Google search pages for Darjeeling hotels hacked by scammers

Google search pages for Darjeeling hotels hacked by scammers

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The rapid growth of online travel bookings makes the travel industry a ripe target for cybercriminals. Stakeholders must therefore adopt strategies and tools to protect the sector from data breaches and malicious attacks.

— Amrita Ghosh

The Google pages of many hotels – incl prime properties – in the Himalayan cities of Darjeeling and Kalimpong in West Bengal has been tarnished for fraud in front of holiday travel rush. Anyone looking for hotels in Darjeeling using the search engine will come across prominent photographs containing the hackers’ phone numbers above a section showing pictures of rooms and facilities. “We have recently faced incidents where fraudsters post their mobile numbers with payment options to book not only our properties but also several others in the region. We monitor this continuously and report all such posts as ‘spam’ so that Google can see them and get them removed,” said Viraj Oberoidirector of Elgin Hotels & Resorts, a luxury hotel chain with properties in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Sikkim. Cybercriminals remove hotel details and create their own profiles with personal contact details, said Sandipan Ghosh, general secretary of the regional travel trade body Eastern Himalayas Travel and Tour Operators’ Association. “Surprisingly, they also entice customers to pay up front while they switch off tax on goods and services charge,” said Ghosh. In India, the GST on hotels varies anywhere between 12-18 percent, depending on the price. Customers, while trying to book hotels online for Darjeeling, have been tricked into making advance payments into bank accounts that does not belong to the owners of the accommodations.“We are in touch with the cyber cell department to track such incidents closely and take action accordingly,” Ghosh added.

Air India has increased its flight frequencies on popular eastbound routeswhich gives passengers more options to fly to and from Bangkok (Thailand), Hong Kongand Seoul (South Korea). Efficient March 26will Air India add to the total eight new weekly departures — six to Bangkok (three each from Delhi and Mumbai), as well as additional weekly flights from Delhi to Seoul (Incheon) and Hong Kong. All flights will be operated by Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft. “Building a more robust network is a key element of Air India’s Vihaan.AI 5-year transformation plan, and after increasing services on several routes to North America and Europe in quick succession, we are now excited to ramp up services to east,” said Nipun Aggarwal, Chief Commercial Officer and Chief Transformation Officer, Air India.

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The southwestern state Maharashtra has reduced value added tax (VAT) on fuel for aircraft turbines (ATF) from 25 percent to 18 percent in India second largest aviation hubMumbai – together with Pune and Raigad. “Maharashtra joins 19 States/Union Territories which have rationalized VAT in the last one and a half years. Along with improved connectivity for Mumbai, Pune and Raigad, this will also make travel more affordable and boost growth,” said Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia. Fuel prices are a major cost component for Indian airlines, as they account for 35-40 percent of an airline’s expenses, against the global average of nearly 30 percent.

India’s coastal state Goa and Portugal will sign one memorandum of understanding within tourism and information technology (IT) to facilitate better travel experiences through innovation and technology. Rohan KhaunteMinister of Tourism and IT, Goa announced during his recent visit to Portugal where he attended a tourism fair in Lisbon to promote Goa tourism in European market. Key considerations included possible future collaborations in tourism and opportunities to build demand for Goa from Portugal. Increased air connectivity between Portugal and Goa was also discussed along with the possibility of exploring a new route between the two destinations.

Indian online booking portal for paragliding ParaBooking have raised $61,000 to make adventure tourism safer in India. The startup, based in the Indian state Himachal Pradesh, have said they will use the funds to double down on technology and go to market. It has evolved SaaS-based tools which can be scaled across the country to create security regulations in the adventure sports industry. ParaBooking operates through a two-pronged model to generate revenue – paragliding and SaaS tools for adventure tourism operators and agencies across the country. Along with the website for booking paragliding flights, ParaBooking also offers an application for tourism operators to digitize and automate their operations, which is sold on a SaaS model.

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Aviation regulator of India Directorate-General for Civil Aviation (DGCA) has canceled the registration of two Boeing-737 Max aircraft leased to a low-cost company SpiceJet. The request was made by two Dublin-based landlords below Irrevocable authorizations for deregistration and export request (IDERA) which ensures that the owner of an aircraft can have an aircraft deregistered. “The cancellation of the registration of the two aircraft will not affect operations,” the airline said in a statement. SpiceJet has recently restructured over $100 million outstanding dues to aircraft leasing company Carlyle Aviation Partners into shares and compulsorily convertible bonds. The aircraft lessor is the commercial aviation investment and servicing arm of Carlyle’s $143 billion global credit platform.

The Indian Ports, Shipping and Waterways Ministry has approved eight floating bridge projects — four each in the southern states i Tamil Nadu and Karnataka — below Sagarmala, the ministry’s flagship program to facilitate port-led development in the country. In addition, the ministry has given in-principle approval to four more projects in Karnataka, taking the total number to 11 floating dock projects in the state. The ministry said the projects would help provide safer and trouble-free transport for tourists and would lead to a general elevation of coastal society.

Aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co planning to set up a facility in Hyderabad to convert passenger aircraft into cargo plane to exploit the growth global demand for cargo. The facility will be set up in collaboration with an aircraft maintenance company GMR Aero Technica subsidiary of GMR Hyderabad International Airport Limited. Currently, Boeing sources $1 billion worth of aircraft components from India annually. The investment, which adds to the US manufacturer’s expansion into India on top of a record order for aircraft from flagship Air India, comes despite a global economic slowdown that has weakened the global air cargo market.

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In a first in India, the western state Gujarat has introduced a dashboard that will provide real-time data for tourists visit tourist destinations in the state. Called Aatithyam (Aggregate of available tourist information on tourism and hospitality in Yatra and their memories), it will have data on 109 important tourist destinations of Gujarat. The real-time data is expected to help shape policies and increase job opportunities. Out of 109 destinations, around 40 are tickets and at the rest of the destinations, parameters given by the Government of India are adopted.

Aditya Thackeraythe former Minister of Tourism in Maharashtra, have urged Minister of Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia to sanction two new airports at Palghar and Fardapur. He said the development of these airports would increase progress and improve passenger connectivity, industry, agriculture and tourism in these regions. While the new Navi Mumbai airport will be ready soon, Mumbai will require a third airport in the next 10 years to accommodate the increased passenger traffic, he said. Thackeray also urged Scindia to resolve the issues related to Nashik and Pune airports — the latter’s expansion plans for a new airport have been a long-debated demand. Referring to Nashik, he said the city’s potential needs to be harnessed with an airport of global standards.

Photo Credit: Google pages of many Darjeeling hotels have been defaced for fraud.

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