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In the News this Week...
brought to you by News Editor, Roger Bray
River cruise from Kiev launched1 day ago
A new itinerary following an old trade route between Kiev and the Black Sea has been launched by Viking River Cruises. After spending three days in the Ukrainian capital, customers will sail down the largely slow moving Dnieper through former Cossack territory to the river’s delta, visiting the Black Sea port of Odessa and finishing in the Romanian capital, Bucharest. Viking is offering an add on visit to Istanbul for customers seeking a flavour of Kiev’s links with Byzantium, later Constantinople. The impressive cathedral of St Sophia in Kiev was built to rival the latter’s sixth century Hagia Sophia. £1,000 discount.
Chile: epic journey launched3 days ago
Looking to spend some of the kids’ inheritance? A 45-day, mostly self-drive trip taking in twelve Chilean National Parks has been launched by tour operator Pura Aventura. The itinerary follows the Ruta de Los Parques from the Chilean Lake District to Cape Horn. Still under development, the Ruta will link 17 parks on a 2800km journey. It is claimed to be the world’s biggest ever conservation project. In January last year the private Tomkins Foundation – donated one million acres of land covering the Chacabuco Valley and the ancient temperate forests of Pumalin to the Chilean government, which itself added another nine million acres. After flying south from Santiago, Customers will explore the stunning Lake District, drive on the part unpaved Carretera Austral, duck into Argentina, visit Torres del Paine, go hiking and white water rafting and reach Cape Horn on a 20 passenger expedition ship cruise. Prices start at £13,950 a head. That includes 44 nights’ B&B, some meals, hire of a large 4×4, some guiding, internal flights and the cruise. The firm also offers shorter trips of 21, 19 or 13 days taking in shorter sections of the Ruta and starting, respectively, at £5,987, £5,114 and £2,745. International flights are extra.
Island hotel with floating spa set to open4 days ago
Once an angling retreat for the third Duke of Marlborough, a new luxury hotel is scheduled to open on 14 February on an island in the Thames. The Monkey Island Estate, linked by bridge to the village of Bray, has 27 rooms, three suites and a floating spa – aboard a barge. Its two Grade I listed fishing pavilions, commissioned in 1723, have been restored by YTL Hotels, which operates a string of high end properties around the world. Perhaps owing its name to the original Monks Eyot – monks attached to Merton Priory – settled nearby – the island was raised above flood level and made viable for development when rubble from buildings destroyed by the Great Fire of London was dumped there. Later home to a riverside inn, its celebrity guests included Dame Nellie Melba, Siegfried Sassoon, HG Wells and his lover Rebecca West.
Women go solo to fulfil travel passions - report5 days ago
More than one in three women over 50 (39%) have travelled solo or intend to do so in the next two years, compared with 32% of men, according to new research. And 24% of them said their main motivation we “to pursue their own passions and not somebody else’s”. The figures emerge from a survey by Populus for Saga in which 12,003 UK residents aged 50 plus were questioned. It come hard on the heels of a survey by Silver Travel Advisor which found 48% of those in the same age group had taken a trip on their own at least once in the past four years and that having nobody to travel with wasn’t the only reason. Just over 35% said simply that they enjoyed it or had different interests to partners or friends. In the Saga survey 60% said they “like the ability to get under the skin of a destination on a solo holiday”. When it came to factors influencing choice, local amenities or holidays reps (3%) and the exchange rate (1%) were decidedly less important than the prospect of cultural experiences (14%) or visiting interesting places (32%).
Moves to axe Brexit flights cap6 days ago
Efforts are expected to go ahead this week to scrap a cap on flights between the UK and the EU which could cause disruption for some travellers in the event of a no deal Brexit. As part of contingency plans set out by the European Commission, the number of flights to each EU member state may not exceed that in winter or summer last year. This prompted some lurid headlines, as, since then, airlines have added a significant number of destinations they were not serving in 2018 plus extra flights on existing routes. While travel industry sources indicate this is unlikely to result in a massive upheaval for summer holidaymakers, some juggling of schedules could mean changes in departure times. It is understood that a proposal to remove the cap is likely to go to a vote of the full European Parliament in the next few days. After that the text of the Commission’s regulation would still be subject to negotiation with the Parliament. The moves come as many holiday companies report a fall off in bookings blamed largely on Brexit uncertainty, particularly to European destinations. One airline executive says internet searches for flights and holidays, where a rise in hotel rates is also causing concern, are some 20% lower than at this time last winter.
New hotels spring up as Georgia’s tourism takes wing9 days ago
A new hotel with its own vineyard has opened in Kakheti, Georgia’s principal wine district. The Radisson Collection property, in the village of Tsinandali, is part of an estate claimed to have produced the country’s first bottled wine. It has 141 rooms and suites, a spa and a rooftop swimming pool with views of the Caucasus mountains. As Georgia gathers momentum as a tourist destinaton, at least two more hotels are set to open there this year. This summer a new Wyndham Grand is scheduled to open in the capital Tbilisi. The 161 room property will be on Freedom Square in the city centre, close to the National Museum of Georgia. The Wyndham group, whichn already operates two hotels in the country, plans to add four more over the next three years. And far from the beaten track, a new property calculated to appeal to hikers is scheduled to open in May. The Hotel Samzeo, in the village of Omalo, is thought to be the first to be developed in the remote Tusheti region, which lies on the northern slopes of the Greater Caucuses and is bordered by the Russian republics of Chechnya and Dagestan. Traditionally the region’s people were shepherds who spent summers on the high grounds and switched to lower areas in winter. The Samzeo will have 43 rooms, including ten suites, two apartments, and a spa. It has signed up as a member of the Preferred Hotels and Resorts group of independent hotels.
Big new development at Quebec ski resort10 days ago
The Canadian ski resort of Mont-Tremblant, north of Montreal, is to get a huge new apartment complex at the foot of its southern slopes. It will comprise 92 condominiums with one to three bedrooms, for sale and rent by holidaymakers. Developer C Hotels Tremblant said the £26 million complex would be a few steps from the nearest lift. It would have a restaurant, outdoor pool, fitness centre, spa and underground parking. In summer visitors would be able to use a private lake and would have quick access to hiking and mountain biking trails.
Guernsey to get new low cost flights11 days ago
New low cost flights are planned between two UK airports and Guernsey. Flybe franchise partner Blue Islands will launch flights to the Channel island from London Southend and Liverpool. Starting in May, the airline will fly daily, year round, from the former. And until 14 September it will operate on Tuesdays and Saturdays from the latter, using a 68 seat ATR 72-500 turboprop aircraft.
Portugal’s Brexit health cover offer: questions remain12 days ago
Travellers to Portugal are waiting to learn details of the country’s offer to retain free access to the country’s health service for UK visitors in the event of a no-deal Brexit. At the time of writing it was not yet clear how this would work. A practical solution would be continued acceptance of the EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) which allow reciprocal medical treatment between EU member states. Tourists get the same free services available to citizens of the country they are visiting. However, this system may be closed to UK tourists if there is no withdrawal agreement, leaving two questions. Would Brussels allow Portugal, exceptionally, to continue making it available, and would the necessary mechanisms in Lisbon and London be ready to swing into effect immediately after 29 March?
Cliff edge Brexit threatens thousands of travel jobs – new analysis13 days ago
A no-deal Brexit would have a devastating impact on travel and tourism over the next decade, according to a new analysis. In the UK, over 300,000 jobs could be at risk, with a further 400,000 threatened in the rest of the EU. Though they will be dismissed as scaremongering by Brexiteers, even a fraction of those job losses could mean the closure of some business, less choice for consumers and probably higher prices. The warning comes from the World Travel & Tourism Council, which modelled the potential effect on the industry based on a 7.7% fall in overall UK economic activity over the next ten years forecast by the IMF (International Monetary Fund). It says the result could be a loss of £18.6bn to the UK’s GDP. To minimise the impact, it says, the UK should continue to have access to the Single Aviation Market. Visa free travel between the UK and the EU should be maintained. Mobility of labour for travel and tourism employees across the UK and EU should continue. And “security cooperation to avoid hard border checks and lengthy delays is paramount”. Gloria Guevara, the WTTC’s president and CEO, said: “The UK is the fifth largest travel and tourism economy in the world. Given its importance to the UK economy, it is no clear that a no-deal Brexit would have a dramatic impact on one of the UK’s most significant sectors”.
Airline extends previous day baggage checks13 days ago
Passengers flying with Jet2 can now check in their bags the day before departure from four more airports. They can then save time next morning by going straight to security – and possibly money by taking public transport and avoiding long term parking charges. The service has been on offer at Manchester since 2015. The airline says it has proved so popular that it has been extended to Birmingham, East Midlands, Leeds Bradford and Stansted. Passengers need to check in online at least 24 hours before departure. They can then drop bags off between 3pm and 8pm on the eve of their departure. The service is available only for customers with flights leaving before noon next day.
Solo room share offers listed online16 days ago
Tour operator Ramblers Walking Holidays has begun posting lists on its website showing trips on which customers travelling alone may share rooms with other solo travellers. The option enables travellers to save money on a wide range of European and long haul holidays. By visiting www.ramblersholidays.co.uk/solo-travellers-twin-share they can see which departures offer same sex male or female sharing options.
“We’ve offered this in the past but now we’re providing information on our website telling people what’s available”, says a spokesperson. “It’s very fluid, so you will still need to call us to make sure sharing options haven’t sold out on the holiday you choose”. But your chances may be pretty good, suggests research for the latest Silver Travel Advisor report, published earlier this week. It found that “an overwhelming 77% of mature solo travellers would not share a room with a fellow traveller of the same gender under any circumstances”.
Major Picasso exhibition to open17 days ago
Art works from Picasso’s Blue and Rose Periods go on show this weekend at the Fondation Bayeler in the Swiss city of Basel. In terms of quantity and quality this is claimed to be most impressive exhibition of the artist’s output during those periods ever mounted in Europe. The Blue Period covered the years 1901–1904 when Picasso painted mostly in shades of blue or blue-green with only an occasional use of other colours. His Rose Period spanned the following two years, which saw him frequently depict harlequins, clowns and other circus performers. The exhibition runs from Sunday 3 February until 26 May.
Majority of silver travellers face insurance problems says report18 days ago
Despite the fact that they are increasingly adventurous and see price as a relatively unimportant factor when choosing a holiday company, nearly two thirds of over-50s have experienced problems getting travel insurance. Almost one third (31%) say illness or disability has proved an issue, 20% cite high premiums and 8% say their age was a stumbling block. The figures emerged from Silver Travel Advisor’s latest annual report on the holiday habits, likes and dislikes of senior travellers. They come as Brexit threatens to deprive UK travellers of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which may exacerbate problems with prices. The report says: “Travel insurance for the silver traveller is an ongoing issue, principally for those with disabilities or pre-existing medical conditions. Unless this can be resolved, many people with the wealth but not the perfect health to travel may be prevented from doing so. The report shows 42% of over-50s spend £1,000 – £3,000 a head on one or more holidays, a small drop from last year’s 45%. The proportion keeping their spending under £1,000 a head rose from 20% to 28%. The 12% able to fork out £5,000 or more per person has remained steady at 12%. When it comes to choosing a travel firm, previous good experiences are most important for 71%, with customer service cited by 46%. ATOL protection was important for 54% – up five percentage points from 2017 and perhaps, says the report, “reflecting growing concerns about company stability. The firm’s reputation was a key factor for 48%, while 33% were swayed by recommendations, including reviews written by other travellers. Read full report
Women photographers – exhibition opens19 days ago
A retrospective of the work of women photographers in Britain is scheduled on 30th January in the Surrey town of Woking. The exhibition at The Lightbox is claimed to be the first of its kind for over 30 years. It will comprise some 70 works, lent by leading museums and galleries. They will range from the 19th century pioneering of Anna Atkins, sometimes referred to as the first ever female photographer, through Dorothy Bohm’s record of1960s London to Sarah Lucas’s 1990s self portraiture. Women in Photography: A History of British Trailblazers, runs until 2 June.
Beijing rooms with a view – of Forbidden City20 days ago
Most rooms at a new luxury hotel set to open in Beijing will have views of the Forbidden City, the huge complex that was home to Chinese rulers for almost five centuries. The property will also organise tours for guests, including an exploration by rickshaw of the city’s hutongs – warrens of alleys – one of which is reckoned to date from the Ming Dynasty. The 116 room PuXuan Hotel and Spa is a few minutes from the Chinese capital’s main shopping district. It will have a spa and 24 hours gym. Restaurants will include one serving Chinese dishes, the other French bistro food.
Major Dior exhibition to open soon23 days ago
Planning a weekend in London? What’s billed as the ‘biggest, most comprehensive exhibition’ of the work and legacy of fashion designer Christian Dior opens on February at the V&A. The story will be told through over 500 objects, from his personal possessions to rare items of haute couture, vintage cosmetics and period illustrations. It will look at the work of the six artistic directors of the House of Dior who succeeded him after his untimely death in Italy at the age of 52. The exhibition will delve into his fascination with things British, including great houses and gardens, Savile Row suits and ocean liners, and throw a spotlight on some of his high profile British clients, among them Nancy Mitford, Margot Fonteyn and the young Princess Margaret. Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, runs until 14 July.
Guided tours to Egypt on the increase24 days ago
Egypt is making a strong comeback in the market for escorted tours, according to Titan Travel. Analysing its bookings for 2019, it says the resurgence suggests customers are more confident to travel there as part of a group. The firm says says Joanna Lumley’s Silk Road TV series has spurred interest in Uzbekistan, Armenia and Georgia. It has also seen a jump in bookings for tours in Central America, which is “finally being recognised as safe and fulfilling” but where still limited transport options make escorted tours a practical way to take in the region’s highlights. Closer to home it reports a 40% jump in its bokings to Switzerland. Prices have remained stable there, it says and “the fact that Switzerland is outside the euro appears to offer peace of mind with Brexit looming”.
Black music museum to open24 days ago
Nashville, home of US country music, is set to get a new museum focusing on the work of black performers and composers. The National Museum of African American Music, due to open in the new year, promises to use techniques including interactive technology to take visitors on a ‘Rivers of Rhythm Pathway’ from the origins of black music through the birth of jazz and gospel to the dozens of later genres created by black innovators. Its organisers have been trying to assemble a collection of relevant artefacts from instruments to posters and LPs. Under development on the site of a former convention centre, the project aims to show how the work of many of today’s best known artists, such as Beyoncé stems from the Afro American experience.
Learn beekeeping at London hotel25 days ago
Beekeeping workshops will be on offer this summer at London’s St Ermin’s Hotel. The hotel, near St James’s Park underground station, has six hives on a third floor terrace. Its 35,000 plus Buckfast honeybees produce an average of 25lbs of honey each year. The two hour workshops will be led by beekeeping expert Camilla Goddard of Capital Bee, which looks after the hives and those of a range of organisations, charities and individuals around London. She will explain the relationship between bees and flowers, what to plant and where best to position hives on gardens or allotments. Participants will also experience handling bees, managing hives and collecting raw honey. Dates of the workshops – they are open to non residents as well as hotel guests. are: 20 April, 11 and 25 May, 10 and 21 August, 21 September and 5 October.