Saturday snippets: 28th March 2015

By | Category: Travel news

472109_num1059709puffinThose considering a holiday in the Channel Islands might want to be reminded of the fact that, next week, the kayaking puffin patrols begin again around Herm. Lasting until June, this is one opportunity to see the nesting colonies of puffins that head to the island. . The small car free island, with its grassy cliff tops and open seas, forms an ideal habitat for hundreds of puffins each spring and summer and is one of the most southerly puffin breeding colonies in Europe. Oddly enough and unlike puffin colonies in many places, you can get pretty close to the birds on Herm. Why they aren’t as skittish as they are at other places around the British Isles is a mystery unless they are more use to humans being so close and have got use to us.

In Western Australia, a 5,000,000 hectare slice of the Kimberley region will become the country’s largest national park after the State Government struck a deal forever banning mining in the Mitchell Plateau. Although mining rights had been contracted many years ago, the government and the mining company, Rio Tinto, have agreed to cancel those rights and agreed that there will be no more mining. The park will incorporate two million hectares of land in the Kimberley, taking in the current Prince Regent, Mitchell River and Lawley River national parks. The company will contribute $750,000 to rehabilitation work in areas where some drilling was conducted. As yet, there is no date when the park will be open.

Just in time for Easter, Sea Stars has opened at the National Sea Life Centre in Birmingham. This attraction is all about starfish from across the world, a species that often gets overlooked in aquaria because they aren’t as volatile or fast as other marine life. Just about every beach visitor has seen them but the more uncommon varieties such as the Chocolate Knobbed and the Sun-Star will be new to most people. They have been around for 450 million years and display odd features such as projecting their stomachs out when they are feeding. Just the sort of thing to attract young minds and those difficult to answer questions for parents!

National Trust_0The National Trust – at least the trust in England and Wales – has announced that it is preparing to open all of its  properties throughout the winter months. Even during opening months, the properties have been closed on one or two days of the week but now they will be open 364 days of the year. It isn’t the first time that the Trust has announced this and then changed its mind but this time there appears to be more determination. Once again, opening is going to depend on those mainstays of the Trust – the volunteers.

Another interesting story from the Trust is that those grandiose and huge mansions so often linked to great individuals of the past are proving to be difficult to market. Visitor surveys show that grand houses are the least popular, while humbler, quirkier properties, such as the back-to-back shops in the heart of Birmingham and the Beatles’ childhood homes in Liverpool, are hugely popular. Why should this be so? Aren’t these types of houses the typical ones overseas visitors want to see? The Trust says that it will focus on individual objects rather than relying on the huge be-decked rooms laden with furniture, paintings and art gathered during those Grand Tours of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Celebrating its twenty fifth anniversay this year, the British Golf Museum in St Andrews is as close to the Old Course there as you can get without actually impeding players! It will re-open in June after major refurbishment. Although it chronicles golf over 500 years, the surprise to me – a non-golfer I must admit – is that there has only been a museum there for 25 years. One of the features you can see there is footage from a golf match played in 1898, 117 years ago, and what must be one of the earliest sports to be filmed.

Raja Ampat

Raja Ampat in Indonesia

Indonesia had announced that it will waive visas for thirty countries and that included the UK. Now it seems that this may only apply to where where there are reciprocity agreements in place. That is, if we let Indonesians in without visas they will do the same. Except we don’t so it doesn’t appear that we will be allowed to enter visa-free. The UK embassy in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, has said there are no plans to change our system. However there is one glimmer of light for visitors. Tengku Syahrizal from the Law and Human Rights Ministry has said that the Indonesian government has decided to waive visa requirements, even though it is not in accordance with the law. But, on the pessimistic side, he also said that no instructions had been issued yet. The summary for visitors? Assume you might need a visa after this comes in force in April until you are specifically told otherwise.

Ed Balls, Shadow Chancellor has told a regional newspaper,  Western Morning News, that his “door is open” to campaigners, who have been pressing George Osborne to reduce the tax from 20% to 5% for accommodation and attractions. In previous statements, the Tories have ruled this out. But politicians being politicians this may be no more than trying not to commit one way or the other.

According to the cruise industry, the popularity or river cruises eclipsed the growth in ocean cruising amongst Brits last year. Ocean cruising however is huge in numbers whereas river cruising attracts much smaller numbers. Last year it was 139,400 but then river cruise ships are much smaller. The most popular region to take a river cruise is Europe which accounts for 86% of all British passengers. The Danube and the Rhine are the most popular cruises in Europe. In the Far East cruises along the Mekong are up 55% and on rivers in India, up by 24%. Interest in river cruising is such that at least 16 new river cruise vessels will be launched this year to meet demand.

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) says that the next UK government should address three issues if the UK is to grow tourism. The first is to reform  ( by which I think they mean do away with) Air Passenger Duty; the second is to make getting a visa for overseas visitors more easy and the final one is to resolve the issue of a shortage of air capacity in the south east of England. This year it is projected that tourism will be worth £195.2 billion and over 4.2 million jobs to the UK. Without their suggested changes future growth might be in jeopardy although they haven’t said that in so many words. They have said that we could have had an additional 352,000 jobs and greater income if these issues had been addressed.

an island in the Bahamas. No wonder more people are visiting

an island in the Bahamas. No wonder more people are visiting

The WTTC has also said that the Bahamas will generate the greatest GDP and employment growth of all Caribbean destinations in 2015. It is expected that more of us will want to holiday in the Bahamas rather than Jamaica or the Dominican Republic, the other two powerhouse destinations in the Caribbean.

A reminder to readers. The Northern Ireland Tourist Board no longer exists. It is now Tourism Northern Ireland.  With a new chairman and a new name, the Northern Ireland tourism minister is hoping that a £I billion industry will be in place by 2020.

Finally, would you believe that Ryanair is thirty years old in May? It – and its ebullient chief executive, Michael O’Leary – seem to have been around forever.  In its usual low-key style, the airline says that it has carried over 750 million passengers at “very low fares” and that no other airline has been able to “match Ryanair’s unique low prices.” They also claim to be Europe’s original low fares airline but then they might have forgotten the pioneering work of Freddy Laker in the decade before they were born!






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