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In the News this Week...
brought to you by News Editor, Roger Bray
Row simmers over Cook rescue offer reportsabout 2 months ago
A huge row looks certain to erupt after reports that the Spanish and Turkish governments had agreed to provide the funds needed to keep Thomas Cook afloat but that the UK government had vetoed the idea. The two major destinations had made the offer to protect their local tourism industries. One source said because hotels were owed large amounts of money it had been suggested Cook’s debts be converted into shares. The source said a similar plan was in process to protect Cook’s Scandinavian operations. It was reported that the UK Government had refused to provide guarantees against the company staggering quickly into a new crisis. Meanwhile other tour operators with customers due to fly home on Thomas Cook Airlines up until the end of next week have been told they will not have to pay for seats on alternative carriers. It was believed the move had been prompted by concerns that they might otherwise cause financial difficulties from some of those firms. As the repatriation of over 150,000 customers booked with Thomas Cook continued other tour operators and cruise lines have been scrambling to find alternatives. One example is Sunvil, whose staff have been working round the clock to find seats on other carriers for customers due to travel to Greece under its own name and on holidays booked under its GIC The Villa Collection. The firm said it would deal with the problem on a departure by departure basis. All passengers scheduled to leave between now and Saturday had been moved already to other airlines. Those due to leave later would be contacted today. The firm asked all passengers affected to email [email protected] with their mobile and booking reference numbers. Passengers due to return from Greece were asked to contact local representatives. It was expected that those with homeward bound flights before 6 October would return as planned. Meanwhile any holidaymakers in emergency need of beds on the Canary island of Lanzarote have been offered free accommodation by self catering company Lanzarote Retreats (www.lanzaroteretreats.com).
Hilton opens new luxury London hotelabout 2 months ago
London has a new luxury hotel. The Biltmore Mayfair has opened fully on Grosvenor Square as Hilton’s first European property under its LXR Hotels and Resorts brand. Formerly a Millennium hotel, it has undergone a £60m revamp. It has 307 rooms and a restaurant overseen by Michelin starred chef Jason Atherton.
Massive airlift as Thomas Cook collapsesabout 2 months ago
A huge airlift was underway today to bring home more than 150,000 British holidaymakers following the collapse of tour operator and airline Thomas Cook. The company, whose origins date from 1841, ceased trading in the early hours of this morning after the failure of a last ditch effort to raise the £200m demanded by banks to keep it afloat. The Civil Aviation Authority, which is organising the repatriation, issued an emergency 24hr helpline telephone number (0300 303 2800) and advised customers already abroad to check a dedicated website (thomascook.caa.co.uk). Most should be able to complete their holidays and fly home on their originally planned dates, though some may be flown to airports far away from those they departed from. Those booked still to travel from the UK were urged not to go to airports. Travellers booked on package holidays will be refunded through the CAA’s ATOL scheme. Some who have booked elements of their trips separately through High Street travel agencies should get their money back under the revised EU protection scheme recently passed into UK law. Those with flight only bookings on Thomas Cook Airlines should also get refunds if they booked using credit cards and – probably – charge cards, or if their travel insurance covered scheduled airline failures. Holidaymakers on land based trips – by rail for example – will need to contact ABTA (the Association of British Travel Agents). The collapse also hit travellers in other countries where the group operated. It is estimated that in total some 600,000 travellers are abroad on Thomas Cook holidays, around 300,000 of them from Germany alone. There was a wave of sadness from the travel industry at the loss of such an iconic brand, though it’s fair to say that the reputation for solid reliability once associated with that brand had been part responsible for its difficulties in an age of rapid change. Burdened by massive debt, the company had staggered from crisis to crisis over a long period. Travel industry experts said it was slow to react to the impact of the internet. It had been hit not just by online competition but by a change in the way people book holidays, which has made life increasingly tough for firms without a particular niche in the market. Brexit uncertainty didn’t help. With the Government yet again picking up to tab for the repatriation of scheduled airline passengers, Cook’s demise will add more fuel to the argument that scheduled airline passengers should be protected in the same way as those on packages – through a levy on tickets. The Government is already investigating new ways of handling travel industry collapses. One suggestion has been a move to the US system of Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which protects airlines and other companies from their creditors while efforts continue to find a way to keep them in business. It is not yet clear how much of a dent the cost of refunds will damage the Air Travel Trust Fund, built up through levies on packages. With the busy summer holiday season over and bookings sure to have been depressed by recent news of Cook’s difficulties, forward bookings will not be as high as they would have been had group collapsed, say, three months ago. But the impact will be enormous.
Train times set for cut on busy US routeabout 2 months ago
Non-stop trains between New York and Washington were set to start running on Monday 23 September. New Amtrak services will take 2hrs 35mins, shaving up to 25mins off the trip with stops. Initially Acela trains will run only on weekdays – once a day southbound, leaving New York’s Penn station at 6.35am, and once northbound, departing from Washington at 4.30. Though the time saved will not be enormous – American trains are hardly in the TGV league – the move will enhance the appeal of travelling by train versus flying. The new services come ahead of the 2021 launch of new tilting Acela trains. Due to begin trials later this year they promise further cuts in journey time – also on Amtrak’s New York-Boston route.
New Canaries walking tours launchedabout 2 months ago
Tour operator Camino Ways has spread its wings with the launch of walking tours in the Canary Islands. The firm made its name organising hiking and cycling on the pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela, and also offers walking packages in Ireland and Italy. Now it is offering self guided itineraries in Tenerife and La Gomera under a new brand name: Canaria Ways. They range from four to ten days in length, with luggage transfers between stays in ‘boutique style accommodation’. It has started modestly, with three options but plans to add more later in the year. A week’s walking in La Gomera for example, costs from €815 per person. That doesn’t include flights from the UK. Because of the recent wild fires in Gran Canaria, the start of its planned tours there has been postponed until November.
Gorbachev speech writer is cruise lecturerabout 2 months ago
Mikhail Gorbachev’s former speech writer and interpreter, Pavel Palazhchenko, will be among the guest speakers on a new Baltic cruise on offer for next summer from luxury tour operator Abercrombie & Kent. Excursions will include a visit to a former Soviet nuclear missile base in Lithuania. Ports of call include Copenhagen, Stockholm, Tallinn, Helsinki and St Petersburg. The ship is Le Dumont d’Urville, launched this year and with capacity limited to 148 passengers. The 13-day cruise departs on 16 July. It costs from £11,389 a head – and that’s with an early booking discount.
Loganair expands services2 months ago
Scottish airline Loganair is to launch a clutch of new services next year. In February it will start operating from Glasgow to Cardiff and from Aberdeen to East Midlands and Haugesund, on the North Sea coast of Norway. From 26 April and 23 May respectively it will fly from Newcastle to Bergen in Norway and Guernsey. Services between Edinburgh and Norway, which started this year, will be expanded significantly. Other developments will include the addition of Saturday services between Southend and Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis in the Hebrides.
Faster internet speeds at Gatwick2 months ago
Gatwick’s South Terminal now has 5G wi-fi. Vodafone has installed a high speed, high capacity fibre optic network. It says other operators are be able to use the system. The North Terminal is set to follow early next year. The move means faster web searches and downloads for passengers using smart phones, tablets or laptops.
Bahamas message to tourists: keep coming2 months ago
The Bahamas government has moved to reassure potential visitors with a reminder that most of the archipelago escaped the impact of Hurricane Dorian. In a statement, the islands’ Ministry of Tourism and Aviation urges consumers to know that the best thing they can do for the country, now more than ever, is simple: visit the Bahamas. While the most northern islands of Grand Bahama and the Abacos had been devastated, many other islands were unaffected. These included Nassau and Paradise Island, the Exumas, Eleuthera and Harbour Island, Bimini, Andros, the Berry, Cat and Long Islands, San Salvador, Rum Cay, Acklins and Crooked Islands, Mayaguana and Inagua. Dionisio D’Aguilar, Tourism and Aviation Minister, said: “Maintaining a robust tourism industry will be vital in helping the country to recover and rebuild.” Meanwhile Carnival Cruise Line has already resumed sailings to Bahamian ports, with a total of 41 visits between last week and the end of September alone.
Swim with manta rays at new resort2 months ago
Guests at a new luxury resort in the Maldives will be able to swim alongside manta rays in its lagoon. InterContinental’s Maamagau Resort is nurturing a safe habitat in the lagoon for the creatures, working with a conservation organisation, the archipelago’s Manta Ray Project. The Raa Atoll, on which the resort stands is also close to the Maldives’ only UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve and is home to Hanifaru Bay, one of the few places in the world where visitors can snorkel among whale sharks as well as manta rays. The resort comprises 81 overwater, beach and lagoon villas and ‘residences’. It has a spa and six restaurants and bars.
New mobile huts to get best Northern Lights view2 months ago
Mobile huts that can be shifted to get the best views of the Northern Lights have been launched by specialist tour operator Aurora Zone. With panoramic windows that enable customers to watch the spectacle from their beds, they can be positioned on ice, snow or water. This winter they will sit on the frozen water of Lake Inari at Nangu, in the north of Finnish Lapland, Available for stays starting on 10 December, they will be heated using biofuel generated electricity and will be solar powered in summer. The huts will have wi-fi and private composting toilets. Overnight stays, starting at £231 for each of two sharing, can be added to the firm’s itineraries in the area. These could include its three night tailor made Nangu trip, which includes flights, full board accommodation and a range of activities including dog sledding, ice fishing and cross country skiing. It costs from £1,085, again for each of two sharing.
Not-for-profit safari camp opens2 months ago
A not-for-profit safari camp set on a 100ft clifftop was set to open this month in northern South Africa. Guests staying in the five luxury Lepogo Lodges at Noka Camp may sleep indoors, or in ‘sky bed’ on balconies, allowing them to nod off while stargazing. The balconies will have see through floors over the Palala River ravine. Some three hours by road from Johannesburg, the energy self sufficient camp is on a 48,000 hectare reserve, one of Arica’s leading private rhino sanctuaries. Its owning family promises to plough all financial gains from project – late next year an exclusive use, 12 person house will be added – into the reserve to protect wildlife, maintain conservation and support the local community. All inclusive rates per person will start at around R10,750 (rand) a night until the end of this year and R16,500 until the end of 2020. Then they’ll rise to R21,000.
Berlin link to be suspended2 months ago
Low cost German airline Eurowings will suspend its service between Heathrow and Berlin’s Tegel airport when its winter schedules kick in. Last non-stop flights will take off on 26 October. The Dusseldorf headquartered carrier currently operates two round trips a day on the route.
Kaiser’s residence becomes a Sheraton2 months ago
A hotel built originally in 1896 as the residence of Kaiser Wilhelm II, is scheduled to open to international guests on 15 September under the Four Points by Sheraton brand in the Tanzanian capital, Dar es Salaam. The building served as a hospital in the First World War, when German East Africa, which included what is now Tanzania, was embroiled in a campaign to divert British forces from the European theatre. It became a hotel under the British Empire. The 174 room Four Points by Sheraton, New Africa Hotel, to use its full name, has a restaurant overlooking the harbour, an outdoor pool and a fitness centre.
Next summer’s flights safe from Brexit disruption2 months ago
Flights between the UK and EU countries have been guaranteed until 24 October next year at the earliest, according to the travel industry organisation ABTA. There will be no disruption next summer whatever happens in the current Brexit maelstrom. Under earlier contingency plans agreed in Brussels the guarantee of no disruption was set to end next March. The contingency arrangement has been necessary because leaving with no deal would mean the UK was no longer a member of the EU single market in aviation. That in turn would mean Britain negotiating a new air agreement with Brussels or striking separate agreements with individual deals separately with the remaining 27 EU member states.
Skiers promised new Rocky Mountain flights2 months ago
Skiers and snowboarders heading for the US Rockies will have a wider choice of airlines for the coming season. United Airlines has decided to extend its summer only direct service between Heathrow and Denver throughout the winter. It plans to operate six round trips a week using a Boeing 757 Dreamliner. British Airways already flies direct to Denver, gateway to major resorts including Aspen, Snowmass, Vail and Breckenridge. Meanwhile British Airways has started flying year round from Gatwick to Milan. It will operate six round trips a week to Bergamo airport, which is about 30 miles from the centre of the city and is also a gateway for Lakes Como and Garda. The airport is also a jumping off point for the Alps, with a number of Italian ski resorts within a three hours drive, including Cervinia, Madesimo, Selva and Courmayeur.
Marriott expands tiny bathroom bottle ban2 months ago
Moves to banish single use plastic bottles from hotel bathrooms gather pace. After replacing them with larger, pump topped bottles at around 1000 locations in North America, the huge Marriott International group has announced it will extend the policy to the rest of its 7000-plus properties worldwide. It says tiny bottles are not usually recycled, so end up in hotels’ rubbish bins. The bigger bottles contain roughly the same amount at 10-12 of them. The company expects most of its hotels to make the switch by the end of next. This would prevent some 500m small bottles a year winding up in landfill, or about 1.7m pounds of plastic. Beside those under its own name, the group’s brands include Westin, Sheraton, Aloft, Le Meridien, Ritz Carlton, Renaissance, Moxy and Design Hotels.
Rothschild treasures go on view2 months ago
Treasures still bearing Nazi inventory numbers will be part of a fascinating exhibition opening on Saturday 7 September at Waddesdon Manor, near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire. A new permanent gallery includes around 20 such objects, confiscated from the French branch of the Rothschild banking dynasty. Among them is a 17th century gold and enamel pendant in the form of a book, which clearly bears the Nazi stamp. In all, about 50 objects in the gallery – A Rothschild Treasury – were looted during the Second World War. Many came from homes of the children of Baron Edmund de Rothschild, a prime mover of the movement for a Jewish homeland and patron of the arts and science, who died at his Paris Chateau in 1934. Waddesdon Manor was built for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild in the 1870s in the style of a Loire Valley chateau. The gallery houses over 300 items spanning two millennia, collected by past and present family members. Many of them have been rarely if ever seen by the public. Among them are jewelry given as presents by Queen Victoria, for whom a lift was installed ahead of her 1890 visit, a first century cameo of Augustus Caesar’s grandson Gaius and a second century openwork gold engagement rings excavated in Tienen, Belgium. More recently made items include an 18th century Mugal jade vase encrusted with jewels and a microscope used by Charles Rothschild, who became an entomologist and donated his enormous collection of some 250,000 fleas to the Natural History Museum. It might just be that he used it to inspect a moth called Bucculatrix Pannonica. Pannonica was a name given to his daughter, who moved to New York after becoming besotted with jazz, She conducted a long relationship with the great pianist Thelonius Monk, who used the name for one of his tunes.
Bosnia flights to take off from Luton3 months ago
Direct flights from Luton to Sarajevo will take off later this month. FlyBosnia will operate three round trips a week from 24 September – on Saturdays, Sundays and Tuesdays – using a 150 seat Airbus A319-112. British Airways dropped its direct service in 2008. FlyBosnia plans to up the service to daily over the next 12 months. It currently flies to four cities in the Middle East and plans to add Rome and Paris by the end of this year.
Dover departures for Arctic cruises3 months ago
Hurtigruten is to operate winter expedition sailings from Dover for the first time. Starting in 2021 the Norwegian cruise line will offer 14-day itineraries on the MS Maud including ports of call within the Arctic Circle. Among them will be Tromso and Honningsvag, Norway’s northernmost city. Activities available to passengers will include fishing, hiking and Northern Lights safaris. Prices start at £3,299 per person.