Saturday snippets: 10th February 2018

By | Category: Travel news

HMS Belfast which shortly celebrates her 80th anniversary

Next month marks the 80th anniversary since the launch of HMS Belfast which, today, lies anchored near Tower Bridge in London. The ship served on the Arctic convoy runs to Russia, she as at D-Day and later was involved with the escape of HMS Amethyst from Chinese waters and then served during the Korean war.  A programme of on-board activities will celebrate the historic warship’s anniversary weekend (17th-18th of March), and visitors can discover stories from the ship’s fascinating 80 year history, from its 1938 launch to its arrival in London in 1971. It is also forty years since the ship became part of the Imperial War Museum.

Last year Taiwan received the largest number of British tourists ever. 64,719 – up 8.3% over 2016. The UK market has grown year-on-year since 2013 and joins Germany and France as the three largest sources of European travellers to the destination. More than fifty tour operators in the UK, see Taiwan holidays. That has been made easier by the launch of the first direct flight from London Gatwick to Taipei on China Airlines which began last December. This year, the tourist board will be focusing on the destination’s marine tourism highlights.

Petra in Jordan

Jordan saw a 6% rise in British visitors in 2017. Reasons given for the increase include Jordan’s adventure campaign offering through the introduction of the Jordan Trail and the resurgence of consumer confidence and interest in Jordan as a destination. Whilst 6% may sound reasonable compared with visitor numbers announced elsewhere, for Jordan, the number is significant as it surpasses the 2010 figure known as known as the ‘golden year’ for Jordan tourism, with numbers up 30% compared to 2010. The most popular destination for British tourists, Petra, saw 44.4% more visitors in the first eleven months of the year.

While on the subject of Jordan, Ryanair, will launch flights to the capital, Amman, later this year. The flights aren’t from Ireland or the UK with the closest airport being Brussels Zaventum. Other airports include Wroclaw and Warsaw in Poland, Bucharest in Hungary, Bologna and Milan in Italy, Prague in the Czech Republic and Vilnius in Latvia. I mention it because flights from the UK to Jordan can be pricey whilst buying two flights from your regional airport on Ryanair to one of the airports serving Amman might be a cheaper option. We’ll just have to wait until the fares are published.

The snow that fell earlier this week reminded me of an upcoming event in Finland. From the 21st until the 25th of February in the seaside town of Oulu there will be the Baltic Snow Call. This is where some of the world’s best snow sculptors create some of the most astonishing artistic creations. Each team of sculptors is given a three-metre-high block of snow to carve using hand tools.there is no British or Irish team. Maybe we didn’t have enough snow here for teams to practise!

Supposedly, one of the great treks that tourists can undertake is the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea. The location of many horrors during WWII when Japanese and Australian troops clashed as the Japanese sought to use PNG as a stepping stone to an invasion of Australia. Now tourists may be prevented from walking along the track because of a dispute between some local residents and the PNG government because the residents claim that they haven’t received monies for certain agreed projects. If you are going to PNG check with you tour operator whether they will be able to surmount the problem.

image from the air of Mykonos

Mykonos

Just after Christmas last year, Just about Travel mentioned a new accommodation tax in Greece. This week an amendment was announced by the Greek government and made retrospective to January1st 2018. Technically it means that if you paid the amount as announced last year you are entitled to a rebate. In practice who is likely to claim? The amendment is such that the stayover tax is imposed per day and per room or apartment not per person. The tax is charged to the customer as an addition to the room rate paid.Accommodations that are exempt from the stayover tax and that shouldn’t charge (but check in case the hotelier thinks he can get away with it) include camp sites, youth hostels, villas and room only accommodations. Check with your travel agent before you book to see if you are likely to face this tax.

All overseas tourists visiting Ecuador must have health insurance as from May 1st 2018. Quite what will happen if you cannot prove that you have insurance remains to be seen so take a copy of your policy with you. Will your existing travel insurance be sufficient? It should be but check with you travel agent, tour operator or insurance broker. Remember that the Galapagos Islands are part of Ecuador so you will need a policy even if you get  to the islands without stepping foot on mainland soil.

The USA continues to register that fewer Britons are travelling there. In the seven months of last year British visitors were down by 6.2%. Conversely Irish numbers were up by 4.9%. I think his tends to suggest the reason is due to currencies. The pound was down against the dollar but the euro appreciated against the dollar which could explain why Irish visitor numbers rose. As did visitor numbers from a number of other Eurozone countries. Now that the pound has regained some of those losses against the dollar, it could be that British visitor numbers rise this year.

George Best Belfast City Airport will be reurbished this year

Passengers using George Best Belfast City Airport should prepare for some disruption. The airport is about to start work on a major upgrade of its departure lounge, including its retail and restaurant/café outlets. There will also be an upgrade of the  central security area and hold baggage screening facilities In all there will be a 30% increase in retail space. (who said an airport was just a glorified bus stop for planes and passengers?) For passengers, seating will be more than doubled, as will toilet facilities and changes to the security area should mean a faster time getting through them. All the work is due to be completed by October 2018.

Next weekend, (17th and 18th of February,) Talyllyn Railway in North Wales – the world’s first preserved railway – will be offering free travel to all ‘Local Heroes’ over the weekend of February 17 and 18. That includes all serving and retired members of the armed forces, NHS staff, home helps, carers, firefighters, police, coastguards, members of other rescue services, first responders, lifeboat crews and blood bike volunteers will be entitled to free travel.

 

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