Saturday snippets: April 1st 2017

By | Category: Travel news
Houses of Parliament

a London iconic site known the world over

This week, the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo and the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, met and, whilst the atrocities that both cities have suffered must have been on the agenda, they also turned their minds to tourism. They have agreed to jointly showcase London and Paris to overseas visitors. The tourism agreement, which will launch in 2018, will focus on key drivers for international visitors to both cities, such as culture and heritage, and combine the resources of VisitLondon.com and Parisinfo.com. Visitors to London and Paris spend in excess of £30bn (34 billion Euros) per year and the tourism economy in both cities supports 1.2million jobs.

You are probably aware of the date today. I need to say no more other than that two companies have come up with “news” stories that are remarkably similar. Celebrity Cruises claims that they have discovered an unknown island 720 nautical miles south west of Bermuda. The captain of Celebrity Escape – the vessel that spotted the island – is a certain Yilo Apradfolos (it won’t take long to find an anagram) who claims that the “sand on the beaches is golden, and the afternoon light is ideal for shooting the perfect selfie.” Previously the cruise company says that the ship test sailed in one of the world’s largest swimming pools.” No image of the captain or the Celebrity Escape are available. I wonder why not?

Eiffel Tower

and a Paris one -The Eiffel Tower

In a similar vein, mapmakers at The Future Mapping Company say they have discovered a new island off the coast of Britain called the Isle of Bait. The problem with Bait is that you can’t sail there. It is only visible through something called the Face Swap Snapchat filter.  It is also a paradise the company says. It is like waiting for a number 9 bus; none for ages and then two paradise islands come along at once!

Cape Verde says that last year, 20.5% of all the tourists coming to the South Atlantic island country were from the UK. We are also likely to spend longer on the islands than any other nation’s visitors. The islands are becoming popular with other nations too as French, German and Portuguese visitor numbers were all up as well. The island of Sal is the most popular destination with Boa Vista coming second. Now there is a new development – hotels just for adults and so sure are the two hotels of attracting enough visitors they have built 600 rooms!

Memories of WWI continue. 1917 was, like most of the other war years, a time for bloody battles where the allies or the Germans gained a few miles or lost them.  One such was the less well known Battle of Chemin des Dames (Battle of women’s path) which will be commemorated in the French town of Craonne in Picardy this April 16th. There will be a sound and light display and ceremony and, later in the year in September, the unveiling of a memorial. But why such an odd name? It is because the two daughters of Louis XV used the road to visit the Countess of Narbonne-Lara, a former mistress of the king. Officially it should be called the second Battle of the Aisne.

Apsley House where the dinner service is on display

I’m not one to generally admire ceramics but I’ll make an exception for a dinner service that goes on display at the Duke of Wellington’s former home, Apsley House in London’s Piccadilly. Known as the Prussian service, it was commissioned by Frederick William III of Prussia in 1817 as a gift to the Duke and was the service that was used by him for his annual Waterloo dinner. Each dessert plate, for example and there are 62 of them, depicts a different event or place linked to Wellington’s life and achievements.

In the German city of Dresden, the Kulturpalast (Palace of Culture) reopens on April the 28th with a new concert hall. It will be the home of three institutions; the Dresdner Philharmonie (Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra), the Herkuleskeule political cabaret and Städtische Zentralbibliothek (Central Municipal Library). The Residenzschloss (Dresden Royal Palace) opens a new wing next weekend meaning that even more of the Dresden State Art Collections will be on view. And like most of German towns and cities, it has an exhibition about the Reformation which this year celebrates its 500th anniversary.

Our two big tour operators both came out with figures this week on how they are trading. This gives the likes of you and me the chance to see where the deals might be, where customers are going (unlikely to be any good deals in those places) and how prices are.  TUI (owners of Thomson, First Choice, Falcon, Crystal and Hayes & Jarvis to name a few) say that selling prices are up 8%. Holidays to North Africa and Turkey are down but holidays in the Western Mediterranean (Spain, Portugal, Italy) are up as are holidays to the Caribbean. Thomas Cook says that its charter-based package holiday prices have risen by 9% whilst, overall, prices have risen by 3%. Sales of holidays to Greece are up by 40% and Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Portugal are doing well. Unlike, TUI, Thomas Cook says that sales of holidays to Egypt and Turkey are picking up. As we forecasted at the beginning of the year, the decline in sterling didn’t hit holiday prices this year but probably will next unless the pound recovers.

Turkey – there should be holiday bargains there this year

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, (WTTC,) UK outbound travel will drop and domestic travel will slow down in 2017. This is largely due to the weakness of sterling which, whilst putting some people off from travelling abroad, is attracting overseas visitors. The WTTC says that tourist visiting us will grow by 6.2% this year.  Conversely, our spending on overseas holidays is expected to drop by 4.2% as that sterling weakness hits us. If they are right, then it will be in spending money rather than on the price of holidays because travel agencies tell me that their sales are holding up.

New research from Saga Holidays says that 51% of those over 50’s surveyed by the company prefer flying from local airports. What surprises me is that it is as little as that. Anyone who has flown through a big airport and faced the confusion and amount of time that can be taken up compared to travelling through a small airport would surely opt for a small airport. The problem is that many smaller airports don’t have the routes that some people want so we are forced to use the bigger ones.

Both Etihad and Qatar Airways are planning to ease the concern of laptop-less passengers travelling in business and first class by providing free laptops during the flight. That’s fine but what about economy passengers? Even those who will be able to take advantage of free laptops will have to download all the material they want to work on and take it on board as well as possibly having to get used to a keyboard variant. Emirates is also said to be considering competing with its rivals by also providing laptops.

Insurance claims investigators say there is a rise in holidaymakers lying about their claims to increase their chances of having them paid. The Special Investigations Unit of  CEGA said customers who have had their claims refused are then changing their stories in a bid to get the claim paid. Calling it fabricated evidence, the company said that claimants often produce false evidence to back up their second attempts at claiming, including retrospective sick notes and breakdown reports. This is, of course, fraud and hits the rest of us with higher premiums.

more airline routes to the Isle of Man

There have been many attempts to get the government to reduce the VAT on tourist services from 20% to 5%. Peter Aldous MP, raised the question again this week. The government said that it would cost £10 billion which it doesn’t think would be recovered by additional tourist numbers if VAT were reduced. Economic forecasters have been known to be wrong before but given increasing demands on government money, what government would take a £10 billion risk?

Finally, some quick airline and airport news. Eastern Airways will start a service from Glasgow to the Isle of Man from the 2nd of May. It already has taken over the failed Cityjet’s routes to the island from Belfast City and Newcastle. British Airways has made cuts to the service it has to Lima in Peru. It will now only fly from March to the end of September which coincides with when most travellers are advised to travel there. Beijing Capital Airport will close one of its runways from tomorrow until the 29 April for resurfacing. Allow some extra time if you are passing through this airport as there will probably be delays to flights.

 

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