Which Costa Rican hotel ejected Ellie Goulding and Björk

first_img Facebook Comments On behalf of Costa Rica, Tico Times apologizes to Ellie Goulding. You can come get drunk with us anytime. Courtesy of Wikicommons In a recent interview with Q Magazine, British singer Ellie Goulding disclosed that she and Björk recently got the boot from a hotel in Costa Rica.The women had been partying with Skrillex and DJ Diplo when they were mistaken for intruders, according to Goulding, whose interview was referenced in the News of Iceland.The hotel staff eventually realized the mistake, Goulding said, but she couldn’t remember what happened after that. Too much booze.If we were guessing types, and we are, we’d say that Goulding and Björk were likely banished sometime during or immediately after Imperial Fest 2012, a large international music festival held on La Guacima Speedway in Alajuela. We’d say that because Björk, Diplo and Skrillex were all on the Imperial roster. Maybe Goulding just felt like tagging along? Who knows.As for what hotel had the audacity to expel these ultra-famous sweethearts, it’s hard to say. There are only a handful of nice hotels in the area, though, and we’ll give a gold star to anyone who can figure it out.center_img No related posts.last_img read more

Costa Ricas relationship with Nicaragua is complicated says Solís

first_imgReunión con el Senador Rubio. pic.twitter.com/1IoEk8GReG— Luis Guillermo Solís (@luisguillermosr) June 12, 2014 Llegamos al Capitolio. pic.twitter.com/NnDIgUIsox— Luis Guillermo Solís (@luisguillermosr) June 12, 2014 CNN’s del Rincón seemed to reference Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega when he asked Solís if he wanted to grant himself expanded powers, including abolishing term limits. Ortega’s political party passed a constitutional reform ending term limits in 2013 that allowed the former guerrilla to run for office for a third term.“Power is ephemeral,” Solís said. “A mature democracy, like Costa Rica’s, … has sufficient human capital to look for this change [in power] after this term. I’m a president who recognizes the limits of power as a desirable frontier for institutions.”“Costa Rica and Nicaragua are countries that have no cause for divorce,” Solís told del Rincón, despite several border disputes pending between the Central American neighbors in the International Court of Justice at The Hague.“We have a complicated relationship but we always need to administer it with wisdom and for the benefit of our peoples,” the president said. Facebook Comments President Luis Guillermo Solís ended his whirlwind foreign tour of the United States Friday after meeting with U.S. senators, representatives from the Organization of American States, members of the news media and potential investors. The president released a statement Friday saying that the Costa Rican delegation considered the trip a success.Solís appeared to make a victory lap from Palo Alto to New York to Washington, D.C., buoyed by news that Intel would open a new quality control testing facility in Costa Rica. The news stoked hopes of continued investment in Costa Rica from the microchip maker, which is likely the small country’s most important foreign investor.But the president touched on other items during his first trip to the U.S. after taking office on May 8, including some constitutional amendments he would like to see, and Tico-Nicaragua relations.In an interview with Fernando del Rincón of CNN en Español’s “Conclusiones” Thursday, the president said he would like to see an amendment that recognizes Costa Rica as a “pluricultural” and multilingual country. Solís, who traces his ancestry to Jamaica through a black grandmother, said that Costa Rica has long minimized its afro-descendent and indigenous peoples.The leader also said that he wanted to see amendments that guarantee access to potable drinking water and broadband Internet access. Solís did not specify a timeline for these reforms.One item that was not on his legislative wish list was legalization of illicit drugs. Solís reiterated that he does not support legalizing marijuana as Uruguay has or Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina suggested in years past.“Costa Rica, unlike Guatemala, cannot yet discuss the subject of drug legalization. We believe that this is something that does not agree with our country in a moment when we are openly combating drug trafficking,” the president said, in a similar response to the one he gave The Tico Times earlier in Washington, D.C.Recommended: Solís outlines plans for Costa Rica in first Washington appearance as presidentSolís, however, said he did not oppose more debate on the subject.“I do not contemplate a model [of drug legalization] like Uruguay,” the president told CNN.In an interview with Voice of America on Friday, Solís said he supported expanding relationships with China but added that his government was in a process of reevaluating contracts with the economic giant that were approved under the Chinchilla administration. Solís said some agreements were approved without sufficient transparency, including improvements to Route 32 between Limón and San José.Solís told VOA that he rejected the crackdown on Venezuelan opposition parties. The president came under fire as a candidate for what some saw as a weak response to the violence.“The problems of democracy can only be solved with more democracy as Thomas Jefferson said,” Solís said. “Affirmation of human rights regimes should be maintained and deepened throughout the hemisphere.”Besides meeting with the media and investors, Solís traveled to the U.S. Capitol Thursday for a meeting with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, including Republican Senator Marco Rubio from Florida:center_img Related posts:Regulatory hurdles, inexperience contribute to China-Costa Rica trade imbalance President Solís calls for more trade, not just handouts from China Costa Rica, China to explore creation of ‘special economic zones’ Costa Rica hopes Chinese tourists will think pura vida for their next vacation En este momento grabo entrevista con @fdelrincon para el programa #Conclusiones por @CNNEE que se transmitirá mañana. pic.twitter.com/XZNcNvnvfs— Luis Guillermo Solís (@luisguillermosr) June 11, 2014last_img read more

Survey reveals hurdles for aging gay and lesbian couples in Costa Rica

first_imgRelated posts:Costa Rican police join human rights group to launch campaign against LGBT discrimination Costa Rica to extend same-sex couples equal rights for public health insurance, care access Argentine baby’s 3 parents ‘very proud’ of legal first Costa Rica grants first gay common-law marriage in Central America A new study released Thursday found that elderly gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people are at high risk for “double discrimination” because of their age and sexual or gender identity.The survey published by the Center for the Investigation and Promotion of Human Rights in Central America (CIPAC) found that current laws in Costa Rica don’t anticipate the distinct circumstances LGBT senior citizens face. Many of the LGBT people surveyed by CIPAC said they were concerned about discrimination in assisted-living homes.“Discrimination and inequality has kept elderly LGBT people from freely exercising their rights,” said CIPAC chief political officer Francisco Madrigal in a statement.“Growing old and being non-heterosexual has made this population totally invisible,” he said. It’s “a sector of the population that needs to be made visible and deserves the attention of the state.”The survey of 30 elderly or soon to be elderly LGBT people between November 2014 and January 2015 found that legal hurdles were respondents’ top concern.In May 2014 the Costa Rican Social Security System board voted to allow gays and lesbians to sponsor their same-sex partner for health insurance, but the report said there was still much to be done to shore up the rights of LGBT senior citizens. Costa Rica does not recognize legal same-sex relationships, like civil unions or common-law marriages — circumstances that complicate life for gay and lesbian couples when there are questions about inheritance or life insurance, for example.“Our pensions are very small. I mean, together they make ends meet. With a heterosexual couple, if one dies, the other inherits the pension. For us it’s not like that, it doesn’t pass on,” an unnamed elderly lesbian respondent told a survey taker.Besides a legal system that does not anticipate issues LGBT elderly might face, many respondents expressed concerns over possible discrimination or hostility they might face at an assisted-living home.Out of 16 public and private assisted-living homes surveyed by CIPAC, only seven said that they allowed residents of the same sex to live together. Some homes said they would not accept LGBT residents, while others said they were unsure how they would handle them.The survey also found that caregivers at these facilities have mixed feelings about LGBT residents. Bafflingly, 100 percent of the 23 caregivers surveyed — the vast majority of whom had at least some university education — said that they would not have trouble taking care of an LGBT person as part of their job, but 96 percent of those respondents reported that they preferred not to have any physical contact with LGBT people.In addition:91 percent said that LGBT elderly people should not reveal their sexual orientation91 percent said that LGBT elderly should not live in the same assisted living homes as heterosexual senior citizens61 percent said that LGBT people could be heterosexual “if they really tried”57 percent said that elderly LGBT people were a mythConsidering that a group of care workers didn’t believe that LGBT elderly people exist, among other factors, the survey determined that Costa Rica does not have an adequate supply of services and resources for LGBT senior citizens.The report suggested passing laws that guarantee equal rights for LGBT people in general, and strengthening the pension system and access to housing for LGBT people.“Recognizing unions between people of the same sex is fundamental for topics like retirement funds and inheritance,” the report said.It also recommended improving access to information and training on LGBT issues for care workers, and guaranteeing access to health services, included gynecology and endocrinology, for transgender people. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

US donates 19 million to Costa Rica Coast Guard

first_imgRelated posts:US anti-drug trafficking review arrives in Costa Rica as lawmakers debate permissions Costa Rica takes custody of 3 suspected cocaine smugglers nabbed by US Supreme Court rules prison sentences in animal welfare bill unconstitutional U.S. Embassy makes donation to support air surveillance operations in Costa Rica The U.S. government will donate two Island-class cutter patrol boats with a total value of $18.9 million to the Costa Rican Coast Guard. The 110-foot ships will be the largest in the Costa Rican Coast Guard fleet when they arrive in 2017.U.S. Assistant Secretary William Brownfield of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs announced the donation following a meeting with President Luis Guillermo Solís at Casa Presidencial Wednesday.Solís said that the unprecedented donation would allow Costa Rica to finally have the capabilities to patrol its vast maritime territory. The current fleet can only travel 1,200 kilometers, according to Coast Guard Chief Martin Arias in a news statement.The new patrol boats will expand that reach to 5,500 kilometers, allowing patrols to reach Costa Rica’s maritime borders with Ecuador and Colombia. Costa Rican vessels have never patrolled these waters despite the country’s claim on them.Besides fighting drug trafficking in the Pacific, Arias said the boats will help fight illegal fishing and piracy. Costa Rica will send 50 Coast Guard officers to Baltimore, Maryland to be trained on the boats.“This is an excellent example of the work we can achieve when our governments work together in security,” Brownfield said during a news conference at Casa Presidencial. “Costa Rica can be very proud to have intercepted more drugs than almost any country in the region. It’s a great achievement that could grow even more with additional resources.” Facebook Commentslast_img read more

New tournament in Quepos to crown Best Fisherwoman Worldwide

first_imgFor the first time in Costa Rica, women who love sport fishing will go to sea in a world-class event to compete for the title of Best International Fisherwoman during the Billfish Championship. Registration for the tournament took place today, and competition will take place Friday and Saturday at Marina Pez Vela in Quepos, on Costa Rica’s Central Pacific coast.On Saturday, Feb. 23, the Marina will award a trophy for the team winner and for each of its participants in each category, which include sailfish, tuna and dorado.Teams will compete for cash prizes as well.“After all the sailfish releases, a verification is made by means of videos… tuna and dorado species will be weighed by the officials of the Marina Pez Vela,” said Jeff Duchesneau, general manager of Marina Pez Vela. “The fisherwoman who gets more points at the end of the two fishing days will be crowned as the best in the world.”The Marina expects approximately 30 to 40 teams in the tournament, with fisherwomen from Costa Rica, the United States, Panama, Mexico, Angola and Canada. Teams have at least two members, with a maximum of five.In addition to the main tournament, Marina Pez Vela will have other activities on Feb. 22 and 23, such as a party to start the event, activities on the docks on the second day and a white party for the award.The Pescadora Billfish Championship is sponsored by Costa Rica Vacations, Costa del Mar, Hatteras, Fishing Tease.com, Tournament Yacht Sales, Tackle Shop Quepos, Knot Working Charters, Gray Taxidermy, Premium Marine, Squid Nation, Fishing Vacations, and others.For more information, visit the tournament website. This article was sponsored by Marina Pez Vela. Facebook Comments Related posts:More than 20 boats competing in Tico waters eyeing Quepos Billfish Cup title Marina Pez Vela: Luxury and authenticity in one Fishing for the next generation in Quepos First sail on a flycenter_img Open doors, bright lights: Marina Pez Vela’s community outreach in Queposlast_img read more

Chinese politicians wife charmed and threatened

first_imgHall said Devillers and Gu appeared to be romantically involved. “He used to hold her hand. We used to see them around Bournemouth, they seemed to us to be more than friends, probably lovers, that’s what we thought at the time,” he said.Devillers later settled in Cambodia, but recently was summoned to China to assist with investigations that, though unspecified, are likely related to Gu’s case.Hall said Gu and Heywood often fought over money, primarily because Gu felt that the Briton was overstepping. “He’d say, just leave it to me, Horus, I deal with this, not you, and she’d get agitated because she’d feel like he was making decisions but it was her money.”“We rather got the impression that she wasn’t, if you like, bright enough in terms of financial terms, to understand exactly what was happening, whereas Neil plainly was, I think,” Hall said. “He was much more savvy in that respect.”How exactly Gu and Heywood’s relationship played out in later years remains unclear, but it ended with the discovery late last year of Heywood’s body in a hotel room in Chongqing, where Bo was party secretary. That is, until his police chief made a surprise visit to a U.S. consulate where he apparently divulged suspicions of Gu’s involvement in Heywood’s death, which sparked the current political crisis. ___Gillian Wong can be reached at http://twitter.com/gillianwong More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements American attorney Marion Wynne, one of the lawyers who represented the Chinese company in the suit, said Gu was instrumental in the legal team’s communication with company officials. Later, Wynne was among a group that was invited to Dalian to celebrate the victory, and he said Gu was a warm and gracious host who spared no effort to make them feel at home. He said he had been surprised by the news of her implication in a murder case.“I feel concerned for Gu Kailai because I only knew her as a very nice, kind person and I just hope that justice gets done and that she doesn’t get a raw deal over there just because she’s on the wrong end of some political struggle,” Wynne said in a phone interview from his office in Fairhope, Ala.Gu left a similar impression on Robert Schenkein, whose Denver-based PR company advised the legal team in the Alabama case. “I found her to be very polite, very understated, very smart. These allegations that she’s conniving, a Mata Hari type-woman, to me are absolutely 180 degrees different from anything I ever saw,” Schenkein said.Schenkein, who also went to Dalian with the legal team, said Gu confided to him then that she had been disappointed by central Chinese leadership’s lack of acknowledgement of the legal victory _ an indication of Bo’s early friction with Beijing. Natural spring cleaning tips and tricks for your home “When paying for the winch, she wanted us to charge her 250,000 pounds for it because she wanted us to pay the school fees to Harrow,” Hall said, explaining that 150,000 pounds would go to the school. “We couldn’t have done that. Our financial people wouldn’t allow it anyhow. She got very upset by that as well.”Other difficulties in the arrangement arose because she wanted the balloon made and delivered to Dalian before an important event in early 2000, a deadline Hall told her was impossible to meet. When the balloon failed to make it to Dalian in time, due to delays in payment from Gu and other reasons, Gu issued an angry threat, Hall said.“She said, `I have very powerful people in government, we can get you thrown in jail, you’ll never see the light of day,’” Hall recounted. “We thought, oh my God, she’s turned very nasty. She has quite a sort of quick temper.”Whether Gu actually had the power to make good on that supposed threat is unclear. But as the youngest daughter of a renowned Communist revolutionary, Gu Jingsheng, Gu was considered, like her husband, to be a “princeling” _ someone whose political pedigree affords them entry into the business world and Communist Party leadership. That status is one of privilege and influence. This was not always the case for Gu. During the tumultuous 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, Mao Zedong’s radical experiment in class warfare, Gu’s parents were jailed and her four elder sisters sent to the countryside for “re-education.” Left to fend for herself while still in elementary school, Gu worked at a butcher’s and then as a bricklayer. In later years, she learnt to play the Chinese lute so well that she performed it for the soundtrack of an official documentary on Mao’s death.Like her husband, Gu attended the elite Peking University, though they did not meet until 1984, when Bo was party secretary of a county in Dalian that Gu visited while accompanying a professor on a study tour.Gu has described being impressed by Bo’s character when she made his acquaintance. “He is a lot like my father, an extremely idealistic person,” she told state media. “He lived in a small, dirty house in the county seat that looked like it could never be clean no matter how much one tried. He served Professor Fu and me apples that were stored in a torn paper box that was on the table, and then he began to talk about his ideals.”The couple married and Gu bore their son, Guagua, in 1987. Gu moved her law firm from Beijing to Dalian about a decade later. Then followed one of her legal career’s most prominent victories: winning a 1997 lawsuit in the U.S. state of Alabama for a Dalian-based state-owned company, which resulted in the overturning of a court-imposed $1.4 million fine. New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths (Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates “I’d really like one of these for my home city in China,” said Gu, according to Peter Giles Hall, then-director of Vistarama Balloon Systems.That city was Dalian, where Bo was the top Communist Party official at the time, in China’s northeast. Hall said Gu wanted the balloon to look like a red-and-white soccer ball, and that a Dalian chemicals company that sponsored a local football club was buying it. Hall said the always-impeccably dressed woman introduced herself as “Horus” _ presumably after the Egyptian falcon-headed god of goodness and light.Hall said that though she lived in a modest apartment, Gu’s attire and a penchant for diamonds and emeralds showed off her affluence. “She went out to make an impression. Always stilettoes, skirts, stockings, very expensive jewelry,” Hall said. “You’d see her walking down the street and you look at her and you’d know she was extremely wealthy.”She was at first charming and polite. But Gu became less friendly when Hall refused her request to help conceal money meant for tuition fees for Guagua at the prestigious British boarding school Harrow by overcharging her for a balloon part known as the winch, which tethers the balloon to the ground. Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family Four benefits of having a wireless security system Comments   Share   Sponsored Stories Associated PressBEIJING (AP) – Gu Kailai has been many things to many people: devoted wife, ambitious lawyer, gracious host, menacing businesswoman and, now, China’s most famous murder suspect.The wife of ousted Chinese politician Bo Xilai could go on trial in the coming days, after being formally charged with the murder of a British businessman who was a close associate of the Bo family. The murder is at the center of a messy political scandal that has highlighted divisions in the Chinese leadership ahead of a once-a-decade political transition later this year. Top Stories “She was worried that people might talk, so she closed her booming law firm early on,” Bo told reporters during the annual legislative session in Beijing that was his last public appearance. “For so many years, she has just been reading books, doing art and housework, and quietly standing by me. For the sacrifices she has made, I feel most touched, and also very guilty.”But in England, Gu gave no appearance of having retired into a life as a homebody and, on the contrary, seemed to be involved with potentially shady ties between businesses and her husband’s administration, according to Hall, the balloon company operator. Hall said his suspicions were aroused when some of the payments for the balloon deal were made in checks from the Dalian Free Trade Zone even though Gu had said a plastics company was paying for it. The company, Dalian Shide Group, is headed by a multimillionaire named Xu Ming, who has dropped from sight since Bo came under investigation.Gu also introduced Hall to other people who later emerged as key figures in the scandal, including the murder victim Heywood, whom Hall said handled Gu’s financial affairs, as well as the French architect Patrick Devillers, another business associate of Gu’s. Parents, stop beating yourself up “The people in Beijing had said this is a complete waste of time, you’re not going to win any kind of legal action in an American court, and it’s not worth pursuing,” Schenkein said. “And her husband and she both thought it was worth pursuing, and they were right in the long run, but nobody in Beijing ever acknowledged the outcome or the positive nature of it because they would have lost face because they had advised against it.”Schenkein said he was also impressed by Bo’s charismatic personality, which was unlike the staid style of most Chinese officials. One night at a banquet, Bo went around the room shaking hands with each guest, he said. “He was behaving more like an American politician working the crowd.”Also unlike most other Chinese politicians who hardly acknowledge their spouses, Bo frequently mentioned his wife’s contribution to his career. Among the last things that Bo expressed publicly this March was an emotive tribute to his wife, who like him had come under intense media scrutiny as the scandal unfolded. Bo said Gu gave up her illustrious legal career to avoid the appearance of benefitting from his political influence. Through interviews with Gu’s former associates and biographical details from official Chinese media, a portrait emerges of a woman who rose out of a trying childhood during nationwide upheaval to become a high-flying politician’s wife skilled at turning on the charm when the going was smooth, yet quick to turn hostile when crossed. One account also indicates that Gu’s relationship with the murder victim, Neil Heywood, was tinged with tension at least a decade ago, and that she and another figure in the scandal, a French architect, might have been lovers.Impressions of Gu varied: Two American guests Gu invited to the Chinese city of Dalian in 1997 described her as a kind and attentive host who put the visitors up at a fancy resort, personally took them around the city and feted them with banquets. But a British businessman who worked for two years with Gu in a venture said she could be vicious when angry, once threatening to throw him in jail if he went to China.Gu was accompanying her son, Guagua, in the English coastal city of Bournemouth where he was attending school in 1999 when she brought a somewhat unusual request to the director of a now-dissolved company that offered rides in helium balloons.last_img

Balkans heat wave fuels forest fires in Bosnia

first_img Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project In the country’s south, firefighters are battling four blazes around the town of Konjic and townsfolk and tourists have begun evacuating houses near Boracko Lake as the extreme heat and strong winds have hindered the extinguishing of approaching blazes.Many tourists staying at the lake are Bosnians who live in Germany, returning home for the holidays. Zorica Muskovic arrived last week from Munich.“This is really not pleasant at all, I am scared. I want to leave as soon as possible,” she told the AP.Aida Gakic from the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, who earlier evacuated two of her children from the resort, said she and her husband were unsure of the local fire brigade’s capabilities, so decided to stay put and protect their property.“We are terrified of the fire and rocks falling down from the mountain. I evacuated my children, and I only stayed behind to defend my weekend house, ` she said.Many of the fires swept through fields still dotted with mines from the Bosnian War, which took place in the region between 1992 and 1995. The resort is situated on a former frontline.Tourists said that they could hear loud explosions from the forest as the mines were set off by the blaze 5 things to look for when selecting an ophthalmologist In Serbia, Belgrade city authorities say they will park water tanks on city squares Wednesday, and doctors have reiterated warnings about the extreme heat._____Jovana Gec from Belgrade, and Amer Cohadzic, Eldar Emriand and Radul Radovanovic from Sarajevo contributed to this report(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) 3 international destinations to visit in 2019 Such fires have been burning in several areas of Bosnia for weeks and the fight to extinguish them has been complicated by the country’s hilly terrain, strong winds, little rainfall and a 40-Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) heat wave which is forcing people to seek medical assistance.In the Bosnian capital, Dr. Tigran Elezovic of Sarajevo’s emergency service said Tuesday that since the start of the summer, around 600 people have sought daily help for heat-related health problems.“We are constantly instructing people to limit their outdoor activity in the period between 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and to finish whatever they need to do outdoors before 10 in the morning,” he said.Elsewhere in the Balkans, authorities have issued heat warnings, instructing people to stay indoors and drink lots to avoid dehydration.In neighboring Serbia, authorities have warned people to remain inside and protect themselves from high temperatures, while the Croatian Health Ministry warned Tuesday that “only one careless moment is enough for the heat to become fatal,” and urged people to shower often and drink lots of water.Croatia has also suffered a number of wildfires throughout the summer, and the coastal municipality of Split has urged the government to postpone the start of the school year because of the heat. Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Comments   Share   center_img Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Top Stories Associated PressBANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) – Authorities on Tuesday declared a state of emergency around a town in Bosnia’s northeast and a tourist area was evacuated in the country’s south as a heat wave fuelled wildfires across the Balkans and left people suffering heat exhaustion.Bratunac Mayor Nedeljko Mladjenovic declared the emergency as he said wildfires from several directions were threatening his town. Around 50 residents are helping firefighters and forest rangers fight a blaze creeping towards the suburb of Slapasnica, and the town’s civil protection agency has asked for help from the army and residents. Four benefits of having a wireless security system Sponsored Stories Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenixlast_img

High home prices in New Zealand causing anxiety

first_img Comments   Share   Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Get a lawn your neighbor will be jealous of “Because interest rates are low, and house prices are not falling, people feel justified in borrowing more than they can afford,” said Hickey.The greater mobility of renters may also be contributing to the record exodus of New Zealanders to Australia, where wages are higher and there are more career opportunities, even though housing there also is expensive. Figures released this month by government agency Statistics New Zealand show that more than 1,000 New Zealanders are migrating to Australia every week. Even after taking account of Australians who move to New Zealand, the net loss remains more than 100 people every day. While those losses are being offset by immigrants from, among other places, China, India and the United Kingdom, Hickey contends New Zealand is losing irreplaceable intellectual and social knowledge.Murray Sherwin, who chairs the government-funded Productivity Commission which this year wrote a comprehensive report on housing affordability, says there are many negatives to high housing prices.“On any given income, it means that people are less well housed,” he said. “They have a lower quality of housing, and they may not have home ownership. It affects social cohesiveness. And there’s an intergenerational issue. There’s been a big transfer of wealth toward those who were in the market earlier.” Median prices are about five times the median household income, well above the historic multiple of three. In the largest city of Auckland, which is driving the market, home prices have hit a median $500,000 New Zealand dollars ($407,500). Average annual wages, meanwhile, are languishing at $53,000 New Zealand dollars ($43,000).High home prices represent an anomaly for a developed country of 4.4 million that, Auckland aside, is sparsely populated and where available homes often lack adequate insulation or central heating. Part of the explanation lies in tradition _ owning a home with a yard holds enormous social and economic significance in New Zealand and has long been the investment of choice for the middle class, who have shied away from stocks and other financial assets. But high prices are forcing more people to rent _ home ownership levels have dropped from 75 percent in the early 1990s to 65 percent now.The Economist magazine this month rated New Zealand’s home prices as 66 percent overvalued when compared to rents, second only to Canada in the 21 markets measured. By comparison, the magazine concluded homes in China were 7 percent overvalued compared to rents, homes in the United States were 15 percent undervalued, and those in Japan were 37 percent undervalued. Using income as a measure, the magazine concluded New Zealand homes were 22 percent overvalued. Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Even Alistair Helm, who runs the industry-funded http://www.realestate.co.nz, acknowledges housing accounts for a disproportionate amount of investment in New Zealand. He said people are understandably wary of the country’s stock market, which he says lacks depth and has burned many in the past due to its volatility.“You can’t help human nature,” he said.Even so, he said he’s confident the home market will remain at current levels and produce steady returns.“People talk about it being crazily overvalued,” he said. “But it’s only overvalued when the price you expect is not what someone will pay.”___Follow Nick Perry on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nickgbperry Top holiday drink recipes Top Stories Associated PressWELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) – Rising home prices are often welcomed as a sign of a country’s economic health and vigor. But in New Zealand, concern is growing that prices have risen so high they are instead an economic anchor, sucking resources from those who can afford a home and prompting those who can’t to consider moving overseas.While much of the world remains mired in a housing slump, median home prices in the South Pacific nation rose to an all-time high of 372,000 New Zealand dollars ($303,000) in June. That’s 6 percent above the peak reached before the global financial crisis and more than double the level of a decade ago, according to the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand. Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day The Bank of New Zealand came to a similar conclusion, finding that homes were 25 percent overvalued when compared to long-term trends.Record-low interest rates are helping fuel ever-larger mortgages, money that ultimately comes from offshore. New Zealand’s household debt levels are high by international standards and are a big part of the reason why two major credit agencies last year downgraded the country’s sovereign credit rating.In some ways, however, home prices reflect the country’s relative economic health. Demand for New Zealand’s agricultural exports remained strong throughout the global downturn. Unemployment, government debt and foreclosures have all remained low here when compared to most other developed nations. Many observers say that in the short-term, at least, a housing crash is unlikely and prices may still rise, especially in Auckland, where demand remains high.The situation hasn’t alarmed the government or the Reserve Bank enough yet to intervene, unlike in Canada, where the government has recently tried to cool its housing market by imposing restrictions on mortgages.Many worry, however, that damage is being done.Economic commentator Bernard Hickey said young families who want to buy homes are delaying decisions like having children, while those who have purchased recently have saddled themselves with so much mortgage debt they are less willing to take on entrepreneurial risks, like starting a business. He said that in turn stifles the country’s productivity and dynamism. Sponsored Stories The commission’s report identified a number of supply problems driving up home prices. It found local restrictions have choked the supply of land and forced up construction costs. It also found that New Zealand builders simply aren’t constructing large-scale cheap housing and instead are focusing on bespoke homes for the wealthy. Part of the problem is the small size of the market, which means builders can’t get the same efficiencies of scale they can in larger countries.Craig Ebert, a senior economist at the Bank of New Zealand, says there’s a more fundamental problem: interest rates are too low.“We’ve become highly dependent on low rates,” he said. “This is the problem that got the world into this predicament.”Like many other countries, New Zealand slashed interest rates after the global downturn and has kept them low to encourage growth. But any hike in interest rates now would immediately squeeze thousands of homeowners. That’s because most mortgages here come with interest rates that change with the market, or are fixed for a maximum of two years. That’s unlike the U.S. where homeowners can enjoy a fixed rate for the full 30-year duration of their mortgage. Natural spring cleaning tips and tricks for your home (Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)last_img read more

Fed personnel agency admits history of security problems

first_img“The ‘friends and family’ dataset is ultimately the most useful for a hostile intelligence service,” said Richard Zahner, a retired lieutenant general and former top NSA official. Tie the information to what’s publicly available, and other intelligence the adversary has already collected, “and you have insights that few services have ever achieved.”Those insights go beyond merely spying on the U.S. government, he said. Many senior business executives need government clearances to serve on advisory boards, or hold them from prior government service. Google chairman Eric Schmidt, for example, holds a security clearance, he has said. So at one point did Microsoft founders Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer.“If I can get into the strategic planning side of a U.S. competitor, investment decisions and negotiating strategies are vastly simplified,” Zahner said.Also Monday, DHS disclosed that as many as 390,000 employees, contractors and job applicants may have had their personal data breached in a separate hack of a contractor, KeyPoint Government Solutions, that was discovered in September. In December, DHS acknowledged another hack of the same contractor in which 48,000 people were affected. Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober In the cyberattack targeting federal personnel records, hackers are believed to have obtained the Social Security numbers, birth dates, job actions and other private information on every federal employee and millions of former employees and contractors.In a second attack, which the Obama administration acknowledged on Friday after downplaying the possibility for days, the cyberspies got detailed background information on millions of military, intelligence and other personnel who have been investigated for security clearances. Together, the hacks compromised the records of as many as 18 million people.Applicants for security clearances are required to list drug use, criminal convictions, mental health issues, and the names and addresses of their foreign relatives.“You’re supposed to list every relative outside the U.S. who could be a source of foreign government pressure on you,” said Stewart Baker, who served in senior roles at DHS and the National Security Agency.The pitch to a Chinese-American working with U.S. secrets, he said, would amount to, “You belong to us, and we can make an approach that is designed to make you understand that.”But the fears don’t end with China. China’s intelligence service could share the information with countries such as North Korea or Pakistan. Also, experts say, many who hack on behalf of the Chinese government are allowed to freelance and sell what they steal. Esser and others were testifying Tuesday to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about the cyber-theft of private information on millions of former and current federal employees, as well as U.S. security clearance holders, by hackers linked to China.Officials fear that China will seek to gain leverage over Americans with access to secrets by pressuring their overseas relatives, particularly if they happen to be living in China or another authoritarian country. Over the last decade, U.S. intelligence agencies have sought to hire more people of Asian and Middle Eastern descent, some of whom have relatives living overseas. The compromise of their personal data is likely to place additional burdens on employees who already face onerous security scrutiny.China denies involvement in the cyberattack that is being called the most damaging U.S. national security loss in more than a decade.The potential for new avenues of espionage against the U.S. is among the most obvious repercussions of the pair of data breaches by hackers who are believed to have stolen personnel data on millions of current and former federal employees and contractors.Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican who chairs the oversight panel, said the incident “may be the most devastating cyberattack in our nation’s history, and said OPM’s security policy was akin to leaving its doors and windows unlocked and expecting nothing to be stolen. The difference between men and women when it comes to pain Top Stories Comments   Share   center_img Early signs of cataracts in your parents and how to help WASHINGTON (AP) — An Office of Personnel Management investigative official said Tuesday the agency entrusted with millions of personnel records has a history of failing to meet basic computer network security requirements.Michael Esser, assistant inspector general for audit, said in testimony prepared for delivery that for years many of the people running the agency’s information technology had no IT background. He also said the agency had not disciplined any employees for the agency’s failure to pass numerous cyber security audits. Administration officials have left many questions unanswered, including why the latest hacks went undetected for months. The federal chief information officer, Tony Scott, ordered government agencies to beef up their network security by scanning logs, patching security holes, and accelerating their use authentication that goes beyond passwords.___Associated Press writers Alicia A. Caldwell in Washington and Raphael Satter in London contributed to this report.___Follow Ken Dilanian on Twitter at https://twitter.com/KenDilanianAPCopyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Sponsored Stories 4 must play golf courses in Arizona New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies FILE – In this April 22, 2015 file photo, House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. When hackers broke into a database filled with the private information of U.S. security clearance holders, they likely got access to the names of foreign relatives of some of those officials who are living abroad. “It may be the single biggest breach of data that our government has ever had,” said Chaffetz on teh C-SPAN Newsmakers program, calling the stolen data “the most sensitive information we have.” (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)last_img read more

Afghanistan says US strike kills local Islamic State leader

first_img Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Mesa family survives lightning strike to home New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Sponsored Stories How Arizona is preparing the leader of the next generation NATO officials declined to immediately comment on the claim, saying they would issue a statement later Saturday. U.S. Army Col. Brian Tribus, a spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, confirmed Americans carried out an airstrike in Nangarhar’s Achin District, but declined to comment further.The Afghan government has warned the Islamic State group, rooted in Iraq and Syria, is making inroads into Afghanistan and is active in at least three provinces. The Taliban, at war with the government for nearly 14 years, have warned the Islamic State group to stay out. Both groups want Islamic rule but the Taliban do not recognize the Islamic State group’s self-declared “caliphate.”On Tuesday, Afghan officials said another U.S. airstrike in Nangarhar province killed the second-highest official in the local Islamic State affiliate, Gul Zaman, and six others, including a former Pakistani Taliban spokesman.Meanwhile Saturday, a bomb exploded near a religious school in Kandahar, killing three children and wounding six, said Samim Khpolwak, a spokesman for the provincial governor in Kandahar province.___Associated Press writers Mirwais Khan in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and Eileen Sullivan in Washington contributed to this report. KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan intelligence officials said Saturday that a U.S. airstrike killed the top leader of a local Islamic State affiliate and more than 30 other militants near the country’s rugged eastern border with Pakistan. U.S. officials confirmed they carried out the strike, but declined to say whether they killed the leader.The strike in Nangarhar province killed Islamic State affiliate leader Hafeez Sayeed and others on Friday, said Abdul Hassib Sediqi, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security. Sediqi said Afghan intelligence officials provided information to U.S. forces, who carried out the strike. Men’s health affects baby’s health too Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Comments   Share   Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall Arizona families, Arizona farms: A legacy of tradition embracing animal care and comfort through modern technology Top Stories last_img read more

Desmond Tutu returns for treatment in South African hospital

first_img Mesa family survives lightning strike to home How men can have a healthy 2019 “His oncologist confirms that his PSA level is pleasingly low,” the foundation statement said.“His doctors considered it prudent for him to return to hospital for observation, the statement quoted Mpho Tutu as saying. “He’ll have a few days of bed-rest while his medical dream team brings the situation under control and determines the next course of action, if any. He will stay in hospital until the weekend, at least.”Tutu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for campaigning against apartheid.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Arizona families, Arizona farms: A legacy of tradition embracing animal care and comfort through modern technology Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall Top Stories center_img NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — South African retired archbishop Desmond Tutu has returned for hospital treatment, a week after he left a Cape Town hospital following an intensive antibiotics course for an infection, his foundation said Tuesday.The Nobel Peace Prize laureate was readmitted to the hospital after expressing renewed discomfort, said the foundation, which is named after Tutu and his wife Leah.The foundation quoted Tutu’s daughter, Mpho, as saying her 83-year-old father’s hospitalization was not related to his cancer treatment. Tutu has had prostate cancer for many years. Sponsored Stories Comments   Share   New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies 4 ways to protect your company from cyber breacheslast_img read more

Qantas and Viva Cruises into new waters

first_imgVicky, Qantas Holidays, Karen, Elite Travel & Louisa, Qantas Holidays Helen, Cathay Pacific, Ross, Viva! Holidays, Nigel, Cathay Pacific & Sherilyn, Hawaiian Airlines Angela, Teresa, Maria & Michelle, Jetset Hurtsville Clare, Goway Travel, Kylie, TravelManagers, Andreas, Trendsetter Travel & Cruise Centre Qantas Holidays and Viva! Holidays unveiled new cruising partners to its agents yesterday, bringing the total number of cruise lines the wholesaler sells to a baker’s dozen. Their cruise expansion comes just shy of tomorrow’s official 2011 cruising season launch, and is tipped to be a big earner for agents yet again with competitive commissions and public demand.“Cruising is no longer for the over fed, newlywed or nearly dead,” Qantas Holidays Marketing Manager, Angie Howes joked with the group. “This is a chance to see the world from the sea,” she said. Attending agents were also eligible to earn 500 trip points, plus went in the draw to win great prizes including a Royal Caribbean International cruise. “We’ve simplified the process, and agents can now bundle bookings with airfares, hotels through either Qantas Holidays or Viva! Holidays.  We are continually looking to add new cruise product to our portfolio, and also have dedicated cruise consultants,” Ms Howes said.The entire cruise portfolio now includes, APT River Cruising, Blue Lagoon, Captain Cook Domestic, Captain Cook Fiji, Coral Princess, Royal Caribbean International, Azamara Club Cruises, Cunard Line, North Star Cruises, Orion, Princess Cruises, Star Cruises and Celebrity Cruises. Clare Collins, Goway Travel with Linh Le & Angie Howes, Qantas Holidays Sonya & Judith, Travelscene Menai Ross, Viva! Holidays & Emma, Singapore Airlines Source = e-Travel Blackboard: D.Mlast_img read more

Australians hot for coach travel this summer

first_imgSource = e-Travel Blackboard: S.P Greyhound has reported that more Australian families are opting to hit the road this holiday season with coach travel bookings already up by ten per cent.According to Greyhound Australia Chief Operating Officer Tony Hopkins more families are choosing to travel within Australia for inspiring holiday experiences.As the start of the peak season begins, the top ten ‘Hot Spots’ for families so far include Gold Coast, Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour, Airlie Beach, Phillip Island, Perth, Sydney, Monkey Mia, Canberra and Cervantes.“Family favourites like the Gold Coast and Coffs Harbour will always be included in any list of Hot Spots but it is great to see people exploring other destinations like the small fishing towns of Cervantes and Lancelin in South Australia and Monkey Mia in WA,” Mr Hopkins said.Mr Hopkins said the increase in number of families choosing to take advantage of the company’s summer coach packages indicates an improvement in the tourism segment.“Coach travel has truly evolved to become far more than just a way to get from A to B,” Mr Hopkins said.“Greyhound offers a total travel experience for holidaymakers, making it a complete adventure from outback to ocean in a modern, air-conditioned luxury coach with large panoramic glare-free tinted windows, a restroom, filtered water and LCD TV screens.”Mr Hopkins added that travelling by Coach also promotes ‘Green Tourism’ as it is one of the most environmentally efficient travel operators in Australia. “Just one full Greyhound coach means there are at least 16 fewer cars on the road.” Get up close with the dolphins at Monkey Mia this summer with Greyhoundlast_img read more

New vision to meet Syd Airport capacity issues

first_imgSource = e-Travel Blackboard: N.J Study findings that Sydney Airport will need more space to meet growing capacity over the coming years has been addressed by Airport officials who said the issue was solved in renovation plans unveiled late last year.An Aviation Capacity study released late last week highlighted the airport’s need to maximise efficiency and access in order to remain the number one airport for the Sydney region and Australia as well as manage the 40 percent increase in passengers expected over the next 12 years.However, the Airport’s chief executive Kerrie Mather explained the renovation plan to integrate international, domestic and regional services would help achieve the noted concerns as well as “deliver a better experience for passengers”.“Based on long-term trends in the growth of passengers and aircraft, Sydney Airport’s new vision concept could provide capacity over a significantly longer period than is forecast in the report,” Ms Mathers said. “The vision also gives us an opportunity to improve traffic flow around the airport by balancing out the peaks between the current domestic and international terminals.”In regards to road congestion, Ms Mathers said her team would be working with the government to discuss improvements to road access as well as possible reduction in public transportation fares to encourage more rail travel into the airport.“We have long supported improving access to the airport by encouraging greater use of public transport,” she added. “The report makes some excellent recommendations about improving access to Sydney Airport, including reducing rail fares by removing the existing access fee to the two airport rail stations. “If adopted, this will encourage regular airport users to shift from road to rail.”last_img read more

Wotif YesBookit

first_imgSource = e-Travel Blackboard: P.T A new agreement will allow holiday rental managers using Australian booking manager YesBookit to sell inventory through global accommodations website Wotif.com. Wotif receive over 5.3 million visitors to their website each month and more than 260,000 bookings.“We are thrilled to have YesBookit integrated with Wotif.com, as it provides our clients with a new channel to increase their sales on Australia’s leading accommodation website, with live bookings entering their systems automatically 24/7,” Midac Technologies managing director Kevin Johnson-Bade said. Wotif.com holiday rentals executive general manager Carolyn Prendergast said YesBookit’s property listings were a welcome addition to Wotif.com’s growing holiday rentals market and future development.“They [customers] will also receive an instant confirmation of their holiday rentals booking through Wotif.com, which is a different approach to most other operators but one that we believe will provide a better booking experience for our customers.” Due to increased demand, holiday rentals on Wotif.com were launched in May of this year.last_img read more

Meet the 83 year old flight attendant

first_imgSource = e-Travel Blackboard: K.W One of the first male flight attendants for United Airlines, Ron Akana will retire after 63 years with the airline.At 83 years old, Mr Akana landed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest flight attendant for any US carrier.The long serving flight attendant recently finished his career with a flight from Denver to Kauai in his home state of Hawaii, according to the Star-Advertiser.Passengers aboard Mr Akana’s final flight wrote him well-wishes after an announcement marking his longevity.Mr Akana plans to spend his retirement travelling.last_img read more

Diamond Award for Hotel Izulu

first_imgAt the 2013 Diner’s Club Winelist Awards, the 5-star Hotel Izulu, Ballito, has been awarded the impressive Diamond status, gaining a score of over 90%, for its new and extensive wine list. This is the third year that the Hotel has won an award and the first year it has gained the prestigious Diamond status. The judging panel consisted of Peter Goffe-Wood, JP Rossouw, Nikki Dumas, Benny Masekwameng, Dave Hughes, Fiona McDonald and Christine Rudman.States Managing Director, Grant Pringle: “We’re incredibly proud of our team for achieving this incredible award. Since the appointment of our new Executive Chef, Tyrone Sumner, we have completely redesigned our culinary and beverage experiences, with organic highlights in Gigi’s Brasserie, the private Chef’s Table, the romantic Wine Cellar and all our banqueting menus in the Imbizo Hall.”Look out for Hotel Izulu’s monthly Wine Markets in conjunction with leading and award-winning South African Wine Estates.Source = Hotel Izululast_img read more

Tigerair helps promote Mackay to Melbourne

first_imgTigerair Australia has partnered with Mackay Airport, Mackay Regional Council and Mackay Tourism to launch an integrated promotional campaign to help promote Mackay to Melbourne.The campaign is utilizing the ‘101 Things To Do in the Mackay Region’ campaign which launched earlier this year to help turn outdated perceptions of the Mackay Region around.A range of new marketing initiatives commence this weekend that are focused on appealing directly to the leisure market in Victoria.A special episode dedicated to highlighting some of the tourism drawcards of Mackay will air in Victoria on Coxy’s Big Break travel show this Sunday 22 February 2015 at 5:30pm on Channel 7.TV show host “Coxy” flies from Melbourne to Mackay direct with Tigerair and uncovers a sample of the many hidden gems of the region including a platypus diving experience, Keswick Island, and the rainforest ziplining experience.A dedicated landing page promoting the Mackay Region as a leisure destination will be linked from the Tigerair website later this month and a social media campaign will encourage people to send in their own favourite things to do in Mackay.Mackay Tourism marketing officer Sarah Matheson, said this is an exciting partnership and thanked Mackay Airport, Mackay Regional Council and Tigerair Australia for their support.“With the launch of the new ‘The Mackay Region. Nature. Reserved.’ brand in late 2014, this is yet another way we can increase awareness of the unspoilt, natural attractions of our destination.  We will continue to work with our key stakeholders to drive key messages about the region and look forward to working closely on more tourism projects in the future,” Ms Matheson said.Tigerair flies regularly between Melbourne and Mackay four times weekly and offers the only direct air link between the two destinations.Source = ETB Travel News: Lewis Wisemanlast_img read more

Park Hotel group debuts first Destination hotel

first_imgSource = Park Hotel Group Park Hotel group debuts first Destination hotelPark Hotel group debuts first Destination hotelDestination Singapore Beach Road is Park Hotel Group’s first Destination hotel under its third and latest brand. As a select service midscale brand, Destination hotels will focus on quality and affordable accommodation in prime, central locations.Stylish yet comfortable, affordable yet authentic; these are the hallmarks of the Destination brand that panders to savvy business and leisure travellers who appreciate value, efficiency and independence. Each Destination hotel is designed to fulfil just that; by placing guests at the centre of their destination and empowering them with the freedom to plan their city stay while offering what matters to them most at the best value.“We are extremely proud of our very first Destination hotel which is also the Group’s sixth hotel in Singapore. The brand fills a gap in the midscale category especially in Asia where customers are looking for a high-quality, contemporary, consistent and fresh experience at a great value for customers, while at the same time delivering strong returns to our owners.” said Mr Allen Law, Chief Executive Officer of Park Hotel Group.Destination Singapore Beach Road is the perfect launch pad to exploring major business, entertainment and shopping hubs such as the Central Business District(CBD), South Beach Avenue, Bugis Junction and the Singapore Sports Hub. A short stroll from Nicoll Highway MRT Station and just next to Golden Mile Complex, the hotel is also close to the eclectic charms of Arab Street’s heritage buildings, restaurants and shops.Accommodation comes in the form of 300 Queen, Twin, Triple, Family and Accessible rooms. Featuring key offerings such as complimentary Wi-Fi, an invigorating rain shower, and handcrafted mattresses from renowned British brand Hypnos, the rooms are functional, fuss-free and offer all that guests need for a good night’s rest. The Family rooms, equipped with a queen-sized bed, comfy pull out bed and a sofa bed can accommodate up to 2 adults and 2 children without having to sleep on rollaways.If food is the best way to learn about a city and its culture, then dining at Folklore, located on Level 2 of the hotel, would not disappoint. Embodying the best of Singapore heritage cuisine, diners will be able to savour robust flavours of local cuisine incorporating Chinese, Malay, Indian, Eurasian and Peranakan.Other facilities include a rooftop swimming pool with panoramic views of Singapore’s breath-taking cityscape.last_img read more

Customer Service – the Dying Art

first_imgBe personable – don’t send out a generic email with specials on a Sports Tour when your customers are foodies. Target your customer with information on their interests and make them feel valued. Once you’ve made a booking for them, go the extra mile and provide suggestions on points of interests for their tripStand out from the competition – from the get go, let customers know the high level of service you provideBe attentive – there’s nothing worse than saying you’ll get back to your client on the Wednesday, and you haven’t replied until the Friday. It’s sloppy and the trust your client has in you will diminish. Delays happen and can be out of our control, so be up front and let them know.Always be available – even when you aren’t available, provide ways in which your clients can be in contact with you. Email, text, voice message are just a number of ways to let you know they need your assistance when you’re free.Follow up – your clients have travelled and are back from their trip, however it doesn’t mean your job is finished. Perfect opportunity to follow up with them and get their feedback, ask for a testimonial and sounds them out on their next trip. They’ll appreciate the call/email and show that you genuinely care.At Stuba, we strive to provide the best service we can. It isn’t always perfect and continual improvement is part of what we do – to be accessible 24/7, to not have to wait on hold to speak to someone and regular emails to inform agents that we are working on their queries goes a long way in keeping our customers. www.stuba.com learn more about stuba.com here A “Dying Art” the machines can’t matchPeople under estimate the value of great customer service, and quite frankly, I think it’s a dying art. I’m quite surprised with the level of customer service provided from big companies in the travel industry. As in the low level we see from some of the bigger players.Even after seven years on the job we still get customers who are amazed that we pick up inside the fifth ring. I’m constantly being told that waiting on hold to speak to someone for over an hour, or not receiving an email for weeks without a meaningful update is standard practice, and accepted as the norm.  As an industry that is all about providing a service, it baffles me that this is common practice.One of the difficult things about service is trying to sell it to a customer –it’s not a tangible quality – customers will look at price first without realising who they are buying from, and what would happen if something goes wrong. The challenge being finding a way to raise that something might go wrong without telling them you expect it to go wrong.Our recent merger has brought a new focus back onto customer service. Amongst the many things that enabled roomsXML to merge with Getabed so well was a strong focus on customer relations.  Over the next few months we’ll be implementing updated processes and shortened response times to continue improving the offering.Here are some of my tips on providing excellent customer service that will improve your referral rate and have your customers coming back for more:last_img read more