Saturday snippets: 20th September 2014

By | Category: Travel news

This is Male, the capital of the Maldives

For those of you with deep pockets and what their own holiday destination, around £9 million might lease your own island in the Maldives, that collection of islands in the Indian Ocean where recent developments have majored on luxury offerings. The only snag with your purchase is that the island – Orivaru – has no accommodation. Part of the deal is that the buyer creates a luxury island resort including 100 five star private rooms and water villas built around the island’s coastline with integrated hotel facilities comprising restaurants, guest lounges, pools and a wellness spa. The island which is just over 34 acres, features a natural port allowing boats and seaplanes to berth without interfering too much with the natural landscape.

Continuing the recent theme of slugging tourists with taxes, Tunisia has introduced a departure tax of 30 dinars (just over £10.25 or €13) for each person.  The tax stamp can be purchased from any airport, port, (so will this affect cruise ships?) local revenue office or border checkpoint in the country. You don’t have to leave it until the day you leave, you can collect it at any time whilst you are there and the stamp must be affixed to the passport so that the authorities can see it when you exit Tunisia.

This coming winter sees the original ice hotel in Sweden celebrating its 25th birthday. Rebuilt in Jukkasjärvi, 200kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, each year the what you see one year isn’t the same as the previous one. This year’s hotel has  a British designer, Andrew Winch Designs, who will create a suite called Sea of Life complete with a clam shaped ice bed. There will also be an ice theatre, a rainforest with orangutans carved in ice, a frozen rain forest with orangutans carved in ice, a frozen forest fairy, the inner workings of a clock, a giant chess board as well as floating jelly fish in a frozen underwater world.

Chamonix  - hoping for as much snow this coming season

Chamonix – hoping for as much snow this coming season

Continuing with a winter theme, Chamonix has been designated Alpine Town of the Year 2015  for its commitment to sustainable and responsible tourism; Chamonix’ will also be holding celebrations for 150 years since the start of the Golden Age of Mountaineering.

Zell am See-Kaprun will also be celebrating. It’s anniversary is 50 years of glacier skiing in Austria which began on the Kitzsteinhorn.  New lifts for fast year-round access to the glacier and Gipfelwelt 3000 will open for the 2015/16 season; Gletscherjet 3 (10-person cabins/8-seat heated chair combi-lift) starts at the Alpincenter and connects with Gletscherjet 4 (10-person gondola) which rides over the Schmiedinger Kees glacier to the base of the Kitzsteinhorn summit.

My final snow story is about the Snow Festival in Sapporo, one of Japan’s largest winter events which takes place next February. It attracts visitors from all around the world every year, so much so, that more than two million people are expected to come to Sapporo to see the hundreds of snow statues and ice sculptures which line Odori Park, the grounds at Community Dome Tsudome, and the main street in Susukino.

If nothing else, it will persuade us to take less luggage. © Dan Sperrin

If nothing else, it will persuade us to take less luggage. © Dan Sperrin

From the European Court of Justice comes a ruling that airlines can continue to charge customers to check in their luggage. It said that airlines can charge a supplement as they incurred extra costs storing and processing checked-in luggage. But hand baggage was necessary for passengers so they should not be charged for carry-on bags. So I think we can expect that hold baggage fees will continue to rise as airlines, particularly no-frills airlines and US ones, try to relieve us of the few remaining pennies in our wallets after paying the increased seat costs that have occurred in the last twelve months.

We have just had our open days for heritage sites but if you happen to be in Vienna on October 4th then from 6pm to 1am the following morning, a single ticket grants holders access to the exhibitions and collections on show at around 130 leading Viennese museums, galleries and cultural institutions. Discussions with artists, readings and live music complete the picture. The ‘Lange Nacht’ (‘Long Night’) ticket also acts as a free pass for special shuttle buses and the Viennese public transportation network.

Malaysia celebration in London

Colourful Malaysia – a previous day in London

In London next week, both Thailand and Malaysia will be enticing you to try their foods and learn more about their countries. Next Friday, 26th September will see Malaysia take over London’s Trafalgar Square, as Malaysia Night 2014 comes to town. This annual free event is hosted by Malaysia Kitchen, the body designed to promoted Malaysian food and drink in the UK. Over 20 different Malaysian restaurants, cultural performances, singers and artists showcase the very best of Malaysia. It starts at midday and the music and entertainment starts at 5pm. The close is at 10pm.

thailand island

time to return to Thailand?

Then, from the 26th until the 28th  of September at London’s Westfield Shopping Centre is the Colours of Thailand festival which wraps up its annual UK tour. As well as the celebration of all things Thai, you will get the chance to win free flights from London to Bangkok thanks to the country’s national carrier Thai Airways. The aim is to promote a better understanding of the country and its culture and they will also have entertainment as well as an array of top quality crafts, cuisine, fashion and entertainment to tempt potential tourists. The event’s opening ceremony begins at 10am on September 26 with festivities running until 6pm on September 28. Entry is free to all visitors.

Whilst this is going on in London, don’t forget that the Cruise Show docks at the NEC in Birmingham this weekend on the latest leg of its cruise around the UK in the hope of enticing you to book a cruise holiday in the future.

But the event of this weekend could be in Cumbria where Saturday is the  Egremont Crab Fair & Sports, which was established in 1267 making it one of the oldest fairs in the world. It combines ancient & traditional events with modern gathering visitors from all over the world. Events start in the early morning and continue into the late evening. The big draw of course, is gurning, that peculiarly British habit of pulling the ugliest face imaginable which takes place in the evening.

If you are further afield, then – from 4 – 12 October 2014 – more than 500 balloons and pilots will come together for the 43rd Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico, the largest gathering of balloons and balloonists in the world. Held annually across more than 100 acres in Balloon Fiesta Park, Albuquerque, visitors can enjoy balloon rides, fireworks displays and live music, as well as traditional New Mexican food.  A number of spectacular balloon flights take place throughout the nine-day festival, including the Mass Ascensions, where guests can witness hundreds of balloons fill the sky above the Rio Grande. Tickets cost from $8 per person for either a morning or evening session each day.

Yet again, in August 2014, Croatia saw a seven per cent increase in British visitors and a 23 per cent increase in Irish visitors, compared to the same period last year. In total, 99,283 Brits and 10,609 Irish visitors travelled to Croatia during August.

German map

Germany – so many direct flight links

From January to August, Croatia saw a ten per cent increase in British visitors, compared to the same period in 2013, with 331,072 arrivals. There were also 36,404 Irish visitors between January and August, an increase of 19 per cent.

But Germany is also seeing an increase in British visitors. With more and more direct links, an additional 4.9% of visited the country in the first six months of the year. But perhaps the biggest surprsie is that amongst European travellers – which include us –  it is the second most popular destination  beatng France into third place. By 2020, the Germans are hoping that we will make 5.4 million visits there.

Festiniog new carriage

Margaret’s legacy for tourists -and the railway

Finally, Britain’s heritage railways rely a great deal on volunteers.  But one lady has made a huge difference to the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways. Margaret Ritchie left £100,000 in her will to this line for the purchase of a new railway carriage. As a narrow gauge railway, you can’t just buy a carriage from so, it has to be manufactured.. Built at the F&WHR’s workshops at Boston Lodge – the oldest working railway workshop in the world – the new carriage, 119 was hooked up last Thursday, to a special train which ran from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog for Margaret’s friends and family.




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