Flights to Nowhere

“Necessity is the mother of invention”.

We have all heard this saying time and again. And yet it is in the most crucial times that we begin to see the real meaning behind it.

At a time when most people are stuck at home and unable to travel,most of us are missing the wonderful experiences that travelling offers.

So what if I told you, that you can still have a small part of that experience, would you believe it?

Airlines across Brunei, Taiwan, Japan and Australia have started booking flights that start and end in the same place. Some airlines call these “scenic flights”; others are more direct, calling them “flights to nowhere.”

With the global airline industry decimated by the pandemic, flights that take-off and return to the same airport a few hours later allow airlines to keep their staff working as well as satisfy that itch to travel — even if it’s just being on a plane again.

Take for instance an 85-minute flying experience on Royal Brunei Airlines, on its flight to nowhere, which is a “dine and fly” program, where the airline serves local cuisine to passengers while flying over the country.

Or the Taiwanese airline EVA Air that filled all of its 309 seats on its Hello Kitty-themed A330 Dream jet for Father’s Day in Taiwan, and Japan’s All Nippon Airways whichhad a Hawaiian-resort-themed, 90-minute-flight with 300 people on board.

Qantas, which announced its ‘flight to nowhere’ over Australia, sold out within 10 minutes. The flight will take travelers around Australia, flying over the Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales.

The airline also recently brought back its popular sightseeing flights to Antarctica that don’t actually land in Antarctica, but allow passengers to walk around and have different views of the continent.

 ‘Flights to nowhere’ may give travellers their plane fix. But we also have to consider looking at the bigger picture here. Are we considering the impact of the carbon emissions from these flights, which could also affect the environment? I think airlines should primarily consider using bio fuel for such flights to minimize the carbon emissions.

Although flights to nowhere come with significant costs for the airline, industry experts have said they are likely to break even on them, if not make a small profit. Although how much of a fundamental change to the bottom line of this struggling industry will be, is yet to be seen.

We all know that planes are meant to be flying and their engines need to be revved up every few weeks to them in ship shape. According to Civil Aviation Authority’s even pilots need to perform at least three take-offs and landings every 90 days for the specific type of aircraft they are qualified to fly to keep their licenses valid . However, pilots may also meet this requirement by using a flight simulator.

Given these points, some may argue flights to nowhere can kill two birds with one stone by keeping planes and pilots in tip-top shape, while generating profit from travel-starved passengers. But while all this is an amusing distraction, it’s just not the same.

Flying, for many, still represents the freedom from boundaries and the gateway to new experiences and opportunities. Flights to nowhere are also an experience some may crave, and perhaps would utilise planes that would have been flown anyway for maintenance purposes.

But the environmental campaigners have condemned the rise of such scenic “joy flights” as the cost of a flight to nowhere is still outweighed by that of air travel as a whole. While there may be technology solutions for cutting the emissions for aviation in the future, there are few options available today beyond simply flying less. Airlines therefore must push for research and development of long-term and green solutions to be both sustainably and economically viable.

-Madhavi

OS:NYTimes;SkyNews;ChannelNewsAsia

Look beyond the horizon

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Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, travel has grounded to a complete halt. Critical client meetings have been moved to Zoom, frequent-flier cards have gathered dust and we communicate with colleagues, friends and family around the world without jumping on a plane.

Uncertain is a buzzword making its way into most conversations at the moment, on travel specifically or when speaking about the future in general.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, in 2019, travel and tourism’s direct, indirect and induced impact accounts for 10.3 percent of the global GDP and 330 million jobs around the world (that is 1 in 10 jobs).

The damage done by the pandemic is yet to be completely accounted for and not only in terms of revenue lost, but also from the loss of jobs and more importantly livelihood, for the multitude of people working in the travel, tourism and hospitality industries. The crisis has left the industry at rock bottom. With many airlines going under, it seems likely that many of those jobs aren’t coming back anytime soon — if ever.

Prior to the pandemic, with the economy on solid ground, investment in the travel industry boomed. Now, this massive engine of growth has been thrown into reverse as Covid-19 continues to ping-pong around the globe.

But alas that was the economy we once knew.

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We’re all struggling to understand how quickly travel will recover in terms of the magnitude of the impact the pandemic has caused. Recovery from past events like 9/11 or the global financial crisis generally took two to three years, but even then these events did not entail the months-long shutdown of virtually all of global travel.

And health concerns also were not an issue in either of the events. And that makes it even harder to predict how soon fliers may feel comfortable exposing themselves to strangers once again, or fellow passengers not wearing masks and a general discomfort around flying. The scars inflicted on travel and tourism look to be permanent as most tourism related companies shift away from massive travel budgets and experiential living becomes a memory.

The former strength of the travel and leisure sector was a convergence of demographic and economic factors such as lifestyle changes among the middle class who had been bitten by the ‘flying bug’ and were eager to see the world beyond the local tourism segments, availability of resources to spend freely on leisure and business travel, and millennial and solo travellers who lived to taste the bigger chunk of travel related experiences.

This massive pullback in both business and leisure travel is apt to inflict the deepest economic pain on both the airline as well as the hospitality sectors. According to IATA the industry is unlikely to come back on its feet as it were to pre-covid days, until the 2024 or even later, provided the vaccine is available soon.

All over the globe with countries most dependant on tourism such as Mexico, Spain, Italy, China and Australia, are struggling to find an answer to the crises as cases show a resurgence of a second wave.

And that is the case of just the developed world, many emerging markets that are highly dependent on travel and tourism will be devastated if the pandemic continues to spread over time.

Travel is a massive services export for many countries. As the recession caused by the pandemic becomes apparent, the task to rebuild and renew the travel and hospitality industry once again will be a long and ongoing process for years to come.

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So how does the future of travel look like? 

Well travelling will make a come-back again, that’s for sure. But it will be a privilege with people making considered choices about not only how and where they travel but also why they want to travel.

After being cooped up for so long, travellers will more responsible and conscientious as they seek out serene holiday spots, which will give them peace, simplicity and a desire to reconnect with nature.

People are likely to take fewer holidays, with the journey and experience being just as important as the destination.

The travel corridors which have recently been created by many countries are a great first step in rebooting the travel industry. In the immediate future, both staycations and trips which offer greater connection with local communities, and supporting travel brands that prioritize and implement environmentally sustainable tourism will lead the way.

Of course the truly deciding factor will be safety – moving forward travellers will want clear and transparent communication from the tourism councils, government, destinations, tour operators and other travel providers reassuring them that it is safe to travel.

The situation that we are currently experiencing is universal. And although is a time none of us ever wanted to see in our lifetime, what makes me hopeful is that this situation has somehow generated the opportunity for people to feel united again. This challenging period made people more sensitive and connected to each other, more concerned about their health and well-being, keener to find their real selves, and also to look for balance and meaning in their lives.

It was also a chance for nature to take a break and breathe, as well as to remind us of the importance of living in simplicity and purity.

As Ancient Greeks used to say, “All in good measure.”

-Madhavi

 

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OS- Bloomberg Opinion;BBC News;Forbes

 

 

 

 

 

 

The charm of Home stays can never go away!

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Over the past decade, a booming demand of tourists had AirBnb connect fly-by-night tourists and short-term renters to “cozy” lofts and five-star “experiences” at homes in exotic locations.

But today if you could freely walk the world’s most famous city streets, you would see humanity stopped in its tracks. National lockdowns and global travel bans have emptied bustling hotspots like Sydney’s Opera House, Bangkok’s night markets, the Louvre Museum in Paris and the Colosseum in Rome. Global tourism is slammed shut, and the ecosystem that sprang up around them has fallen flat.

Along with air travel, the hotel and AirBnb segment too witnessed a massive drop in numbers. Apartments -read AirBnb- once reserved for well-heeled tourists have seen bookings slump anywhere from 41% to 96%. Some of them are either on long-term rentals or recently offered to health workers in solidarity.

However as lockdown restrictions are eased in several countries, many in the travel industry are hoping that the businesses can resume in the coming months.

Although it is too soon in the day to have the same number of holiday makers as pre -COVID, the entire travel industry is pretty gung ho about the fact that by the end of the year, people would once again have the confidence to travel just as before December 2019

Airbnb-Cleaning

Of course the onus to maintain sanitation and safety falls on all the stake-holders here, and with higher cleaning standards, hygiene and physical (and not ‘social’) distancing, business will once again continue in a new form, and of course as a new normal.

Throughout Europe where customer confidence is returning post the lifting of lockdown, domestic AirBnb reservations are seeing a glimmer of hope for the Hospitality industry that’s been the hardest hit.

Hotel data confirms that most properties almost everywhere in the world are operating at just 10-15 per cent occupancy. COVID-19 is having a more devastating and sudden impact on the travel business than 9/11 and the 2009 financial crisis combined.

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And to say that restoring customer trust in this global crisis is of utmost importance for returning customers, both in the air and on ground.

AirBnb had announced that a new cleaning protocol with expert-backed cleaning materials for hosts will include a learning and certification programme.

It is up to the host to maintain strict cleanliness and preventive measures. The protocol will also help to space out reservations to have 24 hours between people entering a room. . Alternatively, hosts can monitor physical distancing by instituting a 72-hour booking buffer in between stays.

AIRBNB

Hotels are instituting similarly stringent cleaning policies and protocols. Most hotels are using “enhanced cleaning standards” and a “reduction of touch points” such as tablets or remote controls. The famous ‘breakfast buffets’ are a thing of the past. Most of them are making sure that public space and guest room surfaces are thoroughly treated with hospital-grade disinfectants and are also testing “electrostatic sprayers” to disinfect entire guest areas.

The major concern here is around rebuilding consumer confidence and trust. The tidal wave of cancellations that came along with COVID-19 suddenly made travelers aware of the wide range of terms in bookings — from no-penalty, last-minute cancellations to full liability even months in advance of a trip. Of course this trend will still continue.

Travel in this new world will look different, and feel different. Although it will be a long time before things go back to being anywhere near normal, I am sure along with other things, AirBnb will also evolve accordingly.

As travelers are more likely to skip big cities, staycations in domestic markets and home rentals in smaller townships will see a boom, which will also contribute to positive growth in other micro businesses such as local eateries and local crafts.

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People will want options that are closer to home, a lot safer, and more affordable. But people will also yearn for something that feels like it’s been taken away from them—human connect.  And they also want to go back -back to their roots, back to the basics, and back to what is truly special —everyday people who host in their homes and offer memorable experiences!

-Madhavi

OS: Theprint; Euronews; CNtraveller
PC:Skift;Tripoto;Airbnb;NBC15

 

Jet ….set….GO

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Up in the air- that’s where they are supposed to be….yes I am talking about planes here.  All those lean mean flying machines that have been grounded due to this disastrous pandemic.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is a UN specialized agency, that manages the administration and governance of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention) in support of a safe, efficient, secure, economically sustainable and environmentally responsible civil aviation sector.

The ICAO Council has adopted a new task force produced by the Council’s Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART) and is aimed at restarting the international air transport system and aligning its global recovery, post COVID 19 .

The ICAO along with CART has resolved to partner with its Member States, international and regional organizations, and industry to address the various challenges and to provide global guidance for a safe, secure and sustainable restart and recovery of the aviation sector, keeping the health, safety, and security of the travelling public of paramount concern.

This restart and recovery is best supported by an international approach and is based on 10 key principles:

  1. Protect people: harmonized but flexible measures;
  2. Work as one aviation team and show solidarity;
  3. Ensure essential connectivity;
  4. Actively manage safety-, security- and health-related risks;
  5. Make aviation public health measures work with aviation safety and security systems;
  6. Strengthen public confidence;
  7. Distinguish restart from recovery;
  8. Support financial relief strategies to help the aviation industry;
  9. Ensure sustainability;
  10. Learn lessons to improve resilience.

Globally- and regionally-harmonized, mutually-accepted measures are essential. The success of aviation’s recovery  and to reinforce the aviation ecosystem today and in the future will be best achieved with collective efforts among stakeholders across regions and sectors, with rigorous follow-up to the recommendations and measures outlined in the report across all levels, local, national and international.

The world needs aviation and aviation today is in great need of a thrust that will enable planes to be airborne once again. Solidarity among all countries and regions and industry sectors will be extremely critical going forward. Restoring public confidence in air travel is not only imperative but it has some broad benefits too.

It is not only about the operational and economic viability of the aviation sector that is important here. But also of having the faith , the economic livelihoods and the stability of the massive number of people working at the frontline and the back offices in this industry, restored.

For more detailed report check out the ICAO page here

 

Happy flying again

Madhavi

 

 

 

OS:ICAO

 

 

 

It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?

travel

A long time since you packed your bags and set off on that much needed holiday.

A long time, since you were excited to see that landmark and click pictures near it.

A long time since you planned and wanted to take that road trip with your friends.

A long time, since you met your family and friends living across the shores.

A long time since you exchanged hugs and kisses and had some amazing meals with them.

A long time, since those early morning wake up calls, to watch the sunrise or have a swim with the dolphins.

A long time since you walked the unfamiliar streets of a new destination and caught the eye of a stranger.

A long time, since you had a stroll in the green spaces of a different city.

A long time, since you were stopped in your tracks  by an entertainer in the middle of a piazza.

A long time, since you skipped lunch to gorge on a variety of ice creams and frozen gelatos

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Days, weeks and months flew by. Hasn’t it?

Oh how I am craving to do all this real soon.

My heart is longing to travel the world again.

I am so eager to stand in the queue of the immigration again.

To wait in line for boarding a flight.

For sleeping through a long haul flight.

For smelling the clean pristine air of a different country.

To eat at new places , to sightsee , to shop, so much more to do yet …….

The good life is calling out to me.

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And I am very sure that we all will be able to soon fly out of our nests to roam the world like free birds.

SOON !!

Keeping a very very positive mindset here !!!!!

-Madhavi

 

 

 

How COVID-19 will change the way you travel

covid travel 1

COVID -19 is like the monster that engulfed the entire world in its pandemic circle too fast. Most countries did not have time to even prepare for the basics, leave aside eventualities.

Besides targeting people’s health this pandemic has also devastated businesses around the globe leading to unprecedented job losses, closures of establishments and doom as far as economy goes – worst since the Great Depression of 1930s.

Every component of the Travel and Tourism industry, including air, rail,  ground transport  and hotels & restaurants are the most severely hit sectors globally, as the outbreak continues to take its toll.

What is now important is to try to plan ahead of the curve , to re-imagine and re-shape the new reality of travel.

covid travel 3

Social distancing – the new norm?

After this contagion has been contained, international travel may not be a top priority for the majority of the global population, partly out of fear (until a vaccine is found), and partly due to the collapse of the economy.

Airlines and airports will have to work together in tandem to bring back customer confidence, and to support a new way of travelling defined by social distancing and increased sanitization.

Although compulsory, this could be particularly challenging for smaller airports which tend to have large crowds of people due to relatively small spaces.

Managing large queues in typically congested areas such as check-in halls and security/immigration checkpoints poses an additional challenge.

Queue management will have to be enforced strictly which could ‘up your time taken door to door’ with longer pre check in times and longer wait at security and immigration.

Of course technology will have to take a leap forward and enable airports and airlines overcome the hurdles of this new reality; besides a lot of self discipline amongst travellers.

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Automation will become paramount

All elements of the industry will have to make swift progress to re-imagine, re-shape and re-invent travel.

A range of contactless, self-service technologies to screen the vital signs of passengers, and baggage drops will have to be implemented by majority of airports. And for this the demand for automation, robotics and biometrics, will only become stronger.

The implementation of biometric E-gates may somewhat cut queuing times in the future but getting a number of airports e-enabled could be a mammoth task as of now.

With a lot of people unlikely to be wanting to touch surfaces and interact with agents as little as possible, automating as many passenger processes as possible will be crucial.

Maybe scanners on the lines of CCTV and surveillance platforms could be adapted to spot passengers who are indicating potential illness symptoms.

And of course carrying a certificate of immunity along with other travel documents will become mandatory.

To take things really out of hand, so to speak, passengers may turn to using their own devices at every touch point – right from checking in and navigating through the terminal, to controlling In flight entertainment  creating a real opportunity for airlines to promote relevant ancillary services though their mobile apps.

covid travel 2

Reconsider flight schedules

Most airlines especially those who have quick turnarounds between flights will have to look at rescheduling their time table to ensure thorough sanitizing of the aircraft while on the ground/in transit.

Cabin decontamination will have to be given centre stage to reassure passengers and crew that the cabins are sanitized and healthy.

However, reduced turnaround time has always been a weapon for airlines to cut costs, and also to keep airports profitable, so this would certainly pose a big challenge to the industry.

Also in the immediate future airlines will also have to consider using “social distancing” within the aircraft. The “seat separating” approach in which every second seat in the aircraft would have to be left unoccupied.

This would present another financial blow to airlines. But looking at a different point of view here, giving passengers a vacant space could also provide a sort of “a new premium travel experience” since passengers are guaranteed of having an empty seat next to them.

Although this could have a positive passenger experience so to speak, will the airlines charge more in such case? …. and more importantly will the passengers be willing to pay more.

If industry veterans are to be believed it will take a year to 18 months to reach anywhere near pre-crisis traffic levels, and the industry may not record pre-COVID-19 traffic volumes again before the end of 2021.

But at the same time, it is important to remember that while this crisis has put immediate growth ambitions on hold; all stakeholders should use the real opportunity for meaningful innovation and transformation to be accelerated.

Ultimately, airports and airlines must take action now to help secure consumer confidence and ensure they are well placed when the demand for air travel inevitably returns; and also be future-ready!

ny9

 

 

-Madhavi

 

 

OS:FTE
OP: AirlineTrends;TravelDaily; GoogleNews

Use Technology to your advantage…Take a virtual tour

virtual 1

The last few days have been excruciatingly difficult for each one of us. With the entire world in a state of lock down and restricted movements, with governments telling us to stay at home and to only go outside for food, health reasons , and maintain social distancing, the one thing we shouldn’t neglect to do is look after our mental health .

Since many of our regular social activities are no longer available to us, let us look at things from a broader perspective.

Let’s follow a different rhythm of life, a chance to be in touch with others in different ways than usual.

Let’s be in touch with other people regularly on social media, e-mail or on the phone.

Create new daily routines that prioritise looking after yourself.  Read, watch movies, try new relaxation techniques, or finding new knowledge on the internet.

With all travel ceasing, a good way to indulge in your wanderlust is to make full use of technology and take a virtual trip to anywhere you like, without spending a dime and leaving your room.

If you’re seeking a bit of adventure, check out Google Maps’ virtual treks.

You can hop from climbing El Capitan in Yosemite to journeying around Petra in Jordan to braving the icy terrain and looking for polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba in just a matter of minutes.

So go ahead and enjoy this virtual vacation.

The only remaining question: Will you watch from your bed or your couch?

 

Stay safe.

Madhavi

 

 

 

 

 

Ecotourism-the need of the hour

kaala-pathar-beach

Ecotourism also called sustainable tourism can be defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education meant to be inclusive of both staff and guests.

Ecotourism is a part of environmental conservation, and a form of sustainable travel that supports the local environment instead of putting more pressure on it and exploiting its resources.

Things are rarely simple, however, and ecotourism is a complex concept. Its importance is growing more and more each year, as more and more people travel farther and farther away.

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The most important thing here is how aware are you as a tourist. Not only should you be aware of your impact both on the local environment and on the local community, but you should try, within reasonable limits, to reduce this impact. Common themes in this context are recycling, responsible water consumption, local craftsmanship, and cycling or walking as opposed to driving. A great emphasis is placed on protecting local species, especially the threatened species.

It’s also important not to be fooled by pleasant words — a vacation isn’t “ecotourism” just because it says so on the brochure, without any actual justification.

Ecotourism is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the tourism industry, and tour operators will try to lure clients using eco-advertising.

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Looking at things from a wider perspective, it’s also about the size of the groups. You can’t do mass-ecotourism, it’s an oxymoron — ecotourism has to be done in small or medium groups.

If the industry sources are to be believed, the world’s airlines are estimated to be carrying close to 5.9 billion passengers by 2030. There’s no getting around it: as living standards increase globally, tourism is set to grow. Which means we will obviously be putting a huge burden on the already crumbling environments, as tourism places a substantial burden on ecosystems?

Tourism also necessitates additional infrastructure, such as water treatment plants, sanitation facilities, and lodging. Oftentimes, local communities are not able to sustainably offer these conditions and the results are devastating. Especially in vulnerable areas, the increase in visitors can lead to significant environmental degradation. Wherever people go, they leave behind garbage – and even if it is left in bins, it can still create a dangerous imbalance.

Safaris and animal photographing can scare creatures. Feeding wildlife can teach them bad habits and leave them depending on humans. Even just walking can lead to soil erosion and destruction of animal paths. It can be hard to accept, but everything we do has an impact on wildlife – we should be conscious of this.

The world absolutely needs more ecotourism. It teaches travelers to be more attuned to the pristine areas of the world, it helps educate people, and it provides funds for conservation as well as for local communities

Agreed that the terms ‘ecotourism’ and ‘sustainable tourism’ are an oxymoron on the whole, and that you can’t travel in a way that helps the environment, since you will be leaving your carbon footprint as you fly.

But there is still so much you can do to reduce your impact and at least in some aspects, even make a positive difference. There is always room for improvement. Here’s how.

  • Minimize impact. If you must, travel by plane. If you can avoid it, try a train instead. Walk or bike instead of driving or at the very least, use public transportation. Respect local resources and don’t waste.
  • Provide direct financial benefits for conservation. If it’s real ecotourism, much of the money you’re paying will go to conservation.
  • Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people. Buy local, authentic products – they’re higher quality, genuine, and they support the locals. This way, they get much more financial benefits than from mass tourism – even if the number of tourists is much lower.
  • An important fact of eco-friendly travels is avoiding “green” traps. Some people mistake any form of nature travel with ecotourism. Just because you’re in nature doesn’t mean you’re doing something right – on the contrary, it often means that your impact is high and negative. Things like jungle travelor adventure travel are not eco-friendly and shouldn’t be confused as such even though many touristic operators use buzz words like “green” or “eco-friendly” – this is a clear case of green washing.

Safareya local

That’s the bottom line; ecotourism should concern three main things:

  1. the wellbeing of the local environment
  2. the wellbeing of the locals
  3. The high-quality experience of the tourist.

 

It’s a way to make a massive difference and it’s something which I hope more and more people will start doing.

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-M

 

 

Celebrating Shiv Ratri in the oldest city of the world.

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Varanasi also known as Benaras or Kashi, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, and is regarded as the holiest place in the world in Hinduism.

According to legend, the city was founded by the Hindu deity, Lord Shiva, around 5,000 years ago, thus making it one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in the country.  In Hindu cosmology, the city is considered the, “center of Earth”, and most religious activity here occurs around stair structures called ‘Ghats’.

Mark Twain described Varanasi as “older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together”.

Varanasi is a bridge or ‘tirtha’ between heaven and earth, a crossing point where Gods visit this world and mortals travel to the next. The city is known for its belief that any one leaving his / her mortal body here, goes to heaven in their afterlife. Its location on the banks of the sacred Ganges River also contributes to its prestige as an important site of pilgrimage.

There is possibly not a single month, when Varanasi is not preparing or in the midst of a festival. The city celebrates its festivals with such zealous fervour, that it is difficult not to get drawn into the carnivalesque atmosphere. Pick any month and you will find some festival to plan your trip around. There is never a dull moment in the city.

The city known as the spiritual capital of India, has one of the most important Shiva temples in the country and hence it’s quite natural that Maha Shivaratri (the wedding of Shiva & Parvati) is celebrated here in a grand manner. Mahashivratri, “The Great Night of Shiva” is considered the most significant event in India’s spiritual calendar.

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The festival sees more than a million Hindus from all over India, converge at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, one of the most famous Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva.

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The city is thrown into frenzy as hundreds of small troupes carry bedecked Shiva idols in processions to the Shiva temples. The preparation starts early in the morning with a parade that starts from and ends at the Tilbhandeshwar temple. The procession lasts roughly about 5 hours and it is celebrated with loud music in the background and people consuming Bhaang (a form of marijuana legal and common in Varanasi) and dancing in the procession. As marijuana is considered as the blessing of Lord Shiva, a lot of people do it here for religious reasons. After the procession, everyone returns back to the temple, offers their prayers and perform rituals.

Out of the 88 Ghats in Varanasi the most popular one is the Dashashwamedh Ghat. It attracts a large gathering every evening, when a group of priests performs a synced ritual known as Ganga aarti -to praise and pray to Goddess Ganges with lights, Conch sounds and bell ringing along with Vedic chants.

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The aarti is always carried out facing the river Ganga. It starts by lightning up the multi-tiered brass lamps, along with a well synchronised chanting of mantras and blowing the conch shells. The shells are known to sanctify the atmosphere. The other remaining priests light the incense sticks and offer it to the goddess in a clockwise circle.

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Witnessing the Ganga aarti is no less than a spectacle. The energy around this daily ritual fills your core with peace and tranquillity.

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Maha Shivratri falls on 21st February this year.

 

-M

 

PC: AirPano.com;VaranasiTourism; Youtube;Indiatimes;

 

Family friendly holidays

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Summer is just a few months away. It’s about time to plan that vacay with the family. Travelling with your wee ones need not just be mainly resorted to theme parks. Some ccities make great getaways—short or long—for families. They are hubs for direct flights, ample accommodations, top-notch restaurants and iconic, innovative attractions as well as some of them provide a touch of history, making them both educational and fun and appealing to all ages.

So let’s dust off your passport and pack up your kids for adventures in these family-friendly world cities.

Orlando

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Why it’s great for kids: Orlando’s an absolute paradise for kids of all ages, with home to not one but four action-packed Disney theme parks.

Put it on your itinerary: The fun doesn’t stop once you’ve explored Disney World, as the Kennedy Space Center is just a short drive from Orlando. The kid-friendly museum displays America’s space rockets and even lets you touch a piece of moon rock! The museum’s located on Florida’s Space Coast, which boasts tons of gorgeous beaches. However, when it comes to nature, it’s not just sandy shores that impress children and parents alike. Florida’s famous for its marshlands, and the whole family can glide through the swamps on an air boat. Be sure to keep an eye out for gators!

London

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Why it’s great for kids: With a host of historical attractions and many contemporary exhibits, the British capital city just screams ‘kid-friendly’.  There’s no language barrier, the food is kid-friendly (those chips!), and there’s lots to do around one of the major characters of modern childhood—Harry Potter.

Put it on your itinerary: Many of London’s main attractions, like the Tower of London and the British Museum, are geared to be family-friendly, so they’re incredibly interesting for both you and your little ones. Your kids will love spotting red telephone boxes, exploring Tower Bridge and following the River Thames as it meanders across the capital. If any of you are Harry Potter fans, you’ll all be in your element at the Warner Bros Studio Tour; and just outside of the city are theme parks like Lego land and Chessington World of Adventures which are easily accessible by public transport. There are also plenty of whimsically themed high tea experiences (try the Mad Hatters Tea Party at the Sanderson) and endless free museums, including the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum.

Cancun

cancun

Why it’s great for kids: You’ll get the best of both worlds — a bustling city culture and a beach vacation.

Put it on your itinerary: Parque de Palapas, the city’s central park, offers food carts, performances, and the kiddo essential, playgrounds. Mercado 28 is a bustling marketplace where you and the kids can bargain for local treasures to bring home. Isla de Mujeres lets you get away from the city’s hustle and bustle with a trip out to this laid-back island just off the coast — the Garrafon Reef Park there lets you swim with dolphins or stingrays or take a ride on a zip line. When you’re not busy lazing on the beach, make sure you head out to tour Chichén Itzá, the Mayan Ruins nearby.

Copenhagen

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Why it’s great for kids: Denmark’s capital is literally a fairy-tale city — it’s where Hans Christian Andersen wove his classics, like The Little Mermaid. And if your kids are even mildly Lego-obsessed, they’ll probably be thrilled at a chance to visit the country where the blocks were first created.

Put it on your itinerary: Copenhagen is home to the Tivoli Gardens, the amusement park that is said to be the inspiration for Walt Disney’s amusement parks. With gorgeous gardens and architecture and one of the world’s oldest still-in-use wooden roller coasters the Tivoli gardens, with rides and games, is an awesome place to take kids of all ages, and adults that want to indulge the kid in them! There are roller coasters for older children and kiddie rides for wee ones. And if your children don’t like rides, there are musical performances and pantomimes to enjoy. When it’s lit up at night, the park is a joy to stroll through.

Other than Tivoli Gardens, children will enjoy viewing the statue of the Little Mermaid from the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, and posing for a photo with her. Watching the changing of the guard at Amalienborg Palace is wonderful. And if you and your family are looking for a green space to enjoy, the King’s Garden is the ideal place to go. You can picnic on the grounds and enjoy some chill time here. Copenhagen is a fun destination and very family-friendly.

Dubai

dubai

Why it’s great for kids: Full of architectural superlatives, the Emirate with the tallest building (Burj Khalifa), vastest sand desert, and largest mall, is great for adventure, relaxation, and even good old-fashion theme park fun.

Put it on your itinerary: The city isn’t all fancy cars and glittering skyscrapers (although there are plenty of both). It’s also home to adventures your kids (and you!) will love, from feeding a three-foot-wide turtle at the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project to catching a free show at Dubai’s massive musical fountains. Once you venture outside the city limits, there are camel rides, sand skiing (think of it as hot-weather sledding!), and dune-bashing (where your Jeep guns it over sand hills, so you feel like you’re on a rollercoaster) through the Arabian Desert. Check in at Atlantis The Palm for loads more family-friendly activities: There’s the Middle East’s largest water park, an aquarium holding more than 65,000 creatures, and evening programming for kids age 3-12  You can also explore the souks of Old Dubai where you can shop for textiles, spices, and even gold on the streets alongside the Dubai Creek.

Sydney

Sydney

Why it’s great for kids: Sydney is one of the most family friendly cities in Australia. The city has plenty of things to do for all the ages. For the smaller kids, there are extraordinary zoos, great aquariums, wildlife parks, plenty of playgrounds and there is even a Luna Park as well.

Put it on your itinerary: Admit it: You’ve always wanted to visit Australia. If your kids are old enough to make it through the long plane ride out there, now’s the time: There’s plenty to make you feel like a giddy little kid, from being blown away by the Scienceworks Museum to checking out the march of the penguins at Phillip Island to seeing the forest and fern gullies from the century-old Puffing Billy Steam Railway. There is a ferry trip on the Sydney Harbour, iconic Sydney Opera House to explore, Darling Harbour, tonnes of museums, Blue Mountains, beautiful beaches and even a Haunted Sydney walking tour to check out. Sydney Aquarium is home to more than 12,000 marine animals, including dugongs (sea cows). And there are a ton of ways to see Sydney’s sights, whether you and your family venture up to walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, or Skywalk on a glass-floored platform above the city.

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The fact is that kids — even young ones — love traveling for the same reasons we do: They get to have a new routine, spend time with the people they love, and eat fun snacks. Plus the parents get to experience places that can make them feel like a child again, which is gratifying.

 

-M

 

 

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