Saturday snippets: 11th March 2017

By | Category: Travel news
Trabant bearing the words I love Berlin

I love Berlin – but not when there are strikes on!

I am back from Berlin. Just. I managed to get out just before the strike began. Strikers, wanting to hit tourism, time their actions carefully and with all those travel companies in Berlin it was ideal to get the most publicity. Many people were still trapped until the strike ended last night. Some will be affected by the knock-on effects and there may be another strike next week. And that is similar to the situation in France where air traffic controllers have been on strike all week. They will also be having more strike action  in the future. But then, they always do!

In Wednesday’s budget there was no reduction in APD which didn’t surprised me given what I have written in the past but the travel industry always seem to jump up and down every time nothing happens. One country has cut its air travel tax and that is Austria. From the beginning of 2018, the tax will be €3.50 for short haul, €7.50 for medium haul, and €17.50 for long haul. IATA congratulated the country and called for the tax to disappear at the same time as hoping the UK would dispose of APD.

tal fins of British Airways planes

BA plans to add more seats which means reducing legroom.

There was some media annoyance this week over the decision by British Airways to increase the number of seats in its Airbus A320 and A321 planes meaning there will be less legroom. It is believed that the leg room – at 29 inches – will the same as that of other members of the group which are Aer Lingus, Iberia and Vueling. It had already said it planned to add a fifth more seats again into its Boeing 777’s and both easyJet and Ryanair are both planning to increase seat numbers. All airlines will say this will help keep prices down but, conversely, it will boost profits as well. What can passengers do about it? Absolutely nothing unless another airline on exactly the same route has greater legroom in which case book with that one.

The Azure Window in Malta collapsed into the seas this week as a result of storms in the area. This popular tourist attraction was one of the “musts” for holidaymakers to see when they visited the island. Many would walk along the top of the arch and then dive off the cliffs into the Mediterranean. Not only has the arch gone but the stack went as well. The limestone structure had been eroding for years and last year walkers were banned from walking across because large chunks were regularly falling into the sea.

Catalonia in Spain has released visitor number for 2016 and, yet again, a record number of Britons have visited the region. More than two million of us holidayed there spending over €1.6 billion. Whilst UK and Irish holidaymakers might make Tenerife and the Canaries their number one destination, Catalonia is the top destination for all visitors to Spain seeing not far short of 18 million holidaymakers last year which equates to nearly a quarter of all visitors to Spain.

Sri Lanka elephants; they will have seen more tourists last year

Last year, Sri Lanka had 643,333 visitors from Europe visiting the country, up by 90,000 over 2015. After the UK, the Germans are the largest visitors to the island country but, now with no direct flights by Sri Lanka Airlines since they were withdrawn last November, will that expansion continue?

Mexico has also announced that it saw tourism rise by 9% last year and spending grew by more than 10%. The Mexico Tourism Board said an extra one million seats were added to the market for 2017 for international flights more than 20 countries and that includes the UK. Just ten years ago, there were just charter flights to Cancun. Now there is a daily service to Mexico City with onward connections to everywhere you could want to visit in the country, a service to the fast expanding Puerta Vallerta as well as the continuing service to Cancun. No wonder 3.6% of all our readers have holidayed in Mexico.

Dubai has an aim and not an insubstantial one at that. It wants to be the most visited city in the world. In 2016, Dubai saw 14.9 million international visitors which was up by 5% over 2015. By 2020 it wants that figure to reach 20 million. The ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has also said that he wants the United Arab Emirates to be the world’s main family holiday destination.

There is some new advice from the UK Foreign Office after the Israeli parliament passed a new law last Monday which allows the country to deny entry to foreigners who have either publicly called for a boycott of Israel or who belong to an organisation which has called for a boycott. The advice is to contact the Israeli embassy for advice if you think you might be affected before you buy flights and accommodation.

aerial image of Maldives

Looking down on the Maldives where holidays might be cheaper this year © Ayada Maldives

There may be cheaper holidays for us in the Maldives this year. There is an oversupply of rooms at the same time as the government has cut the tourism promotion budget from for $US8 million to $US2 million. Last year the revenue, by room, that hoteliers made was reduced by 12%. This year will probably also see a drop as there are now over 30,000 rooms in the country which is up by 2,000 plus in just one year. Last year 1.3 million visitors went to the Maldives. The problem is that, to fill those hotel rooms, they have to entice even more travellers. With more rooms to come on stream every year for the next few years, unless they attract those extra people cheaper hotel rooms may be the method chosen to fill those rooms.

Just about Travel has commented on the anniversary of various national parks in the last year. First it was a US anniversary last year and this year it is that of Canada. One of our own national parks – the Brecon Beacons National Park celebrates its 60th birthday. many of our attractions can only exist because of volunteers and the park is always on the lookout for new ones. If you live locally and can assist they would be delighted to see you.

The famed Charlotte bear. Will it turn completely green for St Patrick’s Day?

The North Carolina city of Charlotte doesn’t only celebrate St Patrick’s Day on March 17th. It spreads it out over a couple of weeks. Today for example, there is quaintly called “Rich and Bennett’s 17th Annual St Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl which attracts about 20,000 people and is claimed to be the biggest pub crawl in the world. But that could just be a dose of blarney. Also today, at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, the water turns green for the day. Finally, next Saturday, there is their annual parade and Charlotte goes green festival which again draws thousands to the city. Yes, you are right – Guinness. So big has it become that instead of attending St Patrick day events in Boston or New York, Irish ambassadors to the US have gone to Charlotte to act as grand marshalls.

From June, Qatar Airways will introduce QSuite. The aim is to provide almost a first class to business class users. It includes the first-ever business class double bed and retractable privacy panels. These allow passengers to merge their suites, and groups of up to four passengers travelling together in the centre seats can remove the panels to create a large private suite, enabling them to work, dine and socialise together. It even includes ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs to ensure privacy!

After the cruise company, Carnival, announced its, “Ocean Medallion” comes MSC Cruises’  ‘MSC for Me.’ Its a bracelet allowing passengers to book restaurants and shore excursions even before embarkation and then offers recommendations based on individual preferences which I guess it gathers as it tracks what you do on board this time and based on previous voyages with them. It also features geo-location tracking and face recognition, and up to the minute information on shipboard activities. “MSC for Me”  will be trailled in June on just one ship – the Meraviglia which will 16,000 connectivity points, 700 digital access points, and 2,244 staterooms with the contactless technology.

Petra in Jordan

Royal Jordanian Airlines is launching a new same-day connecting flight route from Heathrow to the holiday resort of Aqaba via the capital city, Amman, in a bid to woo more British tourists. The service, starting on March 31st, removes the need for an overnight stop in Amman and could grow as a rival to places like Sharm al Sheikh in Egypt as it has diving, snorkelling, and sandy beaches. The difference with Sharm is that you are a lot closer to heritage sites for when you want a break from the coast. Wadi Rum Desert and the ancient city of Petra are close by. In addition, the Romanian airline, Blue Air, has set up a base at Liverpool airport and will, from the end of this month, link the city with Alicante, Hamburg, Milan and Rome. From the summer there will also be a service to Larnaca in Cyprus. .

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