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In the News this Week...
brought to you by News Editor, Roger Bray
Quarantine prompts walking staycationsabout 16 hours ago
Tour operators continue to introduced more domestic holidays to counter quarantine restrictions on travelling abroad. Inntravel has launched two new self guided walking itineraries in the UK for this autumn and 2021 – one in the Scottish Borders, the other on the cost of north Norfolk. The former follows the River Tweed and takes in Traquair House, once a refuge for Mary Queen of Scots. The latter passes through nature reserves with a rich variety of bird life. Both include six nights’ b&b, luggage transfers between overnight accommodation, route notes and maps. They are available respectively until 31 October from now and 1 October (and from 1 April – 31 October next year) and cost from £640 and £795 per person sharing.
Thailand and Singapore - you still can't goabout 16 hours ago
The Government’s decision to add Thailand and Singapore to its travel corridor list underlines the need to check Foreign & Commonwealth advice before booking flights. COVID19 regimes in both destinations forbade entry at the time of writing to the vast majority of UK visitors. When Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced the move yesterday, he stressed the importance of checking such requirements. FCO advice on Thailand makes it clear that only travellers falling into specific categories may enter the country at present. And it says: “Short term visitors from anywhere in the world are not able to enter Singapore”. Mr Shapps also announced that travellers returning to the UK from Slovenia and the French Caribbean archipelago of Guadeloupe would no need to self isolate for 14 days from 4am tomorrow.
Cross Channel quarantine - still no French move1 day ago
More than four weeks after the UK imposed quarantine requirement on travellers returning from France, the French Government has still not taken threatened reciprocal measures. On 13 August, Secretary of State for European Affairs Clément Beaune said the British decision would result in “a measure of reciprocity”. On 24 August he told an interviewer on the France 2 television channel that restrictions were imminent. Some observers had felt all along President Macron might prefer to be seen as rising above petty tit for tat restrictions. However, the French Morning London online newsletter noted today that in response to the UK’s earlier decision not to exempt France from its blanket advice not to travel, Paris had warned that Britons arriving in defiance of the ban would be asked to self isolate for two weeks – and that this measure had not been officially rescinded.
Meanwhile travel to France has remained an option for UK citizens prepared to rely on the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to cover most of the cost of emergency medical treatment and to self isolate for 14 days on their return. With the 14 day cumulative rate of infections in France running at approximately five times that in the UK, there appears to be scant hope that the Johnson Government will relax its quarantine rule in the near future.
Thomas Cook relaunched online3 days ago
Thomas Cook has been relaunched as an online travel company almost one year after its collapse. The revival of the brand follows its acquisition by Hong Kong based Fosun Tourism. The company says has been licensed by the Civil Aviation Authority, so its customers will be protected by the ATOL scheme should it go under for a second time. In a statement it said that from today “holidays will be available in popular beach destinations and cities in countries including Italy, Greece and Turkey, in line with the current travel corridors. Customers will be able to choose from room only to all-inclusive options, across three, four and five star hotels”. More destinations would be added when Government restrictions were lifted. The firm said it was "well aware of the short term challenges passed by the pandemic. It would not charge customers fees to change their holidays if government rules changed
Domestic flights increase4 days ago
While international air travel continues to suffer widespread disruption, domestic flights are on the increase. Aer Lingus Regional this week launched services from Manchester and Birmingham to Belfast City Airport. Flights are operated by Stobart Air, using ATR72-600 turboprop aircraft. The launch follows the start of similarly operated services to Belfast City late last month from Edinburgh and Exeter. Yesterday also saw the reintroduction of flights between Exeter and Newcastle – lost when Flybe collapsed in March. The route is now being operated twice a week by Scottish airline Loganair, using a 49 seat Embraer 145 jet.
Luxury hotel set to open in Madrid5 days ago
After a seven year project to restore and convert seven old buildings, a new luxury hotel is scheduled to open next week in Madrid. The 200 room property – part of the Four Seasons group – is taking bookings for stays from 25 September. It is in the Centro Canalejas, which houses a shopping mall and 22 of the hotel operator’s private residences. The hotel will have a rooftop restaurant under the wing of Michelin star winning Spanish celebrity chef Dani Garcia. There will be a four level spa – claimed to be the capital’s largest – topped by an indoor pool and terrace with views over the city. The Retiro park and three major art galleries – the Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza and Reina Sofía are all within around 20 minutes on foot.
Teesside’s Heathrow flights ready for take of8 days ago
Travellers based in the northeast will get a new link with Heathrow after a gap of over ten years next week when Eastern Airways launches flights from Teesside. From 14 September the airline will fly to the capital, daily at first, using a 76 seat Embraer 170 jet. Flights will arrive at and depart from Heathrow’s Terminal 2. Teesside International Airport serves people living in and around Durham, Middlesbrough, Darlington, Hartlepool and North Yorkshire.
New Salt Lake airport about to open9 days ago
When COVID-19 allows, travellers to Utah will fly into Salt Lake City’s massively revamped airport. Its existing facilities were designed 50 years ago to cope with 10m passengers a year but were handling 26m before the pandemic struck. Its two passenger concourses, on either side of a new central plaza with its distinctive “Canyon” wall and views of the Wasatch Mountains to make skiers’ mouths water, have been built on the site of the old ones. Despite a huge drop in traffic during the outbreak, the first of the concourses is set to open on 15 September, the second in October. The airport is a major hub for Delta Air Lines, which has gradually been reintroducing non stop Transatlantic services. Saly Lake City is a jumping off point for Utah’s National Parks, including the magnificent Arches and Bryce Canyon, and a clutch of major ski areas, among them Park City, Deer Valley and Snowbird.
Blue billed ducks and red necked avocets on Aussie safari10 days ago
Walks with Aboriginal Australian rangers will be part of a new Murray River Safari planned to start next March and run until November. The three day trips will start in the river town of Renmark, in the south east corner of the South Australia, a 3hr drive from Adelaide. Accommodation will be aboard a five bedroom houseboat, which will move each day to the guests’ next walking destination. Guided highlights will include a cliff walk to spot birds including wedge tailed eagles, a canoe trip and a driving excursion through dunes on a conservancy station, with a chance to see black swans, red necked avocets and blue billed ducks. Trips cost from AUD1900 (around £1050 at the time of writing). More details from Murray River Trails
Roald Dahl Museum to reopen with private tours11 days ago
Charlie and his golden ticket or the Fantastic Mister Fox? Matilda or the BFG? When the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre reopens on Thursday (10 September), groups of people from the same bubble will be telephoned in advance and asked to pick their favourite characters and stories, so that their visits may be personalised with rarely seen archive material projected on screens. The museum is in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, where Dahl lived and wrote for 36 years. Exhibits explain how his school days sparked his ideas and the Solo Gallery contains his original “writing hut”, with an eclectic array of mementos. The private guided “VIP” visits will run every half hour from 10am to 4pm, Thursday to Sunday. Only ten people, booking ahead, will be allowed in. And with the museum only able to operate at 15% of its capacity they will be asked help it through the crisis by buying extra tickets for “as many imaginary friends as they can”.
Fred Olsen plans for cruise comeback12 days ago
As cruise lines look to wake from the COVID-19 nightmare, Fred Olsen www.fredolsencruises.com today began taking bookings for trips on its newly acquired vessel Bolette. Along with the Borealis, the ship was bought from Holland America. The two vessels will take over itineraries respectively operated by Boudicca and Black Watch, which are being retired. Reservations for cruises on Borealis are set to open on 15 September. The company plans to have both ships, and the Braemar, operating again in March and April next year. It hopes a fourth vessel, the Balmoral will beat them to it. A date for its first cruise since the pandemic took hold would “be confirmed over the coming weeks”, it said. Customers with holidays booked on the two outgoing ships are being switched to the new ones.
Portugal and Greece: UK reprieve explained15 days ago
Increased testing in Portugal and Greece persuaded the UK Government not to impose quarantine restrictions on passengers returning from Portugal and Greece, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps revealed today. The Joint Biosecurity Centre had reported that In Portugal, positive tests had fallen as a proportion of the total, he told the BBC. In Greece they were steady. Mr Shapps has consistently said that the Government looked at a range of parameters – not just the rise of overall cases – when reviewing the safety of travel corridors. But this is the first time he has detailed the influence of test results.
His is explanation will not protect Ministers from a fresh barrage of questions today after Wales and Scotland imposed quarantine restrictions on travellers returning from both countries. Holidaymakers who had rushed home to England from Portugal to avoid supposedly threatened restrictions, some paying inflated air fares, were left wondering why reports had panicked them into wasting their money. Travel companies were wondering why the Welsh Government was able to limit Greek measures to six islands – rather than applying them to the whole of Greece – when Westminster has rejected their demands for a more nuanced approach to quarantine. And while Mr Shapps said he was very keen that all the UK’s devolved administration should act in harmony over quarantine, there was confusion over why Welsh passengers flying into Manchester or Liverpool, for example, would face quarantine, while English holidaymakers would not.
The confusion is certain to intensify calls for testing and the application of restrictions on travel from specific regions where there has been a spike in cases – rather than entire countries. Wales set a quarantine deadline of 4am today for travellers returning from mainland Portugal, but not Madeira or the Azores and for those coming home from Mykonos, Zakynthos, Lesvos, Paros, Antiparos and Crete – plus Gibraltar and French Polynesia. Earlier this week it had imposed restrictions on travellers from the Greek island of Zante and Scotland had implemented quarantine measures on arrivals from Greece. From tomorrow, people returning to Scotland from Portugal and French Polynesia will also have to self isolate.
HF Holidays launches Scottish island breaks15 days ago
Guided walking on Scottish islands, with a chance to spot wildlife including sea eagles. whales and red deer. has been introduced for next year by HF Holidays. The 107 years old travel Cooperative Society is offering holidays on Arran, in the Firth of Clyde, including coastal walks, a boat trip to Holy Isle, sacred from ancient times, and an option to climb Goatfell. It will also operate “island hopping” between the islands of Mull, Ulva, Staffa and and Iona in the Inner Hebrides. The itinerary includes a climb to the top of Mull’s Ben More, the island’s only Munro and another boat trip – to the basalt columns of Staffa. The 7-night, full board holidays cost from £1199 and £1379 respectively. Other newly added breaks include guided trail walks in the north Cairngorms and along the length of Hadrian’s Wall."
Brittany Ferries to suspend two more routes16 days ago
Brittany Ferries is to close its services from between Portsmouth and Le Havre and Cherbourg from Monday (7 September) to cut costs as part of a five year recovery plan. It says it has been forced to take decisive action in light of a “terrible summer season and weak forward demand for services this autumn”. The company apologised to customers facing disruption and said it would try to accommodate them on alternative sailings. Some 65,000 passengers have cancelled bookings since the Government imposed quarantine restrictions on travellers from France and Spain. The moves follow the previously announced closure of the Portsmouth-St Malo route, also from Monday. The Poole-Cherbourg service, which has been suspended since the end of March, will not return this year.
Director general Christophe Matthieu said: "We carried virtually no passenger traffic between the months of April and June, as the Covid-19 crisis hit. When we resumed, we had hoped to salvage 350,000 passengers from a summer season that would usually achieve more than double that number.The reality however is that we are unlikely to reach 200,000. Passenger traffic accounts for around 75 percent of our income, so our bottom line has been hit hard. It’s is why we must continue to take decisive action to reduce our costs to get us through the worst of this unprecedented crisis.”
There was some good news from the operator, however. It says around 100,000 more passengers have booked for next year than had done so this time last year.
New Alpine tunnel set to open17 days ago
A new tunnel beneath the southern Swiss Alps is set to be opened officially on Friday (4 September) by the country’s President. The 15.4km tunnel, which passes under Monte Ceneri, connects the towns of Camorino and Vezia in the canton of Ticino. It bypasses the relatively steep high altitude rail route which is not suitable for high speed services. Work on the project began in 2006. The tunnel will cut the journey time between Locarno and Lugano from 50 to 22 minutes.
Shape of skiing to come18 days ago
How will skiing look next winter? A good indication comes from the US industry giant Vail Resorts. It will require skiers and snowboarders to wear face coverings to access the slopes – including in lift queues and while riding on chairlifts and in gondolas. And distancing rules to separate visitors on lifts may lengthen queues on busy days. Related people skiing or boarding together will be able to ride lifts with each other but single guests will be kept apart by empty seats.
Besides Vail itself and its neighbour Beaver Creek the company’s subsidiaries operate 35 resorts or ski areas in North America and Australia. They include Breckenridge, also in Colorado, Heavenly on the California-Nevada border, Utah’s Park City and Whistler-Blackcomb in British Columbia, Canada.
In a letter to guests CEO Rob Katz wrote: “It has been our goal to design an approach that can remain in place for all of the 2020/21 season. We do not want to be caught off guard or find ourselves needing to make reactionary changes. Striving for consistency will provide our guests, employees and communities with as much predictability as possible this season, which we believe is worth the extra effort.”
New Belfast flights take off19 days ago
A new service between London City Airport and Belfast is scheduled to take off tomorrow (1 September). British Airways’ CityFlyer subsidiary is initially operating six round trips a week by Embraer 190 jet aircraft, increasing to ten a week from 12 October. Until then flights depart from London’s Docklands at 7am, arriving at 8.35am. They return at 9am. On Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays they leave at 5.15pm and return from Belfast at 7.15pm. And from Monday next week Lufthansa is to resume services between London City Airport and Frankfurt on Monday. The German airline plans to operate two round trips a day initially.
New York's MoMa re-opens as travel corridor talks reported22 days ago
With the Government reported to be discussing a travel corridor to New York, the city’s spectacular Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) reopened yesterday. New hours for the first few weeks – until 27 September will be 10.30am until 5.30pm. Mondays will be reserved for members. And also until the 27th of next month, admission will be free, thanks to support from the museum’s partner, retailer UNIQLO. Entry to the recently expanded and re-vamped museum will be limited to 100 visitors per hour – 25% of normal capacity – and visitors need to book 30 minute time slots that are released a week in advance, on Fridays at 10am (3pm in the UK). They must also wear face masks, which will be available free and expect contactless temperature checks. Audio guides will only be available on personal devices.
Three more countries now off limits23 days ago
Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Jamaica are the latest countries to be removed from the Government’s safe travel list. Travellers arriving from those destinations after 4am on Saturday morning wil need to self isolate for 14 days. At the same time the Foreign & Commonwealth Office Transport advised against all but essential trips to the countries, but stopped short of counselling UK citizens already there to leave. Secretary Grant Shapps said data showed the moves the needed to keep infection rates down. However the statistics website Statista showed cumulative cases per 100,000 of the Swiss and Czech populations over the past seven days were 22 and 20 respectively, with the UK at 12.
Silver travellers cautious - but many will make up for lost time23 days ago
Nearly one third of over-50s think it will be more than a year before they feel comfortable about flying again. But 30% would be happy to fly short haul before then end of this year – compared with only 12% who would travel long haul. And a surprising 25% think they will never feel confident taking a flight of 6hrs or more.
The figures come from the latest Silver Travel Advisor survey of the impact of COVID-19. The research shows the pandemic has shrunk the travel horizons of the over-50s, with 54% of those now planning to take a holiday saying they hoped to spend it in the UK – more than double the proportion last autumn. Forty per cent said they were planning trips to Europe and only 6% were likely to go further afield.
Of those planning holidays, 35% said they would be self catering and 31% would staying in hotels. For short breaks preferences were reversed, to 26% and 40% respectively. But however long the planned break, self drive, preferred by 35%, was far and away the most favoured choice of transport. Air, train and tour operator coach lagged behind at 17%, 9% and 5% respectively.
Silver travellers remain unsure about cruising, with the over-70s particularly cautious. Roughly one in five (21%) said they would not take another ocean cruise, compared with 18% who said they would never take a river cruise again. But 34% and 41% respectively though they would feel confident enough to take to the water in a year or less.
On a more optimistic note, 30% of over 50s intended to take more holidays next year and in 2022 – to make up for those they had missed during the crisis.
Insurance is crucial to the age group but the responses were confusing. Less than half of the respondents said they wanted cancellation and medical cover for coronavirus related costs, while 78% – and 82% of those over 70 – prioritised cancellation cover. Just over half (55%) thought travellers should self isolate for 14 days if returning from a country with more infections than the UK. And 4% thought there should be no quarantine requirements for people arriving from abroad.