Saturday snippets: August 31st 2019

By | Category: Travel news

In Paris, Emmanuel Grégoire who is the first deputy mayor of the city has said that tour buses are no longer welcome in the city. What underlies his comments is that they are clogging up the roads in the inner part of Paris and that they are increasingly attracting the ire of residents. His solution? To build outer-city car parks so that buses stop coming into Paris. He believes that visitors should use public transport and suggested tour guides branch out into running cycle tours or leading walking groups with audio guides. What he fails to appreciate is that some coaches enable the elderly, those with walking difficulties or health problems to reach places they might otherwise not manage.

Arc de Triomphe at night
The Arc de Triomphe in Paris at night. How might a ban on tourist buses affect tourism numbers?

This month on the fifteenth, the low cost airline, Norwegian is to end all of its transatlantic routes flying out of Ireland. This looks a fairly permanent step as it is also closing its Dublin base as well. Norwegian connected Ireland with New York, Boston and Toronto from Cork, Dublin and Shannon. The reason? Not necessarily the one you might think. Norwegian says that the grounding of its Boeing 737 MAX fleet was one of the reasons. That sounds like an excuse given that Norwegian has been struggling for a little while now and has turned down two buy offers from the owners of Aer Lingus and BA, IAG.

On the plus side for Irish travellers, Aer  Lingus will fly from Dublin to Minneapolis-St. Paul in Minnesota and Montreal in Canada as from July 8th next year. Minneapolis is home to the Mall of America complete with a Nickelodeon area, a Sea Life aquarium and shops, hundreds of the things which are linked to the airport by light rail. In addition over fifty local hotels provide free shuttle buses to the mall.

Staying wih Ireland, in the first seven months of the year, holidaymakers and travellers from the Irish Republic made more than five million visits abroad for the very first time. In July alone, 968,900 travelled abroad. Incoming tourism was also up from the UK but down from the USA and Canada. Overall incoming tourism to the Republic was up by 2.8%for the first seven months of the year but down by EU visitors. Tourism Ireland might be wondering why EU tourism should be down given that there are no currency issues to consider. They will be hoping that August numbers and the recently launched Autumn campaign will turn that situation around.  

For those looking for winter sun break, consider the US state of Alabama, where a great deal will be happening. The reason is that Alabama is celebrating 200 years since it became a state. The precise day is December 14th and it was in 1819 that it was accepted as the 22nd state. ALABAMA 200, the state’s official bicentennial commemoration will feature traveling exhibitions, community festivals, genealogy workshops, cemetery surveys, historical gardens, reunions and other special celebrations. The Alabama Pastport (available as a book or a smartphone app) project will let visitors mark off historic, cultural, natural history and entertainment sites they visit across the state.

As predicted, Tunisia is having a bumper year. In comparison to the last couple that is. It says that cumulative tourism receipts this year have grown by 46% percent as of August 20, to almost 3.5 billion dinars, (about £1 billion or €1.1 billion) compared to 2.4 billion dinars in the same period last year. Up until August 10th, tourism was up 12.8% compared to last year reaching 5,438,000.

From Australia comes a report about one of the world’s biggest natural tourist attractions, the Great Barrier Reef. As a result the long-term outlook for it has been downgraded from “poor” to “very poor” by the Australian government. The report blamed world-wide and regional factors for the continued decline of the reef including climate change which is causing more storms and higher water temperatures as well as run-off from farming on the mainland. It is claimed that the reef brings about £3.55 billion in tourist money but that figure is at least two years out-of-date and critics have claimed that the true value is much greater. I remember work on trying to stem “attacks” on the reef by the Crown of Thorns starfish going back to the 1970’s – over forty years ago – and yet the starfish is still one of the problems the reef faces. Despite the money that the Queensland and Australian company spends on the reef, some people wonder how effective it has been.

Great Barrier Reef

The hurricane season that affects the Caribbean and the southern states of the USA has started slowly this year. Now it is catching up with a spurt. Hurricane Dorian is whipping up some really nasty weather towards the Bahamas and Florida as I write. Puerto Rico has been spared this time and there has been minimal damage in St Kitts and Nevis, Dominica as well as in both the US and British Virgin Islands. It is a reminder to all those holidaying in those areas this Autumn to make sure you follow the advice of local officials and check that your travel insurance includes hurricane clauses just in case you are unlucky – and you will be unlucky – to be holidaying at about the same time as a hurricane festers.

Almost two-and-a-half years after Saudi Arabia announced that it was going to issue tourist visas it has yet to do so. But this week in an announcement that seems to have been an exclusive for the US CNBC network, the Saudis said that they would start to issue tourist visas as from this September. At the same time, they said that the US based Six Flags theme park group would be the first entrant in Qiddiya, the vast entertainment city that is being built about 25 miles outside of the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Back in 2016, the Saudis announced that tourism would be a big contributor to the economy by 2020. That won’t happen. The next goal is 2030. With Qiddiya and some other announced ventures, this time tourism might get to be that significant contributor that the Saudis want .

Finally, you might have heard of Crap Travel. It is a website which analyses Twitter comments about holiday brands. Each week it is planned that they will list those where the analysis shows to be the worst complained about brands. For a laugh it might be worth a visit and the owners seem to be of the same belief. For a serious consideration of which is the worst it shouldn’t be believed. The first reason is because it only looks at those who can be bothered to put something on to Twitter. Secondly it is biased against large companies because they are likely to record more comments than smaller ones and thirdly  it is unclear that Crap Travel are looking at all holiday brands. Does it recognise which brands are owned by each group? TUI, for example, which came top of the crap table this week has five brands and Hays Travel has dozens!

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