In the News this Week...

brought to you by News Editor, Roger Bray
  • News 278

    Two airlines will launch new flights to Iceland next year.

    over 8 years ago

    EasyJet will start flying from Luton to Reykjavik on March 27. It will operate three times a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. And a new Icelandic airline WOW Air, scheduled to start operating next summer, plans to fly from Stansted to Keflavik from June 1. It will also operate three round trips a week – on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

  • News 276

    Many of the flowers in our gardens and parks come from China.

    over 8 years ago

    A new tour put together by Journeys of Distinction follows the trail of 19th and early 20th century plant hunters, such as the Austrian born American Joseph Rock, whose articles in National Geographic magazine were said to have been the inspiration for Lost Horizon, James Hilton's novel about the fictional Himalayan community of Shangri-La and whose name survives in paeonia rockii, the tree peony which is now China's national flower. The 14 day itinerary which starts in Shanghai with a visit to the UNESCO listed Classical Gardens of Suzhou, takes in Rock's home in Lijiang, his base for exploration during nearly three decades. 

  • Frank Gardner Announced As The New Ski Club President.

    over 8 years ago

    The Ski Club's new president – Frank Gardner – was elected at the Club's annual general meeting on 24 November 2011.
    Frank Gardner, the BBC's award-winning Security Correspondent, welcomed the nomination at the Ski Club's AGM and demonstrated his charisma with a witty insight into his skiing background. Referring to himself as "a late developer in skiing" Frank chatted about skiing as a teenage trainee biathlete with the British Army, and Nordic skiing across the Arctic Circle in his gap year. When he finally graduated to downhill skiing at the age of 23, Frank enjoyed the opportunity to explore some of the world's more unusual slopes in Iran, Lebanon and Transylvania.

    Gardner has reported for the BBC from all over the Middle East on a wide range of international and domestic security issues. He was shot six times by terrorists at close range while on assignment in Saudi Arabia in 2004. He survived to return to work in a wheelchair and was awarded the OBE by the Queen the following year.

    After his gunshot injuries Gardner retrained to ski in a sitski and has since competed in the BBC Ski Sunday Slalom at Courmayeur, coming – according to him – spectacularly last! He spoke of his determination at the Ski Club AGM: "After I was shot I knew there were two things I just couldn't give up – I had to keep skiing and scuba diving."

    Ski Club Chairman Neil Britten said: "it's an inspiring experience to meet Frank. He has tremendous energy and zeal and a significant public profile. We are delighted he is the new Ski Club President"

    Frank Gardener responded to his nomination and election: "It is a great honour to join your community and club, a real privilege. I'm looking forward to being involved directly with the sport I love."

  • News 275

    New England’s Santa Invasion.

    over 8 years ago

    What’s better than one Santa Claus? The answer is 250 Santas…all skiing and boarding down a mountain! 
    It happens on Santa Sunday, the annual kick-off to the festive season at Sunday River Ski Resort in Maine. Everyone turns up in full Santa gear: red hats (with white pompoms, of course), red jackets, red trousers and white beards. Yes, even ladies don long white beards! 
    After a jolly chorus of Ho! Ho! Ho!, they glide up the mountain – not on sleighs, but on the chair lift. Then, young and old, boys and girls, whoop it up as they swoosh back down in a whirling pattern of red on white.

    Three hours north of Boston, Sunday River was the earliest resort to open in the USA last October. In the true spirit of Christmas, this unique St Nick ski-in has raised thousands of dollars for charity over the past decade. This year, Santa Sunday will take place on Sunday 4th December.

  • Air duty rise will push up cost of flying.

    over 8 years ago

    The cost of flying will rise in April 2012 when air passenger duty increases by about 10%.  Confirmation of the move  – an increase had been long feared by the travel industry – was revealed in documents accompanying today's Autumn statement from Chancellor George Osborne. It is expected to push up the rate for short haul economy travellers to about £13. But it's on long haul trips that the increase will really hurt – adding between around £6 and £8.50 depending on the length of the flight and £17 to the price of some trips in premium class. It's difficult to assess the exact impact, however, as some adjustment may be made to the various tax bands next week. The Board of Airline Representatives in the UK condemned the rise – double the rate of inflation – as “a retrograde step for the UK economy and will be devastating for the travel industry”. It chief executive Mike Carrivick said “Air travellers are being milked yet again and used as a soft target to prop up Treasury coffers. This announcement is completely at odds with the Chancellor's wish to invest in the transport infrastructure. No increase is justified, this action demonstrates the continued discrimination against air travellers.”

  • News 273

    Oxford’s globetrotting silver travellers win an all-inclusive stay at Turtle Bay, in Kenya

    over 8 years ago

    Avid `silver’ travellers Kathryn (60) and James McNicoll (62)from Oxford, have won a week’s luxury holiday at Turtle Bay in Kenya. Kathryn’s name was the first out of the hat among hundreds of over fifty year old travellers during September 2011.

    She said “We were astonished and delighted to hear news of our Kenya holiday prize. We have both travelled widely for work and for pleasure, particularly in Australia, where James comes from, and to Tanzania where I am from and where I have been researching my Masters dissertation. We also particularly enjoy walking and cycling holidays in Europe. During our travels in East Africa we discovered a love of bird-watching so we are particularly looking forward to our week at Turtle Bay, which has the reputation of being a bird-watchers’ paradise”. 

  • News 271

    The new look Toulouse-Lautrec Museum in the French city of Albi will open in April 2012.

    over 8 years ago

    The new look Toulouse-Lautrec Museum in the French city of Albi will open in April after a decade long re-vamp. The collection will how include works never displayed in public. The artist was born in Albi, in the south west of France, in 1864. The new edition f the museum will incorporate sections focusing on his use of colour  and his lithographic technique, a pictures will be hung in thematic groups – such as portraits and Paris by night.

  • News 272

    Pula, on the south coast of Croatia's Istrian peninsula, is to get two new luxury hotels.

    over 8 years ago

    Pula, on the south coast of Croatia's Istrian peninsula, is to get two new luxury hotels. Park Plaza has taken over two existing properties and will reopen them in May 2012 after renovations costing €25 millions. The 241 room Histria Pula will have an indoor pool, sauna and treatment rooms. Changes will include new landscaping and an upgraded  beach area. The 385 apartments at the Verudela Pula have been given facelifts, while exterior improvements are being made to facilities including  the outdoor swimming pool. The surroundings of both hotels will be newly landscaped.

  • News 270

    Hong Kong Airlines has confirmed it will launch an all business class service to Gatwick.

    over 8 years ago

    Hong Kong Airlines has confirmed it will launch an all business class service to Gatwick. Flights are scheduled to start on March 8 and will operate daily. Launched in 2006, the carrier and its sister operator Hong Kong Express operate to a range of destinations in Asia and beyond using Airbus A33-200 and Boeing 737-800 jets.

  • Park Plaza Hotels, owner and operator of upscale and lifestyle hotels, today announced the start of the rebranding of two Resort Hotels of the Arenaturist group.

    over 8 years ago

    Park Plaza Hotels, owner and operator of upscale and lifestyle hotels, today announced the start of the rebranding of two Resort Hotels of the Arenaturist group, one of the leading hospitality companies in Croatia. After extensive renovations, Park Plaza Histria Pula and Park Plaza Verudela Pula are set to open their doors in May 2012.

    The properties are located on the south coast of Croatia's Istrian peninsula and are currently undergoing an extensive 25 million euro renovation to bring them into line with Park Plaza Hotels & Resorts' brand standards.

    "Croatia is a fast growing holiday and group incentive destination offering ample natural and cultural diversity with strong Mediterranean influences. We are proud to enter into our first resort venture in Croatia with our upscale Park Plaza Hotels & Resorts brand." commented Boris Ivesha, President and CEO of Park Plaza Hotels.

    The 241-room Park Plaza Histria Pula will feature a brand new reception and lobby area, contemporary and airy guestrooms, a new restaurant, conference centre including two state-of-the-art boardrooms and wellness and fitness facilities including indoor pool, sauna and treatment rooms. The outside area will also see a transformation of the landscaping, an upgrade of the Yacht Club, beach area and hotel parking. The interior design and architecture is directed by London based Scott Brownrigg.

    Under the creative direction of local designers – Studio 92 and Studio Kaic – renovations at Park Plaza Verudela Pula include a full redevelopment of its 385 apartments, the reception area and the main restaurant. Other facilities to receive an upgrade are the outdoor swimming pool, the kids club, shopping zone, parking and landscaping.

    In April 2008, Park Plaza Hotels became a shareholder in the Arenaturist group and won the management agreement for the entire portfolio which includes eight hotels, five apartment complexes (with a total of 2,868 rooms) and seven campsites.

  • Are Europe's tourist hotspots so desperate for business that holiday bargains will be plentiful next year?

    over 8 years ago

    Are Europe's tourist hotspots so desperate for business that holiday bargains will be plentiful next year? With tourism statistics you pay your money and take your choice. Spain, for example, claims to have enjoyed an increase of 9.2% in tourism from the UK between January and September suggesting business is so healthy that deals will be thin on the ground. Even ignoring last year's ash cloud, which grounded flights and seriously reduced travel, the increase between June and September was 8.1% it says. But the Office for National Statistics, while it doesn't single out Spain until much later in its analytical process, says tourism to the 27 countries of the EU was broadly flat in the year to September. It seems unlikely both can be right. Even if everyone who abandoned Tunisia after the upheavals there had switched to Spain they wouldn't have swelled the number of UK visitors by more than about 4%. But despite our scepticism about the numbers tour operators may still be be able to cut or at least hold prices if Spanish hotels suffer a downturn in domestic business as a result of the new Government's austerity measures. The same is likely to be true in Greece. Hoteliers in both countries can hardly be salivating at the prospects for next summer.

  • Lufthansa will launch non stop flights from Manchester and Birmingham to Berlin's new Brandenburg Airport.

    over 8 years ago

    Lufthansa will launch non stop flights from Manchester and Birmingham to Berlin when the German capital's new Brandenburg Airport opens in summer 2012. In total the airline will add some 30 new services to domestic, European and Middle East destinations from the airport, which is to be named after the former German Chancellor Willy Brandt and is scheduled to open on 3 June 2012, with the closure of Tegel airport.

  • News 267

    A hug question mark hung over the future of Thomas Cook this week after the company was forced to ask its bankers for new funds.

    over 8 years ago

    A hug question mark hung over the future of Thomas Cook this week after the company was forced to ask its bankers for new funds. The problem the group now faces is how to persuade customers to keep booking despite the spate of negative news about its mounting debt and damaged share price. Cook's own High Street Travel agencies will be at pains to point out that travellers booking packages in those shops will be covered either under the ATOL (air travel organisers licence) scheme, which ensures consumers buying holidays including air travel are refunded when operators go bust – and brought home if that happens if they are abroad or – if they buy holidays including surface transport – such as coach tours – that they will be protected by the Package Travel Regulations. But despite the existence of these safety nets, travellers hit by the collapse of a travel company still face the inconvenience of reorganising their trips – and perhaps failing to replace the holidays they've been looking  forward to. On the plus side the Thomas Cook Group includes a range of brands operated under their own names, such as Cresta and Swiss Travel Service. Consumers may not immediately associate these brands with their parent company. Will Cook's be forced to slim down? Will it be taken over? The real crunch for Cook's may come in the key post-Christmas summer booking period. Then we'll discover whether there's enough consumer faith in the famous old brand to keep it buoyant.

  • Where’s the Snow?

    over 8 years ago

    Across the Atlantic some ski resorts are opening early and others are due to have their lifts running in time for Thanksgiving this Thursday (November 24). In Colorado Snowmass has opened five days earlier than planned – with neighbouring Aspen due to open on Thursday. Vail is also open. While in California, skiers and snowboarders have taken to the slopes of Heavenly and Northstar. North of the border Canada's Sun Peaks opened on Saturday after receiving nearly a metre of snow in the previous seven days. Whistler opened on the same day – nearly a week earlier than anticipated – and its linked neighbour our Blackcomb will be up and running on Thursday 24 November.

  • News 264

    Birmingham `silver traveller’ wins a pampering 4 star hotel break.

    over 8 years ago

    Lesley Jones from Stetchford, East Birmingham, has won a stay at the 4* Crowne Plaza Hotel in the Thames side town of Marlow, courtesy Silver Travel Advisor.

    Lesley’s name was the first out of the hat in our prize draw among all new members signing up to Silver Travel Advisor during September 2011.
    Grandmother of four, Lesley (pictured here with daughter Kerry), said “I’m so delighted to have won and I will be taking my daughter for a special treat. We can’t wait to try out the hotel’s spa and the beauty treatments which are included in our prize! My partner and I love travelling, especially to the coast. We’ve been to Scandinavia, France, Germany and recently to Cyprus where my daughter married on a beach, which is why I signed up to share some of our travel experiences on Silver Travel Advisor. I was so shocked to get the news from Silver Travel Advisor as I never win competitions!”

    Debbie Marshall, who heads up the Silver Travel Advisor team, said “we were delighted to bring Lesley news of her win and we look forward to reading about her stay at the Crowne Plaza, Marlow, when she posts her review.

    Image: Lesley Jones and her daughter Kerry

  • The south west gets a new air link with Switzerland this winter.

    over 8 years ago

    The south west gets a new air link with Switzerland this winter when Helvetic Airways starts flying between Bristol and Zurich,  From December 5 the Berne-based airline will operate three round trips a week with fares from £145. Departures from Bristol will be at 10.55am on Mondays and 1.25pm  on Wednesdays and Fridays. Homeward flights will leave at 7.40am on Mondays, and at 11.55am on the other days. 

  • Invoking the horrors of battle against a backdrop of social change, a new Museum of the Great War has opened in Meaux, north east of Paris.

    over 8 years ago

    Invoking the horrors of battle against a backdrop of social change, a new Museum of the Great War ( has opened in Meaux, some 35 miles north east of Paris. Officially inaugurated on Armistice Day by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, it features artefacts gathered by a private collector. They include many from Verdun, a theatre of war whose history is less familiar in the UK than the slaughter on the Somme. The exhibition, which includes an early tank and aircraft, leads the visitor through a period of French history which begins with the Franco-Prussian War of 1871, a humiliation for France which contributed to the causes of the First World War. 

  • Cruises for a maximum of four people are now available on the Mekong River through Vietnam and Cambodia.

    over 8 years ago

    Cruises for a maximum of four people are now available on the Mekong River through Vietnam and Cambodia. Two new, traditionally styled boats have been launched, each with just two en suite bathrooms and balconies. They are operated by Germany based Mekong Eyes Cruises (, which offers itineraries of two or three days. There are bikes on board so passengers can make excursions through jungle, rice fields and fruits plantations – and visit villages. And the on board chef gives cookery classes. Prices range from €199 – €439 for each of two people in a double or twin cabin.

  • Reopening of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh - 1 Dec 2011

    over 8 years ago

    The Scottish National Portrait Gallery will reopen its doors with 17 new and exciting specially chosen galleries on 1 Dec 2011. The national gallery was already the second largest collection of portraits in the world with over 3,500 paintings, sculptures and drawings, with a further 25,000 prints and around 3,000 works on long-term loan.  In addition, the Gallery is home to the Scottish National Photography Collection.  Comprising around 38,000 photographs, this outstanding collection of photographic art demonstrates how Scotland has been at the centre of the history and development of photography since the 1840s.  This has been a £17.6m project and the first major renovation in the gallery's 120-year history.  With this much reinvention, even the most seasoned art purveyor is in for a few welcome surprises.

    Among other developments, the renovation provides for the first time, full public access throughout the three floors of the building: the magnificent suite of five top-lit galleries on the upper floor has been restored to its former splendour, creating one of the finest display spaces in Scotland.

  • News 258

    Lights, Camera, Action: England On Film

    over 8 years ago

    From the coarse beauty of Yorkshire's moorland to the opulent exteriors of the National Trust's most lavish Stately Homes, England is one big, beautiful movie set. Don't just take our word for it – moviemakers have filmed some true classics here and this weekend sees the release of another: Andrea Arnold's adaptation of Emily Brontë's classic novel Wuthering Heights. Here, VisitEngland showcases some of the locations featured in this film season's most anticipated releases.


    Wuthering Heights
    Brontë depicted the barren Yorkshire moors as a representation of central character Heathcliff's innately wild nature and this new adaptation brings the rousingly romantic nineteenth-century novel to life. Kaya Scodelario has received much critical acclaim for her role as Cathy but the film's true star is North Yorkshire's stunning moorland. Sumptuous locations, including Cotescue Park, a country house built in 1666, and Swaledale highlight the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Explore these valleys and discover the true romance of these beautiful hills. If you scratch deeper than the surface you will find a truly wonderful place that lies at the beating heart of this ultimate love story.
    Release date: 11 November 2011

    My Week with Marilyn     
    Staring Michelle Williams as everyone's favourite blond bombshell, My Week with Marilyn focuses on the week Monroe spent in England whilst making the 1957 film The Prince and the Showgirl. Introduced to British life, Monroe escapes the pressures of Hollywood and then husband, Arthur Miller. Filming took place on locations in and around London, including a house near Windsor, which Monroe and Miller lived in during their stay in England. Curtis used the same studio featured in The Prince and the Showgirl in 1956 and Williams was reportedly given the dressing room Monroe had used at the time of the shoot.
    Release date: 18 November 2011  

    Directed by Madonna, W.E. brings together the Queen of Pop and King Edward VIII in an unconventional tale of contemporary love between a married woman and a Russian security guard. Locations include Hughenden Manor and West Wycombe Park in Buckinghamshire. The Manor, owned by the National Trust, was a country hideaway and home to the colourful private life of Benjamin Disraeli, the most unlikely Victorian Prime Minister. Today, you can follow in his footsteps: take a stroll through the elegant gardens and imagine feasting with Queen Victoria in the atmospheric dining hall.
    Release date: 9 December 2011
    Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows   
    British director Guy Ritchie invites his audience to follow Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr) and his sidekick Dr. Watson (Jude Law) across London as they outwit and bring down their fiercest and most cunning adversary, Professor Moriarty. Filmed at many iconic English destinations, from the historic Old Royal Naval College to Bourne Wood's ancient woodland, Sherlock Homes promises to be the festive season's biggest blockbuster.
    Release date: 16 December 2011  

    The Iron Lady   
    Here, Academy Award Winner Meryl Streep takes on a role of a lifetime, portraying the iconic former British Prime Minster, Margaret Thatcher. In preparation for the role, Streep sat through a session at the House of Commons to perfect the pursed lips and a steely glare needed to portray this extraordinary and complex woman. The film was shot at Pinewood Studios, which recently celebrated its 75th birthday, and is credited with creating some of British cinema's most famous scenes.
    Release date: 6 January 2012

    War Horse          
    Set in Devon at the outbreak of World War I, War Horse describes unbreakable bond between a young man and his faithful horse. Directed by Steven Spielberg, filming was undertaken across England's vast counties, including Bourne Woods, Surrey, Castle Combe and Dartmoor, Devon. Spielberg himself praised the beauty of the Dartmoor countryside, commenting on the unparalleled beauty of its landscapes and skies.
    Release date: 13 January 2012      

    The Woman in Black                      
    This supernatural thriller, based on Susan Hill's novel and hugely successful West End production of the same name, tells the story of a young lawyer's encounter with the ghost of a scorned woman set on vengeance. Layer Marney Tower, near Colchester, provides the dramatic setting to this haunting affair.  Built in the reign of Henry VIII, the Tudor palace stands tall within the Essex landscape, commanding views over the River Blackwater and beyond.
    Release date: 10 February 2012    

    Great Expectations
    To celebrate the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens, this lavish adaptation of Great Expectations stars some of the country's most beloved actors (Ralph Fiennes, Robbie Coltrane, David Walliams, Jason Flemyng and Helena Bonham Carter) and will make great use of several high-profile locations. Fans of the legendary narrative will once again welcome the opportunity to get lost in the enchanted serenity of period film.
    Release date: 2012 (TBC)