Article Archive for February 2010
Visitors to the United States have been used to filling in a I-94 green form which was required by passport control. For the last year they have been trialling the electronic version of this which goes under the name of ESTA. This system will replace the green form in March so it is essential that if you plan to holiday in the US you complete this electronic form before you board your flight. Failure to complete the form means that you will not be allowed to enter the US.
During the recession airlines and tour operators, hoteliers and destinations worked hard to get us to visit them as people became more careful with their money. Good deals were to be had despite the efforts of government to wring more taxes out of us with increases in Air Passenger Duty. But cruise ships (and domestic holidays) don’t pay these taxes so cruising had a financial appeal as well. Increases in holiday prices are beginning to seep through and Carnival Cruise lines is one of those that are planning to increase their prices during the booking period. From 22nd of March their prices go their prices go up by 5%.
In a world where there are surveys about everything and where small numbers of people seem to provide incontrovertible evidence that something is happening, the results of the Airport Service Quality survey (ASQ) which is based on 275,000 surveys worldwide is always interesting. In 2009, 118 airports took part in this survey which involves carrying out a survey 4 times a year at different times of the day and which asks the same questions each time. People are interviewed; they aren’t sent a survey, rung up or e-mailed so it is possible to talk to travellers across all types of flights.
So who won in 2009?
From the late 1950’s when Benidorm launched itself as a tourist destination, we have loved going to Spain for our holidays. The seventies led to a string of comedy films and TV series exploiting our interest in Spain for a holiday. As Spanish resorts adapted to changing holiday wishes in the nineties and this decade it seemed our love affair would never end.
Some “experts” are now saying the appeal of Spain is declining and quote figures from the Spanish Tourism, Commerce & Industry Ministry which has announced that in 2009 8.1% fewer of us visited Spain.
It is quite common to be able to buy a tourist pass in the bigger cities like London and Edinburgh which gives you savings on visiting museums and attractions and the like. And as we wrote yesterday, Kent has one day when differing bodies like the National Trust and English Heritage come together but, as yet, there has been no county pass.
Yorkshire, the county that doesn’t exist as one but as three separate ones has managed to get a number of organisations together so that one pass covers all. Or at least 75 attractions within the three counties. There has been a York Pass but this new county wide pass has taken over and covers privately run attractions like Castle Howard and Harewood House as well as places like the Jorvik centre and the Treasurers House that were available with the old York Pass.
As usual, when St David’s Day falls on a weekday, some of the celebrations fall on the preceding weekend. And so at Caldicot Castle in Monmouthshire, they have an open day on Sunday 28th February with free admission to the castle. For 5 hours, starting at 11am, you can enjoy a number of activities in not only the castle but the country park as well including the ever popular historic re-enactments.
So why should you consider going to Caldicot instead of one of the other St David’s Day activities?
Firstly, the good news. the Lufthansa strike was called off last night as pilots and management agreed to talk to each other again. It may mean that some aircraft are out of place this morning so check with Lufthansa to see if there are any problems.
The first bit of bad news is that British Airways’ cabin crew members of Unite have voted overwhelmingly for strike action. You might remember that they voted for action before Christmas but BA management won a court action which said the ballot hadn’t been operated properly. (see CD-Traveller 21 January and 15 December). No dates have been announced for the strike and it may be significant that Unite have said that they want to talk to BA management first. (For a view from the inside see Ian’s comments at the end of the piece on 21st January.)
The second piece of bad news is that, from today, French air traffic controllers start a 4 day strike which will affect flights throughout French air space. About 50% of flights in and out of Paris Orly are expected to be cancelled and a quarter through Paris Charles de Gaulle. The strike coincides with French school holidays.
Like many other eurozone countries, Greece suffered from having fewer tourists from the UK and Ireland last year. Overall money from tourism was down by 11% but that masked areas of growth. Some operators reported that some of the more expensive islands to go to like Kefalonia showed increases.
So given the state of the Greek economy and those headlines that litter the press, should anyone be worried about holidaying in Greece this year?
The simple answer is probably not.
I can’t remember having much sent to me about Carlisle in the last few months and then, all of a sudden, two bits of news come along at once to let you know about.
Firstly, the railway station. Now as stations go, Carlisle is an overwhelming gothic edifice over 260 years old and fully deserving of its full name. Carlisle Citadel. Once you have stared at the outside, the inside is a bit like any other large Victorian station. Not any more. The station is managed by Virgin Rail and they have given it a bit of a makeover. Not on their own. They have linked in with Homebase so that the platforms now have garden furniture for passengers to sit on. The waiting room is now a lounge and a kitchen has been installed. There is even a garden along one platform. Will decking and a water feature follow?
The phrase above is the slogan that Visit Britain us using as part of its advertising campaign to encourage Americans to come and see us. The slogan thought up by Californian, Jay Masunaga, in a competition designed to publicise Britain as a holiday destination for the gay community.
To complement the promotion, Visit Britain has also come up with categories of people to whom Britain would appeal. These are Foodies, Night Owls, Event-Goers, Culturati, Chillers and Fashionistas. You can guess what most of these are but how about Chillers
For any of you flying on Lufthansa this week you should check with the airline about your flight. The pilots union is striking for 4 days and something like 1,200 flights out of 1,800 will be cancelled each day so not every flight is affected. A number of flights from Birmingham, Dublin, London City, Heathrow, Manchester and Newcastle to German destinations will be flying but you need to check the Lufthansa website, www.lufthansa.com, to see if they are still scheduled to fly. This also affects their Germanwings subsidiary,
Lufthansa has issued a special flight schedule during this week and you will find a link to this on the home page on their website. As we all know with strikes, things can change at the last minute so check as well just before you leave for the airport.
If your flight is cancelled, Lufthansa will refund your money or rebook you, free of charge, to another date.
Visit England has announced the results of the business that its members did over the Christmas period and for the whole of 2009. And, it looks like pretty good news for them as many recorded an increase in business over 2008.
44% said that they had more business than previously and 42% said that they had the same level of business meaning that only 14% recorded a drop in business. A drop could mean that it wasn’t due to the overall level of business around but because of new entrants, better marketing or weather or other unforeseen factors (like a long period of roadworks for example) and those hit sales.
Finding information about tourist attractions, you might think, is fairly easy. There are brochures and tourist information offices, websites, libraries, travel books and magazines. But in 20 years will you be using the same information sources?
On Wednesday at Bournemouth University, one of the leading academics on tourism and the rise of the internet in tourism was crystal ball gazing as to what tourists might be using in the future. Dimitrios Buhalis may be a name you have never come across but this man, in the last 20 years, has been consulted by more tourist authorities, hotels, and destinations than I have probably had hot dinners.
So what does he see for us in the future?
You might think that an attraction was a theme park, a museum, a beachfront, a wildlife sanctuary or a
castle. It could be a shopping outlet site, a gallery or an outstanding view. So what about a hole? Not just any hole but a rather large one. This hole, 109 feet deep and 32 feet wide, is in Greensburg, Kansas in the US, and is being promoted as a tourist attraction and I am grateful to the Wall Street Journal & Travelmole for letting me know. It is slightly more than a hole. It is a hand dug well (dug in 1887) so it has water in it. But it isn’t used as a well although it is called The Big Well. The water is rather dirty. And it hasn’t been used as a well for quite some time.
The pigeons, the stone lions, Nelson and even the empty plinth might all be put in the shade if a race between Michael O’Leary, Chief Executive of Ryanair and Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the founder of easyJet ever takes place.
A couple of weeks ago, Ryanair ran an advertisement with Stelios having a nose like Pinocchio, the allegation being that easyJet was hiding the truth about the punctuality of the airline. As well as that, Ryanair in the shape of Michael Cawley, the Chief Operating Officer was interviewed on BBC Breakfast and alleged that easyJet was a high fare airline.
Kevin Smith is an American film director. He burst on the the scene with the rather excellent “Clerks”. A film featuring a host of unknowns and funded by credit cards, which went down a storm at the Sundance Festival. Since then he has gone from strength to strength, directing such stars as Alan Rickman, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in “Dogma”, a film that solidly laid the boot in to the catholic church.
Never heard of them? Rivalling the winter ones in Vancouver next month come these Olympics. From Littlehampton on the Sussex coast, comes the Charity Pancake Challenge where teams compete for the honour of winning and…not much else to be honest.
This year there will be 22 teams- more than last year- competing for charity. Whether they they all be dressed like the man in the panto frock will only be known when you turn up on the day and see for yourselves.
In the House of Lords last week, the peer better known as novelist Ruth Rendell asked the government a question about the steps they are taking to promote social tourism. For those of you, like me, who aren’t sure what it is, the government in the shape of Lord Davies of Oldham provided a definition.
Social tourism, he said, is to ensure that that those in society who are less well-off get the opportunity to go on holiday.
So why is it that social tourism exists?
You may not have known that January 28th was Data Protection Day. It isn’t one of those events that you can buy greetings cards for and it doesn’t really make the newspapers. But is the day that whoever is in charge of data protection in the EU gives us their views. Viviane Redding, the current EU commissioner left the issue of bodyscanners towards the end of her speech.
The World Travel Awards have examined their navels and decided what are the ten greatest achievements of this decade that they call the noughties. Looking at just the top three, I am not sure that I-or you- would agree with them when they say that number one is the dawn of space tourism. Although it was announced that such a holiday was viable nearly nine years ago, it hasn’t yet happened for other than a handful of multi millionaires. When it becomes affordable, then I think you could say it is an achievement.
Their second choice is social media and sites where holidaymakers and travellers leave their impressions on a website about where they have stayed or travelled
Holiday accommodation can be expensive but the range of choice is wide. Beginning with hostels, campsites, caravan parks you can consider B&B’s, guesthouses and hotels of an increasing number of stars.
But have you ever considered university accommodation?
Obviously it has its drawbacks, not the least of which is you can’t stay there when the students are around. So you’re limited really to holiday times such as Easter, July through to the end of September and over Christmas. But those are also the times when other accommodation carries a premium price. And universities are in some of the most popular shortbreak and citybreak destinations. Take Cambridge for example. Trying to find accommodation there can be a real problem in summer when overseas tourists visit