No related posts. MANAGUA – Nicaraguan inflation was 0.34 percent in June, almost half of that reported in the same month in 2011 (0.66 percent), for a cumulative 2.19 percent in the first half, according to Central Bank figures released Tuesday.A second consecutive month of low inflation is contributed to an increased supply of agricultural goods and a decrease in international oil prices, a Central Bank report stated.Inflation from June 2011 to June 2012 stood at 6.46 percent, 2.55 percentage points lower than the same period last year. Facebook Comments
According to studies by specialists from the Institute of Geology at China’s Earthquake Administration, [Nicaragua’s] volcanoes will not negatively affect the normal operation of the Gran Canal of Nicaragua. With the adoption of the most advanced international design theories, and adequate construction measures, it is guaranteed that the canal will not suffer damages in the event of an earthquake, nor will [an earthquake] negatively affect the project.The CRCC also states that since 2013, several experts have been conducting field studies of the route’s topography, geology and hydrology, resulting in detailed studies of the canal route. Shouldn’t those studies be shared with the public? Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel González – whose country shares a border with Nicaragua on the Río San Juan, which joins Lake Nicaragua to the Caribbean Sea – thinks so. In comparison, if you want to find out the environmental impact and mitigation efforts of the ongoing $5.25 billion Panama Canal expansion project, all 11 chapters of the assessment are posted online for anyone to peruse. Last week as I was driving through the sweltering Nicaraguan countryside in the southwestern department of Rivas, a convoy of soldiers traveling at midday on the Inter-American Highway caught my eye. It’s not unusual to see troop movements in a Central American country with an army, but these guys looked liked they were on assignment.A check of the local social media rumor mill revealed chatter that police and soldiers were indeed moving about Rivas in the presence of “chinos,” and it was somehow related to the Gran Canal project.Rivas is ground zero for President Daniel Ortega’s ambitious $40 billion, 278-kilometer interoceanic canal. The canal promises to make Nicaragua — the second poorest nation in the Americas — “one of the richest countries in Central America,” according to plans published by the China Railway Siyuan Survey and Design Group Co., Ltd., and apparently approved by the secretive Hong Kong Nicaragua Development company, or HKND, which is tasked with designing and building the canal.The Pacific point of entry is the mouth of the Brito River, in Rivas, where a large petroleum port and free trade zone are scheduled to be built. Not far from that, a tourism complex is being planned. The Brito free trade zone, according to the plans, will cover approximately 29 square kilometers and provide residential housing space for 40,000 people and create 113,000 jobs.Three months remain before the start of construction on the massive infrastructure project that will profoundly change the landscape of this volcanic isthmus. Skeptics have asked a lot of questions about the company HKND and the canal. Those inquiries often are met with glaring silence or vaguely worded company press releases. But last week, Rivas residents got a taste of the future – and they didn’t seem to like it very much.Those soldiers I saw turned out to be armed escorts, along with police, for Chinese land surveyors from the Changjiang Institute of Survey, Planning, Design and Research Co., Ltd., one of the Asian giant’s top state-owned engineering firms. The same company built the Three Gorges hydropower project on the Yangtze River in China. The world’s largest hydroelectric dam set the record for number of displaced people (1.2 million) and cities and towns flooded (13 cities, 140 towns, 1,350 villages), according to the environmental group International Rivers, and resulted in “floating archipelagoes of garbage,” according to The New York Times. Soldiers accompany Chinese land surveyors in Rivas, Nicaragua. (Screengrab from Confidencial’s “Esta Semana”)The weekly TV program “Esta Semana,” hosted by Carlos F. Chamorro of the news magazine Confidencial, produced a recent investigation on the land surveying. Chamorro, who is highly critical of the Ortega regime and its canal plans, sent reporter Wilfredo Miranda to Rivas to take a closer look at what’s going on (see the video above, in Spanish). There, Confidencial found residents who felt violated and intimidated by soldiers, police and Chinese company representatives.Land surveyors arrived several times and entered properties without permission, Rodrigo Velásquez, a community organizer in Orejuelo, a village on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, told Confidencial. “They’re obligating residents to sign.” It’s unclear what exactly residents are being asked to sign. The slips of paper, in both Mandarin and Spanish, could be permission waivers for surveyors to enter their properties. Or their purpose could be more nefarious. Residents had no idea what was happening.“They didn’t say anything, they just entered como Pedro por su casa,” said resident María del Carmen Junes, using a Spanish idiom that translates as, “like they owned the place.”“They enter the homes without permission and don’t explain much,” chimed in a Gringo named Chuck Stone. “There isn’t very much transparency here.”The Chinese inspectors asked to see land titles and deeds, offering to pay “double” the cadastral value of locals’ homes and promising to relocate the occupants, although they didn’t say where, when or how.Octavio Ortega, president of a foundation of Rivas municipalities called FUNDEMAR, told Confidencial that the announcement of the canal’s route has caused wild speculation and the skyrocketing of the cost of land – up to 10 times normal market prices, in some cases. “You can’t even imagine,” Octavio Ortega said. “With what money are these people going to be able to afford to relocate?” Maybe they’ll find some of that affordable housing in the Brito free trade zone, but no one really knows because the company isn’t talking. Neither is Daniel Ortega. A projected map of the Brito free trade zone in Rivas, Nicaragua. (Screengrab from the “Proyecto de Desarrollo Integral del Gran Canal de Nicaragua”)A few days after the surveyors’ confrontation with residents, the company ERM, which is tasked with conducting environmental impact assessments for the project, held a closed-door meeting with a select group of locals. But they didn’t extend invitations to everyone in the area who will be affected by looming expropriations.A letter shown in the Confidencial report states the purpose of the meeting was to conduct a “dialogue and an exchange of ideas regarding the social and economic reality of the area with a small group of invitees who have been selected for the role they play in the community. … For this reason, we ask you not to extend this invitation to other members of the community because it would be impossible to comply with the methodology or the foreseen goals with a large group.” A Confidencial reporter who tried to attend the meeting was asked to leave.Said Chamorro:The testimonials in this report contradict what the Chinese company HKND says, in that their employees will only enter properties after obtaining expressed written consent. Evidently they are committing abuses that are aggravated by the presence of the police and the military, who shouldn’t be participating in an activity that is supposed to be strictly administrative.The message, to me, that they’re conveying to the people is one of force and intimidation. But the problem at the heart here is that the government continues putting “la carreta delante de los bueyes” [the cart before the horse]. Before threatening expropriations, they should first present the financial, commercial and environmental studies that show the viability of this canal project. And they should present a detailed timetable of how they will execute this project.Because the only thing they’re doing now is generating more uncertainty among the people while conducting surveys for expropriations – which by the way, are based on an unconstitutional law that doesn’t guarantee that landowners will be paid market value for their properties. And that’s why HKND has no response to these questions.RoadmapWhile communities in San Jorge, Rivas, are small and sometimes isolated, the canal will stretch 278 kilometers to the Caribbean coast – a length 3.5 times greater than the Panama Canal. Near the Caribbean, plans call for the creation of a new artificial lake called Atlanta. Covering 395 square kilometers – about the size of the U.S. city of Denver – Lake Atlanta is to become a “center for ecology, tourism and aquaculture.” (And, hopefully, no floating archipelagoes of garbage like those created by Three Gorges Dam.)On Ometepe Island, which Lonely Planet calls “Fantasy Island” because of its unique archaeology, geology and natural beauty, and at three other locations, developers will build large tourism resorts: Locations of planned tourism centers along the proposed interoceanic Nicaragua Canal. (Screengrab from the “Proyecto de Desarrollo Integral del Gran Canal de Nicaragua”)It’s hard to say what those tourism centers will look like, but they’ll probably be similar to this, which will be built on the Pacific coast: A golf resort planned for the Pacific coast. (Screengrab from the “Proyecto de Desarrollo Integral del Gran Canal de Nicaragua”)Rivas also will get a new class-4E airport. If it’s anything like Managua’s Augusto C. Sandino International Airport, the interior likely will be adorned in a similar fashion (notice the Chinese flag covering Nicaragua’s own flag; I have no idea what the Mandarin writing says. Can anyone lend us a hand with the translation? *Update: We found out what it says, see the end of the story.): Travelers arriving to Managua’s international airport are greeted by this painted advertorial in Mandarin, which offers money transfers to China of up to $500 for a $23 fee. The Tico TimesWhile the promise of converting the region’s poorest country into one of the richest is enticing and a worthwhile goal, what’s troubling is the profound lack of transparency regarding the process. In addition, the long-term social and environmental consequences – not to mention machtpolitik, sovereignty and even identity concerns – of such an elephantine effort are at the very least worthy of discussion and robust debate.Yet, with little information, more than half of the country’s citizens favor the canal, saying it will “help the economy, promote tourism, generate jobs and improve the country’s image,” and only one in 10 oppose it (that number might increase with more land surveys). Even my cab driver, a young, edgy, outspoken man in his 20s who lives near the Costa Rican border, thinks the canal will finally restore the glory the Nicaraguan nation deserves (and put Panama to shame, as he described it).Others, like the Nicaraguan Academy of Science, fear the promise that the canal will deliver Nicaraguans to the economic promised land is a myth. In a 178-page report (download the PDF here), the Academy noted a “series of difficulties in conducting an in-depth analysis on the proposal includes a broad lack of documentation, as essential information has not been forthcoming in a transparent manner. Although we have the canal’s concession law, this lacks any type of specific explanation about the project’s route, which makes it complicated to formulate an independent analysis.” Facebook Comments What we do know about the Gran Canal de Nicaragua is that it will cut across Lake Nicaragua (Lago Cocibolca), where Ometepe is located, the largest freshwater lake in Central America and an important source of drinking water. In 2008, Daniel Ortega – under CAFTA’s Environmental Cooperation Program – asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help clean up the lake and deal with its sewage and wastewater treatment problems. So what will be the environmental impact on the lake when 5,100 ships – including 400,000-ton grain carriers and 320,000-ton petroleum tankers – traverse it annually? What are the potential consequences and mitigation plans in place if one of those fuel ships has an accident?And what about seismic activity? Here’s the CRCC’s response on that: What is the implementation schedule and when will the feasibility studies including the technical, economic and environmental impact of the canal be finished and disclosed?Will these studies, paid by HKND, be subjected to the scrutiny of impartial national and international experts?If these studies are still ongoing, and therefore the viability of the project and its environmental impact is still unknown, how can they affirm that the construction of the canal will start in December?What will be the environmental impact of dredging Lake Nicaragua and how will its excavation and dredging affect the country’s most important strategic water resources?Who will oversee our national interests given the fact that the Ortega-created Grand Canal Authority has demonstrated little authority and no autonomy? Those are some pretty hefty – yet reasonable – questions to ask. So when can we expect some answers? Or will they just come to us, out of the blue, on a hot, sunny day while driving down the Inter-American Highway?Further recommended reading: the Nicaraguan Academy of Sciences report on the Gran Canal of Nicaragua, in Spanish (download the PDF here.)UPDATE: Thanks to our inquisitive friend Bill H., we translated the Mandarin writing on the wall at Managua’s airport says. It says you can send money to China up to $500 for a $23 fee. There are 445 service venues in the district. Guess they’re expecting a lot of Chinese workers to walk through those airport gates and a large demand for money transfers. Outside Nicaragua, industry insiders seem perplexed and baffled by the ambitious plan. “If the Nicaragua canal will ever be built, the final cost will be much higher than $40 billion,” Chaim Sacham, a former senior executive with Zim Integrated Shipping Services, told JOC.com (link requires registration). “This is not to say that it will not be built, but if it will be built, it will be a waste of a lot of money, and it will not bring any positive ROI for many years, if at all.”Plus, some say the Panama Canal expansion will render Nicaragua’s canal irrelevant. So why build it all?Here’s what Sacham told JOC.com’s Editor-at-Large Peter T. Leach:“To the best of my knowledge, HKND Group and its chairman, Wang Jing, have nothing to do with engineering and/or construction,” Sacham said. “However, under the exclusive contract, Wang can skip building the canal (and making any payments to Nicaragua) and instead simply operate lucrative tax-free side projects. This leads me to say that if this canal will ever be built, it will not be by HKND Group but by others, and it will take much longer than the five years that they are saying it will take.”Chamorro summed up the skepticism best, when he asked the following questions in a July column titled, “Digging in the Dark“: Nicaragua’s proposed canal route. (Screengrab from the “Proyecto de Desarrollo Integral del Gran Canal de Nicaragua”) Related posts:Nicaragua’s ambitious interoceanic canal will cross Lake Nicaragua, officials say Secrecy still prevails as Nicaragua gets set to break ground on $50 billion interoceanic canal Activists visiting Washington blast Nicaragua’s $50 billion canal project as ‘illegitimate’ US concerns grow over possible Nicaragua Canal land expropriation, ambassador says
Facebook Comments WASHINGTON — U.S. President Barack Obama urged Americans Thursday to open their hearts to refugees in his Thanksgiving message to the nation, likening them to the pilgrims the holiday celebrates. Related posts:NATO ships to combat migrant-smuggling networks in Aegean Mud-soaked migrants fight for food as Greek border blockade drags on Cúcuta: Colombia’s city of contraband and a broken Bolivarian dream Syrian migrants braving Central American smuggling routes “Nearly four centuries after the Mayflower set sail, the world is still full of pilgrims — men and women who want nothing more than the chance for a safer, better future for themselves and their families,” Obama said in his weekly address, referring to the boat on which the first pilgrims reached the New World.Thanksgiving was first celebrated by the group who fled religious persecution in England. For many Americans, it has become a family-oriented holiday marked with an enormous meal of roast turkey and a slice or two of pie.“I’ve been touched by the generosity of the Americans who’ve written me letters and emails in recent weeks, offering to open their homes to refugees fleeing the brutality of ISIL,” Obama said, using an acronym for the Islamic State group.The refugee question has taken center stage in the 2016 presidential race, following the Paris attacks staged by Syria-linked jihadists this month.The shootings and suicide bombings stirred fears in North America and Europe that jihadists could seek to blend in with refugees in order to strike later.Obama faces a barrage of opposition to his own plan to resettle Syrian 10,000 refugees in the United States in the coming year.“People should remember that no refugee can enter our borders until they undergo the highest security checks of anyone traveling to the United States,” Obama said.“That was the case before Paris, and it’s the case now.”Obama also reminded listeners that Thanksgiving was not just an opportunity for people to give thanks for their personal blessings.“On this uniquely American holiday, we also remember that so much of our greatness comes from our generosity,” he said.Recommended: Syrian migrants braving Central American smuggling routes
LONDON — A U.N. panel views WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as being “arbitrarily detained” by fleeing to diplomatic sanctuary to escape arrest, a Swedish statement said Thursday before a potential confrontation in the long standoff in London.Such as decision by the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on Friday could set in motion a heightened duel between British authorities and Assange, who has been holded up in Ecuador’s embassy in London since 2012.British officials say Assange faces arrest and extradition to Sweden if he leaves the diplomatic compound regardless of the declarations from the U.N. group, which has no legal authority but whose decisions often carry weight in international disputes.Assange, meanwhile, vowed Thursday to demand the return of his passport from British officials if backed by the U.N. panel.In Sweden — which seeks to question Assange on alleged sex crimes — the country’s Foreign Ministry said the upcoming report by the U.N. group will say Assange has been “arbitrarily detained” in violation of international pacts.The statement said Swedish officials have reviewed the U.N. document, which is expected to be released Friday in Geneva. A file photo from Aug. 19, 2012 shows WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange addressing the media and supporters from the balcony of Ecuador’s Embassy in London. Carl Court/AFPAssange claims he should be allowed to travel to Ecuador, which has offered him asylum amid fears he could eventually face U.S. charges over leaked documents, including classified State Department cables.Assange took refuge in the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over allegations that include rape — accusations he strenuously denies.Assange says he fears that Sweden could extradite him to the United States for his involvement in releasing classified U.S. documents.In 2014, Assange filed a complaint against Britain and Sweden with the U.N. group over what he said was his “arbitrary detention.” Assange said he is blocked from traveling to Ecuador because he faces arrest if he steps out of the embassy.But British authorities appear to be standing firm.The British government said Assange avoided arrest by fleeing to the Ecuadoran Embassy and that it was obligated to extradite him to Sweden.“We have been consistently clear that Mr. Assange has never been arbitrarily detained by the U.K. but is, in fact, voluntarily avoiding lawful arrest by choosing to remain in the Ecuadorean embassy,” the Foreign Office said in a statement.“An allegation of rape is still outstanding and a European Arrest Warrant in place, so the U.K. continues to have a legal obligation to extradite Mr. Assange to Sweden,” it continued.Murphy reported from Washington. Daniela Deane in London contributed to this report.© 2016, The Washington Post Facebook Comments Related posts:Wikileaks’ Assange says group will release new secret data The US Pentagon’s latest missing missile lands in Cuba Obama: ‘Don’t despair’ over US Supreme Court intervention in carbon emissions case Top medical experts say we should decriminalize all drugs and maybe go even further
Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates 5 things to look for when selecting an ophthalmologist Associated PressAMSTERDAM (AP) – Dutch judges on Monday handed down an 18- year sentence, plus involuntary psychiatric treatment for an indefinite period of time, to a pedophile who molested dozens of extremely young children in Amsterdam preschools and then shared videos and images of the acts on the Internet.The Latvian-born Dutch defendant, identified under the Netherlands’ privacy laws only as Robert M., has been dubbed “The Monster of Riga” by the national press. He was convicted of abusing 67 victims, though he confessed to more. Most were toddlers, but the youngest were infants, some only weeks old. New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths “The manner and long period of misbehavior, the pain done to the young victims and their families, the calculating method of operation, the betrayal of trust, the collecting and sharing of visual material, the advice given to other pedophiles, the attempt to share an available child in exchange for money, all these things have done great damage to justice,” said Presiding judge Frans Bauduin.“The outrage is great, and it won’t subside for a long time,” Bauduin said.M. worked in several nursery schools and also offered his services online as a freelance babysitter.The case deeply shocked the Netherlands when M. was arrested in December 2010, following a tip from American law enforcement authorities. Dutch experts have since used massive digital archives seized from M’s home to pass on further information that has, in turn led to further ongoing investigations into international pedophile rings that operate online.M., who had been cooperative during his arrest and meek during his trial, showed a different side of his character Monday, yelling at the judge to “shut his mouth.” Bauduin calmly responded, “no, now you have to shut your mouth.” Top Stories Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family The difference between men and women when it comes to pain ErrorOK… ErrorOK 0 Comments Share More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Sponsored Stories 5 treatments for adult scoliosis M. also threw a glass of water at the judge after his expressions of remorse were described as not credible and would be given no weight in sentencing. The judge continued reading the sentence even as he pulled a handkerchief from his pocket to wipe off his papers. In addition, M. made an obscene gesture with his finger toward the judge when the sentence was read. He has several weeks to consider an appeal.Involuntary psychiatric treatment in the Netherlands can in practice become a life sentence for suspects whose mental disorders are considered incurable.The 29-year-old M’.s older partner, Richard van O., was also convicted of complicity in M.’s crimes. Though he didn’t participate, he was sentenced for six years for knowing about M.’s activities and not reporting them. His lawyers said they will appeal.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
5 treatments for adult scoliosis Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family (Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Comments Share New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths Top Stories Sponsored Stories Arizona families, Arizona farms: working to produce high-quality milk ARUSHA, Tanzania (AP) – An official in Tanzania says his country will transfer a terror suspect to Germany.Acting Director of Criminal Investigations Isaya Mngulu said Thursday that Tanzanian security officials have alerted German officials of Emrah Erdogan’s imminent arrival. Mngulu told Tanzanian state radio that Erdogan is a member of al-Qaida who has fought in Afghanistan.Erdogan is a 24-year-old German of Turkish origin. His name has been linked to a May 28 bomb attack in Kenya, though Kenyan officials have not formally accused him in the attack. Officials say that Erdogan recently traveled from Somalia to Kenya and then to Tanzania. Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of
The receptionist robot that speaks in English is a vicious-looking dinosaur, and the one that speaks Japanese is a female humanoid with blinking lashes. “If you want to check in, push one,” the dinosaur says. The visitor still has to punch a button on the desk, and type in information on a touch panel screen.Henn na Hotel, as it is called in Japanese, was shown to reporters Wednesday, complete with robot demonstrations, ahead of its opening to the public Friday.Another feature of the hotel is the use of facial recognition technology, instead of the standard electronic keys, by registering the digital image of the guest’s face during check-in.The reason? Robots aren’t good at finding keys, if people happen to lose them.A giant robotic arm, usually seen in manufacturing, is encased in glass quarters in the corner of the lobby. It lifts one of the boxes stacked into the wall and puts it out through a space in the glass, where a guest can place an item in it, to use as a locker.The arm will put the box back into the wall, until the guest wants it again. The system is called “robot cloak room.”Why a simple coin locker won’t do isn’t the point. Natural spring cleaning tips and tricks for your home 0 Comments Share “I wanted to highlight innovation,” Sawada told reporters. “I also wanted to do something about hotel prices going up.”Staying at Henn na Hotel starts at 9,000 yen ($80), a bargain for Japan, where a stay in one of the nicer hotels can easily cost twice or three times that much.The concierge is a doll-like hairless robot with voice recognition that prattles breakfast and event information. It cannot call a cab or do other errands.Japan is a world leader in robotics technology, and the government is trumpeting robotics as a pillar of its growth strategy. Robots have long been used here in manufacturing. But interest is also high in exploring the potential of robots in human interaction, including helping care for the elderly.Robotics is also key in the decommissioning of the three reactors in Fukushima, northern Japan, which went into meltdowns in 2011, in the worst nuclear catastrophe since Chernobyl.One area Henn na Hotel still relies on human beings is security.The place is dotted with security cameras, and real people are watching everything through a monitor to make sure guests stay safe and no one makes off with one of the expensive robots.“And they still can’t make beds,” said Sawada, who has also engineered the rise of a popular affordable Japanese travel agency. He has big ambitions for his robot hotel concept and wants to open another one soon in Japan, and later abroad. He is also eager to add other languages, such as Chinese and Korean, to the robots’ vocabulary.A block-shaped robot that was scuttling around in the lobby had been brought in to do room service, delivering beverages and simple snacks. But it wasn’t ready to do that yet.Outdoors, Sawada also demonstrated a drone that flew in to deliver a few small jars filled with snacks. He said he wanted to eventually have drones perform in shows for guests.In the hotel’s rooms, a lamp-size robot in the shape of a fat pink tulip called Tuly answers simple questions like, “What time is it?” and “What is the weather tomorrow?”You can also tell it to turn the room lights on or off. There are no switches on the walls.Sawada is keeping the hotel half-filled for the first few weeks to make sure nothing goes wrong.He also canceled at the last minute the overnight stay planned for media. The robots simply weren’t ready.___Follow Yuri Kageyama: twitter.com/yurikageyamaCopyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Sponsored Stories Top Stories A receptionist robot, left, greets a hotel employee, right, demonstrating how to check in for the media at the new hotel, aptly called Henn na Hotel or Weird Hotel, in Sasebo, southwestern Japan, Wednesday, July 15, 2015. From the receptionist that does the check-in and check-out to the porter that’s a stand-on-wheels taking luggage up to the room, the hotel, that is run as part of Huis Ten Bosch amusement park, is “manned” almost totally by robots to save labor costs. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi) Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies 5 ways to recognize low testosterone Mesa family survives lightning strike to home Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall SASEBO, Japan (AP) — From the receptionist that does the check-in and check-out to the porter that’s an automated trolley taking luggage up to the room, this hotel in southwestern Japan, aptly called Weird Hotel, is “manned” almost totally by robots to save labor costs.Hideo Sawada, who runs the hotel as part of an amusement park, insists using robots is not a gimmick, but a serious effort to utilize technology and achieve efficiency. Top holiday drink recipes
Avianca-TACA and Copa Airlines have been unanimously accepted as future member airlines of Star Alliance, a move set to expand the Alliance’s presence in Latin America.According to Star Alliance, the addition of the two airline groups will provide Alliance passengers with access to 46 new destinations, additional direct connections between Latin America and cities in Europe, as well as flights connecting through Copa Airlines hubs in Panama City and Bogota and the Avianca-TACA hubs in Bogota, San Salvador, Lima and San Jose.“The addition of these two quality airline groups concludes a strategic process which increases the Alliance’s footprint in the vibrant, growing economies of Latin America,” Star Alliance chief executive Jaan Albrecht said.Starting with the addition of Continental Airlines which improved connections between North America and Central and South America and the addition of TAM Airlines in May, the Star Alliance strategy to grow their presence in the rapidly growing region looks sets to continue with this announcement, Mr Albrecht said.“Copa Airlines’ membership in Star Alliance will enhance our global reach as we implement strong partnerships with the Alliance’s 27 carriers and link Latin America’s most efficient hub, our Hub of the Americas in Panama City, to Star Alliance´s vast global network,” Copa Airlines chief executive Pedro Heilbron said.“[Joining the Alliance] is a determining factor for our competitive strategy that will enable us to leap forward in terms of the scope and scale of the benefits provided to our passengers,” Avianca-TACA chief executive Fabio Villegas said. Mr Villegas added that joining the Alliance “will surely yield reciprocal benefits to all our clients”.Integration of the two airline groups into Star Alliance is set to be complete by mid 2012 at which point the customers of the 31 alliance members will have access to more than 22,500 daily flights serving 1,292 destinations in 188 countries. Star Alliance has its nose in Latin America Source = e-Travel Blackboard: G.A
Qantas Qantas is taking serious steps to reduce carbon emissions with a new deal to make rubbish reusable. The Australian carrier has partnered with US bioenergy company Solena to build a commercial biofuel plant in Sydney. “We expect to produce a business case for such a plant within 12 months,” spokesperson Olivia Wirth said. Food scraps, packaging, grass and tree cuttings will all be viable materials, converted to produce biofuel that eventually will power aircraft. Qantas has been exploring the possibilities of using biofuel for years and is tentatively taking the initial steps to making this a reality. “While we are still in the early stages of this project, the possibilities are exciting. We hope to announce further details soon,” Ms Wirth said.Solena have a similar deal with British Airways in London to construct a biofuel plant by 2014. Source = e-Travel Blackboard: P.T
Carnival Cruise Lines Carnival will be rolling out its new smoking policy in two stages.Effective 15 June 2011, smoking will only be allowed in Carnival’s dance clubs, designated areas within the casino and designated areas on open decks. 13 of Carnival’s 23 ships will also allow smoking in the jazz clubs. These 13 ships include; Carnival Destiny, Carnival Triumph, Carnival Victory, Carnival Spirit, Carnival Pride, Carnival Legend, Carnival Miracle, Carnival Conquest, Carnival Glory, Carnival Valor, Carnival Liberty, Carnival Freedom, and Carnival Splendor.Effective 1 December 2011, smoking will be prohibited in all staterooms however, like Holland America, passengers will be permitted to smoke on their stateroom balconies. All spa staterooms featured on Carnival Splendor, Carnival Dream and Carnival Magic will be 100 per cent smoke-free including on their balconies.This decision was based on a survey of guests that indicated approximately 90 per cent are non-smokers with less than 5 per cent choosing to smoke in their cabins. Source = e-Travel Blackboard: Natalie Aroyan In keeping with reports that a majority of guests do not smoke, Holland America too has amended their smoking policy effective 15 January 2012.Whilst staterooms and most indoor public areas have now been deemed ‘smoke-free’, smoking will still be permitted on stateroom balconies.Designated smoking areas will also be available both inside and on outside decks. Effective 15 January 2012, smoking will no longer be allowed in staterooms or balconies. “Our consumer studies now show that smokers are a small minority of our passengers, and that the large majority of passengers value having their primary living space onboard smoke-free,” said Jan Swartz, executive vice president Princess Cruises. Ms Swartz added that with balconies a hallmark feature of Princess ships, they were included in the new policy as the “line believes it’s important to keep that peaceful space clear of smoke.”Designated smoking areas will still be provided in Churchill’s cigar lounge, an area of the disco, casino and open decks, with the line still welcoming passengers who smoke. Any smokers found smoking in their stateroom will find their account charged with a $250 fine. Holland America Line In a move that has caused much controversy on social media sites overnight, Princess Cruises, Holland America and Carnival have announced their new smoking policies.Cruisers have made their voices heard on Facebook with debate running rife regarding the stricter policy.Where Holland America and Carnival have chosen not to promote the move on their pages themselves, Princess Cruises have allowed their ‘fans’ to air their opinions openly. One ‘Elite Cruiser’ on the Princess page said, “I have cruises booked thru 2013 and will be cancelling them…cruising should be enjoyable for all – smokers as well as non-smokers.”At the time of publishing, the announcement posted by Princess overnight attracted 927 ‘likes’ and generated 546 comments quite equally divided regarding what many ‘fans’ have deemed an act of ‘discrimination.’e-Travel Blackboard has detailed the new policies below and we welcome your comments regarding your thoughts on what seems to be quite a controversial move by the cruise lines.Princess Cruises
UK Tourism Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland Edinburgh, Scotland Source = e-Travel Blackboard: P.T The 2012 London Olympic Games will provide the backdrop for a boost in regional tourism throughout the United Kingdom, according to a new study. Skyscanner research found that the Olympics will not only contribute to an increase in inbound tourism but see foreign visitors plan trips into regional destinations, Business Wire reported. Skyscanner chief executive Gareth Williams was impressed by the figures dictating travellers choosing regional UK hotspots for travel around the Olympics. “It’s great to see that so many international tourists are planning to take advantage of the low cost fares on offer to visit other parts of Britain during the Games,” he said. The news came after traffic management plans were implemented in London and a Rail Summit was held to build on extra services during the Games.VisitBritain projected little to no increase in tourism to the UK this year, despite the massive pulling power of the Olympic Games. According to the report, North West of England and Scotland will profit most from foreign visitors during the games, with Australians and Canadian’s flocking to these areas.Northern Ireland will also welcome more visitors during the Games, with Canadian’s showing huge interest in visiting the country.
Source = e-Travel Blackboard: N.J Jetstar Japan says it is set to revolutionise travel across Japan, a shift Tourism Australia says will also benefit Australia and its connection to the Asian country.With a planned takeoff of 3 July this year, Tourism Australia’s managing director said the airline would play a vital role in ‘reenergising’ the Australian brand in Japan, a market Australia remains committed to.“Tourism Australia supports a balanced portfolio of international markets where we conduct our activity under the now established and successful There’s nothing like Australiacampaign,” Mr McEvoy said. “In Japan we are however adopting a new approach in this market, and working more directly with airline partners like Jetstar, that are both growing and best meeting the needs of the changing Japanese traveller.”Teaming up with Japan Airlines, Mitsubishi Corporation and Century Tokyo Leasing Corporation to launch the Asia based subsidiary, the Jetstar Group chief executive Bruce Buchanan said the airline would kick start ticket sales this week on five domestic destinations including Tokyo, Sapporo, Fukuoka, Osaka and Okinawa.He said the carrier had the potential to reach into the “largely untapped” Japanese low-cost market as well as shape the country’s domestic operations.“We were the first low cost carrier to fly to Japan, which gives the Jetstar brand the benefit of incumbency in this emerging domestic market,” Mr Buchanan said. “Our business model is based around sustainable low fares and across the Asia Pacific we’ve seen the potential this has to unlock new travel demand. “This is the start of a far more dynamic domestic market in Japan.” As well as the Japan based subsidiary, the Qantas Group said it is also looking to start up and new Hong Kong low-cost model, Jetstar Hong Kong.
Amadeus analyse search data for 2012 bookings. Bangkok and New York were the most-searched cities in 2012, according to new research.Search analysis conducted via Amadeus’ Travel Intelligence solution has revealed that Bangkok was extremely popular with the Russian and German markets last year, while New York was favoured by the British.During 2012, Germans conducted 263,702 daily searches for Bangkok and 199,910 for New York; Russians made 85,492 daily searches for Bangkok; while Great Britain maintained 157,450 daily searches for New York and 129,129 for Bangkok.In the United States and Australia, London was a favourite search destination.When it comes to booking windows, almost 10 percent of searches in the United Kingdom were made a week or less before departure and in Russia the figure was slightly higher, at 12.5 percent.10 percent of Germany’s online searches were made at least one or two weeks prior to departure, with 7 percent of Australians following suit.In the United States more than 8 percent of all online searches were made between one and four weeks before the departure date.The majority of the markets analysed searched for a one or two week trip, however, in the United States holiday bookers searched for a vacation that lasted seven days or less.Source = ETB News: P.T.
Andrew Macfarlane, Magellan Travel Group CEO and Anne Rogers of inaugural member agency, Wingsaway Travel & Cruise, at the recent National Travel Industry Awards.Magellan Travel Group has announced a record profit of AU$8.8 million for the 2014/15 period, representing a 48 per cent increase on the previous year.The group also reports 22 agents joined Magellan during the year ending 30 June 2015.The news follows Magellan’s recent success at the National Travel Industry Awards where the group took out the award for Best Non-Branded Agency Group.Magellan chief executive officer Andrew Macfarlane expressed his gratitude towards the group’s members.“This eclipses our earlier forecast of an $8 million profit and demonstrates that not only does our Group continue to grow but so too do our members,” Mr Macfarlane said.“We have always said it is the results and achievements of our Members that drive our success and this demonstrates that Magellan Agents are bucking the industry trend and achieving growth despite the adverse market conditions being reported by others.“Our thanks go to our Member Agents and our Preferred Suppliers for their continuing support and we look forward to seeing all at our National Conference in Melbourne in a few weeks’ time to celebrate our success and share our future plans.“Between now and then we will be distributing the nearly $9 million profit amongst our Member Agents.“They’ve earned it!”Headquartered in Melbourne, Magellan Travel Group is Australia’s premier Travel Group for high-performance, independent-branded agencies. Magellan Travel GroupSource = ETB Travel News: Brittney Levinson
SkyTeam Exclusive Lounge Opens at Hong Kong International AirportBeing the pioneer and industry leader in providing Premium Airport Services, Plaza Premium Group once again partnered with SkyTeam to manage and operate the latter’s new lounge in Hong Kong. The new SkyTeam Exclusive Lounge was open at the Departures of Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) on 27thOctober 2015, providing passengers of the 20 SkyTeam member airlines with a high quality airport lounge service.The 1,000 square-metre lounge, located near Hong Kong International Airport’s Gate 15, offers up to 230 seats. The design is both seek and modern, and is enhanced by a green botanical wall to provide a relaxing ambience. The SkyTeam Exclusive Lounge caters for a variety of passenger needs’ from refreshment to relaxation and entertainment with impressive facilities including a VIP room, yoga room, five shower rooms, noodle bar, wine bar and self-serving bar, TV zone and workstations.“We are delighted to work with SkyTeam again to operate the new lounge at Hong Kong International Airport, providing high quality service and a seamless airport experience to passengers of SkyTeam’s member airlines in Hong Kong,” commented Mr. Song Hoi-see, Founder & CEO of Plaza Premium Group. “Headquartered in Hong Kong, our Group’s network spans across 35 international airports in over 130 locations worldwide. The new SkyTeam Exclusive Lounge is part of our Group’s continuous effort to provide Premium Airport Services to travellers in Hong Kong and around the world.”This is the second collaboration of the Group to manage and operate a lounge for SkyTeam, following the opening of the SkyTeam Exclusive Lounge at Sydney International Airport in January 2015.“SkyTeam aims to be the most customer centric alliance focusing on enhancing the passengers experience with airport initiatives such as lounges. Plaza Premium Group is a proven leader in airport hospitality services and has been recognized in many renowned travel related awards, SkyTeam is happy to partner with Plaza Premium Group in managing our second lounge after Sydney.” commented Mr. Perry Cantarutti, the incoming CEO of SkyTeam.“A professional and customer focused lounge management company, such as Plaza Premium Group will further enhance the airport experience for our customers by offering a high level of service in addition to the existing lounge amenities. Hong Kong is a key business travel hub and we look forward to welcoming more passengers to our SkyTeamExclusive Lounge together with Plaza Premium Group.” he added.Source = Plaza Premium Group
Westin Hotels and Resorts debuts in JakartaWestin Hotels and Resorts debuts in JakartaWestin Hotels & Resorts, part of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE: HOT) today announced the opening of The Westin Jakarta, marking the first Westin hotel in Jakarta. Owned by PT. Wahana Nusantara a part of Gama Corporation, the opening of the hotel is set to bring the Westin brand’s inspired and innovative wellness initiatives to the capital city of Indonesia.“We are thrilled to debut the Westin brand to Indonesia’s capital,” said Vincent Ong, Senior Director, Brand Management, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Asia Pacific. “With the brand’s focus on the bringing the pillars of well-being to life and commitment to ensure our guests leave feeling than they first arrive, we are confident the opening of the hotel will resonate strongly with the local Jakarta community and guests visiting from around the world.”Slated to be the highest hotel in Indonesia, The Westin Jakarta occupies floors 50 to 69 of the mixed-used Gama Tower, boasting 272 well-appointed guestrooms and suites with uninterrupted views of the city. Designed by Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA), one of the world’s leading hospitality interior design firms, the hotel’s interior design was inspired by natural, organic forms and textures that interpret the landscape and are translated throughout the hotel through dynamic patterns and materials. Illustrated through the chandeliers and artwork, the hotel’s contemporary design features contextual elements, including traditional Indonesian motifs and Ikat patterns in the metal screens.“The Westin Jakarta will provide a restorative retreat in the heart of the bustling city with genuine service complemented with the Westin signature well-being offerings that will fuel and energize our guests’ every move,” Arun Kumar, General Manager, The Westin Jakarta, adds.To amplify the guest experience, four unique dining venues serve a variety of culinary options alongside the brand’s nutrient-rich and delicious SuperFoodsRx™ menus. Seasonal Tastes, the all-day dining restaurant, presents buffet and a la carte options featuring local and international cuisine with 7 live cooking stations. Guests can also enjoy nutritious treats and a gourmet cup of coffee on the go Daily Treats. Set to be a game-changer for Jakarta dining scene is Henshin, perched on the top three floors of the building, the restaurant features Nikkei Cuisine with Japanese-Peruvian Flavors prepared by a specialty chefs as well as a rooftop alfresco bar featuring Crafted at Westin™ program, the brand’s signature beverage program that features a fresh selection of expertly mixed cocktails infused with natural ingredients and local flavors.With the brand’s mission to be a partner in their guests’ well-being, The Westin Jakarta features an idyllic spa as well as a WestinWORKOUT® fitness studio boasting state-of-the-art exercise equipment from world-class brands in an open, airy and well-designed space. The hotel will also offer Westin’s Gear Lending program in partnership with New Balance®, allowing guests to pack light and stay fit with New Balance shoes and clothing for guests to use during their stay.The Westin Jakarta also features a banquet area perched on the top few levels of the hotel with a 200 guest capacity with breathtaking 360 degree sweeping views of Jakarta city. For events and weddings, the hotel offers 3,000 square meters of function rooms including the Java Ballroom on the Ground floor with a maximum capacity 1,500 guests.The Westin Jakarta is situated strategically in Kuningan central business district, 45 minutes by car from the International Soekarno-Hatta Airport, an ideal location for business travelers. Guest can enjoy nearby shopping malls as well as the Jakarta iconic National Monument as a destination for tourists. The Westin Jakartabook your accommodation hereAbout Westin Hotels & ResortsWestin Hotels & Resorts, a leader in wellness and hospitality for more than a decade, lives its philosophy “For a Better You™” through the Westin Well-being Movement’s six pillars: Feel Well, Work Well, Move Well, Eat Well, Sleep Well and Play Well. At more than 200 hotels and resorts in nearly 40 countries and territories, guests can experience offerings that include the iconic Heavenly® Bed, RunWESTIN™ and Westin Gear Lending with New Balance®, delicious and nutritious SuperFoodsRx™, the innovative workspace Tangent, Westin Weekend signature experiences, and Heavenly Bath and Heavenly Spa. Westin is proud to offer Starwood Preferred Guest®, the industry’s leading loyalty program. To learn more, visit www.starwoodhotels.com/westin. Stay connected to Westin: @westin on Twitter and Instagram and facebook.com/Westin. Source = Westin Hotels & Resorts – The Westin Jakarta
Luxperience inspires Personal Travel Managers TravelManagers’ personal travel managers (from left) Melinda Rowe, Annalize Troost and Georgina Grandi inspired by their Luxperience experienceLuxperience inspires Personal Travel ManagersNine of TravelManagers’ personal travel managers participated last week in the invite only, specialist luxury global three-day business exchange Luxperience. The only Australian forum of its kind, Luxperience 2016 connected over 300 experiential, unique and inspiring luxury travel products directly to over 450 high-end experiential travel buyers.Personal travel managers participating in the Sydney based event were New South Wales based Melinda Rowe representative for East Jindabyne, Annalize Troost representative for West Pennant Hills; Victoria based Debbie Bean representative for Tarneit, Lea Burford representative for Torquay, Luke Vaughan representative for Kooyang, Melanie Carter representative for Scoresby, Michelle Levins representative for Forest Hill and Queensland based Georgina Grandi representative for Wynnum, Annette Fyfe representative for Victoria Point. TravelManagers Executive General Manager Michael Gazal also attended the Gala Awards dinner.Luxperience promised to connect travel buyers with the most innovative experiential travel experts in the luxury market and Grandi was definitely not disappointed.“The TravelManagers’ philosophy of providing exceptional personal service to create individual tailor-made client luxurious experiences resonates perfectly with Luxperience’s values. The luxury market fits with our ethos of bespoke travel arrangements and going the extra mile for our clients. I can’t wait to tell my clients all about the incredible new and exciting holiday experiences I’ve learnt about.”Troost found the event incredibly informative, being introduced to an extensive range of new suppliers and intriguing products.“I was extremely inspired with my one-on-one meetings with a huge range of specialist suppliers from all over the world. With just over a 50 percent increase in new suppliers attending this years’ event I was impressed by the amount of new boutique and specialist suppliers. It’s this type of opportunity to gain expert firsthand information and knowledge on luxury destinations all under one roof that allows us to really impress our clients.”A key part of Luxperience that resonated well with Rowe was the opportunity to exchange ideas and attend the Thought Leader Forum focusing on the latest trends in the luxury travel market.“The pre-scheduled appointments worked really well as I could meet with suppliers that suited my client and business needs. As personal travel managers we are constantly on the lookout to find innovative ways to interact with our clients and this includes more than just offering the very best in experiences and information. The value we can offer our top end clients comes in the form of keeping up with the latest trends and maintaining relevance as travel experiences and client needs continually change.”The final night It’s a Wrap Party brought to a close an extremely successful networking event with the 2017 dates and theme of ‘Through a New Lens’ being announced.Troost views her first Luxperience event an overwhelming success from both a business and networking point of view.“This event is a tribute to the travel industry, which simply could not survive without the conduit between supplier and customer. Events like these are vital to keep the travel experience personal.”The sixth Luxperience event is planned for 17-20 September 2017.“I’ve already circled these dates in my diary” laughs Grandi. TravelManagers Australiabecome a Personal Travel Manager here About TravelManagers Travel Managers operates in all Australian States and is a wholly owned subsidiary of House of Travel, Australasia’s largest independent travel company which has a forecast turnover of $1.5 billion for 2015. TravelManagers is a sister company to Hoot Holidays, also owned by House of Travel, and has more than 490 personal travel managers throughout Australia with a dedicated support team at the company’s national partnership office in Sydney. TravelManagers places all customer money in a dedicated and audited Client Trust Account which is separate from the general business accounts, ensuring client funds are only used for client purchases.Source = TravelManagers Australia
Malaysia Aviation Group appoints new executivesMalaysia Aviation Group (MAG) today announced the appointment of Captain Izham Ismail as the new Chief Operations Officer (COO) of Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB), effective 1 November 2016. Captain Izham served a short stint as CEO of MASwings and is now replaced by Aminuddin Zakaria.COO MAB Captain Izham IsmailIn announcing the appointment, Group CEO Peter Bellew said, “On behalf of the Board of MAG, I am very pleased to welcome Captain Izham back to MAB. He is no stranger to the role having served as Director of Operations from 2012 to 2015. With close to 36 years of experience in the aviation industry, and having just completed the Advanced Management Programme at Harvard Business School, I am confident that he will be able to lead the Operations and Engineering Division to new levels of excellence. Being our own internal home grown talent, I look forward to working closely with him in delivering operational excellence to the entire Group.” Captain Izham began his career with Malaysia Airlines as a trained pilot from the Philippines Airline Aviation School and has operated various aircraft from the Fokker 27, Airbus 330 to the Boeing 747. He has served various management roles namely Head of Operations Programme Management Office, Executive Vice President of Flight Operations and General Manager for Technical and Development amongst others. He is also currently a Board of Director for various companies such as Hamilton Sundstrand Malaysia, MAB Kargo, MAB Academy and MAS Awana.CEO MASwings Aminuddin ZakariaPeter Bellew added, “I also welcome Aminuddin to his new role at MASwings. He has over 27 years of professional experience in the engineering field and I am confident that he will develop a comprehensive and sustainable plan to improve MASwings’ operations, financial performance and customer service experience. The Group remains committed towards advancing this community airline serving rural air services in Sabah and Sarawak.” Aminuddin holds a degree in Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and began his career at Malaysia Airlines as a Trainee, Aircraft Maintenance. He spent the next 12 years performing a variety of roles before moving to GE Aviation for the next 14 years, with his last position as Regional Sales Director for Asia Pacific. He re-joinedMalaysia Airlines in 2012 as Senior Vice President of Airline Engineering and was appointed as Head, Technical Operations in September 2015.MASwings is serving a network of 24 destinations and operates 10 64-seater ATR 72-500, an advanced turboprop aircraft which connects Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, and Miri International Airports to major towns and cities in East Malaysia. It is also the sole operator serving the Rural Air Services routes in Sabah and Sarawak with six 19-seater Viking Air DHC6 400 Series Twin-Otter, operating out of Miri. These aircraft are deemed a vital lifeline in providing air transportation into remote and highlander areas many of which are inaccessible by road. MASwings’ regular Twin Otter service operates out of eleven (11) Short Take Off Landing (STOL) ports across Sabah and Sarawak.Source = Malaysia Aviation Group
Tourism Ireland hosted a conference in Aviva Stadium in Dublin, highlighting the impact of technology on tourism.The conference created an understanding among people working within the tourism sector about the impact of emerging technologies on their businesses. It also examined how to take full advantage of new technologies to grow their business. Discussions centred on the nature and drivers of technological change – including artificial intelligence (AI), the blockchain, accelerated computing, data and MarTech, as well as changes in consumer behaviour – and outlined the scale of the opportunities and risks they have.A panel of expert speakers highlighted the scale of change underway and how it was related to tourism. They showcased case studies and workshops specifically geared towards the tourism and travel sector. Gerd Leonhard was the keynote speaker, a leading voice on a wide range of topics, including digital transformation and the opportunities and challenges it presents.Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said, “The strong attendance by tourism representatives from across the island of Ireland at our conference demonstrated the importance of technology in our industry and the critical need to look to the future of Irish and global tourism, in the face of fast-moving technology advances. The conference discussed some of the exciting developments in the digital world, how these will affect the tourism industry specifically and how tourism companies can understand and leverage emerging travel tech to win business.”
“”RE/MAX””:http://www.remax.com issued a report this week that yields a net gain in month-over-month statistics for home sales and prices in May, aligning with an expected seasonal drive by homebuyers, investors, and foreign buyers to real estate.[IMAGE]Adding to a three-month trend on the upside, home prices climbed 3.7 percent between April and May, while closed sales transactions rose 3.2 percent, according to the report.””Home sales activity appears to be coming back in line with the seasonal trends we would expect to see this time of year,”” said Margaret Kelly, CEO of RE/MAX. “”It’s a very good sign that prices are starting to rise on a monthly basis. This may indicate that we’ve turned the corner and are headed in a positive direction.””Last month’s transactions and sales prices closed down 13.6 percent and 7.2 percent, respectively, behind May 2010. However, RE/MAX notes that transactions in 42 of 53 metropolitan areas ended higher on a month-over-month basis, with 15 cities confirming double-digit increases. Only five cities ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô Phoenix, Miami, Las Vegas, Tampa, and Providence ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô reported higher sales than those recorded last year.[COLUMN_BREAK]Shaun White, RE/MAX’s VP of corporate communications, attributed the positive trends to “”historically low interest rates, a large inventory of homes, and low pricing,”” saying that recent data points to a “”buyer’s market”” flooded by investors and foreign homebuyers.””What you’re seeing is a tremendous increase in the number of sales in [housing] markets because the pricing is so low,”” he said. “”Low prices are increasing the opportunity of sales,”” 23 percent of which have been driven by investors.White added that a three-month uptick showed that month-over-month averages constitute fairer metrics against which analysts and market watchers should measure overall growth, calling any comparisons between this year to last year “”not quite fair”” because a tax credit helped artificially inflate the numbers.When asked whether the sunny figures signaled a bellwether, he said that “”we don’t know if we have a long-term trend, but it looks like the market bottomed out at the end of .””””What we’re worried about is that foreclosures might start ticking back up,”” White said. “”We’re not sure how the market will react to that.””Founded in 1973, RE/MAX is a real estate franchisor headquartered in Colorado with services in more than 80 countries.RE/MAX’s monthly market report is based on multiple listing service (MLS) data in approximately 54 metropolitan areas, includes all residential property types, and is not annualized. The company explains that for maximum representation, many of the largest metro areas in the country are represented, and an attempt is made to include at least one metro from each state. Share RE/MAX Sees Positive Movement in Housing Trends Agents & Brokers Attorneys & Title Companies Home Prices Home Sales Investment Investors Lenders & Servicers RE/MAX Service Providers 2011-06-15 Ryan Schuette in Data June 15, 2011 406 Views