Here’s your weekly dose of travel updates!

Check out the latest news and updates about the travel and tourism industry from around the world.

1. Kochi makes it to Conde Nast Traveller’s ‘Best Places to Visit in Asia in 2024’ list

A must inclusion in any Kerala tour package, the vibrant city of Kochi has been featured in Conde Nast Traveller’s list of the Best Places to Visit in Asia in 2024. The city was praised for its sustainable initiatives and local festivals, as well as its waterways, lagoons, and rivers. Conde Nast especially lauded Kochi’s water metro system, which was launched in 2021 and expected to become fully solar powered by late 2024 as a part of efforts to transform Kerala into a solar powerhouse after the city’s airport became the first airport in the world to operate solely on solar energy.

2. Coming soon: CTX Machines at Bangalore Airport, to eliminate the need to put electronic gadgets in trays during security check

The Bangalore International Airport is introducing Computer Tomography X-ray (CTX) machines to improve security screening for passengers. The CTX machine is expected to be operational by December 2023 and integrates with the Automatic Tray Retrieval System and full-body scanners. The trial, initially focused on domestic passengers, will eliminate the need for removing personal electronic devices during security checks. Major airports in India like Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore are implementing similar measures to enhance passenger convenience and security screening processes.

3. Rare Red Aurora spotted in Ladakh

The Indian Astronomical Observatory has captured the second aurora light this year, following the first on April 23. Usually, the lights are in the shades of greens and blues, however, this time the aurora danced in rare shades of reds. The aurora or northern lights is seen when plasma from solar flares interacts with Earth’s magnetic field, with intense events being more visible in places closer to the equator. The number of solar flares on the Sun increases and decreases over an 11-year cycle, with the peak expected in 2025.

4. Ladakh to get South East Asia’s 1st Night Sky Sanctuary

Stargazers rejoice! Ladakh is set to become Southeast Asia’s first Night Sky Sanctuary, marking a significant step in India’s astro-tourism initiatives. The sanctuary will be established at Hanle village, within the Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary. Located at a height of 4500m, the sanctuary will offer exceptional stargazing conditions and will be a hub for optical, infra-red, and gamma-ray telescopes. The initiative will boost local tourism and the economy, aligning with India’s space achievements and commitment to sustainability. 

5. The Southernmost tip of India, Indira Point to be developed as a major tourism destination

The Indian Government is planning to develop Indira Point on Great Nicobar Island as a major tourist destination. The project is part of the Maritime India Vision 2030 initiative, which aims to strengthen marine infrastructure in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the Lakshadweep islands. The first phase of the project will focus on 4 islands in Andaman & Nicobar and 5 in Lakshadweep, followed by 12 more islands in the former and 5 in the latter during the second phase.

6. Mumbai to get annual ‘Mumbai Festival’ from January 2024

The iconic city of Mumbai is set to host the annual Mumbai Festival 2024 from January 20 to 28, 2024. The theme of this 9-day festival is ‘Everyone’s Invited’, which highlights how the city of dreams welcomes everyone with open arms. This festival will feature various events such as a Mumbai Walks, Music Fest, Maha Mumbai Expo, Cinema and Beach Fests, Earth Movie Contest, Cricket Clinic, etc. The festival aims to capture the essence of Mumbai and celebrate the city’s indomitable spirit. The festival logo and theme, ‘Sapno ka Gateway,’ were unveiled recently.

7. Gulmarg Gondola receives more than 9 Lakh tourists this year

According to the reports, over 9 lakh tourists have taken the Gulmarg Gondola ride this year, making it a standout highlight of any Jammu and Kashmir tour package. The Gondola, operated by the J&K Cable Car Corporation, is Asia’s highest operating cable car and rises to an altitude of 14,000 feet. The officials predict the numbers to surpass a million by the year’s end. The Corporation has revamped the ticketing system, conducted rigorous safety tests, and implemented cutting-edge technology to overhaul the second phase of the Gondola.

8. First direct train between Jammu and Kashmir to reduce travel time from 6 hours to just 3.5 hours

The Indian Railways is nearing completion of the Udhampur-Baramulla rail link project, which will connect the Kashmir Valley with the rest of the country. This project will reduce travel time between Srinagar and Jammu from 6 hours to 3.5 hours and facilitate the transportation of goods, particularly horticulture items. The project is expected to be completed as scheduled, with an inauguration planned for December 2023 or January 2024. The government plans to introduce the Vande Bharat Metro train service between Jammu and Srinagar.

9. Madhya Pradesh’s Damoh to get India’s Largest Tiger Reserve

In order to boost tourism in the region, the Central Government has given approval to merge Nauradehi Sanctuary with the Durgavati Sanctuary in Damoh district of Madhya Pradesh. This merger will result in India’s largest tiger reserve which will be spread across a whopping 2,300 sq kms. Apart from boosting local economy and tourism, the reserve is expected to provide a safe haven to the current tiger population in the region while attracting more tigers which will increase its importance in the conservation efforts of tigers.   

10. West Bengal’s 1st Lion Safari to come up in Siliguri

The West Bengal Forest Department and North Bengal Animals Park authorities are set to launch the state’s 1st Lion Safari at the Siliguri Animal Park. The safari, which will feature a pair of female lions from Alipur Zoo and another pair from Tripura, is expected to start in January 2024. Construction works for the enclosure and night shelters are nearing completion. The park, spread across 297 hectares, is already a popular attraction for tourists and locals in the region. The addition of the lion safari is expected to further enhance the park’s appeal.

11. Karnataka’s Shravanabelagola and Lakkundi proposed to be added to the UNESCO World Heritage List

The State Department of Archeology Museums and Heritage have proposed Shravanabelagola in Hassan and Lakkundi in Gadag districts of Karnataka, for the UNESCO World Heritage list. Shravanabelagola, a Jain pilgrimage site, features the tallest monolithic statue of Gomateshwara, carved from a single stone in 981 CE. Whereas Lakkundi, a lesser-known destination, features over 50 ruins of ancient temples and 100 stepwells. If the proposal is accepted the number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India will go up from 42 to 44!

12. Swadesh Darshan 2.0: 15 destinations in the Northeast shortlisted for development in order to boost tourism

The Government of India has selected 15 destinations in the northeast for development under the Swadesh Darshan 2.0 scheme. The move is aimed at boosting tourism in the 8 states and help in further development in the region. Northeastern states, some of which share borders with other countries, are known for their pristine beauty, blessed with majestic hills, scenic waterfalls and adventurous treks, and many of these sites have not been explored by tourists in general. The destinations include 1from Manipur and 2 each from the seven other states in the northeast.

13. Visa Updates:

  • Malaysia becomes visa free for Indians from December 1, 2023 – Indian travellers will now be able to travel to 30 countries without a visa! Malaysia has announced its decision to allow visa-free entry for Indian and Chinese citizens with effect from December 1, 2023. Under the new visa-free rule, Indian travellers can stay for up to 30 days without a visa, but security screenings will continue. Countries like Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Thailand have already announced visa-free entry for Indians until March 31 and May 10, 2024 respectively.
  • US to soon have ‘paperless visa’, successfully completes pilot project in Dublin – The United States has successfully completed a pilot project for paperless visas. The initiative, tested at the US diplomatic mission in Dublin, aims to streamline the US visa process and reduce reliance on physical documents. Paperless visas are electronic visas, stored in a secure government database, eliminating the need for passport processing, reducing risk of lost or damaged passports, and simplifying visa status verification.
  • Record number of US student visa issued to Indians in the last year, policy changes for US student visa appointments announced – The United States issued more than 1,40,000 US student visas to Indians last year creating a record. The US mission in India set a goal of issuing 1 million US visa to Indians this year which they have achieved several months in advance. The US Embassy in India has implemented a policy change requiring all F, M, and J student visa applicants to use their own passport information for appointment scheduling. Applications with incorrect passport information will be rejected.
  • UK visa: Indians top the charts for work, health and care and study visa categories – India continues to top the UK visa recipients list, with Indians dominating the ‘Skilled Worker’ and ‘Health and Care’ UK visa categories. In the UK student visa category, 43% of students granted permission to stay on the post-study Graduate visa are Indians. The number of sponsored UK study visa granted to Indians is nearly five times higher than that in the previous year.

14. Airline Updates:

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