Saturday snippets: 21st March 2015

By | Category: Travel news

Ryanair

In the middle of the week you might have heard that Ryanair was getting closer to starting a transatlantic airline and that fares could start as low as £10 each way. Don’t get too enthusiastic. Firstly any venture is still years away and secondly, the number of tickets at £10 will be small, probably limited to the minimum that the airline can get away with in order to grab the headlines. A more likely figure is probably going to be either just under the £100 mark or maybe £149 but more no more so that it can undercut Norwegian which is the only other airline to, presently, rival prices set by Ryanair. You can also bet that the main airlines will fight hard to protect their market on this, their most lucrative route.

A few months ago Kuoni was put up for sale and the UK management announced that they were not going to bid to buy it. Now Center Parcs’ five UK sites have been put up for sale at a sum rumoured to be valued at £2.5 billion. This time the management has not given any clue as to whether it will bid but the Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC is supposedly interested. Should we care? A new buyer will probably only seek to enhance the product to make it more attractive to us holidaymakers. But they also have a habit of upping the prices too!

Henrhyd Falls  © National Trust

Henrhyd Falls © National Trust

In the Brecon Beacons National Park one of the attractions has been the almost thirty metre tall, waterfall called Henrhyd Falls.  One reason, visitors make the journey is because the falls appear as the Batcave in the film, The Dark Knight Rises, another file in the Batman franchise. To get there you almost needed Batman’s tenacity in places. A series of steps and a 40 metre boardwalk have been installed to protect the unique are meadow habitat, and the two stiles on the route from Ynswen to Henrhyd have been replaced with self-closing gates. Now it won’t feel so much of an obstacle course. The downside? More people will visit this wonderful spot.

I have moaned before about the number of artefacts that museums and galleries have but which aren’t on show. One museum, The Whitney Museum of American Art has a new building in the Meatpacking District of New York which, being nine storey’s high, means that more will be on show. For those who are unaware of this museum, the Whitney, is – in its own words – “the world’s leading museum of twentieth-century and contemporary art of the United States.” Whether that is true of not is open for conjecture but what is unarguable is that it has more paintings by living artists – some 3,000 – than any other museum in the US. When the new building opens on May 1st, many more of the 21,000 works it holds should be on view

The number of British and Irish taking cruises fell by almost 5% to 1.64 million last year. Why? The fall has been blamed on cruise lines shifting capacity away from UK ports and other popular destinations for UK and Irish consumers, such as the Mediterranean. It might also be due to the fact that the German market is where more ships are being based there and more promotions are being aimed at that market. That is where cruise companies feel that there are substantial growth possibilities. Dare when say it, Germany is likely to be where there will be less discounting to attract passengers as there is in the UK and Ireland.

After results showing that more of us have visited New York and Las Vegas it isn’t surprising that almost 4% more Britons visited the US last year. But that was eclipsed by the fact that 7% more Irish visited the US as well. In total, 3.972 million people travelled from the UK to the US last year as did 395,037 Irish. On average tourism grew by 4% last year so British numbers were only the average. From the whole of the world though, visitors to the US rose to 75 million. Given that visitors to New York topped 55 million it can be seen that just a handful of US destinations take the lion’s share of overseas visitors.

geysers in Yellowstone Park ©  Wyoming Travel & Tourism

geysers in Yellowstone Park ©
Wyoming Travel & Tourism

A slightly unusual holiday destination for us this year might be the American state of Wyoming which is celebrating 125 years of statehood in 2015. Home to Yellowstone National Park, the western state became the 44th state in the union in 1890. Wyoming is known for its cowboy links, outdoor pursuits and the landscape. Travellers can enjoy the cowboy lifestyle at the Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo, the largest rodeo in the USA; Wyoming’s State fair and Rodeo; the Jackson Hole Rodeo; or visit the museums at Cody, named after the famous cowboy Buffalo Bill Cody. Yellowstone National Park, which has the highest level of geothermal activity in the world and the impressive Old Faithful geyser is a huge attraction for those seeking the great outdoors but did you know that the state is also known as the ‘Equality State’ because of the rights women have traditionally enjoyed there: Wyoming women were the first in the nation to vote, serve on juries and hold public office.

There was precious little in the budget of interest from a holidaymaker or travellers point-of view. There is no reduced VAT on accommodation as lobbyists have been trying to get and no reduction in airport passenger duty. The only ray of sunshine for travellers affects those travelling or holidaying south Wales. To cross the Severn Bridge now costs £6.50. The Chancellor has said he will remove the VAT element which should see a reduction to about £5.40. Except this will only happen in 2018 when the bridges are taken into public ownership!

Talking of a VAT reduction, there was a debate in the House of Commons about Wales and tourism to coincide with Wales Tourism Week. It was pointed out that only two other countries in the EU that have not applied a reduced amount of VAT to accommodation and attractions – Denmark and Slovakia. Compare our 20% VAT to Luxembourg at 3% or Portugal at 6% and you can see why hoteliers think they are losing business by appearing more expensive to us than hoteliers elsewhere.

Tuesday was, of course, St Patrick’s Day. From Rome to Rio and London to Las Vegas, over 160 of the world’s most iconic landmarks and sites turned green for St Patrick’s Day 2015, part of Tourism Ireland’s biggest ever Global Greening initiative. Buildings included Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, the Colosseum in Rome, the Sacré Cœur basilica in Paris, Edinburgh Castle, the Great Wall of China, Niagara Falls, the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro and the famous ‘Welcome’ sign in Las Vegas.

 

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