Indonesia Tourist Bus Crash Kills 14

Medical workers load a victim’s body into a vehicle after a bus crash, to transport to their family at a hospital in Mojokerto on May 16, 2022.  (Photo by AFP)

 

At least 14 people were killed and more than a dozen others injured when a bus carrying domestic tourists crashed into an advertising sign in Indonesia’s East Java province early on Monday, police said.

The bus — which was carrying 31 passengers, the driver and a crew member — hit the pole and then rolled over on a toll road connecting the town of Mojokerto to the country’s second city, Surabaya.

The victims were from Benowo, a village near Surabaya, and were returning home after a long weekend at popular holiday destination Dieng Plateau, about 400 kilometres away in Central Java, local official Ridwan Mubarun told Indonesian television station Metro TV.

“Fourteen people have died and 19 others sustained minor and serious injuries,” Mojokerto police chief Rofiq Ripto Himawan told reporters on Monday, adding that authorities were still investigating the cause of the accident.

Earlier, a spokesman for the East Java police blamed the crash on driver error.

“This accident was caused by human error, the driver was exhaused or tired,” Dirmanto, who goes by a single name, told Metro TV.

A police report stated that both weather and traffic were clear when the accident occurred on Monday morning.

The driver survived and has been taken to a hospital for his injuries, the police report said.

Deadly traffic accidents are common in Indonesia, where vehicles are often old or poorly maintained and road rules are routinely ignored.

Last month, 16 people were killed when a truck carrying miners crashed into a cliff in West Papua province, police said.

In February, 13 people died and dozens more were injured after a tour bus carrying factory workers to a popular beach holiday tipped over and crashed on Java island, according to police.

Israel Opens To Vaccinated Tourists After 20 Months Of Closure

Visitors walk by the Edicule, traditionally believed to be the burial site of Jesus Christ, at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem, on November 1, 2021, as Israel reopens to tourists vaccinated against Covid-19. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

 

Israel opened up to vaccinated visitors Monday after 20 months of closure, with Jews and Palestinians reliant on tourism voicing cautious hope the pandemic’s economic devastation will gradually ease.

Rami Razouk, a Palestinian souvenir shop owner in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem’s Old City, said he was “very happy” at the prospect of increased revenue, but conceded his store was not quite ready for an influx.

“Everything is dusty,” the 35-year-old told AFP. “We have a lot of work to do.”

Razouk and top Israeli officials said that Monday marked a partial re-opening, and that it would be premature to immediately expect busloads of tourists to start spending across the region.

“We are far from the (complete) opening of the skies,” Jerusalem deputy mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum told reporters, saying it will become clearer in coming weeks how many tourists will visit under current rules.

As of Monday, foreigners can enter Israel with a negative covid test from the previous 72 hours and if their last vaccine dose was administered less than six months ago. Unvaccinated children remain subject to quarantine rules.

“It’s not going to happen in one day or two,” Razouk said, lamenting a long period with almost no sales. “It will take time.”

– Tourism hard hit –

Before Israel imposed the first of several coronavirus closures in March 2020, tourism was growing at a galloping pace in a region home to countless religious sites sacred to Muslims, Christians and Jews.

A record 4.6 million people visited in 2019, an 11 percent increase on 2018, generating revenue of 23 billion shekels ($7.3 billion), or 1.5 percent of Israel’s GDP, the ministry said.

“The tourism industry had been driving 200 kilometres an hour, and we stopped suddenly because of covid,” Tourism Ministry Director General Amir Halevi told AFP Monday.

As expected, business from foreign tourists has plummeted since. Despite Monday’s opening, just 1.5 billion shekel in revenues is expected this year.

Ezechiel Grinberg, a Jerusalem-based independent tour guide, told AFP he survived on minimum wage government subsidies for nearly 18 months.

“It’s great as a (tourism) professional,” that visitors are starting to come back, he said. But he voiced concern that burdensome entry requirements will still suppress his income.

Nader Zaro, a Palestinian who owns a coffee shop on the Old City’s Via Dolorosa (Path of Sorrow) — seen by many as the route Jesus was forced to walk to his crucifixion — said he needed “normal tourists” to come back.

Israel has allowed in select tourist groups under special arrangements, but Zaro explained such groups don’t help small operators like him.

“Everyone wants to catch them,” Zaro said. “There are big sharks and small sharks… and big sharks eat all. Me, I’m eaten.”

– Booster shots –

Despite record high covid transmission figures in late August and September, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s coalition government avoided a new lockdown, betting that a fresh vaccination push could stem a wave blamed partly on Delta variant of the coronavirus.

Authorities launched an aggressive campaign to inoculate citizens with a third, booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which drove down infections.

Following widespread data that the Pfizer-BioNTech’s protection wanes six months after the last jab, Israel has put recent vaccinations at the centre of its re-opening strategy.

Among those who landed at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv on Monday was American Lauren Solsberg, who said she had to get a booster to meet entry requirements.

“It was down to the last minute before we knew that we were going to come,” she said.

AFP

India To Re-open For Tourists From October 15

File Photo: A deserted Indian Gate. Photo Credit: Emmanuel Oshobajo

 

India will re-open for tourists from October 15 after being closed for more than a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the government said Thursday.

The country famous for the Taj Mahal, desert palaces, tiger reserves, elephants and beaches had barred all foreign tourists in March 2020 in a strict lockdown when the pandemic took off.

But after a horrendous spike in Covid-19 cases earlier this year, the number of cases has since fallen sharply and the government, under pressure from an industry that is an important pillar of the economy, on Thursday announced a loosening.

Tourist visas will be granted for foreigners arriving on charter flights from October 15, and on other flights from November 15, the home ministry said in a statement.

It stressed that all Covid-19 protocols “should be adhered to by the foreign tourists, carriers bringing them into India and all other stakeholders at landing stations”.

Hospitals Overwhelmed

India initially banned all foreign arrivals. The restrictions were gradually eased for business people, diplomats and others but borders remained shut for holidaymakers.

In April and May this year the country of 1.3 billion people was hit by a severe wave of coronavirus infections with about 400,000 cases and 4,000 deaths every day.

Hospitals were overwhelmed as more than 200,000 people died in a period of around 10 weeks, according to official numbers that are widely seen as an underestimate.

The spike was blamed on new virus variants and the government having lifted restrictions too soon and allowing sporting events and major celebrations for religious festivals to take place.

But cases have since slowed sharply to around 20,000 new daily infections and 200 to 300 deaths in recent weeks.

More than 250 million people have been double-vaccinated, although this equates to only around 20 percent of the population, and experts warn that India could suffer another wave.

Tourism Staggers Back

Tourism is beginning to pick up in Europe and the Americas, with some 54 million tourists crossing international borders in July, the most since April 2020, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said on Monday.

That was up 58 percent compared with the level recorded in July 2020, but was still a drop of 67 percent from July 2019. International arrivals were down 80 percent in January-July compared to 2019.

The UN body said it was expecting to see a “rebound” in 2022 although global tourism is not expected to reach pre-pandemic levels until 2023 or 2024.

Elsewhere in Asia, the picture is mixed, with China and Japan still off-limits to foreign tourists.

But Indonesia on Monday announced that the resort island of Bali would open to select international travellers next week, while Thailand on Saturday said that fully vaccinated travellers from any country can now book holidays to tourism haven Phuket.

The Maldives has been open — with some suspensions — for tourists since July 2020. Sri Lanka opened to fully vaccinated tourists last month.

Indian Slump

The Indian economy suffered one of the sharpest slumps among major economies as a result of the pandemic, with output suffering its worst drop since independence, pushing millions back into poverty.

The initial lockdown last March, in particular, was a catastrophe, leaving tens of millions of workers in the informal economy without work almost overnight.

Tourism is an important sector for Asia’s third-largest economy, with the country seeing 10.93 million tourist arrivals in 2019, according to the government.

Before the pandemic, the sector accounted for about 10 percent of the Indian economy.

Rajiv Mehra, president of the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), welcomed Thursday’s announcement.

“This is very encouraging for the tourism industry and we hope the inbound tourism would start to some extent and will give a sigh of relief to the tourism industry stakeholders,” Mehra said in a statement.

AFP

How Can You Become A Space Tourist?

 

Thrill-seekers might soon be able to get their adrenaline kicks — and envy-inducing Instagram snaps — from the final frontier, as space tourism finally lifts off.

All you’ll need is a bit of patience. And a lot of money.

Here’s a rundown of where things stand.

Who’s offering spaceflights?

Two companies are offering short “suborbital” hops of a few minutes: Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, founded by Richard Branson.

Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket takes off vertically and the crew capsule detaches and crosses the Karman line (62 miles, or 100 kilometers, in altitude), before falling back to Earth with three parachutes.

Virgin Galactic uses a massive carrier plane, which takes off from a horizontal runway then drops a rocket-powered spaceplane. This in turn soars to over 50 miles altitude before gliding back.

In both cases, up to six passengers are able to unbuckle from their seats to experience a few minutes of weightlessness and take in the view of Earth from space.

When can you go?

Virgin Galactic has said regular commercial flights will begin from 2022, following two more test flights. Their waiting list is already long, with 600 tickets so far sold.

But the company predicts it will eventually run up to 400 flights per year. Two seats on one of the first flights are up for grabs in a prize draw: registrations are open until September 1.

As for Blue Origin, no detailed calendar has been announced.

“We’re planning for two more flights this year, then targeting many more in 2022,” a spokesperson told AFP.

Another way to get to space is via reality television. Space Hero, an upcoming show, says it plans to send the winner of a competition to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2023.

How much will it cost?

The first tickets sold by Virgin Galactic went for between $200,000 and $250,000 each, but the company has warned that the cost for future sales will go up.

Blue Origin hasn’t announced prices. The anonymous winner of a public auction for a seat on the first crewed flight paid $28 million, but decided to defer their trip.

It’s not known what amount was bid for the seat secured by Dutch teen Oliver Daemen, who will fly in the auction winner’s place.

The more “budget conscious” might consider spending $125,000 for a seat on Space Neptune: a capsule that offers 360 degree windows and is lifted to the upper atmosphere by a balloon the size of a football stadium.

Despite the promise of spectacular views, the balloon ascends only 19 miles — far from the boundary of space, and weightlessness.

The 300 seats for 2024 have all been sold, but reservations are open for 2025.

Are the physical requirements tough?

No — you’re only expected to be in reasonable shape. Virgin Galactic’s training lasts just five days.

Blue Origin promises to teach you everything you need to know “the day before you launch,” and its first crewed flight includes pioneering aviator Wally Funk, who at 82 will become the oldest astronaut.

The company’s requirements include being able to climb seven flights of stairs in under 90 seconds (the height of the launch tower) and being between 5’0″ and 110 pounds (152 centimeters and 50 kilograms) and 6’4″ and 223 pounds (193 cm and 100 kg).

What about SpaceX?

Elon Musk’s company is also getting into the space tourism game, but its plans involve journeys that are far longer. The costs are also predicted to be astronomical — tens of millions of dollars.

In September, American billionaire Jared Isaacman has chartered a mission called Inspiration4 to take him and three other passengers into orbit around the Earth on a SpaceX Crew Dragon, launched into space by a Falcon 9 rocket.

Then in January 2022, three businessmen will travel to the ISS with an experienced astronaut. The mission, named Ax-1, is being organized by the company Axiom Space, which has signed up for three other future flights with SpaceX.

Elon Musk’s company is also planning a trip to orbit for four people, organized by intermediary Space Adventures — the same company in charge of the flight of the Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa to the ISS in December, aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket.

Maezawa is also supposed to take a trip around the Moon in 2023, this time aboard a rocket that is still under development by SpaceX, called Starship.

He invited eight members of the public to join him — but applications are now closed.

Escaping COVID-19 Lockdowns, Tourists Flock To Dubai

Israeli tourists, mask-clad due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, visit al-Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood of Dubai on January 11, 2021.
Karim SAHIB / AFP

 

As much of the world tightens lockdowns to stem coronavirus, Dubai has flung its doors open, branding itself as a sunny, quarantine-free escape — despite a sharp rise in cases.

While mask-wearing and social distancing are strictly enforced, life in the tourism-reliant emirate looks much like normal, with its restaurants, hotels and mega-malls open for business.

Images of sports stars and television personalities enjoying life at beach clubs and cocktail bars have flooded social media — sometimes to disapproval back home.

Emirates, which restored its network to about three quarters of pre-pandemic levels, is again operating A380 super-jumbos – the world’s largest commercial airliner — ferrying in visitors from Britain and Russia.

Russian tourist, Dmitriy Melnikov, said he came to Dubai because his choices were otherwise limited, with many destinations in partial or full lockdown.

“I am not scared,” the 30-year-old told AFP. “If you look at people here, everyone has a mask, and I think it’s cool.”

But the downside to becoming one of the world’s most open destinations has been a sharp rise in coronavirus cases.

Daily detected cases hover in the mid-3,000s across the United Arab Emirates, which has a population of under 10 million, with 745 deaths from Covid-19 since the pandemic began.

“There are significant risks in Dubai remaining so open,” said Scott Livermore, chief economist at Oxford Economics Middle East.

“A renewed outbreak of Covid-19 would set the recovery back quite some way.”

 

– ‘Willing to take the risk’ –

With a negative PCR test in their home countries — and possibly another upon arrival, depending on the place of departure — tourists can freely enter Dubai, where winter temperatures average a pleasant 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit).

The neighbouring emirate of Abu Dhabi, which with large oil reserves is less dependent on tourism, has taken a much more conservative approach, generally requiring quarantine on arrival.

In the Al Fahidi historical neighbourhood in Dubai, mask-clad tourists walk through alleyways, taking pictures of the recreation of life a century ago.

Hand sanitisers and floor stickers warning people to maintain their distance are everywhere, while most restaurants have replaced their menus with digital QR barcodes, that can be displayed on a smartphone.

“Before the coronavirus, tour groups were up to 100 or 250 visitors with each tour guide, but now things are different, only 20 visitors maximum for each tour guide,” said the district’s director Nasser Juma bin Sulaiman.

Andi Pitman, from the US state of Alabama, said it was her first trip abroad since the start of the pandemic.

“We are very excited to be here and a little nervous, but happy to be out again,” she told AFP, strolling through Al-Fahidi with her husband and two children.

“None of us have had the vaccine yet, but we have small kids that need to be out and need to see the world, so we’re willing to take the risk.”

Sophia Amouch, from France, said she was not too concerned about the rise in cases in the UAE.

“Everything is run better here,” the 25-year-old told AFP, adding that she felt “safer in Dubai, where everyone abides by all the measures.”

– ‘Growth strategy’ –

Tourism has long been an economic mainstay of Dubai, which welcomed more than 16 million visitors in 2019.

Before the pandemic, the aim was to reach 20 million by 2020. The economy — the most diversified in the Gulf — was decimated by the crisis.

The government was counting on the six-month Dubai Expo 2020 global trade fair — delayed by a year and now set to open in October — to attract millions of visitors and boost the economy.

Now it is seeking to find what benefits it can from the crisis.

“Dubai seems to be positioning itself as the destination of choice for those wanting to escape lockdown conditions and have a winter break, especially given ski resorts in Europe are largely closed,” said Livermore.

“This is a growth strategy in its own right, but the more successful Dubai can be in achieving this aim, the more benefits will spill over for when Expo opens.”

Ahead of the Expo, authorities are mounting a huge vaccination campaign, which has seen 14 percent of the population inoculated.

“Travel and tourism is very important to Dubai,” Livermore said. “The sector is crucial for generating a sustainable recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is essential the city remains open and connected, but critically keeps Covid-19 in check.”

-AFP

COVID-19 Forces London Tourist Guides To Adapt

Tourists queue for the London Eye attraction in central London on August 24, 2020. – The World Travel & Tourism Council said this week that Britain’s economy will lose about £22 billion ($29 billion, 24 billion euros) this year because of the coronavirus outbreak. VisitBritain also forecast that the number of foreign tourists will plummet by 73 percent in 2020 to 11 million people. The grounding of aircraft and travel restrictions have largely been blamed. Tolga Akmen / AFP.

 

“I don’t know if you’re aware, but we’re living through a pandemic right now,” says Joel Robinson with a smile as he introduces his Jack the Ripper tour in London’s East End.

Robinson, a trained actor and history buff who works for the tourist company London With A Local, goes on to explain social distancing best practice to his nine clients.

Although he doesn’t wear them himself, he advises the tourists to wear masks and gloves before they set off through the once-gloomy alleyways of Victorian-era London.

Down darkened side streets and past shiny new buildings, Robinson recounts the tale of the still unidentified serial killer of five women who stalked the streets of Whitechapel in 1888.

London’s tourist guides are resuming their work slowly as lockdown restrictions are eased, and adapting to new health and safety rules to curb the spread of the virus.

Numbers are currently limited but it’s the background of the clients that has changed the most.

Where before Robinson and walking guides like him played mainly to foreign tourists, now customers are mainly British.

Dwindling numbers of overseas clients are largely down to quarantine measures imposed by the British government on foreign visitors.

“We have far more Britons than we had,” said Olivia Calvert, one of Robinson’s colleagues. “It’s a huge shift. They’re expecting something else, something different.”

Among the home-grown tourists traipsing around the Ripper’s old haunts are Anne and Nick Garner, a couple in their fifties from near Manchester, in northwest England.

“We would have been abroad but we decided to come to London,” said Anne Garner after her insight into the bloodthirsty past of the city’s East End.

– Getting creative –

The 90-minute Jack the Ripper tour is one of London’s most popular, alongside the Harry Potter tour and another visiting the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll hotspots of Soho.

“The British already know London’s famous monuments, so they expect something else,” said Calvert.

Antony Robbins is an independent guide affiliated to the Guild of Tourist Guides, the national professional association for Blue Badge Tourist Guides across the country.

Tour guide Joel Robinson (R) leads a group of tourists on a Jack The Ripper tour in London on August 24, 2020. – London’s tourist guides are resuming their work slowly as lockdown restrictions are eased, and adapting to new health and safety rules to curb the spread of the virus. Numbers are currently limited but it’s the background of the clients that has changed the most: before Robinson and walking guides like him played mainly to foreign tourists. Now, they’re mainly British. Tolga Akmen / AFP.

 

Lack of demand has meant he has had to abandon his walks from Westminster to Buckingham Palace.

This week, he led his first “fooding” tour, taking a young woman and her mother to several restaurants and high-end patisseries in the British capital.

“We’re changing the way we work because we have to,” he said. “We need to be more creative.”

Although some guides have been able to go back to work, many tourism professionals — particularly freelancers not linked to major attractions — are finding it hard.

Only six staff at London With A Local have returned to work and the number of weekly guided tours has been cut by half.

And predictions for the coming months don’t make easy reading.

– Loss of income –

The World Travel & Tourism Council said this week that Britain’s economy will lose about £22 billion ($29 billion, 24 billion euros) this year because of the outbreak.

British tourism promotion body VisitBritain also forecast that the number of foreign tourists will plummet by 73 percent in 2020, to 11 million people — a drop largely blamed on grounded aircraft and travel restrictions.

In London, guides in particular are worried about the lack of American visitors, who have a culture of tipping well, but who are also currently subject to quarantine restrictions.

A man takes pictures on Tower Bridge from the near empty top of an open top tourist tour bus in central London on August 24, 2020. – The World Travel & Tourism Council said this week that Britain’s economy will lose about £22 billion ($29 billion, 24 billion euros) this year because of the coronavirus outbreak. VisitBritain also forecast that the number of foreign tourists will plummet by 73 percent in 2020 to 11 million people. The grounding of aircraft and travel restrictions have largely been blamed. Tolga Akmen / AFP.

 

Some 85 percent of tourist spending in the British capital is by foreigners, putting nearly three million jobs in the UK supported by travel and tourism at risk, the WTTC said.

At London With A Local, tours in Spanish have not restarted — unsurprisingly, as arrivals to the UK from Spain have since July been required to self-quarantine.

The numbers don’t lie when Pepe Martinez, an independent guide and blue badge holder, compares this year with last.

“June is one of the biggest months. I did 46 visits last year. This year, I’ve only done eight. Six of those have been online,” he said.

AFP

Cambodia’s Tourist Hotspot Bans Dog Meat Trade

(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 25, 2019 dogs are kept in a cage as a woman boils water at a slaughterhouse in Siem Reap province. – The Cambodian tourist town of Siem Reap has banned the dog meat trade on July 7, 2020, a victory for animal rights campaigners who describe the area as the “lynchpin” of an industry that slaughters millions of creatures each year. TANG CHHIN Sothy / AFP.

 

The Cambodian tourist town of Siem Reap has banned the dog meat trade, a victory for animal rights campaigners who describe the area as the “lynchpin” of an industry that slaughters millions of creatures each year.

Dog meat, a cheap source of protein, is eaten in several Asian countries, including Cambodia, although it is much more popular in neighbouring Vietnam.

But animal rights group Four Paws has identified Siem Reap province — home to the famed Angkor Wat temple complex — as a hub for the trade within the kingdom, where they say three million dogs are butchered annually.

Siem Reap authorities announced a ban late Tuesday, with the provincial agricultural department saying the dog meat trade has descended into “anarchy” in recent years.

“It has caused the infection of rabies and other diseases from one region to another, which affects the public health,” said the statement.

“The catching, buying, selling and slaughtering of dogs… will be punished severely.”

The maximum penalty for dealing in dogs for slaughter as food is five years in prison, while fines range from 7-50 million riel ($1,700 to $12,200).

How the ban will be enforced remains to be seen, as Cambodia has long struggled with lax policing.

However, Four Paws on Wednesday hailed the decision to take out Siem Reap as a “lynchpin for the Cambodian dog meat trade”.

“We hope that Siem Reap will serve as a model for the rest of the country to follow suit,” said veterinarian Dr. Katherine Polak.

Their investigation last year found that the northern province served as a gateway for the trade, with roving dog catchers nabbing animals and selling them to over 20 dog meat restaurants in the tourist city.

Thousands are also transported each month to different parts of the country, including the capital Phnom Penh where there are still more than 100 restaurants.

On Wednesday, a streetside vendor in the capital continued to advertise dog meat on his menu, hawking barbecue dishes from $2.50 to $10 a kilogram.

Tourism to Cambodia has seized up due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Siem Reap draws the bulk of the kingdom’s six million tourists, nearly half from China.

AFP

Thomas Cook Folds, Sparking Worldwide Repatriation Of Tourists

 

British travel group Thomas Cook on Monday declared bankruptcy after failing to reach a last-ditch rescue deal, triggering the UK’s biggest repatriation since World War II to bring back tens of thousands of stranded passengers.

The 178-year-old operator, which had struggled against fierce online competition for some time and which had blamed Brexit uncertainty for a recent drop in bookings, was desperately seeking £200 million ($250 million, 227 million euros) from private investors to avert collapse.

The news leaves some 600,000 tourists stranded worldwide according to Thomas Cook, including more than 150,000 holidaymakers seeking help from the British government to return from destinations including Bulgaria, Cuba, Turkey and the United States.

Earlier, in a statement published just after 0100 GMT, Thomas Cook said that “despite considerable efforts”, it was unable to reach an agreement between the company’s stakeholders and proposed new money providers.

“The company’s board has therefore concluded that it had no choice but to take steps to enter into compulsory liquidation with immediate effect,” it added.

The UK government said it had hired planes to fly home British tourists, in an operation starting immediately.

Launching Britain’s “largest repatriation in peacetime history”, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps added that the government and UK Civil Aviation Authority had hired dozens of charter planes to fly home Thomas Cook customers.

“All customers currently abroad with Thomas Cook who are booked to return to the UK over the next two weeks will be brought home as close as possible to their booked return date,” the government said.

Both a tour operator and an airline, the travel giant’s key destinations were in Southern Europe and the Mediterranean but it offered also holidays in Asia, North Africa and the Caribbean.

Thomas Cook chief executive Peter Fankhauser called it a “deeply sad day”, with thousands of jobs lost.

“It is a matter of profound regret to me and the rest of the board that we were not successful,” he said.

“This marks a deeply sad day for the company which pioneered package holidays and made travel possible for millions of people around the world,” he added in the group’s statement.

22,000 Jobs Lost

As well as grounding its planes, Thomas Cook has been forced to shut travel agencies, leaving the group’s 22,000 global employees – 9,000 of whom are in Britain – out of a job.

Chinese peer Fosun, which was already the biggest shareholder in Thomas Cook, agreed last month to inject £450 million into the business as part of an initial £900 million rescue package.

In return, the Hong Kong-listed conglomerate acquired a 75 per cent stake in Thomas Cook’s tour operating division and 25 per cent of its airline unit.

“Fosun is disappointed that Thomas Cook Group has not been able to find a viable solution for its proposed recapitalisation with other affiliates, core lending banks, senior noteholders and additional involved parties,” the Chinese group said in a statement to AFP on Monday.

Cabinet maker Thomas Cook created the travel firm in 1841, transporting temperance supporters by train between British cities.

It soon began arranging foreign trips, being the first operator to take British travellers on escorted visits to Europe in 1855, followed soon after by destinations further afield.

Thomas Cook grew into a huge operation but fell into massive debt despite recent annual turnover of £10 billion from transporting about 20 million customers worldwide.

The company’s demise comes just two years after the collapse of Monarch Airlines that prompted the British government to take emergency action and return 110,000 stranded passengers, costing taxpayers some £60 million on hiring planes.

“It’s not just been Thomas Cook that has fallen victim to overcapacity in the sector, with the collapse of a host of airlines in the past few years, with the most profile casualty being Monarch,” Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK, said Monday.

17 Injured As Blast Hits Tourist Bus In Egypt

 

An explosion struck a tourist bus on Sunday near Egypt’s famed pyramids, injuring 17 people including foreigners, security and medical sources said.

South Africans and Egyptians were among those injured when an explosive device went off, hitting the bus in Giza, according to the sources. No deaths were reported.

Images circulating online showed some of the bus’ windows shattered.

Sunday’s incident comes after three Vietnamese holidaymakers and their Egyptian guide were killed when a roadside bomb hit their bus as it travelled near the pyramids outside Cairo in December.

READ ALSO: Nine Killed In Burundi Mine Collapse

Egypt’s tourism sector has suffered for years due to a series of deadly attacks targeting holidaymakers following the turmoil of the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak.

Authorities have gone to great lengths to lure tourists back, touting a series of archaeological finds and a new museum next to the pyramids, as well as enhanced security at airports and around ancient sites.

The industry has slowly picked up, with tourist arrivals reaching 8.3 million in 2017, compared with 5.3 million the previous year, official statistics showed.

But that figure was still far short of the record influx of 2010 when more than 14 million visitors flocked to see the country’s sites.

AFP

Gunmen Abduct US Tourist And driver In Uganda

 

 

Gunmen in Uganda have abducted an American tourist and his driver inside a national park close to the border with Democratic Republic of Congo, government spokesman Ofwono Opondo said Wednesday.

Ugandan soldiers are hunting the gunmen, who abducted the pair around dusk on Tuesday.

“Four armed men, not yet identified, between 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm (1400-1600GMT), staged an ambush and kidnapped an American tourist with his Ugandan driver near Katoke Gate in the Queen Elizabeth National Park,” Opondo said in a statement.

“A joint operation by the Uganda police, Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) and Uganda Wildlife Authority Game Wardens is underway to locate and rescue them,” Opondo added.

“The priority at this point is to locate, rescue and bring them back to safely.”

READ ALSO: Two Killed In Knife Attack At Primary School

Four other tourists, who were present when the gunmen attacked but were not abducted or physically harmed, managed to raise the alarm from the lodge where they were staying.

“Four tourists, who were left abandoned and unharmed, later contacted the base and were quickly got safely out of any danger,” Opondo said.

Queen Elizabeth National Park, one of the East African nation’s most famous wildlife reserves, runs along the frontier with conflict-wracked regions of DR Congo, bordering its famous Virunga national park, Africa’s oldest national park

Numerous militia groups and armed gangs roam eastern DR Congo. Virunga suspended all tourism activities last year following the kidnapping of two British tourists. The Britons and their driver were freed two days after the attack.

Queen Elizabeth, in southwestern Uganda lies some 150 kilometres (90 miles) north of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, famous among tourists for gorilla trekking.

In 1999, Rwandan rebels killed eight foreign tourists there, inflicting an enormous blow to Uganda’s tourist industry.

AFP

Body Of Missing German Tourist Found In Australian Outback

Monika Billen. Credit: @abcnews

 

The body of a German tourist who went missing earlier this month was found Wednesday in the scorching Australian outback, police said.

Police said the remains of Monika Billen, 62, were discovered after receiving crucial new phone data to narrow down her location.

Her body was found about three kilometers (two miles) away from Emily Gap, a site popular with tourists in a remote nature park famed for its rocky ravines and gorges, outside Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.

Police had launched land and aerial searches for Billen, including the use of drones, but had called off the search before receiving the new information.

She is believed to have hitched and walked her way to the Emily Gap, and officers believe a motorist may have seen her looking dehydrated and a disorientated as early as January 2.

Billen was reported missing on January 11.

“Police received additional information from Ms Billen’s telecommunications provider and have continued with aerial searches in specific areas for the past two days,” Northern Territory Police Superintendent Pauline Vicary said in a statement.

“It has required extensive work, interpreting data from both international and national phone providers, but the outcome assisted in narrowing down the search parameters and eventually locating Ms Billen.”

Temperatures have soared above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) during the southern hemisphere summer in the central desert region.

Police said Billen had only a yellow cashmere scarf to protect against the scorching sun.

AFP

Policemen On Trial For Alleged Rape Of Drunk Tourist

 

Two French policemen went on trial Monday over the alleged gang-rape of a drunk Canadian tourist in the former headquarters of the Paris police, one of several scandals to roil the force in recent years.

The alleged crime took place in April 2014 at the 36 Quai des Orfevres, the celebrated police headquarters that features in the novels of crime writer Georges Simenon and a popular French film of the same name.

The tourist, identified as Emily S., now aged 39, met the policemen at an Irish pub near the imposing riverside police building which sits on an island in the Seine in central Paris.

After a long drinking session, the off-duty policemen from an anti-gang brigade accompanied her to their offices.

“I had drunk a lot and couldn’t see myself getting back to my hotel in the state I was in, and I thought that by going to a police station I would feel safer there,” Emily told investigators.

Her testimony then differs as to what took place over an hour and a half inside the police headquarters, after which Emily reportedly left the building minus her tights and in a state of shock.

“Four policemen wearing condoms raped me,” she told investigators the next day when she reported the matter to police.

She was unsure however whether she was raped by three or four men.

Those charged, named as 49-year-old Nicolas R. and 40-year-old Antoine Q. deny the charges.

Both admit to sexual relations, but said the woman consented.

Anne-Laure Compoint, one of the lawyers of the two policemen accused of allegedly raping a Canadian tourist in April 2014, arrives for a hearing at the Criminal Court (Cour d’Assises) in Paris on January 14, 2019.  Eric FEFERBERG / AFP

One policeman’s DNA was found on her underwear and a medical examination found Emily had suffered a traumatic gynaecological injury.

DNA from a third man was also found on her underwear, but while more than 100 policemen working in the building were tested, investigators failed to identify this suspect.

The two accused officers wiped all messages and videos from their mobile phones, but one message found on a colleague’s phone suggested they were engaging in sex.

Investigators said medical tests revealed Emily had taken a cocktail of anti-depressant medication, opiates and cannabis on the night of the alleged assault.

In 2016, investigative magistrates decided to drop the case, suggesting the young woman’s testimony was confused.

But prosecutors later demanded a trial, which is expected to last until February 1.

The accused, who have retained their jobs, could face up to 20 years’ imprisonment if found guilty.

The allegations in 2014 heaped further scandal on the Paris criminal police, known as the “police judiciaire” in France, which has since moved to a new headquarters in a modern building in northeast Paris.

In the same year, 50 kilogrammes (110 pounds) of seized cocaine, with an estimated street value of two million euros ($2.2 million) vanished from a secure room in the police headquarters.

In 2015, the head of the force, Bernard Petit, was suspended after allegedly leaking sensitive information to another senior police officer who was being investigated over fake documents.

AFP