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In the News this Week...
brought to you by News Editor, Roger Bray
Cape Town return for Virginabout 16 hours ago
Virgin Atlantic will fly from London to Cape Town this winter after an absence of six years. The airline, which axed the route in 2014, will operate a daily, seasonal service from 25 October, using Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft. Outbound flights wil depart from Heathrow at 4.20pm, arriving at 5.55am. London bound services will leave at 8am, arriving at 6pm. Reservations open tomorrow (February18). And – from 10 January – British Airways will operate two extra flights to the city.
Colorado: off piste ski area opens for trials4 days ago
A new ski area without lifts – with unpisted slopes for experienced and first time powder snow skiers – is set to open for trials in Colorado this weekend. Visitors will have to scale the slopes on touring skis fitted with skins to enjoy what the Americans call back country skiing. Whitely Peak, which is just over 10,000ft at its summit, is 20 miles north of the town of Kremmling and about 40 minutes by road southeast of the well known, conventional resort of Steamboat Springs. Its slopes include wide open meadows and descents between aspen trees. The area has been leased by “Bluebirdbackcountry”:https//:www.bluebirdbackcountry.com, which promises professionals will monitor snow conditions to minimise the risk of avalanches, though all visitors will be required to carry emergency location transceivers and shovels. But much of the terrain within the area boundary “is at an angle that is fun to ski yet has a low probability of hazard”, say the operator. A ski patrol will be on hand inc case of accidents and other problems. Introductory lessons will be on offer to those unfamiliar with powder. Visitors will also be able to hire guides. Only 300 skiers a day will be allowed on the slopes. The area will be open on 15 days between tomorrow and 15 March.
Use hand sanitiser to combat virus says travel health expert5 days ago
Air travellers in transit – particularly through Asian airports such as Singapore’s Changi – should carry a hand sanitiser to protect themselves against contact with the coronavirus. That’s the advice from travel health expert Dr Richard Dawood. “I don’t see any real value in wearing masks”, he says. “Most masks are for single use. They are difficult to use because you have to get a really good fit. And secondly, they are designed to filter out causes of infection so they become potentially contaminated on the outside. So (after wearing them) you need to clean them before handling them.” Travellers can make risky contact at airports. “You hold on to hand rails, handle the tray at security for example. Then when you get back on the aircraft and breathe a sigh of relief you may be offered some peanuts and touch your mouth, nose or eyes. That’s when you can be vulnerable. I would recommend using a simple sanitiser first.” In fact, he advises, it’s also a good idea to use one after travelling on public transport in your home city. Dr Dawood was one of the first doctors in the UK to establish travel medicine as a distinct speciality. He established the Fleet Street Clinic in London, which includes travel assistance such as vaccinations in its practice. His book Travellers’ Health was first published in 1986. It has some 70 contributors and is available from Amazon.
Longbow to be feted at Warwick Castle6 days ago
Looking for somewhere to take the grandchildren at half term? Warwick Castle will stage what it claims is the UK’s only medieval archery festival. From Saturday until 23 February a team of more than ten top British archers will take part in daily demonstrations of the skill that made English longbowmen such a potent force. Entry to the demonstrations wil be included in standard admission prices (from £20 for adults, £18 for children) but having a go yourself will cost extra.
Coronavirus: new airline, cruise precautions7 days ago
British Airways has extended cancellation of flights to Beijing and Shanghai until 31 March. Its service to Hong Kong remain unaffected. Information on how to get a refund for, or re-book flights to all three destinations can be found at BA.com. Meanwhile, as part of a raft of precautions against the spread of the coronavirus, the CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) says its members are to deny boarding to anyone who, in the previous 14 days “have travelled from, visited or transited via airports in China, including Hong Kong and Macau, within 14 days before embarkation.”
Eurostar's direct Amsterdam service goes on sale7 days ago
Tickets for Eurostar’s planned new seamless, time saving service between Amsterdam and London went on sale today. The company has been operating non stop trains from London to the Dutch city since 2018, But until an international agreement could be reached to allow passport and security checks on departure from the Netherlands, passengers travelling in the reverse direction had to disembark in Brussels. This adds 47 minutes or more to the journey time. The new service will start on 30 April. Initially there will be two departures a day from Amsterdam, though Eurostar aims to incrdasde that to three, and then four. There are currently three daily Amsterdam trains from London. From 18 May passengers from Rotterdam will also be able to clear checks before boarding.
New hotel brings Brooklyn to Manchester8 days ago
A hotel with echoes of New York’s characteristic brownstones opens this week in Manchester. Designed to pay homage to its namesake, the Hotel Brooklyn even has a bar and restaurant named after the writer Damon Runyon, whose colourful characters, from gamblers to gangsters, reflected post Prohibition life there. The property’s 189 bedrooms – 18 of them accessible – are claimed to have been inspired by Brooklyn’s loft spaces. Its pre-opening publicity say guests will be encouraged to linger and mingle on wide steps beyond the lobby, a la Nathan Detroit and Harry the Horse. The hotel is in Portland Street, not far from the city’s Chinatown.
New Norway flights for Southend11 days ago
Norwegian airline Wideroe is to switch its daily London-Kristiansand service from Stansted to Southend. From 29 March flights will depart at 2.20pm on weekdays, 8.30am on Saturdays and 5.15pm on Sundays. Flights to Southend wil depart at 10.50am on weekdays, 7am on Saturdays and 3,45om on Sundays. Kristiansand, on the south east coast of Norway, is the country’s fifth largest city.
Asian art museum set to re-open12 days ago
Seattle’s art deco Asian Art Museum is scheduled to re-open this weekend (on 8 February), after a major renovation and expansion. Instead of galleries dedicated to countries, such and India, Japan and China, its impressive collection will now be arranged by themes. To quote the museum’s website: “Placing a bodhisattva from Pakistan, a stupa from India and a demon fropm China side by side reveals unifying ideas while sharing culturally specific meanings”. A new gallery will allow the museum to exhibit more of the collection.
Heathrow to test navigation app for visually impaired passengers13 days ago
A new app that helps visually impaired people know where they are will go on trials at Heathrow Airport this spring. Called NaviLens, it can read special coloured markers at long range and provide audible information. The app has already been piloted as part of a major accessibility trial by the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority and is in use on the Barcelona’s network of buses, trains, trams and even the Montjuic funicular. Patented by Spanish technology company Neosisted and the University of Alicante, it can detect a 12cm marker on a pillar from 12 metres away and can also read multiple markers simultaneously, even when the user is walking briskly. The Heathrow trial will be conducted in collaboration with the Royal National Institute of Blind People.
New RHS garden to open in July14 days ago
The Royal Horticultural Society has set 30 July as the open date for its new Bridgewater garden in Salford, Greater Manchester. At eleven acres and the size of six football pitches its centrepiece, the Weston Walled Garden, will be one of the UK’s biggest. In total Bridgewater will measure 154 acres. It is being developed on an estate inherited in 1748 by the third Duke of Bridgewater. The second of the estate’s two manor houses, Worsley New Hall, was visited by Queen Victoria and the Duke of Wellington. It was demolished just after the Second World War. The site had not been cultivated for decades when the RHS realised its potential. Landscape architect Tom Stuart-Smith has masterminded its rejuvenation, which will include a water garden of interlocking streams, pools and waterfalls connecting new and old lakes.
Big flights increase for northeast travellers15 days ago
Travellers based in the northeast are promised a big increase in flight connections this year. Teesside International Airport will see what Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has called “a new dawn”, with the addition of six new services by Eastern Airways. From today the airline will operate to Cardiff. Flights to Belfast City, Dublin and Southampton will start on 9 March. On 27 April the start of services to London City Airport will see Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool catchment area will be connected to the capital for the first time in eleven years. And on 30 March, Eastern will launch seasonal flights to the Isle of Man. New flights from Newcastle to Munich were also set to take off today. Lufthansa will operate six round trips a week to its hub at the Bavarian capital’s airport. The move will not only provide a new city break option for traveller based in the north east. It will also offer a wide range of connections to onward destinations using the German airline’s long haul services. The 2hr direct flights will depart from Newcastle at 1.40 pm, arriving at 4.40 pm.
Travel questions linger as Brexit transition begins18 days ago
As the UK leaves the EU tonight, travellers may expect a few months of calm after a turbulent period of Brexit uncertainty that saw the collapse of Thomas Cook and the controversial Government decision to save Flybe’s bacon. Major tour operators, some badly stung by fall out from the Cook failure, are quietly satisfied with summer bookings during the important post-Christmas weeks. Consumers have benefited from bargain long haul fares resulting from spare capacity and aggressive competition. This may prove to be the calm before another storm, however. In the view of one industry insider the second half if the year “may well throw us back into uncertainty and the Chancellor’s remarks (that Britain will not be aligned to EU rules) have done nothing to allay fears”. Brinkmanship over the Government’s refusal to contemplate any extension of the transition period will inevitably raise the same questions that have been hanging over travellers since the referendum. What will happen to the value of the £? With the Government indicating EU citizens will face the same immigration checks as those from other countries, will your passage through EU passport controls prove less than smooth? Will a deal be struck to keep the UK in the European Common Aviation Area. And if not, will the Government be forced to negotiate separate, bilateral air treaties with each of the remaining EU 27 countries, with all the implications for flights that inevitably drawn out process would entail? Will the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) survive our departure? Or will EU members follow Portugal in offering deals of their own? If not, expect a nasty hike in the cost European travel insurance cover. Meanwhile the Government has promised “reforms to airline insolvency, to strike a better balance between strong consumer protection and the interests of taxpayers”. It will oblige the Civil Aviation Authority to repatriate passengers after a collapse whether or not their trips are protected under the ATOL scheme. Will the Queen’s Speech promise lead to a levy on scheduled air fares, enabling the establishment of a new protection fund? Could the ATOL scheme, which currently reflects EU consumer legislation, be revamped to cover passengers buying such flights? Perhaps, but it’s hard to see this being a short term priority. Meanwhile recent events look certain to persuade more people to seek the shelter of the ATOL umbrella. This suggests another boost for the package holiday, whose demise has been so often predicted.
Cruise with Strictly stars launched19 days ago
Strictly Come Dancing regular Anton Du Beke and his professional partner Erin Boag, who also starred on the show, will join passengers on an Emerald Waterways cruise down the Rhone and Saone rivers in France this spring. They will perform in Avignon and take part in a masterclass and a Q&A session. The eight day cruise, from Lyon to Arles, departs on 11 April. Prices start at £2595 per person. Meanwhile ballroom aficionados heading for Buenos Aires? The Argentine capital’s tourist office can organise tango lessons, starting with a “learn the basics in an hour” session. Individual and group sessions are available. They start at around £12. Further information on the tourist office “website”:https://turismo.buenosaires.gob.ar/en/agrupador-noticias/tango
Grandparents help fund multi generation holiday boom20 days ago
Demand for multi-generational holidays is booming, the latest annual Silver Travel Advisor survey has found. Over a quarter of over 50s had taken such a trip in the past five years – two thirds for more than a week and the same proportion going abroad. The evidence gains strength from the finding that, in the past year, the number holidaying with between one and three generations of family members rose from 13% to 19%. When it came to paying, just over half the group (54%) split the bill and parents picked up the tab in 23% of cases. But for the remaining 23% of multi-generational holidays the entire cost fell on the bank of grandad and grandma– and that despite the fact that many such trips are inevitably taken during school holidays, when prices are at their highest. Most of the time travelling with sons, daughters and often grandchildren proved harmonious, the survey suggests. Nearly three quarters of the silver travellers involved (74%) said they would do it again, 18% said maybe but only 7% said never again. Elsewhere the survey showed City breaks are most popular with over 50s, followed by beach holidays, all inclusive trips and cruises. There has been a sharp rise in adventure holidays – up by 18 percentage points to 25% of trips taken silver travellers. Over half of them (57%) considered themselves more adventurous than they were in their 30s. A high proportion of those questioned (45%) had taken a holiday alone in the previous five years, and of those a surprising 41% had partners at home. Nineteen per cent of solo travellers said they wanted to see places their partner didn’t want to visit, 10% said their partners had different interests and 18% said they had nobody to go with. River cruising still have some way to go to realise their full potential with silver travellers. A whopping 41% perceived them as being too expensive, compared with 30% who felt the same about ocean cruises. But more of those who did take to the rivers (93%) were keen do it again. And the main reason for that was the ability to see many places in a short time.
Flights cancelled as coronavirus crisis hits holiday travel20 days ago
Travellers with holidays booked to China face confusion after the coronavirus crisis prompted the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to advise against all but essential trips there. British Airways has suspended its flights to Beijing and Shanghai, initially until tomorrow, while it assesses the situation. It says passengers booked to fly until 23 February can switch to another flight or request a refund. Its flights to Hong Kong remain unaffected. Passenger were advised to keep an eye on BA’s website in case of further developments. Chinese airlines were reported to be still operating to mainland China this morning. But Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon will reduce flight capacity on flights there from Hong Kong “by 50% or more” from tomorrow. They will waive all charges for re-booking or re-routing travel for all tickets issued worldwide on or before 28 January for confirmed bookings on flights arriving in or departing from the Chinese mainland until 31 March. Tour firms will be thankful that this is low season for travel to China. They are expected to contact customers due to travel to offer them refunds, the option of postponing their departures or holidays in alternative destinations. Kerry Golds, managing director of luxury tour operator Abercrombie & Kent said: “Alongside our China and Hong Kong offices, we are monitoring this situation closely – based on past experiences with SARs in 2003, it is encouraging that the Chinese government has taken unprecedented steps to face the outbreak and deal with it in a transparent manner. Given this is the low travel season for inbound travel to China we are hopeful that the issue can be can resolved before the spring travel season begins. For clients with immediate departures to China we’re offering them the opportunity to postpone, cancel or rebook to a new destination free of charge. For guests departing in the coming months we will discuss options with them as the situation evolves.” In its latest advice the FCO said:“The Chinese authorities are focused on tackling the impact of the virus in different ways, many of which are likely to impact British nationals in all areas of China, not just Hubei province (epicentre of the outbreak). These include temperature checks at transport hubs and other locations; quarantine arrangements for travel between different parts of the country; and restrictions on travel between and within cities. Medical facilities across the country are under significant pressure. Some are not accepting patients and others have long queues. Some businesses have closed. Many tourist attractions are closed. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism has suspended all tour group companies’ activities to prevent further virus spread.”
Manhattan gets new hotel21 days ago
A hotel with views of the Empire State Building has opened on New York’s Times Square. Centrally located on the tourist trail, the newly constructed property has 320 rooms, all with free wi fi. Guests can see the iconic, Art Deco skyscraper from 70 of them. There are also views of the building – and beyond to the Hudson River – from what is described as a “seasonal” rooftop cocktail bar.
Morocco desert short breaks launched22 days ago
Short breaks stargazing in the desert will be an option from next weekend with the launch of a new wilderness camp near Marrakech. While the Sahara is a long drive away, the Agafay Desert Dark Sky camp, which is set to open on 1 February, is only 30 minutes from the city. Operated by Eco-camp Africa, the camp faces the Atlas mountains and has distant views of Mount Toukbal. It comprises en suite tents and “dark sky bubbles”. Other activities include camel treks, 4×4 buggy trips, off road biking and hikes. A three night package including flights and full board accommodation costs from £499 with Specialist Morocco.
Tourism boost for Leicester as new hotels open25 days ago
Leicester has two new hotels. The 154 room Novotel and extended stay Aparthotel Adagio are part of the £50m city centre Great Central Square development. The openings reflect optimism that Leicester can attract more tourists, building on the surge of interest that followed the discovery of Richard III’s remains under a car park there in 2012 and the opening, two years later, of a visitor centre focusing on the find and the history of England’s last Plantagenet king. The new hotels are in walking distance of the New Walk Museum and Art Gallery and 20 minutes on foot from the station.
Cruise "industry first" for new expedition ships26 days ago
Two new expedition ships to be launched by Viking Cruises will incorporate enclosed “in-ship” marinas, allowing passengers to board excursion boats without being exposed to wind and waves. Claimed to be an industry first, they will feature 85ft slipways behind opening doors. The vessels, Vikings Octantis and Polaris, will have hulls strengthened again ice and stabilisers designed to reduce rolling by 50% when the ships are stationary. They will carry 387 guests in 189 staterooms. The former will begin sailing to the Great Lakes and Antarctica in January 2022. The latter will debut in August that year cruising to Antarctica and the Arctic. Viking has established partnerships with several research institutions whose scientists –in one case ornithologists – will travel on the ships. All expedition voyages are already available to book.