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Friday, May 18, 2018

'Party city' Amsterdam to crack down on tourists


Amsterdam is seeking to contain the flood of tourists swamping the city, with the incoming council proposing a series of tough measures and plans to hike tourism taxes.

Some 18 million tourists visit Amsterdam every year -- more than the entire population of the Netherlands --  and local residents have become increasingly fed-up at the deluge.

The city's picturesque narrow streets and canals now sag year round under the weight of all the visitors, including increasing numbers of raucous and unruly stag and hen parties.

Under a plan "to seek a new balance" put forward by the four parties forming the city's next coalition council, popular activities like beer-bikes and boozy boat trips will be sharply curtailed.
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 "Tourism is part of the international culture of Amsterdam, which we should continue to cherish," the plan says, a copy of which was obtained Thursday by AFP.

But due to "nuisance, crowds and rubbish, some neighborhoods are under extreme pressure."
Amsterdam is first and foremost "a city to live in and to do business," the plan says, adding "it is only secondly a tourist destination."

From 2019 tourist taxes will be hiked to 7.0 percent, while the city will also look at ways to cut back on the number of hotel rooms.

In some swamped neighborhoods a total ban on holiday rentals may be introduced, and plans for a new passenger terminal for large cruise ships will be scrapped.

"We are looking for an alternative location outside of Amsterdam," the plan says.

The city already announced in January that it would impose a new 30-day curb on the renting of private homes via websites like online booking giant Airbnb from next year. And this will be strictly enforced, the parties pledged.

Source - TheJakartaPost

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Indonesia - Kaliurang hotels still open for business amid Mount Merapi eruption


Following the phreatic eruption of Mount Merapi on Friday morning, Yogyakarta has been experiencing falling volcanic ash from the morning until the afternoon. However, hotel operations in Kaliurang have not been affected.

Kalyana Resort Kaliurang manager Yohanes Widi Astono said to KompasTravel, “So far there are no warnings for the guests, as the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) has not upgraded Mt. Merapi’s status.”

According to Yohanes, closure instructions have only been announced for tourist attractions around Mt. Merapi. Kalyana Resorts, located 7 kilometers from Merapi, is operating as per usual. 

“We experienced falling volcanic ash, but now it’s being cleaned up,” Yohanes said. 
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 However, he admits that several guests have canceled their bookings for the following couple of days. 

Similar to Kalyana Resort, @K Hotel in Kaliurang, Yogyakarta, is also remaining open. 

“@K Hotel is not affected by the Merapi eruption. We only experienced volcanic ash.” said @K Hotel Kaliurang assistant sales manager Sasha. The hotel, which is located only 8 km from Mt. Merapi, is still accepting guests, with several even prolonging their stay. 

Both Yohanes and Sasha said every hotel within the Kaliurang area already had disaster mitigation protocols prepared, including guest evacuation and hotel security. Currently, the hotels are waiting for official information from the government about Mt. Merapi’s status. The protocols have been in place at the hotels in Kaliurang since the volcano erupted in 2010.
 
Source - TheJakartaPost 



Mount Merapi National Park (TNGM) has closed all access routes to the mountain following the volcanic eruption on Friday morning at 7:32 a.m.
“All access ways to the tourist attractions, including hiking trails, are closed,”  
Mount Merapi National Park head Ammy Nurwati told KompasTravel on Friday morning.
Ammy noted that the national park management would keep an eye on tourists and mountaineers using the park’s facilities, as well as clear the summit area of hikers, “We are monitoring tourists [in the] inner part of the TNGM. The lava tour outside is also under our observation.”

Hiking on Mount Merapi is banned until further notice following the phreatic eruption.
 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

#Thailand - Eight get lengthy prison terms over Mae Hong Son prostitution racket


The Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court on Wednesday found eight defendants guilty of human trafficking, underage prostitution and other charges linked to the “owl tattoo” prostitution racket in Mae Hong Son and sentenced them to imprisonments ranging from eight to 320 years. 

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 Three procurers received over 100 years behind bars – first defendant Piyawan Sukmak, 27, got a 167-year jail term, second defendant Piyathas Parpthiensuwan, 31, got a 176-year jail term and third defendant former cop Pol Senior Sgt-Major Yutthachai Thongchat, 43, got a 320-year jail term. 

 The three, however, would serve only 50 years behind bars each as the law limits maximum penalty in criminal cases to 50 years in prison.
The fourth defendant Mongkol Kiatpakdipong, 31, was given 19 years, the fifth defendant Pattamaporn In-kaew, 32, got 12 years, the sixth defendant Kanokwan Rattanapakdi, 23, got eight years, the seventh defendant Kwanhathai Reuk-Udom, 40, got 32 years and the eighth defendant Kalaya Wutthikhun, 41, got 36 years.

The eight convicts later sought release on bail pending their appeal to the upper court. During the trial, three of the suspects – Piyawan, Piyathas and Yutthachai – were denied bail and were detained at remand facilities, while the others got bail.
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Yutthachai had worked at the Nam Piang Din Police Station until the scandal broke last year, following which he was sacked along with eight other cops in the province who were put under serious disciplinary investigation after being implicated as customers of underage prostitution services. 

The case came to light because the 43-year-old mother of one of the teenage victims filed a police complaint. She remained persistent even when there was a lack of progress in the investigations for six months. She then exposed the prostitution racket to the media. 

Many state officials were subsequently implicated for buying sex services from the racket’s girls, many of whom reportedly had owl identification tattoos on the chest. 

Provincial Governor Suebsak Iamvijarn, who was transferred to an inactive post in Bangkok pending a probe result into the allegation, was later reinstated after he was cleared of any wrongdoing. According to police, one of five Nonthaburi politicians who allegedly bought sex from the girls had drunkenly claimed to be Suebsak.

Source - TheNation

 

Monday, April 9, 2018

Southeast Asia's idyllic islands buckle under tourism strain


Airports have become chaotic, hotels are being thrown up with little regard for safety and sanitation, beaches are strewn with garbage and coral reefs are dying.

The six-month closure of the Philippine tourism island of Boracay for a revamp after the country's president branded it a "cesspool" reflects the growing pressures on beach resorts across Southeast Asia as visitor numbers surge.

Tourism experts say the region's infrastructure is buckling under record visitor numbers, especially as more Chinese holiday abroad, and expect more drastic measures to come.
Airports have become chaotic, hotels are being thrown up hastily with little regard for safety and sanitation, tropical beaches are strewn with garbage and coral reefs are dying.

Thailand already has plans to shut its famous Maya Bay in the Phi Phi islands for four months this summer, while an environmental group is calling for urgent government action to tackle a "crisis" on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali.
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 "Many out-of-control destinations across Asia will need clean-ups," said Brian King, associate dean of the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. "These may come from government, or industry or from NGO-driven community action. The danger is that little happens until the crisis point is reached."

He added: "Boracay is not the first and won't be the last closure."

Airlines have already started to cut back flights to Boracay, which had 2 million visitors last year, with the largest foreign contingents coming from China and South Korea, ahead of its closure on April 26.

The Philippines, which had record visitor numbers last year after three years of double-digit growth, estimates the Boracay closure could reduce full-year GDP by 0.1 percent.

It is also planning to inspect the beach resort of Puerto Galera, on the island of Mindoro, and is already looking at the resorts of El Nido and Coron, in Palawan province, where an influx oftourism and rapid development has put infrastructure under strain.
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 But rival tourist hotspots around the region are not all rubbing their hands at the prospect of the extra revenue from the redirected tourist traffic.
 
Kanokkittika Kritwutikon, the head of the Tourism Authority of Thailand's Phuket office, said the island was at "stretching point", particularly its airport, which has undergone a number of upgrades in recent years to try to cope with overcapacity.

"Our policy is to try to spread tourism around" from Phuket to "secondary destinations that are less well-known," said Kanokkittika. "Apart from guests arriving by plane to Phuket we also have boats coming in, including cruises, so you can imagine how many tourists come through Phuket."

The shutdown of Maya Bay in an attempt to salvage the area's coral reefs - which have been damaged by crowds of tourists and warmer temperatures - follows the closure of 10 popular Thai diving sites in 2016 after a National Parks survey found bleaching on up to 80 percent of some reefs.

Pattaya, south of Bangkok, serves as another cautionary tale.
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 An influx of western tourists from as far back as the 1960s, when American soldiers came on leave from the Vietnam war, and a construction boom in the 1990s transformed it from a picturesque fishing village to a town known for its seedy nightlife and high crime rate.

Thailand's tourism ministry expects 37.55 million tourists this year, up from a record 35 million in 2017, of which 9.8 million were from China.

Shutdowns "too late" 

Benjamin Cassim, a tourism lecturer at Temasek Polytechnic School of Business in Singapore, said the closures of Boracay and Maya Beach could become "test cases" and will be closely monitored by other countries with popular beach resorts.

A non-profit group in Indonesia has been calling on the government to tackle what it calls an "environmental crisis" in Bali, the country's most popular tourist island, which saw more than 5.5 million visitors last year.

Source -  e.vnexpress.net/

 
 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

#Philippines to close Boracay resort to tourists for six months


The Philippines has announced its best-known holiday island Boracay will be closed to tourists for six months over concerns that the once idyllic white-sand resort has become a "cesspool" tainted by dumped sewage.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the shutdown to start April 26, his spokesman Harry Roque said late Wednesday on Twitter, without providing further detail.

The decision raises questions about the livelihoods of thousands employed as part of a bustling tourist trade that serves some two million guests on the island each year.

Boracay has some 500 tourism-related businesses, which had a combined annual revenue of 56 billion pesos ($1.07 billion) last year.
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However in February Duterte blasted the tiny island's hotels, restaurants and other businesses, accusing them of dumping sewage directly into the sea and turning it into a "cesspool".

Officials have warned the island's drainage system is being used to send the untreated sewage into its surrounding turquoise waters.

The environment ministry says 195 businesses, along with more than 4,000 residential customers, are not connected to sewer lines.

 In February the government said a total of 300 businesses faced "evaluation" for sanitary or other offences on the 1,000-hectare (2,470-acre) island, of which 51 had already been handed official warnings for violating environmental regulations.
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Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones told AFP last month a closure would involve having airlines and ferries suspend their Boracay services and making the beaches off-limits, and stationing police there "if necessary"
"An iron fist is needed to bring it back to its previous condition. It will be a temporary thing," Leones said.

The Boracay Foundation Inc., a business industry association on the island, had asked the government to shut down only those violating environmental laws.

"It's unfair for compliant establishments to be affected by the closure," Executive Director Pia Miraflores told AFP.

Miraflores said that even before the ban was announced, its shadow had hit some businesses hard in Boracay.

"The tour guides have already complained that they have no more guests. There's already a huge effect," she said, adding the quays and jetties were "less crowded" than before.

Some couples who scheduled their weddings on the island up to a year or two in advance had cancelled their reservations even before the ban was announced, she said, with the tour agents also besieged with client calls on whether to pursue their planned trips. 

With more than 500 hotels, Boracay employs 17,000 people, apart from 11,000 construction workers working on new projects.

Source - TheJakartaPost

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

#Thailand - Maya Bay from 'The Beach' to be shuttered for 4 months


The once-idyllic Thai bay that became a must-see on the tourist trail after the 2000 movie "The Beach" will be closed to visitors for four months, an official said Thursday, as Thailand looks to stem the impact from crowds.

The announcement bolsters an order last month blocking boats from mooring on Maya Bay in a bid to prevent further damage to its coral reefs. 

    Up to 4,000 tourists and hundreds of boats have been flocking daily to the white-sand beach on Ko Phi Phi Ley, an island whose towering limestone cliffs and azure waters were made famous by the film starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

    But the bay will now be off limits to travellers for four months from June and September, which falls during Thailand's monsoon season, said National Park Office Director Songtham Suksawang. 
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 "We reached a resolution to close Maya for four months to allow the ecological system to rehabilitate," he told AFP. 

    The beach's land entrance will be shuttered while boats will be barred from dropping off passengers, he added.

    During the shutdown four universities will conduct a study on how to develop more sustainable forms of tourism, he said.

    The closure is the latest effort to mitigate the environmental damage wrought by Thailand's mammoth tourism industry, a crucial pillar of the economy that brought a record 35 million travelers to the kingdom last year. 
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 Environmental experts and officials have warned that mass tourism is causing irreversible damage to beautiful beaches, with litter and unchecked development disrupting local ecosystems.
      Smoking has already been banned on 20 of the country's most famous beaches this high season, with a fine or even jail for those who flout the new rule.

    Leonardo DiCaprio played the lead in "The Beach", a Danny Boyle-directed adaptation of Alex Garland's classic backpacker novel of the same name.
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Source - TheNation

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Yogyakarta

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Often recognized as the center of intellectuals and historical places, Yogyakarta has its own charms that attract local and foreign travelers alike. Here are the things that you should not miss in the city:

Best times to visit

The right time to visit Yogyakarta actually depends on your travel itinerary. If your vacation is mostly spent outdoors, it is better to travel during the dry season from May to October. This also applies for those who seek the sunrise and sunset in some tourist destinations in Yogyakarta, such as Punthuk Setumbu, Plaosan Temple and Ratu Boko Temple.

However, if the city’s cultural scene is what you're aiming for, you may want to mark your calendar — Ramayana Ballet Prambanan show in an open theater runs from May to October and the annual Grebeg Syawal ritual is held in conjunction with Idul Fitri celebrations, estimated to be celebrated from June 14 to 16.

Climate

Just like other provinces in Indonesia, Yogyakarta has two seasons — wet and dry.
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 Popular areas - Malioboro
 
Known as the busiest shopping street in Yogyakarta, Maliboro is the right place to taste traditional dishes and shop for batik and other souvenirs. The one-way street is alive 24 hours a day, extending for about 2 kilometers from north to south.

For those who are not too keen on exploring Malioboro by foot, becak (pedicabs) and bentor (a portmanteau of becak and motorcycle) are available throughout the street to take you around the area. Many of the drivers also can be your guide about tourist destinations in Yogyakarta, especially to find bakpia (full moon-shaped pastry) establishments. Sometimes they can even take you farther to Yogyakarta Palace. The tariff for becak starts from Rp 25,000 (US$2) to Rp 30,000.

Visit this place on weekdays as Malioboro is known to be crowded on weekends.
Located near Malioboro, there is also Pasar Beringharjo (Beringharjo Market) for people looking for all types of batik. 
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 Kraton Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat is the palace of the sultan of Yogyakarta. Visitors have to explore the area by foot and guides are available inside the palace.

The palace has two alun-alun (town square) — south and north. Alun-alun Kidul (south town square), is like a magnet for people, especially in the evening, because it is where street food vendors flock to and entertainment events are held. It also has two giant beringin (banyan) trees and, according to legend, your wish will be granted if you can pass through the space between both trees with your eyes closed.

Many of the cultural events in Yogyakarta are held at the palace, including Grebeg Syawal and Sekaten. Those who visit the palace can enjoy dances and music performances daily at Bangsal Sri Manganti. On Mondays and Tuesdays visitors can enjoy gamelan performance, while on Wednesdays there is a Javanese golek (traditional puppet) dance performance. Moreover, Thursdays and Sundays are for dance performances, while Fridays are for mocopatan (Javanese verse accompanied by traditional music) performed by abdi dalem (royal servants). On Saturdays, a wayang kulit (shadow puppet) performance is usually held.

The performances usually start at 9:30 a.m., but it is better to come early to get a seat.
The entrance fee for foreign tourists starts from Rp 15,000 with an additional Rp 1,000 fee for cameras.
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Ratu Boko Palace as seen from above

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