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Why are fewer Chinese...

Thailand's tourism bureau estimates nearly 1.5 million fewer...

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The Notre-Dame cathedral is Europe's most-visited historic monument,...

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Next year is looking like a banner year...
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Why are fewer Chinese tourists visiting Thailand?


Thailand’s tourism bureau estimates nearly 1.5 million fewer visitors from China in 2023 than had originally been expected at the beginning of the year. Changing travel trends and economic problems in China are to blame. Chinese tourist arrivals in Thailand are set to be lower than forecast in 2023, according to estimates by the Thai tourism bureau. Thailand had expected a bump in tourist arrivals from China following the reopening of borders after the coronavirus pandemic. The tourism bureau initially predicted 5 million visitors from China in 2023. However, arrivals from China before December numbered around 3 million, and the year-end total is now estimated to be around 3.5 million visitors.

There are fewer Chinese tourists in Bangkok's Chinatown this year(Tommy Walker/DW)
There are fewer Chinese tourists in Bangkok’s Chinatown this year(Tommy Walker/DW)

Changing trends in Chinese tourism

Vincent Zhuang, a journalist from China and former editor at the Robb Report, a luxury-lifestyle magazine, said Chinese travel trends are changing. “The Chinese tourist has changed a lot,” Zhuang told DW. He added that Chinese tourists are traveling more domestically as air fares and hotel prices remain high elsewhere in Asia. “There are many choices in China both for luxury and economy tourists,” he said.

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China’s economic problems, which includes a real estate crisis, a worsening job market and record-high youth unemployment, also contribute to people thinking twice about traveling overseas. With spending power being reduced, the number of international flights connecting China to Thailand is still not back to pre-pandemic levels, officials say.

Chinatown in Bangkok is a hot spot for international tourists, with bustling food stalls, authentic Chinese dishes, and bright neon-lit signs. Masses of tourists from mainland China are often seen in group tours roaming these streets. However, shop owners and market vendors in Bangkok’s Chinatown told DW that the number of Chinese tourists this year is lower than before. In another popular tourist location, the island of Phuket in southern Thailand, hotel bookings from China are also lower than anticipated.

“China pre-pandemic used to be one of our top countries … I think almost 18% to 20% of our business was coming from China, heavily dependent on tour groups,” said Ranjeet Viswanathan, director of sales & marketing at the Hyatt Regency Phuket Resort. “But right now, China makes up for about 5% of my business,” he told DW.

Thailand’s image problem in China?

In a shooting at the Siam Paragon shopping mall in Bangkok in September, three people were killed including one Chinese national. The news of the shooting led to around 60,000 Chinese tourists canceling their trips to Thailand, according to Thai officials. And the Chinese blockbuster movie “No More Bets,” which was released in August, did not paint Thailand in a positive light.

The movie tells the story of Chinese citizens who are tricked into taking a work trip overseas only to be forced into operating illegal gambling and cryptocurrency scams in an unnamed Southeast Asian country. But indirect references to Thailand are present in the film, such as one scene showing a road sign named “Sukhumvit,” which is a well-known district in Bangkok. The movie was seen as a reminder of incessant telecom scams in China.

Thailand works on attracting Chinese tourists

Nithee Seeprae, deputy governor at the Tourism Authority of Thailand admitted more work needs to be done to show that Thailand welcomes Chinese arrivals. “According to our travel partners in China, tourists still trust in Thailand as a safe destination. But maybe we’ll have to coordinate with Chinese influencers, and the Chinese influencer network in Thailand,” he told DW. The Thai government has also tried to make it easier for Chinese visitors to enter Thailand.

Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin announced in September that Chinese tourists can enter Thailand from mainland China for 30 days, without requiring a visa up until the end of February. “The measure is long overdue if Thailand wants to attract more Chinese visitors,” said Gary Bowerman, an Asia tourism analyst based in Malaysia.

It’s clear Thailand is trying desperately hard to re-coup the benefits of Chinese tourism, which has been a boost to its economy. Thailand’s tourist economy accounted for 11.5% of the country’s overall GDP in 2019. Of the record 39 million foreign arrivals that year, over 11 million were Chinese visitors. But following the pandemic in 2022, Thailand welcomed just 11 million international visitors, with China only accounting for 273,567 of those arrivals.

With 3.5 million Chinese arrivals estimated to visit for 2023, Thai officials have predicted a stronger recovery from the Chinese market, forecasting over double the amount to over 8 million arrivals in 2024. However, Bowerman told DW that existing factors this year could still contribute to obstacles for Chinese tourism to return to previous levels next year.

This year “has proved to be a very tricky year to forecast Chinese outbound demand for Southeast Asian destinations like Thailand,” he said. “Thailand will be hoping for more stable and predictable demand patterns for Chinese arrivals, and overall growth is expected in 2024,” he added. “However, forecasting a precise figure at the moment, with airlines nervous about adding back capacity, is a bit like waving your finger in the wind,” said tourism analyst Bowerman.

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5 essential travel tips for first-time visitors to India


India is a land of contrasts, with a rich and diverse culture that is sure to amaze and captivate visitors from all over the world however, it can also be a challenging place to travel, especially for first-time visitors. This is why it is important to plan your trip carefully and be aware of the potential challenges you may face.

5 essential travel tips for first-time visitors to India (Photo by Navdeep Panwar on Unsplash)
5 essential travel tips for first-time visitors to India (Photo by Navdeep Panwar on Unsplash)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Harish Khatri, Founder and MD at India Assist, suggested a few tips that can help you make your first trip to India a pleasant and hassle-free experience –

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When you are on a journey, whether it’s a leisurely vacation or a business trip, your health should always be a top priority. India, with its diverse landscapes and vibrant cities, offers a wealth of experiences waiting to be explored. However, unexpected situations can arise and that’s where travel assistance services step in to ensure your well-being remains safeguarded throughout your voyage.

  • Swiftly Adapting to Changes:

Travel plans are known to take unexpected turns. Missed trains, itinerary changes, or unforeseen emergencies can disrupt your carefully crafted schedule. This is where expertise in handling these challenges becomes invaluable. With swift adaptability and seamless solutions provided by your travel assistance partner, you can navigate through these challenges with ease, allowing you to make the most of your time in India.

  • Round-the-Clock Guidance:

Just as the sun sets in one part of the world, it simultaneously rises in another. This highlights the significance of having access to a 24/7 help desk, ensuring unwavering support, regardless of the time. Whether you’re in need of guidance, assistance, or simply seeking recommendations, discreet help should be just a call away. It is a wise idea to get travel assistance services that cater to providing round-the-clock support in general. You can avail this assistance through your travel agent, tour operator or hotel partner.

The travel expert advised, “As you prepare for your journey in India, these three pillars of support should offer peace of mind. Health, adaptability, and constant guidance are the cornerstones of a pleasant and hassle-free voyage. Whether you’re exploring India’s vibrant culture, its natural beauty, or conducting business, having these travel assistance services integrated into your journey ensures you can focus on creating cherished memories.”

Bringing his expertise to the same Vikas Sharma, Chief Executive Officer at Encalm Hospitality Pvt., said, “Planning a memorable vacation experience to India or anywhere around the world is often an intimidating task. To begin with, organize your travel in a way so that it fulfills all your necessities and requirements. One thing that everyone on a vacation deserves is comfort and relaxation. Furthermore, to genuinely embrace a rejuvenating and enriching getaway, it’s imperative for your mind to be unburdened and free from stress. Prioritising your overall well-being is essential for embarking on a hassle-free journey. A vacation does not serve its purpose if it doesn’t focus on you in the first place. Choose experiences that choose you.”

He recommended –

1. Get assistance services for comfort/Meet and Greet Service

Airports are bustling hubs of activity and commencement. With travelers’ needs and demands becoming more refined, there is a growing emphasis on creating specialised meet and greet services that place the well-being and convenience of travelers at the forefront. These airports meet and greet services embrace a comprehensive strategy aimed at delivering extraordinary experiences. You can take the pain out of your travelling endeavors by opting for a meet and greet service at the airport which assists you in airport formalities including carrying your baggage via a porter service. With trained professionals welcoming guests at the entrance and guiding them all the way to board their flight, these services are committed to assisting travelers at every stage of their journey.

2. Lounges:

Premier airport lounges are redefining luxury, offering plenty of world-class services and amenities that will leave you impressed. From exclusive menus crafted by chefs, cigar rooms, and spas to grand decor, luxury airport lounges are being designed to cater to the business class travellers. There are lounges at airports that value their guests and their fruitful experience and it only gravitates more love and positivity. Encalm Privé lounge at Terminal-3 (T3), meant exclusively for business and first-class travellers. This world class lounge facility aims to provide a premium travel experience, ensuring that every guest enjoys a seamless journey in the tranquil and exclusive setting of the lounge.

He concluded, “Lounges offers a comfortable seating area, a bar, a multi-cuisine buffet area, live food counters, a kids’ play area, a library, a business centre with workstations and meeting rooms with a serene ambiance. They serve as the leisure and relaxation escapades at airports alongside offering free Wi-Fi, charging ports and other amenities that help you stay connected and productive.”

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5 lesser-known facts about Notre-Dame cathedral


The Notre-Dame cathedral is Europe’s most-visited historic monument, drawing some 12 to 14 million people each year. Here are some lesser-known facts about the Gothic cathedral that is being painstakingly rebuilt after being partly engulfed by fire five years ago:

Notre-Dame Cathedral, Europe's most-visited historic monument with 12 to 14 million annual visitors, is undergoing meticulous reconstruction following a partial fire incident five years ago.(Unsplash/Hannah Reding)
Notre-Dame Cathedral, Europe’s most-visited historic monument with 12 to 14 million annual visitors, is undergoing meticulous reconstruction following a partial fire incident five years ago.(Unsplash/Hannah Reding)

1. One-time wine cellar

In the 1790s, during the French Revolution, the cathedral was plundered and seized as public property. Anti-clerical radicals attacked the facade, removing biblical statues and decapitating them in the cathedral’s square, in acts reminiscent of the guillotining of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette. Over the next few years, before Napoleon crowned himself emperor there in 1804, the cathedral was used for a variety of purposes, including storing barrels of wine for the Revolutionary Army.

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2. Saved by a novel

Salvation came in the form of a novel — Victor Hugo’s 1831 “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame”. The hugely popular novel triggered an outpouring of emotion among Parisians over the state of disrepair into which the cathedral had fallen, leading to a major restoration. Between 1844 and 1865, it was revamped by architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc, who added the spire that collapsed in the 2019 blaze.

3. Modern monsters

The fearsome-looking guardian-demons adorning the upper gallery of Notre-Dame’s twin towers — including a winged, horned creature cupping his head in his hands — are relatively recent additions. While the leering gargoyles that spout rainwater from their open mouths were there from the start for drainage, the chimeras, which are purely decorative monsters, are Viollet-le-Duc’s inventions. He was inspired by the work of renowned French caricaturist Honore Daumier as well as descriptions in Hugo’s novel. The gargoyles and chimeras mostly survived the 2019 blaze.

4. Protest spire

The image of the spire in flames crashing to the ground made front-page news around the world. But it wasn’t the first time the 96-metre (315-foot) steeple had grabbed headlines. In January 1969, during the Vietnam War, Communist activists raised a North Vietnamese flag atop the spire after sabotaging the staircase leading up to it. Firefighters needed a helicopter to remove the flag. A chopper was needed again a few years later in October 1972 to remove another flag, this one hoisted by separatists from the northwestern French region of Brittany.

5. 2,000 oaks

One of the biggest losses in the 2019 fire was the medieval beamed roof known as the “forest”, most of which dates from the early 1200s. To rebuild the roof and spire the government ordered the felling of 2,000 oak trees. Drones were used in some places to select mature oaks with long, straight trunks. After being cut, they were left to dry for between 12 and 19 months before being used in the restoration.

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Ready to set sail on cruises in New Year 2024? Here’s what travellers across all income and budget levels need to know


Next year is looking like a banner year for cruise vacations, as travellers across all income and budget levels have been booking voyages at greater volumes than even before the Covid-19 pandemic, according to US cruise operators and travel agents.

Ready to set sail on cruises in New Year 2024? Here's what travellers across all income and budget levels need to know (Andy Newman/Crystal Cruises via AP)
Ready to set sail on cruises in New Year 2024? Here’s what travellers across all income and budget levels need to know (Andy Newman/Crystal Cruises via AP)

Travellers are looking to cruises in 2024 because they are still cheaper than land-based alternatives. With occupancy levels approaching pre-pandemic levels, operators plan to hike prices in coming months.

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“Overall the market is extremely strong, especially the top end of the market in terms of the most high-end luxury cruises,” said Bob Levinstein, CEO of cruise marketplace Cruise Compete.

Even as travellers have canceled or postponed planned vacations to the Middle East, cruise bookings will still hit record levels in 2024, said Truist Securities analyst Patrick Scholes.

Prior to the Oct. 7 attacks in Israel, industry-wide bookings for 2024 were about 25% higher than in 2019 for bookings in 2020. Bookings in November for 2024 were about 20% higher than the same period in 2019, Scholes said.

“Demand for 2024 has continued to accelerate with bookings consistently outpacing 2019 levels by a wide margin,” said Royal Caribbean Group’s CEO Jason Liberty in October on an earnings call.

About 35.7 million passengers are expected to cruise in 2024, up from 31.5 million in 2023 – which is 6% more than the amount of passengers that set sail in 2019, according to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

The one thing holding back bookings? Enough capacity to deal with all of the demand. Carnival CEO Josh Weinstein in September said volumes for 2024 will recede as the company could run out of inventory to sell despite a 5% increase in capacity from 2023.

Smaller operators say volumes are overflowing. Oslo-based private luxury cruise line SeaDream Yacht Club said bookings are so strong for 2024 and 2025, that they have already opened bookings for autumn of 2026, according to CEO Atle Brynestad.

Travel agency Marvelous Mouse Travels, which got its start planning Disney vacations, said 2024 demand has significantly surpassed bookings in 2018 and 2019, according to Kari Dillon, owner of the Huntersville, North Carolina-based agency.

“Travellers are taking advantage of the four or five-night short itineraries out of Florida ports,” said Dillon. “With more and more people having the ability to work remotely, it makes hopping (on) these short Caribbean itineraries a breeze.”

Travel agency InteleTravel said bookings for sailings in 2024 are about 70% greater than bookings than at this time in 2019 headed into 2020, said Dave Spinelli, senior vice president of industry relations at InteleTravel, a host travel agency in Delray Beach, Florida.

Royal Caribbean told investors that in the third quarter, two-thirds of its guests were either on a cruise for the first time or using Royal Caribbean for the first time. The company’s repeat bookers have doubled, according to Liberty.

Online travel companies are taking notice of the cruise boom. Booking Holdings’ largest brand launched a cruise vertical in November to capture growing cruise demand.

“Cruisers are loyal, with the data showing the majority of people who have cruised will cruise again, making it prime for continued growth,” said Ben Harrell, US managing director at

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Mount Rushmore, other USA national parks, monuments lay strict air tour rules for tourists flying over


Fewer planes and helicopters will be flying tourists over Mount Rushmore and other national monuments and parks as new regulations take effect that are intended to protect the serenity of some of the most beloved natural areas in the United States.

Mount Rushmore, other USA national parks, monuments lay strict air tour rules for tourists flying over (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
Mount Rushmore, other USA national parks, monuments lay strict air tour rules for tourists flying over (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

The air tours have pitted tour operators against visitors frustrated with the noise for decades, but it has come to a head as new management plans are rolled out at nearly two dozen national parks and monuments.

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One of the strictest yet was recently announced at Mount Rushmore and Badlands National Park, where tour flights will essentially be banned from getting within a half mile of the South Dakota sites starting in April.

“I don’t know what we’re going to be able to salvage,” complained Mark Schlaefli, a co-owner of Black Hills Aerial Adventures who is looking for alternative routes.

The regulations are the result of a federal appeals court finding three years ago that the National Park Service and the Federal Aviation Administration failed to enforce a 2000 law governing commercial air tours over the parks and some tribal lands. A schedule was crafted for setting rules, and many are wrapping up now.

But now an industry group is eying litigation, and an environmental coalition already has sued over one plan. The issue has grown so contentious that a congressional oversight hearing is planned for Tuesday.

Critics argue that the whirr of chopper blades is drowning out the sound of birds, bubbling lava and babbling brooks. That in turn disrupts the experiences of visitors and the tribes who call the land around the parks home.

“Is that fair?” asked Kristen Brengel of the National Parks Conservation Association, noting that visitors on the ground far outnumber those overhead. “I don’t think so.”

The air operators argue they provide unrivaled access, particularly to the elderly and disabled.

“Absolutely exhilarating, a thrilling experience” is how Bailey Wood, a spokesman for the Helicopter Association International, described them.

Sightseeing flights got their start in the 1930s as crews building the massive Hoover Dam asked the helicopter pilots working on the project to give their families flyovers, Wood said.

“It took off from there,” he said, jokingly adding, “Sorry, aviation pun.”

The issue hit a tipping point at the Grand Canyon in 1986 when two tour aircraft collided over the national park in Arizona, killing 25 people. Congress acted the next year and a plan was enacted to designate routes and minimum altitude for canyon flights.

Congress passed another round of legislation in 2000 with a goal of setting rules in other national parks. But bureaucratic difficulties and delays stalled compliance.

The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and the Hawaii Island Coalition Malama Pono sued, demanding something be done. Historically, some of the nation’s busiest spots for tour operators are Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which is home to one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and Haleakala National Park.

In 2020, a federal court ordered compliance at 23 national parks, including popular sites such as Glacier in Montana, Arches in Utah and Great Smokey Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina. That same year, the latest in which data is available, there were 15,624 air tours reported, which was down about 30% because of the pandemic, the park service said.

As of this month, plans or voluntary agreements have been adopted for most of the parks, although not all of them have taken effect. Work is still underway on five, the park service said.

Parks exempted from developing plans include those with few flights and those in Alaska, where small planes are often the only way to get around.

“Mostly, the plans have been pretty generous to the industry, allowing them to continue as they have done in the past with some limited air tours around these parks,” said Peter Jenkins, senior council for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

His group went to court over a plan to allow a combined total of about 2,500 flights over the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and other nearby parks, alleging an inadequate environmental study.

Then came last month’s announcement about restrictions over Mount Rushmore and the Badlands.

“This isn’t a management plan,” complained Ray Jilek, owner of Eagle Aviation Inc. and its chief pilot. “This is a cease and desist plan, as far as I’m concerned.”

Andrew Busse of Black Hills Helicopter Inc. said his tours already don’t fly directly over Mount Rushmore. The park is relatively small, so the monument to the nation’s presidents is still visible from outside its boundaries, he said.

The plans are aimed at taking tribal desires into account. But Shawn Bordeaux, a Democratic state lawmaker in South Dakota and a member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe, said he hasn’t heard complaints.

“We don’t want them flying around trying to watch our sun dances or ceremonies or something,” he said. “But as for tourism, I don’t see why it’s an issue.”

A similarly strict plan has been proposed for Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico. Bruce Adams, owner of Southwest Safaris, flies a fixed-wing plane with tourists a couple times a week over the area known for the dwellings carved into the soft rock cliffs.

“Changing the route is going to force me to fly over Pueblo tribal lands that I have assiduously avoided doing for 49 years because I know it’s going to cause noise problems,” he said.

Glacier National Park, meanwhile, is phasing out the flights by the end of 2029.

Wood said the process has been “broken and rushed” and threatens to put some operators out of business.

“Litigation is one tool that is definitely under consideration,” he said.

But Brengel of the National Parks Conservation Association said the resistance doesn’t have much traction. An amendment to the FAA reauthorization bill that would have required the agency to factor in the economics of commercial air tours over national parks failed in July, she said.

“People go to Arches, people go to Hawaii to hear the sights and sounds of these places,” Brengel said. “It’s so utterly clear that the vast majority of people who are going to these parks aren’t going to hear the sounds of helicopters over their heads.”

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Munich airport grounds flights amid snowstorm, travel chaos in central Europe


All flights were grounded at Munich‘s airport Saturday after a winter storm dumped snow across southern Germany and parts of Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic, affecting travel across the region.

People take pictures of Bayern Munich's Allianz Arena which is covered in snow after heavy snowfall hit Bavaria and its capital Munich, Germany, December 2, 2023. German Bundesliga soccer match FC Bayern Munich v 1. FC Union Berlin had to be cancelled, trains halted and the airport closed because of the weather condition (REUTERS/Leonhard Simon)
People take pictures of Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena which is covered in snow after heavy snowfall hit Bavaria and its capital Munich, Germany, December 2, 2023. German Bundesliga soccer match FC Bayern Munich v 1. FC Union Berlin had to be cancelled, trains halted and the airport closed because of the weather condition (REUTERS/Leonhard Simon)

After initially announcing a halt in air traffic until noon on Saturday, the airport later announced flights would be cancelled until 6 a.m. Sunday. Other airports in the region, including in the Swiss financial capital, Zurich, also announced weather-related delays and cancellations.

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Trains to and from Munich’s central station were also halted, Germany’s national railway said, advising passengers to delay or reroute their journeys. The news agency dpa reported that some passengers in Munich and the nearby city of Ulm spent Friday night on trains due to the halt.

In Munich, no buses or trams were operating as of Saturday afternoon, the local transit authority said. Some subway and regional train lines were also affected by the weather.

Downed trees left “many thousands” of people without power across the state of Bavaria, the utility company Bayernwerk told dpa.

Officials for Germany’s Bundesliga also announced that a soccer match between Bayern Munich and Union Berlin, originally scheduled for Saturday afternoon in Munich, was cancelled.

Police in Lower Bavaria, the region northwest of Munich, said they responded to 350 incidents related to snow and ice between Friday night and early Saturday, some of which led to minor to moderate injuries.

In Austria and Switzerland, the new snowfall led officials to raise the alarm about the danger of avalanches. The provinces of Tyrol and Vorarlberg in western Austria raised their avalanche warnings to the second-highest level after the region received up to 50 centimeters (20 inches) of snow overnight.

The Austrian railway company OeBB said Saturday afternoon that various stretches of its routes across the country were closed due to the storm.

In the Czech Republic, the major highway and some other roads were blocked for hours, trains and public transportation faced delays and cancellations, and over 15,000 households were without power.

The key D1 highway that links the capital Prague with the second largest city of Brno was in a standstill for hours after an accident that caused a 20-kilometer (12.4-mile) long line of trucks. Traffic jams also hit other parts of the highway as well the D5 that links Prague with Germany.

A number of high-speed and regional trains had to stop in the southern part of the country as cross-border trains from neighboring Austria and Germany didn’t operate, and some roads were expected to remain closed for the day.

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Tourist arrival picks up in Kullu-Manali region, hotel industry hopes for ‘fantastic’ season


The hotel industry in Kullu and Manali region of Himachal Pradesh is bracing up for year-end tourism and hoping for a “fantastic” season as tourist arrival has started picking up after restoration of roads and snowfall.

Tourist arrival picks up in Kullu-Manali region, hotel industry hopes for 'fantastic' season (HT_PRINT/Ajay Kumar)
Tourist arrival picks up in Kullu-Manali region, hotel industry hopes for ‘fantastic’ season (HT_PRINT/Ajay Kumar)

The industry suffered huge losses due to natural disaster during monsoon.

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The occupancy at present is between 40-50 per cent, which is likely to increase due to snowfall and the hotel industry is expecting 100 per cent occupancy during Christmas-New year week,| president of the Federation of Himachal Hotels and Restaurant Associations (FOHHRA) Gajender Thakur told PTI on Saturday.

Hoteliers, especially in Manali, have planned several events in the last week of the year to welcome tourists, he said.

Following moderate snowfall in Lahaul valley and the adjoining high altitude areas, roads to Keylong and Sissu have been blocked and the police have urged people to exercise caution before visiting these areas.

Snowfall in higher areas of Kullu and Lahaul and Spiti during the ensuing winter would be a boon for the hotel and allied industry in Manali and Kullu.

Meanwhile, weather remained cloudy and icy winds swept the region, in spite of dry weather prediction till December 8 and higher hills and tribal areas reeled under severe cold wave conditions.

The North Portal and South Portal of Atal Rohtang tunnel received 23 cm, and 10 cm of snow while Sissu and Koksar recorded 20 cm and 17 cm snow followed by Keylong 5 cm and Gondla 4 cm, while Kothi received 7 mm of rainfall followed by Shimla 6 mm and Manali 3 mm.

The minimum temperatures dropped further and Keylong was the coldest with a low of minus 4.1 degree, followed by Sumdo minus 2.6 degree, Kalpa minis 0.8 degree, Reckongpeo 2.2 degree, Narkanda 2.5 degree and Manali 2.9 degree.

The local meteorological station has predicted dry weather in the state for next eight days and a further drop in temperature.

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13th edition of the International Sand Art Festival begins in Odisha’s Puri


The 13th edition of the International Sand Art Festival, a renowned cultural event that annually takes place on the beautiful Chandrabhaga Beach, commenced in Odisha’s Puri on Friday. This festival attracts skilled sand artists from various corners of the globe who come together to showcase their talent for creating intricate and breathtaking sculptures entirely out of sand.

A picture from the 2019 edition of the International Sand Art Festival, at Chandrabhaga beach in Konark, Puri, shows a sand artist giving a finishing touch to their sculpture. (File Photo)
A picture from the 2019 edition of the International Sand Art Festival, at Chandrabhaga beach in Konark, Puri, shows a sand artist giving a finishing touch to their sculpture. (File Photo)

Each year, the festival revolves around diverse themes, ranging from cultural heritage to social issues to environmental conservation. This diversity reflects the global perspective and awareness embedded in the artistry.

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Artists utilise the golden sands of the beach as their canvas, crafting intricate designs and sculptures that often convey messages.

This festival not only attracts international sand sculptors but also celebrates the talents of local artisans. The fusion of global perspectives and local flair creates a vibrant tapestry of artistic expression.

The festival aims to promote tourism, celebrate the rich artistry of sand sculpting, and provide a platform for artists to exchange ideas and techniques.

Visitors to the festival have the opportunity to witness the evolution of these ephemeral masterpieces throughout the event.

The sculptures, despite their temporary nature, leave a lasting impression due to their intricate details and the skilled hands that brought them to life.

The International Sand Art Festival at beautiful Chandrabhaga Beach in Puri’s, Odisha, not only serves as a cultural and artistic extravaganza but also plays a role in promoting the coastal beauty of the region, making it a must-visit for art enthusiasts and tourists alike.

More than 100 artists, including international artists from the USA, Australia, Sri Lanka, Russia, Belarus and the Czech Republic, will participate in the International Sand Art Festival in 2023.

The International Sand Art Festival was started in 2011 on the Chandrabhaga beach in Puri, Odisha. The festival is held annually from December 1-5. The 2023 festival will be the 13th edition.

The festival showcases the artists’ creative imagination. The sand art is part painting and part sculpture, with no adhesive holding the grains of sand in place.

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How to travel in Germany — a compact guide


Are you planning a trip to Germany and wondering what you need to know? We’ve got you covered! This short guide answers some of the main questions tourists ask before visiting Germany. Here’s what we’ll discuss:

DW presents a compact travel guide to Germany(Christin Klose/dpa-tmn/picture alliance)
DW presents a compact travel guide to Germany(Christin Klose/dpa-tmn/picture alliance)

Basic facts about Germany, top sights, how to get around, where to stay, safety issues, how to pay and tip, cuisine, drinks and culture.

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Basic knowledge about Germany

When traveling to Germany, knowing a few basic facts about the country is helpful.

Where is Germany located?

Germany is in the center of Europe and is divided into 16 federal states, including the city-states of Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen. The largest states are Bavaria, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg.

How big is Germany?

It is approximately 360,000 square kilometers (137,847 square miles) in size. The population is around 84 million people.

Which cities are the largest?

Berlin is the capital of Germany and the largest city, with almost 4 million inhabitants. The next largest is Hamburg in the north, followed by Munich in the south and Cologne in the west.

Which languages are spoken?

German is the national language. Depending on the region, there are different dialects, some of which are difficult to understand. Danish and Frisian are also spoken in the north, while Sorbian is spoken in parts of Brandenburg and Saxony. Many Germans also speak English well.

What is the weather like?

Generally, Germany has a moderate climate. In summer you can walk around in shorts and a T-shirt — although some days it can get really hot. In spring and fall, be prepared to wear trousers, sweaters and light jackets. In winter, temperatures can dip below freezing, and it can snow.


Germany’s landscape is very diverse. If you head north, you can take a beach vacation on the Baltic or North Sea. In the country’s center, you’ll find many forests, lakes, rivers and nature preserves. The Alps are in the south and are perfect for hiking and skiing in the winter.

What must you see in Germany?

Germany has many castles, fortresses, ruins and charming half-timbered houses. Brick buildings characterize the harbor cities of the north.

Which sights are particularly well-known?

Here is a short list, though not exhaustive:

Berlin: Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag building, television tower, Museum Island, Berlin Cathedral Hamburg: Elbphilharmonie, Speicherstadt district, Town Hall, Harbor Munich: Marienplatz square, Munich Residenz, Nymphenburg Palace, English Garden Cologne: Cologne Cathedral Palaces: Neuschwanstein Castle in Füssen, Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam, Heidelberg Castle, Hohenzollern Castle in the Swabian Alb

Which events and festivals should not be missed?

The largest folk festival in the world takes place in Munich each fall: Oktoberfest — you can immerse yourself in Bavarian tradition here.

The Christmas period is a great time to visit — you can see the country’s charming Christmas markets.

And in February, many cities celebrate Carnival, also known regionally as Fasching or Fastnacht. Thousands of people wear costumes and celebrate on the streets or in clubs and bars.

The biggest public festival in the north is Kiel Week, which takes place in summer. It is one of the largest sailing events in the world and dates back to the end of the 19th century.

Other well-known festivals include Hamburger Dom (spring, summer and winter), Hafengeburtstag in Hamburg (May), Schützenfest in Hanover (June/July), Rheinkirmes in Düsseldorf (July), Maschseefest in Hanover (July/August), Cranger Kirmes in Herne (August), Cannstatter Volksfest (Wasen) in Stuttgart (September/October) and Bremer Freimarkt (October)


What’s the best way to get to all these places?

Germany is so big that it can take the better part of a day to drive from north to south, so you can also take a flight if you’re short on time. Train, bus or car rental all work for shorter distances.

What should you consider when driving in Germany?

In Germany, people drive on the right side of the road. And as you may have heard, often there’s no speed limit on the autobahn — Germany’s highway. But in urban areas, speed limits are 50 kilometers per hour (about 30 miles per hour)or 30 kilometers per hour. On country roads, the speed limit is 100 km/h, and on highways, it is often 120 km/h — unless there’s no limit at all.

How does the rail system in Germany work?

There are different types of trains. The ICE and IC high-speed trains connect the major cities and travel at speeds of up to 300 and 200 km/h. There are also local trains such as the Regional-Express, the Interregio-Express, the Regionalbahn and the S-Bahn, which also take you to your destination, albeit at slower speeds.

The German ticketing system is based on trust. There are no track access restrictions, although inspectors on trains carry out spot checks and give fines to anyone not holding a ticket.

Which ticket is right for me, and how do I book?

You can buy tickets online, via the Deutsche Bahn app, at ticket machines or ticket counters. If you book early, you can get cheaper tickets, but the tickets cannot be changed. If, however, you cannot catch the train you’ve booked due to previous train delays or the train is canceled then you can use it on another train. However, if it’s your fault you missed the train, the ticket expires. Flex tickets, which are quite expensive, allow you to choose any train connection on a given day.

Various railcards give you discounts, but these are not useful for short visits since you must sign up for an annual subscription. However, if you are in the country for longer than a few days, you can buy the Deutschlandticket. This is also a subscription, but can be canceled monthly and costs only €49 ($53) per month. This ticket allows you to use all local public transportation throughout Germany.

Larger cities are often divided into zones like A, B and C. When you buy a ticket, check in advance which zone your destination is in since ticket prices differ accordingly. Most stations have maps that show the different zones in relation to stops so you can easily find what you need.

What alternatives are there to car, train and plane?

Plenty! It’s relatively inexpensive to travel with long-distance buses. In cities, you can choose from city buses, streetcars, subway trains or trams. Many places also offer rental bikes or e-scooters that you can book via various apps. You can also choose to book taxis in large cities with apps. This can help you to know the price in advance and not to be overcharged, since the price is preset in the app. Keep in mind that taking a taxi in Germany can be expensive.


What accommodation options are there?

Well-known international hotel chains such as Hilton, Holiday Inn or Maritim can be found in Germany, especially in larger cities. There are also many smaller, privately run hotels and guesthouses. Hostels and vacation apartments are also available, as well as inexpensive accommodation with locals via platforms like Airbnb.

Germans love camping! There are many campsites in Germany where you can spend your vacation close to nature for a reasonable price. It’s important to know that smaller hotels may not have someone working at reception 24/7. If you arrive late at night, check the website beforehand or call to let them know when you’ll arrive so you’re not left standing in front of a locked door.


How safe is Germany?

Germany is generally safe. Nevertheless, storms, floods or even riots can occasionally occur, such as on May 1, Labor Day. It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your belongings since theft can happen.

Payment and tipping

How do you pay in Germany?

Germans love to pay with cash! The currency is the euro, and it’s best to always keep some cash on you. Many restaurants and bars don’t accept credit cards.

How much and when do you tip?

Whether you pay with card or cash, you usually tip around 10% in restaurants in Germany. Servers will tell you the amount, and you will then tell them the total price, including the tip, you would like to pay. For example, if you have a bill of €46 ($49), you would tell the waitress to round up and charge €50 ($54).

Food and drink

What is typical German cuisine?

German food varies depending on where you are. In the north, near the sea, you’ll find plenty of fish, while the south has many hearty dishes from Bavaria or Baden-Württemberg, such as roast pork, pork knuckle, dumplings or spaetzle (pasta that is similar to noodles). Bakeries in Germany have a large selection to choose from, including many different types of bread, rolls and small sandwiches.

What do people like to drink in Germany?

Germans are fond of beer and wine and make it, too! There are 13 wine-growing regions in Germany. These areas make great destinations for day trips. Regarding non-alcoholic drinks, coffee and tea are popular, as well as the famous German Apfelschorle — apple juice mixed with sparkling water. Germans generally love mixed drinks — beer is sometimes drunk with soft drinks (Radler) and wine is mixed with sparkling water, too (Weinschorle).


When you discover a new country, it’s an advantage if you know and understand the characteristics of local people to avoid misunderstandings.

What is important to Germans?

It’s not just a stereotype — Germans generally like punctuality. They usually let each other know if they will be five minutes late.Germans aren’t really fans of small talk and tend to keep quiet on public transport. Don’t feel offended by this. They don’t mean any harm!

Taking care of the environment is very important to Germans — waste is separated, and bottles and cans are recycled. Don’t be surprised if a bottle seems more expensive than you expected — you’re also paying a deposit. Once you return the empty bottle, you’ll get the deposit back.

Germans are relaxed when it comes to nudism. There are nudist beaches by the sea or lakes, and saunas are also textile-free. This can be quite disconcerting for some visitors to Germany.

Now that you’re a Germany pro, have fun traveling and getting to know the country!

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Lachung in Sikkim allows tourists from Friday after October flash flood


PTI | | Posted by Zarafshan Shiraz, Gangtok

The popular north Sikkim tourist destination, Lachung, which was affected by flash floods in early October, has been made accessible after the restoration of road, an official said on Thursday.

Lachung in Sikkim allows tourists from Friday after October flash flood (File Photo)
Lachung in Sikkim allows tourists from Friday after October flash flood (File Photo)

The tourist spot will be open for visitors from Friday, he said.

“Lachung is now accessible after successful completion of road restoration efforts. The scenic destination can be reached through an alternative route via Dzongu-Shipgyer and will be open for tourists from December 1,” Tourism and Civil Aviation Department Secretary Prakash Chettri said.

Extending a warm welcome to all tourists intending to visit Lachung-Yumthang in the northern part of Sikkim, he said that the alternative route, via Dzongu-Shipgyer, will have an additional 16-17 km to reach Lachung.

He, however, said the Lachen-Gurudongmar point would remain closed until further notice as restoration work in the region was underway in the aftermath of the flash floods.

The decision to allow tourists to visit Lachung comes nearly two months after the massive flood had destroyed road infrastructure and connectivity in North Sikkim towns like Lachen, Lachung and Chungthang in early October.

The flash flood left 46 people dead and a trail of destruction.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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