Saturday snippets: 26th of January

By | Category: Travel news

image of Virgin West Coast trains
A Virgin Train – becasue it would be impolitic to show you an image of the kids enjoying being a train manager

In a rather dreary week, there was an amusing interlude on a train I took this week from Liverpool to London. In my carriage there were a group of schoolchildren on an outing to the House of Commons for a tour by their local MP. When the guard (or Train Manger to give him the modern term) came through to check tickets he took the time to show the kids how to work the scanner device to read tickets, his flag and ticket machine letting most of them hold the items. He also took one of the youngsters up a few rows to check the tickets of passengers. To end the journey, one of the primary school children told us we were arriving at our destination and wished us well for the rest of the day. A nice moment on a trip that isn’t usually noted for its fun!

Last week, Elliott Ferguson, CEO of the marketing body Destination DC was over in the UK to remind Britons (who make up the second largest contingent of visitors to the US capital city) that it was open for business. But is it really? Why do you visit Washington DC? To see the Smithsonian museums, the National Zoo, the National Art Gallery of Art ,the National Archives, the White House and Congressional tours, all of which are closed. National parks which are nearby are also substantially affected by the shutdown. One place still open is Arlington National Cemetery. Lasting over a month, the shut-down removes many of the reasons why Britons would want to visit the city.

The shutdown is over – at least  or the next three weeks – but it wasn’t in time to stop one of New York’s major airports, La Guardia, being shut for a while due to staff shortages.

On the other hand, two US cities largely unaffected by the shutdown announced bumper figures, Chicago and Los Angeles. Chicago received 57.6 million visitors which was up just 4.3% over 2017. Just over 50 million people visited Los Angeles last year which is 1.5 million higher than the previous year. As with Chicago, the majority of that figure is made up of American visitors from other states. There were 42.5 million domestic visitors (up 3%) and 7.5 million international visitors. (up 3.6%.) UK visitor numbers rose to 382,000 which was up 3%.

France is another country where tourist numbers have been affected. Today is the eleventh Saturday where “Yellow Vest” protests will take place. Last Saturday some 80,000 plus people turned out on the streets and it isn’t just Paris that is experiencing disruption. Other major cities such as Toulouse, Lyon, Bordeaux and Marseilles also had demonstrations.. Although slightly fewer people turned up in Paris to demonstrate than the previous week, it was still thousands more than at the turn of the year. How many visitors to the country have been deterred due to the demonstrations and clashes won’t be known until figures come out next month.

the Eiffel Tower in Paris has been closed on some Saturdays because of the “yellow vests” as have been some other tourist attractions

The Indonesian holiday island of Bali has joined a growing list of destinations that want to impose a tax on overseas visitors. The US$10 (about £7) tax be used to help preserve the environment and culture of the Balinese people says the island government. Given that the island had over 6 million foreign visitors in 2018, this means that the tax will raise about $60 million each year. Over 350,000 Britons visit Indonesia each year with Bali being one of the prime tourist attractions. No date has been given for the introduction of the tax. Will such a tax reduce visitor numbers? The government and its advisors think not especially as so many other places charge as well. Only time will tell.

As was to be expected, Greece had a very successful tourism year with a total of 63.7 million travellers passing through their airports according to the Greek equivalent of the CAA. There was an increase of 5.8 million people, a rise of slightly over 10% compared to 2017 and well above international forecasts for tourism growth. The national Archaeological Museum in Athens saw a rise of 8.9% visiting it over 2017 and, although the number of cruise ships visiting the main port of Piraeus fell slightly the number due to visit in 2019 is substantially up. As for tourism generally in 2019, it will be a tougher year because of Turkish growth. People will opt for which provides the best deal and British holidaymakers may opt for Turkey as it is outside the EU and its currency may be better value than the euro.

Cyprus is also celebrating a good year. Last year international visitor numbers were up by 7.8% compared to 2017. Once again the UK provided the largest number of visitors 1,327,805 which amounted to 33.7% of all arrivals (up by 5.9%) with Russia providing almost 20%. Whilst the rise in British numbers was seen throughout the year it looks as though more of us are considering Cyprus as an alternative winter sun destination since there was a rise of 13.6% that month compared to 2017. Based on last year’s figures it is likely that July will be the busiest month with August coming a close second.

Japan saw 31.19 million visitors last year, up 8.7% which means that the number of visitors to the country has trebled over the last five years. It was only in 2013 that Japan notched up 10 million visitors a year. As other countries are finding what is a key catalyst in attracting more visitors is the relaxation of visa rules.

Two Middle Eastern destinations have also done well. Israel saw a 14% rise in numbers so that 4,121,800 visitors came an increase of just over half-a-million people. The UK is one of the top five sources of tourist numbers with the USA being the largest single source of visitor numbers. Dubai is a destination that attracts most visitors over our winter months. In November 6.9 million people passed through the airport and 81 million for the first eleven months for the year with London being the single most popular destination airport. But many people use Dubai as a hub rather than a place to holiday. For those that do holiday there, the biggest attraction is Dubai Parks and Resorts which saw 2.8 million people visit just in the fourth quarter of the year meaning an impressive increase of 22% over the previous year. Oddly enough in this busy period hotel rates actually dropped as hoteliers worked hard to fill their rooms. For holidaymakers, that might be worth remembering next winter.

It might be hard to believe but there has been no`comprehensive historical survey of female photographers working in Britain in over 30 years. That has been remedied by a new exhibition at Woking’s The Lightbox. From Anna Atkins’ early innovations to Dorothy Bohm’s documentation of 1960s London, and Sarah Lucas’s contemporary self-portraiture of in the 1990s, Britain’s long tradition of trailblazing women in the medium will be celebrated in around 70 works lent by leading museums and galleries – including Turner Prize winners and nominees and Venice Biennale exhibitors. It runs until the 2nd of June.

Japan saw 31.19 million visitors last year, up 8.7% which means that the number of visitors to the country has trebled over the last five years. It was only in 2013 that Japan notched up 10 million visitors a year. As other countries are finding what is a key catalyst in attracting more visitors is the relaxation of visa rules

Cherry blossom time in the old Japanese imperial capital city of Kyoto
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