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Wednesday, 19 January 2011

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Jetwing Sea opens

Seashells, located in Negombo re-opened as Jetwing Sea last Saturday. The Jetwing Hotels Chairman Hiran Cooray said, "It is a significant achievement and one that epitomizes the Jetwing promise of delivering highest quality and excellence in everything we do. We shall continue to strive, reach higher and bring you the best in service and standards that has become our very hallmark."

The chief guest at the occasion was Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa, and the guest of honour was External Affairs Minister Prof G L Peiris.


Associated Motorways Chairman Tilak de Zoysa lighting the oil lamp. Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa, Jetwing Chairman Hiran Cooray, External Affairs Minister Prof G L Pieris and Sri Lanka Tourism Chairman Nalaka Godahewa look on.


Pushpa Rajapaksa greeted by a Rev Sister.
Pictures by Chaminda Hittatiya

Pushpa Rajapaksa, Minister Basil Rajapaksa and Prof G L Pieris
enjoying the evening.

Ministers Basil Rajapaksa, Prof G L Pieris and MP Sudharshani Fernandopulle.

Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa and Jetwing Hotels Chairman Hiran Cooray in conversation at the opening.

A view of new Jetwing Sea at night.

The re-opened Jetwing Sea hotel, Negombo

Children playing on the beach.
 

Cuba likes US changes on travel to island

Cuba said Saturday it welcomes moves by the United States giving people greater flexibility to travel and send money to the island, state-run media said.

The United States on Friday eased restrictions on visas, remittances and travel under its embargo on Cuba. The White House said the changes would weaken the long-held grip on power of the communist Government in Havana.

The moves include expanding religious and educational travel between the United States and Cuba, allowing any US airport to offer charter flights to Cuba, and letting people send up to US $2,000 per year to non-family members "to support private economic activity, among other purposes."

The Government-run website Cubadebate.cu on Saturday posted Cuba's official reaction, which reminded that the embargo remains in place, with exceptions.

"Although these measures leave intact the blockade and don't substantially change Washington's policy, they reflect the consensus of large segments of the American people for a change of policy toward the island," the statement said.

The site, which publishes opinion pieces by former president Fidel Castro, said President Barack Obama's changes reflect US policy under former president Bill Clinton, who like Obama is a Democrat. President George W. Bush, a Republican, had tightened restrictions.

The White House said the measures will "increase people-to-people contact, support civil society in Cuba; enhance the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people and help promote their independence from Cuban authorities."

"The president," the statement continued, "believes these actions, combined with the continuation of the embargo, are important steps in reaching the widely shared goal of a Cuba that respects the basic rights of all its citizens."

The Cuban website said Obama pledged nearly two years ago to ease restrictions but then pulled back because of the December 2009 arrest of Alan Gross, a 61-year-old State Department contractor. Cuba claims Gross is a spy who was distributing cell phones and laptops to opponents of President Raul Castro's communist regime. Gross remains in jail but has not been formally charged.

The US embargo on Cuba was partially imposed in 1960, just after Fidel Castro staged his revolution, became law in 1962 and is now the biggest remaining hangover from the Cold War. The United States bans most trade with and travel to Cuba.

Obama has the power, under legislation passed in 2000, to regulate 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba. But he cannot lift the embargo unless authorized by Congress, an unlikely prospect.

AFP


European tourists evacuated from Tunisia

European tour operators on Saturday evacuated thousands of vacationers from Tunisia after a wave of unrest forced the president from power and left the popular tourist destination reeling.

French tour operator Ceto warned it could take a few days to bring home the estimated 8,000 French visitors, due to the evening curfew and the need to find planes and arrange special flights, said group head Rene-Marc Chikli.

Tunisia reopened all airports and its airspace on Saturday after they were apparently closed the day before as deposed president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali prepared to flee the country, ultimately heading to Saudi Arabia although a civil aviation official later denied there was any temporary closure.

In London, Europe's biggest tour company Thomas Cook along with First Choice said they hoped to bring back nearly all their 1,500 clients within the next day. They have scheduled seven flights out of Tunisia on Saturday.

The British tour operators association ABTA said it did not have precise figures on the number of Britons in Tunisia in the midst of political turmoil but estimated they numbered between 2,000 to 3,000.

Chikli like other operators interviewed by AFP insisted that their clients were "secure in their hotels." At the same time, all planned excursions to the north African country in the immediate future have been suspended.

Tourists whose holiday plans have been suddenly disrupted have a couple of options, Claire Banham, a spokeswoman for ABTA said.

"One of them will be to rebook at a later stage. One would be to look at an alternative holiday. And a third and this applies to package holidays, would be a full refund from the tour operator," she said.

But the French and British foreign ministries and those of other countries have again "strongly" advised their citizens "to avoid all travel that is not of an urgent nature" to Tunisia.

"The situation can rapidly change and is unpredictable," the British Foreign Office said.

A similar warning came from Moscow which said some 250 Russian citizens had sought the warm sunshine in Tunisia but were expected to be repatriated on Sunday.

Operators like Germany's TUI tourism group said they were using the airports at Monastir and Djerba as arranging flights out of the capital Tunis were a bit more difficult.

"It appears that all our clients are going to leave Tunisia today," said Ulla Buchert, a TUI representative, whose clients number about 1,000 out of the estimated 5,000 German tourists in the country.

Thomas Cook said it expects to repatriate 1,800 people to Germany.

Belgian operator Jetair said it was bringing home 1,000 clients to Brussels this weekend and Thomas Cook's local branch about 360 people on Saturday.

"Everything went well from the hotels to the airports," said Thomas Cook Belgium's spokesman Baptiste van Outryve. "The evening was calm." Swiss tour giant Kuoni said that all 230 of the company's Swiss clients in Tunisia have been contacted.

AFP


Catamarans race in Negombo


A line of catamarans setting out to the horizon. Pictures by Kumarasiri Prasad

Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) in collaboration with the Negombo Hoteliers’ Association conducted a catamaran race under the January theme of Pristine Beaches.

 

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