Saturday snippets: 22nd March 2014

By | Category: Travel news
Egypt:  few visitors to be seen

Egypt: few visitors to be seen

This week I did a webcast to PR people for an hour. One of the questions asked was how much input did you – the readers of Just about Travel – have in story suggestions. You have suggested a number of ideas in the past such as safari stories in Namibia, the annual garden festival at Keukenhof in Holland, visiting Caithness by rail in Scotland and more on Mexico. But I haven’t actually asked you for a while to send me ideas; you’ve just done it off your own bat. So the webcast prompted me to think and to ask you to let me know if you have ideas you would like us to cover. Just send them to me at

One reader wrote to me this week with the following about customer service. ” When will all companies realise that offering to talk through relatively minor issues with an annoyed customer defuses the situation, and gives an opportunity to explain things? In fairness, many companies now do this, and the customer is satisfied that they have been listened to, and their concerns heard.On returning from a short break, with a fairly aweful outbound journey, but a reasonable return trip, I just wanted to tell Customer Services how I – and many other passengers – would have liked to be treated. A very embarrassed telephone receptionist had to tell me that she had been instructed to tell me that no-one would speak to me on the phone, and that the only channel available is to email or write in to the company with my issues. As soon as you write down issues, they become complaints, and now I am hopping mad with the whole ‘Them and Us’ situation. A sympathetic ear was all I wanted…” All I can say, is what a way to run a ferry company. I deliberately haven’t mentioned the name of the ferry line as letters are still crossing between them and our reader!

From critcism to praise. Normally we don’t mention names but in this case, here is a worthy exception. A reader writes,  “I know that loyalty can only be bought by good customer service and an excellent product; but when all of that is accompanied by a box of luxury chocolates arriving totally unexpectedly through the post, with a note saying  ‘On behalf of Premier Holidays, welcome back from your recent trip’ – I’m a complete convert! Little gestures like this make the difference, they show a degree of thoughtfulness not always found nowadays. And no, I haven’t just got back from a round the world trip – it was actually a short break within the UK!”

The Cruise Show opens at Olympia today for the weekend. Congratulations to those who won our free tickets. For those unlucky, better luck next time. If you do go along, just about every cruise company will be having a draw to win a free cruise!

Cardiff Airport has seen a 9% increase in the number of its passengers since it was taken over by the Welsh government in March, last year. Since May 2013, the business has seen 10 months of continuous growth. By the end of next week, managers hope to break the one million passenger mark for the financial year. During the 12 months to March 2013, 997,000 passengers used the airport. For the year to the end of this month, the airport is expecting to handle 1,080,000 passengers.  How much is due to the government and how much to events already under way? That’s hard to know but the government will take the credit as governments always do when they can see a spin on things. That may be unfair to them but we’ll see over the next few years whether the airport can hit the heights of 2 million passengers as achieved a few years ago. I looked at flying from Cardiff to destinations and there are still no transatlantic scheduled flights, the airport still relying on popular destinations for holidaymakers. It also hasn’t updated its wbsite  “About Us” page as it says it is still owned by TBI. Who says things have improved?

Continuing the Cardiff theme but this time by train, in the House of Lords this week, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson pointed out again that not all trains are disabled-friendly. She found herself travelling from London to Cardiff. The train company, First Great Western, has since said that on those services it does not have accessible toilets in that particular carriage.  Why not? Those readers who are disabled are advised to check with the train company first before they select a scheduled service.  In the meantime the baroness is contacting the Department of Transport for its comments. Do readers know any other train servces where disabled toilets are unavailable?

Staying in Wales, and now for something completely different! If you happen to be near Builth Wells this weekend there is an unusual party. Erwood Bridge on the A470 re-opens and there will be a communal dance being organised by the owners of Erwood Station Craft Centre, which is on the opposite side of the River Wye from the A470. The residents, led by Michael Cunningham from Erwood Station Craft Centre, marked the closure by organising a dance on the bridge so now they want another for the re-opening! It all begins at 2pm on Saturday.

A more traditional weekend event takes place in the last weekend of the month at Oldsmar in Florida which might interest those having an early Easter holiday near Tampa. The 53rd Annual Oldsmar Days event features a parade on Saturday March 29 at 11 am of historic Oldsmobile’s, antique fire trucks and a contingent of Shriner’s.   Naturally there will also be a carnival that weekend with old-fashioned fun such as games including Limbo, Hula Hoop and Pie Eating contests, plenty of excellent food and arts and crafts vendors, motorcycle and classic car shows each day and the best selection of classic rock. I mention it because we don’t carry overseas events in our events’ listings but you can find hundreds of Easter and Easter holiday events there.

SeaWorld- San Diego

SeaWorld- San Diego

Again, if you are in the US, SeaWorld is celebrating its 50th birthday. The first opened in San Diego in California on 21st March 1964. Not content with having a single day birthday, the celebrations at SeaWorld will last eighteen months and occur in San Diego, Orlando and San Antonio.

Miami is one of the big destinations for Britons partially because it is the terminal for so many Caribbean cruises. Last year there were 287,688 visitors from the UK.

Next week is the first ever #MuseumWeek. What does this mean? #MuseumWeek will take place from Monday 24th March – Sunday 30th March and will give Twitter users direct and unparalleled access to some of Europe’s leading museums and the people behind them in 140-characters bursts. A full list of participating UK organisations can be viewed  by clicking here.

Starting March 29th is English Tourism Week. Keep an eye out for events in your area by listening to local radio and the local press. We’ll run what events we can in our listings.  In the city of London for example there are free themed guided walks atarting at 5.45 each evening from 31st of March until the 4th of April. Places are first come, first served. For a list of walks, click here. 

Egypt was a popular destination for us and tourists from many countries. Frederic flew into the country to prepare some stories for us but sent back the news that on his flight into Cairo, there were fewer than 40 tourists on the half empty flight. When he caught the flight from Cairo to Luxor there were just 12 as opposed to 60 or so domestic flyers! On the plus side he reports that Egyptians are the same as he has found them on previous visits; full of smiles, being very welcoming and urging more of us to gouthe new Cairo airport is a huge improvement on the old one. Watch out for his stories next month.

Next weekend is also the time when many of the attractions in the UK re-open after the winter shutdown. Lots of National Trust properties will open their doors as will wildlife centres, Sea Life parks and smaller attractions. Another sign that winter is leaving us and that summer is only a few months away?

In the week of the budget, Margaret Ritchie criticised the government saying that the UK still faced the highest rates of APD and VAT on tourism products in the EU. She pointed out that almost every EU state has some form of reduction in VAT for the tourism industry as she had done the previous month in the Commons debate on VAT reduction for tourist related services. She is an Northern Ireland MP and there, tourism companies face competition from the Republic which has a 9% VAT on tourism offerings rather than the UK’s 20%. Savvy holidaymakers can save money but just holidaying south of the border instead of holidaying in the province.

peel__1264766235_dtva_day3_retouchedI hadn’t realised the key role that the station at Durham Tees Valley airport plays in getting passengers to the airport on time until Ian Swales, MP for Redcar mentioned it in the House of Commons. Eight passengers in the year used it. Yes, I did mean a year. Apparently there is one train per week. And the government said there was a very poor service. Only seven years ago 900,000 people used it so why has the rail company opted for one service?  the airport website directs you to use Darlington station, seven miles away. Any readers in the area might like to send their views to me,

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