Travel News 20 Oct 2022

VietJet Air launches new routes, connects Da Nang with Mumbai and New Delhi

VietJet Air welcomes new direct flights from Mumbai and Delhi to Da Nang. Arriving on first flight VJ830 and VJ984 from New Delhi and Mumbai respectively, VietJet will now directly connect Vietnam’s “Most Livable City” to two of the largest cultural, economic and political hubs of India.

Vietjet has pioneered in facilitating international connectivity between Vietnam and Southeast and Northeast Asia. The new flight routes will now bring Indian travelers to the heart of Vietnam; Positively impacting travel, tourism, trade and culture.

With a duration of only a 4-hour travel, passengers coming from India will have the opportunity to experience famous cultural hotspots, resort destinations and beautiful beaches, including the world-famous Golden Bridge in Ba Na Hills and the Central Heritage Road connecting Hue – My Son – Hoi An. For passengers from Vietnam, the unique opportunity to soak in the diverse culture, religious practices and culinary delights of India are only a flight away.

VietJet’s direct flights to India will also boast of several other in-flight features; Hot meals from a list of international cuisines, Health services, Leather Seats, Dedicated cabin crews and unique art programs all while experiencing seamless air travel at an altitude of 10,000 meters

Return flights between Da Nang – New Delhi, will be scheduled for Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Return flights between Da Nang – Mumbai will be scheduled for Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Hong Kong offers new visa scheme

Hong Kong’s leader on Wednesday unveiled a new visa scheme to woo global talent, as the city seeks to stem a brain drain that is undermining its status as an international financial center.

Chief Executive John Lee said the new Top Talent Pass Scheme will allow those earning an annual salary of 2.5 million Hong Kong dollars ($318,472) or more and graduates of the world’s top universities to work or pursue opportunities in the city for two years.

Hong Kong, a former British colony handed to Chinese control in 1997, faces myriad challenges.

The territory has a semi-autonomous status, and its own legal system and economy, but hundreds of thousands of residents have left the city in recent years, driven by a crackdown on political dissent and diminished freedoms after authorities imposed a tough national security law, and by strict Covid-19 entry restrictions in place during much of the pandemic.

Over the last two years, the city’s workforce has shrunk by about 140,000 people, Lee said.

“We must be more proactive and aggressive in competing for enterprises and competing for talent,” Lee said during his maiden policy address on Wednesday. “Apart from actively nurturing and retaining local talent, the government will proactively trawl the world for talent.”

Lee announced a raft of proposals — including tax rebates and relaxed measures for hiring foreigners — to boost the city’s competitiveness after its coronavirus restrictions hammered the local economy and drove professionals away.

Foreign new home buyers can receive a partial refund of the stamp duty — a tax levied on property purchases — on their first residential property purchase when they become permanent residents.

The government will streamline processes for companies to employ foreigners in designated professions, set up a new task force to formulate recruitment strategies and provide support for newcomers, he said.

Lee's address largely focused on efforts to recruit foreign workers and support livelihoods to try to win public trust, said Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy.

But such measures are unlikely to boost his popularity since policies like the new visa scheme focus on attracting new, foreign talent instead of retaining local talent, Choy said.

“You are only trying to attract new blood, but you do not try to stop the bleeding,” he said.

Lee later said he also was committed to retaining local professionals, pointing to the city's education efforts and subsidies to help workers pursue their career goals.

A former security chief handpicked by Beijing to lead Hong Kong, Lee is under pressure to reposition the city as a top business and financial hub, after the exodus of residents raised fears that talent will continue leaving for rival cities like Singapore and Dubai. He aims to recruit 35,000 skilled workers Hong Kong each year.

The city’s population in mid-2022 dropped 1.6% from a year earlier, falling by 113,200 residents as of August, according to government statistics.

Singapore overtook Hong Kong in a ranking of global financial centers last month. In August, it announced a new visa that allows skilled, high-earning foreign talent to work for more than one employer at a time.

Despite Hong Kong's new talent drive, Singapore still has some advantages over Hong Kong because of its location in Southeast Asia, where some economies are growing quickly, said Simon Lee, honorary institute fellow at the Chinese University of Hong Kong's Asia-Pacific Institute of Business.

Working in a place that relies on China could pose some “career risks” for skilled workers as its economy slows. Skilled workers from mainland China also may just treat Hong Kong as a stepping stone for their careers, he said.

“Those mainland talents have more destinations (to choose from)," he said.

Lee also addressed housing and national security issues in his address.

To redress a shortage of affordable housing in the world's most expensive property market, Lee pledged to provide enough land to build 72,000 private residential apartments over the next five years.

He also said the government would speed up the development of public housing by introducing simpler layouts to reduce waiting times for applicants, who currently wait an average of six years to get apartments. Other measures include introducing a minimum size limit for new units.

Lee said the government would “further strengthen the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for safeguarding national security” as the city prepares to enact its own security law. Such efforts were shelved in 2003 after fears about a loss of freedoms sparked massive protests.

New laws and regulations will also be implemented to regulate crowdfunding activities and enhance cybersecurity for critical infrastructure, he said.

Lee gave no sign he plans to ease pandemic restrictions in the city.

Hong Kong will focus on actively monitoring the coronavirus instead of “lying flat,” and will aim to reduce severe cases and deaths as well as protect those at high-risk of the coronavirus, among others, according to Lee.

Currently, travelers to Hong Kong no longer need to complete mandatory quarantines. but they do have to do a slew of coronavirus tests daily in their first week. They are only allowed to enter venues such as restaurants and museums when they've tested negative for the coronavirus for three days in a row upon arrival.

UK on track to process visa applications within 15 days

British High Commissioner to India, Alex Ellis on Tuesday said that they are on track to get back to processing India to UK visa applications within our standard of 15 days.

“We are on track to get back to processing India to Great Britain #visa applications within our standard of 15 days,” tweeted Ellis.

He said that Indian student numbers are up by 89 per cent since last year and skilled workers’ visas bring processed faster with a focus on improving visitor visa processing times.

“The good news is we are now getting back on track. We have dealt with an unprecedented surge in demand for student visas, 89 per cent up last year. We are turning right off skilled worker visas very fast. And now we are focussing on visitor visas to get them back within 15 days,” said the British High Commissioner.

Notably, the combination of an unprecedented surge in demand for travel from India to the UK, combined with the effects of COVID-19 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, meant that UK visa processing got well outside of a 15-day working standard.

“We are doing that through a collective effort of our teams in Delhi, in the UK and all over the world. I am glad to say, I think we are now on track,” said Ellis. He also said that the UK had good availability in visa application centres and urged applicants to apply for visas earlier.

“Don’t forget, we have got good availability in our visa application centres as well. You can help by applying early. You can apply three months in advance. You can use the different services, including the priority visa service and the super priority visa service if you have a particular urgency,” said Ellis. He also advised the applicants to provide the information as requested.

“Make sure you provide the information requested, not just the information which you want to give. And together, I think we can get right down to the 15-day work service standard by the end of this year. That’s my aim. So, good news, we are on track and I think we can get well on track over the next few weeks,” added the British High Commissioner.

It is pertinent to note that India has now overtaken China as the largest nationality being issued sponsored study visas in the UK.

The latest UK Immigration Statistics published today (25 August) show that nearly 118,000 Indian students received a Student visa in the year ending June 2022 – an 89 per cent increase from the previous year. India has now overtaken China as the largest nationality being issued sponsored study visas in the UK.

The UK continues to be a popular destination for Indian holidaymakers too. Indian nationals accounted for the highest proportion (28per cent) of Visitor visas granted. More than 258,000 Indian nationals received visit visas in the year ending June 2022 – a 630 per cent increase compared to the previous year (when travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic were still in place).

In the year ending June 2022, Indian nationals also received nearly 103,000 Work visas (which includes skilled and seasonal workers) – a 148 per cent increase over the previous year. Indian nationals continue to be the top nationality granted Skilled Worker visas, accounting for 46 per cent of all skilled work visas granted globally.

Fortune Hotels Launches Fortune Park Katra

Fortune Hotels announced the opening of Fortune Park Katra, its second property in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. The hotel is located at a distance of approx. 850 meters from Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra Railway Station and one kilometer from the Katra Bus Stand.

Speaking about the launch, Samir MC, Managing Director, Fortune Hotels, said, “Strategically aligned to our goal of expanding presence across pilgrimage destinations, The Fortune Park Katra has curated services and experiences with the needs of the devotees at the core. It is exciting to introduce another hotel in the Jammu & Kashmir region and to be able to play a small part in the spiritual journey of our guests.”

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