Air India Gets New Look

Air India, the-country’s second-biggest airline in terms of fleet size revealed its new brand logo and revamped identity on August 10, 2023. The rebranding comes as part of the airline’s five-year transformation roadmap, Vihaan.AI, which aims to position Air India as a world class airline.

“Our new livery and design features a palette of deep red, aubergine, gold highlights and a chakra-inspired pattern. Travellers will begin to see the new logo and design starting December 2023,” the airline said in a tweet. The aircraft windows have also changed, and reimagined into a gold window frame symbolizing a “window of possibilities.”

The new logo called, ‘The Vista’, is inspired by the peak of the gold window frame “signifying limitless possibilities,”

As per the release issued by the airline, the new logo called, ‘The Vista’, is inspired by the peak of the gold window frame “signifying limitless possibilities, progressiveness, and the airline’s bold, confident outlook for the future.” It replaces the old logo of a swan with orange spokes. All Air India airlines will be updated with the new branding by 2025.

Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran said the new logo represents progressiveness and confidence. “Today is an important milestone, because the new Air India, the vision we have for the airline is also in the backdrop of a new resurgent India, where the aspirations of everyone are limitless,”

Revealing the bold new look of Air India.

Our new livery and design features a palette of deep red, aubergine, gold highlights and a chakra-inspired pattern. Travellers will begin to see the new logo and design starting December 2023.#FlyAI #NewAirIndia

Chandrasekaran said plans to revamp other aspects of the airline are in the works and the best of artificial intelligence and machine learning will be deployed at Air India.

Speaking on the revamped brand identity, Air India CEO & MD Campbell Wilson said, “Our transformative new brand reflects an ambition to make Air India a world-class airline serving guests from around the globe, and that represents a new India proudly on the global stage. The new Air India is bold, confident, and vibrant, but also warm and deeply rooted to its rich history and traditions that make Indian hospitality a global benchmark for standards in service.”

G20 Tourism Meeting Held in Kashmir Amid High Security

The G20 tourism conference is taking place in the Indian-controlled region of Kashmir under heavy security measures, drawing criticism from both China and Pakistan for hosting the event in the contentious area. The ongoing dispute between India and Pakistan over the Himalayan territory of Kashmir has lasted 75 years since their independence, with both nuclear powers claiming the entire region but only governing parts of it. Two out of the three full-scale wars fought between these nations have been over this territory.

The Indian-administered part of Kashmir, which is the nation’s sole Muslim-majority region, has experienced an armed uprising for decades as rebels demand either independence or unification with Pakistan. This conflict has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians, soldiers, and Kashmiri insurgents. Authorities mentioned that security was heightened last week “to avoid any chance of terrorist attack during the G20” meeting, marking the first diplomatic event in the disputed area since New Delhi abolished its limited autonomy and assumed direct control in 2019.

Taking place on the banks of Dal Lake in Srinagar, the main city of the region, the three-day event commences Monday at a highly secured and expansive venue. Officials have prepared the area to demonstrate what they describe as “normalcy and peace returning” to the region by resurfacing roads leading to the site and illuminating electricity poles with the colors of India’s national flag.

On Monday, Srinagar seemed peaceful, with most security checkpoints either removed or disguised using G20 signage to create cubicle-like stations for security personnel. Authorities have also trained hundreds of officers in what they refer to as “invisible policing” for the event.

‘Graveyard calm’

However, officials closed the primary road leading to the convention center for civilian traffic and shut down numerous schools in the city. The security measures on Monday were in stark contrast to those implemented in the days preceding the event. A large security perimeter was established around the venue by the Dal Lake, with elite naval commandos patrolling the water in rubber boats.

Picture : TheUNN

India has been advocating for tourism within its part of Kashmir, attracting over a million visitors last year. Indian authorities hope that the G20 meeting will demonstrate how the 2019 alterations brought “peace and prosperity” to the region. Delegates will explore topics such as sustainable tourism and destination management. Additionally, side events focusing on ecotourism and the role of films in promoting tourist destinations are planned.

Harshvardhan Shringla, India’s chief coordinator for the G20, told reporters on Sunday, “We have the making of a unique meeting.” He highlighted that the event would feature the highest number of foreign delegates compared to previous tourism meetings held in West Bengal and Gujarat earlier this year.

However, Dr. Sheikh Showkat Hussain, a political analyst based in the region, told Al Jazeera that the G20 meeting would only hold significance for the people of Kashmir if there were a sense of normalcy. He stated, “Now, normalcy does not mean normalcy of a graveyard where you have restrictions on media, restrictions on people and people languishing in jails.” He added, “And at the same time you want to project to the world that everything is normal.”

China opts out No Chinese representatives will be present at the event. India and China are currently engaged in a military standoff along their mostly undefined border in the Ladakh region. Beijing lays claim to the entirety of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh as part of its Tibet province and regards Kashmir as a disputed territory. “China firmly opposes holding any form of G20 meeting in disputed territory and will not attend such meetings,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin informed reporters on Friday.

Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia are also reportedly unlikely to participate, according to an AFP news agency report. India, which holds the G20 presidency for 2023, has scheduled over 100 meetings across the nation. China has already abstained from attending events in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh.

Pakistan, a non-G20 member that governs a smaller portion of Kashmir, argued that hosting the tourism meeting in the territory contravenes international law, United Nations Security Council resolutions, and bilateral agreements. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari stated last week that India was showcasing its “arrogance to the world” and that “it shows their pettiness,” eliciting a strong response from New Delhi. India accuses Pakistan of training and supporting armed insurgents in Kashmir, which Islamabad refutes.

Since India’s 2019 constitutional amendments, the rebellion in Kashmir has been largely suppressed, although young men continue to join the cause. However, dissent has been criminalized, media freedoms restricted, and public protests limited, leading critics to argue that India has severely curtailed civil liberties. Last week, UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, Fernand de Varennes, said that New Delhi was attempting to use the G20 meeting to “portray an international seal of approval” on a situation that “should be decried and condemned.” India dismissed those remarks.

The increased security measures have caused frustration among residents, with hundreds detained in police stations and thousands, including shopkeepers, receiving calls from officials warning them against any “signs of protest or trouble.”

India Hosts G20 Tourism Meeting in Kashmir

India has defended its decision to host a Group of 20 (G20) meeting in Jammu and Kashmir, despite criticism from human rights groups and expected boycotts from some countries. Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, is scheduled to host a tourism meeting for G20 members, which the Indian government has marketed as an opportunity to showcase the region’s culture. It is the first international event of this scale to be held in the disputed, Muslim-majority region since India revoked its special status and split the former state into two federal territories in 2019.

China has said that it will not attend the meeting, citing its opposition to “holding any kind of G20 meetings in disputed territory “, according to Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin. Ladakh, which was previously part of the state, was separated and turned into another standalone territory. Ladakh is a disputed region along the Line of Actual Control, a de-facto border between India and China. Both countries claim parts of it.

Tensions along the de factor border have been simmering for more than 60 years and have spilled over into war before. In 1962 a month-long conflict ended in a Chinese victory and India losing thousands of square miles of territory. Other countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey, were also expected to boycott the event.

Kashmir is one of the world’s most dangerous flashpoints. Claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan, the mountainous region has been the epicenter of more than 70 years of an often-violent territorial struggle between the two nuclear-armed neighbors. A de facto border called the Line of Control divides it between New Delhi and Islamabad.

In April, Pakistan criticized India’s decision to hold the tourism meeting in Kashmir, calling it an “irresponsible” move. Last week, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, Fernand de Varennes, said the Indian government was “seeking to normalize what some have described as a military operation by instrumentalizing a G20 meeting” in a region where fears of human rights violations and violence are rife.

India has been keen to position itself as a leader of emerging and developing nations since it assumed the G20 presidency. India, the world’s largest democracy with a population of more than 1.4 billion, has been pushing its international credentials, portraying Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a key player in the global order.

India’s tourism secretary, Arvind Singh, said the G20 meeting will not only “showcase (Kashmir’s) potential for tourism” but also “signal globally the restoration of stability and normalcy in the region.” India said the move to revoke Kashmir’s semi-autonomy was to ensure that the nation’s laws were equal for all citizens and to increase economic development in the region. India also alleged that separatist and terrorist groups were aided and abetted by Pakistan, and the move was to put an end to that.

However, rights groups and Pakistan claim that the Indian government’s unilateral move has resulted in human rights violations, including torture, extrajudicial killings, and restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly. The region has been under a military lockdown since August 2019, with mobile internet services shut down for most of that period.

In a statement on Twitter, India’s permanent mission to Geneva rejected de Varennes’s criticism, calling the allegations “baseless and unwarranted.” Earlier this month, India said the G20 meeting in Srinagar “aims to strengthen economic growth, preserve cultural heritage, and promote sustainable development of the region.”

The Indian government’s decision to hold a major international event in Kashmir has raised concerns, especially as the region remains under military lockdown, with a significant military presence. Some countries are boycotting the event, citing the disputed nature of the region. Despite criticism, India maintains that the move is aimed at promoting tourism and economic growth in the region while also signalling the restoration of stability and normalcy. The world will be watching, waiting to see if India can successfully promote tourism and economic development while dealing with the challenges presented by the conflict in the region.

Expedia Launches AI Chat Tool for Hotel Recommendations

Expedia has launched a plug-in in its app using the latest version of AI chat technology to recommend prospective hotels. Travelers can use the ChatGPT function to converse on the best destinations and hotels for their trip. The plug-in saves hotel recommendations to profiles on the Expedia app, adding them to users’ Trip Planning Boards.

The chat function offers a conversational way of shopping and searching for trips and aims to streamline the process. Hotel options are offered through small modules within the chat, and users can save recommended hotels to their profile. The tool is designed to help consumers do basic language discovery. Peter Kern, CEO of Expedia Group, describes the tool as a way to help travelers store options into their Trip Boards before decisions are made.

The ChatGPT plug-in of Expedia’s existing hotel search function both pull from Expedia’s proprietary hotel data, the main difference being a more conversational experience for users. The plug-in uses booking site’s smart-shopping algorithms and various data points like hotel availability, pricing, and machine-learning sorting. Expedia also used algorithms and AI functions to limit conversations to only travel booking.

In the current beta version of the plug-in, ChatGPT recommends and saves three to five different hotel options per search. In the future, the aim is to consistently offer five recommendations for every search as the technology becomes more accurate. “Our platform generates over 600 billion AI predictions a year,” says Rathi Murthy, Expedia Group’s Chief Technology Officer. The new tool utilizes the conversational aspects of the ChatGPT, taking advantage of the technology.

Accuracy has been an issue with early iterations of travel booking with ChatGPT, as have the recommendations being too broad. “ChatGPT’s lack of specificity is exhausting,” wrote Traveler contributor Ashlea Halperin, describing her use of the public version of the chatbot for planning her upcoming honeymoon in the Faroe Islands. The tool provided her with some useful information but nothing she could take as gospel.

Although the chatbot has created a buzz in the travel industry over how it might shift booking methods, the actual impact on travelers’ habits remains to be seen. Kern admits that “we don’t know if travelers will embrace it,” but believes the tool will solve for as many customers’ shopping preferences as possible.

The beta version of the plug-in uses the latest GPT-4 technology. It is now available for all iOS users of the latest version of the Expedia app. “Whether it enhances the discovery process or gets you there faster depends a lot on the person,” Kern says. “Really, we’re trying to solve for as many customers and as many ways they want to shop as we can, and we think there will be interest, and it will help people.”

In conclusion, the ChatGPT plug-in by Expedia is the newest addition to AI chat technology that helps recommend prospective hotels for travelers’ trips. The tool uses smart-shopping algorithms, machine-learning sorting, and various data points to suggest hotels to users on its conversational search function. The tool utilizes the conversational aspect of the ChatGPT technology, and although accuracy has been an issue in its early stages, Expedia is constantly improving it to be more specific and offering more recommendations based on user search. The tool is now available for all iOS users on the latest version of the Expedia app and aims to solve for as many customers and their preferred shopping methods as possible.

Hyderabad Airport Is World’s Most Punctual Airport

Aviation analytical firm, Cirium in a report has stated that the GMR Hyderabad International Airport Limited (GHIAL) is the only airport to achieve 90.43 percent on-time-performance (OTP) in March this year, making it the world’s most punctual airport.

Cirium said it reviewed more than 5 million flights globally during March, and the Hyderabad airport came on top both in the ‘Global Airports’ and ‘Large Airports’ categories being the only airport to cross the 90 percent mark.

The Hyderabad airport served 29 airlines and 77 routes and had 14,658 scheduled single-segment flights in March. Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International airport  came second at 86.14 percent OTP followed by Bogota’s El Dorado International airport in Colombia.

Over the years, GHIAL has brought in several first-of-its-kind technological innovations for the airport sector in the country, including the first-ever integrated and centralized Airport Operations Control Center (AOCC) and modern passenger information systems and technological initiatives.

In the medium and small airports category no Indian airports made it to the top 20. The country is one of the fastest growing aviation markets in the world, with passenger traffic reaching an all time high in 2022. Additionally, India has constructed more airports in the last decade than most of the countries globally, including both domestic and international facilities.

TSA Introduces Self-Service ID Scanners With Facial Recognition At Airports

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is implementing an updated ID scanner equipped with a biometric camera that uses facial recognition technology to confirm passengers’ identities. The new machines compare the facial scans of travelers to the photos on their driver’s license or passport and verify that they are a ticketed airline passenger. The machines are self-service, and travellers simply insert their ID into the machine and look at the camera. After their identity is validated, they are allowed to proceed to the security checkpoint. While the final approval is still with the security officer, this new technology is expected to make airport security checkpoints more seamless and quicker.

The new technology is already rolling out to airports, with a pilot version being trialed last fall at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C. During the trial, which was open to TSA PreCheck travelers, the facial recognition scanners were tested as a potential solution to reduce touchpoints during the pandemic. However, the new scanners are now voluntary but accessible to everyone. Travelers are allowed to opt-out and request manual identity verification from the officer at the podium.

The TSA has invested $128 million in an initial batch of 1,500 of the new facial recognition scanners at 16 airports around the country. The TSA predicts that the number of travellers this summer season will be “comfortably above” pre-pandemic figures, making the technology’s implementation vital. The new facial recognition scanners are called credential authentication technology (CAT) machines. “This technology is valuable because it enhances detection capabilities for identifying fraudulent IDs such as driver’s licenses and passports at a checkpoint and it increases efficiency by automatically verifying a passenger’s identification,” Christopher Murgia, TSA’s federal security director for Maryland, said in a release.

The photos from the facial scans are only used to compare travelers’ picture IDs and are not saved or used for any other purposes, according to the TSA. In addition to driver’s licenses and passports, the machines can read thousands of different types of IDs, including permanent resident cards, U.S. visas, military common access cards, and Global Entry cards.

Travelers should still carry their boarding passes to the airport to show airline representatives at their departure gate to board the plane, even though the first-generation CAT machines eliminated the need for passengers to scan boarding passes at the podium pre-security.

Earlier this week, Baltimore-Washington International Airport was among the first facilities in the country to install the new scanners. However, the number of facilities with the new machines is likely to expand rapidly. Travelers are allowed to opt-out of using the new facial recognition scanners and request manual identity verification, making the process less intrusive. As the TSA implements more of the new CAT machines across the country, they are expected to make airport security checkpoints more efficient and less time-consuming for passengers.

Taj Mahal Night Viewing Tickets Now Available For Online Booking

Tourists visiting the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra can now book tickets for night viewing online. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has announced that tickets for night viewing of the monument will now be available online.

Previously, tourists could only purchase tickets for the night viewing of the Taj Mahal in person at the booking office. But with the introduction of online booking, visitors will now have the convenience of purchasing tickets from the comfort of their homes.

According to the ASI, the online booking facility has been launched to provide a hassle-free experience for visitors. The move is also expected to reduce overcrowding at the booking office and help manage the flow of visitors.

“The online ticket booking system has been introduced to provide convenience to tourists and reduce the rush at the booking counters,” said an ASI official.

The night viewing of the Taj Mahal is a popular activity among tourists visiting Agra. The monument is open for night viewing for five nights every month, including the full moon night and two nights before and after it.

Tourists are reminded that the night viewing of the Taj Mahal is subject to certain rules and regulations. Visitors are advised to read the guidelines carefully before booking their tickets.

“The night viewing of the Taj Mahal is subject to certain rules and regulations. Visitors are advised to read the guidelines carefully before booking their tickets,” said the ASI official.

This move by the ASI to introduce online ticket booking for the night viewing of the Taj Mahal is expected to improve the overall tourist experience and help promote tourism in the region.

Visitors can purchase tickets for the night viewing of the Taj Mahal online at

AAHOA Announces Largest Trade Show in 34-Year History

The Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA), the largest hotel owners association in the world with nearly 20,000 members, has announced that it plans to organize the largest ever Trade Show in history at AAHOACON23, April 11-14, 2023.

The 2019 AAHOA Convention & Trade Show, AAHOA’s previous biggest show to date, which celebrated the association’s 30-year anniversary, totaled 77,500 square feet of exhibit space. This year, with many weeks remaining for industry partners to secure space, AAHOACON23 already sits at 81,900 square feet of sold exhibit space, as it has already secured a record level of booth sales for the Tradeshow.

In addition, as of February 8, AAHOA has nearly doubled the registration total of Lifetime Members compared to AAHOACON22, and the organization is still on pace to exceed 2019 registration totals of more than 8,000 attendees, with 60+ days still to go until AAHOACON23.

This is an exciting time for AAHOA, as its annual flagship event, AAHOACON, has historically been the most highly anticipated “Super Bowl” event of the industry – an event created exclusively for hotel owners, with thousands of attendees, world-class entertainment, and hundreds of vendors ready to make deals with hoteliers.

Picture : Hospitality Net

“I’ve been in the exhibition business for a long time, and I’m so impressed to see the enthusiasm, excitement, and response from vendors who are looking to do business with AAHOA Members,” said AAHOA Vice President of Business Development Dennis Smith. “Our team is thrilled to reach this historical milestone, with the ultimate goal of connecting as many AAHOA Members as possible with the product and service providers who can help them make money, save money, protect their investments, and better serve their guests.”

Over the past several decades, AAHOACON has risen to be one of the marquee events in our industry, and is known for bringing hoteliers together for networking, learning, and deal-making on the trade show floor. Each year, million-dollar buying decisions are made at AAHOACON, and with AAHOA Members spending $50 billion with suppliers each year, it’s no surprise.

“I always look forward to the industry’s Super Bowl event, and this year, as I conclude my term as AAHOA Chairman, I’m proud of the work our association has done to prepare for the event and connect even more vendors directly with decision makers,” said AAHOA Chairman Nishant (Neal) Patel. “AAHOA Members spend billions of dollars each year with suppliers, and AAHOA plays an important role in connecting hoteliers directly with those who can help them run a better, more profitable, and more efficient business – AAHOACON is where deals are made.”

In addition to a trade show of historic proportions and projected high levels of attendance, AAHOACON23 will also feature 14 must-see educational sessions, three General Sessions with world class keynote speakers (soon to be announced), and three nights filled with incredible entertainment and top-level networking. As per tradition, on the second day, AAHOACON23 will also feature speeches and debates from the candidates running for the AAHOA Board of Directors.

“Our team has been working around the clock to ensure AAHOACON23 is one of our most successful conventions to date, and I applaud the entire AAHOA Team for helping our organization reach this historical milestone,” said AAHOA President & CEO Laura Lee Blake. “We have a passionate group of team members, board members, and volunteer leaders who bring this event to life each year. As the first AAHOACON in my role as President & CEO, I have directed the team to ensure it is spectacular. I am so looking forward to meeting all of our members and industry partners, and making AAHOACON23 one for the record books.”

The Convention will also feature 14 educational sessions, three General Sessions, and three nights of entertainment and networking. As per tradition, on the second day, AAHOACON23 will also feature speeches and debates from the candidates running for the AAHOA Board of Directors.

AAHOA is the largest hotel owners association in the nation, with Member-owned properties representing a significant part of the U.S. economy. AAHOA’s 20,000 members own 60% of the hotels in the United States and are responsible for 1.7% of the nation’s GDP. More than one million employees work at AAHOA member-owned hotels, earning $47 billion annually, and member-owned hotels support 4.2 million U.S. jobs across all sectors of the hospitality industry. YouthAAHOA’s mission is to advance and protect the business interests of hotel owners through advocacy, industry leadership, professional development, member benefits, and community engagement.

Saudi Arabia To Invest $500 Billion To Build A Futuristic City In The Desert

A mega-city featuring flying cars, high-speed rail instead of roads, robot maids, a giant artificial moon, and a resort with multimillion-dollar palaces is the vision of the Saudi Arabian crown prince and prime minister, Muhammed Bin Salman (MBS).

Saudi Arabia is building a futuristic city in the middle of a vast desert— from scratch. A vital element of the country’s Vision 2030 plan, the project is the brainchild of Saudi’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS. The site covers an area of more than 10,000 square miles, about the same size as Massachusetts. And it could cost $500 billion to complete.

“So Mohammed bin Salman wants to project himself as a liberal leader within the conservative royal family in Saudi Arabia,” Ali Dogan, research fellow at the Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient institute, told CNBC in an interview. “Neom is a mega project seen in Saudi Arabia and the young Saudi population as part of this liberalization process.”

The Neom project is far from without controversy, though. Critics say it’s another attempt by the crown prince to improve his image after U.S. intelligence officials concluded he was behind the 2018 killing of journalist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi. It also is being seen by some as a way to distract attention from Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

The Saudi government has run into several challenges which keep pushing the project completion date further into the future, leading some to question the feasibility of Neom. One of the issues stalling construction is financing and cost. In 2020, foreign direct investment in Saudi Arabia increased to $5.4 billion, despite the pandemic; however, this figure is down from 2010 when foreign investment inflows totaled nearly $16 billion. Attracting potential investors is crucial to financing such a large project. There are also concerns about the cost of Neom being much greater than the original budgeted cost. The Saudi government planned to acquire two uninhabited islands from Egypt to create an island resort, and the estimated cost for this bridge alone was nearly $125 billion.

Naturally, many people are critical of MBS’s plans to build a new mega-city in the desert. One of the biggest issues critics have had is that this investment would be better spent on existing cities and infrastructure in Saudi Arabia. The former Saudi Arabian monarch, King Abdullah, planned on building a megaproject on the Red Sea to be a new financial and trading center called the King Abdullah Economic Center. In 2005, this city was intended to have a population of millions. This project is also a decade behind schedule and only has a population of thousands as opposed to the anticipated millions of people. Many critics have cited this failed project as why Saudi Arabia should instead invest in improving its infrastructure in existing cities.

The biggest criticism of Neom is the forced relocation of the Howeitat tribespeople. The proposed site for Neom is on land that 20,000 tribespeople have lived on for centuries. In recent years, the government has evicted people from the area, usually with the help of the Saudi armed forces. Often, these evictions are met with resistance by the Howeitat tribespeople. In 2020, three tribespeople were arrested and sentenced to death for resisting their relocation. Additionally, another man, Abdul Rahim al-Howeiti, was fatally shot for protesting the government’s eviction orders. These events highlight another concern that potential investors have with the project, that being the Saudi Arabian justice system. Planning documents reveal that in Neom, all judges will be selected and appointed by the king himself.

Additionally, Neom plans to utilize AI and facial recognition technologies to monitor its inhabitants. While Neom is claiming that laws will be based on best practices in business and economic law, incidents like these, as well as those such as the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, make potential international investors hesitant to support this ongoing project. These plans still have a long way to go, and perhaps attitudes will change as the project continues to develop.

14 January, 2023: The Life Behind a Story

set in Desaguadero, Peru, from Son’s perspective

If I am going to try to tell this story, I am going to have to be brave. He is gone now. I have nothing to fear. But Desaguadero is a very small town, and he can find me easily. I am sure he is already combing the streets, looking for any excuse to go out of his way to kill me.

The location of this story is Desaguadero. The town is on a little bit of land connecting Peru to Bolivia right on the shores of Lake Titicaca. It is not a particularly scenic location. All of the houses look like hovels eternally being expanded on, and whatever viewpoints thrust out into the lake are blocked by these architectural obstructions. It doesn’t help that the protests have completely stalled the city. The protestors have dug up the road into the city, making it impossible to go anywhere or do anything. As for the people who have to live here, they are no longer going to work. They are just standing about, looking to get into a fight with anyone who looks disagreeable to them.

Crime is the result of a lack of opportunities. Crime is the result of a lack of options.

That is how the life of Francisco, or Paco, was born.Paco, a short man with spiky straight hair. Paco, a man of brown jeans and dusty shirts. Paco, born and raised in the suburbs of Puno… the suburbs of Cusco, in the centre of Desaguadero. He knew nothing about life except that life was a game and he was dealt the losing hand. There was a lot of abuse from his mother and father, there was a lot of anger directed towards him for no other reason other that his parents didn’t know any better. There was no one to help him remember the positivities of life. And so the only feeling that came to slit into his eyes was a constant sort of anger, that made him feel that anything he did was justified, and he deserved to hurt others. And so hurt others he did…

What am I writing?  I hope he never reads this… it sounds like I am out to slander him.

Though with what he did to me I should be filing a police report instead of sitting in my hotel room typing like this.

I said what I said, and I must commit to what I said I will do. I was not trying to lie when I told him I was a writer. I have been working these days as an English teacher, but I have also worked in many different fields over the course of my life, all to hide from my one true desire: to create something, a piece of art that could only come from myself. I tried acting and it didn’t get me anywhere. I tried directing but all I got was jealousy from seeing average talents work hard and become big stars. Writing has been the thing I’ve been trying to do since I was a teen. Scribbling little thoughts,  jotting in a notebook when I get bored, imagining stories for the thrill of it. None of it led to anything significant because I was just writing for the sake of trying.

Now I have something I must write, and yet none of it is coming out of me organically.

How can I begin to even consider what life is like for a Peruvian in one of these small towns, when I’ve only been here for a week?

The cold metal against my sideburn on an otherwise balmy day. The sound of the anxious waves crashing against the land. Thick sunlight.

That is what my experience was like. That is how I know Desaguadero. There have been some protests

against some political leader that have completely stalled the country. I don’t know the politician’s name. I don’t know why people are so angry. I’m just a traveller who has had my entire itinerary upended due to political events outside of my control. Of course being stuck in a small town with no way of getting out, it makes sense I would get bored. To make myself feel like I was doing something with my life I started taking walks in random directions, thinking that nothing bad had happened to me so far, so nothing bad was going to happen at all.

What is the reason why people want to kill or rob others?

I suppose I wouldn’t know, because I’ve never lived a life in which I was taught that to do such things is a necessity.

If I had stayed in Bolivia, I would have been revelling in the beauty of Lake Titicaca right now. Copacabana is like a version of Crete made by the Incas. Amantani feels like pure old country, untouched my modern life except for all the tourists who are camping out there. The weather is a little chilly so one needs one of those wool sweaters to feel comfortable. But all around are the expanses of a lake big enough to rival an ocean. There are stout wrinkled women walking about with their grandchildren, goats chewing under the most clay-shaped looking of hills, sun-kissed earth waiting to be savoured.

I chose to travel to Peru thinking I’d soon be seeing Arequipa, and Cusco, and instead I’ve gotten stranded here, in a town with nothing to offer. I should have been listening to the travel advisories. I should have stayed in La Paz until the political situation improved.

I felt a gust outside my window, and when I went to close it, I felt like there were eyes leering at me.

Could he really be waiting for me to finish my story, so that he can come take a look at it?

Desaguadero is only a few streets big. He must know where I’m staying. Not to mention given how long the protests have been going on for, I’m not going to be able to leave in the near future. I could be stuck here for many more weeks.

He could kill me, and with all the ruckus that is happening, people would think I just went missing.

I have to breathe. Or I have to go out and tell the police.

I should tell this damn story.

Paco Julio de la Santacruz was an angry lonely man. He grew up with a lot of poverty and abuse and that caused him to hate people abnormally. He saw foreigners as all the same no matter if they were white or brown, British or Filipino. They were rich people coming to his poor part of the world, and he had no regard for their life. He had a desperate and pathetic life that caused him to act out in violence. This is why he spotted out this particular fag, saw him as a weak and easy target, and threatened his life so that he could get him to empty his wallet.

I’m going to cry. This is not because my story is any good. This is because there’s a real story I have to tell before I can go anywhere with this.

I will write the truth for myself and leave it on the page. I can always delete it after I finish writing the actual story I’m trying to tell.

I was walking on the highway promenading towards what I thought was going to lead to one of an untouched viewpoint of the lake. It did ultimately lead to something like that. There were settlements here or there, but there were also people fishing, cleaning their clothes, and bathing. The pearly milky colour of the water shimmered as the weeds caught in the still shivered in the breeze. It was a stunning sight to behold. If I had been able to explore it without any further interruption I would have told myself I had found myself a proper treasure off the beaten path, one that required much more proper uncovering later on.

Except on the way back to my hotel I heard some footsteps. And when I finally got the sense to turn around the scuffles became fast paced. Soon there was a gun to my head and a hand covering my mouth.

He said something to me, but I don’t know how to speak Spanish. When I realised that he started shouting to me in English.

Money! Money!

I knew what that meant. I gave him all that I had. But he kept shouting it.

Money! Money!

I really had nothing left. I had to take out my wallet and show it. He didn’t like something about that. He slapped me with the gun.


I knew enough Spanish to know he was calling me an idiot. But then he was talking so quickly, he was slurring the words around like a drunk, and more importantly he had that venomous angry look of a murderer in his eyes.

He was going to kill me.

Immediately I started crying. He didn’t know a lick of English but I had to say what I was on my mind.

Please don’t kill me. I have so much more in my life to give. You can take my money, you can take my belongings, but don’t take my life. I haven’t done any of the things that I have aspired for myself. You see sir I’m a writer. There’s a story inside of me. Deep down I know it. But I haven’t taken the time to write it yet. So if you kill me there goes my story. I’m not the only one who is gone. Everything I wanted to create is gone as well. So don’t kill me please. Por favor.

Whatever I said was probably completely muffled by his hand. Nonetheless saying something with so much anxiety anguished something inside of him. He uncovered my mouth, only to wrap his arm around my chest, and to put his gun against my chin.  I had the feeling that at any moment he was going to pull the trigger.

So suddenly I said the following.

Sir, if you don’t kill me, I will tell your story. I will write about you. I will tell the entire world about all of the things you have gone through. I will make sure that the person you are becomes recorded in history. That’s the least I can do for you. Please let me live sir. Please let me live so I can tell the world your story.

Again, I was talking to a person who knew nothing of English. Again I was talking to a man who was most likely insane and ready to kill.

And yet something about it worked. I don’t know if it were divine intervention or a change in my chances, but the feeling in the air pacified. He pushed me off away from him and started taking a long look at me.  When I looked like I was about to speak he pointed that gun again and shouted at me. Of course I ran. I ran and I ran and I got back into my hotel and I shot up to the third floor and I locked the door to my room twice and I shut every window and I hid in the bathroom, and he wasn’t there. He had left me in peace so that I could go write.

Of course now I have no money in my wallet, and the people at reception keep knocking as if they are wondering when I’ll finally tell them what disturbed me to this extent. At some point I’ll tell them.

But for now I have to write this story. My life depends on it.

1st Tourism Track Meeting Of G20 Planned In Gujarat

The inaugural G20 Sherpa meeting will take place in Rajasthan’s Udaipur area during the first week of December.

The maiden meeting under the tourism track of the G20 conference is scheduled to be held in late January or early February 2023 at Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, Union Tourism Secretary Arvind Singh announced on Friday. As India takes over G20 leadership on December 1, the bloc has scheduled more than 200 meetings across various Indian cities.

Picture : Indian Express

As India hosts the G20 summit, sustainability will be one of the main priorities, according to Union Tourism Secretary Arvind Singh. The senior was speaking with reporters on the sidelines of an event at the UN House.

Udaipur district of Rajasthan will host the first meeting of G20 in the first week of December. The meeting of the G20 Sherpa will be the first of the meetings of G20 in India, an official said. The city has started the preparations with paintings on the walls depicting Indian culture and lighting up the heritage sites of the city.

The first meeting under the tourism track will be held in late January or early February in Rann of Kutch. “The second meeting (in this category) will be held in Siliguri, the third one in Srinagar, and the fourth one in Goa,” Singh added.

The tourism secretary told reporters that the preparations for the G20 meetings are “absolutely on track”.

He took part in a roundtable conference on Sustainable Tourism which was hosted by the Ministry of Tourism at the UN House. The roundtable conference brought together industry leaders, important stakeholders, participants from the environmental conservation sector, and NGOs to discuss a way forward.

The event was held in partnership with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the Responsible Tourism Society of India (RTSOI) and was in alignment with the National Strategy for Sustainable Tourism and aims to increase engagement and participation of industry stakeholders in developing the sustainability of the tourism sector. Arvind Singh further added that it’s high time that India takes the leadership position in responsible tourism.

Neeraj Chopra is Switzerland Tourism’s Friendship Ambassador

Switzerland Tourism appoints Olympic Gold medalist Neeraj Chopra as its Friendship Ambassador. Chopra has often travelled to Switzerland for tournaments and training but this time, after his season ended, the Indian sports icon spent his days relaxing in the country while doing what he loves best – getting the adrenaline pumping! Among the top destinations that Chopra visited were Interlaken, Zermatt and Geneva.

As Switzerland Tourism’s ‘Friendship Ambassador’, Chopra will share his experiences in the country to showcase it as the ideal destination for outdoors and the best destination for hiking, biking, soft and extreme adventure and of course snow sports, for everyone be it beginners or seasoned pros.

“Switzerland is my favorite international holiday destination! It’s so beautiful everywhere you look! It was great spending time exploring the country after the season. I also wanted to show this country to my friends and family. It was the best place to relax after a hectic season for me. You feel refreshed anywhere in the country whether you are out in the mountains or even just strolling in the city! I But what got me excited was chance to experience the adventurous side of the country with my closest friends.

“I was thrilled to show them Interlaken and Zermatt which are well known for their adventure activities but also that it’s possible to enjoy the outdoors in Geneva which is Switzerland’s second-largest city. We tried everything from canyon swing to river rafting to paragliding and skydiving amongst other activities. And of course, it helps to know that Switzerland is the safest place for all sorts of adventure sports!” expressed Chopra.

Misha Gambetta, Director-India of Switzerland Tourism said, “India is a very important long-haul market for us! And it’s great to have a friendship ambassador from India representing Switzerland. Neeraj is an Indian icon and a very outdoorsy person, and he will be the perfect person to showcase the sporty and outdoor side of Switzerland as well as allow us to promote lesser-known sides of the country. We look forward to working towards a successful campaign with him.”

The athlete also donated his gold-winning javelin to The Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland in September this year. The museum founded by the International Olympic Committee in 1993 showcases the richness and diversity of Olympism through history, culture, design, technology, and sociology with sports as the main element. Mary Kom’s gloves as well as Dhyan Chand’s hockey was already a part of the exhibits at the Museum. (IANS)

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