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Sri Lanka may waive off visa fee for 48 countries indefinitely

Sri Lanka implemented this policy from August 1 and it will last for six months.

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Sri Lanka

Colombo, Aug 16 (IANS) Due to an increase in the number of tourists visiting Sri Lanka with arrivals expected to hit the 3-million mark by the end of the year, the government announced on Friday that might waive off the entry visa fee 48 countries, including India, indefinitely.

Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs Minister John Amaratunga said that last year Sri Lanka attracted over 2.3 million tourists and had set a target of over 3 million tourists this year, but arrivals had declined since the Easter Sunday suicide attacks on April 21, Xinhua news agency reported.

“But now, tourist arrivals have picked up again after the attacks, and we may see arrivals hit the 3 million mark this year,” the Minister said.

Amaratunga added that the sudden surge in tourist arrivals was partly due to waiving off the entry visa fee for the 48 countries.

Sri Lanka implemented this policy from August 1 and it will last for six months.

However Amaratunga said if more tourists arrive in the country, the government might waive off the entry visa fee for these 48 countries indefinitely.

Through the free of charge entry visa policy, travellers from the listed countries will be issued a free 30-day visa and if anyone needs an extension, they will be required to make a payment.

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India

Private players to run trains on key routes: Railways

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New Delhi, Sep 24 : The Indian Railways is mulling the idea of handing over operations of more trains to private players in the coming days on several important routes with improved services and amenities for passengers.

The decision comes under the 100-day agenda of the national transporter to hand over operations of the trains to private players on key routes.

Earlier, the Indian Railways had announced to grant operations of two of its luxurious Tejas Express trains to Indian Rail Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) between Lucknow-New Delhi and Mumbai-Ahmedabad.

According to a railway ministry official, the national transporter has called a meeting of senior railway officials on September 27 under the chairmanship of Member, Traffic of the Railway Board to decide the operational issues relating to private operation of passenger trains.

In a letter to all the Principal Chief Operations Managers of the Central, Northern, North Central, South Eastern, South Central and Southern Railway dated September 23, Principal Executive Director of Coaching of the Railway Board, A. Madhusudan Reddy said, “As part of the 100-day action plan, the ministry has proposed that private operation of passenger trains be introduced to provide world class services.”

He said, “Under the railways proposal, private operators would be identified through a participative bid process to run private passenger day or overnight trains connecting important cities.”

“It is contemplated that the private operators shall induct modern passenger trains and operate them on paths allocated to them on payment of haulage charges,” Reddy said.

“Thus in order to prepare the RFQ (Request for quote) and concession documents, it is necessary to identify the routes and the number of services that can be run,” he said.

According to the railway ministry plans, besides the Lucknow-New Delhi and Mumbai-Ahmedabad being given to the IRCTC for operations, the national transporter is mulling to give trains to private operators on inter-city services on 14 routes, while 10 on overnight and long distance services and four suburban services.

The railways has proposed giving trains to private operators on long distance or overnight journey trains on the routes of Delhi-Mumbai, Delhi-Lucknow, Delhi-Jammu/Katra, Delhi-Howrah, Secunderabad-Hyderabad, Secunderabad-Delhi, Delhi-Chennai, Mumbai-Chennai, Howrah-Chennai and Howrah-Mumbai.

It has proposed to invite the private players for the intercity express on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad, Mumbai-Pune, Mumbai-Aurangabad, Mumbai-Madgaon, Delhi-Chandigarh/Amritsar, Delhi-Jaipur/Ajmer, Howrah-Puri, Howrah-Tata, Howrah-Patna, Secunderabad-Vijaywada, Chennai-Bengaluru, Chennai-Coimbatore, Chennai-Madurai and Ernakulam-Trivandrum routes. The railways has also proposed the operation of suburban trains in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Secunderabad by private players.

The railways had earlier clearly said that before engaging private operators to run the trains, the national transporter will consult the trade unions and other stakeholders.

The IRCTC has started the booking of tickets for the Tejas Express between Lucknow-New Delhi from October 5 onward journey. The IRCTC’s Tejas Express will be flagged off from Lucknow on October 4.

The minimum fare for the Lucknow-Delhi Tejas Express has been kept at Rs 1,125 for the AC chair car, while the fare for Delhi-Lucknow Tejas Express AC chair car will be Rs 1,280.

On the other hand, the ticket price for Lucknow-Delhi Tejas Express Executive chair car has been kept at Rs 2,310 and the Delhi-Lucknow fare for Executive Chair Car will be Rs 2,450.

The passengers travelling on Tejas Express from Lucknow to Kanpur in AC chair car will have to shell out Rs 320 and Rs 630 for the Executive Chair car (ECC). For Lucknow to Ghaziabad travel, the passenger needs to pay Rs 1,125 for the AC chair car, while Rs 2,310 for the ECC. On the return journey, the fare is Rs 1,155 for AC Chair car from Delhi to Kanpur while for the ECC it is Rs 2,155.

All these fares are subject to the application of dynamic fare, just like airlines, the IRCTC has said.

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Business

SpiceJet concerned over Pakistan’s closure of airspace

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New Delhi, Sep 23 : Budget passenger carrier SpiceJet has voiced concern over Pakistan’s decision to close airspace for Indian airlines and termed it a “disturbing phenomenon”.

Addressing the UNSDG Climate Summit here on Sunday, SpiceJet’s Chairman and Managing Director Ajay Singh said closing airspace resulted into airlines not only burning more fuel but also higher carbon emissions.

“Several central Asian airlines as well as those providing connectivity to Europe and the US from Southeast Asia were forced to cancel their flights to India due to the ban by our neighbour recently,” Singh said.

To protect the environment and businesses, several steps were needed, Singh said. “To make it possible, all of us need to work together. Refineries have to find business models to produce biofuels, the governments will have to give up tax revenues on clean fuels, airports may have to give preferential slots and reduced charges to aircraft that fly on biofuels, nation states may provide preferential routes, and passengers may need to agree to pay a little more for clean flights,” Singh said.

“We need to use technology advances like artificial intelligence and machine learning to find new ways to burn less fossil fuels. We need to aggressively pursue the development of electric aircraft for our future flying needs,” he said.

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Business

Thomas Cook collapse ‘big, big blow’ to Goa tourism

British tourists rank second in the list of international arrivals in Goa, after Russians.

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Thomas Cook Shuts Down

Panaji, Sep 23 : The collapse of Thomas Cook, one of the oldest tourist travel companies in the world, will be a “big, big blow” to the tourism industry in Goa, president of the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa Savio Messias said on Monday.

The head of the travel and tourism industry association in Goa, a state where nearly 1.48 lakh British tourists landed on holiday in 2018, also said, that flights chartered by the UK-based Thomas Cook ferried nearly 2,000 tourists every week to Goa, during the tourism season from October to March.

“Thomas Cook is a very reputed company, bringing in British tourists. British tourists are loved by the local Goans and the hotel industry. Thomas Cook has been operating for the last 25-30 years in Goa. And losing out on Thomas Cook is a big, big blow to the industry,” Messias said.

“Last year, they were getting around 2,000 passengers per week. On an average, a passenger stays for around 14 days, sometimes 21 days and sometimes seven days also. If you count the number of room nights, it is very, very large,” Messias also said.

British tourists rank second in the list of international arrivals in Goa, after Russians.

Goa has been a traditional winter vacation for Europeans, especially from Russia and UK, who arrive in the coastal state to beat the freezing cold winters in their countries.

Several hotels, according to Messias, were likely to face hardship in Goa, because they were entirely dependent on Thomas Cook for filling up their accommodation.

“Many hotels were depending entirely on Thomas Cook and they had built up a very good rapport. Repeat clients were coming back to the same hotels. It was a very good business which we are going to miss,” Messias said.

The reports of the collapse of the 178-year-old travel company come on the heel of dipping international tourist arrivals numbers over the last two years.

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