Saturday snippets: 14th October 2017

By | Category: Travel news
image of Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle,

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has announced record-breaking visitor figures for the 2017 summer season. Stirling Castle recorded its busiest ever season with 430,405 people visiting the site between April and September 2017, an increase of 20% on the same period last year.  Doune Castle had its busiest ever season with a 42% increase in footfall probably due to the tv series, Outlander which features as Castle Leoch in the series. Dunblane Cathedral and Inchmahome Priory recorded 13% and 7% increases in visitor numbers while Castle Campbell saw a 28% increase. In all, sites in the care of HES welcomed over 3.8m visitors in the period from April to September 2017, a 20% increase over the same period last year making it the busiest season on record. Just in August, 870,000 people visited Scotland’s historic sites, making it the busiest individual month ever recorded.

In the Queensland city of Cairns, the new $54 million Cairns Aquarium and Reef Research Centre has opened. The idea behind the centre is to enable visitors to take an  interactive journey from the rainforest to the reef, through 10 North Queensland ecosystems and 71 habitats. The 300,000-litre Deep Reef exhibit, an Australian first, is a replica of the reef ‘drop off’ ecosystem, at 10 metres high and 8.5 metres wide, showcasing the array of marine life usually only seen from a scuba diver’s perspective. Other exhibits include The Tropical Rainforest, A Life in the Mangroves, River Monsters, Dangers of the Reef and Talk and Touch exhibits.

Staying in the Australian state, on the Gold Coast, Movie World has a new 1.4 kilometre  DC Rivals HyperCoaster  themed around Batman. It is the Southern Hemisphere’s longest, fastest at 115km/hr and highest at 61.6 metres rollercoaster although that seems  a little banal when you realise it has a world first with a non-inverted loop and a ‘Stengel dive’ which is an apparently an overbanked turn with a camelback hill. Sometimes I realise I just don’t know what I am writing about!

IATA says that, last year, there was a 7% increase in passengers flying compared to 2016. They say 3.8 billion passengers flew and there was an additional 242 million air trips. The largest airline in terms of passengers is the US based airline, Southwest, which carried 151.8 million passengers. Ryanair was fifth with 112 million and the highest carrying European airline. Passengers from the UK are the second highest national group of flyers after those from the US. In all, the UK is responsible for 7.8% of all airline passengers.

Valencia – nearly time for València Intramurs and fixed price menus!

Valencia in Spain saw 60,865 British visitors January and July this year, a year-on-year increase of 9.4% over 2016. And 2016 was a record breaking year so 2017 will be the best ever unless we stay away in the last quarter of the year. That is unlikely since Ryanair is starting a direct link between Edinburgh and the Spanish city as from the end of this month. There are already direct flights to Valencia from Gatwick, Luton, Manchester and Stansted as well as a seasonal service from East Midlands. The attractions of the city this month include Cuina Oberta – a restaurant week promotion with tasting menus from €20 (19-29th of October) and, at the same time, the contemporary art exhibition, Valencia Intramurs.

The amount of money spent on UK debit cards abroad in August was down on the same month in 2016. Does this indicate we were spending less, not travelling so much or taking cash? A total of £3.16bn was spent overseas in August. Yet overall debit card spending has risen, as has the use of contactless payment so maybe we are heeding those pointing out how expensive it is to use debit cards abroad.

Photo courtesy of South Africa Tourism

The campaign will display all nine provinces of the country. Image © South Africa Tourism

On Monday we will see the launch of a new digital campaign from South African Tourism. A trio of UK celebrities will embark on a 10-day road trip from Johannesburg to Cape Town, designed to show the rest of us the benefits of holidaying in the country. The campaign – entitled Bakkie Stories after the South African word for a small passenger truck – is designed to highlight fly-drive as a good value for money and it being a safe and convenient way to travel around South Africa.  Why fly-drive? Because according to the boss of the tourism authority in London, Tolene Van der Merwe,  fly-drive is the largest portion of travel to South Africa for UK travellers.

Today, a new £20m extension to the Tate St Ives art gallery in Cornwall opens. It adds an extra 600 square metres of exhibition space. There is nothing new in a museum or gallery adding additional space but this time the extra space is a little different as it has built into the hillside following objections from locals to the originally planned extension. The extra space will allow the gallery to remain open all year instead of closing while exhibitions are changed.

Pattaya – Jomtien Beach – will a smoking ban work? Image © Tourism Authority of Thailand

If you smoke on a beach in Thailand you could face a year in prison. According to the Bankok Post last Tuesday, new rules come in next month at beaches in Phuket, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chon Buri and Songkhla as a trial. These areas cover twenty beaches and came about because an examination of just nine square metres of Patong Beach on Phuket by the Department of Marine and Coastal found an average 0.76 butts per square metre. This translated into 101,058 fag ends which made up about one-third of all the rubbish collected. If successful in cleaning up the beaches, it will be rolled out to all Thai beaches.

Whilst most attention has been paid to the opening of transatlantic flights by low cost airlines, one – Norwegian – has started a service from Gatwick with Singapore. Fares start from £149.90 each way so a £300 return fare is on the cards. The significance of this is that traditional airlines have had a monopoly on this route with fares substantially more than the £300. The Singapore Airlines low cost subsidiary does fly from Singapore into Europe but only to Athens. For British passengers, this move is significant in letting Britons fly cheaply into Singapore and then being able to by an onward ticket on Scoot or the Qantas, low cost airline Jetstar or the Malaysian owned, low cost airline Firefly. The total fares paid might make it a lot cheaper to fly in Asia and Australasia than it has been to date.

As part of a brief debate about the collapse of Monarch. Iain Swart MP asked the transport secretary to look at the insurance industry since many travel policies do not provide cover in the case of an airline collapse. Chris Grayling the Secretary of State for Transport replied.  “This is something that I will want to take up with the insurance industry. It does seem unfortunate that cover should not include something that happens once in 10 years. This is one area where there is a case for change. It would have made life a lot easier had that been the case.” If he manages to convince or force insurance companies to issue cover, as a standard policy clause, in the event of the collapse of an airline, tour operator, cruise line or travel agent then we passengers will be grateful.

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