Article Archive for December 2010
Yesterday CD-Traveller covered the forecasts of ABTA for the coming year. As a change and since everyone else is forecasting (dreaming of what might be might be a better expression), I thought we would as well. Before that, however, let me wish you a happy new year. May 2011 bring all you wish for it because it certainly isn’t going to give me what I should like.
But let’s start with a quick review of the year – or at least from the point-of-view of the traveller.
ABTA has produced a 42 page report on what it thinks will be the travel trends of 2011. Forecasts are fun if only to look back on in 12 months time and see what didn’t come to pass. They got one thing right last year though. 2010 has been a tough year with a number of airlines and tour operators going bust as the industry tried to second guess what we, the travellers, would do. We booked later than ever; more of us stayed at home than many expected yet long haul proved a growth area.
So what for 2011?
If the disruption of flying puts you off then consider the Isle of Man as you holiday location this year or at least a place for a short break. By now most of you will probably have seen the TV advertising campaign that the tourist board has been running. Timed for that traditional period between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve, the promotion aims to get you to their website (www.isleofman.com) where you can find more about the island than a single ad campaign can show you. For those of us in the south west, the south east, London, Wales, East Anglia and most of Scotland, we won’t see the ads for the tourist board is targeting those primarily those areas that can get to the ferry terminals easily. Or in the case of the Channel Isles, the airports.
Whilst the adverts from travel agencies, tour operators and destinations come up periodically on the TV in between the repeats, here are two possibilities you might not have considered. Forget Spain and Italy, Skegness and Tenby consider Shrewsbury and Chernobyl instead.
Not that there is a twin cities holiday available, it’s just that the two press releases landed on my desk at the same time.
Traditionally Boxing Day was the start of one of the biggest holiday booking periods of the year. Almost as soon as the festivities were open, the sales began and shoppers ducked in to travel agents at the same time and emerged, laden down, with suggestions of where to go for the summer holidays. Things are a bit different today since sales start before Christmas. Shoppers surge into the larger shopping centres but not into the local shops. I went to our nearest town this morning and even though both travel agents were open, they had no takers and there were few people around other than in Sainsburys.
At tourist offices you can pick up a brochure called “Great Days Out.” The inside talks of welcoming you to Yorkshire’s greatest attractions. But Bradford isn’t there. Do the publishers, who I’m guessing are Welcome to Yorkshire, not believe that there is enough in Bradford to justify a whole day there? Is this booklet just an advertising pamphlet and Bradford chose not to spend money on it? I don’t know the answer. What I do know is that whatever you think you know about the city, it is definitely worth a day trip.
You might remember that CD-Traveller (23rd November 2011) mentioned that Visit London looked as though it would lose all its funding because nobody seemed to remember it when they created budgets to come into operation after the demise of its paymaster, the London Development Agency (LDA). As Denis facetiously commented at the time on our website, “makes you proud to be a Londoner.” A month on and Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, has ridden to the rescue finding £14 million pounds per annum for the next four years. Except it’s not quite that clear.
The funding is for a new, yet to be named, body that will merge three existing organisiations, Visit London, Think London (apparently this attracts inward investment) and Study London. (attracts students to London universities and colleges)
Ever been to Disneyworld in Florida? The new Harry Potter theme park? Or Universal Studios? If you had then you will have travelled to Orlando to see it. And you might have picked up a brochure or two from the local tourist board which is, or rather was, the Orlando/Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau or something like that. No longer. It has changed its name to Visit Orlando which, you have to admit is easier on the memory and a bit more obvious for a tourist board. So in this case, the name change made sense. But tourist boards have a habit of changing their names and I can’t think that it helps a lot of the time. After all it costs money to change your letterheads, promotional material, websites not to mention business cards. And does it matter to us, the visitor?
The traveller is an odd beast. What we prefer is a downturn. Then prices of hotels, flights and car hire drop. But then in downturns we might also have to trim our spending or, at worst case, face redundancy. But as the market improves and people feel more confident prices rise and the traveller gets hit by increased costs with not necessarily any improvement in income to pay for it. I suspect we are in that cycle now. Air fares have risen and now comes evidence from Trivago’s Hotel Price Index that hotel prices this December are going up as well.
Much has been made on the TV and the newspapers about the problems that air passengers have had. Less has been made of the way that most of us will use to go away for Christmas, by road. Usually at this time of year, CD-Traveller gives the forecasts from ABTA of how many of us are travelling and to where. We could do the same again – if it wouldn’t raise a big question mark in people’s minds.
As one who has been delayed quite substantially this year in my travels by February snow, April/May volcanic ash and snow twice this month (just in this country) let alone tube strikes, motorway pile-ups and roadworks, I got to thinking about how the snow has been treated by the media. Why? Because us travellers want and need information which changes quickly to reflect what is going on outside that will affect us. Do we get it? In a pig’s eye we do.
As I said yesterday, one of the interesting features of the Visit Britain report is the amount of money that is spent in different places. The figures will be an estimate of course, but they are as good a guide as we are likely to get. And what they show is intriguing. Take London for example. You would expect an overseas visitor to pay more there because it is a more expensive place. Hotels, public transport and restaurant bills will all be more expensive but the difference on how much is spent there compared to elsewhere in our countries is quite wide.
That, according to Visit Britain, is what is attracting people to that part of the country. This is one of many results to be found in a report snappily titled, “Activities Undertaken by Visitors from Overseas in Different Parts of Britain.” But there is a lot on this report to digest, not just the interesting bits that say why visitors go to different regions of our countries. Just as interesting is how much they spend in those regions and the disparities that arise.
Travelling around the country for the series we do on days out as well as other stories, I am continually struck by the importance of the tourist information offices. Even yesterday in Bradford on a rather dank day at about 10.30 they had had three visitors and another two came in whilst I was there. Usually, at some point in the conversation, the visitor asks for directions. Why? Because the brochures often only give directions by car.
Some places might be only reachable by car but for many, bus or train is a preferable option. Do brochures say that there is no public transport? By and large, no. The same happens with their websites.
The Americans have announced that visitors to its country are up dramatically. South Korean visitors increased by a half, Brazilians by over a third and Australians by over a quarter. And what of the Brits? Down by 1% compared to the first nine months of 2009. Why should this be so? Does it matter to the Americans that we are not going there when such large increases are being registered from other places? Isn’t a fall of just 1% insignificant anyway when, just comparing the month of September 2010 with that of September 2009, the figure is up by 6%?
I am surprised. For the second time in a year I find myself in agreement with Michael O’Leary the chief executive of Ryamair in welcoming the cut in airline passenger tax in Ireland. From St David’s Day, March 1st (why not St Patrick’s Day?) the Irish government is reducing what they call the Air Travel Tax (The British equivalent is APD, Air Passenger Duty) from €10 to €3. However there is a catch. It may be only temporary as they have announced that it is only temporary until the end of 2011. Ryanair said that tourism will continue to be strangled by the tax and called on the UK government to reduce its APD.
So you’ve got there, seen the shops, found somewhere to eat, what do you do now? Start at an old church. St Andrews in Suffolk Street because this is where the main tourist office can be found (There is a small one in O’Connell Street opposite Dr Quirkey’s.). Not only has it an avalanche of information about attractions, accommodation and tours throughout Ireland but upstairs is a quiet café where you can catch a cup of tea whilst you go through the brochures and decide where to go. As ever it depends on your interests but one thing I would spend money on every time is to see the luxurious illuminations in the ninth century Book of Kells which , next year, will have been in Trinity College for 350 years
Just as Europe has had early good snow that will please skiers everywhere, so has Alberta, the Canadian province that it is probably better know for the name of its cities and attractions than its name. Think Calgary, Edmonton, Banff and Jasper and you will know what I mean.
The ski season opened a month ago in Mount Norquay, Lake Louise, Sunshine Village and Marmot Basin. Last weekend, Nakiska and Castle Mountain opened and early signs are that there is quite a bit of snow at the bottom with some fanatics calling it the best start to the season for some time.
If you can’t beat the snow, join it!
Thats what lots of people decided to do last weekend and, this weekend, even more may venture north. A Nevis a week ago, over 800 Skiers/Sledgers/Snowboarders opted to “Go with the snow” taking to the slopes which opened for snowsports a fortnight earlier than planned on 4-5 December 2010.
We all think we know Dublin. Let’s state the obvious. It means pubs and bars, good conversation and Guinness, friendly people and a zest for life. Is it still like this now that the attraction of being the Celtic Tiger has suffered such a hammering of late? Dublin appeals to those wanting a weekend break that isn’t too far away. (only about 50 minutes by plane from any of the London airports and closer from Cardiff, Manchester or Glasgow) It also has good flight connections from just about any biggish UK airport, not forgetting the ferries or the train from Belfast. But what can you do in just a day. In the days of the £1 flight on Ryanair, it was a popular day trip destination. Now with all the taxes and fees, it is unlikely to cost you less than £40. That’s still cheaper than often heading from the north to south in England and vice versa.