Saturday snippets: 19th November 2016

By | Category: Travel news
overhead view of Thorne Island

Thorne Island and fort. Image © Knight, Frank & Rutley

How do you fancy owing your own 10 bedroom hotel, B&B or tourist attraction? A Grade 2 listed fort off the Pembrokeshire coast has gone on the market for less than the price of a London terraced house. Thorne Island was built during the Crimean War to protect Milford Haven’s naval base from French attack. It was converted to a hotel after WWII but for the last ten years it hasn’t been used and isn’t in the best state so owners will need a few more bob in the wallets apart from the £550,000 asking price. For your money you will get the 2.5 acre fort, 10 bedrooms, three receptions, three bathrooms, two bars, a games room and a sauna. You will have a landing stage and you’ll need a boat as a way of getting visitors or guests to the island.

After mentioning last week that skiing had re-opened at weekends at Alpes d’Huez, The Swiss, Jungfrau region sent me an e-mail saying that they would re-open this coming weekend.  Following the recent snowfall in the Bernese Oberland the Grindelwald-Wengen area will now be open for weekends throughout November and December until officially opening on the 17th of December.

Malaysia is planning its biggest ever promotion for eco-tourism by concentrating on Sabah. It says that unique wildlife was an attraction for tourists from the UK and that they were seeing more and more Brits travelling there. This isn’t the only appeal however. During World Travel Market last week, the Malays also said that staying in the homes of locals and experiencing their lives, culture, cuisine and local geography was increasing. Partially, they said, this was due to the rise of concepts like Airbnb.

image of Singapore skyline

Singapore today © Singapore Tourism

Travelling between Kuala Lumpur in Malaya and Singapore can take at least five hours by road which is why many people fly making the route one of the busiest. That will change when  a new bullet train links the two capitals reducing the time to just ninety minutes. The high speed rail link will begin construction next year and its suggested that trains will start making the journey in 2026.

As readers will have noticed there have been quite a number of destinations holding their awards ceremonies recently. Another was the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions ones. The Museum of the University of St Andrews won the Best Visitor Experience Award, Historic Environment Scotland and The Real Mary King’s Close shared the top marketing award and Melissa Riley from the New Lanark World Heritage Site received the Rising Star Award.

In the German city of Oberhausen, more than 500,000 people have visited the Wonders of Nature exhibition which stars a 20 metre model of the Earth, spotlighted by moving satellite pictures.  Half-a-million visitors makes this on eof the very top exhibition attractions in all of 2016 so what’s the appeal? It could be because a glass coated elevator enables you to see our blue planet at a height of 100 metres – just like a view from space! This view as well as 150 impressive photographs taken by well-known photographers has made it such a hit in the six months in which it has been open that the exhibition has been extended until November 2017. For UK and Irish potential visitors, the closest airport is Dusseldorf which is just 28 kilometres away.

AirBnB is introducing a “new” service for its followers. Called Trips it offers users the chance to be guided by local people around a destination on the basis that locals know the area best. It isn’t a new idea at all – Blue Badge guides do precisely the same thing, sometimes for nothing. The difference will be how the muscle of AirBnB promotes and markets the service. They also say that they will vet the guides more thoroughly and even do trial tests before allowing them to offer their services. Still sounds like Blue Badge guides to me!

On Tuesday, Richard Branson announced plans to re-introduce supersonic transatlantic flights within six years. The prototype aircraft is claimed to be able to fly between London and New York in 3.5 hours. Branson says the flights will cost about $5,000 (about £4,000) return when the service begins in 2020. The jets will each have only 45 to 50 seats and eventually they could also offer supersonic flights to Tokyo and Sydney. With so few seats, it must be more roomy than Concorde was but at these prices it is likely that only the rich, business people and fanatics will be able to afford it.

aerial image of Arundel castle

Arundel Castle

Arundel Castle in West Sussex is yet another example suggesting that summer 2016 was a bumper year for UK. It welcomed more than 176,000 visitors, a 5% increase on 2015. In particular, two events are proving extremely popular. The first is the Jousting and Medieval Tournament Week and the Annual Tulip Festival which sees tens of thousands of the brightly coloured bulbs take over the Castle’s grounds. The Festival will be returning to Arundel Castle in 2017, with a record 36,000 bulbs expected to bloom in mid to late April.

From AirHelp, a company which assists passengers claiming compensation for flight delays, comes a calculation which rates airlines for overall customer service. Qatar Airlines comes first followed by Air Dolomiti of Italy, Austrian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, KLM and Virgin Atlantic at sixth The calculation was based on 78 airlines over the summer based on their quality and service, on-time performance and on how they dealt with claims under EU 261. British Airways came 14th with a score of 7.7, down 0.3 points. Flybe came in 21st, Cityjet at 22nd, Aer Lingus at 24th, Jet 2 at 35th, Thomas Cook at 39th and Ryanair at 48th. Vueling was 52nd, easyJet came in at 62nd but Tui – parent of Thomson Holidays – doesn’t appear in the list at all.

The earthquake near the New Zealand town of Kaikora this week has probably destroyed one of the foremost seal watching areas in the country. Chau Point has been damaged and it is felt that seals will not recognise the change and pup elsewhere. Kaikora relies almost solely on tourism so the impact on the town will be considerable. It is thought that a year might be needed to recover showing how fragile some of our most enticing tourist attractions are.

As the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s  Autumn statement becomes due, there have been the usual calls about Air Passenger Duty, This time,  some MP’s – members of the BIG group – have called for the halving of the tax saying it will impede the UK’s ability to trade with the world post-brexit. For politicians they seem to have been unable to think this through.   With the slump in the pound, travel to the UK becomes a lot cheaper so why cut a tax that brings in about £4 billion to an economy that will need it where fuel charges will rise (fuel is priced in dollars) and tax receipts are falling. The time to consider cutting is the day Brexit happens or when Scotland introduces its planned for cut when APD becomes a devolved issue.



In eleven days’ time, Barbados will celebrate that fact that it is 50 years since it achieved independence on the 30th of November 1966. Since then it has continued to be a big attraction for British holidaymakers and, last year, 591,872 visitors the UK travelled there. Celebrations have been taking place for a while and they culminate with a parade and thanksgiving service on the day. At the World Travel Market, Barbados was highlighting the remainder of the celebrations and was encouraging travel agents to send even more holidaymakers to the island this winter and next year.

We have published a lot in the last couple of weeks about tourist awards. Here is another. The Toilet Tourism Awards, launched by research group, will have six categories:  Overall Winner, – Best Tourism Economic Contributor, Best Location, Best Design, Best Accessible Toilet and Quirkiest Toilet Experience. I think most people would be happier if councils stopped trying to save money by closing them.

Finally we have loaded the Christmas markets (there are over 200 of them) and we are busy loading all the Christmas events which will amount to some 3,000 in all. Because of the volume we are not linking these events to Google maps so that more can be available but, even then, we are loading them in date order so those starting as late as December may not be uploaded for a little while yet. As a dedicated grouch of may years’ standing, it still irks me that some Christmas markets are running as early as this weekend

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