Airport Group, which manages Singapore’s international airport have stated that India is growing the fastest among the city-state’s top 10 inbound passenger markets. Even though the Middle East and France are the most preferred overseas destinations for Indians, Singapore is on the verge of registering a 59 percent jump in arrivals from India from 2015 to 2020, according to Euromonitor.

India has even outperformed china by 3 percentage points this year, as the number of arrivals from the country increased 15 percent in the first five months of this year in comparison with the year earlier. A lot of tourists come particularly to join a cruise.

Fly-Cruise Tourism

Fly cruise tourism has also become a trend among Indian tourists.

The number of Indian passengers on Royal Caribbean ships jumped 149 percent so far this year, compared with the same period last year. This includes the peak summer school holiday period that runs in India from May to June, said Sean Treacy, the company’s Asia Pacific managing director.

“Singapore is a regional-hub port which is near many attractive Southeast Asian cruise destinations in Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam,” Treacy said. “Voyages from Singapore offer Indian tourists the convenience of visiting multiple destinations across different countries on a single trip while unpacking only once,” he said.

ALSO READ: Singapore Tourism Board planning to attract Tamil Movie producers to shoot their Movies in that Country

The number of cruise passengers from India leaving via Singapore has been increasing by least 10 percent a year annually, said Michael Goh, senior vice president of international sales for Genting Cruise Lines.

“Perceptions of cruising among Indian travelers are fast-changing,” Goh said.

Local Touch

Royal Caribbean is adding more cruises for India’s summer school holidays, Treacy said.

The cruise operators offer vegetarian meals, local cuisine and special events reflecting the culture and local traditions that appeal to South Asian guests.

“More Bollywood music may be played at the pool or disco parties, and more jewelry gift sets, which are popular with Indians, may be procured for sailings that host a higher number of them on board,” Royal Caribbean’s Treacy said.

Mani’s overseas holiday has given him a travel bug. “Singapore was good, but the cruise was better,” Maini said, who’s now saving for a cruise from Barcelona.

-prepared by Samiksha Goel of NewsGram. Twitter: goel_samiksha

 

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Prasat Preah Vihear: Here is Why this Temple Offers Peace amid Disputes in Cambodia!

The temple is filled with serenity and provides peace of mind to the visitors

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Preah Vihear Temple in Cambodia, Wikimedia

Cambodia, July 10, 2017: Prasat Preah Vihear is an ancient Hindu temple that stands in its full glory on the top of a cliff in the Dangrek mountain range in the northern part of the Kingdom of Cambodia in South-east Asia. The temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva in his manifestations as the mountain gods Sikharesvara and Bhadresvara.

Situated on the top of a plateau that dominates Cambodia, the temple provides a spectacular view of the lowlands of Cambodia for several kilometers. The place is filled with serenity and provides a peace of mind to the visitors.

The name Preah Vihear is apt for this location as it seems like an “abode” (Vihear) to any devotees who come to this temple (Preah).

Why visit this temple?

The temple, also known as the “Lord of Summit”  and holds a magic of its own. Declared as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2008, the temple is an outstanding example of the Khmer architecture.

Here are a few reasons why the temple has been attracting a large number of tourists from countries like Japan-

The temple provides a panoramic view of the rich nature in Cambodia. Looking out over the expanse and grandeur of Gopura (ornate monumental towers at the entrance of any temple) One, tourists can enjoy the mesmerizing view of the jungles of Cambodia.  Tourists can either climb to the top of the mountain or take a bike ride at a minimal fee.

It is an exceptional site for the quality of its architecture and carved stone ornaments. This place is literally an abode for the ones who study architecture. The temple is “pure” both in plan and in detail of its decoration.

How to reach?

The temple can be reached by crossing the Cambodia- Thai gateway border from the Ubon Ratchantani Province of Thailand. It can also be accessed via the Tbeng Meanchey in Preah Vihear province. The temple is open from 8:00 till 16:00 hours.

A visit to this temple is truly a memorable experience for the tourists who like adventure. The climb of the temple over a kilometer and the wealth of a decorated deity residing in the ornate temple truly staggers one’s imagination.

– by Nikita Tayal of NewsGram, Twitter: @NikitaTayal6 

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Punnami Orvakal: Andhra Pradesh to celebrate a 3- day Full Moon Festival for Tourists from June 9

The festival date is significant as June 9 coincides with 'Eruvaka Purnima

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A 3 day full moon festival to be celebrated in Andhra Pradesh.Pixabay

Andhra Pradesh, June 2, 2017: A three-day maiden full moon festival will be held in a rock garden near Andhra Pradesh’s Kurnool from June 9 for tourists and visitors from Bengaluru in Karnataka and Hyderabad in Telangana, said an Andhra Pradesh official on Thursday.

“The full moon festival (Punnami Orvakal) is being organised at Orvakal Rock Garden, which is an ideal weekend getaway for tourists and visitors from Bengaluru and Hyderabad, as Kurnool is a midway town between the two capitals,” Andhra Pradesh Tourism Authority Chief Executive Himanshu Shukla told reporters here.

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Kurnool in the Rayalaseema region is 350km from Bengaluru and 210km from Hyderabad.

“The festival date is significant as June 9 coincides with ‘Eruvaka Purnima’, a local festival in southern India, celebrated by farmers and rural people to welcome the onset of the south-west monsoon every year,” said Shukla.

Located 20 km from Kurnool, Orvakal boasts of three billion-years-old rock formations.

“We want the people in both the neighbouring states to know and explore Orvakal which has many things to offer,” said Shukla.

Being hosted on a 200 acres, tourists planning to spend the weekend can stay in the air-conditioned and well-furnished tents with modern comforts at the venue at a budget of Rs 5,000, Rs 10,000 and Rs 15,000, which includes food for four persons on all three days.

“We have also lined up live performances by actress and dancer Shobana, Indian Idol winner Revanth and other singers,” said Shukla at a preview of the event.

About 500 registered guests and over 5,000 local people are expected to attend the festival.

“About 30 of the 100 tents have been booked till date,” claimed Shukla.

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The venue has a restaurant, a cave museum and a picnic area.

Akshar The Band and Black Sheep will enthrall guests with live band performances. Venetian Carnival, Mind Reader Mohit Rao and Illusion Artists shows will also be held.

Bookings for the festival can be made online through BookMyShow and MeraEvents. (IANS)

NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt. 
 

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Long Avoided By Foreigners, Iran Looks to Tourism to Boost Ailing Economy since Islamic Revolution in 1979

Iran’s potential as a holiday destination is vast, but foreign tourists have largely avoided the country ever since the Islamic Revolution in 1979

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A tour of ancient ruins in Iran. RFE/RL

May 31, 2017: Stunning landscapes, famous hospitality, and numerous World Heritage sites.

Iran’s potential as a holiday destination is vast, but foreign tourists have largely avoided the country ever since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

The reasons are numerous. The visa process can be lengthy and complex. Some female visitors object to customary restrictions on dress. Alcohol consumption is heavily restricted. And, for many foreigners when considering a holiday in the Islamic republic, fears of detention and political upheaval enter the mind.

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Under President Hassan Rohani, a relative moderate who won a second term in office with a convincing first-round victory in Iran’s May 19 presidential election, the country has welcomed foreigners as part of an effort to improve its international image and boost an economy battered by low oil prices and years of crippling international sanctions imposed over Iran’s contentious nuclear program.

A tour of ancient ruins in Iran.
A tour of ancient ruins in Iran. RFE/RL

Since the signing of a nuclear deal with world powers in 2015 that was the crowning achievement of Rohani’s first term, tour companies have launched holiday packages and major European airlines have resumed regular flights to Iran. The number of foreign tourists has increased accordingly, and the cash-strapped government is planning to build on its tourism revival by easing visa restrictions and spending heavily to spruce up tourist accommodations and shabby transportation networks.

‘Tsunami’ Of Tourists

In 2015, Masoud Soltanifar, the head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism Organization, said he was expecting a “tsunami of tourists” once sanctions were lifted following the nuclear deal under which Iran’s nuclear program would be curbed in return for the lifting of sanctions.

The World Bank said the number of visitors to Iran increased from 2.2 million in 2009 to 5.2 million in 2015, and Iranian officials expect that trend to continue.

The influx of tourists has brought the country billions of dollars in revenue and created badly needed jobs. In 2015, Iran earned some $7.5 billion in tourism revenue; the government hopes to attract some 20 million foreign tourists by 2025 and gross some $30 billion.

Business Insider and Bloomberg have both named Iran among the “Top 50” and “Top 20” destinations to visit in 2017 due to security and the country’s ancient architecture, famous bazaars, and natural beauty.

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To put Iran on the map for tourism in the region, authorities have announced sweeping plans that include easing visa restrictions to attract more foreign tourists. Issuing visas on arrival at the airport for nationals of 190 countries as well as issuing electronic visas are among the initiatives being considered by Iranian officials. Citizens from the United States, Canada, and Britain would still only be allowed to travel on escorted tours.

Seaside beach on Kish Island
Seaside beach on Kish Island. RFE/RL

The government has also announced plans to create sufficient accommodation and transportation for the growing number of tourists. There is a plan to increase the number of higher-end hotels from 130 to more than 1,000 in 10 years. Iran also plans to add 400 new passenger planes to its domestic fleet to compensate for shortages due to international sanctions over the past three decades.

The plan is to make Iran a hotspot that would rival regional destinations. Like Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, Iran is blessed with natural wonders. The Islamic republic also has a sunbaked coast with hundreds of kilometers of beaches. Iran is also a haven for culture buffs, with 19 World Heritage sites, including the ancient desert city of Bam and the ruins of Persepolis.

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Tourist Hub

Key to the government’s plans to boost tourist numbers is Kish Island, one of a handful of free-trade zones in Iran. The southern island in the Persian Gulf is known for its newly built, multistory malls; sparkling jewelry stores; and swanky, five-star hotels hugging the coast.

The island is a tourist hotspot that attracts an estimated 1 million people every year, mostly Iranians. But Tehran is stepping up its efforts to make the island, located 16 kilometers from the mainland, a destination for foreign visitors as well.

Iran’s first cruise ship since 1979 made its maiden voyage on April 13, docking at another Iranian Gulf resort island, Qeshm, with more than 200 passengers on board.

Sunny, the cruise ship to dock at Kish Island in nearly 40 years, shown in April.
Sunny, the cruise ship to dock at Kish Island in nearly 40 years, shown in April. RFE/FL

The seven-floor, Swedish-built cruise liner, named Sunny, is equipped with two cinemas, restaurants, a swimming pool, and a conference hall. With the capacity to carry up to 1,600 passengers and 200 vehicles between the two islands, the ship is intended to help launch a “boom [in] marine tourism,” according to Iran’s state IRNA new agency.

‘Oasis of Luxury’

Kish Island is known as an oasis of luxury and relative freedom in the otherwise conservative Islamic republic.

Women can be seen dipping their bare legs in the warm sea, alcohol is easier to come by, and even prostitutes can be seen on the promenades. It is a world away from the mainland where a strict ban on alcohol and prostitution is enforced and women must be covered.

Visitors to Kish are attracted by the duty-free shops, resort hotels, water sports, and an opportunity to escape the strict social norms on the mainland. A small number of foreigners are also going to Kish, where they do not need a visa and where they can mingle freely in foreigners-only parts of the island.

Authorities occasionally crack down on cinemas playing Western films, shops displaying mannequins that are deemed too exposed, and restaurants selling alcohol, but that is the exception.

Mina, a 21-year-old Iranian student who has visited Kish Island twice, says Iranians go there to escape the social restrictions on the mainland.

“I went there to relax because there is more freedom here than in cities like Tehran,” says Mina, who did not want to reveal her full name. “There are beaches here and there are things to do at night. You can do things here that you can’t in Tehran.”

Mina, who visited Kish last year, says she rented out an apartment with her friends, including male friends. In other parts of Iran, couples are required to prove they are married to rent a room.

She also says women do not have to cover their heads completely. They can wear their head scarves loosely or wear a hat, although authorities still say women should be dressed modestly.

“I saw more foreigners coming to Kish, and as long the infrastructure improves, more will come,” she said. (RFE/RL)

NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt.