Saturday snippets: 17th September 2016

By | Category: Travel news
poster image of Cardiff celebrations of Roald Dahl's birth


Cardiff, this weekend, has been taken over by the 100th anniversary of the birth of Roald Dahl. Over 6,000 performers (that’s more than come to some events around the country!) will be at various points in the city as the month-long celebrations of Dahl continue. The city has almost been renamed the “City of the Unexpected” and a number of sights aren’t being announced as they will add to the unexpected theme. The most noticeable events will be at the Millennium Centre but events could happen anywhere including the Norwegian Church in Cardiff bay where Dahl used to worship. It all warps up tomorrow when at 2pm there is the Great Pyjama Party!

Will we need visas to fly to Europe? Some newspapers were reporting that fact earlier this week. Apparently, when Brexit is discussed, France and Germany are suggesting a system which sounds pretty much like the one the USA has. Their ESTA scheme is an online application version with a fee that is then largely used to promote the USA abroad. A few years ago it was obvious that Brussels bureaucrats were coveting this scheme and here may be their opportunity to launch it.

Reuters reports that tourist authorities in Thailand are concerned about the effect of Zika on its tourism industry. Over one hundred cases have so far been notified but, thankfully, none of the six births so far have had any complications. For visitors, the Thai government is being unhelpful by declining to name in which parts of Thailand the outbreaks are.  Anuttarasakdi Ratchatatat, an epidemiologist at the health ministry’s Bureau of Vector Borne Disease, told Reuters “If we say which province has infections [of Zika] then attention will turn on that province, and if that province is popular with tourists it will have an impact on tourism.” And by not telling visitors, tourists are likely to stay away from the whole of Thailand.

Cape Breton National Park. After the Celtic Colours Festival the scenery will attract you

Cape Breton National Park. After the Celtic Colours Festival the scenery will attract you

When people think of where to travel to see autumn foliage, places like New England in the USA, the New Forest or the National Arboretum come to mind but what about Nova Scotia? Not only do they have some of the best foliage colours you will see anywhere but in the second week of October they celebrate the Celtic Colours International Festival at Cape Breton. Some 70 Cape Breton communities transform into one international stage celebrating the island’s First Nations, French, Scottish and Irish inhabitants. Learn to sing Gaelic, stomp with Irish fiddlers, and absorb the power of Mi’kmaq drumming.

Bridge Day doesn’t sound that interesting does it? But in the US state of West Virginia, Bridge Day means one of the largest extreme sport festivals in the world. It is held on the third Saturday of October every year in Fayetteville. Over 200,000 visitors from all over the world attend to watch base jumpers leap from the New River Gorge Bridge, as well as to enjoy local activities, such as mountain biking and white-water rafting, associated with the event. This bridge is just under 300 metres tall and is the world’s second longest single-arch bridge, while the New River, flowing underneath it, bisects the entire Appalachian Mountain Range, separating it from north and south.

Philadelphia at half-term time there is a Harry Potter Festival lasting two days on the 21st and 22nd of October. This area will be transformed into a spellbinding city, teeming with events and screenings dedicated to J.K. Rowling’s legendary creations. This annual festival features many magical activities, including a themed pub-crawl, ( I don’t remember Harry, Hermione and XXX doing this!)  literary presentations, sorting hat demonstrations, Horcrux scavenger hunt and even Quidditch matches. Harry Potter fans will be donning their best fancy dress costumes in order to pay homage to their favourite Hogwarts characters. 

Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond. Will there be more national parks in the future?

There are just two national parks in Scotland, the Cairngorms and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. The Scottish government was asked by Finlay Carson MSP what progress had been made on creating new ones only to be told that there were no plans at present to create more.  The Scottish Campaign for National Parks has listed seven potential areas but the Scottish government noted that for a national park to come into being it required the consent of all relevant local authorities. If no plans have been submitted to the government then it looks as though that consensus hasn’t yet been reached. The government said that communities should consider other options as well, ones that might not be as costly such as national scenic areas, biospheres, regional parks and geoparks. But do these have the same tourist appeal as a national park?

It is pretty much agreed that our countries had a bumper summer as staycations boomed. Nonetheless it was also a bumper year for overseas holidays and the airports prospered. The Manchester Airport Group (it owns Manchester, Stansted, East Midlands and Bournemouth airports) has just announced figures for August and Manchester Airport has had its busiest summer of all time. 2.93 million of us jetted in and out of the hub in August – up 9 per cent on last year. The most popular summer destinations to fly to were Spain and its various islands (what a surprise) as well as Dubai, Orlando and Abu Dhabi. Stansted had 2,494,732 passengers; 596,155 flew at East Midlands Airport and 83,598 at Bournemouth.

Yesterday,  that erstwhile opponent of Heathrow expansion, Boris Johnstone, said that expansion there should be consigned to the dustbin. As decision day nears it seems that he is not on the cabinet committee that will make the decision. Ministers have apparently been given a free vote on the issue but that won’t stop annoyance by one side or the other unless both Gatwick and Heathrow are given the nod. For those living outside the south east of England, this may seem t be getting too much publicity. But I’d be prepared to bet that your local airport has made its views known because it wants flights into London and at the moment slots are few and far between. It will affect your airport after all!

image of Boris Johnstone

Will Boris scupper Heathrow’s plans

Stansted will become a new base for Jet 2 it was announced last week. It follows the recent news that Birmingham was also to be a hub and shows the confidence the airline and tour operator has in gradually moving south from its base in Leeds. Birmingham Airport also recorded the busiest month ever in August with 1,285,911 passengers, up by 13% compared with the same month last year. Gatwick also set a new record for a single-runway airport after having more than 42 million passengers in the last 12 months. In August alone, 4.8 million passengers used the airport. It helps the airport to argue for another runway. But Heathrow has announced August figures of  almost 7.34 million which is a very small increase on last year. It argues that it can’t have a big increase because it is at capacity.Only another month or so and the government will announce its decision on where expansion in the south east of England will occur. Or will it?

Ryanair will launch five new summer routes from Manchester next year. They will fly to to Berlin, Hamburg, Nuremberg, Oslo-Torp and Wroclaw in addition to extra flights to Alicante, Chania, Faro, Krakow, Lanzarote, Murcia, Palma, Rome, Tenerife and ZadarWizz Air will fly from Liverpool John Lennon Airport to the Polish city of Lublin next year starting on May 21.

Finally, after the hottest September day, heavy rainfall and flash flooding, comes a different weather report – that of snow and the annual report of the Ski Club. It says that Brexit is unlikely to have much of an impact on skiing holidays over the next few years despite the higher cost of foreign currency. When asked if their skiing habits would change, only 7% said they would take fewer holidays after the result of the EU referendum, and much of this was due to other factors such as lifestyle changes. 28% said they would ski more and 65% said their habits would not change. It also found that 97% of skiers intended to ski again in the coming season. France leads as the main destination  and 74% of those who skied their last year will go back, compared to 61% who skied in Austria and only 49% of skiers who went to North America.

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