Saturday snippets – 15th February 2014

By | Category: Travel news

papua-new-guineaNottingham is riddled with caves, at least 450 of them. But these are man-made and many are under pubs so that is where many entrances are. I’ll leave you to ponder why they might be there. Now a research team in Nottingham has developed a new mobile phone application to allow people to explore the city’s caves from above ground. The free app will be available by the end of February. The application would have a map function to allow people to locate the caves and a panoramic view of the caves showing what they look like inside.

Papua New Guinea says that visitor arrivals from the work showed an increase of 35% over the previous year. Why might more of us being going there? Bird lovers, trekkers (rather than ramblers) and divers have been drawn to the country as it is still largely unknown even by the more intrepid amongst us. Now cruise liners are stopping off as they tour the Pacific so that is encouraging people to return as part of a longer break there.

Abu Dhabi's corniche

Abu Dhabi’s corniche

From Abu Dhabi also comes a tale of better visitor figures. In 2013 the number of arrivals was up over 2012. The UK remains Abu Dhabi’s second largest overseas market with 162,973 Britons checking into the emirate’s hotels last year, a 16 percent increase on 2012. British guests accounted for 763,151 guest nights – an increase of 25 per cent year on year – with an average length of stay of 4.68 nights, again up seven percent on 2012. The big attraction of Abu Dhabi is that it isn’t Dubai. There is more Arab life to be seen in the emirate rather than the western impact that has been seen in Dubai.

The US has also posted an increase in visitors from our shores. The advertising from Brand USA seems to be reversing the decline in the number of us visiting the States. So all that money we are paying to the USA for ESTA visas is being turned into money to attract us to return and to appeal to those who haven’t been there before. Nonetheless, a report commissioned by Brand USA shows that, as a percentage of all of us who travel from the UK, fewer are considering the US. Could that be down to the high APD rate we have to pay? Which goes up again in April by a further £2 to £69 if you fly to the USA. Unless you are in Ireland or Northern Ireland where you pay just zero.

On the other hand, overseas visitors coming to the UK spent a record £21 billion in 2013 says Visit Britain. This is the highest seen in any 12 month period in nominal terms, and the first time the £20 billion mark has been passed.  There were also 32.89 million visits from overseas in 2013, 6% more than in 2012, exceeding the previous calendar year record set in 2007 (32.78 million). And all this was achieved without having the Olympic Games or a diamond jubilee!

After a long 12 month wait, the renovation of the world famous Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, is finally complete, with the doors now officially reopened. The largest Olympic archive in the world has now been redesigned as a three level “Olympic Campus”, serving as a permanent tribute to everyone who has lived the Olympic dream over the years. Situated on the quai D’Ouchy – right by the lake, the museum features two parts; an indoor museum, and the park, which, with its combined elements of the athletics track, (where visitors can measure their speed against some of the world’s greatest athletes), garden of Olympic records and the themed Olympic pathway, forms an outdoor museum.

"Not the Olympic Games"

“Not the Olympic Games”

Staying with the Olympics idea, if after Sochi you want to see more events, how about a trip to Iceland? The Iceland Winter Games 2014 is the northernmost ski and snowboarding competition of the season. This is the inaugural year of the festival, being held between March the 6th and 9th. Iceland’s first ever slope-style competition will take place on the picturesque mountain Hlíðarfjall in Akureyri, the ski capital of Iceland. It’s a unique opportunity for skiers and followers to discover and experience this truly magnificent town, close to the Arctic Circle. After the slopes, the town of Akureyri will play host to off venue events, parties, DJs and concerts. And there are regional flights to Iceland on Icelandair  from Manchester and Glasgow so you don’t need to make the trip to London to catch a flight.

The BBC reported that, for the first time in almost 90 years, no “confirmed sightings” have been made of the Loch Ness Monster. Quoting a veteran Nessie spotter, Gary Campbell, who keeps a register of sightings, he said that no-one had come forward in 18 months to say they had seen the monster. Mr Campbell said it was the first time since 1925 that there had been no confirmed reports of the monster. He said: “It’s very upsetting news and we don’t know where she’s gone.  “The number of sightings has been reducing since the turn of the century but this is the first time in almost 90 years that Nessie wasn’t seen at all.” A question of no news is bad news. At least for the local tourist industry.

Believe it or not, Easter – the traditional start for spring tourism – is only about 8 weeks away but the continuing gales, rain and general pestilence may mean that some places won’t re-open on time. Particularly badly hit are paths around our coastline which is where a lot of battering has taken place. The pathway near our local castle was repaired a few weeks ago but has suffered in the storms. Will the local council come back and check that all is well? In Ceredigion, Cllr Alun Williams told the meeting that the path was an essential tourism attraction for Ceredigion and Wales and that parts wouldn’t be ready in time.  The also said that he message we want to get out to the public is that Ceredigion is very much open for business.”

Which is exactly what Devon and Cornwall wanted to emphasise as well. Cornwall even rolled out Rick Stein to try and get it more publicity. The truth is that they have been hit by the storms like so many other counties but it is just in local areas. All will welcome you with open arms if you go.

The sore issue of holiday prices during the school holidays has had quite a lot of publicity later with a debate scheduled in the House of Commons based on a petition that garnered enough signatures. Lord Pendry pre-empted some of the debate by asking in the House of Lords if the government had tried to discourage tour operators from increasing their prices during school holidays. The government said that they had no plans to seek to influence the prices charged by tour operators.

In the Commons, Jesse Norman asked what the government was doing to encourage rural tourism. He was told that the Rural Economy Growth Review launched a £25 million package to develop and promote rural tourism in England and contribute to the industry target of 5% year-on-year growth in the value of the tourism sector. That’s a lot of cash floating around and available for villages and towns to take advantage of.

the other Broadstairs, Kent

the other Broadstairs, Kent

Some don’t wait for government support but get down to the nitty-gritty themselves. Another MP, Laura Sandys drew attention to St Peter’s in Broadstairs in Kent where an award-winning tourism project called the St Peter’s village tour has been set up. She urged other churches to use their facilities in order to open up to the community and develop tourism propositions. That seems a great idea particularly if there are redundant churches around. If you can turn a telephone box into a museum why not a church into a tourist centre?

The big debate of the week was how VAT is applied to tourism.  VAT is 20% but some countries have a lower rate of taxation on accommodation MP’s wanted something similar. Or rather some MP’s did Did the government take any notice? What do you expect?  24 MP’s spoke before the Exchequer Secretary (George Osborne couldn’t be bothered to attend despite the vast amounts that tourism makes for the country) replied. He said, “a cut in VAT would be expensive and would create a revenue shortfall. That would put the Government’s economic credibility and long-term economic plan at risk.” See how important tourism is! Too important as a tax to consider adjusting to attract even more of us to visit and thus pay more to the government. But whoever thought that governments understood joined-up thinking.



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