Saturday snippets: 3rd September 2016

By | Category: Travel news
Laugharne Boat House

the boathouse in Laugharne in which Dylan Thomas lived

The Great British Bake Off has returned to television and one Welsh county has decided to join in the baking theme. Carmarthenshire’s new Cake Adventure Trails explores what the tourist board claims are the county’s best sweet spots.  Free for visitors to access and download from the Discover Carmarthenshire website the ‘Cake Adventure Trails’ are two suggested routes (one by bike and one by car) to explore coast and countryside via some of the tea shops, bakeries and delis  where you will find traditional Welsh cakes, bara brith fruit loaf, crempog (Welsh pancakes), Tiessennau mel and others. The routes include a 50-mile circular cycle route for taking in the south coast’s cycle paths, estuaries and beaches and a linear driving route taking in the Dylan Thomas Boathouse, the National Trust’s Dinefwr Park and the cute market town Llandeilo.

The Rio Paralympics begin on Wednesday and, ahead of that, Brazil has enhanced accessible tourism to improve travel options for tourists with disabilities. In Pernambuco, the Tourism Board  has launched a project called ‘Beach without Barriers on the beaches for members of the public with reduced mobility. This involves “amphibious” wheelchairs, removable mats for access to the sand and assistance from qualified professions. Sensory experiences for visually impaired tourists have not been forgotten. The gallery at Sao Paulo’s Pinacoteca Museum allows visitors to touch bronze sculptures and appreciate the size, shape, texture and aesthetic diversity of the artistic works and at the Botanical Garden in Rio visitors can appreciate the aromas and textures of basil, rosemary, sage and mint seedling, all specially chosen to stimulate senses. 

image of Trafalgar Square and Brazil day 2015

Brazil Day festivities in 2015

Next Saturday, Brazil Day will be celebrated in London’s Trafalgar Square This free festival  (midday until 7pm) will be a chance to enjoy a taste of Brazil’s vibrant culture in the heart of London. There will be live Brazilian music, sporting activities including wheelchair basketball from the Great Britain Wheelchair Basketball Association, big screens featuring Rio 2016 footage, a running track, DJs, and the music will reflect the cultural diversity of Brazil, from bossa nova to the powerful beat of samba, all creating an authentic Rio street-carnival atmosphere. Brazilian food and drink will include a churrasco barbecue, Amazonian superfood açaí, pão de queijo (cheese bread), and other treats.

On Wednesday, the first US flight to Cuba since the relaxation of travel rules between the two countries took place. The JetBlue flight took the first hundred or so US passengers to the country. US airlines will be offering 1.2 million seats on flights to Cuba over the next year, lower than the 3.4 million that they requested but enough to put a strain on the infrastructure of the island. Without an increase in hotel rooms, prices can only rise and it is reported that a three star hotel rates have jumped from about $US90 to over $US300 in Havana which is where Americans want to go. Until those extra hotel rooms appear, those of us planning to holiday in Havana will have to get used to much higher prices. In the resorts the increase should be much less since Americans – at the moment – don’t seem so interested in visiting them.

Kids Funway at Dallas. Image © Dulles International / J. David Buerk

Kids Funway at Dallas. Image © Dulles International / J. David Buerk

Keeping kids occupied whilst awaiting a plane is always a bit difficult. In Washington DC, the main international airport – Dulles – has partnered with the space agency NASA to open a new children’s play area. The Kids’ FunWay offers a safe play area for children filled with climbing attractions inspired by aviation-themed structures. The centrepiece of the play area is Tommy Tower, which has been modelled after Dulles’s historic air traffic control tower. A kid-sized statue of Orville the Squirrel, (on loan from NASA) named after Orville Wright of the Wright Brothers, welcomes children as they enter. Additional play area elements include two futuristic jets, climbing luggage and tires. The play area is open to children no more than 42in in height and younger than 12 years old. Washington DC has received a lot more visitors in the last year including 201,000 from the UK which makes us the second largest source of overseas visitors

Tourism Ireland (the tourism body responsible for both the Republic and Northern Ireland) has released figures showing that more and more people from England, Scotland and Wales (ESW) are visiting the country. Visitors are up by 25% making the three countries the largest source of additional visitors, in fact the increase is more than double from anywhere else. After Brexit, Tourism Ireland identified the ESW market as crucial and started to consider how tourism might be affected. At the end of November we should here what its thinking is.

image of Rhossili in Gower

Rhossili – without the EPIC sign

Oscar Wilde once said that the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. So Visit Wales must be happy that it has received quite a lot of publicity this week over the pop-up installation it has installed at Worms Head in Rhossili on the Gower. The word “EPIC” is spelt out in very large letters as it has been at other visitor sites in the country. This time there has been criticism that it is almost a blot on the landscape. Those comments aroused media interest so Visit Wales has probably achieved its aim. It got Worms Head and Rhossili onto television and in the newspapers. Ground-breaking and inspired promotion of the world-known beauty spot it isn’t; effective, simple and inexpensive it most certainly was.

The hotel chain, Starwoods, is testing a voice activated system. In two of their hotels they are trialling a system where guests can issue “commands” using their voices to do things like turn on television or control the air -conditioning.  I have problems adjusting the air conditioning and heating in hotel rooms. If my voice can adjust it properly well and good but voice activated systems are not very good at mastering accents without having a lot of input first. I’ll wait for Starwoods to say it is successful before I give it a go!

Now that Thomas Cook is offering people who buy flights and holidays in their high-street shops clients the option of making interest-free monthly instalments via direct debit can it be long before others follow? It is only available for those booking 22 weeks ahead of their flight or holiday date. It is also available in the groups and Co-operative travel stores as well.

In Greece there is a departure tax but this will rise next year to €13 (at present it is €12) per departing passenger so a family of four will pay €52. The reason behind the rise is to provide funds for investment in Greek airports now that fourteen are being run by the German company, Fraport. Initially it was thought that the tax would be on top of the existing one but that won’t be the case. Greece received 928,000 UK visitors between January and June 2016, an increase of 13 per cent compared to the same period in 2015, according to the latest figures from the Bank of Greece. 

image from the air of Mykonos

Mykonos

Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld Orlando in Orlando and Kissimmee have been giving out mosquito spray and lotion free to visitors. Although Zika has been located in Miami and Tampa with none in this part of Florida, the resorts are doing it to allay any doubts. A number of hotels are also providing spray in their rooms. Meanwhile Singapore has reported over 100 cases of the Zika virus and it also is undertaking a strong campaign in spraying and trying to allay suspicions. But if Zika is in Singapore is it not likely that it is in neighbouring countries?

Last Sunday, the Observer raised the thought that compensation payments under EU261 are too generous. It wasn’t a story but one of the leaders and, therefore, might be considered as the view of the newspaper. It mentions two people who have flown and were delayed. One person received more than they had paid for the ticket and another who travelled business class and almost received the whole sum paid back. It concludes by suggesting that a fairer compensation rule might be the ticket price plus a set fee which would at least level the playing field.  As an EU law, will EU261 survive Brexit?

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