Saturday snippets: April 15th 2017

By | Category: Travel news
Arc de Triomphe at night

Visitors are back in Paris to the same numbers as before the terrorist attacks

Paris has something to celebrate this Easter. The slump in visitor numbers that happened after the terrorist attacks seems to have been reversed. Overseas visitor numbers jumped by 28% in December 2016 compared to a year earlier. More importantly for the city, these arrivals were back at the level of December 2014, before the series of attacks that affected France in 2015. But some visitors from particular countries continue to stay away. People from Italy, Japan and Russia seem still deterred from travelling there (or are attracted elsewhere)but US and China visitor numbers are both up by about a third. The numbers of overseas visitors staying in Parisian hotels were the highest in the last ten years which all suggests that the effect of a terrorist attacks lasted about a year.

Windsor Bridge in Gibraltar

The Windsor Bridge. Image © Gibraltar Tourist Board

You might wonder what other tourist attractions can be introduced onto Gibraltar given its size. The answer is a suspension bridge, the very first on the rock. Called Windsor Bridge, it spans a fifty metre gorge  and forms part of the new Thrill Seekers Trail. As you can see from the image, it gives a fantastic vew over parts of the rock.

On a rolling annual basis, Luton Airport has handled 15 million passengers for the very first time. This milestone has some importance for another reason. Airports are often compared with others of a similar size and the fifteen million mark takes the airport into a different category with comparisons against a different variety of airports. It is now aiming to have 18 million passengers in three years’ time.

Last weekend, the Sunday Times ran a story suggesting British Airways might introduce a charge for food on long haul flights. The airline was quick in denying that it had any plans to do exactly that although it left the door open by saying that “if that is what interests customers of the future, we will listen.” The M&S sandwiches currently sold on short-haul have been such a success on some flights that, anecdotally,  I hear passengers have complained about certain sandwiches being sold out.

an impression of what Tate St Ives wil look like. Image © Tate St Ives

In another British Airways story, instead of showing your passport and boarding card at the gate before joining the plane, the airline has three gates at Heathrow terminal five which have become automated. A digital facial scan of the customer is recorded when they travel through security. When they reach the gate, they scan their boarding pass and their image is matched with that previously taken. A match and you go onto the plane; a mismatch and a human intervenes. Three more gates will be opened each week until all international flights are serviced by these automated gates.

At the very end of last month, the refurbished original building of Tate St Ives reopened to the public after major structural works giving it improved facilities for events and activities. But the new Tate St Ives will not open until Autumn 2017 when visitors will see a new gallery and spaces for exhibitions. The Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden stayed open throughout the works.

whitewater kayaking on the Kennebec River © Visit Maine

For those with a spirit for adventure tourism, you might want to consider a late Spring holiday in the US state of Maine. They have had a lot of snow this past winter which has meant that, now it is melting, the rivers are filling up but it probably be a month away before conditions are good. Experts who know about these things say that it means the white-water rafting season will be tremendous. The volume is so great that they think that the opportunities for white-knuckle rides might last until well into Autumn.

Texas has become a very popular place for Britons to visit. If you are over there for the Easter holidays you might fancy a trip to Port Aransas (which is about 200 miles from Houston or 250 from Austin, both of which are served by British Airways’ flights) for the  Annual Texas SandFest . This is the largest master sand sculpting competition in the United States. The three-day festival begins Friday, April 21, 2017 and ends on Sunday, April 23 in Port Aransas, Texas.  During that time over 100,000 people will have visited the area to see how sand sculptors from around the world have fared. Costing $10 for entry, the event is used as a way of supporting community organisations with over $130,000 being distributed last year.

Readers will remember how Jet2 (it dealt with 536 incidents last summer all relating to alcohol) in particular has been forceful in dealing with drunk passengers. Now a House of Lords committee says that airport departure lounges should no longer be exempt from the Licensing Act, which controls when alcohol is sold The Civil Aviation Authority reported a 36% increase in disruptive passenger incidents in the UK from 2014 to 2015. If the government follows the recommendation, alcohol will only be sold during the same hours in which it is available in pubs and bars around our countries.

Little Chapel © Dorset Media Services

One of Guernsey’s best known tourist attractions, the “Little Chapel” has re-opened after Being closed for eighteen months for repairs. Claimed to be the smallest chapel in the world, it measures nine feet long by five feet wide and only a few people can enter at any one time. Built by Brother Deodat, an exiled French monk, to emulate the sacred grotto at Lourdes, the walls are made up of thousands of fragments of china, seashells and pebbles.

Yesterday, the Fleetwood Museum re-opened but this time it is being run by the Fleetwood Museum Trust.  Lancashire County Council had previously closed the museum due to cutbacks but now it will be staffed by volunteers and continue to be managed by the council until its transfer to the trust is completed.  Last weekend the new Museum of Iron at Coalbrookdale, in Shropshire’s Ironbridge Gorge opened. It explains how remarkable discoveries made in the gorge changed the world and why the area became internationally recognised as the Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution.

In airport news, Edinburgh had a busy March as more than 956,000 passengers used the airport. Glasgow had its busiest ever March when more than than 700,000 passengers travelled through the airport. Stansted saw nearly 1.9 million passengers in March 2017 which is slightly down on the same number in March last year. Gatwick passed the 44 million passengers a year mark for the first time last weekend – a world record for a single runway airport – and reported its busiest ever March, with over 3.3 million passengers – up 8.4% on the same month in 2016.


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