Saturday snippets: 11th of June 2016

By | Category: Travel news
World Gin Day

World Gin Day

Today is World Gin Day, a ploy probably dreamed up to encourage us to buy more gin. But given the weather that most of us have experienced for much of the last month, it’s been an ideal evening drink to see out a warm late spring evening. Or a drink outside as today is also the beginning of National Picnic Week.  Just as there are tours of whisky distilleries so visits to gin ones are becoming more popular as days out or as part of holidays. The Bombay Sapphire plant in the Hampshire town of Whitchurch won Best Small Visitor Attraction in the recent Visit England Awards.  Plymouth Gin can only be made within the confines of the city and they also operate tours. Hardly a week goes by without another distillery opening and employing a new ingredient such as Dà Mhìle Seaweed Gin and Dyfi Distillery’s Pollination Gin, a gin which launches today from Corris in mid-Wales. That relies on locally foraged botanicals as opposed to importing them from various countries of the world.

Often one gin ingredient, cassis bark, comes from Indonesia. I doubt whether the explosion in the number of gins available is linked but Indonesia is having a British tourist boom as well. Coming on top of the introduction of direct flights from London to Indonesia on the national airline, Garuda, but the country has seen a 28% increase in British tourists during the first three months of this year. The tourist board suggests that it could also be due to the fact that we don’t need visas anymore. Just in March alone, 27,437 of us – 40.58% on last year’s figures for the same month – visited the country. The “Wonderful Indonesia.” Travel agents confirm that there is more interest in long haul holidays this year and Indonesia is about as long-haul as you can get.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

This weekend celebrates the “official” 90th birthday of the Queen. It costs the UK £37.9 to maintain them so does the argument that they bring in much more than that amount in tourist revenue seem justified? Travelzoo’s survey of its members across France, Spain, Germany, the US and Canada as well as an independent survey in the UK and Italy shows that Italians are the biggest supporters of the Queen, with over half (59%) citing the Royal family as one of the factors that makes the UK an attractive holiday destination. Nearly half of Canadian (49%) and US travellers (48%) are also drawn to Britain for the same reason, but  just 19% of German, 15% of French and only 10% of Spanish travellers. Louise Hodges of Travelzoo says “Buckingham Palace and the Royal Palaces have been in the top-10 UK tourist attractions for decades now, contributing £55 million to the UK economy. On that basis it seems  value for money but we’ll never know unless we remove the monarchy and see how much income is lost. Sounds a bit like the in/out debate for the EU to me.

Otherwise there are the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations and street parties this weekend to enjoy. Iif you are well-healed, 10,000 people are sitting down to a street party in the Mall in London at a cost of £150 per head. Just in Wales, there are 60 street parties. The government estimates that up to 10 million people – that’s one in six of us – will be involved in a street party this weekend.

Readers will remember the case of Jon Platt who took his children on holiday in term time. He won the case and I said I hoped that that was an end to it. It isn’t. The Isle of Wight Council is to appeal The council said it had decided to go ahead with an application to appeal against the court decision after receiving a formal request from the Department of Education and an offer to cover the costs. It sounds as though this case will go as far as it is legally possible to go so that when the final outcome is reached, the decision will make it absolutely clear what is acceptable and what isn’t. That is to be applauded so that parents know where they stand.

New Orleans is always ready to party

New Orleans is always ready to party

I have bemoaned the fact that one of America’s most vibrant cities, New Orleans, has no direct flights to the UK. The Germans have gone one better and one of their leisure airline, Condor, will have two flights per week over the summer period next year linking Frankfurt and the festival cum jazz cum fun city. How long before an airline provides direct flights from the UK now?

There have been a few awards announced recently. In the Charity Awards, Eureka! The National Children’s Museum won top prize in the Arts, Culture and Heritage for its Access All Areas project which set out to bring more disabled children and their families to the children’s museum in Halifax. A total of 250 staff were trained up on different aspects of disability awareness and that process has now become an automatic part of the induction process for new staff. In the Latin America Travel Association Achievement Awards, the tour operator, Explore won the Customer Service Award which, I think, is the most important award that can be made. Customer service can make or break a holiday depending on how good (or bad) it is.

Our canal network nearly choked to death half a century ago. Unloved and uncared for, the work of a dedicated group who cleaned out canals and made them fit for purpose let to interest in canal holidays. But there is always another canal that requires such a dedicated band. In Scotland, there are 137 miles of canals but work is needed to keep them fir for purpose. Scottish Canals is launching a campaign in Glasgow for engineers, stonemasons and builders to help preserve Scotland’s 250-year-old canals. A spokesman said they were also looking for lock keepers, archivists and environmental experts to join the Canal Volunteers project.

Staying in Scotland, actor Robbie Coltrane has launched a fundraising campaign to restore the last remaining Clyde-built turbine steamship. TS Queen Mary (don’t get confused with the old Cunard ship of the same name which is moored in California) was withdrawn from service in 1977 and has been in a dockyard near London for seven years. It was bought and towed to Greenock in May by the Friends of TS Mary. The charity needs to secure £2m to restore the vessel and open it to the public as an exhibition and an arts and culture.

Petra in Jordan

Petra in Jordan

The American Schools of Oriental Research says in its latest issue that a huge monument has been discovered buried under Petra in Jordan. Archaeologists used satellite images, drone photography and ground surveys to locate what they say is a large platform is about as long as an Olympic swimming pool and twice as wide. Yet another reason in the years to come after it has been investigated to visit Jordan.

This week there were tourism questions in the House of Commons. Just six MP’s asked questions, about nothing that they shouldn’t have known about already and another four asked about domestic tourism The most interesting question was posed by Jim Shannon MP who asked what can the Minister do to ensure that all the regions of the UK do so that they can all take advantage of the tourism attractions in each of them? The reply? David Evennett, who is about to stand down as interim tourism minister when Tracy Crouch returns from maternity leave soon said that they are trying to encourage people to have holidays at home but we are also “working with the devolved authorities to try to promote tourism, along with VisitEngland, Discover Northern Ireland, VisitScotland, Visit Wales and Visit Britain so that we have a joined-up approach that shows the fantastic offer we have in our four countries of the United Kingdom.” That’s not really specific is it? Suggests a lot, says nothing substantial!

Finally, the government might be wanting to us to take staycations but on Monday, ABTA is continuing with the second stage of its ‘Travel with confidence’ message. This time it is aimed at younger groups because, ABTA says, they have a habit of leaving booking until the last minute. Expect to see the message in your travel agent as well as on the box and popping up on your electronic media.

 

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