Agents and clients win big with TravelBrands 48hour Flash Sale

first_img Posted by Share Tuesday, February 28, 2017 MISSISSAUGA — Blink and you may miss TravelBrand’s exclusive 48-hour Flash Sale with Bahia Principe Hotels. But agents and clients who are quick to book will benefit from “never-before-seen savings” and extra Loyalty Points.The Flash Sale is available to agents who book a land-only or TravelGenie package online on ‘Access’ or by phone. As of Feb. 28, the 48-hour sale offers savings of up to $1,070 per couple (for a seven-night stay at Grand Bahia Principe in Jamaica), as well as 3x the Loyalty Points for agents.Agents will also accumulate Bahia Principe Rewards with every booking.“Our long-standing partnership is a testimonial to the relationship that we have built throughout the years,” said Frank DeMarinis, President and CEO of TravelBrands. “We are committed to our travel agent partners by offering a roster of top notch suppliers and Bahia Principe Hotels fulfill that commitment year after year. Their dedication to unparalleled service and quality properties is best in their class.”More news:  Le Boat has EBBs along with its new 2020 brochureFor more information go to travelbrandsagent.com. << Previous PostNext Post >>center_img Agents and clients win big with TravelBrand’s 48-hour Flash Sale Tags: Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts, Promotions, TravelBrands Travelweek Group last_img read more

Looking for a real scare Mama bear and cubs cut off Draculas

first_img BUCHAREST, ROMANIA — Danger lurks at Dracula’s castle.Romanian authorities have closed a 13th-century fortress connected to Vlad the Impaler after a mother bear and her cubs were found roaming in the area.The citadel, atop a mountain in central Romania, can be reached only by climbing 1,480 steps. It was shut in late May “for the safety of visitors,” its website said Saturday.Local prefect Emilian Dragnea says the environment ministry had agreed to capture the four bears and relocate them elsewhere. Authorities blame people for leaving food in the area.The citadel was repaired by 15th-century Romanian prince Vlad the Impaler, who inspired Bram Stoker’s 1897 gothic novel “Dracula.”Bran Castle, also associated with Dracula, is a bigger tourist attraction.Romania is home to between 5,000 and 6,000 brown bears. The Canadian Press Monday, June 12, 2017 Posted by << Previous PostNext Post >> Looking for a real scare? Mama bear and cubs cut off Dracula’s castle to tourists Sharelast_img read more

Manulife Learning Platforms Training Strategies

first_imgTags: Manulife, Manulife Spotlight 2019 Manulife strives to be the exclusive travel insurance provider of travel agents. Besides helping agents manage their travel insurance sales, a key priority is to continue assisting agents in developing their travel insurance product and sales knowledge. Manulife offers national coaching/training initiatives, both with the use of Manuversity (the online learning portal, pre-recorded and live webinars) and face-to-face engagement. The article below outlines some of these training tools.Product TrainingsInsurance policies are contracts created by underwriters, actuaries and lawyers, and are not always easy for travel professionals and clients to understand. Manulife does their best to help travel agents understand the product they sell in a variety of ways and offer a blended learning solution.Sales TrainingsJust as important as understanding the product, travel agents need to also learn about the sales cycle and the importance of enhancing their selling skills. Positioning the product effectively is key!CoachingOne on One Coaching can occur as required to enhance skillset, product familiarity, confidence and knowledge.Manuversity – E-LearningManulife offers its very own online learning platform called ‘Manuversity’ to help support our training efforts. This innovative, user-friendly tool consists of many informative modules, making it much easier for travel agents to learn about the features and benefits of travel insurance at their own pace and at a time that is convenient for them. After successful completion of Manuversity, confidence in the product will increase, which will help in closing more sales. The modules offered could also satisfy continuing education requirements where applicable.WebexManulife offers exclusive 20-minute and 1-hour training webinars nationally in both English and French. The webinars focus on product and sales training and offer continuing education credits where applicable. The webinars are hosted by our Business Development Managers (BDM’S) across Canada, and are offered at different times throughout the day to promote maximum participation.Face-to-Face EngagementIn-branchManulife’s BDM team office visits include new hire training sessions, product refresher training, sales training including sales tips along with covering processes and procedures. For agent training we will customize our focus based on the needs of the agent/agency and provide relevant sales tools. These tools include scenarios, sales tips, claims experience and features and benefits of their products.Lunch & LearnsManulife offers Lunch and Learn training sessions focused on product and sales content. During the last two years Manulife had conducted exclusive Lunch & Learn Training sessions in major cities, and the overall feedback was extremely positive based on all compiled survey results. Contact your BDM for a session near you! << Previous PostNext Post >> Thursday, March 28, 2019 Posted bycenter_img Travelweek Group Share Manulife Learning Platforms & Training Strategieslast_img read more

Could Onex be aiming for a WestJet Transat merger

first_img TORONTO — Twenty years ago Onex Corporation was part of a $1.8 billion bid to merge Air Canada and Canadian Airlines. At that time, one airline was dominant in the east, the other in the west. Could Onex be eyeing a similar set up now with WestJet and Transat?In the guessing game of who’s buying who, anything is possible, and while it seemed highly unlikely that WestJet on its own could make a play for Transat, yesterday’s announcement that Onex intends to acquire WestJet in a $3.5 billion deal (plus debt) puts things in a new light.According to reports, analyst Benoit Poirier of Desjardins Securities said Onex might also look to acquire Transat. “We believe it would be easier for WestJet to acquire Transat once the company is integrated within Onex, as unlocking Transat’s full potential could take a few years (three to five years) – which might be less suited for a public entity,” Poirier said in an investor note.More news:  War of words between Transat, Group Mach ramps upTo which WestJet CEO Ed Sims said: “We don’t speculate on any issues along those lines.”Transat announced on April 30 that it was in the very preliminary stages of acquisition talks with more than one company.Since then speculation about who if any Transat’s potential buyer could be has run rampant. Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau has expressed interest, along with Montreal developer Groupe Mach and financial services company FNC Capital.Air Canada has been drawn into the fray too. Asked by an analyst about acquisition opportunities in Canada and abroad in a conference call to discuss first quarter results on May 6, Air Canada President and CEO Calin Rovinescu said: “We will continue with our business plan,” adding, “that’s what brought us this far.”Onex, backed by American Airlines parent AMR Corp., failed in its 1999 bid to merge Air Canada and Canadian Airlines. Now it has WestJet, subject to a shareholder vote this summer. The deal, if it goes through, would close in the second half of 2019 or early 2020.More news:  Direct Travel names Smith as Senior VP, Leisure Marketing, North AmericaSims has said there are no layoffs planned as a result of the Onex acquisition. WestJet’s profit sharing program is also expected to continue.With files from The Canadian Press Tags: Onex Corporation Travelweek Group Tuesday, May 14, 2019 << Previous PostNext Post >>center_img Share Posted by Could Onex be aiming for a WestJet, Transat merger?last_img read more

Former USVI Tourism Commissioner takes the helm at Saint Lucia Tourism Authority

first_img Posted by TORONTO — The Saint Lucia Tourism Authority (SLTA) has appointed Beverly Nicholson-Doty as its new Chief Executive Officer.Boasting over 30 years of industry leadership experience, Nicholson-Doty most recently served as Commissioner of Tourism at the USVI Department of Tourism from 2007 to 2018. She brings with her significant experience in marketing, sales and strategic planning in Caribbean travel and tourism, and has developed deep relationships across the airline, cruise, hotel and service industries.Her many achievements include the successful development of the Ports of the Virgin Islands concept that elevates the territory’s port facilities, and the creation of USVI’s strategic Meetings and Incentives (MICE) plan. She was also instrumental in engineering double-digit airline capacity growth over a 10-year period.As SLTA’s CEO, Nicholson-Doty will be responsible for overall management of the organization, including oversight of the development of its marketing and destination services and general administration. She will also work closely with the Board of Directors to achieve overall objectives.More news:  Carnival Cruise Line enhances HUB app for families and youth“I look forward to this opportunity. Our team at the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority will be focused on developing and implementing a strong strategic plan aimed at increasing market share, and even more importantly, increasing visitor spend for maximum return on investment,” she said.For more information go to stlucia.org. Share Tags: CEO, Saint Lucia Tourism Authority Travelweek Group center_img Former USVI Tourism Commissioner takes the helm at Saint Lucia Tourism Authority Friday, June 28, 2019 << Previous PostNext Post >>last_img read more

San José vehicle restrictions to be suspended on Dec 21

first_imgThe restriction that normally prohibits vehicles from entering downtown San José according to license plate numbers will be temporarily suspended on Friday, Dec. 21.The suspension will last two weeks and will restart on Monday, Jan. 7, Traffic Police Director German Marín Sandí said.Traffic Police officials estimate that as of Dec. 24, there will be a decrease in vehicle traffic as many people will be on holiday and Christmas shopping is finished.The measure also will allow Tico families to enjoy holiday activities in the capital such as Zapote fiestas (Tico bullfightings, carrousels, etc.), the national horse parade, or tope, the San José Carnival and the Costa Rica Tour (cycling), among others.On Dec. 21, most government offices will close for the holidays.Marín said that most Traffic Police officers will be sent to direct traffic leaving the Central Valley and headed for tourist destinations across the country.A vehicle’s license plate number determines which day drivers can enter downtown San José, as well as on the circunvalación, a belt route around the city.The fine for violating the restriction is ₡20,000 ($40). Facebook Comments Related posts:No vehicle restrictions for Holy Week Carpools benefit from new vehicle restrictions Driving Restrictions Take Effect This Week One Mother’s Day gift: no traffic restrictionslast_img read more

Nicaraguas Ortega was invited to Obama summit letter shows

first_imgAt best Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has some work to do improving communications with his embassy officials in Costa Rica. At worst, he was caught by the Costa Rican Foreign Ministry bending the truth over whether he was invited to attend a May 3 summit with U.S. President Barack Obama in Costa Rica.On Thursday, Ortega told members of the press he didn’t know if he’d attend the early May meeting of the Central American Integration System (SICA) in San José, because he wasn’t invited.“We can’t speculate,” he said about Obama’s visit, “because until now, we don’t have anything formal, nothing official,” Ortega told the Nicaraguan press on Thursday.But late Thursday night, Ortega was called out on his bluff by the Nicaragua Dispatch, a Granada-based English-language news site operated by journalist Tim Rogers.“Ortega, who routinely skips Central American summits hosted by Costa Rica, told Sandinista government media outlets yesterday afternoon that he can’t comment on whether or not he will attend the May 4 regional summit with Obama and his Central American counterparts because he was not officially invited by the Costa Rican government,” the Nicaragua Dispatch reported.“But if Ortega doesn’t have the official invite yet, it must be because people in his government are keeping it from him,” Rogers wrote.Prompted by a phone call from the Dispatch, Costa Rican Foreign Ministry spokesman Miguel Díaz on Friday issued a statement confirming Ortega had been invited via a formal letter sent to the Nicaraguan Embassy in Costa Rica on April 3. Díaz attached a copy of the letter, which was signed as received by Nicaraguan official Douglas Espinoza the same day.“The government of Costa Rica ratified today [Friday] that since April 3 it had distributed invitations to the heads of state of [SICA] to attend the Summit in San José with the President of the United States, Barack Obama,” the Costa Rican ministry statement said.Relations between Ortega and his Costa Rican colleague, President Laura Chinchilla, are tense because of an ongoing border spat near the Caribbean coast that started in October 2010.Chinchilla currently presides over SICA and will host the May 3-4 meeting with Obama and other Central American presidents. On Friday, Ortega did an about face, announcing through his wife and presidential spokeswoman, Rosario Murillo, that he would in fact attend the summit. “The President of the Republic, Daniel Ortega Saavedra, confirmed his participation in the Summit of the Central American Integration System with the President of the United States, Barack Obama, after receiving at noon yesterday [Thursday] a formal invitation from Costa Rica,” Nicaragua’s El 19 Digital reported on Friday. This story was updated at 3:10 p.m. on Friday. AFP contributed. Facebook Comments No related posts.last_img read more

With few options organic coffee farmers search for sustainable solutions to devastating

first_imgNo related posts. At first glance, the ochre blotches on the waxy green leaves of a coffee tree appear more like a mild-mannered sunspot than a fungus that has ravaged Central America’s acclaimed coffee industry. Leaf rust, or “la roya” in Spanish, has been making waves since January, when Costa Rica and several other countries declarednational coffee emergencies because of the fungus.Nearly 50 percent of coffee plantations have been infected with the fungus in the region, where nearly 2 million mostly small farmers make their living from coffee, according to a report from the International Coffee Organization. The same report estimates that upwards of 64 percent of Costa Rica’s coffee-growing regions are suffering from leaf rust damage.While conventional coffee growers struggle with the devastating fungus, organic farmers face a unique challenge. Organic farmers in Costa Rica are working to find sustainable solutions to coexisting with leaf rust, Hemileia vastatrix, but there are few organic options to treat roya when it strikes beyond copper sulfate fungicide and a prayer.“There are no silver bullets when it comes to leaf rust and organic farmers have even fewer options,” said Pam Kahl, a representative from Sustainable Harvest, a U.S. coffee importer based in Portland, Oregon, who runs the Roya Recovery Project.  Prevention vs. reactionThe fungus spreads through direct contact. Once infected, the plant’s leaves dry out and its coffee cherries fail to mature properly. Farmers must prune back all the infected parts of the plant to attempt to save the rest of the tree and prevent the fungus’ progression. Large monoculture coffee plantations are especially vulnerable to roya.So far, MAG has been providing organic coffee farmers with an approved copper sulfate fungicide but several sources interviews for this story agreed that it is not a long-term solution, according to Luis Zamora, national coffee manager for Costa Rica’s Agriculture and Livestock Ministry (MAG). He noted that any fungicide or pesticide, regardless of its organic seal of approval, should be used sparingly and with great care so as not to contaminate nearby water sources.Organic coffee’s ethos, however, might be its greatest defense against the spread of leaf rust. “Organic farming is more about anticipating problems than reacting to them,” said Julio César Chacón, who works at Las Lajas organic coffee farm in Sabanilla, Alajuela. “It’s a question of improving the soil and creating ideal conditions for the plant so that it can better resist diseases like leaf rust.”Chacón opined that organic farming practices and the relatively high altitude at which their coffee is grown serves as a strong deterrent to leaf rust.Organic farms like Las Lajas, which climbs as high as 4,900 feet above sea level, plant their coffee under a canopy of banana and other trees. This strategy nurtures a diverse growing environment that makes it difficult for roya to spread quickly from plant to plant. There is a trade-off, however: sun-drenched fields produce more coffee, enticing many farmers to abandon shade-grown coffee.Zamora pointed out that every farm is different, however, and that organic practices alone are not a sure-fire guarantee against the virulent fungus. Dry, hot but humid created an ideal environment for the fungus this year, reaching heights where it was never seen before. Some scientists suggest that climate change may also be responsible for roya’s wide reach.Organic alternativesChristian Mora Rojas, general manager for the Organic Families’ Association of the Caraigres Mountains, or AFAORCA, told The Tico Times that they are experimenting with several organic alternatives to copper-based fungicides. Echoing Chacón’s belief in prevention, Mora agreed that stronger, healthier plants are more likely to successfully fend off roya.Oddly enough, one of the best organic alternatives to fighting leaf rust could be another fungus. Mora said that AFAORCA is experimenting with Lecanicidium, Trichoderma and other parasitic fungi that attack leaf rust and other pests. The parasitic fungi eat leaf rust spores, limiting the fungus’ ability to spread to other plants and farms.While these fungi offer attractive organic alternatives to conventional fungicides, AFAORCA’s experiments remain small-scale, wary about the unknown impact of widespread application of these fungi. The group has also seen promising developments from plants treated with a fish-based fertilizer that comes from the Pacific province of Puntarenas.Mora admitted that these findings, while encouraging, were not immediate solutions to an organic farm in the midst of a roya rash.“There’s no time to experiment, there is a crisis going on,” said Zamora, encouraging farmers to treat their fields when they find evidence of leaf rust.MAG estimates that there will be a 20 percent drop in production next year that could knock tens of thousands of small farmers out of the coffee business for two to three years. The specialty coffee-producing country recently approved debate on a $40 million bill to aid to small farmers affected by the leaf rust outbreak.The current wave of leaf rust in Central America is the worst since it was first found in the isthmus in 1976. PROMECAFE, a coffee research organization based in Guatemala, estimates that roya could cost the isthmus $500 million.Despite the devastation caused by leaf rust in Cost Rica, Mora mused that there might yet be a sliver lining to this crisis. “Many of the plants most affected were the weakest and worn out. If 30 percent of the region’s coffee has to be re-planted, it’s a unique opportunity to replenish the fields,” he said. “If we can find a way to co-exist with the leaf rust, we’ll be stronger for it.” Facebook Commentslast_img read more

National Meteorological Institute forecasts more intense rains for the end of May

first_imgRelated posts:El Niño heat expected to last through May Low rainfall in Central Valley, northern regions; La Niña still a no-show Costa Rica nearing record rainfall for May Transition to dry season in Costa Rica begins this week Rainy season has gotten off to a drier-than-normal start. But that may change tomorrow with humidity levels increase Wednesday evening. The change portends the return of late afternoon thunderstorms, according to the National Meteorological Institute (IMN).An increase in rainfall is expected primarily for the Central Valley, the Northern Zone and both coasts.Current rainfall rates are below average for the country’s rainy season (May through November), especially in the Central Valley and the central and southern Pacific. Costa Rica also had a dry start to the rainy season last year, and the IMN noticed similar conditions in January that foretold of another drier-than-average spring. The situation prompted the Water and Sewers Institute (AyA) to implement emergency measures for areas with low precipitation levels. AyA experts are looking at several areas where they could drill wells to provide water. The institute hopes to avoid daily rationing like the measures the agency applied in recent months.IMN forecasts indicate that rainfall levels in May and June will be within normal figures for the season, however in July and August levels likely will be below average mostly due to the effects of El Niño.At the end of June, in IMN will publish forecasts for El Niño, and recommend guidelines for dealing with the weather phenomenon. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Highway headaches didnt delay flights for tourists during Sele celebrations

first_imgRelated posts:Solís calls tourism a peacemaker at Expotur inauguration Costa Rica hopes La Sele will bring home a trophy, along with more tourists Costa Rica tourism minister sees no threat from Cuba, Nicaragua Uber launches van service in Costa Rica, eyeing tourist traffic Gracias Costa Rica… Se robaron nuestros corazones con tantas muestras de apoyo y cariño pic.twitter.com/olGBuwvRWP— FEDEFUTBOL (@FEDEFUTBOL_CR) July 9, 2014 “Thanks, Costa Rica… You stole our hearts with such demonstrations of support and caring,” tweeted FEDEFUTBOL, the Costa Rican football authority, showing a photo of the massive crowds that choked the highway ands entrance to the airport.The international airport remained open for business during the celebrations, and some tourists were trapped in the 2-kilometer traffic jam that formed because of the road closure, the daily La Nación reported. Ground transportation companies, including Adobe Rent-a-Car and Europcar, told the newspaper they could not deliver or pick up passengers from the airport.Over 3,900 passengers were scheduled to leave Costa Rica on Tuesday, according to the Civil Aviation Administration.Despite the thick crowds of red-shirted fans and the special attention paid to the Sele’s Avianca flight, international flights took off without any trouble, Silvia Chávez, press coordinator for Aeris Holdings, the company that operates Juan Santamaría International Airport, told The Tico Times. Only two domestic flights were delayed because of the Sele’s arrival.American Airlines, Delta, United, and US Airways all confirmed to The Tico Times that they did not have trouble getting flights out. Several airlines said they had warned customers the previous day to arrive early to head off any traffic delays. None reported missing passengers. Facebook Comments On Tuesday, tourists found themselves stuck between thousands of Costa Rican football fans and their flights home.As Costa Ricans obsessively tracked the arrival of their national men’s team, La Sele, after its historic run at the 2014 World Cup – many rushing to Juan Santamaría International Airport to catch a glimpse of the players – thousands of visitors to Costa Rica were trying to reach the airport. The General Cañas Highway connecting the airport in Alajuela with the capital was closed for most of Tuesday afternoon to allow the Sele’s parade truck to reach La Sabana Park, in western San José, where the closing ceremony took place.last_img read more

Latin American left faces three key presidential votes in October

first_imgThree Latin American countries hold elections next month — Brazil, Uruguay and Bolivia — a crunch test for ruling leftists seeking to bolster budding dynasties in the face of a regional slowdown.All three countries have become symbols of the region’s leftward tilt in recent years, but only Bolivia looks sure to continue the trend.In Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, an economist and former guerrilla with a no-nonsense reputation, is trying to extend the Workers’ Party’s nearly 12-year reign by winning a second term like her charismatic predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.In Uruguay, fellow ex-guerrilla José Mujica, a folksy iconoclast known for legalizing marijuana and living in a run-down house, is looking to hand power back to his Broad Front party predecessor, medical doctor Tabaré Vázquez, the country’s president from 2005 to 2010.And in Bolivia, Evo Morales, a virulent critic of the United States who became the country’s first indigenous president in 2006, is seeking a third term after winning a Supreme Court ruling allowing him to stand again under a new constitution.“If you had asked me about these elections a year ago, I’d have told you that in all three cases the ruling parties were sure to win,” said Carlos Malamud, a Latin America specialist at the Real Instituto Elcano in Madrid.“But these past few months, in both Uruguay and Brazil, the scenario has evolved considerably.”In Brazil, the largest economy in Latin America and seventh-largest in the world, the October 5 vote has been shaken by the shocking plane crash that killed Socialist candidate Eduardo Campos last month.His running mate, 56-year-old environmentalist Marina Silva, took his place and immediately emerged as a far greater threat to Rousseff, 66.The latest opinion poll indicates Silva would win an October 26 runoff against the incumbent by a margin of 47 percent to 43 percent.Silva, an Evangelical Christian who appeals to both religious conservatives and the left, has vowed to be Brazil’s first “poor, black” president, scooping up undecided voters with the promise of a new direction for a recession-hit country swept by massive protests last year.“She has come to embody the face of change,” said André César of consultancy Prospectiva. The three main Uruguayan presidential candidates in the race for the October 26 vote. (L-R) Ex-president Tabare Vazquez (2005-2010), of the ruling leftist Broad Front (FA), Senator Pedro Bordaberry, the son of a former military dictator, and Luis Lacalle Pou, the candidate for the National Party and the son of former president Luis Alberto Lacalle (1990-1995). AFPIn Uruguay, the race for the October 26 vote has also been rattled by an unexpected latecomer.Luis Lacalle Pou, the son of a former president, defied forecasts to win the center-right National Party’s primary in June, and has since shot up in the polls.The latest gives him 28 percent of the vote, to 40 percent for Vazquez.The little-known 41-year-old has brought new energy to a race long seen as a cinch for 74-year-old Vázquez, who doesn’t use social networks, refuses debates and “thinks the electorate is still the same as 10 years ago,” said Ricardo López Göttig of regional think-tank Cadal.Both the Brazilian and Uruguayan newcomers have been boosted by “a climate of disappointment, fatigue, a general bad mood after a series of leftist governments,” said Adolfo Garcé, a social scientist at Montevideo University.Morales, the exception Bolivian Presidential candidate Samuel Doria Medina (L) and Bolivia’s President Evo Morales. AFPBolivia’s October 12 vote looks less volatile, with Morales polling at 56 percent — far ahead of center-right rival Samuel Doria Medina’s 17 percent.Morales, 54, has also refused to debate his opponent.But with economic growth projected at five percent this year, he doesn’t need to.“Morales has never debated in his previous elections and that has always brought him success. Why would he do it now?” said Marcelo Silva, a professor at La Paz University.But elsewhere in the region, the end of a so-called “golden decade” of strong economic growth has brought an increasingly restless electorate, said Daniel Zovatto, Latin America director at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.After expanding by 5.9 percent in 2010 and 4.3 percent in 2011, the region’s economies are expected to grow just 2.7 percent this year, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.“Part of the new middle class could slip back into poverty. Or demand a better quality of life, more public services,” said Zovatto.“The winds of change are starting to blow in the region.” Facebook Comments Related posts:In Bolivia, silver mountain at risk of collapse Brazil split ahead of presidential election Incumbent Rousseff leads in first round of Brazil election, faces runoff US prepares to ramp up transfers from Guantanamolast_img read more

Costa Rica in the Panama Papers leak

first_imgRelated posts:Panama and ‘Panama Papers’ law firm under the media’s lenses Football: Messi denies tax evasion in Panama Papers scandal Iceland premier resigns in Panama Papers scandal Quiet tip unleashed Panama Papers Update, Wednesday, April 6:Following is a right of response to this story from former President Miguel Ángel Rodríguez (1998-2002). My government stopped the abuse of CATsYour publication “Costa Rica in the Panama Papers leak” has the facts upside down regarding the investigations on the fraudulent use of the Certificados de Abono Tributario (CATs) at the end of the nineties.It was my government the one that launched the investigations on this issue, and furnished personnel of the Finance Ministry to the Prosecutors Office so that the criminal cases could be brought to trial – most of them successfully.In addition to fighting fraudulent use of CATs, my Government also did propose and got Congressional approval for a tax on legally obtained CATs, and used the proceeds to kick start police professionalization for the first time in Costa Rican history – ever.My government was never “under scrutiny for the CAT program.” This is a well-known fact.Original story continues here:Sunday’s release of the Panama Papers, the massive document leak revealing the offshore activities that some of the world’s elite carried out with Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, has launched investigations into possible tax evasion across the globe, and likely in Costa Rica.Dozens of Costa Rican businesses and individuals, including former government officials, media magnates and prominent businesspeople, are mentioned in the papers as doing business through Mossack Fonseca. Though most have not been directly accused of criminal activity, yet, media outlets and onlookers — including the administration of Luis Guillermo Solís — have been quick to suggest that some of the activities mentioned in the documents point towards attempts to avoid paying taxes in Costa Rica.The Solís administration said Sunday that the Finance Ministry will investigate all persons, corporations and law firms mentioned in the Panama Papers, “in which possible acts of tax evasion and fraud are denounced.” It said, if necessary, the government would also audit tax records. The Solís administration has been pushing for laws and policy changes designed to increase taxes and crack down on tax evasion and money laundering. Its efforts have met with strong resistance from business leaders and opposition lawmakers.The administration released a statement Sunday in response to news reports about the Panama Papers, saying the reports “confirm the urgency of having modern legislation in terms of value-added and income taxes … through a complete fiscal reform which closes the majority of loopholes for tax avoidance.”The Panama Papers investigation resulted from a trove of files leaked to the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, which shared the information with more than 100 media outlets that are part of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. In Costa Rica, DataBaseAR, Amelia Rueda’s investigative wing, and the University of Costa Rica’s Semanario Universidad participated in the project.Reporters spent up to a year sifting through millions of emails, financial spreadsheets and corporate records “to expose the offshore holdings of world political leaders, links to global scandals, and details of the hidden financial dealings of fraudsters, drug traffickers, billionaires, celebrities, sports stars and more,” according to the ICIJ.Here’s some of what the data revealed about Costa Rican firms and individuals, according to Semanario Universidad and DataBaseAR:Intermediaries. More than 30 Costa Rican law firms have served as intermediaries between Mossack Fonseca and firms and individuals based in Costa Rica to set up offshore corporations. Nearly half of those offshore entities — more than 360 — were set up in Panama and other jurisdictions with generous corporate tax policies and minimal oversight, DataBaseAR reported.The purpose for setting up the firms, 800 in total, ranged from doing business and acquiring property in Panama, which is perfectly legal, to “intricate structures with signs of possibly hiding assets” from Costa Rica’s tax authorities, according to the investigation.The law office that helped set up the largest number of offshore companies for Costa Rica-based firms was Gonzalo Fajardo & Asociados, which was founded by former Finance Ministry official and later Economy Minister Gonzalo Fajardo Salas. For nearly two decades Fajardo’s firm helped companies here set up 82 offshore corporations in tax havens, according to DataBaseAR.Family members of Fajardo told DataBaseAR that he couldn’t comment on the report because of lingering effects from an injury suffered last year.Borda Azul. Documents scrutinized by Semanario Universidad and DataBaseAR suggest that Mossack Fonseca helped the now-defunct tuna export company Borda Azul S.A. set up a shell company in the British Virgin Islands as a way to dupe Costa Rican tax officials. The company was owned by former president of the Costa Rican Football Federation (1999-2006) Hermes Navarro; the company’s vice president was Cuba-born, U.S.-educated Jerry ten Brink.In the late 1990s, the Costa Rican Finance Ministry, the Prosecutor’s Office and other agencies opened investigations into some export companies, including Borda Azul, for alleged fraudulent use of tax credit certificates (CATs), an incentive program created in the early 1970s and applied in the ’80s and ’90s for non-traditional exports.At the time, the administration of then-president Miguel Ángel Rodríguez (1998-2002) was under scrutiny for the CAT program, according to Semanario Universidad. Legislators, the newspaper noted, were angered that the government’s budget proposal allotted huge sums under the CAT program to a handful of export companies, some of which were owned by government officials. In a right of reply (see above), Rodríguez disputed that his administration was ever criticized over abuses of the CAT program, saying that, “It was my government … that launched the investigations on this issue, and furnished personnel of the Finance Ministry to the Prosecutors Office so that the criminal cases could be brought to trial.”According to the daily La Nación, authorities by 1997 already had accused dozens of export companies of using the CAT program to launder millions of dollars in drug trafficking profits and other acts of fraud.According to the investigations by Semanario Universidad and DataBaseAR, Mossack Fonseca helped Borda Azul fabricate invoices from the latter’s British Virgin Islands-based shell company, in order to inflate its costs and its export figures. The former was key to keeping Borda Azul’s taxes low; the latter allowed it to continue participating in the CAT program.In a letter published by Seminario Universidad, dated Oct. 19, 1998, from lawyer Ramsés Owens to his bosses at Mossack Fonseca, Owens explains the investigation into CATs and the situation of his client Borda Azul. “Doing an analysis, it’s clear that our client avoided paying taxes. … In the worst of circumstances, being very fatalistic, the Costa Rican government could, after years of investigation, suspend the transfer of CATs to Borda Azul for irregularities but never send anyone to jail.”In the letter Owens urges his bosses to continue offering its invoicing services to Borda Azul, “because that’s what we do, because 95 percent of our work consists, coincidentally, of selling vehicles for avoiding taxes. …”In a written response to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, published in DataBaseAR, Mossack Fonseca said the firm “completely disagrees with any assertion that the principal function of the services we provide is to facilitation the avoidance and/or evasion of taxes.”Another interesting angle to the story, according to DataBaseAR, is that Juan Diego Castro worked as a defense attorney for Navarro and Ten Brink, securing an exoneration from criminal fraud charges in the case in 1999. Before that, Castro had served as Costa Rica’s justice minister under former President José María Figueres Olsen (1994-1998), resigning from the post in 1997. At that same time, he had presided over the Caribbean Financial Action Group against money laundering and drug trafficking, calling the problem of money laundering a “cancer,” according to the daily La Nación.In response to the Panama Papers reports, a spokesman for Castro told DataBaseAR that attorney-client confidentiality prevented him from commenting on the fraud exoneration, and that Castro had no relation to Mossack Fonseca.Orlando Guerrero Vargas. The Panama Papers revealed several companies in Panama and the British Virgin Islands registered to Orlando Guerrero Vargas, campaign treasurer for San José Mayor Johnny Araya during the latter’s failed presidential election bid. Guerrero is mentioned in the U.S. indictment of former Costa Rica soccer official Eduardo Li. Prosecutors said Li received a $300,000 bribe through bank accounts located in Miami, Florida, and Panama, registered to the Costa Rican company Warrior Holdings S.A., whose treasurer is Li’s friend Guerrero.Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that a Finance Ministry investigation into the CAT program was begun in the late 1980s. Those investigations started in 1998, the same year of the leaked Panama Papers correspondence regarding Borda Azul’s potential legal troubles. The CAT program was created by law in 1972 and later gained momentum in the 1980s. We regret the error.  Facebook Commentslast_img read more

2 killed as car crashes at French rally

first_img 3 international destinations to visit in 2019 5 greatest Kentucky Derby finishes Associated PressTOULON, France (AP) – A car competing in a road race through a village in southern France lost control and smashed into a crowd of spectators Saturday, killing two and injuring at least 15, police said.The cause of the crash during the Var Rally in Plan-de-la-Tour village at 4:30 p.m. (1430 GMT, 10:30 a.m. EDT) was not immediately known, a policeman said on condition of anonymity in keeping with regulations. At least four of the injured were in serious condition. Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family Fire stations deployed about 50 rescue workers to the site, and some of the victims were rushed to hospitals, the policeman said.The Var Rally is not a major road race in France, but as in others held in the country a major challenge is for the drivers to navigate narrow roads through rural areas at high speed as spectators watch, often from the sidelines.Plan-de-la-Tour, located near Toulon city, gained international attention several years ago when American actor Johnny Depp and singer Vanesa Paradis bought a house there.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Sponsored Stories center_img New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates The difference between men and women when it comes to pain Top Stories Comments   Share   last_img read more

Togo forces arrest exIvorian defense minister

first_img Top holiday drink recipes Kouassi served under the regime of ex-President Laurent Gbagbo, who clung to power after losing the November 2010 president election in a move that sparked months of deadly violence.His arrest came just as six heads of state from the region, including Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, were wrapping up a summit of the Francophone West African Economic and Monetary Union in the Togolese capital.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) 5 things to look for when selecting an ophthalmologist 4 ways to protect your company from cyber breaches More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Sponsored Stories Comments   Share   center_img Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates Top Stories Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family LOME, Togo (AP) – Authorities say they’ve arrested Ivory Coast’s former defense minister who had been living in exile in Togo.Col. Mompion Mateindou confirmed late Wednesday that security forces in the nation of Togo have detained Moise Lida Kouassi, who fled to Togo in April 2011 amid Ivory Coast’s political crisis.An international warrant for Kouassi’s arrest was issued several months later though the exact charges against him were not immediately clear. New high school in Mesa lets students pick career pathslast_img read more

Ivory Coast exleaders party in disarray

first_imgMore than 100 Gbagbo loyalists have been charged domestically with crimes committed during violence that stemmed from November 2010 elections. The conflict originated when Gbagbo refused to leave office after losing to Ouattara. But international human rights groups have also accused pro-Ouattara forces of committing postelection atrocities, and no member of Ouattara’s administration or security force has been detained or credibly investigated.“How can you sit at the table and discuss with someone who has killed your mother and imprisoned your brother?” Guehoun said.Following the FPI’s decision not to participate in an April forum, Human Rights Watch accused the party of being interested in scoring political points at the expense of stability.“These preconditions not only expose the FPI political elite’s contempt for the thousands of victims of often heinous forms of political violence,” HRW said, “but also reinforce the perception that the party remains more interested in hardline politics than in helping end the root causes of the country’s grave human rights abuses.”Civil society activist Yacouba Doumbia said he believed the demands were symptomatic of a party in disarray. “We can say that the politicians have their own logic that we are not mastering, because this precondition is not reasonable,” he said, noting that Ouattara’s government has no control over the ICC. Associated PressABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) – Each morning, briefcase in hand, Laurent Boblet takes two taxis and two minibuses to the headquarters of the Ivorian Popular Front, the party of Ivory Coast’s former strongman who is now facing international charges of crimes against humanity.The three-floor villa in Abidjan’s upscale Riviera 2 neighborhood was once a hub of political activity and in 2010 was in full election mode: televisions blared, grounds were swarmed by campaign staffers, and party leaders stopped by daily. Nearly two years later _ following Laurent Gbagbo’s defeat to current President Alassane Ouattara, months of postelection violence that claimed 3,000 lives and Gbagbo’s eventual arrest _the villa is bare, its rooms empty save for plastic chairs, the occasional table and exposed wires marking where computers have been ripped from the walls. He agreed with FPI leaders that both sides should be investigated for postelection crimes, but also called on the ICC process to be respected.Boblet, an FPI supporter since its founding in 1982, said he still believes Gbagbo is the right person to lead the country. “It’s because Gbagbo said he was entering politics to become a representative of the poor,” Boblet said while tidying the party villa’s main gathering hall. “Since he is from a relatively poor family, I believe he is the right person to be this type of representative.”He denied being discouraged by challenges facing the FPI. The party boycotted legislative elections last December, and in a report released soon afterward the International Crisis Group described it as “torn between moderates and radicals and also geographically dispersed,” with some leaders in exile in Ghana, Togo, Benin and elsewhere.“It’s a simple matter of conviction. The fact that we’re still working will encourage other members that are hesitating to come mobilize for the party,” Boblet said. “The life of the party does not stop because we are disorganized and some leaders are in exile or in prison.” More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Clean energy: Why it matters for Arizona As he spoke, other workers sat behind a plastic table selling various items bearing the former president’s image. T-shirts were available starting at about $4, while large towels were going for $15. Large signs featuring Gbagbo and other FPI figures decorated the compound. One near the entrance shows two photos of the former president and displays a phrase he uttered at his first ICC appearance last December: “We will go on to the end.”(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Top Stories New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates The party, known by its French acronym of FPI, is now a mere trace of the force that dominated Ivorian politics for a decade. Gbagbo, who once had an office and resting quarters on the villa’s top floor, is being held at the International Criminal Court in The Hague on four counts of crimes against humanity. His wife, Simone, who Boblet remembers would regularly stop by to assess the campaign’s progress, has been detained by local authorities in the northern town of Odienne.Still, Boblet and three or four other staffers show up to the headquarters every day, keeping it presentable for party officials while hoping the former president will be set free.“For sustainable peace, I need to have my brother by me because he has some ideas to get peace in this country,” Boblet said, referring to Gbagbo. “He needs to be here to contribute to the development of the country.”This has increasingly become the FPI’s defining position as it struggles to maintain the influence it once did.In April, top FPI officials declined to participate actively in a gathering of political parties, making engagement with the government conditional on the release of Gbagbo and other detained FPI leaders. Though the FPI attended a meeting with the prime minister last week, spokesman Augustin Geuhoun said the party would continue to press for the release of its leaders. Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family Sponsored Stories Arizona families, Arizona farms: providing the local community with responsibly produced dairy 5 greatest Kentucky Derby finishes Comments   Share   last_img read more

Bride stealing custom all the rage in Bucharest

first_imgThis past Saturday, about 20 brides were held hostage at the Arch of Triumph, which was built in 1922 to honor Romanian soldiers who died during World War I and to celebrate the reunification of Transylvania with the rest of Romania.One bride was driven in from her wedding in a town an hour east of Bucharest with a gaggle of guests in tow. Another grabbed the toy machine gun of her kidnappers, dressed up as Taliban, and pretending to use it in front of the monument.Authorities turn a blind eye to the partying under the monument, technically illegal because it’s a historic landmark. Motorists cruise around the square honking, waving and cheering. The outdoor party is one way for Romanians, frustrated with austerity measures and feuding politicians, to let off steam.One bride, 25-year-old Alisar Dragne, says her abduction was scripted from start to finish.`’Everything was staged and ready in my case. The limousine was waiting for me in front of the restaurant, I was given the `leave’ signal by my friends and together we came here to have some fun,” she said. “Now everyone’s thinking what ransom to ask the groom.”George Neascu, a Roma musician, who plays at the monument every week for small change, said the bride-stealing custom is as old as living memory. “All sorts of people come here,” said Neascu, “both those who have lots of money and those who have less.”(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Every Saturday night, brides from Bucharest and beyond are dragged away in a mock abduction by friends and driven to a top tourist spot where they are “held hostage” _ all the while pouting, dancing and striking provocative poses for the cameras.The ransom: a few bottles of whisky or perhaps something more romantic, like a public declaration of love from the abandoned groom. The kidnappers negotiate by phone, working out the details of the payoff. It’s all harmless theatrics meant to add a whiff of risque fun to the nuptials.Mock abductions of brides are part of marriage ceremonies across the former Soviet Union. In some countries, guests lock up a bride or have her hide in a backroom during celebrations, demanding that the bridegroom delivers a “ransom” _ like singing a song, dancing or sometimes paying real money.In Romania, the custom took off a few years ago when a top football player rented Bucharest’s Arch of Triumph, a major monument modeled after its iconic namesake in Paris, and proposed there to his girlfriend. There was no kidnapping involved but the scene stuck in the popular imagination as a symbol of marriage _ and soon the monument became a sort of midnight mecca for bride-napping. Top Stories Comments   Share   Sponsored Stories Arizona families, Arizona farms: working to produce high-quality milk Parents, stop beating yourself upcenter_img Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Associated PressBUCHAREST, Romania (AP) – A white limousine screeches to a halt and a bride, resplendent in frothy gown and veil, is hauled outside by her abductors.It’s one of Romania’s more colorful customs: bride-napping. And the tradition of snatching the bride from under the nose of groom and guests with the wedding party in full swing is getting bigger, brasher and an increasingly common sight in the Romanian capital, the Balkans’ undisputed party town. Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix 4 must play golf courses in Arizonalast_img

Jamaica police charged with killing pregnant woman

first_img Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Quick workouts for men Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Top Stories Sponsored Stories Comments   Share   Associated PressKINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) – Jamaican prosecutors announced Tuesday that a veteran Jamaican policeman will be charged with murdering a heavily pregnant woman as he was trying to arrest her for cursing in the middle of a town square.Horrified eyewitnesses in the coastal town of Yallahs told investigators that Corporal Dwayne Smart shot Kayann Lamont in the head with his Glock service pistol during a scuffle as he tried to arrest her for using “indecent language,” a crime in Jamaica.center_img (Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) “The man kill off my sister, you know, for nothing at all,” Shem Lamont told the TV station, her eyes welling with tears.Police Supt. Michael Smith said the officer was “remorseful” and always seemed to be a level-headed individual. He said he was known as a religious man who was active in his church.More than 2,000 fatal shootings by security officers were reported by police over the last decade in this Caribbean country of 2.8 million people, and 211 reported police killings were reported last year. Human rights groups have long complained that a culture of impunity has allowed Jamaican police to serve as judge, jury and executioner.Police typically say shooting deaths occur as they respond to unprovoked gunfire. Police statistics show that more accused officers have fled the island than have been convicted of abuse since 1999.Most of the killings occur in rough neighborhoods that are seldom seen by tourists who flock to the scenic island’s beach resorts.___David McFadden on Twitter: http://twitter.com/dmcfadd Four benefits of having a wireless security system Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of He then allegedly shot her sister in her upper body, and was apparently aiming at the third sister but his gun ran out of ammunition. Eyewitnesses report that Smart appeared to be reloading his weapon when he was restrained by a fellow officer.The 25-year-old Lamont was about eight months pregnant and just coming back to the Yallahs area after a shopping trip to downtown Kingston with her two sisters.The Saturday afternoon slaying of the pregnant woman and the shooting of her sister, Novia, have sent a shock wave through much of the island’s society. Dozens of furious Yallahs residents have demonstrated in the town, denouncing police and calling for justice.Linda Palmer-Hamilton, the island’s acting director of public prosecution, ruled Tuesday that Smart will be charged with murder, wounding with intent, assault and firearm violations. She made the quick ruling spurred by widespread outrage.The Independent Commission of Investigations said Tuesday that Smart was quickly taken into custody on the insistence of Indecom as investigators were concerned that he was a flight risk.The uninjured sister, Shem Lamont, told Television Jamaica that her elder sister was overheard using a commonly-used Jamaican curse word to a nearby market vendor as she got out of a minibus in Yallahs Square. She said the accused officer immediately tried to arrest the woman and was trying to drag her to a police station when she tried to get out of his grip.last_img read more

Court upholds Baumgartners conviction

first_img The difference between men and women when it comes to pain Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Top Stories Baumgartner denied having hit the truck driver but was fined (EURO)1,500 _ nearly $2,000 _ for bodily harm.In explaining Tuesday’s ruling Elisabeth Schmidbauer, who headed a three-judge appeals panel, said “there was no self-defense situation” on the part of Baumgartner.Baumgartner did not attend the hearing in Salzburg. His stratospheric jump last month set a record.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) VIENNA (AP) – An Austrian court has rejected an appeal by supersonic skydiver Felix Baumgartner against a conviction and fine for punching a truck driver.The case stems from a 2010 incident in Baumgartner’s home city of Salzburg in which a motorist and a Greek truck driver got into an argument. A lower court in April found that Baumgartner took the motorist’s side and hit the truck driver in the face. Comments   Share   4 ways to protect your company from cyber breachescenter_img Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project 4 sleep positions for men and what they mean Sponsored Stories Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenixlast_img read more

ExGitmo inmate stopped from flying to Canada overflies US

first_imgIn this May 13, 2015 photo, former Guantanamo detainee and al-Qaida trainee Mourad Benchellali talks during an interview with the Associated Press in Gennevilliers, suburban Paris, France. With thousands of young Europeans joining the ranks of radical Islamists in Syria, some people have stepped forward to offer to deter them. But most governments and groups trying to prevent the exodus of vulnerable youths are cautious about accepting such services _ since the volunteers were once radicals themselves. (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere) Top Stories Benchellali uses his experience at an al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan as a lesson for youth tempted by the Islamic State group’s savvy recruiting campaign for jihad.___Rob Gillies in Toronto and Alicia Caldwell in Washington contributed to this report.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Patients with chronic pain give advice Sponsored Stories Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility PARIS (AP) — A former prisoner in Guantanamo said he was prevented from boarding a flight in France on Thursday for conferences in Canada because the aircraft would fly through U.S. airspace.Mourad Benchellali, who addresses youth groups in Europe in a bid to dissuade them from jihad, was prevented from boarding the Air Transat flight from Lyon to Montreal.The Canadian airline said because the flight flies through U.S. airspace “our personnel had to, and duly applied the provisions of a U.S. security program known as Secure Flight, as all airlines must.”center_img Comments   Share   Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies The Secure Flight program checks passengers against the U.S. No Fly list.Benchellali, 33, who was released from the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in July 2004, said in a telephone interview he was unaware he was on the U.S. list. He has flown to other destinations in Europe and beyond, but this was the first time he planned a trans-Atlantic flight.Benchellali was to attend a conference on peace and another on the phenomenon of radicalization of Western youth who have headed by the thousands to Syria.“I wasn’t going on vacation. I was going for prevention,” he said in the interview.At check-in, he said he was informed that “there is a problem because the plane crosses American airspace.”The U.S. Transportation Security Administration receives flight manifests for any commercial flight that will either land in the United States or fly over U.S. airspace as part of the Secure Flight program. Airlines can opt to rebook a passenger to a flight that doesn’t cross U.S. airspace, re-route the flight to make sure it doesn’t come into U.S. airspace or cancel the passenger’s ticket.Conference organizers expressed shock that their guest was banned from his flight. Police and university researchers were to take part in a conference organized by the Observatory of Radicalization in addition to a conference entitled “48 Hours for Peace.” 5 things to look for when selecting an ophthalmologist How men can have a healthy 2019last_img read more

Refurbished renovated and ready for business

first_imgTourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) estimates the millions of dollars spend on major upgrades at Sydney’s premier hotels will make 2012 one of the best performance years since the Olympics.TAA director Carol Giuseppi said refurbishments and redevelopments of more than half a dozen leading hotels are revitalizing the tourism industry.“We have seen major investment in the industry over the last year and that is set to pay dividends in the future,” Ms Giuseppi said.The recently refurbished properties include Star City, The Park Hyatt, Sydney Harbour Marriott, Marriott Sydney, Grace Hotel, Four Seasons Hotel, Shangri-La, ParkRoyal, Parramatta, Intercontinental and Swissotel.Ms Giuseppi said the extensive upgrades and renovations has reinforced Sydney’s place on travel itineraries from travellers across the globe.She said the AUD870million renovation of Star City, into “the Star”, of which accommodation is a significant component, will help boost the travel industry.“The first purpose-built five star hotel built since the Olympics, the Darling, brings the number of rooms and suites on offer at the Star to more than 650 across three towers.”Ms Guiseppi added the AUD60 million renovation of the Park Hyatt has raised the bar in luxury with three new roof-top suites with views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.“Sydney’s top Hotels are newly refurbished, renovated and ready for business.” Source = e-Travel Blackboard: S.Plast_img read more