Colors: Blue Color

Congratulations poured in from around the world following the birth of the son of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Following the birth of the newborn – which was delivered at 05:26 BST yesterday (Monday), a beaming Prince Harry said the baby boy was "absolutely to die for". The Palace said the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales were all "delighted with the news", with Meghan's mother, Doria Ragland, said to be "overjoyed".

Former US First Lady Michelle Obama said she and Barack were "thrilled".

The baby, who has not been named yet, is seventh in line to the throne, behind the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge and his children - Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis - and Prince Harry.

He is the Queen's eighth great-grandchild.

Speaking after the birth, Prince Harry said, after the birth, that they planned to present the baby to the media shortly, "so everyone can see" him.

He said Meghan and the baby were doing "incredibly well", adding that they were still thinking about names for the infant.

The baby weighed 7lbs 3oz (3.2kg). Buckingham Palace said the Duke was present for the birth.

A statement stated that Meghan's mother was "overjoyed at the arrival of her first grandchild" and was with her daughter at Frogmore Cottage - the Sussexes' home on the Windsor Estate.

Kensington Palace said the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were "delighted" and "looking forward" to meeting him.

Prime Minister Theresa May, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon were among the politicians to offer their congratulations to the royal couple on Twitter.

A Commonwealth group has been appointed to observe the 2019 Malawi Tripartite elections. It will be led by Thabo Mbeki, the second post-Apartheid South African President.

Voters go to the polls on 21 May to elect a president as well as members of the national assembly and local government councillors.

The Commonwealth Observer Group (COG) is being deployed by Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland following a request from the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC).

The group includes politicians, diplomats and experts in law, human rights, gender and election administration from across the Commonwealth.

The Secretary-General said: "Conducting credible elections through which citizens can choose their leaders and representatives freely in a peaceful environment is a fundamental part of a healthy democracy and is a collective strength of Commonwealth member states.

“The Commonwealth will be present to witness and observe the elections and to work in partnership with Malawi as it consolidates its democracy and strengthens and embeds good practice.”

She added: “The responsibility for conducting elections with integrity falls on all stakeholders in the process - from the election management body, to political parties and their leaders, to civil society, security agencies, the media and the voters. Each and every one has a rightful role to ensure a credible process and outcome.”

The observer group will examine preparations for the elections, before observing the voting process, vote-counting procedures and the announcement of results.

As with all COGs, this mission to Malawi will operate impartially and independently, according to the standards expressed in the International Declaration of Principles for Election Observation, to which the Commonwealth is a signatory.

In the run-up to the elections, the Commonwealth partnered with the Government of Malawi to help prepare women to stand as candidates and to campaign in the elections, and trained media managers and editors in the process of fair and balanced election coverage.

Malawi was the 19th country to join the Commonwealth. These are the country's second tripartite elections, and a COG was also present when the first were held in 2014.

The observer group will be supported by a Commonwealth Secretariat staff team led by Linford Andrews, Political Adviser in the Governance and Peace Directorate.

New research from eco-cleaning brand Ecover, which uses plant-based and biodegradable ingredients, reveals that parents are obsessed with the scent of their babies. In a survey of 1,000 UK parents, released to mark Allergy Awareness Week, over three quarters (77 per cent) believe that their baby has the best smell in the world.

In fact, 62% said they loved the smell of their baby so much they would want to bottle the scent, with some 70% rating their baby’s natural fragrance as being better than their favourite perfume or aftershave, and even preferable to the smell of freshly baked bread (70%).

And it appears that parents are biologically biased, believing that their baby smells better than other babies (80%), with some 78% believing that the smell of their baby helps them to bond.

The research marks the launch of Ecover’s Zero expanded range of cleaning and laundry products which contain zero added fragrance and zero colourants. The Allergy UK approved range is formulated to minimise the risk of allergies for those with sensitive skin, whilst the vegan-friendly ingredients are from renewable, plant-based sources and are biodegradable.

While some might think new parents have gone ‘gaga’ smelling their babies all the time, scientific studies support Ecover's findings. Dr. Sophie Forster, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at University of Sussex comments, “There is evidence showing that the smell of a newborn baby stimulates pleasure areas of the brain. The smell and association is so positive that parents proactively smell their babies’ heads throughout the day for that feel-good hit.

The smell is so addictive that parents go out of their way to smell their baby, doing so on average 6 times a day, most commonly during cuddles (63%), after a bath (48%), and at bedtime (47%). One in eight would give up a £1,000 a year pay rise so they could bottle their son or daughter's scent and keep it with them (16%), while 14% would be willing to miss out on a huge £10,000 pay rise.

And it’s not just parents who enjoy the newborn smell – six in ten (62%) parents have had someone else ask to smell their baby including family (50%), friends (28%), and strangers (2%).

Dr. Forster continues, “Sense of smell can become a parent’s super-power; whilst 69% of the parents surveyed by Ecover felt confident that they would be able to identify their baby by smell alone, evidence suggests that more like 87% would be able to do it, even just 2-3 days after birth – this just shows that you can underestimate how powerful the human sense of smell can be! Smell may also be one way that older siblings can recognise their new born brother or sister.”

The smell of baby also has the power to calm us; almost three-quarters of mums (74%) smell their baby’s head when they’re feeling stressed, with 85% admitting that the smell makes them feel relaxed. Mums miss the smell the most when they’re at work, with 72% saying they would smell their baby’s natural fragrance at work if they could carry it with them, compared to 55% of Dads.

Sarah Tuke, Head of Communications at Ecover UK, says, “Our research proves that nothing in the world smells as good as new born babies, and yet as a nation we’re in the habit of surrounding babies with overly fragranced laundry products that have the potential to irritate delicate skin. That’s why we’re championing babies’ right to smell like babies and have access to clean ingredients with zero added fragrance. Since its creation in 1979, Ecover has campaigned for a ‘cleaner’ world, and our latest launch makes no exception”.

To mark the launch of Ecover Zero, Ecover has created a spoof perfume advert called L’Eau de Bébé to highlight that babies don’t need ‘added fragrance’ – they already smell amazing. Ecover have also gone a step further and created a real L’Eau de Bébé fragrance, celebrating the amazing scent of new born baby. This will be available to the public via a social media competition.

A spokesperson from Allergy UK commented, “Fragrances and preservatives in washing detergents and cleaning products can sometimes trigger skin irritations in those affected by skin allergies or sensitive skin. A product with no added fragrance that is specially formulated to minimise the risk of allergies may be better suited for those who experience skin sensitivities or find that traditional washing detergents aggravate their skin.”

The government must declare a climate emergency and recognise the role of firefighters in tackling the consequences, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has said.

Firefighters will join a rally outside Parliament, calling on MPs to back the Labour party’s motion to declare a climate emergency. Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, will address campaigners from across the environmental and labour movements from the top of the union’s fire engine.

The UK has already experienced more wildfires in 2019 than any year on record – and it’s only May.

Firefighters have tackled blazes across Cornwall, Dorset, Derbyshire, Northern Ireland, the Peak District, Rotherham, West Yorkshire, Wiltshire and Wales. The blazes have stretched already limited resources, with a fifth of firefighter jobs cut since 2010.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “Firefighters are on the frontline fighting the consequences of climate change. It’s firefighters who are tackling wildfires and rescuing people stranded in flooding as weather becomes more extreme. The government need to recognise and properly fund their role. “The public are calling for politicians to take decisive action. Our countryside is burning and people’s homes are facing flooding. Firefighters know an emergency when they see one. It couldn’t be clearer – we need to declare a climate emergency.”

In Winter 2015/16, 17,000 properties were flooded in the North of England. Two years earlier 11,000 homes were flooded across the country. Firefighters worked around the clock saving lives, helping communities and providing humanitarian support.

Fire and rescue services have a statutory duty to respond to flooding in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Crews across England also respond to flooding incidents, but the Westminster government have refused to make it part of their core role.

Climate-related demands are adding to growing pressure on fire and rescue services across the UK, yet central government funding has been cut by a further 15% this year. Last year saw a 3% increase in fires and a 1% increase in overall incidents attended by firefighters. Firefighters rescued over 45,000 people last year, 4% more than the year before.

A weekend of ‘all things Costa Rica’ is arriving to Cornwall’s nature haven, Eden Project, next month. Over the weekend of 18-19 May, families will be able to enjoy a wide variety of jungle-themed activities inspired by the beautiful Costa Rican rainforest - including a treasure trail and a dazzling exhibit of over 500 orchids.

The aim of the Costa Rica Festival is to promote sustainable tourism and conservation as well as celebrate Costa Rica’s beautiful landscapes, extensive wildlife and incredible flora and fauna through diverse family-friendly activities. These will include:

• Orchid Display: the jewel of the Costa Rica Festival, this exhibition will display over 500 orchids, a flowering plant that naturally reflects Costa Rica’s landscapes – the country boasts 400 species of orchid, 20% of which are endemic. One of the orchids on display will be the guaria morada (Guarianthe skinneri) - Costa Rica’s national flower. • Costa Rica Treasure Trail: an educational path to explore the country’s biodiversity and all the fun facts around this (did you know that Costa Rica is home to 5% of the world’s biodiversity?). • Volcano Discovery: a workshop to learn how volcanoes help support Costa Rica’s diverse flora and fauna (there are over 60 volcanoes in the country, including six active). • Creative Costa Rica: a variety of additional activities to discover Costa Rica’s culture, including music and dance performances and food tastings.

The Costa Rica Festival is taking place at Eden Project in St. Blazey (Cornwall) from 18-19 May and is the result of a partnership between the Costa Rica Tourism Board (ICT) and Eden Project.

Between them, Brian O’Driscoll and Bryan Habana have amassed 262 international caps, scored 114 international tries, won a Rugby World Cup and climbed no mountains. Next month, that will all change as the Laureus legends swap rugby boots for hiking boots and trek 100km through South Africa’s Drakensberg Mountain range to raise funds for Laureus Sport for Good.

Brian and Bryan will be joined on the trek from 14 – 19 May by Laureus Ambassador Annabelle Bond, the fastest woman to climb all seven summits, Laureus Ambassador and South African TV personality Dan Nicholl and 100 inspirational fundraisers from around the world. Laureus Ambassador and South African rugby legend Jean de Villiers will also offer his support, seeing the participants off from camp on the first day of the trek.

The Challenge Africa trek will test participants’ mental and physical stamina, taking them across steep and strenuous mountain passes, scaling to elevations of over 3,000m and trekking through a game reserve alongside zebras and antelope.

All funds raised by participants on the trek will support the work of five Laureus-supported programmes around the world; Active Communities Network (Northern Ireland), Active Communities Network (Republic of Ireland), Coolplay (South Africa), Mathare Youth Sports Association (Kenya) and Model City Hong Kong.

With the support of Laureus Sport for Good, each of these programmes is using sport as a tool to improve the lives of young people. For example, over 160,000 young people have been through Active Communities Network programming in the UK and Ireland since 2007, with great success: 30,000 participants have moved into education, training or employment.

Former Ireland, British and Irish Lions and Leinster captain Brian O’Driscoll is the second most capped rugby player of all time. He played 133 times for his country, scoring 46 tries and winning one Six Nations Grand Slam in 2009. South African 2007 Rugby World Cup winner Bryan Habana was one of the most prolific try-scorers in world rugby, scoring 67 international tries in 124 caps, placing him second on the all-time try scorer list. Bryan famously equalled Jonah Lomu’s record of eight tries in a Rugby World Cup when he helped South Africa win the coveted trophy in 2007.

Laureus Academy Member Brian O’Driscoll, said: “I’m fortunate enough to have spent time visiting the inspirational programmes Laureus Sport for Good supports and they are genuinely changing lives. I’m excited to lead the Challenge Africa trek with Bryan and raise as much money as possible for these great causes."

“Neither of us have any trekking experience so it’s going to be challenging and I’m sure the competitive edge will kick in between Bryan and I when the legs get tired. I’ve faced hostile environments playing rugby for Ireland and the British and Irish Lions in South Africa but I’ve never taken on any of the big five! I know who I’ll be sticking with if we come across any cheetahs!”

Laureus Ambassador Bryan Habana, said: “I’m proud to be joining Brian to lead Challenge Africa in my home country through the stunning Drakensberg Mountain range. I’m looking forward to showing South Africa’s incredible scenery and hospitality off to everyone joining the trek."

“I’m more comfortable running 100m than trekking 100km but life is all about challenging yourself and knowing where the funds are going will be motivation enough when times get tough. I’ve experienced Laureus Sport for Good’s programmes in my role as an Ambassador and I know that every cent we can raise will make a positive change for young people around the world.”

Globally, Laureus Sport for Good supports more than 160 programmes in over 40 countries who all use the power of sport to end violence, discrimination and disadvantage. Each programme Laureus supports is measured against charitable standards set out by the United Nations, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.

Challenge Africa is the second Laureus-supported adventure Just Challenge have led, following last year’s Challenge Himalayas trek which raised over $350,000 for Laureus Sport for Good. Just Challenge delivers life changing adventures, for all abilities, with impact and meaning. They provide organisations with the opportunities to engage employees, clients and/or leaders through physical challenges.


An international day highlighting the bravery of meningitis survivors and those whose lives have been changed forever through losing someone to the disease is being backed by Meningitis Now, the UK’s leading meningitis charity.

World Meningitis Day (today - Wednesday 24 April), an initiative of the Confederation of Meningitis Organisations (CoMO), focuses on ‘Life After Meningitis’.

Meningitis Now Chief Executive Dr Tom Nutt, said: “We know that life after meningitis is tough for many people and we want to use World Meningitis Day to showcase the bravery of meningitis survivors and those who have lost a loved one.

“Through our supporters telling their stories, raising awareness of the signs and symptoms and increasing vaccine knowledge, we can raise the profile of this devastating disease and help to reduce its impact for future generations.”

There are an estimated 22 cases of meningitis each day across the UK. The disease can strike in hours, but the after-effects, including deafness, limb loss and brain damage, can last a lifetime. Those who lose a loved one to the disease have their lives changed forever.

“On World Meningitis Day, as on every other day, we are here to help and support those who need us.” Tom added.

The charity is keen to use World Meningitis Day to promote its range of support services, including its recently-launched Rebuilding Futures Fund, which provides financial, practical and emotional support for people of all ages affected by meningitis.

“We’re not about quick fixes; we’re here to provide tailored support with long-term impact, that will really help people and families to rebuild their lives after meningitis," Tom said.

“We’re proud to provide this unique, life-changing support – the only meningitis organisation to do so in the UK.”

Other charity support activity includes its popular Family Days – regional fun days out for families affected by meningitis – and the Believe & Achieve programme especially for young people.

Meningitis Now is also launching its first Facebook fundraiser today (World Meningitis Day) to help fundraise for that support and calling on the public to contribute if they’re able to and make a difference for those impacted by meningitis in the future.

With the summer months fast approaching, many families are already looking at choosing their annual sunshine getaway. For those looking to swap the classic Mediterranean beach break or adrenaline-fueled theme park trip for a more exotic escape, the serene and subtropical Florida Keys offer an eco-friendly, adventure-focused getaway.

With the waters surrounding the southern Florida island chain designated as a National Marine Sanctuary, visitors can enjoy a range of active adventures that help them to truly immerse themselves in the destination -- all while leaving little trace of their travels.

Here are five low-impact and appealing ways to explore the Florida Keys this summer…

REEF: Visitors to Key Largo's John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the United States' first undersea park, can glimpse the Keys' serene underwater jungle on a glass bottom boat tour aboard the Spirit of Pennekamp catamaran. During the trip, families can view part of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, which protects the waters surrounding the entire island chain including the continental United States' only living coral barrier reef.

If visitors wish to learn more about the pioneering work being done above and below the water to protect the coral reefs, they can visit the Coral Restoration Foundation in Key Largo to discover efforts to grow and re-plant coral.

WALK: The Florida Keys History & Discovery Center is set to launch a new app, Walk Indian Key, in June that will help families go exploring on foot around the remote 11-acre Indian Key. Located half a mile offshore from the Upper Keys' Islamorada, the island is accessible by boat or kayak rentals from Robbie's Marina and is deserted except for the ruins of a town that existed in the early 1800s, when residents made their living from salvaging boats that ran aground on local reefs. The new app features a 12-stop tour and gives kids and parents alike insight into the island's surprising history, offering them the chance to channel their inner Robinson Crusoe.

NATURE: Believed to be the world's first state-licensed veterinary hospital dedicated to treating injured sea turtles, the Turtle Hospital in Marathon has released over 2,000 turtles back into their ocean home since 1986. Guided tours not only teach families about sea turtles but also offer a behind-the-scenes look at the rehabilitation facility and the chance to feed the permanent residents.

KAYAK: Join local legend, Captain Bill Keogh of Big Pine Kayak Adventures, for an eco-kayaking tour around the Lower Keys. Navigate the shallow waters surrounding the mangrove islands of the Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge and National Key Deer Refuge in sit-on-top kayaks to explore the backcountry's sponge and grass flats and mangrove forests during this unique nature experience.

CYCLE: Active visitors to Key West can take a guided bike tour around the picturesque island city with Key Lime Bike Tours. Along the route participants will see popular destinations such as Mallory Square, the former home of legendary author Ernest Hemingway, Key West's Historic Seaport district and the Southernmost Point, quite literally the southernmost location in the continental United States and just 90 miles from Cuba. For the grand finale, the tour ends with a stop for a mouth-watering slice of Key lime pie, a local delicacy.

The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games Organising Committee has appointed Martin Green CBE as its Chief Creative Officer, a role that will give him ultimate responsibility for the official opening and closing ceremonies and the wider cultural programme for the Games.

The announcement comes exactly one year on from Gold Coast 2018’s Closing Ceremony which incorporated Birmingham’s spectacular handover segment, produced by Green and performed live in Victoria Square.

Green, who has a huge amount of experience of working on global sporting events and major cultural celebrations, will take up his new role before the end of month. As Chief Creative Officer, he’ll also oversee the Queen’s Baton Relay and he’ll provide overarching direction for the team welcome ceremonies (performed when each competing nation and territory arrives at the athletes’ village), how the sports are presented and showcased in venues, medal ceremonies and spectator entertainment.

Reacting to the news that his application was successful, Green said: “Ever since working on last year’s ‘Go the Distance’ handover celebration, part of the Gold Coast 2018 closing ceremony, I knew I just had to be involved in the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. I was blown away by the local performers who took part, as they were so talented and enthusiastic and I loved the way that the people in Birmingham and the region embraced the handover event.

“I can’t wait to get started and I'm delighted that I’ll be working with organisations from across Birmingham and the West Midlands once again. This region is overflowing with talented, creative people and I want to get their input and ideas, to ensure that the ceremonies and culture programme are dynamic, uniquely Birmingham and truly memorable.”

Green is a hugely experienced executive producer of ceremonies and cultural events, whose major achievements include working as Head of Ceremonies for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, recruiting and leading the team of 500 people that successfully delivered the opening and closing ceremonies, the torch relays and victory ceremonies. He was alsoDirector of Hull UK City of Culture 2017, which saw him manage a ground-breaking 365 day world-class arts festival that reinvigorated Hull and fully engaged its residents, with nine out of ten local people attending at least one event.

John Crabtree, Chairman of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games Organising Committee, welcomed Green’s appointment and said: “We are absolutely thrilled that Martin has joined our team and I am delighted that someone with such relevant experience will be helping us deliver the biggest sport and cultural event ever to be staged in this region. There was a strong vision in Birmingham’s bid and so an inspirational leader is needed to bring that vision to life and Martin definitely fits that description.

“Martin’s experience on the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games made him the perfect candidate for this role on Birmingham 2022 and we were also impressed with the hugely successful handover event that Martin directed for Birmingham last year as, injust a few weeks, he orchestrated such a bold and brave live performance. I can’t wait to see what he will create for us over the next three years.”

Cllr Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council, was also pleased to hear the news and said: “The appointment of Martin is an incredibly significant step forward in the planning for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. His track record on the creative elements of major sporting events and festivals is second to none – and he showcased the very best of Birmingham to a global audience when delivering the city’s segment within the Gold Coast 2018 Closing and Handover Ceremony.

“Martin already has a great understanding of the city and the wider region. I am left in no doubt that his flair and artistic vision will ensure that the sporting and cultural aspects of the Birmingham Games are truly memorable.”

Green joins the Birmingham 2022 Organising Committee at an exciting time as the team, which currently has around 30 people who are directly responsible for delivering the Games to be held in Birmingham, the West Midlands and beyond, will soon be moving into new offices in Brindley Place, in Birmingham’s city centre.


Hong Kong has kept the crown as the most expensive city to buy property in, while two other Chinese cities also made the top five lists, according to new research that covers 35 cities around the globe.

The average price of property in the southeastern Chinese city, infamous for its unaffordability, is more than $1.2 million, which is 5.5 percent more than last year’s cost, real estate consultant CBRE said in the fifth edition of its Global Living report. Meanwhile, the price of buying an average prime property stands at nearly $6.9 million, making it the champion for luxury housing as well.

Last year’s hotspots managed to keep their positions in the rating, with Singapore coming in second, followed by Shanghai and Vancouver, with the average home costing between $815,000 and $874,000.

Shenzhen, a new addition to the report, took the fifth place and became the third Chinese city in the top five. The city is the tech capital of China and is located just 30 kilometers from the world’s most expensive urban center. It hosts the headquarters of many international and Chinese businesses, including Huawei, ZTE and Tencent.

Los Angeles, New York, London, Beijing, and Paris also made the top ten list of the world’s most expensive cities.

Hong Kong’s property market has long been known for its unaffordable prices. In June 2018, it achieved a world record with a single parking space being bought for a whopping $760,000.

Ceremonies have taken place to mark 100 years since the massacre in the Indian city of Amritsar.

Hundreds of Indian civilians were shot by British troops while attending a public meeting, in defiance of a ban by colonial authorities.

British Prime Minister Theresa May described the incident as a "tragedy" and "a shameful scar on British Indian history", but stopped short of the formal apology that some have called for.

British High Commissioner Dominic Asquith stopped short of a formal apology. Speaking at the scene in India as he laid a wreath, he said: “The revulsion that we felt at the time is still strong today.’ ‘You might want to rewrite history, as the Queen said, but you can’t. ‘What you can do, as the Queen said, is to learn the lessons of history. ‘I strongly believe we are.

“There is no question that we will always remember this. We will never forget what happened here.”

The death toll is disputed. An inquiry set up by the colonial authorities put the figure at 379, but Indian sources put it nearer to 1,000.

The vision for the brand is to celebrate individuality, by offering unique experiences through landmark hotels that have their own legacy and charm.

Speaking on the occasion, Puneet Chhatwal, chief executive, IHCL, said: “SeleQtions will allow IHCL to cater to a broader audience of travellers who prefer staying in hotels with a distinctive character.

“SeleQtions also includes hotels that have a slice of history, defining location or a differentiated theme.

“We believe the brand has immense potential to grow.”

The 12 hotels in the first phase include properties present in seven key lodging markets of India: President, Mumbai; Ambassador, New Delhi; The Connaught, New Delhi; Blue Diamond, Pune; Cidade de Goa; Tajview, Agra and Devi Ratn, Jaipur.

The other hotels are Pratap Mahal Ajmer; Savoy, Ooty; Gateway Coonoor; Gateway Chikmagalur and Gateway Varkala.

For those hotels which are independent – IHCL offers its robust infrastructure including global reservation systems, the award-winning Taj InnerCircle loyalty program and sales and marketing support.

Antigua & Barbuda’s Tourism Delegation led by the Hon. H. Charles Fernandez held a series of meetings with the country’s critical cruise line Partners at Seatrade Cruise Global, the cruise industry’s largest annual conference being held at the newly rebuilt Miami Beach Convention Centre.

The annual Seatrade Cruise Global Conference presented Antigua and Barbuda with a not to be missed opportunity to showcase its products and services to the cruise industry buyers and decision makers. It provided unique networking opportunities with industry leaders from all facets of the industry, and exposed its tourism executives to the conference’s educational industry programs, which allows participants to stay ahead of the curve.

The Country’s vibrant destination booth was a hub of activity as Antigua and Barbuda tourism officials conducted a series of one-on-one meetings, and media interviews.

In its communication to the major cruise lines the destination provided updates to its industry partners on its recently announced partnership with Global Port Holdings (GPH) and the Government’s strategic plans to expand the St. John’s Port facilities, to position the destination to take advantage of the growing industry trend towards larger cruise ships.

GPH also used the opportunity to announce its partnership with its two new Caribbean destinations Antigua and Barbuda and the Bahamas at a gala reception attended by over 600 cruise industry stakeholders.

In meeting after meeting Cruise-line executives reconfirmed their support for the initiative taken by Antigua & Barbuda to improve its infrastructure to offer the best possible service to cruise passengers. This more than anything else will ensure it remains well positioned as a premier cruise destination of choice within the Caribbean on many of the cruise line itineraries.

A major increase for the destination comes from a Key European cruise line partner TUI Cruises whose new ship the Mein Schiff 2, will increase calls to the destination after an absence of three years. Mein Schiff 2 will visit the destination on its inaugural call on November 6th with a total of 13 calls for season 2019/20 bringing over 37,000 passengers.

Another key Partner Norwegian Cruise Lines will return with the Norwegian “Epic” which was a diversion that has now become permanent, along with the Norwegian “Bliss” in the breakaway plus class. This ship will make its inaugural call on December 9th with over 4,000 passengers.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (RCCL) one of the Country’s key partners confirmed that larger ships will be serving the destination this upcoming season and we will see an increase to approximately 250,000 passengers this year from its various lines. Antigua and Barbuda continues to record strong customer satisfaction scores of 8.8 out of a maximum of 10 with RCCL guests.

MSC cruise lines the world’s fastest growing cruise line, indicated Antigua is and will continue to be a key port of call as the company has 10 new ships on order and will be increasing its fleet to 29 ships with the delivery of one new ship per year up to 2027.

In a joint meeting with representatives for all the Carnival Corporation Cruise Lines the commitment was given at the highest level by all the attendee member lines to continue to work together with Antigua and Barbuda to our mutual benefit.

The Country’s presence at Seatrade also facilitates local stakeholder partners to also meet cruise line executives to increase their tours and excursion business. Local partners included Wadadli Cats, South American Ventures Ltd, The Rendezvous Company and Tropical Adventures.

Minister of Tourism the Hon. Charles Fernandez in all meetings thanked our cruise line partners for their support over the years and reconfirmed our commitment to work with all partners for win-win outcomes as the country continues on its development path to be a premier port of call for all cruise lines visiting the Caribbean.

The Industry leaders have reported that 2018 was the best year for profitability and have forecasted that, with a record orderbook for 70 new ships over the next three years and a record 25 million set to cruise in 2019, the Caribbean continues to be the world’s number one cruising destination.

The renewed focus on improving our infrastructure by the Government has now positioned the destination to increase its share of this business,” said Minister Fernandez.


Ahead of the Arabian Hotel Investment Forum, Marriott International expects to add 19 new properties and more than 3,000 rooms to its Middle East and Africa portfolio in 2019.

Underpinning a strong demand for its diverse brands, the new additions are in line with the company’s expansion plans to add more than 100 new properties and nearly 26,000 rooms across the region by the end of 2023.

Marriott estimates its development pipeline through 2023 represents up to $8 billion of investment from property owners and is expected to generate over 20,000 new jobs across the region.

“Our growth across the Middle East and Africa is fuelled by a strong demand for our diverse range of well-established brands, each offering different attributes that cater to this region’s ever changing and evolving marketplace,” said Jerome Briet, chief development officer, Middle East & Africa, Marriott International.

“This region continues to present us with opportunities to further grow and enhance our portfolio across new and established markets.

“While the majority of our growth will be through new-builds, we are seeing an increasing number of conversion opportunities, especially in the luxury space.”

Year-to-date, the company has opened five new properties in the region and is expected to add 14 more – bringing its portfolio across the Middle East and Africa to nearly 270 properties and over 60,000 rooms – by the end of the year.

The company is poised to expand its luxury footprint in the region by more than 70 per cent by the end of 2023, with more than 25 luxury properties under development.

The company expects to grow its luxury portfolio in 2019 with seven anticipated openings across four brands, including W Hotels, St. Regis, the Luxury Collection and JW Marriott.

The growth of Marriott’s premium brands also remains steady across the region with more than 30 hotels expected to be added to the portfolio by the end of 2023.

By the end of 2019, the company expects to have added four new hotels under the Autograph Collection, Marriott Hotels and Marriott Executive Apartments brands.

In addition to the openings in 2019, Marriott is also focused on the transformation journey of Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, the company’s most global brand.

In the region, Sheraton Jeddah Hotel and Sheraton Grand Hotel, Dubai are currently undergoing renovations that represent the brand’s vision for the future.

Currently representing over 40 per cent of the company’s development pipeline through 2023, select-serve brands continue their rapid growth trajectory across the Middle East and Africa.

Building on the momentum from 2018 – with ten properties added across the region, including four Aloft hotels in the UAE – the company expects to add seven new properties by the end of this year.

A Commonwealth group is observing Maldives’ 2019 parliamentary elections as the nation elects 87 members to parliament for the next five years.

The former Prime Minister of Jamaica, Bruce Golding, is leading the group of eight Commonwealth observers. He was at Kurumba Island in Male atoll when the voting started. During the day, he will visit polling stations in the capital to observe how the elections are being carried out.

Prime Minister Golding said: “This election is an opportunity for the people of Maldives to continue to shape and strengthen their democracy by voting for leaders who are committed to realising their aspirations.

“On behalf of the observers, I wish the people of Maldives well as they prepare once again to exercise their democratic right to vote.”

This is Maldives’ 11th parliamentary elections and 386 candidates from 10 political parties are competing in the poll today.

264,442 Maldivians are registered to vote according to the Election Commission of Maldives. 501 ballot boxes have been set up across the country and additional eight ballot boxes are available overseas.

Observers have been deployed to various atolls in small teams since 4 April. They observed the campaign environment in those areas ahead of the polling day. They were present when the voting began this morning at 8.00 am and will observe voting and counting processes until polls close at 4.00 pm.

The Chair, Prime Minister Golding, will present the group’s initial findings at a press conference on 9 April in Male and a final report will be made available to the public at a later stage.

After withdrawing from the Commonwealth in 2016, Maldives has recently expressed an interest in re-joining the organisation. The Election Commission of Maldives invited the Commonwealth to observe the April elections. The findings of the observers will be considered as part of the Secretary-General’s ongoing informal assessment of Maldives reapplication.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade congratulates Senator the Hon. Pearnel Charles Jr. on his recent appointment as Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation (MEGJC).

Minister Charles Jr., had responsibility for the Diaspora and other regional portfolios at the Foreign Ministry, served as Minister of State since April 2018.

In expressing her commendations and well wishes, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, noted that Minister Charles Jr added a new and youthful energy to his portfolio responsibilities and that he will be greatly missed by the team.

Minister Johnson Smith recalled that Minister Charles Jr, always presented himself with professionalism and showed a willingness and passion for Jamaica’s foreign policy. She said, “I speak on behalf of the Jamaica’s Foreign Service in wishing Minister Charles Jr. all the best in his new role. With his proven track record at the Ministry of National Security and at the Foreign Affairs, I am confident he will make significant strides at the Ministry of Economic Growth”.

The newly appointed Cabinet Minister also commended Minister Johnson Smith and the Foreign Affairs Ministry on their stewardship of Jamaica’s Foreign Policy. “I am proud to have witnessed and participated in the diligent and efficient delivery of the Ministry’s mandate of national development through foreign policy execution, under the leadership of Minister Johnson Smith. As I express my willingness and anticipation of contributing to Jamaica’s infrastructural development as Minister in (MEGJC), I say thank you to the wonderful Foreign Service family and its Missions overseas for such an opportunity to represent Jamaica across the world”