Friday, November 19, 2010

Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu wins the World Travel Award - “The Maldives Leading Resort”

The Coco Palm Resorts is delighted to announce that Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu has won the prestigious World Travel Award in the Maldives Leading Resort category. This award is the latest in a long list of international awards for Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu including previous World Travel Awards.

World Travel Awards is the most prestigious, comprehensive and sought after awards programme in the global travel and tourism industry. World Travel Award by a process involving 183,000 travel tourism and hospitality professionals across the globe, is the best endorsement that any travel product could receive.

Coco Palm Resort believes that this award is an affirmation of the high standards and dedication to service and customer satisfaction at Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu. Located on one of the most gorgeous islands in the Maldives, Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu is a unique natural hideaway.


Afghan peace talks in Maldives propose shura

Maldives – Denials by the Taliban and Hekmatyar faction of Hizbe Islami about peace talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government are intended to diminish the importance and credibility of last week’s intra-Afghan conference in the Maldives.

Those talks on the island nation were attended by unofficial representatives of two Taliban militias who came to participate in efforts to chalk out a peace mechanism to end the 9-year-old conflict.

But the reclusive leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Mohammad Omar, in a message posted November 15 on a militant website, repeated his calls for jihad and his demand for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan before negotiations.

A spokesman for Engineer Gulbadin Hekmatyar, chief of his own faction of Hizbe Islami, also denied having entered talks with Karzai’s government.

Nonetheless, more than 60 delegates from a variety of political and ethnic groups in Afghanistan and unofficial representatives of Taliban militia, Hekmatyar’s Hizbe Islami and even the Haqqani network attended the Maldives talks. More than half a dozen members of the Afghan parliament also participated, as did observers for Karzai’s government.

The third intra-Afghan conference in two years was organised by Humayoon Jareer, once a close associate of Hekmatyar.

Conference yields suggestion of supreme shura

The five-day conference, which ended November 11, discussed ways to bring all stakeholders in Afghanistan to the negotiating table. The delegates ended with formulation of a proposed peace mechanism, under which a supreme shura, the Shura-e-Aali Amniyat-e-Milli, would convene.

The supreme shura would include representatives from all political, ethnic and warring groups of Afghanistan.

Once in place, the supreme shura would scrutinise all major government policies before they are introduced before the parliament. Policies would have to pass with a two-thirds majority of the shura before moving on to parliament or being implemented.

The proposed shura would be authorised to scrutinise ministerial nominees before induction into the government, as well as candidates for the higher courts. The shura would also examine the government’s nominees for the Afghan Election Commission and Elections Complaints Commission.

The peace mechanism calls for creation of a Peace Commission to broker a ceasefire between the government and insurgent groups and to resist attempts to thwart peace efforts.

It also calls for an immediate withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

A communiqué released on last day of the conference stressed that only Afghans should be involved in the peace process. It also asks the world community, the UN and Afghanistan’s neighbours to help in the return of peace to Afghanistan.

The conference organisers are hopeful and plan to discuss the proposed peace mechanism with insurgent groups.

The unofficial representatives of the Taliban and Hizbe Islami assured the conference that they would forward the recommendations to the militias’ top leaders and prepare ground for their successful implementation.

Maldives effect on broader peace plan is unclear

Despite the attractive recommendations and presence of unofficial representatives of militant groups, the prospect for the Maldives conference is unclear. A major reason is the absence of official representatives of the Taliban, Hizbe Islami, the Afghan government and the international coalition.

Despite shortcomings, the conference delegates are hopeful and a majority of the participants called the formulation of the peace mechanism a step forward.

To many, the Maldives conference was yet another effort undertaken by outside groups to thrash out a peace solution for Afghanistan.

Without engagement of the primary actors – the Taliban, the Kabul government, and the international coalition – and bringing them face-to-face for talks, peace in Afghanistan seems a distant reality. Those three groups need to come together for the return of a permanent peace in the war-torn country.

Neighbouring countries can also play a pivotal role in the return of peace to Afghanistan.

Pakistan, for example, can influence the Taliban leadership though it cannot dictate to them.

Saudi Arabia can help bring Afghans to the negotiating table. Riyadh, however, will not talk to the al-Qaeda- dominated Taliban.

Persistent efforts are required to convince the stakeholders to kick off peace talks. And efforts must be backed by all the neighbouring countries that have influence on any of the groups.


Saarc to discuss easing movement across border

Transport ministers of all eight Saarc countries will meet in New Delhi next week to build consensus on an aviation policy providing direct flight links to all capitals and a regional motor vehicle agreement which could enable barrier-free movement of people and freight.

The two-day conference will begin on Monday which will involve transport secretaries of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh , Sri Lanka, Bhutan , Nepal, Maldives and India. The transport ministers would meet the next day.

India does not have a direct flight link to Islamabad and Male. According to sources, India will raise the issue with Pakistan and Maldives to have state carriers introduce at least two flights every week.

Another major issue would be finalisation of a regional motor vehicle agreement. India’s ministry of road transport and highways was entrusted with the task of preparing an arrangement similar to European Union.

The idea is to facilitate movement between neighbouring countries and to create dedicated transport corridors in the region. Each nation would identify specific entry points for movement of passengers and goods and sort out protocol, security and customs related issues in line with the agreement.

A consensus on the agreement has been elusive since mid-2007. While Nepal has pointed out that if countries want they can enter into bilateral agreement, Pakistan has been absolutely non-committal. In the last meeting in Kathmandu, Pakistan had even refused to allow a discussion on the agreement. Pakistan had said that a Reserve Bank of India directive had banned any Pakistani national from opening an account in any government bank. There was an ugly exchange between India and Pakistan delegation.

Apart from the draft agreement, there a number of rail and road corridors will be on the agenda. Sri Lanka has been pushing for a rail link between Colombo and Chennai.

There are obvious security concerns especially after intelligence agencies have pointed out that terrorists have travelled on Samjhauta Express from Pakistan to conduct recce of probable targets in India.


World's Poorest Nations See a Glimmer of Hope

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 18 (IPS) - When the U.N. General Assembly recognised a special category of member states ranked as Least Developed Countries (LDCs) back in 1971, there were only 25 which qualified for the dubious distinction of being the "poorest of the world's poor".

But since then, the numbers have kept rising, reaching a high of 50. So far, the only two countries to "graduate" from LDC status - indicating a significant improvement of their economies - were Botswana in 1994 and Cape Verde in 2007.

Despite the spreading financial crisis, however, at least three countries have been earmarked for graduation in the near future: Equatorial Guinea, the Maldives and Samoa.

But Samoa has been experiencing economic difficulties because of the after-effects of the September 2009 tsunami which caused considerable devastation to the Pacific Island nation.

As a result, the General Assembly has extended Samoa's transition period until 2014.

With the fourth U.N. Conference on LDCs scheduled to take place in Turkey, May 30 through Jun. 3 next year, the focus will once again be on the plight of some 800 million people who currently live in LDCs.

The largest number of countries in the current list is from Africa (33), ranging from Angola and Benin to Uganda and Zambia.

The Asian countries include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. The only country from Latin America and the Caribbean is Haiti.

Asked if any other LDCs are likely to graduate, at least in the next five years, the Secretary-General of the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Supachai Panitchpakdi told IPS: "Yes, but perhaps not as many as I would like to see graduating."

He said much will depend on the shape and pace of the recovery, which is still very uncertain.

But a return to "business as usual" will not deliver the sustainable and inclusive growth in LDCs that is needed for graduation, he added. "A change of direction in policies, both at the macro and sectoral levels and a new generation of international support measures are needed in the coming years."

These countries, he pointed out, are structurally vulnerable to external shocks and need a carefully crafted sequence of outward-oriented support measures with appropriate flexibilities.

But preferential market access and 'special and differential treatment' (SDTs) alone cannot accelerate development in LDCs.

"What is also needed are general measures that would help increase the resilience of the LDCs to external shocks, which include, among other things, insurance mechanisms, shock- facilities and counter cyclical financing," he noted.

The U.N. Committee for Development Policy (CDP) usually determines "eligibility" to LDC status based on several factors, including population, national income and other economic indicators, but the ultimate decision rests with the countries themselves.

Zimbabwe, for example, has refused to join the LDC group despite being judged eligible by CDP. There has been speculation that East Timor may join the ranks of LDCs in the future.

"Obviously the downturn in the global economy raises worrying concerns for some countries and while LDCs have avoided the worst of the financial aftershocks, trade, investment and remittance flows have already been adversely affected," Supachai told IPS.

"In UNCTAD we are closely monitoring the debt situation of these countries, given the way in which external shocks have in the past had a lasting negative impact on LDCs through this channel," he noted.

Asked what Western aid commitments and pledges to LDCs have been fulfilled, Supachai said the main pledge of committing 0.15 percent of gross national income (GNI) to LDCs goes back to the first LDC conference in 1981 in Paris.

More recently, the Gleneagles summit of the G8 industrial nations committed to doubling aid to Africa by 2010. Unfortunately, neither of these targets have been met, he said.

Any cutbacks in official development assistance (ODA) flows will hit the LDCs hard and the fact that some prominent G20 members - of developing and developed nations - are promising to keep to their aid commitments is welcome but needs to be monitored, Supachai added.

In 2008, net ODA flows to the LDCs amounted to a record level of some $37 billion. However, had the target agreed at the first LDC conference in 1981 been met - 0.15 percent of donors' GNI - disbursements would have totaled $60.7 billion.

As a result, the cumulative aid shortfall to LDCs since 1990 amounts to almost half a trillion dollars.

The climate challenge is further exposing the ODA shortfall, particularly in financing adaptation responses in LDCs, Supachai said. These countries have contributed the least to rising global temperatures but they are already experiencing the damaging consequences of such increases, he pointed out.

Rich countries have committed themselves to supporting the additional investment costs needed to help countries adapt to global warming. But so far, the scale of flows has not lived up to that commitment. "It is not just the scale of aid that needs attention but its composition and delivery," said Supachai.

The shift of aid flows to social sectors at the expense of building productive capacities is something UNCTAD has been worried about for some time now.

"I feel strongly that an independent assessment of the development impact of aid - a sort of 'developmental auditing of the aid regime' - is long overdue," he added.

Perhaps the place to start is with the International Development Association (IDA), a subsidiary of the World Bank, which marks its 50th anniversary this year.

Although IDA accounts for only six to seven percent of total aid flows – and perhaps double that figure for LDCs - it has had a strong influence over the development paths of recipient countries through attached policy advice and conditionalities.

An independent examination of its successes and failures might cast useful light on the aid challenges facing LDCs, said Supachai.

But there is more to development cooperation than ODA. Additional measures are necessary to support LDCs to implement their national strategies.

For instance, there is need to articulate tailor-made national and international responses for each LDC to make support measures more effective and better targeted to countries' needs, he noted.

Greater coherence between the international strategy for LDCs and other existing development strategies, including those initiated by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, is also critical.



Asian countries welcome more visitors in August

Asian destinations continued to prove appealing to travellers in August 2010, according to the latest figures from the Pacific Asia Travel Association (Pata).

The report indicated year-on-year growth of 10% in visitor arrivals, with travel sentiment remaining 'very robust' and airlines providing more seat capacity on flights to the region.

Locations such as the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka all reported double-digit increases in the number of inbound tourists in August.

Pata revealed that foreign arrivals to China 'surged' by 17% in the month, while the Pacific hotspots of Australia and New Zealand also welcomed more visitors.

Kris Lim, director of the association's Strategic Intelligence Centre, said: 'The growth momentum remains strong and the immediate outlook remains very positive.

'Early indications have suggested another strong performance in September as key destinations such as China, Hong Kong SAR and Singapore have continued to report strong inbound growth.'


Viceroy offers first look at Maldives hotel

Viceroy is planning to open its resort in the Maldives next summer with innovative design from Yabu Pushelberg and marking the first hotel for Viceroy outside North America and the Caribbean.

The resort is in the Shaviyani Atoll an hour north of Male and will have just 61 villas but serviced by 215 staff, who will include general manager Uday Rao, who comes with many years experience with Four Seasons, including in Mumbai and the Maldives.

The group insisted its growth – so far in places such as Anguilla, Snowmass Colorado and Miami - would be in absolutely the “right places for the brand” rather following the “bandwagon” growth of some resort groups.

Michael Lorenz, Viceroy’s vice president of sales, said key “sexy cities” such as London, Paris and New York are also in the group’s sights.

Abu Dhabi (Sowwah Island) and Beverly Hills (currently L’Ermitage Beverly Hills) are in development under the Viceroy brand and there could be up to 35 hotels in 10 years time. “There’s no need for speed, just good solid growth,” said Lorenz.

He added: “We will build the brand for our customers and what they want, not for us. This involves everything from listening to guests, to specific travel advisory boards so we know what people look for.”

Lorenz said the Maldives property would have the “amenities of an 120-room property but on just a 60-key island”, including five dining options and an over-water spa. A resort highlight will be the “tree house” beachside lounge (pictured above).

“We offer modern luxury that gives an edge. We have gathered top people from leading companies and are offering what we feel is something different," said Lorenz.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Maldives offers warmest 'red carpet' welcome to Miss France contestants

Maldives offered the warmest welcome to participants of Miss France 2011, the organising committee said Thursday.

Special Envoy to the President Ibrahim Hussein Zaki, Tourism Minister Dr Mariam Zulfa, Sunland Hotel Directors and senior officials of Maldives Tourism Promotion Board (MTPB) welcomed the 33 participants on Thursday. Cultural activities were also held at Male International Airport.

Organising Committee General Manager Sylvie Celia told journalists that Maldives offered an extraordinary welcome.

“This is the best welcome we received in the past five years that we have been working with this company. The red carpet welcome, the small children there and Maldives is very beautiful,” Celia, who won the Miss France title in 2002, said.

“The photos taken in Maldives will be published on a French magazine from today onwards. The event is very much supported by the French public.”

Miss France 2010 Melaka Menard said she never expected such a welcome from Maldives.

“This is the first time I have been in the Maldives. I am very pleased to be here. Maldives offered us a very warm welcome. After the trip I will talk about Maldives in France,” she said.

Miss France 2011 partner, Sunland Hotels, brought over 80 people along with the 33 contestants.

A Sunland Travels official said a fashion show would be held in Coco Palm Boduhithi where the candidates will be staying from November 11-18.

“Australian swimming wear and Maldivian designers’ dresses will be shown at the fashion show,” the official said.

According to Sunland Hotels, video and photo sessions and learning to cook Maldivian dishes will take place in Coco Palm.

The Miss France 2011 contest will be held on December 4 in Caen, France.

Maldives also hosted a Miss World event earlier.

Source: Haveeru Daily

ONYX Hospitality Group to manage MTDC resort in Maldives

ONYX Hospitality Group , Thailand’s leading hotel management company, has been appointed by the Maldives Tourism Development Corporation Plc (MTDC) to manage the Herathera Island Resort commencing December 1, 2010. Set on Addu, the southern-most atoll in the Maldives, approximately 480km south of the capital Male, the 273-villa resort features three natural lagoons, a turtle hatchery and a unique 4 km beach, the longest of any resort within the archipelago.

Recreational facilities at Herathera Island Resort include three swimming pools, a range of restaurants and bars, a spa and dive centre. During the course of 2011, the resort will undergo significant upgrades including enhancements to the beach and villas as well as the addition of numerous sports and children’s facilities. The resort will then be re-launched as an Amari, the centrepiece brand of the ONYX portfolio, and be positioned as a leading destination in the Maldives for activity and family holidays.

“We are thrilled that our first international management agreement is in such a renowned tourist destination as the Maldives,” said Peter Henley, CEO of ONYX Hospitality Group, adding, “we look forward to working closely with MTDC on a range of exciting improvements so that this wonderful resort will be able to showcase its full potential.”

MTDC’s chief executive officer Mohammed Mihad noted: “We are focused on further developing the southern part the Maldives with Gan International Airport as the hub. The re-launch of Herathera under the new management will play a significant part in this.”


Jumeirah’s First Maldives Resort is Opening in January 2011

Jumeirah Group, the Dubai-based luxury hospitality company and member of Dubai Holding, has revealed the new brand name of its first resort currently under way in the Maldives: Jumeirah Dhevanafushi (formerly Jumeirah Meradhoo).

Jumeirah Dhevanafushi is an exclusive all suite resort and scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2011. Situated in the Gaafu Alifu Atoll, 400 km south of the capital city of Malé, it is located in an area of extraordinary beauty surrounded by unspoiled coral reefs.

The intimate resort comprises 22 island villas, offering a distinctive residential feel, as well as an exclusive water village, called the Hermitage Collection, including 16 ocean villas, that are separated from the main island. The Hermitage Collection at Jumeirah Dhevanafushi is resplendently poised for the most discerning traveller wanting to experience a truly unique level of remote luxury. The villas, named Revives and Sanctuaries, range from 200m² to 600m² in size and offer stunning sea views, direct access to the beach and 24 hour butler service. The design of the bountiful bedrooms is inspired by traditional Maldivian architecture.

The resort features three restaurants and a bar with a variety of culinary options, as well as a Talise Spa with imaginatively designed over water treatment rooms and extensive sports and leisure facilities.

The second property under way in the Maldives is Jumeirah Vittaveli. The five star deluxe family resort is located in the South Malé Atoll and is scheduled to open in March 2011.

About Jumeirah Group | Jumeirah Group, the Dubai-based luxury hospitality company and a member of Dubai Holding, operates a world-class portfolio of hotels and resorts. Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts includes Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Madinat Jumeirah, Jumeirah The Meydan and Jumeirah Bab Al Shams in Dubai; Jumeirah Carlton Tower and Jumeirah Lowndes Hotel in London; and Jumeirah Essex House in New York. Jumeirah Group also runs the luxury serviced residences brand Jumeirah Living; the spa brand Talise; Jumeirah Restaurants; Wild Wadi Waterpark; The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management; and Sirius, its global loyalty programme. Jumeirah Group has recently unveiled VENU Hotels, a contemporary lifestyle hotel brand.