Saturday snippets: 11th February 2017

By | Category: Travel news
aerial image of Maldives

Looking down on one of the the Maldives © Ayada Maldives

Travel agents and tour operators have been telling us that long-haul holidays are on the rise. Proof comes from Visit Maldives which says 2016 figures show a 9.8% increase in UK tourists during the year, equating to 101,843 UK tourists visiting the Maldives compared to 92,775 in 2015. And they expect numbers to grow this year as well as new hotels open. Seven per cent of all tourists to Maldives come from the UK.

Last Thursday at Tate Britain in London, the new David Hockney exhibition opened. I haven’t yet seen it but media reviews suggest that this will be one of the biggest attractions in London this year. There are 250 works on display and quite a few of the works haven’t been displayed for decades as they have been in private hands. Pulling together such a large exhibition has taken quite some time  – the last of his work was 29 years ago – and it is unlikely that such a large exhibition will be held for quite some time to come, if ever! It runs until the 29th of May.

For 95 years the composer, Handel, has had a festival in his hometown of Halle in Germany. The three day festival, which runs from the 23-25th of February this year, has to include the Messiah which this year celebrates the 275th anniversary of its first performance in Dublin. What many people don’t realise is that they can join in as there are 400 singers that are given three day’s coaching before the Messiah is sung.  Don’t bother to apply for this year as there is already a waiting list of a hundred! Because Halle is so convenient to visit being just twelve minutes by train from Leipzig Airport and with their being direct flights to Leipzig, Halle will soon find itself a weekend break destination.

German tourist destinations have been in the UK this week working hard on journalists and travel agents to send more Britons to Germany for their breaks and holidays. Stanley Johnson, ex MEP, ex EU civil servant and environmental campaigner as well as father of Boris, Jo and Rachel gave a talk on his family’s links with Germany and places he wants to still see. After he had finished, the first question he faced was from a journalist who asked how he had managed to make a speech about Germany and not mention sausages or beer!  (Incidentally, neither was served to the hacks that turned up to the briefing.) It was only then that I realised it was true. Next time I write about Germany I shall try not to mention them either as there is a lot more to eat and drink in Germany than just those two.

image from the air of Mykonos

Mykonos, one of the islands benefitting from more Thomas Cook customers

Thomas Cook says that Greece is now its biggest destination and there is strong demand for Cyprus, Bulgaria, Portugal and Croatia was making up for a lack of demand for Turkey. It also says that Spain and long haul destinations are also doing well. Online bookings are up by 20% in the UK. It says that has sold 82% of its winter programme, which is in line with expectations, while summer is 31% sold, with bookings 9% ahead of this time last year. For us passengers it means that there may not be as many bargains in Greece but there will be in Turkey. Despite the decline in sterling it says holiday prices are up by just 2%.

Remember the rains of last year. The Jorvik Centre in York was flooded.  After the clean-up and some necessary refurbishing, the centre will re-open to visitors on April 8th just in time for Easter.

The Office of Rail and Road says that rail ticket machines cause so much confusion that one-fifth of passengers who use them buy the wrong ticket.  It wants train companies to refund passengers who accidentally buy tickets that are too expensive for their journey. Using mystery shoppers, it says that 65% of them couldn’t find any information on the machines about which tickets were available, 57% said that machines didn’t have any information about when, for example, peak and off-peak tickets could be used and 32% said there was no information about ticket restrictions. Two rail companies, C2C and Scotrail have a price guarantee in place for when passengers overpay. When will the others follow suit? Why not make this a condition of franchising?

image of a helicopter in flight

This is the type of helicopter that will operate the new Penzance-Scilly Isles service

Many of you will remember the helicopter link between Cornwall and the Scilly Isles. It ceased in 2012 but Cornwall council has now given planning permission for a new heliport virtually adjacent to where the old one was. From spring next year, helicopters will fly from Penzance to St Mary’s and Tresco. Although helicopters might be noisy, the views that you see from there are much better than would see from a plane as you are much lower and slower.  I still miss the old British Caledonian helicopter service between Heathrow and Gatwick. As the M25/M23 gets busier, I’m sure there would be a market for the thirty minute flight.

If you are off skiing for half term or in the near future then those who prefer skiing in Italy have some good news. There has been some decent snowfall in the last few days and more is forecast. Elsewhere it is pretty good but the US and Canadian resorts seem to have the best snow at the moment. Probably the cheapest deals at the moment are to Bulgaria where snowfall has been good for the resorts there.

Today the website of The Independent has a story suggesting that airport car parks are fleecing those parking there during school holiday times. Written by Simon Calder, he says that some car-parks double their charges overnight. Edinburgh Airport is the worst he says and goes on to write that standard off-peak £43 price rises at the start of June to £87. To emphasise how much money that is, he says, “On some dates in summer it costs more to park at the Scottish capital’s airport than to fly 1,800 miles from Edinburgh to Milan and back.”

Finally, easyJet, has announced two new routes from Luton to Zadar in Croatia and the Isle of Man. British Airways is to resume flights from Birmingham and Bristol. From May there will be direct flights from both cities to Malaga, Ibiza and Palma and to Florence in Italy. Ryanair has launched a new four-times-weekly winter service from Bristol to Cologne.

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