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In the News this Week...
brought to you by News Editor, Roger Bray
New flights from Birmingham plannedabout 22 hours ago
BMI Regional is to launch flights from Birmingham to Graz in eastern Austria, Nuremberg in Germany and Gothenburg in Sweden. Probably the least widely known of the three destinations is the Styrian capital Graz – an attractive city with a fine, old centre and a magnificent cathedral. Services there will start on 27 February with two round trips a week, increasing to four the following month, Flights on the other two routes will begin on 8 May.
The Gambia – British travellers being evacuatedabout 22 hours ago
British holidaymakers are being flown home from The Gambia following the imposition of a state of emergency there. Travel organization ABTA estimates there are around 2000 Britons currently on holiday there with its member companies, not to mention those who have travelled independently. Thomas Cook organising additional flights to bring home 985 holidaymakers and dispatching a team to provide assistance at Banjul Airport. Specialist operator The Gambia Experience said its first repatriation flight to Gatwick would be today on 18 January with another on Friday 20 January. Details of Manchester and Birmingham flights would be given to customers it their resorts. The moves follow new advice from the Foreign Office not to travel to the country unless your trip is essential. ABTA warned independent travellers that their insurance policies would be void if they ignored the advice and advised them to contact the airlines they booked with. It said package holidaymakers with advance bookings should contact their tour operators to discuss options for changing their departure dates, switching to alternative holidays or arranging refunds. For example, The Gambia Experience said all three options were open to customers departing up to 15 February. Advising those due to fly out later than that it said it would review its amendment and cancellation policy “on a rolling basis” and contact them no later than two weeks before their planned departure dates.
London tourism surge prompts price fears2 days ago
The weak £ could push up some holiday prices in the UK as well as those abroad. Preliminary figures for tourism to London in December show hotels in London were fuller than at any time since records began – and that the average daily rate guests paid increased by seven per cent. The figures come from international research company STR. The rate rise must be viewed with a little caution, as business in the same month of 2015 was depressed in the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks. But with the number of rooms available up by 2.7% and demand from visitors soaring by 10%, indications are that this won’t be a vintage year for bargain breaks in the capital. The figures also raise the question whether the same impact will be felt in other UK destinations popular with tourists from overseas.
More cheap flights from Stansted3 days ago
Ryanair is to launch flights to nine destinations from Stansted for the coming summer. Starting on various dates in April and July the budget airline will launch four services a week to Nimes, three to Copenhagen, Cagliari, Beziers and Grenoble, two to Clermont Ferrand and Strasbourg and one to Nice. It will also up the number of flights on 13 existing routes.
Cruising and cycling on the rise6 days ago
The combination of river cruising and cycling looks set for a big increase in popularity. CroisiEurope has launched five new itineraries – on the Danube, the Loire, the Rhone and Saone, the Gironde and the Rhine. Nights are spent on board and some – but not all – days include a bike ride in the morning and a cruise to the next stopping point after lunch. The Danube itinerary, for example, includes rides to Bratislava’s Schloss Hoff and Devin Castle, Castle Hill and Margaret Island in Budapest, and a bike tour of Vienna.
Italian modern art – London gallery to re-open7 days ago
London’s only gallery devoted to modern Italian art is scheduled to re-open on 13 January following a major refurbishment. The Estorick Collection, in Canonbury Square, displays works from the first half of the 20th century. The opening will be marked by a special exhibition, including photographs, documenting the role of British forces in Italy during the First World War. It will include drawings and paintings by Sydney Carline, a Royal Flying Corps pilot who served as an official war artist. Tasked with creating a record of early aerial combat, he sketched mostly from the cockpit of a Sopwith Camel. The exhibition runs until 19 March.
Kingston upon Thames gets new hotel8 days ago
A new hotel has opened under Hilton’s Doubletree brand in Kingston upon Thames. With 146 rooms and suites, the property is a short walk from the station, where trains run to central London, Wimbledon and Richmond (with a convenient connection to Kew Gardens). The river is nearby, with boats to Hampton Court and – for the more energetic – access to the long distance Thames Path.
Cheapest week to fly identified9 days ago
The cheapest time to fly to the greatest number of destinations is the week covering the last few days of November and the first few of December. So says the online flight search and travel deals company Cheapflights. Its managing director Andrew Shelton says this is “consistently the cheapest time of year to visit many of the most popular holiday spots, including Dubai, Thailand, South Afrida, Barbados and New York”. Its analysis shows flights to Barbados, for example were on average £555 cheaper than in late July.
New mountain walk launched10 days ago
A walk in Piedmont’s remote Valle Maira – where the Occitan language survives – is among the new itineraries launched for next summer by tour operator Inntravel. The valley lies close to Italy’s north east border with France, in the Cottian Alps. Its formerly abandoned villages are being revived thanks to the renovation of an ancient network of paths known as the Percorsi Occitani, Graded for stronger hikers, the eight night package includes stays at an agriturismo, a mountain guesthouse and a rural. Baggage is transported between them. Prices start at £995, including half board and six picnics – but not flights.
Historic Warsaw hotel to re-open13 days ago
A hotel that housed German officers during the Second World War and was severely damaged during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944 is to re-open this year as a five star ember of the Raffles group. When it opened originally in 1857 the Europejski was one of the most luxurious hotels in the Russian Empire. After the Polish capital was liberated in 1945 it became a military school. In 1962, with Poland under communist rule, it opened again as a hotel, run by the state tourist organisation, Orbis. Following the collapse of communism, heirs of its first owners sued to get it back, succeeding after a case that dragged on for twelve years. The restored property, close to the city’s old town, will have 103 rooms, a restaurant with an outdoor terrace, a patisserie harking back to its early days, and a spa.
War & Peace Museum to re-open after re-vamp14 days ago
The Museum of War and Peace in the French Ardennes is scheduled to re-open in September with a big increase in exhibits. The museum, which covers three conflicts – the Franco- Prussian, First and Second World Wars – is in the village of Novion-Porcien, north-east of Reims. During a major renovation its collection has been enhanced by gifts and loans from other museums in France and elsewhere. It will include over 50 heavy vehicles from both World Wars, nearly 500 weapons, 175 uniforms and objects from the daily lives of soldiers and civilians. And a new circuit for visitors promises “total immersion” in the history of war through the use of technology including 35 audio visual displays.
Cruise company ceases trading15 days ago
The travel plans of thousands of Britons have been wrecked following the collapse of major cruise group All Leisure Holidays. The failure will hit an estimated 13000 customers booked on cruises with Voyages of Discovery and Swan Hellenic, which were part of the group and had both already cancelled trips at short notice over the festive period. However, as the company was part of the Civil Aviation Authority’s ATOL financial protection scheme they will be able to claim full refunds. The two cruise lines currently have 400 passengers abroad but most of them should be able to fly home using scheduled airlines tickers issued as par5t of their holiday bookings. The CAA is organisation repatriation of the others at no extra cost, Another of the group’s companies, Page and Moy Travel Group Holidays – trading as Just You – has also ceased trading, but its bookings have been transferred to G Adventures (UK) Ltd so customers’ holidays will go ahead. All Leisure’s other cruise brand, Hebridean Island Cruises, whose ship has been chartered in the past by the Queen, was sold to a consortium of travel trade investors before Christmas. It is thought that All Leisure’s problems were partly a result of the fall in the value of the £ after the Brexit referendum and partly by the recent wave of international terrorist attacks.
All Leisure’s chairman Roger Allard said the group had been battling for “four to five years” against the effects of the Arab Spring and terrorism on “iconic and cultural destinations in the eastern Mediterranean, Black Sea and North Africa”. This had deterred customers from the America and Australia. “Then Brexit happened in June. That hit the cruising business in particular because so many of the costs are paid in foreign currency: fuel, crew and leases are in dollars while food and port costs are in euros”. While it was possible to increase prices of air packages, for example tours his firm couldn’t compensate for sterling’s slide by raising those for cruises. Mr Allard said he had done all he could to minimise the effects of the failure on customers, creditors, travel agents and staff.
Does your holiday booking come with risks - warning15 days ago
As the year’s busiest holiday booking period gets under way, travel trade association ABTA is warning potential customers not to get caught out by fraudsters and others operating outside the law. Last year it identified over 100 firms selling package holidays without providing consumers with proper protection against the risk they might be left out of pocket or stranded abroad in the event of a company failure. The association reminds travellers they should book holidays that are ATOL protected – and that they should always receive an ATOL certificate. It also warns against scam and cloned websites. The former are set up purely to defraud consumers. ABTA says such scams are a cause of growing concern. “On a legitimate website there should be a locked padlock symbol; in the browser window frame – which appears when you attempt to log in or register – or the web address should begin with ‘https’. Cloned sites imitate the original with subtle differences. Check the address is exactly the same as that of the company, says ABTA. Watch out if the only means of payment is by bank transfer. This indicates no bank is prepared to give the firm credit card facilities – and it will be virtually impossible to get your money back. And take a little time to check the company’s credentials – making sure they aren’t falsely using the logos of associations such as ABTA or the ATOL system.
Canadian canal holidays planned16 days ago
Le Boat, which claims to be Europe’s biggest operator of self drive waterway holidays, plans to open its first North American base. From May 2018 it will launch 16 Horizon cruisers on the Rideau Canal in Ontario. The canal opened in 1832, having been backed as part of Canada’s defences – it provided a secure supply route from vital shipyards at Kingston, on Lake Ontario, and Montreal, avoiding the vulnerable St. Lawrence River. The project won the supports of the Duke of Wellington. A mind boggling feat of engineering and now a Unesco World Heritage Site, it runs for 125 miles though a chain of lakes. Some 1000 workers dies during the six years of its construction, either from accidents or malaria. Le Boat’s base will be at Smiths Falls, in eastern Ontario.
Cruise ship beach opens17 days ago
A beach purpose designed for cruise ship passengers has opened on the coast of Abu Dhabi. Sir Bani Yas beach, which lies around 100 miles from Abu Dhabi city, is claimed to be the only one in the Gulf region dedicated to cruise ship stopovers. Passengers can use over 200 sunbeds, spa and sports facilities. Shore excursions include wildlife tours of nearby Sir Bani Yas island, mountain biking, snorkeling and kayaking. The beach is expected to attract 39 cruise ships in its first winter, bringing some 60,000 passengers.
Rome to ban city centre coach tours?20 days ago
Rome is reported to be planning to ban coach tours of the city centre. According to the European Tourism Association, which is resisting the move, coaches will be allowed only for school tours and to drop off and pick up groups. Operators will be charges €600 for each permit – and increase from €100, ETOA claims. The Association understands the changes and planned to take effect next month but says the industry needs much more time to plan for them. It surveyed ten of its “most important” coach operators taking tourists to Rome, found all their customers took sightseeing tours while there and spend a total of over €400 million. ETOA says the city’s Metro system isn’t designed to meet the needs of tourists and its buses can barely cope with demand from the Roman public.
New extension for St Helena ship21 days ago
The mail ship service to St Helena, which headed for the axe following the building of a new airport on the island, has been extended until February 2018. The full operation of the £285 million airport was postponed after trials showed flights could be disrupted by sudden variations in wind speed or direction. For schedules go to http://rms-st-helena.com.
Offshore experience opens in Rotterdam22 days ago
Visitors to a new exhibition in Rotterdam are promised a sensory experience of what it’s like to work in offshore energy exploration. Wearing safety vests and helmets and surrounded by a 360 degree film projection they get the feel of life on a rig at sea. A lift simulates a descent to 3 kms below the waves. Hi-tech presentations provide a glimpse at how workers from helicopter pilots to crane operators perform their tasks. In a constant battle with the elements, Supported by 45 companies in the industry the exhibition, at the Dutch city’s Maritime Museum, looks at the search for oil, gas and renewable sources of power, such as offshore wind farms. It answers questions including: how to position a 30,000 tonne platform to the nearest centimetre on the sea bed, how to deal with an oil leak deep under the sea – and how to build an offshore wind turbine.
Jet2 adds ups Stansted budget flights23 days ago
Low cost airline Jet2, which will launch its first flights from Stansted in March, says demand has been so high it has added an extra four destinations form the airport, increasing the total to 25. Starting in July it will now operate summer services to Antalya, Dalaman, Corfu and Split.
Sharm el Sheikh: Thomas Cook pulls plug on next summer24 days ago
Thomas Cook has abandoned hope of resuming flights to Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt next summer. The Foreign Office advised British holidaymakers not to fly there following the October 2015 crash of a Russian airliner that had taken off from the Red Sea resort’s airport. The disaster was blamed on terrorists. Managing director Chris Mottershead the company had received no indication that the advice was likely to change in the near future. It would continue to offer holidays to Hurghada, which is some distance away one Egypt’s western Red Sea coast. “As you can imagine, we plan our summer programme many months in advance. We need to make decisions about how many rooms we want and work closely with the hoteliers to ensure our customers have the best time and the highest quality experience. Having left it as long as possible, we have decided that even if the advice were to change in the next few months, we wouldn’t be able to offer a full programme to the resort next summer. We had made a small number of packages and flights available on our website – highlighting the travel advice – and those customers will be offered alternative holidays, including trips to Hurghada.”