Category Archives: MEET THE EXPERTS

Interview with H.E. Murat Ahmet Yörük- Consul General of the Republic of Turkey in Mumbai

 

H.E. Murat Ahmet Yörük has completed two years in Mumbai as the Consul General of the Republic of Turkey and he shares his experiences of the increase in trade, tourism and cultural exchanges between Turkey and India.

GLOBAL TIES
You began your role as the Consul General of Turkey in Mumbai in February 2009. How do you see the role of your office in areas of tourism, trade promotion and cultural exchanges during this period?

I was appointed to Mumbai to establish a new Consulate General. This move was the natural result of the rapidly developing relations between India and Turkey. There is a strong political will between the Turkish and Indian Governments to further our ties and cooperation in every possible field. In the last three years, we have witnessed mutual high-level visits between our countries. H.E. Ali Babacan, then Turkish Foreign Minister, and H.E.  Kürşat Tüzmen, then Minister of Foreign Trade, have visited India in 2008. Towards the end of 2008, H.E Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey, visited India as well. More recently, in February 2010, H.E. Abdullah Gül, the President of the Republic of Turkey, paid an official visit to India. These visits were usually accompanied with large delegations of Turkish businessmen to encourage economic and commercial ties.

In 2011, this positive momentum will continue through official and business contacts.  There are also additional bi-lateral cooperation agreements and exchange programs across different fields between Turkey and India being discussed as well. Parallel to this positive momentum, our Government decided to open a Consulate General in Mumbai in 2008. Since then, the Turkish Government has also decided to open Consulate General offices across India including Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad. When we finalize the establishment of these Consulates across India, then Turkey will be among the most officially represented countries in India.

The Turkish Government has also decided to change the visa regime towards India. Since May 2010, we have put into practice a new measure providing entry visas for Indian citizens upon arrival into Turkey with the condition of having a valid Schengen, U.S. or U.K. visa.

With regards to the role of my office, we started providing basic consular services in January 2010 and the office was officially inaugurated by the Turkish President in February 2010. Since then we have started providing full-fledged consular services. During that time, my efforts were basically focused on establishing the Consulate; and creating the interaction and networks between Turkish and Indian business communities. We also organized and participated in cultural and trade events. In fact, approximately 65000 Indians travelled to Turkey in 2010 and the Mumbai Consulate issued approximately 23000 of those visas. I believe that a lot was accomplished in one year. But of course, there are still new targets and goals left to reach and achieve.

Before being posted to Mumbai as Consul General, you were at the Turkish Embassy in Delhi for one and a half years. How has India changed during your time here and how is Mumbai different from Delhi?

It is a well known fact that India is one of the rising stars on the global stage. It is also known by the international community that India is one of the major contributors to the growth of the global economy and trade. As a career diplomat, I considered myself lucky to be posted in India. I have arrived India in August 2007, and in the past 4 years in India, I have been witnessing a tremendous transformation in India. I have observed the dynamism of the economy, and the drive and enthusiasm of the youth to achieve more. It has been amazing to see this transformation happen so rapidly across the country.

What were the major highlights of interesting events organized both professionally and personally in 2010?

Within the first year of setting up the Consulate General, we tried to cover a long distance. We were able to organize a few cultural events to promote Turkey and our official presence in Mumbai. Among these, the most important to me was the “Turkish Movie Days Festival”.  Mumbai is not only a financial and economic hub of India, but also the heart of India’s film industry. Of the main cultural activities, I decided to start with the Turkish Film Festival. I believe that cinema is one of the best ways to communicate with other cultures. We chose as the opening movie a film whose leading actor is also taking part in one of the forthcoming Bollywood movies. I wanted to highlight the connection between the Turkish and Indian movie industries. In fact, the producer of that opening movie is also the President of the Turkish Movie and TV Producers Association. We invited them for the opening of this festival so that the representatives of Turkish and Indian cinema could meet, and come together to explore business opportunities. This was certainly one of the most significant cultural activities that we organized last year.

The photography exhibition conducted with my wife in September 2010 was also a very special event for me, not just as a Consul General, but as a photographer as well. It was special because the exhibition was a compilation of our photographs of India. I think many people were expecting us to showcase photographs of Turkey. Since we had lived in India for about 4 years, we wanted to share our experiences and understanding of India with the community.

What are the interesting events lined up in 2011 in India and in Turkey to increase awareness between the two nations?

As a result of the high-level visits of political dignitaries between our countries, there will continue to be high-level exchanges between our countries in 2011. There will also be many events and road-shows taking place. For example, “The India Show” with the collaboration of the Engineering Export Promotion Council and the Indian Ministry of Industry and Commerce will take place in Istanbul in February 2011. Also, the Indian Merchants’ Chamber (IMC) will hold their international conference which is called “India Calling” in Turkey in April 2011. Their local counterpart in Turkey which is the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce (İTO) has also taken a decision to support this international conference in Istanbul. We are also planning to organize an exhibition of Turkish products in Mumbai before the end of 2011.

Of course as we attach significant importance for cooperation in the tourism sector, we also continue to organize tourism workshops in different cities throughout India.

We have also planned a few cultural activities such as bringing a troupe of Whirling Dervishes to attend a Sufi festival which is organized annually by the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA). I know that Sufi culture is very well understood and highly popular in India. In addition to that, I would also like to bring to Mumbai a lively and colorful group of folk dancers from the different regions of Turkey and arrange exhibitions of well known Turkish artists – and perhaps even have another photography exhibition with my wife.

How well known is India in Turkey and what is the perception of Indians and India in Turkey?

I can say that the perception of India and Indians in Turkey is very positive. For example, a generation of Turkish people born between 1940 and 1970 all know of the famous Bollywood classic Awaara with Raj Kapoor. Till now I can still hum the melody of the popular song of the movie.


Actually, the relationship between India and Turkey dates back many centuries. When you look at the daily lives of Indians and Turks, you will see many commonalities. Throughout our relationship, we have mutually affected each other’s traditions, costumes, cuisines, architecture and even languages.  In fact, this relationship is underlined very well by a common word which is shared between our languages: “dost”  meaning friend in both Hindi and Turkish.

TURKISH  = HINDI
(and the English translation)

dost = dost (friend)
çay = chai (tea)
dünya = dunya (world)
kitap = kitab (book)
kalem = kalam (pen)
canım = janaam (sweetheart)
adalet = adalat (court)
taze = taaza (fresh)
sebze = sabzi (vegetables)
nar = anar (pomegranate)
badem = badam (almonds)

Interestingly, spices are called “baharat” in Turkish, perhaps derived from “Bharat”, India being the only source of spices in the world then.

ABOUT TURKEY

The year 2010 was very important for Istanbul as it was a European Cultural Capital. What are some reasons why Istanbul is one of the most significant cities in the world for tourism, trade and events?

It has been said by Napoleon Bonaparte that; “If the world were a unified State, Istanbul would have been its capital”. Istanbul has been the capital of empires and the meeting point of cultures and civilizations. These are some of the phrases that describe Istanbul. Yet there are no words or stories about Istanbul which would be sufficient in describing the spirit or charm of Istanbul. I encourage everyone to experience the beauty of Istanbul for themselves.
Istanbul is also the largest and most developed city in Turkey with a population of approximately 13 million. In fact, when I first came to Mumbai I discovered some similarities between the two cities in terms of their vibrancy and dynamism. Of course, like Mumbai for India, Istanbul is also Turkey’s capital of finance and commerce.

Istanbul also has an optimum geo-strategic location being between Europe and Asia. Most of the international companies conducting operations in southeastern Europe, the Middle East, western Asia and central Asia have chosen Istanbul as their headquarters.

With its historical and cultural background, prime trade and commercial location, panoramic vistas, shopping opportunities in some of the largest malls in Europe, the high velocity of nightlife, the distinguished restaurants and hotel chains and the international events , Istanbul is a city like no other.

Recently Mumbai hosted another edition of the Mumbai Marathon. Are there any such interesting events that take place in Turkey and when?

The Istanbul Marathon – officially called Intercontinental Istanbul Eurasia Marathon – is an international athletics event organized by the metropolitan municipality in Istanbul, Turkey, every year on a Sunday in October since 1979. The marathon starts on the Asian shore of Istanbul, first crossing the Bosphorus Bridge and then the Golden Horn Bridge and passing under the Valens Aqueduct on the way to the beach on the Marmara Sea. For professional athletes, the marathon finishes on the European side at the Hippodrome – one of the oldest racetracks in the world, situated in the historic district of Sultanahmet, which has an abundance of ancient monuments and sites.

BEYOND ISTANBUL

Although Istanbul is a fascinating city, there is much more to Turkey. Can you elaborate on this?

When you compare Turkey with India in terms of land size, Turkey is perhaps equal to the size of Maharashtra State. But, when you compare Turkey to European countries, Turkey is one of the largest in her respective region. Of course, there is much to be seen in the other parts of Turkey, which is geographically called Anatolia. Also, considering the fact that Turkey has been a cradle for more than 400 civilizations in over 5000 years, it is not a surprise that Turkey has been referred to as the largest open-air museum in the world. Accordingly, where ever you go in Turkey – not only in Istanbul – you will find this history and culture in abundance.

Of course, other parts of Turkey are also popular with tourists such as Antalya, Cappadocia, Pamukkale and Ephesus. There are still however places in Turkey which are not frequently visited, but well worth the visit. In the north along the Black Sea coast for example, you will see different charms such as the virgin forests and the high plateaus.

In fact in 2010, Turkey placed as the number one destination across the world in the highly reputable Condé Nast Traveller reader’s travel awards.

Of course, tourism is a very important sector for Turkey which generates almost 3% of the GDP.  According to the statistics, approximately 29 million people visited Turkey last year. Therefore, it is not a coincidence or a surprise that Turkey is one of the top ten holiday destinations across the world.

What do you think of the concept of http://www.namasteturkey.com, a dedicated website to encourage tourism amongst the Indian outbound traveller?

I think that as the website is dedicated to Turkey, so is the owner dedicated to Turkey. I was actually aware of the website when I came to Mumbai. I went through each and every item that was displayed on the website and I think any person who wanted information about travelling to Turkey would be more than satisfied. It is very easy to navigate and user-friendly. The information that has been conveyed to the user is very well compiled and presented. I found it very useful and highly attractive.

TRADE & INVESTMENT

In terms of trade and tourism, what has been the growth in these areas between the two States in 2009-10 and what is the estimated growth expected in 2010-11?

We have observed a significant increase in our trade volume and private sector ties for the last 6 years. The trade volume between Turkey and India has almost tripled between 2003 and 2009 from 795 million US dollars to 2.3 billion US dollars. As of November 2010, though the figures have not been officially announced, the trade volume reached 3.1 billion US dollars. Also, during the official visit of the Turkish Prime Minister to India in November 2008, a target of 6 billion US dollars by the end of 2011 was mutually set by the respective heads of our governments. As a Consul General, I am very glad to see that during 2010 about half the visas issued by my Consulate were for business purposes. It is a tangible representation that the commercial and business ties between our countries are strengthening rapidly.

Lastly, in order to give a greater thrust to our economic and trade relations, we are expecting the signing of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Turkey and India. With the prospect of this agreement, Indian companies will be able to easily enter the Turkish market. If you consider the population of Turkey which is over 70 million and the benefits of preferential market access, Indian companies will also be able to obtain industrial inputs necessary for the export of some of their products to the European Union and other markets. We hope that the negotiations towards the Free Trade Agreement will be finalized soon and then we can expect a tremendous boost in our commercial activities.
In terms of tourism, we have a total of 14 weekly direct flights between India and Turkey. We do not however consider this to be enough to increase the business interactions between our countries.  Our civil aviation authorities are planning to add 7 more destinations from India to Turkey in addition to Delhi and Mumbai.

The new visa provisions for the Indian traveller are also meant to facilitate the needs of the Indian businessman. For example, if you are a businessman in Chennai and you need to attend a meeting in Istanbul in 2 days, you would have to send your passport to Mumbai which would take a minimum of 2 days to be processed and delivered. With the new provisions, you can immediately take the first flight to Istanbul and collect your visa at the airport. We are trying to eliminate the barriers for commercial and trade activities between our countries. We would also like to strengthen the presence of our Consulate General and we are expecting the opening of a trade office affiliated to the Consulate. This is supposed to take place before the end of 2011.

I am also so happy to observe that as of 2010, the number of annual visitors to Turkey from India has reached almost 65000. Considering that this number was approximately 5000 as little as 7 years ago, this is a significant achievement. Of course, we are targeting 100000 Indian visitors to Turkey in the near future.

ABOUT THE EXPERT

This is your first posting as a Consul General. What were the challenges and what is your general perception of India and Mumbai in particular?

Before coming to India, I was the Head of Department for Bilateral Political Affairs for South Asian countries at my Ministry. So I was quite familiar with India before my arrival, especially regarding the key facts and figures. I cannot say that when I came to India that I faced a lot of challenges because I was mentally ready to deal with the bilateral files.

When it comes to Mumbai, I feel it is the most vibrant city in India and it is not a secret that the heart of India is beating in Mumbai. In that sense, opening and establishing a Consulate General in Mumbai was a significant challenge in terms of finding a suitable location; and recruiting and training the local staff. As a whole, the process was very challenging. However, the most challenging part for me was when we moved into our official buildings and signed the leasing agreements, it was the beginning of the monsoon season. And of course, during the monsoons, the city takes on a new rhythm and things slow down considerably. I was trying to push and move things quickly, but the circumstances made expediting tasks difficult. I decided to take it easy and enjoy the rains.

When did you start taking interest in photography and what are the standout experiences of capturing moments in India?

Actually, my interest in photography began almost 15 years ago as my wife began taking interest in photography.  Since then, photography has always been a part of our daily life, whether it is discussing her work or exhibitions. On occasion, I have even accompanied her on photography shoots and observed her carefully.

My personal practice of photography has been for about 2 years since I have been in India. This is because India is a very photogenic country and is like an open buffet in terms of visual experiences. I could not resist the temptation of practicing photography in India. Now my wife and I are enjoying photography together. When we find time, mostly during the weekends, we go out together for shootings.

The most exciting and standout experience of practicing photography in India was after a 19-hour trip with the entire family from Mumbai to Jabalpur by train and Jabalpur to Bandhavgarh by road.  It was our first trip to a wildlife sanctuary in India. We visited Bandhavgarh National Park. We went there on the recommendation of our dear friend and famous wildlife photographer, Mr. Kakubhai Kothari.

We spent the morning looking for tigers and it was not until the evening when we were about to leave that we came face to face with the most well known tiger of the park called B2. He is very famous and popular among wildlife photographers. He was going to a small river bank by himself. It was our pure luck. We started taking photographs, but that moment will always be remembered. It was my first time to see a tiger in its natural habitat. And our luck continued during that trip as we saw 8 tigers including mothers with their cubs. That was truly anunforgettable photography moment.

Which is your favourite destination in Turkey and in India?

As a photographer and a person who likes all outdoor activities, I cannot confine myself to one or two destinations either in Turkey or in India. One of my favourites however is the Black Sea region in northern Turkey. I would like to encourage everyone to visit the Black Sea region because it has a geography like no other. Very roughly, I can compare it to the Swiss Alps. It is filled with mountains running parallel to the Black Sea coast and virgin forests. The local people are very warm and friendly. Even in the remotest of areas in the region, people will still open their doors and offer to share their food with you. It is an amazing place and whenever I go there, I find myself at peace with a spiritual satisfaction.

In India, there are still many places that I would like to visit. India is more like a continent than a country. Before I leave this beautiful country, I would really like to visit the northern part of India such as Ladakh. As a photographer, I would also like to see the northeastern tribal areas because these regions are not usually visited by the average traveller. I am also very eager to visit Lakshadweep or Andaman islands.  I would really like to visit these places if my time in India permits.

What has been your children’s experience of travelling around India and how have they adapted to staying in India?

Like all children of diplomats the country they live in becomes their second home.  Our children enjoy their stay in India very much. They go to a local school with an IB curriculum so they have a more local experience. Their knowledge of Hindi is much better than ours, so during our travels we sometimes ask for their assistance as translators.

PARTING MESSAGE

What is your message to the readers and why should they visit Turkey in 2011?

For the readers who are in the business and commercial sectors, I would like to convey that as India is a rising star, so has Turkey become a centre of attraction for the global economy and trade in its region. When you look at the statistics and figures, you will see that Turkey has the 16th largest economy in the world and for the last 5 years, Turkey has had an average growth rate of 7% with a GDP of approximately 750 billion US dollars. Like India, Turkey also has a young and well educated population with a motivated and qualified labour force. Turkey is one of the best places for making investments or conducting business. For Indian entrepreneurs, Turkey also provides a good opportunity for selling and promoting their products to the European Union market. Since 1995, Turkey has been enjoying the Customs Union with the European Union which means if an Indian entrepreneur manufactures their product in Turkey, they will be able to sell their product to the European Union without any tariff barriers or customs duties. Also the geostrategic location of Turkey allows you to reach over 50 countries, or a quarter of the world’s population, within a 4-hour flight time. Ten years ago, the number of foreign companies which were functioning in Turkey was around 5000. In 2010, this number has approximately reached 25000. These companies are managing their operations through Turkey. Among these, approximately 80 Indian companies have established their business in Turkey. I would like to invite your readers to look to Turkey for developing their business.

For the travellers, I would like to remind them that we have 4 seasons in Turkey and they should not confine themselves to a single season. Turkey provides opportunities for all types of travellers and their interests whether from cross-country skiing to relaxing on the beach. Turkey also hosts many events for the corporate traveller.

I would also like to bring to the kind attention of your readers that there is a misunderstanding that vegetarian travellers will not be able to find suitable food in Turkey. I would like to underline the fact that Turkish cuisine is based on Mediterranean cuisine so there are many exciting vegetarian and healthy options available.

Lastly, the Turkish people are renowned for their warmth and hospitality and I assure you that you will feel at home no matter where you are in Turkey.

 

Dost by by Ahmet Yoruk

Advertisements

Interview with Şeniz Yörük – Photographer

Şeniz Yörük has participated in various photography exhibits and international festivals. Her photographs are in private collections worldwide. She shares with us how her interest in photography developed, how photography can connect travellers to a destination and her favourite holiday spots.

What have been your impressions of India? What  are the similarities between Turkey and India?

I feel privileged to live in India and try to get the most of this opportunity, be it getting to know the rich cultural heritage and as a photographer I enjoy savouring what I call the “visual energy” that India has to offer.  India and Turkey have a lot of similarities.

When I first came to India in 2007, I had the opportunity to contribute as a photographer to a great book project entitled “Indo-Turkish Architecture”. This book academically illustrates the similarities between the two architectural styles comparing monuments from Central Asia, Turkey and India.

It would be interesting to know that a scientific study showed that there are almost 9000 words in common between Turkish and the languages spoken in India. Even only this fact shows how close our cultures are to each other.

Dancer by Seniz Yoruk

How were you first introduced to photography and the creative arts?

My father was an enthusiastic hobbyist photographer. My mother is a painter. Living in a house full of art gave me an artistic perspective from the beginning.
I welcome every photographic opportunity from recording a moment in my life to the most subliminal landscape. I define my photography as “travel photography”  in a broader sense because life is a journey to try and capture the moments that I encounter during my own journey.

How has being married to a diplomat influenced your photographic and cultural outlook of the world?

It has given me the opportunity to get to know different continents, geographies, climates, cultures from up close.

Wherever we live on our postings, we are neither tourists nor permanent residents. I think this adds a unique perspective to my photography.

Frozen Cildir Lake

Which locations of Turkey do  you recommend to the aspiring travel photographer?

Just like India, Turkey is a photographer’s delight with the ever photogenic Istanbul, turquiose blue waters of the Mediterranean, patchwork of prairie landscapes in the Central Anatolian countryside, unique architecture of the old city of Mardin, famous sunrise near the ruins of Nemrut, wonderful mountain landscapes of the Black Sea highlands, wind eroded rock formations of Cappadocia and the list goes on.

How can tourism boards and destinations use photography as a tool to establish their presence in India?

I think photography really has the power to transport you to places. In tourism brochures and posters and other printed material, I personally prefer photographs with a natural feel rather than digital collages.

With the advent of digital cameras, photography has become even more accessible than before to everybody. Organizing photo contests is a popular way of promoting countries and locations through photography.

In September 2010, you held a photography exhibition showcasing India. Tell us about this and the various other exhibits and international festivals which you have participated in.Our exhibition entitled “India in Motion” was special to us because it was our first in India and our first photo exhibition together with my husband. After 3 years, we wanted to share our visual experience of India in India. It was very well attended and received and also enjoyed great media coverage. We also took the same exhibition to the “Pune Unplugged” festival in October 2010.

Other exhibitions that I have participated in are:
· March 2005, Seasons of Canada, National Press Club, Ottawa, Canada
· December 2006, DIMED Exhibition Transparan Art Gallery, Ankara, Turkey
· June 2007 Turco-Greek Friendship Festival Photo Exhibition, Antalya-  Turkey, Rhodes-Greece
· Mart 2009, Colours of the World, Bakrac Art Gallery, Istanbul, Turkey
· February 2010, Turkish Festival at Hyatt Regency, Mumbai, India
· August 2010, Doruk Art Gallery, Summer Exhibition, Istanbul, Turkey

Which attractions of Turkey would you recommend for a romantic holiday?

I would recommend having a romantic dinner in the restaurant in Leander’s Tower (aka Maiden’s Tower, Kiz Kulesi in Turkish) which is a 2500 year old tower on an islet at the entrance of the Bosphorus from the Marmara Sea.

You will be literally between Asia and Europe enjoying a breathtaking view of  both continents. If you go there during early afternoon the light and the view gets better and better from a beautiful sunset to the illuminiated skyline of Istanbul’s historical peninsula. Historically, the tower was believed to be built around 408 BC, and rebuilt and restored many times since then. It had been used as a lighthouse and a watchtower, and now is being used for touristic purposes where you can take a boat to the tower and have your breakfast or dinner.Another romantic option is spending time in front of the fireplace in one of the restored old Turkish homes in the town of Safranbolu.  The whole town of Safranbolu makes you feel you have entered a time machine and transports you to a bygone era where life was much simpler and slower than it is today.

Which are the special interest tours that you would recommend to Indian visitors to experience the true flavours of Turkey?

I would recommend Blue voyage, cultural tours, adventure tourism, religious tours, organic farm stays to wine tastings and art festivals. Something I would personally love to do is horseback riding in Cappadocia.

I would also recommend Sebi Aruz, the Urs of Rumi, Konya in December of which the highlight is the Whirling  Dervishes ceremony.

Which are your favourite holiday destinations in Turkey?

In Turkey, we are blessed with one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. So for every Turkish family spending a beach holiday on the Aegean and Mediterrean coasts to recharge the batteries is a must.

These days, besides the traditional seaside holiday, more and more people are also opting for alternative holidays. Our favourite as a couple is the Black Sea region. The Black Sea region is the northern part of  Turkey with a mountainous landscape and the most dense forest areas thanks to its abundant rainfall throughout the year. As a gift of its unique geography, it has a distinctive culture of its own. When we spend a week in Naldehra, Shimla we found it to be a very similar landscape to the highland villages of the Black Sea region in Turkey.
In the Black Sea region rather than spending time in the city, we like to head to the mountains right away. We like to spend at least a week of trekking from one highland village to the other. We love chatting with the locals over the locally grown black tea and accepting their offers of local snacks made of corn flour, home-made butter and cheese. We enjoy the breathtaking landscape, walking literally on top of the clouds, the local hospitality and food and even an impromptu night of local “horon” dance and music whenever the occasion arises.

Which are your favourite holiday destinations in India?

To the traveller at heart, India offers so many possibilities. It is almost frustrating to know you will never have enough time to do  justice.
My personal favourite is Rajasthan. Every city, every village has its own unique characteristics – the beauty of the rugged landscape, colourful men and grace and beauty of the local women, Rajasthani dances and music.

What is your message to readers and how can photography be used as a medium to bring out their creativity?

I believe that everybody is a photographer. From the moment we are born we take mental images of our surroundings. When one decides to be a photographer the only thing that is left to do is to learn how the camera sees things differently than our eye. Being a photographer is a mental state more than anything.

 

Photographs courtesy of Şeniz Yörük (www.senizyoruk.com)

Interview with Özgür Aytürk

Özgür Aytürk has been the Culture and Tourism Counsellor of the Turkish Embassy in India for one month now. He shares with us how he plans to promote Turkey as a holiday destination for the Indian traveller and a few unexplored locations for the intrepid traveller.

How long have you been in India and what are your plans in terms of increasing tourism to Turkey from India?

I have been in India for a month now.  We are in the midst of finalizing our campaigns and promotions for this year, which would include a pan-India media campaign, consumer promotions and joint promotions with leading tour operators.

What were your previous assignments and how important is the Indian tourism market for Turkey?

My previous assignment was with Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. India is a special and growing market.  From 20000 Indian visitors in the year 2007 to 60000 Indian visitors in year 2010, Indian arrivals to Turkey have been growing at a rate of 12%.

What are the choices for a repeat traveler who has already visited Istanbul, the Aegean coast and Cappadocia?

Travellers can also have amazing trips to the Black Sea region, Southeastern Anatolia and Eastern Anatolia. There are in fact numerous destinations I can recommend, but let me give one or two samples for the readers.

In Southeastern Anatolia, Mount Nemrut is one of the best options for travellers where you can see the huge statues of lions, eagles and the old gods of Greeks and Persians, which were built by the king of the Commagene Kingdom, Antiochus I in 62 BC. Mount Nemrut, which is on the list of UNESCO as one of the World Heritage Sites in Turkey, is also known as the best place in the world where people can get the most beautiful view of sunrise and sunset. There are 8 more cultural and natural heritage sites like Mount Nemrut in different regions of Turkey and each one is worth spending at least a couple of days.

My second recommendation would be the city Van in Eastern Anatolia. Our Ministry is now promoting Van intensively by arranging some special events and festivals. You can trace the signs of the civilizations back to 4000 BC in Van, and it was also the capital of the Urartians. People can visit Van Castle which was built by the Urartians in the 9th Century BC near Lake Van, the largest lake in Turkey.

Lake Van

What according to you is the ideal number of days to spend in Turkey for diverse holiday experiences?

An ideal vacation in Turkey can be enjoyed in a trip of 7 to 10 days in which one can see historical sites of Istanbul, enjoy sun and sand at Antalya, visit the natural wonders of Cappadocia and experience the nightlife of Bodrum or Izmir.

What are your views on Namaste Turkey (www.namasteturkey.com), a dedicated website for the Indian outbound traveller?

It is very suggestive and I must say that I was very surprised by seeing an amazing promotion of Turkey in India! We really appreciate the effort and we look forward to collaborating on many such products in the near future.

What is your message to the readers?

India is a very special country with which Turkey has very warm and cordial relations based on historical and cultural links. It is also one of the important emerging markets for Turkey. In my endeavour to make Turkey a popular destination with Indian travellers, I am looking forward to my time in India and building lasting relationships.

H.E. Fernando Ras Consul, General of Argentina in Mumbai

Mr. Fernando Ras has been the Consul General of Argentina in Mumbai since the past two and a half years. Earlier this year, on 25 May, Argentina celebrated the Bi-Centennial of the May Revolution. The celebration continues in India with a series of exciting events in November and December and Mr. Ras shares with us his views of why Argentina is such an exciting destination to visit.

GLOBAL TIES

How has the role of your office in areas of trade promotion, tourism and cultural exchanges evolved since the time the Consulate General in Mumbai opened to the public on 1st April 2009?

Before the opening of the Consulate General in Mumbai, Argentina’s official presence in India had been centered in our Embassy in New Delhi reflecting the close partnership in multiple international fora which our two countries have enjoyed since the time of India’s Independence. By opening a second office in Mumbai, the Argentine Government is signalling its wish to contribute to the broadening of existing non-official relations between private agents in both countries. In this regard the organization of trade, tourism and cultural activities are all valuable instruments that lay the groundwork for a better understanding of a distant country of which there is little knowledge of in India.

How do you plan to create awareness of Argentina in India beyond Tango and Football?

There is much more to Argentina than Tango and Football. But those are nevertheless good places to begin to get acquainted with the country. From there, you may want to learn more about the cinema, the wines and the varied tourism destinations. And that is just the beginning.

Argentina has great authors, Nobel Prizes, a beef-centred cuisine, a Nuclear Programme for the peaceful use of atomic energy, one of the world’s most efficient agricultural sectors and vast mineral resources. And that is just a short overview.

Its history is strewn with interesting and charismatic personalities. The geography is a patchwork of every conceivable climate from severe cold to warm subtropical. There are many things to get to know about Argentina.

How well known is India in Argentina and what is the perception of Indians and India in Argentina?

India is well known in Argentina, and a warm feeling of sympathy is generally bestowed on anything “Indian”. It is perhaps Mahatma Gandhi’s towering moral stature and the Independence Movement that is the focus of attention, but also its long and rich history, exquisite cuisine, spirituality, the country where Polo was born, its search for a balance between body and soul, and so very many other things that contribute to this positive vision. It is a land looked upon with interest and respect.

Argentina will be hosting a Bollywood Film Festival.  Are there similar film festivals planned to showcase films from Argentina in India?

The Indian Embassy in Buenos Aires is organizing a Bollywood Film Festival that will showcase many of the Indian film industry’s achievements. Likewise, the Consulate General in Mumbai is organizing a film festival (Whistling Woods, 3-4 December 2010.) where we will be projecting 5 Argentine films that have been nominated by the Academy of Motion Pictures for the Best Foreign Film. Two of those films have won the award, the most recent one, El Secreto de sus Ojos (The Secret of Their Eyes), only this year.

PLANNING YOUR HOLIDAY


What is the ideal length of stay for the first time traveller and what experiences would you recommend for various traveller profiles such as honeymooners, families and lovers of culture, art, wine and cuisine?

If Argentina is your only destination and you are coming from India, spend at least two weeks to recover from the trip, jet lag and get used to the rhythm and cultural attitudes.

Different groups of travellers might find different points of interest in Argentina. Honeymooners may find Bariloche to be a little bit of Switzerland far from Europe. Families may find the many options in and around Buenos Aires more suited to their needs. Lovers of culture will certainly go for Buenos Aires with its world-renowned opera house, Colon Theatre, which was recently restored to full glory, dozens upon dozens of theatres for musicals, drama, comedy and more. Of course, Tango is everywhere for those who want to learn, hear or watch.

In regards to cuisine, beef is king. But there are innumerable regional cuisines that offer a wide variety of alternatives, as well as the occasional Indian restaurant, and innumerable Italian restaurants where vegetarians will find the pasta of their choice.

The wine route is followed every year by thousands of tourists, but also by many local lovers of wine. Golf tours, football training, polo training and playing, bird and whale watching and big game hunting are all major attractions for enthusiasts. Skiing brings to Argentina the beginners to the top trainers and professionals looking for snow during the northern hemisphere’s summer months. And these are just a few of many options.

What is your opinion on Namaste Argentina (www.namasteargentina.com) – a dedicated website generating awareness and sales for the Indian outbound traveller to Argentina?

I think it is a great idea, particularly because Argentina is still an exotic destination for many Indian travellers and little is known about the country. In this way, they can find useful information in one short stop and updated information and hints are made available to the visitor.

ONLY IN ARGENTINA

Which are the local experiences for one to experience to understand the lifestyle of Argentines such as coffee and estancias (large rural estates, ranches)?

This depends on different people’s interests and preferences. For myself, I like to sit at a sidewalk café, taking the breeze in the summer shade or receiving the sun’s rays on chilly days in winter, reading the morning paper, catching up with friends, chatting with the people at the table next to mine or just generally watching the world go by.

If one were to travel to Argentina extensively, what would be the key locations you would suggest in and around Buenos Aires, Cuyo, Norte, Litoral, Cordoba and Patagonia if one were to stay 3 nights in each of these regions?

This would probably depend on the time of year you visit. If it is springtime, go to Peninsula de Valdez to watch the whales mating rituals.  During summer, head south to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world and take a cruise liner to Antarctica. Autumn is harvest time in Cuyo’s wineries and a bountiful harvest is celebrated year after year with Passion Plays and mass processions. During winter visit the many coloured mountain ranges, arid deserts and salt flats of northwest Argentina.

Buenos Aires is a year-round destination, and from torrid summer to mild winter there is always something to do. November is the month when Jacaranda trees bloom and the city parks and many streets turn violet blue. It is also the time of film festivals and the great annual International Tango Contest with participants from all over the world vying for a prize in the tough competition. In late March and early April, the autumn light is a delight to the photographer and the Palo Borracho trees bloom turning much of the city white or pink.

Bariloche and the Lake District is paradise year-round; skiing in winter, trekking and fishing in summer and eating mouthwatering chocolates throughout the year.

And of course there are Argentina’s two main attractions: the thundering Iguazú Falls on the border between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay and Perito Moreno Glacier, down south near the border with Chile – a wonder to behold and one of the world’s few glaciers that continue to grow in spite of warmer weather.

ACCESSIBILITY

How accessible is Argentina to the Indian traveller in terms of obtaining visas, flight connectivity and travel within Argentina and neighbouring countries of South America?

Tourist visas are issued by the Argentine Consulate General in Mumbai without much hassle and within 24 to 48 hours for the average tourist (general requirements may be checked at http://www.cgmum.co.in).

As far as how to get to Argentina from India, the quickest and most direct route is the one-stop flight through South Africa with a minimal Johannesburg layover when going to or coming back from Argentina. Alternatively, through U.A.E. and Qatar it is a two-stop process and in one direction or another, may imply a night’s layover. There are also a myriad of alternative routes through Europe, North America, Asia and Australia, but these generally take considerably more flight time and sometimes connections to get to Argentina can imply long layovers.

Within Argentina there is a well-developed air network, with the only nuisance being that most flights are to and from Buenos Aires, making round trips somewhat difficult. Connecting with neighboring destinations is easy and as fast as the long distances separating the continent’s major cities permit.

HERITAGE

What is the significance of the Bi-Centennial of the May Revolution for the people of Argentina and what are the events lined up for its commemoration?

Throughout its 200 year history as an independent nation, Argentina has had its ups and downs, gone through times of enormous prosperity and times of conflict and strife. There were times when the whole country came together and times when dissent was rife.

The events organized around 25th May and throughout the year on the occasion of the Bi-Centennial have been a time when dissent and differences have been put aside and the whole country has come out as one to celebrate the idea of being Argentine with a better, more mature understanding of what that notion means.

ABOUT THE EXPERT

You recently released a book showcasing “Architecture in Times of Progress.” How long did it take to put together this amazing book of architectural photography?

I am an amateur photographer and I have a particular interest in Architectural photography. It took me over 5 years to assemble the photographs showcased in this book. These photographs portray buildings that went up between 1880 and 1930, a period of great economic prosperity which produced much magnificent architecture.

PARTING MESSAGE

Argentina is something of a new frontier for the Indian tourist; a place still considered exotic and remote. But a more thoughtful consideration of the matter may reveal that there are at least mitigating factors to this perception.

Flight times to Argentina from Mumbai are no longer than flight times from Mumbai to the West Coast of the United States or to New Zealand. Language may be a barrier, but English is spoken in tourism-oriented activities, and many Argentines have at least a basic knowledge of the language. The staple food is beef, but Italian and Continental restaurants are found all over, and pasta or salads can be ordered in any corner restaurant.

Argentines are a warm and welcoming people. In the not-too-distant past, our grandparents and great grandparents were new arrivals in a strange and distant land, so present generations put their best foot forward to help newly arrived foreigners feel a little bit more at home.

H.E. GAVIN YOUNG Consul General and Trade Commissioner of New Zealand in Mumbai

H.E. GAVIN YOUNG Consul General and Trade Commissioner of New Zealand in Mumbai

H.E. Gavin Young is the Consul General and Trade Commissioner of New Zealand in Mumbai. He has been in India since April 2010. His consular jurisdiction covers Gujarat, Maharashtra and Goa while the trade jurisdiction covers South India, Maldives and Sri Lanka.

In early 2011, his office will be moving to Bandra Kurla Complex which will bring together all New Zealand government agencies that operate in Mumbai, including New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, Tourism New Zealand and a new New Zealand Immigration visa office. This significant investment by the New Zealand Government is part of their commitment to further strengthen their already strong relationship with India.

In this interview, Mr. Young shares with us the potential and opportunities of trade and tourism exchange between India and New Zealand.

ABOUT NEW ZEALAND


New Zealand is a very environmentally responsible nation and also ranked as the leading nation in the Global Peace Index. How can an emerging economy like India gain from New Zealand in areas of environment conservation and renewable energy?

New Zealanders see themselves as guardians of their environment and culture. We feel it is necessary to take care of what we have for future generations. It is part of who and what we are.

We have signed international agreements on climate change and have recently introduced an emissions trading system. We have large plantation forests that produce renewable timber for the world and act as huge lungs to store carbon. Over half of those forests are currently Forest Stewardship Council certified, so that users of that wood can be assured it is from a renewable resource. New Zealand also produces 73% of its electricity from renewable sources – our aim is to be 90% renewable by 2025.

Consumers are also becoming increasingly concerned about pesticide residues on food. New Zealand has developed farming systems to produce no detectable residues on apples, while other fruits and foods have green programmes to limit residues and antibiotics in the food chain.

As a result of all of this, we have some very smart green technologies that make good business sense as well as environmental sense to Indian companies, governments and consumers.

Hydro Dam

For example, in areas of innovation in agricultural technology, New Zealand is a world leader in CNG technologies which are increasingly driving Indian public transport systems. We also have hybrid CNG/diesel technology, technology to reduce water use and renewable energy systems amongst our offering.

Next year New Zealand will be hosting the Rugby World Cup. With limited resources in manpower, how is New Zealand working towards welcoming the world for such a mega event?

We have been planning for several years for the Rugby World Cup and preparations are on-track to welcome the expected 60000 visitors. The games will be held from 09 September to 23 October 2011, when the final will be held in Auckland.

Rugby is a national passion for New Zealanders. We are hosting the tournament country-wide. It is a unique opportunity to experience our rugby traditions, spectacular scenery, culture, and business – from food and wine, to the latest in sustainable technology.

New Zealanders are driven to perform, on the sports field and in business. Attending the tournament will be a great opportunity to get to know us better and find out more about doing business with New Zealand.

I would encourage business people thinking about visiting New Zealand in 2011 to join The Business Club, an online platform designed to connect overseas visitors with New Zealand business people in a wide range of sectors, to help them make the most of their trip: http://www.nz2011.govt.nz/business

BI-LATERAL RELATIONSHIP


What is the perception of Indians amongst New Zealanders?

India is increasingly perceived as a dynamic, emerging economy, run by highly educated and motivated people, with the world’s biggest movie industry and a world class cricket team.

For those New Zealanders who have yet to visit India, their experience is often of the 130000 people of Indian origin who now call New Zealand their home. That experience is of hard working, smart people who bring new cultural additions to New Zealand. Well-known Indians include a member of the New Zealand Parliament and perhaps best known, our Governor General Rt. Hon. Sir Anand Satyanand, who was born in New Zealand.

While we both have positive perceptions of each other, we also have a lot more to discover as we get to know each other better.

Which are the key focus areas for 2011 that you would be looking at in your capacity as a Consul General and Trade Commissioner in India?

We plan to greatly expand our business-to-people and people-to-people connections over the coming years. Building the network amongst the Indian business community in areas where New Zealand has something unique to offer India is a key part of this.

We will also be concentrating on several trade missions, raising the profile of New Zealand in key sectors and opening the new Consulate General Office in Mumbai in early 2011.

New Zealand is one of the premier destinations for leisure travellers and the incentive market. How will your office play a key role in synergizing with Tourism New Zealand to tap the potential growth of tourism travel out of India?

India is an important market for tourism to New Zealand. The total arrivals from India to New Zealand have increased 16 percent year on year, and holiday arrivals have increased 23 percent. India has moved from being the 19th largest visitors market for New Zealand in 2004 to the 10th largest in 2009.

We work very closely with the Indian Film Industry and with cricket to promote New Zealand. The recent success of the film ‘I Hate Luv Storys’ is a good example of our partnership, where Tourism New Zealand and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise helped the production company to facilitate filming, and in return there was great exposure for New Zealand through the beautiful scenery and  endorsements from the film stars Sonam Kapoor and Imran Khan.

We are now working on opportunities to raise the profile of New Zealand during the New Zealand Cricket Tour of India in November 2010 and during the Cricket World Cup in 2011.

What is your opinion on Namaste New Zealand (www.namastenewzealand.com) – a dedicated website generating awareness and sales for the Indian outbound traveller to New Zealand?

Namaste New Zealand is an excellent initiative targeted to the Indian traveller helping them to bridge the gap from knowing that New Zealand is a great destination, to how to access.

TRADE & INVESTMENT

What are the key trade exchange opportunities between India and New Zealand?

The qualities that define New Zealand are fresh ideas and innovation. Indian companies can bring scale, and the two together are a great combination.

Some of the key areas to work together are in the food and beverage industry, and the food supply chain; wood and green technologies; information and communications technologies; infrastructure, aviation and services and in specialised manufacturing.

To give a few examples, New Zealand produces rugged extreme short take-off and landing aircraft, that are already operating with the UN in Nepal and would have real application in India for servicing remote areas – useful for everything from mining and tourism, to government officials and cargo, and reduce the costs where helicopters are used. New Zealand also has software that civil aviation ministries can use for clocking the revenue from airlines that over-fly the country.

Which are the potential growth areas in terms of trade and investment that both countries could benefit from in the future?

India and New Zealand currently have a two-way trade of over $1 billion.  While we have had a great bi-lateral relationship for many years, there is a lot more depth and understanding of each other to be added.

We are coming up to the third round in our Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations with India and we know that a comprehensive FTA can make a huge difference to trade. We signed a comprehensive agreement with China in 2008 and have seen two-way trade skyrocket. China is now our second biggest trading partner, while India is our 11th biggest trading partner.

EDUCATION

Indians often travel abroad for higher studies. What are the education opportunities and areas of learning for Indian students to pursue in New Zealand?

New Zealand offers a welcoming environment to Indian students, with more than 8000 Indian students currently studying there. We have 8 top quality universities all of which are research-based and government-owned, and 20 Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITP’s) that focus on practical, skills-oriented training in areas such as hospitality and tourism, design, ICT, nursing, fashion and many others. New Zealand also has a number of Private Training Establishments (PTE’s) which are quality controlled so students can be confident that their qualifications are recognised globally.

New Zealand is also recognised as a world leader in the development of its education system, from early childhood through to tertiary education. More than two decades of reform across all aspects of teaching, learning, assessment, and management have transformed New Zealand’s education sector and set the bar for change in many other countries.  In particular, New Zealand is an acknowledged world leader in teacher training and professional development.

New Zealand also has a modern and highly regarded workforce training system that gives growth industries the skills and knowledge needed to be globally competitive. Training of airline pilots is one example, where quality training systems together with varied weather, terrain and relatively un-cluttered skies produces pilots that are highly sought-after by international airlines, including here in India.

ABOUT THE EXPERT

Which places have you travelled to in India and what has been your experience of India so far?

India is an amazing, energetic and dynamic nation. While I have been to India many times – the first being in 1982 – I still have lots to explore in India.

My work programme has mainly taken me to the major metros, some of which I have not been to before and have really enjoyed discovering, such as Bengaluru. I also have some personal travel planned over the winter, starting with Kerala in November. I am looking forward to that.

Which is your favourite holiday destination in New Zealand?

My favourite holiday destination is definitely the unspoiled natural beauty of the West Coast of the South Island, with its original native forests, wild coast, rivers in which salmon come to breed, glaciers,  picturesque reflecting lakes, mountains, penguins, seals, adventure activities and very  genuine, honest people. It is also increasingly becoming a place where artists are making their homes.

What are your hobbies and interests?

I like to keep fit through swimming and going to the gym. I enjoy travelling to interesting ‘off the beaten track’ destinations that may involve trekking. I also enjoy music, movies and reading books.

I think that people need a creative side and for me, it is cooking when I have time and gardening when I am living in New Zealand – I love watching things grow.

In India, I am also busy with Hindi classes although my Hindi is not very good.

PARTING MESSAGE

 

New Zealand is serious about its engagement with India. We have a lot to offer each other and a lot to discover about each other. We are a resourceful nation with high levels of innovation in our products and services that make us a good fit with Indian business.

From New Zealand’s side, we welcome Indian tourists, students and migrants. New Zealanders are also good people to do business with. We are open, friendly, culturally sensitive and uncomplicated. Coming from a country that Transparency International ranked number one in 2009 on its Least Corrupt Countries Index, we are an easy country to do business with and our people make great business partners.

My job is to help expand those connections and partnerships.

KIRAN NAMBIAR Regional Manager of India and South East Asia for Tourism New Zealand

 

KIRAN NAMBIAR - Regional Manager of India and South East Asia for Tourism New Zealand

 

Kiran Nambiar has been with Tourism New Zealand for the last seven years, since its inception in India. Currently, he is the Regional Manager of India and South East Asia and during his tenure, tourism to New Zealand from India has grown from 15552 visitors in July 2003 to 27842 visitors in August 2010. Kiran shares with us why New Zealand seems to be the preferred destination for the Indian outbound traveller – be it for lovers of adventure or natural beauty and also for  families and honeymooners.

TRENDS IN TOURISM

How has tourism to New Zealand grown during your tenure?

I joined Tourism New Zealand in November 2002 as Country Manager of India and have been the Regional Manager of India and South East Asia since June 2008. Tourism as an industry is fast evolving and today’s traveller is maturing in his travel needs, preferences and decision making patterns. Tourism New Zealand has always focused on reaching out to the Evolved Traveller, someone who is seasoned in his travels and appreciates the subtle differences New Zealand has to offer.

Which are the regions you handle as part of South East Asia and which according to you are the key emerging markets for the future?

As Regional Manager, India and South East Asia for Tourism New Zealand, I am responsible for India, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia markets.

For India, the leisure segment makes up more than half of our overall visitor arrivals into New Zealand, majority of which is contributed by New Delhi & Mumbai. The western region contributes about 40% of the total visitors from India and the North, about 30%. We will continue to develop these markets as our objective is to increase awareness of New Zealand regions within evolved travelers which will result in longer length of stay. Our prime market continues to be the West market, though we see tremendous potential in the South market as evident from the economic progress witnessed in recent times. Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad are the new regions we will focus on developing into our next growth markets.

Auckland

How has tourism from India to New Zealand grown in 2009-10 and what is the estimated growth you expect in 2010-11?

India is an important market for Tourism New Zealand. Total arrivals from India to New Zealand are +16% for YE August 2010 at 27842 visitors and holiday arrivals are +23% for YE August 2010 at 13096 visitors. India has moved from being the 19th largest visitors market for New Zealand in 2004, to the 10th largest in 2009.

There is a lot of demand in India for travel to New Zealand especially in the months of November to January, being the wedding season and peak period for honeymoon travel. The biggest challenge for growth in this period is lack of air capacity. We are still expecting about 7% to 10% growth for the next 18 months. But India will deliver 20% to 30% growth in visitor arrivals to New Zealand for 4-5 years consecutively once air connectivity improves.

TOURISM PROMOTION

Te Puia Thermal Reserve

What is the role of the Tourism New Zealand office in India and how do you go about creating awareness of New Zealand amongst members of the travel trade as well as the end consumer?

Tourism New Zealand’s aim in India is to promote the 100% Pure New Zealand experience to the evolved traveller and to raise awareness on the regions and activities that New Zealand has to offer. The Evolved Traveller is a high-end niche traveller who is well travelled, is looking for a unique experience in vacations, loves nature, and consumes many of the products New Zealand has to offer. On the travel trade front, we will continue to engage and develop our relationship with our travel trade partners. Our focus will continue on regular trade education and training programmes like the Kiwi Specialist programme and our biannual trade event Kiwi Link India. For both, existing relationships and new ones that we will develop in new markets, our various trade initiatives including our travel trade website – http://www.newzealand.com/travel/trade/ – will help agents enhance their knowledge of New Zealand and drive back that value to their customers. On the consumer front, we will continue to focus on reaching out to the consumer through an extended PR campaign and internet promotions, highlighting the honeymoon, family and FIT offerings from New Zealand.

How has Bollywood, Hollywood and sporting events played a significant role in creating awareness about New Zealand?

Bollywood and cricket, so far, have played a significant role in creating increasing awareness about New Zealand in India.

The Indian Cricket team’s visit to New Zealand resulted in a 25% increase in April and a 20% increase May. Our peak season, despite the recession, remained profitable. This event presented Tourism New Zealand with multiple platforms to promote the country’s tourism potential, increase our profile as a destination and influence immediate summer holiday decisions for the year.

We carefully touched upon the adventure element (with renowned Indian cricketers performing the Auckland Sky Walk and Film actress Preity Zinta doing the bungy jump, sky dive and jet boat) as well as the leisure element (with captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and others fishing on a remote island and other team members sailing in Auckland), keeping in mind our target audience of family groups, young professionals, corporates, sports enthusiasts and the like.

We have seen growth in consumer interest when a movie shot in New Zealand hits the theatres. With the success of  ‘I Hate Luv Storys’  in India, Tourism New Zealand is ready to build aspiration and demand for the destination through the visibility that the film generated for New Zealand. The agreement with Dharma Productions also allowed for the presence of 100%  Pure New Zealand branding on their website, which drove traffic to http://www.newzealand.com upon being clicked.

PLANNING YOUR HOLIDAY

International Antarctic Centre at Christchurch

How long would you recommend a stay for the first-time visitor to New Zealand and what are the places which should be included to get a glimpse of the major highlights of New Zealand?

The average length of stay for Indian holiday makers is about 10 to 12 days, starting with the North Island, covering areas such as Auckland which is an urban and vibrant city, Rotorua which is the hub for geothermal attractions, Wellington – the arts capital of New Zealand, to the English charm of Christchurch, geothermal spa resort town of Hanmer Springs, rare wildlife encounters in Kaikoura, adventure capital and alpine town of Queenstown, glacier region of Franz Josef and Fox Glacier, scenic marvel that is Fiordland in the South Island.

We are also seeing a new trend with visitors staying up to 21 days in New Zealand on self-drive holidays, honeymooners prefer to spend 14 days and cover only the South Island.

What according to you are the must-visit experiences of New Zealand to be included for the following types of interests:

Honeymoon

Self-Drive is an excellent offer and definitely makes for one of the most special holidays for honeymooners. Spectacular scenery combined with empty roads and the luxury of exploring New Zealand’s diversity at your own pace and in the company of your loved one, is a sure shot holiday special for honeymooners. Self-Drive is also a very flexible and economical offer for newlyweds. Exclusive accommodation ranging from luxurious lodges to boutique hotels, offer various seclusion options and romantic getaways.

The potential for honeymooners to become closer through amazing experiences is limitless in New Zealand with plenty of romantic activities. Whether it is paragliding across New Zealand’s blue skies, enjoying a panoramic view of New Zealand in a helicopter tour, doing a food and wine trail, bungy jumping, jet boating, white water rafting, canoeing, kayaking with seals, taking a cruise along mystic Milford Sound, whale watching, dreamy gondola rides, indulging in a thermal spa treatment or swimming with dolphins, a New Zealand honeymoon is sure to be etched in anyone’s mind for life!

Experience the thrill of Sky Diving

Adventure

New Zealand is renowned as the adventure hub of the world. New Zealand offers a unique mix of adventure activities – from high adrenalin to soft adventure. For the adrenalin junkies, bungy jumping, jet boating and sky diving should be on top of the list. Soft adventure enthusiasts must experience zorbing, white water rafting, para gliding, skiing and much more.

Larnach Castle, New Zealand's only castle

Family Holidays

New Zealand has a wide variety of wildlife. Wilderness cruises are available in all regions popular for its wildlife and children would simply love swimming with dolphins, whale watching, and befriending fur seals and penguins. Jet boat rides, kayaking, canoeing, hot air balloon rides and hiking are some of the many activities that the family can enjoy together. New Zealand has a sizeable Indian population, so Indian cuisine restaurants are abundant. And of course, shopping is never something a destination can miss out on which is why New Zealand’s cities have plenty of them.

Special Interests such as Wines, Spas and Golfing

New Zealand is famed world over for its new age wines. Napier and Marlborough are the two major wine producing regions in New Zealand and offer unique vineyard experiences.

New Zealand is situated on the famous active volcanic zone geothermal belt known as the ‘Pacific Rim of Fire’ and is ranked among the Top 15 hot spring mineral water sites in the world. Located on the edge of two massive tectonic plates of the Earth’s crust, New Zealand has a large amount of geothermal activity. This means there are many thermal pools throughout the country for the visitor to enjoy after a long hard day! Pools range from small spa-type natural mineral pools to large thermally heated swimming pool complexes.

New Zealand offers great golfing experiences for travellers from around the globe. While Cape Kidnappers and Kauri Cliffs are popular world over for their golf experiences, you can also enjoy golf overlooking glacial lakes at Queenstown and Wanaka or in the geothermal wonderland of Rotorua.

What is your opinion on Namaste New Zealand (www.namastenewzealand.com), a dedicated website for the Indian outbound traveller?

Namaste New Zealand is a great website where consumers not only get a chance to know more about New Zealand and the different tourism products that New Zealand has to offer, but also get a chance to share their first hand experiences with other potential travellers.

ONLY IN NEW ZEALAND

Name at least 5 must-do experiences that you would find exclusively in New Zealand.

New Zealand is blessed to have the diverse landscape it is renowned for. Fascinating and exotic, New Zealand is where all the natural attractions of the world seem to converge. While in New Zealand, one must visit Milford Sound in the South Island, considered as the Eighth Wonder of the World, bungy jumping, as it was invented in Queenstown, visit White Island in the North Island, New Zealand’s only active marine volcano, Fox and Franz Josef in the South Island for the unique glacier experience and Rotorua for the cultural Maori experience as well as the geothermal landscape.

Why is New Zealand perceived as one of the best self-drive destinations?

Self-Drive holidays have always been popular with Indian visitors to New Zealand, for not only its sheer ease and convenience but the fact that it is also the best way to explore the country at a leisurely pace. With the Indian license being valid in New Zealand along with other comforts like New Zealanders driving on the left hand side and vehicles being equipped with right hand drive, Self- Driving holidays offer great flexibility in itinerary planning to include activities, sights and attractions perfectly suited to one’s individual tastes and preferences.

VALUE FOR MONEY

The average Indian traveller spends more than the British, French and the German when holidaying. What are the luxury and exclusive tourism products that one can experience in New Zealand?

Compared to other markets, the Indian traveller is more focused on quality than price, so Indians tend to spend more on higher quality accommodation, activities and attractions.

Indians are also known to be some of the biggest spenders in the world and luxury holidays are becoming increasingly popular among Indians. To our advantage, New Zealand has done some pioneering work in this area with luxurious products like luxury lodges, helicopter tours, gourmet alpine picnics, scenic aerial tours, indulgent spa treatments, luxury chauffeur driven tours and other high-end activities that has carved our ‘luxury tourism’ consumer mind space and are of high appeal with our Indian audience. Indians spend an average of NZ$3500 per person on a single trip, which reflects the interest and spending power on such luxury tourism products. Despite the economic crisis, the luxury consumer has not shown hesitation or reluctance with their holiday plans and we expect this growth to sustain at a steady pace.

Moreover, consumer values are changing as the outbound travel market continues to grow. People no longer just want to tick countries off on a list, but they want to go to places for a unique experience. Travellers from India are quite open minded today in craving newer experiences and unconventional travel destinations.

ASK THE EXPERT: H.E. Genet Teshome



H.E. Genet Teshome has been Consul General of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in Mumbai since May 2009.  Ethiopia is a country of great contrasts – from one of the oldest civilizations in the world to one of the fastest growing economies in East Africa. The responsibilities of the Consulate General include promoting and facilitating Ethiopia’s investment, trade and tourism opportunities, as well as continuing to strengthen Ethiopia’s relationship with India.

ABOUT ETHIOPIA

Ethiopia has a culture and tradition that dates back over 3000 years. Briefly tell us about historical Ethiopia, as well as the current State.

Ethiopia, the land that was once known as Abyssinia and that was one of the great kingdoms of the ancient world, is old beyond what most people could imagine.

In fact, the 3.5 million-year-old skeleton of “Lucy” or Australopithecus at Hadar, in the Afar Region, the 4.4 million-year-old remains of Australopithecus Remides which is considered to be man’s anthropoid ancestor, and the earliest hand tools of humans unearthed in the Omo Valley make the country the oldest home of mankind on the planet.

Moreover, the country, which has never been colonized, is one of and is perhaps the richest histories on the African continent and has a wealth of castles, palaces, ancient churches, monasteries and mosques as well as unique wild life, bird life and breath taking vistas.

The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia  was established under a new Constitution on 21 August 1995. The Constitution provides for a federal system of the State, which is structurally based on the Federal Government, nine autonomous States and two chartered cities (Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa). The States and chartered cities are vested with powers of self-administration. They have also legislative, executive and judicial powers regarding all matters that fall under their respective jurisdictions except those exclusively given by the Constitution to the Federal Government such as national defence, Foreign Affairs, macroeconomic policy and the printing of currency.

ATTRACTIONS

Which attractions would you recommend for the first-time visitor in Ethiopia?

Ethiopia is rich in historic heritages, of which eight are UNESCO registered. It is also rich in its flora and fauna; endowed with attractive sceneries; it is a mosaic of different cultures and history. The Ethiopian people are very friendly. It would be enjoyable and memorable for visitors to spend their holidays in Ethiopia.

Regarding attractions, Ethiopia has a lot to offer.  To mention a few of them:

·               Historic route of Axum, Gondar, Lalibela, Harar and Sof Omar

·            National parks with endemic wild animals like Gelada Baboon, Red Fox, Swayne Hart beast and Walya Ibex;                         different types of Rift Valley birds

·               Archeological routes – the cradle of human kind

·               Cultural routes to southern and western part of the country

·               Adventure tourism – trekking on Bale and Simien Mountains, rafting over Omo river and many others

SAFETY & HOSPITALITY

How safe is Ethiopia for visitors?

Ethiopia is the safest place to visit. People are hospitable, very friendly and respectful. If you are in Ethiopia, you will feel at home. Ethiopia has the biggest economy in East Africa and is also one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Ethiopia has recovered from the instability of the 1980s and today is a regional powerhouse in East Africa in terms of tourism as well as trade opportunities. Even the number of Indian restaurants is increasing in the capital city, Addis Ababa. For vegetarians Ethiopia’s fasting food , can be a substitute, as it is purely vegetarian and plus.

FOOD

Ethiopian Food

Would food be an issue for the Indian traveller?

There is a growing number of Indian restaurants in Addis Ababa primarily due to the increasing business relations between our countries. Ethiopian food is somehow similar to Indian food with a staple being a large dosa-like pancake called enjera covered with fermented tef, an indegenious grain. All curries and lentils are served on the enjera and everyone eats off the same platter.

Can you explain the significance and process of the Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony?


The Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony is a fusion of Ethiopia’s history, culture and hospitality. The coffee is taken through its full life cycle of preparation in front of you in a ceremonial manner. Coffee is called Bunna by the Ethiopians.

The ceremony starts with a woman, first bringing out the washed coffee beans and roasting them in a coffee roasting pan on small open furnace. From the beginning, the ceremony appeals to all the senses. The woman will be shaking the roasting pan back and forth so the beans do not burn. As the coffee beans start to pop, the preparer takes the pan and walks around the room so the aroma of freshly roasted coffee fills the air.

The roasted coffee is then put in a small household tool called mukecha for the grinding. The mukecha is a heavy wooden bowl where the coffee beans are placed and crushed by another tool called a zenezena which is a wooden or metal stick similar to a pestle and mortar.

The crushed fresh roasted coffee powder then is put in a traditional pot made out of clay called jebena with water and boiled in the small open furnace. Again the boiling coffee aroma fills the room. Once boiled, the coffee is served in small cups called cini.

As you sip your first cup of coffee, you have gone through the full process of watching the coffee beans being washed, roasted, grinded, boiled and finally consumed. The second and third servings of coffee are important enough that each serving has a name; the first serving is called Abol, the second serving is called Thona and the third serving is called Bereka.

Ethiopian Coffee Beans

Ethiopian Coffee Making Ceremony

ACCESSIBILITY

How easily accessible is Ethiopia in terms of tourism opportunities?

Ethiopia is now becoming more accessible. The Government is highly investing into the infrastructure development of the country. As a result, the country has been emerging from negligible accesses to road in terms of road network and per head coverage into asphalt and all-weather road network, which links each woreda (district) administration with the States and Federal Government.

In addition, most of the tourist attractions are covered by Ethiopian Airlines domestic network. Ethiopian Airlines flies daily to Addis Ababa from Mumbai, five days a week from New Delhi and also has daily domestic flights to Bahir Dar, Gondar, Lalibela, Axum and Makale.

Therefore, most of Ethiopia’s tourist destinations are accessible by road and air transport. Visa can be obtained from Ethiopian Missions in India, including Mumbai. Tourist Visa on arrival is also available at Bole International Airport for nationals of 36 countries, including nationals of India.

Which is the best time of the year to visit the country?

Ethiopia can be visited throughout the year. However, it might be advisable to visit Ethiopia between mid-September and April when the main rainy season gets over and the countryside is green.

What is the ideal duration of time one should spend in Ethiopia if one were to plan a holiday, especially keeping in the mind the varied experiences that Ethiopia has to offer?

It varies depending on what you are planning to visit. To cover all the attractions at once it will require a number of days and may be months. However, your visit can be tailored by tour operators based on interests and the number of available days for holiday. Expert advice can be sought from Ethiopian tour operators and the Consulate General can facilitate the link.

What about currency?

The local currency is the Birr which is approximately Rs. 4.50 to 1 Birr.

Ethiopian Currency - Birr

BI-LATERAL RELATIONSHIP

What is the perception of India amongst Ethiopians?

India has got a wide appreciation among the urban people at large. Indian music and Bollywood films are very popular among the young generation. In the Government, India is regarded as a role model, as it is one of the fast growing economies.  Ethiopia is also achieving a double digit growth for the last seven years in a row; therefore, cooperation with India would be very important to share experiences and exchange information.

How does your office plan to promote Tourism between Ethiopia and India?

We are using different methods to promote Ethiopia’s tourist attractions. For instance, in collaboration with Ethiopian Airlines, relevant institution and concerned Government Bodies, we organize a familiarization tour for Indian Travel and Tour Companies, photographers and writers. We are also working to establishing a partnership and twinning arrangement between Tour Operators of the two countries. We also encourage Tour Companies of Ethiopia to participate in tourism fairs that are taking place in India. We try to use all possible means and tool to promote Ethiopia as a tourist destination.

Together with collaborators, we will also do publicities through journals and newspapers so as to create awareness in Indian tourism market.

At this juncture, I would like to thank you for featuring Ethiopia in your well positioned magazine, Opportunities Today.

TRADE & INVESTMENT

How has been the bi-lateral relationship between India and Ethiopia?

The political relationship of the two countries has been exemplary. Both countries are supporting each other at international fora. There were a number of visit exchanges at the highest political level.

Regarding trade and business relationship, it goes back centuries. In fact, Ethiopia was the first preferred investment destination for India. The first India’s Foreign Direct Investment was made in Ethiopia in 1959 by Birla Group. This fact is well written by Indian scholars and it is well documented. If you visit the Birla Group’s website it is also posted there.

This relationship was watered down during the military dictator regime and again it is being boosted since the current democratic Government took power. Especially in the last six and seven years the trade volume has tripled and at this time it stands around half a billion USD per annum. Regarding investment, for Indian investors, Ethiopia has emerged as one of the most preferred investment destinations in Africa.

Moreover, Indian investors can benefit from market access, which is extended to Ethiopia by U.S.A., EU, COMESA and other countries. Ethiopia looks towards India as its strategic partner.

Which are the key investment opportunities between the two countries?

Ethiopia has a vast area of land that can be used for agricultural development; it has a number of rivers and running water, which can be used for irrigation. It has untapped potential for industrial development, especially for agro-industry, textile, apparel and leather industries. Ethiopia also has a young and trainable labor force at a reasonable payment. The Government, both at the States and Federal levels, is encouraging and supporting private investment including Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). The investment law is not discriminatory and equally treats both domestic and foreign investors.

Omo River

There is an incentive package that includes tax holidays, duty free importation of capital goods related with the project, 100 per cent expatriation of profit and capital and many others. Both urban and rural land is made available for investment projects on lease basis at affordable rates.

Are there many investments made by Indian companies in Ethiopia and which are the growth areas of investments for the future?

In 2004/05 India’s Foreign Direct Investment to Ethiopia was only 400 million USD. Nowadays, this figure has been changed drastically. India’s FDI to Ethiopia in terms of the number of projects and the total amount of capital has reached at the forefront with a total number of projects about 500 and registered capital of about USD five billion. This figure is on the increase as this momentum is still continuing.

Regarding areas of investment, Indian investors are mainly into utmost priority sectors of the country, like agriculture and floriculture, agro processing, textile, manufacturing and the like. They are also into consultancy, health and education.

In which areas can expertise be shared between the two states?

India is a knowledge partner of Ethiopia. In the past, for a long time Indian teachers were teaching in junior and high schools and they were sharing their knowledge with young Ethiopians. Currently, many Indian lecturers are carrying out trainings and researches at Ethiopian universities and Higher Learning Institutions.

India’s technology in the agriculture sector, Small and Micro Enterprises (SMEs) and in many other sectors is considered as most appropriate and is subject for knowledge share.

Moreover, the support of Indian Government to African countries in e-government, tele-medicine and tele-education has been facilitating knowledge transfer at higher level between India and the African nations and amongst themselves.

ABOUT THE EXPERT

Which is your favorite holiday destination in Ethiopia and in India?

I love the historical offerings of Ethiopia, as well as the natural landscapes and abundant wildlife. I have visited almost all historic and heritage attractions in Ethiopia, as well as many of the National Parks and the protected Game Reserves.

In India, I had a chance to participate in a heritage walk last year organised by Indian Merchants’ Chamber and Mumbai Heritage Walk, where we became acquainted with Mumbai’s heritage sites. I was also able to see the Elephanta Caves and Sanjay Gandhi National Park on a tour organized by the Government of Maharashtra. It was an excellent experience. India is a very vast and rich country in terms of tourist attractions and culture. I still have a lot to explore.

PARTING MESSAGE

Indians are exploring Ethiopia from business perspectives. However, Ethiopia is not well explored by Indian leisure tourists. Ethiopia has a lot to offer and you will never regret visiting Ethiopia.

Please visit Ethiopia – a country with 13 months of sunshine – and be seven years younger.

Do you have a question for the experts?

Send your questions to info@opportunitiestoday.co.in