From the print editionTuesday was a good day for President Laura Chinchilla and her National Liberation Party government. After a brief speech by Finance Minister Edgar Ayales, Chinchilla signed three tax and finance bills into law. The first two, the Fiscal Transparency Law and the Law for Strengthening Tax Administration, are aimed at providing better government access to taxpayers’ financial information, closing tax loopholes, putting in place stronger sanctions to force better cooperation with tax authorities, and getting Costa Rica off the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) “gray list” of countries not up to First World standards in international sharing of tax information. The last of the three new laws is the Eurobonds Law, which will allow the Costa Rican government to issue up to $4 billion in dollar-denominated 10-year bonds, to obtain financing from the Eurodollar market.Once published in the government newspaper La Gaceta, these three laws will become the government’s “Plan B” on tax and fiscal reform. They were meant as complements to a tax package that failed in April of this year, in the wake of a personal tax scandal involving then-Finance Minister Fernando Herrero, which cost him his job. Ayales, his replacement, quickly reorganized the government’s fiscal strategy and got the three laws back on track.At a press conference on Tuesday, Ayales was generous in praising his staff, who had nearly completed the three bills before he became finance minister. Ayales regretted the failure of the main tax bill, which would have increased government revenues to reduce the fiscal deficit. Costa Rica’s 2013 government budget is now under discussion in the Legislative Assembly, with a deficit of about 5 percent of gross domestic product for the third year in a row. But the finance minister considers the Eurobonds Law, which will allow Costa Rica to refinance its maturing dollar-denominated debt at record-low international interests rates, an extremely useful tool. Substituting low-interest dollar financing for the government should help lower colón interest rates, which have increased due to competition of government bonds with private-sector issuers in the local financial markets, analysts said.Chinchilla expressed satisfaction that the Fiscal Transparency Law and the Law for Strengthening Tax Administration will open the door for Costa Rican incorporation into the OECD, an invitation-only global development organization founded in 1960 by the United States, Canada and 18 European countries. Through the years, the OECD has evolved into a prestigious club of governments that emphasize public-sector transparency and accountability. Mexico, Chile and Turkey have been admitted from the developing world. Invitations to join the OECD are low-key and never formal until membership is approved. The two tax laws enacted this week will remove a gray market flavor to this country’s tax administration, which should strengthen Costa Rica’s OECD bid, officials said.A boost to infrastructureAlso on Tuesday, Vice President Luis Liberman, back from a trip to the People’s Republic of China, had good infrastructure news for Costa Rica. The Chinese government has agreed to finance a widening of a 106-kilometer stretch of Route 32, the highway linking San José and the Atlantic port of Limón. The two-lane stretch of highway between Rio Frío and Limón for years has been inadequate for the heavy container truck traffic generated by 80 percent of Costa Rica’s exports and imports channeled through Limón port. The government, constrained in infrastructure spending by its fiscal deficit problem, negotiated the project as the best way to address what has become both a commercial and public-safety problem. Many highway accidents have resulted from frustrated drivers trying to pass heavy container trucks on this stretch of highway. That problem should be much reduced by its widening to four lanes.The project is budgeted at $400 million, to be financed over 20 years at a favorable 3.5 percent interest rate. China will not only finance the highway improvement, but also will build it on a turnkey basis with Chinese construction companies. Engineers from the Public Works and Transport Ministry and the National Highway Council have committed to completion of the technical specifications and an environmental-impact analysis by Oct. 8. Lawmakers must now approve the Chinese loan for the project to move forward. The government’s plan is to present it to the assembly during extraordinary sessions in December, when the executive branch sets the legislative agenda. Liberman said that Limón’s lawmakers have already been briefed on the project, and that they are committed to its approval. Facebook Comments No related posts.
The holiday season is a time of family ritual – setting up Advent calendars, decking the halls, and reliving favorite stories. Whether you prefer “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” or “Eight Crazy Nights,” pretty much every household that celebrates the holiday has a seasonal narrative they enjoy, year after year.Central America is light on snow and brick chimneys, but stories of Santa and Scrooge have saturated Costa Rican culture, and there is no shortage of holiday-themed theater. While all of the productions below are performed in Spanish, most of their plots should be as familiar as eggnog and holly. For a heartwarming and low-stress cultural experience, here are some excuses to visit a local theater this December. (No windshield-scraping required.)“The Nutcracker”No ballet is more beloved than “The Nutcracker,” that timeless tale of a young girl, a wooden figurine that transforms into a dashing soldier, and their evening of globetrotting adventure. The National Theater presents its sumptuous production of Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece, directed by Patricia Carreras and Maria Amalia Banners and starring mostly young performers and dance students. See “El Cascanueces” come alive on the National Theater’s refurbished new stage.“El Cascanueces” will be performed Dec. 5-14 at The National Theater, downtown San José. Tue.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 11 & 5 p.m. ₡16,000-32,000 ($32-64). Info: National Theater website.“A Christmas Carol”At first, it doesn’t seem like Ebenezer Scrooge deserves a second chance. He’s mean, money-grubbing, and hates Christmas, so maybe he deserves to spend eternity dragging chains. But as Charles Dickens’ most famous novella tells it, Scrooge is actually just a decent old man tormented by his past. “Un Cuento de Navidad” receives its annual production at Teatro Espressivo, thanks to a stage adaptation by Paul Stebbings.“Un Cuento de Navidad” continues through Dec. 21 at Teatro Espressivo, Tres Ríos. Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 7 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m. ₡7,000-10,000 ($14-20). Info: Teatro Espressivo website.“The Abominable Snowman”What do Santa Claus, a magic clock, a monstrous Yeti, and a “Labyrinth of Solitude” have in common? They are all part of “El Ogro de las Nieves,” a whimsical family comedy at Teatro Triciclo. Famous for their slapstick and wordplay, Triciclo presents a North Pole pastiche that is bound to be hilarious (and heartwarming) whether you understand what’s happening or not. Catch this original holiday play directed by Magdiel Ramírez.Dec. 7 & 14 at Teatro Triciclo, Avenida Escazú. Sundays, 11 a.m. ₡4,000 ($8). Info: Teatro Triciclo website.“A Sack Full of Christmas”One of the most successful children’s entertainers in Costa Rica, Juan Cuentacuentos (“John Tale-Teller”) performs a one-day engagement at the National Theater to relate legends of virgin births, wise men, and other things New Testament. “Navidad de Gangoche” refers to the burlap sack that has played such an important role in Costa Rican agriculture (and general culture). Juan Cuentacuentos is best known for his effortless guitar playing, clap-along ditties, and general hijinks.“Navidad de Gangoche” will be performed Dec. 20 at The National Theater, downtown San José. 11 & 1 p.m. ₡2,000-4,000 ($4-8). Info: National Theater website. Facebook Comments Related posts:Christmas cheer, oxcart parades, and other happenings around Costa Rica Festival of Light, Egyptian dancers, and other happenings around Costa Rica ‘Blood Wedding’: García Lorca tragedy opens at Teatro Espressivo Shakespearean ballet, outdoor tango, and other happenings around Costa Rica
Related posts:Military helicopter shot down as drug violence surges in western Mexico New Generation cartel is Mexico’s latest menace Death toll in Mexico drug cartel’s attack on chopper rises to 8 ‘Guzmán?’ Video casts new light on Mexico kingpin escape CIUDAD JUÁREZ,Mexico — Mexico sought answers Monday after five children aged 11 to 15 stoned, stabbed and buried a six-year-old boy, a shocking case that raised questions about the influence of drug violence on kids.The boy was found in a shallow grave by a stream on Saturday, two days after he was last seen with a group of children on the outskirts of the Chihuahua state capital, the regional prosecutor’s office said.Cristopher Raymundo Marquez Mora was found after investigators interrogated the children, who include two 13-year-old girls, one 11-year-old boy and two 15-year-old boys.The five were detained as “probable culprits in an act that reflects a problem of social decay,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.The victim disappeared late Thursday and his mother reported his disappearance the next morning, sparking a search.The boy and the other children are neighbors who knew each other.“They were playing, they tied him up and they put a stick on his neck that semi-asphyxiated him,” the statement said.“When the boy fell to the ground, they hurled rocks at him, they stuck a knife in his back and once dead, they dragged him where they deposited the body, in a shallow dig,” it said.“They covered the body with dirt and put plants and a dead animal on the surface” in a bid to hide him, the statement said.The two 15-year-old boys could be jailed if found guilty but the other three other minors face “other types of sanctions,” prosecutors said.The murder took place in a state that has endured some of the worst bloodshed in Mexico’s drug war, with thousands of people killed in turf wars between cartels.‘Generation of psychopaths’Chihuahua, which borders Texas, is home to Ciudad Juárez, which was once considered the world’s murder capital outside a war zone as the Juárez and Sinaloa drug cartels fought for the territory.The city’s murder rate has dramatically dropped in the past four years but the state continues to witness murders, torture, kidnappings and extortion.The five children accused of murder “are victims of an environment of extreme violence,” said Juan Martín Pérez, executive director of the Children’s Rights Network, a non-governmental organization.“There’s a strong presence and culture of organized crime and a lack of culture of rule of law,” he said. “The children reflect what they experience every day.”Carlos Ochoa, a forensic and criminology expert, said cases like the six-year-old’s killing mark “the start of a generation of psychopaths, who are getting younger.” Ochoa recalled the 2013 case of a 17-year-old girl from Chihuahua who poisoned and burned her adoptive parents.The mother of Cristopher, Concepción Mora, angrily rejected the explanation that the children killed her son during a game.“It’s illogical for it to be a game,” she said Sunday as relatives and neighbors joined her in a protest. “They should pay for my son’s life.”One of the boy’s aunts warned: “We want vengeance. If they don’t give us justice, we will take revenge.” Facebook Comments
More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates Top ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day Comments Share (Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Associated PressARUSHA, Tanzania (AP) – A U.N. appeals chamber overseeing cases related to Rwanda’s genocide on Tuesday reduced one sentence and reaffirmed two others against the ring leaders of the 100-day killing spree in the tiny central African republic some 18 years ago.The appeals chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda reduced the sentence of former military officer Aloys Ntabakuze from life in prison to 35 years for genocide-related charges. Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths Sponsored Stories Top Stories 4 must play golf courses in Arizona How do cataracts affect your vision? Ntabakuze was convicted of conspiracy to commit genocide, genocide, complicity in genocide, and crimes against humanity.Lt. Ildephonse Hategekimana’s sentence of life imprisonment was affirmed by the appeals chamber.Hategekimana was found guilty of genocide in the massacre of civilian Tutsis in Ngoma and of raping Tutsi women.Former businessman Gaspard Kanyarugika’s 30-year sentence was also affirmed by the appeals court on grounds that the defense did not prove beyond doubt that the convict did not commit the 1994 horrendous attacks and killings against ethnic Tutsis.Judge Patrick Robinson ordered that Kanyarugika be given credit for time served since his 2004 arrest.At least 500,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered during the 100-day genocide in 1994. The tribunal was established in November that year.The U.N. court has rendered 69 judgments, including 10 acquittals. One trial is pending and 15 cases are still before the appeals court.The president of the international tribunal, Rachida Khan, told the U.N. Security Council last year that the trial work is expected to be finished by June 2012 and appeals work is on track to be completed by the end of 2014.
Sponsored Stories KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – An influential former Afghan warlord who served as water and energy minister in a previous administration narrowly escaped an assassination attempt Friday in the country’s western Herat province, a police spokesman said.Ismail Khan _ who is also running as vice president for one of the candidates in the April 5 presidential election _ was attacked after mid-day prayers, said police spokesman Abdul Raouf Ahmadi. In other violence, a gunman on a motorcycle opened fire at a group of local cricket players, killing five of them during a game in eastern Laghman province before he sped away, provincial spokesman Sarhadii Zhouak said Friday.There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which took place on Thursday in Alinghar district, but Zhouak blamed the Taliban. When the Taliban ruled the country, they severely restricted sports and public celebrations.Karzai on Friday issued a statement condemning the attack and the killing of Afghan sportsmen.Elsewhere, spokesman Omar Zwak in southern Helmand province said police found the body of slain journalist Noor Ahmad Noori late on Thursday night. The 30-year-old Nouri, who worked for the local Radio Busd had been abducted earlier in the day and his body was found in a sack, badly burned, said Zwak.(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Khan was coming out of the mosque in Herat city, the provincial capital, when the bomber set off his explosives. No one except the would-be suicide bomber was killed in the explosion, said Ahmadi. Khan could not be reached for comment.No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which underscored some of the challenges Afghanistan faces ahead of the election, a vote that will help shape the country’s future following the departure of foreign combat troops.In 2010, President Hamid Karzai had wanted to keep Khan _ a Tajik who was a prominent warlord during the civil war of the 1990s and who retains considerable local power among his minority _ in his administration, but the nomination was narrowly defeated. Critics said keeping Khan would have proven Karzai remained beholden to regional power brokers at the expense of the country’s national interests.Khan, 67, is now running as VP on the ticket of presidential contender, Abdul Rab Rasoul Sayyaf, also a former warlord. Karzai can’t run for a third consecutive term and has not yet endorsed anyone. There are no clear favorites in the race.Both Sayyaf and Khan were known as warlords during Afghanistan’s civil war from 1992 until the Taliban takeover in 1996, fighting on the side of the Northern Alliance against the Taliban. Previously, both also actively participated in the war against the Soviet occupation. Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Men’s health affects baby’s health too Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Comments Share Arizona families, Arizona farms: providing the local community with responsibly produced dairy Top Stories How Arizona is preparing the leader of the next generation
ErrorOK.. ErrorOK Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies Sponsored Stories Despite the spike in fighting the international community is “reluctant to take bold steps toward addressing repeated atrocities,” Michelle Kagari, deputy director with Amnesty International, said in a statement.Aid groups have recently pulled out of battle zones, leaving thousands of people in need as rebel forces fight for control of the country’s crucial oil fields. South Sudan depends heavily on its oil exports to keep the government running and the military’s latest assault is widely seen as an attempt to secure all the oil fields and get them running. But the rebels are fighting back, leaving thousands of civilians caught in the crossfire.Rebel forces on Wednesday said they were poised to take the oil hub of Paloch in Upper Nile state, but the military said it repulsed the attack.In its report Thursday, Amnesty International cited the account of women, including a mother of three who recalled being raped by one fighter while another pointed a gun at her.It was not immediately possible to get a comment from South Sudan’s military, which routinely denies such charges.The alleged rights violations are taking place in areas where there are few independent monitors, with the regional mediating group known as IGAD saying last week its officials were prevented from monitoring the fighting near Bentiu, Unity state’s capital. The United Nations on Thursday said heavy fighting resumed in the morning around the town of Melut in Upper Nile state, where four civilians, including a woman and a child, were killed on Tuesday when two mortar bombs exploded inside a U.N. compound.“It remains unclear who is in control of the town,” the deputy spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, Farhan Haq, told reporters. He said seven displaced civilians have so far been killed in the crossfire. Some 20,000 people who had been sheltering outside the U.N. base there have scattered, he said.Journalist Pow James Raeth was shot dead Wednesday by unknown perpetrators in Akobo, Jonglei state, said his employer, South Sudan’s Radio Tamazuj. He is the sixth journalist killed in South Sudan this year.___Associated Press reporters Jason Patinkin in New York and Cara Anna at the United Nations contributed.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Top ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Top Stories 5 greatest Kentucky Derby finishes KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — South Sudan government troops are setting villages on fire and abusing civilians in an ongoing military assault on rebels loyal to the country’s former vice president, Amnesty International reported Thursday, the latest allegations of serious rights abuses since the resumption of heavy fighting last month.Citing witness accounts in Unity state, the watchdog group reported Thursday that fighters in South Sudan military uniforms — and others in civilian clothing –have attacked villages using axes, machetes and guns. Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober 3 international destinations to visit in 2019 Comments Share
Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility There are other reports that the housing sector carried its previous momentum through June.Sales of existing homes increased 3.2 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.49 million, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday. The shortage of new listings has fueled higher prices. The median home value has risen 6.5 percent over the past year to $236,400, the highest figure — not adjusted for inflation — documented by the Realtors.Much of the additional demand has emerged from consistently solid hiring and low mortgage rates. Employers added 3.1 million jobs last year and are on pace to add 2.5 million jobs this year.Borrowing costs are rising but have stayed low by historical standards.The average 30-year fixed rate was 4.04 percent last week, according to the mortgage giant Freddie Mac. That average has increased from a 52-week low of 3.59 percent.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. WASHINGTON (AP) — Fewer Americans bought new homes in June, a possible sign that the real estate market might not be as hot as it appeared at the start of summer.The Commerce Department said Friday that new-home sales slumped 6.8 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 482,000. The report also revised May sales down to a rate of 517,000 from 546,000.The June slowdown indicates the potential limits of the earlier momentum. A nearly two-year hiring streak and low mortgage rates had been spurring stronger sales through much of the year. New-home purchases have vaulted up 21.2 percent through the first half of 2015, although the government sales report is volatile on a monthly basis. Comments Share Top Stories Sponsored Stories Jennifer Lee, a senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, said the decline “poured cold water on the festive tones” from past reports of accelerating sales.Some analysts downplayed the report as representing a sliver of the real estate market.“While the June report is disappointing, new-home sales represents a small portion of total home sales (just 8 percent),” said Bricklin Dwyer, an analyst at the bank BNP Paribas.But last month’s slump could muddle expectations that the real estate sector will spur stronger economic growth in the coming months.The median sales price has slipped 1.8 percent to $281,800 over the past 12 months. Buying fell in the Midwest, South and West, while rising sharply in the Northeast.Supplies remain remarkably tight with few new listings coming onto the market and construction expanding at a slower pace than sales of new homes. That may be a sign that the current strength in the market could wane as would-be buyers become frustrated by their limited options.There are 5.4 months’ supply of new homes available, compared to six months in a healthy market. Construction of single-family houses has risen 9.1 percent year to date, less than half the pace of sales growth for new homes. Arizona families, Arizona farms: providing the local community with responsibly produced dairy Here’s how to repair and patch damaged drywall 5 people who need to visit the Ultrastar Multi-tainment Center How men can have a healthy 2019 Mesa family survives lightning strike to home New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies
Source = World Travel Professionals World Travel Professionals Snap Up Two Awards At This Year’s NTIAs World Travel Professionals have triumphed at this year’s Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) National Travel Industry Awards, claiming two national awards. World Travel Professionals has been named as Best Travel Agency Corporate – Multi Location, while World Travel Professionals’ Gold Coast based Consultant, Carol Chapman took home the Best Travel Consultant – Corporate award. World Travel Professionals Managing Director Michael Chase-Smith was ecstatic when accepting the Best Travel Agency Corporate – Multi Location Award at the prestigious travel industry event, held at Sydney’s Westin Hotel on Saturday July 10. “World Travel Professionals have a business ethos that seeks to build innovation, execute the highest service standards and maintain quality relationships”, Mr Michael Chase-Smith said. “Our continued growth within the corporate sector is evidence of our commitment to providing holistic travel solutions.” “The teams continue to provide commitment, dedication, passion and excellence every single day, and that is what has made World Travel Professionals successful, and why we are winners tonight!” Meanwhile the Best Travel Consultant – Corporate Award speaks volumes of Carol Chapman’s excellence in her role, and the company’s outstanding staff support. “The Best Travel Consultant – Corporate Award was wonderful recognition for Carol and all staff that work in such a great team at the Gold Coast office” Mr Chase-Smith said. “It is also a reminder to us all of the value of dealing directly with professional travel agents in order to ensure the best travel experience.”The World Travel Professional Group is no stranger to recognition, having received an impressive total of 7 National Travel Industry Awards in the last five years along with numerous other industry accolades. <a href=”http://www.etbtravelnews.global/click/278cc/” target=”_blank”><img src=”http://adsvr.travelads.biz/www/delivery/avw.php?zoneid=10&cb=INSERT_RANDOM_NUMBER_HERE&n=a5c63036″ border=”0″ alt=””></a>
While amenity preferences and priorities differ, global holiday trends reveal travellers are looking for a spontaneous getaway and relaxation time with family.To better understand evolving travel habits, Wyndham Hotel Group surveyed just over 5,600 adults throughout the UK, US, Canada, China and Brazil.Chinese travellers will take the shorter vacations seeking sightseeing with over a third opting for sightseeing as the main activity during a holiday.Hotel quality is more important to Chinese travellers than price, with 29 percent making it their top criteria.When it came to time away on holidays, three out of four Chinese travellers prefer a shorter stay away of five days or less.UK travellers however will take longer breaks. More price driven on hotel choice, the English prefer a beach destination accounting for 41 percent of sun-seeking travellers. Other beach goers include travellers from Brazil and North America, with Brazilian travellers accounting for just over a third at 35 percent. American travellers are the most price conscious with the cost of hotels being the most important criteria for 36 percent of those surveyed.Regardless of nationality, the majority of travellers were hospitality conscious revealing Wi-Fi and breakfast are the top two desired amenities.More than half of those surveyed agreed rest and relaxation was the primary reason for their next holiday, and 76 percent of those identified spontaneity a crucial element when organising a trip away.Wyndham Hotel Group Asia Pacific managing director Frank Trampert said understanding the regional preferences of guests along with how and why they travel becomes increasingly important for the global expansion of the group.“This research not only highlights interesting multi-country differences and similarities, but reinforces the need for hotel companies to provide travellers with a broad portfolio of accommodation choices,” he said. Relaxing holiday a priority Source = e-Travel Blackboard: K.W
Source = e-Travel Blackboard: JAJ Carnival Corporation has announced a net income of $72 million for the second quarter of 2013 less than half compared to $159 million for the second quarter of 2012.Carnival Corporation and plc chief executive Micky Arison said that second quarter earnings were slightly better than May guidance due primarily to the timing of selling and administrative expenses, with key metrics for the second quarter of 2013 compared to the prior year including net revenue per available lower berth decreasing 1.9 percent and gross revenue yields decreasing by 3.1 percent in current dollars.At the same time, net cruise costs excluding fuel increased 8.8 percent, primarily due to the timing of dry-dock expenses, vessel repair costs and non-recurring items which benefited the prior year, while fuel prices decreased 9.7 percent and fuel consumption decreased by 5.7 percent.The report also features that the company took delivery of Princess Cruises’ 3,560-passenger Royal Princess, the first of a new class of ships for Princess, plus Carnival Sunshine entered service in May following an unprecedented $155 million modernization that added all the features and facilities of Carnival Cruise Lines’ Fun Ship 2.0 product enhancement program., with Fun Ship 2.0 transforming the Carnival brand’s on-board experience through celebrity partnerships including comedian George Lopez, who serves as the brand’s creative director for comedy, and Food Network personality and chef Guy Fieri, who developed a complimentary burger venue called Guy’s Burger Joint, as well as brand partnerships with EA Sports and Hasbro.Carnival Cruise Lines also completed the $115 million in upgrades and repairs to the troubled Carnival Triumph, successfully re-entering service recently.In term of the 2013 Outlook, the report said that cumulative advance bookings for the remainder of 2013 are behind the prior year at prices below the prior year levels, but since the end of March, fleetwide booking volumes for the next three quarters, excluding Carnival Cruise Lines, are running higher than the prior year at higher prices, but booking volumes for Carnival Cruise Lines during the same period are running behind the prior year at lower prices.Mr Arison said, “Our 90,000 global team members are dedicated to delivering an outstanding vacation experience to 10 million guests each year.”The level of quality, variety and innovation available throughout our fleet has never been greater and our guests are reaping the benefits of truly exceptional vacation values.”“We are working to more broadly communicate that message through stepped up consumer and trade marketing efforts, as well as strengthened engagement of our travel agent partners. We believe these initiatives, combined with slower supply growth, will lead to increased yields.”He added, “In addition, we remain focused on reducing our fuel dependence.”“By year end, we will achieve a 23 percent cumulative reduction in fuel consumption since 2005 and expect our research and development efforts in fuel saving technologies to continue to bear fruit.”“We have strengthened our management teams in maritime and technical ship operations and product delivery, as well as marketing and communications and we expect the combination of these efforts will drive improved return on invested capital over time.” The company expects full year net revenue yields, on a constant and current dollar basis to be down 2 to 3 percent compared to the prior year, in line with the May guidance and the company also expects full year net cruise costs excluding fuel to be higher by 3.5 to 4.5 percent compared to the prior year on a constant and current dollar basis.Third quarter net revenue yields are expected to be down 3.5 to 4.5 percent compared to the prior year and net cruise costs for the third quarter are expected to be higher by 8.5 to 9.5 percent compared to the prior year, the majority of which is due to costs associated with the previously announced vessel enhancement initiatives and increased marketing expenses, as well as higher pension plan contributions.
In what has already been a month of doom and gloom for aviation, an Air Algerie passenger carrying 110 passengers and six crew has crashed, en route from Burkina Faso to Algiers.The wreckage of flight AH5017 has been located in Mali, 50 kilometres north of the Burkina Faso border, yet it remains unknown whether there are any survivors, Sky News reported.Burkina Faso transport minister, Jean Bertin Ouedrago said the flight was advised to change route due to a storm in the area, and nearly an hour after take off, Air Algerie reported that contact had been lost with the plane.The airliner was a McDonnell Douglas MD-83 from Spanish company Swiftair.Search and emergency operations are working in the area.Source = ETB News: Lana Bogunovich
TravelManagers’ Sydney-based personal travel managers show their support for Fiji at the Cyclone Winston fundraising breakfast. (L-R) Deahann Urqueza, Belinda Hackett, Michelle Michael-Pecora, Michelle Schulze, Sue Kuti, Andrew Stanbury (Acting Executive GM, Sales and Marketing – Fiji Airways), Truman Bradley (Chairman of Tourism Fiji & Investment Fiji), Lyn Tyson, Julie Painter, Aliki Iosifidis, Virginia Stace, Michael Gazal (Executive GM – TravelManagers Australia) Saturday 20 February 2016 will forever be a memorable day for many Fijians. It was the day Cyclone Winston, the strongest tropical cyclone to hit Fiji on record, made its presence felt.Cyclone Winston spared the main tourist destinations of Fiji, however devastated some of Fiji’s remote islands, flattening many villages and leaving thousands homeless.With community spirit being such a key focus for TravelManagers, it came as little surprise to Executive General Manager Michael Gazal, that the personal travel managers immediately asked what they could do to help.“TravelManagers immediately contacted sister company HOOT Holidays’ local ground operator Rosie Holidays to understand what was the greatest need,” Gazal said.“After hearing that some Fijians could be without housing for up to two years, TravelManagers and HOOT Holidays purchased 25 high-quality Katmandu four-person tents that were sent to Fiji and delivered with other essential supplies by yacht to the Makogai, Koro and Yadua islands.”With 53,630 Fijians in evacuation centres, 3,360 houses destroyed, 143 schools partially damaged and 60,239 students without classrooms, funds are still in desperate need in the aftermath of Cyclone Winston.To assist with fundraising efforts, the Tourism Action Group (comprising of Fiji Airways, Tourism Fiji, Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association and the Society of Fiji Travel Associates) held a fundraising initiative last Friday for the Australian travel industry. The Cyclone Winston Fundraising breakfast event was hosted by Fiji Airways and Tourism Fiji and was held at Sydney’s Sheraton on the Park.Both HOOT Holidays and TravelManagers purchased individual tables as further support for Fiji.“Our heartfelt thanks go to the team at TravelManagers who have been a long-time supporter of Fiji tourism. With tourism such an important part of the Fijian economy we in the Australian travel industry have a great opportunity to assist Fiji’s recovery,” says Andrew Stanbury Acting Executive General Manager, Sales and Marketing Fiji Airways.The event was twofold, to raise much needed funds to assist relief efforts but also to reassure the industry that Fiji was ‘Bula as usual’.“Although the cyclone has affected a number of areas, the country’s tourism infrastructure was spared and we can confidently continue to sell one of TravelManagers’ favourite holiday destinations with conviction,” Gazal said.Stanbury talked about the importance of tourism to the Fijian people and economy.“Tourism represents the largest foreign contributor to Fiji’s GDP. The key role the travel industry must play in helping Fiji get back on their feet is boosting visitor numbers out of the Australian Market. Fiji Airways’ motivation in leading the way with the introduction of some extremely competitive airfare offers is our way of making it an easy sell,” he said.The TravelManagers’ community spirit for Fiji has a long history with personal travel managers. In 2012 whilst in Fiji on conference, the entire TravelManagers team worked together to give a local primary school a makeover after it was damaged by floods earlier that year.In 2013, personal travel manager Karen Christie created a much needed library at the Deuba District School in Pacific Harbour by donating over 2000 books and in 2014 personal travel manager Robbie Barrett organised the collection of more than 100 bras specifically for women on Nacula Island, a remote part of Fiji in the Northern Yasawa Islands.“The strongest message for TravelManagers is the culture of our business and our desire to give back. The opportunity for our personal travel managers to do something that benefits communities that need it most, mirrors our business philosophy of going the extra mile. That sums up the culture of TravelManagers and we are extremely proud of that,” Gazal said. TravelManagers AustraliaBecome a personal travel manager hereSource = TravelManagers Australia
Source = Hong Kong Tourism Board Hong Kong Tourism Board launches #DiscoverHongKong Stories campaignHong Kong Tourism Board launches DiscoverHongKong Stories campaignLeading online influencers @BeautifulDestinations, @The Fung Bros, @Rima Zeidan, and @EvanTubeHD call for their 11.8 million worldwide fans and visitors to share their unique Hong Kong experiences.You can check out all of the ‘I Never Knew’ Hong Kong stories from the influencers and visitors including exploration of the city’s street art, gastronomic scene, trendiest spots and family adventures at MyStories.DiscoverHongKong.comThere are daily prizes including online shopping and Apple products, plus weekly VIP Hong Kong travel packages to be won for sharing the best Hong Kong stories.To enter, visitors can post photos or videos which reveal Hong Kong’s hidden attractions and experiences on selected social media platforms, with the hashtag #DiscoverHongKong and a one-line caption that starts with “I never knew”.Mr. Anthony Lau, Executive Director of Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) said, “Being the first Asian tourism board pioneering a partnership with world’s top influencers to promote destination, HKTB is at the cutting edge of social media by embracing the concept of “Social First” to inspire travellers with powerful and unconventional content and perspectives. In this way, we can effectively reach a wider audience in more meaningful and impactful ways.”Entries close 24 April 2016, so snap away and share your Hong Kong stories with the world! Discover Hong Kong
Source = London & Partners London and Partners London welcomes over 30 million tourists for the first time everLondon welcomes over 30 million tourists for the first time everMayor of London Sadiq Khan has welcomed new figures that show the capital has set a new tourism record after more than 30 million visitors came to the city last year, drawn by global sporting events such as the Rugby World Cup and blockbuster exhibitions at its museums and galleries, according to new figures released today.A record 31.5 million Great Britain residents and international tourists came to the city in 2015 – which is an increase of 20 per cent when compared to five years ago.London keeps setting new tourism records. Every year since the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games there has been an increase in the number of international visitors coming to the city.Figures released today (20th May) by the Office for National Statistics, International Passenger Survey, show there were 18.6 million international visits in 2015 compared to 17.4 million in 2014, a previous record year. (seven per cent increase)Separate data from the Great Britain Tourism Survey carried out by UK tourism body VisitEngland reveals that GB residents made 12.9 million visits to London last year, another new record.International and GB visitors also spent £15 billion on hotels, restaurants, shopping and attractions – an increase of 35 per cent compared to 2010.Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said: “It is fantastic that more people than ever before are opting to visit London, to sample the best of our capital and the best of Britain. London has something for everyone and an appeal that clearly extends across the globe.“I’ve pledged to do all I can to support our vital tourism industry so London continues to be a top choice for travellers.”Exhibitions, theatre and major events including Cosmonauts: The Birth of Space Age, at the Science Museum, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at the V&A, The Elephant Man at the Theatre Royal Haymarket and the 2015 Rugby World Cup all helped to draw visitors to the city.This year is set to be another momentous year as the UK celebrates 400 years of Shakespeare’s lasting legacy, events to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday and Tate Modern opening a major new extension, which is being hailed as the most important new cultural building in the UK since the British Library in 1998.Bernard Donoghue, Director of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions: “London, the world’s favourite city, continues to draw visitors from around the world thanks to our globally-known and loved attractions.“Our palaces, cathedrals, museums, galleries, heritage sites, zoos and gardens are some of the principal reasons why record numbers of visitors come to London. From Harry Potter to Beatrix Potter, Shakespeare to shopping, the diversity and excellence of our tourism experiences are world class.”Separate research by independent forecaster Oxford Economics predicts that London will welcome 35.6million UK and international visits to the city by 2020.The tourism industry is a major contributor to the London economy. Overall the sector contributes more than £36 billion to the capital every year and supports around 700,000 thousand jobs.Gordon Innes, CEO of London & Partners, the Mayor’s official promotional company for the London, said: “Millions of people want to come to London from all over the world because the city has an unrivalled mix of culture, art, music, theatre, restaurants and major events. Tourism is a crucial part of the city’s economy and we anticipate a significant increase in the number of UK and international visitors for many years to come.”In the last five years London & Partners, which runs VisitLondon.com, has contributed nearly £500 million in economic benefit (measured GVA) to the London tourism economy and supported 8830 jobs.Visitlondon.com is the most influential source of information for overseas visitors to London and features thousands of attractions both large and small across the entire city. Every year the site attracts 28 million unique users.VisitLondon.com, supported by the Great Britain Campaign, British Airways and Hilton, recently launched a tourism initiative called Fans of London, celebrating the blockbuster events across London this year, including The Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations, 400 years of Shakespeare’s legacy, and the world’s first international exhibition on The Rolling Stones, Exhibitionism. London and Partnersdiscover more here
Club Med Flash Sale – Easter Island HopClub Med Flash Sale – Easter Island HopClub Med are giving travellers a reason to hop over to a tropical island for a mid-year escape by offering a limited, 2 week only, Easter deal with all dates at one fixed price for Club Med Bali, Cherating Beach, and Phuket for travel between May – June 2018.Your clients can take advantage of Club Med’s premium all-inclusive package for the ultimate hassle- free family escape on the shores of Nusa Dua in Bali, exploring the jungle wildlife of Malaysia or enjoying the unique culture of Thailand.For just $1,200 per adult at Club Med Bali and $1,030 per adult at Club Med Cherating Beach or Club Med Phuket when booked before 7 April 2018, your clients can recharge your batteries in paradise. There’s also no single surcharge – an added benefit for solo travellers!Club Med’s all-inclusive packages include gourmet meals and snacks with international delicacies and traditional local cuisine, an open bar, a vast selection of activities, entertainment and Kids Clubs, in addition to accommodation – taking the planning out of holidays, so guests have more time for fun.Club Med Bali, IndonesiaClub Med Bali is a sanctuary for families and friends on the shores of Nusa Dua, set between fields of rice paddies and temples, with masses of space to unwind. Featuring traditional Balinese must-try experiences, Club Med Bali’s cultural highlights include Bahasa language lessons, Balinese ceremonies as well as arts and crafts*. For those with a passion for action, there’s surfing lessons* and white water rafting* or wind down with a walk through the resort’s botanical track. The contemporary design of the resort, inspired by local culture, is the perfect place to rejuvenate body and soul. 7-nights all-inclusive stay for $1,200 per adult and $720 per child.Club Med Cherating Beach, MalaysiaClub Med Cherating Beach is a step into the wild, where you can enjoy unique resort experiences including watching the release of turtle hatchlings* into the ocean at the nearby turtle sanctuary, jungle walks and yoga with breathtaking views. Check out the resort’s must- try experiences including the new fitness and yoga menu or amazing firefly watching at night*. 7-nights all-inclusive stay for $1,030 per adult and $830 per child.Club Med Phuket, ThailandAt Club Med Phuket, take a moment to relax by the Zen pool, or experience the heart of Thai vibrancy. Enjoy unique experiences including a Thai boxing initiation, the resort’s photo zone with a tuk tuk*, and arts and crafts including Thai umbrella painting*. 7-nights all-inclusive stay for $1,030 per adult and $824 per child.Terms and Conditions Apply.For bookings and enquiries call Club Med on 1800 258 263. About Club MedClub Med provides amazing holiday experiences, made easy, in the world’s most beautiful destinations. With over 70 premium and luxury all-inclusive sun and snow resorts located in some of the most beautiful places on earth, Club Med resorts blend seamlessly with their environment, drawing inspiration from the local culture and nature to immerse guests in the destination.Since 1950, Club Med has been dedicated to providing guests with amazing new experiences that make for an unforgettable holiday – from the rejuvenating to the exhilarating, and everything in-between. Each resort offers a vast selection of opportunities to try something new, immerse in local culture, revive body and mind, and give back to the local community and environment.Club Med holidays are a truly hassle-free experience, with premium all-inclusive packages and a wide range of innovative services – giving guests more time to spend doing what they love.For more information, visit www.clubmedta.com.au, www.clubmed.com.auSource = Club Med
Ramada by Wyndham Becomes Official Accommodation Partner of New Zealand’s Baseball TeamRamada by Wyndham Becomes Official Accommodation Partner of New Zealand’s Baseball TeamThe globally renowned Ramada® by Wyndham hotel brand has reached an agreement to be the official accommodation partner of Auckland Tuatara, New Zealand’s new baseball team and the country’s first team to play in the Australian Baseball League franchise.Ramada by Wyndham is one of the world’s most recognised hotel brands with over 850 hotels in more than 60 countries. Guests choose Ramada to not only sample the world around them but for the brand’s passionate team members and full-service hospitality as well as functional meeting space, comfortable guest rooms, free Wi-Fi, and casual dining options. It is part of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, the world’s largest hotel franchisor and leading hotel management provider with more than 9,000 hotels across more than 80 countries.Under the partnership, Ramada will be the preferred accommodation provider in New Zealand for the team, and the brand’s hotels – like the Ramada Suites by Wyndham Albany, Auckland North Shore – will accommodate both the local team and visiting opponents during the series played in New Zealand. Ramada branding will also appear on signage at the team’s home games and the brand will offer exclusive promotions to fans, members, players, officials and spectators.Ben Schumacher, regional director of franchise operations, South East Asia and Pacific Rim at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, said the partnership will raise the profile of both the team and the accommodation provider.“The Auckland Tuatura team is an exciting development for baseball in New Zealand and the Ramada brand is proud to support the players, fans, and the sport. With a growing presence throughout the country, Ramada’s decision to support the team is symbolic of the entire country getting behind Auckland Tuatara and celebrating its future successes,” he said.The Auckland Tuatura team aims to both raise the profile of and boost participation in baseball and softball in New Zealand. Currently featuring a strong backbone of representatives in the DiamondBlacks national team, the team also aims to help build the capability and depth of the national team by giving players further opportunity to play.Ryan Flynn, general manager of Auckland Tuatura, said he was delighted to partner with Ramada.“This partnership with one of the nation’s leading accommodation brands, means that our franchise is launching with strong corporate backing and has a firm foundation for the future,” he said.Eight Ramada properties are currently open in New Zealand, located in Auckland, Albany, Orewa, Taipa Beach, Queenstown, Christchurch, Rotorua, and Wanaka. A further three are under construction in Auckland, Manukau, and Queenstown.All Ramada hotels participate in Wyndham Rewards®, the simple-to-use, revolutionary loyalty program from Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. Named a best hotel rewards program for the past three consecutive years by U.S. News and World Report, Wyndham Rewards® offers members a generous points earning structure along with a flat, free night redemption rate—the first of its kind for a major rewards program. Members earn a guaranteed 1,000 points for every qualified stay and enrolled members can earn and redeem points at thousands of hotels, condominiums and holiday homes globally Join for free today at www.wyndhamrewards.comSource = Ramada® by Wyndham
Moss Spa will awaken the senses with its signature treatments using natural ingredients, such as Manuka honey, mineral clay and Kakadu Plum. Both guests and locals can enjoy this luxury space to relax and unwind.The makeup used on site is from Lauren and Louise Cosmetica, a mineral makeup with true pigments from a salon only brand founded by women.Skincare products are provided by Juvenate which are vegan, cruelty-free, sustainably and ethically produced, and Kiwi made. Australian brand Waterlily is on board also, with rich botanicals and essential oils in delicious treatments such as the Triple Berry facial, Lime Caviar facial, and a Pink Champagne and Strawberries body treatment.Vices & Virtues restaurant and bar celebrates locally sourced and sustainable ingredients and offers a range of vegan, vegetarian and plant-based dishes as part of its menu.Sudesh Jhunjhnuwala, CEO of Sudima HotelsAbout Sudima HotelsSudima Hotels is a New Zealand hotel brand that is passionate about and committed to delivering environmentally friendly and accessible hotels in New Zealand. It is an industry leader in setting sustainability benchmarks, having achieved the first carboNZero certification for a New Zealand hotel, and initiating a movement within its group of hotels to become single-use plastic free by 2020. All of its hotels are accessible and have been rated between Bronze and Gold for accessibility by Be Accessible.Underpinned by strong values that centre on caring, doing the right thing and working together, Sudima Hotels focusses on helping guests make the most of their day. Both leisure and corporate travellers will feel welcome and be greeted with a smile at Sudima Hotels.Sudima Hotels current locations include Auckland Airport, Rotorua, Christchurch Airport and has hotels currently under development in the Christchurch CBD, Kaikōura and most recently announced Auckland’s CBD.Sudima Hotels is owned and managed by Auckland-based entrepreneur and property investor Sudesh Jhunjhnuwala. Sudima Hotels opened the doors of a new boutique hotelSudima Hotels opened the doors of a new boutique hotelA great leap forward is coming to central Christchurch as the city continues its rebuild. On 1 June, Sudima Hotels opened the doors of a new $40 million five-star boutique hotel in the central city.Sudima Christchurch City, the fourth hotel in the national group, has added high-grade stock to the city’s in-demand accommodation market with 86 rooms including 45 luxe king rooms, 33 luxe twin rooms, six luxe apartments, and, on the top floor, two executive apartments with outdoor balconies. Not only is the hotel a great development for Christchurch’s central city, but it also brings additional businesses to the upscale site. Exciting additions include Moss Spa, the first purpose-built spa to open since the earthquakes, and Vices & Virtues restaurant and bar.The hotel is part of a new complex on the corner of Victoria and Salisbury Streets, formerly the site of the Strategy office building, which was demolished after the earthquakes. The complex will also include offices, retail and restaurants.Sudima Christchurch City joins existing Sudima Hotels properties at Auckland Airport, Rotorua and Christchurch Airport. Two more, in Kaikōura and the Auckland CBD, are under also construction.True to Sudima Hotels’ reputation as a sustainability, diversity and accessibility leader in the accommodation and hospitality sector, the group aims for all new hotels to be built to a standard that enables certification to carboNZero status as soon as possible following opening, as well as the ability to achieve accessibility accreditation from Be.Accessible. Sudima Christchurch City will open as a single-use plastic-free facility and will be the first hotel in New Zealand to have a plant-based bathroom range and biodegradable slippers.Auckland based Sudima Hotels founder and CEO Sudesh Jhunjhnuwala says, “We are very proud to introduce this new hotel to the Christchurch market. It has something special to offer locals, domestic travellers and international visitors alike. We are adding a new string to our bowwith this hotel, which has the same values and service for which Sudima Hotels is known but provides a luxe, boutique experience that is a new addition for the group.“This is the first new-build hotel to open in the Christchurch CBD since the rebuild began, and it signifies our great confidence in the local market and the prospects for the tourism sector. It represents a deepening of our investment in the greater Canterbury region after the $25 million makeover of Sudima Christchurch Airport hotel in 2015 and our investment in Kaikōura with a new Sudima Hotel due to open there in late-2020. We are especially pleased to have added 28 new full-time-equivalent jobs to the region in opening the Christchurch city hotel – plus contractors – because job creation is vital to the regeneration and growth of the city.”Sudima Christchurch City hotel manager Maree Welgus says Sudima Hotels has kept in mind the needs and interests of locals as well as visitors throughout the development. “Sudima Hotels is an experienced operator around the country and adept at meeting the needs of leisure and business travellers – but with the Sudima Christchurch City development there’s also great establishments for locals to enjoy with high quality dining at Vices & Virtues restaurant and bar, and pampering at Moss Spa. Vices & Virtues restaurant and bar celebrates locally sourced and sustainable ingredients. People are increasingly looking for delicious food that is also nutritious, and a range of vegan, vegetarian and plant-based dishes is a signature part of the menu. Moss Spa is a luxurious space to relax and unwind, it will awaken the senses with its signature treatments using natural ingredients, such as Manuka honey, mineral clay and Kakadu Plum.Both visitors to the city and locals can enjoy these upmarket additions to the city.Fact SheetOpened on 1 June, Sudima Christchurch City has 45 luxe king rooms, 33 luxe twin rooms, six luxe apartments, and on the top floor, two executive apartments with outdoor balconies.All rooms include a range of amenities:Unlimited Wi-FiEspresso pod coffee machineT2 tea range43” smart TVStreamed moviesAmazon EchoOpen tile rain showerLuxury bathroom amenity rangeBathrobe and biodegradable slippersYoga matUmbrellaHeadboard artwork by Aroha Gossage, an emerging kiwi artist Source = Sudima Hotels
The Minister of State for Culture (Independent Charge), Tourism (Independent Charge) and Civil Aviation, Dr Mahesh Sharma held a meeting with the Minister of Tourism and Culture of Chhattisgarh, Dayal Das Baghel in New Delhi. The meeting was a follow up meeting for inclusion of tourist circuits from Chhattisgarh into the Swadesh Darshan Scheme of the Union Ministry of Tourism.Baghel requested Dr Mahesh Sharma to include the important tourist route of Jashour – Sanna – Tatapani – Mainpat – Chaiturgarh – Kurdar – Kabir Chabutra – Sarodha Dadar – Kanker – Kondagaon – Jagdalpur – Chitrakote – Dantewada circuit under the Tribal Circuit of Swadesh Darshan Scheme. Baghel also urged Dr Sharma to make Rajmergarh – Kabir Chabutra – Achanakmer Tiger Reserve – Kurdar – Sirpur – Kodar Dam – Gangrel Dam – Kanger Valley National Park as part of the Eco Circuit of Swadesh Darshan.Dr Mahesh Sharma assured that the Ministry will assist development of the Tribal Circuit of Chhattisgarh under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme. As regards the Eco-Circuit, he assured that the Government will consider the proposal.Baghel also requested the Minister to include the important historical site of Sirpur in the Buddhist circuit. The Union Tourism and Culture Minister promised that the Centre will look into the demand to include Sirpur in its ambitious Buddhist Circuit project.
The travel industry nowadays is reaching out to the public by doing good. So what benefits does this move possess, well find it out here.Source: CNN
Mortgage Application Volume Drops 2.6% Agents & Brokers Attorneys & Title Companies Investors Lenders & Servicers Mortgage Applications Mortgage Bankers Association Mortgage Rates Purchase Loans Refinance Service Providers 2013-07-17 Tory Barringer Share Mortgage applications fell another 2.6 percent (seasonally adjusted) for the week ending July 12, the “”Mortgage Bankers Association””:http://mbaa.org/default.htm (MBA) reported in its Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey.[IMAGE][COLUMN_BREAK]The Market Composite Index, a measure of loan application volume, fell once again as mortgage rates hovered. On an unadjusted basis, the index was down 22 percent compared to the previous week.The Refinance Index dropped 4 percent from the previous week, dipping to its lowest level since July 2011. The refinance share of mortgage activity also hit a two-year low, falling to 63 percent–the lowest level since April 2011.Meanwhile, the seasonally adjusted Purchase Index saw a slight bump, rising 1 percent from the prior week. The unadjusted Purchase Index increased 26 percent week-over-week and was 5 percent higher than the same week last year.The average contract interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 4.68 percent, unchanged from the prior week. However, points fell to 0.42 from 0.46 for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio loans, bringing the effective rate down. in Origination July 17, 2013 465 Views