In the News this Week...

brought to you by News Editor, Roger Bray
  • Nhs vaccination centre sign

    Image by Sebastiandoe5 via Wikimedia Creative Commons

    Make PCR Omicron tests free, Governmentg urged

    about 2 months ago

    The Government has come under pressure to allow travellers to take NHS PCR tests in the wake of the suddenly tightening rules. From today everyone returning to the UK have been required to take the tests on or before Day 2 after their arrival. The checks replace to much cheaper lateral flow version and allow genome sequencing to track down the new Omicron variant. Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade said: “The situation is developing rapidly, and hopefully as more data emerges emergency border restrictions can be reversed quickly – and applied only where they will make a material difference. In the meantime, we urge ministers to make mandatory PCR tests free of charge for impacted passengers, many of whom are now in the invidious position of having less than 48 hours to arrange extra testing whilst overseas." And Julia Lo Bue-Said, head of the Advantage independent travel agency group, urged the Government to allow the use of NHS tests while the threat of the new variant was under review. This was “firstly because of the turnaround time, but we also know that the NHS capacity to undertake genomic sequencing, which the government are really keen to track, is much better than the private test providers.”

  • Spain flag

    Spain to demand full vaccination

    about 2 months ago

    Travellers to Spain will need to show evidence of full vaccination from Wednesday (1 December). Until then it will accept the alternative proof of a negative test taken with 72 hours of arrival. The rule applies to all arrivals aged 12 or older. The country has tightened its rules amid international concern over the Omicron variant, which was identified in South Africa. The UK, US, the EU and Israel have all suspended travel to and from the country and five others sharing borders or surrounded by South Africa. They are Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. The UK Government has also added Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia to its travel red list.

    Meanwhile the major travel industry body ABTA has urged the UK Govenment to rescind its requirement that returning travellers should take PCR tests again from Wednesday as soon as conditions allow. A spokesperson said: “While ABTA understands that this is a rapidly evolving situation and public health must come first, the decision to require all arrivals to take a PCR test and self isolate until a negative result is returned is a huge blow for travel businesses, many of whom were only just starting to get back on their feet after 20 months of severe restrictions. These changes will add cost to people’s holidays which will undoubtedly impact consumer demand and hold back the industry’s recovery, so it’s vital that this decision is kept under careful review and restrictions are lifted promptly if it becomes clear there is not a risk to the UK vaccination programme. The Government must also now consider offering tailored support for travel businesses, which have been amongst the hardest hit during the pandemic.”

  • Vg walking 029

    Image courtesy Guernsey Tourist Board

    Faster air links for Channel Islands

    about 2 months ago

    A new deal linking three airlines promises to create quicker flight connections to and from the Channel Islands – and Guernsey in particular. It is designed to speed up journeys to and from the islands for passengers in the north of England, Scotland and the Isle of Man via airports including Manchester, Bristol and Birmingham. Existing partnerships between Scotland’s Loganair and Jersey based Blue Islands – and between the latter and Guernsey’s Aurigny – will be beefed up. And a new partnership between Loganair and Aurigny will take off. The move will mean one stop connections including Aberdeen to Guernsey and the Isle of Man to Channel Islands airports on a single ticket. The three carriers serve a total of 40 airports in the Islands, the UK and the Isle of Man. They aim to align their frequent flyer programmes to passengers can earn and redeem benefits on any of the three – whichever they fly on.

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    Image courtesy Val d'Isère

    French ski lifts: compulsory face covering rule "expected"

    about 2 months ago

    Skiers and snowboarders will probably be required to wear masks on all French mountain lifts this winter, according to the major ski school operator Oxygene. They are already obligatory in gondola and cable car cabins and on some chairlifts. Oxygene, which offers lessons in 14 French resorts including Val d’Isère, Val Thorens and Méribel, has published a summary of changes to be anticipated this season. It does not detail the type of chairlifts subject to mask requirements, but logic suggests they will be those with closing covers. They are compulsory for all over elevens and recommended for over sixes. “However”, says the company, “this situation is constantly evolving and it is expected that face coverings will be obligatory on all ski lifts and at the ski school meeting point for everyone from six years old as we head further into the winter season”. Besides regular masks, certified neck warmers that can be pulled over the nose are available. Oxygene offers its own for €15.

    The French health pass – the Pass Sanitaire that shows proof of vaccination – is not so far needed in order to take lessons or ride a lift “but this will be required if the national incidence rate reaches 200 cases for 100,000 people, The general view currently is that this will be the case as we head into December”. While UK visitors will need passes in any case – not least to eat in restaurants – it will reassure potential holidaymakers that they are far less likely to contract COVID from local day skiers or boarders. With harmless but irritating cold and coughs often widespread in resorts, the company is asking customers and instructors “to be on the lookout” for COVID symptoms. If in doubt, it urges, take a test before joining your ski school group.

  • Mountain g45fa1f0cd 1280

    Mount Taranaki, on New Zealand's North Island

    New Zealand to re-open

    about 2 months ago

    New Zealand plans to re-open to fully vaccinated overseas visitors from 30 April. But all travellers will have to isolate for seven days – besides taking a test on arrival – meaning that initially, at last, the move is likely to benefit almost exclusively those with relatives or close friend living in the country. Fully vaccinated New Zealanders currently in Australia and those in others countries will be allowed back under the same conditions from 16 January and 13 February respectively. At present citizens and permanent residents must quarantine seven days in government supervised hotels, but with rooms in short supply many have been prevented from returning.

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    Rold Skov Forest, courtesy VisitDenmark, © Dennis Lundby

    Nuclear bunker to open to visitors

    about 2 months ago

    A nuclear bunker in Denmark is scheduled to open to the public as a museum next year. Measuring 5500 square meters and named REGAN Vest , it lies 200 feet beneath Rold Skov Forest in North Jutland. Visitors will see the original interior, from the areas designed for ministers’ and the doctor’s office to the dormitory. This is a unique opportunity, claims VisitDenmark “as other governments facilities around the world have been stripped of their original inventory”. Above the surface will be a visitor centre and exhibition building where the after effects of a nuclear attack on the surrounding area – and in the bunker itself – will be illustrated by virtual reality technology . The supervisor’s house is also being given makeover so it will look as it did during the Cold War.

  • Sail croatia   korcula

    Korcula - image courtesy Sail Croatia

    Croatia small ship cruises go on sale

    about 2 months ago

    Adriatic cruises for “mature travellers” have been launched by Sail Croatia. The operator is offering five itineraries next year, with excursions to points of interest including Diocletian’s Palace in Split, Dubrovnik’s city walls, the Blue Cave in Vis and daily swim stops. The operator is also offering hike and cycle cruises. It says hike sailings are designed to be “physically challenging”, with routes across Korcula, Vis, Hvar, Bol and Makarska. Cycle trips are aimed at those of mixed ability – in Mljet and Krka National Parks, and Hvar. The firm will operate a total of 450 small ship sailings from Split or Dubrovnik, covering 16 itineraries. Full details plus prices can be found here.

  • Eastern airways tail fin

    Gatwick chosen for new Cornwall flights

    about 2 months ago

    Gatwick will be the London gateway airport for Eastern Airways’ new year round Newquay service. Starting on 15 December, the airline will initially operate daily round trips, increasing to two a day from mid January. One way fares start at £34.99. It already serves Newquay’s Cornwall Airport from Leeds-Bradford. In a statement it said that besides vital business travel links, the service "provides Cornwall as the major attraction for UK staycations with flight connectivity from London compared to slow and time consuming surface transport options. British Airways and easyJet have been operating summer only flights on the route. But the year round service is maintained with the aid of Government funds under a Public Service Obligation agreement. It was previously run by Flybe, which collapsed last year but is now to be resurrected in a fresh guise under new ownership.

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    Image © MariellLindHansen

    Former cotton warehouse is Manchester hotel

    about 2 months ago

    A hotel housed in an early 20th century cotton warehouse was scheduled to open today (22 November) in Manchester’s lively Village district, a centre of LBTQ+ culture along and around Canal Street. The red brick walled LEVEN on Chorlton Street, a five minute walks from Piccadilly Station, was later a brewery and home to a comedy club. Following a revamp inside and out it now has 42 rooms, some with kitchens. High ceilings and exposed brickwork reflect the building’s industrial past . The lobby has a brass topped bar. A restaurant and cocktail bar will be added later. Co-founder and chief executive Joshua Senior said “Manchester is buzzing right now, with many fantastic new businesses opening – it’s a brilliant time to be bringing a new hotel and a new hangout to the city.”

  • Austria

    Austria - hopes remain ski season will be safe

    Austria to impose full lockdown

    about 2 months ago

    Austria will impose a full lockdown on Monday, only a few weeks before its ski season should get into full swing. However, Chancellor Alexander Schallenburg said the clampdown would last for a maximum of 20 days, raising hopes that the peak Christmas and New Year holiday period should be unaffected. With case rates at record levels and the number of Austrians vaccinated among Europe’s lowest he said there would be a legal requirement to be jabbed from 1 February. When the lockdown kicks in, they will be asked to work from home and non essential shops will close. Meanwhile, following yesterday’s news from Germany that Munich’s Christmas market has been cancelled the BBC reported that the same would go for all markets in Bavaria – and that bars and clubs would close for three weeks.

  • French ski

    La Plagne - French mountain eateries will demand booster proof

    Booster proof added to NHS app

    about 2 months ago

    Travellers are now able to show proof they have received booster or third dose jabs via their NHS digital COVID passes. The move – so far limited to people living in England – took effect from midday today (19 November). It will come as a relief, not least to those planning ski trips to France, where they will need to show booster evidence to access restaurants and museums from 15 December. Some countries, including Israel, Austria and Croatia have set time limits on the validity of double doses for quarantine free travel. Evidence will show up automatically on the pass but will not be available immediately via the COVID pass letter service. The Department of Health and Social Care said this would be updated “in due course”. The move will take effect in Wales from 29 November. Vaccines Minister Maggie Throup said: “Getting a booster is the best way you can protect yourself ahead of winter and it’s great those who have come forward can now demonstrate their vaccination status through the NHS COVID Pass if they are travelling overseas.”

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    Canmore, Alberta Rockies - image by Art Tower from Pixabay

    Calgary - flights competition to heat up

    about 2 months ago

    Canadian airline Westet plans flights from Heathrow early next spring. It will operate non stop services to Calgary in Alberta – gateway to the Rockies – using Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft with economy, premium and business cabins. The carrier will continue to offer non stop flights from Gatwick to Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto and Halifax. It said details of the frequency of departures, times and introductory fares would be available, and for sale, “in the coming weeks”. WestJet will continue to offer non stop flights from Gatwick to Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto and Halifax. Chief commercial officer John Weatherill said the move was “an important recovery milestone as we forge new connections between Canada and one of the world’s most sought after global hubs,”

  • Xmas market

    Christmas market cruise fears as German cases surge

    about 2 months ago

    Travellers looking forward to Christmas market river cruises in Germany face uncertainty after rising COVID cases persuaded Munich to cancel its popular event for the second year running. Munich’s Isar River is not navigable by large craft but eyes will now turn anxiously to other German cities planning major markets, such as Cologne, Nuremberg and Dresden. Cases in the country have surged above 65,000 a day. However, travellers make take some comfort from research showing Bavaria’s weekly rate per 100,000 people has been well above the national average.

  • Newquay g97b0faf49 1280

    New London-Newquay service taxis for take off

    about 2 months ago

    Eastern Airways is to take over the vacant year round route between London and Newquay in Cornwall. It is not known yet which of the capital’s airports the Humberside based airline will use, or how many flights a week it will operate. Though British Airways and easyJet have operated summer flights, the year round service is maintained with the aid of Government funds under a Public Service Obligation agreement. The service was previously run by Flybe, which collapsed last year but is now to be resurrected in a fresh guise under new ownership. In a statement, Cornwall Airport said it was now working with the county council, which is responsible for awarding the airline contract, the Department for Transport and Eastern. It expects to make an official announcement regarding the schedule and sale of seats best week.

  • Serenade of the seas

    Serenade of the Seas (image courtesy Royal Caribbean)

    World cruises launched in wake of COVID clampdown

    about 2 months ago

    Azamara and Princess are the latest lines to have launched new world cruises. They follow Royal Caribbean, whose Serenade of the Seas will embark in December 1923 on what is claimed to be the “ultimate” world cruise.

    The 155 night itinerary planned by Azamara will start from Fort Lauderdale on 5 January, 2024, visiting over 40 countries on six continents. Excursions will enable travellers sailing on its newest ship, Azamara Onward, to take in sights including the Great Wall of China, the Great Barrier Reef, the Pyramids, Chichen Itza, Petra, the Taj Mahal, Christ the Redeemer, in Rio, and the Colosseum.

    Princess Cruises’ ship Island Princess will depart from the same Florida port, also in January 2024, on a round trip covering over 33,000 miles in 111 days. It will allow visits to 25 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Acropolis, Ephesus and Cartagena in Colombia. Ports of call will include Haifa, Benoa in Bali, Naples, Lisbon, Abu Dhabi, Auckland and Sydney.

    Serenade of the Seas will sail from Miami on 10 December 23 – on a 274 night journey visiting more than 150 destinations on all seven continents. Highlights will include the chance to see major sight including Peru’s Machu Picchu, the Taj Mahal, Iguazu Falls, New Zealand’s Bay of Islands, the Great Barrier Reef, the Great Wall of China, Japan’s Mount Fuji, Petra, the Pyramids, Jerusalem, the Acropolis and Venice.

  • Flybe400

    Flybe in its pre-collapse colours

    Flybe set for revival

    2 months ago

    Flybe, which collapsed early last year, is to take off again. Following the acquisition of its business and assets by new owners the revived regional airline is set to start operating early next year from Birmingham Airport to UK and EU destinations. It will use a fleet of De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400 turboprops. Chief executive Dave Pflieger said details of routes and fares would be provided "in the coming weeks and months. Many domestic routes operated by the old Flybe have been taken over by Scottish carrier Loganair.

  • The dovre railway4

    Image courtesy Discover the World

    Artic Circle train trips launched

    2 months ago

    A trip beyond the Arctic Circle with travel from London almost entirely by train is one of 12 new “car and flight free” holidays launched by Discover the World. The 21 day, independent “Arctic Rail Odyssey” is available from March to October. The itinerary will take customers by Eurostar and other trains to Cologne, Hamburg, Copenhagen and across the 8km long Oresund Bridge to Gothenburg in Sweden. Then it’s on to Oslo, north through and back into Sweden after riding the Arctic Circle Train through Lapland. In Kiruna there is the option of staying at the original ice hotel – Icehotel 365 – made of blocks cut from the Torne River. After that it’s on though Sweden to Stockholm and Malmo, and home via Hamburg and Brussels. The only non rail bits of the trip are a Hurtigruten sailing from Bodo in Norway to the Lofoten Islands and a bus journey of around 4hrs through the islands to Narvik. Prices start at £3459. The bus ride is bout £40 extra, payable locally. The operator says explains that currently the bus company doesn’t allow pre-sales, so it cannot be incorporated in the overall price. “As soon as we can, it will be included”. Full details of the trip can be found here

  • Watchmaking

    Watchmaker to rich and famous launches visits

    2 months ago

    The company that made the wristwatch worn by the Queen at her coronation has opened its doors to the public. The luxury timepiece maker Jaeger-LeCoutre, whose history stretches back to 1833, has started welcoming visitors to its workshops at Le Sentier in the Swiss canton of Vaud – in the Jura. The Queen’s coronation watch, a Calibre 101, contained the world’s smallest mechanical, movement created in 1929, whose 74 (now 94) originally weighed a total of aroune one gram. Among its other creations have been the Atmos Clock, which has something close to perpetual movement and works on small temperature and atmospheric pressure changes – demanding – no human interventions -and the 1931 Art Deco Reverso – with a reversable case designed to protect it whole worn by British polo players in India. Other celebrities and political leaders who have worn the manufacturer’s watches have included US Presidents Johnson and Clinton. Charlie Chaplin, Amelia Earhart – first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic – Benedict Cumberbatch and Leonardo DiCaprio. The 3hrs 30min visits, available in English cost 80 Swiss francs (about £63) and can be booked online here

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    Ski specialist in comeback

    2 months ago

    Wintersports holiday operator Ski2, which threw in the towel earlier this year because of pandemic uncertainty, has been revived in a new guise. One of its co-owners, Simon Brown, has set up a new "company ": specialising in the Italian resort of Champoluc and the surrounding Monterosa ski area which, he claims, offers the most underrated skiing in the Alps. Ski2 operated there for over 20 years. It also sold holidays to Les Gets and Morzine in France. Brown conceded it would not be easy getting Ski Champoluc off the ground in less than ideal circumstances, not least because of changes forced by Brexit. "We’ve had to open a branch in Italy and it’s no longer possible to employ British ski instructors, which could be a problem at busy times like half term when families come. But I’ve also used Italians for years and they have great instructors. Despite the difficulties he remains upbeat, however. “We’ll still be offering bespoke holidays, arriving any day and staying any length of time. I know loads of people in Champoluc and they’ve been very supportive. So we’ll give it a go”.
    See our feature on Champoluc here

  • Qatar

    Qatar tightens entry restrictions

    2 months ago

    Qatar has placed the UK on its COVID red list. The move, which comes at a time when cases here have been falling while those in other European countries have been rising, has not been explained. It means fully vaccinated visitors must show evidence of a negative PCR test taken with 72 hours before their arrival and must quarantine for two days in a hotel, where a second PCR check will be carried out. All hotel quarantine packages need to be booked via the Discover Qatar website