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A Monthly Special Section of HOLIDAY on Aviation and Tourism
February 27, 2004

Biman set to purchase two old F-28s

Kazi Shamsul Amin
The Bangladesh Biman Corporation has decided to buy two old F-28s, brushing aside a fleet planning subcommittee report, which recommended replacement of three existing F-28s in the Biman fleet because of their unreliability.
   Biman has also decided to buy the two obsolete aircraft at prices “much higher than these deserve”, said a source in the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism. Besides, only one company took part in the tender for the aircraft.
   The government is set to sign a memorandum of understanding this week with the Indonesia-based Hiebert Group Limited for supply of the F-28s, the source said.
   Earlier, the fleet planning subcommittee reported that the three F-28s in the Biman fleet were quite old.
   Reliability and performance of the aircraft, manufactured in 1981, have also declined, it said. Besides, original manufacturers of the Fokker are no longer in existence.
   Biman has decided nonetheless to buy two more F-28s although the aircraft were manufactured way back in 1977.
   The airline’s domestic fleet now features only three F-28s after Biman sold two ATP aircraft, according to Zahirul Haque, general manager of public relations.
   Also, two Boeing 737-300s, now flying on domestic and regional routes, will be sent back next month on expiry of the lease period, he said.
   “Three F-28s will be inadequate for domestic and regional operations, which is why the decision to buy one or two F-28s has been taken to replace the ATPs until the domestic fleet is modernised.”
   State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism Mir Mohammad Nasiruddin earlier told newsmen that purchasing F-28s would help reduce the cost in terms of aircraft maintenance and management of spares inventory. “Furthermore, Biman has trained manpower to operate the aircraft.”
   The technical evaluation committee reported that “the offered aircraft fulfil technical requirements of the tender schedule” and the quoted price of $1.485 million for each F-28 was reasonable.
   However, when the government wanted to sell Biman’s F-28s, it received a maximum offer of $0.3m for each, said a source in the ministry. “Much older aircraft should, therefore, deserve a much lower price.”
   Earlier, the Biman board of directors decided to replace the ageing F-28s and ATPs with new generation ATR72-500 or Dash8-Q400 aircraft.
   Accordingly, a tender was floated and Biman received price quotation of $16.9 million and $26.66 million for each new ATR 72-500 and Dash 8-Q400 aircraft respectively.
   However, Biman cancelled the tender after opening the proposals on the ground that it was not in a position to mobilise the required fund through commercial borrowing.
   Following the cancellation of the tender, many raised a question as to why Biman had gone for a tender without assessing its financial condition.
   Now, Biman plans to purchase two old F-28s.
   Professionals in the industry anticipate that in a fleet of five F-28s, Biman will need four as sources of spares to keep one in the air.

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Regional cooperation in tourism sought

Alpha Arzu
Success in tourism in the Mekong region, where the number of tourists doubled in just four year, can be replicated in Bangladesh as there are enough scope to boost eco-tourism, said experts in the South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC).
   The team leader of the SASEC Tourism Development Plan Consultants, Lester David Clark at a workshop on February 15 in the city presented a summary observation on tourism.
   He suggested a preliminary list of SASEC project ideas focusing on the agreed themes of “eco-tourism based on natural and cultural heritage of the sub-region” and “Buddhist circuits”.
   David said that the immediate plan for sub-regional cooperation activities of the SASEC tourism working group and the ultimate aim of the cooperation are increasing tourism, economic growth and poverty reduction.
   The Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation and the Asian Development Bank jointly organised a national workshop on the tourism development plan of the South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) involving Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal at Hotel Abakash on Sunday.
   State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism Mir Mohammad Nasir Uddin, attending as chief guest, said the government has undertaken various projects for development of the tourism sector.
   He said the government has put great effort on the extensive promotion of the tourism sector through public and private partnership.
   A five star hotel will be built on 150 acres of land at Cox’s Bazar within the next two years to attract foreign and domestic tourists, the minister said.
   The minister described Bangladesh’s geographical location as excellent and said this could be better used to attract more tourists through proper planning and strategies side by side with upholding the country’s rich cultural heritage.
   Biman Bangladesh Airlines has also ensured proper service to the tourists to visit Bangladesh, he said.
   He mentioned the prime minister’s declaration of Kuakata, Cox’s Bazaar and Sundarban as special tourist zones.
   The government has taken various initiatives to develop tourist facilities and these initiatives will have positive impact on poverty reduction to create job and community development. Nasiruddin said.
   The minister also said that the development of the sector also depends on proper security, residence, and food providing and also to depend on tourists guides.
   The chairman of the corporation Dr Mohammad Mahbubur Rahman said the Industrial Policy of 1999 has included tourism as an industry and identified it as a “thrust sector” considering its steady growth and sustainable development.
   Former chairman Harunur Rashid Bhuyan presented a keynote paper.
   About 18,000 persons received training on various National Hotel and Tourism Training Institute courses. The institute provides six disciplines — front office and secretarial operation, travel agencies and tour operation, food and beverage operation, food and beverage services, housekeeping and laundry, bakery and pastry production.
   He said that there is a lot of training institutions that provide the training on those topics but there is no separate discipline for giving training on eco tourism.

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Mystery shrouds death of two aircraft crew in Cox’s Bazar

Aviatour Desk
Two foreign aircraft staff died of mysterious disease in the last two days in Cox’s Bazar.
   According to local news reports on February 15, Ivor Nikolavich, co-pilot of a Ukrainian cargo plane and national of Moldavia, reportedly fell ill February 14 with some “respiratory problems,” andwas hospitalized in a critical condition in Cox’s Bazar, the country’s southeastern coastal resort.
   The pilot died hours after he was shifted to the Chittagong Medical College Hospital.
   The incident, however, is not isolated as another Moldavian ground engineer Cuznetov Aleg also died shortly after hewas sent to a hospital in Cox’s Bazar.
   The postmortem on Aleg’s body was first conducted on Friday evening, then at the instruction of the higher authorities, a second postmortem on the body was carried out on Saturday morning by a five-member medical board.
   Aleg’s hair and other organs have been sent to the capital Dhaka for viscera report.
   Both the foreign staff worked for charted Ukrainian cargo planes owned by four local
   private airlines, namely ATL, THT, Budget Airways and Air Parabat, which reportedly engaged in transporting shrimp fry from Cox’s Bazar to southwestern Bangladesh.
   An intelligence source was quoted as saying they received orders to check all goods carried by those cargo planes, but an “influential quarter” barred them from doing so.
   Since the two victims along with some 20 other Russian-origin aircraft workmates all lived in a local hotel, the Cox’s Bazar district administration has asked the remaining pilots and staff of Ukrainian aircraft not to leave the hotel until they undergo medical test.
   The administration also set up a two-member inquiry team to look into the incidents.

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India occupies key position in Qatar Airways’ ambitious growth plans

Agency Report
Qatar’s National Flag Carrier takes up 110 sqm stand at World Travel India One of the world’s fastest growing airlines, Qatar Airways, has identified India as a key element in its multi-billion dollar ambitious growth plans, a top airline official said here on February 6.
   Apart from supporting World Travel India as the ‘Official Airline’ the gas-rich emirate’s National Flag carrier has taken up a 110 square metre stand, where it is showcasing the airline’s history, culture and future plans as well as Qatar’s rich heritage, tourism and economic might.
   World Travel India is the Subcontinent country’s first major international travel and tourism exhibition that took place in Mumbai from February 5-8, 2004.
   “Qatar and Qatar Airways, both have very old and strong links to India. We treasure that market and to show our commitment to the Indian market and to affirm the importance we place on our ties with India, we are here today before you,” Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer, Akbar Al Baker, said to delegates at the accompanying forum.
   He said the airline is very excited about its future growth plans in which India forms a critical element. “We promise you that our relationship will be mutually beneficial. We shall both draw upon our comparative strengths and pull together for a better future for both of us,” Al Baker said.
   As a show of commitment, Al Baker pointed to the resources the airline has put at the disposal of World Travel India. “It is important to us that we build on our already strong relationship with India and its people. We are very excited about playing a major role in this important travel and tourism exhibition. We are honoured to be one of the first Middle Eastern exhibitors to commit our support to this event with a large presence.”
   He pointed out that Qatar Airways has 28 services to India each week and is flying daily to each one of its four destinations: Kochi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Trivandrum.
   “Qatar Airways acts as a link for travellers from India wanting to come and visit Qatar and the Middle East. We also bring tourists from Europe and the Middle East who want to explore the amazing sights of India,” Al Baker said.
   Upward curve
   Giving a background of the airline, the Qatar Airways’ CEO said the young airline is moving rapidly on the upward curve and is now set to achieve greater heights.
   “Within a short span since our birth, we have managed to add 48 major global destinations to our ever-expanding network. We added some ten destinations as diverse as Singapore, Shanghai, Vienna, Tripoli and Cebu in the last year.
   “That trend is being continued well into this year with a target of serving more than 60 major worldwide destinations by 2005,” said the Qatar Airways’ CEO.
   Al Baker revealed that immediate plans include the further breaching of the high-potential markets of Switzerland, Turkey, Egypt and Afghanistan over the next few months.
   He pointed out that the four new destinations are just a precursor of much more to come from the young airline.
   Tremendous potential
   Al Baker said Qatar has tremendous potential, “His Highness the Emir, has a strong vision for our country. And, we are committed to fulfil that,” he said while pointing to the recent agreement Qatar has signed with Bechtel to spend US$2.5 billion on just the first phase of a new international airport development which will open in 2008.
   Qatar Airways is itself increasing the fleet to 52 aircraft in the next five years - and to 56 aircraft by 2011. It recently signed a US$ 5.1 billion order for 34 Airbus aircraft.
   “Ours is, perhaps, one of the youngest fleet in the world. We shall receive an additional 13 aircraft this year to take the fleet to 38 aircraft by the end of year 2004,” said the airline CEO.

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Aviation in Asia becoming profitable

Agency Report
Companies that serve major airlines, such as British engine maker Rolls Royce, said on February 25 they were hopeful of a huge business bonanza as Asia’s aviation sector returns to profitability.
   Globally, the aviation sector is expected to make profits of up to US$4 billion in 2004 after losing more than US$30 billion since 2000 and Asia is tipped to spearhead the recovery.
   With regional passenger traffic tipped to grow two times faster than the rest of the world, Rolls Royce and other airline-related companies participating at Asian Aerospace have identified Asia as the marketplace where new revenues will come from.
   Officials from Rolls Royce, whose Trent series of engines now power more than half of the big civilian aircraft in the region, said Asia would account for at least 32 percent of global engine demand in the next 18 years.
   “The Asian market has recovered quickly from the impact of SARS and the war in Iraq and in the Asian region alone, the Trent fleet has grown at 20 percent per year since 2000,” said Charles Cuddington, managing director for airlines at Rolls Royce.
   “And our market outlook shows Asia will represent 32 percent of the world market by 2022,” he said at a news briefing on the sides of the week-long Asian Aerospace event in Singapore.
   German aircraft maintenance service provider Lufthansa Technik is also banking on Asia’s aviation turnaround from the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak and Iraq war to further grow the company’s business in Asia.
   “For us at Lufthansa Technik, Asia is and remains an extremely important market. One with high growth rates and very appealing development possibilities,” chief executive August Wilhelm Henningsen said.
   “After the impact of September 11 (2001), the Iraq war and SARS, Asia is expected to be the driving engine here from our point of view for the airline industry.”
   Henningsen said the region accounted for 20-25 percent of the global aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul services market valued at just under US$30 billion at the end of last year.
   Lufthansa Technik, which is part of the Lufthansa Group that also includes the German flag carrier Lufthansa AG, derives about 15 percent of its business from Asia and wants to see the figure increased.
   The European market is its largest revenue generator but it is in Asia where the future growth potential lies, Henningsen said.
   “The growth potential is of course dependent on how many airplanes will be sold into this market but I see that the growth potential is there and the growth potential is higher here in the Asian market than for example in Europe,” Henningsen said.
   Lufthansa Technik has more than 50 airline customers in the region including Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific, Asiana Airlines of South Korea and India’s Jet Airways.
   Henningsen said the emergence of low-cost carriers in the region would also boost demand for maintenance, repair and overhaul services.
   “We have a lot of talks already with many people with many potential airlines who are going to start up and will need services and we are very positive that we can also hook up here for some services,” he said.
   The International Air Transport Association (IATA), an industry grouping of 270 airlines from around the world, said earlier this week regional passenger traffic in 2004 is expected to increase 14 percent after declining 9.4 percent the previous year.
   This is double the projected rise in global passenger traffic of seven percent this year from a 2.4 percent slump in 2003.
   Demand for commercial aircraft in the region is expected to reach 4,000 between now and 2020, the European Aeronautic, Defense and Space Company (EADS), which owns 80 percent of Airbus, said at Asian Aerospace.

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EU set to approve Franco-Dutch airline mega-merger

Agency report
The European Commission was set to approve a planned merger between Air France and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, creating the world’s biggest airline in terms of sales, EU sources said.
   “I am no longer expecting” a last-minute setback in the case, which Brussels has been probing to ensure there is no breach of EU competition rules, said one source.
   Shares in the two airlines jumped February 11 in apparent expectation of the EU green light. EU competition commissioner Mario Monti was expected to announce his decision before a midnight deadline.
   The Air France-KLM tie-up will be the world’s fourth-largest in terms of passengers flown, behind AMR Corp’s American Airlines and UAL Corp’s United Airlines. But it will be the biggest in turnover terms, ahead of American.
   The Franco-Dutch deal still has to be approved by US regulators who are reportedly taking a tough line towards the merger which will give the combined group a strong position on transatlantic routes.
   The two airlines have indicated that, assuming they win regulators’ approval, they hope the merger should be completed by mid-2004.
   The Brussels commission has a number of options in the case: the two most likely are approval of the deal under certain conditions, or the launch of a full investigation into the merger, officials have said recently.
   Expectations had grown that the EU executive would open a comprehensive probe into the deal, after Monti had said the investigation would probably require several months to complete.
   But after negotiations such a scenario appeared to have been ruled out.
   As recently as Monday, Air France boss Jean-Cyril Spinetta and his KLM counterpart Leo Van Wijk visited Monti to hammer out the last sticking points in the case.
   According to informed sources, they have accepted a number of concessions to secure Brussels’ approval. These include giving surrendering some 100 landing and takeoff slots to competitors on both European and transatlantic routes.
   Specifically other airlines will have more access to routes from Amsterdam to Paris, Lyon, New York and Atlanta, as well as Paris to Detroit and on routes to Italy, the sources said.
   On transatlantic routes the negotiations focussed on minimum fare levels set by the airlines and national authorities. The commission opposed this, arguing that competitor airlines should be allowed to set fares as low as they want.
   Monti has always said he would take a positive approach to the tie-up.
   “Obviously, we are going to examine it in a constructive manner, because we recognize the need for more consolidation” in the airline sector, he said shortly after the plans were announced last October.
   The tie-up comes amid a trend toward consolidation in the European air sector that is aimed at correcting overcapacity caused by an economic slump, geopolitical tensions and the SARS epidemic.
   Analysts have said the tie-up marks a milestone in the consolidation of European civil aviation. Deutsche Bank said the case was “a true test of European airlines’ capacity to regroup.”

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Singapore Airlines receives accolades

Agency Report
China Southern Airlines recently agreed to buy 21 Airbus aircraft, Chinese President Hu Jintao told a press conference.   SIA senior vice president (product and services) Yap Kim Wah received the award at the Gala Awards Dinner held in Singapore on February 23.
   Meanwhile, the Pacific Asia Travel Association announced that SIA has won the 2004 PATA Gold Award in the Carrier (International - Air) category.
   It was selected for its “Fabulous Offer” campaign, an initiative to revive air travel to Singapore after the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak was brought under control.

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Indian Airlines reopens VRS

Agency Report
Indian Airlines (IA) has re-introduced its voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) in an effort to reduce staff strength that now totals 18,700.
   The VRS will open on March 1 for four months. Last year, the State-owned carrier had introduced a similar scheme hoping 1,000 permanent employees will opt for it. But only 450 employees accepted the VRS.
   “The IA board of directors has now decided to extend the VRS in an attempt to achieve that target”, said an official spokesman.
   In 2003, the airline had also rolled back the age of retirement from 60 years to 58 that slashed 850 jobs.

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Private airlines’ strike hits travel in Nepal

Agency News
Thousands of tourists were stranded in Nepal as air travel was paralysed due to an indefinite strike by private airlines, which control nearly 90 percent of the domestic routes.
   The first strike by the private airlines since the Himalayan kingdom embraced an open sky policy 10 year ago was called on February 23 to protest against a government decision to contract out bus services between terminals and aircraft.
   Until now, the bus services were run by the airlines themselves.
   “Our strike will go on until the government reverses its decision,” Bikash Rana, chief of the private Airlines Operators’ Association of Nepal, told Reuters. Tour operators said the strike, which comes at the start of the tourist season, could hurt tourism, the mainstay of the scenic Nepal’s poor economy.
   Tens thousands of tourists, mostly climbers and trekkers, visit Nepal every year, which has eight of the world’s highest mountains, including Mount Everest. Nepal’s 14 private airlines control nearly 90 percent of domestic routes in the hilly country where many areas still have no roads. The rest are controlled by the state-owned Royal Nepal Airlines, which has a monopoly on international services.
   A government official said authorities would increase the number of flights by the state-run airline to ease the situation.
   “The government will use army aircraft and helicopters to carry stranded passengers and Royal Nepal Airlines will increase flights,” Nagendra Ghimire, chief of Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority, told Reuters.

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Over 6.1 million tourists visit Singapore in 2003

Agency Report
Singapore’s tourism sector exceeded its stretched target of six million visitor arrivals (VA) for 2003 set in June after the SARS crisis. Despite a tough economic climate aggravated by SARS, war and terrorism, Singapore welcomed a total of 6,125,480 visitors in 2003.
   The 19.1 per cent year-on-year drop in VA compared to 2002 was an improvement over the earlier projected decline of 30 per cent. In 2002, 7.6 million visitors came to Singapore.
   Since June 2003, Singapore’s tourism sector has seen a strong recovery with a significant narrowmg of the year-on-year declines in visitor numbers from –70.7 per cent in May 2003. to +7.9 per cent in November 2003 and -2.7 per cent in December 2003.
   Lim Neo Chian, the STB’s Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive said: “The six million visitor arrival target was a stretched goal considering the economic challenges and uncertainties which confronted the tourism industry after SARS. Despite that, Singapore saw more than 6.1 million visitors. This achievement is a result of the co-operation and unity of the various industry partners in Singapore and overseas. The STB hopes to leverage on the momentum of recovery and continue building on our strong local and regional partnerships to achieve strong, sustainable growth for the tourism industry to become a key economic driver in the coming years.”
   2003 in Review
   ‘In 2003, the STB underwent a major reorganisation. Structured along the lines of eight Strategic Tourism Units (STUs) and seven international regions, the new organisation was poised to tap the growth of new business segments and the growing regional markets. With this initiative, the STh’s presence in the region was significantly enhanced and the new STUs of Food & Beverage, Healthcare and Education Services were formed.
   De-regulation in tourism industry practices injected more destination vibrancy and enhanced Singapore’s appeal. Key areas of de-regulation included the introduction of the Specialised Tourist Guide scheme, and liberalisation of Singapore’s nightlife and entertainment scene.
   At the height of the SARS crisis, after Singapore was lifted from the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) list of SARS-affected areas, the Board also unveiled a S$200 million global recovery programme to ensure the long-term sustainable recovery of Singapore’s tourism industry. Singapore Roars! which was launched on 18 June at Merlion Park included value travel packages, attractive deals from over 300 participating outlets in Singapore and a host of exciting events ranging from arts to sports and entertainment.
   In 2003, the first steps were also taken to pro-actively improve service quality. The Service Quality Division, which was set up in February 2.003, initiated the opening of a new Singapore Visitors Centre at Orchard Road and took on a more pro-active stance in dealing with complaints from tourists. These initiatives seek to make a visit to Singapore a truly memorable one. The STB will accelerate these initiatives in the year ahead.
   Regional markets, especially those in the ASEAN region, remain key markets with great potential which the STB will continue to strongly cultivate. In 2003, Regional Offices were opened in Kuala Lumpur and Ho Chi Minh City, bringing the total number of Regional Offices to 17. In the new year, the STB will continue to enhance its presence in the region.
   This co-operative approach with our ASEAN neighbours has also led to several key initiatives, including a significant liberalisation of the immigration regulatory environment, and enhanced accessibility to Singapore.
   New Tourism Consultative Council for Greater Industry Collaboration
   The challenges of 2003 have led to a breakthrough in industry collaboration and partnership between the government and the private sector. The success of the Cool Team task force in managing the SARS crisis attests to the importance of engagement and strong partnerships across the tourism industry.
   To foster stronger co-operation with its industry partners, the STB has decided to transform the Cool Team task force into the Tourism Consultative Council (TCC). Effective from I February 2004, this formalised platform will ehable closer and more regular engagement across the tourism industry on a wide range of issues. Appointed by the STB, the TCC will serve as a sounding board for the STB’s key strategies and business plans, as well as issues and challenges confronting the industry. The Council will also provide ground intelligence and perspectives on industry trends, as well as assist the STB to drive the execution of various industry initiatives and programmes.
   Co-chaired by Lim and Mdm Kay Kuok, Executive Chairman, Shangri-La Hotel Ltd, the TCC will meet once every quarter. The Minister of State (Trade & Industry and National Development), Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, will act as the Council’s Honorary Advisor. The remaining members represent different sectors of the tourism industry. Comprising 25 members, the Council will include key industry association leaders and representatives from key government agencies supporting the tourism sector. In addition, selected industry leaders from the tourism industry will also be invited to participate as Council members. As this is a new organisation, the STB will review the composition of the TCC after one year of operation.
   While the TCC will be a key platform for the STB to consult the industry, the Board will continue to engage other industry players, especially on specific issues. The STB values open communications and collaboration with its industry partners and will continue to fine-tune the channels of communication to ensure we keep in close touch with the issues faced by the industry. The STB aims to provide the necessary support for the private sector to play a more critical role in developing a robust infrastructure and resource pool to grow the tourism sector into a key driver of economic growth for Singapore.

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Romance in the air

M. Wahiduzzaman
When romance is in the air, we see it. Seasonal flowering trees like Shimul, Polash and Krishnachura herald the arrival of spring and summer in Bangladesh. And romance in the air electrifies us. But I had a different kind of romance in the air, way back in 1964.
   I was waiting for a limousine to go LaGuardia Airport to catch a flight to Hawaii. I had an open-ended air ticket. I decided to break my journey at Hawaii to see the East West Centre, and then fly to Tokyo. Taking another break in Tokyo, I was going to fly to Karachi, and then to Lahore.
   The limousine came on time. The driver blew the horn of the limousine just twice. I shook hands with my friends and left the apartment.
   I got into the limousine and saw a young girl sitting in the back. The girl greeted me with a hello and said, “I am Jane.”
   “I am Wahid,” I replied.
   “Flying to Los Angeles?”
   “Yes, but not going break my journey there. And you?”
   “I am going to Los Angeles. You don’t want to visit Los Angeles?”
   “I wish I could break my journey there, but I can’t. I shall stop at Hawaii.”
   I told Jane that I was flying home.
   Jane wished me all the best and said, “It’s bad you are not staying back, but come back sometime later if you can.”
   “I wish I could.”
   I was flying back home after completing my studies at Syracuse University.
   I took the flight at LaGuardia Airport. I felt sad that I was leaving the States and there was little chance of my coming back again.
   The memories of my travelling in the States began to crop up.
   I spent two springs in the States, following which I travelled in the two summers. In those summer vacations I had the opportunity to travel to Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Michigan, Washington D.C. and Knoxville in Tennessee. I visited New York City several times. We had a study tour in the Daag Hammershold Library of the United Nations.
   I walked along the bank of Lake Michigan, and saw the Ford motor car assembly plants. My friend at Washington D.C. gave me rides in his car to see the Washington Monument, the Potomac River and cherry blossoms, National Park and the Library of Congress. I smelled the nostalgic fragrance of just-mown grass at Michigan. And I saw a different American panorama at Knoxville. The memory of those travels was so fresh and nostalgic. But I also had my obligation to my government and the great pull from my people at home.
   Our flight had a short break at Los Angeles. Our plane took off soon for Hawaii. I broke my journey there for a day to see the East West Centre.
   I was flying with Japan Airlines (JAL) to Tokyo. Below I could see the Pacific Ocean. I was happy to see the majestic beauty of the ocean below.
   JAL crew members were serving lunch. One of them came to me and asked if I would like to have a drink — a special Japanese one. I was told that the drink was quite hard. I politely said, “No, thank you.”
   I have taken alcohol only once in my life.
   I was still a newcomer to the States. John, my American classmate, was very cordial to me. He said, “I will take you to the birthday celebration of Susan.”
   “Who is she?” I asked him.
   “Susan is my friend.”
   “But how can I go there? I have not been invited.”
   “Susan has seen you. She has asked me to take you.”
   “But you know, John, I think I will not feel comfortable.”
   “Oh come on. I am your friend. You should not feel like that while I am with you.”
   It was a simple birthday celebration. Some university boys and girls were attending the party. I was introduced to Susan by John. I had some talk with her. She said she was happy I had come.
   There were things to eat and drink. A boy and a girl sang, separately, two songs.
   At the request of John, I took some drink. But that was too much for me.
   John and I were walking back to our apartments.
   It was about 9 p.m. It was snowing, and I was feeling the effect of the drink.
   I said to John, “It’s good to walk under a starry night. Do you see the blue sky, John? It’s the blue sky that makes the water of the sea blue. Look up, John.”
   John put his arm on my shoulder. And he did not take it away from my shoulder until he took me to my apartment.
   “Yes, it is. Did you have enough to eat?” John asked me.
   “Oh sure, I had. Also I had enough to drink.”
   John squeezed my shoulder and said, “Would you like to walk a little longer, Wahid?”
   By the time we came near to my apartment, I was feeling I had come to my senses. Yet John walked up to my room to make sure I was alright and safe in my room.
   John was a nice guy.
   It was a long flight to Narita Airport of Tokyo. But my train of thought skipped Tokyo. I began to think of Muneer, my peon at the Pakistan Administrative Staff College at Lahore. Within a few days I shall be in Lahore. Muneer will prepare my food and drinks. He will pull the ropes of my ‘khatiya’, also called ‘charpayee’. He will be my closest friend in Lahore
   I totally forgot that Japan is one of the most advanced countries in the world, and definitely the most advanced country of Asia, and that there were so many places and things to see in Tokyo where I was going to land very soon.
   Muneer was the only person I was anxious to see. He had shown me the fireplace in my apartment at Lahore. He also told me that when it would very cold in Lahore, he would make a fire in the hearth at dinner time. I would sit by the fireplace and take my dinner while he would sip a big mug of tea and eat ‘roti’. Muneer would go mad if he did not get enough tea to drink.
   And then I was longing to see my mother at the earliest opportunity. She was an unlettered woman. Yet she insisted that I address separate letters to her. While in the States I received a letter from my father in which he wrote that my mother was complaining to him about my not writing to her. He further informed me that he had seen my mother passing her fingers over every line of the last letter I had written to her. Having read that letter, I could not hold back the tears rolling down my cheeks.

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Dhaka Sheraton hands over funds to UNICEF

General Manager of Dhaka Sheraton Hotel, Trevor MacDonald, handed over a cheque of
   Tk 489,772 to Morten Giersing, Country Representative, UNICEF Bangladesh for the ‘Check out for Children’ program today at Shimul the new meeting outlet of Dhaka Sheraton Hotel.
   STARWOOD, the largest hotel chain and operator of the Sheraton, Westin, Four Points by Sheraton, St. Regis and Luxury Collection brands in Asia Pacific, has stepped up fundraising activities in the region to aid UNICEF - the United Nations Children’s Fund’s global programme to immunise children against killer diseases.
   Since the launch of “Check out for Children” program in 1996, Sheraton staff and guests worldwide have helped to raise millions of dollars every year. The process is simple, participating Starwood hotels automatically add $1.00 per stay to guests’ bills on checkout as a donation to UNICEF.
   Dhaka Sheraton is also involved in the check out for children program as a sister hotel in Asia Pacific by promoting and by fund raising campaign to raise funds for UNICEF’s lifesaving work in immunisation and last year Dhaka Sheraton hotel has collected this amount of money.
   In his speech Mr. Trevor MacDonald mentioned “Check Out for Children has already raised enough money to immunise over 280,000 children against six killer childhood diseases, including measles, pertussis, diphtheria, polio, tetanus and tuberculosis.”
   He also said that “some 62 hotels in 16 countries now participate in Check Out for Children in the Asia Pacific Region, and it is thanks to Starwood management & employees in these hotels, that Check Out for ChildrenTM has achieved such amazing success.”
   Further he added “Check Out for Children supports immunization work carried out by UNICEF all over the world. It costs only US $17 to immunize a child against the six killer childhood diseases. There are still three million children dying every year from preventable diseases. There is still a long way to go.”
   Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. is one of the leading hotel and leisure companies in the world with more than 740 properties in more than 80 countries and 105,000 employees at its owned and managed propertes. With internationally renowned brands, Starwood is a fully integrated owner, operator and franchiser of hotels and resorts including: St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, Sheraton, Westin, Four Points by Sheraton, W brands, as well as Starwood Vacation Ownership, Inc.
   one of the premier developers and operators of high quality vacation interval ownership resorts.

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Arysha brings Lebanese dishes in city

Staff Correspondent
Following Chinese, Thai, Indian, American and Uzbek delicacies, authentic Lebanese dishes now entered the city to give a different tastes to the food lovers. Arysha, a restaurant has opened its doors to guests on February 15.
   Commerce Minister Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury and Palestine Ambassador and Dean of Diplomatic Corps were present during the inauguration and wished it all the success.
   K. S. Alam, Managing Director, Arysha Catering Services Ltd., said, “About a year ago, the Board of Directors embarked upon a project to provide food connoisseurs with a fresh concept in dining.” “
   He has nearly three decades’ experience in the trade, most of it with the Dhaka Sheraton Hotel. Optimistic about the success of his new venture, he said, “We are confident that our guests and clients, who will dine here, will appreciate the impressive decor of Arysha.”
   “We are committed to provide guests with warmth, efficient and quality service. We sincerely believe that each meal will be a rewarding experience for our guests,” he added. Arysha will be open seven days a week.
   At Arysha guests and clients can host private parties, large and small business meetings, Board meetings, anniversary parties. Arysha also offers outside catering.

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Airlines in dogfight of travel price cut

Agency Report
FLYING to Melbourne will cost less than a taxi to Sydney airport after Qantas triggered a fare war recently.
   From this morning, the Flying Kangaroo’s new discount carrier, JetStar, will offer 100,000 tickets at $29 to 10 destinations, including the Victorian capital.
   A cab to Sydney airport from Parramatta costs about $45. From Liverpool the fare is roughly $40.
   Not to be outdone, Virgin Blue matched JetStar’s prices within hours, but doubled the number of available tickets, signalling the start of a price fight that will make flying affordable for more people.
   Qantas chief executive Geoff Dixon said the Australian aviation market was likely to grow by 15 per cent in the next two years.
   “JetStar will mean that a lot more people will be able to fly,” Mr Dixon said.
   Qantas claims about two-thirds of the Australian market already. Virgin has about 30 per cent, but that figure has been rising – fast.
   “This is not about beating Virgin Blue on an ongoing basis,” Mr Dixon said. “It is about ensuring the Qantas group continues to grow and continues to provide a very good level of service and overall profitability.”
   Discount airlines such as Ireland’s Ryanair have emerged as the new force in the skies in recent years.
   However, some cheap carriers started by established airlines have struggled, or hurt their parent’s business, as happened with British Airways’ attempt, Go.
   Virgin Blue chief executive Brett Godfrey answered the challenge from JetStar.
   “To you, JetStar, we say, ‘We’ll match your 100,000 and raise you another 100,000’,” Mr Godfrey said.
   “We are twice the airline – sorry, twice the size – so as a result we can afford to do this.”
   JetStar will base itself at transport magnate Lindsay Fox’s Avalon Airport, west of Melbourne.
   It is a strange alliance, given that Mr Fox tried, but failed, to buy Qantas’s former competitor, Ansett.
   While JetStar’s flights are as cheap as a CD, the cab fare from Avalon to Melbourne’s CBD, 55km away, is a steep $70.
   The cheapest option involves a $10 taxi ride to nearby Lara railway station. The train fare from there to central Melbourne is about $7.
   The cheap tickets were due to go on sale at JetStar.com at 6am for flights from May 25. Still, travel agents are likely to charge more than $29 for the seats.
   JetStar will initially fly to destinations such as the Whitsundays, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, Cairns and Tasmania.
   There will be 42 flights a week between Avalon and Sydney, as well as 246 flights a week between Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport and six other destinations.
   JetStar intends to expand from November, 2004 with flights to Perth, Alice Springs, Ayers Rock, Darwin, Broome, Townsville and Adelaide.
   It will offer only two types of fares – Jet Flex and Jet Saver.
   Jet Flex will allow changes up to 30 minutes before departure through phone reservations for no fee.
   Jet Saver will permit time, date and name changes up to 24 hours before departure for a fee.

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Indian private airlines plan to fly to Bangladesh

Agency Report
The Government of India has said it has “no objections” to the two airlines - Jet Airways and Air Sahara - flying to any other country within the SAARC (South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation) region from Sri Lanka.
   Official sources told a local newspaper that the Indian Government would have no objections to the two airlines flying anywhere within the SAARC region, provided the airlines get the required permission from the Sri Lankan Government.
   “The Indian Government has no objections to the Indian carriers flying onwards from Sri Lanka, within the SAARC region. There is hardly likely to be any protest from the Sri Lankan Government as the Indian Government has allowed the airlines of Sri Lanka the right to fly anywhere in the SAARC region from India,” official sources said.
   However, the decision of operating from Sri Lanka to any of the six other SAARC nations, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Maldives and Bhutan will have to be taken by the airlines after considering the traffic flow, sources said.
   Meanwhile, the two private sector airlines are likely to announce their schedule for operating flights to Colombo within the next day or two. Airline sources indicated that the two were likely to firm up their operational plans only after they receive the guidelines from the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
   Official sources added that the airlines would have to show “full preparedness” for being in a position to operate flights to Colombo before the Indian authorities are likely to give the nod for the flights. “Unlike Air India or Indian Airlines, this is the first time that any private airline is being allowed to operate in the foreign skies. We need to ensure that the airlines crew are familiar with the routes and check on some other procedural formalities before allowing them to start operating,” sources said.
   While Jet has been given permission to operate 28 flights each week, Air Sahara has been given permission to operate 21 weekly services between India and Sri Lanka.
   The decision to “encourage” private sector domestic airlines to operate to airports in Sri Lanka was announced as part of the joint communiqué issued at the conclusion of the visit of the Sri Lankan Prime Minister to India in October last year. The move got the nod of the Union Cabinet in January this year.

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Emirates doubles its passengers to Dubai

Agency Report
Emirates has achieved a 10 per cent increase over last year in its sales of special packages for Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) 2004 which has just ended another highlight of the key role Emirates plays in boosting visitor numbers to Dubai.
   The airline’s promotion of the DSF is just a part of its ongoing promotion of Duhai. The world’s fastest-growing full service airline has boosted tourism into the emirate in every destination that has come on line since operations began in 1985.
   The airline now serves 74 cities in 52 countries on four continents and its promotion of Dubai has gathered pace as the network has expanded. Most of its area and country managers are UAE nationals.
   Recent figures from the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) show that overall hotel guests per annum staying in Dubaf have increased two and a half times from 1996 2002 (1,918,471 to 4,756,280). Emirates has been at the heart of shaping that success.
   Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of Emirates, said: “We have spared no effort. Under the visionary leadership of Gen Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Government of Dubai has given clear directives to boost visitor numbers. As the Dubai-based international airline, we play a key role in achieving Government targets.
   “We will continue to work with DubaFs hoteliers, with Government departments, with travel industry partners overseas and with media across the globe to do so. Dubai is already an outstanding success story but we believe that its success as a tourist destination is only beginning.”
   From the start of operations in 1985, Emirates has aggressively promoted Dubai, currently fielding a team of 206 sales executives operating in more than 70 online and offline countries. Each overseas destination is tasked with increasing sales to Dubai by 25 per cent every year.
   Roadshows spread the word from New York to New Zealand; special packages convert transit passengers to visitors; global advertising campaigns draw tourists to the sun, the shopping and the safety Dubai offers; clecais on its jetliners promote major events at airports across the globe. Each year, an ongoing programme of familiarisation visits highlights the emirate’s attractions to literally hundreds of journalists and travel agents.
   In many cases, visitor numbers have increased the most from those countries linked to Dubai by the largest number of Emirates flights. Those from the UK, for example, have increased four-fold from 1996 to 2002.
   Recent years have seen a huge expansion in air links with other key destinations in response to soaring demand. Flights to/from Saudi Arabia have leapt from eight to 15 weekly in just the last four years, while those to another near neighbour, India, have increased from 25 to 42 per week.
   Within weeks of the first DSF in 1996, Emirates made its entry to Australia with a three-times-weekly service to Melbourne. Today, the airline flies daily to four Australian destinations with more increases around the corner. Three of the daily flights continue on to Auckland.
   The number of passengers coming into Dubai on Emirates has more than doubled since 1996 when the airline carried 691,705 passengers to its home base. By 2003, the number had risen to 1,515,345. Visitors handled by Arabian Adventures, the airline’s . destination management company, also more than doubled during the same period.
   Maurice Flanagan, Vice Chairman and Group President, said: “From start-up in 1985, with two destinations, Emirates has increased air links to 74 destinations with which Dubai does business. The figures speak for themselves. We have played a key role in putting Dubai on the world map.”

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