Saturday snippets: 21st February 2015

By | Category: Travel news
Penguin Island, SEALIFE

an illustration of what Penguin Island will be like

Half term is only just over and the year seems to be galloping through and it is only six weeks to Easter and more school holidays. A trip to the Scarborough SEA LIFE Sanctuary could be on your list of things to do as they will be opening their new walkthrough feature, Penguin Island on Saturday 28th March.  The Penguin Island Humboldt colony is made up of an assortment of characters including two chicks that have been hand-reared by dedicated aquarists at the attraction and the most recent addition to the family, a female penguin chick who hatched in June 2014. The Scarborough SEA LIFE Sanctuary is also home to sharks, turtles, starfish, otters and hundreds of other incredible sea creatures, as well as Yorkshire’s only seal hospital.

The tourism industry in the UK and Ireland relies heavily on volunteers. Without them, many castles and stately homes wold never be able to survive and probably would end up as corporate headquarters or left to decay. If you fancy volunteering then now is the time to pop along to your preferred site and see what is involved. Next Saturday, for example, Powis Castle, a National Trust property, near Welshpool is holding an open day to recruit volunteers from 11am to 1pm

In the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic has had a bumper 2014. The number of non-resident tourists who visited the Dominican Republic. jumped by 9.6% during 2014 to a total of 5.1 million passengers , an increase of 480,000 over 2013. More than  100,000 airlines landed and then there were all the cruise ships that moored there as well making the tourism industry hopeful for this year. The country remains the most popular Caribbean destination with the USA being the largest source of visitors. We are the largest source of visitors from Europe.

The Dominican Republic isn’t the only tourist destination to record increased visitor numbers for 2014. Macau has announced that 2014 visitor arrivals topped a record-breaking 31.5 million, representing a 7.5% year-on-year increase and reinforcing Macau’s position as a thriving Far East destination.  Combined visitors from the UK and Ireland were just under 65,000 and the UK remains the largest European source market to Macau.  With four new walking tours, cultural events and performances, hotel, shopping mall and entertainment complex openings; 2015 hopes to be yet another strong year for attracting UK visitors to this thriving East-meets-West corner of Asia.

the Louvre in Paris

the Louvre in Paris

The local council for Paris has decided that it will spend €6.64 million on promoting the city this year. Thirty million people visit Paris each year and that number jumps to 50 million when you include Versailles and Disneyland. 13% of all Parisians are employed by the tourism industry or those associated with it which is far more than London or New York. As the mayor says in her press release, Paris is the most popular world-wide tourist destination. Much of this promotional spend won’t be seen in the UK or Ireland. They must think we will go there anyway – which is probably true – but in Mexico, Russia, China and Asia.

Opening today at the IWM North in Manchester is a new exhibition by journalist and reportage illustrator George Butler depicting everyday life in Afghanistan. Running until the 6th of September, the art works were drawn whilst Butler was in the country following the draw back of the combat troops which had been there since 2001. More than 20 vivid pen and ink drawings created on the streets of Afghanistan reveal the impact of conflict on people, communities and society. The political and security situation changed dramatically during Butler’s time there, with daily explosions in both civilian and military areas while, for many, day to day life on the streets and in homes continued almost as normal. The images capture the bustle of lively street markets, the impact of daily explosions in major cities, life changing social projects and schools in remote rural locations. IWM North’s landmark building on The Quays in Manchester is itself an artistic response to conflict. Designed by world renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, based on the concept of a world shattered by conflict, the award winning building is a visionary symbol of the effects of war on people’s lives.

A reminder that travel insurance should be an essential part of a holiday comes from – guess what – an insurance company. Nonetheless some of the costs quoted by Allianz Global Assistance UK and Ski Club of Great Britain. The largest cost, treatment for a head injury in Canada and repatriation to the UK, racked up a bill of over £145,000. Surprise, surprise, Canada and the USA are the most expensive places in which to have an accident, each averaging over £11,000 in costs per claim. Next, although five times cheaper, came Austria, Switzerland and France are the next most expensive countries for medical assistance, with the average costs in these countries of over £2,000, £1,200  and £860 respectively.

The market to deliver all-business flights to the US, started by British Airways from London City Airport a few years ago is expanding. La Compagnie, the boutique French all-business-class airline, is to launch a new route from London to New York on 24 April 2015.The flights, which start as three weekly round trip and daily flights by the end of 2015. It will operate from London Luton Airport into New York, Newark International Airport. The Boeing 757-200 will have just 74 lie-flat seats. La Compagnie has been operating an all business-class service between Paris-Charles De Gaulle Airport and New York-Newark since July 2014.

the Old Swan Hotel

The Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate where Agatha Christie was found after disappearing from Devon. Should accommodation have cheaper rates of VAT?

Many in tourism have been pushing for reduced VAT on accommodation saying that it will reduce prices and attract more visitors. Ireland, for example, has rates as low as 9% (against the UK norm of 20%) so Northern Ireland has been urging a reduction. In the Northern Ireland Assembly this week, the Minister for Finance and Personnel, Simon Hamilton, said that he had written to the UK government supporting such a VAT drop. He said that there will be a reduction in VAT revenue but – because of the increase in employment, PAYE receipts, National Insurance and the profits that companies in the hospitality sector will make and the tax they will pay on those profits over time – it can yield a net benefit for the Exchequer.  We visitors would also like to be assured that any reductions will be passed on to us and not remain in the pockets of the industry until the taxman comes.

Finally, and just to remind readers, Icelandair launched a scheduled service between Birmingham airport and Reykjavik on February 5 to complement its other flights from Glasgow, Manchester, Heathrow and Gatwick. The flights, operated by a three-cabin Boeing 757 operate twice weekly, on Thursdays and Mondays, with a flying time of just under three hours. From Reykjavik there are onward flight connections into 14 US and Canadian cities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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