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In the News this Week...
brought to you by News Editor, Roger Bray
Vueling to shake up UK – Barcelona services23 days ago
Spanish airline Vueling is to stop flying to Barcelona from Heathrow and Luton at the end of March and concentrate its services to the city at Gatwick. It says that despite the move, which is part of a wider European routes shake up, the total number of seats available will increase by 1% compared with last summer. At the same time Vueling, which is part of British Airways parent IAG (the International Airlines Group) and is based in Barcelona, will axe its flights there from Cardiff. But it notes it will maintain services from the Welsh capital to Alicante, Malaga and Palma, Mallorca.
Brexit flights cap threat lifted24 days ago
The threat of a cap on flights between the UK and EU countries has been lifted. Part of Brussels’ original contingency plan maintain services in the event of a no deal Brexit, it would have banned airlines from increasing capacity to each of the other 27 member states above last year’s levels. Because airlines had added many new routes since then it was feared this could force them to cancel some flights. The restriction was removed after a vote in the European Parliament. The so called ‘bare bones’ contingency plan was drawn up because failure to agree a deal would mean the UK leaving the single aviation market, obliging the Government to strike separate bilateral agreements on flights with each member country. However, should it be needed, it would be temporary. If Britain crashes out on 29 March, Government negotiators will have only until 29 October to thrash out those new agreements.
Total eclipse package launched27 days ago
A private charter jet to see next summer’s total solar eclipse from the optimum vantage point in Chile will be the climax of a South American grand tour on offer from Wendy Wu Tours. The one hour flight will take customers 472kms north from Santiago to the coastal town of La Serena. From there they will head a little further north to a viewing point in La Higuera, which lies between the Pacific and the dry, desert region of Atacama, and is reckoned to be the best place in the country to see the spectacle on 2 July. Guests will have a briefing from celebrated astronomer Dr Stuart Clark. The trip will also include visits to Rio de Janeiro, Iguacu Falls, on the border between Argentina and Brazil, Buenos Aires and Machu Picchu in Peru. Departure will be on 23 June. Prices start at £6,490 a head.
Mushrooming hotels promise value Germany breaks28 days ago
Germany looks set to become a leading contender for the title of best value European destination. New figures suggest hotel operators will find it tough to increase or perhaps even maintain prices, especially during quiet times of the year. Market research specialist STR reports that the total number of rooms under construction there is 46,498 – or 7.1% of the total currently available. That compares with 1.2% in France and 1.4% in Spain and 2.3% in Turkey, for example. In Munich, a superb city break destination, no fewer than 39 new hotels are planned to open by next year. That represents an increase of 15.4% in the total number of rooms available. Staying in the UK may not be such a bad option, either. The number of rooms under construction here represents a 5.6% increase in the total now available. But if you’re contemplating a break in London, maybe don’t put off booking too long. The number of rooms on offer there rose by 2.3% last month but the capital attracted 4.8% more visits – and the average daily rate was up by 3.2%. STR says the performance was the strongest for any January in the company’s London database.
Four Seasons set to open in Montreal29 days ago
Montreal is to get a new luxury hotel this summer. The 169 room Four Seasons has begun taking reservations for stays starting on 1 June, just in time for the Formula 1 Grand Prix on 9 June. The property, whose upper floor deluxe rooms will have floor to ceiling windows with views over the French Canadian city, is on the Rue de la Montagne, a short walk from the Museum of Fine Arts in the Golden Square Mile. It is a 20 minute drive from Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport and five minutes from the station, from which trains run to Quebec City.
No deal dilemma for holiday bookers30 days ago
To book holidays now – or wait to see whether it’s deal or no deal? It’s a question clearly in the minds of thousands of UK consumers. Market intelligence from research company GFK showed summer bookings were surging ahead until mid December but fell away dramatically following news reports – quickly denied – suggested ministers had considered advising against booking after 29 March. Logic suggests concern over exchange rates and costs are now likely to be the biggest factor, amid uncertainty whether sterling will take a hit as the UK crashes out or perk up following some last minute compromise or a delayed Brexit. Meanwhile more consumers are booking all inclusive packages to safeguard their holiday budgets, according to online travel agent On the Beach. The company reports a significant rise in such bookings as a proportion of its business in January – a key month for summer bookings. They accounted for half the total, compared with 46% in the same weeks last year.
Confusion in wake of sudden Flybmi collapseabout 1 month ago
The holiday plans of thousands of travellers have been thrown into confusion by the sudden collapse of regional airline Flybmi. The East Midlands based carrier operated services from four UK cities to a wide range of destinations. It blamed a rise in the price of aviation fuel and the impact of Brexit, which has caused uncertainty for consumers and increased costs following the exclusion of UK airlines from full participation in the EU’s carbon emissions trading scheme. Ryanair, easyJet and British Airways have launched special rescue fares on some routes for passengers stranded by the collapse. But Flybmi’s demise again throws a spotlight on glaring differences in financial protection for passengers. Those who have booked flights with the airline as part of packages are covered by the Civil Aviation Authority’s ATOL scheme. They should be brought home by the package organiser or – if they have yet to fly – be offered alternative flights or full refunds. Those who booked scheduled flights only direct with the airline and paid with credit cards can seek refunds from their card issuers provided value of the boking was over £100. They may also get their money back if they used a Visa debit card. In that case they should consult their bank. Some travel insurance policies also include scheduled airline failure insurance (SAFI) but the extent of cover varies. Passengers relying on it to pay for emergency flights home may find it covers them for the whole cost. Others may be covered only for the original price of their tickets. If they booked through travel agents, those agents should be the first port of call for assistance. They should remember to ask if their booking falls under the somewhat complex Linked Travel Arrangement category, newly introduced as a result of an EU directive on financial protection for package travellers. This latest failure comes with the Government in the process of investigating whether passengers buying scheduled tickets only should be guaranteed some of the same protection afforded to package holidaymakers.
Turner exhibition opens at Blenheimabout 1 month ago
An exhibition of early architectural paintings and engravings by Turner has opened at Blenheim Palace. One view in the State Rooms and on loan from the Tate, the Ashmolean Museum and Oxford University, works include ‘Untitled, a view of Oxford from Headington Hill’ and a print of his image of Blenheim in 1833, depicting what he described as “the finest view in England”. The exhibition runs until 22 April.
River cruise from Kiev launchedabout 1 month 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 launchedabout 1 month 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 openabout 1 month 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 - reportabout 1 month 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 capabout 1 month 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 wingabout 1 month 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 resortabout 1 month 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 flightsabout 1 month 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 remainabout 1 month 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 analysisabout 1 month 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 checksabout 1 month 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 onlineabout 2 months 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”.