In brief


Schengen visas cost more
FEES for Schengen visas have been increased by all the countries issuing the visa as of January 1, following an EU Council decision.

The visa now costs 60 euros (Dh284.7), up from 35 euros. The increase does not apply to fees for national visas. These are being introduced because the previous fee no longer covered application processing costs. The higher fee will help finance the significant investment needed to collect biometric facial and fingerprint data of all applicants. Exceptions include children under six, school pupils and accompanying teachers on study trips, and researchers, regardless of nationality.

Morocco among top spots for 2007
IN a ranking by journalists at the Lonely Planet travel guide, Turkey and Morocco featured among the best international tourist destinations for 2007. The list includes 11 countries and is headed by China.
The United States came in second, Argentina fourth, Brazil fifth, Turkey sixth, Nicaragua seventh, Spain eighth, and Greece ninth. Mexico and India share the tenth place. Morocco hopes to receive 10 million tourists per year by 2010. Last year, between January and November, the country was visited by 5.87 million tourists.

Syria targets 7m for 2007
SYRIA hopes to attract seven million tourists in 2007, according to the country’s tourism minister, Saadallah Agha al-Qalaa. The minister, meeting an Australian delegation headed by President of the Legislative Council of New South Wales in Australia Dr Meredith Burgmann, said that his Ministry adopted a plan to call hundreds of media men and tourist companies to market tourism in Syria, according to media reports. He added that tourists spent around $ 2.3 billion in 2005 in Syria.

First spa booking site launched
GLOBAL spa resource Spa Finder has launched, the web’s first dedicated spa travel booking site, providing a much-needed online travel booking solution for the $48-billion global spa industry. The new site makes it fast and easy for travel shoppers to plan their ideal spa vacations according to a range of special interests, then check live room, flight and rental car availability to book vacation packages in real time.

Royal Caribbean nixes trans-fats
ROYAL Caribbean International will become the first cruise line to make the move toward removing trans fat from its menus beginning March 1. This move culminates in a fully trans-fat-free menu fleetwide by the end of this year. Effective immediately, trans-fat-free frying oil will replace the old pour-and-fry oil originally used in food preparation, and entirely-new, trans-fat-free menu options will be introduced to Royal Caribbean's menus, said senior vice-president, Total Guest Satisfaction, Michael Bayley.  The trans-fat-free oil was put to the test onboard Navigator of the Seas last November. The conclusion was that, not only is the trans-fat-free oil healthier for guests, but it provides a better tasting product.