Saturday snippets: 4th February 2017

By | Category: Travel news
horse rider on Jamaica Half Moon Beach

Half Moon Beach in Jamaica

In Jamaica, the North-South link of Highway 2000 which has opened has cut journey times between Kingston and Ocho Rios by thirty minutes. For holidaymakers it also means that if you are staying in Ocho Rios you can take a flight into either Kingston or Montego Bay as the travelling time from either would be roughly the same. It also means that the Mammee Bay area will be developed as a resort. Already three hotels with almost 2,400 rooms are under construction.

For those of you who haven’t a National Rail Family & Friends railcard but are considering one can get a further 20% discount of the purchase price from now until the 20th of February. The railcard saves a third off most adult rail fares and 60% off kids’ fares It will now cost just £24, for a year’s unlimited usage .To buy one, go to familyandfriends-railcard.co.uk/sale and use code: FEB17

At this time of the year when the cold and damp invade your bones and irritate your temper, you can always rely on comedy festivals to cheer you up. One of the biggest in England is the 24th Leicester Comedy Festival which runs from the 8th until the 26th of February.  Last year there were over 780 events in 65 venues across the 19 days. This year you can see the likes of Susan Calman, Romesh Ranganathan, James Callaghan (for the kids) David O’Doherty. Over in the Irish town of Bray, there is the Bray Comedy Festival  running from the 22nd until the 26th of February.

A new, adult-only lounge is to open at Manchester Airport’s terminal three. Called 1903 after the year of the Wright Brothers first flight, tickets (at £30) went on sale on February 1st. It will have its own chef with passengers being able to choose from seasonal dishes with locally sourced ingredients as well as enjoying complimentary drinks including premium spirits. Passengers using the lounge will also be able to make use of Fast Track security and unlimited free Wi-Fi. The idea is to roll this out to other airports in the group is Stansted, East Midlands and Bournemouth.

If you are holidaying and travelling in Argentina and you get charged a tax on your hotel stay, object. From the beginning of this year foreign visitors who provide a copy of their passports when booking are exempt from paying the 21% tax on hotel stays.

A few weeks ago I spoke to the representatives of the tourist area that covers Washington DC which is called Capital Region. Then it was about Donald Trump’s inauguration. At Destinations in London I dropped by to see how tourist enquiries are going and they are seeing a healthy number of enquiries. Some writers in the press are saying that since the election of President Trump there has been a lessening of interest in holidaying in the US. If there is it isn’t noticeable amongst the tourist boards to whom I spoke. They are saying that they are still getting lots of brochure requests and website hits. A poll by Holiday Extras suggested that showed 38% of the people they interviewedwere rethinking whether they would travel there.

St bernard dog

A St Bernard drew people to the Switzerland Travel Centre stand

The London version of Destinations was busy from early on Thursday when I went. And yes, for readers who remember last year’s story, the St Bernard dog was back on the Switzerland Travel Centre stand and attracting all the oohs and aahs from passers-by. So I suppose I had better include the picture of the dog that takes up a lot of stand space as well as a bit of the aisle!

Last Wednesday, Virgin Trains told the Scottish government that cutting APD by 50% and then abolishing it altogether would seriously impact the number of passengers it carries as well as “a significant increase in carbon emissions, reduce funds available to Government through franchise payments and undermine the long-term growth of the cross-border rail market and business case for developing a high-speed rail network to Scotland.” It might also reduce the high price of Virgin train tickets between Scotland and London as the railway would have to compete with cheaper air fares.

In an aviation debate  in parliament this week during which the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, introduced a draft airports national policy statement, he also said that a third runway at Heathrow will mean that a further six regional airports – believed to be Belfast City, Durham Tess Valley, Humberside, Liverpool, Newquay and Prestwick – will join the existing eight.

In the same debate, Brendan O’ Hara – MP for Argyll & Bute – pointed out that at one of our smallest airports, Campbeltown, there has been a decision by the owners to remove security checks particularly for Campbeltown into Glasgow. If this is right then this is a serious issue for all of us who fly. Chris Grayling said he was unaware but would look at it. Thankfully fewer than 9,000 people use Campeltown Airport a year but the same standard f security should apply at all our airports.

aruba

Aruba in party mood

Latest statistics show almost a 50% rise in UK visitor numbers to Aruba in the Caribbean during 2016 over the previous year. Last year saw UK visitor numbers reach almost 18,500, up from 12,300 in 2015, probably due to their being charter flights from Gatwick and Manchester. This means that Aruba is nows one of the UK’s top 10 Caribbean destinations.

There are more strike days ahead for passengers of British Airways. The first lasts from tomorrow – Sunday – until Tuesday and then, after one day’s respite, the next starts from Thursday the 16th until the following Saturday. The airline says that flights from Gatwick and Luton will operate normally but those from Heathrow might be affected. As ever check before you fly.

From Manchester, British Airways will launch, in May, new routes to Alicante, Ibiza, Malaga, Mykonos, Nice, Palma and London City Airport. From London City there will be a new service to Skiathos but the Hamburg one and the flight to Angers in France is withdrawn From Stansted there will be new routes to Florence, Geneva and Nice. Talking of Stansted, the time allowed for free wifi at the airport has been extended to give passengers up to four hours free of charge.

Finally, bmi regional has increased its baggage allowance to 23kgs but it isn’t all good news. It has also introduced pre-paid seat selection up to 48 hours in advance for £8. (£15 for an exit row seat.) Extra bags of up to 23 kgs cost £40 each way while sports equipment costs £45 each way.

 

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