Saturday snippets: 31st December 2016

By | Category: Travel news
talyllin logo

The logo for the 150th anniversary

The narrow-guage, Talyllyn Railway in Wales finished the celebrations for its 150th anniversary just before Christmas. That in itself isn’t that remarkable since lots of 150th anniversaries are celebrated. What was special was that the engine and the two carriages were very probably the very same that were used 150 years ago in December 1866.

Whilst a 150 year old engine and carriages were feted and people queued to travel on it, not everyone views old trains with the same view. Did you read the brouhaha last Wednesday about the age of UK trains? Frankly I don’t think anyone cares about the age of trains as long as they are comfortable and reliable. I certainly prefer having diesel 125’s on the Virgin East Coast line rather than the electric 225’s in winter when the overhead cables are iced. The diesels just cruise along with nary a problem and they are many years older.

A brouhaha of a different sort happened when Korean Air was reported by the mainstream media as saying it would use tasers on unruly passengers following an incident on a flight from Hanoi to Seoul when cabin crew had some difficulty in controlling a passenger. Tasers were apparently on the flight but that didn’t stop some commentators wringing their hands and wondering what happened if a terrorist managed to get hold of one of the on-board tasers. It looks as though tasers are already carried but I can’t recall one being used. Just the fact that they are being carried might be a deterrent but not half as much as removing alcohol from flights. But then, where would airlines make all those additional profits? The airline also said that it would hire more male air stewards, ensuring there is at least one on duty for each flight which suggests that female stewards can’t cope with unruly passengers!

ATOL thinks that about a million of us booked our summer holidays on Boxing Day and another million will book tomorrow, New Year’s Day. Their figures come from some research which concludes that 6.5 million of us will have booked holidays since Christmas. They think we will have spent just over 15 hours researching it, first by looking at social media then with review sites and finally using forums. No sign of travel agents in the top three or even Just about Travel! And where do they think we will book? In order, the list is Spain, Italy, USA, Greece, France, the Caribbean, Portugal, Canada, Cyprus and Australia. No Turkey, Tunisia or even our fourth most visited destination – Germany.

beach in Cuba

the Cuba most people would think of – sandy beaches and warm seas but not as many Americans as forecasted

American travel companies seem to have got their sums wrong about Cuba. Believing that Americans would flock there, airlines sought more and more flights. A week or so ago I noted that American Airlines had reduced the number of services and the trend continues. Silver Airways has cut routes whilst Jet Blue and Southwest (all three are low-cost airlines) have reduced prices. Now the mid-west based airline, Sun Country, has decided to delay introducing services to Cuba for another year. Britons considering a holiday in Cuba might want to look at whether buying a ticket on an Atlantic flight and another from the US mainland to Cuba might be worthwhile. Silver Airways is charging just $138 for a return ticket from Fort Lauderdale to Cuba.

Heathrow has done some research and claims that today’s children are well-travelled clocking up more air miles and having more overseas experiences than ever before. In 2016, nearly one in five of them went away seven or more times and one in 20 went on more than 10 breaks taking into account family holidays, school trips and vacations with friends.  It is a far cry from my childhood when flying was unusual. My first flight was when I was already 20!

The news agency, Reuters, issued a story in the week about a massive investment in tourism for China. The government there proposes to invest $290 billion over the next four years. It isn’t the money that attracted my attention although that is eye-watering but the priorities. The money will be spent on things like plans to develop rustbelt regions, turning disused industrial plants and mines into one of the growing popular tourist attractions – industrial tourism and to upgrade public toilets. Those that run tourism or their political masters view the provision of toilets as hardly worth attention. Reuters went on to say that the Chinese aim to build or renovate as many as 100,000 public toilets. Perhaps UK, Irish and Spanish destinations would like to consider more toilets and better maintained ones as well since they all are fixated by attracting more Chinese tourists.

Two million people will descend on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro to see in the new year. If, at this very late stage, you are thinking of going, think again. About 87% of all accommodation had been booked by mid-December. By now it will probably be full so last minute visitors have to be those who know where they will sleep the remaining hours of the night away.  Much the same applies to New York or Sydney, two other cities that are known around the world for their new year’s events.

Lazzy River at Wet n'Wild

Wet n’ Wild closes today. Image
© Wet ‘n Wild

Since Global Entry, the travel facilitation service that allows expedited clearance at the U.S. border for pre-approved, low-risk travellers, was introduced earlier this year some 21,000 UK passport holders have registered. The final step of the registration process is an interview, which normally must be completed at a U.S. airport but because of the popularity here, a centre was set up in London’s Grosvenor Square. From January 9 through March 10, 2017 conditionally approved applicants can complete their interview at the U.S. Embassy in Grosvenor Square.

Today is the last day you can visit Universal’s Wet n’ Wild water park in Florida as it closes to make way for Volcano Bay which opens later next year. When it opened almost forty years ago, Wet n’ Wild was the first water park in the US when Sea World opened it later selling it to Universal about twenty years later. Hundreds of thousands of British and Irish children had their first water park experience there and theme parks world-wide took inspiration from what they found.

Whatever you are doing – or not doing – tonight to celebrate the new year; enjoy yourself. And best wishes from all of us here at Just about Travel for a better and prosperous year than 2016.

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