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In the News this Week...
brought to you by News Editor, Roger Bray
New hotel planned in Georgia ski resort3 months ago
Georgia may be about to make its mark on the wintersports holiday map. The Wyndham hotel group plans to open a property in the ski resort of Goderdzi at the end of next year under its Ramada Resorts brand. Goderdzi is close to the Black Sea in the Adjara region, about 2hrs from the coast at Batumi. It has only two lifts and a modest 5 – 6 kilometres of runs, but slopes are reported to be quiet and there is powder skiing reached by snowcat. The hotel will be in the heart of the resort, opposite the access lift to the slopes. It promises 100 rooms, 2 restaurants, a spa complex, lounge and lobby bar. Meanwhile Wyndham is also scheduled to open a Ramada hotel in the country’s capital and biggest city, Tbilisi, next year. The 125 room property will be on Melikishvili avenue, between the old and new towns. And in 2021 the group expects to open a 275 room hotel in Georgia’s second largest city, Kutaisi, whose Bagrati Cathedral and nearby Gelati Monastery are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
New Middle East Travel warning3 months ago
Turkey’s bounce back in the tourist popularity stakes look likely to take a knock following publication of revised travel advice by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Egypt, whose fortunes, which appeared to have perked up after the return of UK flights to Sharm el Sheikh, may also suffer. But travel industry leaders fear tensions sparked by the death of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a US strike could have impact across the Middle East, also affecting bookings to destinations such as Dubai. The FCO cited “the possibility of an increased threat against Western interests in nine Middle East countries", warning that the security situation for Britons travelling there could deteriorate “with very little warning”. Travellers should stay vigilant and keep in touch with developments. The other seven countries covered by the alert are the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia. As for Iran itself, the FCO has advised against all but essential travel there. This has already prompted the cancellation of some tours planned by the handful of UK firms operating to the country.
New visitor pass to cut costs in Manchester3 months ago
Stand by for a new visitor pass cutting the cost of entry to Manchester’s attractions. The one, two or three day, prepaid pass, which has been several years in the organising, is expected to be launched this spring. It will also cover tours and will provide a range of discounts at bars, restaurant and cafes across Greater Manchester. The organisation Marketing Manchester has not provided details of the attractions to be covered. But they may include paid admission to special exhibitions at the otherwise free Science and Industry Museum. The Museum is scheduled to open a new gallery this year designed to house such exhibitions.
Helicopters set to fly again to Isles of Scilly3 months ago
The helicopter link between Penzance and the Isles of Scilly is set to be restored in March after a gap of some eight years. Flights to and from St Mary’s, the largest island, and Tresco, will be operated year round by Sloane Helicopters from a new heliport on the outskirts of the west Cornwall town. The trip, by a twin engine, Augusta Westland 139 aircraft, will take 15 minutes. There will be up to 17 rounds trips a week. The new heliport, developed with the support of the EU’s European Regional Development Fund, will be close to the A30 and a mile from Penzance railway station, with a link by electric shuttle bus. It will have a large car park.
Aeroflot is world's most punctual3 months ago
Russia’s Aeroflot has been ranked the world’s most punctual airline in a worldwide analysis. UK based Cirium found 86.68 per cent of its flights operated on time in 2019. And Moscow’s Sheremetyevo saw the fewest delays among airports with global networks, with all but about five per cent of services operating punctually. Japan’s ANA (All Nippon Airways) was second by a whisker to Aeroflot, with 86.26 of flights on time and the US carrier Delta Air Lines was close behind in third place. The rest of the top ten, in order, were Brazil’s Azul, Japan Airlines, Alitalia, Air France. Emirates. Korean Air and SAS. Second and third amoung Global airports were both Chinese: Guangzhou Baiyun and Shanghai Pudong.
French resort to launch hi tech forest night walks3 months ago
Claiming to be first in Europe, the French Alpine resort of Les Gets is to launch interactive forest night walks next summer, promising to enhance the natural beauty of the environment with the use of light, video projections and scenography, accompanied by original music. The first Lumina night walk opened five years ago in the Parc de la Gorge in Coaticook, Quebec. Since then the company behind the concept, Montreal based Moment Factory, has launched ten more, including one in Hokkaido, Japan. The Les Gets project is currently still at the design stage. It is planned as a year round attraction, operating in the ski season as well as summer. The resort if part of the sprawling Ports du Soleil wintersports area straddling the border between France and Switzerland.
New Valencia flights from Gatwick planned3 months ago
Spanish budget airline Vueling plans to launch direct flights from London to Valencia this spring. From 1 May it will operate there six times a week from Gatwick. At around the same time a new gastronomic centre is scheduled to open in the city. Housed in a former printing works, the San Vicente Market will comprise 19 stalls offering the likes of Iberian ham, local seafood, Mediterranean rice dishes, traditional pastries and cheeses. The market will also provide a stage for exhibitions and live performances. Vueling is part of the International Airlines Group (IAG) which owns British Airways and Iberia. It currently operates the route via Barcelona.
Latest “Great Walk” opens in New Zealand3 months ago
The Paparoa Track, newest of New Zealand’s “Great Walks” is now scheduled to open fully on 22 December. The route, close to the west coast of South Island, had been due to open on 1 December, but the middle section has been cut off by a large landslip. Roughly 35 miles long, it runs for some 35 miles through the Paparoa National Park, taking in alpine summits, limestone karst landscapes and rainforests, It starts about a 45 minute drive from the seaside town of Greymouth. At first it follows the Croesus Track, with remnants of gold mining. It finishes not far from the spectacular Panakaiki “Pancake” Rocks”, which have been sculpted by weather and the thundering Tasman Sea into contorted formations, blowholes and surge pools. The track is described by the Department of Conservation, which has designated a series of these walks, as “challenging in poor weather”. Some sections are steep and rough. It may be used by hikers and mountain bikers. Walkers will take three days, bikers two. Accommodation is in huts. They may be booked as part of packages from New Zealand in Depth. The operator’s founder, Paul Carberry, recommends booking ahead, noting that more than 6600 night have already been reserved, out of 8500 available over 12 months.
New Antarctic cruise planned3 months ago
Getting close to Antarctic wildlife in a kayak, from a submarine or by helicopter are options on a new itinerary aboard the recently launched luxury cruise ship Scenic Eclipse. The 16 day trip is one of a new range planned for the next three years. It doesn’t depart until 15 February, 2022. The 200 passenger vessel, which is specially designed to cut through sea ice, has already made its inaugural voyage to the region, during which passengers encountered emperor Penguins. It not only has its own kayaks, Zodiacs and a seven seat submarine but carries two helicopters. The “Antarctica in Depth” itinerary will also take in historic research huts and working scientific stations. It costs from £10,781 a head.
Docklands airport gets new Dundee link3 months ago
Scotland’s Loganair is to switch its Dundee – London flights from Stansted to London City Airport from 29 March. The Glasgow based airline operates two round trips a day from Monday to Friday, and one on Sundays. It will use an ATR42-500 aircraft carrying 48 passengers, 15 more than the Saab 340 used currently. The service is supported under a Public Service Obligation, designed to protect routes that provide essential connections, boost tourism and encourage economic growth. It is backed with funds from the UK. Government, Transport Scotland and Dundee City Council. Loganair will also return to the Dundee – Belfast route after an absence of seven years. Starting on 2 April it will operate up to six round trips a week in summer and three in winter. News of the moves followed an announcement that Loganair would launch flights from Edinburgh to Hanover and Esbjerg next year. It will fly to the German city on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, with an extra summer service on Saturdays. And it will operate to the Danish port on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
New packages to São Tomé and Principe launched3 months ago
Holidays on the little visited, volcanic islands of São Tomé and Principe, off the west coast of equatorial Africa, have been launched for next year by Sunvil. Green and lush, they were formerly colonised by the Portuguese, who imported slaves from the mainland to work on sugar plantations. They became an independent state in 1975. When the sugar industry declined in the face of competition from Brazil, the Portuguese introduced cacao and coffee, which are still grown there. São Tomé, which lies just north of the equator, is the larger and more mountainous island. Principe’s diversity of plant, marine and other life has resulted in its designation as a UNESCO Biosphere. Sunvil is offering three itineraries, one based on cookery – including visits to coffe and cacao plantations – one on culture and tradition and a third on activities such as diving and snorkelling, hiking and turtle watching. Starting prices range from £3535 to £4540 for each of two sharing.
Greek idyll on new walking holiday3 months ago
A new walking holiday in the Peloponnese region, with baggage transferred between family run guesthouses, has been launched by specialist tour operator On Foot Holidays. The company has worked with the designers of the Menalon Trail to create its own version of the route, using many old paths and mule tracks linking village, fields and woodland in Arcadia, an idyllic and relatively remote part of Greece that was once a focus of resistance to Ottoman rule. This was supposedly home to Pan, god of the wild mountains. Shepherds and their flocks, hunting and rustic music – and companion of nymphs. The trail takes in threshing floors, abandoned watermills used to make products such as flour and gunpowder, and the Louisos Gorge, where the Prodromos monastery clings to a cliff face. The six night trip costs from £720. That covers b&b, four picnics, baggage transfers taxis from and back to Tripoli bus station and during the hike if you want to shorten the day’s distance. A taxi from or to Kalamata airport costs from £70. If you rent a car in Athens, say, there’s a £150 discount on the holiday (including the taxi fare back to it at the end).
How late is your flight? Ask a robot4 months ago
British Airways, whose image has taken a battering from the latest Which? survey of its readers’ airline ratings, is to trial robots to guide passengers through Heathrow’s Terminal 5 next year. The robots, from tech company BotsAndUs, are programmed to interact with travellers in various languages. The airline says they will be able to answer “thousands of questions”, Including queries about flight departure times, freeing staff to deal with more complex issues. They will also escort passengers to BA’s dedicated special assistance zones. Meanwhile the airiine announced three new services. Starting in May it will operate summer only flights between Glasgow and Palma. From July to September it will fly twice a week to the Basque city of San Sebastian from London City Airport. And from 1 June it will operate five times a week to Portland, Oregon. After a period in which BA has been hit by striking pilots and IT problems the Which? survey found BA, which was rated best short haul airline by readers in 2015, had slipped to third from bottom it the latest league table.
Historic ski chalets re-open as luxury hotel4 months ago
A group of ski chalets developed by the Rothschild family was scheduled has re-opened as a five star Four Seasons hotel. Les Chalets du Mont d’Arbois in the French resort of Megève have undergone extensive renovations costing more than €10 million, The development has begun in 1926 by Baroness Noemie de Rothschild, who had founded the resort just after the First World War as a French rival to St, Moritz – at a time when the word chalet meant an alpine shepherd’s hut. The property’s 41 refurbished rooms and suites are in three chalets 100 metres from each other. It incorporates a Michelin starred restaurant, an upgraded indoor-outdoor pool, a sauna, hammam and a hot tub.
Insurer scraps age cap for skiers4 months ago
Could this be an early sign that the insurance industry is at last responding to the increasing fitness of silver travellers? Staysure has removed the upper age limit from its ski cover. Previously the limit was 71. As this is a company specialising in travel insurance for the over 50s, this had seemed absurdly young. A spokeswoman agreed. “At Staysure we believe that age should not be a barrier to travel and we are constantly looking at ways to improve our cover and services for our customers. We know that many people over the age of 70 continue to enjoy the slopes and many other active holidays, so it’s important that they can come to a specialist such as Staysure for their cover and feel confident in their purchase.” In the interest if fairness it should be noted that Haslemere based MPI Brokers raised its upper age limit for wintersports insurance to 100 some years ago.
EasyJet to launch Albania flights4 months ago
Budget airline Easyjet is to fly to Albania next summer. It will also return to Tunisia after an absence of five years following the 2015 massacre at Sousse in which 38 people were murdered. The carrier will fly three times a week frolm Gatwick to the Albanian capital, Tirana, starting on 1 May. Tirana is about 40 minutes by road from country’s Adriatic beaches. It will operate twice a week – also from Gatwick – to the Enfidha- Hammamet Airport in Tunisia. Other new routes for next summer include Liverpool to Antalya in Turkey and Edinburgh to Gibraltar. Meanwhile British Airways is to operate a clutch of new routes next summer. It will fly to Pristina and Podgorica respectively capitals of Kosovo and Montenegro, with departures on Saturdays between 4 July and 29 August. The airline will operate to the Italian city of Perugia, in Umbria on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays between 2 July and 31 August. And it will operate to Rhodes from Heathrow on Saturdays from 4 July – 29 August and twice a week from Gatwick to Corfu from 1 May – 23 October.
Van Eyck masterpiece heads home4 months ago
The Ghent Altarpiece, created by Jan van Eyck in collaboration with his brother Hubert in 1432 and restored to its former glory, will return to its original home in the city’s St Bavo’s Cathedral next October. Meanwhile its renovated outer panels will go on view at a major exhibition which will bring together nearly half of the 20 or so surviving works by Jan van Eyck. Otherwise known as the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, and painted on 18 oak panels, the altarpiece will be on dis-play in a new visitor centre to be opened at the cathedral. In 1934, two panels were stolen, One, the John the Baptist panel, was re-turned anonymously, but The Just Judges. which is still missing, was replaced by a reproduction. The exhibition “Van Eyck. An Optical Revolution”, will run from 1 February – 30 April at the city’s Museum of Fine Arts and will include loans from around the world.
Spend a day with Mumbai’s dhabawallas4 months ago
A day with Mumbai’s Dhabawallas, who deliver lunches to the city’s workers, is on offer from menu of immersive “experiences” from tour operator Transindus. It is estimated there are up to 5000 dhabawallas, whose life was depicted in The Lunchbox, a 2013 film written and directed by Ritesh Batra. They handle as many as 175,000 – 200,000 lunches a day, usually carrying them in cylindrical tin or aluminium containers and typically travelling by bicycle or train. Other possibilities available from the firm’s new programme of tailor made holidays to the Indian sub continent include trying the competitive kite flying sport of patang with locals in Amritsar and riding a Marwari horse, a popular breed in Rajasthan, through the Thar Desert on the Indo-Pakistan border. The programme also covers travel to Sri Lanka, Nepal – and Bhutan, where customers can hear an astrological reading from a resident Buddhist monk at a 16th century monastery or take an archery class in the Bumthang Valley.
Palazzo opens as Trieste hotel4 months ago
A palazzo from Europe’s eclectic architectural period in the early 20th century has been converted into a hotel in the Italian city of Trieste. The Doubletree by Hilton preserves elements such as stained glass windows, mosaics and restored fireplaces. The property has 100 rooms and 25 suites, a restaurant and a “coffee tea and cocktail bar”. The city of Trieste was an important port for the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Around the time that the palazzo was constructed it became a magnet for the likes of James Joyce, who completed Dubliners and started writing Ulysses there, and Sigmund Freud. It was annexed by Italy after the First World War. It became an independent city state in 1947 and rejoined Italy seven years later.
First stage of massive mountain lift project set to open4 months ago
The first a huge Alpine lift upgrade is set to open in the Swiss Alps thia week. When completed late next year at a total cost of some £330m, the “V-Cableway” project will roughly halve to 45 minutes the current journey time from the Bernese Oberland town of Grindelwald to the Jungfraujoch at 11,332ft, connecting a new aerial gondola to the existing narrow gauge railway that runs almost entirely through tunnels built into the Eiger and Munch mountains. Before that the first arm of the V in the project name – another state-of-the-art gondola – is scheduled to open on 14 December. It will cut travel time between the same new lift terminal and the ski slopes of Mann lichen from 30 to 19 minutes. With cabins for up to ten people the lift will double capacity on the route to 1800 skiers, snowboarders, or other mountain visitors, and will replace the existing cable car, which will close next spring.