Maldives Re-appoints Think Strawberries as India Representative for 2016-17

Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) has re-appointed Think Strawberries as its PR Agency in India. According to the announcement, the company’s role would be as a liaison body for MMPRC in implementing the destination’s PR strategy in the respective markets for a period of one year from date.

The appointment will allow MMPRC to maintain constant presence in the markets, identify and implement best strategies to improve the performance.

Talking about this development, Shikha Mishra, PR & Media Manager, MMPRC office in India commented, “We are proud to be re-appointed for the third year as the India representative office of MMPRC. We will continue to promote Maldives in the India market with consumer and trade targeted activities to increase the visitor arrivals from India to Maldives.”

The visitor to Maldives from India in 2015 stood at 52,368, which was a 14.9% growth from the previous year. Reportedly, India is currently the 5th biggest market for Maldives.

Pammi aunty aka Ssumier Pasricha honoured by Jordan Tourism Board

The Jordan Tourism Board recently bestowed honour upon social media celebrity Ssumeir Pasrisha, also known as Pammi aunty for promoting the tourism of their country.

He was handed over the Certificate of Appreciation for his outstanding contribution towards promoting Jordan Tourism through his iconic series ‘Pammi Aunty’ in India.

The series of 6 videos were shot in Jordan to promote tourism and went viral in India upon release garnering a collective reach of over 1.75million views.

H.E. Hasan Al Jawarneh, the Jordanian Ambassador to India commented, “We are delighted by the numbers generated through the broadcast of these tourism video series on Jordan which went viral on the Indian social media. We wish Ssumier the best in all his future endeavours.”

After standout promo video campaign, Ssumier Pasricha of ‘Pammi Aunty’ fame gets Jordan Tourism award

Actor Ssumier Pasricha, who rose to fame with his character ‘Pammi Aunty ‘ was recently awarded by Think Strawberries, the Jordan Tourism Board Representative office in India along with the Embassy of Jordan here.

Actor Ssumier Pasricha, who rose to fame with his character ‘Pammi Aunty ‘ was recently awarded by Think Strawberries, the Jordan Tourism Board Representative office in India along with the Embassy of Jordan here. Pasricha shot a series of 6 videos in Jordon to promote Jordan Tourism through his iconic series ‘Pammi Aunty’ in India. Once released, his videos received over 1.75 million views. The Jordanian Ambassador to India, H.E. Hasan Al Jawarneh said, “We are delighted by the numbers generated through the broadcast of these tourism video series on Jordan which went viral on the Indian social media. We wish Ssumier the best in all his future endeavours.” According to recent figures released by the tourism board, Jordon witnessed an increase of 18.40% in 2016 in arrivals.

While talking about his experience in Jordan, Pasricha said, “Visa on arrival, superb food, cosmopolitan culture and diversity makes Jordan a fantastic destination for the Indian traveller. I had a wonderful trip and a superb time filming my video series in Jordan. I am very honoured to receive this recognition from Think Strawberries, the Jordan Tourism Board Representative office in India and Embassy of Jordan in India.”

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Talking about Indian tourists in Jordan, the Board in a statement said, “The Indian traveller is very well informed, educated and evolved. After the usual rounds of nearby international destinations and domestic ones, they are now looking for something new, especially the offbeat and exotic destinations. They love to explore all the aspects of a destination – history, culture, cuisine and shopping.”

When asked about Pasricha, who was chosen for promotion purposes, the Board said, ” dynamic actor, great comedian, social media influencer, Ssumier Pasricha who plays the role of Pammi Aunty, has become a household name. With a high fan following connecting with all the segment of Indian audience, spread across length and breadth of the country, were the key factors in having Ssumier for the promotional campaign.”

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The Board also highlighted the role of social media in the country and its effect on the industry, “Social media is changing the business dynamics in the current scenario. Everyone wants to be present on social media as they understand the power of this platform, that helps to create a brand presence and enhance its demand. We are working on multiple social media platforms and marketing strategies to get the Jordan Tourism brand name popular among the Indian traveller,” a board official said.

Think Strawberries now the Exclusive Reseller for American Cruise Lines

Think Strawberries, a travel representation company, has entered a new business vertical as it has partnered with American Cruise Lines (ACL), as their exclusive ticket re-seller in India. This makes Think Strawberries the only company in India with rights to sell ACL tickets throughout the country. “With this partnership, we are confident of unlocking the full potential of the India growth story. With the Indian outbound at a record high, we are confident of strong numbers coming in from the region,” commented Susan Shultz, Director of Sales, ACL.

Talking about the new account, Amit Kishore, Co-founder, Think Strawberries said, “As outbound tourism from India is increasing at a fast pace, cruise tourism is getting a new boost. Cruise tourism has been the fastest growing sector of the travel industry.”

As International cruise liners are expressing interest in setting up shop in India as the market potential is showing a positive upward swing, this is a step in the right direction for Think Strawberries. India currently ranks as the 6th largest among Asian source markets of 2.1 mn cruise passengers. ASEAN is preparing the region for a projected 10-fold increase in cruise passengers to 4.5 mn by 2035 through infrastructure development, improved onshore activities, and training of staff.

ACL is a cruising company headquartered in Guilford, Connecticut, United States. Its modern ships are a testament to premier nautical engineering, luxurious comfort and river cruising convenience. The company’s fleet of vessels includes riverboats and coastal cruise ships which offer modern amenities, state-of-the-art navigation and safety equipment.

Jordan announces record growth of 18.40 per cent in India arrivals

Think Strawberries has set a goal to take Jordan to the position of ‘Most Desirable Destination’ for the Indian traveler by 2019.

The Jordan Tourism Board has announced the 2016 Indian arrival figures to Jordan. In a unprecedented trend, the same day visitor arrivals from India has declined by 4.50 per cent, which indicates that visitors are now spending more time in the country. Also, overnight visitors have shown an unprecedented growth of 18.40 per cent, which is an impressive figure.

The India Representative office of JTB, Think Strawberries has set a goal to take Jordan to the position of ‘Most Desirable Destination’ for the Indian traveler by 2019 by achieving higher visitor arrivals and increasing the overnight stay steadily.

Ashit Taneja, Country Manager, Jordan Tourism Board, India Office comments, “Jordan still is and will remain one of the safest destinations to visit. It is a very stable country with unique blend of culture, history, food, wellness, adventure and warm hospitality that continues to draw tourists from India and all over the world every year.”

Jordan offers an excellent blend of tradition, culture along with developed infrastructure and world class hospitality services. Jordanian food and the great experiences of Dead Sea, Petra and Wadi Rum make it distinct from other countries. We welcome the Indian tourist to Jordan and want them to come back to India with fond memories and memorable experiences.

Indians can avail of FREE Visa on arrival in Jordan since the beginning of 2016.

The requirements are:

* Book through Jordanian DMC/supplier and stay for minimum 2 nights with minimum 5 pax as a group

or

* Buy the Jordan Pass and stay for minimum 3 consecutive nights in Jordan. The Jordan Pass is the ultimate sightseeing ticket to Jordan. It offers hassle-free prepaid entry at a reduced rate to over 40 attractions in Jordan. Link and details to buy the Jordan Pass: https://www.jordanpass.jo/

If the traveler does not fulfill the requirements stated above, the traveler can pay USD 56 or JD 40 and still avail Visa on Arrival.

The basic formalities required for Indians who wish to avail this facility is:

  • USD 1000 cash per personp
  • Confirmed return ticket
  • Confirmed hotel reservation under travellers name
  • Passport validity of 6 months from date of arrival into Jordan

Taiwan Lantern Festival 2017: Of Dazzling Light Displays, Incredible Fireworks

In the former years of civilization, people observed multiple religious traditions and rituals with the sole motive of revering the Supreme Being. But as the time passed, not just beliefs, but also faiths and religions modified and grew. Interestingly, as the world turns into a global village, where all religious activities coexist, people – irrespective of their castes, creeds, religions – show no qualms in observing ceremonies together. And Taiwan Lantern Festival is one such occasion that is observed by people despite their different religions and rituals.

Much like Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, devotees in Taiwan illuminate and adorn their homes using lanterns, and colourful light bulbs to observe the Lantern Festival. Celebrated on the first full-moon night of the Lunar Year, the Lantern Festival is regarded as one of the key festivals in Taiwan.

The Origin

As far as the origin of the Lantern Festival is concerned, it is believed to have started by an emperor of the Han dynasty (206 B.C. – 220 A.D.). The emperor, a sincere Buddhist, had asked his people to exhibit lights on the fifteenth night of the first month of the Lunar Year to pay obeisance to Lord Buddha. According to the same legend, lanterns are held in hands on the same night to spot deities as they descend from heaven to bless the earth. If another legend in the Tang dynasty is anything to go by, the emperors would observe the festival by asking gorgeous women to croon and dance with lanterns.

These festive activities got popular with the commoners and turned into the most famous festival in the year after Chinese New Year.

The History

Since the festival was almost forgotten in the late ’80s, the Taiwan Tourism Bureau felt it was right to collect all the light displays in one spot to make people aware of the Lantern Festival. It started gaining huge popularity after it was first held in Taipei’s Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in 1990. After over a decade, in 2001, the festival was shifted from Taipei to Kaohsiung, with different cities in Taiwan being given turns to host every year.

Yunlin Hosts 2017 Taiwan Lantern Festival For First Time

“In Taiwan, the main lantern festival is held in different counties and this year, Yunlin County which is in the central part of Taiwan hosts the Lantern Festival,” says Shelley Shan, a local visitor.

While this is the first time in its 28-year-long history that Yunlin has been selected to host the festival, Shelley explains us the procedure that different counties need to follow to get selected. “The Lantern Festival is organized by the Tourism Bureau in Taiwan and each year the Lantern Festival takes place in a county. Different counties compete to host the festival. They have to propose – if they have specific plan for the festival and then the Toruism Bureau chooses which county they want for the concerned year,” she adds.

The Lantern Festival which was inaugurated on February 11 in Yunlin county in the southwestern part of Taiwan will continue until February 19. Since this year’s theme is ‘friendly earth, diverse cultures’, the focus of the festival include an eco-friendly approach and the varied traditions, cultures, and beliefs here. With residents and travelers attending the festivities from across the world, it has undoubtedly become popular with international tourists too. “I had only read about its celebrations – including lanterns, light displays in temples and firecrackers – on multiple websites. But to be in Taiwan and witness people as they end the Lunar New Year with a bang is an experience one would not want to miss out on,” says David, a traveler.

Noel Saxena, Country Head, Taiwan Tourism Bureau, Rep. Office managed by New Delhi-based Think Strawberries explains what helps the festival gain huge acceptance. “Several dance and music performances throughout the island depict their history and culture and keep the entire city into a festive mood. The lights and the decorations during this time are worth seeing. The colorful streets and the friendly people of Taiwan will make you feel at home,” he says.

Celebrations Begin

For the uninitiated, the festival is celebrated not just by focusing on lantern making and the displays of pretty lanterns, but by playing lantern riddle games too. As Shelley tells us, the festival is also important for tourists and residents alike because of the traditional festival food that is whipped up. “At the Lantern Festival, apart from the exhibition, people also like to eat rice dumplings. It is a dumpling with filling inside – usually it is very cold and people eat it to celebrate the festival and keep themselves warm,” she explains.

So if you have spent enough time appreciating the beauty around, make sure you also dig into the glutinous rice dumplings which usually come with sweet or savory fillings.

While Yunlin featured 19 light-themed and decorated areas to celebrate the Lantern Festival, Yanshui grabbed everyone’s attention with its cacophony of fireworks. For those who came in late, fireworks are used to call on the gods, the tiny town in the north of Tainan County certainly makes headlines as several thrill-seeking festival goers and visitors show no inhibitions in being hit by a barred enclosure filled with bottle rockets.

The Lantern Festival in Yanshui is called the Beehive Fireworks Festival because this barred enclosure turns into a horrid ‘hive of bees’ which are set off at the people. Traditionally, the idea of being hit by fireworks is referred to as an act that brings one good luck for the new year. For those who follow religious rituals, it is an activity that helps them endure the pain to exhibit their spiritual determination.

To ensure people aren’t hurt by the fireworks, they wear non-flammable clothes and don’t let their skin remain exposed. The best way to protect one’s head and face is by wearing a helmet that comes with a full-face visor. Next, wear a towel to the helmet that can be wrapped entirely around your neck. Since the air gets smoky and usually debris is thrown at the visitors from the exploded fireworks, make sure you wear a face mask.

So if you happen to be in Taiwan at this time, make sure you don’t miss out on its Lantern Festival celebrations. Much like any other festival across the world, it is significant for the culture, and explains how festivity is an interesting passageway to the most insightful aspects of life.

Travel entrepreneurs are seeking lower GST rates, here’s why

Come April 2017, India’s dream of ‘One Nation, One Tax’ would become a reality. With GST becoming operational, all kinds of goods and services will have to pay single tax instead of several service taxes they have to pay today. In keeping with the structure of India, GST will be levied concurrently by the Centre and the states.

It is being expected that GST will be kept at less than 19%, however, a final decision is yet to be reached. While most commoners feel relieved by this as they won’t have to calculate so many taxes, the travellers in the country might be adversely affected. This is because the travel industry in India is growing at an accelerated pace, and at this time, levying a GST higher than the current Service Tax would paralyse the sector.

Amit Kishore, co-founder, Think Strawberries, a pioneer in Global Travel Products in the Indian market, told Business Insider, “It’s (GST) an unknown commodity at the moment. We don’t know what the exact number would be. In normal case of GST, it is around 18-19%. But when it comes to the tourism industry, the centre has to be concessional otherwise the whole purpose of GST would be defeated. It will in fact defeat the whole purpose of promoting tourism.”

“The government needs to be very realistic with the figure. There are several complex components that have to be considered in this case. But it will have to be in the single digit. Right now we have a service tax component in travel industry, which is fixed below 5%. The hotel side is different. I am just talking about the package side. Who do you pay? GST has to be paid at source. But in travel package sale, there are so many sources. Since the govt seems to be pro tourism, they will hopefully understand,” he said.

For example, countries which made GST operational much before anyone else like France, Italy and Switzerland have tourism tax slabs of 5.5 %, 10 % and 3.6 % respectively compared to the standard GST rates of 19.6 %, 20 % and 7.6 % respectively for other sectors.

Most importantly, the air fares would rise an all time high. For example, even GST above 15% in domestic airlines will increase air fare for each person up to Rs 400 more, which is quite a deterrent for the sector.

Pradeep Kalra, Senior VP – Sales & Marketing, Sarovar Hotels believes, “…as is applicable in many countries, the rate of GST for the hotel industry in India should also be kept low. GST rates for hotel industry in countries like Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, and Thailand are as low as 7 %, making these countries cost effective and popular tourist destinations. We feel a low tax rate of 5 % on the industry here for at least five years would benefit the sector and increase the tourists’ inflow, which is currently the lowest in the world considering the size of the country.”

Seems like GST cap being planned is not too much of a good news for the travel sector!