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CD-Traveller tells you what’s hot and what’s not in the travel world.  Read on to find out why it’s a good month for Sri Lanka, if not Scunthorpe…

HOT

Pampered Pooches

Want to pamper your pooch? Look no further than the House of Mutt (houseofmutt.com) in Suffolk. The dog only hotel can arrange long country walks, bespoke portrait painting and indulgent spa sessions for £39.50 per night.

Screaming in Norway

2013 marks the 150th anniversary of Edvard Munch – aka Norway’s best-known artist. To celebrate Munch’s most famous painting, The Scream, the Norwegian tourist board is asking people to record themselves screaming in Norwegian locations – and then upload their wail to visitnorway.com. The prize for one lucky winner? A week-long trip to Norway.

Corruption Tours in Prague

The Corrupt Tour agency in Prague has launched a tour taking in the Czech capital’s sites of sleaze and scandal. “We have corruption in our cultural heritage. We want corruption in Prague to be listed by Unesco” commented Petr Sourek – the founder of the CorruptTour agency. The Czech Republic was ranked 57th on the Transparency International’s corruption index.

Rio decoded

Rio de Janeiro is providing tourists with information about the city by embedding QR barcodes into Rio’s iconic black and white mosaics. The codes have so far only been installed at Arpoador – a massive boulder that rises at the end of Ipanema beach. However, there are plans to install 30 of these QR codes at popular tourist sites across Rio. All tourists with a QR reading app on their smartphone need to do, is to take a snapshot of the mosaic and a map will appear showing your exact location and providing you with information about that area.

Sweet dreams in space

NASA is testing an inflatable bedroom for astronauts at the International Space Station. The 13ft pod which Nasa aims to install by 2015, has been designed by Las Vegas-based company Bigelow Aerospace. The price is pretty perturbing tho: a 60-day stay will cost £15.6m. Ouch!

Surf’s up!

Surfer, Garrett McNamara, who holds the title for the biggest wave ever surfed, broke his own record in February when he surfed an incredible 100ft wave off the coast of Nazare in Portugal. This was the spot where the 45-year-old Hawaiian set his last record on a wave measuring 90ft, back in 2011.

March 16 will see Alton Towers launch its biggest ride to date. The name of the new ride isn’t yet known (insiders are using the code name, Secret Weapon 7,) but it promises to have a drop of 30m.

Forking out for fresh air in Beijing

So bad is Beijing’s smog (the American Embassy reported that concentration of polluting Airborne particles went past the ‘hazardous’ range and off the chart last month), that one Beijinger has started selling fresh air in a can! Multimillionaire businessman Chen Guangbiao is selling cans of fresh air for 5 yuan (80 cents). Chen said he wanted to make the point that China’s air pollution is now so foul that the idea of selling bottled air makes perfect sense. Proceeds from the sale of green and orange cans of ‘Fresh Air’ are sent to the poorest regions of China.

Sri Lanka

March is the month that British Airways starts flying from Gatwick to Sri Lanka. The flight may be 12 and a half hours but at the end of the journey, you’ll find palm-fringed beaches, treasured temples, verdant vegetation, happy herds of elephants, and brightly colored saris, in spades.

NOT

Scunthorpe

Sorry Scunthorpe but you’ve been named and shamed, as the least romantic place in Britain. The North Lincolnshire industrial town was voted the most unromantic place to visit in the UK in a poll by booking website Hotels.com. Bradford and Blackpool claimed a second and third place, respectively.

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Today the London Underground, the world’s first subterranean rail network, celebrates its 150th birthday. The once unthinkable concept of ‘trains in drains’ is now a celebrated engineering marvel and one of the capital’s most recognizable icons, stretching more than 250 miles and carrying over one billion passengers every year. But it’s not just the capital which lays claim to enviable engineering feats – up and down the country there’s a whole host of engineering achievements to marvel at. From the British Engineerium, which opens for sneak previews in Brighton this weekend, to the fastest car in the world on display in Coventry, VisitEngland takes a look at some of the best.

The world’s oldest underground network, London

Dating back to 1863, the London Underground is the world’s oldest underground network. On its first day of operation, the Metropolitan line carried a total of 40,000 passengers from Paddington to Farringdon in the newly constructed tunnel via Edgware Road, Baker Street, Portland Road (now Great Portland Street), Gower Street (now Euston Square) and King’s Cross. The train took 18 minutes to make the 3¾-mile journey. By 1880 the line was carrying 40 million passengers a year. A range of events and activities is planned to mark the anniversary, including a special exhibition at the London Transport Museum, commemorative stamps, and coins, and a series of steam train runs.

The British Engineerium, Brighton
Steeped in history, the Grade II listed British Engineerium asserts itself as an impressive landmark in Brighton and Hove. The collection of Victorian bricked buildings and imposing chimney demands historical and architectural recognition. But inside this polychrome exterior is where the real action is: the restored Corliss steam engine and 1890s steam-powered fire engine stand proudly amongst an array of gleaming exhibits and nineteenth-century engines. Such grand equipment boasts of engineering mastery and the adjoining workshop indicates the Museum’s emphasis on craftsmanship and invention, breathing life back into British industry. The Engineerium is being renovated and is due to reopen later this year, however, a series of Open Days run throughout the year, starting on 6 January.

The steepest funicular railways in England, Hastings
The East and West hill funiculars are superb examples of Victorian engineering, built to attract tourists and transport people to the glorious hills of Hastings. The West cliff railway, close to the ruins of Hastings Castle, was opened in 1891 and built by the Hastings Lift Company. A 363 feet brick-lined tunnel was driven through a natural cave at an inclination of 1:3. The 500 ft. journey to the top, taking in panoramic rooftop views of the Old Town squeezed between two hills, takes a few minutes and the original carriages are still in use today. The East hill funicular is the steepest of its kind in England. The water balance lift, at a gradient of 78 percent, opened in 1902 – Coronation Day. Today it’s an electric operation and the carriages, new in 2010, are replica versions of the handsome mahogany-framed cars with oak strip flooring and arched roofs. A return ticket costs £2.50.

The fastest car in the world, Coventry

Thrust SCC is the current Land Speed Record-holiday car and is on permanent display at the Coventry Transport Museum. The car was designed and built by an English team headed by the charismatic Richard Noble OBE and was driven through the sound barrier by RAF Wing Commander Andy Green in 1997. Visitors to the museum have the opportunity to experience the land speed record-breaking run for themselves, in the ThrustSSC simulator. This incredible feat of English engineering is still appreciated today: the same team is now in advanced stages of building a new car, ‘Bloodhound SSC’, which it is hoped will break the 1,000mph barrier.

The oldest surviving turning shed in the world, Derby

The crumbling remains of Derby Roundhouse, the oldest surviving turning shed in the world, have been restored into a truly unique learning center. The world’s first railway roundhouse, built by Robert Stephenson in 1839 for the North Midland Railway, contained 16 lines of rails, radiating from a single turn-table in the center. The turntable was a genius invention because it allowed a locomotive to be turned around for the return journey. The Derby Roundhouse was endorsed by the Guinness World Records in 2012 and you can track down Derby’s rich railway heritage on a Roundhouse tour, taking in true-life stories of the men, women, and children who pioneered Derby’s railway industry. Tours cost £6 per person.

The largest bell foundry in the world, Leicestershire

John Taylor Bell Founders has been casting bells in Leicestershire since the 13th century. In 1881 John Taylors cast the largest bell in Britain, ‘Great Paul’, for St Paul’s Cathedral in London. John Taylors are now the largest bell foundry in the world and have a museum which tells a remarkable story of one of the oldest manufacturing industries in the world. Don’t miss the room full of bells from different ages and different founders – this display has a wooden mallet so you can sound the bells and see for yourself which sounds best. Ding dong!

The oldest windmill in Britain, Buckinghamshire

Dating back to 1627, Pitstone Windmill is believed to be the oldest windmill in the country. Pitstone ground flour for the village for almost three hundred years until a freak storm in the early 1900s left it badly damaged. It was later donated to the National Trust and restored. As you walk around, wonder at the way the mill and its machinery balance on the head of a massive wooden post, discover the tail pole the miller had to wrestle with to turn the huge structure to face the wind and explore the surrounding Chiltern Hills with stunning views from nearby Ivinghoe Beacon. Entry costs £2 for adults and £1 for children.

The world’s first passenger train, Manchester

Attend steam school and learn how to ride and operate the world’s first passenger train at the Museum of Science and Industry. MOSI is housed in the original buildings of Manchester’s Liverpool Road station, which was part of the world’s first passenger railway – the Liverpool & Manchester Railway – built in 1830. Once used to transport goods between the port of Liverpool and the industrial powerhouse of Manchester, this huge engineering feat revolutionized travel and is now the oldest surviving passenger railway station in the world. Visitors to the museum should also check out the Revolution Manchester Gallery for more engineering feats, transport revolutions, and the computer age. MOSI is free to enter. The 4.5-hour Steam School experience is run monthly and costs £250.

The longest, highest and deepest canal tunnel in Britain, Huddersfield
The Standedge Tunnel, England’s longest, highest and deepest canal tunnel, passes under the Pennines between Diggle and Marsden. Built over 200 years ago, the tunnel is nearly three and a half miles long and took 16 years to build. The final section was overseen by renowned engineer Thomas Telford in 1811. It’s one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways and visitors can explore deep into the tunnel on a family-friendly guided boat trip, stop for a bite to eat in the local cafe and let kids explore the wildlife garden. Entry to the tunnel is free. 30-minute boat trips cost £4.50 per adult and £3.50 per child.

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Featured

Whether you’re staycationing or vacationing, CD-Traveller tells you what’s hot in the travel world

HOT

Croatia on the cheap
Budget airline Wizz Air is to introduce flights from London to Split and Dubrovnik in Croatia as well as Venice in Italy. The airline will run four flights a week to Split from June 18 and three a week to Dubrovnik and Venice from June 19. Visit www.wizzair.com for more info.

Grand trains
Fancy a break in Bradford or Brighouse? How about Halifax and Pontefract? Time to start celebrating the return of direct rail services from the capital after a delay of 40 years. Grand Central (www.grandcentralrail.co.uk) is running three services a day from King’s Cross to the West Riding, with return fares starting at £67.

Rent a friend

Fancy being shown around a foreign city by a friend? Log on to rentalocalfriend.com – the brainchild of Brazilian, Alice Moura, who came up with the idea while living in London. “I thought mostly of backpackers,” she says. “But many clients like personalized service – families that need flexibility and young people who want to know trendy places.” The idea has now expanded to 14 cities including New York, Barcelona, Paris, Shanghai, and Milan.

The Tamil Tiger Tourist Trail
Jaffna, in northern Sri Lanka, has become a hot spot on the tourist trail. The first anniversary of the end of the decades-long Sri Lankan civil war has seen thousands of sightseers flock to the former war zone. Not that the government approves: in April, the ancestral home of the slain Tiger chief Velupillai Prabhakaran was demolished after it attracted tonnes of tourists.

2010
2010 could turn out to be the warmest year in recorded history, according to climate scientists. They have collated global surface temperature measurements showing that the world has experienced near record highs between January and April. Vicky Pope, head of climate change advice at the Met Office, said: “It was a cold winter in Europe, but globally, January to March was one of the seven warmest on record.”

NOT

Drunk holidaymakers
Drunk holidaymakers irritate a third of all travelers according to a poll by travel agent Sunshine.co.uk. Meanwhile, 42 percent of those quizzed said that noisy tourists frustrated them most while on vacation. Nine percent said arguing travelers was a pet hate of theirs while three percent were repulsed by public displays of affection from other holidaymakers.

Volcations
AKA an enforced staycation owing to an unwelcome ash cloud

Greece
Greece has seen more than 27,000 nights of hotel bookings canceled since the riots that paralyzed the capital last month, leading to the establishment of a tourism crisis committee.
According to Thomas Cook’s chief executive, Manny Fontenla-Novoa, who reports a 24% reduction in Greek holiday sales this summer, the country needs to put the sale signs up again. “We’re going to have to go to Greek hoteliers to stimulate demand,” he said. “That means action on price.”

Britain’s beaches
Britain has been ranked 18th out of 22 European countries for beach cleanliness after evidence that raw sewage is being pumped up to five times a day into areas where holidaymakers swim.
The country already faces two legal actions by the European Commission for sewage spills. It could also see some of its beaches closed down under a tough new directive.

Romantic mini breaks in Milton Keynes
Milton Keynes, a city arguably best known for its concrete cows, is attempting to relaunch itself as the romantic capital of Britain. The new town is to give itself the motto “The City in the Country” in the belief that it will attract those seeking romance.
In its attempt to attract lovers, it will push the fact that Milton Keynes – known to locals as MK – has more bridges than Venice, 150 restaurants, 62 hotels, 44 forests and 11 miles of canals.
So a romantic weekend in Venice or MK? Tough choice…

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Travel Destinations

Malta is still one of the most popular destinations for British tourists. Just two weeks ago wandering around the capital, Valetta, you could almost hear more English accents than Maltese ones although this is the quiet season.

Now it is about to launch a new campaign to persuade us to book our holidays there this year. But instead of the glitzy advertising campaigns that are used to seeing this is a more thoughtful promotion and one that trades on the history of Malta. Called “Creating the Malta Story” (similar in name to the old film “The Malta Story” that told the story of how Malta stood out against the threat of invasion by the Nazis during the war), this promotion has been months in the making. It tells the story of Malta going back 7.000 years.

It’s more than just an urging to tourists. It also is trying to attract investment to the country.

Can any promotion combine the two? Will the same things that appeal to a tourist appeal to an investor? From the standpoint of the tourist, Malta offers sunshine, a stable country, history, a British connection, frequent local festivities a geography small enough to easily cover and a Mediterranean climate. For the investor the same may not appeal. The company charged with promoting Malta to us offers us marketing speak that may mean something to them but which tells the tourist very little. They say that Malta has “a unique combination of assets that can and should be harnessed to create emotional connections in the minds of both investors and tourists alike.” Hopefully their advertising will use words we can understand and that say something more persuasive.

You will probably hear a great deal more about Malta in time for the 2011 season. ABTA is holding its annual meeting there so all those travel agents that go and are enthused will return to fill their shopfront windows.

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Travel Destinations

Most country destinations begin a new year with a forecast or wish about how their tourism industry will do. South East Asia has been a growth area for long distance holidaymakers from the UK. The combination of climate, different cultures, currencies that haven’t been altered much against sterling, wildlife and some inexpensive fares on particular routes have helped those countries tap into British holidaymakers.

One country forecasting tremendous growth in Sri Lanka. With the end of the civil war, the government is fostering new tourism projects such as the Trincomalee tourist zone in the northeast of the country. Whilst the war was on, only about 35,000 tourists a month visited the country. By 2016, the government is hoping that 200,000 people will visit it.

Indonesia does not attract that many British and Irish tourists apart from to Bali (focussing on attracting more of its core visitors from Japan and Australia in 2010) but have high hopes of attracting us now that the state airline, Garuda, is flying again to Europe. This year they hope to attract about $7 billion in tourist spend or about $1,000 per person making the maths easy, an additional half a million tourists this year.

Thailand has become the largest South East Asian destination for British and Irish tourists. Last year the government supported its industry by giving landing fee discounts. They have now abolished that but are still encouraging airlines to fly thereby giving the rebates based on them flying extra passengers there. Frequently named as providing the best value for tourists, it will launch a strong campaign to persuade us to return or visit for the first time.

It’s neighbor, Malaysia, doesn’t receive quite the same publicity but last year over 435,000 visited it and we the UK remains the largest European provider of tourists. Over 17% more of us visited it last year making it one of the highest growth areas for British tourists. Even then tourism rose by a healthy 7% as more than 23.5 million people visited the country.

Vietnam has been the quiet success story of the last few years and shortly CD-Traveller will be carrying the story of a three-week trek around the country. Other countries in the area are to trying to catch up such as Cambodia which has opened a new eco-tourism resort and is planning a new island resort to open next year near Sihanoukville in one of the tourism belts.

I haven’t mentioned Singapore yet. Unfairly considered just a place to change planes, it offers a number of guided tours if you are strapped for time but it also offers a microcosm of South East Asia for visitors but with all the range of elegant accommodation that you’d expect from a bustling center

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