Devising An Efficient Public-Transport System In South Africa

The background for this article was derived from a speech made by Wrenelle Stander (Director General: Department of Transport) to public-transport role players and stakeholders, in 2004. Subsidies, Ms Stander said, “must be viewed within the context of passenger transport funding rather than as an isolated service for poor people. Both needs and funding must be weighed against what is possible”. She conceded that making eventual choices, on this basis, might not be easy.

The status quo

Currently, minibus taxis are the dominant mode of public transport, serving 64% of the 3.8 million workers using public transport. There are, in fact, roughly 9.8 million workers who travel regularly. We can deduce, from these figures, that 6 million workers provide their own transport.

Minibus taxis currently receive no subsidies. Train services are subsidised and are used mainly in metropolitan areas, to serve roughly 24% of public-transport commuters. Subsidised bus transport services 42.5% of the public-transport commuters in rural areas.

74% of the country’s households have no private transport available to them. In rural areas, 62% of the households believe that public transport is either not available, or is
too far away for convenience. Of metropolitan households, 46% are dissatisfied with its proximity.

Public perceptions, though, may not accurately reflect true need and more detail is necessary to providing practical input. The minibus taxi industry, to a large extent, has fulfilled the needs dictated until now, and no vehicle of any sort profits by running half empty. If not even a taxi service exists there may be insufficient call for frequent public transport. A less regular, but committed service, may suit the situation.

Poor service options

Public-transport users are otherwise dissatisfied with the options they have. 48% who use taxis are unhappy with the overall service, as are 42% of the train users and 31% of those who travel by bus.
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Train dissatisfaction has been voiced, as follows:
· overcrowding, 71%;
· lack of security between home and the stations, 64%;
· lack of security on the trains, 62%, and
· unsatisfactory toilet facilities, lack of punctuality, lack of off-peak frequency and the long distances that commuters must walk between their homes and the stations (over 50%).

Dissatisfaction with bus services were categorised thus:
· a lack of facilities at bus stops (74%);
· passenger overcrowding, 54%, and
· off-peak lack of frequency, 50%.

More than 50% of taxi users were unhappy about high fares, passenger overcrowding and driver behaviour. Other concerns noted were:
· the lack of facilities at taxi ranks, 64%;
· the poor roadworthiness of taxis (59%), and
· the imminent danger of accidents (67%).

No complaints by own-transport users were included, though Minister Trevor Manuel recently made no secret of the fact that traffic congestion was seriously impacting on his ability to get to work at a reasonable hour.

Exercising restraint

Ms Stander made the point that the majority of South Africans do not have regular access to either private or public transport. She used the example of scholars to clarify this:
· scholars number 15.7 million, which means that there are over 60% more traveling regularly to educational facilities than the 9.8 million workers who also travel regularly;
· 12 million (76%) of these walk to school. 75% of these can make the two-way journey, on foot, within one-and-a-half hours, but roughly 550 000 children spend over two hours a day walking;
· 9% of school children use taxis to get to school; another 9% travel in cars, and
· 73% of white children travel to school by car, while only 3% of black children do.

While the intention, here, may have been to infer that white school children have superior facilities at their disposal, the point should, in fairness, be made that, quoting a figure for car usage but none for rail, buses and walking for white children, is misleading. Also, without taking into consideration why children use particular transport modes, a true picture does not emerge.

How far is too far to walk? No one enjoys a long walk with heavy shopping or other parcels, but door-to-door vehicular transportation may cost this nation its health. A half-hour walk, twice a day, for adults, is considered advisable and children should exercise for no less than that – two hour’s of low-impact exercise is not extreme.

During November 2004, news headlines bewailed the fact that in schools where PT and sports are not actively promoted, children are not exercising enough. Walking a reasonable distance is a healthy alternative. It is more important to ensure that those children, who walk long distances, have food in their tummies. The provision of school meals, might offer better options. The pitfall here is to avoid abetting corrupt practices, which may make dealing directly with manufacturers a better option.

Where distances take in excess of forty-five minutes (one-way) to walk, scholars would be better peddling to school than using motorized transport. The manufacture of an initial 550 000 bicycles would provide much-needed jobs, but the recipients would then need income for repairs and maintenance and might need to form cottage industries making postal and grocery deliveries in their areas, to this end.

Safety first

Would scholars be safe riding alone? If not, surely safety is the main reason that people require better public transport? Whether people live rurally or in urban situations; in townships, informal settlements or up-market suburbs; whether they walk during the day or at night, they risk the loss of possessions or their lives.

My teenage, rugby-mad son avoids walking routes and distances, in Durban, that I regularly tackled twice a day in my youth. His need to be fit is more than mine ever was. The difference? Where once it was safe to walk, it is no longer safe even to drive a car, let alone walk. When he was younger and at school in Gauteng, children were not allowed to ride to school on bikes, because too many had been hi-jacked.

Suburban, working parents with cars are more able to choose between schools than rural parents. They easily drop their children off en route to work, without significant detours. Cars that enter the city limits with only one occupant may have left home with up to five – school runs and car clubs have become part of middle-class culture and some families still boast two parents, who may work some distance apart.

But “single occupant cars” are considered “inefficient road users during peak times” whereas those who share vehicles, walk, ‘cycle or use public transport are considered more socially deserving. I don’t quibble with that, but the logic used to come to this conclusion may be incomplete and deserves, I suspect, more consideration.

Few of the 73% of white children transported by car are picked up directly after school. Many join extracurricular activities or childcare groups until their parents’ working day allows them to collect their children on their way home. For many white children, the school day runs from 6:30 until 18:30. Safety is again pertinent; few families still afford full-time assistance and children, returning to empty homes, are vulnerable.

Financial limitations
Preliminary results from the National Household Travel Survey, Ms Stander continued, indicate that: “low household incomes, even in the richer provinces, constrain the affordability of public transport services”.
· Users who do not travel daily, may need to be able to move about in search of work and to shop;
· 5.8 million households (nearly 47%, of which 3.1 million are rurally situated) run on less than R1 000 per month. Financial resources are obviously strained in these circumstances, and
· a further 2.85 million households manage on R500, or less, per month and half of these spend more than R100 of their earnings on public transport.

There are, it seems, 10.7 million workers in the country. 9.8 million workers travel to work regularly, so it must be presumed that 0.9 million workers work out of their homes, live on employer property or work on a contractual basis for short periods.

Of the 9.8 million regular travelers, 32% (roughly one-third) use cars, 39% use public transport and 23% walk. Worker transport, Ms Stander maintained, is then characterized by a mixture of “car dependency, public-transport captivity and walking dependency”. Her choice of words is interesting.

The curse of congestion

A specific problem that faces the viability of future transport systems is growing urban congestion. The number of vehicles that enters cities during working hours must be reduced – funding must be channeled into “public transport and non-motorised transport initiatives”.

Facts that appear to be entirely relevant (and thought-provoking) include:
· the increase of rural to urban migration, over the last ten years, has put undue pressure on suburban, peri-urban and inner-city facilities;
· city populations and industry have decentralized and spread, which makes the provision of efficient public transport a far more complicated issue than it was thirty years ago;
· middle-income families have had to come to terms with high levels of suburban congestion;
· income earners of all levels have had to deal with these issues independently, and
· these trends have undermined the efficiency of cities.

74% of South African households did not have access to a car in 2003 but it is difficult to agree with Ms Stander that the transport needs of middle class, urban, car-owning households were provided for, previously, and still are. Had middle-class, urban needs been adequately addressed, surely those households would never have felt the need to own a car, let alone, in some cases, become two-car families.

The middle classes very often financed their own needs in the past. There was no ultra-cheap housing available in white areas and the authorities would have made short work of tearing down shacks erected on private property – building regulations had to be adhered to. Housing subsidies did not exist, except for parliamentarians who commuted to Cape Town annually and programs to benefit public servants.

High numbers of inner city and suburban flats were necessary for people who paid far higher rentals than those who lived in townships and subsequently could afford neither their own homes, nor transport. They lived close to schools and their jobs. Only once they could finance private transport, could they, in turn, look for better-paying jobs any distance from home.

Up-grades in living conditions usually resulted once breadwinners had vastly improved their working circumstances. It was not usual, until the ’90s, for young married couples or single people to own property. As a woman, I was granted my first bond by a bank, at the age of 38, despite the fact that I had kept two jobs for most of my adult life and was considered financially stable.

I am not, in any way, trying to suggest that white people did not live considerably easier lives than others. It is though, a fact, that the middle-class suburban areas that ‘mushroomed’, incorporate various facilities that were intended to enable people with various levels of income, to co-exist. The discipline that most facilitated this state of affairs was urban planning.

I totally agree that Apartheid policies brought about inequalities and settlement patterns for which the majority of the population still pays a social price. As Ms Stander stressed, long-distance commuting, for low-income workers, has left a legacy of spatial dislocation:
· poor people travel long distances at high cost;
· their needs have not yet been met;
· many walk in unsafe and unpleasant conditions;
· our high pedestrian death toll must be addressed, and
· a preference to locate to informal housing that is closer to schools and amenities (to reduce long-distance travel) exacerbates already untenable situations.

That Transport expects to turn all these conditions around seems to put illogical strain on the Transport systems. Lack of urban planning is as much responsible and should contribute to the effort by situating industrial and manufacturing opportunities close to low-cost housing estates. Schools and amenities would then also need to be conveniently placed, nearby.

Subsidizing the needs

Bearing the legacies of Apartheid in mind, government plans must take into consideration that:
· transport infrastructure implementation should complement existing infrastructure, and use flexible and incremental technologies;
· public-transport subsidies must serve as social investments in support of economic development;
· limited funding is available to reinvest in public transport systems that promise higher costs for people who can little afford them;
· Given the rural and urban needs of a growing economy, reinvestment and the expansion of public transport systems must ensure more efficient and productive settlements, such as safe, off-peak and after-hours public transport to cater for shift workers, working students, scholars, etc., and
· the challenge is to expand social investment to benefit economic development.

During the 2004/05 financial year, subsidies amounted to roughly R4.5-billion. Road-based (mainly bus) subsidies equaled R2.1-billion and commuter rail (addressing the needs of roughly two million, mostly urban, workers with incomes around R2 000 per month) received R2.4-billion. Both must still be considered potential beneficiaries.

Controlling car use in metropolitan areas, promoting public transport in all areas and catering for the safety and infrastructure needs of the 2.26-million workers and the 12-million scholars who walk (half in rural areas) remain important to Transport’s brief.

Any proposals, Ms Stander, explained, will need to take into consideration: that public transport subsidies should enhance the access and mobility needs of all people, where commercial fares for the provision of essential services are not affordable to its passengers; benefits awarded will need to justify the subsidy costs incurred, and that market failures would result in service providers being unable to provide essential services in a viable manner.

Groundwork approach

How much pertinent information and research was omitted from Ms Stander’s speech, is impossible to estimate, but some situations would have benefited from clarification. It is hoped that proposals will not be accepted before they are explored and discussed at more length and in conjunction with all the others received.

Taxi re-capitalization will now exchange owners’ vehicles for R50 000. With this subsidy, owners are free to invest in the vehicle of their choice, as long as it follows the legislated, safer specifications. They may also use the money for any other purpose they choose. In sizeable organizations, owners may prefer to develop a different line of business or retire on the proceeds.

When this does happen, it should be noted that those payments will not have subsidized the taxi industry, only the scrap-metal industry. Until the process has been completed, we will have no idea how many of the new taxis will become available to fulfill the country’s needs and how many taxi drivers will still have jobs. This state of limbo may seriously impinge on other decisions.

Worker obligations

Many workers are also obliged to have their cars with them during the working day because their vehicles are part of their gross salary package, used to drive to meetings or make deliveries at the behest of the employer. The public-service subsidized car scheme illustrates: the number of subsidized cars multiplied by four between 1999 and 2002. Officials are expected to use these cars to employer advantage.

Can the government afford to ask its officials to leave their subsidized vehicles at home on a regular basis and can it justify the cost increases over the same period: from R81-million in the 1999-2000 financial year, to R213-million in 2001-02? This increased spend infers the delegation of subsidies to an elite few and possibly causes more disruption in Tshwane (Pretoria) than the taxis that have lately been given specific routes to follow in that city. Other provincial capitals must also be affected, to a lesser degree.

Were the Department to investigate the figures for people who claim their vehicle expenses for business purposes from the South African Revenue Services, it would have a good idea of how many cars must use the city road networks daily and the number of vehicles that must be accommodated daily within proximity of their jobs.

Safe bets

If safe parking facilities could be made available at safe railway stations and safe public-transport ranks, many would consider the options as long as both train- and bus-transport were also safe, affordable and their vehicles were not necessary to their jobs. At the other end of their trip, workers would need to know that they could walk safely from drop-off points to their offices (and back) with brief cases, lap-top computers and other working equipment, even after dark.

Until this is so, punishing car users without improving safety conditions, is a ‘cop-out’. For this reason, Ms Stander’s wording “car dependency, public-transport captivity and walking dependency” might read more honestly: ‘car, public-transport and walking captivity’.

In essence, those who use their own cars are saving the country a fortune in public transport costs; those who use public transport deserve safe and affordable options and those who do walk, should have better conditions in which to do it. All these reflect, to varying degrees, on crime prevention and are not wholly Transport concerns.

None of which offers any solution to the problem of inner-city congestion, but does appeal for a less punitive approach. Our public-transport systems will not be considered efficient until they encourage those who do own cars, to leave them at home. Commuters cannot make this call; it rests, instead, on the ingenuity of Transport, the tax system, urban planning and law-enforcement. It also calls for consultation and co-operation on a far greater level than has yet been implemented.

Non-motorized initiatives

Using Durban as an example: vehicles cannot feed from the inner southern suburbs to the northern ones, without going through the city. Commuters needing to travel to the other side are forced into city congestion, with no options – the M4 stops as one enters on one side and begins again on the other. Providing a viable option to avoid the city would greatly reduce congestion, but would also prove costly; definitely a non-motorised transport initiative, though.

Provision of creatively situated, decentralized taxi ranks and bus termini might also reduce congestion to an enormous extent. Train journeys into the city do not offer a destination close to either shopping, office or beach facilities and secondary public transport becomes necessary.

Bus, rail and taxi services should, perhaps, not duplicate each other, but rather run more efficiently over shorter distances. For instance, if bus services could be initiated on Johannesburg’s ring road, taxis could ferry workers throughout the suburbs – from and to every off- and on-ramp, where bus stops could be situated. Taxi services continually circling on feeder roads next to freeways and across bridges some distance apart, could reduce the need for pedestrians to run across busy traffic lanes.

In many cases, though, the necessary feeder roads still need to be built and, ten years into democracy, the past can no longer take all the blame. When an electricity sub-station in the western suburbs of Johannesburg recently caught alight and left suburbs without electricity for four days, blaming those who laid the original lines sixty years ago, was not constructive.

Sixty years ago, who could have guessed what progress and expansion would occur and how many homes, shops and industries those electricity facilities, would be expected to service? It seems clear that each municipality will need an individual plan to service its immediate industrial, business and shopping areas.

Transport subsidies also cannot be expected to improve the lifestyles of those who live below the breadline, in any noticeable manner. What those people most need, are jobs and increased incomes. Let us deal with the realities, to the very best of our ability.

Gift Yourself a Dream Wedding With a Wedding Loan

Weddings are known to be elaborate and expensive affairs. Right from the bridal trousseau and jewelry to the venue costs, catering and gifts for guests, the bills can be very expensive. But that doesn’t mean you have to let the money be a obstacle on your life’s most important moment. Make the occasion memorable for yourself and your family. You can take out a Wedding Loan and ensure that you all have something to celebrate, without having to worry about the costs.

When it comes to funding your wedding, it’s unlikely that you have enough savings to meet costs. The best option is through a Loan, most banks and NBFCs offer Wedding Loans. and you can apply for one to meet the costs.

What is a Wedding Loan?

In essence, a Wedding Loan is a Personal Loan taken to meet marriage expenses. A Personal Loan for a wedding can cover costs like buying jewelry for the bride, venue cost, guest accommodation costs, catering charges, decorator fees and other professional services that ceremony usually require.

Usually, the bank verifies your income and credit score before deciding on the loan amount that they can offer you. The higher your income and credit score, the better your chances to get the loan approved.

Before applying for a loan, it’s recommended that you get a rough estimate of the expenses. Based on your eligibility, you’ll be able to know what amount of loan you can get. That way, you can plan your wedding accordingly.

Why Do I Need One?

Besides the usual wedding costs, there can also be some sudden expenses. If you suddenly decide to live stream your wedding to your extended family who couldn’t make it, you’ll have to plan for that as well. All of this needs money, so it’s best to be prepared.

Destination and theme weddings are the fads at the moment. These can be very expensive. Ferrying guests, theme decor, coordinated costumes and more make these events some of the most expensive marriage ceremonies you can find anywhere. It’s not surprising that most of us don’t have the ability to pay for all of this through normal means. That’s why a Loan can be one of the best things that you can get.

You might be worried about taking the interest rates in Personal loans are high. You might not want to start your married life in debt. If that’s the case, you can borrow from your parents, friends or family at zero interest.

How To Apply?

Applying for a Wedding Loan is a simple process. You can also apply for it online and meet the document requirement to process the loan application.

The Signs You’ve Found A Great Option For A Luxury Condominium Rental

Everyone deserves a healthy work/life balance and some rest and relaxation from time to time. In fact, studies have shown that those who regularly take vacations with their families and significant others are more productive and healthy. It makes sense to set aside time to recharge your batteries, but how can you make sure your vacation won’t create a whole bunch of new stress? What if your lodging is uncomfortable and tacky? Here are 5 signs you’ve found a great option for a luxury condominiums rental during your next vacation.

Great reviews online

Never underestimate the collective power of people who like to give their opinion. Use it by reading online reviews and websites wielding these opinions to your advantage and make sure to read many of the counter comments that are posted. Everyplace will have some negative reviews, but on average a great lodging spot will have more positive reviews than not. On many review websites, management or corporate can respond and offer apologies as well as make amends for sub-par service. There are lots that can be learned from online reviews.

Setting up reservations was a breeze

It is always a great sign when calling to set up reservations is easy and painless. The best places will have friendly staff who are patient and willing to answer all your questions and explain anything you need clarified. This is your first impression and it should be a good one.

3. Convenient location

Ideally you want your lodging to be near to or in the heart of all the action. The best lodging rentals will have access to buses, shuttles, and other forms of transportation as well as be near restaurants, cafes, and nightclubs. You are more likely to enjoy your vacation if you can easily and quickly get around town without any headaches.

4. Great amenities

Be on the lookout for what amenities are offered. The little joys and details can add up during the duration of an entire vacation. Great rentals will provide all the amenities you desire so your stay can be comfortable and feel like a home away from home. Make sure to read reviews or chat with a friendly staff member over the phone to inquire about what is offered before you book.

5. Great prices and variety of rooms

Not everyone needs a giant room with 3 closets and 2 queen sized beds. Perhaps you need a smaller room for you and your significant other? Great rentals offer of variety of choices to suit your needs. From family sized lodging to smaller units for couples, make sure you are able to select the right room at the right price for you.

With these signs of a good rental, you have no reason not to begin looking for your next vacation rental today.

How to Choose the Best Die Cut Machine for You!

The holiday season is right around the corner, and nothing says “I love you” like a personalized scrapbook or homemade crafted gift. To really jazz up your scrapbooks and craft projects, you need a die cut machine! Die cut machines enable you to personalize the items you make with fun shapes, letters and designs.

Here’s what to consider when choosing the best die cut machine for you:

Portability

Portability is a big concern for most home crafters – and for good reason! If you ever attend scrapbook parties or crafting events, you’re going to want a machine that’s portable enough to go with you wherever you go. But even if you don’t, being able to move your machine to different rooms in your home can be a big advantage.

When choosing a machine based on portability, there are two things you’ll want to consider – weight and computer connections. The best weight machine for you is somewhat subjective, but a good rule of thumb is that the most portable scrapbooking machines are those under 5 lbs. And as far as computer connections go, you’re going to want to choose a manual machine (like the Cuttlebug) or an electronic one that doesn’t require a computer to operate (like the Cricut Personal Electronic Cutting Machine).

Features

Do you need a die cut machine that will cut simple letters and shapes, or do you want one that will enable you to design your own die cuts and patterns? Will you use your machine solely for scrapbooking, or are you an avid home decorator who plans to use the machine to cut fabric, felt and even wood? Be prepared to ask yourself these questions and more when choosing the best scrapbooking machine.

If all you need to cut are simple paper shapes, the Sizzix Sidekick (a low cost, low frills die cut machine) might be right for you. But if you plan to sell your craft projects professionally (or if you simply want the flexibility the cut whatever you want), a machine like the Cricut Expression might be a better investment for you.

Cost

Although a good die cut machine will last for a long time and give you plenty of use over its lifespan, it’s still important to consider the cost up front. Only you know your personal budget and how much you can afford to spend on a machine, but one thing to keep in mind is the added expenses you can incur with different machines.

For example, that bargain scrapbooking machine might not be such a great deal when you find out that you have to buy a new cartridge for every single shape you want to cut. In fact, it might actually wind up being more expensive in the long run than a model with a higher base price that comes with all of the accessories you’ll need for your projects.

For Worry-Free Travel, Travel Agents Is the Solution

There are a plethora of full service travel agents who prepare the itinerary of the traveler from researching, planning to purchasing an entire trip to ‘Discover India’. The tour packages are at a discounted or subsidized rate due to channel partners that comprises of economic luxurious hotels, airlines, railways, transporters so on and so forth. Almost all of the travel agents cater to the needs of one and all – from single men & women, to families and clubs going on vacation or a weekend getaway at short notice, whatever the need the travel agents are ever ready to ensure that their clients are satisfied.

Most of the travel agents in Kolkata have expert tour operators on board who are capable of understanding the subtle nuances of the travel industry and therefore personal attention is given and most of them can speak English fluently. Intending travelers are able to access directly an assortment of travel packages which are affordable for middle class families who might be planning a trip to India.

By virtue of researching continually on travel destinations in India that are safe and secure, travel agents have been offering travel packages that are economical so as to ensure that sufficient funds are available for travelers to perhaps buy gifts for their loved ones as well. Almost all travel agents offer value added services, bus and car rental for example, train and air tickets, hotel booking and other ancillary tour and travel services at competitive rates.

Travel agencies in India are professionally managed and particularly so for foreign tourists be it groups or individuals. Travel packages are priced in a way so as to fit any budget that any traveler would be able to avail. Travel agency as a business grows exponentially because of the dedication of the team of tour and travel agents. All travel agencies have channel partners throughout India and the IT infrastructure of the agencies have been upgraded to offer further benefits in the days ahead. The reason behind the enhancement of the infrastructure is to make sure that the service that they are offering is one-of-a-kind. It’s no wonder that hordes of foreign tourists revisit India as they are delighted by the services provided by the travel agencies which by their own admission is absolutely phenomenal.

India is a land where the dichotomy of rags and riches is omnipresent and often can be seen alongside each other. It is a testament of the social and economic inequalities and divisions. Nonetheless it is a land that is worth exploring as it offers variety of breath-taking and idyllic scenic beauty in every nook and cranny. From the snow-capped mountain ranges of the Himalayas with their peaks so high up in the sky that it would appear they have gone beyond scraping the sky and are reaching for the heavens. To Rishikesh on the river Ganges in northern India is an ideal locale for white water rafting.

Goa is a much sought after destination as well for those looking to bask under the sun and have a suntan or are enthusiastic about all night long beach party under the moonlight and the starlit sky along with entertainment by the best music bands. Kerala is also a suitable locale for river cruises on the natural backwaters in the midst of coconut palms that seem to whisper, the beaches full of white sand, herds of elephants, and lush greenery everywhere that seem to seduce as they pass by on lazy sunny afternoons.

A ride of a lifetime on the Palace on Wheels perhaps would indeed prove to be a dream come true as the scenery of Rajasthan would enthrall anyone. After being mesmerized by the breath-taking and amazing natural beauty of Rajasthan one would have to head back to Delhi to visit Agra and the Taj Mahal in particular which must be seen if one is in Agra besides the Agra Fort. One could relish the idyllic beauty of the “queen of hills” Ooty, or have soul-searching and spiritual experience at Haridwar and Rishikesh. Last but not the least, the Royal Bengal Tiger, the pride and joy of West Bengal can be seen in the wild at the world’s largest Tiger Reserve.

For travel without any worries it is advisable therefore that all travel requirements be fulfilled by reputed travel agents. The travel agents are ever so eager and willing to cater to the myriad needs of travelers who find it extremely convenient to be able to have an agent take care of everything that is necessary to ensure that a traveler does not have to worry about anything whatsoever.

SEO Trends To Watch For In 2018

New Year is coming your way and like every year, for sure, you are ready with the list of resolutions. Resolutions are important not only in personal but in professional life as well, as they guide you the right way and give you the urge to make some efforts to achieve something big in your life. There are so many trends change after every year as per the update in the Google algorithm, so, it’s time you need to watch for trends in 2018. So, what are you waiting for? Look below and see where you actually are and what changes you need to make in your strategy for better outcomes.

  • Site Quality Matters: No doubt, Google work to satisfy its users and, therefore, if you want to come in its good book or improve the ranking, so you have to improve your site quality. This may increase web traffic and website visits, pages per session and bounce rate, etc.
  • Double The Quality Of Your Content: Content adds value to your website and increases customer time on your website as well. Therefore, if you want to hit the goal in the coming year, you should come up with more relevant content that encourages revisit of your visitors.
  • Smartphones Become Primary Search Device: No doubt, mobile is important than ever before and in the coming years, it is used as a primary search device that improves your site visit than the desktop one. You should pay attention to it for better results.
  • Improve User Experience: Another SEO trend you need to watch in 2018 is the improvement in user experience. It is your duty to make sure that your customer will get the best experience on your website, which automatically increases their chances of conversion.
  • Featured Snippet Is Talk Of The Town: Make sure you take some steps and necessary actions to optimize your website to come in the featured snippet that drives in more customer and good for the rank of your website.
  • Rise In Visual Search: In the past few months, visual search rise and this is a new trend you need to watch in 2018 to get great outcomes. This may improve your searches and grab the attention of your visitors.

These trends are very much important for the growth of your business and you shouldn’t take it for granted. For any help, make sure you consult a professional SEO expert that handle your website rank and take it to the next higher level in your niche.

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Why Do You Pay Commissions When You Do Your Own Travel Bookings?

When you buy a travel package, tour or service your price may include a number of levels
of commission added to the original pure cost of the product direct from the supplier.

To give an example of such:

Let’s take a tour operated in Australia at a cost direct from the operator of say $1,000:

1. This tour may be listed with an Inbound Tour Operator.

2. The ITO buys for $1,000, marks up 10%, sells to Wholesaler, tour price now $1,100.

3. The Wholesaler buys for $1,100, marks up !0%, sells to Retailer, tour price now $1,210.

4. The Retailer buys for $1210, marks up 10%, sells to Traveler, tour price now $1,331, (prices changes if percentages are higher, or less if the ITO is not in this equation) (without the ITO the retail price would be $1,210 at 10% or $1322 at 15%).

The commission element, without the ITO at 10% mark-up is $210 per tour per person (21%).

The commission element, without the ITO at 15% mark-up is $322 per tour per person (32%).

So the Traveler pays variable levels of middleman commissions.. When you have 2 or 3 or a family of travelers, this is a considerable amount of cash and if you have a tour costing in excess of $1,000, just do the math.

Similarly, brochure prices have commissions built in to them for the retailers of 10 – 25%.

If a consumer goes to an Outlet Store they expect outlet prices, if they go directly to the Manufacturer they expect ‘go-direct’ prices, so why not handle travel arrangements in a similar way?

Because, it is only fair that each level of the product sales cycle earns revenue for the business involved and these businesses are necessary and needed to ensure that some products are marketed, promoted, brochures and sold to consumers around the world who may not be comfortable with handling their own bookings and need the assistance of an expert professional travel consultant.. However, with the growth of the internet and the ability to now find the source of travel products, travelers who handle their own arrangements should get a fairer deal on the pricing as a middleman is not needed in the purchasing process.

It does not make sense for most travel operators to show different prices on their websites, Retail, Wholesale or Internet Direct etc as this could undermine their supply chain by deterring the efficient middlemen from representing their products, so we have to find a way for all of the ‘do-it-yourself’ bookers to get a fairer price.

There is a way. A new service has been introduced that enables travel operators to encourage and reward travelers who are comfortable with direct bookings and for them to get a fair price break for the commission no longer required to be paid out. The new service, operated by TopTravelSites, offers TopTravelVouchers for sale that have values equivalent to, or more than the commission elements on the operator’s travel products. These may be purchased by travelers at very deep discounts to their redemption values, getting closer to the direct cost price of the travel product for the consumer… think outlet pricing or go-direct deals.

The Travel Operator still incurs the commission cost by issuing a toptravelvoucher but the beneficiary of the price break is the traveler, not the middleman. By encouraging and rewarding travelers, the operators should get more traffic to their websites.

TopTravelSites can be compared to a retail travel company but it does not sell travel. It only introduces travelers to operators involved with the program and invites them to go directly to the travel websites of its clients. If travelers want to do business directly with the travel providers on the site they can get a price break by purchasing toptravelvouchers online at prices of $30, $50 or $100usd (or equivalent foreign currency). The vouchers have a 100% money-back guarantee and if, after the travel has been completed, the traveler is unhappy with the product, the cost of the voucher is reimbursed and redress is sought from the operator.

Hundreds of vouchers are currently available and new vouchers are being added each month but when you see a voucher valued at 1,500 euros for sale for $100usd it may not be long before you will see thousands of choices. Many other vouchers are available and can be
purchased by single travelers, groups or families, leading to very healthy savings for all ‘do-it-yourself- bookers.

Many travel operators will continue to only sell through a supply chain but this is a program that could be added to their marketing options in the future but there are thousands of travel businesses around the world that want to improve their representation and for their services to be seen by a wider audience of travelers. Most travel operators would always be willing to pay a commission on sales and so this site should appeal to them. It will attract travelers who are comfortable with booking their own arrangements as they are being rewarded by rebated commission and as long as the site operator keeps to low overheads (no bricks and mortar stores or expensive brochures) they will be able to continue rebating commissions to self-booking travelers.

Choosing Appropriate Stainless Steel Rings For Men

Wearing rings is no more confined to the past, in fact, both men and women wear it with great style. In the current times, it is meant for all the ages and classes. They are made of different materials and that includes tungsten, titanium, silver, steel, yellow gold and white gold.

There used to be different kinds of rings that included the signet rings in particular that were handed over to individuals that had to be trusted for other security reasons. However, the rings made of stainless steel can be worn for multiplying the style options and to appear stylish casually. It looks effortless on anyone who wears it. Here are the things that have to be kept in mind when choosing the right ring.

Choosing as Per Occasions

The rings can be chosen as per countless traditions that happen across the world and the world id filled up with several communities. One can select the platinum ring bands for engagement or other occasions related to marriage. The rings often are a symbol of happenings that are significant in one’s life.

This helps in remembering the loved ones and the spouses can be honored. Many also buy the stainless steel rings for men for just style. There are tonnes of varieties available for it online. There are rings that are specifically bought to mark marital status or about to be married. However, the rings for men can be customized as per the choice.

To be Worn as Accessories

Any kind of stainless steel rings for men can be selected if they are to be worn as mere ornaments. They can also be worn to compliment other pieces of hand accessories that include chains, cuff links, and wrist watches. One can wear them as potential style statements and decorate the fingers with the quirky style and patterns.

Wearing rings also add to the confidence and style quotient in a personality thus one must choose them as per one’s individual style. They can be worn without having to worry about scratches. Most of them are hypoallergenic and do not cause any skin infections or allergies.

Selection as Per Size

The wrong size can really be a bad idea when selecting the rings. Hence, the right size must be selected as per the binder size. It should not be very heavy so that the fingers do not feel worn out. Rings made of stainless steel are great for accessory purpose and you must first get the rings sized as per the measurement of the finger so that it is not ill-fitting. It must sit beautifully on your strong fingers without being too tight or be dangling down. Some of the very famous designs available online are corrosion rings, cross rings, thumb rings, cutting rings and special rings.

Things to be Kept in Mind

After having bought rings there are certain things that must always be remembered and that includes minimizing any kind of scratches on the tiny bands. If you are a regular at the swimming pool then you must make sure that the ring shall not come in touch with chlorinated water as it may just wear it down. Also, avoid wearing them if you are indulged in heavy household chores and physical activities.

Reference Services in Academic Libraries in Sierra Leone

Introduction

Society is becoming more stratified and polarized, with the rich and the poor, the educated and uneducated, having limited cognitive skills wider apart than in any time in our history. In this period of increasing stratification by income and ability, the library in academic institutions may acts as a bridge between the entrenched social poles.

Reference libraries have the longest history of any type of library. They existed in the days of clay tablet and from such tablets, information was consulted and a list of concerns is being regarded as the primitive forerunners of current library catalogues. From their beginnings in ancient times, the functions of libraries have not altered significantly. However the format, quantity and content of the materials making up their stock and the resultant services have progressively been transformed to the point where the researchers today have access to a network of sophisticated information resources. The primary role of the library is educational and this has been the attitude if not the realization of reference librarians (Higgens, 1988).

Academic libraries are those designed to meet general studies at the undergraduate and graduate levels and which also support their parent institutions in delivering their programs for an effective teaching and implementation of practical skills. Higgens (1988) defined an academic library as that attached to help academic institutions above secondary level serving the teaching and research needs of students, staff and researchers. According to Harrods (2000) academic libraries are those found in universities, polytechnics, colleges and all other institutions forming part of or associated with the educational institutions.

Reference Services at the Fourah Bay College Library

Fourah Bay College library was established in 1827. It is located at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone in the Michael Jollife Building which was named after the late Mr. Michael Jollife, an expatriate who served as College librarian from 1961-1970.

The first floor of the library houses the reception desk; photocopying room; issue desk; Sierra Leone Collection (incorporating the United Nations Collection); the American Shelf; General Reference Collection; Cataloguing Department; Acquisition Department; Circulation Department and the College Librarian’s office. The second floor holds the Textbook Collection. The third floor contains the General Lending Collection.

The lower ground floor houses the Bindery; staff rooms and stores. The library has Professional, Para-professional and other support staff. It uses the Dewey Decimal Classification Scheme and the Triplicate Issuing System with Card catalogue.

Fourah Bay College library is one of the outstanding academic libraries in Sierra Leone established with the mission statement “to build a comprehensive collection of recorded information to support effective teaching, research and training in the Liberal Arts, Pure and Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology, Social Sciences and Law and related fields to facilitate speedy access to information, and to optimize the use of collection by potential library users of Fourah Bay College and other institutions.”

Reference Service is the peak of library activity job. It involves the maintenance of a resource bank from which answers to queries are provided and materials needed by users are made available.Davidson (1979) defined reference service as the provision of information and materials to people entering a reference library and requesting help from the library staff. Katz (1997) viewed reference service as the behind-the-scene activities of the reference library in the selection, acquisition and maintenance of the library stock and its careful recordings and administration.

When we talk of reference service in academic libraries, we mean those activities undertaken by librarians and associated types of staff from the reference department in academic libraries. This is achieved through the use of collection of books, and other materials stocked in the reference department for reference purposes distinct from collection made for home reading or other use outside the library. The reference process in academic libraries involves the following:

• The user recognizes his need for information;
• The user puts his question to the librarian;
• The librarian engages the questioner in a reference dialogue;
• The librarian refines and restates the question;
• The librarian formulates the search strategy;
• The librarian identifies and exploits his own and/or external information resources;
• The librarian presents his tentative findings;
• The user assesses the relevance of these in relation to his requirements; and
• The user accepts an approved answer.

Reference materials at the Fourah Bay College Library include:dictionaries, encyclopedias, abstract journals, directories, yearbooks, biographies periodicals/serials, indexes to periodicals, newspapers, maps and charts, technical reports, patents, standard specifications, dissertations, theses, conference proceedings and the academic and administrative calendar of events or the operation of the college.

In addition to these materials the library offers the following services:

Reference Service: This refers to the personal assistance given to users in finding specific information whether direct or indirect. At Fourah Bay College Library, a resource bank is maintained from which answers to questions are provided and materials needed by users are made available.

Bibliographic Service: The library prepares book lists and bibliographies for its clients, especially post-graduate students which serve as a great aid in their research activities especially in the writing of their theses and dissertation.

Photocopying Service: This service is provided for students who wish to photocopy their notes as well as lecturers who want to reproduce multiple copies of useful materials to make their lecture notes. Users pay a fee for this service.

Internet Service: This is the latest among the services provided at the Fourah Bay College Library. The Library provides an opportunity for staff and students to access information online via the use of the Internet. However, to use the system, the clientele must have some skills in the use computers and a fee is also charged for the service.

Binding Service: Mutilated references materials are sent to bindery to be bound. However it is not a free for all service as some cost is charged for the services rendered especially to students and for personal work of staff members.

The reference department at the Fourah Bay College library is a special one from which materials cannot be borrowed for home reading. It is served by special librarians called Reference Librarians or Information Officers, who assist and advise patrons in their research and other literature needs. They provide bibliographic or intellectual access and offer targeted services and programs with the mission of educating, informing and entertaining a variety of audiences and the goal of stimulating individual learning and advancing society as a whole.

Reference Queries:are also answered in the library. These questions posed by the library patrons to the reference librarians with the aim of getting the right information to satisfy their needs. These queries are divided into:

Directional Queries: These are queries in which the reference librarian is asked simply for directions.

Ready Reference Queries: These are referred to as quick reference questions. They are queries in which the reference librarians need to consult only one source, and that adjacent to the inquiry point, in order to deal with the user’s needs. This is distinguished from the purely directional level of work by the fact that the librarians need to consult some data rather than simply answer from personal knowledge.

Specific Search Queries: These are described as those in which reference librarians may need to consult several sources to ensure complete the satisfaction of user needs. They are the kind which are clearly understood without too much discussion and the sources required are obvious and fairly elementary.

Research Queries: These are queries that require extended searches, perhaps over several days and possibly involving a number of library staff concurrently. The marshaling of facts and figures from a wide range of sources, together with the need to write extensive background notes and explanations, and probably to borrow materials from other libraries and make a telephone call to advice or getting assistance from other libraries will be a feature of this type of query

Challenges of Reference Services at the Fourah Bay College Library

Academic Libraries in Sierra Leone, especially Fourah Bay College Library are not without challenges. These range from shortage of funds through lack of adequate professionally skilled staff to erratic power supply.

The library is wholly and solely dependent upon the college administration for funding. An assessment of funding at Fourah Bay College Library reveals that a very low priority is given to the institution’s academic nerve center. The library is gravely underfunded. Games and Sports Division is given a higher quotation than the library. This financial challenge has therefore limited the library in the provision of an excellent reference service to its clients. The library also lacks the required current reference materials to handle reference queries. This financial constraints has limited the library in acquiring the most recent reference materials.

Further the number of professional staff is small compared to the number of para-professional and other support staff. The reference section does not have adequate staff to handle the volume of reference queries from the bulk of the users of the library especially during peak periods.

Power outages also pose a serious challenge. The problem, though a national one, has affected the operations of the library. The 21st century library is supposed to be a digital library which must thrive on power supply. Sadly power supply in Sierra Leone is erratic and this has handicapped the Fourah Bay College library greatly. As such staff and users could not make use of such facilities as computer, searching the Internet for recent reference materials and information or photocopying materials which cannot be used outside the library or even have access to automated reference materials.

The reference department at the library does not have Internet facilities to aid in answering reference queries that require current response. Also the seating accommodation in the reference department at the library is inadequate and cannot accommodate the large number of students in the college who come in for reference services. The reference department also lacks Current Awareness Services (CAS), Selective Dissemination of Information (SDI) all of which form the basis for reference services. Moreover the reference sources and resources available at the reference department are not well publicized or marketed which could serve as a strong link between the department and the clients.

Indeed, reference service is one of the most important services that a library uses to meet its aims and objectives. There is considerable potential in the use the college library of reference services but there are also many challenges. There should be therefore commitment on the part of the librarians, library administration, users and the college administration in order to achieve quality and sustainability in the development and improvement of reference services. Only through their active participation will reference services transform the teaching and learning process, alter the nature of information seeking, organizing and using behavior at Fourah Bay College.

Useful Watch Hunting Tips

Picking out watches isn’t always easy. You have to take into consideration all the style and color variations, in addition to feature functionality, all the while staying within your price range. Where should you begin looking? What are some popular brands to look out for? Start here for some useful suggestions!

Shopping online for them is a great way to get an idea of what you’re looking for. In the privacy of your own home, you can ponder what style or functionality you’d like, without pushy sales people staring you down.

Once you figure out style, brand and price range, you can go into a store with an idea of what you want. If you want a watch site that compares several other sites, check out Bizrate. For discounted ones, Overstock is a popular site with great selection.

In the stores, what brands should you look for? First, consider your budget. Are you looking for a $29,000 new one or a $20 Catalog watch? For high-end watches priced in the thousands, check out Cartier, Breitling, Omega, Universal Geneve, Jacques Lemans and Tag Heuer.

For watches in the hundreds price range, you can get a good deal on a Movado, Bulova, Gucci, Citizen, or Invicta. Occasionally you can find some Tag Heuers and Omegas in this price range as well. In the lower hundreds, Seiko, Calvin Klein and Hugo Boss offer classy styles.

Perhaps you’re looking for a good gift watch that doubles as a piece of jewelry. If you’re on a strict budget, start with department stores. For instance, at Macy’s, you could buy a women’s Fossil bracelet watch with a sparkling Swarvoski crystal and stainless steel band, a diamond marker and Mother of Pearl inlay for $57 and get a bonus diamond accent pendant gift with your watch purchase for an additional $49.

However, if you’re looking to really impress for that special occasion, you will want to begin looking for jewelry watches at a jewelers like Zales, Kay’s or Littman’s. You could get a stainless steel ladies Bulova watch with diamond inlays for $300 (or $20/month) at Zales, with a pink sapphire ring bonus gift for an extra $30.

Tiffany and Company is world renowned as being the quintessential jewelry watch, but expect to pay in the thousands. If you’re looking for the extreme in high-end jewelry watches, you will have to visit New York City or Toronto to find an authorized dealer in North America.

Warranties vary as much as the colors, shapes and functions of the various watches you’ll be looking at, so be sure you’re getting a good deal all around. Most inexpensive watches will give you a one to two year warranty, but when you’re buying watches with jewel inlays, you should be getting a more secure service plan. Nothing’s worse than losing a diamond accent, but it happens! Also, when shopping online, be wary of deals that seem “too good to be true” — because they probably are!