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In the News this Week...
brought to you by News Editor, Roger Bray
Kaiser’s residence becomes a Sheraton4 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 disruption5 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 flights5 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 ban5 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 view5 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 Luton5 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 cruises5 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.
Hawaii with Richard Dawkins – cruise launched5 months ago
Evolutionary biologist and author Richard Dawkins will lecture aboard a cruise around the Hawaiian Islands on offer for next year through the New Scientist. Participants will explore sites including the Volcanic National Park, with its steam vents and Halema’uma’u crater viewpoint, and the observatories some 4000 metres above sea level on the summit of Mauna Kea. They will be introduced to Hawaii’s rich variety of flora. The cruise, on the 36 passenger yacht Safari Explorer, will also take in Maui and the lesser visited islands of Molokai and Lanai. The nine day trip will depart on 22 October and costs from £8,495, excluding international flights. More information
Sheep Ahoy! Cruise line launches new shore trips5 months ago
A day in the life of a Basque country– shepherd is one of a new programme of around 120 shore excursions launched by cruise line Oceania. Guests from ships calling at the French Atlantic port of Biarritz will learn how to milk the indigenous Laxta ewes. They will see how the milk is used to produce Idiazabal cheese – and taste it on a picnic after a walk with the shepherd, who will show them how his dog rounds up sheep. Examples of other new excursions: in Italy’s Portofino, cruise passengers may spend a day at sea with a local fishing crew and dining on the catch; at Ardmore, in Ireland’s Waterford, they can take a lesson in hand painting on glass from local artist Brigid Shelly – known as “the cow Lady” on account of one of her favourite subjects: and in Buenos Aires they can food shop in markets before retiring to a local residence where dinner is prepared. Details of all the ‘Go Local’ tours can be found at www.oceaniacruises.com
Low cost battle on new routes from Southend5 months ago
Battle has been joined on planned new routes from Southend to Bucharest and Vilnius. Budget airlines Wizz and Ryanair have both announced they will launch flights to the Romanian and Lithuanian capitals in November. The former will operate five round trips a week to Bucharest and two a week to Vilnius from 22 and 23 November respectively. Ryanair will similarly operate five times a week to Bucharest but will fly three times a week to Vilnius. In December Wizz will also launch new flights from Luton to Vienna and Castellon, between Valencia and Benicassem.
Madrid gets major new hotel5 months ago
With a top floor glass walkway opening up spectacular views of Madrid, a huge new hotel has opened on the city’s Gran Via. The four star Riu Plaza Espana has 585 rooms and an outdoor pool on its 21ST floor. It is housed in the neo-baroque Edificio Espana, which was completed in 1953 and was once Spain’s highest building. The property is Mallorca based Riu Hotels and Resorts’ first in the capital. It has a gym. Two bars on its upper floors – and even the Jacuzzis in some suites – also have sweeping views over the city.
Souped up train link planned for Luton Airport5 months ago
A new, more frequent fast train link between London’s St Pancras station and Luton Airport is scheduled to start at the end of next year. The shortest current journey time is 21-22 minutes but is only available once per hour. With the introduction of a new fleet of electric trains, services taking approximately the same time will run to and from Luton Parkway every 30 minutes. But the airport is urging the Government to approve a four times and hour service as part of the refranchising of the East Midland rail line. It has already announced a partnership agreement with Abellio, which will operate the East Midland Railway for the next eight years. The deal heralds an investment package of over £600m in services beyond Luton, to Bedford, Corby, Wellingborough and Kettering. This will pay for station upgrades, including new waiting areas for passengers at St Pancras. Meanwhile work continues on a light rail link between Luton Parkway station and the airport.
Chichester woos walkers5 months ago
In a bid to bring the South Downs and its nearby coastline to a wider audience, Chichester will launch its first walking weekend next month. From 6-8 September the West Sussex city’s tourist office will offer a programme of mostly free guided walks in collaboration with the local Ramblers Association group. Besides routes across the Downs and through the city itself and around its harbour, itineraries will take in the Manhood Peninsula, for example, with the history of Selsey and Sidlesham, and the market towns of Petworth and Midhurst. There will one route designed for wheelchair users. Full details are at www.visitchichester.org/walkingweekend
Swedish port installs alcohol barriers to catch drivers over limit5 months ago
Sign of things to come? The port of Gothenburg has installed several “alcohol barriers” to keep ferry passengers who’ve been at the booze driving on Sweden’s roads. Technology in machines looking a bit like petrol pumps automatically selects drivers randomly for breath tests. If those drivers are above the 0.10 milligrams per litre limit the barrier will stay down and police will be alerted. With no direct ferry service from the UK and a bridge and tunnel now linking from Copenhagen with Malmo in Sweden, British drivers are unlikely to encounter the problem. Could the idea be replicated at other ports? That would clearly depend on speed of processing and levels of traffic.
Arctic expedition cruises hit by sudden Russian ban5 months ago
Russian authorities have abruptly barred two Hurtigruten expedition cruises from sailing to the Artic archipelago of Franz Josef Land. The company said MS Spitsbergen, the ship due to make both visits late this month, met the requirements of the Polar Code and had permission to operate in this part of the Arctic. “Despite this fact, and at the last minute, the final remaining permits from the Russian Authorities have unexpectedly been denied and we have not been granted the final sailing permission to Franz Josef Land”. Hurtigruten had been in long term discussions with the Russians about the planned cruises. “Their last-minute decision comes as a surprise, further highlighted by the very vocal strategy from Russian authorities to attract more cruise traffic and new operators in general – and Hurtigruten in particular – to Russian Arctic waters.” However, the Independent Barents Observer, which covers the region, said a large scale Russian military exercise was planned in the area next month Passengers were being offered compensation and alternative expedition cruises. The company said it would continue its dialogue with the authorities about future voyages to Franz Josef Land, which was annexed by the then Soviet Union in 1926.
London hotel prices in the rise5 months ago
Hotel prices in London hit record highs for the second consecutive month in July, according to preliminary data from research company STR. The average daily room rate rose by 3.3% to just over £176, compared with the same month last year. On 20 nights in the month, hotels operated 90% full. In June the average rate rocketed by 11.3%. The averages, of course, cover a wide range of prices but they show that increased prices are eating into the advantages overseas visitors are enjoying as result of the weakness of sterling.
Overseas holiday bookings hit by Brexit concerns5 months ago
Brexit uncertainty is having a serious impact on overseas holiday bookings, according to a new survey from KPMG, but silver travellers are the least fazed. With the £ nosediving and the threat of a no deal departure from the EU causing political turmoil, nearly one in ten (9%) of UK consumers overall has missed out on a break abroad. That figure rises to 15% among parents with young children. But the proportion of over-55s missing out on overseas holidays, while still significant, is 6%. Linda Ellett, head of consumer markets at KPMG UK, says: “These figures bring to light just how much Brexit has impacted people’s everyday lives. We can see this in the way that people are delaying significant purchases such as new cars or foreign holidays. When looking at travel and holidays in particular, fears around flight paths and border controls are clearly playing out in people’s actions, and of course the fall in the value of sterling won’t have done much to entice people overseas either. For these consumer businesses, the focus has to be on remaining agile so as to ride this wave of uncertainty. Those that can achieve this may even benefit from pent up demand when clarity finally does return to both businesses and consumers.”
London City gains Antwerp link, will lose Lisbon and Porto5 months ago
Direct flights between London City Airport and Antwerp – perhaps the most interesting city break choice you hadn’t considered – are set to take off on 9 September. Belgian start up carrier Air Antwerp will operate three round trips a day on weekdays and one on Sunday evenings, using a 50 seat Fokker F-50 turboprop. Flights will depart from Docklands at 7.45am, 2.55pm and 6.10pm. London bound services will leave at 7.10am, 2.15pm and 5.35pm. Air Antwerp has also struck a code share agreement on the route with KLM, enabling passengers to buy tickets via the Dutch airline. KLM markets travel from London City to Antwerp with flights to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport with a high speed train connection to the Belgian city. Meanwhile TAP Air Portugal has decided to suspend its flights from the airport to Lisbon and Porto. The move will take effect in October. A spokesperson for the airline said it had made the decision “due to uncertainties in customer demand associated with Brexit and the lower than expected results at London City”. It had partially offset the lost seats by providing extra capacity on routes to the two cities from Heathrow and Gatwick.
Deepest Spain: rural areas win UNESCO status5 months ago
Away from the busy Costas, the Alto Turia and Valle del Cabriel in Spain have been named Biosphere Reserves by UNESCO. The former is in Valencia province, the later mostly in neighbouring Cuenca. Biosphere status is accorded to areas that combine conservation of biological diversity with sustainable use. Both newly designated areas, 40-60 kilometres from the city of Valencia, have fine landscapes and a rich variety of flora and fauna. The former is crossed by the upper Turia river and attracts visitors seeking outdoor activities, from hiking and cycling to canoeing, rafting and fishing. The Cabriel is claimed to be Europe’s cleanest river. The valley is home to a number of important archaeological sites, among them the Cave Paintings of Villar del Hurno. Worldwide, UNESCO has named a total of 18 such new reserves this summer.
Old Bangkok gets new underground stations5 months ago
Bangkok’s old city has been made more accessible for tourists berth by the opening of four new MRT underground stations. Travel between them will be free between 10am and 4pm until 28 September. They are part of a 14 kilometre extension to the Thai capital’s Blue Line. The old area – Rattanakosin – is home to attractions including the Grand Palace, Chinatown and Wat Phra Kaeo and Wat Pho – respectively Temples of the Emerald Buddha and the Reclining Buddha.