Saturday snippets: 25th February 2017

By | Category: Travel news
hump back whale

The hump-back whale sanctuary on the coast of the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is the most popular place in the Caribbean for Britons to holiday. Of all the things you might associate with this country food may not be one of them. But, if you can holiday there in mid-March then you can enjoy the capital’s “Taste Santo Domingo,” which runs from March 16-18. This popular annual food fair brings together food tasting events and workshops led by chefs and food experts.

For a holiday in the Caribbean in a centenary year, look to the three islands comprising the U.S. Virgin Islands – St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix. The 31st of March is the big day but the celebrations continue throughout the year. To stimulate interest,  Visit USVI – the official tourist board of the U.S. Virgin Islands – is giving $US300 to holidaymakers during 2017 for trips booked by 1st October when staying three consecutive nights at participating hotels. The cash incentive can be exchanged for historical and cultural tours and activities across the three islands, with visitors in March also receiving a special centennial souvenir.

barbados beach

Barbados: paradise but it has a price tag

Another Caribbean nation, Barbados, also had a good year with a 6.7% increase in arrivals. Visitors from the United Kingdom spent the most on average, US $184.72, which represented an increase of 4.1% or US $7.22. As in previous years, the United Kingdom remained the primary source market.  We contributed 35% of stay-over arrivals to the island, or 218,638, an increase of 2.1% from 2015. Virgin Atlantic is to operate a direct Heathrow-Barbados flight for next winter which wil start from December 12th. Incidentally, we have a soft spot for Barbados here at Just about Travel. An early story about Barbados is the most looked at story we have ever written with over 100,000 clicks and still climbing.

In the year that preceded Canada’s celebrations of its 150th birthday, it enjoyed a bumper year for tourists. It welcomed nearly 20 million visitors which was the best since 2002. 

As readers who fly in the USA might know, airlines on domestic routes tend not to provide meals for economy class passengers unless you paid for them even if they are on long routes like New York-Los Angeles despite the flight taking more than 6 hours – the equivalent of us flying from London to Tenerife and half way back again! After fifteen years, Delta Air Lines will provide complimentary breakfast, lunch, or dinner on some flights like those from New York to LA and San Francisco. Why are they bucking the trend to charge for everything? To try and differentiate themselves from other airlines and attract customers back to the airline.

Staying in the US, Panama City in Florida doesn’t seem the most likely place to visit for a Scottish festival but at least by having their Scottish Festival and Northwest Florida Renaissance &Fantasy Faire on March 2nd they should be guaranteed better weather than holding it Scotland might produce. On that day, the city will be celebrating Scottish and Celtic culture, with Celtic music, and tasty Scottish scran. Later on, the local tourism people say, “, you’ll be taken back in time to the medieval world of kings, queens and knights, as medieval reenactors perform daring swordfights and fencing duels, for the Northwest Florida Renaissance & Fantasy Fair.” Calling it a fantasy seems appropriate given that there is also an exhibition of  another old Scottish custom – belly dancing!

Will fewer of us travel to the USA because of the man elected to be president?

Whilst Canada and Barbados did well last year with British visitor numbers, the USA in 2017 may see fewer of us travel there. That is if the recent survey from Cheapflights is anything to go by. It claims that almost a third of us have been put off holidaying in the US because of President Trump’s controversial actions since taking office. The conclusion is based on a comparison of searches on their website for flights to the US from the UK, which have fallen by 13% in the period since Trump entered the Oval Office and are currently 10% behind where they were this time last year.

Scunthorpe has received prominence in the media this week due to visitors descending on the town in an attempt to find any of five, eighteen carat gold objects that is part of an art exhibition, Treasured City. The objects, created by artist Luke Jerram, devised the gold replicas reflect the heritage of Scunthorpe and the surrounding areas. The five objects are linked to paintings that contains clues to where it has been hidden. Solve the puzzle, find the object and it is yours. But don’t get your hopes up; three objects have already been found!

Why is Hong Kong Disneyland not doing well? Not only are the financial losses but numbers visiting are down by 10% to 6.1 million. The percentage of mainland tourists also fell to 36% of total visitation, down from 41% in 2015. Could it be that visitors who would have gone to Hong Kong went to see the new Disney theme park in Shanghai? It is common knowledge that new attractions entice visitors whereas older ones suffer in the short term until things settle. But Hong Kong has also seen a reduction in the number of visitors. The local tourist board must be wondering whether, given rises in visitor numbers in many other places, what Hong Kong has to do to encourage us to return.

Luton Airport – poor ratings from which? but refurbishment is on the way

One of the oddest suggestions of the week came from Which? when it advised easyJet passengers who might use Luton Airport to switch to Southend. Luton scored poorly in its report; Southend did much better hence the recommendation to switch. But the two are 67 miles apart. They don’t duplicate each other in the routes they offer despite the fact that easyJet flies from both. But if you didn’t have to, would you travel all that distance, paying out transport costs and the extra time? No, you’d put up with the problems until they became absolutely intolerable. And Luton isn’t as bad as that. Yet!

The renewal of Tunisia’s state of emergency until May 16th means it is unlikely that the UK Foreign Office will lift its advice on not travelling to the country. Tourism officials will be hoping that it is lifted shortly after that date so they can attract winter sun holidaymakers. Until then, the country is relying heavily on Algerian and Russian visitors to help fill their hotels. When I travel there next month (and yes, my travel insurance won’t cover me) I hope to be able to pick up more encouraging news on when the advice might be lifted.

After some delay, the new part of the Museum of Free Derry has finally opened after a £2.4m refurbishment and extension. The museum is located in Glenfada Park in the Bogside part of Derry/Londonderry and has one aim – to document and exhibit the civil rights campaign of the 1960s and The Troubles. The existing museum was opened ten years ago and this new section allows even more of the collected memorabilia to go on show.

There is a lot of news about new flights to mention this week. Royal Air Maroc which already links Gatwick and Heathrow with Casablanca will launch flights between Manchester and Casablanca on Tuesday the 28th of MarchSAUDIA will offer a new route from Manchester to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, starting on June 23. Norwegian is launching a new route from Gatwick to the Greek island of Rhodes but it will operate just for the summer.

British Airways will start flights from London City and Stansted to Milan from late April onwards. Ryanair has thirteen new routes from Edinburgh to Baden, Budapest, Carcassonne, Eindhoven, Hamburg, Katowice, Nantes, Prague, Szczecin, Toulouse, Venice, Valencia and Wroclaw. It also has two new routes from Glasgow routes to Krakow and Madrid There is also one new route to Wroclaw from Leeds-Bradford and another from East Midlands to Seville. Flybe returns with a Saturday service between Cardiff and Dusseldorf starting on 1st April and a twice weekly service between Doncaster Sheffield Airport and Palma in Mallorca starting in July. It also has new Saturday service to Dusseldorf from Jersey during summer.

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