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In the News this Week...
brought to you by News Editor, Roger Bray
Manhattan gets new hotelabout 14 hours 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 launched1 day 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 open5 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 ships6 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.
Sharm el Sheikh return for easyJet7 days ago
EasyJet is to resume flying to Sharm el Sheikh after an absence of nearly five years. The move follows the lifting of Government restrictions on flights, imposed after the crash of a St Petersburg bound airliner not long after its departure from the Red Sea resort in October 2015. Several UK tour operators began selling holidays to Sharm el Sheikh again late last year. Starting on 7 June the airline will operate two ground trips a week there from Manchester. From 30 September it will also fly twice a week from Gatwick. Both services will operate year round. Expansion at Manchester will see easyJet increase flights from 1 June to Hurghada, another Red Sea resort. And from 4 and 7 June respectively it will add services from the airport to Menorca and Rome.
Seychelles Club Med – bookings open8 days ago
Bookings were set to open today for Club Med’s new “eco-resort on the private island of Sainte Anne, in the Seychelles. Set in a national park amid 220 hectares of greenery, it has been designed with the aim of preserving the archipelago’s natural beauty and wildlife. There will be no single use plastic and electric buggies will ferry guests around. The resort, which is scheduled to welcome its first guests in October, will have 294 rooms, three swimming pool, a spa with eleven treatment rooms s and a yoga school. It will be 15 minutes by speedboat from Victoria-Seychelles airport in Mahe. Likely to appeal to multi generation groups it is being promoted as “focused for families and couples alike” with “unparalleled luxury alongside fantastic childcare facilities”.
Nova Scotia flights for Manchester9 days ago
Canadian low cost airline WestJet is to launch flights from Manchester to Nova Scotia. Starting in June it will operate four round trips a week to the provincial capital, Halifax, a jumping off point for tourists heading for Prince Edward and Cape Breton Islands. The latter is perhaps best known for the 298 kilometre Cabot Trail, a mix of dizzying cliffside roads and hiking paths around the island’s spectacular coast. WestJet already operfates to Halifax from Gatwick and Glasgow. Flights from Manchester will start on 6 June and operate until October 24. They will depart at 9.45am, arriving at 11.52am. Eastbound service will leave at 10.45pm, arriving at 8.10am next morning
Echoes of Rome’s power on new Algeria tours12 days ago
Archaeology tours of Algeria are planned for later this year by specialist Andante Travels. Relatively little visited by tourists, the country has an impressive range of well preserved Roman ruins. For example, the trips will take in three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Djemila, built in the first century AD, whose well preserved remains include those of a theatre, a paved forum and a majestic arch, is remarkable for its mountain location, 3000 feet above sea level. Timgad, whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Trajan around AD 100, retains its entire shape and street layout. UNESCO say it “illustrates Roman urban planning at its height”, which “must have served as a compelling image of the grandeur of Rome on Numidian soil”. Tipasa overlooks the Mediterranean west of Algiers in what was once the Roman province of Mauretania Caesariensis. A former Carthaginian trading centre, its ruins also reflect pre-Roman and early Christian influences. The ten day tours, led by experts, depart on 29 September and 1 November. They cost from £3695 per person.
Taste of adventure at London travel show13 days ago
Adventurous over-50s might head for London Olympia this weekend. Travel industry experts, guidebook writers and expedition leaders will gather there on Saturday and Sunday for the 24th annual Adventure Travel Show. Visitors will be able to consult 120 specialist adventure travel companies on anything from solo journeys, photography holidays and safaris to cycling and trekking and trips that avoid harming the environment. Experts will give more the 70 talks in four separate theatres, covering a range of topics from organising a DIY Kilimanjaro climb to a cycle journey from the Black Forest to the Black Sea. Seminars will include two on motorcycling adventures by Austin Vince and author and adventurer Lois Pryce – one for beginners, the other for those heading beyond Europe – and a session in the company of explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes entitled “Living Dangerously”. Adult one day tickets bought in advance online on the show website for £11.
Scarborough set to celebrate Anne Bronte14 days ago
The life of the least feted Bronte sister, Anne, will be celebrated at a series of events in Scarborough, starting this weekend. On 17January it will be 200 years since her birth. Anne loved the Yorkshire resort and used several locations there in her novel Agnes Grey. In 1849 she died there at only 29, as the result of tuberculosis, and is buried in St Mary’s Churchyard. From Saturday until 8 February there will be an exhibition at Woodend, birthplace of Edith Sitwell, including artwork created using pages from her other novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. The book wil be the subject of one of several lectures on 17 January and events the following day at the Grand Hotel will include talks on the writer – and other strong Victorian women – and a walk to her grave. It runs until 8 February.
Image shows Anne’s orginal headstone which showed the age at which she died incorrectly. The Bronte Society has since added a plaque correcting the mistake.
British budget airline among world’s most punctual15 days ago
The UK’s Jet2 has emerged among the world’s top ten most punctual budget airline in the second survey of on time performance to be published this month. This one comes from the timetable and flight status information provider OAG. Jet2, whose headquarters are at Leeds-Bradford airport, is the only UK airline to make the top 20 low cost carriers. The research places it fifth, in the league table with 82.69% of its flights last year arriving on time. It defines punctual as within 15 minutes of the time scheduled. Among the top 20 “mega airlines” – those operating over 30 million seats in 2019 – British Airways was 14th and easyJet 17th, with 76.18% and 73.08% of flights arriving on time respectively. Aeroflot, which emerged top in the earlier survey, came second, just behind the Chile based LATAM Airlines group. Indonesia’s Garuda topped the overall table at 95.01. It should be borne in mind that airline do not function on a level playing field. On time performance can be seriously affected by geography, the balance of destinations served, runway congestion and weather.
Airports still pose problems for disabled passengers16 days ago
Disabled passengers continue to suffer humiliation and loss of dignity at airports despite recent reported improvements. So says the consumer organisation Which? which cites numerous complaints about “appalling experiences”. Among its examples was a 76 year old with severe arthritis who, despite requesting special assistance, was left abandoned and had to “drag herself through Heathrow airport with no help at all. Which? asked the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers to conduct a survey among a panel of such travellers. It found 46% of those with reduced mobility had been deterred from flying during the past two years. Comparing five major airports it found Heathrow suffered the highest level of dissatisfaction (28%). Manchester saw the second highest proportion of dissatisfied passengers 22%). Gatwick achieved the highest level of satisfaction at 74%. The Civil Aviation Authority’s most recent annual report on disability access at the UK’s major airports said there was room for improvement but that its consumer survey showed 79% of those who requested special assistance had been satisfied with the survey. Heathrow told Which? it had invested over £23m in new equipment, facilities and training and continued to work with industry partners towards a seamless service for all its passengers. Manchester Airport, which had also been criticised by the CAA after a decline in performance pointed out that it had changed its special assistance provider. This had resulted in increased investment in staff and equipment “which is being reflected in an improved performance”.
“Glampground” to open on Yosemite’s doorstep19 days ago
A new “glamping” site is scheduled to open next year, 20 minutes from the entrance to Yosemite National Park. It will be operated by Under Canva, which will also open a new site in the Hudson Valley and another a short drive from Maine’s Acadia National Park, with its excellent hiking trails. The Yosemite “glampground” is on 85 acres of sequoia trees and meadow. It will have 90 “safari style” luxury tents with king size beds, en suite bathrooms and wood burning stoves, plus a tented café and lounge. The company already operates similar sites close to Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Zion, Glacier, Arches, Mount Rushmore, Great Smoky Mountains and Saguaro (Tucson) National Parks.
Dominican Republic to get new cruise port20 days ago
A new cruise terminal is scheduled to open towards the end of this year at Puerto Plata, on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. It is expected to cater for three ships at the same time and more than 150 in its first year. The city – its official name is San Felipe de Puerto Plata – is not far from La Isabela, a settlement founded by Columbus, and close to resorts of Playa and Costa Dorada. A cable car, thought to be the first in the Caribbean, runs from the city to Pico Isabel de Torres, a 793 metre mountain. In 2016 the Carnival cruise corporation opened its own port not far away at Amber Cove.
New hotel planned in Georgia ski resort21 days ago
Georgia may be about to make its mark on the wintersports holiday map. The Wyndham hotel group plans to open a property in the ski resort of Goderdzi at the end of next year under its Ramada Resorts brand. Goderdzi is close to the Black Sea in the Adjara region, about 2hrs from the coast at Batumi. It has only two lifts and a modest 5 – 6 kilometres of runs, but slopes are reported to be quiet and there is powder skiing reached by snowcat. The hotel will be in the heart of the resort, opposite the access lift to the slopes. It promises 100 rooms, 2 restaurants, a spa complex, lounge and lobby bar. Meanwhile Wyndham is also scheduled to open a Ramada hotel in the country’s capital and biggest city, Tbilisi, next year. The 125 room property will be on Melikishvili avenue, between the old and new towns. And in 2021 the group expects to open a 275 room hotel in Georgia’s second largest city, Kutaisi, whose Bagrati Cathedral and nearby Gelati Monastery are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
New Middle East Travel warning22 days ago
Turkey’s bounce back in the tourist popularity stakes look likely to take a knock following publication of revised travel advice by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Egypt, whose fortunes, which appeared to have perked up after the return of UK flights to Sharm el Sheikh, may also suffer. But travel industry leaders fear tensions sparked by the death of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a US strike could have impact across the Middle East, also affecting bookings to destinations such as Dubai. The FCO cited “the possibility of an increased threat against Western interests in nine Middle East countries", warning that the security situation for Britons travelling there could deteriorate “with very little warning”. Travellers should stay vigilant and keep in touch with developments. The other seven countries covered by the alert are the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia. As for Iran itself, the FCO has advised against all but essential travel there. This has already prompted the cancellation of some tours planned by the handful of UK firms operating to the country.
New visitor pass to cut costs in Manchester22 days ago
Stand by for a new visitor pass cutting the cost of entry to Manchester’s attractions. The one, two or three day, prepaid pass, which has been several years in the organising, is expected to be launched this spring. It will also cover tours and will provide a range of discounts at bars, restaurant and cafes across Greater Manchester. The organisation Marketing Manchester has not provided details of the attractions to be covered. But they may include paid admission to special exhibitions at the otherwise free Science and Industry Museum. The Museum is scheduled to open a new gallery this year designed to house such exhibitions.
Helicopters set to fly again to Isles of Scilly23 days ago
The helicopter link between Penzance and the Isles of Scilly is set to be restored in March after a gap of some eight years. Flights to and from St Mary’s, the largest island, and Tresco, will be operated year round by Sloane Helicopters from a new heliport on the outskirts of the west Cornwall town. The trip, by a twin engine, Augusta Westland 139 aircraft, will take 15 minutes. There will be up to 17 rounds trips a week. The new heliport, developed with the support of the EU’s European Regional Development Fund, will be close to the A30 and a mile from Penzance railway station, with a link by electric shuttle bus. It will have a large car park.
Aeroflot is world's most punctual26 days ago
Russia’s Aeroflot has been ranked the world’s most punctual airline in a worldwide analysis. UK based Cirium found 86.68 per cent of its flights operated on time in 2019. And Moscow’s Sheremetyevo saw the fewest delays among airports with global networks, with all but about five per cent of services operating punctually. Japan’s ANA (All Nippon Airways) was second by a whisker to Aeroflot, with 86.26 of flights on time and the US carrier Delta Air Lines was close behind in third place. The rest of the top ten, in order, were Brazil’s Azul, Japan Airlines, Alitalia, Air France. Emirates. Korean Air and SAS. Second and third amoung Global airports were both Chinese: Guangzhou Baiyun and Shanghai Pudong.
French resort to launch hi tech forest night walks27 days ago
Claiming to be first in Europe, the French Alpine resort of Les Gets is to launch interactive forest night walks next summer, promising to enhance the natural beauty of the environment with the use of light, video projections and scenography, accompanied by original music. The first Lumina night walk opened five years ago in the Parc de la Gorge in Coaticook, Quebec. Since then the company behind the concept, Montreal based Moment Factory, has launched ten more, including one in Hokkaido, Japan. The Les Gets project is currently still at the design stage. It is planned as a year round attraction, operating in the ski season as well as summer. The resort if part of the sprawling Ports du Soleil wintersports area straddling the border between France and Switzerland.