Saturday snippets: 27th February 2016

By | Category: Travel news
the goat racing

the goat racing

If the dank and wet weather that we seem to have been having for months continues into the Easter holidays then a hot, sunny destination might take your fancy. How about Tobago in the Caribbean? Over the Easter period, they have some key sporting events that might attract you. Like the Buccoo Goat & Crab Racing Festival which has been held for over 90 years. The goat and crab racing festivals are held annually at the Buccoo Racing Stadium on Easter Monday and Tuesday. The goats are guided by barefoot “jockeys” who run behind their animals spurring them on. During the crab race, “jockeys” (what do you call a crab guider?) use string to steer them towards the final line.

The Honolulu Festival might be Hawaii’s premier cultural event, promoting harmony between the people of Hawaii and the Pacific Rim region but, less face it, the main reason you holiday in Hawaii is for the sunshine and the beaches, Having the festival on is a bonus. Each year, the festival draws thousands to the three day extravaganza. And it’s all free. Unfortunately it is held this year from 11th-13th of March which means it falls just outside the Easter holiday period. But for those without children who want a dose of sun, sand and south sea culture, Hawaii will do nicely.

part of the 2015 parade © Honolulu Festival Foundation

part of the 2015 parade © Honolulu Festival Foundation

The festival includes dance performances and traditional art from Japan, Australia, Tahiti, Philippines, Taiwan, Korea, Hawaii and the rest of the U.S. which all culminates big parade.

St David’s Day may be just around the corner but The Irish are out of the traps with nes of how the world will be celebrating St Patrick’s Day on March 17th. As readers are aware, they have been signing up anywhere in the world they can to go green on the day. This year green coloured or lit buildings will include 7 World Trade Center at Ground Zero in New York, the Big Wheel on Place de la Concorde in Paris, Mole Antonelliana in Turin, the light rail system in Addis Ababa and City Hall in Tel Aviv. And the famous Boston Red Sox baseball team will don green jerseys for their game on St Patrick’s Day as their Fenway Park stadium also turns green. The new sites will join ‘old favourites’ from previous years – including the Colosseum in Rome, the ‘Welcome’ sign in Las Vegas, the Allianz Arena in Munich, the Empire State Building in New York and the Sky Tower in Auckland.

Before the Irish turn everything green, Guildhall Great Hall in the City of London will be illuminated with a spectacular Shakespeare Son et Lumiere to celebrate the Bard’s connection to the capital. Yes, in case you have forgotten, this is the 400th anniversary of the death of the bard. Anywhere with a connection to the playwright is getting in on the act (excuse the pun) and the Shakespeare Son et Lumiere is one of the first. It will be held on March 4th and 5th from 6.45 to 8.45 in the evening and each show will last about 30 minutes. The Galleries around the Guildhall will operate extended opening hours and there will even be a Shakespeare themed cocktail from the pop-up bar. The influence of Shakespeare on our language is perhaps best summed by the song from the BBC TV programme, Horrible Histories, which lists dozens in the lyrics. But then he was “sturdy with the wordy” as the song says.

Croatia- appealing to more and more of us as a holiday destination

Croatia- appealing to more and more of us as a holiday destination

Half a million of us holidayed in Croatia last year according to the Croatia National Tourist Board. Overall, it received 14.9 million arrivals last year, an 8.5% increase on 2014When it comes to the most popular Croatian coastal regions in 2015, Dalmatia achieved the largest share of tourists, with 6.5 million arrivals, Istria had 3.6 million arrivals and Kvarner achieved 2.5 million arrivals. The Plitvice Lakes National Park which features 16 lakes and 129 bird species had 230,000 arrivals last year and Zagreb, the Croatian capital, received 1 million arrivals. As people opt out of holidaying in Turkey, Croatia may be well-placed to pick up those opting for beach and lakes and mountain type holidays.

Apart from Croatia, one other country that will do well with British visitors this year will be Greece. Last year, for the first eleven months of the year, visitor figures from the UK were up by 14.6% compared to the same period in 2014. And we are spending more that was up by 31%. If you are holidaying in Greece over Easter and are flying via Athens International Airport, spare some time to see the exhibition of Greek jewellery designers that will be on display. Thirty-three designers are exhibiting their wares and they can be seen from 7am till 11pm. The exhibtion ends on 30th of March.

Nicaragua may not instantly spring to your mind as an Easter destination but it is famous for the ‘Viacrucis Acuatico’ a procession of 40 boats that sail around the islands of Granada on Lake Nicaragua – the largest lake in Central America. Islanders decorate the boats with flowers and images of Jesus and go from island to island to receive symbolic offerings to remember the death and resurrection of Jesus. When the event was first launched it was only attended by locals who used their own boats to cross the lake, Now it has become increasingly popular and is now attended by the people from the city of Granada and tourists from around the world. Still, in the words of hackneyed travel and PR writers, it is one of those unspoilt and unknown gems.

Iran - wants 20 million tourists by 2020

Iran – wants 20 million tourists by 2020

Many of our writers have tipped Iran as a holiday destination of the future. Coinciding with the elections are taking place at the moment the country has announced that it aims to quadruple the number of foreign tourists visiting the country to 20 million a year by 2025. But large investments are needed in infrastructure, hotels and transport. Iran has just1100 hotels and guest houses of which only 130 are 4 or 5 star hotels which is the sort that holidaymakers tend to book. Iran seeks to increase the number of four and five star hotels from 130 to 400 in 10 years, and has announced plans to build 7 new international airports over the next decade. In the meantime should this be the time to visit Iran before it changes to become like other tourist attractions around the world?

In the continuing fight by some to get VAT reduced on tourism services, John Redwood MP asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he would make an estimate of the revenue the Government received from VAT on hotel stays and restaurant meals in each of the last five years. Answering, Financial Secretary, David Gauke, gave an answer that beggars belief so I quote it from Hansard. “This level of detail is not requested on VAT returns and therefore data is not available on how much VAT was raised on hotel stays and restaurant meals in each of the last five years.” Firstly he wasn’t asked to be 100% accurate. Secondly, when you register for VAT, question six asks what business you are in. Is it beyond the whit of all those super-intelligent public servants to search their database for those answering hotels and restaurants? In Groucho Marx’s words when it was suggested that a four year-old child could answer, perhaps the Treasury should hire some four year olds!

Finally, how could I have missed the fact that this week has been London Beer Week? But I have. And it’s listed in the Events column as well. Today is the last day so you still have time to pop along to the 100 plus of the city’s and restaurants which are all offering £3 speciality beers and £5 boilermakers or hoptails to those wearing a LBW wristband. The wristband costs a tenner.


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