Saturday snippets: May 27th 2017

By | Category: Travel news

one of the main attractions of Rwanda – the chance to see gorillas. Image © Rwanda Development Board

Yesterday, RwandAir launched the first non-stop flight from the UK to Rwanda, one of the fastest growing tourism destinations in Africa. British travellers are among the top five nationalities to visit Rwanda, which welcomed 1.3 million people last year. The chief attractions are the scenery, visiting mountain gorillas and big game safari. The recent arrival of black rhinos in the country means that Rwanda is now offering one of the best safari experiences in Africa. Volcanoes National Park, along the Congo border, is famed for its mountain gorillas but also home to the endangered golden monkey. Akagera in eastern Rwanda is home to all of Africa’s most famed game animals with the new black rhino arrivals in addition to elephants, African buffalo, leopards and lions and the Nyungwe forest in Southern Rwandahas over 300 bird species, over 75 species of mammal and 12 primate species.

The Middle East emirate of Ras Al Kahaimah launched promotional campaigns to attract us to the small, but fast growing emirate. Just forty years ago, the population was about 45,000. Today it is between 250,000 and 300,000 and tourism is becoming an essential part of that growth. The campaigns have resulted in visitor numbers up by 9% and charter flight growth this summer. Walk into your travel agent or look online and you will find that there are any number of sales to convince you to holiday in the emirate this summer.

Kalinago – Dominica

Another country that has seen an upturn in tourism and which also doesn’t feature widely in travel agency windows is the Caribbean destination of Dominica. It saw an increase of 19.5% in tourist visits in just the first three months of this year. The Discover Dominica Authority says the increased number of visitors from the UK can be put down to improved flight connections (British travellers could leave the UK at 10:30 GMT and be in Dominica by 16:35 local time) and marketing. It wasn’t just the British who “found” Dominica this year. France saw a 19.9% growth, closely followed by Canada at 10.8% increase and the US with a 6.4% increase.

This is a year for major anniversaries and one that many people may not realise is that it is 100 years since Finland became independent. As part of the Suomi Finland100 celebrations it has been running a nature Days campaign. Two have already been held, the last just a week ago but there are two more to go, one on the 17th of June and the other on the 26th of August. The idea is that visitors and locals should get out and explore the vast Finnish countryside. The events will give visitors the opportunity to experience the world’s largest skiing school, sample wild herb delicacies in a traditional lean-to shelter, spend a summer night sleeping outdoors, learn to identify wild flowers and listen to choir concerts in all national parks. On 17 June, the country’s 40th national park, Hossa, will be inaugurated.  The 50 organisations involved in arranging events have a cumulative total of 1.5 million members which gives you some idea of the impact that the Nature Days are having.

Mall of America, Nickelodeon Universal

Another anniversary is that of the Mall of America which this year is also 25 years’ old this year on August 11th. You might think that there were special bargains available to the millions of shoppers that travel there each year and there are. But there is also a poet there as Writer-in-Residence from June 14-18th. Brian Sonia-Wallace, a Los Angeles based poet, will create 125 poems that will be recorded and shared with the public over the summer. There will also be nightly music and light shows. And of course, there is the shopping at the 520 plus shops plus the Nickelodeon Universe theme park to amuse those whose enthusiasm is muted at the sign of any shop.

Care to own part of a sea meadow? Formentera, one of the Balearic islands has launched a new initiative to conserve the Posidonia Oceanic marine plant. Each of the island’s 76,500,000 square metres of Posidonia are available to sponsor and name, for just €1 per square metre. Posidonia is a marine plant, endemic in the Mediterranean and since 1999 the meadow of the Natural Park of Ses Salines d’Eivissa and Formentera has been declared a World Heritage Site. The Posidonia meadows help to protect the beaches from erosion and are also the habitat for more than 400 species of marine plants and 1,000 species of marine animals.

a typical Miro work

If you are spending half-term in Mallorca next week, you might want to visit the Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró, the museum dedicated to the Spanish artist and which celebrates its silver anniversary this year. In that short time the museum has become a must see tourist attraction housing, as it does, 217 paintings, 178 sculptures, nine textiles, four ceramics and over 8,000 drawings and prints of one of the most significant artists of the twentieth century.

Tunisia has announced an extension of its state of emergency. In the past this has always been for three months; this time it is for just one. Does this mean that the government is feeling sufficiently confident that the security measures that it has put in place with the help and advice of the British government means that it will be lifted altogether soon? When that happens it would surely be the time for the British government to lift its restrict ions on travelling there.

Last night, the month long festival of Ramadan began. It is thought by some that the attack on an Egyptian bus carrying Coptic Christians which killed 26 people including children was linked with the start of the festival. Since April, 72 people have been killed in Egypt, probably by IS as they visited or were connected to Coptic sites. Twice this week, the Foreign & Common wealth Office has issued travel advisory notes in connection with the incident this week. Historic Coptic sites are frequently offered as excursions to holidaymakers and escorted tour parties are usually well-protected by the tourism police. It is a difficult personal choice but my view is not to go would give in to terrorists. Just as in Manchester, visiting these sites sends an important signal that visitors will not be frightened away.

On this bank holiday weekend, apparently some sixteen million of us have taken to the roads to make the most of the good weather which is likely to be warm if not as hot as the last few days. After the deplorable incident in Manchester, there will be over 1,300 events this weekend where there will be a heightened police or military presence. That includes the Great Manchester Run on Sunday when there could be an even larger turnout than usual. You will also see armed police on trains as reassurance. To all of you, regardless of how you are spending the holiday, be vigilant and enjoy yourselves.

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