Saturday snippets: 20th of August 2016

By | Category: Travel news
The, Canary Isles will probably have very little spare capacity this year. It's full of British holidaymakers

The Canary Isles will probably have very little spare capacity this year. It’s full of British holidaymakers

With many holidaymakers taking a cautious view of where to holiday this year is it any surprise that one of the favourite destinations of the British is romping ahead. The Canary Islands attracted 13 million visitors last year and, of those, 4, 279,392 were British. In the first six months of this year the number of British visitors has jumped by 18.4%. This obviously doesn’t cover the peak holiday period so it looks as though there will be a very significant rise in the number of us holiday there during the whole of 2016. I’ll be there in October as well helping to swell the figures!

Many of the effects of the Brexit vote are too early to judge. One that seems noticeable is in the north west of the Republic of Ireland. According to a story in the Irish Independent, Paul Diver, the head of the Irish Hotels Federation branch in Donegal, says a “serious” decline in visitors from the North is hitting the trade. The decline in the value of the pound against the euro has deterred visitors and Diver is quoted as saying, “our Northern Ireland business has evaporated.” Are other border counties similarly affected? Tourism Ireland doesn’t yet have hard figures.

Yaroslavl is a poular -and inexpensive - winter ski destination

Yaroslavl is a popular -and inexpensive – winter ski destination

One place that Britons are visiting is Russia where Maya Lomidze of the Association of Tour Operators of Russia says that the steady decline of the rouble against currencies (including sterling) has made the country cheaper to visit and this is despite the fact that a visa can set you back a minimum of £155.  Visitor numbers from the UK are steady. Another reason could be the additional emphasis on tourism that has taken place. At both of the big travel trade markets I have noticed a bigger and more obvious sales presence. Press conferences that were poorly attended suddenly started attracting more writers and more stories not just about Russia generally but individual cities like Moscow, St Petersburg and Kazan. In addition, river cruising is becoming more popular and the Russian offering of trips from St Petersburg to Moscow is an appealing product for those who want to see more of the country but without having to pack and unpack luggage every night of a land tour.

Iceland, Slovakia and Cyprus are all seeing more of us this year but so is Bulgaria, another country that, by offering price competitive tourism, is doing well at the moment. Visitor numbers were up by 15% or an extra three million for the first half of this year.  German visitors are up by 40% and the number of Brits visiting is also up probably helped by better snow conditions last winter than some other ski destinations.

Another country that we don’t hear much about, at least in terms of tourism, is Iran. Yet this country has a vast number of tourist products underway and, as forecast by many of our writers in their thoughts on 2016 which we ran at the beginning of the year, Iran is working hard at making the country more appealing to visitors. About 1,750 tourism infrastructure projects are in creation including 820 hotels. Judging by the fact that many hotels are being built by Turkish and German companies, my guess is that that is where Iran sees the source of future tourists. In all, Iran is expecting to create some 170,000 jobs in tourism in the next twenty months as more of us travel there.

Will this be what draws the tourists next year?

Will this be what draws the tourists ?

Whilst some countries are doing well in attracting us to holiday there what of domestic destinations? Leicestershire is doing particularly well but some would argue that it should be given the media coverage over the finding of the skeleton of Richard III under that now famous carpark. Almost 33 million people visited the county last year up by over two million but will it continue? There is the little matter of Leicester City winning the football premiership last season which should attract more visitors this season as football fans see if the team can maintain that surprising win. And then there is the ever significant rugby team which has kept the name of Leicester in the newspapers when the footballers weren’t doing so well. The winning combination of royalty and sport seems attractive to visitors.

The Isle of Skye has also seen an upturn in visitors but that has brought problems it seems. According to a petition circulating on the island, there is need for improved infrastructure. ‘Bring Isle of Skye into 21st Century Tourism’ is the name of the petition and it claims that a lack of investment in road maintenance, car parking and signage is giving visitors a poor view of the island. It reinforces the belief that once tourism money comes in, little gets spent on improving things so that places can cope with the additional problems that visitors bring. Where goes the money?  Tourism won’t grow very much unless some of that money is reinvested in making it pleasant for us visitors once we get there.

London underground

two lines of the tube began a 24 hour service but only on Friday and Saturday nights

One aspect of that reinvestment was the opening last night of a 24 hour service on the tube network in London. The Victoria and Central lines have started operating The Night Tube services at 51 stations on Friday and Saturday nights and others will follow. For those nervous of travelling on the tube late at night, the mayor is spending £3.4 million on security systems including more officers patrolling stations. For airline passengers the Piccadilly line  night service will open in the Autumn but it would be more appealing if it ran seven days a week instead of just Friday and Saturday so that people could make those early morning flights by using public transport.

The attraction of Kenya is the wildlife and safari holidays such as at Maasai Mara National Reserve. To some it is the beach along the coastline around Mombasa. For the last few years both have suffered from terrorist attacks but, now in quieter times, tourist numbers are on the up. Last year, there were 1,180,546 international holidaymakers – still below the highs of 2011 but a very welcome increase for the country.

Kenya hopes that the upturn in visitor numbers continue

Kenya hopes that the upturn in visitor numbers continue

The head of Kenya’s tourism authority, Jimi Kariuki says that the country can attract 5 million international visitors so is launching a series of promotional campaigns, one of which will be directed at UK holidaymakers. That appeal will be helped by the government’s recent decision to withdraw the 16% VAT on tourism services which is expected to bring down holiday costs.

Staying in Africa and with the impact of VAT, in a report engagingly titled “Tourism Goose will Fly Elsewhere when Faced with Higher VAT and Airport Taxes”  from the East African Tourism Platform, taxes imposed by some governments have not helped tourism.  As noted above, Kenya has removed VAT on park entry fees and commissions paid to tour operators but its neighbour, Uganda, still charges 18% on tourism products. In Rwanda where safari holidays make up the majority of the tourism appeal, safaris and guiding as well as animal or bird watching, ground transport and tour charter services are exempted from taxation. Holidays there might still be more expensive than Kenya as tour operators pay 18% VAT on their profits, and a potential 2% tourism levy if approved in parliament. Tanzanian tourism also has tax problems. It has, according to the report, some 32 different levies that are charged on tourism products. Kenya might just see 5 million tourists a bit earlier than Jimi Kariuki was anticipating since so many neighbouring countries seem intent on making their tourist industries less able to compete with Kenya!

Finally, this week there was the murder of a number of people in a restaurant in Puerta Vallarta, the Mexican resort and beach destination that, until a few years ago, wasn’t widely known over here. Now both of our major tour operators have holidays there and visitor numbers from the UK have substantially increased. Will these murders deter us from visiting? The shootings were not aimed at tourists but between rival drug gangs and the local tourist board was quick to rush out a press release to allay fears calling this an isolated incident and that additional security has been introduced. Already the story has disappeared from the media but the fact that one of those kidnapped in the restaurant was the son of the head of a drug gang currently in prison and wanted in the US means that every time, his name comes up in the press, the media will probably refer to Peurta Vallarta. My experience of the area is that generally it is quiet and visitors are undisturbed by local events. But just like anywhere in the world, there are no guarantees.


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