Saturday snippets: 8th March 2014

By | Category: Travel news
Vikings at the BM

Vikings at the BM

One of the biggest exhibitions of the year opened at the British Museum last Thursday. Vikings; life and legend includes discoveries that haven’t been seen before.  From Denmark comes a Viking warship that is over 125 foot long (37 metres) as well as items found as far afield as Weymouth, York, Harrogate, London and Ardnamurchan. The reviews haven’t been ecstatic but what do they know? There are swords, jewellery, axe-heads and spears plus more domestic items on display many of which reveal that we need to re-think the way we considered all Vikings as pillagers and men of violence.  The exhibition runs at the British Museum in London until June 22 and costs £16.50 to enter.

Also from London comes the news that the New West End Company is nervous about the effect of the number of overseas tourists who are causing London’s economy to grow. More tourists from the rest of the UK are needed it says so that it is not susceptible to currency changes which might cause overseas visitors to stay away. It could start by making it cheaper to travel within London once we get there.

River cruising is a popular holiday type on the continent. Now – just three years after starting their own river cruising business, TUI Germany (linked to TUI in the UK and their brands, Thomson, Falcon and First Choice) has pulled out citing over capacity in the market. I haven’t seen any price reductions given that this type of holiday appears to be quite expensive considering the costs of ocean cruising.

Whilst I was in Berlin I listened to one of the many “experts” that was forecasting what we travellers and holidaymakers are doing and will be doing in the future. Nils Muller from TrendOne says that customer behaviour is changing very fast. We are used to shopping via new channels and using different points ie mobile phones, to buy. He says that airlines, hotels, tour operators and especially travel agents are behind the times and should as an priority blink all of their customer contact points together so we don’t have to start the buying process again when we switch say from internet to mobile phone to a high street travel agent. If they don’t he says, they’ll be left behind. It made me feel quite powerful and then a little concerned as I wondered whether I really was this clever!

Bookings are slow to Thailand and some holiday companies are saying they are contracting hotel rooms for us visitors at the very last minute and therefore getting better discounts.  Some companies are now calling for airlines to reduce the fares as well to encourage more of us to go to the country.

Egypt is annoyed with Germany for issuing travel advice suggesting German travellers don’t go to Sharm el Sheikh because of an attack on tourists in Taba last month.  But is is OK – aaccording to them – to go to Hurghada. The Egyptian tourism minister insists that improved security is now in place in all resorts. The British and Irish governments have no such advisories in place yet but tour operators are noticing a drop in bookings to anywhere in Egypt.

Eurostar says it carried more than 10 million passengers last year for the first time, as the economic recovery lifted demand for business travel. Since 1994, Eurostar has carried 140 million passengers.

Cycling is still benefitting from success at the Olympics and maybe even the championships in South America last week.  Now a new event in the Scottish borders is scheduled for June 8th to celebrate both the Tweed valley and the cloth of the same name. The ride, which takes place on 8 June as part of TweedLove Festival (which starts on the 24th May and will follow a gentle (their word, not mine) 10-mile route through the  Tweed Valley and is designed for all members of the family, no matter their age. Those joining in are urged to come dressed in tweeds and other period clothing, with old-style bikes more than welcome. I wouldn’t fancy a mile on an old boneshaker of pen y-farthing let alone 10 miles even if it is “gentle!”

Visit Britain says that the number of Germans travelling and holidaying in the UK last year jumped by 14% over the previous 12 months. In the year up until September 2013 there were 3.24 million visits This makes Germany Britain’s biggest market for visitors behind France and also the highest-spending country behind the USA.

Did you know that this week has been National Astronomy Week? No, neither did I. Apparently, this year’s National Astronomy Week celebrates Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, as it reaches its highest point in the sky for many years. Providing the weather is clear, down at the Elan Valley in mid Wales will be holding a star gazing event from 7.30 his evening for those of you who want to go. Using binoculars it is possible that you will be able to see the four Gallilean satellites and telescopes should reveal the equatorial banding of mighty Jupiter. You might also view several more planets such as Mars, Saturn and Venus.”

A Barbie paradise?

A Barbie paradise?

In one of the biggest shopping malls in the world, the Mall of America in Bloomington just outside Minneapolis in the US, they have created a new attraction based on Barbie the doll so beloved of young girls (and now avid collectors) for decades. Spanning 30,000 square feet, visitors of all ages can become a living doll and play in Barbie’s world with nine amazing rooms featuring the signature pink lift, a coveted closet filled with outfits complete with an impressive collection of shoes, a kitchen where visitors can get artistic with cupcake designand the Dreamhouse® which is a make-up studio and closet where visitors are prepped before having the opportunity to take part in their own fashion show on the Fashion Runway or belt out a tune on the Pop Star Stage.  Barbie™ The Dreamhouse Experience™ opened last month.  Tickets are priced from $16.99.

With an increase of 6.2% overnight stays in Swiss hotels the UK was the fastest recovering priority market of Switzerland in 2013. The UK is the second largest foreign market for Switzerland Tourism behind Germany and 1,640,091 British overnight stays in hotels in Switzerland were generated in 2013. The UK have a long tradition of tourism in the country. Switzerland Tourism will celebrate ‘150 years of winter tourism’ in the winter 2014/15 and in order to commemorate the anniversary will launch a “Thank you Britain” campaign.

Foxton Locks

Foxton Locks

Foxton Locks, the Leicestershire visitor attraction with one of the largest flight of staircase locks on the English canal system, has  won a major Arts Council funding bid. The Arts Council Renaissance Strategic Support Fund will contribute to a total project budget of £193,000 that will support a major ‘Revealing the Treasures of Foxton Locks’ reinterpretation project. The project will increase the number of visitors to the site and Foxton Canal Museum, as well as boosting ticket revenues and visitor spend.

Finally, for this week,  a cemetery which is also a tourist attraction  has been given Grade II status. Built at the end of the 19th Century, Compton Cemetery – near Guildford – was designed by Mary, the wife of the painter George Watts, and the gallery that bears his name is nearby. English Heritage said it was the setting for a nationally significant group of Arts and Crafts buildings.

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