Saturday snippets: 23rd March 2019

By | Category: Travel news

The Caledonian Canal has been closed to traffic for some time. It was planned that the canal would re-open later this month. That won’t now be the case. It is now scheduled to re-open at 8:30 on Wednesday 17th of April 2019 as some additional problems were encountered in replacing lock gates. If this new schedule is met, it will still open in time for the Easter holidays.

Face-to-face with a ray. Image © Bahamas Tourist Office

Universal Orlando Resort says that the new adventure at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike, will open on 13th June. Claiming to be the most highly-themed coaster yet, visitors will fly with Hagrid on a roller coaster ride that plunges into the path of some of the wizarding world’s rarest magical creatures.

Two more Caribbean nations have announced that the figures for international arrivals are up. The Bahamas says that there was a growth of 15% in January over and above numbers in 2018 and that in February, international arrivals increased by 11.1%. Forward bookings for March to May are also up at 9% with April (being Easter month this year) forward bookings being up by 15.6%. US and Canadian holidaymakers are the two largest sources of international visitors with Britons making about 28,000 visits. Cruise ship visitor numbers were up in 2018 by over half a million being 6.6 million.

The other Caribbean nation, St Kitts and Nevis, also saw increases for the first two months of the year. In its case it was 15.3% above the same period in 2018. Once again it is North America that provides the bulk of holidaymakers to the country and additional flights have helped contribute to the rise in numbers. For Britons, St Kitts and Nevis tend to be under the radar compared to places like Barbados and St Lucia. BA has a direct flight to St Kitts but it stops briefly in Antigua on the way out making the journey about ten hours. Compare this with connecting flights and it still is 50% faster and much, much cheaper than others.

Cycling has become increasingly popular not just as a weekend past time but as a seven or fourteen day holiday. Some people, such as a cousin of my wife’s for example, is even taking a year or so to cycle around the world, partially raising money for charity but also for the sheer enjoyment of cycling. Or he would be enjoying it if Qantas hadn’t mislaid part of his bike earlier this week but that’s another story!

One of the prettiest areas to cycle is Lake Constance which is surrounded by Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. It has brought together a number of cycle routes (17 in all) in a new, digital map which brings together any number of varied landscapes; from mountain tracks in the Alps, to trails that hug the lake itself, and more leisurely paths with stops along the way to take in the many cultural highlights of all four countries. Two of the routes are at my level – easy – and fourteen  are intermediate with one being classed as “challenging.” The newly-mapped routes are an addition to the 300 other cycling trails already enjoyed in the region. Significantly, the majority of marked routes are entirely removed from main roads, which means cyclists barely notice as they pedal into a totally new country. The Lake Constance Bike Tour Map can be downloaded or ordered from the website and will also be available from Tourist Offices around the lake from spring 2019.

Meersburg on the shores of Lake Constance

Hawarden Old Castle opens to the public tomorrow, March 24. The Grade I listed medieval castle opens up to the public just four days a year so planning a visit is a necessity. The castle was built on the site of an iron age fort by the Normans. It was destroyed by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in 1265, but rebuilt by the defeated owner, Robert de Montalt. Besieged in 1281 by Llywelyn’s brother, Dafydd, the war of 1282 to 1283 led to the castle being occupied by the English after that. Open tomorrow between, all entrance fees will be donated to Clwyd Special Riding School. For those a little shaky on their legs be forewarned that the paths up to the castle are steep”

Earlier this week Just about Travel ran a story about tourist weeks and, in particular, the debate in the Scottish parliament about tourism. The following day, once again in the Scottish parliament, there were questions to the tourism minister and one of these centred on tourism pollution and flattening the popular tourist periods of the year in an attempt to manage tourist numbers. The answer suggested by the government included more out-of-season events as well as pointing out that indoor attractions such as distilleries provided indoor experiences to tourists during the winter period. Another question centred on the government’s introduction of legislation to allow accommodation taxes. Once again, the tourism minister confirmed that legislation would mean the tax wouldn’t come into force until 2021.

This week in the House of Lords there was yet another question to the government about when flights would resume to the Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt. The standard answer was trotted out that the government looks forward to flights recommencing “when the situation allows.” Once again we have an answer that tells us precisely nothing! The government also announced that from June the UK will begin to abolish the need for paper landing cards at UK points of entry for some nationals. Readers who are citizens of the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Singapore and South Korea will be able to use the e-gates.

Given the Brexit news this week, I wondered what people’s attitudes to taking holidays were. According to STR’s Consumer Travel Insights, 61% of their survey sample of 900 people, said that Brexit was having no effect on their travel plans. Just 11% said that it was.33% of British and 36% of European vacationers thought it was best to avoid travel later this month and in early April. Travel agents in my patch of the UK have been seeing a reluctance to travel in the next month but after that there seems to be no problem.

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