In the News this Week...

brought to you by News Editor, Roger Bray
  • News 281

    Hopes rise for snow in Europe's ski resorts.

    almost 9 years ago

    Will there be snow at Christmas in Europe's ski resorts? Old mountain hands know you should never bet the house on Alpine weather forecasts but the prognosis was looking a little more encouraging this week. Most Austrian resorts were expecting some snow above about 700 – 800 metres today. And though there it may be more likely to rain at lower levels, more consistent snowfall was predicted for Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Ischgl, for example, which has already spent around €1m on snow making to kick start its season, was anticipating snow during much of the week. Snow was also forecast in the Swiss and French Alps – though it was not clear whether there would be enough to make it worth uncorking the champagne just yet.

  • News 280

    The over 55s are booking top of the range coach tours.

    almost 9 years ago

    While most potential holiday travellers are are keeping an anxious on the economic storm clouds, major holiday operator Shearings claims sales of its premium “Grand Tourer” trips are up by no less than 73%, year on year. The price of these escorted tours averages over £1000 per person. Caroline Brown, the firm's commercial director says: “Today's over 55s are more likely than any other age group to splash out on luxury holidays, staying in premium accommodation and enjoying exclusive travel options.”
     

  • A new footpath will provide an unbroken route around the whole of Wales.

    almost 9 years ago

    A new footpath will provide an unbroken route around the whole of Wales. The Wales Coast Path is scheduled to open on May 5. Incorporating some stretches which are already open, it will run for 870 miles. The Countryside Council  for Wales says it will stay as close to the sea as is legally and physically practicable. However, the route's starting and finishing points will be inland, near Chester and Chepstow.
     

  • News 278

    Two airlines will launch new flights to Iceland next year.

    almost 9 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.

    almost 9 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.

    almost 9 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.

    almost 9 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. www.sundayriver.com
     

  • Air duty rise will push up cost of flying.

    almost 9 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

    almost 9 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.

    almost 9 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.

    almost 9 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.

    almost 9 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.

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

    almost 9 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.

  • 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.

    almost 9 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.
     

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

    almost 9 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.

    almost 9 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?

    almost 9 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.

    almost 9 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.

    almost 9 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.

    almost 9 years ago

    Invoking the horrors of battle against a backdrop of social change, a new Museum of the Great War (www.museedelagrandeguerre.eu) 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.