Saturday snippets: 25th November 2017

By | Category: Travel news

Valencia – nearly time for the Christmas markets

One place you might not connect as a Christmas market destination is the Spanish city of Valencia. It has several Christmas markets across the city showcasing crafts by local artists. It is on December 1st that the stalls around the streets near the central market will open. For more unusual presents, head to the Tapineria Market in the Barrio del Carmen; the Reyes Market in the Cabanyal district is ideal for last-minute gift shopping or the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences. Visitors from the UK make up the third largest group of visitors and with the new direct service from Edinburgh to Valencia (that makes it the seventh UK airport to have direct links with the city) visitors from the UK will surely increase next year.

It may have slipped your mind already but last Wednesday was budget day. Just about Travel chose not to write a story because there was very little news. There was no VAT cut for tourism businesses, no cut in APD but instead an increase (as was trailed by the Treasury a year ago) on premium long-haul tickets. APD on short-haul and long-haul economy flights will be frozen from April 2019. There will be a review of APD and VAT on tourism in Northern Ireland but nowhere else. All-in-all, a boring budget for most travellers!

interior of the National Museum

inside the National Museum in Edinburgh,

If the budget didn’t cheer you up then how about some research from IPK International which is forecasting a 6% increase in Britons holidaying overseas next year? This is higher than any other European country except Russia which is also forecast to grow at 6% and, IPK notes, is despite the weaker pound. If they are right then there will be even more pundits who got their forecasts wrong about the strength of the Uk holiday sector.

Yesterday was Black Friday, a stunt dreamed up by retailers to sell more at supposedly knock-down rates. I received plenty of press releases with deals but when I looked at them there was nothing so staggeringly inviting that I had to mortgage the house in order to go out and buy it. But there are probably some retail analysts who will prove me wrong and that others were seduced into buying a holiday, a train fare or an airline ticket to somewhere.

Of more interest was the fact that the National Museum of Scotland received its two millionth visitor of the year this week. Never before has the museum seen two million in a single year so it is rather proud of its achievement. It also means that the museum is the most popular museum outside London.

The National Museum of Scotland is not the only attraction seeing greater visitor numbers. Arrivals to the Pacific Ocean’s Solomon Islands for January to September show that it has attracted a total of 18,507 international visitors, up 10.48% over the same period last year. In September the increase was much greater due to a FIFA match between New Zealand and the Solomon Islands. Now if only the islands can arrange a home advantage, football, rugby or cricket match every month! Sports tourism is big business.

Israel is reporting overnight tourism is up by 57% in October compared to the same time last year and a 106% increase in day visitors. More than 400,000 tourists visited the country in October alone, Israel’s best-ever month. For the first ten months of the year, nearly three million have visited the country. Israeli cities made it into the top 100 most visited travel destinations according to market research company Euromonitor International, with Jerusalem coming in 67th and Tel Aviv 78th.

The Hong Kong Tourism Board is launching a new promotion campaign, “Great Outdoors.” campaign. The board is using local photographers to take images of mountaintops, greenery and country parks rather than the urban architecture that we are more used to seeing. To publicise this greener side to Hong Kong it has created nature trails and has produced a guide called “Your Guide to Hiking & Cycling in Hong Kong.” Reminding visitors that Hong Kong is more than just a shopping and food torism destination it has divided the guide into three different suggestions for visitors; Hiking in Heritage; Picture-Perfect Vistas; and Geological Wonders.

Another campaign comes from the Cayman Islands. It concentrates on the beaches, clear sea water and the activities the islands have to offer. Apart from a one minute TV ad., there will be digital posters in parts of the tube network in London to be followed up by online promotions on Facebook, YouTube and other social media vehicles.

the new electronic ticketing machine

If you are holidaying or passing through Athens, then catching any form of transport, buses, (including those from the airport) trains or the metro then you will need to buy an electronic ticket as paper ones are now obsolete. Like an Oyster card in London, you will need to pass your e-ticket or smart card across a scanner in order to get onto the transport. Because it will take a month or so for all stations/stops to be fitted with the technology expect some problems at the start. There is a 50% discount when buying five tickets and with the purchase of 10 tickets one is free. The system will also be operating on the Thessaloniki metro system, Piraeus’ streetcar network and on the Athens-Patra suburban line.

Boat owners who moor their vessels in Greek waters will now have to stump up another tax. Called TEPAI or  recreational and day boat tax , the rate per month is €16 euros for craft up to eight metres, €25 for those between eight and ten metres, and €8 euros per metre for all vessels over 12 metres.  At an additional minimum of €192 per annum surely boat owners will just moor their boats in nearby Turkish waters or elsewhere?

It wouldn’t be often that Just about Travel would tell you about the opening of a new highway. But the opening of the Inuvik Tuktoyaktuk Highway (ITH) in Northern Canada is significant in that enables the visitor (as well as the locals of course) to use a an all-season road to the community of Tuktoyaktuk and is the first highway in Canada to connect to the Arctic Ocean. Taking four years to build because of the complexity and the conditions will the opening put an end to those television reality programmes about ice road truck drivers?

The Northern Lights – taken from a video in the Polar Club in Norway

If 30 is when we are at our most adventurous, as research from The Oxford Ski Company is said to show, then sixty shows that I must be twice as adventurous. Apparently people at thirty are established in their careers and now want to spread their wings a bit – at least in terms of holidays. Top of the list is to see the Northern Lights followed by a desire to see the seven wonders of the world, to fly first class; swim with dolphins and to travel on the Orient Express

Finally, this week the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office has been issuing a plethora of travel advice notes about visiting European countries. Given that this is the time of the year when Britons might be travelling to Christmas Markets in Belgium, France, Italy, Austria and, of course, Germany, they are warning us to be on our guard in case of terrorist attacks.  As usual the advice is to be vigilant and to report anything to the local police force if you see something suspicious.

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