Mar 20

China Watch Blog has learnt that WorldVentures, which is the industry’s largest seller of vacation club memberships, opens for business in Iceland. The organisation offers opportunities for local entrepreneurs to start their own businesses.

WorldVentures, the direct-selling industry’s largest seller of vacation club memberships, is proud to announce its expansion into Iceland. Launching in Iceland extends WorldVentures’ international presence to 23 countries, and is a natural progression to the company’s expansion in two other prominent Nordic markets, Sweden and Norway.

“Launching in Iceland demonstrates the importance WorldVentures attributes to the Nordic markets as a part of our global expansion plan,” said WorldVentures Co-Founder and Chief Visionary Officer Wayne Nugent. “Norway is one of our booming markets, and its tremendous success created demand from local Icelandic entrepreneurs to start their own businesses with WorldVentures. We are proud to welcome these future business owners to our team of global ambassadors, and to give them exclusive and affordable access to some of the most desirable travel destinations and resorts around the world.”

WorldVentures’ entrance into Iceland provides an opportunity for those interested in building an independent business to sell the company’s DreamTrips™ club memberships to those truly passionate about travel. DreamTrips Members enjoy one-of-a-kind, curated group vacation experiences designed and managed by an award-winning online travel agency.

Founded by two direct-selling veterans and visionaries, Wayne Nugent and Mike Azcue, WorldVentures is built on three guiding principles: a foundation of superior travel and vacation products for customers; fair and transparent economic opportunity for its Independent Representatives; and a genuine commitment to community coupled with good corporate citizenship. The company does significant strategic planning prior to launching in a new country, ensuring it has a viable market and is compliant with all local regulations. WorldVentures’ current markets include countries in Europe, North America, Asia and Africa.

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Feb 26

China Watch Blog reports that the JW Marriott brand officially opened the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai on Tuesday.

Acquiring the coveted title of World’s Tallest hotel from the Guinness World Records, the 72-storey property is the first JW Marriott Marquis outside of North America and the 59th addition to the brand’s global luxury portfolio.

A host of international VIPs, including Marriott International’s President & CEO Arne Sorenson are in Dubai this week for the official unveiling.

Soaring at 355 metres, the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai is just 26 metres shorter than New York City’s famed Empire State Building.

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Feb 14

China Watch Blog has learnt that more than 250 investors, including majority of them from China, have been cheated out of millions of dollars in a scheme by an American who led them to believe their investments could enhance their prospects of US citizenship, according to the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Shanghai Daily reported, citing the SEC as saying that the man, Anshoo R. Sethi, had created two companies and “fraudulently sold more than US$145 million in securities and collected US$11 million in administrative fees from investors.”

The commission has halted the scheme and filed charges. It has also frozen Sethi’s assets.

“Sethi orchestrated an elaborate scheme and exploited these investors’ dreams of earning legal US residence along with a positive return on their investment in a project that was not nearly the done deal that he portrayed,” said Stephen Cohen, associate director in the SEC’s enforcement division.

“The good news is that we intervened early and stopped him from getting very far, and the asset freeze preserves nearly all of the money invested.”

But the bad news is that Sethi and his companies have spent more than 90 percent of the administrative fees collected from investors despite a promise to return the money to investors if visa applications were rejected.

More than US$2.5 million of these funds were directed to Sethi’s personal bank account in Hong Kong, said the SEC.

It has obtained an emergency court order to protect the remaining US$145 million in investor assets.

It is not known whether Sethi, 29, who lives in Illinois, has been arrested.

Investigations are ongoing, the SEC said.

Sethi’s website, www.anshoosethi.net, is still in service. It says the family hotel development business is three decades old and he “offers nearly 15 years’ experience as a real estate developer and global financier with a focus on hotel development and management.”

The SEC alleges that Sethi misled people that their investments would help them gain them US citizenship through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Pilot Program, which provides foreign investors with an avenue to US residency by investing in projects that will create or preserve jobs for US workers.

The SEC claimed that Sethi and his companies “made a number of misrepresentations about the project to dupe investors.”

By purchasing interests in Sethi’s companies, the investors were told that they would be financing construction of the “World’s First Zero Carbon Emission Platinum LEED certified” hotel and conference center near Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.

The SEC alleges that Sethi and his companies falsely told investors they had acquired all the necessary building permits and that several major hotel chains, such as Hyatt, Intercontinental Hotel Group and Starwood Hotels, had signed onto the project.

However, none of those hotel chains has a signed agreement to include a hotel in the Chicago project, according to the SEC’s investigation.

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Dec 13

China Watch Blog read with interest news that some people in China were arrested for distributing literature on a bus to prepare for the end of the world, which is reportedly to happen on Dec 21, 2012.

As the world gears up for 21.12.12, Papaya Playa, a Design Hotels™ Project in Tulum, Mexico is planning to step up its efforts in nurturing its precious environment. “We’re proud that we have been able to create a draft for sustainable tourism in this unspoilt part of the Riviera Maya,” says owner Emilio Heredia.

This momentous time also begs for a transformation. So a new space for art and music collaborations in the form of Tribal Room will open its doors, clusters of cabañas will give families and close friends privacy on the magical Caribbean coast, and the ultimate in barefoot luxury – the Beach House will afford the best views in the resort.

“Our favourite laboratory for alternative hospitality models takes its cue from the original concept of bringing together the Design Hotels™ creative community to build unparalleled experiences,” says Claus Sendlinger, CEO of Design Hotels™.

WHAT COMES AFTER…
When the Mayan cycle ends on 21st December at 18.08, a new creative den will be born – The Tribal Room. Located in the Grand Palapa in a secluded spot on the northern edge of the resort, the open-plan thatched roof structure invites all in. A Burning-Man-style installation, art, music and performances will be high on the agenda. Bringing together this temporary creative space is Till Harter, the man behind the legendary Bar Tausend in Berlin and a key figure in the underground scene since the ’90s in the German capital. The Tribal Room will be a space where paints and brushes can be ordered along with your drink, temporary photo exhibitions and cutting edge video art will be showcased on the white curtains, enveloping the space. Curating these innovative temporary collaborations are photographer Polina Sirosh and visual artist Oliver Halsman Rosenberg. It is also where a tea service will be served on floor cushions and low tables dotting the space and jam sessions will take place a couple of times each week. A network of international DJs as well as local talent will work on creating the Tulum Sound – a mix of voodoo-jazz, exotica, weirdo-electronics and urban dance grooves.

ON THE ROAD TO THE FUTURE

Continuing with a commitment to sustainability, the Papaya Playa Project is on a path to self-sufficiency and getting off-the-grid – through rainwater collection, water treatment, renewable energy generation for electricity, solar hot water and a strategy to reduce landfill waste by 80%. It also means going hyperlocal in the kitchen, serving local Yucatan products.

In terms of the cabañas, you can now get a piece of oceanfront paradise for yourself and close friends and family. Simply book a cluster of up to five cabañas and get a communal hangout den of your own as well as a piece of beach. For the ultimate privacy, cocooned on a cliff with breathtaking views of both the glimmering sea and the jungle treetops is the Beach House. The open-plan living comes with two bedrooms, a spacious lounge plus open kitchen, private plunge pool, three separate cabañas, a meditation pavilion and a natural cave.

CHEFS POPPING IN THE KITCHEN
We love the results of spontaneity and creativity so much that we just can’t stop. Starting February, the magic of talented chefs will spice things up at the Papaya Playa Beach Club. To begin this culinary journey with a bang we have masterchef Mateo Granados, whose work in the fine-dining kitchens of Masa and Dry Creek Kitchen in California, have earned him many gourmet fans. A pioneer in introducing the exquisite flavours of Yucatan cuisine to the US, Mateo focusses on using organic, seasonal, local produce for his dishes such as Yucatan-style huevos rancheros with epazote-flavoured black bean puree, broken tostadas and goat milk feta or delicate tamales made with organic masa and olive oil. We can’t wait to see what surprises he has in store for the Papaya Playa inhabitants.

A NEAT LITTLE PACKAGE
To experience the shift in Mayan cycles and the special energy in the region on 21st December, Papaya Playa Project is offering a Mayan Renewal package. Spend now through Christmas in the sun and sand. A five-night treat includes a body and mind rejuvenating Temazcal (traditional Mexican sweat lodge) experience, a great deal on treatments at the Spa at Papaya Playa and even snorkelling. And get invited to the hottest opening of the island. It’s the perfect time to shed some old skin.

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Dec 13

China Watch Blog has learnt that one billion tourists have traveled internationally in 2012 according to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the United Nations specialized agency for sustainable tourism.

This is equivalent to one in every seven people on the planet traveling the world in 2012, up from just 25 million in 1950.

The figure establishes tourism as one of the world’s largest and fastest growing economic sectors, accounting for:

· 9% of global GDP (direct, indirect and induced)

· 1 in every 12 jobs worldwide (direct, indirect and induced)

· US$ 1.2 trillion in exports a year

· 6% of world trade

· 8% of the exports of least developed countries

For developing countries, tourism brings much needed foreign exchange and investment. Tourism has also proven an extremely resilient sector, despite uncertain economic conditions, and is key to supporting the global economy in the current challenging times.

UNWTO forecasts point to the one-billionth tourist arriving somewhere in the world in December. UNWTO has chosen 13 December as the symbolic arrival date of the one-billionth tourist.

To celebrate, UNWTO has been running a global campaign to raise awareness of the power of one billion tourists to affect positive change by making small changes to their travel behaviour. The campaign, One Billion Tourists: One Billion Opportunities, calls on the one billion tourists to make their actions count by saving water and energy, using public transport, protecting heritage and more.

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Dec 06

China Watch Blog has learnt that one mirror by itself is just a shiny surface. But bring many mirrors together and the result is a multifaceted, seemingly infinite series of reflections that change every time you look.

11 Mirrors, the first member of Design Hotels™ in the Ukraine, is celebrating its grand opening this month. This elegant sanctuary is a reflection of contemporary Kiev: sophisticated and simple, with no need for heavy embellishments.

11 Mirrors

The brainchild of Wladimir Klitschko, 11 Mirrors is the result of his vision of a hotel that would reflect the many different aspects of Kiev as well as his own experience as a world traveler. Anatoliy Kirik and Marina Leo, who are responsible for the architecture and interior design of the hotel, consulted closely with Klitschko while working on 11 Mirrors.

In creating the look and feel of the hotel, their team of Ukrainian and international architects and designers combined global trends with simple, timeless elegance and sophistication.

The narrow 11-story building impresses from the outside with its austere granite façade, combining contemporary design and 19th century architecture. Visitors pass through glass doors to the lobby, where the natural stone walls, reception desk, floor and fireplace complement a stainless steel ceiling designed by Anatoliy Kirik, glass panels and artistic mirrored wall décor by the local Fomichev Brothers.

The 49 luxurious rooms and suites offer peace and privacy, with windows overlooking Kiev’s historical center, intimate lighting, dark wood accents, spacious bathrooms and subtle bursts of color. With spa-inspired bathrooms, specially designed work spaces and fully-stocked bar areas, guests can easily relax and recharge to enjoy the nearby sights and sounds that the city has to offer.

Instead of the heavy imperial embellishments often associated with the Ukraine of the past, contemporary simplicity and elegance prevail throughout the hotel’s interior design. Black and white backgrounds, wide panoramic windows, reflective silver mirrors and playing surfaces and ceramic decorations by majolica artist Taras Tkachenko give the hotel a sense of minimalism, while the amber-colored design bar welcomes guests to the elegant, informal mezzanine restaurant and a fireplace warms cocktail-sipping visitors in the lounge.

Discover the bustling Ukrainian capital – a fairytale city of pear domes and frescoes, a progressive center of science and education, a hub of business and economics and a highly desirable culture and leisure destination. 11 Mirrors is ideally located in the city center, in the very heart of old and dynamic Kiev, just a few meters from the National Opera House. All major historical sites as well as the best cafés, bars, restaurants, shops and art galleries are all within easy walking distance from the hotel.

Rates start at EUR 265.

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Dec 04

China Watch Blog warns its readers NEVER to give personal info on the phone, even if you are in a hotel.

A friend arrived at his hotel and checked in at the front desk. When checking in, the friend had given the front desk his credit card (for all the room charges as well as deposit). He went to his room to settle in.

The phone in room rang. Someone called and said he was from the front desk and asked whether he was in Room 620-which happens to be his room.

My friend answered and the person on the other end said the following:

“This is the front desk. When checking in, we came across a problem with your charge card information. Please re-read your credit card number and verify the last 3 digits on the reverse side of your charge card.”

Not thinking anything, my friend gave this person this information, since the call seems to come from the front desk. But actually, it was a scam. Someone was calling from outside the hotel and pretended to be the front desk.

The fraudsters usually ask for a random room number. Then, ask you for credit card information and address information. They sound so professional, that you give it to them, thinking you are talking to the front desk.

If you ever encounter this problem on your vacation, tell the caller that you will be down at the front desk to clear up any problems.

Then, go to the front desk and ask if there was a problem.
If there was none, inform the manager of the hotel that someone called to scam you of your credit card information, acting like a front desk employee.

My friend was duped, and is still cleaning up the mess.

So travellers please be aware of this racket.

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Oct 17

China Watch Blog has learnt that World Ventures, a US company that offers heavily discounted vacations, air tickets, hotel accommodation, cruises, car rental and major sports events on a global basis has come to Asia, offering low cost travel.

Yours truly received an email from a very close friend that his spouse Marelene has just launched this new business which sounds promising. Have a peek at Marelene WorldVentures

Yes, it is all very American in its approach and Marelene’s just got onboard just as the business starts to roll out across Asia. So, please you (China Watch Blog) readers, give her all the support you can.

According to her husband, Tony Philips, if you’ve got time (and can bear with some of the Joe Traveler humour!) it’s worth viewing the introductory DreamTrips Life video. Marelene Dreamtripslife

Or if you simply want to see the sort of deals on offer, just click “Shop for Travel” in the top right hand corner of the page above.

I bet you will find something that might interest you, so keep surfing the website.

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Sep 14

China Watch Blog has learnt that with a record 467 million tourists traveling in the first half of 2012, international tourism remains firmly on track to reach one billion tourists by the end of the year.

Despite concerns over the global economy, international tourism demand continues to show resilience. The number of international tourists worldwide grew by 5% between January and June 2012 compared to the same period of 2011 (22 million more). Although a slight slowdown in growth can be expected for the rest of the year, international arrivals are forecast to exceed one billion by the end of 2012.

“Amid the current economic uncertainty, tourism is one of the few economic sectors in the world growing strongly, driving economic progress in developing and developed countries alike and, most importantly, creating much needed jobs,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, opening the Global Tourism Economy Forum in Macao.

“As we lead up to the milestone of one billion, we need to ensure that the tourism sector is supported by adequate national policies and that we work to reduce existing barriers to the expansion of the sector, such as complicated visa procedures, increased direct taxation or limited connectivity,” he added.

Asia leads growth

International arrivals were up in all regions between January and June 2012.

Asia and the Pacific (+8%) led growth by region, boosted by the recovery of Japanese inbound and outbound tourism as well as by the continued strong performance of other major source markets throughout the region. Destinations in South Asia and South-East Asia (both +9%) showed some of the best results worldwide. “Although Asia was affected by the economic crisis of 2008-2009 due to its strong linkages with other economies, the region has bounced back quickly and is today a leader in the global economy. This is clearly reflected in its tourism figures,” said Mr. Rifai.

Last year, Hong Kong welcomed a new record number of visitors of 42 million. This is indeed no small feat for a small city like Hong Kong.

View of Hong Kong from ICC100

Europe (+4%), the most visited destination in the world, consolidated its record growth of 2011, despite continuing economic volatility in the Eurozone. Results were above the regional average in Central and Eastern Europe (+7%) where many destinations saw double-digit growth, as well as in Western Europe (+5%). By contrast, demand in Southern and Mediterranean Europe (+1%) slowed down, but on top of a very strong 2011, and partly due to the recovery of destinations in North Africa and the Middle East.

The Americas (+5%) grew in line with the world average, with Central America (+7%) and South America (+6%) recording the strongest results. In fact, South America has been one of the sub-regions with the fastest tourism growth of recent years. Destinations in North America grew at 4%, a relatively high rate for a mature sub-region, while growth in the Caribbean (+5%) remained buoyant, consolidating 2011 results.

In Africa (+7%), the return of tourist flows to Tunisia is reflected in the results of North Africa (+11%). Likewise, the rebound of Egypt is clearly mirrored in the results of the Middle-East (+0.7%). Destinations in Sub-Saharan Africa (+6%) continued to show strong results, following the good growth rates of this sub-region in previous years.

Healthy demand from both emerging and advanced economy source markets

In terms of outbound markets, and among the top ten countries by expenditure on travel abroad, growth was significant in China (+30%), the Russian Federation (+15%), USA (+9%), Germany (+6%) and Canada (+6%) . In Japan, an 8% increase in spending on overseas tourism confirms the recovery of this important market. On the other hand, growth was comparatively slow or negative in the UK, Australia, Italy and France.

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Aug 18

China Watch Blog reports that Crystal Symphony completes a two-week dazzling extreme ship makeover, and ultra-luxe Crystal Cruises, a wholly owned subsidiary of NYK, reveals chic-ly redesigned major public spaces aboard Crystal Symphony, including the Avenue Saloon, Palm Court, Galaxy showroom, Hollywood Theatre, Bridge Lounge, Fantasia and Waves “junior cruisers” areas, and the tender landing/passenger boarding area.

Crystal Harmony after makeover

“In keeping with our tremendous focus on design, we wanted to create something both highly contemporary and yet extremely accessible,” says Crystal President Gregg Michel. “The ultimate result is all our guests’ favorite gathering places now feeling even more welcoming, while also offering the stylish sophistication and comfortable elegance luxury travelers look for in a vacation setting, and expect from Crystal.”

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