Saturday snipetts: 30 August 2014

By | Category: Travel news
Titanic Belfast - biggest tourist attraction in Belfast

Titanic Belfast

It’s rare that you have the opportunity for a completely new tourism offering but there is one this week. It’s not open yet but with the pensioning off our the aircraft carrier, HMS Illustrious, one town or city has the chance of increasing visitor numbers as there aren’t any preserved aircraft carriers in the UK. At least we know that this carrier will be preserved. Or, at least, at the moment we do. As the carrier was built on Tyneside, a home there may be suitable or she could join the naval vessels preserved in Portsmouth. Apparently three bids have been received by the Ministry of Defence so far including one from Hull which wants it as a keystone of their 2017 UK City of Culture celebrations.

Ships – like steam trains – bring a misty-eyed appeal to the British but one such ship, Titanic has a world wide appeal. Since Titanic Belfast opened it has become a huge tourist attraction but now it seems it dwarfs other attractions in Belfast. Research from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board shows that 94% of visitors surveyed who hailed from the Republic of Ireland and over 75% of visitors from the rest of the UK and overseas had included Titanic Belfast in their planning before leaving home.  Almost 70% of visitors from outside the province said Titanic Belfast, which opened in March 2012, was the highlight or an important part of their trip and a very high 98% said they would recommend people visit it.

Richard III

Richard III

One other recent new tourism attraction has been  the visitor centre and the links between Leicester and Richard III. How successful this has been has been demonstrated by the announcement that the discovery of his body has resulted in a boost to Leicester of £45 million. This is based on the fact that tourism around Leicester went up by 3% but in Leicester it was double that. However you do the maths, the fact that 100,000 of us have already travelled to the visitor centre is in unarguable fact.Staying in the Midlands, more than 100 trophies been stolen from the National Motorcycle Museum near Solihull. The museum is offering a £20,000 award for information leading to the safe recovery of them. The local Birmingham Mail quotes a museum director as saying that they might have been stolen for scrap as they would be nearly impossible to sell. But thieves will be disappointed as many are just silver plate hardly worth tens of pounds let alone hundreds. The thieves would make more money handing them back and claiming the reward!

As I mentioned Portsmouth earlier, that city will be hosting its first shopping festival from the 12th until the 28th of September. It has been arranged to “celebrate the convenience and diversity of the city’s shopping offer, which ranges from boutique, antique and high street to top designer brands all within a mile of the city centre.” You can expect street markets, pop-up restaurants, live music and an array of special offers to tempt you away from the cultural and naval heritage that Portsmouth is more known for and into the retail outlets.

Melbourne at night

Melbourne skyline

To another port but this time Melbourne in Australia. It has given the accolade of being the best city in the world to live according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Index for the fourth year in a row.  The EIU assessed across the globe by assigning a rating across five broad categories, including: stability; healthcare; culture and environment; education; and infrastructure. Whatever this means the tourist authority was quick to let us all know that Melbourne is the place to consider for your next holiday giving 15 reasons why you should travel there. That the first they could come up with was that you need a good 10 minutes to consider where is good to eat could be taken two ways. Maybe it should have been immediately followed by the seventh reason; that because there is such a diverse population there isn’t a cuisine that you won’t find. Funny they didn’t mention at the top, Federation Square which is the cultural heart of the city and the most visited spot. Or the Great Ocean Walk. Or the Penguin Parade. Or dozens of other things that locals would say first.

Spain is our most popular destination to visit but some locals may be tiring of visitors. A week ago newspapers ran stories about the Barcelona suburb of Barceloneta. Here unruly behaviour and a late night protest by 100-200 locals garnered huge amounts of publicity world-wide because a local photographer, Vincenç Forner, snapped three naked Italians. I mention this because those are the naked facts if you’ll forgive the pun but that wasn’t necessarily the way it was reported. If you had read the Daily Mail, you’d have thought it was largely due to British louts which tended to be the way a lot of tabloids spun the story. The truth is a bit more interesting. This area is listed as having about 450-500 places where you can stay but locals say there are closer to 3,000 and that the city authorities are turning a blind eye to those leaping on the bandwagon and trying to let every available bit of space to visitors.

ancient Kamiros

Kamiros on the Greek island of Rhodes

Another popular destination for us is Greece where, this year, they have already seen over ten million visitors and now they expect that about 19 million visitors will journey there this year making it the most successful year ever. This is based on a forecast by the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises. British tourists are listed as increasing their spending in the country by over 40% which suggests we are spending a lot more, more of us are going there or we really went on the cheap in previous years! We apparently spent €751 on average and in total €522.6 million.

Their neighbours, Turkey, have also seen a big jump in visitor numbers and spending. After the first six months, tourism receipts amounted to $9 billion. About 35 million of us visited the country last year but one of the fastest growing areas is not to visit the beaches or the heritage but to go for medical treatment. Last year, around 188,095 people visited Turkey for surgical procedures such as hair transplants, liposuction and cancer treatment, according to the latest figures by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). This makes the country the sixth most visited country in the world for medical tourism.

Ras-al-Khaimah fort

one of many forts in Ras-al-Khaimah

Away from these big hitters, one small emirate is achieving a quite remarkable transformation. Ras Al Khaimah earned around $118.7 million in tourism revenues from a total of 330,048 visitors during the first half of this year. Britons are the fourth largest source of visitors which may not be surprising to some given that our links go back nearly 200 years to 1822 when we signed a maritime treaty and it became a British protectorate. It is aiming to be a luxury holiday destination similar to Dubai but the difference is in hotel prices. Ad an up-and-coming destination to rival other Gulf destinations, hotel accommodation is cheap in comparison. The average daily rate amounted to just $69.85 last year making this one of the cheapest luxury destinations in which to stay. The other advantage is that it is only 45 minutes from Dubai by road so you can take advanatge of all the competitative flights there to get a resonably priced airline seat.

Those considering a holiday in South Africa might want to consider taking it before April 1st next year. The KwaZulu-Natal government is introding a 10% tourism levy from that date.  Tourism related organisations are up-in-arms but will it achieve anything? It copies the USA where their ESTA levy is used to promote the country. This levy will also be solely used for that as well. But 10% on restaurant bills, attractions, accommodation, safaris risks making KwaZulu Natal lose business to nearby Botswana and Namibia.

beer festival time

festival time

Finally this week, here is an enjoyable way to end your holiday. The Dočesná is a traditional beer festival held in the Czech royal city of Žatec. The 57th celebration will be held next weekend so if you are in the Czech Republic consider a side trip to enjoy this. It is regularly held at the end of the holidays and admission is free. Visitors can expect music, games, records, fun and above all tasting some of the more than 40 beers from 20 different Czech breweries! Some of the more interesting events (!)  are the swapping of beer labels, volleyball tournament and in recent years the Temple of Hops and Beer activity as well as the attempt to create a record length snake of beer cups.






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